Mass Effect: Infinite Regress

By CountingMagpies

Disclaimer: The copyright position pertaining to Mass Effect is as detailed in the various copyright statements as set out in the series of Mass Effect gaming discs. This is a non-profit work of fiction and no copyright infringement(s) whatsoever or howsoever is intended by the contents herein.

Factual information on the lore of the universe (stuff I haven't bent or invented) is gleaned from the Mass Effect Wiki and the in-game codex across the trilogy (credit to the ME Wiki contributors and Mass Effect creators respectively).

Special thanks to the Mass Effect team at Bioware who kept us all hooked over the years and inspired our imaginations to keep their creation alive.

Any feedback is appreciated. This is my first time writing fanfiction, so please be kind (if possible).


UPDATE as of 23/10/12 to include: More informative and accurate author's notes (A/N for short) better paragraphing (hopefully); correction of some more noticeable SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) errors (with luck). As ever, this is a work in progress; pending further updates as and when I find mistakes.

A/N: The following is a novelisation of the Mass Effect Trilogy, starting off with Mass Effect 1; it is not a short story and if you can't be bothered to read a long novel; TURN BACK NOW.

I originally started writing this for a relative who had no knowledge of the Mass Effect universe. Thus the novelisation assumes that the reader has no prior knowledge of the Mass Effect universe.

After I failed to persuade them to try the games, I decided to run with this story anyway. It's not my intention to patronise anyone with lore facts; many of you will be familiar with these but hopefully you might find yourself learning something new – I know I did during the research I carried out in order to write this story. The approach adopted educates the reader as the characters themselves learn and evolve.

In the beginning, I intended to stay as true to the canon as possible; I then decided to take some liberties that writing fanfiction affords. As such, I have drawn my own interpretations from what Bioware presented us with, and put my own spin on things.

The story is not completely of the Alternative Universe brand, since it does follow the standard canon storyline (albeit with tweaks and additions). My aim is to deliver a story that is plausible and believable within the realms of canon we were given. I could be wrong about that. I will leave that up to you, the reader, to decide.

Either way; it's worth reminding everyone that Mass Effect is a role-playing game and as such there is not just one single and unique canon. I do not claim that anything I am presenting to you is canon.

To reiterate: this story is a fictional novelisation of Mass Effect and is strictly a work of fanfiction.

N.B. I'll be the first to admit that the dates (as in years) in my fic are somewhat suspect. I've had discussions with people on the BSN who have pointed out that the years presented to us in the games are technically 'Terran' (Earth) years. However, I've pretty much attributed everything to the Council Era ('CE') to make things more convenient (i.e. to make life easier for myself!). Hopefully this is not immersion-breaking in any way. If anyone has a problem with this or is able to shed any further light upon the correct calendar, feel free to send me a PM and I will look into changing it. I myself am further researching the dating issue and in the future I may make some updates, or modifications.


Prologue

The Citadel, Serpent Nebula (Widow System); April (Terran Calendar) 2183 (Council Era)

David Anderson groaned in clear protest when the buzzer of his personal communicator sounded right next to his ear. Rolling onto his other side and wrapping his arms around his head proved futile against the incessant humming grating on his increasingly shortening temper. Was it him or was the tone getting progressively louder?

Flailing an arm to bat the nuisance away from him, he sat up and cursed when he knocked over the glass of water on his bedside table – a shame it wasn't enough to destroy the piece of technology that had ruined the first decent night's sleep he'd had all week.

"All right," he muttered aloud, conceding defeat. "All right!" Snatching up the damn thing, he squinted at the illuminated interface and muttered another curse. It looked like he would have to forgo sleep for yet another night; duty called. Peeling back the covers, he grabbed his shaver and headed straight to the en-suite bathroom.

His grooming routine was shorter than he would've liked, and he had to postpone his usual ten kilometre stint on the treadmill. Come to think of it, he'd stopped living his own life several years ago. Perhaps that was what being a hero was all about; living for others. He was a highly-decorated officer in the Alliance navy; he was divorced with two sons who probably didn't even see him as much of a father. He'd had no real opportunity to lay down roots anywhere; he went where the Human Systems Alliance told him to go; he shook whoever's hand they told him to shake; he smiled at whoever they told him to smile at.

He wore his customary well-rehearsed smile that morning as he passed a dozen different species of aliens on his way through the space station. Some were bipeds, like himself. Some weren't; some had more than two eyes; some had only three fingers on each hand – if you could call them hands.

Anderson shook his head; on his first visit to the Citadel twenty years ago, he'd have been within his right to be disturbed. Now he should have been used to the diversity. But there were just some things in this galaxy you never got used to, no matter how much it was thrust in your face.

The Citadel, as the station was called, was home to a staggering 13.2 million residents hailing from all corners of the Milky Way (and that wasn't including the enigmatic 'Keepers' – the mute caretakers of the station who didn't bother to interact with anybody else). This was probably a result of the fact that the station was placed advantageously at the intersection of numerous mass relays leading to various parts of the galaxy. With a shape reminiscent of a pentagram, the station consisted of a central ring 7.2 kilometres in diameter, from which five 'arms' extended – each one was 43.6 kilometres long and 330 metres wide.

In times of emergency, the station could be retracted into an impenetrable cylinder. It was no wonder that the construct had a gross weight of 7.11 million metric tonnes. Yet no one knew exactly what resilient material the station was built from, nor its precise age. The only thing people did know was that the Citadel was built by the now-extinct Prothean race.

Anderson didn't have time to speculate; in all his years as an officer, he had never been late when summoned by one of the Admirals. He may have been sleep-deprived and run-down, but he wouldn't let that tarnish his spotless record.


The Alliance HQ on the Citadel was a small facility with essential staff only. Anderson had been crammed in the control room so often over the last couple of weeks that he had a distinct case of cabin fever. He looked forward to when the project he was currently overseeing was over so that he could leave the station and take a holiday on Earth – somewhere with open fields and fresh grass rather than stale, recycled air and sterile white bulkheads. He had been dreaming as much when he'd been cruelly wrenched from his warm bed earlier that morning. He wasn't one to complain, especially not since Admiral Steven Hackett was striding purposefully toward him.

Admiral Hackett – now there was a sight to behold. The admiral was grizzly and silver-haired; he had as many scars as people he had killed. But the man was a living legend, and a damn good poker player.

"Captain," the admiral immediately grasped his hand in a firm handshake. "Sorry about the early wake-up call; time and tide wait for no man. A situation's come up, and I need my best people at hand."

Anderson was flattered. "Yes, sir; I'm game."

"Glad to hear it," Hackett clapped his shoulder. "Because, for now, this is strictly classified information. We're at Defcon Three as of a few hours ago."

Anderson didn't bother to hide his astonishment. "What prompted the alert, sir?"

"Follow me and I'll show you."

The moment the admiral turned, the crowds of personnel seemed to migrate. Anderson took advantage of the chance to catch some breathing room as he stepped after Hackett who filled him in on the way to his office.

"At around O-three hundred hours Alliance time, we received a priority message from our colony on Eden Prime. Apparently a team of archaeologists there have found something. Something big." Hackett ushered him inside and closed the door before he voiced the last crucial information: "Someone called Dr Warren claims that it's Prothean."

Prothean: the builders of the mass relays and the Citadel. All contemporary civilisations owed their membership in the galactic community to the Protheans. In 2148, the discovery of a Prothean data cache on Mars had led to the development of FTL (faster-than-light) travel; not to mention it had revealed that the unclassifiable structure orbiting Pluto was in fact a dormant mass relay – a device that could sling-shot objects across vast distances to another mass relay – a gateway to the rest of the universe.

Leftover technology from the extinct Protheans had allowed aliens to leave their homes and come together in a larger multi-species community – a community humanity had 'officially' been a part of since 2165, upon the allocation of an embassy on the Citadel.

But the mass relays had also posed significant threats too; some people had worried about the dangers that might be let in if a dormant mass relay were to be activated. In the end, the gains had outweighed the risks.

Every species' exodus story was the same: the discovery of Prothean technology which had enlightened and uplifted them.

The ramifications of this particular discovery were immense. There was no telling what the artefact was – a weapons platform; another cache of knowledge that could include medical breakthroughs... The possibilities were endless.

The Citadel Council – the heart of galactic law and community – had strict conventions citing that all Prothean discoveries must be declared and shared. Humanity was very much the new kid on the block in the galactic community; they were hardly in a position to have trained their own Prothean experts, whereas the other species had had hundreds; even thousands of years to learn about the Protheans.

Anderson considered himself a practical man; and the truth was that they were in over their heads. They needed help.

His colleagues may not like the idea of submitting to the superiority of aliens in this instance, but they had little choice. If they kept the discovery secret and got found out, the Council would not only ban their embassy; but they could declare war on humanity too. Anderson was damned if he would let that happen; humanity had come too far and bled too much to lose everything now.

Their relationship with the other species may have been tentative at best, but at least it was progress in the right direction. No one species could survive in the galaxy alone – as the batarians and quarians were learning the hard way (both species had had their embassies revoked for committing severe transgressions against Council law). Of course there were those human supremacists who believed that humanity should go it alone. That wasn't an option. What many seemed to forget was that if the Council – a panel of alien representatives – hadn't intervened and ended the First Contact War; humanity may well have been wiped out barely after sticking its toe in the waters. Now, at least, they had a foothold.

"We need to inform the Council," Anderson broached the topic evenly, putting his game face on. He knew that he commanded a great deal of respect among his colleagues; he just hoped that it was enough to make them listen to reason. The Human Systems Alliance had suffered heavy casualties against the turians in the First Contact War, and the Turian Hierarchy had the strongest military in the galaxy. There was no way that the Alliance could afford open war with all three Council races – the asari, the salarians and the turians.

Admiral Hackett nodded soberly. "I thought you were going to say that, Captain. The reason I called you here is because you have experience with the Council that no one else has."

Anderson felt an involuntary twinge of anger when he thought back to the last time that he had been granted an audience with the Council. He had let humanity down by failing to get accepted into the prestigious Spectres – the Council's own private law enforcement agents, of sorts (the kind that weren't subject to any law or authority apart from the Council itself). Worse still; it had been a turian Spectre who had sabotaged him. But that was all in the past.

"The Council is fair." If naive, he thought to himself. "I think that if we show them that we're cooperating, it might earn us a few brownie points."

Hackett sank down into a chair and gestured for Anderson to do the same. "I've never been an ass-licker, David."

"No, sir," Anderson said quickly. Hackett had been a leader of armies during the First Contact War whereas Anderson had just been a grunt, surviving enough to make a name for himself. "But, with all due respect; life is about give and take. The other species think that we're arrogant and impatient. I say we prove them wrong."

Hackett saw the potential wisdom in his words. "Alright, Captain. Let's say we do it your way; are you willing to deal with the politicians?"

"I'm used to it, sir." Anderson's entire schedule during his current project had been to shake hands with turian and human diplomats and emissaries. 'Mutual cooperation to attain a common goal' was a phrase tossed about with alarming frequency; so much so that it had been permanently drummed into his skull.

Hackett looked him over and grunted. "Don't worry, Captain; you'll be back on the frontlines where you belong soon enough. There's no telling what this discovery could lead to. I'm sure that the Council will put their hands – claws, paws, tentacles, whatever – all over it. But remember; we found it first. We're playing a part in all this whether they like it or not. Be sure to make the Council understand that. Ambassador Udina will be there; he'll do most of the talking. But he's a politician, so just make sure to keep him in line."

"Will do, sir." Anderson paused. "I don't know how long the Council will take to come to a decision about something like this. Those archaeologists will have to sit tight. Who've we got stationed on Eden Prime?"

"The Two-twelve," Admiral Hackett replied automatically; he was privy to fleet and troop placements. "Under the leadership of one Gunnery-Chief Ashley Williams."

"Williams," Anderson echoed. "Any relation to -?"

"She's General Williams's grand-daughter," Hackett nodded.

General Williams was marked in history as the first human to surrender his garrison to alien forces. Though his actions had saved countless lives on both sides; many humans thought of him as a traitor. Unfortunately the Williams name had been tarnished with that reputation ever since.

Anderson had to wonder about this Ashley Williams – a soldier he'd never met. One thing he could be certain of was that she'd had a hard career in the Alliance military; if she'd managed to survive that, she obviously had backbone and nerve. Anderson knew then; whatever the Prothean discovery was, it was safe with Ashley Williams to protect it. At least for now.


David Anderson was an easy-going, non-confrontational kind of man. He usually had good reason if he disliked someone. But Ambassador Donnel Udina just got on his nerves, and unfortunately Anderson had been spending a lot of time with him lately on the joint project the Alliance was conducting with the Turian Hierarchy. Specifically the project involved the construction of a space ship, combining the best of human ingenuity with turian engineering. If there was one good thing that the Alliance could say about their old turian rivals; it was that they knew a thing or two about warfare.

Under the Treaty of Farixen; the Turian Hierarchy also had the largest number of dreadnoughts. Their entire society was centred on military doctrine and discipline. The Hierarchy functioned as a meritocracy; from birth, a sense of civic duty and personal responsibility was instilled in every turian so that they would not abuse the system. There were no less than twenty-seven citizenship tiers, beginning with civilians (client races and children) and topped off by the Primarchs.

Turians entered compulsory military service at the age of fifteen (their lifespan was comparable to that of humans) – the second citizenship tier. Successful completion of 'boot camp' would promote them to the third tier. But every turian served the state in some capacity at least until they were thirty. With such strict ethics; their reputation of being rigid imperialists was thoroughly deserved.

Anderson knew that it was pointless to will the one thousand and forty-seven metre elevator ride up the Presidium Tower to go faster; in fact the long journey was arguably designed to let visitors stew in awe and anxiety in anticipation of coming before the grand Council.

The sooner Anderson could excuse himself from Udina's company, the better.

I think a stiff drink is in order – never mind that it's not even midday yet. He couldn't care less about Udina's mutterings about being landed with a 'military baboon' in such a delicate an instance as meeting with the Citadel Council. Ironically, politics and warfare went hand-in-hand.


The lobby to the Council chambers was adorned with autumn-coloured trees and frothing water features. Anderson had never deigned to appreciate what felt artificial to him. Supposedly the architecture was all Prothean, though no one could really say for sure. If it turned out to be true, however; then Anderson thought that the Protheans had had terrible taste in domestic furnishing. But that wasn't why he was here today.

'Ass-licking the Council' was how Admiral Hackett had eloquently put it. As always, David Anderson was the pick for the sacrificial lamb. He wasn't nervous about meeting with them again; he was more worried about what kind of tricks Ambassador Udina had up his sleeve. The new ambassador was a less-than-stellar replacement for old Ambassador Goyle who at least hadn't had her head up her ass.

Still, today was all about compromises. It was Anderson's job to get the Council's help, and to get them to agree to let the Alliance take charge of the operation. Now that he thought about it; it was quite a tall order...

"Come on, Captain," Udina's insufferable voice interrupted his strategising process. "It won't do to keep the Council waiting. Do you know how many backs I had to scratch to get them to grant us an audience at such short notice? But, of course; what Admiral Hackett wants, Admiral Hackett gets." He started mumbling something insulting against the military but Anderson had long since stopped listening.

The decor may have been false, but the sight of dais on the far side framed by long windows of bright light never failed to take his breath away. The Council chamber was large and spacious – frugal in furnishings, but that was hardly the point. It was fitting for the three most powerful people in the galaxy to reside in such a majestic, grandiose niche one thousand and forty-seven metres above the rest of the Presidium and the five wards.

The Council – made up of one representative from each of the three Council races – was already waiting for them when Ambassador Udina and Captain Anderson climbed the steps up toward the dais.

Tevos, the asari, was stood in the middle of the trio. Her salarian colleague, Councillor Valern, stood on her left while the turian councillor, Sparatus, stood on her right.

"Captain Anderson," the asari greeted him first; "welcome back. It's a pleasure to see you again."

Anderson bowed his head slightly out of respect, as he'd seen many of the species do.

A mono-sexed race; the asari were often hyped as the 'wet dream' of the galaxy. Out all the alien species Anderson had seen in the last twenty years; the asari shared many physiological similarities with human females. They had four fingers and a thumb on each hand; as well as a nose, two eyes and a pair of breasts. The differences, however, were just as striking. Asari were blue – they came in every shade of blue imaginable, ranging from teals to purples. They were also hairless and had what looked like tentacles (at least to him) on their heads.

Anderson had never found the asari attractive exactly (they were too alien for his personal tastes), but he could at least appreciate their sophistication and effortless sensuality. He'd heard many tales among the soldiers about their exotic liaisons with asari partners – apparently they were skilled sexual partners. Anderson was more than happy to take their word for it.

Fortunately, for professional reasons, Councillor Tevos defied the image of the stereotypical asari one could find shaking her naked backside in a strip joint down in the seediest crooks of the wards. Her high-necked, long-sleeved dress left everything to the imagination – and Anderson didn't have any need to exercise fantasy in this case. Tevos was conservative and staid. Anderson wasn't an encyclopaedia on xenobiology; but apparently the asari Councillor was centuries old – not that she looked it; in human terms she looked to be in her mid thirties.

The asari's longevity was the reason the species was more comfortable with comprehensive surveillance and study rather than abrupt action whenever they encountered a new species or situation. They were typically a patient, diplomatic people.

Anderson knew for a fact that the turians took charge of military policy because the asari didn't actually have their own national military force. They had no need to. The asari homeworld had neither crime, nor disease; and rather than go to war over their differences, the asari preferred to sit down and work out a consensus. That said; since the advent of space exploration, the asari had a notable naval fleet. The Destiny Ascension was an asari dreadnought and the flagship of the Citadel Fleet.

The asari were actually the oldest race – the first race to develop space flight and discover the Citadel in 580 BCE (Before Council Era). They were respected by the other species for their intellectual superiority and experience; the asari had been responsible for inviting many advanced species into the galactic community and uplifting them. The asari were an economic powerhouse with extensive trade and social contacts. They also boasted craft guilds specialising in advanced biotic technologies the Alliance hoped to negotiate for.

Sixty years after the asari had colonised the Citadel, the salarians made first contact. The salarians were an odd bunch – distinctly alien. A species of haplo-diploid egg-layers; the salarians were amphibians with a short lifespan of only forty years. Their rapid metabolism meant that they only required one hour of sleep a day; they also had photographic memories and had the ability of psychological imprinting designed to help them identify their parents as young. Their talent for processing information quickly meant that the salarians were brainiacs – they made excellent scientists and spies.

Councillor Valern was a salarian male, which was a little strange since politics were usually left to the Dalatrasses (salarian females). Ninety percent of the salarian race was male; they handled business, academia and the military while the rare females handled the politics and reproductive contracts.

The turian was more common ground for Anderson; he'd fought toe-to-toe with them during the First Contact War. While their most distinguishing feature was their metallic carapace (a direct result of evolving on their homeworld); turians had distinct avian features. They were humanoid, standing at just over six feet tall; and had two thick fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand, each tipped with talons, in addition to a set of mandibles around their mouths and a crest of horns on their heads. Though they shared certain qualities with avian species; they certainly didn't fly and they were viviparous (giving birth to live young). Turian voices also had a distinct flanging effect that Anderson remembered all-too-well.

Oblivious to his dark reflections of his past experience with turians, Ambassador Udina opened the proceedings.

"Thank you for receiving us at such short notice, Councillors."

"Not at all," Councillor Valern answered him; "You made it clear that the matter was urgent."

"Yes," Udina agreed. "As humanity's representative to this Council, it is my duty to inform you that a human colony has come across a Prothean artefact."

That got their attention.

"Prothean," Tevos echoed. "Are you certain?"

"Well our scientists seem to think that it is."

Valern leaned to murmur something in what must've been Tevos's ear, and the asari nodded. "I assume that you're here to put forth a proposal in exchange for declaring the Prothean artefact?"

Udina smiled thinly. "We are prepared to release the artefact to you under the condition that the Alliance be allowed to go to the colony and retrieve it."

"Surely it doesn't matter who retrieves it," the salarian pointed out.

Anderson sighed; Ambassador Udina still had a lot to learn about the quirks and nuances of the Council the way his predecessor had known. "You're right. What we're proposing is a joint mission, Councillors. The Alliance and the Turian Hierarchy have just finished construction of the Normandy – a ship that was built specifically for tactical reconnaissance missions. This would be her perfect maiden flight, as well as an opportunity to keep working together. The Alliance has very little knowledge about the Protheans; we can't be a hundred percent sure what this artefact is...so we need your help. I'm guessing that you would assign a Spectre to retrieve the artefact. As captain of the Normandy, I'm willing to accept that Spectre onboard my ship and cooperate with them."

Sparatus's mandibles flared as he considered the two humans. "An interesting proposal, Captain Anderson. Tell me; what does the Alliance hope to gain from this?"

Anderson felt the heat of three expectant pairs of alien gazes on him. "Well," he began slowly, suddenly wishing that he'd had time to rehearse a speech (public speaking had never been one of his strong suits); "we're a part of this community -"

"Exactly," Ambassador Udina cut across him. "Humanity is willing to make contributions. We have proved that we can be trusted, that we're ready for responsibility. Councillors, I would like to petition for a human candidate to be accepted into the Spectres."

Anderson wanted to bury his face in his hands. What the hell was Udina playing at? Damn politicians. Udina was using this audience with the Council as an excuse to air human interests – which wasn't part of the deal. Their orders were to handle the Prothean artefact first and establish good favour with the Council; not railroad them with demands. The more Anderson got to know the ambassador; the more he realised that the word 'subtlety' didn't exist in the man's vocabulary.

"We've been down this road before," Councillor Sparatus pointed out, turning his beady eyes to Captain Anderson.

"That was twenty years ago," Anderson was determined not to lose face despite the hiccup. "The Alliance has learned a lot since then. We have many talented men and women who have been taught by a curriculum that has learned from my mistakes. All we need is a chance to prove how far we've come – to prove that we're worthy of being a valuable member in this community. My people have made great gains thanks to the graciousness of this Council. Give us the chance to repay the favour. Make it a trial; we'll gladly defer to your judgement if you evaluate our candidate and conclude that we're not ready."

Udina shot him a glare which Anderson ignored.

"Well said, Captain," Councillor Tevos applauded him.

Anderson was on a roll. "Councillors, don't we at least deserve another chance?"

"You deserve nothing," Sparatus said flatly. "This Council owes you nothing; you must earn what you get."

Tevos and Valern looked at him in unison, surprised by his aggressiveness.

"I understand that, Councillor. So let us earn a place in the Spectres. Our candidate will be on the mission to Eden Prime; your Spectre can evaluate them and report to you once we return to the Citadel with the artefact."

"It seems that you've given the matter a great deal of thought," Valern remarked, touching on the fact that Udina had played this whole meeting to focus on the issue of a human Spectre. "I take it that you already have a candidate in mind?"

"That's right, Councillor," Udina clasped his hands together.

Anderson looked at him; this was the first he'd heard of it – Admiral Hackett hadn't mentioned anything to him.

"We need someone who embodies the best of humanity; a symbol of our future. The candidate I wish to submit is Staff-Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, a biotic."

What? To say Anderson was furious was putting it mildly. Then again, the ambassador had completely digressed from the established program. Damn politicians and their egos. Anderson was seriously thinking how Udina must've been dropped on his head at birth. Human biotics were rare and were in an isolated minority, even persecuted by the average human citizen. It was out of the question; there was no way that the Alliance was ready to commit a biotic. Getting a human into the Spectres was a big achievement. One step at a time. Don't run before you can walk. Anderson would gladly settle for a human – it would be an honour for a human to be accepted as they were, showcasing the rawest attributes of the human race without scientific meddling. Perhaps biotics were the future, but that future was premature. Twenty years ago, humanity had pushed for a Spectre and had failed. If there was a lesson to be learned; it was patience.

"A biotic," Councillor Tevos mused. Her species, the asari, were natural biotics. Element Zero, or 'eezo', was naturally-occurring on the asari's home planet; hence they had evolved that way. For humans, the procedure was done via unnatural means.

A couple of decades ago, an accident had occurred whereby a cargo freighter had been destroyed over a human colony. Its cargo had ignited, showering the colony in eezo. The result on pregnant females was catastrophic; the foetuses had developed cancer, or were born with debilitating deformities. Only a very small percentage had been lucky enough to survive and, even then; only one in ten had actually displayed a potential for biotic abilities. Those select few humans had been rounded up for experimentation and training. They had been given implants to harness their abilities. It was true that humanity had made significant scientific advancements; but still their biotics were no match for, say, the asari.

So far the asari were the only natural biotic species. There were biotic individuals among other races, but they were special cases just like the humans.

"Is humanity ready for such a responsibility?" Tevos questioned; "Biotics must be trained to the highest standard."

Anderson stifled a snort. Human biotics needed implants, amplifiers and a decade of training before they could even levitate a glass with their powers.

"Captain," the salarian councillor addressed him directly; "is there something you wish to comment?"

Anderson recognised a lifeline when it was being handed to him. It was perhaps somewhat ironic; to the Alliance he was something of an unofficial 'expert' on the Citadel Council, and to the Citadel Council he was an unofficial 'expert' on the human military. He realised that there had never really been bad blood between him and the Council. Professionally he'd let a job go bad, but on a personal level the councillors seemed to cling to him for the simple reason of familiarity. They knew David Anderson; they would prefer to liaise with him over another human.

"I know I made a mistake in the past," he spoke evenly, standing tall; "and I own that mistake – but...I hope that doesn't compromise your respect of my integrity."

"Go on," Tevos encouraged him.

Anderson and Udina locked gazes. If he can play dirty; so can I. Hell, it was clear that Udina had already acted without Alliance jurisdiction. Anderson had nothing to lose.

"I have my own recommendation," he admitted; "someone who's no stranger to the hardships out there. She's not a biotic, but she's a fine soldier – a resourceful individual who's seen the best and the worst the galaxy has to offer. She was born and raised in space; the galaxy is her home and I know she'd do anything to protect it."

"To whom are you referring?" Valern squeaked.

"Lieutenant-Commander Shepard."

"Shepard." Sparatus stroked his mandible. "The human who single-handedly held out against batarian terrorists for twelve hours. A resourceful individual indeed," he agreed. "The odds weren't in her favour, and yet she persevered. An impressive show of courage and skill – for a human."

Tevos looked troubled. "I understand that her father led a retaliatory attack against the batarians on Torfan...killing everyone – even those who had surrendered. I hope you know, Captain; that the asari do not condone such action."

And he paid the price, thought Anderson grimly. "I understand that, Councillor; but should children be held accountable for their parents' actions?" The case of Gunnery-Chief Ashley Williams briefly flashed into his mind. The kid was on Eden Prime right now; she had to hope that the colony avoided unwanted attention until help arrived.

"That is something we cannot judge," Tevos admitted, looking to Sparatus. The turians would have no problem with blaming parents, co-workers and peers for the behaviour of an individual. Every species and culture was different. "But every sapient life form should have equal opportunity. Very well; we will need a few moments to deliberate."

The councillors shared a hushed conversation among themselves while Udina simmered and Anderson had to contain a smirk. He couldn't afford to get smug, not when he was this close... What a day it would be if he not only managed to convince the Council to let the Alliance handle the Prothean artefact, but also managed to get the Council to accept a human applicant for the Spectres. That stiff drink he had been planning would most certainly turn into a celebratory cocktail.

Tevos turned to speak to them (as the representative of the 'founding' race; she seemed to preside over these things more often than her colleagues). "We agreed twenty years ago that humanity had potential. Perhaps you are now ready to seize that potential. You are correct, Captain; the galaxy is built on second chances." She paused for full effect of her words. "We find your proposal acceptable. Under the supervision of a Spectre, the Alliance will be allowed to handle the mission to Eden Prime. And, in the interest of fairness; we will assess both of your applicants."

"Spectre Nihlus Kryik will accompany you to secure the Prothean artefact," Councillor Valern informed them. "He will also assess Lieutenant Alenko and Commander Shepard to determine which – if either – is suitable to become a Spectre."

"This meeting of the Council is adjourned," Tevos announced, closing the debate before Udina could gawp at her. "Go in peace."

Udina turned around slowly and scowled at him. "I hope you know what you're doing, Captain."

"Oh, I do, Ambassador," Anderson replied seriously. "Time for me to assemble my crew."