Welcome to The Two Front War, the ME 2 sequel to The First Human Spectre, covering ME 1, and to the interlude story Reaping The Storm, which covered events after Shepard's death. This story will continue the adventure of a rather unique Shepard, who has made some decidedly non-canon choices and actions in TFHS. It's a Shepard who is much, much more sensible to injustices committed, who has acquired a notable anti-Alliance stance and who hates Cerberus almost more than the Reapers. (Though while the summary warns of a heavy anti-Alliance slant, that issue most likely will not come up all that much in this story.)

Now, naturally, I recommend reading The First Human Spectre to anybody who has not. Due to all the changes to canon, some parts of The Two Front War might not make sense otherwise. Reading Reaping The Storm, the interlude story between ME 1 and 2, is less necessary.

In any case, I can understand if people don't want to prowl through over 300,000 words of text. Thus, this foreword will also include a summary of just what has been changed compared to canon.

As part of this, let's look at TFHS' ME 1:

Shepard's Background: Earthborn, War Hero (past romantic relationship to this universe's 'Sole Survivor' of Akuze)

Shepard's status at his death: Council Spectre; left the Alliance in protest over BAaT, no longer Commander, actively refuses that address.

Love Interest: Tali

Feros: Colony is alive, ExoGeni has withdrawn from the planet and will most likely soon go down.

Rachni Queen: Alive (and the Council is left in the dark about that and the rachni presence on Noveria in general)

Virmire Survivor: Ashley (has resigned from the Alliance Navy in protest over Udina's schemes for galactic domination. Goyle has installed her as her own, personal Spectre only reporting to her.)

Wrex: Is alive (and Shepard has the cure for the Genophage, and will hand it to Wrex as soon as Wrex can pacify Tuchanka)

Council: Dead (though Councillor Sparatus survived the destruction of the Destiny's Ascension, just to make everything even worse)

Human Councillor: Anita Goyle (has promised to also work against the Alliance if necessary)

Further Notes: Ongoing Council crackdown on Cerberus in process. Navigator Pressly is still alive as he left the Normandy after the Battle of the Citadel. Emily Wong, Kirrahe and Kai Leng are dead. 'Father' Kyle is free and his group intact, hidden from the Alliance. The Alliance has gone through severe tumult and unrest after the Battle of the Citadel due to Shepard's revelations, including its three largest colonies temporarily proclaiming a Declaration of Non-Compliance with the Alliance government and a failed coup attempt by elements of the Alliance Navy against the colonies. The 'Idenna Incident' happened on the Neema instead and involved Tali. Mitra Hendel and Gillian are aboard the Neema.

Not quite the usual ME 1 summary, is it? There's a more detailed summary of what changed compared to canon below. But first, I need to explain some stuff:

As the name indicates, The Two Front War will be different in tone to most ME 2 fics. I mean, most of them are all about camaraderie, about disparate people coming together for a single goal and developing friendships on the way... and oh, totally ignoring things Cerberus has done, totally ignoring the role of some people aboard, totally ignoring what those people have done. So this story will be different. It won't be a heart warming tale of camaraderie, but rather the story of an out and out power struggle. There will be a two front war; one front against the Collectors and one running right through the ship. And there will be genuine, unabating hate and resentfulness.

As part of this, Shepard will be particularly harsh to some characters. This includes some fan favourites. Just as a general warning. Shepard is 'one of the good guys', but not always particularly nice. I'll try to be fair, though, in my depiction of characters. This won't be a bash-fic. So if you ever think I am unfair in my portrayal of characters, well, be sure to tell me so in the reviews! In fact, I think I might throw in two or three Miranda PoV sections in there, just to give a balanced account. (Then again, I really do think Miranda just doesn't need to be vilified...)

Another point about Shepard will be that he will be more often recognised. It is IMO ridiculous that he has to introduce himself to everybody, and can even go on a covert mission plain-face (Kasumi's loyalty mission). He is the goddamn Hero of the Citadel! He is the reason the Alliance is either on the Council or even leading it! And of course, in this universe, he is even more famous, or infamous, depending on one's opinion, due to his political manoeuvres (see TFHS summary). But even in canon everybody should know him and how he looks. Thus, in this story just about everybody will recognise him; he's basically a celebrity.

Class-wise, Shepard was a vanguard in The First Human Spectre, but of course ME 1 vanguards are different from ME 2 vanguards. I like how Bioware made the classes more unique in 2, but for fanfics it does nothing good for consistency, heh. So Shepard will have about the same powers he had in TFHS and no charge, which by ME 2 class standards I guess would make him a sort of adept with shotgun proficiency. One rather unwilling to use his biotic powers, too, after having learned all about BAaT.

Just saying this all, because in fanfics people have certain expectations, so I think it makes sense to point out which expectations will not come to pass.

Nonetheless, In general, I'll actually try to stay close to canon background. All those canon changes are all about what Shepard did and how people react to that. However, there is one exception to that I should already mention: ME 3 canon will be generally ignored. The game was a catastrophe, and while everybody laments the ending, this really is the least of its problems. By far. So, should I ever get to ME 3, its entire story will have to be rewritten. However, this means ME 3 canon will also be ignored in matters already appearing before ME 3: E.g., what's on Kasumi's greybox, Cerberus' background, the details of the Geth War and so on. ME 1, ME 2 and Karpshyn's novels are canon in regards to this fic, everything afterward can die in a fire.

This also extends to how Tali looks. The usage of a poorly photoshopped free stock photo was bad enough, but most of all I don't like how human it makes quarians. That's silly. Asari are supposed to be the most human-like species; that's kind of their shtick. Also, I like if humans have one unique physical feature (i.e., hair), instead of all other races being derivatives of humans in one form or another, making humans for unexplained reason the golden mean. There were some descriptions of Tali without suit in The First Human Spectre, and I'll keep to that instead of ME 3 canon.

Speaking of Cerberus: You might notice I already gave this Shepard a strong hatred for that group even before ME 3 came out. So any opposition to Cerberus is not "Hah! Shepard won't let himself be fooled by those who'll eventually sell out humanity" or anything like that. Rather, it's all based on how they're already presented in ME 1/2, the atrocities they've done there. In fact, I'm annoyed how they're enemies in ME 3. I'd rather have liked the opportunity to attack them first. So I'll even spell it out already here: Cerberus will not be indoctrinated, and never be in any way on the side of or be associated with the Reapers. And never suddenly grow into a mega-army, either. Basically, it will always be ME 2 Cerberus, fighting for humanity... or so they claim. Shepard won't be too convinced.

One note about chapter length: During TFHS, I tried to keep chapter length between 6000 and 12,000 words. Now, I'll aim for lengths between 4000 and 10,000 words. That doesn't mean I'll write less; it just means there will be more smaller chapters instead of less bigger chapters.

Oh, and while I have your attention, one more thing: I can understand that some people got kinda annoyed how all the politics stuff took over a big part of the plotline in The First Human Spectre. That's a reasonable criticism. However, what I find kinda disturbing is people who do try to justify the Alliance and what they did. I mean, yeah, it's all just fictional stuff, but opinions about that do reflect back on people and their attitudes. And seeing some of those opinions, that can be a depressing thought. The same can be said about people defending Cerberus, which might be called The Two Front War's 'equivalent issue'.

Yeah, I just wanted to have said that. Now, let us take a closer look at just what has changed compared to canon in The First Human Spectre and in Reaping The Storm:

Shepard/Tali Romance

The big change is that as of the beginning of the ME 2 story, Shepard and Tali are already in a relationship. Well, except for the fact that Tali thinks Shepard dead, of course. The whole romantic buildup already happened in The First Human Spectre. Basically, Tali takes over the 'LI role' in all aspects: The one bursting out at Ashley after Therum, the one talking to Shepard after the lockdown, the pre-Ilos scene, etc. It took a long development, at the end of which both knew how the other felt, and knew that the other knew and so on. But only before the battle on Virmire did they confess to each other. They managed to have their first kiss in a clean laboratory on Noveria, and seeing as the end of the Galaxy was possible soon, went further just before Illos.

Seeing how an unusual Shepard this story's one is, this also has its affect on her: At the end of the story, she probably is slightly more willing to confront authority than at the beginning. Having come to terms with Shepard's death, she is now willing to contribute to his ideals as much as possible.


Shepard has Jeong and Dr Ross arrested, and gathers evidence for ExoGeni's crime: Abusing the population of Zhu's Hope as test group to see the effects of the Thorian, and then trying to kill them all, hundreds of people, to cover this up. Despite heavy resistance from the Alliance (who fears for ExoGeni's keystone role in its space colonization program) and the problems with corporate media, Shepard manages to publish his evidence with the help of Emily Wong and Anita Goyle (Udina's predecessor as Citadel ambassador, from the novel Revelation). In the ensuing trial, ExoGeni uses every trick to delay the process, but at the end of ME 1 its demise seems inevitable - either due to the trial or due to the horrible PR. However, this does not happen without casualties: Emily Wong is later assassinated while meeting with Shepard at Flux, and Tali is heavily injured.


Shepard's then girlfriend Sarah Schäfer committed suicide five years before ME 1 because she was this universe's 'Sole Survivor 'of Akuze and could not cope with the incident. Thus, when Shepard learns about Cerberus' role in this, he swears revenge, especially since by that time he already knows Cerberus is also responsible for the dead marine platoon on Edolus and the eradicated pioneer settlement on Chasca. Using Admiral Kahoku's data, he attacks the Cerberus bases on Binthu and Nepheron - and tells what he found to the Council. The Council is utterly shocked about the finding of live rachni, an enemy they had thought long dead, and hence does everything to come cracking down on Cerberus.

Shepard also sends the encrypted Cerberus data found on Nepheron not only to the Alliance and the Shadow Broker, but to every intelligence service in the galaxy, hoping to hasten Cerberus' demise that way. The revelations about Cerberus hurt the Alliance's image, since they have proven unable so far to reign them in, especially as later Shepard fully publishes his findings (except the rachni) in asari media, but the Spectre does not care much about this. Since Shepard also leaves the Council in the dark about the rachni queen on Noveria, they continue to assume Cerberus to be the source of the rachni. Hence their crackdown on Cerberus is ongoing at the end of ME 1.

Also, since Cerberus' crimes are now common knowledge (at least Akuze, Edolus and Chasca), nobody in Two Fronts War will be able to justify their Cerberus membership with ignorance about those events...

In Reaping the Storm, Tali and Tisiphone (see next section) stumble across Cerberus' exploitation of Gillian Grayson (see the Ascension novel) when the child's adoptive father Paul and Kai Leng try to retrieve her from Grissom Academy. They can prevent that and capture their ship, which they use to flee to the Migrant Fleet, specifically to the Neema. Some days later the ship gets infiltrated and attacked by Cerberus troops. In the battle Tisiphone kills Paul Grayson, and Rael'Zorah kills Kai Leng. The attack is repelled, and the surviving Cerberus members are spaced. Most likely quarian-Cerberus relations in this story will never ever get better again.


When Shepard learns about BAaT from Kaidan, he reacts with an angry condemnation and says if this had happened to him, he would have joined one of the biotic terrorist cells. He is angry that this appears like an atrocity the Alliance has gotten away with, but that is not so: During his mission to Major Kyle, one of Kyle's followers, Tisiphone (a non-believer of his cult of personality, who is only there because it gives biotics a community and a sense of belonging) shows Shepard some victims of BAaT. They tell the Spectre their stories. He is deeply disturbed by the injustices done to them and their ongoing marginalization, especially as it is something that could have happened to him had his biotic potential been discovered earlier. As a result, not only does he not arrest Kyle (as that would destroy the group, robbing those desperate people of the only thing they have), but he also decides to give a new hide-out to the group in one of the bases he had cleared of criminal elements earlier.

Gratefully, Tisiphone informs him of the planned hostage taking of Burns, Chairman of the Alliance Parliament Subcommittee on Transhuman Studies, the man responsible for biotic affairs and for further denying reparations to the L2s. Shepard arrives at the hostage scene, where he is received peacefully due to Tisiphone vouching for him - and arrests Burns for obstruction of justice, as he has taken part in the classification of BAaT data. He gets Burns to give him all relevant data by threatening to fly him into a combat zone, and leaks those to asari media contacts given to him by Emily Wong. This causes a huge uproar in the Alliance. Most people condemn Shepard for the revelation of the crimes, rather than the Alliance for the crimes, but there is also much protest and outrage among humanity. More importantly, the asari condemn the crimes, and the turians join in for no other reason than to diplomatically harass the Alliance, so the Council begins to apply pressure on the Alliance over the matter.

Anita Goyle takes over both the legal battle against ExoGeni and the battle for justice of the BAaT survivors. While she had held no influence over BAaT as such, it was her advice as Citadel ambassador that Earth could not show weakness that led to the hiring of turian mercenaries, and their brutal methods to break the children, killing some and traumatizing the rest. Thus, while not guilty per se, she feels the need to atone and set things right. The Ascension Project, meanwhile, is falling down hard: Most parents have recalled their children, as they do not trust the Alliance anymore, most enrolments for the next years have been cancelled, and the facilities are occupied by protesting instructors (some of them themselves BAaT survivors) and some of the older students.

Eventually, the whole situation escalates into a full grown crisis for the Alliance (see point about that).

Virmire and the Genophage

Upon arriving on Virmire, Shepard's first instinct is to simply bomb away Saren's facility from orbit. However, he changes his mind when he hears that Saren has a cure for the genophage, and instead simply agrees with Kirrahe's plan. As this plan has him infiltrating the base, far away from the salarians, that gives him the opportunity to grab the cure and keep it secret from the salarians. With the aid of Rana Thanoptis' codes Tali can download all necessary data. Nonetheless, Rana is shot as a potential witness and for her crimes against the imprisoned salarians.

Shepard successfully manages to keep his possession of the cure a secret. He promises Wrex that he will give it to him, as soon as doing so will not risk immediately starting another round of the Krogan Rebellions, i.e. as soon as his race has settled down a bit. So after the Battle of the Citadel Wrex returns to Tuchanka to pacify his race under his rule. Sometime after Shepard's death he contacts Tali, who ensures him she has a copy of the cure.

Shepard's relationship to the Alliance

Due to his arrest of Burns and the leaking of classified Alliance data to the asari, Shepard gets a nasty surprise when he returns to the Citadel after Virmire: The Normandy is grounded, Shepard recalled as her CO, and suspended from the Navy. Enraged, Shepard calls it quits on his part, and throws his Star of Terra and rank insignia to Udina's feet. With Anderson's help, he takes over the Normandy and flees the Citadel. Since then, he does not wear the uniform or any Alliance insignia anymore at all, and also rejects being addressed as 'Commander' - he has completely broken with the Alliance. As a parting shot of sorts to the Alliance he leaks to his contacts in the asari media how the Alliance had tried to suppress the ExoGeni trial, how it had performed forbidden AI experiments on Luna, and the existence of Cerberus.

It is as mutineers that the Normandy crew stumbles over the attempt by batarian terrorists to eradicate Terra Nova (Bring Down the Sky DLC). Hence, the Alliance has to deal with the embarrassing situation that they could not defend their largest (per ME 1 canon) colony, and that it in fact was a bunch of mutineers who saved their largest colony. Terra Nova is hugely grateful to Shepard, and the Spectre uses the spotlight for a public speech condemning, in detail, the various failings and atrocities of the Alliance.

Ashley's Relationship to the Alliance

Ashley, meanwhile, is very opposed to Shepard's course, but can also understand him and admits he is only telling the truth. Still, her loyalty to the Alliance holds - until the Battle of the Citadel. Shepard decides that that Fifth Fleet should concentrate its firepower on Sovereign, since he has no idea whether they can stand against both the Reaper and the geth, and would rather not risk it - Sovereign must be defeated at all costs. Thus, ironically after everything, Shepard hands the Citadel to the Alliance on a silver plate. Udina wants to establish sole human domination in the galaxy - but to Ashley, that merely confirms that whatever Shepard has said about the Alliance is true, that they are still willing to sacrifice everybody to gain power. This causes her to tell the ambassador she is leaving the Alliance, too.

While the Alliance does not dare touch her as long as she's part of Shepard's crew, they imprison her as soon as he's dead. Goyle (see below) gets her free, though, and since the Council still owes her a favour (since she conceded some points about C-Sec), Ashley is made a Spectre on her proposal. To be exact, she will act as Goyle's personal Spectre, only reporting to her personally, not to the Council in general. Her first job is to keep an eye on the escalating crisis in the Alliance; a further job will be to search for evidence of past Reaper activity.

The New Council

Despite Udina's initial schemes, in the end, Anderson and Hackett convince him that establishing a new, multi-racial if human-led Council is the better alternative to outright human rule. Shepard nominates Anita Goyle as Human councillor - a valid choice, as she was Udina's predecessor and hence has the necessary experience. And since Shepard's heroism is the only legitimization for the Alliance's restructuring of the Council, the Alliance has little choice than to accept her. At the end of ME 1, she promises to continue the fight for the BAaT survivors and the survivors of Zhu's Hope, if need be also against the Alliance despite being the Alliance's councillor.

Crisis of the Alliance

While the new Council is under heavy Alliance influence, under the leadership of Anita Goyle it continues its pressure on the human state regarding the BAaT scandal. At the same time, protests also continue on Earth, adding to the pressure. The Alliance government, meanwhile, would rather focus on fortifying its new dominant position in the galaxy than resolve such matters, leading to widespread frustration.

A majority of humans both on Earth and in the colonies support this course, but the three largest human colonies all owe much to Shepard: Elysium, Eden Prime and Terra Nova have all been once saved in part or completely by him. Thus, they now begin to fare a radical pro-Shepard course. Terra Nova even begins to arm up a quasi-military 'police' force. As Spectre Ashley discovers, it is actually the turians arming that unit up - but she also discovers the colonies actually need the weapons: She gets involved in the Special Police Force fighting down a secret mercenary camp in Terra Nova's desert. The mercenaries had most likely been preparing a coup d'état.

The Alliance government reacts with at best half-hearted measures. Instead of opening up trials and paying reparations, they only begin symbolic gestures, and even those not fully: For example, they promise to close and delete their database of biotics, but in truth it had been handed to a corporate consortium to maintain in secret. It takes a commando operation by Tali and Tisiphone to delete those files and to physically blow up its servers. Eventually, Terra Nova gets so sick of the Alliance's delaying tactics that they decide to up the ante. They issue a Declaration of Non-Compliance. While maintaining that it is not a secession, they refuse to listen to any orders and laws from the Alliance, will not pay taxes to the Alliance, and will issue their own laws. Soon afterwards, Elysium and Eden Prime follow suit.

The Alliance government tries to de-escalate the situation, but this policy is very unpopular among the right wing and in corporate circles, especially after the European Union, one of the independent, sovereign nation-states on Earth, announces troop movements to protect the dissident colonies. Thus, with corporate support, some Alliance Navy marine divisions mutiny and embark on a course for Terra Nova. They also appear to be supported by the Blue Suns, but during battle, the Blue Suns turn coat and, led by Spectre Ashley hijack the mutineers' flagship. It was her who had hired the Suns, with money from a mysterious source... which later turns out to be the Turian Hierarchy, who wants to further fester human disunity.

Shocked by this suppressed coup d'état, the Alliance government is finally willing to make concessions. Despite their state of non-compliance, the three dissident colonies are allowed to take part in the Alliance elections (as Terra Firma's campaigning in ME 1 shows, elections have to be near). Those elections happen peacefully, which is seen as a turning point. From now on it appears the crisis is finally slowly dying down.

So this is the state of the galaxy in 2185. Shepard has effected many changes for the better, but has also created quite a large amount of instabilities. And now, he will return...

(and yes, most of this foreword is copied straight from the foreword to Reaping the Storm. It's an update, basically.)