Chapter 22: Planetfall
Colonel Shaw steadied herself as the dropship jolted against the sheer mass of incoming fire from Palaven's surface. The combined Imperial-Asari fleet had arrived to find the Turian navy on the back foot, barely maintaining their position over Menae. The cruiser-heavy Imperial fleet had managed to open a hole in the Reaper defenses wide enough for a ground assault to be dispatched. She grimaced as she watched two of the transports blink away on her HUD.
"One minute!" She declared, watching the countdown to planetfall on her visor. The Asari commandos on the dropship activated their biotic amps, and the Marines silently linked their systems. As the transport finally touched down, the passengers threw themselves to the soil of Palaven.
Shaw had thought the invasion of Palaven just a few years prior was bad… but this was something else entirely. Sovereign-Class Reapers stomped through Cipiritine, crashing through buildings in support of the smaller Reapers and their thrall armies. The small Turian FOB they had landed outside of was engaged with a battalion-strength Reaper force, and holding their ground rather well. The Marines and Asari Commandos immediately rushed to support the defenders, alongside their armored vehicles.
Shaw's shields flared up as she ducked into cover alongside a few Turians, incoming fire depleting them to fifty percent. "Glad to have you, Colonel!" A Turian officer declared, ducking back down after trading fire with a few converted Turians. "Couldn't have dropped in at a better time!"
"Where do you need us, General?" Shaw asked, replacing the magazine to her rifle.
"Wherever!" The general responded, reflexively ducking as a grenade detonated mere feet beyond their cover. "Just do what you Humans do best!"
"Copy!" Shaw nodded, keying into the shared comms channel for the UHE 1st Marines. "Marines, push these fuckers back! No surrender! No retreat!"
"Just got word, the 1st Marines have made planetfall on Palaven and are supporting Turian ground forces." Eden explained, stepping into the Council Chambers.
"Any news on the orbital battle?" Sparatus asked, something resembling hope in his eyes.
"Grinding to a stalemate." Eden explained, producing a datapad from her side. She tapped a few commands into it, then placed it on the table, where it projected a strategic map of Palaven's system. "The Reapers have moved into a defensive posture around Palaven, but we've managed to lock down the Relay as best we can."
"Any news from Earth?" Tevos asked, leaning forward.
"We haven't had a major push against Sol for about two weeks." Eden switched the display over to show the Sol System. "Our losses have been minimal, and we're organizing task forces for immediate deployment." She seemed thoughtful for a moment, eventually sighing and adding onto her point. "Speaking of Earth… the continued attacks on the Citadel have shown it's going to be costly to defend. Given the scope of the conflict, we can't guarantee that we'll be able to reinforce the Citadel permanently."
"Are you suggesting we abandon the Citadel?" Mesu asked, almost sounding insulted.
"No…" Eden explained. "The Chancellor has asked me to suggest that the Council be relocated to the Sol System for the duration of the war. We need to have some means to ensure the continuity of government should the Citadel fall, and Earth's the safest place we have."
"It's definitely a sound idea…" Sparatus nodded. "Could we theoretically evacuate the Citadel to Sol? Use the station as a false front?"
"Let's find out…" Eden shrugged, tapping at her datapad for a moment, connecting to the wider Imperial comms network. After a moment, Chancellor Stratton's image appeared from the projector at the center of the table.
"Well, that was quick." Stratton had a small smirk on his face. "Already given the offer enough thought?"
"Councilor Sparatus actually had a bit of an… addendum that he wanted to suggest." Tevos explained, piquing Stratton's interest.
As Stratton turned to the Turian Councilor, he began speaking. "Chancellor, I was hoping to evacuate the Citadel to Sol, and use the station as a false front to draw Reapers from the other fronts. Leave a similarly-sized defense fleet around it, and keep the defense platforms active to deceive them."
"Good thinking…" Stratton nodded, thinking to himself for a moment. "A mass movement of civilian transports through the relays would draw some unwanted attention, however… it'd be best if done in stages. Not to mention giving us time to set up accommodations for thirteen million new residents on Mars."
"There is another thing to consider, however." Stratton added. "Based on what Javik's managed to translate from the Prothean archives on Mars, it looks like the Reapers use the Citadel as an entry point for their forces, which explains why they're so hell-bent on securing it. As the populace is evacuated, I'd like to suggest leaving a little surprise for the Reapers if they manage to capture the station."
"Being…?" Tevos asked, already having an idea based on the Chancellor's choice of words.
"Nothing big… just a few uhh… a few strategic munitions from old stockpiles." Stratton explained. "Their shelf life's ending in a few years, might as well get some use out of them."
"And destroy the Citadel?" Mesu asked, concerned.
"It'll either be that, or hand the Reapers a massive strategic advantage." Stratton shrugged. "If we manage to hold the station, we'll restore it, but we can't afford for it to fall into the Reapers' hands… or tentacles, I suppose."
"Stratton's right…" Tevos nodded, sighing. "We can't afford for the station to fall into the Reapers' hands."
Shepard huffed, pushing herself off the railing that overlooked the galaxy map. The simple display had been replaced by an in-depth strategic readout of the galaxy, showing all friendly forces and the regions under Reaper control. Thankfully, the Reapers only held about ten percent of the known Galaxy. "Captain…" Shepard was shaken out of her daze by Joker's voice coming over her comms. "We're five out from Tuchanka."
"Got it, bring us in quietly." Shepard nodded to no one in particular. She wasn't quite sure how, but the Chancellor had managed to secure some form of backroom deal with Wrex, helping him gain near-complete control over the Krogan Homeworld in exchange for their support in the war… and a cure for the Genophage. Nobody outside the highest security clearances in the Empire or the Councilors themselves knew about that last part, and that was probably for the best. She and her team had been selected to deliver the cure, and to disperse it using an old Salarian atmospheric purifier, once the war had finally reached Tuchanka. Unsurprisingly, the Krogan were holding their own rather well.
"Ready to move, Shepard." Garrus nodded, stepping into the CIC from the long hallway leading to the elevator. He had chosen to stay alongside the Normandy crew, even after receiving an offer from the Turian military to serve as a special advisor on the Reaper threat.
Shepard glanced up, smirking slightly. "Glad to see you're putting that new gear to good use." Garrus had a rifle specially built for him by Imperium Armories, the premiere small arms manufacturer that built just about every standard weapon in the Empire's arsenal. Unlike his old M-97, this was an absolute monster of a rifle, firing a specialized 15.5mm SABOT penetrator at hypersonic speeds. The designers had affectionately named the weapon "Needle". His armor had even been augmented with Human tech, including automatic combat stim dispensers, QEC comms suites, Imperial-grade shields, and reactive camouflage.
"It'll be nice to see what this thing can do." Garrus smirked, lifting the rifle up a bit to accent his point. "Any news from Palaven?"
"Orbital battle's a stalemate for now…" Shepard began, flicking the strategic map over to Palaven's sector. "The Imperial reinforcements have been able to gain some ground on Cipiritine, though."
"Any news on…" Garrus began, letting Shepard fill in the gaps for herself.
"I guess now's as good a time as any." Shepard sighed, leaning against the railing. "Marines have linked up with Solana's company. She's doing fine, from what I've heard. No word on your father yet, even from the refugees that are starting to land on Mars."
"Well, some good news at least." Garrus sighed. "Better than nothing."
"Garrus…" Shepard began, taking a few steps towards her Turian friend. "After we wrap up here on Tuchanka, I'll talk with Hackett about getting us redeployed to Palaven. Don't want the Marines takin' all the credit, huh? Vega and Milana won't shut up about it otherwise."
Garrus chuckled at that. "True enough. Thanks, Shepard… for everything. Even for vouching for me back on Earth."
"Don't sweat it, Vakarian." Shepard smirked, patting her friend on the shoulder plate. "The whole damn galaxy's in this together. Getting those paper-shuffling jackasses to listen to you was the least I could do."
"One minute out!" Joker called out, signaling that the Normandy would be dropping out of FTL soon.
"Alright… let's go cure us a disease." Shepard smirked, grabbing her helmet and rifle.
Shaw couldn't help but cheer alongside her men as she watched a pair of strike fighters barrel through the air, dropping a veritable carpet of munitions on a large Reaper ground force that was pushing against the advancing coalition force of Turians, Asari, and Humans. The advance was relentless, with Imperial armor and air power being the single biggest advantage they had over the Reapers. They were mere kilometers from Cipiritine now, and there was still the occasional streaking round or explosion from within the city, signaling that the resistance in the city was still in the fight.
As Shaw glanced to her right, she caught sight of a somewhat young-looking female Turian running up to the side of her command tank. She had the distinct blue markings of a Palaven native on her carapace, and a standard-issue Phalanx assault rifle in her hands. "Colonel Shaw!" She asked, raising her voice to overpower the roaring of the tank's engine. Shaw just barely recognized her as one of the scouts that was constantly bringing back reports on the Reaper forces or their rear guard elements. The frantic tone unnerved the Colonel a bit.
"What do you have for me, Corporal?" Shaw asked, leaning over the edge of the turret to better hear the Turian woman.
"Rear guard's getting flanked, and the line is collapsing!" She declared. "We need to pull back!"
"Damn…" Shaw muttered, glancing back to the rear guard. Sure enough, she could hear the sound of raging battle from behind them, likely out to at least two kilometers. "Battalion, pull back! I repeat, pull back!" Shaw shouted into her short-range comms unit.
Despite the somewhat advance warning, they were too late. A single armored battalion found itself encircled in a small town, a full two kilometers from friendly forces. Knowing full-well that an attempted push back to friendly lines would place them straight in the crossfire, Shaw chose the best option available to her: dig in and hold.
"The enemy has us surrounded, ladies and gentlemen!" Shaw declared from the hatch of her command tank. "We are a single battalion behind enemy lines… we finally have a fair fight on our hands. Hold this position!"
Shepard leapt from the side of the Imperial dropship, the sounds of battle raging around her. Dozens of Krogan were engaged in a firefight with a horde of various Reaper amalgamations. Krogan-Turian crossbreeds, emaciated and cybernetically enhanced Human husks, withered Turians with nothing more than a rifle and their old shield generators… all facing off against a wall of angry flesh that was Clan Urdnot's warriors. There was a deafening war cry as the human dropship offloaded its forces of N7 Commandos, a Turian sharpshooter, and a dozen UHE Marines. "Shepard!" She heard Wrex call out from behind a defensive wall, even over the cacophony of battle. Wrex had a very… distinctive voice.
A Marine manning the door-mounted autocannon let loose, liquefying a small swarm of Marauders as Shepard and her team slowly pushed towards Wrex's position. "Good to see 'ya, big guy!" Shepard shouted, watching the Krogan all pop out of cover to lay down fire for her Marines.
"'Bout time you guys showed up!" Wrex laughed, a surprisingly comforting sign. "I was afraid I'd be getting all the glory for this one!"
"Fat chance, Wrex!" Garrus smirked under his helmet after dropping back down into cover and slamming a new magazine into his rifle. "So what's this about a Shroud?"
"Waiting on these lazy-scales to get the damn Tomkahs fueled, then we'll get rolling!" Wrex declared, popping up and planting a cluster of wedge-shaped projectiles from his M-300 Claymore into an oncoming Marauder. "Got a little problem though…"
"Yeah, we saw!" Ashley added, throwing a quick biotic singularity into a cluster of Husks to slow their advance. "Destroyer-class Reaper sitting around the Shroud? Looks like they're not as stupid as we thought!"
"Shouldn't be a problem for us!" Wrex smiled. "Still got that giant plasma beam on the Normandy?"
"Please, like we'd ever let the Navy take that thing away." Kaidan chuckled, laying down fire with his twin PDWs, his armor taking a few glancing rounds from the enemy before he ducked back down. "One problem with that, though! Atmosphere!"
"Fuck it, we've got torpedoes!" Shepard sighed, her rifle giving off a soft thump as a grenade was fired off. "Joker! Get a torpedo armed, and get ready for some fancy flying!"
"Got it, Captain." Joker's voice affirmed, sounding slightly worried about the prospect of bringing the vessel into Tuchanka's atmosphere. "Torpedo's armed, waiting for your mark."
"You pull this off, Shepard; and I'll name my first kid after you!" Wrex laughed, cracking off another shotgun blast into a swarm of husks.
Solana sighed, practically collapsing into a sitting position inside a bombed-out structure that the battalion had turned into a makeshift barracks. It had been just shy of a week since the ragtag battalion of Turians, Asari, and Humans had been surrounded by Reapers after pushing a bit too far ahead of the main force. The offensive had stalled out, even with the reinforcements from the Empire starting to flow in. Even with supplies being airdropped for them, they were starting to run low on fuel and food. The attacks against their lines were slowing in frequency, but ramping up in intensity. Put simply, she was exhausted.
"Doin' alright, Star?" One of the Human Marines spoke up from his position against a wall, tapping his hands against the ground in rhythm.
"Star?" Solana asked, confused.
"Sol, Solana? Eh?" His smirk was palpable. "Seems fitting." He glanced over to an Asari Huntress. "What's that term you guys use? Quad?" At the Asari's confused nod, the Marine looked back to her. "'Ya got a quad 'bout as dense as a star running scout duty."
Solana couldn't help but smirk at that, the small flare of her mandibles likely unnoticed by the Marine. "Never have been a great shot… pretty good at running, though." She glanced down to her omni-tool, which had been rendered effectively useless with the sheer amount of traffic flowing through the comm buoys. "Any word from the rest of the galaxy? I know you have those QECs as standard."
"Not too much, honestly." The Marine shrugged. "Just waiting on word from the Normandy on that Genophage cure."
"Wait… Normandy?" Solana asked, the Marine cocking his head a bit in a questioning gesture. "Any chance you could get a message to them?"
"Got some important intel for the N7 team or somethin'?" The Marine smirked.
"Not really… my brother's on that ship. Just wanna let him know I'm okay." Solana explained.
"Goddamn, you're that Garrus guy's sister?" The Marine asked, smiling broadly. "Heard some crazy shit about what he's been doing with Shepard. No promises, but I'll see if Shaw'll let me send something their way."
1AzureOwl- Just because something is destroyed (being the satellite network in this case, I'm assuming) doesn't mean the knowledge of how it functioned is lost. By that logic, people would forget what electricity is after a blackout. What's more believable, using alien tech as a springboard to advance our own tech, or every single scientist capable of replicating "lost" technologies miraculously being killed during the war? Just about everything used by the Empire is basically an upscaled version of tech we have today, or something that is demonstrably possible. The two exceptions to this are the FTL drive and energy shields. I'll keep the economics one brief, since it's a hugely complicated topic, but you're operating on the assumption that an economy in the 31st century would look even remotely close to what we have today. Hell, by all likelihood, money wouldn't even exist due to mass automation or complete overabundance of resources made available through spaceflight. When you're an interstellar civilization, the literal only limiting factor on your economy is resources.
Bridgeburn100- The war will definitely take a fair few chapters to get through, don't worry. It's a galactic-scale invasion, after all.
Hankinus- Star Wars was a very minor influence. I'm not actually the biggest fan of Star Wars, believe it or not. Something about its space battles just kinda rubs me the wrong way. Bladerunner, 40K, and Halo were more direct influences.
CReaper210- Javik was hugely important in preparing for the invasion. I left out the 18 months of preparation simply for brevity's sake. I can only write so much political talk before my head explodes. And the Virtual Aliens will definitely be making a comeback. Think Leviathan.
Prometheus-23- THROUGH THE GATES OF HELL, AS WE MAKE OUR WAY TO HEAVEN
CBS/Guest (assuming you're the same person, judging by the similar reviews)- Personal relationships are kinda an integral part of being a human. Given that, and Mass Effect being famous for including them, there's almost a requirement to include them in anything written on here. You'd be surprised at how quick you start getting "you should do x pairing" recommendations.
Korentinblack- Dyslexia coming in full force there, chief. Even with the little red squigglies MS Word gives you, it can get drowned out in paragraphs sometimes. I'll go back and fix all the little spelling errors when I get the chance.
Hoangxuah2309- You don't really see artillery vehicles or static guns in the UHE for the same reason you don't see them too often in the U.S. military: their doctrine doesn't really need them. When you get right down to it, aircraft can perform the exact same function as static or self-propelled artillery with considerably higher accuracy ratings (laser guided munitions and all that). As for rocket/missile launchers, it's the same reason that kinetic penetrators are the preferred weapon for modern tank crews when you're fighting armor. It's pretty easy to either deflect or absorb a shaped charge like a HEAT warhead (which is what most launcher weapons would fire) using things like spaced/composite armor or ERA (explosive reactive armor). Really the only thing you can do to stop a kinetic penetrator like a SABOT is to angle the armor a shitload, and past a certain point it's not really possible to deflect a shot coming in an a high enough velocity. As for tracks over anti-grav, it's all in the name of keeping it simple. Antigrav thrusters would likely be complicated to repair and expensive to produce, whereas tracks are relatively simple to fix and cheap to make.
Mckertis- Correct me if I'm wrong, but if lesbians existing in a piece of written fiction is a bit too much, there's a little block of text below the synopsis for the story that'll tell you some of the pairings, and femshep and Traynor are most certainly shown in that little block of text.
Teizan- I freely admit that it's not the most well-thought out FTL method.
Guest (April 6)- A hefty combination of both, I'm afraid.
Guest (May 9)- Automation, even modern sorts, already accomplishes the exact same role of eliminating jobs from the market, likely on a far wider scale. If an A.I. were capable of high abstraction, why the hell would it want to do menial labor in a factory or at a desk in some call center? In all likelihood, automation would remove office jobs before it removed manual work from the job market. It's far easier to automate something like a phone call than it is to automate an electrician or an engineer.
Mend1cant Bias- That's one of those situations where as a writer on here, you literally cannot win. Regardless of whether or not you use primarily OCs or established characters, you'll have people complaining one way or the other.
AnthonyR89- I mean… regardless of whether or not it's expected, a warship with unknown capabilities is a concern. As for how they're treating aliens, they're not exactly performing surgery on them. They're doing field triage, basically just checking for bleeding, broken bones, etc. As for Zaeed's squad, the thing is that soldiers, regardless of how effective they are, can be killed. That team needed a replacement, and Zaeed fit the bill.
George Cristian810- There's literally no such thing as a war with a zero casualty rate. Even when fighting an enemy that is significantly less advanced in technology than you, you will take losses. Observe: the Middle East.
Evil-Mickey-Hobo: Oof, don't cut yourself on that edge there, chief. If it's not for you, it's not for you.