Mass Effect: The New Journey
Chapter One: A New Past
I know what you're thinking. "Another Mass Effect/Halo Crossover"? Yes, I know, I know, but this is an idea that has been in my head for the last couple of days and won't go away. Also, since I refuse to work on three stories simultaneously, this will also test the waters of what YOU the reader want. I'm working on chapter four of Paradigm Shifts as well as my Naruto fic. The Naruto one is staying, no questions asked, but these two are up in the air. I'll look at reader feedback to see which ones you all like the most.
By the way, I'm taking a LOT of liberties with Halo canon (who's alive, who's not, etc) for the sole purpose of rule of cool. So if someone's alive here, who should be canon, the answer to why they are alive is simple: Because it's fucking awesome, that's why.
That being said, let's get this show on the road and see how well I do!
Full Summary: During a joint patrol/deployment, the UNSC and her Sangheili allies are transported to aruins. After having no choice, the two embark on an alliance with the Systems Alliance. How will the galaxy react to an aggressive and domineering humanity who comes aboard with technology that's, quite literally, out of this universe?
Disclaimer: I make no claim of anything except my own work. Mass Effect and Halo are under the rights of Bioware and 343 Industries, as well as the publishing rights of Electronic Arts and Microsoft Game Studios, respectively.
UNSC Infinity, Slipspace, in-route to the Perseus Arm
April 15th, 2570
Hearing a beeping noise, Admiral Thomas Lasky groggily awakened from his slumber. The alarm clock was annoying, yes, but it sure did its job as advertised. Reaching up, he smashed the snooze button in aggravation, and turned on his side to get some extra shut-eye, in defiance.
"You know, Admiral, the clock was set for a reason," came the voice all too familiar with the UNSC naval officer.
Lasky groaned, not really in the mood. That was a very nice slumber he was awakened from. "Roland...piss off," Lasky replied, not really caring at that particular moment. He wasn't around his subordinates, and Roland knew him very well, so there was no need for decorum.
"Admiral, I would have you know that we'll be in the Perseus Arm within the next hour or so," he said a matter-of-factly. "I'd suggest you hurry and get dressed. Wouldn't want to show up on a joint deployment with the Arbiter looking like a dirtbag." He always did enjoy Marine vernacular.
Sighing, Lasky forced himself out of his bed and craned his neck and stretched his upper body muscles. He immediately went to the bathroom to take a quick shower, shave, and do any other miscellaneous hygienic needs to appear as professional as possible.
"How's Infinity, Roland?" Lasky asked stepping back into his quarters drying his face of shaving cream. He had to admit; he did feel a hell of lot more energetic after cleaning up.
"Green as always, sir," the AI remarked, with a bit of disinterest, almost as if the inquiry was preposterous in his mind.
Lasky smirked and decided to tease the AI for his own amusement. "Sure? Might have missed a diagnostic somewhere."
"Please," Roland scoffed. "Admiral, I've been on this ship and working with you for thirteen years, I know this ship better than practically any of you humans and given my capability upgrades after Requiem, you damn well sure I know this ship is green." If this were ten years ago, Roland would've been dead from rampancy six years ago, five if he was lucky. But due to data found on Requiem by the Master Chief, the UNSC was not only able to repair and save Cortana in time, but also able to give new upgrades to every existing Smart AI. Unfortunately, the data algorithms and processes were far too complex for the matrixes of 'dumb' AI and as such, their life span was virtually the same as it had always been. It didn't matter to UNSC brass though. If they were being completely honest with themselves, the value of the prolonged life span of a smart AI outweighed a hundred dumb ones.
Lasky finished putting on his dress blues. "So I see your point." Grabbing a cup from the cabinet, he poured himself some hot chocolate, preferring it to coffee or a latte. The latter brewed beverages did nothing for him, and yet, strangely, hot cocoa did. Drinking some, he allowed the taste to stay on his lips before closing the lid and walking out. The doors locked automatically.
Strolling down the hallways toward the exit, coincidently, he ran into his old friend and confidant, Sarah Palmer. The SPARTAN-IV was fully armored in her MJOLNIR GEN-3 armor, without her helmet. New generation MJOLNIR armor had helmets built in and could retract inside the suit at the will of the Spartan using it, a process eerily similar to the Didact. All it would take was a simply mental command, and Palmer could be fully ready for battle within two seconds. "Look at you, Admiral, I see you didn't feel like getting up as much as I didn't," she noted with hints of amusement.
"Don't start with me, Captain. I was having some great dreams," he remarked, good naturedly, as they passed and saluted several subordinates on their way to the elevator to Infinity's bridge.
Palmer laughed, "Like what? Dreaming that you'll one day beat me in war games on the S-deck?"
Lasky scoffed, "I'm a pilot and a ship officer, Captain. Ground Ops is your forte, not mine, though I'm certainly capable if push comes to shove." Protecting Dr. Halsey from a Promethean Knight more than a decade ago immediately came to mind.
Palmer shook her head and didn't comment any further as they both stepped into the elevator. Roland had already preprogrammed it to take them to the bridge.
"Tom," Palmer started, using first names, now that they were alone. "I know this is a joint deployment, but I just can't get this nagging feeling in the back of my head, that something's just...off."
Lasky frowned. "Look, Sarah...we've been allies for almost twenty years. The Arbiter has proven time and time again he's upholding his vow to make up for the mistakes that were made during the war. I think it's time to bury the hatchet."
She shook her head. "No, sir, it's not the squid heads. I trust them—pft, never thought I'd say that-I'm just talking about this whole thing. Just...I don't know. I understand that this deployment was intended to be long-term, but the brass overstocked Infinity to ludicrous levels," she told him, bluntly.
Lasky nodded in slight agreement. 'Overstocked' was probably a colossal understatement. The UNSC brass went above and beyond two weeks ago when Infinity and her escort fleet underwent massive software and hardware upgrades in the Ort Cloud shipyard. Literally, every single computer on the flagship was stripped out and replaced with the latest-and-greatest editions of hardware, some of which, quite literally, came off the assembly line a few days before being shipped to Infinity. Sections of the ship that used to be for civilians were stripped and cut in half in total number and were replaced with additional barracks and hangars for combat personnel. Infinity's main hangar bay was filled to maximum capacity with Longswords, Sabres, Broadswords, and the brand-new Katana class fighter jets, along with hundreds of Pelican dropships. In some cases, the vehicles were spaced apart barely twenty-five feet from each other, the bare minimum by UNSC regulations. Land based vehicles were in a separate bay, but like their flying cousins, they were stocked to the brim too. Hundreds of Cougars, Warthogs, Generation-II Scorpion Tanks, Grizzlies, Cobras, Rhinos, with numerous upgrades in speed and firepower were added to the roster of Infinity's complement. To go along with this firepower, for the first time ever, three veteran battalions of ODST would serve onboard Humanity's flagship to assist in ground ops with the Marines and Spartans on-board. Like every other infantry division, they got some new personal toys as well, a "Christmas in April" as the Squad leaders dubbed it. The dozens of armories scattered throughout the ship were loaded with enough infantry weapons and ammo to last years, possibly more if they were rationed.
For the ship itself, the Huragok had upgraded its shielding system, adding a second layer and being able to recharge even quicker, and upgraded its sensor systems. Its four Series-8 MAC guns were now halfway in between the power it used to have, and the power of the new Ultra-Mac Orbital Defense Platforms, which replaced the Super-Macs ten years ago, en masse. While the Archer missiles were simply upgraded to provide more range, speed, and explosive yield, the Howler and Rapier pods were taken out entirely and were replaced with the new M-100 Jericho missiles defense system. There were 750 Jericho Missile pods, with only three missiles per pod. Although, on the surface, it seemed like a ludicrously small amount, especially considering the importance of Infinity, what made Jericho missiles heads and shoulders above Howlers and Rapiers was the fact that when one missile fired, it separated halfway to its target into a hundred different missiles, increasing the explosive yield and killing power of the tertiary weapons tenfold.
Although very select individuals on the ship knew it, there existed three prototypes SUPERNOVA ISBMs (Interstellar Ballistic Missile), hidden deep within the bowels of the ship, guarded at all times by a SPARTAN-IV fireteam. These bombs were retrofitted with pinpoint accurate slipspace drives and the UNSC Infinity could, in theory, nuke a planet or star system from the other side of the galaxy thousands of light years away. They were covered in a special Forerunner-grade coating that made it virtually undetectable by conventional means. UNSC scientists knew of the only known weakness of the coating and that secret was Delta-8 classified. Any person who somehow learned of the secret and didn't have the proper clearance and need-to-know was executed. ONI was taking absolutely zero chances when it came to WMDs. Admiral Lasky needed the express unanimous consent of HIGHCOM to use the SUPERNOVA; otherwise, he'd be court martialed and sent to a high security UNSC prison for the rest of his natural life in the absolute best-case scenario. In the worst, and frankly more likely, scenario, his trial would be publicized all over UEG space and he'd be executed to make an example out of.
All in all, the UNSC had spent billions of cR upgrading both Infinity and her escort fleet, with the firepower and crew to take on God himself. The process took two weeks, with over a hundred thousand persons, human, engineer, and, oddly enough, Sangheili (mostly for some heavy lifting), working tirelessly with very few breaks.
"I know, but we're exploring the other side of the galaxy as well as practicing war games along the way. At least we know command isn't taking any chances in case we run into trouble," Lasky argued.
"If you say so." The retort came out more dismissive than she intended, but it was too late now. She knew the admiral wouldn't take it personally.
They arrived at the bridge and stepped out of the elevator. "Admiral on deck!" Every single officer and enlisted personnel immediately stopped what they were doing to go to attention.
Lasky smiled a bit. He was at home. "As you were," he told them, and they went back to their duties not a moment later.
He and Palmer turned the corner and found an unexpected guest on the bridge: Commander John-117, leader of the Spartans on Infinity, and unquestionably the savior of humanity. MJOLNIR Mark IX covered him from head to toe, and although he could retract his helmet into his suit, he preferred to have it on outside of his quarters and around other Spartans. Although Palmer outranked him on a technicality, she always diverted ground ops leadership to him, his decades of experience invaluable.
"Well, you certainly were the last person I expected on my bridge," the UNSC flag officer noted.
"Cortana insisted," he tried to allay.
"And yet, at the end of the day, you still could've refused," Cortana quipped, her hologram appearing on the holotable. She looked better than ever, to the point where you wouldn't know she had almost died from Rampancy if you didn't know her history. "Honestly, Chief, you don't have to listen to all my suggestions." Even though John was an officer, old habits died hard, even for AI. He'd always be the "Chief" to her, or John when in private.
"Then you'd complain about me not taking your ideas into account," John retorted, staring at her.
Cortana tipped her head, conceding. "Touché."
"Come to see the fireworks, I take it commander?" Lasky asked the legendary super soldier.
"More or less."
"I see. Roland, how long until we reach the Perseus Arm and the rendezvous point with the Arbiter's fleet?"
Roland's avatar appeared on the other side of the table near Lasky. "Ten minutes, sir. The Fleet of Glorious Repentance should be waiting for us. They did leave a bit earlier than us."
"Glorious Repentance, huh? Not too shabby," Palmer had to admit to herself. Although the fleet was small numerically, it more than made up for it in sheer firepower and the skill of the warriors that served in it. The Sangheili, Unggoy, and Mgalekgolo that served in the fleet more than lived up to their reputation, with some Sangheili Spec Ops Officers easily rivaling the SPARTAN-IIs, let alone the IIIs and IVs, on Infinity. When you allowed yourself to adapt to new ways of battle instead of the usual doctrine they had used for a millennium under the Prophets, it allowed for tremendous increases in skill and prowess. To say the UNSC felt blessed they didn't face them at their current level during the war thirty years ago was a putting it lightly.
The name wasn't for show either. The fleet was a symbolic representation of the sins of the Covenant and the need for a new step forward with human/separatist relations. Each and every single warrior in the fleet volunteered of their own free will to serve and repent for their deeds in the Human-Covenant war. Judging from some of the classified dossiers from ONI that Lasky was able to see pre-deployment, some of the individual Sangheili in the fleet from minor all the way to shipmaster were ferociously loyal to humanity as a whole. The irony was not lost to the Admiral.
"Indeed. We should expect nineteen ships when we arrive: Three CAS-Class Assault Carriers, seven CCS-Battle cruisers, and nine SDV corvettes. As you know already, Infinity's escort consists of three Marathon-class heavy cruisers, six-Halcyon class light cruisers, Infinity's ten Strident-class frigates, as well as twelve Paris-class frigates, all retrofitted and upgraded."
"Fifty-one ships?" Palmer whistled in awe. This fleet, with its combination of superior firepower and numbers, was probably strong enough to take down Reach if it really wanted too.
"We'll be exciting slipspace in approximately one minute, Admiral!" one of the technicians called out.
"Ready to get back into the fight, Chief?" Cortana teased.
"So long as you're not driving," John replied, humorously, with a wave of nostalgia washing through him. Although he wouldn't admit it, he was kind of anxious to fight alongside Thel again. The two had amazing battle chemistry during the final closing days of war. He was just as valuable of a teammate, if not more so, than Blue Team. Not that he'd ever tell Fred, Kelly, or Linda that.
"Exciting Slipspace in...three...two...one..."
Looking outside, the blackness of space was finally visible again as the near-six kilometer long vessel to John. On either side of Infinity were her escorts, the three Marathon-class cruisers taking point near the front of the flagship, the six Halcyon cruisers in the center and back, with twelve frigates scattered in various strategic places.
"All ships reporting green, Admiral," Roland informed him. Lasky nodded his head in acknowledgement. The entire fleet had jumped and were not even ten kilometers apart, a feat previously unheard of and reserved for Covenant ships. UNSC tech really had come a long way since the end of the war.
Up ahead was the Fleet of Glorious Repentance, waiting tranquilly in perfect formation, for their human allies. The Shadow of Intent, the fleet's flagship, was dead center, coated in black, instead of silver, along with the rest of their ships. The cruisers were now cobalt blue and the other Assault Carriers, the Steeple of Ascent and Baptism of Fire, were colored a dark grey. The logic and reasoning behind the color scheme changes were that the Sangheili wanted to bury the legacy of the Covenant Empire as much as possible and so the Arbiter ordered all Separatist ships to be repainted in new colors to atone for their error in the Human-Covenant war. It was a small gesture, sure, but it spoke volumes in closing the gap of distrust in the long run. So far, it was proving to be working. Human-Sangheili relations were growing warmer with every month that passed by. By now, it was a forgone conclusion that their alliance would eventually result in unification under a single government.
"We're being hailed, Admiral," Roland reported stoically.
Lasky took a small swig of his hot chocolate and sat it in a cup holder. He was ready. "Patch 'em through, Roland."
In seconds, a holographic "television" appeared on the holotable and the image of Thel Vadam, Arbiter and de-facto leader of the Sangheili's image inside the rectangular hologram. He still wore the ceremonial armor that the Prophets had given him decades ago. However, even with its appearance, it had undergone massive upgrades, courtesy of UNSC scientists at Trevelyan as a show of good faith and a nod of thanks. After all, were it not for the Arbiter, Rtas would've glassed Earth eighteen years ago to prevent the Flood from spreading. The only armor in UEG space that remotely compared was MJOLNIR Mark IX, which, ironically enough, only had one wearer: John.
"Ah, Admiral Lasky, you finally show up. I was beginning to think you wouldn't show," the Arbiter joked, which was a bit strange coming from him.
Lasky smirked. "You know I wouldn't have missed this for the galaxy."
"So it seems," the Arbiter replied good-naturedly. "Are you all well stocked for this mission? It will be awhile before we return home."
Suppressing an amused scoff, the admiral replied, "Of course. We're at maximum capacity for literally, everything: ships, personnel, supplies, you name it."
The Arbiter gave a grin. His entire fleet was the same way. Stocked to the brim. "It seems Lord Hood doesn't take chances. This is good." He then noticed John. "It's good to see you again, Jo...Spartan."
"Likewise, Arbiter," the Spartan commander replied genuinely, glad Thel had caught himself in time. The two were on first name basis, but they preferred that to not be public knowledge. Lord knows that would cause more of a headache than what was needed.
"Arbiter, when can you have some of your Spec Ops to Infinity? Fireteams Crimson and Majestic have been looking for a rematch after that last bout," Palmer inquired with a small and satisfied smirk on her face. She'd be lying if she didn't find the two SPARTAN-IV teams being thoroughly trounced in war games by the Sangheili Spec Ops team on Infinity's S-deck thoroughly comical. They were getting a bit too arrogant and it did serve as some humble pie that served cold. Unsurprisingly, Blue Team and NOBLE team had a far better win/loss ratio.
She saw the elite tap a few buttons on his console. "Done. Rtas will have a Phantom sent to Infinity within ten minutes."
Palmer nodded in thanks and dismissed herself from the bridge, eager to tell Majestic and Crimson to suit up.
"When they arrive, I'd like us to head out ASAP," Lasky suggested.
"Agreed, Admiral. I'll prep our teams for immediate deployment." With that the connection was cut off and the Arbiter's image vanished. Chief had touched Cortana's hologram and the AI was instantly in his suit. The UNSC officer raised an eyebrow.
"Something wrong, Commander?"
John simply walked passed him. "Majestic and Crimson aren't the only ones looking for a fight." He punched the elevator to take him to the S-deck.
With a shake of his head, Lasky sat in his chair enjoying his cocoa, going over some last minute diagnostics with Roland.
UNSC Infinity, S-Deck
"So...what's it looking like, Kat?" Commander Carter-A259 asked Noble-Two. He was in dark blue MJOLNIR Mark VIII armor. It looked virtually the same as the Mark V he wore during the fall of Reach except it was a lot slimmer and lighter, and the internal upgrades were exceptionally more advanced.
"I count two Sangheili rangers, but I don't see anyone else," Kat replied, looking back at the leader of NOBLE team. Like the commander, her armor was the same, as well. In these times of piece the UNSC was finally able to convince her to replace her cybernetic arm with one that was flash cloned.
Carter hugged a nearby pillar and clenched his MA5E Hybrid Assault Rifle. He was a tactician, and a thinker, but this was proving to be a tough call for him. He could charge ahead and end this the old fashioned way in a zerg rush, but that came with a plethora of risks, along with going the opposite route in trying to sneak in. He decided to screw it and go for the former and made a move to leap into action before...
The environment they were in vanished and was transformed into a dull grey room, one of the many hybrid holographic/hard light training rooms on the S-deck.
"Well...that was anti-climatic," Kat said, annoyed.
"Agreed," Carter said as both SPARTAN-IIIs exited the training deck. They immediately strolled towards the tower that controlled the simulations to find Fireteam Majestic. They all went to attention and saluted the Commander, which was sharply returned. "I'm sure you all had a good reason for stopping our training?"
DeMarco, Majestic's commander, had spoken collectively for all of them. "Sorry, commander, orders from Admiral Lasky, all operations are to end immediately," he reported apologetically.
"It's fine," Carter replied, clearly not happy, but he'd get over it, eventually.
"I wouldn't say immediately," came the voice of Palmer, giving the team one of her rare smiles. "At ease, Spartans," she told them, sensing them tense up when she walked in. "I got good news, Majestic."
"Define "good" news, Captain, as that can mean anything to you," Thorne quipped, throwing the Captain a smirk.
"Well, as you know, we've already arrived in the Perseus Arm, and I managed to convince the Arbiter to send some Spec Ops Elites over here to train with us while the Admirals and Ship commanders play nicely upstairs."
Their looks were priceless she wouldn't lie. "Oh, hell yeah! Time for some payback, Majestic!" Hoya's enthusiasm was infectious and the Fireteam had full-blown shit eating grins.
"Well, gather Fireteam Crimson and get your asses to hangar bay 20 and meet the squidheads." The nickname for the Elites was now used more affectionately, than out of scorn. Christ, they were growing on her like a fungus. Majestic practically sprinted out of the tower.
"Think they got what it takes to beat 'em?"
"Not really sure to be honest, Captain," Kat replied. "We've been training them hard for the past six months, but Rtas' Spec Ops soldiers are some seriously tough bastards. Six and Commander-117 are the ones who consistently defeat them." If Captain Palmer didn't know any better, she could've swore she picked up some mild resentment from Noble-Two. "But, then again, we don't know if they'll be facing the same operatives as before."
Palmer nodded. "All right, think NOBLE team is up for a few rounds too?"
Carter nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Jun, Emile, and Jorge shouldn't be too hard to find. Six...dunno where he is."
"Probably playing with the Air Force's new bird," Kat sardonically replied. Six loved flying almost as much as he liked fighting and for a Spartan that was saying something!
UNSC Infinity, Hangar Bay 20
Hangar Bay 20 was a minor side hangar located near the top of the Infinity. It only had two landing ports, one of which was currently unoccupied, to make room for the Sangheili that would soon be arriving.
"Okay, you've been acting like a kid early Christmas morning, Nathan. You haven't left that cockpit ever since we entered real space," Jorge commented in annoyance, moving a few crates with some Marines in the Hangar Bay.
Nathan-B312, otherwise known as Noble Six, turned his head to stare at the only SPARTAN-II among NOBLE Team. His emerald green eyes traced amusement. "Oh, come on, Jorge, you can't tell me you can't wait to see what this thing can really do! I thought the Sabre was a badass plane, but..." Nathan whistled for emphasis. He was sitting in the cockpit of the YSS-2000, otherwise known as the "Katana". It was the newest space superiority fighter in the UNSC's inventory, having just completed testing and coming into service just a little under a year ago.
Aesthetically, it reminded Nathan of the SR-71 Blackbird developed by the United States of America, some six-hundred-plus years ago, except with some 26th century designs added. The starfighter was painted jet black in the same stealth coating as ONI prowlers, with the idea of a squadron of fighters being able to cause havoc among enemy forces without being detected. The coating was expensive, about half of the ships' maintenance costs, so, currently only Katana fighters had it. With two primary fusion engines and two auxiliary engines, the fighter was strong enough to escape a planet's atmosphere without the use of boosters, a remarkable improvement over the Sabre. It was also meant to complement the Broadsword in atmospheric conditions.
"Pft," Jorge scoffed, finally sitting down on a crate. "Last time I was your RIO, we almost were shot out of the sky by a goddamn supercarrier," he grunted.
"And this guy was also the one who managed to fix a few wires to repair the broken timer on the slipspace bomb," he reminded him.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Jorge grunted. It wasn't that he was ungrateful, far from it in fact. But they were having one of their "disagreements", and he'd be dammed if he let Six win this one!
Nathan smirked. "I'll take that as a thank you." He jumped out of the cockpit and dusted his hands off. "There, all done."
"What exactly did you do?"
"I just changed some settings around for my personal preferences," he replied with a shrug.
"Hope those 'preferences' don't involve us making dangerous turns in asteroid belts and attacking a nineteen-mile long ship." Six only smiled knowingly. Yep. He was screwed.
"Nathan...Jorge...I take it everything is prepared?" came a voice from behind the two Spartan teams. The two went to attention immediately. It was Commander-117, along with Fred-104, Kelly-087, and Linda-058, the infamous Blue Team.
"Aye sir, made the bay nice and comfortable for the squidheads," Jorge reported with lax in politesse.
"All right," John nodded as he noticed the rest of NOBLE team, Crimson, Majestic, Shadow, Avalanche, and various SPARTAN-IVs from different fireteams arrive in the bay.
"Heh, all these fireteams here and probably going to watch their fellow Spartans get their asses kicked...again," Kelly noted with a shake of her head. It wasn't meant to belittle the IVs-although they certainly did make a bad first impression when she first met the lot of them-it just the god honest truth. No need to sugarcoat it.
"We'll see, Kelly. I've been putting them through hell for the past six months. Don't knock my program," said Fred, a bit peeved that his pseudo protégés were being doubted already. Linda just shook her head and stayed quiet.
"Well we'll see it put to the test, huh?"
John took it as his time to quietly leave Blue-Team behind and walked toward the barrier that kept a suitable level of oxygen inside the bay. "Quite a sight, isn't it Chief? A bunch of Spartans excited to see Sangheili on a friendly basis," Cortana quipped inside his helmet. John only nodded in agreement.
"Phantom dropship inbound, all hands prepare for immediate arrival," a female voice said over the intercom. Every Marine, Spartan and Naval personnel immediately stopped what they were doing. Soon enough a blue colored Phantom dropship made its way into to the hangar and hovered dead center over the landing pad. Magnetic locks from the ceiling held it in place. Dozens of Sangheili in black armor, black and silver armor, and dark grey armor, landed on Infinity's deck.
John immediately recognized a few of them. Four of them were from the coveted "Ghost" squad, the Sangheili's equivalent of Blue Team. Out of every Spartan on Infinity, he and Nathan were the only ones who were able to match, and ultimately, defeat them, and even then it was a close call. They thoroughly defeated the other Spartans, including the IIIs, and utterly "shit-stomped" the IVs, as one ODST put it.
Marines, ODST, and Spartans immediately mingled with the eight-foot tall aliens, being extremely social with the Special Operations forces. One final occupant that John didn't expect dropped down from the Phantom: Rtas 'Vadum. The Special Operations Commander immediately strolled toward him, his posture friendly.
"It's been too long, Spartan," Rtas greeted beating his chest.
"Well aren't you too just the biggest of pals," Cortana teased. John ignored her completely.
"It has, Rtas," John agreed, though he was still confused by his presence. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we could meet again, but what are you doing here? I thought you were in command of the Shadow of Intent?"
"I am. But the Arbiter feels he's...how you humans say...out of his element? He wants to see if he can still command a ship like he used too. So I turned over command of the Intent to him...temporarily. My warriors were also itching for a fight and I came to see if they lived up to my expectations."
"I see," John nodded. "I'll likely be participating myself. Care to join me?" he offered.
"Ha! You pose a great challenge, Spartan. Very well, I too haven't seen much ground combat. So I accept."
With that being said, both commanders and their subordinates made their way to the S-deck to see which species was the greatest of them all.
(Mass Effect: The New Journey)
UNSC Infinity, Unknown location in Perseus Arm,
May 1st, 2570
It had been roughly two weeks since the UNSC/Separatist fleet had embarked on their long-term joint deployment. So far things were going smoothly, all around. They were finding all kinds of planets that could be used for colonization, training garrisons, R&D outposts, and, more importantly, resources. Unfortunately, the search for Forerunner relics came up quite short.
All throughout the deployment various training exercises involving every branch was partaken in. Fighter squadrons were mock dogfighting with Seraphs, practicing strafing runs, holding key choke points as well as protecting flagships. Lasky had to give the Arbiter some credit. For an alien who hadn't commanded a ship in roughly twenty years, the man was still a brilliant tactician and kept the Admiral on his toes. Even still, the Arbiter felt that his skill still wasn't up to par what he used to do. Lasky, and even Rtas disagreed, but there was no shaking of the Sangheili leader's resolve to improve.
As for the Wargames, Majestic and Crimson had definitely closed the gap, and had won a few rounds with the Spec Ops Elites, but still came up short when facing the "Ghosts". Instead of competing head to head species against species, this week the teams were mixed and matched. Some teams, understandably, didn't work well together at all, but on the flip side, others were taking objectives, defeating other teams with ridiculous amount of ease.
Lasky sipped on his cocoa as he finally watched the wargames match with Blue Team and the Ghosts finished. They were up against four SPARTAN-IV fireteams playing "territories". Despite being outnumbered 3-to-1, the mixed species team managed to come out on top.
"Your teams are pretty exceptional, Shipmaster, Arbiter." Lasky commented towards both Sangheili who were watching the teams from the tower that overlooked the S-Deck
Rtas waved them off. "I thank your for the praise, Admiral, but they are simply doing their jobs."
"You're allowed to be impressed you know that, right?"
"I know. I simply can't allow my praise to get to their heads. A humble warrior is often the most dangerous on the battlefield."
The admiral couldn't find any fault in his logic. "So I see. Any suggestions on what they should play next?" Honestly, he could watch them play all day, because not a single game was played the same and it held his complete and undivided attention.
Thel looked down at a list of what the humans called "game types." He pointed to one and showed it to the admiral.
"Extraction?" Lasky raised an interested brow. "Hmm...interesting. I'll have one of our technicians set it—"
"Um...Admiral...you and the Arbiter better get up to the bridge and fast."
Lasky couldn't help but feel annoyed. "What is it Roland? I told you to leave anything of note to my XO."
"I'm aware, Admiral, but we have a situation on our hands. We've found something."
"What is it? Have we found a Forerunner relic? Remnants of Storm activity?"
"We've found something, sir...and it's not UNSC, Covenant, or Forerunner in origin."
The blood of everyone in the room suddenly ran cold. Lasky suddenly got deadly serious. "Roland, tell, Commander-117 to meet me at the bridge, Delta-8 priority. All fighters are to return to their hangars, prep for an immediate deployment: real world. All wargames are canceled for the day. I want Infinity and everyone else at full combat alert status and I want it done yesterday!" If this was a First Contact scenario, Lasky wasn't about to have humanity's flagship caught with their pants down.
"Aye, aye Admiral, orders being relayed...now. It's done." As if on cue, alarms started to ring throughout the ship. The Spartans on the S-Deck scrambled to armories to lock and load as Infinity went on full alert.
"Attention all hands, this is Roland. A situation has developed. All combat personnel are to immediately prep for possible deployment. I repeat all combat personnel are to immediately prep for possible deployment. This is not a drill. UNSC Infinity is now DEFCON 2. I repeat UNSC Infinity is now DEFCON 2!"
"Are you returning to your ships, Arbiter? Rtas?" Lasky inquired as the two Sangheili followed him towards the elevator.
"No. It's too risky in case this is a first contact scenario. We'd have no protection as all fighters are being prepped for real combat. I trust my shipmasters to do their jobs competently."
Lasky bobbed his head and the three officers stepped out on to the bridge. The bridge was full of pandemonium to the point where no one bothered for formalities, not that Lasky even remotely cared. As ordered, John was waiting for them, having arrived a bit earlier than they did. "What's the situation, Roland?" the admiral all but demanded as he came to the holotable.
"I'll be brief and straight to the point. Our scout teams decided to edge out a bit into the system, and they found this." A holographic object appeared on the table. It was most definitely a starship of some kind, in some ways reminded the Chief of the Didact's ship, Mantle's Approach, and yet it was a fully unique design on its own. The ship was enormous, easily dwarfing Infinity by a factor of eight. Even with its size, it was damaged, likely beyond repair judging from all of the gaping holes in it.
"Preliminary scans show nothing out of the ordinary, but its certainly...troubling."
"Yes...we might be on the verge of another galactic civilization," Thel said dolefully.
"Tell me, Spartan. I heard that your construct has more data on the Forerunners, than all of us. Does she know of anything?" Rtas asked John.
"I can certainly speak for myself," Cortana replied, appearing on the table. She brought up several documents in front of her, seemingly going through hundreds of Exabyte of information a second. "This is interesting, nothing in the Forerunners data indicated anything that matches this—" she paused as her eyes widened in panic. "Wait...this can't be right."
"Cortana..." John said seriously.
"Oh, God. No." she turned her head sharply to Lasky. "Admiral, you've got to get Infinity out of-"
"Sir! That ship is giving off readings charts! It's-"
Suddenly the supposedly 'dead' ship came alive and shot fifty one distinct beams that connected with every UNSC/Separatist ship. "Roland! Get us the fuck out of here!" he ordered with a roar.
"Can't sir! That ship has us completely immobile we're—"
Suddenly, Lasky felt like he was being pulled. Which is exactly what was happening to the entire Joint Fleet. All fifty-one ships were being pulled in the exact same matter the Didact used to trap Infinity on Requiem.
John felt dizzy and experienced a falling sensation. He landed on...something...but he wasn't sure what. Wincing from a headache he looked around to see Lasky, the Arbiter, and Rtas, slowing picking themselves up.
"Where are we?" That was the million-dollar question. They sure as hell weren't on Infinity, anymore.
"So, you've all come at last," came the masculine voice of a disembodied person. The four leaders instinctively went back-to-back, covering all of their sixes.
A figure materialized itself in front of them. For the first time in decades, John-117's jaw dropped to the floor in complete shock. Standing in front of them was not a Forerunner, Flood specimen, or even an alien. It was a human. An honest-to-God human. He had dark hair, markings on his face, and an attire that was not UNSC norm, but he was unquestionably a homo sapien.
Rtas growled. "What sorcery is this? Who are you?"
"My name is...Forthencho. I am...or rather was, the Lord of Admirals and effectively, the military leader of the Ancient Human Civilization."
Millions of questions were burning through all four minds, but Lasky gained his bearing and spoke collectively for them. "What have you done? Why have you brought us here?"
"Do not worry, I have simply locked down your ships' systems with a powerful constraint field. Your technology is primitive to ours to the point where it could be divided amongst all of your ships and leave you completely immobile. As for why I have brought you for specifically here. I have a task for you."
"A task...what kind?" John asked, playing along.
"This is no mere starship...but a gateway to another galaxy in the Local Galactic Group."
"Your empire was intergalactic?" Thel asked in bewilderment. They truly were insects compared to the Forerunners and Ancient humans.
"Yes and no. We knew the Forerunners would eventually destroy us and hunt us down until every last one of us was either dead or reset back to the stone. So we decided to move to a new galaxy, a process we called the "New Journey". Somehow, the Didact learned of our plan and launched and all out invasion of our territory. We fled with as many as we could save to the Perseus Arm, here. Creating the most powerful Slipspace portal in the history of our kind, I sent them through. I stayed behind to maintain the portal and gateway in case our kind from this galaxy needed to go through again. Eventually, my body died and only my consciousness remained."
"You couldn't have known they'd survive," Lasky said.
Forthencho shook his head. "I didn't...at least not until years later. In a coincidence that was unlike anything I've seen, our race discovered a planet with nearly the exact same properties as our home world. The journey damaged their ships and some of our technology, yet communication remained somehow. However, after a certain time I lost contact 50,000 years ago and I'm uncertain as to why. However, I do know that the human race in this galaxy is thriving and on an eve of a discovery that will change their society. We cannot allow that to happen."
"Why is that?"
"Instincts. They've allowed me to survive hundreds of engagements with the Didact and their telling me that this will bring them to the path of stagnation," he lied...sort of. He kept the real reason he knew this to himself, as they'd find out the truth sooner or later. There were some lies in his story too, but he bent the truth enough just to make it seem believable.
"What does that have to do with us?" Lasky all but demanded. His patience was wearing thin.
"It's simple. I'm tasking you with going through the portal and stopping them from acquiring this primitive technology and replace it with your own, and become allies. Lead that humanity on the right path and take their rightful place in the galaxy."
"Absolutely not," Lasky refused outright. "What the hell makes you think we can just do that? There are soldiers on these ships with families and you want us to leave them behind and expect them to live in another galaxy?!"
"You know the effects of Slipspace. Time can seem relative, potentially. Six months there might mean a day might pass here."
Lasky was about to reply before Thel put a hand on his shoulder. "What is in it for us, Human?" Although he certainly wasn't fond of the idea as a whole, in the Arbiter's mind, they pretty much had no choice the moment their fleet was caught in the restraint field. Rtas agreed with him.
"My offer is simple. Complete this task I'll give your UNSC and its allies complete and total access to our technology, allowing you to make technological jumps in decades what would normally take you thousands of years. Although the Forerunners left you as their inheritors, our technology will be far easier to reverse-engineer."
"We'll go," John replied.
"Commander, you can't just make—"
"Admiral, I understand where you're coming from. Truly, I do. But let's look at the facts here. He has us trapped here, and despite all of Infinity's upgrades, he did it with child's play. I wouldn't be surprised if he could blow us out of space with ease. Do you honestly think he's going to let us go? Second, I was created to protect humanity...ALL of it, regardless of what galaxy they were in. Third, we're being offered, practically for free, unrestricted access to technology that can jump humanity forward so we can recover and be whole again. Considering those facts, I'd say we're obligated to go through."
Lasky opened his mouth to argue...but couldn't find the words. His logic was sound. He turned back to the Ancient Human. "How do we know you'll keep your word?"
The Lord of Admirals visibly recoiled as if struck, insulted. He gave Lasky a glare. "I have a duty to my people, Admiral. My sole purpose was to protect, preserve, and extend my peoples' will. That is with the sole purpose that I was born. And every action I take is for the good of humanity. I would never go back on an offer that furthered that purpose!"
The two human admirals gave a stare off, not willing to back down. Lasky grunted. "Fine." The two Sangheili looked at each other and nodded. They had accepted as well.
"What will we tell the crew?"
"Nothing. As far as they're aware, this will be just a freak accident." He snapped his fingers and the environment they were in started to slowly vanish. "Propel humankind forward and you shall have your reward." The Lord of Admirals vanished completely as well as the four leaders.
All fifty-one ships connected the constraint field soon vanished in a slipspace bubble, one by-one.
(Mass Effect: The New Journey)
SSV Einstein, Sol System, near Pluto
September 18th, 2054
Lieutenant Commander Charles Hackett strolled his way down the hallways of one of Humanity's first starships, the SSV Einstein. A year or so ago, Humanity had made its greatest discovery. A cache of alien technology was discovered in subterranean ruins on Mars, by a multinational team of astronauts. Humanity was no longer alone in the universe. Months later, Earth's largest eighteen nations drafted the Systems Alliance charter which would represent humanity on the galactic stage should they ever encounter alien life. Schematics were drawn up and the technology discovered was quickly reversed engineered and studied. The Einstein was one of the very first true spaceships to roll off the shipyard. Hackett was assigned this ship for his exemplary service in the United States Navy and was chosen to be one of the first commanding officers of the Systems Alliance. It was a true honor.
"Status report," he asked one of his ensigns as he walked onto the bridge.
"Sir, we'll be near Pluto within the next five minutes," replied Ensign Victoria Shepard. The woman was tough as nails, did her job extremely well, and most of all, extraordinary beautiful.
Hackett nodded. "Good work, ensign. You're a natural," he complemented.
"Just doing my job, sir," she replied, inwardly beaming that THE Charles Hackett had complimented her job.
Hackett then thought back to their mission. One of the Alliance's probes had detected some strange readings coming from one of the moons orbiting Pluto. It had gone undetected for decades, but now with the alien cache, entirely new doors of science opened up and this was but one of many to come.
"Approaching Charon, now Adm-" Victoria Shepard stopped dead in her tracks as she dropped everything she was holding as her heart skipped several beats.
Hackett raised both eyebrows curious at the ensign's behavior. "Are you okay, Hannah?" he asked, using first names to make her feel a bit more comfortable. Victoria shook her head as she fearfully tapped a few buttons on her consoles and swallowed hard.
The sensors brought everything on screen. Hackett lost every trace of color in his skin as he went pale as a ghost. An entire alien fleet of ships that dwarfed the Einstein by a ridiculous margin was near the moon of Charon. His eyes went wide as saucers and his jaw dropped completely. There were four ships among the fleet that had to be AT LEAST six kilometers long and the black one looked as if it had enough firepower to sink an entire continent, judging by the outward appearance. Humanity's largest starship was around 600 meters! This wasn't just bad, this outright catastrophic. The commander began to feel weak in the knees.
"Sir, we're being hailed!"
This was it...the moment of truth. Hackett knew he was about to make history, one way or the other, and honestly he didn't know if he was going to live in the next five minutes, let alone the next five days, months, or even years!
"Patch it through."
"This is Admiral Thomas Lasky of the UNSC/Separatist forces. We mean you no harm or hostile intent!"
(Mass Effect: The New Journey)
And that's a wrap! What'd you think? Would you all rather me continue this or Paradigm Shifts?
Also, I need your help! You know about the Ghosts Sangheili that I mentioned? Here's your chance to create some of your own. I will pick the four best that I like and give a shout out/credit to those I pick. All I need is their name, a description (do they have scars, how tall they are, etc), a genuine personality, character history, and finally what form of combat they specialize in. Just about anything is fair game except ONE thing: they absolutely CANNOT hate humans. Can they have hated humans in the past? Sure, hell go into detail about what changed their opinion if you so choose, but they can't hate humans right now.
YSS-2000 Katana: Developed in 2566 and entering service in March of 2570, the Katana is the intended replacement for the YSS-1000 Sabre and is intended to be a stealth Space superiority fighter. It has all of the capabilities of Sabre and some unique to itself. Approximately half of the Katanas in existence are onboard the UNSC Infinity with the other half remaining at Earth.
MA5E Hybrid Assault Rifle: Developed in 2560, the MA5E is the standard Assault Rifle for UNSC combat teams as of 2570. The rifle fires 7.62 rounds that have are coated with high heat plasma mere moments before they leave the barrel, creating a logical hybrid between the UNSC's kinetic weapons and the Covenants direct energy weapons. The MA5E can be adjusted so the encoded plasma is less "flashy" for stealth missions, but this weakens the overall stopping power in comparison.
NOBLE Team: Seeing as how he knew Reach would inevitably fall and the Spartans would be needed elsewhere, Admiral Whitcomb ordered NOBLE team off of Reach while he stayed behind. Unknowingly, the admiral's order had saved the Spartan's lives.