September 1st, 2186
Admirals Quarters, Allied HQ, Underneath St. Pauls, London
He was in the middle of space on his own private ship. He could see the stars shining back at him and he felt the childlike joy that he finally found a place to be at peace and relax. Then a ship appeared out of the stars, then another appeared, and another, soon 10 ships were pushing towards him at full speed. He saw the leading ship now, an Alliance Vessel, and behind the ships coming towards them was a wall of flame that snuffed out the stars. He felt the panic coming the confusion. He turned to his console and tried to activate the thrusters but it was locked in place. He glanced at the ships again. He watched in horror as one by one each of the ships was engulfed by the inferno, until the lead ship was the only one left. The gap was closing and right before the ship and the fire hit him he saw in faded black lettering the ships name: SSV NORMANDY SR2.
He was jolted from his nap by the nightmare. He glanced up at the dark ceiling above him and he sat up. His undershirt was soaking with his sweat. He put his face in his hand while he trying to comprehend the dream. His heart was still racing. Then he felt the sadness coming and the guilt.
The loss of the Normandy and the other 5,000 vessels was due to his order to jump to sub-light speed to get away from the Crucible as it fired. However he actually didnt need to get away from the Crucible. When the Normandy jumped it had EDI, Joker, Samantha Traynor, and Jacob on board and they disappeared along with the 5,000 other vessels in the fiery shockwave that ripped through space at the light speed level. While it did not affect Hacketts ships it affected those jumping in light speed. The losses were entirely avoidable but he felt the guilt that he had ordered them to their deaths. The same nightmare had kept repeating itself for two weeks now. He was not getting used to it. He couldnt even remember when he had a good nights sleep.
He got up unsteadily and went into his bathroom. He gripped his sink with shaky hands. He gazed at his reflection in the mirror. If he had been in a contest for the oldest old fart out there he would probably be close. His graying hair was thinning, his complexion was sickly and his eyes were deep and sad. His right side was cut by a scar he received during the First Contact War and was deepening with age. Finally his mouth was twisted and full of pain, both physical and emotional. He turned on the sink and splashed water on his face. He took a deep breath and then dried his face with a towel. He heard a knock on his door and put the towel back on the rack before he went across his quarters to the door.
Hackett: Who is it?
His aides voice came from the other side
Johnson: Sir! I have some news, will you permit me entry? Are you decent?
Hackett laughed: No
He opened the door. His aide jumped back and shielded his eyes expecting him to be indecent.
Hackett: Of course Im decent Colonel! What news? Is it from the mission at St. Albans?
Johnsons hands fell at his side and he blushed out of embarrassment, he saluted before responding. He lowered his voice.
Johnson: Yes sir, however lets go in your quarters and speak about this
Hackett looked past Johnson at the Officers mess. There were officers everywhere from every race, eating, or socializing. He shrugged as he motioned Johnson into his quarters.
Hackett: Alright Colonel, come in
Johnson stepped inside and Hackett closed the door he realized Johnson had a data pad in his hand. Johnson sat down in his small living area off to the side. Hackett took the cue and sat down on a sofa across from him. Johnson spoke first:
Johnson: Sir Ive received a disturbing dispatch from Commander Williams, and Ive received very good news from Trafalgar Hospital. Which one would you like to hear first?
Hacketts heart sank when Johnson mentioned the disturbing report. He put a hand through his thinning hair and took a deep breath.
Hackett: What happened at St. Albans?
Johnson: "Well sir Commander Williams said she is on her way back with the data core..."
Hackett breathed a sigh, and Johnson continued:
Johnson: "However they were attacked by an organization calling themselves.."
He looked at his data pad.
Hackett nearly jumped out of his seat when he heard the word "attacked". His throat tightened and he squinted at Johnson as the tension grew inside of him.
Hackett: "What do you mean "Attacked"!? Aurora?? Who the hell is that!?"
Hackett's glare seemed to make Johnson sink into his chair.
Johnson: "Well sir...Williams said that her shuttle was blown up and Garrus's team was nearly executed by "Aurora Operatives". The only indication of who or what Aurora is comes from Williams."
He glanced at the data pad again with a look of fear on his face. Hackett felt very troubled. Johnson continued:
Johnson: "Williams said that the leader of the attack, a man named Daevid claimed to be a part of a pro-human group hell bent on seeking revenge against any non-humans. He...he said he was after the data core"
Hackett had heard enough. He stood up. He felt the shock and the added weight. It was bad they were stranded in the Sol System after the worst war in their lives. Now he had to contend with a threat to the key to their survival and a threat to his allies. He moved toward an Alliance Flag that was inside a glass case against the wall. Johnson looked up worried about how the news affect his commander.
Johnson: "Sir? You alright?"
Hackett tried to find his words
Hackett: "So...We have another Cerberus on our hands? Sorry wrong mythical beast...more like a Hydra, cut one head off and another replaces it....and.."
He thought of Admiral Raan, of Primarch Victus, Tol-Bah, and the others. But Raan's image stuck there most of all.
Hackett: "and...they are after the only thing that will get our friends...home?"
Hackett felt the anger now. The feeling of helplessness, the image of his mother, unable to save her was still there. He would have to try to protect the data core and his allies now. The anger was coming now even more and he clenched his fists. He finally said under his breath:
Hackett: "It just never ends..."
Johnson looked worried
Hackett felt the anger break and he slammed his fist against the glass container shattering it and cutting his hand on the glass.
Hackett: "GOD DAMMIT! IT JUST NEVER STOPS!!!"
Johnson cringed when Hackett broke the glass and he stared wide eyed at him. Hackett was breathing heavily and he finally realized his anger. He looked down at the broken glass and then his hand which was bleeding from several gashes. He flexed his hand and then used his good hand to wipe sweat from his face.
Hackett: "I'm sorry...It just never stops...if it ever did.."
His aide tried to find words and his face still held the terrified look.
Hackett turned to Johnson. He was forming a plan in his mind, the next critical steps. And he pointed at Johnson.
Hackett: "Get this down on your pad!"
Johnson reacted immediately and got the pad ready
Hackett began to hammer out the details
Hackett: "First I want our scouts to find out where those people came from! Second I want Colonel Green to get his Marines to set up a perimeter around EVERY Allied HQ in London! Next I want a press conference of the top leaders a few days from now! Next I want updates every other hour! Detailed updates!"
Johnson was typing furiously on the data pad.
Hackett: "Next get me Commander Williams! I want to speak to her within the next 2 hours! Also tell Major Vakarian that he is now in charge of the Data Core's safety! It is top priority next to protecting our Allies! Finally, where is the Data Core?"
Johnson was still typing then hesitated and realized the last sentence was a question and he looked up at Hackett.
Johnson: "Williams said the data core is with her..."
He glanced at Hackett's hand
Johnson: "And sir...please fix your hand.."
Hackett thought: "At least the Data Core was with a good officer". He glanced down at his hand. The blood was dripping off his hand now and staining his cuff. He nodded.
Hackett: "I'll be right back"
As he went into his bathroom Johnson called back:
Johnson: "I'll be right here sir..."
Hackett's hand was now bandaged and he sat back into the chair. Now it was time for some "Good" news.
Hackett: "So...what is this "good" news?"
Johnson sat up and managed a smile. However Hackett didn't feel happy. He felt like he might cave in any minute.
Johnson: "Well sir all the members of William's squad and Garrus's squad are alive...and the Data Core is in our hands.."
Hackett thought: "For how long?" Johnson continued:
Johnson: "I have one more piece of news that you will find...refreshing."
Hackett chewed on the last word. The anxiety was coming now. And Johnson handed him the data pad and said:
Johnson: "Read it sir"
Johnson sat back obviously extremely happy about something. Hackett glanced at the pad and saw a news bulliten recently put out by Alliance Channel's:
COMMANDER SHEPARD LIVES!
At approx: 2:10 PM London Time, Commander Shepard who has been in a coma at Trafalgar Hospital since the Victory and the end of the war on August 15th has now finally awakened. Salarian Doctor, Dr. Tucho Marvin and his assistant Asari Doctor, Dr. Thebe D'Arlo have been instrumental in the Commander's survival since being found aboard the Crucible. Dr. Tucho Marvin, a graduate of the prestigious Thesia University was also a disciple of the late Dr. Mordin Solus who was killed this past June. Dr. Marvin has been at Shepard's side since August 17th when....
Hackett's eyes tried to focus on the rest of the article but the tears were coming as he read: "Has now finally awakened". He had believed Shepard would die, and had elevated Ashley Williams to succeed him. He felt the guilt about believing him dead. He also felt relief and joy. He had known Shepard since his stunning successes in 2183 while hunting Saren nearly 4 years ago. Since then he and Shepard had worked together. He had given Shepard advice and kind fatherly words. Hackett was an aging legend, and he had felt the torch should pass to Shepard. Admiral Anderson who had been a good friend of both him and Shepard believed as much as well. Shepard was the future, and Hackett felt he was an aging icon of the past.
He looked away from the data pad and away from Johnson. He would not show tears with his aide present. Johnson's smile faded as he realized the effect of the news. He realized this news was personal to Hackett. He looked away discreetly and stood up and went to the door. Johnson looked back:
Johnson: "I'll give you some time sir."
Hackett managed a nod and he waved him away. As Johnson closed the door the emotion he felt about the war, his past, the stress of the job, the loss of the Normandy, the loss of Billions of his own people, and Shepard's survival finally came to the surface. He buried his face in his hands and leaned his head on the arm of the chair. As the tears came he was not going to hold back. And for the first time in many years, he cried.
September 1st, 2186
Conference Room, Allied HQ, Underneath St. Pauls
Like Hackett her team as well as Garrus's received the same bulletin about Shepard waking up. Even before they touched down everyone was celebrating. Grunt offered to drive everyone to the hospital to see him. Ashely however had her duty to perform. She care about Shepard but the mission came first. At 5:20 she sent Grunt with everyone else away to see Shepard while she and Garrus went to report their findings to Hackett.
When they entered Allied HQ he was already there with his hands clasped behind his back with a determined look on his face. Next to him was the grim figure of General Harboard. As they approached Hackett nodded to both of them:
Hackett: "Commander, Major it is good to see you unharmed"
Harboard: "And with a successful mission no less!"
Hackett glanced at Harboard:
Hackett: "Yes General but lets go over that in the conference room"
Hackett motioned to a room off to the side. Ashley and Garrus entered it. It was the same room she had been in the day after they all found out the Mass Relays were inoperable. Ashley and Garrus took seats across from Hackett and Harboard. As the debriefing was about to begin Ashley noticed Hackett's hand:
Ashley: "Sir....what happened to your hand?"
Hackett glanced at his hand as did Harboard, and Hackett managed a small smile.
His smile faded fast and he quickly brought up the first point:
Hackett: "I understand you recovered the data core...where is it?"
Ashley felt her chest tighten. She had no idea how to explain that Tali was the Data Core. Her hesitation made Hackett look worried. Then Garrus spoke.
Garrus: "Well sirs let me start at the beginning, and you must trust us"
Harboard nodded and Hackett said:
Hackett: "Go on"
Garrus: "I went into Harbinger with Admiral Zorah, Lieutenant Ra, and Lieutenant Proteus..."
After 15 minutes of going over the first hour of the mission Garrus reached the Mainframe part:
Garrus: "I recommend that Gael'Ra and Marius should be promoted to the rank of Captain. I sent both you and their commanders, recommendations."
Hackett: "I'll see the receive their promotions, but what happened when you got to the Mainframe?"
Garrus spoke and Ashley listened. She had not heard Garrus's full story.
Garrus: "Well after Marius opened the door to the Mainframe, it led into a large space with a Massive Central Core in the middle. Tali went up to the core and she did something, not sure what, and then she froze and a light came over her.."
As Garrus went into the details of Tali's vision Ashley was worried that Hackett and Harboard would the story was far-fetched. However as Garrus described Tali's vision both of them looked not skeptical as she feared but astonished. Garrus wrapped up:
Garrus: "The data Core is a person encoded with the knowledge of the Leviathans, as well as their inventions among those is the Mass Relays. So sirs the Data Core resides within Tali."
After a brief moment Harboard spoke:
Harboard: "Fascinating. The Leviathans...the very beings that created the Reapers. We can learn much from them"
Hackett: "Major, I have seen allot of things happen in my lifetime and it has opened my eyes to allot of things. If what you say is true, about Admiral Zorah, about the Leviathan's warnings of another war, then we must act"
Harboard glanced at Hackett:
Harboard: "Admiral I trust the Major and the Commander. We should look to Tali's safety and also keep the Data Core's true nature a secret."
Garrus spoke up he had a look of worry on his face.
Garrus: "Sirs...there may be a problem..."
Garrus told them about the attack and Ashley had joined in. He told them that Daevid had already known about the Data Core's nature. Garrus had presumed that Daevid had a scout in the Mainframe with them listening in to them. He told them that Daevid had attempted to kill Tali twice, which made him believe that Daevid didn't know that Tali was encoded with the Data Core. Garrus finally wrapped up by saying the reason why Daevid wanted the Data Core:
Garrus: "Daevid said he wanted revenge against non-humans. I presume Aurora blames us for the deaths of several billion humans and the destruction of your world. Revenge is a strong emotion and one I have felt in the past. Daevid and his organization will do anything to get back at us."
Hackett's face was twisted into a grim look. Harboard was not looking happy either.
Harboard: "Then we must act now."
Hackett glanced at her now.
Hackett: "Commander I am aware Shepard is awake. It is time we bring the Commander back to this fight. I have already set up defensive works around each of our Allies HQ's scattered through the city. I need you to attend a Summit in less than 3 days time. We will go over your new assignment. Major Vakarian.."
Hackett: "I'm putting you in charge of a security detail to guard Admiral Zorah. She is now more vital to the Mass Relay Project. Her security is one of our top priorities now"
Garrus: "Understood sir"
Harboard spoke to Ashley:
Harboard: "Commander...we need you to see Shepard as soon as you leave here"
Ashley: "I will do so sir...is he still at Trafalgar?"
Hackett nodded and had a slight smile
Hackett: "Yes...and probably hating every moment of it..."