Whatever It Takes

Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect.

Note: This is my attempt to understand the Illusive Man in ME3. He was so awesome in ME2 and then in the third…not so much.

Humanity has been at a distinct disadvantage since the moment that we discovered the mass relays and were suddenly thrust into a world that we had only been able to imagine before. When we were first attacked by the turians, many people thought that they must be the protheans. Before we stumbled across our first mass relay, it was considered absurd to seriously believe in aliens. It's hard to remember that now but objectively it wasn't all that long ago. There are children who have grown up and taken their place in the galaxy completely baffled by their elders' ignorance. How times did change.

The First Contact War.

Somehow, it's not surprising that our first interaction with another species would be to try to kill them. Even less so since it was they who fired first. Hardly an auspicious beginning and one that anyone who actually lived through that time would be hard-pressed to forget. Oh, the children to young to be cognizant of what was going on or those born afterwards think we're stuck in the past but the war wasn't really to them. They just know what came after and so their opinions are worthless.

They say that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it and there is a certain wisdom in that. How are you supposed to really know if someone is truly ignorant or just pretending to avoid a punishment? No, it's simply not practical to excuse people for crimes they do not realize they are committing.

There are exceptions, naturally. When a species that has never had any contact with any other race, let alone the Council, breaks a Council directive then the sensible thing to do would be to inform the guilty party and request that they stop. Only if they refuse can violence even begin to be justified.

The turians had a different view and so it was that our first contact with another race led to them murdering our people.

The most insulting thing about the whole affair (and there were a lot of things to take issue with) is that they don't even call it war. Obviously they could not call it the First Contact War as we do since it was hardly their first contact with an alien species but to trivialize it by not even having the decency to grant it war status? It's the 'Relay 314 Incident' to them. It's an incident to them.

It was gratifying that they had a higher body count in the end. I wish I could have seen their faces when they realized that we weren't beaten after Shanxi and were fully prepared to drive them off of the planet.

After that the Council stepped in and negotiated a settlement and suddenly we were all expected to forget everything that happened and join everyone in a happy alliance.

Being the newest species on the scene, humanity was the lowest of the low…at least at first.

One thing that I love about humanity is that we never accept being second-best. Oh, the volus may complain about our determination to move forward because we should "wait our turn like everybody else" but the fact of the matter is that waiting never did anything for them. They're still waiting and we have a seat on the Council.

Of course, that's largely thanks to Shepard.

Shepard, who has managed to live through driving through unsafe relays, facing off against Reapers, destroying Collectors…just about the only thing she hasn't survived at this point is being jettisoned out into space but I fixed that for her.

Shepard's stubborn idealism and determination to have everybody in the galaxy get along is a problem but not an insurmountable one and her almost disturbing failure to die no matter what is thrown at her makes her invaluable asset.

Or at least it did.

Shepard's good for the direct action, the clear-cut cases of good versus evil. When the collectors were abducting human colonists then she was the one to send in and – as expected – she got the job done.

Given the sacrifices that I've had to make for humanity (and nothing is ever too much. No matter what I've had to give up, no matter what anybody else has had to give up – willingly or otherwise – it always pales in significance to the good of humanity as a whole) and Shepard's fairy tale of saving everybody from everything and then being friends with them, I knew that our alliance couldn't last. I got a satisfactory return on my investment when she stopped the collectors.

I would have liked to be handed an intact collector base instead of having to reconstruct it after she had blown it up but I wasn't surprised she didn't see it that way. She never could get over what we've done in the past and the fact that I had to keep secrets from her so that the collectors didn't see the extent of our knowledge. 'The greater good' are not words to be found in Shepard's vocabulary and so we parted ways.

There was really no need for her to be so angry and bitter over it but Shepard does love a dramatic, self-righteous speech and no doubt she'd been wanting to give me that one for awhile. Not that she really refrained while we were working together but she at least refrained from quitting until our mission was through.

Honestly, even if she hadn't stormed off I don't know how much more use we would have gotten out of her.

Cerberus is not an evil organization and we're not terrorists, regardless of what the Alliance and the other species have to say. We are a pro-human organization (and that always means anti-aliens, always, no matter what some pretend) so it's not surprising that the other species dislike us. It's not a concern.

The Alliance has reasons to officially disown us, too, though I know that more than a few of them are sympathetic to our cause. Publicly supporting us would cause no end to diplomatic nightmares and if, while keeping the peace isn't worth not working to advance humanity's interests, if we can have both a lack of conflict and advance our cause then we really should take the best of both worlds. It's only practical.

Cerberus seeks to improve humanity and promote our interests in every area in every way because that's what I seek to do and even after all this time (or maybe because of all this time) I really am the embodiment of Cerberus. I worry, sometimes, what will happen to us once I'm gone but I have no intention of dying anytime soon. It's so hard to find a good successor. Ms. Lawson seemed promising for awhile but Shepard appears to have infected her with her black-and-white morality system and now she's lost to me, too.

It's not like we aren't open to stepping out of the shades of grey and helping humanity in full-on white morality objectives but, for the most part, we don't need to. The Alliance or private corporations can usually be trusted to handle all of the kitten-rescuing that humanity needed. And when it couldn't or wouldn't, such as when the collectors were abducting colonists, that was when Cerberus stepped in.

Shepard is the single most effective operative I've ever had and yet it's clear that she's far more suited to the feel-good missions that the Alliance can give her than the darker side of advancing humanity's interests.

Still, she shouldn't have complained. We don't usually just let people walk away from Cerberus and, as high-profile and effective as she is, we were willing to let her go.

If only she wouldn't keep interfering. She is making it very, very difficult to not have her killed as she keeps sabotaging our operations.

It's a small comfort that I can understand her point of view because I've always understood where she is coming from (and envied it, a little. It must be nice to live in such a simple world) and she has never made the slightest bit of effort to understand my perspective. Not that I think that she would be able to ever really grasp it (she was three when the First Contact War was going on and she has more alien friends than she does human friends these days) but a little effort would not be unappreciated.

She would never believe it but I find this infighting between the Alliance and Cerberus to be just as tiresome and pointless as they do. I wish it wasn't necessary but it is. We can't all just cooperate to fight the Reapers because they would never sanction what we're doing at Sanctuary and their goal is to destroy the Reapers while I intend to control them.

If it were an actual dichotomy, if it were destroying the Reapers or allowing them to destroy us then of course I would fall on the side of destroying the Reapers. If our research didn't show any promise when it came to understanding indoctrination and making it work to our own advantage then I would support destroying the Reapers.

Like so many things in life, however, it's not a simple this-or-that choice. The third option, the best option, is to control the Reapers.

Think of it: the Reapers would stop destroying things whether they are themselves destroyed or merely controlled so the end result is the same that way but merely destroying them is such a waste. It would make this entire attempted genocide only a loss for us. We didn't ask for the Reapers to try to kill us all and victory is going to cost us dearly so shouldn't we try to gain what benefits we can from this?

Yes, there are a lot of people who are going to die horrible in order to achieve this goal of controlling the Reapers but if we stop now won't their deaths be ultimately meaningless? And given the sheer force that it's taken (everything we've got) to stop just one Reaper, figuring out a way to control them should save a lot of lives in the long-run even considering those we sacrificed to find our answer. If we can control one Reaper, we can control them all. Destroying one, on the other hand, guarantees nothing.

The Destiny Ascension was under attack three years ago and even just saving that ship, saving the three people that made up the Council, took a third of our fleets. Losing a third to stop Sovereign would have been an acceptable loss but losing it to inexplicably save the Council and lose out on the opportunity to become the undisputed leader of the Council space with our overwhelming military might? Not the choice I would have made, needless to say.

I wish that the Alliance would understand, I really do. I wish that we could stop this petty bloodshed but they're too much in awe of Shepard now that she's finally been proven correct to see the truth. I have to wonder if she even realizes the significance of the breakthroughs we've made or is she blinded by the costs?

As she herself has said, she's just a soldier and she really should stay in that role. She's frightfully good at it but in over her head when it comes to making galaxy-altering decisions. I don't think she's made one yet that I've agreed with.

Our pressing issue is the Reapers, of course, but curing the genophage? That just guarantees that when enough time has passed and their population has recovered and their gratitude towards Shepard has faded (which I can guarantee will be far sooner than she thinks) that we're going to have another krogan rebellion on our hands. Even now, I'm already planning ahead and seeing possible solutions. Can we manipulate their gratitude while it lasts? And how much of the genophage can we learn about in case it needs to be re-administered one day?

But I, unlike most of the galaxy it would seem, am not so short-sighted as to put these future worries in front of fighting to ensure that we even have a future to worry about.

No, it all comes down to controlling the Reapers and I wish Shepard would understand but she never will. I wish she'd stop trying to convince me like I'm the one who's being naïve but that's even less likely to occur. She'll still be trying to persuade me until the day someone finally shoots her dead.

It will be a loss for humanity, of course, but it won't be too great a sacrifice to bear.

Nothing ever is.

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