|For the Uniform, For the Cause
Author: Made Nightwing PM
2184. Ashley Williams and Miranda Lawson are hunting for a dangerous group of batarian extremists. Unaware of the other's efforts, they cross the galaxy in a pursuit that will bring them dangerously close to destroying their teams...and themselves.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Ashley W. & Miranda L. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 32,132 - Reviews: 43 - Favs: 22 - Follows: 23 - Updated: 03-21-11 - Published: 02-10-11 - id: 6732778
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For The Uniform, For the Cause
Chapter Eight: Equal and Opposite Reaction
I don't own Bioware
They called him the Janissary. Not much was known about him. The Alliance Bureau of Investigation, humanity's intergalactic civilian police force, had a small dossier on him. They knew he had started off as the Overseer of a small mining complex, then decided he could make a better living as a mercenary.
He had soon made himself a fortune with a set of daring kidnappings, always collecting the massive ransoms that the rich and desperate would pay for their relatives. It was said that he had held a famous author hostage in his own mansion, forcing him at gunpoint to type out a story while waiting for the money to be transferred. Janissary had never been forced to kill one of his victims. They all paid on time.
Somewhat mythical status had been conferred on him. Stories of his biotic abilities, his stealth and cunning, his fearlessness and inventive capabilities on the battlefield. Most of it totally exaggerated. The Janissary was certainly a clever tactician, and he was no stranger to violence. But suggesting that he had disappeared from under the noses of six SPECTRE operatives? Ludicrous, but it did help him score high paying, relatively low risk jobs like this one.
The premise was simple. Make some noise, eliminate the fast reaction teams, then settle in to wait for the payment. Once the money and demands had been met, escape under cover of the snowstorm. Quick, efficient, clean.
Sergeant Mulkrum stepped up beside him. They stared out at the raging winds of the planet beat themselves against the metre thick glass. "Does it both you sometimes Janissary?"
The other batarian stared back at his commander. "What?"
"This life we lead? The people we kill?"
"I am paid well for my actions. I do not intend to live this way forever, but for now, I will continue my life. No man may tell me otherwise."
Sal was surprised at the coldness in his 'business partner's' voice. "What about your time as an Overseer?"
Janissary turned away. "I had no more sympathy for the slaves under my supervision than I do for the mercenaries we just killed. But I ran my camp on Molokai with care. There was no rape or extra maltreatment of slaves. I ensured the food was of tolerable quality, nutritious enough to keep them healthy. One of the human women came to me, eight months pregnant, and begged me to send the child back once it was born. I did one better, I arranged for her freedom and safe passage back into Alliance territory. I have repaid any karmic forces that dwell in this universe."
"I see, thank you for your time Janissary," Sal began walking back to the Administrator's office. A hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"The doubts you have are normal," the older mercenary assured him. "It is a mark of intelligence. If you wish to survive past your twenty fifth year, then intelligence is a trait you must cultivate, not suppress."
IN ORBIT OVER NOVERIA
FIVE HOURS FROM DEADLINE
Marathon-class carriers were the very newest line of ships that the Alliance had invested a considerable amount of money into. Half the size of the Leviathan-class, the monsters that carried swarms of fighter-bombers into massive fleet engagements, the Marathons were designed to be Special Operations capable. That meant faster engines, limited stealth capabilities and a permanent squadron of the 501st SOAR posted aboard each of the six carriers.
Special Operations Aviation Regiments had been created for the sole purpose of training flyers for the incredibly dangerous business of inserting, supporting and then extracting Special Forces troopers from combat. There were only three in the whole Alliance Navy, and they each had their own individual traits. The 160th flew almost hand in hand with N7, possessing some of the best atmospheric flyers in the business.
The 849th was almost an entity unto itself, with Mantis gunships being the aircraft of choice. Rockets and MAC's up front, five N7 troopers in the back. Their brother flyers joked that anyone who flew with the Eight Four Nine was just compensating for a lack of security in their childhood.
Then there was the 501st. They were masters of the tricky skill that was inserting troops in zero gravity. After Eddie Pulaski had seen a training video of a trooper being thrown out into the void, his IFF malfunctioning, his body never to be found, he had sworn an oath that he would never leave one of the marines he carried to a similar fate. He had the Meritorious Service Citation that proved that oath to be true.
"Officially, you're just meant to be flying us down there," Operations Chief Williams explained to the Flight Lieutenant. "Unofficially, there's a very good reason why we told your Crew Chief to bring his favourite gun along."
"Lima Charlie," Pulaski eased the Kodiak out of the hangar bay. "It'll be about a thirty minute flight. Sorry about the delay, but I can't afford to get caught in that snowstorm. Hey Buck? Any refreshments for our guests? You said you were going to learn how to cook."
"Certainly sir," the Service Chief looked over from the jump seat where he sat. "We have lasagne with the appropriate selection of vegetables. Fried steak and potatoes. Chicken Kiev with rice. Or you can have a nice, cold MRE and a can of 'harden the fuck up' sir. Why don't we have a stewardess along on these flights?"
"Because you're too old and I'm too young for that shit," Pulaski laughed.
"It ain't bad in a dropship sir, what with all the vibrations and all..." Zapata wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
"I've been trying to reform him ever since he jumped on the last bird going into Korat when the hardliners took control of the government," Eddie explained to Williams. "That was back when we flew the Rangers in to take out the leaders of the 'revolutionary' government. Short war, but it got me and Eddie noticed. Plucked us out of Air Assault where we belonged and stuck is in the SOAR. He's really just a lovable old guy, quite harmless. How old are the kids now Buck?"
"Seventeen, fifteen, twelve, nine, six, five, three and one more just a few weeks away sir."
"Hell, your wife must be some woman Chief," Z piped up as the Kodiak shook again.
"She's afraid I'll run around, so she robs me of my energy," Buck was unable to contain the proud grin of a man who really had everything he wanted. "I fly to get away from her; it's the only thing that keeps me alive."
"Her cooking must be pretty terrific, judging by your uniform," Ashley joined in the banter.
"Is the Operations Chief picking on the poor flyers again," the Service Chief assumed an expression of mock hurt.
"Nah, she's just trying to make sure that you look as good as Carol," Foehammer smiled with brotherly affection at his friend.
"Not a chance of that."
"I am forced to agree."
"Funny how things work out," Buck stared through the front window. Nineteen years ago, he had flown out on the last evacuation freighter on New Argos. Carol had been one of the last on board. They both swore it had been love at first sight. It was generally agreed amongst the 501st that the gunner and his wife had the seven cutest kids on Arcturus.
"Glad to be flying with you today Chief," Buck spoke again. "Be nice to tell my kids that my last time out was a strong one."
ERCS COMMAND CENTRE
RAPTURE TOWERS, PORT HANSHAN
"You again?" Captain Matsuo stared at Williams in disbelief. "Is it just a habit of yours to turn up right when my job is hard enough?"
"Captain Matsuo," Ash extended her hand. The security chief stared at it like it was a dead varren. "We're here to help."
"Did you bring an army with you?" Maeko questioned bitterly.
"No, just a really good team." Ash waved a hand toward the six men and women behind her. "Counter-terrorism is our specialty. You have a major problem Captain. We can solve it. Just let us help."
The older woman glanced back at the faces of her security guards. "In one hour I'll have enough troops to storm the Mezzanine with maximum force. You have till then to come up with a workable plan."
"Not necessary Captain, we came up with one on the flight," Z stepped forward. "If we could just brief your people on it?"
Matsuo stepped back with a surrendering nod. "Alright, everyone. We have some guests here from the Alliance. Pay them some attention, one of them helped get rid of Anoleias."
The attention of every ERCS merc in the room turned to Williams.
"Our requests?" Sal looked at the Asari on the screen. She had a penitent look on her face, as well she should.
"They have proceeded slowly up to this point," Matron Anwar replied. "It took some time to get the eviction notices signed. Now we are removing humans from the planet just as fast as we can manage it. Your money will also be deposited quickly."
"Good," Sal glanced over at the nine hostages sitting against the wall in the Administrator's Office. Seven of them were just cowering, the female human and the asari were sobbing. Janissary had advised him to let most of the civilians on the Mezzanine escape. Too many hostages just overcomplicated the situation.
No, far better to have the Administrator Lorik Qui'in, Director May, Opold the hanar merchant, two secretaries, a drell businessman, an asari business executive and her human bodyguard, and the turian mechanic from . The women were snivelling miserably, to the amusement of the two ex-slavers guarding them. The others were just sitting quietly, the drell lost in his memories, the hanar occasionally changing hues.
"I must say, I appreciate you doing this," Anwar spoke again. "These uppity humans, strolling around like they own the place, it's almost like they..."
"Enough!" Sal snapped. "I do not do this because of racism. I do this because I must!"
He cut the channel.
"So you've got a conscience my young friend," Director Dray noted dryly as the transcript of Answar's conversation arrived on his computer. "How interesting."
"How so?" President Harrison was pacing the floor of the secure bunker where her protective detail had moved her just minutes after Secretary Zheng's car had been shot down.
"It means that given enough time, we could probably flip him," The Deputy Director(Operations) explained.
"Your internal sensors show that there are thirty five batarians all up in Port Hanshan," seated in front of Ashley were twenty handpicked ERCS officers, flown in from various outposts, picked for their combat experience. "Ten currently occupy the Landing Bay, guarding their evacuation shuttle. Five more are in the garage, guarding their second extraction route. The remaining twenty are spread out on the Mezzanine. They're spread out."
"With good reason," a sergeant spoke up. "They've got hostages."
"Yes, but all in the one place," Silk spoke for the first time. "Do you have any rifles with extra penetrating ability?"
At the back, a turian stepped forward, presenting a long, black tube. "X-98 Widow ma'am. One of the first of its kind. Can go through up to two metres of solid armour plate. I'll lend her to you."
"Much obliged," Silk retrieved the tube, which folded out to reveal the rifle contained within. "When the strike team hits, I'll take out any batarian in the same area as the hostages. I'll need to take up an elevated position outside in the snow though. And I'll need a good spotter."
A young human stood up. He had a bruise on the side of his face. "Corporal Chuck Daniels ma'am. Bastards almost killed me on the docks. I got one of them, I want to get more. There's an elevated ridgeline about seven hundred yards outside Port Hanshan. You'd have a direct line of sight to the Administrator's office. I can act as a spotter as well."
"This is beginning to make sense," Captain Matsuo nodded with understanding. "What about the actual strike?"
"Two teams," Ashley pointed to the screen behind her, showing an outside view of the docking area. "You have A-61 Mantis gunships?"
"A full squadron," Maeko confirmed.
"They will enter the landing bay, shoot up the batarians, then deploy fifteen of your troopers to mop up the rest," the viewscreen swapped to show the layout of the Mezzanine. "While that's happening, my team and five of your guys will rappel from the top of Port Hanshan, down thirteen stories, and gain entry to the Mezzanine by blowing open the windows with C-12 directional breaching charges."
"But the hostage...oh," Maeko stared at Silk, who was rapidly disassembling the Widow to get a feel for it. "Now I get it."
"We won't take chances," Z reassured her. "Me and a few of your guys will move immediately to the Administrator's office to secure the VIP's."
"You know you'll be outnumbered," Matsuo's career in the Alliance had been in the Light Infantry. Spec Ops 'shitbirds' had been an unknown quantity to the ground pounders. Even 'lightfighters', experts at close quarters combat, disliked going into a fight where the odds were greater than three to one against them.
"Twenty batarians? Against five N7's, plus Silk on overwatch and our Kodiak hovering outside with a Mass Accelerator Cannon?" Red looked incredibly smug. "We could handle that on a bad day."
"Pick out your favourite weapons," Ashley directed her words to the ERCS personnel. "We are go mission in ten minutes."
"Might I remind you Miss Anwar, that you have only three hours before I kill the first hostage," Sal was becoming impatient. "Our money has not been transferred, nor has my off world source confirmed that you have completed the deportation of the human residents on Noveria!"
That's because there's an Alliance carrier in orbit chasing away anybody who wants to take a closer look at the empty transports going back and forth you son of a bitch. Anwar continued to smile nervously. "Please, I'm sure there's just been a delay in the accounts. I'll go speak to my superiors again, confirm how serious you are."
"Do that," Sal cut off the link with a curse. This wasn't good, he was stressed, tired and emotional. He needed to take a walk, get some exercise. Standing up he nodded at the two guards. "Stay here, I'll be back in a minute."
SIX HUNDRED YARDS AWAY FROM PORT HANSHAN.
Two figures moved quickly up the well defined path. Both were clad in mottled grey and white, more for warmth than camouflage. The heating systems were taxed to the limit, and the neoprene bodysuits worn underneath were barely capable of resisting the sub-zero temperatures.
While Silk was fitter than Chuck, he was having a better time of it than she was. Acclimatization really was the winner in extreme environments. Thus, Chuck was the one carrying the Widow, the high powered Oracle spotter's scope, and the fifty thermal clips that Silk had insisted on.
"Anywhere around here is good ma'am," he gasped as they got to the final slope. "We sometimes take tourists out a little further. The wannabe hunters like pot-shotting snow varren."
"We'll set up our position right there then," Silk rolled out her shooting mat. On top of it went the Widow, a camouflage net, and five thermal clips. "Let's get dialled in."
Chuck raised his rangefinder. "Distance to target...Six...Five...Zero yards. Load armour piercing rounds. Switch to thermals."
"Thermals attached," the sniper eased the butt of the rifle into her shoulder. "Recoil dampeners are good. Environmental conditions?"
"Fucking cold," Chuck's frank reply caused Silk to chuckle. "Forty knots, coming from the south. Adjust three knotches to the left. Even with the snow, the bullet won't drop at this range."
"Confirmed," Silk locked the centre of her crosshairs right onto the head of the first red outline in her sights. The blob of heat kicked one of the prone forms. "You're gonna get yours real soon my four eyed friend."
The first shot fired to reclaim Port Hanshan came from Andrew 'Foxbat' Mancuso. He launched two Hellfire missiles from his A-61 gunship at a range of two thousand metres. The self-guiding, stabilised metal tubes slammed into the two rear thrusters on the batarian transport Double Your Money. The ERCS pilot followed up with a string of Scorpion anti-infantry rockets at close range.
"Burn you fuckers, "he snarled, flipping over to his nose cannon and pouring depleted uranium rounds at the survivors. The five troopers he carried in the back quickly jumped out and moved to secure the area he had just hosed down. Behind him, two other gunships did the same.
Stage One: Perfect.
Red felt the toughened nylon slide through his gauntlets as he rappelled down the side of Port Hanshan. Parallel to him, Z and Slow also ran for dear life. The wind was so strong, Red wasn't confident that he'd be able to stay on course. Thus, he kept up his momentum.
How many floors was it to the Mezzanine now? There hadn't been all that much time to study the diagram. All he knew was that the target floor had big windows.
"Yeah Chief," he mentally cursed. "That's a real good fucking description. Big windows."
His radio link's beep was almost painfully loud. =Red, you're only one floor above the Mezzanine. Slow down=
=Would you mind letting me insert my own damn way Chief?= Red snapped as he applied pressure on his rope harness to slow himself down. His studded climbing boots skidded against the wall as he came to a halt. Pulling a breaching charge from his webbing, he slapped it onto the window. Inside, he could see the staircases, the still bodies of the ERCS guards, and a batarian staring right at him.
=CHIEF, WE'RE MADE!= Red roared into his radio as the batarian continued to look at him, shocked out of movement.
=Understood, breach now. Silk, take 'em= Ash jumped off the roof, and let her rappel line run free. Lake and the ERCS commandoes followed her.
"Bearings matched," Chuck tagged the two targets. "Fire, Fire, Fire."
Silk's first shot smashed through the wall of Administrator Qui'in's office and took the head of her first target.
"Hit!" the ERCS corporal pumped his fist up in the air. Silk ignored him, rapidly working the bolt on the rifle, privately wincing at the considerable recoil. Her next shot was in the air less than half a second later. It made a hole the size of a bowling ball in the chest of the second batarian.
Pushing his feet off against the window, Red watched with satisfaction as the window shattered under the force of the breaching charge. Snow, ice, glass and wind swirled into the Mezzanine, momentarily throwing the batarians off balance. Through the vaporised windows came Eagle Unit. They deployed flashbangs as they landed, activating the visual and audio filters on their helmets.
The batarians screamed as the magnesium charged noisemakers exploded. Blood leaked out of ruptured eardrums and they clutched at their eyes, trying to clear away the blinding pain. Only the few on the upper levels were unaffected, rushing to the stairwells and pouring assault rifle fire at the new arrivals.
"Z! Secure the hostages!" Ash called as she fired several bursts at point blank range into the incapacitated terrorists.
"Roger that!" Z turned to see a batarian coming out of the office, his shotgun raised. Before Z could get him, he was flung to the side as if struck by a sledgehammer. Turning to the window, Z offered an informal salute. "Thanks Silk."
PORT HANSHAN GARAGE
Janissary heard the explosions and gunfire. The merc knew on instinct what fate had met his comrades. ERCS must have had another counter-terrorism unit close by. They would be executing a well-planned strategy. Probably striking at the Mezzanine to liberate the hostages.
"You lot, go find out what's happening!" he barked at the five man squad still in the garage. He grabbed Sal and pushed him toward the shuttle as the other batarians disappeared down the corridor. "Not you Sergeant. You and I are getting out of here!"
"Why?" Sal struggled slightly, eager to join in the fight. Janissary shoved him into the co-pilot's seat.
"Because I don't fancy my chances against a lot of pissed off mercs, all by my lonesome," he powered up the shuttle and rotated it toward the doors. "There'll be another time Sergeant. You can't win here."
"Mr. Qui'in?" Z pulled the turian to his feet. "You're safe sir. We're the CT unit."
"As humans like to say, 'just in the nick of time," Qui'in grunted. "I trust you have the brutes well in hand?"
"Give us five minutes and you can through the bodies to one of the thresher maws," she promised. The other turian stood up.
"My name is Lilihierax," he grabbed Z's arm. "They have a shuttle in the garage. You have to stop them from getting away."
Z grinned. "Don't worry, that's being taken care of."
TWO LEVELS ABOVE GARAGE
Maeko had wanted to join in on the assault, wanted to take revenge for the lives of her men with her own hands. But Williams had insisted that someone trustworthy was necessary for this mission. Which was why Maeko was carrying a gas powered rifle and levelling it at the shuttle.
With a sharp hiss and a snap, the T-1 training rifle discharged its payload at the shuttle. Checking her omni-tool, Captain Matsuo nodded with satisfaction. The Alliance tracking beacon had secured itself nicely. At random intervals, it would send out a flash burst of raw data, to be analysed by the Alliance Office of Naval Intelligence. Hopefully, it would reveal exactly where the terrorists were based.
Zapata racked back the slide on his MAC and fired his first burst. The heavy calibre rounds tore through any batarian stupid enough to stick his head up out of cover. The bullets coming from the Kodiak allowed Red and Slow to get up the stairs and shoot up the remainder in a crossfire.
Caught in the same trap they themselves had enacted on the ERCS guards less than a day earlier, the batarians dropped like flies. Most of them just former slavers, they didn't stand a chance against a well armed, well trained force. Still in shock, only three had the presence of mind to drop their weapons and raise their hands. The rest were dealt with quickly and methodically. It was almost murder to Ashley's team, and they would have objected, had not the bodies of over twenty cops been lying on the floor alongside the terrorists.
CITADEL CRUISE LINERS
QUEEN MARY VI
SOMEWHERE IN CITADEL SPACE
Daraye was a master of his own emotions. Even so, he had to struggle to contain his seething fury as the strike force was dealt with as easily as a varren might deal with sleeping pyjaks. The Sons of Khar'Shan would not be able to recruit if their freedom fighters were regularly slaughtered. Still, Sergeant Mulkrum had gotten away. And Secretary Zheng was dead. And the third phase of the mission was about to go off with a bang.
"Are you sure the bomb will be powerful enough?" He asked Mosh Firs, the salarian bomb tech currently putting the finishing touches on the device in the centre of the stateroom.
"I already told you boss," Mosh leaned back with a smirk. "This will gut the ship in two. Ingenious plan, holding it all to ransom. Not even my mother could disarm this little beauty."
"Yes," Daraye stepped forward and drove the spike right between the salarian's horns, down into the brain. "Most ingenious."
It took only a few minutes. The communications consoles were loaded into light travel bags, the bomb and body hidden in a spacious closet. Daraye and his two bodyguards walked down to the hangar bay, quietly hijacked a shuttle, and were well away by the time the compressed plasma charge exploded, killing three thousand passengers.
"Our soldiers may have been killed, but our will is stronger than ever," the figure spoke with unconcealed menace. "If the ERCS had not retaliated, then the lives on the pleasure craft would not have been lost. We will warn you now that our patience is not infinite. More will die if you continue to resist the change that is coming. Long live Khar'Shan!"
Ledressak shut down the view screen. He was back in the crisis room, briefing the Joint Chiefs. A few years before, a turian general working hand in hand with the Alliance would have been inconceivable. Politics made strange bedfellows.
"More threats, infinite lists of targets," he shrugged. "We have to go on the offensive. Operations Chief Williams has a team capable of solving this problem."
"A Williams?" General Alexander snorted. "I think not. We need someone better to command this team. Take Lieutenant Glover, good solid record in CT operations and..."
"And your wife's nephew?" Hackett challenged the 5th Division commander. Alexander fell silent. Hackett continued. "I think it's time we forgot this old school tie nonsense and faced facts. Williams knows the Terminus better than most of our operatives. She's commanding a mixed species unit that can blend in a lot better than a pack of humans. She's tough, dedicated and loyal. A patriot from a line of patriots. And she'll fight like an army unleashed, of that you can be sure."
"The Operations Chief's competency is not up for discussion," President Harrison broke in. "Director Dray? You said you had tracked a target to Omega? I want the Currahe to go in as close to the Terminus as possible, then drop Eagle Unit off within jumping distance of Omega. I want these assholes found and on trial last week. Dismissed gentlemen."
CERBERUS PARAMILITARY TRAINING FACILITY
Jacob jumped into the light transport after Miranda. "So where're we going?"
Operative Spider smiled that smile that made Jacob want to hit him with a brick. "To Omega, Mr. Taylor. To pay a visit to man named Janissary."
A/N: Pretty obvious to whom the cameo was given You all know him, the man whose reviews know no boundaries. The Janizary.
Next chapter, the paths of the teams cross for the first time. And someone will not be walking away from it with their life.