Author's Note: Three updates in a week! Woo! Granted, they're a little on the short side, but hey. The next will be a little longer.

First things first, addressing the reviews. Really only three this time.

Guest 1- The Alliance does not restrict emigration. The colonists leaving the Alliance bought the ships and equipment they brought with them legally through authorized channels, and directed themselves away from the assumed area of space the Reapers are thought to hibernate in (Based on Aratohts' location and other factors). Also, ships cannot be intercepted in hyperspace, so they aren't in any major danger. This story operates under the assumption that the Reapers focus on our galaxy alone given that it is the Catalyst's "sandbox" so to speak, once the colonists leave they are no longer a concern. As a side note, those colonists left between WWIII and re-unification with Altera.

Guest 2- Humanity has the games to rely on. Which is a poor source of information in comparison to the prothean records. The prothean records will have astronomical data, star charts containing notable planets and resource locations, and biological data which can be invaluable in dealing with other species. In addition, having that information can lead to a means of translating the rest of the data in the archives. The Crucible plans would give access to some math and engineering, but the Crucible is long-term. Knowing where the neighbors are can be applied in the short-term.

Yinko- I kind of agree with you. But at the same time, humanity keeping the leaders of the other species in the dark for so long doesn't do anyone any favors either. I probably could have held off on the reveal to the Council a bit longer, putting it in the 2120s or something, but things kind of moved to that point quicker than I had initially planned.

General piece of information, in the interim between humanity coming into contact with the galaxy and the ME time-period the Alliance switched over to the ME ranking and specialization system. This is so I don't drive myself mad.

So you guys are going to hate me when you get to the end of the chapter. You'll see why. Bioware owns Mass Effect, I own nothing.

July 12th, 2176

"To Lieutenant Shepard! One of the latest N6 operatives!" Came the cheer from the table. And Marc Shepard couldn't help but grin. "May he always shoot straight, both on and off the field!"

Raising their glasses the rest of his team gave another cheer that mixed in with the rest of the sounds coming from the bar. Looking around Shepard could see representatives from a number of species. A couple of asari were hanging around another group of soldiers in one corner. A few salarian civies were sharing drinks and talking about some business deal taking place on the planet. And at another table were a pair of quarians, a species who always brightened whatever room they were in, and their geth companion discussing some work details with their human coworkers.

"Hey LT, you notice those turians at the table over there?" Private Kearn piped up after taking a swig of his pint.

"What about 'em Lefty?" Shepard responded with a smile while taking a sip of his beer.

"I think they might be from the Halistat Legion. You know, the guys we're facing next week in the war games." Leaning back in his seat the private smiled as the rest of the the squad looked at him. "Figure we might as well invite 'em over and show them a good time before we whip their asses next week."

That got a laugh from the table. "All right then Lefty, you invite 'em over here. It's your idea, you might as well go on point."

"Captain, I'm picking up something odd here."

"What is it Michelson?" Captain Jacobs frowned as he got up from his command chair aboard the Bellerophon and made his way over to the tactical display.

"I'm not sure sir. Hypernet is picking something up, but at the same time it's almost impossible to make out." Pausing, he keyed a few commands into his computer. "I'm trying to pump a bit more resolution out of our scans, but I can't get anything solid."

Turning to face the captain, Michelson continued, "If we could get Orion or one of the other ships in orbit here to shift position and scan the same area we could use the telemetry to get a better grasp of what I'm seeing here."

"I'll get on the horn with Captain Roberts." Nodding at the tactical officer he gave a smile, "Nice catch Lieutenant. Assuming it is something of course."

"Lieutenant Marc Shepard, may I introduce to you Lieutenant Nylos Tursis of Halistat Legion and his squad." Kearn announced promptly as he returned to the table with the turian squad in tow.

"Unusual to find oneself facing your future opponents in a bar," The turian lieutenant said while grinning, "Especially when they know they're going to lose to the superior soldiers."

"Superior soldiers huh?" Shepard leaned back in his chair while raising an eyebrow. "And I think you're counting your chickens before they hatch here. I'm pretty sure the Alliance has won the majority of our games thus far."

"That may be, but now you're going up against some of the best the Hierarchy has to offer." Shepard's counterpart responded.

"Armiger is going to be at the games? I didn't know they were getting involved." Smiling, Shepard picked up his beer and tipped it towards the newcomers. "But before we continue talking smack to one another, let's get to know each other first."

"You've already met Private Adam Kearn, but let me introduce you to his fellow privates: Holly Janier, Michael Chu, Donovan Tsarnev, and Victor Chambers." Sweeping his free hand across the four other privates taking part in the celebration, they responded by raising their drinks to their turian fellows. "And this gentleman here is Gunnery Chief Jonathan Arnold."

"Hah! A pleasure to meet you all I'm sure." Turning to his companions, Lieutenant Tursis began his own introductions. "Privates Desolas Manneris, Jovic Arterius, and Varric Polisic. And rounding our group out, is our resident sniper Specialist Garrus Vakarian."

"Vakarian huh?" Shepard turned to face the sniper as he was introduced, "Your father isn't in C-Sec is he?"

Garrus rubbed the back of his neck at that question, "He is. I plan on entering C-Sec as well following my term of service as well. You know him I take it."

Chuckling Shepard shot a grin at the turian sniper, "I think he may have thrown me in the brig one time I was at the Citadel. I may have gotten in a tussle with a batarian over some argument or other."

"Heh, well I hope you don't hold my father's actions against me." Garrus responded with a grin.

"No need to worry about that." Shepard grinned back. If only the poor guy knew what was in store for him. Ah well, no time to live like the present.

"Well then, let's get to the crux of why we're here. Relax and unwind before we start shooting at one another!" And with that the two groups intermingled and began swapping wars stories and jabs about their respective fighting prowess.

"That did it sir. We've managed to pin down what's out there. And sir, we need to go to battle stations immediately."

"What is it Michaelson? Precisely."

"It's a fleet. Close to seventy-five ships based on what mass signatures we can pick up, and they're heading straight our way. Should be here in twenty minutes or so."

"All right, I think we know what's been hitting the edges of our territory now. Enemy fleet disposition?" Captain Jacobs said as he hit the button bringing the defensive fleet to battle stations.

"No idea sir. Somehow they've managed to reduce their mass while in hyperspace. Only reason we were able to detect them at all is because we've got the latest generation of scanners packed in here."

"That is a disturbing development." Glancing at the tactical display now taking over the holo-tank in the center of the CIC, Captain Jacobs noted the mass signatures of the vessels now on approach toward Elysium. Everything passing through that dimension left an imprint of sorts showing its trajectory. Theoretically you could increase a ship's speed by decreasing its mass, and reduce its hyperspace signature, but no one had managed to achieve such a feat. All attempts to do so ended in catastrophic failure for the ship involved. And yet someone had managed to figure out how to do so.

"Tyson, scramble your fighters and pull to the other side of the planet with your escorts. We don't want you caught in the cross-fire." Several blinking lights appeared as the massive carrier and its escorts began moving into a lower orbit to facilitate it's maneuvers. Numerals began shifting away from it soon afterward as fighter were launched and began linking up and cruising into defense positions.

Captain Jacobs glanced back at the advancing fleet with a single question on his mind: who are you?

"Hermes. Alert the colony and have them scramble to defensive positions. This force might hit the ground. Best we can do is have them prepare."

The alarms had gone off five minutes ago. No Alliance colony had ever come under physical assault, the defensive fleets had always managed to thwart any foolish enough to try. That didn't mean however that there weren't drills in order to deal with the possibility. Garrus knew that human paranoia when it came to their personal defense was deeply ingrained in their society.

So he wasn't surprised when the klaxons rang that every human in the bar had bolted upright and grabbed those tabs they had which cleared the system of alcohol quickly. Scrambling outside the glittering signs and holo-boards had been replaced with directions to nearby shelters. His squad and the other human squads which had been in the bar had begun moving to the armory where they had stored their gear when they touched down.

"Guns and alcohol don't tend to mix well in my experience, even if you have an accelerated metabolism due to nanites." Varric said as they entered the armory.

"Takes a lot to get us drunk. And those tabs at the bar basically pump the rest of the stuff out of our system. We'll be good to fight in ten minutes tops." Private Kearn replied as the squads grabbed their gear and started pulling it on.

"Any idea what we can expect?" Garrus asked as the two teams began throwing their gear on. "The alarm seems to be just repeating a general warning."

"That's all it is." The human lieutenant, Shepard was his name, said. "The fleet probably doesn't have any more info on them." Pausing as he pulled his greaves on over his skin-suit he scrunched his face up. "Which is odd because they should know who's coming in if they picked them up on the hypernet."

"That is ominous." Lieutenant Tursis said. "What are the good defense points for the city?"

"Map at the entrance of the building has them listed. Militia teams are probably already setting them up as we speak." Shepard said, even as the gunnery chief flipped his omnitool up and transmitted a copy of a map to the turian soldiers. "Or Gunny here could send it your way, either or."

"Either way, get your gear on ASAP. We've got only a few minutes."

"Hey Shepard, looks like you get the war hero background!" proclaimed Chambers, as a few of the other humans in the room turned and grinned.

"Yeah. Fantastic. Focus on the fight ahead of us." Shepard grimaced as he continued gearing up. And Garrus and the rest of the turians wondered what that exchange was about.

"The unknown force is five minutes out Captain." Hermes stated as the Bellerophon shifted to combat readiness.

"Something odd going on here Captain." Michaelson said as he stared at the tactical plot. "We've managed to pick up another fifty plots on the 'net. But there's an odd gap in the center of the formation."

"What do you mean?" Frowning Captain Jacobs pulled up an enhanced view of the incoming force. Michaelson was right, there was a gap there, but it didn't seem like anything was there.

"There's nothing there. But it's just the right size, assuming we're right about the other plots we detected first being cruisers, for something between battlecruiser and dreadnaught size." the Lieutenant said as the Alliance fleet entered its final preparations.

"Sir we may not have the firepower to take on a dreadnaught, depending on the enemy fleet composition." Hermes added. "Reinforcements are another nine hours out, unless they expedite through a wormhole transit. But considering these unknowns have already broken one of our assumed rules regarding hyperspace travel, there's not telling whether they can do."

The next few minutes passed quickly enough. And then the defense force caught the first glimpses of their opposition. The Alliance fleet numbered thirty cruisers, fifty frigates, ten destroyers, and two battlecruisers and the Tyson all supported by several turian vessels passing through. And they found themselves matched by forty cruisers and a hundred frigates with the rest of the ships being transports of some description.

It was a motley fleet. A mixture of old batarian, turian, and salarian designs slapped together with a smattering of unrecognizable ship designs. The transports were a mixture of designs as well, with some clearly being bought second-hand.

And then one final ship appeared, and the blood drained from the face of every human in the fleet. Everyone recognized the distinct two-kilometer vessel appearing in the midst of the enemy fleet wreathed in a bubble of static discharges.

Sovereign had arrived.

A moment passed as the combined human-turian fleet and their indoctrinated opponents opened fire on one another before Captain Jacobs found his voice. Keying a communications link to the command center on the ground even as Hermes alerted Alliance command of the situation, the Captain was filled with fear at the task he found himself faced with. Even as he shouted the warning code every human being dreaded.

"Black-Alpha! Repeat Black-Alpha scenario! Sovereign is present in-system, I repeat, Sovereign is present in system!"

And even as that command went out, Nazara began opening fire on the ships which had been arrayed against it. The battle for Elysium had begun. The first battle of the end times.

For a moment the air was quiet as the klaxons ceased wailing. Shepard and the assembled squads had made their way to the nearest defensive positions.

But it was only a moments respite from the sound, as a new one swiftly replaced it. Only this time, there was a series of words which had never been uttered in any drill.

"Black-Alpha situation. Repeat: Black-Alpha situation. All forces are advised of Reaper presence. Repeat, Reaper presence is confirmed."

And with those words repeating, the Alliance ground forces steeled themselves for a taste of the apocalypse. As Shepard began shouting orders to the squads which had found themselves under his command, he worried about what his future held in store for the first time.

As enemy transports crashed through the clouds.

So yeah, I'm leaving you off here. But this just seemed like an appropriate point to stop off.

Next chapter is going to be more historical stu... Nah, I'm kidding. The Battle of Elysium, starring Marc Shepard and Garrus Vakarian.

Until next time folks. (I'll try not to be long)