August Bradley moved towards the edge of the colony, where a new set of defense cannons was being set up. While Prodromos was a science colony first and foremost, they had learned from the previous two outposts, Resilience and Promise. The Andromeda Initiative would not be caught defenseless again and to that end, they had awoken one of the engineers from stasis on the Hyperion. August glanced down at first datapad he carried that contained the dossier, rereading it.
Name: Colt Clarke
Hair: Dirty Blonde
Former Career: Combat Engineer, Staff-Sergeant, Human Systems Alliance.
Specialty: Structural Engineering, Defensive Fortification Construction, Electronic and Systems Engineering.
Bio: Born in the Attican Traverse, Mr. Clarke spent his time on ships and on newborn colonies in the region. According to records, he is considered something of a homegrown prodigy; self-teaching himself the basics of engineering in lieu of formal training. This was brought to light when he joined the Systems Alliance Marines Corps, in which he was distinguished from amongst his classmates for his aptitude with defensive fortifications, and his ability to create simple electronic devices and explosives from few supplies.
Up-jumped to the rank of Sergeant, Sergeant Clarke learned leadership quickly; his experience throughout the colonies and across numerous star ships allowed him to learn and adapt to new individuals quickly. His leadership style, however, conflicted with his superiors', in that he would always prioritize his men over the mission. Sergeant Clarke rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and remained there for the rest of his short military career; his loyalties to his men preventing him from ingratiating himself with his superiors.
His eight year career with the Alliance end amicably; his retirement party was filled with squadmates he had brought home, friends he had made along the way, and even a few officers who's careers he had saved by knowing the right people. Afterwards, he sold his apartment, most of his nonessential possessions, and disappeared back into the Attican Traverse, going from colony to colony, helping to build colonies, their defenses, and preparing their people. Recruited shortly before he boarded ship for the colony of Horizon.
Bradley looked up as he reached the edge of the colony; the southern most portion that faced towards the Outlands Spire. Bradley's eyes barely caught the places where the cables from the generators to the turrets were dug and was surprised when the large turrets were meticulously concealed behind almost natural-looking rock formations. Standing next to one formation was ex-Staff Sergeant Colt Clarke, tapping away at his omni-tool while a floating VI ball chirped next to him.
"Well yeah, I want the targeting protocols to be fine-tuned, not hair-triggered! The last thing I want is for some poor rodent to hop on by and get blasted by a mass-accelerated slug and break the turret's concealment!" Colt told the VI, who chirped some more, turning towards Bradley. Colt turned, revealing a weather-beaten face and a slowly growing beard. The smile that followed was quick and easy.
"Afternoon, sir!" He called. "Blink, sign off for me buddy." The VI beeped once and disappeared.
"No need to call me 'sir', Mr. Clarke, you know the drill." Bradley said, extending a hand, which Colt took. "Sorry to interrupt, but something big came up." He handed Colt a datapad, which the young engineer read quickly.
"Oh that's not that bad; while we're at it, we might as well go back and grab the Citadel to bring it back." Colt scoffed, handing the datapad back to Bradley and moving past him towards the colony.
"It has to be done though; the Pathfinder's gone on some mission away from the Nexus, which leaves only us to get the job done! We can't have come this far only to have the Kett wipe it away again!" Bradley protested. "We need your help!"
"I know you do; that's why I'm getting explosives!" Colt answered over his shouldered. "Do we still have those mining charges, the small tube-shaped ones?"
"Yes, why? The Militia are bringing theirs." Bradley said curiously. Colt scoffed.
"They'll bring too few and they won't do the job; the mining charges we have will do it." Bradley watched as Colt's arm whipped up, bringing his omni-tool to bear, his fingers running over the holographic keys. "How much time do I have?"
"You have until nightfall until-"
"Perfect!" And off Colt went, half-jogging, half typing and making calculations. Bradley looked once more down at the dossier.
"They oughta change prodigy to registered pyromaniac." He muttered under his breath, then went back to the colony. He had some more work to do before the Militia arrived.
In orbit over Eos
The large shuttle that would typically haul cargo or prefabricated buildings had been converted into a short-range troopship. A small armory was bolted to the stern of the compartment, benches and cots lined the interior, and a small medbay was curtained off towards the front of vessel. Inside were fifty-two members of the Andromeda Initiative, forty-four of them were Nexus Militia. Until a more permanent solution could be achieved for Prodromos, Director Tann authorized an enlarged garrison at the colony site, much to the chagrin of the science community there. They brought with them enough materials for a rough barracks, with the promise of more materials on-site.
The other eight, however, were not technically apart of the main Militia anymore; instead, they formed the first two teams of the APEX program; a spec-ops unit for the Initiative. Three turians, two humans, a salarian, and two asari made up the teams, a mix of all the Nexus had to offer right now. With the departure of the krogan and the delayed arrival of the quarian ark, the diversity of the Milky Way species was somewhat skewed.
The shuttle began its descent into the atmosphere of Eos as one of the shuttle's crew approached one of the turians.
"Lieutenant Natanian," he called, and a turian with red clan markings turned to face the crewman, "we've got a transmission for you and your team; Mayor Bradley from Prodromos."
"Put it through here." Natanian said, and the group turned towards a viewscreen mounted on the wall. A moment later, the crackling image of August Bradley appeared, the image fizzing in and out as the shuttle descended through the atmosphere.
"APEX, welcome to Eos." Mayor Bradley greeted. "I'm glad Director Tann was able to push resources our way." The underlying message was clear: Tann didn't want to lose face with the Nexus and the Pathfinder, so he sent what he needed to. Everyone agreed with Bradley.
"We're glad to be of service, Mayor Bradley," Natanian agreed, "have you had any more run-ins with the Kett?"
"Negative, it's been clear down here. But, as I'm sure you've been briefed, sensors and a survey team have recently seen an up-tick in Kett activity to our southwest, in the direction of the Outland Spire. We don't know what it is, but we'll be damned if we end up like Sites 1 and 2."
"We'll make sure that doesn't happen, Mayor Bradley," one of the asari with light purple skin reassured, "we were briefed that we'd be meeting a contact on the ground; who is he?" She had the name "Tel'Arra" stenciled on her chest plate.
"Engineer Colt Clarke; he's been working on our defenses on the ground. I'll patch you through to him." Bradley disappeared as the screen went black for a minute. The APEX teams looked at each other in confusion as the seconds whittled down, then the viewscreen crackled to life once more.
"Howdy ya'll!" Came the voice of Colt Clarke. The thick cowboy sounding accent caught everyone off guard, and the two humans began to laugh behind their hands at the absurdity of the accent. "'Pologies for the wait, I had to put the finishing touches on something I've got cooking for ya!"
"Engineer Colt Clarke, I presume?" Natanian asked.
"Yes sir, at your service! Kandros asked me to help ya'll out once ya got here." Colt replied.
"I'm Lieutenant Palos Natanian, APEX Alpha Team leader. What can you tell us about the area we're going into?"
"The Outland Spire's about as rocky as the rest of the region, but blessedly, the direction the Kett are reportedly coming from is downhill from us. We've got a few long drops before the lake out there, good cover, but plenty of open ground for the Kett to catch us in."
"I thought you were the defensive engineer; how do you know so much about the land out there?" A second turian asked. Colt's eyes swiveled to the turian, who had white markings on his carapace.
"What's your name?"
"Sergeant Velna Barbadonis, Apex Bravo Team." Velna introduced, narrowing his eyes.
"Well, Sergeant Barbadonis, I wouldn't be much of a defensive engineer if I didn't know the lay of the land, the best place to make traps, the best places for a holdout, or the best places to conceal heavy turrets to blast the Kett into nothing in a well-timed crossfire." Colt replied hotly.
"That's enough," Natanian stepped between the two, "Mr. Clarke, you said you had something in the works for us, what is it?"
"Blasting charges! I'll explain more once ya get here." Colt said as the viewscreen began to sizzle out.
"Entering the stratosphere; comns are going dark here." The pilot reported.
"We'll meet you on the ground, Mr. Clarke, APEX out." Natanian cut the call as Colt popped a quick salute.
"I don't like it boss; our first op and we're relying on some country bump-kin to help us out?" Barbadonis said skeptically. "It sounds like a recipe for failure."
"Hey, cut the country boy some slack; we love those guys when they come through the unit." One of the humans said, wearing a more heavily armored Militia hardsuit with the name "Anders" stenciled into his upper-right chest plate.
"I dunno man, I've seen some of those guys in action; they can be some of the weirdest people out there." The other human, a man of African descent, countered. He wore an Initiative scout hardsuit with the name "Jefferson" stenciled onto his chest plate.
"You guys have problems with country-folk too?" The other asari, this one with teal skin and the name "Vi'Soro", asked.
"I can't count the number of times colonists took potshots at me and my team," Jefferson said, "thank God for kinetic barriers!"
"At least they shoot at you," Vi'Soro huffed, "asari colonists use their biotics first and throw you around."
"Do they have shotguns like our colonists do?" Anders asked.
"Yup, and most of their mates are either turian, krogan, or batarian."
"Looks like it isn't just the offspring that get the partner species' genes." The sole salarian with reddish-tan skin and a bent right horn observed. The name "Valaor" was stenciled on his chest.
"You ain't kidding," Jefferson agreed, "most of the ones who took a potshot at me had decent rifles; one of them had a Widow somehow."
"See that's what I like about the Hierarchy," the third turian, this one with blue markings said, "they see military and they relax, sometimes they break out the good stuff for us."
"Another of your tall tales, Specialist Macnus?" Natanian asked skeptically.
"Sir, you wound me! Would I ever do such a thing?" The specialist asked mockingly. Everyone chuckled as the shuttle stopped rattling.
"T-minus five to Prodromos; prepare for arrival." The co-pilot announced. The two APEX teams did a quick gear check as they felt the shuttle's descent begin to slow. Exactly five minutes later, the ship rumbled as its landing jets fire, the landing gear lowered, and the pilots eased the vessel into the sandy ground of Eos. An alarm klaxon blared as a door opened, a ramp descended, and the Militia platoon began to file off the shuttle. The APEX teams waited briefly before disembarking into the cool night of Eos.
"Welcome everyone, thank you all for coming! My name is Mayor August Bradley, and this is Prodromos; we've got a rough barracks site set aside for you, and several of my colonists will be acting as your liaisons while you're here. If you have any questions, please direct them to the liaisons." Came the voice of Mayor Bradley. A human female stepped forward; the lieutenant in command of the platoon and began conversing with Bradley as Natanian scanned the colony. Off to the side with a cart of cylindrical devices stood Colt Clarke with his omni-tool out and a small VI drone hovering off to his side. Natanian motioned and the APEX teams followed him over.
"Do me a favor and run the diagnostics again." Colt told the VI, who beeped in response. "I know it'll be the third time, but I'd rather not have these go off in our friends' faces, ya get me?"
"Mr. Clarke?" Natanian called as they approached. Colt turned as the VI preformed the requested diagnostics.
"The one and only!" He greeted. Colt was wearing an Initiative's engineer hardsuit with what looked like jury-rigged System Alliance armor molded onto it.
"Glad to meet you in person." Natanian extended a hand and Colt took it enthusiastically. "As I said on the shuttle, I'm Lieutenant Palos Natanian, Alpha team leader. This is Corporal Falia Tel'Arra, former biotic security" he indicated the asari with the light purple skin, "Vic Anders, formerly of HUSTL-1, and Scout Specialist Avery Jefferson, former System Alliance military."
"Traverse or Terminus?" Colt asked Jefferson.
"Both; they threw me around." Jefferson answered.
"Ooo, I sympathize." Colt said, wincing. The salarian, Valaor, stepped up.
"My name is Lieutenant Sogum Valaor, former Salarian Special Tasks Group and Bravo team leader."
"Nice to have our friendly neighborhood spook on the team." Colt greeted, extending his hand, which Valaor took.
"This is my team, you've…met Sergeant Barbadonis," the turian nodded curtly; Colt smiled back, "this is Specialist Kalia Vi'Soro, former asari huntress, and this is Specialist Serus Macnus, former turian military."
"A pleasure to meet all of you folks," Colt said, "as for me, I'm Colt Clarke, former staff sergeant in the Systems Alliance. I served as a combat engineer for eight years before I retired and started working in the Traverse as a defense contractor, building and improving colonial defenses. If you still got doubts about my combat talents, ask Bradley or Kandros for my dossier, and that'll tell you all you need." The VI drone beeped behind Colt; the diagnostic was complete. "Now, I've got two other introductions to make, boys?"
The VI drone hovered next to Colt as another metallic drone shot up from his lower back and formed just over his shoulder. A small turret drone came to life and spun its gun barrels at the eight APEX members in greeting.
"This is my good buddy Blink; he's a VI drone I made to help with my work, and he helped me in my squad leader days. This energetic piece of work," he indicated the turret drone, who landed on his right shoulder and began to scan the area, "is RATT; he also helps me out, though in a more direct way then Blink does."
"What's his name mean?" Vi'Soro asked. Colt grinned like a mischievous child.
"Rat-A-Tat-Tat." It took a moment, but the other eight understood the pun and let out a collective groan. Colt chuckled. "In all due seriousness, RATT and Blink are invaluable to me, both in the engineering field and on the battlefield." Colt looked to the team leaders. "If ya'll wouldn't mind, can I get access to ya'lls omni-tools and hardsuits?"
"Why? What purpose does it serve?" Barbadonis asked. Natanian warily gave him access and watched as his helmet HUD suddenly changed; a small map appeared, along with the status of Blink, RATT, and Colt.
"You have them networked." He said.
"Exactly; Blink provides a constantly updated view of the battlefield based on our hardsuits and omni-tool data. He provides shield boosts, medical support, and electrical bursts to anyone who gets too close. RATT uses that data and provides fire support where necessary; suppressive fire, direct fire, the works." Natanian nodded to the rest of the group, who gave access to Colt. Soon, they could all see each other on their HUD's in small displays. "Now, let's get to good stuff." Colt turned and retrieved one of the cylindrical devices from behind him. "This is a jury-rigged mining charge, changed into a directed blasting charge. I call them the 49ers."
"We brought our own charges." Barbadonis said, hefting a belt of charges.
"How many did you bring?"
"Eight of them, enough to blow a Kett generator."
"Cute, but you realize the Kett have small scale power generators for their structures, right?" The eight APEX members were silent. "Quick lesson on Kett structures; they know big power generators means a big target which leads to a strike team slapping a det charge on it and blowing the base to kingdom come. The Kett are actually smart and build structures first, slap on the electrical stuff after, connected to a series of generators."
"Again, how do you know this?" Barbadonis asked.
"Ask the two Kett outposts I brought down. First one, I learned the hard way, same way as you."
"But those are low-yield charges, not enough to destroy any base." Valaor noted.
"That is correct…so I made twenty-seven of them." Colt stated. Everyone blinked.
"How did you-"
"When the Alliance gives you a pile of shit and tells you to make lemonade from it, you learn how to make lemonade from anything." Colt answered. Natanian shook his head.
"How do they work?" He asked, stepping forward and taking a charge. Colt walked the group through the usage as Bradley approached.
"Everything good to go, here?" He asked.
"Good to go, sir." Natanian answered as he buckled the three charges together on his back.
"Glad to hear it; I've got a transport on standby for you, it'll get you to the Outland Spire ASAP."
"Actually, sir, if you don't mind, we're going to go on foot." Valaor said as he too strapped his charges to his back. "That way, the Kett won't hear us coming." Bradley nodded approvingly.
"Kandros found some good people for this APEX program; I'm afraid you'll talk Mr. Clarke from us if you get the chance." Bradley said.
"Awww, so you do think about me!" Colt exclaimed with a shit-eating grin. Bradley rolled his eyes.
"On second thought, take him as far away from me as you can!" Colt laughed as the last charges were strapped to backs and the eight APEX operatives stood ready to go.
"Sergeant Clarke, mind leading us to the Outland Spire?" Natanian requested.
"Certainly, follow me." Colt gestured for the others to follow, and Bradley watched as the group moved away and out of Prodromos…and prayed he would see them again.