Cyone was like nearly all other asari worlds, functional excellence hidden within aesthetic perfection. Someone unfamiliar with asari culture would easily mistake the tall, graceful spires for political or artistic centers and not see the fuel processing plants for what they were. The planet was vital to the war economy and the asari confederations meant to hold it at all costs.
Two asari huntresses peered out from behind a ruined building, imagining the landscape as it was three days ago…serene…perfect, not the city dotted with the orange glow of fires and pillars of smoke, rising above the dead. War threatened to wipe out all beauty here.
Lessira tapped the panel on her omni-tool, reenergizing the cloaking field around her armor. To the untrained observer, she was just another chunck of smashed concrete. Then, she put her eye up to the scope of her Mantis rifle. "Spot," she told her fellow huntress.
Merina extended a periscope above the rubble and began to pan it around. "Nothing yet…wait…. I have Reaper forces massing at Two-Eight-Two, Three-Thousand Meters, two clicks down angle."
Lessira slid the rifle just a bit down and to the left and thumbed the zoom on her scope. "Goddess, don't they ever run out of troops? We've been here hours and stopped ten assaults. How many do you see?"
"I can see several hundred," Merina said grimly. "I'm down to three thermal clips. I don't think we can hold this position."
Lessira gave a tiny nod, never taking her eye off of the gathering Reapers. "Okay, tell Paratus. We're going to need to bug out and fall back to Defensive Line Meridia," she said as she activated the automated recall switch – a shuttle would pick them up at the new LZ and they would live to fight another day.
There was a brief crackle of static over the comm system. "Legion Five, Legion Five, this is Huntress Two-Seven. Be advised that Reapers are gathering in mass for a push to our position. We cannot hold here and will be falling back to Meridia. Suggest you do same. Extraction expected in ten minutes."
The slightly distorted, multitonal voice of a turian came over the line. "Negative, negative. My soldiers are not retreating from this position. We will hold the line."
Merina looked over to her partner, her eyes widening. "Legion Five, let me be clear, we will be overrun. We cannot hold this position. You will have no coverage on your left flank."
"Huntress Two-Seven, let me be clear, we are not abandoning this position. We hold the LZ here. Do what you have to do, over."
"Understood. Two-Seven out," Merina said, shock still heavy in her voice. "What do we do?" she asked the other huntress. "We can't just leave them."
Lessira pursed her lips, a blue glow of power wreathing her head. She took a deep breath. "Fuck em. We can't win this thing if we're dead. If those damn turians are too stubborn to see that, fuck em."
"But-" Merina began, but the rest of her thought was cut short by a distant high pitched whine that grew louder. "Incoming!"
A moment later, an ear-shattering crump tore the air, followed by several more. Near their position, gouts of flame and debris sailed skyward, showering them in dust and chunks of rock seconds later. "Ravagers!" Lessira called over the pounding of artillery. Despite the tumult, she put her eye to the lens of the scope. A laser rangefinder sent out a beam and data began streaming up the lens.
Merina read numbers from her periscope. "Fifteen hundred meters. Elevation, two clicks. Wind correction, left three. Clear to engage!"
As she cloaked, Lessira raised the muzzle of her Mantis and angled it to the left. She let out half of her breath and began timing the thumping of her heart. Thumpthump thumpthump Fwshhh. The boat tail round leapt silently from the weapon without flash and almost seemed to hang in midair before slamming into the bulbous head of a Ravager. Green goo exploded from the entry wound as the organic artillery piece collapsed in a heap.
"Clean kill," said Merina. "So, we sticking around?"
"Yeah, yeah, next target."
Merina snickered. "Brute, one thousand meters, down angle, two clicks, right five."
The muzzle swung down and right. Half a breath out. Wait. Wait. Squeeze. The massive creature's left eye liquefied as the supersonic round passed through, entering its mutated brain and turning that into jelly with the shockwave.
"Clean kill. Okay, here they come. Multiple targets inbound. Free fire. Free fire."
Lessira lined up a Marauder and squeezed the trigger. It was, as the humans said, like shooting fish in a barrel. There was no finesse for the huntress. This was simply murder. Another target, another round. "Can we get a fire mission? We need some artillery."
The radio crackled as Merina pushed her mike, shouting over the roar of enemy fire. "CQ, CQ, this is Huntress Two-Seven. We need a fire mission. Spotting round, grid Talos Eight-Five. Repeat, urgent fire mission."
"Negative, Two-Seven. Ravagers took out our arty. Extraction at Meridia in five minutes. Do you copy?"
"CQ, we're staying put. We're covering Legion Five's flank."
"Understood. Shuttle will remain for two minutes, over."
Merina looked back into her periscope and could see Reapers pressing on the turian position, climbing over mounds of their own dead, oblivious to any casualties. She wondered about the wisdom of holding position, but Lessira seemed committed, squeezing off round after round. Coils of steam seeped from the barrel housing of the Mantis.
"Reloading!" Lessira called as she pressed the catch on the side of the rifle, letting the clip fall away.
Merina drew her Acolyte pistol. "Covering!" Through the eyepiece she thought she saw some sort of distortion. It was like the air was warping right in front of them. "What the…?"
It literally appeared right before them, skeletally thin with a bloated belly and clawed fingers like talons. How did Merina not see this? She raised her pistol and could now see that this…this thing use to be asari. "Goddess!" Before she could fire a shot it let out a scream that could have ripped out her guts with fear alone. Lessira tried to roll away…tried to bring her rifle up, but this Banshee lifted the sniper with its claws and the air around them darkened as if a storm had been unleashed.
"No!" Merina wailed as she fled. There was nothing more to see. Her mind blotted out the horror even as it erased the blood curdling screaming of an asari and her gurgling death moans. Without even aiming, Merina fired behind her blindly as she ran. "Legion! Legion! This is…this is…. Fall back! We're overrun!" she shouted into her mike, nearly incoherent.
"Negative, we can hold this LZ here."
"You don't understand! Nothing can stop it! It won't stop for shit!"
"Enough. Clear this frequency. Over."
Merina unleashed a feral cry and threw her mike on the debris strewn ground. Like Lessira said. "Fuck em!" She took one last look back and saw the Banshee warping up the mound to seize one of the turians by the throat. Cannibals streamed in behind it, climbing over the barricades. She ran the rest of the way to LZ Meridia where the shuttle was just shutting its door.
Seeing her, the door gunner pounded on the cabin bulkhead. "Hold up, we got one!" The asari gunner extended her hand out and Merina took it, hauling herself into the shuttle. "What happened? Where's Legion Five?"
Merina rolled onto the deck and curled up into a ball, laughing and crying at the same time. "Fuck em. They wouldn't listen. Fuck em," she said as the shuttle streaked away.
Writer Notes: Wow, back to writing. I'm big into ME Multiplayer and had a little ditty floating around in my head after playing with a group that insisted on camping in the LZ on gold and got wiped. I waltzed in as the clock struck 0. I've got a bunch of ditties now so more coming.
Dedicated to Padawan Mage and Supra, my ME MP gang banger.
aka Alice the Raven