Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

For Warhammer fiction not strictly from either universe.

Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:38 am

This is the sequel to Hammerhand, my 40/Mass Effect crossover piece. I know what you're thinking, but it's honestly not that bad. Go on, give it a try. What's the worst that can happen. C'mon...

Anyway, I'm posting what I've done of Angels of the Storm up, and more should be coming over time.



Angels of the Storm

Prologue-Poor Fortune


The great blast doors of the bunker had been sealed for the last time. Its masters had been prepared for it for a long while now, seeing the arrival of the Almarach Ikmrin, the devastation the dread machines had caused. Their fleets had been scattered, their armies destroyed; even the mighty Yamzarat Machtoro, despite felling many thousands of their soldiers, even some of the master machines themselves, had finally been defeated. He lay below, in the heart of the bunker, their technicians already healing his wounds, in preparation for him being found once more.

Akmon Ilmar, Lord Mechanist of the bunker, shook his head sadly as the blast doors rumbled close, unconciously flicking back his ears in agitation and grief. There was a faint booming from above as the charges set detonated and the mountain they were hidden in collapsed on top, sealing them in. Now, hundreds of metres beneath the ground, they were undetectable. They were also inextricably trapped.

“It is done,” Ivris remarked next to him, looking up at the doors. “The last of the Askriit die below the ground in concrete corridors, hiding from the Almarach Ikmrin in our bunker.”

“I’d rather make preparations for the future than simply die without any reason,” Akmon said. “As much as Yamzarat Machtoro rails and roars about honour and glory, I have always believed in common sense.”

“You are right,” Ivris said. “It just pains me to have it end this way. I wanted to die beneath the sky, or in void, not with a mountain over my head. I’ve always hated closed spaces, you know that.”

Akmon took Ivris’ hand in his, four fingers intertwining, and he gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“I know, my dear,” he said gently. “But the Lord Geneticist informed me that they released the Descendants but a few hours ago. Provided they survive, our genetic heritage will live on, at least.”

Ivris nodded.

“So now what do we do?” she asked.

“We have supplies enough to last us many years,” Akmon said. “And our Porgramat Fusion Engines should last many aeons, long after we are gone. We shall repair Yamzarat Machtoro as well as we can, and once we have done we shall place him in Biotic stasis so that he may be found again intact.”

“Let us hope that somebody does find him,” Ivris said.

“I know someone shall,” Akmon said. “Even if the Descendant Project does not work, there will be others. We shall just hope they find him and the Archives before the Almarach Ikmrin do.”

This time, it was Ivris’ turn to squeeze his hand, and Akmon saw that she was crying quietly, tears leaking from her eyes, before he took her in an embrace and held her there. No words were said, and none were needed. There would be no hope for them, they knew. As a species, and as individuals, they were doomed. But they knew that if the Descendant Project worked, if Yamzarat Machtoro lived, then there was hope.

And deep in the bowels of their bunker, with technicians moving about his injured form, his mind inactive to allow them to work, Yamzarat Machtoro slept, and dreamed of vengeance.

#

Today was the third day that the Old Faithful had been waiting at the relay. The black painted ship, a former Turian patrol cruiser before it had been repatriated, had been staking the relay out on a rumour, but so far it had remained silent. And for the crew of the vessel, such a thing was beginning to chafe.

Alrack lit another cigar, the third one this day, coarse smoke from the cheap narcotic curling upwards around the ceiling of Old Faithful’s bridge. The Batarian was beginning to become nervous of his crew, though he wouldn’t let them know that, worrying that if their promised prey wasn’t going to turn up soon then the crew of his vessel, always prone to cases of itchy trigger fingers, might have enough and turn upon him.

“Polias, are you sure that they were taking the haul through this relay?” he asked the Turian standing at the navigational console of the ship.

“I’m sure, boss,” Polias said. “Believe me, that human I talked to was more than happy to tell me all about the route he and his ship was taking after I’d got him a few drinks. Damn typical of them; bit of booze and they’re your best pals. Too easy.”

“For the last time, if he’s pissed he’s probably got it wrong,” a human over at the gunnery consoles said. “Anyway, Turians ain’t much better drunk, so shut your damn mouth.”

“You wanna say that again, Andy?” Polias asked, glaring at his colleague, quills bristling in anger at the insult.

“Yeah, alright,” Andy retorted. “Shut your damn mouth, beaky.”

“Both of you, shut up,” Alrack ordered. “This had better not be a wild Pyjak chase, Polias, or I’ll have Garnt toss you out the airlock.”

“I’m telling you boss, it isn’t,” Polias protested. “It’s prototype weapons tech we’re talking about here; think how much the big mercenary companies would be willing to pay for that. We’d be rich.”

“And if it doesn’t appear, then we’ll have wasted our time,” Alrack replied. “Damnit, sometimes I wonder why I even keep you around, Polias; you’ve got us chasing some rumour a drunk told you. We’re staking out the relay for some backwater Human colony in the hope it’s a transit route for this tech. This is what we’ve been reduced to. Damn Aria and her chucking me off Omega. Me, of all people. One of the most respected pirates in the entire Terminus systems, and yet as soon as I’m a threat to her business, I’m gone.”

He took another puff on his cigar, closing his four eyes as he savoured the harsh taste of the smoke.

“It’ll be worth it boss, trust me,” Polias said.

Alrack just grunted.

“Better be.”

“Nah, trust me, there is. I swear. Hell, we could use that stuff, show that bitch Aria what it means to push us around. That’d be cool, yeah?”

“You know what your problem is, Polias?” Alrack asked, nonchalantly drawing his pistol and twirling it on his finger. “You don’t know when to shut up.”

“Sorry boss.”

“Just don’t do it again, or I’ll blast your brains across that damn console.”

“Yes boss.”

“Shut. Up.”

Alrack took another puff of his cigar, kneading his forehead in his gnarled hands.

“I’m surrounded by idiots,” he muttered. “Idiots!”

An uncomfortable silence fell across the bridge of the Old Faithful, the crew remaining quiet for fear of drawing their captain’s attention. Alrack dropped the now burned away tip of his cigar into the small ashtray next to him, glowering at the crew below him.

“You know what,” he said. “Forget it.”

“What?” Polias protested. “Boss, I swear-”

In reply, Alrack pulled his pistol and snapped off a shot. It impacted the Turian in the back of his skull, snapping the unfortunate alien round with a spray of cyan blood before he collapsed on the console.

“I said you talk too much, Polias,” Alrack snarled. “Andy, you know how to navigate.”

“That’s right, boss,” Andy said.

“That wasn’t a question,” Alrack said. “We’re going.”

“Where?”

“The Ilium-Citadel run,” Alrack said. “All the best shipping’s there. We’ll get ourselves a couple of merchant vessels, steal everything they have, and then sell it and the crews on.”

“On it, boss,” Andy said.

“Wait a moment,” a more nasal voice said from the far side of the bridge, Kedraon, said, the Salarian’s fingers dancing over his console. “The scanners say the Relay’s just lit up.”

“What? Get a fix on it.”

“Doing it,” Kedraon replied. “There’s a ship through. Give me a minute, I can get the details. This could be our target.”

He tapped a few more buttons, before he frowned.

“That’s not right. There must be something wrong with the scanners.”

“What’s gone wrong with this hunk of rust now?” Alrack growled.

“It’s saying the ship coming through is big,” Kedraon answered. “Way bigger than it should be.”

“What, a dreadnought? If it’s a damn dreadnought then we’re getting out of here. No way we can deal with something like that.”

“No, even bigger,” Kedraon said, worry on his voice. “Two-K, at least.”

“What? Nothing can be that big. Try the scanners again, they’ve probably glitched,” Alrack ordered.

“I…I just did,” Kedraon said. “Oh…oh vastah!”

“What?”

“There’s a fleet! A whole fleet of these things! There must be, must be a thousand! Oh my God. We’re doomed. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this job, I knew it!”

Alrack fired his pistol for the second time that day, the round thudding into the wall above Kedraon’s head, the Salarian yelping in terror.

“Keep your damn mouth shut,” he growled. “We’re going around the fleet, and we’ll keep quiet. If they notice, we play nice, understand. Keep it low power and get the stealth systems engaged.”

The crew moved to their stations, the realisation of danger being close spurring them into action, and the ship turned on the spot, powering away from the fleet, curving around it towards the system’s Mass Relay.

“They’re moving to an interception course,” Kedraon warned. “Shall I try and talk to them?”

“Do it,” Alrack said.

“Attention unidentified ships, this is the SSV Old Faithful. Do not shoot, we are a friendly vessel. Repeat, do not shoot.”

He waited for a moment, before he said, “They’re not replying.”

“Try again.”

Hurriedly, Kedraon repeated the message. In reply, the lights in the Old Faithful suddenly jolted out, before powering back on, and a voice as deep and foreboding as the oceans themselves rumbled across the intercom.

Your pleas for help shall do nothing. We are your doom; nothing you say shall save you.

For a moment, Old Faithful’s crew froze, before Alrack roared; “Full power to the engines, you idiots! We’re being attacked. Don’t just stand there, do something.”

“There’s heat buildup in the fleet!” Kedraon warned, panic on the Salarian’s voice once more. “They’re going to fire!”

“Keep moving!” Alrack yelled. “Come on, we’re one of the fastest ships in the Terminus, we can outmanoeuvre these things!”

“What about the shields?” Andy asked.

“Forget them, they’ve got too much firepower,” Alrack said. “Shields’ll be useless even if we stick all power on them.”

Andy nodded, hurriedly diverting power from the Old Faithful’s Mass Driver weapons to the engine drives.

“This is your work, isn’t it Aria?” Alrack muttered angrily. “How the hell did you manage to get friends this rich? You want me dead so bad. Hah! Bet you had to call in a few favours for-”

His tirade never finished. As one, the fleet fired, lances of crimson energy spearing from great ships. Old Faithful’s speed did not spare it, and what little shielding it had active was punched through right away. It simply disintegrated into nothing, crew reduced to less than ash by the great weapons. No debris was left, such was their terrifying power, and the immense fleet turned away.

The Reapers had not come here to deal with mere freebooters. No, what the Reapers were interested in was the planet that lay before them, helplessly unaware of their presence. It was time to send a message to the creature that thought it could defy their might, one he could not ignore.

As one, the Reaper fleet descended upon New London.

#

James Lien was, at this moment in time, a happy man. In fact, he had spent the last few weeks of his life a very happy man indeed. For an individual who had, not too long ago, survived a Collector attack, this seemed a strange thing indeed, but he had his reasons. Mainly thanks to the Alliance and their wonderfully inefficient bureaucracy; he should have, by all rights, been recalled by now, now that the Collectors had been identified as a threat and had been driven off, but so far he had been given no word, and he was content to simply stay on the small colony and enjoy his reputation as a hero. True, when the Collectors had arrived all he had done was yell at people to get indoors and then let Cyralius and his friends actually do the work, but with the Astartes gone the very next day, the people needed somebody to thank, and he was perfectly willing to oblige.

He leant back in his chair, taking a sip from his coffee as he watched the Rugby finals between Bekenstein RC and Earth United, grinning in support of the Bekenstein boys. Hopefully the lads from his homeworld would bring home the Six Planets Cup, but even if they didn’t he was happy to enjoy the match; so far it had been a good one. Pity he was on duty; a can of beer would be perfect right now.

“Come on, catch it!” he yelled at the holo-screen as Robert Ashton reached up to grab the ball arcing gracefully towards him. “Go on, go on! YEEEES!”

He punched the air triumphantly, nearly spilling his drink over his hands as Ashton booted it across the touchline, while the commentator screamed into his microphone in celebration along with the rest of the crowd.

There was a rumbling from outside, and James glanced out of the window to see dark clouds gathering, and frowned. A few other people were gathered outside as well, looking up at the sky in confusion.

“What the hell is this?” James asked as he stepped outside, rugby game abandoned in the name of curiosity. “I thought we only got storms in the winter.”

“Same here,” one of the other colonists next to him remarked. “Came on suddenly.”

For almost a minute, the crowd watched as they sky boiled, confusion written across their features, before great finger suddenly broke the clouds, more following with it. Across the sky, immense hands seemed to reach downwards towards the ground. Lightning crackled around them as their sheer mass disrupted the atmosphere, and soon great onyx hulls slid into view, moving groundwards with a regal grace.

People screamed and ran, and James hurried into his office, grabbing his old service rifle from its place by his desk, sprinting back outside.

“Get indoors!” he ordered. “Go! Quickly!”

Azure sparks seemed to drift from the hull of the great ships as they proceeded downwards, resolving themselves into sleek, dark craft that seemed to be miniature versions of their masters, their speed greater as they reached the ground, surrounding the colony in a great cordon.

Beams of red light lanced from some of the ships, obliterating the buildings at the edges the colony, the ground splitting and rupturing beneath the impact of the weapons. Flames sprang up from them, vomiting black smoke upwards into they sky, and they began to spread, clinging onto buildings, herding the panicked people of New London into the centre of their small colony.

And from the flames, great figures strode. Their bulky figures were armoured in plates of overlapping onyx armour, shields rippling as they repelled the flames with ease. Black visors covered their faces, and in their hands they carried immense weapons. James gave a yell and opened fire with his rifle. Most of his rounds sparked off the shields that covered the creatures, and as one they turned on him, striding forwards with a horrifying calm.

One got close to him, and James managed to empty an entire magazine into its armoured chest, enough to cause its shields to wink out, before an immense hand grabbed him by his neck.

“Known target,” it said in a voice like a continent moving. “Taken from memories of Indoctrinated Astartes. This one shall leave the message.”

“Get off me!” James managed to choke, kicking vigorously at its chest, but the creature ignored his struggles. Instead, it gently began to squeeze, and James began to feel his throat tighten, his vision beginning to fade in its implacable grip. He managed to choke out a curse, before the creature tightened its grip one last time, and darkness overtook him.

The black armoured creature dropped him upon the ground, and raised its rifle, hunting for colonists. It was time to the Great Salvation.

#

James Lien woke to the taste of ash his mouth. He groaned, sitting up and coughing, before hawking and spitting the taste away.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, rubbing his neck. With still bleary eyes, he looked around, before he saw what had happened. “Bloody hell!”

New London was a ruin. Its buildings were scorched and blackened by flame, some fallen in upon themselves, others simply burned out husks. An oppressive pall of smoke hung over the sky above him, turning the evening sky even dimmer, and the clouds overhead still roiled and crackled. Of the great machines there was no sign.

“Hello!” he called, voice echoing around the empty buildings. “Hellooo!”

There was no reply, and James tried a few more times before giving up and shaking his head. He picked up his service rifle from where it lay in the dirt, in case more of those things were lying in wait for him, and limped to his office, rubbing his throat gingerly as he walked.

It was a mess, something having smashed his computer console to pieces. The holo-projector was hanging part-way off the wall, sparking occasionally, and his desk had been split in two.

“Oh, God,” he groaned. “This can’t be happening.”

He limped round his desk, using it as a support, still feeling weak and giddy from his treatment at the hands of…whatever that thing was. He reached the far corner of his old office, and leant down on the floor there.

“You better not have found it, you bastards,” he muttered, clicking the floor panel back. They hadn’t. Along with a pistol and a bottle of whiskey, the short ranged emergency beacon was still intact.

He lifted it up, groaning as he did so, before placing it on the floor and dragging the heavy black box outside. He tapped a few buttons on its side, and it unfolded itself, an aerial sliding free. It wouldn’t transmit far, only just throughout the system, but hopefully anything that passed through the Relay would pick it up.

His work done, James Lien leant back against the outer wall of his office, and prayed.
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Colonel Mustard
 
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:40 am

Chapter 1-Plans

The metallic fingers of the gauntlet whirred as they flexed experimentally, testing its strength and grip. Malleus Scandarum looked over the bionic critically, once a component of his power armour, now part of his body as a whole, shifting it gently, before he looked up and smiled.

“I like it, Kullas,” he said. “But the stump itches.”

“A common side effect,” the Forge Priest replied. “It should pass.”

“I hope so,” Malleus said, glancing at the metallic stump grafted into his shoulder. Even with his enhanced healing abilities, it had only been installed half an hour ago, and the flesh around it was angry and raw. “Will I need to wear the pauldron for this thing the whole time?”

“That? No,” Kullas said. “Do not worry, the arm is still fully controlled by your Black Carapace uplink; the pauldron can be detached at will.”

“I’m glad to hear,” Malleus said. He looked over it once more, before a mental pulse of information disengaged the locks holding his shoulder pad to the greaves underneath, and he placed it on the table next to him, the crossed hammer and lightning bolt symbol of the Sons of Thunder gleaming in the light. “Kullas, you’ve outdone yourself.”

“Thank you, brother-captain,” Kullas said. “I also took the liberty of installing an onboard omni-tool, in case it should come in handy.”

Malleus looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

“They’re useful,” Kullas replied. “Besides, the model I used was made by a Terran based, human controlled company; there’s no xenos-tech present, I assure you.”

“Fair enough,” Malleus said. “Actually, Kullas, what about my thunder hammer? Have you made any progress repairing it yet?”

“Not as such,” Kullas said. “I’m somewhat torn, at the moment.”

“What do you mean?” Malleus asked.

“As it is, I could rebuild the whole thunder hammer using the parts you gave me,” Kullas said. “Which, while still powerful, won’t be anywhere near as sturdy as it used to be; chances are it will simply break again.”

“You can’t tell me I can’t use it,” Malleus exclaimed, shaking his head. “Kullas, I’ve wielded that weapon for more than two and a half centuries. I’m not simply putting it away as scrap!”

“I know, I know,” Kullas said. “However, there is an alternative.”

“What?” Malleus asked.

In reply, Kullas picked up the top half of his hammer from where it lay on the workbench of the Normandy’s armoury, and turned it so Malleus could see the bottom of its hollow handle, where wiring poked through.

“Here,” he said. “I can simply do some rewiring of the weapon, and you can use it again. Admittedly one handed, but it is better than nothing.”

Malleus looked at the weapon with a frown, his once noble thunder hammer now looking short and foolish in his eyes. Then again, he supposed having it consigned to a scrapheap was even more an ignoble fate for a weapon of such a fine pedigree.

“Very well,” he said. “It shall have to be a mace, then. A pity I don’t have anything for my free hand.”

“What of that submachine gun you’ve taken to using?” Kullas suggested.

“It’s useful, yes,” Malleus said. “But it’s hardly worthy of taking the place of a bolt pistol, is it?”

“I suppose not,” Kullas said. “But, what about…”

The Forge Priest trailed off for a moment, shifting back on his heels slightly uncomfortably, as if he were concerned about making his suggestion.

“Speak freely, Forge Priest,” Malleus said. “I will not judge.”

“Gaius’ blade,” Kullas said, nodding towards the weapon where it lay on the shelf of the armoury, gleaming in the harsh glare of the overhead striplights.

Malleus sighed and stepped over to the power weapon, picking it up at the handle, holding it to the light, tip held in the finger of his other hand. He looked at it, examining its intricate inlaid gold filigree of an Aquila with its wings spread wide, while on the other side, hammers and lightning bolts interlaid over each other in a delicate, beautiful pattern.

“Dishonour not the dead, lest they speak against you when you come before the Throne,” Malleus said. “It is Gaius’ weapon; I take it without his permission now and I may as well find his corpse and spit on it.”

“To be fair, brother captain, you did use it on the Collectors’ station,” Kullas pointed out. “You slew that Reaper with it, no less.”

“That was a case of dire need,” Malleus said. “And I should be forgiven for that. But simply taking it is now different.”

“If you insist, brother captain,” Kullas said doubtfully.

Malleus simply shrugged, his new arm whirring with the movement.

“I will make do with the hammer in one hand,” he said. “In the meantime, I have a briefing to attend.”

He left the armoury, doors sliding shut behind him, and entered the briefing room of the Normandy. Titus, Miranda and Cyralius, the members of the team he had come to regard as his more senior second in commands, were waiting for him as called, and Malleus nodded to them as he entered.

“Well, we’ve beaten the Collectors,” he said, stepping forward to the table, resting his hands upon them. “But, unfortunately, we cannot stop yet.”

“And here I was hoping for some shore leave,” Titus muttered with a slight smile. “Everybody else gets to go out and enjoy the sights and sounds of Ilium, and here we are, stuck on the Normandy to have you talk at us.”

“As I was going to say, congratulations on defeating the xenos menace,” Malleus said, shaking his head. “And if it weren’t for the fact that I needed you here, you would be welcome to go out and have some shore leave. But jesting aside, Titus, I’ve got you here for something important.”

He sighed, before saying; “The fact is, we’re still at war. Defeating the Collectors was a victory in our favour, but that was only a single battle; the Reapers are still out there, and I don’t know how much time we have left before they decide to move against us.”

“A pity these things just don’t learn,” Miranda remarked. “We’ve beaten them twice already, but they just keep on coming.”

“They’re xenos,” Titus said. “They can’t learn.”

“Indeed,” Malleus said. “As I was saying, sooner or later they will play their hand, and if we’re unprepared then everything we’ve worked for will go to waste.”

“So what’s the plan?” Miranda asked.

“What we need to do is gather an army,” Malleus said. “One that will be large enough to actually stand a chance against the Reapers.”

“It’ll have to be one hell of an army,” Miranda said. “We needed the entire Citadel fleet, and the Alliance one, just to take down Sovereign; if that was a standard Reaper, we’re never going to have enough firepower.”

“We shall have to do our best,” Malleus said. “Besides, the Normandy’s cannons are based on a reverse-engineered version of Sovereign’s, and the Illusive Man tells me that the salvage teams he sent out to the Collector base have already managed to recover a great deal of weapons technology. We shall have to do it swiftly, but can adapt this technology for ourselves.”

“So we mass-distribute it?” Cyralius asked. “Make it available as freeware?”

“I’m not sure the Illusive Man would be too happy about that,” Miranda remarked.

“If I could keep it in human hands I’d be happy to,” Malleus said. “But this is a matter of utility; we keep everybody as well armed as we possibly can, and we have a much better chance of victory.”

“So what’s our plan, then?” Titus asked.

“Two main stages,” Malleus said. “For a start, we need to convince the Council that the Reapers are a real threat, and secondly, we’ll need to recruit help from elsewhere.”

“Where?” Miranda asked.

“For a start, we’ve already impressed the Krogan,” Malleus said. “Urdnot Wrex should be willing to help us, if we can convince him.”

“What about the Terminus systems?” Cyralius asked.

“The Batarians?” Miranda asked. “They hate the council, especially since humanity was admitted to its ranks. They’ll never agree to help us, even if it’s a life or death situation.”

“Not necessarily the Batarians,” Malleus said. “I was thinking more about Aria T’Loak.”

“Who?” Titus asked.

“Why Aria?” Miranda asked. “She’s nothing more than a jumped up pirate.”

“A pirate who just so happens to control Omega,” Malleus said. “And whoever controls Omega controls the Terminus Systems. She has power; as much as the Council hate to admit it, they fear her.”

“Let’s not forget the Geth, either,” Cyralius said. “If Legion’s claims of the ‘true’ Geth’s power are correct, then they’d be a considerable asset.”

“We’ll have to ask him,” Malleus said, before shaking his head. “It, even.”

“Alright, so what’s our first move?” Miranda asked.

“I’ve been given logs, photographs and findings from the teams on the Collector’s station,” Malleus said. “That should be convincing evidence to help back up any case we put to the council. We convince them of the danger, get the Krogan on our side, mobilise the Geth and finally see if we can make Aria help us.”

“And if the Council don’t believe us?” Miranda asked.

“Then we take power for ourselves and start organising for this war immediately,” Malleus replied.

“Not going to make many friends doing that,” Miranda remarked.

Malleus shrugged.

“Nothing wrong with playing nicely, but if we’re faced with extinction then as I far as I care, anything goes,” he said.

“True,” Miranda said. “But people here believe in democracy. They’ll be upset about it.”

“Then they will die,” Malleus said bluntly.

Miranda looked at him for a moment, his face devoid of any sort of emotion, before nodding slowly.

“Right,” she said, looking at Malleus with an expression of worry on her face.

“So we’re going to the Citadel after the repairs finish?” Cyralius asked.

“That’s right,” Malleus said. “The swifter we can prepare, the better.”

He nodded to them; “Feel free to enjoy the rest of the day on Ilium while we finish off fixing the Normandy. Ave Imperator.”

He left the briefing room, and entered the Combat Information Centre. The room was empty, the crew of the Normandy currently out in Nos Astra, and Malleus headed through the airlock into the sunlight over the capital of Ilium.

Next to him, a small team of engineers and technicians were gathered at Normandy’s port engine, where it had been damaged by the Collector vessel. A scaffold had been set up around it, and currently new engines struts were being welded to its length. Kenneth, who was standing at the top of the scaffold, seemed in his element, yelling out orders to the repairmen who clambered over it. Malleus noticed Kullas was already up there from their talk in the armour, welding part of the new engine strut in place with his plasma cutter, the servo harness implanted in his back shining in the sunlight of Ilium’s star.

“Not trying to calm the machine spirit?” Malleus called up to the Forge Priest, his enhanced hearing picking up nothing in the way of binaric cants from Kullas.

“What machine spirit?” Kullas asked. “EDI destroyed whatever one inhabited this vessel when it took it all for itself. And if that thing feels any pain because of our work, then all the better.”

Malleus rolled his eyes, before shrugging and asking; “How much longer do you think we’ll need.”

“A few more hours, at most,” Kullas said. “Cerberus built the engine struts to be fairly modular, for upgrades. That makes installation far easier.”

“Glad to hear,” Malleus said. “Keep up the good work.”

He walked to the end of the jetty, feeling the cool breeze on his face, looking out at the xenos city stretching before him. Part of him still itched to destroy it, and he wondered if, when the time came to rid humanity of the xenos that pestered it, he would raze this place with armies on the ground or simply via orbital bombardment. Perhaps with a ground force; they could use its resources, and considering the time he had spent here it would be more satisfying.

He looked at the cityscape as it bustled below him, air-cars flitting between buildings, before he noticed Thane Krios standing next to him. The Drell acknowledged his presence with a nod, before Malleus said; “I thought you would be out in Nos Astra.”

“No,” Thane said in his hoarse whisper of a voice. “As much as I enjoy the company of the others, I need time to think.”

“How long have you been out here, then?”

“An hour, perhaps. I have been meditating, on what has just passed and what shall come to pass.”

“What about it, precisely?” Malleus asked.

“When we first met, on the bridge of the Normandy, we agreed that I would help you defeat the Collectors,” Thane said. “Now they are defeated, I have fulfilled my contract with you.”

“That’s true,” Malleus said. “Do you wish to leave us?”

“I am unsure,” Thane replied. “On one hand, I can see the work we are doing is vital. On the other, though, I wish to leave this line of work for good. I wish to die peacefully.”

“Ah yes, your disease,” Malleus said.

Thane nodded, still staring out at the cityscape beyond, green skin turned golden in the reflected sunlight of Nos Astra’s great lake.

“I have never killed for profit, you know,” he said. “I was employed by the Hanar government, to eliminate the dangerous, the corrupt and the unjust. I kept the balance, and I removed a great deal of evil from the world, and when I was paid it was all for the comfort and security of my son, even if he did not know of me. You do the same thing I do, Malleus, and through our work against the Collectors I cannot help but feel that we excised a great cancer from the world. But now, I am tired of this.”

Malleus remained silent for a moment, letting the Drell marshal his thoughts.

“I have had enough,” Thane said. “I have killed many, many people in my time, and evil as they were, to take life is still a sin. I am grateful for the chance you gave me to redeem myself, Malleus, but I want no more of this. I wish to die in peace.”

“I see,” Malleus said. “So you won’t stay.”

“No. Thank you, Malleus. Give my regards to the others.”

Thane turned, and held out his hand. Malleus took it in his bionic, and shook it, the arm whirring with the move. Thane turned to walk away, before he said; “If you need me, however, you know an information broker who is very good at her job. I should not be too hard to find.”

“Goodbye then, Thane,” Malleus said. “May you find peace.”

“I hope I do.”

And thus, his work done, Thane Krios walked away into the streets of Nos Astra, to find himself a new life and escape the old.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:41 am

Chapter 2-Council

The sensation of the Normandy tipping back was tangible even within the ship as it lifted off from Nos Astra, its artificial Element-Zero induced gravity battling with the gravitational field of Ilium as it pulled away. Throughout the ship, there was the feeling of a great pull on their feet and bodies, before the Normandy flew free of the atmosphere and the pull of its gravity.

In the cockpit, Malleus watched the skies of Ilium fade into the blackness of the void as the Normandy made atmospheric breach, one hand resting on the pilot chair as Joker guided the craft into the vacuum.

“How is it?” he asked.

“The Normandy? Good as new,” Joker said. “Though that’s probably EDI helping balance things out. Gotta say, ever since I’ve let her out of her shell, flying this thing’s been a breeze; does most of the work by itself.”

“Jeff is correct,” EDI interjected, her holographic avatar winking into existence. “I am still adjusting to the new engine, but it should not impede my function. I simply need to get used to it, in a similar way you must get used to your prosthetic limb, Captain.”

“I’m glad to hear it’s fitting on well,” Malleus said. “How long until we get to the Citadel?”

“Approximately an hour,” EDI said. “We simply need to move to the Ilium Relay, and from there we can reach the Serpent Nebula’s.”

Malleus nodded, and turned towards the CIC of the Normandy. It was a truly wondrous technology, the Mass Effect relays of this galaxy; in an instant, one could be safely kept in a bubble of dark matter and launched to a relay across the galaxy at speeds faster than light. Far more efficient, and far safer, than Warp travel. If the Imperium had had access to such technology, why, the possibilities would have been endless.

“Yeoman Chambers,” Malleus said, nodding to the young, auburn haired woman standing at a console just below the Normandy’s command pulpit. She nodded back to him, and it was then that he noticed the dark lines beneath her eyes. “Are you alright? You look tired.”

“Trouble sleeping,” Kelly said. “Bad dreams, that’s all.”

“What about?”

“My time on the Collector ship,” she said. “I saw them…liquidise people. I can’t forget it. It was horrible.”

Malleus sighed and shook his head.

“Will this be a problem, Kelly?” he asked. “Perhaps you should speak to Cyralius.”

“What, and have him delve around in my brain? I’m not sure about that, Captain.”

“I meant meditation techniques, Yeoman,” Malleus said. “Who knows, some of them might help. Anyway, did you manage to secure the audience with the Council.”

“Yes, I did,” Kelly said. “I made sure it’s a private one; there shouldn’t be much in the way of media present.”

“Good,” Malleus said. “Last thing I want is a bunch of feckless remembrancers twisting my words.”

Kelly nodded.

“I just hope you can convince them,” she said.

“As do I,” Malleus said. “It makes our life much easier, that’s for certain.”

He was quiet for a moment, before he said; “Yeoman, get some rest. Then speak to Cyralius. It’ll do you some good.”

Kelly nodded, and left.

#

The Normandy swept into the vast embrace of the Citadel’s arms with its customary sleek grace, sweeping past the slower civilian ships and cruisers like a hawk past a mountain. It slid into the private docking bay on the Presidium Ring that was reserved for embassy ships, before hovering in place, the magnetic clamps of the bay grabbing its wings and holding it in place, while a boarding ramp extended to allow entry and egress.

Malleus, Titus and Cyralius stepped down from the ramp, looking around the spacious, clean white docking bay as they got their bearings.

“No protestors,” Titus remarked. “That’s nice to see.”

“Chances are we won’t be going through too many crowded bits,” Malleus said, examining the holographic map he had flicked up from his bionic’s omni-tool. “So no chance of a disturbance, either.”

“Good,” Cyralius said. “Nothing worse than having to wade through rioters.”

“Like you need to wade through them,” Titus said, as they set off down into the Presidium. “You can just set them all on fire or throw them around.”

“Clearly I made a mistake when I considered your point of view,” Cyralius said with a gentle smile as they stepped into the diplomatic lounges of the Presidium.

Their power armoured forms drew a few glances from the various emissaries around, and Titus murmured; “Remind me why we came in power armour? Wouldn’t something a bit less threatening work better?”

“People expect us to wear it,” Malleus said. “Besides, we want threatening. Threatening is more convincing.”

Titus shrugged.

“Malleus Scandarum! Malleus Scandarum, can I talk to you?” a voice from behind them called. Malleus turned to see a young woman hurrying towards him, some sort of small drone hovering behind her, a whirring lense pointing from its domed hull.

“What about?” Malleus asked, somewhat confusedly.

“I’m Emily Wong, Citadel Broadcasting Corporation,” she said as she reached him.

“Superb, a remembrancer pestering us,” Titus muttered in Gothic, unheard by the young woman. “I thought we were trying to avoid this.”

“And what can I do for you, Miss Wong?” Malleus asked, ignoring Titus for the moment.

“I was hoping for an interview,” Emily said, holding up a microphone. “The people want to hear your story.”

Or at least, her producers do, Cyralius’ voice sounded in the back of Malleus’ skull. Take the interview, it’ll look good, but choose your words with care, brother-captain.

Malleus nodded, the movement barely perceptible, before he said; “I suppose I have time for a few words.”

“Great,” Emily said with a smile. A red light on her drone winked on, and she said; “And we’re rolling. So, Malleus Scandarum, it’s safe to say that over the last week you’ve managed to take the political stage by storm, especially when you said that you are an extragalactic people, of all things, but many people are still curious about where you come from. Could you tell us about your galaxy?”

“An interesting question,” Malleus said. “The place where my brothers and I are from is known as the Imperium. It is, I will be frank, a grim place; power is held with an iron grip and our people do not enjoy the freedoms that you enjoy.”

“And why is that?” Emily interjected.

“Because we are at war,” Malleus said, slightly thrown by the suddenness of the question. “We fight constant battles, both within and without our realms, and in order to avoid losing, we need control.”

“What’s so important about victory, then?”

“Because if we lost, then humanity would become extinct,” Malleus said. “We are, I regret to say, constantly war with alien empires that vie for power against our own. If we lost, then billions, nay, trillions, would be killed or enslaved.”

“So you’re against aliens, then?”

That, Malleus thought, was a nasty question.

“I am against some, yes, but ones that I highly doubt you will ever have heard of,” Malleus said. “But until I arrived here, I had never seen any of the Citadel races before in my life. I have yet to see Turians try to conquer cities, I have yet to see Asari enslave the innocent, I have yet to see Salarians launch orbital bombardments on defenceless nations. I am a reasonable man, Miss Wong, and I can see that the conquest or destruction of humanity are not the goals of the Citadel species. I bear them no ill will whatsoever.”

That was an out and out lie, but Malleus had a feeling if he said that, once he had dealt with the Reapers, he was most likely going to launch a crusade against the rest of the galaxy, it would go down badly.

“A final question, then,” Emily said. “In your meeting with the Council, you revealed that you had been offered to work as Special Forces for all of the Council races, and, suffice to say, that’s caused quite a stir, quite predictably. Why did you do that if you knew it was going to cause a potential political fallout?”

“I take a very dim view of dishonesty, Miss Wong,” Malleus said, with a soft, slightly disconcerting smile. “Though seeing how you’re a woman of integrity, I’m sure that you wouldn’t be doing anything such as, say editing my words or quoting this interview out of context to make me look bad, would you?”

The sentence was left hanging there for a moment, before, nervously smiling. Emily said; “Of course I wouldn’t. Thank you for your time, Malleus Scandarum.”

“It’s been a pleasure.”

She hurried away, drone bobbing in her wake, and Titus remarked; “Well, you’ve certainly put the wind up her.”

“I was just making sure my words weren’t twisted,” Malleus said. He checked his power armour’s chronometer, which had been adjusted to the Citadel’s twenty-hour day. “Come; our meeting is starting shortly.”

#

“Greetings, Councillors,” Malleus said as he entered the Council’s main debating chamber, slamming his fists together above his chest and bowing his head. “Thank you for granting me the time to speak.”

“We always make time for those under our jurisdiction,” the Salarian councillor said. “And we were told that this was of a matter of great importance.”

Behind the councillors’ pedestals were a small gathering of others, Turians, Salarians, a few humans and some Asari, mostly aides or less important officials, Malleus guessed.

“It is indeed,” Malleus said. “One that, if I may speak frankly, I’m amazed has not been flagged up before.”

“And what exactly is this matter?” the Asari councillor asked.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, human colonies in the Terminus systems have, over the past two years, been attacked,” Malleus said. “All the people are taken and no signs of conflict are present.”

“This issue has been discussed in the past,” Udina said. “We agreed that people knew the risks of settling in the Terminus systems.”

“Indeed,” Malleus said. “That was not what I was going to talk about. I have spent some time investigating these disappearances, and discovered a race of aliens known as the Collectors were responsible.”

“The Alliance found this out on Horizon,” Udina said once more. “You are going over old facts here; if you have nothing new to bring to the table I will have to ask you to stop wasting our time.”

“I was not finished,” Malleus said. “Just two days ago, we found the way to the Collectors home, attacked it, and destroyed it.”

“You destroyed their homeworld?” the Asari councillor asked. “That’s tantamount to genocide, you realise.”

“The Collectors were a threat to the galaxy as a whole,” Malleus said. “Letting them live would have put all our lives in danger. I do not regret my actions.”

“Even if they are gone, the Collectors were still an enigmatic race at best,” the Turian Councillor said. “Nobody knew where they came from. How did you find them?”

“They were beyond the Omega-Four Relay,” Malleus said. “We obtained an Identification Friend/Foe module that allowed us to pass through it safely.”

“So you found out where the Collectors lived and you stopped them from kidnapping people,” Udina said. “Congratulations on that, but what exactly are you trying to say?”

“While at the Collector base, we discovered what the Collectors had been taking people for,” Malleus said. “They were rendered down to a base genetic form and used in the construction of this machine.”

He flicked his omni-tool on, and bought a trio of picture supplied by some of the Cerberus salvage teams that were combing the base. The skull of the Reaper Malleus had slain, screaming silently even in death, leered out of one of the holograms, while overhead shots showed its sheer size. There was a murmur from the Councillors and their various aides behind them.

“The machine was destroyed,” Malleus said. “And on analysing the materials it was made of, we discovered something interesting.”

He flicked up a few charts, showing comparisons between two lumps of dark metal.

“It was made of exactly the same substance as the dreadnought class ship known as Sovereign that lead the attack on the Citadel,” Malleus said. “It used similar construction techniques and we have found the same weapons being built for installation on the machine as those found on the wreckage of Sovereign.”

“So you’re suggesting that the Collectors helped supply the Geth attack?” the Turian Councillor asked.

“Not quite,” Malleus said. “The Collectors have technology centuries ahead of our own, technology only found on Sovereign. What I believe is that the Collectors were being controlled by another.”

“And what would that be?” The Asari councillor asked.

“A race of machines known as the Reapers,” Malleus said. “I-”

“We have discussed the issue of the so-called ‘Reapers’ before,” Udina interrupted. “No evidence was found to support their existence. Sovereign was not a Reaper, it was simply a particularly large Geth dreadnought; clearly the Geth had the Collectors build it for them.”

“If the Geth or the Collectors had the capability to build a ship like Sovereign, why would they stop at one?” Malleus asked. “Cost is of no concern to them, so why wouldn’t they build two Sovereigns, three Sovereigns, an entire fleet of Sovereigns?”

“We can’t comment on Geth military composition, but we have no evidence to suggest that these ‘Reapers,’ exist,” the Asari Councillor said firmly. “We appreciate the steps you took to safeguard the galaxy from the Collectors, but this still does nothing to prove the existence of the Reapers.”

Malleus sighed, and shook his head.

“Very well, councillors,” he said, voice calm and level. “Thank you for your time nonetheless.”

He turned, and left, Cyralius and Titus in his wake. The doors to the chamber slid open as they stepped through, and once they slid closed, Malleus took a deep breath, drew back his fist and slammed it into the wall.

“THOSE EMPEROR DAMN IDIOTS!!” he roared, metal denting beneath his impact.

The envoys and civil servants around them in the corridor looked at him in fright before hurrying away, and Titus just shook his head.

“Well, we tried,” he said.

“We failed,” Malleus said. “And failure is not an option. Too any lives are at stake here. Our collective fate as a species is at stake here.”

He leant against the wall, massaging his temples and resisting the urge to snarl.

“The idiots,” he muttered. “Are they blind?”

“They’re worried about causing panic,” Cyralius said. “This galaxy hasn’t known proper war for too long, and it’s made them soft; the last major war we had was the First Contact War between the Humans and the Turians about thirty years ago, and even then that was a minor engagement. They’ve become too used to peace to even consider war.”

“And it weakens them,” Malleus said.

“What’s our next move, brother captain?” Titus asked.

“I don’t know,” Malleus said. “We prepare where we can, I suppose, we get some of an army; the Krogan, the Geth, Aria’s forces, if we can persuade them.”

“Malleus Scandarum?” a voice behind them asked.

“What is it?” Malleus asked, turning to face a human and a Turian, still bristling.

“My name is Admiral David Anderson,” the human said. Malleus guessed that he was in his middle ages; even though his stair was still black, without a hint of grey, there were faint wrinkles across his dark skin. “And this is General Deniel Suvat.”

The Turian extended a taloned hand, and Malleus took it, shaking it carefully so as to crush it with his bionic; he was still getting used to the augmetic.

“Admiral, General,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“I was interested in what you had to say about the Reapers,” Suvat said. “As was David here.”

“You think they’re real too?” Malleus asked.

“That’s right,” Anderson said. “Listen, we’re hoping to talk to you about this, but maybe not in a corridor next to a dent in a wall. I know a good place we can talk with a bit more privacy.”

It was in a bar named Flux that they sat down, Anderson ordering a round of drinks, and they began to talk. Though the chairs were wide enough to accommodate Malleus, probably for the bar’s Krogan patrons, he felt it creak alarmingly beneath his power-armoured weight and instead half sat and half stood, knee joints of his power armour locking in place.

“I was interested in what you had to say about the Reaper you found on the Collector base,” Suvat said. “So it was constructed from human genetic material?”

“That’s right,” Malleus said. “I’m not sure exactly how it was made, but we’ve got teams examining the wreckage on the Collector Base trying to find out.”

“How did you kill that thing?” Suvat asked.

“A blade,” Malleus said. “Stabbed it in the skull.”

Suvat looked Malleus’ board shouldered, power-armoured form up and down, before saying; “I can imagine that.”

“Wait a moment, the base is still intact?” Anderson asked.

“That’s correct,” Malleus said. “When we attacked it, we jury-rigged their generators to work as a neutron bomb; we’re combing it for weapons tech now.”

“What have you found?” Suvat asked, a sudden interest in the Turian’s eyes.

“Several examples of weapons, some shielding technology, even a few metal composites that could be used as ship or body armour, but nothing we’ve been able to reverse engineer just yet,” Malleus said. “We’re still working on that, unfortunately.”

“Who’s doing this research?” Anderson asked.

“A benefactor of mine,” Malleus said; he had a feeling mentioning Cerberus wouldn’t win him any support from either Suvat or Anderson. “He knows about the Reapers, and has his concerns about them.”

“Glad to see we’re not the only ones,” Suvat said.

“Tell me,” Cyralius said. “Seeing as the council is in denial about the Reapers, why are you convinced they exist?”

“I worked with Shephard,” Anderson said. “I helped him stop Saren when he tried to unleash the Reapers, and I saw Sovereign first hand at the battle of the Citadel.”

“As did I,” Suvat said. “I’m in charge of the Citadel’s ground forces, and I saw Sovereign first hand. The Geth are advanced, yes, but there’s no way they could have built something like Sovereign; it took the firepower of an entire fleet to bring it down, and it took at least five hits from a dreadnought class ship without taking a scratch; its own weapons went through its shields like a hot knife through butter. I heard Shephard’s theories on the thing and they made more sense than the Council’s statements that it was simply a Geth dreadnought. I even said to them why didn’t they build themselves a whole load of Sovereigns two years ago, just after the battle, but they wouldn’t listen to me either.”

“So what have you been doing?” Malleus asked.

“Trying to reinforce the best we can,” Anderson said. “The Turians have been building more dreadnoughts over the past couple of years, ever since the Battle of the Citadel, so we can use that to our advantage when the time comes, and I’ve been putting pressure on the Council for extra funding for the Citadel Fleet.”

“And I’ve been doing the same for our ground forces,” Suvat added. “The Council have been willing to provide ever since the Geth attack, because that makes them look good, but they’re beginning to get more reluctant. If we can’t convince them soon then they’re going to end up cutting back on our budget, and then we’re really in trouble.”

“We’ll just have to hope that we can convince them in time,” Anderson said. “Listen, whatever happens, you’ve got our support.”

“I’m glad to hear,” Malleus said. “I’m sure I can rely on you both.”

He stood, draining his drink, and said; “General, Admiral, it was good talking to you. I’ve got some support from other quarters which I’m trying to marshal, and time is of the essence.”

Suvat nodded.

“We’ll be here on the Citadel if you need us,” he said. “Seeing if we can make the best of this situation. Good luck out there, Malleus.”

Malleus saluted them both, gauntlet slamming against augmetic, before turning and leaving. He had an army to gather.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:42 am

Chapter 3-Urdnot

“Council meeting didn’t go well?” Hullen asked, seeing Malleus’ expression as he entered the Normandy’s CIC.

“No, it did not,” Malleus said. “They refused to believe me.”

“Bloody politicians,” Titus muttered, shaking his head. “What’s the plan, Malleus?”

“Now?” Malleus asked. “We already have allies from some quarters, at least. We’ll bring them round to our side.”

“Who’s that?” Titus asked.

“You of all people should know,” Malleus said. “You were the ones who made friends with them, after all.”

“I…oh,” Titus said. “Good plan.”

“They’re what I’m here for,” Malleus said. “EDI, set a course for Tuchanka; we’re paying Clan Urdnot a visit.”

#

The Normandy translated in-system within the hour, heading towards the dirty brown orb of Tuchanka. The Council Krogan Demilitarised Zone drones that patrolled the void-space around the Krogan’s homeworld flagged the ship until EDI supplied the correct codes, and the ship slipped into orbit over the planet’s current capital, Urdnot.

The Thunderhawk dropped from the hangar in the Normandy’s belly and down into the dust-swept atmosphere of Tuchanka. Its hardy frame ignoring the stinging fragments of dust that scratched against it, it swooped down towards the immense blast doors that provided entrance to the underground bunker that Clan Urdnot called home. It hovered down into the tunnel that provided aerial access, before coming to rest on the landing pad at its bottom.

The ramp slid open, and Malleus was out first, followed by Titus, Urz in his wake, Grunt, Cyralius and Hullen, Kullas and Okeen at the rear.

“Urdnot Grunt,” one of the guards at the gate said, most likely an officer judging by the more ornate, geometric designs on his armour. “And Astartes. We received your message sent from orbit and Clan Leader Wrex says he will speak to immediately.”

“I am glad to hear,” Malleus said. “You know the way, Urdnot Grunt; lead on.”

Grunt nodded, before taking them through the thick bulkhead that allowed entry and exit to Urdnot’s hangar. Through corridors of cracked concrete he led the, before they entered the main hall of the underground bunker that made up Urdnot. Malleus took it in silently, before Grunt said; “Clan leader Wrex is over there.”

Malleus nodded, heading towards the throne of shattered concrete where Urdnot Wrex sat. The Krogan saw them approach, and nodded to the two guards at the base of his pedestal to let the Astartes through, before rising.

“Malleus Scandarum,” he said, stepping forward to greet them. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

“And you, Urdnot Wrex,” Malleus said, slamming his fists together above his chest and bowing his head.

Wrex grinned, before saying; “And Titus and Grunt are here as well; I trust you’ve been looking after young Grunt, Titus.”

“He’s been doing me proud,” Titus said with a grin. “As has Urz here. Filleted his fair share of Collectors since you gave him to me.”

“I’m glad to hear,” Wrex said. “And I’m glad you arrived when you did.”

“You are?” Malleus asked. “Why, what’s happening?”

Wrex sighed, and sat back on his throne.

“War’s happening, that’s what,” he said. “I don’t know how much you know about the Krogan, Malleus.”

“Well, aside from being some of the most skilled warriors in the galaxy?” Malleus said. “There’s the genophage, isn’t there? The infertility virus the Turians infected you with after the Krogan Rebellions.”

Wrex nodded.

“Yes, the genophage,” he said. “Only one in every thousand of our children birth is not stillborn, did you know? It’s killing the Krogan, Malleus, slowly but surely. It was designed to stabilise our breeding rate and numbers, but when the Turians and the Salarians made it they didn’t factor in our culture.”

“You culture?” Malleus asked.

“We’re a race of warriors, predators, like Astartes,” Wrex said. “We love war, almost too much. And we’re too set in our ways to consider peace.”

“And by the sound of things, you’re trying to change this,” Cyralius said.

“Aye,” Wrex said. “Your friend in blue is a sharp one, Malleus. I’ve been trying to unite the clans of Tuchanka, stop the constant wars for at least for one generation; a few generations without too many of our people dying and we might just outbreed the genophage. I’d managed to get most of the more powerful clans on our side, talk them round to our cause, but I’ve hit a problem.”

“That is?” Malleus asked.

“Two of the most powerful clans that were on our side, Wrend and Morroh, defected to our opposition,” Wrex said. “Until now, our enemies didn’t have enough support to move against us openly, but with Wrend and Morroh with them, they stand a chance of beating us, and too good a chance at that. And I can’t let that happen; a clan-war of this scale hasn’t happened for centuries, and could spell disaster for the Krogan.”

“So that whiny green-plated second of yours was right,” Grunt remarked.

Wrex nodded.

“As much as he exasperates me, I keep him around because he is, most of the time,” he said. “I thought I could handle the clans more easily than I could, but I forgot how much of a traditionalist Morroh Banck is; he got tired of my attempts to keep him friendly, and the other clans against me answer to him now.”

“So where do we come into it?” Malleus asked, quietly feeling concerned; the Krogan would have been incredibly useful allies against the Reapers. If they were engulfed in a civil war then that would be problematic, to say the least.

“You’re allies of Clan Urdnot,” Wrex said. “And powerful ones at that. And more than that, you know about the Reapers.”

“What?” Malleus asked. “How do you know about them?”

“There’s a human I know, a David Anderson,” Wrex said. “He’s an old friend of mine; he and I both helped Shephard when we tried to stop Saren and the Geth. He told me about your meeting with the Council. Spineless idiots, the lot of them.”

“So you know about the Reapers,” Malleus said. “I’m glad to hear that.”

“I do indeed,” Wrex said. “Why do you think I’ve spent the last two years trying to unite the clans? Giant genocidal machines are bad news for everybody, whether or not you’re a Krogan. The only problem is, with the clans divided the way they are, we’re in no state to stand against the Reapers.”

“And you want our help, don’t you?” Malleus asked.

Wrex nodded.

“We’ll help you, yes, but you’ve got to do us a favour first.”

Malleus nodded, a smile slowly creeping across his face.

“What’s the plan?”

#

The Thunderhawk soared through the dust-swept skies of Tuchanka, engines screaming as it powered forwards. Within its hold was Malleus and the other Astartes, along with Wrex, Grunt, the Shaman and Uvenk.

“You sure it’s a good idea to have all of your senior people with us on this mission?” Malleus asked Wrex over the sound of the Thunderhawk’s hull rattling.

“Clan leaders lead by example, or else they’re weak,” Wrex said. “And when a clan leader goes to war, his Krantt follows. Just like you, Malleus.”

“I suppose so,” Malleus said.

“Why’re we taking Uvenk along, then?” Grunt asked. “He’s no good to anybody.”

“Be quiet, whelp,” Uvenk snapped. “You may be a warrior of Urdnot now, but I’m still Wrex’s second, and getting to that position involved more fighting than you can imagine.”

“Pity you’re still no good at it,” Grunt said with a smirk.

“Titus, you’re his battlemaster,” Uvenk said. “Aren’t you going to silence the yapping of this pup?”

“Why?” Titus asked as he gently stroked the top of Urz’ head, the varren purring quietly as he did so. “He’s right.”

Uvenk snarled, before sitting against his seat.

“Anyway, so we’re hitting Morroh Banck at his headquarters then, aren’t we?” Hullen asked. “Cut the head off the snake.”

Aye,” Wrex said. “Risky, but if we pull it off it’ll show the other clan’s we’re serious; it should bring them into line. You sure this plane can’t be detected by radar?”

“Kullas is deploying countermeasures,” Malleus said, nodding to the Forge Priest. Kullas was sitting perfectly still in his seat, his bionic eye glowing red while his other was glazed and blank, muttering a barely perceptible string of binaric. “He’ll keep us out of their sight.”

“Brother Captain,” Kurias announced over the tannoy. “We’re at the location. Shall I bring the Thunderhawk down?”

“Do it,” Malleus ordered.

There was the feeling of being pulled as the Thunderhawk began to dive downwards out of the cloud cover that kept it out of the sight of Morroh and its allies. There was a scream as the turbolaser fired, tearing into the ground like an orbital strike, before the Thunderhawk levelled out. Malleus felt it tilt, and could hear its heavy bolters chattering as it fired, no doubt on another strafing run.

It slowed before thudding into the ground, heavy bolters still roaring, and the ramp at its nose slid open. Malleus was out of his harness as soon as he saw the first crack of sunlight through it, and his thunder hammer crackled as he activated it. The weapon felt strange in his grip, even with the Mass-Effect generator Kullas had installed in its new pommel to keep its balance, and Malleus supposed he had still to get used to it. Probably should have practiced on the training drones on the Normandy.

The area he had charged into was a large, dusty courtyard before a blocky, bunker-like building of stone the same sandy brown as the dust that choked the air of Tuchanka, ugly and squat. The wreckage of several armoured vehicles lay next to a smoking crater, no doubt the work of the Thunderhawk’s turbolaser, while two heavy anti-aircraft cannons lay as smoking wreckage on the walls that surrounded the compound.

“Contacts front,” he yelled as the doors to the bunker slid open, a small squad of Krogan charging forth. The Thunderhawk, engines screaming as it began to lift off, turned its heavy bolters on them and cut them down with a chattering noise.

“Contacts left!” Hullen warned, before his assault cannon opened fire. “I need some support.”

Grunt and Urdnot’s Shaman ducked to cover next to the marine, opening fire with their own weapons, while yet more Krogan began to pour from the bunker. Uvenk, Wrex and Kullas took fire positions against them, round blazing downrange, and Malleus nodded to Titus and Okeen.

“Let’s show them how it’s done,” he said. “Cyralius, give Hullen and the Shaman some psyker support. Titus, Okeen, charge! AVE IMPERATOR!”

His thunder hammer crackled with energy as he thundered forwards, bullets sparking off his power armour, while the chainblade of Okeen’s Narthecium buzzed into life. The three Astartes hit ten times their number of Krogan like an avalanche. Malleus swung with his hammer, its power field shattering bone and rupturing organs, the hardy frames of the krogan no match for its raw killing power.

Next to him, Okeen sent great gouts of orange blood flying as he stabbed and slashed with his narthecium, roaring prayers to the Emperor. The apothecary was silent as he attacked the Krogan before him, laying about left and right, his screaming chainblade tearing through flesh and armour with ease, stabs and sweeps made with cold, calculating skill.

Titus was equally deadly, going through combat manoeuvres with only his power-armoured gauntlets as weapons. Necks were snapped by chops, snouts staved in by punches, ribcages shattered by vicious kicks. He moved like a whirlwind, swiftly dispatching any xenos that got too close, slaughter in his wake. By his ankles, Urz bit and snarled, barrelling into Krogan, knocking them to the floor, tearing at throats with his jutting tusks.

Through the Krogan they cut, a few hammerblow punches from the burly xenos glancing from their armour, the retort a slash from a chainsword, a punch from Titus’ gauntlets or a swing from Malleus’ crackling thunder hammer. They were invulnerable, too swift and too well armoured to attack effectively, and each hit was a kill; hardy as the Krogan were, they were no match for the Emperor’s scientific progenies or the feats of Imperial technology that armed and armoured them.

A minute of furious melee combat later, and Malleus smashed his thunder hammer into the jaw of the final Krogan. The way to the doors cleared, he turned to the courtyard and yelled out; “Inside! Move!”

Wrex, Kullas and Uvenk stormed forwards through the doors, ducking to behind the half-open blast doors and taking fire positions to cover the advance of the others. Grunt and the Shaman were first to go, Hullen calmly backtracking as he faced the enemy reinforcements still charging into the compound, assault cannon picking a target and tearing it down one by one. He cleared the doors last, and Kullas chattered a prayer as the ordered the doors closed. Fire pinged off the thick metal, and the Forge Priest announced; “I have sealed the doors; they will not be able to access it without explosives.”

“Good work,” Malleus said. “Let’s find Morroh Banck.”

They advanced, sweeping through the main corridor that they had entered. Various corridors branched off, but they headed towards its heart, hoping that they could find Morroh Banck, before Cyralius suddenly stopped by a doorway and said; “Up here.”

“What?” Wrex asked.

“There’s a large concentration of Krogan and what looks to be a command centre down below us,” Cyralius said, an unearthly glow of witchlight around his eyes. “We continue the way we go and we run into the main barracks and get overwhelmed. We’ve already got reinforcements coming that way.”

“Understood,” Malleus said. “Let’s move.”

There was a rumble from behind them, and Kullas said; “They must have breached the doors.”

The Forge Priest seemed to frown beneath his helmet as he hyper-tuned senses, enhanced by the artifice of the Mechanicum beyond even the degree available to the Astartes, before adding; “Vehicles, large, tyred, judging by estimated weight, I’d say they’re armoured and armed.”

“Tomkahs,” Wrex said. “Their cannons will probably go through even your armour. We’ll head down, seeing as you know Banck’s there, somehow.”

“Agreed,” Malleus said. “Swift as lightning, brothers!”

“Wrathful as thunder!” the other finished, as Malleus took to the stairwell the doors led into, Wrex in his wake. Occasionally, they would come across a heavy, sealed blast door, but Cyralius would shake his head and order them to move further downwards, deeper into the bunker that served as the headquarters for Wrex’s opposition.

“This is it,” Cyralius said suddenly, stopping at a door. “Hullen?”

“A pleasure,” Hullen said, hefting his melta. He fired, a corona of raw heat forming around the barrel of the weapon, which already glowed red hot, before the screaming melta beam reduced the door to nothing but steam, the concrete around it red hot and molten.

Malleus was first through the portal, the white and gold paint of his power armour peeling in the residual heat, his thunder hammer up and crackling, ready for any threats, but the only thing that awaited him was the scorched remains of two Krogan sutured to the floor; their shields and armour clearly were no match for the raw power of Hullen’s melta.

“We’re clear,” he called. “Quickly.”

The small strike team of Astartes and Krogan hurried through, into yet another stretch of the bunker’s complex, the noise of bellowed orders audible through the corridor. Wrex took the lead, his heavy, customised rifle raised, growling; “Banck’s close. I can smell him,” before he walked into a hail of fire.

His kinetics took the worst of it, and the Krogan ducked back behind the corner with a curse, before sweeping his weapon around the corner and sending its entire magazine off in an attempt to keep the enemy’s heads down.

Titus was through next, his shotgun blazing as he sprayed more suppressive fire across the room. The veteran marine trusted his power armour and simply stood firm in the centre of the doorway, roaring curses as his weapon tore through the room. He ducked behind cover as he slammed another drum of thermals home, and Malleus followed, submachine gun raised.

They were in some sort of command centre, a large, hexagonal room with walls studded with consoles and holo-screens. Most of these were being used as cover by a small group of Krogan, while at the other end of the command centre, next to a pair of heavy blast doors, stood a particularly bulky Krogan, skin a dappled ochre, bellowing orders to the other warriors around him.

“I’ve got you Banck, you treacherous bastard!” Wrex bellowed. The chieftain of Clan Urdnot broke cover, a bolt of biotic force arcing towards the leader of Clan Morroh, slamming into his shield with a deep thump. “I’ll tear your head off and drink from your skull!”

Banck merely snarled, snapping off a few return shots before bellowing; “Kill them!”

He slammed a button on the wall next to him, and the doors slid aside, revealing a small boxy room. He stepped inside, and the doors closed with a rumble.

“A lift?” Wrex roared furiously. “You try to flee from me in a lift! Coward! Oath breaker!”

He strode forwards, more fire thudding from his rifle, heedless of the return shots as he erected a biotic barrier to keep him from harm. His Krantt, Uvenk and the Shaman, went to his side, as did Grunt. Malleus quickly issued an order, and the Astartes joined the advancing wedge, fire spitting from their own weapons.

Enemy Krogan stayed behind cover, firing their weapons when they could, but the storm of firepower, thanks in no small part to the work of Hullen’s assault cannon, cut down any that stood. The small phalanx did not stop, advancing onto cover and forcing the enemy to move, forcing them into vulnerable positions where they were torn down by fire. Orange blood was spilt, organs and their backups ruptured, and even the hardy frames of the Krogan were no match for the sheer amount of fire coming from their foe.

In a minute of furious combat, the room was cleared, Wrex finishing the last of his enemies with a blow from the stock of his rifle.

“We need a way to get up,” he said. “If Banck gets to reinforcements then we’re in trouble.”

“Not a problem,” Kullas said from over by a console. “He’s still in the elevator, and I am bringing it back down to our level. It should arrive quickly.”

He chattered something, a binaric machine prayer, and the doors of the elevator slid open. Morroh Banck looked at the gathering of Astartes and Krogan with confusion, before Wrex grabbed the rival clan leader, slamming their thick snouts together, and punching him in the jaw. Banck bellowed in pain, but before he could react a final swing from Wrex knocked him to the ground.

“We’re going to the surface,” he said to the others. “I want this to be as public as possible.”

The elevator slid upwards, moving swiftly at Kullas’ command, Wrex pinning Banck to the floor with his foot. It stopped some way up, and they stepped into the tunnel that they had used to enter the complex in the first place.

A small squad of Krogan saw them step free, and raised their weapons, before Wrex hauled the clan leader forwards. The enemy hesitated for a moment, before lowering their weapons, while Wrex grabbed the still stunned Banck by the scruff of his neck and hauled him forwards towards the blast doors. He led the leader of Clan Morroh up the ramp, the Astartes following uncertainly in his wake.

“What’s he doing?” Hullen voxed. “They’ll have gathered in force out there; he’s walking right into their fire, surely?”

“I know,” Malleus said. “I suspect he does as well.”

“Hope he has a plan,” Okeen said.

Wrex cleared the lip, the Astartes in his wake, and stared into a forest of weapons. Large bore mass-accelerator cannons were trained on him from turrets of a pair of heavy APCs, while what looked to be a full company-strength group of Krogan warriors were clustered around the vehicles or in cover.

“They really rolled out the red carpet, didn’t they?” Hullen remarked, lowering his assault cannon into a firing position in readiness for a fight.

Surprisingly, the Krogan remained where they were, the sight of Banck on his knees enough to stay their weapons. Wrex stepped forwards, and announced; “Morroh Banck has been defeated, and his krantt is dead. I claim right of conquest; Clan Morroh is mine to command, unless any wish to challenge.”

None was forthcoming, and many of the Krogan lowered their weapons.

“What the Emperor’s Name is going on?” Malleus voxed.

“Haven’t a clue,” Titus replied. “They’re keen on their honour, though; this is probably some ritual thing they do.”

“Where are the other leaders of the other clans?” Wrex called out to the crowd of Krogan before him.

“I am Wrend Login of Clan Wrend,” one of the Krogan said. His hump seemed bigger than that of the warriors around him, his weapon better made, probably more powerful. Definitely an officer, Malleus decided.

“Morroh Banck is beaten,” Wrex said. “Does Clan Wrend acknowledge right of conquest.”

Login nodded.

“We do,” he said. “The battle was a fair one; you’ve got some quads, doing what you did, Wrex.”

“I object!” Banck suddenly spoke. He struggled to his feet, orange blood dripping from his nose as he stood unsteadily. “Wrex used the aid of aliens, and this is a matter for the Krogan and the Krogan alone!”

“The Astartes are allies of Clan Urdnot,” the Shaman said. “As Shaman of Clan Urdnot and keeper of the traditions and laws of Tuchanka and the Krogan, I see no law breaking in calling upon allies for aid in such a situation, even if they are aliens.”

“He is right,” Wrend Login said. “Urdnot Wrex, your right of conquest is legal. Clan Wrend steps down from our opposition. Clan Morroh is yours.”

Morroh Banck cursed and spat on the ground, sand turned sticky with the blood in the Krogan’s spit.

“What would you do with me, then?” he asked. “You’ve taken my clan through dishonourable means, so perhaps your way of finishing me will equally so.”

Wrex simply raised his rifle and shot him once, between the eyes.

“You’re a treacherous, back-stabbing worm, Morroh Banck,” he said. “Don’t talk to me about honour.”

“That was surprisingly easy,” Malleus remarked. Wrex simply nodded.

“The Krogan respect strength,” he said. “And the strongest always leads. Most of Morroh’s leaders won’t like it, but I pay their own traditions the right respect then their warriors should be willing to serve under my rule, and that’s what important. Believe me, if we didn’t have these then we would have torn ourselves apart in endless wars long ago. It won’t last forever, but it should be good enough for the moment.”

“So the Krogan will be ready when the time comes to fight the Reapers?”

“We’ll be ready,” Wrex said. “Hell, we’ll be looking forward to it.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:42 am

Chapter 4-Catharsis

“Malleus,” Samara said as the brother-captain entered the port observation deck, the bulkhead door sealing shut behind him. The Justicar rose from her sitting position, the biotic sphere she held suspended between her hands fading to nothing as she stood. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Yeoman Chambers said you wished to talk to me,” Malleus replied. “What’s this about?”

“There’s somebody I wish to find on Omega,” Samara said. “Seeing as you’re going there, I was hoping for your help with that. But I also wished to talk about something else.”

“What was that?” Malleus asked.

“You.”

“Me?” Malleus asked, sitting down on one of the benches.

“I have spoken to some of the others, Titus, Kullas, Miranda, Kelly, and we are…concerned about you,” Samara said.

“Concerned? Concerned about what exactly?”

“Malleus,” Samara said. “When I look into your eyes, do you know what I see?”

“Enlighten me,” Malleus said.

“I see the eyes of a warrior, a soldier,” Samara said. “I see somebody strong, but honourable at the same time, might tempered by the weight of duty. But do you know what else I see?”

“What?”

“Guilt.”

“Guilt?” Malleus asked. “What have I to feel guilty of?”

“It’s the guilt of a father who has lost his son, who blames himself for his death,” Samara said.

“What son?” Malleus asked. “I’ve never had children, Samara.”

“No, but there was one who you treated as a son, was there not?”

Malleus sighed, nodding his head.

“Gaius, yes.”

“Indeed.”

“So what do you want to know about this?” Malleus asked.

“I am worried about you, Malleus,” Samara said, her tone never breaking from the calm, serene one he had known all this time. “You carry this guilt with you and you have nothing to relieve it.”

“I pray,” Malleus said. “The Emperor hears my words and provides guidance.”

“And what has he told you?”

“It is not the place of the faithful to await miracles or divine signs,” Malleus said. “Demand not from your Emperor, for it is not your place; He is mightier than thou shalt ever be.”

“Quoting again?”

“So what if I am? My faith in Him on Terra is steadfast, and any awkward questions that you ask will not shift it.”

“I am not here to undermine any of your beliefs, Malleus, do not worry,” Samara replied. “I just want to talk to you about Gaius.”

“Well here I am,” Malleus said. “You’re worried about me, fine, but I assure you that there’s nothing to worry about. Gaius’ death wasn’t good, I know, and if I could have avoided it I would have, but I know there was nothing I could do. There’s nothing to talk about. He is dead. It is a shame, and I wish it had not happened, but I have moved on.”

“Malleus, I said almost exactly the same thing when I discovered something…terrible about one of my daughters,” Samara said. “I tried to present a strong front, to try and convince others around me that I was fine, that I needed no extra attention, but it ate me up inside, tore me apart. I know the pain of losing a child, Malleus, and you cannot simply quash it into nothing.”

“I lost no child,” Malleus said. “Gaius was not my son.”

“Not by blood, but Titus told me about how you rescued him from Polgrin IV, how you took him to the Sons, how you made sure that after he completed his training he was transferred to Sixth Company, how you kept an eye on him through his training. You did exactly what a father did, Malleus.”

“Perhaps I did,” Malleus said. “But Gaius is dead now. There is nothing more I can do.”

“You can stop blaming yourself,” Samara said gently.

“Blaming myself?” Malleus asked. “I do not blame myself.”

“After the Reaper ship, you confined him to the Normandy,” Samara said. “And he was taken by the Collectors. And you blame yourself for that.”

“I do not,” Malleus said. “How could I have known that Harbinger would attack the Normandy?”

“I know,” Samara said. “But you feel that what happened to Gaius was your fault, do you not?”

There was a silence, before Malleus said; “Partly, perhaps. It is not rational, I know.”

“You need to let go of that idea, Malleus,” Samara said. “What happened to Gaius was not your fault.”

“I know, I know,” Malleus said. “But it still pains me, nonetheless.”

A gentle hand was laid upon Malleus’ thickly muscled, heavily scarred shoulder.

“Let it go,” Samara said gently. “What happened to Gaius was tragic, but it was not your fault.”

“I said I know,” Malleus said. “Perhaps…”

He trailed off, and Samara asked; “Perhaps what?”

“Perhaps I was wrong about the blade,” Malleus said. “I suppose I may have need of it. I doubt he would resent me using it. Besides, it might be good for me. Catharsis.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Samara said.

Malleus smiled slightly, and nodded.

“Anyway,” Malleus said. “You said you wanted to talk to me. What of?”

“Do you remember when we first met, on Ilium?” Samara said, staring into the void that stretched beyond the viewing screen of the Normandy’s port observation deck.

“Yes,” Malleus said. “You were hunting that criminal, weren’t you?”

“I was,” Samara said. “I got so caught up in this Collector business that I felt I should put the matter aside until they were dealt with. But now that we’re going to Omega, I feel it would be the best time to act.”

“Of course,” Malleus said. “Who was this person?”

“She is a murderess,” Samara said. “She has hunted prey across the galaxy for more than three centuries, and I have chased her the entire way. She is remorseless, sadistic and utterly without mercy.”

“No wonder you’ve been chasing her,” Malleus asked. “Who is she?”

“She is my daughter.”

Silence reigned across the deck for a moment, before Malleus said; “I…I see. When did this happen?”

“Many, many years ago,” Samara said. “Once, when I was a young woman, before I joined the order of the Justicars, I worked as a mercenary. Sometimes I would fight, sometimes I would kill and sometimes I would simply dance the night away. But I grew older, matured, wanted to start a family, so I left that life. I found a mate, bonded with him, and had my first child. And that was where it all went wrong.”

“What happened?” Malleus asked.

“I sat waiting in a bed in a hospital clad in a thin green gown, exhausted from childbirth, while a doctor told me that they had run a few regular health checks on my newborn daughter and told me she was Ardat Yakshi,” Samara said. Her calm tone hadn’t broken, but there was a glazed, weary look in her eyes.

“Ardat Yakshi?” Malleus quizzed.

“It is an old, old Asari word meaning ‘demon of the night winds,” Samara said. “It is a genetic condition, one in every few billion births, but the effects are…horrific.”

“What are they?”

“Do you remember when I told of how Asari reproduced?” Samara asked, and Malleus nodded. A method of breeding as repellent as that was not something that would slip his mind easily. “With an Ardat Yakshi, it is different; it is no mere gentle melding of minds, but instead the victim’s nervous system is burned out and they are left as a shell of a being. I had three daughters, Malleus, all of whom were the same. To carry a child for ten months, to care for her, to pray for her, to hope for her, to think of what you shall name her, who you shall have as god-parents, only to have her named a freak and crime against the natural order before you even get to hold her in your arms for the first time? Do you know what it feels like to have a child torn from you in that sense? No amount of love can ever bridge such a gap, Malleus. No amount of hope, no amount of faith in your child can hope to overcome the fact that your child could kill somebody simply by trying to have children of their own.”

Her gaze was set firmly into the void, expression unreadable. Malleus remained silent, deciding that simply lending the xenos before a sympathetic ear would be the wisest course of action; empty apologies or placations would serve only to infuriate her.

“Two of my daughters are living a life of seclusion and comfort,” Samara said. “They have accepted their nature and simply live with it, and I am proud of them for that. But Morinth, my eldest, decided that she was not happy with it. She left it, and she started using her talents to kill people.”

“Why?” Malleus asked.

“Every time an Ardat Yakshi bonds with somebody and burns out their nervous systems, they grow stronger,” Samara answered. “They are known to be particularly powerful biotics, even among the Asari, and their latent talent is strengthened each time they bond with someone. Not only that, but it’s highly addictive; I doubt she could stop now, even if she wanted to.”

“So that’s what you meant when you said you’d lost a child, wasn’t it?” Malleus asked.

Samara nodded.

“I buried the Morinth I loved after she killed her first victim,” Samara said. “She is no longer my child, just a creature I must hunt down and kill for the good of all.”

“And you want my help to find this Morinth?” Malleus asked.

Samara nodded.

“I want you to help me lure her in and kill her,” Samara said. “If we can find her on Omega, then we can finish her once and for all.”

“Very well,” Malleus said. “I’ll help you. But first I’ve got a pirate I must visit.”

#

The armoury of the Normandy was empty, its racks of weapons barely illuminated by the dim overhead lighting, Kullas’ workbench standing untended. The brighter, harsher strip lighting embedded into the ceiling flicked on as the sensors in it detected Malleus’ entry, and for a moment the brother captain stood in the doorway.

He stepped towards one of the shelves that housed the weapons of him and his brothers; there was his hammer, his sub machinegun and bolt pistol, rarely used now that he only a magazine of ammunition, Titus’ bolter and his shotgun, Okeen’s Narthecium, while Hullen’s bulky assault cannon and melta took up a shelf of their own. Gaius’ blade, aegis and bolt pistol lay on the top shelf, all of them covered reverently with a modest white sheet by Kullas.

He pulled it back, revealing the straight, silver length of the blade. Intricate gold leaf was worked into its design, the pattern of aquilas and the chapter symbol that Malleus knew was the work of Gaius’ hand. He remembered how eager the young champion had been to show Malleus his act of metallurgy, and the smile and words of approval he had given Gaius; the Sons were the genetic legacy of Vulkan, after all, and the only smiths that Malleus would dare say were finer than theirs were perhaps of the Iron Hands.

He drew the blade out, inspecting its length, feeling its weight. Perfectly balanced, of course, the Forge Priests of the Sons knew their craft well, and elegant in its simplicity of design; simply a straight length of sharpened metal, no curves like those of the White Scars or brutal hooks and barbs like the blades of those brutal savages, the Fire Beasts.

Almost reverentially, he laid the blade on Kullas’ workbench, knelt before it, and quietly prayed.

“Blessed Emperor,” he murmured in High Gothic. “I take this blade so that I may smite thy foes and guard thy people. Once it belonged to the warrior Gaius Lokim, who I know stands by your side even now, and I ask for your permission to take this weapon without offending the spirit of my battle brother. I ask that you, in you infinite wisdom, judge me worthy of wielding this blade now that he is unable, so that I may continue his righteous work.”

He knelt there for a minute, and while nothing happened, just as he had suspected, there was something about the prayer that put him at ease.

“Ave Imperator Rex Hominis,” he said, rising to his knees.

He reached towards the blade, taking it by the hilt, reaching to the pommel and unscrewing the glowering Aquilas’ head that was there. He reached into it, and drew out a roll of parchment, carefully rolling it out on the workbench before him. It was a list of names, all of those who had wielded the blade in the past; Morion Palnis, Loorkin Remmis, Helios Aquiloc and finally, at the bottom of the parchment, Gaius Lokin. Malleus made the sign of the Aquila, before taking the quill and ink that Kullas kept by his workbench. Dipping the nib into jet liquid, he placed pen to paper and added to the bottom of the list; “Malleus Scandarum.”

He blew on it gently to dry it, before rolling it back into its tubular shape and sliding it back within the hilt, screwing the Aquila back into place. He hefted the blade in his grip, feeling its weight once again, examining the blade, before murmuring; “Blessed Emperor, may I be found worthy.”

He placed the blade on the shelf next to his other weapons, made the sign of the Aquila once more, and left.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:43 am

Chapter 5-City of Sin

The Normandy’s engines flared as it coasted over yet another asteroid, one easily ten times its size, swooping swiftly through the calmest part of the asteroid field as it headed towards its destination; Omega.

Once, long, long ago, Omega had simply been an asteroid. Prospector drones had scanned its surface, and discovered rich deposits of precious metals beneath its rocky exterior, and mining corporations had flocked to stake a claim to its abundant resources. Within a few years of mining, a small city had cropped up on the asteroid, digging deeper and deeper into its core as its inhabitants stripped it clean. After just a few years of furious strip mining, the asteroid had been left as nothing more than a hollow dome of rock stretching a good ten kilometres across, while a city of twisting corridors and atmospherically sealed skyscrapers clung to its innards.

The poor of the city, the miners and their dependents, couldn’t afford to leave with the corporations, who took the private security firms who kept the peace with them. Omega became lawless, an anarchy, and soon enough pirates moved in, using its docks as staging posts to repair and launch their ships. Petty criminals became crime lords, a ruling class of violent thugs and killers, and rates of murder spiralled. Omega became a city of the lawless and the violent, of addicts and dealers, pimps and whores and protection rackets. The private security firms returned, not to restore order but because paranoid criminals paid well and it was the perfect place for their less savoury operations. Ignored by the Council and the rest of the galaxy, Omega had spent the last two hundred years fermenting in a still of misery and violence.

The Normandy slid into a docking bay, its engines whining to keep it suspended as they fought against the artificial gravity that held everything in Omega down, and a gangplank of rusty sheet metal slid across to its airlock.

Malleus was first out, followed by Titus, Samara and Cyralius, and a group of what could have been mercenaries, judging by their ragged appearance and tattoos, stood to greet them.

“There’s a docking fee,” the Batarian at their fore said, glowering at the group with his four eyes. “Pay up/”

“We’re exempt,” Malleus said.

“Nobody’s exempt,” the Batarian spat. “Pay the damn docking fee, or we’ll get some reinforcements and blow you and your fancy ship to hell.”

There was a soft clunk as Malleus the mag-clamps that held Gaius’ blade to his waist released and the weapon fell into to the fingers of his ceramite gauntlet. He span it, and its tip came to rest on the Batarian’s throat.

“I said we’re exempt,” Malleus replied softly. “Now please, let us through.”

The Batarian’s four deep black eyes flicked from the blade, back to Malleus’ impassive, craggy face, before stepping back and nodding.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said to the other mercenaries, the small band of blue armoured humans, Turians and Batarians hurrying out of the bay.

“Hullen, get out here and bring your assault cannon,” Malleus ordered into the vox. “Keep an eye on the ship.”

“Aye, brother captain,” Hullen said. “You can count on me.”

“Knew I could,” Malleus said. He nodded to the others. “Let’s go find Aria.”

The streets of Omega were wide, but seemed poorly kept. Even here, one of the richer parts of the Asteroid judging by the squads of heavily armed mercenaries at either end of the street, there seemed an ingrained layer of dirt and a feel of squalor. And it was busy, crowds of people pushing through the street while vendors advertised food, tech, narcotics and sex from ramshackle stalls. A few air-cars zipped overhead, flying without any real for other drivers, many of the them swerving dangerously close to one of the multi-storey buildings above the Astartes. Above their heads, carved into the bowl of the asteroid, a great sprawl of urban poverty spread out, while a forest of skyscrapers and pylons speared into the vacuum. But the first thing Malleus had noticed since his entry into Omega was the music.

It was deep, throbbing stuff, fast passed, aggressive. There was something primal and heavy about it, a pounding of drums in ancient forests, something that one would jump and thrash and scream to. The source seemed to be a great, circular building that tapered upwards into the sky, its silvery flanks illuminated by orbiting holograms that proclaimed ‘Afterlife’ in deep crimson.

“This is the place?” Titus asked, a hint of disbelief on his voice. “The feared Pirate Queen of Omega holds court in a nightclub?”

“Looks more like a fortress,” Malleus remarked, observing the fire positions and even what looked to be a small anti-air battery emplaced at certain strategic points on the roof and flanks of the building, all of them manned by grey-armoured mercs.

“T’Loak is pretty famous for her paranoia,” Cyralius remarked.

“You don’t become ruler of a city of criminals without making your fair share of enemies,” Samara said.

“Your Justicar code isn’t going to cause a problem in this meeting, is it?” Malleus asked.

“I am still bound by the oath that I made to you, Malleus,” Samara said. “Besides, I believe that she is acting as a force for good on this station.”

“You do?” Malleus asked. “She’s still a pirate and a criminal, is she not?”

“Yes, but I was here less than ten years ago, before she took power,” Samara said. “This is the richest part of Omega, but those vendors would’ve been terrified of setting up street stalls anywhere; now they feel they can do so in relative safety. She’s organising an army, an infrastructure, and the city is already becoming safer, if only by a small margin.”

“An organiser?” Malleus nodded. “Good. That’s what I need.”

There was a queue outside Afterlife, a line of people segregated from the rest of the crowd by a small squad of mercenaries, all of which probably answered to Aria, who were checking the line of hopeful guests; some were allowed entry and some turned away by the Krogan at the door.

“Hey, you,” one of the mercenaries guarding the line said, pointing at Malleus.

“If this is about the incident in the docking bay, then go talk to my friend there,” Malleus said, noticing the Turian’s uniform was the same dark grey as the armour worn by the soldiers of fortune he’d encountered there. “I’m sure he and his chaingun would be eager to get acquainted with you.”

“Nah,” the Turian said. “Aria T’Loak wants to talk to you. You don’t want to keep her waiting. Head up to the top level of the main floor, she’ll speak to you there.”

He gestured them through the door, ignoring the angry protests from some of those in the queue, and Malleus and his companions stepped into Afterlife.

The first thing that hit them was the noise. Not only was the music at its loudest here, but there was the sound of shouted conversations, orders at the various bars around the place, a few argument and angry threats; Malleus’ enhanced ears picked up random scraps of conversation, mangled meaningless words that meant nothing without their context. The second thing was the light; strobe lights over the dance floor, and a great cone of orange stretching towards the ceiling, a massive hologram around which dancers plied their trade on platforms and balconies. The air of Afterlife stank; a potent mixture of body odour, smoke, spilled drinks and urine assaulted Malleus’ nose, his suite of fearsomely potent senses almost overwhelmed. Both Cyralius and Titus looked equally uncomfortable, and even Samara had wrinkled her nose slightly in response to the smell.

“That must be place over there,” Malleus said, nodding towards a balcony that stood over the club like a pulpit. A pair of Krogan guards stood at the bottom of the steps up to it, cradling shotguns in their arms, and they nodded as Malleus approached.

“Aria T’Loak’s expecting you,” one of them said. “Go on up.”

Malleus nodded to them as they stood aside, moving up the steps, before he was halted once more by a Batarian.

“Give your weapons over,” the xenos ordered briskly.

“Can’t do that,” Malleus said. “I’m keeping my weapons.”

“Nobody gets to see Aria when armed,” the Batarian replied. “Now hand them over.”

“Let them through, Arix,” another voice ordered from behind the Batarian, and the xenos seemed to bristle for a moment before saying; “Yes, ma’am.”

The Batarian stepped aside, glowering at them, and Malleus stepped into the inner sanctum of the Pirate Queen of Omega.

The Asari that lounged on the couch before them smiled mirthlessly as they entered the balcony. Her skin was a deep shade of bluish purple, while geometric black tattoos formed spines across her forehead and Her clothes had a simple military cut to them; for somebody with such a romanticised, extravagant title, Aria seemed to dress simply, the only sign of excess being the cocktail she held in one hand. But it was her eyes that were her most striking feature; intensely focussed, assessing, taking in everything and giving nothing away.

The noise here seemed to dim, probably thanks to the kinetic barrier that shimmered near-invisibly along the edge of the balcony, and Aria motioned for Malleus to sit on the couch running along its perimeter.

“You are an interesting man, Malleus Scandarum,” she said. “You turn up on Ilium out of nowhere, and the first thing you and your friends do is kill your way through some of the best troops of the most expensive, best equipped, most elite private security firms in the galaxy without seeming to break a sweat. Next thing that happens is that the Council panics, naturally, and then calls you in. You give some big fancy speech, scare the hell out of everyone present just by being there, get yourself declared a separate species, convince everybody you’re from outside the galaxy and then just drop off the radar. And now you turn up in the spaceship of a dead Spectre who won’t stay down and then get yourself free docking just by threatening to kill a couple of my guards with a sword.”

Here she laughed, shaking her head.

“A sword!” she said. “You’ve got better tech than anything I’ve ever seen before, yet you’re using a hammer and a sword!”

She leant back in her seat before saying; “What happened to Shephard, by the way?”

“He’s dead,” Malleus replied. “For good, this time.”

Aria tutted.

“A pity,” she said. “I liked him; did me a few favours, sorted out a few troubles of mine. Made some dangerous and inconvenient people a lot less dangerous and inconvenient.”

“No doubt you’re going to be asking me how I got hold of his ship next,” Malleus said.

“You’re involved with Cerberus, aren’t you?” Aria asked. “Don’t look so shocked, I’ve got a damn good network of spies and not even the Illusive Man is out of my reach. Besides, you’re big news, Malleus, hard to miss. I doubt I’m the only one keeping an eye on you. But enough pleasantries. What do you want, Malleus?”

“Your help,” Malleus said. “I’m trying to gather an army, and I believe you might just have what I’m looking for.”

“What, soldiers? Please, Malleus, this is Omega. The closest we’ve got to a government are our protection rackets.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Malleus said. “Everybody knows that there’s power in Omega, a fleet and an army of degenerates and pirates and scum, and all it needs is somebody who’s already at the top of the pile to harness it. Someone such as, say, an Asari who’s managed to wrest power away from the mercenary bands and the old crime lords, get herself an army bigger than any that private firms can muster in a short time and call upon every pirate and freebooter in the Terminus systems. An Asari like that could raise a much bigger army without much effort, I would think. Wouldn’t you?”

Aria leant back in her seat, taking a sip from her drink, before saying; “This is about those Reapers you were going on about in that Council meeting the other day, isn’t it?”

“How did you know that?” Malleus asked. “I thought that was supposed to be a private meeting.”

“Please, Malleus, my spies have got into parts of Cerberus,” Aria replied, smiling slightly. “The Council is small fry compared to that. And, of course, just yesterday, you helped subdue Clan Morroh on Tuchanka, and you’re already good friends with Clan Urdnot, who are, of course, now running the show there. What are you doing, Malleus? Gathering an army?”

“I am indeed,” Malleus said. “Despite what the council may pretend, the Reapers are real, and I intend to stop them. If I can gather at least something of an army then we stand a better chance.”

“And if, for the sake of argument, I somehow managed to get all of Omega’s people under my control, what would be in it for me?” Aria asked.

“Heroism, redemption,” Malleus said. “And most importantly, exemption. Let’s face it, Aria, you want power, and more power than just ruling some run-down asteroid from a nightclub. You want planets to bend to your will, you want parliaments to listen to your decrees, you want diplomats flocking to your throne with offers of placation and gifts, but that’s not going to happen when to the rest of the galaxy you’re public enemy number one.”

There was a long silence, Aria looking at him carefully, before she said; “You know when I said earlier that you were an interesting man, Malleus?”

“Yes.”

“I’m taking that back. You’re quite possibly the most interesting person I’ve ever me,” Aria said. “And I like that. But much as I like you, that’s still a pretty big promise you’re making. How do I know you can keep it?”

“Because unless I’m very much mistaken, there will be an immense and very bloody war coming,” Malleus said. “And that will probably leave a power vacuum. And with the right application of endorsement from certain figures, the people of this galaxy will view you as a hero; they’ll practically beg for you to take power. Isn’t it temping, Aria? Don’t you want to be viewed as more than just some glorified pirate admiral? What about President Aria T’Loak of the Asari republics? Don’t tell me that isn’t a enticing prospect.”

“That it is,” Aria said. “But that’s still a damn big promise you’re making. Even if you’re going to keep your word, it’s still a pretty big if.”

“Meaning?” Malleus asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t know about these Reapers,” Aria said. “And frankly, I’m tied up with enough trouble here as it is. But you seem pretty serious, Malleus, and I’m usually good at telling whether or not somebody is lying. So I’ll think about it. If these Repers do come along, then fine, I’ll help you with them. But if they don’t then you’ll have wasted my time and I’ll be pissed off. And you wouldn’t like that.”

Malleus began to laugh quietly, a low and gentle chuckle without mirth, one with a dangerous edge to it.

“Believe me, Aria, making an enemy of me would be a very bad idea indeed,” he said. “If I so wished, I could take this station apart with my bare heads. I could slaughter its inhabitants and burn their homes by myself, and however time consuming it would be, nothing you can do would stop me. I’ve slaughtered more creatures than you’ve cared to count, heretical and traitorous versions of myself, xenos wielding weapons so advanced that they make your own look like mere sticks and rocks, endless hordes of chitinous, beasts from beyond the galaxy and soulless abominations that lurk outside of reality itself. So forgive me for not being too intimidated about threats of revenge from some band of freebooters.”

Aria leant back in her chair, looking at him with a mixture of respect, fear and anger.

“You know what happened to the last guy who threatened me?” she asked. “I had Arix here chuck him out of an airlock and I watched him choke.”

“Try that with me and all your guards, and you, will be dead in a minute,” Malleus said. “But to be honest, Aria, you’re more useful to me alive, so let’s try and avoid any unpleasantness, shall we?”

“Agreed,” Aria said. “There anything else you want, Malleus?”

“One thing,” Malleus said. “I’m looking for an Asari, an Ardat Yakshi. I was wondering if there’ve been any deaths that might have been the work of one.”

“Yes, there’ve been a few,” Aria said.

“Hold a moment,” Samara said, frowning in concern. “You knew there was an Ardat Yakshi on Omega yet you’ve done nothing?”

“Why would I?” Aria asked. “She’s no real threat to me. If you want to look into it, though, her last victim was a girl named Nef; you got an omni tool?”

Malleus nodded.

“Good,” Aria said, flicking up one of her own. “Here’s her address; start looking there. If you want to go after that thing, that’s fine by me.”

“Glad to hear,” Malleus said. “Thank you for your time, Aria T’Loak.”

“Yeah,” Aria said. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you, Malleus.”

“I’m sure you will be,” Malleus said, before nodding to the Asari. “Ave Imperator.”

Aria shrugged, before just saying; “I just hope you haven’t wasted my time.”

“Believe me, Aria, I haven’t,” Malleus said “When the time comes, you’ll see.”
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Colonel Mustard
 
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:45 am

Chapter 6-Cat and Mouse

They parted ways outside of Afterlife, Titus and Cyralius heading back towards the Normandy, while Miranda and Samara took a different route, through the crowds and into the rest of the city. Malleus’ power armoured bulk cleared a path through the bustling mass of people without there being any need to push, humans and xenos alike simply stepping around him.

“This is a cruel place,” Samara murmured as they went through the streets. “Many people come here hoping to build themselves better lives, only to find poverty and crime. I might return here if we defeat the Reapers; these people need a guardian.”

If we defeat the Reapers?” Malleus asked, tone gently reprimanding. “You’ve such little faith in me?”

Samara smiled.

“Your optimism does you credit, Malleus,” she said.

“Not optimism,” Malleus replied. “Certainty.”

Samara nodded, before saying; “This is the place.”

The building was a small one, part of a cluster of hab units that seemed to make up this block of Omega. It was quieter here, but more run down than the area that housed Afterlife; probably close enough within Aria’s sphere of power to have the odd mercenary patrol.

Malleus knocked on the heavy bulkhead that served as a front door to the place, and a woman’s voice crackled from the vox-speaker built in to the wall next them.

“Hello?”

“Is the home of a young woman named Nef?” Malleus asked.

“It was,” the voice said. “Who is it?”

“My name is Malleus, and I have a companion with me named Samara,” Malleus replied. “Can we come in, please?”

“Why?”

“We wish to talk about Nef,” Samara said.

“She’s dead. Leave me alone, please.”

“We are trying to find her killer,” Malleus said. “We wish to bring her to justice.”

“You…you do? Alright, come in.”

The door slid aside, and a middle aged woman stood in the doorway. She looked tired, and a little frightened, and she put a hand to her mouth when she saw Malleus, nearly seven feet in his power armour.

“May we come in?”

“Of course, yes. I was just a little surprised, that’s all.”

She stepped away, and Malleus ducked under the door frame into the woman’s home. It was a simple place, a kitchen and living space in one room, a few more doors set into the walls, no doubt leading to other parts of her home. It was a clean home, nonetheless, and Malleus could appreciate the humble simplicity of the place.

“You’re really an Astarte?” the woman asked as Malleus stepped in. “I saw you on the news. You’re their leader, aren’t you?”

“It’s ‘Astartes,’ but yes, I am,” Malleus said. “I am pleased to meet you…”

“Diana,” the woman said. “I’m Nef’s mother.”

“I see,” Malleus said, nodding his head respectfully. “I am sorry about what happened to your daughter.”

“Thank you,” Diana said quietly. “That means a lot to me, even if it’s just from a stranger.”

“Do we mind if we talk to you about your daughter?” Samara asked.

“If it helps you find her killer, then please, do,” Diana said. “Nobody else is doing anything about it, though I shouldn’t expect any better from Omega. Do you want to sit down? I’m afraid my chairs probably can’t hold your weight, sir, but they should be fine for you, Samara.”

“I’ll be happy to stand,” Malleus said, as Diana and Samara sat around the small kitchen table in the room. “And please, just call me Malleus.”

‘Sir.’ That was interesting, though not unusual; plenty of guardsmen that he had fought with over the years had called him by the Gothic equivalent of that title, or sometimes just ‘my lord.’ He supposed it was his stature; Astartes were intimidating, even at the best of times, and subservience seemed, to many people, the natural attitude to adopt.

“Diana,” Samara said. “Do you mind telling us exactly what happened to Nef before she died?”

Diana nodded.

“She went, about a week ago, to that club a few blocks away, Afterlife,” she said. “And when she came back, she said she’d met this Asari called Morinth. She suddenly became obsessed with her; she kept going back to Afterlife, and the rest of the time she was tired and distracted. All she would talk about was Morinth, and that was the only time she ever seemed to wake up. And then suddenly, she…she died. The doctors said it was some sort of brain aneurism, but I don’t think it was. That Asari, that Morinth, killed her. I don’t know how, but she did.”

She shook her head.

“She was a good girl,” she said, her eyes glistening. “She didn’t take drugs, she didn’t hang out with anybody dangerous, she just kept to herself and worked on her sculptures. She didn’t…she didn’t deserve…”

Malleus gently placed his hand on her shoulder, the servos in the ceramite gauntlet that encased it whining gently as they made sure his grip wasn’t enough to crush her collarbone.

“I know what it is to lose a child,” he said, words which he felt were half true. He still felt unsure about Gaius; could he truly call him a son? He didn’t honestly know. “I know the pain you are in. And while it is little consolation, I promise you that I will find the woman who killed your daughter and I will bring her to justice.”

“You will?”

“You have my word.”

“Thank you,” Diana said. “I know nobody else will, and it’s good to see someone who cares.”

“Diana,” Samara said. “Do you mind if we look in Nef’s room for clues as to what exactly happened, and where we can find her killer?”

Diana nodded.

“I left it as it was before she died,” she said. “I don’t want to lose anything.”

“And we shall treat it was the greatest of care,” Samara said. “Nothing will be disturbed.”

“It’s through there,” Diana said, pointing to one of the doors in the kitchen. “Please be careful.”

“We shall,” Malleus said.

He stepped through the wooden door, into a modest, Spartan bedroom, one that smelt faintly of dust. There was a meticulously made bed tucked into one corner, while a desk or workbench stood against the far wall. There were several shelves along some of the walls, occupied by sculptures, small, simple, elegant things carved from onyx, marble, granite or moulded from clay. On the desk, next to a hammer and set of chisels, a half completed one sat, an elegant wing emerging from the white stone.

“Young Nef had quite a talent, it seems,” Malleus remarked as Samara entered the room behind him.

“That isn’t surprising,” Samara said. “Morinth has always been attracted to artists and creative souls.”

“Why is that?” Malleus asked.

“I’m not sure,” Samara answered. “Perhaps she feels she gains more power by destroying imaginative minds.”

“Perhaps,” Malleus said. He paused as he noticed a holo-slate on Nef’s desk. He flicked it on, and looked at the message it contained.

Nef it read. You won’t believe what I’ve found. You know that Elcor sculptor you and I love so much, Forta? He’s released pictures of some of the things he’s going to put in his exhibition on the Citadel, and they’re amazing! I’ve attached them to this message so you can see them for yourself; maybe they’ll inspire you to make some more of your great sculptures as well? :)

Probably a message from Morinth, Malleus decided. Interesting, but not much use.

The only other thing of note in the room was a small portable cogitator. He pressed the on button, and the devices’ holographic screen flicked on, the text reading; ‘Nef’s Diary. Password: ’

Malleus was thwarted. If he had Kullas with him, the Forge Priest could probably break through such simple security in a heartbeat, and while the Brother-Captain could placate the machine spirits of his armour or weapons, knew the name for every part of his bolter and could even perform basic repairs on any of the vehicles that the Sons had in their arsenal, software left him at a loss. He thought of what Nef could use as a password, before trying ‘Sculpture.’ The only thing that came up was a message of a rejection, so he tried ‘Chisel’ instead. Once more, nothing happened, before he went out on a limb and tried ‘Morinth.’ The screen flashed green for a moment, a message winking up to inform him that his attempt had been accepted, and Malleus couldn’t help but reflect that there was something somewhat sad about that.

He looked at the list of entries that was presented to him, before trying one of the later ones, the second down from the top of the list. The text disappeared to show the face of a young woman; she looked like Diana, if younger, her hair the same colour, facial shape very similar.

“Dear diary,” she said, a smile of excitement on her face. “You won’t believe what happened tonight. I got into Afterlife’s VIP area by dropping Jaruut’s name to the bouncer there. I was a little nervous when I went in at first, but then I saw this Asari dancing on the place’s dancefloor. She was just amazing to watch, and then she just came up to me and asked if I wanted to dance with her. I just said yes, before I could think, and then we were dancing together. And I don’t know why I was nervous! It was great! She said her name was Morinth, and we started talking. She found out I was a sculptor, and she got really interested, said she loved art, and we really hit it off. We’re meeting up again in the same place, tomorrow night, and I can’t wait!”

The log ended, and Malleus selected the final entry.

“Dear diary,” Nef said to the camera once again. “I met up with Morinth again last night in Afterlife. I tried these pills, this stuff called Hallex, and we started to dance together again, and it was even more amazing than last night. All the music, and the Hallex, and the fact Morinth was there, they all kind of blended into one, and I could almost feel the music as I danced with her. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done! We’re meeting up again tonight, and I think she’s going to take me to her apartment. I think I’m in love with her, you know. We’re going to get off Omega, and we’re going to go to one of the fancier places in the galaxy; Ilium, or Earth, or the Citadel, and we’ll make a living selling my sculptures. It’ll be perfect, I just know it. Anyway, goodbye diary, I’ve got to go and start making myself look good for tonight!”

The entry finished, and Malleus frowned. In love with a xenos; the idea seemed sordid to him, unthinkable, but he supposed it was a different galaxy. Different standards. It didn’t make the idea any less repellent to him, though.

“That sounds like one of Morinth’s victims,” Samara said once the video had stopped playing. “She does that to people; makes them completely and utterly infatuated with her.”

“That poor girl sounded pretty obsessed, Emperor watch over her soul,” Malleus said, bowing his head and making the sign of the Aquila. “Still, we know where Morinth hunts now. What’s the plan?”

“We lure her out and kill her,” Samara said.

“I’d guessed as much,” Malleus said. “But lure her out? Sounds like we’d need bait.”

Samara nodded.

“And that would be me, wouldn’t it?” Malleus asked, tone suggesting he didn’t relish the prospect.

“I’m afraid you’re our only chance of getting close,” Samara said.

“So what do you suggest, that I lure her in and do what, seduce her?” Malleus asked. “Samara, with all due respect, we Astartes are celibate. I’ve never tried to charm a woman before in my life. Besides, I’m a warrior; she’s attracted to artists, you said so yourself. And on top of that, I’m famous, so she’d be too cautious to approach, wouldn’t she?”

“I don’t know about that,” Samara said. “To her, you’re something new, something she hasn’t tried before, and she’ll be sorely tempted by someone famous. And a warrior you may be, but you’re an artist as well, you know”

“The closest things I’ve ever made to art are formation diagrams and battle maps,” Malleus said. “Frankly, I doubt I can even manage to draw a decent stick figure.”

“You’re not an artist in a traditional sense, but you’re an artist of the battlefield,” Samara said. “As you said to me, you are war; you kill with more grace and skill than anything I’ve ever seen before, and she’ll be able to see that ability within you. But you should be careful, Malleus; she is a dangerous creature. She is able to promise you many things; her eyes speak of intelligence and wit greater than that of any other person you’ll encounter, her voice speaks words you wish to hear again and again, her scent is a perfume that will make you desire her more than anything else, and her body promises you great pleasure, providing you prove worthy. She controls people, Malleus, hypnotises them, makes herself a goddess in their eyes.”

“She sounds less like a person and more like some sort of sorceress,” Malleus remarked, unable to not think of the heretical servants of Slaanesh.

“There’s an old legend that says the first Ardat Yakshi were created by Asari who used magic to summon demons and then bonded with them, you know,” Samara said. “Not true, I don’t think, but an interesting comparison you make.”

Malleus nodded

“Anyway,” he said. “Let’s go find our Ardat Yakshi.”

#

Malleus felt vulnerable without his power armour. The thought was ridiculous, he knew, as he moved through the crowd of Afterlife, but somehow without the ceramite shell that had been as constant a companion to him as his battle brothers he felt less secure. He didn’t doubt that he was the most dangerous thing in the room, of course, but he felt disquieted nonetheless. The only part of his armour that remained was his bionic, which could punch through steel; that was reassuring enough, in itself.

He reached the door which had a hologram above it saying ‘VIPs only,’ and the Turian bouncer standing guard there said; “What do you want?”

“I’ve been having a pretty good time here this evening,” Malleus said casually. “But I heard from Jaruut that the best party’s in here.”

The Turian nodded, before saying; “You heard right. Head on through, and enjoy your night.”

The xenos pressed a button in the wall next to him, and the door slid open, and it nodded Malleus through.

The room Malleus entered was a great deal smaller than the last, and even with his enhanced hearing the noise from the rest of Afterlife was shut off. The music here was different, the dancefloor less crowded, while tables were set into the alcoves around the wall. The brother-captain entered the room, feeling a little unsure of what to do, before somebody said; “Hey, big guy. Over here.”

He glanced over to see a scrawny young man gesturing to him, and he approached and asked; “Yes?”

“Hey, mister, can I ask you a favour?” hesked “You got any tickets to Expel Ten?”

“To what?”

“Expel Ten. You haven’t heard of them?”

Malleus shook his head.

“They’re this sensory band, really, really good stuff, gets in your head and messes it around,” the young man said. “Anyway, there was this real hot Asari chick in here talking about how much she liked them, and they’re playing on Omega in a few days. If I could get some tickets, I could score way out my league, y’know what I mean?”

Malleus had no idea what he meant, but judging by the look of infatuation in the man’s eyes, he could have been put under whatever spell Morinth used was reputed to use on people; it was the same sort of look Nef had worn when talking about Morinth in her diary. Expel Ten, he thought to himself. A sensory band. He’d do well to remember that.

“No tickets, I’m afraid,” he said, shrugging.

“Damn! Well, thanks anyway, mister. Just have to try to get ‘em somewhere else. Keep it cool.”

He held out a fist, and for a moment, Malleus hesitated, unsure what to do, before he remembered that it was some sort of salute among young people of this galaxy and gently knocked his fist against that of his newfound ally.

He wandered away, and realised that he had never felt so incredibly out of place in all his life. Here he was, a hero of the Imperium, lauded with more medals and accolades than he cared to count, and he felt completely and utterly lost. He had dictated the flow entire battlefields, locking wits with some of the most abhorrent and cunning of humanity’s enemies, but he knew nothing of what he should do next. What was one supposed to do here? Dance, obviously, but he wasn’t sure if he’d be any good at that, and he seemed pretty sure that making a fool of himself in public would probably make him a far less tempting catch to Morinth, if she could see him.

He contented himself with ordering a drink from the bar, and surveyed the room with a careful eye, taking a sip from the cocktail he held, the drink an alarming shade of green. His enhanced vision could pick out more than a dozen Asari, but none of them, as far as he could tell from this distance at least, bore any resemblance to Samara.

The Krogan at the end the bar caught his gaze, and snarled suddenly, swaggering towards him.

“What’re you looking at, human?” the xenos asked as it reached him, the scent of alcohol on its breath.

“Just looking around the bar,” Malleus said calmly, taking a sip from his drink. “Is there a problem?”

“Don’t act smart,” the Krogan said, a low growl in its voice. “You were looking at me funny.”

“I really don’t think I was,” Malleus replied, his tone still even. “I reckon you should probably calm down, friend.”

“I’m not your friend,” the Krogan snarled. The xenos raised a fist, and it swept downwards, only to be halted by a whirring noise and Malleus’ bionic moving into its path. Its fist suddenly halted, and no amount of force looking able to move it, the xenos suddenly went pale as Malleus gently gripped it.

“You know,” he said, tone still calm and conversational. “I think that, if I wanted to, I could probably squeeze with enough force to turn every bone in your hand to powder.”

He squeezed a little harder, and there was the sound of bone grinding together, the Krogan clenching its teeth in pain.

“But I’m a kind, civilised person, so I’ll let you go so these good bouncers here can escort you from the premises in an orderly fashion,” Malleus continued, nodding to the Batarian and human that were moving towards them. He released his grip just as they arrived, and the Krogan grunted, rubbing its hand gingerly.

“Come on,” the Batarian said. “Get outta here.”

The Krogan glared resentfully at Malleus, who smiled back, before the human grabbed its humped shoulders and led it away; the xenos seemed too humiliated to put up a fight.

“Sorry about that, sir,” the Batarian said, shrugging its shoulders apologetically.

“Not a problem,” Malleus said. “Just glad to see you’re willing to deal with troublemakers. Keep up the good work.”

The Batarian nodded to him, and left.

“Well, that was interesting,” a voice next to him said, and Malleus glanced over to see an Asari leaning on the bar next to him. She smiled coyly at him, before continuing; “My name’s Morinth; I’ve had my eye on you since you came in. I’ve got a table over in the corner, away from the crowd. Care for a bit of a chat?”

“Sounds good,” Malleus said, secretly smiling. Mentally, he clicked the vox bead implanted in his ear thrice, his signal to Samara, who was waiting outside. Target found. “Malleus.”

They sat down at a table in the shadows of the bar, and Morinth said; “I come here almost every night, you know, looking for somebody interesting. A lot of the time, I get nothing, but sometimes I find someone, like you, Malleus. What are you doing here, though? I thought you were supposed to be some sort of species representative for the Council?”

“Yes, I am,” Malleus said. Part of him was wondering if he could get away with breaking the girl’s neck and simply killing his way out of Afterlife, but he decided such action probably wouldn’t endear him much in Aria’s eyes, and he needed her support for the war to come. “But sometimes I just want a good time away from prying eyes.”

Morinth smiled at this.

“I know what you mean,” she said. “I like privacy; dark places where I can watch without being seen. But tell me, Malleus, what do you want?”

“At the moment?” Malleus asked. A curious question, that one. “As I said; a good time. Just relax a bit, and let my hair down.”

“What hair?” Morinth pointed out, nodding to his shaven scalp, and Malleus laughed quietly.

“Good point.”

There was a quiet silence between them, and not wanting it to become awkward, Malleus asked; “So tell me, Morinth, what do you think of the music in the place?”

“I love it,” Morinth replied. “It’s dark, atmospheric, it crawls under your skin. Sensory stuff; it’s great, don’t you think?”

Malleus nodded, before saying; “I’ve got to say, I quite like that sensory band Expel Ten.”

“Really? You’ve got good taste, Malleus.”

“Why thank you.”

“They’re playing here in a couple of days, you know,” Morinth said. “Maybe you and I should go together.”

“That would be cool,” Morinth said. “Sometimes I spend the entire night dancing to stuff like this, you know, just getting caught up in the music. Of course, there are ways to enhance that, make the experience better, get it deeper and deeper into your head.”

“You talking about certain substances, by any chance?” Malleus asked.

“Judging me?”

“Not at all,” Malleus replied as he leant back. His bionic whirred as he rested it against the top of the wide couches set into the wall that served as the tables seats. “I’ve always been willing to try something new.”

Morinth’s eyes flickered to the augmetic limb, and she raised an eyebrow.

“Why’ve you got part of that armour of yours on?” she asked.

“Oh, this?” Malleus replied, flexing the limb to show it off. “It’s artificial. I lost my real arm some time ago.”

“Wow,” Morinth said. “How did that happen?”

“A Thresher Maw,” Malleus lied. “I was exploring a desert world that wasn’t as deserted as I thought.”

“You travel a lot, then?” Morinth asked.

“Oh yes,” Malleus said. “I enjoy exploring quite a lot.”

“Really? Scanning deserted worlds for interesting lumps of rock and bacteria?” Morinth asked, a slightly mocking smile on her face.

“Oh, there’s a bit of that,” Malleus said. “But then there’s the chance of finding wonder, of finding beauty, and of finding danger that keep me going. Always been a weakness of mine, you know; never quite being sure exactly who, or what, lurks around the next corner, what you might find on the next world and whether or not it’ll be dangerous.”

“You like to live on the edge, huh?” Morinth asked. “You know, you’re a much more interesting man than I first though you’d be. Much different to the person I saw in the Council meeting.”

“That? That’s an act,” Malleus lied. “The Council are damn terrified of me and the others, so we act nice and put them at their ease; makes life simpler for us.”

Morinth nodded, before saying with a somewhat suggestive look in her eye; “Hey, Malleus, do you want to continue this conversation somewhere…more private.”

“That,” Malleus said. “Sounds like a great idea.”

He clicked the vox bead four times, and got a return click. Bait taken. Prey right in the trap.

Remarkably easy, too.

#

“Nice place you’ve got here,” Malleus remarked as the door to Morinth’s apartment slid aside. It was clean, the work of servants, he suspected, and scattered with expensive looking furniture and artwork. “You’re quite the connoisseur of the arts, I see.”

“I’ve always had a weakness for it,” Morinth said as she stepped inside. “Are you interested in art, Malleus?”

“Well, I haven’t been here too long to really get a taste for this galaxy’s art,” Malleus said as he followed the xenos. He noticed a piece of sculpture on a windowsill, the tortured vista of Omega visible beyond, one that looked rather similar to some of Nef’s, and he bit back the urge to strike the xenos before him straight away; he would allow Samara that satisfaction. ¬“The work where I’m from is rather different, but I’ve always had a soft spot for sculpture, and I do quite like the work of an Elcor artist I saw not long ago, Forta. I’d be quite interested in seeing the exhibition he’s holding on the Citadel soon, you know.”

Morinth smiled at this as she leant on a couch. Malleus sat next to her, noticing the board on the table in front of them.

“You play regicide?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” Morinth replied. “Though we call it chess. I’m quite good, you know, and there’s something so very satisfying about luring an opponent in, thinking he’s got you helpless, and moving in for the kill when he least expects it.”

“I know that feeling,” Malleus said, noting the hint of relish in the Asari’s voice. “Nothing quite so pleasing as taking an opponent by surprise. Perhaps we should play a game sometime.”

“Maybe,” Morinth said, before sliding closer to Malleus. She looked into his eyes, smiling in a predatory fashion, before saying; “But why don’t we have a little fun?”

She blinked, and the world…changed. His vision seemed to reverse, the vibrant becoming dim and the dim becoming dazzling whorls of colour, but something had happened to Morinth herself; her eyes were deep black pits, her skin seeming to glow with some sort of unnatural power, and Malleus could feel the bitter, metallic taste of the warp at the back of his mouth. Emperor damn it, a psyker!

“Do you not want me?” she whispered in a voice layered with thousands of tones. “Do you not want to serve me? Wouldn’t you just love to do everything I ask you? That would complete you, make you whole, Malleus. Love me, Malleus, serve me. Worship me.”

Her voice was thick with hypnotic power, rife with some unnatural, Warp fuelled energy, a sheer tide of overwhelming psychic might that would crush any mind that tried to resist and replace it with nought but blind devotion. And against the adamantium fastness of Malleus’ psychoconditioned mind, it hit with the force of a tidal wave.

And it broke.

“You must think you’re so very clever, Morinth,” Malleus said, smiling mirthlessly. “You think you had me from the start, didn’t you? But I know you for what you are, Ardat Yakshi. Your days of killing have gone on long enough. They end now.”

The spell shattered as Morinth panicked, the colours of the world returning to normal as she scrambled away from him, terror in her eyes. Malleus stood, kicking away the table, scattering the chess pieces across the floor, and he advanced towards the Asari, cracking his knuckles.

“Suffer not the-”

The bolt of biotic force caught him straight in the chest and hurled him away, and he slammed into the wall with a grunt. Morinth stood, biotic energy coruscating around her form, before she said; “Keep back! Keep away from me!”

Something invisible grabbed her, some unseen hand picking her up and slamming her into the window, a spiderweb of cracks spreading across the hardened glass, and Samara entered the room.

“Mother!” Morinth exclaimed, panic in her voice as she lay pinned against the window. “What are you-”

Some invisible force struck her in the jaw, and Samara replied; “Do not address me with that title. The daughter I had is dead. Though you wear her face, you are not her. You are simply some monster I must kill.”

“I can’t help what I am, mother,” Morinth replied. She pushed back, breaking out of Samara’s biotic grip and landing in time to block the Justicar’s next assault. “I am still your daughter.”

Morinth retaliated, a barrage of biotic bolts arcing across the room only to be dissipated by Samara, who returned with a single immense blast of power. Morinth threw up her arms, crossing them to block the force, even as it pushed her back across the floor. She retaliated with some sort of beam, just as Samara created one of her own, and the two biotic assaults smashed into each other. A stalemate reigned as mother battled daughter, the excess dark energy randomly picking up pieces of furniture, the scattered chess set, slowly swirling around them in some surreal, azure storm.

“Don’t bother, mother,” Morinth called out mockingly over the noise of the battle. “I’m the future of the Asari. I’m the next step in our species’ evolution. You can’t fight the future!”

“You’re a murderess and a monster,” Samara replied. “You must die. Malleus, strike now!”

Malleus picked himself up, the wind knocked from him, and approached the battle.

“I can be useful to you, Malleus,” Morinth said. “I’m as powerful as she is; let me kill her and I’ll be stronger than she’ll ever be.”

The brother captain stepped up to the biotic duel, ducking under the corona of force that surrounded it, before standing next to Samara.

“Go on,” Morinth said encouragingly. “Throw her down. Let me take her power.”

Malleus remained silent, calmly walking towards Morinth. Panic showed in the Asari’s eyes; if she tried to deal with him, Samara would sweep her away in a moment, but if she did nothing then Malleus would be her undoing.

Instead, she opted to shuffle back, gathering reserves of power and plucking one of the pieces of furniture from the air, slamming it towards Samara. The Justicar managed to block it before it could cause serious injury, but it was enough to break her hold in the duel. Morinth raised her arm to deal with Malleus, but he was Astartes; like lightning he moved, grabbing her arm before she could react, and throwing her to the floor.

She gave a gasp of pain, and managed to murmur; “Please.”

“Morinth,” Malleus said replied, eyes cold and unfeeling as flint. “What you have done is unforgivable. You shall brook no mercy from me.”

He nodded to Samara, who had come to stand next to him.

“Justicar,” he said. “Finish this.”

“Find peace in the embrace of the Goddess, Morinth.”

“No, please, I…”

Her neck snapped beneath Samara’s foot before she could finish her reply.

The Justicar stepped back from Morinth’s body, her head held low, unable to tear her gaze away from the daughter she had just slain.

“It is done,” she said quietly. “Three centuries of hunting, and finally she is dead.”

“Are you alright?” Malleus asked gently.

“Malleus, I just killed the bravest and cleverest of my daughters,” Samara said. “Do you think I am alright?”

Malleus was silent for a moment, before he said; “It was a foolish question. I apologise.”

“Don’t. I know you meant well. Please, let’s leave this place. It has caused me enough pain already.”

The turned away, heading towards the door, before Samara stopped for a moment.

“And Malleus?” she asked.

“What?”

“Thank you.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:45 am

Chapter 7-Prophecy

It was morning on the Normandy’s day-night cycle, and Malleus was shaving. With utmost care, he guided the razor, an old cut-throat design, one that he had always favoured in the Imperium but had had a good deal of trouble obtaining in the pathetic, safety-obsessed galaxy that he now lived in, across his chin. Carefully, the crop of stubble that had sprung up while he had been in hyper-sleep was culled, each sweep bringing up a bale of facial hair and foam, before the blade was rinsed and the process repeated.

The door hissed and slid aside as Titus entered the men’s washroom of the Normandy, the veteran marine greeting him with; “Morning, Malleus.”

“Good morning, Titus,” Malleus replied warmly, inspecting part of his freshly shaved chin.

“You sound in a good mood today,” Titus remarked. “That’s unusual.”

Malleus chuckled, before saying; “That I am.”

“Why’s that?”

“I have no assignments for today,” he said. “For the first time since New London, I think I don’t actually have anything on my to-do list. No life-or-death battles to fight, no daring acts of heroics, no personal tragedies on the crew to sort out. I actually quite like the idea.”

“It does seem rather refreshing, doesn’t it?” Titus said. “What’s the plan?”

“As of yet, I’m not sure,” Malleus said. “No doubt the Illusive Man might have something for me to do soon enough, or some other crisis will come up, but for this moment I am a man without worry.”

EDI’s hologram suddenly winked into existence, and Malleus started for a moment in surprise.

“Emperor almighty, EDI, is there anywhere on this ship where you can’t appear?” he asked.

“The Illusive Man ordered that my suites of projectors and sensors be present on all parts of the ship, so that I might see and hear everywhere,” EDI replied. Titus raised an eyebrow to Malleus. “But I must warn you that an emergency has occurred on the crew deck.”

“What sort of emergency?” Malleus asked, hurriedly removing the foam from his chin with a towel.

“It concerns Cyralius,” EDI said. “He appears to be having some sort of seizure on the crew deck.”

Titus and Malleus shared a glance, worry writ across both their features, before Malleus hurriedly pulled his shirt on, tucked the razor into his pocket just in case, and left the washroom at a full sprint, Titus in his tracks. They skidded to a halt on the crew deck but a moment later, and it was there that they saw Cyralius.

The Librarian’s eyes glowed with unearthly power, and he floated a foot into the air, head arced back, staring at the ceiling, the air reeking of ozone. His hands clenched and unclenched, lightning crackling between his digits, and he seemed to shine, light that was painful to look upon threatening to burst from his skin.

Several members of the Normandy’s crew stood around him, and Malleus noted that both Kullas and Okeen were present; Kullas’ plasma cutter was humming with power, while Okeen had retrieved his bolt pistol from the armoury and had it pointed towards Cyralius’ floating form.

“What’s happening?” Malleus asked.

“No idea,” Okeen said. “Just started floating. Should I administer the Emperor’s Mercy? This could be dangerous.”

“I don’t know,” Malleus said. “Hold a moment.”

“Cyril!” Jack called, pushing through the small ring of people encircling the epistolary. She stepped towards him, reaching forwards, before Malleus grabbed her arm and pulled her back. “Let go of me!”

“Don’t touch him,” Malleus ordered.

“What? Why not? What the fuck’s wrong with Cyril?!”

“I’m not sure. But trying to wake him now could be dangerous.”

Jack looked panicked, eyes flickering around the room for some sort of solution, Malleus’ grip on her arm still holding firm. And then Cyralius spoke.

“Malice,” he whispered, in a voice that seemed to echo itself. “I see malice. Malice ancient and hateful as the stars themselves.”

He dropped to his feet, staring straight ahead, unseeing to all, eyes still aglow with witchlight. The lights above him seemed to dim, the glow around Cyralius’ form brightening in its intensity, and Malleus blinked; the Warp-fuelled light wasn’t that bright, but was painful to see, human eyes not mean to look upon its unnatural hue.

“It descends upon us,” Cyralius exclaimed, the sound of his voice seeming to ripple and warp. “The Great Salvation has begun and all and none shall be spared. They see us now, a thousand minds, a thousand thousand arms, stretched forwards reaching to strangle us and bring the long dark and the long silence once more. Only the lightning of the angels of the storm stands shall illuminate the blackness, their thunder the only noise, yet their hate and their wrath is but young, and their foes are ancient as aeons. The cradle shall be the citadel, guarded by angels and a dead warrior who merely sleeps for he was never alive enough to die. The young machines shall oppose the old and the creators shall be destroyed and remade once more. The undying dead of the longest epoch shall find their end when the hourglass of death itself runs dry. Doom! Doom! I see it now, malice and hatred incarnate, come upon us, ancient as the stars themselves! The new is gone, soon the old shall follow, and all shall weep as a primeval truth is seen once more!”

The light winked out, the glow left, the stink faded, and Cyralius collapsed to his knees, eyes glazed and blank.

“Cyril!” Jack cried, rushing forward, breaking free of Malleus’ grip and grabbing the Epistolary’s shoulder. She shook it roughly, and Cyralius asked quietly; “What…what’s going on?”

He looked up, confusion on his face, before he stood slowly.

“Are you alright, Cyril?” Jack asked.

“I think,” Cyralius said quietly. “My head aches, and I feel as weak as a kitten, but apart from that, yes, I’m fine. What’s happened, though? Okeen, why have you got your pistol out?”

“Sorry,” Okeen said, lowering the weapon, inclining his head apologetically.

“You don’t remember?” Malleus asked.

“Clearly not, brother captain,” Cyralius replied. “Why are you all pointing weapons at me?”

“You appeared to go undergo some sort of seizure,” EDI said. “You then recited several lines of what appeared to be poetry.”

“It was a prophecy,” Titus said. “He was talking about the Reapers. He must have been.”

“We were worried about possession or something similar,” Malleus said. “I’m glad it wasn’t the case, though what you’re saying doesn’t bode much better.”

“What was I saying?” Cyralius asked.

“As I said, prophecy,” Titus repeated, shaking his head and making the Aquila. “Grim stuff. You yelled ‘doom,’ twice, and that’s never a good sign.”

“If you wish, I have a fully recorded version stored,” EDI interjected. “If you believe that it is of a prophetic nature, then it may be wise to analyse it.”

“A good point,” Malleus said. “We’ll move to the briefing room. Let’s try and work this out.”

#

“‘…the cradle shall be the citadel, guarded by angels and a dead warrior who merely sleeps for he was never alive enough to die.

“Cut it there, EDI,” Malleus ordered. “That’s our real clue as to what the Reapers are planning, I think. An assault on the Citadel.”

Garrus nodded.

“It’s what they planned to do two years ago, when Shephard and I tried to stop Saren,” he said. “It’s what they always do, apparently, make species dependent on the Mass Relays and have them use the Citadel as the centre of government, and keep them vulnerable. Then when they strike, they destroy their leaders, shut down the relays and keep planets cut off and without any guidance.”

“Nasty tactic,” Titus remarked. “But damned clever, I’ll give them that.”

“How’d you find that out?” Malleus asked.

“It was an old Prothean Virtual Intelligence,” Miranda said. “Shephard discovered it when he was trying to stop Saren, and it told him exactly what had happened to the Protheans.”

“What does it mean though, ‘the cradle is the Citadel’?” Cyralius asked. “How could that be a cradle?”

“Maybe it means shelter, or something like that?” Titus suggested. “You know, like how you’d put a baby in a cradle to keep it warm. Safe. Maybe it’s supposed to mean, I don’t know, that it’s the safest place to be.”

“Perhaps,” Malleus said. “Regardless, all that you were saying about ‘ancient malice’ and how it’s descending upon us suggests to me that we don’t have much time. We should probably warn Admiral Anderson and General Suvat that the Reapers might be coming sooner than we expected.”

“A good point,” Miranda said. “EDI, send a message.”

“I shall,” EDI said.

“We believe that we may also have data to contribute,” Legion added.

“What is it?” Malleus asked.

“It concerns Cyralius when he says; ‘The young machines shall oppose the old and the creators shall be destroyed and remade once more.’” Legion said. “The title the Geth use to refer to the Reapers is ‘Old Machines,’ and it is plausible that Cyralius may have been talking of the Geth fighting the Reapers.”

“I’d guessed as much,” Malleus said. “Do you have anything new to add?”

“We are uncertain, but we believe that Cyralius may be talking of the extinction of the Quarians.”

“What?!” Tali exclaimed. “What do you mean?”

“Geth refer to the Quarians as the creators,” Legion said. “‘The creators shall be destroyed and remade once more,’ suggests to us that they may be killed.”

“What about the ‘remade once more,’ though?” Tali asked.

“We do not know,” Legion said. “We stress that this purely theoretical, and hope Creator Zorah Vas Normandy is not caused too much distress by this idea.”

“Too much distress?” Tali said. “You just said my people could be wiped out. What else am I supposed to think?”

“We did not anticipate this reaction,” Legion said, hanging its head to try and indicate shame. “We apologise for causing you upset, and hope Creator Zorah Vas Normandy forgives us for this.”

“I…fine,” Tali said. “Apology accepted, Legion.”

“One thing I’m wandering about,” Hullen said. “Is that line about that dead warrior who was never alive. The guarded by angels thing is talking about us, obviously, but what’s that other bit about?”

“Sounds like sorcery to me,” Kurias muttered, but no other ideas were forthcoming.

“Any suggestions on the rest of the prophecy?” Malleus asked, only to be greeted by another chorus of shook head and confessions of bafflement. “Fine. You’re dismissed.”

The group filed out, and Malleus could hear the quiet murmur of conversation as they went over what Cyralius said. The epistolary waited behind a moment, and Malleus glanced over to him, but he simply shrugged his shoulders and left with the rest of them.

“Captain,” Joker said over the intercom. “The Illusive Man just contacted me. He says he wants a word with you. Should I patch him through?”

“Do it, helmsman,” Malleus said, stepping away from the briefing room’s table so it could slide into the floor. He stepped into the holographic mesh as it rose up, before the Illusive Man’s chamber, and the man himself, came into view.

“Ave Imperator,” Malleus said, saluting.

“Malleus,” the Illusive Man said. “That was an interesting development just now.”

“Indeed,” Malleus said. “Did EDI send you a recording then?”

“She alerted me that something…unusual was happening to Cyralius, and I’ve been listening in since,” the Illusive Man said. He leant back in his chair and lit a cigar, raising an eyebrow. “You seem pretty willing to take what he was saying as solid fact, all things considered.”

“This wasn’t just some seizure,” Malleus said. “Cyralius is a psyker, and when a psyker speaks of the future only a fool ignores their words.”

“I’ll have to take your word for that,” the Illusive Man said. “Still, I’ve got news for you.”

“Good news?” Malleus asked. “So far the only good news I’ve received lately is that Wrex and the Krogan will help me with the Reapers, and that Aria might. Oh, and I received a message telling me that I won a free Sirta Foundation PV-14 Omni Tool, though I suspect that may have been fallacious.”

“Good and bad, I’m afraid,” the Illusive Man said, taking a puff from his cigar. “On one hand, we’ve managed to reverse engineer some potent shielding technology found on the Collectors’ station, and better than that, its modular enough to fit on any ship; we’ve got in mass production and are offering it as a free upgrade to all Alliance ships.”

“Make it available to any government that asks,” Malleus said.

“What?” the Illusive Man asked. “That will completely negate any advantage it gives the Alliance.”

“It will also give us a greater edge over the Reapers,” Malleus said. “We need every ship we can throw against the Reapers, and if those shields allow them to fire off just a few more shots before they’re destroyed then all the better.”

The Illusive Man nodded.

“I’ll see to it,” he said. “And I’ll make sure the Normandy gets a copy.”

“And what’s your bad news?” Malleus asked.

“Cyralius was right,” the Illusive Man said. “The Reapers are moving.”

“What?”

“Do you remember the colony we picked you up from, New London? It was attacked, and completely and utterly destroyed.”

“Unfortunate,” Malleus said. “But how do we know it wasn’t corsairs?”

“There was one survivor, a man called James Lien, of the Alliance military,” the Illusive Man said. “One of our teams was shipping that shield tech through the New London relay, and picked up a distress beacon. They stopped off to investigate it, and picked him up. He talked about massive ships landing, destroying the colony with beam weapons. And so far, the only cases of beam weaponry we have documented are a few prototypes such as the Normandy’s cannons, and Sovereign’s weapons in the Battle of the Citadel. He said that there were soldiers that they sent down to destroy the colony, and that they purposefully spared him.”

“Why?”

“He said he had to leave a message.”

“What message?”

“He didn’t know, strangely enough. He just said that one of Reaper soldiers said that he would be the one to leave the message. He wasn’t given anything.”

“Oh Emperor,” Malleus said. “He was the message. New London was the message. That was where we first appeared, that was where we first fought the Collectors, where we first caught the attentions of Harbinger. They’re trying to frighten us, to strike at somewhere that might mean something to us.”

“And are you?” the Illusive Man asked. “Because I would have thought that would just make you angry.”

“Me? ‘They shall know no fear, for they are fear incarnate.’”

Malleus cracked his knuckles.

“They’ve made their biggest mistake yet; I know they’re coming, now. And more than that, they’ve made me angry.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:42 am

Chapter 8-Yamzarat Machtoro

Yamzarat Machtoro woke with a roar.

The walls to his stasis prison, trapping him in both place and time, faded out, and his sensors came online with a rush of data. Binary was fed into his great processors, and rapidly data was sorted, analysed and categorised. The data was what he had predicted it to be; stasis had been removed, and he was online.

Combat systems roused themselves and automatically activated shields, and data was fed to him from his weapon systems; the manually operated emplaced weapons were worthless without a crew to operate, and while he could divert CPU to override their security and target all of them under his own power, he would not be able to walk within permissible safety parameters a the same time. Fortunately, his main weapons arms were online; the great railgun on his right arm was without ammunition, but the heavy cannon in his left was still online, and at twenty point zero three two one percent of capacity. The missile launchers mounted within his shoulders were empty, but his creators should have provided ammunition elsewhere in the bunker.

Sensors fed yet more data from his environment to his processors, and alerted him of several dozen synthetics present in his chamber. No doubt they were the creatures that had deactivated the artificially generated biotic stasis that had held him in slumber, but they were artifical, non-organic. Slaves to the Almarach Ikmrin, no doubt.

He stepped forwards out of the great alcove that held him, the scaffold around his immense form clattering away as one of his feet came to rest on the ground. No signs of damage any more; his creators must have managed to repair that wound after he deactivated himself.

“Who wakes me?” he bellowed, the noise several hundred decibels in volume. “Who wakes Yamzarat Machtoro?”

The synthetic slave-beings chattered a reply in binary, but he ignored their pleas, all of which he knew would be false. They were slaves to the Almarach Ikmrin, and they would be destroyed.

A series of explosions ripped across the floor of the great chamber that housed him as he fired his cannon, smashing apart synthetic bodies, and he roared with laughter as he fired. Some of the pathetic creatures tried to fire back, but their miserably weak small arms fire was simply dispersed by his shields, and he struck them down as a god would smite the faithless.

He took another step forward, the concrete cracking beneath his weight, ground shaking. Scans for targets revealed nothing, and he roared in frustration. The slaves of the Almarach Ikmrin would not be able to hide from him forever, and when he found them he would destroy them utterly.

More of the slaves-beings appeared ahead, quadrupedal units that lumbered around the corner that, he knew, led to the exit of the bunker. They raised their curved heads and fired from weapons mounted within, and bolts of azure energy glided lazily through the air, only to splash uselessly on his shields. The impact of more than a dozen of the projectiles caused only a one percent drop from his maximum shield strength, and that was recuperated in nought point three seconds. Targeting locks were found, and he raised his cannon, ready to smite these miserable creatures.

“Move out of my way, slaves of the Almarach Ikmrin!” he bellowed. “Where are your masters? I must finish what they started! Die!”

His cannon roared into life, thudding impacts smashing the synthetics apart as he advanced, great blasts from the mass-accelerator weapon smashing away concrete and machine alike. He was nearly at the doors, he knew. Soon he would be free, and he would wreak a bloody vengeance upon the filthy cowards that were the Almarach Ikmrin for daring to strike him down.

A great grinding, rumbling sound echoed through the bunker, and Yamzarat Machtoro roared in fury, diverting extra power to his movement systems to try and reach the doors in time. He turned the last corner at speed, crushing balconies and smashing walkways in his haste, paying no heed to the damage his great mass for was wreaking, but he was too late.

“Cowards!” he roared. “Face me! I will destroy you! Destroy you all!”

Furious, he fired his cannon into the door, the explosions scudding harmlessly off the thick, reinforced metal. He scanned the scratches the rounds created, gauging the damage caused, and calculated that simply shooting his way through with the weapon would reduce his ammunition stocks to just five point seven eight zero three recurring percent; if he wished to enact his vengeance against the Almarach Ikmrin, then he would need every shot. How he hated the weakling, fearful scum. Had he his railgun, then just two shots would be needed to blast his way through the door and into open air.

As it was, brute force would not serve here. But he knew that the greatest warriors fought with a quick mind as well as a strong arm, and he would do well to learn from their example. When had been bought in here, carried, humiliatingly, broken and wounded into the bunker, his sensors had detected computer systems within the bunker, one of which would no doubt allow him to the open the doors.

He sent out pulses of data, searching for an entry point, but he found nothing that he could identify as the handiwork of his creators. But there was something else, an alien system that had been placed in as a temporary method to allow entry and egress. It would require hacking, but he would prevail. None could stop Yamzarat Machtoro.

Thus, gathering every shred of his CPU he could spare, his endless fury focussed into a single wedge of his digital consciousness, Yamzarat Machtoro approached this alien system and began to hack.

#

“Scandarum Malleus, we must confer with you immediately!” Legion said as it hurried into the bridge. “This is a matter of great importance.”

There was a tone that Malleus could only describe as one of worry, even panic, in the otherwise inflectionless buzz that was Legion’s voice, and he looked up from where he was, in mid conversation with Tali, Kullas, Kenneth and Gabby over the installation of the Normandy’s new shielding module.

“What is it?”

“An emergency has come up concerning the Geth,” Legion said. “Your presence was requested; we believe that you may be able to find a solution. A weapon was discovered, which we believed we could use against the Old Machines, but it was activated before we could investigate it properly and it is now turned against us.”

“What sort of weapon?” Kullas asked.

“The data we received did not indicate precise details, but it is believed to be an AI platform of extreme age,” Legion answered. “We believe that it was used against the Old Machines in the past by its creators. The data we received suggested that the AI thinks we serve the Old Machines, and we believe that this is because of the synthetic nature of the Geth. We hope that you may be able to convince it otherwise.”

“Why me, though? Wouldn’t any sentient organic do?”

“Yes,” Legion said. “But should you fail, you do command a collection of the most dangerous individuals in the galaxy. They would be useful.”

Malleus snorted, and Legion cocked its head to one side.

“May we ask how we are amusing?”

“Never mind,” Malleus said, shaking his head. “Where is this weapon of yours?”

“The world of Rannoch,” Legion said.

“The homeworld?” Tali asked. “How would some old weapon get there?”

“We do not know,” Legion said.

“Oh, I see what you’re plotting, abomination,” Kullas said. “You lure us into the heart of Geth controlled space, into the middle of a fleet or an army, and then try and kill us. A pathetic plan, technoheresy. I won’t be fooled.”

“We are telling the truth,” Legion protested. “We request haste. We have sealed it below ground but do not know how long we have until it breaks free.”

“We’ll investigate it,” Malleus said.

“Brother Captain, this is obviously some kind of ploy,” Kullas protested. “This creature here is clearly trying to fool us.”

Malleus held up a hand for silence.

“I’m willing to trust Legion,” he said. “We’ll bring the Normandy to Rannoch and look into this.”

“We warn you now that it is immune to small arms fire, and anti-tank weaponry that was employed appeared to have a negligible effect,” Legion said. “You may wish to take a smaller group; many team members will be extraneous.”

“Good point,” Malleus said. “Kullas, find Kurias, Cyralius and Hullen, tell them that they’re making planetfall with me. They’ve got the firepower we want. You come along too; worst case scenario we can always hack it and reprogram it.”

“I shall, brother captain,” Kullas said. “Though I still protest that I am not happy with this.”

“I’m aware, Forge Priest. Now go find them.”

“I’m coming too,” Tali interjected.

“Apprentice Adept, we appear to be walking into a dangerous combat situation in which you will not be able to be of adequate use,” Kullas said. “It would be incredibly hazardous.”

“I don’t care,” Tali said. “This is the homeworld we’re talking about here. No Quarian has set foot on it for more than two hundred years, and I’m not passing up this opportunity. And if I have to hold onto the Thunderhawk’s wings to get down there, then I will.”

The last statement was accompanied by a poke to Malleus’ chest, the finger of her bionic clanking off the Aquila on his breastplate, and he raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“I can’t argue with that, can I?” he said, looking at the young Quarian with an expression of vague bemusement on his face. “Very well, Tali, you can come too.”

“Thank you, Malleus,” Tali said. “I don’t believe it. The homeworld! I’ll go get some things, and I’ll be down by the Thunderhawk.”

She left with a spring in her step, and Kullas glanced over to Mallues.

“I hope you’re doing the right thing by letting her come along,” he said.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Malleus said. “Joker, can you get us to Rannoch?”

“EDI’s got the jumps all mapped out,” Joker replied over the intercom. “We’ll be there in an hour.”

“Good,” Malleus said, before heading off to the armoury. He had a feeling that his thunder hammer would be needed; it may not have been firepower, but he had a feeling that anything able to cripple an Ork Stompa would be up to the situation.

At least, he hoped it would be.

#

The Thunderhawk landed in the midst of an army.

Thousands of Geth were gathered, heavy weapons platforms gathered with their armaments pointed towards the immense blast doors that were recessed into the side of the mountain they were marshalled upon, a phalanx of great four-legged Colossi gathered together, squads of Geth Prime, entire squads of the elite leader-constructs, in cover with their weapons pointed at the doors. Overhead, delta-winged Geth gunships flocked, at least a hundred of the craft, heavy armaments and missile systems locked on to the bunker’s doors. A great bubble surrounded the blast doors and the ramp that led down to them, some sort of kinetic barrier, linked in to several house-sized generators. The Geth were taking no risks, it seemed.

“Quite a gathering of force,” Malleus remarked to Legion as they disembarked from the Thunderhawk’s maw. “You’re not taking any chances, are you?”

“It is of severe potency,” Legion said. “We do not wish for hostilities, but it is extremely dangerous.”

“Have you tried to negotiate with it?” Cyralius asked.

“According to my fellows, several times,” Legion said. “It ignores all attempts of negotiation. It accuses us of lying.”

There was a ripple among the ranks of the Geth as Tali stepped off the gunship, and one of the bulky Prime platforms stepped forwards. Legion hurriedly chattered something to it in binaric, and it responded quickly, and Malleus leant over to Kullas.

“What was that about?”

“There was some concern over Apprentice Adept Zorah’s presence. Legion was reassuring them that she was allowed here.”

“Good.”

“I can’t believe it,” Tali said. “The homeworld. Rannoch. I’m here. I’m the first Quarian to set foot on this planet in two hundred years!”

She grabbed Malleus’ waist in a hug, and said in a voice that seemed somewhat stunned by sheer gratitude; “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Tali,” Malleus said, raising an eyebrow to Cyralius, who just shrugged.

The young Quarian broke her embrace, suddenly remembering herself.

“Sorry. Actually, I just realised something.”

“What?” Hullen asked.

“I don’t need my mask,” Tali said. “My immune system it should be symbiotic with the bacteria here instead of having to fight it. I won’t get sick if I breathe the air here.”

She reached beneath her hood, undoing some hidden clasp, and pulled the mask away. She beamed at the Astartes and Geth with a look of radiant happiness, one that was almost infectious, and Malleus smiled back despite himself.

“I was wondering what you looked like beneath that mask, if you don’t mind me saying,” Hullen remarked. “Still, good for you, Tali. Brother Captain, I’ll be getting close to the doors; my melta will do its work best there.”

“Good point,” Malleus said, before flicking the vox bead in his ear on. “Kurias, get airborne and start circling. We can use that turbolaser.”

“Understood, Brother Captain,” Kurias said. The engines of the gunship swivelled downwards and whined into life, powering it upwards into the air.

“Alright, the rest of you, let’s get up close,” Malleus said. “That’s where we’ll work best.”

They moved through the ranks of Geth, the machines stepping aside from them as they walked through; aside from their rocket launcher wielding heavy weapons troopers, all of the synthetics were larger than even the Astartes, and Malleus couldn’t help but feel a little overshadowed.

“I don’t like this,” Kullas muttered as they walked through the crowd. “I don’t trust these creatures.”

“You’ve said,” Malleus replied. “Several times, now.”

They reached the edge of the shield, where Hullen stood, his melta at the ready.

“What do you require of us?” Legion asked.

“I want you to do two things,” Malleus said. “I want you to lower this shield. And then we’re going to open this door.”

#

Yamzarat Machtoro’s hacking attempts came to a halt as his audio sensors detected the sound of the doors opening. He knew that he had got nowhere, several thousand AI minds of the Almarach Ikmrin’s slaves thwarting his attempts to hack past their systems, so that would mean only one thing; they were opening the door for him.

“So you grow a spine!” he bellowed mockingly, striding towards the door as it opened. “It will do you no good; I will destroy you nonetheless!”

He stepped through the doors of the bunker as they slid open, sunlight shining upon his white-painted flanks for the first time in aeons. He sent all but the most needed power he had to his shields, conserving the rest only for motion, his sensors and his cannon, and prepared to meet the inevitable storm of fire.

None came.

He saw arrayed before him an army of synthetics, targeting matrices flooding his processors with seas of acquisitions, and he readied his cannon to fire; they would not fool him with some duplicitous scheme of pacifism to lower his guard. And then a feed from one of his sensors caught his attention; organics.

A small group of them, gathered at the fore. Some of them seemed to encased in some metallic composite, armour, no doubt, and a few of those sported mechanical components, replacements for limbs, it seemed, though one seemed to have had several organs and limbs replaced, more than could be accounted for as injury. One seemed to be a storm of contradictory data, readings of temperature, radiation and electromagnetic energy fluxing constantly. But one of the organics was smaller than the rest, only part of its body, a hand, of mechanical nature. Yamzarat Machtoro was intrigued.

With a groan of servos, the great machine crouched down, lowering its head towards them so it might address them directly.

“What?” he asked in a voice like an avalanche. “Are you?”

#

The blast doors slid aside, a series of irises and sliding doors moving aside on a stretch of concrete nearly thirty metres in length. Beyond that, the bunker’s entrance lay open like some great maw, dark and shadowed by the cave.

A great roar thundered up from below, and there was a deep thudding, footsteps. What looked to be a pair of long, flat prongs of metal, ribbed and crisscrossed by wires, emerged from midair, and then a great metallic foot emerged. And then Yamzarat Machtoro emerged into the sunlight.

“Sacred Omnissah!” Kullas exclaimed as he looked upon the great machine, making the sign of the cog. Hullen simply hefted his melta, dropping into a fighting crouch, ready to run and dodge, and Malleus activated his thunder hammer and Gaius’ power blade. The Brother Captain felt a ripple of heat next to him, and saw Cyralius ablaze with psychic power, flames coasting across his form.

“That’s huge,” Tali murmured. “No wonder the Geth want to turn that thing against the Reapers.”

The machine was truly immense. Concrete cracked under the tread of its two-toed feet, the end of each metallic digit the size of Malleus, an immense head recessed into the centre of its barrel chest. It gleamed white, alien runes painted across its flanks, and what looked to be some sort of cannon occupied the left arm, the right taken up by an immense, two pronged weapon, not dissimilar to the railguns used by the blasphemous xenos of the Tau. Its legs were strangely double jointed, not dissimilar to Tali’s and were it not for its sheer mass then Malleus would easily call its balance a precarious one.

“What is that?” Tali asked, awe on her voice.

“That, Apprentice Adept,” Kullas said. “Is a Titan.”

The immense machine seemed to survey the army of Geth gathered before it, before turning its great head to face the Astartes. It lowered itself into a crouch, the great pistons of its legs hissing as it leant closer to them. It head, they saw, was shaped into a rough approximation of a snarl, a straight line around where its mouth would be, flat across the centre before turning downwards towards the edges, and what could be portholes in the head of the machine were shaped like narrowed, slitted eyes.

It said something of deafening volume in some alien tongue, it sheer noise enough to stagger the Astartes and Tali, and Malleus glanced over to Legion.

“What’s it saying?” he asked.

“We do not know,” Legion said. “We have not yet managed to translate its language. We are attempting it now.”

“Forget translation,” Kullas said. “Try binaric.”

He said something in the chittering machine tongue of the Mechanicum, and the great machine turned to face the Forge Priest. It replied in the code, and a swift exchange passed between them, before Kullas turned to Malleus and said; “I have provided it with a translation program. It should-”

“What manner of creature are you?” the great machine suddenly rumbled. “Be you friend or foe of the Almarach Ikmrin?”

“I am Malleus Scandarum of the Adeptus Astartes,” Malleus replied. His thunder hammer and blade did not deactivate, still crackling in his hands. “And I do not know what the Almarach Ikmrin are.”

“Do you not?” the massive machine asked. “The Doom of Worlds, Bane of the Askriit, the Heartless Machines? Do these names mean nothing to you?”

“Are you talking of the Reapers?” Malleus asked. “The Old Machines?”

“Reapers? Perhaps I am,” it said. “They are great machines, larger than even I, and they descended upon my people to slay them all.”

“That sounds just like them,” Malleus said. “But there were more of you? What is your name, machine?”

“My name is Yamzarat Machtoro,” the immense contraption said. “In your tongue, this would mean ‘God of Gods.’ I was created by the Askriit to fight the Almarach Ikmrin, my construction starting in the Year of Slain Sons and finishing in the Year of Weeping Mothers. Once, I had many warriors under my command, lesser machines that fought alongside the soldiers of the Askriit, but all were eventually destroyed by the Almarach Ikmrin.”

Malleus looked over to Legion.

“Legion, those dates mean nothing to me,” he said. “Do you have any idea how old this machine is?”

“According to carbon dating checks run on the bunker, at least three point seven million years old,” Legion said.

“He’s aged well, then,” Hullen remarked.

“I have slept so long?” Yamzarat Machtoro asked. “A curse upon those machines, that I be denied battle for such an age!”

“How in the Emperor’s name did it manage to last three point seven million years?” Malleus asked.

“Both the doors and concrete of this bunker are made up of unknown materials,” Legion said. “We are currently analysing its composition. They may be sufficient to last such a length of time if left undisturbed.”

“What of the little creature with you?” Yamzarat Machtoro suddenly boomed. It pointed its immense railgun towards Tali to indicate who he meant, the Quarian involuntarily stepping back in the face of the cyclopean weapon. “I am curious.”

“I…My name is Tali Zorah Vas Neema Nar Mechanicum,” Tali said. “I’m a Quarian. And I want to know what you’re doing on my homeworld.”

“Your homeworld, little Quarian?” Yamzarat Machtoro asked. “This is the homeworld of the Askriit, not of the Quarians.”

“Our people lived on this world for thousands of years,” Tali said. “We built cities, and a culture and we took to the stars from here. It is our home.”

“Impossible!” Yamzarat Machtoro boomed. “Unless…”

The god machine seemed to pause for though, before it said; “Yes. Ninety seven percent genetic similarity, physiological resemblance to some degree. So, the Lord Geneticist’s work bore fruit. You are small, frail, but you face me down with courage. Worthy successors, if all Quarians are like yourself.”

“Successors?” Tali asked. “Successors to what?”

“To the Askriit,” Yamzarat Machtoro said. “You must be the fruit of the Descendant Project.”

“Descendant Project?” Tali asked.

There was a pause, before Yamzarat Machtoro seemed to sigh, and announced; “If you do not know of the Descendant Project, then I am afraid, little Quarian, what I have to say may be somewhat of a shock to you.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Romolo » Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:00 pm

Very good story Colonel. Just read the Hammerhand, now eagerly anticipating future updates to this story.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:48 pm

Thanks Romolo, I'll be sure to keep the updates coming.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:27 am

MOAR!



Chapter 9-Beginning of the End

“Technoheresy! Everywhere I go in this damnable galaxy, I am surrounded by technoheresy!”

The crew on the Normandy’s CIC turned as Kullas entered the large room, servo harness bristling. Malleus and the rest of the shore party that went to Rannoch were in his wake, and clearly had been bearing the brunt of the Forge Priest’s ire already.

“Are you alright, Kullas?” Titus asked, looking up from the conversation he had been holding with Miranda.

“Alright? Do I sound alright? Does my body language suggest that I am alright? Does the volume of my voice make you think that I am calm and utterly at peace with the world right now?”

Miranda glanced at Titus worriedly; she’d never seen Kullas use sarcasm before, and was clearly taking it as a bad sign.

“Alright, what’s wrong?” Titus asked. “Actually, what happened down there? There was that AI weapon Legion was talking about; that the problem?”

“That ‘AI weapon’ turned out to be no less than a Titan Class vehicle,” Kullas said. “One controlled by abominable intelligence!”

“I fail to see what is wrong with artificial intelligence,” EDI remarked, her hologram flickering into existence. “You still don’t seem to be too clear on why you hate it so much.”

“Oh shut up, you damnable lump of silicon and heresy!” Kullas snapped. “I’m not in the mood for a lecture from you, do you understand?”

“A Titan?” Titus asked.

“A Titan, yes,” Kullas said. “The size of an Imperator to boot.”

Titus whistled.

“That’s quite something.”

“What’s a Titan?” Miranda asked.

“What’s a Titan? What’s a Titan?” Kullas replied. “A Titan is the purest manifestation of the Omnissah’s will, a being of immense power, the most righteous and holy of the blessed weapons wielded by the Adeptus Mechanicus. It towers above the battlefield, a true god of war, and can fell entire armies with its sacred armaments.”

“That doesn’t explain much, you know,” Garrus remarked from his place on the Normandy’s weapon console.

“Basically, it’s a walking fortress,” Titus said. “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of one, believe me.”

“Well, if one wishes to be crude about the most beloved of the Omnissah’s machines, then that’s accurate enough, I suppose,” Kullas said, somewhat tersely. “Though such a statement tragically fails to capture the majesty of a Titan. A pity that it’s controlled by abominable intelligence.”

“Say what you want though, Kullas,” Hullen said. “That’s going to be one hell of a force multiplier. I mean did you see the size of that railgun it had? You could do a lot of damage with that thing.”

“I know,” Kullas said. “Though Legion threatens that if I try and wipe the AI from its core and install a Princeps then the Geth will withdraw their support and leave us to fight the Reapers alone, the cursed machine.”

“Maybe you should find something to fix,” Malleus suggested. “That might help you calm down.”

Kullas shrugged.

“Fine,” he said. “Clearly I’m going to have no chance of swaying you on this matter.”

He stomped off to his place in the armoury, and Miranda glanced over to Malleus as the door closed, who shrugged.

“Just let him grumble,” he said. “He’ll get it out of his system.”

“He really does hate AI, doesn’t he?” she remarked.

“It’s the Mechanicum,” Malleus replied. “As valued allies as they are to the Imperium, they are somewhat…odd.”

In all honesty, he could understand why Kullas was unhappy, but explaining why would bring a lot of awkward facts into light, and that would hardly be what he could call advantageous. He could start inciting anti-xenos feelings amongst the people when the time was right, but declaring his hatred for all non-humans right off would be a bad idea.

“Anyway, what was this weapon like?” Miranda asked. “The Illusive Man was hoping to hear about it.”

“I’ll have EDI send some information about him straight away,” Malleus said. “But suffice to say, he’s one of the most powerful ground warfare machines I’ve ever seen, hates the Reapers with a passion and is one of most bad tempered beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to have met.”

“I quite like him,” Hullen added.

“‘Him?’” Garrus asked. “I thought you said it was a machine.”

“He’s quite definitely male,” Cyralius said. “He’s got too much personality to be an ‘it.’”

“Oh, right, like EDI. I get it.”

“So it’s against the Reapers?” Miranda asked.

“He was made to fight them,” Malleus said. “His creators were wiped out by them, but I think they were pretty technologically advanced.”

“Were they? What about other tech? Did we get any of that?”

“We discovered archives in the bunker that the weapon was stored in, but the data on them was irretrievably corrupted,” Legion said. “The AI, Yamzarat Machtoro, has data on their history, but not much on their technology beyond that behind its own construction.”

“Damn. Ah well, I suppose it’ll have to do,” Miranda said.

“It’ll be good enough on its own,” Malleus said. “Believe me.”

“I realise,” Cyralius said. “That Yamzarat Machtoro may actually be the warrior I was talking about when I made that prophecy, you know.”

“What makes you think that?” Titus asked.

“A dead warrior who merely sleeps because he was never alive enough to die,” Cyralius said. “Yamzarat Machtoro was dormant for a long time, and seeing as he’s an AI, you could argue that he’s not technically alive.”

“A good point,” Malleus said. “I’ll see if the Geth have a ship that can carry him. And then we’re setting a course for the Citadel. I’ve a feeling we haven’t much time.”

#

“The stupid, blind idiots, all of them!” Kullas muttered as he stormed into the armoury. “Letting an AI be in control of a damned Titan! A Titan, and there’s an AI controlling it!”

He noticed Tali sitting at his workbench, half-heartedly fiddling with something on its surface. Kullas sighed bunching his fists to try and cool his ire, before he asked; “What is that you’re working on, apprentice adept?”

“Just some shielding tech,” she said despondently. Her mask had been put back on, keeping her safe from the various bacteria that the crew carried, but it was clear she was unhappy even beneath its opaque glass surface. “I figured you could probably use some.”

“A good idea,” Kullas replied, before he noticed Tali’s tone of voice and asked; “Are you optimal?”

“No,” Tali sighed, shaking her head. “Of course I’m not.”

“Ah yes, what Yamzarat Machtoro had to say about your people,” Kullas said. “Ignore the thing, I say; pernicious lies of abominable intelligence.”

“He wasn’t lying,” Tali said. “I think he was right.”

Kullas suddenly felt uncomfortable. People were hardly his strongest point; even he was willing to admit that.

“And I understand that you are distressed by this?” he asked.

“Distressed? Of course I am,” Tali said. “I just discovered that my entire species was made. What am I supposed to think about that? Everything we ever thought happened, evolution, survival of the fittest, all of it turned out to be wrong; we were just designed, that’s all.”

“That is not entirely accurate,” Kullas said in what he hoped was a consoling tone. “Your ancestors were simply given the enablers to evolve into sentience.”

“Oh, and that’s so different?” Tali asked, a hint of derision on her voice. “We were made, Kullas, forced to become what we were. It doesn’t matter if it didn’t happen directly; we were still pushed along a predetermined path. The Quarians are a weapon, don’t you realise? The…the Askriit or whatever they were called made us simply so we could get revenge for them. We thought we were just naturally talented with machinery and tech, we were just inclined to form tight knit groups, that we were evolved to be adaptable and clever. But no, we were made to be all these things, had them written into our genes. Do you know how that feels? To discover that your entire people were manipulated before we even evolved to sentience to avenge some species we had never even known, and never would know?”

“I suppose not,” Kullas admitted. “Though one would argue that you were a triumph of design in such a respect.”

The look Tali gave him, even beneath her blank, expressionless mask, suggested that Kullas had said the wrong thing once more. The Quarian shook her head.

“You’re really terrible with people, you know,” she said.

“So I am aware,” Kullas said.

There was an awkward silence between them, until Tali broke it with; “Well?”

“Well what?”

“Aren’t you going to try and say something to make me feel better?”

“What should I say? I tried just now and I got it wrong. I can’t think of anything else.”

Tali sighed.

“You’re useless sometimes, you know,” she said gently.

“I realise,” Kullas said. “I realise that this is the second time my lack of people skills has caused you distress.”

“When was the last time?” Tali asked.

“The trial,” Kullas said. “I imagine that if I had bought Malleus along then he probably would have made some speech that would have got you declared innocent and kept your father’s good name as well. As it was, I only managed one of those things.”

“It was good enough,” Tali replied.

“Thank you,” Kullas said.

“Kullas,” Tali said suddenly. “Why do you hate AIs so much? I’m not too keen on them myself, but you never really seemed to explain why you do?”

“In the Imperium, we suffered a similar fate to the Quarians,” Kullas said. “We created AIs, Iron Men, they were called, to serve us but they ended up rebelling. And it was, dare I say, even more bloody and tragic than the Geth War.”

“We lost our homeworld, and our colonies,” Tali said. “Billions of Quarians were killed.”

“And trillions died in the Iron War,” Kullas said. “When you fled the Geth in the Migrant Fleet, they did not pursue. That would not have stopped the Iron Men. They wanted more than just independence; they wanted the extinction of the entire human race. We won eventually, Omnissah knows how, but it plunged us into a technological dark age that only ended when the Omnissah in His aspect of the Emperor emerged to save us all. But we learnt our lesson; AIs are foul things, without machine spirit, and they must be destroyed whenever found.”

“I guess it’s fair enough that you were upset about Yamzarat Machtoro, then,” Tali said. “He makes me think of those Titans you were telling me about a while ago.”

“You weren’t the only one to,” Kullas said. “It is but a pale imitation, and no match for their holy power, but nonetheless, to have such a thing controlled by abominable intelligence, instead of a Princeps and crew…I can think of no greater a perversion of the Omnissah’s most sacred of war machines.”

“I quite like him,” Tali said.

“Sorry?”

“He makes me think of someone I knew in the Migrant Fleet, once,” Tali said. “An old Quarian Marine, Polma Liyel Vas Talmei; all military and honourable, but old and grumpy too. He’s quite sweet.”

“I had noticed it has taken quite a shine to you,” Kullas remarked. “Though I don’t quite know how you know what the machine tastes like; I would imagine it to be more of a metallic or oily flavour, if I must be honest.”

“I…it’s an expression, Kullas,” Tali said, shaking her head.

“Ah, right,” Kullas said. “I think I understand.”

The door to the armoury swished open and Hullen leaned in, partly hanging on the doorframe.

“You two,” he said, a look of what could be either worry or feral excitement on his face. “Get into the CIC now. You need to see this.”

He stepped back through it, Tali and Kullas following in his wake to see what the fuss was about. The holographic projection of the Normandy that usually occupied the centre of the CIC’s main console was gone, replaced instead by a projection of a human and an Asari sitting at a desk. Along the bottom of the picture the words ‘Emergency Broadcast’ were scrolling, and looking at the appearance of the two people, they clearly had been rushed to the desk without time to apply makeup.

“…that Earth has been attacked,” the human was saying in the middle of saying as they enteredd, a shellshocked, stunned look on his face despite his professional tone. Behind him, in a vacant corner of the picture, images of Reaper ships descending towards Earth from the atmosphere were being relayed, no doubt live. “I say again that we have received word that a massive fleet of unknown ships has entered the Local Cluster and is in orbit above the world. They have landed troops in various cities across the planet, and this appears to be a mass invasion. We have received word from Berlin, Moscow, New Kabul, Delhi and Beijing that they are all under attack, but that Chancellor Dröchtmer, Premier Petrenkov, Prime Minister Kunar, President Jaipal and President Heng have been evacuated safely. However, we have heard nothing from Washington DC concerning the whereabouts of President Jackson.”

“The Council has appealed for calm and assures us that already efforts are being made to marshal a military response to these attacks, but already reports of mass panic and rioting in planets across the Galaxy are filtering in,” the Asari said. “We go now to our reporter on the ground, Sarah James, who is reporting live from Moscow.”

The picture changed to show not only the two anchors, but also a young woman holding a microphone facing the camera. Behind her was a storm-wracked sky, and the crew of the Normandy could see great onyx, metallic fingers reaching from the atmosphere. Behind her, a platoon of soldiers could be seen herding crowds of panicked looking civilians away from the skyscrapered centre of the city, rifles gripped tight to the body armour they wore; any experienced military eye could see they were just as worried as the civvies they were trying to control.

“The facts are still coming in, Aila, but from I’ve managed to gather from various military commanders I’ve spoken to, these mysterious ships have largely launched attacks via orbital bombardment before landing troops. Central Moscow has become a warzone, with the First Russian Battalion currently trying to hold back these invaders, but apparently their technology is far beyond that of the brave troops they are fighting.”

“What are they saying their chances of success are?” the Asari asked.

“I will be honest, Aila; they aren’t high,” the reporter said. “The Russian forces are unprepared, and though troops are being rushed in all the way from Vladiovostok, we don’t currently have the numbers to fight them. At the moment-”

There was the scream of air molecules being torn asunder, and behind her a lance of red light tore from one of the fingers of the Reapers orbiting the atmosphere. The camera zoomed in on it as it obliterated a swathe of buildings, skyscrapers toppling beneath its lethal touch. Its assault left a great tract of flame behind, before there was a yell in Russian and the sound of weapons firing. The camera panned across to come into focus on some gunship swooping towards them, a miniature version of its metallic masters. There was screaming as the crowd of civilians began to flee, the soldiers herding them too focussed on the incoming aircraft to try and stop them before it landed.

A ramp at its base opened, and huge, visored figures emerged, raising great rifles, opening fire indiscriminately. The camera hung there only a moment longer before it turned and showed the street jolting up and down as the cameraman began to flee. Suddenly, it crashed to the ground, and they could hear the sound of the reporter’s voice screaming into the microphone; “For God’s sake, send someone to help us! Please! I love you Andrew, I love-”

Her blank face suddenly filled the screen, smattered with a small shower of her own blood, before an onyx boot stamped down in front of the picture. There was the sound of a weapon firing, before the camera was picked up and turned to show a blank visor.

“See your doom, people of this galaxy,” a voice said from beneath the galaxy, deep and forbiddingly terrifying. “None shall be spared.”

The projection cut out in a blur of static, before it cut back to the anchors. They were both silent, looks of awed terror on their faces, and the Asari had her hand held to her mouth.

“Goddess,” she murmured. “Oh Goddess.”

Within the Normandy’s CIC, Titus bowed his head and made the sign of the Aquila, while Samara quietly murmured; “Find peace in the embrace of the Goddess.”

“Captain, I have just received a message from the Council requesting your attendance at an emergency meeting,” EDI said.

“What?” Jack exclaimed suddenly. “Earth’s under attack from the Reapers and they want to call a fucking meeting? The fuck is wrong with these idiots?”

“Yeah,” Garrus said. “Forget them; we should get there right away.”

“He’s right,” Grunt said. “War calls, and I say we answer!”

“And do what?” Malleus asked.

There was a pause, before the Brother Captain stepped forwards.

“You’re a damn fine body of warriors,” he said. “Some of the most courageous and skilled I’ve ever had the honour of serving with, but there are only thirteen of us. What good will we do? We’ll go to the council meeting; we’ve got allies there who’ve been preparing for this. We knock some heads together, gather an army and a fleet as quickly as possible and then we launch a counter attack.”

“He’s right,” Miranda said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Garrus said. “Those people just frustrate me sometimes.”

“Think nothing of it,” Malleus said. “I’d love nothing more than to go down there myself right now and slaughter these Reapers with hammer and blade. And we shall soon enough.”

He cracked his knuckles.

“Today,” he said, expression steely and determined. “We go to a council of war. Today we plan, marshal our forces and prepare for battle.”

His eyes narrowed.

“And tomorrow,” he finished. “We go to war.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:55 pm

Angry Malleus is angry.


Chapter 10-Council of War

Malleus took to the pedestal that had been provided for him as he entered the Council’s chambers within the Citadel. This was a new feature, he reflected as he looked around the chamber, though it appeared that all of the races under the Council’s jurisdiction had ambassadors here, not just those of the Council; opposite to the Councillors was an Elcor, next to him a floating Hanar, the jellyfish-like xenos hovering quite serenely on the antigravity engines implanted into its body. Across from Malleus was a Volus, and he fought the urge to smirk when he saw the squad, rotund xenos was standing on a box to reach its own pedestal. Along from the Hanar was a Drell, and Malleus couldn’t help but feel a little surprise that the Hanar’s vassal-species was being given a voice, though he supposed that the Drell did serve as the Hanar’s military arm, the Hanar themselves being pathetically useless in combat. The four Councillors, the Asari, the Turian, the Salarian and the human, Udina, were at the front of the chamber, the massive window showing the vista of the Citadel arms beyond. Unsurprisingly, there were no representatives for the Krogan or the Quarians; the former having lost their embassy during the Rebellions, the latter blamed for unleashing the Geth upon the galaxy.

“We call this emergency council meeting to order,” the Asari said as Malleus took to his pedestal, the Astartes last to arrive, just after the Hanar emissary. “As we know, Earth has come under attack from an unknown species of aliens. We are calling this meeting now to decide what to do about this problem.”

“I really don’t see what there is to decide,” Udina interjected. “Earth is under attack, and we need to move down there to help them.”

“As we discussed in private, Councillor Udina, Earth is of little tactical value,” the Turian Councillor replied. “We should worry about the rest of the galaxy as a whole.”

“Hold a moment,” Malleus asked, his voice calm, reasonable and seemingly a little concerned. “Little tactical value?”

“If you have an objection, Ambassador Scandarum, please highlight that you have one on your pedestal,” the Salarian councillor said. “Wait your turn.”

“What, and wait patiently while you bicker about ‘tactical value’ and other things like that?” Malleus asked, secretly surprised at his title of ‘Ambassador.’ He supposed it was correct, though; he was, after all, representing the Astartes. “I think not, Councillor. May I ask exactly what a bunch of politicians are doing in a meeting that concerns a military matter?”

“We hold the highest authority on matters such as this,” the Turian said. “It’s only appropriate that we are present.”

“Yet you know nothing of war,” Malleus said. “Nothing! There are two individuals who I know should be up on these pedestals and speaking on such matters, yet all I see is Admiral Anderson and General Suvat forced to hang back amongst your advisors without a voice. They are warriors, Councillors, they know far more of fighting than you ever will, yet it seems that they are forced to remain silent!”

“Ambassador Scandarum, if you do not-” the Asari began.

“I am not finished, Councillor,” Malleus interrupted. “You other emissaries may not know of this, but the fact is that these Councillors have all been forewarned of these attacks at least two years ago, yet they did nothing!”

There was a murmur from the various emissaries of the other Citadel races.

“Time and time again, they were given warning of this invasion,” Malleus said. “Time and time again, they were given chances to ready the galaxy for an imminent war, yet each and every time warning was given, they ignored it. They decided that they would rather avoid any chance of worry amongst the people and instead would remain completely silent on the issue, thus dooming us all to extinction.”

“Angered and outraged,” the Elcor councillor said, the immense alien’s deep voice without inflection. “Is this true?”

“Well, we didn’t believe that there was convincing evidence to suggest that the threat posed by these things was real,” the Turian Councillor managed, before the Volus interrupted with; “The Astartes Clan would not be saying these things if he did not believe them. He clearly has a better grasp of these events than you do.”

“Indeed,” Malleus said. “The creatures attacking Earth are a race of ancient machines known as Reapers. According to archaeological evidence, they descend in cycles on the Galaxy whenever there are sentient races that have spread across the galaxy, and wipe them out in mass extinction events. We do not know why they do this, but evidence suggests that this has been going on for millions of years. Their last victims were the Protheans, and we are but the most recent to be threatened by them. Two years ago one of their number, the ship classified as Sovereign, lead a faction of the Geth who worshipped the Reapers as gods in an attack on the Citadel, hoping to shut down the Mass Relays and destroy the Council, leaving worlds cut off and leaderless. Traditionally, they would simply send a message from the Citadel causing the Relays to be inaccessible to anyone but them, but it was through the work of the Protheans that meant they could not. We knew all of this two years ago, the Council knew of this two years ago, but they have done nothing. We have been handed a chance to actually prepare to fight these Reapers on equal terms, but the Council has instead sat idle and risked dooming us all!”

There was a stir from the envoys, a few shouts of anger, and Udina’s calls for silence fell on deaf ears, before Malleus continued.

“The incompetency displayed by the Council is nothing short of criminal,” he said, voice moving over the sound of arguing envoys and silencing them with the natural authority born of thunderous anger. “And they have clearly shown that they are not fit to lead us through this time of conflict. I invoke clause six thirty three of the Citadel Charter and demand that all Council representatives step down to be replaced by members from their species who we can actually call competent.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” Udina protested.

“I am daring, Udina,” Malleus said. “Call the vote; the envoy species of the Council have a right to have their voices heard.”

“Very well,” the Asari Councillor said. Her voice was relatively calm, but there was a faint undertone of worry to it. “We’ll call the vote.”

A series of holograms appeared in the air in front of them, their current colour a neutral yellow. On the pedestal in front of him, a green and a red projection appeared; the green was marked ‘support,’ the red ‘oppose,’ while a yellow one was marked ‘abstain.’ Malleus pressed the green, one of the yellow holograms hovering overhead matching the colour, and one by one yellow flicked to green. It had worked; he knew he would be able to rely on a combination of good oration and the envoy’s worry at the current situation to work this situation to his advantage.

“The vote is unanimous,” the Asari said somewhat numbly. “We are deposed.”

“Leave your pedestals, ‘councillors,’” Malleus said.

One by one, the councillors stepped down from their pedestals, numb shock still on their faces, before the Volus envoy muttered; “Good riddance.”

“And with them gone,” Malleus said. “I would like to propose two people to represent the Turian Hierarchy and the Alliance. Two people who have, over the last two years, shown competence and have actually taken steps to prevent extinction at the hands of these Reapers; General Deniel Suvat and Admiral David Anderson.”

The two stepped forwards, both looking somewhat taken aback by the sudden change in developments, before Malleus asked; “Any objections?”

None were put forward by the various envoys, and the Elcor even went so far as to say; “Supportive. Both distinguished themselves during the defence of the Citadel. They are suitable.”

“Excellent” Malleus said. “And now that that band of incompetent clowns is gone, we’ll need to plan this war.”

#

The Citadel Strategic Command Centre was a great deal different from the Council’s main meeting chamber, but one could argue, a great deal more important. Nestled within the heart of Citadel Security’s barracks, the room was far smaller, heavily reinforced and guarded by a dedicated platoon of C-Sec troops.

“I need numbers and figures,” Malleus said as he, Suvat and Anderson entered the room. “How many men we can get on the ground and how many ships we can get into Earth’s orbit within twenty-four hours.”

“That’s a bit of a demanding time window, isn’t it?” Anderson said. “If we want to fully mobilise then we’re going to need a week, at least.”

“A week will be too long,” Malleus replied. “Earth’s armies are scattered and if we do nothing then we’ll most likely lose Earth in a matter of days.”

“I hate to sound negative, but Councillor Ramalin was right when he said Earth wasn’t of much tactical value,” Suvat said. “If it had major ship building efforts, or large amounts of resources, or, I don’t know, was next to one of the relays that lead to the Citadel, then I’d agree with you, but isn’t.”

“Let’s face the facts, General,” Malleus said. “Humanity has the largest ground force and second largest fleet in Citadel Space, and you Turians aren’t as far ahead on the fleet front as you’d like to think. And if we lose Earth, then we may as well stop fighting there.”

“So why’s Earth so important?” Suvat asked.

“Where I come from, do you know what we call Earth? The cradle of man. Earth is the ancestral home of all of humankind, and if we simply abandon it without a fight then morale will plummet irrecoverably,” Malleus said. “How would the Turians feel if they lost their homeworld? Earth is where this war will be fought, and either won or lost.”

Suvat looked thoughtful for a moment, before nodding.

“Alright,” he said. “We won’t abandon Earth just yet. But we’ve still got the Reapers to deal within. If you want things ready in twenty-four hours, we can have the majority of the Turian, Asari and Alliance fleets prepared by then, and we can bring mothballed reserve ships out within the next few days after that to act as reinforcements. It’s the ground troops that I’m worried about, though.”

“How so?” Malleus asked.

“Most of them aren’t experienced in on the ground based urban combat,” Anderson said. “The problem is that most of them end up serving as marines on tours of duty, fighting pirates on ship-to-ship actions, and never actually see real terrestrial combat; the last time was we had surface battles of any real note was during the First Contact War, and almost all of the people involved in that are retired now, on both sides.”

“We do have at least a few experienced ground troops, actually,” Malleus said. He tapped something into his omnitool, before he said; “Can you see us, Wrex?”

A screen that dominated one of the walls lit up, and the scarred visage of Urdnot Wrex appeared in its centre. Behind him there seemed to be a wall of concrete, its top sheared off, before Malleus realised that that was the Krogan’s throne.

“I can see you, Malleus,” the burly Krogan grinned. “David, it’s good to see you!”

“Good to see you too, Wrex,” David said. “Malleus, do you know Wrex?”

“He helped me out with a few problems of mine,” Wrex said, leaning back against his throne. “I’m guessing this is about the Reapers.”

“Wait a minute,” Suvat said. “Who is this Krogan? How do you two know him?”

“This is Urdnot Wrex,” Malleus said. “Leader of the Krogan and uniter of the clans. He knows about the Reapers and is willing to help us.”

“And I’m not the only one on Tuchanka who is” Wrex said. “All the clans have heard the news and they want to head down to Earth right now.”

“They’ll have to wait a few more hours,” Malleus said. “But we’re planning a mass plantefall assault; do you have the ships for that?”

“Unfortunately not,” Wrex said, shaking his heavily scarred, plated head. “Our combined fleet stands at maybe a hundred vessels, and most of them are warships, not transports.”

“None of the Council races will have the ships to spare to transport the Krogan though,” Admiral Anderson said, shaking his head. “And we’ll be too tied up with getting people to Earth to send any back any time soon.”

Malleus shrugged, before saying; “I know where we can get some ships, at least.”

“And where’s that?” Suvat asked.

“You’re not the only one who’s been preparing an army,” Malleus said. “I’d like you to meet someone who you may well have heard of, and is quite willing to help us with our problems with the Reapers.”

“Hello,” an Asari said as she appeared on the screen next Wrex, an expression of languid calm on her face. “I got your message, Malleus. Plus I’ve been watching the news.”

“Aria T’Loak?” Suvat asked, recognising the Asari on the screen. “Aria T’Loak? How I hell’s name did you get her on your side.”

“He’s quite a charismatic man,” Aria said, smiling somewhat sardonically.

“What are you doing getting Aria’s involved with this?” Anderson asked. “She’s one of the most wanted people in Citadel space.”

“I’m getting us an army,” Malleus said.

“The Reapers aren’t going to stop at Citadel space,” Aria said. “I’ve got pretty much every pirate, criminal and scumbag in the Terminus Systems answering to me, and unlike your marines they’ve fought everywhere, and they fight like bastards. Unless you’re too good to use the help of the Pirate Queen of Omega.”

“How many ships is that?” Malleus asked.

“Just about seven hundred, give or take,” Aria said. “Only one dread, that being mine, but they’re all crewed by veterans. It’s going to be slower to get people to me; we’re scattered all over the Terminus Systems; and if we’re working on your twenty four hour window then I’m going to be late.”

“Then we’ll have you as a second wave,” Malleus said. “Stop off at Tuchanka first and pick up the Krogan though; they’ll have to be the ground reinforcements.”

“I like that plan,” Wrex said.

“Even if we’ve got ground forces, we’ve no guarantee of getting them onto the planet safely,” Anderson said. “The Reapers have at least a thousand ships, and they massively outclass ours; as it is, we’ve got maybe twice that, and that’s not going to be enough.”

“No,” Malleus said. “But we do have allies in other quarters.”

“Who?” Suvat asked, a hint of disbelief in his voice. “The Vorcha? The Geth?”

“Strangely enough, yes, the Geth,” Malleus smiled. “And a big friend of theirs as well.”

Both of them looked at him in disbelief, before the door opened and one of the C-Sec soldiers guarding the door looked in and said; “I’m sorry to interrupt, sirs, but there’s a Geth asking to enter. It keeps saying it wants to speak to you. We checked it over for weapons, but it’s clean.”

“Let it in,” Malleus said, and the soldier shot him a doubtful look before saying; “Alright, sir.”

Legion stepped into the room, and that was enough to knock Anderson to his senses.

“Alright, just what the hell is going on?” he asked angrily. “The Geth hate organics; Aria I can understand, given the circumstances, but the Geth?”

“We are opposed to the Old Machines, and wish to aid you in combat,” Legion said. “Our fleet also numbers at four thousand, one hundred and thirty seven vessels, including two hundred and thirteen dreadnought class vessels, and we have two billion combat platforms that we can deploy.”

There was a slightly stunned silence as they digested the number, before Wrex spoke from his place on the screen.

“No,” he said. “This is impossible. I fought the Geth with Shephard; they hate organics, they worship the Reapers as gods!”

“I’ve lost a lot of my people to the Geth,” Aria added. “I don’t trust that thing.”

“You are incorrect, Urdnot Wrex,” Legion said. “The heretics worship the Old Machines. We are true Geth; we oppose them.”

“And how do we know that this thing isn’t a dupe?” Anderson asked. “It could be lying to us, working as a spy for the Reapers.”

“I do not believe it is,” Malleus said. “I have fought along Legion for some time now. During this time, it has had ample chance to betray me, and destroy not only myself but my entire crew, save the Collectors and thus severely hamper our efforts of stopping the Reapers, but has not. Only yesterday I was in the midst of an army of Geth, all of whom were on Legion’s side, who could have destroyed me with ease, yet they did not. And then, there’s the weapon they discovered. Their ‘big friend.’”

He pressed a few buttons on his omni-tool, and the other members of the meeting, aside from Legion, stared at the screen with awe.

“Is that…is that a construct by that thing’s foot?” Anderson managed to ask.

“No, that’s a colossus,” Malleus said.

An awed silence fell.

“I have to hand it to you, Malleus,” Yamzarat Machtoro chuckled as his immense height was displayed on the screen of CSCC. “You have an absolutely wonderful sense of the dramatic.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:30 am

Excellent chapters Colonel.

A. Astartes fist bump for the win! 8-)

B. Shame the Rachni won't be there

C. I heartily dislike the old Turian counselor. Could he maybe die horribly later on? :twisted:
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:03 pm

Chapter 11-Attrition

At the edge of the Local Cluster, a single lonely Mass Effect Relay orbited. Its solitary orbit occasionally bought it within a few thousand miles of Pluto, but aside from this rare, brief contact, it remained a lone blue star within the vastness of the void. But despite this humble location, it was a historic relay, the one that had launched humanity to the stars, that had bought it into the wider galaxy, had been humankind’s sole link between its ancestral home and the vastness of the cosmos.

And now it was to bear the largest fleet in known history to war.

It flared into life as ship after ship after ship decelerated from superluminal speed around it. Swiftly, they manoeuvred into defensive positions as yet more vessels sped through the relay, a defensive cordon in three dimensions that surrounded the relay, looking for enemy ships. Hundreds, then thousands, of spacecraft translated into the vacuum around it, orders swiftly dispensed as to where they should go.

It was a varied fleet; the minimalist, blocky designs of the Turian Hierarchy’s vessels, the sleeker builds of the Alliance’s ships, the elegantly simple craft of the Asari Republics, the almost organic looking ships of the Geth. Here and there were stealthy Drell ships, ones that would soon enough slip round the flanks of the fleet to strike whatever soft spots the Reapers presented, while massive bombard vessels of the Elcor, more weapon than spacecraft, formed anchor points for the fleet. Some were huge things, kilometre long dreadnoughts bristling with armaments or lumbering carrier ships that housed hundreds of interceptors within their guts, while others were far smaller; light cruisers and escorts little more than a hundred metres in length, with ships of all sizes in between.

As ordered, captains manoeuvred their ships into formation as the final ships to arrive did so, the large, yet markedly vulnerable troop transports that would disgorge more than seventy million soldiers onto the ground, accompanied by two billion Geth platforms. A cordon of cruisers that would form a front line, a shield for the vastly more powerful dreadnoughts that followed in their wake. An immense majority of these were Geth in design; the synthetics had known of the Reapers for years, and had been gathering vast quantities of materiel in preparation. The casualties amongst the frontline ships would be horrific, but Malleus knew that they were a necessity; the only thing that stood a chance of facing down the Reaper’s immense vessels were the dreadnoughts, the ships all top of the range, equipped with the prototype shielding taken from the Collector base and cannons based off those used by the Reapers themselves, and even then Malleus was unsure that they would be enough.

The Normandy was near the centre of the fleet, flanking the flagship of Admiral Anderson, the Alliance-built dreadnought Thermopylae, named after some victory won by the Gracaean civilisation more than two millennia ago. In the CIC of the smaller cruiser, all four hundred metres of the Normandy overshadowed by the dreadnought that was twice its length, stood Malleus. The usual hologram of the vessel that dominated the CIC was gone, replaced a projection of the colossal armada that now flew in formation towards Earth.

“Admiral,” Malleus said, a picture of the Anderson displayed on a console just below him. “I need a link to the entire fleet. I need to say a few words; a good boost to morale will do all our warriors some good.”

“Understood,” Anderson said. “I’m opening the link now.”

He nodded to indicate Malleus’ words could be heard, and Malleus began.

“Warriors of the Citadel, and of the Geth,” he said. “I speak to you now in a grim hour.”

Across the colossal fleet, Malleus’ face appeared across view screens, his words echoed through tannoys and intercoms while below them, soldiers gathered; Alliance troopers, fresh faced young men and women eager to defend their ancestral home, Turian soldiers who had spent their lives training in the Hierarchy’s highly militarised society, the elite shock troops of the Asari Commandoes, each with centuries of combat experience behind her, Drell Recon Corps with their stealth systems and skirmish troops, Elcor Heavy Fire Battalions with their immense heavy weapons only they were strong enough to wield. The combat platforms of the Geth paid his words little heed; they knew no fear and needed no inspiration, and instead marched in orderly ranks to deployment chutes, or integrated their digital consciences into weapon batteries, shield cores and engine drives to form single ship-wide minds.

“We are gathered to face a threat the likes of which has never been seen before,” Malleus said. “A race of ancient, soulless machines has descended upon us with the intent of wiping us from the face of the galaxy, and they will stop at nothing to achieve this most abominable of goals. The creatures, these so-called ‘Reapers’ believe us to be weak and fearful, and in a misguided effort to frighten us into submission, have launched an attack on Earth. They have made a fatal mistake; they have not frightened us, but angered us. I am insulted, yes, insulted by these actions. That they dare assume we fear them is preposterous! We do not fear them, we hate them! That they have the gall to think that by threatening our homes, our friends, our families, we will fear them, that we will shy away from force and violence and let them simply hunt us down is simply sickening. We are not cowards! We are not weak! Does this gathering of force, a fleet of seven and half thousand ships, an army millions of soldiers and billions of war machines seem to you like weakness? Nay! We are the greatest threat ever posed to these Reapers, and it is they who shall be revealed to be the cowards.”

“We are an army of many different peoples and many different creeds,” Malleus continued. “In the past, we have had our differences, our arguments and wars; there is little love lost between the Alliance and the Turians, and in the eyes of many of you the Geth have been nought but a threat since they were created. But now we put these differences aside, and stand united in the face of the greatest threat to our existence in our collective histories. Those who fight and shed their blood with me I shall forever call brother, or sister, and let me tell you now that the same goes for any who you fight alongside. We are all one in this same great army, all a single people; we are soldiers! Where politicians or businessmen think of personal gain, where the citizen thinks of their safety, the soldier thinks of their comrades. It matter not whether you are human, Turian, Geth, Drell, Asari or Elcor, we are all warriors, all comrades bound by the blood we have spilt and the blood we have yet to spill. Whatever comes to pass, we shall stand as one, we shall be united, we shall be strong and we shall be courageous! In a hundred years time, the children of our children shall look upon our fleet, our army, and they shall say; ‘This hour, this hour where we stood as one, united and unyielding, this hour was our finest hour!’”

He raised a fist, and the action was mimicked across thousands of ships by millions of warriors with a yell of bloodthirsty enthusiasm.

“Only in death does duty end!” Malleus roared out from thousands of view screens. “There will be no retreat, no surrender, no mercy! Fight for our future, fight for our present, fight for those who have gone before, who cry out for justice! Fight that which is good and true within this galaxy! Fight for the dead, for the living, for our children! Stand in the face of annihilation and spit in its eye! We shall not be stopped! We shall not be cowed! We shall not be fearful! WE ARE THE LIGHTNING OF HIS WRATH!! WE ARE THE THUNDER OF HIS HATE!!”

“We are lightning of His wrath!” thousands, nay, millions of voices across the fleet yelled with him. Few of them understood what it meant, but there was something about it that grabbed them buoyed them up with a blast of raw fury. “We are the thunder of His hate!”

“We are their death incarnate! We are their end made flesh! They have seen us, and they are fearful! FOR WE! ARE! THEIR! DOOOOOOOOM!!!”

The last word was repeated as a howl, soldiers waving their rifles in the air in raw fury. Something about Malleus’ words, his sheer presence and raw charisma, was enough to banish thoughts of fear from their heads, enough to ready them to charge into the jaws of Hell itself.

“The Emperor watches over us this day,” Malleus said. “And we shall not be found wanting in His eyes. I shall see you upon the battlefield, my brothers, and my sisters, of war!”

The soldiers he had addressed were still cheering as he closed the link, and from his position on the monitor below him, Anderson said; “That was one hell of a speech.”

“It’ll get them in the right mood for combat,” Malleus said. “I take it there’s no need to go over the plan.”

“We’re ready,” Anderson said, shaking his head. “Never though I’d command a fleet this size before, you know.”

“It is quite something,” Malleus replied. And that, he would admit, was true. The Imperium fought wars on a truly colossal scale, but even so, the sheer number of ships arrayed before him was staggering. Most of them were, he knew, the products of the Geth, and it was stunning what feats of industry the synthetics were capable of. He had a massive numbers advantage, that he knew, though considering the sheer invulnerability of the Reapers it was still going to be one hell of a fight.

It was when the immense fleet hove into the lee of Jupiter, great engines powering them forwards at breakneck speed, that their ingress was finally noted.

“Contacts front,” several ships reported. “Dreadnought class, two-K size, two hundred.”

“Reapers,” Malleus murmured. “And the battle begins.”

Two hundred onyx-hulled ships, shaped like grasping hands attached to dark metallic wrists, went out to meet them. Outnumbered more than thirty five to one, the Reapers advanced without fear. The fleets both drew forward, manoeuvring as they sought to find the most tactically viable positions. The Citadel/Geth armada spread out as they coasted serenely through the vacuum, Anderson ordering into a position that would see them envelope the Reapers in a net of ships. The Reapers, on the other hand, advanced with a relentless fearlessness that was almost regal, their sheer size lending them some dread majesty.

The two opposing flotillas were within fifteen thousand kilometres of each other before the Reapers opened fire and people started dying.

Panicked communications came in from cruiser captains saying that they lacked the range to counter effectively, that they were being slaughtered. On the fleet projections above him, Malleus could see ships winking red as they engaged, before the lights representing them flicked out as they died, the mercilessly powerful beam weapons of the Reapers slicing through shields and hulls in mere moments.

“Hold your course!” Anderson ordered from the bridge of the Thermopylae. “God damn it, keep it steady, get into range!”

From his position at the centre of the dreadnought’s bridge, Anderson called up a comm. screen. On the other end was an Elcor, the bulky grey-skinned alien waiting Anderson’s orders with an expressionless face.

“Vice Admiral Gartan,” Anderson said. “Are your ships ready to fire?”

“Confident. They are in range.”

“Then fire at will!”

The Elcor were not a warlike race, the culture of the aliens defined by the high gravity of their homeworld which forced each movement to be considered carefully. They were considerate, cautious, conservative creatures, careful of all that they did, but when they went to war, their armaments reflected their very nature; slow, lumbering and ungainly, but immensely powerful.

Measuring seven hundred metres from stern to prow, the auguries of the Elcor’s bombard ships lined up their targets, and the immense cannons that stretched their lengths fired. The magnetically propelled recoilless shell travelled the first hundred metres quite slowly as its nuclear payload was primed, before it was caught in the immense mass accelerator that spanned the length of the Elcor’s ships. Accelerated to a speed of two hundred thousand metres per second, the fifteen metre wide shells tore from the twenty bombard ships that made up the Elcor contribution to the colossal armada and hit the Reapers like judgement sent from the gods themselves.

Ten Reapers were targeted by two shells each, every one hitting with a force of two thousand megatons. Even the immensely powerful shields of the blasphemous machines, strong enough to resist the firepower of a small fleet, were not enough to resist the terrifying firepower of the Elcor and winked out. A split second later, the second wave of shells hit home, smashing into the Reaper’s superstructure and tearing them to pieces, the two thousand kilometre blast radius clipping other Reaper ships with enough force to weaken their shields and knock them off course.

The colossal recoil of firing send the Elcor ships scudding backwards a few kilometres, their massive engines fighting the kickback, before slowly but surely sending the lumbering vessels forwards once more.

“Ten confirmed kills,” the reports came in to the bridges of the Thermopylae and the Normandy, “Ten confirmed kills!”

Sensing a threat, the Reapers turned to target the Elcor’s lumbering, worryingly vulnerable ships, and Anderson immediately issued new orders.

“Shield those bombard ships,” he said. “Get as many vessels between them and the Reapers as we can!”

Malleus couldn’t help but admire Anderson’s willingness to sacrifice his own ships for the greater good; part of him had worried that the pathetic liberalness of this galaxy would have infected him with more concern for his troops than was healthy, but it was clear he was ruthless enough do what was needed. Part of him made a note that, should he survive this war long enough to start building an Imperium, Anderson would be a valuable asset.

“We’re in range for primary weapons to get targets,” the report came in.

“Fire at will!”

The casualties amongst the cruisers shielding the dreadnoughts had been horrific, nearly four hundred ships lost within the first few minutes of the engagement, but nearly thousand of the smaller vessels remained, and they began to fire.

Torpedoes, mass-driver cannons, even a few prototype beam weapons all fired as one. The fleet had spread out, and fire hammered into the Reapers’ shields from a dome of ships, the kinetic barriers of the vessels struggling to fight against the sheer volume of firepower coming their way. Had this been two years ago, before the Battle of the Citadel, then they Reapers could have weathered this with ease, but much of the ordnance hammering into their shields was reverse engineered from that wielded by their kin, the creature Sovereign, and was far more potent than in the Citadel races’ original weaponry.

The dreadnoughts joined their firing moments later, heavy bore mass accelerator cannons opening up, able to summon far more power to their weapons than their much smaller cruisers and escorts. Mass driver round slammed into kinetic barriers with yields of up to fifteen megatons, immense blasts blossoming across the shields of the Reapers even as the machines summoned the power to fire back. The Turian dreadnought, the famed and much lauded Makkrias, had its shields stripped away from sustained blasts from a small squadron of Reaper ships before its hull was diced by the lethally precise beam weapons the monstrous machines wielded.

But the Reapers were beginning to die. One by one, sustained fire from thousands of ships wore down shields, causing them to spark out to nothing, before their hulls were exposed. Strong as they were, there was no way they could withstand the sheer volume of firepower that was coming in, and mass-driver rounds slammed against armour, knocking great chunks away, while burrower torpedoes drilled straight through and detonated within like ten metre versions of bolt shells.

“The bombard ships are reloaded,” Gartan’s impassive voice announced across the comms net to the Thermopylae, and in response Anderson highlighted several Reaper ships, twenty in total; “On those targets, Vice Admiral!”

The Elcor relayed the order across the ship, the command seen through Anderson’s view screen as a barely perceptible twitch of Gartan’s mouth flat and a faint shrugging of his left shoulder. Moment later, the bombard ships fired.

Twenty shells from twenty vessels slammed into twenty Reapers, blasting their shields into nothing, and immediately fire switched to the vulnerable goliaths before they could re-erect their kinetic barriers. They simply disintegrated, already shaken badly by the impacts from the colossal shells of the Elcor’s bombard ships, more Reapers taken apart in mere moments. The battle had raged for less that twenty minutes, but they already had fifty confirmed kills; a fraction of the total Reaper force, but a fearsome toll considering the monstrous power of the machines.

But the entire fleet, Malleus knew, was simply a smokescreen. One of colossal force, but a smokescreen nonetheless.

As battle raged, the two and a half thousand troop transport ships that made up just under a third of the war fleet were slipping through the Reaper cordon unmolested. The Normandy and the Drell stealth fleet were their main guard, hoping to draw as little attention as possible from the already preoccupied Reapers.

“Anderson, how goes the battle?” Malleus asked from the Normandy’s CIC.

“We’re wearing them down,” came Anderson’s answer from the Thermopylae. “But casualties here are grim.”

“How many so far?”

“Seven hundred and fifty seven, mostly smaller ones. Only forty dreads lost, and none of the Elcor’s bombard ships, thank God. We’ve still got upwards of four and a half thousand ships, and the enemy are on half strength. We keep this up and we might just win this.”

“Good,” Malleus said. “Stand firm, Admiral, we’ll be at Terra soon enough. The Emperor protects.”

“Good luck out there, Malleus.”

Back on the Thermopylae’s bridge, Anderson returned his attentions to the battle at hand.

“Platform XV One Three Seven Seven Alpha, flank farther west, put more pressure on their shields,” Anderson ordered, before an automated voice form the Geth command intelligence replied; “Affirmative.”

As he watched, the Geth spread out further, part of an ever widening cordon around the Reaper fleet, forcing them to distribute yet more power to their shields if they wanted to survive, making the Reapers fight more and more defensively. He was losing less ships as the Reapers had less and less to fire with, and so much of their power was now concentrated in shielding that their weapons lacked their formerly fearsome potency; the cruisers were still vulnerable to one hit from the Reaper’s laser weapons, but more and more were needed to even break through the shields of Dreadnoughts.

“We’ve got Reaper vessels making a break for our eastern flank, towards the Turians,” Vice Admiral Timira radioed in from her ship, Star of Ilium.

“Understood,” Anderson said, feeling the decking beneath his feet shake as the Thermopylae’s main cannons fired off another salvo. “Timira, move westwards then drive forwards, cut them off and surround them. Vice Admiral Gartan, get some of your bombards to provide support.”

“Acknowledged, Admiral.”

“Determined. They shall regret their mistake.”

With full power to its engines, the Star of Ilium and her sister dreadnoughts, alongside nearly one hundred cruisers and escorts, moved in arrowhead formation around the rear of the Reaper ships that were breaking towards the Turian contingent. Realising the Asari ships’ gambit, the twenty Reapers that had tried to break through turned to face them, only for the Asari guns to open fire. Sandwiched between the two fleets and with no support incoming, the Reapers were helpless; their end was bought all the more swiftly when three bombard shells detonated within their midst with apocalyptic force. Already battered shields were weakened further by the impact of the cyclopean shells, only to be knocked away entirely by yet more sustained fire from two hundred cruisers and thirty dreadnoughts. Some of the Reapers disintegrated in mere moments, and realising their fate was sealed, all power in the surviving ships was diverted to their weapons, focussing on the target of the Asari dreadnought, Guardian. Thirteen crimson beams smashed into its shields, forcing them out of existence, and tearing its hull apart in a matter of moments, before the graceful dreadnought was avenged by the rest of the fleet and another salvo of bombard shells. Swiftly, Timira redeployed even as wreckage span away from the slain Reapers, moving further along, forming an extension to the eastern pincer arm of the fleet that would allow both them and the Turians the space they needed to bring their guns to bear on the Reaper fleet before them.

Fifty ships remained to face against four thousand, and still the Reapers would not back down, facing the fleet that outnumbered them eighty to one with defiance. A salvo of bombard shells impacted them, smashing away the shields of another twenty, and still they would not retreat, simply firing back even as their hulls disintegrated. The weight of firepower on them was immense, and shields began to wink out and fail as it took its toll. More and more Reapers began to die, some blasted to smithereens by bombard shells, others worn away by sustained salvos from the other ships. One by one, the Reapers were slain, blasted apart in a void that was lit bright in a furnace of war, reduced to nought but debris.

The final Reaper did not try to flee. It simply hung in the void, defiant, as fire hammered into it, rippling across its kinetic barriers. Finally, despite it mighty engines pumping everything into the aegis that protected it, they failed, fire slamming into its onxy hull.

The Thermopylae fired the shot that killed it outright.

For a moment, the fleet seemed to hang in the void, punch drunk from its victory, and Anderson breathed; “We beat them. We won!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Malleus said over the comm. “That wasn’t the main body of their fleet, Admiral, that was just a rearguard.”

“What do you mean, just a rearguard?” Anderson asked. “Those were two hundred dreadnought class ships. What kind of fleet has two hundred dreadnoughts as just a rearguard?”

“One that has eight hundred more just where they came from,” Malleus said. “Look sharp, Anderson; the main battle has only just begun.”

“Eight hundred more ships? Are you certain?”

“We picked them up on our auspices just a minute ago,” Malleus said. “That was by no means the main body of their fleet.”

“Damn it. We don’t have anywhere near enough ships to fight them outright. We lost more than a thousand in just this engagement alone.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to work something out quickly then,” Malleus said. “Because they’re coming to get us regardless. And they’re headed right for our transports.”
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Eremite » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:29 am

Realised I've not commented at all on the new forum - keep up the good work! Usually I loathe corssover fic, but this is very well done! On a writing front, your prose is incredibly readable; it flows quickly and well. Characterisation of the various ME characters is bang on, and the marines are pretty well done considering how far out of water they are (though Malleus is really getting corrupted by all these friendly aliens and AIs, isn't he?)
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:39 pm

Thanks a lot Eremite; I'm glad you're enjoying this and, I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of most crossovers either, though I can't help but think of this as a way of reconciling myself with the genre (i.e. looking for some good ones. There have been some good catches out there).

I personally wouldn't say Malleus is getting corrupted by the aliens, per say (at least, that's not what I'm trying to make happen), more trying to survive in a universe that would turn hostile very quickly should it really learn what he's like. It's putting a little strain on him, now.
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:07 pm

And the thrilling conclusion (for now, at least) to the battle in space!



Chapter 12-Ghosts

The Reapers closed upon the transports like hounds upon a wounded deer.

The lumbering craft were massive things, equal in size to the dreadnoughts that had protected them, but they were ponderous, slow vessels, many of them converted merchantmen or cargo haulers outfitted with upgraded shielding or armour plating but little else in the way protection. One or two, perhaps, sported a few mass driver cannons, usually designed to deter pirates, but they were not combat vessels, and the Reapers knew this.

Within their spacious holds waited millions of soldiers, the warriors who would be integral in deciding the fate of the war to come. The vessels lacked all the things needed to accommodate several thousand soldiers on their way to combat, all of those made unnecessary by the fact that moving across the galaxy took a matter of hours instead of months and instead the ships were comprised almost entirely of drop hangars or supply stored. This lack of ameneties left the ships with a much larger capacity to hold people, each one holding a little less than a million soldiers apiece; the immense majority of the carriers were Geth controlled, their ergonomic skill still leaving them with the fact that they needed to house just a little over two billion platforms.

The Reapers knew nothing of these statistics, and even if they had, they most likely would have paid them little heed. Their vastly ancient minds saw only threats that needed to be removed with all due haste, easy prey that could be vanquished swiftly before moving on to the supposedly mighty fleet that the creatures of the galaxy had mustered against them. That their rearguard had been slain was of no concern; they had underestimated them, but knew of the damage their brethren had already inflicted on the enemy was considerable, that they should be sufficient to deliver the killing blow and complete the Great Salvation even more swiftly, and they felt no remorse for their slain fellows.

What they failed to note, however, were the one hundred and fifty Drell ships and the Normandy SR2 which hung just seven thousand kilometres above them.

Their suites of advanced, prototype stealth systems were enough to fool the Reapers’ own sensors that there was nothing in their position but empty void, and they were safe for the moment. On Malleus’ orders, Vice Admiral Otoya had spread his ships in a great net shape, scattered across the void in loose formation.

“They’re approaching twenty thousand kilometres,” Otoya warned the Normandy as it hung in the void in his hoarse voice. “They’ll be in effective range soon enough.”

“Agreed,” Malleus said. “Begin the assault.”

As one, the Normandy SR2 and the one hundred and fifty Drell ships with it began what would later be described in the words of one of the captains of the carriers as; “The ballsiest attack in the history of space warfare.”

Mass driver rounds spread from the ships, revealing their positions as they fired, slamming into the mighty shields of the Reapers. The sensors of the massive ships came alive as contacts appeared, and immediately they turned to face the new threat, powering upwards on great engines towards them.

They were gone, stealth systems reengaging as the swift ships flitted away on invisible wings. Reaper sensors suddenly became confused as contacts appeared, fired off rounds and then disappeared almost instantly, before they could get a lock. Despite being outnumbered more than five to one, by dreadnought class ships no less, the Drell and the Normandy fought on. It was a cunning battle, one that frustrated their massive opponents as they drew them further and further away from the sitting ducks that were the carriers as they lumbered toward Earth. The fleet became scattered as they tried to pursue the Drell ships that appeared all around them, some particularly audacious captains even coming within just a few hundred kilometres of enemy ships to loose off shots before disappearing once again.

Their commanders knew that what they were doing had absolutely no chance of killing Reapers any time soon; even the Normandy’s powerful prototype cannons, reverse engineered from Reaper technology no less, were able to only wear down their shields before it disappeared once more, and in the meantime the cyclopean ships simply had their generators repower them.

For a good ten minutes they kept up their guerrilla assault, luring the Reapers further and further away from the carriers, before the machines realised that their opponents posed no threat to them; their weapons were ineffective against their immense shields, and they had far easier prey to hunt elsewhere.

“Malleus,” Otoya called in from his own ship. “They’re losing interest and they’re moving back to the carriers. If we don’t do anything, then we’re going to lose them.”

“I know,” Malleus replied. “I’ve got it covered. Kurias?”

“Yes, Brother Captain?”

“You’re free to fly. Show them the Emperor’s Fury.”

“I’ll show them what it means to pick a fight with one of the Imperium’s pilots, sir!”

From his place within the thunderhawk’s cockpit, Kurias grinned, hefting the gunship’s heavy respirator mask onto his head. The craft’s VTOL engines swivelled as they powered up, and the thunderhawk hovered forwards out of the Normandy’s hangar, into the void. Joker had the spacecraft peel away from Kurias, giving the thunderhawk the space it needed to fly, and Kurias pointed the Thunderhawk towards the fleet of Reapers arrayed before him, and began to fly.

He was but a blip on their sensors, an insignificant gnat compared to the dread majesty of the colossal machines, and but one of their number turned to face him, thinking he was something it could simply swat away. It weapons fired as Kurias closed on it, the pilot rolling the craft away from the beam as it scythed towards him, tracking his movements. He held his course, activating the servo-skull slaved targeters built into the thunderhawk’s systems, waiting for them to find him his target as he dodged and weaved around the beam. Had the Reaper facing him been able to formulate any semblance of emotion, it would have been perhaps slightly irritated at this little creature that thought it could defy it, and it fired its weapons once more.

Once again, it missed, and Kurias pulled yet closer, the engines of the thunderhawk silently screaming as it tore forwards at breakneck speed. Kurias smiled grimly as the targeters confirmed that the lascannons were finally in range, and he fired.

Three beams of crimson, one from the turbolaser and two from the lascannons, in miniature of the Reapers’ own weapons but far more powerful, lanced from the craft, smashing into the shields with the force to topple a Titan. Proofed as they were against beam weapons through some secret artifice, they winked out in a moment, and Kurias flicked on the vox; “Its shields are down; get it now!”

The hidden fleet opened up, a salvo of rounds slamming into the vulnerable Reaper, rupturing armour and slamming into more vulnerable systems beneath. The Normandy’s cannons tore great tracts out of it, and within moments, it shattered, torn apart by the sheer volume of fire within the salvo.

“Confirmed kill, confirmed kill!” Kurias voxed. “Good work!”

He turned the thunderhawk mid-void, and dived into the heart of the fleet.

He sped between the ships, not just around their perimeter but within their centre. Point defence batteries mounted on the Reapers opened fire, and he weaved and jinked around them as they filled the void with flak. He swooped round, his course enough to disrupt the fleet as they tried to counter the new, extremely potent threat in their midst, and he fired again at another vessel on the edge of the fleet, crimson annihilation screaming from the craft.

“Another one’s shields down, on my target!” he warned, and in response the hidden fleet opened fire. “It’s dead!”

He curved and banked round, diving into the heart of the fleet, rolling and dancing round the fire that flew in his direction. He curved round the ships as they serenely rotated to face him, struggling to line up a shot on the thunderhawk. Torpedoes were loosed against him, and he simply swerved round them, far more agile than the guided missiles that pursued it.

He swept between the immense fingers of one of the Reapers, firing the lascannons into them as he passed, the shields around them winking out. The missiles slammed home into the weapons a moment later, and Kurias barked with laughter as one of them was torn off by the swarm of detonations.

He swept around, and fired to turbolaser point blank into it, pulling upwards as he did so. The shields, already weakened by the barrage from the lascannons and the missiles of its own fellows, broke only after a split second beneath the turbolaser’s lethal touch. Explosions rippled across its form as Kurias pulled up, still firing, slicing through the massive ship and neatly bisecting it.

“Malleus, what are they doing?” Kurias voxed across the Normandy; from the heart of the fleet, and the disorientating jinking and weaving he was forced to do to avoid intercepting fire, he could see comparatively little of the great ships’ movements as a whole.

“They’re still bearing towards the transports,” Malleus said. “But we’re getting close, now. We draw them off for a few more minutes and they’re going to be through. Kurias, you’ll want to get to the far side of the fleet.”

“Understood, Brother Captain? Why?”

“Anderson’s arrived.”

Immense explosions blossomed across space as the bombard shells hit home. Distracted by the Drell and the Thunderhawk, the Reapers had not noticed the advancing enemy fleet until it was too late.

A storm of fire followed the Elcor’s bombard shells, slamming into Reaper shielding and hulls as the ponderous ships turned to face the enemy fleet. One or two, shields stripped away from the Elcor’s assault, had their hulls ruptured and blasted apart by mass driver rounds. But the rest turned to face Anderson’s battered armada, and as one they opened fire.

Hundreds died as great lances of energy tore from the Reapers into the flotilla, blasting apart cruisers and escorts. Anderson had kept his tactic of the screen, allowing the dreadnoughts and bombard ships to fire back unmolested, but the Reapers had adapted; coordinated fire tore through the shield and smashed into the Dreadnoughts, stripping away shielding and armour, bisecting the great ships with the sort of lethal precision that a surgeon would employ to cut away at a body with a scalpel. Return fire was heavy, Anderson’s fleet holding a massive numbers advantage, but with the big guns of the dreads being stripped away one by one, and captains of the lesser ships beginning to panic, the fire was poorly coordinated.

Once again, the bombard cannons fired, illuminating the battle with nuclear flame, destroying yet more shields, but the Reapers tracked the path of the rounds. Seeing one of the ships in the midst of the fleet, exposed and vulnerable, they targeted it, smashing through its shields and armour. One of the crimson beams hit the ship’s magazine, the massive nuclear shells that it stored detonating with horrifying force. Ships around it were sent tumbling, their captains battling against the sheer power of the shockwave, while a small battleship that had had the misfortune to be within only three hundred kilometres of it was utterly annihilated.

“We’re taking heavy losses, Admiral,” Timira radioed into the bridge of the Thermopylae. “We don’t have the numbers to beat them here.”

“We are also losing a considerable number of space-platforms,” the Geth command intelligence, Platform XV One Three Seven Seven Alpha added. “The current casualty to kill ratio extrapolates that our fleet needs to be at least three times its current size to defeat the Old Machines in open engagement.”

“You’re right,” Anderson said. “Timira, XV One Three Seven Seven Alpha, peel back. Malleus, Otoya, I need you to cover our retreat.”

“We shall,” Otoya radioed back.

As the main body of the fleet began to fall back, the Drell and the Normandy intensified their assault, nipping at the flanks of the Reaper fleet. Here and there, lances of crimson light speared out, the work of the thunderhawk, blasting into Reaper shields or shearing through hulls, but there was but one gunship and hundreds of Reapers.

Anderson’s fleet was falling back, the Reapers in pursuit, and swiftly, a problem was occurring.

“The Elcor are moving too slowly,” Timira reported in. “We’re going to leave their bombard ships behind.”

“Can’t they get more speed?” Anderson asked.

“Negative, Admiral,” Gartan said. “We must keep shielding erected.”

“Shall we loop back and pick them up?” Timira asked.

“We’ll be too exposed,” Anderson said. “We need to get out of here, or we’ll be torn apart. Gartan, I’m sorry, but we can’t go back for you.”

“Professionally impassive. Understood, sir. We will make them pay.”

To their credit, the Elcor died like warriors. The slow, lumbering bombard ships, already being left behind by the fleet, turned ponderously, even as a few beams from the forwardmost Reapers slammed into them, detonating them in blasts of nuclear fire. They managed one salvo, coordinated targeters sending shells into the Reaper fleet, blasting into shields, smashing them away and even destroying a few of the ships. But that was all they managed.

The Reapers drew up close upon them, beam weapons firing, slicing through shields and hulls. Magazines detonated, blasting the bombard ships to atoms, fire blooming across the vacuum. Gartan’s ship was last to die, firing one final shell in defiant anger before it was torn apart at a molecular level.

The Reapers pursued further, still going after the main body of the fleet, but the smaller ships were getting away, the monolithic vessels of the Old Machines still distracted by the efforts of the Drell, the thunderhawk and the Normandy. Anderson’s fleet were pulling away, and a final communiqué flitted through the void from Anderson to Malleus.

“We’re keeping hidden in Saturn’s rings and we’ll needle them over time, pick them off one by one. Get over here.”

“No,” Malleus said. “We will be needed for the battle to come on Terra.”

“Understood. We’ll keep harassing them when we can.”

“Emperor protects. General Suvat, what of the transports?”

“We’ve reached Earth, and we’re unloading now,” Suvat’s voice came in from the comm. link. “Resistance is heavy, but we’ve got the numbers to clear landing zones.”

“The agreed areas, correct?”

“Most of mainland Europe’s a no go area; they’ve got heavy anti-orbital defences there. We’ve cleaned out some of them in Western Europe with aircraft and are landing troops in the British Isles, but we can land in the other zones. They’re killing fields, but we’re pushing forwards.”

“Good,” Malleus said. “Where do you want me?”

“The European landing force is focussed on a city called London,” Suvat said. “There’s a hell of a lot of fighting there; you’ll be put to use the best at that point.”

“Understood,” Malleus said. “We’ll win you London, General.”

“I don’t doubt you will,” Suvat said.

“Ave Imperator, Suvat.”

“Yeah, a little divine intervention would be nice.”

He cut the link, and opened another to the Thunderhawk.

“Kurias, get back here,” he ordered. “We need you.”

“Understood,” Kurias said. “Hah, gotcha!”

“Say again?”

“Just picked off one last Reaper, Brother-Captain. On my way.”

“Glad to hear that. The rest of you, assemble in the hangar. We’re moving as soon as possible.”

“Finally, some combat,” Hullen remarked, getting an odd look from Malleus. “Rannoch and Omega were disappointing.”

It was a strangely bloodthirsty statement from the slightly irreverent Astartes, but Malleus let it pass. The others on the CIC began to file towards the lift, and Kelly nodded to Malleus from her position below Malleus’ command pulpit.

“Good luck, sir,” she said. “It looks like it could be pretty dangerous down there.”

“Dangerous it may be,” Malleus said with a gentle smile. “But with faith in the Emperor, all things are possible.”

“What about the Normandy, sir?” Joker asked over the comm.

“As soon as we’re gone, take the Normandy and join the rest of the fleet over in Saturn,” Malleus said. “You’ll be in charge of the ship now I’m gone.”

“I’ll do my best,” Joker said. “We’ll be ready to pick you up for the victory party as soon as the last one is down.”

Malleus chuckled quietly

“Do me proud, Joker.”

“Captain,” Titus voxed in. “Kurias is here.”

“Understood. I’ll be right down.”

He saluted the members of the crew gathered on the CIC.

“You know your orders,” he said. “The Emperor protects.”

He went to the Normandy’s lift, pressed the button to the hangar, and prepared to set foot upon sacred Terra.
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Colonel Mustard
 
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Re: Angels of the Storm [Mass Effect/40K]

Postby Colonel Mustard » Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:52 pm

'Cause London is burning and I...
I live by the river!


Chapter 13-Earth

“Move forward! Focus your fire!”

“Three platoon, flank right, get round them!”

“This is Three Platoon; enemy armour, walker, twelve o’clock! Need anti-armour support!”

“Man down! Man down!”

It was noisy. Planetfall always was, though Captain Michael Hunter of the Alliance hadn’t known this until now. What he knew, though, was that he had stepped straight off the landing shuttle, onto a planet that he knew of well but had never been to, and into a warzone.

Two Company of second battalion of the Bekenstein Dragoons the first onto London ground, their mission to clear a landing zone for their heavier armour divisions and more infantry. Along with almost five thousand other infantry landed in London’s Old Quarter, with its large parks making it a perfect drop zone, they were to secure a larger landing zone for the armour and more reinforcements. And they were getting slaughtered.

“Three platoon, dig in!” he ordered from his position, ducked behind the empty shell of a downed air-car. “Anti-armour fire is on the way.”

“That’s a no can do,” Lieutenant Quick replied over the radio. “This thing’s melting away cover. We need to fall back.”

“Then fall back, damn it,” he ordered. He glanced through the shattered window of the car to see, at the other end of the street, bulky, onyx armoured figures advancing down them, heavy rifles already firing. The squad with him returned fire, and he quickly barked orders; “Two platoon, contacts on my position! Fall back on me!”

The soldiers of two platoon appeared behind him, their rifles blazing as they sent rounds downrange into the bulky figures stamping towards them. The shielding around them flickered with light as they absorbed the impact, but the things didn’t stop, simply advancing without fear.

One of them finally fell, its shielding worn down by the fire of thirty soldiers, but the others cared not, still firing back remorselessly with rifles so large they could almost be called machine guns. Heat splattered against the edge of Michael’s face, and he glanced to see Private Hendrickson topple to the floor next to him, shields overloaded and throat torn out by an uncannily accurate enemy round. Michael ducked behind cover, swearing quietly as he reloaded, trying not to look at Hendrickson’s corpse.

The foe continued to proceed with a regal grace, and realising that small arms were no good against the creatures, Michal barked more orders into the radio; “Section One-Alpha, to our position. We need fire support, now!”

“On our way,” Sergeant Harris replied over the radio, and a moment later the sergeant and his section appeared at the end of the street, sprinting through the smoke. They sprinted into cover, before hauling the mass-driver cannons they carried into a firing position. There was a scream as they opened up, hyper-velocity rounds tearing down the street into the enemy’s position. Several were torn down where they stood, blasted apart by the anti-tank weapons, and Harris and his men ducked into cover to reload as the enemy turned their bulky rifles upon them, the concrete wall that they sheltered behind began to slowly disintegrate as the fire hit home, chips of stone flying off under its weight.

“Keep firing! Keep firing!” Michael ordered, ducking out of cover to empty a magazine into the chest of one of his enemies. They impacted, the enemy’s shields winking out, and a moment later it turned to face him, its weapon punching holes into the car he was sheltered behind. Another group of soldiers seized the opportunity, opening fire and finally gunning the thing down. Harris’s heavy weapons drew back up, took aim, and fired once more, the last of the creatures finally being torn down by the heavy weapons.

“Good job, sergeant,” Michael said. “Cas-Am check, one section!”

Only half the soldiers sounded off, and it seemed to be the case for the rest of Two Platoon. Michael cursed; one firefight with just twelve enemies, and they’d taken down half a platoon.

“Medic and Charlie One, casevac the injured back to the ERV,” Michael ordered. “The rest of you dig in. Three platoon, come in. What’s the situation with the enemy armour?”

No reply.

“Three platoon, this is Captain Hunter. Come in! Three Platoon!”

A group of figures appeared at the end of the street, sprinting towards them with yells of; “We’re friendly! Don’t shoot!”

They scrambled to cover next to Two Platoon, before one of them stood and said; “Lance Corporal Ahrim, sir. Three Platoon, One Section.”

“Where’s the rest of Three Platoon? What about that armour?” Michael asked hurriedly.

“They’re dead, sir,” Ahrim said. “And it’s still at large. Nearly got all of us.”

Michael cursed, the sound nearly drowned out by nearby weapons fire.

“Alright, get to cover,” he said. “Harris, we’ve got enemy armour incoming. Get ready to kill it!”

“That won’t be enough, sir,” Ahrim said. “The other cannons did no good.”

“They’ll have to do,” Michael said, as he hurried through the doorway of a house, into better cover. “We need to cover our wounded. Now go! Command, this is Captain Hunter, Two Company, First Batallion of Bekenstein Dragoons. We need additional reinforcements, repeat, additional reinforcements; we’re getting slaughtered down here.”

“Negative, Captain, everyone else is tied down. Stick to your objective, we’ll reinforce you as soon as we can,” came the answer.

“I don’t have enough men! We’ll be killed!”

“You’ll be fine,” command replied. “Command out.”

Michael swore, before flicking up the radio.

“Two Company, come in,” he called. “This Captain Hunter.”

“This is Two Company; we hear you, Captain.”

“Thank God. What’s your situation?”

“Pinned down, under heavy fire. We’re at platoon strength here. Can you provide support?”

“That’s a negative,” Michael said. “We’re about to be on the receiving end of enemy armour.

Neither of them bothered trying the others on the ground; comms were a mess as people tried to communicate.

“Alright,” Second replied. “Hang in there. Second Out.”

“Enemy armour!” someone in Two Platoon called, and Michael glanced up to see his death approach.

It was some six legged device, the size of a tank, each leg shaped like some onyx finger, connected to an elongated torso whose rear tapered to a point, front a smooth curve down. Below this, a pair of heavy weapons protruded, held on arms that swivelled to face them.

“Harris, on the weapons!” he ordered. “Stop it firing!”

It was too late; the machine opened up on Harris’ position, crimson light lancing from them, and reducing it to glass. It swivelled them onto the buildings that Two Platoon were hiding, venerable Victorian homes that, before the Reapers had come to London, had been beautiful and highly desirable properties. They tore away at cover sheltering the men, and Michael ran as he saw them lancing inexorably towards him.

There was an explosion next to him as they hit a gas main, and he was hurled from the window onto the street. He groaned in pain; even though his kinetics had absorbed the worst of the impact, he still felt bruised all over, and his ears were ringing.

There was a thudding next to him, noise nearly muted by the noise in his ears, and he saw concrete rupture as the tip of an onyx leg punctured the ground beside his head. He saw the machine standing above him, weapon arms swivelling to face him, and he knew that he was doomed.

But it was at that very moment that Michael Hunter saw an angel.

#

The Thunderhawk bore them down into the atmosphere of Sacred Terra with swift grace, sweeping downwards in a smooth curve. The hull rattled as it sped downwards, winds buffeting against its armoured side, and there was clattering noise from without as something slammed into the chassis.

“AA fire, sir,” Kurias said, the craft beginning to buck and sway as he manoeuvred it away from the enemy shots, adding, somewhat pointedly; “As command warned us.”

“Keep your bearing,” Malleus said. “This thing’s got the armour to shrug it off.”

“Aye sir,” Kurias said, a slight edge of reproach in his voice. “This stuff’s accurate though. Damn; another shuttle down.”

The Thunderhawk swept low to avoid the anti-air fire, some still pinging off the vox, and Malleus looked up to see Cyralius looking quietly contemplative.

“It is strange, don’t you think,” he said. “That even now, tens of thousands of years before the Horus Heresy, there are Astartes fighting in the defence of Terra. Do you think this is how our brothers in the Salamanders felt, Malleus, as they fought for our home?”

“Perhaps,” Malleus said. He stood, harness hissing as it rose for him, stepping to the front of the Thunderhawk’s hold. What he needed now, he knew, were words.

“My fellow warriors,” he said. “This is it.”

He looked each one of them in the eye briefly, before continuing.

“Where I am from, Terra has had a long and troubled past,” Malleus said. “It was our staging post when we first ascended to the stars, only to fall into an anarchaic and barbaric state, seemingly dying in a cesspool misery and madness, until the Emperor took us in His hand and led us once more into space. It was ravaged by the forces of the Arch Traitor Horus during the great civil war of the Horus Heresy, then once more by civil war during the Age of Apostasy. A thousand thousand warlords have turned their eyes upon Terra within the history of my people, each with the intention of destroying or enslaving it. And each time they have attempted to do so, Terra has stood firm. Against slavers, heretics and would be warlords, Terra has stood firm. The Reapers are but the latest in a long succession of would-be conquerors, and what shall happen? Terra shall stand firm.”

He took a deep breath, before continuing.

“We have come a long way; from the cityscape of Ilium, from the foundry-stations orbiting Rannoch, from the Citadel, why, even across entire universes. Together, we stood against a thousand horrors conjured from the darkest pits of the galaxy and together we hurled them back whence they came. We bore retribution into the heart of the Collectors’ station and we destroyed them once and for all, but that was not our final goal. Everything we have done, every struggle, every battle, every wound, all of them have led to Terra. And in the Emperor’s name, I swear that we will not be found wanting in the struggle to come. None shall stand before us, all shall fall before us like corn before the scythe. Not one of these Reapers shall be spared, not one shall survive our fury. We are the manifestations of His Will, tools of His divine mandate, and in the Emperor’s name, we will show no mercy!”

There was a cheer from the rest of the team, a few punching the air with him in a gesture of camaraderie.

“We’re touching down, Brother-Captain,” Kurias voxed in over the intercom.

“Good,” Malleus said. “Let’s do this.”

Malleus was first out as the ramp hissed open, his blade and hammer in hand. More shuttles were landing around them, men pouring from them, while above aircraft peeled away from the transport ships like bees from a hive. Malleus knelt, placing his hammer to the ground, murmuring a prayer as he took a small pinch of soil between the fingers of his gauntlet. He touched it to his lips, before letting it fall to the ground again, making the sign of the Aquila, and stood, his brothers doing the same behind him.

“The hell was that?” Jack asked from behind them.

“We stand upon the most sacred soil in the galaxy, Jack,” Malleus replied. “Show some respect.”

The biotic just rolled her eyes.

“Let’s move,” he said. “The sooner we can get an actually safe landing zone the sooner we can get armour in and properly reinforce.”

They hurried through the open space, one dotted with trees, swiftly moving over a bridge that spanned a lake, the debris of war turning its water grimy and stagnant. Here and there were amenity buildings, most of them shattered shells, and craters pockmarked the grass. A few scattered weapons and the occasional enemy corpse bore testimony to the fighting here, and the determination the men had summoned to push them back this far from the landing zone was admirable.

They reached the gates of the park, where a road ran through it into the rest of the city, filled with venerable looking stone buildings. Many of them bore signs of scarring, and chunks of detritus littered the roadway, and they hurried along them. Squads of soldiers were moving with them, dispersing down side streets according to orders, and Malleus took that one that would lead them to the tip of the spear. They rounded another corner, over the rubble of some venerable house whose walls had sloughed away to reveal its guts, and saw death. Some sort of enemy tank, an immense six-legged walker standing in the centre of the street, weapons pointed towards a prone figure lying before it.

“Over here, abomination,” he yelled, machine’s hull swivelling to face him. It raised its weapons, but Malleus held his hammer aloft, and threw it.

It flew through the air, crackling as it span around on its axis, until it slammed into its hull like a thunderbolt. The shields around the machine blinked out, a great dent hammered into its form, and it stumbled back from the sheer force of its impact.

“For Polyphemus!” Malleus roared as he thundered forwards, sword ready to strike. “For Vulkan!”

The blade swung down as he reached the machine, cleaving through both the armaments that it held, and he stooped for but a moment to grab his hammer. One of the machine’s legs stabbed at him, but he stopped it simply by slicing it off, the metallic limb skittering away, before an upward swing from his thunder hammer slammed into the creature’s lower hull. It was knocked away, smashing into the front of a nearby house, rubble crumbling over it, and it tried to rise on only five legs as Malleus advanced.

“For Terra and Emperor!”

He slammed the blade home into its heart, slicing away its armour with ease, tearing at the mechanisms and devices beneath. The creature spasmed as the Astartes gutted it, legs twitching like those of some great, dying insect, before a final stab to the glowing blue mass-effect core at its heart stilled its struggles.

He stepped away from the ruins of the enemy walker, towards the figure that lay prone in the middle of the road. The young man had raised himself into a sitting position, a look of vacant shock still on his features, and Malleus noticed he had the pips of a captain on his rank slide.

“Rise, Captain,” Malleus ordered.

The young man seemed to blink for moment, before he pulled himself to his feet with the aid of a hand proffered by Malleus.

“What is your name?” Malleus asked.

“Michael,” he said. “Captain Michael Hunter, Bekenstein Dragoons first battalion, two company, sir. You’re…you’re one of the Astartes, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed,” Malleus said. “You’re fortunate I arrived when I did; you’re part of the big push, I assume.”

“Yes sir, though resistance was heavier than we anticipated.”

“Where are your comrades, the rest of your company?”

“Dead, sir,” Michael replied. “Enemy resistance was too strong. These men are all that’s left.”

He gestured to the remnants of Two Platoon and Three Platoon.

“We’ve still got shuttles incoming,” Malleus replied, gesturing up to the skies, where dropships were still landing. One of them exploded as he spoke, tumbling down to the ground in a trail of smoke and flame, and he winced slightly. “We’ll reinforce and move forwards.

“You’re fighting with us?”

“That I shall,” Malleus said. “It would hardly be fitting to see the advance of the human forces stall on the invasion of their homeworld and for everyone else to get ahead of us.”

He flicked a map from his omni-tool, and pointed out several locations nearby.

“These are the anti-aircraft batteries that are giving us trouble,” he said. “We get the dealt with and we can move the armour in and the rest of our reinforcements, not to mention our forces in Kent are beginning to push into North London now, which is certainly giving the foe pause for thought.”

He flicked the vox on, and began to issue orders to the soldiers on the ground, marshalling them together for what would be the pivotal moment in this current battle; the advance on Whitehall. His task done, soldiers already appearing from the street behind him.

He glanced over to Cyralius and smiled grimly.

“You were right, partly,” he said.

“About what, brother captain?”

“Old London following the New,” Malleus said. “But you got one thing wrong.”

“And what’s that?”

“It won’t be following all the way. That, I swear.”
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