Mass Effect: The New Journey

Chapter Nineteen: Thrill of the Hunt

All right, guys, it's time for a different perspective, in more ways than one. There's a lot of foreshadowing here, and anyone who's read my other fics will know that even the smallest of details can provide massive clues for the future.

While the plot will constantly move in this story (well, as much as I can), please keep in mind that this will be character driven as well. This isn't gonna be like most ME/Halo crossovers post-Citadel contact.

As, always, let's get this party started!

Disclaimer: I make no claim of anything except my own work. Mass Effect, Halo and Titanfall, are under the rights of Bioware, 343 Industries, and Respawn Entertainment, as well as the publishing rights of Electronic Arts, Microsoft Game Studios, and Electronic Arts.


System Unknown, Time Unknown

Turian Facility, NOVA-6

March 3rd, 2168, four months before deLXE Eden Prime Attack

Three. It was a sacred number in Turian culture. Three talons to use against their enemies. Three holidays observed by the Turian government each and every standard Galactic year. Three factions during the Unification Wars. The list was endless. However, for the Turian military, three was even more sacred, and none of this was more apparent than in the HUNTERs.

Memorial services for the cybernetics-enhanced soldiers were a desolate, almost religious ceremony. Fallen HUNTERs were mourned for a total of three days, so that their comrades could celebrate their triumphs. The virtual reality simulation that each HUNTER was hooked up to had tens of thousands of different scenarios, and, naturally, each and every single HUNTER had a simulation or "hunt" that they enjoyed above all others, for a variety of different reasons. To honor their slain brethren, the three-thousand plus strong HUNTER division would play that favorite simulation for a total of three days, without complaint, without objection, and with fierce determination.

HUNTERs were very spiritual, much as the same as their normal Turian counterparts, and mystically devoted to their traditions. The special liquid that destroyed a HUNTERs body when he or she gave their lives in defense of the Hierarchy was more than just a defense mechanism so that the program could stay buried and secret for however long was required. It was their divine lifeblood. HUNTERs believed that when they fall in battle, their spirits would walk the galaxy for eternity, guiding their brothers and sisters through all trials and hardship. That their essence would become part of the cosmos itself, shattering their enemies dreams, and haunting their nightmares in a perpetual agony.

This is what separated the HUNTERs from the First Task Group, Havoc Shock Troopers, or even Blackwatch itself. No soldier in the Turian military had the audacity to call his fellow soldier a brother. Not in the eyes of the HUNTERs. To them, they had no right when truly didn't understand the meaning to its core. Every HUNTER knew his or her fellow super soldiers like the back of their talons. They knew their idiosyncrasies, tics, and dreams for the future (even if the options were limited), personal goals, and anything in between. To them, a fellow HUNTER was family, as they had been raised together since childhood. Something very, very, very few soldiers in the galaxy could claim, let alone in the Hierarchy.

To that effect, that's why everyone was gathered in the main debriefing room. Every single pack, every single squadron, every single legion of the Turian's deadliest warriors were all gathered in a semi-circle. In this place, during this time…there were no ranks. Ranks were insignificant when it came to family. No one was above this sacred edict, not even General Oraka, himself.

Renegade squadron was front and center, kneeling in front of an altar with a Phaeston Assault rifle protruding from the shrine, along with a small statue of Kryses, the first HUNTER to fall in real live combat. Silvari and General Oraka silently presided over the funeral. No words were spoken. Why would they need to be? A human funeral would have some type of Eulogy commemorating the life and service of the fallen, but it wasn't needed here. A HUNTER knew everything they ever needed to know about their comrades. Words were useless, a silent reminder that no amount of speeches could bring a family member back. In fact, speaking may highlight their failures. A HUNTERs silence was a sorrow that was heard throughout the vastness of space.

Finally, Silvari, with a blank and expression on her face, stepped forward a few paces towards the small statue, and placed her talons on the shoulders, then pressed her forehead on its chest, eyes completely closed. Saren came to her left, Garrus to her right, and Nilhlus behind her. Saren and Garrus had tipped the side of their heads to touch hers. Nihlus had grabbed her shoulders and pressed his forehead against the backside of her cranium. Soon, every single HUNTER had joined in, closing in on Renegade, grabbing each other's shoulders, becoming "one". Silvari had finally "felt" that last of her brothers and sisters, she began to hum. To an educated human or alien raised in USG territory, they would've immediately compared the "chanting" to a Latin choir. In all actuality, the chanting was ancient hymn that existed long before even the Unification Wars, praying that the spirits would help the guide the souls of young children who were innocent bystanders and victims during War. The hymn was all but forgotten to only the most knowledgeable of the Hierarchy's religious historians and its obscurity was a chief reason it was adopted as part of the HUNTER's sacred traditions. The irony of all this was not lost, especially not to General Septimus Oraka.

The General stood away from the huddled super soldiers, watching the funeral in uneasy silence. Not even he was allowed to participate.

'Silvari…forgive me,' he solemnly thought. It was funny. While technically he wasn't the highest-ranking officer in the Turian military, on paper, in reality, he was far away the most influential and powerful. He had lead troops into battle as a captain on raids of pirate bases as a basic soldier, was instrumental in reorganizing the First Task Group into an elite infantry force, as well as personally directing numerous off-the-record black operations with Blackwatch. Every single mission he had commanded he had lost men. Like any good Turian, he had the discipline to know that losses were inevitable, and if that bothered him…he was simply in the wrong career.

And yet…

The hymn had stopped, and Septimus' eyes had regained their focus, knocking him out of his trance. Every single one of his HUNTERs had their eyes on him. Their faces were cold, full of tranquil fury. But he knew them. Hell, he had raised all of them, either indirectly or personally. The desire for blood…retribution…avengement, it was all there. But there was something else…something subtler: fear and uncertainty. Would the same fate as Kryses await them all? How long? Five years? Ten years?

'The more things change…the more they stay the same.' Septimus had grimaced, inwardly, but kept his stony expression. Now. Now he could break the sacred vow of silence…if only to reassure them.

"We've experienced our first lost," he began, clearing his throat. "I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know what each and every one of you are feeling. I wasn't there during your conscription. I wasn't there for when you were made aware that you would embark on a lifelong journey to protect Palaven, Her colonies, Her Citizens, and her enemies. I wish I could console you. But I can't. Nothing I could say will bring Kryses back. He's gone." He gave them a whimsical smile. "However, you can, honor his memory. And we will. I promise you that."

A female HUNTER stepped forward from the crowd, while her brothers and sisters stepped aside instinctively. "General…when will we make the humans pay for this?"

"Patience, Rakasia," General Oraka stated, calmly. "All in due time. We still need to gather more intelligence on the capabilities of their OMEGA, as they like to call it. We will move when I give the all clear, not a minute sooner." Rakasia scowled, but otherwise heeded her general's order.

"I'm going to give you all the rest of the cycle off," Septimus said to a generally surprised HUNTER legion. They had never, ever, been given "cycles off". HUNTERs trained constantly in the simulation, and would put that training into the real world, weeks, if not days, afterwards! The software engineers who had designed the sim constantly worked around the clock and did nothing more than come up with scenarios and then, from the ground up, build and design a war simulation. The process was literally no different than from gaming developers making a popular video game from concept to all the way publication.

"Why?" Saren asked, as he and the rest of Renegade came to the head of the pack.

"I've lost men before you all were even born, Saren," Septimus explained. "Resuming training mere hours even cycles after casualties is a recipe for poor performance."

"Sir, we aren't normal men. Let us—" Oraka held his talon up, silencing Nihlus. Septimus spared a glance at Silvari, who looked distant, if a bit distracted…by HUNTER standards, anyhow.

General Oraka put a gentle talon on his shoulder. "Not this time. I need you to trust me." He turned back to the rest of the soldiers he had raised. "Now, go. Find something to do. Interact with each other. Learn more about the crew stationed here. Grieve. I don't care which, you choose. However, starting tomorrow morning all of you will be doing three days of zero gravity breaching and combat….with no breaks."

'Zero-G…that was his favorite…' Silvari thought, solemnly.

"Dismissed!"

"Sir!"

One-by-one, each of the HUNTER soldiers began to pile out of the room, with the ceremony effectively ending. Not sure of what to do with their newfound "freedom", it was an awkward transition to be sure. As General Oraka had much more work to be done, he left them all to their own devices and simply retired to his office. Soon, only Renegade squadron was left at the funeral site of their fallen comrade.

"A cycle off, eh? Heh, never thought I'd see the day," Garrus chuckled as he sat on a nearby crate next to the open viewport. He grabbed a cleaning cloth to do a once over on his Krysae sniper rifle.

"Indeed it is," Nihlus agreed, joining Renegade's sniper and sat next to him, one leg dangling down, and the other with his knee bent to his chin, as if in deep thought. "I.." A slight pause. "I'm not sure what to do."

They had spent their entire lives training constantly, and going on missions. Having a cycle "off" was more or less a foreign concept.

There was a pregnant silence amongst the squadron, with neither Saren nor Silvari saying much of anything. Finally, Garrus broke the ice, "How's your arm?"

"Better," Saren replied simply, giving his left arm some slight movements. "I won't be mission ready for another few weeks, unfortunately. But, at the very least I can practice with my Phaeston."

Nihlus stared at the temporary "prosthetic" (a misnomer considering major parts of HUNTER physiology were mechanical) in both awe and curiosity. Saren was, undoubtedly, the most skilled and most powerful HUNTER in the entire legion. Silvari and some of the other Cabal HUNTERs may have been more skilled with their biotic abilities than he was with his own, but even that wasn't enough to overcome his overall power. Yet despite all that…

"I'm going to kill him…" Silvari declared, her eyes full of fire. "The human who killed Kryses…"

"It was my fault that the human OMEGA escaped our grasp," Nihlus regretfully pointed out. "I will take charge in avenging him."

"We all will," Saren nodded, flexing his prosthetic. "We won't rest until every single one of their OMEGA soldiers is sent to the Spirit Plane to be destroyed by our brothers and sisters for all eternity."

"Even at the expense of the General's orders?" Garrus had asked the million-credit question and the elephant in the room.

The rest of Renegade Squadron didn't answer.


August 25th, 2168

Constant Memorial Hospital

2100 Local Time

"Honey, please…you're making me nervous," Hannah told Tyson with a frown as the retired Colonel paced back and forth.

"Goddamn it, I can't Hannah!" He growled, as he punched the wall. "That's our baby girl in there!"

"You don't think I know that?!" she shot back at her husband, standing up to meet his gaze. "I've spent my entire life trying to protect her. Moving from post-to-post, station-to-station, just so I can keep her as far away from my family as possible."

Tyson pursed his lips. Hannah had made no secret that she had despised her immediate family with a passion. Once a prestigious military line—Hannah was named after her great-great Grandmother who served on the SSV Einstein during First Contact with the Sangheili— now was marred with abusive drunks, criminals, and abusers. Hannah still had a physical scar on her abdomen from one of her mother's drunken tirades. Her siblings weren't much better. Being accepted for the Naval Academy after graduating high school, she packed her bags, left Vancouver and never looked back.

"I know…I just…this is all my fault. I should've been more careful, I could've trained her to—"

Hannah silenced him by putting her index finger on his lips. "Shh…don't blame yourself. It's not your fault." Judging from her husband's face, he wasn't so sure. Cupping both his cheeks. "If you hadn't trained her, Alyx, Shane, Kolyat, and Galen wouldn't be alive. You saved her life, Tyson."

Tyson pulled his wife into a hug and laid his chin on the crown of her head. She didn't object. No more words needed to be said as they held each other. In what seemed like hours, in reality, only ten minutes had passed before a female Sangheili in white armor, came out of the operating room. A red cross was on her chest, as well as a stethoscope, along with a nameplate: Cyla 'Cazal

"How is she Dr. 'Cazal?" Tyson asked her, his voice pleading for some good news.

"She's stable, Mr. Greystone, her surgery went without complications, and if I were to guess, physically I'll give her about six to eight weeks to be back at full health."

"Oh, thank goodness!" Hannah cried out hugging Tyson once again.

"Admiral…your daughter…she's a remarkable. If I'm allowed to be honest, privately, I was almost sure she wouldn't make it…but…she proved me wrong every step of the way. You should be honored. She has a fighting spirit that we Sangheili admire. Her and the boy she has affections for."

Tyson nodded. "Shane kept her alive…for that he'll have my eternal gratitude." Hannah nodded silently in agreement.

"I must admit, she does intrigue me…" Dr. 'Cazal said, absentmindedly, not realizing that she had spoke her thought aloud.

"Intrigue you? In what way?" Tyson asked her cautiously.

"When I was in my office and mentally prepping for surgery, I was reviewing her medical history, blood work, and all the tests we did when she first arrived after the deLXE invasion…" her tone shifted to one of utter awe. "Colonel, I've treated thousands of patients and operated on hundreds, the majority human, yet I've never ever seen a genetic pattern like your daughter. As far as current medical science can determine: she's genetically perfect."

Tyson started to sweat, as his heartbeat started to rise. "So…? Gene therapy is pretty common these days," he tried to dismiss offhandedly.

Cazal shook her head. "No, colonel. This is different. Even the smallest amount of gene therapy leaves ghosts…remnants of artificial meddling...this was natural."

"Yeah, I never could afford it anyhow on a lieutenant's salary," Hannah chuckled.

"Well, I just thought it was something intriguing. I have another surgery to prepare for, but she should be awake within the next four hours as the anesthesia wears off."

"Thank you, Doctor. You have no idea how much we both appreciate this."

Dr. Cazal merely waved them off. "Think nothing of it. It's my honor. Just tell the young Shepard that she should take things slow, and she'll make a full recovery." With a nod of affirmation, the Sangheili waved them goodbye, and left them to their own devices.

Tyson sent a quick text to Tarius, who had volunteered to make a food run at the local Chinese restaurant a few klicks away.

Alyx made it through surgery. After you get food, you need to get back here, ASAP! Don't stop anywhere. We need to talk. Emergency!

"I'm going to speak with my superiors and my XO and give them the good news. I'll be back soon," she told her husband, giving him a quick peck on the lips and stepped out the lobby, already dialing numbers on her cell phone.

In keeping with his history of perfect timing, Tarius had come through the hospital doors on the opposite side of the lobby, with a plastic bag carrying three Styrofoam plates of fresh take-out.

"Got your text as soon as I pulled up in the parking lot, what's the emer—" Tyson didn't even bother explain as he pulled his best friend unceremoniously into an empty room, quickly, when no other nurses or hospital employees were observing.

"Okay, what the hell, Ty?" Tarius pulled away from him and sat their food on a nearby table. "What's gotten into you? Your daughter just made it through surgery, and you're acting paranoid."

"We've got a problem. They ran a DNA analysis on Alyx."

Tarius' eyes widened. "Oh, shit."

"Yeah, I thought the same thing."

"Did you try to use the gene therapy excuse?"

"No. Hannah can barely afford gene therapy now, let alone when she was a mere Lieutenant. Thankfully, she just thought it was something the doctor was curious about."

Tarius looked him. "Wait a minute…you still haven't told her?! Even after all that's happened? She's your goddamn wife for fuck's sake."

"Oh and what do you think I should tell her, T? 'Oh, hey, Hannah, how was your day? Good? Same here. Oh, and by the way, because of circumstances, my birth certificate is fake, and Mr. and Mrs. Greystone don't even exist and how Alyx was even conceived is something even OSI scientists can't even wrap their heads around.' Yeah, I'm sure that'll go over well. It was hard enough to tell you."

"Touché'," the drell conceded. A pause before, "Will they kill her?"

"Dr. Cazal? I doubt it. She's far too busy to act upon her curiosity. But they'll likely monitor her…just in case."

"In any case, let's cross that bridge when we come to it. No use worrying about it, right now. There's not much we can do but try to keep it as secret as long as possible."

"You're right," Tyson agreed, before taking his ordered plate and splitting a pair of chopsticks, as both retired pilots sat down for their meal. As they ate in silence he wondered just how long he could keep his origins a secret from both Hannah and Alyx?

Well…like Tarius said: he'd cross that bridge when the time came. For now, he was just happy that his daughter was alive and well.


September 18th, 2168 URSC Standard

Tamaris, De-Facto Capital City of Thessia

It had been nearly two months since the deLXE attack on Eden Prime had sent shockwaves throughout the entirety of URSC space and since the Citadel had formally sign trade deals to allow citizens of both governments to freely exchange goods with one another, with sensible regulation, of course. However, the ripple effects of the sudden emergence of humanity and its alien allies on the galaxy couldn't be overstated. Nowhere was this more apparent than on Tamaris.

Tamaris was the largest city on the asari homeworld, boasting a population of 18 million denizens, with its gross domestic product outpacing even other cities in the Republic combined. This was all because of one simple reason: there was more element zero in the Tamaris mines in some cases than there were in entire systems. For centuries, this was how Tamaris, lead by House Tevos and House T'Soni, was able to assert de-facto control of the entire Republic and have enormous sway and influence throughout Asari space. Everything Tamaris did in its economy affected the price of eezo galaxy wide, even in the Terminus Systems!

That is…until the humans showed up. Zestiria, the homeworld of the Draxians and the Caleans, was just as eezo rich as Thessia was, and considering that Thessia has had mines that were thousands of years old, it was almost a near certainty that Zestiria's reserves of eezo would be three times that of Thessia at bare minimum. The Asari were extremely meticulous of the quantity of eezo that was shipped out and sold from the Tamaris mines, keeping supply low, and demand extremely high. Zestria's mere existence, was going to affect prices around the galaxy as investors and corporations pulled out of stock markets in Asari space, and started to make their move towards the humans, and the USG had barred Zestiria from selling eezo to anyone—Human and alien—until the fallout from the nuclear blast could be cleaned up via terraforming. Most estimates put the timeframe within 3 years at minimum, and six years at the absolute worst-case scenario. All in all, if Tamaris didn't prepare, their entire economy could collapse simply on the basis of Zestiria offering to sell high quantities of eezo at a discounted price.

And to Admiral Mirova T'Nara…it was of little consequence. All of her investments lied within the Terminus Systems, and she had saved up enough money over the centuries to buy out the entire apartment complexes on the Citadel, near the Presidium itself, notorious for its absurdly high cost-of-living. If anything, the collapse of the economy would only accelerate her schemes anyhow.

"Ma'am, General Oraka has arrived," came one of her subordinates who doubled as her guard detail. In truth, Mirova didn't need such protection: she had been an Asari Commando for close to a hundred and forty years, before transferring to the Navy. However, her subordinates, ever loyal, insisted. Each and every single one of them was either an Asari Huntress or for her more elite guard, a seasoned Asari Commando, and their genuine devotion to Admiral T'Nara bordered on religious cult-like zeal. It was for this very reason that T'Nara could openly discuss her machinations with General Oraka without fear of whistleblowers. She still took precautions and compartmentalized information, of course, but that was simply in case her subordinates were captured, then only bits and pieces of the puzzle would be revealed.

"Alone I take?" she asked her, pouring herself a glass of alcohol.

"No, ma'am…he has Saren and Silvari, with him."

'Than that means Garrus and Nihlus are here…somewhere.' Mirova noted mentally. There was no point in sending one of her Commando units to try and locate the other members of Renegade. One of two things would happen if she did: either none of her teams would be able to locate the elusive super soldiers or if somehow in a stroke of luck from the goddess Herself, they did locate them, they wouldn't live long enough to give away their position. The HUNTERs were simply flat-out better soldiers and assassins than they were.

"Very well, send them in."

Taking her glass to the meeting table, the Admiral sat down at its head, while several commandos escorted General Oraka and his protection detail.

"Bringing two of your best HUNTERs, Septimus?" She took a swig. "Well, then. Here I thought you trusted me," she lightly-joked.

Septimus rolled his eyes as he sat down, with Silvari and Saren on either side of him. The two soldiers were absolute giants in comparison to everyone in the room. "You've known about the HUNTERs since I first started the program forty years ago. I DO trust you, Mirova…probably more than anyone in the galaxy, if I were being honest."

The Admiral agreed. "The feeling's mutual, Sept," she told him seriously. "Believe it or not, I still have duties to the Republics and to maintain appearances I must be punctual. So let's skip the pleasantries and get right to the point…you said you needed to talk in-person about something you've been planning for the last few months. What is it?"

"Torfan," Septimus said succinctly.

Mirova raised an eyebrow. "The moon? What about it? It's nothing more than thugs and criminals. What use is it to us?"

"We're going to perform a HUNTER siege."

Mirova was well past her maiden stage, and lived for nearly five centuries, most which she had spent honing her skills in the military. As such, very few things, like most asari her age, even fazed or surprised her. This was not one of those times. Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped in disbelief.

"A…siege?!" she nearly shouted. "Are you serious?"

"Completely."

Mirova knew what that meant. A HUNTER siege was the complete mobilization of most, if not all, of the entirety of the HUNTER legion to attack the most heavily fortified colonies and outposts, massive in scale with one singular goal: total and complete annihilation. No survivors, period. There was the risk of all eggs in one basket, as the human saying went, but that's why scout teams of either Blackwatch or several Squadrons performed recon, assassination, sabotage, among other things days, if not hours, before the siege began to stack the deck heavily in the favor of the Turian super soldiers. With the element of total and complete surprise, an extremely well organized, planned and coordinated attack that was supplanted by a small fleet, Mirova doubted even Thessia itself could stand up to a siege.

She gave Septimus a hard stare. "Why?" she growled out.

"We're going to kill two Falcus' with one arrow," Septimus said cryptically, still, notably, refusing to get to the heart of the issue.

"Have you heard of deLXE?"

Mirova nodded. "Yes. Managed to attack a human colony. Eden Prime was it?" Septimus nodded. "What about—" Mirova stopped herself, as it dawned on her just what the General was thinking. "By the Goddess…"

"Indeed. deLXE has joined forces with the criminal underground of the Terminus Systems. A significant chunk of their forces, according to our latest intelligence, have set up shop on Torfan with more to arrive in the coming days," Septimus explained.

Her eyes narrowed. "If you have this intelligence, surely the humans do as well."

"Probably," the Turian agreed.

"That's why we need to move fast. I mean no disrespect, General, but we sat on our hands too long. We have to destroy deLXE first, recover any intelligence on how their organized, steal some of their technology, and give a moral blow to the URSC," Saren said speaking up for the first time.

Mirova sat back and observed the Turian HUNTER. "Really? That's all?" she sounded almost…disappointed.

Saren narrowed his eyes. "Yes. Is there something I'm missing?"

"Saren…I've known you since you were a young seven year old. I taught you and the rest of the Cabals how to wield your biotics to their fullest potential before you were on the operating table. I know that's not the real reason, for all this." Her tone was matter-of-fact. Mirova didn't even bother to let him reply. "I know what you're after: the authorization codes."

Even Saren had to blink at his old teacher's intuition. "…Yes," he finally admitted. "If we can figure out how deLXE was able to invade the Utopia System, and gain access to the War Net…"

"The possibilities are virtually endless," Silvari said clinching her fists under the table. She had hoped that gaining access to the War Net might give the HUNTERs a starting point on locating the training world of the OMEGA.

"Bold plan, but what makes you think the humans haven't changed the codes by now?"

"We don't," General Oraka replied cooly. "The research teams on NOVA-6 are some of the greatest minds in the galaxy. If we have the original authorization orders, it's a starting point on being able to break the new ones in the future and create our own software immune to their A.I."

"I see…"

"Since we're short on time, I'll get right to the point, again. How many commandos can you spare? They'll be working with my Blackwatch teams to prep for the siege."

Mirova crossed her arms. "I have about 70% of my teams deployed to the Terminus Systems doing wetwork and black operations, big and small. I can spare you five teams: which means you have about 25 operatives ready and willing to obey your orders. I can send out a memo, and they'll all meet you a predetermined location in the next Citadel Standard day, if need be."

"Good…here's what I'll need them to do…"

(Line break)

September 21st, 2168

Turian Frigate Black Zero,

True to their timeline, within three days, Admiral T'Nara and General Oraka had pulled off a miracle and put their assets in place. Thankfully, through the luck of the spirits themselves, the URSC hadn't attacked Torfan yet, either because of planning of their own, or simply lack of knowledge. Either way, the HUNTERs would beat them to the punch.

Garrus sat next to Nihlus, making subtle adjustments to his Krysae sniper rifle, fine tuning the weapon for maximum efficiency. Nihlus was going over diagnostics for his augmentations that he had picked out for this mission.

The Black Zero itself was one of dozens of stealth enhanced frigates carrying the deadliest soldiers in the galaxy by the bus load, along with dozens of other shuttles. Outside of Blackwatch soldiers loyal to General Oraka, the vast vast majority of the Turian military—even the upper echelons—didn't know the technology in these stealth vessels even existed, let alone were being used covertly. Which made them the perfect vehicles for Renegade to launch their strike.

"Two minutes!"

Every HUNTER moved in unison, like a well oiled machine and stood up, going over last minute fine-tuning of their weapons, making sure their shields were at maximum strength, and double checking their personal equipment, and each other's.

When it came down to it, it was remarkable how simple the entire siege was from a strategic point-of-view. After calling in a few favors, General Oraka was able to smuggle both his Blackwatch forces along with the Admiral's Huntresses and Commandos, to the surface of Torfan undetected. The moon technically had no singular leadership, however, it was divided into several territories controlled by certain gangs and mercenary groups, and criminal syndicates. The Blood Pack, backed up with numbers and a deal with deLXE, had the largest territory on the main continent. The primary objective for Blackwatch was to sabotage the electrical grid. Two teams would spread out and destroy the main power grids, and five other teams of two would destroy the backup generators. Blackwatch forces weren't as good as HUNTERs, but they were feared for a reason. Aided with the latest in cutting edge gear and decades of experience, dealing with security around the generators would be child's play.

The Asari Commandos, on the other hand, had a different objective. They were tasked with destroying the communication relays on the planet, to cut them off from sending out distress signals and cause disarray in general. Each territory had their own independent relay station, with about three layers of redundancy. Once the primary relays were destroyed, the HUNTERs would begin their siege immediately, which is why they were working backwards: the commandos would destroy the redundant systems first, covertly, and then cause pandemonium by destroying the communication relays.

Once that was done, both Blackwatch and the Commandos would have ten minutes to arrive at a rendezvous point, where a marked shuttle would take them off-world before the siege.

This stage was critical.

They were told under no circumstances that if they missed the evac point, they would be disavowed and be left behind. No exceptions. The HUNTERs were ordered to slaughter anyone and everyone, armed or unarmed. There were no "civilians" on Torfan. Anyone who wasn't a HUNTER, wasn't going to live to see another day – including anyone from Blackwatch or the Admiral's Commandos. Yet, they volunteered, anyhow without the slightest hesitation, knowing the risks.

"Squadrons!" Saren roared above the activity of the Zero. "Sync with your teams! This may be a siege, but we will not use radio unless it's a emergency!"

Saren came up towards his team and with a nod, all of them touched the base of each other's necks, and with a simple gesture, they each felt a "jolt", akin to a chillo running down the spine of a human, and within approximately 1.68 seconds, the entirety of Renegade squadron was perfectly synced up. Saren could "see" what the others were seeing, as if watching a security feed with multiple TV screens inside his head, but he could still see what was physically in front of him without any difficulty. Garrus raised his rifle, and a blue "laser" overlapped in Saren's Heads-Up-Display, showing precisely where Garrus was aiming. Silvari's biotic nodes were in perfect condition, and just by a glance he could see the precise electrical impulses she would send out through her artificial nervous system, therefore Saren would know within literal milliseconds what biotic attack she would use and he would adjust his battle tactics accordingly in real time. Finally, and arguably most importantly, was the synchronization of their Microprobe Throat Implants.

"Can you all hear me?" Saren "said", through their NeuroLink. No words had come out of his mouth, and said orifice had remained physically closed. Renegade squadron had instead "heard" Saren's voice, literally inside their heads. Rather than replying, Renegade simply acknowledged him with a head bob.

"Good. A good many of our brothers will be starting from the lowest tier and making their way up. Not us. We will be heading straight towards the main continent where the bulk of where deLXE has set up. We have to hit fast, and hit hard. We have approximately 2.5 hours to slaughter anyone and everyone and pull out. Let's keep it tight."

"Sir!"

Through the frigate's artificial audio emulators Saren was able to hear the Zero and dozens of other frigates exit FTL, and immediately engage the ships that were in orbit. Using Dyzack firing solutions, there was a constant barrage of Mass Accelerator rounds in staggered formations, along with a barrage of disruptor torpedoes to finish off any surviving ships, and to destroy any fighters that may try to launch. The last thing the Torfanian residents expected was to face was the bleeding edge of the Turian Hierarchy. In less than 90 seconds, the element of surprise had landed the HUNTERs their first victory, and the Torfan "fleet", was nothing more than scrap metal in the vacuum of space. Phase one was complete.

Saren didn't bother to peer out the window, as he, and the rest of the HUNTERs could "see" what the ship's internal camera feeds saw. There were dozens upon dozens of explosions simultaneously on the moon's surface. He felt vertigo as the frigate's artificial gravity generator powered down, as the Black Zero broke Torfan's atmosphere. The moon had relatively low gravity, which was perfect for the HUNTERs, who routinely trained in high-Gs after their augmentations. As the Zero broke atmosphere, the artificial audio emulators were killed, and each of the super soldier's could hear sound naturally.

"We are the finest warriors in the galaxy," Saren recited through the NeuroLink, grabbing a Phaeston assault rifle and turning off the safety.

"We will never accept defeat, We will never quit, No Brother or Sister gets left behind," Nihlus carried on with his M-4 Shuriken submachine gun and M-23 Katana on his back.

"There is no ship that can't be breached, nor an enemy we can't reach. By day, by night, the Hierarchy's enemies will be pursued like runts, to serve on our purposeful thrill of the hunt," Garrus recited, readying the Krysae one last time.

Silvari followed up. "By our Holy Spirits, By our Hierarchy, by our Rifles…we will destroy all who oppose our creed for…"

The Zero had halted and the hangar bay doors had opened, showing the desert-like moon of Torfan, and several bases of the enemy. The Zero itself was still roughly 10,000 meters above the ground.

"WE ARE HUNTERS!"

With that final declaration, every single HUNTER leapt out of the Zero, allowing the gravity of Torfan to overtake them. Just like they had when they practiced in the simulation, there were different targets for each Squadron so as to spread the HUNTERs out as strategically and effectively as possible. In some cases, such as Renegade, some squadrons would be effectively be fighting by their lonesome until tertiary and secondary objectives were completed, then they would meet up and finish them off in one final strike.

Saren and Renegade, glided to the West, and took in their surroundings in seconds. Torfan was mostly desert, with a few scattered oases and forests. There wasn't much life on the moon, just a few large predators, no bigger than a keeper or a Volus, but there was enough for the entire moon to be self-sufficient if need be. In the distance, Saren could see hundreds of his siblings falling from their shuttles and ships at terminal velocity, eager to spill some blood. The air was lighter, and easier to breath, but the moon's atmospheric make up would cause long term lung damage, if not properly screened and treated every few months or so. Thankfully, Saren and his crew wouldn't have to worry about that at all. Within the next three hours, they'd be gone, and would leave the URSC a critical moral blow.

As the surface came closer, the layout of their target became much clearer. It was an enormous military installation, comparable to some of the training centers on Palaven for the First Task Group. For nothing more than a bunch of crooks, thieves, and amoral mercenaries, it was pretty impressive, if not a bit haphazardly thrown together with the introduction of deLXE.

A heartbeat later, the installation's main tower exploded, killing dozens, if not hundreds of the enemy. Unfazed by the giant ball of fire, Renegade pressed on and glided through the enormous dunes of sand, easily the size of mountain ranges, aided by EVA thrusters on their armor.

"CONTACT!" Nihlus called out as he was the first to land—or in this case, slide—on the dunes, blowing the head off of a Batarian Blood Pack member, as he did so. Silvari and Saren slammed on the ground with a powerful Nova, sending deLXE operatives flying. Saren "felt", Silvari's fiber-optic nerves flare in a precise matter, and in milliseconds he instinctively knew what he had to do. With training and control taught to her since she was a child, Silvari executed a pull and pulled five mercenaries towards them both, while sprinting towards' their objective. Saren cut them all down with bullets to the forehead with semi-automatic fire. The moment the mass accelerated slugs entered their craniums, Silvari's mass effect field dissipated instantaneously. The two biotics moved so quickly that they ran past the falling corpses before they hit the ground with a large thud.

Nihlus was ejecting a thermal clip, before he felt his Omnicore shield flaring, and a sharp pain in his left pectoral, near his clavicle. It was a large slug, obviously conventionally accelerated, as nearly half of his shield was gone. "Sniper! Garrus, you need to—" Nihlus started.

"I'm on it!" Garrus replied over the NeuroLink, and sprinted ahead of his teammates. Subconsciously while he was sprinting, Garrus had "replayed" what Nihlus had saw before he was shot by the sniper. Doing complex trigonometry and ballistics in his head, and judging the distance and angle before the slug hit, he calculated where his target was at in approximately 1.2 seconds. Leaping over a small building, aided by his powerful leg muscles, Garrus sprinted again, and dived into a crouch. His Krysae barely even touched his shoulder before a mass accelerator round shot forth, cracking the air like a thunderstorm. The shockwave of the powerful prototype was enough to cause a small dust cloud around the Turian. A heartbeat later, the sniper's head exploded, and the round itself continued on its destructive path, embedding itself into the foundation of the crow's nest.

"Sniper down!"

"Garrus, find an elevated position, and keep an eye out on out for us. Be advised, Renegade, deLXE sniper rifle rounds deplete half of our shielding. Be on your talons!" Saren ordered out, with the rest of the team acknowledging his command. Garrus, as ordered, moved to find a crow's nest for himself so he could provide Renegade some covering fire. But not before taking down two Krogan warlords with precise shots to the neck, each shot within half a second of the other. The giant aliens fell face first, their corpses covered by the roaring dunes, soon afterwards.

Since they were on a very strict timeline, Renegade didn't even bother toying with the Blood Pack or deLXE operatives, as they did with the TDST during the URSC's invasion of Khar'shan. As such, they decided to cut loose, as they sprinted throughout the entire base. Reducing the mass of her fist, Silvari, with one large swing, tore the head off of a Batarian and drell deLXE soldier simultaneously. She actually physically connected with the Batarian, and the shockwave of the warp in her fist, caused the death of the other despite not touching him. Other members of deLXE tried to fire their weapons, but against Omnicore, their 7.62mm slugs were doing little to deplete her shields. With a biotic charge, she slammed into one merc, sending him flying with enough force shatter his ribcage on contact. Dodging a pistol whip from a Turian merc, she grabbed his wrist, forced him to shoot the dying man with the broken ribcage, then ripped his arm from his socket clean off, spraying blood everywhere. The turian's screams were deafening. Silvari opened her right palm, and forcefully closed his mouth with a vice like grip, cutting off his screeches. Using her augmented strength, she then twisted his head around one hundred and eighty degrees, killing him.

She had her own sub-objective: reach the interior of the base and download any intelligence of note on the mainframe. Normally, Nihlus would be the one who would've handled this phase of the siege, but HUNTERs operated on rotation during real-world operations, so that they would stay well rounded in their skill set even if they specialized in a role. Eventually, even Garrus would have to put his Krysae down and do breach operations with Saren. With that, thought in mind, she covered herself in a mass effect field, and slammed into the thick concrete wall, making her own doorway into the interior of the base. Inside here, Garrus couldn't provide cover support from afar, but she had no need. These fools were even weaker than the URSC's N7 forces. So she would continue to slaughter them like Palaven Falcus, in single hand-to-hand combat, not even bothering to use her firearms.

Meanwhile, above the ground, Nihlus and Saren were coordinating as a team, with Nihlus deploying tech armor and remotely hacking anything and everything to give them an advantage. From turrets, to drones, and even an Atlas mech, all of it was at the mercy of Nihlus, as he turned machine against their masters.

Firing fully automatic, Saren was cutting down waves of soldiers and mercs who were at this point, were only trying to survive, sensible tactics be damned. deLXE was putting up a much better fight than expected, but they two were being cut down with ease. A beeping noise in his HUD indicated that Omnicore had been breached, and he had sustained too much fire. Just in time too: his Phaeston had overheated, and he needed to replace the thermal clip. He dived expertly behind cover and ejected and replaced the clip within seconds. He primed a grenade, with his left hand. There was no need to call it out. The grenade was electronic and the moment his talons pressed the primer, everyone in Renegade got the notification in their HUDs. After standing out of cover, he threw the grenade with the same precision of an All-Star quarterback, and remotely detonated it with a simple thought, throwing shrapnel everywhere, and tumbling the foundation of the Crow's Nest of the sniper that Garrus had killed earlier.

Both Nihlus and Saren didn't take time to look at their handy work and took off into another sprint, after boosting up towards the middle part of a dilapidated building. According to their intelligence briefings, this base had subterranean tunnels that followed the layout of the base perfectly. So while Silvari by her lonesome was slaughtering anyone in her way underground, the rest of Renegade would meet her where the tunnels ended.

Above the surface, were a horde of Vorcha waiting for them, and Saren and Nihlus didn't hesitate to cut them down, as they charged both HUNTERs. Both of them didn't stop as they continued their onslaught. No matter how many times they fell back, when and where they took cover, what weapons they used, the HUNTERs superior skill, tactics, technology, and teamwork came out on top. Leaving little for genuine surprises and—

"SAREN, DROP!" Saren didn't even hesitate at the slightest. The moment he "heard" Garrus over the NeuroLink, he cut his momentum from his sprint down and dropped into a dive. The Krogan battlemaster, who was hidden by a Tactical Cloak, had his head completely blown away the second Saren was out of Garrus' crosshairs. Renegade's leader rolled into the Krogan, before he could obey the mating call of gravity, he caught the body and used it as a meat shield and sprinted forward, the headless Krogan absorbing both 7.62mm conventionally accelerated slugs and mass accelerated slugs. Not only was the battlemaster a great meat shield, but he was also a damn good battering ram. Lowering the corpses' mass, he plowed through a formation like a bull in a China shop and then, after sticking a smart grenade in the base of his neck, blasted the body away with his biotics. The resulting explosion was devastating, as Saren took a moment to gather himself, and let his shields fully recharge again.

"Saren…Nihlus, we've got lots of contacts…" Garrus reported.

"Show us," Saren ordered. As Renegade's leader propped behind cover, Garrus synced his HUD with theirs. Two kilometers ahead were dozens if not hundreds of deLXE operatives and Eclipse Mercenaries setting up defensive positions, eagerly waiting for the HUNTERs.

"We don't have time for this," Nihlus growled. They could easily take these soldiers out, as Saren, Nihlus, and Garrus saw more holes in their defenses than Swiss cheese. The problem lay in their mission time. The amount of time it would take to destroy each and every one of them would be cutting into their timeline of destroying the entire operations.

"Commander, I've found something interesting that may help us," came Silvari's voice. "Syncing HUD." In front of Silvari was a F-38D attack drone. It was a model that was thirty-five years old, far outdated by the current drones used by the URSC. It was angular, around 3 meters tall and 9 meters in length with a 15 meter wingspan. Attached to it, were various missiles, and a .50caliber rotary cannon. The drone was already prepping for launch, as its engines were revving up from a cold start.

"You were able to hack the drone?" Nihlus said impressed, while simultaneously popping from cover to take down a Vorcha.

"It was difficult, but yes," Silvari replied. "I've already downloaded the schematics. Who knows what use they may be. Sending you the controls, now."

"I'll cover you," Saren told his executive officer, and he sped off into the thick of the fighting to draw attention away from Nihlus as well as marking targets if need be, along with Garrus.

Summoning his Omnitool, Nihlus took control of the drone and synced his HUD with the UAV, as well as using a program to quickly learn the controls and sync any feedbacks with the haptic interface. He wasted no time launching the fighter from its bay and it sped out at subsonic speeds over the battlefield ahead.

"Marking targets," Garrus said as he used his Krysae to mark the first and most obvious hole in their defenses: the right flank. The drone banked hard to the right, and came in for a low pass. The rotary guns roared to life, and spun out .50 caliber shells, with such destructive force that even Nihlus had to consciously stop himself from wasting such valuable ammunition, as it tore into deLXE operatives. Every soldier who wasn't caught in the hailstorm of bullets, ran to cover. A Batarian, armed with a ML-77 Missile Launcher tried to take aim with the full intention of destroying the drone. Unfortunately, Garrus had tagged him before he could even get a lock on, and shot him in the chest.

"I'm getting interference. Someone's trying hack in!" Nihlus called out, having moderate difficulty of both performing operations with a weapon system he hadn't operated on before, and keeping the intruder out.

"I've got it!" Silvari said, syncing with Nihlus, and performing her own anti-cyberwarfare so Nihlus could concentrate on giving cover fire. "Garrus, I've found him. It's a drell…1.5 kilometers Northeast of your position, and he's wearing deLXE assault armor. He's behind several layers of reinforced concrete inside."

"Too bad it won't save him." Garrus found the hacker in three seconds, marking his position. Slowing his breath, Garrus turned off the NeuroLink with the others, and became one with the Krysae. Waiting for a single moment, he felt his heart beat a single time, and then…he squeezed the trigger thrice. The first shot damaged the concrete, creating a large spider web crack, the second shot shattered the rock entirely, and the third finally went through the drell's neck, killing him instantly. Garrus left no room for him to react. "Target down." He said over the NeuroLink after turning it back on.

The Drone was easier to handle now, and Nihlus wasted no time and performed a displacement barrel roll to come in for another pass. Now free from intruders and Electronic Counter-Measures, Nihlus, along with the help of Saren, boxed the attackers in, as he fired missiles, .50 caliber rounds, and even an onboard firebombs. Anyone that tried to escape as the drone passed by were killed by Garrus, still keen on taking his pounds of flesh. In the span of 10 minutes, over three hundred and fifty combatants were killed, as the HUNTERs worked as one to destroy their vastly outmatched foe. With the drone out of ammo, and no use to the team, Nihlus deliberately crashed it into the bases main stronghold, turning it into a pile of scrap.

Saren and the others met up once again, as the cacophony of war had settled down. "Status check?" Saren said using his actual mouth, when the team was physically together again.

"Took a hit to the shoulder," Silvari reported dully. "Human slug. Not as bad as when that OMEGA shot me with that pistol on Khar'shan." She growled, still feeling some type of way about that battle.

"Nothing noteworthy, here, commander," Garrus said. Nihlus reported the same.

"I see. Good, we're moving out we need to meet up with Nemesis squadron in—" he checked his chronometer, to make absolutely sure. "Ten minutes."

Garrus huffed. "And they say we can't be punctual."

Saren allowed him his quip. "We're sprinting this. First sign of enemy contact we go back to NeuroLink communication. Understood?" There was a collective head bob. Saren magnetically attached his Phaeston to his back. "Then let's move!" Swift and silent, Renegade took off, sprinting towards their objective, keen on taking down anyone and everyone that stood in their way.

After all…no one but a HUNTER could understand the thrill of the Hunt.


Unkown Location

Unknown Time

With a jolt, he found himself awake in a lightly dim room. Trying to move, he found that he couldn't as he strapped towards the chair, and restrained with hardlight cuffs. He was bleeding from his left lip and from his right eye.

"So, you're finally awake…again," came the voice of Admiral Thomas Lasky, walking in casually with a cup of hot chocolate and sat down in front of the restrained man in front of me. Pressing an icon on the table, a hardlight readout of a dossier appeared. "Immanuel Lopez…no criminal record…professor at Oxford University, ex-Marines of the 12th Cyber Warfare Company, Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence studies and Physics, married, no kids…" Lasky looked at him disdainfully. "deLXE sleeper agent."

Lopez said nothing as the Admiral read of his biography. The hard light dossier vanished.

"You're a smart man, Professor…so tell me…why deLXE? Why would someone like you join with such heinous individuals," Lasky asked sipping on his cocoa.

The insult seemed to trigger him. "You know NOTHING, URSC Dog!" he spat. "Director Xavier and those fools in Parliament think they can keep our species unified forever. He's wrong. Democracy will always fall apart eventually."

"You think fear, and totalitarianism will keep us united?" Lasky raised an eyebrow, clearly amused.

"Yes," Professor Lopez said with conviction. "Freedom is a fool's dream. Humanity and our allies need discipline…order. You think the speech by the Captain gave you hope?" He laughed, cynically. "We will rip you from the history books, and build monuments of your destruction. The entire Galaxy will know our strength, and we will bury the Citadel, along with you. We are the rightful heirs to the galaxy. You wish to take this galaxy over peacefully? You're fools!"

"Are you done?" Lasky rolled his eyes. This man was clearly delusional.

"Mock me all you want. But we will prevail. Cut off one head, and two more shall take its place."

"Why were you on Eden Prime?" Lasky asked, getting right to the point, ignoring the man's ramblings.

The question gave Lopez pause. "Why are you interrogating me? You're an Admiral." He was dodging the question, but Lasky detected that he was genuine with his confusion.

'He really doesn't remember does he?' Lasky contemplated, thoughtfully. He'd have to give Adrianna, Mike and Jai some well deserve R&R. Even he had privately thought their methods were...extreme.

"That's neither here nor there, professor. Because you're going to tell me what I want to know." He gave him a dark look. "The amount of mountains I had to move to find you and interrogate you away from the eyes of OSI cost me a lot of political clout and favors. So you will, tell me what I want to know."

Lopez seemed shocked at the revelation. "You don't trust your own superiors."

Lasky read the man carefully. 'Wait…that's what he got out of what I said? Hmm…I can use that. "No…I don't trust them," Lasky lied through his teeth, just to gauge his reaction.

"Then why not join us!" Lopez seemingly pleaded. Even Tom couldn't tell whether or not the professor was being genuine. Just how far did the man's delusion and sincere belief in deLXE ideology go? Doubts started to come in to Lasky's mind. On one hand, the amount of effort deLXE went into falsifying his identity and blend him into normal society clearly meant that he had enormous value to the organization for some reason. It took Grey team tremendous amounts of effort to catch the professor off guard and give them probable cause to kidnap him. But on the other hand, this man was clearly delusional, and likely suffered from mental illness, going from preaching ideology to wanting Lasky to defect to deLXE, seemingly within minutes of each other. Did deLXE know something that they didn't? He'd have to play this carefully.

"You know I can't do that…Immanuel," Lasky said softly, using the man's first name. "I need you to tell me, what I want to know. Okay?"

"I…I can't!" Lopez, suddenly looked defeated. "This is my creed. I took a vow of silence."

"And nothing can't change your mind?" Lasky asked him stoically.

"Nothing." There was that conviction, again.

Admiral Lasky sighed and shook his head. "I was afraid of having to do this, Immanuel, but you leave me no choice." Tapping the table, he brought up several hardlight holograms again. On the side of the table,a video feed popped up.

"Sierra Zero-Five-Eight. What's your status?" Lasky inquired, staring the professor down.

"Affirmative, Admiral, I am," Linda replied. "Target acquired. " Her voice was as cold as the glaciers of the arctic. "Linking to your screen."

A moment passed, and the hard light screen showed a beautiful redhead enjoying lunch by her lonesome at Hyde Park in Central London. Suddenly, all the color in Lopez's face drained in horror. "Jenny…NO! You can't! That's my wife! She has nothing to do with deLXE!"

"And you think I'm not aware of that?" Lasky snorted. "These are the stakes, professor. You tell me what I want to know…your wife lives. If you don't…"

"I can't! I won't!"

"Is your ideology really worth the love of your life?! Is it professor?" Lasky slammed his hand on the table. "Tell me! Why were you on Eden Prime?! How did you get past the WarNet?!"

"I don't know! I swear!"

"You're a terrible liar professor," Lasky shook his head. "Sierra prepare to terminate on my mark. "Three…"

"Goddamn you!" Lopez started to thrash in his seat, but he couldn't' get free even if he was at full strength.

"Two…." Lasky roared. "Tell me!"

"I can't!" Lopez pleaded again. "Not my Jenny…please not my Jenny."

"One…" Lasky sighed. "Sierra Zero-Five-Eight….terminate that—"

"The beacon!" he finally cried out, tears streaming from his face. Lasky almost smirked.

"I'm listening."

"I…I don't know how we were able to get in. That…that was above even my authorization and ne-need to know. But…we were ordered to find Colonel Greystone's daughter, kill or capture her…and then locate the beacon."

"Beacon? What are you talking about?" Lasky was now genuinely confused.

"We don't know much…all I know was that it was Prothean. OSI had sent a TDST team to secure it, decades ago…that team was lead by none other than Colonel Greystone. Of course…he was an enlisted soldier back then. Legend has it that the Beacon activated and…that's all we know. Whatever happened down there with the retrieval team, OSI had buried it under layers of classification."

"How did you discover it, then?"

Lopez sighed, resigned to his fate. There was no point in lying, now. Jenny's life was at stake. "Rumors…rumors of rumors…scuttlebutt. We had initially dismissed them as hearsay, but the Colonel started to…improve."

"Go on," Lasky encouraged, a little put off by the professor's mood swing, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

"Word has it that the Colonel, started to improve his combat skills unnaturally. He was promoted quickly in the officer ranks, and he was decimating our soldiers. We feared him more than we feared anyone. He became infamous among our rank and file. We believed the beacon did something to him. That's it…that's all I know. Now please."

Lasky frowned, contemplatively. Greystone…of course he would be in the middle of all this mess. "Very well, then. Is that all you know?" the Admiral inquired again.

Lopez nodded. "Yes. Please, just let her go!"

"I'm afraid I can't do that," Lasky shook his head. "Sierra…eliminate the target," he ordered.

The professor's eyes widened in shock, "NO!" But it was too late, the reticle had zeroed in on his wife's head, and Linda pulled the trigger. A hybrid 14.5x114mm shot out of the barrel at hypersonic speed, and caught Jenny in the throat. The woman was dead before her body hit the grass.

Several hardlight holograms appeared in front of a flummoxed Lopez, with dossiers on his wife and her history prior to meeting him. His eyes were wide as saucers, in total shock.

"Funny thing about the compartmentalization of your organization. Sometimes you'll never know what secrets you'll have to keep from your spouses…even if they serve the same masters. She wasn't the first, and she most definitely won't be the last," came the voice of Admiral Ishigami as she trotted inside the room with a pair of N7 agents.

"You…you mean…?!"

Sayuri actually smirked. "Did you really think Admiral Lasky could whisk you away light-years from Earth and I not know about it? You were being played from the beginning, Professor. deLXE might be good, but I assure you: I'm better. You've been a thorn in Director Xavier's side, and I'm going to crush all of you like the cockroaches you are." She glanced at Tom. "Good work, Admiral. You do fine work." Lasky nodded, in thanks.

"You…you bitch…I'll never tell you anything, now!"

Ishigami smirked, again. "Oh, but you see, Professor. You will." She snapped her fingers, and Jai, Adriana, and Mike appeared, revealing they had been present the entire time during the interrogation under the guise of active camouflage. "Jai reset the video feed…could you do the Professor a favor and make him…forget."

Jai acknowledged the order and went to work, while a stoic Lasky, Ishigami, and Grey Team observed. There was no sympathy for the man who had caused untold amounts of suffering, bloodshed and had nearly cracked the union they had spent a century meticulously building. This wasn't business: this was personal.

In space, no one could hear you scream.

Neither did anyone for Lopez's cries for mercy.

(END)

Happy New Year's Guys!

Wanted to move the plot along as much as I could, as I know this later than usual. I had planned on this being released in October and…well, we all know how that went. But it's out now, and I hope you all enjoyed this! As for when the next chapter is out? I'm gonna shoot for early-to-Mid February, but no promises.

Oh, and I'm working on my own novel! So, yeah, the New Journey is pretty much my testing ground for my novel before I ask a publisher to publish it, so…yeah, that's what I'm going to be tied up doing in addition to this.

Anyhow, don't forget to read and review!

Codex:

War Net Authorization Codes: Formally known as the M20S Encryption Keys, the WNACs are a suite of self-adapting algorithms used to encrypt transmissions between the URSC Navy's vessels, Key Ground Installations, and stations in-system during a theater of war. The Codes reside on standardized superluminal comms servers and are transparent to the user when sending and receiving transmissions. Updates are automatically distributed throughout the network. The self-adapting nature of the codes, ensure that even if a given comms signal is cracked, a feat that is incredibly difficult, even for an Artificial Intelligence, the algorithm itself changes daily, so future communications remain completely secure. The only way for a hostile to break and effectively "spy" on URSC communications is for the hostile to obtain a copy of the codes used for the individual system.

NeuroLink: The NeuroLink is the specialized bleeding edge technology that serves as the foundation of the HUNTERs' augmentations. Essentially the equivalent of a Spartan Neural Lace, the NeuroLink provides a wireless network to internal and external systems, and effectively allows a HUNTER to control his/her augmentations, acting as a central diagnostic and control system, protection against cybernetic attacks, allowing wireless interfacing with computers, and most importantly, allowing a single squadron to sync up, able to see, feel and predict what each of their members will do on a subconscious level. The range of this synaptic link is well over 15 kilometers, in real time, allowing HUNTERs to truly work as one well oiled machine.

BH-22 Mircoprobe Throat Implant: This augmentation, allows HUNTERS to send audio messages through their NeuroLinks without actually speaking, by manipulating their vocal chords. This means a HUNTER can literally remain silent and talk to their teammates without the use of microphones, recording equipment or even physically moving their mouth. Because the NeuroLink is connected directly throughout the nervous system, it can tell with 100% accuracy whenever the user wants their own thoughts to remain private or to transmit an audio message to a teammate.