Author's Note: So here's my attempt at an action heavy chapter, something I've generally avoided. I much prefer writing character interaction. Let me know what you think of it.
A Different Perspective III
Cruiser Pride of Digeris, Shanxi Orbit. March 26, 2157 AD
Commander Atticus breathed deeply to calm himself down. He wouldn't ordinarily be this nervous, he had led his men into everything from batarian slave ships to underground asari bunkers in the Terminus System, but they were boarding a ship that was part of their fleet. If they had to fight anyone, it would be fellow members of the Hierarchy military. Sure, they'd be shooting traitors that had revolted against their captain but every turian they killed was a turian that couldn't help suppress the aliens.
At this point, even something as serious as a mutiny could be temporarily forgiven if it meant having more bodies on the ground to fight. Atticus knew from reading reports coming up from the planet that while they had won most battles against the aliens that it was usually only because they had more troops and so won only due to simple attrition. The aliens tactics and technology ensured more turian troops were killed than their own, but the turians had more troops to lose, at least for the moment.
What's more, when Atticus had been briefed about the mission permainters, his superiors hadn't known which of the crew had revolted or even why they had done so. So Atticus had ordered his men to use non-lethal force to subdue everyone they came across and only use lethal if fired upon.
Atticus looked over at his squad's tech specialist, Renus Hamus, who had been trying for the past 5 minutes to open the Digeris's airlock. The male was muttering under his breath as he typed desperately on his omni-tool.
"I don't understand it!" Renus finally said in frustration. "The encryption on this door is in some programming language I've never seen before. If I had a full day I might be able to hack it but where in the name of the spirits did they get this tech? This is like salarian STG level of complexity."
"Something else for us to include in the report after all this is done. We'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way," Atticus turned to look at the rest of his squad. "Alright people, back up. Hamus is gonna blow the doors open for us."
As the marines began heading back into their transport shuttle Atticus looked at Renus who was still grumbling and fiddling with his omni-tool. "Hamus, you can look at the coding later, we have a schedule to keep!"
"Right, sorry sir!"
"Be careful you don't overdo it on the explosives," Atticus warned as Renus began setting up. "Don't want to damage the docking tunnel and start venting atmosphere."
Almost as soon as they heard the explosion, Atticus and his squad moved forward in a calm but rushed fashioned. Atticus was pleased to see that Renus had successfully blown the door so that it fell forward, making it easy to move into the ship.
The group fanned out as they entered the Pride. They were on the lowest level, the primary cargo hold. Atticus wasn't surprised that it appeared empty. The mutineers had no doubt lost members when they took over the ship, why bother to station a quartermaster when they probably barely had enough people to run the vital systems.
After a five minute sweep to ensure they were alone, the squad formed up by the elevator. "Hamsus, you take half the men to lock down the engine room. Once you have it controlled leave some men there and then move to the guns. I'll take the rest of the men to the CIC, once we control that I'll lead a floor by floor sweep of the ship." Technically it wasn't necessary that Atticus repeat their orders. He had already gone over the basics of the plan with his men but he preferred repeating himself. Poor communication got people killed in combat so he wanted to make sure he was as clear as he could be.
However, before any of his men could give an affirmative to his orders the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Instantly every soldier had a weapon pointed at the elevator as a single turian stepped out. Without missing a beat, as if they weren't even there, the turian began walking toward the hatch they has used to get inside the cargo hold. Judging from his uniform, the turian had been one of the medical staff but beyond that Atticus didn't expect anyone to be able to recognize the man. The doctor's entire face was covered in cybernetics. Both eyes had been replaced along with the surrounding skin, his mandibles were gone, and strange instruments stuck out of the top of his skull. The worst part was, Atticus wasn't sure what disturbed him more: the way the turian ignored them or the scale of the cybernetics he was sporting. Atticus's men stepped aside but kept their weapons trained on the doctor as he calmly walked past them.
"Sir?" One of Atticus's marines asked. That one word question was enough to convey all the questions that were running through all their minds. What had happened to him? What do we do about him? Are the rest of the crew like that? Why is he acting so weird? Unfortunately, Atticus, confused as he was, had to provide answers.
"Phalarous, you'll stay here and keep an eye on things and report on what he's doing. If it turns out benign you can meet up at engineering."
"Will this change the rules of engagement? Lethal instead of non-lethal?"
"For the moment, no. Orders remain the same. Move out everyone, we have a schedule we need to keep, especially since they know we're here…at least, I assume they know we're here." Atticus gave the doctor one more critical look before walking into the elevator. Half the men entered the elevator after Atticus while the rest went with Renus to a nearby stairwell.
The elevator doors eventually opened out into a hallway. The group traveled down the hallway until they reached the CIC. Everyone adjusted their weapons as they prepared to burst into the room. Atticus slapped the button to open the doors and rushed in.
As soon as he entered Atticus nearly tripped over his own feet in shock at what he saw. Judging from the sounds he heard from the men behind him, Atticus's reaction was not unusual. The CIC, the brain of any turian ship, was in complete disarray. Consoles had been ripped out, cords and wires had been re-laid all over places, the lights were practically nonexistent, and more cybernetic turians walked around, making alterations to work stations. If Atticus hadn't known he was on the Pride he never would have believed this had ever been a turian ship. Not even quarians could retrofit something this quickly.
"Where are the chairs?" Atticus heard a man mutter.
"What was that, soldier?" Atticus asked without turning around.
"It's not really important sir, it's just an observation but...they got rid of all the chairs. They've gutted all the workstations but the new stuff they've put in is all at standing height…"
"That's...odd," one of the other men agreed.
As they all stood around wondering what to do, Atticus's radio suddenly crackled and spoke. "Commander, this is Hamus, we've encountered a problem."
"I read you Hamus, what's your situation? Do you require backup?" Atticus asked as one of his soldiers, Cyria, a woman serving her first tour out of basic training, walked closer to the cyborgs. Judging by her body language she was trying to read the computer screens that they were working on.
"No sir, so far everyone we've come across ignores us. That problem is that I have no idea how to shut down the mass effect core."
"What? Even if you can't hack it you should still be able to do a manual reset. Weren't you given directions on how this specific core needed to be shut down?"
"That's just it sir. They've made changes to the core, I don't recognize what at least half of this stuff is, let alone what it's doing. I'd rather not just start pulling random wires until something cuts out."
Before Atticus could respond to Renus one of his soldiers grabbed his shoulder and said, "Sir, I think they've have noticed us!"
"What? Dammit!" Atticus trained his rifle on the various cyborgs, two of which had turned and were looking at Cyria. "Get down on you knees and put your hands on your head or I will open fire!" Fortunately or unfortunately (Atticus wasn't sure which at this point) his shouting had caused the other cyborgs to stop what they were doing and look at the group.
The cyborgs, without so much as a flicker in their eyes or a twitch of their mandibles (those that still had them anyway) began walking towards their group, with one moving towards Cyria.
Cyria activated the stun function on her omni-tool and swung as the first cyborg approached her. She hit the cyborg square in the chest. Her omni-tool sent out a jolt of electricity designed to incapacitate the target. But rather than drop where he stood, a shield sprang up and diffused the electricity around the cyborg harmlessly who proceeded to grab Cyria and jam something into her neck through one of the softer parts of her armor, using the cybernetics on his arm.
"What spirits-be-damned kind of tech are they sporting? That stun is specifically designed not to trigger shields!" Atticus heard a soldier exclaim.
While the man brought up a good point, Atticus was more concerned with getting to Cyria. But before he could shout to organize a rescue, the cyborg dropped his soldier to the floor and turned and began walking towards the group with the rest of the mutineers. With the kind of perseverance only provided by youth, Cyria leapt to her feet after a quick shake of her head and attempted to stun the cyborg that had attacked her, hitting him in the back. Sadly, the attack was once again nullified by the shield.
"Don't ignore me you walking junkyard, the Commander gave you and order and we expect you to follow it, now get down!" Cyria screamed as she wrapped her arms around the cyborg's waist and proceeded to lift and suplex him into the floor behind her.
"What she said! Get down on the floor!" one of the marines shouted as they all pointed their guns at the cyborgs.
After a few seconds of being ignored, Atticus and his men followed through with their threat to shoot. With the sound of several booms, concussive rounds knocked the various cyborgs to the floor. However, no sooner had they fallen over before the mutineers began to get back up.
"Cyria, get over here! Everyone else, make sure they stay down," Atticus ordered. It was a rare man that could get back up after getting hit with a concussive round if they weren't wearing proper protective armor, the fact that every single cyborg had done exactly that was worrying.
As Cyria attempted to disentangle herself from the cyborg she was wrestling, Atticus couldn't help but notice how nonchalant the cyborgs acted. They weren't using their arms to shield their faces, they weren't seeking cover. They just kept calmly attempting to stand up after getting knocked down by the concussive rounds. It was certainly weird to be ignored by the cyborgs, but it was a completely new level of weird to watch turians getting shot react the same way as one would react to getting a stuffed animal thrown at your face.
As Cyria finally managed to make her way over to the group, Atticus noticed that she was swaying and stumbling, almost as if she was drunk. "Those of you with restraints, make use of them if you safely can," he said.
"You alright there, soldier? Any idea what they injected you with?" Atticus asked as he grabbed Cyria's arm and led her out into the hallway. He could still hear the sound of his mens' guns firing.
"I'm not sure, my suit's sensors can't seem to make sense of it. It says I haven't been poisoned but it is detecting something."
Before Atticus could respond to this mystery a panicked voice shouted from the CIC, "SPIRITS HE'S STRONG!"
Going back in, Atticus could see that two of his men had attempted to handcuff the nearest cyborg. It was laying on its stomach while they sat on its legs and back. The two of them were unable to hold it down long enough to get the cuffs on it, despite the fact that it wasn't actually struggling as you'd expect. It was acting more as if they were domesticated pyjacks, it was trying to stand up without disturbing them overmuch. The cyborg finally managed twist its arm out of the soldier's grip but rather than fight them off, the same things as before extended from its wrist and it jabbed them into one of his soldier's thighs.
"That does it, fall back everyone! We need to regroup," Atticus barked. There was too much going on that didn't make sense, they needed more information.
As his men began moving into a retreat formation, Atticus felt someone grab him from behind. As he spun around and brought his arms into a defensive position, Atticus worried about how bad Cyria's condition must have become if she was unable to shout out an alarm when this new attacker at showed up.
Atticus's concern was replaced with confusion when he saw that the person he was facing was, in fact, Cyria. He began lowering his arms, which turned out to be a mistake. Cyria delivered a right punch straight into his stomach that nearly had Atticus puking in his helmet. As he doubled over in pain reflexively, all Atticus could think was, Spirits, krogan didn't hit that hard! Luckily, before Cyria could follow up with a second strike, she was blown back into the hallway from a concussive shot. Unlike the cyborgs, she stayed down.
"Commander, are you alright?" A voice asked as a someone grabbed a hold of Atticus to keep him standing upright.
"Whatever," Atticus paused to cough heavily, "whatever she was injected with, that must have been responsible for her behavior. Makes people go super aggressive."
"Should we bring her with us, sir?"
That was a really good question, turians did not leave a man behind. The issue was, if Cyria woke up while they were pulling back and attacked them she could cause serious problems. Still, any good commander should be able to find a way around that and Atticus was a good commander.
"Yes. Unlatch her helmet, we can gas her if we have to. Anyone who gets jabbed by a cyborg also needs to do the same, we need to be able to quickly knock you out before you attack everyone else."
The turians began the process of retreating from the CIC while constantly blasting the cyborgs to the floor. Atticus saw that the man who stopped to grab Cyria was the one that had been stabbed by the cyborgs and had already removed his helmet. The group began moving down the hallway towards the elevator but as they approached it the doors open to reveal several cyborgs. These cyborgs, unlike the ones on the CIC, were holding guns and wearing security uniforms.
"Drop your weapons or we will shoot!" Atticus shouted as he and several others immediately brought their guns up.
These cyborgs, just like the ones on the bridge, completely ignored Atticus and began marching forward. Atticus had a split second to make a decision, on the one hand the cyborgs might just attempt to engage in hand-to-hand so that they could inject his men with the crazy serum, on the other hand they might just be faking so that they could get better shots lined up on his men. Atticus decided his men's lives were the priority.
"Damn it to oblivion. I'm authorizing lethal force, open fire!"
Atticus hit the switch on his gun to stop using concussive rounds and as he pulled the trigger he heard his marines open fire beside him. The approaching cyborgs kept advancing as shields flared up around them. The marines continued firing until the cyborgs' shields shattered from overuse, only for additional shields to spring up in their place. The second set resembled the coloration of the shields sported by the cyborgs in the CIC.
"They've got redundant shields!" A soldier stated. Atticus was proud that it had merely been an observation instead of a panicked shout.
Unfortunately, before they could wear down the second sets of shields, the first set had recharged and had sprang back into place on the advancing cyborgs.
"Concentrate fire on the closest one, work backwards as the shields fail," Atticus said. He then turned to the one tech specialist he had brought up with him. "Roman, their shields can block a stun, see if a they can stop a military grade overload."
Atticus was regretting having sent so many of his tech specialists with Hamus to the engines. Except for Roman, his squad was straight soldiers. He hadn't expected to meet this level of resistance on the bridge. Quite frankly, he hadn't expected there to be this many mutineers. But then again, insanity-inducing poison certainly had ways of helping a mutiny spread. Though now that he thought about it, the cyborgs weren't the same kind of violent as Cyria, what the cause of the difference in behavior? The cybernetics?
Atticus's thoughts were interrupted by one of his men saying, "That guy's first shield is down, Roman overload!"
With a wave of his omni-tool an electrical discharge leapt from Roman's wrist to the nearest cyborg. Atticus was expecting the overload to drop the cyborgs shields so that they could focus fire and take him out. Atticus was not expecting the electricity to overload the cybernetics to the point that they partially blew up. The cyborg stumbled to the side and slammed into the wall where it slowly slid to the floor.
"HA! Seems the spirits decided to finally show us some favor," Atticus crowed. "Hopefully one of you loaded out with EMP grenades so we aren't relying exclusively on Roman for this."
He was met with a chorus of "knockout gas" and two "incendiary" along with one "biotic."
The last one got a stare from most of the group, though it was a quick stare since they were still engaging in a firefight. Turians were usually leery of anyone with biotics because they were seen as different, that tended to bleed over to biotic paraphernalia.
"What?" The lone soldier asked indignantly, "They're good at causing mayhem without damaging the surrounding area which, considering were trying to retake our ship, seemed like a good idea."
"That's actually a very well thought out reason. Much more so than bringing incendiary grenades when we're boarding an enclosed oxygen rich environment," Atticus said, giving two of his men a glare.
Deciding now was not the time to lecture the two men, Atticus activated his radio. "Hamus come in. We've run into some of the crew and made some important discoveries. Do you copy?"
"I copy, sir. Still trying to figure out how what most of this stuff does."
"The crewmembers we've run into have extensive cybernetics. They ignored us till we bothered them, absolutely do not engage them in melee, they can inject you with something that mimics a krogan bloodrage. Also, while they have extensive shielding they are vulnerable to overloads."
"Acknowledged sir, I'll keep you appraised when we make progress."
"Odd that they would have redundant shielding that can stop a stun but an Overload can do so much damage," Roman mused as he sent out another electrical discharge.
There were a lot of odd things about this mission but Roman was right, the tech the cyborgs had did not make sense. It was both advanced and primitive. Not to mention the degree to which so of them had cybernetics, one of the advancing security cybrogs had her entire arm replaced with…some kind of device. The mutiny hadn't occurred that long ago, how did they managed to do so many operations to implant so much of this in everyone? Despite that, Atticus was optimistic, as strange as this mission had become, there was a good chance he would achieve the objective and get all of his men out alive even if he had to kill more of the mutineers than he had hoped. So, of course, it was at that moment that the spirits decided to make his life difficult. Atticus saw Roman extend his arm, omni-tool glowing, as electricity arced out to strike a cyborg and watched as it harmlessly dissipated around the shield.
"Concentrate fire, take that buckethead's shields down!" Roman shouted.
"What just happened?" Atticus asked. "I've never seen an overload have that little effect before."
"Maybe that cyborg has high-powered shields?" a soldier suggested. "Overload the others, we'll take out that guy."
Unfortunately, that plan wasn't working either. While Atticus and his men were able to get through the first layer of shields of any of the cyborgs, every single one of them was unaffected by Roman's overloads on their secondary shields and it took far too much focused fire to shoot through the secondary shields. While they still had plenty of concussive rounds, they were eventually going to run out of hallway to retreat to so Atticus didn't want to keep trying at a no longer working plan. "Okay, so overloads aren't working anymore, what other options do we have?"
"Freeze them?" one of his men suggested.
"My cyro app isn't particularly advanced but I'll give it a try," Roman said.
Roman launched the super-chilled orb of omni-gel at the nearest cyborg. It's secondary shield didn't activate so the gel struck the cyborg in the chest and splattered across its entire torso. Doesn't matter how sturdy the armor under all those cybernetics was, getting flash frozen made just about anything brittle and Atticus could see it start to crack. A shotgun blast took out the cyborg in a particularly cinematic fashion as it flew back into the cyborgs behind it and knocked several of them over. Roman followed it up with several quick cyro-blasts, though unfortunately the cyborg in the front inadvertently blocked the frozen shots for his fellows.
After the nearly completely frozen cyborg was shattered, Roman launched another cryo-blast at a cyborg and Atticus saw two of his men point their rifles at it, prepared to follow up the freezing with several rapid shots to take out the cyborg when, instead of the sub zero omnigel striking the cyborg's torso, it caused the secondary shields to activate. Atticus stared in shock as the omnigel fell harmlessly to the floor.
"What in the spirit's names is going on?" Atticus said, sounding somewhat more indignant than he wished. "Overload worked but then it didn't, Cryo-blasts worked and now they don't!"
"I don't know sir, but the only app I've got left on my omni-tool that might do us any good is Incinerate, but at the rate things have been going it'll probably only work once."
"It's just been bad luck, we're simply only just now getting to the tougher cyborgs. It's not like it's actually possible for them to adapt to our attacks."
"Don't go tempting the spirits like that, you say that now and they'll go and make sure the cyborgs adapt to us."
"You've been watching too many horror vids. The spirits are not that vindictive."
Cruiser Pride of Digeris, Shanxi Orbit. March 26, 2157 AD
"Whelp," Renus said as he shut off the call from Commander Atticus. "We've all been poking and prodding at the core and still don't have the slightest idea how to go about shutting it down so I'm open to suggestions."
The turians exchanged glances from their various locations in the engineering bay. Finally, one spoke up. "We could wait for one of the cyborgs to come in here and then subdue him until he tells us what we need to know."
"Normally, I'd say we don't have time for that but in this case I'm shooting it down for an entirely different reason. These people are cyborgs, you all saw how the one in the cargo hold acted. Do you really think we could beat or intimidate an answer out of one of them?"
"The Commander said they were vulnerable to Overloads, threatening to fry them might work…" judging from his tone of voice, not even the guy suggesting it really thought the idea was plausible.
"You know," one of the engineers said. "I've been thinking about the cyborgs and I might have a theory about them. The sudden and rapid implantation of the cybernetics, the weird behavior, the changes to the ship that make no technological sense. . .I'm thinking Geth or some other kind of rogue AI must be involved."
"The Geth haven't been seen outside the Perseus Veil since they rebelled!" Renus stated. "But a rogue AI. . .that makes a lot of sense. It's controlling the cyborgs through their implants!"
"If that's the case we might be able to hack the signal and free everyone. Or at least find out what the hell is going on, what their goal is," a soldier said excitedly.
"I doubt it will be that simple, but that sounds like a plan to me!" Renus said confidently. "Alright, we need to grab one of the cyborgs so we can scan it to see what kind of signals it's sending and receiving. Just remember, don't get into hand-to-hand combat, the Commander says that's how they get you. Let's move out."
Cruiser Pride of Digeris, Shanxi Orbit. March 26, 2157 AD
As Cyria regained consciousness, she began wishing that she hadn't. Her head was ringing and her whole body ached. She vaguely recalled getting hit with a concussive round, which while it certainly explained how she was feeling, didn't explain why she had been hit by it. The cyborgs in the CIC hadn't had any guns, so who had shot her? Was it the individuals that had invaded the ship? Cyria opened her eyes to examine her surroundings. She was thrown over the shoulder of an alien as they moved down a hallway. The rear-most alien was firing concussive shots at approaching drones as the group moved onward.
Cyria tried to twist around to see where they were headed but this caused the alien to shift his group on her and shout, "Commander, she's waking up!"
The group immediately halted and Cyria was, more-or-less gently, eased off the alien's shoulders onto the floor. She stared up at the various helmeted faces of the aliens before focusing on their commander, Atticus. Though now that she thought about it, how did she know his name?
"Are you gonna attack me again or have you regained control of yourself?" Atticus asked her, calmly yet warily.
She was about to tell her commander to shove the question up his cloacae when the alien that had been carrying her told her to be quiet…only he hadn't actually spoken any words. Ignoring the one in charge, she looked more carefully at the psychic turian. No, that wasn't quite accurate. He hadn't told her to be quiet, he had told her to stop violating Collective consensus. Everyone wanted to see what the aliens would do, she shouldn't fight them.
Glad that someone was finally making some sense, Cyria decided to be a bit more polite to her captors. "No, I won't attack anyone. I need to wait until I'm better."
"Well that's good…" the commander didn't sound convinced but didn't press the issue any further. He straightened up and addressed the assembled soldiers. "Alright, we've lost communication with the engineering team, have no way of shutting down the ship, and have been unable to receive any transmissions from outside. As commanding officer, I'm changing the mission parameters. The cyborgs have modified the ship so much that I'm concerned it might be dangerous to the fleet, that take priority over our original mission objectives. We will make our way to the drive core and detonate it, if possible by remote, if not I will stay behind while the rest of you make your way to the shuttle. "
Cyria looked up at…her commander. He was going to blow up the ship? If anyone stayed it should be her, she was a part of the Collective and the body death of one drone was a minuscule loss. But wait, the Collective didn't want the ship blown up, did they? She glanced over at other drone and knew that he, that they all, agreed with her. The destruction of this ship could not be allowed, the Collective hadn't finished assimilating all the technology currently on board. Cyria slowly stood up and saw the other soldiers fingering their weapons while looking at her, they considered her a threat. None of them were looking at the other drone though, so they wouldn't expect what was about to happen.
The drone turned and grabbed a grenade from a nearby soldier's belt. The soldier squawked out, "Biotic grenade!" right before the drone punched him in the throat.
As Bruce Willis tossed the grenade towards the left, Cyria jumped to the right to prevent the GI Joes from killing him with their guns that never killed anyone. She grabbed a hold of Snake Eyes' arms and used him as a shield to absorb the Joes bullets. This tactic kept them occupied enough that Bruce Willis became a bull and rushed forward to gore the soldiers kept aloft by Darth Vader's force powers. When Cyria got close, she threw Snake Eyes at V from Vendetta and proceeded to kick the Black Knight square between the legs. When the Knight collapsed to the floor with a whimper, Cyria grabbed his gun and tried to remember where the healthpacks and armor upgrades were on this level.
Out of the corner of her eye, Cyria saw Snake Eyes and V disentangle themselves enough to bring their weapons up to shoot at her. Before they could do that she leapt forward and, reusing her Spring Break '28 Belly Flop Championship skills, landed flat on top of both of them. As her younger brothers continued wrestling with her, Cyria worried that they might roll too far and knock over their mom's disco lamp. How big was the lamp anyway? Well, Pi was approximately 3.141592653589793, and the ball dropped annually in Times Square to commemorate the new year so that meant the turian that was currently punching Cyria in the face was suffering from previously dislocated shoulder which could be exploited by applying the right amount of pressure to his arm. With a grunt, Cyria grabbed his elbow and yanked his arm straight up. The large bird trilled, probably in pain, so while he was distracted Cyria elbowed the other guy in the face, breaking the glass of his helmet.
As the glass pieces hit the ground, Cyria screamed in anguish. That window had been in the church since the 900's and it had been shattered by protestors just because the church had received a donation from the Borg Collective! The only reason they'd taken the money was so that they could preserve the architecture here. The doors burst open and with a terrifying growl of, "Fresh Meat" The Butcher charged in, activating his Furnace Blast. Cyria panicked and activated all the grenades she could reach on belt of the guy she was sitting on. Cyria was pretty sure that with her health pool she'd survive the explosion. As smoke filled the room, Cyria really wished she could find the hipster and his stupid e-cigarette and shove it down his throat. Vaping was not cool, it was annoying and everyone thinks you're a douche for doing it in a crowded room. Cyria coughed and waved her hand in front of her face, trying to disperse the fog, hoping desperately the theme song to the Exorcist didn't start playing.
When the air finally cleared, Cyria surveyed the scene before her. Turian soldiers were scattered throughout the hallway, either incapacitated or dead, while the lone figure standing was a drone. It turned to look at her, and she smiled.
Dreadnought Cyprian's Grace, Shanxi Orbit. March 28, 2157 AD
Admiral Marius was not happy. The reports he was getting from the planet's surface were still disheartening, despite the deployment of the hastatim. The aliens, oomens as they apparently called themselves, were still putting up a strong defense. This had dragged the conflict on long enough that the fleet had gone through a lot of its food. Marius had been forced to send ships back to create supply lines to avoid malnutrition. They hadn't been in danger of starvation but Marius wasn't going to wait till that point before getting more food sent in.
In addition to the food problems, whatever the cause of the mutiny on the Pride of Digeris had affected enough of the crew that the strike team that Commander Atticus had led had failed to retake the ship. They had only sent a single transmission after boarding the vessel, but it had been so garbled by interference his communication techs had only been able to make something out about a crazed AI, which only raised more questions since the Pride was an older model of cruiser and hadn't even been equipped with a VI so there shouldn't have been the hardware onboard necessary to house an AI. After several hours of no activity a power spike was detected on the Pride and it far too suddenly activated its drive core and disappeared. No ship should have been able to go from powered down to FTL that quickly without literally cooking the crew alive. So now, in addition to having his scouting ships out on patrol looking for the inevitable retaliation from the oomens, they also had to be on the lookout for a ship filled with what, at this point, might as well be considered enemies of the State.
Councilor's Office, Citadel. April 18, 2157 AD
Councilor Nero pinched the bridge of his nose, a habit he had picked up from Councillor Tevos, as he talked with Primarch Verraan. Under normal circumstances he would have enjoyed getting a call from Verraan, the two turians had been bunkmates back in boot camp and had become fast friends and while their respective career paths had separated, they made sure to keep in touch throughout the years.
"I understand Captain Jallus thought it was pirates. I understand that Admiral Marius was executing a retaliatory action based on that assumption. I even understand that upon discovering it was an unknown race the Admiral felt it necessary to pacify the aliens in order to prevent a counterattack that could have potentially cost lives. What I don't understand is why I'm only now being informed of this," Nero said, trying unsuccessfully to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
"Because initially the Council of Primarchs decided that this was an internal matter that did not require the involvement of the Citadel."
"It's a first contact scenario, of course it requires the involvement of the Citadel!" Nero practically shouted. "Why would anyone even think we shouldn't be informed!?"
"It was a police action. I shouldn't have to explain it to you, Councilor! You know the Citadel has charged the Hierarchy with patrolling the boundaries of the Attican Traverse."
"Are you being deliberately obtuse?"
"Are you deliberately looking for someone to blame?"
The two turians glared at one another, neither willing to budge in their verbal battle.
Finally Councilor Nero sighed, not willing to admit defeat but also not willing to waste more of his time, "I'll talk to the rest of the Council, see how they want to handle this because at this point I have no idea what the proper procedure would be. Enforcing a law on a species that didn't know said law existed strikes me as something that would put a negative spin on first impressions."
"You've spent too much time on the Citadel, you sound like a diplomat instead of a soldier."
"I am a diplomat."
"Ugh, don't admit to that. I'd be less embarrassed for you if you'd publicly announced that you had a vorcha mistress."
Author's Note: Another section written from the point of view of someone undergoing assimilation. Truth be told, I wasn't happy with how I wrote the previous chapters assimilation POV's and I'm not sure I'm happy with how this one turned out either. I don't feel like I properly captured what it feels like to have your individuality slowly eliminated while you fight to keep it, though to be fair I think that that is something that is very hard to write. As much as I hated the book in school, I have to admit that William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is the pinnacle of what I was going for.