Index Chapter 12: Preparing for a Miracle [FanFiction.Net Link] [Archive of Our Own Link] One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Chapter 13: The Miracle at Palaven [FanFiction.Net Link] One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Chapter 16: After the End One ***** Select Excerpt from Of Steel and Talons: The Battle of Palaven by Arena Nyscirius (2214 CE Edition) (Edited for Human Reading) Licensed to Kaidan Alenko Secondary School, Kithoi Ward, Citadel =12=Preparing for a Miracle Operation: WHISKEY CORRIDOR was, according to official press releases, a mitigated tactical setback, an operation that encountered significant obstacles before it was quickly scaled back in favor of other operations. In [Captain Irrena] Ixius’ opinion, WHISKEY CORRIDOR was a complete disaster. It had been a daring, ambitious plan that had been chosen in favor of two other cancelled operations, PHANTOM SNOW, a highly coordinated and organized retreat from low-priority defensive positions on Menae so the fleet could bombard the Reaper forces overrunning the area, and STARDUST SONATA, a coordinated counterattack against skirmishing Reapers targeting the shipyards around Nanus. Admiral [Irix] Coronati had been confident that if he could just open a direct path to the Trebia mass relay, it would streamline logistical considerations between Palaven space and all other turian military resource holdings across Citadel space. But as well-equipped and well-trained as the turian fleet was, it could not match the alacrity in which the Reapers coordinated with each other and responded to threats. An operation that required split-second timing amongst turian starships to isolate and outflank individual Reapers between Palaven and the Trebia mass relay was doomed to fail when Reapers could – and did – dance around turian warships and regroup, despite the fact that the turian starships generally outnumbered each Reaper vessel five-to-one. The failures were not due to the shortcomings of the turian fleet, each ship filled with well-trained, well-disciplined, and experienced officers that represented the best Citadel space had to offer, of which [Ixius’ carrier] the Example was no exception. The crew had manned the Example admirably, responding to their captain’s commands faster than any other group responsible for navigating a kilometer-long could, and Ixius had never seen such a superb performance from any carrier crew until WHISKEY CORRIDOR. Still, in spite of this, the Example had fared poorly in the operation. It had been outflanked by two Reapers, and only survived because the Dominion had posed a much more tempting target when the dreadnought moved in to support the Example. Deck Two had been breached and damaged so badly that its entirety was exposed to the vacuum, and declared off-limits until their return to the docks of Nanus could facilitate flash-repairs. More than three-fourths of the carrier’s fighter-bomber complement had been lost, all of their drones shot down. The turians performed exceptionally, but they were only organic. Orders from Coronati went to fleet CIC, which was passed through military tactical networks to individual ship communications officers, then to their captains, then to the bridge officers. That was to say nothing of individual ship CICs reporting rapid-fire updates to the captain, which was hectic enough even with VI assistance. The Reapers, in contrast, had virtually no communications delay, controlled their weapons and navigations as if they were extensions of the body, and instantly responded to any situation simultaneously. WHISKEY CORRIDOR created a salient from Palaven towards the Trebia mass relay across nowhere that needed to be defended. What had meant to be coordinated isolate-and-destroy operations against the Reapers along the “highway” ended up as a disaster as Reaper ships simply winked in-and-out of FTL faster than turian vessels could follow, and flanked the corridor from every possible vector. Two days into the operation with nothing to show for his progress aside from barely managing to secure no more than thirty percent of the planned corridor, Coronati finally called an end to the fiasco. Two hundred and fourteen ships had been committed to the operation, but only one hundred and eight-six had made it safely out, and that wasn’t even counting the ships that were heavily damaged. ¹ The only measurable success they had was that the Reapers no longer maintained a defensive perimeter around the Trebia mass relay. They had attempted to guard the mass relay religiously to cut off reinforcements and logistical lines, but after taking losses from the continuous stream of self-guided warp bombs being sent by out-system turian forces through the relay, the Reapers had retreated to a minimum safe distance to intercept the bombs before they could do any damage. The navy was deprived of a way to take potshots from across mass relays, but at least the Reapers staying far away from the relay meant out-system reinforcements could arrive in the Trebia system without having to worry about being instantly shot down. The Example had been amongst the first ships to return to Nanus for repairs, giving the crew two days of rest while shipyard engineers managed to make miraculous repairs to the extensive damage to the ship. It was the only piece of good news that Ixius could walk away with from WHISKEY CORRIDOR, aside from the fact that they were all still alive, as it meant they were not in the long queue of ships waiting for the docks to empty up. The engineers and dockworkers in the shipyards orbiting Nanus worked on little sleep, because while ship crews had downtime between shifts and during repairs, damaged vessels kept docking in for the repair and resupply crews. Their docks were always full and with many more ships waiting in orbit for repairs and resupply, outpacing the rate of even the engineers’ miracles. They were constantly being shot at by skirmishing Reapers, made worse by the fact that they were unarmed stationary targets protected only by a defense of dreadnoughts and their escorts. Their food supplies rarely ever arrived on time due to supply ships being ambushed or diverted by the enemy. They had been spending nineteen hours out of every twenty in vacuum-sealed, hot, uncomfortable armor for weeks due to constant attacks that depressurized parts of the shipyards, depressurizing only to eat or relieve themselves. They were woefully undermanned because High Command gave greater priority for replacements to the warships, and the shipyards needed to have specialists that were not easily replaceable. Yet when the engineers gave the promise that the Example would be combat-worthy again in two days, Ixius knew they’d keep it. But that was not enough to stop the chain of bad news that kept flowing in. Casualty reports were staggering. One of the downed Hierarchy ships had been a dreadnought. Nanus was beginning to see a supply shortfall as supply routes between Palaven, Menae, and Nanus were obstructed by Reaper forces. And, for the first time since the war started, Ixius was told she was on the waiting list for replacements for the crew she had lost. Previously, almost every ship that returned to dock after a sortie or operations had its casualties reoccupied by a line of waiting reservists almost immediately. That the navy was told it’d have to wait by High Command could only mean that the brass was losing faith in the navy’s attempts to assert aerospace superiority over Palaven, or that there was a manpower shortfall. Or, worse, both. It was in light of all this that Ixius desperately hoped for good news when [the Example’s executive officer Commander Patrus] Castellus contacted her in the captain’s quarters while she was resting. Unfortunately, her prayers were not answers. “Captain,” her X.O. started bluntly, “I have bad news and even worse news.” The bad news was confirmation that High Command had decided not to give the navy priority on replacements. As far as the deliberative bodies were concerned, the navy had made three costly attempts – the Fifteen-Minute Plan, Operation: IRON HAMMER, and Operation: WHISKEY CORRIDOR – with very little to show for it. It was unsurprising that High Command was now doubtful of the navy’s capacity to maintain orbital superiority for much longer, even if the entire war effort went towards replacing the navy’s losses. There was also General [Minin] Resvirix’s own lobbying to consider, his insistence that conventional warfare was useless against the Reapers, and that his own ground forces were necessary to hit the enemy where they least expected it. He might’ve been right, but that cost the navy resources. What this effectively meant for Ixius and every other captain and admiral in the fleet, however, was that their losses would not be replaced for some time, that resources would not be diverted to another ambitious naval operation, and that the fleet would be doomed to limp around for days, making runs between Palaven, Menae, and Nanus. Far more frustrating, however, was the implication that the Hierarchy was having manpower shortages, if they were as far as to mention that the Example wasn’t getting immediate replacements. “Are reinforcements not making it?” Ixius asked, dreading the answer. Castellus’ reply was so even, Ixius wasn’t sure if he was feeling sarcastic or genuinely dismayed. “They are. That’s the even worse news. They’re krogan.” ¹ Contrary to popular belief, warships are rarely destroyed in battle; vessels and their crew are highly valuable assets and difficult to replace, and therefore ship commanders are rarely ever encouraged to make sacrificial plays. FTL drives provide near-instantaneous retreats at will, and most ships will escape a battle when their shields approach danger levels. The majority of space battles in history were considered “decisive victories” not when the enemy fleet was destroyed, but when the enemy retreated from the defense of an unmovable target or area of operations. Losing twenty-eight ships in a single operation was considered to be a massive loss even when compared to the overall size of the Hierarchy navy, and was a symptom of Reaper magnetohydrodynamic weapons that defied traditional naval logic by being able to destroy even shielded dreadnoughts in one direct hit, giving ship commanders no safe window within which to make a FTL jump to a point beyond the weapon’s reach. ***** Commander Serona Ravakian was anxious. She had been pulled out of deactivation – because honorable turians never truly “retire” from the military – to rejoin her old unit, the premier turian special operations unit Blackwatch, when the Battle of Palaven moved groundside. It had been weeks since she had last heard from her husband, who was trying to take care of their three underage children. Their last known location, [the city of] Seruvia, was one of the major flashpoints of the ground battle, with the turian resistance and Reaper forces waging full-out war in an urban environment. And more than half of her unit was already being moved off-world by orders of Primarch [Adrien] Victus to assist in other flashpoints in the galaxy, leaving Ravakian with only 2nd Platoon. The arrival of the krogan only compounded her mounting worries, and was not appreciated at all. Ravakian was accounting for inventory with her unit in the hangar of the Example when the first shuttles carrying the commando reinforcements arrived. Turian activity came to a standstill when the occupants emptied out of their shuttle, dozens of krogan stomping down the corridors formed between the rows of shuttles and fighter craft on the carrier with instantly-recognizable krogan swagger. Eyes stared at the bizarre scene of the Tuchankan aliens onboard a Hierarchy military vessel, a combination truly made in hell. They had heard about turian involvement in bringing the krogan to the fight after the heroics on Tuchanka, of course, and warily accepted the fact that their historic enemies were now tentative allies. But to see any of them, never mind dozens, strutting across the hangar of a Hierarchy vessel in orbit over the turian homeworld was another thing altogether. They were shock troopers, massive, towering soldiers wearing heavy armor, carrying heavy shotguns, their belts clipped with grenades of all kinds. The cavalier and flippant way they carried themselves – the way they brandished their weapons with little regard for safety or all the expensive, sensitive, and potentially explosive components scattered all around the hangar – was utterly alien to the conservative, disciplined turians. It would not be until hours later that Ravakian learned about it, but the reinforcements were from Clan Urdnot, known as Malgus Company, which would soon be joined in the following days by similar krogan commando outfits in the form of Arrae, Dranek, and Nith Companies. It was the hope of Primarch Victus and krogan leader Urdnot Wrex that Urdnot commandos – who were at least personally loyal to their relatively liberal clan leader, if not tolerant of alien races – would cooperate more fluidly with Hierarchy forces and thus pave the way for the less forgiving non-Urdnot commando units to integrate into a steady turian-krogan military framework. Ravakian, however, couldn’t see anything that could remotely be paired with the words “cooperate”, “fluidly”, “forgiving”, “integrate”, or “steady”. The engineers were smart enough to step out of the way, and her own Blackwatch operators were too professional to play games of hubris, but many of the soldiers and pilots were spectating not-so-casually as they looked the incoming krogan up and down, as if sizing them up for a fight, something their passing guests were all too eager to reciprocate. Ravakian’s executive officer, Lieutenant Derlude Helsrang, was unrestrained in his frankness. “Great,” he muttered to his commander as the krogan marched by. “Now we’re all going to die before the Reapers kill us.” It was not the first time Ravakian’s career involved krogan, regardless of whether it was with them or against them. Much of Blackwatch’s history, in fact, had revolved around deniable operations that involved krogan mercenaries in one way or another. She was familiar with what krogan commandos were capable of and respected their capabilities, but she didn’t hold them in awe. Ravakian accepted that the individual toughness displayed by krogan physiology granted them greater leeway in operational audacity that other races had to compensate via teamwork. Krogan commanders that had survived the ages also benefitted from their long lifespan, and had accumulated centuries of experiences from battles no one else other than the older asari have seen. But the arrogance, bloodlust, and overconfidence of the krogan, to say nothing of their complete lack of discipline save alpha male authority, bordered on the comically incompetent. Ravakian recalled a mission where, as a lieutenant at the time, Blackwatch hired krogan mercenaries to act as decoys, draw attention away by simulating mercenary gang warfare. The “simulation” ended up occurring several days in advance in the planning room, when a casual insult from one krogan ended up starting a free-for-all headbutting brawl between the four krogan mercenary leaders in a room with turian Blackwatch officers. Ravakian had tried to step in to stop the fight, but her commander stopped her, escorting the officers out of the room as the krogan “worked out their differences”. By the time the turians went back in after the sounds of crashing and krogan bellows had stopped, two of the mercenaries were dead, another unconscious, and the last slumped against the corner of the room, bleeding out. Needless to say, the turians didn’t get a krogan diversion for that operation. As the leader of Malgus Company, Urdnot Nakmor’s attitude towards the turians was similar. He acknowledged that the krogan ought to learn a thing or two about turian discipline, given that even turian mercenaries generally tended to follow orders despite personal misgivings, a stark contrast to what Urdnot considered to be mewling and grumbling amongst many of the krogan rank-and-file. But like everyone else, the turians was small, soft, and fragile, at least when compared to a krogan. They were overly reliant on technological advantages, using it as a crutch, which dulled their instincts and capabilities in combat, something Urdnot considered unforgiveable. Take away their tech, and the turians were only so much meat. Where the krogan dared to try new strategies, the turians were staid and uncreative. News of three successive major failures on the navy’s part only reinforced the stereotypes in Urdnot’s mind, as did the sight of the turian wounded scattered across the ship. The Example’s medical bay was at full capacity, so further casualties had to be placed wherever there was room, or somehow tough it out. The sight of so many limping turians was horrible for morale, and no ship would logically keep so many of them around while in active combat. But the Example’s problem was shared across almost every other ship and installation around Palaven space. The surface of the planet and the two moons were flooding with Reaper troops, and casualties could not be sent there. The space stations and orbital elevators around Palaven were filled to the brink with civilian evacuees; the Hierarchy had told them to get as far up into space as possible to expedite evacuations, but the turians soon found themselves with few ships to spare to get the civilians out of the Trebia system. The stations were also flooded with the military wounded, which was where High Command had relocated them in the first place; the same went for the bases on Menae and the shipyards of Nanus. There was an overwhelming amount of wounded amongst the Example’s crew, as well as the pilots on board, as well as the ground troop and Marines being ferried by the carrier, simply because there was nowhere else to put them. But the krogan had not undergone that problem, they did not know the context, nor did they care for any other explanation than their own. As far as they were concerned, the turians were weak and battered and bruised, the krogan were being called upon to save the galaxy from their troubles again, and that gave them the supreme, uncontested right to gloat mightily. They were here for glory and because their clan leader said so, not out of any love for Palaven or the turians. The Marines wondered who came up with the idea of bringing krogan onboard the Example; the army might have appreciated krogan reinforcements more, but the navy had never asked for krogan assistance, felt they did not need them, and this attitude managed to seep down to even the lowly Marine NCOs and the navy technician. “We needed more ships and bigger mass accelerators,” Serviceman Second Class Lanus Vadim explained the prevalent thought amongst navy personnel at the time. “If we absolutely had to, we can bombard Palaven, purge it clean of Reaper ground forces, and rebuild. But until we destroyed Reaper ships, we weren’t going to be going anywhere, and the krogan sure as hell weren’t going to help us with that.” Ravakian and Helsrang didn’t think that way, and they were pretty sure the Blackwatch 2nd Platoon agreed with them, that the navy was writing off the ground battle too quickly, and that having any extra assets was always a boon, regardless of whether or not it was what they wanted. What they were most concerned about, however, was unit cohesion. On the best of days, Ravakian would have to make sure a turian and a krogan didn’t kill each other if they were in the same room. Now, High Command was trying to tell them to play nice because the krogan were somehow essential to the overall war effort, something that might’ve been easier to stomach if Malgus Company hadn’t been so insufferable. They had a live grenade on their hands, and now Blackwatch could only hope it exploded while the turians weren’t the ones holding it. The only thing that the turians were remotely thankful for in terms of the krogan arriving was that they had done so with a ridiculous amount of ordinance, especially in the form of special ammunition and grenades. The industrial bases that produced infantry weapons and supplies were largely on the surfaces of Palaven and Menae, neither of which was safe – even by turian standards – to approach solely for infantry supplies anymore, given that it didn’t look like the Marines were getting any action anytime soon. This meant what limited ordinance that wasn’t being given to groundside defenders on Menae were being allocated down a predetermined list of ships, and Ravakian had a feeling that board the Example was pretty far down that list. If Tuchanka lacked anything, however, it certainly wasn’t anything that killed people. Malgus Company had stacked their transports full of specialized ammunition and explosives, and Urdnot had the presence of mind to order his commandos to share the surplus. Vice Admiral [Certisius] Lantiar boarded to make inspections. It was an unwelcome development because Ixius had to run the ship tighter than it already was in preparation for the vice admiral, and “tighter” was probably the last thing the crew of the Example needed, considering half of its passengers were now casualties, walking or actual. Ravakian hoped that the vice admiral would at least address the issue of the krogan, but Lantiar made a point of ignoring the krogan commandos, told the men to “keep it up”, promised to get them groundside soon, and left. As far as the commander felt, Lantiar was in the optimal position to try and get everyone on board the Example to work together, and he had squandered it. Helsrang wasn’t so optimistic. “I doubt it would’ve changed a thing,” he said years later. “If anything, trying to talk about how the krogan were ‘one of us’ now probably would’ve stirred the men into simmering anger. No one forgot about his personal clusterfuck that was WHISKEY CORRIDOR, and no one was about to forgive him for it anytime soon.” Still, it wasn’t all bad news. Ravakian reasoned that the krogan were here by personal entreaty of Victus, and if the primarch himself was now committing the krogan to Palaven, it meant there was going to be some kind of play soon, a chance to get real ground beneath her feet where she could take the fight to the enemy. In everyone’s opinion, it couldn’t come soon enough. ***** And this, fellow readers and writers at SpaceBattles, is where I need your help. ^_^; The Miracle at Palaven is a Mass Effect 3 fanfic that expands upon the Codex Entry detailing...well, the Miracle at Palaven. I was actually rather excited to discover that I might be the first to write a story about this after making searches around several fan fiction communities and finding no such fanfic. As you have noticed, The Miracle of Palaven is written in the format of an in-universe book about the Battle of Palaven during the Reaper War, Of Steel and Talons: The Battle of Palaven, first published by Arena Nyscirius two decades after the Reaper War, written from historical records and interviews of many veterans who survived the battle. The format is largely inspired by the book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose, but also taking cues from Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden. In-universe, the part detailing the Miracle at Palaven (and it will be a rather lengthy piece of writing) consists of Chapters Twelve and Thirteen of the book, and when it is published on FanFiction.Net and some other places upon completion, it will be published as a two-chapter work. However, I will be posting The Miracle at Palaven part-by-part here at SpaceBattles first because...well, as I've mentioned, I need your help. ^_^; Although I have written several pieces of fanfics of the military fiction genre (and sci-fi military fiction as well), I am far from familiar with military science despite my attempts at research, and I am even less informed in the realm of the sciences. As these are two areas that the community here at SpaceBattles are familiar with (not to mention all of you probably recall Mass Effect canon far better than I could ever hope to), I would be immensely grateful if you could offer feedback not only in my narrative and my writing, but also fact-check the military and sci-fi stuff I'm very likely to get wrong, and I will do my darnedest to fix things without damaging the narrative experience. As I'm sure many readers here have read far more military history than I ever had, I would also be humbled if suggestions can be offered to make the story read more like an authentic book on military history (although, as I've mentioned, I hope that The Miracle at Palaven echoes Band of Brothers in particular). Also, if you are so inclined, I am in need of a list of original names and surnames for both male and female turians, as well as for male krogan. I will largely be using the names and surnames in combinations that I favor, not necessarily in the combination you give them to me in. I cannot promise to use them all, and I hope you will not be offended if your suggestion is not used; there are only so many names I can use. If a specific combination of name or surname means something to you (perhaps a character from your own story or a RP), please feel free to indicate as such, and I will try to honor that combination if I choose to use the name, although I cannot promise that the name will be used for a character in a role you favor, or that s/he will survive the Miracle at Palaven. Lastly, I apologize if the format and narrative of this fanfic is a little jarring. This is, after all, supposed to be an excerpt from a complete in-universe book, and while I will do my best to balance that consideration with the fact that this is, in reality, a standalone fanfic, I also want to maintain the illusion that there are eleven chapters before this. I hope you can bear with me. Thank you in advance for your feedback and patronage. I hope this fanfic manages to take off anywhere.