Pathfinder

Chapter 1
Clouds and Whispers

Foreword

Hello everyone, thought I get this little plot bunny out in the open before Andromeda hits. So this story will obviously be an alternate universe, but more so with the UNSC. Thought I'd flip the dynamic that I had going in my previous stories.

Author's note

Missanium is another name I came up for element zero.

Praecan is another term I came up for biotics (as in individual), and valis being the term for the ability.

Uncharted Space; Andromeda

Scott Ryder's boots hammered across the deck. He sprinted towards the shield barrier with a rifle in his hand. His armoured knees skidded along the ground as he slammed into the barricade, bracing himself against the smooth metal surface.

Plasma bolts burned through the air, splashing onto the ceramics and alloys. Ryder hunkered down; gripping his weapon as he was showered in sparks.

His heart thumped in his ears, his breath was ragged.

"Small" creatures that hobbled like goblins, shifted on one foot to the other as they fired ghostly green bolts. To their flanks where avian-like creatures from a prehistoric age. They hid behind circular shields as they harassed the Marines with homing weapons, before retreating back into cover.

Marines returned fire, fanning out across the hallway. Their weapons chattered, their slugs ripping into the creatures. Scott leant out of cover and launched an incendiary attack. The amber orb flew from his omni tool and homed in on the aliens.

The globe exploded, enveloping the creatures in a firestorm, and detonating their triangular packs.

"Push up!" Ryder ordered.

The Marines advanced in a leap frog. One section would hunker down and lay suppressive fire, while the other section pushed the advance. Then that section would buckle in, and provide cover fire. Rinse and repeat until the enemy had nowhere to go – or until they were all dead.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Marines braved the withering firestorm as they slowed pushed forward. A Private's shields overloaded under a cloud of emerald, a split second later, a half dozen violet shards stabbed into him.

The man didn't get a chance to scream before being torn apart in an explosion of magenta.

Ryder leant out of cover and fired a burst down range. The bullets caught one in the throat. It clawed and its wounds, desperately but futilely trying to stop the bleeding. The goblin-like creature was toppled over under a hail of fire, splattering the metal deck with glowing blue blood.

"Targets to our six!" a Marine cried.

A blue bolt of plasma smashed into him with staggering force, throwing the marine onto his back. The men whipped around and returned fire, coming to bear on two towering reptilians clad in blue.

Bullets bounced off the shields, sending ripples of cobalt over their form.

Ryder activated his Omni-tool and launched an overload charge. The wave of lightning burst forth from reptilian and leapt onto its compatriot. The pathfinder then cast a singularity in their midst, plucking the dead goblins off the ground.

Frustrated by the obstruction, the reptilians violently shoved the goblins out of the way.

Ryder's jaw tensed in frustration, the reptilians remained firmly the deck. A singularity was strong enough to pluck a Krogan off the ground. But these reptilians, they were bigger – and swift and graceful like the asari.

The reptilians ducked and strafed. They moved with such speed and precision that should be impossible for creatures of their size.

Scott and a fellow biotic generated warp fields, hurling the bolts of violent energy towards their target. The unstable orbs ran true, washing over the reptilians. Another biotic followed up with a powerful shockwave.

The wall of cobalt rippled through the air and collided with the warp field. The explosion was deafening, hurling the reptilians against the bulkhead. Seeing the opening, the marines quickly dogpiled the aliens in a hail of gunfire.

Purple blood spilt onto the deck as flesh, bone and armour were pulverised. The smell of fresh tar wafted through the air, followed by something foul.

"Deck three, section three is secured," Scott radioed.

"Copy that, Deck three section three secured," came the response. "Move to section four, we've lost contact with the security teams there."

"Copy, moving to section four."

The Marines fell in behind Ryder, and broke into a light jog down the hallway. Reaching the doors, the security team stacked up on the left side, with Scott taking second spot behind Krill.

"Breach," he ordered, popping open the doors remotely.

The Marine behind him, Davis, prepped a drone and tossed it through the hatch.

"Looks clear," he said.

He punched in a few commands on his Omni-tool, activating the flashbang function on the drone. A powerful bright light swept through the hatch as a thunderous clap rolled through. Krill went through the door and broke left. Scott quickly followed and then broke right. The rest of the squad filed in and fanned out.

"Looks like we're clear," he said.

"RAARRGH!"

Scott jumped at the guttural roar. His eyes caught site of a fiery blue blade, crackling in the air. He dodged left, letting the weapon sail over his head, and burn into the bulkhead. Wispy eldritch followed in the blade's wake, tingling against his skin.

Ryder pushed off from the bulkhead with explosive force. The biotic shockwave bashed the hulking reptilian back. The pathfinder rolled into a crouch and raised his weapon. The rifle roared in rapid succession, hurling slugs at terrifying speeds.

The Marines turned to face a new threat, this golden armoured reptilian.

With an ear-splitting guttural roar, a biotic wave exploded from the alien, picking the Marines off the deck. The troops quickly recovered and brought their rifles to bear.

Ripples of ion blue rolled across the reptilian – shields. The creature was unfazed and charged into the hail of fire, firing back with plasma bolts. Davis copped a barrage into his chest. His shields over loaded and his armour melted away, letting the scent of burnt flesh waft through the air.

The Marine was dead before he hit the ground.

Zig-zagging through the formation, the reptilian hacked and slashed at anything in range. It impaled Krill against the bulkhead, before slashing forward at another Marine. Krill slumped on the deck, his armour still glowing red hot.

Panic gnawed at Scott's mind. This damn thing was unstoppable.

His weapon flashed red; the thermal clip was reaching saturation. Then it hissed, venting the heat. Ryder gritted his teeth, hurling a warp field and a blast in quick succession. The alien staggered underneath the powerful blows but the shield was still there.

Scott phased back, using his biotics to put distance between him and the unstoppable juggernaut.

"We're being overwhelmed in section four, requesting back up!" Ryder barked.

He didn't have time to listen to the reply before the reptilian cut down another Marine, and melted another's head off. A biotic corona leapt from its arm and smashed into Scott's chest. The bulkhead rushed to greet him, sending a lighting of pain through his lumbar.

If it wasn't for his armour, the hit would've crushed his chest and broken his back. Realising that he had dropped his rifle the pathfinder drew his sidearm and fired.

The damned shields were still there.

Scott deployed multiple drones, including a defensive one to boost his shields. Rockets, flame and incendiary rounds rushed to meet the reptilian. The pathfinder had deployed enough to overwhelm a krogan.

But this thing was no mere krogan.

It leapt forward with its biotics, slashing through the drones or outright shooting them in a graceful and deathly dance. The remaining Marines retreated, firing and swapping out thermal clips hastily.

Ryder continued to stubbornly fire and hurl biotic attacks, praying that drones would bring the damn thing's shields down.

He hadn't even noticed the bulkhead next to him open. Cora Harper and Liam Kosta surged through with their teams of Marines and focused fire on the reptilian.

The creature ducked and strafed, countering with its own firepower and biotics. It was unnervingly accurate, forcing some of the Marines to activate their Omni-shields to buy extra protection. Surging forward in a beam of light, the golden armoured reptilian smashed into shields, knocking the Marines over.

But before it could claim another life, Cora blasted the thing off of its feet. She then followed up with a warp, and Scott added another shockwave. The resulting explosion was deafening, shaking Scott to his core.

He aimed his pistol and fired. Slugs dented or bounced off the thick gold armour, but none penetrated the plates. He quickly shifted aim, honing in on the body suit and the exposed maw.

Hypervelocity slugs ripped through the body suit and punctured the chest. The alien roared, mandibles flaring as it hunched down for one savage charge. It pushed off the deck with its powerful legs, closing in on Ryder. The pathfinder continued to fire, he shifted his aim higher. A bullet tore off the mandible in a cloud of violet blood, but the reptilian continued like an unstoppable krogan.

By all rational thought, he should've retreated like everyone else, but he didn't. He needed to force the thing on its back foot so they could kill it.

Scott enveloped himself in a biotic field and surged forward. His charge came to a near jarring halt as he slammed into the reptilian, knocking it off its feet. He pressed his advantage and fired into the thing's maw. But at this range, it was easier said than done.

It tucked in its chin, letting the helmet bear the brunt of the hit. A powerful fist connected with Scott's stomach, cracking the plates and knocking the air out of his chest. The plasma weapon fired, splashing onto his shields, and overloading them.

He felt the heat wash over his arms, and then, he was enveloped in blue. The world quickly disappeared from sight.

Cora had pulled him off of the reptilian with her biotics, just as the plasma blade sailed into the air where he once was. It quickly recovered and got back to its feet. The plasma weapon dropped, probably out of charge, that didn't mean the alien was any less dangerous.

Ryder hurled another biotic blast at the alien; the cobalt shockwaves tore through the air and hammered into the reptilian's chest. The Marines had deployed more drones for additional firepower, and under that punishing barrage, the plates cracked.

The reptilian keeled over and crumbled onto the deck in a pool of its own violet blood.

Taking a moment of respite, Ryder leant against the bulkhead and cycled through the thermal clip.

"Holy fuck," Harper cried. "Don't you ever pull a stupid stunt like that again!"

"Thanks," Scott said breathlessly.

The battle was won, but a lot of lives were lost. Hyperion's crew were already waking up others who were still in stasis to replace their numbers. According to the security footage, that golden reptilian had cut its way through dozens of crew members and doors before reaching Scott.

A small part of him hoped that those golden devils would be a rare occurrence, but somehow, he doubted it. It towered over krogans and moved far more swiftly than an asari commando.

But the danger was over now. No point dwelling on it.

"We're on auxiliary powers, almost dead in the water."

Almost dead, meant practically dead in this case. They weren't going anywhere anytime soon.

"Not the welcoming I was expecting," Alec Ryder said.

"Yeah, me neither dad," said Sarah, Scott's older twin.

She'd been lucky, light casualties on her end; she didn't run into any reptiles wielding a plasma sword.

"What did we wake up to?" Scott asked.

"Hell if I know," Alec answered. "But this was what we received on open channels right after we left the energy cloud."

"It was powerful enough to get to our sensors," the shipboard VI added.

"Sam, play the recording," said the Captain.

"This is Rear Admiral Danforth Whitcomb of the UNSC Lawbringer, we've suffered heavy damages and…"

The broadcast turned to static.

"It's in English," Cora stated. "Sounds like a Texan – sorta."

"I don't like this, Alec," the Captain said.

"Protocol clear, in the absence of communication with the Nexus or the other Arks; we are to proceed to our appointed golden worlds," Alec reminded. "Solid ground."

"If it's even out there," the Captain exasperated. "No one said anything about going through the energy cloud, hearing that, and being boarded. We don't know what we've hit, or what we've run into."

She didn't need to say what everyone else was thinking. There was something awfully wrong here; alien boarders with advanced tech, fighting as if they were in some kind of war.

Scott's eyes followed his father's, focusing on the amber energy cloud that sparked like a flame inside crystals.

"Alec," the Captain interrupted. "I need to assess the damage, stop the bleeding. We got twenty thousand people asleep on this ship. Let's give them a chance to wake up."

"Can you blame her?" Cora whispered.

"My father's got a point though," Scott said. "Solid ground is sounding pretty good right about now."

"Pretty good is not good enough," Alec asserted. "Especially not here."

"Yes sir," Scott responded.

Internally, he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at his father's snappish comment.

"Take a look at this," the Captain pointed.

The planet came into view, but immediately in front of the Hyperion was a field of dead ships. Some were still rotating listlessly, with angry red scars across their hulls. There was enough tonnage here to make the Council species cry.

"My god."

The emerald planet glistened in the back, but there was a blackened charred mass stretching across its surface.

"Is that our golden world?" the Captain asked, with dread lacing her words.

"That's Habitat Seven, new Earth if we're lucky," Alec commented. "All our scanners told us it was in the green zone."

The older Ryder brought up the original planet scans. The difference was plain to see.

"It doesn't even look the same," the Captain said, frustrated.

"We should investigate further," Scott said. "We're dead in the water. We need to know if there are more of them, and know more about the broadcast."

"Sam?" Alec asked.

"The unknown phenomenon is dampening our sensors, planetary conditions are unknown," the shipboard VI answered.

"We're marooned," Alec affirmed. "Twenty thousand souls adrift at sea. When the power runs out and stays out. And when they return."

The Pathfinder pointed at Habitat 7.

"We need to know if that's safe harbour," he said gravely.

"And if it's not?" the Captain asked.

"Then as Lead Pathfinder, it'll be my job to find us another alternative. It's what we trained for, but if this goes well, we're already home."

"Alright, just make it quick," the Captain agreed.

Alec walked towards the doors, past Cora.

"Harper, the rest of the teams should be ready by now. Have them spin up two shuttles," Ryder ordered. "Planetfall in thirty."

"Yes, sir."

The two left the bridge, leaving the Captain and Scott alone for a moment.

"A stubborn one isn't he?" she said tiredly.

"He cares in his own way," Scott said kindly. "Enough to give him a chance."

"I suppose you're right," she sighed. "He is our pathfinder. If this doesn't work out, we'll need him more than ever."

"I need an ETA on our sensors repairs," the Captain said, walking towards her crew. "We're blind out here."

Scott turned his attention back onto the main display. He could see flashes erupting from the dark side of the planet. An uneasy feeling settled onto the back of his neck as heat pooled between his shoulder blades. This was what he left the Milky Way for? He gave up his old life for adventure, and in return this was what he was getting?

Ryder could almost curse himself for being so naïve. But self-pity would help no one. There was a job to be done, and a new galaxy that needed to be explored.

Afterword

Well everyone, I hope you enjoyed that little plot bunny. Leave a review and tell me what you think. The UNSC's segment will be the first thing on the next chapter once I have it finished.