Vanguard of Vengeance: Chapter 1
Commander Evangeline Shepard of the Earth's Systems Alliance was having a very bad day. She'd had worse, of course, she still shuddered to think of the borderline trench warfare of Torfan, but that didn't make today's mission any better. More rounds rattled off the thick metal crate she was using for cover as the bipedal Geth platforms moved in for the kill.
"Alenko! Take some heat off our flank!" Shepard yelled to her biotic second in command. Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko was a capable yet somewhat guarded officer, a strong biotic like Shepard herself, and a stalwart Alliance loyalist. At this moment though, he was pinned behind a similar weight of fire.
"I can try, Commander, these things just keep coming!"
"No room for trying, Lieutenant! We advance or we die!" Shepard turned her attention back to the Geth in front of her position. They danced tantalizingly close, just out of effective range of her Storm-Pattern shotgun. She would have to fix that. Taking advantage of the temporary lull in fire as Kaidan leaned to unleash a torrent of covering fire, Shepard reached out with her mind towards the attacking synthetics. She felt the familiar hot buzz build up in the back of her skull as powerful biotic amplifiers engaged, boosting the output of the distributed eezo nodules that threaded through her brain. Deep oily purple light wreathed her outstretched arms and arced like lightning towards the encroaching Geth. The synthetics found themselves yanked forcefully into the air as local gravity reversed itself. The force of the biotic pull was enough to bring them sailing helplessly into range. Shepard's shotgun barked twice. The Geth fell uselessly to the ground behind her as she leapt from cover.
"Advance!" again she dipped into her biotics, this time lightening herself. With a leap, she flew towards the nearest cluster of attacking robots. She slammed into them with increased force as she released her biotics. The shockwave threw them back in every direction. From behind her, Shepard could hear the twin grunts as the rest of her squad moved from cover.
The second member of the team was Ashley Williams, a marine with the local garrison. Her disciplined fire took two Geth down before they could react. Alenko took up the charge, flanking the remaining synthetics and unleashing a blistering torrent from his overclocked heavy pistol. The surviving Geth crumpled under the assault. Shepard caught the closest one with a high kick, slamming it to the ground in front of her. Laying the barrel of her shotgun alongside the curved platform's thick neck, she barely flinched as she fired one handed.
"Clear!" her squad mates moved up beside her with cautious eyes on the horizon. Shepard didn't blame them. In the distance, a darkened shape reached down from the clouds like the outstretched hand of a callous god.
"What do you think that thing is, Shepard?" Alenko asked with upturned eyes. "I mean, what could have built something so massive?"
"We'll leave that assessment to the white coats once we take it down," Shepard said flatly, "We've got to move, Nihlus will be waiting." The team nodded in acknowledgment and set off towards their destination. The small local spaceport just peaked above the line of the hill in front of them as they broke into a run. Shepard kept her eyes peeled for ambushes; she had already lost one man to the flitting drones that dropped from out of the blue. And that half mad civilian, the exhausted commander thought, the one who had burst from the underbrush in a suicidal attempt to save Private Jenkin's life.
"Commander, it's moving!" Williams pointed up at the black dreadnaught. It was definitely accelerating, drifting impossibly up into the sky. It's ascent was silent but for the cracking of thunder as massive static discharges that roiled through the upper atmosphere.
"Shepard," her radio buzzed, the flanged voice of the Council Spectre, "Where in the sight of the Spirits are you? The Spaceport is locked down tight; I won't be able to move in and secure the beacon without you."
"I copy, Nihlus. We had some… delays due to civilian interference." Shepard spoke more brusquely than she ought to given the turian's role as arbiter over her own entrance to the elite corps of galactic law enforcement agents, but the alien's accusatory tone set her teeth on edge. "ETA is ten minutes."
"Make it five, the Geth appear to have left us parting gifts, some very large explosives." Nihlus cut feed without waiting for an acknowledgement.
"You heard the Spectre, double time it marines."
Despite the massive dreadnaught's departure, the path to the spaceport was still choked with rampaging Geth. With the withdrawal or destruction of so many of their peers, the collective distributed intelligence of the remaining platforms broke down, leaving them directionless.
"Another one down," Williams calmly reported. Her target collapsed against the flimsy barrier that separated Eden Prime's local spaceport from the main road. A wave of biotic force pressed the rest of the small pack against a nearby building, allowing Kaidan to drill the remainder with carefully aimed fire.
"This must be one of the bombs Nihlus told us about," Kaidan said, kneeling beside the long, octagonal device that lay on the ground in the middle of the cargo platform. He dug metal tipped fingers into the spaces around the bomb's paneling and pried it open, running an Omni-tool over the exposed components. "This is a real nasty piece of work. If I didn't know better, the Geth are looking to erase this port from the face of the planet. it looks like they yanked the engines out of one of their torpedoes and stuffed in some extra fissionable material."
"That's a nice story, Alenko, but the real question is, can you disarm it?" Shepard asked impatiently. Something that looked suspiciously like a timer was ticking down in alien numerals, and there were uncomfortably few of them left on the bomb's exposed face.
"That depends; you want them safe enough to travel or safe enough to bring to bed with you?" the biotic joked.
"Let's start with 'not ticking down to doomsday,'" Shepard shot back. Her gaze swept back and forth across this side of the compound. She knew from maps circulated in the briefing that the spaceport had to halves separated by a short tram ride. Nihlus' scouting intel placed the target Prothean beacon on the other side. Doubtless with more of these bombs.
"That I can do, it's just a case of… yanking…" he tugged on a thick trunk of leads wiring the casing as he said the word, "out these wires. This being a converted torpedo we don't have any countermeasures to worry about." Ashley William's eyes bugged out behind her helmet. Had any other member of the crew just pulled the same gamble, Shepard would have joined her, but she and Kaidan had served two tours together on the Normandy and she knew his intuition was almost never wrong. The timer on the side of the casing blinked off, the building whine that had emanating from it died down to nothingness.
"There must be more of those things. Williams, secure the tram. The Lieutenant and I will mark this beast UE and follow." The younger woman nodded and rushed off to make safe the monorail car. Once she had disappeared behind the small departures terminal, Shepard gave the biotic Lieutenant a playful punch in the arm as he summoned a holographic Unexploded Ordinance marker into life above the deactivated bomb.
"Damn it Kaidan, how many times do I have to tell you not to do these things without asking?" she added a sharp rap across the top of his helmet for good measure.
"I don't know, Commander, perhaps one more time. Besides, I like it when you have to remind me of the chain command."
"Um, Commander… this is an open channel," Ashley said, "and the terminal's clean, no hostiles in sight." The weight of the mission came crashing back down on Shepard's shoulders. Wearily she thumbed the radio to reply.
"Copy that, Chief. Heading over to your position."
The short ride across the spaceport seemed to drag on, especially as the small counter in the top corner of Shepard's HUD ticked down. The VI estimated countdown on the rest of the bombs gave them scant minutes to locate the rest of the fission augmented bombs. Luckily the trace release of radiation gave them a strong lead to follow. By now the alien dreadnaught had parted Eden Prime's thin cloud cover, leaving a red streak as electrical storms wreaked havoc on the otherwise peaceful sky. The overwhelming smell of ozone washed over the spaceport, seeping in even through the marines' helmet filters.
"I'm picking up movement!" Williams reported. Shepard saw it too. The squad of Geth, four strong and moving in tight cohesion, was waiting for them on the tram platform.
"Covering fire!" Shepard ordered. Fitting actions to words she unfurled her shotgun and opened up at extreme range. The diffuse spread of hypervelocity pellets drove the Geth defenders into cover. The added weight of Kaidan's biotics and Ashley's precise assault rifle fire kept them there. Spotting her opening, Shepard once again fired up her biotics, this time creating an unstable warp field between herself and the Geth. She pushed it forward with all her might, digging a furrow in the ground as the wave front of destruction advanced across the terminal. It exploded as it intersected with Kaidan's own biotics. The blast ripped the squad of Geth foot soldiers apart as eddies of dark energy propagated through them.
"Another one of those explosives, on the platform above," Kaidan pointed out.
"Move to disable, Williams, you and I are running interference." The team spread out as a fresh wave of attackers moved in from the sides. Rounds began to fly as Geth sighted in on the alliance marines.
"On the left!" Ashley drew back to toss one of her remaining grenades. The small disk detonated with a crash. Shepard plugged first one, then a second with snap shots. The ominous chiming of the overheat alarm rang in her helmet.
"Pull back, they're pressing in from the right." The marines tightened their lines as more Geth sprang onto the field.
"I've got it!" Kaidan yelled, "Watch your heads!" before either could react, the deactivated bomb came sailing past. It hit the ground with a crunch and began to roll. It left a wide swath empty in its wake. Kaidan dropped down beside Shepard and launched a carefully aimed volley at the sole standing Geth platform.
"There are two more of those bombs in the compound. And something… else. There's some pretty strange energy readings coming off of that landing platform. Must be that beacon we're down here for." Shepard eyed the estimated time left and came back with very few options. There was only one thing for it.
"We're going to need to split the party. You two head for the near site, I'll take out the far one, the one near the beacon. I know it's against fleet doctrine, but there's just not enough time to concentrate our forces." The two other marines looked uncomfortable with the order, but Williams seemed to accept them. Kaidan held a hand up in protest.
"Wait, Commander. You're the Alliance's first ever Spectre candidate, you can't risk yourself on a solo mission. Let me take the far site, keep Chief Williams with you on the near bomb."
"Fine, we don't have time to argue, take the far site. Williams, you're with me." The marine nodded. The three split up, advancing from cover to cover as they hopped over the rise that led to the final bomb sites. With a curt nod, Kaidan dropped over the rise and moved to disable the bomb that lay right at the foot of the strange beacon. Shepard turned her attention to the nearest bomb. The octagonal device lay at the bottom of the ramp down, across a narrow bridge from the beacon.
"Commander, we've got incoming!" the younger marine was already sighting in on the new arrivals. Shepard drew a bead too, expecting more Geth. Instead she found herself looking down her sights at a pack of the monstrous former colonists, the desiccated husks of their bodies driven around by glowing blue cybernetics.
Shepard suppressed a shudder and opened up on the wailing creatures. With a flash of biotics she was amongst them, weapon flashing back and forth as she beat the abominations back. Ashley's supporting fire kept her from being overwhelmed as more climbed up from fractures in the ground around the spaceport, streaming in from the site of the dreadnaught's burn pattern. Shepard thrust a biotic shockwave into the greying husks, tossing them aside. Alarms blared in her helmet as her amp heated to dangerous levels. She pushed aside the burning sensation and blinked back stars to find Ashley waving in front of her face.
"Commander, we've got to take out the bomb!" Shepard waved her away, lurching towards the bomb unsteadily. She forewent the careful prying open of the bomb's access hatch in favour of a spike of biotics. The expenditure cost her another hot flare of pain. She reached in and pulled the essential leads from the interior. The bomb's timer flashed off. Waves of relief hit her, counteracting the sickening feeling of biotic overuse.
"Kaidan," she said, her words sounding tinny in her own ears, "We've got the bomb, everything good on your end? Kaidan?" she looked up. The black armoured marine was still elbow deep in the circuitry of the explosive. "Damn it Alenko, respond!" Across the bridge, Kaidan pulled an arm out of the bomb to activate his helmet's radio. Before he could reach it though, he disappeared, hidden behind a blinding white curtain of light and heat. One last thought that ran through Shepard's head before the wave of pressure caught her.
But we still had twenty seconds left….
This idea has been knocking around my head for a while now. I've decided to commit it to the site, see how you guys like it. Given it's status as a kind of side-side-project, it probably won't update too often. Of course, I might shift it up in the priorities if i get a largish response. This fic will depart more dramatically from canon than my previous work, Interloper, and will most likely be darker in tone as well. Hope you enjoy reading.