Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect or Halo. Those belong to Bioware and Bungie respectively.
Chapter 1: Great Discovery
Unknown System, 2157
On board the Council exploration vessel Seloria
Captain Alenna T'Velos paced back and forth through the CIC as her multi-racial crew went about their duties. She skimmed through her data pad again, making sure the ships readouts were normal. It was unnecessary; her Sensor Operator would immediately notify her if anything unexpected came up. Still, she liked to be well informed of everything that occurred on her ship. The Council entrusted her with not only the command of one of the Citadel's elite exploration vessels, but also the lives of her crew, which she took very seriously.
"How much longer until we exit FTL?" she asked.
"We will be arriving in unknown system in 2 minutes" came the quick reply of Forbin, the ships Salarian navigational officer.
"Good, bring the Seloria's scanners and sensors online, I want a full scan of the system as soon as we enter".
Alenna was tasked with opening a new Relay path to the unexplored Tyroggan Arm of the galaxy. This large swath of the galaxy - an area which spanned roughly 15% of the Milky Way - has perplexed scientists for millennia. The Mass Relays reached every corner of the galaxy except the Tyroggan Arm. There were many theories as to why that was. Many believed that the Protheans - the creators of the Mass Relays - had not yet developed the Mass Relay network there before their mysterious disappearance. Others believed that the Council has simply not encountered any Relays entering the area. The more wild extranet theories claimed that the Tyroggan Arm was actually the place of origin of the Protheans themselves who, after conquering the galaxy, for some unknown reason receded back to the Tyroggan arm and cut off all Relays entering into their territory.
Whatever the truth was the Council would soon find out, thanks to the discovery of a dormant Relay on the outer edge of Council space. This Relay - dubbed Relay 314 - was accidently discovered by a Volus mining corporation that was scanning for unmapped resource rich systems. After contacting the Citadel of the find, a science team was dispatched to investigate. What they found stunned them. According to the Relays navigation logs, its connecting Relay led into the Tyroggan Arm. Furthermore the connecting Relay was a Prime Relay, which connected to dozens of other Relays across the unexplored area of the galaxy. With the coordinate location retrieved, an exploration team was sent to open the connecting Prime Relay.
Captain Alenna was selected by the Council Exploration Committee (CEC) to open the network. Unlike other Asari, who began to settle down once they hit the Matron stage, Alenna had chosen to continue doing what she loved - exploring. And with more than 150 years of command experience in the CEC, she was the prime choice for this mission.
"All systems are online and functional. We will be exiting FTL in 1 minute. Preparing FTL exit protocols." Lenora, the ships sensor operator reported.
Alenna nodded and once again looked at the briefings from the science report of Relay 314. Being chosen to be one of the first to explore the mysterious and long romanticized Tyroggan Arm was a dream come true for her. Deep down she was hoping to the Goddess that she would make some incredible discovery; perhaps an ancient alien civilization or a new space faring race. However she knew not to get her hopes up. Odds were that they would encounter nothing more interesting than uninhabitable rocks and asteroids.
"Exiting in 5, 4, 3, 2…"
As soon as the ship exited FTL the crew went into action. The Seloria was equipped with the best sensor technology in Council space. Alenna watched the main display screen as information flooded in.
Lenora listed through the important data. "Yellow Dwarf Star. Five planets, the fourth being a gas giant. One large asteroid belt on the outer rim. But…"
"What is it?" Alenna asked, sensing Lenora's hesitation.
"I can't find the Relay. It should be…wait, here it is!" She brought up the 5th planet in the system. "The Relay should be orbiting this planet. There's only one object orbiting it." The moon of the planet appeared on screen. "The Relay must be here, encased in ice".
"Are you sure?"
"There's no other possibility" Lenora replied confidently.
Alenna frowned. Mass Relays being encased in ice was not unheard of, but it was rare. It usually occurred to Relays that have been dormant for a long time. It wouldn't hinder the team's mission. As soon as they send the Mass Relay code the Relay would receive the transmission and 'power up'. The ice would then break off as the ancient machine came to life. It did mean however that they would probably have to wait a day or two for the debris to clear up after activation before going through back to Relay 314.
"Alright. Send the activation signal. And get me a more thorough scan of the system."
Lenora resumed her scanning as Korven, the Turian signal operator nodded and sent the signal to the Relay. Upon receiving the transmission, the Relay's two counter rings began spinning. The mass effect core materialized in the center. And after over 50,000 years of dormancy, the massive monolith roared to life. The moon sized encasing ice began to crack, then violently broke off. Massive chunks of ice the size of continents began to drift away, finally revealing the ancient machine for the first time in eons.
"Mass effect core energy readings are stable. Relay is online and ready for use" Fobin said. A throng of cheers, claps, and thumps erupted among the crew. Alenna smiled. Her mission was a complete success, and more importantly, her team has just opened the gateway to the last section of the unknown.
"Send an FTL transmission to the Citadel. Tell them the Relay is online but not yet ready for travel."
"Yes Captain" Korven replied, his mandibles still clicked into a smile. After seven weeks of FTL travel across unknown space inside rather cramped living conditions, they could now travel back virtually instantaneously thanks to the now opened Relay. The tension in the ship was one of relief. Congratulations, handshakes, and even hugs were given as others talked about how they would spend their next shore leave. Everyone in the CIC was cheerful; except one.
Lenora stared hard at the incoming data from the ships sensors. At first she thought the anomaly was a glitch. She rescanned again to make sure. Her eyes lit up as the scans once again returned with the same data. If they were accurate, than the second planet from the sun was a garden world. But that wasn't what surprised her. For on her LADAR screen appeared to be thousands of pieces of unnatural metals orbiting the planet. And…one very large structure…branching off the planet into space? She blinked, not sure what to make of it. One thing was certain. The large - whatever it was - was not natural. A giddy feeling arose in her stomach and she smiled.
"Captain!" Lenora yelled in excitement, interrupting some of the crew congratulations. "I think I found something incredible."
Alenna turned to Lenora with a quizzical expression. "What did you find?"
Lenora didn't hesitate. "After the more thorough scans came through, it appears the second planet is a garden world."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes. The planet has liquid water and a breathable atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen. However a large area of the planet appears to be scorched." Lenora brought the scans of the planet on screen. Alenna looked at the data; the planet had a variety of green, blue, and brown colors. And just as Lenora said, there was a large scar across the surface - blackened and dead. She pondered on what could have caused this. It definitely was not a meteorite that much she knew. Perhaps a large volcanic explosion, caused by massive shift in tectonic plates?
Lenora continued on. "The garden world is not what's incredible though."
Alenna raised her brow. "What do you mean?"
"LADAR scans show what appear to be large chunks of metal debris orbiting the planet, and one extremely large construct that stretches from the planet surface all the way into space." A few gasps were heard and Lenora smiled. "I'm not sure what to make of it, but one thing is certain, it's definitely artificial."
Alenna's heart skipped a beat. This is exactly what she dreamed of. Immediately she analyzed the situation and asked the relevant questions. "Is there any radio signals or signs of life?"
Lenora shook her head. "No, nothing. The debris orbiting the planet are broken up and fractured. But they were obviously ships of some kind. Perhaps part of a space station even, given the size of the debris."
Destroyed ships. A shattered space station. A large planetary scar. A clear picture of what once occurred here was now becoming apparent. It was obvious that some kind of battle took place. And by the amount of debris, it had to be a big one. Her mind wondered on the subject. Was this a species that fought a civil war? Or was it a fight between two different species. Was this a home world or a colony of a space faring race? Did whoever once occupied this planet still exist?
"What else can you tell me about this planet?" She asked.
"Only what the preliminary scans found. The planet is small - roughly 4,000km - and very mountainous. There are no natural satellites. A third of its surface is covered in water." Lenora turned to her captain expectantly. "We have to get closer for a more detailed analysis"
Alenna let a satisfying smile cross her lips. Her objective was to open the Relay and travel back through it. But with the ice still clearing, they would have to wait 20 to 30 hours until it was safe. She wasn't going to waste that time drifting by the Relay when ancient ruins were just waiting to be explored.
"Forbin, bring us in orbit around the planet. Korven, send a message to the Citadel about this discovery. Everyone else, you know what to do."
Instantly everyone in the CIC returned to their posts with hectic excitement. The crew's enthusiasm on what they might find was transparent.
"Do you think the debris' are Prothean?" a crew member asked.
"More likely from some unknown race" another replied.
"I hope so. Imagine what kind of technology we could find" the ships Salarian researcher said.
"I'm more interested in the culture and art of these beings."
"Dropping out of FTL near the planet in 3, 2, 1…"
As soon the Seloria exited FTL the ships complex sensor technology went to work. In mere seconds, detailed scans of the planet and its surroundings flooded in. What they saw stunned them.
"By the Goddess! This debris field is immense"
"They're definitely ships of some kind. Some of them are several kilometers long"
"That space station reaches down all the way to the planet surface. How is that possible?"
"Maybe it's a space elevator of some kind. I had heard of proposals for such constructions, but they were dismissed because of the immense cost."
"Bring up visuals of that piece right there" Alenna pointed to a 2.5 kilometer long chunk of metal that must have been a ship. The image of it came up on the screen and everyone gasped. It was a ship; and by the looks of it, clearly a war ship. It was as big as the Destiny Ascension itself and had what look liked massive cannons mounted in the front. The ship design was like nothing she had ever seen before; bulky yet angular, and…menacing looking. The aura it gave off was clear. Don't mess with me.
Further scrutiny revealed a large, almost surgical hole pierced through the midsection of the ship. Alenna wondered what kind of weapon could have caused such a clean cut. There were many other ships similar to that one - all grey drab and boxy - with similar wounds.
"Captain, take a look at this. I don't believe it!" Lenora brought up an image of a ship of distinctly different design. Unlike the others - which were very angular - this one had smooth curves, with almost no hard-cut edges to speak of. The color was also an interest of note; purple instead of grey, white, or blue like most ships she had seen. But those qualities, while interesting, was not what shocked the crew to its core. No, what grabbed everyone's attention was the sheer size of the ship. It was clearly broken into two pieces - with what looked like the front end of the ship being an astounding 17 kilometers, and the rear - drifting nearby - being another 10.
"L-Lenora" Alenna stammered. "Are you sure these readings are accurate. There's no way a ship could be that size!"
"Yes, I've rescanned twice already. This massive ship is broken up. I already ran the parts through the VI to determine what it would look like whole." The main screen went to a virtual simulator of the two parts slowly coming together. The front end of the ship looked like a large dome or tear drop, Alenna noted, and eventually narrowed into a thin (relatively speaking) bridge-like structure that connected to the rear end. "According to this, that ship when whole was over 27 kilometers long!"
All across the CIC everyone quieted at Lenora's proclamation. Alenna just stared dumbfounded. Twenty-seven kilometers? "That's nine times the size of the Destiny Ascension. Goddess, that's over half the size of the Citadel itself."
"Hmm, interesting" Morlat spoke, his chin in hand deep in thought. "No signs of element zero. No, none at all. In fact, with the exception of the mass relay, there's no element zero in entire system".
Korven dismissed that claim. "That's impossible. All FTL flight utilizes element zero. It's the basis for all practical space travel."
It was true. And element zero was used not only for FTL but for virtually every advance technology in the galaxy. Whether it be weaponry, communications, shields, flight, holographic interfaces, and a host of countless other electronics and gadgets. Put simply; galactic society would not exist without it.
So why didn't these ships have it?
"There's more" Morlat continued, undeterred by Korven's dismissal. "Debris field is recent. Yes, very recent. Some ships still producing power. Small amounts but detectable. Radiation from planet scar recent too. Not natural. Planet scorched through unknown means. Hmm, hold on." Suddenly Morlat's hand flew across the holo-interface as he input complex formulas and equations that the other crew couldn't hope to understand. "Yes, base on half-life decay of radiation, planet scar occurred roughly 70 years ago."
Alenna raised her brow. That little tidbit surprised her. This whole time she had been under the impression that they have stumble upon the ruins of an ancient species - perhaps even Prothean. But whatever happened here occurred just 70 years ago - a blink of an eye in galactic terms. "What about that large structure reaching down to the planet? What can you tell me about that?"
"The structure appears to be made up of two large arcs connected by 6 spars" Lenora began. "There are 7 'strands' that reach down to the planet surface. One of the strands is shattered a few kilometers above the planet. The length is just over 4 kilometers."
"And I presume those strands lead to somewhere?"
"One moment." Lenora said as she typed at her console. "Here, detailed optic scans of the planet surface that the strands lead to."
Images of what were clearly destroyed buildings and intricate roads were displayed on the screen. Alenna noted two things. One; this city must have once held a sizable population - and two; whatever occurred here completely devastated the region.
"Thermal signatures detect no signs of activity. The place is completely dead."
Korven twitched his mandibles in anticipation. He knew that they had just made a huge discovery - probably the biggest in centuries. What technological marvels could these beings have possessed? How could they build such immense structures? Did they manage to discover another way of practical space travel - as evidence by the lack of eezo? He finally spoke up, voicing a question that everyone was thinking. "Captain, are we going to search through the ruins?"
All eyes turned to Alenna. She scanned through the faces of her crew; eager and excitement present. She felt the same way. This is why she joined the CEC - it's why they all had. But as much as she would have loved nothing more than to rummage through the shattered ships and city ruins with her own two hands, the practical part of her mind took over. For one, her ship did not have the necessary equipment for such an operation. Her mission objective was simply to open a relay network into the Tyroggan Arm. Alien ruins was the last thing the CEC expected the Seloriato encounter. Furthermore these ruins were not of some long dead ancient space faring race. A massive battle took place here a mere 70 years ago; for all she knew she could have stumbled into an inter-galactic warzone.
Shoulders slumping, she sighed. "I would love nothing more than to search through these ruins, but we don't have the equipment. And whatever species it belonged to may still be around."
"So we're just going to leave as if nothing was here?" Korven said in a frustrated tone. He knew the Captain was probably right, but it didn't make it any less upsetting.
"For now" she replied. "We have already made history by opening the first Relay path into the Tyroggan Arm. Now we have made history by discovering a treasure cove of alien technology that doesn't appear to operate on element zero. That's quite an achievement for one day, hmm?" Soft chuckles were heard through the CIC. Smiling, she continued. "I promise you all, we'll be back, and we'll be at the forefront of the exploration team with the necessary equipment to properly explore these ruins." The crew seemed to take her words to heart.
"What are your orders then Captain?" Korven asked.
"We will remain here and gather as much data as possible while we wait for the ice debris from the Relay to clear. Korven, send an update to the Citadel on what we've discovered. And from now on send an update every hour on any new data we find. Once we travel back to Citadel space we can prepare for a thorough exploration."
After a slew of 'yes captains' her crew quickly went to work. Alenna inwardly grinned, and once again turned her attention to the optical screen display. She gazed upon the floating debris' and giant ships - a sea of jagged-grey and smooth-purple.
What great secrets do you hold?
A/N: In case you were wondering, they discovered planet Harvest. And yes, I know the space elevator in cannon - Tiara - was completely destroyed. That was changed for the future arch of the story. Thanks for reading and please review.