Alright, so, first entry. Not sure why I want to do this, not like anyone is going to listen to these things unless I’m dead or bored. And . . . . Wow, less than a minute from dropping out of FTL. I’m really bored if I‘m recording this. Anyway! Close to Eden Prime. Hyperion’s cybersecurity really needs work. Okay, no, you can’t hide the fact that you’ve recovered Eridian beacons from the Shadow Broker, but you could try to keep the other corporations from finding out. And if you were, say, Atlas, and cracked Hyperion’s transmissions, maybe you could hide that fact so everyone else in the galaxy didn’t find out. Those colossal idiots. So, it’s going to take some finesse. Or a shitload of firepower. Either way, the whole thing’s gotten a lot more complicated, because Hyperion’s going to be on guard, and Atlas and the Alliance and the Citadel and everyone else will be watching that place like a hawk. And, well, it’s kind of hard to hide being a Siren if you start cutting loose, so that’s attention I want to avoid. Alright, coming out of FTL in three . . . Two . . . One. Whoo. Good transition. Wait, crap, overshot my transit by a sec. Wow, there’s a lot of thermal sigs from orbit. A lot of ships, don’t recognize them - wait, those are thermal vents from ruptured hulls. High-end thermal sprays and radiation. That’s - weapons fire! Shit, shit, sh- - No Gods, Only Guns: A Mass Effect/Borderlands Fusion - Chapter One: Soldiers and Sirens - Her FTL vector had put the ship at the outer edge of the lifebelt in the system, about three hours’ hard burn from Eden Prime itself. Or at least, that had been the plan; she’d made some kind of mistake in programming the transit, as she overshot her exit by a couple of seconds. Instead of a comfortably distant speck of blue that she would have been able to leisurely fly to and quietly land the transport on, Eden Prime loomed above her, a massive orb of blue and white and green. She expected a security query from coming out pretty close to the planet from one of the countless drones or satellites that orbited the world. She didn’t expect incoming gunfire. “-it, shit, shit!” Lilith Shepard hissed. The ship that fired on her was a single light-second away. That gave her just enough time to send the small, light transport into a quick jerk. The mass accelerator round therefore simply blew the ship’s main engine to scrap metal and sent it spinning around out of control, instead of blowing the poorly-armed freighter in half. Lilith snarled an incoherent curse, switching on auxiliary thrusters and rerouting power. Fires briefly erupted and vanished as oxygen was swept out of the afflicted sections. Her hands flew over the controls, firing thrusters again and changing the ship’s spinning, out-of-control trajectory in merely a rolling, semi-controlled tumble through space. Gold-tinted eyes roved over the sensor plot with swift, near-panicked efficiency. The orbit of the planet was choked with sensor contacts and thermal readings. Millions of individual tiny objects radiating thermal energy, large objects that were veering or drifting and either belching heat into space or rapidly cooling, rapid flares of heat and radiation from intact ships, indicating impacts or shots fired. The tell-tale sign of massive space combat. Only this wasn’t a battle. It was a massacre. The vast majority of the ships that were either damaged or destroyed were reading civilian identification tags, everything from light personnel carriers to small freighters like Lilith’s own to massive supertransports that never landed. There were markers from numerous orbital platforms that had also been blasted to pieces. What remained were a half-dozen light Systems Alliance cruisers, and about fifty large, unidentified cruiser-sized warships with twice their number in frigates. There were no active civilian vessels; those had likely jumped out within a minute of the opening salvos, which was a testament to ruthless violence of the attackers, considering how many civilian hulks were tumbling through the planet‘s orbit. The shot that had hit her ship was from one of the unidentified cruisers, likely a single shot from a broadside gun. It hadn’t fired any followup shots. Likely focused on more serious threats. Thermal and background radiation plots described an oblong vessel that vaguely resembled a locust or dragonfly in the shape of its main body, long and narrow but curved and rounded, with a small, tapering “head” section. Several frigates and maybe twenty fighter craft, sharing in the same basic design, patrolled the space around the ship within two hundred kilometers. “Ah, hell,” Lilith hissed, and hit a few more controls before jumping out of her chair. The artificial gravity was one of the systems she switched off, and she lurched back toward the rear of the cockpit, bright red hair flying out behind her. The cramped bridge was designed solely for a pilot and copilot; the transport wasn’t intended to have a crew of more than five or six. Still, there was enough room for a locker to contain a couple of hardsuits, and she planted her boots against the wall beside it and threw it open. Where there would otherwise have been a standard hardsuit for vacuum, providing minimal armor and shielding, there was instead a black-and-gray military-specc’d suit of armor. She dragged out the plates and body-hugging ballistic-weave fabric and pulled it on over her spacer’s jumpsuit. It took her less than twenty seconds to pull on the weave and another fifteen to attach the armor components - breastplate, shoulder and arm plates, thigh and knee plating, and boots - all of which automatically tightened to a snug fit. She pulled back her near-shoulder-length red hair and donned the helmet, which was linked to the ship’s sensors. As the HUD flared to life, she saw another round of bad news. Two of the locust-like fighters escorting the cruiser had broken off and were moving on an intercept vector for her ship. “This day gets better and better!” she exclaimed with fake cheer. - Roland’s boots pounded up the ramp to the gunship, the rumbling engines of the armed transport vibrating up through his feet and into his gut. It did nothing to help the unease in his stomach as he and thirty other Lancemen boarded the ship in double file. They were a wave of red ballistic-weave jumpsuits and gray and black armor plating, rumbling into the aircraft and settling into their crash seats. The ramp slid up behind them, the hiss of its machinery lost in the rumbling of the gunship’s engines as it lifted before the Crimson Lance troops had even strapped themselves in. Roland keyed into the company ECHO channels in his helmet using his Sergeant‘s clearance, but almost immediately cut the feed off; the channels were a mess of orders and questions and reports and told him nothing useful about what the hell was going on. “What the hell’s happening out there, man?” asked one of the Lancemen in his squad, a Private named Jenkins. The kid’s face popped up in the corner of his helmet’s HUD, a simple static picture showing an unremarkable youth with blue eyes. “Someone’s attacking the planet,” replied Corporal Williams, her picture replacing Jenkins’. She had dark-tanned skin, brown eyes, and black hair. Pretty, in a beat-the-shit-out-of-you way. “Well, yeah, I know that, but-” Jenkins continued, but cut off when Williams slashed a hand across her throat. Even with her face hidden behind her helmet, the order was clear. “The planet is being attacked,” she repeated as she double-checked her gear. They’d barely had time to grab their gear and don their armor between emergency mobilization and the order to board the transports. The rookies were just trying to get their bearings, the only thing keeping them in line being bellowing NCOs and drill. “They’ll tell us more when we need to know,” Williams continued. “For right now, check your weapon and shields. Can‘t have them crapping out in the field.” “Williams is right,” Roland ordered. “Squad, double-check your gear, I don’t want a misfire because some armory bot was asleep on the job. And tighten down your ECHO mikes, we need clear comms.” The squad moved to obey. The younger rookies in the unit were quick to respond, with jerky, anxious movements, while the veterans - save Williams - did so with more lethargic efficiency, almost sullen. Some of the men under his command didn’t like him, but that likely due to his reputation. The Lance were mercenaries; some were disciplined soldiers, and some were decent guys who needed a job. But many were just a step above the bandits or pirates they fought, with a vast, varied range of malicious psychopathic tendencies kept controlled by discipline, strict command and control, and the ever-present threat of a firing squad for stepping too far out of line. He knew Williams was on his side, and despite his youth, Jenkins was a good kid. There was also Corporal Reiss. They were reliable. Of the rest of the ten-man squad, most were up in the air, save for Corporal Walkins and Private Gunnar. Those two were the troublemakers. Roland switched between platoon and company command comms once everyone was checking equipment, and found little else that was useful. The attack had come without warning; as far as he could tell, Eden Prime’s orbital defenses had been shattered and the small flotilla of Alliance ships - mostly there to keep order among the various corporate fleets as opposed to defending the planet - were getting wiped out. No one had any idea who the attackers were, but scattered reports were coming in of unidentified hostiles landing in the outskirts of the capital and surrounding woodlands and firing on anything that moved. He frowned, uncertain, but hid the feeling from his squad by keeping his body language neutral. Eden Prime was not a lawless, corporate-controlled border planet in the Verge or Terminus. It was a primary Alliance world, with Systems Alliance ships and Marines defending it. Who would be crazy enough to attack here? Not to mention the fact that they were boarding high-speed, long-range gun-transports. Roland and his company had been rotated away from the borderlands to Eden Prime to defend Atlas facilities on the planet. It was supposed to be a low-stress, cushy job where they only needed sidearms and light armor. Worst-case scenario, they should have been manning defensive positions around the factories and labs in the main complex, not boarding assault ships. And Roland had seen enough action in the Terminus to know that Atlas would not be deploying them to defend civilians. A message flashed on his HUD, and Roland opened it, quashing his misgivings for the moment. Lieutenant Higgins’s lean, handsome, corporate-mercenary-poster-boy face appeared on Roland’s screen. The platoon commander for their three-squad unit was sitting at the front of the transport, well away from the ramp and any potential incoming fire. “Sergeant,” he said, his voice calm and controlled. “Sir,” Roland replied, respectful as he could be to a Lance ladder-climbing sack-of-corruption like Higgins. “I’m not going to have any trouble out of you on this op, am I?” Higgins asked. “No, sir,” Roland replied to the not-too-subtle threat. He had once been a Lieutenant himself, on the fast-track to Captain, up until a few choice questions and criticisms of someone’s handling of an operation had gotten him busted back down to Sergeant, and Higgins promoted in his stead. Roland had been up twice for promotion since, and both times had been denied for “insubordination.” “Good,” Higgins said with a smile. “Follow my orders, and who knows. Might get your bars again.” “Yes sir,” Roland said controlling his anger and resentment as best he could. “Your squad will be first down the ramp,” Higgins said. “The rest of us will be right behind you. Good luck down there.” The link closed, and he bit back a curse. First off the ramp, which meant first into enemy fire. Higgins had it in for Roland, but that cheery grudge was endangering the rest of his squad as well. Roland was tempted to just confront the Lieutenant and have a classic throwdown or gunfight to settle matters, but he was no fool. Killing a superior officer was never a good idea in any military, let alone the ones that were all too eager to toss you to a firing squad. Another incoming message icon flashed on Roland’s HUD while he fumed, and he opened it. The screen lit up, showing a white-haired man with gray hair flattened into a crewcut, with an eyepatch and a wide face and solid jawline. He was chomping on a cigar while his eyes roved over some screens just to the left of his face. “Crimson Lance, D Company,” General Alphonso Knoxx said, sounding equal parts tired, bored, and authoritative, somehow. “You have been issued orders to . . . Okay, look, I‘m not going to lie to you. Planet‘s under attack by God‘s nutsack knows what.” Yeah, guessed that much already, General. “You‘ve been assigned to secure a facility of vital importance from incoming invasion, blah-blah-blah, very important, etcetera. You guys know the drill.” He grunted, shaking his head. “Maps, grid coordinates, and individual deployment orders are being uploaded now. Go there, kill everything that‘s both armed and not wearing a Lance uniform. Good luck, and cheers.” The recording ended, and Roland’s blood ran cold at Knoxx’s casual confirmation of their his suspicions. At least the general was honest; too many Atlas corporate suits and Lance officers tried to hide what was really going on. Roland had taken part in enough Lance operations to understand the level of corruption involved. Higgins’ not-so-subtle efforts to get him killed were small-time compared with what some officers did. If it wasn’t for the fact that leaving the Lance was punishable by death, Roland would have walked long ago. As long back as the massacre on Torfan. He shook off that memory and opened the attached files with heavy apprehension, and his guts turned to ice water. He recognized the location and schematics. They were raiding a Hyperion facility. Specifically, the Hyperion facility that all those ECHONet rumors had been talking about. A Hyperion base that, if said rumors were true, contained an Eridian artifact of tremendous value. Roland closed his eyes, and the churning unease in his stomach grew ever more intense. - Lilith flung herself down the corridor behind the cockpit, mind racing. She tried to remember everything her mother had taught her before the whole “Oh God, everyone’s on fire, what did you do, Lily?” incident. Hannah Shepard had been insistent on her daughter learning how to survive on a spaceship that was going down, but she‘d never gotten to this specific scenario. “Okay, Lily. This is what you do when you’re on the run from every authority in the galaxy while flying a stolen Dahl cargo hauler into the middle of Alliance territory and getting attacked by unknown aliens. First step:” Lilith shook her head as she reached the cargo section, hands moving over her omnitool. She had a direct wireless feed to the cockpit and sensor feeds n her HUD, and thus had a full, high-resolution view of the fighters’ thermal signatures as they closed in to kill her. The attackers must have spotted her thruster maneuvers to get the ship back under control, but didn’t consider her important enough to bother shooting with a main gun. A brief moment of standard paranoia shot through her as she questioned whether they were targeting her because she was an extremely rare commodity, but she dismissed that. If they knew she was a Siren they would have sent troop transports, or at least a frigate to lock down the ship until they could board it. She briefly debated whether or not to transmit her identity to the attackers, but dismissed it. Revealing her identity was a last resort. “Okay, then, Lilith,” she said as she floated through the cargo bay. An inventory of the equipment on the hauler when she’d hijacked it scrolled over her display. “They’re shooting you because they’re trying to take out any ships in the vicinity, but not that enthusiastic about it. They’re only targeting you because you maneuvered after the first shot, proving you’re still under power. Now, how to escape this lovely situation?” A plan formed in her mind. A quick couple of commands sent the oxygen levels rising up and the compartment’s air pressure increasing. She scanned the list of cargo, and smiled. Thirty seconds later, she’d located the box of blast-a-mite charges. One of the cylindrical charges, placed properly, could kill a tank. The whole box could breach a frigate’s hull. She grabbed them and carried the charges to the back of the cargo section. A quick check of the ship schematic showed her the wall closest to the reactor, as well as the outer hull, and she began setting them up. Like most corps Dahl insisted on idiot-proofing their technology so any moron could buy and use them. Thus, she could arm these bombs with a couple of button presses. Three cheers for for-profit motivation. A minute later, she had the charges set, and checked the sensors. The fighters were a few seconds from effective weapons range, and Lilith could see cannons charging up, glowing red spikes poking from the locust bodies. With her ship as battered as it was, a couple of passes would shred it to pieces. Of course, she was about to do the same thing. Lilith clambered back to the corridor and sealed the door, while accessing the reactor controls. This next part would be tricky. The enemy fighters drew a bit closer, and she double-checked her suit seals, and glanced to the escape pod module a few meters away, across the corridor. Lilith nodded, held up the detonator, and braced. A last-second course correction brought the ship in line with the planet. She shut down the reactor, then depressed the detonator. The ship lurched with tremendous violence, slamming her back against the bulkhead hard enough that her kinetic barriers flared and broke, and the wind was punched out of her lungs. Gasping, Lilith found the g-forces pressing her back against the bulkhead as the explosives spun the ship around, sending it an out-of-control tumble toward Eden Prime. With the increased air pressure and oxygen in the hold, the gout of fire and plasma that escaped the ship would be impressive enough to convince any observer that the whole ship had just suffered a violent internal detonation. Well, theoretically. What she hadn’t considered was how violently the ship would react to the blast, and how the G-forces would slam her back against the wall. Grunting, Lilith pushed herself up, her entire body effectively several times heavier than it should have been. She momentarily tried reactivating internal gravity controls, before remembering that Yeah, genius, you shut down the fucking reactor to make it look like there was a catastrophic loss of power! Well, the good news, at least: the fighters had peeled off, according to passive thermal sensors. They’d fallen for her ruse, convinced no one had survived, probably because no one would be stupid enough to blow their own ship in half. Less pessimism, she thought, teeth gritted, and closed her eyes. More impossible superhuman bullshit. Lilith opened her eyes, and beneath the form-fitting ballistic weave and ceramic plating and superconducting circuitry of her hardsuit, a complex weave of blue lines flowing up the left side of her body from toes to throat suddenly erupted into blue light. Dark energy cascaded around her, a familiar pulling sensation rippled through her body, and a heartbeat later she was no longer in the same reality. Technically she was still there in the ship, but everything around her was filtered through a blue-gray haze, as though someone had slapped a filter onto her helmet’s visor. Her arms - plus her body and armor - were transparent, glowing with a silver-white light. Arcs of electricity ran along her body, jumping from her to the bulkhead behind her - the only sign she was even present when Phasewalking. But most important, the g-forces were no longer pressing against her. Lilith didn’t fully understand how her Siren abilities worked. She didn’t even really know how she got them to trigger; it was all instinctive, like inhaling or blinking. Planetary gravity still had enough of a tug on her to keep her anchored, but it couldn’t crush her while Phasewalking, anymore than fire burned her or bullets could pierce her. It all just passed through her while she was vaguely anchored to her home reality. She pushed up and scrambled sideways toward the escape pod, her ethereal heart still pounding. She only had a few seconds before the Phasewalk broke down and she was explosively belched back into reality. The g-forces weren’t crushing her anymore, but they had just enough of a tug to keep her feet anchored on the bulkhead, causing her to run along the wall toward the pod door. She reached out and grabbed the handle, starting to pull, but her hand passed right through it. Right. Stop panicking, Lilith. She turned and pointed a hand away from the door, and with another inexplicably instinctive gesture, she pumped dark energy through her arm. It burst out from her fingertips in a concussive blast that would crush limbs if applied to human flesh, and the field of energy that had kept her Phased out of reality crashed down around her, exploding outward in a torrent of raging high-energy electrons. A virtual thunderstorm cascaded off of her, blackening floor panels and running along metal in every direction. She was slammed back against the bulkhead instantly, gravity reasserting its hold with vindictive jealously. Lilith grunted through the sudden increase in weight, and twisted toward the escape pod. She dragged her arm up and threw the switch, and the locking bar slid aside. The pod door opened, and she rolled into it. G-forces slammed her into the far wall of the pod, but her barriers had recovered enough to eat the impact, and she wasted no time. Blackness crept into the edges of her vision. Heavy arms moved over the controls, locking and sealing the pod. Lilith didn’t bother strapping in, instead punching the release. The outer doors slid open, and she jammed the launch button as hard as she could. The pod launched, and the weight vanished a heartbeat later as she was freed from the ship and sent tumbling toward the planet, the pod‘s own artificial gravity field taking hold. Lilith stared at the pod’s control display, exhaling, and a sudden, high-pitched giggle escaped her while she strapped in and took control of the pod. “That was pretty awesome,” she said, and kept laughing all the way to the atmosphere of Eden Prime. - Hyperion’s facility had been built around a hill in one of Eden Prime’s pristine native forests, twenty kilometers from the suburbs of Eden Prime‘s capital. The base had been a dig site for a particularly rich mineral vein, right up until the Eridian ruins had been unearthed. Now it resembled a corporate park, with a octagonal perimeter wall with squat guard towers around a central compound of corporate labs, walkways, and open plazas. The whole compound was painted in the gold and white colors Hyperion favored, with buildings of metal and white concrete and shiny, reflective glass. It was all very stylish, and chic, and contemporary. It was also on fire. The Hyperion defensive perimeter had a set of anti-air missile batteries and cannons ringing the facility. They were little more than an afterthought. This wasn’t the border worlds; on Eden Prime, no corporation was going to start shooting at another one in open warfare, if only because the penalties the Alliance would level on them would bankrupt most of them, not to mention the tax incentives the Alliance would offer to the other corporations for kicking the aggressor’s ass. So Hyperion didn’t ring the facility with a massive set of impenetrable defenses that could shoot down an orbiting cruiser. The smattering of automated gun batteries and missile launchers that popped up on the Atlas approach were better suited to taking down spying drones. They targeted the line of drones screening the Atlas gunships as they approached. When they started firing on the drones, the gunships located the turrets and sent guided missiles from beyond visual range to blow the batteries to pieces. And moments later, the gunships were inside the perimeter, and their heavy guns and rocket pods were carving up the towers and doorways and anything that moved within the complex. The rumbling and pounding of the gunships’ fire vibrated Roland’s bones as his ship came to a halt, and the back ramp dropped. It crashed down onto a second-floor balcony of one of the compound’s central buildings, the ramp crushing the guardrail. Roland charged down the ramp, leading the way with his assault rifle shouldered. The rest of his squad piled down and fanned out onto the wide balcony. They’d drawn the shit duty of being the first down; if anyone was set up with a machinegun or other support weapon, they’d be the sacrifice to warn the rest that Hey, guys, look at these dismembered morons. Maybe you should go drop the rest of the troops somewhere else. Lately, it felt like Roland’s squad had drawn a lot more of these high-risk tasks than normal. The balcony was clear, and as his squad fanned out and covered their angles, he signaled for the rest of the platoon. Two more squads pounded down after him, and the moment they were on the ground the gunship lifted and pulled away. Thirty Lancemen spread out along the wide balcony, a wave of red ballistic weave and black and white armor. “First and Second, on me,” Lieutenant Higgins ordered. “Third, secure the entrance. Make me proud, boys!” Roland acknowledged and took his men into the compound. They moved through an open doorway into a corridor lined by offices separated by reflective glass windows and chic, stylish corporate office decorations that were cheerfully oppressive in that way that only Hyperion could manage. The two troopers with the big, hefty tower shields - Jenkins and Spinolo - took the lead, submachineguns in their right hands. Their route would take them down this hallway and to the left, where they would have a good firing position on anyone attempting to enter through the main courtyard. His ECHO comm channel sounded with reports of contacts by the other two squads as they moved through the facility, and gunfire sounded on the levels above them. Hyperion’s troops were not sleeping on the job, and were fighting back hard. There were already reports of casualties coming in. They reached the end of the corridor, and Jenkins and Spinolo stepped out into the intersection. Jenkins turned to the left and then dropped into a crouch behind his shield. “Contact!” he shouted, and bullets smashed into the shield, a couple skipping off his kinetic barriers. Spinolo leapt out into the corridor, bringing his own shield up and moving across the hallway to split up incoming fire. “Turret going out!” Roland shouted, pulling a cylinder as wide as his upper arm off his belt, flicking a switch, and tossing it out into the passage beside Jenkins. As soon as it left his fingers it unfolded and lengthened into a meter-long turret. One end oriented down and spread out into a base, latching to the floor, while the other end extended out into a long-barreled cannon. The moment it secured itself to the floor, the Scorpio turret deployed a semi-circular static kinetic barrier around it. Roland ducked behind his turret’s shield, rifle shouldered, and sighted down the hallway as the rest of his squad poured into the corridor. A quartet of Hyperion soldiers was less than twenty meters down the hall, clad in the distinctive heavy, angular, blocky armor they favored, faced hidden behind blank visors with glowing red optical goggles. Roland sighted one in his rifle’s scope and squeezed the trigger. The noise of raging gunfire was savage and nearly deafening. The Hyperion troops hurled down flat, circular discs that unfolded into gun turrets of their own, while Roland’s squad poured gunfire down the passage and the other Engineer troopers dropped Scorpio turrets to support them. Tracers screamed back and forth, chunks of walls and stylish Hyperion furniture blasted to powder and dust. The soldier Roland targeted stumbled and fell as his shields collapsed and rounds tore through his chest. The remaining Hyperion soldiers were disciplined and well-equipped, but the Lancemen had numbers and raw firepower on their side. Outnumbered more than two to one, the Hyperion troops were overwhelmed within a few seconds, and went down amid a river of gunfire before they could really find any cover. The corridor went silent, and Roland checked the squad’s biometrics as he collapsed and recovered his turret. He blinked in surprise. No casualties. They’d wiped out the Hyperion troops before the enemy had been able to deplete anyone’s shields. A couple of the Lancemen started laughing at their fortune, with Gunnar cheering. “That’s why you don’t fuck with me!” he shouted, pumping his rifle in the air. “Tighten up and quiet down,” Roland ordered, his voice sharp. They went silent, Gunnar glaring at his squadleader with what was almost certainly sullen anger behind his helmet. “Come on, we’ve got work to do, and killing a few Hyperion thugs doesn’t mean we’re invincible. Reload if you need it and move out.” He started down the corridor, and the rest of the Lancemen followed, those with conventional-ammo weapons reloading, a sullen silence following them. His ECHO chirped, and he answered it as he took point, Jenkins beside him. Williams’ face appeared on his HUD. “Sarge,” she said, her voice quiet, barely audible even over the ECHO. “Yeah?” he replied, keeping his voice low too. “Watch Gunnar. I think he’s looking for a promotion on top of your corpse. I caught him talking to the LT just before we launched. Real suspicious.” “He’ll turn on me sooner or later,” Roland agreed. “I’m counting you to watch my back, Ash.” “You got it, Sarge.” He smiled beneath his helmet. He knew he could count on Williams. And while Higgins and Gunnar were an ever-present threat, he could deal with them. After Torfan, well . . . After that massacre, Roland could deal with anything. - Entering atmosphere in an escape pod was never fun, and this one was worse than usual. After all, she was angling the escape pod to land inside a secure Hyperion perimeter. Hyperion wasn’t likely to shoot her down, considering that that they really didn’t want to pay the fines the Alliance would level on a corp that shot down a civilian escape pod. But she wasn’t one hundred percent certain on that, so Lilith braced herself to Phasewalk if she saw any incoming fire, and hoped she would be able to execute before the pod was blown to pieces. No fire lanced up at her as she descended, but as she drop, the reason for the lack of fire did not make her any happier. The pod’s cameras showed several fat-bellied gunships hovering over the compound, all bearing that happy, friendly, fascist red spear logo of the Crimson Lance. Tiny, red-and-black figures moved through the compound as well. “Figures Atlas would make a move right when I arrive,” she muttered. “And, well, whoever these other jackasses are in orbit.” The escape pod continued to descend, firing its retro-rockets to slow it down. At about a thousand meters up, one of the gunships turned toward her, topside gun turret rising to track her. “Oh, no you’re not,” she muttered, and Lilith patted herself down, making sure her pistol and submachinegun were still fixed to her armor. They were. A glance at her SDU readout showed the other weapons she carried in storage were ready in case she needed them. She finished checking at six hundred meters. Oh yes, it turned out, they were. The gunship opened fire at five hundred meters. Lilith cursed as tracer rounds ripped past, and hammered the override for the pod’s door. It blew open and whipped away, air rushing past her. Four hundred meters. Lilith grit her teeth, and then smiled, an idea striking her. A particularly insane idea, but, well, that was the norm. She crouched, and at three hundred meters, leapt. The gunship’s fire tracked into the descending pod and blew it apart at two hundred and fifty meters, and she started laughing in exhilaration as she fell, debris raining past her. At two hundred meters, the gun turret rotated toward her, and Lilith raised a hand in a one-fingered salute as she angled her descent toward her target. Lightning burst around her as she Phasewalked. She fell, yanked toward the surface of Eden Prime by gravity. No longer affected by wind resistance, Lilith descended at frightening speed. One hundred and fifty. One hundred and twenty-five. One hundred. The Atlas gunship leapt up toward her, and she clenched her fist while twisting to bring her legs underneath her. The gunship hovered about a hundred meters above the surface, and she hit with both feet, coming to a dead stop with barely a jolt of impact. Yay for ignoring kinetic energy. She grinned, lightning cascading off her phased body, and then punched down into the reflective amrorglass under her feet. Dark energy screamed down her fist and into the gunship’s cockpit. The blast of power cracked the armorglass over the cockpit. The phaseblast a heartbeat afterward smashed it in like an antipersonnel mine, shredding the startled pilot and crumpling the front half of the gunship. The VTOL aircraft whirled about, tumbling out of control, and Lilith held on as it fell. The vehicle shuddered as it spun, parts of the stricken aircraft flying off. A few Crimson Lance in the courtyard below stared up at her and the battered vehicle whirling about overhead. She waved at them while the gunship spun about, and then leapt off. Lilith grit her teeth as she fell, concentrating, and triggered another Phasewalk as she dropped. She immediately felt the material world yanking back on her as she fell, the second Phasewalk occurring far too close to the previous one to last very long. Lightning streaked off of her, and she tumbled toward the planet below in a disoriented bundle. Lilith hit the tiled stone and concrete of the courtyard hard. Or, well, she would have hit hard if silly things like kinetic energy mattered to her while phased out of reality. Instead she just stopped when she hit the ground, with the barest hint of any impact running through her body, just like with the gunship. Lilith scrambled to her feet and released her phased state, and a burst of lightning and force rippled off of her, cracking the courtyard around her and sending the Lancemen scrambling away from the detonation. For a moment, she considering not doing it, but with a what the hell shrug, Lilith reached up and yanked off her helmet. Bright red hair spilled out, and for a heartbeat, the Lancemen could see the glowing blue tattoos running up her neck, and her golden, shining irises. With her free hand, she drew and unfolded her pistol, then smiled at them when the lights faded. “'Sup.” The gunship she’d just punchsploded out of the air crashed into the wall behind her, backlighting her with a brilliant explosion and whipping shrapnel. The Lancemen’s weapons shot up, one them screaming in terror as he realized he was face to face with a freaking Siren. But Lilith was already firing her pistol into one mercenary‘s faceplate, a feral grin spreading over her face. She was tired of being low profile anyway. - Codex - People - Sirens The term “Siren” is used to refer to a small number of extremely rare females who have been affected by contact with Eridian technology. Sirens possess unusual capability to affect the phase state of the environment around them, allowing them to control kinetic, electromagnetic, and dark energy. Other Siren abilities include being able to corrode objects surrounding them, control machinery, or manipulate Eridian technology. Sirens are born with their powers, and can be identified by markings across their bodies that resemble Eridian script, which glow while manifesting their powers. The majority of recorded Sirens have also been noted as being generally physically ideal specimens of their respective species. Translated Eridian script indicates that only six of the “gifted” can exist at any given time, though precisely why this is the case is unclear. What has been confirmed is that only six Sirens have ever existed at any one time for each species, and always manifest in the female gender. Sirens have, historically, been regarded with either reverence or fear, or both when the situation demands it. Most Sirens are targeted by governments or corporations for research into Eridian technology, but the nature of their Phase powers makes it difficult to contain or study them against their will. Most Sirens spend the majority of their lives avoiding contact with the larger galactic civilization. -Author's Notes: No Gods, Only Guns is the result of playing too much Borderlands and writing way too much serious, grimdark fiction. This story is, well, not so much light-hearted as it is much more humorous. I'm hoping to combine both the grand space opera/political thriller that is Mass Effect with the violent, over-the-top ball of absurdist humor, meta-humor, and badassery that is Borderlands. Plus, ME and Borderlands do have a strong, convergent theme that is summed up by this story's title: Mecha-Cthulhu may be out there, and he may want to eat your face, but if you have a big enough gun, you can kick his eldritch, multidimensional ass. Thoughts? Criticisms? Badassery? Main Story Thread in the Archives - Contains all current chapters!