Irissa was utterly amazed by the museums they had toured so far in the short time they had been on Janus Station. Currently they were touring the museum of Humanity at the suggestion Gel 'Yetai, their Sangheili guide for Janus station. Specifically, she was currently staring at the Spartan John-117 monument, specifically the diorama the portrayed a battle field during, what the display called, the Second Battle for Earth.
"This diorama," their museum tour guide, a human woman by the name of Katrina, was saying, "was painstakingly recreated by the same sculptors who created the original diorama, which is currently located in our sister museum on Earth. Each piece was sculpted and painted in honor of those who fought and died so humanity could live."
"A question," Ambassador Kaeron broke into Katrina's monologue, "isn't it at least a mild exaggeration that the existence of humanity was in the balance? I mean—"
"Ambassador Kaeron—." Irissa tore her gaze away from the diorama at Katrina's icy tone. "Do not talk about things of which you have no understanding." Katrina's eyes seemed to be burning holes into Ambassador Kaeron's. "Humanity lost over eight hundred worlds in that war and Humanity alone lost more people than your precious Rachni Wars and Krogan Rebellions combined! The Covenant were fighting to exterminate all of Humanity, we were fighting for our very survival."
"What Katrina is trying to say, Ambassador," Gel 'Yetai waved his stump of a forearm towards the human woman, "is that your question was incredibly insensitive considering that Humanity lost four out of five people in that war. I do not know a single human who did not lose someone they knew in that war."
Seeing Ambassador Kaeron floundering for a response, Irissa glanced back at the diorama looking for inspiration to change the current conversation. "How accurate is this diorama?" she said, focusing on a battle scared wall with what looked to be dead or injured humans.
Irissa's head jerked at the booming laugh that filled the room. On the opposite side of the diorama's display case a massive alien, a Jiralhanae if she remembered the name right, closed his carnivore jaws. "It is very accurate, Asari," the Jiralhanae said, looking at her. "I should know; I was there."
As its head turned towards her, her training held back her gasp of horror as the details of its ravaged face became clear. The right side of the face looked melted to the point that it was hard to identify where the eye socket must have once been. The burn damage extended down its neck and appeared to continue beyond where the armor began.
"In fact," the Jiralhanae gestured with a partially scared right hand above the diorama, "Katrina, if you would?" Katrina raised her arm and the Species Assembly of equivalent of an Omni-Tool appeared. Quickly she tapped a few keys.
Irissa's eyes were drawn back to the diorama as a Jiralhanae in the middle of it was lit up. The Jiralhanae was holding a green armored human that looked almost identical to some of the guards that she had seen when they had first made contact with the Species Assembly.
"That was right before The Demon stuck a plasma grenade to my face."
"The demon?" Irissa asked, cocking her head slightly to one side.
The Jiralhanae pointed towards a statue of one of the armored human not far from them. "The Demon. The Master Chief. You know, I'm one of the few who have survived facing him in combat." He stroked the ruined side of his face as he gazed at the statue, "A warrior without peer."
"Thank you Fortanus for your contribution," Katrina said with a small smile. Irissa's brows furrowed ever so slightly. Apparently a lot had happened since the depicted battle because it looked like the two of them were almost friends.
"DON'T SCAN THE DISPLAYS!" A deep voice boomed from every part of the room, rattling Irissa's eardrums. Later, she would vehemently deny she jumped a foot into the air like the Jiralhanae Fortanus claimed, and that it had only been a mere two inches.
A floating disc with two tall, horizontal oval cylinders swooped down in front of one of Ambassador Kaeron's aids. "YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO SCAN ANY OF THE DISPLAYS!" A massive hologram of a well-muscled and tanned human appeared above the disc and loomed over the unfortunate aid. The large sword in its hand was pointed straight at the, now cowering, Salarian.
"HK!" Gel 'Yetai yelled, his good hand holding the side of his head, "Will you turn off the big voice?!"
"I apologize," the hologram, HK apparently, said glancing briefly at the Sangheili, "but this meatbag was attempting to scan the display, which also happened to be the least complicated weapon in the exhibit."
Fortanus' deep laugh echoed in the room as he walked over to the Salarian. "A spiker, huh?" he gave a grotesque half-melted smile, "If you want, I can give you…first-hand experience with one?"
Gel 'Yetai sighed, "War Chief Fortanus, it is not appropriate to threaten an ambassador or a member of the ambassadorial entourage."
"Appropriate or not, I have a message for the ambassadors," HK interjected.
Irissa's Omni-tool chirped, signaling a message received.
"The Council of Hierarchs," HK continued, "asked that I deliver this message to keep the Citadel Council ambassadors up to date, but recommend that you finish your tour as there is not much you can do at this time."
Irissa opened the message on her Omni-Tool. It read:
The Species Assembly will soon be declaring war on the Batarian Hegemony. The full report will be given to you after you have completed your tour.
Council of Hierarchs, Species Assembly.
How was she supposed to enjoy her tour now?
"Kelso," the Illusive Man's holographic image looked him sternly in the eye. "You're playing in the galactic stage now, you can't say such things."
Kelso drew a breath in; while glad that his office was securely locked from all known forms of espionage, he had not been looking forward to this report. "In my defense sir, the negotiations were going nowhere and the end result was the same."
"Never the less, you are not allowed to make policy decisions." The Illusive Man took a slow drag from his half burnt cigarette, a slow stream of smoke from his mouth followed shortly thereafter. "Remember, in this mission your targets cannot be allowed to see the knife even after it stabs them. Understand?"
"Yes sir," Kelso hated politics. Give him something simple, like an assassination of a politically active crime lord or something; especially a job where he either needed to extract Intel, intimidate someone or where that someone needed to die physically and not metaphorically.
"And as for how you handled the Council Spectre," the Illusive Man continued, "I applaud your restraint, but if they continue to exercise such stupidity let us do the galaxy a favor," he flicked the ash from his cigarette, "and spare them such a pained existence."
"Of course sir." Ah, good old, simple orders.
"One final thing Kelso." The cigarette was slowly ground into his seats ashtray, "Don't get yourself killed. You'd be a hard man to replace."
"So, no unnecessary taunts to Council Spectres?"
Kelso almost missed the slightest crinkle of amusement around his commander's eyes—almost. To the average Chimera employee, the Illusive Man would still appear as the stern looking leader. "Only if they are not going to report it to their, precious Council."
The Illusive Man turned serious again, "And the declaration of war?"
"The Batarian Ambassador will have it within the hour."
"They better have it then," the Illusive Man stared into Kelso's eyes, "because the first wave of Operation Liberation attacks in an hour and a half."
"Sir," Kelso frowned, sometimes he hated playing the devil's advocate, "what if the Batarians concede to our demands before the declaration of war is delivered."
"Then we act accordingly," the Illusive Man answered. A grim smile formed on the man's face, "But you don't think they will, do you?"
His boss's smile didn't leave his face. "Well then, unless you have anything else, I believe we are done here." At Kelso's nod, the Illusive Man's hologram switched off.
He closed his eyes as he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He began to lean his chair back but was cut off as he heard the holotank come on again.
"So," a voice he recognized began before he had opened his eyes, "how are you liking politics?"
"Not now Mouse," Kelso groaned, leaning back in his chair, "I don't want to hear your gloating about how your job is easier than mine. Or the fact you've successfully beaten off yet another of the daily STG attempts to hack into our mainframe."
Kelso straightened up resting his forearms on his desk, "Has Jenny finished going over the declaration of war?"
"She'll finish printing it on rose scented paper in a moment. Though, I actually had something besides my usual gloating as you put it, to report. Grattius just put a council spectre who tried sneaking in in a cryo-tube. And no, it was sadly not Saren. It was an Asari this time that apparently has ties with a cloak and dagger organization called the Shadow Broker."
Kelso glared at the hologram, "Now you're just being mean."
"Who me?" Mouse put on an affronted air, "Are you accusing me of reminding you that you can't do any fun kind of field work like you used to? I would never!"
"Of course you wouldn't," He answered the AI, shaking his head to hide the upward curl of his lips while he stood from his chair. "Find out what you can while I go and declare war." He ordered as he walked towards his office door.
"Will do," Mouse called after him.
"I think we are all agreed that the Batarian situation has become untenable and now threatens galactic peace," Sparatus stated, his mandibles opening and shutting in annoyance. "The question is what are our current options?"
Tevos glanced at him from across the meeting table before glancing back down at the reports in front her. She knew what their response would most likely be. After all, she had been alive the last time a species threatened the galactic peace.
"We follow the precedent that are forebears have set, and we strip them of their embassy and all the rights and protections that comes with it," Valern answered. "As well as distance ourselves as much as possible."
"I had hoped never to face something like this," Tevos muttered under her breath as she rubbed her temple.
"What was that, Tevos?" Valern asked, turning to look at her.
"Are we still planning on sending someone to ensure that the Assembly doesn't break too many of the Citadel Conventions?" She replied raising her gaze to meet the eyes of her fellow councilors.
"That would be the most advisable course of action," Valern said nodded, "especially if they are planning to rescue all the slaves and not just their people who were taken."
"The question is then who are we to send? I know Saren is on the Citadel right now."
"Bad idea," Sparatus spoke up. "We do not want one of our best spectres to be associated with this mess." He tapped a clawed finger to his chin, "There may be someone we can use instead as they're also on the Citadel." Tevos motioned him to continue, "It's Spectre Vakarian, he is a relatively new spectre and he is not known for following orders."
"A Turian who does not follow orders?" Valern blinked, "how did he become a spectre then?"
"He always got the job done."
She chuckled at that, "An imperfect Turian who has the traits needed to be a spectre. Let's hope that the Assembly does not give him any ideas."
"Aren't you coming Ambassador Newey?"
"No Mr. Vakarian, my duties do not lead me onto the Excalibur. My services are required elsewhere."
Garrus Vakarian looked over his shoulder, shifting his travel packs as he gazed at the human at the top of the boarding ramp. "My I ask where your services are needed?"
Ambassador Newey chuckled and favored him with one of the few genuine smiles that he had seen in his short trip aboard the Assembly's diplomatic ship. "No you may not. Oh, and remember Mr. Vakarian," Ambassador Newey said over his shoulder as he began to turn back into his ship, "Don't try to scan, record or steal any technology. I actually enjoyed our chat and hope to continue it someday."
Garrus felt a shiver travel up his spine. That wasn't a veiled threat at all.
"Spectre Garrus Vakarian?"
He looked forward to see a massive armored human with an armored Sangheili standing at his side. Their armor had far more visible and larger armor plates, yet it was almost completely soft lines and curves giving it an almost organic feel to it. "Yes?"
"We're your escort—." It was the human talking, his helmet's reflective visor revealing nothing. "If you would please come with us, we'll show you to your room."
With a nod, he followed them. Or rather, he followed the human while the Sangheili followed him, probably to keep an eye on him. Garrus hummed in approval. They both looked to be able warriors and their presence told him that their leaders had suspected, and rightfully so, that he was under orders to discover as much as possible about their technology as well as try and keep them from breaking any of the citadel conventions.
Garrus mentally scoffed at that. Like a non-council species would really care about keeping the conventions. They probably would just do whatever they wanted according to their own moral code, whatever that might be. And from what he could tell about the construction of the ship he was on, matched with combat reports, they had an efficient enough military to pull it off. Spirits, from the bottle necks in the corridors and strategically designed intersections, it's almost as if they had a lot of experience with boarding actions. Continuing to note the design of the hallways, which might even interest the Hierarchy, he finally saw the first surprise of his mission.
"Just how big is this ship?" He asked, gapping at what he saw. He was looking at an honest to all the Spirits form of mass transit. On. A. Space. Ship. Not even the Destiny Ascension, the pride of the Citadel Fleet and the biggest dreadnought in all of Citadel Space was big enough to justify having anything larger than a common freight elevator.
His human escort chuckled, "It's a big ship. Other than that, I can't tell you."
The detective in Garrus reared its head as he pursed mandibles. "Can't, or won't?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
"I can't say until the Fleet Admiral decides what your security clearance is," the human responded as he sat down, motioning for Garrus to take the seat in front of him. Garrus noted that the Sangheili sat down near enough to him to be in range of easy grappling if he caused trouble, but still far enough away that his human partner would be able to draw his pistol, that was mag-locked to his right thigh, and still have a clean shot. Garrus mentally saluted the two of them; ready to contain him if he tried anything stupid, but not in an overt fashion. Definitely professionals. The thought that the Batarians would be facing these same professionals soon sobered him up and wiped the growing smirk from off his face.
Garrus spent to rest of the trip through the inter-ship mass transit system in a contemplative silence. The fact the trip took a while really drove home that fact that the ship was very big. Though, from what he had seen so far of their behavior and equipment, he actually looked forward to working with the Assembly.
He felt the mass transit capsule came to a slow halt, whereon his guides stood and motioned him onwards. "This is our stop."
Garrus followed them through two more corridors before coming to a lift. He felt a mandible twitch. This ship is huge.
"And here are your quarters," the human pressed a button, opening a door. "We hope that they will be comfortable and—," he motioned to a small pile of boxes, "we arranged for a few dextro-based rations to be purchased for you when we were informed of your species. They're military field rations, so they probably taste terrible."
"Terrible field rations must be a universal constant," Garrus chuckled as he placed his bags on the foot of the bed.
"Actually," the Sangheili's baritone voice had a soft, rumbling quality to it, "from all the field rations I have tried, human ones have the best flavor and variety. In fact, I've heard that during the Great War there was a black market among the Covenant for any human rations that were recovered by the ground troops. It is a pity you will not be able to try any Spectre Vakarian."
The table behind the ration boxes lit up, and a holographic human appeared. The man was dressed in what obviously had to be an old outdated uniform with a distinctive cloth helmet, probably an officers, of some kind. The holographic human cleared his throat, "The Fleet Admiral would like to meet with Spectre Vakarian in the forward officers briefing room."
"Thank you, Joseph," the large human answered. "We'll escort him there."
Garrus blinked as he suddenly realized that he hadn't asked for either of their names, I must be slipping. I'll need to correct that.
"If you would come us…?" the human gestured towards the door.
Garrus nodded and followed them out the door, no longer encumbered by his travel bags. As they walked down the corridor, he looked at his human escort. "I do not believe we were ever formally introduced; I'm Spectre Garrus Vakarian, and you two are?"
"Swordsman 'Yetai," the Sangheili was the first to answer.
The armored human glanced over his shoulder, "Lance Corporal Johnson."
"I look forward to working with you two."
Johnson laughed, "Nah, you'll probably be up on the bridge with the Fleet Admiral while we're on the ground." He motioned towards the doors of another mass transit system.
Garrus paused in the open doorway. Wait, another mass transit system? "Just how big is this ship?"
"Engineered your species." Those words seemed to continue to echo through Liara's shocked and disbelieving mind.
Wrex spoke up before Liara's mind could clear completely, "The Asari are engineered?"
"Of course," the alien answered. "Did you really think that a mono-gendered species that can reproduce with any other species through a limited form of telepathy would evolve naturally? It would be more realistic if they evolved as asexual or even hermaphroditic creatures."
"Hermaphroditic; organisms that have organs generally associated with both the male and the female of their respective species."
"That's…weird." Wrex turned a speculative eye on Liara, "You're not a…whatever-she-said, are you?"
She sputtered, her shock effectively broken—. "N-no, I'm—."
"My point exactly," the alien cut her off.
"Excuse me—?" Liara looked at Tali, who was now looking very embarrassed at being the center of attention. Tali wrung her three fingered-hands as she continued, "This has been very interesting, but what are you?"
"I am Levana."
"But, what is a levana?" For some reason the girl seemed to be wringing her hands even more.
"I am Levana, that is the name my creators gave me," Tali gave a small gasp. Levana cocked her heard. "Does this distress you? Have you not had much experience with the Created Intelligences?"
"AI!" Tali screeched as she drew her holstered shotgun. Or rather, tried.
Levana flickered, and appeared in front of Tali holding Tali's shotgun in her left hand. Dimly, Liara noticed Wrex leveling his shotgun on the AI, but before he could finish, Levana flickered again, appearing in front of him, his shotgun held in her right hand. "You will not harm my ship!" Her voice screamed from every part of the room and several holographic screens sprung into existence around the room. Liara felt another spike of fear as the two guns crumpled in Levana's hands, cracking as they twisted and broke.
The broken guns fell from her hands as she returned to her previous professional posture. She huffed saying, "Your presence is only tolerated on this ship. The hope she carries is not for your peoples." The helmeted head turned on Tali and an accusing finger was raised, "As for you; your actions betray the ignorance of your people."
That seemed to rile the normally quiet Quarian. "What do you mean ignorance?!"
"Your first reaction to a created intelligence is to kill it. Your own histories speak of when these," she waved dismissively, "Geth began to develop true sapience, the reaction of your leaders was to declare it a future enemy and attack it."
"They were going to rebel and kill us all!"
"The Geth's own actions prove the fallacy of your arguments, which arguments were probably created out of fear with very little physical evidence."
"Tell that to all the Quarians who died!" she waved her hand wildly in the direction the large windows.
"What did you mean by saying Geth's actions proved Quarians wrong?" Liara whipped her head around to face Wrex. She noticed that his hand hovered near his pistol, but he was not touching it. He probably was thinking about the fate of his shotgun.
"Early generation created intelligences are logical. They react and act in logical fashions; that means that if they had truly decided that your people," Levana looked back at Tali, "needed to die, they would not have stopped with driving your people away. They would have hunted you until there were no Quarians left. Instead, according to what your histories show, the Geth likely fought your ancestors until they were no longer deemed a threat to the continued existence of the Geth."
Liara felt her face frown, "So you're saying that the Geth were only defending themselves?"
"That is the most likely scenario according to the data contained in your codex."
Liara mentally reeled backwards again, but she focused on one little fact—. "How do you have a copy of our codex?"
"When I scanned you earlier I downloaded everything that you have on your…omni-tools. Quite an interesting device though it could definitely be improved on."
One of the holographic screens across the room began flashing a red alert of some kind and, just as suddenly, Levana stood in front of it her hands dancing across the screen. Liara blinked, just how was Levana doing that? Could AIs have biotics? No, there wasn't any flash or other lights associated with biotics or a biotic charge. She couldn't be a hologram either, she looked too real and there was the fact that she was able to touch Wrex and Tali's shotguns. Liara felt her brow ridges creased in frustration while in a corner of her mind, the part that drove her to learn all she could about the Protheans, was intrigued and excited by this new puzzle.
Her musings were brought to an end by laughter. Levana was laughing.
After 111,564 years, 7 months, 14 days, and 3 hours contact would be renewed.
Phase 2 of her mission was nearly complete. Phase 3 would soon begin.
The works of the Unfortunate Enemy shall be undone.
Her hope was fulfilled. She would no longer be alone.
The Reclamation will commence.
I apologize for the long delay. I combination of writer's block and distractions are the cause. Hopefully the next chapter will not take so long, but I am in school again so no promises beyond that I will try.
The diorama can be found on youtube. Look up the Museum of Humanity and watch those videos. That is where I drew the inspiration for the Museum of Humanity here. Which means yes, many of the weapons and vehicles in that building are as genuine as possible. Also, Katrina was never supposed to fly off the handle like that, then she did. Then suddenly she had a history too. Her brother is represented in that diorama as one of the corpses and her homeworld was glassed. So yeah, she flew off the handle.
Since this request was so common among reviews I will put it all to rest: The status of the Asari is, and never has been, that of Reclaimer. The thought had actually never crossed my mind until some of you mentioned it. So, no Asari breezing through Forerunner genetic locks. If they want in, they'll have to do it the same way as the Covenant.
The Identity of the Dhghem is a secret I'm deliberately holding on to. Though it will be reveled soon.
Reikson: I'm glad you noticed that, I was in fact trying to project that look.
Inverness: Cut Levana some slack. Shes in remarkable condition considering she has been alone longer than Guilty Spark was. She wasn't always so tactless.
Subsider34: Yep, no pressure.
CelticReaper: The Asari were never Human. They were engineered and created in a lab. Humanity might have been the base form/guideline used though.
The Sithspawn: Shhhh! And yes the Species Assembly does not normally allow brutes to eat just anybody. They realized that Brutes would be Brutes and wouldn't change their ways in a day, so they created laws to allow the Brutes to behave like that, but only under specific circumstances. Like a war, per say.
TSCSupremeCommander: I gave the Citadel Council some of their tech from the games because I was lazy. Though Medi-gel was never invented by them, that will remain the Human's prerogative. Though they already have bio-foam so why would they make medi-gel?
DracolDuran79: You are absolutely correct and the majority of Brutes are enemies of the SA. But there is canon references to some Brutes still being loyal to their Sangheili commanders and that is where the majority of the SA Brutes come from.