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.