Here it is, the chapter you have all been waiting got. This is it, the big one, the one that every single one of you has been drooling over since this story started, you are finally going to get what you wanted from the start of this fic.

Another fifteen thousand words of Ichigo strolling around shirtless and getting all the ladies weak at the knees… nah I'm just kidding. Read and find out what I mean, you will love it.

Now I would like to let you all know that this will likely be the last chapter for the year, for obvious reasons as life and my lazy ass needs to get motivated. But still this is a nice long one, I planning to cut this in half just to mess with you. If I did that I would be just like Kubo. But I say that it has been fun doing this chapter because I get to play around with how to get Ichigo to some utterly savage verbal beatdown.

Also I would like to thank my Beta, Animegirl257, she has been a great help for this story and has helped turn this story into the refined piece of art it is now. Her skill and talent I believe are what made this story as good as it is. And I hope for many more years of us working together, and especially on the project I am working on now.

As of now I plan to rewrite this story. Now I know you are scared, don't be. I have already begun and am making great progress and plan to post every single reworked chapter next year. Maybe even a few extra ones, I have myself and a few friends helping with this. Animegirl257, David Knight and Halphas Greed being among those friends. With them by my side I plan to make this story even better than before.

So do not fret, do not worry, for nothing has changed, it will only get better. Now enjoy the chapter.


Are We Alone

Chapter 18: Judge and Jury

Presidium Embassy, Embassy Lounge

Shepard threw back the drink, feeling it burn the back of her throat. She grimaced at the taste- too sweet with a horribly bitter aftertaste. It was an absolute waste of money and practically highway robbery considering it cost her nearly as much as military-grade armor. Honestly, how much were these diplomats getting paid to afford a drink this expensive?

Common sense told her not to buy another glass, to save her credits for something important, like a down payment on a car. But she kindly told common sense to piss right off, since it seemed that the world itself had decided to do the same. Besides, after the day she has had, she needed to kick back and relax, down a few mouthfuls of scotch and have a few people to talk too. That was what she needed right now, but, sadly, she was coming up short on both.

"That...is insane," Bhatia said, looking at her incredulously, and a sharp contrast to the sheer awe on William's face.

Shepard looked past them and at nothing in particular, wishing that the two would have the decency to be slightly less sober and down the drinks she had blown probably close to six weeks' worth of her salary on. Sure, this was her first, and probably only, drink, and it wasn't exactly good, but it was common decency to down whatever someone else bought for you.

"I don't see why you aren't celebrating with me, I did something heroic today," Shepard said, looking into the empty glass that was a perfect reflection of the hollow dread that had settled in her gut.

She really wished she could go to another bar, somewhere cheap enough that she could get absolutely smashed instead of sipping on stupid cocktails worth more than gold. Drinking right now might not be the best thing to do considering the possibly life-ruining decisions she had made recently, but it was for that exact reason that she needed a little liquid courage in her veins before she even attempted to tackle the future.

"Most would call you batshit crazy, talking down to the Council like that. Most never get the chance, and those that do usually don't have the balls to actually do it." Ashley said, her admiration yet to fade. At least one of them was getting a kick out of her retelling of her fateful meeting with the Council a few hours ago.

"Why the hell did you do it? How did you even get away with it?" Bhatia asked, frustrated and more than a little confused, "The Council being unable to speak might be one thing, considering you kept shouting at them. But why didn't Major Mikkai or Captain Anderson stop you? They were standing right next to you, weren't they?"

Shepard had a few theories on that, all of which revolved around the entire debacle being a spur of the moment thing. No thought put into it, no creative planning, and not a single lesson from her schooling on Titan used. It really was the Council's fault. They had done so many horrible things over the last few years that it had just...boiled over, and the worst of it was only a day or two old.

They had the balls to try and cover up Eden Prime and then try and sell them their own freedom back if they played along.

It was probably why Udina wasn't there; they tried to use political intrigue to get the Captain and Major to do what they wanted. It didn't work so well, for all their savviness they only pissed her off enough to throw back their deal into their face and laugh at the hell that was going to be falling on their heads soon. Quite literally, if some of the rumors she was hearing in the lounge were to be believed.

Mikkai and Anderson probably knew as well.

Because the both of them were in the shit with her, so deep they would probably disappear just like Admiral Ines Lindholm had. But they weren't scared, so in turn, she wasn't scared – not really. The reason being was that they had a plan, something she had suspected the moment they surrendered. Mikkai or Anderson didn't offer any resistance, didn't put up a fight and they didn't seem worried when they were being led through the station. It was painfully obvious that they knew something she didn't. Something that would see them all getting off scot-free without even a slap on the wrist for all that they'd done.

It was a strangely freeing feeling she wasn't accustomed to.

She had to wonder if it involved Ichigo in some way. That his presence here had something to do with their little plan, or at the very least would help move it along. Speaking of which…

"Hey, you heard the rumors, right?" Shepard asking, deciding to move onto something a little more exciting.

The stories and rumors flowed through the bar just as freely as the alcohol did, and the elite was rather careless when even slightly tipsy. It wasn't hard to hear through the grapevine that a certain Anomaly was loose on the station. People were scared that the place was going to explode in the next ten minutes, with more than a few ambassadors and emissaries running for the door as soon as someone whispered there was an Anomaly on the station.

"Who hasn't?" Ashley replied with a grin like a knife. The woman was a borderline religious fanatic when it came to the Anomalies. Not that Shepard could blame her since they had made themselves so very real and tangible while still nigh untouchable. "I heard he leveled an entire block just from landing on it."

That wasn't all that surprising considering that plenty of people had felt the station shake even from several floors away.

"I heard that there's a recording on the Extranet that shows off Ichigo facing down some ten thousand C-Sec coppers just down near that R&D place. Walked right past them all and they didn't fire a single shot." Shepard said with a chuckle. That at least explained where most of the officers had vanished to, even if the video wasn't really needed when plenty of people had ran away from there, shouting about the Guardian of Elysium being just a few kilometers down the road.

The last she had heard, security was mobilizing thousands of C-Sec officers to try and capture him. She didn't know if it was true or not, but the rumor was all anyone could talk about, second only to the Anomaly's rather peaceful stroll through the wards. It was apparently hard for others to accept that Ichigo didn't just slaughter everyone on sight.

"I've seen a few of them myself, they started popping up about an hour ago. Lots of them are just pictures of him without his shirt on, though." Ashley snickered.

"He looks good without a shirt on, huh?" Shepard jabbed, liking how the Gunnery Sergeant got flustered at the statement, "I'm surprised that the station hasn't imploded yet- I would think that with an Anomaly here that a lot more would be going down. A lot more...screaming, at least."

Truthfully, everything seemed to have gotten quieter since the rumors started circling as if somehow no one was willing to cause any trouble lest the Guardian come to punish them for their sins. It sounded like something a zealot would preach, but no one seemed to be willing to push their luck.

"I wonder why you haven't been dragged off in chains yet?" Bhatia asked, finally picking up her glass and sipping at it. She grimaced and subtly attempted to push it off to the side where it could be forgotten.

"Why are you focusing on the unimportant stuff?" Shepard asked, eyeing the horrible drink. If she didn't want it, then she should just say so and let Shepard have the rest and not have to think about the mess that was her life.

Because as much as she believed that there was some plan in the works that would see her home safe and sound, a small part of her also believed that wasn't going to happen. The more cynical side of her that had seen her comrades slaughtered was just waiting for something unexpected and bad to blindside her. She was terrified of being thrown into a cage and never seeing the light of day again like an unruly dog.

Shepard abruptly stole Bhatia's drink and downed it like it was water. If she was going to barely sip on the damn thing, then she didn't deserve it.

"You really are scared, aren't you?" Bhatia asked, uncaring that the most expensive drink she's likely ever sipped had just been taken right out of her hands.

"Yeah." Shepard relented, "Probably the only reason I'm not being taken into custody is because the Council is pissing their pants at Ichigo being on the station." Of course, as soon as the status quo changed to something slightly less chaotic, she was sure that their attention was going to settling back on her. If they weren't all dead, obviously.

She hoped that Ichigo didn't pull a Houdini anytime soon.

"I have to admit though that if you're going to be locked up for anything, at least you got to tell the Council off first," Ashley said, raising her glass as if to salute Shepard for her bravery and/or stupidity. "To you, Lieutenant, an inspiration to us all!"

"Would have preferred that glass over the mock admiration," Shepard said, watching as Ashley drained the twelve hundred credit drink in a single gulp.

Bhatia abruptly rose to her feet, "Heads up, the Major's here."

Shepard turned and shot up to salute, glass still in hand in her haste. Major Mikkai waved away the formality before they could even raise a hand to their brow, a slight tilt of his head conveying all that he needed to. They quickly make their way to the door, not daring to speak as the followed his brisk pace.

"Sir, what is going on?" Ashley asked, following the Major through a dizzying series of halls and doors. Shepard quickly realized they were moving away from the more populated sections of the embassy, though where-to, she couldn't tell.

"We're meeting up with someone," Mikkai replied. "Anderson should be meeting us at an old security hatch, we can get to the docking bay from there."

"Are we leaving the station?" Shepard asked, hopeful.

"Not yet, we'll first meet up with someone who is due to arrive soon, and then we stick with him," Mikkai replied, turning the corner and seeing Captain Anderson standing there with someone else.

He was a C-Sec officer (human, thankfully), with short brown hair and a stern look to him. As they came towards the group they did not stop, the Captain and C-Sec officer instead matching their pace and following as if they had always been there. Not a single word was exchanged, and the silence was oppressive with unspoken tension. Shepard was about to ask what was going on when they came to an abrupt halt, stopping at the wall of a dead-end hallway. The C-Sec officer brought up his Omni-Tool and then pushed in a few keys, and immediately the wall opened.

"I got the emergency exit opened up for you." He said, gesturing to an elevator that was just through the door, "It leads down to a VIP evacuation tunnel, and from there it goes right into C-Sec. I'll give you the word when the guest of honor arrives."

Anderson gave him a nod of appreciation, moving swiftly into the elevator. The others quickly piled in with barely an inch of elbow room, but they still stood tall, strictly professional. It was a slow and awkwardly silent ride down, without a single hint of music to break the terrible tension.

As soon as the elevator stopped, they moved down another long hallway, passing several panic rooms and sealed chambers before coming to another security door. For the next few minutes, they stood there, doing nothing as they waited for a sign to continue.

"Are we really getting off the station?" Bhatia asked after several minutes of nothing happening.

"Eventually. After we meet up with our ride, we have to make a quick detour." Anderson explained, looking at his Omni-tool, "Everything seems to be in position, let's go."

Anderson punched a code into the door and it opened, revealing a very familiar room. It was the Customs station, the very place where they had been led through when they first arrived on the station. Shepard could see a table ahead of them, much of their confiscated gear piled neatly on it.

"What the hell is our stuff doing here?" Ashley said, picking up some of her equipment despite her skepticism, "Who set this up?"

"Not important," Mikkai said with a hint of finality, closing any discussion on their mysterious benefactor. His own assault rifle was there, and he quickly reclaimed it, "Pick your gear up. We won't be staying long."

Shepard did as she was told, picking out her weapons and personal belongings from the pile. Everything had been nearly set out but not properly sorted beyond broad categories and gear types. It was around the time that she was reattaching her weapon mods that she heard it: the heavy footfall of combat boots. Normally she would have worried that they were about to ruin several C-Sec officer's days, but within a moment she relaxed again. Most of C-Sec was made up of Turians who had a very particular gait that didn't at all match the footfalls she was hearing. Couple that with the lack of reaction from Mikkai, and it was easy to guess that this wasn't unexpected.

Soon enough they saw who had arrived, and it was nothing short of a full cavalry of human marines. Twenty marines all armed to the teeth with some of the meanest looking armor and guns on hand - Rosenkov Materials from the looks of it - were trailing behind probably one of the toughest sons of bitches in the Alliance Navy.

Admiral Steven Hackett, current Head of the Alliance Navy.

"Anderson, with me." Steven Hackett said simply, not halting his stride as he passed by Shepard, Bhatia, and Ashley without a single glance. Captain Anderson fell in line beside the Admiral as if he belonged there with Mikkai taking up the rear guard with the other marines. The three women looked at one another, trying to fully process what they were seeing.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Bhatia whispered.

Shepard shrugged and followed the marines. "No idea."

Soon enough they came to the main offices of Citadel Security, and suddenly having those twenty heavily armed marines with them made sense. Subtility had been utterly disregarded for protection and firepower. Stepping into C-Sec was likely going to result in a standoff or shooting match, depending on how bad things went. On principle she drew her rifle and waited for the inevitable, holding her breath as they cleared the hallway and stepped into the main lobby for Citadel Security.

As she expected, there was a swarm of C-Sec officers waiting for them...Or not, as every single one of them was a rookie and not even looking their way. Normally there would have been enough officers present to instantly spot them, but barely anyone was in the lobby, allowing their rather not-subtle group to make it a third of the way across before anyone even noticed. They must have been fresh out of school and not a single hour of proper combat training between the lot of them, as the poor bastards froze at their bold entrance. They were too slow to reach for their weapons before Hackett and his entourage barged past them and to the elevators.

They needed three elevators to get everyone up, and Shepard made it a point to get herself on the elevator with the Admiral. She trusted him, always, but she would rather know where the hell they were going with all this firepower. She also wanted to know why they were going back into the station. All this sneaking around and they weren't actually leaving? She trusted the Admiral, yes, but this had her worried.

"Admiral," Shepard said, deciding that the slow diplomatic route would be best.

She had only met him twice, three times if you count speaking over the comms, and the first time she didn't really have the will to do much beyond nodding and going along with whatever he suggested. That was the day he had told her that she would be taking the glory for the defense of Elysium, an honor she was still struggling to come to terms with. He had given her a chance to be more than who she was, opening up a path for her that she probably didn't deserve. The problem was that talking to Hackett was a daunting experience; his confidence and seriousness unwavering to the point that she felt inferior – in more ways than rank – when in his presence. So starting a casual conversation was probably the hardest thing she had to do right now.

"Lieutenant, enjoying your stay on the Citadel?" Hackett inquired, stone cold even as he asked the question. He then gave her his full attention, looking her right in the eye, his gaze boring down on her from his not-insignificant height advantage over her, "I can smell the scotch on your breath. Celebrating?"

Shepard would think he would be pissed that she was drinking on duty, and hell, he might be livid, but she just couldn't tell. It was common sense that you didn't want to be within spitting distance of a superior officer with alcohol rolling off your tongue, much less your boss's boss

"Yep, told the Council to go shove it a few hours ago," Shepard said- and just why did she say it? Maybe she really was drunk. Or she was screwed either way and hoped to at least get a lighter sentence if she impressed the Admiral.

It didn't seem to work, he just maintained his gaze for a moment before turning back to face the elevator door. The silence was practically crawling up her spine to seep dread into her bones. Great, only two sentences in and she was already questioning her decision-making skills.

As the doors opened, Hackett finally spoke up; "Then you're going to enjoy what comes next."

Shephard blinked, barely remembering to step out of the elevator before the doors closed. She could see Hackett and Anderson speaking quickly to each other, but she didn't pay attention to that. No, instead she noticed the barely-concealed excitement in her superior's eyes. And she knew that whatever was going to come next was probably going to be the best damn thing she was ever going to see. His next words all but confirmed it.

"Good, time to end the Council's regime once and for all."


Council Private Parlour

Pallin watched the feed through his Omni-tool with a frown. He didn't exactly like watching his men get pushed around by those Alliance Marines but there was little he could do about it. Hackett's arrival was not unexpected, but had he known that there would be nearly two dozen armed marines escorting him he would have taken some precautions. An entire troop of heavily armed humans marching across the Presidium like they owned it? What could ever possibly go wrong?

Luckily, he had gotten the message out before things could get ugly. He knew where they were heading and his men were already clearing the way. This needed to be calm and clean, so the last thing he wanted was this to end in a bloodbath.

A message popped up over the video feed.

'Thank you. :)'

Palin sighed. Everything was an absolute mess.

"Executor, would you please stop playing with your Omni-Tool and listen to me?"

Pallin turned from his Omni-tool, glancing towards Councillor Tevos and her two fellow Councillors. All of them were tense, rigid and from the looks of it, paranoid. Rather rightfully so, considering all that had happened today, though they looked primed and ready for a nervous breakdown if things continued to go bad.

It was just his luck he had to be dragged up here to answer their hasty and poorly thought out questions. He had hoped that Tela Vasir would have kept narrating on for the next few minutes and saved him the agony of having to explain himself to them. But it looked like she had ran out of words to use to throw him under the bus.

"Why did you not apprehend the Anomaly?" Tevos asked, vexation in her tone and all but hissing as she demanded an answer, "You had over ten thousand men, with armored support! Why did you do nothing?"

Palin thought that the Council would see reason at the end of this, and they might have had Tela Vasir not gone off and tattled on him. He had hoped they would have calmed down enough for them to talk like proper adults. Instead, they were somehow worse than when he had talked to them when they proposed that suicidal plan to try and capture the Anomaly.

"Councillor." Palin only showed them any courtesy at all at this point because they held that title, even though he had lost nearly all faith in their ability to lead, "My duty as a member of C-Sec and Executor is the protection of this station and every single person on it."

"And yet you allowed a highly dangerous individual walk right past you without even attempting to stop him. You even refused to give the order to fire when he resisted arrest." Sparatus stated, displeased with his apparent failure. Palin remained silent and hoped that the Turian would continue to rant, as he welcomed the chance not to speak.

Because he honestly had no excuse to give. Well, not one they would accept at least.

But alas, the cold gazes of the Council forced him to speak, "With all due respect, had I ordered that attack not only would all my men be dead, but this station would be gone as well." Palin stated, his tone as level as he could make it, "Millions of people live on this station and are still on it. I am not starting a war against something that could wipe out armies better equipped and more numerous than C-Sec. Not if I don't absolutely have to."

"Those millions of people are likely to die now because you did nothing!" Tevos barked, and what finesse and control that she had perfected over the two centuries of her tenure as Councillor had been blown out the airlock. It was obvious that whatever remaining visage of who they were before the incident had evaporated, blow to dust in the wind. It was all coming full circle now, and they just couldn't deal with the chaos anymore. "You are responsible for what happens next! The lives lost and the fate of this station rests solely on your lack of action!"

"I wasn't in command- I was there as a simple courtesy, and my men didn't open fire because they knew just as well as I did what would happen. They knew better when their 'superiors' did not." Palin replied icily. That little jab was far from subtle, but he was starting to get fed up with this whole faux-trial they had set up for the exclusive purpose of shaming him.

"Don't try and pin this mess on me when your men are all cowards." Tela Vasir hissed.

It was funny, really. She was the one that had collapsed after being stared down by the Anomaly. He had brought her to her knees and left her a shaking wreck with only a pointed look, and she had the gall to call them cowards.

"You are a coward," Tela added, wounded pride lashing out when he did nothing but stare blankly at her.

Arrogant bitch.

"Citadel Security is meant to protect this station from any and all threats," Palin said after a long moment. He saw the way the Council perked up at his statement, as if he had somehow admitted his guilt, "I know that there is a threat on this station, one that would see to the end of the Citadel. It will shatter more than just the metal and tear apart the symbol of unity and order it upholds," Values, rights, peace (however fleeting it was), all of it would soon be ruined if fate continued as it wished, "I know that now."

"Then do your job, gather your men and meet out this threat and remove it!" Sparatus demanded.

"I intend to."

The door abruptly opened, one of Tevos' secretaries rushing in and clearly terrified, "Councillor! Admiral Hackett has stormed the Council Chambers! He has dozens of armed soldiers with him!

Everyone froze, conversation forgotten as the three Councillors looked between themselves. Was this a rebellion? A coup? They couldn't be sure, and without that knowledge, they had no idea what to do. Did they flee? Confront Hackett? Stay there and look at each other? The third option was what they would have done had Palin not spoken up.

"This is Executor Pallin, I need a Special Response team at the Council Chambers now. Full kit." That seemed to be enough to get the Council back in working order, a sense of strength returning to them as they seemed ready to actually go out there.

Which is what they did.

"Hackett wants to talk, then let's talk." Sparatus huffed, leading the charge in his usual bull-headed way.

Palin wondered if the Turian Councillor's military career being so short was because the man had no sense of tact. He seemed brave enough, sure, but bravery without wisdom was just stupidity. Either way, things were moving along, rapidly spiraling into a mess that the Council couldn't possibly fathom.

He got another message from his Omni-tool.

'Uplink is ready.'

Now they approach the end game. What happened in the next few minutes will be a monumental moment for the four most powerful races in the Milky Way. There would be violence, most certainly, and a lot of anger and resentment born from this importune meeting. But he knew that what would happen after that would help protect the entire galaxy.

With that thought giving him a bit of strength he followed the Council out, intent on protecting them one last time.


Citadel Tower, Council Chambers

A lot more people were in the chamber than Hackett expected.

Lining the walkways along the wide chamber were dozens, possibly hundreds of people: ambassadors, diplomats, and just a few career politicians here and there. Perhaps it was because he barged in here without a proper invitation, and without a meeting scheduled everyone just liked to loiter here. Hackett had no idea how many would stay after he made himself known.

But he did notice a few camera crews, and all of them seemed to be filming. It was odd and he realized that his movements had been anticipated somehow, but he couldn't complain. He wanted an audience to see this, he wanted as many people as possible to see this. That way there wouldn't be a chance for censorship.

Hackett gave a command to his Marines and they dispersed and gave him a respectful amount of space. With Anderson and Mikkai by his side, he climbed the stairs, scoffing at the gilded statue standing there proudly to his right. It was an eyesore: a gilded statue of the Councils most decorated Spectre, Saren Arterius.

That man got himself a statue, whereas most others would've been gifted with only an execution. For perpetrating acts of terrorism, mass murder, and a dozen other instances of brutality and disregard for sentient life. The Council lorded him as their shining example, an instrument of their judgment and will, and that alone all but reinforced Hackett's opinion of the Councillors and their methods.

"No guards, no snipers either," Mikkai muttered, though Hackett didn't pay attention to that.

The Council was the reason he was here, and he planned to exchange a few words. Stepping forward along the Petitioner's Stage, a single stretch of walkway hung over a garden. It was a nice view below, but it was sullied as he looked up.

He glared up at the higher platform, and sure enough, standing there were the Councillors. All of them lording themselves on their perch like kings of old, looking down at everyone that came before them. It was a symbol of their domineering ways over almost every race that was part of the Citadel. Those that did not stand on that platform were never treated with deference, often ridiculed and restricting the Alliance and any other race that tried to negotiate with them.

How many years has the System Alliance scraped and fought for a place in the galaxy? For every step forward they took, they seemed to be forced to sacrifice more and more. Pride was a forgotten thing. Those who thought they were the Council's lap dogs were right. They had to obey every little whim those bastards wanted them too, jumping through hoops for no reason other than to teach them to behave. They saw humanity as untrained and rabid animals that needed to be domesticated.

They were dogs back then, and at least they were occasionally gifted treats.

Now they aren't even considered as valuable as dung. Whatever loyalties the Council may have had, whatever respect might have been earned, it was all gone now. The System Alliance had lost all credibility with the Council if there was any to be lost to begin with. But most importantly, the System Alliance had come to realize that they didn't need the Council's recognition and respect anymore.

"Admiral Hackett, this is an unauthorized and unsanctioned meeting. On top of that, you've also had the gall to bring armed guards. Do you want to flaunt your own superiority so badly that it results in your own incarceration?" Tevos shouted from on high.

All three stood there, tall and proud. It sickened him that they could act that high and mighty and think they could get away with all they have done. Not anymore.

"Spare me, I have seen the lengths I need to go in order to protect my people from your authoritarian regime. It ends here." Hackett stated, stepping forward and inserting the data module into the podium before him.

Immediately three copies appeared before the Councillors, who gave it only the briefest of glances before Hackett saw recognition and shock take away those smug expressions of theirs.

"You have overstepped, Councillors. Eden Prime was the last straw." Hackett stated, "Sixteen hours ago Alliance Parliament and all allied nations under the System Alliance voted unanimously to cut any and all tied between the System Alliance and that of the Council Races."

Hackett could see the shock pass through the rest of the chamber as the Alliance declared itself independent, but he was far from finished.

"In accordance to this, all Citadel Council ships within our space and occupying our colonies have twelve hours to vacate. Return all prisoners and detainees to Alliance custody or face immediate reprisal." Hackett said, narrowing his eyes as he spoke with clear contempt, "Both those still in Alliance space and those being held outside of it."

That caused an uproar throughout the chamber, shouts of shock and horror rippling through the crowd at the clear threat: War. Hackett was threatening to bring down the hammers of war onto their heads. It should have been expected for things to come full circle as the Council finally felt consequences for their actions, but somehow it was still a surprise.

Now to wait and see what they would do, and he wondered if they had the spines to actually challenge him. He hoped they did. He just hoped that since they were on camera that they wouldn't try to be diplomatic, either reasoning with him or attempting to overturn the Alliance's decision to leave the Council's authority.

"You come in here and do this? You rant about some colony and yet you are the one who has stepped into this chamber illegally to threaten us. What gives you the right to stand there and say we are in the wrong?" Tevos demanded, her cool had slipped, a frenzy overtaking her as she was obviously unhinged.

Good, he wanted them backpedaling.

"Because of this!" Hackett said, showing off another set of images, and even using the holographic projectors in the chamber to display some of the crimes the Council had perpetrated over the years. Information he had been collecting and received over that same period. He showed the results of the Council's actions across Alliance space, what effect their presence and abuse of authority has had on the human race. They would face their sins and he would make sure of it.

"Aeclanum, Ismara, Ferentium, and Valdivia were destroyed by pirate attacks, resulting directly from you forcing our navy to be grounded. Yet it doesn't amount to the slaughter you orchestrated on Brahma." Hackett responded, some bite and fury working its way into his words, "Three thousand colonists were killed by your soldiers when they occupied the colony, and it was orchestrated and perpetrated by the same man that had massacred over fifty thousand people on Eden Prime. Saren Arterius, who you rescued after we detained him. Furthermore, you attempted to hide your involvement and crimes by detaining that entire colony and threatened to exterminate everyone there if they resisted illegal occupation."

As he spoke, images played, showing their reckless disregard for human life and rights. People were torn from their homes, civilians killed in the streets, unrest and discontent beaten back with violence. The council had crippled humanity in many ways: militarily, economically, governmentally, but mankind had gained a desire to see the ones who had robbed them of so much pay.

Hackett had tried many times to get people to fight back and gathered many to his side to struggle and build up a resistance against the Council's wide-reaching arm. He had been planning this for more than a few years, since the Council first started taking control, in fact. But to pull it off was an impossible dream, and even with Eden Prime and many of the other crimes that the Council had perpetrated he still didn't have the right spark that would make people rise up. It took a special kind of offense to make people disregard the consequences and possible death that came with war.

Every man, woman, and child on earth had been given the grizzly details of what transpired on Eden Prime. The Council's Spectre slaughtering everyone there. The detaining of all the brave soldiers and survivors on the planet under the threat of death if they resisted. Most of all, how they had invaded Arcturus and attempted to take him as a prisoner. All that, he knew, would amount to little, just more fuel to the fire that has yet to be started. It was an outrage, yes, but it wasn't enough to spur the common man into action. And that was what he wanted; the anger and rage boiling and fire stoked, ready to explode with just the right push.

He had their attention, now he just needed to give them that push.

"Furthermore, there was the capture and detainment of Guardian of Elysium."

It was utter chaos, spreading in the wake of the information he had sent across dozens of colonies. The last he had heard, the Council forces were actually being driven off. On Earth, the Parliament was under intense pressure to retaliate and to fight back against the Council for taking their icon prisoner. Hackett suspected that had the Parliament stalled any longer they would have been drawn and quartered by the angry mobs outside their doors. Possibly literally.

He had told them as such and suddenly, they found it easy to reach a decision.

Hackett had turned a major military disaster and an unrecoverable blow to humanity into an equally powerful rally cry. Now humanity was more than eager to see the Council forced out for good.

"Humanity has had enough of your injustice. They want their freedom back and we will fight for it if we have to. War is on your doorstep now Councillors, what are you going to do?" Hackett uttered.

They did not respond immediately, obviously taken aback by what was happening. Hackett would have liked to continue, but soon armed guards were swarming the chamber. Likely they were the Council's private security, though they sure took their sweet time getting here. They were too late to stop him, anyway.

"Do you have any idea what you are saying? Going to war would plunge the entire galaxy into chaos." Tevos stated, whatever superiority she had projected before was only being held onto by a thread, "Millions of lives would be lost! it would destabilize all of Council and Alliance space alike! You think what you are doing now will save humanity and the System Alliance? It will ensure its end if you follow through with this madness."

"What I do now is for the protection of humanity. I didn't start this, you did. The moment you saw humanity as a threat because of the Anomalies. You made us your enemy when you stepped on our rights and freedoms. And, most of all," Hackett growled, glaring up at the Asari, "You all but declared war on us when you kidnapped the one man that has the undying respect of every human in the System Alliance."

His men raised their weapons, leveling them with the newly arrived C-Sec guard. This would be the moment that would decide the start of the war, the first shots fired here would be heard across all of Citadel and Alliance space.

"It was time you answered for all your crimes-"

"You really should calm down old man."

Hackett heard the words clearly enough, even if they should have been barely audible over the din of the chamber. In fact, he was sure that everyone had heard, not because it was loud, but because of just how quiet and calm it was in the sea of unrest. Everything was suddenly very, very quiet.

Turning the Admiral looked to the speaker, finding him sitting upon the statue's head, looking down towards him with an unreadable gaze. It was obvious why everyone had fallen silent, why this hall was not reverberating with the hushed whispers and muted shouts.

The Guardian of Elysium had just arrived.

With the threats humanity had liberally thrown around, plenty of the aliens must have thought the Anomaly had shown up to smite them.

Ichigo resisted a grimace at the way everyone stared at him with either outright fear or reverence. As long as they were quiet enough for him to speak, they could look all they wanted, "You've made a lot of bold claims just now, calling out the Council for the stunts they've pulled. I'm not going to deny that what you have said is true, but you've made a mistake or two."

Despite the rumors, Hackett certainly didn't expect the young man to suddenly materialize and start criticizing his speech. And it wasn't as if he could stop it, but it was strange to hear the Guardian refer to him as an 'old man' even if it didn't sound like an insult. More like a statement of fact, even if Hackett was pretty sure the 'youngster' was several times his age.

It still felt a little disrespectful.

"Care to elaborate, young man?" Hackett asked.

The teen scoffed and carelessly slipped free from his perch, barely making a sound even when he landed, lighter than any cat. Once his feet touched the surface, he started walking forward, calmly approaching Hackett and standing before him. Hackett wouldn't deny that standing before a being such as Ichigo was intimidating. He prided himself on being undaunted by those more powerful than himself, be it militarily, politically, or physically. But he felt a sense of inferiority before this being before him, like an aura of raw superiority surrounded him.

"I told you to calm down already," Ichigo grumbled, looking unamused at Hackett's attempts to stare him down, "I'm here to help. And the first thing I'm going to do is tell you that you have it wrong. You shouldn't blame the entirety of the Citadel races for what happened to humanity. If you want to blame someone, look no further than those three."

Hackett glanced over his shoulder to the Council, all three frozen in place and unable to move. He could see their fear, and it was a bit terrifying in and of itself to see them so rattled by the Guardian's presence. They were always so confident and calm, never having to feel inferior to another person in this galaxy. But now here they were, lambs before the wolf, wondering if they would be devoured.

"The Councillors are solely responsible for the unrest and instability that has consumed Alliance Space?" Hackett looked back at Ichigo and raised a brow.

He was making a rather bold claim, saying that the Council was only using minimal support from their own government to carry out the witch hunt and social collapse of the human race? He doubted such a thing was possible. There had to be an elaborate chain of command for such a thing to occur.

"I doubt that is true. From what I have heard you had no idea about the conflict that has arisen between the System Alliance and the Citadel Council until recently," Hackett stated, recalling a report from Mikkai of Lieutenant Shepard's conversation with the Guardian. He seemed unaware of the current political climate between humanity and the three Council races.

So how was it that he could know more about what had happened than Hackett himself?

"I'm not going to deny that that's true, but I've been caught up on all the details. And from the sounds of it, you seem to know less than I do," Ichigo replied. "Listen closely since it sounds like I've got to fill you in on what's happened. You might want to take some notes."

Ichigo then walked past Hackett and onto the Petitioner's Stage where individuals often stood to speak up to the Council. Now he stood there, looking up to the Council and overshadowing them completely.

"As I said before, aside from several very specific political allies and associates, these three are the main cause of humanities suffering over the last five years," Ichigo stated.

The statement seemed to finally snap the Councillors out of their stupor, although only one of them had the nerve to speak. Although, she still looked reluctant to open her mouth and draw any attention towards herself. Despite this, she did speak, with surprising clarity and calmness that belied how she appeared.

"That is not true. The Council is in…"

"Be quiet."

Councillor Tevos was very quiet.

Hackett recognized that kind of fear. It wasn't a primal thing where you were standing before a predator or creature that could snap your neck and crack open your skull and so you were silent to avoid its gaze. No, it was a fear of judgement, of the retribution that was about to descend upon you and see you punished for all slights dealt. Humanity often called the Anomalies angels, protectors from the heavens, meant to punish the wicked.

It seemed that the idea had caught on, at least with the Council. They weren't afraid because they thought he was going to kill them on a whim, they thought he was going to execute them for all the wrongs they had done. That this little trial was just a fun little game he was stringing along before he got to the verdict where he delivered justice in the form of dismemberment.

"You've spoken enough, and I don't feel like listening to you try and drag someone else down with your words. If you do wish to speak, you can do so after I am finished." Ichigo stated with a level of authority in his tone that made Hackett think back to his time in boot camp. All those Staff Sergeants and Captains breathing down his neck and reminding him never to go against an order, to never disobey a superior officer.

The Council wasn't under his command or obligated in any way to listen to him. Yet through some otherworldly power, he had them all on a leash, unable to do anything but listen and pray to whatever deity they worshipped that they would be safe.

"Now, as I was saying, the Council is responsible for bringing the System Alliance to the brink of collapse. And they have been doing it illegally." Ichigo stated. "There are only a few people within their governments actively helping them do this, as the majority of the Hierarchy, Union, and Republic have no knowledge of the Council's activities."

Hackett was actually surprised to hear that, and from the sounds of it so was everyone else.

"The Councillors have actively been feeding their governments false information on events involving the Alliance and humanity, along with bribing and conscripting certain governmental officials to help them cover up and help them keep this information hidden, and also aid them in continuing their occupation of Alliance space under false pretenses."

Again another wave of murmuring rippled throughout the room, he had the feeling that not many knew what was actually going on here. He certainly didn't have all the facts, but it was causing a stir.

"Do you have any proof?" Anderson asked, speaking up and earning himself a glance from the Anomaly.

"Yes," Ichigo replied, raising his right arm and allowing it to be bathed in the projected glow of an Omni-tool. It was oddly bright blue and seemed to act of its own free will, not even a twitch of a finger was made before it performed its intended purpose.

Immediately Hackett's Omni-tool appeared, alongside Anderson's, and, if Hackett had to guess, possibly every single person's in the entire chamber. Even the large holographic projector at the end of the room flared to life and started sifting through dozens of reports and files.

Hackett gleamed through the information, quickly taking it in and immediately he found the proof. He found correspondence between the Council and several officials, Matriarch's, Generals, Admirals, Commanders, and several notable mercenary groups.

It was all here, details regarding who their contacts were and what they were meant to be doing in this grand scheme. Their missions and actions across Alliance space, the falsified reports, all of it was suddenly laid bare. This was all they needed and more to bury the Council, but inside he found other secrets. That tempered fury he once had when he stepped into the chamber returned, boiling in his breast and barely contained as he felt compelled to draw his pistol and shoot the Councillors.

"They may not have the militaristic, financial, or even legal backing of their governments, but they still have a lot under their personal control that they can use to fulfill their own agendas," Ichigo continued, "The Council fleet is their main military force, and with it, they have enough ships and soldiers to easily police and oversee most of Alliance space without requesting additional funding. Along with that, they have Spectres and STG operatives to handle some of their less-than-legal activities when needed – all their operations are already classified and only three people are allowed to see them."

That was barely breaching the surface of what was going on; the Council had used most of their resources to personally attack the System Alliance. Finding people with anti-human sentiments and concerns centered around the Anomalies, they were promised more political power or influence in return for their help. Most of them were lower-ranking politicians and military personnel that were greedy for a chance to climb their respective ladders, and the Council had just the influence needed to make that happen.

He even found evidence that a Blackwatch battalion was taken over by a recently promoted General and used to carry out raids and attacks on several colonies suspected of actively rebelling against the Council.

He knew enough about this, of the colonies that had been lost because of the Council's negligence, and in some cases, by their own hands. Hackett knew many of the sins they had committed, and this only provided him with proof of their crimes. But what he hated most of all was how they financed this.

"This changes nothing and doesn't help your case. You may say that these three are responsible and that their governments didn't know, but I have hard facts that say otherwise." Hackett said, trying to keep his eyes on the back of the Guardian, "Why are you protecting them?"

"I'm not, I'm telling you the facts so that you can make a decision," Ichigo replied, "Besides, those that aided the Council do not possess any major political power in their own governments. They joined out of greed and hate, and they are few and far between. Nothing but puppets to those three up there."

Hackett wanted to say more, tell him that that wasn't the truth.

"I can see that you're unconvinced," Ichigo muttered, turning back to the Councillors, "Tell me, did any of your governments give you the authority and support you needed for your personal crusade?"

None of the three Councillors spoke, instead standing nearly motionless and scared. It was hard to tell if it was because he was still there or if the information was going to condemn them for life, at best.

"But if you really want to know the truth, then you just need to look at where they're getting their money from," Ichigo said.

"I have seen," Hackett replied, "They have been stealing from us."

"They've also been stealing from their own governments."

The information was so unexpected that Hackett felt almost dizzy from the revelation. Dizzy and off-balance at the sheer implications, and he wasn't the only one.

"Enough! Be silent!" Sparatus yelled, leaning against his podium, "Executor! Arrest them all! Now! Detain them!"

Hackett looked towards the armed soldiers that completely surrounded him, noting that they had yet to even raise their weapons. While fear of the Anomaly might have explained their hesitation, the fact that their commanding officer hadn't said a word was strange. In fact, he looked too calm for the situation.

"Executor! I am ordering you to arrest them!" Sparatus yelled, but when he was met with no response, he directed his ire onto another, "Vasir! Take command and arrest them."

The Asari Spectre looked ready to take a step forward, but Hackett saw Ichigo turn his head ever so slightly in her direction. She froze instantly, unable to move, and stayed that way until the Guardian looked away. She sagged and stumbled back few steps, and made no move to go forward again.

"She knows better than to do anything stupid, and I would have thought that the three of you would have the same sense," Ichigo huffed in annoyance.

He couldn't see the look, but whatever he was doing while looking at the Councillors seemed to have cowed them into silence and taken away the trembling fear within them. Only cold dread remained, robbing them of all control of their body and leaving them as living statues.

Ichigo finally turned, looking towards Hackett and addressing him directly.

"The Council has been taking money from the System Alliance for some time now, and you likely saw it when you were rummaging through the data I sent. But within that file is also information revealing that the Council has been taking money from their respective governments and using it to finance all operations," Ichigo waved his hand again and the information appeared, "The embargo is still in effect in name only; it was lifted shortly after Cerberus was destroyed, with funds and trade being held by the Council. They used it along with several interspecies projects and Alliance programs to help finance the next four years of their operation."

Hackett looked through it, his blood was boiling again. He had read the reports already, from the Andromeda Initiative, Ascension Project, even the Normandy program had all been scrapped by the Council. He had been so busy being enraged by the news that he hadn't ever thought to look into where the remaining funds for those projects had gone. Things had long ago gone 'too far', so to learn this? Well, the only reason he hadn't shot those three was because he didn't know if he could kill them all before he was taken down. Not that he had a snowball's chance in hell if the Anomaly didn't want them killed.

"How can they do this?" Hackett saw Shepard shaking, her hand clenching over her gun. She was clearly struggling to smother the same impulse he felt, "Why did they do this?"

"Sorry, but that's my fault no matter how you look at it. They did it because of me and my kind. Fear is a powerful thing; it keeps you alive and reminds you of what danger is, but it can also make good people do terrible things 'just in case'," Ichigo stated, sounding like he actually pitied the Council, "The Council wanted validation, to give a face to their fears and to no longer be ignorant as to what exactly I am. When they couldn't find anything that satisfied them, they just kept digging, uncaring of the damage they caused so long as they could make the world make sense again."

Fear was one of the reasons Hackett did what he had. When they had first seen Ichigo in those recordings on Elysium, he wasn't ashamed to admit that he had been afraid. Of the possibility that he was a super soldier born from some sort of rogue program dedicated to creating super-powered beings. But what he and the other admirals feared more was what the Council and other races would do, and they were justified in that fear.

"This is a lie! All of it!" Tevos finally snapped, her composure completely gone, "All of this is fabricated! Made up and forged! You have nothing but falsehoods!"

"So you're saying that I somehow had time to forge all of these documents?" Ichigo asked, giving a slight 'hmm' and a small shrug, "Okay, I suppose I can humor your suspicions since nothing here is too recent, so I guess it's possible that I'm making it all up. So, how about we use something a little more recent instead? Something I couldn't have possibly had time to forge, considering I only just woke up."

The holographic projector showed off a single terrestrial orb, and Hackett immediately recognized the planet.

"Specifically, your involvement with Eden Prime."

This kid was smart and to a scary degree. Most people probably assumed he was a brute with a sword and too much power, but no brute could have pulled this off. Even if he had been given the information and been told what he needed to say, he was clearly smart enough to react and adapt to anything the councilors threw at him. It was no small feat to control the flow of a conversation so completely, and even more impressive to do it all with such an obviously cool head. He wasn't stiffly reciting lines and counting on his reputation to keep everyone's mouth shut, but instead completely commanding the room. He knew and intimately understood what had happened, and knew how to turn any accusations thrown at him right around to rip apart his opponents.

"We were not involved in any attack on Eden Prime!" Tevos yelled.

"Attack? No, for once you're actually innocent there. Saren orchestrated the attack himself," Ichigo said, and that was a surprise to hear. Hackett would have liked to put that nail in the Council's coffin, even if there wasn't any space left, "However, the attack and Saren's involvement were both covered up by you. I'm not going to dance around this, so I'll just go ahead and show you."

"The attack on Eden Prime was a failure; we did not secure the Beacon and Saren was captured… How can we hope to defeat the Alliance if the Anomalies protect them?"

"That recording was of Matriarch Benezia, someone who personally aided Saren in the attack on Eden Prime. Now, I know for a fact you are aware of Benezia's involvement, and there's no way you haven't connected the two." Ichigo said, narrowing his eyes slightly and his tone carrying an edge, "Yet you have not formally charged Saren or even stripped him of his status, and I've found that you have no plans to do so either. Furthermore, you hid this information from the Republic that one of their most esteemed Matriarchs aided a rogue Spectre in attacking a human colony."

The room was silent, so quiet that one could almost hear the thundering heartbeats of the three councilors. They were finished- there was no way they could come back from this. Whatever plan Hackett had to try and cow the Council into submission was nowhere near as effective as the one the Guardian had employed.

"I don't need to do anything else, I have proven without a shadow of a doubt that you are responsible for a multitude of crimes both against the System Alliance and your own government. What happens now is that you wait for your punishment." Ichigo turned and looked to Hackett, "So, old man, I've made my case and there's only one thing left to do. I'll ask you one question: What are you going to do now?"

Hackett raised a brow at the question- it was a stupid thing to ask. He had made his intentions clear the moment he arrived and he knew Ichigo was well aware of them. With all the gory details of the Council's rape and mutilation of the entirety of humanity laid bare, they deserved nothing less than absolute retribution.

"There was already enough evidence to start a war before you showed up, but now…" He shook his head, "I was on the fence about starting it, so I came here because I thought I could resolve this peacefully as possible. But now? Now I don't believe that anymore." Hackett replied.

"You want to fight back then?"

"We, all of humanity, wants to fight back. The only question is now if we stop at our borders or not." Hackett replied, feeling his hands shake in poorly suppressed rage, "I want war. Ask any human and they will say the same damn thing."

Ichigo was silent for a moment, bowing his head and giving out a sigh, "It's a shame you think that way, but I suppose it can't be helped. But, a war would be a complete waste if you ask me."

He sounded disappointed as if the choice Hackett was making right now was wrong. But how could they be wrong?

"Where do you get off judging us?" Hackett growled. It was a borderline sacrilegious move to challenge the being before him, but he just had to do it. If he hadn't wanted war, then why had he revealed all that evidence? He had to have known how anyone would react! "Everything started because of you, you know. You showed up and flaunted your God-like abilities like some sort of peacock before scurrying off when the fighting was done. Leaving us to clean up the mess."

Hackett actually felt the need to step forward and poke him in the chest, and he very nearly did that. But self-preservation restrained him to only leveling an accusing finger at the Anomaly, "You have no right to judge what we do, not when you go around and cause nothing but mayhem and ignore the consequences. I want those three," He hissed, glaring at the councilors, "dragged through the streets before all the people they wronged. Let them be showered with rubble and insults for everything they did. I know the rest of humanity wants that, and I plan to do it as soon as every Council ship and soldier in Alliance space is driven out and brought to heel. That is what I want, and I don't give a damn what you say in the matter."

Ichigo was silent for a moment, staring right back at Hackett with an unflinching gaze. It was not disrespectful, but there wasn't the slightest trace of doubt or fear. To expect an Anomaly to be afraid of an old human was laughable, but he also didn't seem offended at being lectured either.

"That," Ichigo started, slow and purposeful but with as much importance as his every action seemed to exude, "is how it starts, Admiral. The anger, the hate...In the end, it doesn't amount to anything though. It won't go away even when you get your revenge or receive what you deem to be just compensation. Instead, you're left with a hole in your heart. And that is the most dangerous thing I can think of."

There was odd wisdom in his words, and Hackett suspected he wasn't talking to him anymore though. He was proven correct when Ichigo passed by and started to speak, addressing everyone in the room.

"Who here has experienced war? Felt the despair of losing those close to you? Seen the atrocities and evil that it brings out in yourself? Where no man is on the right side?" Ichigo asked, gaze dragging over each individual in turn, "Every war, every battle, and every conflict in history has been fought for the same reason. Because both sides think they are 'in the right'. They both think that they have justice on their side, but in the end, only the ones that win get to decide who was actually correct."

He finally turned back to Hackett.

"War is an endless cycle, a flame fanned by the bitterness and pain of those who have no other choice than to lash out, causing further misery for all because they can no longer be happy. It leaves behind ash and memories, and they, in turn, become the kindling of every conflict that follows." Ichigo stated, his voice picking up, "Do you want to know what started this war? What really started it? It was them...and then it was you. I am nothing more than a catalyst, something for the two of you to argue over and use to justify yourselves."

Hackett drew back at the accusation. How could he make such a claim, where was he going with this?

"There has been hate and prejudice between all of you for decades, a prejudice I recognize and have seen since the moment humanity first met and fought against the Turians. That anger, that hate, that resentment, that pain from all those years ago still lingers within you." Ichigo said.

"That was a long time ago, times change, and a new generation came." Hackett fired back, he felt a desperate need to validate himself here. He couldn't just let this slide, let him make his point, because if he did, Hackett knew that Ichigo would get his way.

"As if anyone has ever forgotten a grudge. One generation? Maybe two? I have seen the worst humanity has to offer, prejudice against their own kinds, based on skin color, on ethnicity, on religion, and they lasted for generations. People may have forgotten the reason, but they still fought just as viciously as if they had been personally wronged." Ichigo argued back, "So tell me, this burning fire, this hate...Do you think it would have been better for humanity to keep fighting? To not have given up on Shanxi?"

"What would you know about Shanxi?" Hackett demanded.

"I was there, I saw the fighting. In the streets, on the fields, and across every inch of the planet as the humans and Turians tore into each other. I saw hate, fear, shame, regret, and despair born and nurtured in the hearts of every person there. And that has not left them. No, instead it has been passed on to their children, left to grow in their hearts even after peace was supposedly found."

"What do you expect, for us to forget what happened? Acts like that, unjust attacks, are wounds that will not heal just because a few people decided that they should."

"Wounded pride is a better way to describe it," Ichigo replied, "Because, just like now, it's once again a few people doing something foolish and not caring who gets caught in the crossfire."

He steps forward, standing right in front of Hackett as he spoke lowly.

"People who seek conflict do it because they have no idea how to channel that anger anymore; they lash out and destroy everything around them in an attempt to rid themselves of that gnawing pain. One pain is not solved by another, life doesn't work that way." Ichigo said.

Sage advice, Hackett supposed, but there was no way that anyone was going to let go of this.

"I suppose you know a way?" Shepard suddenly asked.

Hackett glanced at her, but she completely ignored him. Instead, she watched the Anomaly intently, almost transfixed. As if his words came out of the Bible, preordained by God and holding the power to sway the masses. But she was not the only one, he saw it all across the chamber as everyone listened, human and non-humans alike seemed to hold their breath lest they miss his next words.

"Prove you are better than them," Ichigo replied.

He stepped away once more, turning to the crowd, speaking loud and clear.

"War amounts to nothing; if you think the misery you have suffered through will change and get better if you start fighting and destroying everything around you, then you are wrong. All you'll accomplish is trapping yourselves in the same bitter and broken world you fought to change. You want your revenge, you want to show up the Council? Then show them that you are greater than they ever were."

Hackett looked around and saw that many seem to be hanging off his every word. Gone was the fear. It had withered and died when Ichigo refused to feed it, and it its place the seeds of admiration grew and began to sprout.

"For decades you have been under the thumb of these guys, catering to their demands and desires and hoping to gain their approval and favor. They took your homes, your freedom, and everything that made you who you are away!" Some vocalized their agreement, and jeering and murmuring broke out among the onlookers, "You have to fight tooth and nail to get where you are, every struggle and hardship you endured amounted to nothing, because they took it away from you. But they won't be able to do that again."

"Humanity has proven itself to be one of the most powerful forces in the galaxy, yet you do not have a single defining trait about yourselves. Not like them." Ichigo said, giving a half-hearted shrug towards the Council, "You are tenacious and hungry for a purpose, so don't let what happens here be defined by us losing ourselves to hate and base instinct. Defy that primal nature, ignore all the claims and insults thrown your way. You want to prove yourselves? Go ahead and stand on your own two feet and show them what humanity can do."

He seemed to gain some zeal.

"You were stripped of your pride and freedom! Let the hate and ridicule your endured harden your heart and give you the strength to never face such hardships again." Ichigo called out, a shout of agreement came from a few – who seemed to awkwardly back away as if they had lost control of themselves for a moment.

"Homes and colonies were reduced to rubble, don't forget that. But let the foundations of what is built in their place be stronger and greater than before. Never give up or surrender to defeat, always move forward, never look back. You will gain nothing if you pull back, so seize the now and never allow yourself to be beaten." Ichigo shouted. Again, people shouted, more numerous this time and none stepped back – no, his words now brought courage to their souls.

"You stand on your own, prove how strong you are!" Ichigo called out, and a roaring applause met him in turn.

Hackett had to admit that was an impressive speech and certainly got the people fired up. He had to remember that Ichigo and the Anomalies, in general, were considered gods by the people; their actions and words would carry more weight than anyone else's ever could. To the average person, someone like Ichigo would be like a messiah, but not to Hackett. No, the Admiral saw in Ichigo something a more pragmatic man would see, not some deity or prophet, but a leader.

To be able to inspire people around him, despite his infamy and the obvious anxiety his mere presence caused showed a talent at stirring the hearts of anyone he came across. Even aliens weren't immune to his natural charisma. Talent like that was rare, often dangerous to have, but he could tell in this young man's hands it was a tool that could prevent even the greatest war.

"Inspiring, but do you think that I'm going to leave here without the Council's head on a platter?" Hackett asked, slowly. The Anomaly may have convinced those here not to immediately go to war, but he was not leaving until he knew that the Council was getting exactly what they deserved.

"Oh, don't worry, you'll enjoy this part," Ichigo replied, a smirk on his face as he glanced up to the Councillor's platform.

Hackett had no idea what he meant, not until he saw that those same C-Sec soldiers that had once surrounded him and his men were now converging on the Council. Now that they were surrounded on all sides by two dozen armed soldiers, they looked more than a little anxious by the turn of events.

"Executor, what are you doing?" Tevos asked.

"Guards." The Executor ordered, and immediately the guns were raised and trained on the Councillors, "Councillors, you three are under arrest."

As he listed off the charges, ranging from corruption to high treason, the three were detained and cuffed. Tela Vasir was also arrested for her own apparent crimes, and even some in the crowd were being dragged down to the ground floor to be carted off. It was a surprisingly quick and professional affair, with not a single person singled out to be humiliated.

"You will be moved to Palavan where you will await sentencing for your crimes." The Executor said, leading them out of the chamber all the while Sparatus was shouting at Pallin to let them go.

It would be an understatement to say they were surprised because even Hackett hadn't expected the Council's own soldiers to turn against them. He turned back towards the Guardian, wondering if his words had anything to do with it the strange turn of events. Had the evidence presented actually been enough convinced them to turn their backs on the Councillors or was it something else? Ichigo seemed to sense the question and answered it before Hackett could ask.

"The Republic, Union, and Hierarchy have been informed of the situation and been given the evidence as needed. I learned before coming here that they had already ordered that the Councillors be stripped of all privileges and power."

"You planned this," Hackett meant to ask, but it came out as a statement.

Something like this couldn't have been anything but planned, after all.

"Yes," Ichigo replied simply before he turned and walked away. "Humanity is free now, the Council forces have already started their retreat, so you have a lot of work to do. Don't waste good men and woman fighting against your neighbors, but instead worry about what's going on inside your borders. Okay?"

Hackett watched him leave, descending the steps as any normal man would. He chose to walk away from this instead of vanishing like a dream. He had no idea if it was symbolic of something but he supposed it made him appear more human. Yet everyone still moved out of the way, parting without even a whisper.

A thought crossed Hackett's mind and he wondered if he should try to bring the Anomaly back to Earth to be questioned. Learning about the Anomalies in their entirety was something that would greatly aid the Alliance, give them insight and knowledge that was probably on a whole other level...But if he had any intention of coming, he probably would have said so. And forcing the teen was completely out of the question, not that the Admiral would ever be foolish to attempt something. His own people had rules as well, refusing to freely interact with humans without reason. And, despite going against those rules all the time, the Guardian still decided that he wouldn't act without a very good reason.

It was best he left peacefully. He had already done more than enough.

Yet someone didn't want him to leave just yet, and that person was the lieutenant chasing after him.


Shepard ran as quickly as she could in her heavy armor; there was no way she was going to let him slip away from her. If she didn't do anything he would vanish and never be seen again, not until another crisis descended. It had been five years since he had last been seen and she was not going to wait any longer to see him again. She had to speak with him now.

"Hey!" Shepard called out, chasing Ichigo as he walked towards the elevator.

People parted before him like the red sea, given the religious dogma that follows the Anomalies around. Considering what she had seen, it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities that he could split the sea if he really wanted to with sheer power alone. When she finally caught up with him, walking by his side and trying to get his attention, he glanced towards her out of the corner of his eye.

"Can I help you?" Ichigo asked, coming to a stop before the elevator.

"You're using the elevator?" Shepard asked slowly. He could move impossibly fast, so why would he want to use the ridiculously slow elevators?

"I was thinking of opening a tear into another dimension and walking through it, but I figured that might be a little much, so elevator it is," Ichigo replied, stepping inside as the doors opened – and Shepard laughed a little on the inside when the passengers tried to leave as fast as possible without getting close to Ichigo.

Shepard fearlessly walked in after him even as others stared at her like she had lost her mind. He wasn't getting off that easy, and she really had no reason to be afraid of him.

"I take it you aren't here for the music?" Ichigo asked, leaning against the glass and crossing his arms.

"You caught me. I'm here for some answers." Shepard replied, mirroring him and crossing her arms across her chest. He looked at her lazily and she met his gaze easily, "Why did you do that? Why did you come here and go through all that trouble to get the Council kicked out of office and not have us do anything?"

Ichigo was silent for a moment. She could hear the gears in his mind turning as he thought, and she wondered if would lie to her or not.

"You know the answer I gave to everyone, and that's about half of the truth," Ichigo replied. "As the Alliance is now, you wouldn't be able to fight something like a war. Your forces are grossly undermanned, so you have to get your fleet and army back onto its feet before anything else."

Shepard could understand the logic behind that, but it shouldn't take too long to rebuild their fleet and army. Maybe a few weeks to refit the ships and get them back in order all while the soldiers were whipped back into shape. There had to already be plenty of secret operations to do that already in place, so it was only a matter of time before they could march from world to world and push out any occupiers that didn't belong.

"It wouldn't take that long to get our boys back in uniform," Shepard said. She knew that couldn't be the only reason.

"Maybe. But, more importantly, the System Alliance needs to recover; in the wake of the Council's departure, you're going to be more vulnerable than you probably think. Dealing with pirates is one thing, but you'll also have to fix your government, your economy, and any other damage left in the wake of evicting the Council. There will be social unrest as well that you'll have to deal with." Ichigo stated.

"You seem to know a lot about this." Shepard shouldn't be so surprised though. If he could come into that chamber and all but humiliate the Council, he clearly wasn't a meathead with a sword.

"I've seen things like this happen before, granted, on a much smaller scale. I may be young by my kind's standards, but I know how things work," Ichigo replied, waving off any compliment.

"But why go about it like you did in there? I can understand why you want us to not fight but why try to completely defuse the situation like that? Why not just threaten them to leave us alone?"

"I guess I do come off as the type of guy to knock people's heads together to make them stop fighting, and once I kind of was, but that would only cause more harm than good here," Ichigo replied with a shrug, "People already have an impression of what I'm like, that I will go around and will start murdering people if they do something wrong. It doesn't matter if that's wrong or not, because that's all most aliens are going to think when they see me. And that's what landed us in this situation in the first place."

"But you said…"

"I wasn't lying about that. I was the catalyst, the Council feared the System Alliance was responsible and targeted them as much as they did because they didn't care about the repercussions and how they would affect humanity." Ichigo replied, catching on quick and stopping her.

"So… you did it to improve your image?" Shepard inquired.

"No, I did it because people would have to listen to me. I can't be dragged out or assassinated by your weapons, so they had to hear what I wanted to say. But it was mostly to make them listen to reason and try to destroy the image everyone has about me." Ichigo responded, just as the door to the elevator opened, "If I went in there, killed everyone I didn't life, and then declared that their entire government had to change, what would that accomplish? It would just reinforce that concept of me being a mindless destroyer and then suddenly everything the Council did would seem a lot more reasonable. If I attacked, I would have only put humanity into the line of fire."

The elevator opened with a slight ping, and Ichigo walked out, Shepard right behind him. She could already see people looking at them, gawking and pointing like they were exotic creatures roaming free. Well, she supposed that an Anomaly was exactly that to some people, but at least they kept their distance, content to watch from far away and not interfere.

"So you want us safe then? I thought you said you didn't want to reinforce the misconceptions people have about you? People call you the Guardian after all." Shepard said, a little humor on her words as she said that.

"'He who protects', that's what my name means, no matter what anyone else would tell you." Ichigo replied, smiling slightly, "I wouldn't be able to live up to that if I led humanity down the path of war, one where it is not ready to fight."

So...that was it then?

"So, you want us to be ready then?" Shepard asked, frowning as that smile dropped and his expression went completely neutral. Guarded.

He sighed. "I want you to be ready because there will be conflict and chaos, I cannot deny that. Wasting lives and time fighting over baser things such as revenge will lead to people dying for no reason, and possibly even see to the end of your race."

"What do you mean?" She asked.

He didn't respond immediately, instead, he turned and walked towards the water's edge. He more stepped over the railing that vaulted over it, gliding over it as if gravity had forgotten about him for a moment. Shepard followed with a bit more trouble, nearly tripped as she caught sight of him quite literally walking over the water. He claimed to not be a god, but then he went and pulled crap like that. And in full view of hundreds of civilians, who were probably recording the entire event. Know what she did, he probably forgot how unnature it was, or maybe he just didn't care.

"Are we going to war with the Council? Is that who you meant?" Shepard called out to him.

"No, not them. In time you may need to put aside your differences and ask for help from them." Ichigo responded, and again she was baffled by what he was saying, "A new enemy is coming, you need to prepare for that instead."

"How? How the hell do we do that?" Shepard shouted at him.

"Things are going to get worse before they get better. But, if you face the adversaries that are coming for you now, it will temper you for the war to come." Ichigo said. "Grow strong Shepard, lead the way to change and make sure people remember what is most important."

And then he was just...gone. Not a whisp or trace or even a ripple in the water below him gave any hint that he was just there. Shepard looked over the waters and had to wonder what to take away from that conversation: What the hell was she going to tell the Admiral and Captain? There may not be a war with Council about to happen, but whatever was coming sounded like it was going to be bigger than they possibly could imagine if it was serious enough for Ichigo to warn her about.

"Things are just too complicated these days."


Ichigo turned and looked out over the Presidium watching the people mill about in front of the Citadel Tower. It had been about twenty minutes since his grand departure and already the news teams were on-site, reporting on the arrival of plenty of hot shots from the Council races.

His stunt had caught the attention of the entire station, and soon the entire galaxy at the rate things were progressing. But, for a moment he was happy, as all that negativity was being directed towards the people that actually deserved it. It might not last forever, nothing ever did, but in this time of temporary peace, it was better than nothing.

"That turned out as well as expected," Ichigo muttered to himself.

"Better than even I expected actually. I didn't think you would pull out that gem of a speech."

Ichigo turned towards Urahara, watching the man stroll towards him, that damned fan of his out and concealing the grin he surely couldn't control. Even with that in the way, Ichigo could tell exactly how impressed the man was. The shopkeeper stood beside him near the railing, both looking out over the Presidium and taking in the view of the thousands that had flocked to see what had happened. Soon, everyone would know.

"It is going well, the Union, the Republic, and the Hierarchy are already looking for replacements and have ordered all Council forces to stand down and return back to Citadel space," Urahara informed with obvious cheer, "You know I didn't have high hopes of a ceasefire, but, like always you, seem to pull off the impossible."

"You gave me enough leeway to make it happen."

Urahara had all but taken him under his wing and taught him the needed skills to get what he wanted...without 'storming the castle' as he had so-helpfully put it. He wouldn't call it a lasting peace, or even a legitimate ceasefire, but for the moment the Alliance and Council races weren't at each other's throats. The two factions would be too busy dealing with internal issues to bother with each other, so there was little to worry about with them having any serious conflicts for the moment.

"So how are the others?" Ichigo asked after a long moment of peaceful silence.

"Well enough."

Ichigo glanced over his shoulder to see the 'merry band' (Urahara's words, not his) walking his way.

"Got to admit, that was one hell of a performance up there. It nearly had me cheering with how good it was," Garrus said, standing next to him – shocking, really, how quickly he had gotten over his own fear – as he looked out over the Presidium, soon followed his partner Chellick and the shyer Tali. The only one not taking up a comfy position near the railing was Wrex, who was standing nearby and still waiting for his paycheck. He had already gone off to get another one for killing some guy called 'Fish' or whatever. Weird name, but Ichigo had heard worse.

"What can I say, I have a knack for public speaking," Ichigo said, giving an uncaring shrug.

"I should have known that was true. After all, you convinced my boss to actually let you go ahead with that stunt," Garrus said.

Speaking of him, Ichigo caught sight of the man who had been an instrumental part in making this plan work. His aid had all but ensured that everyone knew about the Council's misdeeds and also put them in, politically speaking, graves. Possibly literal graves, but only after they had repented to their government's satisfaction.

"Executor Palin." Urahara greeted, giving a tip of his bucket hat towards the Turian.

Ichigo pushed off the railing to face him fully. Palin didn't flinch, even as they were withing arms reach. After a few moments, Palin raised his arm and offered it to the Shinigami. Responding in kind, Ichigo gave it a firm shake. He had not expected to meet the Executor again after the incident a few hours ago. But when Urahara had mentioned gaining access to the station's communication relay and to the Presidium, he had mentioned Palin. Garrus had set up a meeting between them, and from there it had been an awkward discussion about what they wanted to do.

Convincing Palin to help them was difficult at first, but that changed when they showed him some of the illegal actions that Council has been doing over the years. Palin was a no-nonsense, by the books type officer, so seeing what the Council was getting away with gave him all the motivation he needed to help them. It had come to a surprise to Garrus and Chellick that he accepted so willingly, but dedication only went so far when the people you took orders from nearly got several thousand of your officers killed for no reason. Palin had been a major asset to them. He was the reason Hackett had actually been able to get through C-Sec without issue, and why no officers were present to stop him.

"Thanks for your help," Ichigo said with a simple nod of his head.

"Thank you for not killing my men, especially after Vasir tried to shoot you in the back," Palin replied.

"Bloodshed isn't what I wanted," Ichigo shrugged. It was hard to be mad over the act itself, more how she had put so many others in danger, even if he never intended to kill anyone there, "But, you are welcome."

"Regardless, you have my thanks, along with the thanks of all the Council races for helping depose the Council without incident," Palin replied. "I have been in contact with the Republic and they are very interested in seeing that information."

"I'll send you a copy," Urahara chirped.

"Does that mean that I am safe now?" Tali asked, sounding hopeful to finally have a target off her back.

"Yes, the Council of Matriarchs have informed me that Benezia has been stripped of her position and all assets frozen. An internal investigation is also underway, and there will be one in the Union and Hierarchy as well. As of now, Benezia is wanted for questioning and classified as an accomplice of Saren's," Palin informed.

Palin had very high-level access codes, and with such codes, it was child's play to use the station's main communication relay to broadcast information across half the galaxy in a matter of hours. There were more than enough cameras in the Council chambers, and the videos spoke for themselves. The Council could say whatever they wanted, and everyone on Palaven, Thessia, and Sur'Kesh heard it.

"What about Saren?" Garrus inquired.

"Detained, and he's being shipped to Palaven along with the rest of the Councillors. After that, he will likely be imprisoned for the rest of his days," Palin said, before he glanced at his Omni-Tool, "As much as I would like to talk more, I'm now currently the new governing body of this station until further notice, so my workload has increased drastically. If you will excuse me, I have a station to run."

"Good luck Executor, thanks again for your help," Urahara said, giving a friendly wave as he departed.

As the Executor left, Ichigo knew that the first phase of the plan was over, so now it was time to move onto the second one. Without needing any signal, Urahara was by his side, both of them walking along and discussing the next part of their plan.

"So, we're ready for our next move?" Ichigo asked.

"Yes, we can set out at the end of the day, I just need to close up shop," Urahara replied, a mischevious glint in his eye, "But I could always use a helping hand or two."

Ichigo raised a brow.

Urahara turned to the four aliens that were trailing a respectful distance behind them and smiled widely, "How would you all like to help us hunt down a ruthless mass murderer and dangerous entity that wants to see the death of all things in the Milky Way?"

"I'm in," Wrex said almost instantly. Ichigo suspected that the idea of fighting something dangerous had been the thing that convinced him to tag along. And possibly to get that paycheck he was owed, with a nice healthy bonus on top for his efforts, of course.

"Me too." Surprisingly it was Tali who spoke up, standing tall and proud as she made the declaration. The effect was ruined when she shrank back a little from everyone's curious gaze.

"Got any reason why?" Ichigo asked.

"Beside the fact you all saved me, I want to take part and repay you for all you have done for me," Tali said. "When I set out for my Pilgrimage, I needed to prove myself, to doing something with myself for the greater good. That I must do what is right in spite of personal doubt or ability, so how can I turn my back on those that helped me?"

Ichigo had to admire her dedication, not many have the strength to willing to face danger. Not when they knew exactly what it felt like to be hunted, to risk death with one wrong move. Most would rather run while they still had the chance, and yet she was willing to stick to her principles in spite of that apprehension.

"What about you two? You want in?" Urahara asked.

"You know, I think a little time off the station will be good for me," Garrus said. "I've seen your methods, and I think I like the goals you're are moving towards. You can count me in."

Chellick was silent for a moment before Garrus nudged him on the shoulder. He gave a sigh. "You're all crazy, and apparently I am too. Fine, I'll stick around for a while. Palin won't like it though."

"Call it a reassignment," Urahara suggested. He spun on his heel and continued forward, waving for the aliens to follow, "Things are certainly getting interesting now."

"Yeah, it feels like we're building an army," Ichigo commented, walking beside him. "Why did you decide to bring them along? They won't stand a chance against War."

"Maybe not against War, but against his more vulnerable peons they should be fine. And the other reason is that this makes us harder to track," Urahara replied. "The Gotei isn't going to be happy at all with this, as you're still technically AWOL and haven't reported in. Put me into the mix and they're really going to get worried. They will be looking for us the moment we pop our heads up, but not them."

Ichigo nodded his head, it made sense, the Gotei would send people to drag him back to the Seireitei and answer for this huge clusterfuck. No doubt about it, more than likely someone was already on the way, possible already in the Shoten, waiting for them to arrive. Well, the number of people who could force him back, be it by physical or emotional means, was extremely limited, so he at least knew who to expect.

With those four at their side, they could be their agents in the field and go where he couldn't without constantly looking over their shoulder for a pissed force of nature. They could take their time and find out what they needed to know to track down War or Benezia. It would probably take the Gotei a little while to find him considering their inability to keep up with the times. If they did catch him, he would go easier than anyone would probably expect, because resisting wouldn't help. They wanted to know why he did what he did, so he would tell them. He just didn't have the time to deal with them right now.

"Good plan," Ichigo muttered.

"But still maybe you should think about what to say when you get caught, hmm?" Urahara chimed in, his usual goofy self reappearing.

"What makes you think I'll get caught?"

"Oh, you definitely will get caught as that hair of yours is pretty iconic. Unless you want to finally dye it?" Ichigo glowered at him, "That's what I thought so make sure you practice what you are going to say. I already have my defense perfectly planned. I'm going to blame everything on you and say you forced me to help you."

Ichigo rolled his eyes. Like anyone would believe that he, or anyone else for that matter, could force Urahara to do anything he didn't want to. It was such an obvious lie that he had no doubt that the man would say it just to piss everyone off. Still though, maybe a little pre-planned speech would be good.

He was going to be making a... few people angry with his latest stunt.

Ok, a lot of people angry.


There you have it, been a great year and a productive one. I hope the following year is just as great. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, just in case I don't have anything to give you guys. Cyah later!