Gurellia in space

Somewhere between Crossroads and System H-34

"Captain Morus we are approaching target. Still no answer to our response to their distress signal."

Teliz Morus seasoned Matron in the Asari fleet interrupted her work and thought for a minute.

Another reconnaissance mission foiled. Even the Salarian STG was running into a wall with those Humans. How likley was it that the Humans noticed the scout frigate, intercepted it and then just go away?

"Order the group to stay on high alert. Those Humans just love their traps."

The crew on all 12 frigates of her patrol group got to work. Teliz tried to get back to her work but her thoughts strayed away.

Four month since we captured their system and it seems we are stuck. They force us to always travel in bigger groups. Single ships, transports with too little escorts and they just appear and hunt you like a pack of varrens. You get reinforcements strong enough to beat them and they disappear. Yes they won one big battle and two bigger fleets already began campaigns in nearby systems. But all other operations had high chances to get thwarted. One of the two campaigns had to do their own recognisance sending cruiser and dreadnought groups into the dark. Even more astonishing no signs of further garden worlds or relays so far. But then their enemies were machines even if they used organic elements. Their concept of time was quiet likely even more long term than the one of the average Asari.

Her musings were interrupted by some of her subordinates needing her attention. It was time to get ready to drop out of FTL.

"Mam we are receiving signals from seven of the fifteen rescue pods. Enemy contacts confirmed at three of them. Identified as their small combat transport total count of six. Three of them connected to the pods."

"Send one ship to each of the other four pods. As soon as they have them save on board the are ordered to activate FTL and head back to the outer discharge base in Crossroads. All others battle formation and engage."

"Mam sensors show three more pods but they are dead. No com signal or other energy signature."

Teliz realized what they had run into.

"This is the clean up team. Open fire as soon as possible we can't allow them taking prisoners. Who knows what they'll do to them!"

The Heavy Raiders disconnected from their prey and their escorts opened fire. The incoming small battlegroup could only save one of the pods.

"Dock with that pod and get them on board. I need a status of the other rescue operations."

"All successful but enemy fighters ambushed two of them. They still managed to fulfil their objective and withdraw. According to our sensor information the D'vemi took heavy damage but we need communication for details."

"Salarian survivors on board Mam. Captain Goji was on this one. He wants to talk to you."

"Good. Send him to my ready room as soon as he has medical clearance."

"Aye Mam!"

Teliz motioned to a different operator to open a channel to her small fleet.

"Well done everyone. Get one last sensor sweep organized and prepare to destroy the remains of the Salarian ship. We won't leave the Humans anymore to salvage here. But hurry we don't wan't to give those Humans time to assemble a group that can knock us out."

Twenty minutes later her remaining eight ships were on their way back to Crossroads. The D'vemi would be out of commission for at least two weeks but given the circumstances this was a highly successful mission.

Maybe the brass is right and we are winning by attrition. Even A.I.s have to produce those fighters somehow.

One and a half hour later Captain Goji entered her ready room.

"Captain Morus. Thank you for rescuing me and my men. Enemies ability to intercept survey missions is getting frustrating."

"Don't mention it captain. I'm sad to inform you that five of the enemy clean up team got away using their jump method. They will very likely have prisoners with them. Also you ships lock seems compromised. Somehow everything got messed up."

"Enemy boarded. Used superior electronic warfare abilities to compromise ship. Couldn't allow ship or information to fall in enemy hands. Ordered crew to deliberately compromise all data before ordering self-destruction and abandoning ship. "

"Well the higher up will be very interested in you and you crews reports on this matter. So far once those Humans got on board we stood little chance to hinder them overtaking the ship."

"Yes already received order to head back to Citadel space for intensive debriefing."

After some more chat they parted their ways.

So either a promotion or a becoming a scapegoat in his future. I hope for the former we could use some who have experienced this side of the war in higher positions.

Virtual space, Conference between strategic and operative command of Alliance Intelligence

"So the first assets are placed?"

"Yes but I want to remind everyone that they are at a great risk so far. Some of them will placed back in Citadel territory at some point. And currently we don't have any rebirth ships that can possibly get in range for them."

"Yes but so far their orders shouldn't put them at high risk. And thanks to our mind transfer technology they know all they need to know about those they are impersonating."

"So far we have no Asari on the list and why so many Salarians with their short life span they seem to be the worst investment."

"We have problems creating and controlling Asari bodies. We are able to create good copies but everyone will expect them to be able to handle those biotics. We are working on it and if we crack that nut it will also open the new possibilities for our bodies and other of our organic technologies but it will need some time. Other than that it is just how it plays out. The Salarians just operate most of their survey and commando operations. We also shouldn't underestimate the influence a Salarian can get through their lifetime. They life shorter but this way they progress faster so it will give us possibilities faster than by using Asari agents that will only be taken seriously by their superiors once the left the age of 500 behind them."

A different meeting at Alliance HQ linked up with some contributors in virtual space

"So we will lose both systems the citadel is besieging currently?"

"Yes there is no point in engaging their strongest fleets head-on. We did so at Crossroads and paid for it. Also those fleets have adapted to our capabilities and will not be as easily surprised. When bombarding a target they always place a substantial rear guard in place so that we can't just jump into their dead spot at the back as easily anymore."

"We still need to give them a good fight or they'll just march through."

"We do. We are constantly attacking their supply lines. Additionally we harassed their secured positions so that they needed to up their patrols in order to have safe discharge positions in Crossroads. And we make it almost impossible for them to scout any system close to Crossroads without sending in a substantial force."

"All that is fine but it won't stop their conquering fleets."

"Ultimatly it will. Not for the systems close enough to Corssroads that it can serve as discharge centre but the more distance they get from there the more ships and troops they'll have to invest in securing their supply lines. And by hindering their surveillance we make sure that they have to spread their advance out in all dimensions. We are currently building fortified positions in systems we have no economic assets in. We force them to fight everywhere to secure everything and thus we stopping them from advancing into our core territory. I'll admit it helps us that the Citadel is assuming that our other worlds have to be either close by or linked via relay."

"Still some point they can consider systems farer back safe and relocate ships and troops. Also our ruse with forcing them to fight in the wrong direction will only work to a certain extend since we have to be able to send reinforcements to keep the illusions up. So all this will only work within reasonable distance. Tops 4-5 times of our FTL range. But what I really want to know is how our efforts to take the war to them are working out. We won't win this war on defence alone."

"Currently we only can reach some unimportant Citadel Systems in reasonable time. The important population and industrial centres of the Citadel would take decades or even centuries of jumping. The main problem is that neither the Citadel nor any of its member species claims a contiguous territory their own. They expanded in bubbles around the explored relays. So even if we reach one industrial centre the next one will likely be thousands of lightyears away. We have send out recon teams to find more relays on our side in the hope that we find a path to a dormant relay or a yet unexplored connection to an active relay on their side."

One of the other officers notified that he wanted to speak.

"I don't think linking up to them via the relays through a different route would help us much. The Citadel is much more experienced than we in waging war using the relays as strategic points. Their whole fleet is designed to fight such a war. We have teams looking into extending our FTL range. The relay system has given birth to an idea that can deal with the calculation time problem. We could use predefined positions calculated by station based supercomputers. That leaves the energy problem but we have ideas for that too. It will of course take time research and implement such a solution. So I agree finding a relay connection would be helpful but not for a large scale attack but to send a brigand fleet through that supports our intelligence efforts and forces them to allocate more of their resources at home."

Citadel News Network

Galaxy-wide chaos and instability!

"What was thought to be a small and simple police action is now sending shockwaves through the Galaxy. As more and more ships and troops are allocated to the frontlines Citadel space becomes more and more open for pirates, slavers and other thugs from Terminus.

The Council now called upon the associated members to step up and take their share of the burden. With the Turians going to wartime production limitations from the treaty of Farixen are formally no longer an issue. Still several ambassadors brought up the question what will happen to ships they might build now in the time of crisis when the war is over. Tension runs high and many citizens from non-council species now demand from the council species to prove that they hold their esteemed position for a reason. Many question why they should bow to their decisions in exchange for their protection when it seems that once the protection is challenged they have to contribute to it.

Experts are sure that the situation with Terminus will stabilize once wartime ship production and mobilization take full effect. But given how fierce the Humans fight back it is expected to take at least nine more months before any forces can be allocated back to the hot spots with Terminus. A long time for the lawless to run havoc and profit from the Citadels current weakness."

And thus the war waged on. And while the Admirals commanding the great Citadel fleets on their campaigns to "liberate" system after system got frustrated that the Humans refused to accept any major challenge for a battle. Their supply lines, flanks, patrols were under constant pressure. Seven month after the battle of Crossroads the Humans began to use upgraded nuclear missiles on a larger scale.

Council chambers eight month after Crossroads

Once again Regitus wished that he wasn't by default the councillor responsible for the war theatre. But as a former General himself and with the Hierarchy in overall command of the war effort it fall to him. Not that he envied Tevos who had to negotiate with the associated Citadel members and convince them to aid the war effort without gaining anything substantial from it (rumors said the Batarians even threatened to leave the Citadel). Nor did he want Pizz responsibilities those were likely even more frustrating than his given how little successes the STG had with the Humans so far.

He entered the private chambers of the council.

"Tevos, Pizz, there is no easy way to tell you this so I'll be blunt. The Humans started a counterattack. You are aware of the reports of them using a new missile type with a higher payload. Well so far they only used few of those in each attack. We always suspected that they are going to mass produce them now. It seems they decided to concentrate those they have currently available and attacked our forces in one of the systems we considered cleared and reasonably safe."

He paused for a moment so that his colleagues could let it sink in.

"I'm sure you'll let you STG analysist run over it but as far as we can see this answers the question whether their jump drive is a mere tactical gimmick or a FTL device. Given their extremely low level mass effect tech there is just no other way how they could have reached this system. We controlled all possible discharge points that should have allowed them to FTL using mass effect technology. Given their tendency for guerrilla strikes and the strategic value of System H-331 a fleet of 12 cruisers with full escorts as well as a few forward bases were stationed in the system. All bases were hit by ballistic thermonuclear missiles only few survivors no base remains operational."

Pizz interrupted him.

"FTL capability concerning. But we always were aware that fixed bases are a weakness against them. An updated doctrine with improved missile defence should keep bases reasonable sure. Expensive, slowing us down but still possible."

"I wasn't finished Pizz. We lost 9 of the cruisers and the other 3 are out of commission. Our analysis shows that they increased the payload of their ship to ship missiles to at least 1 MT maybe even more estimates go up to 1.6 MT. Combined with their new mirv and decoy efforts it seemed to be effective in overwhelming the GARDIAN of what we considered so far a fleet of a configuration and size that should be safe. With the new payload we need a much higher intercept rate and can't rely on barriers as strong as we currently do. The hierarchy is currently working on ships designs with better missles defences as well as stronger barriers but for our current forces this means creating bigger fleets and convoys. Adding what we learned about their possible strike range today this not only slows our progress down but we actually have to recall 3 of our 4 current campaigns invading enemy systems."

Tevos couldn't help herself

"By the Godess. We haven't even found a single relay or garden world so far and we have to stop because we don'T have enough shps?"

Pizz answered for Regitus

"Reasonable precaution. It is likley that the Humans can't follow up this strike behind our lines with a full scale counter attack but we can't risk it. FTL jump drive also means searching for relay might be fruitless. Humans could be exploring and expanding space independent of mass effect technology for a long time. Worst case would be the possibility of a gap too big for our FTL to safely cross over. Then Humans would fight from perfectly secure homeland. "

Regitus nodded.

"We need to run simulations how we need to composite convoys and fleets against this new threat. We have to use more of our material into defending our supply lines and the territory we took from them. It will slow us down but it won't stop us. We have plenty of new ships in yard. All of those already designed with improved missile defences. "

Somehow Pizz knew why only three campaigns were stopped. She didn't like to be out of the loop.

"And why wasn't the 4th campaign stopped?

Pizz smiled.

"System H-289 is our best chance of finally capturing Humans and Human tech for a long time. We only could confirm two outposts in the system one mine so small that we believe it has to be the initial stage of resource exploration and a military listening post. It is quiet remote but we think they'll still try some kind of self-destruction once we send in troops. But we'll fool them the fleet is just the show. We'll land commandos, especially biotics. Very effective against the human walking tanks. Even with the Asari we don't have enough to conquer one of their major posts very high loses but a small listening posts we should be able to manage."

A.N. (including Q&A):

(1) Council allowing indiscriminate bombardment is a political mistake

Well they essentially declared a war of extermination against the humans (at least the uploaded ones). Their main concern really was that they made the world inhabitable (and bending/breaking one of their own major accords). Possible later negotiations with the humans or human retaliation is no on their agenda yet. You might also have noticed that the humans did expect this scenario (and even commented that they would do the same in their shoes). So far the humans are relatively relaxed in this war. No soldier lost so far.

(2) Orbital bombardment couldn't clean up Crossroads as effective as it would be necessary.

Given the numbers I must agree. But I stick with what ME canon tells us. If it helps assume that the Citadel fleet hauled a few of the bigger asteroids at the planet for good measure. There may even still be some forces on the planet but, if they are then they are trapped. The planet is effectively out as basis to help the Humans in space operations. And in the end the imperative of the narrative beats any pseudo realism anyway.

(3) The nukes should be stronger issue again?

You demand that a warhead that peaked its development in the 70s/80s should be vastly superior to both offence and defence of a civilization that is space worthy for millennia? Plausibility factor: 0%.

The simple question I asked myself when I considered the Citadel fleet getting whipped out by the first big fighter screen useing their nukes was this: Why wouldn't the Citadel species use nukes, if they are still that effective? Given their tech they of course know how to build nukes and very sophisticated missiles. The only reasonable answer was that GARDIAN in combination with barriers make normal ship to ship nuclear missiles unattractive. We see the result of this thought process during the few instances the humans fire at non optimal ankles and instances (i.e. when the Basestars lured the fleet away). Next to now missile came through then and those that did were harmless thanks to the barriers.

And that's it deal with it. In this story the humans do not own a magical wonder weapon that cuts through Citadel Dreadnoughts like a scissor through paper.

For those who truly can't live with the story this way here how it would have turned out if you had your way:

"Admiral about two thousand contacts just appeared. Nuclear alarm they …"

The Council lost contact to their invasion fleet. Short time later strange human ships used the relay and disappeared before the blockade fleet could engage. As sudden as the expedition fleet the blockade fleet went dead. Three month later centurions are marching through the Citadel and the Council had to agree to unconditional surrender.

So story done. You can stop reading from here on. If you need plasma or laser weapons just assume they equipped the Raiders with those.

For the reason why the Raider missles not all have 50-150 MT. I answered that the last AN but I can repeat it. Those would be strategic and ballistic missiles far too big for a Raider. What you asking for is to let a F16 be equipped with an intercontinental missile …

(4) The Humans are based on the Cylon tech from BSG 2003. Hence no big railguns in the front of the ship (what is the front of a Basestar anyway). Cylons used missiles a lot their Basetars don't seem to have Railguns. The Raiders and Heavy raiders have guns they use them against enemy fighters. So far humans won each and every fighter vs fighter battle with ease. Do I really need to mention that those guns are no asset against a capital ship with barriers?

(5) I just have thought about the tech the Humans have and using them in the way X should be really effective. I.e. the very good idea of FTL bombs that move slow after they jumped and thus bypassing barriers.

Well first of all one has to have the idea and get it OKed and then you might need a phase of research, design, etc. And then of course production and deployment. So your ideas might be seen in the future but so far and especially during the battle of Crossroads the Humans had to use what they had and that wasn't tailored weaponry for an enemy they didn't knew of a few weeks ago.

(6) Fleet size of both sides.

The number of Dreadnoughts is given in canon. The three main council species at the beginning of ME 1 own ~ 74 Dreadnoughts. Each associate species can add 7-8 to that number but we already know that i.e. the Volus add 0-1 to it. So I would put the whole Citadel at tops somewhere in the region of 100 Dreadnoughts. One of the limiting factor for the ME races are steep Ezo costs for such big military ships the humans don't have that particular problem. So eventhough their Basetars are in the size range of a ME dreadnought they have a lot more. Given that with their carrier based tactics the Raiders and Heavy Raiders do the most work anyway.

I haven't thought about cruiser and frigate numbers for the Citadel so much. But I would say much more than dreadnoughts. They were free to build as many as they liked of them anyway. The thing is in their battle structure is pretty much like it was during the Napoleon wars so the lower classes had pretty much no chance of harming a ship of the line even as a pack. ME lore heavily implies that the same is true for the dreadnoughts (i.e. the comment how the Destiny Ascension would just rip through the average human dreadnought by the simple fact that it is so much bigger).

Citadel currently learns that one can counter their supreme ship by not challenging it head on but cutting of its support base. A lesson Napoleon learned in Russia.

(7) The Geth

I already explained why they are not on the stage yet. Some of you already realized what route I don't want to go. So let me ask you:

What reasons would isolationist like the Geth have to join the war on the human side?

And no we are both A.I. and must work together is not sufficient. If that would apply organics wouldn't wage war on each other. I'll go into more detail here in 2-3 chapters when the Geth and Quarians become involved (or not involved).

(8) Closing remark.

This is definitely the last time I will answer to overly simplified grievance about how weak the humans are in this Fic. Frankly I sometimes have an issue with how strong I let them come out of it.

I like a story where humanity discovers some crazy stuff and beats the shit out of the Turians/Citadel like the next best guy. But there are already so many of them that you can freely choose what variant you like. This story here explores how things run under different starting conditions than those stories assume.