Mass Effect: From the Ashes
The Reaper War Codex
THE REAPER WAR
The Fall of Khar’shan
For every thousand batarian refugees, there are a thousand and one stories about how the Reapers invaded the batarian systems. A few elements are common to almost every version, however. The Reapers arrived first in the Vular system and immediately destroyed its communications network. The Hegemony’s Department of Information Control blamed the loss of signal on space weather, but scrambled ships to the system nonetheless. Within a day, Reaper capital ships appeared in the Harsa system and descended on the batarian homeworld, Khar’shan.
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 there was no reason to panic. The planet’s comm buoys were destroyed next, creating an ominous silence that has persisted ever since.
Fearing 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.
More systems have gone dark as their comm buoys were destroyed, and millions more batarians, trapped on their planets, sit waiting for the Reapers.
The Fall of Earth
The Reapers took Earth in a matter of hours. The Alliance knew the first wave would arrive from batarian space, but they were unprepared for the speed and scale of the attack.
The Reapers bypassed the Sixth and Seventh Fleets at Terra Nova and Eden Prime, flying straight from relay to relay where they could neither be tracked nor intercepted. The tactic was unexpected, since the navies of organic species would never risk coming out of FTL within combat range or leaving enemies at their backs to threaten supply lines.
At Arcturus Station, more than a dozen Reaper capital ships engaged the Alliance’s Second, Third, and Fifth Fleets. This was mere screening for the main force. Dozens more capital ships continued through the Charon Relay, where the First Fleet had been lying in wait but was soon destroyed. The Fourth Fleet, near Earth, had a few minutes of advance warning. It stood no better chance.
After destroying Earth’s comm buoys, smaller Reaper destroyers wiped out all GPS and communications satellites in Earth’s orbit and cut the undersea fiber-optic cables that linked the continents. Earth’s resistance now relies on outdated radio towers and a few quantum entanglement communicators whose matched pairs happen to be on other continents or outside the Sol system. Communication is so limited that the fate of entire nations remains unknown.
The capital ships bombarded defense installations and industrial centers, annihilating entire cities with populations in the low millions, including Adelaide, Hamburg, Al Jubail, and Fort Worth. Meanwhile, Reaper destroyers descended into the atmosphere to melt roads and capture population centers with minimal loss of life. This is not an example of the Reapers being merciful. More likely, they are herding their prey to make the coming harvest that much easier.
The Fall of Taetrus
The Reapers’ first attack on turian space followed an age-old maxim: hit them where it hurts. A populous colony dating back centuries, Taetrus was already embedded in the turian psyche as the site of the worst terrorist attack in turian history. Wounds were still raw from the Vallum Blast, in which a separatist revolutionary slammed a starship into the colony’s capital, killing more than a hundred thousand turians. Hierarchy forces responded with a massive invasion of the planet to stamp out the separatist movement. It was a catharsis for the turians, reassuring them that heroes would always triumph over evil. And so the Reapers struck Taetrus first.
By the time Taetrus went dark, the turians had already learned that the batarians and humans were under attack. The Hierarchy responded with what they believed was overwhelming force, only to walk into a trap. Reaper ships were waiting on the other side of the relay to Taetrus, and they released devastating firepower the moment the fleet emerged. Turian leaders observing the one-sided battle were faced with a choice: reinforce their side of the relay to defend against a Reaper invasion, or throw more resources into an offense. With soldiers and civilians alike clamoring for retribution against the Reapers, the turians continued the assault. The Hierarchy sent warp bombs through the relay to clear a path, fighting tooth and talon to inflict casualties against the Reaper fleet. It was a valiant effort, but doomed. The Reapers emerged victorious from the relay and began broadcasting a signal to turian comm buoys—images of Vallum, Taetrus’s capital, once again a smoking wreck. The fight for turian space had begun.
Faced with utter annihilation, military planners have considered extreme solutions in their quest to stop the Reapers. The two most plausible are the destruction of mass relays and the use of starships as suicide weapons.
Destroying a mass relay to stop the Reapers’ advance is infeasible. Although it has recently been proven that mass relays can be destroyed, a ruptured relay liberates enough energy to ruin any terrestrial world in the relay’s solar system. It would take too long to evacuate the millions or billions of people living near each relay, and the Council is unwilling to sacrifice that many lives when combat stands a chance of saving them. Even if a garden world were to survive the relay’s destruction, the Reapers have infinite patience. They traveled out of dark space using conventional FTL—travel within galaxy is not an insurmountable barrier.
Meanwhile, starships are too costly to be used as projectiles, given that it would take many collisions to seriously harm a Reaper. Some armchair admirals suggest 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 FTL drive refuses to fire in the first place. This is not 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 is so inherent to the FTL warm-up process that removing it is nigh impossible. Cynical intelligence analysts note that the secret of mass effect technology, including that safety system, has always been attributed to the Protheans—just as the mass relays were.
The Battle of Palaven
When Taetrus fell, the turians knew little about the Reapers except that they wanted to enrage the turians. Staying calm, the turians massed in force around Palaven, their homeworld. Fleet Admiral Irix Coronati, in what became known as the “Fifteen-Minute Plan,” stationed only two carriers, Undaunted and Resolute, near the system’s relay. When the Reaper fleet emerged, the carriers launched swarms of unmanned fighters and spy drones. These were quickly destroyed, but the drones transmitted vital data on the Reapers’ effective range, fleet composition, and exact location. The turians’ other ships then deployed to defend the system in earnest.
Knowing that the Reapers’ weapons had a longer effective range than any of his own, Coronati made a short, daring FTL jump—landing his dreadnoughts in the middle of the Reaper fleet. The dreadnoughts then turned to line up their main guns on the Reapers, which also needed to turn to fire on the turians. This ploy used the Reapers’ size against them—because they could turn faster, the turian dreadnoughts locked targets first, and their concentrated firepower downed several Reaper capital ships.
The Reapers countered instantly. Their destroyers performed a jump of their own to the skies above Palaven, beginning orbital strikes on turian cities. The turians, forced to defend the planet, found themselves in a pitched battle far from the relay, from which emerged a seemingly endless line of Reaper ships. After massive casualties, Coronati ordered retreat.
The turians insist that Palaven is not lost—the battle has merely moved to the ground. Reaper troop transports have dumped hordes of husks to capture Palaven’s inhabitants, but met with little success. Reaper capital ships are destroying city after city. But much of the turian fleet is still operable, and the citizenry is heavily armed. The turians refuse to be intimidated.
The Battle of Rannoch
The quarians’ plan to take back their homeworld was risky, and could easily have led to their annihilation if a peaceful solution had not been found.
In an initial battle against the Reaper-upgraded geth ships, the quarians found their Heavy Fleet and a portion of the Patrol Fleet outmatched. To stave off defeat, the quarians 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 spot them, the quarians planned counterattacks to disrupt the geth link with the Reapers. First preying on a damaged geth dreadnought, the quarians followed by sending strike teams to Rannoch’s surface to destroy the Reaper that was transmitting improved software to geth forces.
When the Reaper uplink was disrupted, the geth suffered momentary downgrades in response time and intelligence, allowing the quarians to press their advantage. But emergency orders from Commander Shepard and Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay broke off hostilities before the geth’s full capabilities were restored. It is 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.
It remains to be seen how the geth and the quarians will manage to coexist on Rannoch. For now, they have committed their considerable military forces to repel the Reapers. Given the long-lasting animosity between the geth and quarians, it is possible that the Reapers did not plan for the possibility of such an alliance and will be unprepared to contend with both armadas.
The Cerberus Coup
Councilor Udina’s attempted coup will no doubt be analyzed for generations to come, but a clear picture is beginning to merge. Udina had contacted Cerberus to coordinate what was intended to be a bloodless takeover of the Citadel, in which he would force the other councilors to grant him emergency powers so that he could command the Citadel Fleet. He would then direct the fleet to liberate his homeworld, Earth.
The plan fell apart early when Executor Pallin and the salarian councilor caught wind of it. In defense of the plan, the Illusive Man dispatched his top assassins, commanded by Kai Leng, to kill them. Udina had little choice but to support the assassins with an armed force sufficient to hold the Citadel. Captured confidantes have indicated that Udina and Leng’s alliance was relatively fragile: Udina may have planned to turn on Cerberus once the fleet was his to command, and Leng departed when he calculated that Udina would not succeed.
Persistent rumors suggest that Udina might have been a high-functioning victim of Reaper indoctrination. His actions played right into the Reapers’ plans: even if the coup failed, it would damage Citadel governance. If it succeeded, his plan to retake Earth would likely have turned into a military blunder that Council forces could ill afford. However, there is no direct evidence of his indoctrination, nor obvious opportunity. It is more likely that Udina acted out of desperation, and in doing so, cost humanity its councilor.
The Fall of Thessia
The assault on Thessia did not go as smoothly as the Reapers’ strikes against other races. While other species met the Reapers head-on, the asari resorted to dangerous hit-and-run tactics to harass their attackers. By engaging in guerilla strategies—blasting a Reaper ship, then jumping to FTL where they could not be tracked—the asari forced the Reapers to remain on the defensive.
Unfortunately, the Reapers’ greater numbers allowed them to accept certain losses, so they soon ignored the attacks against them and began orbital bombardment of Thessia. This in turn forced the asari to defend their homeworld with a more traditional stance, facing the Reaper forces directly. As soon as the Reapers landed on Thessia, the harvesting began.
A swift and brutal slaughter of the asari ground forces followed. Resistance from trained biotics barely slowed the attackers down. In the end, Thessia’s minimal military forces, combined with unpreparedness in the face of an overwhelming enemy, resulted in the fall of the planet.
The Miracle at Palaven
The turian and krogan counterattack on Palaven combined deception, courage, and tenacity. First, the turians leaked a false battle plan that drew on the same tactics they used at beginning of the assault on Palaven. Then the dreadnought Indomitable faked a problem with its drive core, coming out of FTL near Palaven’s moon, Menae. Three other dreadnoughts and their attendant fleets deployed to assist Indomitable, a tempting target that drew the Reaper capital ships away from Palaven. Turian troop transports then entered Palaven’s atmosphere to release shuttles, gliders, and individual soldier capsules.
The Reapers did not understand the seriousness of the threat at first—those that detected the landing crafts sent husks and Collector swarms to intercept them, but little more. This allowed krogan commandos to link up with Palaven’s resistance and hand off their payloads—warp bombs and fission weapons.
In simultaneous strikes across the globe, Reaper ships began to explode. Turian resistance members had managed to smuggle the bombs inside when the Reaper processing ships, troop transports, and even destroyers and capital ships had opened their structures to indoctrinated turian leaders.
Large swaths of territory fell back into turian and krogan control. News of the victory gave a much-needed boost to the morale of the turian resistance and the galactic public.
But the action was not without sacrifice. Turian insurgents gave their lives to ensure the explosives detonated, and the processing centers they destroyed were full of civilians who died just as surely as if they had been harvested. Of the dead, General Minin Resvirix said, “Whatever they were in life, their deaths had no equal. They are worthy of joining the spirit of Palaven itself.”