3-2-2157 1520 hours (Alliance standard time)

HS-3 Stormer Transport Shuttle

Attican Traverse

Torfan

As many members of his species were being killed all around him, one would think that former General Turik' Han would have a sense of guilt over his role in the chaos currently enveloping the surface of the moon. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. His feelings, in fact, were the exact opposite; approaching nigh ecstasy at the current rate of progress.

'They're accomplishing more than I thought possible,' he thought. 'A pity they couldn't have been annexed. These humans would have done great wonders for the Hegemony, if properly educated.'

From inside the cockpit of the confiscated batarian shuttle, Han watched black smoke rise from half a dozen different locations. Occasionally he could make the flash of mass accelerators firing, but the terrain and structures greatly obscured his view. Through the viewport, he spotted a squad of batarian slavers racing across the landing pad, sprinting past cargo crates and control consoles. Worry was plastered on their faces as they raced to areas requiring their aid, none of them giving the shuttle more than a passing glance.

Even evidence of the havoc reaching space could be observed from his position, the moon's small gravity dragging pieces of debris out of orbit. The once pristine terrain soon became littered with fragmented bits of steel and ceramics, polluting the pure ground. Barely thirty-eight minutes into the operation and already the fighting was fierce in multiple locations. Han himself was surprised that such a small force could inflict such destruction so quickly.

Smog seemed to be choking the moon as more and more destroyed debris began littering the surface. The slaver base was beginning to resemble Korlus, the regional toxic junk yard, as the intensity of the fighting increased. Yet Han knew this was merely the beginning. The full horror that would engulf the moon and its inhabitants had yet to begin. With such chaos brewing, any sense of order or evidence of what was occurring was quickly becoming obscured. Long experience had taught him that much at least. Conflicting or incomplete reports, communication sabotage, and the elimination of witnesses ensured that the reality of what had occurred would never reach the pages of history. The secrecy surrounding their mission would add to the befuddlement, hiding even important little details.

Like himself.

'Good. The less they know of my involvement, the better. In fact, I think it's time I've made my escape.' Han thought. Setting his foot on the pipe, he twisted at the material while pulling with his free arm. It took some effort before the links holding the cuffs gave away, ripping them apart. Freed from his restraints, Han climbed into the cockpit, and began powering up the shuttle's engine. They let out a controlled whine as they flared to life, overpowering the cockpit's sound dampeners. Telemetry data, flight paths, sensors, weapons, kinetic barriers, and electronic countermeasures all came online.

Before Han could begin his ascension, the com crackled and a batarian voice came through, urgent and panicked in tone. "We're being ambushed. We need assistance!" Soon other voices chimed in, requesting information or simple guidance. The following chatter was fast and overlapping: the central tower demanding status reports and locations, while the slavers below attempted to call in to know where the reinforcements should head.

'If only they knew what they were really up against,' Han lamented, feeling a sense of embarrassment. Even batarians as low as these slavers shouldn't have been as easily thwarted by such a small force of inferior beings. 'No matter. If they cannot repel such a small strike team, then they do not deserve to be called batarian nor do they hold the right to live.'

Deciding to repay the ningens for helping him achieve his revenge and to steer slavers away from his location, he punched a button, lifted the link, and shouted into the comm, "This is Pad twelve! We're counting seventy plus hostiles! They're attempting to gain control of fighters, we need assistance!"

After giving a few more false distress signals, Han muted the comm. 'That should give those ningens a bit of breathing room.'

He knew the ningens were out there, shooting and getting shot at. If everything went well or even perfect, not everyone would make it back alive which was all the more advantageous to him.

Satisfied that the men he'd lost had been repaid by sufficient blood, Han turned his attention to the flight controls, the engines roaring louder as he flicked settings to set them to full power. He engaged his thrusters and the HS-3 Stormer Transport Shuttle lunged upwards into the dark void.

As the shuttle ascended to the stars, he paid witness to the human flotilla obliterating the remnants slaver fleet, viciously tearing it apart like hungry nathaks, before descending upon the moon. Already, smaller craft had begun making strafing runs on the local garrison, their larger kin easily engaging what few batarian fighters and interceptors managed to respond. Transport ships, carrying infantry, began making landings as its complement disembarked with heavy mechs and light vehicles, dispersing to counter the slavers' own light armor.

'A pity I could not have been the one to end their miserable existence.' He thought, gently maneuvering his shuttle through the field of debris clogging Torfan's orbit. He knew this was the trickiest part of his escape as the humans possessed far more advanced sensors than what his shuttle's own electronic warfare suites could counter, but he had several major advantages on his side.

The first advantage was that many of the destroyed ships, while out of commission, were still giving off eezo emissions. This would help disguise his own signature as he made his way towards the Relay. The second advantage, had he known it, was the while the humans' sensors were more advanced, they hadn't yet completed their massive overhaul to detect eezo readings meaning the miniscule readings his shuttle emitted wouldn't raise any attention. Finally, much like the slavers on the moon, the humans weren't expecting such a betrayal so soon. Granted they weren't stupid nor fully trust him, but they were guilty of being just as arrogant as the Na'hesit, believing that a simple set of cuffs would keep him restrained.

So, with the human flotilla preoccupied, Han made a brief calculation of his shuttle's mass, inserting it before flying towards the Relay's approach corridor. Its blue arcs anchored themselves onto the shuttle, creating a mass-free corridor before propelling it across the enormous distance of space.


Slaver Base

Attican Traverse

Torfan

Hower's fears had begun to multiply in the stark light within the cavern of his mind. He seemed to continuously find things to worry about with every passing moment. Fear for his companions, and the danger they were in; fear for how he might fail or be abandoned; fear over failing to rescue the human captives. Like a trained professional, he chose to use the motivation of that fear to guide his hands to unparalleled precision, guiding the Avenger into eliminating two troopers as thirty slavers rushed his team's position.

He fired another burst before checking. The marines held position in a small refueling station, storage crates providing sufficient cover to ensure the slavers had to work for every shot. Catwalks overhead, already controlled by his squad, afforded superb sniper cover.

To one side, Velasquez and her turret held the left flank, the small engineer unleashing pure death far out of proportion to her small frame. Twelve meters above, Frost and his rifle rested on a catwalk, motionless except for the infinitesimal motion of his trigger finger; each thundering retort of his rifle struck fear into the batarian slavers. Hower was placed perfectly in the middle, maneuvering between Velasquez and the biotics to add additional fire where needed.

"Don't you think we're pretty exposed?" Velasquez asked, crouching behind a sealed crate. Her active turret suppressing the enemy and halting their advance.

"Who cares? It just makes this all the more fun!" Stenzke replied from just across the gap. The Typhoon in her hands sprayed hypersonic fragments of metal, shredding through any unfortunate soul brave enough to stray from cover. When volunteers lacked, she used her powers, flinging the enemy into the air before unloading generous amounts of rounds. Any fire directed towards her were either stopped by her armor or the Typhoon's shield.

"Figures you'd be enjoying this," Bellec quipped. Using his Avenger, the lieutenant fired off controlled bursts for precise targeting. While not as substantial as what Stenzke was putting out, it compensated by with higher accuracy. The squad's two biotics were placed on the right, becoming the team's shield and preventing any soldier from even daring to come at them from that direction.

"You know me so well," Stenzke replied as she mowed down a poor enemy trooper attempting to flank.

The quietest of the group and the one taking the least amount of fire was the squad's cloaked infiltrator, Frost, who scrutinized the battlefield for any exposed infantry too far for his teammates to spot. With the loud booming of his Black Widow rifle, he completely decapitated a soldier, the round utterly penetrating through the ceramic helmet, lodging into the skull before squashing and shattering it. The headless torso merely fell down, squirting fresh blood from several severed arteries. The psychological impact of such a scene was made clear, the slavers becoming more and more reluctant to continue their rush despite their numbers advantage.

Hower crouched behind cover overlooking the hundred meters or so of open field. He knew after completing the first phase of the operation it would become a game of survival. His team would have to hold out until the flotilla could reinforce them; until then, they were utterly at the mercy of enemy confusion.

'Surely, by now they should have realized how small we really are.' Hower thought. It was confusing him why the entire surface garrison hadn't yet consolidated their forces and simply overwhelmed them.

Even with his entire team in cover, the power of batarian missiles had come as a shock, the sound reaching them in an instant. Their release spoke as one dreadful, deafening voice, the thunder echoing across the battlefield. The missiles first struck three meters from Hower's team positions before the next volley reached closer. What had once been flat ground soon became nothing but craters, resembling more swiss cheese than natural topography.

"Looks like their getting serious," Stenzke said, ducking behind cover.

Hower adjusted his helmet, zooming in on the general direction the missiles contrails led. Their cover soaked up most of the missiles' damage with the marines' battle-suits shields absorbing the rest. Yet the shock from the missiles' detonation managed tilt the commander's headgear.

Another volley followed soon after, majority of the warheads being high-explosive with a few dozen being smoke. A total of sixty missiles landed in Hower's area, their impacts shaking him violently and sending pings of ricocheting fragments impacting his armor's kinetic barriers. What truly frightened him however, was the smoke, indicating the enemy was preparing for a full on concentrated rush. From six separate points, gray-white smoke billowed into the air, forming an instant man-made cloud that enveloped everything thirty meters out.

With the upgrades on their new gear, the marines activated their enhanced thermal sights. "Marines, check in." Hower called over his headset. He listened closely as all his teammates came out unscathed. "Alright, prepare yourselves. Frost, start taking out flanking tangoes. Stenzke and Bellec, hit them with biotic attacks and take out what you can at midrange. Velasquez, slow down the frontlines with drones and the turret."

"Enemy within range, company size!" Frost reported. A half second later, the loud booming of his Black Widow fired, the first in this particular exchange.

The marines' thermal sights, measuring differences in temperatures, penetrated most of the smoke cover. While batarian bodies were generally cooler than humans, they still retained enough heat to stand out from their shroud. Hower took a deep breath and went to work.

"Enemy squad, sixty meters to the left!" Frost yelled.

Hower shifted, training his rifle to the left and centering his reticle on the nearest trooper. His thumb activated the VI embedded in the Avenger. The VI calculated the distance before plotting speed, elevation, and weight of the round and all the commander had to do was place the target in the center of his sights. The whole procedure took less than two seconds and Hower's fingers jammed home the trigger.

The rifle's muzzle blazed to life as sand grain sized rounds exited from the barrel, the Avenger recoiling, ejecting the spent the tungsten jacket. Nearly all the rounds struck home, impacting in sequenced order against the trooper's own shield before it failed, leaving him vulnerable. His body convulsed as more rounds penetrated his armor, digging deep into his torso before shattering inside his body.

"Confirmed hit!" Hower said, moving his rifle to engage the rest of the batarians. "Target the closets enemies and fire at will!"

The batarians and humans exchanged fire, each time the enemy probing closer. However, the N7s had come into the fight prepared. Frost targeted whichever enemy appeared to be giving commands, inflicting severe losses upon the enemy's experienced leadership. Each shot led to another death, exponentially wreaking havoc on the enemy's coordination. Unable to pinpoint the source, the batarians began increasing fire on the marines ground position, believing them to the cause of the accurate fire. Unknown to them the true culprit remained free to continue his onslaught, sowing the seeds of confusion and paranoia.

This caused enough of an opening for Bellec to telekinetically throw groups of enemies from closing in on their location while overloading their shields. Taking advantage of their collapsed state, the lieutenant withered down an entire enemy squad. He used warp attacks to keep any from advancing further, spawning mass effect fields to further damage enemy shields and armor. Any batarians caught completely exposed, Bellec merely used his omni-tool to fire a mass of super-cooled subatomic particles that snap-froze his targets before unloading with his Avenger once more. A few were even shattered like an ice cube, their limbs and organs completely severed.

Velasquez, by contrast, relied on artificial means to subdue the enemy, harassing them with attacks from her drones while her turret, staunchly remaining in a well-entrenched location, continued to suppress the enemy and even score a few kills of its own. She fired high-explosive plasma rounds from her omni-tool, incinerating nearby enemies while using her modified Avenger to put them out of their suffering. Her biggest offensive action, however, was the constant usage of overload attacks, devastating the enemy defenses, leaving them prepared for the predator of their squad to begin her hunt.

Unsurprisingly, the only marine to be quite pleased with the scenario, and coincidently attributing the highest kill count, was Stenzke. Vanguards were instinctively feared for their high-risk, high-reward combat style, closing quickly on the enemy and destroying them at close range. Situations like this were what vanguards lived for, and so Stenzke went on a one-woman rampage. Unlike the rest of the team who preferred to keep the enemy at a distance, the female vanguard had no issues getting up close and personal, pulling multiple enemies towards her. The unfortunate souls soon found themselves pumped full of rounds from her Typhoon.

"Commander, they're getting closer," Bellec said.

Under the cover of yet another volley of missiles, the batarian company advanced once again. Their first successful action was to knock out Velasquez's turret, forcing the engineer to take it offline to begin repairs. With the marines' left flank weakened, the batarians pressed the advantage.

"Frost, Stenzke redirect fire and cover Velasquez!" Hower hollered, taking position near Bellec to hold their right side as Stenzke shifted to the left; above, Frost refocused his efforts to the team's faltering flank. The marines' miniaturized autocannons assisted in providing additional fire, but simply couldn't contend with the batarians' missile troopers.

"Frost, take care of those heavy troopers!" Hower commanded.

"You got it boss." Sniper fire blanketed the enemy with high explosive rounds, detonating upon impact. However, the cost was the quicker consumption of the heatsink forcing Frost to reload.

In the brief lapse of fire, the batarians advanced further coming within thirty meters from the squad. Drawing in another deep breath, Hower shifted his position where he would have better lanes of fire. A pair of grenades exploded somewhere near him, the clear efforts of the enemy trying to silence the squad's big gun. "Frost, you have a tally on the enemy's number?"

"Their down about twenty soldiers, sixty plus still remain!" The infiltrator replied.

Not three seconds later, the batarians decided to press forward. A wave of twenty troopers, under the cover of their rockets, blitzed the human force, rifles blazing. Rounds punched directly into the teams' barriers or ricocheting off to shatter in the crust beneath or around them. Hundreds of rounds whizzed within millimeters nearby as the marines were forced to hunker down.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hower spotted at least three troopers charging Velasquez.

"Shit here they come!" The engineer cried, letting loose a torrent of fire from her Avenger while deploying overload attacks. The combined attack saw one soldier drop dead while another had his shields collapsed.

Hower grit his teeth and squeezed the trigger of his Avenger, striking the legs of the vulnerable batarian to his close left. The enemy trooper went down, but made vain attempts to recover and return fire. The commander quickly corrected his mistake, claiming yet another life.

Yet before Hower could collect his thoughts, Frost's rifle boomed once, blasting the head off of one batarian before it boomed again, tearing the shoulder off of another. Hower swept across three exposed soldiers, hitting them with accurate bursts. Not a second later Stenzke cut into them once more with her Typhoon, dropping them like broken toys.

Bellec exploited the moment to pop up from his position and counter-charge the batarians, attacking their position with heavy ordnance from his Falcon, blanketing the enemy positions with 25 mm mini-grenades. He already had an overload blast ready, letting it fly along with an incinerate attack and five frag grenades. Just before the grenades detonated, Bellec hit the deck, dodging the blast, before bringing himself back up and raking the enemy's line with fire.

Suddenly through the heavy debris picked up from the fighting, a lone batarian emerged, blood pouring out the stump of a neck – a headless automaton now. He only managed to take a couple of steps before falling on top a pool of his own blood.

From the ground, Bellec unclasped three more grenades from his armor, letting them cook in his hand for a few seconds before throwing them. They detonated with an ear-shattering boom, kicking up smoke and rocks. Upon their detonation, he high-tailed it back to his team's position under their covering fire, absorbing shots into his barriers than armor. When he finally reached them, he was wheezing out of breath.

"That was insane. You're lucky were managed to cover you." Velasquez remarked, bringing her turret back online.

"She's right Bellec, next time try to warn us." Hower stated. To his own surprise, there was no anger or reprimand. Desperate measures were sometimes needed, after all.

"Wow, you have balls lieutenant!" Stenzke complimented, emptying another heat sink. "You managed to take out six troopers, including two heavies."

"Dangerous, but at least we halted their rush," Frost said over the radio. "The last three troopers are falling back, but we still got about two platoons left."

Attempting to achieve dominance once again, under a combined effort, the batarian heavy troopers fired another volley of rockets, missiles, and grenades, trying to pound the marines into submission. The effort proved successful as the sole marine able to respond was Frost under the cover of his cloak, the rest of the team forced to take cover.

"They're trying to surround us," Frost warned, having a perfect view of the battlefield.

"Really? I could have sworn you weren't taking fire," Stenzke barked. Agitation at being forced to take cover started to fill her voice. She was not one to cower from a fight, no matter how severe.

"Stenzke, not the time!" Hower warned, an explosion lighting his helmet as his shields flashed in damage. "Damn, that was close! Anyone have any ideas? I'm open to suggestions!"

"I've got one, let me take those four eyed fuckers," Stenzke proposed, her body being engulfed in a blue aura.

"I meant one that isn't suicidal," Hower growled.

"Commander, I don't think we've got much of a choice!" Bellec cried, firing off another incinerate attack.

"I second that," Velasquez shouted, firing off the last heat sink on her Avenger before switching to her Locust.

"At this rate we'll be overrun in a matter of minutes," Frost nonchalantly stated.

'I know I am going to regret this.' The commander thought.

"Stenzke,"

"Yeah?"

"Let them have it!"

"Gladly," the vanguard answered, ejecting a heat-sink. She prepared for her onslaught.

In the opening move Stenzke unleashed shockwaves, sending out a series of explosive biotic impacts, launching any enemy caught in its path into the air. It had the gift of slowing enemy advances, and increasing her ire, whom was looking forward to having the fight become a slug match. While the team used this respite to focus fire on the enemy, the female vanguard had other plans. In what many could consider suicide, Stenzke quite literally charged the enemy, using her biotics to blast across the battlefield towards the targets. The end result lead to many batarians slammed head-on by an adrenaline fueled super-soldier, as she completely negated the mass of her enemy, causing many to be sent flying backwards. Grabbing hold of an unfortunate batarian, Stenzke headbutted him before stabbing him with her omni-blade and seizing his Revenant machinegun and started using it to lay waste.

In less than three seconds, the enemy had gone from advancing on a pinned marine squad and possibly closing in on the kill to having an apparent battle-crazed psycho, dual-wielding two machine guns behind their lines, dropping them like flies. Stenzke single-handily ripped through their defenses, massacring anything in her path. Naturally, the enemy began firing on the biggest threat to their lives. Of course, such a thing proved difficult as the vanguard simply charged her way from one location to another, zigzagging across the battlefield.

"C'mon you four-eyed fuckers! Whatcha ya got, whatcha ya got!? Huh!" She shrieked even louder epithets, possibly demoralizing the enemy more than any propaganda.

Her teammates were just as bewildered, Stenzke had rarely been so … enthusiastic. Regaining their focus, they chased off after their teammate through the hole she'd made constantly firing. The autocannons mounted onto their shoulder plates proved to be a godsend as it added additional firepower that let them plow through the enemy infantry as they attempted to retrieve their companion, completely lost to the chaos of war.

As a whole, the marines fired a combined volley of concussive shots, cryo-blasts, and incinerate attacks, wiping out an entire infantry squad. Bellec's Falcon blanketed enemy groupings with its mini-grenades, detonating in fearsome explosions. Enemy fire came at them from all directions, absorbed by their kinetic barriers or simply whizzing past. As seconds turned into minutes, the fire began to slacken especially when Stenzke used her M-100 grenade launcher to take out another enemy squad. Seeing dozens of dead, their heavy rocket troopers among them, the rest of the enemy light infantry retreated leaving behind the marines.

"Well …that … was … satisfying," Stenzke said, exhaling heavily after exerting herself.

Holding the helmet clad of his face with his armored glove in exhaustion, Hower asked a simple question. "Stenzke, are you insane?"

"What? … I beat … the enemy … back … didn't I?"

"This is why I hardly let you cut loose, but damn if you didn't do a fine job." Hower mixed complaint with compliment, surveying the carnage. Over thirty batarian soldiers lay dead in the vicinity, a fate not undeserved.

Finally catching her breath, Stenzke was able to reply in coherence, "And that is why I make sure to have twice as much fun when you do. Look at the end of the day we managed to eliminate the threat and got some breathing room, a calculated risk."

"Sir, with due respect she is right." Bellec said.

Unable to argue with the results, Hower decided to drop the subject. Tapping into the comm, he made a connection to the Spectres. "Saren this is Hower, we managed to repel the enemy from our location what is your status?"

"We're taking fire at the moment. Sure, could use your help."

"Copy that, we're on your way." Hower replied, cutting the transmission. "Look's like our friends need some help, let's double time it."

"Commander, it looks like there is an enemy munitions warehouse near our location," Bellec said, surveying a nearby map he'd gotten from a fallen batarian trooper. Using his helmet's built-in translator, he was able to transcribe the batarian language into words he could understand. "We could stop there and load up on some heat sinks and maybe get a few heavy weapons just in case." he proposed.

"Alright we'll make a detour just don't overstuff yourselves. Move it marines!"


Slaver Base

Attican Traverse

Torfan

"Saren this is Hower, we managed to repel the enemy from our location what is your status?" The message came through the strike team's encrypted channel.

"We're taking fire at the moment. Sure, could use your help." Saren crisply replied, the stock of his Phaeston rifle jerking like a mule from the recoil. The turian Spectre was pleased the weapon's inertial dampeners tempered the kickback, allowing the rifle to pack more punch.

The Spectres had taken refuge in the remains of the batarian barracks, the complex providing excellent cover. For the better part of fifteen minutes, the Spectres held the advantage. The surviving batarians from the initial chaotic detonations were too stunned, deafened, and blinded to respond properly or simply injured by the blasts and shrapnel. If the slaughter could have been viewed without sound, one could be disposed to call it beautiful.

The moment the defense guns had fired their first shots against the moon's small fleet, the Spectres lit up the area in a corona of frantic glitters numbering in the thousands, despite their source being four elite soldiers. Each round was burst crisp and discrete against the black canvas of space. The orange flashes from the Spectres' mass accelerators came in pleasingly trained and consistent patterns, like the semaphore of shoal fishes in the depths. Occasionally, gold celestial stars streaked across the battlefield before ending abruptly against shields or soldiers themselves, leaving the area crisscrossed with trails of smoke.

Yet the shrieks and disorder showcased were at odds with the majestic visuals – collapsed shields, the whine of mass accelerator slugs, ablative ceramic fracturing into shards, explosives pulverizing the ground and creating bowls in the moon's surface. The blunt sounds made when rounds entered flesh, shattering deep inside was disgusting, almost as much as seeing the hosts shredded and spraying blood on the surface.

However, the batarians did not panic, racing dutifully to their posts, and clustering their shots in well-timed volleys. But they still scrambled to compensate for casualties, trying to establish order and coordination as an unseen enemy continued to inflict losses. They were easy prey for the Spectres. Easy prey to herd to their deaths.

Saren coordinated his team's fire with meticulousness, pairing himself with Vasir while Maerun covered Dozz. Like a composer directing an orchestra, the turian Spectre directed fire where needed and kept the enemy unbalanced. However, he too added his own personal touch, his own Phaeston adding an allegro tune to the chorus. With the care and passion he held, Saren could have had a prestigious career as a musical composer, but the turian found the thunder of war to be the best music to his tympanic membranes.

At his side, Vasir seemed to take satisfaction in the cries of alarm and the tumbling of bodies as her companions caught squads of batarians in continuous barrages. She took no less gratification as each round emitted from her Elder sniper rifle contributed to another downed enemy, her shots bursting through one suit of armor after another. A batarian duo stumbled from the firefight, completely disoriented with their barriers down. Vasir took advantage, two loud bursts exiting her rifle before touching the batarians and causing puffs of blood to spray from their torsos.

"Now this is what I signed up for," Saren exclaimed, feeling the rush of combat.

"Don't be getting cocky on me. We can't have you getting killed." Vasir joked.

"The enemy will have to try immensely hard to achieve that."

"Or just have the bodies to drown those mandibles of yours."

"If the worst comes to pass, I'm sure you can always give them a dance to distract them," Maerun joked. For his efforts, he received a chuckle from Saren and a glare from Vasir. As smoke billowed from the initial detonations and pieces of rock were shattered, Maerun fired like a geth platform, scoring hit after hit. His proficiency with the rifle displayed why turians were the military arm of the Citadel. The massacre failed to faze him, shots resonating from his rifle as he pulverized the enemy with fire.

"I am the very model of a Spectre-grade salarian; I've killed so many species from asari to batarian. I'm an expert in shooting, killing the slavers in their own lair. My carnage ranges through multiple operations, from open fields to urban warfare. I am the very model of a Spectre-grade salarian ..." Dozz sang to himself in a low voice as he causally blasted off the legs of a batarian before delivering the killing blow. The trip and proximity mines he had planted through the area detonated in random intervals, mutilating or dismembering batarians in different sectors.

Saren, Maerun, Vasir, and Dozz swarmed and regrouped, separating the squads of their enemies and picking off the reinforcements from range. But soon the batarians regained their strength, their reinforcements beginning to come by the twenties and thirties. That was when the Spectres began to lose ground.

Yet as they retreated, the Spectres continued to drop enemy troops. Saren couldn't see their faces under their helmets and didn't cared to. He ignored their pained wails; the endless reverberations of mass accelerators and the lower thumping of his Phaeston concerning him more. His team left eviscerated bodies behind as they fell back, Dozz planting even more mines as they retreated.

Despite his military honor and discipline, Saren cared little for the batarian lives snuffed out of existence. He did not care if the fallen would not receive proper death rites, the blood of his own fallen brethren staining their hands.

The atmosphere began to smell like ash and burned meat, but were unable to penetrate the Spectres' filters. Instead Saren only caught the scent of filtered oxygen. Strangely, it seemed invigorating; the scent of flammable accelerants in the dawn.

Squads of batarians crept away from the barracks, forming a pincer aimed at the repair shops where the Spectres were attempting to hold ground.

Dozz saw the opportunity at the same time Saren did – one brief gap to break the enemy formation – and as Saren cried, "Hit the gap!" Dozz provided cover with his Poison assault rifle, firing off a barrage of fire while using the under-barrel to send micro-grenades into their lines.

A missile from nowhere hit the batarian lines, sending armored bodies through the air while tearing off limbs. The reprieve was a short one, the enemy's massive numbers compensating for any lost momentum. The Spectres used the moment to scamper as one towards the camp's exit as one, allowing the batarians to give chase.

'I see you've made some friends. I'm almost hurt you didn't invite me,' A voice came through the radio.

Saren easily recognized it immediately as well as the three figures holding position three hundred meters above on the ridge his team had not so long ago used to recon the area, the surrounding boulders providing excellent concealment and cover. "Commander, you sure save our carapaces."

"Less talking, more running!" Vasir shouted, emitting a barrier around her team to shield them from incoming fire. "This isn't as easy as it looks," she added, straining to hold the barrier while running in full sprint. The clarity of their vision decreased as artificial clouds of ash began surrounding the battlefield.

In the relative safety of the barrier, Saren's eyes spotted streaks of color as accelerator volleys flashed by. His heart began to beat faster, his breath becoming harder to hold as he tried to fire with pin-point accuracy. He refused to stop moving and shooting until he realized Dozz was close to falling behind, the cloud increasing the chances of the salarian Spectre becoming separated. Saren spat a curse, spun about and fired at a batarian rocket trooper attempting to align his weapon.

"Hold here, we need to cover Dozz!" Saren ordered, activating his thermal sights to penetrate through the cloud of debris kicking up.

The team held position, allowing Vasir to catch her breath and the marines to add additional barrages to slow down the batarians. Saren concentrated his focus, narrowing his cone of vision to the foes just behind. The intensity was so great, it nearly allowed him to penetrate the haze without assistance.

"Saren! Saren!"

He heard Dozz before he saw him. The salarian's armor was smeared with ash and dents, his voice wild with alarm, but appearing largely unharmed. Saren felt an equal rush of fury and relief wash over him.

"What?" the turian snapped. "What is it?"

"Run," Dozz simply replied. "We need to run!"

With those words, Dozz grasped Saren's armored limb and pulled him along as they both sprinted. Saren's senses began to heighten, hearing the heavy crushing of rocks. Not from mass accelerators or grenades or even missiles, but from something even heavier and louder than any of those weapons combined. The terrain being compressed under their unfathomable weight until they broke.

Saren turned and saw the foreboding metal edges of the lead Kharsae hover-tank, the first of many. Their larger Reave cousins trailed far behind them, the heavy tanks' cannons dwarfing that of the hover-tanks. The first shots attached to their metal bodies pumped ruin toward the Spectres, shattering their protective biotic barrier as Vasir collapsed from exhaustion. She was quickly picked up by Maerun as the team attempted to create a gap. Interestingly, another barrier enveloped them as they ran.

"My team has you covered. Now haul ass!" Hower demanded. His team's vanguard growled agreement, emitting the barrier while the rest of the squad attempted to use the heavy ordnance they'd seized earlier to either slow or destroy the armored column. Smoke grenades were thrown to give the Spectres additional cover, however the shroud only protected them from eyes, not mass accelerator rounds.

The batarian infantry had slowed their pursuit, instead splitting into two groups and moving wide in an arc to stay out of the cross-fire and attempt to cut off the Spectre's escape route, who had managed to reach the base of the ridge. Climbing it proved to be the most challenging, especially for Maerun who was carrying an unconscious Vasir.

Luckily, Hower's marines covering fire managed to create a small window of opportunity. A heavy rocket barrage, looted ammunition from before, pounded a trail of molten explosives between the Spectres and their pursuers. The resulting delay allowed Maerun to unceremoniously drop Vasir, and kneel behind cover, panting.

"Spirits, she's heavier than she looks." Maerun complained.

"Weight more likely caused by armor and firearms than actual size," Dozz explained. "Turian biology more robust than asari."

"Semantics," the turian waved.

"Not what that word means." Dozz corrected.

Saren ignored their exchange, walking up to Hower. "You have my thanks," he said, holding out a taloned appendage.

Hower gripped it tightly, "Don't mentioned it, literally. We still have a large enemy presence at our feet."

As if to provide evidence, heavy mass accelerator rounds impacted near the ridge, creating meter large holes in the crevice. Now rejoined, the strike team moved to a more optimal position, and prepared to hold off the enemy juggernaut. This time, the somewhat bulkier humans carried the unconscious asari Spectre.

The tanks acted like predators, stalking the strike team. They relentlessly bombarded the ridge with their cannons, shifting fire across its length. Their blasts splintered boulders and showered Saren with burning rock and sand. He emerged from cover, seizing a nearby ML-77 missile launcher. If aimed well, he might be able to shatter one Kharsae's cockpit – exposing or killing the driver, possibly even damage the controls and ruining the vehicle.

'It's better than nothing,' Saren thought, rising from behind a boulder and faced the foremost tank – maybe thirty meters away from his position. He set the launcher on his shoulder and lined up his shot according to his helmet's VI calculations. His body lurched as the missile leapt forward, soaring toward the terrible machine with a painful wail.

The explosion nearly deafened him, fire and smoke steaming from the hover-tank's cockpit. The machine twisted in pain, its main cannon becoming a melted heap of a wreck. Saren's shot had been blessed by the spirits as the tank was consumed by cindering flames. 'Well it seems the slavers haven't bothered adding barriers to their vehicles.'

However, it was but one of many. Already the other tanks began concentrating their fire on his revealed position, intent on ending the fight. Saren bared his teeth in defiance, reloading as the others fired heavy ordnance. The remaining tanks finally reached optimal range, but before they could fire, the atmosphere above wailed and shadows crossed the battlefield. Pulses of rounds, far heavier and faster than any missile, impacted the tanks, numerous blasts of fire tearing through the mechanical vehicles and sending sheets of smoking ceramics tumbling through the air before landing on the surface.

Saren saw as a fighter's nose disappear in a mass of flame, the pilot firing a literal anti-armor cannon. Four Kharsae tanks exploded before his eyes while a pair of missiles seemed to eradicate two batarian Reavers. As the tanks were reduced to twisted debris, creaking metal covered in the ashes their former pilots, their attackers sped above the atmosphere and over the smoot covered rock. Their frames easily distinguishable: JSF Stingers. The cavalry had arrived.

The Strike Force let a series of cheers, each ecstatic they hadn't been abandoned and were no longer alone. Saren himself almost abandoned his discipline to let out a turian congratulatory ovation. That was until he caught the profile of a shuttle flying in the distance. He zoomed in and recorded it with his helmet's VI.

"Commander, you may want to see this," he said, sending his captured recording to the rest of the team.

"What is –," Hower stopped midsentence after seeing the shuttles number: ME-312.

"That four-eyed fucker," Stenzke said, gripping her Tyhpoon tightly.

"There isn't anything else we can do," Hower responded, focusing on the mission on hand. "Let's just rendezvous with the reinforcements at one of the bunker's entrances. Velasquez, where is the nearest one?"

The engineer popped up the downloaded map, detailing the vast honeycombs underneath the moon's surface. "Nearest one is 1.2 kilometers from here." She answered.

"Don't suppose we can just catch a lift?" Maerun asked.

"You're a turian, not a quarrian so stop complaining as one," Saren retorted. "Let's get started."


A/N: Sorry to keep you guys waiting for four months and having the chapter be less than 10k words, but I've only recently found time to write and complete this chapter.

Trivia:

1. This is officially the first chapter of the new year. Happy 2018 everyone! Again, sorry for the late update.

2. Han's slur of ningen is a reference to Zamasu from Dragon Ball Super, who views mortals beneath him, a quality shared by Han in this instance.

3. The nathak mentioned by Han is actually a canon creature, never really elaborated. They are scavengers which are mentioned several times in Mass Effect but are never seen.

4. A level from Mass Effect 2, or rather a world is referenced in this chapter, Korlus the planet where we get our favorite genetically engineered krogan: Grunt!

5. Stenzke's line after massacring the batarians is a tribute to Gears of War, where Marcus Fenix says the same-thing upon clearing the area of Locusts in the second chapter of the first act.

6. Dozz's song is indeed a reference and tribute to our favorite scientist Mordin Solus. Consider this a remix version. Or the insanity filled one.

7. Maerun' s and Dozz's exchange is a reference to the Red vs Blue cast, specifically Simmons and Grif, where in one of their many arguments Grif states semantics, implying the word means details and Simmons corrects him. In reality its definition is 'the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text.'

8. Saren's retort to Maerun at the end is a reference to Commander Shepard's speech to get a krogan scout moving in ME2, arguing he isn't a quarrian so he should stop complaining like one with a stomachache.

9. The title is a reference to the Ghost Soldiers and their raid, which saved about 500 U.S POWs.