One day we'll get to leave Eden Prime, but it is not this day!

"Corporal Jenkins, get up here," Richard L Jenkins heard from the cockpit of the pelican. With a heavy clap on Vega's shoulder, the drop trooper nodded to Lieutenant Alenko and made his way to the cockpit, ignoring the subtle lurching of the bird banking into a turn as it climbed into the skies of his homeworld.

The civvies looked up at him from the crash webbing as he strode past them, the woman shying away from his bulk as he swayed with the ship. The EOD variant of the Drop Trooper Armor was one of the bulkier variants, designed to withstand danger close ordinance as it was, but Jenkins didn't go through all the strength and stamina training for nothing. His armor was the very finest a soldier like him could ask for, and he had to be worthy of wearing it or it would crush him under its weight.

"Commander," the corporal said crisply as he entered the cockpit. He would have snapped off a salute, but the area was already cramped without his six foot two inch frame going ram rod straight.

"No need to be so formal, Richard," the redhead said, acknowledging the man's impulse to salute without saying it outright.

Lieutenant Commander Jane Shepard was right, of course. While they weren't as familiar as Jenkins was with Kaidan, Vega, or even Emile, they had still served together for six months, and she had provided intel, insertion, air support, and extraction for him and the other soldiers of the Normandy four times, not including this mission. She was as much a sister in arms as Vega, Kaidan, and Emile were his brothers in arms.

The desperate clinging to rigid formality only went to show just how nervous and worried he really was.

"Sorry, Shepard."

The redhead smiled, but remained focused on her instruments, "Don't apologize, I know you're worried. I need you in the copilot seat. You know where we're going and can help me make sense of the information I'm getting."

"Right," the corporal nodded as he hauled himself into the raised seat behind Shepard. His armor made the cramped space even worse, and he had to set his rifle off to the side and take his sidearm off to fit comfortably.

"It's a five minute flight to the AO, we've got two geth gunship analogues on our scopes right now, but they're too far out to intercept us before were on target."

"Can you get me a scan of tower L3?"

The former N operative punched a few keys with her left hand before bringing it back to the sticks, "Scanners should be on your board now."

Indeed, as Jenkins pressed a few keys, the screen lit up with the display of a very familiar tower. One point seven three kilometers tall, a quarter kilometer wide and a half kilometer deep, home to over one hundred thousand humans and still having room for entire floors dedicated to recreation, entertainment, and all of life's little pleasures.

It was also home to John Richard Jenkins, Addison Sue Jenkins, and Mary Elizabeth Jenkins, his father, mother, and sister respectively. Just a few years ago it had been his home as well, and he still knew the whole place like the back of his hand. Eighteen years he lived there, he watched it go from shiny and new, to worn and lived in. It was still a marvel of engineering and was well maintained by those who lived in it, but his childhood memories were putting pictures of chipped paint and metal that had long ago lost its shine in place of three dimensional blueprints. Stairwells with stubborn grime that stuck to the corners no matter how hard the cleaners tried to wash it out. Elevators that rattled every fiftieth floor, no matter how many times the iron workers greased the rails.

"Shuttle bays doors are all open, no shuttles left," Jenkins noted aloud as he went through the scans, "damage on the exterior consistent with starship grade lasers. I think that mega dreadnought was shooting down shuttles as they left."

"Can we land in one?"

The scan zoomed in on what they were able to capture of the different shuttle bay's interiors, "Drop us off? Maybe. Land? No. It looks like the geth might have tried using them to land troops, the ones I can see are full of debris. Looks like the residents were trying to prevent the geth from using them by filling them up with trash."

Shepard nodded, her hair swaying slightly as she banked the pelican around a hill side, trying to keep the craft as low as possible to try and hide their destination from the geth strike craft as long as possible, "Shuttle bays are a no go, any other options?"

"The roofs are designed to be able to land freighters on them. There's a massive freight elevator that rides along the spine of the building that we could probably land the pelican on, but you need a passcode to access it, and it has to be punched in manually into an old mechanical keypad."

"Could the geth have gotten into the tower that way?"

Jenkins shook his head, then remembered that there was no way Shepard could have seen him from the pilot's chair, "No, it's a mechanical keypad that uses pneumatic pistons to punch in the passcode into a closed circuit system inside the building. You can't hack it because it doesn't have a wireless connection, and you can't access it from the outside because there is no wiring on the outside of the building. The only way into the building without the passcode is blowing your way through half a dozen meters of concrete."

"So if you don't know the passcode…"

"You'd have to manually punch in codes until you stumble across the right one, which considering the passcode is twenty characters long, would take centuries, especially when it locks you out for three hours after three wrong attempts."

Jane turned her head to look back at the corporal, "Were you guys preparing for an invasion by AI's?"

"Theft, actually. A lot of resources were dumped into this colony, but we were too far away for the Alliance to patrol regularly or get regular shipments. Any big time piracy operations would have been devastating to Eden Prime."

The redhead nodded in understanding, "So we can get down on the rooftop, but we need the code… I'm still picking up transmissions from the tower, but I can't get anyone to respond to my comms requests."

"I still remember the code, provided they haven't changed it," Richard offered. He had worked for the tower's administration as a freight handler when he was a teenager. He wasn't entrusted with the passcode until his last year and he was the foreman's night shift crew lead, but he took the responsibility seriously, and had memorized the code to the point where even now, it came flooding back to his mind.

"Alright, we have a possible entry point into the tower, now we need to know the situation on the ground."

"Bottom fifty floors are dark on the hab tower, we've got nothing on the industrial tower, it's completely dark. Seems like the geth have completely ignored the agricultural tower," Jenkins said, bringing up the other two towers and their current power levels.

The bottom tenth of the hab tower showed no power, and the rest of the tower running on emergency solar panels and batteries. There were a lot of thermal signatures in the upper levels, a few in the levels right above the dark floors, and none in the dark sections, but geth didn't really show up on thermals, not through concrete, anyway.

The agriculture tower was completely powered up, and there were thermal signatures throughout. The connecting bridges between it and the hab tower were destroyed, the damage was consistent with mass accelerator fire, indicating the geth were fielding something with enough firepower to do some serious damage, whether it was a strike craft, gunship, or a tank analogue similar to what the commander had destroyed earlier.

Finally, the industrial tower was completely dark. Very faint thermal signatures that could either be pockets of survivors, or just heat bleeding from machinery that was still cooling down. The bridges connecting it to the hab tower were still up, but there were concentrations of thermal signatures at the entrances to all three bridges within the hab tower. Perhaps the geth were using the industrial tower to flank the tower defenders while their main thrust comes from the ground.

The courtyard between the three towers that served as a sort of commons area and an entryway into all three was filled with fires, creating a smoky haze that made it difficult to pick up movement or thermal signatures, but there were a few anomalies in the scans that the onboard computer of the pelican was suggesting were some sort of heavy geth unit, though the size would have to be half again as large as the armature at the warehouse Emile had. If the geth were packing super heavy units like that, it would explain how they managed to siege and successfully pen in tens of thousands of armed civilians. M7 Lancer wasn't as powerful as the Avenger, but in numbers it could whittle away just about anything, but against a tank on par with the MBT-66 Scorpion, you might as well be squirting water on it.

"We're pulling up on the AO," Shepard said over the intercom, "Everyone strap in, we'll be pulling a high G maneuver to get to the top of the hab tower where we will land on a cargo elevator. Corporal Jenkins will disembark to operate the elevator and get us inside where we will try and make contact with the surviving colonists."

Jenkins clipped the harness belt over his armor, snapping it tight with a jerk of his wrist. Faintly he could hear the rustling of crash webbing and seatbelts clicking together as the three marines, the three civilians, and Vega and Alenko all strapped in in the bay. He looked out through the ballistic glass and saw the grassy fields of Eden Prime whipping underneath him. A green track was laid out on the glass, a holographic projection of Shepard's plotted course, and the track shot up into the sky right at the peak of the next hill and raced along the side of the looming tower. Jane was trying to keep the ships exposure to the two possible super heavy geth units on the ground as minimal as possible.

The lieutenant commander yanked on the sticks and even through the mass effect field enveloping the bird, Jenkins felt himself get shoved back in his seat. The pelican's mass effect field did what it could to compensate, but within a gravity well, too much power was put into keeping the craft in the air and its barriers up when in atmosphere, that inertial dampeners was a low priority. This all resulted in the trooper clenching his thighs and abdominals to keep blood flowing up to his head instead of draining from it and knocking him out. Even as the very edges of his vision flickered, Richard kept his eyes on the instruments, knowing Shepard would be too focused on making the maneuver to take a look at the scopes and get confirmation on enemy ground forces in the brief gap they'll have.

Dust and grass clippings flew in the wake of the craft as it accelerated and turned upwards and shot past the earth works surrounding the three tower complex. For the briefest of seconds, the courtyard was in full view, and Jenkins nearly puked, and not from the six G's currently compressing his stomach. There were two absolutely colossal armatures. More than twice the mass, half again as large in volume, and sporting a plethora of heavy caliber weapons on its crane like head. They were the only enemy units on the ground, but they represented a level of firepower that was beyond what a squad of infantry or a bunch of civilians could take head on. Maybe a Disruptor Anti Tank rocket could get through the barriers, but the plastic explosives in the secondary detonation wouldn't outright destroy the armor.

In just a second, the pelican was out of sight of the two deadly tank analogues and rocketing up the side of the tower. The turn finished, and the acceleration cut to simply maintain ascent velocity, the G's slackened and breath and proper blood flow returned to his head. The scopes were showing the pockmarks in the side of the tower from gunfire and missile strikes, and the faces of residents staring out at them from windows as the transport blew past. The images were too quick for Jenkins to recognize any faces, not that he was likely to encounter anyone he was familiar with, considering the tower's population was the size of a small city.

"Coming up on the rooftop, ten seconds," Jane intoned from the pilot's chair, "Anything on the scopes, Corporal?"

"There were two superheavy walker units down in the courtyard," Jenkins replied, still evening out his breath and trying to fight the negative G's that were slowly shifting in and making his eyes feel like they were trying to push their way out of his skull, "Geth strike craft are still ten mikes out, but they've just pulled a u-turn and are headed our way now. Nothing else."

Richard could hear one of the civilians in the hold dry heaving as the negative G's tried to pull their stomach out through their mouth, and the trooper himself could feel the straps holding him in his seat snap tight. The view outside the canopy whirled as Jane once again yanked on the control sticks and Jenkin's insides flipped and it felt like all the blood that tried to leave his brain earlier was now trying to ram its way through any hole in his skull it could find.

But as quick as the feelings appeared, they disappeared, and the DT-77 was floating gracefully over the rooftop of the hab tower and Jane was making a visual sweep of the area to confirm no hostiles, "Visual is clear, Corporal?"

Jenkins quickly cycled the sensors from visual to UV to infrared, "All clear on scopes."

"Alright, I'm going to set us down and lower the ramp, Jenkins, get out there and get us inside before those strike craft show up."

"Yes, ma'am," he replied as he undid his straps and squeezed himself out of the copilot seat.

"And don't call me ma'am!" Jane yelled over her shoulder at him on his way out of the cockpit, causing the soldier to shoot back at the lieutenant commander.

"Yes, sir, sorry, sir!"

"You're on thin fucking ice, Richard!"

Smiling in spite of himself, the tall corporal nodded to his lieutenant as he passed and gave a friendly shoulder check to his fellow corporal on the way out of back of the craft. Vega gave him a shove back before turning to the marines and getting them lined out on securing the open ramp.

It was weird. Those marines were certified badasses at the digsite and the battle at the top of the hill, but as soon as that Chief Williams was gone, they turned into wide eyed shinies that had to be reminded to defend a vulnerable opening. Come to think of it, what the hell was a gunnery chief doing on a garrison posting? Jenkins wasn't complaining, she was awesome, but once a marine got past staff sergeant, usually those guys were serving on ships. First sergeant, master sergeant, service chief, those ranks alone were rare to find on garrison detail, but gunnery chief? There was only one higher enlisted rank in the Alliance Marine Corp, and those guys were usually the right hands of majors and colonels. Even generals usually retained an ops chief on their staff, you don't just hide that level of soldier on a backwater garrison.

But those thoughts were rudely shoved to the back of his mind as he clutched his MA5 Grenadier to his chest and stepped out onto the sun baked, cracked concrete roof of his old home. He hadn't been here for over half a decade, and yet nothing here had changed. Sure, there were some patches made on some of the bigger cracks, the graffiti was different, and it looked like the solar panels had been replaced in the meantime, but everything was right where it was when he was a seventeen/eighteen-year-old punk kid unloading freighters.

His boots thudded against the concrete as he moved his heavy frame, the keyboard for the elevator controls on a pedestal shrouded by a stainless steel hood to keep the glare off the old vacuum tube screen. The instructions on how to start were already displayed as the default screen, the same as it had always been, and Jenkins pressed the CTRL, ALT, and DELETE buttons in quick order, resulting in the sound of hissing pneumatic pistons as the system activated and readied itself for the passcode.

"Thin fucking ice, Richard," a voice crackled over his comms. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the nose of the pelican and a red haired, freckled face peaking out at him from the canopy. Jenkins simply gave Shepard a thumbs up, taking the check in for what it was, even if the words weren't strictly asking for a status report.

The screen went static and flickered for a second or two before settling into a blank line with a blinking star for a cursor. This is where the plan would fall apart if the hab tower had taken a single security measure in the past few years, but according to his dad, the passcode he had memorized when he became a crew lead was the same passcode the building had when it was built three decades ago. Honestly if the geth had just nabbed a person and asked them what the passcode to the roof was, the person they grabbed would probably have known. What had started out as a security measure was basically an annoyance at this point, a relic from time when pirates were a threat to Eden Prime.


It took weeks of reciting it for Jenkins to remember that code, but it was worth it. The pistons hissed and popped as they stroked, entering the keycode Richard had punched into the old mechanical keyboard into the cypher a dozen floors beneath them followed by a pause where there was only the quiet hum of the vacuum tube screen and the muted roar of the pelican's engines behind him. Once the cypher had processed the code, it responded with a rattatatat of a quick firing stud speaking in some sort of code to the isolated computer console.

Passcode: Accepted

Jenkins quickly selected the option to open the roof and lower the platform down. Each input was heralded by the hissing of pneumatics and replied to with the rapid clicking of the cypher responding with its own piston. The lag on this style of communication was horrendous, sometimes ten seconds passing before what he entered on the keyboard showed up on the screen, but while annoying, the tall soldier did have to appreciate the fact that even with all the mechanical complexity in the machine, it still worked without fail.

There was a big and deep kerchunk beneath the corporal's feet as he felt the locks on the elevator platform disengage and he disengaged from the console to make his way back to the platform before it got too far down when his comms crackled to life again.

"Jenkins, get down!"

The trooper hit the ground on instinct. Years of training instilling trust into any voice giving that order. Even as his chest plate scraped on the concrete, he felt something pulsing against his kinetic barriers on the backside. Quickly rolling over, the trooper spotted three geth drones shimmering in and out of existence as they pelted him with low caliber pulse rounds.

His MA5 snapped up and the orange reticle lined up with the leading drone. The rifle roared once in retaliation and tore the frail synthetic in half. The reticle shifted over to the drone to the right but the synthetic shimmered and disappeared into thin air. Looking for the other flyer, Jenkins watched the other one disappear from view.

"They're cloaked!" he shouted into his helmet mic as he scrabbled to his feet.

"Get your ass inside, Jenkins!" Lieutenant Alenko barked back. The retort of his own MA5 coming through the comm line a second after the roar of its shots rang through the open air. Several drones were shimmering in and out of the air and pelting the back of the pelican with pulse fire. Both the LT and Vega were responding with gunfire, but when your target could literally disappear, there wasn't much gunfire alone could do.

"Belay that," Shepard's voice cut in, her normally soft and happy voice suddenly as hard as steel, "We can't let the geth get access to the tower from the top. We've opened the door and we're on our way in, Jenkins you need to cover us and help us keep the drones out of the building."

"He'll be stuck out there!" Kaidan immediately argued, "How is he going to-"

"There's a roof access door, it's locked from the inside. Get inside, get up here, and let me in that way," Jenkins cut the LT off. He appreciated the man stumping for him, but Shepard was right. The survivors in the tower were still alive because the levels the geth had access to had no power, but if the drones got access to the active parts of the tower, then the lockdown the inhabitants had initiated would be broken and the whatever forces the geth had on the blacked out levels and whatever forces the geth had elsewhere, would be able to get in anywhere they wanted.

"LT, permission to join Corporal Jenkins defending the roof?" Vega asked over the comms, despite the fact he was right next to the man.

"Negative," Shepard overrode Kaidan again, "We're already too far down, and I need you to make the run up the stairs to let Jenkins back in. Richard, shut the roof access as soon as we're through."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Thin fucking ice, Richard."

Pulse rounds rained down around him, their lightened mass and phasic properties causing very little damage to the concrete, but they slid right through his shields and were repeatedly pinging off of his armor plates. If he'd been wearing an old hardsuit, he'd probably be dead, but the thick titanium plates of his DTC EOD armor proved enough of a barrier to the phasic rounds that he was able to duck into cover. Peaking out, he was able to see the top of the pelican drop below the top. Streams of mass accelerators, coming from the marines, and a few bursts of heavy slugs, coming from Alenko and Vega, lashed out at the swarm of drones that now peppered the entire craft.

Just as Jenkins was beginning to wonder why one of the drones didn't cloak and hide out with the pelican, one tried exactly that, only to be repulsed by the pelican's kinetic barriers and sent flying back. Shepard was using the pelican's kinetic barriers to force the drones back, which is why they were making attack runs, impotently lashing out at the craft's shields in hope that their weapons could break them, but the geth's phasic rounds didn't break shields, they slid through them, and if they didn't have the firepower to punch through Jenkins' armor, they certainly weren't going to punch through the pelican's armor.

The soldier emerged from his cover as his barriers reformed around him and sprinted for the terminal. A few of the drones were still paying attention to him, and phasic rounds rebounded and ricocheted from his barriers, though their phasic nature still allowed a few to slip through and bounce from his armor plates. He retaliated with a few shots, but the drones were maneuverable, and he wasn't catching them off guard this time.

As he ran, he opened the chamber on his forty millimeter grenade launcher and pulled a blue grenade from his belt. The tip of the shell was twistable, and Richard gave it a quick crank, setting it all the way to the left and slapped it into the chamber. His shields were draining fast, and a few pulse rounds were getting uncomfortably close to sliding between armor plates and testing the Kevlar undersuit. So, in with bullets not finding their target, and the geth getting closer to finding theirs, Jenkins held his MA5 over his shoulder and pulled the forward trigger, launching the shell from the grenade launcher and thanks to the timer being set to the very minimum amount of time, triggered the cluster of tech grenades within the forty millimeter container and unleashing a storm of electromagnetic pulses, shattering the shields, disabling the central processers, and the thrusters on all drones within a dozen meters.

It also had the unfortunate effect of hitting him with a horrific taser effect. His muscles locked up and he hit the ground, skidding across the concrete to the base of the terminal. The HUD behind his black visor went blank, showing only the tinted world beyond his faceplate. The effect on his muscles only lasted a second or two, as the lightning disappeared and gave way to static buzz, and Richard was able to force his tight, spasming limbs to haul himself to his feet and grab a hold of the terminal. Fortunately the stainless steel hood protected the vacuum tube monitor and the keyboard was immune to overloads. Staring at him from the green tinted glass screen was an option for two commands, and it took him two attempts to get his numb fingers to hit the correct key to move the cursor over the command to close the door, and another three to hit the enter key, but eventually he managed, and with the grinding gears sending vibrations through his feet, he knew the doors were closing.

Of course that meant he was now the sole target for the remaining drones. And, being AI, they were smart enough to know not to cluster together anymore, the overload grenade wouldn't work again. A bullet here or there wasn't enough to catch them off guard, particularly when they were slipping in and out of the visual spectrum. His only cover on this rooftop was ventilation fans, but they didn't exactly provide three hundred and sixty degree protection.

Another pulse round ricocheted off his back plate, two bounced off the steel canopy on the fan and struck sparks off his chest plate, just in time for his HUD to boot up. Alarms warbled through his helmet, informing him that his shields were offline, as well as comms, and his night vision, not that the last one would be particularly helpful under Eden Prime's noontime sun.

Luckily, his visor could still connect to the optic on his rifle, and he snapped his rifle up, finally able to delver accurate retribution. His first shot missed, the drones onto his game and never staying decloaked for long, and attacking from his flanks, but Jenkins was on to theirs as well, and pointed his head in one direction, and his rifle in another. True to form three drones rematerialized out of thin air on the periphery of his vision, or what his vision would have been, if his targeting reticle wasn't being displayed on his HUD.

The drones were no match for the 150 grain, brass coated, steel core bullets that tore two of them down before the third one jinked to the side and disappeared. There were more, at least four though it was impossible to tell with the way they cloaked and decloaked, but they seemed content to back off for the moment, wary of their foe and trying to put together a new strategy with their reduced processing power.

Jenkins took the reprieve to try and restart his armor's systems. Shields was first, as he blinked through menus and error warnings. The capacitors along his back were fried, meaning the system was struggling to start up with a hole in the barriers. The front capacitors were still functional, and the forward emitters were projecting their side of the kinetic barriers, but without the back half to help stabilize the field, they flickered out as soon as they appeared.

He moved onto his comm systems, only to find that the receiver was completely dead. Perhaps he might be able to broadcast something, but he'd never hear a reply. Problems like this was why they kept Alenko around, Richard wasn't a tech specialist. He knew how to turn his gear on and off again, but he had no idea how it worked or why it worked, and he certainly wasn't going to be able to fix it under fire.

Hopefully Vega didn't have trouble finding the staircase.

A pulse round slipped in through his malfunctioning barriers and glanced off his angled shoulder pauldron, except this one slid through the gap between his chest plate and shoulder pauldron and pierced his Kevlar.

With a cry, Jenkins ducked behind a ventilation fan, and found to his dismay that his first aid systems were also still offline. Normally medigel would be spread right into the wound to stop the bleeding, but now, he was simply pouring rivulets down his chest plate. Perhaps sensing weakness, two drones whizzed around his cover and uncloaked themselves, but Richard hadn't gotten into the Drop Troopers for nothing, and pushing through his pain, he brought his rifle up and let loose a burst, coring one cleanly, and catching the other one with a glancing shot which was cleaned up with exploding debris from the first drone.

He might have had a chance to stuff something into his wound, but the drones pressed the attack, as one decloaked and launched a strafing run, rattling a pair of shots off his helmet, and cloaking before he could retaliate. This was followed up by another strafing run, this one slipping a phasic pulse round in between his chest plate and hip, cutting cleanly through the Kevlar, and his torso, and lodging into the plate on his back.

"Anytime, Vega…"

A deeper thrum filled the air, overriding the high pitched electric whine of the small recon drone's thrusters. The trooper's head was swivelling trying to get a pin on the noise's location as he edged around the ventilation fan while bending over to minimize the spacing between his armor plates.

One of the remaining drones got too close, trying to finish off the wounded soldier, and received a thirty caliber slug for its efforts, leaving just the one drone and… and…

The lower thrum revealed itself as a trio of geth drones that looked nothing like the smaller, faster stealth drones he had been fighting. The two on the flanks were blue, and were approximately twice the size of the recon drones and sported a triple barreled mass accelerator that probably wasn't firing phasic pulse rounds, but those weren't as concerning as the red one in the middle, sporting three fifty millimeter rockets and a red targeting laser that was pointed right at him.

His MA5 was rising, the number twenty one displayed on the rifle, but he was too slow. Jenkins watched the red laser travel up the ground and onto his rifle and finally onto his chest, the movement was slow, as if it were in slow motion. Strange, he had been told that this is what near death experiences were like. Was he going to die?

An electrostatic explosion washed over the three attack drones, shields shorting out on each of them and the laser on the rocket synthetic spluttering out as its targeting scrambled. Time resumed its normal pace and the orange reticle snapped into place right over the red geth. The MA5 thundered and the robot detonated as one of the rockets took a bullet right to its fuel cell.

The turret drones on either side were just far enough away to avoid being destroyed by the explosion of their heavier counterpart, but they were not like the recon drones. They couldn't cloak, and they weren't anywhere near as fast, and the orange reticle found them as well. Four bullets tore the first turret drone apart, ripping the bottom mounted thrusters from the top and sending the turret tumbling to the ground more than a kilometer away while the thrusters shot up into the air, free from their heavy burden. The second one took a bullet to the optics and another one to a stabilizer and was sent twirling off into the distance.

Richard nearly relaxed, in fact he allowed the rifle to drop down for just a second before he remembered the remaining stealth drone that was still about, and staggered to a stand and began hobbling his way towards the rooftop access, a thick steel door that was normally held closed by a deadbolt, though now it was wide open. But where the trooper had expected to see the thick black and white heavy armor with the silver visor, there was a slim womanly figure covered in purple cloth complete with a purple faceplate.

Well, beggars and choosers and all that.

Jenkins lurched through the pain and barely avoided slipping in his own blood as his hip wound was dribbling the precious red liquid down his left leg and coated his left boot. He was as quick as he could be, well aware that every second the door was open was another second the cloaked drone had a chance to sneak through and gain access to the tower's power grid. The girl, who only had three fingers on her hands and the weirdest looking lower legs and feet he'd ever seen, seemed completely relaxed, and was about to step out of the threshold and onto the rooftop proper, but Richard put an end to that, putting on an extra burst of speed and shoulder bashing her right back inside.

The girl fell back with a cry, her voice partially modulated by her helmet, but Jenkins didn't have the time to say sorry as he turned to the door and reached for the barrier to slam it shut. As he did, however, the high pitched electronic whine of the recon drone's thrusters sounded in his ears, and from the darkness of the landing inside, the trooper saw something that had been much harder to see in the bright daylight.

A shimmer.

Ignoring the flare of pain in his gut, Jenkins jumped and took the impact of the recon drone right to his injured shoulder. Shouting in pain, he still managed to wrap both of his arms around the synthetic and ride it into the opposite wall where the pair slid to the ground on the other side of the purple girl. The cloak was still trying its hardest to keep the drone hidden, but sparks emanated from where Jenkins armor plating was touching the thing, and the blood dripping from his shoulder painted the drone's invisible barrier red.

The strange looking girl shot to her feet, and at first started towards Richard who had shifted to grab the barrel of the pulse rifle with his left hand and hold it away from his body as it started firing blindly. She was stopped, however, when the wounded soldier barked at her, "Shut the door!"

One splayed three toed foot halted her momentum and turned her back towards the door where she flung the heavy steel barrier shut. She turned back to the trooper again, but again, he shouted, "Lock the door, please!"

The drone started bucking the wounded soldier and Jenkins nearly lost his grip with his blood slicking the surface of the synthetic, but his left hand held firm, even as the barrel started to heat up. Heavy thudding on the staircase heralded the arrival of the man he was originally hoping to see.

Vega didn't hesitate for a second upon sighting his friend grappling with an invisible blood soaked, bullet spewing ball, and charged forward, adding his own right hand to Jenkins' left and slammed the barrel to the ground, and drew his Phalanx with his left hand and placed it against the drone.

"Well don't shoot me!" Richard cried as his body was on the other side of the synthetic.

"You're so picky," James grumbled as both corporals shoved the drone to the side where they could pin it against the wall. This time, there was nothing stopping the heavy trooper from shooting it…


"Oh come on!"

The purple girl slid in between the two burly soldiers, her strange three fingered hands reaching in towards the drone and expertly disconnecting one wire which immediately stopped the pulse rifle from firing. The machine redoubled its efforts to wrench its way out of their grasp, but another wire was pulled quickly from the machine and the thrusters shut down, leaving the drone as nothing but a dead weight.

"Hold it up for me!" the girl ordered, the two soldiers, each more than twice her size, instinctively following the authoritative command.

Her hands were quick, and in short order she was ripping off plating and pulling out screws, "Come on you bosh'tet!"

Something about that tickled at Jenkins memory, but currently the pain from two gunshot wounds were occupying the majority of his thoughts.

"Got it!" she shouted as she pulled a small black box from the drone, "You can let it go now."

"You don't need it anymore?" Richard asked, and when she shook her head, the trooper grabbed the thing by the barrel again and with a roar of pain and frustration, he smashed the thing into the wall several times, shattering the delicate frame of the drone. The sudden burst of movement and noise had the little lady jumping back and clutching the black box to her chest as her silvery eyes looked him over with fear.

"Sorry," Jenkins apologized as he let the machine hit the floor as he let it go, "I don't know if this is the one that shot me, but taking some frustration out on it felt good anyway."

"You're bleeding, man," Vega pointed out.

The taller trooper nodded, "Yeah, took one to the shoulder, and one to the hip, first aid systems offline in the armor, so are comms and shields."

"Open your omnitool," the purple girl said, tucking the black box into one of her suits pockets.

Jenkins' black visor looked over to Vega's silver visor in question, but the thicker soldier shrugged, so Richard did as the girl asked and held out his left palm, the orange interface opened up. She reciprocated the gesture, and was very quick at what she did, for in just a few seconds, the soldier could see his HUD flying through menus.

"Half the capacitors for your barriers are fried, I'm rerouting your rear emitters to draw from your other half. Your shields will be at half capacity, but they'll stop a bullet or two," she said, and surely enough, his barriers snapped to life at her words, "Keelah, how many bullets have you taken?"

"A dozen or so on my armor, only two made it past, which is why I'm still bleeding, by the way."

"Sorry," she stammered at the reprobation, and before long, the first aid diagnostic came up on his HUD, "The power circuit on the medigel dispensers is shorted. I can power them through my omnitool, but until they're replaced, someone will have to do it manually everytime."

As she spoke, Jenkins heard the medigel injectors cycle and felt the cooling and anesthetizing feel of his two bullet wounds finally receiving first aid.

"You good, man?" Vega asked as he watched the man's head roll back in relief.

"I've got a bullet in my shoulder, but the armor doesn't think there's any real structural damage," he replied, "One in my hip was a through and through, and I've got some stabilizing muscles that are compromised but…"

There was a hiss and the sound of foam being shot out of a nozzle as his a beige foam appeared at the creases in his hip armor where it immediately hardened.

"… the cast foam has me covered."


Both troopers looked over at the purple covered girl, with Vega finally asking, "Thanks for the assist, but who the hell are you?"

"Tali'Zorah nar Rayya. I was working in the industrial tower for my Pilgramage, who are you?"

"Corporal James Vega, Alliance Armed Forces, Drop Trooper Corp."

"Corporal Richard Jenkins, also DTC. I actually used to live in this hab tower when I was a kid. My parents and my little sister still live here actually."

The woman paused and seemed to focus on the taller trooper before her eyes brightened suddenly, "Oh! You're Lenny! Mary talks about you all the time!"

"… Vega is currently extracting Jenkins from the rooftop. We've made contact with whoever counts as in charge for this hab tower. They report that geth attacks have dropped off significantly since that super dreadnought took off, but every repair crew or security team they've sent into the dark levels has gone missing. There are two superheavy geth walkers in the main square between the three towers, I'm working on a plan to take care of them, but for now they're preventing any ground level exfil for the people in these towers."

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams listened intently to the voice coming over the radio. The Lieutenant Commander Jane Shepard that the marine had briefly met when the DT-77 had dropped off the turian SPECTRE and picked up the civilians. It was crazy to think that someone who amounted to a shuttle pilot was an O4, but it was just as crazy as an O5 leading single squad offensives from the ground like the also newly introduced, and far more intimidating Commander A239 standing just a few meters away on the tram. Ashley tried to think of the captain in charge of the 212 putting a weapon in his hands and leading from the front. The thought of that blowhard doing anything but signing papers and shouting at his NCO's was ridiculous. The guy would probably accidentally shoot himself instead of the enemy. But there was a reason he was leading the 212 on garrison duty, and not leading a company of marines aboard a cruiser that was a part of an anti piracy strike group. Perhaps Shepard and A239 are just what officers are supposed to be.

"Copy, geth seem to be bugging out everywhere else. They're sticking around there for a reason," the giant armored figure replied, his voice coming over the comm and the rushing air around them as the tram sped towards the space port.

The menacing form of the man was currently standing like a conquering hero with his right foot atop the smoking chest plate of a geth juggernaut, giant hammer twirling in his left hand, long shotgun slung over his right shoulder. The man seemed to have no self awareness, or was an incredible dork underneath all the titanium, muscle, and generally badassery. Either way, Ashley already liked him more than any other commanding officer she had. Hopefully she could get out of his command before he figured out whose granddaughter she was, and she had to have the image of Spartan of the Blitz ruined for her.

"Understood, Captain Anderson said the system is free of geth capital ships. They have to cycle their heat sinks and they'll be back on station for air support. Call it one hour."

"Hopefully the geth are willing to give us an hour," the… other member of the team mentioned.

The turian SPECTRE, Nihlus, unnerved her, and not because he was a turian. She'd seen turians, she'd seen asari, and had even seen the quarian on Eden Prime before. Aliens didn't bother her much, but the fact he was a SPECTRE, a covert Council agent and was being exposed to Alliance hardware and was brought in on what was supposed to be a big secret, the prothean beacon. Was it really necessary to have him along? And judging by the cold manner in which the commander had been treating the turian, he agreed with the gunnery chief.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she grumbled under her breath, only to catch it in her throat when the skull faced visor of the Spartan snapped to her. Williams could have sworn she was quiet enough to not be heard by anyone.

"Good question, Williams," A239 agreed, the piercing stare of the skull contrasting with the congeniality of the words, "What are you thinking, Nihlus?"

"Synthetics don't treat their soldiers the way organics would. It's possible that this is a delaying measure to keep us in one place, to keep our eyes here while they make off with their prize and destroy any evidence of their purpose here."

"Chief Williams, do you have any experience in EOD?"

Explosive Ordinance Disposal? "I know how to disarm a frag grenade, sir. But that's about it."

The visor turned to the black armored turian, who promptly shook his head, "I've taken apart a few IED's in my time, but nothing terribly sophisticated. Why do you ask?"

"I think you're right, synthetics don't treat their troops like ours would. They won't pull out their strike force before detonating demolition charges. Geth are just software, after all. They can just upload from their bodies right before they blow."

There was a subtle shift in their momentum, and the giant armored man turned back to the front of the tram, "We're just a few seconds out, I'll handle any demo charges. Just watch your fire so you don't start any unscheduled fireworks shows."

True to the commander's words, the space port was coming into view, and the wind that had been pleasantly cooling her sweaty face slackened, a stray lock of hair that had slipped out of her helmet swayed with the deceleration now that it wasn't being forced back by rushing air anymore. Even from here, still more than a hundred meters from the station, she could make out figures on the catwalk over the rails.

"Geth are already waiting for us."

"They're just excited to meet you," the commander said, causing the gunnery chief to look at him strangely, and was glad she did so she could see what he did next.

The Spartan slid the shotgun over his shoulder onto his back and hefted his hammer in both hands, seemingly testing the weight. He rolled it over in his wrists, then, as the tram slowed even more pulling into the station, he reared back and flung it at the shocktrooper standing atop the bridge spanning between each side of the tracks. The heavy steel and stone head of the hammer ripped right through the railway and easily caved in the chest of the white armored geth, but its momentum didn't stop there, as the synthetic was lifted up into the air and propelled over the other side of the bridge. Ashley had the perfect view of it as the tram itself slid to a stop squarely underneath the walkway, and she watched as the robot fell to the front of the tram, where Emile snatched the hammer handle just before the geth could hit the ground, separating the ancient looking weapon from its victim, who landed in a heap upon the diamond pattern steel floor of the tram.

"Let's go say hello." The quandary continues. Badass, or dork?

Ashley didn't have time to worry about that at the moment though, as a pair of geth troopers came down the stairs onto the landing next to their tram car. As she brought her rifle up, the dark armored robot on the right spasmed suddenly and its weapon began ejecting steam. Recognizing that one of the geth had already been removed from the fight, she focused her Vindicator on the one on the left and squeezed her trigger finger, peppering the geth's barriers with a trio of mass accelerator rounds. The synthetic's shields held, but flickered visibly under the close range assault, and another burst popped them like a bubble.

She quickly and instinctually reset her sights on the robot, lining the front post of her battle rifle up with the crease in the chest armor right where it dipped to allow the geth's neck to flex and rotate, trusting the recoil to walk her subsequent shots from the vulnerable junction, to the neck, and finally the optic. Just as she was about to pull the trigger, however, the geth's head exploded in a shower of sparks as a mass accelerator round punched through its optics.

Nihlus lowered his left hand, still holding the smoking barrel of a Carnifex, and leveled a white and black shotgun at the other one, who had finally stopped spasming only to receive two rapid blasts from the turian SPECTRE. The first one shattered its shields and sent a few pellets sparking off its armor, the second one shredded the synthetic and shower of sparks and white hydraulics.

"I had that one!"

"I'm sure you did," Nihlus commented snidely over his shoulder as he stalked forward, both hands on the shotgun.

Another geth came charging down the stairs, receiving a blast from the turian's shotgun, but before he could follow up with another shot, Williams tore its head off with a quick burst from her battle rifle. "I had that one," she snarked back.

"So you did."


A geth destroyer fell back, sparking, oozing hole in its chest and tumbled down the stairs past the human and the turian. At the top of the stairs, somehow, was the commander, racking the slide on his shotgun and turning the offensively loud weapon on a pair of troopers, and ripped them both apart with a single blast. The giant man pivoted on his toes and whipped his wickedly curved knife through the air and into the shoulder joint of a shocktrooper, causing the geth's shooting arm dropping slack and leaving it open for the commander to rush forward in a blur and punch his fist straight through bullet proof armor and tear out a sleek black box and crush it in his hand.

"Keep up," he barked back at the two of them as he retrieved his knife and reshouldered his absurd shotgun.

How did he get up there ahead of them? Had he gone by the other side? A quick glance as she hustled up the stairs confirmed that he had not, for there was no landing over there. Had he simply run past them? Ashley liked to think she would have seen such a large man run past her. When she reached the top and sent a burst into a trooper further down the way, Williams noticed a piece of railing that had been squashed down, like someone had stepped on it.

He had jumped up.

Sweet Jesus, what exactly is this guy?

Another pair of geth were quickly gunned down, and it seemed as though the synthetics were trying to hold the line here, like there was some sort of objective they were protecting, and the commander's words from earlier were tickling at the back of her mind. Were they guarding demo charges? What was their goal? To wreck the space port and give the colony one last middle finger on their way out, or was their delaying action to keep the only witnesses (that they knew of) to their goals right next to the bombs as they went off? How big were the bombs? How many?

All of these questions cluttered her mind, but fortunately instinct and training kept her rifle level and her movements concise as she cut down another geth with a triplet of bursts. She hadn't seen much combat in her life, real combat anyway. She's fought off a couple of pirate raids on her various postings, of course she never got a commendation, but the majority of her action had been simulated and she always scored in the top one percent of all marines to go through the same simulations. That's what got her moved up to gunnery chief. Her combat and command scores were too high to keep as a corporal and her performance in her scant few live combat experiences were too much to keep her as a simple sergeant. She was the latest member of a military family that stretched back beyond the First Contact War, and right now she was proving it.

Even if she looked a little bland and unskilled compared to the other two.

Nihlus was a whirlwind of tech attacks, shotgun blasts, and heavy pistol fire, but just watching him, the marine could tell he wasn't used to working with others, as he constantly snatched at his pistol to cover himself when Ashley was already covering him. And likewise, when Williams needed cover, the turian was nowhere to be found, forcing Commander A239 to cover her with his ridiculous shotgun.

Speaking of, the Spartan was a marvel to behold in combat, as he had been since she had first seen him in action killing the geth prime just a couple of hours ago. He was faster than anything she had ever seen, was more accurate than her best day at the range in perfect conditions, and he was freakishly strong. She had already guessed that his armor was offering some sort of mobility assistance, but Ashley wasn't sure that he wouldn't be superhumanly strong without it.

Just peaking at him from the corner of her eyes, just around the side face of her helmet, she watched him backhand a geth platform with an open hand, the almost careless looking strike was enough to cave in the hood like armor shape over the robot's single optic and crush the optic. The synthetic wasn't done yet, it didn't necessarily need eyes to work, but it did need its central power and signal cables, which the commander promptly severed with his wicked knife. The withdrawal of the knife, and the slash, and the re-sheathing of the blade was in one single fluid motion that was so fast, Williams wasn't entirely sure it actually happened.

Ashley couldn't afford to keep watching the man, despite how much she wanted to, because she was pushing up on a shocktrooper that was holding on to a spot behind two crates with all it had. The white armored robot was currently trying to suppress Nihlus who had ducked behind some structural steel, but thanks to the commander pulling all the attention on the other side of the tram rails, it was exposed to the marine when she opened up with a pair of quick bursts from her battlerifle.

The AI had quick enough reaction times to duck back into cover before her third burst could line up on the synthetic, but Ashley was already moving up, dropping her Vindicator to her chest and pulling her Carnifex smoothly. Right when she was approximately three meters from the opening the geth had disappeared into, it reappeared, barriers flickering back to life. It might has well had not bothered, as the hand cannon in the marine's hands bucked violently and sent a metal shaving through the robot's central processor.

Another regular trooper tried to step into its place, but Ashley was too close and was able to put the barrel of the powerful handgun inside its barriers and blew a hole clean through its torso in a single shot. Unfortunately, this left her open to her flank as a third geth attacked, forgoing its pulse rifle to simply grapple with her. One could have assumed, watching the commander ragdoll geth with the barest of efforts, that the synthetics weren't terribly strong.

They would be wrong.

The synthetic muscle coupled with powerful hydraulics overpowered her easily, and she felt herself lifted off her feet and slammed into the crate behind her. One of the three fingered robotic hands released her momentarily to readjust its grip and wrap the cold metal fingers around her throat.

Instantly all air was cut off from her lungs and all Ashley could do was gape like a fish out of water. Her omnitool was restricted from where the geth was holding her with its other hand, but her right arm was still free, and she used it to snatch the knife sheathed under the upper portion of her chest plate handle down. The corners of her vision were darkening. Her first strike glanced off the strange material that was vaguely metal like that the geth clad itself in, sending a pair of sparks flying from the contact. Black tendrils infiltrated her vision, slithering into the center of her sight. Her second strike, after flipping the knife around so she could stab down, was stopped cold by the same armor, only the excellent quality of the steel in the knife keeping the blade from snapping. Finally she reared the knife back up one last time and brought it down on the elbow joint of the arm currently choking her to death.

The knife punctured through they hydraulic lines on the inner half of the joint, spraying hydraulic fluid over the marine and causing the hand to slack and fall from her throat. Stars bloomed in her vision as air rushed into her lungs. Her head felt as though it were swimming in a sea of helium, and she nearly passed out as a result of not being strangled, but she held on.

Her arms weren't long enough to reach the geth, and the machine rotated its other arm to present only unyielding armor to her knife. As much as she struggled against the grip of the synthetic, the machine remained unmoved by her struggles. But Ashley hadn't been strength training for the past year and a half for no reason, and her legs were longer than her arms.

One, two, three powerful kicks to the inside of the geth's knee twisted the limb around and dropped the robot to its other knee and shook its grip on her loose. Still gasping for air, Williams grabbed the knife with two hands and plunged into the neck cables and worked the knife back and forth. Her initial entry squirted hydraulic fluid, and as she worked the blade, the optic began flickering as the power to the head was nicked and cut through the marine's ministrations.

Finally the robot went completely slack and she shoved the thing back, the heavy body clanking against the metal grating.

With no current threats, the gunnery chief brought her left hand up to her throat, rubbing the quickly bruising flesh and hoarsely coughing her lungs back into proper function. Ashley blinked away a few tears that had formed during her brush with death, and wiped at her running nose. She could hear gunshots outside the little space the geth had been trying to defend so hard, though the sound of pulse rifle fire was growing more distant. There was still plenty of geth weaponry, it was just being driven back, and it seemed as though the commander and the SPECTRE had pushed them back.

Ashley was about to get up and join them, when she took one last look into the space these three geth had been defending.


A geth body was slammed into the side of the opening. Its body was half broken by the impact, and slid to the ground where it was broke the rest of the way as the Spartan's massive boot pressed down upon the synthetic's chest and crushed it under his own weight, "You alright, Gunny?"

Still struggling with speech, she simply pointed at the large white object sitting on the grating.

Another set of footsteps heralded the arrival of the turian, "What's going on? We have the geth on the run, we should push while we… Spirits."

The white object was a bomb, but not just a bomb. A demo charge would have been bad enough. A five hundred pound bomb would have left quite the crater in the space port. A few others scattered throughout the port and the tram station would have left nothing of value behind. But that's not what the geth brought.

No, they brought a nuke.

The commander simply jumped over Ashley and landed bending the metal grating and causing the marine and the SPECTRE to jump in fear at how close he landed to the bomb. Nihlus was unable to smother a small cry as the Spartan leaned down and ripped the control panel cover off the bomb with a quick swipe, discarding the bent metal with disdain.

"Cover me, this may take a minute."

Williams stared at him for a few seconds before picking her Vindicator off her chest and followed the SPECTRE out into the walkways. The geth were reforming, having been given a reprieve by the discovery of the nuclear weapon.

"Shepard, Normandy, be advised. The geth have set nuclear weapons in the field. Yield is currently estimated at thirty five kilotons."

Father in Heaven, be merciful.

I feel like I'm dragging Eden Prime on too long, but I keep coming up for stuff to happen, and I had this whole story written out in my head for what was going to happen in the hab towers, but the more detail I put into it, the more I realized it would be a twenty to twenty five chapter story all by itself. It was this very Dead Space like story where they find that the geth have been mass converting tens of thousands of people into husks and experimenting to create new kinds of husks, and then there would have been the classic horror trope of everyone gets split up and hounded by the husks and the grotesque variants and they have to get the industrial tower up and running again so they could get the lockdowns working and isolate the husks from the survivors and a bunch of people would have died, but ultimately I couldn't make the timelines work out.