Greetings, again, readers.

Sorry for the long wait, I had an immense amount of trouble writing up this chapter.

It's been, what? Two months now? I am so sorry.

Getting inspiration to write how these chapters will go is pretty hard for me since I was going to make this a one-shot at first. I've got a bare-bones skeleton plot in the works, though, so I'm starting to get a hold of this.

Anyways, thanks for tuning back in and I hope you enjoy the chapter.

"Message for you, Captain."

"Thank you, lieutenant. You may return to your duties."

The lieutenant saluted and then marched back off to his station as the Alliance captain turned his attention to the datapad he'd been given. His eyes scanned the block of words and narrowed after the period of each sentence. Then, his eyes locked onto the name signed beneath the messsage: Admiral Hackett.

Greetings, Captain Jacobs,

I know this is short notice, but the situation is dire and we need your assistance to make it less so. The Prothean Beacon your colony unearthed is possibly the greatest find in the last several decades. It should go without say that we would prefer the retrieval and transportation process to go off the records until it has been relocated to the Citadel.

Currently, our project with the Turians is on its way to the Utopia System to pick up the Beacon, but they will be utilizing their state-of-the-art stealth drive to enter the system undetected. We need you to ensure that your crew—and subsequently the entire cluster—does not go on full alert if they are detected. I doubt that there will be any issues and hope to God that you are not placed in any compromising situations, but if such an event does occur, I know that you will be able to make the hard choices in ensuring the safety of the mission.

Admiral Hackett.

He gulped and looked up from the datapad to the crew scattered across the bridge deck of the SSV Cherub.

Captain Artillus Jacobs was the commanding officer of a Systems Alliance cruiser for a reason, but he had never been a part of an operation such as this. Although, he could hardly call his role as an actual role. When the history records spoke of the beacon's retrieval, they'd probably mention him in some side note. Still, though, he was a critical component in keeping the Human-Turian ship from being detected if their stealth drive had a malfunction.

Suddenly, he was pulled from his thoughts as a cry came up from across the bridge, "Sir! I'm getting some strange readings."

For a brief moment, he imagined a possible outcome to this moment, but then shook it off. Stepping towards the ensign who had called out, he moved to stand just behind his seat and look at the terminal before him. A map of the system was shown on the holographic display and he looked to the source of disturbance near the mass relay that lead in and out of the Utopia System.

"I'm sure its nothing, ensign," he assured and moved away. "If any other incidents occur, however, please alert me."

He moved away then and breathed a sigh of relief, not knowing what he had actually done.

Several hours later...

They were everywhere. She was surrounded. There was no way out.

Her eyes scanned the brush, searching for any single, glowing eyes.

"Dammit," Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams cursed as she crouched lower against the rock she hid behind.

Around the rock she peeked from was the treeline that she had just left behind and behind her currently was the path to the dig site.

Sucking in a breath, she waited several seconds longer before retreating back behind the large boulder, rifle close to her armored chest while closed her eyes and tuned into the sounds of the environment around her. Ashley listened for the cracking of branches or the crumpling of grass, but heard only the wind and the sounds of battle beyond.

After two minutes had passed, she breathed a sigh of relief and grit her teeth.

"Dammit," she cursed once more and rose up from her crouch, sliding up against the stone just enough so that her helmet did not peek over the top of the rock. "How did this... How did those things even get here?"

Just as she finished, the telltale whirring and clicking of her assailants resounded out through the clearing. She straightened and sucked in a sharp breath, clutching the rifle in her hands. Her finger pressed against the trigger, but did not squeeze as she slowly moved to peer around her makeshift cover.

Exiting the brush were three of the single-eyed machines, their "flashlight heads" moving in scanning motions as they searched the area. She quickly pulled herself back behind the large boulder and held up her weapon, prepared to turn out and around with guns blazing. However, just before she moved her foot to make the twirl, a rumble filled the air and she turned her eyes up to watch a shuttle-like ship descend through the skies, heading nearby towards one of the outlying research camps.

Its design was far stranger than any ship she'd ever seen. Most were sleek and curved with an emphasis on smooth, seamless hulls. The mysterious ship, however, was bulkier even if it was small and its hull appeared to be a patchwork of metal with many protrusions studding its hull. Two wings extended from its side and a top, dorsal wing shot straight up.

As soon as it appeared, though, it disappeared over the treeline and the robots—who had also watched—clicked to one another before disappearing back into the brush.

Gunnery Chief Williams breathed another sigh of relief, but then thought of the ship and potential reinforcements onboard.

Raising up her arm, she activated her omni-tool and called into its communications function, "This is Gunnery Chief Williams to any nearby squads, can you hear me? I repeat, this is Gunnery Chief Williams, is anyone out there?"

No answer came for the first few seconds, and none came after the first minute. Finally relenting and closing the channel after two more minutes had gone by, Ashley raised up her chin and looked to the sky briefly before whispering a silent prayer. Then, she was off, heading towards that mysterious ship in hopes of finding anyone or anything that could help her.

Crouching low, she hid her bright white and pink colored form in the shadow of the large trees and swiftly moved to hide behind the massive trunks of those giant flora. She had a few close calls with the humanoid robots when the hovering drones they brought patrolled the forest. She managed to evade them twice, but prayed that she wouldn't have to keep hiding from them a third time.

Eventually, her efforts brought her to the research encampment where the mysterious shuttle should have landed, yet... it wasn't there.

The buildings planted in the clearing stood abandoned, their sides singed from the plasma shots of the robots' weapons and their interiors left abandoned without any bodies in sight.

"What the-"

Before she could finish her confused remark, however, a shot of blue flew past her and she immediately fell into a roll. Landing into a crouch, she looked back as several of the single-eyed machines marched out from the forest, rifles held up as their eyes locked onto her.

"Dammit!" she cursed loudly while running to the nearest form of cover—that being a pile of crates.

Her makeshift cover would not last long with the haze of plasma shots that scorched the stacked boxes. However, she only needed it for the moment as her free hand clasped the disk on her belt.

Pulling the grenade free, she primed it and quickly tossed it out towards the robots. She counted down the seconds it took for it to reach the machines before tapping her omni-tool. An explosion rang out and a smirk crossed her lips as a sense of pleasure and pride filled her.

That joy, however, was gone as soon as it appeared due to the sudden appearance of another squad of the killer machines rounding a building next to her.

Gunnery Chief Williams barely avoided the shots of plasma they discharged, and she barely avoided the next one. The third attack they made, however, caught her in the arm, and she stumbled from the impact.

While her shields took the damage, the force sent her into a brief stumble in her sprint. Her foot found itself atop a loose pebble and suddenly she was tumbling forward, falling to the ground.

Quickly rising back up from the fall, she pulled her rifle to train it on the nearest cyclopean robot, prepared to take down at least one before she died.

Yet, before the machines could open fire, the whistling of an object flying through the air cut through the tense silence. Ashley's eyes focused on the tube-like object that bounced on the dirt until it tapped the metal, three-toed foot of one of the machines, and then she scrambled onto her feet.

The second that she began turning to run, the grenade erupted into a dome of bright, orange light that turned clear in the split-second after. Then, a blast of fire erupted from the center and broke through the dome, releasing the sound and heat of an explosion which sent her flying.

The white and pink armored Human woman flew through the air just before landing at the edge of the clearing, luckily at the entrance to the path down into the dig site.

Groaning and coughing, she rose up on shaky limbs, hoping to be able to move as far away from any of the surviving killer robots as soon as possible. Her hopes were drowned, though, as a few lights shined through the smoke. The singular eyes of the machines locked onto her once more and she stared back with wide, alarmed eyes seconds before bolts of red flew through the air.

The mechanical invaders fell with scorched chests and bursts of sparks, eliciting whirring screeches all the while. Within a moment, the remaining machines fell to the ground, motionless, and Ashley Williams stared at her dead assailants with shock. Her mind attempted to register what she had just seen: a flurry of red streaks killing the Geth squad. When she finally came to terms with the image, her attention went to where the red streaks had come from, and she came to look to her saviors with an expression of both awe and fear.

Five humanoid beings stood before her, all wearing strange, pitch black armor with narrow helmets which had visors outlining the front of the helmet. Beneath the brim of the helmet was another visor, this one being the usual, glass window that people used to see out of their helmets. Strangely, it was designed as if it were two glaring eyes being connected by a "bridge", making it a visor. Just beneath the glass visor was a kind of respirator—or, at least she thought it was one—which was situated in a long, thin "snout-like" mouth. Each of the strange troopers held up their rifles—small and strange weapons she'd never seen before—and each had their weapons pointed directly at her.

"Arms up where we can see them!" the soldier at the head of the group shouted with a masculine tone. He pressed his gun forward, compelling the woman to obey as her upper limbs rose into the air quickly.

Her eyes were wide, still in awe and fear, but anger was beginning to swell under the panic she felt.

"Wait! I'm Systems Alliance!" she shouted, searching their armored bodies for the insignia of Humanity's primary military force.

She did not find it and then chose to remain quiet as the leader of the squad raised up their left arm to pressed against the side of their helmet.

"Squad 8 to Command, we've found a survivor; Human female, Systems Alliance soldier. Requesting orders."

A few seconds passed by as the leader communicated with "Command", and during that time, Ashley took the opportunity to observe the five soldiers. While they wore the same type of pitch black armor, each was customized with a number of differing equipment.

The apparent leader of the squad wore his dark green shoulder guard and bore a large backpack on his back, evident by its square shape peaking over his shoulders and a small antenna sticking up on its right side. A holster sat on his right hip—occupied by a small pistol—and a belt of packets and pouches was strapped around his waist.

On his right was a soldier bearing what appeared to be a jetpack and a compact rifle next to it. He wore a short, dark gray cloth which resembled a small poncho. It covered the upper half of his armor, but stopped above his jetpack's thrusters. Either it was for keeping him dry during a rainstorm or helped conceal him when he hid. Although, it seemed to be useless for the latter function if his armor was already pitch black in color.

The second soldier on the leader's right was a soldier wearing a much larger pack on their back with a long, tube-like object slung over his right shoulder. Ashley could guess what that weapon was, and if she was right, then her guess on what was in their pack was probably correct too; her guess being a wealth of explosive ordinance.

On the leading soldier's left were two more soldiers, however, the first of the two's helmet was different the rest. Two bulges jutted from the forehead and ran to the back of the helmet before seemingly curving back to the front of the helmet and coming to connect with the helmet's respirator. They wore the same pack as the leading soldier, but their rifle was different, far heftier with what appeared to be modifications and attachments.

The last of the five soldiers appeared to be thinner, and instead of more weaponry, they carried a larger belt of supplies with a number of different pouches.

"Confirmed," he said and raised up his rifle again.

Her eyes went wider, but narrowed a split-second after. Her forward, right foot twisted towards the right and she moved in that direction. Her momentum pushed her towards the squad of five's flank which she hoped to maneuver around.

Unfortunately, the squad leader tracked her faster than she thought he would and in an instant, fired off a ring of blue light.

It struck her and she felt her body go limp within a second. When her form hit the ground, there was no pain, only a dull sensation of pressure as the ground met her armored body. A groan escaped her lips when she meant to speak defiant curses; and as her vision went dark, she prayed internally that she'd make it out of this to see her family again.

When Ashley awoke again, she found herself propped up against a large stone instead of lying on the grass. The smell of smoke still lingered in the air, as did the numbness of being knocked out by... whatever it was those weird soldiers had did.

"She okay?"

"Yeah... I think so."

"Mm..." she mumbled, trying to speak yet producing only a weak sound.

Shadowed figures wavered in her blurry vision as she blinked repeatedly. The silhouettes slowly colored themselves into two figures, both men and both wearing Alliance-marked armor. A smile nearly crossed her lips before it became a frown with the memory of her assailants crossed her mind. Gritting her teeth and baring them, she tried to push herself up, only to fall back against the stone with a groan.

"Whoa, hold on there, ma'am," the Alliane soldier who crouched spoke and he reached up an arm marked with a red and white stripe.

Red and white stripe... that meant he was... N7.

"N... 7?"

He paused for a second before nodding slowly.

"Yeah, I'm N7," he said and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. "My name is Commander John Shepard, and he's Kaidan Alenko."

He threw a thumb behind him upon mentioning the other man.

"We're here to help. What's your name and rank, soldier?"

She narrowed her eyes and looked him over for a brief second, taking in his appearance.

A mostly shaved head, colored by a cover of dark brown stubble. A hardened face with a stern expression. Green eyes, staring into her brown ones. After a moment of contemplating, she took his serious face and accepted it as proof of his loyalty to the Systems Alliance.

Slowly rising up while sliding against the stone for support, she listed off her rank and name, "Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, Systems Alliance."

Following her up until both of them stood on their feet, Shepard gave a curt smile and nodded at her.

"Good to meet you, Gunnery Chief Williams."

He extended a hand and she took it after a moment, shaking it. Behind Shepard, Alenko nodded his head at her and she sent a nod back in response.

"Anything you could tell us about what happened here?" the Commander suddenly asked and she looked to him before following his gaze to the large blot of burnt grass and dirt.

Surrounding that mar on the grassy ground were the bodies of the machines that had hunted her down. Their eyes were dark with not even a single speck of light indicating that a single machine had survived. Their chests bore holes seared into them by whatever projectiles that those strange soldiers had shot at them. She stared into what exposed machinery and circuitry was shown through the open wounds and she thought of the stories that spoke of the machine race beyond the Perseus Veil.

"Those things, they were hunting me and... Sir, I think they were Geth."

"Geth?" Alenko scoffed from behind the N7. "That's impossible, the Geth haven't left the Perseus Veil in over three hundred years."

"Yeah? Well those killer machines mowed down my men and hunted me like a dog. I'd say that either they're Geth or someone made one hell of an advanced robot army."

"Hm, well they must've got hit pretty hard if they're all dead and you're still alive," Commander Shepard remarked with crossed arms and a suspicious countenance.

Ashley looked to the dead Geth and vivid memories of her meeting with the unknown, black armored soldiers resurfaced in her mind.

"They were chasing me and... I ran into some soldiers."

Shepard tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at that.

"Alliance? Or..."

"No, not Alliance," she affirmed. "They wore... uh, black armor. Really weird, black armor."

Shepard's eyes narrowed, and he stared her down for a few seconds before questioning, "Weird, black armor?"

"Yeah, but they were humans, I think."

The Commander looked behind him to the other man, Kaidan, who shrugged his shoulders and then turned his attention back to the gunnery chief.

"So, what? You ran into them and they saved you, and then left you for dead?"

"Well, er- Yes, but- Okay, so the Geth were hunting me down and I was heading to the dig site to meet up with the squad stationed there when I got ambushed by those killer robots. I tried making a run for it, but they pinned me down. Then... there was a grenade, or just something like a grenade; made one hell of an explosion. I got sent flying and a couple of Geth survived, but when they tried coming after me, those black armored soldiers showed up."

She glanced at the spot where the five soldiers had stood, swearing that she could still see faint images of them.

"They gunned down the Geth, then... I don't know. I think they knocked me out with some kind of energy blast."

The gunnery chief knew that her explanation was ludicrous at best, career ruining at worst, but she hoped to God that they would believe her. Furthermore, she hoped that they didn't recognize her last name and immediately discredit her because of that. As a minute passed by, though, the Commander's face shifted from suspicious to grim and he shook his head with a frustrated face.

"Alright, we'll radio this to Nihlus," he said and looked to Alenko who nodded before activating his omni-tool to make the call. "Williams? You fit for duty?"

She stared at him for a moment before the question registered in her head, and then she cracked a smirk before shooting back, "Hell yes, sir. It's payback time."

Her smirk was reciprocated by a smile from Shepard before he reached down to grab a rifle—her rifle—off the ground. Handing it back to her, he nodded and turned towards the path.

"We'll fill you in on the mission," he spoke before starting down with his own weapon held up, "but our primary objective is the Prothean beacon that was dug up."

By the time the replenished team of three made it to the dig site, the Prothean beacon was gone. Their first assumptions was that it was stolen, but as they made their way further into the colony, they happened upon two scientists—or rather, a scientist and her insane assistant. Thanks to them, however, the Commander and his companions discovered the location of the beacon.

Apparently, it had been moved prior to the attack, taken to the space port to be transported off world once the SSV Normandy arrived. Tragically, on their way there, they found Nihlus. He had been killed, shot dead by another Turian named Saren, as told to them by a man hiding at the tram station.

When they arrived at the space port, however, they found the entire port littered with Geth. That was to say, that it was covered in both functioning and dead Geth. Those that were destroyed had similar wounds to those that had attacked Gunnery Chief Williams, and those that were still standing seemed to be on the lookout for other assailants before the trio of Alliance soldiers arrived.

Although, upon the entrance of the Humans, the Geth turned their flashlight heads straight towards them. That was why they were currently pinned behind a wall with Shepard taking the front and Ashley sitting behind a stack of crates. Kaidan, however, stood just behind Shepard while he tried to calculate where a biotic attack would do the most damage to the Geth positioned down the walkway.


"I'm on it, Shepard!" the other man shouted in annoyance before he quickly twirled around the corner and sent a ball of bluish white energy flying towards the last killer robot standing

The blast of biotic energy sent the remaining Geth soldier flying up into the air where it was filled with holes, courtesy of Shepard and Ashley's aim and their rifles.

As it fell to the ground sparking and leaking silvery fluid, the trio of Alliance soldiers stepped out of cover to approach. They moved cautiously, eyes darting between whatever could be considered cover up ahead. They scanned the area quickly and efficiently, searching for any remaining forms of resistance. When they became satisfied, the two man and one woman group moved up towards their prize.

"This is amazing!" Kaidan remarked loudly, a grin on his face as they stepped towards the tall, thin tower of metal and seething green energy.

It was far smaller than any of the Humans could have imagined, but it did not lack in awe. The ancient relic of the Protheans glowed with a harshness to it, burning bright with emerald energy that shined through small lights dotting an interior-like skin beneath dark gray metal covering.

"Actual working Prothean technology; unbelievable!"

In contrast to his enthusiasm, Gunnery Chief Williams was far from enjoying the sight. In fact, the emerald glow of the relic disturbed her and she frowned visibly.

"It wasn't doing anything like that when they dug it up. Something must've activated it."

As the gunnery chief stared at it for seconds longer, Shepard finished up calling the Normandy down for pickup. Just as he ended the call, a flash of light tore his attention towards the female soldier he and Alenko had picked up. The white and pinked armored Williams was being pulled towards the beacon as she tried to step backwards. An invisible force though, was dragging her forward, seemingly looping ropes around her to draw her towards the Prothean beacon.

With quick reflexes, he was leaping forward and sprinting towards her. His arms wrapped around the soldier's waist and the Commander twisted around before letting go, throwing Ashley into Kaidan's arms. She lay stunned in the other man's grasp as Shepard attempted to move back towards them. Yet, something began dragging him in Ashley's stead.

It was not so much a physical pull as it was also something jerking... something deep inside of him. He felt it grasp whatever was in the pit of his chest; his soul, his spirit, his- whatever! In any case, he was being pulled forward by that invisible force, and then he was being suspended in the air.

The beacon flashed once more and his eyes snapped open as wide as they possibly could.

He could faintly hear Kaidan shout his name, but his voice was small in comparison to the voices screaming in his mind.

Flashes of vivid images seared themselves to his brain:

Visions of burnt worlds and razed cities; of smoldering battlefields and blood-flooded streets.

He saw forests of metals spikes, like those that were scattered throughout the Eden Prime dig site. Yet these were empty and dried with blood, beneath them marched silhouetted figures of grotesque shape.

He watched flesh being ripped and torn; the bodies of aliens—dried and bloodless—being taken apart and reassembled.

Voices spoke words and screamed horrifying sounds, giving off the last tales of a dying civilization. Their whispers haunted him throughout the entire experience as he watched ancient monsters of metal and fire rain from the sky.

He saw it all, and that was the terrible part.

It came to him at once, in one single burst that jumbled and meshed itself together. The images were in disorder, like a chaotic line that had transpired into a churning crowd of information that had no real order to it.

Then, it ended.

Commander Shepard fell to the ground, no sound leaving him as he lay there. The Prothean beacon before him crackled once and then exploded, bursting into shrapnel and electricity before becoming a broken metal shard that spat sparks.

Both Kaidan and Ashley ran to the Commander's side, the former grabbing him by his shoulders and shouting his name angrily. The latter stood on weak legs before falling onto her knees, horrified at what had happened and how she had caused it to happen.

They sat there like that for a time, waiting for him to wake up and waiting for the Normandy to arrive so it might deliver them from this nightmare.

"This is Lieutenant Stroy of Storm Commando Squad 8, reporting."

Lieutenant Calphus Stroy stood with his right hand holding up his pair of macrobinoculars and his left hand holding up his communicator up to the bottom of his helmet.

"I read you, lieutenant. Report."

"Sir, the Human soldiers made it to the Prothean beacon. The leader made contact and has been knocked out; and the Prothean beacon was destroyed as a result."

He dropped his macrobinoculars, no longer needing them to take in the sight of the Human man and Human woman desperately trying to tend to their unconscious squad leader.

"Anything else to report?"

"Nothing, sir."

"What of the status of the Geth?"

"All remaining Geth forces appeared to have converged on the space port. Private Ferro took out a few, but we let the Alliance squad mop up when they arrived."

He turned towards his squad to look at the Storm Commando's resident sniper, TK-848—affectionately named and known as "Spyglass" among his fellow soldiers, even though he was Private Ferro to the higher ups.

"Very good, lieutenant. Prepare your squad for evac; we will be sending a stealth shuttle to these coordinates."

Looking down to his right arm, the Storm Commando watched his omni-tool brighten into life as it received the designated evac zone coordinates from the Chimaera.

Within a second of receiving the data, the Storm Commando lieutenant gave one last farewell to his superior, "Understood, sir."

With that, the line went dead and Grand Admiral Thrawn leaned back into his chair.

The events at Eden Prime had been the culmination of the Geth's recent activities beyond the Perseus Veil. That much he knew from what his many sources and spies had discovered. Whether it was a stealthed satellite hidden away at the edge of a star system, listening to the communications of passing ships or the spies stationed in key locations in the Milky Way galaxy's many governments or even the many scouts deployed across the stars, the Grand Admiral had attained all the knowledge he needed to arrive in the Eden Prime system ahead of the Geth assault fleet.

He was surprised, however, when the Alliance ships defending the colony did not send anyone to investigate their arrival. Usually, the presence of their ships in hyperspace prior to entering star systems prompted the security elements of those systems to search for the anomalies that had sped through space without the aid of a mass relay. Although, while the lack of response was strange, it was not unwelcome. The initial plan had been for any investigating party to be quickly dealt with and any retaliatory force be left to the mercy of the Geth once they arrived. With their ships going undetected, the Imperials were able to remain completely hidden until the Geth had captured the paradise planet.

The show that had played out then had been both educational and a reminder to the crew of the Chimaera and its escort star destroyers that their empire was not yet secure.

These Geth had brazenly attacked a colony world, one that was highly coveted by the Human's Systems Alliance.

Such a brash action required a proper reward, and the Prothean beacon which had been excavated on the colony was most certainly a reward.

However, why the Geth were concerned with ancient Prothean relics was another matter entirely; one that he had thoroughly investigated over the years.

It began with his time before his rise in the Galactic Empire, when he was still in service to Matriarch Benezia and her Citadel Council.

A simple look at the art of the Asari lead to a theory on the true nature of their goddess, Athame. His curiosity lead him to learn more of the Protheans, and in turn, their extinction. An empire might fall, but its ruins would still stand the test of time; unless they too were torn down in a campaign to eradicate all traces of that empire.

So it was, that he searched and pilfered through the looted arts of dead civilizations, piecing together a lost history.

Although, without any real account of his theorized timeline, there was no evidence to verify his claims.

That was until the attack on Eden Prime and the contact between the Human and the Prothean beacon.

Whereas Saren Arterius was more than likely untrustworthy, this "Commander Shepard" would be an excellent ally to persuade and mold into an ally.

Speaking of which, the Chiss man tapped the built-in controls on his seat's armrest and looked to the massive, holographic panel that hung before him.

The multiple windows showcasing the armor cameras of Storm Commando Squad 8 minimized as a new window opened. This one pulled up a compiled record of Commander John Shepard, pieced together by the intelligence agents aboard the Chimaera.

Solid scarlet eyes scanned over the lines of text, mentally reading the knowledge that had been gather for him.

"Survivor of Mindoir," he mumbled, taking in the report of the brutal attack on the Human colony by Batarian slavers.

The memory of the attempted attack on one of the Empire's colonies weeks before entered his mind briefly. He still had to send the slaver Kardev off to a proper detention center.

He continued on with his reading after that brief bout of musing, taking in the knowledge of the Commander's upbringing after his traumatic childhood. Apparently, his entire family had died, save for his mother, an Alliance officer who had been off-world on a tour. After the incident, he was taken with her and raised amongst the Systems Alliance, garnering a kind of patriotism and want to become like his mother.

Then, his career took him to the planet Elysium.

"Savior of Elysium. Hero of the Skyllian Blitz," the Grand Admiral read off with a small smile.

Such romantic titles for individuals that contrasted so much with those of the old Empire's renowned heroes.

He continued on reading after that, taking in the Human man's N7 training and mentorship under Captain David Anderson, an esteemed officer in the Systems Alliance. Further into the report, he learned of his placement on the SSV Normandy as a part of Captain Anderson's crew and their mission to come to Eden Prime.

With his reading over, the Grand Admiral steepled his fingers and stared a the touching pads of his fingers. He focused his mind and thought on the knowledge that he now held, calculating the pros and cons of every scenario that would occur with each plan. He took into account the possible reactions and emotions that might create complications or failures.

With the Geth gone and their gargantuan dreadnought leading their retreat, it was likely that they would disappear back into obscurity. However, with Saren apparently in league with them, it would be simple to leak that knowledge and force the Council to send their Spectres after the ruthless Turian soldier. If his plans went accordingly, then the Geth should be forced out into open conflict.

But then there was the issue of Commander Shepard.

He had a background, a record of heroism; and his contact with the Prothean beacon would likely lead him to join in the hunt for Saren.

"Hm..." he sounded as he looked up at the holographic screen before him.

Moving his right hand over the controls on his armrest, he pulled up the armor cameras of Squad 8 once more and brought the time back to just when they were observing Shepard and his squad at the tram station.

The members of Storm Commando Squad 8 were huddled together in a nearby treeline with Lieutenant Stroy observing the trio talking to a man that had hidden himself during the attack. A probe droid nestled near the Humans of the Systems Alliance allowed the squad of elite troopers to listen to their conversation.

Thrawn watched the recording, and he listened intently as the voices of the Milky Way Humans crackled through the audio feed:

"I need to know how Nihlus died."

"The other one got here first. He was waiting when your friend showed up. He called him Saren," the station worker confessed quickly. "I think they knew each other."

So the Commander knew as well.

If he reported to his superiors, which was more than likely to occur, then the Empire of the Hand would not need to involve themselves at all... still, the Geth had wanted to take the Prothean beacon; and if Squad 8's reports had been accurate, than Saren's tactics implied that he had been leading the attack, himself. That would mean that, in turn, Saren was after the beacon, but for what reason, Thrawn did not know; and not knowing was a danger.

Hopefully, the dear Commander Shepard could enlighten him.

Activating a comm line to the bridge, Grand Admiral Thrawn waited for the captain on the other end to pick up before speaking, "Captain Pellaeon."

After a second of silence, the captain's voice came through:

"Grand Admiral, sir."

"Captain, have our agents on the Citadel prepare to cover a Council session. I want to know everything about what goes on there."

"Understood, Grand Admiral," the captain of the Chimaera acknowledged, but after a moment of thought he spoke up again, "Shall I prepare for the jump to lightspeed?"

"Make it so, captain," Grand Admiral Thrawn approved and cut the line before pressing a button on his armrest's controls.

The holographic screen faded away and in its place came rings of holographic art that descended from above, surrounding him with the culture, religions, beliefs, ideas, memories, and mental processes of species and races that were either long deceased or still living.

And that concludes Chapter 3 of The Art of War.

I hope you enjoyed reading all of that, I had a pretty fun time composing the chapter.

Like I mentioned in the earlier Author's Note, I had quite a bit of trouble writing this all out at first.

That was due to the fact that my original idea involved Thrawn and his star destroyers just watching the whole thing unfold on Eden Prime.

When I did that, it was just boring writing about Shepard going through the prologue mission, but then E3 happened and I watched the Star Wars Battlefront 2 trailer from EA. (Super hyped for it too, btw)

So, I created Storm Commando Squad 8 to appear on Eden Prime, which let me introduce Shepard's crew (or future crew) to the Imperial side of the story.

If you don't know what Storm Commando's are, they're basically elite Stormtroopers with black colored scout trooper armor and they're used for covert, special operations missions and things like that. That made them perfect for their role in this chapter.

Anyways, things are going to get ramped up with the activities on the Citadel.

We'll get to see how Thrawn's network stretches across the galaxy.

Also, question: Did you guys want me to write about Therum, Noveria, and Feros? Or did you want me to timelapse that?

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Mithrao - Fanatic of Thrawn, signing off.