You've seen me do this with Stargate SG-1 and Babylon 5. And I know I should be working on those, but the muse is stubborn. Still, here we go, another science fiction universe rewritten with Robotech in its history. Only one of my beta readers is familiar with Mass Effect, and he's been a great help, but this is still technically a draft, not a finalized version, hence why I'm posting it here. ------ Lieutenant Commander (LtCmdr) John Shepard, United Earth Spacy Special Operations Division, strode through the corriders of the UES Normandy as he made his way to the bridge. He was clad in full CVR-5M body armor, wearing it like a second skin. CVR-5 was an evolution of its predecessors, combining the essential survival tools of modern combat with the crucial Cyclone connection points into a single surprisingly comfortable and lightweight package. It had an environmental seal that could be manually engaged for EVA or would automatically engage if it detected sudden depressurization. Its belt carried not just a holster for the ever-present Defiant H-303 modular weapon systems, but also a kinetic barrier generator, and its hard armor plating could stop most small arms fire, whether bullets or particle beams. The familiar weight of the CVR-5M served as a comforting reassurance in recent weeks, ever since the turian came aboard. The Sentinels and the Citadel had been quietly staring each other down in a cold war ever since the Relay War decades ago, one which was only starting to thaw in the past few years due to the hard work of asari and invid diplomats. The entire Normandy project was shrouded in tension thick enough to cut with a knife. The fact that he was convinced he had seen that particular turian before -- through the sights of his Defiant H-303 no less -- only made Shepard even more wary. He twisted as the turian brushed past him on the way out of the forward helm area, barely avoiding contact. He quietly listened to the speculation between the helmsman, Spacy Second Lieutenant (2Lt) Jeff Moreau, and the marine detachment commander, First Lieutenant (1stLt) Kaidan Alenko, as they discussed their turian guest. A Spectre. That brought up all sorts of red flags, now that he seriously considered it. The Sentinels didn't believe in the Spectres, didn't believe that any individual could be trusted to be above the law without some sort of checks on his or her actions, so allowing one on board was an incredible show of good faith, by Shepard's estimation. More political points for the good guys, as far as he was concerned. Still... "Pipe down, both of you," he said, breaking up the discussion. "Are you soldiers or a couple of old hens?" Joker turned his head, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "Ba-kawk!" A smile cracked Shepard's face, and he shook his head, chuckling good-naturedly. "Joker," Captain (Capt) Anderson's voice sounded over the cockpit comm, "status report!" The helmsman updated the captain briefly -- so far, everything was going just fine -- finishing off with, "And Captain? Better brace yourself, sir. I think Nihlus is headed your way." "He's already here, Lieutenant," Anderson replied dryly. "Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing." "You get that, Commander?" Joker asked over his shoulder. "I'm on my way," Shepard said, turning away. As he headed back, he nodded to the rest of the crew as he passed by them, pausing when the newest addition to the marine detachment, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Richard L. Jenkins turned to greet him, interrupting his discussion with the ship's doc. "What do you think, Commander?" he asked anxiously. "We won't be staying on Eden Prime too long, will we? I'm itching for some real action!" That's right, Shepard thought. His first shipboard tour. No wonder he's so excited. Not to mention, he recalled, Jenkins was from Eden Prime. "I sincerely hope you're kidding, Corporal," Dr. Chakwas interjected. "Your 'real action' usually ends with me patching up crew members in the infirmary." "Settle down, Jenkins," Shepard said. "Get excited like that, and you're liable to get killed before you fire a shot." "Sorry, Commander," Jenkins said sheepishly. "I'm just so excited. I can't believe I'm going on a mission with a real Spectre." Shepard couldn't help but shake his head and smile. He remembered Jenkins's rather romantic view of Spectres from earlier conversations with the eager young marine, and he had to admit, there was a certain attractive mystique about a self-policing agency free of bureaucracy and paperwork, dedicated to the greater good, despite the potential problems. "Well, I'm going to have to cut this short," he said. "The captain's waiting for me." Shepard moved past and into the comm room. The captain was conspicuously absent, and he found himself alone with the turian Spectre. "Commander Shepard," Nihlus said. "I was hoping you'd get here first. It will give us a chance to talk." "The captain said he'd meet me here," Shepard said. "He's on his way." Bullshit, Shepard thought. The captain had been talking to Joker not five minutes earlier and had been with the turian at the time. "I'm interested in this world we're going to," Nihlus said as he began to stalk around the room. "Eden Prime. I've heard it's quite beautiful." "Wouldn't know," Shepard shrugged. "Never been there." The small talk was starting to annoy him -- he couldn't escape the feeling that the turian was sizing him up -- but he played along as they chatted about inconsequential things. The Spectre was a guest, after all. "You know, we've met before," Nihlus commented, suddenly changing the topic. "You nearly took my head off on Revanna." Shepard's face twisted into a scowl. Revanna had been the site of a proxy war between the Sentinels Alliance and the Citadel Council. A low intensity conflict, it was officially a settlers' dispute between two "independent" colonization groups, one human -- Tirolian, to be exact -- and one asari, with a pirate band thrown in for good measure. Shepard had been sent in as a "military advisor" for the Revanna militia when it became clear the "pirates" had more firepower than was reasonably available on the black market. "I thought I recognized you," Shepard said guardedly. "You impressed me, Shepard," Nihlus said. "Revanna was but a taste of your potential. On Elysium, you showed courage, tenacity, and exceptional skill." Elysium... Shepard thought. The turian was talking about the Skyllian Blitz seven years ago. Shepard had fought there; it was what had made his career. Outnumbered and outgunned, he had rallied the civilian population and held off the pirate coalition for three days until reinforcements arrived to beat them back. The Blitz -- and incidents like what had happened to his own home colony of Mindoir -- had led to the punitive expedition that culminated at Torfan. "It's why I asked for you," Nihlus added. "What are you talking about?" Shepard asked warily. "I think it's about time we told the commander what's going on," interjected a new voice, the captain's. The two turned, and as Anderson and Nihlus laid the situation out before him, Shepard wondered what the hell he could have done to deserve this mess. A Prothean beacon and an official turian stalker I nearly decapitated with my Defiant nine years ago, he thought morosely. Wonderful. That was when all hell broke loose. The aborted transmission from Eden Prime was disconcerting, to say the least, but the strange starship, resembling nothing so much as a giant hand down from the sky, wreathed in red lightning, was downright terrifying. It tugged at something deep and primal. So much for a milk run, Shepard thought grimly. * * * Shepard performed a final systems check on his Cyclone. The VR-108 Typhoon was the latest generation Cyclone, more versatile than previous models, with multiple modular mountings. Shepard was wearing his preferred configuration. The hip-mounts were each packed with a quartet of micro-missiles, while the chest farings housed advanced sensors. The left arm was configured to amplify the range and power of the omni-tool he wore beneath it, while the right was equipped with the classic GR-97 twin tube micro-missile system in case he needed the heavy firepower. He left the shoulder mounts empty; they were designed for heavy weapons, and the power draw tended to slow the Cyclone down. He kept his Defiant H-303 on a magnetic clip and hefted a heavy particle beam rifle -- too large for a human to wield unassisted -- for his primary armament. Beneath his helmet, he cocked an eyebrow at the unexpected arrival. "Tali? What are you doing here?" Tali'Zorah nar Rayya was a civilian consultant assigned to engineering. The Sentinels had good relations with the Migrant Fleet, and many quarians preferred to complete their Pilgrimage in human territory or aboard human ships. Although they had been offered their pick of a number of planets in Sentinel territory, the majority of quarians had chosen to remain with the Fleet, still hoping to one day retake their homeworld. "I brought her, Commander," Anderson interjected. "I believe she'll be an asset to your ground team." "How, exactly?" "The geth," Tali said. "My people created the geth, Commander. You need me." "Geth?" Shepard repeated. "We were able to ID them on the last pass," Anderson explained. "She volunteered." "Understood, sir," Shepard nodded. He looked over at Tali. "Still... your environmental suit can't interface with a Cyclone. Without that added armor, you'll be vulnerable." "I can take care of myself, Commander," Tali retorted, "and I have top of the line shields." Shepard met the quarian's gaze, her eyes faint glowing slits visible through her tinted visor. He liked Tali, and he knew she had a good head on her shoulders and was a good shot with the mass accelerator shotgun she favored, but she was still a civilian. "I'll be fine," she assured him. "I've got you for cover, after all," she added playfully. "All right," Shepard relented with a forced laugh. "Just stay behind us, okay?" "No worries about that." That didn't make Shepard feel any better. It took a moment to sort out the order of battle. Nihlus was going to perform advanced reconnaissance, while Shepard's fire team provided the firepower. Tali also gave them a briefing on the most common geth they were likely to encounter: troopers, shock troopers, snipers, and rocket troopers. He glanced at his team. Alenko had chosen a configuration similar to Shepard's, but he had gone for additional protoculture clips over hip missiles and had forgone the GR-97 for a proton cannon. Jenkins, on the other hand, had his Cyclone geared for heavy combat: hip missiles, chest missiles, forearm missiles, and a powerful shoulder-mounted 30mm mass accelerator cannon; he also carried a heavy particle beam rifle like Shepard's. Compared to the trio of Cycloners, Tali was practically naked in her armored environmental suit, though the mass accelerator shotgun she was packing looked comically out-sized for her; indeed, it looked more like something designed for a Cycloner to use, but he knew how skilled she was with it. They landed in the marsh from a low-altitude drop. The Cyclones' mass effect fields cushioned the fall to a gentle step and kept them from sinking into the soft ground. Shepard lowered Tali to the ground. Her environmental suit didn't have the space or power source to pack the kind of equipment the Cyclones had, so Shepard had carried her down. "Let's move out," Shepard said. "Jenkins, you've got point." "Yes, sir," the marine nodded. Since Jenkins was from Eden Prime, Shepard was banking on his familiarity with the colony. After bypassing some of the strange "gas bag" creatures native to the planet, they soon made hard contact with the enemy. "Son of a bitch!" Jenkins swore the geth recon drones hammered him. His right arm snapped up on instinct as he stumbled back in surprise. Over a century old, the GR-97 twin tube missile launcher was a tried and true weapon system. The Scorpion Mark IV plasma micro-missile was an evolution on the original Scorpion. It contained a powerful plasma warhead and was propelled by a mass effect field, with a rocket motor kicker, which accelerated the missile to kinetic-kill velocities; the plasma warhead was almost an afterthought against all but the most heavily-armored or shielded targets. Two such missiles streaked toward the geth recon drones, detonating on contact with their kinetic barriers and immolating the recon drones. "You all right, Jenkins?" Shepard asked as the rest of the team hurried to join him. Shepard strafed the last recon drone with his heavy particle beam rifle until it went crashing to the ground. Particle beams were officially classified as directed energy weapons, but that identifier wasn't quite accurate. The beams had mass, so kinetic barriers did affect them, but the energetic state of the beams meant kinetic barriers -- the only kind of shield practical on an infantry scale -- were very quickly whittled down. "Yes, sir," Jenkins said, panting from the adrenaline rush. "Damn things ripped right through my shields." "Eyes sharp, people," Shepard ordered. "Tali, stay close." "Yes, Commander." Moving cautiously, the team moved up the hill and into a small grove of trees. "Sir?" Jenkins spoke up quietly, breaking the silence. "I, uh, I'm sorry." "For what, Corporal?" "Wasting those missiles, sir. I... kinda panicked. Won't happen again." Shepard snorted. "Of course it'll happen again, Jenkins. Everyone panics, and frankly, I'd rather waste a couple of expensive missiles than lose a man under my command, understood?" "Yes, sir." * * * "Come on!" UEMC Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) Ashley Williams called, riding low over her Cyclone. She hated running. It just wasn't in her blood. Her parents both served the Spacy, and her grandfather had held Shanxi against the turians for two long, bloody years, then took it back after another year. But she wasn't an idiot. There were just too many of them, and three... BOOM! ...make that two Cycloners, one of them a corpsman, didn't stand a chance in a straight fight, not against a dozen rocket-toting killer robots. They were headed for a hill just outside the colony proper, atop which was a grove of trees. Hopefully, they'd be able to regroup, lose them in the trees, maybe get the drop on these alien tin cans. And this was supposed to be an easy rotation, she thought sourly, a break from all the damned pirate-hunting. Torfan still haunted her. It had been a major boon to her career, but her determination -- obsession, perhaps -- to complete the mission -- to make sure not one single slaver made it off that rock alive -- had cost a lot of good people their lives, especially after she had been forced to take command of her unit when her immediate CO had been killed. She wasn't an officer, but she had been forced to act as one, and she had made mistakes. Though she regretted the costs, she still stood by her decision to press the assault. Had she waited for reinforcements or further orders from Major Kyle, the batarians would have been able to fortify their positions, and that would have cost the UEDF more lives in the end. Or so she tried to convince herself. Ashley slowed her Cyclone as she reached the bottom of the hill. The corpsman's Cyclone edged out ahead of her as she twisted in her seat, Defiant in hand, snapping off a few shots before hitting the accelerator again. Her gaze went to the top of the hill, and her heart leaped as she saw the Cycloners emerge from the trees. * * * "Jenkins," Shepard ordered, "take 'em out!" "Wait!" Tali called out. "Target the red ones first!" "Commander?" Shepard shrugged. "You heard the lady." Jenkins nodded and brought up his 30mm mass accelerator cannon. The cannon was at the high end of mecha-assisted infantry weapons, using a mass effect field to reduce the sabot round's effective mass while in the barrel and an electromagnetic field to hurl it out at tremendous velocities. It was designed for anti-armor use and was one reason tanks had become truly obsolete on the modern battlefield. The first shot streaked out in what resembled a short-lived white beam as the tungsten penetrator, super-heated from friction with the atmosphere, struck one of the red geth platforms in the chest, punching through its shields and armor with ease... then out the back into the one behind it, dropping both geth. Automatic cooling shutters on the weapon opened, venting the overheated weapon as Jenkins and Shepard each raised their heavy particle beam rifles, while Kaidan brought up his proton cannon. By his fifth kill, Jenkins had gotten into a rhythm, using his particle rifle to tear down the geths' shields, followed up by a single micro-missile to crack the armor beneath. One last geth straggler emerged from the dust of the withering fire far closer than any of them had expected... BOOM! ...and was hurled back by the massive impact that shattered its armor. Tali racked her mass accelerator shotgun. "You missed one." The ground team approached the two Cycloners they had just rescued. Both were women, olive-skinned. The one on the right stepped forward and saluted Shepard, her companion following suit a moment later. "Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Williams, sir." "Corpsman First Class Nirali Bhatia, sir." "We're with the Two-Twelve," Ashley added. Shepard looked around. "Where's the rest of your unit?" "You're looking at it, sir," Ashley said bitterly. "Those tin cans are tougher than they look, and they're swarming us like crazy. We lost contact with the Two-Thirty-Two and tried to double-back to the dig site, but..." She shook her head and held up her Defiant. "P-cell's run dry twice already putting them down, and we don't have any heavier weaponry." Shepard nodded grimly, then noted Tali peering over one of the geth bodies. "Tali?" The quarian machinist looked up and shook her head slowly. "These aren't standard geth platforms. No troopers, no shock troopers; only destroyers and juggernauts, a couple of rocket troopers... they came in heavy, Commander. Very heavy. They're armed for anti-vehicular combat." That did not sit well with Shepard. Or anyone else, for that matter. "You mean they're armed to take on Cyclones," he said flatly. Tali nodded reluctantly. "Very likely." "But the geth haven't been seen outside the Perseus Veil for nearly two hundred years," Kaidan pointed out. "How would they know about Cyclones?" That really didn't sit well with anyone. Shepard took a moment to size up the two women. The gunny seemed pretty stable, and her name sounded vaguely familiar, while the corpsman was clearly anxious, looking to the gunny for reassurance. Their Cyclones were the older VR-099 Tornado models: faster and lighter than the VR-108 Typhoon, but less heavily armored and with fewer modular mounts. It looked like the gunny's Cyclone had the typical patrol configuration -- proton cannon and omni-tool on the arms, spare ammo on the hips -- while the corpsman had the expected medigel dispensers and diagnostics and surgical tool package. "All right, you're with us, Gunny. Corpsman, fall in towards the rear. We need to secure that Prothean beacon ASAP." The two women nodded, straddled their Cyclones, and initiated the mechamorphosis into battloid mode, falling in as ordered. As the now larger team advanced into the colony, the corpsman, Nirali Bhatia, spoke quietly to the quarian. "So, what was that you did with your shotgun?" "I beg your pardon?" "That -- geth destroyer you called it? -- that geth destroyer you shot," Nirali elaborated. "That wasn't a standard shotgun blast. Believe me, I've seen what shotguns do to people." "It's..." Tali hesitated. "I overrode the safety governor in the shotgun's mass accelerator. Overheats it almost instantly and increases wear, but the carnage it can cause... well, you saw for yourself." "By all that is holy... why would you do something like that?!" Nirali sputtered. As a corpsman, she was familiar with the kind of damage mass accelerators, particle beams, plasma, lasers, blades, blunt force trauma, explosives, and whatnot could do to people, through her training if nothing else. If it hadn't been for the Deferred Education Plan, she would never have enlisted, and medical corps training just made the thought of finding new and interesting ways to kill people even more horrifying. After the past few hours, that restaurant she hoped to open with Samesh seemed farther away than ever. "Because sometimes," Tali replied quietly, "you need the extra firepower." "The dig site's just up ahead," Ashley said. She paused and ducked as a mass accelerator slug slammed into her shields. "Damn it!" she swore, returning fire, but the geth sniper was crouched behind a rocky outcropping. Jenkins hefted his 30mm and fired. The round cored through the boulder and the geth behind it. "I don't suppose you have another of those somewhere," Ashley asked enviously. "Sorry," Jenkins deadpanned. "Left it in my other suit." The geth remaining at the dig site proved to be geth shock troopers, easy kills for a squad of Cycloners. "The beacon's gone," Ashley frowned behind her helmet. "They probably moved it to the spaceport, Gunny," Nirali said. "We were expecting a ship today to pick up the beacon." "That would be us," Shepard said, nodding. "Let's keep moving. We still need to secure that beacon." "So where's your ship?" Ashley asked. "Normandy's a frigate," Shepard said, then pointed at the dreadnought looming ominously above them. "She wouldn't stand a chance against whatever that is." "Oh, that's just lovely," Ashley muttered. "Just one frigate? We're screwed." As they continued upwards to the dig's main campsite, marked by a handful of prefab buildings, Shepard heard Nihlus over the radio: "Change of plans, Shepard. there's a small spaceport up ahead. I want to check it out. I'll wait for you there." "Copy that," Shepard replied. His particle rifle came up, and he snapped off a shot, decapitating one of the geth troopers manhandling a trio of humans over an alien device. The geth turned, flashlight heads peering at them as the devices suddenly activated, impaling the humans. A fraction of a second later, the team, which had been holding fire for fear of hitting the humans, shredded the geth mercilessly. "Looks like they sent all their heavy hitters after the garrison once they secured the camp," Jenkins observed. "These look like the standard geth troopers you briefed us on, ma'am." "Agreed," the quarian said, nodding. "And please, just call me Tali." "Yes, ma'am. Err, Tali. Ma'am." Shepard chuckled. "Calm down, Jenkins. Miss Zorah tends to have that effect on people." Tali's eyes narrowed as she glared at the commander. "I have a shotgun." "You let all your subordinates threaten you, Commander?" "She's not my subordinate, Gunny," Shepard pointed out. "She's a civilian consultant. I brought her along on captain's orders as she's the only geth expert we had on board." "So? She just threatened to-" "I'm not deaf, Gunnery Sergeant, nor am I stupid," Shepard growled. He looked up at the impaled colonists. "We'll leave them for to recovery teams. "He nodded to one of the prefab buildings that seemed intact and, more importantly, sealed. "Kaidan, see if you can get that thing open, check for survivors." "On it, Commander," Kaidan said, bringing up his omni-tool and interfacing with the locking mechanism. It only took him a few minutes to bypass the lock and slide the door open, only to get assaulted by a folded metal chair, which clanged on the top of his helmet. "Oh, I'm sorry!" the woman said, stepping back in surprise. "I thought-" "You thought we were geth," Kaidan interrupted, putting a hand to his helmet as he struggled to keep his balance and shook his head to try to clear out the ringing in his ears. The migraines from his L2 implants were bad enough. This was going to ruin his whole week. "I'm Commander Shepard of the UES Normandy. Are you okay?" The surviving members of the research team, it seemed, were fine, if a little shaken up, but Shepard had Nirali check them over anyway, just in case. None of them had any serious injuries, but they couldn't identify the strange artifacts the geth had used to impale the colonists. "Go," Dr. Warren -- the woman who had brained Kaidan -- said. "We'll be fine here. It's imperative you get that beacon. We can lock ourselves in again until it's clear." "Here," Ashley said, standing up from where she had been crouched by the body of one of her fellow marines. She had been quietly moving from body to body, collecting dog tags. She walked over and handed a Defiant to the xenoarchaeologist, who accepted it warily. "Just in case," she said with a shrug. "Let's get moving," Shepard said, and the team moved on into the colony proper. The colony was about what Shepard expected, prefab boxes lined up in neat little rows. It wasn't much different from his memories of Mindoir -- a chill ran down his spine -- right down to the devastation. This wasn't the main colony, just an expansion that had been laid down in anticipation of the new extension of the monorail line, so there were no people here. It was eerily quiet, the silence broken only by a single gunshot ringing out in the distance. "Double time!" Shepard snapped, dropping his Cyclone into motorcycle mode. "Tali, hop on!" The quarian straddled his motorcycle and wrapped her arms around his waist just as he kicked the accelerator. Soon, they were zooming through the colony at better than eighty kilometers an hour, swerving to a halt as they reached the monorail station and came under fire. Switching back to battloid mode, they dispatched the geth troopers and approached. "Commander," Kaidan said, kneeling by the turian body the geth troopers had been carrying. "It's Nihlus." "Something's moving!" Ashley called. "Behind the crates!" Everyone turned and leveled their weapons. "Wait!" a voice called out. "Don't... don't shoot! I'm one of you! I'm human!" "What are you doing sneaking around back there?" Shepard demanded. "I... I'm sorry," the man said, holding his hands up. "I was hiding. From those creatures. My name's Powell. I saw what happened to that turian. The other one shot him." It didn't take long to get the story from Powell, who had managed to witness everything and avoid notice behind the crates by virtue of having been taking a nap when the attack occurred. The other turian, the one Nihlus had called Saren, had shown up first, shot Nihlus in the back when he let his guard down, then ordered the geth to clean up. The beacon had been taken by monorail to the spaceport, and Saren had gone after it. After a moment, the civilian threw his hands off and walked away, clearly shaken by the ordeal. Shepard watched him leave the area, then turned to find Tali crouched over one of the geth they had shot up. "What is it, Tali?" "Shh!" she shushed. "I'm trying to concentrate." After a moment, she gave a victorious squeal and stood up, holding up her prize. "Geth memory core," she explained. "We took it down fast enough to keep it from self-destructing, and with the right equipment, we can recover some of the data, hopefully enough to identify this 'Saren.'" "Good thinking," Shepard said, nodding with approval. They hadn't been paying much attention to the spikes around them, simply trying to ignore the bodies impaled on them, so it caught them by surprise as the spikes suddenly retracted, and the bodies picked themselves. "What the hell!" Jenkins cried out as the nearest of them unleashed a wave of electrical energy. "Shit! Shields are down, targeting systems scrambled!" He backed away as the... husk, for lack of a better word, clawed at him. He smacked it back, the enhanced strength of his Cyclone sending its head flying. For all their shock value, the husks were easily disposed of. Shepard shook his head. "Great. Robo-zombies. I guess now we know what the impaling's all about it. Let's get moving." They fought their way to the cargo train, a relatively simple task, as there was only a token force of geth troopers and shock troopers present, and took the cargo train to the spaceport... where they practically tripped over a nuke. "Tali," Shepard snapped, "take care of the nukes. We'll cover you." "Are you sure we should trust her with that, Commander?" Ashley asked on a private channel. "No time to argue, Gunny," Shepard said, bringing his particle rifle up and blasting the recon drones that flew in to harass them. "But, sir-" "What part of 'no time to argue' did you miss, Gunny? This is not up for debate. She's our best tech expert and has top level clearance with the Spacy." "Understood, sir," she ground out. They cleared the first area well enough, as aside from the recon drones, there had been only a handful of shock troopers there to stop them. As they advanced past the last nuke, they were forced to dive for cover as rockets streaked toward them. "Keelah!" Tali swore. "I see four juggernauts and a geth prime." "What the hell's a geth prime?" Before she could answer, one of the rockets blew apart the stack of alloyed boxes Shepard was using for cover, sending him flying, and a second one slammed into his kinetic barrier, dropping his shields as it detonated and sending him flying even further. A quick application of his Cyclone's thrusters saved him from a very long fall into the ravine that split the spaceport's cargo area in two. "Heavy command unit," Tali explained once Shepard was behind more solid cover. "Tougher than a juggernaut, smarter, more heavily armed, and it can network and improve the runtimes on nearby geth." "It's the big white one, right?" Jenkins asked. "Yes." The corporal leaned out, bringing his 30mm cannon up and fired at the geth prime. The round sped past two of the juggernauts, smashing their kinetic barriers down, then slammed into the geth prime's shields. He ducked again as one of the other juggernauts snap-fired a rocket at him with deadly accuracy. "God damn it!" he swore. "Switching to Scorpions." "Sync your targeting with mine," Shepard ordered. He had two Scorpion IV micro-missiles of his own, and now looked like a better time than any to put them to good use. Four micro-missiles streaked out toward the clustered geth. When the dust cleared, the juggernauts whose barriers Jenkins had disabled lay slagged on the ground, while the geth prime looked distinctly worse for wear. Kaidan chose that moment to sidearm a tech mine at the geth. The overload tech mine fried the two remaining juggernauts, and the prime staggered. "Pour it on!" Ashley roared, matching actions to words as she alternated between the proton cannon mounted on her Cyclone's right forearm mount and the Defiant she held in her left hand. The rest of the team quickly joined in, and the geth prime soon fell under the withering barrage. A thunderous silence descended on the spaceport. After a moment to give the team time to catch their breaths, Shepard looked around. "All right. Let's go find that beacon." They found the beacon, all right. And it appeared to be active. "My God..." Kaidan murmured. "It wasn't doing anything like this when they found it," Ashley murmured, her voice hushed. "Well, whatever happened here, I think it's over," Shepard said, shaking his head. "Jenkins, Williams, stand watch. Alenko, scan the area, make sure we got all the nukes. Bhatia..." "You're injured, Commander," Nirali cut him off. "I saw you take a rocket to the chest. Get out of that armor so I can check on you properly." Shepard opened his mouth to protest, then decided against it, simply switching to motorcycle mode and pulling off his helmet. Thank God for medi-gel, he thought wryly. He was sitting side-saddle on his Cyclone and giving his preliminary report to Captain Anderson even as the corpsman patched him up. His gaze swept across the area, and he broke off when he saw Tali step towards the beacon, apparently mesmerized. When the energy lanced out and engulfed the quarian, lifting her up into the air, he bolted forward. "Tali!" he called, tackling her. He wrapped his arms around her and twisted, hurling her free of the energy field, only to have it capture him. His mind was assaulted, bombarded with images and emotions. Fear. Pain. Blood. Death. Then darkness claimed him. ------ Shepard is a Colonist/War Hero, and yes, I did just make Ashley a Spacer/Ruthless. Interestingly enough, Kaidan fits the bill for an Earthborn/Sole Survivor with very few tweaks. And yes, Richard L. Jenkins and Nirali Bhatia both survive! I don't know of any 'fic in which that happens. I do have ideas tying it all together -- the Tirolians, the Haydonites, the Protheans, the Reapers, etc. -- but not a whole lot of ideas on where to actually take the story beyond rewriting the game plot. So, what do you think? Feedback would be appreciated.