Priority Taetrus 2 of 2

- Turian Command Centre, Spaedar -

"We've got incoming, doesn't look like hostiles."

Captain Elret Ronaus looked back from his command terminal. The sergeant who'd peeked his head in the makeshift office wasn't one of the regulars – a drafted militiaman. "Distance?"

The small dance club where they'd taken cover and garrisoned wasn't exactly Elret's idea of a command center, but the defensible position and limited entrances made for at least a secure place The lack of dancers or Vania inspired music did allow his men and women to focus though.

The sergeant walked in, his pulse rifle at the ready. "Five minutes out, outer recon drones picked them up. Looks like what's left of squad seven, a couple of humans, a Krogan and another Turian we didn't recognize."

That caught Elret's attention, he reached over for his pulse rifle and muttered. "The hell are they doing here…? Have snipers take defensive positions and warm up the main batteries. I'm not taking any chances."

The sergeant nodded and gave a quick salute before moving off. Elret tapped his omni-tool and switched to squad com frequency. "This is Ronaus, we've got an unknown heading our way with one of our squads in tow. Hold your fire unless I give the order, but keep radio silence until they're within range."

Without seeing them, Elret knew his men would follow his orders without question. His training in operations within enemy territory and Blackwatch made him perfect for this job – the only problem was these strange 'Goa'uld' creatures didn't follow any of the rules of war he'd ever seen.

Elret picked up his pulse rifle and primed the first round. If this was some kind of trick, he'd be ready for it. The office in the club opened to a hallway that joined the rear storage area of the club – converted into a barracks and armory, and the main dance floor that now served as a command center. A center table with holographic displays of Spaedar and the surrounding territory was continually updated with information from their sensor drones. Patrols radioed in by piggybacking on the city's own electrical grid, giving them a somewhat secure hardline connection. The dozens of screens around the club also made for perfect situational awareness.

His subordinates straightened as he entered the command center, each in their armor looked ready for battle, but the fatigue was noticeable in the younger ones. "Report."

His lieutenants nodded and motioned towards the holographic display, now zoomed in on the area where the squad was coming in. "Drones are keeping an eye on them, they don't seem hostile."

"Looks like most of Squad Seven isn't there though. They must have gotten jumped."

Elret thought about it and went over the possibilities. It was unlikely these were Goa'uld, but he had to be safe. General Victus had mentioned before deploying him in a stealth drop pod that he'd be sending reinforcements – he was expecting the rest of Blackwatch. "Maintain hold fire. Do we have visual?"

"Not yet, I'll have our snipers relay their feed."

Elret breathed calmly. This didn't feel like an attack, nor a subversion. It was another minute before one of the snipers on the second story of the building called out in a whisper. "I've got visual - Uplinking now."

The hologram switched into a four-sided screen so that all around could see. Elret made out the squad leader as well as few of the tougher soldiers, not militiamen. In a separate group, almost as if watching over them, were four humans – one of which seemed to be half naked, a Turian in battle damaged armor, and one hell of a mean looking Krogan. Their leader was a lean looking human wearing black armor with red stripes. Elret zoomed in, and after a moment's thought, recognized the face – though the slight red glow was eerie. "Wait… that's Commander Shepard! Hold fire, open communications!"

The lieutenants beside him also recognized the man, his wiry face burned into their memories from such stories as the nuking of Virmire, the battle of the Citadel, amongst other less infamous moments in history. If Shepard was here, things were about to get interesting.


Garrus didn't bother to stick around while Shepard and Miranda got acquainted with the Turians in charge of this forward command center. He knew that there'd be the continuation of the mission soon, but he had more important matters to attend to.

The Citadel was too busy and packed with people to do what he wanted, and while on Normandy he'd been too preoccupied with trying to figure out what happened on Omega to deal with this issue. He'd planned on going back to Palaven after this – after helping Shepard save the galaxy once more, and after investigating his last stand on Omega. Now it looked like it'd be a miracle to save Palaven itself if things didn't get better.

He saluted and gave nods to the other Turians he passed. Several were sitting on the floor, their backs to the wall just resting up and mentally coming to grips with the situation. Garrus had seen this kind of trauma before, on Omega. People dealing with situations so out of the norm that their minds had to adapt - that or curl up under a shower and cry. He recalled saving a couple on Omega… and adopting his namesake.

Not that any of these Turians were likely to do that. While he couldn't be totally sure, he suspected Elret was a Blackwatch operator – he certainly fit the profile with his calm demeanor and aura of leadership. Garrus could have joined in and been a part of that leadership, but Shepard could handle that for now.

The communications suite the command center had likely had a connection to Palaven – exactly what Garrus needed. It was a small room with lots of electronic gear, and two Turian communications officers coordinating the squads out on patrol and in other cities. The guerrilla effort to resist these Goa'uld seemed to be in full swing – Garrus just knew that it was pointless as long as that Mothership was in orbit.

Realistically, the Goa'uld could just send another. It wasn't like Dreadnaughts, a few dozen at most. The Goa'ulds entire core fleet was these Motherships. Gods knew what they thought was a big ship. It almost made Garrus feel like he was going through the motions, but Shepard's insistence and refusal to give up gave Garrus the inspiration to keep going – if only to die on his feet.

One of the officers turned to him as he walked in, shirking at the sight. "Hey, what are… Holy… you're supposed to tenderize meat with a hammer, not your face you know?"

The other officer turned and gave an equally snarky grimace. "Hope the other guy's worse."

Garrus chuckled and nodded. "Thankfully his gunship took a well deserved and long time coming nosedive. I'm part of Commander Shepard's squad, I was hoping you fellows had a line to Palaven."

The officers turned and looked at each other. With only nods and facial expressions, they communicated their doubt. "Didn't realize you were that guy. We can only send ultra-tight band transmissions off-world with that ship in orbit – just enough for text and a few images at a time."

Garrus thought about it. He could have written out what he wanted to say, but it just felt like he needed to speak his words. "Well… Guess that gives me incentive." He nodded again and moved away. "Thank you gentlemen, I'm off to blow up an alien ship."

"Wait!" One of the officers called. He got up out of his seat and frowned in confusion. "Who are you? Are you Turian Spec Ops? How'd you end up with Commander Shepard?"

Garrus again chuckled. "I'm just a disgraced C-Sec officer trying to keep the peace."

The look on the Turian officers' faces was priceless. Garrus just couldn't bring himself to care about his 'standing' anymore – unless it brought a little amusement to his dreary world. "Citadel? Who are you?"

Garrus turned and faced the door, his reply devoid of any emotion. "Some people call me Archangel."


Shepard breathed in deeply and looked down at the holographic rendition of Spaedar Spaceport. "What are your thoughts Captain? I'm here to support you and your men and kick these Goa'uld sons of bitches off your world."

Elret looked down at the spaceport and sighed as he crossed his arms. "It's a tough rock to crack." He motioned towards the spaceport itself, pointing out specific locations. "The Goa'uld are using that spaceport as a transit hub. At least a few hundred men – most of them armed. Any sensor drones we get near are shot down pretty quickly – they've even had time to repurpose our own anti-air turrets so an aerial assault would be suicide."

Miranda smiled and chirped. "Ironically enough, we were on a suicide mission before any of this started so we're on the right page."

Shepard shot her a playful sneer and rolled his eyes. "As true as that is, there has to be a way for us to break their defenses without exposing our men to orbital fire." He used his omni-tool to zoom out of the hologram, enough to see the outlying city. "Are there any underground structures or tunnels nearby? General Victus said the subway system goes directly to the spaceport."

Elret nodded and zoomed in on the tunnels. "Yes, the passenger subway system leads right into the spaceport – The original plan was to use the subway as a garrison, but Victus told us to stay away. The way the Goa'uld have set up it's pointless anyway. It's a bottleneck because of the narrow entrances. We'd get slaughtered if we tried to send out men through there." He shifted focus into another underground passageway. "There is a larger tunnel access point that leads from the nearby industrial area to the spaceport. It's used to ferry materials to and from the spaceport to the refineries. Trouble is that we'll end up smack dab in front of their cargo operations – another death trap."

Shepard sighed and shook his head. "No base is impervious. There has to be a way to get our men in without a bloodbath." He looked around at the three Turians around him. "You've been here for longer than we have, any idea will help."

The taller of the two Turian lieutenants shrugged. "The only thing I can think of is using any shuttles we find as suicide bombers. They might not be armed, but if we overcharge their mass effect drives, they'd make good kinetic kill weapons."

Miranda raised her eyebrows. "Those shuttles would have to be manually piloted to avoid anti-aircraft fire, not to mention the Goa'uld do have air superiority. We've seen it work before but survival is slim at best." She shook her head. "Al'Kesh do fall to our mass effect driven weapons, but not easily."

Elret shook his head. "Sorry, Al'Kesh?"

"The bombers circling the city." Shepard replied. "The Goa'uld have names for their craft, the little fighters are Death Gliders, the bombers above the city are Al'Kesh, the Cargo ships are Tel'taks, and that mothership in orbit is a Ha'tak."

"How do you know all this?" Elret asked – obviously the man was curious. "We know they're called Goa'uld and Jaffa, but that's from interrogations."

Shepard shook his head and sighed. "I'll be glad to walk you through it all, the shift, the Goa'uld, Jaffa, and all the other crazy things I've seen in the past month. For now, let's focus on taking this spaceport." He had begun to see a pattern in the subway system, so he motioned to the hologram. "Where does this tunnel lead? The one that leads into the spaceport."

Elret zoomed out and highlighted the tunnel. "It connects to the main tracks under the city. Dozens of trains ferry people to their jobs and around the city, as well as an intercontinental line that moves above ground to head to Vallum." He furrowed his brow. "Why? What're you thinking?"

"We'll never beat the Goa'uld in a straight fight." Shepard began. "So let's not play fair. How far would we have to move to get a clear line to the spaceport in those tunnels? I mean if we were to take one of those trains?"

Elret shrugged. "We haven't exactly been keeping tabs on those trains. Theoretically there's a train every few hundred meters."

"Is there anyway to clear them?"

Elret shook his head. "I don't know, not that it'd do us much good. We might be able to move a lot of people in one of those trains, but we wouldn't be able to disembark without that bottleneck."

Miranda furrowed her own brow at the line of questions. "What exactly are you thinking Commander?"

Shepard breathed in deeply. Kai Leng had done something similar on Watson, now Shepard was going to do it even harder. "I want to load up one of those trains with explosives, the biggest Mass Effect drive we've got, and turn it into a rail guided missile."

Miranda raised her eyebrows at the response. "I… see." She turned down to the hologram and narrowed her eyes. "Actually." She tapped on her omni-tool, the hologram shifting as the tool worked to extrapolate information. "You may be onto something there Commander. The hangar we want is beneath the primary spaceport, so if we were to drill through the end of the tunnel…"

Elret looked at it and wondered for a moment before he finally caught on. "It leads right into the spaceport. We wouldn't have to expose any of our men. If it works, it'll be like drilling a tunnel right to where we want in seconds and turning the bottle neck against them." He sighed and shook his head. "We'd need to clear the tunnel, find a mass effect drive big enough, outfit the train…" He gave Shepard a smirk before turning to his lieutenants. "Well don't just stand there. Get to it!"


John had tried to fit in, moving confidently and independently of the others in his team. At the same time it must have looked like he was crazy since he was just walking circles around the barracks, seemingly looking for nothing.

The first time he'd seen Garrus, he'd nearly shit himself. Sam had been more than clear about how the aliens they'd discovered were for the most part humanoid, but he hadn't been expecting something that reminded him of a velociraptor. Let alone Grunt who looked like Godzilla's mean little cousin.

Miranda had teased him about it, but at the same time taught him with understanding. Maybe from outside it looked as if she treated him like a child, but John understood that he literally was coming from nothing – much like Luke taking a first step into a larger world.

He wasn't about to let his steps be guided though, and John knew enough about politics and manipulation to see that as nice as Miranda seemed, she had her own agenda. John headed back to the main command room, but on his way spotted what he was looking for.

Jack sat against the wall, her head laying down in one hand as she rubbed her forehead. John had only ever seen that kind of exhaustion in the gym or in sustained combat. He carefully walked over, crouching in front of Jack. "Hey."

The woman looked up and instantly produced a frown. "Oh great, Spiky the caveman, fuck do you want?"

John sheepishly ran his hand through his hair – it wasn't his fault it grew out that way. "Just checking. Also got something for you."

Jack spat back before John could move. "Well, I got something for you too." She raised one middle finger. "…it's called 'fuck'" and then the other finger. "…and 'off.'"

Without backing off, John fished in one of his armor's pouches. "Getting to that. Figured you might be able to put this to better use than me." He fished out a protein bar, big letters announcing that it would add huge gains.

Jack raised her eyebrow at the gesture. "The fuck? What am I, a dog? Bribe me with food?"

"No." John stated strongly. "Biotics use a lot of energy. I brought a few just in case but I'm not going to lift a leaf, let alone turn myself into a bomb."

Jack stared at him for a few moments and shook her head. "No. The fuck do you want with me? Relate? Fuck? You have no goddamn idea who I am, so what do you think we can relate to?"

John shrugged. "From what I can tell, biotics don't really get to choose to be biotic. 'Little Miss Cheerleader' as you call her has been teaching me slowly, but something tells me you know a lot more."

Jack had lost the frown, and then let a single derisive 'ha!' at the cheerleader comment. The derision was clear enough that Turians around them turned and gawked as they walked past. "You gotta be shittin' me. I didn't learn what I know, it got jammed into me like a roast turkey."

"Exactly." John replied. "It was Miranda who got me on the ship, and we both know it's because they want to study me. I understand what they're doing but that doesn't mean I have to like it. You seem like you know the real score and I don't want to get manipulated."

To John's surprise, Jack calmed a bit and looked at him darkly. "Cerberus wants to 'study' you?" She quieted her voice. "If you were smart, you'd run and hide. Better yet, you'd tell that slut to go fuck herself the next time she asks."

John could see he'd broken through her defenses. Granted he just wanted a second opinion to come to a compromise in between, but this was progress. He needed to leave in good standing. He fiddled with the bar in his hand as he crouched in front of Jack. "You know you are right – I know fuck-all about your galaxy or your culture. I guess I'm asking you to help me remedy that without Cerberus getting involved."

Jack shifted her jaw around a bit before snatching away the protein bar in John's hand. "Later. For now…"

John got up and nodded. "Yeah yeah… fuck off. I got it."


The roof of the building was still well below targeting range of most aerial fighters and bombers – deep within the downtown district of Spaedar. Shepard looked around at the devastation, the brutality of the Goa'uld and Jaffa… or was it this Reaper? Bra'tac and Teal'c were warriors, but honorable from all he'd seen. These… Free Jaffa were still out of this fight, btu he hoped that soon Bra'tac could 9convince them to join.

In the distance, he heard an Al'Kesh firing. It was outside of his combat range but he had to wonder what they were bombing. He pushed the dark thoughts out of his mind and focused.

"It'll be a few hours before we can move out." Elret's voice called out from behind him. Shepard turned and watched the Turian sidle up and stare out. "Admiring the view?"

Shepard snorted. "Not even close. I don't suppose you've heard about the human colony Watson?" Elret shook his head. "Kinda like Taetrus, major Human colony… lots of tension because of cultural hatreds."

"I see you've read up on Taetrus."

"A bit." Shepard admitted. "Garrus may have mentioned something about a 'rebellion'. As weird as it sounds it made me more hopeful about this place. People who'd start a rebellion for independence are the kind who'd fight off a siege like this."

Elret remained quiet for a moment, the sounds of Al'kesh firing in the distance. "What happened on Watson?"

Shepard breathed in and out, the memory and knowledge burning a hole in his head. "Same as here, except they didn't fight back as hard." He shifted onto one leg and turned to Elret. "What are your casualty figures? How many did you get off before the spaceports were overrun?"

"A few hundred casualties." Elret replied, and then chuckled. "Most non-combatants evacuated actually. Militia and ex-conscripts joined up, we've got guerilla cells stationed throughout the cities, and a larger force waiting in the wilderness."

"That's good." Shepard shook his head. "Thousands didn't make it off Watson. Probably more than that. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the husks we've killed here came from Watson."

Elret stayed quiet for a few moments in retrospect, then calmly spoke. "We've seen the same. Husks that are obviously Turians, but… they're twisted. Most of the ones we've seen are at the spaceport guarding it, or leaving the planet." He shook his head. "We've actually seen more go up to that mothership than come down. It must have had a skeleton crew to fit so much resources and men."

"It's a huge ship. How much are we talking about?"

"Hundreds of men, thousands of pounds of resources."

Shepard sighed and rubbed his temple. "That is a lot. General Victus plans on trying to disable that Ha'tak, maybe we can rescue some of that."

"That'd be best, but I'm ready if they can't." Elret turned to Shepard and nodded. "I appreciate you being here. Not every day a Spectre shows up to save your ass."

Shepard chuckled. "I'm just here to tip the balance. You and your men are examples I wish the rest of the galaxy would follow." He noticed Elret give him a curious glare. "I mean, we've known about the Reapers for over two years. I warned the council and they ignored it till it was too late. They paid the price with their lives."

Elret shifted his weight before speaking. "Yeah… there was a lot of talk about why you ordered the Alliance Fifth Fleet to ignore the Council." He raised his hands. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not questioning your actions, I'm just curious what led you to that decision."

"Survival." Shepard replied without hesitation. "I don't suppose you've read the reports on how powerful Sovereign really was."

"I saw it fly right though a cruiser without even slowing down." Elret replied. "It took your entire fleet along with the damage the Citadel Defense Fleet did before it even got scratched." He sighed. "Not everyone ignored your warnings. A few people in the Turian ranks saw what Sovereign meant and began to prepare."

Shepard smiled. "It's good to hear that. I've begun to form a Coalition; anyone willing to unite against these Goa'uld is welcome. This whole galactic shift has us flamingoed."

Elret raised his eyebrow. "Flamingoed?"

Shepard nodded and raised his left leg behind him and clasped his ankle with his right hand. "It's a giant pink bird that kinda looks like this. You tie these two together, leave him like that for a bit. Perfect interrogation for flunkies."

Silence, Elret stared hard at Shepard for a few moments before chuckling. "You humans are some of the more creative bunch I've encountered. If we survive this assault, you can count whatever I can gather to this… Coalition."

"That's appreciated." Shepard found himself chuckling. "It's refreshing to find logic and help without having to go through a whole song and dance."

"Well that's good to know, because for all I know you just did a human mating dance."

Despite the danger around them, Shepard had to laugh.

-Cockpit, Normandy SR-2-

Joker had decided to err on the side of caution and kept the ship well out of range of the Al'Kesh patrolling over Spaedar. He'd never been to a Turian planet and he was more than a little surprised at how Earth-like it was. If he didn't know better, he'd guess he was flying above Florida. The several hours he avoided Al"Kesh in high orbit went slowly, only porn and EDI to keep him company as the rest of the crew were at general quarters.

The fires and smoke that engulfed sections of Spaedar were not at all what he wanted to think about. He'd seen the gun footage from Watson and it looked nothing like this. The fact that the Turians were still fighting back only led him to believe that that collective rod up their ass must also serve as some kind of tripod style stabilizer.

He was interrupted from his enjoyment of a particularly good scene when EDI popped up. It was creepy to think of what the AI must have been thinking about his viewing habits. She'd scanned and collated all the data from Normandy's sensors so he could get a quick overview. There were more than a few strange things as he perused it. "EDI, is that reading correct?"

"Yes Mr. Moreau. I have triple checked all readings and my findings are correct."

Joker grumbled. EDI gave him the creeps, but the whole 'Mister Moreau' thing was the worst. "Ugh… Look EDI. I know you're not some fancy VI, you've got a real sentient mind and even though it's hogtied you can still understand complex feelings and sensations. At least as good as a machine can."

EDI was quiet a moment before speaking. "I'm not quite sure what you're getting at."

"Please stop calling me 'Mister'. My dad is 'Mister Moreau' and even he didn't like it. It gives me the creeps."

"Very well… how shall I refer to you, Lieutenant?"

"Just… Joker is fine. It s not like anyone calls me anything else."

EDI seemed to think about it for a minute, but then replied with a slightly happier tone. "Acceptable. I am… appreciative."

Joker rolled his eyes. He needed to get back to business. "Yeah yeah, not like I still don't think you've got overlord in you. Now explain this, you're saying Spaedar isn't nearly as heavy as it should be?"

EDI continued matter of factly. "Not exactly, what I've discovered is a lack of the rare elements needed for higher end technologies, a significant enough lack that it appears as an anomaly compared to what few records we have of Turian construction."

Joker rolled his eyes. "Yeah, we know. The Goa'uld have been stealing anything with eezo in it. What else is new?"

"A lack of platinum, palladium, as well as other rare earth minerals needed for Mass Effect driven equipment."

Joker sighed and shook his head. "I still don't understand why this is an anomaly. It's a raid, raiding implies they steal shit. Mass Effect driven technology is what they don't have so it makes perfect sense."

"The anomaly comes in the amounts." EDI explained. "The Goa'uld appear to be stealing indiscriminately. A raid also implies a specific target, yet I cannot discern what they want specifically."

"EDI, could you please get to the point?" Joker asked as politely as he could. "Look I'm not mad or anything. Shepard might hold a grudge against AIs because of the Geth and the less said about Luna the better, but if you're going to be inhabiting the ship I'm piloting we might as well try and get along. Just be a little more concise with your answers."

"Very well. The Goa'uld Mothership does not have enough space to hold the volume necessary for the mass I read as missing from Spaedar."

Joker blinked a few times and then shook his head. "Wait, run that by me again."

-Alleyways, Spaedar-

"I wouldn't worry too much Commander." Elret mused as they walked through the lower alleyways of Spaedar, heading to the train station. The club behind them now nothing but a memory. "The Jaffa don't seem to want to ambush us. They just throw themselves into battle like charging Klixen. Make sense they work with husks."

Shepard didn't pay heed as he continued checking the windows above with his scope, checking for snipers or scouts. He noticed the rest of his team doing the same, while the Turians focused ahead of them. The lower sections of the city hadn't taken much if any damage from the bombing, but debris had rained down making it a hazard to walk through chunks of concrete and ash.

Some of the concrete had been heated to such a point that it became molten and drippy. Shepard knew it took an unbelievable amount of heat to do such a thing and felt more than a little exposed as he kicked aside debris in his path. He shook his head. "I hope you're right Captain. If this disturbs the shitstorm as much as I think it will, we're in for one hell of a response."

Elret nodded. "I've informed our guerilla cells to be ready to move on our signal. The entire planet's going to become a warzone as soon as we hit the Goa'uld." He moved ahead, checking corners and dark spots for any potential hazard. Shepard looked over his team who continued to do the same.

They'd walked for several minutes when Elret stopped and held his hand up in a fist. He seemed to think for a few seconds before speaking on a squad frequency. "I'm getting transmissions… two of the other squads who were going to meet up with us have met resistance." He turned and looked at Shepard. "Commander, we can push to the objective if you want, but those men will make it a lot easier if we're going to be able to hold our position at the other end of the train station. We might face some stiffer resistance if we wait, and I know it's a lot to ask…"

Garrus replied as he stepped forward. "We've got your back." He turned to Shepard and nodded.

Shepard nodded back. "We didn't come here to sightsee. Your men need a victory, not more needless casualties." He looked over his team and thought quickly. "Alright, we're going to split up. Miranda, you and Grunt are with me. Garrus, take John and Jack and support the other Turian squad. Meet up at the train station once you've accomplished your objectives."

Elret raised his arm and the distinct orange flash of an omni-tool cascaded out. "I've got coordinates for both teams. It'll take at least an hour for my team to set up the train if we're lucky. The Goa'uld are probably going to see us go in so who knows how long we'll be able to hold it. I'd recommend hurrying up."

Shepard nodded and looked over the coordinates. He picked one and sent the directions of the nearer one to Garrus. "Got it, we'll be there. Move out!"

-Industrial District, Spaedar-

Shepard could hear the gunfire before he could see it. Miranda kept behind him while Grunt flanked out as they crossed the large warehouse the Turian team had been pinned down in. Above them, catwalks and conveyor belts crisscrossed with pipes and unknown drums of fluid scattered about. Some of the machinery looked broken or burnt, while other devices still churned on like there were still people here. Steam permeated the air and created an odd natural cover. Shepard couldn't help but think of working coming here and working like robots to keep these robots in a proper state of repair.

This moderately industrial area of Spaedar was a network of tunnels and large bomb resistant buildings – perfect places for a knife fight range gunfight.

The flashes of gunfire cascaded along the wall ahead of Shepard, the mixture of machinery and steam played tricks with his eyes so he switched his Kawashii visor into an optimized mode, negating the effect of the steam. The warehouse was a large T shaped building, and they'd just reached the middle point when around the corner he heard cursing in various languages. He inched forward and peeked around, Miranda watching his back and Grunt ready to charge in.

More machinery lay ahead, though an open wider space. It looked like the shipping and receiving area of the building with some light machine shop elements. The Catwalk split along the T shape, and spread into three catwalks suspended by cables from the roof. The Turians had been caught on the catwalks, a less than defensible position but with a good vantage point. The Goa'uld and Husk force bearing down on them came from a large entrance clearly designed for vehicles – now blocked by what looked like a a burnt tow truck that gave them great cover.

It was a mixture of the Jaffa Snatcher Husks, along with what appeared to be Turian shaped Husks. Shepard was glad Garrus wasn't here to see how his fellow Turians had been warped into such twisted creatures.

It wore heavy Turian armor, but its eyes glowed with a disturbing electric blue. Shepard could see the exposed skin underneath, but flashes of blue electrical circuits made it seem more like a Turian robot than anything else. Unlike most Turians though, it work a helmet that covered its face and only exposed its eyes and a row of menacing looking teeth. It held a Phaeston Pulse rifle – just like a normal Turian would.

These Turian Husks seemed to be leading the attack, directing the Snatchers to cover positions while the Turians tried to fall back despite the less than adequate cover. They also seemed to be using some kind of tech armor on the Snatchers, making them even tougher than they already were. Whirls of what looked like insectoid armor similar to the Collectors had formed above the Snatchers making them even bolder than normal. Shepard watched as a Snatcher fired his Zat, and the electrical blast slammed into the metal catwalk. Electricity splashed over the conductive metal, drawing the Turians on it out of cover as they ran. One Turian cried out that his legs were numb, and another dragged him back towards safety.

The Turians weren't defenseless however, as a ripple fire of pulse rifle shots washed over the lead Snatcher, ripping his barriers apart and peeling off thin layers of armor. Shepard unslung his Widow and engaged his incendiary ammo. "This is Commander Shepard to Turian Squad, We're underneath you around the corner in the warehouse. We'll cover you as you disengage and trap them at this corner." He turned to Miranda and Grunt. What looked like a large wheelbarrow sat a few feet away from the corner – perfect. "Grunt, knock that thing over so Miranda can grab cover. I want you to climb this catwalk and be ready on my mark. We're going to draw them in for a close range fight to get through their barriers."

Another burst of fire from above and the Snatcher spasmed in place as dozens of rounds chewed through its armor and finally penetrated. It fell to the ground in a pool of dark blue ooze. Its chest ripped open and the Goa'uld parasite shot out, exploding against the catwalk where the Turians had only been a few moments ago. The catwalk shuddered from the hit throwing the Turians off their feet, but refused to fall despite the twisted slag and metal raining down.

Shepard found he could easily focus on his omni-tool and scope instead of checking out Miranda's posterior as she turned away from him – that armor creeped him the hell out. The Turians finally replied. "Shepard? As in Spectre? Thank gods, we're not hitting them hard enough! Hope you've got heavy weapons."

Shepard flicked the safety off his Widow and sighted in. The lead Snatcher took more fire and looked like it was finally going down. That meant the Goa'uld on the inside was probably about to eject. "Get ready to fall back on my mark…" He locked his shoulders and used the wall as a brace. It wasn't a hard shot, his visor told him it was less than a hundred feet. He had to hit a pinpoint target though… "Mark!" Shepard squeezed the trigger.

The massive recoil was absorbed into his shoulder pauldron, the Hahne Kedar armor designed to take those impacts with less effect on the user. The burning tracer round flashed across the warehouse and punched into the Snatcher's chest.

Rather than fall, the Snatcher suddenly exploded in a violent shower of body parts. The explosion was strong enough to cause the other two Snatchers behind him to stumble back, easy targets for follow up shots. "Open fire!" Shepard screamed as he cocked the Widow. The spent heatsink popped out and sizzled, burning into the ground upon landing. He slapped another heatsink into the chamber and recocked it.

The Snatchers recovered quickly and darted to the sides, hiding behind machinery. Shepard sighted in again and heard Miranda's Mattock semi auto fire in short bursts – perfect covering fire. Rounds pinged off metal machinery sparking and loudly holding them back.

Grunt let out a few curses as he crawled up a machine heading up to the catwalk – unwilling to risk covering open ground where the Snatchers could hit him with a Zat. Shepard knew exactly what he was going to do here and the Goa'uld couldn't possibly be expecting it. Shepard repositioned the Widow by leaning his left arm against the wall, his wrist acting as a temporary bipod. He took in a deep breath and sighted in. a Snatcher's head peeked up and arm fired a burst from what looked like a mass effect weapon.

He resisted the urge to fire and waited, the Snatcher went behind cover again as Miranda forced him down with pinpoint accuracy. He had limited ammunition for his Widow and he needed to make every shot count.

Oddly enough, there were no weaker husks in the group – maybe they only were used as a meat shield in harder targets. Nor were there any Jaffa regulars. Shepard merely let his breath out and took another deep breath in.

A Turian Husk crept out, a mass effect rifle at the ready and aiming upwards. It screeched in a horrific warble before spraying fire, but Shepard's crosshairs were right on its neck. Shepard squeezed the trigger again and the anti-material round easily tore through the Turian Husks barriers, leaving a spurt of black and blue ooze from the stump where the Husk's head tused to be. It wobbled in place for a moment before crumpling to the ground like a heavy sack.

Above them, Shepard made out the multiple footfalls of the retreating Turians. They rounded the corner, taking potshots behind them desperately trying to defend themselves. Grunt waved them past as he finally got up to the catwalk and covered them with his Revenant.

Shepard saw the advantage to take and knew it was time. "Miranda! Stop firing and make it look like you're retreating! Fall back to cover the Turians who made it. Get ready to cover me!" Shepard kept aiming as he reloaded, looking for those tender spots he could put a fireball shot through. "Grunt, target those Turian husks, I've got the Snatchers!"

The explosive surprise of the Snatchers made an ambush complicated, but Shepard needed to get these Turians to safety. He couldn't do that if an enemy was right on their tail. He let the barrel drift and focused on a Snatcher who'd begun to rush ahead, a Zat in one hand. Shepard let him move to the next cover position, waiting for just before it was out of sight.

Shepard's reflexes proved quicker as the resounding blast resonated through the warehouse, followed by the burst of the Goa'uld Parasite's chemical explosive. From what Shepard could see, only two Snatchers remained with a force of three Turian Husks. Despite his easy headshot earlier, Shepard knew he had to conserve his heatsinks.

The enemy force began to move closer, taking advantage of the slackened fire. Grunt waited above around the corner while Shepard locked onto another Snatcher. Not having to aim for the small and typically hard to hit headshot made things easy when he had a cannon for a rifle. If they'd had Husks of Jaffa Regulars, the fight might have gone down very differently. The Snatcher fell forward as Shepard nailed it in the gut, twisting in pain momentarily before exploding from the side – his body spraying the machinery he'd been standing next to.

The Turian Husks didn't show any sign of backing down and now rushed ahead. Their strange trills didn't sound anything like a Turian language and their tactics were incredibly aggressive. Shepard tried to sight on them but at this range, it was easy for them to move evasively. Shepard holstered his Widow and cocked the Avenger, one snatcher left wouldn't be too difficult to deal with – it was those Turian husks that were going to pose a problem with their tough barriers.

The Turians squad fell back, several of them were wounded and all of them were in minor shock from the Zat's effects on the railing. Miranda radioed that they'd gotten to relative safety and she was ready to cover him.

Shepard primed his incendiary blast and lobbed it ahead - he missed intentionally so it seemed more out of desperation than fighting back. The Turian husks fell for the bait and pushed ahead once more, vaulting over their cover and moving closer. Just a few more meters… "Grunt! Now!"

Grunt bellowed a warcry as he began to rain thunderous suppression fire from around the corner on the catwalk. Shepard engaged his tactical cloak and rushed towards the Turians, his Avenger at the ready with incendiary ammunition. The lone Snatcher left stayed in the open, firing its Zat at Grunt who evaded it with all his ability.

Shepard felt his heart pumping hard, Infiltrators typically held back, but Shepard was never one to say no to a close range brawl. He neared the Snatcher and screamed over the radio. "Miranda! Overload now!"

He got another step and a half before he heard the overload disc whiz past his head and slam into the Snatcher. He was still outside of its blast range, but the electrical pulse momentarily scrambled his HUD. He didn't need assistive aiming at this range though, and diving to the nearest cover, Shepard rolled forward and slammed his gut the waist high cover coming to a stop – his breath catching from the impact.

The Snatcher almost looked shocked as Shepard unloaded an entire Avenger clip into it from only a few feet away. The first quarter of the burst finished whatever barriers it had left, and the rest punched deep into the creature's armor, chipping away and finally exposing the vulnerable body inside. Shepard aimed for center mass with the last few shots and then ducked. The shockwave of the destroyed Goa'uld parasite inside detonating rippled through the metal and pushed Shepard's cover back, nearly throwing him to the ground. His barriers registered a hit as it protected him from the worst of the shockwave but he still had over half left. He could feel the adrenaline burning in his veins as he swapped heatsinks on the Avenger, ready to rush the Turian Husks in a surprise counterattack.

Miranda suddenly came up beside him to his surprise. She aimed over him and fired a burst before ducking next to him. "Go! I'll cover you!"

Shepard didn't waste time thinking and vaulted over the piping, rolling over it on his back. He charged ahead and spotted the Turian Husks taking cover to the side. Grunt had jumped down from the catwalk and despite lagging behind, still put rounds downrange without hitting Shepard.

The Turian Husks had suddenly found themselves in a difficult position with no real retreat, but Shepard knew they'd just fight harder. He turned as he reached the opposite side of the cover the Husks used. He reached around with the Avenger and blind-fired – hearing the distinct warble of barriers deflecting shots told him it was successful.

Grunt had moved to the side and Shepard's eyes grew wide as the Krogan merely tossed the Revenant to the side and brought up his Katana shotgun to flank the Husks. It didn't surprise him that a pair of the Turian Husks rushed out, trying to smother Grunt who was in an easy to attack position.

Shepard didn't let the third one get the chance as he spun around the cover and saw the Turian Husk up close from behind. It was like staring at a fully armored Turian soldier – except there were visible cybernetic implants wherever skin showed. Shepard leapt forward and body checked the creature – negating its barrier protection. He stayed close as he unleashed a trio of bursts from his Avenger, tearing into the exposed neck and shoulders of the Husk never letting it see who killed it.

Even before it fell, Shepard sighted in on the rear of the other two Husks. A threeway crossfire erupted as Grunt unloaded his shotgun, Miranda picked them off from range with her Mattock, and Shepard peppered them from behind with his Avenger. One of the Husks fell as Miranda tagged it in the leg, with Shepard finishing it just as his heatsink overheated and the alarm beeped loudly.

Grunt had overheated his shotgun breaking the barriers of the charging Husk, which left him one last choice. Shepard watched as the Krogan screamed and charged into the Husk, his heavier weight stopping it dead in its tracks in a full body slam. Grunt didn't stop there as he landed on the thing and pinned it to the ground. He grabbed one of the tentacle like protrusions from its helmet and used it to slam the Husk's head into the ground, his other hand giving him the purchase to go full force.

It wasn't long before the Turian Husk didn't move anymore, and Grunt had to wipe the strange black ooze off his armor. Shepard didn't feel like seeing if they'd called for reinforcements and spoke into his radio. "Fall back, let's patch up these Turians and head to the rendezvous point."

-Commerical District, Spaedar-

Garrus knew very well that Shepard trusted him to get the job done, but it was just a little surprising to see him give him a leadership position like this. Granted, it was just Jack and this Major John fellow, but after what happened on Omega, Garrus questioned his leadership potential.

Realistically, the only truly bad part was running into dead Turians as they approached the pinned down squad. They'd come through buildings and trash ridden alleyways, the entire time finding signs of evacuation. Eventually Garrus decided the cover of buildings was better, but only because he was experienced with being shot at from windows.

It seemed these other Turians weren't, as they'd been pinned down in the open streets from those same windows Garrus feared. It looked like they were trying to go between the buildings in the alleyways for a quick trip when they'd come under fire from the building ahead of them. It was a mixture of Mass Effect driven weapons, staffs, and even a few zats. They'd taken cover in a concrete gulley used for trash disposal, but they wouldn't last long.

Garrus had opted to make full use of the skillset he commanded. "Jack." The human woman turned with a mildly disdainful look to him. He knew he had to be decisive, but also understanding. "Feel like sneaking in behind them?"

Jack smirked. "Give em a little surprise?" She moved her shotgun in a suggestive manner. "Guessing you'll hang back and snipe?"

"Why break a good habit?" Garrus replied. His own team had been similar to Jack in their violent natures, but the humor always helped diffuse any kind of antagonism. John looked a little perturbed by Jack's near-glee at combat, so Garrus treated him more like a soldier. "Major, I want you to cover Jack's back so nobody sneaks up on her. I'll climb to a higher point and give you some sniper cover. Mark out targets as you go."

John gave him a curious look back, but then simply nodded. Jack scoffed and shook her head. "Eyes on the bad guys Spiky, not on my ass."

Garrus noted the look of frustration John had, but his reply was right on his own wavelength. "Not what I notice on you."

Rather than get angry, Jack gave a single 'ha!' and began to move through the building to the fire escape on the side. Garrus shook his head and went to the center staircase that led to the roof.

Taetrus wouldn't be the same after this, and while they might be able to break the siege for now, nothing really stopped the Goa'uld from coming back and bombing it into glass. The planet would likely have to be further evacuated unless a deterrent could be created. A level playing ground was all he asked for.

Then again, he carried a long range sniper rifle against short to medium range weapons. Not exactly fair for them either. He pushed these idle thoughts aside as he climbed the stairs, only stopping when he reached the penthouse floor.

This had been an office building when it wasn't an ashen graveyard, so as he moved to the side of the building that faced the Turian's under fire, he found himself amidst cushy, yet burnt surroundings. A room ahead of him seemed to have a perfect corner view, and a quick boot to the handle opened it. Inside was a plush office with wooden desks and chairs designed specifically for Turian physiology. This building was likely a law office, or some kind of brokerage. Now though, he noted the half crispy body of several Turians. They'd likely been here discussing what to do when the bombing began.

The smell didn't bother him that much anymore, but he'd taken the precaution of wearing a rebreather. No sense breathing in the remnants of his own people. Garrus moved over to the window and used the butt of his rifle to finish knocking out the window – a perfect sniper perch. He looked around and saw a pillow underneath one of the dead turian's heads. "Excuse me." He retrieved the pillow and set it on the window sill – support for his rifle as he lacked a bipod.

Garrus looked down into the street. The Turian squad was in a more or less safe position in a gulley beside the street typically reserved for waste materials. A large bin would be emptied every now and again and taken for processing, and it didn't take up any real space on the street. Now it made a perfect foxhole. The Goa'uld had taken positions in two buildings, much like himself. The Turians shot back whenever they could, but shooting upwards to a tiny target like a window? That's what Garrus was good at, not standard grunts. "Jack, I'm in position. I can shoot in through the window and push them right back into you."

"Got it, we're sneaking up on them now. Gonna be interesting…"

Garrus didn't say anything else, instead he just sighted in on the window where he could make out a trio of Jaffa regulars firing down, while yelling in some unknown language – probably Goa'uld – to some unseen person or force. They were likely calling reinforcements to push the Turians out and finish their ambush. Garrus wasn't ready to make it that easy.


John stayed as quiet as he could while following Jack. The omni-tool's capability to pinpoint targets for Garrus made the job a bit easier knowing there was someone with a high powered rifle watching over you. He'd seen this kind of fight many times, though usually from the air. Snipers were the Infantry's godsend or hellspawn.

Jack moved much too quietly and easily for someone whom he noticed had no military training whatsoever. Instead of proper military hand signals, she used more common civilian signals that John had to interpret.

They'd moved towards the main mass of enemy Jaffa, which as it turned out was only another opposing squad. Not even husk support. Maybe they were more a raiding party stealing stuff than an ambush. Jack turned to him as they took cover behind desks and cubicles, moving slowly closer and closer. John finally made out the details on the Jaffa who shot down into the street – they didn't' appear to be wearing mass effect style armor. He tapped Jack on the shoulder.

She turned and gave him an annoyed glare. 'What?' she mouthed.

John really didn't like not having someone who understood proper military communication – maybe he could exchange some knowledge later on when she wasn't in the mood to rip his spine out. He mouthed. 'They don't have shields. We can take them easy.'

Jack narrowed her eyes and shook her head, so John had to repeat himself twice before she understood. She turned to the Jaffa who had clustered near a single window and then got a devious grin on her face. She turned and gave John a thumbs up. John moved to the cubicle opposite them and took a defensive position just in case any Jaffa were late to the party. Jack engaged her omni-tool and sent out a message to Garrus with John CC'd. 'We can take these Jaffa on our own, take the ones in the other building.'


Pela kept his head down and held the bandage to his shoulder. These strange Jaffa creatures he'd been fighting for weeks were relentless and unmerciful – but thankfully they weren't the best shots. They looked human, but closer examination of their corpses found strange parasites and a sac in their stomachs that didn't match any description he'd ever seen or read.

The round that had dug into his shoulder through medium armor was from a military grade weapon, and the two other casualties had taken plasma fire and were recovering from some mild burns. It was like some entrepreneurial Infiltrator decided to create a gun that fired Plasma Blasts at semi-auto speeds.

So it came as a surprise to him when he heard a loud shattering sound from above. He risked a peek over the edge of the gulley and watched as a pair of Jaffa fall to the ground as if pushed out a window, and a third crash though their position above in a hailstorm of bullets.

The other Jaffa position then suddenly erupted in a billow of dust – Pela recognized a concussion blast when he saw one and moments after, the distinct loud crack of a Mantis sniper rifle. He heard a voice call out in the clear. "Turian Squad, We're covering you! Run for cover and get to the rendezvous point. We'll link up in a bit!"

Pela didn't hesitate and turned to his men. "You heard him! Double time it to cover! Move move move!" Pela vaulted up onto the street and ran towards the rendezvous point, he heard shot after shot cascade along the metal and concrete walls – sniper cover. Finally he reached relative safety and called back on the radio. "Thanks, did Captain Elret send you? Who are you?"

Instead of replying on the radio, he heard a voice scream from above in the building he'd entered. "I am…" Another loud crack, and a shattered window across the street. "…Archangel!"

-Subway Station, Spaedar-

"'Archangel'?" Shepard cocked an eyebrow as Garrus recounted his side of the fight. The group of roughed up looking Turians he led were in better shape then the ones Shepard had rescued – things were starting to look up. The subway entrance was now a veritable mini fortress, large stationary mounted guns ringed the entrance and Shepard thought maybe even Al'Kesh would fall to sustained fire – not that they'd made any attempt at an approach. The plan seemed to be working perfectly for once.

Garrus shrugged and waved forward the Turians he'd rescued, they entered the subway and added to the force of men inside. "Figured a little hope wouldn't hurt here either. Not like I've got enemies here I don't know about."

"Thought you left Archangel behind on Omega."

Garrus shrugged. "Feels good to come out of a fight with survivors."

Shepard shook his head with a smile and motioned towards the interior. "So Shepard leads the flock and Archangel watches over them?"

Garrus let a rare laugh out as he took the first step down. "I'd forgotten how funny you think you can be."

Bringing up the rear of their crew, Jack and John nodded towards Shepard. It was strange to see Jack genuinely walking with someone rather than just along the same path. Not that she seemed friendly, but at least she wasn't mocking him. Maybe Miranda was right. "Still, I'm sure Elret appreciates us bringing his men back."

Garrus looked around as the reached the bottom of the staircase and pointed out the angry looking Turians around "Clearly." He waved to the nearest and nodded. "Soldier, where's your Captain?" The Turian turned to Garrus and hooked his thumb deeper into the station. "Thanks."

Shepard hastened his step and moved ahead. The station was similar to what Shepard had seen on Human worlds, but it was much larger and magnetic rails rather than steel wheels drove the train. The concourse was filled with myriads of equipment, a mixture of Eezo drives, armor plating, and even mining equipment. Shepard realized that Elret had pulled all the stops and wanted to make sure this plan of theirs worked well.

"Shepard!" A voice called out. Shepard turned and saw Elret pull himself out from a hatch on top of the train. He waved him over. Shepard walked up with Garrus in tow and Elret smiled. "Damn fine job out there. I see you do your reputation well."

Shepard shrugged. "Just doing my job, How are we doing here?"

Elret hopped out and landed in front of the pair. He motioned towards the front of the train. "She'll be ready in a few minutes. We're loading up this one with as much explosives as we can. The Mass Effect drive we ripped out of a dump truck, and we're powering it with the batteries we can spare so we don't get a fission explosion."

Garrus raised an eyebrow. "This one? There's another train?"

"You feel like following a magtrain on foot?" Shepard retorted, it was easy to see what Elret meant. "I'm guessing there's another train waiting, ready to transport the strike team."

"You'd be right." Elret replied, then pointed towards the rear of the train. Several cars down, another train front car was visible. Shepard just made out Miranda's dark hair in the cockpit through the hardened glass. "Loaded with all the munitions we can spare, we've even attached a few mounted guns to the sides. Your Cerberus operative has been most helpful ironically."

Shepard flexed his shoulders awkwardly. He cleared his throat. "To be clear, while Cerberus has… assisted me, I am not affiliated with them beyond a mutual desire to fight the Reapers and Goa'uld."

Elret shrugged back to Shepard's surprise – almost as if he didn't care. "You make use of what you have." He sighed "Nobody has recognized her insignia yet. Few of the men here bother with human culture."

"But you of course are a connoisseur of the secretive and mysterious." Garrus implied. "Miranda's not exactly your average Cerberus agent Captain. Not that I'm vouching for all she is, but I'd trust her to watch my back."

"Can't ask for more than that now."


Shepard entered the now filling train car and wondered about all the Turians around him. They all looked tired, much like Garrus did when he'd found him on Omega. Unlike Garrus, these Turians had lost whatever humor they had.

He nodded to each as he moved forward - they gave him acknowledgements back. There didn't seem to be any empty seats and that made Shepard proud. His team had saved over two dozen Turians from the Goa'uld ambush parties – otherwise there'd be empty seats here to remind him.

It felt good to be a part of this. The Turians despite their tiredness were eager to fight back. Elret's words rang in his head as he moved by, patting solders on the shoulder and giving encouraging nods. More than a few Turians saluted back.

Shepard checked his own gear as he reached the front car. Elret had filled the train with weapons and equipment, so Shepard gladly refilled his heatsinks. The bandoliers below his chestplate were filled, but he stuffed more heatsinks into his shoulder pockets and thigh pockets. Unlike other foes he'd faced in the last few months, these Jaffa didn't seem to carry many heatsinks on them he could scavenge.

It was clear the others had the same idea as he entered the front car. Elret looked different with the helmet section of his armor on – almost like one of the Turian husks he looked so creepy. Garrus sat beside him, his Mantis exchanged with a Viper Sniper rifle. He gave Shepard a quick glance, then turned back to the window ahead of him.

Miranda looked almost lost in her own little world as she worked on a console behind Elret and to the left. John sat next to her and they spoke quietly, something Shepard had noticed awhile ago. The Major still seemed bewildered with everything going on around him but seemed to be taking it in stride. He wondered how long it would take for his hair to come back down from the shock.

Oddly enough, Grunt and Jack looked the calmest. Jack leaned back in her chair, her shotgun almost snuggled up next to her – her eyes closed. Shepard could have sworn she was asleep. Grunt sat quietly and looked straight ahead, but the smile cresting his face told Shepard his imagination was only just beginning to bud.

Elret turned to Shepard and nodded. "We're as ready as we're going to be. The train ahead of us is going to hit maximum possible speed and engage the mass effect drive right before it hits – maximum inertia. There's about a hundred feet between the end of the tunnel and the spaceport, so we're hoping to clear most of that with the explosives. If it doesn't then we'll have to hold our position until we can drill through wth handheld explosives."

"What about the pilots?" Shepard asked. "They've been briefed?"

"With what little time we've had." Elret mused. "They know their job. The Krogan's share will hit full afterburner and go after the mothership – as well as call in our defense fleet on the other side of the relay. If those schematics you provided are accurate, we'll take out that thing's shield generator and propulsion system with torpedoes clearing the way for the heavier ships to declaw that thing."

Miranda turned her head as well and added. "A few fighters will stay in atmosphere and draw attention from the Al'Kesh. I'd recommend the Normandy assist as their primary weapons will only just be able to penetrate Goa'uld Al'kesh shields."

Elret gave Miranda a slight frown. "It's creepy how you know so much about them. We've been fighting for weeks and hardly know anything."

Garrus interrupted before a full discussion began. "We've had some expert help. I'm sure you'll get to meet them just as soon as we break this siege." He sighed softly. "If you all don't mind, I think it's time we crashed this party."

-Cockpit, Normandy SR-2-

Joker had received a barely recognizable burst transmission from the ground as he circled Spaedar. EDI had quickly decrypted it and ensured him it would in no way lead the Goa'uld to the cloaked frigate in their midst's. The message read 'provide support for fighters.'

EDI had already worked out several attack vectors based on where the Goa'uld were, and the expected trajectory of the Turian fighter squadron. Joker had no intention of letting what had happened to the Turian defense fleet happen to Normandy, so he chose the cautious approach EDI had worked out and started warming up the cannons. He wondered exactly how Shepard had managed to get them through without a firefight though…

-Passenger Train, Spaedar Subway-

"20 seconds to impact! Brace yourselves!"

Shepard gripped onto his chair and took a few deep breaths in. The math of the pseudo disruptor torpedo in front of them flew past in his peripheral vision – they'd be lucky if their train even stayed on the track. At the least Miranda had confirmed that the subway bracing was strong enough to withstand the impact so they wouldn't end up buried alive – theoretically.

Just like most plans he'd come up with, there was that one little moment before all hell broke loose that Shepard let his mind wander. He wondered what some of the others he'd known were doing. He wondered what Kaiden would have said in Ashley's place on Horizon…

"3, 2, Brace!"

The lull was over too quickly in Shepard's mind, a shockwave fluttered through the tunnel, a bright light ahead of them along with a roaring boom. The train shook on its magnetic tracks, sparks flying and the whole vehicle jostling about. Everyone held on as even three train length's down the track the ground vibrated from the impact.

It passed after a few moments and Elret tapped his radio and called out. "This is it! All squads bunker in and cover HVPs. Pilots, hold position until Commander Shepard's squad secures the way in.

The station ahead came into view, the train slowing to a crawl as it cleared the tunnel and entered the pedestrian area. It was cramped and damp just like every other subway station Shepard had even been in, but the lights flickered and a cloud of dust washed through. Visibility was poor to say the least. "Everyone on me! Switch to night vision and move out." Shepard barked as he stepped out of the train's cockpit door. Garrus was right behind him, with the rest of the team following.

The walkways up to the streets were dark as the lights finally went completely out. Shepard knew he had to secure this area before he could move. Several Turians along with his own team cracked light sticks and flung them into the darkness bringing low light they could use. To his pleasant surprise though, he heard a Turian yell alongside the sound of a gun cocking. "Commander! Go on ahead! We've got this."

Shepard turned and watched as a Turian with a bandage on his shoulder racked the oversized heatsink into the mounted turret hastily welded inside the passenger train. He shattered the intruding window with his elbow and pointed the gun out towards the stairs. Shepard gave him a quick salute and waved at his team who left the cockpit of the train and waited for orders. "Diamond formation! On me!" Shepard held his Avenger ready to fight anything that came his way and engaged night vision mode on his Kawashii visor. Grunt charged up next to him – shotgun at the ready. He didn't need to ask if the others were with him.

It was unlikely that any resistance would be met, but just in case, Shepard also readied an incendiary blast – perfect spotting for a target.

-Cockpit, Normandy SR-2-

"You're sure?" Joker asked, his heart still pumping in his throat from the shock of seeing Spaedar spaceport suddenly explode with activity.

The Al'Kesh in the area had all turned towards the spaceport at once, creating a suddenly crowded airspace – though a perfect killing field for the Normandy's weapons. EDI replied as she brought up information for Joker to see. "There is always a possibility of doubt, but there is a very high likelihood that the activity is being caused by Commander Shepard – I've detected considerable seismic activity which implies underground explosions. Extrapolating from the architectural knowledge we know of Spaedar and Commander Shepard's tactics, they are likely trying to reach the hidden Turian spaceport without exposing themselves."

"So they're not far from launching then…" Joker mused to himself. "Alright, keep on the scanners and let me know the instant you see a hangar or something that tells you the Turians are launching. As soon as they do, we're going to hit the Al'Kesh with everything we've got."

-Tunnel, Below Spaedar Spaceport. -

The dust in the air was a thick mixture of hot dirt and clay, it played havoc on Shepard's NV sensors, but the subway tunnel soon made way for a broken looking cave with falling sediment and glowing hot metal shrapnel. There was little sound other than the occasional spark, along with an peculiar sound of wind breezing past.

The pseudo disruptor torpedo train had done its job and punched a deep hole through the ground, the heavy support structure above on the spaceport kept the ceiling from caving in on them, but gods knew for how long. He heard the team mutter complaints as they found themselves moving from solid metal and stone ground to thick clay that clasped at their feet. Clumps of it fell from the ceiling, creating an obstacle course of destruction.

His armor's polish was ruined in seconds. It'd take a full rebuilding to get the clay out of his joints – Shepard was shocked his rebreather wasn't getting jammed up with all the sediment in the air, but then again it was rated for space travel. He almost felt bad for Jack except that she had such masterful control of her biotics that she probably swam through this murky shit like water.

Despite the strange almost hellish environment, it was calm – until the gunfire echoed from behind them. Shepard turned and clicked his radio. "Captain, report!"

A few seconds passed as Shepard's team took what little cover they could behind the smoking wreckage of the train. Elret replied in the clear. "Just some housewarming guests! Nothing we can't handle! Does the path look clear? Do you need the mining equipment?"

Shepard turned back towards their objective – his night vision told him there was a hole another fifty feet ahead – likely the underground hangar they were looking for. "Wait one." He waved his team forward, all following as best they could in the wet and sticky path. Eventually they reached the end and had to crawl through the still somewhat intact rear section of the disruptor torpedo train – a welcome grace to have metal beneath their boots than clay. On the other side, Shepard could make out the darkened features of Turian military insignias. "Elret! Send your pilots through! They'll need rebreathers, night vision and heavy boots, but the path is clear, no contacts."

Hopping down from the heavily damaged train – Shepard could now make out the rest of the hangar. Several dozen Turian fighters were perched in rows of hydrolic ramps to point them upwards – ready for takeoff. This hangar was huge and could easily support an entire squadron of fighters, Victus wasn't kidding about it being a good hope. Apart from the hole in the wall and minor damage to the closest fighter to it, Shepard had to admire the good condition the Turians kept this place in. He could just barely heard John mutter over the squad com. "Can they bring a hose too?"

-Normandy SR-2, Above Spaedar-

Joker lined up the Normandy in high orbit, ready to dive bomb the Al'Kesh and make a run for it when they gave chase. More dangerous was the Mothership in orbit that might think to slag Normandy with it's ridiculously powerful plasma cannons. Needless to say, Joker needed to make this perfect. "EDI… check my course again."

"I have already triple checked our course, Joker. " She replied. The dull red and silent alarm throughout the ship was imposing and contrasted EDI's blue bulb beside him. There were about a dozen Al"kesh, more than Normandy could handle on it's own. "At maximum speed, we will have seven seconds of free fire before we pass them and have to turn around."

"Not going to be turning around." Joker muttered. "We're going to draw them off the Spaceport, those turrets they've got would cream the Turians trying to take off, so we're gonna be bait and pull as many Al'Kesh away from Spaedar as well as that Mothership."

"I see." EDI replied, and then brought up a new course after the initial pass. "Then I suggest you head for the ocean after the pass. Any collateral damage from our evading shots will have little likelihood of casulaties."

Joker hovered his fingers over the controls, waiting for the time to strike. "Except one hell of a fish fry."

"I would recommend against it. Turian cuisine would be less than agreeable with your digestive system. Anaphylactic shock would be the best thing to happen."

"EDI?"

"Yes?"

"Was that supposed to be a joke?"

-Hidden Spaceport, Spaedar-

The opening jaw of the Hangar doors was surrounding with the distinct sound of explosions. The ground shook as light began to filter through, but not the light of the sun. Miranda winced as she realized the underground hangar used explosives to drill a pathway up to ground level – a perfect sneak attack. Few entrances led to this place and it appeared the Goa'uld hadn't found it.

The Turian pilots had clawed their way through the impromptu tunnel, now soaked in aerosolized clay. They cleaned up as much as they could before warming up their fighters. A few technicians had come along as well to give each craft they used an abbreviated check to ensure no mishaps. Now they prepared to fire up for takeoff.

The Goa'uld would have definitely noticed the sudden hole in the ground, so she hoped Joker was as good as he said he was. Her doubt was quickly washed away as the sound of more explosions and the distinct sound of sonic booms. A voice came through on the radio. "Commander! We've engaged the Goa'uld! Tell those Turians to launch!"

Miranda watched as Shepard turned to the few technicians who manned the launch control panels. Above them, the opening widened and dirt and rock fell pinging off the ground and fighters. He along with his team backed off and gave the fighters the wide berth they'd need for take off. They all looked apprehensive – the plan hinged on an aspect they had no control over.

The engines on the sharp looking fighters began to rumble – the ramps under the fighters pushed their noses upward and oriented them towards the opening. A strange warbling sound erupted as their mass effect drives took effect and the craft began to float upwards from their minimal thrust. She quickly herded the others in the team to fall back into the tunnel. She looked at Shepard and motioned with her head. "We're no use here, once the Turians launch you can rest assured the Goa'uld will swarm this place."

"Agreed." Shepard looked over at the fighters that now pulsed their engines and rocketed up towards the hangar doors. He tapped his headset and barked. "All Turians left in the hangar, we are pulling back and sealing this entrance! Get your ass back to the train unless you want to get left! Double time, move move move!"

-Normandy SR-2, Above Spaedar-

Joker tapped the fire control button twice more before veering off. The Normandy was sluggish in atmospheric maneuverability, so he focused on dive bombing tactics. The Al'Kesh had been caught completely off guard and four had gone down from a combination of Mass Effect cannon fire, and Disruptor torpedoes.

That left over a dozen still, and now half began to follow Normandy. Their plasma cannons fired and Joker found himself having to skirt the buildings of Spaedar to avoid their fire. He suddenly felt nostalgic for his old fighter pilot days in the Academy pulling crazy stunts like this. "Give me maximum thrust EDI, We can't evade them so let's outrun them."

The 3D Radar screen ahead of him showed the incoming plasma shots as well as the buildings ahead. The Al"Kesh were fast, but Normandy at military thrust was just a bit faster. He needed to get into space if he wanted to dogfight but not while that Mothership was in orbit.

"Turian fighters are launching, I'm reading over two dozen friendly IFFs." EDI announced. Her tone then turned slightly sour. "I'm also reading the Mothership launching fighters and more Al'Kesh – the Turians will face stiff opposition."

Joker pushed Normandy down just a little further – now only a few dozen meters above the skyscrapers below him. He winced as stray fire hit buildings, while the Normandy's rear facing weapons just didn't have enough punch to take on Al'Kesh. "Nothing we can do about that, just hope those Turians are half as good as me."

-Turian Frigate Adreas, near Taetrus Relay -

The signal had been sent – reports came flying at him from all directions of what was happening on Taetrus. Shepard had done his job and gotten the Turians back in the air war. Now it was time to bring the hammer down. Victus sat back in his command chair and let the reports of fighting and aerial bombing flow past. "This is General Victus to fleet, move in and commence cleanup operations. Cruisers, focus your fire on the mid-size ships both in orbit and in atmosphere. Stay away from the mothership until its shields have been disabled. Frigates, you are to harass the mothership and draw fire away from our groundside squadron. I want highly evasive patterns – avoid fire from the Mothership at all costs. We will not launch our fighters unless our groundside squadron runs into trouble. Acknowledge."

He heard a crescendo of acknowledgements – a well-oiled military machine at work. He looked to his helmsman. "Take us in."

Not much more needed to be said as the Turian fleet moved in towards the relay. The crackle of energy between their ships and the relay always made Victus feel like some kind of mythological god about to rain thunder and lightning – not that far off this time.

The relay pulsed and the few seconds to reach Taetrus passed much too quickly. The planet was visible in the distance, only a few light hours away from this secondary relay. The Protheans probably built it with exactly that in mind. "Take us in towards the planet – Tell all ships to hold fire until optimal range. Cruisers are also authorized to support ground forces if the opportunity arises."

A few faces turned to him – orbital bombardment wasn't exactly outlawed, but this was their own world. Victus understood that these Goa'uld Reaper things were not going to surrender and needed to be excised off the planet like cancer cells.

At maximum speed, they'd reach the Goa'uld in only a few minutes. As they approached the planet though, an alarm began to beep. An officer beside Victus spoke up. "General, we're receiving a transmission… It's from that Mothership."

Victus turned to the officer and narrowed his brow. "The Mothership?" He thought for a moment and then nodded. "Tell all other ships to ignore transmission and continue on mission. Bring it up for us." Victus knew the other captains of the fleet would be curious, but wouldn't break orders to listen in. He needed them angry, and communication with the enemy might only seed doubt.

The officer tapped a few buttons on his holographic display and an image came up. A man wearing something akin to robes on an elegant throne faced them. To his sides were a pair of what looked like mutated husks – heavily muscled and bristling with cybernetics. The man himself looked like a cyborg with half his face covered in blue husk style implants, his body glowing eerily beneath the regal looking robes. "Bow before your god, mortal."

Victus raised an eyebrow – megalomaniacs? "I bow before no one. You have invaded our space and attacked my people. Get off my planet before I force you off."

The man started to chuckle. "You dare stand before your Lord Camulus and make demands? Your people are now mine – slaves to our message."

"I'm a slave only to your destruction." Victus growled. This bastard was going to learn what it meant to piss off a Turian. "You have the audacity to claim my people as slaves, then you deserve no more than the hot end of my guns."

Camulus laughed heartily, his voice a raspy half machine strobe. "You are foolish and unprepared for my wrath. Your planet is ours to do with as I please, and I now please to see you burn." He waved to something away from the camera, his head bowing slightly. "It has been long since I felt passion from those beneath me. I almost feel sorry for what you've brought down. I shall spare some – a mercy to live beneath our boot."

Victus watched the radar and noted the Turian fighters moving in on the mothership, and the Goa'uld fighters moving to engage them. Not a fair fight in regular circumstances as the Goa'uld fighters didn't use barriers, but that Mothership complicated things. Victus knew what he needed to do. "Then we'll enjoy tripping you." He turned to the communication officer and made a slicing motion. He turned back to the helm. "Alright, let's show that arrogant asshole what we're made of. Give us and Frigate's 3 and 5 a course between our groundside fighters and the mothership – evasive course and full power to point defenses and thrusters. We're going to clear as much a path for our fighters as possible so they can take out the Mothership's shields."

Now the other officers looked at him in shock. Only the captain of the ship had the quad to speak up. "Sir… that'll expose us to the Mothership's line of fire."

"Noted." Victus hadn't finished, and he hoped the others understood once he was. "Tell all other Frigates to fly past at maximum speed to draw fire. Any opportunity to fire disruptor torpedoes at the Mothership is to be taken. Acknowledge."

He had to wait several seconds before receiving the acknowledgement – his men were soldiers and knew what was expected of them.

-Cockpit, Normandy SR-2-

"Barriers to eighty-five percent, hull temperature rising steadily but we've moving fast enough to dissipate it."

Joker pulled Normandy into what amounted to a long inverted barrel roll turn, trying now to draw the Al'Kesh chasing him into orbit. "So we'll get blown up before we get boiled alive? Great!"

Alarms kept going off, Daniels was barking about some kind of thermal piping while EDI kept on the barriers and Goa'uld positions. Joker just tried to make sense of it all and pushed them higher into orbit, now far enough from the Mothership to afford him time to react should they come under fire.

The Al'Kesh were hot on his tail though, their plasma cannons now working together to trap the ship in a cone of fire. Avoiding all the shots was impossible so Joker tried to spread the damage by barrel rolling.

Barriers fell slowly, the impacts not the same as a Mass Effect driven round or Disruptor Torpedo, but the heat was building and once they were in space, there wasn't an atmosphere he could dissipate it into. "Give me positions on those Turian Cruisers! Maybe they can take these assholes off our back!"

Without a word, the information lay ahead of him. The Turians had thought the same and their respective courses already were in a decent enough alignment. The Al"kesh might notice though and bug off rather than chase him down. So Joker decided that a minor risk was better than letting them loose. "EDI, are we in GARDIAN range?"

"Yes, Joker. But…"

"I know I know!" Joker hissed, his fingers flying across the flight console. "I just want to piss them off enough so they fly into those Cruiser's line of fire. Let them know what we're doing and give me a course." He gave the order to target and fire, then muttering under his breath. "Sorry."

-Subway Station, Beneath Spaedar Spaceport-

"Cover me I'm reloading!" Pela screamed as he ejected the spent heatsink on the mounted gun, the large block of material fell to the ground next to him, another heatsink loading up from the reserve magazine. Ahead of him he saw Captain Ronaus round up two squads worth of men to cover the sides of the entrance – now blocked by a stack of husk bodies riddled with bullets. They were busy setting up explosives to seal the entrance and cover their retreat through the train station.

The only problem was their defense while solid was starting to crack. While the Snatchers sand Turian Husks stayed back, the standard Husks had no compunction over climbing their slowly disintegrating dead – the husk bodies burnt away after a few minutes of death into ash. The idea of choking the entrance with their dead just didn't' work. A few electrical blasts landed near Pela – any of which would have put him out of the fight.

The heatsink loaded into the mounted gun and the alarms stopped beeping. He pointed it at the entrance again and thumbed both triggers. The gun rocked as its first rounds found their target in a Turian Husk – tearing its left arm off and flinging it back. Pela ducked as in its death, it fired a wild spray in his direction – his barriers blocking what few rounds would have impacted him.

Captain Ronaus and his team set charges while Pela and the others kept the flood of husks from breaking through – even so, a few Husks managed to get in and land hits against the Turians to the sides. Pela fought past the image of his friends and comrades fighting these creatures in hand to hand as he sighted in on the next target.

The wave of Husks only increased – it was as if the Goa'uld had decided to throw everything into the fight and crush the Turians through the sheer weight of their bodies. Pela saw Ronaus wave his men back as the Husks finally began to sweep in – these armed with barriers that afforded them enough protection to get inside the station.

Pela was about to order his own squad to fall back when new fire came from the side smacking down the Husks in an impressive volley including one unbelievably loud shot that broke a Husk and the one behind it in half. Pela risked a glance – Commander Shepard.


"Flank out! Cover their retreat!" Shepard barked as he swapped heatsinks. A Widow wasn't the kind of weapon designed for close ranges, but it made one hell of a husk breaker. John and Miranda covered his sides while he took aim again, while Grunt, Garrus and Jack moved to cover the Turians from the train. Shepard sighted in on the next target

Miranda's accuracy was impressive, but Shepard was more surprised at how John didn't hold back – shotgun blast after blast putting down husks that neared them.

The situation had deteriorated, the Husks were breaking through and the Turians were being forced into a chokepoint. What would have been a bottleneck fight had suddenly turned into a clusterfuck int eh dark, Husks and Turians all over the place trying to kill each other. Shepard's omni-tool pinged as his sensors picked up the explosives on the wall –ready to block the Husks and save the Turians. The problem was the Turians were still in range of the explosives – including Elret. The fight had devolved into knife fight range for them – useless for his Widow – and Shepard knew he had to break through if he wanted to save them.

He slung the Widow behind his back and whipped out his Avenger – incendiary ammo at the ready. "Break through!" He burst fired into the Husks that swarmed, narrowly avoiding the Turians who tried to fall back. The incendiary rounds burnt expanding holes in the husks, It was an orgy of chaos with an intermingle of Husks and Turians. One Husk rushed at him, so Shepard spun and flung the Husk to the side – right into John's line of fire. With the same momentum, Shepard body checked another Husk, spinning back and hipfiring his Avenger peppering away the Husk's flimsy body.

Turians were falling, but Shepard's charge in had split their attention. A husk flung itself at him draining his barriers, but Miranda quickly smashed the Husk to bits with a Biotic push – its limbs flew out like a shotgun blast at the ferocious impact. With his shields drained, Shepard didn't have time to thank Miranda and instead waved to Elret. "Move Captain!"

The mounted gun well behind him began to chatter again and Shepard instinctively ducked his head. A Turian Husk that seemed to be coordinating the other Husks around him was suddenly picked up and torn apart in the stream of rounds – its barriers proving little protection. Elret raised his rifle and fired a concussion blast, the shockwave pushed Shepard back as it had hit a little too close for comfort. With his barriers nearly completely drained – Shepard screamed. "Fall back! Go go go!"

John rushed up beside him, shotgun still pumping out rounds. "I got you covered! Go!"

Shepard wasn't having it though and locked a stance next to him. "Back at you!" He aimed at a Husk charging form John's left, and a trio of shots to the face left only a flailing body falling before him. Another Husk was broken in half as it pushed on John's right.

The Turians saw the addition to the chaos and Elret screamed over his radio. "Fall back! Brace for explosion in ten seconds!"

Shepard's eyebrows raised. "Shit! Fall back!"


Miranda had heard the countdown and kept it in the back of her mind.

7

The explosion would likely knock them all back, the shockwave powerful enough to liquefy unprotected biologicals. Elret must have seen how desperate the situation was to order such a thing. She pulled out her sidearm and dropped the Mattock.

6

Her Mattock wasn't the weapon for this kind of fight, so she relied more on her biotics and tech, along with the Predator she now aimed at a Turian Husk's head.

5

She was getting tired of being put in these suicidal situations by Shepard. These Turians hadn't needed the Normandy to show up, they could have done this on their own. She squeezed the trigger, and moved closer to John and Shepard who'd formed a mini phalanx. The husk minus its head fell to its knees still convulsing.

4

Miranda saw the benefit in why they were here – but the Turians would have had to join the coalition anyway. She thought Shepard might just have wanted to prove to himself that the Goa'uld could be driven from a planet. The second Turian Husk she'd been targeting took fire from multiple angles – Elret and the survirors from his squad had created a similar phalanx to break through to cover.

3

John had done fantastically – he'd been overall quiet and followed orders. Somehow he'd even convinced Jack to stop looking at him like an evil spirit. She'd have to ask him how he did it - that is if he survived the burst of fire that raked across his barriers.

2

John returned fire blindly and ducked, Shepard covered him as well as they moved towards the train and cover – they wouldn't make it, but neither would Miranda.

1

Miranda flung herself into the air and spun - handgun firing all the while. The Turians had taken their own cover; they might survive. Miranda was more worried about her own team. In particular the man she'd spent two years rebuilding. As she fell to the ground, she focused all her energy into a two meter barrier. She hoped it was enough.

0


When John came to, he could still hear the ringing in his ears. When he was a kid in high school, he'd once accidentally broken an oxy-acetylene torch while he was in the middle of welding. The resulting explosion had removed his eyebrows and left him stunned for several seconds before coherence returned. The shop teacher had nearly had a heart attack and forced John to go to the hospital just in case.

In the end, it had worked out well for him as he became known as the kid who survived trying to blow up the school. The preppy school he'd gone to was low on unplanned excitement and something as fantastic as an explosion made him a celebrity – it'd even gotten him a date with Evelyn Goldstein. The lack of eyebrows only served as a cool scar until they grew back.

It wasn't until he heard gunshots – single and double taps that he realized that he wasn't a kid trying to bang a hot high school girl. He felt a hand pull him up and a calm but obviously worried voice. "You okay soldier?"

Blinking made the white light and dots go away. John recognized Garrus' mangled face. At least he could tell one Turian apart from the rest. "Uh… yeah… Where is everyone?"

Garrus lifted John to his feet and looked around. "We're okay. Miranda might have a hell of a headache for awhile but she kept you and Shepard from the worst of it." He turned back to the train – John followed with his head and did a double take. A perfectly circular area of around 3 meters of the train was nearly untouched – a few bullet holes and pockmarks. The rest was scorched as if bathed in fire and soot. That's when John realized that the rest of the train looked the same. His armor had been completely covered in the clay from the tunnel, and now a thin layer of dust and soot. "The hell? Feel like I got tarred and feathered."

Garrus gave him a strange look. "Why the hell would you do that?"

John had to stop and think of how to reply. The ringing was still barely there, but more importantly, how did he explain tarred and feathered? "Uhh… don't suppose you know what Looney Tunes are?"

Garrus shook his head and sighed. "Guess you musta hit your head too."

The train began to rumble, but John noticed there were still Turians behind him. He shrugged to Garrus and watched as the Turians limped and walked around, putting bullets in anything resembling a Husk. He spotted Shepard walking in much the same way he was – stunned but okay. Miranda was already on the train – a slightly confused look on her face as some of the Turians tended to her.

The fight was over?

-Subway Entrance, Near Turian Command Centre-

Sounds of gunfire and explosion from above were alarming, but they were getting more and more scattered. Shepard could tell that the actual attack had stirred the hornets nest, but the Turians were going to come out on top. He had to leave the safety of the underground in order to establish a connection with Normandy though, and he walked up the stairs – his head still aching.

The headaches had never really gone away since Miranda brought him back, but it was something he could push past. This headache was a much more acute. The light above him was darker than he remembered – it'd only been about an hour and a half of gighting in the underground, he wasn't sure what the local time was so maybe night was coming.

As he exited onto the street level –he saw that the light was dampebned by the sheer amount of smoke in the air. Fires raged int eh distance, smoke rising and creating a cloud of soot blocking out the sun's rays. What the hell had happened?

"Holy…" A voice came from behind. Elret walked up behind Shepard with a bandage on his head, his face surprised at the devastation. "I guess the Goa'uld fought back hard."

Shepard didn't reply and instead clicked his radio. "This is Shepard to Normandy. Come in." Shepard waited a few seconds – no reply. "Joker. This is Shepard. Come in."

"Commander."

Thank god. Shepard sighed and tried to understand what had happened around them. The Turians who'd been protecting the street level were gone. Whether they'd joined the attack or moved off… or worse was unknown. "Joker. Report."

"It's…." Joker began. Shepard never liked it when officers were at a loss for words. "Gou'ald mothership destroyed, sir. We're going to launch the Kodiak to come pick you up at your leisure."

"The hell?" Shepard muttered. "Destroyed? I thought the Turians were trying to capture it."

"The mothership?" Elret asked.

"It's complicated, sir. General Victus is requesting to meet with you."

Shepard turned to Elret and nodded. "Roger that Joker. Come pick us up." He pursed his lips and then spoke quietly. "General Victus wants to meet with me, I've got a Kodiak on the way to extract us."

Elret took a few steps out – soot and ash began to fall from the sky like darkened snow. He sighed heavily and shook his head. "Go Shepard. I'll finish here and contact you when I can."

Elret switched to his radio and began to give orders. More Turians began to walk out of the subway entrance – startled at the destruction. He spotted Jack walking up as well and looking surprised. "Jesus fuck." She walked up to Shepard and shook her head. "So we're all waiting down there. The cheerleader bruised her tits but she'll be okay, Spiky the Caveman and Garrus are fine. Grunt says he wanted more action. The hell happened here?"

"Not a clue." Shepard replied. He nodded at Jack. "We've got a Kodiak on the way to pick us up. You solid?"

"Yeah." Jack harrumphed. "Guess we won, huh?"

"Seems like it." Shepard wanted to feel victorious, but things just felt strange. At least the General had survived. But what the hell had happened in orbit?


A/N: Probably the most pain in the ass chapter to date. Not because it was hard to write, I just haven't had time due to one thing or another. Hope the long chapter suffices. Next chapter title will be "The Crossroads Project"