Omega's Revenge II
Reegar caught up to Shepard's team at the right corner of the four-way intersection. Tali knelt behind the Commander and worked her omnitool while the pair of geth conducted their own scans. "Shepard! Let's get aboard the Giraf! We can take to you the Normandy!"
Shepard didn't look back at the marine. "I got people out here, Reegar! You go if you want! Tali? Where's my feed? Your drone stalled about twenty meters down! I got nothing!"
"No telemetry," Tali said. "There's wild distortion across most of the spectrum. High output interference from all directions. From the signature and strength, someone's exposed an Eezo core and tapped it into the station's electrical."
"What the hell does that mean?" Reegar asked.
Tali got to her feet and peered around Shepard. "The whole damn station's a jammer. We'll have about 2 meter reception range until we shut it down."
"Perfect," Shepard stood as well and backed away from the wall. He pulled a black marker from a shoulder clip. On a grime-encrusted panel he drew three quick vertical lines, then slashed across all three horizontally like a ladder with rungs that extended beyond the sides. "All right, everybody on me. We've got three main corridors. One, Two and Three! One and Three are docks, this middle strip, Two, is shops and commercial zone. We're in Three, about here," Shepard drew an 'X' on the rightmost line at the rung second from the bottom.
He drew another 'X' on the top rung on the left side. "Normandy's here, at the other end of One. We'll advance along Three as far as we can, then cut across -"
"Alert!" Legion buzzed looking up the corridor, "Multiple targets. FENRIS mechs, range-"
Shepard dropped the marker and brought up his rifle. Planning would have to happen on the fly. "Open fire!"
Like a pack of angry wolves, a dozen quadroped mechs galloped into the main corridor from twenty meters up on the right, skidding on loose trash that littered the floor as they flooded from the next terminal. Their red visual sensors bobbed as they ran into a hail of slugs from the Normandy crew, joined immediately by Platform Two and Reegar from behind. Three, then six, then ten of the mechs fell, their squat chassis exploding into shrapnel as they charged. The leader leaped two meters from Legion before the geth's phasic slugs shredded it midair.
Next to Legion, Tali's shotgun clicked and spat the glowing cinder of its heatsink the air. The remaining FENRIS lunged at her. Reegar grasped at her shoulder to pull her out of the way, but missed - not because his timing was off... Tali ducked away and under the mech and butted it with the stock of her shotgun as it flew past, knocking it on its side. It hit the deck and scrambled to right itself, but Tali pinned it solidly to the ground under a raised boot. Her left arm glowed bright as her omnitool rezzed into being. A bright spark jumped to the "head" of the FENRIS and its upended legs stopped in mid-stride.
Tali spun back behind the corner beside Shepard and slapped another heat sink into the receiver. Reegar watched her, mouth agape behind his mask.
"Nice one," Shepard said with a grin, his rifle still aimed up the corridor.
Tali cursed her carelessness. "Stupid. Lost count."
Shepard scanned the corridor in front of him. "They sent in the dogs. So where the hell are the rest of them?" After several seconds passed with no activity, he pointed to the opposite wall of the corridor. "Move up. Tali, Legion on the left. Blue? Shit..." He couldn't possibly take a diplomat, even an artificial one, into combat.
"Let me lead, Commander," the blue geth said calmly and raised its recently appropriated rifle.
"I am expendable," Platform Two said and moved past him. "You are not."
Shepard knew there was no arguing with the geth as it moved past him up corridor. "Neither one of them can take orders," he muttered.
"You got me, Legion?" Tali asked, giving Legion a slap on the back as she crossed in front of it on the other side.
"Acknowledged," Legion said and followed Tali across the five-meter wide corridor and joined her in creeping up the far wall. Using only his hands, Shepard assigned each of them sectors to watch and as a group they moved out.
Reegar could only watch in amazement as the quarian and human, in formation with armed geth, advanced towards the sound of gunfire. There was no further conversation, no requests for clarification or even signs of fear from Tali'Zorah. The woman he had been assigned to protect moved from cover to cover as if she'd been doing it for years, leading what should have been one of her sworn enemy into battle.
Garrus took an knee over his footlocker and kept an eye on the far end connecting into one of Dashta's main corridors. There was no need to look down. Calmy and neatly, he attached gear to the hardpoints on his armor as he had done hundreds of times before, in blinding sun, underwater, or in the pitch black of night. His hands knew exactly where to go. Carnifex pistol on his right hip, Vindicator on his back on the left, Mantis on his right, with a two dozen heat sinks clipped in a pair of strips over his chest plates, then finally his helmet. Soft blue light flared in his left eye as his tactical visor relayed information.
Small arms fire continued to echo in the intersection twenty meters away. Though impossible to tell direction and range because of the station's walls, the digital audio processor in his eyepiece was able to distinguish the signature of each weapon. Sixteen, then twenty-five, then over fifty distinct gunshots registered, followed by launchers and energy weapons. This was no ordinary dockside encounter... Out-and-out war had erupted on Dashta. And Garrus could contact no one. Not the Normandy, not Shepard, not any of the crew. After Kelly's terse warning, all communications ceased... and the air became thick with the sounds of battle.
But the firing was inconsistent. Long, ammo draining bursts, punctuated by much shorter, controlled discharges. Panic fire versus aimed shots, but Garrus still no idea who was firing at all or why. And then, he heard a quite different sound.
"Woooooo!" howled a voice from somewhere out of his line of sight, followed by the sound of armored footsteps - lots of them. "Next one down! Next one down!"
Garrus closed and sealed his footlocker and slid it against the wall next to a dilapidated cargo crate. He eyed the missing panels in the ceiling where he saw the young boy stripping away insulation, with a stack of disused cargo pods underneath. The kid, like everybody else, had long since disappeared, which should have been an indication something bad was about to happen.
So that's how he got up there, Garrus thought. He strode across the hall and stepped up on the rickety improvised stairway and hoisted himself up, at the same time knocking the top crate from the stack. He didn't want to make it easy for anyone to follow.
On his knees above the ceiling, Garrus swept his visor and pistol over his surroundings. It was dark except for streaks of light shining through missing panels between dank, condensation-covered support beams. With his armor over his already wide carapace, he barely had enough room to stand while hunched over. Above was a rat's nest of ducts and wiring, seemingly added over previous layers without concern of what was being covered over. Most importantly, Infra-red and motion detection turned up negative in both directions. He was alone. Slowly and quietly he knelt on one of the beams for maximum cover while still being able to see out a small gap in the tiles, though his field of view below was severely restricted.
The loud footfalls stopped. Garrus waited and watched. Ten seconds passed, then twenty before his audio sensors picked up the shuffle of feet through the debris on the floor and soft whispers and restrained snickering from down below. A pair of humans in mismatched, piecemeal body armor carrying rifles Garrus couldn't quite make out passed below. They moved without coordination, their eyes searching all the wrong places, weapons carried with a complete lack of respect or restraint. Garrus had seen their type many times before. Freelancers.
Soon after, another pair of the z-grade mercenaries passed under, then a trio, all laughing and giggling like troublemakers in the back of a classroom. Except they're on point for whatever mission they were on, Garrus thought. Completely unprofessional. I wonder what they're looking for?
A human at the rear of the haphazard squad below stopped and shouted down the hall in front of him as if he could hear the turian's thoughts. "Archangel! Come out, come out wherever you are!"
Garrus tensed inside his armor but otherwise stayed perfectly still. The freelancers below all laughed out loud and began shouting out their own taunts and insults that made his stomach burn. "Thought we forgot about you, didn't ya?"
"Yo, Archangel! You had a body bag left over from Omega! We saved it for ya! Ain't that great? You'll match your friends!"
"Shut the fuck up!" yelled another voice from behind, asari from the sound of it. "And keep moving!"
The laughter stopped and the freelancers moved on. Seconds later, he saw who gave the order that killed the party. A string of Eclipse mercs crept slowly down the hall, weapons at the ready, each covering an assigned sector and moving with military precision.
"Why the hell are we following these guys instead of our YMIR's," complained a salarian. They were speaking out loud... They could not use their radios, either.
"Because this whole operation's fucked," snapped the asari. "I find whoever let that bald bitch get away, and I'm gonna have his balls for breakfast."
"Even if it was a krogan?"
"Then I'll have lunch, too."
Garrus counted eight more of the Eclipse squad go by before he climbed to his feet. At their current rate, they would reach the end of the terminal in less than a minute, and be forced to turn back. So they know who you are and where you were supposed to be, he thought. And they didn't bother to look up here? Good help is so hard to find. But what now? Without knowing the status of the Normandy or his shipmates and with no way to raise them, he saw but one option. Someone was under attack in the main corridor. Odds were it was someone who needed his help. Keeping his feet on the solid support, he stepped quickly in the opposite direction as the mercs, as silent as Archangel in the dark passages above Omega. Just like old times, indeed.
He reached the bulkhead connecting the terminal branch to the main corridor where he heard voices below, this time a salarian and a human. Pistol still in hand, he knelt to have a look. The pair stood at either side of the eight-meter wide corridor in full Eclipse battle armor, watching cautiously around their respective corners into the main passage, listening to the fighting that raged on. He moved so the the salarian was directly below him.
"What the hell are we supposed to do if they find him," the human asked. "It's not like we can call in."
"The shielded net should be up soon."
"It was supposed to be up before this whole goddamn circus started. We don't get coordinated, we'll end up shooting each other."
Garrus nodded to himself. That explains the jamming. Whatever happened, they couldn't get their backup communications online in time. The faster he could link up with the rest of the crew, the better. Using the video sight on the barrel of his pistol he scanned the immediate area. As far as he could tell from the position of the pair below him, the entrance to the terminal was empty. Most important, the rest of the Eclipse troops were a good thirty meters away. The only thing between the guards and reinforcement were dozens of empty benches facing grease-covered windows with a view of empty space in front of closed gates that might never see use again.
He clipped the pistol back to his thigh and brought up the Mantis. It was ridiculous to even think of shooting a target at such a close range with the sniper rifle, but it could kill an armored target with one shot to the head, and Garrus needed that kind of stopping power right now. He extended the barrel and buttstock into firing position, let his breath out slowly, aimed, and fired.
The human's armored head snapped back, the round glowing lenses of his helmet now separated by a perfectly clean black circle. He was dead before his body collapsed to the floor.
The salarian jumped at the rifle's report directly above and brought his rifle reflexively to his shoulder when a blue anvil crashed through the flimsy plastic ceiling tile on top of him. Garrus let the Mantis drop to the floor as he slammed the salarian bodily into the wall, his shoulder pinning the salarian's rifle against his armored chest. Garrus grabbed each of his armored horns in his hands and using his own mass as a counterweight flipped him over his shoulder with a sharp twist. The merc's scream ended with the abrupt snap of his neck.
That one's for you, Thane. Garrus ducked against the wall as hypersonic rounds shrieked by. The troopers down the corridor heard his shot and were responding. As he predicted, though, they were a good thirty meters away, and firing on reflex without taking aim.
He reached down for his Mantis, swung around the corner into the main hallway and at the same time unslung his vindicator. Behind cover as he was, he had no shot at any of the Eclipse mercs or freelancers, but he didn't need it. Instead, he aimed at the observation windows only five meters away. Round after round smacked into six centimeters plexi designed to withstand a meteorite but not twenty of the armor-piercing type. The door-sized pane cracked, splintered, then exploded into the blackness of space creating an instant vortex of litter sucked in from all directions.
The Eclipse troopers were protected against vacuum, Garrus knew but he freelancers would have a tougher time of it. He cared about neither because the end result was the same: they were all trapped beyond the massive emergency bulkhead that slammed shut, sealing the terminal branch from the rest of the station.
Still cradling his assault rifle, Garrus leaned over, grabbed the carrying handle on the Mantis and stowed it once more on is back. The gunfire seemed equally intense from ahead and to the left, but was quiet to the right. He tilted his head back. The ceiling was much higher in the main corridor, almost two stories instead of one. With any luck, he'd find another of the passageways favored by the scavengers.
Because, like them, he was at home on high ground.
When Ines came to flat on her back, her first impulse was to smack down the alarm next to her bed. When she saw the flickering light fixture surrounded by smoke and shooting sparks all around, she knew she wasn't at home, and she certainly wasn't in bed. She wasn't even in her bunk on the Normandy. The ringing subsided, replaced by thunder from the blood rushing through her head as well as explosions from somewhere close by. She rolled on her side and saw the bodies of her crew mates sprawled across the restaurant's floor near the serving counter. Fumes from burning plastic filled the hazy red air, illuminated by a fire that raged beyond the blown-out front door. Next to her, Rolston had managed to roll over on his stomach and tried to climb to his knees. "You okay?" she asked him.
"Think so," Rolston said once he realized someone was talking to him and wiped a trickle of blood from his nose. "You?"
"Yeah. We're under attack," she gasped and felt around for her duffel bag and her service pistol inside. It was not within arm's reach. "Check the others."
As Rolston crawled across the floor to the next body down from him, Ines slid on her belly towards the dark shapes on the floor where the tables used to be, keeping well beneath the boiling smoke which filled the room. Her bag had to be somewhere. She pushed past several suitcases and smaller carry-ons. Then, illuminated by the flames outside, she saw several long, dark poles in a jumble in front of the door. At first, she thought it might be debris, but they were too regular and too clean. Automatic rifles, she thought. But whose? Nobody in the crew was carrying any...
She called back to Rolston. "Where's Grunt?"
"I don't see him!"
"Shit!" Ines squinted into the flames. The fire was a good meter away from the door's threshold, and the rifles another meter inside. She shimmied on her belly toward them as slugs snapped over her head and energy weapons sizzled somewhere close by. Wherever her pistol ended up, it was nowhere near as powerful as or accessibld as the rifles. When she got closer, she noticed heatsinks were also scattered near the weapons.
She reached out and pulled the top one off of the pile of four like a pick-up-stick, then slid on her butt against the wall to the left of the shattered door frame to look outside. She could barely make out the facade of the shop across the corridor filled with smoke, fire and figures darting from door to door. She hefted the rifle to check its condition when movement over her shoulder caught her eye.
A vorcha in battered crimson armor that covered only its torso and arms stood over her aiming an SMG into the room, with another vorcha close behind. The demon-faced alien sneered at the sight of the soft-bodied, helpless humans in front of it. Before she could raise her rifle, a blood-curdling roar drowned out the battle outside. The second vorcha was jerked backwards off its feet, then reappeared just as suddenly, now horizontal as it smashed square into the spine of its companion. The impact was so strong the foul creature's neck snapped and its lifeless body skidded to a halt next to where the unconscious forms of the Normandy crew lay.
The silhouette of a massive krogan, backlit by fire held the other struggling vorcha by its feet. Noticing that his living club was still alive, the krogan reared back and swung again, cracking the second vorcha's back as well against the door frame. He gave it a third swing just for the fun of it before he noticed the human taking cover at his feet.
"Ines!" Grunt shouted and grinned when he saw the rifle in her hands. He disappeared beyond the door for a split second, then returned with a mixed armload of weapons which he dumped on the existing pile: two more rifles, submachine gun, a launcher and bandoleer full of grenades. They were all covered with spatters of blood, but nothing compared to Grunt himself, who was positively covered with it, amidst scorch marks and bright gouges in his ordinarily clean gray armor.
He reached down and yanked the rifle from Ines' hands, inspected it, and tossed it aside. "This one's better!" he said, thrusting a shorter, more squat looking weapon into her hand. She had no idea its make or model, but was too stunned to argue.
Grunt popped a fresh heat sink into his Claymore. "Let's go!"
"Wait!" Ines shouted. "We've got wounded!"
The krogan looked back into the restaurant and ducked low so he could see under the smoke. Only two or three of the humans were moving, and they were moving slow. He seemed confused for a moment, and maybe a little frustrated. "Okay," he shouted. "Stay with them! I'll be right outside! Get out here when you can!"
Before Ines could offer a response of any kind, Grunt was gone, his battle cry punctuated with slow, steady blasts from a shotgun that would tear the arms off of any human foolish enough to fire it.