The Voice of Reason
"Let him go, Singh," said Emilia. Her voice was filled with absolute determination; her finger creaked on the trigger of her rifle. "Or you're not walking out of here, either."
"I beg to differ, Sergeant," said Commander Singh behind one of his men. "Drop your weapons, or I will put a bullet through Carson's skull."
"You don't have to do this, Commander," said Private Carter, also aiming his weapon at Singh now.
Singh glared at the private. "You're out of line, Private. Deserters and traitors should be shot on sight."
"Then I might as well hand in my resignation letter, Singh," said Devon, laying his rifle over the edge of the truck. The veteran looked bored more than anything. "You drop your weapon."
"You as well?" said Singh quietly. "And I had always believed you to be one of my best soldiers."
Devon shrugged. "That's a job. This is duty."
"To what?" the commander snarled.
"Duty to humanity and beyond," replied Devon calmly.
"You're not walking out of this alive, Commander Singh," said Major Coats solemnly, stepping out from behind the overturned vehicle. His rifle was leveled steadily at Singh's head. "No matter who dies today. You're a threat to the cause and a liability to the galaxy."
"The cause? You think the Alliance is a noble cause?" Singh laughed, his voice filling the chamber. "The Alliance barely exists now! They don't know what they're doing anymore than the rest of us know! You fight for some politician's selfish agenda. All wars are just magnifications of political arguments!"
"And what do your men fight for?" said Coats quietly. "A self-serving opportunist who doesn't care for what happens to them?"
Singh stopped laughing now. "Career soldiers like you just make me laugh."
"And professional soldiers like you make me disappointed," replied Coats.
Singh's pistol strayed to Daniel's forehead now, letting the barrel rest on his face. "Enough. Drop your weapons in five seconds, or I will shoot Carson in the head."
Time slowed to a crawl. Coats's eyes flitted back and forth around the helipad. Singh's hand is creaking on the trigger. One misstep, and Daniel could die. Singh's guard is standing directly in front of him, and there's no clear shot. At least twenty men are still posted around the bunker, but none of them have drawn their weapons. Then again, neither have we. What should I do?
Coats's gaze drifted to Singh's. Inside, Singh's eyes burned with fierce determination, and absolute resolution. He would deliver on his promise; that wasn't up for debate. Then a thought came up in his head. But at what cost would he do it?
Coats raised his rifle, hefting it at chest height. Singh's guard moved in front of Coats's aim.
Now, Major Coats, the renegade Blue Suns, and the rest of the Alliance marines aimed their weapons towards Singh. The mercenaries behind Singh also rose to their feet, ready for the fight they knew would break out.
"You drop your weapon," replied Coats quietly.
Coats and Singh locked eyes. This time, Coats detected a slight modicum of fear in them. He's not ready to give his life to do it, though.
The air seemed to brim with energy. Neither would give in. Something would have to tip the scales.
Almost instinctually, Major Coats detected a small movement in the corner of his eyes. His eyes impossibly followed the object through the air, watching it whiz by in slow motion as it crashed into Singh's arm, throwing a spiral of blood through the air. The commander's pistol clattered to the ground.
Singh's cry shattered the illusion. Time flowed as normal, and then accelerated. The merc in front of Singh whirled around to face this new assailant. A familiar lieutenant stood near the corner of the landing pad, breathing heavily as he leaned against the railing for support. He nodded once to Coats, a subtle smile tugging at his lips.
Lieutenant Haynes! Then the lieutenant was shot. Once, then twice in the chest. Haynes stumbled backwards, grasping at the railing. He looked at Coats and mouthed "Thank you." Then the former Blue Suns mercenary tipped over the edge and disappeared from sight.
Emilia quickly took advantage of the distraction to shoot a hole the size of her fist through Singh's guard. The commander dove behind the remnants of the bunker as Captain Clark laid down a seemingly endless volley of bullets down towards Singh.
The Blue Suns returned fire, and the battle was on.
Coats instantly hit the ground, ducking behind a fallen stack of supply crates as enemy gunfire passed overhead. The major peeked over his makeshift cover just as a mercenary positioned himself atop the ruined bunker.
Coats flattened himself against the floor. Not a millisecond later, an enemy MG ripped through the top half of the crates, showering him with cloth and ration packs. His vision was reduced to a minimum and all he could hear was the chatter of the machine gun as it ripped through his cover piece by piece.
"Coats!" shouted a voice in his helmet.
"What?!" Coats yelled back into his mike.
"That enemy MG is going to tear right into you any second now! You need to move!"
"Where the bloody hell do I move to?!" Coats swore he felt one of the slugs penetrate the crate next to him.
"Back behind the truck! It's armored!"
"I'm not moving unless you get rid of that MG! There's too much fire."
"…shit! Then wait for the boom!"
Captain Clark motioned over to Jarar. "Corporal, is the Cain ready yet?"
"Not yet!" the turian yelled back. "The charge cycle is barely 50%! It needs more time!"
"Then fuck the Cain! Use the launcher!"
"Emilia, over here, now!"
Soon, the sergeant was beside him. "Yeah?" she asked expectantly.
"Jarar's going to suppress that MG to give Major Coats some cover fire, which means you've got cover fire, too. Put on the cloak and drag Carson over here. I'm not giving up on him, yet."
Captain Clark turned back to the turian. "Jarar, where's that launcher?"
The first explosive whistled through the air, detonating directly below the enemy emplacement. For the first time in a minute, the MG stopped firing. Then the second grenade exploded in mid-air above the emplacement. Then the third. And the fourth. A fifth explosive shattered the remaining wall of the bunker, bringing the entire structure collapsing to the ground. Clark quickly took the momentary disorientation in the enemy line to fire into their ranks, throwing the soldiers into more confusion.
Something next to Captain Clark exploded, stunning him with its brightness and intensity. His body lifted into the air as a giant had scooped him up and he collided with the side of a car, smashing through the door. A sprinkle of glass rained down on him. The air grew still.
Clark coughed into his helmet and rolled out of the car, collapsing onto the ground. Stumbling to his feet, he braced himself against the car, shaking. His armor's shock absorbers had deflected most of the explosion and impact, but the incident still left his head ringing and dizzy.
"Captain Clark, duck!"
The Alliance captain didn't waste a second, allowing his knees to buckle beneath him and forcing himself to the ground. A hail of bullets immediately passed overhead, smashing the rest of the glass to pieces. The mercenaries had noticed his survival and had diverted their attention to him. One of the mercenaries disappeared in a flash of red, his head exploding with a visceral pop. Then the next mercenary dropped to the ground, and the rest of Singh's team ducked behind cover again.
Captain Clark didn't waste time. "Coats, move!"
The major dashed forward, dodging bullets and death. A particularly daring merc attempted to step out of cover to get a clearer shot at the retreating major, only to be shot in the face by a well-placed rifle round. Coats made it back behind the truck, his chest heaving as he leaned against its walls.
Quickly but stealthily, Emilia darted forward under the cover of her squad fire, quickly moving to the side and rear of the Blue Suns forces. No one noticed her as she crept up to the almost still body of Daniel Carson, gripping his shoulder tightly.
"I'm getting you out of here, Carson," Emilia whispered, and proceeded to drag him back towards her team's position. She quickly discovered a problem.
Dear God, he's heavy as hell. Shit.
She put all of her weight into the effort, pulling his unmoving body slowly behind her, inch by inch. Above her, bullets whizzed over her cloaked body, oblivious to the clear and easy target below. Emilia struggled, managing to pull Daniel halfway across the battlefield before her cloak fizzled.
One of the mercenaries looked across the landing pad and noticed the discontinuity in the air. "What the fuck is—
Bang. Although the gunshot couldn't have been any louder than the other gunfire, to Emilia the sound of her pistol firing while she was cloaked was as loud as a ship engine. Fuck, I've given away my fucking position!
Almost instantly, something cylindrical and hard landed at her feet. A second later the grenade popped, releasing a cloud of gray smoke that separated the two opposing forces, completely blinding both sides. Krogh suddenly appeared next to Emilia, and together the two quickly pulled their fallen comrade behind the truck. Captain Ferrell crouched next to Daniel.
"Let me tend to him," said the officer, and began to open his armor. "I know a bit more than the average soldier slapping on some medi gel."
As the captain began working on Daniel, Major Coats appeared next to Clark, who was reloading his Spirit. "These Suns don't stand a chance," the captain concluded. "Speaking of, I think I just saw a small group of them peel off towards the back while the smoke was up."
Coats nodded. "And Singh is probably with them."
The two officers turned to the source of the voice. Lieutenant Krogh stood before them, looking agitated but still strong. "We'll deal with the rest of these mercenaries. You two go after Singh."
Major Coats looked at Clark, then back at Krogh. "Very well, lieutenant."
Krogh nodded, and returned back to the rest of the team. "None of these mercenaries leave here alive! That's an order!"
"Yes, sir!" shouted the team in unison.
The lieutenant looked to the Blue Suns on the other side of the landing pad. This ends now.
Singh was, in fact, retreating into the base with four of his men.
The commander couldn't believe his luck. First that upstart captain turned half of my men against me, and then that major destroyed the bunker. What else could go wrong?
The first shot rang out in the hallway, followed by a thump as one of his men fell to the ground. Singh turned around, pistol drawn, but as machine gun fire chattered around him, he realized the futility of his position. The rest of the mercenaries were quickly gunned down.
"It's over, Singh," said Major Coats, leveling his rifle at the Blue Suns commander. "Drop the pistol. Now."
Singh sighed, letting his pistol clatter to the ground. "So you still can't see reason."
"That's because we're standing in front of you," snarled Captain Clark, also aiming his weapon at Singh.
"There's nowhere for you to run or hide, anymore," said Coats quietly. "Give it up."
Singh looked at Coats. "That is correct. However, you missed something. There is a third option."
"And what's that?" said Clark. "Fighting us?"
Before they could react, Singh raised his left hand to his wrist, activating a hidden command. Almost instantly, the lights flickered, and Coats's riflescope was filled with static, completely obscuring his vision. He felt his pistol vibrate in his belt.
"What the hell did you do?" growled Clark, slapping his rifle.
"Short range weapons disruptor unit," explained Singh calmly. "Limited use in the regular military because of its inability to differentiate allied and enemy weaponry. But a good professional soldier never leaves home without one."
Our guns are useless. And we can't call for help. We do that, then Singh runs and we lose him. Coats laid his rifle and pistol on the ground, sliding them behind him.
Clark did the same. He looked at the major, and nodded slightly. Then, he drew his combat knife from his boot, leveling it towards Singh. "So that's how it's going to be."
Commander Singh raised his hands. Suddenly, an orange circle appeared in both of his palms, covering his hands. The orange surface continued down to each elbow, where it appeared to seal onto the joints. Soon, his hands were cloaked in bright orange.
Major Coats frowned. Omni-tool gauntlets. Most Alliance soldiers nowadays are issued omni-tool melee weaponry in the event of an extreme close-quarters situation. Then again, most of them opt for some sort of knife or blade. If Singh chose gauntlets, then that means he's at least experienced in hand-to-hand combat. That means he's got to know some form of martial arts to back it up.
Coats also drew his own knife, holding it cautiously in front of himself. "You're only delaying the inevitable," warned Coats, stealing a glance at Clark, who met his look. Be careful, said his eyes.
"I could say the same for you all," replied Singh. "You really believe that you can defeat the Reapers?"
"It's better to try than to have never attempted to in the first place," responded Clark. "Cowards like you only make it worse."
"Maybe I'm the only sensible one," snapped Singh. "When defeat is the only result, we should cut our losses instead of trying to gamble it all on some faint hope for a miracle."
"And that's where we disagree," said Coats, edging towards the commander. This is it.
"It seems that way."
Clark was the first to move, making a straight dash for Singh. His knife whistled as it slashed through the air. The mercenary deflected the knife with a single bat of his hand and thrust his palm into Clark's chest. The captain slid backward and collapsed to the ground, winded.
Coats swiped at Singh, slashing at him in a wide arc that almost clipped one of the walls. The commander ducked, and threw a right hook at the major, who blocked the outstretched hand and quickly stabbed at Singh.
Clang. Coats's knife clattered to the ground as Singh knocked the blade cleanly out of his hand. The major drew up one leg and rammed his foot into the commander's chest, knocking him backwards. Quickly, before Singh could react, Coats scooped up his knife and rushed at the fallen merc, slashing downwards with his knife.
Shing. In one fluid motion, Singh parried the blade with one gauntlet and delivered a blinding uppercut with the other gauntlet, leaving Coats dazed and confused as he stumbled back. Then, the commander swiftly hooked Coats in the face, dashing him to the ground. The major pulled away as Singh moved in closer.
Suddenly, Clark's body filled his vision as he stepped over Coats, throwing a cross at Singh, who sidestepped the punch and quickly retaliated, jabbing at the captain left and right. Clark guarded his body with both arms, absorbing the blows with his armor as Singh relentlessly powered his armored fists into the captain. Sweat beaded on his brow, streaming more from his face with every blow.
Singh's isn't an average street brawler. We're seriously outclassed. Coats jumped to his feet, ignoring the pain that lanced through his face as he jumped into the fray. But if we can overwhelm him, then that won't matter. The major rammed a powerful punch into Singh's face, sure that, with Clark distracting him, blocking his punch would be impossible. Coats's fist whistled through the air to the left of Singh, continuing to travel until it connected…
…with the bright orange, hard surface of Singh's omni-shield. Coats drew his shaking arm back, surprised. Shit! He has a—
Singh smashed his shield against Clark's face, pushing him to the floor. The commander then turned and threw a fist at Coats, who blocked with both arms.
Thud. Coats skidded against the ground as Singh retracted his leg, easily recovering from the feint. The commander stood before him, breathing heavily. The room was silent.
"Do you still think your goal is achievable?" said Singh quietly.
"Do you think your own goal is achievable?" replied Coats, looking at the commander. "Your selfishness will end in someone's death."
"A death that would have otherwise occurred without my interference. You can't save everyone. You can only save the ones within your reach."
"With that mindset," said Coats, grasping the wall as he slowly rose to his feet. "Nothing would ever be achieved. And you would be the only one alive."
Singh's eyes followed his stance. "So you continue to fight."
Coats held his gaze. "I do."
"To fight the inevitable and die?"
"To protect those who don't deserve to die."
Past his black gaze, Coats could see turmoil and pain raging behind the eyes. He knows he's lost, and he can't stand it. But he's prideful. He'll die before he gives in.
Coats looked at Clark, who was unconscious on the ground. He grimaced. And so will I.
"Then you will die."
Singh stepped forward, fists raised in front of him. Coats readied himself, almost leaning forward in anticipation.
No where else to go but forward.
Singh struck first. Wrapping his hand in a hardened silicon gauntlet, he swung his fist at him. Coats blocked the punch, deflecting it to the side. Almost immediately afterwards, another gauntlet came up on his right, nearly clobbering him. Coats ducked, and threw his weight against Singh, colliding with the wall.
The major slammed his fist against Singh's midsection. The commander raised his gauntlet high in the air and brought it down on Coats's neck, hard. The dense silicon dented the armor as Coats dropped to the ground, collapsing at Singh's feet.
Bright lights danced in his vision. Coats felt his body flip over, and a weight settled on his chest. Blow after blow, the commander of the Blue Suns beat a concussion into his head.
After some minutes, Coats felt a lack of movement. Through blurred vision and ringing ears, he cracked open his eyes and looked up. Singh knelt on top of him, pistol in hand. His pistol.
"I can build it all back," said Singh finally, breathing hard. "I can always train my troops. I can always find more supplies. It is still possible. And when the dust clears, I'll be the one to lead our civilization back to its apex."
He's gone off the deep end, Coats realized. He really thinks he can bring it all back.
"And you," said Singh, eyes wide and shooting daggers at Coats. He aimed the pistol at the major. He could see deep into the barrel of the gun.
"You will be an example to everyone else who defies me," said the commander through gritted teeth. "I think your head on a stick will suffice."
Coats felt his fingers twitch, but he could move nothing else. It's up to you guys, now.
A gunshot rang out in the hallway, but Commander Singh's visceral cry of frustration and pain boomed over all else. Coats turned his head a fraction to see this newcomer.
Private Carter ran down the hallway, pistol in hand. His left arm was badly injured from a bullet wound in his shoulder and hung limply at his side. Moreover, the private was stumbling more than running down the hallway. Nevertheless, Caron's eyes burned as he fired at the commander.
Then Coats's eyes filled with horror as Commander Singh rose up, firing his pistol with his right hand much more accurately and quickly. The first bullet struck Carter in the chest, knocking him backwards. The second and third bullet struck him directly between his eyes, showering his face and the floor with blood. Carter was dead before he hit the ground. Coats stared at the sight blankly. Images flashed in his eyes. He remembered the private's bright smile, and his youthful enthusiasm. He remembered his own enthusiasm when he was younger, and how he had felt the world was at his fingertips when he, too, was a young private. And he looked like Leo when he was younger.
"A pity," sighed Commander Singh. "Still, he signed his own death warrant when he joined you. There was no hope for him."
Major Coats snapped.
A savage force swelled up in his chest as Coats's arms moved upwards without conscious thought. His hands grabbed Singh's shoulders as he turned back towards Coats. His vision was rimmed with black and red, with the mercenary directly in the middle. In a split second, Major Coats rammed his head into Singh's forehead, hearing a satisfying moan of pain from Singh. The mercenary commander dropped like a discarded coat, his pistol clattering to the ground.
As soon as Singh fell to the ground, Coats jumped onto him, landing on his chest. Coats's fist slammed into the mercenary's head, butting it against the floor. Then he smashed his other fist into the side of his head. Then the other one. And then another. And another.
Within a few seconds, Singh's face had been reduced to a bloody mess, completely unrecognizable. The mercenary commander opened an eye and reached out weakly towards Coats; in one fluid motion, the major scooped up the fallen knife at his side and slashed at his wrist, splattering the wall with viscera. A detached hand thumped against the floor a second later.
Singh gurgled in pain. Coats wrapped his hand around his throat and held the knife in the other. His eyes guided themselves towards Singh's own, and his throat choked with emotion. The mercenary's eyes burned with hatred, threatening to paralyze Coats with its intensity. The major remained unmoved, and held his hand high in the air like a god about to give judgment. "You don't get to live to fight another day."
Coats stabbed Commander Singh in the chest.
The mercenary convulsed once, and then grew still. His last breath forced its way through smashed bones and torn muscle, leaving his body with an audible sigh. His eyes no longer burned. Coats stared at Singh's body, and then at his own hands. Both were covered with blood, but he felt strangely cleansed. It's over. We've done it.
Major Coats collapsed.