Hey folks!
For those of you who have been following the updates on my profile, you should have been expecting this for quite a while now.
If you haven't been following my profile, first off, you should do so! I'm constantly posting updates on the status of my newest stories, The [Next] War included!

Now, my Beta and I have gotten a lot of work done on T[N]W over the last few months, and I've finally made the decision that I'm at a point where I can start putting up content.

So, to start us off, I decided to put up my final update to The First War. So pay attention, folks, you may find some small details that help paint a picture for The [Next] War proper!

So, without further ado, I present, for your consideration:
A Preview, for Mass Effect: The Saltorian War

"We poison our air and water to weed out the weak! We set off fission bombs in our only biosphere! We nailed our God to a stick! Don't fuck with the human race!"

— A forum post

"I was the Director for Affairs. The leader of my race, and of two not my own. My word would dictate the fate of countless billions, and innumerably more once the war was done. Do you truly think, with all the power that Man has in his possession, that I thought for a second that I should allow the Saltorians to die?"

— The Alliance Director for Affairs, William Tyson, on The Alliance's intervention during The Saltorian War.

October 1st, 2220

The atmosphere aboard the Alliance Super Carrier, the SSV Albert Einstein, could only be described as hectic. Only two days ago, the Alliance had been at a state of veritable peace, even the Rebels had slowed down their assaults and their campaigns, to allow the Government time to lick its wounds and treat its new friends. Then, yesterday happened, Tyson and the Board of Directors discovered - to their horror - the Saltorian Reconnaissance Fleet dead in the water, and their DS/C destroyed beyond all hope of repair. It barely took an hour for the nearest ship to make a Warp Jump to the Saltorian system, only to find what would dedicate Man to his next war.

The recently promoted Captain of the Einstein, one Hannah Shepard, simply could not believe what she'd been told, as her ship was loaded up with Marines, SIGMAs, N7 and OD3's galore. The Batarians were back, after barely a half decade of silence, but they weren't assaulting Alliance worlds, no, Hannah knew, that would be too easy. They were subjugating a species, an innocent, underdeveloped species! The six planets the Alliance had conquered had barely recovered their industries, and yet the Hegemony was already making a move to begin the second Batarian War.

Hannah, in all honesty, had seen this coming. She knew that the Batarians would come back, given time. She knew that Batarian War II was an inevitable eventuality, not just a possibility. But what she couldn't have even fathomed would be that the Batarians had stooped so low as to invade the homeworld and First Colonized Planet of an innocently ignorant underdeveloped species, and proceed to invade and enslave its entire population. Hannah didn't know for exactly how long the Batarians had been besieging Saltor, but she knew that it wouldn't last another day if the Alliance had their way, and they would.

It was now, as the ship was mid-way through its Warp Transit, that she was conducting her pre-deployment ritual. It had been twelve years to the day, since she'd lost the very reason her 'for college' military career had evolved into a life-long dedication. She kneeled down in front of the picture she kept on her night stand, the picture she kept of her only child. It was with a soft smile that she bowed her head and closed her eyes. She muttered a soft prayer, wishing Johnny's soul a good day, and asking her God for a quick death, should that be his will, or a speedy victory, so that her species not suffer long through the horrors of War.

She sat like this for what felt like an eternity to her, but she knew was only five minutes, exactly. Just as she began to shift, she heard a knock on the door to her quarters. She called for the individual to enter, and was slightly surprised when she was greeted by one of the SIGMAs, his rifle raised.

"Captain? Are you injured?" The SIGMA asked, his voice deep and holding the tone of authority earned over years on the battlefield.

"Not at all." Said Hannah, in her 'Captain's Voice', "why? Are we under attack?" The feeling of acceleration in her gut told her that that was more or less impossible, as they were still in the Warp, but then again, they were in the Warp, anything could happen.

"The ships' pilots, and the AI, have been attempting to contact you for seven minutes now." The SIGMA, who wore the numbers 2-15 on the right side of his breastplate, explained.

"Oh." Said Hannah, with a nod. "I apologize for that, I was… Mourning." She admitted.

"Did we lose someone?" Two-Fifteen asked, before he decided there wasn't a clear and present threat, and he magnetically clamped his rifle to his back.

"No." Hannah shook her head, "I lost a son, many years ago. Today was the anniversary of his loss, I was offering him a quick prayer." She said, indicating the elevator, which she and Two-Fifteen walked to. "Do you have a family?" She asked, as they stepped into the elevator.

"The Alliance Armed Forces is my family." The SIGMA said, stone-like.

Hannah looked into the man's eyes, or, the polarized windows upon his gas-mask/helmet combo, that lied in front of his eyes. The blood red plates of glass that was surrounded by the armor, that separated the Augmented Elite's face from the outside world seemed soulless at first glance, frightening too, but to anyone who could call a SIGMA 'ally', or to anyone who knew he was fighting for them, they would say the red eyes were filled with a sense of hope, of duty, and of accomplishment.

"You don't have any brothers, or sisters? Parents? Spouses, children?" Hannah asked. She'd met dozens of SIGMAs during her career in the navy, from her days as a simply Petty Officer to her more recent excursions as Captain of the Einstein, the only thing she could say that differentiated them all was that more recently they seemed much more cold, much more hardened, than before.

"My brothers and sisters are all SIGMAs." Two-Fifteen supplied, "I lost my father in the Second Contact War, and -" A split second pause that was barely perceptible by the Captain "- I lost my mother to Mercenaries during those wars. My life is the military, I have no wife and no son."

"I understand the pain of loss, Sergeant." The aging Captain said, thinking of her son. "But even you SIGMAs must know the value of a Significant Other…"

A stagnant pause, as the elevator slowed to a halt on the CIC, Hannah's stop. "We SIGMAs never got the chance." Said 2-15, as the elevator doors opened, and Hannah felt a feeling of rapid deceleration in her stomach.

Something deep inside the Officer all but demanded she continue speaking to the SIGMA, but her duties to the Alliance overrode those deep emotions, and she put on a brave face for the trials to come. She stepped from the Elevator, which the SIGMA programmed to take him to the Starboard Landing Bay, and was greeted by her Executive Officer.

"Gale… What do we have?" She asked.

"We have just exited warp, 30 lightminutes from Saltor to regroup and reestablish communications with Fifth Fleet. Admiral Hackett's already issuing orders, the Fifth Fleet's Destroyers and Carrier Strike Groups are to hit the warp again, but we're supposed to bring the brunt of our main forces to the Saltorian Homeworld's largest city." Said the XO, Gale, after he fired off a quick salute. "From what we're gathering from Saltorian Satellite Communications, it's under heavy siege, and the majority of the Hegemony Navy is situated above it. Based from the scars on the planet, I'd guess they're waiting for an excuse to let the Mass Accelerators loose." He shrugged. "Orders?"

Shepard only had to think for a moment. This was standard planetary invading procedure, first you would arrive well out of range of scanners, but well within range of a short-distance Warp. When they were ready to invade, the Carriers would warp to the planet's atmosphere to deploy OD3's, and then move in to send in the Marines, while the Destroyers did what they did best: They flanked and destroyed.

"Hit the warp. I want the Einstein's OD3's to be the first thing they see, before we show up with the Marines." Hannah ordered.

"Aye Aye. We've already ordered General Quarters -" Hannah and the entire crew was hit with the feeling of acceleration in their stomachs. "- And the OD3's are prepped and ready for launch." Just three seconds later, as Hannah stepped up and sat down in her Captain's chair in the CIC, the ship exited the warp and the feeling of deceleration replaced the accelerated feeling in the Crew's guts.

"Captain, we've got three Batarian Frigates angling to our Starboard! Weapons Charges detected!"

"Get the Deck Guns charged up." Hannah ordered, "get us within orbit of the Saltorian Capital city and launch OD3 and SIGMA Forces. We've got the Alpha Squad, yes? I want them on the battlefield yesterday!"

As the Human Systems Alliance Navy's Carriers warped to Saltor's atmosphere, and the Destroyers were warping directly into the heat, the Navy's Frigates and Dreadnoughts were warping in to position far more befitting of a Naval Battle. Literal hundreds of Dreadnoughts and thousands more of Frigates swarmed and encircled the system. In seconds, the Fifth Fleet's Admiral, aboard the fleet's sole Flagship, made the order.

"Fifth Fleet." The grizzled veteran began, as he stared down the holographic displays, depicting the solar system and the third and fourth planets, both of which had an enormous concentration of Batarian Naval Vessels congregated around them. "Open fire. Show these slave-taking bastards what it means to attack a sovereign species, in Human territory." And with that, his enormous, three and a half kilometer long vessel shuddered violently as its massive cannons spat magnetically accelerated death.

Upon his word, the fleet's AI's let loose far faster than their Human operators could have done so. The results, anywhere else, would have been laughable, had the fleet been anywhere near challenging for the Alliance Navy, but here, the results were almost sad. The Frigates' cannons spat their six hundred twelve ton tungsten slugs at rates of thirty eight thousand meters per second, which, upon impact, created an equivalent of just over ninety five kilotons of TNT. The Frigates, their projectiles slamming into the Batarian ships, focused their fire upon the smaller ships that were in tighter clusters, did massive amounts of damage, but their weapons paled in comparison to the raw damage the Dreadnoughts were able to deal.

Focusing upon the larger Cruisers, the Hegemony mock-up ships, and the Hegemony's few remaining Dreadnoughts, the Systems Alliance's dreadnought unleashed enormous tungsten death at speeds of five percent the speed of light. The tungsten slugs, travelling at just under fifteen million meters per second, created a force of just under fifteen thousand megatons of TNT. Their Dreadnought's slugs decimated the shields and all but liquefied the armor of any ship they shot, the only problem being the ships that were hovering directly above the two planets, Saltor and Hoomanisire.

These ships, while definitely within range of the Alliance's deadly naval weaponry, were essentially shielded by the planets they were hovering above. The Alliance did not want to make a horrible impression upon the Saltorians, and thus, could not shoot down the ships that, if they moved, would put the planet at risk. While the Destroyers were certainly helping them, by flanking the other ships, even their enormous rail guns and their blinding muzzle velocities weren't enough to break through the heavy-cruisers' shields, the more advance MU ships' shields, or the Dreadnoughts. This meant that the Batarian Dreadnoughts had enough time to realize what was happening, and were able to put into play the strategies developed in the wake of the Batarian War.

Acting on what could only be described as naval instinct, the Batarian Dreadnoughts jumped to FTL. They reappeared the one place Hackett couldn't have planned for: Right under the bellies of the reappearing Carriers. The Batarians were more than aware that fighting Human Dreadnoughts or the Flagship was a losing game, and the Destroyers were far to effective at their flank, hit, and run strategies, so they fired at the only targets that were left, that were within capable range: The Alliance's Carriers. Even with the Destroyer Escorts exiting Warp around them, the enemy Dreadnoughts were able to get several shots out. Hackett could almost feel the raw heat that must have been coming from the Batarian ships' main cannons, as they fired continuously.

Reports, fleet-wide, came in, reporting on enemy Dreadnought fire. The Admiral's blood ran cold when he realized what they were targeting, and what would be hit when and if they missed those targets. Hackett sent out orders fleet-wide for all available Alliance Dreadnoughts to begin focusing fire upon the enemy Dreadnoughts, this, coupled with the overwhelming fire of the half dozen Destroyers that were a part of the multiple Carrier Strike Groups, would obliterate the enemy Dreadnoughts; though these orders left the Frigates and Destroyers open to the Batarian Mock-Up ships' assaults, but he was more than certain they would be fine on their own.

Within ten minutes, many things had happened at once. All nine of the remaining Batarian Dreadnoughts had been ripped apart by the overwhelming Dreadnought fire, with each ship receiving nearly a hundred magnetically accelerated slugs right through their spinal cannons. The after effects of the diverted fire resulted in seven Alliance Frigates being blown apart by Batarian Cruiser fire, and a dozen Destroyers being overwhelmed by the numbers of Batarian Mock Up ships. The MU Ships, having been designed around scavenged Alliance naval technology, would, alone, have trouble ripping apart Alliance Warmachines, given the cobbled-together nature of the ships; but with superior numbers, a force of five MU Ships could successfully destroy a single Alliance Destroyer. The dozen destroyers weren't the final casualties, however, the Batarian Dreadnought Fire had destroyed nine Alliance Craft Carriers. six of them had yet to enter the atmospheres of their respective planets, and thus were able to continue their mission: Deploying Marines, Orbital Dropping Death Dealers, N7 Special Operatives, and more fearsome than them all, the SIGMA I's and II's, while simultaneously beginning evacuations. The other three ships, however, were either in the process of entering the planets' atmospheres, had too much momentum to be halted, or were too close to them and were caught in their gravity wells, and thus were all pulled into the planets' atmosphere, to be set aflame as they hurtled to the planets' surfaces.

"I want recovery teams dispatched immediately!" Hackett ordered, "Dreadnoughts, tear the Mock Ups apart! Escorts and available Destroyers, defensive formations around the Carriers!" As the Admiral spoke, the Fleet was busy carrying out his orders.

The Carriers that were dead in the water were, aside from being either crippled or outright broken apart, essentially safe. They were deploying fighters and shuttles reliably, albeit at a slower pace due to the fact that the crews were rapidly evacuating the ships. The ones hurtling towards the planets' surfaces were in far worse shape, it was a mad dash for their remaining Marines, Air and Space Force fighters, and Special Forces warriors to deploy and for the naval officers to evacuate. The result, was chaos on an enormous scale; OD3 Drop Pods were fired on incorrect trajectories, and thus would slam into each other frequently. Shuttles, overstuffed with Marines, blasted out of the carriers and were forced to use their thrusters to stay in the air, the result was many of the shuttles blasting straight through the rainfall of emergency deployed OD3's, damaging many Dealers and killing some. Fighters, however, had it the worst off: the maximum carrying capacity of an Alliance Supercarrier was over twenty five hundred Vertical Take Off and Landing-Vacuum Fighter Craft. With over twenty five hundred pilots trying to evacuate at the same time, the result was chaotic, dozens of fighters crashed into each other, destroying them and killing their pilots. Hundreds others took off incorrectly, and ended up tearing entire sections of their vehicle off on the destroyed, falling ships, thus forcing their pilots to eject, subjecting them to the rainfall of OD3's, and the debris field of the Carriers.

Hackett couldn't help but feel a weight in his heart as maydays and distress calls came in from the Carriers, as they were falling through the air. He knew that it was impossible for all of their crews to be evacuated, and thus, casualties would be taken. He clenched his fist tightly, as more reports came in. These ones were of Carriers who had successfully taken over the airspace of their designated cities, with the Alliance's mightiest Carrier, the Albert Einstein, taking control of the Saltorian Race's most important, New-York Class Capital City.

Welcome to war, ladies and gentlemen. Thought Hackett, as more reports came in.

As befitting of their skill, the SIGMAs had hit the ground first, and already were beginning to take over the situation on the ground. Hackett couldn't help but smile, the Saltorians first impression of the Systems Alliance would be seen alongside their mightiest, most skilled warriors. Victory wasn't a possibility in this playing field, he knew the Saltorians would very soon learn, with the SIGMAs, it would be in eventuality.

If there was one thing that John S2-15 loved about Orbital Drops, above all else, it was the feeling he got when the Orbital Insertion Vehicle hit atmosphere, and started shaking about violently. Where some would equate it to a wildly uncontrollable roller-coaster ride, John equated it to a feeling of weakness. It reminded him that he, for all his armor, all his armaments, all his training and all his augmentations, was still Human, was still fallible, and he was still weak. All it would take was one faulty piece of armor, and the entire Drop Pod could fall apart, and leave him helplessly stranded as he hurtled towards the earth at ever increasing speeds.

"Alpha Squad, report in." He said over the SIGMA Squad Channel.

"Craig-S2-82 Up."

"George-S2-66 Up."

"Alliance Intelligence Construct Jenny Up."

"Weapons Check." John ordered.

"Sniper and Marksman Rifles loaded and ready for Combat." Came Craig's voice.

"Light Machine Gun and Heavy Weapons loaded and ready for combat." Came George's thickly accented, and ever-deep voice.

"Cyber Warfare and Protection routines and subroutines primed and ready for combat." Said Jenny.

"Ammunition." John checked, the pod began shaking even harder, as the dark black void that was space began giving way to the blue gray of Saltor's atmosphere.



"Armor integrity."



John nodded, all was in check, SIGMA II Alpha Squad, the end-all be-all for greatness in the SIGMA II Program, was ready for battle. All that was left was the ice-breaker, "Sidearms."

"Never leave home without it." Said Craig.

"I thought you were going to ask about Mission Support, John." Said a chuckling George.

"You know we don't need support, George. Support needs us." John grinned behind his helmet, his HUD casting a light blue glow over his face. A momentary pause, as the Black of Space was completely overwhelmed by the blue/gray of the planet's atmosphere, and the pod began shaking more and more as every second passed; the SIGMAs had yet to breach the cloud barrier, though, so they couldn't tell what the battlefield looked like. "Let's go over it again, Mission Objectives."

"Aid and Assist the Saltorian Empire in whatever way they or the Alliance sees fit." Said Craig.

"Defeat the Batarian Hegemony and remove them from Saltorian Territory." Said George.

"Don't forget, Boys, provide a clear and honorable example for the Human Race. This is First Contact, after all." Came Jenny, in her joking, sarcastic tone.

"Jenny, we're Human. I can all but guarantee an Orbit to Surface missile will be launched before the day is out." Craig quipped.

"Breaching Cloud Barrier." John reported.

The shaking intensified for several seconds, as they blasted through a large patch of rough air, getting ever so closer to the ground, but John wasn't worried, this was what Inertial Dampeners were for; said dampeners kicked in, giving them a smooth final descent, just as they entered the Cloud Barrier. What they saw upon breaching the Cloud Barrier gave even the battle-hardened child soldiers pause. It was an enormous city on one half, and a lush green plain on the other. The city extended farther than they could see in its direction, and the plain father still in its direction. There were two Batarian Ships hovering around an enormous building, providing Air Superiority for their gunships and logistical support for their ground troops, who, from what John could see so high up, were simply setting the city on fire, and slaughtering anything that moved. Slaughtering wasn't an appropriate term, John realized, it looked as if anything that moved, on the surface of this planet, was fighting against the Batarians, and were desperately trying to keep them from the enormous building that the two ships were hovering next to.

John couldn't help but crack a wide, victorious grin as a loud 'Incoming!' was declared over all Alliance Channels, before three Magnetically Accelerated Slugs soared through the atmosphere and slammed into the Batarian ships, destroying both of them in massive blue explosions, and carrying just enough momentum to slam into the ground below them, adding considerably more to the already massive damage the city had suffered. But the thing that stood out most to John was what was happening on the battlefield outside the city. The war seemed to have halted itself, both at the sight of the ships falling, and at the even more fearsome sight of the Alliance's Suicide Leapers diving straight for the battlefield.

As John and his squad soared to the ground, John could see the lizard-analogous aliens seem to raise up their Arms and cheer at the sight of the OIV's, and the Batarians almost universally forgot about the Saltorians, as they shifted their fire to the Human Orbital Insertion Vehicles.

"Impact in three." The AI advised, as the OIV's heat-dissipaters kicked in and removed the fiery cloak that had built up around the OIV on reentry.

In three seconds exactly, John and the other SIGMA II's from Alpha Squad slammed into the ground. Just a second after that, the door to John's OIV opened, and he leapt onto the battlefield. To his immediate right, he saw a horrified Batarian holding a weapon over a stunned Saltorian, both staring at him. John acted just as the Batarian shook off the shock, pulling the trigger on his rifle. Three shots slammed into the Batarian's shields, and one tore through the man's shoulder, but the Batarian's mad rush had paid off and he was throwing a wild haymaker at John's armored temple.

Acting with the sort of instinct that could only, ever come from a lifetime of warfare, John ducked the punch and slammed the butt of his rifle into the Batarian's stomach. An instant later had John's open palm, super-charged with his biotics, slamming into the Batarian's throat, the increased relative mass of his fist hit the Batarian like a truck, thus sending it careening into the ground in an upside-down U-Shaped arc. The Batarian hit the ground just as John brought his rifle to bear, and pulled the trigger, tearing the Batarian's face apart with a quick burst of four bullets, and spraying blood and gore over John's mask.

Without breaking stride, John got to his feet. He first looked to the city, where the Einstein, in all its glory, was taking the place of the Batarian Ships, and more and more OD3's were breaking atmosphere, it was a veritable rainfall of OIV's and Alliance Special Forces. John eyed his motion tracker, the others from Alpha Squad were making their way to him. He turned around, and saw the Saltorian on the ground. It wasn't an attractive thing, John admitted, it looked evolutionarily designed for war, with its thick, scaly hide, its dark green scales, the eyes on either side of its head, its enormous size, and its tough build. Its uniform and body had suffered much damage from Batarian gunfire, but its accelerated healing factor was already paying off, and John could see the injuries slowly, but visibly, healing themselves. But what almost caught John off guard was the look of pure awe the Saltorian was giving him.

"He…" Said the Saltorian, his voice not at all as slithery and snake-like as John would have expected, but rather deep and slightly flanged. "You… Thou…" His eyes widened as if in disbelief.

He's in shock. John thought, as he shifted his grip so his rifle was entirely in his right hand. And he's a soldier… John looked at the Saltorian's uniform, which had all the makes and tags of a military uniform. Let's wake him up. John extended his hand.

The Saltorian seemed to recoil at the sight, as if John had just extended a horrifying weapon and the Saltorian thought he was going to be killed. Three seconds passed before the Saltorian - apparently deciding it wasn't a weapon, but just a hand - grasped John's outstretched hand and hauled himself to his feet. The Saltorian easily stood at eight and a half feet, a foot and a half taller than the SIGMA Warrior, but John wasn't intimidated, his Motion Tracker said the other Alphas had arrived. John looked to the ground and spied what looked like a club-shaped, smooth-bore rifle, almost like the ancient blunderbuss, with a battery sticking out of one end, just above the stock. John snatched it from the ground, and thrust it into the Saltorian's arms.

"MOVE TO THE CITY!" The SIGMA roared in his Sergeant Voice, "we counter there!" John roared, glad that his translator had been updated to support the Saltorian language; he lightly slapped the lizard on the back, and that inspired the being to begin sprinting with the Alliance's Augmented Elite.

John, the Saltorian, and the other two Alphas sprinted towards the city. All around him, OD3's and even a few assorted SIGMAs, as well as thousands of reinvigorated Saltorians, were breezing through the Batarians in their attempt to make it to the city. As they reached what looked like a highly contested zone, however, John's Saltorian seemed to become distracted.

"Hey! Snap out of it!" John lightly smacked the Saltorian on the head, as they came to a halt. "We need men on the right and left flanks, as ours push up the center!" John roared above the sounds of War, gesturing with his hands what his words were saying. "I want you with the men on the left! We are not leaving until this city is under our control!" He roared, his deep voice cutting clear through the deafening sounds of war.

The Saltorian looked to where John's arm was pointing, and just as John had said it, legions of Saltorians, led by three squads of SIGMA Operatives, were charging the Batarian defensive line. The mere presence of Humans on the battlefield seemed to be instilling the Saltorians with a sense of newfound vigor, and John's Saltorian joined in on the sense, as he gave the man a sharp salute.

"Yes, Sire!" The Saltorian roared, his deep voice permeating above the battlefield, before he sprinted off to join his brothers, John could hear him barking orders into what looked like a radio, attached to his helmet.

"Alphas! With me!" John ordered into the SIGMA Comms, "we are driving this invasion!" And with that, the SIGMA II's rushed right into the heat of things, to do the one and only thing they knew how: Wage War.

In the back of John's mind, amongst all the thoughts, amongst all the instincts telling him to duck, just before a Mass Accelerated Slug would fly over his head, or skim off his shields, and behind all the voices in the radio shouting out updates, John knew one single thing: The Saltorians' 'Subjugation War' was over.

In its place, The Saltorian War had begun.


Beliefs Are Shattered, January 26th, 2014