The hamster squeaked from her cage on the shelf as Shepard continued to organize his cabin.
The few possessions Shepard had owned from his apartment on Intai'sei and his quarters at Arcturus Station were sitting in his quarters when he returned, as Anderson promised.
Several books on varying subjects: galactic history, training manuals, and personal reading were neatly stacked to the side of his table. His medal case, containing various commendations he earned in his Alliance career, including the Star of Terra, which he placed against the wall near his books. And finally, his picture of Ashley; Shepard stared at the picture for a moment, wondering what her mission was and privately glad that she was able to have the chance to redeem her family's honor. He placed it gently next to his private terminal.
Turing toward the boxes containing his ship models, Shepard unpacked them and placed them inside the display case, noting the size differences between the Normandy SR-1 and SR-2 models.
Tasks complete, he sat down and relaxed, content to look around his cabin. His gaze locking on the Illium Skald Fish floating in his aquarium, Shepard frowned. The hamster cage was equipped with an automated feeder with water. All he had to was refill it every so often. The fish on the other hand…
Shepard called out to the ever present AI, "EDI, can you set a timer to feed my fish? I don't think I can be here often enough to feed them myself."
"Of course, Commander," EDI replied.
Nodding his head, Shepard turned toward his bed, tempted to sleep, but knowing there was a few more things left to do.
Sighing, he got up and headed toward the lift.
Entering the armory, Shepard noticed Jacob still working. "It's late, why aren't you getting some rack time?"
"Almost finished here, Commander. Actually, I was supposed to give you one quick lesson on biotics before crashing," Jacob answered, without looking up from his weapons.
Suppressing a groan at the thought of more training in biotics when he barely survived the first lesson, Shepard walked to the back of the room to inspect the large and locked metal case.
Placing his hand on the scanner, the box opened, revealing all of Shepard's personal armaments. Taking them out one at a time and inspecting each, he was satisfied to see that everything was tailored to his requests.
"Damn, Commander," said Jacob. Shepard looked up to see Jacob standing next to him. "What are those?"
"Spectre gear. Built-in security too, so don't touch," warned the Spectre himself. "That'll kill you worse than the bullets. Tell Miranda too. I don't want any accidents."
"Gotcha, Commander," acknowledged Jacob. "I'm finished here, so we'll meet in the docking bay?"
"Yeah, just let me get my equipment squared away," answered Shepard as he continued to inspect his order.
"See you in a few then."
Closing his eyes as he descended on the lift, Shepard tried to recall everything Miranda taught him earlier in the day.
As he focused on his mental exercises, Shepard couldn't see the telltale glow of dark energy as his eezo modules began reacting to the electricity he subconsciously pushed through them.
The soft chime of the elevator interrupted this concentration as he reached his deck. The glow faded long before Shepard opened his eyes and walked out toward the docking bay unaware of his evidence of power.
Jacob was setting some pillows down as Shepard walked downed the stairs. "What are those for?"
"Demonstration. I don't think you're up to doing anything yet, Commander."
"So what am I going to do? More instruction, mental exercises?" asked Shepard as he stood next to his other teacher.
"I'm not really into the whole technical thing of biotics," assured Jacob. "Miranda's teaching you how to think like a biotic. I'm just going to show you some of the physical motions needed to subconsciously direct your electrical impulses. Strictly speaking, if you're mentally disciplined enough, you don't need to move a muscle to use biotics."
"Who can do that?"
Jacob shrugged. "I can't, that's for sure. Miranda can't either. I think there are some asari who can, but I never seen them."
Motioning Shepard to follow, Jacob continued. "It's called Physical Mnemonics, using certain motions to make your mind remember certain commands. In our case, it's manipulating our nervous system to use the eezo modules."
Stopping some distance away from the pillows, Jacob turned to Shepard. "What I'm going to show is a basic biotic technique that just about all biotics learn and know the first time they're taught. It's simple, quick, and doesn't take too much effort to control. You've probably seen it. Most call it Throw."
Shepard nodded. He'd seen the biotics of his old team use it thousands of times.
"Unlike most of the other abilities, this is all about how hard you can hit the other guy, no finesse or subtlety. It's why it tends to be taught first. Get you used to the whole idea," Jacob lectured.
Looking at the pillows, he pulsed with dark energy before thrusting his arm out, as if pushing something. A dark purple energy left his hand and arced toward one of the pillows on the ground. The energy struck the pillow and it moved about three feet.
Shepard furrowed his brow at the display before giving a questioning glance to Jacob. He received a shrug before an answer.
"I said that biotics start with it. I never said they all did anything useful with it. Like anything, Commander, you gotta work at it to make it more powerful. Throw wasn't something I was interested in. Figured I could learn to make it more powerful later," he defended.
"Besides, it's more than what you can do," he pointed out. Shepard merely held up his hands in compliance.
"Lift on the other hand…" Jacob started, before bringing his arm from the ground up into the air.
The same energy left his hand at the middle of the motion, streaking towards the pillow far faster than his last display. Immediately, the pillow rose to the air and was held there with nothing but Jacob's will.
"This is something I practiced for a while. A lot more discipline needed to do this. The heavier the object, the more you got to put into it."
Remembering that Jacob could pick up a YMIR mech, Shepard wasn't about to dismiss his talent.
Letting the pillow fall down, Jacob addressed his 'student'. "Right, for now, let's get the motions down. Push your arm out like this…"
For the next hour, Jacob and Shepard kept at it. Shepard was mimicking the motions he needed to exercise his mind into tapping the element zero modules while Jacob coached him. "Remember every muscle that you use when you do it…" or "Focus on what you need to use for the motions, the muscles or thoughts, not your arm or how hard you move…"
Finally, he called it quits. "That should be good enough for now, Commander. Miranda will help you out before we reach Omega. Just remember what we both taught you. I'm sure she'll test you on it."
Shepard nodded. "I think I got it. Just focus. Biotics uses the mind and all that," he said as he thrust his arm out again, trying to merge Miranda's theoretical training with Jacob's hands-on methods.
"Pretty much. Nothing to it, if you don't count all the years of training. Why they would implant you with… Holy shit!" Jacob's thoughts were completely derailed as Shepard suddenly glowed with dark energy just before he thrust his arm out again.
The results were plain to see. The five pillows Jacob had brought down for his demonstrations were all blown back through the entire length of the docking bay and struck the opposite wall where two of them burst open.
"Holy shit, Commander!" Jacob repeated. "That was incredible! I've never… whoa! Shepard!" Jacob exclaimed as he caught Shepard's wavering form.
"Oh man… that's… really…" Shepard gasped out, suddenly exhausted.
Jacob slung Shepard's arm over himself. "I got you, Commander. How about we stop here and you get some shut-eye? We'll let Miranda know in the morning about this."
Staggering, both men climbed up the stairs and to the lift, wondering what happened and how the hell it happened.
The next day, Shepard woke up fine, but completely ravenous. Finishing his morning preparations as quickly as possible, Shepard rushed to deck 3 to get as much food as he could.
"Commander! Those provisions you provided were perfect. I owe you," Gardner greeted as Shepard walked into the common area.
"Glad to have helped. I need food. Lots of it," Shepard demanded.
Getting to work, Rupert commented, "Hungry this morning, aren't we?"
"You have no idea. Feels like I haven't eaten in years," Shepard said, ignoring the personal irony of that statement.
"Well, you're in luck. I managed to cook up something nice with the new supplies. Enjoy!" Rupert said, passing along Shepard's plates. "And thanks again. You really came through."
Thanking him, Shepard saw Miranda and Jacob at the table already, plates full similarly to his.
"Biotics consume a massive amount of calories. Our metabolisms run high with the effort to create mass effect fields," Miranda explained as Shepard sat down next to her and across Jacob.
"I take it Jacob already told you," he said, glancing at the man in question.
Jacob ignored their exchange, occupying himself with his breakfast.
"It's completely remarkable and completely unheard of. I was expecting months before we saw tangible results, not hours. How did you do it?" she asked.
Taking a several bites of his meal, Shepard tried to recall exactly what happened. "I was thinking of your lessons, and then I took Jacob's advice and put the two together. That's really about it."
"'That's about it' he says. It was a full-powered Throw Miranda. If it'd been me, my spine would've snapped," Jacob added, without looking up from his meal.
"Interesting," commented Miranda. "I wonder though… Do you think the L5x's had anything to do with it?"
"Doubtful. You and I are wired with the L5n's and that's only a step down from the x's," he answered. "I'm telling you, one moment, it was business as usual. Same stuff I learned in BAaT or Ascension, next, boom! Comes out of nowhere with his stuff."
Before Shepard could add his own opinions, Joker called.
"Commander? Just wanted let you know that we're an hour away from Omega."
"We made better time than I thought… I had assumed the loose asteroids surrounding Omega would slow our helmsman down a bit. I suppose we'll skip the lesson today. Just report to Dr. Chakwas and get your amps checked out. I'd like to see what caused your spike," Miranda said as she finished her breakfast. Shepard nodded, while taking another bite out of his.
"Full armor and weapons," he ordered to both Cerberus operatives. "We're not going to stay long if we can help it. But if push comes to shove, I want the people there thinking twice before they start trouble."
"Understood, Commander," Miranda said before heading to her office.
"Aye aye, Commander," Jacob said from his seat, eating his breakfast quickly.
After Shepard finished his breakfast and checked in with Dr. Chakwas regarding his biotic amps, he went back to his room to put on his armor. Given the inherent dangers of the facility he was going to, Shepard also started to work a medical exoskeleton inside his armor, just in case.
Once finished, he traveled to the armory where he met up with Miranda, already in her armor and was just finishing inspecting her pulse rifle.
As Shepard opened his locker to retrieve his weapons, he called out to the AI. "Are you tapped into Omega EDI?"
"Yes, Commander Shepard."
"Anything about our two recruits that you can find?" Shepard asked, as Jacob walked into the armory, making last minute adjustments to his armor.
"I'm receiving quarantine warnings about the slums where Dr. Mordin Solus runs the clinic. Anticipate resistance at the transport station. I have also accessed messages between mercenary groups regarding plans to deal with Archangel. There's a recruiting station at Afterlife that may have more information on him."
Fitting his grenades on his pouch attached to his waist, Shepard asked, "What can you tell me about the quarantine?"
"There are no details on the reason for the quarantine in Omega's mainframe," EDI said.
"Figures. I'm surprised Omega's mainframe is actually still up and running. Though I suppose if it were to go down, life support for the entire station would stop," Miranda commented.
"Monitoring local radio channels though, inhabitants are calling it a plague. The quarantine must remain in effect until the problem is solved by Dr. Mordin Solus or everyone that is affected by plague is dead. One more thing to note, the plague apparently doesn't affect humans," continued EDI.
Slipping his HMWP Pistol into a specialized thigh holster on his right side, Shepard shared a look with Miranda and Jacob.
"What about Archangel? You said mercs?"
"According to local transmissions, the three major mercenary groups in the Terminus Systems: Blue Suns, Eclipse, and Blood Pack, are now working together to kill Archangel. According to various reports, Archangel has been launching a war against them, disrupting cargo shipments of questionable materials, weapons, and slaves. Archangel is also responsible for several assassinations of top ranking members of all three mercenary groups," EDI reported.
"Well, at least this isn't going to be boring," Jacob joked.
"Yes, I seem to recall that being a problem back at the Project Lazarus Science Facility," Miranda noted.
"I was under the impression you liked the boredom over the homicidal mechs. Now you get to deal with a plague and an army of mercs instead," Shepard quipped as he strapped one of his combat knives to his right hip and the other to left boot.
Remembering the attack and the waves of mechs on top of him, Jacob grumbled.
Dossier: The Professor
Biological weapons expert
Light weapons training with Salarian Special Tasks Group
Dr. Mordin Solus is a salarian biological weapons expert whose technology may hold the key to countering Collector attacks. He is currently operating a medical clinic in the slums of Omega.
Small-unit tactical expertise
Omni-tool expert and noted sniper
Archangel is a mercenary commander whose operations are noted for their technical expertise and strategic brilliance. He is responsible for high-profile attacks on gang leaders on Omega and can likely be found there.
The Normandy danced around the large loose rocks and debris as she approached the hollowed out asteroid. Any other rocks that were too small to be detected on sensors were easily deflected by the kinetic barriers.
Given the number of hazards, the speeds at which she was traveling at as the Normandy bobbed and weaved through the potential dangers could be considered suicidal, but in no time at all, the asteroid field was cleared and the space station Omega came into view.
Red rods surrounding an equally red ring lit up the remains of the dome shaped asteroid the station was under. Complex metal structures were built extending from the rock, growing thinner as the formation moved farther away from the main base, making Omega resemble a top or more appropriately a mushroom cloud.
From a distance, Omega was incredible, but as Normandy navigated the towers, columns, and buildings, a different sight greeted her. Decay, rust, and neglect as the ages old station showed her age and lack of maintenance. The antithesis to the Citadel. And from the inside…
Location: Omega Nebula, Sahrabarik, Omega
Omega, the end of all things, Shepard thought to himself as he and his away team stepped into a rusted out hallway from the safety of the frigate.
Any windows were covered in dust and grime, making it hard to see through. All manner of gasses were leaking out of the pipes through numerous cracks. And the smell generated by hundreds of different unclean species all living together.… It's like a sick mix of piss, shit, vomit, and dead bodies that all decided to have a mutant smell of their own. If there was a smell that could kill, Omega would have it, but there was none, Shepard had checked his terminal before they left to be sure.
As he and his team walked down the length of the corridor to the entrance of Omega, a salarian walked from the opposite side toward them. Shepard's trained eye didn't see any obvious or hidden weapons, but it didn't stop him from maintaining a cautious stance and wary eye. It's probably why he also noted the armed batarian walking toward them as well.
Holding his arms wide, the salarian greeted them in a scratchy voice. "Ah! Welcome to Omega! You're new here, aren't you? I can always tell. Allow me to --"
The salarian was cut off as a heavy hand clapped his shoulder. The batarian pulled the salarian roughly away from Shepard's group.
Fear encompassed the salarian's demeanor, a stark contrast to his earlier attitude. "Oh… Hello, Moklan! I was just --"
"Leave, Fargut. Now," the batarian ordered.
"Of course, Moklan! Whatever she wants!" agreed the scared salarian.
Moklan raised his hand, as if to strike him, and Fargut ran immediately. Turning towards Shepard, he merely commented, "Blasted scavengers."
Adopting a more imperious tone, he continued, "Welcome to Omega… Shepard."
If the salarian made Shepard cautious, the batarian made his hackles rise. "You know who I am?" Shepard asked in a neutral tone.
Moklan scoffed. "Of course. We had you tagged the moment you entered the Terminus Systems. You're not a subtle as you think."
Shepard merely maintained his silence, alert for anything amiss.
"Aria wants to know what brings a dead Spectre to Omega. I 'suggest' you go to Afterlife now and present yourself," he ordered.
Shepard narrowed his eyes. "I'll talk to your boss when I'm damn well ready."
"Then you'd better get ready. No one keeps Aria waiting," the batarian threatened. "Afterlife. Now."
Shepard decided that a more simple answer was needed. Calmly drawing his pistol, he shot Moklan in the knee in one smooth, quick motion.
As the batarian went down screaming, Shepard calmly said, "I'm not some scavenger you push around. You're the messenger boy, the message was delivered. Next time, leave the threats to the grownups, before you get hurt. Again." As he finished talking, Shepard slammed his boot on the wound, prompting another scream from his unfortunate victim.
Keeping his pistol in his hand, Shepard signaled to the others to keep moving. Miranda and Jacob silently holstered their pistols and followed. After they all went five steps, Shepard turned around and shot Moklan in his other leg.
Moklan screamed in pain again, the pistol he was aiming dropped in favor of clutching is newest wound. Another scream was made as the hand that was holding the pistol lost four fingers, courtesy of another shot by the Spectre.
"Want to try again? I'm sure I can shoot you a few more times before you die," Shepard stated in a bored tone.
Whimpering in pain, the batarian shook his head, trying to stem the blood and the pain. He flinched as he heard another gunshot, but saw that his pistol had a new hole, rendering it useless.
Shepard simply collapsed his HMWP and left without further incident.
"Omega. What a pisshole. At least it keeps you on your toes. I've had to come here on business before. I felt like I needed a shower afterword – in addition to normal decontamination," commented Miranda as all three of them stepped out of the hallway and into Omega proper.
Shepard nodded, agreeing with her since the smells only got worse.
Nothing really changed. It was still cramped, dirty, and filled with jackals ready to pick the dead clean.
"You've been here, right, Commander?" asked Miranda.
"Twice. Terrorists hit some settlements in the Verge. My team and I tracked both groups here. They always run here," Shepard said.
"What happened to them?" Jacob asked.
"Guy like them think they can hide in Omega or be protected here. Doesn't work like that," said Shepard as he moved forward. "Unless you're part of a gang, you just pay the right people for information and you find what you need to find. Our orders were to bring them in alive if possible, but take them out if they fight back. Both groups tried to fight and we took them down. You may have noticed, but no one really cares for a few dead mercs."
Finding the Afterlife club, they ascended the stairs. "What about you Jacob? Ever been to Omega?" asked Shepard.
"Can't say that I have, but I can tell that I hate this place already," he replied.
Bypassing the long lines, and inciting many protests, Shepard walked past the elcor bouncer and to a batarian with a holopad.
"Go on in. Aria is expecting you," the batarian said as the doors opened.
Past the door, the atmosphere changed abruptly. The hallway inside was clean and maintained. Holograms built into the walls projected fire, befitting the club's name. No doubt other decorations inside would revolve around the Afterlife, be it hell or heaven.
Shepard moved toward the other door only to find his progress blocked by three more batarians.
"What are you looking at?" the leader sneered.
Reaching out and grabbing the jerk by his throat, Shepard pulled his knife from its sheath on his hip and held it against the batarian's privates. He heard Miranda and Jacob draw their pistols, presumably aimed at the other two batarians.
Pressing his knife closer, Shepard glared into two of the batarians four eyes. "The man whose day I'm about to ruin."
"Uh… I'm not looking for any trouble," Shepard's soon-to-be-next victim stammered.
"Maybe I am. Maybe you'd better get out of here before I decide to cripple you," Shepard said evenly, his scars glowing in the dim light.
"All…all right. I… I've got stuff to do anyway."
Letting him go, Shepard put his knife away as the batarian turned to his fellows. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
Two walked away, but the third glared at Shepard, drawing an imaginary line through his neck.
The Spectre gave a glare of his own, drew his pistol and aimed at the man's foot.
Ignoring the second wounded idiot he made scream in so many minutes, Shepard stalked toward the doors leading into the club.
Reminds me of Chora's Den was his thought as he passed through the doors. Minor differences between the seedy den in the Citadel and here was size, the giant projection in the center and the use of holographic and real flames. There was still a circular bar, dancing half naked asari, strippers in side rooms, loud music, drugs, and plenty of armed guards.
Looking up past the giant projection, Shepard could make out someone standing over the club. No doubt in his mind, he knew that to be Aria, especially with the extra concentration of guards around her.
Shepard led his team toward the lounge where Aria overlooked her domain. Reaching the top of the stairs, he saw a blue-hued asari standing with her back to him.
"That's close enough," Aria commanded.
Immediately, the guards around Shepard and his group drew their weapons and readied them. Miranda and Jacob drew theirs as well and pointed at targets of the highest threat.
Aria ignored the exchange and merely nodded her head. One batarian holstered his weapon before approaching Shepard. "Stand still."
Grabbing him, Shepard growled, "Try it and you'll be scanning the inside of your colon."
Aria nearly laughed. "I'd almost pay to see that." Turning her head slightly to glance at him, she said in a tone brooking no argument, "But it's not an option. You want to talk, you get scanned."
"Uh… Aria…" the batarian stuttered.
Aria turned her head more to see Shepard holding an armed grenade along with his hostage.
"Tell your goons to stow their weapons then," Shepard said in the same tone as Aria's.
Aria narrowed her eyes. "You've got gall, Spectre."
Nodding her head at the guards, they put the weapons away. Shepard released the batarian and put his grenade away as well as Miranda and Jacob relaxed.
"All you had to do was ask," Shepard said neutrally.
"I don't ask," Aria hissed as she looked back at the club.
Shoving the batarian with the scanner to the side, Shepard stepped closer to Aria. "I was told you're the person to talk to if I have questions."
Aria turned around to face Shepard after hearing the report. "Depends on the questions."
"You run Omega?"
This time Aria laughed, though it was dry and humorless. Turning around to face the main floor, she spread her arms and said, "I am Omega."
Turing to face her guest, she continued, whispering, "But you need more. Everyone needs something. And they all come to see me."
Pacing in front of Shepard, she excluded confidence in her stance and words. "I'm the boss, CEO, queen if you're feeling dramatic."
Not nearly as dramatic as you, Shepard thought.
"It doesn't matter. Omega has no titled ruler and only one rule." Sitting down on the plush leather couch and crossing her legs, she smiled viciously. "Don't fuck with Aria."
"I can understand that. I keep similar rules," Shepard said as he crossed his arms.
"And on your ship that would matter. Here, we entertain my preferences," she countered. She stared a bit, as if judging him, before motioning for Shepard to take a seat. He obliged.
"So, what can I do for you?" she asked in a bored tone.
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "One scan and we're straight to business? People are usually concerned about who I am."
"You death was downplayed, but hardly what I call a secret. I had to make sure it was really you. You could have been anyone. Anything," she explained.
Shepard got the impression that she meant more than being brought back from the dead.
"Whatever you need will come out on its own. I'm curious, but Omega doesn't care about you," Aria finished.
"I'm looking for Mordin Solus. Do you know where I can find him?" Shepard asked.
"The salarian doctor?" Aria voice took on an interested tone. "Last I heard he was trying to help plague victims in the quarantine zone." She smiled, "I've always liked Mordin. He's as likely to heal you as he is to shoot you."
"I understand that he was part of the STG," commented Shepard.
Aria nodded. "He's brilliant and dangerous." She leaned back into her couch. "Just don't get him talking. He never shuts up," she warned. "If you really need to find him, take a shuttle to the quarantine zone. No guarantee they'll let you in, of course. Just don't bring the plague back with you."
"I'm also trying to track down Archangel."
"You and half of Omega. You want him dead, too?" Aria asked.
"I heard he's been causing trouble here. You mind filling me in?" questioned Shepard.
"He thinks he's fighting on the side of good," she scoffed. "There is no good side to Omega. Everything he does pisses someone off. It's catching up to him."
"Just the kind of guy I'm looking for," Shepard smiled.
"Really? Well, aren't you interesting?" she said. Locking eyes with him, she cautioned, "You're going to make some enemies teaming up with Archangel. That's assuming you can get to him. He's in a bit of trouble right now."
"I heard that three different merc groups want him dead. How bad is it?"
"They've got him cornered, but it sounds like they're having trouble finishing him off. They've started hiring anybody with a gun to help them." she answered.
"That might be our way in," Miranda said aloud.
"They're using a private room for recruiting… just over there," Aria said, nodding her head to her left. "I'm sure they'll sign you up."
"Anything you can tell me about Archangel?" asked Shepard.
"Not as much as I'd like," answered Aria with a small frown. "He showed up here several months ago and started causing all sorts of problems. If you make your own laws – which everyone here does – he makes life difficult. He's reckless and idealistic. But he seems to know enough to stay clear of me."
"Sounds like I don't have much time," said Shepard.
Getting up and leaving, he heard Aria point out, "You've got all the time in the world. Archangel… not so much."
"Let's go," Shepard said to his companions. "Change of plans," he stated as they turned left and went down the stairs to the private rooms.
"Archangel?" Jacob rhetorically asked.
"Mordin is dealing with a plague. He probably won't come with us until it's been handled," Miranda reasoned.
"We'll consider it an audition. Archangel is in trouble right now," Shepard said.
The group stopped in front of a merc guarding the entrance to the private room, Blue Suns judging from his uniform.
"I hear you got some work," Shepard said to the guard.
"Inside," the guard grunted.
"You'll get paid when the job's done, just like everyone else," the recruiter said to a human freelancer, as the trio walked in. "Who's next?"
Shepard stood in front of the recruiter's terminal. "You three look like you could do some damage. Looking for a good fight?" the batarian merc asked.
"Sure, if this is the place to arrange Archangel's funeral," Shepard said smoothly.
"This is the place," the batarian confirmed. "Standard fee is 500 credits each. You get paid when the job is done. If you die, your friends don't collect your share. You'll need your own weapons and armor," he read from the terminal. Looking up at Shepard's group, he observed, "Looks like you've got that covered. And no, this does not make you a member of the Blue Suns, Eclipse, or the Blood Pack. You are a freelancer. Period." Finished with his pitch, he asked, "Any questions?"
"Seems like a lot of trouble for just one guy," Shepard commented.
"He had a whole team, but we've dealt with them. Now he's just one guy," the merc corrected. "But he's got the advantage. It's his base of operations, and he knows we're coming. He's planned for an attack like this. We've lost a lot of men trying to get to him already."
"Sounds like it's gonna be tough to get to him."
"Like chasing a vorcha out of the sewer pipes. But that's why we're recruiting. If we just keep throwing fighters at him, we'll get him eventually," the recruiter said.
"Where's the attack taking place?" asked Shepard.
"Archangel's base of operations. He's been hiding right under our noses. I can't tell you exactly where you're going, but we'll get you there," he vaguely answered.
"So what do we do once we're there? How do we get to Archangel?"
"The mercs will tell you when you get there. Last I heard, they were putting the freelancers into scouting groups; they attack in waves to distract Archangel while we try to get past his defenses."
"So we're just fodder for his bullets?" Shepard asked in disbelief.
"If you don't like it, don't sign up. But if you do your job right, its easy credits," dismissed the recruiter. "Besides, what are the odds he can kill all of you?"
"Where do we go?"
"Just head outside to the transport depot outside the club. One of our boys will take you from there," pointed out the merc. "Send in the next one."
As Shepard and his team were leaving, a young man, 20 or so walked past, heading toward the recruiter. "Hey, is there where I sign up?"
Turning around, Shepard said, "You look a little young to be freelancing as a merc."
"I'm old enough," he argued. "I grew up on Omega. I know how to use a gun."
"So does Archangel," Jacob countered.
"It really wouldn't do you much good," added Miranda.
"I can handle myself," the young man asserted. Pulling out his pistol, his only weapon apparently, he said, "Besides, I just spent 50 credits on this pistol…"
Reaching out and grabbing him by the collar, Shepard took the gun away. "Get your money back," Shepard said low tone.
Letting him go, Shepard started hitting the ejection port until the gun jammed. "Trust me, kid. You'll thank me later," he said before tossing the gun back.
Turning around, the three 'freelancers' headed for their transport.
Location: Omega Nebula, Sahrabarik, Omega, Archangel's Base of Operations
Their driver dropped them off in front of a series of apartment buildings. If there was any doubt as to whether they were in the wrong location, it was quickly dispelled by various scrambling mercs, freelancers, the gunshots, and explosions.
Another Batarian Blue Suns merc walked up to Shepard as the car took off.
"It's about time they sent me someone who looks like they can actually fight," he observed. "They tell you what we're up against?"
"I know enough. Just tell us where to go," answered Shepard.
"Archangel's holed up in a building at the end of the boulevard over there," the merc explained jerking his thumb over shoulder. "He's got superior position, and the only way in is over a very exposed bridge. It's a killing ground. But he's getting tired, making mistakes. We'll have him soon enough."
"Now that we're here you will. We'll get to him. Just point us to that bridge," stated Shepard confidently.
"I like your attitude, but we've got a plan in place," said the merc. "You'll be on a distraction team. Head straight over the bridge and keep Archangel busy so the infiltration team can sneak in behind him."
"Sounds like suicide mission to me," Jacob commented.
Shrugging, the merc only said, "Pretty much. But you look like you can handle it." Pointing at an archway, he directed, "Head up to the boulevard and get to the third barricade. Talk to Sergeant Cathka. He'll tell you when to go in."
"Hold on, where's the infiltration team now?" asked Shepard, hoping to fish for some last minute intel.
"On the far side of the bridge, near his hideout. But they can't get any closer without being seen," he answered.
"How'd they get that close?"
"More distractions. Tarak used a gunship to keep Archangel busy. We were able to sneak a few men into his hideout before he took it down, but they're stuck there. We need to keep Archangel focused on the bridge so he doesn't find them and wipe them out," the batarian said.
"They were using a gunship to take out one guy?" Shepard asked skeptically.
"Yeah – and Archangel shot it down. He didn't destroy it, but he knew just where to hit it to disable it. It wasn't even a fair fight. At least not for us," the merc said bitterly.
Huh, I like this guy already.
"The bridge is the only way to his hideout?" asked Shepard. Funneling the enemy, sniper's perch… this guy is good.
"Yeah. Archangel collapsed all the underground passageways and sealed the doors to the lower levels. We've got teams digging, but it's taking too long. If they can get the gunship flying again, that'll help. But I'm hoping the infiltration team will finish the job and we can all go home.
"I'll go report to Cathka then," stated Shepard.
"Watch yourself on the boulevard. Archangel's kill dozens out there already," the merc warned before moving to greet more freelancers.
Moving toward the stairs, Jacob spoke up. "Well, we might have a way in, but getting out could be interesting."
"Very interesting, I'll guarantee that. Let's see what we're about to go up against, see what kind of damage we can do, and then get to Archangel," responded Shepard.
"Shepard, I've scanned the area, but I am unable to plot any other paths to Archangel," EDI informed them.
"Guess we're going with the mercs then," Shepard responded as his group saw the first barricade.
"The heavy mechs and gunship possess considerable firepower. Weakening them before leaving will improve your chances," EDI advised.
Approaching the barricade, manned by two Eclipse mercs, Shepard chanced a peek over the railing, using his sniper rifle to scout out Archangel and the terrain.
Taking a steadying breath, he poised the scope at the railing he saw the merc duck down behind. Ignoring the occasional inaccurate blind fire, trusting his shields would hold, Archangel waited. The sound of his rifle echoed as the merc fell back dead, finally popping out of his cover.
Moving his head away from the scope, he surveyed the barricades, looking for his next target of opportunity. Another one in the far back showed his head, carrying a rifle from the looks of it. Adjusting his rifle quickly, Archangel looked at the far back barricade. The shot was too difficult to try, but that would mean the sniper couldn't fire back either. As his scope zoomed in on the figure…
No… It can't be…
Exhaustion was catching up to him. No food and no sleep against this onslaught, all while holding his position alone for the last 24 hours, his mind had to be playing tricks on him. Yet, as he watched the barricade closely…
There. He could no longer see the face, but he saw the armor as the figure moved away. He'd confirm who it was soon enough, friend or foe. If it was another merc, he'd have to come closer. If it was who he thought it was, hoped it was, then things would get exciting soon.
For now another target presented itself. Vorcha, so probably Blood Pack…
Taking a steadying breath, he poised the scope at the railing he saw the merc duck down behind…
"What did you see?" Jacob asked as they walked through the makeshift bases of the mercenary groups.
"Turian. Wearing Colossus Armor too from the look of it," Shepard answered, as they walked past the Eclipse meeting.
"Kassa Fabrication armor is expensive. Whoever Archangel is, he definitely has the credits to back his operations," deduced Miranda.
Nodding, Shepard stopped to listen in on the Eclipse plans.
"As the first wave goes in, the infiltration team will attempt to take Archangel by surprise," a salarian ordered. "I don't expect much from the freelancers. When they fail, we're up next. The light mechs go in first. If that's not enough, we send in the heavy. Be prepared."
Moving quickly away from the meeting, Shepard saw a large locked door to his left. Motioning Miranda and Jacob to watch his back, he proceeded to bypass the door. Less than a minute later, the lock yielded to his attempt and opened.
Taking one last look around to ensure no one was watching, Shepard slipped inside and closed the door. Inside, a dozen light mechs lined the walls all deactivated. At the back was the heavy mech EDI and the salarian Eclipse leader was talking about. Next to the YMIR was a diagnostics station that was still hooked in. Shepard smiled to himself as he proceeded to hack his way into the terminal. Cracking the firewalls, he located the IFF of the mech and disabled it, then synched up a self destruct command to his omni-tool for remote detonation.
"Miranda, all clear outside?" Shepard radioed when his tasks were complete.
"Hold on, Jacob," she responded. "How many merc groups are here again?"
"Three. Don't think I ever saw them working together before," Jacob answered in a conversational tone.
Assuming that there were three mercs outside, Shepard waited patiently, keeping his Tactical Cloak ready. Seeing a holopad on the table next to the terminal, he picked up and perused the contents. Plans against Aria? Huh, this might come in handy if I need to deal with her again.
After five minutes, Miranda called. "All clear, hurry."
Opening the door and locking it, Shepard stepping in line with his team as they walked past the Blood Pack. Noting the mercs were near an underground tunnel, they ran past the second barricade, looking all business. Even as the vorcha fell dead from a head shot right next to them.
Confirming his kill, Archangel adjusted his scope as he saw the man in black armor again. The low archways prevented a clear shot or a clear look, but he definitely identified the armaments he was carrying.
Spectre weapons! He frantically thought.
The figure looked human and there was only one human Spectre that was in service. The Council or the Alliance had yet put forth any new candidates for more human Spectres. With the security measures built into every HMW weapon and the fact they weren't widely known, there was only one man in Archangel's mind that fit the clues.
He's alive and he's here… Maybe I got a chance to survive this after all.
Seeing a freelancer standing well away from the third and final barricade, Shepard walked up and asked, "Where's Cathka?"
Ignoring the gunfire next to them the merc turned to face Shepard. "You and me both, pal." Pointing across the boulevard, toward a makeshift hanger, he directed, "He's over there, working on the gunship. We go over the bridge when he gives the word. Go talk to him if you want, but I'm in no hurry."
"Why haven't you talked to him?" Shepard asked.
"Because I'm not stupid. This assault is damn dangerous," he snapped. His actions belied his words though. Smart enough to know it's dangerous, still stupid enough to do it for the credits.
As if reinforcing the merc's point though one of the freelancers at the barricade fell dead from another clean headshot.
Taking another chance, Shepard and his team ran across the way, thankfully unharmed.
Stepping into the hanger, he approached and bunch of mercs standing around. "Cathka?"
One merc jerked his thumb toward the mechanic, still fixing the gunship. Motioning his team to wait, Shepard moved past the freelancers, noting that they were staring openly at Miranda. Hoping they weren't going to do something stupid, Shepard walked toward the Blue Suns merc, ducking under the gunship's wing.
The mechanic stopped his repairs and turned to look at Shepard, his helmet's visor tinted to protect his eyes from the arc welder he was using. "Sergeant Cathka," he corrected.
Tapping his helmet, the visor became transparent again as the batarian regarded Shepard. "Ah… you must be the group Salkie mentioned. You're just in time."
Shepard merely nodded.
"The infiltration team is about to give us the signal. Archangel won't know what hit him," Cathka said with a dark undertone. "Got any questions? This may be your last chance," he said as he put down the welder and picked up cigarette and lit up.
"So our plan is just jump the wall and make a run to Archangel's position?" Shepard asked skeptically.
"And try not to get killed too fast. You're only a distraction as long as you're alive," Cathka said morbidly. "You don't have to make it all the way across. Just keep Archangel watching that bridge. The infiltration team will do the rest," he explained.
"And how will the infiltration team get to Archangel?"
"They've got two options. They trap in close quarters, and finish the bastard off face-to-face. If that doesn't work, they have explosives. They'll just need time to set up," said Cathka.
Great. Demolitions. Have to disarm those.
Any other thoughts or conversations were interrupted as a commotion occured near the entrance to the hanger. Shepard turned his gaze toward the sounds just in time to see Miranda cold-cock a merc, dark energy surrounding her arm. The merc fell down and didn't get back up.
Immediately, the other three mercs as well as Miranda and Jacob drew their weapons on each other.
Correctly assuming what happened between Miranda and the unconscious or dead freelancer; Shepard drew his pistol and shouted across the room. "Hey! You really want to die for the idiot that couldn't keep his dick in his pants? You're being paid to kill Archangel; you're not being paid extra for fighting us. You guys really think this trouble is worth it?"
In a surprising show of intelligence, the mercs lowered their weapons, glaring at Miranda before leaving for the barricade.
Continuing as if nothing happened, Shepard asked Cathka, "Are you going to give us cover with the gunship?"
Despite the innocence of the question, the point was to determine if the gunship was working again and how difficult it would be to get Archangel and get out.
Cathka laughed. "Ha. Tarak is the only one who flies her. Besides, she's not quite ready. That bastard Archangel gave her quite a beating last time she was out there. A few more tweaks and she'll be as good as new," Cathka explained for before taking a smoke and blowing it in Shepard's face.
Waving his hand to clear the air from Cathka's toxic paper stick, Shepard asked, "Are you leading the assault?"
He laughed again. "Ha! Tarak doesn't pay me to fight. I just plan the attacks and fix the damn gunship. You freelancers get the privilege of --"
Anything more was cut off as a console next to them beeped. "Target is in sight. We're a go."
Cathka tapped the terminal. "Check. Bravo team – go, go, go!"
A flurry of activity happened as the mercs readied their weapons and prepared to assault Archangel's building.
"Archangel's got quite a surprise waiting for him. But that means no more waiting for me," Cathka said, tapping his helmet and changing the opacity of his visor.
Walking back to the gunship, he continued. "Got to get her back to a hundred percent before Tarak decides he needs her again."
Seeing the arc welder on the table, Shepard scooped it up before standing next to Cathka. "You're working too hard," he said, just before ramming the welder as hard as he could through Cathka's armor and into his spine.
As Cathka screamed, jerked, and spasmed, Shepard pulled out a grenade and linked it up to his omni-tool. Given the armor plating on the A-61 Mantis Gunship, the grenade may cripple it, but definitely not destroy it. Since every bit helps, he attached it to the underside of the gunship where the sergeant was working on, and stepped over Cathka's body.
Something's wrong Archangel thought.
The first thing he noticed was that the merc rushing his position didn't carry any symbols belonging to anyone. Freelancing mercs?
The second was that they were rushing across the bridge, firing blindly on his position. Suppressing fire, they're trying to distract me.
Archangel had an idea of what they were planning, but with the firepower aimed against him, there was little he could do.
Ducking to avoid a grenade from a launcher, Archangel immediately targeted the heavy weapons user and took him down.
Wherever you're doing, I hope you do it fast.
Seeing his squad secure their helmets, Shepard pulled his Recon Hood from underneath his Aegis Vest and slipped it on.
"Sounds like Archangel doesn't have much time," Jacob commented as they moved behind the freelancers.
"Then let's not wait around too long," Miranda quipped as she pulled out her Pulse Rifle.
"Radios only, no voice modules," ordered Shepard as he pulled out his pistol and a suppressor from another pouch. Attaching the suppressor to the pistol, he said, "Come on. We'll give these guys a surprise of our own."
Two more mercs were preparing to jump the barricade when Shepard and Jacob ran up to them. Grabbing one merc by the shoulder, Shepard pressed the silenced barrel of his pistol to the merc's unarmored head and double-tapped him.
Jacob merely drew his combat knife, reached around and slit the merc's throat.
All three of them jumped the barricade and proceeded to run after the other mercs. Stealth kills were an advantage, but moving quietly wasn't needed, since everyone was focused on the building ahead.
Four more mercs were on the bridge, shooting at Archangel's position. Jacob ran to the closest one, clapped his hand over the merc's mouth and ran the knife over his throat.
Passing Jacob by, Shepard immediately ran up to the next merc and gave him another quiet double-tap.
Miranda followed the two men closely with her Pulse Rifle in case they were finally caught and needed some fast firepower.
Seeing the next merc equipped with a helmet, Shepard used his own knife in favor of the pistol and slit his throat.
The final merc finally noticed that the gunfire behind him stopped. Turning around to find out what was going on; Jacob rammed his knife through the guy's chest and pressed his hand over the merc's mouth as he gargled, choking on his blood.
Nodding to the other's, Shepard moved as quickly as possible into the building. Inside, he saw two mercs tinkering with a bomb. Miranda sidled up next to him.
"Two hostiles. And a bomb. We'll take them out and then you disarm it. Jacob, cover Miranda while she works."
After hearing them acknowledge his order, all three enabled their voice modules and walked up to the two mercs. "Everything okay here?" Shepard asked conversationally.
"We're almost finished. In a few minutes, we'll bring this building down on this bastard's head. That's if the guys upstairs don't finish him off first."
"Good work," Miranda said, before pulling out her Predator and shooting one merc in the head.
The other merc tried to react, but Shepard's pistol was already up. Two bullets were immediately put into the chest and a third into the head, a classic Mozambique Drill.
"Get to work," Shepard ordered. Collapsing his pistol and drawing his shotgun, he ran up the stairs toward the last two mercs.
"Almost through?" Shepard asked, holding his shotgun loosely and in a nonthreatening manner.
The merc working on the door ignored him, but the other answered. "Yeah, as soon as the door opens up, we're throwing all the grenades inside as we can."
The merc looked around, before turning to face Shepard. "You the only one that made it?"
Shepard shook his head. "There are others downstairs. They're guarding the bomb."
"Good. We'll finally finish this crap," the merc snorted before turning his back to Shepard.
Seeing is his opportunity, Shepard pressed his HMWSG against his unsuspecting victim back and pulled the trigger.
At extreme close quarters, shields don't work and at point blank range, armor couldn't protect anyone from a shotgun blast.
As the merc when down with a gaping hole in his back, the other one turned toward the disturbance, only to catch another shotgun shot to his shields, draining them completely. As he fell back from the blast, a look of surprise on his face, Shepard fired again, locking the unfortunate man's facial expression permanently.
"Finished down there?" Shepard called into his radio.
"Just," Miranda answered. "We're regrouping with you now."
As he waited, Shepard inspected the door. There's no way a guy this would just leave the door locked and hope no one comes in.
Engaging his omni-tool, Shepard crouched in from of the door and ran a quick scan.
"Find something, Commander?" Jacob asked he and Miranda crouched besides Shepard in front of the door.
"Prox. Mine. Jacob, finish opening the door, I'll disarm it from here. Miranda, cover us."
He heard the shotgun blasts outside the room. He heard the sound of a cutting torch working again. Still, Archangel held his perch, kneeling in front of the railing. There was that one scout, right over there… Probably checking to see if the freelancers did their jobs.
The proximity mine wired to the door beeped as it was deactivated. Underneath his helmet, Archangel smiled.
The door unlocked and the mine disabled, Shepard and his team readied their weapons. Opening the door, they quickly swept the room, looking for any hostiles. The only one of note was the turian kneeling in front of the railing.
"Archangel?" Shepard asked.
Archangel lifted his left hand toward the others, silently telling them to wait. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he gripped his M-97 Viper Sniper Rifle and waited… The rifle bucked as he took the shot. Immediately the scout went down.
Groaning slightly as he rose to his feet, he held the weapon loosely as he turned to his 'guests'.
Seeing them lower their weapons, Archangel clearly saw the N7 emblem, finalizing the identity of the man in front of him.
Sitting down on an armrest of a nearby chair, Archangel took off his helmet and leaned on his sniper rifle.
"Shepard," greeted Garrus. "I thought you were dead."
Shepard's eyes widened in surprise. Taking off his Recon Hood, he smiled at the sight of his old friend. "Garrus! What are you doing here?"
"Just keeping my skills sharp. A little target practice," Garrus said, though the exhaustion was clear in his voice.
Shepard observed the condition of his old teammate. The Colossus Armor he'd bought for him was scratched and dinged, though still well maintained. Garrus himself was breathing a little bit heavy, but eyes remained sharp and responsive. His mandibles were open and closing slowly, a sign that he was happy or relieved.
"You okay?" Shepard asked concern in his voice.
"Been better, but is sure is good to see a friendly face," replied Garrus. "Killing mercs is hard work. Especially on my own."
"How'd you manage to piss of every major merc organization in the Terminus Systems?"
"It wasn't easy. I really had to work at it," Garrus joked. "I am amazed that they teamed up to fight me. They must really hate me."
"What are you doing here on Omega?" asked Shepard.
"I got fed up with all the bureaucratic crap on the Citadel," Garrus answered bitterly. "Figured I could do more good on my own. At least it's not hard to find criminals here. All I have to do is point my gun and shoot."
"So… since when did you start calling yourself Archangel?" Shepard asked with a smirk.
Garrus laughed. "It's just a name the locals gave me. For all my good deeds." Clearing his throat, he said, "I don't mind it, but please… it's just Garrus to you."
Getting back to business, Shepard stepped forward. "This is Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor. We're here to help Garrus. Getting here was the easy part, but getting out…"
"Not so easy. Yeah, but that bridge has saved my life… funneling all those witless idiots into scope," Garrus informed. Standing up and walking back to the window, he pointed out the disadvantages. "But it works both ways. They'll slaughter us if we try to get out that way."
"So we just sit here and wait for them to take us out?" Miranda asked sarcastically.
"It's not all that bad," Garrus replied calmly. "This place held them off so far. And with the three of you… I suggest we hold this location, wait for a crack in their defenses, and take our chances. It's not a perfect plan, but it's a plan."
Turning his head to face Garrus, Shepard couldn't help but ask, "How'd you let yourself get into this position?"
"My feelings got in the way of my better judgment. It's a long story," Garrus said angrily as he adjusted the scope on his rifle.
Shepard got the distinct impression that Garrus was angry at himself rather than at him.
"I'll make you a deal: you get me out of this alive, and I'll tell you the whole damn thing," Garrus promised.
"I took the liberty of sabotaging some of their equipment. They won't stand a chance against us," Shepard said.
Garrus nodded in approval, "That'll help." Bringing his Viper up, Garrus peered down the scope. "Let's see what they're up too…"
Shepard brought his HMWSR to observe the situation as well. He heard Garrus analyzing the situation. "Hmm… looks like they know their infiltration team failed. See that? Scouts. Eclipse, I think."
Shepard saw the light mechs the Eclipse leader was talking about jump the wall and approach their position. He pulled the trigger and with one shot earned two kills. "More than scouts. A couple less now though."
"Indeed. We'd better get ready."
"Miranda, Jacob. Get downstairs and hold the main entrance. Garrus and I will snipe as many of these bastards as we can. Wait for the heavy, you know what will happen then," Shepard ordered the Cerberus operatives.
"Aye aye, Commander." – "Understood, Shepard."
Garrus walked back to grab his helmet as Shepard slipped on his Recon Hood. "Just like old times, Shepard. Let's give these bastards everything we got!"
Both kneeled at the railing and began picking targets. In tandem, their rifles fired, dropping the lightly armored mechs long before they became a threat.
It wasn't long before the Eclipse mercs ran out hoping that the multitude of mechs would serve as an adequate distraction. Unfortunately for them, Miranda's Overload and Jacob's biotics covering the bridge turned their charge into pandemonium as mechs blew up from the attacks and provided ample opportunity for Shepard and Garrus to pick off targets.
"Ha! Never saw it coming!" Garrus crowed attacking with renewed vigor as the mercs began panicking at the added firepower.
Timing his shots carefully, Shepard fired another round at an engineer. The explosive round easily breached his shields and killed him as well as wounding another.
"Head's up! They're deploying heavies and snipers!" Jacob reported.
Shepard immediately turned toward enemies armed with the rocket launchers. Firing on them, he noted Garrus was aiming for anyone with a sniper rifle, hiding in the barricades.
"Overloading their systems!" Miranda called out.
A group of rifleman was guarding another heavy weapons user. Using Miranda's attack as his signal, Shepard focused on the merc trying to fix the overheated rocket launcher. One shot later, the heavy was dead and the explosive round killed two others.
"Up you go!" Jacob called out as two more mercs were airborne. A shotgun blast later and they were tumbling over the side of the bridge, their screams heard all the way from Shepard's position.
In what seemed like no time at all, the mercs were scrambling back behind their barricades to escape the killing grounds.
Shooting an asari Vanguard in the back of the head as she attempted to retreat, Shepard saw his opportunity. "Miranda, Jacob, fall back. They're bringing out the big guns."
Garrus fired another shot, killing another sniper before seeing what Shepard was seeing.
A crane was lifting a deactivated heavy mech over the barricade. Dropping its cargo, the mech immediately activated. Standing up, it began rapid diagnostics on its systems before the sensors on its head glowed red, signaling the mech was ready for combat.
Garrus cursed. "Damn it. They're sending out the heavy mechs."
Shepard merely smirked. "That problem should take care of itself."
Garrus gave him a questioning look, but prepared himself for anything.
The mercs that were retreating came back in full force believing the tides of battle were turning. They jumped the barricade staying behind the mech as it stomped down the bridge. After three steps though, the mech turned around and fired a rocket into a cluster of mercs, killing them instantly.
The Eclipse's elation turned to fear as their YMIR began firing indiscriminately on them.
"Nice…" Garrus commended. He and Shepard took the opportunity to take out any mercs with a rocket launcher that could threaten their new ally as Miranda and Jacob entered the room.
All four of them watched as the YMIR used its rockets to break through the barricade and stomp its way into the building opposite. After the lost visual, they could still see the occasional flashes of muzzle fire as the mech went berserk on the Eclipse.
"Hold position here," Shepard ordered. "Watch carefully."
They waited for a few minutes as the sounds of gunfire and explosions continued at the merc base. Garrus finally spoke up. "What are you watching for?"
"I think the Eclipse is on their own over there," Shepard observed. "If the Blood Pack or Blue Suns were in there, the mech should've been destroyed already."
"Do you have any idea where they are?" Garrus asked.
"There were some tunnels next to the Blood Pack," reminded Miranda. "They're probably coming from under us right now."
"And the Blue Suns have a gunship. They're probably using that to move their troops on top of our position," Jacob added.
Still watching the silhouettes of carnage Shepard summed up their tactical situation. "Blood Pack is coming in from below Blue Suns from above. We may not have to worry about the Blood Pack, but if that gunship is somewhere nearby, we'll never make it across that bridge."
"I thought I took that thing out," Garrus grumbled.
"They fixed it, but not completely. I made sure of that," Shepard said.
After a few more minutes, the Eclipse was running on the bridge again, except they were still firing in the other direction.
"Looks like your YMIR flushed them out," Garrus said before leveling his sniper rifle.
Shepard followed suit and the mercs found themselves in a crossfire as the heavily damaged YMIR limped out of the tunnels.
After firing a shot, Shepard collapsed his sniper rifle and turned to his omni-tool. Activating the self-destruction sequence on the mech, the YMIR exploded with fantastic results. The trapped mercs were caught in the blast, killing or wounding all of them.
"Ouch," Jacob deadpanned.
"Finally got you, you son of a bitch," Garrus suddenly said.
The three humans turned toward the turian as they watched him aim his rifle. A pull of the trigger and a familiar wounded salarian was dead.
"Scoped and dropped," he said with finality. Turning to Shepard, he praised, "You're kicking ass Shepard. They never stood a chance. And I got Jaroth in the process. I've been hunting that little bastard for months."
"The Eclipse leader? Why were you after him?" asked Shepard.
"He's been shipping tainted eezo all over Citadel space. Half the goods I seized back at C-Sec came from his team on Omega," he explained. "I took out a big shipment a while back and killed his top lieutenant in the process. Not surprised he decided to work with the other mercs after that."
"Well, we still have two more groups to deal with. What worries me is that there's no sign of them," warned Shepard.
"We should look for that gunship. If we take it out, we have a…" Garrus started, before an explosion rippled through the building.
"What the hell was that?" Jacob exclaimed.
Turning on his omni-tool, Garrus check his security cameras. "Damn it. Blood Pack's breached the lower levels. Well, they had to use their brains eventually."
"How many entrances from down there?" Shepard asked.
"Two. One's a set of tunnels that I managed to use explosives to seal. It's the largest one, so the bulk of the Blood Pack will be coming from there. You can stop them by sealing the shutter doors though," Garrus answered after checking his omni-tool.
"And the other?" Miranda asked
"Another tunnel, smaller, but I ran out of explosives, so all I could do was seal the doors and block it. If they've managed to breach through those doors, we can hold them off easily, but I'm worried about the larger tunnels," he responded.
"We'll split up, two and two. Jacob, you stay with Garrus and hold the smaller force here. Miranda and I will head for the shutters and stop them. Then, I'll use my grenades and block the entrance. All that should buy us the time needed to get out of here," Shepard commanded.
"You sure? Who knows what you'll find down there," Garrus warned.
"I'm sure," Shepard said confidently.
"If you say so, Commander. I'm not sure this is a good idea…" protested Jacob.
"We'll be fine. Just hold your positions. Let's go Miranda," Shepard said.
"Right behind you, Shepard," Miranda nodded.
The two ran down the stairs and through the door. Down another set of stairs were two doors to the left and right and a shutter in front of them.
With no signs of hostiles, Shepard took his chance to run toward the first shutter while Miranda placed grenades on the stairs and archway. No sooner did he hit the button, did the door down the hall open, revealing several vorcha and a krogan.
Miranda opened fire on them immediately forcing them to take cover in the archway. Shepard added own burst of firepower from his assault rifle. Three vorcha fell to their attack since all the available cover was taken by their owe fellows and the krogan.
An alarm was blaring overhead. "Commencing shutdown" a VI announced. "10 seconds before shutter shutdown."
"Son of a bitch!" cursed Shepard as the krogan and vorcha returned fire and drained a large chunk of their shields. Activating his omni-tool, he slammed on the button, bypassing the safety protocols and bringing the shutter down immediately.
"Well done," Miranda applauded.
They turned to the next door and flanked it. Shepard nodded to Miranda, who then opened the door. Bullets began flying through the archway. Seeing that his shields were charged, Shepard ran into the firepower, unleashing a hail of bullets of his own. His shields drained from the charge, forcing him to slide behind a large crate his chest armor taking a few rounds, but nothing penetrating. The enemies inside began firing on his position as he waited for his shields to regeneration and for a pause in their fire.
"Deploying tech overload!" he heard Miranda say. Chancing a look, he saw the combustible crates she'd been targeting explode, scattering their foes.
Taking the offensive Shepard ran from his cover as Miranda entered the room. Both were laying down suppressing fire on the Blood Pack as they scrambled to get their bearings. Tearing through the first wave, the second began firing, forcing the protagonists to cover. Shepard threw a grenade at the advancing vorcha and waited as the explosion killed a few. Moving forward, heard a growling just before a varren turned a corner and jumped, jaws snapping. Its teeth sunk into Shepard's left gauntlet and they both went down.
"Shepard!" Miranda called out. She moved to assist, but the two more Blood Pack vorcha started shooting, forcing her to fall back behind some more crates.
The varren twisted, trying to break through the ceramic plates inside the Heavy Damping Gauntlet. Reaching down to his hip, Shepard drew his knife and rammed it into the underbelly of the varren, forcing it to let go as it howled in agony. Taking the momentary advantage, he reached up to grab the varren's head and twisted sharply as hard as he could. Satisfied at the wet crack of broken vertebrae, Shepard grabbed another grenade and tossed it at the attacking vorcha.
They ran from the explosion, giving Shepard the opportunity to reclaim his HMWAR and jump back into the fight.
Shepard turned immediately to his right and saw Miranda on the ground, another varren biting her leg. Miranda drew her pistol and sat up, abruptly pulling her armored leg and the varren toward her body. Reaching out she grabbed varren with her left hand and pressed the barrel of her pistol into the varren's head with her right. Four shot's later, and she was cursing as she grabbed her Pulse Rifle and readied herself as Shepard covered her.
Firing on the vorcha and keeping an eye out for more varren, Miranda and Shepard alternated their attacks, one covering, while the other moved to the next piece of defilade. Vorcha were vicious and ruthless, but all could agree, they were not clever. In the face of the apparently randomizing attacks, brute force fell to tactics. Grenades, cloak, tech and biotics were used in conjunction with bullets. Shepard and Miranda pressed their attack, but soon found themselves at an equal disadvantage when they approached the shutter doors. Getting close means they were funneled and easy targets, just much as they were firing at the door, holding enemy reinforcements back.
"Shields down!" Shepard reported, as a krogan used his shotgun to break through the lines.
Blood Pack tended to use brute force over technology, so they lacked kinetic barriers, preferring armor instead. Miranda's Warp brought the krogan to his knees as his armor failed and the unstable dark energy began tearing him up.
"Cover me!" Shepard called out as he decided to use his newest heavy weapon. Shepard hoped that the Requisitions Officer wasn't embellishing about the M-490 Blackstorm Projector.
With his shields only charged at 50%, he rose up and pulled the trigger. A humming sound issued from within the weapon as a buildup of energy amassed at the barrel. Miranda fired at anyone that was aiming at Shepard, her shields failing as other vorcha tried to suppress her.
Three seconds later, a black ball of a few bits of matter encased in a high-mass increasing field launched out of the barrel. The near-infinite mass of energy slowly crossed the battlefield and through the doorway. About five feet away from Shepard's position did the sphere reach critical levels and began exhibiting characteristics of a black hole. Any Blood Pack that was unfortunate enough to be in the way was crushed to a bloody pulp as the miniature black hole crushed them. Others, only slightly less fortunate found themselves being pulled by the gravitational field it emitted.
Vorcha howled and screamed as they clawed the ground or grabbed onto anything to escape. Those that tried immediately became Miranda's focus as she fired on them mercilessly.
Staying away from the monster he created, Shepard sidestepped the direct approach and ran around some crates to reach the button. The singularity had stopped traveling in the middle of the hallway and began fluctuating violently, still pulling as many Blood Pack as it could into its event horizon. Feeling the pull of the projection, Shepard slammed his omni-tool on the button, causing the shutter to slam instantly.
"Run!" Shepard yelled to Miranda.
Without questioning him, she immediately ran in the opposite direction of the shutter, Shepard hot on her heels. Moments later, a thunderous explosion rocked the room and shutter dented, but held.
"What the hell was that?!" Miranda shouted as they returned to the main junction.
"My new favorite toy," Shepard said fondly as he put the Blackstorm away and pulled out his assault rifle.
"That's not what I…" Miranda's diatribe was cut off as Jacob radioed.
"Blood Pack broke through the doors! They're coming in!"
"We got one more shutter! Hold them off!" Shepard commanded. Turning to Miranda, he said, "Come on!"
The next hallway was littered with debris on the ground, some going waist high. Blood Pack merc were already there, climbing over. They looked up in surprise before the humans began running them down with their assault rifles firing simultaneously.
Leaping over the debris, Shepard rounded the corner at the end of the hall, only to jump back at the last second as a vorcha wielding a flamethrower ate away at his shields, almost breaking through them.
Pulling his second-to-last grenade, Shepard threw it around the corner, the fire bringing his shields down, but the armor holding against the flames. The grenade went off followed by a second explosion from the gas tanks of the flamethrower.
Miranda rounded the corner first this time firing through the doorway at the end of the tunnel. "More Blood Pack!" she reported as she took cover.
Shepard smiled underneath his mask as he collapsed his rifle and brought out his Blackstorm again. Behind her transparent face plate, Miranda smiled too. She jumped out of cover to use her biotics before laying down suppressing fire. Shepard followed and the familiar hum began again as the heavy weapon began charging…
Garrus stayed on the second floor, firing at all the vorcha coming through the door. Jacob stayed on the bottom floor crouched behind a pillar near the stairs, his shotgun still smoking from the last kill.
Their numbers had long since proved themselves as they flooded past the door were now firing on Garrus' and Jacob's positions.
Jacob popped out of cover to lift a charging krogan in the air. Helpless against the biotic's influence, the krogan roared in anger, firing his weapon wildly at anything, even his own men. The boom of a sniper rifle shot silenced his protests.
"Is that all you got?!" Jacob yelled defiantly as he used his Eviscerator's ability to punch through armor in conjunction with his incendiary rounds to rip through the Blood Pack ranks.
Garm and his men stepped into the room, crying out battle cries as they firing at anything not krogan or vorcha. "Raaah! Rip them to shreds!"
The boom of a sniper shot caused Garm to look to his right as a vorcha fell with a hole in its head. Turing to his left he spotted Garrus on the second floor.
"Watch my back," he ordered to everyone still alive. "I'll deal with Archangel!"
Before he took two steps, two more vorcha fell dead as Miranda and Shepard arrived.
"Kill them! Kill them all!" Garm roared.
Taking cover, Shepard began firing at the varren charging toward Jacob. Once dead, he looked to see two krogan ascending the stairs toward Garrus.
"Aim for the krogan!" Shepard shouted, before leveling his assault rifle at one and fired.
Jacob called on his biotics and arced dark energy from around his cover and to the attacking krogan. One was lifted in the air, but the other glowed with similar dark energy, resisting the attack.
"One of those motherfuckers has a barrier!" Jacob reported, putting his focus the krogan in the air.
Damn it! Battlemaster! Shepard thought. "Cover me!"
Pulling out his shotgun, Shepard danced between various covers he tried to get to Garrus.
"Garm's got me pinned down. I need help with this guy, Shepard!"
Pulling out his last grenade, Shepard threw it at the highest concentration of vorcha he could see. After the explosion, Shepard took the opportunity to run for the stairs as Miranda and Jacob began their offensive.
Running down the hall and into Garrus' room, he saw Garm firing at Garrus' cover, trying to flush him out.
Unloading his shotgun at Garm's back, Shepard abandoned finesse or tactics in favor of brute force in an effort to break through Garm's barrier.
Garm turned around as Shepard approached, his barrier finally failing. Firing his own shotgun, both men appeared to try to make their battle an endurance contest, whose shield would last. Shepard would win though; both knew it, he fired first and he was equipped with the superior weaponry. The moment Garm's barrier fell, Shepard's next shot peppered his armor, the next tore out a chunk of his leg. Roaring, Garm fired again, this time, breaking Shepard's shield. Thrusting out an arm, dark energy rammed into Shepard, flinging him across the room and against the wall, his shotgun dropped.
Sliding down painfully, spots danced across his vision from the impact, though the armor managed to mitigate most of the damage. As the Spectre struggled to his feet, he blurrily saw Garrus firing frantically at the krogan with an assault rifle as the krogan fired from his shotgun, his wounds already stopped bleeding.
The medical exoskeleton kicked in, flooding Shepard with painkillers. Shaking his head, Shepard tried focusing his mind and clearing out the cobwebs as he swayed on his feet. Clutching his head from the sudden vertigo, he saw his arm glow with the telltale sign of biotics.
Desperate enough to try, Shepard locked his focus on Garm and thrust out his arm. His biotic retaliation struck Garm in his back, making the large krogan cry out in surprise as he flew into the bunk beds lining the walls in the room.
A sickening crack was heard as Garm's arm was caught against the post of one of the beds before he landed painfully in a heap. Struggling to stand, he was helpless as Garrus used this advantage to shoot straight into his unprotected head.
Firing a few more times to ensure the krogan wouldn't get up, Garrus nodded gratefully Shepard.
Giving nod of his own, Shepard scooped up his dropped shotgun and radioed his team. "All finished down there?"
"We got them, Commander," Miranda's voice said from the doorway. She and Jacob entered no worse for wear.
"You okay, Garrus?" Shepard asked.
"I'm fine, Shepard. My shields held. What about you though? You took a hard hit," Garrus said, his mandibles fluttering.
"I'm alright, but I'm sure going to feel it in the morning," Shepard replied. "At least nothing was broken."
"Thanks for the help, Shepard. We managed to take out Garm and his Blood Pack. This day gets better and better," Garrus said with a smile. "He was one tough son of a bitch."
"You fought with him before?" Shepard asked while twisting his torso, trying to alleviate some of the pain.
"Yeah, we tangled once. Caught him alone. None of his gang to help him." Garrus shook his head. "Still couldn't take him out. I've never seen a krogan regen that fast. He's a freak of nature. He just kept at it until his vorcha showed up. It was close, but I had to let him go."
Garrus smiled again. "Not this time."
Walking to the railing and at the open door with all the dead Blood Pack mercs, Shepard suggested, "With the Blood Pack gone, the tunnels are clear. We could use those to escape and avoid the gunship and the Blue Suns altogether."
"I think you're right. Tarak's got the toughest group. We can rig some explosives on the way out. When they try to get inside the building, we'll…" Garrus was interrupted by the sounds of a Mantis Gunship soaring by the window. "Damn it!"
"Everyone down!" Shepard ordered.
The gunship fired through the windows as everyone hid behind pillars or the doorway. Pausing for a moment, the ship weaved back and forth searching for targets. Everyone held their positions, except Jacob who pulled his rocket launcher. Jumping from cover Jacob fired, the rocket locking onto the gunship and striking the side. The ship took off, flying up toward the roof.
Shepard took opportunity to use his omni-tool and detonate the grenade attached to the belly. Moments after the explosion, screams were heard. Everyone looked out of the window to see several Blue Suns mercs holding onto scorched ropes as they fell to their deaths.
Jacob couldn't help but laugh. "Nice one, Commander!"
Garrus' omni-tool beeped. Checking it, he cursed. "They're rappelling down the side wall! Ground floor!"
"Stay up here and provide cover fire, I'll move to the other balcony while Miranda and Jacob deal with them downstairs."
Garrus nodded, heading toward the railing.
The humans ran through the doorway. Shepard stopped and pulled out his sniper rifle as the Cerberus operatives ran down the stairs and took defensive positions.
They didn't wait long. Blue Suns came bursting through the windows, firing blindly into the room. Jacob launched a biotic attack the lifted one of the mercs into the air before he entered. He floated away from any ropes or ledges before falling.
Miranda waited as Shepard and Garrus began firing on the Blue Suns, forcing them to huddle together in the middle behind a counter. Engaging her omni-tool, she struck the center of the group, overloading their shields and weapons.
Taking advantage of the fact that their shields were down, Shepard called on his new abilities and arced his biotic attack toward the mercs. They were pushed away from cover, leaving them open to Garrus' and Jacob's follow up attack.
Ducking behind his railing again, Shepard saw the contrails of missiles just before they detonated against the wall next to him, draining his shields, but thankfully leaving him unharmed.
Aiming his rifle, he targeted the one reloading and fired, killing her and injuring another as their shields failed to protect them from the powerful rifle.
This time, Jacob used his biotics and soon the hapless heavy was flying near his fellows. He suddenly exploded as Miranda's Warp detonated against Jacob's Pull, killing the others.
Garrus surveyed the scene below, but there were no more mercs left alive.
The Mantis Gunship reappeared at the window to his left.
"Archangel!" Tarak yelled through the ship's microphones.
Garrus turned his rifle toward the Mantis' engine intake, hoping to disable it again.
Unfortunately, he was too slow this time. The heavy guns of the Mantis tore through his shields and into his armor. The high caliber bullets brought Garrus down, but the Colossus Armor held up against the worst of the onslaught. Crawling to cover as fast as he could, Garrus felt the rounds penetrate as dozens of bullets began striking vulnerable flesh.
"You think you can screw with the Blue Suns!" Tarak roared.
As Garrus leaned against a pillar in the side of the room, he heard Tarak scream. "This ends now!"
Looking around his cover, he saw the gunship hover in different position. Missiles!
Leaping as fast from his cover as his wounds would let him, the missile screamed into the room and then, everything went black.
Shepard ran into the room and slid into cover. "GARRUS!"
Garrus lay face down unmoving, his lifeblood pouring out of numerous wounds.
The gunship began firing bullets into the room again as Miranda and Jacob took cover at the doorway.
"Jacob! Bring that bastard down!!" Shepard yelled.
Waiting for the gunship to pause, Jacob took his shots, the rapid fire of the ML-77 Missile Launcher striking the gunship over and over.
Engaging his Tactical Cloak, Shepard left his cover and aimed his HMWSR Sniper Rifle at the gunship. The gunship jerked side to side as Jacob continued to fire missiles at it. Miranda joined into the fray, her Pulse Rifle adding to the cacophony of combat.
Shepard kept still, waiting for his shot, but the ship was moving too fast. Focusing, Shepard pushed as much synthetic adrenaline into his body as he could safely.
He could hear his heart beating rapidly. But his mind felt everything slowing down.
Focusing, he could see the missiles from Jacob's attack.
Focusing, he could see the tracers from Miranda's gunfire.
Focusing, he could see the pilot inside the Mantis, windshield broken from a missile strike.
Shepard put the scope of his rifle over his eye. Sounds began to slip away, save for the thumping of his heart.
Focusing, the movements of the Mantis seemed to slow to a crawl.
Focusing, he put the crosshair of the rifle on the pilot.
Focusing, he could see all four of the batarians eyes. He slid the crosshair over the top left one.
Focusing, he squeezed the trigger.
The sound of his shot was deafening, pulling Shepard away from his trance. The sudden rush of sights and sounds contrasted sharply with the tunnel vision Shepard forced himself into. Slightly disoriented, he saw the gunship go down in a tailspin, Tarak dead when the explosive round entered his head and detonated. The siege was over.
Collapsing his rifle, Shepard ripped off his Recon Hood as he approached Garrus' body. "Garrus? Garrus! Wake up!" he called out, lightly touching the turian's shoulder.
Garrus gasped, his eyes snapping open, moving erratically as his breathing came in short bursts. His right hand clutched the barrel of his rifle.
"Garrus! Quick get some medigel on these wounds! Hurry!" Shepard told the others. Turning to his friend, he called out, "Hold on! Garrus! We're getting you out of here! Just hold on!"
Miranda began scanning the wounds as she applied medigel on the worst she could find.
"Radio the Normandy! Make sure Dr. Chakwas is ready for us!" Shepard told Jacob.
"Normandy! We have wounded down here, send a shuttle for immediate pick up! Tell Dr. Chakwas to be ready. Multiple gunshot wounds and burns!" Jacob called into his radio.
Darkness and light both struggled for dominance in his vision as Garrus struggled to breathe. Dimly, he heard panicked voiced echoing in his mind.
"Mulit… shot…ds. Blee… ne… ilize…!"
Everything hurt at first, but now it seemed like a distant memory.
"Can… lp… Chakwas…"
Another voice joined the chorus. Another memory.
"Yo… be… fin… us… Tha… order!"
Orders… He'd never been one to follow orders well. His superiors in the turian military… Chellick and Pallin in C-Sec… Even his own father… There has been one man whose orders he did follow though. For some reason, his orders seemed to make sense. His orders demanded respect, and yet, they seemed to have earned it just as equally. Garrus never seemed to have trouble follow his orders despite the dangers, despite the odds, or despite the opposition…
He was talking, ordering, again. Garrus strained to hear the words clearly this time. "Do you hear me, Garrus?! You're going to be fine! That's an order!"
An order… Garrus never minded following his orders, despite questioning them on occasion. He always had his reasons, he always shared them, and he never flaunted his authority… because he cared about the lives of the people under him more than most, followed his own orders, and followed his own code. He followed his own people into the same dangers without hesitating…
"Yes, sir," Garrus rasped out, managing to acknowledge Commander Shepard's orders, before the darkness overcame the light and he heard no more.
Dossier: Archangel Mission Report
Extracted Archangel from mercenary siege and recruited him for the team.
Unclear whether injury to Archangel will impair his ability to assist in the mission.
Regardless, revelation of identity as Garrus Vakarian useful in keeping Shepard comfortable.
Some more minor changes to some weapons. Before anyone cries foul, suppressors do exist in Mass Effect. In the book Mass Effect: Revelation, Anderson, who was a lieutenant at the time, used a silencer on a pistol to infiltrate a base to rescue someone. He killed two guards with it.
I figure an Infiltrator with the ability to vanish using optic camo should have the ability to use silencers.
Also, knives. Marines carry knives. Soldiers carry knives. Even airmen carry knives. In Call of Duty 4, they use knives. So, hell yes, in ME, people carry knives.
BTW, Soldiers, different from Marines. For the Army, they're called soldiers. The Marines are called the Marines. Ask them. They'll say the same.
Credit for the inspiration of suppressors, knives, and the Mozambique Drill goes to Havoc-legionnaire. Thanks.
With regards to the Blackstorm, I wanted its gravity sucking power to be a bit delayed. If it could suck people in immediately, then every time you shoot that thing, you should get sucked in. Makes for a crappy weapon in novel terms.
Next, shields. In ME lore, they're designed to stop bullets or any object traveling at a certain speed. Physical attacks aren't stopped by shields, too slow. Punches, kicks, and knife attacks are blocked by armor. Also, shields are generated a certain distance away from the body. Put a gun at point blank range, and you bypass shields entirely.
Finally, Shepard's biotics. I know he learned Push in a few hours. Consider this though, you play a soldier in ME1, no biotics whatsoever. Then, you import the save file into ME2, and change your class to adept, where you don't use any guns. It's like Shepard can't remember how to shoot an assault rifle, but he can sling biotics like he's been doing it all his life. WTH? I have a simple explanation for his ability to learn next chapter. It is simple and it might piss a few people off. I hope you all bear with me.
As always, I look forward to any comments or criticisms.
Interlude II is coming up soon.