I am so sorry for the delay, hoped to get this out by New Years Eve, but got delayed by a few days, so disappointed in myself. But here it is, a new chapter to tide you over for a few so I can get back to work on everything else.
Nothing much else to say other than that the rewrite is going well and I hope to get it done as quickly as possible and not have to worry about other crap delaying me. Now I plan to get the rewrite for this story done as quick as possible so I can continue with it because so many people love this story.
Now many of you are wondering about why I am doing this, mostly because how I started this story I had no real basis for it to begin and continue. Mainly I didn't consider many factors for the story and because of that I got stuck. So because of that I had to go back to the drawing board and figure it out, luckily I have a firm grasp of what I need to do and I am going to start doing it now.
No need to worry, everything will be along shortly, and I do mean that this time. No more hiatuses.
Also if you can guess the reference for the Ship at the beginning of the chapter I will do something special for you. Only for the first one however. So be quick.
Are We Alone
Chapter 19: Onward to Battle
"I present to you, the Ryo-Ohki!"
Urahara had wasted no time in bringing them to the docks to depart the station, it was no secret that they couldn't stay for very long. The Gotei would likely see what had happened with the Citadel Council, his involvement would all but ensure they would send people to apprehend him. So they had to get out of dodge quick, in fact the few hours that they had remained was cutting it close.
He had no doubt that the moment that broadcast went live it went viral, everyone would know he was here. Hence why Urahara had been so fast to find him the moment he landed on the Citadel and knew he had been captured. If he went off that, they only had a few hours before there would be a squad of Shinigami Captains here to take him into custody.
Luckily they were just about to get underway, he couldn't feel any more relief than knowing they were getting away from here. Sad to say that right now Urahara was screwing around with their newest comrades by showing off their ship. It wasn't much to look at, for all the naming conventions Urahara had ones that were both ironic and utterly stupid. What he was obviously referencing was an old Anime that in no ways resembled this ship or even the very naming conventions of the ships actual name.
It was just dumb.
Their ship was a pale dirty green ship, both in colour and the fact it was actually covered in grime and dirt, how that was possible on a space station he had no idea. But the worst part of it was that it looked like a damn stereotype of an alien ship, a true-blue flying saucer.
"I cannot believe you actually built that." Ichigo said, making it clear that he thought of it as nothing more than an eyesore.
He could see out of the corner of his eyes that the rest of them thought the same. Ichigo may not be someone who knows much about the many intricacies about the different species in the Milky Way but he knew a few things. Their culture, customs, and mainly what they look like, the basics mostly. But he also knew about their ships, which often reflected on their species.
Each race had a certain way they designed their ships. Turians went with designs that had almost daggerlike designs on their ships giving them an aggressive feel. The Asari went with more sleek and fluidic designs, giving the impression of it being a work of art rather than an instrument of battle. Salarians were similar to the Asari, but were more rounded and reptilian in design.
They all had their quirks, their own identity. But Kisuke shit all over that by sticking to a overused trope and literally stealing a name from an anime that doesn't even have any relevance to the situation or this ship. He wondered if he put some actual thought into this. In a way he was surprised he didn't name it Yamato.
"Are we seriously getting into that thing with him?" Wrex asked, jerking his head to the flying saucer.
"Yeah, I have to agree with the Krogan on this one, it looks like it will be a little cramped." Chellick said.
"Is it even space worthy?" Tali asked, for a moment he wondered if it would trigger a piece of the ship to fall off, but sadly nothing happened.
Ichigo knew that this thing wouldn't be faulty, to a point, for all Kisuke's quirks he wasn't someone who half-assed it when it came to whatever he makes and produces. This thing could move through space, along with a few other places with ease if he had to guess, so they didn't have to worry about that.
"I thought that you guys didn't need ships, that you could just pop up on different planets whenever you wanted." Garrus said, again he was thinking they were gods that omnipotent powers, hell even the strongest of them and beings they have met didn't have that kind of power. Even Yhwach wasn't Omnipotent for all his power and ability, and he was the closest thing to a god he had ever fought.
"Nah, we might be fast but covering several light years without the right tools is near impossible. We can move as fast as your gun shoots out a bullet but that doesn't mean we can move between planets in the blink of the eye." Ichigo replied, maybe it was a good time to actually get rid of some of those misconceptions of theirs.
Even the fastest of them could cover vast distances easily, even at top speed he couldn't cover distances like from Earth and the Moon instantaneously. Sure he could do it in like fifteen minutes or less but that wasn't exactly saying he could fly to any planet in the Milky Way if he wanted to. He wasn't superman, most definitely not.
"You said tools, I assume that is your technology then." Tali inquired, looking interested in the prospect of maybe learning about their technology. So long as she didn't get involved with any of Mayuri's foul techno-sorcery he was certain that she would be interested.
"Yeah, we use technology not so differently than you guys, it helps us where we are limited. For instance we use these ships to cover the vast distances between worlds like you do. Although we have other means that are faster, but the resources of setting them us is both too costly and counterproductive for us in the long run." Ichigo replied, he actually felt annoyed when he thought about it.
He remembered the proposal to actually set up Senkaimon gates on multiple worlds, or at least in Clusters, to react faster to Horsemen sightings. Didn't go over well, apparently the cost of setting them up and then manning them would so counterproductive it would cost them the Gotei's annual budget six times over. Also since the Gotei and Central didn't want to deal with matters off world after the issue with the Horsemen was dealt with they didn't see the need to make such an expenditure.
It was a harsh reminder that the Gotei and Central didn't really give a damn what happens out here, so long as Earth remains intact and everything stays peachy, they don't care who goes extinct. If there was any evidence in the Soul Society's history that they knew about the Reapers and these cycles than it proved just how callous they were. He hoped that they would change their mind down the line.
"You say that, but we have seen what you can do, doesn't seem like you guys are lacking in capabilities if you ask me." Garrus spoke up.
"He's right, you wipe out armies and cut ships in half and likely all you have to worry about is getting a cramp if you don't swing that sword right." Wrex said.
"You might think we are some godlike beings but the truth is we are a race that has its own limitations and restrains like any other. We age, we can get hurt, and we vary in capabilities and power, and are still bound by the same rules of the universe as you guys." Ichigo said. "We can get hit and get hurt if it is powerful enough, we can be exposed to hazardous regions of space or on worlds and be affected. We need to eat, sleep, recover, and we most certainly can die."
He recalled one of the main dangers of being exposed to the vacuum of space, while stronger Shinigami can survive being exposed to the void of space without major issues. They would still be in danger when exposed to space like any other being, but their own power can protect and keep them safe from the most dangerous elements of the void. But the real danger came from being drawn into the Garganta that exists parallel to normal space, which if you get sucked into can be just as bad.
In the middle of the Void of space and trapped in the chaotic ocean of spiritual energy? Yeah, not a pleasant way to cease to exist. For them, as spirits, getting trapped in the Garganta is as much as a death sentence as it is an eternal punishment. No way out and too far away from anywhere to get back to, even for him it would be a death sentence.
"Doesn't matter if we are on some world or in our own we are still bound by certain rules that we cannot break." Ichigo said.
Stepping up the ramp they followed Urahara into the ship, ducking their heads as they entered the airlock of the ship. The door closed and they were blanketed by darkness, for the next few seconds they waited and then the door opened. The light was near blinding, and as they stepped out they found themselves in a wide open space, wider than what was possible for such a small unassuming ship.
"How in the…" Garrus said, looking around in awe at the Palace they were in.
They were in a large open temple of sorts, wooden frames and paper walls along with stone floors were the foundations of this place. It was oddly decorative and had a good feng shui, one might question his sense of style and hygiene, Urahara sometimes knew how to be an artist when he wanted to.
"This is impossible… to fold space… is this…" Tali started, mumbling and unable to wrap her mind around the idea that this ships interior was bigger in the inside rather than the outside.
"Why it seems to be larger on the inside than the outside, how in the world did that happen! It is almost like magic!" Urahara said, laughing to himself as he whipped out his fan and continued to mess with them.
He walked over to the end of the palace, he stood on a precipice that showed off the bright blue sky and a large open training ground not so different than the one located under his shop on earth. The man certainly loved his secret training grounds, maybe because he got to look at the faces of people who never realised just how big they are.
Their newest allies all looked on in varying degrees of befuddlement, even the stoic Wrex couldn't help but let his jaw hang open as he looked at the wide-open area. He had a feeling that over the next few weeks they were going to be seeing some interesting things that would alter their understanding of the universe.
It was going to be awesome.
"As you can tell we have technology and tools a lot more advanced than you guys." Ichigo said, he wasn't bragging, but he did feel amused at seeing their gawking expressions.
"You say that but having this thrown in your face doesn't exactly prepare you for what it really means." Garrus said, looking like he needed to sit down before he fainted.
"I will never wrap my head around this, but if you can do something like this does that mean all your capabilities, those powers of yours are actually technology?" Tali asked. "You did say that you are not so different from us, so are you actually as powerful as you seem?"
"Nah, most of what you see us do is our natural powers." Ichigo replied, although he best not leave them hanging there, if they didn't have context than things would spiral out of control. "Our abilities, the more generic ones at least are taught to us, we train and refine certain abilities that are useful. One is called Shunpo."
He reached for the pistol on her hip and threw it out towards over the training field, as it flew away he explained.
"Shunpo, means Flash Step." He then disappeared, from their perspective at least.
He stopped ahead of the flying pistol and grabbed it by the handle. Turning back he shouted back to them.
"It allows us to cover large distances with only a single step, thing of it as a means to improve ones stride!" Ichigo said, raising the pistol and firing a single shot.
As it went off he used Shunpo again and got ahead of the projectile and then drew Zangetsu from his hip, halting the bullet. The only way they could know he had stopped it was because they heard a distinct ping as the bullet struck. Sheathing his blade he handed the pistol back to Tali, who took a minute to compose herself as she took back her weapon.
"Mastery of the technique varies between people, but the more skilled you are the farther you can move and in turn the faster you can as well." Ichigo said, feeling his lips curve upwards as he looked at the surprised Quarian who was looking over her pistol and trying to fathom the kind of speed it would take to not only overtake a mass accelerated projective.
Urahara ushered them along, leading them into the palace and showing them around their new home. All the while he was questioned on his abilities and such by Tali and the rest, she seemed eager to try and understand how he was able to do what he could do.
He explained the basics to her, mainly the nature of what Shinigami were and where their powers come from. Going into depth about how each possess unique powers and abilities outside of the universal powers that they can harness through training.
"Power and control are important parts of being able to wield ones power, the more powerful you are and how good you control it determine how much you can utilise these skills." Ichigo said. "I am ranked amongst the top brass of the Shinigami, a Captain."
"What does the top of the food chain look like for you then?" Garrus asked.
"Yeah, you can outrun bullets and can take a nuke to the face, that isn't exactly something one can consider a love tap. So be straight with us, how powerful are you?" Chellick asked, it was odd really to have that asked to someone like him.
To ask just how powerful you are, power wasn't exactly everything, but it was a crucial component that told you what your potentials was. His was something that had not been truly reached yet, even when he defeated Yhwach his potential and ability were still untapped, he had not reached his peak or delved into the full scope of his powers. Right now, he had to wonder what his upper limits could be, and honestly he had no idea about it.
"Ask Kisuke, he likely could give you some numbers, but really that is a hard question to ask. I mean I don't really think about it that much, or more to the point I didn't consider it until you just asked me." Ichigo replied, it was an odd moment for him, one where he felt like he should reflect on and consider what that meant.
He wondered if he was neglecting his skills and abilities, not keeping them as sharp as he should and actually regressing rather than advancing. That was something he had to look into when he had the time, if he wasn't reaching his fullest potential than he wasn't doing anyone any favours. The enemy in front of the was dangerous, and if he slacked off and let himself get rusty, it could be bad.
"You alright, I don't want to say that you look worried… but you don't look confident right now." Tali said.
"Maybe that question was a kick up the ass for him, to stop slacking off and start getting serious." Wrex said, his casual statement wasn't wrong, although having it said did make him feel like he had been neglecting himself.
"Yeah, like he needs to be anymore powerful, what are you going to do, knock a moon out of orbit or something. Maybe bench press a planet." Garrus drawled, although for a moment he looked to be in deep thought. "Can you actually do that?"
"A moon, maybe, a planet… haven't blown one up yet so I guess… no." Ichigo replied, honestly he didn't know if he had the power to do so.
Power was heavily restricted in the world of the living, at least on earth. Out here in the rest of the galaxy they didn't care too much about collateral damage, people die than stiff shit.
Stepping onto the bridge of the ship, if it could be considered that, it was more a high end lounge area to relax before you catches your next flight. Near the back wall was a terminal in front of a wide bay window that gave you a clear view of the outside of the ship. Despite the sheer size of the vessel they had everything they need right here, sleeping quarters to one side of the room and what looked like a medical bay/laboratory on the other. With some recreational stations sitting in the middle, easy and simple.
Ichigo took a loud off on the lounge, taking off his Zanpakuto and resting them against the arm of the seat. Leaning into the leather and letting out a content sigh, after the day he has had he deserved some R&R. The others followed suit, although he had a feeling that they were anxious about their next move. He wouldn't like, so was he, so they had to likely discuss the topic of how they are going to deal with the Horsemen.
"What's our first step?" Garrus asked.
"Benezia." Urahara said, moving to the terminal and putting in a few commands, and then turning back to them. "For the last twenty five years we have been searching for the Horsemen, with little luck I am afraid. Before Elysium the last time we saw them was on Shanxi."
"So instead of going after him we go after the one he is working with." Garrus said, nodding his head and accepting the logic.
"Wouldn't she be in the wind as well?" Chellick asked. "If what Pallin said was true than likely she has gone dark somewhere."
"True, but recently I have learned that Benezia has been making some scheduled trips to the Attican Beta Cluster. From what I was told she was visiting her daughter, Liara T'soni." Urahara said.
"Do you think she is involved?" Ichigo asked.
"Unknown, but the girl is a Prothean expert and was hired on to investigate and collect information on Prothean ruins across Alliance and Frontier space. Likely she was being used to supply the Council with valuable Prothean relics and technology." Urahara said.
He recalled some of that in the report Urahara made of the situation, most of it they got from contact in the Asari government. It would seem that there had been an increase of Prothean technology and relics on the Black Market, a massive increase. The Council was actually selling these artefacts off to continue their operates in Alliance space, one of their less than legal avenues mind you.
But given that it seemed that Saren and War were interested in Prothean technology, and given the vision he has in his head about these Reapers. It is not that much of a stretch that they are looking for those things, for what reason he couldn't fathom, powerful as they may be they certainly don't measure up to something like the Shinigami. War had something else invested in this, enough to expose himself and go out of his way to make sure that they succeed.
"Even if she doesn't know anything about her mother and Saren's activities it is likely she will have the information we need to know what they are looking for. After all they were after the Prothean Beacon on Eden Prime, and went to great lengths to acquire it." Urahara continued, bringing up a holographic display of the Attican Beta Cluster, including a few systems and important planets.
"Wait, there are three systems here I haven't seen before." Tali said.
"On our search for the Horsemen we have had to be quite thorough, we have discovered close to ninety other clusters and systems in Alliance space alone. Six of which have been discovered by the Alliance in the last two decades." Urahara replied. "Although we could find more it has been determined that the Horsemen likely are hiding out in population centres where it is harder to be located."
Ichigo could see their surprise, they had discovered dozens of new systems all across Alliance space, it had been their initial scouting deployment in search of the Horsemen. They had scoured hundreds of worlds and moons, to no avail, but they certainly had found a few holiday spots. But with how the Horsemen operated they liked to blend in and hide in a populace and influence them from within. Knowing that it made it obvious that they wouldn't change their ways even if the Shinigami were more open with finding them and exposing themselves.
"Do you know where she is specifically? Even if we go based on worlds that are known to have Prothean Ruins we are still looking at maybe a dozen different worlds." Garrus said, looking over the information.
Ichigo had a feeling Urahara knew that already and was just waiting for someone to say something, if only so he could show them up with how intelligent he was. For all the mans quirks it was his knack for annoying people that threw most off, he had a talent for getting under your skin. Most would play it off as him being an asshole, but if you knew the man you would realise that he does it to not make you suspect just how dangerous he is.
Wrex had seen it the moment he met the man, had to give the guy some points on that. Even when Ichigo first met the man and seen behind the mask he was still unsure of just how dangerous he was, just how frightening. Even to this day Ichigo knew he is a man none would want to have as an enemy, not even him.
"Theseus System, likely on Quana. The Theseus system has the most in terms of Prothean ruins, two of the planets in that system have large scale cities and infrastructure that is still standing." Urahara said. "Out of the two Feros is unlikely to have anything of major value due to the dilapidation of the site as well as it being a very unforgiving death trap. Quana however is still intact and while it has been raided in the past it is likely the source of most of the Councils acquisitions in Prothean technology."
There he goes, showing himself off as some wise man at the expense of everyone else. He was intelligent but he was such a dick about it.
"So Quana then?" Ichigo asked.
"Yep." Urahara said.
"But how do we know she is still there, I mean Hackett had ordered for the Council to pack up and leave and likely when Pallin give the order they will be coming back. Can't we just collect her when she gets here?" Garrus asked.
"Pallin passed on this info to us actually, also he would have liked to help but he says it is out of his hands. He cannot bring her back, and more importantly there isn't any Council forces on the planet." Urahara said.
"What do you mean?" Tali asked.
"They were probably using mercenaries or pirates, if they were scavenging Prothean technology from a planet in someone else's space it would cause problems. They hired mercs to run the op and act as middle men for the salvaging, they get a cut of the profits that are sold on the black market alongside with the Council." Wrex said, from the sounds of it he had a bit of experience in this area, likely he had done something similar in his long career. "Quana used to be the go to place to scavenge for Prothean technology, still it today, any heat comes down on them they can easily pass it off as raiders."
"Right you are my good friend. Also it was Saren and Benezia who brokered the idea of mercenaries, that way they didn't have to worry about the Council's operatives reporting back to their superiors when Benezia and Saren start taking some of that tech for themselves." Urahara said.
Makes sense, if these guys were not on the Council's payroll than they were likely working for Benezia now. That was a problem then. If that was the case they wouldn't be pulling out no matter what happened, especially if they were getting a cut in on the Prothean technology on the planets. Although now the idea that Liara T'Soni was still on the planet was up to debate, likely they could ship her out if they wanted to.
"So are we in for a fight?" Tali asked, sounding a little nervous.
"More than likely, but don't worry, I have complete faith in your abilities." Urahara said, giving a near honest smile as he said that. "Also if you lose a limb I can put it back on with a snap, so don't worry too much alright."
That didn't inspire much confidence. Not that he could blame them, Urahara was never one to inspire anything but doubt and suspicion.
"When do we leave then?" Wrex asked.
"We already left, we should be there in about twenty hours." Urahara said.
"That's… wait that is impossible. It should take at least a week to get there, travel between systems and with the relays…"
Ichigo hadn't bothered to guess on how long it took for ships to move up and down a system, that wasn't even considering how long it took for them to travel in between. But he had the feeling that it did take a while to get anywhere, likely to get clearance and also to wait in the cue if there was heavy traffic along the relays. After all you couldn't really approach a relay in an unorganised group otherwise you risk hitting each other when you jump to FTL.
Truth be told going between Relays was actually very dangerous and needed to be carefully regulated just to make sure you didn't end up halfway between your intended target along with not accidentally smashing into something as you fly between Point A and Point B. Lucky for them that issue won't be affecting them.
"We don't need the relays, if you look outside you can see into the realm that is closely connected to the dimension we reside. The Garganta." Kisuke said, gesturing to the window above them.
Looking up they could see mostly blackness, but there was more to it, it was barely noticeable but one could see the fluctuating dark energies of this dimension as they passed through it. This place was a void, but it was also drenched in spiritual energy so dense and powerful that if used one could do all sorts of things with it. Even the Dangai, the narrow corridor leading between Earth and the Soul Society, was capable of warping time and space, narrowing the distance between points and dimensions, but also allowing for the alteration of the flow of time.
"This is so weird, it looks like we are surrounded by nothing." Tali said. "Kind of scary not seeing any stars."
"You four should rest up, tomorrow we will put you through your paces so you are ready for a hard fight. All of you are going to need some advanced training if you are going to be fighting against armies." Urahara said, they didn't seem to argue much, and just as they were about to head to the sleeping quarters Urahara had a moment and snapped his finger. "Oh! I almost forgot!"
Ichigo raised a brow, Hat and Clogs had a look on his face, one that bode ill for whoever was involved in whatever little scheme he was concocting. Hopefully it was just something to annoy everyone, if not, than someone was likely in for some shit.
"Tali-san! Please wait here! I am going to get the camera and some costumes!" Urahara said, turning and skipping out of the room.
Ichigo narrowed his eyes slightly, that did not sound good, he better see what was going on. Getting up off the lounge he turned to the Quarian who was wringing her hands nervously, obviously she was worried about something. Although from the look Garrus and Chellick shared between one another it was obvious they had an idea what was going on. Wrex didn't seem to care, he was already leaving the room and going back down to the temple section of the ship.
"What was that about?" Ichigo asked.
"I don't know, but I think it has to do with that Daki-something that he wants me to do for him." Tali replied, looking nervous as per usual.
"Daki… wait, do you a Dakimakura?" Ichigo asked, giving her an incredulous look, what the hell?
"Yeah, that's what he said, he blackmailed her into it so she could stay at the shop." Garrus said, crossing his arms, although from the looks of it he obviously had no idea what it was, likely none of them did.
"You agreed to do it?" Ichigo asked, actually sounded perturbed that she would agree to something like that. "Why would you do that?"
"I… I don't know what it is. Besides I had to be respectful otherwise he might throw me out, and really I just was scared so I wasn't thinking straight." Tali defended herself.
"Do you… actually know what a Dakimakura is?" Ichigo asked, she shook her head, Garrus and Chellick followed suit.
Ichigo now felt really bad for her, she obviously had no idea what she was getting into right now, and given Urahara's perchance for perversion he had a feeling Tali was going to be in for it. He knew that he shouldn't really involved himself in this because the moment he did he would get involved in someway, and Urahara had ways of making you comply.
"Listen… a Dakimakura is also known as a Love Pillow…" Ichigo said, scratching his cheek and wondering how he was going to break the news to her gently, but there was no real way to do that. "Usually it is a body long pillow that has the image of a person on it. Often in a… sensual pose… or in erotic clothing… sometimes naked…"
He could see the dread in her eyes as she heard every word come from his mouth, even if it was behind a visor he knew for certain she was freaking out. What Urahara was doing was literally making her doing something one could label as pornographic. Given his ways and having no qualms about getting people into awkward positions he had no shame in doing that to someone.
The mandibles on Garrus' and Chellick's jaws seem to fall as they realised just what she had agreed to. For them is was like hearing how a woman accidentally got herself roped into a acting position only to find out it was porn.
"Okay Tali-san!" Urahara said, strolling back into the room with a big smile on his face and an old camera around his neck.
He had two mannequin torsos in his hands and on them was two pieces of lingerie, neither left anything to the imagination and certainly would get the hearts racing of anyone who saw them. He was right, Kisuke is going to do that to her.
"Now, which one do you like more? This one?"
It was a skimpy swimsuit, in the most abstract sense of the word, as it barely covered a persons front rather than their entire torso. It was so narrow that you were lucky if it covered the sides of your books along with between your legs. Made word by the fact that in the centre of the chest area was a hole to show off your cleavage.
"Or this one?"
Hard to image, but this one was actually worse than the other. Might as well call it a set of thin black strands of latex that moved and contorted to the body and eventuated every curve and protrusion. Only thin strands of cloth covered the nipples and crotch area, it was beyond erotic at this point and bordered on obscene.
"Don't be shy, I am sure you will love them." Urahara said, inching closer to the terrified Quarian, a perverted gleam in his eyes as he smiled at her in a creepy manner.
The Citadel, SSV Everest
It was good to see this side of the the Citadel, far away and from the observation port of an Alliance ship. Shepard couldn't be anymore happy to be back with the Alliance, on one of their best ships and on their way back to their own Space that had been liberated from the yoke of the Citadel Council.
Truthfully this was shaping up to be the best day of her life.
"Not sad I won't be seeing this place again." Shepard mused aloud, crossing her arms.
"Not that we will have that much time to sight see anyway, we have a lot of work to do now that the Council is retreating from Alliance space." Anderson said, standing beside her.
On their way to their ship they had spoken with Executor Pallin, current acting with the authority of the Council, he had decided to give them a few concessions. One was being that he had made a promise to withdraw all Council Forces from Alliance space as quickly as possible, along with assuring them any crimes committed by them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Along with a few concessions and promises from the Republic and Hierarchy as an apology for allowing the Council to abuse their authority in such a manner. Hackett had taken it all in stride, as much as he had lost faith in the Citadel Council and the races that make it up he was willing to meet him halfway and stop potential bloodshed.
But he had warned them that there were elements in Alliance space that likely would resist coming back or were not completely under the Council's authority to control. Mercenaries and such from the Terminus being one, along with certain officers and officials that had ignored the order to return and likely were afraid of the consequences of their actions.
Pallin had given his blessing to deal with them as the Alliance sees fit.
What a swell guy.
"Sir, do you think the Admiral should hear what I have to say, anything that comes from the Guardian of Elysium is important isn't it?" Shepard asked.
She had been telling the Captain about her conversation with Ichigo after he thoroughly destroyed the Council's reputation and rallied people against them. She skipped over most what they talked about, but she did tell them about his warning, how he had warned her about a threat in the future. Saying that they might need to actually consider working with the Council races in the future to combat this threat. As much as she doubted that the Alliance would do so she had to report it and take it seriously, after all considering who it came from it was best not to ignore this.
"I will pass it along. For now just keep this between us, we will handle things from here." Anderson said.
"Yes sir." Shepard said.
"Right now we have more important matters to deal with. The Geth have been sighted in Alliance space. With the Council forces pulling out and our military fighting to get back onto its feet we will be hard pressed to hold them off." Anderson said, turning and beckoning her to follow.
They moved into the adjacent room, where her team was waiting. What remained of her N6 unit was there, only eight of them survived including herself, it was sad to know that over two thirds of the people she had been working with were dead now. But she buried that feeling, they had a job to do, all of them had a job to do.
"Everything good sir?" Mikkai asked.
"Nothing to worry about." Anderson said, before addressing everyone. "As of now you are being deployed across Alliance space to help secure core worlds for restoring the Alliance back to its former strength."
"Along with pushing out the Council forces that haven't retreated?" Mikkai asked.
"That and more, reports of Geth incursions into our space has been coming in regularly, we need to be there to combat them and make sure our major colonies and manufacturing hubs are protected." Anderson said. "Our first stop will be the Artemis Tau Cluster, it is out biggest supply of raw material, we need that to start resupply the Alliance with fresh ore so we can start rebuilding."
Shepard knew a few of the planets that were major industry for their race, Therum was a volcanic planet that's sole purpose was to provide the System Alliance with processed ore. It was their major supplier for the Alliance, being the sole reason for the manufacturing boom on Earth during the formation of the Alliance. Securing even just one planet would be instrumental in getting their ships back off the ground, along with getting new ones built.
"What can we expect when we arrive?" Mikkai asked.
"Mercenaries more than like, but Pallin has informed us of several rogue companies of Blackwatch and Council forces that have ignored the return to Council Space." Anderson said. "From what we know there is a Warlord that is currently overseeing operation in that region of space."
Shepard looked over the report, apparently there was a Warlord in the Cluster that was leading these forces. The Council didn't have the numbers and resources to manage every world under the Alliance's control so they hired mercenaries to help, some legit and others no better than pirates. The identity of the Warlord was not known, but evidence pointed to this individual being a relative of a very wealthy Diplomat on the Citadel. Given the names of the few people associated with the Council and their crimes it wasn't that hard to pin down who it might be.
Dahlia Dantius was the culprit, Shepard was certain she had run into her sister at the Embassy. Literally in fact, that woman was fleeing the Embassy like her ass was in fire, to be expected when word of Ichigo being set loose on the station started to spread. She had to wonder if she escaped the station or not, either case she would be a wanted woman for her complicity in the Councils crimes.
"We secure any major strategic assets in the system along with removing any opposition. Your job is reclaiming our planets and then securing the rest of the Cluster for the Alliance." Anderson continued. "Due to the nature of this mission the N7 strike force will be broken down into smaller squads to cover operations across the Cluster."
Mikkai stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back and his eyes boring into each and every one of them. Like a strict father who was making sure his kids weren't misbehaving, in a way he had the look and demeanour of a father. But no one would say that aloud.
"I want to congratulate all of you, Eden Prime was one hell of a deployment, a lot of us didn't make it, but those that came out of it are the more stronger for it." Mikkai said, not even flinching as he mentioned the bloodbath they fell into and barely survived. "As of this moment I am promoting you all to the rank of N7."
That took them by surprise, for a moment that was, before they were all clapping each other on the back and cheering. Most of these guys thought that they were gonna be rotting in cells on this station when they got caught, to be frank they didn't think about getting promotions. In a way she had to admit the idea of getting promoted and becoming a full fledged Special Forces soldier was the furthest thing from her mind.
But now, she couldn't help but feel elated. They were full fledged N7 operatives, and they were going to be leading the charge into battle.
"Each of you will be broken up and leading your own squads, from there you will be assigned marines to supplement your squads." Mikkai barked. "Step forward, if you have anyone you want specifically for your squad put their names down and we will get them, otherwise it is luck of the draw."
Made sense, N7 operatives often operated as independent soldiers leading specialised teams, although it was no unheard of that you make up a team of N7 operatives. But in this case they were spreading their strength around, although it was a shame that she wouldn't be part of a team with some of her buddied from School.
She stepped forward and thought about who she could bring onto her team, she had a few names on her mind but sadly all of them were now going to be squad leaders. Rinat, he would be a good marksman, Ericson was the best when it came to hardware and electronics, then Rochelle, best damn sniper all around. Having them around in her team would be great, sad to say she was going to have to take on people she didn't know the skill sets for.
Well, at least two of them will be familiar to her.
"Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams and Private Nirali Bhatia, I want them in my squad." Shepard said, looking to Mikkai as she made the request, he nodded his head.
It helped knowing the guys in your squad rather than unknowns, she wanted to be fighting beside some people she knew and was familiar with. Their skills were known to her and she didn't doubt for a moment they could handle themselves in a fight, also in the last few hours she had to admit having them around was not so bad. In a way maybe having an all girls squad sounded nice.
Although she doubted they would be that lucky, but she would see. She would just wait and see.
"You will be assigned your squad mates by the time we reach Therum, until then get your gear and weapons checked. For now, rest up, we got a long fight ahead of us." Mikkai ordered.
Shepard knew that they would be a few days out from the system, especially with the Council's forces hauling ass to get out of their space. The twenty four hour expectation was not likely going to be easy to follow, most of the Relays would be dealing with hundreds of ships trying to evacuate across most of Alliance space.
Although she had heard that any Council forces that didn't get out in time was fair game. But considering the talk they had with Palin before more than likely these guys were going to be given some leeway as to not cause any issues down the line. So long as they were on ships leaving a planet they would not shoot, if they were still planet side, that was another story.
Still, she didn't expect everyone to fall in line, not everyone was happy with leaving their oppressors unscathed while they get the brunt of their harsh treatment. More than likely there would be rioting and confusion in the wake of the Councils sudden departure. If some of those worlds had been fighting the Council forces because of the news released by Hackett it was likely anarchy there, so they had to be careful.
But they could deal with that when the time came, likely they wouldn't be dealing with anything that didn't involve shooting bad guys anyway. You don't send N7 Special Forces to handle crowd control.
For the moment they were given free reign on the ship and some quarters, a shower and a good long sleep didn't sound so bad right now. She actually had not been able to get any rest or even splash water on her face ever since they dropped down on Eden Prime. Too much excitement and terror keeping her from getting a wink, and as much as having a nice hot shower sounded good and sleeping on some clean bed, she had something else to do.
She decided to meet up with Ashley and Bhatia, give them the good news and maybe celebrate a little for their daring escape from the Citadel. She found them in the cafeteria, eating some decent and free food, compared to that overpriced and over spiced crap at the Embassy. She could smell the roast, god she loved Dreadnaughts, they got all the good stuff, especially if it is a Flagship. Apart from the work you were basically living on a cruise liner.
"Ashley, Bhatia." Shepard greeted, taking a seat and looking at the both of them, unable to hide the slight smirk on her face. "I got some good news."
"You getting deployed somewhere?" Bhatia asked.
"Yep, we are going to Therum, going to liberate it from some pirates, but more than that I got promoted. I am officially an N7 right now, and more than that, they bumped most of us up to the rank of Commander." Shepard said, unable to hide her grin, this was her dream after all.
She was amongst the elite of the elite, nothing else could compare to this moment right now. To be considered an N7 was the highest honour in all the Alliance, made you a celebrity, and right now she was glad for that. All that praise she used to get when she was the Lion of Elysium now actually had some merit, some actually weight behind it, even if it was fake she had proven herself to not be some porcelain figurine that couldn't hack it.
"Congrats Shepard, becoming a N7 is a big deal, man if anyone in my family became one you bet your ass we would be recognised." Ashley said, the way she said it made it sound like there was some hidden meaning there, but she didn't know if she should ask or not.
"Well how about serving alongside one?" Shepard asked, catching both of their attention. "Each of us is being made squad leaders, we will be deploying ground side on several planets in five man fireteams. I want you two in mine."
They looked surprised for a moment, not that she could blame them, this was a big deal after all. Shepard knew what she was getting into, both of them did as well, it wouldn't be a surprise if both of them didn't want to get involved. But she hoped that they would consider. Although from the grin that was forming on the Gunny's face she knew her answer before she said it.
"Count me in." Ashley said, smiling at the possibility of actually getting into some more action. "Getting back at some of these bastards and into some actual combat sounds good to me. No offence to the dead, but being trapped on Eden Prime was not something I want to go back to."
"What about you Bhatia?" Shepard asked, the private had as many years under her belt as Ashley and she had some skill.
"I accept." She said, giving a nod.
"Great to hear it. You two will be in my squad, we will be getting two others but that shouldn't be so bad. We bring them up to speed and we go from there." Shepard said.
"Wouldn't mind be able to call my husband, tell him I am alright." Bhatia said.
"With the Alliance back in charge I think that is something everyone will be happy about." Shepard replied, being able to call someone without being screened or told if it was allowed or not was something everyone would be grateful for.
This was the start of not only their return to their old way of life but one that would see to one even better than before. No longer under the scrutiny of the Alliance and their laws and restricted by their authority, this was their chance to rebuild on their own terms. It was the beginnings of something great, and that is what they were eager to do.
"To the Alliance." Shepard said, raising her mug up in a toast.
Bhatia and Ashley followed suite, but a few others did the same when she raised the glass. Everyone in the cafeteria followed suit, they knew what this meant for them all, what was to come was going to be the most glorious moment for the human race since they first set off into space.
There you have it, how you liked the chapter, let me know what you think.
Also, sorry if there are some grammatical errors and stuff, I was rushing to get this done and did a quick once over just to make sure it was right. So be gentle.