The greatest, most destructive conflict in galactic history.
The Reaper invasion began in the Vular System in batarian space, and spread along the mass relay network. Within days, the Batarian Hegemony was all but destroyed, Earth had fallen, the Systems Alliance Navy was in full retreat, and a massive offensive had been launched against the Turian Hierarchy. In the following weeks, the galaxy’s population centers were conquered or annihilated one by one as the Reapers inexorably advanced. On captured planets such as Earth, the Reapers began destroying satellites and defunct nuclear missile silos. They soon began broadcasting orders, inviting local leaders into their superstructures to “negotiate peace”. This was a ruse to indoctrinate them and help pacify the population.
The Reapers entered the galaxy at Vular. Within a day, Reaper capital ships appeared in the Harsa System and descended on the batarian homeworld.
For all the rhetoric about the Hegemony’s military prowess, their response to the Reapers was uncoordinated. Moments after the information minister took to the extranet and announced that unknown ships were destroying all traffic near Khar’shan, the defense minister declared that there was no reason to panic. The planet’s comm buoys were destroyed next, creating an ominous silence that would persist until the end of the war.
Fearing that they were next, batarian colonies across Hegemony space began evacuations. So many refugees poured into the human-occupied Exodus Cluster that Systems Alliance officials at first thought the batarians were invading.
- May 1: Earth
- Shepard and T'Soni on Mars
- The Systems Alliance fares poorly
- May 4: The Hierarchy is invaded
- Palaven under siege
- May 12: Menae
- Invictan Mutiny
- The Hierarchy in Trouble
- May 28: Solregit
- Miracle at Palaven
- June 27: Irune Invaded
- July 7: Solregit Invaded
- May 15: Illium
- Illium Under Siege
- July 10: Thessia Invaded
Entries concerning Cerberus during the war.
- June 15: Cerberus Coup
- July 25: Sanctuary
- August 1: Down With Cerberus: The campaign at Veratix Station
- August 3: Further Down With Cerberus
- May 7: Tuchanka
- May 19: Shepard and Cerberus on Sur’kesh
- May 26: The Krogan have a future: the genophage cured.
- The Krogan join the fight
The Council drags its feet
Despite human Councillor Udina’s insistence that Earth was bearing the brunt of the attack and needed the most help, the asari Councillor succinctly summed up the majority viewpoint: while the Reapers focused on Earth, the other races had time to regroup and build up their own defences. The Council was also unimpressed by the Crucible schematics recovered on Mars, insisting that the weapon was surely flawed, given that it had failed to save the Protheans themselves from extinction. Dr. T’Soni disagreed, explaining that a missing component referred to as “the Catalyst” prevented its completion during the Prothean cycle.
Meanwhile, the Alliance military abandoned the Hades Gamma cluster to incoming Reaper forces.
In a bid for self-preservation, the entire raloi delegation left the Citadel. In parting, Representative Ari'ka said, "We have no wish to battle those who have yet to wrong us, nor have we the capability." The raloi planned to destroy all artificial satellites and observation equipment they currently had in orbit, hoping the Reapers would see them as a pre-spacefaring civilization and spare their planet.
The races of the galaxy were desperate to find a means of fighting the advancing Reapers. Destroying a mass relay to stop the Reapers’ advance was infeasible. Although it had recently been proven that mass relays could be destroyed, a ruptured relay liberated enough energy to ruin any terrestrial world in the relay’s star system. It would take too long to evacuate the millions or billions of people living near each relay, and the Council was unwilling to sacrifice that many lives when combat stood a chance of saving them. Even if a garden world were to survive the relay’s destruction, the Reapers had infinite patience. They travelled out of dark space using conventional FTL - travel within the galaxy wasn’t an insurmountable barrier. Meanwhile, starships were too costly to be used as projectiles, given that it would take many collisions to seriously harm a Reaper. Some armchair admirals suggested that a single starship traveling faster than light could obliterate a Reaper capital ship, but all ships based on mass effect technology possess hardwired safety features to prevent FTL collisions. If a ship’s FTL plotter finds a significant object in the path of a planned jump, the drive refuses to fire in the first place. This isn’t a perfect safety feature - the sensors can only scan for objects within a reasonable distance at light speed, and a navigator must plot the rest of the course - but it’s so inherent to the FTL warm-up process that removing it is nigh impossible. Cynical intelligence analysts noted that the secret of mass effect technology, including the safety system, had always been attributed to the Protheans - just as the mass relays were.
As for conventional weaponry, a capital Reaper's kinetic barriers could hold off the firepower of two dreadnoughts simultaneously, but three clearly caused strain, and four typically resulted in destruction. Weapons designed to maximize heat damage, such as the Thanix series, showed better results against the Reapers than pure kinetic impacts. The barriers of a Reaper destroyer were found to be less formidable than those of a capital ship. It was possible for a single cruiser or many fighters to disable or demolish a destroyer if they could get within range before they were themselves destroyed. This, of course, was never easy.
The hanar homeworld came under siege by a small force of Reapers. The defences held, and would last until the end of the war, with the planet taking damage but never falling. This was, however, only due to the actions of Commander Shepard, who prevented an indoctrinated hanar diplomat from uploading a virus to the Kahjean defence systems.
The hanar sent their warships to engage the Reapers, to repay Shepard for saving their homeworld. Though their navy was relatively small, the hanar also provided the services of their best drell combat specialists. These were accomplished spies, saboteurs and assassins, trained at an extremely young age. While the hanar are normally loath to send trusted allies into open warfare, these were desperate times.
Fallout from the Cerberus coup
Due to the nature of the insurgency, Councilors Valern, Sparatus, Tevos and hastily-sworn in Osoba were unavailable for comment. However, each of their embassies urged Council Space members to not panic in the face of the attempted coup.
In a prepared statement, Paquis Zhelvan of the Hierarchy’s Office of Public Information reminded members of Citadel Space that,
“While this attack is appalling, using our resources on counterattacks against Cerberus will not solve the larger, much more pressing problem of the Reapers. We understand that a large number of turian citizens, both civilians and members of C-SEC, were killed today. With our forces engaging the Reapers both on Palaven and in other theatres, this is a terrible blow, but we must remain on-target and work together if we are to survive.”
The Offices of the Salarian and Asari Council were similarly cautionary. In a joint statement by Xevan Chiota and Malkis Oarian, Press Secretaries for Councilors Valern and Tevos, the Citadel Council stated that,
“We have seen many atrocities during this war and, while Cerberus’ actions are despicable, we must work together to defeat the Reapers. Now, more than ever, we need soldiers to help defend the many colonies throughout the galaxy who face imminent attack by Reaper forces.”
To quote Commander Mark Wallace (N7):
"The ramifications of the assault are huge, most of them good. Dominic Osoba is better than Udina, the asari and salarians are providing a token amount of military aid while their prominant members are seriously considering furthur aid and more people care about the fact that there are docking bays full of refugees and that we are losing contact with entire systems. In the grand scheme of things, the attack on the Citadel will probably do more to help us than hurt us in the war".
Public sentiment regarding Cerberus, already hostile, became even more vehemently opposed. Human casualties, both civilian and C-Sec, as well as Shepard’s decisive role in defeating the attempted coup, lessened the degree to which this hostility spread to humans in general, and species-based reprisals were sporadic and, compared to the state of tensions generally, minor.
The Council created the Citadel Defense Force to support Shepard in the war against the Reapers. The CDF included ships and soldiers from every Council race. Complements from a few species without official membership status also quietly joined. After the attempted coup, no offer of assistance was being turned away by the Council and its advisors.
Efforts to speed the pace of the Crucible’s construction and drive back the Reapers increased in the aftermath of the attempted coup. Admiral Hackett contacted Shepard with news on that front, informing the Commander that while turian and krogan ground forces were making progress on Palaven, they needed more support ships - and the quarians were willing to talk. Hackett requested that Shepard meet with the leaders of the Migrant Fleet but urged caution, as recent intel suggested suspicious activity along the geth border.
Meeting with Admirals Shala’Raan, Han’Gerrel, Daro’Xen and Zaal’Koris on a diplomatic ship in the Far Rim, Shepard learned, much to her chagrin, that the quarians were launching another attack on the geth, with the intention of retaking their homeworld Rannoch from their AI creations. The quarians had pushed the geth back to their home system when a mysterious signal began broadcasting to all geth forces, drastically improving their combat capabilities. Shepard concluded that the signal was Reaper tech, which had to be destroyed if the quarians were to have any chance of survival. The admirals explained that the signal was being broadcast by a geth dreadnought far beyond their ability to destroy. Shepard proposed that a squad from Normandy board the vessel and disable the signal, throwing the geth into confusion and buying the quarians time to make their next move. The quarians agreed, and offered Shepard technical support in the form of one of their own: Shepard’s old crewmate Tali’Zorah.
The quarians’ plan to take back their homeworld was risky, and could easily have led to their annihilation if a peaceful solution hadn’t been found. In an initial battle against the Reaper-upgraded geth ships, the quarians found their Heavy Fleet, and a portion of their Patrol Fleet, outmatched. To stave off defeat, they retreated at FTL speeds to rally with the Civilian Fleet on the far side of Rannoch’s sun, Tikkun. Temporarily hidden, but with only minutes of advance warning should a geth scout observe them, the quarians planned counterattacks to disrupt the geth link with the Reapers. First preying on a damaged dreadnought, the quarians followed by sending strike teams to Rannoch’s surface, to destroy the Reaper transmitting the improved software to geth forces.
The plan worked, but when the Normandy bombed the signal generator, it was revealed to be a Reaper destroyer. The destroyer pursued Shepard and company as they fled in a geth shuttle, while the quarians and the Normandy attempted to provide supporting fire from orbit. A chance weapons strike from the Migrant Fleet revealed a weak point in the Reapers’ defences; that the firing chamber was vulnerable when priming. Using the handheld laser guidance system and dodging the Reaper’s attacks, Shepard directed the Normandy and Migrant Fleet’s weapons against the Reaper, eventually severely damaging it. Following its defeat, the Reaper and Shepard exchanged barbed words; the Reaper, recognising Shepard from Harbinger’s description, asserted that Shepard’s opposition to the Reapers was pointless, that they were preserving organic life from chaos and that the cycle must continue if organics were to be saved from destruction. Shepard dismissed the Reaper’s warnings and assured it that the races of the galaxy would continue to fight until they found a way to win. With nothing more to be said, the Reaper ‘died’.
When the Reaper uplink was disrupted, the geth suffered momentary downgrades in response time and intelligence, allowing the quarians to press their advantage. However, emergency orders from Commander Shepard and Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay broke off hostilities before the geth’s full capabilities were restored. It’s to the quarians’ credit that all three fleets obeyed the order to cease fire, even the Civilian Fleet, which had little combat experience. The geth, for their part, bore no ill will towards enemy combatants and broke off hostilities with perfect discipline.
The Citadel Falls
The End Is Nigh
This is a general withdrawal order. All fleet elements are to fall back from homeworld IMMEDIATELY. All mobilized personnel are to be IMMEDIATELY recalled to their nearest FORWARD OPERATING BASE and await forthcoming instruction. ANY CITIZEN regardless of exemption or registration status who are presently unable to respond to this order are to resist the enemy by any means deemed necessary. All available military assets are to be attached to their DESIGNATED stations only. Any exempted Citizen otherwise capable of responding to this order are to report to TIER SUPERIORS and await forthcoming instruction. All existing trainees are recommended an IMMEDIATE one tier advancement and to await further instruction. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is a general withdrawal order. All assigned fleet assets are to disengage from Palaven IMMEDIATELY.
This is a general order to ALL CITIZENS. All fleet elements are to deploy to Sol IMMEDIATELY. All mobilized personnel are to report to their legions IMMEDIATELY. All army elements are to be considered elements of TASK FORCE HAMMER effective IMMEDIATELY. All available fleet assets are to await designation SWORD or SHIELD. If no further instructions are available, ALL INVOLVED CITIZENS are to defer to the judgment of FLEET COMMANDER HACKETT. This is not a drill.
Sword Force opened its assault with the advance of its fighter screen - drawn primarily from Alliance carrier groups, and augmented by asari and turian squadrons - to engage the Reapers’ screen of Oculus craft. Although suffering heavy losses, the sheer volume of fighters committed to the attack punched a sizeable hole in the Reaper screen. This allowed Sword Force a clear shot at the Reapers themselves. Sword’s aim was to take and hold the space around the Citadel at all costs - to that end the formation’s flanks engaged Reaper destroyers while the most powerful ships concentrated fire on Sovereign-types. In addition to inflicting direct casualties, the goal was to demonstrate the discipline and capability to destroy even the largest Reapers, forcing the Reapers to prioritize the destruction of Sword rather than expose their flanks by making direct runs on the Citadel perimeter or the incoming Shield force. The asari, quarian Heavy Fleet, and turian vessels provided the bulk of Sword’s central defensive line, comprising a mass of dreadnought-grade firepower capable of crippling salvos against even Reapers. The geth, quarian Patrol Fleet, Terminus Fleet, and survivors of the batarian navy formed Sword’s perimeter, targeting Destroyers, supporting the fighter screen, and presenting a constant threat to the exposed flanks of any attempted counterattack.
Hammer Force comprised every transport vessel thought capable of surviving passage through the battle, under covering fire from Sword, and landing its troops in London. All ground units available were committed, concentrated on cores of Alliance Marines, Hierarchy drop troops, krogan warriors, and geth and Migrant Fleet Marine platoons; asari huntresses and commandos, salarian STG, elcor and drell specialists, and batarian and mercenary company units were attached to these primary forces. Hammer suffered enormous casualties from Reaper airborne units and anti-air defences, and in spite of connecting with David Anderson’s resistance troops, it was feared that not enough soldiers or mobile heavy weapons had survived to break the Reaper perimeter around their transport site. With no alternative the attack was launched anyway, and through perseverence in the face of brutal husk and Destroyer assaults, and timely air support from frigates able to detach from Sword force above, a small number reached the transport site. The Reaper known as Harbinger left the orbital battle to attack these troops directly, but Commander Shepard and David Anderson managed to reach the transport device.
Shield force, composed primarily of Alliance and Hierarchy ships, and supported by salarian and quarian Civilian Fleet screening formations, entered the system on schedule, despite Hammer’s delays in reaching the Citadel. With the majority of the Reaper attack focused on Sword force, the Reapers faced the prospect of costly losses if they attempted to disengage and present their flanks to Sword in order to target Shield; thus Shield and the Crucible were able to weather the ships launched against them without being overwhelmed by numbers.