Chapter 33

As the Slipspace was being prepared, Jayne and Liara returned to the Normandy to alert the council and push for immediate evacuation. Charlotte was asked to remain on the ark, acting as figurehead over the synthetic mechs. As explained by the Mech commander, being the Reclaimer placed her in full command. She oversaw the preparations as well as general duties around the base.

Along with Garrus, refusing to leave her side, and James being genuinely interested in the operations here, watched as more mechs were revived and set to their duties, civilian quarters were being set up faster than normal, medics and attendants were preparing medic stations in case of injury or in the likely event of mass hysteria.

"Reclaimer," an officer called, approaching herself and Garrus, "Commander Shepard has just convinced the Citadel council to enact a full station evacuation, many ships are being turned away to safe colonies while the station awaits the Slipspaces,"

"Right, get everyone ready," she instructed, "We need to take off soon as well if we are to get the Ark to the Citadel," turning to Garrus and James, joined by Ashley, Tali and EDI – each of them were to take a section of the Citadel once the Slipspace opened on 1 of the 5 arms, Charlotte was to handle the Presidium.

The systems within the Ark powered up, 6 Slipspace portals opened up across one side of the room while many Mech units awaited on the other side of the room in order to process and assist all who come through. All having their orders, they stepped through, beginning the lengthy process.

After the 2-day mark, everything was turning into a disaster.

Beginning with the relief centres, the hospitals and all other priority citizens first such as the Council, and Ambassadors before others were brought through. All recalled Spectre agents managed to keep panic down while ushering everyone to the Slipspace ports. Ashley and EDI had already completed their sections and were pulling out to aid the others. Tali had some difficulty with her section by the fear of the imminent Reaper invasion was a brilliant motivator.

Charlotte was growing anxious as she had yet to see her family and friends approach. No else had said they were sent through and with the reapers closing in she was racking over in worry,

"CHARLIE!" a voice called over the rushing crowds, looking over she saw Nirvenna waving, trailing Syrene behind her carrying Aleera and Krystella, her heart eased especially when Amelia ran passed them and hugged her beloved sister,

"Oh thank god you're all okay," she beamed, hugging her little sister back, joined by her long time friends, "But where's dad and Richard? Traxus, Darius and Soliana?" she asked,

"Ricky got held up in Traffic Control, your dad was making his way up that way. Darius and Traxus were checking all the hubs for stragglers while Soliana tended to anyone injured and sent them this way," Syrene replied, but a loud crash echoed through the presidium.

The horror of the matter was thus; the Reapers were here.

"Everyone through the Slipspace! NOW!" Charlotte ordered, "Spectre agents lay cover fire!" said Spectres pulled out their weapons and gave cover as the panicked crowds clambered through the Slipspace. Out of the corner of her eye, Charlotte spied her Father, carrying an injured Richard, running ahead of the reapers, shooting back when he got the chance. Following him was Soliana, Darius and Traxus, both trying to keep the Reaper forces from overwhelming them.

"CIVILLIANS! COVER THE CIVILIANS!" the Spectres cried, hitting their marks before they could grab the other,

"Nirvenna, get the girls through, I'll make sure the other get through too," Charlotte demanded, handing Amelia to Nirvenna,

"DADDY!" Amelia screamed, wanting to stay and help but her cries were silence as the small Asari family ran through,

"Charlie! What's going on? Why haven't you come through, we've cleared the other arms," Jayne commed through, but Charlotte was too busy covering her family,

"Get everyone off of the Citadel! The Reapers are here!" she cried, meeting Darius and Traxus while pushing her father and Soliana to the Slipspace. He placed Richard in Soliana's care while he helped get the remaining stragglers through,

"We're coming Charlotte!" Garrus called, but there was arguing through the comms, apparently the team had returned to the Normandy once everyone was settled on the Ark. Charlotte never replied as the Reapers made a push,

"RETREAT! GET THROUGH!" she demanded, the Spectres made their retreat with her coming a close behind, "Go Dad!" she ordered but he remained firm,

"Not a chance, I go through with my daughter or not at all!" he yelled back, Darius grumbled before pulling Hank through with him, leaving Charlotte and Traxus to cover the Slipspace but the forces were overwhelming,

"Commander! Close the portal, we're coming through!" Charlotte ordered, watching as the Slipspace began to destabilize but as she turned to Traxus, he was engrossed and cornered, "TRAXUS!" she cried, running to his aid. Blasting the husks away from him, she got him to his feet and hobbled to the portal. It was closing too quickly, they wouldn't make it in time but that wouldn't stop her; she was getting everyone out.

Unbeknownst to her, Traxus knew the portal was closing too quickly, he was lagging her back. In a split second, he could recall the day they met, the days she spent speaking with all of them back in that Bionic Net hellhole, and the day she saved them all. She never asked for anything in return except for their friendship. Now…he believed it was time to repay her.

Taking her off guard, taking 2 long strides he pushed her through the closing portal. Just as she recovered from the shock, she watched as he smiled back at her, the Reapers coming on him; a Banshee screeching over him,

"I am honoured to have been your friend Charlotte," he was content even when the Banshee ran him through and all he heard was Charlotte fading scream.

Amelia was almost balling her eyes, scared she's lose her father, brother and sister all at once. Syrene, Aleera and Krystella all tried to comfort the girl while Nirvenna returned with food and water.

Seeing another pair come through the last portal, Amelia beamed seeing her brother and Soliana limp through. The medic Mechs were instantly with them, scanning and assessing his condition. Soliana turned and smiled, seeing little Amelia ran up to her,

"Ana!" she squealed, using her new nickname as she hugged the older female Turian, but looking behind her, she didn't see her father or Charlotte, "But, where is Daddy and Charlie?" she asked, practically begging,

"They're coming, don't worry," she cooed, and to be proven right Darius just came through dragging Hank with him,

"Let me go! My girl is still back there!" Hank demanded, struggling against Darius,

"She'll come! Do you have so little faith in her abilities?!" Darius demanded,

"She's my daughter! And no matter how skilled she is, I worry!" he snapped, but taken aback when Charlotte came screaming, and falling through the closing portal. Not registering her family around her, she tried to get up and back through the Slipspace to get Traxus, but it was already closed, fizzled into non-existence.

"Oh my girl!" Hank dropped and hugged her, but she didn't hug back. Looking down, her eyes were wide and rolling with tears. Slowly, she turned to her father, voice cracking,

"Traxus…he…he…" he didn't let her finish as he held her closer, gesturing for Amelia to come and help make her sister happy again. Amelia knew better, if Charlotte had to cry, it was for a good reason. She liked Traxus too.

The Citadel was lost to the Reapers, but Admiral Hackett's forces tracked the large station to Earth. Once everyone was accounted for and a casualty tally drawn up, all the occupants of the Citadel were led to the large, maintained interior of the Ark. Though it was dangerous to keep all occupants within the Space fortess when they intended to use it in conjunction with the Citadel and Crucible, but leaving them on the abandoned world would be worse.

The Mech Commander assured them that situating everyone within the civil quarters of the station would be safe for them when the entire station docks with the Citadel.

"I'm not leaving you," Garrus hissed, Jayne had just announced they were leaving to meet with Admiral Hackett and the cross species army she has accumulated but only Charlotte was to remain to ensure the Ark makes the route to the Citadel. He wasn't taking it well as he pulled her to him and gripped tightly, fearing that if he let go, she would disappear,

"You have to, the Commander needs you," she reluctantly replied, pulling back to look up to him,

"No, too many times I've left you and something bad has happened," he grumbled, looking down at her with all the love he held, "Even if the world is coming down around us now…I don't want to lose you,"

"Nor do I Garrus, I don't want to lose you either," tears pricking the corners of her eyes, she buried her face in his collar and neck, "You mean too much to me, but we need to play our parts so when we beat the Reapers," looking down, he saw the determination in her eyes, "We reclaim our future, one that is bright…" taking his taloned hand, placing at her abdomen, "And one where we can raise our child," the thought of losing her was great, but seeing now that remaining on the Ark will be the safest place for both her and their child.

Their child. He still couldn't comprehend how he had gotten so lucky as to find the woman of his dreams, with a good firing arm, carrying his child despite all else in this universe saying such a thing is impossible.

"Alright," leaning forward, connecting his forehead with hers. Nothing more needed to be said, but as the Mech commander approached the 2, he looked to the mech with a hard glare, "Make sure nothing happens to her," his venomous threat didn't need to be uttered as the Commander understood, saluting and agreeing to his terms. Garrus took another moment with Charlotte before turning away to return to the Normandy. She sighed as she watched him leave, she couldn't focus on the damage that was about to occur, if anything she needed to hold to hope, Hope that would bring them back together.

The battle for Earth was well underway.

With the colossal army Commander Jayne Shepard achieved to bring together, they made their push against the Reapers. While the heavy fleets wage battle in the atmosphere above, Jayne and the ground teams pushed through the enemy forces toward the beam connecting the Citadel to the Earth. The reaper forces were overwhelming, but even with their diminishing forces, they were making progress.

But as the Ark breached Slipspace, all occupants seeing the damage and casualties in Earth's orbit, they had to do something,

"Commander!" Charlotte called, the mech commander running to her aid, "How many of you forces are operational?"

"Almost 80%, Reclaimer," he replied, standing at attention,

"Then get them out there!" she ordered, "We need fliers giving those cruisers support, heavies and Medics on the ground covering the injured. We are ending this now, we're taking back our freedom!" her orders inspired the masses, the bridge bursting with frenzied activity as fighters, tanks and support were rallied and dispatched. Small Slipspaces were opened to allow the heavies, medics and ground troops to reach the surface.

"Commander! Shepard! Anderson!" Admiral Hackett's voice roared through the open channels, "Does anyone know they made it to the Citadel?!" now things were getting tense, they needed someone on the Citadel to initiate the Ark's docking procedures and to activate the Crucible,

"We need eyes and ears in there! Can we make a connection?!" she asked, looking to the tech operators,

"Yes, Reclaimer, we're hacking into the Citadel mainframe now," came the Chief's techs reply,

"Good," she smiled, opening a commlink with the Admiral's Flagship, "Admiral, we are working on getting a visual on the Commander, stand by,"

"Good work," he sighed back, awaiting her report,

"The keepers sacrificed the strength of their systems for the integrity of the Citadel…bringing visuals now," the screens before them revealed Jayne, a little worse for wear but alive, unfortunately so was the Illusive man,

"Uh, Reclaimer, we're getting severe Reaper tech feedback from that human," another tech called,

"That…was he so desperate he'd do that to himself?" she questioned, watching as both Shepard and Anderson were seemingly controlled by the illusive man, "Admiral, both the Commander and Anderson got to the Citadel, but so has the Illusive man,"

"Damn it, we can't afford to botch this. Engage if necessary," he ordered, cutting the connection. Watching the feed, Charlotte was happy to find Jayne had it all under control…to an extent. Arguing with the Illusive man got him off edge, pushing Anderson out of the way and granting her a clear shot. The bridge watched as she hobbled to the control console, activating Citadel arms and initialising the connection for the Crucible and the Ark,

"Authorisation confirmed. Prepping Ark for connection…this is it," the Chief tech sighed, monitoring his team as they brought the Ark in smoothly.

The arms of the Citadel were at full extension as the Ark approached. Lining up, a section at the tip of the arms opened up, latching on and connecting to the Ark's systems, achieving full connection. The Crucible followed, connecting with was the Council chambers atop the Citadel tower. Finally, after 3 years, it was ending,

"Reclaimer! On the feeds!" the Mech Commander panicked, bringing everyone's attention. There, a faded silhouette stood over the slumped Shepard, and much like a puppet master pulling the strings, forced Jayne to move back to the console. Though the silhouette was blank and bare, Charlotte knew what it was,

"No…Tirnoch," she gasped, "We need to do something!" looking to the Tech crew, "Block that transmission, prevent him from assuming control!" she snapped,

"We can't," the Chief tech replied, "That is his true self, nothing one our end can scramble it," Charlotte had to think, they needed to stop him from achieving his malicious goal. "Send me in,"

"What? Reclaimer no, we can't lose you!" the Mech Commander argued,

"It's my destiny to reclaim what we have lost," she stated, looking to all in the room, "If I need to lay down my life…so be it. We have lost too much to stop now," stepping off the bridge, she turned to the Slipspace controller, "And…should I die, honour my ancestors…your creators, protect these lives with all you are," none argued, the only thing done was the turn of a switch.

3 Choices.

That is what it would take. 1 of 3 and all of this would be over. After shooting that bastard, both Jayne and Anderson were going to sit back and watch the crap hit the fan, but something was amiss, the Crucible wasn't working even with the Ark. She had collapsed before she could do anything, awaking before the Catalyst. But this, the child who haunted her…how could this be Tirnoch like Charlotte said? Maybe…he wasn't, it was obvious with the Citadel's 2 new attachments, the Catalyst within the Citadel would be altered,

"It's is time to choose," spoke the child, "Control…Destory…Unify…or watch your world fall like all the others," it was the final step for them, she'd rather destroy the reapers than control them…but unifying everyone, all becoming the same hybrids of Synthetic and Organic…a peace they had all strived for. As she approached the centre, something stopped her,

"Co….nder…Ja…e…S…op!" the voice was feint but familiar, "Comma…er…St… D…n't…o it!" she strained, trying to hear the voice,

"What are you waiting for?" the Catalyst asked, "This is what you want,"

"N…! Do…n't Li…en!" the voice called again, "Tirn…con…olling…ou!" wait, that was clearer, was something…controlling her?

"No, you are in control," the child's voice had grown in anger, his imaged distorting and fizzing like a malfunctioning VI,

"It…no…eal! Com…bac…Co…nder! F…r Liara!"

"Liara?!" everything snapped, it was like the world around them shattered like glass, revealing the same room both herself and Anderson made it to. The console before her, with the awaiting commands to disconnect the Ark. She was about to help the enemy? Fortunately, a loud roar pulled her from her thoughts, turning to see the small child VI from before, morph and grow into a middle-aged man. His robes echoing his status from long ago, his face pointed and thin much like any generic villain – a sharp goatee lengthening his chin, but it was his hollow eyes, black like pits, that broiled with rage,

"No!" he yelled, "You will do as I command, organic filth!" she could feel the pull in the back of her mind, forcing her to obey but to her surprise, Charlotte stepped between them,

"No, Tirnoch! It ends here!" she snapped, breaking his connection,

"You! I should've ordered my pawns to kill you the moment they saw you!" he hissed, "You have ruined everything!"

"Your plans were evil and conceited! You broke the holiest of vows by taking life, and you will be punished here and in the next life!" Charlotte snapped, only incurring his wrath,

"They were conceited! We never had to play peace-keeper or custodian to those lesser beings!" he roared, "We were the pinnacle of evolution, the strongest of all the races born in this galaxy, yet we withdrew for the sake of some ill-begotten peace?! Power was the only way, force them to obey and they would never rebel against you!" Charlotte moved as he did, shielding Jayne from his influence while she, hidden from his sight, moved to set up the purge, "We are the power! And only I was the only being strong enough to use it!"

"Not anymore…you son of a bitch," with a final push, Jayne's injured body collapsed as she initiated the conjoined trine. Tirnoch roared in anger, lunging forward at the unconscious Shepard, put Charlotte moved fast enough to pull her back, standing over both Jayne and Anderson. Tirnoch turned to face her but the purge was already underway. The energy from the crucible flooded into the Citadel, but once it reached Ark the energy was channelled even further.

Tirnoch could do nothing as the energy surged through the 3 stations, radiating across the planet below. He raged peaked as he turned back to the 3 humans before him,

"Then…I will not fall alone!" the energy radiating from his body flooded the room, overloading before it blanked in a huge white explosion. Charlotte ducked over Jayne and Anderson until all went white…

Epilogue: 10 Years later

The restorations were going well.

Due to the immense surge through all 3 components, the crucible was completely destroyed and the Citadel and Ark were permanently fixed together. This allowed the combined station to move on it's own accord using the Ark's engines. It took time by the Citadel was moved back into its rightful system.

The Relays took the longest to repair, but with the help of the Mechanist, the newly returned mech humanoid race, the repairs were taken care of. They were a great benefit to ongoing operations on the Citadel, providing maintenance for the whole station, some even joined C-Sec as a sign of loyalty and to upkeep their promise to their creators.

Branching out, they achieved an embassy on the Citadel and made several new trade routes and patrols through the terminus.

Many of the colonies and homeworlds were still in repair, but everyone was moving forward. More aid came to these handicapped worlds as soon as another relay was repaired.

All those who died would never be forgotten. The many men and women serving on all fronts; Admiral Anderson who was brought in dead on arrival to the expanded Huerta Memorial Hospital; Traxus' body was found among the rotting bodies of the Reaper forces, they were returned to Palavern to be honoured and buried…but our story doesn't end here.

Dressed in his finest, strolling the newly furbished embassies, many he passed inclined their heads or greeted politely. Coming to one such office, he readjusted his gift before knocking,

"Come in," came a reply, the door opened as he smiled at the sight before him; sitting at the desk was a middle-aged woman, though time had been fortunate on her. Her long ruby locks tied back in a neat, well-kept bun while she tended to her little ones. Looking up, she smiled at her guest,

"Well, well, what brings you here Spectre Officer Vakarian?" she smiled, standing with her squealing children. Garrus smiled at the sight of his first born son; Traxus Vakarian, and his little princess; Lucille Vakarian,

"Dad!" Traxus beamed. Despite being born of a human and a Turian, he was like any pureblood, 10-year-old turian child. Though he did sport a tiny tuft of hair just at the base of his head, making a little rat-tail,

"Daddy!" Lucille squeaked. The little 6-year-old was a little different to her brother, she took after her mother greatly as she was born a human, but she inherited some of her father as well, in the form or sharper teeth, blunt talons and tougher skin. What warmed her mother's heart the most was her bright blue eyes – just like her Grandmothers.

Scooping both kinds up, he chured and nuzzled them both before looking to Charlotte. It had been a horror show when they were found. Stated in the report, the piece of the Citadel they were all occupying had suffered from some kind of explosion, noting the rogue VI of Tirnoch as the culperate. Charlotte had erected a small but durable biotic barrier around the 3 survivors, taking a brunt of the force. It had taken nearly 3 days after the blast to find them; Anderson had already succumbed to his injuries but Shepard was just saved.

Charlotte had become so weak she too was rushed into care, fearing herself and her child would be at risk. He shivered at the memory, seeing her there on the berth, barely conscious as the Mechanists tried to revive her and stabilize their child,

"You, think of back then isn't helping your stress," Charlotte joked, standing from her chair and approached him,

"What stress?" he mocked, pretending he did know what she was talking about, "I'm just a Council Spectre, running around all over the galaxy to ensure my family stays safe. But what of your, Councilor Vakarian?" he still couldn't believe after everything was settled and set to right, the surviving Council appointed her as one of them, representing not humanity but for the Mechanists themselves. It wasn't as tricky a business as one would think; they saw her as their leader, if not on a royal level then one of a diplomatic. She would return to the restored Mechanist homeworld, the planet Orcheeva in the Treviana system, within the Orion Nebula. She handled their affairs and disputes to the Council, which has since been more agreeable and truly using their political power to benefit all species.

"Oh well, I admit it gets very…lonely, here, by myself," her keen eye could the leering look from her husband, smirking as she knew he couldn't try anything with their children present,

"But mommy, Trax and I are here!" Lucille, so cute and naïve, failed to understand the true meaning behind her mother's words,

"Indeed…and so if Grandpapi, Uncle Ricky and Aunty Mia, so we better get going or we'll be late," she smiled, beaming as they both practically jumped from Garrus' arms and ran for the door, pulling a chuckle from both.

Walking out with the excited children, hand in hand and holding one another, they took in the sites around them; with the new Ark taking over most of the traffic control and administration, it freed the remainder of the Citadel for residencies, markets and trade. Purgatory had grown so massive and popular, another club had to open to accommodate the growing populace – the rebirth of the Club Flux. Even schools and universities were opening up in the wards, accommodating many of the orphaned or resident children on the station, bringing crime down and many taken care of.

"I can't believe it's been nearly a decade since all of it ended," Charlotte sighed, her role as Reclaimer had last a lot of value since their future was reclaimed, almost making one feel unneeded, but her turian husband knew how to remedy that,

"Charlie, none of this would be here if not for you, or Jayne. You gave her the means, and she helped us all," he explained, looking out into a large, wide garden park, taking their route through there, "And you have a family, a life filled with so much love, compassion and care that you'd be an idiot to give it up,"

"Alright wise guy," she smiled, chuckling at his blatant attempt to cheer her up, "I know all of that, and I would never give this up…but, what now?" she looked to him only to see his smile,

"We move on, we live and give our children all the experiences and knowledge we were given before us. We can at least live…for their sake," she placed a gentlemanly kiss on her hand, placing the small gift he brought for her. She smiled at the sight of locket; within she found it held a hologram of their last visit to Orcheeva, not just her family though but their friends as well, all celebrating their victory over the Reapers,

"Happy anniversary dear," he purred, pulling her into a loving kiss. Blushing from the kiss and his gift, she looped the long gold cord over her neck and left the locket to sit just on her bust. She too, offered him a gift – a state-of-the-art, Spectre Issue HMWSG Reager Sniper Rifle. She knew him too well, is his hearty hug and barrage of kisses was anything to go by,

"Mommy! Look!" looking up from the locket, she smiled at the site of said friends waiting for them; Urdnot Wrex and Bakara stood with their 3 children, Grunt and Kron stood proudly near by. Tali stood there with her mask gone and revealing her true face, her hood still covered her spindle-like dread-lock hair from view. Ahsley and, still unfathomable to Charlotte, her brother Richard stood together with their little girl, Cathrine. Nirvenna and Syrene stood smiling with their teenaged daughters, Aleera and Krystella, with another little Asari baby in Syrene's arms. Jayne and Liara were together with little Lyra babbling at them. Mordin smiled as he noticed to family approached, stealing a moment to turn off his omni-tool.

Just as they approached, Darius and Hank joined them, both fathers smiling happily at their mated children, with Amelia and her new boyfriend – a quarian by the name of Dan'alas Vas Roland – all a smiles as she sees them coming.

Truly, this is what peace felt like; nothing to fear from a coming storm and being able to reunite with friends and family, regale in past experiences and grow as a whole. From a girl torn from her home, to an accomplished woman surrounded by all who loved her and whom she loved in return. She finally felt…

At Peace.

AND...done. (Flops) Okay, this was my birthday gift to me as I REALLY wanted to finish this. I hope I didn't rush the ending and I hope you have all enjoyed this fic as much as I had enjoyed writing it. I'm going to be working on a few different fics, mainly Transformers but I do have an idea for another Mass Effect: there will be mutants, there will be an Asari x OChuman pairing, and there will be...DEADPOOL!

Till next time! GOOD NIGHT EVEYBODY!