Graveyard Shift: A Mass Effect Novelization
Prologue: The Blitz
Wonder what they're going to call this someday.
It was a random thought, the kind that filters into the mind when it is desensitized to the madness that surrounds one in sapient-made hell. The kind of random thought that indicates sanity had either gone missing in action, or was fighting its way back up toward the surface.
Fingers fumbled over the loading catch for the Lancer rifle, and First Lieutenant Shepard cursed while trying to open the damned thing. It wasn't designed for quick combat reloads, but that wasn't surprising when one considered how much ammunition a single block of firing material provided. The manufacturers at Hahne-Kedar hadn't considered the need for reloading in battle to be particularly important.
Missiles screamed past overhead, and the rattle of gunfire was omnipresent, interspersed with the deep, shuddering blasts of mortar impacts. The pavement seemed like water that had been churned in a hurricane, then flash frozen into craters and piles of blackened stone. Shepard kept splitting his gaze between the area around him and the soot-streaked skies overhead, watching for enemy recon or artillery spotter drones.
And there he was, dragged out of shore leave and standing in the middle of this hellstorm, in armor he'd recovered from a Marine depot, holding a rifle he'd pried from the fingers of a fallen soldier hours ago.
Now he stood alone, in the middle of the main road into Elysium City, cut off from contact with any of the other Marine units protecting the city. A morass of rubble surrounded him, a mixture destroyed cars, ruined buildings, and hastily-erected barricades assembled by the Marines before the sat-strikes had killed them all.
They were out there, moving though the rubble of the outer suburbs. Human forms, slender salarian figures, tall, avian turian soldiers, and the hulking shapes of krogan warriors, all lurking through the ruins and preparing for another push. The element zero cores of their suits and weapons stood out clear and bright on his head-up display. He counted the number of contacts, and grimaced.
One man, with a single rifle, pitting himself against dozens - possibly hundreds - of criminals and pirates. As he stood there, Shepard had a decision to make: Stand against impossible odds and an enemy that outnumbered and outgunned him a hundred to one, or fall back in the face of such overwhelming firepower, and maybe survive?
In the distance, he saw movement. A sudden flurry of gunfire from a dozen locations ripped toward the barricades and rubble, suppressive fire to pin down the defenders. The enemy started to swarm toward the morass of broken buildings and vehicles, their victory assured, the Marines they thought were there apparently suppressed under a wave of ravaging gunfire as they advanced. There had to be at least a hundred troops out there – far too many to fight.
If the enemy breached this position, though . . . .
Mindoir. It'll be Mindoir all over again.
The memories of that moment lanced into his brain, setting his thoughts ablaze with hate and fury.
Shepard made the decision.
He rose, shouldered the rifle, and held the line when all else was lost. So long as he still breathed, Elysium would not become another Mindoir.
Two hours had passed. Two ammunition blocks had to be discarded as they had run low. The Lancer had begun to melt due to constant overheating. Shepard had thrown it aside, scavenging customized rifles from the hands of dead mercenaries. One of them had been carrying an Elkoss Avenger VI with a powerful heat sink and toxic ammunition modifications, which Shepard was using now.
They had tried two rushes, and Shepard had stopped them cold each time. He had used every dirty guerilla trick in the book: mines, surprise attacks, traps. More than one wrecked car still had a working eezo core, which he had jury-rigged to blow, turning them into massive car bombs.
When the pirates used pinpoint satellite strikes to demolish his cover, Shepard took shelter behind the bodies of slain Marines and mercenaries, some of whom still had active kinetic barriers powered by their suits. Shepard's heart was still pounding even after a fifteen minute lull, natural and synthetic adrenaline running through veins to support a body that was already exhausted. Pure, nonstop close-quarters combat drained a warrior faster than anything else.
They had pushed Shepard back with each advance, but he had made them pay dearly for each thrust. They were buying ground at a rate of roughly one and a half soldiers per meter, and while that wouldn't have dissuaded a fanatical enemy, these were mercenaries who weren't eager to die for money they couldn't spend.
They had spent the last fifteen minutes calling up reinforcements. Hundreds of soldiers were being brought up to overwhelm one warrior holding a single street. There were reports filtering in over the static of the comm that assaults on other Marine positions were being slowed, enemy troops pulling back off other defense points. That was fine. He would hold them off as long as possible and give the Marines time to bring up reinforcements. The Alliance was coming, and every minute Shepard held them-
Movement in the debris. The mercenaries were advancing again. Shepard's breathing slowed as the Marine calmed himself, and he raised the Avenger rifle. They didn't open up with a satellite barrage like the last two times, for some reason, but he didn't have time to consider his fortune.
It was a pincer rush, squads of mercenaries storming up on either side of the street, trying to draw fire from the defender, locate the position where the shots were coming from, and catch the Marine in a crossfire. They bounded forward, fireteams moving ahead to secure and cover the advance of their companions.
However, the chokepoint was too narrow, and Shepard expected such a tactic. Blooms of fire and shrapnel sounded on either side of the narrow street, and mercenaries screamed as Shepard's rigged grenades blew. Between the one hundred and seven dead Marines and countless slain mercenaries in the chokepoint, there was no shortage of those.
The Marine rose and opened fire, rounds cutting through the barriers of a batarian and sending him screaming to the ground, thrashing about as the toxins did their work. Shepard pivoted, glad for the brutally effective weapon, as only one penetrating shot was needed to bring an enemy down and render them ineffective. A long burst to break shields, and then a rapid double-tap took a long-necked salarian criminal in the throat. It dropped with a gurgle, and Shepard turned, firing purely on instinct. Another batarian fell backwards, rounds punching through the creature's shields and into its shoulder. It screamed in agony as the toxins ate away.
The mercenaries continued to advance, several fireteams now pushing up the middle. Shepard turned to suppress them, his shots forcing them into cover, and then triggered another detonator. Another line of charges blew, hammering the mercenaries with overlapping waves of skin-searing heat and shrapnel. Cries of agony were drowned out by the reverberating detonations, and Shepard took advantage of the confusion to scythe rounds into the shocked enemy.
A long stream of fire killed two turians, and the hulking, hunchbacked form of a krogan warrior became visible, charging up to the right for a shot. Shepard whirled on the massive alien, recognizing the enormous threat those beasts presented. Three rapid bursts penetrated the alien's shields and then its armor, but the krogan warrior didn't even flinch as the burning toxins pumped into its blood. Instead, it leapt up on top of a burnt-out vehicle and began blasting away with a shotgun.
Shepard fell back as hypervelocity slugs ripped up the ground nearby, and ducked behind the remains of a Mako fighting vehicle. The alien kept firing, more out of fury than common sense, and moments later its shotgun began to overheat, steam rising off the weapon as it shut down automatically.
Shepard then rolled around the side of the Mako, whipping out a grenade in the alien's moment of vulnerability. The disc-like explosive latched onto the transport just below where the krogan stood, and the bomb detonated, vaporizing half the car and flinging the alien off its feet.
Two batarians were moving up on the opposite side of the Mako. Shepard spotted them on his suit's sensors, but didn't turn to face them, instead firing on and killing another turian twenty meters off. They came around the vehicle, weapons raised, when another explosive charge on their side of the transport went off, blasting one into fine mist and throwing the other a dozen meters away, in about as many pieces.
A fireteam rushed toward Shepard's position, trying to flank the Marine and pin him down with intense fire, and the soldier fell back, firing and twisting, diving for more cover behind a broken hunk of building debris. A turian mercenary was left writhing in agony behind the stubborn defender, who rose and spat a scything stream of suppression fire at the advancing criminals. They fell back, taking cover.
Then a shadow loomed over Shepard. The krogan, blood weeping from the wounds it had taken earlier, thundered toward the Marine, leaping over the top of the rubble. It had a knife in hand, and was roaring obscenities as the knife cut straight toward Shepard's face.
Pain. Broken visor. Blood.
Shepard fell back, screaming, and beneath the Marine's skin, pulses of electricity fired down oversized nerves covered with cancer-like growths. Nodes of exotic material triggered, reality warped, and as Shepard reeled, blood sliding across a wounded face, the soldier's hand flew up. Blue-white light flashed for a brief instant as dark matter and dark energy met the "real" world.
The krogan's helmet, and the alien face behind it, caved in. The alien's body was lifted up and flung away, spinning through the air and crashing against a mound of debris.
A roar came, overhead, and not the screaming of missiles. Shepard's bones shook, his armor vibrating, his barriers flaring as debris spared against them. Then-
Shepard turned away from the orbital vista of Earth, shaking free of the memories. Friendly fire wasn't very friendly, and it was a miracle the strafing frigates hadn't killed the him along with the column of batarian-paid mercenaries.
"Sorry, Pressly. Thinking back."
The bald-shaven Lieutenant nodded, and extended a mug of processed caffeine. Shepard nodded thanks and took it. A quick sip showed it to be hot, fresh, and strong enough to corrode the shuttle's paint. Perfect.
"What about, if you don't mind?" Shepard's head shook.
"The battle that got me this job," was the reply, and Pressly nodded.
"The Skyllian Blitz," he mused. His expression shifted to one of contrition. "Sorry, I know how ugly it was back there. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
"No problem, I was already thinking about it anyway." Shepard crossed the small shuttle's passenger compartment, and started looking out into the darkness of space. Up ahead, there was one of the orbital docking stations at Lagrange Point 3, and he could see numerous ships docked to it, releasing toward the embracing void, or moving into position to attach. One in particular caught Shepard's eye.
"That ours?" Pressly stood and joined the Commander at the window. He peered out, and spotted the one Shepard meant: a dagger-like frigate, painted black and white like the orca whales on Earth, though vastly more narrow and infinitely more dangerous.
"That's the one. SSV Normandy," he replied, and Shepard nodded. It looked good. Nice and fast and agile, as a frigate needed to be.
The shuttle turned on a new heading, moving straight for the station, and the porthole turned to show the blackness of space. Against the transparent material, Shepard caught a reflection of both of them. Pressly, with his short, regulation-length mustache and beard, resplendent in his navy blue, gold-trimmed Naval uniform. And Shepard . . . .
He stared into his own face, a vicious scar running across his features, reminding everyone he encountered just how he'd earned his stripes. The scar raised memories of just how hideous his past had been. Mindoir, the Blitz, Torfan . . . he'd seen way too many people die in his time, and it felt like every one of those faces looked back into his.
"This is going to be an interesting deployment, sir," Pressly added, sitting down in his crash seat. Lieutenant Commander Shepard nodded as he turned around and settled down as well.
"I hope you're wrong, Pressly," he replied, scratching his head. "'Interesting' tends to end up with corpses. Do you know where we're going on this run?"
"Shakedown run to Eden Prime," Pressly replied. "Shouldn't be too eventful, I'd wager."
Shepard frowned, nodded, and peered out the porthole once again, and lost himself in that memory once more.
Author's Notes: ohgodthiscrazymaniswritingamasseffectnovelizationsomeonecommithimbeforehekillshimself.
Anyway, Mass effect is awesome. So awesome I'm going to kick myself in the balls and try to write a novelization for it. If you'll notice, Shepard in this story is....something of an amalgam (Assaults rifles plus biotics? BLASPHEMY!) He's a mixture of the Ruthless/War Hero military history, with Colonist background and a Vanguard class + Assault Rifles bonus talent. Also, he likes apple pie, oragami, long walks on the beach, and murdering those batarian slaver-scumbag-bastard-cake-thieves.
Until first chapter . . . .