Chapter 27-Gathering of Force

It had hung in they skies of Parnack for nearly an hour, and from his place in Gharezia Square, such a thing was beginning to anger Prime Alpha Gharex. Huge and forbidding, the immense ship of dark metal had simply floated above Capital-Gharezia without doing a single thing utterly inert and unmoving, disdainful of the city below it. His mouth, an inverted Y of needle fangs, splayed outwards in a grimace, and he could not shake the feeling that this thing, whatever it was, was mocking him. Either that, or it was some trick of that weakling Council.

Zeppelins and biplanes had been sent up to investigate the thing, but no openings seemed to present themselves to the scouting craft. A few explorative bursts of rockets had been fired against it, but some sort of shield had sprung from nowhere and stopped them even before they had exploded against the craft's thick armour. And that, combined with the unmistakable air of menace that the massive machine exuded simply through virtue of being present, was making him nervous.

"Prime Alpha," one his subordinates said, peering through a pair of field goggle with his primary set of eyes. "A hatch has opened."

"Give me those," Gharex growled, snatching them from his lietenant's three fingered, meaty hand. He peered through the glass at the panel of metal that slid along the massive craft's flank, before something hovered free of it. It looked like its master in miniature, sleek dark metal built to look almost organic, tapering to a pointed tail, while metallic fingers reached downwards as it flew.

"Give me a weapon," Gharex said, holding out his other hand. "If the arrogant whelps of the Council have come to try and reassert their authority upon the Yahg then they shall not see the Prime Alpha unarmed when they disembark."

The questing fingers of the landing craft touched ground, the vehicle still seeming to hover as the tips of them rested against the paved floor of Gharezia Square, before a ramp extended out of the rear of the craft. He expected delegates of the Council to walk free, the blue skinned Asari, the avian Turians and the willowy, insubstantial Salarians, but instead what stepped from the craft looked to be soldiers of some sort, shorter than the Yahg but broad shouldered nonetheless. They were protected by armour of the same blackened metal as their drop craft and their mothership, covering them from head to foot, and their faces were hidden by smooth, blank visors that merely showed the reflection of any who tried to look at them. They carried rifles of some kind, heavy, bulky things that looked a far cry from the bolt action and semi automatic rifles the Yahg used, far more graceful than the weapons of steel and wood, and far more deadly looking.

Gharex stepped forwards, his eight eyes scanning over the soldiers before him, the height of his towering bulk enhanced further by the two horns of muscle that stretched up from the back of his skull.

"What are you?" he asked, lowering his rifle and pointing it directly at the chest of the front soldier. The visored face met his own, and it said in a deep, rasping voice; "You are Gharex Alsaxin of house House Gharezia. You are current controller of the largest section of territory of the planet Parnack, that being the Western hemisphere and a notable majority of the Northern hemisphere. We are enlisting you. You will gather the other leaders of the Yahg and you will organise your forces into one coherent body. They will depart from Parnack under our command."

This got a growl from the Yahg assembled around the emissary, but Gharex could see no sign of it being intimidated.

"Who are you to order us, little creature?" Gharex argued. "We are of the Yahg! We are of a far superior stock to whatever you may be. You will act the subordinate in the face of your superiors or there shall be consequences."

"We are not named," the emissary said. "We do not require names. We are vast, powerful beyond your very imagining; we have no need of names. But if you must give us a title, name us Reapers."

"Reapers?" Gharex said. "Reapers? Hah! Your game of posturing is amusing, Reaper, but you will show us the respect we are due, now."

"You are due no respect," came the reply. "We are your superiors, in every sense imaginable. Get upon your knees and worship, should you find it fitting; other lesser races have done so as well."

The emissary remained quite calm as Gharex tracked the barrel of his rifle upwards to the centre of the Reaper's visor.

"If you are an emissary for these Reapers, you are quite the terrible one," he said. "We shall kill you and your fellow Reapers and take your ship for ourselves. From there, the galaxy will be ours! Yahg, kill these intruders!"

He fired his rifle, the bullet ricocheting off the visor with a ripple of light, not leaving a mark, before he smashed the stock of the weapon into the emmissary's faceplate. It stood there quite calmly, just like the others, as angered Yahg bulled forwards to tear the transgressor's apart.

They are not Reapers.

The voice paused them as one. There was something in it, some dreadful ancient malice that had the frozen in the moment, paralysed by sudden terror that screamed incoherently from some corner of their hindbrain.

They are tools, implements, pieces of metal and circuitry used only to fulfil the tasks their masters assign to them.

"Who…who are you?" Gharex managed to say. "Who speaks? Show yourself at once."

I am in plain sight, Prime Alpha. Simply look skywards.

Despite himself, Prime Alpha Gharex looked upwards at the massive vessel above him.

"The ship? The ship is a Reaper?"

You are correct. Yahg. I shall repeat the request made. Comply. Serve.

"And why should we, machine? We are the Yahg, apex of life and superior to all, the greatest predators existence has ever known. Why should House Gharezia follow you?"

We are your superiors. Do not question us. Cultural studies of the Yahg show you're your people follow those who are above them. We are above your species as a whole.

"Bold words," Gharex said. "Prove them."

In reply, one of the fingers of the craft was raised, pointing towards a patch of fields beyond the brick buildings of Capital-Gharezia. There was a screaming noise before a beam of crimson, so bright that Gharex was forced to squeeze shut his eyes, tore from the massive appendage and into the target. The barrage of deafening noise and blinding light continued for only a moment, before cutting short.

Where it had hit, fields of grass used to feed the herds of Alkroxk, the staple diet of the Yahg, had been reduced to a great blackened crater, ground cracking beneath the heat, while fires were already beginning to burn around the impact site. A great chunk of earth had simply disappeared, evaporated beneath the sheer heat of the weapon, and despite himself Gharex could not help but feel a stir of fear in his heart; the thing above them was monstrously powerful.

We are your superiors in every sense, Yahg, the Reaper said. We are more ancient than you can imagine, more powerful that you are able to comprehend. Each of us is a nation, all unified in one cause, a pack that is truly unstoppable.

"What do you want of us?" Gharex asked. His rifle had dropped, the solid slug weapon suddenly pathetic in comparison to the monstrous might of the massive voidcraft's own armaments.

We have begun the Great Salvation once more, came the reply. We wish to save the peoples of this galaxy, but they have proven to be more stubborn than we anticipated. We are using you to aid us; do so and you will be granted immortality as people of our race.

"Save the peoples of this galaxy?" Gharex asked. "Do you mean those of the Council? I refuse to help those who are too weak to help themselves."

We save them from themselves, grant them salvation in annihilation, but they fight, blindly attempting to halt the inevitable. The Council insulted the Yahg gravely by the actions of their emmisaries, and doubly so when they withdrew instead of doing fair battle. We shall facilitate the due justice that you no doubt wish to dispense.

It was not the way of the Yahg to question those who were dominant, and though the thing above them was not of Parnack, it was far, far superior to anything that the planet used. Even the technology of the Council's emissary beings paled in comparison to the thing in the skies above his world.

"I am yours to command, Reaper."

#

"Do you think we will simply comply?" Prime Minister Thallen asked the machine before him. "Your demands are preposterous, Reaper. We know your true nature; we may have halted the messages sent across the galaxy by Scandarum before they reached the citizens of the Hegemony, but believe me, we are not so poorly informed."

"Our demands are reasonable," the Reaper platform before his desk said. "We request the support of your military and your fleets, as well as the use of your slave population."

"Ridiculous," Thallen replied, waving a hand in dismissal. "I know what you things want; extinction of all life in the galaxy. Why would you spare the Batarians?"

"The speech made by the one you call Malleus Scandarum was an act of propaganda, wrapped in hyperbole and exaggeration," the Reaper replied. "Our intentions and motivations are not as simple as he suggests."

"Alright then," Thallen said. "What are they?"

"Our goals are incomprehensible to an organic mind," the Reaper replied. "All you need to know is that we desire the Council races and their allies gone. If you do not aid us, the Batarians will also be driven to extinction."

"You're being evasive, machine," Thallen said. "I don't like that. And I don't like all the threats you are making."

"I am not making threats," the Reaper said. "I am simply stating facts. And I am not privy to your demands; I am not required to answer one of your questions. That I answer any at all is a gift I grant to you."

Thallen glared at the thing that stood in his office, before he said; "You're beginning to anger me, you know. What's to stop me calling my guards in here and having you shot?"

"Your irritation does not concern me," the Reaper platform said. "Before you eject me from the premises, I would like to say that we have a dreadnought in orbit over four of your worlds, this one included. It is currently targeting this office. The extinction of your people would be a certainty should you refuse."

"That will kill you, though," Thallen said.

"I am a vessel for their will, here to act as a mere mouthpiece," the platform replied. "My destruction is inconsequential."

"Fine then," Thallen said. "Besides from not being nuked from orbit, what's in it for the Batarians?"

"Revenge," the Reaper answered. "The Hegemony has been persecuted and oppressed by the council for centuries, and forced your people into exile. We can grant you the means to enact the justice that you deserve. After we have wiped the council out, we can grant the Batarians the technology needed to make them immortal and all powerful, make you eternal."

"So why are you enlisting our aid?" the Prime Minister asked. "If you Reapers are all powerful, what do you need with the Batarians?"

"The Council and their allies are proving more stubborn than expected," the Reaper said. "They have disrupted our plans. You will aid us in defeating their forces."

"Fine," Thallen said. "I'll get our generals together, though this isn't because I trust you, machine; I'm doing this for the good of the Batarians and that only."

"Your motivation is of no concern to me," the Reaper replied. "All I care is that you fight the Council and their allies."

Thallen shrugged.

"Just let us win this," he said. "If not, then I've no idea how badly my people are going to suffer from this."