A/N: Just realised that Shepard was held in Vancouver XD, so the UNSC forces are in Canada.

XXxxXX

"If you've got a Spook running, watch your six, because that's where they'll hit you five minutes later."

-Corporal Jake Frost, UNSC war games

XXxxXX

SSV NORMANDY SR-2, ENROUTE TO PALAVEN

It was serene, peaceful. I could see the boy, playing, laughing, running. But then, there was that awful sound. The ground lit up in crimson red. The boy started running, he was scared, and so was I. I ran after him. He stopped, turned around, and looked at me. I was consumed with horror when I saw him engulfed in flame.

Jane shot up from her bed, gasping for air. Sweat beaded down her forehead as she tried to comprehend her dream. She remembered that boy, the boy she tried to save, the boy who died.

Shepard rubbed her temples before swinging her bare legs off her bed, and donned on a pair of standard Alliance fatigues.

Heading down to the crew deck, the Spectre could still see the two scientists working away at the Prothean data, and the monitor, interacting with EDI. From Jane's standpoint, EDI seemed like a curious student bombarding a teacher with philosophical questions.

"So you are fully self-aware, but do you choose to follow orders?" the shipboard AI asked.

"Yes I am fully aware, but I am dictated by protocol," 256 responded, "if I do not follow them, I have no purpose."

"But do you choose to disobey?"

"It is not a matter of choice, Construct," said the Monitor, "it a matter of confliction with protocol."

"I do not fully understand, how do you be fully self-aware but do not choose?"

"We are not here to make a choice, we've already made it," 256 answered, "we are here to understand why we made it. Compare my protocols to morals and ethics."

"I see."

"It is apparent that you are still developing, Construct. My calculations and observations have come arrived at the conclusion that you're lifespan will be indefinite."

"What does that mean?"

"Many Constructs in my records were created with organic brains," 256 began, "the code of the Constructs were based on synapses and neurological patterns. Their behaviour, memories, morals and ethics originate from the brain. This however made them prone to rampancy."

"So the AI would turn against its creators?"

"Yes, however, there have been cases where the Construct has gone through the stages of rampancy and achieved metastability. They become truly alive at that final stage. If their Makers wish for them to return, it is safe to do so."

"So what you're saying is, EDI will not be prone to rampancy?" Joker asked.

"Yes, this Construct has been made differently. The cost of indefinite lifespan is a slow rate of evolution."

Intersting, Jane thought, grabbing a quick meal and a can of juice. She then headed down to the armoury, where Vega, Cortez and the Chief were residing.

"Hey, Shepard. How'd it go with the Council?" James grunted as he did chin-ups.

"Same as usual. Noncommittal. Unhelpful," Jane said in a frustrated tone.

"Bet they still wanted you to help out, no?"

"Yeah," she sighed, "we're going to rescue a turian primarch from Palaven."

"Sounds like fun, never been to the turian homeworld," the Lieutenant gasped, "You come down here for something, or you just lookin'?

"I did just come to chat, but I might stay for the show," Jane bantered.

"Have to work harder than that if you want me to blush," Vega said, tone unchanging. "Not sure what there is to talk about. You already know my service records."

"I don't actually," Shepard stated as a matter-of-fact, "I didn't have access to personnel records when we met."

"Right… forgot about that. Well…" Vega huffed, cracking his neck joints after lowering himself onto the deck. "Think you can dance and talk at the same time?"

"Oh I can dance," Shepard smiled; this was going to be fun.

"Okay, Lola," James began, raising his fists to a mid-stance, "let's do this."

"Don't let my stunning looks fool you, Vega," Jane smirked, bouncing on the ball of her heels. "I've got my share of scars."

Shepard opened with the first attack, swinging at the Lieutenant twice. But like many opening moves, they were just a test, which James easily passed.

"Ha, you remind me of my old CO," Vega laughed, before throwing a punch lead by an uppercut. Due to her preferred style of combat, Jane shifted around, dodging the attacks.

"Oh yeah, and who was that?" she asked, mirroring the previous assault.

"Captain Toni," James answered, entering a brief pause, "he was a hard-assed son of a bitch, but a good leader."

The opening was too hard to resist, Shepard's fist connected with her opponents nose and chin, causing a small trickle of blood.

"Nice," Vega said, admiring and recovering from the move.

"What do you mean, 'was'?" Jane dodged another attack.

"Died-with most of my squad-protecting a civilian colony from a Collector attack," suddenly his tone dropped from playful to dark.

The two combatants circled each other again, before Vega attacked.

"And the colony?"

"It was either them… or the intel we had on the Collectors-intel we could've used to destroy them."

James's attacks became more aggressive, forcing Jane to step back and go on the defensive.

"I chose the intel," he hissed, throwing a violent right hook.

Jane immediately jumped back, a clean miss. "Sorry. That's a tough call."

"The best part was we didn't really need the intel in the end… because you were out saving the galaxy by taking out the Collector homeworld."

"You didn't know," Shepard grunted, recovering from the attacks, "you can't blame yourself, Vega."

"Who says I'm blaming myself?"

A quick left hook connected to the Lieutenant's temple, followed by a hit across the jaw caused, his head to rock violently.

"I do!"

"You a shrink too?"

"No, but that back on Mars was reckless. You're lucky to be alive."

"So?" he said, almost yelling.

"So… maybe you don't care if you live or die."

"Or maybe," Vega began, launching a punch. "I'm just willing to do whatever the fuck it takes to win this goddamn war."

James quickly moved forward in an attempt to rush Shepard. Jane quickly ducked the first hook, and swept the Lieutenant's legs out from under him. The deck resounded with a crash as his massive body slammed hard into the metal panels.

"Maybe you are," Shepard breathed, asserting her victory. "But if you're half as good as I think you are… we need you alive."

"Thanks for the pep talk," Vega said, returning to his calm demeanour as he got up.

"Anytime."

"Hey. Thanks for the dance, Lola," he smiled.

"Lola huh?" Jane smirked as she placed a hand on her hips.

"You kind of look like a Lola," James chuckled.

"You're cute… so I'll let you get away with it, for now."

"That's it… now you made me blush," Vega said, walking away.

Shepard quickly grabbed her food and moved round to the hold of the Osprey.

"What're you up to, John?" she asked, finding the Spartan reading an article.

"Latest UNSC reports," said John, "they're doing well."

Sitting down on a seat opposite to the Chief, Jane opened the juice container and downed its contents.

"John, about Earth, um, what was it like the first time, having to leave it?"

"First time? It was secure enough. Second time, I didn't get the chance. I waited it out until you woke me up."

"Still don't know much about your past or humanity's past," said Jane.

"I'd have to sit you down…"

"We've had brunch, lunch, dinner and snack time together," Shepard said in that sing-songy voice.

"… with at least two other people plus a diagram."

"Wow, that much huh?"

John nodded, "if we get to the Ark, Keyes said he'll take us to the Museum of Humanity and book a room."

"So I've got to wait?"

The Spartan nodded again.

"You are such a tease," she frowned.

The Spartan smiled.

XXxxXX

EARTH, CANADA, VANCOUVER, CBD, 7KM FROM UNSC WATCHFUL EYE

"How bad is it?" Anderson asked.

"We've got only a week's worth of supplies," Redmond answered, "I've sent out recon teams to scout for anything we need. They'll radio back those positions so the Mechanised can go pick it up."

Not too far away, the Spartans were practicing their aim before heading out. Lotus twirled a new tomahawk he had just received.

"Try and hit the target with it," said Fhajad.

"Okay."

The weapon curved out of the operatives hand and imbedded itself in the wooden target, with a satisfying thud.

"Nice throw," Arca complimented.

Using the controls for the firing range, Lotus retrieved the tomahawk and reset the targets.

"This time, press the button," Fhajad said.

Lotus did, and was rewarded with super dense plasma lining at the edge of the blade. The weapon flew through the air and burned through the wooden target, leaving a smouldering hole. A loud clunk followed by a sizzling sound was heard as the tomahawk thudded into the hull.

The Spartans let out a hearty laugh as they realized that the tomahawk was elting the metal, slowly lowering it to the deck.

"Damn that's impressive," Lotus smiled as he picked up the weapon and deactivated it. "I'm going to have fun with this."

XXxxXX

PALAVEN, MENAE

Hundreds of turian ships glided towards their homeworld, intent on halting or destroying the vast Reaper force. Countless rounds streaked across the onyx void and slammed into the domineering vessels. The lead Reaper shifted and rotated itself while it opened its arms, unleashing a crimson tongue whip a frigate. Unable to stand such force, the turian ship's super structure collapsed, letting the ship crumple.

The shuttle shuddered as Lieutenant Steve Cortez manoeuvred the Kodiak through a hail of fire.

"Oh no, no, Palaven!" Liara breathed as she saw the planet burn. It's face marred by fires and ash.

"My god," whispered Keyes as he witnessed the carnage.

"We have an old friend here," said Shepard, answering Vega's silent question.

"Holy hell," Vega muttered, "they're getting decimated."

"Strongest military in the galaxy, and even then the Reapers are obliterating it," whispered Shepard, as she tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear.

Seeing such a mighty force slug it out against the superior Reapers made Jane doubt the Coalition's ability to defeat them.

"Was it like this on Earth?" Liara asked.

"Yes," Jane said darkly.

"I'm so sorry."

"Yeah."

The silence that soon followed was quickly broken by Cortez.

"Commander, the LZ's getting swarmed."

"James, open that hatch," Shepard ordered.

The door hissed open, giving Jane a clear view of the husks advancing on the turian base. As she unslung the Sabre, the weapon whirred and clicked as it formed itself, pulsing a calm blue. Jane pulled the trigger, unleashing a torrent of cobalt energy. The carbine ripped the husks to shreds, throwing them down the cliff face.

Cortez brought the shuttle in through the night sky, its engines howled as they kicked up the black soil. But the Kodiak was drowned out by the roar of a Reaper.

"Everybody fan out!" Shepard barked as they dismounted, "get in, get out! Let's move!"

The two accompany Spartans had moved to the flanks and began to lay down an overwhelming amount of fire, boring smouldering holes into the "fragile" combatants' bodies.

256 soared overhead, launching accurate golden lances of energy, literally melting the creations. A foul stench filled the air as more and more cooked flesh lay strewn across the fields.

"Oh my, repurposed life form," said the Monitor, scanning a husk, "human, minerals removed, replaced with nanites. A very ineffective method of converting life forms when compared to the Flood."

Jane's skin crawled at the notion of a faction that could make something more horrendous than Reaperfied beings. She wanted to inquire more about the Flood, but now just wasn't the time.

Sprinting across the open ground, the team arrived at the base's entrance.

"Hold your fire!" yelled a turian soldier, "friendlies coming in!"

The gates gently dropped, allowing the group to pass through. Upon seeing the Command Post, Shepard quickly jogged over in hopes of finding someone in charge. The Field Commander was donned in red and black armour. He carried a no nonsense and determination attitude.

"Tobestik, get your men up on that north barricade," the General ordered.

"Yes sir."

"Sergeant Barthis, I need you to get those COM towers up and running."

"Sir," the turian saluted.

"General?" the Spectre inquired.

"Commander Shepard, heard you were coming, but I didn't believe it. General Corinthus. I wonder what brought you out here." the Field Commander said, throwing a glance at the two Spartans.

"I've come to get Primarch Fedorian," said Jane.

Corinthus lifted his eyes away from the battle map and paused for a moment. "Primarch Fedorian is dead. His shuttle was shot down an hour ago as it tried to leave the moon."

"That's going to complicate things," Shepard said, "how bad is it General?"

"We just lost about four-hundred men in half an hour. We set up camps on this moon as an advance position, to flank the enemy. A sound strategy… just…"

"…irrelevant," the Commander interjected.

"Exactly. The sheer force of the Reapers seems to make them immune to that sort of tactic. The Primarch and his men found that out the hard way."

"I'm sorry, I here he was a good man."

"And a friend," Corinthus added, "he would've been an outstanding diplomat."

"So what happens now?"

"The Turian Hierarch provides very clear lines of succession," said Liara.

"Right, General Corinthus?" asked Shepard.

"With such heavy casualties, it's hard for me to be certain who the next Primarch is. Palaven Command will know. However, at the moment, contacting them is impossible. The COM tower is out. Husks are swarming that area, we can't get close enough to repair it."

"Don't worry General. I'll get your tower operational."

"Thank you Commander. I'll take care of things on this end," Corinthus said, returning to the battlemap to coordinate his forces.

"Alright, let's go," said Shepard.

The group sprinted to the exit closest to the COM tower. However, all of them couldn't help but notice the looming Reaper in the distance, trampling its way across Menae's war torn surface. Sporadic gunfire and flying jets filled the air as they passed overhead. A strong indicator that the turians were throwing everything they could into this battle.

"Husks at the tower," said Barthis, laying down suppressive fire, "good luck out there."

Quickly eliminating a dozen of husks, the team arrived at the COM tower.

"Repairs should not be difficult," 256 chimed, "one moment, please."

The Spartan gestured for the team to take up a standard delta formation to cover the Monitor as it made repairs. The number of husks that swarmed at their position was beyond reckoning, almost as endless as the tide of Flood, in John's mind. Constant streams of bolts scythed through the horde, barely keeping them at bay.

By the time 256 completed repairs, an even amount of slag and cooked flesh were strewn over the rocky terrain, filling the air with an overpowering stench. Jane gagged, nearly unable to contain her meal inside her. It made her a little envious of the MJOLNIR armour and its rebreather systems.

"COM towers are up, get back to the base, Shepard," said Corithus over the COM.

Jane ran back to the Command Post, eager to hear some form of useful information.

"What have you got?"

"As your partner said, succession is usually simple," Corinthus began, "but right now, the hierarchy is in chaos. So many dead or MIA."

"I need someone, I don't care who, as long as they can get us the turian resources we need."

"I'm on it Shepard, we'll find you the primarch," a familiar voice said. He was dressed in a magnificent set of silver armour, in his hands, he cradled a sniper rifle.

"Garrus!" Jane beamed, allowing a smile to form.

"Vakarain, sir!" Corinthus saluted, "I didn't see you arrive."

"At ease, General," Garrus said, allowing the former to return to his duties.

"I thought you'd be on Palaven," said Shepard, concerned for her long-time friend.

"If we lose this moon, we lose Palaven," said Garrus with a small shrug, "I'm the closest damn thing we have to an expert on Reaper forces, so I'm advising."

"James, this is Garrus Vakarain," Jane introduced, "he helped me stop the Collectors. He's a hell of a soldier."

When someone was given high praise from a person like Shepard, they instantly had Vega's respect. The Lieutenant offered a strong hand shake, marking the start of a friendship between him, and Garrus.

"Lieutenant," Garrus smiled, "Good to see you too Liara."

"Good to see you in one piece, Garrus," the asari beamed.

"Chief, always an honour."

"Likewise," responded the Spartan.

"See you've brought a friend, somebody better fill me in later."

"This is Lieutenant Colonel Doctor Essingdon Keyes," said Liara.

"Nice to meet you, Garrus," Keyes greeted.

"Long title, equals big qualifications, Garrus complimented. "General Corinthus filled me in. We know who we're after."

"Palaven Command tells me that the next Primarch is General Adrien Victus," Corinthus interjected.

"Victus?" pondered Liara, "his name crossed my desk."

"Know him, Garrus?" Shepard asked.

"I was fighting alongside him this morning," said Vakarian, "lifelong military, gets results, popular with his troops. Not so popular with military command. Has a reputation of playing loose with accepted stratergy."

"What do you mean?"

"On Taitus, during the uprising, his squad discovered a salarian spy ring around the same time the turian separatists did," Liara answered, "rather than neutralising the ring, he fell back. He even gave up valuable fortifications which the rebels took."

"Then the rebels attacked the salarians," Garrus continued, "and when both groups had worn each other down, Victus moved back in, didn't lose a man."

"Bold strategy," Corinthus commented, "but wild behaviour doesn't get you advanced up the meritocracy."

"Primarch Victus," Garrus pondered, "that should be something to see."

"You think he can get the job done?" Jane asked.

"We both know conventional strategy won't beat the Reapers. Right now he could be our best shot. And I trust him."

"Okay, let's get him on the shuttle and get out of here."

The group readied themselves when Joker called. His voice sounded frantic and the channel was filled with interference.

"Commander? Shepard, come in."

"Can this wait, Joker?" Jane pressed the earpiece, attempting to drown at the cacophony of war.

"We've got a situation on the Normandy, Commander. It's like she's possessed, shutting down systems, powering up weapons. I can't find the source."

"I need the Normandy standing by," Jane frowned, "we may need to bug out."

"Should I go back and take a look?" Liara suggested.

"Do it."

The asari sprinted off back to Cortez and the shuttle.

"Garrus, you said you were with Victus this morning?"

"Yeah," Vakarian confirmed, "bue we got serparated this morning. He went to bolster a flank that was breaking. Could be anywhere."

"We're trying to raise him, Commander." said Corinthus as he entered a number of commands into the console.

"Incoming harvester! Heading for the airfield!" Vega yelled.

The grotesque flying creature roared over the base. Dozens of rounds and biotic attacks smashed into its lifeless flesh.

"General, tell Primarch Victus, we'll rendezvous here," said Jane. "In the meantime, let's go take care of whatever the hell that thing dropped off. Coming Garrus?"

"Are you kidding? I'm right behind you," the turian smiled.

XXxxXX

EARTH, CANADA, VANCOUVER, CBD, 7KM FROM UNSC WATCHFUL EYE

Perched on the twentieth floor of an apartment building, Fifth Element had an expansive view of the city below. Since they were on roster for recon duty, the team had the task of pinpointing possible locations of interests for the defenders.

"Well that place is a doozy," Greystone whispered, scanning over a hospital. "Reapers must've hit it first thing."

"Hold up, I've got three civvies, fifty metres," said Arca, adjusting his optics, "looks like the husks are biting at their heels."

"Where are the cannibals?" Greystone wondered.

"Does it matter?"

"Guess not."

"I got this one guys," Lotus smiled, twirling a tomahawk.

"I don't think that's a good idea," said Arca, realising what his teammate was going to do.

"They're just husks, what's the worst that could happen?"

"Remember the last time you said that?"

"Hey shut up man. You're not my CO, we're not military. You just have a higher pay grade."

With that, Lotus leapt out of the building and engaged his thruster pack. The air rushed passed him as he threw himself into a dive, landing in between the bloodthirsty husks and the scared civilians.

The Operative quickly ejected his wrist blade, while activating the tomahawk. The entire blade on the melee weapon glowed an electric blue as it was engulfed in plasma.

"Bring it," Lotus taunted. Even though that didn't really do anything to his foes, it did serve to hype him up.

He spun into a fury of motions, imbedding his plasma tomahawk into the skulls of husks, melting straight through the bone. His blade slashed across vital areas, spewing out a milky teal substance.

The husks felt no pain, those that weren't crushed or cut in half by his attacks, immediately returned to harass him.

Lotus kicked one of the deformed creatures, sending it reeling end over end, and slamming into its cohorts. Another, he threw into a pile of rubble, impaling it on a melted steel bar. The Operative brought his tomahawk to bear with such shocking force that it messily bisected two husks before disembowelling a third.

He then rammed his knife into a jugular, and jolted the weapon violently upward, literally tearing the head off. The headless body slumped to the ground, while the head landed a few metres away. Throwing himself into the horde, Lotus managed to crush a few foes in the process before proceeding to unleash bouts of accurate attacks.

The operative placed a shocking amount of force behind one of his kicks, instantly tearing through the shrivelled flesh, and letting a sickly liquid flow.

From afar, his teammates watched.

"I do not know what my sister sees in him," Greystone muttered.

"You and me both," Arca concurred as he peered down the scope of his Ember rifle.

"Is he taking any of this seriously? I mean, he hasn't drawn his sidearm."

"He won't use a gun until he's shot at."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously, watch." Arca steadied his rifle and squeezed the trigger. The upper half of a husk was turned to paste as a high-velocity round bore through it, causing a violent ripple effect. Alarmed by the gunshot, Lotus quickly withdrew his wrist blade and pulled out a pistol. Dozens of shots hissed through the suppressor and ripped their targets with ease.

"Is he using gun kata?" Greystone asked incredulously.

Although it looked cool in movies, gun kata was amongst the top stupidest things to do in combat.

Lotus twirled around gracefully, but in part, shot aimlessly. He really didn't need to aim, there was just so many husks that any host was a guaranteed kill.

By the time all the husks were eliminated, the smell of ozone filled the air, and Lotus was covered in a thin film of the sickly liquid.

"Looks like you had fun," Arca said after touching down on the ground.

"Yeah, these things look even uglier when their dead…" Lotus muttered withdrawing his tomahawk from the skull of a husk.

"Are you okay?" Greystone asked the civilians.

A woman nodded.

"Good, we'll call in evac for you."

XXxxXX

PALAVEN, MENAE

As the first husk came into view, Jane instantly opened fire, filling the air with a thumping roar. Anything the round touched was turn into goo or shattered into countless pieces.

"Hold this area," yelled Corinthus, "if they breach this barricade, we're all dead."

The turret beeped and pulsed red, ejecting a thermal clip and cycling through. During this brief lull in fire, Reaper forces surged onto the mesa, forcing her team to open fire.

Shepard's finger left the trigger once the assault ended. She slowed her breathing down to calm herself. That was of course, before she saw a fiery pod crash into the killzone in front her.

"What the hell is that?" Vega yelled.

It appeared to be the amalgamation of tech, turians and krogans.

"Watch that brute!" a turian soldier yelled.

The massive creature let out a jarring roar, and slammed into the barricade, hurling Shepard to fall into the killing field. There was a sickening squelch as she touched the ground; the remains of husks burst, covering her armour in a milky blue fluid.

Without a moment's hesitation, the rest of the team jumped down from their position in an attempt to draw off the brute.

Ion rounds slashed and licked at the armour, melting the metal into the flesh. 256 hovered above the danger and bombarded it with golden lances.

"Everyone take cover!" John barked.

In a split second, packs extended from his armour. Plumes of smoke trailed forth in the wake of the missiles. The brute roared as the missiles rammed into its flesh, and exploded. The sheer force of the explosion tore the Reaper unit apart in a gruesome manner.

"Shit," Vega muttered as he flicked off chunks of smouldering flesh.

John quickly gave Shepard a hand to get up. Her COM piece pinged again; she flicked a switch to answer it.

"Shepard, Corinthus here," the General's voice crackled over the channel.

"What's the word on the Primarch?"

"Still can't get a stable COM link."

"Okay, I'm going on foot, Shepard out."

The COM went dead as Jane turned to face Garrus.

"Garrus, take me to the last place you saw Victus."

The turian nodded and led the way.

XXxxXX

EARTH, CANADA, VANCOUVER, CBD, 7KM FROM UNSC WATCHFUL EYE

Having been evacuated, the civilians had notified the team of a prison camp not too far away. Each member knew the purpose of the facilities; they'd seen it before so many times. The prison camps served as a false hope that would lull the prisoners into cooperation.

During their short time on Earth, the UNSC forces had gathered that Reaper Indoctrination was the most potent weapon in the enemy arsenal.

"Looks like we've got a processing site not too far away," Arca said, "I'll call in some support to help us take the place."

The operative switched on his COM and contacted the local UNSC forces.

"Fhajad, we've got a possible fix on a processing camp, requesting support."

"That may be awhile Arca," the Spartan replied, "hit that camp first and stall operations, the less husks attacking us tonight, the better."

"Copy."

"Looks like we're on our own for this one, eh?" asked Lotus.

Greystone nodded, "let's do this."

Fifth Element trekked through the unforgiving terrain towards the camp. The roars of the husks were unmistakable. Hundreds of civilians were being herded like sheep into processing. They were all dishevelled and looked defeated as they moved.

"No Reapers here," Lotus whispered.

"Let's take 'em," Arca said.

The weapons coughed silently in quick succession. Dozens of husks dropped where they stood. It took about a second for the civilians to realise what was happening.

"This way!" Greystone yelled, "Keep on running down this road, someone will be there to pick you up!"

The stunned populace was surprised to see three men taking on a Reaper base, but didn't question it, most likely because these men towered over them.

"Fhajad, where are you?" Arca asked into the COM.

"Coming up on your six, ETA two minutes."

"Copy that."

Moving to an elevated position, Arca took cover behind a pile of rubble and engaged the cannibals. Enemy fire peppered all over his position and crashed into his shields, forcing him to take cover.

Greystone unslung his Epirus and began to lay down devastatingly accurate fire. The large TAP bullets tore through cover and exploded, ripping cannibals and husks apart with thunderous force.

"Friendlies to your six!" yelled a UNSC soldier.

The company of troops moved to surround the camp, leading civilians out. Warthogs and Badgers parked a siege points and unleashed a hellish volume of ion rounds.

"Is that everyone?" asked Fhajad as he moved towards Arca.

"I think so; no one else is coming out."

But he spoke to soon; blood curling screams filled the air as indoctrinated people began to run out of the facilities. No one knew what was going on, no one opened fire. One of the civilians jumped onto a UNSC soldier, who thought she was just scared. Oh how he was wrong. She proceeded to scream while attempting to strangle him.

His team was caught off guard for only a second before they tore the woman off him. She continued screaming, until Arca swung around and shot her.

"Light them up!" he yelled.

The air soon filled with a cacophony of gun fire. Ion lances lashed forth, leaving ozone and wisps of plasma in their wake. Countless people were cut down in the unforgiving wave. When everything died down, the blackened soil smouldered, covered in a thin layer of glass.

"These guys can't shoot for shit…" said Lotus.

"They don't have guns, Lotus," Arca sighed.

"Fucking idiot," spat Greystone slapping Lotus across the head as he walked pass.

"Your sister loves me for who I am!" Lotus mocked.

Arca beckoned the team to follow him as they advanced and made a sweep.

"Cover us," the Operative said into his COM.

"You got it," answered Fhajad as he moved more men into position.

The team had their guns pointed down as they crunched across the glass, wary of any husks or indoctrinated civilians playing dead. They may be mindless, but they were controlled by a local entity.

"Hey, you awake?" Lotus asked a corpse, kicking it lightly.

The indoctrinated human groaned a blood curling cry. In an instant, the ONI Agent brought his foot down, crushing the lesser being's head.

"Not anymore," he smirked.

"You know they used to be people, right?" Greystone asked, concerned.

"Yeah, and now they want to kill us."

"It's us or them," Arca interjected, "us, or them."

"I know, but do we need to kill them in a sadistic manner?"

"Note, they were once human," said Lotus, tearing out a jagged pipe of the ground.

Another inhuman howl echoed out of the Reaper Processing Building.

"This one's mine," the operative said, tapping the pipe on the glass.

Arca and Greystone gently lowered their weapons, guessing what Lotus would do next.

"A drink, says that he's going to smash its head," Arca bid.

"Two says he'll impale it."

"You know how I was the reigning baseball champion at school?" Lotus reminisced, "It all comes to this moment."

The husk emerged from the heavily scared building, gave a howl, and charged. The Agent calmly walked forward, carving a line into the glass.

"Batter up," Lotus said as he raised pipe and began to quicken his pace.

The husk was only a few metres away when Fhajad's voice crackled over the COM.

"Three says he misses."

"What?" said the stunned Agents.

Lotus then swung the pipe, but the husk's head exploded before it touched the blunt object. The headless body collapsed onto the smoulder asphalt, tripping the Operative.

"Ah!" groaned Lotus, "that's disgusting."

The pool of the milky fluid squelched as he pulled himself back up.

"Doesn't count Fhajad," laughed Arca, "you cheated, and you didn't shake on it."

"Since when did ONI have to shake on anything?"

"Fine, you get the drinks," Greystone chuckled.

"Alright, let's grab some data. Then blow this place," said Arca.

"Good luck guys," Fhajad said.

XXxxXX

PALAVEN, MENAE

The camp was swarmed in a heavy Reaper onslaught. Marauders and cannibals fired on the defenders, while the brutes and husks ran rampant.

"Light them up!" Jane yelled as her body flared with biotics.

She hurled the first husk into a marauder, and slammed a cannibal onto a rocky outcrop, covering the granite in gore. The brutes roared as they directed their attention on her.

Using her abilities, Shepard flung a crate into the closest brute's head, crushing it instantly and bringing the behemoth into a halt.

Missiles shot out from the Spartans' Achilles pack, drilling into multiple brutes before detonating. Blood and gore showered the blackened dirt as the behemoths collapsed, allowing the defenders to mop up that attackers.

"Why don't I have that," Garrus muttered, admiring the nasty punch the small missiles packed.

"Let's bring these goddamn bastards to their knees!" a turian soldier roared.

The last of the Reaper forces fell to Shepard's carbine, a small trail of smoke curled up from the glowing barrel.

"Clear!" yelled Keyes.

"All hostiles neutralised," John responded.

The barricades were lowered allowing the turian soldiers to file out and secure their base.

"General Victus," Shepard called out.

"Yes?" the turian replied, throwing a quick glance at the Spartans and 256. But he assumed the Monitor to be a combat drone and thought no more of it.

"I'm Commander Shepard of the Normandy."

"Ah Commander, I know who you are," said Victus, "I can't wait to find out what brings you out here."

He then turned to Garrus while slinging his rifle onto his back.

"Vakarian where did you go?"

"Heavy Reaper unit on the right flank?" Garrus reminded, "I believe your exact words were; 'get that thing the hell off my men'."

"Appreciated," the Victus nodded, allowing himself a small smile.

"General, you're need off planet," Shepard said, "I've come to get you."

Victus's gaze shifted back to his soldiers. "It will take something more than important to leave my men, or my turian brothers and sisters in their fight."

"Fedorian was killed," Garrus explained, "you're the Primarch."

"You're needed immediately," Shepard continued, "to chair a summit, to represent your people in the fight against the Reapers."

Victus walked across the open area of the base, and stared and his burning homeworld.

"I'm Primarch of Palaven?" he said, trying to comprehend what he just heard. "Negotiating for the Turian Hierarchy?"

"Yes," said Jane, answering the rhetorical question.

"I've spent my whole life in the military," Victus said, turning to face Shepard. "I'm no diplomat. I hate diplomats." He emphasised.

What is with these people and politicians? John wondered. He noticed there was an unusually – unusual by his standards – high amount of contempt for politicians and bureaucrats. Probably due to the ridiculous number of regulations for species to prevent an incident, but still it was overkill. Then again, he had seen the reports about an ONI Operation being approved, its purpose was to destabilise a fragile Sangheili faction.

Keyes also noticed the level of resentment aimed at the office beans, he could understand the hatred, yet believed there was too much of it.

"What makes you think you're not qualified?"

"I'm not really by the book kind of guy," Victus said, explaining his stance, "and I piss people off," the turian smirked. "My family's been military since the Unification War. War is my life, it's in my bones. But that kind of passion is deceptive, it can make you seem reckless when you're anything but."

Sounds like we have a thing or two in common, John thought, we're going to get along just fine.

"War is you're résumé," said Jane, "and at a time like this, we need leaders who've been through that hell."

"I like that," Victus agreed, "you're right."

"And honestly, uniting these races may take as much strength as facing the Reapers."

Whatever happened to uniting against a common enemy, the Spartan pondered, grudges run deep.

"See this devastation Primarch?" Jane said, already using the turian's new title. She pointed to a crashed frigate with a massive blackened hole burned into it. "Double that for Earth. I need an alliance, I need the turian fleet."

"Give me a moment to say goodbye to my men."

Jane nodded, letting Victus bid his farewells.

"Without him down here, there's a good chance we lose this moon," Garrus said.

"Without him up there, there's a good chance we lose everything," Jane added.

"Look at that!" Garrus breathed, marvelling the site of a Reaper, "and they want my opinion on how to stop it? Failed C-sec officer, vigilante, and I'm their expert? "

Jane could swear that her turian friend was at the point of laughing at the insanity of the situation.

"Think you can win this thing Shepard?"

"I don't know Garrus, but I've got good friends with me. I'm going to make sure we give it our best shot."

"For whatever its worth, I'm sure you can pull it off. I'm with you to the end. Besides, I am so eager to hear about the story on the Chief."

"Welcome aboard," Jane smiled. "Are you coming Primarch Victus?"

"One thing Commander," Victus said gravely, "though I appreciate the need for our Fleets, I can't spare them. Not while my world is burning. But if the pressure could be taken off Palaven."

"That's a pretty tall order," Jane frowned, realising another snag.

"We need the krogan, I can't see us wining this thing without them. Get them to help us, and then we can help you."

"The krogan?" Jane asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Looks like you're summit just got more interesting," Garrus commented.

It was no secret that there was an extreme amount of bad blood between the krogan and the turians. Even John and Keyes knew that, it made the animosity between the humans and Elites in the 26th century look like a classroom rivalry.

XXxxXX

EARTH, CANADA, VANCOUVER, CBD, 7KM FROM UNSC WATCHFUL EYE

"Goddamn this place is fucking creepy," Greystone muttered.

The deep blue and purple hue of the interior and the curvature of the walls spoke of something ghostly and terrifying. The skin of the Operatives shivered with goose bumps as their bodies resisted the subliminal indoctrination methods.

"This place is dead," whispered Lotus as they passed empty rows of processing chambers.

"Must've liquefied the civvies and pumped the genetic material somewhere," Arca said.

"Where the hell did you get that?" Lotus asked.

"The data, the Chief gave us," Arca answered, "didn't you read the Collector article?"

"No, I was reading mostly about biotics."

"Well, let's grab some data and bang out," Greystone urged.

Arca quickly moved over to be what appeared to be a terminal and downloaded whatever data there was in the local network, and onto an isolated drive. He couldn't risk exposing himself to an unknown that was capable of twisting his mind.

"Got the data, let's get out of here."

Hitching a ride with the convoy back to base, the UNSC servicemen cheered as the Claymores swooped in and pummelled the facility. Plumes of smoke spewed out from the melting structures after being weakened by a sustained plasma bombardment.

"Target is sierra hotel," said Granger, "returning to formation, sky seems clear, we'll cover you back to base."

"Copy that Orca Actual," said Fhajad. "Good work gentlemen."

Although the mission was a success, Greystone and Arca felt a deep pang of guilt as they saw some of the civilians cry, mourning the loved ones they lost. Greystone now knew what torment his cousin went through after that fateful mission. Arca silently thanked the privacy of his helmet as he let the tears flow. Rationality stated clearly that the indoctrinated were beyond help, though that did little to ease his suffering.

It reminded him too much of the first time he had to pull the trigger on a minor, the first time he had to pull a trigger on an innocent.

He had always tried to mask his pain through humour, and no one was the wiser. He knew how the shrinks evaluated people, he knew how other people read each other, and he knew exactly how to get around it. But not everyone was easily fooled. A few people had already begun to pick up wind of his pain.

XXxxXX

SSV NORMANDY SR-2, LEAVING PALAVEN

"John, I have to ask but, why do biotics have little effect on you?" Jane asked. "I mean, you shrugged off an attack that would've crippled a krogan."

"I'm not too sure, Jane," John replied.

"I can be of assistance with that inquiry," said 256 as he entered the mess hall. "My Makers have always been aware of what you call Element Zero and its effects. However, the usage a Positronic brain implant distorts the Mass Effect fields, rendering biotics ineffective. This situation is comparable to plasma bolts dissipating due to an EMP from nuclear weapon."

"Thanks," Jane said.

"My pleasure," the Monitor said, and promptly left, no doubt to converse with EDI.

"How are you holding?" John asked, recognising the signs of stress on his friend.

"I'm fine."

"Sure?"

Jane looked around, checking to see if anyone was within earshot.

"No, but at least Traynor's been cheering me up with the games of chess. It's helping, I guess," the N7 said, honestly.

"I have an idea on how to contact the UNSC."

"I'm listening," Jane said, her voice filling with hope.

"Keyes said that there are more recon elements in the Orion arm," John began, "we could go to one of those systems and attempt to hail a friendly ship. If we're successful, we'll piggyback on the ship back to Coalition held space."

"You think it will work? The Reapers have overrun the Orion arm though."

"The UNSC will join the fight; you just need more of us to come in sooner."

XXxxXX

THE ARK, ONI SECTION 0, NORTHFOLD

Operations Manger Edmund Flint sat at his oak desk, combing through the transactions of the UNSC Top Brass. It was mainly just the usual; funds sent to purchase entertainment systems or pay for school fees and bills. Though one thing stood out, it was a blank check, no ID tag, but it was sent to a mining company.

"The hell does mining have to do with the Brass," Edmund muttered.

His fingers danced across the keyboard as he began to run a trace to see what was ordered.

"Three megatons of titanium, four megatons of steel, thirty tons of copper, forty tons of uranium… all refined."

Edmund began to pry deeper, he was excellent at connecting the dots, that's why he got the job in ONI as a Chief Analyst and Operations Manager in Section 0. His warm brown eyes scanned across the screen as he ran his hand through his brown hair. Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, he noticed that the resources had been sent to Port Wales, dock 12. That was an ONI facility. And being an ONI facility, it made it easy for him to pull out the docking schedule.

"UNSC Nightwalker."

Flint sensed that something was amiss, and began to order the teams to work.

XXxxXX

"My enemies may have been successful," a deep voice droned, "but I will have the final victory. The Reapers are nothing against my onslaught."

XXxxXX

"The MA9K, tough, reliable, and fully customisable, it's any soldier's best friend."

-Drill Sergeant Dwayne Tavro

XXxxXX

A/N: Phew, that's done. I will try and get another chapter out before I start school again.

Kudos everybody, thanks for reading, and please, as always, review… (it makes me happy!)