A/N: Still don't own Halo or Mass Effect, because if I did, then I wouldn't have to do all these scholarship applications. All rights still belong to aforementioned parties, excluding any OCs, or original concepts and ideas used in this fic. Contains a RENEGADE M!Shep/ Ash relationship, along with a Chief/? relationship, to be mentioned after the Suicide Mission.

Reviews Response area:

Well, being held in what one could argue as romantic position by someone whose face can't be seen, much like your own, and besides, like all depictions of Tali, she's into Shep. And it was part embarrassment that she's in a romantic gesture in a public place.

I added that because I got a LOT of flak about that issue, and was a little pissed at the time.

Thanks, it's nice knowing I'm not the only Cerberus supporter on this site.

Why? Because I actually write a Renegade Shepard, unlike most of the authors on this website? Because I warned you, in EVERY AN that it had a Renegade Shepard? Because I stated in the AN for Chapter 12 that I had made my decision? Because I didn't ship Tail/Shep?

Exactly the point, I was trying to make!

It's to have someone who actually sees the value of saving the base. Everyone on this site seems to be "destroy the base, F*** you Cerberus!" but they fail to realize that we NEED every advantage that we can get to deal with the Reapers.

MACs do take up enormous amounts of power, and they also generate heat, hence why a full powered MAC is going to be rarely found in this universe. That doesn't mean that they won't be present, they will, just not at full power.

End of response section

Chapter Quote: "history shows that those who consistently turn the other cheek have a bad tendency to be wiped out by those living by the sword." Anonymous

Fanfic recommendation: Mass Vexations, and it's sequel Mass Vexations 2, by Herr Wozzack. What can I say about these fics that hasn't already been said? It spawned off almost every IS in the Mass Effect Section, and is a example of how one should write. Highly, highly, highly recommend these fics. Also, Cerberus will get vindicated in MV 3.

Two Hours Later

Shepard walked into his cabin on the Normandy and collapsed onto the bed, without even removing his armor. The past two hours had been… tiring, to say the least. Between the battle on the station, the fight with the Reaper, and his adrenalin high finally wearing off. Add in the stress about whether or not Ash would survive the operation, and he was more exhausted then after Hell Week during N7 training.

Fortunately, the Spirit of Fire was currently transitioning through the Relay, with the Normandy flying just ahead of it. Based on the reports that Captain Cutter had given him, the Fire was experiencing what the first generation Alliance vessels had experienced when going through the Charon relay. The Relay's could be used even if the Mass Effect core was inoperative, but it was highly advised against, as the shaking could kill the crew, and even literally shake the ship apart in some instances.

However, the Fire had a few things going for it, which should compensate for whatever stresses that Relay travel could do to the ship. First, the Fire was well built, with the idea of surviving any attack by virtue of her armor, not shields, which decreased the odds of the ship simply breaking up in transit. Second, the crew was congregating in the innermost parts of the ship, shielded by the sheer bulk of the ship, and finally, the crew had placed all nonessential personnel in cryopods, which were modified to be automatically ejected if the ship were to suffer critical damage. Though the ship would be lost, most of the crew would be saved.

Unbidden, his mind began to wander back to the events of the previous hours.


Out of nowhere, he heard a tremendous crash, and he looked up from his work at the reactor's core, to see the metallic skull visage of the Human-Reaper. Its three eyes glowing red, it opened its mouth, which, a more logical part of his mind noted while the rest was quietly panicking, was lined with small tentacle like appendages. From the open mouth, a torrent of red flames rushed out, forming a massive wave of fire. With a cry of "GET DOWN!" Shepard threw himself behind the sanctuary offered by a conveniently placed piece of Collector architecture. The flames roared overhead, scorching the back of his helmet, and causing temperature warnings to flash on his HUD, but he was alive.

He poked his head up from behind his cover, and noticed, with a feeling of relief, that Chief and Garrus had also made it to cover. However, Chief's vitals were elevated, but Shepard ignored that. For now, he was more concerned with killing the Reaper. He pulled out his ML-77 missile launcher, and engaged the targeting computer, and pulled the trigger twice. Two small rockets whipped out of the barrel, and began tracking the target that had been loaded into their small brains: The Reaper's eyes. They impacted, their deaths marked by two explosions, the glow almost impossible to distinguish from that of the eyes, and the Reaper's head reeling back, in pain. It screamed, sounding almost human, for an instant, and pulled up its right hand to shield its eyes. In doing so, it exposed an open port on the wrist, obviously where the paste had been added to the creature's body.

A thin red dot appeared in the maw, flickering slightly as it jolted partly around, tracking the moving arm, and then it fired. Like the wrath of God, a massive red beam shot into the port, and caused something to ignite. Flames rippled out of the port, covering the wrist with a miniature bracelet of fire. He had thought the Reaper couldn't scream any louder. He was wrong, as the creature's pain filled screams now were close to deafening him even though he was wearing a soundproofed helmet.

He turned around to see Chief, holding an odd device on his shoulder, the barrel glowing bright red as it cooled down from the massive blast it had doubtlessly emitted. Shepard gave Chief a brief nod of thanks, and turned back to the Reaper, his eyes narrowed in slits beneath his Death Mask's protective layers.

End flashback

Shepard didn't remember much of the fight with the Reaper fetus. He suspected that he might've suffered a minor concussion from the debris falling on him, but it was hard to tell. The X-ray that Chakwas had done was clean, so he was forced to set aside that issue, and start thinking about the meeting he would soon be having with Councilor Anderson. First, he was going to have to get the Spirit of Fire and the Normandy to a Cerberus dock, where hopefully they could see about repairing the gallant ships. The Fire was going to need one hell of an overhaul and rebuild, while the Normandy's unexpected crash landing meant that the support structure of the ship was dangerously fragile.

As it was, the Normandy's supporting network of reinforced load bearing beams were cracked and damaged in multiple areas, necessitating an urgent stop in a dock. He could tell that just by looking at the model ship display, where his prized collection of model vessels had miraculously survived intact, some of the ships were literally bouncing up and down in their resting places. Fortunately, he had converted the fishtank, which had been left empty after his fish had kept dying on him, into a model display case for the duration. His mind again wandered back to the events of just a few hours ago…


The creature reared back, and exposed its eyes inadvertently for another salvo of missiles. Shepard was tired, covered in Collector and human blood, and starting to feel like he had reached the end of his limits. He kept fighting though, not letting up on the barrage of missiles, not giving the creature a chance to recover. He kept fighting. For the lost. For Alenko. For Pressly. For himself.

Chief fired off another energy blast, ripping one of the eyes out of its socket, sending the optical unit tumbling down the bottomless abyss beneath their feet. In retribution, the creature's tail lashed out, smashing one of the platforms, and sending Garrus diving onto the center platform. However, Chief's blast had the unexpected side effect of exposing what looked to be the Reaper's brain. The brain, from the narrow view he could see, was a massive container of the paste use to make the abomination. The thick glass used in its creation was spider-webbed with cracks, and looked like one shot could shatter the whole thing. Shepard ceased his rocket barrage, and pulled out his Karpov IX, the only weapon he had been able to salvage from the Normandy's crash site, and the weapon that he had used to kill Saren on the Citadel. He aimed the pistol, and paused for a moment, letting the creature get a good view of what he had planned for it, and fired an explosive round.

The projectile struck the tank, and detonated. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. The glass shattered, spilling paste all over the inside of the head, and the creature gave one last plaintive scream, that for a moment, sounded almost human, before falling, once again to its doom. Unfortunately for Shepard and his team, while on the way down the express elevator to hell, it grabbed the bottom of the platform that had begun to ferry Shepard's team back to a place where they could reach the Normandy, and grabbed on for dear life to the supporting structure. It held the grip for only a second, before the weight of the creature ripped the creature's grip from the platform, but the damage was done. It jerked hard to the right, and descended on a new course, one that ended abruptly with a terminal impact with the wall.

Shepard regained consciousness slowly, feeling his head throb with pain. He looked around, and saw piles of debris scattered around the crash site, but no sign of his teammates. Beside him, he heard the clatter of metal being moved, and he looked at the source of the noise. To his right, a slab of metal was pushed to one side, and Garrus's helmet clad head appeared out of the debris pile. Shepard looked around, searching for Chief, but saw no sign of him. Then he saw the blood stains.

The blood was red, eliminating the possibility that it was an unfortunate Collector, and Shepard spotted more stains, that were leading away from the site. Next to one pile of debris, which upon closer inspection, looked like it had been pushed aside, was a long piece of metal, a pole that measured, by his estimate, around 3 feet long. The first foot and a half or so was covered in human blood. Lying 2 feet away from the pole was an empty and crushed can of biofoam, with a bootprint stamped deep into the metal. Then suddenly, a thought that had been bouncing around in his head revealed itself, and he started to run.

Following the bloodstains was easy, and Shepard's stride tore down the hall, Garrus following right behind him, until he came across Chief. Chief had slumped against the wall, and was holding (1) his side, which was leaking copious amounts of blood, welling up from between his fingers. Chief began to topple over, and Shepard and Garrus rushed over to his sides, grabbing his body, and holding him upright.

Then, they began to move at a slow, but steady run down the passageway, but then, to their horror, they heard the sounds of Collector footsteps running down the hall behind them. They continued their run, refusing to look back, even when the first few shots whizzed past their heads. Shepard's HUD showed that he was barely 20 meters from the extraction point. However, it also showed the countdown until the Station's reactor core overloaded.




Shepard cursed, and ran faster, hoping to make it to safety. They ran out of the narrow hallway in which they had been running, and looking back, Shepard could see Collectors, hundreds of them, swarming up out of the floor and ceiling, oddly enough, like a swarm of bees, seeking to protect their hive and it's queen.

Shepard turned, and pulled out a small sphere that Chief had given him prior to the mission's start. Depressing the trigger, the sphere ignited with a glowing blue light, and Shepard whipped the grenade like it was a fastball right at the lead Collector. It stuck to the defiled Prothean's chest, and it frantically tried to pull it off, but it detonated barely a second later. Shepard and Garrus's visors polarized automatically, cutting out the worst of the flash. The blinding blue flash, was oddly enough, accompanied by the smell of burnt meat, and Shepard's visor depolarized in time for him to see that he had managed to kill potentially a couple dozen with that one toss. Unfortunately, that still left hundreds more swarming his way. Shepard reached down with one hand to grasp his Karpov IX pistol, and drew the weapon in one hand. For some odd reason, he noted that his hand was shaking slightly, but he put it off to the vibration of hundreds of bodies approaching his position.




Then he heard it. A guttural roaring noise that could only be one ship. He turned around, and beheld the most beautiful sight he had ever seen in his entire life. The SR-2 Normandy, lifting up right behind his position, with the exterior airlock door sliding open, revealing, much to his surprise, Joker, who was wielding a M-8 Avenger. Joker's fire may not have been the most accurate, as Shepard wryly noted while running towards him, carrying Chief along with Garrus, but it was serving its purpose. The Collector swarm was blocked in at the hallway both by the sheer weight of bodies, and by Joker's killing of the few that managed to fight their way through the chokepoint.

Garrus and Shepard stopped once they were within 15 feet of the Normandy's airlock, and in unison, they threw Chief's motionless body, aiming at the airlock floor. Joker's eyes nearly popped out of his head, but he managed to scramble out of the way of the incoming projectile. Garrus then followed up, landing with a roll, safely in the airlock's niche in the hull. However, a platform, which had formed part of the floor that had been used to get a running start for the jump, collapsed, widening the gap between solid ground and the Normandy by several feet.

Shepard sighed, holstered his pistol, rolled his shoulders and ran. His armored bulk tore down the hallway, while in his head, he heard Harbinger's voice for some reason, saying some nonsense but Shepard ignored him. He leaped through the air, soaring like a brick, his hands reaching out, frantically trying to grasp the edge of the airlock. With a smash, Shepard's body slammed into the airlock's edge, driving the wind out of his body with an explosive gasp but he held on tight, refusing to let go. Garrus reached out, and tried to pull Shepard up onto the edge, but he was tired, and nearing the ends of his limits. Shepard felt certain that he would fall, then he felt it. Chief's hand reached down, and grabbed onto Shepard's armor tightly, and with a might yank, pulled his body up onto the edge, next to his own.

Shepard and Garrus reached down, and grabbed Chief, pulling him inside, and Joker followed suit, the airlock door sealing behind him with a hiss. However, once Shepard and Garrus entered the Normandy itself, they were greeted by a loud cry of "JOHN!" emanating from all the speakers on the cockpit, and on the holotank where EDI's avatar usually was, he saw Cortana's electronic figure drop to what was the ground in the holotank, in despair.

Joker stumbled in after them, tossing the Avenger to one side, as he climbed back into his seat, retaking the controls. Shepard, meanwhile, had pulled out a small stretcher stored in the CIC's medical kit, and was busy uncollapsing it so that he could put Chief's armored bulk on something other than his and Garrus's shoulders. He finally managed to get the stretcher working, and after some cursing, he and Garrus managed to place Chief onto the stretcher. It creaked ominously, but they ignored the creak, and rushed the stretcher into the elevator, Shepard slamming a fist on the deck 3 button. The door closed, and the car began its descent onto the 3rd deck of the Normandy.

End flashback

Shepard had escorted Chief to the Medical Bay, and from there, he had simply gone back up to his quarters, sealing the door behind him, and collapsing onto his bed, not even removing his armor. The mission had been successful, the Station was saved, the Collectors were dead, and he had rescued the Spirit of Fire, but at great cost. The Master Chief was wounded, the Normandy was badly damaged, Ash was hovering near death, and worst of all, he had lost a member of the crew. Samara had died holding the line, victim of an incineration blast from Harbinger, which had charbroiled her while her barrier was recharging.

Shepard felt some guilt about her death, but given she had said in no uncertain terms that after the Collectors were dealt with, she would be obligated to kill him, he felt little remorse. And to be fair, he had been planning on dealing with Morinth her way, but then his crew had been captured, forcing his hand. Besides, it wasn't like he had killed innocents; it was Omega, not the Presidium.

Now his plan was to head to a Cerberus shipyard, along with the Fire, get both ships repaired, and then head to the Citadel. While he wasn't a fan of the Council, they deserved to know at least that the Collectors were dealt with, and maybe this time, he could convince them about the Reaper threat. However, it was starting to look like he was going to have to rely on public opinion to force their decisions, rather than arguing with them fruitlessly. Emily Wong had requested a exclusive interview after all…

(1) look, I know that I will catch hell for this, but remember, Chief's been through hell and back. Even a Spartan has his limits, and well, he's reached them.