Happy Halloween Update! You see what I did the-oh crap I'm a month early.
Well Early Halloween update then.
"These aren't native to the planet" Jack poked the body of a varren. Like the rest, it was smoldering from being burned and hacked apart by an over enthusiastic pyro. The moisture luckily kept the flames to a minimum. "What the hell is this doing here? The place was supposed to be abandoned for years now."
"Apparently we are not only visitors from past." Heavy grumbled. Jack shook her head.
"No, there is no damn way anyone else survived. I tore my way through this place. I left nobody alive! It was them against me. Them against me…"
"Perhaps not all were against you?" Heavy suggested. "Perhaps some trying to hide."
"This conjecture is meaningless in der end. Ve vill find our odder visitors vhen ve go deeper inside."
Jack smiled a little too gleefully as she checked her pistol. Heavy placed a meaty hand on her shoulder. "We are still here for Jack. Remembers that." Jack said nothing but instead moved deeper inside.
They encountered little resistance aside from the odd varren, and a few squads of Vorcha. By this point, it was quite obvious that someone else was interested in the facility and it only made Jack more distant. She barely registered the threats they faced, moving through the ruins with single minded determination.
The elevator finally stopped and the doors swung open to reveal a very large chamber. Mostly sculptures and other ancient cultural artifacts that have been 'missing' officially for a long time. One such piece caught his eye.
"How did…?"Spy asked as he pointed to the head of the Statue of Liberty.
"Hock, you bastard!" Kasumi exclaimed with envy. She then looked over to the confused Spy. "Oh right, were frozen back when all that happened. Long story short, bombing destroyed the Statue, all the pieces were recovered EXCEPT the head, which was stolen. That thing floated around the black market for a while until it disappeared from that too. Guess now we know where it went. Is that-it is!" Kasumi practically squealed as she ogled a submachine gun "The gun that killed two presidents!" Kasumi rushed from piece after piece of Hock's illicit collection like a kid in a candy store.
"Madam Goto, what is it I am looking for?"
Kasumi snapped out of her reverie and turned back to the Spy. "Oh. Yes. Gray box. It should be about this size, this thick" she said forming the shape of the device with her hands.
"Well zen, I have found it" Spy smiled as he held up the device in his hands.
"Well done", Hock's amplified voice booming though the chamber. Behind them, an extremely oversized hologram of Hock's head filled the room.
"I shud applaud you Mr. Gunn, you made short work o' my defenses. But that dosn't mean"-
"Oh shut up! I can't stand your horrible accent anymore" shouted the Spy. He pulled out his magnum and blasted the projector. "And my name is not Solomon Gunn you half-wit! I AM ZE SPY!"
Mordin could not take his eyes off the Engineer's suit. It defied all logic! The man looked like he built it out of kitchen supplies and yet he strutted through sun exposed areas like it was nothing!
"Mordin!" Shepard shouted. Mordin snapped back. They were pinned down by several geth shock troopers with the only relief coming from the Engineer's sentry. He poked his head out of cover and noticed none of the 3 machines noticed him, so he prepared a heat attack. One turned and fired a missile at him and he ducked back into cover. Frustrated, Mordin ran out of cover shouting as loudly as his vocal chords would let him. He delivered a punch straight into the offending geth, the heat enhanced fist turning its head into molten scrap. The other two turned on him just in time to see an angry Salarian dive into them, arms wide. He grabbed both in a chokehold and twisted the metal heads off.
"STOP FIGHTING WITH TOYS AND FIGHT WITH REAL WEAPONS!" Mordin shouted to the heavens. Then he blinked. "Oh dear. Still experiencing residual effects of Australium."
"Can't fault its effectiveness though…" Shepard whistled as he surveyed the damage.
"Hey Commander, this thing I built into my suit is picking up some radio chatter down that way." Engineer pointed in the direction his wrist thing indicated. Yes that's what it's being called now. The wrist thing.
"It does that now?"
Engineer smiled, his fishbowl helmet bobbing up and down. "Oh yeah, and plenty of other stuff too. Like this life signature. It detects bioelectric signals or organic beings. Just set it to detect things human sized and-oh dang this can't be right." Engineer grunted as he slapped his wrist thing.
"What's wrong?" Shepard asked. He peered over at Engy's wrist thing and saw on its larger screen the three dots signifying him, Mordin, and Engineer; but surrounding them were hundreds if not thousands of blips indicating humanoid life forms.
"This thing can't be right. Maybe it may have to do with interference from the sun, or maybe a stray shot burned the computation engine I put in there or-"
"Maybe the thing is over a hundred years old and some parts aren't working anymore…" Shepard butted in. "Doesn't matter, tap into the radio chatter."
Engineer dropped the subject and patched the team into the radio.
"…defend Tali'Zorah! Get into – more Geth – ming!"
Shepard tapped his comm... "This is Commander Shepard of the Normandy, we're moving to support, send your location."
"We're too far outta range to send anything commander, just receive" Engineer looked back down at his wrist thing. "Dammit! Work! There can't be that many!" Shepard rolled his eyes.
"Engy, cut it short, we need to move out." Engineer sighed and clambered back onto his sentry. As the robotic turret walked off, a desiccated hand reached out from the crevice.
In a large room that may have been the mess hall, they came across another terminal. Jack accessed its files, searching through the corrupt data for anything intact. She found a few video logs and played them. The screen lit up as several faces were facing the viewer. They were records of conferences between the various Cerberus members that ran the facility.
"This is getting problematic" the man on the bottom said. "The war between RED and BLU are getting too close to the facility. There may be collateral damage if one of their damn bombs blows up prematurely."
"Or if the subjects catch a glimpse of them" a scientist nodded. "If they realize there is a war going on outside, they may try to escape. We have already had to deal with several escapees and they did plenty of damage on their own. Imagine the ramifications if those Team Fortress Mercenaries blast a hole in here. Imagine if they run into Subject Zero. "
Brief silence. Then the man in the top right square spoke.
"Do we know why they're here?"
"No, all we know is that their fighting is expanding outwards, with no discernable pattern."
The man in the top right looked away for a moment. "We'll send a request through secure channels. We need to find out what they're doing here. Hopefully we can pull some strings to get them to back off. Failing that, we can try to lure them away with whatever it is the companies are here for."
Jack turned to the Heavy, disbelief in her eyes. "That can't be right. No. I don't remember there being any Team Fortress here on Pragia! No, this…this can't be right!"
The second video was another conference. The same people were there, though slightly more haggard.
"Update on subjects. They are getting restless" the scientist said. He had noticeable bags under his eyes and he spoke softly, as if he was losing his voice. "We have had to hunt down more and more escapees, and increased punishment has done nothing to keep the others in line. Subject Zero is progressing at a satisfactory pace, but initial containment protocols are barely holding. We need more security here or we'll be facing a breach, I assure you."
"That has been noted but the problem still stands. RED and BLU have been unresponsive to all inquiries about their presence on Pragia. As it stands, they have orders to remove any outsiders by any means necessary. We are stretched as it is, there simply isn't anything left to spare right now. Continue the experiments. We still need to see some real progress here people. He can't be stalled forever."
The third video was about to be played but the console was destroyed by a spindly looking Vorcha.
"KILL!" it shouted. "YOU MUST ALL DIEEEAGH!" It scratched at the Heavy's hand wrapped firmly around its throat. The Heavy growled at the alien. "You ruining moment."
The unfortunate creature was tossed out the window. Though it was quite a long way down, the dense foliage reduced the impact to mere bruising instead of 'unpleasant stain'. The Vorcha picked itself out of the foliage, howling in frustration. Its cry was cut short as rotted hands pulled it back into the jungle.
"Mr. Gunn is heading for the docking bay, stop him!" Hock practically screamed into the intercom. While the Spy did encounter some resistance, it was surprisingly light. Given how much gunfire he was hearing though, he wasn't the only one Hock's security was facing.
"What am I paying you people for?!"
"There's something else down here sir! We're getting overrun!"
"Someone else is messing with Hock?" Kasumi raised an eyebrow, a pointless gesture being invisible and all.
"It iz not our problem. Hiz problem, our advantage." Spy replied as he materialized behind several security mechs. He slammed his sapper onto one, and the resulting feedback shorted out all its companions.
"I really need to get me one of those." Kasumi smirked, again pointless being invisible.
"You should" Spy replied "Maybe over dinner tonight, we can swap tips."
"Flirt!" she chided, decloaking behind a hapless guard, and knocked him out with the butt of her new gun. The guard no longer a problem, she switched open the blast doors, allowing their exit. What was on the other side though was something no one expected. Light poured into the darkened tunnel, revealing hundreds of glowing lifeless eyes. Scouts, Demomen, Heavies, Snipers, even Spies, dozens of Team Fortress mercenaries…zombified.
"What the hell?!" Kasumi exclaimed.
Spy merely sighed. "Not again…" he pulled out his gun and blasted the nearest zombie. The rest hissed and charged right at him.
Kasumi spun towards Spy. "What again?! What the hell are you talking about?!" she screamed from her security box. She didn't get her response. The Spy managed to down one more of them before the horde overran the Spy in a tide of bodies. She held back the instinct to scream, and vomit as she saw the Spy's arm flail about as it was fought over by the hundreds of walking corpses.
A crack of discharged electricity and the Spy reappeared next to Kasumi. "Merde, I thought I was done with this last Halloween." He closed his pocket watch
"Hal-what does that have to do with anything?!"
"A lot, but we don't have time. Let us move!"
The Spy grabbed Kasumi by the wrist and ran past the distracted horde.
It wasn't a party anymore. The ground erupted as hundreds of clawed hands broke through the stone and flooring. Team Fortress members, some wielding rusted guns, others holding blades and blunt weapons in a death grip. For a single moment, no one moved. Partygoers stared blankly at the walking corpses; guards didn't even heft their weapons. Then a Heavy stretched its jaw unnaturally wide and howled. Chaos followed after. People practically threw each other at the horde to slow it down as Hock's house guard opened fire. No controlled bursts, just full auto into the throng of bodies. Some fell, some rose back up. The zombies with guns pointed them at the guard and pulled the trigger. Despite being clogged or cracked, the guns still unleashed a deadly payload. Unprotected serving girls and guests were shredded in an instant. Soldiers winced as their armor absorbed the blows but couldn't stop the inertia from bruising them.
Hock watched the massacre in his house unfold with a cold eye. Then he switched off the console and made for his air-pad. He knew that somehow that Gunn fellow was responsible for this. He was going to make the bastard pay.
…Earth Sort Of…
"Zombies? Really?" Miranda said incredulously. The Demoman in front of her took a swig.
"So ye can believe a wizard takin' ye back in time but that same wizard putting unnatural life into the dead is too much eh?" Miranda shook her head.
"I'm still having a hard time believing the time travel bit. Wizards, zombies, flying eyes. This is like something out of a Halloween story."
"Funny ye should bring that up" smiled Demoman as he swirled the contents of his tankard. "We put up with this every Halloween."
"What?" Jacob raised an eyebrow.
"You heard him!" one of the Scouts yelled out. All eyes turned on him, a Red Scout wearing a napkin over his head, with holes cut out for his eyes.
"Why the hell are you wearing that stupid thing?" Zaeed grunted.
"Why the hell are you wearing that super spooky mask?" Another Scout, who had a football helmet with nails driven into it down the middle, asked at almost the same time. The napkin wearing scout turned to both and wagged a finger.
"Cuz I'm about to tell a spooky story, so listen up all you collective nuts of numbness" he clapped his hands, grabbed a candle and held it closely to give his napkin'd face a spooky glow.
"Long ago, the very first Soldier was really stupid" he said in a shaky voice and waving his free arm for effect. "Just. Like. Ours." This received a few laughs around the dining hall, even from the Soldiers. Miranda's Soldier however grimaced.
"One day, the Soldier had a roommate. A stupid roommate. You had to be pretty damn stupid to share rent with the Soldier after all" the scout continued, never once dropping his 'scary' voice. "One Halloween night, the roommate got all pissed off a Soldier because his share of the rent was due for days, and he got real bad candy. Soldier pissed off his roommate so much that he was cursed to fight Monoculus on Halloween night. It really cut into fighting the other Team and everyone suffered from massive salary cuts because of it."
One of the Heavies chimed in. "We know this already Scout."
"I didn't" Zaeed said.
"Stop interruptin'! It kills the mood" The ghastly Scout snapped. He waved his hand again and started going "oooooooo" to reset the mood.
"As I was sayin'" he said in his scary voice "The Soldier's roommate pulled a massive stupid and asked Solly to watch over his castle."
"Merasmus had a castle?" Miranda butted in.
"Who the hell's Merasmus?" Zaeed asked.
"The one that sent us here?"
"We time traveled?"
"Can I continue my story?" Scout meekly asked.
"Who are you supposed to be" The Quarian looked at the Engineer's space suit incredulously. A geth shot came too close for comfort and he ducked further into cover.
"Not important, you got problems right? I solve problems." Engy replied smirking.
Shepard pulled out his submachine gun and peered over the wall. Several geth were standing between them and the opposite end of a very exposed valley. At the very end was a Colossus, firing a periodic pulse from its main cannon. Shepard ducked back as the blast flew past and made a large hole in the wall beyond. Shepard turned to the Quarian marines, who were reduced to a paltry handful. "Alright, what's the situation…?"
"Kal'Reegar sir. We were escorting Tali'Zorah while she gathered data on Haestrom's solar activity. Geth hit us suddenly and really hard. Tali locked herself in over there", Reegar gestured to the other side of the valley "after these bastard slaughtered her guard detail. That door's holding, but we don't know how long."
"Right, how many geth?"
Kal'Reegar made a few stray shots around his block of stone, only to keep geth attention away from Tali. "At least a score of basic infantry walkers, that wouldn't be so bad if they also didn't have a prime down there. The worst however is that damn walker. Most of our weapons can't even penetrate the armor."
"I got that covered, just keep the other geth offa me guys." Engineer smiled, he ran off with his sentry following close behind.
"Okay seriously, who was that?" Reegar asked Shepard. The other Quarians were just as confused, nodding with Reegar.
"Engineer, Team Fortress. Yes that Team Fortress."
"You mean Team Fortress is real?!" Kal'Reegar exclaimed.
"What's Team Fortress?" A wounded Quarian asked. His teammates, Kal'Reegar included, looked at him like he had just taken his mask off and grew an extra arm out his face.
"Well you heard him", Reegar declared. He hefted a rocket launcher and fired it into the geth lines. "Keep em off Engy!"
Shepard was starting to wonder how he went so long without hearing about Team Fortress. He dismissed it and emptied his heat clip into one geth, and threw another into the air. It floated into the trajectory of the Pulse shot fired by the Colossus. A brilliant explosion blasted him with a wave of heat and molten metal splattered on the ground.
Mordin jumped over his cover and froze a group of geth. He closed in with an unaffected infantry robot, roughly picked it up and slammed it into the ground, forcing it to let go of its weapon. With his improvised club in hand, she swung the unfortunate geth into his frozen victims and shattered them all in a single swipe. The Geth Prime that was directing the lesser walkers identified Mordin as the primary threat and had the platforms focus on him. Mordin held the limp geth in his hand as a shield as he charged right at the Prime unit. A crazed grin spread across his face and he jumped over several shock troopers.
"BRAVE JUMP!" he yelled for no reason and delivered a punch that reduced the Prime to its base parts. "PROPERTY DAMAAAAAGE!" Mordin declared. He turned to the Shock troopers that temporarily reeled from the void in command.
The Colossus viewed the pandemonium below; the unusually mutated Salarian was twisting the Infantry Platforms into what Organics called a 'Pretzel knot'. The other Organics were doing damage as well but not nearly the same amount as the Salarian. Consensus was made. It primed its pulse cannon and prepared to neutralize the threat. Then its main optical component was destroyed. The Colossus switched instantly to it auxiliary optical system.
It was an explosion from an armor piercing rocket that destroyed the main optical component. The Colossus programs noticed a laser pointed at the platform's chassis. It tracked the laser up towards its source. On a hill, facing the sun was an organic. LOGIC ERROR! Organics have an even lesser tolerance to the extreme temperature of Haestrom. Even the infantry platforms aren't able to withstand direct sunlight for long. The organic did not show any signs of damage. It pressed a button on a small device on its arm and another pod was launched. The Siege Pulse cannon was damaged, and the repair programs were still in the process of fixing it. Instead it fired it's Mass Accelerator cannon at the rocket. It exploded. Correction, it split into smaller pods. The Pods crashed into the chassis, doing even more damage. LOGIC ERROR! The pods were too small to inflict damage on this scale! The laser was still pointed at its chassis. The geth reached consensus, focus was placed on the illogical organic on the hill.
Then Mordin with herculean effort lifted the Colossus from one of its legs and hurled it over himself into the valley, exposing its unprotected underside to Engy's sentry. Engineer smiled and had his sentry fire its entire payload.
And the Colossus went up in an enormous ball of fire.
"Well I'll be damned" Kal'Reegar said, "that was…"
"Crazy" one Quarian said.
"Amazing" said another.
"Explosive." The wounded one wheezed.
"I'll go with all three."
Grunt folded his arms and muttered. "I didn't even get to do anything…"
Shepard holstered his pistol and ran across the valley, careful not to trip over the geth wreckage. Mordin was already at the end panting. "Not sure how that happened" he gasped "too dangerous, too reckless, too entertaining…"
Engineer as always, strutted across the valley, ignorant to the sun's rays to the envy of everyone present.
Shepard made it to the other side and pounded on the thick metal doors. "Tali! Tali it's me!"
First there was no response. Then the doors slowly opened. A young looking Quarian walked out, shotgun armed in front of her. Upon seeing her savior, she lowered her gun.
"Shepard? Wha-what are you doing here?"
"Came here looking for you." Shepard smiled reassuringly. "Collectors will be stepping up their game; we need to do the same, so I'm getting the team back."
Tali looked around her. "Well I'm free to go then", she turned to Kal'Reegar and pulled up her omnitool. "Here's the data the Admirals want, it damn well better be worth it".
Kal'Reegar nodded. "I hope so too. We'll call for evac now-"
"SHEPARD!" Engineer's voice boomed into Shepard's comm-bead. He winced and tapped it. "What is it Engy?!" he turned to see the Engineer outside setting up his sentry.
"Remember that bio signature? The one I thought wasn't working? It is!"
"We got incomin'!" he shouted.
On cue, the ground erupted as legions of Team Fortress zombies erupted from the cracks. Their unholy screeches filled the air as they set themselves upon everything. Geth patrols found themselves overwhelmed and outposts were scrambled for emergency reinforcements. And the Engineer got behind his sentry, setting up a dispenser while his machine kept the tide at bay. If it wasn't for his turret mowing down the initial wave, they would have been overwhelmed in moments. As it was, the Quarians formed a defensive line demanding evacuation, while Shepard and his team took positions.
Mordin gritted his teeth and fought down the urge to just run straight at the hordes and fired his weapon full auto, all the while remotely hacking the old construction equipment around the valley to drop their loads. Tons of metal pipe and bars crushed dozens of the walking corpses, but plenty more took their place. Tali pulled out her drone and blasted away at the closest of the zombies, fear in her exhausted eyes. Grunt's eyes lit up behind his helmet, charging headlong into the closest of the creatures, shotgun downing groups of zombies with each blast.
It seemed they could hold. The horde faltered under the counterattack. Zombie shots were poorly aimed and the unexpected help from a geth drop ship of all things mowing down the rear of the zombies.
Then the sky turned dark. All eyes turned to see what had blocked the sun. In was a massive ball free floating in the air. Then it opened. A stream of flaming eyeballs flew in all directions, peppering the geth drop ship and sending it crashing to the ground. It turned its hateful gaze at Shepard's ragged group.
"Holy crap!" Engineer shouted. "Monoculus!"
"Subject Zero has escaped! She's loose! We need-"
"The subjects are rebelling! There's too much biotics flying around! Security can't keep them contained! We-"
"TEAM FORTRESS BREACHED THE OUTER PERIMETER! THEY'RE TEARING UP THE GUARD POSTS! SOMEONE SEND HELP! PLE-"
Jack watched the vid over and over again. It wasn't anything like she remembered it. She got free, and she killed everyone. They were all against her, she had to kill them. The other kids didn't fight the guards, they were fighting her!
And Team Fortress…
"None of this is right! Bullshit! NONE OF THIS IS RIGHT!" she kept playing the same video over and over, like maybe it would eventually fix itself and show what really happened.
"I was alone! Everyone wanted to stop me. There were the guards, and the other subjects, there was no TeeEff, just them. Why don't I remember any of this?!" Jack cried hysterically. Her mined reeled at the thought that her own memory of the past was wrong. If that was wrong, who's to say everything else she knew was wrong. What if those kids were trying to escape like her? What if they weren't trying to kill her? What if she didn't have to kill them? Why didn't she see the other team? Why-
She snapped back when she felt the massive hands of the Heavy on her shoulders. "It is the past little Jack. Nothing else."
She turned to face him. "But it's not MY past! I don't remember any of this! This can't be right! Either I-I…I ! I don't know anymore!" She grabbed at her head. Heavy grabbed her arms and forced them back to her sides. He then placed a hand on her head. "You were child. You were alone. You were afraid."
"No! I wasn't afraid I-"
"Fear becomes anger. You do not see the world when afraid. You see safety, and you see danger. You do whatever it takes to get to safety. If danger can't be avoided, you fight it. You run little Jack. You run to be free. You see guards, you see children. You see baby clones. You don't see them. You see only danger. You fight danger. You alive now because you fought danger," he lowered himself to her level. Jack gazed into his eyes and saw the sympathy. Somehow she knew he went through the same. "It is in past now little Jack. It cannot change. Do not try to change. Remember. We are here for burying."
Jack lowered her head onto the Heavy's massive stomach and just stayed there. She focused on matching her breath to the large man's heart beat. Slower. Slower. She was beginning to calm down. She brushed Heavy's hands off and turned off the console. "Thanks."
A loud thump disrupted the moment. "That came up ahead. Near my room." Jack's eyes narrowed.
The team readied themselves and prepared for a fight. Not the kind of fight they ran into.
They found themselves in a laboratory, with several Krogan and Vorcha on one side, firing at zombies that had burst through the other. Several zombie Demomen were charging in with swords, golf clubs, and light poles. Several of the Krogan broke from cover to plow right into them. Over the din of combat, they carried their battle cries. "I AM BOGOOOOOON!"
"What. The. Hell?" Jack stared at the battle, confused about the entire situation.
"Figure out problem later. Zombies to kill!" Heavy yelled and revved his minigun. The Medic deployed his healing beam and prepared for the worst. Jack snapped out of her confusion and focused her biotics. The undead mercenaries spilled across the lab and the Heavy opened fire.
When RED and BLU first started making waves in the galactic economy, both brothers sought new ways to make even more profits in creative, if not stupid ways. Redmond realized first that with the Quarians being homeless, they, or anyone with an interest in history would pay a ransom for Quarian artifacts. Thus he sent RED mercenaries to establish a camp on various Quarian worlds, mopping up any geth, and begin excavating relics. BLU got wind of this and sent their own mercenaries to fight for the same dig sites. Facing opposing mercenaries and constant geth attacks, both companies eventually decided to abandon the project, pulling up stakes and leaving with what few relics they managed to secure. The bodies of the many mercenaries that died for the sake of profit still lay in Haestrom, buried by the stone and preserved by the planet's unnatural dryness.
Pragia's conditions made it the perfect place to build a farming industry for exotic fruits. RED built several facilities there, using the fast growing nature of the soil to rapidly create a highly profitable crop. These funds would be funneled into RED weapons research labs throughout the entire planet. BLU of course caught wind of this as well and deployed its Team Fortress to detonate these labs. Cerberus, while aware of Team Fortress, felt that such a thing was beneath them unless either of the teams interfered with their projects. Unfortunate for the Cerberus team on Pragia, one detachment of BLU mercenaries got horrendously lost. Mistaking the Cerberus facility for a RED Bomb factory, they stormed the place. What wasn't killed by the security, or Jack, died from the bomb blast that ripped apart the security barracks.
Bekenstein…it's a place for the horrendously wealthy and horrible moral fiber. Both Redmond and Blutarch had vacation manors built there. Even on vacation though, they plotted against each other, and several teams fought and died foiling the brothers' attempts.
A horn call blasted through the castle. Everyone's face darkened. Demoman soberly stood up and hefted his sword. "It is time."
As one, the many mercenaries got out of their seats and ran to the barracks. Modern weapons did not work thanks to magic dickery, but their more primitive weapons still could. Snipers stuffed as many arrows their quivers could carry, scouts polished their bats, the Demomen tested the sharpness of their blades, and the pyros wrenched out anything that could be used as a weapon, be it axe, pole, or table leg. Miranda paused for a second and opened her omnitool. Her gun may not work but maybe.
The omni-blade jutted out of her tool. Yes! Miranda smiled. Zaeed and Jacob did the same with their tools, while Soldier fiddled with his omni-tool. What came out wasn't an omni-blade, but an omni-shovel. Soldier groaned and pulled his pickaxe out with his other hand.
Across the battlements a pyro lit a set of braziers. Snipers of RED and BLU lined up shoulder to shoulder, each lighting an arrow.
Away from the castle, a storm emerged engulfing the setting sun, and drenching everyone in a heavy rain. What kind of fire the pyro was using to keep the braziers lit, Miranda didn't know, and frankly did not want to know.
Across the hills came the undead. Just as the other Team Fortress members said. It was the fallen mercenaries of Team Fortress. Too many to count. Behind them towered a figure that glowed and unnatural glow. It threw back its head and laughed. Soldier growled and called out over the rain and thunder.
"MERASMUS YOU MAGIC PISSING HIPPY! THIS TIME I'M GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS SO HARD, IT WILL STAY KICKED!"
Merasmus glowered at them. The gaze from the wizard was enough to chill Miranda's blood, but the Team Fortress mercenaries around her didn't even flinch.
"Come Jack!" Shouted Heavy. "Now is not time for the brooding. Now is time for the killing!" He laughed as his minigun fired into a throng of enemies.
To the left of Jack, a Krogan yelled his war cry, brandishing a long sword "For the One Eyed Prophet!" he shouted and charged headlong into a zombified demoman "The imposters wilt under his cyclopean gaze!"
Jack summoned her biotics and sent a blast into a zombie Medic that was wrestling her team Medic for the omni-saw in his wrist. It exploded into a pile of bones and rotting meat. Medic barely had time to thank her before he drove his omni saw into the neck of a zombie sniper.
Jack spent, took cover behind Heavy's massive body while firing her pistol at any corpse that moved.
THOUGH YOU FIGHT TO STAY ALIVE
"This is not possible! None of this is possible!" Mordin shouted. He sent a ball of fire into the face of a zombie scout. Even as it burned, another took its place. Sporadic fire from dozens of other positions gave him some comfort that they weren't alone facing this…impossible threat.
"Well doc, how else you wanna explain this?" Engineer shouted back over the din of his sentry. His turret pinged empty, and he had to place another block of metal into its ammunition compartment.
"Need time to formulate theory," was all Mordin could say.
"You can do that AFTER we're out of danger." Shepard shouted down from his position. He was about to aim but ducked back down after a flaming eyeball splattered against his cover.
YOUR BODY STARTS TO SPASM-US
"This happen a lot in your line of work?" Kasumi joked.
The Spy snorted as he removed his knife from a zombified copy of himself. "More than you would believe mon ami." The two turned around each other like a dancing couple and fired at their respective targets.
"Well, I'd like to hear more about this when we get back." Kasumi poked at him as she cloaked.
"I'd be more than delighted." The Spy replied as he cloaked as well
The gunship fired indiscriminately at everything; zombies, and mercenaries.
FOR NO MERE MORTAL CAN RESIST
THE POWER OF MERASMUS!
Miranda aimed her pistol knowing the results. It was loaded, thermal clip was full, and ammunition supply still had enough for a thousand rounds after. She pulled the trigger, and sputtered for a second before it died. She rolled her eyes. Of course. The undead charged towards the castle, climbing its stone walls with skinless fingers.
She turned to Jacob "If we get out of this alive, I'm going to pummel that Soldier!"
Scout laughed. "She caught on to the team motto!"
Zaeed just muttered to himself "How the hell'd I get into this?"
Arrows flew, bodies snapped back to the ground as shots found their marks. Others were set alight from the fire arrows. The zombies were unperturbed and charged forward. The first crashed into the walls, arms reaching through the gate trying to grasp those within. The Engineers snapped off arms and hands with their heavy wrenches, while those with robo-fists cracked the skulls of those crammed around the gate. With any hope, those re-killed undead would form a secondary barricade.
Other zombies climbed over the others, bony fingers finding any hold in the cracks between stones. Arrows as numerous as the rain peppered the climbers, but far too many continued their climb. The first Heavy managed to reach the battlements, arrows jutting out of its rotted flesh. A Scout ran up and cracked its skull off with his bat. Even as that body fell, another took its place. The Snipers fell back as scouts got to smacking and bonking zombie heads like whack-a-mole.
Unfortunately without the snipers, no one was around to kill the demomen zombies, rushing forward with grenades and bombs, and dynamite strapped to every part of their body. They threw themselves at the walls and detonated, sending masonry and bodies flying in all directions. "STOP TEARIN' UP ME HOUSE!" a Demoman with a crown on his head yelled.
The zombies paid no heed as a second explosion followed. Then a third. Then a fourth. The foundations destroyed, the wall of Castle Degroot crumbled, the panicking scouts either jumping off in time to a lower rampart, or tumbled down and buried under the rock. Now the team faced the undead horde without their defense. With a war cry, Demomen charge into the first of the zombies. Heads rolled as expert hands swung the massive blades around. Next the Pyros moved in. They weaved between the Demomen, jamming their weapons into the undead, wrenching them free, and then hitting again. The Pyros put all their might into each stroke, and heads were bisected, bodies chopped in half, and skulls caved in. It was also their weakness that the superior numbered zombies took advantage of. One pyro wearing a business tie as a bandanna struck down a medic zombie with his hammer. The other medics reached out and grabbed the Pyro, pulling him into the horde, where his screams were muffled by the sheer number of bodies.
Another tried to save him but was tackled by a Heavy Zombie, tearing into the unfortunate like the normal Heavy does a sandwich.
Scouts clambered over the Demoman line and charged right into the Engineers. The Engies to their credit tried to fight back, wrenches and fists pulping heads, but there were far too many to hit. Even as the spies tried to help, jamming their knives into zombie spines, the Engies were messily devoured.
"Fall back to the keep!" Miranda shouted. "We can't hold them on open ground! Fall back!"
"Oi, this isn't yer castle lass." The crowned Demoman complained. "
"And it won't be yours unless we form another defensive line!" Miranda retorted.
The Demoman grudgingly acknowledged her. "TO THE KEEP LADS! WE'LL HOLD EM THERE! BACK!"
YES! YES! DESPAIR YOU FOOLS! I, MERASMUS SHALL BE YOUR END! POOP IN TERROR PITIFUL WORMS!
The Heavies using their massive frames, battered at the zombies while the surviving Demomen and Pyros broke away from the melee. Afterwards, the Heavies ran as quickly as they could, opening the way for the Snipers to fire one last volley into the horde before retreating.
Miranda gutted a Demoman, it hissed at her before Jacob cut its head off. Zaeed was one of the last to pull back, delivering a kick to a Scout and jammed his blade into a Spy's open maw. A zombified Soldier tried to tackle him. Instead Zaeed grabbed the zombie and tossed him face first into the stone stairway.
As everyone piled on inside, Miranda took one final look outside. "Solly! Get in here dammit!"
The Soldier stood out there, pickaxe in hand. He glared defiantly at the distant Merasmus, seemingly ignoring Miranda's pleas.
"S'too late lass!" Demoman shouted.
Before she could even protest, the heavy wooden doors slammed shut. The horde began to move in on him. The Soldier casually tossed aside his bloodied weapon, cracked his knuckles, and pulled a grenade from his belt. "C'mere cupcakes" he growled as he pulled the pin. Just as they were upon him, his grenade detonated.
Miranda heard the thump from inside. She couldn't believe what happened. No. Soldier couldn't be dead. Team Fortress had weathered far worse! There was no way!
I…I've done it. HA HA HA! I'VE DONE IT! I KILLED SOLDIER! YES! IN YOUR FACE! I'M FREE!
"Not really Merasmus" Merasmus turned. Defying all logic, reason, and basic laws of time and space, Soldier was behind him, grinning ear to ear pickaxe in hand. Before Merasmus could react, Soldier swung the axe and pierced the not-really-kinda ghost and stuffed a grenade in the wound. He jumped away as it detonated.
The undead, with no direction stopped in their tracks, twitching like puppets without a puppet master.
Being kinda-sorta-dead however meant that Merasmus couldn't be killed like that. In mere moments he reformed, not quite as imposing as he was before.
Soldier?! How are you still alive?!
Soldier tapped his foot and shook his head. "Mersamus, don't tell me you really forgot."
Merasmus, still alive, was searching his medicine cabinet while Soldier brushed his teeth next to him. "Soldier, did you eat my entire bottle of 'kill me come back stronger' pills?"
The Soldier took his brush out of his mouth. "I thought it was your heart medicine."
Merasmus glared daggers at Soldier, his teeth clenched. "You're taking my heart medication?!"
Soldier rolled his eyes. "Look Merasmus, if you're gonna keep asking dumb questions, I'll go use my other bathroom that I made in the kitchen."
Oh right, those damn pills. Looks like this was all for nothing. You know, in hindsight, after planning this for so long, I'm surprised I never realized how stupid this plan was. Never put that into consideration.
"Plan? Your revenge was to send an army of zombies to eat my friends?"
Oh yes, that was part of the plan…well since the grudge I held isn't quite as all-consuming as it was when you DESTROYED MY LIFE, I'll let them go. I guess I'll let you go too since I technically can't kill you.
"Damn right you will! And send us back to the future too! I want my futuristic rocket launcher to work again!"
Oh right. Return to your own time and whatnot. Well you aren't really in the past, just a pocket dimension established outside time and space. I set up the whole castle on a whim. Anyway, you're free to go. Good bye Soldier
A blinding flash, and Soldier, Miranda, Jacob, and Zaeed were back on the same field on Earth. The first thing Miranda did was check her omnitool. It was working, everything updated. According to it, she had been missing for five seconds. She looked at Zaeed and Jacob. "Let's never speak of this again."
The Spy brushed off some dust from his suit, not paying any mind to the smoldering wreck of the gunship behind him. Its turbine clogged with zombified corpses. The Spy offered a hand to Kasumi, and pulled her up to his platform. "I think it iz time to leave non?"
"Yes…so…do you still have it?" she asked. Spy smiled as he lit a cigarette. He pulled out the still very much intact gray box and handed it to her. Kasumi smiled as she handled it tenderly. She kissed Spy lightly on the cheek and pulled out his cigarette. "These'll kill ya."
The bodies all at once dropped dead…again. The surviving Krogans threw up their arms and gave a ragged cheer. Jack was stunned. Heavy however wasn't. "Doctor." He said.
He began to glow red as the Ubercharge took over. He turned his still smoking minigun to the surviving Blood Pack. "This place is going to go boom! Do not try to stopping us!"
The Bogons bowed respectfully and left. The mercenary Krogan followed after. "Hey no problem, this crap is more trouble than any amount of credits."
Heavy powered down his weapon and placed a hand on Jack's back. "Little Jack. Ready to go now?"
Jack looked down, then across the room. "Yeah, this is getting too crazy."
The group was backed to the wall. Monoculus destroyed the Engineer's sentry, and the zombies were closing in. Shepard's gun beeped that it was overheated and he performed a last biotic push to throw back the tide if only for a few more seconds. They got back up again and charged.
"SHEPARD" Tali cried out. "I LO-" and suddenly the zombies fell to the ground and didn't stir. Monoculus disappeared, and the baleful sun returned.
Everyone stood still, afraid the bodies would rise again. When a minute passed and nothing happened, everyone relaxed.
"This…"Kal'Reegar sighed. "I don't know how to even begin explaining this in my report."
Shepard looked down at Tali who just let go of his arm. "So what was that about Tali?"
Tali looked away. "I um…I lost my uh…" she fished around in her suit. "my spare heat clip! Heh…here it is…isn't it always there when you don't need it?"
"Enough of this garbage." Engineer huffed. "Time ta head back ta Normandy. I need ta fix mah darling…" he tenderly picked up what few pieces remained of his sentry.
"Oh before you leave," Engy turned to see Kal'Reegar right in his face. "Couldyoutellushowyoumadethatsentryitwassoawesomej ustlikewhatwethoughtitwouldlooklike!"
"So what is it exactly, if you do not mind me asking?" Spy gestured to the small gray box in Kasumi's hands. The thief smiled slightly and shook her head.
"I don't mind. A gray box is like a black box placed in ships, only placed in your brain. It's a lockbox full of the person's memories, and can only be opened with a specific password. Because it's a gray box though, it doesn't have to be a password; it can be a collection of sounds, color patterns, or even a specific memory. This one belonged to my old partner, Keiji. I-"her voice began to quiver. The Spy wrapped an arm around her.
"I understand…say no more."
Kasumi got out of Spy's hold shaking her head. "This is important. Before Keiji died, he told me he had something important to share"
Kasumi connected the gray box port with a wire to her omnitool, and the gray box spilled it contents across the small chamber…
…Normandy CIC room…
Team Fortress fidgeted under the collective gaze of Shepard, Miranda and EDI.
"What part?" Scout asked.
"Everything!" Miranda shouted. She entered a command, and the projector in the middle of the table flashed images from Pragia, Bekenstein, and Haestrom.
"Kasumi recalls you Spy saying 'not again'. What did you mean by that?"
Team Fortress visibly relaxed. "Oh it's just that."
"Remember what tenth class wot said?" Demoman pointed out. "We 'ad ta deal wit the walkin' dead least a full ten times now."
Sniper nodded. "Yeah, a right nightmare each time, but we dun pulled through each time."
Shepard sighed. "Alright, then how is it that situations like this," he pointed to the flashing screens of zombies "keeps happening around you?"
"Workin' fer a mega-corporation that focuses on durn near every field of anythin', yer bound to be cleanin up its messes." Engineer said.
"Several times RED tried to make some super soldier serum to sell to the larger world powers. Each time all he got was blood crazed freaks." Soldier nodded.
"Well to be fair, BLU did its fair share of der work mit die untoten."
"And Merasmus" Spy glowered at Soldier. "You never know when to stop with him do you Solider?" Soldier just huffed.
"Well now we know this is just another 'Team Fortress' thing" Miranda said using her fingers for the quotes, "but are we going to see something like this again?"
"Probably not. Least not till next Halloween."
"Merasmus reaches his full power around Halloween."
"No he doesn't!"
"Well he just likes to do stuff during Halloween to be extra creepy. But not to worry. I showed that bed sheet wearing pansy that he can't do anything to me. You rest easy knowing after that butt-kicking I gave him, he won't be coming back."
EDI chimed in "Then if there is nothing left to discuss, then I suggest Shepard continue to build his team."
Shepard turned to EDI. "Alright then, where is it?"
Tali was getting herself settled in, getting acquainted with the new Normandy. If there was one thing she grudgingly acknowledged about Cerberus, was the new size. The last one was far too small for her, and she missed the low hum of its mass effect core. The crew down here was also surprisingly nice despite being Cerberus. The two of them welcomed her warmly before bickering with each other like a married couple. Tali smiled as she watched them alternate between arguing and discussions about increasing power output.
She almost tripped over a large box as she unloaded her few possessions. The box was old, made of pulped wood, known as 'cardboard' according to her omnitool. There was some odd writing on the side, but the bad spelling made it impossible for her translator to make out its meaning. Curiosity took hold of her as she cut open box, and peered at its contents.
"What is this?" she asked to no one in particular, holding a set of goggles in her hand.
…Some Dimension That is Everything and Nothing or Some Stupid Transcendent Garbage or Something…
Merasmus meditated once more. His plans for revenge foiled. Wait, his plans for revenge involved soldier, but it wasn't to break Soldier! Why did he want to talk to Soldier again?
Oh damn, I forgot to warn Soldier about what the Reapers are. Oh well, I'll do it next time.
"It's so beautiful!" Tali sighed.
"Tali, are you alright?" Shepard asked.
"Oh! Oh Shepard" Tali cooed. She reached out and pinched his cheeks. "What happened to you Shepard? You used to be so handsome, now you're all cute! I can't resist!"
"Tawi, yer hurpin ma fess." Shepard tried to say while Tali squished his cheeks.
"I have no idea what you said, but you're so cute I don't even care!" she smiled.
Something else got Tali's attention and she wandered off, arms upright grasping at something imaginary. "Where are we going Mister Ballonicorn? Oh hello Mister Poopy Joe! So many flowers and lollipops, I wish I could feel them. Wait I can!"
Tali skipped about the Engineering floor singing "Do I believe in magic~?" in front of a very confused audience.
Heavy entered the room. "Where my Pyro goggles?"
Jack stared at the monitor. A blank document stared back at her. So much has happened since her waking up. She met the Heavy, and her views of him was destroyed, but rebuilt into something…more. She thought back to all those times the Heavy and the rest of Shepard's team were there for her. Maybe she finally found a home she could actually call a home.
She rubbed her face. So many emotions, so many things happened. What to do? She shrugged as she rubbed the back of her neck. Then she started typing
Sparrow in the Snow