The Thirty-Six Stratagems of Wáng Jìngzé


In Order to Capture, One Must Let Loose

"We have an incoming call from an Admiral Krios at Omega." The Council communications officer announced the the assembly. Every councillor, admiral, politician, stakeholder and rubbernecker was gathered in the Council chambers. After almost a year, the Citadel was on the brink of self destruction. They needed to take action, now.

Kaidan leaned against the railing, more there to observe than participate in the hundred-man shouting match that was being conducted. The military had long since fallen into disuse, any man who could hold a weapon was being used as riot control, but even those had died out, people becoming too apathetic.

Admiral Krios, that was interesting. There hadn't been any news about the appointment of new admirals in the Terminus fleet. The asari councillor gave the signal and the call was put through. A gasp of shock and outrage echoed around the chamber, the shouting brought to an immediate halt.

Kaidan looked up in wonder, too tired for any other emotion. The beaming face of Commander Shepard looked down at them, he hadn't seen her so happy... ever.

"Shepard!" The turian councillor roared, all indignation. "Is this some kind of joke? We haven't heard from you in months!"

"And it's lovely to see you again, too, Councillor," Shepard said. "How's the family?"

Kaidan smirked, she had always loved to mock him, no matter how grim the situation.

"Now you're parading around with a new name! Do you think you can hide from us!"

"It doesn't make a lot of difference to me if you recognise my marriage, but if you get my name wrong, how will I receive your Christmas cards?"

Kaidan's gut sank, although he had known deep down that she had moved on. Married. Krios was the assassin's name. He'd better treat her right.

The turian sputtered in outrage, but the asari cut him off, looking so worn out and twice her age. "Please, Shepard, just give us some good news."

Shepard gave a serene smile.

"I'd be happy to, councillor."

Shepard strode out of the UTWB building at Omega, letting the artificial sunlight bathe her. With a skip in her step, she passed the many civil servants that now made this district home. White and silver played across the buildings, clean and pretty, with just a hint of the many brutal heroes that lay behind every wall and in the cracks of ever stone.

"At 3am Omega Standard Time this morning the last Reaper was killed, its body disposed of in the nearest star. At midday OST today, martial law will officially end in the Terminus Systems."

She watched herself on the galaxy news terminals as she passed them, unable to contain her smile. She called out a greeting to Kolyat as she passed him, and he smiled at her despite the dogged determination on his face, everyone was busy, the war was ending.

"Our surplus food, medicine and fuel has been released, and is already en route to the Citadel. This should sustain the station until our assessment team has finished their work. Pending a positive report, the Citadel will be released unconditionally."

"We do not have to submit to your 'assessment team'!"

"Oh, yes you do."

The krogans on the street corner saluted her, and she returned it. They were looking dashing in their new uniforms. Aria's personal police force. Well, semi-personal. For all her blustering, she found being in charge too much work to handle alone. Not that she'd ever admit to that, but delegation was her new job.

"The United Terminus War Board and the United Terminus Committee, in conjunction with O-Sec and Omega's Lord Mayor Aria T'Loak, will be sponsoring relief efforts throughout Citadel space, in hopes that we can come to a state of peaceful co-existence. The following governments have made contributions..."

"Shepard! We can't – "

"These are the people who saved your life and will now be feeding you, councillor. You will listen to every last name without interruption."

Her home was in the upper sections, near the ambassadors and local politicians. The UTC had made every effort to make her feel at home, as one of the only high ranking humans in the district. She didn't know where they'd found the flowers for her front garden, and couldn't possibly imagine why they thought she'd want a white picket fence, but she appreciated the thought.

It looked like the home she'd dreamed of having when she lived in the prefab on Mindoir. Thane didn't really understand the implications, but she didn't really know how to live them, so they compromised by not trying.

"The UTC sets forth the following sapient rights, the violation of which warrants the full intervention of the UTWB fleet:-"

Shepard waved to her neighbour, the wife of a hanar ambassador who was lounging in the pond in front of their home. She found she quite liked having hanar neighbours. Being married to a drell gave her a position of respect with them, and as soon as they found out that she spoke Prothean there was nothing she could do to offend them. Sings-The-Dancers-Grace was nice, anyway.

"For their contribution and sacrifices, the geth and the rachni are recognised in the eyes of the UTWB and the UTC as sapient, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of any sapient being."

Grace pointed at her belly and she smiled, rubbing a hand over the slight bump just beginning to show. The hanar had demanded she be allowed to babysit, although Shepard wasn't entirely sure that her child wouldn't be drafted into the Compact. It was technically pure human, but that didn't seem to worry them.

"All Prothean relic sites are declared the cultural property of the hanar and their client species."

She hit the control at her front door and stepped into the warm, dry house. A bunch of flowers caught her eye and she read the tag. A congratulations present from Garrus. A giant bunch of lavender. Bastard. She grinned to herself.

"The use of any Prothean or Reaper technology, up to an including all Reaper mass relays, is strictly prohibited. All mass relays are to be replaced with geth/quarian made relays. No trading routes will operate in Terminus space based on Reaper relays."

Thane was meditating in the sunlight and she kissed his neck, pulling him from his trance. He smiled up at her, hands finding her waist. "How did it go?"

"As well as could be expected. At least I never have to talk to them again."

"The new governing committee of the Terminus Systems consists of Illumiated Councillor Ranamen of the Illuminated Primacy, Admiral Zal'Koris vas Quib Quib of the Flotilla Admiralty, Lord Mayor Aria T'loak of Omega, Lin Clan Linwe Tar of Irune, geth colossus unit designated Ambassador, Urdnot Wrex of Tuchanka and myself, Admiral Krios of the United Terminus War Board. At the head of Omega Security is O-Sec Chief Commissioner Bailey."

He kissed her hand, resting his head against her belly as if he could already hear what was going on inside. She'd never managed to get that skin graft.

"You've done it, siha."

"I know." She smiled at him. "Now we can finally get some rest and do the things we want to do."

"The desert calls."

"Citadel liaisons are all to be carried out through the Department of External Affairs, by Ambassadors Mordin Solus and Quong Lai."

She leaned down and captured his lips, the sunlight streaming through the window. Their home, their little family, things she'd never thought she could have. After more than five years she was free. Allowed to rest at last.

"For the last time, this is Admiral Krios, signing off."