Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
The night sky was twinkling with the explosions and gunfire from space. The ground was shaking from the rumble of large tanks, lumbering mechanical beasts, and the roar of weapons fire. A young man in a suit of armor was standing above a legion of Alliance troops that were ready to follow commands. He bore the N7 Special Forces emblem which he was given by Alliance command only a day before the final attack. This emblem signified skill, rank, and above all, superiority in more than just combat. The N7s weren't just a lethal tactics group, they were also the ambassadors of the Alliance Military. His name was Commander Jared Riley, and he was tasked with protecting the survivors of the Reaper attack on Earth. At his sides were two other soldiers: One man and one woman. The woman on his right was a combat engineer, using her Omni-Tool to wreak havoc on the battlefield. The man on his left was a soldier, with guns, explosives, and enhanced strength that made him a valuable asset.
Riley activated his Omni-Shield as dozens of demorphed humanoids started to climb over the rubble that was once London central park. He couldn't help but to feel that all of this fighting was worthless given the circumstances. The Reapers had basically taken over the entire galaxy at this point, and Earth was in ruins. A sense of dread filled him as he looked down at the battlefield in front of him. The line of Alliance soldiers got ready to fight back the Reaper thralls as they got closer. Riley gave the order to open fire and pulled out his pistol with his free hand. Allan, the soldier, began sniping cannibals from the top of the wall. The engineer jumped down to the ground and used her Omni-Tool to shock the Marauders, bringing their shields down before she used her rifle to gun them down. The soldiers in front were being torn apart as the Reapers managed to get a foothold. One marine stared to pull his comrade off of the field just before he was gunned down by a Marauder.
Riley watched as each man was shot down and started to get mad. He couldn't stand there any longer and jumped down to the ground. A group of Reapers were closing in on the wall. Riley charged into the group like a juggernaut, using his shield like a battering ram. His Omni-tool allowed him to freeze, incinerate, and drain the shields of any target in his way. His biotics let him rip apart anything that was left. As a husk approached him he smashed it with his shield, sending the cyber-zombie flying. Another husk approached from the left. Riley responded by firing off an incendiary blast that turned the husk into a pile of ashes. A group of husks started to swarm him, but he responded by using a snap freeze attack, blasting them all with a cryogenic cloud that caused them all to freeze instantly. He then used his shield which caused the husks to shatter in an icy explosion. Another group of husks came into close range. Riley retaliated and used his biotic abilities to create a singularity, levitating them before he triggered a biotic explosion.
Despite the fierce fighting from the Alliance soldiers, the squad found themselves on their own as one marine after another was wounded or killed. They were forced back to the wall as the Reapers intensified their attacks. The engineer was attacked by a husk from behind, and wasn't able to shake him off. She panicked as her armor was ripped up by the husks sharp talons and beaten around while the soldier tried to pry it off. The husk then tossed away the engineer and started attacking the soldier. He fought of the husk and curb stomped it out of rage, but the husk bought a Marauder enough time to strike the soldier to the ground with the butt of his rifle. Riley was now the only one left. There was no words, no sympathy, no fear. Just the mission. He readied his shield once again and began striking husk after husk, planting perfect headshots on the Marauders and incinerating the cannibals. Every time he brought down one Reaper troop, another would climb over the rubble.
In a fit of rage, Riley felt a spike in his biotic powers. His strikes were stronger, and his attacks were more ruthless. His body was glowing a faint purple, which signified the presence of overcharged biotic abilities. This empowered him making him more powerful than an average human being and allowed him to take on more of the abominations. A brute charged him, only to be tossed aside like a rag doll. A Marauder was shooting away at Riley, hitting him repeatedly but seemingly doing no damage. Riley walked forward and lifted him up with his biotics. He crushed the marauder, making a bloody mess as any liquid was juiced from the thing. As more Reapers attacked, he began to tire. The massive boost to his metabolism also drained his energy faster. As he started to fatigue, a red glow emerged from the horizon. It wasn't the sun, London was still on the far side. It was an artificial wave that seemed to come from space itself that destroyed everything it hit. As everything behind it was wiped out, Riley only stared at it. As the wave hit him, he was forced back into the wall that he was defending.
There was only darkness after he made contact with the wall.
Riley woke up in a cold sweat as he was sitting on what he could tell was his bed in his quarters on the SSV Vancouver. He looked outside the window sighing with relief as he stood up and walked to his locker, It was just a bad nightmare. As he put on his dress uniform he started thinking about the Reapers. Ever since Commander Shepard sent the Alliance data about Harbinger and Project Rho, Riley couldn't seem to shake the feeling that the Reapers were real. He walked out of his quarters and onto the main elevator, hoping to find some good news.
He took the elevator to the Combat Intelligence Center, or the bridge as they called it. Being the executive officer of the Vancouver, Riley was required to oversee the operations on the bridge when the Captain was not on deck. He walked up to the Galaxy Map and assumed control of the bridge from the night shift. A marine walked up and handed him the current mission report. It stated that the Vancouver was due to patrol a sector in the Perseus Veil to monitor Geth and Quarian activity. He looked down at the report and felt a hint of security when he saw that it was just a patrol mission. He handed the pad back to the marine and turned back to the Galaxy Map. He plotted the course on the map and walked down the main control hallway to the helm station. Helmsman George Leonard was at his post doing his job. He turned to see the Lieutenant and spoke.
"Morning, Commander. Did you sleep well last night?" he asked. Riley simply made a dazed blink, still trying to wake up as he leaned on the wall. George simply turned around. "I guess not then..." he said. "I had some sort of nightmare last night... It was a war on Earth. It looked like Judgment Day from the book of Revelations. Remember those things that Shepard said were coming?" asked Riley. "You mean Reapers? I thought the council dismissed that," said George. "Admiral Hackett didn't dismiss it. Neither did Admiral Anderson," replied Riley. "Great. Now you think they're real?" asked George in an annoyed fashion. Riley as almost as annoyed hearing this. "An N7 Commander with over ten years of experience on his belt decided to destroy an entire section of the galaxy so these things couldn't get here. I think that calls for some sort of attention." George shook his head and got back to work. "Whatever. I think it's just Alliance Brass' way of getting recruits." Just after George's retort, a blip came up on the radar. It indicated that a ship was sending a distress call.
"Looks like our patrol got a bit more interesting. Distress call about two light years away." asked George. "Take us in, Mr. Leonard," replied Riley.
As the Vancouver neared the site of the distress beacon, a few cannon shots skimmed the bow of the ship. The hull rumbled as George maneuvered out of the way. Riley got serious after recovering from the jolt caused by George's turn.
"Report!" demanded Riley. "Canon fire from the source of the beacon, Commander. Looks like Cerberus is the cause of distress today," replied George. "They're attacking a Quarian science vessel: The Moreh." Riley knew that name well being a Quarian enthusiast to some degree. "That's Admiral Daro'Xen's ship. We need to give them a hand or the Quarians aren't going to be inclined to help us in the future." He walked to a nearby communication panel and pressed a button. "All hands, Red Alert. Report to battle stations. Captain Ramirez to the bridge."
The Quarians were getting beaten as the ship suffered internal damage from the concussive blasts of the Cerberus weapons. On the bridge, Admiral Daro'Xen was trying to maintain control of her panicked crew.
"Divert all available power to ship barriers. I want to hold out long enough for someone to help us or at least long enough for engineering to repair the engines," ordered the admiral. "Admiral, we've lost weapons functionality," exclaimed an operations officer. "Divert damage control teams three and four to weapons. Tell them to concentrate on the port side," she replied. "Admiral, I read two Cerberus shuttles approaching. They're firing on the shuttle bay!" "All hands, brace for impact!"she ordered. The first shuttle fired two missiles at the bay doors and blew them open. The environmental safeties were triggered and a shield was placed where the doors used to be. The Cerberus shuttles passed through the shield and landed, releasing teams of Cerberus troopers.
Captain Ramirez walked onto the bridge from the elevator, met by Commander Riley. "Status report," said the Captain, heading to the galaxy map. "Quarian vessel under attack from a Cerberus ship. Looks like they're taking a beating," said Riley. An operations officer gave a new report from his console. "I have a status update on the Quarian ship. They're being boarded." Captain Ramirez turned to Riley. "Commander, take your squad to the shuttle bay and help flush out that boarding party. The Quarians won't stand a chance if they're being attacked on both fronts." "Aye, sir," replied Riley. "Delta team, report to the Shuttle Bay. Have your equipment sterilized and have medi-gel on hand. Shuttle crew, have the shuttle ready for boarding a Quarian ship." Riley walked onto the elevator looking back out onto the C.I.C. before the doors closed. Little did he know it would be the last time he did.
At the shuttle bay, two Alliance marines were sitting and waiting for orders. One was a man, the other a woman. These two were extremely similar to the two soldiers in Riley's nightmare. They were his closest comrades in the service: Lieutenant Taylor Belle and Staff Sergeant Allan Dunnae. Allan was a soldier who met Riley during the Commander's red sand ring bust and had saved the Commander on various occasions from afar. He was a marksman as well as a shock trooper. You could place him far away or put him right in the action. Either way, he'd be able to take someone's head off. He was in his T-51 Battlesuit made especially for N7 soldiers, but Riley was able to make an exception.
Taylor was a combat engineer, and a very smart young lady. She specialized in pyrotechnics and electrical warfare, using specialized grenades a well as her Omni-tool to immobilize or destroy targets. She met the Commander when she was first assigned to the Vancouver during the Citadel conflict. She was fresh out of the academy and inexperienced when she was assigned to his team, and paid the price. She suffered wounds to her arm and chest from a Geth plasma rifle when Riley's team was flushing the Geth out of the Presidium on the Citadel. Most of her chest wounds were healed, but her arm suffered too much damage and needed synthetic parts to regain full function. Basically, she was a cyborg. Most people get freaked out when they see the arm and the trail of metal on her neck, but Riley was one of the few people that didn't care much for it. The same went for Allan. Together, the three made an unstoppable team.
Riley exited the elevator in his Paladin armor as Taylor finished putting on her Demolisher class armor, made for Alliance Tech Officers. Allan walked up to Riley as he looked over to the soldier, or rather up. Allan was already over six feet tall, but the battle armor made him look like a giant.
"What's the mission, Commander?" he asked. "Cerberus troops have boarded the Moreh.We need to get onboard and help the Quarians regain control of their ship," replied Riley. "About time we actually get to board a Quarian ship," said Taylor. "Hold it, Lieutenant. I know you've been wanting to see what they're liveships are like. I do too. But we can't let that get in the way of 1: The Quarians won't be happy with us contaminating their ship, and 2: There are human terrorists on board. We need to remain professional and stay cautious," said Riley. "Understood, sir. I'll try to keep from asking too many questions," replied Taylor. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's kick some Cerberus ass!" exclaimed Allan.
The team boarded the shuttle with two additional marines for added security. Riley had already briefed them on what to expect and to make sure the environment was sterilized and make sure all helmets were on before boarding. About halfway into the trip, the shuttle came under fire from Cerberus fighters.
"Commander, you've got two fighters on your tail. We're trying to keep them busy," said Captain Ramirez. The shuttle rocked about as it tried avoiding enemy fire. The Vancouver eventually lined up a few shots and disabled one of the fighters, sending it into the other. "You're clear, Commander. Tangos down," said Captain Ramirez. "Thanks for the help, Captain. Riley out." The shuttle craft headed for the open port on the side of the liveship and proceeded inside to find two Cerberus shuttles and a security team to keep control of the shuttle bay. The team started to shoot at the Alliance shuttle only to do little to no damage. "Commander? What do you want me to do about the welcoming committee?" asked the shuttle pilot. A camera feed activating showing the futile resistance. "Show them we mean business," said Riley. "Aye, Commander. Laying down fire." The shuttle opened fire on the two shuttles and the infiltration units, bringing down all of the troops ahead of them and rendering the two shuttles useless. "Area clear, Commander. I'm bringing us down," said the shuttle pilot.
The shuttle descended and the doors opened as Riley and his team hopped out, doing a quick scan of the shuttle bay. "I didn't even know Quarians allowed shuttle bays on their liveships," said Taylor. "Dunnae, take point," said Commander Riley. He pointed to one of the marines. "I need you to remain here and stay on guard. We don't want someone coming after the shuttle." The officer nodded in acknowledgement and stayed behind. Allan walked forward to the entrance into the main hallways. Most of the lighting was offline and there was signs of battle, but no bodies so far. They continued walking through the battle damaged corridor until shots were fired from one of the dark ends of the hall.
"Grab cover!" yelled Riley as the team split up. One of the unfortunate security officers was hit with a string of bullets and died instantly. Riley watched as the officer hit the floor and was enraged. Fortunately, the Cerberus troops were only coming from that one end of the corridor. Taylor set up an ammunition pylon for Allan as Riley put up his omni-shield and fired from its cover. "Fire in the hole!" yelled Allan as he set up his N7 Typhoon assault rifle and started laying down a seemingly endless stream of fire on the Cerberus troopers. This allowed Riley an opening to start using his biotics and get some payback.
A Cerberus Dragoon approached and used his biotic whips to strike Riley, sending him staggering back. Riley fought back by sending a biotic pulse into the Dragoon which cause his armor to slowly disintegrate. He followed that up with a biotic push, overloading the amount of element zero radiation in the dragoons body and causing an explosion. Three centurions approached him, but started convulsing after a static grenade went off right in the middle of them, compliments of Lieutenant Belle.
A combat engineer in the far left, across from Riley, had set up a turret which opened fire. Riley put back up his shield, protecting himself from the incoming fire. When the turret stopped to reload, he drained the energy from the turret, disabling it. Allan fired a missile from his shoulder pack that destroyed the turret. The explosion knocked the engineer back, and Riley ran up to him and slammed him with his shield, sending him careening down the hall way. All three of the Alliance marines looked up and down the hallway, checking for any remaining troops. Riley heard a stir from behind a crate, and trained his pistol on it.
"Don't shoot! I'm not Cerberus!" a female Quarian stood up from behind the crate with her hands up. Riley calmed down and lowered his gun as his squad followed up. "My name is Selene'Eesa. I can help you get control of the ship."
Outside, the battle was raging between the two cruisers. The Vancouverwas taking heavy fire from the superior firepower of the Cerberus cruiser, and Captain Ramirez was trying to keep control of the situation as the ship was slowly falling apart.
"Divert power to kinetic barriers! We need to hold on a little longer until the ground team gets control of the research ship," ordered the Captain. "Sir, ship to ship communications are down!" exclaimed an operations officer. "Divert damage control. Get auxiliary systems online." A fire erupted on the bridge as a power conduit in the floor overloaded. "Someone get that fire out!" demanded Captain Ramirez. Another conduit exploded near the Captain as the lights went dead.
Riley, Selene, Taylor and Allan were walking down an abandoned corridor of the Quarian ship as Riley was interrogating Selene as to what was going on. "Mind telling us why Cerberus would be interested in a Quarian ship?" asked Riley. "It's Cerberus. They'd want anything that helps them 'evolve,'" she said. "Alright, what are you researching here?" Selene stopped and brought up a schematic on her omni-tool that showed a communications device. "We were working on a device that could possibly gain control of the Geth. Unfortunately our testing materials didn't respond," said Selene. "Maybe Cerberus thought they can get it to work and make a synthetic army to fight the Reapers," said Taylor. "Not likely. Cerberus is trying to enhance humans, not replace them," replied Riley. Selene continued. "That's not all we found. When we did the testing, our security officers said they experienced extreme headaches before passing out. The only thing is that they didn't pass out. They started following the commands we were putting in, like they were-" "Indoctrinated," interrupted Riley. He knew what the Quarians accidently made, and he knew it meant trouble. "Taylor, doesn't the design look familiar?" asked Riley. Taylor examined the design closely. "It does. It looks like it's giving off emissions similar to those devices we picked up on the Citadel after the Geth attacked." "And Object Rho," continued Riley. "What?" asked Allan. "I'll explain later."
Riley turned back to Selene and pointed to the design. "You need to destroy this as soon as you can. Your people have just built an Indoctrination Device, That's why Cerberus wants to use it," he said urgently. Selene looked at the designs with a sense of disbelief. "All those years of research and designing... And our one hope for taking back our home is really our worst nightmare?" she shook her head, trying to think about how to deal with this. "Selene, I know it's hard to let go of something you put a lot of time into, but this is for the best. Some discoveries are best left a mystery," said Riley. He set a hand on her shoulder trying to comfort her as she sighed. "I'll talk to Admiral Xen. She probably would want to try something else anyway," she said. "Thank you. Now let's get back to regaining control of the ship," he replied.
Selene nodded and walked up to an elevator door, taking off a panel and rewiring it with her omni-tool. "I can hack into the bridge's vidcom receivers and try to get an idea of what's going on up there." A nearby computer display lit up showing the camera feed. It didn't look good for the bridge crew as Admiral Xen and her crew were cornered by Cerberus troopers, virtually taken hostage. "If we don't act now they'll be shot like fish in a barrel," said Allan. "Forgive me, but I'm Quarian," said Selene with an irritated tone. "He means they'll be shot if we don't do something," said Riley. "Hold on there, hotshot," interrupted Taylor. "If we go in guns a-blazing they'll be shot. But this is your call, Commander." Riley thought for a minute then opened the door. "Taylor, get a link to this monitor. You too, Selene. We'll use the feed to tell us what's going on. Selene and I will take this elevator up while Taylor and Allan take the one on the other side. We don't have much time so designate targets and wait for my signal." said Riley. He walked into the elevator with Selene following behind as Taylor and Allan walked to the elevator on the adjacent side.
"And you honestly think I'll cooperate with a group of terrorists that attacked my people for no reason?" asked Admiral Xen. "I'm not going to make this any easier. Just give us your research materials and data. We'll let your ship and crew leave once it's all been transported," replied a Centurion. "And I'm not going to change my answer. I would rather die than simply let someone take a weapon we created. Besides, it's set to self destruct when someone else tries to access it." "This is your final chance, Quarian. Relinquish the research or we'll have to take it by force."
Selene started hacking the controls as Riley set his omni-tool to target a group of Cerberus troopers that were close together. As the team had their targets assigned and the elevators in place, Riley waited for the right moment when everyone had a clear shot.
"Now!" he yelled. The whole room seemed to slow down around them as the adrenaline started pumping, The three soldiers ran into close range and began their assault. Riley sprayed a group of four Cerberus troopers with a cryo blast as Taylor tossed a static grenade, sending another group of troopers into a convulsive state. Allan started to unload on the rest as Riley finished off the four that he froze and Taylor double checked her kills. A ghost-like figure seemed to walk through the room as Selene picked it up using thermal scanning. It snuck up behind Riley and was about to strike as Selene shot it with her Locust submachine gun. The figure decloaked, revealing itself to be a Cerberus Phantom. Riley turned after hearing the shot right behind him and looked down at the Phantom. He looked up at Selene who gave him a friendly wink.
Admiral Daro'Xen was relieved to see friendly faces. "You're timing couldn't be better, human. Maybe I'll let the Alliance benefit from our research after all," said Admiral Xen. "I'm Commander Riley of the S.S.V. Vancouver. I'm afraid I have some bad news about your recent breakthrough." Selene walked forth. "Admiral, I compared notes with the Alliance crew. We need to destroy the prototype as soon as possible. It's an indoctrination device, not an AI controller like we thought we were making. In the wrong hands, this could easily be the tool to our demise," she said urgently. Admiral Xen didn't seem surprised to hear this. "If it gave Cerberus a reason to come after us I believe it is better off unfinished. Destroy the prototype but keep the research and encode it. I don't want anyone else knowing about this," said Admiral Xen. Selene nodded and walked to the lab controls.
"Admiral, all decks report clear except for the shuttle bay," said a Quarian operations officer. "I'll double check, Commander," said Allan. "Do it," said Riley as Allan headed to the elevator to go down to the shuttle bay. Riley activated his suit radio to signal the Vancouver."Riley to Vancouver, the Quarian ship is clear. We're ready for return." He waited for a response, but there was none. Just static. "Riley to Vancouver, please respond." Riley started to worry as he still couldn't get a response. "Commander, the Vancouverhas sustained heavy damage. It's primary communications array has been disabled and I'm reading an energy spike in their power grid," said Selene.
As Allan got to the shuttle bay, he noticed there was no one there. "Dunnae to Riley, I don't see anyone here, Commander. Just a dead room." He kept walking forth and stepped on a body. He stopped and looked down to find that it was the other marine they brought. He was stabbed in the chest and bled out, dead on the floor. He ran to the shuttle and saw the door was opened. When he looked inside, he saw that the pilot had his throat slit with a puddle of blood staining his uniform. He looked at the shuttle controls and noticed they were offline. Further checking under the console revealed most of the wires were ripped out. He heard a step behind him and activated his omni-blade, slashing behind him. It was another Phantom, and he struck her in the neck, sending her flying away into one of the disabled Cerberus shuttles. As the Phantom tried to get up, he shot her in the head with his rifle. "Dunnae to Riley, the rest of the team is dead. I'm heading back up to the bridge," he said. "Copy that, Dunnae. Did you find any Cerberus operatives?" asked. "I did better than that," he said.
"Admiral, weapons have been restored," said the operations officer. "Open fire on the Cerberus cruiser. Hit them with everything we've got!" exclaimed Admiral Xen. Commander Riley looked out of the window and saw as the Cerberus ship was pelted with cannon shells and being torn to pieces. Each of the metal plates were blown off as it fell apart and eventually exploded in a spectacular fireball. As the smoke cleared, only a twisted frame was left as the ship hulk started falling out of orbit. The Quarian crew cheered as Riley and his team were seeing much worse news on the Vancouver's status.
Onboard the Vancouver, consoles were overloading and fires were erupting. The crew was desperately trying to keep things together as the ship was falling apart. Captain Ramirez lay dead on the galaxy map projector. There was a hull breach that stretched from deck 3 to deck 6. A scrambled message came up on the intercom as George tried getting back up on his chair. "Captain Ramirez to engineering! The core is destabilizing! Core breach imminent! I repeat, core breach im-" The comm filled with static as a bright light could be seen from the engineering section.
Riley looked back out the window with his two officers as the Alliance ship began to blow apart from the inside out. Armor panels were disintegrated as the frame of the ship began to bend and warp, releasing its entire supply of oxygen as the crew was spaced one by one. The fusion core finally released its full capacity of energy as the entire ship was vaporized in a huge fireball. Nothing remained of the SSV Vancouverand her crew other than Riley, Taylor, and Allan. Riley looked down in disbelief as the Quarian crew grew quiet. Selene set an arm on the Commander's shoulder trying to comfort him, but he jerked away. He looked back up as anger was prevalent in his eyes. He turned from the viewport and walked off of the bridge in a fixed rage without saying a word.