Chapter 31: Old Soldiers
"Keep trying it! C'mon, you ugly son of a bitch!"
Vega lashed out with a vicious kick that sent the creature staggering backwards before emptying the remainder of his magazine into its face. With a final twitch it collapsed with a heavy thump at his feet. The last of them made a gurgling sound but was stopped in its tracks when a bright lance of fire sliced through its torso.
"They are mindless automatons. Your taunting is pointless," Javik said as he stepped over the corpse of the fallen thing, firing another quick blast into its head to ensure its demise.
"Yea, you say that. But I'm pretty sure this one looked pissed off before I turned it into hamburger," he replied.
"I highly doubt this."
"Based on what, your extensive experience fighting squid-faced zombies?" Vega shot back.
"Based upon my experience as a sapient being that was waging war before your kind had evolved beyond painting on the walls of caves with the extracts of fruit and your own bodily fluids."
"You're a real asshole sometimes, you know that Javik?"
The prothean looked at him, his quartet of eyes blinking once, slowly. His response as deadpan as always.
Vega shook his head and scanned the immediate area. It was littered with the corpses of half a dozen more of the strange husk-like creatures that had assaulted them within the first few hours of boarding Omega. His team had expected a firefight with Cerberus forces, not these fast and deadly cybernetic monstrosities, and as a result initial casualties had been severe.
There hadn't been time to dwell on the losses, however. The most frightening aspect of their new enemies was their ability to convert others to their cause. He had watched in horror as one of his fallen soldiers had seemed to come back to life, only to warp and change before his eyes. Muscle and bone had distended and the man's skin had blanched to that same dull gray tone shared by all the creatures.
After that they had adapted to the grim duty of ensuring none of their fellow soldiers came back as one of the enemy. To say it was hard on morale was an understatement. It had been Javik that had forced a change of perspective, snapping at the collected soldiers: instead of feeling 'useless guilt' at their necessary executions, they should feel anger and rage… and direct it at their enemy.
To his right a soldier pulled their side arm and emptied the magazine into the head of the fallen adjutant at his feet, leaving only a sticky smear behind. There was no question they had taken the alien soldier's urgings to heart.
"They will not attack this position again," Javik declared suddenly.
"What makes you think that?" James asked. "They managed to break through and we lost a man. We just don't have enough material to completely seal this corridor off."
The prothean gestured to their makeshift barricade already being repaired.
"The creatures have made two separate assaults at this barricade. On both occasions we were able to respond to the incursion in less than ninety seconds. The barricade will not keep them out indefinitely, but the narrow terrain will prevent deep penetration. It is a false weakness."
Vega kicked the headless corpse at his feet.
"And these things are going to recognize that?"
"Yes. They are not mindless. They have attacked our defenses at different positions and times. We are being tested, like a gnarsrick pack harrying its prey."
"No idea what a gnarsrick is, but hopefully we won't be here to be tested much longer. We've been held up here for two days. If everything is on schedule we're making the first push tomorrow."
"Good. I grow tired of waiting."
"Makes two of us, Eyeballs," Vega replied. "I hate all this standing around. I wonder what the hell Miranda and her guys are up to?"
"This cannot be happening!" Carmichael yelled.
"Oh, it's happening, Newbie," Jack said, smiling viciously. "And you're just going to have to sit there and watch."
Nyreen shook her head, mandibles quivering in mirth.
"You've got to know when to pull out."
Zaeed dropped the final card from his hand, creating a perfect fan of cards in front of him all with matching suits. Across the table Carmichael simply dropped his head into his hands and sighed while the grizzled mercenary raked the pile of chips from the pot into his already considerable pile.
"That's what… sixty thousand credits you owe me now, Kid?" the mercenary asked.
"Seventy thousand, four hundred and ten," Carmichael corrected glumly. "Which at least isn't quite twice the yearly average salary for a second lieutenant. Quite."
Just before the Reaper invasion seventy thousand credits would have been almost exactly one hundred and forty-three percent of a junior lieutenant's salary as far as Miranda remembered. It was an odd number to recall, but like most things once it was in her head she rarely forgot.
Around the hexagonal table was the majority of the team that had landed, or more accurately crashed, on Omega. Zaeed was the clear chip leader in what must have been a long game of Skyllian Five. Next to him, Jack's pile looked almost non-existent, but if she had to guess the ex-con wasn't playing with anything approaching a strategy. Their out of his element pilot was by far the worst off, though, as only half a dozen chips sat in front of him.
She was more surprised to see Nyreen present. The turian female hadn't exactly been overjoyed at their presence, but there she was, with a collection of chips nearly the size of Zaeed's. Miranda suspected their efforts the previous day had helped change her perspective somewhat. She and the others had left Aria to brood in the command center and done what they could to assist the various mercenaries and drafted citizens that made up Nyreen's Talons: shoring up defenses, minor medical aid, and even repelling an incursion by a pack of adjutants. It wasn't much, but it had appeared to at least make the other Talon's feel like they had finally received reinforcements.
"Aw, c'mon. I'm sure a pretty young thing like you can earn that back. Especially on Omega," Jack suggested, wiggling her eyebrows.
"She has a point. I heard there's a couple of Blood Pack heavy hitters that actually have a thing for humans," Nyreen mused, kicking her feet up on the table and leaning back.
"I am not getting bent over-"
Carmichael cut himself off when he stood and turned, noticing her watching from the doorway.
"Ah… ma'am," he finished lamely.
She ignored the embarrassed pilot and looked to Nyreen.
"I thought you'd like to know that I was able to access the internal defense system with Aria's help. We should be able to bring it online within the hour. The program I installed should be able to key into the Talons' encrypted channel to provide the IFF system the necessary data. Once it finishes compiling you'll have control of the bunker defenses."
"Aria actually let you do that?" Nyreen asked.
"Despite what she would like to believe, Aria T'lok is not in charge of this operation. I am. The Talons are the ones that have been keeping this portion of Omega secure. It only makes sense that your people should manage the continued defense. If you were going to betray us you would have already."
The turian nodded slowly.
"When you first showed up with her I thought you were just another one of Aria's patsies. You'd be amazed how good she is at getting powerful people to do her dirty work. I figured Shepard and his people wouldn't be any different. Aria's always the spider; everyone else is just stuck in her web."
"Ha!" Zaeed barked out as he slowly stacked his chips. "Last spider that tried to catch Shepard in a web got pounded harder than an asari call girl. Garrus told me poor bastard looked like he'd gotten run over by an M-35."
Nyreen's mandibles flexed for a moment, clearly nonplussed.
"Colorful," she said finally. "I would watch your back either way, Lawson. Aria doesn't take it well when people don't do what she wants. They tend to wind up with knives in their backs."
Miranda exchanged a glance with Jack before giving the turian woman a thin smile.
"I'm certain we'll be able to handle things. For now we have to concentrate on securing this station. Assuming you're done helping an already wealthy mercenary fleece a green flight lieutenant?"
"They're too damn good," Carmichael muttered.
"You do realize that turians have a greatly enhanced sense of smell compared to humans?" Miranda asked. "Unless you're an extremely practiced player she can literally smell when you're bluffing."
The younger man blinked and looked at Nyreen in shock. For her part the turian merely shrugged, looking satisfied with herself. Carmichael jabbed a finger at Zaeed.
"But… what about him?"
"Simple. He cheats."
"I never cheat!" the mercenary protested.
"And that's why your omni-tool is connected to the internal sensors?"
"That's not cheating… that's called a tactical advantage. Next time we should try strip poker, but only if Lawson plays."
Zaeed grinned and stood with his pile of chips, slapping Carmichael on the shoulder as he walked out of the room chuckling to himself.
The lieutenant stared after him, dumbfounded.
"That son of a bitch."
"That he is," Miranda agreed wryly.
It didn't take long to assemble the various members of their small team. Even with the assistance they had rendered to the Talons it had been entirely too much downtime for a squad that wasn't used to the lull. Miranda considered it a minor miracle that Jack hadn't started a single fight. It was a possibility, a slim one, that the ex-con had actually matured.
The briefing room at the heart of the bunker was impressive enough to give the war room aboard the Normandy a run for its money. A massive holo projection of Omega hung in the air at the center of the room. Every corridor, access shaft, and bolt hole appeared on the image each highlighted to indicate areas controlled by Cerberus forces, the few locations under Talon control, and the remainder of the station that was little more than an urban wilderness stalked by the adjutants.
"Looks like you've got every inch of this station wired," Zaeed grunted from his position leaning against the railing.
"Omega has always been mine. Petrovsky's temporary coup was just that… temporary," Aria said coldly.
Nyreen gave a raspy laugh and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Funny, it looked more like you got outsmarted and high-tailed it to save your own ass."
The asari's eyes flashed and Miranda could easily see her muscles coil like a snake preparing to strike. For her part, Kandros looked deceptively calm. Miranda credited her time aboard of the Normandy interacting with Garrus for noticing the way that the woman's talons continued to flex almost imperceptibly.
"Now you're Omega's patron saint? Don't make me laugh," Aria hissed. "I remember you liked-"
Miranda punctuated her statement with a burst of the slightest amount of biotic energy, causing all eyes to snap to her. For a split second the anger in Aria's eyes focused on her. A tiny crack in the Omega's queen usually flawless mask that revealed something truly vicious beneath. To the thugs, politicians, and sycophants that Aria usually dealt with such a look was likely enough to reduce them to stammering wrecks. Those people had never met the Illusive Man's icy blue eyes.
"Have you forgotten that this is not about settling your personal vendettas?" she snapped. "We are fighting a losing war. Every moment of every day our species grow one step closer to extinction while you worry about old grudges!"
To her credit Nyreen immediately snapped to attention while Aria merely smoldered in anger.
"You're right. Omega's citizens are my priority," the turian agreed.
"At least not all of the primitives of this cycle are oblivious to their approaching doom."
Javik's comment dripped with sarcasm even through the occasional bursts of static in the holo-transmission. A small representation of both the prothean and James Vega hovered on the secondary display to the right of the main viewer.
"Then let's get down to business," Aria said coolly.
These people were all a little insane.
That was the only logical conclusion Thomas C. Carmichael, Flight Lieutenant in the Systems Alliance Navy, could come to. It was a group of personalities that he had expected to see on some reality holo-program or years from now in a history vid about the war, full of 'facts' that later generations would always assume were exaggerated. Real people couldn't possible do the things they talked about in those vids.
It wasn't as if he was unaware of the enormity of the war. He had joined up as soon as the war had begun, his private pilot license putting him on the fast track to what passed for a flight school among the remnants of the Alliance fleets. In the months since, he had proven to be an excellent pilot, making landings in hot zones under fire from towering Reapers and their horrific footsoldiers. But he was not a marine; he'd fired the Avenger assault rifle stowed in the cockpit all of once since his initial training.
Until two days ago, that was. Suddenly everything was different. He had survived a crash landing with people that had served with none other than Commander Shepard, fought through a station filled with freakish monsters, and then was drafted into a mission to secure the entire station. A far sight from flying soldiers into combat, even if it usually was under fire.
Now he found himself gripping that same rarely used assault rifle tightly as he moved down a barely lit corridor deep inside Omega. His former lightly armored flight suit had been replaced by a vastly superior combat armor courtesy of the Talons. And all of this while walking next to Zaeed Massani, a name that every colony kid that ever dreamed of being an adventurous mercenary had heard for the past twenty years.
"Proper armor feels better, don't it?" the older man asked, breaking Carmichael out of his musings.
He shifted from foot to foot, adjusting the fit.
"Mostly it feels heavier."
"Should, means it'll keep your ass alive. Kinetic barriers are great, but a quarter inch of steel coated in ballistic polymer will keep all of your guts in the right place when someone gets a lucky shot off," Zaeed explained, thumping the scarred metal over his own chest.
"That's good… I like my guts where they are," he said and glanced at the rifle in Zaeed's hands, finally working up the courage to ask a question that had been bugging him. "What's up with that rifle anyways? I'd figure a famous mercenary would be able afford something better than this Alliance standard issue stuff."
Massani's expression went through a complicated series of emotions. For a brief second it looked almost offended, which immediately sent a jolt of adrenaline through Carmichael's blood stream. Then it morphed into amusement before finally drifting into something that actually looked like… happiness. It wasn't an expression that looked natural on his weathered face.
"You just had to asking about the fucking rifle," Jack groaned.
"Her name is Jessie. Best damn rifle any man ever had, and she's not standard issue. Least not anymore," the mercenary said, voice thick with pride as he held the weapon out like one might display a prized pet.
The gun was covered in scratches and the lettering on the barrel shroud had long since been worn away by armored hands. Only the shinier areas where the metal had been burnished by constant wear were really distinct from the overall matte finish. The most generous descriptor that Carmichael could think of would be to say that it had 'character'. Zaeed, though, was oblivious to his skeptical look.
"Same frame as the M-8s, but underneath the guts are pure M-7. None of these damn thermal magazines everyone loves so much these days. She's hard as nails and she'll put rounds down range as long as your hands can squeeze the trigger, accurate on the thousandth round as she is on the first..."
"Goddess, Massani. It's a rifle," Aria snapped irritably over her shoulder. "For a man with your reputation such a sentimental attachment is… disappointing."
The older man fixed her with a glare from his one good eye.
"She's a partner, the one thing a man can rely on when everything else goes to hell. A man's gun will never stab him in the back to get a bigger share. Or try to take him to bed so she can roll him in the morning for his credits. You'd know all about that, right?"
Aria made a rude gesture that Zaeed immediately returned before turning her attention forward once more. They were making their way through one of the unmapped tunnels that led away from the bunker. Each junction was sealed with heavy doors that had thus far kept out any roaming adjutants. Once they reached the exit point the plan was to activate the automatic defenses and use the ensuing chaos to hopefully escape notice by both Cerberus and the adjutants.
"Long story short, the man loves his fucking rifle," Jack added. "I should know. Get some alcohol in him and it actually gets worse. Only time I ever wished I was back in cryo was having to listen to this old bastard drone on about that gun."
"This is a goddamn piece of art," Zaeed insisted.
"Last time I was on the Normandy it was a non-functional piece of art," the ex-con countered. "Can't believe the fishbowl got it working again."
"Yea, Shepard's quarian is a little genius. Thought I'd finally hit a peak after I got to watch Vito get offed but she came through!"
"She should have made you empty your accounts to pay for it, you sentimental old man," Jack teased.
The mercenary chuckled and settled the rifle on his shoulder.
"Nah, just made me promise to stop asking Shepard if all quarians were as feisty in bed as the one I met a few years back. Bastard was always so tight lipped but I figured he'd spill eventually. Getting the old girl back was worth it, though… always said I'd give anything for one more mission with her."
Carmichael kept his mouth shut and kept walking as the pair spoke, doing his best to absorb all of the information without gawking like an idiot. In the space of five minutes he'd not only learned about the most prized possession of the galaxy most notoriously hard-hearted mercenary and bounty hunter but also had listened to the pair practically confirm one of the most salacious rumors from the extranet about Shepard having a relationship with his quarian crewmate.
His poker face apparently wasn't as perfect as he thought. The pilot turned infantryman felt a hard jab to his side, looking to see Jack staring at him. The look in her eyes was enough to make him forget all about the fact that there was an extremely good chance he was going to die in the next few hours.
"I see that stupid look on your face, fresh meat."
"I… uh.. look?"
"Yea, that 'oh shit' look people get when they hear some crap and then want to look all disinterested like they didn't even hear it. Get stabbed in the back enough and to learn to spot that shit," Jack said bluntly. "You're not one of those Terra Firma fucks that's going to lose their shit because you heard 'quarian' and 'Shepard' in the same sentence, right? Because if so I'm pretty sure if I fragged you here it wouldn't really hurt our chances on this mission too much."
He simply blinked, not sure how to respond. All the while warning sounds were going off in his mind telling him that there was a chance that the tattooed woman would actually kill him. There hadn't been too much about Jack in those exposé shows that pretty much every Alliance soldier had seen at some point… but what little there had been usually contained words like 'convicted murderer' and 'unstable'.
Miranda's voice made him realize that he had stopped walking and instead taken a step back against the wall.
"Simple question, Cheerleader. Of course you're Cerberus, so-"
"Ex-Cerberus," the dark-haired woman snapped and took a step forward. "And if you have to know, Thomas Carmichael is definitely not a member of Terra Firma. In fact, he's a registered member of the Progressive Expansion party, has voted against three Terra Firma candidates since turning eighteen, and dated an asari for… three months."
Fear had now changed to confusion. Or at least confused fear.
"How the hell did you know about that? That was like… four years ago! And it's not like I posted flyers!"
"As I just said, ex-Cerberus," she replied dryly and held up her omni-tool. "And while I might not work for them anymore I have no problems with using their information. I make it a point to know the people I'm working with, that includes the pilot of my shuttle."
The pilot sighed.
"Every time I think this mission can't get any weirder the universe proves me wrong."
"Learn to expect the unexpected, Mr. Carmichael. Come on, you've just earned your spot on point with me."
Zaeed chuckled once more, a not particularly nice sound.
"Away from the fury and into the arms of the ice queen. Nice work, kid."
Not about to be accused of failing to learn from his mistakes Carmichael didn't rise to the bait and instead stepped past Aria and Nyreen to take up a position at the front of their small column. They walked in silence for a time before, despite his better judgment, his curiosity got the better of him again.
"So… I was kind of wondering…"
Miranda gave an exasperated sigh.
"Why did you bring on this mission? I'm like… barely qualified compared to the rest of you. An ex-military turian biotic, Zaeed freaking Massani? Aria T'Loak? That's not even counting you and er… Jack. You're all pretty much legends at this point."
"Legends?" Miranda asked, tone sounding almost amused.
"Well, I mean if you ask almost any soldier in the Alliance, Shepard is like… like the second coming of Christ meets Batman. First the Terra Nova incident, then the Battle of the Citadel. The crew of the original Normandy is the most well-known but after Shepard came back you couldn't turn on a news feed without some reporter trying to track him down."
He waved his free hand in a vague 'everywhere' direction, speaking excitedly.
"Whenever someone got a new image or news report people went nuts trying to find out who it was that had been seen with Shepard. There were entire extranet boards dedicated to trying to dig up info on everyone. I saw a mugshot of Jack, actually. Nobody could really find anything on you. One of the big theories was that you were Shepard's intelligence handler and that you two were an item…"
"We were what?"
He stumbled under the sudden ice glare directed at him.
"Ah… just an extranet rumor. You know how people are on forums," Carmichael coughed, rapidly changing the subject. "The point is if you asked anyone from the pilots to the marines to the grease monkeys they'd say that you were all nine foot tall immortals with wings."
"If only it was that simple," Miranda said absently.
"I get it, you're not actually supernatural warriors or anything. But compared to me? I'm a pretty tiny fish in a really, really big pond. Like… massive pond."
Her response came with a barely perceptible shrug, as if the decision to include him was as normal as putting on one's shoes at the start of the day.
"It's very simple. Your basic training scores were better than average, marksmanship especially. After the crash you performed surprisingly well under stress despite your lack of actual experience. Most importantly every piece of information I have indicates that you are extremely loyal to the Alliance."
"Of course I'm loyal to the Alliance!" he replied incredulously, quickly lowering his voice before continuing. "Why would I not be loyal to the Alliance? We're fighting a war against the genocidal robotic spaceships. It's not like we have to pay economic repercussions or learn a new language if we lose. We lose and everyone is dead."
"Exactly my point. It doesn't even occur to you to look for some personal advantage. Do you think Aria is here because of the war effort?"
"She's just as dead as the rest of us if we lose the war."
She gave him a look, the quiet exasperation now mixed with bemusement.
"I'd forgotten how the blissfully ignorant go through life. To certain people power is a drug, stronger than any dose of red sand. They'll do anything to obtain it. Once they have it they can't survive without it… no matter what the consequences are."
"That's insane," he replied, glancing back worriedly.
"Now you know why you're here, Lieutenant. In some situations loyalty is more valuable than expertise. Everything I have here says you're capable and uncomplicated. That means I shouldn't have to worry about you shooting anyone in the back."
"I guess it's nice to be appreciated for my banality."
That actually earned him a faint quirk of a lip before Miranda's expression lapsed back into the same dispassionate stare he'd seen for the last few days. All in all he considered it a minor victory. Under normal circumstances most men would have been happy to wind up in his situation. Not one but three beautiful women, high stress situations… it was like a holo-vid written by the same hack that had directed Citadel.
What that particular director had apparently not realized that beautiful did not equate to friendly. Aria T'loak was an infamous criminal overlord. Rumor had it that the 'Pirate Queen of Omega' was responsible for more deaths than the entire First Contact War. She had said barely a dozen words to him since their ill-fated landing. Something told him that it could have been worse.
That left Miranda and Jack. Of the two Jack was technically the most friendly, but he was quickly coming to realize that the tattooed woman's friendliness was a razor edged thing, one that could very likely be plenty dangerous on its own. She'd been the one that had insisted he join into their impromptu skyllian five game after all.
"We're here," Miranda said, causing him to skid to a halt.
Ahead was a continuing corridor, :the same tarnished, dirty metal that had marked the entire stretch of the tunnels. The only distinguishing feature was a round access hatch on the ceiling and indentions in the wall itself to use as footholds to reach it. Miranda activated her omni-tool, bathing them in an orange glow.
"This is Hammer Actual, we are in position. What's your status, Anvil?"
"In position and ready to get to work," a voice responded over the comms a few seconds later. "Cerberus forces on alert, but they're keeping their heads down."
"Copy that. Activating stage two in thirty seconds."
He heard Jack chuckling behind him.
"I like where Vega's heads at."
"Let's hope he keeps it on this mission. Nyreen, are we ready?" Miranda asked.
The turian nodded, her own omni-tool flaring to life.
"Bringing the auto-turrets online now. Bunker One… active. Bunker Two… active. Bunker Three… active. Wait… Bunker Four. Bunker Five? Bunker Six? What the hell? I only knew of three but I've got six defense systems that just activated."
"Guess I forgot to mention those," Aria said nonchalantly.
"Forgot to mention them?" Nyreen snapped. "Those auto-guns punch through military barriers like its glass! If there are any civilians nearby they'll get shredded before they can even react!"
"And any Cerberus forces will be just as surprised, along with adjutants that might be in the area. The confusion will disrupt Petrovsky's forces even more. Leaving us with easier access to the station core."
The turian woman's voice was a sibilant whisper.
"We could have sent squads out to secure the perimeters, warned the civilians away!"
"And led Cerberus straight to the other bunkers, just like you did with the other three? Now they won't know where is safe and where isn't. The first squad that stumbles into one of those hot zones will get dropped before they can even radio a mayday," Aria replied, a dark smile on her features. "You've been playing guerilla with Cerberus for months now. Time to learn how it's really done."
Miranda stepped between the two women for the second time in so many hours.
"We don't have time for this. Nyreen, no matter what course of action we take there are going to be civilian casualties. They could have been minimized with forewarning… but it's too late for that now. We have to move. The auto-targeting systems should trigger any second."
As if on cue Nyreen's omni-tool began to bleat ominously, a monotone warning coming a moment later.
"Hostile targets detected. Initiating defensive protocols."
Carmichael closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. When he opened them he found Miranda giving him a level stare.
"Are you ready, Soldier?"
And the discussion was over. Nyreen activated the escape hatch and pulled herself out. In the distance he could already hear the staccato report of the autoguns coming to life. With a pounding heart he let the rifle drop to hang by its sling and scrambled after the turian woman.
Panicked cries and a thunderous storm of weapons fire signaled that the defensive turrets had come online. It was music to Vega's ears. He looked back at the assembled marines and pumped his fist.
"Anvil Actual to all squads! Go go go!"
Like an armored tide, dozens of Alliance soldiers emerged from cover and surged towards the Cerberus fortifications.
"I hope these damn IFF updates work on those autoguns!" he yelled to Javik as he ran.
"If they do not, it will be a very short offensive," the prothean replied calmly.
Javik punctuated his statement with a shot from his particle rifle, catching one of the Cerberus troopers that had managed to actually maintain his composure in the throat. Others were finally catching on to the new threat, and scattered fire streaked out from the barricades. Around him flashes of bright blue sparkled like fireworks as rounds impacted against kinetic barriers.
Petrovsky had dedicated a significant amount of his forces to securing Aria's various bunkers around Omega, rightly assuming that if the Talon's were able to gain access it would only further fuel their resistance movement. Nyreen's base of operations represented the one area that the Cerberus general simply didn't have the manpower to crack. Even without the automated defenses that were now active it was located too deeply in territory overrun by adjutants.
What better way to gain Cerberus' attention, then, than to uproot them from their heaviest strongholds outside the so called 'safe' zones that the majority of the station's civilians were restricted to?
The worried yell from one of the lead marines was punctuated by the mechanized soldier unleashing a volley of rockets at the nearest automated turret. A brilliant explosion left only a warped pile of scrap behind while the other automated gun hammered away at the Atlas' layered kinetic barriers.
Vega slapped the marine on the back and gestured to his right, barking out orders.
"Keep moving! Designated marksman, target the intakes on its back. Provide cover fire for your heavy guns and don't let it get a bead on you!"
"Sir!" the marine replied.
Fire lit up the vehicle's flank while its pilot dispatched the remaining turret. The pilot seemed unconcerned at the volume of fire, standard assault rifle rounds were like throwing darts at an enraged varren when it came to the Atlas, but that quickly changed with the loud boom of an anti-material rifle joined the higher pitched chorus of rifle rounds. The heavy round punched through the Atlas' barriers and gouged out a chunk of armored viewscreen.
"Get down!" Javik yelled, catching him in a full tackle.
A heartbeat later a long burst of fire ripped through the air where he'd been standing. Another soldier wasn't nearly so lucky, his spun by the impact of the high velocity rounds before crumpling to the floor. To his left a second Atlas mech stomped into view.
"Where the hell did they hide two of those fucking things?" Vega snarled, firing off a burst from his own weapon in the second Atlas' direction.
"Our enemy anticipated an assault," Javik replied. "The machines were likely concealed within transport pods that have been sensor dampened."
Both men rolled to their feet in time to see an explosion tear through the ranks of the soldiers trying to bring the original Atlas down. Dropping into a crouch they took what cover they could behind a power generator. Marines were trying to keep their heads down, but inside the barricades that Cerberus had erected there was little cover and with the pair of assault mechs they were quickly being boxed in.
"Mierda," James hissed and triggered his comm channel. "All Anvil squads, focus fire on the primary Atlas and bring it down!"
"Leaving the remaining mech for us?" the prothean questioned.
"Exactly. Shepard has apparently taken one out solo. One jarhead and a biotic prothean warrior should make it easy, eh?"
"Your confidence is admirable. Likely the misguided hubris of an underdeveloped species that has evolved to believe in their own invincibility in the face of certain death. But admirable. The machine's exposed intake is a poorly protected weakness. A proper application of biotic force should cause it to detonate."
He sighed and slapped a fresh magazine into his weapon, giving Javik a look.
"This means the monkey gets to be the distraction."
"It is a task for which you are singularly evolved," the prothean replied.
Another burst of fire raked their makeshift cover, sending a shower of sparks shooting into the air as the rounds tore apart the generator's internal mechanisms. Vega clenched his jaw and leapt from behind their cover, giving the trigger of his machine gun a long pull. Rounds tracked up the Atlas' body as the recoil carried the barrel into the air. His drill instructor would have been furious at his lack of firing discipline but then he wasn't exactly going for accuracy.
"Take a good look, you terrorist fuck!" Vega yelled and fired off another burst.
He could already see Javik running at the corner of his vision. The prothean wouldn't need long to get into position, but the Atlas' spinning chaingun that was quickly lining up on him wasn't exactly playing into his timetable. Javik said keep its attention… he'd never had a problem getting attention before. When in doubt, do the unexpected.
So he charged. Running at full speed toward the Atlas he could see the pilot inside jerking the controls to bring the mech's main weapon back into line, all while the mech's barriers took a constant barrage of fire from Vega's machinegun and the other nearby soldiers that had turned their attention to the armored titan. The whirr of the Atlas' chaingun spinning up was his cue that he was out of time.
"Man… I hope this works," he muttered and activated the subroutine on his omni-tool listed as 'Grunt'.
The burst of fire was timed perfectly with the flash of light from his barrier generator as it sucked power from virtually every other system in his armor and dumped into all into the shield emitters at once. For a brief few seconds the marine was seemingly encased in glowing white light. The long trail of fire from the Atlas' weapon impacted against his augmented barriers like a wave crashing into a rocky shore.
It still hurt like hell, though. The barriers dissipated and spread out the force of the impacts but to Vega it was still like being pelted with a hundred baseballs thrown by the fastest pitchers in the national league. Unable to keep his feet under the battering he instead dropped into a roll, sliding across the tarnished deck plating.
The glow faded and red warning lights flashed across Vega's HUD. His shield emitters were fried, repeating the same mournful sound that told him that his only protection now were the ballistic plates of his armor. He felt the vibrations through the deck plating as the Atlas took a step closer: it loomed over him, bringing the spinning chaingun to bear.
He met the glowing eyes of the Cerberus soldier behind the viewscreen and barked out a laugh.
"Not this time, Cabron."
Vega reached down and yanked the shotgun from where it rested on his hip, activating it in the same motion. He leveled the weapon directly at the Atlas' cockpit and pre-loaded the chamber, one of those tricks he'd picked up from Shepard's crew of misfits, and fired a massive blast that was enough to stagger even the mech's heavy frame for a second.
A second was all Javik needed. Behind the Atlas, his prothean ally rose, wreathed in crackling biotic energy. Either by some innate sense or a warning from the mech itself the pilot within must have sensed the danger, but it was far too late. A torrent of dark energy lashed out from the prothean warrior, slamming into the Atlas' exposed reactor intake and easily shattering its weakened barriers in the process. The screams of tortured metal filled his ears as the mech staggered forward from a secondary explosion within its frame.
Vega had barely managed to roll aside before it collapsed forward in a ruined heap. He looked over his shoulder to quickly assess the progress of the battle only to find it mostly over. The other Atlas was slumped backwards, the cockpit shattered and covered in blood. A few feet away Javik landed with far more grace than he had and moved to stand over his fallen form. Much to his surprise the prothean extended a hand.
He took the offered aid and exchanged a simple nod of acknowledgment with Javik. For once he didn't really have anything to say. Instead he turned back to the rest of his men. Medics were already moving to tend the wounded and the others had raised to rifles skyward in victory. Behind him he heard the sound of cracking glass.
A quick glance over his shoulder revealed a battered Cerberus trooper crawling out of the Atlas' shattered cockpit. The man never even made it to his feet. Without turning Javik drew his sidearm and fired a single shot. The trooper slumped to the ground. Vega nodded once more and activated his comms.
"Anvil Actual to Hammer. Bunker is secure. We've kicked the hornet's nest… it's all you now."
He received the acknowledgment almost immediately. Vega smirked and looked at the gathered soldiers.
"Alright you grunts! We kicked Cerberus out of his patch of land, are we just going to give it back? Set up a defensive perimeter! Charlie Squad, crack open the bunker; rearm everyone. We've got fifteen, max, before Cerberus sends a response!"
They'd just played the warm up game. Now it was time for the playoffs.
Exhale, squeeze, release. Exhale, squeeze, release. Each repetition was the same, the mechanical sounds of the rifle operating and the flash of the muzzle, recoil pushing back against his shoulder. Carmichael fired another burst into the nearest adjutant, finally catching it in the head, and did his best to ignore his pounding heartbeat.
"You've got it down, kid. Half second bursts, track your targets. Time your reloads for when they drop," Zaeed's gravely voice instructed beside him.
The mercenary's own bursts of fire were more precise, tightly grouped, but to Carmichael's surprise he was getting it. Even as the adjutant collapsed into a heap, one hand left the foregrip of his rifle, pulling a fresh thermal clip from his belt and ejecting the spent one. The first few times he'd fumbled to slot the magazine in place; this time it slid home perfectly. His M8 hissed for a moment before his ammo readout sprang back up to full.
Zaeed fired again, one burst at the last adjutant's left knee to send it to the ground. The next turned its head into a pulp. His scarred face was twisted into a grin as he lowered the rifle, patting its frame like a beloved pet. If Carmichael didn't know better he'd think that the mercenary was enjoying this.
"Clear," Miranda replied more quietly, followed by an echo from Aria and Nyreen.
Around them lay the corpses of over a dozen adjutants, dark ichor staining the rocky floor. They were deep within Omega's core now, into the area of the original construction where the station's power source was housed. The entire thing was a rat nest of tunnels and dead ends, but Aria appeared to know exactly where she was going. When the attack had come it had been sudden and nearly overwhelming, adjutants rushing them as soon as they reached one of the many intersections within the station.
"These things shouldn't have been here. No civilians in these tunnels," Aria said, pumping a few rounds into one of the creatures that was still twitching. "There are failsafe bulkheads all through the old mining network that always remain locked."
"Unless someone with control of the station's computer system released the locks. Oleg Petrovsky is a pragmatist. He can't control the adjutants directly but he can direct their movement by forcing them in our direction," Miranda replied grimly.
Nyreen's talons flexed in agitation.
"Meaning we're going to have more of these things on the way?"
"Probably," Miranda agreed. "We need to get to the reactor. How much farther, Aria?"
"Not far. Half a klick of tunnels left and then we'll have our hands wrapped around Omega's heart."
A long, warbling groan echoed throughout the tunnel. First one and then others. Jack looked around and shrugged.
"Sounds like it's time to run our asses off."
No one argued. The final stretch was taken at a barely controlled run, it seemed no one was interested in fighting more of the things in close quarters. They all knew how just how dangerous the adjutants could be. He'd watched in horror as one of the fallen Talon's hard begun to warp before his eyes when they'd helped secure the bunker the day before. It was a fate Carmichael didn't wanted to consider.
The pilot didn't know if the others worried about the same things he did; seeing them in action hadn't done a great deal to dissuade him from their status as walking legends. Each of them moved with precision, purpose in every step. All three of the biotics seemed to routinely perform feats that he'd always thought were the providence of action holos. And Zaeed, with no biotics to speak of, more than kept the pace.
So far, he at least had managed not to screw up. Carmichael could feel the fatigue hiding beneath the flood of adrenaline in his system, but he refused to let it affect him. He wasn't going to be the one that slowed them down. As long as he could continue to ignore the aching in his muscles at least.
Finally they rounded a corner and found themselves in a much larger room that hummed with the sound of machinery. The cylindrical cavern stretched upward while the area immediately around them seemed to be the control room. Tarnished steel replaced dark brown stone and numerous consoles glowed with life.
He blinked and looked up to see a massive power generator. It had to have been at least ten stories tall, built directly into the asteroid itself.
"Holy shit," he muttered.
Aria looked over her shoulder at him and smirked.
"What did you expect? This station is over forty kilometers long; the mass effect field generators to create the artificial gravity and deflect any stray asteroids in the field use more power than an asari dreadnought… and they're usually only running at a third of max power."
"Yea, big fuck'n reactor, got it. Now what? Those things aren't going to wait for us to make up our minds about what we're doing," Jack growled.
"Don't worry, now it's just a matter of taking back control from the source," Aria said with a roll of her eyes. "Cover me and I'll hack into the main power systems."
"Zaeed, Carmichael, Jack. Cover the entrance. I'm going to try accessing the station systems through another of the terminals to speed up the process," Miranda ordered.
The mercenary grunted while Jack replied with her characteristic rude gesture, but that was apparently par for the course as everyone moved into position. Carmichael took a moment to check his ammo stores, finding half a dozen magazines left, and grimacing. Based on some quick mental math he'd already burned through over half his ammo
"Don't tell me you've blown your load already, kid," Jack said behind him.
"I've got six left, plus a full one in the rifle," he snapped back irritably. "And I'm not a damn kid."
He'd spoken without thought, nerves feeling suddenly frayed as the adrenaline left his system. Looking back he half expected to turn just in time to catch a biotically assisted punch to the face from Jack, but instead the tattooed woman was merely smirking at him.
"Guess not. But when you've been doing the shit we have everyone seems like a kid."
"You're all goddam kids," Zaeed said, spitting on the ground and keeping his gaze fixed towards the entrance to the generator room. "I've got bottles of whiskey older than both of you."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"Fuck, don't apologize now. I was just starting to like you," Jack shot back.
Carmichael sighed and tried to rub the bridge of his nose, only to remember he was wearing a helmet. If he wasn't constantly worrying about dying the entire situation might have been hilarious. Unfortunately the low groaning sound of the approaching adjutants was like a bucket of ice water on any humor he had. He didn't know how the rest of them managed to stay so level headed.
"Look alive, kid. We're about to have company," Zaeed said. "Wish we'd brought the damn bug. Even if it is ugly as hell."
"That bug is the only reason the rest of Spear squad was able to take their objective," Miranda said over her shoulder, fingers flying across the holographic keyboard. "Ashley's confirmation said that there were two Atlas mechs waiting at their bunker as well. She and Liara took one down, Sings-Fury actually took the other apart by itself."
"Yeah, well Spear isn't trapped in a confined space about to be filled with a bunch of fucking squid-faced husks."
"We're almost in."
"Hope so, Princess, cause our friends just arrived for the party," Jack shot back.
The first of the adjutants cleared the tunnel in a loping run, followed by half a dozen more. From the sound of things there were plenty more on the way. The heartbeat that had finally steadied suddenly pounded loudly in Carmichael's ears as he raised his weapon and fired. His burst was long, the recoil stitching a line from the creature's thigh to head.
"Keep it together!" Zaeed barked. "Long as we keep them in the killzone we can keep them in check!"
"On it," he replied through gritted teeth. He shifted to the left and braced himself against one of the consoles, using the flat surface as a rest for his gun to help steady his aim.
A shockwave of biotic energy from Jack bought them a few precious seconds, slamming into the lead adjutants and sending the others sprawling. Carmichael timed his shots to alternate with Zaeed, forcing himself to think of it just like one of the hundreds of video games he'd played growing up. Jack lashed out with another surge of energy, this time literally tearing one of the creatures in two with the blast.
"Anytime now, Cheerleader!" the biotic yelled.
A mere second later there was a loud humming sound followed by a resounding clang. It took a few heartbeats for him to realize that the entrance to the tunnels was closed, having slammed shut with sufficient force to sever an adjutant's arm that had been halfway through.
"Wow…" Carmichael said. "Thanks. That was really good timing."
"That wasn't me," Miranda said, voice tense.
He paused and slowly turned around, the source of the humming sound readily apparent. A glowing barrier divided the room into quarters along the edges of each console, shading everything on the other side of the barrier in the same bright orange. The pilot quickly realized that he was cut off from the others: the barrier in the center separated him from Miranda, Aria was trapped in another quadrant, while the other barrier terminated at the edge of the console that Zaeed, Jack, and Nyreen had been using for cover.
"If it wasn't you then who the fuck was it?" Jack demanded.
"Do not blame Operative Lawson for your current circumstances," a voice behind him said.
He found himself turning again, this time to see a half sized image of a man glowing on the console. The man in question was dark haired with a thick goatee that matched. His uniform appeared stiff and impeccable, prominently adorned with Cerberus' emblem.
"True, she has led you here and it is always a commander's responsibility to look after the welfare of those that serve them," the man continued. "But in this circumstance matters were outside of her control."
"What do you want, General?" Miranda asked.
That explained who they were dealing with. General Oleg Petrovsky, the commander of the Cerberus forces on Omega. That much had been in the briefing he'd received, now Carmichael wished he had paid more attention. Instead he'd simply assumed that he would be sitting in a boring yet comfortable cockpit waiting for their return.
"I would like to end this wasteful conflict, but I know you, Lawson. For all your talent and pragmatism you are stubborn. In many cases that has served you well," the general said, his voice conversational. "Shepard's resurrection shouldn't have been possible and anyone else would have given up… but now that stubbornness is a liability."
"What the hell are you on about, you wanker?" Zaeed growled.
A small smirk tugged at the corners of the Cerberus officer's mouth.
"Your actions have reduced this station to chaos and further depleted my forces… I applaud your efforts, I underestimated your strike team's capabilities in the absence of the famed Commander Shepard."
Petrovsky made a sweeping gesture with his hand, continuing to speak.
"I have made the decision as commanding officer that Omega is no longer a tenable position. The adjutant experiment is clearly out of hand and with the Alliance fleet present this location is too large of a target for the Reapers."
Miranda crossed her arms and fixed the hologram with an icy stare.
"Then surrender. You are not a man prone to martyrdom, General. You will be treated fairly as a prisoner of war."
"A generous offer, Operative Lawson. But not one I am ready to take. I have one for you instead. Place your weapons on the floor and remove the heatsinks. I will send a team to take you into custody," Petrovsky said, inclining his head at her. "Your own forces are too depleted to stage an effective military coup even with support from Kandros' Talons. If you agree I will provide safe passage to all non-essential personnel. Obviously yourself, Subject Zero, and a handful of others will have to remain in custody."
"What if we don't?" Carmichael heard himself ask.
The Cerberus officer's attention turned him and he saw a look of mild surprise. Petrovsky appeared to look away from the projector, likely at another screen, before speaking to the young pilot.
"Ah, Lieutenant Thomas Carmichael. A surprising choice on Operative Lawson's part… I would have expected her to consider you a liability. Yet here you are, instead of on the front lines of one of the Alliance's costly assaults on my fortifications. Interesting. As for the alternative it is quite simple. I have control of the barriers and door systems that are keeping the dozens of adjutants just outside from slaughtering each of you and warping your flesh into their disgusting form. If you do not agree to my terms I can simply disable those generous protections."
"Go f-" Jack began.
"General!" Miranda said loudly, cutting the convict off and ignoring the heated glower that was immediately directed at her. "You have been a great asset to Cerberus and a staunch defender of the human race, but you must see that Cerberus has become corrupted. Occupying Omega? And I can only assume these adjutant creatures are yet another experiment that has gone too far."
"We all sabotage ourselves in various ways, Ms. Lawson. Perhaps mine is my loyalty to Cerberus, but I was given a mission and I am a soldier. I will carry that mission out to the best of my ability. I will ask you a final time, do you accept my offer of surrender? We both know that I cannot promise gentle treatment, but I assure you I will honor my agreement to allow your remaining forces safe withdrawal."
There was a long moment of silence that grew heavier with every passing second. Carmichael swallowed heavily, glancing back and forth between the opposing forces. Neither Petrovsky nor Miranda wavered until something odd happened. The dark haired woman glanced to her right at Jack and actually gave a faint smile.
"Then for once I think I can agree with Sub... with Jack," she said calmly. "Go fuck yourself."
Miranda slapped the console next to her and Petrovsky's hologram froze for half a second with an expression of surprise on his features before dissolving into static. The smile on Miranda's face disappeared immediately as she opened her omni-tool and turned to the nearby console.
"We don't have much time," she said. "I uploaded a small virus to the console while we were speaking. It will immediately self-replicate to fill all of the available system memory and assert itself as top resource priority."
"What does that mean to normal buggers?" Zaeed asked.
"It means I bought us a minute at most before Petrovsky can reassert control of the system and deactivate the barriers to allow the adjutants in. I've got that long to find a way to get us out of here."
He was doing his best not to panic, but as seconds ticked by Carmichael shifted from foot to foot. The shadow across the door seemed even more ominous that it had been before as the silence allowed the moans of the adjutants to carry through.
"I found the system root!" Aria replied. "Fuck!"
"What's wrong?" Miranda asked.
"The root only accepts commands from the main terminal. I have read access, but I can't make changes. The home terminal is… son of a bitch. It's his!"
He suddenly found himself subject to the asari's intense stare.
"Carmichael, look at me!"
The pilot's attention snapped to Miranda.
"I need you to focus, take a deep breath, and do exactly as I say. Open the terminal behind you. I will walk you through the process."
He took a deep breath and turned to the terminal, activating the system and staring at the screen. Step by step Miranda guided him, her voice a constant, level tone. Rather than thinking about the pounding of the adjutants outside Carmichael focused on the sound of her voice. It was just like fixing his grandmother's extranet terminal. Follow the instructions, don't screw up.
"Anytime now," Aria hissed.
Nyreen clucked her tongue behind him.
"He screws up and we're just as dead, Aria."
"I think I got it!" he said when a new screen opened showing a simple, blinking command line.
"I've sent the command string to your omni-tool, enter it now," Miranda instructed.
His fingers flew across the keyboard, pausing only to double check his work. The pilot was about to hit enter when the terminal flickered and Petrovsky's image appeared once again. The older man's expression was still stern but he didn't look quite as collected as he had before.
"Wait! If you activate that command you will be killing thousands!"
Carmichael's finger stopped, hovering over the key.
"What?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"You are accessing the station's entire power grid! The command Operative Lawson has provided will initiate a complete reset of the internal systems," the General explained in clipped tones. "By entering that command you will not merely disable the barriers around your current position but across the entire station!"
Petrovsky made a sound of frustration.
"The barriers are currently the only thing protecting the civilian population under Cerberus control from the adjutants. A soon as you complete that command then those protections are gone. My troops will be forced to withdraw. Operative Lawson is using you to commit mass murder, Lieutenant!"
He looked over his shoulder, knowing it was the truth the moment he saw Miranda's face. There wasn't even a look of guilt there. It just looked more like resignation. She nodded slowly and spoke.
"General Petrovsky is correct. If you disable the station's power grid it will cause all of Cerberus barriers to go offline. It will take time for those barriers to be re-activated."
"We saw what those things can do! What they turn people into…"
Carmichael stared at her, nonplussed.
"And you… you just don't care?"
"She was the Illusive Man's right hand, Lieutenant," Petrovsky interjected. "You do not rise to that position in an organization such as ours by virtue of mercy and kindness. Death is a commodity traded in freely by those in power."
Miranda took a step closer to the barrier, ignoring the Cerberus officer as she addressed him.
"You talked about legends, earlier, about us. Shepard. His crew."
"What does that have to do with any of this?" he snapped.
For the second time he saw the woman smile, but this time it was different. It wasn't amusement or even spite, but rather the same expression he remembered when someone was about to tell him something painful. The same look of a doctor delivering the news of a terminal illness to a patient.
"Because this is the reality, not the legend. Where you're standing right now is where all of your legends have stood before. Commander Shepard. Everyone in this room" she said quietly. "We have all condemned people, innocent people to death. Because we believed it was necessary to save the lives of many more. Because there was no other choice."
"There's always a choice…"
"You can give up... but if you do then all those that died on this station meant nothing. The mission we were sent here to complete fails. Very possibly the entire war that we are fighting for is lost. Because the actions we take effect the lives of millions. Billions."
"I am asking you to make a choice that you shouldn't have to," Miranda continued. "And for that I am sorry, Thomas."
"And I am trying to save the lives of civilians and the soldiers on this station, Lieutenant. I have read the same files Ms. Lawson has on you," Petrovsky countered. "You are an intelligent young man who understands the value of human life. You come from an honest family,: farmers and settlers of Eden Prime. People that would not want to see innocents die for the sake of one woman's stubborn refusal to yield."
Carmichael clenched his hands into fists and tried to still the shudders that were running through his body. He was being asked to decide the fate of thousands of people. Not just the dozen souls that he dropped into war zones, but women and children. How could people just decide if people lived and died at the push of a button?
His hands scratched at the edge of his helmet. It felt as if he was trapped in a tiny box, everything tightening around him until he couldn't breathe. Finally he found the release with frantic fingers and pulled it off of his head, bending over and sucking in a deep breath. The pilot looked up at Miranda desperately.
"How do you know? How do you know that it's worth it?"
Two responses came one after the other, but not from Miranda.
"It's math," Aria said coldly. "A thousand die, two thousand live. You make your bet and hope that you come out ahead."
The other came from Nyreen, simpler and much more somber.
After a few more moments Carmichael nodded, forcing himself to look at the holographic image of Petrovsky.
"Maybe you're right, General. It could all be for nothing."
To his credit the older man's expression didn't betray any hint of triumph.
"Heroes save lives, Lieutenant," the Cerberus officer assured him with a nod. "You can still lay down your arms and I can promise you safe passage from this station."
"I also learned something from that honest family of mine. My father always said that if I had a choice between right and easy I should never hesitate."
Carmichael reached out and pressed the final key on the command. Immediately the console cut out, barriers dropping and lights all plunging them into darkness in the seconds before the glowing red emergency lights sprang to life. Somewhere in those few seconds he found himself bent over the console, trying to throw up the stale rations he'd eaten for the last few days. And maybe everything else he'd ever eaten in his life.
He heard steps behind him but didn't look up until a hand came to rest on his shoulder. Forcing himself to stand upright the pilot saw Miranda give him a nod of encouragement in the dim red light.
"Now you know what heroes actually do. It was the right decision. Now grab your rifle and let's move. The power to the doors are out which means it won't take long for the adjutants to gain access. We have to be gone when they do."
"Just like that?" he asked, wiping his mouth against the back of his hand.
"Just like that," she said, the sympathetic expression he'd glimpsed a few moments before replaced by the same business as usual look. "We still have a mission to complete."
"This way," Aria said behind them. "We can force the door on the east side open, from there it's a straight shot to Afterlife."
Then everyone was moving while he fumbled to get his helmet back on, trying not to think of what was happening elsewhere on the station. He took up his position at the back while the biotics wrenched the door open. He looked to Zaeed next to him, the man casually holding his rifle.
"So what now?" he asked, not even sure what answer he was expecting.
Zaeed looked at him and shrugged.
"You keep on living. Until some random shit takes you out. Or if you get real lucky you find something worth kick'n the goddamn reaper in the balls for and you get to choose the time and place. Til then… you just keep on living."
Carmichael swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. He'd keep on living. Because in the end it had to mean something. It couldn't all be for nothing.
I'm still kicking! It has been an interesting few months but I hope you enjoyed the continuing adventures on Omega, with a little of a fresh POV. As always thank you for the reviews and support, feel free to drop me a line on my website as well just follow the link on my profile. I also took a look at the tropes page after having not paid attention for awhile and you guys have definitely been busy!
Until next time!