No, the story has not been abandoned. As many of you have probably noticed, the writers have had their hands full with other things in their lives. But alas, as the great black poet once said "Surprise Motherfucker", cuz here is an update we know you have all been waiting for. It's a bit shorter, but it will have a lot of impact upon the future after this, so bear with us as we work on it. Also, just don't expect a type of scheduled update, AlSmash is up to his eyeballs in his other fics, Magery is in college, and dw77 has a job, so what time we have is placed upon other priorities in life, so apologies.
Anyways, on with the finale to the Skyllian Blitz!
The Skyllian Blitz, Finale
Commander Thomas Hutchens looked at the orders in front of him one more time, helplessness and hopelessness pervading his thoughts. He handed them to his executive officer, who read them over himself before looking up to him. They both knew that the orders that they—and the rest of the crew of the Flytrap—had been given were a death sentence – but it was a death sentence that could save hundreds of thousands of lives in its execution.
They had been in orbit over Elysium when the attack had begun, having finished both escorting Convoy Sutherland-17, and the necessary preparations to escort the next convoy to Logres. It was only through a stroke of luck—for whom, he wasn't entirely sure—that both they and the Bola were located in such a way that they would be the last ones to be raided, because if they hadn't been then the attackers upon Elysium would be in for a nasty surprise a lot earlier than now.
Still, the Morgen-class Escort Cruiser was not rated to engage a dreadnought in any situation. Even if it got the element of surprise, the likelihood that it would be able to take a dreadnought out was minimal.
Which meant that their job was not so much to destroy it as it was to damage it enough to allow whatever reinforcements were en route to have an easier time, and to buy forces on the ground more time to mount a defense.
"Signal the Bola," he said quietly, "and sound general quarters."
Immediately, all over the ship, men and women moved to their action stations. It only took a minute, with most of that time taken up by the sealing of the standard issue vac suits.
"All stations reporting manned," came the report as Hutchens finished securing himself into the crash chair, eyes surveying the tactical plot, noting where their target lay even as he started planning how to achieve his objectives.
Between him and the dreadnought, now designated Sierra-1, were eight enemy ships, classifications ranging from patrol frigate to cruiser. Beyond that, near the dreadnought, there was also a pair of converted barges which had been launching strike craft to corral the various freighters into more controllable positions.
A Morgen-class vessel, on the other hand, was a jack-of-all-trades type of cruiser, with both the ability to launch strike craft, and anti-ship weaponry. But, against the firepower arrayed in the system, they would easily be overwhelmed – especially when they brought up their military drives and unharnessed their eezo core to provide the necessary power jump to military levels.
"Bola is reporting all systems ready, awaiting your signal," came the voice of his comm officer as his eyes narrowed at the display. One of the destroyers—an old Turian design that was obsolete at the time of the 314 War—neared them. It was immediately moved into target one on their list.
"Signal the Bola,designate Sierra-3 as initial target. After that, primary target is Sierra-1, destroy any targets of opportunity."
"Get us underway – as soon as the destroyer attempts to engage, activate full military-level power and shed the plates."
"Aye aye sir."
It didn't take long for the destroyer to challenge the two ships that had moved out of their assigned holding position. To them, it just seemed that the two ship captains had gone insane and were attempting to make a break for it. Therefore, there was no warning or time to react when the mass accelerator on the Flytrap fired, the round easily penetrating its shields and rending the thin hull asunder. It was quickly finished off by a disruptor torpedo as it flew past, pieces breaking off both Q-ships as they revealed their true face. As soon as it was done, several strike craft launched from both ships, intending to clear the way for the two ships as they began their charge towards the dreadnought that was slow to realize exactly what was happening.
Yet, in a space that is measured in thousands of kilometers, it was still enough time for the dreadnought to react as it slowly came to bear, its supporting ships moving to engage the threat that was approaching. Even as the Boladestroyed a frigate that was trying to harass it, two disruptor torpedos were able to get through the Q-ship's defenses, collapsing shields and shredding hull. But the Bola did not stop; instead, if anything, it fought harder. Its mass accelerator fired again, though the round glanced off a cruiser that was at the edge of its range, and a quartet of disruptor torpedoes leapt out of its launchers and vaporised a patrol frigate that was attacking it from the side.
But that was all for naught, as the dreadnought was now able to engage – its first round went straight through the Bola from stem to stern before impacting a freighter in the distance, heavily damaging it. The Q-ship exploded moments later as its eezo core lost containment.
The Flytrap fared slightly better on its approach, several disruptor torpedos leaping out and seeking the dreadnought at extreme ranges even as it entered an evasive pattern. But like the Bola,the dreadnought was able to get a bead on its target, and a single round slammed into the Flytrap, even as a pair of torpedoes hit a destroyer that sacrificed itself to prevent the dreadnought from taking the hit.
And yet, the escort cruiser continued its mad charge, escape pods jettisoning out of the now streaming wreck, before suddenly, to the shock of everyone present, it activated its ftl drive, and rammed the dreadnought.
If it had been a case of a collision at normal speeds, though while the dreadnought would have been heavily damaged, the tonnage behind it would have allowed it to live to fight another day.
But in a case of an impact at a factor of c with the type of mass that the cruiser was hefting, the Flytrap struck the dreadnought with all the fury of a solar flare. It was simply cleaved in half, and still managed to explode at the same time. So monumental was the explosion, in fact, that it damaged the cruiser thousands of kilometres away with the sheer force behind it.
There was a lot to be said about the level of training and capability of the Knight Nine when they could view one of the largest pirate raids upon a human planet as simply business as usual. But that was what it was for them, a mere footnote in their operational history and barely worth mentioning.
Those were just some of the thoughts going through John Shepard's mind, as he ended the thoughts of a pirate violently by depositing a round in his skull.
Of course, the other thoughts he had dealt more with the conflict presented by the additional members of the fireteam that tagged along with his Knight Nine, especially one in particular: his sister.
Never let it be said that he didn't love his estranged—though not by choice—sister with all his heart. In fact, she would be the only chink in his psychological armor, and one that thankfully only few knew about. If you wanted to hit his berserk button, disrespect his sister – and may God have mercy upon your soul, because John Shepard won't.
With all that said, right now, it took all of his effort from acting out on his frustration and disappointment with her. The fact that she was so hateful of Britannia made him want to grab her by the neck and yell at her the truth of the matter. Alas, his orders prevented something like that, but even if he understood that his Emperor was playing a long con with this information, it was his sister.
So to see her like this, showing herself to be just as skilled in her trade as he was at her age, was like a knife to the heart because she would be better served serving her Empire. At least with them, she would be recognized for what she was instead of treated like shit.
And then there was Kururugi; even among the Knight Nine, it was agreed that the boy was a threat. To have biotic skills to the point where he could teleport or manipulate mass at will made him a threat even more dangerous than Jane, to the point where there was an honest discussion on "accident-ing" the boy while they had a chance. Unfortunately, that was nixed by Lady Kōzuki. So, instead, they observed the boy's unnatural biotics, even as they scythed through the pirate raiders wherever they were encountered.
"Operative Argante, the pirate dreadnought has been destroyed."
"Bolaand Flytrap destroyed. We're tracking escape pods making planetfall in and around the city."
"One, take who you need, grab a jumpship, and secure the survivors – do not let them get captured by the pirates or the authorities."
"Roger that, Argante. Two, Three, Six, with me."
With that, the icons denoting the four Knights disappeared from his HUD, letting them know they were out of the tactical network for now.
Refocusing on the matter at hand, he glanced through the scope, waiting for the next wave of pirates that he knew were inbound, as they were positioned to protect one of the most expensive districts on Elysium, and one that would draw the pirates like a moth to the flame. It had been decided upon in the briefing to set up here because it was the most likely spot to be hit, while the rest of the Britannian embassy forces spread through the city to set up defensive cordons in order to stem the flow elsewhere.
"Counting at least platoon strength inbound," came the voice of River, who was acting as their forward scout thanks to her ability to slip in and out without being detected.
"Roger that," came Kallen's voice.
Sure enough, another group of pirates came – only this time, it appeared they had brought air support if he was to trust the small radar they had set up on one of the buildings. As a result, he moved through the building into a better position for the gunship that had obviously been tasked to support the ground forces that would be trying to raid the area.
"Got a Mantis here," he said softly, keeping his scope on the hovering ship that seemed to think it was unseen, obviously waiting to pounce upon them when they attacked the pirates, "ground attack variant, possible shields, can't get an accurate read on the scope."
If he was expecting acknowledgment from Kallen, he was sorely disappointed as there was no response, causing him to lower the rifle a bit and zoom in on the position that he knew that the operative was currently located, only to find her not there.
"Seven, you're in command," finally came the redhead's command, "Something's come up; I'll brief you later. Hold this position."
"Roger that, boss ma'am," he replied, bringing the scope up, "Shepard, when I begin firing, I want you, Kururugi, and Grasshopper to engage the groundpounders – I'll deal with the Mantis, and refocus upon supporting you when I am done."
There was a brief hesitation in the response, causing him to personally plead a higher power to intervene and save himself from chastising his sister, before she finally acknowledged his command.
"What's our status?" Cornelia demanded, tapping her fingers on the armrest of her chair as she silently urged the Revenge to speeds in further excess of what would be safe. She and the rest of Task Force Galatine were redlining their eezo cores in order to make it to Elysium so they could relieve the besieged planet, and had been since they had received the news.
"We're still six hours away from the mass relay at max task force cruising speed," Guilford said quietly beside her, unable to take his eyes away from his own tactical display beside his princess.
"Still too long," she replied, "can we go any faster?"
"If we did, we would lose the Valiantand Warspite. They weren't designed for these types of extended redlines," Guilford replied, knowing that Cornelia would not like that. But then again, those two ships were of the older "Battleship" designation, remnants of the First Contact War that were still being phased out of action. They were good, dependable ships that provided the fire support of a dreadnought without the legal tripwires, but they were also the slowest ships of the fleet. And they couldn't leave those two ships alone, which would require them to split off other ships to escort them until they could make it – something they couldn't afford to do in light of what they could be coming up against. Or could they…
"What's the report from Elysium?"
"Flytrapand Bola succeeded in their objective. However, there is still enough tonnage that without the Warspiteand Valiant, it may be difficult for us to succeed unilaterally."
"Then why the hell did we design these assault carriers in the first place?" Cornelia snapped, her fingers ceasing their tapping, "I think it's time to see if they are going to perform as advertised, or if we were sold spoiled goods. Detach Devrons 3 and 4 to escort the Valiantand Warspite, alert them that we will be continuing ahead without them and they are to continue maximum speed to Elysium. Signal the rest of the fleet, I don't care if we cut the eezo cores lives in half, we will get to Elysium soon."
"As you wish, Your Highness."
Even as Guilford began to pass out the orders, Cornelia could not resist the urge to bite her lip at the fact that she was gambling heavily in order to save a Systems Alliance planet; if it wasn't at Lelouch's behest, she would have let the planet burn. But Lelouch had demanded her presence, likely because of his girlfriend's presence upon the planet.
Or, at least, that's what she'd thought until she read the message she had just received.
It was deceptively simple.
Saren is on Elysium.
If the idea of seeing combat wasn't enough for her, the opportunity to capture or kill the Turian involved in the killing of her mentor and mother-figure would cause her to tear down the gates of hell if it got her closer. That was why she was willing to make the risk, because if that girlcould not get Saren, Cornelia most certainly would would – even if she had to turn his general vicinity to ash from orbit.
"Status report!" Yelena Ultres snapped angrily, ready to strangle the life out of someone for what had just happened.
"The Behemothis gone."
"I can fucking see that! Tell me how the fuck two Q-ships were not fucking noticed until now."
"Well-," the ensign wasn't allowed to respond, what with suddenly finding a mass effect slug going through his throat. He choked on his own blood as Yelena stood there, weapon in hand as her eyes roamed over the bridge again.
"I want a report from all ships and units immediately," she snarled, before holstering the pistol and storming off the bridge and into her private chambers, immediately activating the communications link for the man she was about to let her frustration.
"What is it?" came the voice of Edan Had'dah.
"You fucking lied to me you four-eyed bastard! Easy smash and grab my ass."
"I never said there may be complications, Ultres. Or is this too much for what I hired you for?"
"Don't get self-righteous with me you smug bastard, I did not sign up to lose a fucking dreadnought. I'm bleeding more men than this is fucking worth by the second."
"That's your problem. I warned you that Elysium may be more difficult than you believed, but you did not listen to me. Now, I am busy now, my asset is on the planet right now, retrieving what we discussed, I suggest you keep to your end of the bargain, and I will cover for your losses."
"Whatever, I expect to get paid well for this clusterfuck."
"You'll get your money, two eyes," and then the link was cut.
"Batarian trash," she muttered, stepping out of her quarters and sauntering back to the bridge and back into her chair.
"Captain Ultres, one of our sources are saying that the Britannians are on their way here."
"What?" she snapped.
"They've already gotten clearance to use the mass relays to come straight to Elysium. The only timetable we have is that they may be here in four hours."
Fuck Edan, she thought, there is no fucking way I'm going to dance with Britannians twice.
"Signal our forces to begin the withdrawal; strip the rest of the merchantmen and let's get out of here."
"Stupid human," Saren Arterius muttered under his breath as he refocused upon his task at hand – raiding the Prothean ruins that had just been recently discovered by the humans here. It disgusted him that the stupid animals had tainted this, but all of his research indicated that this was a critical piece of what he needed to obtain the means of assuring the Turian's place in the era to come.
Which was why he was here in this cavern, scanning the room for a hidden door that he knew was here somewhere. He knew it was here, every indicator that it was here, everything in Had'dah's damn archives signaled that what he sought was here.
He then stopped moving as a chime alerted him that he had found what he was looking for; reaching into his pouch, he retrieved a relic and walked to the wall before placing it in front of it. For a moment, nothing happened, then a small green laser swept over the relic and the wall opened.
Stepping inside, he found that he was not disappointed as what he was seeking was right in front of him. It was a Prothean beacon, a repository of knowledge from the predecessor race meant to be a warning to their successors – only this one served a different and far more nefarious purpose.
He paused as the cave echoed the sound of a dropship's thrusters, making him look back out of the cavern to ascertain what was coming. When he saw nothing, his eyes narrowed, and he came out of the chamber, closing the door behind him before moving toward a place of cover.
Saren withdrew his pistol, and waited.
Suddenly, he leapt out of his position, whipping himself around and opening fire, watching as the rounds smashed into something that shimmered in response to the impacts. The cloaked assailant dodged away, but the sounds of footfalls reaffirmed that he was not alone.
Growling, he took off in pursuit – he could not allow there to be any witnesses. Suddenly, he was forced to dive to the side, the faint disruption of air alerting him to the proximity of a blade. The slash that otherwise would have cut him in half instead sliced his pistol in half – in retaliation, she slammed his fist into the invisible attacker, earning a grunt as he knocked out the air of whatever it was and sent it staggering back. That offered him an opening to bring up his omnitool to launch out an overload at where his attacker was, and he took it gladly.
The sound of fizzing and popping let him know that his accuracy was not misplaced, as the cloaking field of his attacker stuttered, electricity running over the form before the cloak gave up its secrets to reveal a figure dressed in red, face covered by a mask as red lenses stared unerringly at him.
Asari, he thought at first before dismissing it, knowing the Asari viewed cloaking devices as beneath them. Except for their commandos, of course, but no asari commando would ever stupid enough to attack a Spectre alone.
"Human," he growled, his talons curling into fists.
"Saren Arterius," the figure stated, holding a odd-looking blade in its right hand, while its left hand was resting on a holstered weapon, ready to be drawn, "by order of His Imperial Majesty, you are under arrest for the murder of Empress Marianne vi Britannia, 110th Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire. Come quietly or be eliminated.
If it was any other situation, he would have laughed at the sheer audacity of the fool for thinking that a female humancould challenge him. However, in this circumstance, he was only enraged; he quickly launched a cryoblast at his attacker, even as he accessed his omnitool on the run, fabricating a pair of drones that broke off and engaged the woman.
If the woman was surprised, she didn't act like it; instead, she suddenly teleported in a flurry of biotic energy, the cryoblast snap-freezing the space where she had just been, while pulling out her holstered submachine gun and peppering the created drones.
As she was engaging the drones, Saren took the moment to get behind another set of cover, entering a command into his omnitool to change his defensive configuration to one specifically designed for use against biotics. If there was one mistake this woman had made that ensured she would not live through this, it was the fact that she believed she could singularly engage not only a Spectre, but a sentinel, a class of soldier that could easily defeat a biotics user thanks to their durability and access to tech. Finishing his recalibration, he moved back from cover, tossing a pair of grenades at the woman; they were intercepted by a burst of precision fire, before she suddenly darted forward in a blur of motion, her sword leveled straight at him.
It only penetrated into the omni-fabricated armor that snapped up just in time and detonated in her face, staggering her as the shards from the tech armor dug gouges into her helmet and shoulder. If she'd been against the amateur she seemed to believe him to be, that would have been perfectly fine. But he was Saren Arterius, and he'd probably been killing humans for longer than she'd even been alive.
Whipping his shotgun off his back in one smooth motion, he levelled it at point-blank range to the centre of her chest, and pulled the trigger.
To his surprise, she managed to contort herself in a way that the shotgun only dug into the left side of her abdomen, no noise escaping her lips even though he knew the damage was enough that she would likely bleed out without assistance – and the only medical aid he was going to give her would be dispensed from the business end of his shotgun.
Or, at least, that was the plan until he was suddenly thrown across the cavern and into an opposing wall from a massive surge of biotic power that he could in no way have predicted.
As he scrabbled back to his feet, he aimed his shotgun where his attacker had been, only to find she'd somehow vanished. Biting back a curse, he quickly moved to the beacon's room again, intent on retrieving it. That Britannian had been a fool, and would be dead soon enough – the beacon was all that mattered now.
As he quickly placed his hand on the artefact, he found himself ripped away from his body bombarded with information. As quickly as it had begun, it was over, and with a maladroit stumble, he righted himself and made his getaway.
It took almost all of the energy Kallen had just to keep herself conscious as she staggered away from the relic sight, her hands pressed over her side even as blood seeped through and splattered on the ground as she moved. The only sound that escaped her was the ragged breathing from the exertion she was placing on her body, and the sounds of her footsteps as they hit heavily upon the ground.
She knew she couldn't go to the settlement – it would raise too many flags as to why a Britannian was there, not to mention it might ruin everything. Too many questions would be asked if Systems Alliance Intelligence were able to get their hands upon her. Questions she wasn't sure she'd be able to resist answering right now.
Cursing herself and her overconfident idiocy, she tripped over her own feet and collapsed against a rock, her body feeling like jelly as her vision blurred and refocused. She had been a fucking fool trying to fight fair with Saren Arterius of all people, and now she was probably going to die. Just that thought alone drew a soft groan as blue eyes closed for a moment as she once again attempted to staunch the wound, medigel trying desperately to keep her going even though it was overburdened by the damage done to her shoulder and abdomen.
Lelouch is going to be pissed. The random thought bubbled to her mind, causing her to chuckle, before it turned to a hacking cough. Blood frothED on her lips, letting her know that at least one of the rounds had nicked a lung, which now with her adrenaline ebbing was making it even more difficult for her to breath.
Reaching with leadened fingers, she accessed her omnitool, knowing that what she was doing was either her salvation or her damnation. She tapped a single button on the haptic controls, and her veins suddenly feeling ice cold as the compound she accessed was injected directly into her bloodstream, sapping her of even more of her waning energy as it went to work. Knowing what she did—and what she'd failed to do—would set off a chain reaction that could bring her entire life crashing down upon her, she slumped against the rock, mesmerized by her own breathing as it slowly lost the ragged edge that had dogged her up until now.
Slowly, her eyes began to droop shut, her body no longer having the energy available to keep her conscious.
When they slid shut, Kallen's world became nothing but darkness and haunted nightmares.