Title: Protoculture Effect (22/?)
Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.
Rating: Harsh language, violence, that's about it.
Spoilers: Just about anything.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to a bunch of other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: Just as robotechnology altered the course of human history, so also did another discovery hidden within Charon.
Author's Note: It was inevitable, I suppose, that I'd try crossing over these two of my favorite science fiction universes. I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to do this beyond just wanting to.
"So, Senior Chief," John asked, "think you can do it?"
Alice shot her commanding officer the evil eye, then relented and nodded. "Well, the specs are pretty flexible. Cyclones aren't exactly the stealthiest things around, but adapting this to your Typhoon shouldn't be that hard."
"Excellent. What kind of downtime are we looking at?"
"Gimme a week to figure out how to dampen the sound of your footsteps to go with it, and maybe another week or two to actually get it done," she offered with a shrug. "I'll know more once I get into the guts of it. Where'd you find this thing anyway?"
"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," he said. "It's just something I happened to... pick up on Noveria."
Jane glared at the display as the automated distress call repeated itself again. Naturally, she had the conn when this cropped up. "Joker," she said, "bring us around, low and slow. I want a full sensor sweep."
"You got it, Commander."
The asteroid was designated X57. Terra Nova's colonial council had decided to reposition it and mine it out to form a new orbital port facility, but between the distress call and the fact that the cheap fusion torches being used to reposition it were on full burn, something was wrong. She should have tried hailing the asteroid facility, but something tickled the back of her neck and held her back.
"We've just lost contact with Terra Nova, Commander."
Jane nodded in silent acknowledgement. This close to the metal-rich asteroid, long-range comms were bound to get fuzzy.
"Commander," Negulesco called, "picking up something on the magnetic resonance scanners. They don't match any known profiles..." she shook her head, "but that could be interference from the asteroid."
"What the hell's a turian frigate doing here?" Trask muttered. There was certainly no mistaking the dagger-like silhouette for any other species' design. He snorted. That didn't matter. It was doing a low and slow flyby, and while the asteroid's gravity was pretty low, it was enough that any ship that size would have to have diverted power away from its kinetic barriers to stay aloft at that speed and altitude.
Easy meat, he thought as he lined up his shot. The Karrn was not an elegant machine. It was a squat, blocky-looking box on a pair of stumpy, reverse-articulated legs, but it packed heavy kinetic barriers and armor and plenty of firepower.
The targeting computer's beeping sped up, then morphed into the steady tone of a solid lock, and he fired. An Insatha surface-to-air missile blazed overhead from the launcher nestled behind Trask's cockpit. In the muffled solitude of the asteroid's thin atmosphere, it seemed to float lazily toward the frigate above.
"All units, hold fire!" Charn's voice came over the comm. "That's a human ship!"
"What?" Trask sputtered, looking down at his comm panel. "Too late!"
This was bad. This was very, very bad. Like most smaller ships, turian frigates relied primarily on their kinetic barriers for defense, and a single missile of sufficient power - and the Insatha certainly had the power - could bring one down if it didn't have to contend with kinetic barriers, but with pinpoint barriers, a human ship was a different beast entirely.
"Damn it!" Charn cursed. "All units, open fire! Take that frigate out!"
Joker hauled the flight yoke back, pulling the Normandy up into a sharp climb, then tapped it to the side, giving the ship a bit of spin. His left hand brushed over the lateral thruster controls, adding a bit of lateral drift as the Normandy corkscrewed away from the asteroid's surface, evading most of the anti-aircraft fire.
Jane calmly clicked on her personal comm.
"Hunter to Shepard. We have a situation here."
"Terra Nova's invested a great deal of resources into relocating X57," Shepard said. "Moreover, there are civilians down there, and we're the best qualified to investigate and get them out."
There were actually quite a few resources available in the Asgard system. The local patrol flotilla carried a significant Marine detachment, and then there was a full Army battalion stationed at Discovery Army Base, as well as a Marine security company at New Forbes Aerospace Base. Still, despite all these military assets - along with Terra Nova's own law enforcement and Colonial Defense Militia - Shepard and his team remained the best equipped to handle a covert insertion, recon, and possible hostage rescue in low gravity.
None of which explained to SIU Lieutenant De'linda Kilika why she was here. There were no indications that there were geth on X57, nor were any batarian interests at stake. Certainly, her skills would be useful on this mission, but Shepard seemed to have forgotten that she wasn't technically under his command. She briefly considered objecting or simply walking out of the conference room where he was giving his briefing, but decided against it... in the interest of diplomacy.
"Gunny, how's Tali's progress on Cyclone ops?"
"Passed her quals, sir."
"Good," he said with a curt nod. "We'll be hot-dropping in with two teams. Wrex, Garrus, Kilika, you're with me and Jacob on Team Rescue. We'll go in with the Mako, find the hostages, get them out. Ash, Rick, Tali, you're with Kaidan on Team Torch, and you'll be relying on your Cyclones. Shut down those fusion torches. Both teams will target the SAMs as opportunities arise."
Tali'Zorah nar Rayya's pulse pounded. This would be her first mission with a Cyclone, and it was simultaneously exhilirating and terrifying. On one hand, she was wearing more advanced mechatronics than anything she had ever seen before; although the Alliance was friendly with the Migrant Fleet, they still kept their military-grade hardware top secret, and even now, she wasn't permitted to look "under the hood," so to speak. Still, having that kind of technology - that kind of power - at her disposal was more than a little intoxicating. On the other hand, she was about to go into combat against an unknown foe while relying on an advanced piece of hardware she had only previously used in a controlled environment before.
That, and in the tight confines of the ship, she hadn't really had much chance to practice riding the Cyclone in hovercycle mode.
"Umm, Gunnery Sergeant Williams?" she murmured. They were in the Normandy's loading bay, all decked out in full Cyclone armor.
"Yes, Tali?" Ashley half-turned and looked over her shoulder back at her.
"What's a 'hot drop'?"
Tali could see her eyes widen through her semi-transparent visor. "Shit."
"Well," Ashley said, "basically, the Normandy's going to go in, low and fast, and open the bay doors, and then... we jump."
"'Jump'?" she repeated, certain she had misheard.
"Out of the Normandy?" Surely, she had to have misunderstood...
"Oh, keelah..." she moaned. This was not going to be fun.
Ashley winced as Tali shrieked the entire way down, all the way up until the point their thrusters automatically flared upon sensing the ground below to soften their fall.
She turned to the quarian as soon as her boots touched the ground. "Tali, are you all right?"
"Keelah..." was the subdued response. Tali looked up, eyes bright and wide. "That was fun! Can we go again?"
This had to be some sort of karmic punishment, Ashley decided. What she could have done to deserve it, though, in this life or a past one, eluded her.
"Okay, people," Kaidan said, "I've set a nav point for the nearest fusion torch. Let's get to it."
Jacob gunned the Mako's engine and made a beeline for the main complex. In the commander's seat, John monitored the sensors. The high metal content of the asteroid caused interference which limited the range of what they could pick up, but there was definitely something hinky going on.
"Hold up, Taylor," he ordered. "I'm picking up something on that ridge. Garrus, track right, let's see if we can get a better look on the gun cam."
"You got it, Commander," the turian in the gunnery seat acknowledged, and the gleaming barrel of the Mako's 155mm particle cannon swung toward the right. His mandibles flared. "Uh, Commander, is that what I think it is?"
"That's a destroid."
And it was, but it was no destroid of Alliance make. It was a stumpy-looking machine, closer to the cheap industrial cargo lifters used in less prosperous Alliance colonies than a real combat mecha. Despite this, it was clearly heavily armed.
"Taylor, go evasive!"
Jacob hit the accelerator and fired the Mako's thrusters, catapulting them up into the air a hair too late. The hostile destroid's weapon arms glowed, and coruscating beams of energy lanced out and struck the Mako's underside before it landed hull down behind a ridge.
"Damage report!" John barked.
"The pinpoints took the hit," Jacob said, "but they're pretty much drained. Those must have been lasers; the kinetics didn't even twitch."
The problem with miniaturizing the pinpoint barrier system enough to fit it into something as small as the Mako was a trade-off in power. Either they were too weak to offer any real protection, or they collapsed after absorbing just a few shots. Still, the lasers had to have been quite powerful to drain the pinpoint barriers with only two shots, something more suited to starships or fixed emplacements than mecha.
"Tracking, Commander. Firing."
Hyperaccelerated subatomic particles streamed out in a 155mm wide beam toward the hostile destroid. Maneuvering rockets flared, hurling the destroid to the side and out of the line of fire, and it returned fire with the five-barreled mass accelerator cannon mounted in its left torso, the rounds carving divots out of the ridge and showering them with metallic dirt. From its chin-mounted ball turret, the destroid fired a canister between them, which began billowing smoke.
Garrus didn't need orders. The green-tinted light-amplified feed from the gun camera was replaced by the bluish tones of the turret's FLIR sensor, populated by a harsh orange-red cloud.
"Thermal smoke, Commander," he said, shaking his head.
"Taylor, get us moving!"
Jacob floored the accelerator, and the Mako lurched forward, narrowly evading the indirect fire that landed on their previous position. The turret traversed in a full revolution, seeking out the enemy mecha. Garrus spotted the angular hull of the destroid peeking through the smoke, and the particle cannon spat a short blast of subatomic death, temporarily blinding the pilot as it cut through its shields and struck the bubble cockpit.
In the passenger compartment, Kilika glared silently at the video feed patched into her helmet mounted display. This was impossible. She knew that silhouette. She discreetly ejected the ammo block from her sniper rifle and quickly slid a different ammo block in its place.
"Get the door," she said, her voice dropping into the low, gutteral growl distinctive of her species.
A beady krogan eye regarded her for a moment, then Wrex nodded, hefting his M-300 Claymore and reaching over to the rear hatch...
Trask hissed in frustration as he stomped after the Mako. The Karrn was a clumsy machine compared to its inspiration, and on the relatively level ground, he was having trouble keeping up with his prey.
Suddenly, the Alliance IFV's rear hatch popped open, and two figures burst out. The krogan's massive shotgun thumped faintly in the thin atmosphere, barely adding a few scratches to the already damaged transparent canopy... until the high explosive rounds detonated. Trask cursed in annoyance as cracks spider-webbed across his field of view.
Below, Kilika raised her sniper rifle and fired. The specialized ammo block was derived from one of the Hegemony's greatest military assets. A small electromagnetic field generator built into all recent batarian weapons destabilized the ammo in the firing chamber into a fluid state.
The molten jet of metal punched through Trask's canopy and skull before he saw it coming.
Kaidan ducked behind an outcropping as an 88mm shell slammed into it.
"Say again, Rescue Actual?"
"-ostiles have-...-roid support, unknow-...-ble Mongoose var-...!" Shepard's voice came over his helmet comm. The high metal content in the asteroid was affecting their radio transmissions as much as it affected their sensors.
Kaidan peeked over at the destroid that was pounding their position.
"You don't say," he muttered.
Codex: Colonial Defense Militia
After the losses sustained during the Second, Third, and Fourth Robotech Wars, the United Earth Defense Force found itself stretched thin defending the dozens of colony worlds seeded by the Pioneer Mission. With significant portions of former Haydonite territory left to secure, it was clear that the UEDF lacked the manpower to both ensure that the Haydonite threat was indeed gone and provide for the defense of Earth and its colonies. A number of ideas were proposed and rejected, ranging from a rapid response nodal defense plan to mass production of a series of unmanned orbital defense platforms to the reactivation of the zentraedi cloning facilities captured after the First Robotech War.
The final solution came in the form of the Colonial Defense Militias. Protocols were drawn up, and to this day, military advisors from the UEDF are assigned to train volunteers from the various colonies to serve in the CDMs on a part-time and emergency basis. Unlike the UEDF, CDM forces are permanently stationed in their home colonies and enjoy a great deal of autonomy from the United Earth Alliance, as they are funded by and answer to their individual colonial authorities rather than the Ministry of Defense.
Although the CDM training programs are uniformly excellent - as trainers are still provided by the UEDF - their equipment varies widely, depending on the funding provided by their colonial governments. Over the last fifty years, with the UEDF having fully recovered from the Robotech Wars and stationing Army and Marine garrisons on nearly all colonies, most colonial governments have cut funding for their CDMs, some abolishing them in all but name, and few CDMs can afford to match the top of the line mecha and equipment fielded by the UEDF. Today, most CDMs serve more as auxiliaries to Army and Marine garrisons rather than as independent fighting forces.
Codex: Mk 9 "Mongoose" Assault Walker
The Mk 9 assault walker - Alliance reporting name "Mongoose" - is a turian destroid developed after the Relay War. The Mongoose exemplifies turian pragmatism; rather than making it in their own image, turian engineers designed it more with an eye for practicality: a squat, blocky design with reverse-articulated legs. This has its advantages, including a lower center of gravity and smaller target profile. Though it lacks the versatility and overall agility of an Alliance battloid, the Mongoose makes up for it with modular systems and a large element zero core.
The Mongoose's entire torso is capable of full 360-degree rotation, and the pilot operates it from a heavily armored compartment buried within it, relying on external cameras and monitors. Its primary armament is a pair of modular weapon arms, capable of carrying a variety of cannons and missile launchers, though it also houses a retractable armored missile rack on top. In addition to kinetic barriers, the Mongoose uses its eezo core for mobility; unlike most mecha of its size, the Mongoose primarily navigates by skating along mass effect fields, typically only walking when in rougher terrain, and can make prodigious leaps, though it has not demonstrated sustained flight capability.
Sorry for the delays in the update. On the plus side, I have a new story set in the Protoculture Effect universe called Blue and Red: Stories From Shanxi. Check it out.