Hello everyone! Long time, no read! Many apologies for delaying this story's finale, so I'll save you the explanation and let you go straight to the action!

Shepard drove without a care for the enemies standing between him and his goal, bypassing them with both well- and ill-timed bursts from the Mako's jet lifts.

"I know we're hurrying and all that, but…" Brandon stifled a nauseated moan before continuing, "It won't do us any good if we can't stand up after we get out of the Mako."

"Agreed." Liara commented from the passenger seat, doing her best to focus on the horizon.

Shepard only grunted, jerking the Mako around another turn with abandon. He reached a straightaway, maxing the Mako's acceleration before slamming on the brakes at the sight of an immense energy shield blocking the entire corridor.

"I don't think we can shoot through that." Brandon commented, looking out of the turret's scope.

"Perhaps it's a trap of Saren's?" Liara inquired, eyes scanning for any geth nearby.

"I don't think this is Saren's." Shepard responded, unbuckling himself and making his way to the Mako's hatch.

"The hell do you think you're doing?" Brandon hollered before dropping out of the turret to follow Shepard. Liara wordlessly followed the two of them out of the armored vehicle.

Shepard took a second before hurrying down a nearby hallway, before waiting in an elevator car for the other two to catch up. Once they were inside the elevator, he pressed the button and they began to descend.

"I have studied Protheans for decades but I have not felt such a sense of foreboding from any place as much as here." Liara mentioned, her hand on her pistol.

"Who knows, maybe we'll find a real Prothean at the end of this and he can tell us what the Conduit is and where to take it." Brandon suggested, trying to lighten the mood despite his own internal struggles.

When the elevator lurched to a stop, the squad turned to find themselves looking at a single walkway with a single terminal waiting for them at the end. They approached it slowly, wary of any possible ambushes. When they got closer, an orange glow emitted from the terminal and resolved into a fragmented image of a VI.

"You are not Prothean, but you are not machine either. This eventuality was one of many eventualities expected. This is why we sent our warning message through the beacons." It told them.

Brandon whistled, "This is one seriously damaged VI. Wonder how it survived."

"I do not detect the taint of indoctrination upon any of you. Despite the amount of machinery within your flesh." Brandon unconsciously flinched at the final comment that was clearly directed to him. It continued, "Unlike the other one who passed recently. Perhaps there is still hope."

"This is incredible," Liara's excitement boiled over, "An actual Prothean VI and I can understand it!"

"Less geeking out if you could Doc." Brandon muttered, shifting around the edge of the VI to inspect the terminal behind it. He could make out some kind of markings on it, but he couldn't place the written language that it likely was.

"I have been monitoring your communications since you arrived at this facility. I have translated my output into a format you will comprehend. I am Vigil," the VI introduced itself finally, "You are safe here, for the moment. But that is likely to change. Soon, nowhere will be safe."

"Are you some kind of artificial intelligence program?" Shepard questioned, reminded of the myriad of encounters that they had had with similar programs and their often deadly results.

"I am an advanced non-organic analysis system with personality imprints of Ksad Ishan, chief overseer of the Ilos research facility." Vigil explained before settling back in what Shepard guessed was an expression of patience.

"Why did you bring here?" Shepard decided to ask, certain that Vigil was the one who had created the shield.

"You must break the cycle that has continued for millions of years. But to stop it, you must understand the mistakes that we made. The Citadel is the heart of your civilization and the seat of your government. As it was with us, and has it been for every civilization before us. But the Citadel is a trap. The station is an enormous mass relay. One that links to dark space, where the Reapers wait. When the Citadel relay activates, the Reapers will pour through. And all you know will be destroyed."

"Which means the Reapers will be able to take the Council and the entire Citadel fleet in a single surprise attack." Shepard barely kept the panic out of his voice at the thought of the annihilation that would stem from the single attack.

"That was our fate. Our leaders were dead before we knew we were under attack. The Reapers took control of the mass relays through the Citadel and isolated us. Over the next decades, they systematically obliterated our people. World by world, system by system, they methodically wiped us out."

"You said you brought me here for a reason. What was it?" Shepard cut off Vigil's continued explanation, not wanting Saren to get much further ahead than he already was.

"The Conduit is the key. Before the Reapers attacked, we were on the cusp of unlocking the mass relay technology. Ilos was a research facility that was tasked with creating a miniature mass relay. One that connected directly to the Citadel: The hub of the relay network."

"The Conduit is not a weapon. It is a back door onto the Citadel!" Liara exclaimed at the revelation.

"What happened next?" Shepard inquired, wondering why they hadn't succeeded if the Conduit was here and working.

"The facility went dark: We cut off all communications and the staff were put into cryogenic sleep to preserve resources. I was programmed to monitor the facility and wake the staff when the danger had passed. But the genocide of a species is a long, slow process. Years passed. Decades, centuries. The Reapers persisted. My energy reserves dwindled."

"You could have fought!" Shepard half-shouted, painful memories flaring in the back of his mind. Elysium, Mindoir, the Thorian.

"We only measured a few hundred against a galactic invasion fleet. The best option was to remain hidden. I began to disable the life-support of non-essential staff to conserve power. Eventually, only the top scientists were left and were in danger of failing when the Reapers finally retreated back through the Citadel relay."

"There were hundreds of stasis pods out there! You just shut them down? You killed them?" Liara vehemently interrogated Vigil, anger nearly bringing tears to her eyes at the loss.

"You were programmed to protect them, not kill them!" Shepard agreed with his squad, denouncing Vigil's actions.

"My actions were a result of contingency programming entered on my creation." Vigil stoicly replied, ignorant of the hostility emanating from the three organic residents of its chamber.

"Cold bastard! I doubt they told anyone that they were going to be sacrificed like that!" Brandon yelled. He hated machines because they treated life as a mere factor for their calculations.

"I saved key personnel." Vigil continued to defend its actions. "My actions are the only reason there is any hope. When the researchers awoke, they realized that the Protheans as a species were doomed. So they devoted themselves to stopping the cycle, and they knew the keepers were the key."

"Aren't they under the control of the Reapers?" Shepard questioned how the strange bug-like beings could be so important.

"They are under the control of the Citadel. A signal is sent to the Citadel to have the keepers activate the relay. After decades of feverish study, they determined a way to change that signal. The scientists traveled to the Citadel via the Conduit and applied the necessary changes. When Sovereign sent the signal this time, the keepers ignored it." Vigil explained.

"And if Saren gets to the Citadel he can force the relay to activate the relay using Sovereign." Shepard inferred.

"Sovereign will override the Citadel's systems and manually open the relay. And the cycle of extinction will begin again."

"Is there any way that we can stop it?"

"In my console there is a copy of data that you should take with you. When you get to the Citadel, plug it into the master control unit and it will corrupt the Citadel's secrutiy protocols and give you temporary control over the station. It might give you a chance against Sovereign."

"Hang on, hang on." Brandon requested from his position next to Vigil's console. "Where did they hide this master control unit? I've been all over the Citadel and I haven't seen anything that looks like a master control unit."

"Through the Conduit. Follow Saren and he will lead you to your destination." Vigil answered, as if it wasn't sure of the answer for itself.

"That's useful." Sarcasm still came easy to Brandon despite the grave situation.

"Let's move. Saren already has enough of a head-start." Shepard turned to leave, knowing his silent command for Brandon to grab the data file from Vigil was already being followed.

"Wait." Liara's hand grabbed his, making him pause. "This is the only opportunity we may ever get. Vigil is already close to falling apart and I doubt we will get a chance to return here before he completely disintegrates."

Looking back at the pleading sadness in Liara, Shepard's sigh gave into her curiosity. "Just be quick."

"Beat you both to it." Brandon told them as he stepped through Vigil's projection. "Already copied all the information I could from his data banks. Thanks for that, Vigil."

Liara's eyes sparkled with the joy of a researcher being promised a new find while Shepard let a slight wave of relief run over him. Brandon could be annoying, but his need for information of any kind came in handy in moments like this.

"Then we're off."

"The one you call Saren has yet to reach the Conduit. There is still hope. If you reach the Conduit quickly." Vigil informed them as they turned to head back to the elevator. They made their way back to the Mako in relative silence, each buoyed by the Prothean Vi's final words of encouragement.

"Let's take him down." Shepard told them in the moment before he revved the Mako's engine to full.

In the Serpent Nebula, Citadel airspace….

In a single moment, hundreds of geth warships arrived, pouring through the relay to begin their attack on the Citadel. Sovereign soon appeared behind them, ready to attack the organics and summon his fellow Reapers through the Citadel relay.

The Citadel fleet found themselves broadsided by the attack, losing several turian battleships in a matter of seconds before fleet could respond. The commander of the Destiny Ascension, flagship of the Citadel fleet ordered the arms of the Citadel to close, only to be dismayed by the news that the system was failing to activate.

"Hold tight!" Shepard ordered his two squadmates, throwing the Mako around the final turn before the Conduit. Even as they raced towards it, the three couldn't help but appreciate its beauty. Nearly one-hundred feet tall and lit by the blue glow of the contained mass effect, it stood as a beacon of hope. The Mako came under fire from dozens of geth, bipedals and quadrupeds alike. As the Mako's shields began to fail, Shepard drove through the hail of fire, praying that the armor held out as they made it to the Conduit.

In a single brilliant flash, the squad and the damaged Mako were transported.

The Mako crash landed in the Presidium, its weight crushing a pair of geth guards before the squad crawled out of the belly hatch.

Brandon swallowed heavily, suppressing his desire to vomit. "I'm not going through that again. At elast not without spaceship-quality inertial dampeners."

"Less talking, more shooting." Shepard commented as several Husk spikes dropped their vicious totems. Liara crushed one with a Warp, while Brandon blew two away with his shotguns, and Shepard finished off the rest with his assault rifle. They turned and noticed that the signs of battle led straight to the Council's tower elevator.

"Don't even say it." Shepard commented as they stepped into the elevator. He didn't have to turn around to see the smugness on Brandon's face.

Council's Chamber…

Saren blew away another of the useless bugs that had failed to follow Sovereign's signal. Without anything interfering. He activated the master control unit, forcing the arms to close as Sovereign blasted into the gap while the Citadel's fleet were trapped outside, totally shut-out. Sovereign quickly descended onto the outstretched tower, docking and taking control of the system.

The elevator stopped with a jolt.

"Saren's locked the elevators. Suit up- we're going outside!" Shepard ordered, activating his helmet. The others didn't argue.

Shepard shot out the elevator's wall, then took his first step across the interior of the Citadel's arms. He caught sight of Sovereign attached to the end of the tower, conjuring up weird images from extranet searches he wished he could forget. They ran next to the elevator shafts, stopping to fight as dozens of geth arrived via elevator cars. Once they realized that Saren had anticipated this tactic, they changed over to climbing along the nearby maintenance channels.

"What the hell? How many of these things are there?" Brandon questioned when more geth poured out of nowhere, swarming straight towards the squad. He opened fire with his shotguns and omni-tool tearing apart shields so Shepard's assault rifle could tear through the undefended bodies.

"Krogan charging! Liara, Lift!" Shepard ordered as he caught sight of the mercenary moving in. With a blaze of biotics the Krogan was launched into the void of space overhead. "Keep moving! We can't let them activate the relay!" Shepard brazenly charged into the fight, leading the way through the maze with an intuitive sense and clear goal ahead.

"Roger!" The other replied, following behind him. As they rounded a corner near some Citadel defense cannons, a geth dropship noticed them and swooped low to drop off more troops and add its fire to hailstorm raining down on them.

With little thought, Brandon hacked into the cannons to activate one of them. It opened fire on the geth dropship, but it clearly wasn't enough.

"We'll cover you." Shepard told him, reading the situation for what it was. He and Liara kept up a stream of physical and biotic attacks to keep the infantry distracted while Brandon made a sprint to the next cannon, adding its fire to the fight for the skies. When he caught sight of a third turret not far beyond the one he was at, Brandon didn't hesitate. He threw a variety of tech mines into the fray before running to the third cannon and activating it. Within a matter of seconds all of the cannons had destroyed the dropship under their relentless fire, and the troops it had dropped off were all defeated by Shepard and Liara.

"Good work." Shepard said when Brandon regrouped with them. They continued to press forward, killing more geth and krogan mercenaries as they went until they reached a large area where four geth turrets could be seen covering the area with heavy explosive rounds.

"Move fast and keep low." Shepard advised them. "We're going to each go a different route. Liara, you take the right since it's mostly trenches to give you cover. Brandon take the left side since it's the highest and will give you a vantage point to use your Engineer skills. I'm taking the middle to draw their attention. On my mark."

The two split off, trusting Shepard's plan.

"Go!" He ordered, jumping over a slight rise to punch a geth into the air. To his right he heard the tell-tale sound of biotics destroying electronics and to his left he heard the rapid-fire report of Brandon's twin shotguns blasting through pre-built shields to open up new lanes of movement.

The first turret to notice Shepard was on the left, swiveling to attack him when a bolt of lightning seemed to strike it. The mechanisms shuddered for a moment before it exploded. Shepard heard a whoop of joy from Brandon before he continued forward, wary of the next turret on his right side. The same process occurred, only for the turret to be crushed under Liara's Warp.

Shepard felt the presence of his squadmates behind him as he approached the third turret, located directly in their path ahead. He activated his assault rifle' Overkill, making it spew bullets like a Gatling gun to destroy the third turret under the concentrated fire. Still feeling the Overkill's effects, Shepard turned the assault rifle in the direction of the fourth turret, far beyond their position. It was met by a thunderous explosion that shook the ground they stood on, proof of the turret's elimination.

With all of the geth eliminated, they hurried forward and turned down a side passage near the elevator shafts. When they found the emergency door, they hesitated long enough to realize they had no idea of what was waiting for them before they jumped in, unafraid of their fates.

Inside the Council's chamber, Shepard led the squad around the fountain.

"Enemies incoming!" Brandon warned as they reached the stairs, opening fire on the geth positioned there. It took them only a few seconds to slay the geth and continue forward, and reach the atrium's courtyard. By the time they had pushed through the meager defenses Saren had left there, the squad was ready for Saren.

They ran forward to confront Saren, only to have the turian jump down and land on his hover platform. When he rose back into view, Saren opened fire with an explosive attack that sent the squad scrambling for cover, separating Sheaprd from the others.

"I was afraid you wouldn't make it in time, Shepard." Saren cajoled him.

"In time for what?"

"The final confrontation. We both knew that this was how it was going to end." Saren hovered closer. "You've lost, you know that, don't you? In a few minutes Sovereign will have full control over the Citadel's systems. The relay will open. And the Reapers will return."

"I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve." Shepard's eyes found Liara and Brandon's, acknowledging they were waiting for his signal to attack.

"You survived our encounter on Virmire. But I've changed since then. Improved. Sovereign has…. upgraded me."

"You let Sovereign implant you? Are you insane?"

"I suppose I should thank you Shepard. After Virmire, I couldn't stop thinking about what you said. About Sovereign manipulating me. About indoctrination. The doubts began to eat away at me, and Sovereign sensed my hesitation. I was implanted to strengthen my resolve. And now my doubts are gone. I believe in Sovereign completely. I understand that the Reapers need organics. Join us and Sovereign will have a place for you too."

"Sovereign's controlling you through those implants! Don't you see that?"

"Just like the geth tried to do with me." Brandon whispered, the words only heard by Liara.

"The relationship is symbiotic. Organic and machine intertwined, a union of flesh and steel. The strengths of both, the weaknesses of neither. I am a vision of the future, Shepard. The evolution of all organic life. This is our destiny. Join Sovereign and experience a true rebirth!"

"Shepard! Tell him what he needs to know!" Liara called out to him, reminding him of all their one chance.

Shepard let his resolve build before giving his reply. "Sovereign hasn't won yet. I can stop it from taking control of the station! Step aside and the invasion will never happen!"

"We can't stop it! Not forever! You saw the visions." Saren accused Shepard, "You saw what happened to the Protheans. The Reapers are too powerful."

"Some part of you must still realize that this is wrong. You can fight this!" Shepard appealed to the last remnants of Saren's good intentions.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe there still is a chance for..." Saren's words were cut off by a groan of pain. He began to twist and thrash before he regained control. "The implants… Sovereign is too strong. I'm sorry. It's too late for me."

"It's not over yet!" Shepard rolled out of his hiding spot, standing up to appeal to Saren again. "You can still redeem yourself!"

Saren's eyes met Shepard's, but the commander could only see resignation in the former Spectre. "Goodbye, Shepard. Thank you." Saren pulled out a pistol, pointing it up under his own chin before pulling the trigger. His body lurched and the platform swerved before crashing into the garden below them.

"Dammit." Shepard cursed his own failure, running forward to the control panel while Brandon and Liara followed.

Activating his omni-tool to pass on the data file, Brandon noticed the disappointment on Shepard's face. "We can't save everyone, but we still have more to save."

Shepard's omni-tool chirped, signaling its success. "The data file worked. I've got control of all systems."

"I suggest we unlock the arms so Sovereign doesn't get a chance to win. Just a suggestion!" Brandon's voice shifted a little higher, likely feeling the pressure of the entire galaxy hanging in the balance.

"See if you can open a communications channel. Joker might have the rest of the fleet ready." Liara suggested, managing to be a voice of reason.

This is the Destiny Ascension…" an asari's static-filled voice pleaded, "Main drives offline. Kinetic barriers down 40%. The Council is on board. I repeat, the Council is onboard."

"Normandy to the Citadel. Normandy to the Citadel." Joker's voice rang clear to the squad, "Please tell me that's you, Commnader."

"I'm here Joker." Shepard replied.

"We caught the distress call, Commander. I'm sitting here in the Andura sector with the entire Arcturus Fleet. We can save the Ascension. Just unlock the relays around the Citadel and we'll the cavalry in!"

"Are you sure about this Shepard? Human casualties will be very high if you send your fleet in now." Liara pointed out, concerned over Shepard's dilemma.

"Liara, this is bigger than humanity by a long shot. Sovereign is a threat to every organic in the entire galaxy." Brandon countered, letting his business mentality take over. "In terms of risk and reward, the option's pretty clear Commander."

"The Council must be sacrificed for the greater good. Don't waste your reinforcements. Hold them back until the Citadel arms open up. Save the human fleet to attack Sovereign."

"Christ on high Liara, I thought I was being cold." Brandon commented, looking at Liara's hardened expression with worry.

"What's the order, Commander! Come in now to save the Ascension or hold back?" Joker questioned, bringing the discussion to its head.

Shepard took a moment to consider his options before his final decision: "Opening the relays now, Joker. We need to save the Ascension—no matter the costs." A hint of melancholy tinged Shepard's last word, the very weight of the lives that he was ordering be sacrificed.

Liara looked down for a second before remarking, "The noble choice. I can only hope it doesn't turn out to be the wrong one."

"That's why he's the boss and not us." Brandon replied, knowing that Shepard's choice was the right one despite everything telling him it wasn't.

As the Arcturus Fleet arrived, a single order was given by Fifth Fleet Admiral Hackett: "Alliance ships move in—save the Destiny Ascension."

With the Normandy leading the charge, Alliance ships engaged the geth surrounding the flagship. It took a matter of minutes for the Alliance ships to crush the geth harrying the ship, but at the cost of several of their own frigates.

"Destiny Ascension, you are all-clear." Joker radioed the damaged ship, assuring them that the battle was over for them. "Repeat—you are all-clear."

Now that the Ascension had been saved, Admiral Hackett began to give new orders: "The Citadel's arms are opening. All ships move in. Concentrate on Sovereign."

"Make sure he's dead." Shepard ordered Brandon and Liara, mostly to quell the strange feeling in his gut that said this battle wasn't completely won. The two of them shared a look and a nod before dropping down to the lower garden. Brandon took point, leading with his pistols since his shotguns weren't exactly proper for investigating corpses. Liara followed right behind him, wary of any sudden counterattack.

"This is for everyone you screwed over, Saren." Brandon whispered, pointing his pistol at the turian's head before swiftly pulling the trigger. The bullet entered and left the corpse without a fuss, prompting Liara to radio Shepard with a simple confirmation.

All of a sudden red lightning seemed to surge through the chamber above, shaking it so heavily Shepard had a hard time keeping his feet. The lightning arced down into the garden, and then into Saren's corpse. The mass of flesh and machinery twitched and convulsed as the lightning pulled it into the air, making it dance in a macabre waltz to the sound of its own howls. The flesh exploded off the corpse violently, throwing Brandon and Liara back with enough force to stun them. Above them, the extended walkway that Shepard stood on shook for a second before giving out and spilling him down into the garden not far from his teammates. Recovering their senses, the three looked in disgust at the mockery of Saren that stood in front of them, machinery forming a skeletal turian that burned them with red-tinted gaze filled with malice. Without hesitation on its part, the former corpse leapt away.

Shepard and the quad all reached for their weapons, doing their best to keep track of the jumping corpse. It fired out assassination lasers and heavy explosive attacks, not dissimilar to a geth assassin unit. Whenever it paused to aim at them, Brandon fired an Overload to try and strip its shields, only to find it partially effective: it damaged the shields but didn't leave it exposed. Liara added whatever she could with her biotics. Shepard did his best to wear down any remaining shields he could with Overkills, occasionally scratching the body behind the shields. But it wasn't doing nearly enough.

Outside the Citadel, Alliance Fleet….

Joker wove the Normandy through the Alliance ships pouring their fire onto Sovereign, doing his best to avoid the Reaper's counterattacks.

"Sovereign is too strong- we have to pull back!" One pilot recommended, watching as another ship was destroyed by Sovereign's incredible beam attack.

"Negative," Hackett replied, "This is our only chance! Take that monster down, no matter what the cost!"

Saren's corpse shuddered to a stop, its pieces barely held together by the remaining wires. A red light engulfed it as the electronics burnt out, signaling its defeat.

"I don't trust you guys to confirm a kill anymore." Shepard deadpanned, looking at the battle-weary members of his team.

Joker was amazed at what his instruments were reading.

"Its shields are down! Now's our chance." He told everyone, flying through the debris field that had formed from the intense fighting.

"Hit it with everything we've got." Hackett ordered.

Dozens of light cruisers and frigates opened fire, hoping to keep its shields from recovering.

Knowing what they really needed, Joker patched himself into the surviving members of small fighter squadrons. "Hard on my flank." He ordered while pulling a perfect 180 degree turn. "We're going in!"

Following the Normandy directly at Sovereign's underbelly, the small fighters tore into the Reaper, causing explosions to run through its hull before the entire ship detonated.

Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, some of the debris was on a collision course for the Council's chambers.

Shepard looked through the windows of the Council's room on the battlefield, elated to see that Sovereign had been defeated. His eyes widened as he picked up a large-scale movement in their direction.

He turned to the other two and gave as much of a warning as he could, "Go!"

The piece of debris struck the room, throwing everything into chaos.

A recovery team tore apart the debris piles that clogged the former Council's chambers, desperately searching for any sign of Shepard or his squad.

A technician moved a thick sheet of metal, uncovering a gap in the pile. Brandon lay on his side, gripping his side from what the technician guessed were broken ribs, while Liara sat up, slightly dazed from the act of bioticly protecting the two of them from the debris that should have crushed them.

"Captain Anderson! We've found them! Over here!" The technician yelled, drawing the rest of the recovery team to his find.

The technician set to helping Liara to her feet while Anderson ducked into the space, relieved to see that the two of them had survived the unintended destruction of the area.

"Take it easy, it's over…" Anderson reassured Brandon, who was desperately trying to stand up despite his legs' refusal to cooperate. "You're safe now. Where's the commander? Where's Shepard?"

Brandon could only look at Anderson before casting his eyes to an area behind them that looked like it had been carpet bombed by shrapnel from the debris strike. Fearing the worst, Anderson stood up, trying to catch sight of anything of the commander: his armor, his signature assault rifle, something tangible that told him where his favorite student and hero of the galaxy was.

As the technician and Anderson helped the two injured squad members to the opening, they caught sight of a flash of movement. Disbelief struck them as the moving object began to resolve itself into a human shape. It crested a pile of debris, revealing itself to be Shepard. But even the commander hadn't escaped unscathed. His armor was marred by countless scratches and dust, along with his left arm protectively cradled to his chest, but Shepard stood there, clearly alive with one the largest grins any of them had ever seen.

"Should've known it would take more. Doesn't excuse the dramatic entrance, though." Brandon couldn't help but comment in relief. His brother was still there and he wasn't going to have to explain why he of all people walked away from this chaos.

Later, Presidium…

"Ambassador. Captain. Commander Shepard." The asari councilor recognized the three humans standing in front of her and her colleagues. "We have gathered here to recognize the enormous contributions of the Alliance forces in the war against Sovereign and the geth.

"Many humans lost their lives in the battle to save the Citadel, brave and courageous soldiers who willingly gave their lives so that we—the Council- might live." The salarian councilor recognized.

"There is no greater sacrifice," the turian councilor shook his head in sadness, "And we share your grief over the tragic loss of so many noble men and women."

"The council also owes you a personal debt, Commander. One that we can never repay." The asari councilor admitted, turning to face Shepard with her full gaze. "You saved not just our lives, but the lives of billions from Sovereign and the Reapers."

"Commander Shepard, your heroic and selfless actions serve as a symbol of everything humanity and the Alliance stand for." The salarian councilor acknowledged.

"And though we cannot bring back those valiant soldiers who gave their lives to save ours, we can honor their memories through our actions." The turian council told the assembled humans. The three stood, waiting for the councilors to finish.

"Humanity has shown it is ready to stand as a defender and protector of the galaxy. You have proved you are worthy to join our ranks and serve beside us on the Citadel Council."

The first one to recover from their shock was Udina, who immediately gave his usual political spin to his words. "Councilor, on behalf of humanity and the Alliance we thank you for this prestigious honor and humbly accept."

"We will need a list of potential candidates to fill humanity's seat on the Council." The salarian councilor replied with, looking at Shepard.

"Given all that has happened, I am sure a recommendation will carry a great deal of weight, Commander. Do you support any particular candidates?" The asari councilor with a slight tilt of her head. But Shepard saw through the move: she wanted to see if he knew what to say to get what he wanted.

A quick look to his left and his right confirmed his thoughts before he spoke his answer. "We need someone with the courage to stand up for what he believes in. Someone like Captain Anderson." He turned to his mentor so he wouldn't have to deal with Udina's annoyed face.

"Him?" the ambassador questioned, "You must be joking. Anderson prefers to let his fists do the talking."

"Only with you Ambassador." Anderson shot a heated look to the politician before returning his focus to the councilors. "Only with you."

"Are you sure about this, Commander? The captain's a soldier, not a politician." Udina spoke, trying to confirm Shepard's selection.

"We've already got too many politicians on the Citadel." Shepard replied, "The captain would be perfect for this job."

"I think it's an inspired choice," the asari councilor cut off any chance of debate on the matter. "The Council would welcome him with open arms, should he accept."

"I'm honored, Councilor," Anderson responded with, letting his more formal speech come forward. "As humanity's representative, I'll do everything in my power to help the Council rebuild."

"Sovereign's defeat marks the beginning of a new era for both humanity and the Council." The turian councilor acknowledged, bowing his head slightly in Shepard's direction.

Taking the time to meet the eyes of all the councilors, Shepard informed them, "Sovereign was only a vanguard. The Reaper fleet is still coming. Hundreds of ships, maybe thousands. And I'm going to find some way to stop them!" He walked off, knowing that he had more challenges awaiting him.

"Shepard's right." Anderson's voice reached the commander even as he left. "Humanity is ready to do its part. United with the rest of the Council, we have the strength to overcome any challenge. When the Reapers come, we must stand side by side. We must fight against them as one. And together, we will drive them back into dark space."

Alliance Docking Station…

Outside the Normandy, Shepard was surprised to see Brandon sitting on a crate, a pair of crutches nearby with his cast-covered legs dangling over the side.

"So how's it feel to be the galaxy's hero, big brother?" Brandon asked with a slight smile.

Shepard gave his own smile back before replying, "It's not that much different. Though what did you want to talk about that you just had to meet me outside the ship?" He pointed to Brandon's spot away from the Normandy and the crews currently restocking it.

Brandon's grin faltered, slipping into a slight frown. "I'm leaving the crew on medical leave."

"What? But I thought…"

"It's not because of these." Brandon gestured to his legs, "It's because of what happened on Ilos."

Shepard recalled it. The geth hack that overrode Brandon's various implants and turned him into a walking poison factory. "So you think that something like that means you can just leave?" He fixed his younger brother with a look that spoke volumes.

Brandon turned away, not wanting to meet Shepard's eyes. "I'm a danger as long I have them in me. Besides, they might be dangerous now but there are several medical research facilities that want to sample the tech in my implants. So I'm going to let them take them out so they can safely research them and get rid of my problem."

"How long?"

"Ten months, maybe a year. Effective immediately." Brandon managed to face Shepard, but kept his head lowered. His hand found his hair and started to fiddle with it.

"You talk to your girlfriend about you leaving?" Shepard wasn't going to let Brandon skip out on any of his responsibilities.

"Yes, I told Tali. I'm staying here until you guys leave on your next mission, then I'm off to the military research hospital at Arcturus Station." Brandon explained, grabbing both crutches before hopping into a standing position. "Until the next time, right Brother?" He extended a hand to Shepard, hiding his eyes in case he cried.

Shepard looked at the hand before stepping forward and pulling Brandon into a hug. The injured boy reflexively returned it. "Don't do anything stupid without us around. You can barely handle the trouble you get into even when we're here for you."

"Fine." The brothers separated, doing their best to ignore the sentimental moment they had just had.

"Were you part of Joker's recent betting pool, because Anderson pretty much admitted to hitting Udina while we were in that meeting with the Council."

"Then Joker owes me my share of the pot."


So this marks the official end of this story. Thank you for reading. I do sincerely apologize about taking so long to update with this chapter but real life keeps me busy.

Just so all of you know, I do plan on writing a sequel to this story based on Mass Effect 2's storyline. Be Warned I can't promise when it will appear or how often I will be able to update it.

Anyways, leave a review to let me know what you think.