August 14, 2183
Engineering, Normandy-Class Stealth Frigate SSV Normandy SR-1, In Orbit over Alchera, Amada System, Omega Nebula.
Machinist Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, Chief Engineer Gregory Adams.
Tali gave a long, tired sigh as she finished her diagnostic, leaning on the control circuit board and staring deep into the pulsing blue engine core of the Normandy; spinning and spinning like the gears on an old steam engine. She felt herself get lost in the entrancing glow, peace found in it's depths. Adams' voice broke her thoughts.
"Zorah, Zorah! Tali!" Tali ripped her eyes away from the drive core and turned to see Adams merely a meter away to her right, leaning on the railing and staring at her with a frustrated look.
"Sorry Adams, I got distracted, it won't happen again." Tali apologized.
"It's okay," Adams responded, smiling warmly at her, "Run a vessel-scale scan and then correct any errors you find. There shouldn't be anything major and if there is, just report it to me and I'll help you correct it." Nodding to the human engineer, Tali spun back to face her console, her slim, three-fingered hands gliding over the terminal like a precise piano player; at least she hoped that's what the phrase was. Adams nodded to her and walked back towards Jeremy and Douglas, continuing his lecture.
It had been little over a month since the Battle of the Citadel. Humanity had joined the Citadel Council, becoming the fourth member of the collection of races that governed galactic policy. The volus had been outraged by this; as they had been gunning for the position for decades, but all riots by their people were quelled and Irune remained silent, not breaking away from the Citadel Races; they still needed turian military assets and the turians still needed their economical prowess.
Repairs were still being conducted on the superstation; the debris from Sovereign's destroyed hulk was still being cleared out, piece by piece and it would be years before the Citadel was returned to it's previous state of civilized beauty. The Council had promised Marcus that they would assemble an armada to prepare for the Reapers, and that was all they needed.
After a two week shore leave on Noveria, where Tali got to spend some quality time with her friends and develop her relationship with Marcus, the Normandy had docked at Arcturus and Marcus had had a meeting with the alliance brass, soley Admiral Hackett, the leader of the fifth fleet that destroyed Sovereign and the geth fleet. Receiving their new orders, they left the alliance capital and headed for Alchera.
Their new mission was to scour the galaxy and rid it of the last remnants of the geth forces. With Saren dead and Sovereign destroyed, the geth had lost their leadership and thus their cohesion collapsed. Remaining Council and Alliance forces managed to rout them and whatever pockets of resistance was left were left to them to be rooted out and terminated. The war was over; this was just clean up duty.
But that puzzled her; they were the Heroes of the Citadel, saviors of the galaxy. They should be celebrating and helping to prepare for the imminent reaper invasion. Instead, these heroes and heroines, the people who defeated a reaper, killed a rogue spectre, fought an army of geth and defeated an army of krogan soldiers, were being sent to wipe scum off the walls. All they did and this is what they got as a reward?
Tali decided it wasn't important. They had their mission and when it was over, Tali was going to take Marcus to the Migrant Fleet and introduce him to Auntie Raan and father. Father wouldn't accept him, but she was sure Shala would be open to it. I wondered what Meru would think, but dropped that as soon as it popped up, not wanting to memorize her mother's death all over again. All Tali knew is that she would finally find the happiness she longed for.
She ran her scans of the ship. Nothing conclusive, aside from a momentary heat bloom that surrounded the ship, but that had ended within seconds of it appearing and she dismissed it as a computer glitch. Then, Joker's voice came over Adams' comm.
"Adams, what the hell is going on down there?" Joker demanded, "Pressly just reported a momentary heat bloom that enveloped the ship. It's gone now but it's got him spooked."
"Wait a sec," Adams responded before turning to Tali, "Zorah, you got anything?"
"Yes, I picked up the heat bloom too," Tali answered, "It might be just a systems glitch."
"Exactly my thoughts," Adams responded, giving the young quarian a thumbs up before rethumbing his comm to Joker, "Tali says she saw it too. Tell Pressly it was most likely a glitch in the system. I'll have the VI run a systems diagnostic just to be on the safe side." Adams then ordered Douglas to run up to his console and inform the VI of it's new task.
Tali gulped. Could it be a systems glitch? I don't know. That heat bloom...only a certain type of device could do that. A scanner. But how is that possible? Nothing can pick us up or see us when we're in stealth mode. You would only be able to see us if you looked out a window and even then you'd have to acquire a precise location on the vessel to scan it, which would require high-tech multi-modulator scanning VI's to do. Even the geth don't have those, and they're AI!
Joker seemed just as worried, "Pressly isn't so sure. He's running scans of his own. I'll keep you updated on what he finds. Joker out." With that, the pilot's voice fell off the comms and Tali returned to her work, shutting off her own comm to Adams. All she could hear was the dull throb of the ship's engines and Douglas giving orders to the ship's VI.
Before she could run another simulation she was ripped from her feet as a sound like that of thunder tore through the ship. She was tossed to the ground as the ship shook violently for a few seconds, before shaking once more and then stopping. Looking up, she saw her console had exploded and sparks flew out of it. Turning to her right, she yelped as she stared into the blank face of Douglas; a piece of solid metal wedged in his forehead, red blood oozing from the wound.
Crawling away, she felt the ship shudder a final time and turned just in time to see a bright orange light pierce through the engine room, blocking her sight of the engine core. It was gone and she looked on in horror as the engine core disappeared in a great explosion of the light; the blast throwing her against the doors to engineering. Looking up, she was petrified by the sight before her; space. She was looking into space.
What had been the engine core was now nothing but jammed circuits and processors; the blue glow was absent and the spinning of the wheels gone. The drive core had been destroyed. A large hole, about twenty-seven meters across had been ripped through the ceiling, bits of piping, circuits and holopanels torn apart from the blast and a sister hole lying on the floor. Her console was nonexistent; a matter of fact, the deck of which her console resided on was gone, blasted apart in the explosion.
The room was illuminated red as the ship alarms went off, followed by a yellow glow. A second siren went off and this was one she didn't like at all; the evacuation siren. They were being ordered to abandon ship. Whatever weapons had crippled the ship were not of geth origin. They weren't of any known species. No, only one species could be capable of destroying the ship so easily; of being to bypass the stealth systems.
A Reaper was attacking them.
Many questions were raised in her head, but none of them mattered as she climbed to her feet, moving to open the door to the cargo hold. She wanted to save the ship, but there wasn't an engineering left to save it with. Half the deck was gone and the bodies of half the engineering crew floated around in space, suffocating or already dead. Fires that raged in the room winked out of existence as the lack of oxygen killed them off.
As the door opened, someone else rushed up to her and grabbed her arm, pulling her into the cargo hold. She heard the door slide shut and all sound returned to her. Opening her eyes, she saw Adams with a oxygen mask on, nodding at her as he pulled her towards the elevator. She was mortified to see the cargo hold hadn't fared any better; the middle of the room was non-existent, having been ripped apart in the blast. What was left of the armoury floated around in space while the Mako dangled in it's position, tied down by the harnessing cables.
She was hefted into the elevator, the lift covered in total darkness as the door closed and took them up to the Crew Deck. During their visit at Arcturus, the Alliance had retrofitted the ship with a new Mako due to the old one being wrecked during the Battle of the Citadel. Unfortunately, they would never get to use it. She heard a voice come over the comms that brought immediate relief to her.
"All hands, this is Commander Shepard speaking. I'm ordering an immediate evacuation of all ship-board personnel. Abandon ship, I repeat, abandon ship. All active personnel are to report to escape pods immediately. Shepard out." Tali sighed as she stood up, letting Adams know she was okay. She looked around frantically and saw only two wounded engineers and Johnson; everyone else on the lower decks had perished.
As they reached the Crew Deck, they saw the situation here was no different. The area was enveloped with flames. The status update panel inbetween the stairs was frantic with information. She ran around to get an assesment of the damage and it wasn't pretty. The Mess Hall was gone; one of the main bulkhead support frames had collapsed and crushed the table while the Captain's Quarters looked untouched, but that didn't matter.
The deck containing the sleeper pods was covered in flames; most of the pods were blown to pieces, tumbled over or were still active but burning. She could see a male figure working on the evacuation suite at the end of the deck. She turned to see that the medical bay door was jammed shut, but this changed when a biotic glow threw them back, revealing Liara, holding a unconscious Chakwas.
She ran over to check on the woman but Liara assured her she was alright, "Go! Find any other survivors and get them to the escape pods!" The asari ordered and Tali nodded, moving towards the vicinity of Marcus' quarters; their quarters. Before she could though, she heard Marcus call out her name.
"Tali! Tali!" He shouted and turning around, she saw him stop next to her. He had been the figure working at the evacuation terminal.
His voice was laced with concern, "You need to get to an escape pod." Tali nodded and followed him to the escape pods, where numerous people were already climbing into them. Kaidan herded people into the pods, making sure they moved in a hurried fashion. The ship shook violenty once more as their unknown enemy continued it's assault.
She stepped out of the way as she saw Garrus leap into an escape pod, his talons gripping the titantium harness and pulling it down, locking it in place. Liara quickly joined him, placing Doctor Chakwas next to her. Kaidan tried to get Johnson into an escape pod but he wasn't budging, insisting they wait for his friend, Jeremy.
Jeremy appeared out of the blue and Johnson helped him towards an escape pod. Before they reached it however, a support strut fell on both of them, crushing them under it's weight. The speed and force of it would have killed them both instantly.
"Fred! No!" Tali screamed but Marcus held his arm around her waist, pulling her back.
"There's nothing we can do! Get into an escape pod!" Marcus barked, seeing Kaidan climb into the last pod with Adams, "There's the last escape pod! Get inside!" With that, he took Tali's hand and they rushed towards the final pod, getting there just in time to see Kaidan seat the harness over himself, watching the two of them approach. There was one seat left.
Looking around the pod, Marcus cursed, "Damn it, where the hell is Joker?"
Kaidan shook his head, "He refused to abandon ship. He thinks he can still save the Normandy." Marcus cursed once again as he looked back at Tali and the last seat on the pod. Finally, he pulled Tali into the pod, seating her next to a disorientated woman and seating the harness over her. Tali, freaking out, noticing that she had the only seat, squeezed Marcus' hand.
"Where are you going!?" Tali demanded.
Marcus smiled warmly for her and stroked the side of her hood, "I have to save Joker and Pressly. They're still in the cockpit," Marcus informed her before kissing her visor.
"Don't go. Please...," Tali begged, feeling tears brim in her eyes. I only just got you...
"Don't worry," Marcus reassured her, hugging her gently but lovingly, "There's an escape pod on the flight deck. Once I get Joker and Pressly's sorry asses onboard it, I'll make my escape. I'll be fine. You're not getting rid of me that easily." Marcus teased
Tali laughed through tears, "Promise me you'll be on that damn pod."
Marcus nodded, smiling, "I promise." With that, he gave her another peck on the vocalizer for good measure before leaping out of the pod. Hitting the seal button, he watched all the pods seal shut. Inhaling a deep breath, he hit the control panel for each pod, launching them one by one. When he was sure all pods were launched, he turned towards the stairs and ran towards them, making sure his armor was set for EVA.
Another blast rocked the ship, sending another explosion up the length of it. He watched in horror as the mess hall disappeared in a bright orange light, the thanix weapon tearing through the deck and ripping it apart. Now, only a gaping hole remained. A hole was ripped into the medbay and his quarters had been disintegrated.
Running up the stairs to his left, he found cabling dangling loosely and blocking his path. Pushing past them, he hit the door but it didn't open; it was airlocked. Overriding the door controls, he opened it to find the ruined CIC. The galaxy map and the panels that surrounded it now ceased to exist; just a gaping hole in it's place allowing a free look into the ruins of the crew deck and below that, the cargo hold.
He took deep and sharp breaths, conserving his oxygen. The Debriefing Room was blocked off by a collapsed bulkhead and the stairs to his new left were locked down completely and jammed; it mattered little. He needed to rescue his crew and get the hell off this ship; he had a promise to his girlfriend to keep. Be damned if he broke it now.
Slowly, he walked through the CIC ruins, finally reaching the flight deck as he walked across it, all the holographic panels now absent of color and chairs floating around in space, batted aside whenever they came into contact with the spectre. He noticed a mass effect forcefield surrounding the entrance to the cockpit; clever Joker. But he also noticed the escape pod hatch was outside the field's reach.
He turned to see that the airlock was dim and dark, but that wasn't his concern. With renewed vigor, he walked through the field. He found himself in a ruined cockpit, with dimmed holopanels and dead crew members. He sighed in mourning as he saw Pressly's limp body sitting in a seat next to Joker, his eyes closed. The navigator was dead, but what about Joker?
Moving closer he looked over and was relieved to see Joker frantically typing at his terminal. His cap was thrown to the ground and he now wore a fully sealed marine helmet. Putting an arm on Joker's shoulder, the pilot looked to see who it was and smiled, seeing it was Marcus. That was until he returned to trying to save his beloved frigate.
"Joker, we need to leave now," Marcus informed him.
"I'm not leaving! I'm not giving up on the Normandy! I can still save her!" Joker insisted, slamming his fists against the panel in frustration and most of the Normandy's sub systems continued to die. The ship was doomed and unless they abandoned it immediately, so were they.
"The Normandy's lost! Don't you get that!" Marcus barked, turning Joker around to face him, "If we don't get the hell off this ship now then you can consider ourselves space meat! Mister, we. Are. Leaving!"
"But I-" Joker tried to object.
"I'm giving you a direct order, Flight Lieutenant!" Marcus declared.
Joker looked down in defeat, "I-I-yeah, okay..." The panel started beeping and Joker widened his eyes as he looked at it.
"Enemy ship coming around for another attack!" Joker informed him, looking into the spectre's eyes with a look of fear, "We can't take another hit! Structural integrity is already too weakened!" Seeing the peril in their situation, Marcus picked up Joker from the seat and held him in his arms, the pilot yelling in discontent, annoyed about his dignity being violated.
Running through the field, Marcus hit the control panel for the pod and it opened, allowing him to seat Joker inside. Pulling the harness around him, Marcus went to also do his but before he could, another blast ripped through the ship, tossing him around the pod.
"Oh shit!" Joker exclaimed, "Commander! Grab hold of something! Anythi-Commander! NO!" The pilot screamed as Marcus was sucked out of the pod and thrown into space. As a final act of defiance, seeing as he wasn't going to survive this, Marcus hit the panel for the pod, sealing it shut and activating the launch sequence. He watched as Joker's pod shot out into space, joining it's fellow brethen.
Marcus felt a tear pass down his cheek as another shot hit the vessel and the resulting explosion tossed him out of the ship's exposed airlock and out into the openess of the void. He was being blown towards Alchera and he began to panic.
I'm sorry Tali. I'm so, so sorry. I broke my promise. Just...lead a happy life. I-I- Marcus never finished that thought as he finally caught sight of their attacker's vessel. It wasn't a reaper, at least not a design of reaper he's seen and it wasn't a geth ship. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was massive, easily reaching the size of Sovereign if not slightly larger. It was shaped like a cylinder, with a honeycomb like structure. It was covered in rotating rings and at the bow of the ship was one large cannon; the thanix cannon.
Marcus closed his eyes as she heard the Normandy's escape pods begin to broadcast a distress call to the Alliance. It would be a week before anyone got to them, that was depending on that the unknown enemy vessel didn't destroy the pods first. He watched as the same orange, yellowish beam charged in the bow of the vessel, ready to eat through the Normandy's remains. He watched in horror; hopeless, defenseless and most of all, lost.
The gigantic vessel fired, a tongue of hot, molten metal reaching out and striking through the wrecked frigate he once called the most advanced ship in the galaxy. It was nothing but a molten wreck now. He began broadcasting his own SOS to the pods; hopefully one could come and rescue him. He wasn't giving up on her yet. He wasn't ready to die.
Multiple explosions ripped through the ship until one final flash of light marked the end of the stealth frigate, the resulting explosion sending debris flying in all directions, but most of it went falling into Alchera's atmosphere. Marcus' eyes widened in terror as the explosion propelled him into Alchera's atmosphere. No! No no no no no! I can't die! Not now! Please not now! Tali's face appeared before him, along with his mother. No...I can't leave them. It's too early...
Then something else to acellerate it. He watched as his oxygen filter dangled infront of him, his oxygen spilling out into the empty void of space. He tried desperately to put it back together, but it was hopeless. He screamed in pain as pure heat enveloped his back; he was entering the atmosphere. Everything started going black before his eyes. Tali, I-
Blinding pain enveloped his body before everything went black.
August 14, 2183
Main Compartment, Hyena-Class Lifeboat, In Orbit over Alchera, Amada System, Omega Nebula.
Machinist Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko.
Silence entered the pod after the launch. Trepidation and terror were frozen emotions upon everyone's faces; the sound of heavy breathing and sighs of relief were the only things heard. Tali's eyes examined the pod; it was small and cramped, with only barely enough room between them. Five seats aligned both sides of the vehicle, titantium security harnesses on each seat. A dull, red glow illuminated the pod's interior, the only source of light.
Tali peared over at Kaidan, who had taken his helmet off and disengaged his harness, standing up to approach a control console at the front of the lifeboat. Tapping a view buttons, he brought up a holographic panel allowing him to communicate with the other pods.
"This is Normandy SR-1 Lifeboat 8, does anyone read me?" Kaidan requested. The end of the line was immediately answered by a welcomed voice.
"Normandy SR-1 Lifeboat 9 here," Garrus responded.
"Normandy SR-1 Lifeboat 5, still alive and breathing," Adams declared.
"Normandy-SR-1 Lifeboat 3, unkillable," responded another crewman.
It wasn't long before all fifteen lifeboats had checked in and Tali breathed a sigh of relief. Marcus was alive. She hadn't heard his voice respond over the comm, but she knew he was alive. All the lifeboats had reported in, which meant all had escaped. She hoped Pressly and Joker were okay, but she hoped Marcus was better for wear.
"Normandy SR-1 Lifeboat 16, please report," Kaidan demanded and everyone looked towards him. Tali felt worry pang in her chest. Of course! The lifeboat on the cockpit isn't among the fifteen. The first fifteen are for standard personnel while the sixteenth is for the piloting crew. Marcus would have gone for that pod. She released her harness and pushed it up, leaping out of her seat and moving to stand beside Kaidan. He gave her a passing glance before repeating what he said once again.
She was about to give up when Joker's voice came through.
"Normandy SR-1 Lifeboat 16...here," Joker reported, but something in his voice sounded regretful.
Kaidan breathed a sigh of relief, "Did all the piloting crew get out?"
A few seconds of deathly silence.
"Negative. I'm the only survivor of the piloting crew. Susannah and Pressly were killed by the first explosion. And...and..." The pilot broke up and stopped talking. The sound of metal getting hit and a gasp of pain was heard over the comm.
Tali shoved Kaidan out of the way. No, it couldn't be. She refused to believe it. She knew what Joker meant to say, but she refused to listen. She felt tears brimming in her eyes.
"Joker! Tell me! And what!?" Tali demanded.
"I...I can't-" Joker tried to say.
"Tell me!" Tali practically growled and everyone in the pod just stared at her in shock, Kaidan deciding to back off instead of reprimanding her.
"Shepard...he got me to the escape pod but the enemy ship had already fired the last shot. The explosion threw him out of the ship and he got spaced. He's gone."
Tali couldn't believe it. She refused. But there it was, the pilot had seen it with his own eyes. Marcus...her mate, was gone. He was dead. Taken from life; the great hero of the citadel, the seemingly invincible force of nature, the one chance the galaxy had at stopping the coming reaper invasion was gone. Words were nothing but noise. Her mouth refused to work. She mumbled her objections to the truth.
She looked around the room frantically, looking for some sort of consolation. She found none. She was only reminded that her lover was gone. Everyone looked at her with shocked expressions, Kaidan tried to comfort her, but she didn't care. She wanted revenge. She wanted to hurl a nuclear bomb at the heart of the enemy ship and personally rip the crew apart; limb from limb.
Tears couldn't be held back; they flowed freely down her cheeks, but she did not weep. She did not cry. No, she lashed out. Her fist clenched and impacted the titantium harness of her seat, a snarl of rage erupting from her throat. Pure blood rage took over as she tried to rip the harness from it's threshold and use it as a battering ram for her enemies. Kaidan to calm her down, but her arm swung around in a fit of fury, knocking him back.
She wished she could rip her mask off and just die of infection. She wished she could join him. No, No. Not until he was avenged. But how could she fight a two-kilometer enemy with weapons capable of decimating entire fleets? Eventually she just fell into her seat, her energy sapped. The love of her life was suffocating in space, noone to comfort or rescue him and she was trapped in this damn pod, unable to help. She felt useless. She felt empty.
She felt hollow.
Finally, her blood rage ended and all that was left was just her melancholy. She was helpless to fight it. She let her head fall into her hands as she sobbed, tears flowing from her eyes like blood oozing from a wound. In many ways, that's how she felt. Wounded, gutted, destroyed. She weeped, long and loudly, her cries of melancholy heard by all in the pod. She continued to whisper her objections of the truth through her weeping as everyone tried to avert their eyes from the mourning quarian.
"Ish'ko lasi'ti!" Tali shouted.
I am alone, I am empty.
I am back guys and ready to kick off with the second installment: Prophecy. This is the longest of the story arcs and, per my decision, will have alot of it changed from Mass Effect 2. Most, if not all, characters from the previous installment will be returning, even the ones that weren't featured in ME2 to begin with.
The first section of this will deal with how the crew seperate and get on with their lives and shows how Tali comes to terms with Marcus' death. This will go on for less than ten chapters before getting back into the action.
And if you enjoy Prophecy, then you'll love the third installment. It'll be the most action-packed one yet. But hey, let's get through Prophecy first.