In his twenty-seven years of service to Citadel Security, Captain Hadrian Korten had never been in a situation like this.
He had been the district commander for District 16 here on the Citadel for well over the past thirteen years. The turian had seen murders. Assaults. Lynchings. The most brutal rapes and sex crimes. But he had never been scared. He once thought that after seeing someone use a M-23 Katana shotgun to empty out the contents of their head in a twisted political protest in the middle of the presidium, that he had seen it all. After the bloody hostage situation at Rumlowe's Strip in the Lower Wards, one that required the Special Reaction Team's intervention, he believed he had definitely seen it all. Once a young asari child had been left living alone in a derelict shuttle tucked away in the corner of some hellhole. Had he arrived any sooner, he would have carried a corpse away that day as opposed to a little girl. Her emaciated body, thin as paper, was still cowering in front of him anytime he closed his eyes.
Through all the blood, sweat, tears, pain, and the service Captain Korten had given as a C-Sec servant after almost three decades, there was nothing that he felt he hadn't seen, felt, or done. But this was different.
The original plan was surgical, a definitive sword stroke on C-Sec's part that would finally bring the whole station to a state of relative peace. Dubbed "Operation Haymaker", violence still being incited by Krieger's mercenaries and followers was to be crushed. Hard. Isolate the remaining human pockets of resistance remaining in the lower wards, bag them, and close the noose around Krieger himself. Ensuring that a fair trial, a very public trial, for Jacob Krieger was the goal. But murmurs amongst senior staff gave the silent go-ahead to kill him if presented the opportunity.
But humanity's tactics were starting to show militaristic efficiency and results. Precision ambushes at key choke points. High ranking detectives, patrol sergeants, assistant chiefs, and SRT members were targeted and ruthlessly killed. Some while executing their duties, others in their homes with throats slit ear to ear. Guerilla style hit and run attacks from large crowds were the most heinous of the attacks. From the crowd rounds would be fired at officers, and then gunmen would slip away in the panic for a few moments only to attack again from new vantage points.
It was chaos. His men couldn't return fire safely. The fear of collateral damage was too great. Krieger's mercs were smart. Only the turians and salarian sellswords would engage in these hit and runs. Blending in with the crowds whereas humans would have stuck out like sore thumbs.
Today was supposed to be just a small part in the grander scheme of Haymaker. Captain Korten was to personally lead a presence patrol through Redbrick Plaza, a shopping strip in District 16 on the lower wards.
The job was to show the citizenry of the Citadel that C-Sec still had control. That military intervention wasn't necessary.
At first, everything seemed alright. Crowds bustled back and forth between the different shops. The trees that were planted down in this section of the ward were blooming with hot pink blossoms, thanks in part to the simulated sunlight. The various hovercraft touching down, letting passengers out, taking new ones on, were bustling at either end of the plaza. Kids were chasing each other, actually having fun.
One approached Korten. A little asari girl maybe coming up to just below his hip. She stared at the high caliber pistol he had secured to his hip and the black M-15 Vindicator rifle in between his talons. She stared at him in wonder. He smiled and his mandibles parted a little. She smiled back, her violet cheeks turning slightly pink with a blush, teeth white as snow revealed.
Slinging the rifle across his back, he knelt down and reached into a pouch on his belt. A piece of non-dextro candy for the little girl.
He never noticed the fact that someone came up from behind and quickly scurried past the two. Nor the backpack they left behind, some ten or so meters away.
The girl reached out with five tiny purple fingers, silently in awe of the big policeman handing her goodies. Her fingers never reached his.
A flash. Ringing in Korten's ears. He was thrown to the ground and he felt like the force of whatever hit him dragged him for at least three or four meters from where he was kneeling.
His vision had tunneled. Ears still ringing. Blurred forms rushing by him, panicked and erratic. Bright lines cut across these forms, a wave of pressure followed them.
The turian forced himself onto his side as he gasped and wheezed for breath, some of his senses slowly returning. His eyes found five tiny purple fingers on a tiny purple hand. He followed it until the elbow.
There wasn't an elbow. Just blood. Shredded flesh. Bone and still twitching fingers searching for nerve signals that would never reach it.
Korten forced himself onto his knees as his hearing returned. Screaming. The deafening, repeated booms of close-range gunfire. The zip and crack of rounds as they flew by his head.
An impact that felt like a sledgehammer being wielded by a krogan into his ribs forced him back down to his side. He heard chips of the ceramic plating in his armor plinking off the ground.
He didn't feel the warm rush of blood pouring from him, which meant the flexible protective panels of his undersuit stopped the bullet that hit him.
Today was nothing like the last twenty-seven years.
For the first time in nearly three long decades, Captain Hadrian Korten saw something that terrified him.
The little asari girl was walking towards him. Her purple-grayish eyes tinged with red. Her lips pursed attempting to make a thin singular line. Shrapnel had cut her face, tearing off half of her upper lip, revealing shattered teeth and blood beneath what he could see. The tiniest of limps in her gait as she pressed forward through the chaos towards him, a tiny cut on her right knee. She stopped just before him and bent over ever so slowly, picking up her left arm from the ground. Purple blood poured from both the stump that was still attached to her, and the severed arm that she now dragged across the ground in her right hand. She turned away from Korten, painting a lazy half circle of purple before him. Tiny knees fell to the ground. The rest of her followed. She died still clutching her severed limb.
Today was different.
Today he was fucking terrified.
The turian forced himself to his feet and found the closest ally.
Corporal Ya'nira was the closest. An asari who had been on the beat for the past seven years. Cool-headed as could be. Before the attack on Kyrix Point she had an SRT packet waiting at C-Sec Central Command, pending final approval. Needless to say, everything got put on hold for more pressing matters. She was returning fire against dug in mercenaries about forty meters away from her position, accurate three-round bursts from her M-15 finding their targets and shattering kinetic barriers.
Korten stumbled forward and dove behind one of the blossoming trees next to her as a round ricocheted off the outer bark, sending splinters past him. He yanked his M-15 from his back and slammed the charging handle forward. He looked over to Ya'Nira and shouted, "Are you okay?"
Not taking eyes off her targets in the distance, she squeezed the selector switch on her rifle, sending it from three-round burst to semi-automatic. The asari squeezed the trigger next, a single round flying across the plaza and embedding itself into the forehead of a dark-skinned human with a shotgun. The human's form crumpled to the ground as pink mist filled the air where she once stood.
"Your hand." Ya'Nira stated matter-of-factly as she shifted the crosshairs of her combat optic to a salarian priming a disc grenade.
"My what!" Korten shouted back as he attempted to steady his rifle while scanning for potential targets, but he couldn't stop his crosshairs from shaking within his optic.
The corporal sighed and let loose several shots across the plaza, her rifle pushing back into her shoulder with each squeeze of her trigger.
"Your left hand."
Korten turned his rifle to the side, trying to get a good look at what she was talking about.
Now he understood why he couldn't hold his rifle steady. He was missing his small finger. His dark, leathery skin stained purple.
"Fuck. Gods fucking damn it."
The pain finally caught up to him. His chest was tight with the bruising that started to spread from where the rifle round hit. His burns along his right arm were starting to ache again. And now his gods-damned hand was hurting.
"Should we retreat, sir?" Corporal Ya'Nira asked coolly as her next round flew true, shearing through the salarian's wrist as he primed the grenade. It fell to the ground and exploded, consuming him in a flash of orange.
No. He thought as he started to compose himself. This is fucking bullshit.
The warm orange glow of his omni-tool spilled across his face as he lowered his rifle and raised his left arm closer to his face.
"Dispatch, Dispatch. This is Delta One-Six Actual. Deploy Special Reaction Team to Redbrick Plaza. Have Lifeline Flights on standby, multiple civilians and C-Sec wounded. How copy, over."
"Delta One-Six Actual, Dispatch. Good copy on all traffic. Keep your eyes on the sky, expect SRT support within seven minutes, Lifeline within one-nine minutes. Out."
"Fuck retreating." Korten finally responded to his subordinate. "Engage all targets with lethal force, corporal."
"On it, captain." Ya'Nira replied without missing a beat.
Today, Captain Hadrian Korten was scared. He was terrified. But he was going to end this.