Thanks to Reikson for the awesome ideas and the great bata work and to my many kind reviewers -- your support has made it a hell of a lot easier to do this. Thank you All :-)
The group passed through a destroyed chamber that still reeked of the faint traces of ammonia that marked it as a lab. Xander looked back and noticed Wrex staring at a dead Krogan. The scientist who'd been running the lab. A low rumbling snarl built up in the old Krogan's throat.
"You okay, Big Guy?" Xander asked the old mercenary quietly.
"The Council made us slaves once." Wrex sneered bitterly. "We wiped out the Rachni for them and they thanked us by neutering us all. Now this scum would've make us slaves again. And to a Turian, of all things. He's not even worth feeding to a nathak."
The old Battlemaster paused, looking at the his fellow Krogan before spitting on the corpse in disgust.
"Wrex, can it!" Shepard snapped. "You're with Harris and Alenko on point! I want to make sure every trace of Saren's so-called cure is gone."
The old Krogan nodded as Xander and Kaidan went ahead, moving down a narrow walkway that looked like a bridge. Idly, Xander noticed a second bridge off to the side.
The sound of gunfire echoed, off in the distance.
"Sounds like Ash and the Captain are giving them what for." Xander commented, mostly to fill the air. Alenko's silence was creeping him out.
"I can't believe she picked you, of all people." Kaidan snapped.
"Ashley or Shepard?" Xander sighed.
"What, you think I'm some lovesick teenager?" Kaidan sneered. "Of course, I mean Shepard. Or have you been playing moral compass for any other Council Spectres?"
"Ah. I'd wondered where that eight-hundred pound gorilla had gotten off to." Xander sighed.
"See that? Right there! That's my point!" Kaidan snapped back. "I get using humor as a coping mechanism, but you act like the world exists as a nonstop set-up for your jokes."
"Oh, and you'd prefer that I took life seriously and sit around in righteous moral judgment of someone who's saved my life more then a few times?" Xander sneered back.
"You think she was right to kill those Salarians? You can't think she was right!" the biotic snarled.
"Of course I think it was right! I've been a slave... well, it was a long time ago and it doesn't matter anymore. The point is, I've seen what being a slave does to people, and I wouldn't leave my worst enemy like that."
"So just mow them down, a quick little double tap and away we go, that's better?!? How can you just rationalize that away?"
"I trust her, Kaidan. It's not much more complicated then that. She's earned my trust. We're through the looking glass here. Right, wrong... stuff like that gets fuzzy on the level that we're now playing on. So trust is all that we can rely on. And I trust her, Kaidan. "
"I've seen what happens when you start looking the other way, Xander. It's not pretty. It usually doesn't end well for the people depending on-"
Their conversation was interrupted as they reached the far side of the walkway. Kaidan was in full rant as Geth Recon Drones flew at them, firing phasic rounds at blitzkrieg speeds.
"Pull back, Goddamnit!" Xander bellowed. But even as he moved to sprint away, giant servos whined as the first bridge swung away leaving the pathway behind them a yawning chasm. Xander and Kaidan stumbled onto the second bridge as it slid into place, while Wrex fell against a doorway behind them.
The rest of the squad was cut off from all three of them. Kaidan could see Garrus prodding the bridge controls on their side of the chasm. A high machine whining began and Kaidan could feel the bridge he was standing on moving.
It took a few moments for him to realize the bridges were not coming together. As the first one slid back into place, the second bridge lowered itself, leaving Wrex trapped next to the door, and both Kaidan and Xander trapped out in the open.
"Oh, isn't that nice!" Xander snarled. "Moving bridges and, of course, when one is in position, the other isn't! Which means that we're now sitting ducks out here!"
"...And here's me thinking the slaughterhouse was out front with Ash and Salarians!" Kaidan yelled back as the two men fired on the swiftly moving Drones.
"Get to the other side of the bridge!" Xander bellowed.
"What?!? Have you lost your mind?!?" Kaidan roared back.
"We're in a crap position! We either stay here in the open and let the Drones gun us down, or move down the bridge to the only cover we've got! That alcove!"
Kaidan looked ahead and saw a trio of Krogan firing wildly in their direction. "Krogan incoming!" he yelled. "Looks like they're indoctrinated!"
"We gonna take the Krogan or the Geth?!?" Xander bellowed back.
"Krogan!" Kaidan decided on the fly. "The Drones can actually hit us!"
So the two of them made a break for the alcove, dodging Geth weapons fire as they ran and continued shooting. Wrex could see across the vast space, while Shepard and the rest of the team hunkered down to lay a hail of suppressing fire on all the Drones they could see.
Now under assault from above and below, the Drones split up. Several of them broke off from trying to kill Xander and Kaidan in order to engage Shepard's team.
Wrex found himself under assault from two of the Recon Drones at once. He fired his oversized shotgun at the one of the drones firing at him, sending it spinning away to crash somewhere in a fiery mess.
The other Drone weaved through the air, its shots falling around Wrex like a deadly rainstorm. Cursing, the old Krogan broke cover and leapt into the air, grabbing onto the remaining drone. The thing was unprepared for the bold tactic and his greater weight, and its overstressed hover engines whined as he rode it down to the second bridge.
Jumping off of the Drone, he twisted in midair so that he could continue firing his pistol at the hovering machine. He watched with some satisfaction as the thing exploded, just before he landed hard on the bridge, back first, and began cursing.
Meanwhile, a single Drone was keeping up the steady rain of rocket fire on Kaidan and Xander.
"What the hell are those things?!?" Kaidan yelled.
"I don't know!" Xander yelled back, reflexively ducking as a rocket streaked past them and exploded behind them. "But they've got a Hell of a bang for their buck!"
Kaidan used biotic punches to knock the Krogan down to the ground as they passed, allowing them to slip into the dubious cover of the alcove.
Meanwhile, Wrex was too far away to make effective use of his Shotgun, and was not prepared to expose himself to the deadly Rocket Drone. So he began firing pistol rounds at the other Krogan menacing Xander and Kaidan, allowing the two of them to deal with the last Drone.
"I got this." Xander snapped and channeled an Overload at the Drone, making its shield shimmer and die.
That was when Kaidan first noticed it; a smaller, spherical drone buzzing around the larger Rocket Drone. "Damn it! Repair drones!" the biotic cursed. "God does not like us today!" He tried targeting the thing, but it seemed to almost sense when it was being threatened. It would swoop back and forth, in and out of the cover provided by the larger Rocket Drone's protective shielding.
"Now you see WHY I've had to develop a sense of humor about my life?!?" Xander roared at him. "I'd go crazy otherwise!"
Whenever they tagged the Rocket Drone, the smaller one would fire some kind of beam at its larger comrade, regenerating its shields and armor and letting it start attacking again.
"Double team!" Xander snapped. "I break cover and draw the Rocket Drone's fire, and you take out the Repair Drone!"
"No, we should stick to cover! It can't get at us that well while we stay here!"
Xander nodded. "Fine, L-T, we'll try it your way! But first..." and he broke from cover, running as fast as he could. The Rocket Drone swiveled in the air and went after him, firing rockets at his heels.
Kaidan cursed as he began running after them, firing shots at the Repair Drone and sending it falling to the rocky reefs far below.
Xander saw another Krogan warrior right in front of him. The walking tank snarled wordlessly in rage as it barreled toward him in full Charge. He dropped to the ground, sliding between the Krogan's pumping legs just as the Drone unleashed another rocket attack. The rocket blew the Krogan off its feet and hurled it over the railing.
Xander leaned back, priming his omni-tool again. This time, the Overload charge slammed into the Rocket Drone, dropping its shields enough for Kaidan to hit it with an EM Pulse. The drone fell, exploding as it disappeared into the watery depths.
Xander lay on his back, panting heavily. "Nice, L-T! Don't you love it when a plan comes together?"
"That was reckless, foolhardy, and... just about the ballsiest thing I've ever seen." Kaidan bent down to help Xander up and was thus caught off-balance when a huge Krogan barreled into him and sent both of them over the railing.
"Kaidan!" Xander cried out as he got to the railing and saw the biotic dangling from the edge of the railing, with the Krogan grabbing his feet.
Kaidan's grip on the railing slipped, and Xander reached out and grabbed his arms to hold him in place. But the sudden jerk of his stop dislodged the Krogan and sent it plummeting to the reefs below. Xander tried to pull Kaidan up, but was hit from behind and nearly let him fall again.
The attacking Krogan, who'd been blasted off the bridge by the Geth Drone only seconds earlier, had survived his close encounter with a rocket and pulled his still smoldering body back onto the bridge to batter at Xander with his shotgun stock.
If Xander was the count-your-blessings type, he might've considered it lucky the Krogan was so maddened by its pain that it seemed determined to club him to death with the shotgun, as opposed to shooting him. Xander tried kicking back, but the brainwashed Krogan was single-minded.
"Let go of my hand!" Kaiden yelled up at him.
"Screw that! I'm not dropping you to save my own ass!"
"I don't want you to drop me, you idiot! I need a hand free! Biotic here, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Xander replied sheepishly.
Xander freed one of Kaidan's hands, and the biotic balled up his fist and threw a ball of biotic power that sent the Krogan flying into the air, off the bridge, and into the waters below.
Finally unhindered, Xander yanked Alenko back up onto the bridge.
"When you tell people about this..." Xander panted, on his hands and knees. "...and you will, make no mistake about that... could you leave out the part where I forgot you're a biotic? That's mildly embarrassing."
Kaidan looked at him. "You kidding me? I'm totally going to tell them that you were screaming like a little girl."
"I don't scream like a girl! My screaming's very butch!" Xander squawked.
They stared at each before they both broke into laughter.
"If I didn't know better..." Wrex rumbled as he walked up to them. "I would say that SOMEONE was using humor as a coping mechanism for the stress of his near-death experience."
"What about YOUR near-death experience?!?" Xander demanded. "Last I saw, you were in bad cover and ready to get picked off!"
Wrex shrugged. "As my first Battlemaster taught me; when you have no defense, attack."
"What about you, Harris?" Kaidan asked. "What possessed you to run out into enemy fire like that?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Why do I get the impression you use THAT excuse a lot?" Kaidan groaned.
Xander shrugged as Wrex looked over at the distant second bridge and the rest of their squadmates. "How are we going to get the bridge back up to the other platform?"
"Easy-peasy," Xander pointed. "That console over there should do the trick. The real problem's that Shepard's going to be waiting for us, and I don't think she'll be happy that we got into a whole firefight and didn't invite her. You know how she hates being left out of the action."
Kaidan looked up and saw Shepard staring down on them. He could feel her stare, even from this distance. "No offense, Xander, but she likes you better. So I'm totally blaming this on you."
"Not if I talk to her first, you won't." Xander vowed.
next up: When Old Machines and Old Ones meet -- sparks fly. Saren shows he's smarter then the average Geth and Team Normandy loses one of its own.