Shepard ran a hand over his face and stared sadly at the sensor display alongside the ship's weapons board. He'd hoped the Vellius' intercept had been a sign the turians were coming around. Now that he thought about it, sending the frigate alone could not have been the Fleet Captain's idea. Undoubtedly, Shepard wasn't the only commander who was going to be facing a hostile inquiry in the near future. The turian fleet commander aboard the cruiser Selelucia may have had an officer in his command defy orders to help an enemy after the loss of five ships in the space of as many minutes. Shepard's refusal to surrender just might be enough to spark another conflict if the turian commander felt he had to save face.
Maybe if Shepard offered an olive branch, they'd take it. "Captain Lorian," he said. "This is Commander Shepard. We monitored a direct hit on the Evoran. Do you require assistance?"
"Negative, Normandy. Stand down and surrender your vessel. Acknowledge."
On the other side of the cockpit, Miranda listened intently. The Vellius's position immediately to port meant neither ship had an advantage on the other, but quick work on the yaw could change that. She computed optimum attack and escape vectors on her board and sent them to both Shepard and Joker's screens.
Shepard ignored the readouts. This chance to talk was not something he wanted to waste, especially when violence was the only other alternative. "Captain, listen to me. The ship that just attacked you represents a threat greater than-"
"You have one minute to comply or we will take the Normandy by force."
Shepard killed the connection and punched up the last communique with Admiral Hackett's office from the comm history. Hopefully, the Admiral was still near his desk.
A young, bored sounding officer answered. "NAVCENT, Fifth Fleet HQ, this is Ensign Boyer. How may I direct-"
Almost immediately, the young man's voice was replaced with Hackett's deep growl. Evidently, communications with Normandy's ident were being given automatic priority. "Hackett here. Go ahead, Commander."
"Sir, we just bagged a collector ship at the Sahrabarik relay."
Shepard could hear Hackett barking orders to someone else in the room. "Tell Rehme to get his ships back to the relay. NOW. That's great news, Commander. What's our next step?"
What indeed? Shepard didn't want to call for help. Having the Alliance fleet show up with screens up, ready for battle was only inviting disaster. The turians were undoubtedly feeling a little trigger-happy after what had transpired. "We need to secure the wreckage. Around here, pirates and scavengers will pick everything clean in minutes if we don't act fast. Be aware turian ships are in the area, but they are not as of yet hostile."
"Understood. Commodore Rehme will give you whatever you need. He gives you any crap, tell him to talk to me, directly."
"Thank you, Admiral."
"Have you given any more thought to what we were discussing earlier? Those turians might not stay friendly for long."
Shepard's eyes kept wandering to the clock on his screen. His time was almost up. "I'll need to get back to you on that, sir. Normandy out."
"Commander?" Miranda asked urgently, also watching the seconds tick down.
"No action," Shepard said. He looked out the window once more and saw the Vellius had not changed position. He flipped back to the turian channel. "Captain Lorian, Alliance reinforcements are on the way. You really need to listen to what I have to say. This is the only chance you're going to get."
"Commander Shepard, this is your final warning. Surrender, now, or we will open fire!"
Outside, amongst the stars, sparkles of blue flared like flash bulbs in the darkness. For each one, a new contact appeared on the sensor display sporting Alliance transponders as dozen ships jumped in around them. Three cruisers, five frigates and their support ships converged on their position. Close timing, Shepard thought.
"'Bout time," Joker grumbled as both Shepard and Miranda let out the breath they'd been holding. The Alliance ships began to spread out, forming protective sphere around the expanding cloud of debris from the destroyed collector ship, putting the Normandy easily in their defensive envelope. The turian ships, including Vellius next to Normandy, held their position.
"Commander Shepard, this is Commodore Rehme, commanding the SSV London, Task Force Fifty-Two. Our ships are taking up positions around the debris field. Let us know what you're looking for. Turian fleet, this sector is under Alliance control. Citadel forces are welcome to observe our operation but any interference will not be tolerated."
EDI's avatar appeared above Shepard's console. "Incoming tight-beam transmission from the London."
Shepard switched over to the Alliance frequency. "This is Shepard, go ahead."
Commodore Rehme sounded amused. "You must have friends in high places, son. An escort is waiting for you at Hawking Eta. We'll make sure you have a clear shot at the relay. We've got that frigate on your wing all locked up."
Joker clapped his hands and pointed at his primary navigation screen. "Course already plotted, Commander. Just say the word."
"Hit it, Joker!" Miranda shouted.
"Belay that!" Shepard snapped and shot Miranda an irritated glance. "Hold position." He switched back to the turian channel and double checked to make sure he was talking to his intended receiver. "Captain Lorian, last chance."
Lorian's flanged voice seethed with rage. "You realize, Commander, our reinforcements are on the way as well. You think we won't find you, even if you run? This is not over."
"Yes sir, I know," Shepard replied. "But you have to know that I could have run for the relay and left you and your fleet to hang. And that I'm blowing a second chance to run now. Is another standoff what you really want? Or would you rather know who hit you?"
Lorian did not reply. Joker and Miranda both watched and waited. The helmsman's finger hovered over the "commit" button. Rehme's voice crackled over the speaker. "Shepard, what are you doing? Get moving!"
Shepard stared at the at the blip on his screen which represented the Selelucia. He didn't know if the translator would pick it up, but the sympathy in his voice was evident to the humans sitting around him. "You lost a lot of good people, Captain. If it were me, I'd want to know why. Your call."
The sky outside and sensor plot both flashed with the arrival of inbound ships. The turian relief flotilla emerged in attack formation with a screen of four frigates in front of another pair of cruisers. Still thousands of kilometers out, they altered course towards the Alliance fleet. The human ships immediately powered up their kinetic barriers and rotated to face the new aggressors.
Then acting on some unheard command, the turians immediately slowed and broke into a much looser, patrol-oriented formation with their screens and weapons powered down. Lorian's voice on a new, unsecured channel now projected a calm professionalism as if they had previously been discussing the day's solar radiation forecast. "This is Fleet Captain Venantus Lorian. These reinforcements were en-route to assist with the geth ship recently dispatched with the help of the Normandy. They are now tasked with rescue and recovery. Commander Shepard, we appreciate your assistance. For the time being, pursuit orders are on hold pending further investigation."
"What the hell are you doing, Shepard?" Rehme barked over his private channel.
"Sorry, Commodore," Shepard replied. "I'll explain everything when I get a chance. If you have any problems, talk to Admiral Hackett."
He paused to collect his thoughts. Other than the turians continued reference to the collector ship as geth, his message seemed to have resonated with his would-be captors. "This is Commander Shepard," he addressed both fleets over the open frequency. "I propose a truce for the next twelve hours so the wreckage of the vessel which attacked the turian task force can be analyzed. We have detailed information about its origin and its mission. I urge you to send it to higher command immediately. I will conduct a briefing on this channel as soon as we're set up here. In the mean time, we need as many ships and EVA teams as you can muster to recover the debris from the wreck. The sooner we get started, the better. There may be more of them out there. And if there are, they will be coming here."
Now, to see if they bite, Shepard thought. He wasn't naive enough to believe some new-found sense of brotherhood and camaraderie would settle over the two fleets and inspire a wave of cooperation. Any information Shepard was going to share with the Alliance was going to go straight to Hackett, anyway. But right now, neither side could risk the other gaining valuable intelligence on this unknown enemy, and with both fleets at roughly equal strength in a hostile system, neither could force the issue, or so he hoped.
Lorian replied first. "Commander Shepard, we eagerly await your briefing. Would it be possible to attend in person?"
Face-to-face talks weren't required, but were always more effective. Besides, it would give Shepard a chance to show the Council representative more than just the data on the collectors. "I would encourage both fleets to send a small contingent. We will of course still transmit directly to your intelligence staff directly."
"Excellent," Lorian said. "I will transfer to your vessel with Enlea T'Vari, our lead Council liaison, assuming that the Alliance will also send a representative. We look forward to meeting you, Commander."
Commodore Rehme wasn't quite as accomplished at masking his emotions, but at least had the good sense to keep transmitting on the secure line. "You expect me to send someone over there while the Normandy has every turian gun trained on it?"
"This won't work unless you do."
"Not a chance, Shepard. I don't care who you-"
"Rehme," Admiral Hackett's unmistakable growl flooded the channel. "I want you on a shuttle and on your way to Normandy by the time I finish this cup of coffee. I haven't slept since this whole mess started, so use your intuition to determine how long that will take. Do you read me?"
"Loud and clear, Admiral."
"Then good luck to both of you. Hackett out."
"I hope you know what you're doing, Shepard," Rehme grumbled.
The carrier terminated before Shepard could respond. He drummed the console with his fingers and muttered, "That makes two of us."
Miranda looked over her shoulder at Shepard, an uneasy feeling building in her gut. "Commander, I think we should consult with the Illusive Man before disseminating any of this information."
Shepard thought for a moment, then he turned in his chair to face his XO. "No. I'm tired of the truth getting buried, over and over. And if they don't believe us, I'll post every single bit of data we've got on the extranet. That worked for Legion, didn't it? But one way or another, the galaxy's going to find out what we're facing."
"Aye, Commander," Miranda turned back to her screens. The ships of the two fleets began a delicately choreographed ballet as they rendezvoused around the debris field. She envisioned the anger in the Illusive Man's cold eyes when he learned Shepard had reveled the secrets of the Omega Four relay to the turians, and it made her shudder. That makes three of us, she thought as she pulled up an itinerary template on her screen to coordinate the arrival of their guests.
Turian Fleet attacked at Sahrabarik: Five ships destroyed, 532 dead. A turian interdiction force operating under Citadel authority was attacked by an enormous ship of unknown origin while guarding the Sahrabarik relay at 2125 GST. Five of the task force's eight ships were destroyed within minutes of contact. Civilian ships transiting the relay captured footage of the nearby battle, including startling images of the dreadnought-sized aggressor annihilating frigates and cruisers with single shots from a massive particle beam weapon.
The conflict turned in the turian's favor with the arrival of the Normandy SR2, the Cerberus privateer sought by the Citadel Council for its possible involvement in illegal activities by the terrorist organization currently under investigation by C-Sec and other intelligence agencies. (Related Story: Alliance Ties to Terrorist Organization Deepen) Fire from the Normandy destroyed the giant ship only minutes before Citadel and Alliance reinforcements arrived on scene. Both fleets are currently engaged in recovery operations to ascertain the identity of the attacking vessel as well as rescue and relief operations for the damaged turian ships.
Initial requests for reinforcements by the turians identified the attackers as geth, prompting galaxy-wide military alerts in preparation of an all out offensive by the sentient machines. Alliance Admiral Steven J. Hackett issued a statement asking that such speculation be curtailed until analysis of the attacking ship could be completed. The Alliance is currently embroiled in a heated dispute with the Citadel Council over allegations of engaging in secret negotiations with the geth. (Related Story: Alliance Talks with Geth Spark Political Crisis)
Traffic around the Sahrabarik relay has resumed, though a one hundred thousand kilometer "no fly radius" has been established around the debris field of the destroyed ship as Alliance and Citadel forces continue their investigation.
Comments on this story: 3,145. Showing 1-10...
1 second ago: Palaven2124: UofEuropaSux: **** you, you ******* *** ****!
3 seconds ago: UofEuropaSux: T3ars4B33rs: hahahaha space chickens kno safest place is next to hmans!
7 seconds ago: T3ars4B33rs: NE1 notice the turian frigate breaking formation at 3:06 on the salarian merchant ship vid? She follows Normandy right on in. Brave move considering how the cruisers hung back. Their GARDIAN must have melted down with all that fire. Any 1 know what weap Normandy used for the kill shot?
9 seconds ago: Palaven2124: **** you, UofE! We should have finished the job at Shanxi!
13 seconds ago: Keammi216: Nice try, turians! Next time, the Council should send in STG instead, get the job done!
13 seconds ago: TeeGee: Humans make peace with geth, then a geth ship shows up and kicks the turian's asses? Then the humans destroy it with one shot and their fleet shows up to collect the pieces? This was a weapon test, people. Humans are controlling the geth!
15 seconds ago: SpinnerGuy: 1 Cerberus frigate does the work of 5 turian frigates, +3 cruisers? Lookin' good there, turians!
16 seconds ago: UofEuropaSux: Palaven2124: hahahaa you sure did! had to get rescued by cerbrus! humans ftw!
19 seconds ago: Palaven2124: DIE FOR THE CAUSE!
20 seconds ago: BluGoddess612: Regardless of each of our individual species, we should all take a moment to offer our prayers and thoughts to the families of those killed in this horrible attack.