Prologue: Synchronization

"No. No, you little shit. You sit in that fucking chair and listen to me, you pencil-dicked mouth-breathing pen-pushing pile of fuck. I make an order of magnitude more in one month than you make all year because I know what the fuck I'm talking about. I supplied every part of Origin. I put together Harbinger. I designed every phase of Perseus. None of this would exist without me. So before you try to throw me under the goddamn bus, shut up and listen.

"You collection of slack-jawed, drooling corporate dickballs decided he should be shipped off to some ass-end research colony in the first place. Now you're going to blame me for losing him? You assholes were the ones to throw that investment to the wind. You knew Mindoir was in the Verge. You knew that there were batarians out there. And I told you goddamn morons that she's still aware!"

-Harlan Wade, Head of Research, Project Perseus, Armacham Internal Meeting 4/18/2170

4/12/2170 - Mindoir - Primary Colony Site

Smoke and dust choked his lungs. Tons of ceramic material poured down around him, crashing to the hardened asphalt surrounding the residential section. He could hear screams and distant gunfire, the searing of human flesh by intense heat, and alien tongues shouting over the chaos. Thrumming ship engines passed by overhead.

Something crashed into his back, and the wind was blasted out of his lungs. He toppled sideways, and a cry of agony came from somewhere nearby. Maybe it was him, he couldn't tell. Animal terror sent his heart into a machinegun staccato. Rolling over the hard asphalt, he could smell the acrid stench of incendiary weapons and the more pungent and gagging aroma of burnt human flesh.

Bodies lay sprawled around the residential area. Some were perforated by dozens of rounds, their flesh and organs pulped. Others were decomposing into puddles of gleaming fluid as corrosive toxins ate through their bodies. More were charred beyond recognition. Many had the remains of weapons lying next to them, mute testimony to their efforts to protect their homes and families.

The batarians didn't care. Anyone who resisted was killed. Like his mother, gunned down and burned to an unrecognizable husk. Like his father, blown up along with four other colonists when a gunship strafed the colony's perimeter.

He struggled to his feet, gasping, heart thundering in his ears and terror running through his veins. He looked around the street, eyes and head swiveling and searching for any shelter. He saw nothing but fire, black smoke, debris, and the bodies of those who'd resisted. Screams sounded in the distance, but these weren't ones of fear - they were of pain and despair. Prisoners being dragged off by the batarians.

I need a weapon. Thought and instinct agreed, but the weapons dropped by the nearest dead were damaged or confiscated by batarian sweep-teams. He had to find one that worked.

He shook his head as he stumbled across the street toward a building that wasn't ablaze. The batarians had been going room to room, sweeping for survivors and burning any buildings where people were shooting. The pre-fabs weren't designed to survive plasma flamethrowers. He was lucky he'd been missed by the sweep-teams.

A woman wailed somewhere nearby, and he paused.

"No! Give them back!" she screamed, and then there was a sudden gunshot.

He didn't need to see it to know what had just happened, but he felt a silent numbness at the unseen atrocity. He reached for the door to the intact house, and it slid open with a cheery chime. He stumbled through the door, falling to his knees, and looked around the sparsely furnished pre-fab. A couple of bodies were crumpled in the house: a colonist riddled with bullet wounds, and a batarian in blue and red armor. A rifle was clenched in the colonist's hands.

At least he took the bastard with him.

The teenager rose and limped across the room to the fallen colonist, and pried the man's assault rifle from limp fingers. He raised it to his shoulder like his father had taught him, checking the sights, the charge, ammo capacity, and thermal sink. It was an old Mattock semi-auto, firing larger-than-average slugs at the expense of greater heat generation. It was a cheap and simple weapon that wouldn't sell for much, which was likely why the sweep-teams hadn't bothered looting it.

The weight took some of the terror off. It was familiar. Comforting. Powerful. He turned back toward the door, his fear still beating against his skull but becoming more muted. More controlled. He was likely going to die, but he wouldn't die easy.

He heard voices outside, the harsh, echoing snarls of batarians. They spoke quick, terse words; if he had a translator on him he would know what they were saying, but instinct told him they were likely on a final sweep for survivors.

They would have sensors in their suits. Those sensors would ID a human thermal signature in the structure. They would come for him.

The screaming woman's voice came back to him suddenly, reverberating in his mind, and numbness suddenly became something else. Something hot and savage and pure, in its brutal simplicity. It wasn't rage, or hate, or violent, berserk fury, but something else. Something more powerful than those simple emotions.

And a distant, wary part of his mind realized that it was not his. Instinct told him that there was someone else present, who he couldn't see or touch or hear, and the sensations sweeping over him were this other's. It was there, in the room, watching him, touching his thoughts.

The rest of him did not care. A blue-hot wave of violence poured through him, and he felt heat and shards of agony ripping up through his chest. The other was digging through him, pain rolling around in his head, buzzing sensations flickering underneath the bone of his skull. He dropped to one knee, gasping in agony, and then the pain and fire and purity ripped out through his throat. The walls shuddered faintly as he screamed, a savage cry so pure and loud that he felt blood in his mouth.

It all crashed together: noise and fire and emotion and the other somewhere in his mind and this room and his body, colliding and fusing and burning together into one single glittering thought:

They all deserve to die.

He surged to his feet, shouldering the Mattock rifle, and the door flew open.

Six batarian slavers were striding through the street outside. They were trained soldiers and experienced veterans who had put down slave rebellions and raided colonies of many species for decades. They were no ordinary slavers, for the Batarian Hegemony had supplied military expertise to the pirates operating in the Skyllian Verge and Attican Traverse in order to ensure that the criminals inflicted maximum damage with plausible deniability.

All six had spotted the live human inside the structure and were approaching with stunners ready to subdue the pathetic, cowering creature. They were joking among themselves, tallying their kills and captures. They anticipated adding another to the tally; they were being paid by the head, and while live slaves were preferable the mission was intended to destroy the colony outright and leave no survivors. The humans had to be taught a lesson.

That was before a scream unlike anything they'd ever heard ripped out of the building. They froze, uncertain for a moment, before unanimously dropping their stunners and shouldering their assault weapons. The squad leader, an officer named Charn, ordered them into cover, and they went for the nearest chunks of bullet-resistant debris and disabled vehicles. The six soldiers set up a semicircle of assault rifles, shotguns, and a squad support machinegun leveled at the door in a matter of seconds, in complete silence.

The door opened, and they opened fire a second later. Sheets of hypervelocity slugs ripped across the ten meters between the squad and the doorframe, a barrage that would have shattered the shields of anything short of a heavy power-armor mech.

In the second between the door opening and the soldiers opening fire, a blur shot out and rushed to the side, ducking under their line of fire and charging outside the cone of converging bullets that rained upon the doorway. Three rapid cracks erupted, so close together they sounded like a single gunshot. The rightmost batarian crumpled sideways, blood exploding from his helmet.

The closest batarian saw what had happened to his companion and started to turn toward the figure. Three more rounds from the Mattock rifle slammed into his shields, the first two battering it down and the third punching through his throat.

A third went down as he started to yell a warning, which was cut off by four shots from the Mattock. By that time the other three had spotted the blurring figure that had cut their squad in half and shifted aim right as it ran behind an overturned rover. Bullets slammed into the metal as they poured suppressive fire on the target, and Charn ordered his remaining troops to fan out and ready grenades. He had no idea what the hell he was facing - some kind of augmented human supersoldier? But what would such a thing be doing out here on the fringes of human space?

Whatever it was, he intended to kill it.

They fired staggered bursts as they spread out, hitting both sides of the rover to keep the human from moving. Charn drew and primed a grenade as they kept the target suppressed. All he had to do was get the angle right to loop it over the crashed vehicle and-

The batarian firing on the right side of the rover squeezed off a burst, then paused to let the heat of his weapon dissipate before firing a second. In the heartbeat between shot, there was a flicker of blurry motion, a single long crack, and that soldier tumbled to the road.

Charn cursed, chucking his grenade at that side of the rover, and started to raise his rifle. The human's weapon roared again, and he saw the batarian behind him topple on his helmet's HUD. The batarian officer's weapon rose to sight the freakishly-fast human, but he was already running for a chunk of debris five meters away.

"Dammit!" the batarian hissed as the human reached cover. He wasn't going to stick around the fight this thing; he was smart enough to know when he was in over his head.

"This is Charn!" he shouted into his radio as he started to back away, keeping his weapon leveled at the human's hiding place. "We've run into some kind of augmented human! Need backup, now!"

He saw movement from the debris, and the instant his brain registered the human's presence he pulled the trigger. The rifle roared.

I hit him! The batarian officer thought with a thrill. His sights were dead center on the-

Movement to his right. He twitched his weapon toward it, and saw the human charging straight toward him. A pair of rounds impacted his shield, but his armor had improved capacitors compared with his subordinates, and the barriers held. But how the hell-

He sighted and fired again. The burst of hypervelocity rounds impacted dead-center - or would have, but the human was gone again. More shots impacted his shields, and one clipped off his torso armor, barely deflected by the heavy plating.

Fear was something Charn was familiar with, but the sudden helpless terror he felt as he swung the rifle, trying to track this impossibly fast human was something totally new, and-

The human was right in front of him, vapor was bursting from the overheated rifle in its hands. The alien was too close to dodge, however, and Charn sprayed his rifle at full auto. At this close range, he couldn't miss!

The human went down, and for an instant Charn thought he'd finally killed the freakish thing. Then the human slid into his legs, boots extended, moving at near-impossible speed into a sliding kick.

He hit Charn in the ankles, throwing the batarian officer forward and sideways into a tumble. He hit the ashpalt and rolled, bringing up his weapon, but the human sprang to his feet, whirled, and leapt up into a spinning kick. His leg blurred up into Charn's faceplate, and he felt a sudden, horrible crack-

The SSV Einstein and its battle group had responded to the attack within hours. A fleet of cruisers, frigates, and the massive carrier arrived in the skies over Mindoir, and the response from the batarian slaver force was an immediate and total retreat. Their ships scattered after only a brief exchange of light mass accelerator fire, and Alliance Marine relief forces were en route to the besieged colony in minutes.

Smoke and fire rose from the remains of the main colony, but as Lieutenant Ernesto Zabaleta looked over the sensor feed, he was startled at the number of life signs in the colony. He had gone in with the grim expectation that many of the colonists would have already been loaded onto the slavers' ships by the time they'd arrived, but more than two-thirds of the population were still down there, though most of them were gathered together into large, tightly-packed groups. Spectral analysis indicated they had been herded into pens for processing and loading, but for some reason the batarians hadn't put them on the ships.

But even more confusing, however, was that there were no batarian life signs at all. Scans were picking up what looked like a lot of bodies, but no batarians were inside the colony.

The dropships and armored vehicles landed and Marines stormed out, moving through the colony. Zabaleta led a platoon toward one of the concentrations of civilians, and as he entered the small square where they were gathered he nearly retched inside his helmet. Hundreds of civilians - men, women, and children - were gathered in large ceramic and metal cages. They were chained, collared, and beaten, with many of them limp and unconscious on the floors of the cages. He saw some with what looked like wires stapled to the backs of their necks.

"Get medical and support units down here now!" Zabaleta ordered. "Get those people out of there! Jesus, get them out now!"

As medical units arrived and the captives were pulled out of the cages and freed, Zabaleta led more sweep teams through the colony. Everywhere within the pre-fabricated city, however, he saw corpses. Many human, but many, many more batarian. He stopped counting at two hundred dead slavers.

What the hell had happened here?

Zabaleta's radio crackled as he swept through a burnt-out residence with a fire team.

"Hammer Actual, this is Two-One," reported one of his squad commanders. "I think you need to see this."

Zabaleta acknowledged, checked Two-One's location on his omnitool (half a kilometer to the east on the other side of the colony) and set out with his fire team. Ten minutes of picking through the blasted pre-fab urban landscape, he stepped out into an open landing pad that the batarians had apparently been using when the fleet arrived. He walked out into the open, and stared in awe.

More than a hundred batarian bodies littered the pad. The alien soldiers had been beaten, shot, stabbed, and set ablaze. They lay in twisted heaps, many with entry wounds in their backs. Blood pooled on the pad, ankle deep in some places. A batarian dropship sat in the middle of the pad, its engines twisted and burned. It was obvious that the batarians had been massacred while fleeing, but the corpses had been dead for at least an hour. They hadn't been running because the fleet had arrived; they'd been trying to reach the damaged dropship.

Zabaleta looked across the pad, and saw First Squad, Second Platoon standing around a pile of cargo containers. In the middle of the group of Marines was a single slight figure, sitting on a box and staring at the dead bodies.

He approached the squad, and got a better look at the sitting person. He was a young human man, maybe in his mid teens. His clothes - typical rugged civilian clothing for colony work - was covered in batarian and human blood. Rough bandages were wrapped around wounds in his arms, legs, and torso. His face was just showing the beginnings of facial hair, and he had dark blue eyes that stared at the pile of dead bodies. An old Mattock rifle sat next to him, along with a shotgun and a pistol, all covered in blood splatter.

Zabaleta stared at the lone human boy, and a shiver ran up his spine as he approached. His helmet scanners picked up the boy's personal ID: "A. Shepard."

"Jesus, son," the lieutenant whispered as he approached the battered teenager. "Are you okay?"

They teenager nodded silently, still staring at the corpses.

"What the hell happened here?" the lieutenant asked, and the boy finally looked up. There was something in those blue eyes, something distant and disturbing.

"They deserved to die," Shepard murmured, his voice flat.

A silent, chill wind blew through the colony, and Zabaleta convinced himself that was why he was shaking.

"They all deserved to die."

Author's Notes: The notion behind this fusion crossover was rolling around in my head for a while, much like Renegade. I decided to give it a whirl, and while I've got a vague outline planned out, the fun is always in the details.

As a fusion fic, expect a lot of elements from FEAR to make their way into this storyline. We're also going to be diverging wildly from ME canon for this story.

Until next chapter . . . .