Eden Prime, A Few Minutes Later
Spectre Nihlus Kryik kept to the deep shadows cast by the stacks of starship cargo pods as he slowly, cautiously crept into the secondary spaceport that served the main settlement/capital city of Eden Prime. All his senses were on full alert, his assault rifle out and ready as he moved with a silence that to an uneducated sentient would have seemed impossible for a hundred and eighty pound Turian wearing a heavy combat hardsuit and carrying enough firepower to pulverise a platoon.
The situation here on Eden Prime had him concerned, very concerned. The fact that the Geth had broken their three centuries of isolation behind the Persius Veil to attack this colony was alarming. As was the facts that they were as aggressive towards organic life as ever, had presumably come to acquire the Prothean Beacon discovered here for themselves – though how they'd found out about it he had no idea – and that they had obviously advanced considerably during their isolation.
One thing was certain this attack was only the beginning neither the Citadel Council nor the Systems Alliance would allow this to go unanswered. The Geth had long been the bogeyman to Citadel aligned races, their existence and apparent hostility to organics held up as a cautionary tale about the dangers of developing A.I technology. When the news of this attack and its scale broke there was certain to be loud calls for war to the waged against the Geth – especially from the Humans who would understandably want revenge for the unprovoked attack – calls that the Council would be extremely hard pressed to ignore.
"Nihlus it's Shepard," Shepard's voice abruptly said over the comm. making Nihlus jump a mile in surprise. Damn it Shepard what are you trying to do give me a heart attack, Nihlus thought for a moment before stopping his advance to answer.
"We've just checked out the research camp the beacon isn't here," Shepard told him grimly. "We found two survivors from the science team that excavated it. Apparently the beacon was packed up and transferred to the spaceport this morning ready for transport to the Citadel."
"Understood I'm entering the spaceport now, get here as soon as you can," Nihlus instructed.
"Understood, also be on the lookout for any tripod structures set up by the Geth. If they're active they'll have bodies suspended several feet in the air on a metal spike."
"I've seen a few of those," Nihlus replied shivering as he remembered the sight of the lifeless bodies of colonists and marines alike suspended in the air on metal spikes by the Geth. It was horrific and unlike anything he'd seen before – which was saying something considering all the terrible things he'd seen first when he'd been an infiltrator in the Turian military and his later, current career as a Council Spectre. It was a sight that was sure to send a tidal wave of horror across the civilised galaxy when it was seen on the news networks as no one other than the Geth – not even the Krogan who were well known for their brutality – would have disrespected the bodies of the dead in such a manner.
"They're traps," Shepard said sounding as repulsed and horrified as Nihlus felt, "the spikes use somekind of advanced nanotech to convert the bodies on them into cybernetic 'husks' that will deploy in your path. Damned things are mindless, aggressive shock troops and have a powerful EMP attack that disrupts shields and weapons in the same manner as an overload pulse but stronger. Thankfully they're extremely vulnerable to biotics. If you encounter any take them out at range."
"I appreciate the warning, Shepard," Nihlus replied feeling like he wanted to be sick, he'd thought what the Geth had done to the bodies before was macabre but this… turning them into cybernetic zombie shock troops was worse, far worse. "Get here as soon as you can."
"We're on our way," Shepard answered before signing off.
Feeling slightly reassured that the beacon might yet still be here on Eden Prime Nihlus raised his rifle again and resumed his journey, heading for the landing platforms where the beacon would logically be if it had been prepped for transport. Rounding a corner into an ally formed by two rows of stacked containers he immediately saw one of the 'husks' as Shepard had called them. It was standing there almost like it was on guard duty and it was truly a horrific site, a twisted cybernetic mockery of what had once been a Human. The creature had yet to notice him and bearing in mind what Shepard had said about the EMP attack ability and to take them out at range he flipped his ammo selector over to disruptor rounds and opened fire.
Sparkling hypervelocity bullets tore into the husk making the cybernetic being jerk and twist. The creature emitted a horrible rasping howl as the electromagnetically charged bullets tore through its cybernetic components, triggering overloads and systems failures. Then it collapsed to the ground, arcs of energy crackling around it before fading leaving the husk lifeless on the ground the blue glow of its cybernetics fading away. For a moment Nihlus held his position both waiting for his rifle to cool down and to make sure no Geth or more of the husks came to investigate the weapons fire.
Breathing a sigh of relief when no company showed up, Nihlus resumed walking constantly sweeping his rifle back and forth as he searched for threats with both eyes and combat radar. To his relief no enemies appeared and within a few moments he came to the end of the alleyway which opened out onto one of the platforms. Not taking any chances he engaged his tactical cloak, becoming practically invisible to the naked eye – aside from a faint lensing effect that only the sharpest eyes could hope to spot – and completely invisible to sensors, before stepping out into the open.
He quickly skirted a small fire burning off to one side feeding on a mixture of gas leaking from a broken pipe and debris from a broken cargo pod and turned a corner and stopped green eyes widening and mandibles dropping down in surprise. Another Turian was on the platform – dressed in greyish-white customised armour and with a bionic right arm – pacing back and forth as though waiting for something or someone. A Turian he recognised immediately from long experience with him.
"Saren," he exclaimed in shock as he deactivated his tactical cloak. His fellow Spectre and one time mentor stopped dead in his tracks, before slowly turning to face him.
"Nihlus," Saren replied in greeting while inwardly groaning in dismay. He'd known of course that the Council would likely send a Spectre to secure the beacon and oversee its transport to the Citadel, a Spectre he would have to kill if they interfered, but why did it have to be Nihlus? Why someone who had long been his friend, even if they had a number of fundamental disagreements about relations with other species – particularly Humans – and what Spectres were really supposed to do as they went about their duties. Why couldn't it have been someone like that Asari Tela Vasir who was forever getting on his nerves?
"This isn't your mission, Saren," Nihlus said looking suspiciously at his mentor. "Why are you on Eden Prime?"
"The Council thought you could use some help on this one," Saren replied moving up to him and putting his organic hand on Nihlus's shoulder before looking around. "And from the looks of things they weren't mistaken."
Nihlus gave the subtle Turian equivalent of a scowl, irritated at the political interference in his mission. He could see Councillor Valern's fingerprints all over this one, the two of them had long clashed especially over Valern's increasingly outdated attitudes to most things, especially the Alliance. But this time Valern had gone too far, he'd be sure to register a complaint with the rest of the Council later. Right now he would accept Saren's assistance – so long as the older man didn't do anything to sabotage his mission to assess Shepard's performance. Something that he wouldn't put past Saren to try and do considering the older Turians views on Humans – who he still blamed for the death of his elder brother Desolas thirty years ago during the Relay 314 Incident.
"I wasn't expecting to encounter the Geth here," he admitted putting the thoughts of the political interference and Saren's petty prejudices out of his mind and instead looking in the direction of the colony capital and seeing the plumes of thick, acrid smoke rising from burning outbuildings and fields. "How they got this far into Citadel Space without being detected and challenged by a patrol I have absolutely no idea but that's not important now. This situation is bad."
"It is," Saren agreed slipping behind his former protégé and taking his pistol from its holster. Reluctantly he trained it on the back of his friends head. "But don't worry I have the situation under control."
Without waiting for a reply he fired once. At point blank range the kinetic barriers built into Nihlus' hardsuit – which would normally have blocked the attack – were of no help as shot was fired from within their perimeter. Unopposed by a helmet the slug ripped through the back of Nihlus's skull instantly severing his spinal cord even as it punched right through the skull and came out between Nihlus's eyes. Nihlus crumpled to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been sliced through, features frozen into an expression of pain and surprise.
"I'm sorry, Nihlus," Saren said softly to his former protégé's lifeless body feeling a genuine regret for having to kill him. Taking a moment he bent down and closed his old friend's sightless eyes. "But I cannot let you interfere with what needs to be done."
"Saren," Sovereign's deep rumbling voice said coming over his comm. link, the suddenness of it making him jump. "The Geth have found the beacon. It's on landing platform one on the other side of the ridge from your current location."
"I'm on my way," Saren acknowledged heading right for the cargo train that would connect to the other platform which was on the other side of the ridge from here.
"Excellent. I will return to orbit, join me in your shuttle the moment you have the information from the beacon."
The Reaper signed off without waiting for Saren to respond. Saren didn't mind to much as he had long since become accustomed to Sovereign's ways. The Reaper might be an incredibly powerful sentient dreadnought but such purely organic things like manners seemed to be somewhat beneath his notice. So he put it out of his mind as he boarded the cargo train, accessed the controls and started the journey to the other platform.
That Same Time
The sound of the shot that had killed Nihlus echoed through the air, the narrow canyons that connected to the spaceport on this side acting like a conduit for the sound of the fatal shot.
"Hear that," Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams exclaimed as she stepped out of the prefab sleeping module where she and Commander Shepard had just had a not very informative conversation with Dr Warren and the shell-shocked, near hysterical Dr Cayce who kept inanely babbling about forces of darkness and the end of humanity having come. The only thing they'd really learned was what he had already relayed to Nihlus – the beacon had been prepped for transport and taken to the spaceport to await pickup. With a little bit of luck it would still be there.
"I hear it," Shepard agreed cautiously sweeping his rifle from side to side as he searched for threats. "Single shot most likely from a very high calibre pistol."
"Whoever fired it must be close by," Williams commented.
"Not necessarily chief," Jenkins replied, "the acoustics of these canyons are such that they conduct sound over a considerable distance. That shot could have easily been fired inside the spaceport and we'd hear it back here, when I was a kid and playing out here we could always hear the sounds from the port if it was busy."
"It doesn't matter where it came from," Shepard said grimly. "We need to get to the spaceport and meet up with Nihlus so we can retrieve the beacon and get it onto the Normandy before the Geth get it. Let's move."
Without waiting for a response he began jogging down yet another gully that led to the ridge overlooking the outer edge of Eden Prime's secondary spaceport. The sound of other footfalls in the soft earth let him know that the others were all following him down the gully which quickly gave way to the top of the ridge. Below them and about four to five hundreds metres away was the outer edge of the spaceport and looming over it was a sight that made him stop dead in his tracks, blue eyes going wide in shock.
Looming like a leviathan over the spaceport was the alien ship that he, Anderson and Nihlus had caught a glimpse of during the last few seconds of Eden Prime's distress call. It had looked big on the recording but this close the vessel was absolutely gigantic, dwarfing everything around it. Even the few outer arcology towers of Constant were less than half the size of the ship and they were nearly a kilometre tall themselves. The vessels hull was a very deep dark blue-black colour that seemed to absorb almost all the light that fell upon it, coupled with the ships vaguely squid-like shape and the arcs of blood red energy crackling about it made the primitive part of his brain scream at him that this was a thing of evil, a thing of death and to run, to hide in the deepest, darkest part of the cave and never ever come out again.
"What is that," Alenko abruptly exclaimed from beside him gaping at the monster vessel in a mixture of shock and disbelief.
"It's a ship," Williams exclaimed as disbelieving as the rest of them, "but look at the size of it. How the hell can something that bloody big land on a planet?"
Shepard started to open his mouth to exclaim that he had absolutely no idea. It was impossible as far as he knew for any ship larger than a frigate to land on the surface of a planet. After all mass effect fields could only reduce a ships mass so much in relation to the strength of the planets gravity field. If anything larger than a frigate or a cargo ship attempted to land on a planet with a strong gravitational field it would find itself being crushed by its own weight. But before he could produce any sound a deep throbbing sound filled the air and the ground beneath their feet began to vibrate. The noise seemed to be coming from the alien vessel and he focused on it…
…in time to see the crackling arcs of blood-coloured energy increase in frequency and the ship began to move. Slowly at first but with increasing speed the monstrously huge vessel took to the sky, trailing plumes of searing exhaust as it began its ascent back to space. The very air around them seemed to be trembling with indescribable power as the ship climbed higher and higher into the sky, disappearing into the glowing soot laden clouds that obscured the once crystal clear, blue skies of Eden Prime. In moments it was completely out of sight, only two fading smoke plumes evidence that it had ever been here at all.
Shepard mentally shook himself out of the stupor that had sunken upon him at the sight of the impossible alien vessel, he forced himself to look at the spaceport – even from here he could see faint dark objects moving about. Returning his assault rifle to his weapons harness he instead took out his sniper rifle and extended it to full length before using the optical zoom capability of the gun sight to check out the situation. A faint predatory smile appeared on his face as he noticed two Geth moving slowly back and forth, seemingly completely unaware that they were being watched Geth who were well within the effective range of the sniper rifle in his hands.
"Jenkins you're trained on sniper rifles right," he asked without looking away from the targets.
"Yes sir," Jenkins acknowledged.
"Get out your rifle we've got two targets," Shepard instructed.
"Aye aye sir," Jenkins acknowledged collapsing his assault rifle and returning it to his weapons harness before taking out his sniper rifle. As soon as it finished unfolding he raised it and looked carefully down the sight "ready sir."
"You take the one at the top of the steps I've got the other one," Shepard instructed lining up on his target, focusing the optics right on the juicy target of the Geth's flashlight-like eye.
"Okay on three one… two… three."
Both sniper rifles barked in unison the powerful electromagnets lining the barrels flinging tungsten explosive core penetrator rounds at hypersonic speeds. Both rounds hit their targets, their sheer speed allowing them to rip right through the Geth's kinetic barriers like they weren't even there before striking and blowing off both synthetics heads. Both Geth crumpled to the ground sparking and trailing spurts of odd white fluid as they went down – destroyed before they even realised that they were under attack.
"Nice shots," Ashley said with a whistle as Shepard and Jenkins collapsed their sniper rifles and swapped them for their assault rifles. She'd never been that good at sniping herself, but she could appreciate good shots for what they were despite being at best average with a sniper rifle. Though give her a grenade launcher or a rocket launcher and her aim was utterly lethal.
"Thanks," Shepard replied with a smile before turning serious. "Let's move."
"Right behind you commander," Alenko acknowledged as Shepard began cautiously descending down the steep slope into the valley below, assault rifle constantly sweeping from side to side as he searched for threats.
He was just coming to the bottom of the hill when he heard the same metallic screeching of metal on metal that they'd heard at the research camp. Movement up ahead caught his attention and he mentally groaned as he saw three of the Geth spikes dropping to the ground to release their twisted cybernetic perversions that had once been people just like him. The screeching stopped and then the moaning began the unearthly tortured moaning that made his blood turn to ice in his veins.
"Hostile contacts," Jenkins called out as he opened fire on the first husk as it appeared, ambling towards them with killer intent. The burst of fire from his assault rifle tore through the abominations head and shoulder, spinning the reanimated corpse around like a top with the sheer force of the impact, right before it crumpled to the ground convulsed once then went motionless.
Shepard didn't have chance to comment the younger marine on his marksmanship as the other two husks appeared half ambling/half running towards him, emitting their tortured moaning sound. A grim smile touched his lips as he noticed that the creatures were right up close to each other. Perfect, he thought his body lighting up blue as he tapped into his biotic powers again before flinging his right arm out in an arcing pattern. A ball of biotic force flew from his hand and shot towards the husks, bouncing along the floor as it did so in a fashion similar to a stone skipping along the surface of a pond. And just like a skipping stone the ball of biotic power emitted ripples of dark energy as it moved, ripples that gave this particular biotic power its name, shockwave.
His shockwave slammed into the two charging husks like an out of control freight train. Both of the cybernetic abominations were hurled into the air as blew through them, snapping their legs off even as they flew in different directions. After a moment the two cyber-zombies crashed to the ground their upper bodies shattering as they did so. Shepard allowed himself a small grin as he observed how effective his attack had been, next to charge shockwave was his favourite biotic ability to use in combat as while it was very powerful it wasn't that energy intensive to use. Certainly it was not as draining as flinging a singularity would have been.
"Nice one," Alenko commented recalling how Shepard had always been able to generate powerful shockwave attacks though his aim with them had not always been brilliant. Something that seemed to have changed in the time that had passed since the other marine had been his student, but then biotic powers were like every other skill you learned in life. The more you practiced with them the better you got at using them. "You've certainly improved your aim with those."
"I've had quite a bit of practice over the years," Shepard replied with a smile before turning serious again. "Let's keep moving."
After regrouping the expanded ground team cautiously advanced into the spaceport, passing several storage cells and a fire feeding on hydrogen venting from a ruptured fuel line and the broken remains of at least one cargo pod. Aside from the crackling of the fire the spaceport was eerily silent they couldn't even hear the sound of the battle raging around the colony here. Rounding a corner Shepard found himself face to face with a sight he had seen many times in the past, a body lying motionless on the ground in a pool of blood, albeit a body that wasn't Human. The shape while bipedal was all wrong as was the colour of the blood a thick brownish-grey as opposed to the red of Human blood.
"Commander its Nihlus," Alenko said as he moved over and squatted down next to the Turians body and sweeping his omni-tool over him for any sign of life. He wasn't surprised to see that there was none; the scan did however reveal the cause of death. Nihlus had been shot through the skull; there was soft tissue deformation around the entry wound at the back of skull that showed that Nihlus had clearly been shot at point blank range. The muzzle of the weapon that had killed him being close enough to his bio-metallic skin for the shockwave of the mass accelerator firing to have had no real chance to dissipate, it left a distinctive pattern of tissue damage that was the modern equivalent of the powder burns left by old fashioned chemically propelled slug throwers.
"Is he dead," Ashley asked.
"He's dead," Kaidan confirmed, "shot through the skull at point blank range. Whoever did this must have gotten the drop on him and fired from inside the perimeter of his kinetic barriers, he had absolutely no chance. The body is still warm he's not been dead long a few minutes at most."
"Meaning that the shot we heard earlier…" Jenkins started to say.
"… Was in all likelihood the shot that killed him," Alenko confirmed.
"Damn," Shepard muttered gazing sadly at Nihlus' lifeless body. While he hadn't had much chance to get to know the Turian he would have liked to, there had been something in his manner that said they could have easily become friends, but now they would not get the chance. He silently promised the departed Turians soul that he would find and punish whoever it was who had killed him.
"Something's moving over behind those crates," Ashley abruptly called out bringing Shepard's head up and he whirled to follow where she was pointing, bringing his assault rifle to bear and allowing his biotics to flare as he did so. Everyone else also raised there weapons, and in Alenko's case the biotic flare as they prepared to confront whoever was about to try ambushing them.
"Wait stop," a terrified voice shouted as an early middle age man in durable working clothes and wearing a hat appeared holding his arms up in a classic surrender posture. "I'm one of you, I'm Human."
"Sneaking up on us like that wasn't very smart," Shepard commented lowering his rifle and reigning in his biotics. "It could have easily gotten you killed."
"I'm sorry I thought, well I thought you could be with those things," the man replied lowering his arms as he realised he wasn't about to get shot or sent flying into the wall. "My names…"
"Daniel Powell," Jenkins said breaking in, prompting the civilian to blink and look more closely at him. Recognition appeared on the other man's face.
"Richard what the hell are you doing here," Powell asked startled to find himself face to face with the eldest son of a close friend of his, "your dad said the other day that you were assigned to a ship."
"I am we picked up the distress call and came immediately. Now we're trying to save the colony," Jenkins replied. "What are you doing here?"
"I was hiding from those metal creatures," Powell replied before looking at Shepard. "I saw what happened to that Turian the other one shot him."
"Other one," Shepard repeated in surprise and confusion. "Are you saying Nihlus was murdered by another Turian and not the Geth?"
Powell nodded. "He was waiting when your friend showed up," he said. "He called him Saren. They seemed to know each other, your friend relaxed and let his guard down then Saren killed him. Bam shot him right through the back of the skull. I'm just lucky he didn't see me behind the crates."
"Where did this Saren go after killing Nihlus," Shepard asked.
"He hopped on the cargo train, heading over to the landing platforms probably going after the beacon."
"The beacon is still there," Shepard questioned.
Powell nodded. "As far as I know," he replied. "We'd just gotten back from putting the things transport container on the platform when the attack began. I knew that damned thing was going to be trouble, first that alien mothership shows up, then the attack. They killed everyone here, everyone. If I hadn't been behind the crates they'd have killed me too."
"How did you survive? Why didn't anyone else try to hide behind the crates," Shepard demanded.
"They didn't have a chance," Powell admitted blushing slightly in embarrassment. "I was already behind the crates when the attack started."
Jenkins snorted softly to himself. "Why am I not surprised?" he muttered under his breath knowing from some of the things his dad had said about Daniel Powell that the man could be a real lazy ass at times. He hid a smile as he heard Lieutenant Alenko question why Powell was behind the crates before the Geth assault began.
"Sometimes I need a nap to get through my shift," Powell said shifting uncomfortably at the admission. "I sneak off behind the crates to grab a nap where the supervisor cannot find me."
"Unbelievable," Ashley said shaking her head in a mixture of disgust and disbelief. "He survives because he's lazy."
"Lucky break for you," Shepard commented to Powell, "if you hadn't snuck off for that nap you'd probably be dead just like all the others."
Powell looked down. "Yeah I guess," he admitted leaning forward and resting his elbows on a crate. "I don't really want to think about it."
"Powell my dad was he here today," Jenkins asked steeling himself to be told that indeed his dad had been here today and was thus now dead.
"No it was his day off," Powell answered and watched as the younger mans shoulders dropped in relief.
"We need to get moving," Shepard replied even as the clapped the younger marine on the shoulder as at some of the worry for his family faded. When this is over I'll see to it that he gets a chance to find them and make sure they're alright, he thought. "We need to get to that beacon before it's too late."
"Take the cargo train," Powell suggested pointing off to the left. "It will take you right to the concourse serving the landing platforms. The beacon is on platform one you can't miss it as it's the larger of the two."
"How do we get there from here," Shepard asked. "And how do we operate the train?"
"I know where it is sir," Jenkins replied. "I can take us there and operate the train. I did an internship here before I enlisted." Shepard nodded in understanding.
"Very well Jenkins take us there."
"Before you go take these," Powell said reaching down behind the crate he was standing behind and retrieving a belt pouch full of standard issue Alliance multifunction grenades. "I found these in a broken cargo pod, they're no good to me but you could use them."
"Thank you these will come in handy," Shepard replied as Williams took the pouch off Powell and fitted it to her belt, she'd used up all her grenades earlier while Shepard and the others had yet to use one. "Now I suggest you go find somewhere safe, head to the research camp you should be able to shelter with the researchers there."
"I will," Powell answered nodding.
"Let's move out," Shepard ordered "Jenkins you take point."
"Aye aye sir."
That Same Time
Saren watched with calm detachment as the Geth finished liberating the Prothean beacon from its transport container. The priceless fifty millennia old artefact now stood proudly on the platform; the silver-grey metal of its construction gleaming almost like it was brand new. Though the gleam was tinged with red and orange from the pool of molten rock less than two hundred metres from where he was standing. A pool created by the raw power of one of Sovereign's thrusters as the Reaper had lifted off, the intense stream of energy from the thrusters had burned away the soil and melted the bedrock beneath creating a pool of lava nearly a hundred metres across and probably a good few metres deep. Even from here he could feel the tremendous heat of it on his face.
The sudden bleeping of his omni-tool prompted him to look down as he activated the offending device and felt his cheek flanges drop open. He'd just received an advisory from one of the two Geth frigates that had been assigned to watch the relay connecting the Exodus Cluster to the Arcturus system. The frigates were picking up increasing dark energy emissions from the relay indicating that it was building to full power ready to transport a very large mass through. He didn't doubt it would be a Human battle fleet coming through the relay in a single massive transit. A second message flashed up confirming his suspicions Alliance warships nearly eighty of them including three carriers and two dreadnoughts, one of whom belonged to the new Kilimanjaro-class, had just come through the relay in battle formation.
The message indicated that the rearguard frigates were backing away – the Geth runtimes operating them knowing that there was nothing they could do against that many heavily armed and shielded warships – even as the Alliance ships cleared the relay and began to align onto a vector that would bring them straight here. Saren scowled knowing it wouldn't take the Human ships long to reach here once they jumped to translight, they would be held back somewhat by the need for their slower ships to keep up but that delay would only be a couple of minutes at the most. Within half an hour to three quarters of an hour at the most the fleet would be here, ready and willing to unleash its immense firepower against his forces.
We're almost out of time, he thought grimly knowing that the small force that he'd brought here on this raid was not going to be sufficient to stop or even slow down the approaching Human warships, despite the fact that the Geth cruisers had more advanced weapons and better shielding. Not even Sovereign – for all of his immense firepower – would be able to go up against that many Alliance ships on his own not for long anyway. The grim reality of being massively outnumbered would quickly turn the tide of any battle against the Reaper. While Sovereign would certainly destroy a considerable faction of the Human ships he wouldn't be able to destroy them all before their collective firepower overwhelmed his kinetic barriers and once the shields went down Sovereign would be quickly torn to pieces by a whole fleets worth of mass accelerator cannons and a virtual storm of disruptor torpedoes and Javelin missiles.
Tapping a command into his omni-tool he checked on the progress of the Geth engaged with the Human forces on this planet. The battle was not going well for them; the Humans had recovered from their surprise with admirable speed, rallied and were now fighting back hard. The Geth force that had been advancing on the outskirts of Constant had been halted by a fierce, determined counterattack by marines from the Alliance garrison and local colonial militia units. In fact the Geth force had not only been stopped dead in its tracks but was actually being forced to fallback due in no small part to the fact the frigate that had appeared out of nowhere. A frigate that was using its GARDIAN arrays to wreck devastation on the Geth army, already all the armature and colossus class mobile platforms had been eliminated reduced to smouldering, half molten scrap by the lethal kiss of the high powered pulse lasers.
Features making the Turian equivalent of a scowl at the deteriorating tactical situation for his forces here, Saren closed the omni-tool and looked up. To see that the Geth had just finished attaching a small power source to the beacon, a power source that according to Sovereign would be fully compatible with the Prothean device. A fact that was proven correct a second later as a lights began to glow along the length of the beacon. A soft green light – like the colour of milky jade – flickered up the length of the beacon bringing it back to life before shooting up into the air forming a slender line of light reaching towards space.
"Excellent," Saren muttered softly to himself as a Geth shock trooper-class mobile platform appeared at his side, the A.I emitting the series of electronic bleeps, squeaks and squawks that passed for Geth speech. Thankfully Saren's translator had been modified by Sovereign to properly translate them, so he knew that the Geth was telling him that the beacon was ready for him to use.
"Set the charges," he ordered the Geth. "Destroy the entire city leave no evidence of our activities here."
The Geth squawked an affirmative before moving off to begin arming the high yield demolition charges that they'd sequestered throughout the spaceport complex. Demolition charges that were powerful on their own but when detonated would combine with all the volatile starship fuel in the port, as well as any stored volatile materials and eezo, to create a five megaton explosion. More than sufficient to vaporise not just the spaceport but the capital city of Constant as well, it would certainly eliminate both the beacon and any evidence of what he and the Geth had done here. While the tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Constant would be regrettable there deaths would lead to the saving of trillions of lives in the long run. Constant – and Eden Prime itself – was a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of the galaxy, even if no one admitted it.
Putting aside those thoughts Saren walked up to the beacon and braced himself as he closed to within less than a foot of the front of the metallic monolith. The milky jade glow up the front of the beacon brightened and pulsed, filling the air with a strange humming-whirring sound. Then suddenly Saren felt himself be grabbed by invisible forces and physically lifted into the air, his whole body went rigid in the grip of the powerful forces being manipulated by the powerful technology of the beacon. The pulsing glow and humming of the beacon brightened….
…. right before images exploded into his mind.
Cargo Train Terminal
That Same Time
Shepard yelped as a carnage shot slammed into his hardsuit, his kinetic barrier flashed brilliant as the bolt of charged particles threatened to overpower it, even as the force of impact knocked him flying back. To smack his head on one of the low metal walls that divided up the approach platform for the cargo train into small sections. Had he not been wearing a helmet the blow would have instantly rendered him unconscious – as it was it merely knocked him momentarily senseless.
"Commander," Jenkins yelled even as he returned fire at the nine foot tall Geth advancing towards them, firing alternative carnage shots and plasma bolts from the weapon it was holding. The Geth's kinetic barrier flared with a by now familiar aquamarine light as it absorbed the barrage of assault rifle fire, but only for a moment as an overload pulse fired by Lieutenant Alenko slammed into it. The Geth's already stressed shields flared out of existence in a burst of electrical pyrotechnics but still the economy-sized Geth advanced towards them, its thick armour withstanding the pummelling onslaught of three assault rifles.
"I'm alright," Shepard replied shaking his head to clear the residual dizziness before getting back up. Just in time to see Alenko throw a warp at the giant Geth that was still advancing on them despite its mounting damage. The warp slammed into the Geth's torso sending the synthetic stumbling back as its armour – already weakened and cracked by kinetic assault – began to twist, distort and shatter as its molecular structure was attacked by the unstable biotic energies. Not giving the Geth a chance to recover he tapped into his own biotics and threw a warp of his own, the blast slamming right into the mechanical monstrosity with pinpoint accuracy. On top of the assault rifle fire and the previous biotic attack it was too much and the Geth succumbed, dropping to one knee before flopping over onto its side and going completely still – torso warped into an unrecognisable lump of torn, distorted metal a thin stream of smoke coming from it as some of its electrical circuits burned.
"What the hell was that thing," Williams demanded as the Geth finally died. She couldn't believe how much punishment the damned thing had taken before going down in her experience not even a Krogan was that tough and they were renowned for being infuriatingly hard to kill.
"Not a clue," Shepard replied light momentarily flickering around him as his shields returned to full strength. "Tough son of a bitch whatever it was. Lets keep moving."
Additional Geth weapons fire erupted at that moment, streams of rapid fire plasma bolts coming at them from further down the platform. Immediately all four marines ducked into cover using the metal dividers as convenient barricades.
"Alenko can you see how many there are," Shepard asked into his radio, rather than try to shout to his friend and former teacher turned subordinate over the continuous zip-zip-zip of the Geth weaponry.
"Four I think sir," Alenko replied popping up momentarily and firing a burst from his rifle, before ducking down again as his shields flared brilliantly courtesy of five plasma shots slamming into them in rapid succession.
"They've really got us pinned this time," Williams added over the squad frequency even as she echoed the action and fired a burst of her own at the Geth before ducking down. "Yep there are four of them, they're using the dividers as cover just like we are. I don't know how we're going to get passed them."
Shepard carefully peered over the top of the divider he was sheltering behind and noted the position of the four Geth who were firing nearly constantly to keep them suppressed. Those guns of theirs have to overheat at some point, he thought feeling a twinge of awe at the endurance of the Geth weaponry, any mass accelerator based weapon he knew of would have overheated by now and ceased firing to avoid damaging critical internal components. An idea for how to get passed them occurred to him and he allowed a small smile to appear on his face.
"I can take them out, keep suppressing fire on them," he said into the squad command frequency before collapsing his assault rifle before returning it to his weapons harness then activating the tactical cloak that was built into his N7 armour. Light flickered around him for a moment then the world seemed to distort slightly, as though he was looking at it through a sheet of running water, the normal optical distortions of a cloaking field.
Moving carefully so as not to produce a tell tale ripple of motion in the air Shepard began advancing towards the Geth, keeping low as he ran as quickly as he dared. A few centimetres over his head plasma bolts and sand grain sized bullets whizzed past as his squad and the Geth continued to exchange heavy fire. He had just reached the Geth position when one of the synthetics collapsed as a lucky burst of assault rifle fire tore through his weakened kinetic barriers to slice its head off. One down three to go, he thought as he reached into his grenade pouch.
Moments later Williams, Jenkins and Alenko all ceased firing as the detonation of multiple grenades tore through the Geth line, shattering two of the remaining synthetics and sending the other tumbling over the safety rail into the deep gorge below. As the blasts faded a section of air distorted in the shape of a human being and Shepard reappeared.
"Move up," Kaidan instructed to the two marines still with him, smiling as he did so. He didn't have to see Aldrin's face to know that there would be a faintly smug look on it as the other biotic had always been something of a pyromaniac, having an affinity for practically anything that could burn or explode, an affinity he'd used to devastating effect during the Skyllian Blitz. If Shepard hadn't been such a gifted biotic – despite the fact that he was an L3 – then Kaidan was sure that the Alliance would have long ago made him a demolitions or ordinance specialist. As it was his powerful biotics made him one of the finest vanguards in the Alliance military and ensured that he remained an N7 commando as that was where his powers were the most useful to humanity.
Shaking off his thoughts he noticed that Jenkins and Williams were moving as he'd instructed so he hurried to follow them. "The train is just up ahead," Jenkins commented as the four of them met back up.
Shepard nodded. "Lead on Jenkins," he instructed retrieving his assault rifle just in case more Geth decided to show up.
"Aye aye sir," Jenkins acknowledged once again taking point and leading the way along the platform, all senses on alert for any additional Geth threats. Somewhat to his own surprise there were none of the synthetic bastards around, the ones the commander had just blown up seemingly having been the last of them. At least on this platform, he thought as he stepped onto the cargo train, there are almost certainly Geth waiting for us at the landing platforms, along with this Saren fellow.
Collapsing his assault rifle and returning it to the harness on his back he walked up to the haptic interface at the front of the cargo train and powered it up. As he'd been taught when he'd done his internship here – before deciding to join the military as he'd gotten bored of the peace and quiet of Eden Prime – he carefully checked the system for any problems and was more than a little relieved to find out that despite the fighting the train was undamaged.
"Ready to take us out Jenkins," Shepard asked from behind him.
"Ready sir," Jenkins confirmed before starting the train moving. With a soft humming of magnetic power in the guide rails the train began moving, slowly at first but with increasing speed. "ETA to the other platform one minute and forty seconds sir," he informed Shepard as the train cleared the steep sides of the gorge and ran on open tracks suspended above a sheer drop that split the secondary spaceport in two. A hundred and twenty feet below them were some of the fertile fields that made Eden Prime one of the Alliance's main breadbaskets, while off to the right was a sheer wall of dense, vine and moss encrusted granite.
Jenkins kept his attention focused on the controls as the train completed its crossing and entered another steep sided gorge. A gorge that within seconds gave way to the platform that served their destination. He carefully slowed the train down and brought it to a stop.
"Well done," Shepard commented before stepping off the train and immediately spotting something that made his eyes widen in shock and recognition. Sitting next to the train was what was clearly a bomb, alien characters glowing and flickering as it counted down. "Oh shit," he exclaimed squatting down next to the device and scanning it with his omni-tool. "It's a tactical demolition charge, high yield by the looks of it. If this thing goes off it will take out the spaceport and everything within a kilometre of here. Alenko set your omni-tool to scan for anymore while I disarm this."
"Aye aye sir," Alenko acknowledged activating his omni-tool and scanning for the distinctive signature of demolition explosives. After a moment the tool bleeped urgently as the scan revealed three more devices, all of them on the concourse between here and platform one.
"Are there more," Jenkins asked worriedly.
"Yes three more, they're spread out along the concourse between here and platform one," Alenko replied frowning at the readout. "Something is very odd about their positioning though."
"Let me see," Jenkins replied moving over to look over his superiors shoulder. He immediately swore loudly as he saw exactly how the Geth had placed their explosives. "Those synthetic bastards," he snarled.
"What is it," Ashley asked even as the first demolition charge gave a bleep as it deactivated.
"The Geth have placed the charges right along the line of the main starship fuel storage cells," Jenkins explained. "Two are placed right on top of the main deuterium storage tanks the other is right against the eezo storage module. If those detonate…" he swallowed face going pale in horror as he realised what could happen to his homeworld "you've got the equivalent of a five megaton nuclear bomb going off. Not only will the blast wipe this spaceport and Constant off the face of the planet but it with the winds at this time of year it will spread radiation and dust form eezo over half the continent."
"Jesus," Ashley breathed knowing that dust form eezo was a substance that had the potential to be highly carcinogenic a release now along with the radioactive fallout of the nuclear explosion would be absolutely catastrophic. Eden Prime would be ruined for years by the contamination of the water table and its rich farmlands. The Alliance would be forced to order the colony's evacuation at least till they cleaned up the fallout, even after that was done the planet would never be the same again.
"Not if we can help it," Shepard said standing up and taking his assault rifle off his weapons harness, the weapon unfolding immediately to its full size. "Alenko where's the first of those charges?"
"Just at the top of the ramps on the left," Alenko replied.
"Then lets move, from the rate at which that thing was counting down we have barely five minutes before those charges blow us all into the stratosphere."
"Right behind you sir," Jenkins replied bringing his assault rifle up into ready position as Shepard began leading them up the ramps to the concourse level, ready to engage any Geth that were staying behind to guard the explosive devices meant to erase his home, and tens of thousands of innocent lives, from the face of the planet. If I were a Geth I would, he thought.
A moment later he was proven correct as they reached the top of the ramp and began crossing the bridge over the cargo line. A fusillade of plasma pulses from a number of Geth standing on another bridge greeted them; most of the pulses went wide flying off into the air or impacting the metal sheeting that formed the side walls of the bridge eliciting sprays of smoke and sparks. Metal sheets that immediately proved their worth as the four of them ducked into the cover they offered.
"Alenko get to that explosive charge," Shepard ordered as he swapped his assault rifle for his sniper rifle. "Williams go with him. Jenkins and I will provide cover from here."
"Aye aye sir," Alenko and Williams acknowledged as Jenkins copied his commanders actions and drew his own sniper rifle.
As the two of them began to head towards the demolition charge, being careful to keep below the line of the metal panels, Shepard stood up just enough to sight his sniper rifle on the Geth firing at them from the other bridge and part of the walkway.
"Jenkins take the ones on the walkway, I've got the ones on the bridge," he ordered aiming at a white Geth trooper.
"Got it sir," Jenkins acknowledged changing his aim.
In unison both snipers fired and two Geth dropped as the explosive core of the sniper rounds tore apart their heads. Breathing quickly Shepard changed his aim and fired at another of the white armoured Geth dropping the synthetic to the deck with its head missing. A moment later he heard Jenkins fire from beside him – downing another of the machines intent on further ruining the once peaceful paradise of Eden Prime. Return fire shot towards them, searing the air with superheated matter, but it appeared the distance and low angle they were firing from made it difficult for the Geth to hit them as most rounds went wide – flying off into the distance as the plasma cooled and dissipated or impacting the metal walls of the bridge – which were rapidly heating up from the repeated impacts.
Shepard ignored it as he fired on another Geth – dropping it with ease even as Williams joined the battle firing her assault rifle from her position covering Alenko. Caught in a vicious crossfire between the sniper fire and the assault rifle the few remaining Geth were quickly overpowered, dropping to the ground as their mechanical bodies were riddled with enough bullets to down a platoon of Krogan.
As the last of the Geth was reduced to a scrap metal Shepard stood up and traded his sniper rifle for his assault rifle before jogging up to where Alenko was working to disarm the explosive. "How's it coming Kaidan," he asked.
"The Geth encrypted the firing mechanism," Kaidan replied not looking up from where his omni-tool was interfaced with the demolition charge. "Almost got it," the omni-tool emitted a beep as the demo charge shut down, "and that's it. I have the encryption key now so it shouldn't take long to disarm the remaining two devices."
"Give me a copy. You take the next charge in the line I'll take the one on the end."
"Sounds like a plan," Kaidan agreed instructing his omni-tool to transfer a copy of the Geth encryption key to Shepard's own tool.
"Jenkins, Williams cover us," Shepard instructed the other two marines. "Williams stay here with Alenko, Jenkins you're with me."
"Aye aye sir," Jenkins and Williams acknowledged in stereo right before Shepard began jogging along the open air concourse littered with the shattered remains of the Geth they'd destroyed. Jenkins matched his pace, keeping his assault rifle at the ready just in case more of the synthetics decided to show up to stop them.
To both men's relief no more Geth appeared to challenge them as they arrived at the last of the remaining active demo charges. After returning his rifle to his weapons harness Shepard squatted down next to the explosive device and activated his omni-tool. The encryption key devised by Kaidan's omni-tool easily cut through the Geth firewalls and allowed him access to the detonation control systems. Four individual control nodes appeared on his tool's holographic display, nodes that he would have to deactivate in order to prevent the explosive charge detonating and rupturing the element zero storage cells less than six inches beneath his feet. Fortunately that would not be to difficult considering the Geth device was fundamentally the same as the devices every other race in the known galaxy used for these kind of explosive charges.
Working quickly but carefully – just in case the Geth had booby trapped the device – Shepard disabled the individual detonator control nodes one by one. Despite the complexity of the firewalls that had protected the detonation controls the individual nodes were relatively easy to disable – all he had to do was connect the nodes individual data points in the right sequence to tell the explosive's simple computer that it was to disarm itself and shut down. Within a few moments the last of the control nodes were disabled, and with a bleep power to the device died as the computer obediently powered down.
"Explosive disarmed," he said into the squad frequency standing back up.
"Same here," Alenko replied. "That's all of them."
"Good now lets find that beacon so we can finish this," Shepard added "Jenkins which way to platform one?"
"This way sir," Jenkins replied taking point once again as the squad formed up.
Jenkins nodded and fearlessly led the way onto the walkway and ramp that led down to platform one. The walkway was dark and gave the impression of being narrow due to the thick sheets of metal that formed the wall facing out on the platform. Walls that were made of the same carbon nanomesh-titanium alloy as the outer hull of a starship and which he knew from experience were meant to act as a blast shield – protecting spaceport workers from the energy wash of starship atmospheric thrusters as a freighter landed or took off from the platform below. He just hoped they didn't encounter anymore Geth – at least till they reached the platform as this walkway would not be a good place to encounter them as not only were they all bunched up but there was absolutely no cover available.
After a moment the four of them were beginning the descent down the ramp to the platform itself when there came a familiar sound, the screech of metal on metal as two of the Geth tripods began to lower their cyber zombie cargos to the deck.
"Hostiles," Jenkins shouted jumping over the safety railing to land on the metal deck beside the ramp before he brought up his rifle and opened fire on the husk that had just peeled itself off the tripod a few feet ahead of him. The burst tore through the cybernetic abomination before it had any chance to react, ripping apart the glowing blue cybernetics that infested the reanimated corpse. The husk emitted a piercing howl – almost like a scream of pain – even as it was sent sprawling, the glow of its cybernetics dying leaving behind the desiccated corpse that had once been a man.
The unearthly moaning of another husk caught his attention and he turned in the direction it was coming from. To see one more of the zombies less than a foot away from him its glow brightening as it charged up with electricity, he started to bring his rifle around knowing it would be to late but before the monster could unleash its devastating electrical attack a blue bolt of energy struck the creature and sent it flying to strike the side of a reinforced cargo pod hard enough to leave a dent even as the husk broke apart from the sheer force of the biotic throw. Damn wish I could do that, Jenkins thought not for the first time as Lieutenant Alenko descended the ramp, the aura of biotics fading from around him.
"Reckless move there Jenkins," Shepard scolded as he followed Alenko down the ramp. "If Kaidan hadn't spotted that other husk it would have got you."
"Sorry sir," Jenkins replied wincing at the rebuke.
"Just don't let it happen again."
"I won't sir," Jenkins replied a moment before weapons fire once again erupted as a pair of Geth appeared from behind a cargo pod blindly firing their weapons as they came. He started to raise his rifle however before he could do so Shepard's body lit up with biotic power and the commander made a lifting gesture with his left hand while also forming a fist. Immediately a bolt of energy flew right at the Geth striking them dead on, instantly both synthetics began rising into the air as though the planets gravity had suddenly been turned off beneath them. Jenkins watched in awe as Shepard opened his clenched left fist while making a throwing gesture. The effect was immediate as both Geth suddenly flew into the solid stone wall at the far end of the platform, striking it with a clang of metal that was audible even here before both mechanicals slumped lifeless to the ground, leaving white streaks of somekind of fluid on the rock as they did so.
"Okay was it me or did those Geth show no tactical sense," Jenkins wondered. "There's plenty of cover around but they seemed to not take advantage of it. They could have fired at us from cover and killed us all but they didn't, instead advancing in the open."
"Now that you mention it that was a bit odd," Shepard replied frowning thoughtfully. "Something for the boys in white suits to work out later when we submit our reports. Let's find the beacon."
"Ah no need to look," Ashley called out pointing over one of Shepard's broad shoulders.
Everyone looked in the direction she was pointing and sure enough standing there was the Prothean beacon. A strange milky-jade coloured green glow ran up its front, pulsing slowly before becoming a single shaft of light pointing upwards into infinity. It looked incredibly majestic while being alien at the same time. Beyond it however there was a scene of utter devastation.
Beyond the beacon a few hundred metres away the rest of the cargo spaceport was just gone. All the warehouses, garages and additional landing platforms had literally been erased from existence. In there place was now nothing but a massive pool of sluggish lava that gave off ferocious heat as its scabby black and red surface bubbled and smoked as it slowly cooled. At the site of it Jenkins groaned and closed his eyes in pain having known since childhood many of the people who'd worked in those buildings – he'd even gone to school with many of them – people who would now be dead.
"My god," Ashley breached at the site of complete devastation that looked like it had come straight out of Dante's Inferno. "It's like someone dropped a nuclear bomb."
"That must be where that Geth mothership landed," Kaidan said an undertone of grim anger in his tone like everyone else he knew how many would have died when the Geth ship landed. People who mercifully would not have even known what was happening as the high density jet of superheated plasma from the ships fusion thrusters would have vaporised their bodies long before any sensation – like pain – would have registered in their minds.
"Jesus how many died down there without even knowing what was happening," Ashley asked feeling her eyes burn with unshed tears of grief and rage.
"Hundreds," Jenkins said softly almost too softly for her to hear. Though she clearly heard his voice shaking, prompting her to look right at him to see the Eden Prime native was visibly crying. "Hundreds worked in those buildings, they'll all be dead now and for what?"
"I wish I knew," Shepard admitted putting a comforting hand on the younger mans shoulder as Jenkins closed his eyes and took a deep shaking breath, clearly trying to pull himself back together. After a moment Jenkins nodded to indicate he was okay now and opened his eyes again – to see an understanding look in his superiors face before Shepard lowered his hand.
"Sorry," Jenkins whispered.
"Nothing to be sorry about," Shepard replied before moving away and turning his back on the gleaming metal pillar of the beacon. A beacon whose discovery had cost hundreds, possibly even thousands of innocent people there lives. "Normandy this is Shepard," he said into the comm. "The beacon is secure, request immediate pickup."
"Understood Shepard," Captain Anderson responded immediately. "Is Nihlus with you? We haven't heard from him for over half an hour."
"Nihlus is dead sir," Shepard replied.
"Dead," Anderson repeated. "Did the Geth get him?"
"No sir. According to an eye-witness Nihlus was killed in cold blood by another Turian. Someone called Saren."
"Saren, are you sure Shepard?"
"Yes sir I am. Do you know the name sir?"
"If it's the Saren I think it is then I do know the name," Anderson replied. "It's a long story commander and now is not the time for us to go into it. We're heading to your location now, ETA three minutes."
"Roger that Normandy standing by," Shepard acknowledged before signing off. A moment later he heard a sound from behind him followed by what sounded like Kaidan yelling though he couldn't make out the word over the odd pulsing him.
Spinning around he saw Ashley was being pulled towards the beacon by some invisible force. The green glow pulsing up it had brightened and was pulsing more rapidly as the gunnery chief tried desperately to escape whatever it was that was holding her prisoner. Without even thinking about it he executed a short biotic charge, knocking Ashley out of the grip of the invisible force only to become trapped in the field himself.
Straining he tried to pull away but whatever it was held him fast, no matter how hard he tried to break away from the force it reacted with even greater force as it pulled him in. He felt his feet leave the floor before all his muscles locked up, held completely immobile to the point where he could barely even breathe. That was when he felt it.
Something was probing at his mind, something strange, mechanical and alien. Concentrating he tried to resist only for the force to push aside his attempts to block it with ease, it broke through all his defences and surged into his mind like a flood bringing with it a tsunami of pain and images….
Screaming as explosions went off. Lights flashing and strange insectoid humanoids running in fear and panic…
…strange creatures chasing the insectoid humanoids, herding them towards something massive and unimaginably powerful…
…metal being forcibly welded to flesh, circuits and wires making their way through bones and muscles amid screams of unimaginable pain and terror…
…a planet as seen from space massive explosions blossoming across its surface…
…something dark and terrible streaked across his vision…
… Shepard tried to scream as the barrage of horrific images tore through his mind like a hurricane, seemingly setting fire to his very thoughts and making him feel like he was going to go mad. Until abruptly the images stopped as a brilliant flash of emerald light filled his vision and he vaguely felt himself flying backwards as though he'd been struck in the chest by a full force biotic throw.
Then he knew no more.
Authors Notes: Well that's the end of the Battle of Eden Prime. Next time we will start to see the aftermath of the battle along with some of the small changes I've made to the interior of the Normandy as well as the chronology of events. I hope people like all the little changes I've made to things as well as the fact that Jenkins survived the battle on Eden Prime. I have plans for him that I hope people will enjoy.
A few times I've been asked via review and PM about the use of plasma based weapons by the Geth on Eden Prime as opposed to the 'pulse' weapons they used in the first game. I changed this for two reasons a) the Geth have canonically shown that they do have some forms of plasma based weaponry like the Geth Plasma Shotgun and b) the Geth depicted on Eden Prime are from the Heretic Geth faction and have had the weapons they carry upgraded by Sovereign to make them more effective shock troops for him in his campaign to reopen the Citadel Relay. I hope nobody minds too much.