Chapter 1: The Dawn

"Have they spoken?" Hackett asked.

"No, I've made multiple requests but she refused." Anderson replied.

Hackett rubbed his eyes, "She can't face him, despite everything they went through together on the first Normandy."

"It's been three years, and she isn't the same person anymore, hell. She's gone far beyond my expectations when she joined the crew."

"I've seen her files, she's one of the best damn soldiers we've got, behind Shepard. She is just as much an expert on the Reapers, if he dies, she's our best hope."

Anderson gulped, "She can't win this war for us, we need Shepard."

Hackett heard his door to his office open, Admiral Singh stepped in and handed Hackett a data pad. "How many?"

"Unknown, they altered their course for Earth just before we lost contact with two of our deep space outposts." Admiral Singh explained, Hackett nodded.

"How long?" Anderson asked, they knew this day was coming.

"Not long, two deep space stations are gone, that adds to the several colonies we've lost contact with, and long scanners can't even count the numbers approaching Earth."

"Do you want me to prepare ground forces?"

"Prepare Vancouver best you can." Admiral Hackett ordered, he turned his attention to Admiral Singh who still stood with them. "Mobilize the fleets, I have a feeling Shepard was right."

"You certain it's the Reapers?" Anderson asked.

Hackett stood, "I'd stake my life on it, you better prepare Vancouver, and reinstate Shepard if you have to. You'll need him to defend that city."

"What of the Normandy?"

"Prepare her to leave Earth, I expect it will be your only escape once they arrive." Hackett ordered, "Good luck Anderson."

"You too." Anderson closed his monitor, he got up and walked out his office, he turned for the control tower in Vancouver. He walked up a large flight of stairs, passing several soldiers. The Alliance had already recalled most of the soldiers back into service once they began losing contact with the outer rim colonies. He walked into the tower, walking up to Admiral Jones who was leaning over a soldier, she was reading the data coming through. "Admiral Jones."

"Anderson, what can I do for you today?" She asked, she sighed. "How long?"

"About an hour ma'am." the young corporal replied, he wasn't sure what was going on, but the scanners were overwhelmed in large numbers.

"Mobilize all defence forces, make sure the city is heavily defended." Jones ordered.

"Hackett has put me in charge of the city's defences, I want you back on your ship." Anderson answered, he had a job to do.

"What is coming?"

"We're not sure."

"Is it what Shepard warned us about? I remember him saying it multiple times at the defence committee." Admiral Jones was rather blunt.

"We believe so, these readings are pointing out the obvious, a massive force is coming. They know humanity is a strength, I have a feeling the Turians are staring at the same thing."

"Be smart to hit the two most powerful military forces in the galaxy, cripple them and walk over the weaker species." Admiral Jones sighed.

"The council will have some work to do, they need to unite the galaxy." Anderson replied.

"It's not the council who will do it, it will be Shepard." Jones knew what they needed, "I'll get to my ship, make sure you get out alive old friend. I hope to have a couple of drinks with you after this is over."

"I'll shout, hows that sound?" Anderson smirked, Jones nodded to Anderson before taking her leave. He turned to the young corporal, "Put out word to every Alliance soldier to prepare for war, they need to bunker down the city, get tridents in the air, I want around the clock patrols and call for all civilian vehicles to be grounded. I don't want civilians getting in the way."

"Yes sir."

Ashley Williams unscrewed the panel above her, "What exactly am I trying to do?" she moved it aside and had a look at the power flowing through to each system on the ship.

"Reroute power to the communication system from a non essential system." Samantha Traynor explained, Ashley sighed, she didn't picture doing this, she was never an engineer or a mechanic but she had quite the nack for it after joining the retrofit team and Traynor was a patient teacher, she was down in one of the emergency shafts of the Normandy between Engineering and life support.

"How was the wedding? You never told me?" Traynor asked, Ashley smirked as she pushed herself up to Traynor who was holding the tools for her.

"It was good, nice to hang out with the family. Hand me a ratchet please." Ashley asked, Traynor handing it over as Ashley slid back down.

"How was the dress, it's always the wedding dress at weddings?" Traynor continued poking into her life, Ashley smiled, she enjoyed Traynor's company.

"It was good, floor gown, white, strapless, suited her perfectly." Ashley replied. "Seen Joker today?"

"Yeah, he was talking to EDI. She is quite the helper, Normandy would have been lost without her from the sounds of it."

Ashley questioned, "Her?"

"Female voice." Traynor replied. "She is helpful, the retrofit has gone a lot quicker."

Ashley laughed, "As long as she doesn't decide to assimilate me. I'm good."

"Really, she ain't a damn borg." Traynor laughed, "but we are living the star trek dream, I bet they never imagined we'd have technology like this."

"I wish we could beam to the surface, beam me up scotty!" They laughed together.

"It'd be beam me up Traynor!"

"Nope, name doesn't work. Not catchy." Ashley got a some buzz from the panel, "Son of a bitch." She shook her left hand.

Traynor heard Ashley yell, "You okay?"

"Yeah, just touch something I shouldn't have." Ashley calmed Traynor down. "I have a bad habit of touching things I shouldn't."

"Maybe one day you can tell me about why you never talk of Shepard, whenever he's mentioned. You change the subject, Joker talks of him all the time and you, said you were one of the best soldiers he'd met at the time."

"I just don't like to, lost too many friends and good soldiers to count." Ashley wasn't completely honest, she couldn't talk to anyone about Shepard and her relationship, her sisters knew. "You ever lost so many friends that you don't like to talk of them?"

"I understand, I was on Horizon visiting my parents when we were attacked." Traynor understood the feeling all too well, "I lost so many friends that day, I was one of the lucky ones to survive."

"How did I not run into you? Or hear of the other Alliance personnel, everyone hated on me, I would have been happy to share with someone." Ashley replied.

"They knew it was for a scholarship, I just chose to stay in the Alliance afterward for the challenge." Traynor answered happily, "I'd grown up there, knew most of them rather well, I wasn't some Alliance soldier, I was just another colonist."

"Figures, I get left out to rot under the Alliance name tag whilst you're loved." Ashley smirked, "Almost done."

Traynor smiled, happy that someone finally helped her out, the retrofit team had nearly finished with the communication system, it had taken longer than they expected but it was hopefully over. "Good, get out and I'll test the system. Make sure she won't overload this time, where did you reroute power from?"

"The bar and lounge for now, life support is still running to the two areas but nothing else, figured we wouldn't need it for now and we can fix it later once everything else is finished, I'm sure EDI will help you out." Ashley smirked, she wiped her hands clean as she got out, she nodded to Traynor who turned on the power to communication again, she smiled as it didn't overload. "Did it work?"

"Yes, just as few minor adjustments and it should be up and running by days end." Traynor replied, "And I'll probably get to fixing the rerouting of the power tomorrow but at least communication is up for the ship."

"Good work today." Ashley smiled, she knelt and placed all the tools away before closing it. "I'm going to the defence committee. They requested my presence at the end of my shift four hours ago, can't believe it took us that long to finally get it working."

"Communication engtanglement system has been causing problems for the Alliance since it was developed, only the newer ships aren't malfunctioning and this was a Cerberus built ship, we're working in the unknown here."

"At least it's done and before expected, wasn't due until next week but we have been getting through the retrofit quicker than expected, hopefully with everything being mobilized, that they'll put a few more engineers on to get us finished, can't have the Normandy sitting here." Ashley was worried, everyone in the Alliance had been mobilized but she hadn't got a message about what to do with the Normandy, "Anything important that needs doing before I leave?"

"Should be good now, thanks for lending a hand. I'll head down and see if Adams has worked out his problem and give him a helping hand." Traynor explained her next move, Ashley nodded to her before exiting, she got changed into her alliance uniform, she was expected at the defence committee and then she could go home and get some rest. She passed several engineers making the final touches to the cargo bay, she walked out into the morning Vancouver sun, it was quite bright this morning, despite the constant rain they've had for a week, she had adjusted to the weather rather quickly, it reminded her of home, of Amaterasu, it could rain for weeks at a time.

She walked down towards to Alliance Headquarters, she glanced at the time. she decided for a stop at the coffee shop, the line up was short. She saw a few soldiers jog passed as she stepped out, surprised they were in full armor, she had heard of the Alliance recall and the fleets mobilising but she had no orders from Anderson or anyone for that matter about getting the Normandy up there, it was ready to go, it just had a few systems playing up, the communication playing the worst havoc on the team. She sighed as she approached the street lights, she heard several tridents fly over, she knew something big was going on, she threw her coffee in the bin and approached one of the soldiers jogging towards her. "Soldier, what is going on? Commander williams, executive officer of the SSV Normandy."

"Fleet has been mobilised, recommend you get down to Alliance headquarters." He replied and continued on, Ashley jogged down to headquarters and saw the defensive perimeter being fortified.

She saw Anderson out the front organizing the troops, "Anderson, what's going on?"

"Good. You're here, contact the Normandy and prepare them for take off." he ordered, Ashley sent a message to Traynor to mobilise the Normandy and await her return to take off. "We're going to find Shepard."

"Shepard, what does Shepard have to do with me preparing the Normandy?" She asked, she hated being left in the dark.

"We've lost contact with everything beyond the sol relay, Luna base and Mars are still in contact but long range scanners show something massive coming our way."

"The Reapers." Ashley knew exactly what was coming, "How long do we have?"

"Not long, we lost contact with everything beyond the Sol Relay half an hour ago, they're expected within the hour." Anderson was honest. "We're fortifying all our positions."

"When did you lose contact with Hackett?" Ashley asked, she knew they would have been in constant talks with the head of the Alliance Navy.

"We lost contact with Hackett when everything else went dark." Anderson sighed, they were alone on Earth and it was defenseless with what was coming, "We're on our own."