Just Need Someone: A Future Worth Fighting For Chapter 12
AN: So guess who's back :D
==3 Hours Later – Tuchunka Orbit – Normandy SR2 CIC==
Aura stood in the rear of the CIC, watching the maneuvering of the 8 Krogan vessels they had recalled to the home system. Nearly 32 fighters of mixed turian and alliance vintage were equally assembled in orbit near the SR-2. Sixteen old cargo ships used by the krogan for their intended purpose but armed with a varied array of Guardian anti-ship batteries was arranged in a staggered line of four at various distances from the Krogan's home planet.
Not long after they had secured the clan leadership, only forced to kill one of the clan chief's due to his 'control' by the Ancients which had bid him to attack Aura herself. Wrex and Aura had quickly gotten Battalion to work on upgrading what the Geth could of the Krogan's weapons systems. It was not much but according to EDI and Battalion all the assembled ships had a 2-6% increase over what they had before, either in power output or reaction times. They had barely finished when the Mass Relay lit up and an asari cruiser came out of FTL speed.
Aria it seems had arrived, and had been quite pissed off to Aura's senses. Given a whispered conversation by Sunra indicated that the crime boss was angry due to reviewing some intel she had received when talking to her daughter. It did not take the fairly sharp minded human solider to figure it had been her former bond mate Tevos that had gotten Aria to make her own personal appearance. Her arrival was welcome as her personalized asari cruiser was on par with the Normandy's own refitted specifications. Though the Normandy was faster and nimble, Aria's cruiser held heavier armor plating.
Leaning on the CIC railing Aura said, "..EDI open a channel to all ships..patch me in directly.." she said.
"..You are connected Shepard." EDI said from up in the cockpit where Milra was assisting with targeting and LADAR scans. Samara was keeping watch over Falere and was ready on hand in case of any of the coming Ancients would board the Normandy. Taley and Battalion were situated not too far away in the ship's engine room doing what they could there. Aethyna was in the ship's weapons battery on the crew deck, having an itchy trigger finger she was chomping at the bit for some action against the alien invaders that had killed Liara. Wrex himself was across from Aura coordinating the up links between the Krogan ships and fighters assembled. Sunra was off to Aura's right situating herself in the secondary Guardian ship battery control and LADAR station. Aria herself was still aboard her own cruiser letting Aura take central control of the coming battle.
"..This is Council Specter Aura Shepard. All assembled ships and fighters listen up. If our intelligence data is correct we will be facing with the next hour, at least 9 of these Ancient's ships. They should be around frigate or cruiser weight in strength. However, you all should be aware this enemy is stronger then many any of us have faced...short of the Reapers." She said letting that sink in briefly.
"..However, we are not without our own teeth. We will draw these ships into a series of defense lines, where upon we will whittle their defenses down and then strike hard inflicting what damages we can before falling back to our next defense line. Our final line will be in direct orbit of Tuchunka, and its atmosphere, where upon we will use ground based defense cannons to provide a further nasty surprise.." She said.
Aura then spoke with the more confident air that so many had grown to know, to implicitly trust and follow despite all odds. "..This enemy believes us weak, they believe we are not prepared for them, they believe that their agents will back stab us. They believe that the Krogan are easy targets...well I say we show them TRUE KROGAN strength here today! I say we will take whatever they can throw at us and return it four fold! We will do ALL we can to ensure not one foreign boot touches Tuchunka's soil here today and IF they manage to make landings we will entwine their innards around what passes for their necks and make them CHOKE upon their spittle and BLOOD! TODAY the Krogan show once more they are to be FEARED to be RESPECTED, that the KROGAN are the most fearsome warriors this galaxy has EVER and WILL EVER see!" She said falling silent.
Next to her Wrex gave a wry wide grin, "..Damn Shepard! Havent lost your touch!" She said slamming his fists together ready for what may come. Nearby Sunra turned and stared at her Father half open mouthed. Despite herself she felt invigorated by Aura's speech, even if much of it was not directed towards her she was ready to face whatever may come. Elsewhere on the ship Milra was feeling similar urges, more so the rise of excitement for the coming battle then anything else, and a sense of pride that she was entering combat alongside her Father, even if indirectly.
Across the open comm lines a series of cheers and battle ready cries arose. Aura gave a faint grin then, "..I may have slept the past 93 some years but I still know how to stir an army for battle.." she said.
Once things had settled, Aura spoke again, "..Alright, here's how we'll work this, defense line one will encompass cargo ships 1 through 5, screening with their Guardian batteries. Ahead of them on approach will be two of our four placed nuclear demo charges. Once the enemy has amassed before and after these hidden charges we will remote detonate them. Hopefully destroying, disabling and/or weakening a large cluster of enemy ships. At such times defense line 1's s hips will open fire on all appropriate targets within range. This will be followed by a surprise barrage of all Thannix cannons by assembled forces. Who will immediately disengage after two full bursts to defense line two. Any surviving cargo ships will equally fall back at this point and take up position at defense line three in orbit. The Normandy and the Queen's Pride.." She said referring to Aria's personal ship, "..Will strike upon the flanks at this same time with our own weapon systems, before disengaging and falling back to defense line two's flanks."
"..At defense line two, cargo ships 6 through 12 will begin screening maneuvers and firing patterns. Once more Krogan ships will assemble and release a staggered firing pattern of Thannix and Guardian battery fire. After this salvo they will again fall back to defense line three. Cargo ships capable of withdrawing will fall back to this same line. Any survivors still pressing on will again be struck by the Normandy and Queen's Pride.." she stated running the simulated approach patterns for all ship's and fighters to see.
"..As we strike all fighters will strike as well from hidden asteroid positions nearby. If any enemy forces still remain we will withdraw to defense line three within orbit. At this stage with luck we may have won the battle. However, if not, then our last organized defense line will have all remaining cargo ships from lines 1 and 2, assemble with cargo ships 13 through 16. Maneuvering where possible in pairs or groups of three they will operate as they need to best concentrate fire on enemy flanks or fighter screens. On enemy approach once more demolition nuclear devices 3 and 4 will be detonated catching enemy forces in their wake. At this stage all remaining Krogan warships will work in pairs and fire at will at appropriate targets coupled with escort fighters. Ground based cannons will also open up on targets of opportunity while the Normandy and Queen's Pride concentrates our weapons on the strongest enemy targets.." She stated.
Wrex spoke up, "..And we aint going to leave a single one of these scum sucking bastards left! Wipe them all out to the last man...creature...tentacle or whatever they got!"
Aura nodded, "..Agreed, if we can however disable a ship for later examination let's try though. It will make our lives easier in the long run. Alright any Captains or fligth leads got questions?" She said.
After three minutes of no replies or simple grunts of 'No' Aura spoke again, "..Alright then, all ships assemble into assigned attack position, they can only come at us from a narrow lane of approach due to in-system hazards.." She said.
==23 minutes later==
"..Shepard, I am detecting an odd energy pattern not far from the Mass Relay.." EDI reported.
"..Are they coming through the Mass Relay EDI?" Aura asked.
"..Negative Shepard, they appear to be exiting an aperture, energy patterns are unfamiliar though share some properties with the relays themselves. I am detecting 7 frigate weight vessels clustered around 3 cruiser weight ships. They are confirmed as being of Ancient design as we have seen elsewhere." EDI reported. "..Their weapons appear armed and a form of shielding seems raised.."
"..Open a channel to all ships encoded.." She said. After a confirmation by the AI Aura spoke, "..All ships stand ready, this is it!" She said.
On the CIC galaxy grid screen Aura watched as the 7 frigates, sized a bit bigger then the Normandy herself, kept a close screening formation on the cruisers. All three were flanked out in an open space a bit behind them. "..EDI open a channel to them.." she said.
"..Chanel open Father.." Milra said providing aide now.
"..This is Council Spectre Aura Shepard, you are entering a Council member controlled space. You will power down your weapons and defense systems, and state your reasons for attacking this system, The Citadel and its defense fleet, as well as other member states. If you continue your approach we WILL destroy you." She said.
A pause came for a moment in the approaching ships, then a series of scans were emitted across all the ships. However, Aura had to hope that their LADAR or similar sensing systems could not break through the new enhanced stealth systems of the Normandy or Queen's Pride. After a moment they continued their approach seeming unaware of the awaiting warships or the stealth shrouded nuclear demo charges. Then finally a reply was given over the open comm system. "..I am Second Ruler Shetleck, your threats mean nothing to us! We will conquer your paltry defenses and planets. We will convert those who accept us and enslave and kill those who resist! We will NOT be stopped again!" then the channel shut.
Shaking her head in confusion Sunra spoke, "..What do they mean 'again'?" She asked glancing over to Aura.
"..No clue it doesnt matter." She replied, communicating with all ships then she said, "..All ships...here we go!" She said.
As the Ancients frigates passed by the stealthed demo charges, Aura waited till the last second till hitting the first red set of buttons. "..Defense line one...OPEN FIRE!" she said as twin flashes of white light boomed out in the middle of the invading fleet's formation.
For a moment LADAR results were blinded till they adapted and Aura bit a lip seeing only two of the enemy frigates had been taken out utterly disable and now destroyed. "..Two enemy frigates destroyed. Remaining five frigates show moderate damage to defense screens. Cruiser showing minor damage.." Sunra reported.
On the CIC grid screen the cargo ships opened up with their staggering barrages of their Guardian anti-ship batteries. Green blue bubbles in the forward arc flared around the Ancient ships as impacts were registered. "..Tough forms of shielding.." Wrex commented, as the results showed little to no damage. Then the Assembled Krogan warships opened up with their pairings of Thannix cannons. As planned 12 total shots impacted in a staggered line across the Ancient's frigate screening force. One of the frigates that had been nearer to the first exploding nuclear device showed its shields flare brightly upon a trio of impacts then a forth shot hit and burst through the ship's hull gutting it.
"..One more frigate destroyed, further moderate damage to enemy frigate defense screens, they are performing evasive maneuvers. Cruisers are also angling on an attack vector, no further damage reported..." Sunra stated.
Then the angling Ancient frigates opened up, lances of green silver energy beams striking hard into three of the cargo ships, their own centuries old kinetic barriers barely slowed the weapons fire as they fire bloomed in destruction. Then the cruisers fired some sort of brown colored missile weapon. Two more of these punched through another two cargo ships destroying two of the Krogan warships as they attempted to fall back, "..Damn, what they hell are those? Even the Reapers beam weapons got slowed some what!" Wrex said.
"..LADAR scans showed them to be some sort of high energy explosive, no clue on its composition though!" Milra reported.
"..EDI...Aria strike now!" Aura said.
Coming out of their hidden positions the two stealth ships struck out with their own paired Thannix cannons, far newer, higher charged and compacted they lanced down on the top arcs of two of the frigates. Their shielding systems flared again held for several seconds then failed, two more frigates fire blooming into death.
"..That's showing those damn pyjaxs!" Wrex cried, "..Ok we got one of the cargo ships out of their, falling back as ordered, remaining four warships also got out safely.." he then reported.
"..Two enemy frigates remain, moderate damage showing to their defense systems. All three enemy cruisers remain undamaged.." EDI reported.
"..EDI begin attempts to hack into their systems. Bring us in on a fast arc. Milra prepare all Guardian systems for firing as we strafe by. Sunra tell Aria to strike from above, we'll strike below. Target the port side enemy cruiser. EDI once we come past bring us about and power up the HOPE-C cannons! Let's see how they like our newest form of teeth.." Aura said.
Within twenty seconds, Aria's own cruisers avoided several lances of enemy energy fire, the Normandy dodging a cluster of missile fire of their own, being intercepted by their Guardian systems. Then the concentrated strikes lanced along the port side cruiser to little effect. But as both ships arced about and their combined HOPE-C systems struck the aft arc defense screens flared brightly then failed, several strikes striking the rear edges of the cruiser. "..Kinetic torpedoes now EDI!" Aura said echoed across the gap of space by Aria to her own weapons chief.
Four blue torpedoes lanced out and struck hard, orange fires soon resulting on the insides of the enemy ships as the two nimble crafts streaked past. But it seems it wasn't quite enough to destroy the Ancient cruiser. That was until EDI spoke up, "..Shepard I have gained limited computer access to their systems." EDI said.
"..EDI download what information you can, engines, defenses, weapons, anything!" Aura ordered.
Aura held on tight to the railing of the CIC grid as the Normandy under Milra's guidance now was woven through a series of evasive patterns. "..Damn their fast!" She said from the cockpit.
"..Steady Milra...you got this.." Aura stated. Watching as the faster pair of ships outran for now the disorganized enemy ships. Nodding then she said, "..Good job. EDI results?" she asked.
"..I was unable to download information on their weapon or defense systems. Nor upon their engine make up. However, I was able to secure information further on their origins, and the strange transportation device. They have however since detected my remote access and closed down all access points before I could fashion back doors. I am sorry Shepard.." The AI stated.
"..Don't worry about it. Taley, Battalion, how we doing down there?" She asked.
"..All systems green, Shepard.." Taley reported.
"..Creator Taley is not fully correct, Shepard-Aura. Kinetic barriers are down to 96%, Guardian battery supplies are depleted to 97%. There is also minor overheating on tertiary power lines to the Mass Effect core. ." the Geth stated.
"..That's fine for now Battalion, keep an eye on the power lines though. EDI engage stealth systems and set us up for the next attack." She said.
Turning her attention back to the grid lines, Aura watched as the now remaining two frigates flanked the badly damaged cruiser. The other two were arranged above and below the ships. It seems despite the earlier surprise attacks by the demo nuclear devices, and their own surprise stealth strike these Ancients kept to the mentality of clustering their weapons and defense screens.
As the second defense line assembled though the cruisers opened up at long range with more lances of the energy weapons. At ranges that were impossible even for their cutting edge Thannix cannons the beams struck into the defending cargo ships. Destroying three of them before the surviving two began evasive patterns. One Krogan warship was equally destroyed. "..Damnit!" Aura cried, gritting her teeth. Seeing the range and yet still effective power of those beams she had to admit was frightening. "..All defense line two ships evade! I repeat evade, fall back to defense line three now! Aria we need to buy them time!" She said.
"..Acknowledge Shepard.." Aria's crisp cold voice spoke.
"..EDI line us up alongside Aria's ship, coordinate our targeting upon the damaged cruiser at the heart of that cluster. Firing everything we got...in...3...2...1...NOW!" She said as the two ships again broke their stealth and opened up at minimal range for their own weapons.
This time though the frigates seemed to be expecting this attack as lances of energy beams streaked out. Both ships did what they could to dodge but still took impacts. Sparks and minor blow outs lanced along the CIC and two consoles near Sunra winked out. The combined weapons fire though of the two advanced ships though did its job, its defense screens already weakened, its interior trashed by the earlier attack the first cruiser exploded from the inside out, its death also marked the destruction of one of the frigates as well.
The shock wave buffeted the surrounding ships, cascading the damages outward now. The Normandy and the Queen's Pride arced out of the range of impact and once more while the enemy ships were distracted engaged their stealth systems fading from sight. Random energy beams though lanced out from both surviving cruisers and remaining frigate. However none struck home, though some came close. "..Milra, begin a randomized pattern of approach back to defense line three. Wrex get all ships and fighters to spread out then form up in attack wings. Soon as we regroup we're closing in...either these Ancients are going down...or we are!" Aura said.
"..Right Shepard! Cant let them use those long range beams and missiles on a prepared position." Wrex said. "..Alright you dust eaters, listen up form up in standard attack wings, all ships, all fighters, and cargo ships. Close in hard and fast. Cargo ships concentrate on that frigate, half of you join that attack. The rest of you hit that top cruiser!" He said. "..Fighters go where you want.."
"..Aria form up again and we're gonna hit that other cruiser. Everything we got right here right now..." Aura stated.
==1 Hour Later==
Aura wiped the smear of blood from her busted lip as the last Ancient cruiser exploded in destruction. It had taken more effort then any of them had thought, and the losses showed. The remaining three Ancient ships had proven tough and unyielding. While the Normandy herself had taken a beating for the most part they were in one piece, and no loss of life had happened. Aria's own ship the Queen's Pride was in similar shape though her FTL and Mass Effect engine were presently offline. The Krogan had lost all their assembled cargo ships, all but four of their fighters, and all but two of their warships both of which were badly damaged and barely operating. The losses as a result had been high. But the Ancients had been stopped here, they had gathered valuable intelligence on their operation and tactics. As well as hopefully bloodied their noses enough to avoid attacking again. Or at least securing the Krogan for the time being.
"..Helluva fight eh Shepard?.." Wrex asked as he looked out the forward cockpit window of the Normandy.
Standing nearby the old Krogan warlord Aura nodded, "..Yeah, too damn close if you ask me. But hopefully they'll think twice of not attacking again. Or least here.." She said.
"..Let's hope so, cause without you and Aria's ships we wouldnt have survived that's for sure. Gonna be even worse then when the Reapers attacked I think if they come in force elsewhere. The range and power of their weapons, the strength of their armor and shields...very nasty.." he said.
"..Yep.." Aura said unsure what else to say, "..what are you going to do now?" she added then.
Cracking his knuckles then Wrex glanced down slightly at her, "..I'm going to call in every last Krogan ship we got, going to pull back all the colonists too. Anyone we can pack onto a ship we're hauling back here, either to man defense stations or as ground troops. If these Ancients come again we'll make them pay for every inch of our space and planet.." He said coldly.
"..And if they dont?" Aura asked.
Giving a more relaxed toothy grin Wrex said, "..If not then you'll have quite the sizable fleet ready to provide a Krogan air drop on any planets you want us at. You say the word Shepard, and every clan will follow." He said offering a beefy hand to shake.
Clasping it with both of her owns Aura smiled nodding, "..Good to hear big guy, good to hear. I still think Aria's plans of installing me as some galaxy wide leader is insane, but...I guess someone has too. And given current relations among the races I dont think the replacement Council once we weed out the converted is going to have much pull." Aura said.
"..Got that right, not like they've done much for any of the races these past years to begin with. You were really the glue that held it all together.." He said.
Snorting Aura shook her head, sighing. "..Guess so. It sucks though knowing that. I aint live for 1000 years ya know." She stated with her more usual lopsided smirk.
"..Pity that, you could really get some good conquering in then once this whole Ancients business is done with!" He said chuckling heartedly.
EDI who was next to the two at her own station spoke up, "..Given past evidence of Aura's nature and actions in life, Wrex. I estimate only a 1.78% chance that Aura would take such action were she capable of doing so." EDI said.
Aura raised an eyebrow, "..1.78% eh? Well good to know I'm THAT predictable." Aura said amused.
"..Well I best get back down to the surface, these pyjax idiots wont get their thick hided asses into gear otherwise.." he said shaking Aura's hands again. "..You need us, you give a good war cry, we'll come running." He said.
Nodding then Wrex turned and entered the airlock soon exiting to the docking Krogan ship nearby.
Aura watched it leave angling back to the surface, "..Going to be a grueling few weeks or months here soon, aint it EDI?" She asked staring into space.
"..While this may be so Aura, one thing is clear. Your leadership and ability to plan and command is still as sharp as ever. I estimate with further intelligence gathered on the Ancients weapons, shielding, engine, and overall plans against the galactic races, a 97.83% chance of our eventual success under your guidance." EDI said.
Aura took a breath, "..Not over padding those estimates are you EDI?" she asked with a glance back.
"..Of course not Shepard. They are accurate to within a .083% rate of accuracy." EDI said as if insulted.
Smiling a bit, Aura turned and headed for the CIC, where Aria stood with her arms crossed. "..We got problems.." the crime boss said.
"..Problems? You mean more then right now?" Aura said.
Giving a withering glare Aria continued, "..I need to return to Terminus space, I got intel that there could be further raids by these Ancients upon Terminus colonies. I cant be everywhere but I can better coordinate things from Omega then my ship. Meanwhile you got to get to Alliance space, if reports are believed the Alliance and the Turian hierarchy are gearing up for war, fed by controlled elements of the Ancients within both governments. You gotta stop it and get them on our side. It seems your acting human Councilor Tanner was figured out, his body and several scientists were found dead, killed by 'Turian mercenaries'. If the reports are right you got barely two weeks to get tot he bottom of this and stop it Shepard. Otherwise the two strongest elements of our needed forces are going to be so entangled it'll draw in the other member races on both sides. It'll spark the Civil War we're trying to prevent..." She stated.
"..Ok ok Aria, I get it, two weeks. Do you got any leads for me to go on here?" She asked.
"..Get back to Earth, best I can tell you is starting digging at Alliance HQ, its since been moved to a new facility 40 years ago outside Old Dallas City in Texas. Given your hero status, and Specter status you should find what you need quickly.." Aria said.
Aura pursed her lips, nodding then. "..Alright. Keep in touch, and keep safe out there." She said as she escorted Aria to the airlock where now her own ship was docking.
"..Anymore of these Ancients or their converts I find alive Shepard, I'm going to strangle them slowly for every last bit of intelligence, before letting them die in the most agonizing way I can fathom. What they..." Aria trailed off clamming up. "..They're going to PAY Shepard." She stated with an icy cold calmness.
Slapping Aria's left shoulder she nodded, "..They'll pay, for every death they've given. We'll see too it as a united community or die trying.." she said.
Aria nodded then turned and left without another word. Rubbing her brow Aura turned finding Taley, Battalion, Milra, and Sunra coming up to her. "..Shepard-Spectre, we got information for you.." The Geth said.
"..You're...going to have a hard time believing it however, Captain.." Taley added.
"..Yeah, this is...even harder to fathom then the warnings about the Reapers.." Sunra began, then the sentence was finished by Milra.
"..Alright, alright. Ok everyone assemble on the crew deck in 10 minutes. I need time to change and get cleaned up. EDI get us going back to Earth, once its set whats our ETA?" she asked.
As the Normandy began to move the AI spoke up, "..One day 16 hours at present speed, barring no delays."
"..Alrigh then, everyone I'll see you in 10 minutes.." Aura said entering the lift and heading for her cabin.
Five minutes later leaning against the wall of the shower letting the hot water stream down over her naked, well muscled, yet femininely curved body washing away the soap. Aura looked up as the bathroom door slid open and Samara's aged but still to Aura attractive nude form entered. "..Samara.." Aura said with a soft gasp of a little surprise.
Blue arms slowly regaining their lost strength encircled Aura's weary body. Aura's own returning the embrace under the height of the water. "..Aura.." Samara said simply.
Though the entwined shared bond was brief for the next three minutes, as it ended and both quickly finished washing down and then drying off to dress. Giving each other a quick loving kiss then headed once more for the elevator, ready to tackle what next would face them in the coming days.
AN2: Sorry for the length! But given the passage of time since the last one felt it was well deserved. Please R&R!