Joe's Note: Before people even ask, no, Ismene has her own story to write in the larger universe of this story and it doesn't involve being tied to an asari… either in terms of a Sylléktrion girlfriend or a newborn daughter slightly further down the road. So while Luciana will obviously be interested in her for multiple reasons - she's a witch, she's a descendent of Harry, and she's an elite N-program marine to boot - the only asari who Ismene might be hooking up with is Liara. Maybe. I haven't decided if I'm going to give her a love interest at all, or if it'll be a canon one if I do. Because at the end of the day? Ismene Shepard will continue to have her story - and be a heroine - but this story is not her story. It's Harry and Luna's story.
Dedications & Thanks: To Nicholas, Howard, Jade, Alexander, Tibor, Alonsis2, Daniel, Clark, Adrien, erlking, ridillin, Haematite, Charles, Jacky, Edward, Andrew, Roofcrawler, Wil, PbookR, Samuel, Mikey, Beverly, Daniel, Charles, Crygon20, Subtle, Christopher, Stephen, Fablesrogue, Morgan, Joseph, Jason, RileyWestfall, bloodylord, Marc, Ziryo, Chris, George, Koby, William, Devin, JJbelle, David, Gavin, TheTenthAncestor, Lookshy, Mauday, John, Roman, Warren, and Jess for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.
Having received sufficient assurances that his descendent was in no immediate danger from her contact with the beacon, Harry found himself making his way through the gently thrumming halls of the Fedelma to the communications room. There, he gave an appreciative nod to the ensign whose name he'd never managed to catch as she opened a channel to Óasi before stepping back into the shadows as the call connected. "I've got good news, mediocre news, and bad news. Which would you like first?"
Luciana canted her head to one side, her four eyes flicking back and forth as she furrowed her brow in consternation. "Seeing as how you're calling me to provide a summary of the after action report rather than the ship's captain as is customary, I'm almost afraid to ask but… let's start with the bad news."
"Allura's fine; she's a bit busy overseeing arrangements for the temporary additions to the Fedelma's crew compliment and thought it'd be more efficient for me to report directly on what happened instead of reporting to her and then having her share secondhand information with you. This way works better if you have questions, too." Having taken the liberty of jotting down some pertinent talking points in between when they returned to the ship and now, Harry took a moment to consult the datapad in his hand before continuing. "No, the bad news is that the Fedelma's weapons weren't as effective as we would have liked against the Vanguard. We definitely left a mark on it, but failed to cause any significant damage. Granted even a storm cruiser is still a cruiser and we were up against a dreadnaught analog, but yeah. That's the sole piece of bad news on the day. Or at least the only bad piece on our end. Eden Prime is a mess, a Spectre died, the Alliance marines we ran into lost a man during their mission…"
Letting out a relieved sigh, Luciana drew her hand across her brow in a very human mannerism that she'd presumably adopted from Miranda before gesturing for him to continue. "You had me worried there for a moment. If the worst thing to come out of today is the knowledge that one of our cruisers can't go head-to-head with a significantly larger and more powerful Reaper vessel, I'll consider the encounter an unqualified success. What's the… 'mediocre' news, as you phrased it?"
While still not terribly adept when it came to modern computer systems, Harry knew enough to be able to overlay the feed from the ship's cargo bay onto the current outbound call… after two failed attempts and a bit of softly muttered swearing. "The mediocre news is that the Sylléktrion Collective is now the proud owner of its third Pointy Pillar of Doom. Evidently the Victory Project still eludes us; that's what everyone was fighting over on Eden Prime. It's where our sole casualty came from, although technically speaking the casualty isn't actually ours. The Alliance team on site didn't believe us about the dangers of the beacon and tried to secure it manually. It was about as big a mistake as you'd suspect."
Luciana snorted faintly in response. "I'm surprised that you only have a single casualty as opposed to multiple fatalities. We still use mechs to free a beacon from surrounding debris before transporting it with machinery. Not even a Mántis can safely approach an active beacon on foot without it attempting to transmit its warning to us."
"I was smart enough to have Hypatilia deactivate the beacon so we could safely transport it, but not before the leader of the Alliance ground forces interacted with the beacon. We took the beacon and all three soldiers aboard for expediency's sake. From what I've heard, Aceso has managed to stabilize Commander Shepard but it's a bandaid at best. We'll most likely need a Mántis to meet us on the Citadel and link with Shepard to fix things permanently. Assuming she consents to something that invasive, which there's no guarantee of." Harry grinned mischievously as he reached into his pocket and withdrew a wand that he'd plundered while Shepard was still asleep. "The possibility of her going along with it brings us to the first piece of good news. Guess what Shepard had on her when we encountered her?"
All four eyes narrowed as Luciana leaned forward, as if she could actually get closer to the object that now held her complete attention. "She's a witch."
Harry nodded, swishing the wand as he gently pushed a bit of his magic through it to create a shower of red motes of light. "Not just any witch, it turns out. In an almost impossible coincidence, she's a direct connection to my former life: Ismene Shepard is my great-great-granddaughter. And she claims my ex-wife Daphne is still alive. Which means that if the rest of her family has similar lifespans, even if they're literally the last witches and wizards in existence? We've uncovered a connection to something like… what, over thirty more witches and wizards? And that's assuming that each of them was an only child."
Unable to contain her excitement, Luciana clapped her hands together as she smiled widely at that tidbit of news. "It's what we've been hoping for from the moment that you announced you were finally entering Systems Alliance territory. Finally, we can have a magical Mánteis without being held captive to your demands. Or rather, having to balance your personal desires against those of the greater community. And Adelia is single again; the prestige could go to my family if she takes a liking to this Shepard of yours…"
"Seeing as how I know next to nothing about Shepard other than the fact that she exists? I wouldn't count your chickens before they hatch when it comes to getting a daughter out of her. But there's a possibility, yeah." Harry returned his attention to the datapad for a moment, mentally ticking off the points that he'd already covered to see what was left. "While it took us a bit to recognize what we were dealing with, we ran into indoctrinated troops on the ground. The Reapers employed a series of mechanical spikes that weren't mentioned in any of the reading you gave me; the geth killed the settlers and then used the spikes to convert them into… husks, I believe is the name that the humans settled on."
Luciana looked resigned but not surprised at the information, nodding her head slowly as she flicked her fingers and called up an overlay of her own on the screen. "We're not unfamiliar with the process from the prothean intelligence we recovered about the end of their cycle, even if the mechanics were unknown to us." A Collector rotated slowly in one corner of the screen before shrinking back down into nothingness. "It does mean that we'll need to make sure that our troops enact an… Immolation Contingency, if you will. No bodies can be left behind on the battlefield where they might be turned against us. I have no idea what an indoctrinated Thessian asari would be capable of, but I can only imagine that one of our own would be even more dangerous. Especially a Polemistís or - Goddess forbid - if they somehow got their hands on the body of a Mántis."
Personally, Harry was of the opinion that facing a resurrected krogan-descended asari would be the greater of the two threats - unique biotic gifts of the Mánteis aside - but Luciana was obviously a bit biased toward her own kin. Either way, she was right. "I'll talk to Deianeira about it; have her come up with a plan and pass it around. Since I assume we'll be coming back into conflict with the Reapers before anyone else does."
"So the Fedelma didn't fair terribly well against a Reaper in single combat, we're now the utterly nonplussed owners of another beacon, you encountered your descendent and she's a witch, and we now know how the Reapers convert members of a species to utilize them as shock troops." After ticking off the points on her fingers, Luciana arched an eyebrow curiously. "Is there anything else of import that we still need to cover?"
Harry thought for a moment before offering an uncertain shrug. "My magic was as effective against the geth as we'd hoped. Oh, that's probably news. The Reapers weren't using indoctrinated humans as shock troops, or at least not as their primary force. The geth were present at Eden Prime in force; I'd say a good eighty percent or more of the opponents that we faced were assorted geth platforms. Kia and her kind are going to be thrilled, I'm sure."
Frowning, Luciana made a note on the console in front of her even as she kept two eyes focused on Harry. "That's… unexpected. Our soldiers have sufficient anti-mech combat training that it shouldn't prove too worrisome, but the geth's involvement is definitely not what we were expecting. Then again, the end of the protheans' cycle began a bit more abruptly than ours will; the Vanguard was able to open the Citadel relay and the ensuing first strike left the Reapers with millions upon millions of thralls to use in following operations."
One of these days, Harry resolved to sit down with a full history of the galaxy - as told by the civilization that currently had the most complete story - so that things like Luciana's recounting of the end of the protheans would make more sense to him. Maybe then he'd also understand how she could be directly descended from a people who were fifty thousand years dead and gone. "I'll have the ladies write up their own after action reports and forward them along appropriate channels. Same with Allura when she's available, seeing as how technically she was involved in some of the action too. Anything else you need from me right now, or can I go see how Shepard's doing?"
Looking up from what she was working on, Luciana waved dismissively. "You've given me plenty to think on, and even some things to act on. We'll begin tracing any rumors - or hopefully sightings - of the geth and see if we can use it to establish some sort of pattern for the Vanguard's movements. After all, the Reapers know exactly what happened to the protheans and their ilk, they have no need for one of those beacons. There has to be a larger plan at work here; perhaps they're hunting the Conduit or any remaining vestiges of the Prothean Empire? Either way, we'll start digging and forward information to you as we find it. The Fedelma's detached duty might become significantly more attached in the near future, assuming you're willing to help us with our investigation."
"Of course I'm willing to help you fight the Reapers. After all, they're coming back to wipe out all life in the galaxy yet again and I happen to be one of those people who enjoys living in this galaxy." Harry sketched a playful bow toward the console, keeping his eyes on Luciana's. "Consider me at your disposal." With a thankful nod, the matriarch cut the call and the room plunged into darkness for a moment before slowly brightening back to normal levels. "And here I thought I'd be spending today looking for signs of magical life on an alien planet. Shows what I know, I suppose."
Nodding in renewed thanks to the ensign who had facilitated the call, Harry stepped out of the communications room before turning and making his way toward the bridge. With Allura otherwise occupied, command fell to the Fedelma's executive officer, a markedly more severe hanar-descended matron named Psamathe. Having long since settled into an uneasy truce with the woman who was nominally second-in-command of 'his' ship, Harry settled into a simple nod as he skirted around the periphery of the bridge, making his way over to where the ship's pilot and navigator were seated. "Kalanta. Hell of a job today, both with our insertion and going up against the Vanguard. Can't think of anyone else I'd rather have in that seat when it's time to face off against the Reapers again."
Kalanta lifted one hand from the haptic interface, holding it in the air expectantly until Harry made a fist and bumped it against hers. "To be fair, I've piloting cruisers longer than you've been alive. Time travel included. I'd better be good at it by now; I've got enough practice."
"Oh, just take the damn compliment." Harry cuffed her shoulder playfully before looking across her to where Helira was tracking their current location relative to their destination… or rather the next waypoint on their trip to the Citadel. "How far out are we at this point? Just curious how long I can let Allura babysit my great-great-granddaughter before I have to take over for her."
Reaching up, Helira pulled at one of the images displayed in front of her, enlarging it until it spread across the space in front of both her and Kalanta. "We've already made the transition through the Shanxi-Theta relay and are proceeding to the next relay in the sequence. I'd say… six hours, give or take. Assuming Kalanta doesn't do something foolish, like overshooting a relay while traveling at FTL."
"I haven't done that in a good fifteen years, thank you very much."
"You've done it enough times that it's a valid concern."
Harry held his hands up in surrender. "Right then. Six hours, give or take. I'll give Allura a four hour break and then go relieve her in the medbay. Thank you."
Five hours later had seen Harry check in with both Adikia in engineering and Thalestris in their quarters, as well as collecting after action reports from Epipsychidion and Deianeira to add to the lengthier version of his report that he then transmitted to Óasi. With his shipboard - and relationship - responsibilities taken care of, then and only then did Harry make his way to the medbay to check in on his great-great-granddaughter.
Harry found her sitting on one of the beds in the medbay as she fiddled with one vambrace of her armor, which curiously seemed closer in design to what the Sylléktries wore than what the other female marine they'd picked up was outfitted with. It made Harry raise an eyebrow as he eyed her consideringly; he knew from working on Thalestris's kit that asari armor was tailored to help amplify biotic prowess along several different metrics. Maybe his people had been able to adapt asari innovations in armor-making to enhance a person's magical potential?
But that was a curiosity that he could satisfy later on his own time. Given that they were rapidly approaching the Citadel? There were far more important things that Harry needed to ask Ismene. First and foremost? "Since you've made it clear that the Statute of Secrecy is still a thing, I don't suppose you'd be willing to tell me who's actually cleared to know about us before I make things any worse than they already are?"
Looking up from her armor, Ismene quirked a black brow at him inquiringly. "You've already admitted that you told Aria T'Loak about magic. I really don't see how the situation can get any worse for you. I can't even remember the last time I heard about someone being prosecuted for breaching the statute, but I feel like for something of this severity, you're in for one hell of a punishment."
"Considering I'm not a subject of any human magical government anymore, nor did the breaches occur anywhere that would recognize their jurisdiction? I'd like to see them try and prosecute me." Making his way into the medbay, Harry perched himself on the edge of the bed opposite Ismene's. "Question stands, though. Obviously your marines don't know. Who does know? The Council? Because I need to talk to them at some point on behalf of my new benefactors. What about your own chain of command? I mean, I can't imagine that I'm not going to meet at least your captain when we rendezvous with the Normandy at the Citadel."
Ismene sighed and rolled her eyes, bringing one hand up and wobbling it from side to side as she thought his question over. "Considering that you were born in Britain and that we're talking about the wizarding world here, I wouldn't be surprised if they do try to prosecute you for what you've done. Even if enforcing a verdict would be difficult. To answer your question, though? The admiralty knows about us. Depending on the magical, our ships' command staff can know; Anderson knows about me but I doubt they would have read him into things if I was just Suzy Serviceman staffing a console in the CIC or some such. The councilors and their staffs know about us, although I'm not sure how far the knowledge has spread on their end. And… that's the extent of who officially knows outside of our own kind. Now that we're spread out more and Obliviators can't respond as quickly, it's incumbent upon each magical to police themselves. Unlike you, most of our people do a passing fair job of keeping themselves hidden."
Letting out a snort, Harry nodded in agreement. "That's fair. I was a lot better at it back in the day, to be honest. But when we got here… well, I'm sure you know Aria by reputation at least. I figured that if she of all people didn't know about us, there was a passing fair chance that you lot had managed to go extinct over the years I was gone. From there… well, Calia saw us doing magic and told the Sylléktries as a whole. Couldn't really put the dragon back in the egg at that point."
"You couldn't obliviate this 'Calia' before she spilled the beans?"
"Her telling the Sylléktries about me and Luna is the only reason why we're not currently still enjoying Aria's hospitality on Omega."
Ismene fell silent as she pondered that one for a few seconds. "On one hand, the law-abiding witch in me wants to point out that you broke the law for selfish and personal reasons. That you should have found another way. The pragmatist in me, on the other hand, says you did what you had to do to deal with an unpalatable situation." She paused for a moment, her lips quirking upward in a smirk that reminded Harry far too much of his ex-wife. "The lesbian in me has seen pictures of Aria and wonders why you were in such a hurry to leave."
Grimacing, Harry raised a finger beseechingly. "Don't share that little tidbit with Luna. Please." Expression shifting to revulsion, Ismene opened her mouth only to be cut off by Harry. "You're a pureblood. You of all people should know that they have some interesting ideas about acceptable partners. And Luna wanted to have sex with Daphne. So don't. Tell. Her."
"Actually, I'm like you: a half-blood. My mother is Helene Greengrass and my mum is Hannah Shepard. They met when Mum was on shore leave and Mother was on vacation. Sparks flew and… well, it required a bit more deliberation and medical assistance than making a daughter the old-fashioned way but here I am." Well that did… exactly nothing to solve the problem that Harry had identified. Before he could say as much, though, Ismene raised her hands in surrender. "Message received, though. I'll keep my mouth shut so your fiancée doesn't hit on me. She's cute but she's not my type. A bit too pale for my tastes."
Harry raised an eyebrow at that admission. "As in you're not a fan of blondes? Or are you like Luna in that you prefer your partners a bit more on the blue side?"
Doing her best to look innocent at the question, Ismene nodded in the direction of the medbay door. "Speaking of which, Luna informed me that thanks to my encounter with the beacon, I have some sort of… medicinal asari shagging… in my future. Your doctor has been suspiciously absent since I woke up, but Luna's just pulling my leg right?"
A faint snort escaped Harry as he shook his head slowly, inwardly enjoying the disbelieving expression that stole across Ismene's face. "I did warn you not to touch it, didn't I? Because we had the experience and knowledge that you didn't, and knew for a fact that the beacon was dangerous? Now, the long and short of it is that you need… let's call it a cipher downloaded into your brain. It'll help you interpret the information that the beacon stuffed into your head, instead of you being driven insane by it. There's exactly one way to come by the cipher, and that's by linking with one of the Sylléktries that has it."
"I'm educated enough to know the difference between linking, joining, and bonding." Ismene let out a sigh of relief as she relaxed a bit at the clarification. "So I'll need to link with one of your friends to fix me, although I'm guessing that it won't just be with any of these… Sylléktries… considering Luna specified that it would be an 'exotic-looking' asari and, well, you had some very attractive women in your group when we first met but I don't know if I'd call any of them 'exotic'."
Harry coughed into his hand as he found himself looking away from Ismene's curious green gaze. "Yeah. About that…"