Chapter 9: The Warlord
Commander Shepard glanced around the meeting room, taking note of the armored-up squadmates that stood around the table. Kasumi, Garrus, and Jack stood to his left, while Miranda, Jacob, and Ben took the right (though the psychotic biotic and wielder of the Omnitrix couldn't really be considered 'armored').
"Alright. You all know why we're here: there's a krogan warlord down on that planet. We're gonna recruit him," Shepard began.
"I'm guessing Mordin won't be joining us on this mission, then?" Garrus inquired, the quick-talking salarian's absence being particularly notable.
"He's close to a breakthrough on our seeker swarm upgrades, so we need him to stay here," the Spectre explained.
"Can't Tennyson do the upgrades quicker, like he did with our guns?" Jacob asked, jerking his thumb toward the teen in question.
"I tried," Ben protested. "He wouldn't let me. Said I'd 'take away the challenge' or something."
"That sounds like Mordin, alright," Shepard muttered, rubbing his temples.
"Shall we continue with the mission briefing?" Miranda suggested, receiving a dirty glare from Jack in the process.
"Right. According to our scans, Okeer is being held in a Blue Suns base," the commander reported, with EDI pulling up a holographic map of the base and the junkyard surrounding it. "They have almost a dozen GARDIAN anti-air guns, so we're getting dropped outside the base with the Kodiak. Once there, we'll have to fight our way to Okeer and bust him out."
"Do we even know where the fucker is?" Jack questioned.
"Not yet. Until EDI can hack into their systems, we're on our own."
"Oh goody," Kasumi piped up, cheerful sarcasm obvious in her voice.
"Attacking an enemy base with little to no intel and only a handful of operatives?" Garrus summed up. "Reminds me of the good old days."
Shepard nodded, a slight smile on his face. "Let's move out."
On the shuttle down to the planet, everyone had their guns ready in their arms. Jacob with his Eviscerator shotgun, Garrus with his Vindicator assault rifle, Miranda with her Tempest SMG, Jack with her Scimitar shotgun, Kasumi with her Shuriken SMG, and Shepard with his Mattock assault rifle.
Ben was currently seated and flipping through alien forms, trying to decide who he should pick for this mission.
He finally made a decision and slammed down on the dial.
Jacob snorted. "Really? You're gonna use the guy who shoots water from his hands?
"It was good enough to beat you," the mollusk-like alien pointed out.
"He does have a point, Jacob," Garrus added, sounding amused by the conversation. The Cerberus soldier responded by shaking his head and rolling his eyes, though he did not deny either claim.
"Fifteen seconds until landing!" their pilot announced.
Everyone tensed up and faced the door, with Water Hazard taking the front, as his bulletproof shell would provide some decent cover in case of an ambush.
The door opened, allowing Ben to jump out, his hands raised in a threatening gesture as he quickly examined the surroundings, Garrus and Jacob following his example. After a few moments, they determined that the perimeter was secure, and the rest of the team shuffled out, with the Kodiak taking off immediately after. In the distance, the sounds of gunshots and fighting could be heard.
Suddenly, a woman's voice cried out over loudspeaker. "THERE IS ONLY ONE MEASURE OF SUCCESS: KILL OR BE KILLED!"
"Broadcasting orders over loudspeaker?" Miranda noted, sounding annoyed. "Charming."
"I already wanna kill this bitch," Jack growled.
"Stay focused," Shepard ordered. "We've got a warlord to find."
As the team moved, Ben taking point as the most durable member of the squad, they noticed the many destroyed husks of ships that surrounded the area. The transformed teen couldn't decide if the place would make Kevin drool or reduce him to tears.
"BEING HIRED IS MERELY THE BEGINNING! YOU MUST EARN YOUR PLACE IN THE MIGHTY ARMY WE ARE BUILDING!"
"Is she gonna do that the entire time we're here?" Water Hazard groaned.
"She does seem to like the sound of her own voice," Garrus agreed.
The squad shuffled ahead, until Ben held up a hand as he peaked around a corner. "Three mercs, dead ahead."
Shepard nodded in confirmation. "We'll try and take one alive, see if he can give us any intel on Okeer's location. The other two are free game."
The commander turned and waved Garrus forward, as the two of them were the only snipers currently on the squad.
"I'll take the one on the left, Garrus will take the one on the right," Shepard instructed. "Ben, you go after the middle one. Try and be quick so he doesn't call for reinforcements."
The turian and orishan each nodded, preparing to attack once the N7 Spectre gave the order, the rest of the squad remaining on backup in case more mercenaries showed up unexpectedly.
Shepard and Garrus readied their rifles while Ben pointed his open palms at an angle behind him, leaving the others curious as to his intent.
"Now!" Shepard barked.
Two sniper rifles let out loud bangs, causing a pair of merc heads to explode into bits of flesh and bone. At the same time, Water Hazard fired twin jets of water from his palms and blasting himself forward toward the last remaining Blue Sun, who was still attempting to recover from the sudden deaths of his comrades. He didn't notice the armored red projectile flying towards him until it impacted his waist and sent him sprawling on the ground, stunned.
Ben quickly recovered and walked over to the merc (who was currently gasping for breath, the transformed teen having knocked the air from his lungs), ripping his helmet off and tossing it to the side as Shepard and the rest of the squad approached.
Once the thug had fully recovered, he managed to cough out "Son of a bitch!"
"All yours, boss," Water Hazard offered, gesturing toward the merc. Shepard nodded and stepped forward, kneeling down to be on the same level as the unfortunate Sun, snapping his fingers in front of his face (how did he accomplish that with armor covering his hands?) to get his attention.
"You still with us?" the commander asked, sounding somewhat bored.
"Screw you, Alliance!" the merc growled, wincing. "I'm not telling you anything!"
Shepard sighed dramatically. "You're surrounded by a team of incredibly efficient killers, chances are my red friend here cracked one or two of your ribs, and judging from those sounds in the distance, we're not the only ones that are attacking your base today. Cooperate, and you may be able to walk away with a little medi-gel. Don't, and I guarantee you'll end up like your buddies back there."
The merc's eyes quickly widened and jumped to each of the squad members (his gaze lasting slightly longer and Miranda and Jack for obvious reasons) before locking eyes with Shepard.
He gulped. "What do you want to know?"
The commander smirked in victory. "I'm looking for a krogan warlord named Okeer. Know where he is?"
The merc blinked in confusion. "Who? You already know more than I do. I just kill the crazy krogan the old one dumps from the labs."
"You'll have to fill me in a little more."
"Jedore hired him to make her an army, but the krogan he makes are insane, so we use them for live ammo training," the Blue Sun explained. "It's all crap! I'm not paid enough to get my ribs broken by a goddamn oyster!"
Jack barked out a laugh, causing Water Hazard to look away awkwardly, still slightly afraid of the petite woman for that random kiss on the ship (which no one else saw, thankfully).
Suddenly, as the merc finally sat up, clutching his ribs, a voice spoke from his communicator. "Outpost Four? Jedore wants us to move. We need coordinates on that krogan pack."
He blinked in surprise, before looking toward Shepard for orders, knowing the N7 could end his life in at least ten different ways if he so much as breathed wrong.
Shepard's eyes narrowed. "I want your friends gone, understood?"
The merc nodded and spoke. "Uh, patrol? Last group... dispersed. Lost sight five minutes ago."
"Dispersed?" the man on the other end repeated, sounding displeased. "Jedore's gonna be pissed, she wanted a show."
"You asked for a report, you got it: dispersed," the merc snapped.
"Understood. Returning to the labs."
"There, you see? I'm helping," he said. "Can I go now?"
"What kind of defenses are we looking at?" Shepard asked.
"We use the big guns to keep ships away. We're not prepared or equipped for commandos."
"I think we have enough," Jacob piped up.
The commander nodded and turned toward the merc. "If you hurry up, you might find a safe, quiet spot where the krogan can't find you."
The merc gulped before standing up and limping away.
"The scare bit was a nice touch," Miranda opined.
"I thought so, too," Shepard smirked as he swapped his Mantis for his Mattock. "Let's get moving. Okeer is somewhere in Jedore's lab."
They took a handful of steps before Jedore's grating voice erupted once more over the speakers. "TRAINING IS PART OF YOUR CONTRACT! FAILURE TO PERFORM MEANS LIQUIDATION, LEGAL AND OTHERWISE!"
"The fact that she hasn't suffered friendly fire is nothing short of a miracle," Miranda noted sardonically.
Water Hazard snorted in amusement as he stepped around a corner, only for a few assault rifle rounds to hit his chest. A dozen mercs were firing at him, half from the ground and half from elevated catwalks.
"Hm. I'll handle the guys upstairs," Ben said as he again used his water jets to fly into the air and land on the same catwalk as the Blue Suns, with five of them firing at him in a mix of anger and fear and the last fleeing in terror. Their bullets had no chance of piercing his armor, so he calmly walked forward, knocking out two with single blows to their heads (denting their helmets in the process) while blasting the remaining three with his water jets.
As being hit with his water blasts was similar to being blasted by a fire hose, they were sent flying, crashing into either the railing or walls to the building (Water Hazard being careful not to knock any of them off the catwalk and to their deaths).
Glancing over the railing, Ben saw a merc fly by under the power of Jack's biotics, only to be sent falling and being impaled on a jagged piece of metal, while another lost half of his head from Jacob's Eviscerator shotgun.
In a span of about two minutes, all of the dozen mercs were either dead or unconscious, with Shepard waving for Ben to join them back on the ground. The transformed teen nodded and hopped down, creating a small indent in the ground from his landing.
"Good work with those upgrades, Tennyson," Shepard complimented. "Mercs didn't stand a chance."
"Happy to be of service," the teen said quietly, though he couldn't take his eyes off the dead mercenary that now lie still with a hunk of metal piercing his chest.
The commander looked sympathetic. "Miranda told me what you said when you went after Mordin. You've killed someone before?"
"Yeah. And I never wanna do it again," Water Hazard responded.
Shepard nodded. "I know. I won't ask you to, but in return, you have to understand that me and my team don't have that option. For us, it's kill or be killed."
"I know," Ben conceded. "Guess I'll have to deal with it."
"Well, you can always lean on a pretty shoulder for support. Say, a hooded Japanese one?" Shepard joked, smirking.
Water Hazard's eyes narrowed. "Low blow, dude."
The commander laughed as he walked forward, the teen-turned-orishan close behind.
"Commander!" Miranda called out. "Dead krogan over here!"
Indeed, there was an armored krogan corpse lying nearby, numerous bullet holes riddling his body and his orange blood plastered all over the ground.
"He was using a shotgun," Jack noted. "Wouldn't have been able to hit fucking shit from this far away."
Shepard nodded and motioned for Ben to move forward, once again taking point while the rest of the group followed him. Before long, they came across a small ravine, and on the other side, a group of Blue Suns mercs were waiting with their weapons ready.
They opened fire as soon as they saw Water Hazard's red shell.
Glancing around, he saw there was no cover for the squad to use. He'd have to fix that.
He reached down and slapped the Omnitrix.
The large yellow-armored alien quickly smashed his jackhammer-like fists into the ground on either side of him, causing waist-high walls of rock to erupt from the dirt.
"Nice work!" Shepard yelled as he hid on Armodrillo's right, along with Garrus and Jack, while Miranda, Kasumi, and Jacob took the left. Meanwhile, the mercenaries were still firing at them, the rounds dying against Ben's armor and unable to hit the now-protected members of Shepard's team.
"Stay down!" the transformed teen barked as he reached into the ground and pulled up a large chunk of rock, effortlessly chucking it at the mercs and rendering two of them unconscious.
"Scratch one!" Garrus called out as he drilled one Blue Sun right between the eyes. Now only five remained.
Jacob quickly used a Pull on one, who began floating in the air before Jack threw a Warp, detonating the biotics and turning the unfortunate mercenary into a bloody mess. Armodrillo winced in disgust, but didn't say anything.
Ben quickly threw another rock, and even though the enemies he had been aiming at managed to dive out of the way, one of them was quickly ended as Kasumi managed to get a lucky shot near his eye.
One of the last three mercs disappeared from sight for a few moments, only to reappear with something substantially more powerful than an assault rifle in his arms: a rocket launcher.
"Heads up!" Armodrillo cried out as he readied himself to take the blow if necessary. Fortunately, the merc was quickly hit by a Warp from Miranda, dropping his weapon in the process. His screams of pain were quickly cut short when Garrus shot him in the throat.
Two left, and they were quickly gunned down by combined fire from the entire squad.
"All clear!" Shepard reported as they all rushed forward from cover, in case any more Blue Suns arrived.
"THE KROGAN ARE YOUR EXAMPLE AND YOUR WARNING! AS FEROCIOUS AS THEY ARE, FAILURES ARE EXPENDABLE!" Jedore's grating voice called out once more.
"Oh, isn't she just full of rainbows and unicorns?" Kasumi noted, causing Ben to chuckle.
"She's gonna be full of goddamn bullets when I'm through with her," Jack snarled, pumping her shotgun much like a cliché action hero.
No one had anything to add to that, so they continued on, same as before. The squad moved down a flight of stairs and under small arch made up of a busted ship wall before reaching a small clearing, where a very one-sided firefight was underway.
Four mercs stood up on a high wall, firing at the ground, where an armored krogan was currently firing at them with a shotgun, just like his dead brethren.
One of the mercenaries cried in pain as a shot from the krogan hit him in the side, causing him to stumble and fall from the wall before landing on a metal beam, his back making a sickening crunch. The Blue Sun went limp immediately.
"Take down those mercs!" Shepard called out as he began firing at the top of the wall.
The others followed, and in a matter of moments, without Ben's assistance, all enemy opposition was dead in the small area.
The krogan slowly turned toward the group, his helmet settling on Armodrillo. He stepped forward and lowered his weapon as the squad pointed their own at him.
Shepard calmly waved them down and motioned for Ben to step forward. In a surprising move, the teen allowed the Omnitrix to time out, returning to human form and approaching the krogan.
"You... are different," the alien said in a deep voice as it leaned its head toward the wielder of the Omnitrix, taking a sniff. "New. You don't smell like this world."
He gazed up toward the sky, his body giving nothing away as to what he was thinking. "Seven night cycles, and I have felt only the need to kill. But you... something makes me speak."
"Seven what? He's a week old?" Jack asked incredulously.
"They must breed them full-size, ready to kill. Not much improvement over regular mercs if they need training," Shepard hypothesized.
"Bet Mordin would've loved this," Garrus muttered.
"Bred... to kill?" the krogan asked, speaking as if the words were unfamiliar in his mouth. "No. I kill because my blood and bone tell me to. But it is not why I was flushed from glass mother."
"Glass mother?" Ben asked, confused.
"Survival is what I hear in my head," the krogan continued, his speech very articulate and without the use of contractions. "Against the enemy that threatens all of my kind. But I failed even before waking. That is what the voice in the water said. That is why I wait here."
"Whose voice did you hear? Okeer?"
"I do not know. I heard the voice inside," the large alien explained, pointing to his forehead. "I called it 'father'. It liked that. But it was disappointed. I am not what it needs me to be."
"A breeding program," Miranda realized. "Trying to cure the genophage, perhaps?"
"Cure?" the krogan questioned. "Cure was never whispered. Survive. Resist. Ignore."
"But why was the voice disappointed?" the nineteen-year-old member of the squad inquired. "What did you do wrong?"
"I don't know," the unlikely ally admitted. "It was decided before I left tank mother. I am not perfect."
Shepard stepped in at this point. "Can you show us to the lab? I need to speak with Okeer."
"Father... he is up, past the broken parts. Behind many of you fleshy things. I will show you," the krogan said as he turned and walked over to a section of the wall that was covered by a large metal plate.
After getting a good grip on the chuck of metal, the krogan gave a grunt as he picked it up and chucked it a good distance away.
"Well, I could've done that," Ben grumbled, earning a few chuckles among the team.
Shepard turned to the krogan, curious. "You could have escaped or gone back to the lab any time you wanted. Why stay?"
"The voice told me: If they come, I fight. I will not run, but I will not follow," came the strangely ominous answer. "I am not perfect, but I have purpose. I must wait until called. Released."
With that, he gave a nod of respect to the teen shapeshifter as he pulled out his shotgun and wandered away.
"Poor bastard," Jacob muttered.
Ben's eyes lingered on the krogan, wondering if he could help the confused alien.
"He made his choice," Shepard told him, quietly enough that no one else could hear, as the others were making sure the tunnel was secure. "Don't take that away from him."
The nineteen-year-old didn't like it, but the commander was right. So, he turned and stepped into the tunnel, activating the Omnitrix as he did so.
"A goddamn werewolf? Are you shitting me?" Jack asked after gazing at Ben's current form.
"It's awesome and you know it," he retorted, flexing his claws. Been a while since he last used this alien.
"But what kind of name is 'Blitzwolfer'?" Miranda added. "It doesn't really make sense."
"I named him when I was ten, what do you want from me?" Ben replied as he walked forward, sniffing the air. "I smell a lot of blood."
He took a few more sniffs. "And something with scales."
Shepard swore. "Krogan must be swarming the place, then. Keep your guard up."
All weapons were raised, and Blitzwolfer prepared himself. At this range, he'd have to use his sonic scream on any enemies.
They advanced, this time with Shepard in the front, Garrus and Jacob at his sides. Ben took the back with Jack and Miranda, each of whom seemed intent on pretending the other didn't exist, while Kasumi just hummed to herself with that mischievous smirk on her face.
The squad stopped when the heard someone scream, followed by what sounded like an explosion.
Shepard quickly rounded the corner up ahead, only to see a network of bridges made from scrap metal above the cave's ravines.
And a small group of krogan.
"Open fire!" the commander roared as he began shooting from his Mattock, managing to hit one of the large aliens in the leg.
Blitzwolfer shot forward, dodging blasts from the aggressive krogan and splitting his mouth open when he got close to one.
A loud ultrasonic howl erupted from his maw, sending the krogan flying back and slamming him into a wall, where he quickly fell into the blackness of the cave's chasm.
He quickly turned his head, only to see another one of the aliens attempting to charge him head-on. He prepared his powerful leg muscles to leap out of the way, only for the krogan to stop as a sniper round blasted him through the eye.
"Now that's a shot!" Garrus called out.
Ben fired another ultrasonic howl that knocked the krogan onto its skull before landing on its back, unconscious.
"Gonna need something a little different," the teen said as he slapped the Omnitrix again.
The new multi-eyed bat-like alien immediately saw the five remaining krogan in the room. He fired a blast at each of them, hoping to draw the aliens towards him and away from his allies.
The five armored krogan rushed towards him, so Eye Guy took the initiative and charged back before leaping into the air and landing on the helmet of one of the krogan, knocking him to the floor. Ben then pointed both of his palms at the two krogan in front of him and allowed three eyes on each of his shoulders to fuse into one.
Together, his palm eyes fired a blast of energy that knocked down the two front krogan, while the back ones were frozen solid by Eye Guy's ice beams. They were quickly shattered by the combined fire of the squad.
Ben quickly leaped off the krogan he had been standing on, getting a good distance so Shepard and his team could finish them off.
A storm of gunfire later, and every krogan and the room was down for the count.
"Damn, Tennyson, you're just full of weird shit," Jacob joked.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," Eye Guy quipped, causing everyone to groan at his terrible pun.
Shepard spoke up. "Kasumi, cloak and scout ahead. See if there's any more krogan further on."
He turned to the bat-like transformed teen. "Ben? No more puns. Ever."
"I make no promises."
"Do your best."
"SQUAD FOUR? OUTPOST?! DAMMIT! DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MYSELF?!"
"Yeah, I'm sure you're doing all you can," Eye Guy sighed. While battling their way through the Blue Sun base, taking down every soldier on their path, Jedore had continued her delusional ranting and raving. It had gotten so bad that even Kasumi was wishing for the woman to die a slow and painful death (the petite woman apparently carried quite a vengeful side to her).
The group finally reached a door, which scans indicated led to Okeer's lab.
"Sure hope that krogan is worth all this trouble," Jacob said.
"And headache," Garrus added.
Shepard directed Kasumi to crack open the door, while everyone else readied themselves. An attack could come from anywhere, as they were still in the middle of a Blue Suns base (though the number of mercs had been drastically reduced since the squad's arrival).
The door's indicator turned green, and, in perfect synchronization, Kasumi opened it while Shepard leaped in, Mattock at the ready.
"Shepard, don't shoot, you know me!" a female voice cried hurriedly.
Eye Guy quickly shuffled into the room, his many eyes taking a quick observation of the surroundings. No enemies, no traps, no alarms. Just a single asari standing near a console and wearing a lab uniform.
The commander narrowed his eyes as he motioned for everyone else to enter the room. While the squad kept their weapons out, they lowered them so as not to cause any problems. One lone asari against the seven of them wouldn't last long, even if she was a commando (which she obviously was not).
"I shut down the security cameras as soon as I saw it was you," she quickly added. "Never thought I'd say it, but I'm glad to see that it's you shooting up the place."
"Uh, Shepard?" Eye Guy spoke up. "Care to explain?"
"I remember you," the Spectre said. "I let you go on Virmire. You were working with Saren to study indoctrination."
Everyone in the room tensed up. Fingers tightened on triggers, biotics began to flicker on and off, and many energy-firing eyes opened wider in anticipation of a surprise attack.
"I'm Rana Thanoptis," she introduced herself. "And yes, I did work for Saren, though it didn't know how horrifying it all was until I had no choice but to keep working. You helped me escape and gave me a second chance."
"And yet I find you in yet another lab, running more dangerous experiments," Shepard noted, his voice dangerously low.
"Not to worry," Rana squeaked in fear. "My work here is strictly beneficial. Not for the mercs, of course. Jedore's just a power-mad fool, but Okeer is doing something good. Even if his methods are a little... extreme."
"This just gets better and better," Ben said sarcastically.
Rana stared in shock at him, as if she had just now noticed the multi-eyed alien standing in the room (which she might have; she seemed a little on the ditzy side, even if she was a scientist).
"What the hell are you?" she asked in awe.
"We don't have time for some Q&A," Shepard interrupted. "Just tell me what Okeer is attempting to do."
Rana quickly snapped out of her staring and spoke to the commander once more. "It's complicated. I created a mental imprint routine to educate his tank-bred krogan, but some just don't take to it. Then he dumps them, for some reason."
She gestured toward a krogan corpse lying on a nearby operating table. "He's not trying to cure the genophage or build up an army, but he is trying to help his people, somehow. That's all I know."
Shepard sighed and rubbed his temples. "Fine. Just get out of here, already."
The asari scientist gave a quick nod and hurried out of the room.
"You said she worked with Saren on indoctrination," Eye Guy recalled. "How do we know she's not indoctrinated?"
"I have to agree with Ben on this one," Miranda added. "She may be a problem in the future."
"Maybe," Shepard admitted. "But I'm not in the habit of shooting unarmed civilians, no matter what circumstances I'm under. And taking her in would just cause too much trouble."
"Shoulda just let me taken care of her," Jack grumbled under her breath.
Shepard ignored the psychotic biotic and opened up the next door in front of him, revealing a large lab with copious amounts of scientific equipment that probably would have made Mordin one happy salarian. On the right was a large window that showed a lower area filled with tanks holding krogan. Next to the window was Okeer himself, a terminal he was currently working on, and a large tank different from the ones downstairs, holding a rather large and different krogan, with multiple spike on its head instead of a single plate and wearing advanced silver armor.
"Here you are," the warlord said aloud, not bothering to look away from his terminal. "I've watched your progress."
The squad approached him, quickly fanning out and making sure the area was secure. If necessary, the lab could provide a fairly defensible position in case the Blue Suns attacked them in a large group.
Okeer glanced over at Shepard, his gaze also lingering on Eye Guy as he spoke. "It's about time. The batteries on these tanks will not wait while you play with those idiotic mercs."
"Your gratitude is certainly refreshing," the N7 Spectre sarcastically replied.
"You may claim to be here to help, but the formerly deceased Commander Shepard is not a sign of gentle change."
As the two bantered back and forth, Ben examined the krogan that Okeer had in the tank. It was quite an impressive specimen, and would no doubt prove deadly to any that opposed it. But what would it be like? Born to be a warrior, with no childhood or family to speak of? It would be a baby in an adult's body, unsure of its place in the world.
Ben pitied the creature, even though it had yet to be 'born'.
"Impressed by my specimen?" the krogan warlord inquired, his reptilian eyes remaining on the transformed teen. "The knowledge to create this pure soldier was costly, but worth it. With him, I will inflict upon the genophage the greatest insult an enemy can suffer: To be ignored."
Eye Guy didn't bother turning his head, the eyes on his left arm and shoulder being enough to see Okeer. However, he didn't bother hiding his scowl.
"So you don't want to cure the genophage?" Garrus asked. "Doesn't seem like the traditional krogan ideal."
"Contrary to what survivors claim, the genophage does not produce strong warriors," Okeer explained. "Every surviving babe is treated as precious, and they are coddled into weakness!"
Ben's fingers twitched.
"I say let us carry the genophage! Let a thousand die in a clutch. We will defeat it by climbing atop the dead. That is the krogan way."
Anything more Okeer wanted to say was cut off as a blast of energy slammed into his side, knocking him onto his back. Eye Guy quickly walked over, knelt down, and grabbed the krogan by the throat with his left hand while punching him twice in the face with his right.
"I've met a lot of sick scientists in my time, but you just put yourself in the top five!" the transformed teen snarled as he slammed another punch into the warlord's face. "What about all those tank-bred you gave to the Suns to slaughter? Don't you care about them?!"
The ancient krogan turned his head to the side and spat out a glob of orange blood. "My rejects are what Jedore asked for: mindless brutes. They are strong, healthy, and useless to me."
Ben cocked his fist back, gathering energy into the eyeball in his palm. Okeer looked bored, as if death was just another day at the office for him.
But a blast at this range, and with the amount of power the wielder of the Omnitrix was pumping into the eye...
It would easily be lethal.
"You're not worth it," Eye Guy spat as he released his grip on the krogan before standing up and stomping away.
Okeer stood back up as well and wiped the blood from his lip. "You should control your subordinates better, Shepard."
The commander narrowed his eyes. "You should be thankful. He only gave you a few punches. I'm about ten seconds from sticking my shotgun in your face and pulling the trigger."
The warlord grinned. "Then you would have come all this way for nothing."
"We could always take your buddy in the tank," Shepard retorted. "I'm sure he'll prove useful."
For the first time since the squad arrived, Okeer looked afraid. "You can't. My prototype is the key to my legacy."
Before Shepard could add anything, a familiar grating voice spoke up over the loudspeaker.
"ATTENTION: I HAVE TRACED THE KROGAN RELEASE. OKEER, OF COURSE," Jedore announced.
"The bitch is back," Jack announced.
"And she's nearby," Eye Guy added as he stared out the window, everyone following his gaze.
Indeed, down near the tanks of krogan, a brunette woman in heavy Blue Suns armor was speaking into a headset. "I'M CALLING "BLANK SLATE" ON THIS PROJECT. GAS THE COMMANDOES AND WE'LL START OVER FROM OKEER'S DATA. FLUSH THE TANKS!"
On the walls, pipes began emitting white poison gas.
"She's that weak-willed? She'll kill my legacy with a damn valve?" Okeer asked, sounding indignant.
"And the rest of us if we don't get out of here," Miranda noted.
"Shepard, if you want information on the Collectors and my assistance, then stop her."
"And why should I do that?" the commander asked.
"Because you will receive nothing if we all perish. Now go and kill her. I will stay, and do what must be done," the warlord said, sounding tired and resigned during the last sentence.
Shepard paused for a moment, weighing his options. Unfortunately, few were available. If he simply up and left, nothing will have been gained from this venture. But Okeer was the scum of the krogan race; Wrex would have been disgusted by all of this. However, that tank krogan could prove useful if the warlord came with them.
But first things first: Jedore had to die.
"Let's move," he commanded.
As they headed for the door down to the tanks, Ben tapped the Omnitrix.
"Holy fuck," Jack gasped as she gazed up at the twelve-foot-tall alien.
"Tennyson, lead the charge," Shepard ordered.
"Gladly," came the response as the Tetramand charged down the staircase and into the door at the bottom, blasting through it and creating an opening for the rest of the squad.
"I don't care who or what they are, I want them dead!" Jedore barked. "This is my world, I'll poison them all!"
"The bitch is mine!" Jack roared as she disappeared in a flash of light, only to reappear next to the Blue Suns commander. The psychotic biotic then began firing blasts from her shotgun at the power-hungry woman.
The rest of the squad was quickly distracted by a group of krogan being released from the tank, along with a YMIR mech.
"I'll take the robot!" Fourarms cried out as he leaped in front of the mech and began pummeling it with his fists, reducing it to scrap in less than a minute.
Looking around, he noticed that his teammates (minus Jack, who was still handling Jedore) were managing to take down the krogan by focusing fire on one at a time. One at the end of the room was blown apart by Jacob and Miranda combining their biotics, while a second was shot through the eye and collapsed, while a third was knocked for a loop by Kasumi, who quickly re-cloaked herself and moved away.
Before long, the only enemy left standing was Jedore, who was wearing high-tech armor and wielding a rocket launcher, giving Jack a hint of trouble.
The bald biotic was suddenly knocked back by a well-placed rocket, which completely wiped out her barriers.
The Blue Suns commander smirked as she aimed at Jack's unprotected head.
The rocket fired...
Only to be blocked by a twelve feet of red skin and muscle.
Fourarms winced, the rocket actually hurting a bit as it connected with his shoulder and exploded, though no permanent damage was done.
"Big mistake," Ben growled as he opened all four of his arms wide before slamming them into each other. The sonic boom was deafening, sending Jedore flying into a tank and breaking her rocket launcher in the process.
Jack gazed up at her hero with a mysterious expression, though she didn't say anything, instead picking up her shotgun and walking over to the Blue Suns commander, firing a slug into her back, causing her to slump down with blood gushing from her fatal wound.
"Finally, a little peace and quiet," Jacob said, chuckling as he holstered his shotgun.
As if on cue, alarms started blaring from the laboratory.
"You had to say something, didn't you?" Kasumi chirped from atop a nearby tank, where she was perched with a tiny grin on her face.
"Shepard, the alarms coincided with a systems failure," EDI's voice announced over the radio. "The remaining lab systems are unprotected, and I have gained limited access."
"What's the situation?" Shepard asked.
"According to lab scanners, the room is flooded with toxins, and Okeer's personal life signs are failing rapidly. I recommend haste."
The commander glanced over at Ben and gave a nod.
Fourarms returned the nod and lunged toward the window separating Okeer's lab from the tank room, crashing through the glass and allowing the toxins to quickly leave the room through the new opening. Fortunately, Tetramands had an increased resistance to poison, which allowed him to survive the smog of the room without so much as a cough.
"Aw, man," the transformed teen uttered as he saw the deceased form of Okeer slumped over by his terminal. Shepard and the others arrived seconds later, quickly catching their breath from the sprint back to the lab.
"Okeer's gone," Ben reported as he reverted back to human form, confident that the room was safe enough to breathe in now that it was vented, both from the broken window and actual ventilation systems that EDI activated.
"Looks like he left a message for us," Garrus pointed out.
Shepard approached the terminal and allowed the message to play. Okeer's face filled the screen. "You gave me time, Shepard. If I knew why the Collectors wanted humans, I would tell you. But everything is in my prototype."
At those words, Okeer started to lean onto the console in the recording, looking ill from the poison gas. "My legacy... is pure. This... one soldier. This... grunt. Perfect."
With that, the warlord succumbed to the poison and slumped over to his current position, the recording ending as the life left his body.
Ben stood in front of the tank, tapping the glass with one finger. "I knew he was crazy, but even this is a little extreme."
"I'm with you," Garrus agreed. "Makes no sense to throw your life away for one krogan, even a so-called 'pure' one."
"Doesn't matter now," Shepard said as he tapped a few keys on the terminal. "Okeer's gone, and this big guy is all that's left. We'll take him with us, see if he can prove useful against the Collectors."
"And if he proves to be problematic?" Miranda asked.
Shepard simply jerked his thumb toward Ben.
Holy crap, a new record for longest chapter: 6,800 words. How do Bigby the Big Bad Wolf and the Incredible Muffin do this constantly?!
Anyway, sorry it took so long. I would have had this up yesterday, but, you know, I had Valentine's Day with my girlfriend (which was fun). And yes, I know I cut through a chunk of the mission, but as I said before, Grunt's recruitment mission is my least favorite in the game. Dunno why, it just is. So, we're done here. Next chapter is Grunt's awakening, which may or may not end well for the pure krogan.
Grunt vs Rath, anyone?
So yeah, reviews appreciated. Also, vote for who you wanna see Ben paired up with in my other fic, "JLU: Ultimate Hero", which is co-written with my cousin, sandman7734 (he says hi, by the way).
Side note: I have recently read Gerry Pugliese's document "Mass Effect 3: Vindication", which is a rewrite of ME3. And guess what? It WILL influence this story when I get to the third game, as it is extremely well-written. If you like ME, give it a read. His ideas are brilliant!