Location: Eagle Nebula, Imir System, Orbit above Korlus, Normandy
"All right. According to our scans and transmission intercepts, Okeer is somewhere around here," Shepard stated as he walked into the briefing room. Waving his hand at the table signaled EDI to change the hologram in the middle of the room from the standard visual of the Normandy to a three-dimensional map of a ruin/junkyard. "According to EDI, the transmissions are encrypted, but the encryptions themselves are likely to be from the Blue Suns," he said from his spot at the head of the table.
About three hours before the briefing, Shepard issued an order for all the squad members to ready themselves with full armor and weapons and to wait in the briefing room. Having finished their prep quickly, they found themselves sitting or standing around the table, waiting for the Spectre to arrive. During their wait, they overheard EDI give out a general message throughout the ship stating that the stealth systems were engaged. Finally, the commander himself walked in, outfitted in full gear and went straight to the matter at hand, not even breaking stride until he reached the head of the table.
"So this entire area is a Sun's base?" Jacob asked he stepped closer to the map to study the image.
"Yes," confirmed Shepard with a nod of his head. "Scans have identified several GARDIAN laser turrets around the perimeter," he continued to inform. Several red dots appeared on the map, signifying the positions of the anti-air turrets. "As it stands, we're running silent. As far as we know, they have no idea we're here. We're going to use the Kodiak to drop in here…" he trailed off as he started tapping his omni-tool. A white box appeared, showing the landing zone.
"I'm sure we're going to be expecting trouble," Garrus commented from his place against the wall. "How much is the question," he finished as he crossed his arms.
"A lot. So far, scans show at least 20 and that's just topside," Shepard deadpanned. "However, it seems that they aren't well equipped against a dedicated ground force and it looks like the mercs are busy," he added, finally giving a bit of good news.
"Busy?" Mordin asked, also leaning toward the map to memorize the layout as much as he could.
"From what I have been able to tell, the Blue Suns are engaged with a significant amount of krogan forces," EDI supplied, updating their intelligence.
"Krogan? Here? Is it the Blood Pack? Are they after Okeer?" Miranda asked the AI.
"I'm afraid I have no information regarding the identity of the attacking force, Executive Lawson. While there are numerous krogan outposts on Korlus, none of them seem aware of this particular mercenary base. However, I have begun to decrypt enemy transmissions. Judging from the level of encryption used and the average number of transmissions in use currently, it does not appear that they are engaged in any kind of war or battle," answered EDI.
That news confused the soon-to-be infiltrators. If there was a mercenary war going on, transmissions would be flying all over the place. Heavy encryption would be needed to ensure privacy during communications.
"So… the Suns are fighting a horde of krogan, but they're not worried about it?" Jacob asked, summing up the thoughts of the group.
"Curious. Peculiar. Perhaps Blue Suns wish to maintain secrecy? No. Krogan presence would negate stealth. Expecting attack? No. Would have reinforcements. Maybe…" Mordin theorized as he began pacing.
"What kind of conditions can we expect down there, Shepard?" Garrus interrupted.
"Korlus is where ships go to die," Shepard bluntly answered. "Where we're landing is pretty much a scrap yard. Expect blind spots, uneven footing, ambushes, and traps. Add the chaos of the attacking krogan and we have our work cut out for us."
"Do we have any idea where Okeer is?" Miranda asked, leaning on the table.
"Not yet. EDI's still working on getting us ears on the Suns. Until she does, we're going to have to get on-site intel," Shepard answered. "We don't know if Okeer is here by choice. Since this base is meant to be secret, I doubt we'll be welcomed. Assume hostiles," he cautioned.
"Great. So we're assaulting a fortified mercenary base that's under attack by krogan for a krogan warlord that may or may not come with us. Good times," Garrus sarcastically said.
Having no more questions, Miranda nodded before turning to Mordin. "Are you coming with us?"
Mordin nodded. "Yes. Running tests currently. Expect some time before results. Collector tech unsurprisingly advanced. Decided to help in the meantime."
Shepard studied the salarian while he talked. He looked to be dressed in the same kind of armor he saw the STG forces wore on Virmire and armed with the new submachine guns developed around the same time thermal clips were introduced. If his memory served, it was the M-9 Tempest developed by Elanus Risk Control Services. A solid weapon all-around though lacking in range and weak against armor. Shepard was sure the doctor had several more tricks up his sleeves besides a SMG though. Turning his gaze away from Mordin and looking at everyone else, he nodded decisively.
Dossier: The Warlord
Millennia of combat and strategic experience
Rumored familiarity with Collector technology
A brilliant and brutal krogan warlord who fought in the Krogan Rebellions, Dr. Okeer has become obsessed with saving the krogan people from the genophage and is believed to have contacted the Collectors in an attempt to gain technology to that end. He is currently in a Blue Suns camp on Korlus, though the nature of his relationship with the mercenary group is unknown.
Location: Eagle Nebula, Imir System, Korlus
"If you can't handle something like this, then you don't deserve to be here!" a female voice screamed in from the loudspeakers around the base.
Okeer looked up from his terminal, his face set in a scowl. "Annoying pest."
Rana Thanoptis merely glanced at him from the corner of her eye before looking back at her own terminal, reviewing the scans to see if their latest attempt is taking to her program. "He seems to be assimilating well," she reported.
Okeer checked his terminal once last time before walking in front of a large tank. "Yes… this one is different from all the others… I can feel it!" Turning to his assistant, he asked, "How much longer?"
"The mental imprint routine is working, but it's best that we take our time. I don't want to destroy his mind," Rana cautioned.
"You will know combat! You will know pain! You will survive this if you wish to join the Blue Suns!"
"Perhaps I can work a little bit faster…" Rana said as turned back to her terminal.
Okeer merely grunted in annoyance at the Jedore's voice, taking one last look at the tank, before turning back to his own terminal to monitor vitals. Hmph. A coward, hiding behind all that screaming. She and her pitiful fools would not last against you. My legacy…
The shaking of Kodiak ceased as it finally cleared the atmosphere. Hawthorne put the shuttle into a rapid descent to get under any radar or sensors as they approached the base.
"Commander, I have intercepted several unencrypted transmissions from the mercenary base," EDI announced.
"What do you have EDI?" Shepard prompted as he and his squad did last second checks on their equipment.
"The commander of this outpost is called Jedore. According to Cerberus intelligence, Jedore is considered mentally unfit for command, but was given her post due to monetary influence," EDI said.
"Meaning she bought her way up," Jacob simplified.
"A crude, but apt description of Jedore's career, Operative Taylor," she agreed.
"Perhaps mission will be easier," Mordin guessed. "Weak commander means weak troops. Should be able to take advantage. Am curious as to why she's here."
"Is there anything else of note?" Miranda asked, getting the last second briefing back on track.
"There are two quarian vessels in low orbit near the mercenary base. So far, the Blue Suns have yet to engage in any hostilities with them," EDI announced.
"Probably collecting salvage," Miranda surmised.
"Should we warn them, Shepard?" Garrus asked. "If they get too close, they might open fire with their GARDIAN turrets and if EDI's information is right, this Jedore doesn't sound too stable."
Shepard nodded in agreement. "You're probably right." Tapping into his radio he called the Normandy helmsman. "Joker, you there?"
"I'm here, Commander."
"Two quarian vessels are near our AO," informed Shepard. "Tell them that there are GARDIAN turrets in the vicinity manned by mercs and get them out of here," he ordered.
"Two quarian vessels near the Area of Operations. I'll warn them Commander. Normandy out."
Hawthorne chimed in from the cockpit, "One minute!"
"How long before you can crack their encryption, EDI?" Miranda asked the AI as she gripped her Pulse Rifle.
"I will require a few more minutes, Executive Lawson. I will forward their communications directly to your radios once I have completed."
"30 seconds!" Hawthorne called out as he piloted the shuttle around some debris toward their LZ.
"Helmets on!" Shepard ordered. He secured his own helmet and sealed his suit. Once the HUD reported all green, he said, "Radios only. All voice modules off."
Hearing several affirmatives, they waited silently until Hawthorne dipped down and landed the shuttle quickly. The moment the hatch opened, Jacob and Garrus jumped out, weapons ready for any sign of hostiles as they moved to secure their landing zone. Miranda and Shepard followed their example with Mordin close behind.
"All clear!" Jacob reported.
"Taking off. Good hunting!" Hawthorne responded as the shuttle lifted off as quickly as it landed.
Shepard moved forward, taking point for the group as everyone began to follow. The sounds of the battle were easily heard from their position. The sounds of a female voice through several loudspeakers prompted Shepard to glance up, allowing him to catch sight of one of the two quarian ships in their proximity. He was relieved to see the ship change direction and gain altitude away from the merc base.
"There is only one measure of success: kill or be killed! Perfection is your goal!"
"Broadcasting orders over loudspeaker? Charming," Miranda disdainfully said.
Jacob snorted in disbelief. "Canned orders over loudspeaker… Who does that?"
"Someone that likes the sound of their voice," Garrus replied.
"Stay focused, people. Remember, we're looking for a krogan warlord," Shepard reminded as he held up his assault rifle.
"Warlord, huh? Somehow I doubt he'll be as pleasant as Wrex," Garrus commented. Shepard couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or honest about their old krogan squadmate.
His radio beeped. "Commander, I've successfully tapped into the Blue Suns communications. I'll forward their chatter to you soon," EDI declared.
"Being hired is merely the beginning. You must earn your place in the mighty army we are building!"
"Hold on," Shepard called out. He pulled up close to a corner and peered around. "Five."
"Lookout position, equipped for combat," observed Mordin when he peeked around Shepard.
"Garrus, you and I will start the party. The rest of you assault their position. Be quick so they don't radio our presence. Try to leave one alive though so we can ask some questions. Let's go," Shepard commanded as he put away his assault rifle in favor of his sniper rifle.
Miranda led the other team, firing on the unsuspecting mercs with Jacob and Mordin following close behind. After a heavy use of tech, biotics, and bullets, all five stood over four dead mercs.
"We're missing one," Shepard declared as he did a quick count.
"I'm pretty sure I wounded him, Shepard," Garrus said.
"Commander, got a blood trail here," Jacob announced.
Shepard ran up to Jacob. "I see it."
Following the trail, he heard a male voice gasping in pain. "Shit. Shit! It won't stop bleeding… I'm gonna… son of a bitch!"
Leading in with his assault rifle, Shepard looked over a pile of debris to see a merc sitting on the ground, holding a deep wound on his left flank. "Nice work, Garrus."
"Doesn't look that bad, actually," Miranda observed as she kicked the merc's gun away while still keeping her pulse rifle trained at him.
"He doesn't need to know that," Shepard quipped before he engaged his voice module.
The merc stood up slowly as he used his free hand to wipe the blood and shrapnel from face to see who he was dealing with. "I knew it wasn't berserkers," he bit out. "You're mercs. Or Alliance. I'm not… I'm not telling you a damn thing."
"That mean you got some information worth dying for?" Shepard said menacingly. "You're not in the best bargaining position."
"Shit…" was the all he had to say.
"We're looking for a krogan named Okeer," Shepard prompted while holding his rifle in a non-threatening manner. The others followed his example. Threats and intimidation were enough for this merc, especially since he was surrounded, unarmed, and injured.
The human merc looked confused. "Who? You already know more than I do. I just kill krogan. The old one in the lab dumps crazy ones down here all the time."
"What do you mean by 'crazy ones'?"
"Jedore hired him to make her an army, but the krogan he creates are insane, so we use them for live ammo training. It's all crap; I don't get paid enough to goddamn bleed out!" he griped.
"Ah. Would explain why they're engaged with krogan. Artificial with mental instabilities. Could see why they use for combat training," Mordin speculated out loud.
The team's radios crackled as they began to receive EDI's decrypted communications. "Outpost Four? Jedore wants us to move. We need coordinates on that krogan pack."
Garrus immediately pointed his rifle at the merc, to prevent him from giving away their position.
"What's he talking about?" Shepard asked with an even tone.
The mercs eyes widened as he realized that they were tapped into his communications. "Um… Jedore runs a Blue Suns outlier and she's making krogans for an army. But they all come out crazy. Tough as hell, but just insane."
"Doesn't make sense. Breeding facilities too expensive. Not worth the cost," Mordin argued.
"He's just a grunt. He probably didn't know anything anyway," Jacob responded.
Ignoring their exchange, Shepard gave a nod at the merc. "You heard the man on the radio. He needs directions."
"I… I don't have the info they want. You showed up before I could get my normal sightings," he stammered.
"You have other problems," Shepard replied in a dangerous tone. Garrus reinforced his point by poking the merc in the back with his rifle.
"Patrol, uh, pack sighting east of Station Two?" the merc tried. Another sharp poke from Garrus told him to do better. "Yeah, that's where they are. We see'em," he said.
"Copy. East of Two."
The merc cursed. "Son of a bitch. They'll run blind into krogan."
"Is the lab heavily guarded?" Shepard demanded.
"There are big guns to keep ships away. We're not outfitted to fight goddamn commandos," he answered.
"Hence the training, probably," Miranda remarked.
Sounds of another firefight broke out in the distance. Shepard glanced at the direction of the sounds to judge the distance before turning back to his prisoner. "What is Jedore planning to do with all these krogan?"
"Replace us probably," the merc answered bitterly. "I sure wouldn't want to see an army of them coming at me. Only she can't control them. They aren't supposed to be crazy, but they're krogan. How smart are they to start?"
"He doesn't know anything else," Garrus said.
"If you start limping now, you might find a shady spot before you bleed out," Shepard coldly said, nodding at the merc's wound.
The merc's eyes widened again. He turned away from the group, clutching his wound as tightly as he could. "Shit. Shit!"
"Was scaring him like that necessary?" Jacob asked.
Disengaging his voice module, Shepard shrugged unrepentantly. "Maybe not. Felt good though. Garrus, disable is radio so he can't call for help."
"I thought the scare was a nice touch myself," Miranda quipped as Garrus used his omni-tool to jam the merc's outgoing signals.
"I thought so," he agreed. "Come on. Our warlord is somewhere in Jedore's lab."
The group moved ahead, wary of any mercs and krogan. Jedore's voice continued to blare overhead. "Training is part of your contract. Failure to perform means liquidation, legal and otherwise!"
"Damn, she just doesn't shut up," Jacob complained as they turned a corner.
"Hostiles ahead. Watch it," Miranda warned.
"Elevated positions. Impossible to sneak past. Have no choice but to fight," Mordin declared.
Shepard saw at least seven Blue Suns standing atop makeshift catwalks and bridges. Damn. They probably just shoot at the krogan from up there. Looking further on, he spotted at least three more in the distance. None of them seemed too concerned about the gunfire in the distance. "Garrus, support us from back here. The rest you, follow me. Looks like we're doing this the hard way."
"I got you covered," Garrus assured.
Shepard moved ahead slowly, keeping his eye on the mercs above. They hadn't seen them yet, so the element of surprise was still theirs. Crouching behind a fallen metal beam and waiting for the others, he started picking targets of the greatest threat as he prepared to unleash his biotics. "Do it."
"Team Four, do you read? Team Four!"
Okeer narrowed his eyes at the radio transmission. He had a gut feeling that something was different about it. Turning the volume up, he listened in on the merc's call. "Comm, tell Jedore we have a problem. Patrols are going dark. Either the krogan are pushing or we're being raided!"
"Rana. Did Jedore place any cameras outside?" Okeer asked his assistant.
"Um…" Rana stalled as she turned away from their latest krogan attempt to check. "No. Only inside the compound."
"Hmm. It makes sense I suppose. Too much trash outside for cameras to be effective…" Okeer mumbled to himself as he considered the implications.
"Is something the matter?" she asked.
"I believe we have guests and I believe they're here for me," he rumbled as he continued to work.
Rana's eyes widened at the news. "You're not worried?"
Okeer only gave her a grim smile, characteristic of the krogan species. "I've lived long enough to understand the nature of battle. The only thing that matters now is my legacy. Hurry, we must finish and prepare to leave."
Tapping several commands, Okeer watched as a countdown began before all the krogan he'd created would be released en masse.
Shepard tried to shake the ringing in his ears as he tried to crawl to new cover. He's barely avoided two missiles that destroyed his previous cover and taken a good chunk of his shields. Not to mention the headache… "Two mercs! Right-side on high! They're heavies! Take them down!"
Miranda and Garrus turned and launched their Overload tech at the indicated mercs. "Scrambling their systems!" Miranda reported.
The mercs were brought to their knees as their shields and weapons broke down from the energy backlash. Shepard climbed to his feet slowly behind an archway of twisted metal and looked around. Three mercs were left and the one lone krogan they'd encountered was still firing enthusiastically at the one merc that was still hiding behind cover.
"Should burn nicely!" Mordin declared as the launched a plasma round from his omni-tool. The two mercs above were still recovering from Miranda's and Garrus' tandem Overload when they burst into flames. Screaming, they ran around trying to put out the flames, only to fall off the catwalk and hit the ground with bone-breaking impact.
"Get over here!" Jacob yelled. The last merc found himself flying over his cover as Jacob Pulled him into the air. The krogan and Shepard wasted no time and fired their respective weapons, shotgun and assault rifle, over and over until the floating merc went limp.
Feeling the effects of nearly getting blown up fade away, Shepard approached the krogan carefully.
The krogan himself seemed to be interested in Shepard as he tilted his helmeted head in a curious manner. Turning around to fully face the human, he walked closer to stand within inches, still holding his shotgun loosely in his hands.
Garrus, Miranda, and Jacob raised their weapons at the krogan, but were understandably surprised when their commander raised his left hand, silently telling them to stand down.
The krogan began sniffing Shepard's chestplate. "You… are different. New. You don't smell like this world." He stood up and took a few steps back to fully look at the human. "Seven night cycles and I have felt only the need to kill. But you… something makes me speak."
"He's only a week old?" Miranda asked out loud.
"They must breed them full-size, ready to kill. Not much improvement over regular mercs if they need training," Shepard said through his voice module. He was looking at the krogan to judge his reaction or answer.
"Bred… to kill? No. I kill because my blood and bone tell me to. But it's not why I was flushed from glass mother," the krogan corrected.
His speech sounded simple, but more articulate than Shepard would have guessed from a week-old krogan. He spoke haltingly, as if trying to find each word in a sentence, but clearly enough for everyone to understand.
The Tank-Grown Krogan continued his explanation. "Survival is what I hear in my head. Against the enemy that threatens all my kind. But I failed even before waking. That is what the voice in the water said. That is why I wait here."
"Okeer's voice? Did he speak to you while you were in your tank?" Shepard asked.
"I heard the voice. Not like now, with ears. Inside," the krogan tried to answer. "I called it 'father'. It liked that. But it was disappointed. I am not what it needs me to be."
"A breeding program. Trying to escape genophage effects?" Mordin asked the krogan.
"Or cure the genophage altogether?" Garrus added.
The krogan turned his head to look at them, confusion coloring his body language. "Escape? Cure? They were never whispered. Survive. Resist. Ignore."
"Ignore the genophage?" Shepard repeated. Turning to his team, he asked, "How does Okeer expect these krogan to ignore the genophage if not by curing it?"
"No idea," Jacob said.
"Uncertain," Mordin added. "Likely irrelevant. Appears Okeer has had no success."
Turning to their unlikely ally, Shepard asked, "How did you disappoint the voice?"
The krogan shook his head. "I don't know. It was decided before I left tank mother. I was not perfect."
"If mercenary was correct, krogan prone to mental instability," Mordin stated.
"I don't know. This one doesn't seem to be too bad," Garrus said.
"I don't know why. But I am not perfect," the krogan repeated.
"How can you speak so well when you're only a week old?" Miranda curiously asked.
The krogan raised his hand to rub his helmeted head. "There was a scratching sound in my head and it became the voice. It taught me things I would need: walking, talking, hitting, shooting." Dropping his hand and bowing his head, he continued, "Then the voice said I was not perfect and the teaching stopped. And now I am here."
"Taught him enough for… something. But what?" Jacob asked.
"Interesting. Raised, then rejected. Control group? Failed test?" Mordin speculated.
The krogan only shook his head. "I don't know, but I am not perfect," he repeated.
Decided that they'd learned all they could from the krogan, Shepard looked around the arena they were in. "Can you show us the laboratory? I need to speak with Okeer."
The krogan pointed at a wall. "The… glass mother. She is up. Past the broken parts. Behind many of you fleshy things. I will show you."
Shepard and his group followed as the krogan walked toward a large metal plate up against the wall. They watched as he gripped the plate tightly.
"Grrrah!" the krogan grunted as he lifted the plate off the wall and threw it to the side.
"Brute strength. Key aspect of krogan," Mordin said appreciatively.
Jacob didn't share his sentiments. "I'm just glad he's on our side. For now."
Shepard peered in to see a tunnel running under the Blue Suns base.
"You fleshy things are slow when big things are in your way," the Tank-Grown Krogan observed.
Turning his head away from the tunnel, Shepard asked, "You could have run or tried to fight your way back to the labs. Why stay here?"
"I am waiting. The voice told me. If they come, I fight. But I will not run and I will not follow," he answered before turning away to leave and find more mercenaries. "I am not perfect, but I have purpose. I must wait until called. Released," he said as he left.
Letting the krogan go, Shepard and his team turned back to the tunnel.
"Not a lot of room to maneuver," observed Jacob.
"Or cover," Garrus added.
Leading everyone in, Shepard couldn't help but note the dead merc near the entrance.
"Don't like the look of that. Stay alert," Miranda advised.
The group cautiously made their way down the tunnel. After a few minutes of tense silence, a scream reached their ears. "They're loose! Run for your damn life! They're all free!"
"Open fire," commanded Shepard as two mercs ran right around the corner and into a hailstorm of bullets.
"Likely more krogan nearby," Mordin stated.
"I doubt they'll welcome us as much as that last one," Jacob commented.
Rounding the same corner the mercs ran from, Shepard saw a vast cave with a network of metal plates serving as bridges to cross from one stone platform to another. For the unwary or clumsy, a deep chasm waited with the bottom too far down to see.
All of this was noted and filed away as Shepard saw four krogan running right at them. "Incoming! Spread out and take'em down!"
Everyone scattered, taking different bridges and platforms as they engaged the krogan, careful not to get each other in a crossfire or crowd themselves in a single place.
Trading his HMWA for his shotgun, Shepard began firing at the approaching enemy as Jedore's voice echoed over the loudspeaker.
"Who authorized that krogan release? Okeer? I will have order in my compound!"
The sledgehammer round inside his HMWSG tore through the krogan's armor and blew off a leg. Shepard's victim went down with a roar of pain and fury.
"Now let's finish you off!" Miranda shouted as she used Warp to take out the prone krogan.
Sweeping the cavern for the others, the Spectre saw that everything was under control. One krogan was flying through the air and over the abyss. Another krogan was rolling around trying to put the fire on his armor. The last was shooting against the combined fire of Garrus and Mordin and was losing badly. Shepard and Miranda started crossing bridges to regroup with everyone else.
They managed to get to Jacob just as he reignited the fire the krogan tried to put out with another shot of incendiary ammo, finishing it off. "Clear, Commander."
"All clear here, Shepard," Garrus called out.
"Move out. They'll know we're here soon if they haven't already."
"Krogan on our six! Copy, Goddamn it! Where's Jedore and her personal guard?"
"Seems Cerberus intelligence was right on the ball. Jedore doesn't seem like a competent commander," Shepard said after listening in on the transmission.
"More importantly, the Blue Suns are still unaware of our presence," Miranda added.
After navigating the dark cavern and fighting off several more krogan, the squad finally reached a locked door. One quick bypass, courtesy of Garrus, and they were climbing up a set of ramps, hopefully to the surface.
Reaching the top, everyone flanked the door and entered, only to find it empty. It was just a common room of a ship, but just as derelict as the ship itself. The staccato sounds of automatic rifle fire could be heard through the door opposite.
Flanking the door again, everyone prepared themselves as Jacob opened the way and charged in. The lone merc firing on the krogan below took a shotgun blast directly into his back and fell over the railing. Jacob took cover immediately as the mercs on the opposite side of the killing grounds saw what happened and opened fire.
"Missiles incoming!" Jacob warned.
Shepard and Garrus cleared doorway and ducked behind the railing while Mordin and Miranda waited. Looking down the aisle they were on, Garrus spotted an open archway. "Doorway ahead! Watch for incoming hostiles!"
"Jacob, we'll hold that door! Garrus, you take everyone else and get those heavies!" Shepard ordered. Waiting for pause of enemy fire, Shepard ran toward the opening. Jacob was already there, exchanging fire with whoever was inside.
"I do not pay for failure. Do your jobs, I want them dead!"
Running to the opposite side of the doorway from Jacob, Shepard counted at least five inside when he peeked inside. Thrusting an arm out, three mercs were blown back from his biotic attack.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Jacob ran in and tossed a grenade at the group of mercs before taking cover.
After the explosion, Shepard followed him inside, firing a quick burst from his rifle as he did so. Ducking behind the remnants of a counter, Shepard looked up to see another door at the far-left side of the room open, admitting four more mercs into the fray. Suppressing a groan, Shepard called out, "Four more incoming. Garrus! Are you done out there?"
"One left! I can handle him! Lawson! Solus! Go and reinforce the Commander!"
Shepard leaned out of cover and began suppressing the enemy as they fired on Jacob's position. Another missile impacting against the counter forced him to duck back down.
"Deploying tech overload!" Miranda called.
The Blue Suns Heavy staggered as shields and weapon failed only to scream as Mordin used his Incinerate tech.
"Wish I was standing downwind!" Mordin simply said as the merc ran around flailing.
Jacob took the opportunity to fire with his own missile launcher. While Shepard and Miranda began suppressing the enemy with their assault rifles, he leaned out and fired straight through the middle of the room. The missile appeared the fly right by the merc's positions without hitting anyone when it suddenly curved and moved around the cover they were using and exploded.
Pressing their advantage Shepard led the way deeper in, using his biotics to Pull mercs out of from cover and letting Mordin or Miranda finish the job. His radio crackled as the mercs soon found their numbers thinning against superior skill.
"Concentrate on the krogan charge or we're all dead! Who was the genius who gave them arms?"
Ignoring the crack of a sniper rifle and the merc that was rocked back by Garrus' shot, Shepard led his team deeper in. Another intercepted radio transmission came in:
"What the fuck? I think we have commandoes inside! Repeat! We're tracking an unidentified commando unit inside our base! Over!"
"I paid for competence! Kill the trespassers! I will deal with the traitorous Okeer!"
Rana turned away from her work. "Sir?"
"I heard her Rana. Everybody did. I've already sealed the lab," Okeer said without hesitation.
"No sir, not that. This," Rana corrected as she typed some commands on her terminal.
Okeer watch as his screen changed to the security cameras scattered inside the base. "That's…"
"Agent Shepard, a Spectre," Rana whispered. While she couldn't see his face, she recognized the armor and weapons. Understandable, since he stood before her in similar gear two years ago. Shepard saved her from becoming indoctrinated only to leave her to outrun a nuclear blast. It was hard to tell if he was a savior or a villain in her eyes.
"Shepard," Okeer nodded. "I see…" Turning to the asari, he said, "Disable the cameras. Mask their approach. Then proceed to wipe the data."
Rana's face showed confusion. "Are you sure?"
"If he was merciful enough to spare you, then I'm sure he and I will have business to speak of."
Nodding her head, Rana began disabling the security cameras around the lab as well as any along the way toward the shuttles.
With Shepard around, it's always best to have an escape plan.
"Berserkers are going down, but the outsider commandoes are still incoming! Repeat, still coming!"
Another blast of biotics sent three mercs over the railing and far below into the pits where the krogan were stalking. The infiltration team continued their advance toward the labs, the waves of mercenaries failing to stop their charge.
"I need everyone out of the labs to fight this! Every floor, every outpost! Move!"
"Suppressing fire!" Shepard ordered. Everyone began firing down the wide bridge holding back the flood Blue Suns. Bringing out his Blackstorm, the weapon began its familiar whine as it prepared to release it's deadly payload. Three seconds later, the miniature black hole traveled down the length of the bridge. Mercenaries began screaming as they were pulled from their hiding spots. Some were even firing at the singularity itself hoping to detonate or destroy it as it floated toward their positions. Soon, the black hole settled in the middle of their room, pulling in all the mercs hidden within.
The loudspeakers crackled to life again. "No more! I command that they be killed! What is so hard to understand?"
Shepard's team waited for the subsequent explosion before rushing in to sweep for any more threats.
"What do you mean Jedore's holding the mechs? She'll lose all her toys if we don't get backup!"
"Sounds like we might deal with some heavy mechs soon," Miranda noted.
"Even so, anybody get the feeling that this is really unfair?" Garrus joked. Shepard could tell the turian was smirking underneath his helmet.
"I thought it was getting a bit one-sided," Jacob agreed with an exaggerated nod.
"Undisciplined. Unprepared. Training wasn't very effective. Or leader is inexperienced. Or incompetent. Either way, little trouble," Mordin concurred, probably in all seriousness.
"Enough. Cut the chatter. Combat radar says there are still some hostiles left," Shepard declared.
"We're probably almost there. The next area will have the highest concentration of mercs if they've been falling back from our attack," Miranda said.
Everyone readied themselves and took whatever munitions were lying around. Thermal clips, grenades, and power cells were definitely in abundance.
"There are five of them! Five! Anything can be killed if you do your damned jobs!" the loudspeaker blared out.
"Jedore! Damn it, someone get her off the speakers and out here!" a merc screamed into the radio.
Miranda couldn't help but agree with Garrus' earlier assessment, even if he was joking. "This really is unfair," she said with aversion at the voice on the speakers.
Despite trying to maintain his professionalism, Shepard still silently agreed. Flanking the door, everyone prepared to clear the next room. Jacob stood ready with a flashbang while Garrus stood opposite.
"Go!" barked Shepard.
Jacob opened the door and threw his grenade. The moment the flash was seen, Garrus rushed in, using the sounds of the screams to find enemy positions and silence them.
They five spread around the large room they were in, hiding behind whatever defilade they could find and began exchanging gunfire with the mercs.
"Trespassers are topside! Tell Jedore we can't hold them and the krogan! We're getting slaughtered!"
The radio description was accurate. Jacob released another salvo of missiles, his superior ML-77 launcher capable of taking mercs out even in cover. Garrus utilized his Tactical Cloak to take out enemy positions with grenades before firing away with his M-8.
"Concentrate fire on my position! Concentrate on – Argh!"
The merc's orders were cut off by a short burst from Shepard's rifle as he sprinted from location to another, using biotics or conventional weaponry when needed.
"Squad Four? Outpost! Damn it! Have to do everything myself!" Jedore ranted.
Using Overload by Miranda to disable a Blue Sun's shield followed by Incinerate tech from Mordin secured their victory.
Everyone regrouped at the far door and prepared to enter when EDI's voice chimed in. "Commander. According to thermal scans, the room you're about to enter carries a significant amount of heat sources, likely caused from heavy machinery. Probably suggests that you're about to enter the lab."
"Thanks EDI," Shepard said gratefully to the AI.
"Radar says there are only two inside, Commander," notified Jacob.
Turning back to the door, Shepard equipped his pistol, prompting everyone to do the same. "Miranda, start the bypass. Get us in there," Shepard said. Stepping forward and turning on her omni-tool, she started to remotely rewire the lock. In the matter of seconds, the display changed from red to green.
Opening the door and peeking in, he saw an asari dressed in a lab uniform looking at him in expectation and a krogan that hadn't turned away from his terminal. Cautiously stepping and sweeping the room with his HMWP identified no other threats.
"Shepard, don't shoot! You know me!" the asari shouted out when she saw him raise his pistol.
She does seem a bit familiar… "Clear!" Shepard called back to his team.
Everyone entered the room with weapons drawn and spread out, inspecting the laboratory in their own ways. Garrus and Jacob conducted their own sweeps to double-check for any threats while Miranda and Mordin eyed the equipment around them with some appreciation.
"Here you are. I've watched your progress," the krogan rumbled.
Shepard lowered his pistol as he approached them.
Taking that as her cue, the asari continued talking. "I shut down the security cams as soon as we saw it was you." Offering the Spectre a smile, she joked, "Never thought I'd say it, but I'm glad it's you shooting up the place." Noticing that he hadn't put his weapon away, she turned serious. "Sorry. Rana Thanoptis. You let me go when you destroyed Saren's lab on Virmire. Had to outrun a nuke in a utility pod, but it's still a second chance."
"I remember her now," Garrus said.
Shepard remembered too. What was just as interesting as finding her in another krogan breeding facility was the fact that she was apparently working for Okeer. "I assume you have a good reason for being at this lab."
"She is helping me perfect my legacy," Okeer interrupted. Turning to face the group at last, he gestured to the tank next to him. Unsurprisingly, the tank contained a krogan.
"Don't worry! I'm not wasting the chance you gave me!" she jumped in. "My work here – strictly beneficial!"
"She creates the mental imprints for my krogan. It doesn't matter," Okeer interrupted again. "What matters is that my soldier must live. The batteries on this tank will not wait while you play with these idiotic mercs."
"Not the smartest way to greet the heavily armed group that just kicked in your door," Shepard said in a low tone.
"I'm sure whoever sent you doesn't want me dead. No one looks for me without a motive. Certainly not the deceased Spectre Agent Shepard."
Shepard glanced at Rana out of the corner of his eye.
"She was kind enough to tell me the story," Okeer said, confirming Shepard's suspicions. Raising his arms up in a grand gesture, he continued, "Such a tale! Saren, the Spectre traitor, threatens the return of the krogan horde by curing the genophage." He pointed a finger directly at Garrus and then at Mordin. "Undoing the gentle genocide of the turians and salarians." Pacing in front of Shepard, Okeer pointed at the human next. "But before Saren can deliver his endless troops, in rides Shepard, securing victory through nuclear fire." Taking a breath, he stopped pacing to look directly at his 'guests'. "I like that part. It has weight."
The subject of Okeer's story merely crossed his arms. "What are you doing here?"
Okeer snorted in contempt. "Helping these mercenaries make the same mistake Saren made. I approve of your actions on Virmire. Saren's pale horde were not true krogan. Numbers alone are nothing. The mistake of an outsider."
"Jedore's on a power trip. She wants a private army, but Okeer mostly ignores her," Rana added.
"Bah! I gave my rejects for her army," Okeer dismissed. "But she grows impatient. It's time for you to take me out of here."
"Personal issues irrelevant," Mordin said.
"We're here about the Collectors. Nothing more," added Jacob.
Rana's eyes widened when she heard about the Collectors. Okeer just nodded. "I see. Yes, Collector attacks have increased. A human concern. My requests were focused elsewhere," he said as he walked toward the lone tank. "I acquired the knowledge to create one pure soldier. With that, I will inflict the greatest insult an enemy can suffer. To be ignored."
Rana gasped. "So that's it. I know you wanted to help your people, but you weren't doing anything to cure the genophage."
"You're not curing the genophage?" Shepard asked him.
"Contrary to what survivors claim, the genophage does not produce strong krogan – the only quality it filters is the ability to survive the genophage," the warlord answered. "For every stillborn, too many weaklings live. Every survivor is branded as precious. That's produced more coddling than your collective human teats!" Okeer said in disgust.
Okeer wasn't the only one disgusted. It was only thanks to his mask that his expression was hidden. Shepard really didn't want to know how the warlord knew so much about human anatomy and physiology.
"I say let us carry genophage! Let a thousand die in a clutch. We will defeat it by climbing atop out dead. That is the krogan way."
Miranda stepped forward after inspecting the krogan inside the tank. "What did you get from the Collectors? We need all information we can gather on them."
"They are strange," he described. "So isolated, yet very available when your sacrifice is big enough. I gave them many krogan."
Shepard couldn't tell if he meant the tank-grown krogan he created or real krogan he'd defeated over his long lifetime.
"I may have information for you, but the tech was consumed in my prototype. After I determined how to use it without killing the subjects," he added dispassionately. "Their deaths were unfortunate, but I only need one success to start the process."
"Your search for the perfect soldier created a lot of 'failures'. You don't care about them?" Shepard asked dangerously. He still remembered the one krogan that helped him gain entry into the compound.
"I failed no one," Okeer corrected. "My rejects are exactly what Jedore asked for. She simply lacks the ability to command," he defended.
That's an understatement, Shepard thought.
Okeer continued his tirade. "They are strong, healthy, and useless to me. I need perfection. If a few thousand are rejected, so be it. My work will purify the krogan. We will not be restored - we will be renewed." Okeer voice almost took on a maniacal tone as he lost himself in his dream of grandeur. "We will not need numbers. My soldier is a template. It is a greater threat than all the phantom siblings that would have been at its flank. The galaxy still bears the scars of the horde. But it will learn to fear the lance."
"You're an unfeeling, heartless zealot," Shepard growled.
"Better add insane for good measure," Garrus added, his hand gripping his pistol tightly.
"Perhaps," Okeer responded. Whether he was referring to Shepard, Garrus, or both, no one could say. "But I will restore the krogan and my soldier will not provoke a nuclear response as a "cure" or "horde" would. My legacy is perfection, with each pure krogan reaching higher by standing on our dead. They will exceed, but not forget."
"Enough," Shepard said, reining in his temper. Looking at Rana, Shepard nodded his head at the door. "You, leave."
Rana nodded her head in agreement immediately. "Right. I'll just run like hell before you blow the place up or something. I learned how you work."
After Rana left, Garrus spoke up. "I'm all for second chances. Not so sure on third ones."
Mordin nodded. "Should have killed her. Too much knowledge without ethical boundaries."
"If you feel that strongly about it, I'm sure you can chase her down and shoot her," Shepard said. Turning to Okeer, his eyes narrowed, though the effect was lost behind his mask. "As for you, you're coming with us. I'm sure Cerberus has interrogators who can figure out if you're useful or not."
"Any group that spent enough to rebuild you won't care what it does to me," Okeer said.
"Then for once, they and I have something in common," Shepard coldly said.
"Perhaps we can strike a deal," the warlord negotiated. "One that secures my prototype. It is key."
Before Shepard could tell Okeer what he could do with his prototype, the doors to the lab suddenly closed and locked themselves.
Jedore's voice returned through the loudspeakers again. "Attention. I have traced the krogan release. Okeer, of course."
The krogan stomped his way to the nearby window and looked down. Following his example, Shepard walked over and finally saw the woman behind the voice. At the bottom floor, past all the laboratory tanks, a telltale glow of Tech Armor revealed Jedore. She was short, around 5'6" with dirty-blond hair and a permanent scowl etched on her face. She was pacing around the tanks agitatedly and speaking into a headset. "I'm calling 'blank slate' on this project. Gas these commandoes and start over from Okeer's data. Flush the tanks!"
Soon after her proclamation, a hissing sound filled the room. White gas could be seen coming in from various vents lining the laboratory.
"Damn! Everyone check their seals! Make sure your hardsuits aren't damaged!" Shepard barked.
"I'm good, Commander!" Miranda confirmed.
"All good, Commander!" Jacob reported.
"I'm fine," Garrus simply said.
"Suit functioning normally!" Mordin declared in his usual fast manner.
Shepard checked his own hardsuit to find that everything was all right. Looking over at Okeer, however, revealed that he could not say the same. He was in armor, more elaborate than any Shepard had ever seen, but sans helmet.
Okeer growled. "She's that weak-willed? She'll kill my legacy with a damned valve!" Turning to the Spectre, he offered his ultimatum, "Shepard! You want information on the Collectors? Stop her. She'll try to access contaminants in the storage bay."
Shepard smirked beneath his mask. "Sorry, 'doctor', it appears your position has just weakened."
Okeer growled again before turning to face the tank with his 'legacy' inside. Placing his hand against the glass, he finally nodded. "I understand. But you'll have nothing if she poisons us all," he said with a tone of resignation. "Jedore will be with the rejected tanks. Kill her. I will… stay and do what must be done."
"Let's go," Shepard said through the radio. Mordin ran over to the door opposite from the one they entered and started the bypass, Jacob right behind with a shotgun. The moment the door opened Jacob went in to confirm that it was clear.
Shepard followed to find another set of ramps leading toward Jedore's floor.
"I don't care who they are, I want them dead! This is my world! I'll poison them all!" Jedore screeched.
"I think she's talked enough," Miranda said with finality.
"Agreed," Shepard said with a nod.
Everyone moved quickly, but carefully down the stairs. Approaching the door, Shepard spoke up. "Remember, she's horded all the mechs. So expect stiff resistance. And don't underestimate her. Just because she has a big mouth doesn't mean she can't fight."
After everyone responded to his warning, he opened the door and peaked in, before jumping back. A second later, a missile screamed right by and impacted against the far wall.
"I have more where that came from!" Jedore yelled.
"Yeah? Me too," Jacob growled. Pulling out his own missile launcher, he simply aimed in her general direction and fired a missile of his own. It curved around the room and headed straight for the Blue Sun's commander. She screamed as the missile struck her and fell over, but her Tech Armor absorbed the damage easily.
Seizing their chance, the team ran into the room and took cover. The mechs surrounding Jedore set about trying to kill all the intruders. Several LOKIs and two YMIR mechs began firing all at once at the scattered squad.
"Damn you!" Jedore yelled. "See if you like this!" Activating her omni-tool, she opened all the tanks in the room, flooding the area with krogan. "Break them, kill them! I'll create more!"
Aw, hell, Shepard thought. "Drive the krogan toward the mechs! They get caught in the crossfire, the krogan might finish the job for us!"
Garrus jumped from his cover and ran, causing some of the LOKIs to track him and attack. Letting his shields take the punishment, Garrus ran right past a krogan who was assaulted by the friendly fire. Roaring in rage, krogan turned and starting firing on the mechs as Garrus used his Tactical Cloak to vanish from sight.
The room erupted into chaos. Other krogan saw their brethren fighting the mechs and decided to attack them too. Shepard's team was running from cover to cover, taking advantage of the situation by firing on any target of opportunity. The mechs programming identified that they were under attack by the krogan and labeled them as foes. Jedore was screaming at the mechs and the krogan to attack Shepard and his team.
Jacob fired a trio of missiles at one of the YMIR's, finally breaking through its powerful shield. The krogan horde roared as they mindlessly attacked both of the heavy mechs, even as the mechs fired rockets of their own, killing several berserkers.
Garrus and Mordin worked on tackling the smaller LOKIs utilizing Overload, Incinerate, and their rapid fire weapons to cut their way through the smaller mechs.
Miranda stealthily crossed the impromptu battlefield and managed to catch Jedore by surprise. Using Overload to damage Jedore's Tech Armor before thundering away with the phasic rounds in her pulse rifle, Jedore staggered back from the onslaught, her shields breached, but her armor holding.
Jedore tried to bring her missile launcher to bear against the Cerberus operative only to scream in pain as Shepard fired his shotgun at her flank as his cloak disengaged.
Unable to handle the dual attack, Jedore fell dead as Shepard and Miranda fired several more bursts from their respective weapons, the Tech Armor failing and her armor penetrated.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Shepard turned to see that the rest of his team had everything well in hand. The LOKIs were destroyed in short order and the krogan numbers were whittled down from the YMIR mechs. Once the heavy mechs were destroyed, Jacob finished off any krogan chargers with liberal use of his shotgun with incendiary rounds.
Once the cacophony of battle gave way to silence however, another set of alarms started blaring.
"Alarms in the lab! Damn it, what's Okeer doing back there?" Miranda said.
"Commander, the lab alarms coincided with a systems failure. The remaining lab systems are unprotected and I have gained limited access," reported EDI.
"According lab scanners, the room is flooded with toxins and Okeer's personal life signs are failing rapidly. I recommend haste."
"Damn it! Everyone check your seals! Let's go!" Shepard called out as he rushed to the doors and ramps that led back to the labs.
As everyone reported no damage to their hardsuits and regrouped, an automated announcement sounded around them. "Contamination detected. Emergency vent in progress. Contamination detected. Emergency vent in progress."
Reaching the door to the lab, they found it was locked again. Shepard knelt down and started the bypass again. Seconds later, the door opened to reveal the remaining traces of toxic gas being sucked away in the overhead vents.
Stepping inside the room, he saw Okeer's body slumped over his console.
Mordin ran up and scanned the body with his omni-tool. "Too late," he said out loud after a few seconds of scanning.
Shepard walked up to the body and noticed the console had a message address to him. Tapping the commands to play it, Okeer's face appeared on the screen. "You gave me time, Shepard. If I knew why the Collectors wanted humans, I would tell you. But everything is in my prototype. My legacy is pure. This… one soldier, this grunt. Perfect…"
As Okeer's final message played out, everyone gathered around the tank he tried desperately to protect.
"Okeer wasted his life to save this single krogan?" Miranda asked incredulously.
"I'm surprised too," Garrus admitted. "Given that Okeer was willing to sacrifice other krogan so easily, I didn't think he was capable of self-sacrifice."
"I can't say I'm surprised," Shepard said. "Given how fanatical he was about this one and how much he sacrificed for it, he was probably capable of anything."
Mordin shook his head. "Delusional. Unlikely one krogan, however strong, could have impact Okeer wanted," he said before looking at Shepard. As if realizing something he added hesitantly, "Am… almost certain. Suggest leaving it."
Shepard tilted his head at the salarian. "Afraid he'll make your genophage obsolete?" he asked neutrally.
"No," Mordin said in a neutral tone of his own. "But krogan genetically dangerous. Socially dangerous as well. Have enough enemies without adding this."
"Can't be worse than Okeer and if he's tough, we need him," Jacob argued.
"We won't know until he's out. Which is too late if there's a problem," warned Garrus.
"Wrex did well with us before, Garrus. We could always use another heavy hitter," responded Shepard.
"If he'll help. I doubt anyone's asked for his opinion," Garrus said.
"Then we'll ask. Nicely or not-so-nicely depending on the situation," Shepard said, ending the discussion. Tapping his omni-tool, he hailed Joker.
"Normandy? Okeer is a no-go. But we have a package that needs retrieval. And he's a big one."
Dossier: The Warlord Mission Report
Clone facility destroyed.
Okeer dead, but his "son" was recovered.
Loss of Okeer could be a problem.
Will allow Shepard to decide whether to activate the krogan.
Yay! Another chapter done! Thanks to all that reviewed and to those that didn't, don't be shy.
I've already started Jack's recruitment and I like it. Expect it soon.