"Displeased: This vessel does not have aroma synthesizers." The elcor captain spoke into the ship's internal speaker system. "Reassuring: I understand some of you may be confused by our current situation." The elcor continued in a dull monotone. "As you know, the turians were shipping this eezo to a project, until their regretful deaths trying to protect their stores. We are going to Ilos." He said. "With pride: We are participating in a project for the betterment of the war effort. Our expertise is needed to see this shipment through. Soon, we will rendezvous with the human Spectre Ashley Williams. She and her marines will make sure we arrive safely." Captain Torik shut down the internal radio channel. They all had some difficulty adjusting to the pace of the war effort. First, they had been shipping refined eezo to the turian military. Then, all of a sudden, reapers had attacked the system, and the original staff of their ship had died ensuring that the eezo got to Ilos. Torik and his elcor had been the only other crew available that could handle such massive stores of eezo.

Even though they had all, quite impulsively, volunteered, there was a lot to get used to on a turian ship. Turian ships only had around one fourth of normal gravity. Some doorways were inconveniently narrow, and the lavatories were quite difficult to use. Finally, they had to renew their food stores. They had managed to salvage some from their own ship before it was overrun, but most of the food was still dextro, and thus useless. If they were to continue shipping to Ilos, they'd need more food.

He walked towards the elevator just as the door opened. His chief engineer slowly walked out.
"Captain, you wanted to talk to me." The engineer said. Torik could smell the implicit question..
"Yes. I want sensors and clocks set to Dekuuna units." Torik said. "And could you do something about the gravity?"
"I can do the sensors and clocks, but the gravity?" The engineer said. Now Torik could sense a 'no' appended to the sentence.
"This ship isn't designed for that." The engineer said.
"Fine then. Let the gravity be." Torik said. "Back to work." The elcor stepped back into the elevator, and the door closed.

"Telemetry data indicates this is our ship." The pilot said, looking at a screen drawing a composite image of a small turian freighter.
"Good." Commander Williams said. "Hail it." She stood still for a few seconds as the pilot adjusted hailing frequencies.
"This is Commander Williams, captain of the SSV Asculum." She spoke. After a short silence, she heard a response, spoken in monotone.
"Formally: This is Acting-Captain Torik of the Cracigo. Greetings to the honorable marine." The elcor captain spoke. Ashley nodded, though Torik had no way to see it.
"Nearly at the relay. We'll meet on Sanctum, acting-captain Torik." Ashley said.
"Agreement: Yes, Commander Williams." Torik said. The channel was cut, and the ships sped through the relay, one after another.

Torik watched as new readings appeared on the screens on the bridge. The alliance vessel was a few thousand kilometers behind them due to relay drift. The Cracigo accelerated to faster-than-light speeds. They had only come here to resupply, then they would get back out. Apparently, the Alliance had some sort of arrangement with a settlement on Sanctum.

The Cracigo swooped into orbit, looking for the correct approach vector. The SSV Asculum followed behind. Captain Torik watched as they neared the clouds, accelerating further toward the planet. Then, the ship was hit. It buckled, but the kinetic barriers held. Torik rushed to the bridge.
"What was that?" He asked the pilot.
"Defense cannons from the settlement below." The pilot said. The ship shook, and Torik found his considerable mass almost rising to the air. Then, the ship stabilized, and he was back on solid floor.
"Core almost overloaded." The pilot continued. Torik could smell his frantic efforts to keep the ship stable. "Pirates. Has to be."

Torik smacked a panel, opening a channel to the SSV Asculum.
"Urgently: It's Torik, our ship can't handle this much longer." He spoke. Then the ship shook again, and the bridge went dark. Torik and the pilot stood in silence for a second.
"Shields overloaded." The pilot said. Then the panels lighted up again. The lamps turned back on, highlighting the unfortunate reality of their current nosedive. Torik opened the channel to the SSV Asculum once more.
"Alarmed: Shields are out. We are falling." He said.
"We're drawing their fire. Try to land." Ashley said from the other side. The SSV Asculum accelerated downwards, passing the descending Cracigo. The surface-to-air cannons opened fire on the Alliance frigate, but military kinetic barriers could withstand the impacts much better than civilian ones.

The Cracigo descended in a spiral path, trying to get out of the surface-to-air cannon's killzone. It slowed with each passing second. The small town was becoming identifiable, and so was the gun tower firing at the descending ships. Ships had landed on one side of town. Merchant vessels, apparently modified. Standard pirates. They never had proper military ships. They just slapped weapons, armor and stronger shields on merchant vessels, most of them stolen in the first place.

The SSV Asculum slowed down, allowing the Cracigo to move past it. They were no longer within the cannon's firing arc. The pilot started righting the vessel. Torik could smell a deep sense of self-satisfaction.
"Just pretending." The pilot said, slowing down for a landing on the other side of the city. The SSV Asculum followed.
"Looks like we'll have fight our way through." Ashley said from the other end of the channel. "Keep back once we land."
"Confidently: No need." Torik responded. "We would not have gotten this far shipping to colonies without knowing how to defend ourselves. We have shoulder mounted guns."
"In that case, I won't turn down help." Ashley said.
"Professional: I must prepare the crew. Excuse me." Torik said, changing to the ship's internal channel.
"Urgently: Crew. Arm yourselves in the cargo bay. We must clear this place of the pirates before we can resupply. Follow Commander Williams' orders." He closed the channel, and started walking toward the elevator.

The door opened, and Torik stepped into the large hall. There were three other elcor there already. Their armor and weapon harnesses were rather light, but still useful. And they were fairly easy to don. Torik stomped over to a locker, and raised one hand to the knob, pulling it open. There were several pieces of dark red armor, designed to extend and clasp to each other. He took out the pieces, and set one to the floor. Then he slowly laid on top of it, and placed another on his stomach. They fit together, settling into a shell around his body. Then he took two curved strips of ceramic, metal, and plastic, placing them around his hindlimbs. They circled around, and extended covering over his feet, before joining with the shell around his torso. He grabbed another piece, to be fitted around his shoulders. The weapon harness. He pulled it over his arms, and slowly rolled to his side, the weapons extending into usable forms over his shoulders. Then, he pulled two more strips of armor over his arms, encircling them. They joined with the harness and piece on his back, extending to cover his hands. Then he rose up. A visor dropped over his eyes as the harness and torso components extended to provide a helmet.

He was ready to fight.

Commander Williams adjusted her helmet visor. It was a small settlement composed mostly of closely stacked prefabricated buildings. With the right zoom setting, she could make out detail as far as the other end of the town. The pirates had landed at the west side of the town, and pushed locals to the anti-air tower. Then they had taken control of it. She could see a group of them, herding humans into the tower. The pirates were mostly batarians, and they had the operation well underway. Inconvenient. It meant they'd have a large supply of hostages.

She looked back down at the street. A larger group of pirates was approaching. There were fifteen of them. Again, mostly batarians. A few turians and humans. One asari. They couldn't be stupid enough to think that'd be enough to take out two crews. There was another group nearby. There had to be. She opened her helmet radio.
"Find sniper positions. Report if you see any more pirates." She said. Then she switched channels to Torik and his crew.
"You've got fifteen pirates heading your way. Ready?"
"With assurance: My crew is armed and ready to go." Torik said. Ashley looked back at the ships. The Cracigo's cargo bay had opened and the elcor were walking out. She didn't like trusting in the fighting capability of a group she knew nothing about, apart from their own statements, but it was an acceptable risk. Besides, if Torik was any good, he and his crew would mince the pirates. They couldn't be expecting elcor.

She saw them enter the main street in a line. Each and every one of them had an open line of fire to anyone else on the street. There were over a hundred meters between the two groups. Both opened fire, but the pirates' shots were drowned out by a hail of automatic fire from shoulder-mounted guns. Torik had a massive advantage in sheer firepower. The pirates scampered into the doorways of the prefabricated buildings, two of them already bleeding out. Ashley hefted her sniper rifle. Her scope caught the asari, ducking in a doorway. She could see her rise up and adopt an exaggerated pose, swinging one of her arms back. They were all biotics. That could cause a problem for Torik.

A well-placed bullet pierced her head, and Ashley jumped off the prefab building.

Commander Shepard stepped over the varren she had just shot. The containment failure was plenty real, even if it might have been manufactured. She strolled over to the control panel, shotgun still in hand. She glanced at Mordin, still standing in the chamber on the left side of the pod.
"One tried to approach panel. Forced to run from vorcha. Suspect attempt to send us down." He said. Shepard nodded, manipulating the controls with her left hand. The pod started moving again. Then, suddenly, they heard an explosion. The room went dark and the pod stopped in its track, suspended half a meter above the floor.
"Son of a..." Shepard started. "They actually bombed their own power lines to stop us."
"Already wrecked other projects. This not a surprise." Mordin said. Shepard smacked the dead control panel. She allowed her omni-tool to illuminate her surroundings. The containment shield in the krogan's pod was gone, but she was still stuck in a metal straitjacket. And without the systems online, there was no way to open it. The systems that had just been blown out of existence. They'd have to cut her out.

She heard growling from the dark. More varren. Mordin pulled out his omni-tool.
"Can you get her out of there?" Shepard asked.
"Will take some time." Mordin said. "Worried about what else will happen. Perfect time to kill krogan." He said, stepping into the pod itself. Shepard nodded and opened a channel to Wrex. The holographic krogan illuminated the darkness.
"Wrex! We have a bit of a problem here. Someone bombed the power lines. The female is stuck." She said.
"What?" Wrex shouted. "I'm coming down there!"
"Good." Shepard said. "The varren are getting aggressive." She scanned her surroundings on night vision. Several varren, and she was essentially cornered. They must have been released when the power disappeared. She looked back at the holographic krogan. He was snarling at someone.
"I dare you to stop me!" He shouted. Shepard heard a loud thump. "I'm coming Shepard!" He continued, closing the channel. She hoped he could find the emergency exits. Then she called her pilot.
"Cortez!" She started. "Get into the air, we can't trust the salarians anymore." She said.
"Aye, aye, commander." He said. She closed the channel.

She turned to see the first varren leap at her. She fired, and it fell limp at her feet. She aimed at the group of varren. They growled, shuffling in the darkness. She could see the creatures tense up. She could handle herself, but protecting Mordin and the krogan could prove difficult. She hoped nothing more dangerous than varren would show up. They seemed mindlessly aggressive, even for natives of Tuchanka. She glanced at Mordin. He was slowly slicing through through the krogan's restraints. She looked back at the varren. The pack had stopped shuffling. She could barely see their faces. One of the creatures took a tentative step forward, only to be shot.

As if of one mind, the varren charged. Shepard tossed them aside with a single gesture, watching as the disorientated creatures picked themselves up from the floor in the wake of her biotic push. She leveled her shotgun once more. She had promised to shoot anyone who tried to stop her.

And that she would do.