Finn and Kyra walked along the Presidium hand in hand, the Citadel Tower looming ahead of them.
"Finn," She said, her grip tightening. "You don't have to do this."
"I wish I didn't." He stopped and ran his hand down her cheek, saying, "Believe me, I wish there was another option."
"But ..." She said, flustered. "I'm sorry if I stormed off earlier. I was just feeling-"
"I know." He told her gently. "We all were."
He kissed her and hugged her close. "It'll work out. Somehow. It always does."
She still looked unhappy. Seeing her sad made Finn's heart ache, but there was no more time for doubting. It was time to throw in his last chip and hope his hand was a winning one.
Bowing his head, he said, "You don't have to go with me."
"Yeah, I kinda do." She told him, squeezing him a little more tightly. "We're in this together, right?"
As they neared the lift that would bring them to the top of the tower, one of the two guards stationed held up his hand to stop them.
"Can I help you?" The turian asked as his fellow guard looked on impassively from his helmet.
Finn nodded. "Someone sent a complaint about the elevator acting a bit wonky, so my boss sent us to check it out."
"The keepers usually fix this sort of thing." The guard said, his eyes narrowing.
"I know, right?" Finn said, trying to sound harried. "Let the bugs fix it up, that's what I told him."
"And what did your boss say?"
"He said we either fix the damn thing or me and the missus end up cooking ramen in the Zakera Ward."
The guard let out a sharp laugh. "Sounds like ol' Gus. All right then; go ahead."
"Thanks, man." Finn pulled out a spanner for show and stepped into the lift, Kyra following behind him.
Finn made what he hoped was a believable pretense of checking the elevator systems for signs of an error that probably didn't exist. After a few minutes, he leaned back and said, "Damn."
"What's wrong?" The guard asked.
"Well, it looks like there's a miscalibration in the runtime circuitry. Nothing I can't fix, but it means I'll be going up and down in the elevator for about an hour to make sure it's right."
"Sure thing. Oh, I do need to see your work order, though; regulations and all that."
Finn grimaced and shook his head. "Damn. I was sure that would work. Eri?"
The guard didn't even have time to turn around before the other guard gave him a nasty shock with his omni-tool. He deftly caught the guard before he fell.
"For the record, I woulda bought it." Eri told him. Shrugging, he started dragging the soldier away, muttering loudly about guards drinking on duty whenever curious eyes turned his way.
Darsan, wearing a truly revolting pink trench coat that somehow matched and didn't match his hat, approached the lift with Xyn following close behind. "Excited; so far so good, right?"
"Er … right."
Everyone was silent as they rode the lift. The plan was wild, it was crazy … and that was how they all knew it would work. All they had to do was get to the Council while it was still in session.
"Did Jake give you any trouble?" Finn asked.
Xyn shook her head, saying, "He's a little sweetie. He fit in the maintenance conduit just like you said he would."
"Good." Finn said grimly. "We need him for the next part of our plan."
The lift doors opened to reveal the top of the Council Tower. Even under the circumstances, the majesty of the vast chamber did not escape Finn's gaze. The trees were ornamental, grown for their beauty rather than fruit or shade. A vast fountain had been built not far from the elevator, in the center of which was a great monument to Shepard and his team.
Finn read the names as he passed by; a few were familiar, namely John Shepard, Tali-Zorah, and Garrus Vakarian. One of his old drill sergeants claimed to be descended from Vakarian. The turian instructor claimed his family had been part of the Alliance ever since, though no one was sure whether he was telling the truth or just trying to impress them.
The other names weren't familiar, but seeing their statues left Finn feeling in awe. Drell, krogan, asari, salarian, and geth stood together in silent testament to that one moment when the galaxy stood as one and beat the odds. That was something Finn couldn't help but respect.
"Hey." Kyra whispered, pointing above them. Finn glanced up and his jaw immediately dropped.
"Wow!" He whispered. "Is that …?"
"The Normandy SR-2." Kyra whispered.
The ship looked impressive even by modern standards. It hovered just outside the glass ceiling outside a special docking bay designed for tours of the famous ship. Finn wished he could see it himself, even though after what he was about to do, he'd be lucky if he'd be able to even set foot on the Citadel.
Several guards had taken notice of Finn and company, no small surprise seeing as none of them looked like politicians, especially Darsan.
"Here we go." Finn whispered as the guards started to approach. "Jake?"
"I'm ready." Jake's voice whispered in his ear.
A nearby vent banged open. Moments later, Jake's compressed form rolled out. Resuming his usual form in a matter of seconds, he quickly began to run towards Darsan. With a flying leap, he caught Darsan's hat on the small clamp that served as his 'mouth' and hit the ground running and barking like a dog possessed.
Drawing in a deep breath, Darsan bellowed, "ENRAGED! MY HAT! GET BACK HERE!"
Jake ran straight past the guards, who had time to look confused before Darsan barged past them like a charging krogan.
"Kyra!" Finn called out.
"I'm on it!" She said, already running back to the elevator to make sure no more guards would be coming via lift in the near future.
Xyn and Finn ran past the fountain and up the steps towards the area the Council was meeting. Unfortunately, two guards who looked as though they were not going to entertain any nonsense stopped them in their path. There were two krogan there as well, already arguing with the guards.
"Look, I don’t care who you are; no one can go up there." The first said. "The Council is in session."
"Look here, you pyjak." Said the krogan, his face and red headplate heavily scarred. "I've got information those idiots are going to want to hear, and I will walk through you to do it."
"Oh, lord." Finn whispered. There was going to be an incident; at the first instant the krogan started trouble, the Council were going to be whisked away, and everything that they had just done would be for nothing.
"Xyn?" Finn asked.
"Say no more." Xyn glided forward, her bare feet barely seeming to touch the ground as she moved between the guards and the krogan.
"Be at peace, my friends." She said, her voice exuding a calming effect. "There is no need for violence here; surely we can reach a reasonable agreement?"
The guards seemed dumbfounded by the scaal. Her beauty and grace, coupled with her voice and a healthy dose of her natural skill as she continued to speak left them relaxed and unaware of the branches of the nearby trees slowly reaching toward them.
For a moment, Finn thought the krogan were buying it too. That was until the one who had spoken turned an eye on him. Certain he had just been caught, Finn stood his ground and matched the krogan's stare as best he could.
Just as the krogan opened his mouth, the guards suddenly went rigid; the branches and roots of the nearby trees had slowly wound around their bodies, pinning their arms and legs in place. They stared at Xyn, their eyes wide as she approached each in turn and blew a burst of dust in their faces, knocking them out cold.
The krogan stared at Finn a moment longer before letting out a chuckle. "No bad, kid. You here to see the Council too?"
"Yes." Finn told him. "It's important."
"So's what I'm gonna tell them. You think what you've got's more important than war?"
Throwing all caution to the wind, Finn admitted, "Reapers."
The krogan's eyes widened; Finn knew they lived a long time, nearly as old as the asari. From the krogan's age, he might very well have been around the last time.
Finn waited for the denial, the accusations of lying. That's why he was surprised when the krogan gave him a nod and stepped aside. "Go ahead."
Nodding back in thanks, both to the krogan and to Xyn, Finn hurried up the remaining steps to where the Council was meeting.
Looks like it wasn't a moment too soon, either; the asari councilor's tone made it clear they were wrapping things up. Admiral Alenko was there as well. When she turned and saw Finn, he saw her lips twitch into a slight smile. Even Councilor Breven only seemed mildly surprised by Finn's presence.
Taking a deep breath, Finn said as loudly and politely as he could manage, "Ladies and gentlemen of the Council, I apologize for this intrusion and beg forgiveness for not going by protocol, but I have something important to tell you."
"Who is this?" The turian councilor demanded. "Security!"
"The organization known as Cerberus is still operating within our galaxy." Finn continued, his voice growing louder as he dared not stop. “And they have access to Reaper technology.”
The salarian councilor waved his words aside, saying, "We've already discussed this. While we admire the Alliance's perseverance, we cannot allocate resources on information that may prove subversive or faulty."
"They destroyed my home!" Finn continued. "They've chased us across the galaxy to stop us from bringing you this information! Billy risked over four-hundred years of silence because he knew it was important."
"Who is Billy?" The asari councilor asked curiously. "There was no mention of him in the report."
Finn took another deep breath as he prepared for the first hurtle. "Billy is the last of the geth.”
The Councilors stared at him, clearly shocked.
Finn continued, “Whatever Cerberus used to protect the Reaper protected him while he was investigating them. He showed me everything because he knew whatever Cerberus is up to can only spell disaster for the galaxy."
The elcor Councilor (Finn remembered Darsan mentioning his name was 'Mattak') asked, "Intruigued; I had a feeling there was something left out of the report. This geth has indeed risked a great deal for the sake of us all."
"If it's a geth." The salarian said guardedly. "We have no proof."
"The videos were compressed using a recorded geth compression algorithm." The asari councilor mused. "If this 'Billy' would be willing to speak with us-"
"He can't, not at the moment." Finn told her. "He lost his platform years ago; he's stuck in the prototype ship made by a turian inventor named Glaxe Strafos."
“Glaxe?” The turian councilor interrupted, his gaze suddenly intense. “You’ve seen him?”
“I’m afraid not, Councilor.” Finn told him. “He helped Billy escape with the information, but after that, I don’t know where he ended up.”
For a moment, Finn felt that he might have won. Even the turian councilor looked uncertain.
The salarian councilor, on the other hand, shook his head. "This means nothing."
"Rebuking; Councilor Kirrahe, this changes the entire report."
"This changes nothing." The salarian glared at Finn, saying, "This could simply be more of the ploy; Councilor Breven admitted that Cresste was more than capable of managing something like this if he put his mind to it. Besides, we've never found another surviving geth or Reaper in four-hundred years. If there was some way to shield them, wouldn't one have surfaced by now?"
The turian councilor looked uncertain, but the asari councilor seemed almost relieved. "That is a good point. This threat could be nothing more than a prank by a disgraced Alliance soldier."
"Please, this isn’t a prank." Finn said. It was hard not to start shouting right then and there. “I can rig up some sort of communication rig for Billy, just give me time.”
"There's no shame in being fooled." The asari told Finn. "He very nearly fooled us all. If there is no other business-"
"There's more than one!" Finn shouted, desperate. "Billy showed me! There are at least fifty Reapers, maybe more!"
"Where the hell is security?" The turian councilor muttered, tapping his earpiece.
This was it; there was only one card left to play.
Taking a deep breath, Finn said, "I'm Finn Cresste!"
The room fell silent. Even Admiral Alenko and Councilor Breven were staring at him in shock.
"I'm the captain of the Ulasomorf." Finn continued. "I'm the one who unlocked the ship for Krieger; I'm the one who unknowingly brought it with me to Omega and New Elysia."
The salarian recovered quickly. "Then you admit that you are an Alliance criminal?"
"Yes." Finn said. "I caused the accident that destroyed the Jalex Array. I'm the one responsible for the injuries to Katt and Rico, and … and when I couldn't face that, I ran away from the Alliance."
"You deserted?" The turian councilor said, disgust clear in his voice.
"I ran away. It's all I knew how to do." Finn took another breath and continued, "That's why I was on J-27."
Councilor Breven sounded a little sad as he said, "Finn, you know we'll have to turn you in."
"I know." Finn admitted, trying to ignore the fact that he had pretty much just thrown away everything. "So when you're writing off everything my crew went through to warn you, consider that. This isn't about me; it's about the galaxy. If you don't take this seriously, people are going to get hurt. People are going to die."
Two guards hurried up the stairwell, but Admiral Alenko held up a hand to stay them. Finn glanced back at them a moment before looking back at the Councilors.
"Everything I've done wrong in my life was because I thought I knew what was best. I thought I knew better than anyone else, regardless of proof or evidence or anything. I let my pettiness overrule rationality, and at the end of the day, my arrogance hurt everyone I've ever been close to. That's something I have to live with every day for the rest of my life."
"Don't make my mistake. The cost is too high." He tried to think of something else to say, but nothing came.
After another long moment, the turian councilor muttered, "Get him out of here."
Finn felt his heart plummet. He had failed. He tried his best and sacrificed everything he had, and at the end of the day, it had been for nothing.
He offered no resistance as the guards slipped the restraints around his wrists. Before they led him away, however, he was determined to have the last word.
"Hear the truth, or just ignore it." He told them, his quiet voice heard by all. "At least this time, the blood won't be on my hands."