Hi guys I'm back! Its been so long its ridiculous, so super sorry about that, also this chapter isn't nearly as long as my other ones, so sorry again about that, more info down at the bottom.
So once again with the blanket statement that I own nothing and have nothing to do with Bioware the creators of Mass Effect or Irrational the creators of Bioshock, with nothing left to mention I say onwards with the story once more!
"So biotic torture facilities... and I thought Akuze was bad, when we're you going to tell me this?" Shepard asked, knowing he wouldn't get an answer. "Or was this more 'Need to know' information that slipped your mind?" Shepard crossed his arms and waited to see just what The Illusive Man would say.
The Illusive Man took his time to answer, casually lighting up a cigar and having a sip from his glass before he answered. "Shepard, if I told you everything that Cerberus had done since its creation, we'd still be here talking when the Reapers arrive, I have said it time and time again, everything I do is for humanity. Admittedly some... mistakes were made at the facility, the facility was one of the first Cerberus facilities to be set up so far from our standard oversight approach, the researchers were... overzealous in their work." He tapped some ash from his cigar into an ash tray.
"Overzealous?" Snarled Shepard. "Those so called 'researchers' tortured those kids for years, or at least the ones that survived, and for what? A better Biotic? How could you even consider that as simply 'overzealous'? You think it's ok?"
"I don't Shepard, I do what's best for humanity, admittedly the researchers were given a somewhat blank slate once they had received their objectives, this-" He gestured to the report that had appeared on his Omni-tool." -this is not what I ordered, this was a facility that went... rogue. Once we found the facility had been compromised we sent in teams for recovery and disposal. Imagine my surprise when my agents arrived on site to find that the researchers had been torturing children to increase their biotic potential? Cerberus didn't even find out about Jack or patient Zero as she was called until my analysts poured over the data three weeks after she and the other subjects escaped the facility." The Illusive Man poured himself a fresh drink after stubbing out what was left of his cigar.
"Several scientists and guards actually survived the fallout from the Patient Ze- Jack's 'daring' escape, they were found dead in their cells the morning after the report found its way to my desk, detailing exactly what was found to be happening at the facility and what they had done and encouraged whilst at there-" The Illusive Man pulled up the images for the Commander. "-nothing was seen by either the guards on duty nor did anything show up on CCTV, one moment breakfast is proceeding as usual, the next, they're dead." The Illusive Man nodded to the images to illustrate his point, a video clip from a security camera played, one moment watching several of the prisoners eating a meal before switching over and revealing the mess they had made during their final moments.
"I have since encouraged rumours that it would happen to others if they fail Cerberus to such a degree again." He paused again, enjoying a newly lit cigar while Shepard glanced over the images.
The bodies had been well and truly torn apart, Shepard began to cycle through the images and video clips as The Illusive Man looked on, each photo showed a different body, one showed a male scientist who had been torn apart - limbs first, another male scientist whose arms appeared to have been shredded along with the majority of his chest - leaving a gaping hole where his heart would normally be, another showcased the exact colour of several organs that really should be inside the body, not on the outside as they had been left.
-This... attack... - Shepard continued looking through the images - whoever killed these men wanted them to suffer, at least a bit before they died - Shepard looked at the blood splatter left by several of the bodies, one image showed the blood having sprayed high into the air with droplets everywhere to start with, only for the blood to gradually pool across the floor, likely as the victim's heart rate gradually slowed as he succumbed to his wounds.
"So, someone managed to kill these men whilst you had them under surveillance?" Shepard checked the images once more, each one taken from the same angle but in a different room each time, a security camera of some sort. "And you don't know who did it?"
"I have my... suspicions, only a few individuals had the capability and the access the necessary systems to pull this off without leaving traces, none of them however are with Cerberus any longer." The Illusive Man concluded with a nod, making Shepard wonder if any of those people were still alive. "In any case-" He said, changing the subject. "-I've received reports of unusual 'ghost' signals at far outskirts of several systems in the Shadow sea. I have several agents stationed on several colonies already, so be ready to move if we get anything."
This caught Shepard's attention. "'Ghost' signals? Which colonies are most likely to be attacked?"
"We don't know." The Illusive Man began pulling up various records, statistics and simulations on his Omni-tool before transmitting them to Shepard. "There are eight sponsored colonies in the Shadow sea, however the population density isn't high enough on five of them to make them much of a worthy target for the Collectors, but again, those are just the sponsored colonies in the Shadow Sea, my operatives believe that there may be as many as sixteen other colonies, all either privately funded or-" An alarm started sounding off from The Illusive man's Omni-tool at that moment, Shepard held his silence while The Illusive Man checked and double checked his Omni-tool before confirming what they both suspected, an attack. "Horizon's comm network just went dead Shepard." The Illusive Man stated.
Shepard immediately activated his comm and began relaying his orders across the ship. "Joker! Set a course to Horizon, full speed, I want stealth systems activated the moment we reach the system, we'll need them."
"Aye Commander, route plugged in, one primary Relay and two secondary relays to destination - ETA... eighty minutes." Replied Joker as the ship trembled as it began to glide to the closest relay.
"Attention all hands, we have a possible Collector attack on Horizon in the shadow sea, I want all hands ready, lock down all loose items in the event of possible ship to ship combat, this is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill."
"Commander, this is the most warning we've ever had, has Mordin delivered the counter-measure yet?" Frowned The Illusive Man.
Shepard grimaced. "Not yet."
"Well let's just hope he works well under pressure." The Illusive Man nodded before dismissing Shepard and de-activating the comm link.
He settled himself down in his chair and debated on what he could do next. Nothing he could do in relation to Horizon unfortunately, Shepard and his team knew what they were doing and would get there long before any of his assets could, not that his assets would be able to do much if they somehow got there before the Normandy did, without Mordin's expertise with alien biology and no counter-measure for use against Collector swarms they'd be nothing more than more casualties for the Collectors.
It was now a waiting game he thought to himself, sooner or later he'd hear about what happened and whether it was good news or bad news, it didn't matter, ultimately Cerberus would come out on top, always did. In the meantime, Delta's granddaughter... that was unexpected, he had read through the reports sent from the facility during its operation, from the numbers of potential biotics to stages of biotic growth in the subjects, Jack however was an enigma, one who's biotic potential and unusual DNA was never solved, Batarian's didn't keep records of what colonies their 'goods' came from, only what colonies they had previously attacked. Still, a puzzle for latter perhaps.
"Rachel?" He called for his secretary using his omni-tool, it paid to have a good secretary when running an organisation as big as Cerberus. "Tell the good doctor that I expect a report from him within the next hour on Kai Lengs progress through the gene tonics, along with an estimated timescale before his genetic degradation compromises him." After giving his secretary a few more instructions he shifted in his seat and poured himself a fresh glass of whiskey, his last for the day depending on the outcome of Horizon.
"Let's see how long he lasts this time." He muttered to himself.
-Meanwhile in the canteen-
"This is the canteen area-" Said Miranda as she showed Jack around the ship along with Delta. "-due to everyone having different sleep cycles, MRE's are always available on demand, but Mess Sergeant Gardner cooks fresh food throughout the 'day' cycle so there'll normally have some food in the fridge or cooking if you're hungry." She motioned to the kitchen area as she said this. "Just try not to be in here during a combat situation if possible." Seeing Jack raise her eyebrow in curiosity Miranda explained further.
"A combination of Mass effect fields and magnetic locks are used to keep everything locked down during ship to ship combat, but that stops if there is too much of a power draw on the drive core-" She grimaced. "-once that happens, food, utensils and anything else not properly secured starts flying everywhere during combat situations." She grimaced. "No one likes hot soup and knives floating around during ship to ship combat."
Jack nodded in understanding, normally mass effect fields would simulate gravity and subsequently hold everything down during normal ship operations, however these would normally be the first to go during combat operations, magnetic locks were then used to ensure that anything locked away, stayed that way, but any electromagnetic locks can fail if the power drops too much.
"That-" Miranda pointed to the other end of the room where Garrus had holed himself up. "- is the main battery, you'll find Garrus there." When Jack raised another eyebrow query, Miranda just sighed. "The Turian you met earlier?"
Jack remembered him then, -easy going guy, for a Turian anyway-, she mused as she remembered seeing him earlier, when he turned up with Shepard after her grandfather wiped the floor with the Blue Suns, rather than be shocked or impressed with what he'd done, Garrus just seemed to... assess the situation, ready to act as needed.
"Anyway-" Miranda continued. "-if you want to know anything about guns, armour or tactics you see him or Jacob up in the armoury, if you want to find... 'alternative tactics' speak the Zaeed... or Grunt? Maybe? On our right-" Miranda gestured to her right to further reiterate which direction she meant. "- is the Medical Bay, Dr Chakwas can fix you up if you get any injuries during missions and she always keeps a supply of Medi-gel on hand if you need more or run low." Dr Chakwas noticed them through the window and gave them a cheery wave, to which Jack hesitantly responded.
"And finally, on this floor is my office which is directly opposite the Medical Bay, any questions?" Just as she asked the question a priority one call came through on her Omni-tool, only two people had that line, The Illusive Man and Commander Shepard, who it came from wasn't important however, what mattered was always the contents.
"What is it?" She asked after making sure the channel was private.
"Miranda! Just finished speaking to your boss, Horizons comm systems just went dark, suspected Collector attack." Answered Shepard.
"Damn it!" She was stunned, every time there was a raid there was at least two to three weeks between them, if it really was Collectors then there had to be something special on Horizon, it had only been a week since their last known activity. "We should have had more time! What caused them to go after Horizon?" She made her way to the main Battery after gesturing for Jack and Delta to follow her.
"No idea, Joker already has us on route there now, we have eighty minutes... sorry seventy-five minutes now to have everyone ready, that's debriefed, armoured, armed and in the shuttle ready for deployment, can't take risks against the Collectors, we're all going in."
"Understood, I'm on the crew deck now with Jack and Delta so I'll grab Garrus and bring them up to the armoury."
"Good, I'll grab Mordin and Jacob, Zaeed and Grunt are already in the CIC, though I think they and Garrus are the only ones that don't need to get ready for combat, meet you in five minutes." The Comm link went dead as Miranda entered the main Battery.
Garrus looked up from his work bench to see Miranda stroll into his work space followed by Delta and the newly recruited Jack, both looking puzzled as they trailed behind Miranda.
"Miranda, what's up? Another miss-"
"Horizons comm network just went down." She interrupted, she activated her Omni-tool and began filling them all in on the situation. "Shepard just got off the line to The Illusive Man, ever since colonies began going dark Cerberus has had active comm lines constantly broadcasting from potential high value targets, Deadman switches, no signal means alarms start ringing, Horizon was one of them, the plan was the moment any comm line goes down we go in and investigate; however, this attack is sooner than expected." Miranda lead them out of the main battery and back to the elevator, as they passed the canteen area Mess Sergeant Garner tossed them several emergency ration packs before continuing to lock everything down in the kitchen. "Joker already has us on route to Horizon now, current ETA is approximately seventy-five minutes."
"What do we know about the Colony stationed on Horizon? Military strength? Defences?" Garrus asked as they bundled into the elevator.
"Nothing yet, Horizons a fairly new Colony-" Miranda frowned as she thought of something."-but... the Alliance does have several outreach programs to try to better and prepare colonies for potential attacks from pirates and raiders, so there may be something we could use. EDI, try and pull up as much information as you can about Horizon and the Alliances outreach program."
EDI replied barely a second later. "Understood Ms Lawson, sending all relevant information to your Omni-tool now."
"Ok so here's the situation thus far." Shepard began once they had all gathered in the briefing room. "Horizon's a fresh new colony that's only been up a couple of years but has already got a sizable population, over six hundred thousand last count, fairly pleasant living conditions, average surface temperature of thirteen degrees, nothing to write home about, but surface gravity is point seven, our weapons are going to feel like they have more kick to them even with weapon VI's adjusting so watch for recoil and keep to controlled bursts, also the atmosphere is denser than Earth's so watch for that too."
Several heads nodded at this, already updating their weapon VI's with the relevant information. "Now Mordin, you said you have a counter-measure ready for the seeker swarm?"
Mordin activated his Omni-tool, bringing up several holographic images of different armour suits and one of the insects from a seeker swarm. "Managed to identify primary seeker swarm hunting techniques, ingenious really, won't go into full details now, but based on advanced Friend or Foe system utilising shield emitter frequencies, not sure what Collectors shield vibration frequency is exactly but found an approximate from Seeker swarm insect, however only found common 'Friend' identifier, seeker swarm identifies friendlies using emitter vibrational speed frequency, can mimic effect using mass effect shields-" He paused for a moment.
"-also, could be used as high-speed communication system...-" Mordin mumbled to himself. "-perhaps research later... Anyway, simple modification to shield systems should make seeker swarm see us as a collector forces, however must be careful, larger the swarm more chance of secondary identification routines activating, will have to think of other solutions to that problem." Mordin began to adjust the shield settings on each of the squad members, making sure that the seekers wouldn't attack them whilst also making sure the shields still stopped weapon fire.
"Alright, so we have the counter-measure, what's next?" Asked Zaeed while checking out the shield modifications Mordin had done.
"That's going to be the fun and or dull part, we don't know exactly what to expect, we won't even know if it's the Collectors until we enter the system, we just expect it is, if it's a slave raid or pirates then the Normandy will remain in stealth mode while we relay information back to the Alliance, if the numbers are manageable the Normandy will engage with intent to destroy or disable the ships if possible, if not... we'll delay the ships until reinforcements arrive. That's the plan if it's not the Collectors." Shepard looked around the room at everyone. "If it is the Collectors we send a data package to the Alliance and proceed to run interference, I want everyone on the ground for this one."
"Now as I said earlier Horizon's a new colony, so the basic layout should generally match previous colonies to a point.
"We'll be moving in two teams, Zaeed, Jacob and Grunt, Delta and Jack, you're in team bravo with Garrus as leader, your gaol is to get everyone's attention, you see a high profile target, you take it, if you find information on why or where the colonists are being held, you grab it, rescue any available colonists while you're at it but don't risk yourselves, I hate saying it but...be ready to leave them behind once they're safe, we can't hang around to keep them safe, we have a whole colony to save." Several individuals bristled at the thought of just leaving people, there was no real 'safety' with the Collectors around, Veetor's data showed that.
"You'll also be known as the 'See me, shoot me' team, best of luck." The tension seemed to lessen in the room thanks to Shepard's comment, with those not in the 'see me, shoot me' team giggled to themselves. "Now the rest of the team, Mordin, Kasumi and Miranda will be with me where we will approach our primary objective, Miranda, if you'd like to explain?"
Miranda brought up a display of a Guardian tower, a transmitter and a map of the colony on Horizon. "Team Bravo's objective is to pull any and all attention away from team Alpha, whose main object will be getting to the transmitter in the middle of the colony, due in no small part of an Alliance outreach program with Colonies in the terminus systems many Colonies are being issued standard Guardian towers to increase their safety, however Cerberus has intercepted reports that the locals have had trouble activating it, the Alliance responded by sending people to fix it, so far no luck, Team Alpha's goal will be to get to the transmitter and with EDI's help, activate them and use them to drive off the Collector ship, the Normandy SR-2 is better than the SR-1 but it still can't take down a Collector ship not yet anyway."
"Sounds good." Grunt liked the idea of the 'See me shoot me' team, it got his blood pumping, an odd excitement washed through him as he imagines the enemies they'd be fighting, finally, a good fight!
"Right, so I take it while the Collectors are taking pot shots at us you'll be the ones calibrating a really big gun instead of me? Jeez if it weren't for my scars I'd be wondering why you dragged me along." Chuckled Garrus, his remaining mandible twitching in mirth.
"What? No... I brought you along Garrus cos you're my secret weapon!" Said Shepard, a shit eating grin spreading across his face. "Why, with a face like yours we could probably scare the Collector's away without firing a bullet."
Grunt just started laughing at them. "With faces like yours, getting a female Krogan won't be too hard, they like the scars, heh heh heh."
"Ha! Dating advice from a Krogan, and I thought I looked bad." Said Zaeed before he got interrupted by the ship lurching suddenly, before smoothing out again.
"Joker, what was that? We haven't hit anything have we?" Asked Shepard.
"Mister Moreau and I has been calculating our mass along with drive emissions on approach to the relay for the past five minutes and twenty-eight seconds-" EDI popped up on her holographic display."-we believe we may be able to reduce our travel time by approximately five minutes per-relay by ensuring the Normandy's standard drift is to our benefit, new ETA calculated to thirty-five minutes before we arrive in system, some turbulence to be expected however during relay transit."
Hearing that they would soon be arriving, everyone sobered up, there was work to be done.
"Thanks EDI." EDI's avatar seemingly nodded before vanishing. "Alright everyone you heard to lady thirty-five minutes to go, buddy up, I want everyone checking one another's armour and shields, fresh ammo blocks and thermal clips in your guns and all modded ammo accounted for," Shepard watched as everyone jumped into action. This time, they won't be too late.
High above the planet of Horizon, the Collector General looked on impassively at its sensors as the last of the comm-buoys were destroyed, cutting off all communication, it was time for another harvest.
Alright guys, I'm here to apologise, I haven't been spending nearly as much time as I could have and should have on this, I have a hundred things I could use as an excuse but at the end of the day, that's all they are, excuses. In any case, I'm Sorry.
My work hours should be stable now (fingers crossed) so I should be able to spend more time on getting this written, as you can tell this chapter is far shorter than my other ones, I'm going to try and do short chapters over the next few months to see how it plays out, so fingers crossed guys ill be back with more chapters sooner and faster (fingers crossed), see you next time guys for the next chapter!