A/N: Work has been crazy. Still working on the next chapter of TWCD, but wanted to get something out. Editing Gang never saw this, so all typos and mistakes are mine, but we can blame Comma anyway.


"Oh, fuck me, that can't be good." The voice of Sergeant Drummond was almost tired sounding, not surprising given the gallery of horrors they'd already seen, but this was even worse than the rest.

Lieutenant Jason Valthez shot the heavily armored Sergeant in front of him a rather cutting look before turning back to the tableau scattered messily in front of the group.

The passageway was half-blocked by an ill-defined mass of flesh, charred in places and torn in others. The face that stared back at them was warped like in a funhouse mirror, the mouth almost a third of a meter-wide that deformed the already misshapen skull even more. The limbs were too thin and had a chitinous look to them, only magnified by the fact that four humans had been crammed into the main body to serve as legs, plates of black metal and tubes of blue gunk torn free here and there.

The scene was not improved by the fact that the walls were smeared liberally with dried blood, bits of human flesh, and pieces of what looked like a jaw. A dozen broken corpses littered the hallway behind it, some carved in half, others melted, and still others torn into fragmented chunks.

After the carnage they passed through to get here, to him, this was just more of the same – Jason was too emotionally exhausted and disgusted to even feel anything at this point. He sighed and tilted his head, then gestured to the two techs behind the Marines. "Probably not, Sarge. The fact the thing at the entrance wasn't a fluke is a useful datapoint, but we have no time to investigate in-depth. Scan it and move on."

He moved past the shattered monstrosity, and wondered how much longer they'd have to poke around. He really hoped it wasn't much longer, not only due to the threat of indoctrination, but because whatever the fuck had gone down here had taken out a security force nearly ten times what the SA had sent, and with better equipment.

He frowned at the scanner in his hands, watching the device struggle to classify the blackened lumps along the edge of the corridor, finally coming up with 'Carbon-based life: probable. Genus: mixed. Chirality: mixed. Classification: anomalous.'

He was irritated but not surprised by the fact the scanner wasn't working right.

After all, nothing else was.

Literally nothing had gone right in the assault against the Reaper derelict so far. External scans had proven to be useless, the penetrometer relays they'd fired off had either reported nothing or – when they had hit the Reaper's hull – bounced off. The drones they sent in malfunctioned almost immediately, two smashing themselves into the hull and detonating, one disassembling itself piecemeal, and the last two severing their control cables and attacking their cruiser. The GARDIAN and CIWS of the ship had taken the drones apart with ease, of course… but no one could figure out how the drones – all with wired connections and zero wireless equipment or open ports – were hacked.

The landing hadn't gone much better. While the navy ships maneuvered around the Reaper and got rid of the space debris Hades left behind, the Marines made for a landing. The initial strike team had landed in the only open space, a large landing area in the cratered wreckage of the Reaper's flank that Hades had built their outpost into. The approach had been tense due to the autonav system failing for no reason, and the shuttles came down in pairs, touching down and disgorging the initial assault team of five ten-man augmented Marine squads, each one backed with a DACT trooper.

The majority of the landing area showed signs of a heavy firefight, and a quick count of a good dozen corpses in heavy mil-spec armor. Most of the corpses were charred and melted, and a few had been crushed, torn in half, or, in one horrifying example, stretched almost three meters – as if they were made of clay instead of flesh. Hand scanners showed infestations of alien nanotech and various other unidentified substances, and the Colonel had the corpses plasma-immolated just to be safe.

Not a minute after the torching was completed, however, the doors to the outpost had flown open and a storm of gray-skinned human monstrosities vomited forth, their gait an uneven shambling run and their motions jerky. The sharp crackle of blue arcs of light set off the pin-prick glow in the sunken eye cavities and illuminated the insides of open mouths widened in silent screams. Some were clad in bits of armor, others in what looked like lab coats and civilian suits, still others were naked and/or showed signs of burns, missing limbs, or exposed bones.

None of that slowed them in the slightest.

The first Marine squad knelt and discharged rifles while Squads Two and Three cross-targeted with heavy weapons. The heavy fire scythed through the zombie-like attackers, but more stomped over their smoking corpses to charge in further. Heavy machine gun fire and explosive rounds tore off limbs and blasted holes into or through torsos, only to reveal blackened bones wrapped in thin blue wires that made Jason's skin crawl.

The first rank of husks leapt over the corpses of their fellows, only to catch a line of super-heavy fire from the DACT that broke their ranks. More came in behind them, though, and the first Marine squad fell back in ragged order as they fired to suppress a foe that couldn't be suppressed.

Valthez had hear the cry of "For the Lion!" as Fourth Squad leapt into the fray, omni-blades unfolding and combat shotguns firing as they waded into melee. For a second, the husks wavered, a dozen killed by blasts of shotgun fire or decapitated in sweeping strikes. Then the doorway they'd come through shuddered and burst asunder as the wall collapsed, and a crouched thing stepped out.

Blackened plates of bone and what looked like burned muscle and hair framed a misshapen, asymmetrical figure composed of twisted, tortured husk forms shot through with spine-like spars of black metal that glowed faintly blue. The head was a near-formless lump atop the mass, the sides peeled back to show shoved-together human heads, all with mouths open in the silent vacuum – the face itself was a shard of black metal over a constructed maw of grasping, seizing human hands. Four blue-glowing pinpricks set in a row near the top of the metal mask flared as it stepped forward, its bulk vast and groaning, the very decking shaking with its steps.

Overlapping the left arm was an admixture of twisted, deformed flesh and what looked like parts from a construction plasma cutter and vacuum-spec welding tanks. A second later, the monster lifted the arm and a gout of white-hot burning plasma erupted in a long, wide plume.

It burned through at least fifteen husks, but it also enveloped most of the fourth team of Marines. Five died near-instantly, armor melting and vaporizing, leaving behind sagging frames of slagged metal and charred, ruined bone. Three more managed to leap out of the way, while the DACT did his best to cover the two Marines behind him, triggering omni-shields. The plasma etched away at the glowing constructs, sheeting white flames melting the decking to either side, and the DACT lost his balance.

The last two Marines of Fourth Squad were hit with a spurt of plasma that was, sadly, not enough to kill them instantly, but instead, turned them into shrieking, staggering pyres that only slumped in death after an agonizing ten seconds.

Colonel Sahu snarled a curse in some language Valthez's omni-tool had no translator for and rapidly fired the Tsunami cyclical cannon she'd brought along, tracing explosive blasts across the face and chest of the three-meter-tall super-husk. It staggered, waving its arms in a bizarre pattern, and more husks poured out from behind it, streaming beneath its bulk or around its legs.

It had taken the combined fire of four DACT and repeated use of missiles to bring it and the new rush of husks down, with a casualty count of fourteen Marines dead, six critically wounded. Sahu had dispatched one of the shuttles to ferry the wounded back to their ship while a smaller than planned team set up and manned the EAM bomb.

Her face was concealed by the combat helmet she wore, but just from her voice he could almost imagine her scowl. "Alright, that wasn't good. We're down a lot of Marines. So, the op plan is being changed. DACT, knuckle up and do the sweep-and-clear along with two shotgunners from Marine Two. Since most of Marine Four is dead, Marine One and Three will follow up. Valthez, take the other science guys with Three. One, you're with me and the combat engineers. Five, stay with the EAM and blow that fucker if you lose radio contact with us or the ship."

The massive woman hefted her weapon. "Let's move. We'll police up our dead once we are on our way out."

Entering the outpost had been nerve-wracking. Hades had used off-the-shelf components for the most part, and unlike Cerberus, didn't go around hurling their logo everywhere. Nondescript gray and scarlet wall panels, gray carpet, off-white duraplast ceiling tiles pierced every now and again with haze-gray ceiling lights – it could have been any one of a hundred such quick-erection prefabs in the galaxy. Except that the walls were smeared with blood and unidentified filth, puddles of eerie plastic-like black liquid that seemed to move when you weren't looking at it directly.

The fact that the lightning flickered or shut off at irregular times was not improving anything. At all.

The first few rooms near the shuttle landing pad were a mix of security rooms – all ruined and filled with torn corpses – and storerooms, filled with steel pallets topped with squarish packages sealed in thick opaque plastic with static-deflection wraps. Valthez instructed two such to be broken open, revealing rations in the blue-wrapped ones, and toiletries in another. Five minutes of searching showed most of the supplies were weapons, food, and support – but six long pallets at the back caught his eye due to their shape.

Unwrapping them revealed long cryocaskets, each one holding a human in horrible stages of what had to be conversions to husks or worse. Three of them were so warped and twisted that the remains could only be approximated as male or female – eyes that slewed down like the face was melted wax, mouths full of blackened jagged bone, or visible blood vessels glowing redly from within.

Data readouts on the crates were a mix of terrible and stomach-turning, most of them listing 'massive organ malfunction' and 'inability to match medical patterns for human life.' Bones had been replaced with some kind of sponge-like material, muscles were full of necrotic tumor-like masses that erupted into nanoswarms, and the blood of three of the subjects was missing and replaced with something the sensor package couldn't even identify.

Further on, in the labs, they found carnage – sealed lab rooms torn open, splashes of blood, and black ichor or chunks of burned flesh scattered around. Almost all the walls were heavily perforated with impacts from rifles or the blackened rings of explosives. Shattered tanks crowned in shreds of flesh and gore only hinted at what horrors had erupted forth. Examination tables were topped with desiccated and almost blasphemously deviant things that had almost no resemblance to humans, no matter what the scanners claimed. Claws and insectile spikes erupted from some, others were split open by mouths half a meter long running down the chest, or skulls that peeled open like flower petals.

There was almost no end to the parade of atrocities, all framed with detritus from what looked like room to room battles at close quarters. A ragged human corpse slumped in the corner of the main lab room, a venous and gray-tinted arm growing out of its chest to strangle its owner, but the corpse's legs were missing, torn off at the hips. Piles of burnt, shredded paper and smashed data-slates surrounded the body, along with a broken Crossfire rifle.

If they'd been trying to remove proof of what they did, they'd failed entirely. Computer banks yielded files listing off sickening experiments, as well as log entries that made one question the sanity of the Hades research team. Indications of missing time, of portions of the base simply ceasing to exist, of memories between various team members blending together – framed in the day-to-day notation of exposing humans to Reaper tech, nanotech, and even something Hades called 'Active Object Rho.'

Other labs had yielded masses of melted, melded human tissue festooned with slabs of black metal, limned with red lights or lines. Stacks of Reaper hull material, cut into meter-long slabs and stacked neatly along the walls. A plasma incinerator so choked with slurry and rotting flesh that it had shorted out and melted down, followed by nigh unto endless rows of metal crates full of decayed and deformed corpses. Rows of duraplast tanks with armaglass fronts, some filled with murky liquids that concealed their contents, others showing humans in frozen agony, mutated and shot through with teratomas, open lesions, or worse.

He shook his head to clear it, and turned back to the techs. "Anything useful?"

Doctor Mbeka from Ache Lameo shook his own head, helmet glinting faintly in the dim lighting. "Not particularly. It is similar to the creature we saw on approach, I think, but malfunctioned somehow. All of these, uh, alterations were done in an extremely fast period of time – DNA markers on most of this is, well, 'smeared' is the best way I can describe it. Something unzipped the DNA of all of these people and re-meshed it on the fly as the thing attacked."

Valthez arched an eyebrow, and the older man shrugged. "Unless we are taking samples, we simply don't have enough tools to determine more, and even if we did, it may not tell us how this was accomplished. GOI-545 does not surrender the… 'techno-sorcery' they use easily."

Jason snorted. "There's nothing magical about this, doctor. Just fucked-up. Let's move out, finish out this corridor and see what else is up."

The Marines moved up by his side as the researchers broke down their scanning gear, and Valthez moved down the corridor a bit more. He exhaled, and grimaced as he stepped in a puddle of congealed… something.

Looking at the floor, a flash of color on his belt caught his eye. He glanced down at his badge, and saw the exposed detection tab had shaded into a darkish yellow. Tapping his omni, he transmitted. "Science to Command, badges have completed shift from blue to yellow. Based on the speed so far of conversion, I'd say we have less than twenty minutes left."

The Colonel's voice came back over his omni-tool. "Acknowledged. Hit yellow five minutes ago, myself. Sweep-and-clear is complete, and the salvage team is already falling back to the shuttles. I'm in the command center… I think. Bring the science team up here. We have a problem."

He grimaced as he clicked off. "No shit, ma'am." Turning to his group, he made a circle-up gesture with his arm before engaging the point-to-point radio in his suit. "Colonel wants us in the command center. Bryons, stay with Jackson and do a visual encoding of everything in the last room, then head back to the ship. The rest of you, let's move."

The corridors leading to the command center were even worse, the metal buckled in places from the force of combat. He frowned as he passed one spot in the wall where the claw marks left behind in the metal had curiously fractile etchings around them, and as he watched, he saw the metal was actually being eaten away very slowly.

Sergeant Drummond tapped his arm. "Sir, you okay?"

He shook his head, glancing back at the wall, only to find plain slashes. "…Yeah. Move."

He exhaled again as he passed through a pair of thick airlock doors, coming out into a wide intersection – one hallway led off into what the sweep-and-clear teams had found were living areas, the other into life-support, and the third slanted upwards, into the command center.

Sahu stood in the middle of it, while Marines swept weapons in covering fire arcs. "Valthez, over here." She gestured to the heavy shape in the middle of the room, flanked by computer screens and whatnot. "What do you make of this?"

He frowned as he circled it. The shape was almost like a sea anemone done in black metal. Misshapen and malformed tentacle-like spires flowed outwards, ending in blunt domes lit from within by more blue lights. The light pulsed slowly an in an erratic pattern, and as it did so, his vision seemed to dim.

"…Ma'am, this is almost certainly a GOI-545 device. An active GOI-545 device at that." He glanced down at his badge, and his eyes widened as his badge had already gone from a dark yellow to lighter yellow. "And it's emitting a great amount of indoctrination spectra."

She nodded curtly. "I know. Based on the logs we found, this thing is what Hades was looking for. And when they turned it on, everything went to shit." She glanced back in his direction. "Set up your sensors, I want full readings on this… whatever it is. And what that is."

She pointed, and he leaned forward. Driven into one side of the artifact was a spike of some kind of silvery metal, covered in complicated hexagonal maze-like patterns that glowed a diffuse, weak green. The substance that made up the larger Reaper artifact was discolored and buckled around the area where the spike had been implanted, and looked as if it was crumbling.

"What is it?"

Sahu faced him. "No idea… but I reviewed the cam footage. It wasn't there when the Hades assholes fled for their lives from this base… and the last mobile and 'human' life-signs faded well before the cameras shut off. Somebody got here before us, got past everything, and stuck this thing into it."

Valthez nodded. "Should we attempt to remove it?"

The Colonel shook her head, her voice wry. "I think, Lieutenant, that would be an extremely bad idea. Scan everything, get as much detail as you can, we are leaving. The old lady can figure this shit out, I am so glad I didn't eat before I came here, aren't you?"

She turned away, and Jason turned to his team. "You heard the lady. Let's get to work and get the hell out of here."


FROM: COL. NYOMBA SAHU, PROJECT SECURITY, AHALTOCOB

TO: SANDRA COLQUA, PROJECT DIRECTOR, ACHE LAMAO; ADM. G. SYNTHIA VANDEFAR, PROJECT DIRECTOR, AHALTOCOB

SUBJECT: RE: Initial Report: Location GH-3, "Nehebkau," Operation 'Mujina Exorcist'

Doctor Emeritus, Admiral,

Attached are the field results from Operation GH-3, along with summaries of recovered artifacts and recommended actions.


Overview:

Initial scans reported a GOI-545 derelict, classification as a Dahaka-class primary actor (Reaper). Estimated age based on stellar dust deposits and spectrography is 30 to 40 million years, error of margin +/- five percent. Direct materials analysis was inconclusive, as it was comprised entirely of an anomalous metallic substance that does not correspond to any known or theoretical material. Sampling devices and destructive testing (nanoprobe, laser probe, drill, E-0 directed penetration, kinetic chisel, explosives, direct hit from tactical nuclear device, and direct hit with M/AM torpedo spread) were complete failures.

The derelict itself emitted various spectra: constant temperature (21.4 C), null reflectively, standard GOI-545 emission profile (exotic spectra correlated with Thanoptis Derangement Syndrome), and an extremely strong, if localized, magnetic field. The field had a gauss flux strength roughly around the quantum electrodynamic threshold.

It is speculated that this field may use some form of induced Schwinger effect to rapidly regenerate the anomalous GOI-545 hull material. If true, this is materials science and energy management on a scale that leaves our most advanced technologies on par with rock flake tools.

Derelict was in an elliptical high-arc L5 orbit over Mnemosyne in the Thorne System. GOI-677 (Hand of Hades) had built a research and observational station directly into the hull of the derelict, utilizing a large breach of the hull to do so. The outpost was mounted on magnetically isolated struts comprised of what appears to be plasma-shaped reforged GOI-545 hull scrap, along with eezo-tamped gravity anchors and a 0.8 g grav-plate installation under the entirety of the outpost with the exception of the landing area and a small lab module assumed to be used for zero-g experiments.

The outpost consisted of a command center with dedicated laser uplink, six volus STS anti-ship missile emplacements, a pair of tokamak reactors backed with an He-3 fusactor, eight open surgical labs, four reinforced labs, five specialist labs (zero-g, high temperature, etc) and a number of living, storage, and operational spaces. (Complete base layout plans, including recovered materials from the computers on the base, are listed in file annex B, datapoint 505.43.12 on Black Network Node 7.)

Estimated contingent based on recovered data and observed remains was in excess of three hundred personnel. The base had sufficient housing and supplies for a force of well over five hundred. Medical, entertainment, and recreation facilities were all top-quality. The comm system was hardened and accessible only via the command center, indicating this was the Hades equivalent of a black site with very limited external comms.

Recovered remains from the Hades forces indicates that they were well-equipped: military-spec Colossus armor was the standard for security forces, while Aeogthr Munitions slick-suits with combat inserts were worn by noncombatants. Crossfire rifles, Cobra Blast Rifles, and M-393 Tornado shotguns made up the majority of weapons found on-site.

We were able to identify less than twenty deceased. The majority of the personnel on the base were either burned or otherwise disfigured, huskified, or were simply missing. DNA sampling was recovered on a wide variety of corpses, but almost all turned up no matches in the central SA Hospital DNA Coding Base.

This implies that either Hades is recruiting strictly from wildcat colonies, foulberg populations and colonies in the Asari Republic, or they have infiltrators capable of editing and removing entries from the SA central repository. As is it unlikely to find molecular scientists and plasma-energy engineers in such places, the latter is more likely (and alarming).

The identifiable remains were all ex-Penal Legionaries – ominously enough, all of them were Category Six expatriates and Z2 restricted. Their release from Legion custody is completely against all known regulations, and Black Rendition is working with the Commissariat to identify how exactly Luna Legion Command lost track of so many dangerous felons.


Scan Overview:

Remote drone and electronic surveillance and scanning devices were unreliable or malfunctioned. The entire derelict was surrounded by a low-magnitude energy field that emitted various spectra – some identifiable, others unknown. VI systems were the most affected by this, either resulting in failure or erratic behavior.

Laser, corrosive chemical emission, and electromagnetic sensors were unaffected. Direct sampling probes were unaffected. Pulse, thermocouple, temperature, chemiresistors (and most other chemical tests beyond emission), and all resonant or imaging-penetrative sensors failed. Photonic structure-penetrative scans were effective. (Detailed scan results attached in file annex A, datapoint 505.43.12 on Black Network Node 7.)

Magnetic field sensors were made useless by the strong flux fields surrounding the derelict, but this was muted inside the base itself – Hades had some way of nullifying the field so that it did not affect their workings, but we did not find anything to indicate how this was accomplished.

Sensor sweeps indicated severe structural damage to the station. From observational queues as well as the scan results, it appears the structure was damaged by an internal explosion, which resulted in a loss of containment of various subjects. They attempted to counter this by activating an artifact, which ended up with a full loss of control. Command personnel appear to have fled with several artifacts to the light-cruiser Major Ryder's unit discovered.


Operational Précis:

Given the extreme level of danger a Reaper posed, the political ramifications of discovery of said Reaper being researched without Council permission, and the fallout from Hades failure to contain the threat which led to the discovery by the Alliance in the first place, Admiral Vandefar instructed me to conduct reconnaissance in force, followed by standard cleanup operations as well as pushing the derelict into the gas giant.

External operations were successful – all human debris was hurled into the gas giant and destroyed. Particle and sensor readings did not indicate any drive or FTL presence in the system and there was no remaining evidence that anything had transpired in-system.

Initial approach to the wreck was hampered by a strong force of GOI-545 Type C constructs (husks) and a heretofore unseen variant, comprised of what is believed to be Reaper material merged with 'fused' human corpses or husks into a larger warform (Type F construct). This 'overhusk' and the associated horde inflicted heavy casualties on the landing team. Husks of all kind are resistant to most direct kinetic weapons and immune to shock impact. Rifles of any kind (including battle rifles, sniper rifles, and assault rifles) were only effective after sustained, directed fire.

Shotguns would knock units back and detach limbs, but did not serve in most cases to put husks down for good. Fire, plasma, explosives, and acid had the best results. Melee is contraindicated; husks generate electrical fields that are tuned to disrupt human nervous neuroelectrical impulses – this can cause paralysis, heart failure, or electrical burns in melee. The larger husk warform was immune to the same factors with an increase in durability commensurate with size, as it took sustained fire from several cyclical assault cannons using high-explosive shells to bring it down.

Sweep-and-clear teams encountered a great number of badly mutated, malformed, or otherwise anomalously altered subjects in the station's labs. From recovered files and information obtained from notes, data slates, and other sources, Hades had three goals at this base.

The first was to research GOI-545 nanotech, specifically the process by which humans were turned into husks, with the goal to be able to recreate and utilize this technology without Reaper control. The second goal was to investigate the badly desiccated and corroded lifeforms found within the Reaper hull. (Radial creatures, two point five to three point four meters tall, multiple tentacle-like arms and long tentacles from oblong head, triple legs ending in sharp claws.) Finally, Hades was investigating an artifact that they believed was some form of Reaper siege weapon.

Research papers and abstracts have already been forwarded.


Forensic Findings:

While a detailed timeline of what happened here is unnecessary, an understanding of how Hades lost control here is useful for any SA operations that conduct sanctioned GOI-545 research.

First, Hades was conducting both live and post-mortem trials and research on Reaper nanotech. Despite having overlapping and multiple isolation factors (plasma cautery, ion bombardment, pulsed EMP discharge, and laser-grid sterilization), every corpse on the station showed signs of internal mutation (as did all recovered corpses on the light-cruiser). This implies that such cannot be contained with our level of technology.

Second, examination of the test results shows that the indoctrination process is not one, but several overlapping phases. The ultrasonic/subsonic element appears to lead to reduced thought capacity, while the exotic energy emissions result in a wide array of secondary effects. This includes but is not limited to: memory derangement or loss, reflex suppression, paranoia, glossolalia, anosognosia (strong), hemiparesis (varies), somatoparaphrenia, and a host of other mental or physio-psychological impacts. Additionally, the nanotech components result in severe immune system compromises, which results in multiple, rapidly metastasizing tumors, including teratoma and malignant neoplasms.

Third, automated security systems, especially ones relying on VI networks, are worse than useless in containment of GOI-545 threats. The same nanotech that huskifies humans is capable of rewriting and overwhelming even isolated hardened computer systems and corrupts optronics. Based on recovered research, simple VIs can be compromised in under five days, while even the most isolated, air-gapped and hardened systems with overlapping security and containment protocols will not last more than a month.

Fourth, defense plans for 'breakout' scenarios are useless. Most of the security force Hades had in place was already compromised even if they didn't know it, and when they lost primary containment, decision-making processes were so affected by Thanoptis Derangement Syndrome that any procedures that would have helped them defend themselves were ignored or willfully bypassed. Specifically, they had a self-destruct order that should have been triggered immediately upon loss of full containment, but the Base Commander shut that down.

Finally, and most critically, our preparations for investigation of GOI-545 remains must take into account that defenses are weakened in close proximity to actual Reapers. Based on previous research, we estimated that sealed suits on full-conversion cyborgs with special measures would give us five to six hours of operational time in an indoctrination-inducing environment. Instead, we had already hit withdrawal-required exposure in less than three hours, and the entire First Squad that did the sweep-and-clear had to be put down prior to return to base – four of them showed mutations already affecting blood and brain tissue.


Exfiltration and Anomalous Results:

Given casualties and indoctrination dangers, the team withdrew after collecting most of the research and some of the physical computer systems of the base. The base itself was immolated by torpedo impacts.

The Reaper derelict was pushed from its stable orbit into one that plunged it into the upper atmosphere of Mnemosyne. It was planned that the gas giant's gravity would then pull it into the depths, either destroying it completely or at least rendering it unreachable and harmless. However, upon the derelict entering the lower cloud layers, there was a spike of anomalous energy far in excess of what even a station reactor could produce.

Sensor readings also picked up a gravometric spike of over four hundred thousand g for a split second. After that, the entire gas giant was simply gone. It is not known if it somehow collapsed into a micro black hole or was teleported, or some other reaction.

Detailed scans of the system revealed zero traces of the planet, or the derelict Reaper. At this time, we are still in the process of investigating how this occurred.

GOI-545 Tech Summary:

Husk: Dissections, operational analysis, and combat experience has provided us with a more detailed look at the husk. It is comprised of human tissue overlain with, and augmented by, cybernetics. All water – and some protein and bone structure – is repurposed by the nanotech infestation to provide material for reconstruction. Husks are significantly stronger than a normal human, but the conversion results in some level of nervous damage and the cybernetic control system is, compared to other GOI-545 tech, very crude. Husks generate electrical fields and blasts (two-meter-range) designed to shut down human nervous systems – this can stun or kill, depending on amplitude.

Husks can move quickly, if clumsily, and are capable of utilizing weapons. Some retain battle armor and other equipment and have shown the capacity to throw grenades, but not to use omni-tools or complex objects. Husk senses are ferromagnetic and infrared visuals, along with highly augmented hearing and vibration detection.

Husks are powered by an orb of black Reaper metal with a blue core. Research is ongoing into what exactly this device is – Hades results were unclear based on an array of tests, but it is likely the remaining water in the human is used in some kind of eezo-contained cool fusion process. Husks do not breathe, eat, drink, or engage in any form of cellular reactions.

Husks are GOI-545 Black (Active Threat / Indoctrination Threat / Nanotech Threat) devices. Each one has been contained in a stasis tube with a lining of corrosion-resistant nanofabrics tailored to specification nine. Each tube is then flash-encased in point five (0.5) meters of charged particulate foam, then sealed inside containers of titanium, specifically tubes (series eleven).

Husk Amalgamation: Multiple husk units can be combined, either whole or piecemeal, into larger units. Husks in this fashion are more distorted and are used like components, often with disturbing displacements of skin and features. Amalgamations are held together with elements of a substance identical to Reaper hull material, and often times show more advanced cybernetic implants and internal structures of black crystal not seen in singleton units.

Each amalgamation seems purpose-built – some are assault units, others are attrition units, and one we found appeared to be designed specifically for demolition or siege. They have multiple 'power orbs' encysted inside various portions of the body connected by thick blue wiring.

Amalgamation husks are GOI-545 Scarlet (Active Threat; no safe method containment possible) and must be destroyed upon obtainment.

Heavy Husk/Overhusk: A very small percentage of husk units appear to have active nanowire reconstructive systems, enabling rapid regeneration of any damage and superior speed and articulation. Only a handful of such creatures were found on the base. The only effective weapons to bring down such augmented husks is plasma discharge, preferably sustained for more than two minutes. The purpose of such units is still conjectural, but it is suspected they act as both comms routers for other husks as well as a C3 or C4I interface for the husks to be directed by.

All such husks are GOI-545 Scarlet (Active Threat; no safe method containment possible) and must be destroyed upon obtainment.

'Shimmer Field': Hades term for Reaper artifact AO-211. Device is a long (0.8 meter) rod of black metal, with helix-inlaid blue material glowing softly with a three-second-long pulse interval. It does not emit any energy at all and has no magnetic, electrical, or other field readings.

When energized, it creates a pale white translucent field with a radius around the device of two point four (2.4) meters. This field reflects at 100% efficiency any form of energy emission. Kinetics of all kind, plasma, fire, laser, microwave, UV – any and every attempt to push any form of energy past the field is completely reflected right back along the line the attack came in along.

However, for each joule of energy reflected, the device must expend two joules of energy. As such, unless it is hooked to a power source capable of providing such, it will not function. Furthermore, such power source MUST be entirely sourced within the radius of the device – a cable that runs through the field will have its voltage reversed back to the generator.

The device is a GOI-545 Green (no indoctrination signal detected) object and has been released to Ache Lameo.

'Smoke Resonator Device': Hades term for Reaper artifact AO-175. Device is a box 0.2 meters on each side, 0.3 meters tall. Constructed of standard Reaper hull material inlaid with two circles of blue material glowing softly with a five-second-long pulse interval. It does not emit any energy at all and has no magnetic, electrical, or other field readings.

A living being that touches the left circle is converted in roughly 0.25 seconds into a cloud of vapor or smoke. This smoke retains the intellect and consciousness of the being who touched it, but it is unable to move, perceive surroundings, or communicate in any fashion. The smoke does not dissipate and can be easily contained in sealed containers.

Anyone touching the right circle will return any gaseous personnel back to their normal state over the course of two seconds – the second toucher is not affected in any way. If the smoke was left alone or contained, the subject is unharmed. If the smoke was forcibly dissipated (by ventilation, or separated, or mixed with other particulate smoke) the subject will be extremely misshapen and almost certainly express zero life-signs.

Notes from Hades indicate the experience is painful, and that it was probably used to massively absorb large populations for unknown reasons.

The device is a GOI-545 Yellow (no indoctrination signal detected; anomalous operation; hazardous) and has been turned over to Ache Lameo.

'Dagon's Crown': Hades term for Reaper Artifact AO-119. Device was not recovered from base.

Device was an oblong orb, topped with metallic extensions 0.4 meters in length that resembled tentacles or pseudopods. Device had inlaid blue material similar to other devices. Hades information on the device was incomplete, but it was believed to be a Reaper weapon of some sort.

As Hades fled the station, the Base Commander directed power-flow to the device, which appears to have resulted in the majority of the base being converted to husks or variants thereof. Based on this, as well as the indoctrination threat at the time, the device was left with the Reaper derelict.

The device was pierced or damaged by another artifact of unknown providence that did not appear in any Hades record. Scans of both devices seemed to indicate the second device (a long silver spike) was from another, currently unknown GOI with similar or possibly superior technology than the Reapers.

AO-119 was known to cause indoctrination, and was classed as GOI-545 Scarlet (Active Threat; no safe method containment possible).


Conclusions:

All other artifacts have been listed with the manifest already sent, along with all recovered notes.

My recommendations are as follows:

First, Hades is a threat. If they are unwise enough to tamper with this sort of thing once, they'll do it again – and records indicating they took over five hundred artifacts off-station already means they probably have. An outbreak like this on any inhabited world would not only result in the deaths of millions, but probably expose us to Citadel censure. Hades is a liability we should have the AIS and Commissariat liquefy at first possibility.

Second, GOI-545 technology is even further advanced than we originally thought. The handful of artifacts recovered violate multiple laws of physics and the materials construction of Reaper hull material continues to make no sense to my material engineers. The fact that the Reaper nanotech is so complex and capable of literally reshaping any form of life into weapons indicates it is a first-strike threat weapon we must find a counter to as soon as possible, or any resistance to Reaper invasion is doomed to failure.

Finally, something was powerful enough to kill this Reaper and blow a hole over three hundred meters wide into that hull material that our strongest weapons can barely scratch. While nothing was recovered from the wreck or Hades research that indicates what this weapon was, we recovered as much damaged hull material as possible from the edges of the impact and are researching it as fast as possible. The lack of damage elsewhere on the Reaper combined with the possibility the hull regenerates means that attritional damage models and attack patterns are contraindicated, only a single-strike killing blow is a sure bet.

I have placed all GOI-545 materials on the freighter Codex – the cargo area is a sealed enclosure with absolutely no automation and conforms to series twelve standards, and is towed by cables that separate the ship from the cargo pod by half a kilometer. The crew of the Codex are Black Rendition Commissars in full isolation gear – we believe this will provide the best level of protection until the pod reaches Black Site Eleven (Gehenna) for additional review by Ache Lameo.

I lost seventeen Marines and a researcher in the initial assault of this operation. We did not recover the bodies of the dead as they were already infested with Reaper nanotech. As a precaution, we also eliminated the six heavily wounded and five more who were compromised by indoctrination, bringing the final casualty tally to twenty-nine. As this is a third of my effective field combat strength for my teams, I am requesting a hiatus on forward operational deployments until we can restaff and retrain new members.