Monday, 7 July 2014

Betrayal - Part 10

The fire spread quickly. She was forced to retreat back into the room with the dead bodies of the Alliance team - pushed by a wall of flames.
Her shields overloaded due to the heat almost immediately. She could feel the flames radiating through her armour.
Smoke was beginning to fill the top of the room. She coughed, and scrambled towards the body of the squad leader - removing his helmet and fitting it in place on her head, twisting it to engage the seal.
Keating breathed fresh, cold air. But the heat was still there.
There was static through the radio, "HHHHHH Hello?" said Anderson's voice.
"Anderson!" Keating shouted, trying to get her voice audible above the crackling flames, "Help!"
The fire was advancing. She took a step back and lost her balance, falling. She tried to stand up again but it seemed her legs had given out altogether.
Keating scrambled backwards, using her arms to pull her out of the way of the pursuing flames.
"We're sending an extraction team," said Anderson.
Her back hit a wall, causing her to hiss in pain from her injury. She turned to see if there was an escape route - there wasn't. The fire had surrounded her.
Sophia's mind went back to her biotic training, searching her brain for something which would come in useful. She tried to recall the lesson about biotic barriers.
High gravity mass effect field...
She raised her hands, and the air flickered blue before resuming its normal colour.
Keating attempted again, but all that came was another flicker. She could feel her energy beginning to drain, her limbs getting heavier by the second.
She tried again, putting as much energy into the barrier as possible. The air shimmered with biotic energy before it lapsed and disappeared again.
Sophia cursed, the flames getting closer. She could only hear the crackling and roaring of fire. Smoke filled the top of the room like a blanket, whilst the fire raged beneath.
She was amazed her armour could stand up to such heat. The fire engulfed her - the only thing stopping her from being burned alive was a layer of ceramic and kinetic padding.
Other than the temperature warnings on her head up display, all she could see was orange. Her visor began to become black with soot which blocked her vision slightly.
She froze in fear. She was going to die. The inside of her armour began to get hot and she hissed in pain as she felt the back of her hands burn and was unable to do anything about it.
The blackness obscured her visor completely, shutting her off from the world. She could see nothing - she had no idea where the flames were. Her feet began to sting as the heat burned her skin. The fire was getting through. It was only a matter of time before she cooked inside her own armour.
She drew her feet and arms in close so they wouldn't burn anymore.
Her eyes saw nothing, her ears heard only crackling, her mouth was full of the acidity from the smoke and the skin of her hands and feet felt nothing but pain.
She curled up into a ball. Her arms began to burn, as did her ankles. She grimaced as the heat spread across her body, scorching her skin.
Sophia heard voices, but they were distant. The flames took away their words and drowned them away with crackling.
She felt hands grasp her shoulders and pull her to her feet. Her legs collapsed so she fell back down. She wiped her visor clean of the blackness and looked into the helmet of her rescuer. He was wearing a breather helmet and had a weapon slung around his shoulders that she did not recognise.
"Sophia Keating?" he asked her.
She nodded.
He lifted her up again and moved her arm so it was around his shoulder. He aimed his weapon at the surrounding flames and squeezed the trigger, causing a jet of water to spurt out of the muzzle and begin to extinguish the fire.
"Let's go," he said, and began helping her towards the nearest window. They made slow progress - with her burned feet which made every step agony, and her ruined legs. But they managed to get where the flames were thinner so she didn't get burned any more, even if she did still wince every time she placed her foot down.
At the window, there were two ropes. A Kodiak shuttle hovered above, where the ropes trailed from.
"... I can't do it," she said to the man, "My legs are fucked up."
"Attach it to your belt," he said, "They'll pull you up."
She tied the rope several times around the belt her armour had, making sure it was secure. The man let go of her and she collapsed, but the rope held her up when it pulled taunt.
He held back the flames with another gush of water from his weapon. She felt a pressure on her waist and stomach, causing her to put her hands on the slash in her stomach instinctively as she was pulled up towards the shuttle.
The man was just behind her.

1 week later...

David Anderson couldn't help but wince and shake his head as he walked into the bar. Loud, rhythmic music assaulted his ears. His eyes scanned the large gathering of people - most of them mercenaries.
He found the person he was looking for. Sat at the bar drinking some kind of alcohol. Anderson moved in her direction, and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned, and he immediately noticed the long scar down her face.
"Detective Keating," he said, "You were hard to track down."
"Ex-Detective," she corrected him, "How did you find me?"
"We have our ways. Generally speaking, having a fist fight with a Krogan tends to get you unwanted attention."
She shrugged, "He threatened people. I gave him a taste of his own medicine.
Anderson smiled slightly, "I'm here to offer you a job, Keating. You've shown promise, across the board. Hand-to-hand combat, firearms, biotics... the Alliance needs you. We need every biotic we can get."
She shrugged, "I'll think about it."
"Cerberus have made several attempts to gain a foothold back in Vancouver. But you sorted them out. Proving to them, if no one else, that they're not as untouchable as they think. The Alliance Defence Council are finally taking direct action against them. But there are other Cerberus headquarters on other planets that need to be taken down. There are rumours of them taking civilians against their will."
"I don't think Privates tend to go to other planets," Sophia pointed out.
"You wouldn't be joining as a Private. We need you to join the Interplanetary Combatives Training. We need people like you."
"That's the N7 programme, right?"
Anderson nodded, "Yes. After a few years of training you'll be put into a leadership role. Maybe even a Commander, depending on how effective you were in combat situations."
"Commander Keating?" Sophia questioned, "Well, it sounds better than Private Keating."
"You are no longer the woman we interviewed back at our base," Anderson pointed out, "You've changed."
She shrugged, "Whatever. I was fired from my job, something about 'posing a risk to staff'. Apparently Cerberus has put a price on my head."
He nodded, "Yes. That's why we think it's important for you to learn how to protect yourself."
"I've completed a ship I was building. But I have no idea about what to name it. Alliance Frigates are named after large battles, aren't they?"
"Yes. Search the extranet. You'll come up with a name for the ship."
"I've already looked. But I can't decide which sounds better, the SSV Naseby or the SSV Hattin."
Anderson shrugged, "The SSV Naseby sounds good. So you'll be joining us?"
She nodded, "Yes. I will. I want to get some revenge on Cerberus. I want to bloody crush them."

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Betrayal - Part 9

Keating felt hopelessly outgunned, only armed with her pistol. In comparison to the guns Cerberus were using, her M-3 Predator was ridiculously weak.
So she took a Cerberus submachine gun. It felt much heavier than her pistol in her hands. She slid the Predator back into its holster.
The gun was white in colour and had "M-25 Hornet" written on its base. The front of the weapon outweighed the back, so it hung down slightly. She had to hold it two handed to keep it level.
She stepped into the second room, through a doorway. This room was barely complete - white sheets covered most of the floor, step ladders were dotted around and there were no windows. Wind whistled through the room.
Brian was stood at the far end, tapping his fingers against a holographic terminal.
She pointed her submachine gun at him, "Brian, step away from the console. Slowly."
"I can't do that, Soph."
"Step away!" she ordered.
He shook his head.
Sophia fired to his left, and the weapon fired a burst of three shots that hit the wall in quick succession, the second and third higher than the first one due to muzzle climb.
"I told you to step away."
"I know you won't shoot me, Sophia. So you might as well drop the gun."
"In fact," said a familiar female voice, "You may want to keep the Hornet. You'll need it."
She turned, seeing the woman who had been in the gunship. She fired off another burst, but the Cerberus operative knocked the gun out of her hands and launched a kick at her stomach. Keating stumbled back, drawing her pistol.
She began to back away, firing her pistol whilst doing so.  The woman raised her hand, and a bubble of blue energy surrounded her, making the rounds stop in their tracks. When the gun clicked empty, the Cerberus operative drew a sword from her back and slashed forwards.
Keating jerked her head back, but the sword was longer than she had thought - it cut straight through her helmet and made a long cut from her ear down to her lips. She hissed in pain.
Her head up display began malfunctioning, flickering on and off. Sophia backed away quickly until enough space was between them for her to remove her helmet safely. Her hand went to her cheek and felt the cut. Her gloved palm came away covered in blood.
The woman ran at her and attempted to run her through. Keating quickly sidestepped out of the way, slamming her elbow down on to operative's shoulder and launching a kick at her knee. The woman grunted in pain and sliced her sword at Sophia's stomach.
However, the attack was rushed and the sword just cut into her armour rather than disembowelling her.
Keating backed away again into the first room she had been in. She threw a ball of biotic energy at the woman, but she dodged out of the way at the last second. The Cerberus operative charged at her with a sword. Before they could meet however Sophia threw a shockwave which knocked her back.
She hurried to where she had thrown the assassin out of the window previously and grabbed the sword which lay on the floor.
"Your biotics have increased in strength since we last met," said the woman, striding towards her, "How interesting."
Keating swung her sword with both hands, slashing it through the air towards the Cerberus operative. The woman easily blocked Sophia's sword with her own, and knocked it wide. Keating slashed her sword again but the woman sliced before, cutting through her armour and opening a long but shallow cut across her stomach.
Keating threw a shockwave which knocked the woman back again, then her hands moved to her abdomen.
The Cerberus operative growled and launched herself at her. Keating stepped forward to meet her charge and swiped her sword. The blade was blocked and Sophia was pushed, so the woman sliced her knees then as she stumbled forwards, sliced into her back as well.
Sophia fell to her knees which suddenly gave way under her weight. She hissed in pain and clutched at her stomach. Blood ran down from her cheek, and she could feel hot liquid running down her back. Her gloves were almost completely stained crimson.
"That must really hurt. Did the Alliance even train you to use a sword before they let you out?"
Keating shook her head, just as the infiltration team swung in through the window.
The woman turned and immediately engaged the new hostiles. She sliced the squad leader from his neck to his stomach and he dropped to the floor.
Sophia was struggling to get to her feet. Her knees kept giving way every time she put weight on them and her pistol was out of reach. She could do nothing to save the lives of the Alliance team.
The Cerberus operative darted from soldier to soldier, cutting each one. There were several gunshots but the woman's shields simply absorbed the impact. Her sword was just a crimson blur, and every few seconds another soldier went down. With the lethal efficiency that she was dispatching the squad, Keating had to wonder whether she had been using her full power when fighting her, or if she had preferred toying with her instead.
There was only two soldiers left. Keating managed to get to her feet, using the sword to steady herself. By the time she had taken a step forward, it was down to one.
She moved as fast as she could with her injured body. The Cerberus operative swung her sword, slashing the last soldier across the chest just as Keating ran her through with her sword.
Her hands scraped against the tip of the blade as if she thought she could survive such a fatal blow. She gurgled slightly and Keating pulled the sword out of her chest.
The woman immediately collapsed.
"That's for the Alliance, bitch," Keating growled, then nearly lost her balance. She managed to steady herself on the sword, but felt her knees growing weaker and weaker by the second. She slowly hobbled back to where her pistol lay and collected it from the floor, reloading it the best she could with one hand.
Tears were streaming down her face. She was alone. There didn't seem to be any Cerberus soldiers left, but she had no backup. She had no idea what to do. She felt angry at the Alliance for sending someone with no experience whatsoever into a combat zone, even with her now-powerful biotics.
Keating hobbled back to where Brian had been. He was still tapping on the terminal, swiping orange holograms around the screen.
She managed to sneak up to him and point her pistol through his kinetic barrier.
"Brian, deactivate the terminal."
"You're lucky to be alive. I take it you killed Rachel?"
"If Rachel was that Cerberus bitch, yes, I did," she said. Brian slid two sections of the terminal together and she took a quick look, reading the information that was on the screen.
"... You're aiming a missile at the Citadel," she realised, "That's why there were rocket tubes inside the building."
Brian chuckled dryly and nodded, "Yes. Well done."
"Deactivate it or I swear I will blow your brains all over the wall."
"Admit it, Soph, you still love me. You would never shoot me."
"To save the Citadel? Yes, I would. What on earth are you doing, wanting to kill so many innocents? This isn't like you."
"Innocents?" he scoffed, "They think of humanity as second-class citizens. We will never get a seat on the Council. We won't even become Spectres. So why should we accept this? Why should we accept that the Citadel will always think humanity is below them, rather than doing something about it?"
"Because it's wrong, Brian." Her hand was starting to shake, and a tear rolled down her cheek, "... What happened to you? You were always so nice and we could have spent our lives together."
"I saw the light," he responded, giving the terminal a last swipe. A large button appeared on the console.
His hand moved towards it.
"Brian, stop!"
He ignored her.
She pulled the trigger. The gunshot from her pistol seemed unusually loud. Blood and gore exploded from the other side of Brian's head, and he collapsed with a surprised look on his face.
"... I'm sorry," she said, "... I'm so sorry."
Keating deactivated the terminal, then burst into tears.
"Detective Keating," said a smooth male voice from the terminal. It gave no hint at the age or birthplace of the person whom it belonged to, but was assertive and full of confidence, "You should be dead. I would have never got you involved if I had realised what a pain you would be."
She turned back to the console, "... What? Who are you?"
"I am the head of Cerberus. You have interfered with our operation. Thanks to you, humanity will never gain its rightful place on the Council. We will never become Spectres. We were fighting for justice, and you took it away from us. We cannot allow you to get away unscathed."
"I just saved the lives of millions of people and you're criticising me for it? What kind of asshole are you?"
"The type that will make an example of you. It is important we send a symbol to our enemies that we will take vengeance on those who act against us.
On the floor above, and the floor beneath you, are two incendiary devices which we have set to explode. We won't be meeting again. Goodbye Detective."
"Shit," she hissed, just as there were two loud explosions.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Betrayal - Part 8

They abseiled down the building. According to the squad leader, Brian was on the thirty-second floor. The team had split up into smaller ones - three per team. The plan was to clear a third of the tower each, then meet up to clear the lowest third. Two of the three teams had already swung in through the windows.
Keating and a soldier she had heard being called Cooper stopped slightly above the window of the thirty-second floor. Cooper had helped her to abseil - they had been attached together.
Cooper shot the glass with his pistol and swung himself in, detaching the clips which had attached him to the rope before he had even touched the floor.
She swung in, but her entrance was nowhere near as smooth as Cooper's. She nearly fell over, but managed to regain her balance and slide into cover as the gunfire started.
Her shields went down almost instantly - warnings flared from her head up display. She allowed her kinetic barrier to recharge before she poked her head from around the corner from the desk and took a quick glance around the floor.
Three soldiers carrying sub-machine guns were the only enemies in the room. She opened fire on the nearest one, driving him into cover.
Cooper's form flickered then vanished altogether - he had activated his tactical cloak. There was only a slight haze but it was unrecognisable as human.
A second later, the soldier she had attempted to shoot dropped with a large hole in his chest. Cooper became visible again, on the other side of the room and in cover.
Keating felt the energy build up again and thrust it outwards - a shockwave rippled from her hand and carried across the room, knocking over all the desks in its path. It knocked the Cerberus soldiers to the floor, which Cooper finished off with his sniper rifle.
"Room clear," she heard Cooper say, "Come on Keating."
She moved from behind the desk and reloaded her Avenger. Before she took a step forward, something caught her eye. An elegant female figure dropped from the ceiling above Cooper and landed silently behind him like a phantom and drew a sword.
"Cooper!" she called urgently. He spun, but it was too late. The Cerberus figure thrust her sword into Cooper's chest and pushed it all the way through. As the assassin pulled her sword out, Cooper dropped to the floor.
Keating opened fire on the assassin - but she simply cartwheeled into cover and vanished from view. Another tactical cloak.
She searched for the familiar haze and flickering which was a tell-tale sign of a tactical cloak - but saw nothing.
Then the air flicked in front of her. She managed to squeeze the trigger of her rifle and fired a handful of shots before the assassin's blood-covered sword sliced downwards and cut her rifle in half.
She dropped the remaining half of the weapon and used her biotics to throw the assassin back. Sophia used the distraction to draw her pistol as the assassin closed in again.
Keating fired with her pistol, striking the shields of the assassin but otherwise doing no damage.
She raised her hand quickly, her arm tingling with energy. The assassin was slammed against the ceiling and she threw her back down to the floor again with a sickening thud. The Cerberus assassin didn't get up.
Keating rushed to Cooper's side. She used her Omni-tool to apply medi-gel to his wound.
"Are you alright?" Sophia questioned, a hint of panic in her voice.
Cooper's breath was ragged and he had lost a lot of blood.
"Keating..." he said in a weak voice, "Look... Out..."
She turned, seeing the assassin had got to her feet and was advancing with a shotgun. Sophia fired her pistol again but the assassin ducked into cover and vanished again.
"Not this time, bitch," she growled, throwing a shockwave at the desk where the assassin had been a moment before. She heard a thud as the desk collided with the assassin, which disrupted her tactical cloak. The assassin was thrown backwards by the desk. Glass smashed, and the Cerberus killer fell out of the window. The only thing left was her sword.
There was no response. She turned to see Cooper take his final breath before his body relaxed.
Her hand went to the side of her helmet, activating her radio, "Cooper is down," she said, "... Help. I don't know what to do..."
The reply came a moment later, "Clear the floor. We'll start heading down. We're nearly done here."

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Betrayal - Part 7

She passed through the questioning with relative ease - answering everything to the best she could. She had been interviewed by two Alliance officers. One seemed relatively nice, and the other seemed to accused her of working with Cerberus. She wasn't going to fall for the good cop, bad cop routine so paid it no attention and carried on regardless.
There as a knock at the door. One of the officers - the "bad cop" - went to answer it. There were several hushed whispers which were slightly out of her earshot as the interview continued.
"So after you returned home from hospital," the "good cop" said, "You returned home and found these?"
Keating nodded, pushing back tears, "... Yes I did."
The "bad cop" exited the room to be replaced by a man who walked in with blue Alliance uniform. He had dark skin, and was nearly bald.
"I'm Captain David Anderson," he said, "I'm overseeing this operation."
Keating nodded as a greeting.
"We've just got word that the Alliance biotic training programme you were part of was just attacked by Cerberus forces. There was a similar event in the Vancouver police station. Cerberus is after you, Detective. I don't know why. But as far as I'm aware, an enemy of Cerberus is a friend of ours."
Keating put her head in her hands, "Did they... kill anyone?"
"I don't know. We have reports coming in as we speak. They're in control of the police station but we've deployed a strike team. Is there anything you can tell us about Cerberus? I read your file. They put you in hospital yesterday."
"I've told you all I know already. About the building, about them trying to kill me, everything."
"You told us that your partner works for Cerberus. What is his name?"
"... Brian Richards," she told him, "His name is Brian Richards."
"Sir," said the "good cop, "To build a skyscraper in the city you need a planning permission from the Alliance. If we track the permit we can actually know where the building is."
"Get it done, Harrison. We need the information as soon as possible. We don't know what Cerberus is up to, but it's not going to be good."
"So is that it?" Keating asked, "Can I go home?"
Captain Anderson shook his head, "I'm afraid not. Cerberus are trying to locate you, Detective. We have no idea whether they know you're with us yet or not - but it won't be long until they come for you. We need you with us."
"But I can't fight. I can barely stagger someone with my biotics. I just want to go home."
"You can't go home. My guess is that they have already tried. That would have been the first place they looked for you."
"... So I'm just going to stay here?"
"We need your help. Richards could be involved in some way. It's his building. It's likely he will be there. You can talk him down."
"... I just said I never wanted to see him again. I doubt I can do anything."
"You're the best hope we've got, Detective. We need you on this mission."

She sat in the centre of the training area. To her left there appeared to be a large boxing ring, where a man was stood, and to her right a shooting range. There were several other things dotted around - obstacles like foam walls and replica vehicles. She saw an Alliance fighter and a Mako, perfectly copied out of plastic
"You're going to be trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat," Anderson explained, "It would be against policy to put a civilian into a combat zone without any preparation. Well, it's against protocol to allow civilians into battle anyway, but we're going to break it this once."
"I don't think I can do anything to help you," Keating sighed, "I really don't. Can I have something to eat? I'm hungry."
"We'll get a sandwich from the mess hall for you whilst you train. The first thing you do is train in hand-to-hand combat in the boxing ring."

At the end of the training - almost a day of gruelling tasks which had pushed Keating to her very limit - she was approached by Anderson. The Captain activated his Omni-tool, activating a holographic vid which seemed to be playing an article from the Alliance News Network.
"Alliance teams have managed to take back the police station in Vancouver and the biotic training programme. However, many people are left unaccounted for. We believe Cerberus has taken them hostage, but the Alliance has not yet received any requests or ransoms for their release."
"... Shit," Sophia said, "So Cerberus has hostages?"
Anderson nodded, "We believe so. Our best hope is that we can just get there as fast as possible. We've found the building and we're assembling an infiltration team to get in. We need you to be part of it, Detective. From your training, you have the highest firearm accuracy out of any recruit I have ever seen in. We sure could use you in the Alliance after this is all finished."
"If I make it out," Keating sighed glumly, "It isn't every day I get sent into a bloody building full of terrorists."
"Which reminds me, we have a Bio-Amp for you. The records from the training programme show that you have Asari-level control but lack the damage necessary for some of the more powerful attacks. This amp will amplify the electrical signals from your brain so your biotics will have a greater effect, a longer duration and most importantly - more damage. These are military issue - model L5x. Not available to the general public."
"Amps? I don't use them."
"Now that explains your lack of damage. We need another biotic in the infiltration team - we only have one so far and he's barely adequate. There aren't enough biotics to waste and you have potential. You will need a small operation where the chip is implanted at the base of your neck. As long as you keep the area clean there will be no problems. The operation has a one hundred percent success rate."
"I'm not sure. What kind of results would I get? Is it worth it?"
Anderson nodded, "In the long term, yes. At your training level you will only be able to make some of the weaker attacks - slam, pull, throw, maybe the occasional shockwave. Powers like singularity and warp will need more training, but you will eventually be able to manage them."
She sighed and paused for a moment, thinking about whether or not to have the implant. Did she really want a hole in her neck full of technology? Yes, it would have made her biotics useful, for once, but it still sounded like a pretty big operation, despite the hundred percent success rate.
Sophia had never been a good Detective, nor very good at biotics. But by the sound of it, she could become a good soldier - and the Bio-Amps would increase her biotic damage. She wasn't sure how much Alliance soldiers were paid, but it must have been around thirty thousand credits for every mission they went on. More than she'd get paid in a year as a Detective, which she was no good at anyway.
"What kind of damage increase will I expect?" she asked, curious about the statistics.
"Up to a hundred percent damage increase, forty percent for duration."
"I'll do it. Then is that it? We can go?"
"We have to get you equipped with your armour and weapons. But yes, after the operation you're free to go with the infiltration team. There's no recovery time for the procedure so you'll be ready to go as soon as it's done."
She nodded, "Alright."

Keating sat in the back of the shuttle with the rest of the infiltration team. Unlike the rest of the squad, she had no tactical cloak. Tactical cloak or "cloaking" was a device which rendered its user nearly invisible to the naked eye. She had no idea why she hadn't been given one, but she presumed it must have served some purpose.
In her arms, she carried a standard issue M-8 Avenger assault rifle with an extended barrel for the rounds to move faster, and an upgraded cooling system so she could fire more shots before she had to reload. In a holster located on her belt she had an M-3 Predator pistol - also standard issue - and it had similar modifications applied to it.
She gently probed the back of her neck curiously, feeling a slight bump beneath the skin where the chip was housed. She had barely noticed the operation had taken place - something she was quite thankful of. She had been given some anti-bacterial gel that she had to apply daily - and that was it.
"So we'll land on the roof and abseil down. Expect heavy resistance from the moment we set foot on to the building. We're not sure what state it's in - there might be construction undergoing. Our intel suggests that the builders and construction workers know nothing about what they're actually doing or who they're doing it for - thanks to Brian Richards, who Sophia here has experience with. Her job will be to apprehend Richards whilst the rest of us clear the building. We'll scan the building on approach and get a lock on to Richards' position."
"So I'll go in first?" Sophia questioned the squad leader, whose name she had not been told, "After you've located him?"
The squad leader nodded, "Yes. If you manage to talk him down, hopefully the rest of the building will stop fighting. We get in, capture everyone we can, and get out again. Job done."
"And what if things turn into a shit storm, sir?" asked one of the infiltration team, "It's Cerberus. The last time we took this kind of action against them they led us into an ambush."
"We'll hit them fast and we'll hit them hard. Helmets and shield generators on. ETA to the drop zone is less than a minute."
Keating reached over to the other side of the shuttle to collect the breather helmet that she had been issued with. She put it over her head and clicked it into place so it fastened to the rest of her armour - and twisted it to lock the seal. The effect from the helmet was almost like air conditioning - it provided clean, fresh oxygen despite the tension like electricity in the air around her.
She heard several high pitched noises - automatically delivered to her ears by some high quality speakers inside the helmet. It allowed her to hear sounds clearer than if she had been wearing no helmet at all, which was an odd sensation. She activated her shield generator along with the other members of the team - hearing a similar noise as it began working.
Keating felt the shuttle lurch slightly as it began its descent. The engine's rhythmic, electronic whining got higher in pitch as it hovered slightly above a metre away from the roof of the building, door already opening.
Gunshots were audible. Heavy weapons, possibly some kind of semi-automatic rifle, sent rounds thudding into the shields of the shuttle. Blue ripples spread from the impact point as the kinetic barrier stopped the shots in their tracks.
Keating swung herself out of the vessel. Her shield was already flickering as rounds struck. She saw several armed soldiers - wearing white armour and helmets - advancing towards the shuttle. They were staying in cover; there were metal containers dotted around the landing area which they used for protection.
The infiltration team used a similar tactic, running for cover. She followed the team, sliding behind a metal container.
"Flank them!" she heard a Cerberus trooper say. Immediately she began to see several of the armoured soldiers moving around the side of the containers.
She opened fire with her rifle, steadying it with her shoulder. There were several small flashes as they took down the first soldier's shields, and hit him in the chest with several rounds. Blood splashed across the front of his armour and he dropped.
"Nice one, Keating," said one of the infiltration team.
She switched targets to the second flanking soldier and began stripping his shields. However, before she fully completed the task there was a whump from the side of her. The top half of the soldier's body was completely ripped apart. Keating flinched, shocked by the sudden removal of the Cerberus trooper's body from the waist up.
"Keating!" yelled the squad leader, "Take out the container!"
She moved back so she was fully protected behind the metal along with the rest of the team. They had sustained no losses, and no casualties, but were pinned down by gunfire from the Cerberus soldiers - who were using the container ahead of the team to their advantage.
"I... Can I throw that much weight?"
The sound of gunfire was nearly deafening - especially considering the amplification from her helmet.
"Just bloody throw the container back!" came the response.
Sophia felt the energy build up in her arms, which began writhing with a blue biotic glow. She pushed her arm forward, and the metal container which the Cerberus soldiers were using suddenly became airborne and flew backwards. She heard several grunts of pain and several crushing noises before the container dropped off the edge of the building.
There was several more gunshots from the infiltration team. Then nothing.
"Rooftop secure," came the acknowledgement from the team leader.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Betrayal - Part 6

She didn't ring the Alliance Defence Council directly - that would be a complete waste of time. Instead, she rang the military division. She wasn't going to wait for the Defence Council to finish their bullshit before seeing her.
Keating spoke to the Alliance, pushing back tears all the way through the conversation.
"... I've found plans for a building," she said, "It belongs to Cerberus. I think you might want to see it..."
"We'll send some people over. What's your address?" was the reply.
At least the Alliance military knew how to get things done.

A military Kodiak shuttle landed outside her apartment ten minutes later. It bore the Alliance colours - blue, black and white. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and answered the door.
They had sent two uniformed officers. Each had a holster around their waist and looked very serious. They were a welcome change to the nonsense of the Defence Council.
"Are you Detective Sophia Keating?" the lead officer asked.
She nodded, "I am. Come in.""
Keating felt completely broken and she kept blinking away tears, but she was determined to hand over the documents to the Alliance. Hopefully they would be able to take Cerberus down once and for all.
She handed the papers over to the officer who had spoken, "... Here you go. I'm not a hundred percent sure what these plans mean but they are for a building made for Cerberus."
Both officers looked over the papers. It took them several moments and neither of them spoke, just the slightest grunt as they passed over a few pages concerning the building's basement.
"What is it?" she asked curiously.
"There appears to be some rocket tubing inside the basement. Detective, if you would kindly come with us..."
"Why? What's wrong?"
"We will be handling sensitive information. Something that could potentially threaten the Alliance security. We need you to sign some documents and report for debriefing."
"Will I be gone long? It's nearly five."
"I don't believe so. You should be back before nine o'clock. Now if you would accompany us back to the shuttle..."

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Betrayal - Part 5

But... that wasn't possible. Brian couldn't work for Cerberus - he didn't want her dead. They loved each other... it made no sense.
Unless, of course, Cerberus was only using Brian's company to make the building - but that wouldn't explain why Brian would work for an illegal organisation.
Her heart felt heavy in her chest and her throat was tight. She felt like she was going to cry.
Then she heard the door open.
She exited Brian's office, taking the papers with her. When she reached the living room, she looked across and into the hallway, seeing Brian taking off his shoes.
"Sorry, babe, I had to work late," he told her, "We were just building the roof. It's nearly completed, now. It'll only be about another two weeks or so."
"... Brian," she started.
"What's wrong? Are you alright?" he asked, moving into the living room and towards her.
She backed away slightly, "... No. I'm not alright."
"What's happened?"
"I had a crash in the skycar. I went to see the Alliance Defence Council about Cerberus, and when I left... they sent a gunship after me. I had a crash... that's the reason why I wasn't here last night."
"Well, I wasn't here either. I was working on the building. Are you ok?"
"... No, I'm not ok. I came home and tried to find you and found this in your study."
She showed him the paper, pointing out the Cerberus logo, "... You work for Cerberus."
Brian sighed, "I knew you'd find out at some point. I'm not in the division trying to kill you, however. That's different."
"... So could you help me?"
He shook his head, "I'm not allowed."
"... But I love you."
"And I love you too. But Cerberus is bigger than love. It's fighting for humanity. For a better tomorrow. I can't betray them."
"... But you can betray me?"
"Sophia, look-"
"Get out!" she shouted at him, "Get out and never come back!"
"I mean it! Go!"
He moved closer but she pushed him away. She began to cry but still turned him around and pushed him out of the apartment.
"Bastard!" she hissed, "I don't want to see you again!"
She closed the door, and activated her Omni-tool. She had to tell the Alliance.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Betrayal - Part 4

Keating opened her eyes, slowly. There was a harsh white light above her which was nearly blinding, forcing her to close her eyes every few seconds before they adjusted.
She started to look around - the room had a white panelled ceiling and a window which looked across the Vancouver skyline.
She was in a hospital. She sat up, realising that she had full use of her arms. She could feel a dull throbbing every time she moved her left arm, but it was fine. That's all that mattered.
A door to her left hissed open and a doctor walked in, wearing a white coat. The doctor was female, looked to be in her thirties, and had ginger hair.
"I'm Doctor Stevenson," she said, "You're lucky to be alive, Detective. A crash at above two hundred kilometers per hour in a skycar. Nine times out of ten it'd mean instant death for anyone who was inside. Your friend wasn't so lucky, though."
"Henry..." she managed to say. Her jaw was aching and judging by the symptoms - blurred vision, headache, barely responsive limbs - she had been given some kind of drug, "... Henry wasn't killed in the crash."
"Is it true what I've been told?" the Doctor asked, "That it was Cerberus?"
Keating nodded, "... I need to go... And see the Alliance."
"Not until you're back on your feet. Your arm was damaged quite badly, so we had to put metal plates in before we fixed it up. Your ribs were also damaged by the impact and we had to rebuild them. Other than that, cuts, scrapes, bruises. Nothing major. However, I was told by someone - a crime scene investigator kind of person - that if you hadn't braced yourself before the crash happened, you wouldn't have survived."
"... It's supposed to be the other way around."
"I know that. You're the only person I've met who has survived a crash like that."
"I want to go home..." Sophia sighed.
"Oh, yes, about that. We notified your boyfriend and he's on his way to see you. Someone came around from... I can't remember what he said, something to do with the Alliance military. Apparently they'll be providing an around the clock security team for you."
"... I'm not in the mood for the bloody Alliance. I just want to go home, get under a blanket and cry..."
"That isn't possible at the minute I'm afraid. Now I just have to take your blood pressure."
The doctor activated her Omni-tool and a blue beam of light scanned Keating's arm, before deactivating.
"One forty over ninety," she said, "That's rather on the high side. You might want to keep stress free when you're recovering so you don't develop hypertension."
"... I can try," Keating answered, "I'll get Brian to look after me."
"We just want to keep you in overnight, to make sure there's been no complications with the surgery. We'll give you an x-ray, a CT scan and an MRI scan and then we'll see how you look."
Keating nodded, "Okay."

The next day came slower than she'd have liked, but it seemed that she was fine. Her arm still hurt, and she was on pain killers for it, but other than that she was back to normal.
She took a taxi back to her apartment. Brian didn't yet know what had happened to her, so he would be worrying.
Keating walked up the stairs to their apartment, which was luckily only one flight in her injured state. She opened the door with a push of the hologram, both metal panels sliding apart with a hiss, and a small beep of recognition from the locking mechanism.
She stepped into their apartment, wanting nothing more than to cuddle up with Brian and forget about the whole crash. The Alliance would send people to protect her, and everything would be fine.
"Brian?" she called out, after noticing that he wasn't in the living room. It was odd, considering that there was a football game on - and Brian had watched every match since the start of the season.
She could see the kitchen from the hallway, and had checked that on her way. He wasn't there, either.
Sophia decided to check his study. When he wasn't in the living room he was in there designing his building.
She crossed through the living room and entered Brian's study through a door at the back.
He wasn't there, either. She turned to walk out, when a document on his desk caught her eye. She spun back around and lifted up the paper, and began to read.
It appeared to be to do with the building designs - the company seemed to be wanting better reinforced armour for the structure. However, the organisation's logo was the thing that caught her eye.
She had seen it before. The orange diamond.
It was on the side of the gunship.
It had been engraved on the bullet.
Cerberus had commissioned the building.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 3

The next thing Keating remembered was waking up inside her ruined skycar. There was a ringing noise behind her ears and she could feel pain from cuts due to the broken glass on her face. She grimaced and rubbed her forehead. She had a pounding headache and she was fairly sure she had cracked a few ribs, if not broken them. Neither could she feel her left arm.
Her hands came away covered in blood. She reached for her radio - and realised it had smashed into pieces.
Sophia cursed and groaned in pain. All she could see out of the cockpit was fire, and the same went for the back window.
She tried to open the skycar's cockpit to be able to get out, but it was stuck. There was only the sound of metallic grinding.
Keating drew her M-8 Avenger pistol and used it like a club to smash the remaining shards of glass on the edges of the cockpit window and tried pulling herself out. However, even before her head had escaped from the skycar, her muscles gave way and she fell back into her seat.
Instead, she shot the lock. Normally when, in the enclosed space of the skycar, the sound of the gunshot would have been nearly deafening, there was only a muffled sound as her ears still rang with a high pitched noise. She holstered her gun.
She pushed as hard as she could against the cockpit to try and get the skycar open. Fire started dripping like liquid from the exterior of the vehicle down on to the passenger's seat - on to Henry's body.
She positioned her feet so they were perpendicular to the locking mechanism, then lashed out with all her remaining strength. The cockpit opened and she rolled out on to the ground, feeling several sharp pains in her back as shards of metal and glass cut through her damaged light armour. Her hearing was beginning to return to normality.
Keating crawled using her remaining arm and her legs to try and get a better view of the crash scene. She didn't get very far, but she noticed the gunship, alike to the skycar, was on fire. She wasn't even sure where the crash had happened, only that it had been a matter of metres away from a wide river.
The door of the gunship opened, and an armoured figure stumbled out.
"My, my," the figure said, in a distinctly female voice, "That was quite a crash. You're lucky to survive, Detective. However, I think your luck is about to run out..."
The armoured woman had a shotgun pointed at her.
"... Please..." Keating groaned, "... Why?"
"We can't have you trying to get the Alliance to make our organisation an outlaw. Isn't it obvious? I have direct orders from the Illusive Man to take you out. You've notified the Alliance of our presence and we don't need you anymore. Goodbye, Detective Keating."
Keating threw herself forward as the shotgun fired. She struck the Cerberus operative with her wounded arm, hissing in pain as pain shot up her shoulder. The shotgun blast went wide, and the woman stumbled and fell.
Now she had the advantage. She used her knees to pin the woman's legs down and used her right hand to throw the shotgun away. She then drew her pistol, pointing it point blank into her helmet.
"... Whatever your name is... I'm arresting you for firing upon a police officer and for conspiracy to commit murder, espionage, and everything else Cerberus does. You... fuck this..."
The woman started struggling. Keating moved accordingly to keep pinning her down, but the woman's arm still managed to get free.
A fist hit Keating's cheek and she was thrown off, and accidently bit her own tongue in the process. When Keating recovered, the woman had drawn a sword, and was advancing towards her.
Keating scrambled away, grabbing her gun in the process and pointing it in the woman's direction.
"Stop," she ordered, "For god's sake just stop..."
The Cerberus operative stopped moving. There was the quiet sound of sirens in the distance, probably ambulances coming in response to the crash.
The woman took off her helmet, revealing a face surrounded by long blonde hair which had shaped itself into the curve of the helmet.
"... I said stop!" Keating said, her hand shaking.
"You won't shoot me," said the woman, "The gun is missing a thermal clip. You can't fire."
Keating looked down at her gun quickly, and then cursed.
The sirens were getting closer.
She threw her gun away, and switched to using her biotics. Her arms began glowing with blue energy. The Cerberus operative slowed her pace.
Sophia pushed with her biotics, causing the sword to spin out of the woman's hand, but failed to do anything else other than making her stagger. It was the strongest shockwave she could manage.
The woman growled and launched herself at Keating. She threw another shockwave, but all it did was manage to slow her down, so they collided once again.
When the sirens drew near, the woman looked up. An ambulance skycar and a police shuttle were coming.
The woman climbed off Keating, hitting her in the temple in the process. Keating's vision faded to black once again, and the last thing she saw was the Cerberus operative jumping into the river and vanishing from view.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 2

Sophia and Henry went to the Alliance Defence Council - it was the only thing they could do when it came to Cerberus.
However, there was a three hour wait for being able to see them. They had told the receptionist it was urgent. All they had got as a reply was, "Yes, I'm sure it is. Now sit down."
So they waited for three hours. During most of that time, Keating was practicing her biotics - lifting a polystyrene cup off the coffee table the Alliance had been so kind to place in the middle of the waiting room, before moving it back down.
Henry was amazed at this, but Keating was more glad about the fact that no one gave her any funny looks - the people who were coming to see the Alliance were actually better educated than most of the world's population when it came to biotics, so didn't assume she was some kind of mind reader.
When their turn came, Keating breathed a sigh of relief and stood up, muscles hurting from being sat down for too long. She followed the person who had been sent to collect her and Henry. The journey to the Alliance Defence Council took around a minute of walking through corridors full of politicians and military commanders. Stepping into the heart of the Alliance was the only time you saw them actually doing something since, in comparison to the rest of the galaxy, the Alliance just was sitting there doing nothing. Even some humans thought that it was pointless.
The guide stopped walking at a door with a green, rotating, holographic circle in the centre.
"They will see you now," the guide said, raising her arm in a gesture for them to enter.
Keating pushed the hologram and the door hissed open. They both stepped inside as the guide went back to the waiting room. The room they found themselves in was fairly large with a curved window at the rear. In front of the glass, there was a long desk with the six Alliance Defence Council members sat at it.
"Welcome Detective Keating and Sergeant Gardner," said Gerald Hodgson - the head of the council, "The receptionist told us that your appointment was urgent. Why is this?"
"I'm just going to get to the point. We've found evidence to suggest it was Cerberus who killed al Aladin."
"That's impossible. We have Cerberus banned under Alliance law. There is no way they could have even entered the Sol System without us knowing," said another of the council.
"Nevertheless, it was them. We analysed the bullet - yes, bullet - that he had been killed with. It bore the Cerberus logo, almost like they wanted to be found."
"Why would they do this?" asked Hodgson, frowning, "It makes no sense."
"Aladin was the one responsible for their organisation being banned. Without him they could get themselves in a position of power."
"But they've convicted themselves of murder. They must know that we would never allow it."
"I do. They must have something planned. I can't investigate it myself because, let's face it, it's by far out of my jurisdiction. This is why I came to tell you. Because I figured that you would be able to do something about Cerberus."
"We can't confront them directly because we have no idea they're even in the system. We will keep a look out for them, however. Good work Detective."

As she suspected, the Defence Council refused to help. She and Henry went back to the skycar to go back to the police station.
Keating drove. She generally didn't drive skycars since she found the controls rather unstable. However, recently she had got used to the sense of being weightless you got when you decided to fly down. For the past few days she had driven the skycar around, much to Henry's distaste.
"We spent all that time waiting for them to talk to us," growled Henry, "And then they do nothing. Absolutely nothing."
"I know, Henry. It's bad. But we've done all we can do."
The skycar crossed on to the motorway. Despite roads not being used since the 2050s, skycars still followed the lanes. It was an easy organisational structure, with holographic barriers separating the two directions. It only required fabricators and hologram generators to be built into the existing roads to project the lane dividers.
"Bloody Cer-"
There was a chatter of gunfire from behind them as rounds tore through the unprotected shell of the skycar, shredding Henry's seat and putting holes in his chest. Blood splashed on to the cockpit window and Keating shrieked as Henry slumped forward.
"Henry!" she cried, pushing the controls to make the skycar go into a barrel role to avoid another burst of fire. She looked in her mirrors, seeing a A-61 Mantis Gunship join the motorway behind her, with the machine guns still spinning.
Horns flared out from the skycars and shuttles around her as a rocket screamed from the wing of the gunship and flew towards her.
Her skycar had no weapons. None at all. Neither could she rely on speed, since the gunship, in almost every way, outclassed her small skycar.
Instinctively, she flicked a switch and blue lights began flashing on her skycar. The other drivers moved out of her way.
She twisted the wheel quickly. The skycar roared as it twisted over itself, causing the missile to go by as she made it go upside down and turned it back around as she moved beneath the raised motorway. The rocket hit one of the pillars and her skycar shook as the concrete crumbled.
The gunship still followed her. She turned and looked out of her window as the Mantis drew level. It bore the orange Cerberus logo.
However, that was the least of her worries as a small door on its tail opened and a figure was visible from within, who appeared to be holding a large weapon.
Before she could wrench the wheel, more rounds tore up her skycar. There was an explosion from behind Keating as one of the engines took damage and set on fire.
She pulled the wheel towards her to increase her altitude over the city. She left a trail of black smoke behind her.
Keating scrambled for her radio, "Alpha 1- Fuck! This is Keating there's a gunship after me I need backup!"
Another rocket flew at her. She steered the skycar so it narrowly avoided a building, causing the missile to crash into that instead. More gunshots ripped apart her vehicle and there was a second explosion as the remaining engine was destroyed.
She began to fall.
Keating started screaming as the gunship flew level with her and the glass of the cockpit shattered from more rounds from the figure with the weapon. The skycar hit the corner of a block of flats as it descended, ricocheting off the concrete. She and the gunship collided, throwing her forward. Blood from Henry's corpse splashed into her face and she couldn't help but squealing. She blinked the blood out of her eyes, then saw the ground rushing up to meet her.
She had just enough time to brace for the impact.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Monsters - Part 5

"So you realised it was Cerberus who killed the man on the Defence Council?" Mia questioned, "Why would they do that? To kill a human, I mean. And especially with a bullet. I don't know anyone who uses bullets anymore."
"That was something... that had us stumped," Keating said, "But then we... realised... they would have wanted to send a... symbol. And that they killed him... in an attempt to make their organisation... legal again. Take out the... person who is fighting them the... most, and the argument to make it banned will... disappear."
"Right. So when are we going to get on about your boyfriend?"

When Thomson and Emi reached the CIC, all the systems were turned off.
"They have just shut down," said Revenge from the corner, "I am detecting signs of their signals inside the ship network."
"Can you fight them?" Thomson asked.
Revenge shook his metal head, "I am afraid not."
The hologram that was usually above the table which made up the majority of the CIC flared into life. Whereas normally it would show statistics about the ship, there was nothing but blue.
Two white eyes came on to the screen.
"As you are aware..." said a dark, almost synthetic voice, "We have taken your... your friend. Unless you bring the Quarian to us within twenty four of the time measurements you call hours, he will die. Followed by the rest of you. We are watching."
"Oh shit," said Thomson, feeling Emi cower behind him.
"Please disperse from this network," said Revenge, "Otherwise you will die."
"You have no chance against us, Reaper," said the voice, "You tried to wipe us out once, and you failed. Now we will destroy you. Your power is limited in that body. We will have the Quarian. We will learn. And then you will die.
Ploba, twenty four hours. Exchange the Quarian for your friend."
The CIC went dead, before lighting up as normal with the holographic view of the ship.

Stealth awoke with a pounding headache. He hadn't even realised he had been knocked unconscious or fallen asleep. He was in what appeared to be a small chamber which had a polygonal shaped room, almost like the inside of a bee's hive. There was a door in one of the corners which appeared to lead to another room.
"This is not real," said a voice, "We have induced you into a dream-like state which we can control. However, we have linked your neurological pathway into the network. If you die here, you will die in reality."
Then there was only silence.
Stealth drew his sword.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 1

Sophia Keating had always shown signs of biotic potential, ever since she was small. Her mother and father must have exposed her to dust form element zero before she was born. Most human biotics weren't noteworthy, most couldn't lift more than a mug or a plate. Hers, however, had shown promise. She was no biotic prodigy, but neither was she bad.
Her main issue, she was told, was the strength she put in to her mass effect fields. Her control was unparalleled in the Alliance training programme, able to hit the smallest of targets with biotic energy, but the fact she didn't hit the targets with enough power was her biggest downfall. And no matter how much she tried, no matter whether she had damage-boosting amps installed or not, she couldn't muster up the necessary power required to have biotics which could actually be effective. She lacked something.
The Alliance training programme she was involved in was a small group of humans with biotic potential trying to better themselves. It wasn't anything to do with the military, though exceptional students would be offered a place in a new section of the Alliance that was forming for biotics.
Keating knew she'd never get a place. Because of the fact that she would be no use in combat - she could barely throw someone back, because she simply was not strong enough. Yes, she could create an unstable mass effect field which could tear an enemy apart - but it was too weak. In the long term, it could probably take the paint off their armour, but not more. She could hurl them at one every second or so, but that meant nothing if they weren't powerful enough.
She did have a friend in the programme, however. Well, slightly more than a friend...
Sophia had met Brian Richards on her first day in the programme. He was slightly older than her, four grades above her in training, and they had started "going out" within the first week. His style of biotics completely differed from hers - he could kill someone by throwing them back, but had trouble hitting targets. Brian once joked that their child would be the perfect human biotic.
When they weren't being trained to help further their biotic skills, they were in their apartment they had bought together. Of course, they hadn't bought that straight away - they had been involved in the programme for about a year before they had considered living together. And when they weren't in their apartment, Keating and Brian had jobs. Completely different jobs.
Sophia was a detective, and was rather lucky that the biotic training programme had been set up in Vancouver so it was relatively close by. Brian was an architect working for the government of Vancouver, and he was working on building a skyscraper capable of surviving a direct strike from an Everest-Class Dreadnought. Which was no easy feat.
In her spare time, Sophia was building a ship. She had finished part of the hull, using designs Brian had found from a prototype frigate schematic from a ship called the SF-2 Falcon.
Just as she was about to leave the building where the training programme was being held, she got a call on her Omni-tool.
"Hello?" she said, "This is Detective Keating."
"Keating," said her partner, Henry, "There's been a murder of a government official. We've been sent to investigate."
"Ok, send me the address. I'm on my way."

Keating stepped into the room, past the holographic police barrier which beeped as she moved through.
"What do we have?" she asked Henry, "What happened here?"
"One victim, no signs of a struggle, dispatched by a shot to the front of the head."
"Who is the victim?"
"He's one of the Alliance Defence Council. Was in charge of the Biotic research part, along with anti-terrorism. His name was Mit al Aladin."
"It could be a terrorist attack?" she questioned.
"It doesn't seem like conventional terrorists. It's too clean of a kill. No collateral damage, not a window smashed or an object out of place. It took one round from a pistol, not one more, to get the perfect headshot."
"In which case, the round from the gun will still be there, if there's no sign of any damage. Get CSI down here and lock this place down. No unauthorised personnel get in or out. I want a full forensic exam of everything in this apartment."
"Yes ma'am," said Henry, and began making the appropriate calls.

Keating waited for a little while at the crime scene whilst the CSI and the forensics did their job. However, it was clear that she could do nothing more - with no current DNA findings, and next to no evidence, it was likely to be an assassin who had killed him. But it was just a question of finding out why.
She went to the police station and started looking through the databases about Mit al Aladin. It seemed that he was in charge of the biotic programme she was attending but wanted to cut down on the amount of money they were spending on it, since training biotics was expensive at the best of times.
Sophia also found out his acts against Cerberus - the pro-human terrorist organisation had come under fire from the Alliance Defence Council as they dubbed their work "unlawful" and "extreme".
So there were two possible reasons why he could have been killed - possibly more. If a biotic didn't want him to cut money from the programme they could have a motive, and it could have been an act of sabotage from Cerberus to try and get their actions legal again.
Or it could have just been neither of those reasons and just a plain old murder. She'd have to see if the forensics came up with anything, but until then she could do nothing. She went home.

Brian was waiting for her in their apartment.
"I saw you leave the programme. Was everything ok?" he asked her.
She shrugged, "Someone on the Defence Council was killed. We have no evidence for who yet, but I think I've figured out a few reasons for why. It's just a case of waiting now for them to run fingerprint and blood tests."
"Are you ok? You don't like dead bodies."
She nodded, "I'm fine. It's kind of part of my job and it happens only rarely, so I can deal with it... Do you know they moved me down another level in training?"
Brian nodded, "Yep. It's bullshit. You match and Asari for your control and yet you're being moved down grades. Did they test you?"
"Yes. I was supposed to knock a statue over. I made it sway but nothing more. I just can't do it. They keep telling me I'm 'not bad', but yet I overhear them saying I have the level of a child. Being a biotic is a load of crap."
Human society tended not to accept biotics very well. Ever since they had discovered human biotics were possible, lots of myths had been made up - about how they could control minds, which stemmed from the Asari's melding. It didn't help, either, that some biotics used their abilities to cheat in gambling games. Keating had to deal with several situations in the past where biotics who had annoyed too many people had a mob after them. And, to her, the risk of accidentally upsetting someone and causing them to react violently because of misconceptions about her abilities was not worth being able to control dark energy. Especially not with her extent.
"Yes, but it's worth it," Brian replied.
"But you're the one who is in the running for getting the place in the biotic division of the Alliance. I am nowhere near."
"You said you didn't want the place."
"I don't! But I want to be recognised instead of people telling me I'm shit. My boss tells me I'm a shit detective, the Alliance tells me I'm a shit biotic..."
"You're not shit," Brian said, "You just need practice. You've only been in this job for a few months and you've only started biotic training in the last few weeks. You can't expect to be brilliant at something right away."
"True..." she sighed, "But everyone has overtaken me in the training. I might quit."
"No. Don't quit," he told her, "Quitting will get you nowhere."
Her Omni-tool buzzed.

"This is what I don't understand," said Henry, "The killer didn't use a mass accelerator firearm like we first thought. It was an antique pistol. I took the bullet fragments to a dealer and it seems the gun is from around 2002, so it's old."
"But why would anyone use an antique pistol to kill someone? It's almost like they want to be found."
Henry nodded, "I think that was the idea. We found a small engraving on the side of one of the bullet fragments. It was Cerberus. The bullet had their logo."
"Why would they want to be caught?" she questioned, "It doesn't make any sense."
"Whether it makes sense or not, we should probably tell the Alliance," Henry shrugged.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Monsters - Part 4

A piece of debris ruptured the seal between her suit and helmet. Gas started escaping and she was suddenly unable to breathe. She gasped and choked, trying to force the remaining air down her throat - but there was no air left. Her armour was the only thing protecting her from freezing to death instantly, but she could feel the icy coldness of space. A sensation which was slowly dying away as she struggled to fix the seal.
Her vision was fading. There were no sounds, not any more. Just silence. Deathly silence. Her muscles were refusing to function and her lungs, no matter how hard she tried, weren't inflating.
I'mgoingtodie, I'mgoingtodie, I'mgoingtodie, she thought.
At the last moment, just as she thought all seemed lost, hands grasped her from nowhere and pulled her towards the airlock of the SF-2. Then she lost consciousness altogether.

"Will Keating be okay?" Mia asked as Thomson exited the medical bay with Emi at his side.
Thomson nodded, "She will. The doctors had to replicate some skin of her neck because it was frosted up, and her lungs will be bad for a while but she'll make a full recovery."
"... I don't like Keating, but I'm glad she'll live..." Emi said, "... Suffocating like that and being lost forever would be a bad way to die..."
"Can I go and see her?" Mia questioned, "Is she up to it?"
"She's awake but she's not in a good mood," Thomson pointed out, "The loss of the Naseby has kind of hit her hard. You might be able to help her."
Mia nodded, then moved towards the door to the medical bay and opened it, whilst Thomson and Emi went to the CIC.

"Are you okay?" Mia asked Keating. It was the first time Mia had seen the Commander without a helmet. She had shoulder-length black hair and hazel coloured eyes. Her cheek had a large cut down the side, which appeared to be a scar. She would have been quite pretty by both human and Quarian standards if it wasn't for the tear on her skin, which made her look fierce and battle-hardened. She looked about twenty five.
However, now there was a tear on her cheek.
"No, Mia. I'm not... bloody okay," Keating responded, gasping and breathing heavily, "All my life has just... been ruined in a matter of... minutes."
"Why? You're still alive, aren't you?"
"I spent every... day since my eighteenth birthday building... that ship. The SSV Naseby was my baby... I built it with my own two hands with... no help from no one else. I've spent... so long on it. How would... you feel if something you had spent... so much of your life building was just destroyed? ... I worked and worked and worked for... ten hours a day trying to build it..."
Mia shrugged slightly, "I'm not sure how I'd react... but you're still alive. That has to be something, right?"
Keating shook her head and grimaced, "No. I have nothing... nothing left. That ship was all I've ever had..."
"So there's never been anyone special in your life?"
She grimaced, but it wasn't because she moved her neck, "There was... one guy. But..."
Keating began to talk.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Monsters - Part 3

The SF-2 Falcon followed rank behind the SSV Naseby as it too left Junthor.
"Do you want your shuttle to be collected?" Keating asked Stealth.
The thief shrugged, "I don't mind. It wasn't mine, anyway. I stole it from Omega."
"I'll take that as a no, then," she responded, "Thomson, why do you use the Avenger? You do know it's a piece of crap, right?"
"I wish people would stop telling me that," Thomson sighed, "It works for me. I like it."
"I personally use the M-76 Revenant. Slightly heavier, but my god does it shred everything you shoot at."
There was an explosion which rocked the cargo hold.

The small, silent vessel fired its cannon again, destroying the second engine of the SSV Naseby. It couldn't move. It just began drifting through space.
It fired its main gun - a weapon stolen from a dead Reaper. A red beam of energy hit the rear of the frigate and tore through its hull. There was a large explosion - the largest yet - as the element zero drive core exploded in a mass of sparks and fire, which quickly burned in the oxygen from the nearly-destroyed ship before it extinguished in the vacuum of space.
Now it really couldn't move.
The vessel activated its boarding hooks and metal projectiles ripped through the hull of the Naseby, followed moments later by a thick steel rope which immediately pulled tight, securing the vessels together.
Kinetic barriers on a ship were all very good, but they were built to withstand fast moving projectiles. Not relatively slow moving grappling hooks.
The ships were pulled together. The attacking vessel extended its airlock and secured a connection between the two.
Then the attack began.

Luckily, the cargo hold had its own sealed doors. So when the drive core exploded and the hull was punctured, they were safe at the bottom of the ship with plenty of air.
Thomson, Keating and Stealth were still wearing suitable helmets from the mission - Thomson and Keating with their N7 breather helmets and Stealth with his unique combat helmet. They would be fine for oxygen, and the Quarians had their helmets secured so they too wouldn't be affected by a lack of air.
"Fuck," Keating sighed and grabbed her rifle from the weapon rack. A wailing alarm began sounding. Thomson grabbed his M-8 Avenger rifle from his back, and Stealth and Mia drew their pistol and shotgun respectively.
"If they think they're taking this ship," Keating growled, "They've made a mistake. A big one."
Her hand went to the side of her helmet, "Report," she ordered the pilot, "Where are they?"
The reply from the pilot was audible, but Thomson couldn't hear it clearly.
"They're on the crew deck," Keating said finally, "Let's go."
Thomson contacted the Falcon, "Try and get them away from the ship," he told the pilot of the SF-2, "Try shooting them or something. Just get them away."
Stealth spoke up, "I think one of us should stay here. I mean, when the doors are sealed no one can get through. Since they're after Emi'Derik, it'd make sense for one of us to stay here and protect her just in case they have something like a rocket launcher to take down the door."
"I'll stay," Mia said, "You lot are better at fighting."
Keating nodded, "Right. Let's go and kill some aliens."

They took the elevator to the crew deck. The crew of the SSV Naseby was in disarray - they were stationed outside all the doors with their weapons raised. They were nearly shot when they reached the invaded deck.
"We need to spread out," said Keating, via the radios in their helmets so they could speak in the vacuum that was now the crew deck.
It seemed that the artificial gravity systems had turned off on this level of the ship, so they had to make their way around by pushing themselves off of the walls.
Thomson made his way through the medical bay, whilst Keating moved through the main battery and the mess hall, and Stealth came through Keating's office.
The first sign of the attack came by the litter of bodies which floated through the airless space, blood forming droplets which never hit the floor. Thomson found two in the medical bay. Keating found four in the mess hall, and Stealth found one next to the exit of Keating's office.
"They're here," Thomson said to the others, "There are some corpses that have been killed by some mass accelerator firearms. High calibre."
"Same here," said Stealth, "I'm moving towards the observation decks."
Keating never heard the gunshot. She was only aware of her shield flickering as the round struck her kinetic barriers. She turned and fired in the direction it had come from, then when more rounds were returned she ducked behind the wall separating the corridor from the mess hall.
More gunshots tore up the wall around her. She waited for her shields to regenerate before stepping out and firing again. Her attacker was thrown back and drifted across the corridor, blue blood erupting from its chest.
The alien had two legs and three arms - its head was egg shaped and it had two glowing white eyes. Its mouth ran the entire width of its head and she could see many sharp teeth. Its weapon was unlike anything she'd ever seen, having four firing chambers and four thermal clip modules. There was a hook on the side where both sides connected - as if the weapon could be used as two separate ones as well as one large one. It was an odd design.
She crossed to another section of the wall which would provide her with cover. She saw Stealth moving and drawing his sword across the throat of one of the creatures as she neared the exit of the mess hall.
Another one of the creatures came into her view. She quickly tapped the trigger on the Revenant and its body shredded. There was gunfire from Thomson's side of the ship, and she saw an alien go hurtling backwards whilst being surrounded by a wave of biotic energy.
Another four creatures in the mess hall. She fired at each, but they pushed themselves behind the tables and fired from behind cover.
Her shields were taken out by the first round - instantly - which caught her by surprise. The next three hit her armour and she growled in pain as one hit her in the shoulder. A plume of blood scattered into the air.
Keating's hand went to her shoulder and put pressure on the wound. She applied medigel quickly, and sighed as the pain went away. She could feel it, still, like a dull throbbing sensation in her arm. But most of the pain was gone, at least.
She felt the energy build up in her arms and her palms began glowing blue. She pushed her hand forwards and her biotics pushed over the table, making it fly backwards into a wall. There were no signs of life after that. Her hand was tingling for a moment before the energy dissipated.
"Thomson, Keating: Help!" Stealth's voice shouted through the radio.
She reacted as fast as she could - pushing herself away from the wall as hard as she could with her non-injured arm. The zero gravity meant that she drifted towards Stealth's previous location with relative speed, and she saw Thomson do likewise.
"Are you ok?" Thomson asked, "You look hurt."
"It's just a flesh wound," Keating said with a nod, "I'll be fine. We need to get him."
They propelled themselves down the corridor. Corpses of the crew members littered the hall and made their journey both disgusting and slow. Keating watched as droplets of blood which hung in the vacuum of the corridor splashed on her armour, staining it a dark crimson colour in several places.
More splashes of blood. Gunshot rounds tearing through the corpses as the creatures tried to shoot at them. Her shields, which had regenerated, immediately started taking hits.
Thomson returned fire with his rifle and she did likewise. However, most of the rounds she fired collided with the dead bodies. Only few managed to make their way to the end of the corridor. The hall was thick with blood.
Keating saw a quick flash of Stealth's form as he struggled against the aliens which were carrying him towards the airlock. She struggled to get past the lifeless crew members, and got to only a few metres away when Stealth was lost from view.
They managed to gun down another seven creatures before the attacking ship pulled away. Their airlocks were separated and there were metallic thuds as the grappling hooks retracted, leaving gaping holes in the Naseby's hull.
"Damage report," Keating ordered the pilot, "How many dead?"
"A hundred, ma'am. Only the engineers are still alive back on the Engineering deck. That and the two Quarians in the cargo hold."
"Can you get us out of here?" Keating asked.
The pilot sighed, "I'm afraid not. They've damaged the drive core and the engines are offline. We can't even fire our weapons."
"Ok," she said to Thomson, "Get your ship here ASAP. We need to chase them down. We're not letting them take Stealth. Bastards."
Thomson pushed his finger against the side of his helmet, "This is Thomson. The ship has left. We'll meet you next to the cargo ramp."
"Negative. The ship has not left. In fact, it's-"
There was a bright red flash and the piece of the ship in front of them suddenly vanished. They could see space. Bright stars and twisting galaxies. Junthor sat behind them, emitting a green and silver glow.
"Shit," Keating growled, "They've torn the ship in half."
"Is the cargo hold alright?" Thomson asked, "Will it be damaged?"
She shook her head, "We're currently above the engineering deck. Nothing else is beneath that."
"Good," Thomson replied, then contacted the Falcon, "Distract the ship whilst we get to the cargo hold."
"Roger that," came the reply.

The SF-2 began firing again, using every weapon it had at its disposal. The SSV Naseby was practically sliced in half and the edges were glowing orange with molten metal created by the energy from the beam. Debris was slowly drifting away from the remains of the ship.
The shots from the Falcon did nothing. Nothing at all. The unknown ship's kinetic barriers must have protected if from all their attacks.
Instead, the SF-2 Falcon moved in place next to the cargo ramp, twisting around at the last moment and lowering its own so Thomson and the group could get on board.
The ship fired again.

Thomson and Keating dived into the cargo hold as there was a massive explosion behind them. The doors sealed just in time, though some flames did come through and singe their armours.
Mia looked at them, "Where's Stealth?"
"They've taken him. They're tearing the ship apart. Fuckers. They'll pay for this."
"They won't want to kill Emi," Thomson said, "They won't hit the cargo hold."
"Not in an area where she is, at least..." Mia sighed, "We should probably get into a group so they can't target us without hitting her."
The team moved together.
"We're in position," said the pilot of the Falcon, "Awaiting your arrival."
"Ok, the SF-2 is in place. We can leave."
The cargo hold began shaking.
"They've cut you off. The cargo hold is drifting. We'll try and keep up," said the pilot of the SF-2, "But it seems they're following you."
"Shit. They'll take Emi," said Thomson. Emi cuddled up to him.
"... Don't let them take me... please don't..."
"I won't," he replied, "And neither will Keating or Mia."
There was a flash of red light, which threw them across the floor of the cargo hold. Thomson held Emi to cushion her impact. However the crushing collision with the wall drove the air from his lungs.
A second later, both Keating and Mia had a similar impact with the side of the wall.
Part of the cargo hold had been torn away - revealing the inky blackness of space. The SF-2 was visible through the gap, though it seemed very, very far away.
"Ok," Keating said, "We need to get out of here."
Another red beam carved through the remainders of the cargo hold, slicing through another part of the wall like a hot knife through butter, though it was far enough away from them so they could only feel the heat of the weapon.
"We have to jump," said Keating, "Tell the SF-2 to get as close as possible. There's no other way."
"We could wait," Mia suggested, "We've already established they won't kill Emi."
"Then they'll just board what is left of my ship, kill us and take Emi. Then it'll be game over," Keating growled, "Fuck. I hate this. The Naseby is dead, because of those bastards. Stealth has been captured, and now we're unable to do anything which has a hundred percent success chance."
"We should jump. There is no other way," agreed Thomson, "We can't just sit here."
"... I don't want to jump..." said Emi, "... What if I miss, and fall down...?"
"It's a weightless environment," explained, Keating, "There is no down."
"I'll look after you, Emi," Thomson said, cuddling her, "I'll jump with you. We just have to get out."
"I'll go first," said Mia, "I really want to get out of here."
Keating nodded, "Go on. Thomson, Emi, you go after."
Mia took a few steps backwards. Keating could hear her breathing through the radio - short and ragged, as if she was afraid. Mia checked her shotgun was secured on her back, then sprinted forward. At the last second, she jumped. Her arms and legs flailed as she entered the emptiness of space but she landed in the Falcon's airlock, helped in by two of the crew.
"I'm on board," said Mia, "They're ready for Thomson and Emi."
Another beam tore another section of the wall away. One a second later sent the cargo hold spinning. Emi was taken completely by surprise, falling down through the missing wall. Thomson fell after her, purposely moving himself so he caught her.
A last minute change of direction from yet another beam corrected the course of the remainders of the ship. Thomson bumped his leg on part of the wall and sent them spinning through space for a second, before he landed on his back inside the SF-2, with Emi on top of him.
Keating regained her balance from the spinning cargo hold and began running towards the gap between the SF-2 and the disintegrating Naseby.
There was a bright flash in front of her and she felt searing pain through her armour as heat tore through the floor and walls right in front of her. She jumped blindly through the fire, leaving the cargo hold and she began drifting through space.
She could hear her own breathing. Nothing else. She looked towards the airlock of the SF-2 Falcon, which was open to greet her. She could see Thomson and Emi recovering from inside and some of the crew ready to help her.
Keating wasn't going to make it. She knew she wasn't. The beam had knocked her jump off balance, so the angle was completely wrong. She began to panic, her heart beating faster and faster as she thought about the possibility of being lost in the empty blackness forever. She floated underneath the airlock. Her hands tried to grasp the edge of the SF-2, but her momentum carried her forward.
Her hand slipped away, leaving her clutching at nothing.


Well, here's some of my attempts to create a biotic energy kind of feel using GIMP.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Monsters - Part 2

Mia activated her Omni-tool and began scanning the area.
"Don't try it," said Stealth, "The radiation from the chlorine blocks all the signals and the metal screws it up too. It's fine on a small area... but generally, you couldn't detect a Reaper in this."
"I am pretty sure a Reaper in close proximity would be apparent," pointed out Revenge.
"Maybe. But your Omni-tool couldn't detect it."
"I'm going to wait here," said Thomson, "I don't think Emi will want to be in that kind of situation. She was indoctrinated, and I don't think she is up to it. I'll wait here with her."
"She's fine now, right?" Keating questioned.
Emi nodded, "... I am... But not really feeling well... I don't want to be around when you shoot things..."
Keating nodded, "Ok. Let's go."

Thomson allowed Emi to sit down, resting against the pillar.
"Are you ok?" he asked, keeping his weapon ready to fire if one of the zombie-creatures Stealth had described came close.
Emi nodded, shaking slightly, "... This is... horrible..."
He sat down next to her and put his arm around her, "I know. But this will make sure you'll be safe. After this, there will be no more shooting. This is for you. It's what I'm doing it for, so you can be safe. Without this you could die."
She snuggled against him, "... I know... It's just... I don't like it... I'm still... Hurt..."
He kissed the glass of her helmet, "Everything will be alright. I know it will. I love you, Emi."
"... I love you, too..."

Keating turned on the torch on the end of her gun and the narrow corridor lit up in a white glow.
"Fan out," she ordered Mia and Stealth, "They must be here some place. I can hear them."
That was actually the case. Ever since they had entered the structure there had been regular scraping noises from around the next corner, but when they reached it there was no one, and nothing, there.
"I wonder what Emi's problem is," Mia questioned thoughtfully, "She seems horribly broken. I feel sorry for her."
"You didn't read her file? I swear, one more lack of intel on this mission and I'm going to go crazy. Emi was captured and tortured by Cerberus, she was captured by a man named Renswick on Tuchanka, she was shot by the same guy, nearly died from the shot as well as nearly getting killed by a Reaper, then on Omega she was captured and tortured. She killed a man then got her mind fucked up by the Reapers. I'm pretty sure she has a right to be broken," explained Keating.
"I was there when she killed the man," Stealth said, "I watched her crying in the pool of blood, refusing to move until Thomson returned. She's mentally broken. One more thing like those and... I think she'll be gone forever. I'm pretty sure anyone else would have killed themselves by now. But not her. Her love for Thomson and their children is what is keeping her going. She's strong."
"Thomson seems a little blind," admitted Mia, "He hasn't got a clue. Why is he working for Revenge?"
"Why are any of us working for Revenge?" Keating countered with a shrug, "I just want weapons. Cool weapons."
"I'm here to find out more about the universe. If I hadn't have wanted to come then I'd have left a long time ago, Commander. I think that studying this race will unlock technological secrets which could help us. It's also to like... Make the galaxy a safer place and all that," said Mia.

"What do you think of the team, then?" Thomson asked Emi, still with his arm around her.
"... I don't like Keating..." Emi sighed, "... She's a bosh'tet... I'd rather have you in charge... We kind of know Epsilon, so guess he's fine... As for Mia, I'm not sure..."
"We'll have to work together if we're going to get this done."

Something grey crossed in front of Keating's view, but before she could fire a shot it had disappeared.
"Stay ready," she said to Mia and Stealth, "They're definitely here."
A Husk creature ran around from the corner, growling and screeching. It was roughly shaped like a human, though had arms which draped downwards and ended in curved blades. It had a triangular mouth and five blue, glowing eyes.
"Wow," Keating said, "Now you're ugly."
She shot it in the head.
Stealth drew his sword, holding his pistol in his other hand.
"What race are they based on?" Mia questioned, "They don't look like normal Husks."
"Probably something long dead. Unless of course they're made from the race we're after."
When they turned the next corner, they found themselves staring down a long corridor with around thirty of the creatures at the other end.
"Well, there's certainly a lot," Keating pointed out, and began firing.
Mia's shotgun was ineffective at the range they were at, so she didn't fire but still took aim. Stealth fired his pistol, felling each with a single headshot whilst Keating shredded their legs with her rifle.
Some of the creatures got past their gunfire - just from the sheer number. Every one that was killed, another took its place.
Stealth ran to intercept them. He got part way down the corridor - then there was a blue flash. Within practically the same moment, he reappeared again - swinging his sword to deal with a creature behind the leading one, which was cut perfectly in half and falling to the floor. The creature he had engaged fell a second later, sliced through the head by his blade.
Whilst he was dealing with the creatures within melee range, Mia was firing her shotgun at the ones slightly further afield, whilst Keating was dealing with the ones at the other end of the corridor. It was a good system.
The creatures were flowing like water, however, around and over the barrier of gunfire and swords and they began to overwhelm them.
"Shit," Keating cursed in realisation, "There are too many. Fall back. I'll cover you."
Stealth nodded and biotic jumped backwards. Mia jogged behind Keating and they began to retreat.
Keating was firing blindly, spraying the entire corridor with gunfire.
When they reached the next corner, they began sprinting out of the giant structure. Keating radioed the SSV Naseby.

"Revenge," Thomson said, "Can you tell me anything about the race we're up against? What do they look like?"
"They have no name. When it was their cycle, we invaded Junthor and wanted to destroy them. They were the first planet that we hit, a bit like Earth is the first planet we started attacking in this cycle."
There was the sound of starship engines above them as the SSV Naseby swooped gracefully down through the clouds and began hovering a few metres away from the ground.
Keating was the first to appear.
"Run, now," she shouted at Thomson, "They're coming."
Next came Mia and Stealth, followed by a horde of strange looking Husk-like creatures with blades for arms.
Thomson raised his M-8 Avenger and began firing in short, fast bursts. Several of the creatures dropped, but more just kept coming.
"Get on the Naseby, now!" Keating yelled.
Thomson stopped firing and put his rifle on his back. He held Emi's arm and pulled her towards the frigate.
Revenge fired a pulse of energy which took out one of the creatures and flung its body backwards over the mass of the rest of them.
Keating leaped on to the Naseby, followed by Thomson who helped Emi to climb on board the ship.
Stealth came next - biotic jumping the last few metres and reappearing on the cargo ramp. He helped Mia up as the Naseby pulled away from the surface of Junthor. Revenge was the last to climb up.
By the time the cargo ramp had closed, Keating was already on the bridge.
Thomson felt the ship lurch to the side as it spun around to face the mass of creatures that were trying to chase after them.
A beam of blue energy speared from the frigate and ripped across the ranks of zombies.
The SSV Naseby pulled out of the atmosphere of Junthor.
Their scanners failed to pick up the vessel which followed them, with its stealth systems active.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Monsters - Part 1

Ok, so now we've got to the part where we know how the gang was infiltrated by Stealth, and we know how Thomson, Emi, Mia and Keating got involved.
Now on to planet Junthor.

The SF-2 glided between the clouds almost silently as it passed through Junthor's thick atmosphere, which consisted mostly of Carbon Dioxide and Chlorine.
Thomson was stood in the CIC, fastening his breather helmet on to his head. Emi had adjusted her helmet accordingly to supply her with air, instead of filtering the surrounding gases so they were free from bacteria and other harmful substances.
The Falcon hovered a few metres away from the ground and Thomson made his way towards the cargo ramp at the back of the ship.
Wind was blowing and dust was flying through the air - obscuring all view but a small one metre patch in front of them.
Thomson hopped down from the cargo ramp, helping Emi down a moment after.
"... I don't like it here..." Emi said, "... It feels wrong..."
A cracking noise behind him reached his ears and he spun, but there was nothing there.
"I don't like it either," Thomson sighed, raising his rifle, "If Revenge isn't here, I'm going to kill him. We have no idea if anything is living here."
Emi seemed to hide behind him, hugging the back of his shoulders tightly.
"Oh... I didn't mean to scare you. Are you ok?"
She nodded quickly, "... I'm scared..."
Another cracking noise, this time from the front. Thomson aimed his rifle ahead and tightened his finger on the trigger.
"Stand down, soldier," said a distinctly female voice, which was muffled by a helmet - giving it a slight echoed quality.
A figure stepped through the sand into their visual radius. The first thing Thomson picked up on was the N7 logo on her chest. The second was the fact that she was pointing a pistol at him.
"You first," he growled.
She holstered her pistol, "I'm Commander Keating of the SSV Naseby. Who are you?"
"I'm Thomson. Formerly Lieutenant Thomson of the SF-2 Falcon, and this is Emi'Derik. What are you doing here?"
She sighed, "You're not going to believe me if I told you."
"You're working for a Reaper, aren't you?"
She nodded, "I am. And by the sound of it, so are you. Do you know who else is turning up?"
Thomson shook his head, "Do you?"
"I have a Quarian named Mia a few metres away. She's inspecting the pillar. Other than that I have no clue. We could have an entire army on its way. Emi, is it? Are you ok?"
Emi nodded, "... I guess... I don't like it here... I want to go back to the ship..."
"You're scared?" Keating questioned, "Why are you scared? There's only us here."
"... I feel like someone's watching us..."
"I know what you mean," said Thomson, "It's a little eerie."
"We should get this over and done with," Keating sighed, "I have a pounding headache and all this nickel isn't helping."
"Nickel?" Thomson questioned.
"Yes, Nickel. Don't you read the mission logs? It's mainly aluminum and nickel on this planet. Oh, and if we do meet anyone, try not to get shot, it's about minus thirty degrees. You'll get cold."
"Understood," Thomson responded with a nod.
Keating turned and walked back the way she had came, so Thomson and Emi followed. The more they walked, the more they could see. It was difficult terrain - they had to climb over rocks of metal to follow the Commander. Emi was being careful not to damage her suit, but it was not needed, as due to attrition - Thomson guessed - all the rocks were smooth.
It only took them a few minutes to get to the pillar. By the time they reached there, they could see large towering structures either side. They were golden in colour, and consisted of several cylindrical towers of varying heights. The effect was like a few hundred metre tall organ like they used to use in churches.
"Holy shit," Thomson laughed, "They certainly know how to build."
"Yes," Keating nodded, "If I ever need a musical instrument for a giant I'll let them know."
The pillar stood tall, at least twice the size of Thomson, but looked small around the two large buildings either side of it.
Upon the metal work of the pillar, there were letters engraved in what appeared to be some kind of formal alien writing, judging by the distance between each letter and the height, which were all the same.
"'Walk among these works and know our greatness...'" hummed the Quarian who Keating had told them about.
"Mia," the Commander said, "We've found two more."
"Oh, hello," said the Quarian, being distracted from the pillar for a moment, "I'm Mia. Who are you?"
"I'm Thomson," he told her.
"... And I'm Emi..."
"Hello," Mia said, "Do you happen to be the Thomson who organised the battle on Sur'Kesh?"
"Yes. Why? Were you involved?"
Mia nodded, "I had just been rescued from Noveria by Keating when she got the call and decided it would be a good idea to fly in the middle of it, kill some Dreadnoughts and then talk a Reaper into using manners."
Emi nearly laughed, but it was only very slight, "... Did you make him eat with... What are they called?"
"A knife and fork?" Thomson questioned.
"... Yes, those... They're human manners, aren't they...? ... Or am I wrong?"
Keating shook her head, "I made him say please."
"Keelah..." Mia interrupted, her omni-tool activated on her arm, "It seems there's a structure inside the pillar that's mechanical in nature... It's some sort of technology."
"Do you know how to activate it?" Keating asked.
Mia shook her head, "I was a Geth expert. I have no idea what this is."
"I do. Please stand back," said a distinctly Geth voice.
Mia turned away defensively and raised her shotgun.
"Do not shoot. I am Revenge."
Revenge's Geth unit stepped out from the nickel storm.
It was Keating who raised her weapon next, "You're no Reaper."
"I am in control of this form, as my previous body was destroyed."
"Open it, then," Keating growled, "But I still don't trust you. I have a headache and I'm not in the mood for this. You know I could be sat in my ship watching vids on the Extranet? But no, I'm in this place working with a bloody Reaper."
"I take it you don't like him?" Thomson questioned, "I'm partly responsible for the destruction of his first Reaper body, and he's working with me. The Reapers had their chance to destroy the galaxy and are only protecting themselves."
"Not exactly a noble cause," Keating shrugged, "But I see your point."
They stepped away from the pillar and Revenge raised his hand towards the metal.
A blue pulse of energy struck the pillar and a chunk of metal exploded, leaving a hole in the structure. A light began shining.
Seconds later, a figure appeared. Ghostly blue-white in colour, and shaped like no creature Thomson had ever seen. He felt Emi jump behind him in surprise, so he gave her arm a reassuring squeeze.
"Is this... some sort of AI?" Mia questioned.
Revenge nodded, "It's an emergency interface."
The AI made noises that couldn't be translated, not even to the Quarians with translators in their helmets.
It began switching language. Thomson heard German, Spanish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, then finally English.
"Apologies. I was linking this interface to your neural relay."
"... It's in our mind?" Emi questioned, "... Please get out... I don't like it..."
"It just has to check whether you are friend or foe," Revenge explained, "It is partly broken."
"What should we ask it?" asked Keating.
"We need to figure out where they are now," said Thomson, "So maybe we should ask it that?"
Mia nodded, "There was a race here a long time ago. Where are they now?"
The ghostly AI was silent for a moment, "Ploba," it said finally.
"What's Ploba?" Thomson questioned.
"... Really," said Keating, "I give up. You don't know what Ploba is or why it's special?"
Thomson shook his head.
"It's a gas giant with regular structures on the inside," Mia said, "No one knows why they're there or what their function is. Most people think that they're parts of planet-sized supercomputer that is millions of years old, but no one has ever returned from going there. Keelah... now we know the reason."
Keating nodded, "It seems we do. I'll call the Naseby."
There was a slight flickering in the air next to the AI and then a figure appeared. Thomson recognised him instantly, just from his helmet.
"Epsilon? What are you doing here?"
"I prefer the name Stealth. Epsilon was just in the gang. And, I'm working for Revenge. I've just scouted the area. You really should have activated your stealth drive before you landed."
"Why? No one's here," Keating sighed, "Now we have to go to a gas giant. Yay."
"Well actually, that's where you're wrong. Well technically you're right, but there are things here. It seems the Reapers had some troops left from the last cycle of theirs..."
"That is correct," said Revenge, "However, I thought they had died."
"No. They're amassing just inside that structure. They're Husk-things... I've never seen anything like them. There must be a few hundred easily."
"Right then," Keating said cheerfully, "Let's go kill some zombies."