The Last Stand
London, 2186

We are going to need bigger guns – Shepard, Mass Effect

"Lieutenant Storm, a salarian's requesting an audience," the runner reported. Like many in Admiral Anderson's resistance, he was young and, before the invasion, had never held a gun in his life. After weeks of fighting, though, he carried his sidearm as an extension of his body. First Lieutenant Hayley Storm, callsign Hailstorm nodded. Her reassignment to active duty status after three years in the private sector had come with an offer of a promotion to the rank of Captain, conveniently leapfrogging staff lieutenant, lieutenant commander and finally staff commander. "Yeah," humanity's first Spectre had nodded when told of the offer, "The brass is handing out promotions and commendations like candy." After a moment, she asked, "You accepting the promotion?"

Hailstorm had snorted, "Hell no. I got most of my platoon killed on Torfan. I won't be responsible for the lives of an entire company."

Shepard looked hard at the younger woman and even after weeks serving on the SR2 Normandy, the orange glow of Shepard's cybernetics gave Hayley the creeps. "What happened on Torfan wasn't your fault, Hayley. I read the after action reports. Your CO should have received a medical discharge well before then. He was code six." Hayley nodded and stayed silent. 'Code six' was Alliance shorthand for 'batshit crazy.' That Major Kyle had ended up leading a cult of disenchanted biotics years later as some sort of messiah only proved it. None of which made her actions at the time any easier to live with.

Hayley shook herself clear of her reverie and nodded to the runner. "Bring him over, Pryce."

The Londoner nodded, "Very good, Ma'am," and departed at a jog, his one size too large riot armour threatening to slip from his upper body. There are only two sizes in this man's army, the gruff NCO in charge of procurement had told Hayley during her first combat deployment. Too large and too small.

Two minutes later, Pryce returned with three squads of lightly armoured salarians. "Major Kirahee, Third Infiltration Regiment, STG. My men and I are at your disposal, Lieutenant," the lead salarian introduced himself, gesturing to the troopers behind him.

It was probably the lack of sleep given she'd been on her feet almost twelve hours but Hayley was certain she'd misheard. "Uh, with respect, Major, shouldn't I be taking orders from you?"

Kirahee shook his head. "Your people have been on the ground much longer than we have and they know the area. This is your world. We'll take our lead from you."

Nodding her acceptance of this – a salarian major from the vaunted special tasks group taking orders from a junior officer? Sure, why the hell not? - Hayley's gaze flickered over the salarians in Kirahee's unit. Her lips curved upward in a small smile as she took in one salarian carrying an M76 Revenant machine gun as though it weighed nothing. She nodded to the major. "How many of those guns do you have?"

Kirahee looked over his shoulder at the heavy gunner. "Enough to outfit a fire team, lieutenant."

Hayley's smile widened and despite the dark circles around her eyes and smoke-darkened skin, the smile turned her pretty features into something quite beautiful to behold. "Good. We can use them up on the firing line. The Reapers broke through our lines in the last push and we lost half of Third Company trying to push the bastards back."

Kirahee waved his men forward. "Commander Rentola will lead the fire team."

Hayley tapped at her omni-tool interface. "I'll upload the co-ordinates to your hardsuit computer, Commander." After a moment she nodded and raised a hand to the comm built into her helmet, opening a connection with the officer on the front lines. "Captain Reynolds?"

"What occasions the call, Lieutenant?" Reynolds answered. Tall and roguishly handsome, the marine captain cut quite a dashing figure in his brown coat. Every time she saw him, Hayley felt as though she'd seen him somewhere before. In a vid, perhaps.

"I'm sending up a salarian fire team to help patch the hole in your lines."

"Shiny."

Cutting the connection, Hayley turned to Rentola. "He'll be expecting you. Look for the guy in the brown coat." As Commander Rentola's squad departed, Hayley turned back to Kirahee, mentally reviewing the resistance's troop deployment in the sector. Pointing to a three-storey parking garage a half-klick away, she said, "Have your snipers report to Captain Leena. She has her asari commandos up there. Kirahee nodded and directed his troops as requested. As the salarian sniper team departed, voice tight with barely concealed panic cut across the tactical frequency. "Reaper forces have mounted a serious offensive at grid co-ordinates Bravo-Six-Echo. All squads, engage!"

Sliding the Mantis sniper rifle from its hardpoint on the back of her armour, Hayley nodded to the salarian major. "The rest of you, with me."

Jogging across the torn up pavement of London's streets and dodging around piles of fallen masonry, Hayley could hear the chatter of small-arms fire from the resistance fighters as well as the heavier crack and thump of the professional Alliance soldiers' weapons. Everything happening on the ground was purely a holding action, aimed at keeping the attention of the Reaper forces until the Crucible currently in high orbit could move into firing position. Hayley had no clue as to how a weapon fired from Earth, even something as massive in scope as the Crucible was rumoured to be could defeat the Reapers in every theatre of war but she had no choice but to trust Shepard.

Hayley glanced to her right; the salarian major was easily keeping up with her long-legged strides, she was glad to see. Arriving at the besieged flank of the Alliance lines, she activated her tactical cloak and slid into position at a bullet-riddled section of cover. "Impressive," Kirrahe muttered as he bunkered down beside her.

"I'd marry it if I could," Hayley replied. Taking advantage of the cloaking field, she rose from cover and took a few precious seconds to sight in on the most promising target – one of the reaperised turians Alliance Intel referred to as Marauders. All Hayley knew about them was they acted as field commanders for lesser Reaper forces and that their heads exploded nicely when met with hypersonic rounds.

Ignoring the smoke and mayhem of the battle raging around her, Hayley found what she was seeking and, steadying her breathing, gently stroked the trigger. The marauder toppled backwards, everything form the lower jawbone on up gone in a spray of gore. Heedless of its loss, the cannibals and husks pressed their assault on the Alliance position. Wielding his Scorpion pistol with practised ease, Kirrahe dispatched several of the enemy with the sidearm's signature adhesive explosive rounds. Hayley glanced at the major and smirked. "OK, that's just showing off."

"Heads up, Lieutenant," Kirahee said mildly as a husk, left arm gone at the shoulder lurched to within reach of their position. Dropping the rifle, Hayley drew her backup weapon, a lovingly customised Tempest SMG, released the safety and pulverised the former human's skull with a burst of shredder rounds. "God damn but I hate those things."

A cry of pain from further up the line came on the heels of a panicked shout. "They're all around us, man!"

Raising his voice to make himself heard over the din of battle, Kirrahe called, "Hold the line, men! Hold the line."

Cloaking once more, Hayley retrieved her rifle, ejected the spent heatsink and slid a fresh one into the receiver, cursing under her breath the committee responsible for implementing thermal clip technology in the first place. With the grim knowledge that supplies dwindled with every assault, Hayley took advantage of her armour's stealth capability and forged into no man's land, recovering what she could from the battlefield. One such foray had resulted in her claiming a Hydra missile launcher capable of firing warheads at multiple targets simultaneously. A gunner in Third Company's heavy weapons squad gleefully made use of it shortly afterwards, reducing an entire platoon worth of Reaper forces to a stain on the ground.

Presently, she sighted and fired several more times before her store of clips ran out, reducing her to her spray and pray weapon. Bringing up her omni-tool interface, she unleashed the incinerator unit integrated into her armour's left arm, immolating a group of husks. She shot a worried glance at Kirrahe. "How many more of them are there?"

He shook his head, "I do not know, lieutenant. This is it, their last push. Can you feel the desperation in the air?"

Instinctively, Hayley ducked behind her cover as yet more shots rang out.

Coming up once more, she offered up a brief wish to the universe at large Come on Shepard, make all this death mean something.

Author's Note

So here I am on the 'I played Mass Effect 3 and decided to write fan fiction' bandwagon. Let me start by saying what this story isn't. It isn't a 'novelization' of Mass Effect 3. And it isn't an attempt to address 'that ending'. What it is is a series of loosely connected chapters mostly revolving around an OC I made up some time ago, Hayley Storm. Those of you who have read Fade To Black will be familiar with her. For those who aren't read it. It's heaps good :)