Once again Jane headed for the conference room. The trip through the relay had gone better than expected, considering the whole IFF problem. The Normandy ended up crashing on the Collector base but her crew was working on getting her back into the air. But Jane couldn't worry about that now. Next up, they needed to form a plan to end the Collector threat and hopefully make it off the base in one piece. Her squad waited for her in the conference room but they hadn't been idle. Thermal clips and other supplies were being passed between people. She entered the room and waited for them to finish their preparations. Once she had their full attention she addressed the room.
"Good work EDI and Legion on dealing with the IFF virus. And I have to give credit to Joker and his flying and also Garrus and his over-calibrated big fucking guns; they came through when we needed it and it was lovely to watch the Collector ship get destroyed."
Most of the team laughed at that, but Garrus shook his head and gave her that smug look of his.
"They are calibrated just right," Garrus huffed trying not to laugh.
"If you say so," Jane laughed. "But seriously, now comes the hard part. Now we have to finish them off. EDI pull up the scans of the structure."
In the center of the table a projection appeared of the base.
"As you can see there are two main routes into the central area where EDI has pinpointed the heaviest power usage. That's likely to be the best spot to rig the place to overload."
"Both of those routes have reinforced doors however, and the Normandy lacks sufficient ordinance to blast through those doors and still destroy the base," EDI added.
"Perhaps this small shaft here could be used to access the control panels to the blocked routes," Jane said.
"That would work, we would need to send a tech expert," Miranda added.
"Legion, you up for hacking your way through the Collectors?"
"Alright and to make sure they don't find out what Legion is doing until too late, we should send a team down each route to keep the Collectors busy."
"Excellent, I'll lead the second team," Miranda began.
"Oh hell no. I'm not following the cheerleader anywhere."
"Did we not agree that you two would settle your differences AFTER we finish off the Collectors?" Jane growled as her eyes narrowed at Jack.
"Fine," Jack muttered.
"Thank you. However, Garrus will lead the second team. Tali and Thane will be with me. The rest of you are with Garrus. Any questions?"
Jane gazed around the room but not a word was said.
"Good, meet up in ten and let's go blow this place up."
Jane watched as her team filed out; a grin crossed her face when she realized that Mordin was deliberately hanging back. Soon the room was empty but for the two of them. They moved towards each other at the same time. He surprised her when he took her into his arms. They were always strictly professional in their conduct outside of her cabin. But when his mouth descended over hers, she really didn't give a damn at that moment. The warmth of his arms and the heat of his mouth still brought a rush of delight to her blood. And when their mouths broke apart, a sigh of regret left her.
"Read that kisses can be given as a token of good luck. Making it a good excuse to do so as well."
Jane smiled at him. "I'll take a good luck kiss from you anytime but I think the ship full of bad-asses I'm bringing to this fight probably will tip the scales more."
"True, but couldn't hurt," he replied with an impish grin. "Believe there was one more human tradition I should utilize."
Jane gave him a questioning look and then she felt his hand connect with her ass.
Her head tipped back as she laughed.
"I'm changing your dossier to read 'Mordin Solus - the Sassy Salarian'."
"Hmm not exactly the image I was looking for." His eyes twinkled with laughter.
"How about 'Mordin Solus - the Renegade Salarian'?"
"Much better, denotes an air of mystery and danger. Will have to title my biography with that."
"Well Mr. Renegade, remember to duck. Garrus's team will probably draw heavier fire being a larger group."
"You too Jane, the Collectors know you by name."
"I will," she said softly. "Come on we got a bunch of Collectors to blow up."
"Need to grab a few more things from my lab. See you outside."
Shortly after beginning their run down their respective routes, communication with Garrus and his team turned into static. Trusting that they would be where they needed them, when they needed them; Jane's team pressed on. Jane kept one eye on the geth as he traversed the small tube. She turned and caught Tali's eye, the quarian watching Legion as well. Jane inclined her head towards the tube.
"You were my second choice for that job."
"I'm honored you think I can out hack a geth, but honestly, that is not a job I want.
"Just think how impressed Kal'Reegar would be when you told him of what you did," Jane said with a sly grin.
Tali ducked behind a pillar at the approach of more Collectors. In a couple of seconds her drone was off and distracting their enemy.
"I don't know what you mean," Tali replied.
Jane stood up from where she was hidden and threw a singularity, Thane then finished them off.
"Oh come on Tali, surely you must have noticed how well Kal fills out his suit. And that voice. Tell me you noticed that at least."
"Shut up," Tali hissed, "of course I did. I'm going to tell Mordin you're checking out quarians if you don't drop this, now."
Jane laughed at the flustered tone to Tali's voice. Seeing a break, she broke cover and moved further down the field. Thane and Tali followed behind her.
"Shepard, more coming in at three o'clock."
"Got'em Thane, get to cover people."
Jane's comm unit crackled to life, "Shepard-Commander, we have reached a barrier. We are unable to proceed until it is lowered. Is there a control panel nearby?"
Jane peeked her head up and scanned the wall underneath where she could see Legion waiting.
"Got it Legion. Thane, Tali cover me."
Jane vaulted over her cover and ran towards where she had spotted a panel. Behind her she could hear Tali giving her drone orders and the tell-tale crack of Thane's sniper rifle. Running head long at the wall, she slammed the button and as soon as she saw Legion moving again, she dove back into cover. When the last enemy fell, Tali and Thane moved up to join her. Once more they paced alongside Legion.
"Did you hear that Jack asked Mordin about you two and your sex life this morning."
Jane felt her face heat up, "Of course she did. What was his answer?"
Tali gave a delighted laugh at Shepard's embarrassment. "A-ha! Well whatever it was it had her asking if you would share or if he had a brother. So any idea what his answer was?"
"Something outrageous I'm sure," Jane muttered.
Tali's peals of laughter brought a grin to Jane's face. They continued on, occasionally having to break from cover to hit a button to allow Legion to continue along his path. Jane tried not to think about how Garrus and his team might be doing. And then they watched as Legion disappeared out of the shaft. They took up defensive positions around the door as they waited for it to open.
Garrus motioned for everyone to get inside when the door slid open. Legion worked to close the door behind them. Garrus tried his comm system one more time.
"Shepard? Can you read me?"
"Garrus! Finally, where are you?"
"Inside. What's your location?"
"Pinned down outside the door."
Garrus thumped Legion on the shoulder, "Get their door open. Kasumi close this one."
Legion switched to the other panel, his fingers flying over the console. Garrus motioned to the rest of the team to provide cover for when the door finally opened. The muffled sound of gunfire came through the door adding to the tension. At last the door slid open and Shepard and her team threw themselves inside. Jane scanned her team, doing a visual check and making sure no one was missing. After finding everyone in good shape, it was then that she discovered the ominous structures that filled this room. Pods, some open and some closed and a few even contained a body still. Those drew them all as they tried to open them. No obvious clasp could be found on the containers. And then some sort of liquid rained down on the unfortunate occupant. The woman in the pod in front of Jane suddenly opened her eyes and began screaming in pain.
"Fuck, they are alive! Open them up!" Jane ordered.
Rifle stocks were used as hammers and the glow of biotics lit up the area as the team worked to free the few remaining humans. However, the pods failed to relinquish their prisoners before it was too late. As the last person dissolved before their eyes, the team stopped in their attempts to free them.
"Mordin, did you get any readings on what in hell they were doing to those poor people?"
Mordin's omni-tool glowed as he examined the results of his scan of one of the pods.
"Residue indicates the victims were broken down into components, without more tests impossible to tell why," Mordin replied softly. "Tubes leading out of the pods indicate the slurry was then pumped to another area."
"EDI, can you read me?"
"Yes Commander. I have managed to remove some of the electronic dampening of this structure, communication should be more consistent now. My scans indicate that the tubes all lead to a larger chamber further in. The power signature in the control center has just spiked with the death of the last occupants of the pods."
"That doesn't sound good."
"There are two routes out of this area. Scans indicate the first one contains a large number of seeker swarms, far more than Doctor Solus's measures can combat. It is also the most direct path and the door is not currently locked shut."
"And the other one EDI?"
"It is longer and more heavily occupied by Collectors. A team would need to hack through the lock at the end as well, or use some of the ordinance to blow it."
Samara stepped forward. "Commander, I believe I could hold a barrier large enough to protect a few people in order to utilize the way that is open."
"Good idea. Jack, think you could do it as well?"
"Then that's what we will do. Samara, take Miranda, Jacob, Kasumi and Zaeed. Jack, take Garrus, Grunt and Tali. I'll take Legion, Thane and Mordin. My team will go first, Jack follow after us and then Samara. If anyone falls, no matter what, don't stop."
Jane pulled out the disruptor explosives that had been rigged together on the Normandy earlier. She handed one to Garrus and one to Miranda leaving her with the last one which she passed to Mordin.
"Alright now each team has the ability to blow this place to hell. Legion, Tali and Kasumi, whichever of you three is the first one through be ready to close and jam the door behind the last person in. The next one of you in will then go to the door to the other route and make sure it's jammed to hell as well. Assuming all of us make it we will then regroup for whatever is next. Any questions?"
They formed up into their groups and began the slow walk down to the next room. Jane focused on maintaining the bubble around her people. Around her she could hear the sounds of combat but had to trust that they would do their job just as they trusted her to do hers. Putting one foot in front of the other became her sole goal in life. She sensed rather than heard Mordin move up beside her, the thrum of her heart drowned out everything but the loudest noises.
"All teams still moving forward Jane. You can do this."
"Good and thanks," she said through gritted teeth.
Sweat trickled down her face burning her eyes but she couldn't even take the time to wipe it away. Then in the distance she finally spotted the end. Jane's steps quickened as they neared the exit and then she stumbled into the room, her team right behind her. Thane and Mordin took up spots on either side of the door providing more support for those behind them while Legion waited for the all clear to shut the door closed. A few minutes later Jack joined her where she rested against a wall. Samara's team entered the room, the asari staggered a moment after throwing the remnants of her barrier at the forces that had followed them but recovered faster than her two human counterparts. Legion worked to shut the door before anything followed them in.
"Scans indicate that the Collectors are massing outside the one door. There should be a platform nearby to take you to the central control area."
"Guess we better be damn quick then."
"Shepard, pick a team and the rest of us will try and hold the Collectors off of you. That should buy you enough time to set the charges at least," Miranda said.
It seemed wrong to leave most of her people behind but Miranda was right. If they were going to succeed then some would have to stay and give her time to reach the control center. After a moment, Jane nodded reluctantly.
"Legion, Mordin ready for the last push?"
They joined her on the platform but before she sent it flying towards their destination, she turned and faced the rest of her squad.
"No matter what happens, I'm damn proud to have known each of you and worked with you. Now show them what we are made of and kick their asses."
She hoped that wasn't the last she would see of them but the mission had to come first. Jane activated the platform and they began their final journey towards the control center.
More of the ominous tubes graced the ceiling, feeding into the central area from numerous side chambers that they flew past.
"Commander, my scans have indicated that all the tubes feed into a super structure ahead. One that has both organic and inorganic components. If my readings are correct, it's a Reaper," EDI informed them.
The platform flew around a corner finally reaching the central chamber. Jane's breath caught in her throat at the sight before them. It was a Reaper alright, a vaguely human shaped one.
"Fuck, they are making a human Reaper. EDI please tell me that it will get destroyed when the base blows."
"Based on the significant damage that Sovereign took before it was destroyed; there is a chance that this one might not be completely destroyed."
"Then what can we do to make sure it is destroyed?"
"The tubes feeding into it are its structural weak points. Destroying those should bring the whole structure down. The structural damage from the fall along with the explosion has the greatest chance to render it inert."
A whirring noise announced the arrival of more platforms. Jane's heart froze for a moment until she realized that they were coming in from the sides and not from behind them. The team behind them wasn't overrun yet. Her team fell into their usual pattern as they eliminated the incoming Collectors. Legion's drone worked to force their enemies out of cover allowing them to eliminate them quickly.
"Legion, shoot out the right tubes. Mordin and I will take the left."
The three of them fired until the tubes shattered and the whole structure careened out of view. At their feet, they found the control unit of the cooling chamber. She activated the comm system.
"Garrus, get everyone back to the ship. I'm about to set the charge."
"Got it. Meet you back on the Normandy."
"Joker, pick up the rest of the squad and get ready to haul ass out of here. I'm about to blow this place sky high."
"Got it Shepard, there is an incoming transmission from the Illusive Man. Patching it through."
Mordin kneeled beside Jane as his omni-tool projected an image of the Illusive Man.
"Shepard, you did it."
"Not yet, just about to set the charge to destroy this place."
"I've got a better idea. A few modifications and we can use a radiation pulse to destroy the remaining Collectors but leave the technology intact."
"I hate to burst your bubble but EDI believes that the Reaper we found isn't quite dead yet. This place needs to be blown up to insure it is destroyed."
"A radiation pulse should kill it as well. We need the technology of this base in the coming fight against the Reapers."
"Did you forget how a supposedly dead Reaper indoctrinated your whole team and no one survived that little adventure? I'm not taking a chance with this one being even a tad bit alive."
"I should've known you would choke on the hard decisions," he replied angrily.
"Bullshit! I left the majority of my team trying to hold back the tide of the Collectors so I can blow this place the hell up. Some of them are the only damn friends I have in this galaxy. Don't tell me I can't make hard decisions."
She made a slashing motion over her throat and Mordin cut the call. He handed her the bomb and she started the countdown on it. She planted it inside and closed the unit. Their platform tipped to one side as the partially constructed Reaper heaved itself up. Three of it's four eyes glowed and it tracked Shepard and her team. They all dropped behind the structure as it's beam fired over their heads. Jane pulled the Cain off of her back. She had lugged the thing the whole way saving it for an emergency.
"I think this qualifies as an emergency," she muttered as her fingers flew over its controls priming it for firing.
Using it's arms, the thing tried to pull itself further onto the platform. Legion swung his sniper rifle up and took aim at one of it's eyes. It made a horrific noise when the bullet struck and it reared back. Taking the opportunity, Jane stood up and aimed the giant gun at its chest. The explosion knocked the thing back down into the abyss but the sudden shift in weight caused their platform to careen wildly. Leaving the Cain where it fell, Jane staggered trying to stay on her feet. Mordin and Legion lurched about as they too struggled to stay standing. Their platform finally came to rest along the edge of the cavern.
"Go! We need to get out of here," Jane ordered.
Together they struggled to make their way out of the area, hopping from one platform to another. Another explosion tossed the platforms about. Jane and Mordin were flung off their feet. The platform tipped heavily and Jane watched as Mordin rolled precariously towards the edge and certain death. Sliding towards Mordin, she summoned her biotics as she attempted a maneuver that she understood in theory but had never really tried. The blue of her biotics shot out and enveloped Mordin and she pulled him towards her.
Mordin felt the tug of another force on him and then he was yanked back away from the edge. His journey halted by his impact into another body and he felt Jane's arms wrap around him. The platform shifted again and this time they began sliding the other way. His three fingers wrapped around her wrist and her five around his, leaving their other hand free to try and gain some purchase on the disc before they both plummeted off the edge. The platform tilted the other way and once more they slid along it's surface. Legion had so far managed to maintain an upright position but just barely. When the dais they rode crashed into another, debris rained down on them.
Mordin awoke first, Jane's body had protected him from the worst of the impact. A slab pinned her but at least they were no longer moving. He swayed a bit as he gained his feet but then he pushed against the debris and freed Jane.
"Wake up," he said shaking her shoulder.
She blinked up at him a moment before she lurched to her feet. Mordin moved to where Legion lay, he gently flipped the geth onto his back. It whirred and he helped it regain its feet.
"Shepard! Come in! Don't leave me hanging."
"Joker? We're here. Where do we need to head to?"
"Coming to your location."
The roar of the Normandy's engines announced its arrival into the area. The three of them stumbled into a jog heading to where the ship hovered, waiting for them. Joker stood just inside the hatch with a few others of her squad providing cover fire for them. A few Collectors had recovered enough to chase after them. Debris still fell around them, whatever the Reaper had fallen into had caused some sort of chain reaction in the base. Legion boarded the ship first, Jane and Mordin right behind him.
"Get us out of here Joker," Jane yelled slamming the hatch shut.
Mordin leaned against a wall breathing heavy. "Getting too old for this."
"You and me both. I feel like ninety years old at the moment."
"Hang on everyone," Joker announced over the ship's comm system. "This is gonna be close."
"Come on you two, Dr. Chakwas should take a look at you both," Garrus said even as he took them both by the arm and propelled them towards the elevator.
"The rest of the squad?"
"A few minor injuries but we all made it out."
Jane gave a sigh of relief. "Good."