Two days later, he still felt numb. Captain Shepard, the first human Spectre, survivor of the massacre on Akuze, a dozen other battles that should have claimed his life, and one that did, still felt numb. Two days since Earth had fallen a second time in less than a year to a hostile alien force and Shepard still felt cold, mixed with sickening rage. It didn’t matter that the yahg had been less destructive than the Reapers, opting to enslave Earth’s population instead of harvesting it. It didn’t matter that the yahg on Sur’Kesh and in that entire system had been eradicated after Anderson had kept the Alliance fleet in the system and denied an immediate and unplanned attempt to retake Earth. And it didn’t matter to Shepard that plans were already in the making to reclaim his home world.
What mattered was the feeling of failure to protect it once more, to have seen it burn a second time while he could do nothing but watch from a system away. Shepard wanted something to do, a way to make things right- or at least try to.
Instead he sat in a logistical meeting that was only one step in slowly building up to the goal of liberating Earth and keeping her this time. Anderson stood at the podium of the salarian conference room, laying out the basic plan to his Alliance officers. The admiral had been picked up by Ashley when Anderson had ordered the mission to Omega put on hiatus to bring the Eden Prime and her crew to Sur’Kesh to regroup what forces he could. Grunt had enjoyed physically restraining the enraged mercenary queen, Aria T’Loak, for the trip to Logan and then Sur’kesh.
“The salarians have graciously allowed us to set up a base of operations in Talat for the time being,” the now highest ranking Alliance military commander said.
“It’s the least we could do,” a recovered Major Kirrahe added, waving off the comment with a new tank grown arm from his seat in the room. The salarian was, himself, now one of the more senior ranking military leaders in what was left of the salarian forces and acting as representative and advisor to Anderson’s own limited command staff.
Anderson nodded in thanks and continued. “I know the situation looks grim. Hell, it looks as bad as, if not worse than, our war with the Reapers, as far as our numbers go. But we’re not out of the fight. There is still hope.”
“How do you figure that?” Zaeed asked, not concerned with any protocol in a chain of command he was not party to.
“The yahg are playing at something different than those damned machines. Forced labor and terrible conditions aside, we have enslaved populations. They’re not being systematically killed off. That gives us time to plan and rebuild our strength. The one kindness Hackett did for us in his insanity was to force the geth to come to Sur’Kesh. They’ll be instrumental in helping to build up a new fleet . . . if they are willing,” the admiral finished, turning to face Tinman.
“Of course, Admiral Anderson.”
“Thank you, Tinman. The next thing we need to do is something that our salarian friends are renowned for: gather intelligence. The yahg came out of no where and seem like they still could for one obvious reason: we have no information on them at all. We need to change that and fast. I’ll be assigning a team-“
“Count me in,” Shepard said quickly. “I’ve had enough sitting around already. I’m ready to move and so is my crew, Admiral.”
Anderson looked at Shepard with an appreciative smile. “I know you are, Captain, but you won’t be doing this alone and gathering intel is not the only thing we need to win this war. What we need is a decisive advantage. Right now we do not have that.”
“That may be something we can help provide,” Master Sooltir Gelten offered. “What we found at Logan . . . there is no telling what could come of it.”
“Indeed,” David agreed with the Prothean scientist. “There are also many other locations I can think of that hold hidden assets the enemy- hopefully- is unaware of. Unfortunately, those are in in the Sol system, some on Earth, some not. I mean to reclaim those. Shepard, you and the Normandy will be spearheading that goal.”
Anderson nodded and went on. “I’ll speak with each team’s leader individually about your assignment specifics. Needless to say, we have a lot of obstacles in front of us and it won’t be easy. So everyone get rested, get your ships refueled and restocked, and tell your crews to be ready. Dismissed.”
The crew stood up and headed for the exits. Ashley came up beside Shepard on the way. “And to think, we were worried about our allies all swooping in and taking Earth away from us. Now we need them all to come back, swoop down on Earth, and take her away from the alien bastards that did just that.”
“Funny how things play out, isn’t it?” Shepard asked rhetorically.
“Hmph,” Ashley responded. “So: lather, rinse, repeat, huh?”
“Yeah. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” the captain said as he headed to the Normandy to prepare for whatever Admiral Anderson, his long time friend and mentor, assigned as Shepard’s next mission.