Salvation: A Half-Life/Mass Effect Universe Fan Fiction
Disclaimer: This fan-fiction takes place after the events of both Half-Life 1 and 2 and its episodes, and jumps to the events after Mass Effect 1 and 2. If you have not played or beaten these games this fiction may not make much sense to you. Characters property of their respective companies, Half-Life created by Valve and Mass Effect created by Bioware.Chapter 34: Requiem
"Barnes, have our ground forces been fully assembled?" Admiral Hackett demanded, as he stood looking over the shoulder of the Orizaba's communications officer.
"Still assembling, sir..." The young CO responded reluctantly, as he slid his head phones off of his ears. Letting them hang around his neck, as he looked up to face the Admiral.
"Damn it... Tell them to haul ass, double time!" Hackett ordered anxiously. "I want artillery teams on the ground ready with heavy AA plasma canons in every major city from here to the Antarctic... I want every naval base around the world sending every last combat worthy SV to rendezvous with the fleet... And I want confirmation that every military detachment we have, is on the way back to Earth A-S-A-P. Understood?!"
"Understood sir! Right away!" Barnes answered back abruptly, and respectfully, as he slid his headphones back onto his ears, and turned to his work.
"Admiral Hackett, sir!" Captain Donaghy's panic stricken voice suddenly caught the Admiral's attention.
She, much like the Admiral, had been leaning over one of the officer's shoulder's on the bridge, watching him work frantically. An endeavor now shared by every crew member on-board the massive dreadnought, as well as every ship in the Alliance Fleet, and every Alliance Military outpost throughout the world.
"What is it, Captain?" He asked as he walked over to her. As he approached, it was a distressing sight to see her look up at him with such alarm in her eyes. A newfound terror he had not seen in her gaze before. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the worst.
"Sir..." She began with a gulping sigh. "Those things... It's like we thought... They're on their way here."
Immediately upon hearing the news, a cold shudder ran throughout the Admiral's body. He clenched his fists, and teeth, tightly; his knuckles whitening from the tightness of his flesh. He knew that this was what they had been preparing for, but he had hoped he was only taking precautionary steps.
"You're certain?" He asked, his resolute demeanor not dwindling in the slightest.
"We just received visual confirmation from Solare-7, our satellite orbiting Pluto near the Charon Relay..." Captain Donaghy responded, with a tinge of despair in her voice.
"Hard to tell..." She answered, turning to back to look onto the officer's screen once again. "They came through so tightly clustered together, the satellite wasn't able to get an accurate reading. But given their collective mass..." Donaghy paused for a moment, inhaling deeply before she continued. "The computer estimates... ten thousand... At least..."
"Mother of god..." Hackett uttered in a hushed voice. A strong feeling of dread sinking into his gut, as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
"G-Given their current bearing, and rate of travel..." Donaghy continued, doing her best to remain level headed, despite the similar terror that had gripped her. "They'll breach Earth's atmosphere, somewhere over Central Asia and Eastern Europe..." She took a deep breath, and exhaled. "Within twenty-eight minutes..."
Steven Hackett stood silently for a moment. He suddenly noticed the slight pain forming in his knuckles, from the tension of his clenched fist. Swallowing down a quick gulp, he relaxed his hands, and placed them stoically behind his back, as he cleared his throat.
"Like hell they will!" He asserted with a hard look of determination in his eyes. "If that's where they're coming from, then we're going to meet those bastards head on... Order the fleet into orbit over Central Asia. I want a barricade spanning from the Baltic Sea, to the Sea of Japan. Any further than that, and we'll be spread too thin."
"Aye aye, sir!" Captain Donaghy acknowledged, hastily saluting her superior before turning back to the officer, preparing to relay the order.
His hands still locked behind his back, Admiral Hackett turned towards the forward windows, gazing out as he walked towards them. Outside he watched the the activity of the fleet as they prepared for combat. Ships from the ground continuously joined the ones already in the air, either returning from dropping off the last of the Citadel's refugees, or units dispatched from the various naval outposts around the globe. Within moments, the loud hum of the Orizaba's powerful thrusters was heard, accompanied by the hiss of the thrusters of every other ship in the Arcturus Fleet, as they collectively prepared to move into orbit, in accordance with the Admiral's orders.
An unhealthy mixture of adrenaline and terror coursed through the bodies of the various officers and crew members on-board each of the Alliance ships. Each expressing it in their own way.
"Yeeeee-hooooo!" Richard Frakes, an ambitious young fighter pilot shouted out, pumping his fist in the air as he stood next to his Guardian Class Interceptor. "Gonna kill me a dozen of them sons of bitches!"
"How 'bout you Kowalski?" He asked as turned to his neighboring pilot, who was slipping his helmet onto his head and tightening the strap under his chin. "You ready to give these bastards the worst day of their lives?"
"Shit, you know it!" The other pilot responded confidently, as he ascended the ladder to his cockpit. "Two dozen at least. Keep up if you can..."
"They're gonna be sorry they ever decided to mess with Earth." Frakes snickered and shook his head, as he too strapped on his helmet and started climbing the ladder to his fighter.
"Hey Rodriguez!" He stopped and called out, turning around at the top of his ladder, addressing a pilot a few fighters down who was already situating himself in his cockpit.
"Kick some ass!" He shouted, waving a confident thumbs up high over his head, with the other pilot reciprocating the gesture, as the canopy closed around him.
"We fly in alive, and we fly out the same way gentlemen!" Frakes asserted as he sat down in his cockpit, strapping himself in. "Wolfpack! Owoooooooo!" He let fourth a vigorous howl, moments before his canopy closed down, sealing him within his Guardian Class fighter ship, marked with a black, silver, and red wolf's head crest.
All around them, and in neighboring carriers alike pilots scrambled to their Interceptors, as the fleet ascended into orbit. Some pilots and crew members kissed photographs of loved ones they held nearby. Others murmured silent prayers to themselves, hoping something or someone out there would hear them. And others still fed off of the adrenaline rush; using it to put steel in their spines, and quell the lingering feelings of anxiety they felt deep down. Despite how they showed it or hid it, only one thing was common among the men and women of the Alliance Navy as they prepared to launch the largest counter-offensive in the history of galactic civilization; only their fear...
"Admiral Hackett, sir!" Communications Officer Barnes' eager voice suddenly called out back on the bridge of the Orizaba, immediately grabbing Hackett's attention.
"What now...?" Hackett thought to himself, closing his eyes and taking an exasperated breath before acknowledging the young CO.
"What is it, Barnes?" Hackett questioned wearily, expecting the worst as he turned with a jerk and walked over to him. To the Admiral's surprise however, he saw what appeared to be a dim spark of relief in the officer's eyes, and even the slightest makings of a smile.
"Sir..." Barnes began, releasing a hopeful sigh as he slid his headpiece down around his neck. "We just received word from Admiral Lidanya of the Destiny Ascension. The Citadel Fleet is en route to reinforce us."
"Thank god..." Hackett thought silently to himself, bowing his head and bobbing it slightly as he released a long breath he didn't realize he had been holding in.
"It's great to finally hear some good news, son." The Admiral assured, nodding and cracking a grin. "What's their ETA?"
"Forty-six minutes sir."
Admiral Hackett clenched his lips, and nodded reluctantly. He turned his head to look out of the window, just as the baby blue hue of the sunny Earth sky faded to black, and the celestial twinkle of the cosmos reappeared.
"Well I guess we're on our own until they get here..."
"It doesn't look like those things are gonna hold out too much longer!" Garrus shouted out, peering through his scope, watching the antlion swarm steadily dwindle, while nailing any vorcha aggressors he could spot.
In the distance, at the end of the wide passageway that ran down the center of the vortigaunt village, dividing it in two; the vorcha horde clashed fiercely with the green swarm of antlions that had been unleashed upon them.
Despite the vast numbers pouring out of the tunnels below in droves, insatiably beguiled by the overwhelming aroma of the pheropods - they were no match for the numbers, and sheer firepower of the vorcha. Despite this, they served their purpose admirably. Amidst the chaos, many of the vorcha laid strewn across the ground large puncture wounds riddling their bodies. Many with deep gashes and sizable chunks of flesh ripped off of their bones, a result of the antlion's feasting as they attacked.
But much like the vorcha, many an antlion carcass littered the ground, as their numbers were thinned out. Splashes of green and yellow soaked the unwanted visitors as the muzzle fire of their automatic weapons drilled through them.
"We must keep them occupied as long as possible!" Thane asserted, keeping the sights of his assault rifle aligned as he picked off two scattering vorcha. "Until the others can make it to the vortigaunt's control room."
Fanned out beside him, Garrus, Jack, Legion, and a handful of vortigaunts unleashed everything they had, as their supplementing antlion swarm was eliminated overwhelmed by the even greater numbers of the vorcha menace.
A blaze of gun fire, and a maelstrom of green lightning thrashed one after another, as they toppled over like targets in a carnival game. But for every one that laid slain, it seemed as if two more would take its place.
With the swarm of gargantuan insects now eliminated, the maladroit attackers now turned their focus onto the source of the incoming barrage, climbing over the bodies of their own accumulating fallen.
"It seems we have garnered their full attention..." Thane affirmed, shouldering his assault rifle firmly, and spraying anything that moved.
"Stand your ground!" Garrus ordered, shouting over the thundering gunfire, as he peered through his scope. He aimed with precision and discipline, and one after another they fell in his crosshairs. "No matter what, we hold this position!"
Just then, Thane's rifle ceased firing, releasing only a series of clicking sounds indicating he was out of ammunition. Rather than loading a new a clip into the chamber, he simply swung his weapon around, mounting it onto his back. He held his hands out in front of him, an austere look in his eyes, as they were suddenly engulfed by a shimmering blue radiance.
Extending his hands out before him, his palms aimed at a clambering rabble of vorcha climbing over a mound of their own fallen, they were suddenly engulfed by the same blue luminescence. Flailing about and firing their weapons hopelessly in all directions, they were hoisted into the air ten, twenty, perhaps thirty feet.
Holding them there for a moment, Thane's hands began to tremble as channeling the energy took its toll. He made it a point, to stare into each of there eyes, before thrusting his hands downward with a jerk, slamming the group down with bone crushing force.
"Argh! These vermin are incessant!" Grunt bellowed angrily, as he fired on one of the fiends, leaving it peppered with scatter shot, in a pool if its own blood. Then pumping his shotgun, he swung himself around, and discharged once more on what seemed to be an endless stream.
"Just keep advancing!" Jacob yelled out. "We gotta retake that control center! Bring the pain!"
On the far side of the vortigaunt village, Jacob's team weaved around the small huts and dwellings, steadfastly doing their best to push towards the entrance of the vorcha guarded control room.
A large agglomeration of vortigaunts banded with them, unleashing deadly green streaks of lightning as the intruders continually closed in on all sides.
Jacob, much like Grunt, favored the raw stopping power and close quarters versatility of a shotgun. Evident as he wielded the M-22 Eviscerator, or as he took to calling it, "The Hope Ender."
Dr. Mordin Solus, a former member of the Salarian Special Tasks Group, took a more covert approach in his onslaught. Using the vort dwellings, and their debris for cover, he spotted a small concentration of the enemy as they closed in.
"Tsk... Tsk... Such hostile creatures..." He uttered to himself, as he pulled a small, discuss shaped concussive grenade off of his belt. "Not unlike animals. Some operant conditioning should go a long way."
Just then, he peered out from behind his cover, and hurled the small discuss at his targets.
"Ahhh!" Various groans and screams of pain were heard as the grenade detonated with impressive force, on impact. The shock wave rattled Mordin a bit more than he expected, as he primed his submachine gun.
His weapon brandished, he came out from behind his cover, aiming it in the direction of his aforementioned attack. He watched as a few moaned, and writhed on the floor, disoriented from the blast. Others, who were unfortunate enough to catch the blunt of the blast radius, laid peacefully still.
Crawling around, still in a daze, with a loud ringing in their ears, the dregs almost instinctively all reached for their weapons, and prepared to fire up at the visage of the two identical, blurry salarians standing over them.
"We kill yo... Augh!" One of them yelped agonizingly, as his skull and the skulls of his compatriots were pierced by a barrage of thermal rounds.
"Hmm..." Mordin uttered, taping his chin the barrel of his weapon still smoking. "Results disappointing... Perhaps more advantageous to skip negative reinforcement... go straight to punishment."
"We're almost there guys!" Jacob shouted, advancing as he mowed down three more aggressors, with a sinister grin on his face. "Push on!"
As the struggle continued, he suddenly thought he felt some sort of strange rumbling sound. But he quickly dismissed it as nothing more than the handiwork of Garrus' team. That is until the rumbling persisted, and steadily began growing louder.
Jacob quickly finished off one more foot soldier, which managed to nick his kinetic barriers before going down. With his brow furrowed, as he tuned his hearing to this strange new sound, he kept his weapon primed, and halted his advance momentarily. He scanned the area for the rest of his team, as the vibrations grew from a faint rumble to a dull howl.
Samara, a walking conduit of biotic energy, was busy making short work of entire squads of attackers at a time. Lashing out in a violent maelstrom of biotic shock waves, left and right, until she too took note of the strange new resonance in the air, growing louder and louder as something drew closer and closer
Jacob looked around, spotting each member of his team throughout the debris of the once peaceful village, and each of them stopped and looked at one another in turn. The vorcha too ceased their assault, as a result of the strange new sound. They turned and looked to the sky, hissing and snarling almost in delight as the thundering roar grew louder, and closer.
"What in the hell is that..." He uttered to himself, gulping at something in his throat as the ground under his feet trembled turbulently.
"Jacob to assault team one." He said anxiously, pressing against his ear with two fingers on his right hand, still holding his shotgun warily with his left. "Come in Garrus, do you copy?"
In the distance, far towards the alley way running down the center of the village, Garrus' team was still in the throes combat. Although the vorcha's counter-attack had significantly decreased, likely due to the same reason as the others.
Just as Garrus lined up one more kill, he pulled back on the trigger receiving nothing but a clacking sound.
"Damn!" He exclaimed to himself, frustrated that his kill got away at the expense of an empty clip. Just then, he heard Jacob's voice come in over his communicator. Despite it being housed directly in his ear canal, the voice was still obscured by the booming roar. He quickly collapsed his empty rifle, and raised it over his shoulder, mounting it onto his back, before pulling his sidearm off of his hip.
"I copy Jacob." Garrus responded, pressing against his earpiece with one hand, and firing his pistol with the other. "What the hell's going on? What's that noise? This isn't your handiwork is it?"
"I was just about to ask you the same thing..." Jacob replied, having to shout over the near deafening sound, now drowning out any gunfire. "I got a bad feeling about this..."
There was a ceasefire throughout the whole of the large vortigaunt settlement. Friend and foe alike, lowered their weapons and raised their heads at the ominous approaching sound - the vorcha snarling and hissing jubilantly. That's when it appeared...
"You gotta be fuckin' kidding me..." Jacob said in a hushed voice, not realizing he still had his hand pressed to his communicator. He stood looking up with a petrified look on his face, his mouth agape as he watched an insidious black silhouette crawl in, blocking out the luminescent Xenian sky.
Garrus, Thane, Jack, and Legion, along with Jacob, Grunt, Samara, and Mordin, as well as all of their vortigaunt allies, simply stood awestruck, gazing into the sky as the gargantuan obsidian body of a Reaper hovered in, and situated itself overhead, casting its dark shadow down upon them.
"Guar kurram, or'leq galaram!" One of the vorts with Jacob's team cried out furiously, as his hands radiated with green pulses of light, streaks of electrical discharge arching out, and striking the ground in all directions. "It is the beast... It returns..."
"Well..." Garrus began calmly, still looking up at the colossal creature that hung in the sky. "This could be a problem..."
"What do you want with him, Shepard?" Miranda asked, as the squad slowly moved further into the underground chamber.
"I just want to ask 'em a few questions..." The Commander replied with a devious smirk, pulling his sidearm off of his hip. "See if I can't get a better idea of what the others are up against, topside."
Confused, Miranda looked over at Gordon, who walked along her right hand side. He seemed to share in her confusion, simply responding with a befuddled grin, and a shrug of his shoulders.
"Alright, drop your weapon!" Shepard demanded, pointing his heavy-pistol at the head of the sole surviving vorcha, guarding the massive underground element core.
With the rest of the small rabble of guards dealt with, only this one remained, as Shepard, Tali, Gordon, and Miranda closed in on him. Cautiously, they formed a semi-circle around it, keeping their weapons drawn, and their fingers on the trigger.
Panting restlessly, it looked around at the stern faces of the four, while still trying desperately to fix the jam in his gun, fruitlessly trying to pull back on the trigger or release the reload mechanism. At a loss to do little else, he twitched nervously, and his operations got more and more frantic as he heard Shepard pull the hammer back on his handgun.
"I'm not gonna ask twice." The Commander asserted angrily.
"You really want to do as he says..." Tali urged, with a tinge of cynicism in her voice, as she cocked her pistol as well.
The creature snarled in a panic, like a frightened animal backed into a corner. It swiveled its head from side to side, trying to formulate some sort of plan with its miniscule intelligence. It stopped and looked at Shepard, as the Commander glared right back, the grip around his pistol tightening.
"Argh! You leave alone!" The vorcha grunt shrieked. Without a moments notice, he suddenly clasped his assault rifle tightly with both hands, raised it over his head, and heaved it at Shepard's face with every ounce of strength in his slender, gangly body.
Announced by the abrupt sound of breaking glass, it careened into the Commander's visor with unforgiving force, causing him to turn away with a jerk.
Shepard had made the uncharacteristic mistake of letting his guard down, if only for a moment. What possible threat could one assailant with a jammed rifle pose? Even if he managed to somehow clear the jam, and begin firing his kinetic barriers could take a hefty dose of punishment before wearing thin.
The problem with kinetic barriers is, they are designed to repel and repulse objects traveling at a certain, predetermined high rate of velocity, such as a thermal round. The unconventional use of a thrown assault rifle would not fit those parameters.
Shepard stood for a moment, with his head turned and bowed, as the rest of his squad quickly bolstered up and prepared to pull back on their triggers in unison.
"Wait!" The Commander demanded, slowly raising his head and turning back around, to reveal a cobweb of cracked glass on his visor, masking his left eye.
"Are you alright?" Gordon questioned with concern, looking over at the infuriated Shepard, while still keeping his shotgun on target.
Not responding, Shepard simply released a long, drawn-out sigh as he slammed his pistol into his holster with authority. He glared with a look of indignation at the anxious vorcha dreg, with the only eye which wasn't obscured, as he unlocked his helmet, and pulled it off his head.
The nervous creature simply stood there before them, clutching his hands tightly into fists, and shaking as he held them close to his chest. Suddenly his feeble mind processed that what he had done probably wasn't a good idea.
"This was my favorite helmet..." The Commander uttered, shaking his head with a sigh, as he held it out in front of him, examining the cracked visor, vis à vis.
Just then, he let it drop. It bounced slightly, off of the hard cavern ground, and rolled away, as Shepard lunged forward at the vorcha, grabbing him and yanking him over hard by the straps of the criss crossing bandoleer he wore.
"Alright, how many of your kind are up top, huh?!" He demanded, shaking the vorcha feverishly, with a seething look of disdain in his eye. "How well armed, heavy weapons?! Are there more of you at the ships?! Are there more coming?! Answer me you contemptible piece of shit!"
Tali, Miranda, and Gordon let their weapons ease down, as they watched The Commander violently interrogate this vile creature, each cracking sly grins to themselves, not wanting to openly admit they were enjoying it.
"Me... uh... Me no... Ugh..." The grunt suddenly cringed in pain, as he stuttered to find an answer for the livid Commander. "Argh... Ughh!" He cried out in distress, as he clutched at his chest, and began to convulse violently.
Shepard released him and slowly backed away, an expression of flustered resolve on his face, as he shook his head slightly, with the vorcha still spasming painfully.
"What did you do to him??" Gordon beckoned, as he looked on with shock.
"I didn't do anything to him..." Shepard acknowledged, shaking his head with an angered look in his eyes - pulling his assault rifle off of his back, as his team braced themselves for whatever may come. "I've seen this before. It's our old friend, Harbinger..."
As the creature continued to writhe around, clutching at his own chest and throat, whelping and gagging, a dim luminance over took his eyes. A faint yellow light, steadily growing brighter and brighter.
Suddenly, the convulsions stopped. It simply stood there for a moment, perfectly still with its head bowed down, and its eyes closed. An eerie silence overtook the cavern, as Gordon, Tali, Miranda, and Shepard took brief glances at one another all with their weapons aimed at the tranquil, seemingly benign vorcha before them.
"Behold! For I am Requiem..." A chilling voice suddenly echoed throughout the chamber, sounding as if it was coming from everywhere, as the creature before them raised its head, and opened its eyes, revealing a burning golden light. "I am the architect of your annihilation..."
It spoke without ever moving its lips, and its eyes shone burning with all the seeming of a demon's. It's voice was unfamiliar. Although it bared the dark, chilling similarities to that of Harbinger's voice and Sovereign's before that. But it was unique. There was something darker about this one, something ancient. It was deep, and unrelenting, and it seemed to speak with a culmination of every evil, wretched emotion ever experienced by any man; greed, anger, spite, disgust, malice, hatred...
"Okay so it's not Harbinger..." Shepard affirmed, mildly surprised as he released the safety on his assault rifle, and brought it up to his shoulder, lining up his sights. "Harbinger or not, it's another Reaper. Kill the damn thing!"
Without notice, just as he prepared to pull back on the trigger, followed in doing so by the other three; the burning eyed devil before them suddenly erupted into a massive shock wave of what seemed to be biotic energy.
The impact knocked the handgun out of Tali's grip, as the forceful pulse collided against them, tossing them into the air, and sending them hurdling back.
"Umph!" They each grunted, nearly in unison as they careened hard against the wall, near the chamber's entrance, past the two bulky stalagmites they had used for cover, before falling to the ground.
"Damn..." Shepard cringed, as he rubbed the back of his now unprotected head, obviously having absorbed most of the blow with skull.
For Gordon, the experience was reminiscent of the day Eli died. When he was slammed down to the floor, and pinned back against the wall helpless to do anything as he watched his mentor get slaughtered. That's when he felt the dull pain beginning to ripple through his left shoulder blade.
Suddenly, as the team groaned and writhed, trying to shrug and shake themselves off, there was a loud grinding noise. Almost like incompatible steel gears trying to grind against one another.
Gordon looked up to see the edge of the thick, metallic gate protruding slightly out of the top of the arch shaped passageway that separated them from the element core chamber, trembling turbulently as if some unseen force was pushing against it, trying to bring it down.
"He's trying to seal the gate!" The Commander exclaimed in a bit of a pained, raspy voice, obviously taking note of the same thing that Freeman had. He tried scrambling to his feet as expeditiously as he could, using his assault rifle as a crutch to push himself away from the ground.
Gordon took a quick look around for his shotgun, which had been ripped from his hands when he plowed against the wall. He spotted it a few inches to his right, and reached out for it. Struggling to get to his feet as quickly as he could, he dragged it over to him, scraping it along the ground as he did.
Shepard and Freeman shot to their feet virtually in unison, bolting towards the doorway, as Miranda and Tali stood up and tried to follow.
Moving symmetrically, almost as one, they narrowly dove into the chamber, under the metallic gate just as it came slicing downward, like a heavy guillotine completely cutting Tali and Miranda off.
The breeze it generated blew Miranda's long hair back, as it slammed shut mere inches from her face, causing her to reel backwards.
"John!" Tali shouted out abruptly, as she pounded her open palms against the door, and even tried to push up against it hoping that by some remote chance it would give way with ease.
Miranda scanned the area around the gate, looking for any discrepancies or signs of a possible weakness, when she spotted the unique, vort designed control pad to the left of the door.
"Tali." She called out, as she hurried over to examine it.
It wasn't a typical control pad, exhibiting buttons or switches. Instead there were small crystalline protrusions, aligned in a row next to one another. The vortigaunts would interface with these by sending small jolts of electricity to make contact with each of the tiny crystals in a set pattern or combination. "Electric Current User Interface" as Dr. Mordin Solus once called it, after having observed the process for himself. Or ECUI for short.
"Can you get this door open?" Miranda asked, stepping aside as Tali rushed over to take a closer look at the access pad.
"I... I don't know..." She responded dubiously, shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders as she studied it. "I'm not familiar with vortigaunt technology. I've never used anything like this before."
Miranda let out a sigh of frustration, as she placed a hand a hand on her forehead, pushing her hair back a bit, while Tali continued to examine the small access pad.
"Wait! I do have this illegal shunt program that might do the trick!" Tali exclaimed in an outburst, as she sifted through a pouch on her belt, before pulling out a small, cylindrical device.
Carefully she brought up the device and affixed it directly above the crystalline protrusions. She held it down for a second with her left hand, as she pressed a small button at its center with her right. Suddenly, a large red holographic circle rippled out from the center of the apparatus, displaying an array of figures, as it began beeping and working. A small green bar appeared intersecting the top of the circle, and very slowly began to grow larger, like a pie chart being filled.
"It operates off of a sophisticated VI and it's supposed to be able to hack through anything." Tali assured, looking towards Miranda as she let go of her toy, allowing it to do its work. "It deciphers the system and encryptions of the lock, and adapts itself to whatever type of algorithm is necessary to unlock it."
"Will it work?" Miranda inquired, watching the ever so slowly diminishing red hologram get consumed by the green, as a plethora of numbers and symbols which were foreign to her flashed by.
"It's illegal even in the Terminus Systems..." Tali affirmed confidently, as she shook her head and crossed her arms. "It better work."
Gordon and Shepard breathed heavily as they stood up straight, clutching their respective weapons tightly near the hip. They looked down the path leading towards the colossal element core, suspended high in the center of the chamber like a rising sun over the horizon.
Still standing directly before it, the dark embodiment held its ground, never flinching an inch as it gazed upon the Doctor and the Commander. Its eyes burned brightly; two demonic flares of an archaic evil in the dim lit cavern.
"Lesser creatures..." Its phantasmal voice echoed throughout the cavern once more, as Gordon and Shepard shared a stern glance and a firm nod before walking forward with a purpose.
"Your neolithic kind will learn its place along with the rest of the bacterium that infests this galaxy."
Jade eyes burned behind scratched lenses, as the sound of a shotgun being cocked was heard.
"The cycle cannot be broken. You create, you destroy, you advance... We conquer, we consume, we extinguish..."
Dusky blue eyes glared with indignation, as the sound of an assault rifle's operating rod being drawn back accompanied the footsteps.
"You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we deman..."
A deafening volley of gunfire echoed throughout the cavern, as Gordon and Shepard unloaded on the stoic figure, silencing his perpetual soliloquy.
He did not flinch or falter as the thunderous barrage of gunfire riddled its frail, mortal body, ripping and tearing it apart. Within seconds, the glow from its eyes faded into darkness; its body now in shreds as it collapsed to the ground lifeless.
"Well... that was easy..." Gordon remarked, mildly astounded at how simple the tasked proved to be.
"Yeah, at least that shut 'em up..." The Commander stated, shaking his head as he looked down at the indiscernible accumulation of flesh, blood, and bones, that laid strewn out on the ground.
He couldn't help but feel pity and sorrow for these creatures. As vile, and despicable as the vorcha could be, they were still living beings. Beings forced into a genocidal war, on behalf of the Reapers, nothing more than the means to an ends.
"Alright, we gotta hurry." Shepard insisted with a sigh, as he drew his attention away from the disfigured body, and up at the massive element core. "If that was another Reaper, that means they've already come through the relay."
"Now you're sure your gravity gun can get this thing started?" He asked, turning to Gordon as the two walked forward, coming to stand almost directly beneath the prodigious boulder of element zero.
"Well, no quite frankly..." Freeman responded with heavy uncertainty in his voice, furrowing his brow as he quickly pried his eyes away from the impressive core, turning to face Shepard - an expression of doubt etched on his face. "Like I said, it's a long shot."
Gordon loaded a new clip into his shotgun, as he spoke, in preparation to switch it for his gravity gun on his weapon's dock. He could still feel the mild vibrations the overcharged zero point energy field manipulator gave off, reassuring him that it's overcharge still persisted. Suddenly, Shepard raised an eyebrow as he thought he heard something.
"Listen..." Shepard instructed in a hushed voice, tuning his hearing as best he could, and swiveling his eyes side to side, trying to discern what he thought he heard and where it was coming from.
Gordon too searched around, as he began to make out a faint clambering sound. As he listened he heard the sound of an empty thermal clip clang against the ground, as Shepard replaced it with a new one.
"It sounds like... marching..." Gordon stated, as the sound grew louder. It was not unlike the sounds the Combine soldiers made when they stomped around, hunting him down.
"No..." Shepard refuted, looking around at the other tunnel entrances on the opposite side of the Element Zero Core, as the sound seemed to bounce around from inside them. "Not marching... running..."
EDI had said there were multiple entrances to the core chamber, but the one they had used was the only one not found in the vorcha occupied territory. And by the sound of it, the vorcha were not about to give the eezo core chamber up without a fight. That's when they came. Flooding out by the dozens, by the hundreds.
"What the hell??" Gordon uttered, squinting his eyes as a blur of dark figures came pouring out.
They weren't the vorcha, it was something else. They looked almost like vortigaunts, but their bodies were metallic, and machine-like, glimmering in the dim lighting. Their flesh, whatever was left of it, looked pale and dead; intertwined with steel and circuitry. Cables, and wires ran up and down their bodies, coming out of their mouths and ears. And their eyes and bodies shimmered with an artificial blue glow, radiating from within.
"My god..." Gordon said under his breath, as he watched the abominations come flooding in, limping and staggering as they ran, releasing a variety of blood curdling, incoherent moaning sounds, reminiscent of the headcrab zombies of his day.
"Those the husk things you told me about?" He asked, as he turned to face the Commander, both of them backing away slowly as they prepared to make a stand.
Shepard sighed before responding, as he pulled back on the operating rod of his rifle.
"Yep..." He affirmed, a look of stone resolve etched on his face. "They couldn't make this easy, could they?"
The two looked at one another, as they stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with the proverbial gates of hell unleashed upon them.
"Aim true..." Commander Shepard entreated, nodding at Gordon.
"...And stand firm." Dr. Freeman replied, nodding right back, as the two shouldered their weapons, and lined up their sights.