Shepard had to give the Staff Sergeant credit, the man was thorough. He ordered a few men to pry open a few crates, and while they contained more weapons, they also contained some odd smelling bars (rations, Shepard would guess) and what looked like a flat tablet display. The Saboteur added that to the pile of stuff to take to General Williams.

Once the five minutes were up, the platoon saddled up. Harris was assigned to carry the bagged alien corpse, while Ruiz, a marauder, was given responsibility of carrying the alien weapons and technology.

Shepard went up ahead and scouted once more, but the last half kilometer walk looked like it wasn't going to be anything exciting. All they had to look forward to would be a steady view of metallic walls of differing levels and a few lights popping on once in a while. Of course, it didn't mean he was going to relax. His platoon might encounter some fighters or maybe they'd have alien ships drop off more troops at them, and he'd be damned if they'd fall into an ambush.

However, in the end, there was no ambush and no hostiles. It was all relatively quiet until they reached the edge of the terran base.

Shepard could see an overarching dome of a bunker hidden behind the wall. When they got closer, he noticed three more marines up in the wall. They had their weapons trained at them. He paused, and raised a hand, giving them the terran signal that they weren't hostile.

They didn't signal back, radio or otherwise. There was a moment of tense silence and Shepard used that to note the slight color difference of the central block of the barricade. It appeared that the barricade was made from those modified design of supply depots that had been repurposed as a defensive barrier.

"They sure are taking their time, sir," Martinez suddenly spoke, interrupting the Saboteur's train of thought. He spared a glance at his Staff Sergeant, and gave him an assuring smile.

"Don't worry, Martinez. We're still allies, last time I checked," Shepard replied. He paused as his comm-link began to receive an incoming transmission.

"Identify yourself."

"There we go," Shepard muttered before he transmitted back, "Lieutenant Sheperd, UTS N7 SpecOps. Requesting permission to come inside."

There was another moment of silence before a block of wall burrowed down, giving off a pneumatic hiss.

"Go right ahead. Our Captain is in the Command Center. Keep your weapons safely out of the way. Anything funny, we shoot you down, understood, Lieutenant?"

"Roger that," Shepard replied, and took a look at Martinez. "Heard that, Staff Sergeant?"

"Yes, sir," and Martinez turned to the whole company and shouted an order.

The marines lowered their weapons across them, taking a neutral but ready stance. Shepard led them inside, passing through the bunker, glanced towards the UED marines and marauders pointing their weapons at them and then scoped out the defenses of the base as they got deeper inside.

They were pretty basic. They had bunkers behind the reinforced walls, supported by a few marines and longbolt missile turrets. Near those bunkers were supply depots, so soldiers wouldn't walk far once their ammunition or rations were depleted. The base was solidly defended.

Still, Shepard couldn't help but feel a bit unsatisfied. He had been in the front lines in the Second Great War and he had seen the magic of the terran defense line; the almost wall-like line of repurposed supply depots protecting bunkers, heavy hitting siege tanks with the bunkers or on higher ground while battle hellions patrolled the area in case the enemy began dropping units from the air, or a stop a sneaking nydus worm once it popped from the ground.

Still, the defenses were as standard as it went. The base only had an orbital command center and two barracks with tech reactor attachments. A little further in, he could see medivacs, special ops dropships, and three banshees grounded. Shepard hoped the pilots were resting in one of the barracks and not dead. The absence of a starport or a factory indicated that infantry was probably the only real defense this base had. No long range artillery, no superior air power.

Still, whoever in charge of the base wasn't just twiddling their thumbs. The barracks were bustling with activity as troops moved around and the tech reactors appeared active, indicating the automated system inside were making additional CMC armor for whatever personnel they had available. Around the barracks were squads of marines, medics, and marauders (though no Firebats Shepard noticed) marching across the open space being ordered by their assigned squad leaders.

Walking to the middle of camp, they attracted the attention of UED soldiers. They whispered amongst themselves, stealthily pointing curious fingers at them. Even squad leaders seemed interested; Shepard and his platoon had quite a crowd following them as they got near the command center, where the Captain was waiting outside for them.

Shepard gave him sharp salute. "Thank you for having us, sir."

The Captain looked at Shepard for a moment, and then slowly saluted back. "Captain Warrick, UED Marines, twenty-fifth and sixth. Not to be rude, Lieutenant, but I want to know what brings an UTS N7 Operative to our backyard."

"Re-assigned, Captain. My platoon and I were to land planet-side and start training volunteers and rookies. Unfortunately since we got rude visitors, Admiral Horner and General Williams told us to get our asses here."

The Captain relaxed a bit more. "Alright, Lieutenant. Welcome to my base. Now, what the hell is going on out here? We've lost communication planet-side, receiving odd signals now and again, can see two battlecruisers lighting up space, and I had word that some sort of light armored hostiles were trying to check our defenses. Are we at war again with the protoss?"

"No, sir, not the protoss. Heck, not even the zerg," Shepard replied. "New species."

Warrick huffed. "New species, new fight. Wonder if that's going to become a prevalent theme of human history."

"Wouldn't know sir. All I know, if they win, it may never happen again."

The captain chuckled, and looked at Shepard's platoon. "So what do we know of these new aliens?"

Shepard called in Harris and Ruiz to them. The marine threw the bagged corpse not so gently to the ground and the marauder spread out all the weapons they had gathered. They promptly retreated back to formation, and the third medic (Shepard never really caught her name) approached the bag, and slowly opened it.

The alien that Shepard had shot was revealed to everyone, earning gasp of surprises and shock amongst the UED forces. Warrick frowned, and kneeled near the corpse, extending his gloved hand and touched its face, opened its eyes, and touched a few droplets of blood near the forehead, rubbing it between his thumb and index finger.

"My word," was all he said.

"What we know so far is that these aliens are using highly advanced mass effect technology, and have been applying it on both large and small scales," said Shepard. "They also have some kind of shields on their fighter ships as well as on their ground personnel." He pointed at the guns that Ruiz dropped. "These are the weapons we recovered, along with what I think is a computer. We were hoping we could get all these to General Williams."

"I still have a few dropships here. We can assign one to you, so you can bring it to the General yourselves," said Warrick.

"Thank you, sir. Also, I was wondering if you could connect me to the UTS base in the platform. I have orders to deploy their fighters to help the battlecruisers out there."

The captain looked at the lit space, and grinned. "They look fine to me."

"This is just the beginning, sir. There may be more coming in," replied Shepard. "Worse, we don't have solid info regarding their numbers."

Warrick nodded. "Alright. Why don't you have your men resupply. We got some spare combat shields they could use and have our engineers see if they can provide some offensive upgrades as well."

Shepard saluted. "I'd appreciate that sir."

The Captain spoke to some of his men, and pointed towards the newly arrived platoon, while Shepard related the Captain's offer to Martinez. Soon, Warrick's men began to guide the Staff Sergeant and the rest while Shepard followed the Captain inside the orbital command center.

"So, did they attack first, or were did we?" Warrick asked as he led Shepard through the building, clearing him through the command bay.

"Does it matter, sir?"

"Just want to make sure we're on the right, Lieutenant," the Captain replied. "Leaves a less bitter taste in the mouth knowing that."

"They attacked first, though as always, it could be a misunderstanding," said Shepard.

The Captain led Shepard into an elevator. "Didn't we have some sort of AI program to minimize situations like that?"

The Saboteur shrugged, and felt the slight shift in movement as they climbed up. "They could have been offended by the program."

"Who gets offended by a soft spoken Adjutant?" Warrick shook his head. "Fekking aliens. Ah, here we are."

The Operations Room of the building looked up to standard regulations. The ring of transteel windows surrounding the room allowed anyone a complete view of the surroundings outside the building, but instead of a raised platform in the center, there was a large holographic table that displayed a map of the orbital platform.

In the lower left area of the hologram, he noticed large green icons scattered in an area, while on the upper center, he could see a large yellow icons as well, with some small yellow icons moving around them. Shepard also noticed that there were red exclamation marks coming in from the edges of the right most area, and a few smaller red marks that would appear and disappear as fast as it came.

Warrick must have noticed Shepard looking, and explained, "Whole orbital platform have built in sensor arrays. It allows us to see enemy movement. We're the green ones. UTS are the yellow ones, and the red are unknown, though we can consider them hostiles now."

"Amazing," the Saboteur replied. "Only within the platform, though?"

"Yup. Problem is the hostiles are getting smart. We lost signals from some of our sensor arrays. Still can see a good part of the platform, but unless we make them back off they'll slowly blind us."

Shepard blinked, and checked Warrick's base again, making note of the various numbers. "You're preparing for a push."

Warrick nodded. "Once they try coming at us with good numbers and get put down by our defenses, I charge in with as much soldiers as I can muster and put the bastards down fast. But so far, we're getting just a handful of scouts that retreat when we do some damage."

The Saboteur had seen it before. It was a staple strategy; put a solid defensive line while building a powerful ground force to push the enemy back, and sweep them out. It wasn't his style, though. He was more of a believer in finding inherent weaknesses on enemy troops, position and strategy, hammer it with a mighty blow and move on before they could react.

And from what he has seen, he felt that while the captain's strategy might work that it would be of limited use against the new enemy.

"Captain, while the approach is sound, the enemy may be thinking along the same lines. We suspect the enemy is advancing here in insurmountable numbers and coming here I came across the enemy establishment. They were building their forces, probably to overwhelm you," Shepard noted.

Warrick huffed. "Really? Good thing you cut 'em off prematurely. Wish we were assigned some factories, though. Could do some real damage with battle hellions, so we wouldn't be playing so defensively."

Shepard looked at the captain. "Sir, why weren't you assigned factories? I imagine at least of a few of your troops must have some kind of vehicle training. Even if it's just doing time on a vulture to get the basic certification."

The man snorted in reply. "Vultures? Please don't tell me you guys are still using that rickety metal death trap."

The Saboteur shrugged. "General Raynor favors the machine, and has been trying to improve its safety system."

"Good luck with that. As for your question, Lieutenant, while I do have some trained personnel and pilots, I don't know why they didn't assign us factories or starports. They said we didn't need it. Platform itself is incomplete, and plans on expanding our roles here were put on hold. Personally, I think they want all the factories planet-side to dissuade the protoss settlement from attacking them."

The Saboteur blinked. "We're allied with the protoss, Captain."

"The Alliance was only established a few years ago. Granted, it's been going good for all of us, but the fact is that not everyone is as assured as you are, Lieutenant. The UTS may have fought side by side with the protoss, but there are still a lot of folks back on Earth, even in my own company, that think the whole Second Great War back on Koprulu sector may be some sort of conspiracy to take over the UED. You know, assure them of an alliance and when nobody's looking, BAM."

Shepard felt his temperature rise, before he forcibly calmed himself by taking some deep breathes.

"With all due respect sir, they are wrong. I fought the in the Second War. We lost millions of people fighting hybrids and zerg, and I have fought shoulder to shoulder with our protoss allies. We spilled blood together. To think it was just a ploy is insulting to the memories of the brave people who gave their lives to make sure we won the war."

The Captain raised his hands defensively. "Lieutenant, you're preaching to the choir. I believe you. And I'm not trying to insult anyone."

The Saboteur looked at the Captain before gave a slight nod. "I apologize for the outburst, sir. Just. . . confused why some would think that."

"Considering how drastic the policy of the UED government has changed with the past few years as well, it would make anyone with half a brain worry and form conspiracy theories. But enough of that topic. We can worry about later," Warrick replied.


"Good. Now, let's see if we can get you connected to Yellow Base."

Shepard blinked. "Yellow base?"

"Easier to recall using colors," Warrick shrugged. He turned his eye slightly upwards and called "Adjutant?"

"I am establishing connection to remote Adjutant 567-325. Authorizing access to port 456-900. Connection established. Opening transmission line to remote Adjutant."

Warrick smiled. "There we go. Now let's get those-" and he was immediately cut off when an alarm rang out.

"Warning. Transmission being scrambled. Connection lost."

"Well, what the hell?" the Captain turned to one of the men typing away in their consoles. "Hey, Slane, what's going on?"

Slane, a bald man with spectacles, didn't seem to take his eyes off his holo-screen or his fingers off the keyboard. "Something is scrambling mid and long-range signals. It's reading off like the long range scramblers out in space, but localized. Hostiles might have brought a jammer here on the platform."

"Probably hoping to cut all communication lines completely," said Shepard. "Whatever is scrambling our signals in space wasn't too effective. General Williams was still able to deploy his battlecruisers to meet up with the scouting fighters. A local signal jammer would create total radio silence for Shanxi."

"Slane, can you isolate the signal jammer on the platform?" asked Warrick.

"Interference makes it hard to pinpoint, but. . ." Slane began to type faster. "We're in luck. Jamming signal targets large and complex signals. I was able to send a few feelers out. If these numbers are correct, then rate of signal dispersion is concentrated on these coordinates."

With a final push of a button, the holographic table displayed a big orange circle around a central area, which showed up blank on the holographic map.

Warrick blinked. Then his eyes widened. "But. . . impossible." He raised his eyes. "Adjutant, what's the status of the high orbit satellites in Shanxi?"

"Operational, Captain."

"Adjutant, see if you can connect us to any one of them. Prioritize closest one and see if we can do a scanning sweep of the area."

"Sending command protocol. Adjusting transmission signals. Compensating for signal dispersion."

Warrick leaned down the holographic table, unconsciously biting his lower lip.

"With the scrambler in place, would we even be able to connect with a satellite?" Shepard asked.

"Command protocol for a scan sweep is a short and simple. If Slane's right, then there's a chance that it could go through."

"Satellite SHX09 accepting protocols. One moment please. . . data downloaded."

"Yes," Warrick gave a slight sigh of relief. "Put it on display."

One of the windows blinked as it began displaying a vid-file. Shepard frowned as he saw an operating base bigger than the one he had destroyed earlier, with hostile soldiers in greater numbers.

"Good God," muttered Warrick. "They destroyed the scanner array in the central area without us knowing."

Shepard continued to eye the vid knowing it only lasted ten seconds before it started looping again. The base was surrounded by higher ground platforms, though farther from the center of their base. Any advantage on using the higher ground wouldn't be as effective. Worse, the aliens were using them defensively in an effective manner.

Using the space between the platforms, they built walls at chokepoints, guarded with gun turrets that looked heavy enough to devastate CMC armor. And these walls weren't made by the crates he had seen earlier, but reinforced metal constructs. It had a door that opened up like an old drawbridge, and behind those walls were squads of soldiers for reinforcements.

Taking it on would be suicide.

The Saboteur scanned the higher platforms, checking to see if there were any ramps that could get them inside the base, avoiding the defensive walls. The closest platforms near the UED base had only one ramp, and that was covered by a gun turret as well. Any force coming through that way would be bottlenecked, then cut down to size by the crossfire.

Worse still, the base had a lot of troops. Shepard stopped counting after forty, but if he could guess, he was looking at a company of soldiers.

Warrick pointed at a tower with a boxy construct as a base. "I'm guessing that is our scrambler."

"Seems to be, sir," Shepard muttered. "Do you have those new WMD missiles I heard you guys were developing using mass effect tech? Heck, sir, I'll even take the old style nukes."

Warrick looked at the N7 Operative, and shook his head. "All silos are planet-side, Lieutenant."

"No siege tanks either, I'm guessing. Heck, I'd give anything to get a squad of Reapers for a distraction."

"You're not seriously thinking of taking down that base. . . are you?" Warrick asked worriedly.

"Not the base sir," Shepard pointed towards the jamming device on screen. "Just that, though even then it's not going to be a simple matter. Number superiority, dug in defenses and the jamming tower is at the center, completely in view to anyone in the base."

"Can't you cloak and sneak in?" asked Warrick.

Shepard chuckled slightly. "Yeah, but I wouldn't reach the jammer tower before my cloaking field went down. I could get it back up again in a few seconds, but by that time, they'd gun me down. Unless of course the appearance of a human in their base shocks them enough not to shoot in those seconds then they'd deserve to lose that tower."

"Huh," the Captain muttered. "Heard stories how Ghosts and Spectres had that new cloaking technology that would keep them invisible at all times."

"Unfortunately, I'm not a powerful psionic so those nifty psi-enhancers and augmenters would be wasted on me," the Saboteur shrugged. "I opted to use modified energy stores that use any type of energy, mostly solar and heat energy, to recharge quickly, allowing me to use my cloak often. Problem is cloaking drains them fast, so I can't keep the field up indefinitely."

Warrick rubbed his chin. "Okay, so sneaking straight to the tower is out. Maybe if you could take out the one leading them, distract them, or take down their morale?"

"These hostiles are very well disciplined. I did the same tactic coming here, and took them a few seconds to recover. The second in command stepped up to leadership quickly, and the enemy lost little cohesion. They were still able to respond well enough to defend their base until I. . . uh, cheated."

"Would it be possible to cheat again?" Warrick asked.

"Not without your help, captain," Shepard replied. "It's a numbers game. No matter how many tricks I can pull, my platoon can only take so much. They'd overwhelm us without support." He looked at Warrick. "Your support, sir."

The Captain looked at the Saboteur for a moment, and looked back at the vid file they were able to obtain. His face turned grim at the prospect. "What do you have in mind, Lieutenant?"

Martinez was the first one to greet Shepard outside the command center. He gave the Lieutenant a salute, which the latter returned.

"How is the resupply going, Staff Sergeant?" Shepard asked.

"Combat shields have been attached to the marines. Medics are checking out if their stim packs are compatible with our medi-gel," Martinez replied. "Were we able to contact the UTS base, sir?"

"Nope. Aliens put up a localized scrambling signal," Shepard replied. "Worse, they setup right between the UED and UTS bases."

"So, same drill as the last one?"

Shepard looked at the Staff Sergeant, and sighed. "No. Not this time Martinez."

He then explained what they were able to obtain from the vid file the satellite had sent. He gave defense details of the base, its surroundings, and the number of soldiers they had. Martinez listened intently, only interrupting with a few questions to get more details.

"So, frontal assault is out . . . a distraction then, sir?" the Staff Sergeant asked.

"Yeah, Staff Sergeant. A distraction," Shepard replied, giving him a small smile. Martinez seemed to be suspecting what the plan was, and he hated what he was going to say next. "We need a team to distract enemy movement, and hopefully draw them away while Captain Warrick's marines come up to the two closest walls. I'm going in, and do what I do best; sabotage and open the walls so they could rush in."

"Once inside, enemy will be fighting on three fronts, and we'd overwhelm them. Sounds solid," Martinez finished. "I am guessing my team will be the distraction, sir?"

"With a few other units that will reinforce you, yeah."

The way Shepard said it made the Staff Sergeant blinked, and gave his commanding officer a smile. "Sir, we're marines. It sounds like a job for us."

"I know," Shepard sighed. "I just wish I had a better plan, Staff Sergeant. If blood will have to be spilled, I want it spent wisely. And your team is much more valuable than to be used only as a distraction."

"Sir, we were originally assigned to train FNGs planet-side. Now we are waging war on an unknown alien, defending an allied colony instead. I'd wager my pay that the platoon prefers what we're doing now," Staff Sergeant saluted. "You tell us where to go, and we'll go. I'll keep them alive."

Shepard saluted back. "You're a good man, Staff Sergeant."

"Thank you, sir. When will the operation start?"

"Twenty minutes. Relate to the platoon what needs to be done, and meet me back here," Shepard said.

"Giving another speech, sir?" Martinez asked.

The Lieutenant laughed. "Oh hell no, Martinez. Filled my quota for rousing speeches for today."

Martinez smiled back, and went on his way leaving Shepard once more alone on his thoughts. He placed his hand over chest. He couldn't feel it, but he knew the vid-snap was still there. It was slightly silly, but he felt it strengthened him, strengthened his resolve.

He watched as Warrick's men began to move. He spotted a UED medic and a marine carrying the alien body and the acquisitions Shepard and his platoon made to a dropship. He had convinced the Captain to bring everything to Williams just in case, and once it was loaded he watched the ship take off towards the planet.

A few more minutes later, Martinez had gathered the platoon back to Shepard. All of the marines had the new M9A combat shields attached to their shoulders, and lit green lights on their forearms indicated they were carrying a full supply of stim-packs. The marauders had the same as well. All looked prepared and fully armed.

He checked their faces, hoping to get a read on them. They kept their expressions steady, but the air was rich with only one thing: excitement. Martinez seemed to be right. The soldiers were looking forward to their mission. The only ones looking worried were their medics as they seemed to be rechecking their supplies of medi-gel.

It made the Saboteur half-wonder if they were the only sane ones in the group.

"Glad to see you're all looking forward to this," Shepard stated.

"No better seats in the house, sir," Jenkins advised.

"And we get first blood as well. It's like a damn buffet for us, Lieutenant," Ruiz advised.

"All we can eat. Those who leave leftovers buy us drinks," Harris exclaimed.

Shepard stood straighter. "Tell you what, Private. You guys come home alive and first round's on me. Is that understood?"

The soldiers looked at each other, and their smiles widened. "Ooh-rah to that sir!"

The medics didn't seem reassured. Hale was looking the most worried as she came forward, and asked, "Sir, permission to speak freely?"

Shepard looked at her, and frowned slightly. "Go ahead, Hale."

"Sir, you can get better armor from the engineers," the medic advised. "Staff Sergeant advised us what the plan is. You're going in hostile territory alone, with no support."

"Hale, shut it," Santos muttered, turning to face her fellow medic.

"I'm just worried . . . sir," Hale continued, ignoring Santos' glare.

Shepard gave the medic a slight nod, and raised a hand towards Santos, indicating it was fine. He walked in front of Hale. "While I appreciate the thought Hale, I've been trained to sneak in hostile territory undetected. And besides, do you know what will keep me unseen behind enemy lines? My cloak? No. It's all of you." He moved back from Hale, and looked at his platoon. "The longer you keep them distracted and the more effective your distraction maximizes my odds of survival, maximizes our odds for victory."

He looked at the medic again. "You want me to stay safer, Hale? Do your jobs. Do it right. That way we can fight the bastards again in another day. That way, we can all get to go home and enjoy well-spent credits, drinking a cold one."

Shepard pointed towards the medivacs being prepared. "Now, people, let's move. Our transport is waiting."

The soldiers shouted another 'ooh-rah', and Hale bit her lip, but nodded as she followed Santos to their assigned transport. Martinez had that knowing smile as he joined Shepard on the way to their transport.

"No speech huh, sir?"

The Saboteur rolled his eyes. "I got caught in the moment."

"Wish I had a notepad, sir. Could get good material out of you," Martinez grinned.

"Oh shut it, Staff Sergeant, and let's do our job."

"Aye-aye, sir."

It took a few minutes before the medivac announced they were on the first drop point. They took a longer route to avoid the hostile fighter ships, and with no scouts ahead all the pilots could rely on were their eyes and the shaky and almost unclear transmission coming from the UED orbital command center.

Shepard made sure his rifle was secured in his hands as the cargo door opened. He heard Martinez wishing him luck. He didn't know if he replied back. He jumped out and heard the rushing air as the gravity tube worked its magic. Landing lightly on the upper platform, he checked his position relative to the map he got back at the UED base, and made his way forward.

His platoon was still transmitting, having done a hard comm-link earlier. Martinez was doing a roll call, and some were humming the tune of Ride of the Valkyries.

HUD displayed heat signatures. Shepard cut off the audio from his comm-link, leaving him only with his breathes and beating heart. He activated his cloak as he approached even nearer towards the signature.

It was a soldier. He was standing guard on top of the ramp that led down to their base, and he was alert, eyes scanning the area.

Shepard was tempted to take him out now, but didn't. He approached, his were footsteps silent and almost inaudible and took his place just a few meters from the enemy soldier's left. His cloak would hold out on him for at least another twenty seconds, enough time for his team to be in place.

So he waited. Five seconds pass. He noticed the enemy soldier was still alert, body straight, highly disciplined. The Saboteur found himself curious on how he'd react when it hit.

Another five seconds pass, and Shepard finally heard it. The high pitched whirl of high speed rotors and a slight pitch and whoosh of sound as cloaked Banshees rushed in towards where his platoon would land. The soldier caught the sound, and his mandibles moved as his eyes searched for the source of the noise.

He wouldn't spot it. Banshees rarely came in hostile territories announced. But once they make their presence know . . .

The ground suddenly shook as a spectacular explosion rang through the air. Shepard could feel the air superheat as a line of fire was produced, cutting a swath of hostiles, hitting some of the gun turrets as well.

He activated his comm-link again, just in time to hear Martinez shout, "Alright ladies! Whatever it takes!"

"Feel the thunder!"



With the fires, Shepard made out the two medivacs in the air, and his platoon jumped out. They landed and began to take formation as the enemy moved in against them as the cracking sound of shots fired rang through the air.

The soldier guarding the ramp seemed to have been called in, and began to rush down the ramp, joining up a squad as they began to charge towards the humans.

"Legion Formation! Legion Formation!"

Shepard's cloak finally faded as he watched the marines began to form a straight line, shields forward, covering each other. Their rifles were exposed on the spaces between the shield-wall, firing rapidly at the incoming foes. Sometimes, a pair of marines would move their shields fast enough for a marauder to launch his grenade, earning another spectacular explosion.

They are doing fine, Shepard told himself. He stood up, reactivated his cloak and readied his sidearm and knife as he descended down the ramp. There were still soldiers around, probably a fire team left to defend the area. Only one was the real threat; the one behind the gun turret.

He crept behind the soldier and shot it in the head.

It was . . . different, seeing it up close. Blue blood spurted out, its smell more metallic then human blood, in all directions. The soldier fell on its knees, and slid to the ground, unmoving. The others were in shock, frozen for a few seconds before they moved.

Too slow, Shepard thought as he aimed at the closest soldier and pulled the trigger.

The enemy shouted in pain as it was hit in the chest. More blue blood flowed as it was stunned back before the N7 Operative shot again, keeping the alien down for good this time. Shepard released his cloaking field, giving the last alien standing a good look at him for a split-second before throwing his knife.

The alien dodged it, distracted for a second, just enough time for Shepard to cut the distance, and slammed the butt of his gun to its head, felling the alien. He then aimed at its downed head and shot twice.

There was no time to check for his handiwork. There may still be a few fire teams in place. Activating his cloak again, he made his way to the first gate, and studied the wall structure. There were three aliens on top of the wall, behind the gun turrets. They wouldn't be a factor. He then checked the support struts, and after a few seconds of consideration began putting D9 charges in specific locations.

"Harris, you're out of formation! Get back!"

Shepard frowned, and moved a few meters away before he detonated the charges. The explosion took out the supporting rods, sending the whole wall down. The aliens fell as well, crushed by the crashing structure.

"This is Shepard. Gate one is open. Proceeding to gate two."

"This is - - Warrick. Copy - - Lieutenant. Sending - - boys in."

"Harris! Damn it, someone cover him! Santos! Marine's down! Need your magic here!"

"Watch out! One of them looks like they are carrying a rocket . . . ah, shit, shit, shit!"

"Disperse! Disperse!"

Shepard's step paused when he heard another explosion. And then, he felt himself rushing quickly towards the second gate. "This is Lieutenant Shepard, requesting some support for my platoon. I repeat, requesting support for my platoon!"

There was a pause before he heard a female voice advice, "We copy Lieutenant. Locking on approach vectors."

He could hear the whirl of rotors once more, and he didn't waste time as he met another fire squad. He took out his rifle, set it to semi-automatic and aimed at the closest of the four aliens before bursting a tightly grouped shot at its back.

"Weapons hot. Targets acquired."

"Remember ladies. Hit as many as you can."

"Yes ma'am."

The fire team looked at its downed comrade, and they all began to raise their rifles, their eyes useless as Shepard approached another one, and aimed at its head. With a pull of the trigger, the second one went down and immediately afterwards an electrical crackle warned Shepard that his cloaking field was going down.

Now exposed, the third aliens spotted him, and pointed his rifle towards the Saboteur, but it seemed luck was on his side as another explosion rocked the ground, causing the enemy to miss by inches. He rushed in while shooting, bringing alien down before he heard his rifle clicking, indicating he was out of bullets.

Only one was left. It aimed its rifle, and began to shoot at him. Shepard went flat on the ground, and used his initial momentum to slide towards a downed alien, grabbed its weapon, and sat up as he shot back. The kick wasn't as bad as he thought but for some reason, shots were more scattered than he liked. Still, his aim was good as most of the projectiles lined up perfectly to the target, but it took longer before the alien's shields went down.

In the end, the blue light faded as the alien was hit on the shoulder, forcing it to let go of its rifle. The alien's weapon Shepard had used was beeping and wouldn't fire anymore so he took out his side-arm and finished the soldier off with a last shot to the head.

As he reloaded his rifle and gun, he heard the steady hum and even pitch in the air indicated the presence of the alien fighters, and there were crack of shots, louder compared to the usual, punching through the air.

"Mayday, mayday! Hostile fighters inbound! They're shooting at our general location!"

"Did our cloak fail? Or maybe the enemy has detectors?"

"Negative. Shots too scattered. They could be using our missile vectors to . . . I'm hit! Left rotor compromised! Fire is affecting cloaking field!"

Shepard gritted his teeth. He began to dash to the second gate so Warrick's men would be in en-force, but he knew they wouldn't reach the banshee in time for support.

"Get out!"

"Too late! My signal is being locked!"

Shepard paused as he heard another sound as new transmissions burst through his comm-link as he heard the tell-tale of missiles being launched. Then, an explosion.

They just lost a banshee. Or so he thought.

"Where the hell did that shot come from?"

Shepard's ears pricked up when he recognized the new sound in the air, and slowly smiled as he realized they got some reinforcements.

"This is Second Lieutenant Moreau of UTS Viking Flight Squadron Alpha. Hope you don't mind us cutting in girls. It looked like a fun party."

There was a moment of pause before a banshee pilot advised, "We'll take any help we can Second Lieutenant."

"Alright. Formation 4A, people. Let it fly!"

There were more missiles launched, and more explosions rocking through the air. Enemy fighters exploded in fiery balls as Vikings cut through enemy territory, and turned around for another run.

This was his chance. Shepard continued on his run as he opened up his comm-link. "This is Lieutenant Shepard, UTS N7 Operative. I have a priority message for UTS command assigned in the orbital platform in Shanxi. I repeat, I have a priority message for UTS command."

"This is Second Lieutenant Moreau. What do you need?"

Shepard met up another fire team, and his gun went up. With a squeeze on the trigger, another alien soldier fell. "These are operational orders from Admiral Horner. We are in a first contact situation, and the new aliens are aggressive. He ordered all available Vikings and Wraiths up in space to support the UED battlecruisers."

Shepard reached the wall, and began to place the D9 charges at the weak struts once more. "Did you copy?" he asked as he moved away once more, and triggered the explosion.

"Copy that. I'm sending two of mine back to base to relay your message. Sky isn't that clear yet. We'll offer as much support as you can."

"Roger that!" Shepard nodded. "Captain Warrick, this is Lieutenant Shepard. Second gate is down. Your men are free to come in."

"I can see that. Good work, Lieutenant. Now, let's kick their asses out of here."

Shepard took nodded, and rushed towards his platoon. It was total chaos. With the first gate down, reinforcement marine and marauders began to demolish everything in its path, easing off the pressure from his platoon. But they were still being overwhelmed, and with the second gate just down a few moments ago, he wasn't taking any chances.

He found his squad, all scattered, trying to get into cover as they were battered from all sides with shots. He could see five marines covering the three overworked medics working on three marines and two marauders. The medivacs were also busy, as its laser scalpels and auto-sutures hard at work to keep the other marines from going down.

He assessed the enemies, and began to asses which were high priority targets. His rifle was back on his hand as he aimed at the soldier armed with what looked like a rocket launcher, and squeezed the trigger. He aimed for another soldier, who seemed to be using a grenade launcher, and squeezed the trigger again.

"Hey, the Lieutenant is here!"

He found another soldier with a rocket launcher. He aimed and fired.

"You sure?"

"Holy shit! They're coming down like flies! It's like he's on stims!"

And he fired again, downing another soldier. The aliens finally seemed to have noticed that someone was taking potshots at him as they began to fire at Shepard's direction. The Saboteur went behind a crate, and quickly changed his clip. He put his cloak back on, and rolled a few meters away, and was completely invisible and free to aim and fire an ultrasonic pulse round that incapacitated a group of them.

"Come on Marines! The Lieutenant is taking all the fun! Are we just going to let him?"

"No Staff Sergeant!"

And Martinez rallied the marines and marauders still in good condition and began to fire more rapidly towards the enemy. Shepard fired a few more shots of ultrasonic pulse as he heard Warrick's men beginning to sweep out the enemies.

"Contacts are breaking! I repeat, they are retreating!"

"Charge forward!"


Shepard looked up as more Banshees began firing their missiles at a few places, while the Vikings moved in again, weaving through the air. There were more scattered shots rang out in the surrounding areas, too many to tell, and so loud that he heard his ears ringing.

Yet, he kept listening. He kept his eyes open too. As he aimed his rifle to shoot more hostiles, began to see the increasing amount of dead aliens scattered around him. He could smell the suffocating metallic blue blood all around him, mixed with the burning smell of explosives.

It didn't seem to end.

Only after a few seconds, it did. There was silence for moment, and Shepard found himself reloading his rifle, and looked around the battlefield, trying to see who he should shoot next.

Martinez shouted the all-clear. Only then did he allow himself to relax.


Modified Supply Depots:

After two great wars, Terran strategist had found that some commanders had built supply depots at choke points and used them as defensive walls. This was to deter melee-concentrated units of the protoss or zerg, the former using powerful zealots while the latter use innumerable zerglings or even the mighty ultralisks.

Knowing the fact that using a building that held precious supplies as a defensive structure was somewhat foolish, engineers have modified the supply depots and created a modification. The new barriers use the same basic structure as the supply depot, but have thickened walls by completely eliminating storage space, and also designed to mold into any chokepoint it would be built on.

In addition, going through the modification inspired engineers to improve supply storage in the regular supply depots, leaving less clutter inside the base.

Author's Notes:

Next chapter is out. I'm planning to change viewpoints of the war soon, giving the Turian Heirarchy a voice.

Thanks again for 6thfloormadness for doing the beta. Thanks for starspawn07 for supplementary data. Enjoy the chapter guys.