Monday, June 5, 2017
Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction: Chapter 13
Chapter 13: Battle For The Citadel
It took about five minutes for everyone to get their weapons checked and their gear situated; the Council making due with some basic kinetic shield generators and small pistols they had on hand for personal defense. The plan was for them to stay near the remains of the shuttle, using its debris as makeshift cover and deal with any of Saren's forces that go to investigate the flaming wreckage, all while Shepard lead us to stop the damn turian puppet from causing the end of the world.
It took about ten seconds for the geth to drop in on us. At least two dozen ground troopers, part of Saren's back guard most likely. Each one with plasma rifles all primed and aimed at us from an elevated position, a flight of stairs leading to some sort of hallway.
They had us outnumbered.
They had the high ground.
They had the drop on us.
They lasted about four minutes. From a single bark by Shepard, Jack and I sprang into action. Under serious geth fire, she called upon her biotics, causing a small eruption of kinetic force behind the geth, about four of them didn't get out of the way, their synthetic frames rattling down the stairs like ragdolls. Several quick bursts from Shepard's assault rifle and they were cut to shreds. I then followed up by unleashing my own biotic power... into Jack's own erupting pull.
The thing about biotic power is whenever their kinetic energy and force collides with another biotic force, things can get messy. For example, a small explosion from all the energy dispersing in all directions.
Two more geth were flung from the force of the blast, colliding bodily with four more in front of them, disrupting their rain of death. Once again, Shepard took his shots carefully, concentrated bursts of fire into their bodies as they rolled past us. I steadied my pistol and started taking my shots, my breath slow and my grip firm. One, two, three shots; one, two, three kills. Three of the geth in the back appeared to be readying rocket launchers of some kind, then I saw Tali activate something on her Omni-Tool, aiming at the shock troops. Almost immediately, the rockets began to glow red and spark, the soldiers looking quizzically at their inoperable weapons. She then threw a grenade in their general direction and waited for the fireworks.
As for the rest, they got pushed further up the stairs as we progressed, their hail of plasma energy getting outgunned by our telekinesis, ordinance and gunfire.
“Damn I hate stairs,” I said in exhaustion, casually shooting a prone geth crawling towards his weapon.
“Can anyone here me?” a voice on her commline begged, the voice slightly garbled. “This is Admiral Hackett of the Alliance Navy, we are being overwhelmed by a geth fleet and some unknown alien vessel. It appears to have some sort of super weapon that is decimating our ships! Can anyone give me a status update on the Council?” his tone was professionally level but noticeably stressed.
Shepard immediately chimed in. “Hackett, this is Commander Shepard. That alien ship is a Reaper and it should be your priority target. Focus all your fire at as many critical points as you can, punch through that armor.”
“The Council is with us, Admiral Hackett,” I chimed in. “they're a bit banged up but they're alright.”
“But what about the people on the Citadel? Geth are coming out of nowhere and are attacking civilians. We need boots on the ground.” Hackett stated.
That's when two more voices cut in to the comms.
“This is Urdnot Wrex, I am here with C-SEC pushing back Saren's forces in the Presidium.” the krogan warrior bellowed in, talking over background gunfire and explosions. “These metal bastards aren't getting to any of these people!” The last words coming from his comm was the sound of an unholy roar, a herald of a legendary krogan battle rage.
“Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams reporting in,” her steady tone resolute. “I am with some Alliance soldiers that were on shore leave. We've established a foothold and holding them off at the hangars, doing what we can to shut down their ships from docking.”
Shepard and I exchanged a look. I swear I saw something resembling pride in his eyes through the visor. I couldn't help but smile too.
“Hold your positions you two. Keep everyone as safe as you can. If things get too hot, bug out. Hackett and the fleet will handle Sovereign, and we'll go after Saren.” Shepard responded on all comms, “this is where we hold the line. Not one more innocent life dies today.”
“Aye aye, sir!” Ashley exclaims.
The terrifying part of our descent into the unknown parts of the Citadel was how alien it felt from the public sectors. There were long corridors, all highlighted by pulsing red lights, almost like a heartbeat as we continued deeper into the heart of of the station. What was especially haunting was a lingering sense of decay and death, not dissimilar to a mausoleum. By Vigil's own admission, of the thousands of Protheans that stayed in stasis ready to sabotage the Citadel, only twelve of them managed to get through, knowing full well that it was a one way trip. I half expected to see the dust that was their corpses at one point, but chances are even that is long gone, carried into the unfeeling architecture of the structure.
Then we found it. A large control console with various glowing control interfaces levitating off of it. With Saren towering over it, flipping through the various screens with cold efficiency. Just him. No other geth. Five against one, we had this.
I readied my pistol and aimed for his head.
Then Shepard lowered it with his hand.
I shot him a confused look. He simply stepped forward.
“Saren, step away from that console with your hands up.” He projected, his voice echoing through the halls.
“And why would I do that, Commander? I am so close to freeing us from this cycle.” Saren responded, his hands still flying across the console.
“You are so close to killing the entire galaxy and you don't even know it.” Shepard retorted, slowly approaching him.
I exchanged looks with Garrus and Tali. With a shrug, we very quietly joined Shepard in advance.
“How very typical for a human to think so small. I embraced Sovereign's upgrades to show that we can be useful to the Reapers. Machines thrive on productivity. We have value, they let us live. I'm trying to save as much of the galaxy as I can by doing this.” Saren shot back, albeit with a fraction of a beat of hesitance.
“Did you see all of those pods? The countless achievements those scientists could have brought to the galaxy? How much greater the world would be with their help? They didn't matter to the Reapers. What makes you any different?” I finally spoke up, still training my pistol on the back of his head.
“I can take orders. What's the point of helping a world that's already doomed? There is the next mission to get rid of symptoms of a greater sickness, and nothing more. This is just the endgame, Miss T'Som.”
“Spoken like someone that's forgotten what it means to be a Spectre.” Shepard interjected. We were a few mere steps away from the console. So close, yet so far away.
“We're supposed to be the best of our race. To always find a way to save people, to stop disaster when it comes. This scorch the earth mentality is what the Reapers want you to believe Saren. That the only salvation is through them. You know that's not the truth... you know who the real enemy is.”
Then Saren stopped typing away on the console, his body starting to fidget slightly in odd places like tiny muscle spasms.
“You're right...both of you are...” he whispered as he slowly reached for his pistol. Then he slowly placed the barrel to his own head.
Then he stopped. No trigger was pulled. He just stayed there, shaking as if he was fighting with his own limbs.
Then something caught my eye. His pistol had an ejection slot on it. One used for the insertion and removal of thermal clips. His pistol was upgraded. He got a hold of my blueprints.
Then what followed caused the bottom to fall out of my stomach. Saren spoke again, but it wasn't his voice....
“AND THAT IS WHY THIS PUPPET HAS OUTLIVED ITS USEFULNESS. ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL.”
In barely a fraction of a second, Saren turned around, firing off several shots. One was aimed at Jack, thankfully her biotic control and kinetic shields were just enough to deflect it, at the cost of shattering both like glass. The second went flying at Shepard practically at point blank range. Call it combat adrenaline but he managed to sidestep it, the round barreling through his shields and penetrating his armored right arm.
Then after those two brief instances, his pistol was aimed towards me. It didn't help that I was struck with terror with the face that greeted me. Saren's eyes were glowing a diabolical red, worse still his plated turian features were burning away like a slow motion disintegration, revealing a horrific twisted metal shell of what the Spectre once was, all of it crackling with red energy.
Then he pulled the trigger.
The shot penetrated my armor and exited the other side, leaving hole the size of my thumb in my gut. The cold paralytic shock hit me first as my hands reflexively grasped at the wound. Looking down I saw them covered in purple asari blood, then my sense of balance fell apart. I stumbled back several steps, trying to stay on my feet, despite my head feeling like it was full of cotton balls. Through my hazy vision I saw Sovereign ready another shot towards my head.
Then the pistol exploded in a shower of sparks. Sovereign had about half a second to react to the sabotage before Tali took point, unloading her shotgun into his form.
“Take this you bosch'tet!” she yelled, firing several furious salvos from her weapon. The shells flew at unbelievable speeds, but there were noticeable flickers of red surrounding Sovereign; an overclocked version of a kinetic shield. But Tali kept blasting. Three blasts, four blasts. But the shield stayed up.
Sovereign leaped at her with incredible speed, pouncing on her like a predatory lion and knocking away her shotgun.
The last thing I saw before I lost my balance and clattered to the ground was Sovereign being taken off his feet but some unseen blast. I couldn't tell if it was a grenade, or biotics, but then the full pain of my situation hit me all at once.
I started fumbling through my suit's pockets, looking desperately for my medi-gel, hoping I still had some gobs of it left. I was still breathing properly so it didn't hit my lungs, that was at least some small comfort. Although the blood loss made it feel like driving a car while your hands are asleep, I managed to get my small container of medi-gel out, clapping down with my palms and twisting with my shoulders to get it open, as much as it lead to more waves of white hot pain from my stomach wound.
At least four applications left. It'll have to do.
I carefully removed some of the clear gel and started applying it to my wound, sealing it cleaning. Normally you should remove your armor to make sure it thoroughly covers the area but since there's an ancient machine intelligence controlling the shambling remains of an armed psycho I was well within my rights to ignore procedure. I then got a second gob and fumbled to apply it to the exit wound. The sharp sting of antiseptic and the light dulling of my otherwise unbearable pain meant it was working.
I slowly got to my feet and regained my bearings. Whatever energy that was powering Sovereign's shield seemed to have powered down, mostly because the synthetic nightmare had started leaping from wall to wall, spewing energy and tanking shots like some terrifying mechanical spider-creature. He was moving too fast for Garrus to get a beat with his sniper rifle, so he switched to an assault rifle alongside Shepard. Jack was doing what she could with her telekinesis, trying desperately to warp or rend the chassis to expose some vital components. Tali was slouched in a corner, holding a similar chest wound with her hand, her shotgun slung across her lap, her head lulling slowly. If she doesn't medical attention and a patch to her suit to, she'd be dead within hours.
And if I get up again, I risk my own death.
Unfortunately for me, I'm a stubborn son of a bitch.
I focused as best as I could on Sovereign, him leaping from wall to wall of the large circular room, avoiding shot after shot after kinetic shot, its reaction speed faster than Garrus and Shepard's trigger fingers. Thankfully whatever kind of destructive power his blasts were capable of, the two soldiers were able to stay away from. For now.
I summoned up as much biotic power as I could. Breathing and concentrating, letting my asari body shape and command the dark energy I was calling up. And in one triumphant yell, I threw it towards Sovereign's general direction and with all of my willpower and focus, unleashed the pent up energy in all directions.
The ball of blue energy erupted, and Sovereign leapt from its impact point with mechanical efficiency. Then the energy reflected back into itself and became what I was hoping for, a Singularity. One of the most difficult and taxing powers at a biotic's disposal. A miniature gravity well that can lift objects and even other people off their feet. It's chaotic, dangerous if left unfettered, but best of all slows down and disorients those in the air near it at the time.
Sovereign lands at an odd angle on the wall opposite where Garrus and Shepard already had their weapons aimed. The brief instant of a second of the machine god re-orienting its grip was all they needed to start unleashing hell. The two rifles blasted and spewed, ripping metal and plastic from the shell that was once Saren, followed up by a concentrated concussive blast from Garrus, sending him tumbling to the floor.
That's when Shepard threw a grenade at the body. An attachable grenade that could be remote detonated.
“Game over, asshole!” he spat while pushing the detonator.
A flaming explosion rocked the room, filling my vision with flame. What remained after was a blast mark, a lot of debris, and the upper half of Saren's skull.
“WE WILL FIND ANOTHER WAY. YOUR EXTERMINATION IS INEVITABLE...” Sovereign threatened, his once ominous voice fading into a mere whisper as the red light fades from Saren's eyes.
With what little concentration I had left I expelled my singularity, then stumbled to the back of a wall and slumped down.
“Variza!” Jack yelled running to me.
I tried giving a half hearted wave but I might as well have tried dancing the tango for how much energy I had.
“Bitch you better not die on me!” She swore, trying to help me up, putting my arm over her shoulder.
“Tali... help Tali...” I gasped.
“I got her.” Garrus responded, picking up Tali in his arms.
I was still woozy but I manged to hold on to consciousness to finally hear some good news. Admiral Hackett had called back Shepard to let him know that the Alliance fleet had killed Sovereign. Apparently when his presence overtook Saren, the Reaper became a lot more aggressive, striking down dozens of ships. But once we eliminated him in the Citadel chamber, the Reaper itself became dormant for several crucial seconds, just in time for reinforcements to arrive lead by the Normandy. Several well placed missile salvos and a unified assault later, it was scrap.
After a trip to the medical bay things about as well as you'd expect. Many people didn't want to believe that a single ship was responsible for decimating about seventy-five percent the standing fleet at the Citadel, or that it was a Reaper. It had to have just been a geth superweapon used by Saren to stage a coup against the Council.
As for the truth, the Council knew full well had dangerous this had gotten, but they let the cover story stick. Less panic that way. However, their military and their intelligence divisions began working in secret, to discover the Crucible Project, and to analyze Sovereign's remains. To better understand how to destroy more of his kind, how to use their weapons, and to possibly shield themselves from indoctrination to prevent another incident like Saren.
Commander Shepard meanwhile got full blown accolades. A shining medal ceremony from the Council, attended by the survivors of the battle, along with the Normandy crew. It was small, but it was jubilant. Admiral Hackett himself even wanted to make him a promotion. But he refused, saying his skills were going to be put into something more useful for what was to come.
Jack and I on the other hand? We basically got a pat on the head, confirmation that our records were expunged, a stipend for our work on Shepard's crew, then we were sent on our way.
Well what did you expect, a parade? We were criminals after all.
As for the rest of the crew? Tali returned to her home among her own people in the Quarian Flotilla, Garrus officially quit his job at C-Sec, citing that he got fed up with red tape. He then charted a shuttle to somewhere in the Terminus Systems and has been silent ever since. Urdnot Wrex? Back to Tuchanka, inspired by what Shepard had accomplished (and probably a bit from what I had shown him) to re-unite the clans of his people under one banner.
As for me, that's another story to tell.
After all, I still have about seven years left to go.