I don't own Bioware or Billy Joel. I do own a copy of 'Piano Man', which I play so often that my mother eventually put a lock on the piano.
'And we were sharp, as sharp as knives. And we were so gung ho to lay down our lives.'
IN ORBIT OVER TORFAN
"Listen up boys and girls," Staff Lieutenant Taylor Shepard slapped her Gunnery Chief on the back. "This chunk of rock is Torfan. There's going to be a battle here today. Our enemy has chosen to cower here, preparing to come out in the dead of night and kill our colonists in their sleep. Well…WE'RE GOING TO KILL THEM FIRST!"
SEVEN YEARS LATER
"I knew it was a mistake trusting you," The Illusive Man angrily swallowed his bourbon in a single gulp. "Too reckless, too fixated on your personal glory to be a real asset to Cerberus, to humanity!"
Taylor lit up a cigarette. "On the contrary, if I had been out for my own advancement, I would have saved the bloody base. As it was, I had no choice but to destroy it. I can't trust you, or humanity for that matter, with that kind of power."
"Lieutenant Shepard, are Alpha Company ready to go?" Major Kyle had an amused smile on his face as he surveyed the cargo bay. The tall, dark skinned, square jawed officer could have stepped straight out of a recruiting poster, his neatly pressed fatigues stretched over his burly frame. His aide scuttled behind him. Corporal Kitch, too short to be in the infantry, too much spirit to be a cook. Everyone liked the tiny orderly, most considered him to be the mascot of the 501st Light Infantry Brigade.
"Are we ready?" She grinned back at him. "NINJAS!"
"WE RULE THE NIGHT!" Alpha Company, 1st Battalion. 'The Ninjas' roared back. The troopers Taylor commanded suited her fighting style. An infiltrator by trade, her men were all cross trained in sniping, stealth, electronics and first aid in addition to their regular skills. Combined with 2nd Lieutenant Clancy, an Adept class biotic, and Alpha Company was the most versatile unit in the whole 1st Division, at least in Shepard's opinion.
"Did we get the beachhead sir?" Taylor asked eagerly. Kyle nodded approvingly. Taylor had spent her whole career in the Alliance under Kyle's command, ever since the Major had been a Lieutenant Commander. The two had formed a father-daughter bond, since Kyle had no children of his own and Taylor was an orphan. He had trained her as a soldier, sat on the selection board for her Officer Candidate School application, and taught her to be a leader. He had groomed the uncouth kid from the streets of New York into tough, focused young woman, destined for her own division some day.
"Sissy wanted it for her boys, but General Wallace said it's our turn to be the bride," Kyle handed Shepard her orders. "Your Ninjas are the first wave, neutralize these suspected gun posts, clear a landing zone for the rest of the Brigade. Staff Commander Colt brings his artillery down after us, so our LZ's have to be suitable for his big guns to set up."
The Fighting First was a typical frontier division, a perfectly balanced fist capable of punching through the toughest enemies, and a strong, solid body able to hold the ground it took for months on end. Two infantry brigades, the 501st under Kyle and the 452nd under Major Charissa Shoka. One armored cavalry brigade, the 10th under Major Marion Diggs, equipped with Mako Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Cosgrove Main Battle Tanks. One artillery regiment, 81mm and 120mm mortars, 155mm and 195mm howitzers and a dozen Multi Launch Rocket Systems. Add the various air support and transport squadrons and it came to nearly 20,000 men and women, armed to the teeth, pissed off, and looking for a fight. With all the orbital fire support that the Midway and the other frigates would be raining down as soon as it was called in by the Forward Air and Forward Orbital Controllers, nothing the batarians did could possibly hope to stop the massive punishment that would shortly be descending on them.
"I won't let you down Papa Kyle, sir," Taylor promised, using the affectionate nickname the soldiers had stuck on their commander. "Would you care to address the men before we leave?"
"Of course," Kyle stepped up on the hull of a Mako. An age old tradition, the CO giving a few words of encouragement and inspiration to the soldiers about to go into battle, Kyle was all about tradition. "Alpha Company, Attention!"
Shepard's chosen two hundred and fifty ceased their preparations and turned their eyes towards him. "You all know why we're here. Two years ago, Elysium, the jewel of our species was viciously attacked. That attack was planned, rehearsed, and launched from Torfan! They planned to burn it to the ground, lure in and ambush our fleets and teach our species a lesson! But did they get away with it?"
"NO!" they roared.
"They did not!" He agreed. "A handful of brave men and women took up arms, and defended their homes long enough for help to arrive. Some of you were there with me, you saw the chaos, the brutality, the mindless violence. Well enough is enough, we've been in the line for only five months, but this battle has been two years in the making. We've tracked them to their lair, and now they cower in fear, because they know what awaits them!"
"You will kill the enemy where he stands, you will drive him down into his holes and you will burn him back out!" Shepard felt herself filled with the same kind of fire as her men. If Kyle had gone into politics, he would have been the President in no time. The way he spoke inspired confidence. "When people speak of this day, they will remember the bloody vengeance that we wreaked upon our foes. They will remember the righteous wrath with which we fell upon them. But for now, I ask that you remember courage, remember honor…and REMEMBER ELYSIUM!"
"REMEMBER ELYSIUM!" The Ninja's thundered.
"Godspeed, good luck, and good hunting!" he snapped off a salute, and then stepped down.
"I fail to see what your actions at Torfan have to do with destroying a Tier One asset," The Illusive Man had calmed himself, his momentary loss of temper forgotten as he leaned back in his chair.
"We were arrogant, convinced of our invulnerability," Taylor sat down on a metal beam that had fallen across the comms room floor. "Ever since Elysium, it had been one victory after another, tearing through well trained, but badly equipped rebels like a varren in a pack of pyjaks. We didn't realize that the guys holding Torfan were the ones who trained everyone else. Every one of them was former Batarian Special Forces, with years of military experience and with the best equipment the Hegemony could offer. We just didn't know."
"…I will be your stewardess, slash company commander for today," Shepard paced down the long corridor of the Wolcott class Landing Ship. "Otherwise known as first on/ last off. Today we will be serving shredder and armor piercing rounds from our delicious M-6 Avenger menus, followed by our main course, all your can eat Batarian. I hope you all like alien cuisine."
=Thirty seconds to landing= the pilot's voice came over the intercom. =These bastards got my cousin at Elysium, give 'em hell for me=
The loadmaster dropped the ramp, and Shepard caught her first glimpse of Torfan. Barren rock for the most part, the atmosphere was too thin for any plant to sustain itself. The air, although thin, was safe to breathe, but they had been warned to keep their breather helmets on, a necessary precaution with the amount of physical exertion that the marines would be doing over the next few hours.
Taylor crouched by the door and reached for her sniper rifle. "Get your game faces on! Let's take the fight to…
"RPG, RPG!" The loadmaster screamed as she pointed to the red ball of fire approaching the dropship. The rocket struck the bird amidships, throwing Shepard out the back of the landing craft. The loadmaster should have gone as well, but her safety cord, meant to prevent her from falling out, did exactly what it was designed to do, dragging her along with the landing craft as it crashed in a ball of flames.
"You're saying I'm arrogant," The Illusive Man seemed amused.
"I'm saying that I know all too well the dangers of assuming the role of Almighty God," Shepard met his gaze, unflinching as his cybernetic implants glared at her. "When the day of reckoning arrives, as mine did at Torfan, it can be a most sorry day indeed."
"LT? Come on LT, get up!" Shepard felt herself being dragged along the rough ground.
"Enough," she coughed slightly, noticing for the first time that her helmet was gone, as well as her breathing unit. "I can walk."
She looked up into Clancy's nervous eyes. "Mr. Clancy, sitrep?"
"We lost four birds coming in, those that made it to their LZ's got shot up by some fixed heavy machine guns in those bunkers." He looked around nervously, his biotics sparking, probably with fear. "Lieutenant Tam was the only platoon leader to make it, and he got his head taken off by a sniper a few minutes ago."
"What about the rest of the battalion," Taylor felt for her sniper rifle, and was dismayed to find it missing as well. Her Volkov X Long Range Weapons System, nicknamed 'Tanya' was her pride and joy, capable of penetrating shields and amour at extreme ranges. "Where's Lieutenant Commander Collins?"
"Most of the other companies got hit worse than we did, they waited for our first birds to pass their guns so they could catch more of us in the kill box," Clancy passed her his own sniper rifle, an Avenger IV. It was like asking Michelangelo to use cement instead of marble, but she was in no position to be choosy about her weapons. "Lieutenant Commander Collins didn't make it. Most of the company commanders got hit as well. I heard Staff Lieutenant Casey's cobbling together what's left of Fox, Delta and Echo to make a strike on the North Bunker, try and get those AA guns offline before the rest of the brigade tries to land."
"How many Ninjas?"
"Roughly a hundred, but we've got another fifty guys trickling in from the Bravo and Charlie LZ's. We've got some 82mm guys, but they've lost their mortar tube. Casey's got about two hundred still fighting, and about half that number wounded in an LUP (Lay Up Point). Battalion surgeon's dead, but the medics are doing their best," Clancy was so scared he felt like pissing his pants. "We're pretty fucked up LT. You think it's FUBAR?"
"We're not at FUBAR yet," Shepard could see the outline of the South Bunker in the distance. "Papa Kyle's still got the rest of the brigade up there, plus the Tenth Cav and the Four Five Two. Let's go get those guns, make way for the reinforcements."
"Yes ma'am," Clancy tightened his grip around his shotgun. Shepard patted him on the shoulder.
"You've done a good job, and you're now a 1st Lieutenant," She stood up, and activated her boom mike. =Alright Ninja's, let's go earn our pay=
"Oh we earnt it alright, we burnt those batarians out with incendiary grenades, got to the control center and deactivated the AA fire. Didn't lose a man doing it, I trained them well." Taylor balled her hands into fists. "Casey wasn't so lucky, her whole command was from different units, her officers broke down under fire, the Chiefs did what they could, but they could breach the bunkers. Didn't have the same kind of training or equipment my Ninjas had."
"Staff Lieutenant Lauren Casey," The Illusive Man commented. "You were at OCS together?"
"That's right, Lauren didn't know how to give up," Shepard grinned slightly. "She picked thirty men and went to each gun individually. Blew them up with C-12 satchel charges. She took fifteen bullets and kept on going, pulled the pin on the grenade and jumped into a gun pit. Received a posthumous Cross of Valor."
"That's something I've never understood," he lit up another cigarette. "If you had already taken out the guns, why were casualties so high?"
"We only got the command centers for the Triple A batteries," she mimicked his posture. "They had plenty of other guns. Mortars, howitzers, machine gun nests, minefields, fixed GARDIAN turrets that could reach all the way up into orbit. And enough anti-tank rockets to blow up the Collector Base…twice."
"Where's the Major?" Shepard grabbed the radio operator and shook him. The hollow eyed private stared back up at her.
"Back there someplace," he jerked his thumb in the direction of a burning Mako. Shepard began to walk, when the soldier latched onto her hand. "I just go word from the 10th Cab, Major Diggs sends his regrets but he can't land his MBT's here, and he won't risk sending in the rest of his IFV's. We just got sold down the river."
Shepard's heart sunk. With their 210mm 'Bunker Buster' guns, the Cosgrove MBT's could have leveled the playing field. "Keep that radio going, see if you can get some air support in here."
She couldn't see Kyle at first, and then she spotted him slumped next to the burning vehicle, he was holding something in his arms. He was crying like a baby. Shepard saw it. "Oh shit," she whispered. It was Kyle's little orderly, Kitch. He was dead, covered with blood and horribly mangled. Kyle was rocking the body back and forth.
"Sir," Shepard took a run and slid to a halt next to Kyle. "Sir, you need to get to cover."
"He's dead Taylor," Kyle sobbed. "He threw himself on a grenade meant for me. They're killing my boys Shepard; these animals are murdering my kids."
"Sorry Skipper," Shepard pulled back Kyle's head and slapped him across the face. His nose broke and blood spurted out. Blinking several times, he glanced around, and then gently lowered Kitch's broken body to the ground.
"Lieutenant," he said calmly, as if nothing had happened. "Where's Staff Commander Baker?"
"I saw him back there, he had a big hole in his chest," Taylor handed Kyle a pistol. He cocked it mechanically.
"What about Lieutenant Commander…
"He's dead, she's dead, she's also dead and we couldn't even find Commander Darrowby's body," Shepard took a deep breath. "We have maybe two battalions worth of troopers still fighting sir, we have no senior officers, only Lieutenants. We're running out of ammo, medi-gel, and time."
"Then lets get this turned around," Kyle pushed himself off the ground. Tears were still leaking from the corners of his eyes, but for now, his sanity had returned. "Private Grippe! Get that radio over here; put me in contact with the battalions. Shepard, we're going up front, I want you to take a battalion and start pushing forward. You're a Staff Commander now!"
Shepard began to feel a glimmer of hope; maybe they could win after all. Kyle was back in the fight. The 'Old Man' had never failed his men yet.
A/N: I love being on holidays, so many different stories that I can work on.
I envisioned Torfan as being similar to the 6th Marine Regiment landing on Saipan during WWII. Hundreds of men died within minutes, the 6th Regiment practically ceased to exist, yet they took thousands of Japanese soldiers with them.
I want to thank everyone who reviewed and encouraged my previous stories. Without them, I wouldn't have kept writing.