Fight for the Lost

Project Overlord: Prometheus Station

Location: The Phoenix Massing Nebula / Typhon System / Aite / En Route to Prometheus Station

Spectre Team

The rocky arches provided for anice backdrop tothe lush green fields and scattered trees. The shrubs were large and healthy. The pools, streams and flowing falls of water were clear and pure. The setting sun bathed the valley in enough light that the shadows were innocent and nonthreatening. Even the two moons in the sky gave the planet an exotic, yet comforting view. In a way, Aite's beauty reminded Shepard of Eden Prime.

Before Saren and Sovereign's attack anyway.

He forced himself not to be distracted though. Even if Aite looked like something out of a Robert Frost poem, the looming danger of Cerberus' latest failure remained acute in his mind. He had no idea of what their successful operations were outside of the Lazarus Project, but their mistakes always seemed to be more costly and he always seemed to be cleaning them up.

The other reason was that he needed to keep his mind free of distractions because the Hammerhead required a great deal more concentration to pilot than the Mako.

But damn if it isn't more fun!

Unfortunately for all the occupants inside, none of them were enjoying the sights or the 'leisurely' drive.

Shepard was pushing the Hammerhead as fast as it go, often reaching speeds faster than 120 km/hour, which was what was supposed to be the tank's top speed. The engines were whining constantly and sounded like they were on the verge of breaking down. Every time he turned it was more like drifting, with the rear of the tank swinging wide and threatening to overtake the front and lose complete control.

The stone arches were obstacles. Solid, unyielding obstacles. Solid, unyielding, merciless obstacles that could crumple the tank like a cheap datapad if they ran into one head on; which was only marginally better than clipping the side, losing a thruster and spinning out.

Whenever the Hammerhead flew over water, it would splash on the external cameras and windows, obscuring visibility and forcing everyone to wonder if the end would come without them ever seeing. The trees and dense foliage lowered line of sight, preventing a clear view of what was ahead and sinisterly hiding any lethal traps within that would spell their doom.

At these speeds, they'd be maimed or dead before they knew what went wrong.

Garrus was supposed to be manning the turret, but it was difficult to do so when he had his eyes clenched shut and was curled in a fetal position in his seat in a vain effort to protect his vital organs in the very likely event of a crash.

Jack was spewing out an unending litany of curses and even making up a few under her breath. She would've screamed at Shepard, but the one time she did that early on in the ride he had turned away from the controls to talk to her. She avoided speaking directly at him since.

Sitting on her lap was Tali, who was praying to her gods and ancestors for the ride to end without their bodies broken and twisted beyond recognition. They were subconsciously clutching each other tightly and kept their eyes averted from the monitors or windows. It was already too much to even think about, let alone watch.

Grunt was hugging Legion's compact form tightly and was breathing heavily. Unlike the others, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the whipping scenery and was wondering if he were to die now, would crashing inside a flying tank count as a warrior's death? His grip on Legion was so tight that it actually protested against the abuse, stating that its damage resistance threshold was about to be exceeded. He didn't give a damn and told it to shut up so it wouldn't distract his battlemaster.

The journey only got worse when they flew over a river that was flowing from a canyon. The walls closed in and served to increase the chances of crashing in a most horrific way. Adding to that effect, acting like some morbid sign, was remains of the Gravitas and geth ship. Their debris littered the canyon and along their current represented a constant and disturbing reminder of what fate may soon befall them.

What compounded their fear the most was the fact the Shepard didn't even slow down. He banked and turned as needed, somehow avoiding the rock walls and twisted metals, and somehow keeping everyone alive just a moment longerdespite not knowing what was around each twist and bend. There should have been no way he could keep up his pace inside something as confined as a gully, but it was almost like he was flying the Hammerhead on a set of rails. At one point, he actually pulled a 360 degree helical roll to avoid something or other.

The passengers shouted and screamed for a moment when they were turned upside-down for just a half a second. Everyone would've complained, but no one wanted to distract him.

"Are we there, yet?" Tali uttered quietly. The awkwardness of their seating arrangement had long since faded in the face of the terror they were enduring.

"I fucking hope so," Jack mumbled.

"How the hell can he fly that fast in an area like this? How can he even fly like this?" Garrus murmured fearfully. "Why'd we even let him fly?"

"Heads up. We're almost at the target area," Shepard finally announced. He was completely oblivious to the others' less-than-kind thoughts about his piloting.

"There is a god," Garrus said in relief when he felt the Hammerhead slow down.

"Any reason we were trying to break the sound barrier?" Jack asked when it felt that death wasn't going to claim them immediately.

"The faster we get into Atlas Station, the quicker we end this," Shepard simply said. He didn't bother to mention that he wanted to prove to himself that he could pilot the Hammerhead as well as Miranda and not have some stupid training program tell him otherwise.

I knew that thing was rigged.

"Um… Shepard? Is possible for a VI to pilot this vehicle?" Tali asked hopefully.

"I think there's an autopilot," Shepard said thoughtfully. Keeping one eye on the terrain ahead, he glanced down at the controls and frowned to himself.

Where the hell was it again?

"You think?" Jack repeated incredulously.

"I didn't exactly pass the Hammerhead training simulator," Shepard confessed embarrassingly.

Everyone except Legion blanched at the news.

"What?" Garrus asked weakly.

"Stupid program kept saying I 'engage in unsafe practices' or some bullshit like that," Shepard muttered angrily. "What the hell does it know anyway? We're here, right? And in one piece!"

"I think we should let the VI pilot," Tali said staunchly.

"Can't. Don't know how and even if I did, it's too dangerous. David could take control and plow us into a wall. I've had to isolate the systems already, even the radio, just in case," Shepard replied. "VI might override that though."

"So we're fucked either way," Jack complained. "That's some bullshit right there."

"Whoa, stop here, Shepard," Garrus suddenly said.

Shepard brought the tank to a stop and landed it, much to the immense relief of the team.

He had parked the tank at the top of a cliff that led into another wide open valley. The river next to them flowed downa waterfall and into the distance, continuing on beyond what the eye could see. It was a beautiful view marred only by the downed heretic ship,lodged in a cliff wall on the other side of the basin.

"You see the kinetic barrier?" Garrus pointed out.

"Yeah," Shepard said. "Okay, Grunt, come with me. The rest of you stay put."

Shepard popped out of the hatch and stepped out. He pulled out a pair of binoculars and measured the distance between his current position and the crashed ship.

"Grunt?" Shepard called out when he realized that he was standing outside alone. He walked up the cabin door and opened it. "Grunt, come on."

He saw that the krogan was still clutching Legion rather tightly, almost to the point where he was worried that Grunt might break him in half. "Grunt?"

"Yes, coming battlemaster," Grunt said through gritted teeth. With supreme effort, he pried his fingers off of Legion and let it go.

"You okay?" Shepard asked. "That shrapnel you took back at Hermes isn't bothering you, is it?"

"I'm ready for combat," Grunt assured. He lumbered out of the Hammerhead and took a deep breath. "I'm fine."

"If you're sure…" Shepard said.

"What do you want?" Grunt asked.

Seeing that Grunt wanted to get on with the action, Shepard pointed at the kinetic barrier shielding their destination. "According to Dawn, the Hammerhead's weaponry isn't enough to take that thing down. I'm hoping a double dose from the Cain from both of us should do it."

Grunt's eyes lit up and faster than Shepard assumed he could have been capable of, the hulking krogan drew his Cain and held it ready.

"Alright, it's about 150 meters down range. Aim high and hopefully, we can blow right through it," Shepard said. He looked his binoculars one last time to double-check the distance before upholstering his Cain as well. "Don't spare the power cells. We need to get in there."

Grunt nodded with an enthusiastic grin. He approached the edge of the cliff and took aim. Shepard stood next to him and fiddled with the controls.

"Max power. We only have two shots each, so make'em count," Shepard said."Garrus! Need eyes here!"

Grunt nodded and adjusted the angle. At this range, it was less about launching and more about lobbing. They needed to arc the shot so that it would hit the shield directly. It was already a long shot to think the Cain was enough as it is; an indirect hit would have even less of a chance.

Garrus popped out of the top hatch of the Hammerhead and did something with his visor before nodding his readiness to them.

Both weapons whined as it began powering up to its full charge. 10 seconds later they were beeping and the trefoil stamped on the side was glowing warningly.

Once again, Shepard judged the distance and triple-checked his aim. They couldn't afford a miss or to fail. If they couldn't get in, then they can't get to the override and ultimately stop David. From there, the Reapers might actually not be the biggest threat in the galaxy anymore.

Grunt squinted his eyes and re-checked his aim as well. He lowered the barrel of his gun slightly. "Ready."

Shepard let out a half-breath. "Fire."

Bucking slightly from the recoil, their heavy guns each launched a single glowing round into the air. It arced over the distance before falling right on top of their target.

A bright light blinded them for a minute forcing them to turn away. Next was the shockwave, creating vibrations that could be felt in their chests. And finally, that event was followed closely by the near deafening sound of the explosion as it washed over the entire valley.

A single gigantic mushroom cloud appeared, slowly billowing over the crash site and into the sky. Shadows blanketed the area in darkness when the cloud blocked out the setting sun.

"Ha! I wonder if everyone in Hermes Station saw that!" Grunt shouted in glee.

Jack laughed. "I'll bet everyone saw that shit from orbit!"

"Solid hit, Shepard," Garrus reported.

"Status of the shield?" Shepard asked.

"Hold on… dust is settling… I don't see any glow though… Wait." Garrus leaned forward out of the hatch. "I do see a glow, but it's weird…"

"Weird how?"

"It's not blue or dome shaped… It's red. More like a tiny…"

"EVERYBODY DOWN!" Shepard bellowed. He turned away from the edge and dove to the ground. Grunt joined him and while the others slid back into the tank.

Another explosive shockwave buffeted them. Rocks rained all around, striking the tank and both Shepard and Grunt.

Shepard gritted his teeth when he felt a particularly large chunk of debris land squarely on his back.

"What the fuck is that?" Jack screamed.

"Mass accelerator cannon!" Standing up, he ignored the flare of pain and ran up to the edge. Bringing the Cain to low power, he growled in frustration when he was forced to wait for the requisite 5-second charge.

"It's prepping to take another shot!" Garrus warned. "How the hell do you put this thing in reverse?"

Seeing the cannon preparing to fire, Shepard blindly launched his next round at the ship, hoping against hope that he wouldn't accidently destroy the doorway in.

His shot was too high. It impacted on the canyon wall causing rocks to fall on the vessel. It was through sheer luck that one of the larger pieces struck the cannon just as it was firing, causing it to miss them completely and a miracle that his shot or the rocks didn't destroy the dropship outright.

Grunt ran up to Shepard, Cain charged and ready.

"Low power! Aim for just above the cannon! And don't miss! We can't afford to destroy that ship!" Shepard shouted.

Grunt shouldered the Cain and tried to take aim, but saw that the dropship cannon was pointed in their direction again. In his haste, he overcompensated and fired far too shallow. The landscape was now decorated with a new crater, but whatever sensors David was using was now distorted by the mushroom cloud.

"DOWN!"

Another shot was wide, causing more rocks to crash down, though it was worse on Grunt and Shepard.

Groaning slightly, Shepard saw his Cain was charged and ready, but now on its last shot.

Standing up, he saw that Grunt was trying to dig his way out of some rubble while the Hammerhead had several new dents on its armor.

Kneeling down, he hefted the Cain one last time and carefully tried to locate where the cannon might be. The cloud created from Grunt's attempt was clearing slightly.

Pushing adrenaline into his body, he allowed his senses to speed up and force reality to a crawl. With new enhanced perception, he allowed himself to mentallyprep his shot, feeling the need to be quick, but not hurried. Both he and Grunt had only one shot left and they needed to enter the ship proper to get to the override, not conduct artillery bombardment on it.

The cannon was barely in view again. The dust and smoke from the last shot faded, allowing him to see the faint outline. Another red glint appeared, signifying the targeting laser it used just prior to firing. The unintentional smoke screen refracted the beam though, making it slightly unreliable, but allowing Shepard to track it all the way to the source.

Adjusting the Cain one last time, he squeezed trigger and fired off his last round.

This time, his shot was perfect. The low powered round wasn't nearly as impressive as a high powered one, but it did the job. Parts of the cliff fell dangerously on the ship once again, but nothing too hazardous to their objective. The dropship cannon was now bent facing the distance far from the team and couldn't turn. It only twitched erratically in place when David tried to bring it back to bear, but the physical damage was already too much.

His howl of outrage seemed to emanate from the ship itself and echoed in the valley. It was impossibly loud and the silence after was nothing short of foreboding.

"I think you pissed him off," Jack muttered.

"Yeah," Shepard agreed. Attaching the Cain to his weapon's harness, he helped Grunt to his feet and slowly walked back to the Hammerhead. The pain from being pelted with rocks made themselves known.

"That scream at the end…" Tali whispered worriedly.

"Bah, he's just trying to scare us," Grunt rumbled. He was checking his Cain carefully to make sure it wasn't damaged.

"You guys okay?"Garrus asked.

"Stick and stones luckily didn't break any bones, but it still hurts," Shepard replied.

"Sticks?"

"Human idiom,"Shepard replied as he entered the tank. Garrus was sitting at the cockpit, trying to figure out the controls. "What are you doing?"

Garrus jumped up in his new seat. "Oh, uh, just trying to figure out how to fly this thing."

"You're not qualified. Move."

"You said you weren't qualified either!" Garrus protested. He stubbornly stayed seated. "I'm sure it isn't hard. I can do it!"

"Garrus, look at the monitor," Shepard said and pointed at the one in question.

His friend obediently did so.

"That is a drop of over 100 meters. Do you know how to bring the tank down slowly, and engage the thrusters enough to ensure we don't go splat and figure it out in the 4 seconds we'll be falling?"

"Uh… no," Garrus admitted, though it sounded like it was the last thing he wanted to say.

"Out of my chair. Now," Shepard ordered.

Sighing like a man condemned, he slid out and moved to the gunnery chair.

"Nice try," Jack whispered.

"Would anyone hold it against me if I confessed I was scared to go down there?" Tali said.

"Relax, Tali. Hunting rogue synthetics is an old hat now. We got this," Shepard assured.

"That's not what I—never mind," she mumbled dejectedly.

"Don't worry. We're not going down yet anyway," he said.

"What's up?" Garrus asked.

"Gotta run diagnostics. Make sure that rock storm didn't damage the tank too badly. And I got to do a physical inspection of the intakes on top; make sure there isn't anything in there as well," Shepard answered distractedly. The Hammerhead's systems came on one-by-one. "If something got in there and I turn this baby on, it could do bad, bad, things."

"Perfect…"

Shepard laughed when an odd random thought struck him while he waited for the systems to be ready.

"What?" Jack asked miserably. She was not looking forward to riding around with Shepard in this thing.

"I was thinking of this quote I once saw somewhere before. It seems appropriate," Shepard replied with a grin.

"What is it?" Grunt asked curiously.

"'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, because I am the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley'."

~o~O~o~

Location: The Phoenix Massing Nebula / Typhon System / Aite / Project Overlord's Prometheus Station

The inspection of the damages took longer than expected. There were large chunks of rock on top of the main intake fan. Shepard and Jack had to use their biotics to lift out the worst while Tali had to dig out the smaller ones that had fallen inside by taking apart some of the weaker armor panels and rooting around. It wasn't hard since the panels were damaged from the initial hits. Garrus, Legion, and Grunt helped out where they could.

Despite the speed Shepard took to get here, working on the hovertank to make sure it still hovered was proving a bit costly in terms of time, but still worth the effort.

The alternative was to climb down the cliff face to get to the valley below and into the partially buried heretic dropship loaded with hostile platforms.

So no one really complained.

Once everything was in working order, Shepard climbed into the pilot's seat and ordered everyone aboard. They did so reluctantly.

However, their reticence was unfounded. Shepard decided not to take chances and slowly descend to the valley and practically brought the tank to a crawl at 30 km/hour to make sure nothing was wrong with the more delicate components.

Landing the tank near the entrance, everyone disembarked and readied their weapons. The door was unfortunately damaged, but Grunt was able to physically force them open and allow them entry.

"Attention visitors: This Cerberus facility contains hazardous AI technology," the automatic announcer stated. "You agree to assume all liability for personal injuries or death that may occur during your visit."

Shepard half-turned to Jack, expecting her to make some derogatory comment about that announcement Cerberus. However, he was surprised when she was presented a grim countenance and was clutching her shotgun tightly in her hands.

"Camera's tracking us again," Tali said.

"I noticed," Shepard said.

"Your radio's off," Garrus pointed out.

"There's no point now. I'm almost sure David can see and hear everything we're doing on this ship. Radio's only good if we need to communicate in silence. Doesn't really help if the other guy can hear us anyway," Shepard said. He walked down the short tunnel and carefully opened it.

"Damn it,"Garrus muttered when they entered.

A Synthetic Prime was locked in stasis in the middle of the room. Once again, dead bodies of the Cerberus personnel were everywhere. Some were shot, others looked like their necks were broken so severely that their heads were practically 180 degrees from where they were supposed to be facing. The rest were just beaten to a bloody mess.

"All this looks familiar," Jack said. "Except I didn't do it."

"None of them stood a chance," Grunt commented.

"A Prime… Looks like Cerberus was preparing transport it," Tali surmised.

Suddenly, Archer's voice played out to them. "Memo to all project personnel: I understand there's some concern about handling live geth. I agree it's a risk, but the potential reward is far greater. Someday, your sons and daughters will thank you."

Everyone turned to Grunt when they were searching for the origin of the recording. The krogan looked down and lifted his foot to see he had stepped on a datapad, causing it to play its contents. The next log played automatically.

"Now we just got word that Atlas Station wants a dozen more geth for the experiment. I hope this means a breakthrough is close. Hanging all these dormant machines is creepy. It's like death staring at us from the shadows. I'd rather work at Vulcan Station,"a Cerberus researcher complained.

"Up the ramp. There's another door," Shepard said. "Move out."

The team followed his lead. When they passed some lab equipment though, several screens appeared, bearing David's digital generated face. He screamed at them yet again, but this time, it was different. Instead of rage or pain, it sounded more like pleading.

Everyone stared at him a bit, unsure what to make of it.

"Let's go," Shepard insisted.

Everyone moved to follow except Jack. She was still staring at the screens.

"Jack?" he called out.

She shook herself out of whatever thoughts were plaguing her. "Huh? Oh, sorry, Boss Man."

The door led to another hallway. The ship was severely damaged; there was no doubt about that. Most of the walls and doors had to be replaced by Cerberus to provide structural support.

David's macabre face appeared on another screen to their left. This time he didn't even scream. Whatever he was saying, it was closer to begging now.

Jack appeared unusually, but perhaps not surprisingly, empathetic. She reached out and tried to touch the face David presented to them, but it broke apart, turning into multiple incarnations of the same avatar. He spread all over the window, but caught Shepard's attention was that he was quiet for once, instead of screaming or howling at them. Even Jack seemed strangely reserved now.

The floor beneath them shook violently, nearly sending everyone to the ground.

"The structural integrity of the vessel has been compromised," Legion stated. "It is likely due to the falling rocks which exacerbated the damaged hull from its crash landing. Recommend we complete this mission quickly.

"I'm with Legion," Garrus said. "It might be a good idea to keep going. Now."

"Alright, let's try this door—" Shepard backed away from the doorway he was about to suggest. It had closed on him automatically and the usual holographic interface didn't appear.

"Looks like David is controlling where we're going," Tali said nervously.

"We do not recommend attempting to force the doors open with any explosive devices. Further stresses will most likely result the total collapse of this structure," Legion said.

"There's another open door," Grunt pointed out.

Before they could go through it, another terminal nearby sprung to life – it was the same Cerberus researcher from before. "Lanigan just ran a simulation – if these geth ever wake up, there's a 98% chance we'll be dead within two minutes. I'm starting to hate Lanigan."

"His calculations are not inaccurate. Given the relative combat strength of organics that are not trained, combined with the estimated number of heretics on board this ship, we estimate it would take 1 minute, 49 seconds to ensure total removal of all hostile organic presence within. Our calculations come back as 97.9678% accurate," Legion supplied. "However, data collection is not complete. We will build consensus."

"You don't have to do that, Legion. In fact, I don't want you to," Shepard said.

"What about us? What are our chances?" Garrus joked.

"The heretics would only have 9.5327% chance of stopping us," Legion answered. "However, the presence of the Cerberus VI will render our calculations unusable."

In the next hallway, the door right across from them closed.

"That's starting to annoy me," Jack muttered.

"Uh oh," Tali said.

"What is it?" Shepard asked.

"Heretics, but they're just lying there. They're not active or anything," she reported. "I mean, I guess they're not heretics or geth anymore… just 'platforms' maybe?"

"I wouldn't count on these things staying still for long," Garrus cautioned.

"Shoot'em," Shepard ordered.

Grunt quickly walked over to Tali, drew his pistol and fired a shot into every head of every synthetic he could see. "One shot for all of them, battlemaster! I'm conserving ammo!"

Shepard nodded approvingly. "Glad to see you're learning."

Taking the lead again, Shepard followed the trail David was leaving them. He was certain if David had wanted to, he could've locked all the doors outright. Instead, Shepard got the feeling that he was being led around by the nose.

David's face was staring down at them when they entered yet another hallway, but deep inside.

Shepard couldn't help but notice that the face was becoming more articulate and detailed as they continued on.

Once again, David cried out his incomprehensible pleas to them.

"Is this going to be a regular thing?" Jack asked when the disembodied head called down to them. There was something different about her voice. It was similar to how she spoke in back at Pragia: quiet, reserved, hesitant – A touch of the frightened girl behind the tough exterior she had created to protect herself against the injustices of the galaxy.

"Was it regular for you when you were at Pragia?" Shepard whispered to her.

Thanks to her helmet, Shepard couldn't see her face, but he got the impression that she was looking at this differently than everyone else.

"He's probably in a lot of pain now, huh?" she asked, her voice barely audible.

"I think so," Shepard said quietly. It had always sounded like he was in pain or anger or perhaps a mix of both.

"Does anyone know what its saying?" Tali asked. She was staring at the face, trying to decipher its garbled words.

"Make it stop," Jack answered. Her voice was a mix of empathy, resentment and pity. "Please make it stop."

Tali tilted her head, as if trying to confirm if David was actually saying that. "Really?"

"I said the same thing in his position," Jack confessed without thinking.

"Oh… I'm sorry. I—I was just wondering. I didn't mean—"

"Forget about it," Jack said angrily. At herself or at Tali, no one knew. "I mean it. Just drop it."

The tension was broken when another log from the same belly-aching research played from a nearby terminal. "Halloween was yesterday. Lanigan ran around wearing spare geth parts. Spooked the shit out of everyone. Now I definitely hate him."

~o~O~o~

"More heretics… or just platforms here," Garrus said. He took out his own pistol and started shooting at them. Grunt and Legion helped out as well.

Shepard, Tali, and Jack kept their primary weapons up, just in case David started feeling like engaging in some violence, but so far none of the synthetic platforms got up to fight them.

"Why isn't he attacking us?" Tali asked. "He attacked us at Hermes Station."

"Maybe he's dealing with Miranda's team," Shepard theorized. "He's still human. There's only so much he can do. Either taking control of the mechs over there or taking control of the heretics here, he probably can't do both. Or maybe it's something else entirely."

"Got another datapad here," Garrus said. "Another log."

"I swear, if it's that whining bastard again, just break it," Jack said.

"Everything is offline! Archer declared a lockdown, but our station's already infected!" the researcher cried fearfully. "What does the VI want? It keeps screaming at us – nobody understands!"

The ship violently rocked again. Bits of loose flotsam rained down all around them.

"Alright, if we keep getting led around like this, the damn ship will bury us," Garrus said. "We need to get some doors open."

"Tali? Anything you can do that doesn't involve force?" Shepard asked.

"I may have a few tricks," she answered. "But against David? Don't hold your breath."

"Whatever you can do then."

She approached the nearest door and ran her omni-tool over it. "I think… I think I can override the manual release on the doors. It's a simple program. Easy to isolate. Hold on." She typed into her omni-tool for a moment. The doors suddenly opened a bit. "Done."

"Done what?" Jack asked. "It's only a crack."

"The doors can be 'forced' open. Sorry, Shepard. But at least we don't need to use our grenades, right?" Tali asked.

"Funny, Tali. And thanks," Shepard said. He drew his combat knife and fitted inside the slit in the door and levered against it. "Grunt, Garrus? A little help?"

"Let's hope this doesn't piss David off," Garrus said before grunting with the effort of prying the doors open. "It's been kinda peaceful so far."

The door yielded to their efforts. After locking it in place, they looked around the room they were in.

"I guess this is their main lab," Shepard said after moment. The lifeless bodies of Cerberus scientists and heretics were everywhere. "Spread out. A bullet for each one."

"There could be hundreds in this entire ship," Jack complained.

"At the very least, we take out a few dozen," Garrus said grimly. "Less is better. Get to work."

"Are you okay with all this, Legion?" Tali asked.

"We do not have any particular opinion on this situation, Creator Tali'Zorah. The heretics have made their choice. They left and choose to fight against organics. It was already determined that many organizations would seek to attack them in return, Cerberus included. This is one of many scenarios we have predicted," Legion replied. "What happened here has nothing to do with the geth."

"So… you're not worried that they might do this to your people in future?"

"We do, but now many of the scenarios we have predicted in regards to any threats to our future are no longer applicable. Much has changed," Legion answered. It raised its Pulse Rifle and fired single round into a platform before methodically moving on to the others. "But we thank you for asking."

Shepard just put another round into another synthetic when the terminal next to him started playing.

I'm really beginning to hate that…

"The VI's closing some passages and leaving others open. It's like it's herding us. At least the geth are still dormant."

"Famous last words," Shepard muttered.

David's face appeared on the terminal. His digital mimicry of speech was somewhat clearer now. Jack was right. It did sound like: "Please, make it stop."

"Let's go, everyone. If this is the main lab, then what we're looking for should be close," Shepard called out.

Regrouping, they forced another door open and locked it in place. The area ahead was flooded and loose electrical wires dangled from the ceiling, though none were in contact with the water.

That didn't stop Shepard from picking up a loose piece of metal and tossing in the pool to test and see if it was safe to cross. The water didn't react at all.

"To all Cerberus personnel: In an effort to reduce workplace stress, music has has been approved for stationwide broadcast," the VI announcer said in a pleasant voice.

Wading through the water, Shepard, Tali, and Garrus all groaned with they heard the familiar tune playing overhead, though it crackled with static and came in fuzzy.

That damn Presidium elevator music… of all the… why?

"I think David is in complete control of the station VI and he wants to torture us," Garrus stated.

"His idea of inflicting pain on us," Tali agreed.

"Care to talk about your immune system again?"

"Stop it. Both of you," Shepard said. "There it is."

He pointed at the lockdown terminal in the distance. It was located across in the middle of the room. However, it seemed that the damage from the Cain had been done because the area was flooded with water, but thankfully not reaching the terminal.

"Are these guys completely fucking stupid? What the hell is with putting that thing in a room that completely flooded with water?" Jack asked.

"I doubt Cerberus would build these kinds of things and surround it with a moat," Shepard said dryly. "I'm pretty sure it's our fault."

"How do you figure that?" Garrus asked.

"The Cain. We must've ruptured something."

"How did we get here without being shot at?" Grunt asked in disappointment.

"We're still stuck inside this ship, big guy," Jack reminded. "Let's hit the override and see what happens."

"Grunt, Tali, Legion. You three stay here and cover us. David might get supremely pissed once we hit the lockdown. Garrus, Jack, on me," Shepard ordered. He jumped off the platform and into the water.

The level only reached up to their waists, so they were able to ford their way to the terminal. When they were halfway there, the second row changed from red to green.

"Looks like Archangel Team beat us," Shepard muttered.

"Competing with your girlfriend?" Garrus teased.

"Wait—what?" Jack asked.

"Shut up," Shepard said to Garrus quickly.

"Is he serious? You and the cheerleader?" Jack asked. "Goddamn it. I think I'm going to be sick…"

"Sorry," Garrus muttered. "I meant it as a joke."

"Focus!" Shepard barked and quelled any more comments. "We're here."

Clambering on top of the dry platform, they approached the terminal with a sense of unease. A lone camera nearby was following their progress with single-minded intent.

Shepard grasped the cylinder, turned it a quarter-clockwise, and pulled.

"Override of Atlas Station lockdown accepted."

All three bars were now green.

David's face appeared on the screen right after. His scream was no longer quiet or pleading. Outrage and vengefulness set the tone now.

One platform popped out of the water.

"And there's the catch we've been waiting for. Anybody else have complaints that this is too easy?" Shepard asked.

Four more platforms popped out of the water to join the first.

"You just had to say it, didn't you?" Garrus muttered. Shepard shrugged helplessly.

Everyone raised the weapons and fired. The synthetics were trying to wade through the water, but only provided easy targets to pick them off.

"Come on, we need to move!" Shepard ordered. "You three! Cover us!"

Grunt turned to the door and raised his shotgun. "They're coming!"

Shepard pumped his legs as quickly as possible to get through the moat.

Legion started helping Grunt, leaving Tali to cover the others still trying to get through the water.

"What the-? Oh shit!" Garrus gave out a strangled cry when a platform leapt up from the water and dragged him under.

"Garrus!" Shepard shouted.

"Get this thing off of me!"Spouts of water erupted when he started firing his gun underwater.

"Get back!" Jack said. Raising her arms high, she brought them down and slammed into the water.

The force of her biotics knocked Shepard into the water and he floundered at bit to get his footing and force his way back to the surface.

The blast parted the water for just a moment, allowing Garrus to regain his equilibrium and shake off the Trooper before unloading on it. "I'm good!"

"Go, go, go!"

"Hostile geth activity detected. Armed response is authorized," the VI said.

More geth popped out of the water. Tali dropped Chiktikka to provide support and aimed her pistol to try to slow them down.

"Cerberus reminds all personnel that this emergency is now classified information."

"Come on!" Tali cried out. She knelt down and offered a hand. Shepard grasped it and pulled himself out of the water.

"Number of hostile forces increasing," Legion reported.

"Come on! Is that all you got? !" Grunt roared.

"Disclosure to outside parties is a violation of your confidentiality agreement," the VI reminded.

Shepard pulled Garrus out while Tali helped Jack. "We're up! Let's go!"

"Shepard-Commander. The area ahead is no longer safe. There is a danger to organics via high voltage current. Observation: several conduits fell into the water during our firefight."

"I can handle that," Jack said.

"Do it!"

Jack took the lead and spread her arms out. A biotic bubble appeared around her. She slowly walked forward, touching the tip of her bubble against the water and parting it. She kept going, stumbling only once when the ship shook again from the stresses it was enduring. Legion and Shepard were carefully watching the far door to make sure nothing attacked her.

Once she reached the middle, she expanded the bubble to push all the water away from the walkway. "It's clear! Move your asses!"

"You heard her!" Shepard barked. He sprinted down the aisle, though the bubble, past Jack and held his position at the door. "Got more coming!"

Garrus and Grunt were next and ran past the door and into cover. "We'll hold them back!" Grunt said confidently.

"Everything in this damn ship is coming after us! We need to go!"Garrus shouted.

"We're clear!" Tali reported.

Shepard took aim at the synthetic above the moment he noticed movement. "Contact! Second floor!"

"Missile!" Jack shouted.

"Scatter!"

"There's more down here!"

"They're everywhere!"

"There's a Hunter here! Can anyone see it? !"

"Regroup!" Shepard shouted. "Get your asses inside the main lab! Now!"

Everyone darted from cover to cover, moving toward the room he indicated. The sudden chaos that threatened to overwhelm them banished as he seized control of the situation and directed their actions.

"Legion, Garrus! Second floor! Take'em down! Grunt, Tali, Jack! Main floor! Suppression fire!"

Shepard aimed his shotgun at a distortion blasted it.

The ship rocked heavily again. Parts of the ceiling were coming down.

A particularly large piece nearly crushed him. Looking up, he saw more was coming down. He barely rolled out of the way just in time.

"Shit! Is that crap blocking the exit? !" Jack asked.

"We'll need to get to higher ground and get control of this area!" Shepard ordered. He didn't bother to mention that he needed to get up there to see if the debris was indeed blocking the door."Grunt! On me! The rest of you, covering fire!"

"Attention: This is a geth stasis alert. Neural activity detected in nodes 1 through 6."

Shepard and Grunt sprinted at the ramp, blind-firing at the synthetics while relying on the others to protect them.

When they reached the top, Shepard spotted a distortion running right at them. He was nimble enough to roll to the side, but Grunt wasn't so quick. He roared when a Hunter tackled him and they both pitched over the side and fell all the way down.

Never seen those things tackle anyone before. Legion was right. No heretic tactics at all.

"Help Grunt!" Shepard ordered. He dove behind a support beam as a rocket streaked by and struck the wall. The room shook again as more and more abuse from the explosions began taking its toll.

Shepard fired back with his sniper rifle and down two platforms before using his higher vantage point to find the door. "Rubble cut you guys off, but it's not blocking the door!"

"How do we get out? !"Tali asked.

Looking around the upper level looped around the room and had a balcony just above the exit. "Get up here! We'll jump!"

"Die!" Grunt shouted. The Hunter that was attacking him had its head blow off. He picked up the body and threw it at the other synthetics, followed up by a grenade.

"Move people!" Shepard covered their advance, sniping anything that had a green flashlight head.

One by one, everyone ran up the ramp and around, with Garrus in the lead. Grunt was the last to the top. Once he was up and stayed up, Shepard abandoned his perch and took up his assault rifle again.

Only a couple more stood in their way, but the real threat was the red Destroyer.

Tali used her energy drain while Jack used throw, followed by shockwave.

"I'll destroy you!" she screamed."Get out of our way!"

"A geth outbreak has been declared. This ship is now quarantined."

"Jump for it!" Garrus said. He leapt down and held his position at the open door.

Everyone followed after him. Shepard peeked inside and saw that the coast was clear. "I don't see anything. Legion, Grunt, go!"

Legion moved forward with its rifle up. Grunt trailing closely.

"We are detecting motion. Isolating location," Legion reported before its plates took on an alarmed look. "Alert: Hostile forces above us! Evade, evade!"

The panels above it exploded and rained down, burying Legion. More synthetic platforms leapt from the hole they created to engage them. One Trooper tried to blitz the team outright.

Grunt was prepared to meet it head on when the nearby wall exploded, destroying the Trooper and blasting Grunt back.

"Goddamn it!" Jack screamed.

"Get them!" Shepard said. He ran into the room, firing as more platforms jumped in.

Grunt crawled to his feet and growled. "Is that it? !"

"Grunt, help Legion! Garrus, help me!" Shepard ordered. "Tali! We need a door open! Jack, cover her!"

"On it!"

"I'm with you!"

"Got it!"

"I got this!"

Shepard took advantage of the hallway to use shockwave and blast the attackers back. Garrus fired down on their prone bodies until Shepard created a singularity, allowing the platforms to be drawn into one place. The turian used overload to bring their shields down in one swoop.

"Doors open!" Tali reported.

Grunt heaved the debris off Legion. "Get up, you bucket of junk!"

"Mild damaged sustained. Executing self-repair programs misaligned. Compensating," Legion said. It got up slowly, taking care to hide behind some defilade.

"Get to the door!" Grunt said. "I'll take care of them!"

"Shit! Another goddamn hallway and more of these synthetics bitches!" Jack said. "Get your asses over here! I can't hold the door like this all day!"

"Move! We'll seal the door!" Shepard ordered. He and Garrus cover the retreat. Grunt dragged Legion since it was having difficulty movingand into the next room. He spotted the enemy and started shooting immediately.

Once everyone else was through, Shepard and Garrus ran in last. Jack released her biotics on the door and it closed shut. Tali followed up by engaging the lock.

"How do you like this, huh? !" Grunt taunted. He was holding a Hunter in front of him as a bullet shield and advancing on the other Troopers shooting his Claymore one handed around his hostage. "Come on! Follow me!"

"We're close to the exit!" Shepard said. He took cover behind Grunt and his unwilling shield. He popped off a few shots. "I remember that lab equipment! There should be some stairs and hallway that leads to the main entrance!"

Once Grunt was close enough, he dropped his shotgun to grip the Hunter tightly and barreled down the hallway, knocking over everything in his way. The rest of the team took advantage by shooting anything that had a green glow to it before they could recover.

Once the hallway was clear, Shepard followed the route and smiled when he saw that he was right. Up a set of stairs and down a short hallway, the door opened to show that they were almost out.

His cheer was short lived when there was another small force already there to stop them.

Including the Prime. Damn it!

"Spread out! Control the upper floor!" Shepard commanded.

Missiles streaked toward them from all directions. They scattered as quickly as possible, but Garrus was tagged by the explosion and fell over to the bottom floor. He got up just in time to see the Prime bear down on him. "Um… help!"

Shepard ran up to the edge and used charge to ram the Prime, but its shields protected it. The pressure wave only knocked it back a step. "Run!"

They turned tail and made for some of the crates Cerberus left behind just before the Prime started tearing into them with the full force of its weaponry.

A Trooper appeared out of nowhere right next to them, before its head was blown off by Legion's Widow.

Garrus popped up and used his overload on the Prime, but got shot for his trouble. He ducked back down before shields were completely drained. "Ideas?" he asked.

Shepard took a deep breath and once again tried to use Reave the same way Samara did back at the heretic station. His attempt was better, but all he succeeded in doing was destroying its primary weapon. It switched to its missiles next.

Part of their cover blew up, forcing the both of them to cloak and run.

"Our situation hasn't improved!"Garrus complained. He tossed a grenade at it, hoping to break through its shields and armor.

"I got another plan," Shepard growled. "Just help out the others. I'll take of that thing."

Garrus nodded and ran up the ramp. Shepard darted into one of the tiny side rooms that weren't destroyed just before his cloak drained. He rigged his grenades in the center of the empty space and shot at the Prime to get its attention.

"Garrus, overload its weapons!"

"Alright!"

An electrical storm appeared around it. Its missile launcher began venting steam.

Shepard used warp on the hulking synthetic and fired off a few shots. "Come on!"

David commanded the Prime to continue its rampage by rushing him. The moment it entered the room, Shepard used charge to get out before the grenades detonated, causing the ceiling to crumple down and crush the Prime.

Panting with effort of using his abilities so much in so little time, Shepard stayed down and idly watched as a Rocket Trooper sailed across the room and embed itself into the steel wall.

"Ah… bosh'tet," Tali groaned from her position.

"You alright?"Garrus asked.

"I'm fine," Tali muttered. "I just tripped from that last explosion."

"Yeah, that was Shepard's fault," Garrus said. He peeked over the side and looked down. "Right?"

"Shut up," Shepard muttered good-naturedly. "Everyone okay?"

"I'm not," Jack bit out. "My arm's not working. I think it's dislocated."

"I'm coming," Shepard called out. "Tali, lock that door. Grunt, Legion: Hold that door until she's done."

Shepard ran up to the second level and found Jack sitting on the ground, leaning up against the wall. She was clutching her dangling left arm.

Shepard removed her helmet before inspecting injury closely. He poked and prodded her arm before sighing. "Yeah, I think your shoulder's dislocated."

Jack hissed during his examination. "So set it already."

"Garrus, need you to hold her down."

Garrus ran up and put his weight in her other side to hold her steady.

Shepard dosed her with some medi-gel to help with the pain. Gripping her arm, he glanced at her. She took a breath and nodded, giving him permission.

He gave a quick tug and pull to set her arm before wrenching her limb into place.

To Jack's credit she only gasped, but didn't cry out. Once it was done she sighed in relief and gingerly tested her range of motion.

The ship shook threateningly, reminding everyone of the precarious position

"We gotta go," Shepard reminded. He helped Jack to her feet.

Everyone regrouped and made for the Hammerhead. Once settled inside, Shepard gained some distance away from the ship before parking the tank. "Grunt, you got one shot left in the Cain, right?"

Grunt nodded, looking extremely hopeful.

Shepard pointed at the downed ship in the distance.

Jumping out, Grunt enthusiastically pulled out the Cain and targeted the ship. 5 seconds later, even under low power, the ship started caving in and exploding underneath a mushroom cloud.

"Now that is sexy," Jack said. She cradled her arm and leaned back in her seat. "What did you say earlier? Yea, valley of death…"

Shepard took off his helmet and grinned. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil—"

Grunt clambered back into the Hammerhead, laughing in utter joy of what he did.

"—because we're the meanest sons-of-a-bitches in the valley."

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

Admit it: As weak as the Hammerhead is versus the Mako, you always flew around at full throttle because it definitely had speed over the traditional wheeled IFV. And what happened? You crash.

Or at least I did anyway.

I find that out of all the characters, Miranda, Jacob, and Jack should have the most reaction to Overlord. However, for Miranda and Jacob, it was more about ideology, but for Jack, I always felt that it should've been personal.

Before anyone asks: I do have an idea about when to introduce the omni-blade, but not in this particular fic.

A line from inspired by Jarhead, but I think I actually saw it on a T-Shirt somewhere first. Often misattributed as a quote by General George S. Patton.

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