Chapter 5


Humans don't stagnate, they bide their time. Humans don't surrender, they fight. But above all: humans never, ever forget.

- Command and Conquer: Retribution


2215

The latest Alliance Census arrives.

The 'Outside Planets', meaning the planets the Human Systems Alliance hasn't colonized through use of Mass Relays, number at 30, all of them have a decent Alliance Military Presence, but a vast majority of the 'Pioneer' worlds rely upon militia with civilian-grade weapons technology to do the majority of their defending. Six of the 'Outside Planets' are considered 'Hub Worlds' by Alliance Development standards.

'Relay Planets' are the planets colonized within the Mass Relay network. As per the agreements made after the Second Contact War, the Humans colonize one Relay world for every five Outside Planets they claim. (It is important to note that the Relay Planets numbered are ones officially recognized by the Human Systems Alliance. It is known that dozens more Human colonies exist, but these are claimed and colonized by pioneers, outside of Alliance Territory, and therefore, not recognized, endorsed, or protected by the Human Systems Alliance)

As of 2215, the number of Relay Planets officially recognized by the Alliance rests at 9, with two of them - Elysium, and Eden Prime - being Hub Worlds, and all of them having a sizeable Alliance Military presence.

2216

The Alliance Navy reports sightings of ships, not Human or Quarian in design, in the vicinity of 'Mindoir', the latest addition to the list of Alliance-Recognized Relay Planets.


March 2216


John-S2-15 was calm. He'd been given relatively simple orders, ever since Mindoir had been colonized as a primarily agricultural world, his superiors in the SIGMA II program had decided that a 'farm war' simulation was in order. Most of the other agricultural worlds were far too developed to have the SIGMA II's come in for a few weeks, and remain under the radar, so Mindoir - a class 4 developing world - was their best choice. Their excuse was fairly straight forward, as well, because the SIGMA I's had forseen the possibility that very few people would understand why there were over half a thousand teenagers running around firing paint at each other. John's excuse was that he was a special Alliance Marine JROTC cadet, a part of a 'special' military academy that few were supposed to know about in the Alliance. Not an entire truth, but not a blatant lie, either. The 'ROTC Cadets' were being 'given' a few weeks to practice farm-warfare, through their favorite 'sport': Paintball. Of course, Paralyzing Paint and Paintball were two completely separate things, but they were similar enough that few would ask questions.

John thought a moment, of the SIGMA II's. It was all he knew, for the last seven years of his life he'd known only war. He'd been trained, alongside thousands of other Second Contact War orphans, since childhood to do one thing, and one thing only: Kill Humanity's enemies. The SIGMA II's were the next generation in Human Super Soldiers, whereas the SIGMA I's were still 'created' and supported, the recruiting for the program had slowed down dramatically, ever since Christopher McGraw convinced the Alliance Parliament to forge the II's. John knew how much sense it made, instead of training adults for several years, the Alliance could train kids for their entire lives, and create undefeatable warriors even before they were augmented. The Alliance saw the sense in it too, and that was why they'd signed the bill; though they knew what they were doing was immoral beyond reason, so the SIGMA II Program's existence was kept beyond top-secret, and only the I's and some select Alliance Officials knew of its existence.

John and the II's were primarily trained on planet Sparta, where the I's - including the legendary John Doe-S1-1 - were trained, but after five years of non-stop training on the same planet, the I's had realized that the SIGMA Teens would need more varied environments for training, so for the last year the II's had branched out, they'd trained on ice-planets, desert-planets, high-gravity worlds, low-gravity worlds, and recently they'd gone to ground on developed, or developing, Alliance planets. John was only 14 now, and he was almost sure he had more combat training than an entire battalion of Alliance Marines, and twice as much experience in varied combat environments. The only thing the SIGMA II's were missing was combat experience, sure they had fired weapons before, they knew how to compensate for recoil for everything from small arms to anti-material weaponry, but none of them had taken a life yet.

"Excuse me, kid." Said a voice, John slowed as he looked to his left, he saw a Human, wearing the obvious attire of a farmer, and in the obvious stance of a drunk, "where's your folks, eh?" The man demanded.

"Away." John said, simply, he took a moment to survey this man. All John would have to do would perform a quick palm-strike to the man's throat, and three swift punches to the stomach before he kneed him in the nose, and the man would be out cold for hours.

"Well… What are you doing out so late?" The man demanded.

"It's morning." John stated, the man looked up to the sky in confusion.

"Then… What's with the shadows on the ground?" The man wondered, pointing to the ground in front of his feet, where the faintest shadow could be seen.

John looked at the shadow the man was pointing at, it was rough, its edges had an angular pattern, and despite the faintness of the shadow, John could tell where it ended exactly. John looked to the sky, it was cloudless, there was nothing that could cast a shadow like that, and the building the man was leaning on shouldn't have cast any shadow in the southern direction, this planet's suns rose in the south, so the building's shadow should be northern-facing.

John and the drunk stood there for a few more moments, before it 'clicked' for the former. He could see, far off in the distance, but obviously close enough to form a shadow, an Alliance ship coming in from orbit.

"You are seeing the shadow cast by an Alliance ship, coming in for a supply run." He said, "I'd recommend going home, sir… You look a little drunk." He pointed out.

"… Heh, must be… See you 'round, kid." Said the drunk, as he hobbled past John.

John shook his head, and continued walking. Mindoir's planetary governor's home was located in this town, and John had lost enough time as it was, getting there.

"Excuse me!" Said an accented voice, from behind John.

Will I ever be able to take ten steps, without someone interrupting me? Wondered John, as he turned around. He saw a small Quarian child, rolling her way to him in a small bubble. John noticed she was still far too young to receive the QIS injections, and still too young to be given her own suit, but from her size, he assumed she had to be getting close to the age where she got her first Child's Suit.

John remembered the classes on the Quarians, ever since they'd integrated with the Alliance, the two had vastly helped to improve the standard of living, of the other. The Humans had practically saved the existence of the Quarian Race, and when the Quarians settled on Human worlds, they began experiencing an enormous population boom as they were no longer limited by ship-space. The Quarians had helped the Humans by improving many assets of modern Human technology. The Quarians had an ingrained ingenuity that still amazed many Human engineers and scientists, and the way they adapted to Human tech and improved upon it in such quick ways was almost blinding for some Humans. The two species had come a long way from being merely 'neighbors' in the same territory, the Quarians were now much more trusting of Human AI technology, and ever since the Humans had solved their 'problem' with their immune systems, they almost trusted the Human race implicitly.

"Err..." He looked at her for a second, used to the expectant glare, but unnused to its source. "What do you... Need? Want?" Asked John, as the small Quarian girl came closer to him.

"I can't find my mommy…" She said, slightly out of breath.

"Okay... Where is she? Where did you see her last?" John asked, as he kneeled down to get below eye-level with the girl. He was slightly intimidating, even for a fourteen year old Human boy, his constant physical training alone made him much more developed than most fourteen year old Humans, and while he wasn't a 'muscle-bound meat head', the training did show, and now that she was up close, the Quarian girl was probably slightly scared by his figure, so John called upon the mental-warfare training he'd been given, he made himself look smaller and weaker than he was, so the girl wouldn't be too scared.

"I… At the shelter…" She mumbled, as she began wringing her fingers together.

John paused, "your mom's at the shelter?" He asked, "why?" if he remembered right, the shelter was made primarily for those who either had no job, no home, or both at the moment.

"She likes to help the people there…" The Quarian mumbled.

"Alright…" John nodded, finally deciding that this was a bit more important than meeting up with the Planetary Governor, "what is your name?" He asked.

"Tali." Said the Quarian, "Tali'Zora nar Eden."

Born on a Human world… John thought, "okay..." Several moments of silence, "how old are you?" He wondered, mostly out of general curiosity, but also to give the girl another easy question, to get her mind off the fact that she had, in essence, lost her mother.

"I'm… Six…" She muttered, before she perked up a bit, "I'm almost old enough to get my own suit!" She proclaimed, proudly.

Eight years younger than me… Remember not soldier… Thought John, as he nodded, "alright… You say you saw her last at the shelter?" The Quarian nodded, "why don't we check there, first?" He suggested, to receive another set of nods.

The two quietly made their way down to the shelter, John assumed Tali had simply wandered off, and couldn't find her way back, but nevertheless kept Tali's mind off of her 'missing mother' by asking her more general questions. She'd told him of how much fun it was, playing with the Humans on Eden, before her father, an Admiral of the Admiralty board, had been shipped out to Mindoir on a public relations mission. Tali told him of her inherent love for the color purple, and how she wished everything could be colored purple, John had humored her when she wondered what his favorite colors were, and had told her red and black, the colors of the SIGMA II program, the very same colors on the fatigues he was wearing.

Contrasting Tali's sterilized Human clothing, and her bubble, John was wearing his military fatigues. In previous centuries body armor and clothing were the primarily accepted norm for military apparel and protection; most popularly romanticized in the 20th and the 21st centuries, where body armor could be worn over fatigues. The advent of body armor helped greatly delay the crippling decades in the mid-21st century, when Earth's quickly disappearing resources caught up with itself, Body Armor replaced the stereotypical Armor Suits, like those used by the knights of olden times. However, ever since space travel, Armor - that is, Plate Armor and Armor Suits - had made a return, now that Earth and the System Alliance had access to material synthesizers and extra-terrestrial materials; body armor still existed, and was far more protective than that of the 21st century, but it was mostly used for police forces and secret service agents. The return of Plate Armor had marked the separation of the Military Uniforms. There were the Dress Uniforms, that service men and women wore to formal occasions, most commonly stylized from the Alliance Marine Corps' 'Dress Blues' . There were also the Military Fatigues, which most closely resembled the fatigues of the 21st century: the camouflaged jacket and pants, the boots, and the patrol cap and/or the boonie hat. John's own clothes were a SIGMA II-specific set of Military Fatigues, with a black and red digital-camouflage pattern, as opposed to the SIGMA I's black and blue, the Alliance Marine's Black and Gray, and the Army's Black and Green. Finally, there was the armor, unlike what many science fiction authors of the 21st century believed, not everyone in the future wore powered armor, that was reserved for the Special Forces. Regular Infantry, those being the Alliance Marines and the Alliance Army, wore 'raw' armor plates on their chest, arms, groins and legs, and a helmet on their heads.

The Quarian had several times mentioned the similarities between John's clothing and the clothing of the Marines she so often saw, when She had asked him how he got so strong, was when he'd given her the story he'd made up long ago, that his father was a Marine, and he kept John on a tight physical training schedule. Most of the bigger words John used flew right over the Quarian's head, but she still nodded happily, satisfied with the answer.

"Hey… Johnny?" She said, after a few minutes passed in silence. John was still unused to the nickname, but didn't quite care, as most colony-kids he spoke to, who were at that age, tended to call him that, "what's that?" She asked, pointing to the sky.

John looked up to the sky, and nearly tripped over himself. Falling through the sky were flaming meteors, leaving long smoke trails as they hurtled to the ground. John recognized them for what they were, though: Mk. V Orbital Insertion Vehicles, used almost exclusively by the Alliance Orbital Dropping Death Dealers. As John recognized one breech the atmosphere, the first was joined by a second, was joined by two more, was joined by dozens, and slowly the sky became filled with hundreds of OD3 Drop Pods.

OD3... Battle… Invasion… Attackers? Mercenary? Maybe… No, who? Thought John, before he shook himself from the thought. On instinct, his body bent down and picked up Tali - who giggled through the experience, thinking John was playing with her. As his mind took control over his body again, he made and acted upon the decision to sprint for the Shelter post-haste.

"Wee!" Cooed Tali, as John's mind was as far from care-free as it could get.

John was mentally going over his equipment, he had a pistol fastened to a belt tied around his waist, and hidden by his coat. He had four magazines, and the pistol fired fifteen bullets for each magazine. The pistol was a military-grade weapon, and it could take out the shields of an Alliance Marine with just a few shots, but whomever was attacking them likely wasn't Alliance, so that left Human Pirates, or Citadel or Terminus aliens, so shields likely weren't to be a problem, because even after the Citadel had upped the sensitivity on their shields, they still tended to be weak against the raw force and stopping power of conventionally accelerated bullets. Finally he had his smart-watch, which was programmed with all sorts of classified military radio frequencies, tech-based attacks, hacking suits, and direct-access satellite communications. The watch was also programmed with a set two highly classified weapons, made from HardLight.

Another one of Christopher McGraw's many advanced creations, HardLight was unique in the sense that only SIGMAs could wield them. It was extremely expensive to make HardLight projectors, but what weapons and shields they did make were deadly efficient and lethal. In TITAN Armor, HardLight worked to perform three primary functions: To Harden the wearer's shields, to create an unbreakable, searing hot blade, and to create a HardLight barrier, to be used for cover. Hardened Shields were the source of many rumors about the SIGMAs, specifically about their indestructibility, HardLight barriers were literally indestructible, and when activated, provided TITAN Armor with an impregnable barrier, at the cost of movement: Activating the HardLight Barrier rendered the SIGMA Immobile, which meant it was only truly useful against missiles, tank rounds, and explosives. This led into the other two functions of HardLight, both of which could be programmed into a Smart Watch. HardLight weaponry was, at its core, McGraw's response to Omni-Weaponry, HardLight tools could create most any physical object, but amongst the SIGMAs they primarily took two forms: A blade, and a shield. The blade was a searing hot, deadly sharp weapon that could cut through Marine armor with a moderate amount of effort. The shield, conversely, was always erected at room temperature, and was, as advertised, meant to be used as protection; the shield's advantage over the HardLight barrier was that the user was immobile, but this came at the cost of the absolute defense the Barrier provided.

It was these weapons that John knew he wielded, but he couldn't help but think that they couldn't be enough, as his mind raced from his equipment to his situation. The Alliance Army is most likely already scrambling… Thought John, as the shelter came into view, The nearest base is supposed to be thirty to forty kilometers from here, though… So for a half hour at least, we'll have to survive with Police Forces and OD3's… What drones do the Police have? I'll have to check… The Shelter was just a dozen meters away now, John slowed his pace.

"Alright, Tali, let's see if we can't find your mom?" Said John, keeping his voice level, despite the slowly rising tension as people left their buildings to look to the sky.

First will be the OD3's… The Army and the Marines follow them… No SIGMA's on this planet, save for me and Ducard… Ducard's in another city entirely though… Thought John, I've got to do everything I can to defend this town. He thought, solemnly.

"Okay!" Said Tali, as she rolled around, looking for her mother, which didn't take too long, as a Quarian woman, wearing a blue enviro-suit with a gray visor, emerged from the Shelter and recognized her immediately.

"Tali!" Shouted the woman, in a thicker accent than Tali's, Tali squealed and rolled over to her, the woman brought the little ball into a deep hug, which she held for a few moments before she looked up and noticed John, who already had his pistol in his right hand, and his left hand's Smart Watch active, ready to summon a blade or a shield with a single gesture. "Did you bring her back to me?" She asked, her eyes resting on the gun for a few moments, before moving to John's.

"Yes ma'am, I did, but there's no time for that now." He said, before he pointed to the sky, "those are Alliance Orbital Dropping Death Dealers, falling through the sky." He supplied, "that means that whatever is going on, Mindoir is under attack. You need to get inside now and seal yourselves off!" He ordered.

The Quarian nodded, but paused a moment, "are you sure it is not a drill?" She asked.

John nodded, "Fire trails are only left when Orbital Insertion Vehicles are entering at invasion velocity, meaning that if this was a drill, they would be inserting at a much slower speed." He explained, before pointing at the drop pods that were still hurtling through the sky, "that's not training velocity!" He stated, "so you need to get inside, and lock yourselves down!" He ordered.

"What about you?" She asked, her voice raising as the people in the town realized what was going on.

John shook his head, "I've got to stay out here and assist with the defense of the colony. Whoever's attacking has to know what to expect, so the defenders will need everything they can get to bunker down until the Alliance gets here." He pressed a holographic button on his Smart Watch, which sent out a 'ping' across all SIGMA channels, revealing his planet, position, and status, as well as an 'In Danger' signal. The SIGMAs back on Sparta, as well as Joseph Ducard S-99 on this planet, would recognize the signal, and would notify the Alliance. The Attackers would probably have only a few hours before this sector's Quick Reaction Force would arrive to bring immediate reinforcements, both as a responding action and as a delaying one, to buy time for the First Fleet to arrive, and bring the brunt of the Alliance Forces down upon whomever was attacking them.

"But you're just a child!" The Quarian pointed out.

"I'm fourteen, my father's taught me exactly what to do in this type of situation, and I'm not a Child… I'm far from it." John responded, as his Smart Watch flashed red, Ducard had pinged the SIGMA Emergency code as well, but his flag read 'Under Attack', the invaders had already landed on his position.

"But -"

"Oh my god, look!" Shouted someone, cutting off the Quarian.

John whipped around and looked to the sky, three ships were rapidly descending to the ground - a few had been 'lucky' enough to slam into some unfortunate OD3 Drop Pods, killing their occupants. John couldn't recognize the ships' make and model, so that screamed 'Mercenary' to him.

"Get inside!" John ordered, after he whipped back around to the Quarians, and pointed at the shelter, "if it isn't Human or Quarian, it doesn't enter!" He ordered her.

The Quarian woman must have realized that to argue would be pointless, and just as the first OD3 Pods began slamming into the ground, and the ships began pouring out drop-ships and shuttles, she sprinted into the shelter, carrying a now crying Tali in her arms. The door closed behind her, and John could tell from the way they shuddered, that they were being barricaded.

John nodded and opened up his smart watch, as he sprinted back into the town, "this is John-S2-15 calling to any available Alliance Forces in the vicinity of the town, Sandohn, I am available and ready for tasking." He called, as he summoned up a biotic barrier to act in place of shields. He, like many other Biotic II's, was proficient in the use of his Biotics, immigrated Asari had spent months drilling the kids and forcing them to learn how to control it. They hadn't actually known they were training future Super Soldiers, they simply thought they were taking part in a military school program. John's biotic skill rivaled some younger Asari, but he still had yet to be augmented, which meant that when he hit 14, and later, 18, he would become among the strongest Biotic Humans in the Milky Way.

"Hot damn, a SIGMA?" Someone called over the radio, which broadcasted through John's smart-watch, "what are you - Screw it, I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth. This is Bill Sampson, Alliance Orbital Dropping Death Dealers, my squad and I have landed near the PG's house and we've already come under heavy fire… How soon can you assist?!" The OD3 demanded.

"Sampson, give me sixty seconds. Be advised: I am unarmored and will be in need of a rifle when I arrive." John told the OD3, as he tore off running in the direction of the Planetary Governor's home. Ducard had told the II's just how secret the II program was, that only select Alliance Officials, and the SIGMA I's knew of the program, but if necessity called, the II's could reveal their program very limitedly. John knew that basically equated to 'I am a SIGMA, I just can't tell you what exactly I am'.

"Look! There's a kid!" John heard an inhumanely deep voice shout.

"Take him!" That was all the indication John needed to leap forward. That action had no-doubt saved his life, as the moment after he hit the ground, he felt a volley of what had to be knock-out rounds sail over him, just missing him by a few centimeters. John wasted no time, he rolled onto his back, and sent four rounds into two alien skulls. The aliens he shot went down like a sack of potatoes, and John had a moment to recognize their species.

Four eyes… Taut, thick, yellow skin… Batarians. Slaving run… Thought John, quickly. He wasted no more time, the sounds of war penetrated his skull and he remembered he'd dedicated his skills to the OD3's who were protecting the Planetary Governor. He leapt to his feet and sprinted to the north, the minute that passed was all that John had afforded himself to go over what just happened, what he'd just done.

He had just taken a life, he'd just ended the thoughts and feelings of another living, breathing, thinking, sentient being. Surprisingly, he found that he thought little of it, but he had not the time to decide whether this was due to the conditioning of the SIGMA II Program, the fact they weren't Human, or perhaps something a bit worse than both of those. His minute was up when he arrived at the Planetary Governor's house, and was greeted with a sight he hadn't honestly thought he'd see for another four years, at least: Warfare. Dozens of Batarians were fighting fifteen OD3's, and five police officers. The Humans were at a severe disadvantage, as the Batarians were doing everything they could to push forward, and into the admittedly large house. John wasted no time sending in a strong singularity, right into the midst of the Batarian troops. The Batarians were shielded, so the Singularity did nothing much, but it did set them up for John's next move; he sent a particularly debilitating Warp into one of the Batarians, which caused a domino effect that biotically detonated several of them, killing most and injuring the rest of those who'd been hit. The Batarians took a few moments too many to recover, as John had already rushed into them.

His HardLight-blade soared through the shields and into the neck of one Batarian, the Batarian died momentarily after, and John quickly spun the corpse around to use it as a meat shield. The other Batarians immediately began shooting at John, who's combination biotic barrier, Batarian meat-shield, and the deceased Batarian's kinetic barriers gave him ample cover. John fired his pistol into the Batarian masses, killing and injuring a few, he proudly noted that not a single shot missed.

"Come on!" John heard a Human voice shout, "push them back! Give the SIGMA some breathing room!" And with those orders, the Humans countered the Batarian masses. Nerve-grenades, flash-bangs, fragmentation grenades, and all manner of bullets soared through the air and halted the Batarian advance. Many of the OD3's avoided shooting at John's area, because of what he'd told them about his lack of armor. John used his biotics to hurl the shot-up Batarian corpse into the Batarians in front of him, and used the momentary distraction to reload. He had no time to fire, however, as the Batarians would shoot first; instead, John used his gesture-sensitive Smart Watch and thrust it forward, the HardLight-blade faded out of existence, and was replaced with a large, circular shield, colloquially known as either as the 'HardLight-Spartan's Shield', or the 'SIGMA Shield' in the SIGMA forces, as its physical appearance bore many similarities to the shields used by the Spartans of ancient Greece.

The Batarians' Mass Accelerated bullets slammed into the HardLight-Shield, and did little to no damage to John's barriers. John sprinted forward, and slammed the shield into the Batarians, he felt several alien bones crack and wasted no time in deactivating the shield, so he could shove his pistol in the faces of the Batarians, and execute the lot of them. After the Batarians fell, he looked to his left and saw one 'lucky' Batarian had rushed past him, and was making his way towards an unaware cop. John acted on instinct and sprinted forward to intercept the Batarian; after a moment he reached the alien and tackled him to the ground, before he shot it in the throat twice, the second one severing his spinal cord, and leaving the Batarian to die in just a few minutes.

The battle for the Governor's home lasted another few minutes, and ended just as fiercely as it had begun. When the Humans got a minute to rest, an OD3 made his way to John. John looked into the motorcycle-like helmet with a look that said 'Yes that happened.'.

"I'd… Be tempted to wonder what you're doing here… Just as I'd be tempted to call you kid." Said the man, before he looked to the dozens of Batarian corpses John had made, "but you and I both know you're anything but… You said you're SIGMA, so I'll take and leave it at that." He said, before he looked to John and extended his hand, "Sergeant Bill Sampson, Alliance Orbital Dropping Death Dealers." He greeted.

"John-S2-15, SIGMA Forces, no rank." John responded, shaking the man's hand.

"Alright John… Here's what we know…" Said Bill, as he picked up a Batarian rifle and handed it to John, hastily saying that his men had no rifles or ammunition to spare, John understood. "… A few hours ago a fleet, three-hundred strong, breeched Mindoir space through a Tuning Gate. They ambushed the Mindoir Defense Flotilla, and took us completely by surprise. The MSV - Mindoir Space Vessel - Silas, a Destroyer, and the only one the MDF posesses, put up the best fight as it distracted the enemy forces from the MSV Napoleon Bonaparte, a Carrier and the de-facto flagship for the Mindoir Defense Fleet, as the ship deployed everything it had, Marines and OD3's included." He explained, John nodded, "The Bonaparte emptied itself of its manned fighters, its drop-ships, and its OD3 Forces, but wasn't able to deploy all of its mechs before it was overwhelmed and destroyed. Right now the Alliance TITAN-Corps is focused primarily on protecting the capital and the larger cities, so we're flying manned only down here." He explained, before he nodded to a policeman, "he says they've got riot-mechs, but when the comm-satellites got hijacked their AI's couldn't ping 'em without a hard link." He then added, "my battalion is all Sandohn's getting, and the alien air is quickly pinning everything down. The Bonaparte deployed all its marines and fighters, but the ball is in the aliens' court as they're using their primary-ship advantage to overwhelm our fighters and troop-transports. Last communiqué I got said we've got twenty minutes until the Alliance Army gets here, a bit longer for the Marines to safely break atmosphere… That's why we got sent here, so some Alliance force gets put here ahead of time." He finished.

"Alright…" John nodded, "I and my CO have already sent out a communications to our friends back home." He said, "the comm-channels we used shouldn't be known to any enemy forces, so the Alliance should be aware of what's going on, and should be scrambling to get people here within the day. For now, we need to own this town… You need to protect the Planetary Governor, and link up with the rest of your battalion, I'll take the policemen to the station to get the mechs set up." John explained, "understood?"

The OD3 nodded, and relayed John's instructions. Within minutes, John and the two policemen were barreling through the town, making their way to the police station that lied on the other side entirely. The two policemen - Sam and Chuck - had quickly explained to John that they'd only had a year's worth of experience, and the only time they'd ever used their firearms outside of the shooting range was when they had to scare a few drunks out of a bar. John understood and told them the basics of combat, stay down, selectively fire, and if you think they're about to shoot, duck, take no chances.

The policemen's AI, 'Jude', had transferred herself from the Data Disk to John's Smart Watch, and had quickly introduced herself to him. 'She' was only six years old, but had served in the police force ever since her creation. All she needed to access and begin piloting the police's mechs was a hard-link into the station's computers, which John could provide easily with his watch.

"Down!" John ordered in a light whisper, he and the policemen ducked behind a destroyed car.

"What's going on, sir?" Asked Chuck.

"I'm not an Officer, don't call me sir." John said hastily, before he waved the topic away, "contacts… Twenty five meters to my twelve." Whispered John, as he peaked above the car, he saw at least twenty Batarians, and they were all gathered in front of a building John recognized as the shelter he'd left the Quarians in. "Either of you got a headset?" John asked, Sam supplied him with an earpiece, which John linked to his watch.

John set the watch to amplify sound, and he pointed it at the Shelter, making a 'shush' sign with his other hand.

"…-ust come out, suit-rats!" Shouted the Batarian, thankfully John had linked the earpiece with the watch, otherwise it would have broadcasted from the watch's speakers, and given away their position, "We outnumber the lot of you. All we want is a couple thousand good slaves… And ever since your lot joined up with the Humans, and your immune systems got better, Quarians make excellent slaves!" He shouted.

"Go away!" Shouted someone from within the shelter, John didn't recognize the voice, but he detected the hint of desperation in his tone.

"A Human! Wow, the Suit-Rats actually have made friends! The hell's wrong with you, you primate? You could do a lot better than ally with the suit-rats." The Batarian rambled, "I'll give you one last chance… You open that door, right now -"

"Sigma! They've got a tank!" Chuck warned John, and after he checked, John confirmed that the Batarians did in fact, have an armored vehicle, but whether it was an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, or an actual Tank, was up to debate.

"- Or we blow the door open, and you all suffer!"

"When I give the order, fire." John instructed, as he shut off the smart-watch and readied his rifle. The weight of the weapon was unfamiliar to John, as he was more used to the conventionally-accelerated weapons that Humans used, but he wasn't untrained for Mass Accelerator weapons, and as such he shifted into that mindset, as he aimed the weapon - a brutish assault rifle, of obvious Batarian design - at the lead Batarian.

"Three… two… one… Fire." John ordered, before he pulled the trigger, and let loose a flurry of Mass Accelerated bullets at the Batarian. The first four bullets bounced off his shields, but the fifth soared through and killed the man. The police used their own Mass Accelerator weapons and started spraying into the Batarians, injuring many but only killing a few.

"Move!" John ordered, as the tank rolled forward and began taking aim. John and the policemen scattered as the tank fired, the car they'd been sitting behind exploded, and John felt his barriers flicker violently as the flames, dust and debris tried to lick at his back.

"Argh! I'm hit!" John heard a Human voice call out, as he scrambled to take cover in the doorway of a brick house.

"Stay down!" John ordered, after seeing that Chuck - the one who was hit - was hiding in an alley, he couldn't see Sam, not immediately, however. It took him a moment to recognize a severed arm and a puddle of blood, he must have been hit by a Batarian weapon, or had been caught by the brunt of the explosion.

"No problem!" Called Chuck, John tried to look out to see where the Batarians were, but his eyes were greeted with the barrel of the tank, pointing directly at him.

"Fuck!" Shouted John, before he tackled the door of the home open, and dived to the ground.

The entrance to the home exploded behind him, and his barriers faded out of existence, with the brunt of deflecting the debris. When the ground stopped shaking, John attempted to get to his feet, only to find his leg caught under a particularly heavy chunk of rock.

"Well then… Isn't this interesting." Said a deep voice, John looked up and saw a Batarian, with a big shotgun aimed haphazardly at John. In the distance, John could see another few Batarians slap some sort of collar on Chuck, the action alone enraged John as he finally realized why they were invading: They wanted more slaves.

The Alliance had, ever since its inception in the Galactic Stage, very tense relations with the Batarian Hegemony. The Batarians had at one point mounted an incursion into Alliance space, but the Alliance had a sizable military presence in the afflicted system, and had kindly ordered them away.

But, John realized, This world isn't even a year old… It doesn't have the defense fleet of Eden, or the Orbital Defense Platforms of Elysium… It's the perfect target…

"I've no clue how you managed to take out our men at the Planetary Governor's home… But if you're that skilled in battle now… Imagine what a few dozen more years under slave-warrior training will do to you." The Batarian lifted his hand, in which there was the unmistakable slave-collar.

But the Batarian was not able to slap the collar on John. A blue blur slammed into the Batarian, and when they hit the ground, John recognized the figure as the same Quarian mother he'd found earlier. A horrified John tried to rip his leg from beneath the rubble, the Batarian was already overwhelming the woman. John looked helplessly at the battle before him, the Batarian slammed the butt of his weapon into the Quarian's face-mask, which, after a second blow, shattered into pieces. John could feel the rubble giving way, but knew he wouldn't get to his feet in time, so he reached for his pistol, which he realized too late was several inches from his arm. He desperately reached for it as the Batarian lifted its shotgun and pointed it at the woman's face.

"You'll… Die for that, bitch!" The Batarian roared, just as a child's voice screamed louder, and more desperately, than anything John had ever heard before.

"Mommy!" It shouted, before the Batarian's shotgun barked loudly, turning the Quarian's head into mush. John could feel the rubble give way more, but still the pistol was out of his reach. He tried using his biotics to slide the pistol over to him, but his earlier displays and the damage his barrier had taken left him exhausted on that front.

John knew the Batarian leader was aiming his rifle at the girl, Tali, was her name. The Batarian snarled as he raised his rifle and made to pull the trigger. John roared loudly, and his body flared with biotics. The stone flew off of his leg after he kicked it, and his gun soared into his hand. John leapt forward and tackled the Batarian, before he pumped three more rounds into the alien. John didn't take a single instant to take in his kill, he was already back on his feet. He picked up Tali as his barriers were raked with gunfire. He sprinted to the alley with Chuck, he dropped Tali on the ground - knowing the bubble would keep her safe from the impact - and slammed his biotically charged fist into the first Batarian he saw. The Batarian's skull caved in as John took aim and fired at another Batarian.

"SIGMA, MY LEG!" He heard a hysterical Chuck scream, completely ignoring the collar around his neck.

"Stay down!" John roared, ripping the Brained Batarian's shotgun from his back, and opening fire upon the ones that were stupid enough to try and rush the alley.

John stacked up at the entrance to the alley and sent two shotgun blasts downrange, before he ducked back into the alley. He first looked at Tali, her bubble was still inflated, so she wasn't suffering from exposure, but she was crying silently, which might be worse. The police officer was screaming as the adrenaline flooded from his system and the pain of losing his entire leg became more and more apparent. John was the only fighter here, he had to fight as best he could. So with that in mind John broke cover again, but could only let the shotgun bark once before his barriers were overwhelmed and he felt something tear across his right arm.

Groaning in the pain of having his flesh ripped open by Batarian slugs, John got back to cover. There was far too many of them, he couldn't fight this, he needed an advantage. But, looking around, he couldn't see any way to reach a rooftop and get height on them, and he had no explosives so he couldn't stun them. But, as if fate was smiling upon him, he heard a deep explosion and then many raised voices.

"Their Army is here!" John heard a deep voice shout, as the tell-tale whir of a Tank's main cannon swiveling about could be heard, "I thought we had more time!" He shouted, as the tank's cannon roared once, twice, before it was bombarded with a dozen of the Alliance's finest armor-piercing Tank shells.

John looked around the corner and saw the Batarians ignoring him outright, now focused more upon the arrival of the Alliance Army. John felt pride and courage flood his system at the sight of Alliance Humvees and Tanks storming the 'beach', as a half dozen helicopters followed them. Whoever couldn't be transported by the vehicles was sprinting alongside them, forming a veritable flood of Human and Quarian soldiers, moving to storm the Batarians. John fired at the Batarians, very quickly creating a crossfire which the Batarians succumbed to within ten minutes.

John got back to cover and checked on his allies. Chuck was unconscious, but still breathing, and Tali was - gone!

An alarmed John's head whipped around to look for Tali, to find her in the most horrifying of places. Tali was sitting there, crying over her mother's headless corpse. He could see her desperately trying to push the mush back in, and piece together the glass shards and rubber shreds, as if it would magically bring her mother's head back together and her mother back into being.

John felt his heart slow down as this hit close to home. The entire reason he'd joined the SIGMA II's, right in front of him, being played out again, but with a different family altogether. His mother had been taken by aliens, and that was why he'd served, for revenge. But now another's mother had been taken, she too, by aliens. John had been trained for half of his life, and yet he hadn't been able to prevent this tragedy, what did that say about him? Was he truly that weak? Could he have done anything at all?

John shook the thoughts from his head, letting them cloud his mind would only bring trouble. He would have time for thought back on Sparta, in the barracks. "Jude, how far until the Police Station?" John Demanded, before he barreled across the street, through the empty house, and out the back-door. He would have loved nothing more than to wait for the Army to reinforce him and update him on the situation, but he had a mission to complete.

"Keep going west, for forty three yards, it should be on the corner of the street." Said the Police AI.

"Understood!"

John continued running, through the back-alleys and the yards of many homes, until he came to an intersection. On one end of the street, there was suburbia, and on the other, there was the makings for an Urban environment. John could see a few grocery stores, a drug store, and the police station. He made for the Police Station, ducking and dodging the Human and Batarian fire as he went. As he sprinted through the city, he noticed several Batarian shuttles flying from the ground to the ships in-atmosphere and in orbit. Many of them were engaged by the Alliance Shuttles and Fighters that were coming from orbit to atmosphere, but far more escaped than were killed, from what John saw. When he made it inside, he had to quickly duck, as the station was swarming with Batarians. After a few moments of silence, John surmised that he hadn't been seen, so he decided that the best course of action, in this case, would be the lack thereof.

"Jude…" John whispered, "where's the Mech Storage wing?"

In response, Jude activated John's smart watch, and drew him up a map. On one end of the facility, marked with a green triangle, was John. On the other, was a blue circle, indicating the Mech Storage room. John nodded, and switched his smart watch's floating holographic interface to skin-wrap mode, said mode was an recent Human invention, designed specifically to take up less space than the Omni-tool, and to use a solely holographic surface. John's arm looked like it had a moving-picture projection of a map painted onto it.

John got down low, and ditched his rifle, if he got into a firefight he could always just steal another, and since he was in a Human police station, no doubt there were some Human weapons he could use, to dominate the Batarians. He moved into the police station, keeping low and moving from cover-to-cover. After he made his way through the empty entrance hall, he found himself in the office rooms, which would provide a bittersweet blessing: He would have more places to hide, but so would the Batarians.

"Damn it…" Said a Batarian, causing John to instinctively dive underneath a desk in a cubicle, to avoid being seen. "Why do these Humans make their terminals in such a way?!" The Batarian demanded, before he came stomping into John's cubicle, luckily he was too angry to notice John shrink smaller under the desk.

"Pipe down, Jorgax." Said another Batarian, "you're just shit at hacking Human machines. I thought you were top of your class, in the simulations?"

"Yes, the simulations!" The first Batarian responded, "but the real thing is much, much more difficult! How do we expect to fill the Hegemony's five million quota, when we can barely invade and conquer a planet with two?" He demanded.

Quota? Thought John, as he began making a mental note of everything the Batarians were saying.

The two Batarians stayed in the cubicle for several more minutes, before Hacker got frustrated again and destroyed the computer he'd failed to hack. The two Batarians left, having been none the wiser that a Human Super Soldier - in training - had been hiding almost literally under their noses, the entire time. While he had been waiting for them to finish, John had taken stock of his injuries, surprised to find the pain on his leg and his bleeding arm were the only ones, so far, and equally surprised to see how much they didn't hurt. He knew training went a long way, but it was amazing to him, how much the injuries didn't hurt. John waited five minutes, before he snuck out of the cubicle, and made his way through the station. His first stop was the armory, which wasn't off the path of the Mech Storage Wing, but wasn't exactly directly on the path, as well.

When John got inside, he immediately rushed forward and sunk his HardLight-blade into the throat of the Batarian who'd seen him, and very nearly raised the alarm. His bad luck hadn't yet run its course, though.

"Rojin? What was that?!" Demanded a deep voice, from deeper within the mostly empty armory.

John knew he couldn't convince the Batarian that he was his ally, so he simply slammed on the metal locker next to him a few times. The Batarian took the hint that his ally was in trouble, and came barreling forward, only to be met with John's arm, slamming into his throat. The choking Batarian fell onto the floor, where John slammed his booted foot onto his neck, breaking it, and killing the Batarian; all of that, occurred within the span of six seconds.

John waited a minute, to make sure he was alone, before he hunted down some weapons. He made it out with a few extra magazines for his sidearm, a sub-machine gun with six magazines and a short-range, target identifying red dot sight, and a combat knife from one of the Batarians. While in the armory, John found a vial of cell fluid. Cellular Fluid, John knew, was the Alliance's miracle solvent, it was a universal medical tool, capable of - upon injection - sealing up most wounds on the battlefield, ranging from light, like cuts and bruises, to severe like gunshot wounds and explosive shrapnel. It couldn't heal broken bones or severed limbs, nor was it permanent, the nano-machines working in the system wore off within a few hours, thus its nature as a temporary fix, so the user could get to medical attention. Reveling in the cold feeling of the nano-machines running through his blood and sealing up his wounds, dulling the pain and helping to speed up the healing process, John snuck out of the armory, his SMG shouldered.

He had a few more close calls with more Batarians, but after rushing, he finally made it inside the Mech Storage wing, which the Batarians hadn't been able to force their way into.

Must have been what they were trying to hack into… John realized, as he ran to a terminal in the back of the room. He opened a port on the terminal, and held his smart-watch in front of it, the port then glowed green, signifying that the AI had successfully transferred itself inside.

"Alright… Checking Mech Stores." Said Jude, as the lights inside the room began activating, and the machines began to come to life. "Fifty Wolves… Five Turtles… Five Scorpions… And two Titans… Full stores." The AI counted down, as the Mechs stood up. The wolves stretched their 'muscles', and shook the dust off of their chasis, the Turtles lazily stood up and made their way to the garage-door that would lead them outside, the scorpions stretched their tails, and began powering up the energy weapons contained within. The Titan classes, retrieved their back-mounted Tesla Cannons, and activated their arm-mounted machine guns, and prepared for battle.

"Activating riot suppression modes… Marking all recognized hostiles targets… Opening outside doors…" Said the AI, and after the garage door opened, and revealed a few dozen very, obviously confused Batarians, the AI broadcast throughout the entire station, "Play my pretties, play!"

After her declaration, the Batarians quickly realized that they'd been tricked, and tried to fire upon the mechs. The Wolves were the first ones to rush out, their spinal-mounted paralyzing-paint-firing machine guns tore into the Batarians just as easily as their claws and mouths. The Scorpions and Titans were the next to rush out into the fray, the former stunning the Batarians with their energy weapons, and the latter prioritizing Batarian armor - that is, their vehicles - to incapacitate with their directed EMP Cannons. Finally, the Turtles lumbered out, also firing with their EMP Cannons, and suppressing the Batarians with their heavy machine guns, which fired paralyzing paint ammunition, as they moved to provide mobile cover for the regrouping Alliance Army.

"This is Joseph Ducard-S1-99, broadcasting on all SIGMA Channels, John-S2-15, respond on channel 6." A voice broadcast from John's smart-watch, John noted that Ducard didn't even think to consider that he had died.

"Commander Ducard, this is John-S2-15, I hear you." Said John, into the watch, after he made sure the line was secure.

"John, I just got a communiqué from Sparta, the QRF is on its way, and it was closer than we thought it was, at first, but it will still be two hours until they can get here." Ducard began, "as well, the nearest SIGMA reinforcements are just as long away, but this is not a priority defense target, say again: Not, a prioritized defensive zone. That means until we get any semblance of assistance, we're the only augmented reaction force on the planet." He explained, not bothering to correct himself and mention that John hadn't reached augmentation stage yet, "so until reinforcements arrive, your orders are to use your skills and assist anyone who needs it. Understood?"

"Understood sir, assist any who need help. SIGMA Two Fifteen out." Said John, before he cut his smart-watch, and made his way into the battlefield again.


March, 2216

After a week of fighting on the ground, the Human Systems Alliance is able to push the Batarians from Mindoir. The Cyber-Corps utilized the Alliance Navy to send tracking machines after the Batarians, who, despite the Alliance's best efforts, got away with one million Human Slaves, and a quarter million Quarian slaves.

April, 2216

The Alliance Director of Affairs, William Tyson, addresses the Alliance.


William Tyson stood behind a curtain, not ten feet in front of him lay the podium, at which hundreds of cameras were pointed at, waiting for him to 'arrive' and begin his speech. Here, on Arcturus Station, William Tyson would once again address his species, and inform them that they were at war. He sighed one last time, it had only felt like hours had passed, since the Mercenary Wars, and minutes since the formal declaration of the Rebellion, and now they were fighting a recognized ally of the Citadel Council; that alone could have many repercussions, and very few of them good. The Council could see the attack on the Batarians as a declaration of war, and that which the Human Race had to fake destroying a planet to end, would start again in earnest. He silently prayed that he and his people would be seen as 'in the right', in this situation, and the Council would leave them alone.

William inhaled deeply, and cast his doubts aside. He took a confident step forward, and strode out into the view of the dozens of video cameras, and the billions of Humans and millions of Quarians that would be watching his address. He smiled, and gave a single wave towards the cameras, as he took his position at the podium, and his cloaked SIGMA I bodyguards took positions behind him, completely unnoticed by any of the reporters in the room, or the viewers at home.

"Humans…" William began, "Quarians… Today I speak to you, of a matter most dire." He said, "not two weeks ago, one of our colony worlds, Mindoir, was attacked. Its population shaken by the ruthless invaders, who sought to abduct as many Humans and Quarians as they could, and enslave them. I am very pleased to inform you that we have pushed the enemy naval forces from the system, and all enemy ground-forces have either been eliminated, subdued, or captured. Alliance Intelligence has identified the attackers, as Batarian Mercenaries, funded by the overarching Batarian Government… The Batarian Hegemony." He continued, "dead aside, over one and a quarter million Humans and Quarians have been confirmed missing. This is as much a declaration of war, as it is an unacceptable action." He paused, "for hundreds of years, Slavery has been outlawed on my homeworld, Humanity's homeworld, Earth. Ever since the formation of the Alliance, Slavery has been illegal, and a horrible crime. The Hegemony has spat upon our laws, with claims of 'cultural importance'… I say this once, and I say it clearly." Another pause, "Slavery… Of any kind… Of any species… Is not acceptable. We do not allow it." He stated, firmly. "Attacking our people with the intention of enslaving them, is something we will not ignore." He paused, and inhaled deeply, to get ready for the 'big reveal'.

"As I speak… Our brave men and women in the Alliance Armed Forces are gearing up and making ready for war. Our retaliation will be swift, brutal, and decisive. Any Batarian planet harboring the Human or Quarian slaves taken from Mindoir, are now our enemies, and our targets. Enemies of mankind… Enemies of the Quarian race… Enemies of the Human Systems Alliance!" He declared, "my people… As of this moment, we are at war." He said, before he finished with, "And to our people, trapped by the Batarian slavers… We have not forgotten about you. We will not forget about you. We are coming."