He was working late when the raiders came. Though really, concepts like ''late'' didn't really apply to one such as he. Night was just a time when it was darker and he didn't go outside as much, sleep was a distant memory - not even that, if one wanted to be technical. So he spent his nights working. Toying with one theory after another, bringing the future closer one invention at a time. He felt no false modesty about the fact that his genius had propelled the Systems Alliance forward in several fields. Geology was his current focus but in his vast life, he'd focused on many . FTL travel, the Mass Relays, and weaponry both infantry and ship-grade to name but a few. He spent his free time solving problems because he enjoyed the challange. He remembered when the Systems Alliance had congratulated him, sponsored him. They never really understood why he did what he did. For science? For humanity? No to both counts. He did it for himself. In his long life, he had been many things but he was first and foremost a scientist. Some of the problems he solved were small - little things that only seemed to annoy him. Others were larger - he'd received a prize for his invention of a superior cooling engine. It was being used in conjunction with Mass Effect fields all across the galaxy. After that, he'd gone from strength to strength. No one could compete with him on an intellectual level. Such was the benfit of his long life and the memories he held. Sometimes he found himself wondering if this was what an older Asari might feel like. But such musings were not like him so he pushed them aside for later. Even holding back, he was in par with the best and brightest. He landed many contracts, jobs and eventually he was offered an official place in the government.
He refused, of course. That would be much too high-profile for the likes of him. Besides, he'd had experience with governments. Not this one, but its predecessor. It had been a crash course for him on how the world really worked - of course, back then he'd been more than eager to go along with it. But he was different now. He simply didn't trust them. Governments were by nature Sociopathic and having dealt with the problems created by that fact, he wasn't eager to do so all over again. Even the best-intentioned governments were full of corruption, bribary and blackmail. The worst ones were... . The best were only corrupt; rife with bribery and double-dealing. The worst...well he'd had a few close calls back in the day. His probing into the Council had only strengthened this feeling. No government was safe, not truly so. The voices in his head agreed in their own way. They were so soft now, like one by one they were fading. Maybe the stay out here in this colony was good for him after all. At first he'd only went to be away from the spotlight for a time. Then it started to grow on him. It was quiet, peaceful. Everything his early life had not been. Ironic; when he was younger. Much younger, the slow pace of life might have irritated him. Now though, he was older and wiser to borrow an old saying. He'd seen what life had to offer and after enjoying it for really quite a long time, had retired. The tranquillity suited him. Seeing the same few faces for most of the year, going out to other towns and cities when his expertise was needed. The colonists had been delighted to receive a qualified and scientist when they started up; his application had been accepted right away and, one the loners of the group learned of his particular feelings towards governments in general and the System Alliance in particular, they'd happily accepted him.
Now he spent his days tinkering with odds and ends - testing out old theories volunteered to him by the voices in his head. They usually worked. He also went out and did repairs when something important broke in the surroundings cities and carried out maintenance when it was called for. None of the others were as fast or clean as he could be. They laughed and said he'd have made a great mechanic, but there was always something in their eyes.
Still; they were good people. Loyal people. The kind of loyalty that could not be bought and that simply could not flourish in the great city-world that Earth was fast becoming. Here it was different - life could be harsh and those who had come had strong spirits and stronger wills. Here, they were bond of comradeship and trust. Some of his memories spoke of a bond like that; he had always wanted to experience it. Life was slow, but after his exciting life, slow was good. He liked slow. As a plus; the colony was independent, it had no government to speak of and was far out of the System Alliance's jurisdiction. Maybe one day they would grow and expand, he mused, maybe one day this one world would become a second human faction. Brother to the System Alliance, perhaps rival. He did not know. It would be interesting to find out.
That was when one of the monitors set into the far wall beeped a warning. It was a none-standard modification and highly illegal. He knew that it was totally undetectable because he had spent several weeks arranging it to be so. He probably could have gained access to the orbital net if he'd asked but then they would know that he wanted it. Like his new life as he did, love the people that he lived with as he did, he was still paranoid. Blame it on the voices; they'd seen more than enough to make him so.
Moving over to the screen, he pressed several buttons and frowned. Static? Maybe the equipment's died again. But then what was that signal it received right before it went out? Working with his nimble fingers, he was able to reverse and freeze the frame right before the system had went down. It would have been simpler to use an Omni-Tool but he rather liked the hands on approach. The system showed the approach of a ship - it had used a Mass Relay to drop just a little outside the system and was no approaching rapidly. In the split second before total system crash, the ship's readings and dropped to zero. Briefly he entertained the thought that it might be an error but no. The system was accurate. So it cloaked. That wasn't promising. The only ship he knew of that could do so was the SA Normandy, which was destroyed a year back. This was far too big to be a clone made by the System Alliance, and it didn't look human ether.
He felt that slight twinge in his gut that meant things were about to start happening. With a sigh, he powered down the terminal. He'd hoped to avoid this kind of thing. Perhaps the aliens weren't going to try and raid the colony. Maybe they were newcomers to the galactic scene and wanted to say hello. It was possible. He doubted it though.
He was about to step outside when he noticed the ship. It hovered above the colony like some kind of tick. Indeed; it looked organic and insectoid. With a practices eye, he noted the shape, the weapons and the external hardware. It all looked very advanced. Not newcomers then. Bugger. Then he noticed something new; his sharp eyes found the buzzing swarms of insects that seemed to be descending upon the colony. Now that was new. Were they perhaps some strange form of raiding party? Maybe they would dissemble the valuable goods piece by piece and carry them back? But no, they weren't heading towards the storehouses, they were heading towards the homes. That just didn't bode well. He just knew that before the day was done, there would have to be an awful lot of violence.
He watched for several minutes, hoping to gain some insight into the attackers but there was nothing. While it followed basic principles, the technology employed by the raiders was unknown. Given a piece of it, he could probably work out how it ran but he didn't have time to slowly dissect it. The insects probably wouldn't kill the colonists (It would be much more economic simply to bombard the town if they meant to do that.) So that probably meant they would capture them somehow. He didn't see how such a small creature could capture a human even in a swarm so that meant they probably were intended to disable them while the real raiders came down to pick up the cargo. So he had some time to watch and to see just what the raiders intended. Why capture the humans? Slavers? Batarians would pay a high price for good quality human slaves. He frowned; well if that was their goal then they would be in for a very nasty surprise.
Right about then, one of the afore-mentioned humans burst in, wild-eyed and messy haired. He looked like he'd been running.
" Prof!" He gasped, relief clear on his face. " I thought they'd got you too. We gotta get outta here, man. Those things are freezin' everyone in place."
The man nodded, so they were simply there to stun prey. The raiders would doubtless be down shortly.
He turned to face the man - Frank who worked down in the mechanics. Good kid, not too smart but had a feeling for machines. Probably never really make it as a high-level engineer but the colony was low-tech enough for him to live his dream.
Frank had tears streaming down his face, " They just came in, through the windows. At first we thought it was some swarm of local bugs but then everyone started to freeze. Just freeze in place, and I was terrified. And they kept coming. I tried to run but they came after me, I couldn't hide and I was so scared. So scared. Then this big bug thing comes through and tries to shoot me! I nearly didn't make it, the little things hounded me all the way here. We gotta get out of here prof. We gotta run now."
The professor was silent; bug-thing? That sounded almost like a Collector. He'd seen pictures of them when he worked on high-level projects on Earth. But why would Collectors be here? And why abduct colonists? They'd never been violent before. Things didn't match up. He hated it when that happened.
" Professor? Gerald?"
Ah yes, Gerald. That was the name he'd taken back when his own name was too hot. He'd chosen it because it sounded dull. Good old Gerald, always working, never taking a break. Not to imaginative but he never stops and you can count on him After the heat had died down, he'd changed his last name back to what it was originally though. He wasn't sure why, it was dangerous but... perhaps even he was allowed to be sentimental sometimes?
He looked out the window; the swarm had settled now. His residence was quite a bit away from the main housing (He had always liked his privacy) and the reputation for being eccentric this had attained him had been useful on several occasions. Now it had spared them from most of the swarm. Those that had followed Frank were rapidly finding out that, though his residence looked like a fairly standard colony habitat; it was anything but. Useful thing, paranoia. Still; he'd watched long enough. It was time to actually do something.
"Frank, stay here. You'll never outrun the horde and this place is probably the safest on the planet anyway."
"Professor are you mad? Look at those things! We'll never make it out, will we? We're all going to die..."
Gerald smirked, it was such an un-Geraldlike action that Frank was snapped out of his misery for a second.
"Just do what I say and you'll be safe. Stay here."
Without another word, Gerald stepped out. The tiny swarming insects sensed prey and buzzed angrily, biting at him. He felt a hot jolt of pain, but as he had expected, nothing else. This only seemed to confuse the insects farther; they bit and stung but he refused to be frozen like the others.
Frank's horrified face appeared at the window, his voice was just auible.
" Professor are you mad? Professor where are you going? Turn around you fool you'll be killed!"
Gerald's smirk never left his face as he started towards the centre of the colony, where the raiders would be grouping the new slaves.
" I'm not going far Frank," he said, "Just down to meet the new visitors. I think there's a few rules I should tell them about."
And as the stinging swarm obscured him from sight, Frank might have sworn that, for just a moment, Gerald shimmered and his skin became like bony-plate coloured black. But his logical mind quickly dismissed such a transformation as preposterous.
" Professor! Professor Mercer!"
Alex Mercer, code-named Zeus, walked through the swarm that was so helpless against him. And while he walked, he thought. It was a pity but he supposed he couldn't go on hiding forever. He'd quite liked life here but there were many other worlds out there. A new name, a new shape and who'd be any the wiser?
But first, he thought; as blades spurted from his arms. First he was going to give the Collectors a very nasty surprise.