Chapter 89

Moriea

Author's Note: Time to get the ball rolling.

XXXXX

"Home sweet home huh?" Roger said, leaning back in his chair, a glass of water in his hand. He was sitting in the mess hall of the Normandy, Sheryl, Nora, Adam, Cornelia and Volker all sitting at the same table that he was. They had left Tuchanka only a few hours ago and had jumped through the Mass Relay. After that, they had been told what their next mission was and where they were heading now.

"So, not exactly the best conditions to be heading home I'd take it?" Nora asked bitterly, wedging a cigarette in-between her teeth before flicking her lighter to life and igniting it.

"Can't say that it is, no," Roger said. "From what the Captain said, we're supposed to get there three days before the Turians and Salarians' deadline. Somehow, I get the feeling we aren't going to wait before the time runs out before we attack the Batarians."

"That certainly is a possibility," Adam said. "I hope it doesn't come to that. I feel like we would lose support fast from any races that have not sided against us if we used such a public underhanded tactic."

"We're kinda screwed then," Roger said. "This is Moriea we're going to."

"I take it the stereotype of the shock troops being vicious and sadistic killers has some truth to it then?" Nora asked, taking her cigarette out of her mouth and letting out a puff of smoke.

"Yeah kinda," Roger said. "Like I said, all of the pirate and slaver activity in the area has the majority of the military on edge. A lot of us took pretty extreme measures in an attempt to drive them off."

"And this General Hill," Volker said. "They one we're going to be taking orders from now. Is she like that?"

"Oh f-" Roger stopped himself mid-sentence, glancing at the short albino woman who was sitting next to him. She in turn returned his stare with surprise and confusion before Roger continued to speak. "General Hill. Pretty damn sure every last Moriean knows her name. She's earned quite a reputation for herself, not the best kind either."

"And how the Hell did that happen?" Cornelia asked.

"Oh boy," Roger said, taking a sip from his water before putting it down on the table. "All right, so you know the counterattack on the Batarians that the Coalition performed after the Blitz? Of course you do, I think half of you were there for that one."

Sheryl, Adam and Cornelia nodded. "It's where I met everyone else," Cornelia said, smiling slightly.

"Well, while you guys where getting all of the sold slaves back, the Coalition wanted the Morieans to make sure that the Verge was never threatened again," Roger continued. "Thanks to that ship you captured, we learned about their main base of operations, on a moon called Torfan. A thousand Moriean men had boots on the ground there, the same day that the rest of you were attacking the Batarians. I was there."

He glanced up at the ceiling, as if in deep thought. "It was before I got deployed to Earth, think it was my...third...no wait fourth mission. Orders were simply, land, kill or capture everyone there, rescue any leftover slaves, torch the base. For the most part, things went according to plan. We caught them with their pants down at the perimeter, and within no time we were taking the entire place building by building. Breach, mow down, secure, repeat."

"So where does you General come into play?" Sheryl asked.

"She was the CO of the mission, she was a Colonel back then. She was having us constantly on the move, slaughtering Batarian after Batarian. Before too long, what's left of them were running into their main base. Hill took half of the men and left the rest of us under the command of our XO to secure the perimeter before she went in after them." He let out a groan, gently massaging his temples. "And I'm gonna be honest, if I had been sent inside I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now."

"What happened?" Adam asked.

"The Batarians ran into an underground section of the base where they had an ace up their sleeves. A flamethrower unit that ambushed Hill the moment that her unit got down there. 79% fatality rate, nearly four-hundred men and women dead. Hill didn't exactly walk out of that one unscathed either. Those burn scars she's got? Got blasted right in the face by one of the flamethrowers."

He shook his head. "I don't think I'm ever going to forget her face after that happened. Her entire cheek got burnt off, I could see the tendons that let her open her mouth. And her eye was...well there wasn't much left of it."

"She has an eye patch right?" Nora asked, taking another drag on her cigarette. "How come she doesn't have an implant?"

"That's the funny thing, apparently she can't get one. She's got some rare genetic condition where her body rejects implants or something," Roger said, "I never could dig up much concrete on that. Anyway, that's not the point. She comes limping out of that base, with one-fifth of the men she went in there, and you know what she had to say about it? 'We saved more men than we lost. I would've done the same thing all over again.' Oh, and there's that bit where our XO went down to investigate and found a few dozen Batarians in a corner with no weapons and with chunks of their heads missing. She executed them."

"Son of a bitch," Nora said. "How did this not get out?"

"Coalition covered it up," Roger said. "It wasn't too hard with all the publicity the attack on the slave fair was getting. The fact that Moriean shock troops barely get deployed off planet probably helped too. And none of us where in a hurry to post on the extra-net how our commander just got a small battalion of soldiers roasted alive."

"And this woman is a General now?" Nora asked, disgust on her face as she held her lit butt. "How does that work?"

"Oh, you know how it works. You're a pain in the ass, but you're really good at your job and you get results so I'll keep you around," Roger said. "It's probably for the best that she's stationed on Moriea, it's the only planet where the upper brass will tolerate that kind of crap."

"It's really bad out there isn't it?" Volker asked.

Roger let out a sigh. "Few hundred shock troops die every year. If it's a slow year. There are monthly funerals, Hill hosts every one of them." He shook his head. "I don't get that. She has no problem sacrificing soldiers but goes out of her way to bury them? What the Hell is going on in that head of hers?"

"People are too complicated to understand from a distance," Adam said. "I'm willing to bet you don't know what she does what she does because you've only seen her actions from afar."

"Yeah, probably," Roger said. "Doesn't change the fact that someone that's willing to sacrifice a few hundred people to a flamethrower nozzle isn't exactly that great of a person in my book."

Nora tilted her head slightly in confusion. "I thought you said that she was ambushed."

"She was, but she had a perfectly good chance to fall back and regroup with the rest of us," Roger said grimly. "Instead she kept pushing against the Batarians. She said that if she had fallen back, they would've had more time to dig in. Yeah, because when they wipe out 80% of your unit, they're not dug in at all."

"And we're going to be taking orders from her?" Volker asked, looking rather concerned. "I have a bit of a history with people like that telling me what to do, I'd rather not repeat it."

"Can't say I blame you," Roger said.

"Well, that is the benefit of serving on this ship," Cornelia said. "We just about always get the first punch in. We can get in, hit hard, and then get out. Even if what Roger says about the General is true, she doesn't sound like she's stupid enough to throw the Normandy away. So what we're gonna do is go into Batarian space, completely devastate them, then the cavalry is gonna come in and clean up while they're confused." She clapped her hands together, a wide smile on her face. "Boom. We win, Batarians crippled, no one has to die. Everyone comes out on top."

"There are the Batarians who will no doubt die," Adam said. "Unavoidable in the end I suppose. But still, that doesn't make it any less tragic."

"No offense Adam, but we're not the ones threatening to attack unless our demands our met," Nora said, her eyes narrowing slightly as she looked at the priest. "I don't exactly feel sorry for these guys."

"As I said, in the end I do suppose there is no other way around it," Adam said. "And many of the soldiers we will be fighting soon may have been looking forward to a chance to attack us. Just as many may be forced to fight against their will though. It's just something to keep in mind."

"You're way too nice for your own good," Nora said, taking another puff on her cigarette. "It's going to end up getting you killed."

"Maybe," Adam said, looking down at his hands thoughtfully. "That's always a possibility."

"Can we talk about something a little less...morose?" Sheryl said. "We're twelve hours out from Moriea now, and when we get there, we're going to have one day of leave. Just one, nothing more. That means in thirty-six hours, we're going to be heading out to fight a war that could drag on for who knows how long, and I'd rather not spend the rest of the time until then talking about how we could all end up dead."

A heavy silence filled the room, all eyes fixed on Sheryl. She realizes that all of the attention had been fixed on her and blushed slightly. As she began to process what had just happened, she realized exactly what she had said. "I...didn't mean to put it like that," Sheryl said softly, looking down at the table.

"Well, you have a point," Cornelia said. "This could be a long one. And thinking about how bad its going to be may just end up making it worse for us." She smiled as best she could. While it did seem genuine, somehow it seemed a little forced. It was a little too wide. "This could be the last moment of peace we have in awhile."

"Last moment of peace," Volker said, letting out a sigh. In that moment, he looked like he had the face of a much older man. "It's happening all over again."

"We'll get through it," Cornelia said encouragingly, making eye contact with Volker and flashing her smile at him. "We've gone up against so much and managed to survive. We can take this on too."

"I have to agree with Sheryl though," Adam said, looking rather tired. "A change of subject might be for the best."

"Right, right," Cornelia said, her face screwing up in concentration as she racked her brains for something to talk about. Only a few seconds later, her eyes widened and a light seemed to be lit behind them. "Hey Roger, didn't you say you had family on Moriea?" she asked, looking at the cyborg?

"Huh?" Roger said, putting down the glass of water he had about to take another sip from. "Yeah, both of my parents work in the mines. I've got a little sister who's still in high school too."

"When then, what say that when we get there, you do the courtesy of introducing your family to your war buddies?" Cornelia asked brightly.

"Hm," Roger said, taking a long draft of water, looking like he was giving the thought careful consideration. "Not something I wouldn't mind doing. I think my folks would like just about all of you. I don't know how they would take to me showing up on their doorstep with five people they've never met before. Things might get weird. Plus, and this is no offense, I was kind of thinking about having some private time with them."

"Well, just think about it then," Cornelia said. "No pressure or anything, I just thought that it'd be a nice thing to do. Heck, I can ever show your sis Urz."

Roger let out a deep laugh. "Alice in the same room as a Varren, there's something I'd pay hard cash to see. You better bet I'm gonna sleep on that one."

"I wouldn't mind going," Volker said. "Frankly I've spent most of my time in this year has been on this ship, a change of scenery and a look at how people live normal lives sounds relaxing."

"I'd like to go too," Adam said.

"All right, all right, don't swarm me," Roger said. As he did, he got to his feet, glancing at Sheryl. "I think maybe we should get a little more practice with your arm in today. Nora, mind giving us a hand?" Both women nodded and got to their feet, heading with Roger towards the elevator. "I'll let all of you know when I make up my mind!" Roger called out as the door slid open and they stepped in.

"You don't actually want to train more do you?" Sheryl asked as the elevator door slid shut.

"No, I do," Roger said, his expression softening slightly as did his demeanor. "I just didn't feel comfortable asking about this in front of the others. I'd really like the two of you to come over to my place if nothing else. Meet my folks and kind of drop the bomb."

"What is the bomb exactly?" Nora asked. "That we kinda sorta have a thing for each other? Roger, I'm not gonna lie, even I don't really know what's going on between us that well."

"Yeah...me either," Roger said, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

"I'm not even biesexual, I'm plain old boring heterosexual," Nora said. "I just...you know...don't mind the idea of being with Sheryl. And you at the same time."

Sheryl gave a soft smile, inching slightly closer to Nora and looking up at the taller woman. "Feeling's mutual."

"So don't get any ideas that this is just some lesbian threesome fantasy we're acting out to get you hard Roger," Nora said, her tone stern but with an edge of playfulness to it.

"Oh, I never thought that," Roger said, a smirk spreading across his face. "I'd actually need two women for lesbians to be involved."

"If anyone else had said that, they'd be walking away with a black eye," Nora said, a soft smile spreading across her face. "But for some reason I don't mind when you do it. It's kinda funny, I usually can't stand assholes. I guess, at the end of the day, it's because you may be an asshole, but you're my asshole."

"And you're a bitch, but you're my bitch," Roger said, returning the smile.

"Aren't the three of us just romantic," Sheryl said dryly. All three of them burst out into laughter. It felt good for all of them to just be there, no one else around, clutching at their sides as they roared in hysterics. After a moment though, the moment passed. They regained their composure as a few stray chuckles leaked out of them.

"Ok...well, there's no way to do this without it being awkward so to Hell with it," Nora said. "Kissing, touching, groping, sex. Where do we all stand on it?"

"No sex!" Sheryl said, a little too quickly. "At least...not for a while. I don't think I want to be touched anywhere either.

"To be perfectly honest, impending war has a way of killing the mood for me," Roger said. "That and, to be blunt, I don't really feel like jumping straight to fucking-" Sheryl shot him a look. "Sorry. I don't feel like jumping straight to sex after my last relationship...well you know how that ended up." He looked at the two. "I'm not saying that I don't trust you, I just don't want to go back there so soon."

"And, oddly enough, I'd rather have no one touch my genitals either," Nora said. "So we're all as erotic as planks of wood. So, how about kissing?"

"I kind of like the forehead thing we did," Sheryl said, blushing heavily and rubbing her forehead with her thumb, drawing a small circle with it. "It felt nice."

"We can always do more of that," Roger said. "So, what's our view on lip to lip action?"

"Uh," Sheryl said, her blush darkening. "I suppose I'd be ok with it."

"Open or closed?" Nora asked.

Sheryl looked like she wanted to do nothing more than pry open the elevator doors and make a run for it. Her blush growing to the point where it looked like she was about to burst a blood vessel, she stuttered out. "C-closed, and maybe open if it feels right."

"All right, we got a plan," Nora said. A moment of silence passed. "So...anyone want to give it a test run?" Both Roger and Sheryl clenched up on the spot, as if their nervous systems had shut down. "I mean...we've established our dos and don'ts," she continued, eyes darting between the two of them, silently begging them for one of them to throw her a life line. "It shouldn't be too bad right?"

"Speaking as the one person here with relationship experience," Roger said slowly, sounding as if he was picking every word that he said with great care. "I have to say that you can't really force these kinds of moments. You have to let them happen."

Sheryl let out a small sigh of relief and even Nora felt her chest get slightly lighter. "Ok, agreed," Nora said, smiling weakly. "Back to the classic plan. Just do what comes naturally."

"Did we just run in a circle?" Sheryl asked, looking a little confused.

"Yup, I think we did," Roger said. "We should probably get used to that. If this is anything to go by, we're going to be doing it a lot." He paused. "So, you want to meet my parents or not?"

"Between my dickhole sperm and egg donors and Sheryl's MIA ones, I'm up for meeting some parents that aren't assholes," Nora said. "Sheryl, you up for it?"

"I think so," she said softly.

"Awesome," Roger said. "It's just...I want to appreciate the time we have left. This is the first time I've gotten to see them in a long time, and I have no idea when I'm going to get another chance like this. And with the war coming up-"

"Hey," Nora said, talking a step forward and putting a comforting hand on Roger's shoulder. "Don't think like that. It's like Cornelia said, this is the Normandy. We're gonna make it so that the Batarians never touch Moriea."

Roger took a deep breath. "Right. Let's do that."

"So send a message to your folks," Nora said. "Tell them you're having company and that they need to break out the good china."

Roger smiled. "They're good people, them and my little sister are the one consistently good thing about my life. I think you'll like them."

XXXXX

Jane laid on her back, staring up at the ceiling of her cabin. This didn't seem real, it couldn't be real. Everything was a haze to her, she couldn't grab onto a single thought and focus on it. There was just no way that this was happening. Any second now, she'd wake up in a cold sweat, blankets awkwardly wrapped around her in the dimly lit cabin. Deep down inside though, she knew that that was a lie.

A beep came from her omni-tool, signifying that someone was trying to contact her. She didn't respond, still starring up at the ceiling as she vaguely registered the noise. After it repeated five or six more times, something within her forced herself to her feet and across the room to where her cabin's communicator was. Pressing the button, a hologram of Admiral Anderson appeared.

"Sir?" Jane asked wearily.

"Captain, I just wanted to update you on the situation. General Hill has sent me-" Anderson trailed off mid-sentace. "Captain? Are you all right?" Jane glanced over her communicator to the fish tank on the other side of the room. Her reflection was far from flattering. There were massive shadows under her eyes, her hair was a tangled mess that was sticking up in a few places, and her face seemed more than a bit pale.

"I've been better," she said weakly. "What is it?"

"Hill is interested in having you ferry Moriean shock troops," Anderson said, still looking at Jane with concern. "She's talking about stuffing an entire platoon's worth of men onto the Normandy to make sure that you have enough muscle. We've received word that the Batarian High Admiral is among the forces being amassed on the other side of the border. Hill wants you to take him out so that when we launch our counter-attack the enemy forces will be without a leader."

"With all due respect Admiral," Jane said. "My crew has a pretty bad track record when it comes to assassination."

"Hill said the same thing," Anderson said. "It's why she wants a platoon of her own men on the Normandy."

"Oh...right," Jane said dully.

"I can understand that you might feel uncomfortable with this Captain, but General Hill has been given complete control of this operation," Anderson said. "This is her territory, and she has the most experience dealing with the Batarians. And she has expressed some concern over your decisions in the recent months."

"Do you agree with her?" Jane asked.

"I'm sorry?" Anderson asked.

"Do you think that she's right? Do you think that I shouldn't have released the Rachni and cured the Genophage?" she asked.

"Captain it's not as simple as that, there are countless variables in both of those situations that-"

"Admiral, I'm begging you. Don't sugar coat it for me. Do you agree that I shouldn't have made those decisions. Yes or no."

Anderson took a single long look at Jane. "If you want me to be honest...I really wish that you hadn't. I don't think I would've approved of them if I had been in command." Jane lowered her head. "But that's not what matters right now Jane. What's in the past is in the past. Right now we need you to focus on what's in front of us, and that's protecting our territory from invasion. We need you to be at the top of your game now, more than ever, and you don't particularly look the part."

"I'm sorry Admiral," Jane said, scratching the side of her head. "I've been going through a lot."

"I understand and respect that," Anderson said. "But we can't afford to have you leading a vital operation if you are in a fragile state. General Hill also wants to talk to you when you arrive on Moriea. She will most likely want to check on your mental state."

"Wouldn't it be for the best if I have a session with Kelly?" Jane asked. "She could file a report for the General."

"It may be for the best that you do that too, but the General has insisted on seeing you in person," Anderson said. "She's holding the right to pull you off of the ship and replacing you with a Captain she knows and trusts. And if she thinks you're mentally unprepared for duty...I'll have to support her decision."

"I understand," Jane said softly. "Is there anything else Admiral?"

"Take care of yourself Jane," Anderson said.

"Just...just one question," she said. "I sent a message to my mother yesterday. It was about John. I haven't heard back from her yet. Is she busy?"

"We all are," Anderson said. "She's been assigned to one of the fleets guarding the border between Coalition space and Turian space. She's been promoted to Vice-Admiral. I could try and get in contact with her if that would-"

"No," Jane said bluntly. "I just...wanted to know."

"If you insist," Anderson said. "Goodbye Jane. Good luck."

Jane stood rooted to the spot, staring at the place where Anderson's hologram had been a mere few moments ago. She didn't know what to think anymore. Within the next 24 hours, it was very possible that she could lose command of the Normandy. To her own great surprise though, she found that she couldn't get that upset about it. "Would it be that bad?" she whispered. "Maybe everyone could use a new Captain. A better one." Slowly, she sunk into the couch next to her desk, looking back up at the ceiling again.

She was going to receive a court martial after all of this was over, she knew it. Admiral Marcus would most likely share the same fate. She had caused too much damage, too much havoc for this to all just slide by. But what would her punishment be if she was found guilty? "Dishonorable discharge at the very least," she muttered. "Maybe some time in prison, ten years or more depending on the mood that they're in. And that's if the Coalition wins. If they lose, I'll get tried in an alien court. If that's the case...looking at the death penalty."

Before she could continue her train of thought, the door chimed. "Come in," she called across the room weakly. The door slid open and Ashley walked into the room, Miranda, Jacob and Jessica,not far behind her.

"Captain, there are some matters we should discuss before we reach Moriea," Miranda began, but trailed off as she noticed Shepard's condition. "Is this a bad time?"

"No, what is it?" Jane asked, forcing herself to sit up in her seat and brushing the hair out of her eyes. She looked at Miranda with resolve in her eyes, but there was still an edge of exhaustion to them.

"We've just been in contact with the Illusive Man, he has a job for us on the front line against the Batarians, but it doesn't involve being stationed on this ship," Miranda said. "So Moriea is where Cerberus and you go our separate ways."

'I understand that," Jane said.

Miranda hesitated for a second before reaching out a hand. "I just want to thank you for all the help you've given us. I don't agree with your recent decisions, but that doesn't erase what you've done."

Jane looked down at the hand before weakly reaching out and shaking it. "Thank you," she said softly. "Is that all?"

"No, I wanted to give you a warning. Our operatives have picked up on something. The Batarians have put a bounty on your head. Five million credits for you dead. Ten million alive." Miranda stopped, looking at Jane. When she spoke again, there was a heaviness to it that Jane had never heard before. "Captain, whatever you do don't let yourself be taken alive by the Batarians. I've seen what they do to their slaves, and when they want to make a public example out of someone its even worse."

"So, are you saying that when faced with capture I should just..." her voice trailed off as she pressed her index and middle finger to the side of her head, her thumb cocked back.

A heavy silence filled the room as all three Cerberus operatives looked at her. "Only as a last resort," Miranda said, before hastily adding "after every route of escape has been cut off, after there's no chance of fighting back. When the choice is between capture and that. Then and only then."

"I understand," Jane said. "Is there anything else?" Her voice was eerily calm. Too clam.

"Captain are you all right?" Miranda asked.

"I'm worried, I'm tired, and I'm in pain, I won't lie," Jane said. "But it doesn't matter, just tell me what to do and I'll do it."

"I don't have any orders for you. Just be careful and good luck," Miranda said. She waited for a minute, wondering if Jane would reply. When she didn't, she got to her feet and made her way to the elevator, Jessica and Jacob right behind her.

"Ok," Jacob said, as they entered the elevator, the doors closing in front of them as it slowly began to descend. "You two were getting a little freaked out in there too right?"

"Something seemed off about her," Jessica said, nodding slightly. "When talking about killing yourself, no one should ever be that calm."

"I'm going to send a message to the ship's Yeoman about that," Miranda said, activating her omni-tool and hastily typing out a message before hitting the send button. "Somehow I doubt she's gotten a chance to sit down and properly talk with Shepard ever since Tuchanka."

"Isn't there a chance that she'll be replaced because of this?" Jacob asked.

"If she's mentally unbalanced, that may be for the best," Miranda said. "The Coalition will still probably want to keep her on as an advisor though. She's had too much experience commanding this ship to throw it all away."

"I hope so," Jacob said, before glancing at Jessica. "She was acting a little stiff. The report I read on you said that you acted a lot like that too before the Enclave was attacked. Do you think what's happening to you is happening to her?"

"No," Jessica said, shaking her head. "I completely retreated inside myself to get away from the trauma. She's still there. Or rather, she's mostly still there. There's still something off about her."

"She seemed a little too accepting to me," Miranda said. "It almost felt like she just gave up. As if she thought that there was nothing she could do to control her life anymore."

"Is...is she going to be ok?" Jessica asked, looking concerned.

"I don't know," Miranda said bluntly. "There are some traumas that people don't recover from. I'm not talking about things like PTSD where it lasts a person's entire life but they learn to deal with it. I'm talking about when a person never overcomes their trauma. When it consumes them."

A look of terror crossed Jessica's face. "That...that's exactly what happened to Grace and Rose. And they both...Oh God. Miranda, is there anything we can do to help her?"

"I honestly think we've already done everything we can already. Her yeoman is alerted, she'll pass it onto a higher up, General Hill is going to want her analyzed personally. What more can we do?" Neither Jessica or Jacob said anything as the elevator doors slid open. "Come on, we have our own battle to fight."

XXXXX

High Admiral Danux fought back the impulse to twiddle his thumbs and he looked at the three holograms in front of him. One was of the High Chancellor, while the other two were of the Salarian Dalatrass and the Turian Primarch. Balak was standing next to him, looking at the holograms with him.

"We seem to be missing our guest of honor," Balak said, smiling toothily at the holograms. "Are we having this meeting behind his back?"

"He is unstable and unpredictable," Fedorian said. "I doubt that there is anyone here who would disagree with that."

"There is no argument there," Reginam said. "While he does has have uses, one has to wonder how long they will last, or how long he will remain an ally. I am in particular worried about my people. Our traditions have long been considered questionable by the Council, how long until he decides that we need to be taken care off as well? He may be preoccupied with the Coalition at the moment, but I doubt that is a hatred that will last forever. Eventually, he'll find a new target for his wraith."

"It is why I have STG agents working on a solution already. The second we even suspect that Saren may become a threat to us, we must have a countermeasure in place to eliminate him. At once."

"How can we be sure when he will turn?" Danux asked, fighting to keep his voice straight. The Chancellor's talk about cultural disagreements had caused an uncomfortable feeling to bubble in the pit of his stomach. Slavery. She was talking about slavery.

"I doubt he will do so anytime soon," Fedorian said. "Ever since he defected, Saren has been obsessed with destroying the Coalition. Even during his rampage as a terrorist, he never once targeting Turian, Salarian, or Batarian space." Danux saw a slight twitch come from the Chancellor's face, but Linron and Fedorian apparently did not notice. "If he did not attack us while we had little to no involvement with his plans, it is highly unlikely that he will attack us now that we are allies."

"He will focus all of his forces on the Coalition, throwing all of them away in a fit of fury," Linron said. "We are hoping he will exhaust the majority of them on his attacks, but we are planning for scenarios where he retains them as well."

"The main priority here is that while the Coalition is a threat that needs to be dealt with, Saren is as well. The only reason we are not dealing with him at this moment and are instead focusing on the Coalition, is because the Coalition is a much larger threat. Henceforth, they take priority."

"We will be forced to kill him one day, possibly before the war is over," Linron said. "And it will not be a simple task, it may very well take all of our combined resources to do so. When we do so, we must be quick and deadly. We will lure him into our territory and strike him when he will not suspect it."

"However, his technology is more advanced than anything we have ever seen. It would be well within our benefit to capture it," Fedorian said. "The Coalition has long had a stranglehold on advanced technology, capturing his ships and reverse engineering them should help avert that in the future."

"I hope to do just that with the ship he will be sending to support us. Speaking of which," Reginam said. "Danux, our new friends have made a request of you. When you launch your invasion, they would like you to recover as many laser and plasma weapons as possible."

"Our scientists have been working since we first encountered the Coalition to recreate their energy weapons," Linron said. "While we have made progress and a few prototypes, we are still missing key components. With enough samples to work with, we should be producing our own energy firearms within a month."

"It would be for the best if you could also capture any other advanced technology that the Coalition posses, such as their power armor or synthetics," Fedorian said. "Any last advantage we can get over the Coalition we will take."

"We are always happy to help our new allies," Reginam said politely. "We simply ask that they return the favor in the future."

"We are considering your proposition still," Fedorian said. "And I have my doubts about this but-"

"Ignore the Primarch," Linron said bluntly. "I will ensure you get your seat so long as you prove yourselves."

Reginam smiled. "Thank you very much."

Fedorian paused for a moment before continuing, looking like talking was as painful as pulling his own talons out. "Yes. That is all. We wish you luck on your front." With that, the two holograms of Fedorian and Linron disappeared."

"Oh, a golden age for the Batarian people is near," Reginam said. "Years of our culture being attacked by the Coalition, being forced to run and hide because of who we were. Finally, we have a chance to take back what's ours, to strike back against the people who persecuted us for so long. Unjustified oppression."

'No, no it isn't' Danux thought. 'We attacked them because they had territory that we wanted. We enslaved their people and they retaliated.'

"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Balak said. "That planet just lying on the other side of the border. A barren rock, but with so many valuable resources on it. It will benefit the Hegemony greatly."

"It will," Reginam said.

"But Chancellor," Danux said. "I don't mean to offend, but you have only given me thirty ships. It is a decently sized flotilla, but I'm not sure if it will be enough to take Moriea."

"I am not going to forward the majority of the Hegemony's military until I get concrete confirmation of the Batarian's seat on the Council," Reginam said. "I plan on pulling our support if they don't."

"But what if the Coalition keeps coming after us?" Danux asked. "We've seen what happens when they get angry at us."

"I think they'll be a little busy trying to fight off Saren and their new friends to go after someone who is staying out of their fight," Reginam said. "And if the Council does go back on their word, we'll simply sit the war out. It'll be good for the economy to sell weapons during a conflict of this scale. And when it's finally over," she smiled, "both sides will be exhausted. Easy pickings if there's a spot for a power grab."

"And who are we going to be going after if that happens?" Balak asked, smiling widely.

"We'll have to wait and see," Reginam said. "Preferably whoever is weakest and will make for the easiest target at the time. In the meantime, we still must be prepared for them to follow through. Which is why we will be attacking Moriea."

She pressed an unseen button and several additional holograms appeared all around her. Some of them were of Coalition energy weapons, one was of a layout of one of the colony's domed cities, and one was of a Standard-Human with an eye patch and horrible burn scars. "You have multiple objectives. As we have already discussed, the capture of energy weapons and any and all advanced technology. Your other objectives are to cause as much damage to the colonies infrastructure as possible. Their shipyards, docks, space stations and mines are all high priority targets. And finally, the assassination of Brigadier General Hill. She's been enough of a nuisance to us."

"I take it that's where I come in," Balak said, reached up to his back and drawing his massive sword, holding it out in front of him. "I've been waiting for a chance to use this on a Human." He looked at the blade as it glinted in the light, a look of desire consuming him. "But I've also been wanting to try out that experimental piece of technology that you gave my platoon Chancellor. I thank you for this."

"It has yet to be properly field tested, and I trust no one more than you with it Balak," Reginam said. "Oh yes, Denux, I also forgot. You will be focusing your thirty ships and their ground forces on the capital city of the planet. However, you will also have back up, so you need not worry about only having thirty ships."

"Oh good," Danux said, relief flowing through his body. "Who?"

"I have hired slaver crews to assist us," Reginam said. "While you attack the main city, they will deploy and attack the other cities. They will attack local forces and the civilian populations there, enslaving them as they please, and force the defenders to split their forces up to properly respond."

Danux felt a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. 'More slaves? Why? Don't we have enough already?' he thought. 'I can't just-NO! You can't just speak out to her, if you do-'

"Your mission is not to capture the colony unless the chance presents itself, think of this as more of a raid," Reginam said. "The second the battle favors the Coalition, withdraw immediately. We will wait until Saren's ship arrives to take the colony and..." she trailed off as something beeped. She pressed a button and read a message that neither Danux nor Balak could see. She grinned. "It seems that it is on its way, it should be here soon," Reginam said. "Change of plans. Capture the colony. But plant explosives in the mines and on the infrastructure and detonate them as you flee just in case you fail."

"Yes, Chancellor," Danux and Balak said, as the hologram flickered out.

"This is going to be something that our culture will never forget, isn't it?" Balak asked. "They day we marched over the border, and took that planet from the Coalition. With the two of us at the front."

Danux nodded meekly. "Yes."

"Um...sir?" Both Balak and Danux looked up to see a timid looking Batarian in a simple cloth outfit walk in, a try laden with food and a drinking jug in his hands. "It's time for your evening meal isn't it?"

Balak walked forward, his toothy grin still on his face. "Who said that you could come in?" he asked, stopping in front of the newcomer. "In fact, who gave your permission to speak?"

"I...I...I..." the Batarian stuttered.

'He didn't do anything wrong,' Danux thought. 'I like my food at this time. So what if he talked or came in? Just because he's a slave? Why am I even using one of them for myself! He's not an object, he's a person! I should tell Balak to-NO! You can't! If you speak out against it, you...your whole family...you've got a comfortable life, a life of luxury. You're one of the few Batarians who can be truly safe. Don't throw it away."

"Luckily for you I'm in a good mood right now," Balak said. "So just set that tray down and never repeat what you just did here."

"I'm sorry," the slave said, hastily putting the tray down on a nearby table. "Please forgive me, I-" he was cut off mid sentence as Balak's fist flew forward, slamming into the slave's face and causing him to topple over and land on his back.

"You are forgiven," Balak said. "Now get out."

Danux looked on and didn't say anything. He didn't say anything even as he saw Balak punch the slave, watched the slave fall to the ground, and he didn't say anything as the slave scurried away, blooding trailing the floor behind him. 'I'm a coward,' Danux thought.

XXXXX

Author's Note: This is something I feel like I REALLY should mention. Net neutrality in the USA has recently been struck down. What is net neutrality? Basically, you pay an internet provider for your internet, and then you do whatever you want online and they can't dictate what you can and can't do. Now they can, they can block websites they don't like, they can charge extra for things like Netflix if they wanted. Verizon, who I do believe spearheaded this, plan that they don't plan on blocking websites but...they shouldn't be allowed to. Period. That is not a a power they should have.

This will affect people outside of the USA, because just about every American website is as risk, that includes the big hitters like Google, Youtube, Netflix, and this very website. Please, spread the word about this. I have no idea what can be done to fix this, but spread the word. And I apologize that there are so many dumbasses like this in power in my country. I thought that I was being too simple and crude with my Enclave arc. Clearly I wasn't being harsh enough.

Well, now that that is over, I hope you enjoyed this next chapter and I think you can tell that things are going to get actiony soon.