W/N - Here's my next ME multiplayer fic. This one is about the N7 Slayer Vanguard character. Just a little bit of character to show who his is and why he's fighting, but not so much as these are still some of the anonymous masses of people fighting. Sword terms are explained in the CODEX. It was supposed to be a one shot, but now I'm looking at a three part arc for the N7 Shadow and the Phoenix Adept. A character from The Vila makes an appearance.

By the Sword

War is a funny thing…if you could consider the destruction of worlds and the death of billions to be funny. Well, not funny in the humorous sense, but funny in the odd sense – allies become enemies, enemies become allies and all that is old becomes new again. His back pressed against a wall in a habitation module on Eden Prime, the Slayer gazed down at the sword in his hand and waited for the Cerberus onslaught on this troubled world.

The sword…an ancient weapon from an era long past. As an instrument of war it should have long ago seen its day. In the previous millennium it dominated battlefields, killing humans for more years than any other type of arm. But, by three hundred years ago the weapon was considered quaint, surpassed by tools that could reach out hundreds of meters, sweeping away dozens like the scythe of a grim reaper. Soon, the sword was only for show and tradition, a lost art. But now, far into the 22nd Century, modern technology brought back the monomolecular blade that could slice through any armor and personal cloaking fields allowed soldiers to close to melee range once again and the legend was reborn. The legacy of this long and deadly piece of metal reached back into the dim recesses of time and went by many names, wielded by many peoples – the bronze kopesh of the pharaohs, the xiphos of the Spartans, the jian of the Shaolin Monks, the gladius of the legionnaire, the broadsword of the Viking, the longsword of the knight and the katana of the samurai. Each carried the image of warrior against warrior, steel against steel.

I too go by many names. What he was called before Cerberus corrupted him no longer mattered, but since he escaped he came to be known as Itto Itosan, Jinsuke, Raiden, Hayanami and now, Hattori Hanzo. The torment of what they made him and his family into still haunted his dreams and waking moments and to Cerberus, he was known as Devil Hanzo.

Cerberus…. That name holds great meaning for me. They promised safety for me and my family. Images filled his mind of a place called Sanctuary and then a bright lab full of pain. It was a gift they said, enhancing him, filling his body with alien horrors. Now, he would return the gift, shoving his sword into every Cerberus trooper up where the sun didn't shine.

Under his mask, that was the visage of a Japanese demon, he smiled as he looked back on the bodies and body parts of a Cerberus squad, dispatched with his sword. The mask had come to symbolize his life – a red face full of fanged teeth, bulging eyes and golden horns. I became the demon to fight the demons. As he savored the memory of each Cerberus kill, a tone in his earpiece went off as a warning. Here they come. My sources told me she will be here. If only lieutenant bastard Kai Leng is among them that would be icing on the cake.

Devil Hanzo flipped down the eyepiece over his mask and images and data began scrolling down. Three Cerberus troopers advanced in a skirmish line towards the habitation module, led by a centurion. This will be easy, almost too easy…just another appetizer before the real meal arrives. Before the feeling of disappointment could take hold, Hanzo saw what he had been waiting for, three women advanced behind the skirmishers, darting from cover to cover. They were dressed in white armor with white masks almost porcelain in sheen, showing beautiful, serene faces that belied the violent intent underneath. One of them has to be her. I must get her back. She is all I have left.

The time had come. Everything that Devil Hanzo had fought for since his escape would now come to pass. But this will only be the first big step on my way to taking the heads of Kai Leng and the Illusive Man. Cerberus had taken everything from him – the school where he practiced the art of the sword, his family, his honor.

Now, the troops were right outside and all of Hanzo's preparations would either come to fruition or fail miserably. The trooper on point peeked in through the door and saw the bodies of his fellows, carved into pieces and propped up like some bizarre sculpture.

"We've got casualties. I'm moving in to investigate."

Hanzo crouched down behind a cabinet, letting the trooper get farther into the module. The trooper was cautious, inching forward, his Mattock assault rifle sweeping back and forth, up and down for any threat. The Slayer checked his sensors to see that the rest of the Cerberus squad waited outside, their weapons trained on the interior of the module. The scene was set.

Hanzo inhaled deeply, filling his lungs. He closed his eyes for just a moment, letting his mind focus. A haze drifted through his brain as biotic power coursed through his blood and every nerve and cell in his body became charged. From the crouch he flipped over the cabinet in a blur of movement, almost too fast for the human eye to follow. The trooper seemed to react in slow motion, sensing something behind him, turning to meet the threat. The blade flashed, cutting through armor, flesh and bone as if it were no more than paper. An arm and part of an assault rifle fell to the floor. Before the trooper could even call out the blade flashed again, cutting a wide low arc, slicing both legs off at the knees.

Devil Hanzo darted away before the man hit the ground. He settled in behind a wall on the opposite side of the room just as the trooper seemed to realize what had happened. There was a pained cry and weak thrashing about. Good, it will take a while for him to bleed out. So much the better. A moment later, the trooper began calling for help.

"We got a man down," a distorted voice called from outside the module. Cerberus tactics were predictable. I know exactly what will happen next. He activated his audio and visual dampeners and set his eyepiece to multispectral scanning. On cue, a flashbang flew into the module followed by a smoke grenade. With his dampeners on, the flashbang was only an unpleasant pop, no more than a firecracker and the flash was reduced to the light of a dim bulb. Through the smoke, Hanzo saw a soldier enter, carrying a thick shield. The others would follow behind. The guardian with the shield moved in slowly, scanning the room with his pistol held in front of the eye slit. Right behind were the last trooper and the centurion. I have to move now before the phantoms arrive.

Power flowed through his muscles again and he darted out from behind cover. They never even saw him coming. A gyakugesa uppercut took the guardian's hand and pistol in one smooth slice and Hanzo ripped the shield from the wounded man's grasp. Using the barrier, he smashed it across the guardian's face, knocking him over. Gunfire erupted in front of him, rounds pinging off of the shield. This thing works both ways. He pressed forward, not even looking through the eye slit, just letting his biotics feel where the enemy was. The firing went slack for a second as guns emptied and Hanzo pulled the shield back, uncoiling like a viper, his sword plunging into the trooper's throat just an inch. Not enough to kill him right away, but enough to put the man down. Hanzo pulled the tip of his sword from the man's flesh, creating a red mist and the trooper dropped his rifle and wrapped both hands around his neck as he fell to his knees.

The centurion maneuvered around the wounded men and tried to take aim with his rifle. Hanzo saw the muzzle swing in his direction, but he cartwheeled out of the way as rounds zipped behind him and punctured the walls. You're too slow. The rifle swung at him again and he changed directions, sliding under the arc of fire. He could sense confusion, frustration and even fear. Cerberus deserves no less. The bullet spray became less focused, almost erratic as the centurion tried to scramble back out the door. The enemy took one look back to find the exit and Devil Hanzo moved in.

When the centurion turned back to face him, he seized the barrel of the rifle and pushed it up with one hand, letting rounds spray into the ceiling. The man took a startled breath. Hanzo smiled under his demon mask. The sword took an arcing cut upwards, slicing from groin to armpit and the man shuddered for a moment before falling in pain among his squad. Devil snapped his sword down and red drops sprayed from the tip of the blade, coating the carpet. As the cacophony of agonized cries rose up, Hanzo was again in motion, a blur of movement against a backdrop of blood. This is my art now and I am a master artist.

Tuning out the curses and screams of the Cerberus troops, Hanzo flipped on his comm system. Cerberus was lethal, but their reliance on tech made them less than innovative in tactics. Hanzo quickly found their frequency.

"Hostiles in the habitation module," a woman's nearly synthetic voice said over the radio. Hanzo's gut tightened. Though nearly robotic, it was her, unmistakably her. How long has it been? It felt like eternity.

He slithered through a hole in the floor and crawled under the habitation module, emerging at the back end. It's time to take the fight to Cerberus. The radio crackled again.

"Fire mission, spotting round, green habitation module, three-five-five, fifty meters."

Here it comes. Hanzo sprinted to a nearby mound and switched his eyepiece to zoom just as a single artillery round impacted to the side of the module. The data stream on his piece showed an EM spike from the Cerberus radio just south of him at 75 meters. The phantoms had just revealed their position.

"Adjust fire, ten meters right. Fire for effect. Fire for effect."

Devil Hanzo could imagine the wounded Cerberus troopers inside, crawling and struggling, listening to the growing high-pitched shrieks of incoming artillery. Sucks to be you.

WHUMP WHUMP WHUMP. The barrage leveled the module, smoke and debris cast high into the air. A shockwave rippled outward, knocking trees over with its force. The blast will mask my approach.

His body was in motion again, sprinting right into the billowing dust and burning module frame. Seven seconds…seven seconds for them to reload. He leapt over smoldering furniture and through a smoking door frame. There was no sign of the Cerberus bodies. They were probably obliterated from the blast. He could see the phantoms in his thermal imaging now, three women crouched down, one on the radio. Biotic power surged in his muscles and he accelerated out of the dust cloud.

The first phantom on the right just raised her head as he ran past. He stopped and stood just for a moment before snapping the blood from his blade. The phantom staggered a few steps before her head slid from her neck. As the artillery barrage began anew on the module Hanzo turned and now faced two opponents, both fully ready and lethal. There are no surprises left in my bag of tricks. This will be sword against sword.

The two ladies drew their blades and moved lithely towards him, shifting places erratically to keep him off balance. He made a furtive thrust against them, a kiatari, to gauge their response and they separated, moving to surround him, staying just out of reach. Anyone else, I would have considered that to be a mistake. Just to test his thinking he shuffled quickly at one phantom and the one behind him moved instantly to react, forcing him to wheel and face her. I can't fight one without the other being on me. They are well trained. I expected no less, damn Kai Leng.

Whichever way he shifted, they matched him, step for step, the distance never changing. It was as if they were, all three, of one mind. They were all trapped in this deadly dance, no one being able to attack or disengage. This is a battle of willpower. As he sidestepped cautiously, holding his sword upward at his shoulder in hasso stance he began to realize just how tired he was. His muscles burned and his joints ached. I burned a lot of biotic power back there and these ladies are fresh. And time is not on my side. I have to do something and I have to do it soon.

Devil Hanzo feigned tripping on a rock and the phantoms moved in like lionesses smelling a kill, but they quickly moved back and resumed the cat and mouse game, waiting for reinforcements. They could do this all day. He grunted in frustration. Time is running out.

Shifting one way and then the next, he lunged at one phantom, beating her blade to the left and then rushing at her. He cut downward with both hands, but she shifted to the side, shielding her head with her own blade in ukenagashi. Using the momentum of his cut he brought the blade up again and slashed diagonally at her neck with kesagiri, but she dropped down and lowered her head, letting the blade slice air just over her scalp. She would back up now, letting the distance reset and the dance continue and Hanzo relaxed to let his muscles rest.

He did not know everything that Cerberus would do.

The phantom sprung up and seized the handle of his sword, pulling herself within easy reach. Now it was him who was startled. As he tried to struggle free he felt a searing pain down his back. Every nerve in his body fired like lights on a Christmas Tree, but he still fought to dislodge the phantom. If I can't it'll all be over.

With one last burst of biotic power Hanzo spun around, placing one phantom in front of the other's attack. He could just see a raised sword beginning its downward arc and it sliced down through her comrade's head. The killing phantom hesitated for just a moment, seemingly stunned by her fratricide. That was all Hanzo needed. She's the one. I know it.

He dropped the phantom corpse and leapt forward, seizing the living one's hands. She shifted one way and then the other to dislodge him, but Devil Hanzo was ready. He sidestepped, causing her to lose balance and then put all of his energy and force into his grip, flinging her, head over heels, onto the ground. You were always weak against kotegaeshi. In the blink of an eye he twisted his body around, wrapping her arm in an unnatural angle around his leg and a nearly synthetic cry of pain came from that serene mask.

"I'm sorry, Ayumi, my daughter. It has to be done."

He kicked her sword away with his free foot and then tore the mask from her face. "Merciful Buddha, what have they done to you?" But I do know.

With a perfectly aimed strike at her temple he knocked her out and threw her over his shoulder. He too cried out in pain from the cut she had delivered down his back. I don't even want to know how bad. He slapped an activator on his thigh and medigel surged into his blood. As he rushed away he tapped the mike in his ear.

"Powers, this is Hanzo. I have the package. Prepare for extraction. We're taking the shuttle out of here."

He sprinted down into one of the dig sites where the shuttle was waiting. Weakening rapidly, Hanzo stumbled the last few feet, collapsing in front of the hatch. Powers, in his Phoenix armor, waved him on.

"Come on, Hanzo, get aboard! We've got to go. A Cerberus cruiser is going to close our escape window!"

Sitting on the ground, Hanzo shook his head. "No. Take her, Powers. Take her to the resistance. They'll know how to fix her. They fixed me, after all."

"What? No, come on. We've got to leave now!"

Hanzo stood and beckoned Powers down. "You were N7. You were an instructor. You can do this for me. You have to do this for me."

Powers stepped off the shuttle slowly and nodded. "Yeah, okay," he said, hefting Ayumi over his shoulder. "I can tell you've got something up your sleeve. What are you going to do, Hanzo?"

Devil chuckled. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it," he said as he boarded the shuttle, stretching his back painfully. "I hope you left the keys up front."

"Sure thing," Powers said slowly. "You're not going to do anything stupid I hope."

"What, me?" Hanzo said, widening his arms in jest. "Hah, see you on the flip side. Now get going before I kick your ass."

Power saluted him with his free hand. "All right, off you go. I'll expect to see you at the camp tonight."

If anyone could get her to safety it was him. Seth Powers had also escaped from Cerberus in the flood of recent defections after having woken up and seen what the organization had become. Unlike me, he joined willingly, but he also left willingly. Hanzo nodded back and then scrambled into the cockpit and pushed the throttles forward. The shuttle lurched into the air and rocketed upwards towards the sky.

Snow still on the field
Covering blossoms on earth
My heart lies with them

The trip through the atmosphere happened in a flash as the shuttle accelerated into darkness. Sensors warned of a large warship approaching. His radio crackled.

"Shuttle, please stand down," a man said in a polite English accent. "We do not want to hurt you, but you have someone of value to us. Yes, we heard your transmission and we know who you are…Devil Hanzo. Lower your shields and power down your weapons. We will tractor you into the bay."

The Cerberus cruiser now filled his full windscreen. There was no chance of victory…no escape. "Okay, you win. Very well," he said as he powered down his shields and weapons. The tractor beam would be on him shortly. He watched the sensor monitor as the field around the cruiser went from red to black. Their shields came down to tractor him into the bay.

Radio intercepts go both ways, assholes. They heard just what he wanted them to hear. He jammed the throttles forward and aimed the shuttle right at the cruiser's bridge. The bridge grew huge as he closed and for a moment, he thought he saw horrified faces looking out at him and he imagined cherry blossoms landing softly on the snow covered ground.

CODEX:

Itto Itosan – alias used by a famed samurai swordsman of the medieval period

Hayashizaki Jinsuke – founder of the Eishin-Ryu style of swordsmanship

Hayanami – crashing of a wave back on the shore after the water recedes

Raiden – god of thunder

Hattori Hanzo – famed shinobi/ninja of the medieval period

Gyakugesa – an upward diagonal cut with the sword

EM – electromagnetic

Kiatari – a feint thrust to probe an opponent's reaction

Hasso no Kamae – relaxed stance in which the sword is held at the shoulder, pointing upwards for ease of striking, blocking and remaining on guard

Ukenagashi – parry with handle held high and tip low to shield head and flank

Kesagiri – downward diagonal cut

Kotegaeshi – a wrist throw