The Battle of Watson
The momentary shiver after the Mass Relay jump left Teal'c wondering if maybe the Relays and the Stargates used similar technology. He wasn't one to focus on the science, but it was too similar not to notice. The Alliance soldiers in front of him loaded up into their Mako ground assault vehicles, much akin to the tanks he'd seen used in Earth wars except for the heavy tires rather than tracks.. He wasn't sure what to think, but the size of the cannon on top told him that they weren't toys. Every soldier looked nervous, but over what he couldn't tell – there were just too many variables.
He on the other hand waited inside a Kodiak Transport shuttle, watching out the open side panel door. It was smaller than a Cargo Ship – It only just fit Shepard's squad as well as he and Major Carter. All with the exception of Miranda and Jack wore heavy armor, including himself and Major Carter.
The Cerberus Assault Armor reminded him of Kull Warrior armor, a strange feeling of eeriness crept over him as he flexed, feeling the plates move with his body. Major Carter seemed to feel much the same way as she checked her weapons again. Teal'c gripped the Avenger rifle tight and gave one final thought to the relative peace of the morning.
-SSV Everest. CIC Deck -
"Sir, Prometheus' telemetry is picking up two craft in orbit of Watson."
Hackett breathed in and let it out calmly, this was going to be interesting to say the least. He turned to the sensor officer and nodded. "Work out firing solutions for the main cannons, and give me an evasive course into the opposite orbit of the planet. Keep as much distance between us as you can." He turned to the navigator. "I want you to plot a course that'll slingshot us around Watson at the ship's maximum inertial stress point. Keep us moving as fast as you can."
"Aye sir, ETA seven minutes to orbit, and at given velocity we'll complete a full orbit in thirty two minutes."
Hackett turned to the Captain and nodded. "Get the transport pilots ready, I want to launch them as soon as we hit orbit. Assign half our fighter squadron to cover their approach."
The Captain hesitated a moment, but didn't counter the orders. "Aye sir, getting it done."
Hackett turned back to the screen and the two enemy motherships. What the hell were they thinking? Shepard always did have the knack for getting people to follow him into suicidal missions.
-USS Prometheus, Docking Bay, Kodiak 1-1 -
Sam had linked Prometheus' telemetry to the Kodiak's systems. The little transport ship was even more cramped than a cargo ship, but for a quick ride it wasn't unpleasant. The Cerberus suit and helmet she wore had a rebreather built in so at least she didn't have to smell everyone in here. The Kodiak Systems were intuitive and just as she expected from a human built craft – perfect for her to use. "I'm getting readings on the planet. The city Kai Leng is in looks like it's under heavy occupation. We've got flyovers by Gliders, Al'Kesh and cargo ships, along with three main Jaffa strongpoints – probably checkpoints between the motherships and the planet. We've already marked out potential landing sites from the city plans you were able to dig up so let's find an appropriate one."
The checkpoints looked well staffed, it was a place that even larger troop transports could land in numbers and move mountains of men and supplies. Even calling it a firebase didn't do it justice. The perimeter near the city was lined with crates and bundles, as well as fallen trees that the Jaffa were apparently using as firewood. Sam noted their positions and how the forest on the edge of the city was rough terrain, nowhere for a wheeled vehicle to go. "The only place close by is the city park. It's a nice open space that links with the city roads"
Shepard leaned over and looked on the screen of the ship where the topographical map appeared. He sighed softly in irritation. "I don't think that'll be necessary." He clicked his radio and engaged his Omni-tool. "This is Commander Shepard to Alliance Assault Force, I'm patching you through to a real time view of the battlefield below. You want a soft drop into the park or hard drop?"
Sam furrowed her brow, but didn't question what Shepard meant. She was completely new to these Mako Tanks and wasn't sure what to expect, but Shepard not seeming worried comforted her at least a little. The lead N7 soldier replied with a gruff tone. "Hard drop. Right down their throats."
Sam still didn't understand, but Shepard input information into his Omni-tool. "Alright, give em hell marine." There was no reply, and Sam could see a small look of disappointment in Shepard's eyes. He quickly pushed it aside and went back to the map. "We need to make as much a distraction as possible, so instead of landing we'll drop to 300 meters and the Makos can handle the rest of the ride down on their own. Here, here and here."
Looking at the points Shepard had marked, Sam raised her eyebrows. "The Jaffa look like they've got lots of cover in the trees and all those crates. The Alliance troops will only be able to use those buildings for cover. If they push too hard they might even take out the Jaffa position before we can infiltrate them."
Shepard nodded. "Nothing better than running from an overwhelming force to make 'em evacuate a position." He then zoomed the map out and showed heights rather than the topographical map. "We'll be jumping out first. Land in behind the Jaffa position in the woods in this gully here." He zoomed back in, now marking a semi-circle on the city side of the Jaffa strongpoint. "Once the Alliance troops hit them, we sneak in behind." He turned to everyone else in the small cramped quarters and nodded. "This is an infiltration, I want silent kills and minimum of detection. No heavy weapons or loud powers unless it's necessary."
The crew gave their assortment of acknowledgements from mild cursing to a gentle nod. Sam had realized awhile ago that they were an eclectic bunch, but seeing them ready for battle made her understand just what Shepard was doing – it was an act of desperation.
-USS Prometheus, Bridge-
"Colonel! Major Carter has the drop off points marked out for the Alliance Ground unit."
Pendergast turned to his communications officer, a young, possibly Hispanic woman – Lt. Miguel. "Put it up on screen." The screen changed from the rapidly approaching planet to that of the cities below. The city was massive, but the Jaffa strongpoints that had been highlighted were mostly on the periphery. Kai Leng's position was marked by a large red dot, well away from the soon to be battlefield.
The drop off points were on the streets just on the edge of the city, where it went from a sprawling urban jungle to a boreal shield forest. Pendergast wondered just who had designed such a city that could live in harmony with the trees. Given that the drop off points were almost half a kilometer in the air, Pendergast felt double checking would be prudent. "Get the Alliance platoon leader on com."
Miguel gave a quiet acknowledgement and made it happen. The Alliance platoon leader responded with a gruff voice. "Fullerton here, Colonel Pendergast?"
"Yes." Pendergast wondered what the Alliance troops thought of their sudden and less than tactful coalition. Pendergast himself wasn't sure he trusted them with his own crew. "I've just gotten the positions you want us to drop you off. Prometheus won't be able to touch down in that area without exposing ourselves to significant return fire."
"You won't have to touch down." Fullerton replied. Pendergast got more than just a hint of irritation. "Drop to 300 meters, slow down and open these cargo doors. We'll handle the rest."
Pendergast wasn't happy with the response, but knew he had to be delicate. These Alliance troops weren't hesitating with any of their answers so he had to trust them. "Alright… what about picking you up?"
"Shouldn't be that hard, just be ready to give us support fire. We don't have any of our typical drone support so we'll be relying on your cannons for the heavy lifting."
Pendergast noticed how his weapon officer's eyes opened wide at the suggestion. He shut the com link off and nodded towards him. "Captain, what's the matter?"
Captain Edwards made a less than reassuring shrug. "Our railguns aren't designed for ground strikes, sir."
Pendergast shrugged back just as reassuringly. "Not really something we can worry about now." He looked back to Miguel and motioned with his hand, the com line opening again. "Alright Fullerton, we'll play it your way. Commander Shepard should be launching as soon as we hit atmosphere, so don't take unnecessary risks, I want us all back to Earth in one piece."
"Your Earth." Fullerton replied before shutting the link down. If Pendergast wanted an idea of what the Alliance troops thought, he'd certainly gotten it.
-Kodiak 1-1, In Orbit of Watson-
Sam breathed in and held it as Miranda raised the Kodiak transport off of Prometheus's deck and waited for the cargo door to open. The sealed ship with its anti-gravity meant that as soon as the Kodiak left the ship, its inertial stress would increase significantly. That little voice inside her head warned her to grip tight, so she held onto her chair. Noticing everyone else doing the same was both eerie and reassuring.
The planet below them came into view, the curvature of the planet was beautiful in a way Sam hadn't seen as often as she may have liked. The sun had risen, but the polarized screen of the Kodiak made it possible to see everything clearly.
Everest wouldn't be far behind. Prometheus was faster, but also a lot smaller. The screen that compiled all the tactical data Prometheus, Everest, and even the Kodiak's sensors gathered showed the nearest mothership moving slowly towards Prometheus, even as she entered orbit.
The alarms suddenly pinged as Everest finally opened fire. A streak of light from the kilometer long ship flew out, and then another, and then another. Sam compared it to shooting stars as it flew against the matte black of space, just barely skimming the top of the atmosphere. The Alliance Dreadnaught had plotted a course opposite the Ha'tak's orbit, giving them the advantage of shooting at an enemy that would have to chase them. Sam recognized the intelligence of the tactic, but also the relative timidness. Everest was keeping clear and the mothership wouldn't have much trouble dodging the incoming shots if they wanted to.
She was hoping their hubris would give them another advantage, the element of surprise. It wasn't long before the shots closed in on the mothership, who was angled just far enough for no risk to the planet should the shots miss. Sam watched on the screen as the lead mothership didn't bother moving out of the way, the first volley of shots impacting against its shields.
The explosion was tremendous, easily dwarfing anything she saw in the video records of the battle of the Citadel, though still not near what she was used to knowing Asgard and Ancient technology. A shockwave of what looked like flame and ionized material pushed out, the flash over almost as quickly as it happened, quickly followed by another.
The Mass Effect crew on the ship began to murmur and blurt out their surprise. Miranda was the only one not to show it, but Shepard didn't hide it. "Jesus… what the hell did you put in those things?"
Sam had known from reading the codex the power behind Alliance Dreadnaught guns. Without Goa'uld, Asgard, or Ancient technology, the Mass Effect driven weapons would seem powerful. But she lived in a world of mega and gigatons, not kilotons. "Naquadah has a very energetic fission reaction. We put some weapons grade Naquadah into the Everest's cannon shells, with the impact initiating the runaway reaction." She saw that while Shepard had more or less understood what she meant, the explanation had flown over everyone else's heads. She sighed, but to her surprise, Miranda explained.
"She means that the heat and compression caused by the cannon shell on impact caused the Naquadah to go into nuclear fission. Basically each of those shells is now a high velocity nuclear bomb." She raised her eyebrow. "What kind of yield were you expecting?"
Sam was still annoyed at Miranda, but that didn't matter now. "Somewhere between twenty and thirty megatons. Naquadah tends to be ten times more potent than Uranium."
Miranda seemed to more or less ignore her, but to Sam's surprise, she replied even while looking at the information on the screen. "Looks like your figures are a bit off, I'm registering fifty megatons of force." Sam noticed just a little bit of awe in Miranda's eyes, but it quickly went away. "Nevertheless, I can't see this as a great usage of such a valuable material."
Sam nodded, but winced as yet another shell hit the mothership – little more than a lightshow occurred. "Their shields will be able to repel that kind of impact, but it should draw their attention for now. It's the only real advantage we could give Everest in such a short time."
Shepard interrupted, before an argument could begin. "Enough, let's focus on the mission." Sam had the feeling Shepard was used to being a mediator – especially seeing Jack's subtle and sly grin. "Let's move out."
Miranda complied quietly as she edged the Kodiak forward. The cargo doors opened with a dull roar of gears and motors, showing the horizon and gentle curvature of the planet below. Sam gripped her chair, and felt a gentle tug as the ship pushed out of the bay. She was glad she did as they left the gravity field, its effect on the small craft was jarring as it suddenly slowed down and heated up in the atmosphere.
Above the ship, Sam saw on the sensors that Everest continued firing. The mothership had seemingly noticed Prometheus' intentions and smaller red dots left it – death gliders and Al'Kesh. She gulped and took a deep breath.
-- SSV Everest, CIC Deck-
Hackett had hid his surprise at how powerful the Dreadnaught's shots now were. The operations officer was giving him figures that made him wish he'd had these shells during Sovereigns attack on the Citadel. "Keep us at long range, don't let them get close." He turned to the operations officer. "Tell fighter squadrons to launch right before we hit orbital plane. Target enemy craft heading towards Prometheus, and allocate fighter coverage in case they come after us."
He'd forwarded the battle plan to all the officers of the ship, so the Ops officer didn't ask questions about what to do. Hackett kept calm, this ship was staffed with the most competent officers the Alliance Navy had.
Prometheus had made a run for it and was diving into the atmosphere. Everest took a much higher orbit and had a few more seconds worth of clear fire before they endangered the people on the planet below.– with an average of forty megatons per shot, Hackett wasn't going to risk it. "Fighters launching." The ops officer called out. The screen ahead changed to the image of the small craft leaving the ship, the leading edge riding the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
Hackett sat back and just waited now as the ship left a proper angle to fire on the nearest mothership, it'd be up to Prometheus and the ground teams now. "All Transports prepare for launch, send a wide band frequency signal to the planet. Tell them where the transports will be touching down, and make sure Kai Leng's prisoner is on one of them." He didn't add that he didn't care if Kai Leng was among them. No sense giving the crew ideas.
-Kodiak 1-1, in atmosphere of Watson-
"This is Kodiak 1-1 to Alliance fighters." Miranda called over the radio. She knew they'd been ordered to defer to both Shepard and herself for this mission, but she also knew they'd resent it. Trying to play nice with them was only going to feel insulting. "We have incoming enemy fighters and bombers. Target the larger bombers – our barriers should give us enough protection to get to the ground."
Shepard gave her a sidelong look, as if telling her to be more polite. No matter, a soldier followed orders and Hackett had made it clear that she was a person of authority. The reply was what she expected. "We'll give em hell, just stay out of our way."
Shepard leaned in and spoke in the com. "Use your disruptor torpedoes where you can – they've proven effective against their shields."
"All due respect Shepard, stick to fighting on the ground."
Miranda held her wince of amusement. Shepard still thought of himself as an Alliance Soldier at times. It was almost adorable. "Don't take it personally commander. You have been gone from the Alliance a long time."
Shepard narrowed his eyes and growled. "That's Spectre to you flyboy."
Miranda didn't reply and instead focused on flying the craft. Far in the distance, she saw Everest begin its high speed orbital slingshot. The Ha'tak that had been chasing Prometheus had moved away, now focused on Everest as it launched fighters and transports. Obviously the larger ship seemed the meatier target. Miranda still didn't like how close those Goa'uld fighter craft were getting. "Major Carter?"
The Major was in the rear passenger seat of the cockpit. Teal'c sat next to her and both seemed relatively calm given the situation. She had to give the woman credit, she'd become a Major during a time in history that women weren't exactly considered as equal. Miranda respected that, but it was like talking to a monkey that had figured out how to open a door. "Yes, Miss Lawson?"
Miranda tried to keep from wincing, but instead just furrowed her brow. "Just Miranda will do, no sense confusing anyone on the battlefield with 'Miss'." She motioned over to the incoming fighters. "I've read the report on the armaments on those craft, but what can we expect in tactics?"
Shepard scoffed. "No offense Major, but I'd like to hear Teal'c's opinion too."
Major Carter shrugged and turned to Teal'c. "I'm sure he'll agree with me, they'll try and swarm us."
"Indeed." Teal'c replied. "The Gliders will attempt to overwhelm our position, while the Al'Kesh will provide heavy support. The Al'Kesh are shielded, while gliders are not."
Shepard nodded in thanks, then turned back to the screen. Miranda kept their pace down the atmosphere steady, not enough to heat their armor plating to its limits. The fighters escorting them began to chatter over the radio and Miranda tuned into their frequency.
"Razor 3-1, target is at maximum range. All fighters fire at will, repeat, fire at will!"
"3-3 here, got a big bogey making for HVT, Arrow 2-4 you got my back?"
"Confirmed kill! 3-2 confirmed one splashed fighter!"
"Bogeys opening fire! Evasive!"
"This is 3-3, Backscratch! 2-4 Backscratch!"
Miranda switched the camera screen into a zoomed in view of the battle. The death gliders charged in without care, firing their repeating cannons again and again. The Alliance fighters nimbly dodged with their much more agile mass effect drives, chattering with their main cannons. The heavier bombers of both sides flanked to the sides, trying to pin each other down with their stronger weapons.
She noticed how Major Carter and Teal'c leaned over to see, but hid their apprehension. Miranda on the other hand admired how the Alliance Pilots dove and wheeled about, their mass effect drives giving them a serious advantage in such a close range knife fight.
The Alliance fighters quickly tore into the formation of Death Gliders, the lighter cannons of the Goa'uld fighters too slow firing to catch the nimbler fighters. In contrast, the alliance fighters mass effect cannons shred the gliders to bits, flames and smoke spouting out of each mortally wounded craft. Glider after glider fell into the atmosphere, pockmarked with bullet holes. The four Razor fighter/bombers and two Arrow Space Superiority fighters were making quick work of the larger force, but then the Al'Kesh came into range.
Unlike the death gliders, the al'kesh were shielded and sported a paired heavy plasma cannon mounted on a turret. One of the Razor fighter/bombers pounced on the lead Al'kesh, firing a long burst from its main cannons. When the Al'kesh shrugged it off and returned fire, the Alliance pilot had to veer off in what Miranda could tell was a gutwrenching maneuver.
When she saw a different colored explosion, one punctuated by a half second scream over the radio, Miranda knew that this battle was only just beginning.
- SSV Everest, CIC Deck-
"Fighters have engaged enemy forces! Main cannons cooling off but enemy craft still pursuing us, they'll be in GARDIAN range in thirty seconds!"
Hackett pumped his fists. He was used to charging into battle and tearing his enemy's head off with his D-Class cannons, but the knowledge that this Goa'uld mothership had shrugged off almost half a gigaton of force in the last few minutes made him think twice. "ETA for transports landing?"
The crew around him were still relatively calm, the battle was strange, usually these long range bombardments would either resolve themselves quickly, or they'd dive into a knife fight. This was both as the motherships edged closer, just a bit faster than the Everest's orbital velocity. The Ops officer called out. "Transports entering lower atmosphere! Enemy air support on intercept route, our fighters are moving to assist."
The screen shifted to the fighters and Goa'uld craft nimbly ducking in and out of each others line of fire. The gliders especially were evasive as even a stray shot would put them down. The Alliance fighters meanwhile tried to steer clear of the Al'Kesh, its main turreted cannon proving deadly.
Hackett had read Major Carter's report on what Kinetic Barriers and their armor did against Goa'uld weapons. Flash frying in a tin can was no way to go for a soldier. "Hold fire until the majority of incoming fighters are in range. I want GARDIAN systems at full power. Have our fighter cover stay clear until after our first volley. Can we provide any support to Kodiak 1-1? "
"Calculating." The Ops officer began to run simulations; it took moments for his reply. "Rear F-Class Cannons can provide minimal support for high to mid-orbit targets. We're moving too fast for clear resolution on anything below that."
Hackett cursed under his breath, but nodded. "Better than nothing, what about ground support?"
"Nothing below C-Class cannons sir." The Ops officer winced, but said nothing more. Hackett didn't need to hear it
It was quiet for another few moments before the sensor officer called out. "Ten fighters and four bombers on approach. GARDIAN banks charged and ready to fire, we'll have them all in optimal range in thirteen seconds."
Hackett waited the thirteen seconds, and the calmly said. "Fire."
The screen ahead of Hackett suddenly burst with light, as the closest Death Gliders suddenly began to explode. Without an atmosphere, there was no visual aspect to the GARDIAN lasers – just the detonations. Each pulse tore a large hole in the unshielded fighters, killing the pilots inside.
The Bombers were another story though, as their shields flared from the instant impact from the GARDIAN cannons. They moved evasively but it did nothing against the pinpoint accuracy of the weapon – it just wasn't powerful enough to break their shields.
"Keep us moving Navigator, that…" Hackett began.
"New contact!" The Ops officer screamed as he received sensor data. "Enemy craft firing!"
The alarms began to ring on the ship, not loud enough to block communication, but more than loud enough to scare the hell out of anyone who heard it.
The screen showed the bombers unleashing small yellow bolts of plasma, minuscule in comparison to the Everest itself but Hackett knew it wouldn't take much to cripple the ship. It was only a moment before the fighters covering Everest swung into view, their mass effect cannons chattering and adding to the firepower pouring onto the Goa'uld bombers. Still they remained resolute and fired again, this time towards the fighters.
The shots hit Everest's barriers, the mass effect field stopping the mass of the shots, but the surge of heat from the volley of shots washed over the hull. When the second volley hit, the metal armor sheathing began to glow from the excessive heat.
Hackett barked. "Navigator! Evasive! If we can't take them out then I want an FTL course out of here! Bring any guns with proper angles to bear! Fire!"
The fighters weren't holding back either. The leading pair locked in on the closest Al'Kesh to Everest and opened fire, their mass effect cannons humming at a rapid fire rate.
Hackett watched the tracers ping off the shields of the Al'Kesh, who now turned its attention to the fighters. Hackett saw the chance, and the Weapons officer did as well. The ship vibrated softly as one of the C class cannons at the right angle fired instantly on the Al'kesh.
The small ship's shields strained and visibly fluttered from the impact. Enough energy was imparted that the craft spun out of control, suddenly easy pickings for the fighters that swarmed around and massed fire, finally penetrating the shields and tearing strips off the armor' exposing the atmosphere inside.
The other Al'kesh had gotten the message and veered off. Most towards the planet.
"Admiral!" the com officer suddenly barked. "We're receiving a signal! It's from the enemy mothership."
Hackett nodded and straightened.
The screen filled with the image of a gruff looking face, his large metal filled tattoo on his forehead made him look even more imposing than he already was. His voice was just as menacing. "Tau'ri, you will surrender your vessels or we will take them by force. Lord Camulus demands this of his new slaves."
Hackett opened his eyes wide at the order. He got up and growled back "You want my ship? You come and get it." He signaled to the com officer to shut the signal off and then barked. "I want all defensive systems online! Keep us away from those ships until our people complete their mission!"
"Admiral! Enemy craft is firing!"
Hackett turned to the screen, and watched as the slowly spinning pyramidal craft began to lob large yellow bolts of plasma. Even one of those things would cripple Everest, but they were still far enough away to dodge. The mothership didn't have that problem with Everest's own fire – they just didn't care.
The navigator spoke, though not with the same near panicked voice the operations officer did. "Calculating…Sir, none of those shots are in an impact trajectory. But it is blocking any major evasive movements. I think they're trying to box us in sir."
Hackett turned to the planetary map beside him on his armrest. It showed the mothership behind him, and on a long orbit later, the other mothership moving into a pincer position. "Damn…"
-Subway Entrance, Watson City -
Kai Leng had received the message clearly. Over the last two weeks he'd spent several hours a day tracking down any survivors he could, keeping the useful ones near him. The civilians had been hidden in the subway, surviving off a nearby supermarket they'd raided. It wasn't the only thing they'd raided as Kai Leng unholstered the Goa'uld Shock stick he'd liberated from a particularly nasty Jaffa who liked torture – at least until he met Kai. It wasn't the most civilized of weapons, but he was sure something would come of it when he got back to the Illusive Man.
It wasn't long after capturing Redding that Wurher and Tran had arrived. Tran had recovered, but they weren't alone. A scared civilian family had tagged along, seeking protection from the Jaffa who'd been sweeping through the city looking for technology and prisoners. Kai didn't want to think about what the Jaffa were doing to those prisoners, so he focused on killing as many of them as he could. The soldiers he'd worked with and a dozen others who'd joined up had come to trust him in the last two weeks – at least somewhat.
Resistance against the Jaffa occupation wasn't easy, and least of all was watching humans being abducted. Kai had watched their pretensions and illusions about the Alliance fade away, he'd watched them come to see the world as he knew it really was.
Now Hackett was in orbit and coming to save them. The irony wasn't lost on Kai.
He'd rescued about two hundred people in total. Just enough for the transports that were coming down. There were gods knew how many others hidden in the bowels of the city, but Kai couldn't worry about them. He dragged Redding behind him, chained up and still in an environment suit, his left leg having been shot repeatedly since that damned snake kept healing it.
It was different, working with a crew that didn't match his ideology, but had come to understand it. Wurher still gave him looks of disgust, Tran still stayed quiet, but he'd found a strange mentorship with Vulic. Maybe the young man was still impressionable. The other soldiers, a mix of militia, police agents, and the odd marine had all preferred the simplicity of following orders than a position of leadership rather than follow their own leads. Kai's N7 training was invaluable as he not only ensured the safety of civilians now, but he was the only one who'd struck back at the Goa'uld and succeeded in their eyes.
The civilians were holding back, the subway a cramped place as it was didn't exactly make for a good stampede ground. Kai waved the men and women who'd decided to follow him into cover positions. The roads and pads around the subway made for both a great landing site, as well as a potential bloodbath if the Jaffa gained air superiority.
The city had grown dilapidated in the last two weeks. The smell of rotting food, body odor and burnt electronics gave the place a distinct taste that made Kai glad he could switch to rebreather mode in his armor. Some of the others weren't so lucky, they used bandannas, old shirts, just about anything to keep away the stench.
What had become a ghost town was now buzzing with activity. Far above them, Kai could spot moving dots. Some stayed still and moved slowly – the transports, both Kodiaks and Polars. Others buzzed around like insects, with still others lumbering around. The sound was omnipresent, the low dull buzz of engines.
When Kai spotted the first explosion in the sky he knew the Jaffa weren't going to give up so easily. He quickly barked out orders to those around him, trying to maintain some level of control. Redding tried to escape, yanking Kai along for a moment before he regained the upper hand and pulled Redding's legs out from under him. Kai twisted the chain, even as civilians nearby watched, and flipped Redding onto his injured leg. With no hesitation, Kai drove the Goa'uld shock stick into Redding's back, glad that his scream was muffled by the suit. He then looped the chain around both of Redding's feet and then reached over to the environment suit's neck and yanked it up. Redding cursed in that Goa'uld language, but Kai didn't stop. The opposite end of the chain looped around Redding's neck, just the way Kai wanted. It was a hell of a hogtying but Kai had grown detached to the idea that Redding was still somewhere in there.
The dull roar slowly grew, and a sudden whoosh sent up a whirlwind of dust and rubble as a large craft, much larger than an Al'Kesh flew past and rumbled the ground. How it'd snuck up on them was beyond Kai, but he also didn't recognize it. The giant 'USS Prometheus' on the side of the hull said all he needed to know though. "Load up! I want covering positions on all landing pads and the road! Move move!"
-Kodiak 1-1, above Watson City-
The Jaffa weren't exactly ignoring them, but the fighter escort that had met the Al'Kesh and Glider squadron sent after them were making a hell of a racket with their mass effect cannons and disruptor technology. Miranda felt the drag every time she had to push the ship into an evasive maneuver, sending a message that they needed cover. She'd studied fighter pilot techniques, and even more, simulations were very effective learning tools. Nothing in the simulators though gave her the same adrenaline rush and terror as watching a death glider buzz them at mere feet away, the shockwave from the fly-by rocking the Kodiak back and forth.
Shepard had begun to curse under his breath, a little thing Miranda had found surprising about the Commander when in a situation he couldn't control. But even more, she was shocked at how calm Carter and Teal'c were, both were focused and seemingly dedicated to the mission.
Hearing their fighter escort hooting at another downed Jaffa craft over the radio brought her back to reality and she surveyed the situation on the sensors. Prometheus was nearing the drop off point and had slowed down. Its own fighter escort was buzzing the city, engaged in multiple dogfights with the Jaffa. The gliders had quickly fallen to even grazing bursts of mass effect cannon fire, but the larger Al'Kesh were proving resilient.
Miranda winced as broken pieces of Jaffa fighter crashed into the buildings below, sending up geysers of flame and smoke. The city was already in shambles from the looks of it, the chaos of an air battle above wasn't helping. She watched as an Arrow Air/Space Superiority fighter nimbly outmaneuvered an Al'Kesh high above the city, but the Al'Kesh's turret tracked it the whole time, firing and forcing the Alliance pilot to go into a corkscrew evasive maneuver. The Al'Kesh then simply made a full 180, showing no ill effects from the inertia.
Major Carter was watching as well and leaned forward. "Al'Kesh shields aren't incredibly strong, but those fighter cannons aren't incredibly large. Your disruptor torpedo technology could penetrate it but there's too much risk of friendly fire on the ground."
Miranda was listening, but was already a few steps ahead. "We just need something with a bit more punch." She motioned to the screen where Prometheus had reached the drop off point. The Jaffa on the ground had opened fire, both smaller staff shots as well as larger almost concussive staff shots flew up and splashed against Prometheus' shields. Prometheus itself seemed unfazed by the hits but Miranda could sense the worry in Carters' expression.
The Jaffa strongpoint had launched the majority of its fighters, but a few Al'Kesh and transports remained on the ground. Perfect.
In what Miranda had expected, she heard Carter gasp softly as the three Mako armored vehicles suddenly streaked out from Prometheus' cargo bay, just like they were fighters. The heavy vehicles seemed to fly for a moment, but then began to fall one after another. Teal'c was focused on the screen as well, but didn't say anything.
When the Makos engaged their thrusters and corrected their descent angle and speed, Teal'c blurted. "Interesting."
Commander Shepard brought up the forest behind the Jaffa, and picked out a small clearing. "Alright, let's touch down and get this moving. If those Goa'uld in orbit get antsy this might turn into a really short mission."
Major Carter shook her head, but then shrugged. "The Goa'uld are fond of orbital bombardment, but their cannons are too powerful. At that range they'd take out their own encampment as well."
The Kodiak swooped down, leaving the dogfights in the skies above Watson behind. Miranda mumbled. "That's if they care."
"Miranda…" Shepard growled – his intent clear.
Miranda just shrugged. "I'm just being honest, Commander."
"I know, I hate it when you do that."
-Mako 'Shark 1', 200 meters above Watson City-
Captain Nathaniel Parker held on for dear life, not giving two shits about the Alliance Marines around him who seemed relatively calm as they fell through the sky in a vehicle that had the aerodynamics of a sofa. The sixty odd-soldiers who'd come along for the ride were calm, unlike the other SG marines in his team looked equally pantsshittingly terrified, but this was the first time they'd jumped out of a space ship. He wished they'd just given him a chute and thrown him out from orbit.
The screens inside the Mako tank were clear and high resolution. He could easily make out the details of the building they were heading right into, but then felt a shift in gravity as the pilot… or rather driver, pulsed the tank's thrusters and moved them into a proper trajectory for a rush on the Jaffa landing zone.
The sudden whoosh and sound of an explosion made him fight against his seat straps, now beyond simple patience. "Jesus! What the fuck was that?"
The defacto leader of these Alliance troops, a rough looking man named Fullerton cackled and motioned to the screen above his head. "You think this is a joyride?" Parker looked at the screen where he saw an Al'Kesh listing, a flaming hole in its side from where the Mako's shot had penetrated its shielding. One of those fancy looking fighters then swooped in, shredding the heavy craft to pieces with a long burst of what looked like hypervelocity cannon fire. Fullerton laughed more. "Stay close! This is gonna get ugly real fast!"
Parker drew in a breath and held it. These Alliance soldiers were…
The jarring impact as the Mako touched ground made Parker think his stomach crushed his groin, but then on the rebound it punched his throat from the inside. It took a moment to recover from the hit, but he heard Fullerton barking orders, a sudden orange hologram in front of him showing a map. "Squads! Cover your assigned positions and let'er rip! If you find any civvies, bring em back to the Makos!" He unstrapped himself and waved to Parker. "Move soldier!"
Parker did as he was told. Despite Fullerton being only a lieutenant in a foreign armed force, he sure as hell seemed like he knew what he was doing. Parker got up, still feeling alien inside this heavy armor and holding a strange rifle. It all felt so familiar though as the aft doors to the Mako opened and the distinct sounds of battle rang through. Fullerton charged out and leapt through, his heavy looking gun making a whining sound. Parker looked to the other three SG marines with him, a look of disbelief on their faces as they got up and followed.
Parker hopped out of the Mako tank and immediately regretted it. Staff shots flew above his head – he ducked instinctively and rolled - a few shots impacting the Mako's barriers and dissipating. The heat spread out, raising his own suit's temperature. He heard a scream in his headset. "Get out of the way retards! Heat sinks are spiking and I gotta move!"
It took a moment, but Parker realized it was him and his squad who were in the way. He waved his squad into position and followed Fullerton, hearing the Mako's engine rev up as it drove away leaving them without cover.
The street they were on was busy, a small café surrounded by four or five story commercial buildings, all made of metal and concrete. The streets themselves were wide and dotted with landing pads – the forest nearby a stark contrast. It almost felt like being next to Central Park in New York in the future. The Jaffa position was about seventy feet into the park, chopped down trees and crates making great cover positions as they opened fire.
Parker and his team kept low as they rushed for the side street by the café where Fullerton had taken cover behind a car, relaying information and barking orders. Parker knew their mission objective was just to keep the Jaffa's attention rather than actually defeat them, and he was perfectly fine not getting in the crossfire. He skidded into place and looked at Fullerton who gave him a look back.
A trio of staff shots landed on the car they used for cover, to which Fullerton got up and roared as he held the trigger of his weapon and rained thunderous suppression fire downrange. Parker looked to his men and shrugged. "You heard the man. Suppression fire!" Then did the same.
-USS Prometheus, Bridge -
"Alliance troops have engaged Jaffa position sir, we're getting fire requests from their squad leader." Lt. Miguel announced. Pendergast thought of exactly what the Alliance troops were expecting, they'd already stirred up a hornet's nest and there was still two motherships in orbit.
"Where are the motherships? Where in orbit are they?"
The sensor officer replied instantly, Pendergast liked that he kept on top of things. "Both motherships are on the move, I think they're trying to box in Everest who'se moved into the opposite orbital plane." He then cursed under his breath and continued. "Alliance fighters have destroyed eighty percent of Goa'uld Death Gliders, but they're having issues with the Al'Kesh. We're down three fighters against eight Al'kesh"
With enemies below and now enemies above, Pendergast decided to make the most of it. "Alright, Lieutenant Marks, give me a sideswipe course along the Jaffa front line, Edwards, bring aft guns to bear on marked targets. Miguel?"
"Coordinate with Alliance fighters on taking down those Al'Kesh, don't wanna risk friendly fire."
-Watson City, Front Line-
Fullerton didn't like the idea that they were supposed to just sit back and lob fire at the Jaffa to let Shepard sneak in. He also didn't like the fact that the Jaffa were shooting back with weapons that could cook his men in their armor. In fact, he just plain didn't like the situation. A stray shot landed above his head as he took cover, the SG Team following him and imitating him. Flattering maybe, but effective? Not even close. "Parker! Get your sorry ass off the pavement and flank to that café!" Fullerton rose and fired three bursts of fire, suppressing the Jaffa position ahead of them.
The Jaffa were dug in, a mass of metallic crates and other supplies that looked a little too familiar circled them giving them a great cover position. The Makos were circling and firing their rapid fire cannons, only firing their main heavy cannon on the outskirts as the plan called for.
The Jaffa used a mixture of weapons, both plasma and mass effect driven, from behind the cover of the crates. There was a large staging ground behind the covered line from which gliders, larger bomber style ships, and the very large transports were refueling, resupplying, and taking off.
The Jaffa were effectively holding his men back, the random and rapid fire of plasma kept his men behind cover instead of charging through the Jaffa perimeter. Fullerton could see the advantage in taking out the position, but he also knew he wasn't the main element of this attack.
Prometheus was taking the heaviest fire, its shields absorbing the energy as the bombers fired their turrets even on the ground, as well as larger squad level weapon mounts Fullerton hadn't been expecting. A few of them targeted the Makos, but the craft were too quick and pilots too experienced at dodging fire. Fullerton cursed the lack of proper air and drone support and barked into his radio. "Squads three and four, give us sniper cover while squads one and two push forward. Squad five load up those riot shields and give us a distraction to the west." He switched frequency to Prometheus. "Pendergast! I need that fire support now!" He resent the coordinates for where he wanted the strikes, right in front of them to create a dustcloud.
Parker and the SG team had moved into position near the edge of the car they used as cover, ready to make the run to the café. The SG Marines weren't timid as they added their own fire to the wave – their own small part. Fullerton could make out some members of Squad Five moving into position to run to the west, flanking the Jaffa strongpoint. He singled out a pair of them on his omni-tool and barked. "Marines! Give us some cover!"
The marines turned and saw the situation. They raised their riot shields and in their other hands, held SMGs ready to fight off any Jaffa that may see them as an easy target. The pair of marines stepped out and crabwalked to take full advantage of their shields, which now made a nice fat target. "Move Parker!" Fullerton screamed as Prometheus finally opened fire and ripped apart the sky with its cannons.
The SG team rushed ahead, staying low and rushing towards the riot shield equipped Marines. The impact from Prometheus' guns tore great divots into the ground, but the dirt and dust cloud made great momentary cover. "Makos! Swing in close for a drive by!"
"Squad one here, found civvie casualties. Looks like plasma fire."
Fullerton kept one eye on his HUD tracking his soldiers. They were still just teasing the Jaffa. Firing but not moving ahead to take them out. Prometheus' shots were now splitting their attention as more and more of them fell back, and loaded the transports as quickly as they could. "Focus on the live ones, and take out any Jaffa that get close."
The lead riot shield marine began to take fire, the plate of silicon absorbing the heat and impact with relative ease much to the relief of the soldier behind it. He started laughing maniacally as the Jaffa now poured fire onto it, their shots just not having enough oomph to penetrate. Fullerton rushed out, staying low and firing more bursts from his Revenant. The SG soldiers had made it to cover and only he was left. "Fall back!"
The riot shielded soldiers complied, but the one under the heaviest fire suddenly buckled as a lucky shot grazed his barriers, having missed the riot shield. Fullerton cursed softly as the soldier bit back a scream of pain from the sudden overtemperture, and wrapped an arm around him as he pulled him aside. "Move soldier!"
Fullerton hated being able to see each plasma shot streak in, they were too fast to dodge, but just fast enough to make out the one that was gonna get you. The shield took more fire, the front plate now warping as the material sloughed off. It had taken two dozen shots max, and the eerie glow from it told Fullerton that it had served its purpose. Without much subtlety, Fullerton peeled away the shield from the soldiers hand and flung both it and themselves down.
The staccato of fire being exchanged, as well as the whoosh from Prometheus' cannons impacting the ground made things confusing, but Fullerton was used to it. He dragged himself forward, the rescued soldier following suit. To his surprise, another two soldiers with riot shields suddenly jumped out, giving them quick cover from the pulses coming their way. Parker and his own team skidded into place beside him, lifting him up and pulling him towards concrete cover. "Come on Lieutenant! The Jaffa are pushing!"
Fullerton pushed Parker away from him, but felt suddenly better. It'd been awhile since he'd fought so close he could see the eyes of his enemies. He took a moment to wonder how Shepard was doing and then got back to reality. "All Squads belay former orders and dig in, we've got incoming hostiles!"
-Forest Near Jaffa Checkpoint-
Shepard waved his smaller team of Carter and Garrus forward. It was no surprise that Garrus was sneakier than a raccoon, but Carter moved quietly as well and even understood and replied in hand signals he recognized. The two snipers were hanging back a bit, providing cover for Miranda, Teal'c and Grunt who had snuck up behind a pair of sentries. Jack and Jacob were on the outskirts, ready to reinforce anyone who needed it.
The landing was quiet, and Shepard wondered if the Jaffa even saw them as a threat. The little Kodiak ship wasn't of the armed variety like the other fighters, so why hadn't they focused on such easy prey? Teal'c had made mention that the Jaffa sought honor, and killing unarmed enemies was only left for the end, and typically only under the order of a Goa'uld. Shepard was growing more and more distaste for the Goa'uld, and oddly enough, more respect for the Jaffa.
The pair of sentries were alert, their eyes darting from side to side, their staffs aimed and swinging about. Miranda had set up a pincer trap, with herself as bait.
Carter crouched beside Shepard on the hill, Garrus spotting for him as Shepard zoomed in on the sentries. If it weren't for the tattoo on their foreheads and strange armor, Shepard would have sworn they were human. When they spotted Miranda waving at them they both raised their staffs and barked in English. "Halt! In the name of Camulus!"
Shepard turned to Carter and quietly asked. "Who's Camulus?"
Carter shrugged. "No clue, probably a minor system lord. Teal'c may know more."
"Sounds like something you ride." Garrus muttered, and then continued. "Teal'c and Grunt are in position. Let's see the fireworks."
With the sounds of battle behind them, and the dull roar of the fighters, Al'Kesh and Prometheus in the skies, the Jaffa were completely caught off guard when Miranda outstretched her hand and unleashed an overload blast on them. The small tech projectile slammed into the lead Jaffa, exploding in a pretty cascade of electricity stunning them both momentarily. Teal'c and Grunt burst into a run, each targeting one of the two sentries.
Teal'c was quick and simple, disabling his opponent with a sharp rifle butt to the back of his neck, and quick kick to the face to ensure he was unconscious. Shepard admired the simplicity. Grunt on the other hand looked like he'd been released from hell as he grabbed the Jaffa by the belt of his armor and laughed. The Jaffa regained some measure of consciousness just as Grunt swung him upwards over his shoulder, and flung him across the forest. The Jaffa flipped over backwards from the brutal assault and slammed into a large pine-like tree upside down, falling to the ground head first. Shepard winced as the Jaffa landed in what he presumed was a neck breaking impact. He wasn't surprised, but hearing Carter's soft gasp told him what he needed to know.
He got up and radioed the team. "Alright, let's keep moving. Police anything those Jaffa have of interest and converge on prearranged coordinates. We'll make our game plan there."
Garrus had seemingly noticed Carter's surprise at Grunt's ferocity and explained as he began to move through the trees. "Don't worry, Grunt's not exactly the best example of stealth."
Carter mumbled as she also moved, staying close to both snipers. "If that's his version of stealth, I'm not sure I want to see him angry."
The team had reunited at the very edge of the Jaffa encampment. The battle was raging on the opposite side, with a tamer dogfight in the skies above them. It'd been maybe twenty minutes since touchdown and they wouldn't be here much longer. Shepard was counting on Hackett to provide the distraction needed to keep those giant pyramid ships from raining death from above.
The position ahead of them wasn't the best. Most of the crates that would have served as cover for their infiltration had been loaded onto the heavy transports, the craft now taking off and heading up into space. There were only a few Al'Kesh and transports left, all of which looked ready to take off. They needed to move fast. A small outcropping of rocks served as a low barrier, the team prone and waiting for orders to move out. Shepard turned to Teal'c and nodded "Which you think is best? Those big ships or the smaller bombers?"
Teal'c crawled towards the front, with the others waiting quietly. Jack most of all seemed nervous with Grunt and Jacob solid as rocks in comparison. Teal'c peeked out and surveyed the situation. "The transports are closer and will provide more areas to hide in. Should we run into opposition, we will be significantly more outnumbered. The Al'Kesh will leave us more exposed, but more likely to be on even terms should we need to fight."
Shepard thought about it. There were four options – the transport, the Al'Kesh, splitting up and infiltrating both, or just aborting the mission. He clicked his jaw and looked to Carter. "Can you fly one of those things?"
Carter winced and shrugged. "I'd be more comfortable on the Al'Kesh, but it's not my specialty." She furrowed her brow. "You're not thinking of splitting up are you?"
"Maybe. Better chance of mission success if one of us gets caught."
Teal'c shook his head. "I disagree, we should remain together and even our strength against their numbers."
"How small are the corridors in those craft?" Miranda blunted. "A group of eight people isn't exactly inconspicuous. I have to agree with Shepard."
Shepard looked around, the others gave their recommendations with little more than nods or shakes of their head. "This isn't a democracy, the mission is more important and if we've got two pilots then we hit both targets – increases our chances of one going up to the mothership." He motioned to Teal'c. "You, Garrus, Jack and Jacob take the transport." He then looked to the others. "We'll hit the bomber."
Carter looked over to Teal'c for a moment, then rebutted. "Hold on a second. This isn't part of the plan! There's no way to be sure that Al'Kesh will fall back to the mothership! We're taking a big risk and halving our potential force."
Shepard was surprised, it wasn't often he was argued with like this. "I'm in charge of this mission and you two are the only ones who can fly those ships. If we can improve our mission odds, I'm willing to risk it."
Carter narrowed her eyes. "I'm not. The plan called for us to infiltrate the transport and get on that mothership. If we can take it over we'll have all the Al'Kesh we'll need."
"If." Shepard spat back. "This planet's getting raped by these Goa'uld and Jaffa and if I can put an end to it, I'm willing to risk it. That means at least some of us get onboard that mothership and put it out of commission."
"Your intentions are noble." Teal'c cut in, "But our resources are too limited."
Jack added. "Fuck this shit. You can die all honorable if you want, but I'm with Major Blondey, it won't make a difference if we're dead." Carter furrowed her brow at the jest, but didn't say anything.
Miranda turned to look at Shepard and shrugged. "It's your decision commander. I'll support you either way."
Shepard hated these split decisions. Why did they keep happening to him? "Alright, we'll infiltrate the transport and hitch a ride." He turned away and questioned what he was doing. The people of this planet needed every chance they could get, but fate kept intervening.
-Streets of Watson City-
Kai Leng knew that Illusive Man wanted him back. Ever since the merging of the two galaxies, he was the last truly reliable agent he had that knew the reality of the situation. The last two weeks had been difficult what with evading the Jaffa, and giving them little pinpricks of resistance. Now the Alliance was here and kicking ass and Kai didn't exactly like not being in the thick of it.
He checked his thoughts when the first strafing run came in. A death glider had decided that dogfighting with Alliance Fighters was futile, and now fired rapid pulses into the crowd of civilians rushing into the transports. Kai screamed a retaliate order as the Glider hadn't aimed for the transports, rather the people themselves.
Panic quickly rushed through the stampeding crowd, and the few marines and police officers left lost control. Someone fired a rocket that flew up into the air, tracking the death glider and putting it out of commission with a fiery blast.
More fighters were coming in though from above, and Kai knew he needed something more than a few ML-77's "This is Kai Leng to any Alliance fighters in the air, our evacuation point is under fire! We need air support now!" .The civilians were still loading up, but there wasn't enough space for all of them. Kai had seen the lies in the faces of the Kodiak pilots as they promised to return, but he hadn't said anything. All he did was ensure that the soldiers who'd fought alongside him were on those transports. A dozen militiamen and police officers stayed behind to protect the hundred or so civilians left, with even more popping out of the woodwork desperately seeking a ride off the planet.
To his surprise, he got a reply. "This is Arrow 3-5, coming in hot. Watch your heads!"
Above them, Kai heard the distinct whine of an Alliance fighter, and then another two joining in. The death gliders peeled off and headed up into the sky, but the damage was done. Kai screamed and tried to bring some order back, but people were getting trampled as everyone fought to get onto the transports, while others tried to make a run for it.
Realizing that there wasn't anymore he could do. Kai turned to Tran, Vulic and Wurher. With a movement of his head, he motioned for the three to follow him as he dragged Redding into a Polar Transport.
-Edge of Watson City, Cafe-
Fullerton rushed forward and emptied two bursts into the Jaffa who'd decided that up close and personal was the way to go. The shots tore through his armor like it wasn't even there and dropped him to the ground, blood pooling around him. The battle had gone back and forth, with each side pushing against the other trying to break the other.
The Makos had suddenly proven ineffective. Fullerton took cover on a pillar of the front doors to the residential building his men had garrisoned and heard them barking at each other. "Shark 1 to Shark 2, you dump that heat yet?"
"Still in the red, barriers holding but it's a goddamned sauna in here, Shark 1."
"Shark 3, sitrep."
"Shark 3 here, cooled off and ready to rock."
The problem was the same as his own men. The Jaffa Plasma weaponry had little chance of penetrating barriers, but the heat exchange was so great it caused no end of problems for their weapons. It was an unexpected counter to what should have been a cakewalk.
Now the Jaffa were getting closer, and Fullerton needed to push them back in their little tete a tete. "Squad five! Report!"
The space between the two forces had filled up, the Jaffa were moving crates, logs, even pieces of what looked like ship armor to protect themselves as they moved closer. The mass volley of fire and bombers in the air had pushed Prometheus away, their close air support gone. Bodies littered the ground, but Fullerton saw a few Alliance ones there as well. He pushed it aside and focused. "Squad five! Give me a goddamned sitrep!"
"Sir! We're pinned down and fighting blind! Jaffa aren't shooting plasma at us anymore! They're using Avengers and Shotguns! These riot shields are getting ripped apart!"
Shit. "Alright, I'm sending support, hang in there!"
Fullerton heard a scream around the corner, and an alarm bleeping on his HUD. He turned the corner and watched as the riot shielded soldier fell to the ground as he tried to fall back, his body coursing with electricity. Fullerton then saw what caused it, a Jaffa who'd snuck close enough to use some strange new weapon. He recalled from the briefing about 'zats', but seeing one in action was something else entirely.
The second shot slammed into the shaking soldier, drawing another scream from him as he fell, his riot shield, barriers and armor useless. Fullerton grit his teeth and aimed. The Jaffa hadn't seen him and was hit full force by the concussion blast Fullerton fired. The blast raised a momentary cover of dirt, but it wouldn't last. "Covering fire!" His HUD didn't even show a signal from the downed soldier, but Fullerton wasn't going to leave him lying on the floor.
To his surprise, the SG marines almost naturally sidled up to him providing him cover. Parker led them and ordered them into a wide covering pattern. Parker barked out to Fullerton. "Go go! We've got you covered!" He then aimed down the sights of his Avenger and fired a pair of bursts downrange. The other SG soldiers followed suit and the incoming fire slackened as they took cover.
Fullerton rushed out, keeping his head down as a few stray shots flew past. He skidded into place where the fallen soldier was and looped his hands under his shoulders. The Onxy body armor's boots hooked into the pavement easily and gave him the purchase to pull away.
The shots landing around him weren't aimed, but a stray shot would finish the soldier off and likely cripple Fullerton's escape.
When Parker stepped out and skidded into place behind the soldier, pushing aside his weapon and picking up his legs, Fullerton needed a moment to push aside the shock. "Go go!"
Fullerton didn't argue – between the two of them it was easier to get the downed soldier back to cover, but Fullerton could see the problem. The Jaffa were getting dangerously close now.
- SSV Everest, CIC Deck-
"Sir, the other mothership is moving to box us into the atmosphere. Looks like they're trying to force us to surrender."
Hackett pumped his fist over and over and thought. The Transports were still loading up and wouldn't get back before the Goa'uld ships intercepted them, Hackett needed time. "I want a course and heading to give us a loop around the system. We're going to FTL out of here and come back on the opposite side of the planet."
Some of the officers turned and looked at Hackett. He didn't move from his stalwart position. "Aye sir…"
Hackett was banking on several things, all he needed was a little extra time. "The second mothership, it's still behind us?"
"Aye sir, keeping parallel course and closing."
The plan to FTL out should the motherships actually try and hit them wouldn't work if they couldn't react to a shot quick enough. That left only one option. 'Com, give me fighter squad leader on the horn."
It took a few moments, but the com opened. "Sir!"
"Commander, Everest is going to be bugging out. We'll be back in…" Hackett looked over to his navigation officer who wiped the side of his face and then motioned ten fingers, then five. "…Twenty minutes on the opposite side of the planet. Coordinates will be sent to you momentarily." He looked at the Nav officer again and nodded, the Officer nodded back but Hackett could tell the speed at which he had to make calculations was putting the pressure on.
"Admiral sir, we've got more fuel than ammo, any chance of a quick top up?"
Hackett grit his teeth and growled. "Sorry son, make due and we'll be back in a bit."
"Aye sir, we'll be waiting."
The com shut off and Hackett took a moment to himself. He'd never run from a battle before but the situation wasn't exactly what he was expecting. "Navigator. I want us to jump into FTL as soon as you can communicate our reentry point and time to fighter squadron, Prometheus and transport wing." Hackett knew the Navigator would appreciate the time, but time was just something that they'd run out of.
- Jaffa Checkpoint, Rear Perimeter-
Shepard held his finger up to his mouth in a shush gesture to Jacob who now stopped and waited a moment. The rest of the squad remained quiet, but it wouldn't have mattered much with the constant pulsing and staccato fire of plasma and mass effect weaponry. Prometheus' occasional ground support fire made for a great distraction as the team slipped through the lax rear defenses of the Jaffa, using crates and the few stumps left of the trees they'd felled for cover.
They weren't far from the transport, but there was a field of golden ornate crates in the way with alert Jaffa protecting them. Right in front of them were two Jaffa on either end, each with a good view of the entire field. On the other end were a trio of Jaffa giving orders to what looked like slave labor – humans forced to carry the crates into the Transport.
Shepard grit his teeth, the idea that the Jaffa had enslaved those people, and gods knew what else with all those they'd kidnapped made his blood boil. But he knew he had to keep calm if he wanted to succeed. He shut off his external speakers and muttered over the radio. "Ready up."
It took a moment but they each replied in kind. It was disturbing how easy Carter and Teal'c melded into their party, but at the same time he knew they were more baggage than help – at least in a fight. "Looks like some pretty heavy patrols, If we can sneak up we can give 'em a nice love tap, knock out is quieter than a kill." He added the non-lethal aspect for Teal'c and Carter's benefit, at this point Shepard was ready to kill them all. "I'm cloaking and making a run for the far ones. Carter, hope you're as good a shot as I think, I'll need you to cover me just in case... Garrus I="
"Wait!" Carter then replied before he could move. "Those people will give us away. We can't sneak aboard if we're going to try and rescue them."
Miranda also replied. "She's right Commander. If we move on the transport, we'll be committing to a clean sweep of the ship."
"I know that." Shepard hissed back. "I'm not letting those bastards take those people. We'll bring them with us if we have to."
"We wish to assist them as well Commander Shepard." Teal'c calmly spoke. "But we must consider the mission, if we wish to infiltrate the Goa'uld mothership, we need to remain undetected."
Shepard was getting really tired of having to question his morals versus the decisions he had to make. He found himself angrily agreeing with them. "Change of plan. We won't be able to sneak aboard so we'll have to hijack a ship by force. Garrus, you're with me. Everyone else, follow Miranda and get on board that bomber and clean house. We'll fast talk our way onto that mothership." He might not have been able to save them all, but he was damned if he wouldn't at least save those he could.
"Great, always wanted to be on a cheerleader squad." Jack's snark went unanswered, a testament to how frosty the rest of them all were.
Garrus quickly approached in a crouched crab walk, his Mantis was collapsed for travel. "Lemme guess, we pick off these Jaffa, tell the civvies to run for the hills and get back to the bomber in time to see the last Jaffa fall, all while distracting them from the real mission of taking that bomber."
Shepard shrugged, Garrus was always on the same wavelength. "This is a fucked up situation, but I'm not leaving without giving those people a chance." He turned and nodded. "There's five, whoever wins buys the beer."
Garrus snorted and flicked his Mantis into full fire mode, Shepard did the same with his own. "We survive this, I'll split a bottle of Ryncol."
Shepard harrumphed. "Kinda defeats the purpose doesn't it?"
With a grin, Garrus nodded and leaned out to fire.
Sam wasn't sure what to make of the situation, in the skies above her, Prometheus moved and tried to dogfight with Al'Kesh that made it look like a lumbering fool. The Alliance fighters swarmed around them all, chipping away at the shields of the Al'Kesh while covering the now taking off transports.
Prometheus wouldn't be able to take that kind of abuse much longer and was likely already working out how to exfiltrate the Alliance troops. She had no idea how they were doing, but the Jaffa seemed very focused on them, leaving their rear exposed.
She ignored the obvious joke about slipping in through the rear and instead focused on remaining quiet. The Al'Kesh ahead of them was only lightly guarded, and the few Jaffa in the area were pushing a few humans to move a smaller supply of crates in. Sam had almost gotten used to having the Jaffa as allies, standing toe to toe against Kull warriors or Goa'uld. She moved into position and waited while Miranda expertly waved them into a pincer movement using the outward crates as cover.
The loud pop of sniper rifles behind them told Sam that Shepard was doing his part. The Jaffa who drove the humans turned their heads, easily recognizing the sound of gunfire. Miranda held her hand out in a 'hold' fashion, waiting for the Jaffa to move closer. Sam readied the Tempest SMG she held and breathed in.
Miranda dropped her hand and stood up in a fighting stance, her SMG letting loose a burst.
The lead Jaffa took the shots in the chest, screaming as he dropped to his knees and clutching the wounds. Sam finished him off with another short burst. The other two Jaffa were put down quickly by combined fire from the others, with the humans diving to the ground, screaming as they sought cover.
More Jaffa spilled out of the Al'Kesh, but they were quickly mowed down by the superior firepower. Sam fought down her revulsion at the needless death and kept fighting.
The small skirmish didn't last long, but the humans who'd been enslaved suddenly began begging for help. Miranda held up her hand and barked. "Stay down! Once we clear the ship we're taking it!" She turned to the team. "Grunt, Jacob, take point and sweep! Everyone else on me!"
Sam followed, the cargo bay hatch to the Al'Kesh serving as a good opening for them. She gave silent thanks that it wasn't a cargo ship as the corridors and rooms would have been so narrow it would have been a meat grinder. An Al'Kesh wasn't much bigger, but at least she could duck and roll if needed.
The civilians were panicking and while some looked like they wanted to come with them, others fled towards the woods. Despite the fracas, the Jaffa on the outer perimeter still hadn't noticed – likely too focused on the battle just outside of Sam's vision.
Grunt and Jacob each took a side of the cargo bay door and cleared it. Grunt kicked aside the still twitching body of a Jaffa and went in, Jacob following. Miranda then joined them with the rest of the squad following, the civilians still hiding amongst the crates.
Sam heard the orders over the ship's intercom – their less than subtle approach had been discovered to nobody's surprise. What did give her a moments pause was the cargo bay itself. The Al'Kesh's cargo bay was lined with cages, human prisoners were inside now screaming for help, and dozens of crates stacked the room making it impossible to see the other side as it turned it into a maze. Sam quickly took cover and pushed away the screams around her, the sudden sound of staff fire filling her head.
She watched as Jack dove to the side and rolled behind cover, a trio of staff blasts chasing her. Miranda barked out. "Contact! Watch your flanks!"
Sam peeked out from beside the crate and spotted a duo of Jaffa with zats. She cursed softly as she knew her barriers wouldn't provide any protection. Nevertheless, she ducked down and aimed, the Jaffa spotting her and aiming as well. Sam proved the quicker draw as she downed the first one with a quick burst to the chest, and the second with another burst that tore the zat out of his hands. The Jaffa were only wounded though, and Sam knew what she had to do. She squeezed the trigger again, this time aiming more carefully. Both Jaffa dropped to the floor, dead before they hit the ground.
Around her, she heard cursing and a mixture of fire. A stack of crates across the room suddenly toppled over as a Jaffa Grunt had thrown smashed through, Jack providing cover from behind. Grunt cackled and finished the Jaffa off with a shotgun at near point blank. "Yeah! Right on your ass!"
The stacks of crates were proving more dangerous than anything else, giving both sides a degree of surprise and cover that Sam hadn't expected. Teal'c had found her after non-lethally dispatching another Jaffa who'd strayed too close and they now moved through the room, clearing it as they went. Sam spotted a wounded human in a cage, her leg bleeding from stray fire. She pushed away the thought it might have been her fire and kept sweeping.
A loud boom and a Jaffa's body sprawled out ahead of her from behind more crates. Jacob following moments after with his shotgun still steaming. Teal'c gave the body a quick check before moving on, Sam covering all the while.
"Move up! We need to take the ship before they realize what we're doing! Carter, Jacob, Cover our flank and wait for Garrus and the Commander! Everyone else, charge!"
Sam almost wished she was heading deeper into the ship, the pleas for help from the humans around her was more distracting than anything else. Jacob quickly found her and motioned. "I'll cover the door! Get these people loose!"
A momentary pang of relief. Despite what she'd learned of Cerberus, it seemed they still had some human decency among them.
Shepard raised his rifle and fired another shot, the Mantis sniper rifle cracked loudly as the leading Jaffa who now chased them from the transport suddenly stumbled, holding onto his neck as spurts of blood gushed out from the wound. His five allies running alongside him paid no attention as they continued to rain down plasma fire. The sixty or so feet between them wasn't a long distance, not even for a pistol. The way the staff weapons were designed though made Shepard wonder just who the Goa'uld were used to fighting.
Garrus had won the sniper contest, but Shepard didn't begrudge him. The Turian had grasshoppered ahead towards the bomber and now covered him as Shepard turned and sprinted. The Jaffa were getting whittled down, but more of them were now realizing there were intruders. Shepard barked into his omni-tool on a wide band. "Prometheus! This is Shepard! I'm marking off the ship we're taking! Do not fire on any craft! Human prisoners are aboard! Take out any Jaffa on the ground!"
A garbled transmission came back to him, though Shepard couldn't tell who it actually was. The sizzle of a plasma shot whizzing past his head made him duck and roll, taking aim once more. The Jaffa had multiplied, now fifteen chasing after him and Garrus. The lead one once again fell to the ground as a shot to the head from Garrus sent him back. Shepard aimed for the next Jaffa and squeezed off a shot, his rifle now starting to warm up. "Make a run for it Garrus! I'll lead them off, cloak and catch up!"
All he got was an affirmative green light back. When Garrus didn't talk it worried Shepard.
-USS Prometheus, Bridge-
"Shields down to thirty eight percent. Five Al'Kesh are still circling and Alliance fighters are reporting low ammo for their heavier weapons."
Pendergast didn't like the odds. If the Asgard had decided to give them even a cheap energy weapon for Prometheus this battle would have been the other way around. "Radio the Alliance Squads, we're pulling them out." He tapped his communicator again and switched to Shepard's frequency. "Commander Shepard, I suggest you get moving. We're moving to the Everest's new extraction point and won't be able to provide any further support."
Nothing but garbled static. The level of fire they'd unleashed was causing hell with their communications and Lt Miguel cursed softly under her breath. "No good sir, we've still got point to point and transponder signals, but radio is a no go."
Pendergast clicked his jaw and took a moment. Decision time. "Alright, arm all missile tubes with conventional explosives, and prepare the cargo bay for wounded." He turned to Edwards. "Captain, make me a hole in that Jaffa frontline we can land in."
Edwards raised his eyebrows in surprise, but quickly go to work. "Aye sir!"
"Get me Alliance troops on point to point. Miguel."
"Fullerton?" Pendergast waited a moment, it wasn't long for the soldier to reply.
-Edge of Watson City-
Fullerton cursed their lack of proper support or even mission objectives once more, and fired off a concussion blast to give himself some cover from the small squad of Jaffa who'd rushed ahead – armed with Avengers. The blast raised a huge dustcloud and pushed them back, perfect targets for snipers – if they were still active. While the riot shields were marginally effective against the plasma weapons, their own stolen weapons tore through them like tin foil. He'd corralled Parker and his team into helping him triage the wounded, of which there were now almost a dozen. He didn't even want to think about the dead.
The skirmish had devolved into a no holds barred knife fight. The Jaffa had pushed back harder than he'd thought them capable of and closed the gap, lowering the Alliance's advantage with mass effect weaponry. When they'd busted out the weird snake like weapons that completely ignored barriers, Fullerton suddenly found his platoon in a deadly game of hide and seek.
He heard footsteps outside the café doors, so he motioned to Parker on the other side. With hand signals he got Parker to get to the other side of the door, and waited.
The door slid apart, revealing a Jaffa with a snake weapon crouch walking in. Fullerton nodded to Parker who didn't hesitate in grabbing the Jaffa and flinging him forward, easy pickings for the other marines in the room. Fullerton engaged the locks on his armor's arm braces and blindfired out the door with his Revenant.
It was only moments before another pair of rapid fire shots drowned out the suppression fire. The Mako's had regrouped and were making a push towards the area Fullerton and Parker's team had reinforced.
Squads one and two were still garrisoned inside the buildings beside them, but the Jaffa had figured out that suppression fire with those electrical weapons worked well. He'd heard soldiers screaming about the close contact fights raging as the Jaffa tried to rout out the dug in marines, but with shotguns and Onxy armor, it wasn't as dire as it seemed.
The only problem was the Jaffa had figured out how to best combat them. Fullerton almost didn't hear the distinct whine of plasma anymore, now hearing only the sparkle and crackle of the electrical weapon.
Was this was they'd been expecting? Why they didn't want him to try and break the Jaffa under his boot? It made some degree of sense but still.
Fullerton pushed a rather ornate garbage bin to the nearest window and crouched behind it using it for cover. He extended the bipod on his Revenent and swapped heatsinks letting the spent one fall to the floor. He always made sure he had plenty of reserves so he could unleash on a moments notice, like right now. "Prometheus, got it!" He scanned the area ahead of him, keeping one eye on the HUD with the positions of his men. The Jaffa had reorganized and were using the suppression fire from those electrical weapons to edge closer. He peered through his scope and saw them spreading out, preparing for a sweep of the section Fullerton was in while taking cover behind their moved crates and logs. "Jaffa have pushed back hard, barriers and riot shields ineffective. I've got wounded and need extraction!"
A roaring boom came from outside, along with the skid of tires. Shark 3 barked. "Come get some you snake eyed bastards!"
Fullerton risked a peek, Shark three had run over three Jaffa who'd been suppressed just outside the café and were armed with Zats. He didn't bother seeing if they were still moving as Mako 3's tires sent what was left out from behind it. It fired thunderous suppression fire, giving the Alliance soldiers the cover they needed to move for a few moments. Prometheus moved in the skies above, going higher and higher.
Pendergast's voice came through with a hint of desperation. "All Alliance Troops! We're dropping the hammer, take cover and get ready to hitch a ride! Danger close!"
Mako 3 seemed to change its mind and gunned its engine, the myriad of shots impacting on it shields seemingly chasing it off. But Fullerton could sense what was coming and barked through the radio. "Do it Pendergast! All troops! Danger close!"
High in the skies, Prometheus pulled a turn that would have shorn most ships Fullerton knew in half. Instead, it pointed its front nose towards the ground. A plume of smoke erupted from rounded covers, an almost comically large missile coming out amidst the smoke and fire. The staccato of fire lessened, but a few shots were still traded as a second missile spat out of Prometheus' brow.
It only took moments, but Fullerton took a deep breath before impact.
-Jaffa Checkpoint, Landing Pad-
The explosion sent out a massive shockwave, enough that Shepard felt the tremor from the blast. He'd cloaked and was sneaking around the Jaffa, their senses failing them as he easily ran past them towards the bomber he'd led them away from.
One Jaffa in particular was getting in his way, occupying the space between a long line of two crates leading to the bomber. Shepard didn't have time for this. His cloak ran out a mere second before reaching the Jaffa but it didn't matter. He grabbed the Jaffa by the collar and flung him to the side, bashing his head against the crate beside him. Shepard pinned him to it, pressed the barrel of his Predator into his chest and squeezed the trigger. The normal 'pop' was muffled, a spatter of blood spraying across his face.
The air strike and resulting rain of dirt and shards made perfect escape cover, as the unshielded and relatively unarmored Jaffa ran for their ships ignoring the humans left around. After dropping the dead Jaffa unceremoniously, Shepard continued towards the bomber which now came into view. Garrus had waited outside the doors to the bomber and cheered on. "Come on Shepard! The sky's raining bombs!" Shepard sprinted as hard as he could, all those hours spent running on Normandy in full armor paying off as he gritted through the pain. He skidded into place next to the door, Garrus gave his sly and nonchalant grin. "You're late."
Shepard shrugged and waved him in, Jacob waiting on the other side with his shotgun at the ready. "Fashiona…" His voice cut out as he saw the inside of the bomber, men, women, and even children were in full panic mode, Carter walking to each and trying to calm them down. Deeper inside the ship he heard the distinct sound of gunfire. He wanted to say something, anything to try and break the shock of seeing humans penned up in cages. All he ended up doing was gripping his gun tighter. "Garrus, Jacob, close that hatch and help these people. I'm moving up." He didn't bother looking at them for confirmation, instead moving towards the sounds of gunfire.
Carter spotted him, her face looking just as shocked as his did what seemed like ages ago. He'd seen this on Freedom's Progress and Horizon, but it had been clean then, the seeker swarms paralyzing the people and keeping an eerie calm about the entire affair. The Jaffa were doing the same, but lacking the precise technology of the Collectors. Just another nightmare to add to the list. Carter didn't say anything, and refocused on triaging the wounded.
The bloodied and dead Jaffa on the floor told Shepard his team had done their jobs, something he'd have to congratulate them on afterwards. He quickly left the cargo hold and moved on alone, his Predator up and ready to fire. The hallways were confusing but common sense told him to steer towards the front of the craft. The Goa'uld ships looked like they followed standard ship construction with the cargo bay in the rear along with engineering, and the bridge and living section near the front. A few hallways separated and seemingly gave the ship a sort of vein structure. More dead Jaffa lined the floors as Shepard picked his way through it, the bomber larger than he'd expected.
When he walked into the human side of a crossfire down a hallway, he instinctively cloaked and crouched. He heard Jack screaming as she unleashed a warp projectile from her hands from around the corner a few feet from him. "Shepard! The fuck are you doing? Get out of the way!"
Shepard rolled to the side and aimed, a squad of Jaffa were dug in. He squeezed the trigger on instinct, his omni-tool helping to aim the wild shots as she rolled into the wall.
To his horror, the distinct sheen of a barrier rose in front of the Jaffa, protecting him from the stray shots that would have hit. Only now he saw that they were wearing Alliance grade armor, with built in barriers. Beside the shielded Jaffa, another raised a shotgun and fired like a madman, filling the corridor with bullets. The warp projectile zoomed towards him, the Jaffa seemingly unaware of the destructive nature of it. The blue orb slammed into him and distorted the space in its vicinity, drawing a scream from the suddenly shredded Jaffa. Jack stepped out and crouched, her shotgun pumping out a reply to the Jaffa's.
Shepard rolled back in between shots from Jack as his cloak ran out and took cover on the other side of the corridor. He holstered his sidearm and whipped out his Mantis, the distinct whir and clack of it extending into a locked position reassuring him. Without any words, he leaned out and aimed. His omni-tool detected his position and automatically targeted the exposed shoulder of the Jaffa hiding behind the corner. He squeezed the trigger and let the round fly, the short distance of maybe twenty feet much less than he was accustomed to with the rifle, but not impossible.
The shot tore through the Jaffa's weakened barriers, ripping his arm off and drawing a scream of agony as he fell back clutching the wall with his one remaining arm. Shepard could now make out three more Jaffa defending the area, all armed with Avengers and Shotguns. Not exactly a fair fight – for him. Another shot finished he wounded Jaffa, but they quickly returned fire.
Shepard knew that they had to clear the ship immediately, time was running out. So he holstered his rifle again and called out to Jack. "Gimme a shockwave! I'll rush!"
Jack grinned like a wild woman and nodded, holding her shotgun in one hand while raising the other. "Curveball special coming up!"
She let out a low roar as she focused, and a memory came back to Shepard. Kaidan had explained how biotics felt, how the surge of energy and drain on them was both orgasmic and debilitating. How Jack and Miranda could perform biotics in the heat of combat and still fight hard was beyond Shepard, but he wasn't about to ask.
Jack stepped out and swung her arm up and around like a softball pitcher, a wave of biotic energy flowing out like a flamethrower. Shepard bolted immediately after, his predator ready in his hand. The waves tore the metal of the hull apart, leaving evenly spaced divots as it moved towards the Jaffa.
The impact was exactly what Shepard wanted, the shock and brutality of Jack's biotics stunned them, leaving them disoriented and trying to regain their balance, if not flung up and into the ceiling with enough force to break bones. Shepard dropped his shoulder and slammed into the lead Jaffa whose barriers had protected him from the blast, but still left him stunned.
The Jaffa screamed as Shepard raised him and drove him into the wall behind him, his arm in a particularly unfortunate position behind him. Shepard didn't admire it and yanked his other undamaged arm back. He dragged him down to the floor and lashed out with the butt of his pistol, audibly snapping the Jaffa's neck with the brutal impact.
Of the other two, one Jaffa had been flung up and was now on the floor, trying to figure out what had happened. Shepard focused on the other, whose barriers were still up. Jack rushed in as well, her shotgun tearing away what was left of the protective shield. Shepard finished him with a trio of shots center mass, ending with a fourth shot to the head. Jack still put another shell into his falling body for good measure.
Shepard heard a scuffle behind him, and reacted instinctively. He created an incineration blast in his left had and turned. The Jaffa had scuffled back, clawing at the wall to get up. Shepard could see the B2 markings and insignia on the cracked piece of armor he wore, and the battle damage of it. The only explanation was that it was a spoil of war. Something snapped inside Shepard and he screamed as he unleashed the blast at point blank.
The Jaffa turned at the scream and opened his eyes wide. At this range the blast didn't have to contend with barriers, slamming into the Jaffa's chest and spreading. A scream of anguish echoed in the hallways as the short range plasma blast carbonized the Jaffa, quickly putting an end to his existence. The flash was polarized by Shepard's HUD, and he watched the armor boil off and cook the Jaffa inside. All that was left was a charcoaled torso and still twitching legs.
Jack recovered from the momentary exertion and muttered. "Damn Shepard, overkill much?"
Shepard didn't reply, and instead reached down to pick up a fallen shotgun – not exactly his weapon of preference but it beat a single shot rifle in a close quarters fight.
-USS Prometheus, Bridge-
"Shields at twenty percent! Shots are bleeding through and we've got hull damage along the top of the ship." Edwards called out, Pendergast acknowledging him with a nod. The Jaffa had been stunted by the missile strike, but the Al'Kesh in the air were still a dangerous nuisance.
Pendergast looked to Marks and barked. "I want you to kiss the ground Marks! Give the Alliance troops a chance to get on board and get us the hell out of here." He switched to the Alliance radio frequency before Marks could reply. "Fullerton! We're coming down hard in that dust cloud, get everyone onto the ship double time, or we're leaving you behind!"
A panel suddenly burst into static, with the crewman at the post jolting back in surprise. The distinct sound of electrical short circuiting and the smell of burning metal filled the air, the panel going dead. Pendergast idly wondered exactly where Star Trek got the idea that electrical consoles could explode, but quickly pushed the useless thought aside. Fullerton replied in a bark. "Give me covering fire! Rip those bastards apart!"
It wasn't part of the plan, but with the ship surrounded by hostiles and shields dropping quickly, there wasn't a choice. Pendergast looked to Miguel. "Lieutenant, give me a wide band so everyone can hear me." Lt. Miguel complied quickly, a nod acknowledging it was done. "To all Earth and Alliance forces, we are pulling back and letting loose, stay out of the crossfire!" Pendergast turned to Edwards and narrowed his eyes. "Captain, empty our ammunition banks. Make it happen."
Edwards gave a sly grin, there was a reason weapons officers were given their position. He nodded but Pendergast could only just hear the hushed whisper he gave. "Bye bye Goa'uld."
-Jaffa Checkpoint, Al'Kesh -
"On the ground, now!" Grunt screamed as he stepped out into the doorway and fired the concussive blast. Miranda watched with just a bit of impression as the blast reverberated through the room, stunning the two Jaffa who were in the bridge. Teal'c quickly followed in, his Avenger rifle up and unleashing rounds.
The fact that the Jaffa had figured out tech shields was no surprise. Any culture advanced enough to field space ships and directed energy weapons had to have enough knowledge to put on a bloody suit, but the way the others reacted made her wonder what they were thinking. It was no different than any other mission, easier even since they had no tech abilities or biotics.
Despite Miranda's order to breach the room together, Grunt charged in, but the Jaffa were more resilient than he'd expected. Miranda ducked into the room and kept low, but watched as Grunt suddenly found himself on the wrong end of one of those electrical weapons. It pulsed out and slammed into him, Grunt letting a low and hard growl of pain. The shot didn't stop the Krogan though as he still pushed forward, firing his shotgun at point blank.
The Jaffa who took the shot crumpled back, the shotgun shredding his shields and pushing him back. He let another electrical pulse out as he fell. It nailed Grunt along his shoulder bringing him to his knees, but still fighting the effects. Teal'c swung in and shoved the Krogan to the ground, firing a spread at the Jaffa who was still engaged. Miranda joined in, firing a burst at the Jaffa who now aimed his small snake like weapon at Teal'c.
The mass pouring of fire quickly depleted his shields, and point blank range meant his armor did little to stop it. Teal'c had aimed for center mass while Miranda aimed for a headshot. What was left of the Jaffa fell backwards unceremoniously.
Grunt let out a groan, struggling to get to his feet. Miranda wanted to tell him that he deserved it for just rushing in without a plan, but he seemed to be recovering relatively quickly. He stumbled to his feet, but then found himself struggling to balance himself as Teal'c cleared the rest of the room. Grunt lost his balance fully and fell to the ground, but didn't seem defeated in any way. He looked at the second dead Jaffa beside him and muttered. "Been shot there; loses its appeal after the first time."
Miranda didn't bother to ask if he was okay. Both he and Jack seemed to take any question of their wellbeing as an insult. Jack insisting on separating from the rest of them was foolhardy, but Miranda wasn't so sure about Jack's position within the squad anymore regardless. If she wanted to face the odds against her, that was her choice. Shepard was sure to make some comment about it, but she'd face that later.
For now, she turned to Teal'c and motioned to the front where a large orb sat, which she assumed was the piloting controls. "Can I assume you know what to do?"
Teal'c nodded. "We must hurry, no doubt the Jaffa will warn the mothership that we've infiltrated their camp."
"Far as they know we just freed some slaves."
Miranda turned, and saw Shepard walk into the room holding a steaming shotgun, his face and armor were bloody, but she could tell it wasn't his. "Commander, I trust you're well?"
Shepard snorted. "Not even close. Get down to the cargo bay and take stock. Tell Carter to get up here ASAP. I sent Jack back to help but fuck knows if she did. We're getting out of here." He looked over to Grunt who still seemed woozy as he clawed the wall up to his feet, but Miranda knew that Shepard had a strange sort of dominance over the Krogan. Teal'c also seemed concerned, but focused on the controls where he now sat. "You get hit by a train or something?"
"Bah, nothing an extra heart won't take." Grunt muttered. He shook off the shock, but still wobbled in place with a hand on the wall. Miranda was impressed with his recovery rate given the damage he'd just taken. She could only imagine what Cerberus could do with shock troops like that. "These Jaffa put up a good fight, but it'll only get harder from here."
Miranda knew time was of the essence and didn't stick around. Grunt was right though; They'd gone from easily ambushing a small patrol of Jaffa, to facing them on uneven terms. Carter and Teal'c would have to quickly show them how to use those electrical weapons if they wanted to equal the odds again.
When the sound of explosions came from the walls outside, Miranda felt her senses jump. The reverberation through the walls told her that the situation outside was getting very violent.
-Edge of Watson City-
Parker watched in awe as Prometheus dropped in low, all of its guns suddenly unleashing hell on the Al'Kesh in the air as well as the ground where the Jaffa encampment was. He was also equally shocked that they were firing their missiles – danger close wasn't accurate enough an assessment.
He hefted the wounded soldier onto his shoulder, dragging him towards the Mako tank that had skidded to a halt in front of him. Colonel Pendergast's warning rang in his ears, and despite the nice temperature and almost perfect tilt of the planet, the swarms of Jaffa made it a bad getaway destination.
The battle had been quick when he thought about it logically, but it felt like yesterday was when he started fighting. Life in the SGC was rarely this aggressive, and he'd started to get used to the exploration aspect of the program. He could think of only twice he'd had to use the skills he'd honed in Earth wars, during the rescue of Airmen Wells when they'd lost Doctor Fraiser, and retreating from the Goa'uld days before Anubis' attack on Earth.
Having Jaffa firing hundreds of thousands of rounds in his direction had changed the game, Parker realized that this wasn't going to be a few skirmishes – war had landed at the SGC's doorstep.
The way the Alliance Marines seemed to take it in stride gave Parker a strange sense of camaraderie. They knew war and seemed surprised that he knew it as well. Fullerton in particular seemed at home on the battlefield, his orders clear and well thought out. Not that there hadn't been casualties, but given the strict rules of engagement, Fullerton had probably saved the lives of many of these men.
The hundred or so dead Jaffa who'd tried to rout them were testament to the man's experience in war. Now Pendergast was getting his own in and there wasn't time anymore. Parker couldn't worry about more than his immediate surroundings, and passed the soldier onto to another Alliance Marine who helped the wounded into the Mako. The other two Makos arrived and covered them, taking on passengers of their own while raining thunderous suppression fire.
Parker looked at the city, streaks of missiles chasing Al'Kesh now left long strides of smoke above them, almost beautiful in some apocalyptic way. Some of the taller buildings had taken hits, crumbling parts fell to the ground. Smoke covered the entire city making it something akin to a circle of hell. Parker pushed it aside and himself in through the doors of the Mako, another soldier pulling him in by the shoulders.
The stench inside was near unbearable, the distinct intermingle of sweat, blood, and gods knew what other body odors. Several of the soldiers were wounded, a few needing to be dragged in. Parker noticed Fullerton screaming at the soldiers who were dawdling, only coming aboard once they'd all gotten on.
The Mako began to move, and Fullerton continued barking orders to get stowed away for a rough ride. Parker helped the soldiers around him. Only one of which he actually recognized as an SG team member. This battle had pitted them all together, and survival now depended on each other.
-USS Prometheus, Cargo Bay-
Lindsay Novak hiccupped once more, tense and worried, but a strange sense of elation had come once Pendergast had ordered a retreat. The whole concept of fighting to the death for her was a ridiculous sentiment – live to fight and *hic* run another day. Being ordered to open the cargo bay doors while only about twenty feet in the air and surrounded by hostile ships wasn't exactly the best idea in her opinion though.
She didn't expect an armored personnel carrier with a massive turret to come soaring in before the doors had even fully opened. The Mako vehicle fired thrusters as it came down, slowing its descent and firing retro boosters to slow down. Lindsay screamed for everyone to take cover, and hid behind the console next to the exit.
It was eerie how she could hear everything happening and discern what it was. The Mako's heavy tires crushed a crate full of supplies, the loud pops and snorts coming from the suddenly flattened three bean salad cans and soda pops. The roar of the Mako's engines and squeal of its tires was nothing like an F-302 launching.
The second one came in soaring as well, but at a steeper angle. Lindsay heard and even felt the reverberation of the deck plating as it touched ground, the front axel making a huge crunch sound. Crew members rushed forward with fire extinguishers that made a flatulence like wheeze. The scream of the tires as the Mako turned to slow its velocity made it through her hands that covered her ears, the sparks and flashing lights through her closed eyelids.
The third Mako's entry was the worst. Unlike the calm and order when they loaded into the craft on Earth, this was chaos and destruction. She heard a hard rocket boost as it sailed in, the driver moving evasively to keep from crashing into the rear of the second Mako. Lindsay dared a peek and watched the Mako curve sideways, rolling just slightly as it first crashed into the temporary bunks, then into the wall of Prometheus. Prometheus wasn't a small craft, but the impact jarred the ship sideways, enough to make Lindsay stumble.
Pendergast's voice called out over the intercom. "All hands, brace for evasive maneuvers. All emergency personnel to the docking bay!"
Lindsay wasn't emergency personnel, but she certainly was here. She hiccupped once more and stood, shocked at the devastation. Where once had been a neat orderly line that the Mako's had traveled here, one Mako was parked sideways several crates of supplies crushed and leaving a skid mark on the ground. The second Mako was beside it, more or less unharmed. The third on the other hand had left a jagged gouge along the wall, with at least a dozen bunks crushed and torn to shreds beneath its wheels. The docking bay crew rushed around, fire extinguishers in hand and blankets to help the wounded. A few medics had already arrived, but more were needed as the Makos opened and revealed the what seemed like a solid stream of soldiers coming out. They weren't in the greatest shape.
Suppressing her anxiety, Lindsay decided that she'd just do her job to the best of her *hic* ability. Wordlessly she moved to the cargo bay door console and shut it.
Isn't three Makos a bit few to disgorge a hundred soldiers?
- Captured Al'Kesh, Above Watson City-
"Teal'c, get us to orbit and take a few potshots at those Alliance fighters." Shepard ordered.
Teal'c turned cautiously to Shepard for a moment, as if questioning his authority. Shepard gave him a look back, saying with his expression what he truly meant. To the rear, Grunt gave a low yelp as he seemingly flexed his body back into something more comfortable than electric shock put them in. Teal'c raised an eyebrow and nodded. "Indeed." He turned back to the piloting orb and moved the ship up into the atmosphere, missiles raining down around them. "Prometheus is not targeting us, they must see our transponder signals." He brought up more information, his hands manipulating the orb precisely with Shepard watching carefully. "The Ha'tak motherships in orbit are moving closer. Everest is not on scanners."
Shepard made a barely audible sound, Teal'c could have sworn nobody else but maybe Grunt could have heard it. "Do you see debris?"
"Nothing that could equate to the mass of Everest."
Shepard sighed. "Good, they must have had to make a run for it." Teal'c targeted the nearest alliance fighter, and fighting his instincts to lead the target, instead fired directly at it. The dual plasma cannons missed the fighter and continued firing, seemingly the worst auto targeting system ever. "Put us on a course to those motherships. Don't suppose you could radio that we've got the latest batch for them to receive?"
Teal'c didn't turn and instead focused on the space ahead of him. Alliance fighters were purposefully missing him as well, seemingly knowing that it was a Trojan horse. "I will relay the message."
- SSV Everest, CIC Deck, on periphery of Skepsis System-
Hackett was getting worried. The transports and fighters were expecting them to arrive to the coordinates on Watson in the next two minutes, and he was too far away to see where the Ha'tak currently were. He'd learned that the Earth of this galaxy had reverse engineered FTL sensor technology, which while not seeming such a huge benefit would have made this much less frustrating. If they jumped into atmosphere too close to the Ha'tak, they'd get pounded on and destroyed. If the transports took too long or missed the appointment, people could get left behind or worse still, give the motherships time to intercept.
Hackett had planned for each eventuality; leadership required knowing when and what to do if the worst happened. He just wasn't looking forward to using his fighter cover as a decoy to get the civilians and HVP targets away if it came to it.
He tapped his armrest, his fingers dancing like if playing the piano. It'd only take a few moments to FTL back to Watson space, but it was still nerve-wracking "All gunnery positions. I want a full fire at will on any Jaffa or Goa'uld targets, either space or on the ground. Nothing above F class on ground targets, and I want a full barrage of torpedoes on arrival aimed at those motherships."
The crew silently obeyed, Hackett had seen that the Jaffa were arrogant, they took his full fire from Mass Effect cannons earlier with a shrug, but he knew that those powerful shields of theirs had trouble with disruptor technology. A nice hard kiss from a dozen torpedoes might put a little respect in their boots.
"All hands. Prepare for FTL and to reenter combat. Seal all hatches and bulkheads, and be ready to open all fighter bays and cargo bays to evacuate our people " he looked around at the crew beside him each ready and seemingly willing to die for this mission. "Let's get our people out of there."
-USS Prometheus, Bridge-
"Sir, we've got an incoming signal, it's Everest!"
Pendergast turned to Miguel and raised his eyebrows. "Put it on screen." He turned back to the screen where a map of the immediate area appeared. The Motherships weren't that close, but they weren't far either. Prometheus spotted the transports already moving towards it, having been in the general area. "They'll need time to load up…" Pendergast took in a deep breath, he had to make a decision now that he wasn't hoping to make. "… Captain Edwards. Have your gunnery crew load up every last nuke we've got. If those motherships move to intercept Everest, I want a sun between us and them." He turned to Marks and nodded. "Make sure we don't harm Commander Shepard's ride."
The crew followed his orders without question. Shields were slowly recharging with the missile storm they'd unleashed keeping the few surviving Al'kesh well away. Pendergast knew he could take a few shots for Everest and leave unharmed, but only a few. Miguel tapped a few more buttons behind him and announced. "Everest entering orbit and sending a message." She paused.
"What?" Pendergast turned and asked. "What is it? What are they saying?"
Miguel shrugged and gave a murmur. "'Haul ass.'"
-Al'Kesh, in upper atmosphere of Watson-
"Thank you… oh god thank you so much… we had no clue what they wanted us for… they made us load everything up, then beat us and stuck us in those cages!"
Sam tried desperately to move away, she'd been in warzones and seen grown men cry, but this was something else entirely. The man whose leg she'd just witnessed begin to heal at an astonishing rate from the Medigel Miranda applied was almost nonsensical, but Sam understood. Everyone of the civilians they'd freed from these cages were on the verge of panicking, and Garrus and Jacob were doing a good job corralling them. Jack stayed away, no little surprise from Sam's point of view, while Miranda treated the wounded along with Sam.
Sam suddenly felt useless, she knew basic and even more advanced field medic techniques, but Miranda used her omni-tool along with that gel to literally rebuild the burns, cuts and even deep lacerations of the people around them. She saw how enraged Jacob had become hearing their stories of torture and forced labor, and knowing that they'd be taken up to the motherships for gods knew what. Sam had seen so many people subjected to the Goa'uld in her 8 years with the SGC, but this just struck so much harder. Maybe it was the way they weren't accustomed to having the Goa'uld ever-present, they weren't used to the evil.
As she wandered around, she peeked inside the crates. A large variety of things, from mass effect weaponry and parts that looked like they belonged to robots, to what looked like raw materials including what she recognized as small amounts of Element Zero. The Jaffa had been busy to say the least.
Miranda suddenly sidled up to Sam, speaking in a hushed tone that gave her just a little bit of the creeps. "Major, I think your skills would be better used on the bridge. Commander Shepard agrees with me."
Sam nodded quietly and moved off, but to her surprise, Miranda called out. "Jack! Escort Major Carter to the bridge. No telling if any Jaffa might be left on board."
Jack gave her a sardonic smile before replying sarcastically. "Stay, go, heel girl heel! Good doggie! Well watch it cheerleader, this bitch bites back."
Sam didn't make much of Jack's threat, and instead just held her SMG out and to the ground. "Come on."
Jack wordlessly followed, Sam wondered to herself exactly what had brought the woman to such a distressed point that bald and almost legally nude seemed a good choice in life. She pushed it out of her head and focused. She spotted several dead Jaffa in the corridors as she checked corners, peeked behind hallways, and made sure the path was clear to the bridge.
To Sam's surprise, Jack started talking as she also worked her way through the hallways, shotgun at the ready. "You look pretty freaked out, this whole kidnapping not the Goa'ulds thing?"
Sam wasn't sure what to make of the comment, so she just replied in the same almost distracted voice. "Actually they do, we first encountered the Goa'uld at large when they kidnapped one of our marine corp technicians through the Stargate."
Jack snorted. "You mean they walked into your base, took someone, and got away?"
Sam winced and recalled the incident. It had led to an almost decade long adventure. "More or less. We weren't prepared, but we still fought back. That's how we met Teal'c and Bra'tac."
Jack snapped her shotgun up and down another hallway, Sam recognized it as leading to the bathroom. She didn't hear anything herself but that didn't mean Jack didn't. Sam moved off down the hallway, a good ten feet from Jack's position sweeping through the alternative exit in the hallway. It took a few eerie moments, nothing but the sound of engines and explosions outside. Jack finally spoke after a few moments, leveling her shotgun down. "Guess that's the best we'll – the fuck?"
The blast flashed and reverberated through the walls, Sam instantly recognized the flashbang like qualities and turned just in time to see Jack crumple to the ground. "Jack!"
Jack was silent, she hadn't even made a sound as she'd fallen. Sam picked up her radio and barked. "This is Major Carter! Jack is down! I repeat Jack has been stunned and we have hostiles on board!"
The adrenaline surge of the moment pushed Sam's mind into clarity, her training took over. The Jaffa had likely hidden in the bathroom throughout the fight and had waited to ambush them. If Miranda hadn't insisted on sending Jack with her, she doubted she'd be any better than the violent woman. She was on her own and there was an enemy who potentially outgunned her from a fortified position.
So Sam did what her training told her – Alpha Strike. She rushed towards Jack, hopping over the woman's body and skidding around the corner to the bathroom. A lone Jaffa did a double take as he saw Sam charging at him. He held a raised staff and fired.
Sam had felt the pain from staff shots before. That it sucked was a gross understatement. As the plasma shot flew towards her, Sam opened fire with her SMG. The close range shots tore through the Jaffa's hip, crumpling him and taking him out of the fight quickly, but the staff shot was already incoming. Sam braced, tucked and rolled to the side, slamming into the wall desperately seeking cover. The shot impacted her along the hip as well, spread out by the mass effect barrier that kept the plasma itself form touching her. All of a sudden she felt her skin sizzle along her side, the heat spreading and armor protecting her.
The Jaffa still screamed, he wasn't dead. Sam's vision went into tunnel mode and all she could see was the Jaffa reaching for his Zat, a final death wish. She raised her arms despite the pain from her side and held the trigger.
The SMG shot off its entire clip, quickly overheating and spouting an alarm. Sam groaned as she turned away from the now pockmarked Jaffa, dead and clutching his zat in its holster.
It was only another moment for Garrus to arrive and sweep above them. Grunt showed up as well and looked at the dead Jaffa, then to Sam. "Aim for the head, works better."
Sam wanted to laugh, just something to keep the realization that she'd almost died away.
"The hell happened to her?" Shepard muttered.
Garrus shrugged and gently deposited Jack onto the floor, her back to the wall. Sam limped in behind him and explained, something Garrus appreciated as he hated explaining himself. "Like I radioed, Jaffa ambushed us. He hid in the washroom and used a Jaffa stun grenade on us." Sam shrugged. "Well…. On her. I was far enough ahead that it didn't affect me but I wasn't about to let him finish Jack off."
Shepard looked at the three people who'd arrived, Grunt having gone to patrol the ship on his own. He insisted he could smell the Jaffa and wouldn't fall for the same trap. Garrus knew better than to question him. Behind Shepard, Garrus could see the blue of the atmosphere begin to fade away, they were heading into orbit at a pretty damn good clip. Shepard finally spoke. "Glad you're both alright. Now let's focus on the mission."
Garrus noticed how Sam stepped forward now, her voice more than a little cutting. "Now wait, we're down a man and we've lost the element of surprise. The Jaffa are going to be on the defensive and we've got a cargo bay full of rescued prisoners. We can't take them with us!"
Shepard turned away and stared at the screen ahead of him, well ahead in the distance, one could barely make out the orange of the mohtership's pyramid structure. "I know, but we have to take that chance."
Teal'c turned, his hands still on the orb. "With all due respect Commander Shepard, our primary objective was to exfiltrate Kai Leng and the Goa'uld prisoner he holds."
"Even if all we do is plant a bomb and run for it, that's worth it."
Garrus finally couldn't take it any longer. He'd seen Shepard fighting like hell to keep his 'humanity', but the way he couldn't decide what to do was more frightening than anything he'd seen in the last three years. "Shepard, you know I'm all for a nice bang, but we've got to be realistic. We'd need an armada like the one that faced Sovereign's attack on the Citadel to win here. We need to fall back and regroup. We got what we came for and even got a half decent ship out of it, not to mention all those people in the cargo bay and boarding Everest now."
Shepard turned to look at Garrus and the look in his eyes told Garrus what he wanted to say. He recalled a long time ago, Ashley had accused him of racism against humans. That was before they'd fought together and found the horrible truth of what Sovereign was. Ashley had never accused him of it again.
To Garrus' relief, Shepard gritted his teeth and turned to Teal'c. "I want your honest opinion Teal'c. I'm guessing you know those motherships better than anyone here. Do we stand any chance of taking out that mothership from the inside if we get aboard?"
Teal'c took a moment to think, but then answered confidently. "If the Jaffa did not have your barrier technology and weapons, yes. But as we've seen, they've begun to make use of your technology giving them an edge we did not expect. We would not survive such an excursion."
Shepard nodded and then barked orders, much more like what Garrus was used to. "Get us out of here, Teal'c." He walked over to the window, where the motherships now came under fire from the Everest's cannons. Prometheus was moving between them, protecting the larger yet less protected craft currently scooping up the evacuees from Watson. Garrus moved over beside him and noticed Carter do the same with Teal'c. Jack murmured some soft cursing as she slowly began to regain consciousness. "Shepard."
Shepard remained silent as he now looked at the horizon of the planet, it was beautiful in a way. Not as wet as Palaven but definitely a nice planet. "Back on Earth, during our second world war, there was a general who was forced to fall back when the enemy threatened his position. He'd lived in that area for years, and he thought it as much his home as his nation of allegiance." Garrus remained quiet, Shepard only got poetic when he was enraged. "His name was Douglas MacArthur, and before he left, he made a speech to the people there. 'I came through and I shall return.' "
"Sounds like he didn't want to fall back."
"He didn't." Shepard turned and nodded. "When the President found out he'd given that speech, he asked him to change it to 'We shall return.' " Shepard remained quiet a moment and looked down at the planet. "He ignored it, and he kept that promise." Shepard turned back to the horizon on the planet. Garrus could see the empathy Shepard felt being forced down, and the Shepard he knew who would get the job done no matter what come back to light. "I'll have a lot of promises to keep before we're done."
-SSV Everest, CIC Deck, in high orbit of Watson-
"Disruptor torpedoes locked, firing!"
A soft rumble went through the decks of the Everest, Hackett watched on the screen as the disruptor torpedoes punched out from their tubes, a dozen at a time from the broad side of the ship. On the opposite side, the Grizzly and Polar Transports quickly rushed into the docking bays, fighters clearing for emergency combat landings. The engineer on the panel to the rear kept making faces as each fighter landed, Hackett knew that it'd take days to fix up the stresses the ship had been under in the last hour.
To his surprise, the communications officer spoke up. "Sir! We're getting a signal from one of the Goa'uld craft! It's Commander Shepard and he's requesting permission to dock!"
It took a moment to look at the system map, but it was clear. The Goa'uld Motherships were hot on Shepards tail and would be in firing range too soon. Hackett breathed in and then replied. "Send back a negative on that request, and plot a course to the Relay. I want us out of here before they have a chance to lock on."
The officer stopped for a moment, but then nodded. Hackett didn't like having to make hard decisions, but there wasn't any other option now.
The Goa'uld mothership didn't have the same degree of point defense the Everest had, but what it did have was effective as it shot down disruptor torpedoes and missiles from Prometheus with ease. What remained of its fighter cover added in, protecting the craft from the onslaught. Hackett grit his teeth in anger – the Goa'uld weren't taking anymore chances.
-- Captured Al'Kesh, High Orbit of Watson-
The explosion far to the left of the Al'Kesh was muted by the sensor polarization. Teal'c watched as more missiles from Prometheus moved towards the motherships, point defense fire picking off the evasive projectiles – thankfully not aimed at their own craft. He repeated the message he'd received from Everest. "Commander Shepard, Everest has denied our request to dock and Prometheus is under heavy fire from the Motherships and remaining Al'Kesh. We will not be able to dock with either."
Shepard cursed silently under his breath, and then switched his omnitool on. "Teal'c, I need you to bring up this ship's mass and exact dimensions."
Major Carter let a less than happy note out of her throat. "You want to try and jump through the relays using the Al'Kesh? Why? We've got a perfectly working hyperdrive on board."
Teal'c saw the exasperation in Commander Shepard's face, but he didn't say anything – merely listened. "Knowledge is half the battle." He turned back to Teal'c. "How long would it take us to get to Earth in this thing?"
"Approximately 2 days." Teal'c said after calculating the trip using the ships computer.
"Too long." Shepard muttered. "Tell Everest and Prometheus to wait for us at the primary Skepsis relay that leads back to Arcturus. How long would it take us to get there?"
Teal'c took a moment to redo the calculations, the Al'Kesh's computer brought it up in Goa'uld. "At maximum velocity, it would take 3 hours."
"Done." Shepard muttered.
Teal'c looked at his companions, Shepard seemed angry, but also a bit more resolute than he had previous. Grunt merely remained quiet, looking off into the distance of space. Most telling was Major Carter who despite the solid expression, looked distraught.
"The fuck happened? Where is everyone?"
Teal'c winced just a little as Jack stumbled to get up, slipping as she clawed at the wall and falling down again, curse words escaping her mouth with no resistance. Shepard moved over to help her just as Teal'c finished calculating the hyperspace jump and pushed the Al'Kesh away from the battle.
-SSV Everest, CIC Deck, High Orbit of Watson-
"Transports on board! Moving into FTL position!"
Hackett barked out orders, the Motherships were firing on them now. "Flank speed! Get us to the relay now!" He turned back to the screen and engaged his armrest communications. "Pendergast! Get out of there! We've got everyone!"
Wordlessly, Hackett watched as Prometheus began to move to the side, avoiding the fire that would have crippled Everest. He just caught Prometheus forming some kind of strange rift in front of it before the Everest began its own FTL maneuver, blocking out all external sensors.
The ship rocked for a moment, the shift in mass and velocity always left him a little disoriented, but they'd gotten away. He didn't bother asking for a damage report, instead focusing on the inside of his ship. "Get me full estimates on evacuees, how many wounded, how many dead." He then narrowed his eyes. "And get me Kai Leng and his prisoner to the brig. No one is to see them until we get back to Earth."
-USS Prometheus, Bridge-
Marks blew a sigh of relief as Prometheus reached the relay, at least five minutes before Everest would be able to make it. He checked sensors again, then double checked just to make sure. "Colonel, enemy motherships are not following. Looks like they're staying in orbit of Watson and recovering their bombers. Commander Shepard isn't among them."
Pendergast breathed his own relief and nodded. "Keep an eye on those motherships, if they make for us, jump through the relay." He turned to Miguel who monitored all information coming into the ship. "Any word from Shepard?"
"Yes sir." Miguel replied, Marks kept an eye on Everest, who slowly moved towards them at their own FTL speed. "Commander Shepard sent a burst transmission a few moments before we jumped, he's aborted the mission to infiltrate the mothership, and asked for us to wait for him at the next relay point. His estimate is 3 hours from now."
Pendergast seemed to relax, and nodded. "Good." He stiffened into the typical Colonel Marks knew, the one who could lead a battle like this. "Now, all stations give me damage reports and post-mission results. I want all pertinent information sent to my office in one hour." He got up and moved forward, circling the bridge and giving a look and nod of thanks to each officer.
As he passed Marks, Marks asked softly. "Sir, we didn't win that did we?"
Pendergast turned to him and gave a small, somber smile. "No. Lieutenant. But we survived and accomplished our mission. That's enough for now."
Marks wondered how long it would suffice.