"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
-Aurther C. Clark, British science fiction writer.
"I can pulp your flesh and snap your bones in less than a second, and without so much as lifting a finger. What is the power of technology compared to that?"
-Chief Librarian Val'cona of the Salamanders, in an argument with Forgemaster Argos.
"Best advice I can give you? Follow orders, don't sass the Deathwatch, and if you see anyone's eyes glowing, make sure they aren't pissed at you."
-Nikolas Petrov to a batch of newly recruited Aquillas.
Omega Station, two hour prior to the boarding of the Fangs of Hashak.
The space around Omega was always hectic, with dozens of ships both openly traveling and trying to hide zipping in and out of the thousands of minor and major docking areas of the station. It was all that the overworked, tired controllers scattered throughout the station could to to prevent collisions and conflicts over docking space on an hourly basis.
In all this confusion, it is understandable that the people of the station missed the arrival of a small ship the likes of which had never been seen before in the known galaxy as it slipped through a rip in reality to dock quietly with a small, abandoned repair dock on the upper, almost entirely abandoned section of the upper asteroid. The only beings that observed the lithe, brightly-colored beings that strode from that dock were Pyjacks and a few odd, lost Vorcha who soon enough found themselves missing heads or with blended organs.
As the last of the vermin fell, the dancers slipped into the darkness to begin for the coming performance.
Former Blue Suns Raider Malice, en-route to the BMHV Graceful Hiran.
The Malice was steadily closing in on the batarian frigate, the soldiers within the vessel preparing for the coming assault. However, for the four natives to this reality, there was something else on their minds, other than the fact that all of their weapons and equipment had been returned to them.
"So... what do you all think?" Oceno asked quietly, glancing at her companions as she fiddled with her omni-tool.
Veris looked up from his maintenance on his sniper rifle. "It's a solid offer, and we'd be making good money. Plus, there's little chance of any jobs we go on having...moral issues, but I'm fine with whatever you all decide to do."
Nikolas grunted. "We get to take the fight to those four-eyed Trakhayetsya." He glanced at Oceno. "No offence. I say we go for it, it's not like we have anything better to be doing."
Oceno waved off the Russian's apology and looked at Priora.
The asari avoided her gaze, choosing to instead look down at her returned Tempest, her mind running over the Inquisitor's rather...well, crazy offer.
There were more than a few pros to it. The pay would be great, to start with. They would start out the company with around a hundred fifty men; fifty 'stormtroopers' to form the core, and former 'guardsmen' filling out the rest of the roster, well more than most mercenary groups normally started with. Hell, she'd been at this for almost half a cycle and she still only had three other teammates.
They would also have complete control over recruiting (though all prospects would need to be vetted by Devinir prior to any advancement beyond a simple trooper), and the use of the ships that the Inquisitor had captured so far, including these Batarian vessels once they took control. And lastly, they would be given access to the Inquisitor's advanced tech when he deemed it necessary and advantageous to do so.
He even had a name picked out already; The Aquillas.
The cons were that neither she nor any of her crew would actually be heading the organization, they were just senior staff; that role was going to be filled by an undisclosed someone Marthas trusted to 'keep you all in line,' and he himself would still be keeping an eye on what the company was doing.
Additionally, while he hadn't put any formal limits on the kinds of jobs they could take, he had suggested that they try and remain as legitimate as possible, which she didn't really have any objection too, but that could hamper their income if legit jobs became scarce.
And who could forget the biggest stickler, that they'd have to be a front through which he could wage his war on the Batarian Hegemony, thus putting targets on all of their backs.
Priora's mind was churning as these various options rolled around, bouncing off one another as she weighed the variables, and kept coming back to one thing in spite of all the dangers this job could hold.
This could be a chance to make a real change to the galaxy for the better, in a way far beyond any childish dream she may have had before her mother snuffed those thoughts out.
And plus, she had little doubt that Devinir would kill all of them if they refused.
Priora nodded. "Alright, yeah. We'll take the job. Let's just hope this doesn't come back to bite us."
The other three nodded. At that moment, the door to the room slid open and the woman who took them captive almost a day ago now stuck her head in.
"Hey, we're almost to the target. Marthas wants you four at the airlock now." She said.
The four mercs stood up and locked their weapons into place, following the lithe woman through the ship until they came to the hall outside the airlock, some of the walls still spattered with blood. Waiting were fifteen of the Inquisitor's stormtroopers, still running through some last-minute weapon checks, as well as the Sword-wielding companion of their guide, the Inquisitor, and his angry female companion.
Marthas didn't even wait for them to get to him before he started handing out orders. "You three, wait here. You two, watch them." He said, pointing at Nikolas, Oceno and Veris before speaking to the Twins. "Interrogator, Asari, with me." he continued, turning and walking towards the door farther down the hall, the troopers parting before him.
Priora nodded to her people and followed the Inquisitor, Bethany a few steps behind her. Marthas stopped before the door, and the two women fell in beside him, Bethany stepping between the asari and the Inquisitor.
"So, asari, what is your answer?" Marthas asked, the older man looking over at the alien.
Priora swallowed her apprehension and replied. "We'll take the job."
Marthas smirked. "Excellent. Now all that there is to do is evaluate your combat skills."
Priora shot him a look. "I assumed that was why you brought us, but why bother? You've seen our memories, you know what we're capable of."
There was a clunk and the ship shifted as the airlock attached to the frigate. Behind her, several of the stormtroopers took up positions in cover along the wall, as did her squad. However, one trooper did not, and they were joined by the man and woman from the freighter. The man handed Bethany what looked like an old-fashioned riot shield, which the woman attached to her arm before drawing a pistol and crouching, hiding most of her body behind the shield, the stormtrooper taking a similar posture behind her with the barrel of his rifle going over her right shoulder.
The twins drew their weapons as well, Varsius standing behind Marthas while Tellara stood behind a mildly confused Priora.
"Well," Marthas said, drawing his pistol and checking the charge on the power cell, "I am of the opinion that it is better to trust what you have seen for yourself than what you see in the minds of strangers. Now, you are capable of projecting a biotic barrier in front of yourself, correct?"
"Um, yes…why?" Priora said hesitantly, not liking where this was going. "Shouldn't we be taking cover?"
"No, that would be rather counterproductive, seeing as we shall be acting as mobile cover to get the Twins into melee range. Sergeant! Open it up!" Marthas grinned savagely, his eye's glowing white as he raised a hand before him. "Let us show these xenos what the Emperor's finest are capable of."
Then the hologram on the door blinked green, and the door opened.
"Shit!" Priora yelped, throwing up a hasty biotic barrier as the half dozen batarian marines on the other side of the door opened fire. "Are you insane?" She yelled.
"Possibly. Now move up!" Marthas replied, his eyes blazing with indigo fire as he began walking forwards, the incoming bullets ricocheting off an invisible barrier. Bethany pushed forwards as well, the trooper behind her snapping of the occasional beam of red-orange light as he moved up behind the protection of the Interrogator's suppression shield.
"Fuck me." Priora hissed through clenched teeth, already starting to feel the strain of maintaining her barrier against so many rounds.
'Well, might as well just follow the plan,' she thought, and quickly started to advance towards the nearest cover in the hallway so she could drop her barrier and start using her biotics for something useful.
As she vacated her spot, more stormtroopers moved up by the door, and soon the hallway was crisscrossed with a pattern of laser bolts and hyperaccelerated metal shards. In the three seconds it took Priora to get to cover, both sides had taken casualties, one stormtrooper fallen against the wall of the airlock with a bloody hole in his side who was being attended to by Oceno, while two batarians had been felled, one riddled with lasrounds, while another was missing the side of her head courtesy of Veris.
Priora made it to cover just as her barrier was about to give out, ducking into the alcove with her shadow just behind her. On the other side of the hall Marthas had taken up position in a similar recess, occasionally popping off a shot of ruby energy with his sidearm. Bethany and her companion had stopped as well, through the trooper was having to make himself smaller and smaller to avoid the enemy fire now as one of the enemies focused his attention on the two.
Marthas looked over at Priora. "Well, Asari, we seem to be at an impasse. Have you any way to break it, or was I wrong to think you could provide anything useful to me?"
Priora growled, now more than a little pissed at the old human. "I'll show you useful." She growled as biotic energy coalesced around her hand.
Just as the energy reached its peak, Priora leaned out of cover and launched the Singularity at the ceiling near the farther pair of batarians. One of them saw the attack and tried to move forward during a pause in fire to get out of range, only for a knife to fly with unnerving accuracy into the joint between helmet and chestplate, sending the alien sputtering to the floor. The other batarian was not so fortunate, and so was dragged out of his cover to hover in the air near the ceiling, a dozen bolts of light and a few metal slugs punching through his body, shortly followed by a Warp that caused his body to detonate in a biotic explosion that sent the other two soldiers reeling.
The twins seized upon this chance to charge forwards, Varsius's sword hissing from its sheath to slice one of the trooper's heads off, while Tellara's Kiss was punched through the faceplate of the other in a flash, stands of monomolecular razorwire thrashing out to blend the inside of the alien's skull to soup.
Marthas walked out of cover, calmly changing the energy cell of his pistol. "Excellent. That went better than expected."
Priora felt her anger flare a bit at the Inquisitor's nonchalance with risking her life like that, but forced it down. "Could you have at least told me the plan before you opened that door?" She said with just the barest level of irritation in her voice.
"I could have. But this shows a greater degree of competence from you." Marthas said before turning back to the airlock. "Casualty report!"
"Private Nieras took a hit to the side, sire. He's stable, but unconscious." One of the two sergeants barked. "The xeno was...useful in keeping him alive." She added begrudgingly, shooting a glare at Priora.
Marthas nodded. "Better than I expected. Right, you all know the drill. Sergeant Terris, you stay here with Nieras and two others. Sergeant Barr, you take ten troopers with the Interrogator and secure the engine room. Everyone else, with me."
The two officers nodded and began barking orders, the soldiers quickly organizing before the larger group moved off towards the rear of the ship, leaving the Inquisitor, the Twins, and one middle-aged stormtrooper who was carrying a large, two-barreled weapon that connected to his backpack with a pair of bulky cables, as well as the four mercenaries.
"Well, let's get moving. We have a bridge to take." Marthas said, turning and striding off, the stormtrooper following close behind. Varsius sheathed his blade and drew a pistol as he followed. Tellara gave the mercenaries something close to an encouraging look before following her sibling down the hall.
Priora looked at her people, who looked at her. She shrugged and gestured after the Inquisitor. "You heard him. Let's take the bridge."
And with that she followed the old human and his entourage deeper into the ship, her friends following cautiously behind.
The reports of the soldiers behind her only registered at the edge of Bethany's mind, archived and checked off as nothing to worry about. The had made quick progress towards the back of the ship, pairs of troopers clearing the storerooms they passed quickly as Beth and the squad sergeant pushed ahead towards their objective. They hadn't encountered any other aliens yet, but it was only a matter of time until they did.
Most of her thoughts, however, were centered on her master, and the aliens he had brought with them.
Bethany understood what Marthas was planing, and could even support the idea of using a mercenary group as a front with which to attack these batarians. What she couldn't figure out was why he wanted to use these xenos to do it.
She had worked with the Inquisitor for long enough to get more-or-less used to his...relaxed stance on aliens. She had worked with Eldar, Tau, Kroot, and several other minor xeno species of the Milky Way in her time with Marthas; and though the first few missions were very jarring to a former Arbitrator such as herself, she had come to see the value in working with some of the few other mildly sane life forms in the galaxy against the greater evils that haunted the 41st millenium.
So her concern wasn't due to simple xenophobia (though that was of course a part of her thought process), but due to the sheer amount of trust that Marthas seemed willing to put in these unknowns. It would be safer to just space them, or if feeling merciful wipe their memories and dump them on some backwater colony to find a way home. But instead he was going to put strangers, and aliens no less, in charge of his men?
Bethany shook her head. She knew better than to try and counter her master's plans, so she'd just have to be watchful, and be ready to end these interlopers if and/or when they decided to betray them.
"Contact!" One of the troopers yelled, ducking to the side of the door he just opened. Bethany turned, weapons ready for an attack.
"Wait! Wait!" Called out a warbley voice from inside. "I surrender! I..."
Whatever the Batarian would have said was cut out as Private Lucio, the squad's flamer bearer, stepped into the doorway and filled the room beyond with a rolling sheet of burning promethium, the xeno's screams of agony cutting out as the doors shut again.
"Clear." Lucio said, nodding to his commanders and lifting the barrel of the flamethrower so the nozzle pointed at the ceiling, a standard ready position for boarding actions.
"Keep moving. We have an objective, and every second spent here is a second the enemy has to prepare." Bethany barked, turning to continue her advance down the hall.
"Yes Ma'am!" Her squad replied, walking quickly to keep pace with their mistress.
The 'squad' with Marthas and the mercenaries was pressing further towards the nose of the ship and the bridge when they came across their first resistance; three Batarian soldiers who had dug in at the entrance to the quarters of the 'upper class' crewmen of the frigate, the officers and security staff, which connected directly to the bridge.
Nikolas had tanked the opening burst on his shield before rolling into cover and popping his Tech armor, the rest of the squad stacking up on the corner, and Tellara (as the lithe woman had been introduced) popping up on the other side of the hall beside Nik.
Marthas slid to the edge of the corner and peeked around, seeing the three enemies clustered around the door at the end of a short hall.
He turned back to Priora. "Well, asari, how shall we do this?"
"Wha...why are you asking me?!" She asked, honestly shocked.
"This is your examination, is it not? Show me that you are capable of leading!" The inquisitor barked.
"Uh, ok, sure." She moved past Marthas and looked down the hall wincing as a round bounced off her barriers before ducking back. "Ok, um...what's your name again?" She said, looking at the stormtrooper.
"Geralsis." He grunted.
"Ok, Geralsis, what exactly can that weapon of yours do?"
The trooper looked at Marthas, who nodded permission. "It's a hotshot volley-gun. Fires the same kind of energy beams as the rifles the other squad had, but at a much higher rate of fire. It's meant for use at suppression or scything down people out of cover."
Priora nodded. "Ok, here's what we do. Nik, pop a drone up behind them. While they're distracted, I'll hit them with a singularity, then Geralsis, you shred them. If any of them don't get caught, teleporter over there jumps in and finishes them off. Got it?"
"Got it. My name is Tellara, by the way."
"Priora. Now, execute!"
Nikolas leaned out of cover with his omni-tool active, a flash of data causing a spherical holo-drone to appear behind the baratian soldiers, releasing a powerful shock that stunned one of them. As they turned away, Priora leaned out of cover and hurled an orb of biotic energy at them with a grunt.
The singularity struck the ground in front of the soldiers, sucking two of them into the vortex.
Geralsis took this as his cue, and stepped out into the hall, raising his weapon as Priora projected a protective barrier in front of him to make sure the last enemy didn't take him out.
The volley-gun let out a splitting howl as Geralsis opened fire, a veritable stream of laser bursts spraying from the twin barrels of the weapon. The barrage completely ignored what little protection the two batarian's shields might have provided, the lines of condensed light punching through them in such volume that the helpless soldiers were ripped apart, torsos and limbs separated by the sheer volume of fire.
The last batarian didn't really have time to dwell on the fate of his allies, as Tellara suddenly appeared behind him and punched her Kiss into his back before ripping his throat open with an energy-sheathed hand, leaving him to sputter and die on the floor as his liquefied organs ran out of his throat.
"All targets eliminated, move up!"
The squad advanced to the door where Tellara was waiting, having drawn her crew-quarters was relatively small, only six doors in total in a twenty foot hallway. All the doors were closed and had red locked holograms on them.
"Nikolas, can you override the locks? I don't want anyone shooting us in the back while we take the bridge."
"Yeah, give me a second." The Russian activated his Omni-tool, scanning the wall for a few seconds before he stopped. "Ok, I got it." His fingers flew across the haptic display, for almost thirty seconds, then the locks on all the doors turned green.
"Alright, let's clear this place out. Geralsis, you watch the far door. The rest of us will clear the rooms."
Everyone nodded, and Priora made her way to the first door on her right. She hit the lock and rounded the door, pistol raised and barrier at full strength. Immediately she saw a batarian cowering behind one of the small beds in the room, and snapped her pistol to him.
"No, wait!" He yelled.
The loud BANG of Priora's Phalanx pistol silenced the pleading of the crewman before he could get any further, splattering blood and grey matter along the back wall of the crew cabin.
"Sorry buddy. But a job's a job." She said to the dead man. "Clear!" She called out louder, stepping back into the hall.
A wet slurping sound that the Asari had learned to associate with Tellara's punch-dagger came from the next room over, and the woman emerged moments later. "Clear." She said, nodding to Priora.
"Report. Are we clear to push up?" Priora called out.
"I'm clear." Oceno said.
"Clear." Veris echoed.
"All targets eliminated." Varsius said, sheathing his blade on his back with a snick.
Hm, his voice is very melodic. Priora thought idly before mentally slapping herself back into focus.
"Yeah, we should be good. Shall we continue?" Tellara chirped, walking towards the end of the hall.
Priora caught Varsius rolling his eyes as he moved to follow his sister, and couldn't help a twitch of her lips at the familiar action. Her sister…
She clamped down on that line of thought immediately. She was not going to go into that now. They had a job to finish.
"Ok, this should be the last area before the bridge, correct Inquisitor?" She asked.
"Yes. According to the plans your mother provided, this door opens up to a short hallway that leads to the bridge." Marthas said.
"Ok, Oceno, how many soldiers do you think we'll be dealing with?"
"Interdiction-class frigates usually have a security compliment of between eighteen and twenty-two. So, considering what we've dealt with so far, and assuming the captain isn't a total idiot, we can probably expect to see between five and seven marines defending the bridge."
Geralsis let out an approving noise. "If you can keep providing this kind of information, xeno, I might actually be able to get used to working with you." The stormtrooper said.
"Um...thanks?" Oceno said haltingly, not sure is she should be offended or not.
"Focus." Marthas said.
"Yeah." Priora agreed. "Ok, so here's how we're going to approach this…"
"Ready?" Bethany whispered.
A series of affirmatives came over the squad vox, and she tightened her grip on her power maul.
"Breach in 3...2...1...GO!"
The door to the engine room slid open with a chime, and two troopers hurled flash grenades through the door. There was a beat, then the charges detonated in a blast of light and sound, and Bethany was charging through the door, suppression shield raised and maul at the ready, her soldiers charging in after her with battle cries on their lips.
The first alien was still stunned by the flash grenades, and Bethany bashed him aside with her shield, discharging a burst of electricity into his body and causing him to spasm and jerk as he smashed into the bulkhead, a bayonet to the throat quickly ending his thrashing.
The Interrogator's next target had recovered from the disorientation of the flash-charge and raised a rifle to fire on the attackers. Bethany reached out into the Immaterium, feeling the eerie calmness of this realities warp, and channeled the energy into herself, eyes glowing emerald green as the skin and muscle of her maul-arm hardened and strengthened, magnifying her strength to superhuman levels.
When her maul smashed into the Batarian's back, with the power level raised to 80% and her strength bolstered by Hammerhand, the alien crumpled in half lengthwise like a snapped board, almost folding in half with the strength of the blow, before crumpling to the ground in a broken heap.
The hissing crack of lasfire rang out around her as her troopers ripped into the batarian defenders. One or two managed to get off return fire before being perforated, and two of her men went down from the alien fire; one cursing loudly as he tried to staunch his bleeding leg, the other dropping in silence as her head snapped backwards in a spray of blood, the round shattering the lense of her helmet.
Like most combats in such tight quarters, it was over in moments. The last batarian defender died screaming, disemboweled by Sergeant Barr's chainsword as it tried vainly to surrender, it's pitiful wails of pain silenced by a chainblade cleaving it's face in twain.
The grizzled veteran looked over at Bethany, who was slowly purging the warp energy from her body as the glow of her eyes faded, her mind sealed once again to the dangers of the Warp.
"Engine room secure, Interrogator." He said with a tired voice.
"Casualties?" Beth asked, sliding her maul into the loop on her belt.
"Jakob took a hit to the leg, he'll be down for a while but he should recover. Hellen…" He looked over at the still form of the other trooper, blood slowly leaking out of her helm, the faceplate obscuring the damage to her head. "KIA."
Bethany placed a hand on the older man's shoulder, sharing the loss of a long time squadmate, before she turned away again, her emotions once again hidden behind her Inquisitorial expression.
She activated the vox-bead in her ear. "Master. We've secured the engine room with minimal casualties. What is your progress?"
"We should be finished up here shortly, Interrogator. Leave a guard for the engine room and take your wounded back to the ship."
"Understood master. Bethany out."
In the hallway directly outside the bridge of the Graceful Hiran, several steel tables and crates had been arranged as cover for the six Batarian marines who were the last defenders of their vessel. All of them had assault rifles trained on the door to the crew quarters, and they heard the gunfire and cries as the enemy pushed through and murdered the crewmembers who had been trapped there. Their resolve grew, and hands tightened on weapons as they prepared to sell their lives dearly.
The door opened, and they opened fire; only for their bullets to be stopped by the telekinetic barrier Marthas had erected.
The mercs didn't wait for the batarians to overcome their confusion, and Verris blew out the back of one's head with a sniper round from the far end of the hall. Oceno and Nikolas promptly opened up with their Vindicator and Mattock rifles respectively, knocking the shields off of one trooper and forcing him into cover and riddling another with rounds. The fusilade didn't let up as Priora launched a biotic attack at the defenders, one that her Mother had personally taught her.
The blast of dark energy flung the batarians into the walls with bone breaking force, cutting off their fire as they tried to recover.
Geralsis didn't waste the opportunity presented, and began spraying the defensive position with his volley gun, covering the dash of the Keletii siblings as they closed the distance, the whirr of his shuriken pistol and snap of her laspistol joining the suppressing fire.
Soon the distance was crossed, and the pair tore into the remaining batarians. Varsius did not even bothering to draw his sword as knives whirred through the air around him, slitting throats and carving eyes as his fists and feet laid the batarians out, and his sister ripped and tore through the aliens with her exotic weaponry.
In a display that was by now common for the Imperials, the batarians were soon left dead on the floor, with little more than bloodsplater marring them.
"That went well, Asari." Marthas said, lowering his barrier but maintaining the swirling indigo glow in his eyes as he strode down the hall. "In fact, this whole incursion has gone rather well. I think that we will have a very...successful working relationship in the future. However, I'd rather just get this over with now, so if you will give me a moment…"
He stopped before the locked doors of the bridge and raised a hand to his temple, closing his eyes as the indigo light that glowed from his eye sockets only grew brighter.
The four natives glanced at each other as they walked towards the Inquisitor, the other imperials stopping some distance away. "Uh, thanks for the approval, I guess." Priora said. "So how are you going to deal…"
Her words died in her throat as she heard a terrified scream come from the other side of the door, soon followed by other such sounds of distress and agony. Soon after came the aura of WRONG that seeped from the Inquisitor, causing the four to half raise their weapons at him as a creeping sense of horror wormed into their minds as the screams and cries got louder and more desperate.
Then, a flurry of gunfire sounded beyond the door, and the screaming stopped.
Marthas raised his other hand and waved it, and the door opened to reveal a batarian in a Captain's uniform, missing his top left eye, standing there with blood spattered across his chest and an overheated pistol in his hand, the twisted forms of the bridge staff scattered through the room behind him; some shot, and some leaking blood and brains from their eyes and nostrils.
Marthas snapped his fingers, and the Batarian collapsed like a puppet with his strings cut. He turned, the unearthly fires in his eyes fading, with a blank expression on his face.
"Secure him and take him back to the ship." he said, his voice tired and dull. "Then get some tech adepts over here. I am done with this place."
And with that he strode past the shocked mercenaries, not taking a single look back.
Serpent Nebula, the Citadel, Presidium Tower, at the same time.
The Citadel was burning.
From within the council chambers at the peak of the Presidium tower, one could watch with morbid fascination as the battle in space raged, and the Citadel defense fleet was torn apart piece by piece by the seemingly unstoppable squid-like Dreadnought that had led the geth fleet into battle, trapped within the arms of the Citadel itself as the monster blasted their ships with impunity.
Within the chambers, on the podium normally used by those addressing the Council, a lone Turian taped rapidly at a haptic interface set before a holoscreen which hadn't seen use in almost 50'000 years as fires burned throughout the chamber.
Close...just a few more…
Saren Arterius paused for a moment as he heard the elevator doors slid open with a groan, heard the pounding of armored feet as someone approached.
Of course, SHE would be here, wouldn't she? It's wouldn't be a fitting end to this otherwise...the Turian cyborg thought, inputting the last few codes and beginning the data handover just as Shepard and her merry band approached.
Time to finish this, once and for all. He thought with a snarl, vaulting over the railing and out of sight.
The crew of the Normandy stormed into the council chambers at a full sprint, weapons raised and armor spattered with Krogan blood and Geth fluids. They slowed somewhat as they approached the platform with the still-open citadel controls, scanning about with their weapons.
Not seeing anyone around, Shepard lowered her weapon slightly and stepped forward. "Tali, come on, let's see if we can…"
Then a familiar droning sound echoed through the room, and everyone dove from cover as Saren rose from the pit beyond the platform on his Reaper disk, launching a powerful biotic blast at the area Shepard had just vacated and peppering their cover with for from his pistol.
"I was afraid you wouldn't make it in time, Shepard." The fallen specter said as he ceased his firing.
"In time for what?" Jane responded.
"The final confrontation. I think we both new somehow that it would end like this."
"You mean with us putting a hole in your head? Yeah, that's how I thought things would work out." Garrus called out, receiving a shot to his shields for his trouble before ducking back behind cover.
"Don't you realize that you've already lost!?" Saren snarled. "In minutes, Sovereign will have control of the Citadel's systems. The Relay will open, the Reapers will come, and the harvest will commence."
"The connection isn't made yet, Saren! There's still time for us to stop this, stop you!" Jane called out, shuffling around to the edge of her cover to peak at the hovering cyborg.
'Hm." Saren grunted. "You may have survived our encounter on Virmire, but I've...changed since then. Improved. Sovereign has...upgraded me."
"You let that thing implant reaper tech in you?! Are you insane!?" Tali said with disbelief.
"YES, I DID!" Saren snarled before composing himself again. "In fact, I have you to thank for it, Shepard. After what you said on Virmire, about Sovereign manipulating me, about Indoctrination, I had doubts about what needs to be done, and Sovereign sensed it. But now, with these new gifts, my resolve is stronger than ever before."
Though the traitor spoke with conviction, Jane could barely hear a waver in his voice that betrayed his true feelings.
"Now my doubts are gone. I know, I understand why the harvest, the culling needs to happen. Stop resisting, Shepard, and I promise that the end will be easy and painless."
"You're expecting us to just lay down and die? You obviously don't know humans very well." Kaiden spat at him.
Wrex rumbled in agreement. "The Krogan have been fighting extinction since we first crawled out of the muck, don't expect us to just roll over just cause you asked politely!"
"Sovereign is controlling you through your implants, Saren! Don't you see that?"
"You don't understand, none of you do!" Saren yelled, his voice a mix of rage and desperation. "You haven't seen what I have! What will happen if this does not come to pass! You have not seen the monsters lurking beyond the veil, who can only be kept at bay by this slaughter, this butchery of civilizations!" His voice rose to a panicked scream. "Do you think I want this? ANY OF THIS?! I DON'T, AND I NEVER DID! BUT THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE!"
"By the goddess, he's gone mad." Liara said.
"There's always another choice, Saren!" Jane yelled in return. "I don't know what Sovereign has shown you, but NOTHING is worth what it wants! It could be lying for all you know. But you do know what happens if it gets control of this station. Step aside, and let us stop this!"
"You can't stop the Reapers, Shepard! Not forever, you can only delay them. You saw the visions; the Protheans couldn't stop them, and they were ten times the civilization we are! And even if you could defeat them, somehow, what would come after would be a thousand times worse than simple death."
Something about the moment, about Saren's voice, told her that he was close to breaking, and she decided to take a risk, standing from her cover with pistol lowered.
"Jane!" Liara cried, reaching for her.
"Saren, some part of you must know that this is wrong! You can fight this!" She shouted, locking her vibrant green eyes with his unnatural, glowing blue ones.
Saren's gun hand trembled for a few moments as Shepard and her team held their breaths, and then slowly lowered. "Maybe...maybe you're right, Shepard. Maybe there is a chance for us to avoid-AUG!"
Saren collapsed to his knees, holding his head as a cry of agony rolled from his throat.
Shepard's team was quick to take advantage of this opportunity, rushing out of cover to trai weapons on the downed Specter, but Jane's raised hand held their fire.
"The implants…" Saren wheezed, forcing himself to one knee. "Sovereign...is too strong...it is too late for me…"
"Saren, it's not over yet." Shepard said, taking a step forward. Even with all he had done, now, in this moment, Jane couldn't just let him give up, not when he seemed to finally break whatever spell the Reaper had on him. "You can still redeem yourself!"
Saren looked again at Shepard, and she saw the relief in his eyes. "No, Shepard...it is far too late for that...but, thank you…" He choked out, limbs trembling as he fought the Reaper's influence. "And...good luck…"
And with that, he raised his pistol to the side of his head and pulled the trigger.
There was a spurt of blue blood, and then the fallen Specter fell from his disk limply, breaking through the glass below him with a crash.
Jane sighed. "Garrus, Wrex, make sure he's dead. Tali, Kaidan, let's stop that transfer." She said blankly.
The two men nodded and jumped into the grassy pit below as Shepard and Tali opened up the Citadel Controls.
"Ok, it looks like Sovereign doesn't have control yet, let me just bypass this and...Yes!" Tali pumped her fist in the air. "Connection severed! That damn squid won't be opening the relay any time soon."
Jane let out a sigh of relief and slumped against the railing, a great pressure in her chest releasing. Liara's hand slid into hers and squeezed, and the two smiled.
'Commander? Commander, do you read?"
Joker's voice broke over the coms. "Yeah Joker, we're here. What's the report?"
"The First and Third fleets are here, commander, we're just mopping up the last geth ships now, but the Wards are blocking us from getting at Sovereign. You think you can open things up for us?"
Jane was about to respond when another voice broke over the coms.
"Mayday, Mayday, this isMatriarch Lidanya, Captain of the Destiny Ascension. We have the council aboard and have taken heavy damage. We need support NOW or that thing is going to rip us apart! Hello, hello is anyone there?!"
Jane froze, and for a moment a tiny part of her mind urged her to do nothing, to let the trio of useless bureaucrats suffer the fate their denial and hubris had set for them, and let Humanity sweep in and take control of the power vacuum that would result.
She quickly smashed down that small renegade thought process. "Tali, get the wards open now!" Jane cried. "Joker, get ready to engage Sovereign as soon as an opening shows itself. Get that thing off the Ascension!"
"Roger Commander." Joker said. Then, more quietly, "Those assholes better be grateful for this…shit, is that still-" The feed cut off.
Beyond the windows of the chamber, the wards of the citadel, which burned where the debris of shattered starships had smashed into them, began to open. Jane could faintly see the glow of engines as Alliance frigates, led by the Normandy, charged towards the Reaper threatening the Destiny Ascension while cruisers and two dreadnoughts fired round after round into Sovereign's insanely powerful shields.
"Shepard." Garrus' voice called from below. Jane moved to the edge and looked down into the pit. "He's dead. Round went straight through his brain. It's over."
Jane let out a relieved breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding. "Ok, then let's get out of here. I'm sure there's still geth or husks around, and we should help what's left of C-Sec secure the Presidium as best we can."
"Slimy asshole got off easy." Wrex grumbled, nudging Saren's body with his foot.
In response, the body jerked, and to everyone's surprise, grabbed a hold of Wrex's ankle.
"What the hell!?" Wrex shouted, before the corpse jerked and with unnatural strength hurled the Krogan into the support struts of the platform the rest of the team was on even as Garrus started pumping assault rifle rounds into it.
Wrex hit with such force that the struts crumpled, causing the other members of the tram to tumble into the pit, as the corpse of the former specter jerked to it's feet and let out an electronic scream, Saren's flesh burned away to reveal a skeletal body with a glowing red torso in the rough shape of a Turian, revealing the true extent of Sovereigns 'upgrades' to its servant.
"Light it up!" Jane cried, opening fire on the monstrosity with the others following suit.
Barriers sprang to life around the reaper beast, and it chattered as it shot to one of the walls like a bullet, clinging on as it's eyes shot beams of red energy that splashed against Jane's shields.
"Shit!" She cried, ducking behind cover at Liara, Wrex, and Kaidan tried to lock the thing down with their biotics while Garrus and Tali riddled it shields with fire. Jane joined in snapping of shots with her pistol at the creature, which was leaping about like a Geth stalker, blasting away at them with its eyebeams.
Garrus cried out as one of the blasts shattered his shields, carving a furrow in his leg. Tali and Jane shouted his name and sent an Overload each at the monster, the combined electronic bursts staggering the beast for a moment and allowing Kaidan to land a solid Throw on the creature's center of mass.
Unfortunately, instead of smashing into the wall with a few thousand newtons of force, like a normal enemy, the creature caught itself and launched directly at Jane, smashing her into the pillar behind her and knocking away her pistol.
Stunned, the creature used the opportunity to grab shepard by the throat and slam her into the ground, leaning over her as it ignored the biotics and bullets bouncing off it's shields.
"You have not won, Shepard." The thing rasped in a mockery of Saren's voice. "You have not stopped us. You have only delayed the inevitable. We will come, we shall harvest, and we shall stop the births as we have for Millennia." Its grip tightened, and Jane's vision started to go dark even as the thing's shields failed and rounds started to tear into it. "Our cause is beyond your comprehension, beyond anything you may deem as right. So just accept your place as a mortal should and die!"
Jane gurgled for breath as her hand scrabbled on her belt as darkness closed in at the edges of her vision, finally latching onto her last grenade.
She hit the primer and shoved the explosive into the thing's exposed ribcage just as Liara launched a Throw with all the strength she had left into the monster's side, hurling it full force into the wall of the chamber.
"Jane!" The asari rushed to Shepard's side, helping the woman sit up as she gasped for breath. They looked over as the reaper monstrosity tried to get to it's feet, left arm mangled by the impact of the throw.
"Oh, no you fucking don't." Jane snarled, and activated the remote detonator for the grenade stuck in the beast's chest.
The blast of the High explosive grenade blew the monster's torso open, and it stuttered out electronic noises. Jane pushed herself to her feet, ignoring Liara's protest and approached the fallen monster, drawing her sniper as she did. The thing's head ground to look at her and she pressed the barrel of her rifle between it's 'Eyes' as it's wrecked speakers spoke again.
"Y-Y-You-uuuuu can-can not s-s-s-survi-i-ive. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee will ha-ve our duuuuuuuu" the thing stuttered.
"Oh, fuck of." Jane replied and fired, the sniper's heavy round obliterating the thing's head and finally causing the abomination to die.
Unbeknownst to the ground team, who began checking injuries and slumping against nearby walls as the adrenalin from this last fight wore off, the death of the Saren-creature caused a feedback loop in Sovereign's massive electronic mind, and shorted out it's shields. In less than thirty seconds, the issue would have been fixed, and twenty-four point 3 seconds after that the shields would have been raised. However, one particularly skilled Alliance pilot used the break in the Reaper's shields to fire his first and last shot from his vessel's dorsal Mass Accelerator right into the Heart of the Reaper, destroying it's mass effect core and starting a chain reaction that blasted the 9.2 million year old warship into scrap.
Some of which flew directly towards the Presidium tower.
The team had just climbed up out of the pit when Wrex looked back out at the battle taking place outside and saw the massive hunk of debris flying at them.
Wrex's grumbled expletive was all the warning Jane had before the piece of Sovereign crashed into the tower and her world went black.
Three Days Later
It's all so...normal.
It was the morning of the third day after the attack on the Citadel was thwarted. Jane was standing on the balcony of her room in one of the Presidium's hotels, a gift from the Council for her heroic actions in the battle. She was watching the various people moving around the grounds below, of many races, as if today was nothing different from any other, as if the combat and deaths which took place a scant 72 hours ago had never happened.
But then, it's probably for the best. She thought, sipping on the cup of coffee in her hands. Better to accept the event and move on. I just hope they don't forget the cost so easily.
She looked out over the station, at the wards that still had large portions dark, deprived of power by the damage caused when Sovereign exploded, courtesy of an expertly fired shot from the Normandy.
So much had happened in that short time. After Anderson and hit team dug everyone out of the rubble of the Council chambers (she was still amazed no-one had died, though Garrus would still be in the hospital for a few weeks, and Wrex broke all the bones in his arms stopping some debris from crushing her and Liara), they'd been hustled off to a nearby hospital. She'd been discharged a day later, and had attended the ceremony where Tevos, Valern, and Sparatus presented humanity with a seat on the Citadel Council.
She had of course suggested Anderson for the position. Udina was a snake, and she'd shave her head before she helped that man climb any ladder, political or otherwise.
However, she was...less than encouraged by the stance the Council seemed to be taking with what actually happened. She could understand using the story of Sovereign as simply an advanced Geth dreadnought to keep the masses from panicking, but it seemed like Sparatus and Tevos almost believed the story themselves. Anderson was of course against it, and Valern seemed undecided, but she still had a sinking feeling that she was going to have to do even more to prove to the Council, if not the Galaxy, that the Reapers were coming.
And then there was the files that Captain Kirrahe had sent her last night, that she'd read this morning after waking up.
Kirrahe had been part of one of several teams sent to recover parts of Sovereign that crashed on the Citadel. One of the pieces his team secured was part of a databank, and while most of the data was destroyed, corrupted, or encrypted, there were several that were not.
There were only a few of them, and a lot of it was just the Ramblings of a man gradually going mad from Indoctrination, but there was one passage that concerned her.
After Virmire, Saren recounted that he'd heard a faint, enraged scream echoing across his link with the Reaper. And something close to concern coming across the link. When he enquired what was wrong, the Reaper actually responded, saying that 'a new variable has emerged.'
From what it said, this occurred around the time Jane had passed out on the beach, and when Tevos had had her 'episode.'
And it concerned her. Did her being able to hear that scream mean she had some connection to the Reapers? And what were these 'new variables'? They could have something to do with the ships she saw, but she didn't know.
And that was the biggest issue. That she did not know. There was so much she didn't know, and that she needed to know if she was going to stop the Reapers.
Liara's voice from within the room pulled her out of her musings. "Out here." She called out, and a few moments later a pair of arms wrapped around her waist, a warm weight coming to rest on her back and Liara's head resting on her shoulder. Jane leaned her cheek into that of her alien lover, saying nothing.
For now, it was enough to just be together, without a looming threat bearing down on the horizon.
After a few minutes spent like that, Liara spoke up. "So, what were you doing out here."
"...nothing important. At least, not yet. There are some questions I want to get answered, but they can wait until everyone is back up to full strength. We all deserve some rest after what we've been through." Shepard said, turning in Liara's arms until they were face-to-face and planting a light kiss on her lips. "So, what about we have some breakfast?"
A/N: Hello All. It is me, your friendly neighborhood Raptor-Centurion, back with another installment of this lovely story.
Not much to say for this one, just that (as you've likely noticed) I've deleted the character index here. Fear not, for I've made the index as its own story, called Necessary Monsters Character Index. Just go to my profile if you can't find it in the ME/40k crossover section. It has everything teh old index did, plus a few minor changes.
Also, apologies if the layout for this chapter is fucked, FF.N has decided it won't let me upload documents or save changes to documents on FF.N when I use my laptop, and as such this was uploaded from my phone so...yeah, sorry.
That concludes this author's note, so please, Review, Follow&Fave if you're new, and as always,
Imperator senatus et populi Romani Dinosaurs