Disclaimer:this is a work of fiction. No profits are being made. All recognizable characters or situations belong to their respective owners.

A/N: apologies for a broken update - was updating from an unfamiliar PC and software) Now it all should be readable.

The chapter has been beta'ed by Kira Kyuuand uploaded on June 13th.

Chapter 8. Aftermath

Harry awoke in pain and nearly delirious from the blood loss. He managed to register white walls and the smell of antiseptics and deduce he was in a healing ward before losing conscious yet again. His next awakening was a little better – he was still in pain and incredibly weak, but his mind was less foggy.

"Awake, I see?" questioned a woman with quite lovely features and a head full of grey hair. "How are you feeling?"

"Could use a pain reliever. And what's with all the bandages and needles?"

"You took a Draught of a Living Death. If I gave you a pain-reliever or a blood replenisher, you would slip into coma and be dead in a couple of hours. No potions for you in the next week."

"Oh, right. Forgot about that. Well, at least I'm still alive."

"Quite an accomplishment, considering the number of holes in your body," healer agreed drily.

"How long?"

"About five hours since you were brought here. We left Eden Prime about an hour ago – getting the beacon in the cargo bay took a lot of time, as Captain opted to take it to the Citadel all wrapped up. Frankly, I wasn't expecting you to awake for a few more hours."

"I'm a fast healer. Where's my stuff?"

"If you think that you're walking out there without my permission, think again."

"It's not that. I captured some geth to interrogate. They in my pouch somewhere, but nobody would be able to get to them without my instructions. So, young miss, would you be so kind to call David and tell him to fetch my things? Oh, and tell him to bring two best hacking specialists he have."

"I'll comm him if you promise to lie there peacefully."

"Baby, I'm not the kind of man who leaves in the morning without even saying goodbye," Harry didn't need to fake being hurt – he was hurting all over. Getting out a thoughtful expression was harder: "Unless, of course, I'm chased out by an irate husband. You have one?"

"Oh, just shut up," she sighed, but Harry proudly noticed a slight blush. She left his bedside, and he could hear her calling Anderson on the ship's intercom. Anderson got there quickly, and brought friends with him – Shepard and a quarian with some very nice curves. Shepard was carrying his things. "David, just the man I was waiting for!"

"Good to see you alive and kicking, Potter," Anderson called back. "What it is that I hear about some prisoners in your pouch?"

"Some geth platforms I captured. Shepard, how good you are with transfigurations?"

"Pretty average, why?"

"Deciding which one to give you. I guess one I transfigured into a newt would have to wait until I'm a little better," Harry took one of the pouches from his belt and tossed it to Anderson. "This one I just placed in stasis. Until the spell is lifted from the object, nothing is able to move inside – not even electrons in its brain. A good Finite should do it."

"It's real, isn't it?" the quarian girl whispered. "Nobody was able to capture a geth platform intact before. Such thing could mean returning Rannoch to my people."

"Find us good evidence from this one, and I promise I'll give your people the spare one, miss…"

"Tali, Tali'Zorah nar Narhel-Raya. You really would do that?"

"I promise," Harry nodded solemnly. "Shepard, you'll need a drop of my blood and a password to open this pouch. I'm sure …oh, damn, I didn't even get the name of my healer. That's embarrassing."

"Karin Chakwas," Anderson supplied helpfully.

"Pretty one. Ah, I'm sure healer Chakwas can help you with my blood, and the password for this one is 'we're going to get killed, or worse, expelled'."

"What?" Shepard looked incredulous.

"We're going to get killed, or worse, expelled," Harry repeated. "I'm an incorrigible adventurer with the worst case of wanderlust ever recorded, so I carry almost everything I may possibly need on me in bottomless pouches or trunks. I'd key them into my signature, but I realize that there are some situations where I would need someone else to get into one of my bags, so I get them password-protected. And since I'm over two hundred now, my passwords all are little reminders of my past, of friends long since passed."

"Oh, great job, Commander, now he's going to be all sentimental for a while," Anderson sighed. "Tali'Zorah, I place you in charge of this interrogation. Use whatever or whoever you need, but I want evidence before we arrive on the Citadel, so you have two hours. Commander, make sure this thing won't wreak havoc on my ship."

They departed, and under Captain's meaningful stare so did Harry's lovely healer. Anderson pulled a chair to Harry's bedside.

"You gave me quite a scare, old man. Now I have a little more grey in my hair."

"Quit it, then. You're good, David – probably even better than I remember – but you're not the only one capable of doing the job. You're getting older. Time to get a nice girl and settle down."

"That sounds completely ridiculous coming from you, Patriarch."

"Hey, I think about finding a nice asari matron and settling down somewhere nice and sunny all the time. Get a bunch of blue daughters, open a nice pub. Haven't met theright asari yet, but at least I'm looking. What's your excuse?"

"I don't need one. I may be turning into a worrywart, but I still love it. I love ships, love being in the thick of it, love when all goes according to plan, or when I have to improvise to return all of my men home."

"And when you can't return all of them home?" "Then I'm glad I managed to return some of them. You know what I fear most?"


"Another promotion. I have to sit on the ship as a Captain, but at least I'm capable of giving direct orders, capable to know all the men and women under my command. I'm still there. But another promotion and I do not get to see the men or to give orders. Numbers instead of real people and endless paperwork."

"You know that right people in the right place is the reason the Alliance works so well, David. We need people like you, people who remember that there are real people under your command," Harry said sagely and grinned. "So, how about we grab a few drinks on the Citadel?"

Tali'Zorah turned to be quite a taskmaster – precise, sharp and authoritative. Under her directions, geth platform was ready for digital surgery in just half an hour's time. Williams and Shepard, both in full battle gear, were ready to turn the platform into scrap metal on a moment's notice, and Alenko was assisting the young quarian with more technical aspects of the job. On a command, Kaidan hit the geth with the strongest Finite he could muster, and Tali immediately activated her hacking algorithms.

"Shepard, Williams, restrain it – physically! Alenko, help me with opening its chassis, I need to access the data core manually. Be quick, and do not damage the insides. Oh, no, you little bosh'tet, you're not getting out of this so easily. Try to sort through this! Hurry up, Lieutenant, this thing is struggling pretty hard!"

"Got it, ma'am!" Alenko simply cut the chest piece from the geth, opening it wide up. "Now activate the application I gave you. Hit this thing with a new worm every time your indicator goes into yellow. If I'm not finished and you got out of new worms, think of something!"

She dove in the open carcass, her hands flashing here and there, omnitool glowing, wires everywhere, white coolant spraying around. For Shepard it seemed to last forever, but in reality all operation took less than eight minutes. Platform stopped struggling out of his grip even sooner – about four minutes into the 'surgery'.

"I got it," Tali said simply. "Geth data core, complete and undamaged."

"What about the geth?" Shepard asked.

"This platform is just scrap metal now. That was the difficulty – to isolate geth code and purge it from the data core without damaging the rest. Now we just have to decode it and find relevant evidence. I will need any omni-tools you could spare, Commander, to speed up the decoding. It's very time consuming."

"Right," Shepard nodded and took off his own omni-tool. "Here you are. There should be another five standard Alliance issue in the lockers. Second shift would be over in about half an hour, so I'll probably manage to collect another ten for you."

"I appreciate your…enthusiasm, Commander, but I don't really need your omni-tool," Tali sounded very amused. "I just need to upload a decoding program into it, and connect it into a closed line I'm going to establish. Running a program would take up to fifteen percent of its processing power, so you could still use it for everyday purposes. Here, it's done. Just don't close the application named 'geth datacore decoding'."

"Oh, right. I've got to go, talk to you later?"

"Oh, she sure took to it seriously," Harry said when Shepard announced over ship-wide intercom for everyone not on duty to report to engineer Tali'Zorah in the cargo bay to assist with geth data core decoding. "You better get going, David – show the crew that not only their omni-tools are going to be invaded into."

"Want me to bring her yours?" Anderson questioned, standing up.

"Sure, let me give you my spares," Harry picked up his belt and dove into second-left pouch. "Should be there somewhere…aha!" Harry handed him not one or two, but three omni-tools – and looking at them, David wasn't able to suppress an appreciative whistle.

"Serrice Council? You sure aren't very conservative in your spending."

"You mean to tell me you can't afford them?" Harry looked incredulous, and for good reason – sure, Savage omni-tools were a tad expensive, but Alliance was always generous for its military forces, and David was Captain – meaning he got big salary and almost no time to spend it. After all, he was a military man – Alliance clothed, fed and provided his gear, not to mention sleeping arrangements.

"It's not the money issue. Have you ever managed to use half of their potential at once? It's like buying a top-line racing speeder to fly from your apartment to your office. From what I understand, you mostly use it to surf extranet, open doors and tell you time."

"Yeah, well, maybe I did buy those more to impress an asari shopping nearby rather then because I really needed them. Since it worked, I count the money well-spent." Anderson laughed. That's what he liked about Harry the most – his attitude. Some would think that being over two hundred years old, Patriarch Potter would be serious and calm – but Harry's peculiar brand of immortality left him in a body at its peak. Harry still was, and always would be a young man, only somewhat tempered by his immense experience and knowledge. "Hey, David! Tell your quarian that she's welcome to one of them – I figure she can put it to good use."

"I will," David nodded and walked out of the infirmary. He was surprised to see healer Chakwas sitting alone in the mess hall. She waived him over.

"Hello, Captain. Finished your talk with my patient?"

"I apologize for driving you out of your domain for so long, we got a little carried away."

"That's quite all right, Captain," she smiled. "You know Patriarch well, then? He isn't like I imagined him to be." "Harry isn't like other people. If you lose contact with someone for, say, five years, and then meet again, you can hardly recognize each other. Harry remains the same. He can make the most boring evening in your life into a crazy adventure you will remember fondly, or he can be your calm and collected anchor when everything suddenly goes FUBAR. Life is just more interesting around him," David smiled. "Oh, and he hates when people treat him like some kind of infallible deity. Treat him as you would any other soldier in your care."

"Thank you for advice, Captain. I'll go check on him now." David nodded and proceeded to the elevator. There were still a few people in the cargo bay – Chief Williams was at the lockers, tending to the weapons and chatting to a couple of marines, and another three crew members were gathered around the still present chassis of a geth. Tali'Zorah and dark-skinned sensor specialist, Karla Rodriguez, were sitting in the corner with several Alliance-issue omni-tools spread around them.

"Captain!" Rodriguez saluted him before grinning cheekily. "Came to supervise?"

"I came to volunteer my omni-tool for the cause, as well as to bring some spares from our passenger," Anderson nodded, not at all bothered by the woman's playful attitude. "As well as offer my congratulations for our Second Engineer. Well done, Tali'Zorah. I'll be sure to mention your role in my report."

"Eden Prime was attacked by the creations of my ancestors – it is only proper for me to help in any way I can. Oh my, are those Savants?"

"Harry's stock. He said you can keep one as a well-done present. He also said that you are probably the only being on this ship that can use this thing for its full potential."

"It's… too much, I can't accept it."

"Oh yes you can, Tali, and you will!" Rodriguez interfered. "If Harry Potter gives you a gift, you take it. I heard he once gifted a boat to a man living nowhere near the water, and a month later that man saved fifteen people during a flood."

"Never heard that one, but I knew a Shanxi veteran, Charlie McAlister, and according to him, one day he was sitting in the mess hall and couldn't find anything to open a can of stew, just as Harry was passing through. Harry gave him a goblin-wrought dagger, very rare and expensive, and walked away. Charlie found him later and to return the dagger, of course, and Harry looked at him for a minute and told him to keep it. Two weeks later turians attacked, and Charlie saved his future wife by throwing the dagger at the Cabal member about to finish her off."

"You hear that, Tali? You keep that Savant and put it to good use."

"All right, all right, you convinced me," young engineer gave up.

"Good. I would appreciate a status update on decoding."

"With all volunteered omni-tools and those Savants I have enough processing power to finish decoding in another three hours, Captain. But I continue to monitor already decoded data, and will inform you if I find something relevant."

"I'm mostly interested in Saren's relation to the attack and the geth. I doubt he just happened to set foot on the Alliance planet right when it was attacked by the geth."

"There is a log designating Saren Arterius as The Prophet, but nothing else so far."

"Keep looking. We should arrive on the Citadel in about 40 minutes, and it will take an hour at minimum to get an audience with the Council. If you find anything definitely connecting Saren to the attack, please send it directly to my omni-tool."

This time, when Shepard arrived in the cockpit, it was a little more crowded – Alenko and Williams were standing behind Joker, and the co-pilot chair was occupied by none other than Harry Potter.

"Chakwas let you go already?" Shepard blurted. "Sir."

"Harry's fine when we're out of battle situation, and yes, Karin decided I was fit to leave her domain. I'm still in pain and a little light-headed, but a medium done beefsteak and a tumbler of firewhiskey should alleviate it. Know any good restaurants on the Citadel, Commander?"

"Never been there," Shepard admitted.

"Well then, join other kiddies hoarding the illuminators. It's a sight. Relay in range. Come on, Flight Lieutenant Moreau! Relay in range!"

"I'm not about to recite aloud whole damn jump procedure every time we jump through the relay, grandpa," Joker replied with a huff. "That becomes old way too quick."

"Alright, be like that, grumpy pants. Grab onto something, chaps, we're about to jump. In three…two…one…and we're through! Welcome to Widow Nebula. You'll see the Citadel as soon as Joker flips the ship. Right about…now."

"Wow," Williams breathed out. "And look at the size of this ship!"

"The Ascension," Kaidan explained. "Flagship of the Citadel Fleet."

"Well, size isn't everything," Joker said derisively.

"Why so touchy, Joker?" Williams teased.

"Enough with the innuendo, kids," Patriarch admonished. "Besides, it's still nothing compared to the Executor."

"Citadel Control, this is SSV Normandy, requesting permission to land."

"Stand by for clearance, Normandy. Clearance granted, you may begin your approach. Transferring you to anAlliance operator."

"Roger, Alliance tower. Normandy out."

"Wow, they granted us a dock near the C-Sec Academy," Harry whistled. "The last time I docked this close to the Presidium, I arrived on the bloody super star destroyer. If you like big open airy spaces, you're in for a treat, kiddies."

As soon as Normandy was secured in the dock, Harry pushed out of his chair.

"Well, I'm out of here," he turned on his heel and disappeared with a quiet pop.

"Harry's gone already?" asked Captain Anderson, coming up to the cockpit from the CIC. "Should have known. Commander, I just got off the call with our embassy. I have to meet the Ambassador in thirty minutes; I want you and your ground team with me, so meet me at the airlock in ten."

Shepard nodded and hurried to the cargo bay, Alenko and Williams hot on his heels.

"Full battle gear, sir?" Williams questioned on the way down.

"Doubt we'll need it in Presidium. A sidearm and a shield generator should be enough in case we need to go down to the wards."

"Got it."

Twenty minutes later they were standing in an open lounge that served as Ambassador's office and looking over Presidium. It was indeed big, airy space, with a lake in the middle, a lot of greenery and elegant white lines everywhere. Very peaceful and quite beautiful. Very unlike Alliance's Ambassador, Donnel Udina, who was in this very moment shouting at the Council.

"This is an outrage! The Council would step in if the geth attacked a turian colony!"

"The turians don't found colonies on the verge of Terminus Systems, Ambassador," rebuked salarian councilor, Valern. "Nor do they allow quarians to colonize a garden world without consulting with the Council."

"Humanity was well aware of the risks," Councilor Tevos added. "It is very possible that geth chose to attack in retaliation to that."

"Following a suggestion from this Council, perhaps?" Udina accused. "Your very own Council Spectre was spotted leading the attack! This is an act of war!"

"This accusation is preposterous!" Tevos sputtered, obviously frightened at the prospect of war with the Alliance.

"Then how would you explain Saren's presence and actions on our colony? Are you expecting me to believe that your lauded best Spectre suddenly gone rogue?"

"Citadel Security is investigating your charges against Saren. We will discuss their findings at the hearing, not before," Councilor Sparatus explained stonily. He nodded, and ended the holocall.

"Captain Anderson. I see you brought half your crew with you," for some reason, even that sounded like accusation to Shepard's ears.

"Just the ground team from Eden Prime. In case you have any questions."

"I have the mission reports. I assume they're accurate? Though I would like to speak with Patriarch Potter. Unfortunately, I don't see him here."

"He left right as we docked, though I assure you, he will be present at the hearing you managed to arrange."

"They weren't happy about it. Saren is their top agent, and we already have declared him a wanted criminal in the Alliance space. We just have to hope that C-Sec finds some evidence to support our accusations, otherwise they might use this as an excuse to keep Commander from joining the Spectres."

"Finding appropriate evidence is just a matter of time," Anderson assured him.

"Come with me, Anderson, there is a few details I want to discuss before the hearing. Shepard, you can meet us at the Citadel Tower, top level. I will make sure you have an appropriate clearance. You have two hours. I suggest you stay out of trouble in the meantime. Your team's presence is… optional."

"And that's why I hate politicians," Williams muttered. "I can't say for LT, but I want to be in this hearing, Commander."

"Me, too," supported Alenko.

"Shall we split up, or stick together for the time being?" Shepard asked. "I warn you, these two hours may be the only kind of leave we're going to see for a long time. Personally, I intend to follow Patriarch's example and get myself a medium-rare steak."

"I wouldn't object to a good meal. Navy rations are kinda…bland, sir."

"Right behind you, Commander," Alenko nodded with a smile.

OMAKE from guardsmansparky:

The Geth assembly was coming to a consensus when a new runtime entered the main Geth server, causing the virtual discussion to come to a halt until the new perspective had been shared.

[Runtime 1024-MP, you have returned late from the service of the old machines. Addendum: All contact has been lost with the Eden Prime contingent. Report.]

{Geth presence on Planet:designate Eden Prime was eliminated by a squad of organic commandos and one lone elite commando, also organic. Addendum: Lone organic unit turned our hardware into an amphibious organic.}

[...Repeat last statement.]

{Repeating: Lone organic unit turned our hardware into an organic amphibious organism. Addendum: We got better.}

A/N: again my apologies for a broken update, and my thanks to everyone who pointed it out to me.