First of all, an apology. I shouldn't have left this dead for so long. I had incredible writers block and an illness to boot, but I was also consumed by terrible laziness, and that's my fault entirely. I'm sorry.
mrgubbins92: Then wait no more! :D Thanks for reading!
Trapinchh: Very glad you like it. :) People look at my profile? :P Thanks for the review!
Mike Hall: I've been thinking about stuff like that. While it's not addressed in this chapter, there's definitely some problems brewing in the background, and not just between the krogan and the turians... Thanks for reviewing!
CyanB: Well, after weeks of waiting, we can find out! :D Thanks very much!
Dracconnis: Thanks, I will. :)
Chapter One: Strike Force
"This is SSV Canberra, we're about to drop out of FTL, all ships report."
"This is the El Alamein, first squadron is reporting."
"This is Havincaw, second squadron is on approach."
"Copy. Your mission is to keep their fleet busy while Canberra moves in to unload strike teams and bombard the station. Keep 'em off us – happy hunting."
A fleet of nine ships, mostly Alliance and turian frigates led by a single Alliance cruiser, came out of FTL in visual distance of Archimedes Station. Quickly changing course, the frigates moved to engage the Cerberus vessels defending the station as the cruiser headed straight through to bombard the station proper.
Down in the cruiser's cargo hold, several shuttles were being prepped for launch.
Lieutenant-Colonel Kaidan Alenko sat in one of the shuttles, waiting for the rest of his squad to ready up and board. His M-55 Argus rifle was folded up on his back and he was looking over his Carnifex pistol.
It had been a rough few months. After the Battle of London, he had attempted to find his parents and discovered what he had feared – his father had been killed in action in a skirmish near Whistler, and his mother was in poor health. He'd done what he could, but she had died just one month after the end of the Reaper occupation.
Here, he'd felt he had a choice – wallow alone in his bitterness for the rest of his life, or push himself back into what he was good at and try to move on. So he had joined the Alliance's anti-Cerberus operations as a Special Forces operator – if nothing else, he could prevent the Cerberus remnants from causing more families to end up like his.
Besides, being back on the front brought him back among some old comrades. That certainly helped.
"Sir, got a message from Admiral Mikhailovich, says we've got an 'unconventional operator' inbound."
Kaidan got up and walked over to the cockpit, where Lieutenant Steve Cortez was prepping for take-off. Kaidan had requested Cortez personally – he was one of the best shuttle pilots in the fleet, so who else would he want at the controls?
"Unconventional operator?" quizzed Kaidan, "Another bounty hunter?"
"An old friend, actually," grinned Cortez.
At this point, said operator climbed into the shuttle.
"Kaidan," nodded Liara.
Kaidan grinned, getting up and shaking hands with his asari friend.
"Somehow I knew I'd see you again," he chuckled, "What're you doing here? Don't you have agents to do this kind of thing?"
"I do," admitted Liara, "I have five agents in this battle-group alone. I've just found that I just can't sit around at a desk after all we've been through."
She gave a hollow laugh and sat down.
"It sounds insane, doesn't it?"
"It's not insane," replied Kaidan, putting a hand on her shoulder, "It's really not."
At that point, they were interrupted by a squad of marines climbing into the shuttle.
These marines looked very different from ordinary Alliance marines. They wore the same standard of armour, but it was red rather than blue, and had more webbing. One of the marines grinned when he saw Liara.
"Hey, nobody ever said we were workin' with asari on this!"
The soldier next to him slapped him in the back of the head.
"Macnaughton!" he snapped.
Macnaughton muttered to himself and sat down.
"Apologies," nodded the other marine, "We usually don't act like that."
He turned to Kaidan.
"Second Lieutenant Graham Smith, sir," he said, saluting, "Coldstreams. We'll be your unit for this op."
"I was briefed on you, yeah," nodded Kaidan, "London survivors, right?"
"Yes sir," nodded Smith.
"Good, you know how to handle yourselves," grinned Kaidan, "Get ready, we dust off in two minutes."
Garrus sat in his own shuttle, looking over his Javelin rifle. He'd acquired the thing in the Battle of Rannoch, and since then, it had served him very well. By now, it was starting to look very worn – but if you asked Garrus, that just meant it gave it character.
Across from him, Captain James Vega was looking over his Revenant. The bulky marine had been at Garrus' side since the campaign against the holdouts began, and had come to impress the older turian with his improvement. He had taken some shrapnel to the face on Noveria, leaving him with a scar running across from the top of his forehead to his left ear. It certainly added to his menace, both to the enemy and to the new meat.
New meat. That made him the old breed. The brash young turian in C-Sec had come a very long way, hadn't he?
The shuttle contained a mixed unit – a few Alliance marines, a few turians, and a few salarians of the Special Tasks Force. Major Kirrahe, their commander, was in another shuttle – they were due to land nearby, so they'd see him pretty soon. The newer troops stood out like a sore thumb – glistening armour and unblemished faces, looking like they were about to vomit. Hopefully, they'd last to see the end.
Hell, if command was right (through it rarely was), this battle would be the end.
"Commander Vakarian, we're thirty seconds out. Recommend you ready up."
Garrus nodded at the pilot's words and put on his helmet.
"Alright, gentlemen, you heard the man," he called out, "The Canberra's blasted a hole for us – helmets and magboots until we reach a pressurised area. Remember the rules of engagement – we don't shoot unarmed personnel and surrendering soldiers are not to be harmed."
"End of the line, fellas, this shuttle terminates here. Happy hunting."
The shuttle doors opened, and Garrus stepped out.
"Let's finish this war," he whispered to himself.
Before the Canberra had blown it apart, this part of the station had been a mess hall for the personnel – while half of it had been destroyed, the other half was largely, almost eerily intact. Dinner trays and half-eaten food floated in the weightless environment around them – as did the bodies of the people using them.
"They wouldn't even have had time to run before the Canberra destroyed this section," a salarian whispered, "Quite a...unpleasant way to go."
"Son of a bitch..." he heard a soldier whisper.
"Shut it," snapped a turian, "They're Cerberus. They deserve this shit."
Do they? Garrus thought, watching the shredded upper half of a Cerberus operative float a few feet in front of him. Blonde hair, green eyes, couldn't have been any more then twenty-five. She had what might have been an attractive face, if half of it wasn't melted. She'd been cut down at the prime of her life.
The sooner this was over, the better.
"Garrus," called James, snapping him out of his thoughts, "We've still got oxygen at the labs. Kirrahe's gonna meet us there."
"Copy that," nodded Garrus, "Tell him we'll be waiting."
The squad moved out the mess hall, leaving the grisly scene behind.
Up in the central lab, Dr. Winston Patterson cringed as the station was again rocked by explosions.
"I'm trying to work, you stupid pillocks!" he thundered.
He snarled, and checked the main computer again.
"Fifteen minutes...just fifteen minutes," he whispered to himself.
Don't worry, there's more action in the next chapter.