In the Darkest Night: Dark Beginnings
Disclaimer: The Mass Effect universe is the property of Bioware/Electronic Arts. No infringement of these copyrights is intended as this is a not for profit fan fiction work.
Authors Note: Just to clear this up - no Shepard-type character will be present in Dark Beginnings. Any human child taken to be a slave soldier/cannon fodder who would be suitable for a Shepard type character has already been killed by the Batarians prior to this point in time. I seriously considered the idea, but then decided that it simply wasn't realistic given the extreme harshness with which I have the Batarians treat their human slaves. A Shepard like character will appear later in the story arc, likely a few human generations after the events told here.
Also, a note on the Asari military forces: a troop is formed of 8 patrols of two teams of two Huntresses/Commandoes, or 32 Huntresses/Commandoes. A company is made up of 8 troops for 256 Huntresses/Commandoes. A group is made up of 4 companies and a single Force is made up of 4 groups. The combined Rapid Reaction Forces are comprised of 6 Forces for over 24,000 Huntresses.
Feedback: Always welcome, feedback is what encourages me to keep writing. Please let me know what you like and what you dislike about the story.
Revision History: 1/29/2014
Chapter Four – Acquiring a Human Part 1
Tela Vasir rose from her seat as the ARN Cybean's transport shuttle settled fully upon the ground and the main hatch opened letting in warm, dry air carrying a hint of fine dust and various mechanical scents that went along with the sounds of heavy equipment and the occasional shouted command. Stepping up to the open hatchway the intelligence agent gazed at the busy scene outside. The shuttle had landed upon a large paved landing port area located to the east of the main military base. Nearby were several warehouses where the base stored the majority of its supplies and machinery. Quite a few of the workers were wearing breathing masks and as Tela drew in a deeper breath of warm air and then coughed at the grit of dust and the taste of metal upon her tongue she understood why.
The Rapid Reaction Forces Operations Headquarters and Training Center was located upon Aequitas, a marginal garden world located in the Minos Wasteland Cluster. The planet was notable for the extensive deposits of iron oxide dust which colored its soil an almost uniform reddish color and cobalt deposits abundant enough to form bluish-purple hills. Both the soil color and hills were highly visible from space, creating a distinctive reddish colored world with bluish-purple markings. A decent sized colony had formed here, supporting the needs of the military base as well as those of the various mining operations based upon the planet due to its plentiful palladium, platinum, cobalt, and of course it's easily gathered iron deposits.
Aequitas was located in a highly strategic location for the Asari Republics. The planet was the only habitable world in the solar system where the Mass Relay for the Minos Wasteland Cluster was located, the Fortis System. This Mass Relay was also the primary connection between the Asari Republics core worlds located in the Athena Nebula, Nimbus Cluster and Silean Nebula and the border worlds with Terminus Systems such as those located in the Crescent Nebula, Eagle Nebula and Ismar Frontier. In addition to the Rapid Reaction Force, the Asari Republics Second Fleet, with its full complement of cruisers and frigates, was also stationed in the Fortis System. If the Hegemony ever invaded in force from the Terminus Systems, a distinct possibility given its influence in the area, this was the best place to stop them before they could reach the colony worlds that were the backbone of the Republics' economy.
After discussing the matter with both her daughter and her mother, Tela had accepted the Matriarch's assignment. Paranthia, displaying both her youth and innate kindness, had been enamored with the idea of her mother freeing a human from the Batarians and being one of the first asari to become acquainted with a member of the new species. Tela had tried to temper her daughter's expectations, but wasn't certain the young maiden truly understood how being treated so harshly from such a young age would affect the human…or any being really. The intelligence agent had already resolved that she would take as much time as needed to ensure the human was not a danger her family before letting the former slave near her daughter. If she felt the human could not be trusted, either because of the human's innate nature or because the damage the Batarians had done couldn't be overcome, then the human would be kept elsewhere until she had obtained all the information she could from her or him. Afterward…well she would make the slave's end quick and as painless as possible and upon returning to Thessia find a way to inform her daughter of her less than fully successful mission in a way that was both truthful and suited to her daughter's age and innocence.
A small cargo truck with two armed and armored asari kneeling in its bed and holding onto the sides drew Tela's attention as the vehicle emerged from between two of the warehouses and onto the wide roadway that connected the rest of the base with the landing port area. She was still watching the truck when the shuttle's pilot, a dark blue asari with white facial makings, emerged from the cockpit area and came up beside her. "That looks like your escort Agent Vasir," the pilot commented as she gestured toward the approaching vehicle with one hand, "I'll open up the cargo compartment so they can get your luggage."
As the truck drew near enough for Tela to make out the features of the asari in the vehicle she immediately recognized the distinctive facial markings of the driver and one of the asari standing in the back. It was enough for her to guess at their identity and to be confident that she was correct, for there were very few who were entitled by both family and service to Thessia to bear the ancient and honored Huntress markings of the Kurin and T'Soni lineages. Tela continued watching the cargo truck as it drove up to the landing pad and stopped a short distance away from the transport shuttle. As the driver and two asari in the cargo bed jumped out of the truck, Tela proceeded down the shuttle ramp to meet the trio.
"Salaa, Senior Field Agent Vasir," the leading maiden with the characteristic light blue complexion of a purebred line and the distinctive red Kurin lineage facial markings greeted her with a polite, but not excessively deferential inclination of her head, "Welcome to the RRF Operations Headquarters and Training Center. I am Lt. Larisa Kurin," she turned slightly to indicate the two asari behind her, "With me are Huntress T'Goni and Huntress T'Soni from my troop. I apologize for the necessity of rushing you, but Commander T'Louck would like to meet with you immediately. We have just enough time to swing by your assigned quarters to drop off your luggage if you desire...but not much more than that."
Tela's brow creased as a subtle frown formed, why would the Commander need to meet with her before she even had the opportunity to settle into her temporary quarters? Could it have something to do with the hastily put together joint mission between the Republic's Intelligence Services (ARIS) and the Union's STG to destroy Hegemony assets in the Omega Nebula? The Hegemony had lost a number of ships and troops in their failed attack on Zesmeni, leaving their outposts in the Terminus Systems temporarily vulnerable to attack. The joint mission between the ARIS and STG was to identify targets of opportunity and then infiltrate and destroy them, focusing especially on those targets that would disrupt the Hegemonies ability to replace the cruisers and frigates that they had lost in the Crescent Nebula.
"Salaa, Lt. Kurin, Huntresses T'Soni and T'Goni," Tela returned the Lieutenant's greeting with a polite inclination of her head. She then let her gaze slip past Kurin to the young maiden bearing the huntress facial markings of the T'Soni lineage standing behind her. The same young maiden whose discovery had led to her presence here for the purpose of liberating a human, and whose mother was deeply involved in deciding the Republics policy toward the enslaved race.
Liara T'Soni's smooth, lightly freckled countenance and a certain lack of tempered control in her deep blue eyes betrayed the maiden's age and lack of experience as a Huntress, but that was something that only time could teach her. Much was expected from the maidens born into the Corallium Circle lineages, and most daughters of those families fulfilled those expectations by following the path their mothers laid before them. Young Liara T'Soni was not following her mother's path of business and political success however; instead she had chosen to pursue first academics and now military service. The young asari's degrees and academic accolades, in addition to her performance marks during her Huntress training, and even her posting in this unit, all spoke to her success in both and hinted at what the young maiden might achieve in time if she survived long enough to become a matron and then matriarch. Perhaps she might even live up to the facial markings she currently bore in honor to her ancestress, Cerelia T'Soni, the original bearer of them and the founder of the Justicar Order.
Tela's attention shifted back to Lt. Kurin as she responded to her question, "I would appreciate stopping by my quarters before meeting with your Commander to drop off my gear," and then turned to see if the pilot had opened up the lower cargo hatch of the shuttle. Between the five asari, it took only a minute or so to load Tela's luggage, armor and weapon cases, and the few pieces of field gear in single hard sided crate that the intelligence agent thought might be needed for this assignment onto the bed of the cargo truck. Then they were moving once again with Tela sitting in the passenger seat of the cab with Lt. Kurin driving and the two Huntresses in the back with the intelligence agent's luggage.
Approximately twenty minutes later, having paused for only a short while at the bases' officer housing area and the quarters assigned to Tela for the duration of her mission to drop off her belongings, Lt. Kurin drove up to the front of the RRF Headquarters building and parked the cargo truck alongside several other ground vehicles of various makes. The intelligence agent glanced over curiously as the Lieutenant typed in a brief message on her omni-tool.
"I'm letting the Commander know that we are here," the maiden responded to her questioning gaze without looking up from the holographic screen displayed above her armored forearm. A moment later the Lieutenant deactivated the tool and opened her door in one smooth motion, "Commander T'Louck is ready to see you, if you will follow me I'll show you to her office."
After being checked though security at the front entrance, it was only a few hallways and turns later that they arrived at their destination. The emblem of the Fourth Rapid Reaction Forces, the outline of a stooping Aratus Falcon upon a stylized shield, was imprinted into the wall next to the open archway that led to the suite of offices which housed the unit's command staff. Lt. Kurin led the way in, pausing only a moment by the receptionist's desk before continuing past it and through a large open room where several Huntresses were working at scattered desks. At the far end of the room were several doorways with plaques upon them, and it was toward these doors that the trio headed with the intelligence agent following along behind them. The Lieutenant stopped in front of the middle door with a large plaque that read Commander Fourth Rapid Reaction Forces, Commander Arena T'Louck and waved her hand in front of the sensor to announce their presence. Less than a second later the door slid open, revealing the sizable office beyond and the purple complexioned asari in Commando leathers who rose from behind her executive style desk, revealing her full height of six foot seven inches, and motioned for them to enter.
Commander Arena T'Louck was the diatheriós daughter of Matriarch Aethyta T'Louck and a hanar bondmate and like the elder asari was known for her preference for blunt honesty and unadorned truth over any effort at making her messages more politically palatable for her superiors or of softening them for her subordinates. Thankfully, the younger T'Louck was more professional in her speech and mannerisms than her matriarchal mother, one of the reasons she had advanced in the officer ranks to hold her own command whereas Matriarch Aethyta had never advanced past the rank of Senior Lieutenant despite the elder Commandos many commendations for her service to the Republics. The other reason that Arena T'Louck had risen to the rank of Commander despite her perioikos mannerisms was that she was a brilliant tactician and strategist as well as an incredibly powerful biotic. Skill wise Commander Arena T'Louck was an exemplar of what every Commando aspired to achieve at their craft: incredibly lethal, decisive and unhesitating in her actions, and both tactically and strategically brilliant.
Commander T'Louck rose from her seat at Vasir's entrance, "Salaa, Senior Agent Vasir," she greeted Tela with cool politeness, her light grey eyes narrowing with both keen interest and calculating evaluation as her gaze flitted briefly over the intelligence agent's form. Then she turned her attention to her three subordinates who were still standing in the hallway, "Lt. Kurin, Huntresses T'Goni and T'Soni, please come into my office, your time with Agent Vasir isn't done quite yet," the matron remarked dryly and then waited until the three stepped into her office and the door shut behind them before finishing, "and it won't be until she has a live human in her possession." A faint trace of amusement caused the corners of the Commander's lips to curve upward as her three subordinates stopped in their tracks at her announcement, their gazes flitting back and forth between the her and Vasir. "Please, find yourselves seats," T'Louck gestured expansively, indicating the selection of chairs in the room, one of which was in front of her desk and more along one wall.
As the intelligence agent returned the Commander's greeting, the three maidens made their way toward the row of chairs against the wall, leaving the single chair nearest their Commander's desk for her. Tela pulled the remaining chair back a few feet so from the desk so that she could see both the three younger asari and T'Louck. Even after they were all seated and waiting the Commander remained silent, giving Tela a moment to examine the other matron's features. The other asari had unique dark purple facial markings - a stripe on her lower lip, and angular markings that arched around her eyes and along her cheeks along with two narrow marked semi-circles between her brows – that as far as Vasir knew not related in any way to any lineage markings among the many branches of the Armali T'Louck families.
"What I am about to tell you," the Commander finally began speaking, "will be announced to the entire unit in less than twelve hours, but until then you will keep this information to yourselves," she paused to give the three maidens a severe look, emphasizing her orders before continuing. "As you know the entirety of the Rapid Reaction Forces have been put on alert in case of a second Batarian attack. That was not the real reason however," T'Louck commented and then proceeded to inform the three Huntresses about the joint operation planned by the Republics and Salarian Special Tactics Group.
After filling them in about the basics of the joint operation, the Commander went on to specifics about the Fourth's participation in it. "Along with more obvious targets such as the shipyards surrounding Omega Station and the station itself, the mining facilities upon Uwan Oche, the third planet in the Kairavamori System, has also been selected as a target. The Batarian's boron extraction facilities upon that planet are the primary supplier of boron allotropes required in the production of omni-gel for the entire Hegemony..." T'Louck smiled with slightly savage looking satisfaction before continuing, "and currently have less than half the normal amount of Hegemony naval forces defending them. While the Republic and Union ships are bombing the facilities on Uwan Oche into a dusty crater," she continued, "the Fourth and Fifth Rapid Reaction Forces have been tasked with attacking the Hegemony's military installations and forces upon the second planet in that system, Vatar. Our purpose is to ensure the Batarian military forces based there can't interfere with the attack on Uwan Oche, and to destroy as many of the installations as possible in the time that we have for the attack."
"Now for the specifics of Senior Intelligent Agent Vasir's and your participation in this attack," Commander T'Louck glanced around meaningfully between the four of them before focusing solely upon Lt. Kurin and the two Huntresses sitting along the wall, "and my reason behind informing you three prior to informing the rest of the Fourth. A few weeks ago we received intelligence that a single unit of human slave troops had recently been added to one of the Batarian garrisons upon Vatar. We have the location of that garrison," the Commander focused her gaze upon Lt. Kurin, "as the main force begins their attack on the base your troop, along with the rest of your company under Captain Kaeras will infiltrate and find that human slave unit and then target the Batarians overseeing them."
The Commander shifted her attention to Vasir, "That should give you the opening and time you need to select one of the human's and be ready when the detonation signal is sent to make your attempt at disarming the slave's collar." Tela was about to respond when T'Louck's lips curved upward in a smile that notably didn't reach her steely grey eyes. "Please succeed," the Commander said, her tone light, "I'd like to get my Huntresses all back in one piece instead of being blown to bits by a slave's collar."
Despite her friendly tone and the smile on her face, T'Louck's gaze was serious and held no small amount of threat. Vasir smiled back at the other matron and in the same tone responded, "I wasn't planning on failing as I'll be right there with them."