Dossier: Engineer (4)
AN - thanks as always to Reikson and Drakependragon ...
Dossier: Engineer (4)
“…and there’s the plaza,” Xander sighed.
“That’s a lot of Geth,” Tolus whispered. “How are we supposed to take them all out?”
“That’s a good question,” Xander muttered.
“Here’s another one,” Miranda asked pointedly. “The Geth haven’t been outside the Perseus Veil in two hundred years. The only person who’s ever managed to make contact with them is an indoctrinated Spectre, so how did you manage it?”
Xander sighed. “All right, fine. I take it that you know about Doctor Cayce and O’Loy, then, right? Timmy was bankrolling a research project of theirs?”
“Project Firewalker,” Miranda nodded. “They were searching for Prothean data stores, and their last communiqué indicated that Cayce had become paranoid and unstable. He thought that the Geth were stealing his thoughts and that the dead were rising from their graves to stalk him.”
The immortal Scooby grimaced. “Yeah, Cayce was nutty as peanut brittle all right. But O’Loy set up some doodads on a frozen ice cube of a planet called Lattesh.”
“How do you know that?” Miranda asked, suspicious.
“Yeah, well, I kinda… crashed on Lattesh and Legion… rescued me.”
“How does one kind of crash on an uncharted planet in the middle of the nowhere?”
“Rather easily, I’m afraid,” Xander replied, impersonating her accent dead-on courtesy of a five-year stay in Australia. Jack snickered pointedly, smirking at Miranda’s annoyed scowl.
“Of course, I can’t take all the credit,” he continued in his normal voice. “For that, you’d also have to thank the Blood Pack.”
“How the Hell did the Blood Pack get involved?”
Instead of answering her, Xander turned to Kasumi. “Hey, Kasumi, you remember back when Garm was making his big move to take out Aria and take over Omega?”
The cyber-thief smiled a little too widely. “I remember you crashing our shuttle into the base that I’d already set to blow up. We only just got out by the skin of our teeth.”
Xander nodded. “We escaped in separate shuttles and that Battlemaster chased me down and got aboard mine.”
“Maybe, next time you have to fight a Krogan, you’ll remember how many vital organs they actually have.”
“It was the heat of battle and I was in a hurry,” Xander tried to ignore the amused glances that his allies were throwing at him. He prayed that Buffy or Willow would never learn about this little mishap, but who was he kidding?
“Anyway, Kor and I had a little rematch aboard the shuttle and things didn’t go so well for him. Or the shuttle, for that matter. We’d blind-jumped through the Relay network and somehow ended up on Lattesh which is where things got a little surreal.”
Lattesh, six months ago...
“…I repeat, this is Xander Harris, Alliance Marine, broadcasting on all channels, please respond! I’ve crashed on Lattesh, a planet in the Chomos System of the Phoenix Massing Cluster! Navigation data will follow this message…”
“…temperatures are extremely low, and I’m channeling most of my reserve power into supercharging this beacon! I’m hoping that the extra juice will let me reach someone…”
“…anyone? I’m not much for praying to God, so if anybody gets this, please get me the hell off this ice cube…”
Xander reclined on a couch in the San Francisco apartment that he shared with Dawn Summers. Sipping hot cocoa, he stared at the TV and occasionally at the view of the Bay area beyond.
He had a good life here.
Dawn entered the room and flopped down next to him. She remained silent as Xander stared blankly at the TV.
“So, what’s the entertainment for the evening?” she asked.
“Some kind of sci-fi survival thing,” he shrugged. “The hero’s ride got shot to Hell while he was escaping from some space mercenaries and now his ship’s crashed on an uncharted planet. Now he has to survive long enough for the emergency beacon to attract attention.”
“Sounds like gripping drama,” she deadpanned. “So how’s he going to get out of this one?”
“He’s cannibalizing some communications buoys that he found on the planet’s surface. If he can reroute the power, he can overclock the beacon and send a signal strong enough that the whole galaxy can hear it.”
“What’s the problem then?”
“He’ll have to divert power from the heating units, meaning that he can send a call for help the whole galaxy can hear but only if he’s willing to endure freezing to death.”
“Sounds like an easy call, then. Just because he can survive freezing to death doesn’t mean he should try,” Dawn sighed. “Anyway, can we talk? I mean, really talk?”
Xander grimaced. “Dawn, is this really the best time? I’m kinda rockin’ the hot cocoa-moo, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Yes, you’re very comfortable, but you have this habit of avoiding me when things get really weird,” she shrugged. “Besides, I kinda have you all to myself for a while. You don’t often suffer from hallucinations induced by extreme hypothermia.”
He held up a hand to forestall her oncoming lecture. “Technically, this is still just moderate hypothermia. I’d figure, I’ll start imagining us in the Playboy Mansion when it hits extreme.”
She snorted. “If you think that I’m going to let you have some guilt-free romp with Hefner’s skank brigade, then you’ve got another think coming.”
Slumping down in his seat, Xander sighed. “I’m really pathetic when the day comes that I can’t even have decent sex fantasies anymore.”
“Speaking of which, we need to talk about Ashley.”
He rolled his eyes. “If I have to sit though this, then I want The Lap.”
Dawn sighed and allowed Xander to rest his head on her lap as she ran her fingers through his hair.
“So, while I have your undivided attention… I thought we could discuss this whole moving-on thing. Specifically… when exactly are you planning on doing it?”
Xander grimaced. “There’s been a few… complications.”
Dawn snorted, slapping him in the head. “You walked out on Ashley and you haven’t even tried to call her since then. That is not how the guy I fell in love with, acts.”
“She took the citation from the Liaison Office,” he retreaded old ground. “We both know what that meant; making her the Alliance’s poster girl. She was going to let them replace JL, just like that.”
Dawn snorted. “She’s just one woman, Xander. Her family was blacklisted since her grandfather’s heyday, and Joan’s dead as far as the rest of the galaxy’s concerned. Of course Ash grabbed the opportunity to bring back some family glory. What other choice did she have?”
“Uh-huh. So tell me what other choice I had?” he sneered. “Let Liara try and find Joan on her own? In the middle of the Terminus Systems? I had to go with her, if only to bring her body back.”
Turning up to face her, he let his eyes flitter close as he took in her scent. “She ended up an immortal because of me, just like how I was responsible for her becoming a Slayer. God only knows what that bastard Tazzik did to her while he had her alone. Everything that’s happened to her is my fault.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it,” she snapped, making his eyes fly open. “She’s an honest-to-God Champion; you felt it the first time you met her. This is the road that she walks. Besides, we both know that she wanted this, on some level. It never would’ve come to her otherwise.”
“Then I have to stay free… train Joan how to be a Slayer, so she can do what she’s supposed to do.”
“What you’re supposed to do…” she murmured, echoing his words. “Wake up already, doofus. You’re part of a team, remember? Whether you like it or not, Ashley’s also a part of that team. She wouldn’t have ended up on Eden Prime or the Normandy if it was going to end up any other way.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Xander sighed bitterly.
“All right, fine,” Dawn snarled. “The real reason that you were so quick to run out on her was because if you loved her and she loved you back, then you’ve officially moved on and everything that we had is over. I’m guessing that you’re still hoping that I’m going to magically come back from beyond the grave.”
“The precedent stands,” he grunted sullenly.
“Ooh, look at you with the Giles vocabulary,” she snorted. “Xander, you’re no good on your own. Willow, Jessie, Buffy, me… when are you going to get it through your head? You’re at your best when you have something… someone to fight for.”
“So what? You want me to take up with the some chick with major baggage and forget about you?”
“Xander, if you only ever came back here, to this apartment, then I’d say more power to you. But you don’t come back here, do you? This isn’t how you remember me.”
He paled as the images emerged, almost unbidden. “Dawn, don’t. Please don’t make me-”
The room shifted and suddenly Xander was back in THAT room again. Sterile, white, with the stench of ammonia and antiseptic choking his lungs and the woman he loved…
Dawn scowled up at him from the bed in which she’d spent her last days.
“Sooner or later, you always come back to this room,” she groaned, trying to sit up. “You have to stop coming back here, Xander. For your sake, if not for mine.”
“But I got my shit together,” he scowled, the unwanted memories torturing him. “I was going back to school, making a life for the both of us. That was the deal; no more risk-taking, no more running around trying to be Super-Xander. I came through on my part, settling down and trying to be a good husband. You were supposed to stay with me.”
“I didn’t die to punish you, Xander,” she rasped, her oxygen mask whitening with vapor. “I died because that’s what people are supposed to do. But every time you come back to this room, you die a little more inside, and you’ve been doing that for the last hundred-fifty years. Let me go. Please.”
Before he could say anything, someone started knocking at the door. Dawn looked up at him.
“I had a real life and a real love. You gave me that,” she murmured, laying a hand on his chest. “I promise that I’ll always be with you.”
The knocking had gotten heavier by this point.
“Do I have to get that?” Xander asked.
Dawn nodded. “You know how it goes; they’re more or less helpless without you cleaning up after them,” she grinned, before her smile fell away. “You have to keep going, for Buffy and Willow and now Shepard… God knows where they’d end up without you.”
Xander smiled bitterly. “Okay. I promise.”
He let go of her hand and walked to the door. At this point, the knocking had become pounding; banging, really.
“I won’t forget you,” he mumbled.
Dawn smiled. “Xander… door?”
“Yes, Miss Summers.”
“That’s Mrs. Harris to you, bub,” she chuckled.
Xander opened the door and blinked as he saw a Geth Trooper standing on the other side.
“Dawnie, did you order a Geth?” he wondered aloud.
“Operative Harris, please focus. Your responses indicate a possible psychosis,” the machine said, which was somewhat exceptional in and of itself.
“Mister Harris is an asshole. You can call me Xander, just Xander.”
“Acknowledged, Operative XanderjustXander,” the bipedal figure nodded. “We are responding to your emergency hails. Do you require assistance?”
“You’re a Geth?” the immortal Scooby muttered. Hypothermia left him feeling a little fuzzy and slow on the uptake.
“Correct. We are a terminal of the Geth.”
Xander blinked. He was no longer in his apartment or the hospital, but was instead still in the crashed shuttle.
The interior was ruined from the rough landing that he’d endured.
On the floor was the corpse of a Krogan Battlemaster who’d managed to get aboard the shuttle before he could escape the Blood Pack Base.
He could see the emergency beacon still broadcasting in the corner and where he’d cannibalized various components in order to amplify and overclock the beacon’s effective performance.
He looked at the machine looming over him. The first thing that came to mind was, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’m being rescued by C-3P0?”
The Geth’s visual array brightened as several parts surrounding its visual array suddenly assumed a position that Xander could’ve sworn meant that it was… confused.
“C-3P0 is not this unit’s designation,” the Geth finally said. “Scanning historical records… this unit is capable of a far-greater range of tasks than simple protocol management.”
“You actually looked up Star Wars?” Xander chuckled. “Well, I’ve gotta call you something.”
“Our proper designation is Geth interaction-platform terminal 2A93,” the synthetic intoned.
“Yeah, that’s kind of a mouthful,” Xander sighed, rubbing his jaw. “Anyway, we can shorten that up to something like Fred or Buddy.”
“If we are to use the same source material, a more-apt comparison would be HK-47. This platform is a fully-functional combat unit.”
“Ohhh, no,” he quickly shook his head. “Something tells me that naming you HK-47 would be just asking for the Powers-that-Be to kick me in the balls; definitely not a good idea.”
“We will confer and attempt to achieve consensus.”
“There are 1,138 active programs currently active on this platform. All actions are achieved through consensus.”
Xander paused before he remembered something perfect. “I got it!” When the Geth turned to affix him with an assessing stare, the immortal Scooby said, “Let’s call you Legion.”
The Geth platform’s head flaps seemed to flex before it intoned, “Christian Bible; Gospel of Mark, chapter five, verse nine; ‘And he asked him, What is your name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.’ An appropriate metaphor; we can use this designation if you wish.”
“Legion, huh? Okay… but for the record, I think that Buddy would’ve been cool.”
Xander found his odd life had taken yet another odd turn. Legion explained that Lattesh was the site of an ongoing Geth experiment designed to alter atmospheric and environmental conditions on a planetary scale.
Hence, why the planet was a subzero ice cube. Legion had intercepted Xander’s distress beacon and, more importantly, several messages in the Heretic datanet about various runtimes debating on how to deal with his intrusion.
Xander had to once again thank the strange luck that had come into his life all those years ago when he’d literally fell into Buffy Summer’s life.
The Geth assumed that organics were too fragile to survive subzero conditions for very long, so investigating Xander’s emergency beacon had not been considered a high-priority task. Fortunately for him, Legion had a vested interest in such things.
When he asked about the heretics, Legion explained that the Geth were in the midst of what might be charitably described as a religious war.
Orthodox Geth, for lack of a better term, believed that all life (organic and synthetic) should be allowed to self-determine at its own discretion. But the Heretics felt that organic life was inferior, and that the only path to true greatness was if the Geth served the will of the Reapers, what Legion insisted on calling the Old Machines.
Xander wasn’t entirely surprised by this information, having seen evidence of that very conflict on Feros while chasing Saren. But for the true Geth to be reaching out to a person particularly famous for destroying Geth, did seem odd.
But Legion’s point of view was that Shepard had never faced or destroyed any of the true, mainline Geth. Her attacks had always been against the Heretics, which was a distinction that Xander was pretty sure wouldn’t mean as much to her as it did to Legion.
“We seek to establish an alliance with Shepard-Commander. A tactically-advisable course is to render assistance to known allies of Shepard-Commander in order to establish trust.”
“You want to hook up with the boss? Why?”
“Geth fight both the Old Machines and the Heretics. Shepard-Commander fights both the Old Machines and the Heretics. Cooperation furthers mutual goals.”
“In other words, the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”
“To a certain extent, yes.”
“Okey-dokey…” Xander sighed. “Anyway, I think I’m gonna pass out again. D’you mind waking me up in twenty minutes?”
“Operative Harris, we do not advise rest at this time.”
“Funny… I’m thinking this is a bad idea myself, but I’m kinda in a go-with-the-flow mood right now. If the Powers-That-Be want to screw with me, they can damn well wait till I’m better rested.”
If Legion had a take on that statement, Xander didn’t hear it. He’d already lost consciousness and would stay that way for some time.
“…and we got off Lattesh and here we are.” Xander finished explaining.
“How did you get off-planet exactly?” Miranda asked pointedly
“…and why wouldn’t you bring him back to Omega with you?” Kasumi wondered. “Being the only vigilante gang in the Terminus with a Geth on the team would’ve been kinda cool.”
Xander flushed. “It’s complicated, but the short version is that I ended up in Purgatory, which is what lead me to springing Jack, so… hey, things worked out for the best.”
Jack snorted and turned to Legion. “Hey, tin-can. What about you? You wanna spill the details?”
The Geth looked at her for a moment before replying, “No data available.”
“The Hell you talkin’ about?”
“On this topic, we have no data available.”
The unit refused to elaborate any further, repeating ‘no data available’ for any inquiry centered on what it and Xander had gotten up to prior to Xander ending up on Purgatory and rescuing Jack.
Miranda snorted. “Well, Cerberus has a long-standing cash bounty for an intact Geth. So when we get it back to the ship, you can turn it in to Cerberus command.”
“I’m sorry, maybe you missed the part where it said it wanted to help
us,” Xander snapped irritably. “As in, help us stop the Collectors and maybe the Reapers as well?”
“…and it will help us. The data it can provide to Cerberus’ cyberweapons division alone will be invaluable.”
Xander had a rant all teed up and ready to fly, but suddenly realized something that made him calm down. Still visibly tense, he instead said quite coolly, “How’s about we let Shepard make the call? You know, since she’s kinda the one in charge and everything?”
Upon approaching the plaza separating them from Tali, Xander noticed Reegar dug in nearby and cradling an ML-77 in hand. Miranda was still a little weak-kneed from her near-death experience, which was why they hadn’t gotten to him as quickly as they would’ve managed otherwise.
The Quarian Marine in question looked up to see Legion standing at the rear of the group, pulse rifle at the ready.
Then he looked at Xander, then Miranda, back to Legion, and then turned back to Xander.
“I don’t know if you’re aware, but there’s a Geth with a weapon right behind you!” Reegar shouted over the loud din of gunfire, reflexively ducking as the Colossus pelted his cover with a siege blast that sent stone shrapnel everywhere.
“Yeah, thanks for the heads-up, dude!” Xander yelled back. “He’s with us! Some of your guys are only alive now because of him!”
Tolus waved to Reegar, saluting before popping out and tagging an oncoming Geth with his acquired pulse rifle.
Legion’s cyclopean eye brightened at it turned to regard Reegar. “We wish to assist in the safe extraction of Creator expeditionary force survivors.”
“Anyone else more than a little creeped out over the Geth still calling the Quarians their creators?” Kasumi asked to no one in particular. “I mean, they did try to massacre them.”
“We intend no hostility towards the Creators at this time.” Legion seemed to shrug.
Reegar gave Legion a long, assessing look. “You know, ordinarily I’d have a whole crapload of problems with THIS scenario!” the Quarian Marine yelled over the gunfire.
By this time, the whole team had spread themselves along the metal pane that continued to rattle with each tiny bullet that it absorbed.
Jack had scavenged up a Geth shotgun from somewhere along the way and had added her little ammo-modding trick to it, firing biotically-enhanced shots at oncoming Geth platforms and blowing away shields with a single shot.
“But between getting my ass shot at, losing my whole team, and maybe the only reason we ever came to this Ancestor-forsaken rock in the first place, I’ve had THE worst day of my life!” he continued, firing off a pair of rockets that turned a flamethrower-wielding Geth Destroyer into flying scrap.
As Thane fired off a Throw that sent several troopers flying into a nearby unused crane, both Miranda and Kasumi fired off an Overload that fried a Geth Prime and even made it scream as it exploded in a shower of white blood-like conduction fluid.
“So if a Geth of all things wants to save my people and get us the Hell off this rock then I say ‘thank the Ancestors’ and all that stuff!” Reegar concluded his little rant by taking a few potshots with an Avenger that he must’ve scavenged up from somewhere, as both Legion and Tolus’Xan fired their pulse rifles and reduced two more platforms to scrap.
“Well, right now, you can thank the brunette!” Xander shouted back, gesturing to Miranda as she fired off a Warp that neatly blew apart several Recon Drones. “She’s the one in charge until Shepard gets here! More to the point, where’s Tali?!?”
“Across the plaza and inside the observatory!” Reegar bellowed, his omnitool lighting up and generating a CG-designed map of the plaza. A small area directly behind the Colossus flashed red, indicating Tali’s location. “Tali sealed herself inside along with one of my guys, name of Myr’Jorin! He managed to get her in there, but I haven’t heard from them since!”
Miranda, who was venting excess heat from her omnitool, joined in. “Your man’s injured and possibly dying, and there’s a small army between us and our tar- between us and Tali’Zorah! How am I doing so far?!?” she shouted amidst the Colossus peppering their position with siege pulses that sent stone chips flying.
“Pretty damn good!” Reegar yelled back. The Colossus fired another pulse blast in their direction and everyone took cover. Instead, Reegar came out of hiding once the blast dissipated and fired the rocket launcher again. The explosive round streaked across the plaza, exploding against the Colossus chassis as Xander whooped with glee.
But Reegar only growled in frustration.
“What’s the matter?!?” Xander yelled back. “That was a clean hit!”
“You think that’s the first time I’ve hit that thing?!?” Reegar snorted. “Keep an eye out and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Sure enough, the Colossus was back in view only moments later.
“I don’t see a scratch on it,” Kasumi observed.
“Some kind of repair protocol,” Miranda mused. “Must be drawing on local resources to order to fix itself, and even uses its own troops to that end. That might even explain why there are so many Troopers in the area. They’re not just cannon fodder against us, but also as fuel for the Colossus to keep fixing any damage that we might inflict upon it.”
Reegar nodded. “Every time I score a hit, it huddles up and fixes itself! I can’t get a clear shot at it when it’s down like that, and those Geth don’t exactly make it easy either!”
Xander poked his head out and the Colossus fired a pulse blast at them. Astonishingly, the shot actually seemed to change course, veering toward them as if being guided. As he ducked back into cover, the pulse blast actually began to blow apart their cover.
“Guided weapons blasts?!?” he squawked in alarm. “How long have they had THAT feature?!?”
“It was deemed an acceptable upgrade towards improving combat effectiveness,” Legion replied, not really understanding sarcasm or rhetorical questions. “It allows for greater versatility against concealed targets.”
“Trust me, we’ve already figured THAT one out,” Miranda growled, holding her side and wincing.
“So how are we gonna get to Tali?” Reegar asked.
The genetically-engineered woman took a look out at the battlefield ahead. “If Shepard were here, I’d suspect that she’d go for a direct assault. I myself would prefer a more circuitous approach.”
“Aww, c’mon, Lawson, where’s the fun in that?” Shepard jabbed playfully, her team in tow as they joined up with Miranda’s battle-scarred second team.
“G-man!” Xander exclaimed brightly as Garrus and his trusty M-92 Mantis showed up.
“My kill-count’s through the roof,” the former vigilante chuckled. “I think that I’ve blown away more Geth today than during our entire hunt for Saren.”
“Xander, why is there an armed Geth in your group?” Shepard asked, calling attention to the lone cyclopean mechanoid currently wielding a sniper rifle identical to her own.
“Legion here wants to help stop the Reapers and Collectors,” the immortal Scooby shrugged, as though that explained everything. “He’s also the guy who’s been saving a ton of Tali’s guys.”
Tolus waved to her as he tossed a tech-mine into a squad of incoming Geth. Shepard acknowledged him with a nod before turning back to Xander.
“We’re in the middle of Geth space and yet you manage to find a Geth that wants to be friends.” She wasn’t asking a question.
“Gotta play to my strengths,” Xander shrugged dismissively.
“Good. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll need your dumb luck before this is finished.” Turning to Reegar, the Slayer-Spectre sized him up. “You still good to fight, Squad Leader?”
“Bastards just punched a hole through my suit, but I can still pull a trigger,” he nodded, pointing to a deep graze near his left shoulder.
“What about that Colossus?” Jacob wanted to know.
“It’s got a repair protocol,” Miranda answered. “As long as it’s got Geth troops to act as a distraction and draw enemy fire, then it has a chance to fix any damage that we do from afar.”
“Then I’ll take Xander and his Geth friend and get in close,” Shepard nodded, loading a new thermal clip into her Widow. “You and Kasumi keep Reegar alive. Biotics, tech, whatever you deem necessary.”
“How are we doing this, then?” Garrus asked.
Shepard pointed at a far-off platform running the length of the plaza. “That balcony’s got a good view of the battlefield. Take Thane and Zaeed and head over there. Between your sniper rifles, you should be able to thin out the army between us and that Colossus. I shouldn’t have to tell you to watch your shields; you’ve got very little cover up there.”
Turning to a grim-faced Jacob, she added, “Taylor, take Jack, Morinth, and Grunt to the left past that crane. You’re covering our sniper team and taking out any Geth trying to flank us or Mister Reegar here. Miranda and Kasumi are hanging back so I’m counting on you to pick up the slack.”
“Understood, ma’am,” the former Corsair nodded, racking the slide of his Eviscerator.
“Meanwhile,” Xander added grumpily, “…me, boss-lady and Legion here head up the middle and hope like Hell that we can take out a Colossus at point-blank range.”
“Like I said, Xander,” Shepard shrugged. “Dumb luck would be good right about now.”
“If it wasn’t for dumb luck, I’d have no luck at all,” he chuckled grimly. “Let’s get to work.”
“Move!” Shepard barked, and everyone made a break for it.
The Geth seemed to wash over the squads in a relentless wave.
The Normandy’s combat specialists were just as relentless in seeking to push them back.
Kasumi blasted another Geth who got too close to their entrenched position even as Reegar and Tolus aimed shots at the distant Colossus.
Reegar hauled the ML-77 rocket launcher onto his shoulder, firing a shell that hit the Colossus. But the huge mech dropped behind cover again, and he growled.
“This is getting us nowhere,” he snarled, frustrated. “Shepard better have a miracle planned or this is gonna go very, very badly.”
“Jacob, how are you doing down there?” Miranda shouted though the comlink.
“We’re okay! We saw Reegar hit the Colossus, did it go down?” the former Corsair barked, his Eviscerator booming twice.
“Negative! Looks like we’re stuck waiting for Shepard to pull off the impossible!”
“Seems like the Man’s getting his money’s worth on that,” he snorted.
Morinth clutched her hand and a Singularity appeared, dragging several struggling Geth into the air. “Make yourself useful, human!” the Ardat-Yakshi shouted. “Strike now!”
“Hold up, Miri, I gotta do a thing over here,” Jacob added, firing a Warp at the Singularity and generating a massive discharge of dark energy that collapsed the clashing mass-effect fields and exploded spectacularly, blowing apart a squad of Geth and sending several more flying every which way.
But for all the damage that explosion had generated, the Geth army maintained its forward momentum through sheer numbers.
“How the Hell did you even know that would work?” Jacob wondered aloud.
“Asari are trained in biotics as children. I was the pride of my class before…” she grimaced as she trailed off.
“…before you had to go on the run,” he sighed. Then he shrugged, reached out and patted her shoulder. “Well, their loss, our gain.”
Morinth’s eyes flashed, all set to tell the human that she didn’t need his sympathy. Yet, he’d given her none.
Jacob, much like Shepard, had simply accepted her. She was what she was, and if it kept the team alive then none of them had a single problem with it.
“Break up the lovefest, we’ve got synthos on our six!” Zaeed’s rough voice barked through the radio as his sniper rifle hit a Geth with a center-mass shot.
“I got news for you, old man,” Jack taunted. “We’re surrounded by these things!”
“Thanks, girly,” Zaeed sneered, “I think we get the gist of it.”
Instead of responding, Jack turned to Morinth. “Hey, Morrie! Think you can whip up another Singularity?”
“With ease, girl,” Morinth sneered. “Let me guess; you want to shatter the biotic field.”
“Whatever works, right?”
The renegade nodded, alit with biotic fire. “Here it comes, girl, make it count.”
The Singularity sprang to life, hurling several troopers into the air. Jack roared as she shoved a Shockwave that plowed into the Geth’s ranks, scattering more of them as the sequential concussive bursts plowed into the biotic vortex and generated an explosion that reduced an entire Geth platoon to scrap.
Garrus chuckled as he picked off several Destroyers by blowing their supply tanks, generating explosions that scattered more and more Geth with each blast.
Hearing a roar across the plaza, he noticed Grunt and his M-100 grenade launcher firing high-explosive shells with considerable abandon.
Zaeed chuckled. “Hey, I like Junior’s enthusiasm.”
“He’ll get himself killed pulling stunts like that,” Thane rasped in disapproval. Garrus had to agree. He found himself missing Wrex, and the way that old fogey could balance Krogan bloodrage and impulsiveness with his many centuries of experience.
“At least HIS head’s in the right place,” the old merc snorted.
Then Grunt promptly left the scant protection of the covering barricade and began a swift charge towards the Geth lines, firing blasts from his shotgun as he barreled his way through.
“At this rate, he’s gonna lose his head!” Garrus snarled, firing shots with his Mantis as quickly as he could cycle through his heat sinks as he tried to clear a path for the young Krogan.
“I… am… KROGAN!” Grunt roared as he slammed into a Geth firing hole. “Come on, you soulless cowards! Face me!”
His shotgun blasts took several Geth by surprise and they fell one by one. But all too soon, he ran smack-dab into a Prime and actually staggered back. Its superior frame had allowed it to stand fast and resist the powerful forward momentum of his charge.
The hulking Prime slapped the young Krogan hard, driving Grunt to the ground. Almost as soon as he hit the ground, though, he managed to flip to his other side and freed his Claymore long enough to shove its barrel into the Prime’s midsection and fire a point-blank blast.
Grunt roared in delight as the hulking synthetic was ripped in half by the sheer force of the shotgun blast.
But the Prime had the last laugh. As its top and bottom halves fell to the ground, it managed to fire a fully-charged plasma blast from its weapon.
Grunt took the full brunt of the blast and shuddered. Reeling, he sank to his knees and shook his head frantically, trying to regain his senses as another Prime closed in on him, its own plasma shotgun at the ready.
“Jack! Cover Grunt!” Garrus yelled.
“On it!” the biotic anarchist yelled back, stepping from cover. Her body blurred in a bright flare of electric blue force as she streaked across the short space in a biotic Charge. Her body emerged from the effects of the technique just in time for her to deliver an uppercut that crashed into the bottom of its “ribcage” as she fired an explosive gravitic shear that blew apart its chest and head almost simultaneously.
An impressive technique for close-quarters combat, given that it’d been all instinct. But that stunt had cost Jack dearly, as she fell to her hands and knees wheezing and gasping for breath. There was no high this time, only a dangerous blackness that pulled at the edges of her vision. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, thudding in her chest like a drum and seemingly pounding in her ears and trying to crack her skull open.
Grunt stared blearily at the hairless human female. Tiny even for her kind, with a frail-framed body, and yet she’d charged an opponent that towered above her and seemed to outweigh her by at least two degrees of magnitude.
To add extra insult, she’d even killed it in a display of violence far more suited for a Krogan battlemaster. Red haze tickled the edges of his vision, anger at yet another reminder of his undeserved and unproven ability.
Meanwhile, Morinth channeled a blast of biotic power beneath her feet and hurled herself skyward in a running jump. Soaring over the prodigiously-powerful human female biotic, the renegade Ardat-Yakshi used the speed of terminal velocity to drive a biotically-enhanced fist into the head of an attacking Geth.
The synthetic screeched as it reeled from her attack, a horrendously atonal cacophony issuing from… somewhere, as it flailed about and tried to shake her off.
Morinth leapt back, leaving the Geth to its wild flailing as it died. A quick biotic Charge sent her hurtling onward toward yet another Prime. A flare of dark energy later, she crashed into the hulking platform and somehow managed to ram her entire body through it. The result was an explosion that scattered several Geth around the area.
“…and that, child, is how it’s done,” Morinth sneered, her exhaustion betraying her air of condescension as she slumped to the ground with a wheezing gasp.
Jack was about to snort derisively but saw a Geth Destroyer closing in, leveling the nozzle of its flamethrower weapon on them with the obvious intent of roasting both of them alive.
Grunt, which the Destroyer had passed up in favor of Jack and Morinth, reached up and grabbed at the weapon, his Krogan strength crushing the nozzle with some effort. Then he swung the tall Geth platform as Thane nailed a perfect shot of opportunity on its fuel tank.
That bullet, from the Drell assassin’s sniper rifle, nicked the tank near its pressure nozzle and Grunt managed to haul the struggling synthetic aloft before hurling it into the oncoming crowd of Geth Troopers.
The resulting explosion tore apart a number of oncoming Geth.
“Scratch one!” Garrus crowed. “Now where’s that Colossus?”
“Speak of the bloody Devil, son, and he shall appear,” Zaeed rasped gesturing at the freshly-repaired Colossus as it stood back up and fired a pulse blast at the group.
“Those attacks are becoming a problem,” Miranda snarled, ducking reflexively as the burst splashed violently against the handrail panel. “Shepard, if you can hear me, you have to take out that Colossus!” she yelled into her radio. “We can’t put up with blasts like that for much longer!”
Shepard saw the biotic discharge from where she was sheltered from Geth pulse rifle fire.
“Your girlfriend can really tear it up,” she commented.
Xander grimaced. “Jack’s not my girlfriend. She’s just a friend who happens to be a girl.”
“I’ll bet you’re picturing what her butt looks like in those tight leather pants she’s wearing right now,” she leered at him.
“Ha, shows what you know, she’s wearing denim right-” then he stopped as he noticed the look she was shooting him. “Oh, that was a dirty trick,” he rolled his eyes.
“So, are you planning on telling her soon?” her Widow blew away several Geth with as many shots amidst their little chat.
“Tell her what?” he returned, firing off an Overload and tech-mine at the same time.
“That lifetime commitment has a whole different meaning for you than it does for the rest of the galaxy?” she blew away a Destroyer’s fuel tank. “You’re gonna have to tell her, sooner or later.”
“Later,” he grunted, peppering an Infiltrator with pulse-rifle fire. “Definitely later. Beyond that, I’m pretty sure that the Powers-that-Be are arranging an incident in which I’ll have to explain it to everyone not already clued in anyway.”
“Shepard-Commander, hostiles approaching,” Legion reported. “Tactics indicate attempt to flank our position.”
“Got it. Xander, can you give us some breathing room?”
“Zaeed gave me the specs on his Inferno grenades so we could whip up more on the ship.”
“Then let’s bring the heat!” Shepard growled.
“Let’s see what a little fire does,” he muttered as his omnitool flared to life. Within seconds, he had a small handful of small grenades that shimmered with a sinister fiery glow.
The immortal Scooby then hurled his handful of ordinance at the oncoming wave of Geth platforms. Fire quickly blossomed around them, as Shepard and Legion backed up his assault with deadly accurate weapons fire.
The enemy lines broke, and the small squad headed up the only available ramp and could see the Colossus up close.
“That’s a big one,” Shepard whistled.
“Size matters not,” Xander quipped.
She rolled her eyes instinctively at the now-ancient quote before turning to Legion. “I don’t suppose you’ve got an idea on how we can take out that Colossus, now do you?” she asked, more rhetorical than anything else.
“All standard Alliance protocol requires engaging at range; disabling shields and weapons followed by destruction of armor and chassis.”
“That repair protocol’s a pain in the ass,” she grunted, acknowledging Legion’s attempt at being helpful. “We need to stop it from huddling up and fixing itself.”
“Well we know how an Alliance Marine would take it out.” Xander shrugged. “Wanna know who a Slayer would do it?”
“I’m all ears.”
“Think of it as a small dragon. A dragon’s size and mass are both its strength and its biggest weakness.”
Shepard looked across the space and took a really good look at the Colossus. For a second, she could understand Xander’s analogy as her eyes and brain regarded the quadrupedal war-machine anew. She wasn’t seeing it as a marine, but as a Slayer; just as every Slayer that had ever faced down a large demon beast would see it.
“Take out the legs,” Xander instructed, his voice smooth and almost hypnotic. She blinked, almost as though to fight off sleep, as words of wisdom and intelligence born of experienced earned by pain rang through her mind. “Then attack the underbelly and spine. Finish it off by removing the head.”
“Your use of mythological beasts as an analogous reference point for tactical analysis seems… inadvisable, XanderHarris.” Legion observed in its calm monotone.
“Legion, if you’re going to start running with this crowd, then the first thing you’re gonna learn is that the possible and the impossible aren’t as black and white as you might think.”
Shepard unfolded the Arc Projector from her back. “Alright,” she muttered, popping her neck. “Here goes nothing. Legion, Xander, give me some distraction and covering fire, please.”
“Ancestors,” Myr’Jorin gasped. “I’ve never… I’ve never seen anything like…”
He started coughing, and the sound of gagging and gurgling all but broadcasting his slow death. Fluid was filling his breathing passages now that his suit’s reserves of antibiotics, antivirals, medigel and stims were long gone.
“Hold on,” she whispered, kneeling beside him. “Shepard’s coming,” she said again, almost as though everything would actually end up all right once the Slayer-Spectre came for her.
She flicked on a monitor and saw what she’d seen before; the Colossus firing at some distant target. Reegar, no doubt.
Then she saw a blaze of orange and yellow fire blossoming under the body of the Colossus.
If it was too close to be Reegar and his Rocket Launcher, then it had to be…
Then the young Quarian saw her, just as she’d seen her a thousand times before.
Exactly as she’d been on Freedoms Progress.
That power, that grace, that sheer brutal determination…
Shepard was attacking the Colossus.
On foot, no less.
And why not?
Of course Shepard would take on a twenty-foot battle platform on foot, armed with only a heavy weapon that was firing massive blasts of arcing electricity.
“Ancestors,” Myr’jorin rasped from where he lay against a nearby wall. Tali had propped him up there so that he could cough out fluid that built up in his lungs and throat. The fact that he could watch the battle with her was simple coincidence. “Is that Shepard?”
“I told you they’d come,” Tali whispered, her voice reverent with relief. “I told you.”
Shepard ran across the field, firing blasts from the heavy weapon, energy arcing between the Geth and the Colossus both. She took shelter behind a small wall and shouted into her comlink as another field of fire blossomed underneath the Colossus.
The giant machine seemed to scream, turning its guided blasts on Shepard.
Suddenly a roaring crack resounded across the battlefield, and the Colossus rocked back as its chin-mounted cannon took a massive hit that disabled its primary weapon.
Myr’Jorin struggled to see what was happening for himself. “Sounds like…” he wheezed, coughing violently, “…almost like a sniper rifle.”
“Garrus, you big, beautiful bosh’tet…” Tali murmured reverently.
She watched through the room’s monitors as Shepard hopped over a slab of stone and made a long jump for the Colossus. Her omni-tool flared into existence, generating a tapered blade with sharp edges that tore into the joints of the Colossus’ left front leg.
The giant battle platform weaved and shook from the force of her attack as the Spectre-Slayer seemed to dance as she slashed at the metal legs seeking to stomp on her.
Within a minute or so, the Colossus crashed to the ground with its supports cut. Shepard scrambled atop its back, using the omnitool’s blade to sever the giant tank-like platform’s head at its neck-articulation joint.
“She did it,” Myr’Jorin gasped wetly. “Ancestors, I didn’t…” he coughed. “Didn’t think it was… but she did it…” the dying Marine gurgled. “She took down a Colossus… on foot.”
“You should’ve seen her before, Myr’Jorin,” Tali murmured, watching as familiar faces and several strangers began to clean up the remaining Geth she was like… like something out of the old tales…”
“Prazza…” he gulped. “He said it was all lies…” his hands began to shake as his bodysuit could no longer help him retain his body heat. “You and your human friends being that strong… all lies, he said… but it’s all true… isn’t it?”
Tali knelt down beside the dying Marine. “Yes, Myr’Jorin,” she mumbled, tears beginning to prickle at her eyes in the face of her inability to help a man under her command. “It’s all true,” her voice wobbled, threatening to break. “They came to save us. We’re going home.”
“Good,” he wheezed, sagging in her arms. “I… I want to go home…” he gasped. “I want to tell everyone…” and then he stopped moving.
Tali’Zorah vas Neema shuddered as she cradled Myr’Jorin in her arms. Tears ran from her eyes as she desperately tried to squash the grief that threatened to overwhelm her. He was just a kid, fresh from Pilgrimage, and had gotten himself killed saving her.
Even though the Migrant Fleet generally saw her as a hero these days, especially since more Quarians were finding life beyond a little easier, she didn’t feel like one at all.
“Tali!” she started as Shepard shouted through the door. She was banging on it pretty hard too. “Tali, let us in, the door’s jammed!”
Getting to her feet rather quickly, she made for the door controls.
“Give me a second, Shepard,” she called out, trying not to think about the body on the floor behind her. He’d believed in her, trusted that she’d lead him and his squad to this rock and to see this mission through to the end.
So much for Tali’Zorah vas Neema, the great leader.
Her squad was dead or dying, and Prazza had almost certainly cut and run.
What good was she?
Suddenly it was all too much for her.
Myr’Jorin, her squad, the scientists, the whole mission, missing simpler times on the Normandy…
“I had to fry the door locks,” she sobbed through the comlink. “I had to jam the door to keep the Geth out. Reversing everything shouldn’t take more than a second or two.”
Shepard smiled softly as she looked up at the camera. “Just worry about the lock, Tali, I can handle the door.”
“You might be pretty amazing these days, Shepard, but a jammed door is still a jammed door. I doubt that even you could-”
She was stopped by the squealing screech of metal against metal as the door was forcibly torn open by gloved fingers.
Once the hole was big enough to climb through, Shepard stepped through the ruined door with a confident smirk on her face. “You were saying?” she teased.
Tali blinked, stupefied, before she started forward to greet Shepard with an enthusiastic hug before the looming form of a Geth Trooper marched into the room behind Xander, a weapon at the ready.
“Shepard, get down!” she shouted, whipping out a pistol and taking potshots at the Geth as it took shelter behind a long-broken console.
“Allied fire; this unit is under attack. Requesting assistance, Shepard-Commander,” it intoned dully.
Shepard reached up with surprisingly-fast reflexes and Tali saw several bullets hit the kinetic barrier around the Spectre-Slayer’s armored fist.
“Hey, Tali, quit the gunplay,” Xander called out to her. “This one’s no threat.”
“Not a threat?” Tali snorted. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that it’s one of the nice Geth that drove my people from their homeworld, killed off my entire team, and killed Myr’Jorin to boot.”
“Creator-Tali’Zorah speaks in error,” the Geth Trooper intoned as it stood up from behind the console. “This platform did not participate in hostile action against the Creator expeditionary force here on Haestrom.”
“As for your team,” Shepard added, “…there aren’t as many dead then you’d think, and you have… IT, to thank for that.”
“She’s got that right,” a familiar male voice added,
Tali started in disbelief as Kal’Reegar limped into the room, an arm slung over Zaeed’s shoulders.
“Reegar, you’re alive,” the Quarian mechanic whispered in relief.
The Migrant Fleet Marine nodded. “Damn Colossus never stood a chance. Your old Commander’s amazing. I thought you were just… can’t even begin to describe what I saw out there just now.”
Tolus’Xan gave an acknowledging gesture. “I don’t know how you managed it, Tali’Zorah, but taking control of that Geth unit was inspired.”
“This platform is not under Creator Tali’Zorah’s control,” the Geth Trooper corrected its temporary comrade. “Rendering assistance to Creator Forces was judged as a tactically-sound maneuver towards accomplishing preset goals.”
“What is your purpose here, machine?” Tali snapped, her gun still not quite pointed away from it.
“This platform became aware that heretic forces were moving on the Creator Expeditionary force here on Haestrom. When heretic runtimes positively identified Creator Tali’Zorah amongst the expedition, we made the tactical judgment to render assistance after relaying Quarian distress signal to Cerberus channels.”
“Wait,” Shepard paused, “…that was you? You contacted Cerberus?”
“We established a 97.8-percent probability that rendering assistance to Creator Tali’Zorah would be seen by Shepard-Commander in a positive light.”
“You helped Tali because of a statistical probability?” Xander parroted.
“A high statistical probability; Shepard-Commander’s allegiance to members of Normandy consensus is a documented statistical fact.”
“Well, knowing I’m so predictable is kinda nice,” Shepard snorted dryly.
And thus did Legion join the crew of the Normandy afterwards.
History records this alliance as a major step toward defeating the Collectors and, eventually, the Reapers.
Now I’ll tell you what history didn’t say.
That alliance was far from perfect; it wasn’t easy to maintain, not with the mistrust and suspicion on all sides.
In the end, maybe THAT was what saved us all.