A/N: Thanks for all the reviews and attention folks! This is the round up for the first section of my story. I know that there have been some ups and downs throughout the chapters, and I know that there has been a fair amount of criticism about my choices, 'wank' has been thrown around a lot for some of my choices. But I stand by them and I believe that while some of my choices could be considered 'fan service', 'fan-boyism' and 'wank' on one level…it's par for the course and I can understand where the criticisms come from. I make no apologies for my choices, primarily because my decisions for many of these actions don't stem from personal preference but for utility of the choice in best serving the story.
But much of this misunderstanding is because of the fact that my story goes up chapter by chapter. Readers can read one chapter at a time and comment…perhaps as a writer I shouldn't read my reviews after every chapter, no matter how exciting and interesting I find them….(After an update I do check my phone the next day at work constantly to see all the reviews and get feedback, both good and bad…) But, with chapter based reviews, you can only see the small fraction of a larger story…but that larger story is all locked up in my head. And in lieu of mind melds or power drills, it's going to be coming out chapter by chapter.
The Citadel, December 20th 2170
It was a modest space, not a luxurious or expansive apartment, but a small suite of rooms off the Presidium. It wasn't even registered in his name, but that didn't matter. It's resident was rarely there anyway, the bare walls and minimal furnishings bore that out, merely a soft beige carpet and cream colored walls. Of course, a place like this would command a princely sum for a tenant, probably a residence for a governmental employee or a wealthy entrepreneur. But now, it was empty except for a desk with a datalink and holo display. It was a safe house of little utility and even less concern for it's resident. He needed a place where he could be 'reached' by the Council when they needed him. But for Saren Arterius, it was as close to a home as he'd ever known since the end of the Shanxi war. Saren sat with his eyes gazing at the data display, his back to the stunning vista overlooking the Wards behind him. He was looking but not seeing, instead, his thoughts drifting.
Shanxi…so long ago…but the legacy of that war would never leave him. His mind drifted to so many good soldiers dying in a battle against the humans…against them and their Alliance. He thought of Sergeant Lilih, Nazac and the rest of his unit. He thought of all those Turian lives lost…the humiliation of being taken prisoner, and the shame of losing the conflict…and being forced into settlement by the Citadel Council. It had been hard for his pride to take that kind of insult…the insult whose pain still lingered in ever member of his people. But unlike most, he wasn't willing to simply let the past go…not when the present was so utterly hostile to the Hierarchy and the Council. He could understand the state of affairs, and he could sit down and look at the matters objectively.
Objectively, the Systems Alliance was a threat…it was the only threat to the Existence of the Citadel Council and of any kind of lawful government in the universe. So far, the Systems Alliance had fought and won a war against the Citadel…which in and of itself was not an exceptional achievement, not when the Hierarchy had been handicapped and halted before a larger conflict could be engaged. That was an issue because without a doubt it had set the stage for a wider economic struggle which he Citadel had proven reluctant to wage with any kind of effort. The conflict had now become Economic and political, not military.
Oh, military conflict was still and option, and Saren knew, knew that if a full scale war were embarked on by the Hierarchy with the full support of the Asari and Salarians then the Systems Alliance would be crushed. Convincing the Council to unite and invade Alliance space would be another matter however. The most optimistic forecasts made by Turian High Command, and supported by Salarian Intelligence showed that any war against the Alliance would be waged with high casualties on both sides, and for complete invasion, would take approximately ten years of continuous conflict, and it would require the complete commitment of the full weight of the Hierarchy's Military Forces. And that kind of commitment included forecasted and potential conscription classes, and a mobilization of Asari and Salarian resources on par with those of the Hierarchy. The most pessimistic plans said that invasion and occupation were impossible. Ten years of high intensity warfare to invade and occupy a more technologically advanced power…all to preserve Council law…that was not something he could convince the Council to undertake, no matter how right he would be.
But now it was a struggle between technology and commerce, Alliance goods were more advanced and cheaper than comparable products made in Citadel space. Saren could see the coming recession in Citadel space moving closer with each day, and he had reports from Volus and Salarian sources that merely confirmed his suspicions…but the Council refused to enact stiffer tariffs against Alliance goods, desperate for the opportunity to import technology that could give them an advantage. Economically, the Alliance Economy was projected to be half to two thirds of the Council's combined economy, but many Volus economic experts were divided on the numbers, size wise the Alliance boasted about 100 billion beings, a much smaller number than the combined population of Citadel space…though their technological advancement inflated their economic power considerably. But the long and the short of it was that the Alliance Economy was growing, fast. Most of the 'experts' predicted the Alliance Economy would exceed that of the Citadel in forty years based on gross per-capital income and GNP.
Saren sighed heavily and brought up another display, this was the most dire of all his information. Technological contrasts and the inherent technological advantage that the Alliance held over the Citadel. That gap was not so much widening slowly as it was a chasm that the Citadel could not comprehend how to cross. Saren knew a great deal about Alliance technological developments, but the implementation of them was surprisingly diverse. Energy technology and it's myriad fields were far in advance of Citadel technology, most of it stemming from the revelation that Alliance technology did not rely on Element Zero to achieve FTL travel or create energy shielding. It was a surprisingly simple difference, but without eezo, the Alliance had focused heavily in High Energy Physics. Every bit of their higher technology came from a greater focus on 'pure' science, quantum mechanics and technologies to work around the limitations of mass, time and space.
The Spectre smiled slightly as he remembered what an Alliance Scientist had said of Element Zero… 'It's a magic goo that lets you go faster than light, make force fields, generates energy, and gives you magic powers, pretty convenient stuff. Sounds like something in a bad sci-fi movie.'
Saren shook his head slightly and the smile fell away, Citadel technology was almost exclusively based on Element Zero. Alliance technology used Element Zero to enhance their capabilities. For all practical purposes, the Citadel was facing a centuries worth of technological gap because of their magic goo. Of course, there were pieces of Alliance tech that had managed to 'find their way' into Citadel hands, but despite Saren's best efforts at orchestrating raids and industrial espionage against Alliance corporations, the Citadel was working at an inherent disadvantage. Alliance Technology worked on different principles, principles which had only been speculated at by many researchers…but concepts that were theoretical to Citadel scientists were commonly accepted information and basic concepts to Alliance researchers. He shook his head as he reviewed the reports made by various paid 'researchers' that he had…some of who were actually kidnapped Alliance scientists. Most of them were working on conversions of Alliance weapons and equipment, trying to eek out a similar level for them to work off of, but it was much akin to comparing trees to rocks.
Saren sighed softly and closed the menu, turning away from the display hologram, his thoughts drifting to a grimmer issue, the Alliance's diplomatic actions. He shook his head at that thought, the Alliance was cunning, he had to give them that…but they were simplistic and short sighted.
Reaching out to the Batarians had been a mixed bag for them. Forming close relations with an aggressive power was a bad choice, but attempting to wean them off of slavery was enough to balance out the issue. Handing over the Skyllian Verge to them had been enough of a relations windfall that Saren wasn't surprised with the decision by the Hegemony to form close ties…if you throw enough treasure at someone, they'll listen to you and do what you want. But the Alliance's plan to eradicate slavery in the Hierarchy wasn't going as well as many in the Alliance Parliament wished. Batarian resistance was strong to the Cultural erosion…even if their government was supportive of the Abolition movement, the cultural 'old guard' still held sway…and were still willing to be aggressive and uncooperative…
…even willing to finance terrorist and Terminus slavers to maintain their 'cultural identity'…or prove they 'still had a quad' to quote a Krogan euphemism.
The Quarians were little more than an annoyance to the Galaxy at large, but the Alliance had made them a significant headache by giving them membership. The Council had ignored the Quarians for the most part, and the Quarians had been content to be ignored. Now they had political voices in the Alliance and they were agitating, loudly for the Alliance to move on their homeworld and re-take it from the Geth. Saren knew that the Alliance was not foolish enough to invade, but without a doubt, that kind of agitation made the political climate in the representative Alliance Government much more acrimonious and hostile than it would have been without them. Eighteen million Quarians made for a very small number in the Alliance's 'People's House' with representation based on species population…especially when compared to Humans, Vegans or even the Drow. But a vocal minority is always the most troublesome…and their political system precluded silencing the Quarian representatives. Saren knew that the Council would enforce it's will overtly with the use of political, economic or even military force…or with the covert use of Spectres to 'deal with' problems before they became to troublesome. The Alliance was simply not willing to deal with issues…in their system it was illegal to do so. But ignoring domestic issues that could tear apart your government was folly…and the Quarians and Drow were causing far more problems than any of the more 'homogenous' members of the Alliance were put together. Humans, Vegans, Aslan and Vargr worked closely together, and the Xenopus were pacifists and very eager to 'go with the flow'. Not the Quarians, and not the Drow. They wouldn't lead to violent civil war, but the idyllic view of peaceful and wonderful harmony in a representative government would be under siege by the political infighting the two caused.
Then there were the Krogan. The Alliance had inherited a problem with their extremely aggressive wish to acquire Tuchanka. Saren suspected that the Alliance had wanted to control the Krogan and 'guide them to a better existence'. But Krogan were Krogan, and if the Alliance thought that peace, diplomacy and negotiation would work for that species, they were wrong. Even the use of Alliance Marines to overpower and control the Krogan had been useful…but bred resentment. Most Clans viewed the Alliance as interlopers, and the exact opposite of what the Alliance had wished for was beginning to happen. Instead of uniting with the Alliance, many clans were beginning to unify against the Systems Alliance. Division and disunity of the Krogan had kept the peace for centuries, the nebulous hatred of the Citadel for the Genophage and the Krogan Rebellions had left the Krogan disunited and fighting one another since the Council let them be on their homeworld. But with the Alliance acquisition of Tuchanka and the relegation of the CDEM to an observation role without any kind of teeth, the Krogan were becoming restless. And a restless Krogan was a dangerous one. A restless united Krogan people would be a threat to the galaxy…or at least to the Alliance at first.
Idly, Saren wondered if the Alliance would have the will to do what it took to control the Krogan within their borders, or if they would simply 'quarantine' the Krogan like they had 'quarantined' the Reticulans. Saren had read the reports on those aliens, and knew that their genetic manipulation expertise would be useful if he could acquire a few of them for research. They would do well if he could set them to a useful task…but such an action would be difficult, the Alliance made it very commonly known that the Reticulans were not the kind of beings who worked well with other species. If properly…persuaded.
Saren ran his hand across his forehead, the pain of his headache was growing slowly once more as he considered things. So many difficulties that needed to be overcome…but he knew that he needed to resolve them, because unless he did, the Council would fall. Slowly Saren stood from the lone desk and data link in the room, walking to the windows and casting his gaze out across the Wards. They knew that someone was using the STG and other agents against the Alliance…the Turian shook his head slightly at the irony of it. They had selected him to find himself. It was all to easy, ironic in fact that they knew it was a Turian Spectre. But he couldn't blame them, he was their best agent after all, and he was beyond reproach. The would never suspect him of doing anything to harm the Citadel…but he wasn't hurting the Citadel, he was defending it…fighting to ensure the survival of the Council in the face of the gravest threat to it's existence.
Although there were myriad threats to the Citadel…and not all of them were from within…but first he had to deal with the threat posed by the Alliance before he could confront that posed by the Reapers. If it could be confronted at all.
Saren stroked his forehead slightly, he would have to return to that massive Reaper and investigate it further. The team he had left to study the massive and ancient machine had been drawing a large amount of data lately, and he would need to inquire why they had so much spare time to study the galaxy at large…they'd seemed rather inattentive the last time he had made a personal check with the team. Saren shook his head as his headache spiked slightly. He needed a rest…but he needed to get back out to the research team and investigate the construct further.
But until then, he needed rest…too many thoughts were running through his head.
Arcturus Station, January 2nd 2071
President Jip had handed over the Presidency of the Systems Alliance to his Vice President after the election. It was a peaceful transfer of power, swearing an oath, a handshake and a speech for the cameras in the inauguration…not that anything in the election campaign had been peaceful. A full years worth of campaigning between the five major party candidates had been brutal and unrelenting. A long running debate between them on everything from political theory, to economic policies, to favorite foods. It had been a surprising race with the Vegan President Jip stepping down after his second five year term and resolving not to run again. His Vice President Timothy Johnson had been far from a 'solid win' throughout the campaign, facing the other four candidates who made Johnson's victory a hard fought one. Olv-Dra-Prt, a Vegan with extensive experience in the political forum and Muan Issler's selected representative to the World house in Parliament had run on the Liberty Party ticket and made things very difficult. The Vargr Finrav had been the wildly popular candidate for the Populist Party, and had enjoyed a healthy lead throughout the campaign, but an economic upturn had stole the lead away in the final months. The Aslan Brak of the Economist party had commanded a solid block of the electorate, but his support had never grown enough to make him a possible victor. The final candidate had been Issani, an native Drow politician, she had been the first candidate the newly created Federalist party had run. The novelty of a new party fighting for a limited Federal government and stronger 'world's rights' had attracted some voters, but her message had failed to appeal to many of the issues which dominated the minds of voters.
But by Election night, Vice President Johnson had won with forty percent of the vote, while Senator Olv had seized twenty percent, Congressman Finrav had captured ten, Congressman Brak had taken eight percent, while Issani had surprisingly captured twelve percent, enough to ensure that her party would not be a one election phenomena. By the end, the wild results of an Alliance Election were ended, the speeches had been given and the end of the election had arrived, leaving newly elected President Johnson to be briefed in on a large number of issues which he had merely passing familiarity.
One of which was laying in a flimsplast binder in front of him, and had Army General Marcus Ollan seated before the large desk that President Johnson had recently acquired. The President looked down at the binder and recognized the code names on the front.
Alpha and Omega.
"Well General, I've been eagerly awaiting this briefing. All I've heard before now has been hushed words about secret operatives and super-soldiers." Johnson said, a smile on his lips as the Alliance General nodded.
"Well sir, you are familiar with the Alpha units, correct?" General Ollan said, his own copy of the Top Secret report open before him.
"Yes…super agents who are the best of the best, elite units." President Johnson replied.
"Correct sir, they are the overt units, excellent agents, capable of undertaking everything from counter intelligence, to information gathering, even law enforcement and policing work. There isn't a member of the Alliance who doesn't know about the Alpha units. They come into difficult situations and assist local forces in any way necessary with any issues they can, from aiding law enforcement against criminal or terrorists groups to working as military intelligence gathering outfits. They are primarily a technical organization that acts in a support role, very rarely do they undertake active actions on their own." General Ollan said.
"Multi branch, of course." The President responded.
"Yes sir, civilian and military. They are a poster group, but they do an excellent job when they are properly utilized." General Ollan said with a nod.
"But what about Omega, I've never heard of them." President Johnson asked, tapping the folder on his desk.
"Well sir, while Alpha is the poster group…Omega is more covert. To put it simply, Omega is a covert black operations group made up of units assembled for diverse skills and combat operations. They're used domestically and in foreign territory for wet work, sabotage, assassination, espionage, counter terrorism and counter insurgency among other things. They're basically the ones who do all the things that the Alpha units don't." General Ollan said and President Johnson nodded slowly.
"I had expected such an organization existed…but I was never privy to the details General. I'm not sure I approve of it, they sound very much like the Citadel's Spectres." President Johnson said darkly, the displeasure in his voice apparent.
"Well Mr. President, disapproval or not, such an organization does exist and it is extremely necessary. We cannot afford to send in Marines against every threat, we cannot invade every other world in the galaxy. By the same token, The Security Service and the Intelligence Service cannot effectively operate everywhere we need them to. Omegas are combat capable forces who operate where and when we need them to Mr. President. They are not autonomous units that have no oversight, they are paramilitary units and take their orders from High Command and this office sir." General Ollan said, his own voice firm. President Jip had a long history of being somewhat 'dove' on defense matters, and many members of High Command had reservations that his Vice President would be the same way in the office of the President.
"I understand that General, but I'm not entirely comfortable with the concept." President Johnson replied to the firm words of the General.
"Not all battles can be fought openly sir. You know that and I know that. That's why the Omegas exist. For the battles that are covert and behind the scenes. They're not a rogue unit and they don't have unlimited authority, they're a combat force, and they follow orders." General Ollan said, and President Johnson nodded.
"I understand General, are these units being utilized now?"
"Yes sir, they are, primarily the Alpha units are undertaking research into the rash of espionage incidents thought our technical and industrial sectors in the past few years. Omega units are primarily engaged with counter terrorism operations thought the Skyllian Verge and Terminus Systems operating against pirate and terrorist bases." General Ollan said simply.
"I see General. I take it the utilization of Omega units falls on my shoulders?" Johnson said with a sigh.
"Yes sir, due to the internal and external activities of those units, any missions that they are sent on must be approved by the Commander in Chief." General Ollan said.
"Alright General." President Johnson said.
"There is something else Mr. President. The Intelligence Service and Security Service had briefed you on the current Situation?"
"I've read the briefings General, and the report from Ghost Taskforce. The unified intelligence on the situation states that it's believed that there are Spectres operating against our technological infrastructure in an attempt to narrow our technological advantage." President Johnson replied.
"Yes sir, and you're aware that the intelligence also suggests that there may be forces operating within the Citadel who do not represent their political will."
"I have General, that is the primary reason that we are not going to be pushing the Council at the moment." President Johnson answered.
"Of course sir, that's a political issue, not a military one." General Ollan said with a nod.
"Thank you for the briefing General, I believe that in time, the Omega units may be necessary if the Council cannot deal with it's own internal issues. If they are unable…then I will have to deal with the issue instead." President Johnson said and rose to shake hands with General Ollan.
And there we go folks, the first section of my story is complete, and we see the stage set between the Citadel's rogue Spectre on one side, and the Alliance's counter on the other. Please, check in and read 'Mass Effect: A New History' when it comes out for the beginnings of the turmoil between the Council and the Alliance…and begin to see the origin of Sovereign's campaign against the Alliance.