It had been like a firestorm when they came down. They had looked like giant insects, pincers stretched out to take what they descended upon. Only instead of flowers, The Reapers took buildings. Districts. Cities. They stood as high as a skyscraper, some even higher than that, and when their maw opened up a giant beam of red death would lance out to hit whatever it had been aiming at, be that evacuee shuttle or Alliance tank. Bullets couldn’t touch them, cannons barely slowed them down. The Alliance was putting up a good front for the evacuation but… it wouldn’t last.
The Reapers were a race of advanced synthetic beings, machines, and their apparent goal was the destruction of all advanced sentient life. A human Spectre, or Citadel agent, named Shepard had warned of their coming attack months earlier, but the Alliance hadn’t listened. So when the Reapers finally arrived it was a complete surprise. The machines, ranging in size from the one hundred and sixty meter tall Destroyers to the one and a quarter mile tall Sovereign-class Reapers, had ripped through Alliance defenses on their way to Earth.
Rodriguez had been assigned to the Alliance HQ in London when the attack hit. Recently promoted, he had liked the sound of “Major Rodriguez” and had gladly taken the job of guarding some of the top brass in the entire Systems Alliance. At only thirty two years old, the rank was quite a surprise, and the assignment gave him some time to rest and recover from the dangerous encounters he had been in with the Collectors, the same encounters that had gotten him his promotion. At least, the job was cushy until a giant Reaper laser had cut through the grandiose building, nearly bisecting the entire monolith and leaving many of the Alliance command on Earth dead or cut off from all other communication.
Rodriguez grunted as he leaned back against a piece of burnt rubble. A structural support beam had saved his ass, falling in such a way that it kept other collapsing parts of the building off of him until he got to safety. That “safety” had been a squad of Alliance soldiers, like him, who had found their way down to the relatively intact part of the building to regroup and plan a counter attack against the Reaper forces. Unfortunately, they had barely made it out of the building before they were assaulted by a group of husks and cannibals in the HQ courtyard. Taken by surprise they had fought them off, slowly giving ground until only one of them was left. That one was Rodriguez, and now they had backed him into a corner with no way out.
When his squad started to thin they had made their way to a hill made from falling debris off of the building. It had given them good cover, but it also gave them no way to escape. He leaned to the side to see around the makeshift cover he was hiding behind. There were a few husks coming up the hill, and it looked like there were cannibals too, just setting up shop at the base of the hill. Three more… could his ammo handle that? He didn’t know, but he still stood up and shot at the approaching husks anyway, blowing the reanimated corpses backward and buying him a little more precious time to live. Rodriguez needed time; reinforcements were coming across the river but they were still a few minutes off. He had to distract the few cannibals in the time he had left.
He took out his Alliance M-5 Phalanx Pistol and took a shot at one of the cannibals to the left of the group. It went down, and all the others turned immediately to start devouring it. Hence their name, cannibals would consume their own dead troops and then somehow graft pieces of the dead cannibal’s armor onto their own, fortifying them in combat. It made them a particularly nasty enemy to fight against, but for now it served him well as a distraction.
As soon as he saw the cannibals turn Rodriguez sprinted out of cover, crossing the small no-man’s land to get to another piece of cover. By then the cannibals had finished their snack, and he took shots at a couple of their heads in order to keep them back. Cannibals were Reaper mutated versions of batarians, and that meant they were medium sized, hulking monsters with four blue eyes and an assault rifle grafted onto their right arm. All Reaper forces were mutated versions of their foes- the more people that died fighting them, the more their army grew. Although, Rodriguez thought looking around at the devastation, it didn’t look like they really needed the help.
When the Reapers attacked Earth the hulking skyscraper-sized machines had descended straight down to the surface, blowing away any ships they encountered on their way down and leaving part of their forces in orbit to fight off the Alliance ships stationed there for defense. The Reapers had an appearance similar to squids- a large, ridged crest facing upward with a varied amount of tentacles stretching out from the main body. The Reapers body structures varied because while they were machines, they were formed from species long since extinct- wiped out by the Reapers. This led to a variety in shape, size, and tentacle number although they all kept the same basic shape. Once landed the Reapers opened the middle section plates of their bodies, usually located between the two forward facing tentacles, opening fire with massive devastating lasers that could cut through warships and buildings alike with ease. While the Alliance scrambled to combat this threat, the Reapers landed their ground forces- various mutated versions of Citadel species, including humans, and used them to attack the population and root out the military ground forces. This deadly combination had proven too much for the Alliance defense so far, and they were losing ground while the Reapers destroyed more and more of London. Rodriguez had heard that other cities around the world were under attack as well, though he didn’t know if these attacks were going better than theirs for the Alliance.
While he was thinking about the situation one of the cannibals took a shot at him. The bullet passed right by Rodriguez’s face, and he could feel the wind in the area the kinetic projectile had passed through sweep past his face. He knew that if reinforcements didn’t get here soon then he would be in trouble. Just as he thought this he heard a rumble, and an armored tank came out of nowhere to flatten two of the cannibals attacking him. The heavy cannon on top made fast work of the others, and a hatch on the side popped open. “Come on!” One of the Alliance soldiers in the tank called out to him, “We have to move! That Reaper’s headed this way!” Rodriguez looked over at the Reaper he was talking about, then ran over to the tank, stopping only to take the dog tags of a soldier who had died with him earlier. Alliance tanks were armored, ran on six large wheels with a flexible seat close to the ground. Most of the top was taken up by a fairly short yet powerful cannon. It was made to carry troops into battle, up to eight, and deal damage while doing it. Rodriguez took the proffered hand by the soldier at the tank’s side hatch and entered the vehicle, the hatch snapping closed behind him as he did so.
They got moving, and Rodriguez turned to the soldier who had helped him in, “Who’s your commanding officer?” Rodriguez asked the soldier. As he did he noticed the scorch marks on the soldier’s armor, and on the other three beleaguered looking soldiers in the tank.
The soldier finished securing the hatch, then turned to Rodriguez and saluted, “Admiral Anderson sir. We’re to make it to the rendezvous coordinates as soon as possible. Direct orders from the Admiral sir, it looks like we’re to establish a resistance against the Reapers here on Earth.”
“A resistance?” Said the tired major in shock. He never thought Hackett would order the fleet to leave Earth, it couldn’t be true, “The Fourth Fleet is retreating?” The Fourth Fleet had been on station orbiting Earth when the Reapers attacked, their ships were the first to encounter the Reapers when they approached Earth “What about Arcturus Station, aren’t they sending reinforcements to help us?” Arcturus Station was the base for Alliance leadership and parliament and guarded the main relay to the Sol system and Earth. The Second, Third, and Fifth Fleets had been on station there last Rodriguez had heard during the reports doled out at the HQ earlier that morning, before this all had happened.
The soldier responded in clipped tones, face hidden behind his Systems Alliance helmet, “Arcturus Station was hit before the Reapers got here sir. Admiral Hackett had to abandon it, and he had to sacrifice the Second Fleet to give the Third and Fifth time to retreat, and… Sir, the Fourth Fleet is gone.”
Rodriguez wearily motioned to the soldier to be at ease, and then slumped down into a side seat in shock. The Fourth Fleet was gone. All those Alliance ships wiped out in a matter of hours. This couldn’t be happening, it was a disaster. What could they do if the entire Alliance Navy couldn’t beat the Reapers? The other races weren’t likely to help them out; they would probably end up having problems of their own. He put his hands over his face. What were they going to do?
“I hear that Shepard is heading off to the Citadel to get help,” The soldier said, checking the ammo counter on his M-8 Avenger assault rifle and sitting down in a side seat as well, “With the Turians to help us, we might be able to fight the Reapers off.”
Shepard had been humanity’s first Spectre for the Citadel council. He had been that good of a soldier, and everybody looked up to him. He had also been the first one to recognize the Reaper threat, and act on it, thwarting a Reaper named Sovereign’s plan to bring the invasion force through the Citadel. The Citadel was a massive space station populated by all species and was vastly considered to be the effective center of galactic commerce. After Shepard had stopped Sovereign however his ship had been taken out by Collectors- the race of arachnids that had turned out to be serving the Reapers. Rodriguez had fought them too, defending a colony out on the fringes of human space. After his ship was destroyed Shepard had been revived by Cerberus, a human extremist group. He had worked with them to combat and eventually defeat the Collectors, destroying a human Reaper-in-progress and stalling the Reaper invasion even further. Now he was on his way to the Citadel to try and raise support for humanity.
Rodriguez shook his head. There was no way that the council would help them out. Nonetheless, it was better than nothing he supposed, and as he stood up he looked around the interior of the tank, taking in the four battered Alliance soldiers and the driver up in front. “Where is the rendezvous point?” Rodriguez asked the soldier he had talked to before, turning to look at him, “Is it at a police base?” Police bases were heavily fortified on every Alliance world or colony, and that applied even more so for Earth. It would make sense if they used them as a base for the resistance.
The tank rocked and Rodriguez heard a Reaper fire near them before the soldier could respond, then after the tank settled into a relatively smooth drive again the soldier replied, “We were using them sir, but then the Reapers went to wipe out each one personally. There’s pretty much nothing left of any of them.” The soldier slipped a new thermal clip into his AR, checking to make sure it was functioning correctly, “So, we switched to an old convention center that had a large amount of underground levels to it. The above floors were decimated early on in the assault, but the Reapers didn’t pay any attention to it after what was above ground was gone.” he nodded to the other soldiers in the tank, “We were one of the teams dispatched on recovery duty to try and retrieve any Alliance personnel that were scattered during the fallout from the Reaper attack, especially around the former HQ. We are supposed to give priority to high ranking personnel- that was why we saved you Major as opposed to others. My team is also supposed to get you right back to temporary HQ as soon as you were recovered. That’s why we’re heading there now.”
“Incoming!” the driver screamed, just as a nearby Reaper fried a path through the buildings they had been driving between. The beam narrowly missed them, but Rodriguez could feel the heat from the beam even through the tank’s armored exterior. “It’s moving!” the driver called out , swerving them to the left around another ruined building, “Hold on!” They accelerated and eventually the approaching Reaper was lost in the distance, directing its destructive attentions to something else in the city.
Rodriguez walked up to the front of the tank, ducking down a little bit to get into the front. Looking out through the windscreen at the devastation all around them Rodriguez couldn’t help but feel disheartened. Everywhere there was something burning, black and gray smoke billowing up into the sky from fires. Faintly he could hear screams off in the distance, and surpassing it all was the sound of the Reapers firing their red weapons of death, cutting furrowed rows out of buildings or catching a lingering escaping shuttle flying away, blowing it out of the sky. The sky that was red and black, reflecting the red haze that hovered everywhere the Reapers shot at for minutes at a time. The black was from the smoke constantly rising up from all parts of the city. The result was a picture perfect visage of what hell looked like, and Rodriguez did not like seeing it.
The Alliance tank rumbled towards the hollowed out convention center. Rodriguez could see where a Reaper’s beam had burned through the supports and part of the wall, causing most of the building to collapse most likely within seconds of the attack. They passed the first Alliance checkpoint , lodged between two fallen buildings leading on the way to the center. They passed right through, then passed over some debris leading into an underground parking garage. The sight there gave Rodriguez hope. He could see other tanks, lining the walls of the garage. There were men in uniforms everywhere, and dozens of Alliance soldiers. “This is only one level, there are many more,” the soldier Rodriguez had talked to before said, coming up behind him, “Come on, we have to get to Admiral Anderson.” They climbed out of the tank and made their way over to an elevator. The soldier pressed one of the buttons, sending them down to the next level.
When the doors opened Rodriguez stepped into a room that contained about a dozen technicians seemingly getting a comm array set up. Overlooking them was a grim-faced middle-aged man wearing the four silver star insignia of a General on his lapel. Rodriguez saluted. He turned to look at them, sizing Rodriguez up and taking in his ragged uniform, hastily strapped on body armor, and sidearm. “At ease,” he said, shaking hands with Rodriguez, “It’s nice to see another man from the Alliance Marines here. My name is John Hendry. I am coordinating things with Admiral Anderson for the resistance in this sector,” he shook his head, adjusting the cap he wore with one hand and made a gesture with the other, taking in the entire complex, “This is everything that we have gathered so far. Men, equipment, supplies. We are coordinating with some teams in the city but this is it for the time being.”
He continued, turning and continuing on toward the back of the room. “The Reapers have done a number on our forces. We have precious few drop ships left, and naval support has been decimated,” he waved Rodriguez into the room, “These are dark times Major. It is good to have you.” They then entered the room, with the soldier that had escorted Rodriguez in staying outside to guard the door. The room was small, obviously made for storage or some similar reason, but they had outfitted it with a series of military electronics vital for command. A quantum entanglement communicator was there, which enabled virtual face-to-face conversation with almost anywhere in the galaxy with a similar device. Rodriguez was impressed, this would allow them to coordinate with Alliance command, or what was left of it. Standing in front of the equipment was a man in his forties, maybe fifties, wearing an Alliance uniform under a set of body armor. “Yes sir,” the man said to the communicator, “I understand. Anderson out.” He turned to the pair saluting behind him, “Hello Major Rodriguez,” he said, “I am Admiral Anderson.”
David Edward Anderson was something of a legend among Alliance personnel. Chosen initially for humanity’s representative in the Spectre program, he regrettably was turned down after mission with the traitor Spectre Saren Arterius. The turian was to work alongside Anderson and evaluate his performance, but he falsely blamed Anderson for risks he himself had taken during the mission in order to acquire a set of research notes on the Reapers. Later he was considered for a position on the Citadel Council, once again the first time ever that a human was considered for the position, but turned it down. He was also known to have worked closely with Commander Shepard during his ventures, and had supported him when he was fighting the Collectors. Now he was here, leading the resistance against the Reapers.
“Welcome to the fight Major,” he said, shaking Rodriguez’s hand firmly and then turning back to the military console, all business. Anderson continued as he typed something into the console, “We have to get you up to speed. There is a general debriefing in an hour, and I want you to be there, for it will involve you quite heavily.” He finished with the console, and a 3D image appeared of some kind of large machine, designed with a spherical object attached to a long series of extensions only stretching in one direction. “So that’s what it looks like,” Anderson said, just as one of the Alliance technicians burst into the room. “The Reapers have attacked the base,” he said, Admiral you have to get up top!”
They immediately scrambled out of the room, Hendry and Anderson shouting orders while Rodriguez fell in with a group of technicians heading up top through the elevator. As Rodriguez entered the elevator, fingering his heavy pistol, Anderson yelled out to him. “Major Rodriguez,” He said, Rodriguez turned to look at the Admiral, “You’re in charge when you get up there. General Hendry and I will coordinate the evacuation of the base from here. We’re sheltering some civilians and we have to get them, and our equipment out as soon as we can. You’ll relay our orders to the men on site,” he tossed Rodriguez a headset communicator, “We’ll relay our orders through this, it is also connected to our main network right now, so you can talk to us as well.” Rodriguez fastened the device to the left slot in his helmet, just above his ear. “Good luck Major.” Anderson said to him. A surprised Rodriguez saluted him just as the elevator doors closed.
As the technicians were checking their weapons and readying their turrets, Rodriguez was fingering the communicator Anderson had given him. Rodriguez didn’t understand how this was possible. He had just arrived at the base ten minutes ago, now they were putting him in command? The Major, for all his rank, had never had a command. He had gone straight from being one of many soldiers stationed on a colony to Major in a day, all because he had managed to survive an attack by the Collectors, saving a few colonists in the process. Point being, he had never made full use of his rank before, and now he was being put in command of some of the last soldiers remaining on Earth. “Rodriguez,” Anderson said, voice buzzing from the communicator near the Major’s ear, “here’s the situation. A Reaper force has penetrated the outside checkpoint and are nearing the parking garage where our forces are. You need to give Hendry and I time to relocate most of our sensitive equipment and personnel to our next base. We need that time Major.” The elevator doors opened and the technicians around the Major began filing out, leaving Anderson to give Rodriguez just a few grim parting words. “Give them hell Major, because that’s what they’ve given us.”
“Yes sir,” the determined Major replied, “Rodriguez out.” Rodriguez exited the elevator as the last of the technicians went past him, headed for the line of soldiers near the garage’s front. The now in-command Major surveyed the area that he would be defending. It was the same garage he had been in before, large and full of people, but now there were only two tanks left in the large space. They were lined up to be used mainly as additional cover, since tank cannon’s were only so useful in such a confined space. About four dozen Alliance soldiers were setting up barricades in front of the large door in the center of the far wall. The parking garage door was just a set of interlocking metal, and wouldn’t stand up to any major assault from Reaper forces. So, the soldiers were setting the barricades up about thirty feet back, leaving them room to maneuver and retreat while still creating a killing zone for Reaper forces that would break through.
Rodriguez walked up to the rough center of the barricades, between the two tanks. The soldiers were checking their weapons, slipping fresh thermal clips in, and setting up behind the barricades. He knew he should say something, so he spoke up, “Men and women of the Systems Alliance, my name is Major Rodriguez. I was posted at HQ when the Reapers hit, and I only just arrived here. Admiral Anderson has put me in charge for this engagement, and I’m sure it will be an honor serving with each and every one of you,” Rodriguez looked around, gauging the effect his words were having on everyone. The helmets made it hard to tell, but he felt no animosity from any of them, “As you were.” he said, then went to a weapons pile and grabbed some clips for his M-8 Avenger rifle. Swinging the weapon from his back he inserted the fresh thermal clips, sliding the rest in his pocket, and walked up to the barricade, crouching down and sliding the familiar weapon comfortably against his shoulder with the silver barrel pointed at the parking garage door.
As the last of the Alliance soldiers finished getting ready, and the turrets the technicians set up were online, all that was left was to wait. That moment stretched forever. The slight brush of armor against armor was all that broke the silence, and everyone’s trigger finger was located on just that place. Everyone was tense until finally someone broke the silence and yelled out, “They are coming!” Suddenly everyone broke the tension, and simply settled into the attitude every soldier acquired right before battle. No one here was green, everyone had fought battles, and now they were relaxed- the kind of relaxed that a cheetah or tiger would be right before it pounced.
The tunnel down to the garage door was sloped, so the soldiers waiting inside the garage could only see a few feet into it before it sloped up. Everyone’s eyes were trained on that spot though, so when a husk ran into the door from the tunnel its body was peppered with bullets from almost every Alliance gun in the area. There was a brief moment of pause as what was left of the husk’s body hit the floor. “Why was there only one Reaper?” Everyone thought, but their concerns were very soon validated as a wave of husks came charging down the tunnel to ram straight into the interlocked metal of the door.
Husks were effectively zombies created by the Reapers from bodies, alive or dead, of humans or other species that opposed them. The bodies were placed on Dragon’s Teeth, spikes that transformed normal specimens of a particular species into zombie-like cybernetic versions of themselves, subservient to the Reapers. Human husks built up an electric charge that was released when they managed to get close enough to their targets, dealing massive damage and usually killing them. Husks fought by swarming positions and overwhelming opposition with sheer numbers. Human husks could not operate weapons but they could climb emplacements or buildings, meaning even raised positions were at risk from attacks by husks. Technically other species converted by the Reapers were husks as well, but due to having different conversion methods and different combat capabilities, the Alliance only officially classified human husks as “Husks” and defined other species’ converted monsters with different names. One instance of this was the cannibals, which were transformed from the batarian race and could operate the weapons grafted onto their arms. Cannibals were therefore a significantly greater threat than human husks in combat, meriting a different designation.
The husks currently smashed up against the door therefore were trying to claw it apart with their bare hands. Their electrical charge wouldn’t do anything to move the door, so they were effectively as worthless as a normal person at bringing it down. With this in mind Rodriguez raised his hand and signaled the soldiers to cease fire at the husks. Firing stopped immediately, and there were clatters around the room as spent thermal clips were ejected and new ones were slipped into their place. They had to be careful and buy time. Shooting through the door too much would cause it to collapse, and since their goal was to buy time, this wouldn’t help the Alliance resistance soldiers one bit. Rodriguez turned back to the door after looking to see that his order had been followed. He saw that the husks were now slowly backing away from the door back into the tunnel.
Getting an ominous feeling, the Major crouched down again and raised his assault rifle. As soon as the last husk was out of sight, the soldiers heard a pounding coming from down the tunnel, like an elephant was moving towards them down the tunnel. That and the vibrations everyone felt in their boots was all the warning they had when an eight foot tall beast came running down the tunnel, ramming into the door to the parking garage and smashing it into fragmented pieces. Shocked, Rodriguez immediately ordered the tanks to open fire, and the whole room shook as the two tanks fired at the beast. As husks began running through the billowing smoke that followed the tank’s barrage, the scared Major could still see the hulking silhouette of the beast behind the attacking once-human husks.
The last he saw before he was beset upon by an attacking husk was the charging forms of three more of the beasts smashing into other positions on the soldiers’ barricade line. Blowing the head off of the husk in front of him the Major hastily turned again to look at the places he had seen the beasts ram into the line. To his horror he saw one of the beasts rip a turret off of its base and throw it at a knot of soldiers, scattering them and crushing two at once. Then the beast that had ripped off the turret turned to look at him. Rodriguez had time to register the intelligence in the thing’s eyes before the full impact of the beast’s appearance hit him. The Major would have called it a mutated krogan, with its dimensions increased and a single arm enlarged to support a gigantic claw, except that the head sticking out of its torso was a turian’s avian and raptor-like face. While all this ran through the embattled soldier’s mind, the krogan-turian hybrid gave a deep roar, and charged him.
One of the Alliance tanks was situated between Rodriguez and the beast, and that was what probably saved him from certain death. Not because the tank finished off the hybrid, but because smashing into the multi-ton tank mid-charge and flipping it a few feet back gave the beast enough pause in its ferocious run that Rodriguez had time to dive behind a barricade, blocking the creature’s view of him for the time being. The Major then shot a husk vaulting the barricade in front of him, and used the respite to see how the the part of the battle on the other side of the garage was going. It was not going well unfortunately. The Alliance line was holding in the areas that the krogan-turian hybrids hadn’t broken through the barricades, but with them supporting the husks the Alliance soldiers didn’t stand a chance in the long term.
“Anderson.” Rodriguez said, turning on his comm, “Do you read me, repeat, Anderson do you read me?” The Major was scanning the garage while he talked, even taking a moment to glance over his barricade and shoot a few husks still exiting the tunnel.
Anderson’s voice came crackling in over the comm, “I read you Major, what’s your status in the garage? We’re evacuating the last of the civilians now, and most of the important equipment has been moved out of the base.”
Hearing Anderson’s voice reassured Rodriguez, and his reply came out calm and collected despite how terrified he was feeling after seeing the hybrids shatter the line. “We’ve been overrun by the Reaper forces, sir. They used a new husk variant to break the line we made to contain the entrance. It seems to be a mix of turian and krogan husks, sir, and it operates like a mobile battering ram,” Rodriguez paused to lick his lips, which he suddenly realized had grown dry at some point, “Sir we have to retreat.” Even as he said this though the Major was seeing fewer and fewer remaining soldiers holding out against the Reaper forces in the parking garage, and he didn’t know how many of them would be able to get out.
Anderson responded without hesitation, “Understood. Give the retreat order and then get back down here through the elevator you went up in. If you are cut off from it then exit with the soldiers. The soldiers will get out through the attached stairwell up to the next floor, then on to our next base. They know what to do, you just have to give them the order.” Anderson paused, and Rodriguez heard someone telling the Admiral something in the background. Then Anderson said curtly, “I’ll see you soon Major, and you have your orders. Anderson out.”
Rodriguez sat behind his cover for a moment more, then burst into a sprint from
behind the barricade, keying his communicator to the soldiers’ frequencies as he ran toward the back of the garage. “To all remaining Alliance soldiers, this is Major Rodriguez, I am giving the order to retreat, I repeat, we are pulling out with the rest of the base, get to the next level and make your way to the rendezvous point. Good luck soldiers, Rodriguez out.” Rodriguez shot a few husks heading his way, not stopping, then got to the elevator just in time to see one of the massive beasts smash into the elevator door after a charge, warping it and ruining the Major’s chances of getting to the lower level to evacuate with Anderson.
Quickly Rodriguez considered his remaining options for escape. There was the attached stairwell to the far right of the garage, but it was past most of the Reaper forces including three of the hybrid beasts. The broken elevator that was closer to his right was no longer an option thanks to the beast. There was the front entrance to the parking garage where the Reaper forces came through, but he was fairly sure that there would be more enemy forces and possibly a Reaper waiting for him if he went out that way. Finally the Major noticed another stairwell going downward with an entrance located maybe thirty feet to his left. That might give him a chance to get down to Anderson, or at least to get out of the building for the time being.
A new plan in mind, Rodriguez headed that way, shooting down any husks that got in his way, one managed to get close enough to him to let off its change, but luckily he had managed to dodge the bulk of the electricity. Now, though his movements were a little slowed because of the shock the husk had given him, Rodriguez managed to make his way nearly to the entrance of the stairwell. As he was stepping inside he realized he could feel the floor vibrating in pulses through his boots, and Rodriguez managed to sluggishly turn around in time to see the hybrid charging directly toward him.
Dawn of Sol
The slumped Major’s vision sluggishly returned to him. He groaned, every part of his body seemed to be on fire. All he could see was black as his struggling vision attempted to adapt to these new circumstances, and he could taste dust and rubble in his mouth as he feebly turned his head from one side to another. He could feel that his armor was cracked, and he thought there was something heavy on his right leg. That was all Rodriguez managed before he slipped back into unconsciousness.
He woke up again. This time, he remembered what had happened to him to lead him to this position. Surprised at seeing the Reaper hybrid rush him, Rodriguez had tripped backwards onto the stairs headed down in the stairwell. The beast had smashed through the concrete, causing a cave in at the top of the stairwell. The beleaguered Major didn’t know what had happened to the monster; all he remembered was feeling the stairs give way beneath him, sending him plummeting down into the abyss. Opening his eyes, ouch, even those hurt, Rodriguez looked around and managed to make out what might have once been the base of the stairwell he had fallen down. Next to it was what seemed to be an entrance door leading into a maintenance tunnel.
Rodriguez sat up, all of his body protesting the action with violent spasms of pain. His body armor was cracked, but not enough that it was no longer serviceable. It would still help him in battle, but he wouldn’t be lucky if a Reaper bullet found its way into one of the fractures. He looked up. The Reaper hybrid had collapsed most of the stairwell when it charged him, leaving only isolated sections of the stairs still standing. One of the stair sections, about four feet of solid concrete, had fallen right next to Rodriguez’s head. He used it to help him stand up, knees almost buckling as he did so. The tired Major took a moment to collect himself once he was upright, then slowly made his way towards the entrance to the maintenance tunnel on the other end of the room.
Once he got to the door he turned the handle and pulled- the door didn’t budge. Muscles straining while he attempted to open the door, the pain in his body intensified as he finally managed to wrench open the door. It opened slowly revealing the tunnel that lay beyond. It was a fairly spacious tunnel with a few small cave ins that the Major could see. Rodriguez couldn’t actually see that far down the tunnel, as it was shrouded in darkness. There was a small sliver of light somehow coming all the way down to shine through one of the cave in openings, illuminating much more brightly a small pocket of rubble on the right side of the tunnel.
The exhausted Alliance Major took a moment to take this in, then staggered over to one of the rubble piles, sitting down and leaning his back up against the bumpy rock. His head was swimming, and the dizziness combined with the pain throughout his body was starting to ease him back into unconsciousness or, if he was lucky, just plain sleep. As he lay back against the pile, he remembered the colony he had been stationed on before Earth- and the defense of the colony that had gotten him his current position and rank. The colony’s name was Dawn of Sol, and it was fairly new at five years old. The colonists were friendly people who had no problem cooperating with the local Alliance Marines in the interest of their own defense. It had been an easy assignment for them, until one day when it had abruptly changed for the worse. It had happened very quickly one day in the afternoon sun.
Rodriguez had been on patrol towards the outskirts of the colony one day in the burning afternoon sun. Dawn of Sol was a human colony in the Skyllian Verge, a largely undeveloped patch of space lining both batarian and the human Systems Alliance’s borders. Dawn of Sol was a fairly average colony established on a lush planet with many green rolling plains and large, sweeping hills for the most part covering its surface. The colony was further out from the borders than some, that was why the Systems Alliance had a standing force there to ward off any batarian attacks, but it was a colony that was operating well on its own despite the distance from the rest of the Alliance. There had been only two instances of trouble in the colony’s history. One had been an attack by batarian slavers early on while the colony was being established; an attack that had been easily repulsed by the Alliance marines stationed on the planet. That hadn’t been a problem to deal with, but a couple years later a previously unseen species of large burrowing creatures had attacked the colony, dragging a few vehicles underground and severely damaging some of the Alliance colony buildings. After one of the marines finally managed to get a few shots off on one of them to take it down the rest had gone away. Presumably they weren’t used to dealing with something that fought back, but they hadn’t had any scientists in the colony so the species went without study. They also never bothered the colony again after that incident.
Rodriguez was a man born in Latin America back on Earth. After enlisting with the Alliance at age twenty five in 2176 he had almost immediately been deployed to Torfan in a massive initiative by the Alliance to wipe out the batarian pirates there, many of whom had been involved in the Skyllian Blitz two years earlier. The Skyllian Blitz had been a large attack on the major human colony Elysium by pirates and slavers, all batarian, in retaliation for the human expansion taking place in the Skyllian Verge. The attack left many dead and wounded, though it fell short of its original goal of destroying the entire colony when it was fought off by Systems Alliance. The Alliance’s response was the raid on Torfan that Rodriguez took part in. During the attack Rodriguez had led a small group of men to take out one of the more important batarian warlords, circumventing most of the criminal’s extensive defenses to do so. This heroic act saved many marine’s lives, and the grateful Alliance brass had then awarded Rodriguez with an unprecedented promotion to 1st Lieutenant, making him head of a small garrison headed to a newly forming colony on the edge of known space.
A loud boisterous voice broke Rodriguez’s reverie.“Yo lieutenant what’s up man? Staring out at nothing again? Think the grass is going to come out and eat you?”
Rodriguez sighed. He didn’t have to turn to know who it was talking to him. “Defense of this colony is our priority Roger,” he turned. “You know that. You’ve been out on patrol just as much as I have.”
Roger Hernandez was one of the marines stationed on Dawn of Sol. A cheerful guy with close cut brown hair and a ready smile, he had immediately taken a liking to the new lieutenant who was the same age as him in their garrison. Even though he was always joking he still did his rounds every day and kept his equipment clean. Every marine knew that if slavers came they would have to fight them off, and no marine wanted his gun to jam in the middle of a fight. “Ah come on Rodriguez, lighten up a bit.” He walked up until he was closer to him. “You know nothing’s going to come from those hills. It’s the sky we have to be watching, not some hills that go on for god knows how long.” Roger put his arm around Rodriguez’s back and gestured towards the colony. “Why don’t we go back home and we can kick back and enjoy the snippets of what little news we get out here alright? I’ll even get you some processed water while we’re at it.”
Just as Rodriguez was about to respond they both staggered as a shock wave shook the plains, knocking them backward as a huge ship descended on the colony. The ship seemed to be partly made of rock, and it was like nothing either of them had ever seen. They threw a startled glance at one another, then began running towards the colony. As they got closer Rodriguez picked up a transmission from one of the colonists.
A panicked male voice began, “To any of the colonists or marines that haven’t been paralyzed yet. Whatever is attacking is using small bugs that paralyze with their stings. Full body kinetic protection is advised. I also think I saw something bigger coming down from the ship so be prepared for serious resistance. I’m going to try to make for the… wait a moment…” Rodriguez could hear the sound of a door opening behind him. “No, no please, don’t take me!” Then the transmission cut out. Roger and Rodriguez shared a glance. Rodriguez’s armor had kinetic barriers, since he was a lieutenant, but Roger’s armor was a standard marine’s and lacked the extra protection.
“I’ll try to get a distress signal sent,” Roger said, activating his helmet’s visor. “You look out for any survivors. If you find any, or any of us remaining, get them to the bunker. I’ll head there after I check the comm tower, but hiding in there won’t matter if no help is coming.” Roger detached his rifle from its place on his back, raising it to a ready position all marine’s learned in basic training. “I’ll be fine,” he smiled at Rodriguez, “these guys can’t be that tough if they rely on insects to do their dirty work for them.” He nodded to Rodriguez. “Now go! The comm tower’s on the other side of the colony. You check the main rooms, no use checking the base. If there are any marines left then they are already fighting.”
Rodriguez nodded. It made sense, what Roger was proposing, he just hoped that there would be anyone left for him to find. “Good luck soldier,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder. “I’ll see you at the bunker.” Then, as Roger headed off to the comm tower, Rodriguez powered up his kinetic barrier, lowering his visor as well. He was reading no chatter on the marine’s comm frequency, so either they were being jammed by the invaders or they didn’t want to be traced and discovered. The 1st Lieutenant didn’t want to think about the other possibility. They did have a little over a dozen marines in the colony, and if all but Roger and himself were dead… hopefully that wasn’t the case.
As he neared the main collection of colony buildings, Rodriguez raised his trusty M-5 Phalanx pistol in front of him. He was starting to see the bugs now, although there weren’t too many of them. Maybe these invaders withdrew most of them when they thought everyone had already been paralyzed. They did try to sting him and presumably freeze him too, but his kinetic barriers kept them out. Problem was that if he got into combat, then his barriers could be depleted, leaving him open to the bugs- but he would have to worry about that as it came. As he entered the first building, a colony home, things were oddly quiet. The door slid open with a soft hiss, showing the Alliance marine an empty domicile. As he crossed over to the other homes, he found the same thing every time- nothing. Homes that looked like people had just picked up and left during an activity.
Finally, nearing the central plaza for the colony, Rodriguez had his first look at the invaders. They were humanoid so far as having two arms, two legs, a head and a body. Their heads were large and tapered into an end, with two large eyes on each side. Overall, they looked more like insects than humans, and the other thing the Lieutenant saw lent itself to that vision as well. The odd insectoids were directing large cocoons towards their ship. Cocoons that, to Rodriguez’s horror, contained paralyzed human colonist’s inside of them. Alright, he had to calm down. He took stock of the situation, there were six of the insect aliens, all of whom were toting some type of assault weapon, guarding ten of the human cocoons in the plaza. Six on one against unknown enemies, those were odds he would take.
He carefully lined up his first two shots at the heads of two of the aliens in the plaza that were standing still. As soon as he saw those shots connect, Rodriguez ducked back behind the building he was using for cover, hoping that the insectoid creatures had not seen him. After waiting a moment he glanced back around the corner, and sure enough the creatures were alert and scanning the surrounding area, but they had not seen him yet. He primed a grenade, then tossed at the spot where two of the creatures were grouped up. He got lucky, catching them both and blowing off their legs. Unfortunately this alerted the remaining two aliens to his location, and their fire forced him to hide behind the building to avoid having his body plastered with bullets.
Rodriguez ducked back out of cover, taking potshots at the aliens to keep their heads, or whatever their equivalent was, down, allowing him to switch to a position closer to them inside the plaza. From that site he slowly managed to take each of them down with his pistol, finally blasting off part of the last one’s torso to put it out of action. With the coast clear for the time being, the concerned Lieutenant bent down over one of the cocoons. The frantically moving eyes of the man paralyzed inside told him that whatever the bugs injected them with it wasn’t going to kill them. That meant these invaders were likely slavers, although Rodriguez had never heard of this species before, and slavers with this kind of hardware were definitely a threat to all colonies in the area. That reminded him of Roger’s distress call, and he used the communicator inside his helmet to contact him. “Roger, what’s your status,” Rodriguez said, keying his comm to Roger’s personal frequency.
Roger’s voice came back tight and forced. “I’m alright Lieutenant. There are some oversized beetles guarding the communications tower relay. I’m taking care of them now.” Rodriguez could hear the sound of gunfire through the microphone.
“Copy,” Rodriguez said, scanning the plaza for any more of the insect species’ soldiers. “I’ve run into the insect aliens as well. They seem to be keeping the colonists alive for some reason. They’re transporting them in cocoons to their ship. There are,” the Lieutenant paused for a moment. “There probably aren’t many colonists that are left. I can’t do anything about the ones that are already in these cocoons. They’re too big to move and I don’t know how to cure the paralysis.” Rodriguez stood up, keeping his pistol up as he did so. “I’m going to go take a look at the community buildings. It might be that a group of colonists holed themselves up in there. After that I’ll head to the bunker. You meet me there after you finish with the comm relay alright?”
After a pause, Roger’s reply came through. “Yes sir, and Rodriguez, if I don’t get through this,” there was another pause with gunfire in the background, “Then you owe me two drinks in heaven, you got that man?”
Rodriguez smiled. “Yeah I got that, see you at the bunker, Rodriguez out.” With that the cautious Lieutenant made his way towards the community buildings. He didn’t spot any of the hostile aliens, but he did see many of the small paralyzing insects buzzing around, even stepping on one accidentally as he went to enter the community building. His all areas clearance granted him access, and the door opened to quite a sight. About two dozen adults and children were packed into the room. All were colonists but two marines, who came forward as soon as Rodriguez opened the door, weapons raised.
“Oh it’s you Lieutenant.” One of the marines, Rodriguez thought his name was Austin, said when he saw who Rodriguez was. “We got everyone we could into full decompression suits from the shuttle after we saw what was happening. It mostly protects them from being stung, so long as they don’t let the bugs latch on for too long. We’ve stayed in here without contact from the rest of the colony. We don’t know what is going on.”
As quickly as he could Rodriguez filled them in about the situation. “We have to get all these people to the bunker, immediately.” They nodded. They had built an underground bunker for their colony in case of a major pirate attack that the marines couldn’t fight off. The idea was that the pirates wouldn’t want to wait for them to come out and would leave, or they could stay in there until help arrived. It was very well provisioned as a result. The bunker was towards the edge of the colony, though not too far from where they were, and once they were there the colonists would hopefully be safe.
As the two marines quickly led the colonists out of the building and told them to be quiet, the Lieutenant kept his eyes peeled for any sign that the invaders knew they were there. Not seeing anything but not feeling satisfied, Rodriguez led the group of humans towards the bunker that would hopefully be their safe haven from these insects. Suddenly Rodriguez heard a sound behind him and turned around just in time to see a group of the hostile aliens turning the corner with their guns up and pointed straight at the group. “Cover!” He yelled, as he did what he advised, diving to cover behind a pair of supply crates. Some of the colonists started screaming. “Get to the bunker, we’ll hold them off here!” He yelled at the colonists. Enough of them heard him to herd the others off towards it. Rodriguez didn’t have time to check if they made it, because he and the other two marines were trading fire with the aliens down the path. They took a few down, but more just kept coming. After Rodriguez noticed another one of the insects carrying an odd weapon coming up behind the others, Roger’s voice came on over his comm.
“Lieutenant do you copy. I have sent out the distress signal and am making my way to the bunker. I’m encountering no resistance and should be there shortly.” There was a short burst of static, then the communication cut out.
Just as he was getting ready to tell the marines to fall back, a beam of energy came crashing into one of the marine’s cover, burning through it and knocking him to the ground. One of the small flying insects quickly took the opportunity to paralyze him, and suddenly they were down one. “Move!” Rodriguez shouted to the remaining marine, sprinting himself in the direction of the bunker. It was only a small distance away, and they should be secure enough when they got there. As he was running the beam lanced out again from the enhanced insect alien’s weapon, striking the running Lieutenant a glancing blow that nonetheless almost completely depleted his barrier, leaving him effectively down to just his normal body armor.
He staggered a bit then kept on running. Just as the bunker came within sight the other marine fell behind and went down, Rodriguez didn’t see whether he was dead or just paralyzed. As he managed to get to the entrance to the bunker, gasping from exertion, he was suddenly knocked in the back with something hard, sending him sprawling onto the ground. His helmet made a great thud as it hit the ground, and he somehow managed to bring his head around to stare at the insect creature that had hit him. Just as he did it’s head blew off, and Roger came into his vision. Rodriguez could see him smiling behind his helmet.
As he supported him into the bunker, Roger told the Lieutenant how lucky he was to have him or he would be insect paste right now. Roger was all smiles but as he reached for the controller to shut the bunker door one of the small insects made it through and to Rodriguez’s horror latched onto Roger’s neck, plunging its stinger into the soft material between helmet and main body armor. Roger managed to smash the thing with his hand, but the damage had already been done, and he had been paralyzed. As he slowly sunk to the floor to lie there motionless, he still managed to smile at the Lieutenant lying there before him. “No worries.” He said, and then only his eyes moved for quite some time.
The Alliance had come in a week later. Apparently the insectoid aliens were called the “Collectors” and they had been kidnapping humans from colonies all year. They had been the only colony to have people survive without help, and the Alliance needed to show that they were doing something. So, Rodriguez had gotten his promotion to Major with a nice cushy posting to Earth, and at his insistence Roger Hernandez was given a promotion to 1st Lieutenant, Rodriguez’s old rank, and assigned to Arcturus Station as a deputy head of security there. Dawn of Sol was presumably the last colony attacked, and Rodriguez heard that it was because Commander Shepard, the Alliance legend, had destroyed their base back past the Omega 4 Relay, the gateway to the Collector’s mysterious system. He also heard rumors that the Collectors had been working for another group called the Reapers, but it stayed rumor, and no one believed it. Well, no one had believed it until now.
The Major woke from his nap with a start. His head jerked forward and he looked around fearfully. Something had to wake him up from his injury-induced nap, but he quickly realized that it wasn’t anything in the tunnel that had done it but the ferocious pounding that was shaking the entire area around him. Chunks of the old broken maintenance tunnels were coming down off the walls, and bursts of dust were being stirred up by the violent movement. Rodriguez coughed due to some of that dust being brought up around him and shakily got on his feet. He noticed that nothing was still aching from the fall which hopefully meant that nothing was broken or permanently damaged. That was good, because he probably wouldn’t be visiting a hospital any time soon. The main problem at the moment was that he had no weapon and was in an underground tunnel that may or may not lead him to additional hostile Reaper forces. The Alliance marine grimaced. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice now, and so he started down the tunnel, taking care to dodge any fairly large pieces of falling rock or concrete being shaken up by the pounding.
Sometime during his walk the pounding stopped, and eventually Rodriguez reached a juncture where his tunnel split off into two other tunnels, although there were no signs telling him where either of the two of them went. The left, he reasoned, would probably head deeper into the city while the right would lead closer to its edge. Hoping that the Reaper forces would be more heavily concentrated in the center of the city, he took the tunnel to his right. After about another hour of walking he found a ladder leading up. When Rodriguez opened the hatch at the top he found it led into an old storage building. A lot of crates and storage bins were lying around, all labeled with various big company names and brands. It was a pretty large buildingand so it took the marine a while to find his way through to the front door.
When he opened the door he found himself on a street mostly comprised of warehouses and storage facilities. The only sign of the Reaper invasion was a large warehouse building that had half of it’s right side destroyed from what Rodriguez guessed had been a glancing blow from a Reaper laser. With no Reaper forces in sight now though the Major had to prioritize his objectives. Objective one, survive and preferably find some kind of weapon to help him do that. Right on cue his stomach groaned, and he also realized that he had nothing to eat, and he had to fix that. Objective two was to contact any sort of resistance taking place in the city and join it to fight against the Reapers.
To accomplish the first stage of his plan Rodriguez would have to find a residential district or a supermarket; anywhere that he would be able to obtain a decent amount of food and hopefully some simple means of communication. Anderson’s communicator had gotten smashed during the Major’s earlier fall down the stairwell, so even if he found Alliance forces he would only be able to talk to them face to face. While Rodriguez was thinking he heard an explosion off in the distance and decided that he should probably start moving. The more he moved around the harder it would be for Reaper forces to detect and corner him, a fact that would be especially difficult while he didn’t have a weapon.
Moving in the direction that he judged was most likely south, Rodriguez stuck to the cover provided by wrecked vehicles and buildings in various states of disrepair. At one point he almost thought he glimpsed some survivors, civilians, but when he got to the vehicle he thought he had seen them next to they had been gone. Instead there he found an M-77 Paladin heavy pistol. No thermal clips for it, but he still had some that he had slipped into his pocket during the fight in the garage. The clips he had would tide him over until he was able to find replacements. What mattered now was that he was armed, and any Reaper forces that came across him would not find Rodriguez easy prey to deal with now.
While searching buildings the Alliance Major had also found some food. They were basic rations in a crashed Alliance vehicle, but he had extras and they were made to sustain him for a long time, so they would work until he could find something better. Tasty food wasn’t very high on his list of priorities in the case of a Reaper invasion. Nonetheless now armed and operating on a fairly full stomach, Rodriguez could set his sights on contacting any resistance troops remaining in London. Rodriguez still lacked a communicator, so he thought that he would try one of the destroyed police bases to see if he could salvage one there in the wreckage. It also might give him the chance to find any other soldiers also trying to salvage military supplies.
The police base he was thinking of was the one located right next to the now-destroyed Alliance HQ. Every building in that area had been pounded to the ground by the Reapers, but he wasn’t interested in what was above ground, but rather what was down below the buildings. The police base and the HQ both had extensive underground facilities, facilities that were hopefully left relatively intact by the Reaper bombardment. Rodriguez was counting on there being at least some places left because that would also open the possibility that there would be Alliance soldiers left there. Alliance soldiers that he could contact.
The main difficulty with his plan was that the old HQ was in the middle of Reaper territory and was crawling with hostile Reaper troops. Luckily Rodriguez had once needed to go to one of the rooms under the HQ during his work there and knew of a passage that led into the lower levels from a station a few blocks away from the headquarters itself. He would still be deep in Reaper territory by the time he got to the station, but those few blocks could be the difference that saved his life. The sun was now setting, so the Major stopped next to a former bar and went into the back office, taking a seat in the office’s chair. He sighed heavily, bringing his hands to his face.
Rodriguez was both physically and mentally exhausted. Being on the run every minute of a day got to a person, especially during close calls with monsters that would literally turn him into picture perfect copies of themselves. He took a rations pack out of his back pocket, opened it and took a bite. The bland synthesized food didn’t really fill him up, it just gave him what he needed to stay functioning. Rodriguez didn’t know how he was going to fight a resistance like this for the weeks or possibly months it would take for the Alliance to get the support it would need to take the Reapers head on. He cracked his neck. That was if they could get help, but there wasn’t necessarily any guarantee that they would come. Alien relations had never been humanity’s strong suit, so he doubted that Shepard would get them support without some major favors. Favors that would take time. Locking the door into the room, Rodriguez virtually collapsed on the ground to sleep.
The tired Alliance marine woke up the next day to a repeated pounding outside of the old bar. It was like the pounding he had felt down in the tunnels but now was much more pronounced and therefore, close. Scrambling to his feet he grabbed for the heavy pistol that he had picked up the day before, reassuring himself that it was still clipped to his side. Slowly he moved to the shaking door while the room vibrated around him, and he opened it just in time to see a Reaper leg the size of a building itself smash into the street in front of him, devastating everything and leaving a giant hole when it picked itself up again to move on.
Staring in horror at the place where the Reaper’s leg had been, Rodriguez quickly dived back around the edge of the door back into the room, as a wave of stalking husks staggered down the street in their Reaper master’s wake, heads turning every which way searching for survivors like Rodriguez to tear limb from limb and then turn into one of them, servants of the Reapers. Rodriguez tried not to move or make any noise as he heard them pass, dead but animated feet passing over bits of rock and machinery on the street. Finally, as the Reaper’s footfalls got farther and farther away, Rodriguez peeked around the corner, seeing that the husks had moved on and that it was safe for him to leave the scant safety the bar had provided him.
Rodriguez walked up to the crater, pistol covering his surroundings as he checked every corner that a husk could be hiding in. Once he reached the street the Major looked to the right at the destruction left in the wake of a Reaper that had been just walking. After another scan of his surroundings Rodriguez decided that since he wouldn’t gain anything by waiting, he might as well get going. So, using the ruins of Big Ben as guidance, Rodriguez began his trek back to Alliance HQ, the place where all this had started for him.
As he got closer to the heart of the city the amount of Reapers increased. There were always two or three of the gigantic machines in sight no matter where he was now, and the patrols of Reaper husks where increasing as well. It had taken him a week to get this far without detection, and Rodriguez had had a few close calls with Reaper patrols during that time. At one point he had ducked inside of a burnt hovercar while a group of cannibals and husks had passed right around him, the husks even crawling over the car’s roof. Not all of Rodriguez’s encounters had been that close but… some had been almost as bad. Now however he was almost to the little government building that had the passage into the lower levels of the HQ.
Rodriguez was across the street from the building he wanted to get into, but in front of it was a group of husks prowling around. If he took them down in the middle of the street he would attract the attention of the many Reapers around him, but even if Rodriguez could lure them away there was no guarantee that the Reapers wouldn’t still be alerted to his presence when he killed the husks. If one of the Reapers actually wanted to kill him and knew where he was… living would become pretty difficult to do. That meant he had to come up with a plan. Looking at the other buildings connected to the building he wanted to enter, Rodriguez saw some type of two-level office building located directly next to it, one that might allow Rodriguez to get onto his target building’s roof without coming into contact with the husks waiting outside of it.
Sneaking around to get farther down the street so he could cross, Rodriguez kept his eye on the husks. They weren’t really moving from their spot in front of the building, which seemed to indicate they were supposed to stay there specifically. Did that mean that other Alliance people had tried to get in this way? If so that made it more likely for there to be people waiting for him under there. Rodriguez crouched down, trying as quietly as possible to make his way behind some debris to cross the street. He was thinking that if the Reapers had killed some marines before they could actually make it inside, that possibly the entrance itself was still secure. Rodriguez didn’t want to have Reaper forces waiting for him when he entered the building, but he would have to be careful of that possibility.
Ducking into the office building Rodriguez quickly looked around for any Reaper forces waiting for him. After a moment he was satisfied. No Reapers in here, which meant he could proceed up to the second level without too much to worry about. The Major walked to the back of the room, slowly proceeding up the steps to the second level. Easing himself along the wall, Rodriguez peered around the corner into the dark second level of the office building, and immediately jerked his head back. There was a cannibal at one of the windows on the other side of the room overlooking the street. Rodriguez must just have managed to avoid it seeing him as he entered the building.
Rodriguez couldn’t shoot the cannibal without the husks on the street hearing the shot, and that probably wouldn’t leave Rodriguez the time he needed to get onto the other building’s roof. Reapers would likely also notice if the husks came over to the office building after hearing the shot. Well, Rodriguez didn’t know any quick way to take out a cannibal even from behind with surprise on his side, and he also didn’t have a silencer to quiet his shots. If he got right up next to the thing and used its own body to silence the shots, it might work. To do that he had to sneak up behind it without being heard.
Realizing that his survival depended on how quiet he was as he approached this cannibal, Rodriguez slowly turned around the corner and began to advance towards the Reaper batarian husk, taking care not to step on anything that might alert the monster as he did so. Rodriguez’s eyes were alternating between looking for any indication that the husk knew he was there and to looking ahead of his feet to keep him from tripping over anything and alerting the cannibal to his presence. As he got to the point where he could see the disgusting thing’s mottled gray skin in great detail, Rodriguez closed the remaining distance quickly with a step, brought his pistol as close to the thing’s head as he dared, and took the shot.
It wasn’t as quiet as he would have liked, and he got the synthetic beast’s blood on his hand and pistol, but the shot didn’t seem to alert the husks down on the street, so he was safe. Sitting down Rodriguez began to scrub the blood on the pistol off with a piece of cloth. Breathing a sigh of relief, he then got up and headed to the side of the building that was facing the one he needed to get to. Opening a door to get onto the office building’s roof, he gauged the distance between his building and the one across from him. It was a fairly narrow gap, maybe ten feet across, but it would be a tricky jump for him to make if he wanted to minimize noise. Plus, the roof of the other building was about fifteen feet lower than his right now. This would hurt. Bracing himself, Rodriguez backed up a little and then ran to make the jump onto the other building.
The marine landed hard. The fall knocked his breath away and his pistol went flying off the top of the building as well. Fearfully, Rodriguez brought his aching body over to the side, seeing if his pistol had fallen nearby any Reaper forces. Luckily it hadn’t, landing behind an old dumpster in the alley. Well he was now out of a weapon again, but as Rodriguez limped his way over to the door into the government building, he hoped that it wouldn’t matter. Rodriguez hoped that he would soon see his fellow marines, his fellow humans.
Rodriguez encountered no more trouble making his way down to the building’s basement and into the room where the entrance to the passage was. Happy to see that the data input for the door was still intact, he began typing the relevant access codes for access to the now-destroyed HQ for that day. The building began shaking a bit, likely because a Reaper was passing by, as Rodriguez finished entering the codes and the door slid open. It opened into a hallway untouched by all the destruction on the surface, a fact that was reassuring Rodriguez that he had made the right choice in deciding to come here. After following a series of twisting hallways for a while, Rodriguez finally neared a door. As he did it opened and Rodriguez found himself staring down the barrels of four guns.
“Ah bloody hell, it’s just a marine,” said the one farthest to the left, as he returned his assault rifle to its slot on his back. The other soldiers returned their weapons to their slots as well. “Well boy,” the man probably in his mid-forties asked Rodriguez, “What’s your name and rank?” Instead of waiting for an answer he made a gesture indicating Rodriguez walk behind him as he turned around and headed into the base.
“My name is Rodriguez, and I am a Major in the Alliance Marines,” Rodriguez said, looking at the other’s back as they continued along, “And you are?”
Stopping after hearing the name, the man turned around and saluted. “My apologies Major Rodriguez. I am Gunnery Chief Grimmer Darryl Burnes. We have only had limited contact with Admiral Anderson, but he told us that he had lost contact with you, and that you might make your way here.” He waited for Rodriguez to motion for him to be at ease, then continued the way they had been going before. “Not much of the top brass survived when the headquarters was attacked. Shepard and Anderson got out, but besides them you might have been the highest ranking survivor.” They had to stop at a checkpoint while Burnes input the code to let them move forward. Once he was done the door slid open and they started walking again. “That’s not to say there aren’t still higher ranking people in the city,” Burnes clarified, “Just that there weren’t many high rankers that weren’t at HQ during the mobilization right before the Reapers hit.” They exited through a final door, and Rodriguez was pleasantly surprised.
Spread out through what looked like it had once been a cafeteria were probably over a hundred Alliance personnel, mostly marines, and more were moving in and out of the room all the time through doors on the other end of the hall. “We saved a lot of troops that were pinned down in the area after the Reapers hit,” Burnes said. “Not all, but we did what we could. There are around one hundred marines or Alliance defense personnel in the base, with another couple dozen Alliance technicians and other employees.” Burnes turned, activating a digital display of the underground facility and pointing out important locations to Rodriguez as he continued. “We are also sheltering about fifty civilians, a mix of men, women, and children that fled the Reaper forces long enough for us to pick them up and bring them down here.”
Rodriguez was looking at the image of the base and thinking about how it could be defended if the Reapers somehow got in. Then something the Gunnery Chief had said got to him. “Wait,” he said, “There are a couple hundred people in this facility, where are you getting the supplies to keep all of them fed?”
“This facility was meant as a large scale bunker in the case of a military defeat in London,” Burnes said, turning to Rodriguez. “Therefore it had a good amount of stored supplies. We are getting low on them though, and that’s why we’re planning on transferring to another facility off towards the fringe of the city where the Reapers aren’t so heavily clustered.” Burnes motioned for Rodriguez to look as he expanded the display to include a map of London. “We have posts with supplies stationed here, here, and here,” He said, pointing to three locations staggered away from where they were now. “The current plan is to move the civilians in small group with escorts out to one of these locations, and then all the way out past the edges of the city. That is also where the bulk of the resistance still on this island is right now. London itself is getting too thick with Reaper activity for anyone to stay, even underground.” He motioned towards one of the empty bunks on the side of the room. “You must be tired Major. Get some sleep, we’re starting to move groups out tomorrow, but we have to take it slow to keep the Reapers from catching on. As is we’ll still lose groups, but hopefully the majority will get through.”
Rodriguez nodded to him, sympathizing with the man who deliberately made a decision that he knew would send men to their deaths. Then he remembered how tired he was. “I think I’ll do that Chief, and thank you for the offer. Is there any way you can get me a gun and a communicator while I’m out? I lost my last weapon trying to get here, and my communicator a week ago.” When Burnes nodded and told him that he would do that, Rodriguez walked over to the empty bunk Burnes had pointed to, laid down, and fell asleep almost immediately.
Rodriguez woke up what felt like minutes later, although it was actually nine hours, feeling refreshed and more lively than he had felt since the Reaper invasion began. A marine stopped by and told him that Gunnery Chief Burnes wanted to see him, so after picking up the assault rifle and communicator Burnes had left for him he headed in the direction that the marine had pointed, hoping that he would eventually find the Gunnery Chief. The layout of the base that Burnes had shown him when he first got to the base proved very useful as Rodriguez navigated through the maze-like hallways to the communications room where Burnes was waiting for him.
“Welcome to the comm room Major,” Burnes greeted Rodriguez as he entered the room. “We are getting ready to send the first group out. This is the most sensitive part of the operation, as getting discovered this close to the base could compromise us before we’re ready to finally move out.” The Gunnery Chief turned back to the display, watching the small group of maybe a dozen men and women, civilians and a few marines, get ready to move out of a small entrance to the surface that was sheltered by rubble. “This is the most secure exit that we have access to, and we hope to send all groups out this way. It is a little farther from the headquarters and central London than the entrance you used was, although that rubble is all that is disguising it.” Burnes grimaced. “More and more Reapers are coming down every day to land here, and from what little communication I’ve had with the other major cities that are still online, this is by far the most concentrated force of Reapers currently on the planet.” Looking at Rodriguez meaningfully, he said “If we hadn’t already been planning to leave, we would be now- although we’re leaving a small team behind just in case we need to get this far behind enemy lines any time in the future, because it is getting very difficult to travel anywhere near here above ground anymore. You were lucky to get in yourself.”
Thinking back to the cannibal in the window that had barely missed spotting him, Rodriguez had to agree with the Gunnery Chief’s statement. “How long are you waiting between each team’s departure,” Rodriguez asked Burnes, trying to figure out just how soon the base would be fully evacuated so that he could prepare himself to go with them.
“We are planning a delay of about three hours,” Burnes replied gruffly. “The groups are divided up by three according to what outpost they are going to stop at before they try to get out of the city entirely. In addition each team is taking a different route to whichever of the three outposts they are going to. This way, like I said before, the greatest danger isn’t them getting caught en route, but getting caught near enough to the exit they are using for the Reapers to find that entrance, and then use it to get into the base.” The Gunnery Chief shook his head. “It’s a risky business, no doubt about it, but we are out of options at this point. We have to get out of here or hunger is going to kill us faster than the Reapers will. Plus, it’s only a matter of time before they discover this facility. Hopefully with us gone a smaller team will have an easier time hiding out down here.” He turned to Rodriguez. “Major I’m going to be frank, the likelyhood of us pulling this off without the Reapers catching on is slim.” The NCO pulled out a data chip from one of the computer ports and handed it to Rodriguez. “This includes vital information that our scouts have gathered about the Reaper forces in this area, and it might prove important down the line. I need you to get it to Anderson with the resistance where it can be given to the right people.” Burnes continued, giving Rodriguez no chance to respond to this. “That is why you are going to be leading a special team out. It is going to be just you and four marines. The smaller the group; the higher your chances of survival are. Now, I know that I can’t order you to do this but I am staying behind here and-”
“Don’t worry Chief,” Rodriguez said, cutting Burnes off, “I understand the need, and I’ll get it done. Just give me my time window and introduce me to my team and I’ll be good to go.” Relieved because he hadn’t known if the Major would go along with this plan, Burnes gave him the location and names of the marines on his team immediately.
Turning to the control panel for the base database, the NCO began laying out his plan. “You’ll be making for Darlington, a town about one week north of here. Anderson is there right now, and you should be able to coordinate with him then. You are also going to be circumventing the outposts that the other teams will be stopping at. We can’t risk you being lost because one of them was compromised before you got there.” Rodriguez could see that Burnes was keeping one eye on the first team’s monitor as he typed. “I suggest you head more or less straight to Darlington, because anywhere in central London is Reaper territory, so the sooner that you can get away from there the better off you guys will be.” He turned to Rodriguez and saluted him. “I’ll signal you when it’s time Major. It is oh eight hundred hours right now, expect to be deployed at around fourteen hundred hours this afternoon, after team two is well away.”
Rodriguez gathered his squad and was in the room close to the exit at thirteen hundred hours when he got a signal from Burnes, though not the one he had been waiting for. It was an all-base communicator address. “Attention all forces and civilians, the Reapers have discovered the base. Initiate emergency protocols and evacuate in teams as you are able. It was an honor serving with you all, Gunnery Chief Burnes out.”
“Damn,” was all Rodriguez said, and then his team was out the door, taking down the two husks that had been approaching it and laying down covering fire for the two teams that were coming out after them who had been in the same room waiting to be deployed. As the civilians rushed out of the base the marines concentrated their fire on a group of cannibals and husks approaching the exit from the west. That was why Rodriguez only barely turned around in time to see a Reaper charging its laser. All he had time to scream was “Down!” before it hit a group of civilians that had been running for the relative safety the buildings provided.
Knowing that they stood no chance if a Reaper was bombarding their position, Rodriguez motioned to the marines and then they broke cover to sprint for the buildings. The Reaper fired again but missed the small moving targets that the marines were to it, instead taking out two buildings and causing the remains to fall on the Reaper husks pursuing Rodriguez’s team. This gave them the chance to create some space between their team and the base, as well as a chance to split off from the other surviving team as they headed more to the west to get to their outpost. As they were passing between ruined buildings, one of the marines on Rodriguez’s team whispered, “The men at those outposts are screwed you know. Three or four groups headed to each one, depending on how many survived the emergency evac. It won’t be too hard for the Reapers to triangulate their position and take them out.” None of them said anything to him, but they all knew that he was right.
A week later and Rodriguez was sitting in an alley between two large commodities warehouses in Nottingham with two other marines. Nottingham was about halfway between London and Darlington, where they needed to go, but getting to Nottingham alone had been a nightmare. Rodriguez’s team had lost another marine just the day after they left the base when they had been cornered in an old restaurant by husks. Two days later Rodriguez had lost two more of his marines when a combined cannibal and husk force had found them hiding from a passing Reaper. Rodriguez and the last marine from his team had barely made it out of that with their own lives, although they had picked up another fleeing marine and filled him in on their mission. He had gladly joined them when he heard what their goal was, so they were still three when they made it to Nottingham.
Now however one of the marines, the last from Rodriguez’s original squad, had a broken leg, and they were deciding what to do about it. The marine with the broken leg wanted Rodriguez to leave him, but Rodriguez didn’t want to have to do that. They had bunked down and slept in the alleyway after that, and when they woke up the new marine had proposed a plan that Rodriguez liked much more. The marine would stay with the one with the broken leg to make sure he stayed alive, while Rodriguez went on alone with the data. Even though this plan left him alone, Rodriguez liked this plan more, as it gave the injured marine a much higher chance to survive. So, grabbing his remaining rations and his assault rifle, Rodriguez prepared to move out on the last stretch to get to Darlington.
While the majority of the Reaper forces had thinned out, and Reapers themselves were rare out this far, Rodriguez didn’t want to take any chances for the rest of the way to Anderson and the resistance. With more Reaper forces pouring into London day by day from the Reapers in orbit, the Reapers would be able to spread patrols farther and farther out beyond just the heart of London. That meant that Rodriguez had to be careful and do anything he could to try to avoid running into any patrols. To this end, he had an idea.
During the initial invasion the Reapers had shot at anything that moved leaving most vehicles, both flying and ground, destroyed beyond a hope of repair. If he could find a hover car that the Reapers had missed though, it would greatly decrease the time it would take to get to Darlington even with the trickly piloting Rodriguez would have to do to keep from getting spotted. This wasn’t an option back towards central London because of the large Reaper presence there, but out here he had a much better chance of not getting shot out of the sky.
Figuring that his best bet was some kind of indoor parking area that hadn’t been too damaged by the Reapers during the invasion, Rodriguez began looking around for buildings that fit that criteria, finally locating one three stories tall and connected to numerous other buildings in the area. The Alliance Major could see an advertisement for premium indoor parking on the third level, and hopefully it would have an intact vehicle inside that he could use. Rodriguez made his way up to the third level through an old antique store, and once he was up there he cautiously began approaching the building with the parking area.
The Reapers were not stupid. Far from it, they were machines with a processing power unknown amounts greater than human artificial intelligences. So, it stood to reason that they would try to eliminate any means that the human populace had to get around quickly. That meant destroying vehicles, and if the streets full of broken hover cars were any example, they were doing a pretty good job of it. Unfortunately this place was labeled as a premium parking area, and so probably was listed on the Reaper version of a “To Kill/Destroy” list somewhere. That meant that it was either already wiped out or had previously been wiped out by Reaper forces sometime in the past two weeks. The other unlikely possibility was that they were taking care of it now. A possibility that, with the recent influx of new forces at the Reaper’s disposal, was made much more likely. So that meant Rodriguez had to get in and out quickly, if they were not already here. As he neared the entrance to the garage, Rodriguez could hear small scraping sound inside. Suspecting husks, the marine rounded the corner with his assault rifle raised and pointed- at a turian’s back.
Turians were a race of bipeds, meaning that they had two arms, two legs, and a head, but whose heads looked like a cross between a lizard and some kind of bird. Sometimes compared to ancient human dinosaurs, turians generally stood at about six feet tall and had a distinctive hard carapace on their backs. The turians had also been the first race that humanity had encountered during its expansion using the mass relays, giant installations allowing faster than light travel, years before. Turian culture revolved around their military and the turian mindset in general promoted any kind of public service, as such they were mostly respected among the other known races. The odd thing about seeing a turian on Earth was that relations between humans and the turians were strained, due to the short war that had erupted on first contact between the two species all those years before. Relations were mending but they were still not a common sight on Earth. The turian, hearing Rodriguez come up behind him, slowly raised his three fingered raptor-like hands from where they had been and turned around. Rodriguez saw an intact hover car behind him, and the Major figured that the turian had been trying to get it open when he arrived.
“Good. Maybe you can help me get this open human.” The turian said, after Rodriguez didn’t immediately say anything to him. “I’m likely trying to do the same thing you are: get out of this Reaper-infested area to find somewhere safe.” He didn’t seem concerned that Rodriguez was pointing a gun at him, and he wasn’t offering up any other information.
Finally Rodriguez lowered his gun. “Our goals might not coincide as well as you think. I mean to take this vehicle north to the resistance fighting the Reapers, and after that I will continue hurting them in any way that I can.”
The turian lowered his hands, eyes narrowing as he listened to Rodriguez speak. When he was done, the turian shook his head, then told him “Listen human, you have to see reason. Your planet is lost and no resistance is going to bring it any help. Your only chance is outside aid, aid from the other council races.” He stepped back, gesturing to the car’s data input panel, “But if you get this moving, we might be able to get far enough away from the Reapers to survive this invasion and possibly even escape.”
Not liking the turian’s train of thought, and also noticing that the turian still hadn’t introduced himself, Rodriguez decided to introduce himself first. “Look turian, I am Major Rodriguez of the Alliance Marines, and this car is going to the resistance up north.” He pointed out towards the sky. “There are Reapers covering Earth up there, and there’s no way a non-military vessel has any chance of escaping to the nearest mass relay even if it could make it out of the atmosphere without being shot down.” Rodriguez pointed an accusatory finger at the raptor-avian across from him. “You wouldn’t run if this was Palaven, your home world, being attacked.”
The turian started fidgeting. “Yes well, about that,” and then he suddenly pulled out a pistol from somewhere that Rodriguez hadn’t seen, pointing it towards Rodriguez. The first shot went wide, and that gave time for Rodriguez to dive behind one of the other broken cars in the garage, using it as cover as he returned fire on the turian. The turian dodged the Alliance marine’s first burst of fire, but he took the second trying to get into cover. As the body hit the floor Rodriguez moved out of cover, keeping his rifle trained on the turian’s body just in case he was playing dead. Once Rodriguez was sure that the turian wasn’t getting up, he strapped his assault rifle onto his back and leaned down to investigate the remains.
After examining the body for some time, all the Major had to show for it was three bags of red sand and what he was sure was a faked virtual ID. The red sand said it all though. A powerful narcotic, red sand temporarily causes a brief and intense burst of euphoria when used. It also bestows very brief biotic powers on the user, usually extending to no more than small telekinesis. Humans were most susceptible to red sands effects, and as such most of the drug’s trade was focused on humans. That was probably why the turian had been on Earth, as a dealer of the drug. It was possible that he was a user himself, but Rodriguez hadn’t noticed any of the characteristic red tinting of the eyes that came with extended use.
Deciding to leave the turian’s body where it lay after that, Rodriguez went over to the hover car and used his access code as an Alliance officer to get inside. After familiarizing himself with the controls of its particular model, Rodriguez slowly brought it out of the garage and then dropped down almost to street level where he wouldn’t be easily seen, at least until he was right on top of someone. Rodriguez couldn’t accelerate very much to avoid running into random debris or pieces of broken buildings, but he was nevertheless moving at a much faster pace than his normal cautious building to building pace. The only thing he had to worry about were actual Reapers- he didn’t know of any Reaper ground troops that could take out a moving hover car, so he felt that it was fairly safe even if he did get spotted by a patrol.
About three hours later he was getting into a much more rural area, and the car’s map showed him nearing Darlington. Once he was about ten miles south of the town proper, he slowed down the hover car and landed it. On the off chance there were Reaper forces following him, and he had passed one patrol a couple hours ago, then if they were still following him they would only have the general area that he was going towards, and it was likely that they knew the resistance was active in the general area anyway, so Rodriguez wasn’t giving away anything by landing ten miles south of the town. The decision ended up not causing him any trouble, as he spotted an Alliance scout up in the trees ten minutes later anyway. The scout gave him directions to the acting base, and Rodriguez continued there without wasting any time.
Passing by the two marines guarding the door, Rodriguez entered the medium sized former hotel to a similar setup that he had seen before at the parking garage where he had first met Anderson, and again when he was at the underground facility beneath central London. There were men and supplies in various places around the lobby, with crates of weapons and other equipment spread out as well. Rodriguez could see in the back where some communication equipment had been set up where the greeter’s desk would have been.
“Rodriguez!” The marine that had been named looked up to see Admiral Anderson coming down the steps to the second floor of the hotel. As he got down to Rodiguez’s level Anderson came up and shook his hand firmly, smiling as he did so. “Gunnery Chief Burnes got word that he was sending you here. I was happy to hear that you had survived the fight in the garage- the soldiers who managed to make it out had reported you killed by a Brute, and it was good to hear word to the contrary.”
Assuming that Brute referred to the krogan-turian hybrid that had collapsed the stairwell on him, Rodriguez responded simply. “I did get a little banged up sir, but no complaints- no permanent damage was done and I managed to make my way to the facility under HQ.”
Anderson nodded gravely. “And I’m glad that you did. Burnes badly needed help there getting the information he had gathered to me. Do you have the datachip?”
“Yes sir, right here,” and Rodriguez reached into one of his sealed pockets and pulled out the chip, placing it into Anderson’s outstretched hand.
“Good,” Anderson said. “This was very important information, and we have to get you debriefed and ready to operate.” He motioned to Anderson and they walked back up to the second level, entering a room with a large desk in it as well as various Alliance comm tools. “You’ve missed a lot, so we have to brief you on the Reaper varieties that we have encountered as well as the status of the rest of the planet’s resistance.” Anderson motioned for Rodriguez to sit down, then brought up a display in the middle of the table. “I want to get you informed first. The debrief can wait for later.” Anderson brought up pictures of human husks and cannibals on the display. “You are already familiar with husks and cannibals, so we can skip them in favor of a few more deadly Reaper variants.” He brought up a picture of a krogan-turian hybrid, and then a picture of what looked like a well-armored turian next to it. “The brute you have already encountered. It is indeed a hybrid of turian and krogan DNA, but the result is as you have seen: a devastating and fast mobile tank for the Reaper forces. They are vulnerable at their heads, which are purely turian, as well as at their exposed spine. Brutes should never be fought alone, and should always be taken care of in groups.”
Anderson moved on to the next image. “This is a marauder. As you might guess it is the Reaper variant for turians, and they are an intelligent and deadly threat on the battlefield. They will take cover, coordinate flanks, revive and strengthen allied forces. Marauders are priority targets, after Brutes, in any engagement.” Zooming into the image so that Rodriguez could see the difference between it and a normal turian; it was the mottled skin and Reaper armor design. “Identification won’t likely be a problem, as these will probably be shooting at you if you see them as opposed to normal turians, hopefully, you should still be able to tell the difference if the need ever arises.”
Anderson moved the images of a husk, cannibal, brute and marauder to the side, and brought up two more images. The image to the left was of some kind of large insect like creature, one with multiple pink sacs in the front of it’s body, while having two of what looked like cannons attached to the top of it’s frame. “This is a Ravager,” Anderson said. “It is a Reaper-modified Rachni, a previously thought to be extinct insect hive race, but it seems that the Reapers have gotten these for their own use somehow. Ravager’s fire nasty blasts from those cannons, and should only be taken out from behind solid cover. Those sacs on it’s sides and front release small insects called Swarmers, little more than nuisances, when popped, and the front sac when popped reveals their weak spot- fire at that area for greater damage. Ravager’s act a bit like the Reaper’s mobile artillery force, and that should give you an idea of their capabilities.
Directing his attention to the creature next to the ravager, Rodriguez realized that beneath its pale blue shriveled form this other creature resembled an asari. The asari were a highly advanced race of blue-skinned biotics users. In appearance they looked like human females, but with blue skin and head crests instead of hair. The asari in fact had only one gender, or no gender depending on who you asked. The asari had been the first species to discover other sentient life, the salarians, and therefore were considered one of the most advanced races out of all sentient life currently identified by the galactic community.
Anderson quickly confirmed Rodriguez’s suspicion. “This last creature is the Reaper variant for asari, called banshees. There have been some reports that only one particular type of asari can be turned into these, but we have not been able to confirm this yet. What we do know is that they are very small in number and very difficult to fight against. Banshees utilize a sort of teleportation skill allowing them to make small “jumps” during battle. They use this to get close to whoever they are fighting against, allowing them to execute a fatal attack if they are within arms reach.” Anderson changed the picture to a new one, this time showing a banshee with its mouth open, obviously yelling. “Banshees can be identified by a shrill scream they occasionally do just before attacking- that is how they got their name. Banshees also have a slow, homing ranged attack that can kill most people without kinetic barriers to protect them. In short, Banshees are the Reaper’s special shock troops and are terrifying to face in battle. I have only seen one myself when we were moving to this base, and we only barely managed to take it out with a dozen other marines around, and that was after it had already killed two of us. Any questions?” When Rodriguez shook his head no, Anderson closed the display down. “Then let’s get to your debriefing-”
After thoroughly debriefing Rodriguez about everything that had happened to him after the parking garage incident, right up to and including him reaching the base that they were at now, Anderson gave him a nod. “You did well Major,” he said. “Not many could have gotten into central London like you did, and it’s only gotten harder since you left. I’m heading out to Vancouver for the time being, and I want you to stay here and coordinate the resistance while I’m gone. I know that it’s a big responsibility, but it is one that I think you can handle.” Rodriguez eventually agreed, and that led to over a month of him coordinating resistance maneuvers, base relocation operations, and scouting in the increasingly difficult area to get information out of- London. The entire time the resistance was losing men, and the Reaper force on the planet and in the area merely continued to grow.
Eventually Anderson returned, and he returned with important information: Shepard was returning, and he was bringing a whole armada with him. However they needed to get onto the citadel, because the armada alone wouldn’t be enough to stop the Reapers. That was when Anderson filled the resistance leaders in on the Crucible project. Apparently the Alliance had managed to create a super weapon based on plans made by an ancient civilization. The civilization had apparently been destroyed by the Reapers before it could use this weapon. The problem was that the space station sized weapon needed to connect with the Citadel, another massive space station, to work. Well the Citadel was closed and protected by Reapers in orbit over Earth. It had been moved there just recently, a feat that the Reapers had pulled off before any of the races could react. So they needed a way to get inside and open it again, and that was where scouting London came in. Very few scouts had managed to get information on the reapers out of London since Rodriguez had escaped a month before. The few people that straggled out just talked about massive collections of Reaper forces, and the huge monsters themselves covering the entire city. Not the kind of intelligence they needed, so Anderson had sent a group of his best men in as scouts to try and get better information. None of them could get anywhere close to the center of London where all the activity was, and three died just to get close. That was when Rodriguez volunteered.
The Major and previously leader of the resistance for a period of time had a better time getting in than the rest. He managed to spot the giant lift that the Reapers were using to funnel bodies up to the Citadel. That information was vital to plan the attack, and so Anderson planned Operation Hammer. The idea was that after most of the Reapers on the ground went into space to fight the armada, the resistance would establish a secure forward base for the allied forces in space to sneak ground troops into once the fight began between the armada and the Reapers. Once the forces landed, they would form an attack force to push through the reaper ground troops all the way to the lift. Well, it hadn’t worked out that way. Only about half of the Hammer forces from the armada made it to the ground for the assault, and they had to push through a Reaper destroyer in addition to all the ground forces protecting the lift.
Anderson was about to give the signal for everyone to move out, and they would try, but Rodriguez knew the chances were pretty slim that they would actually be able to get someone onto the Citadel to open it up. He hefted his Black Widow semi-automatic sniper rifle, something he had acquired during his time in the resistance, and turned to look out of his building’s window. The chances were pretty slim; but they would try. As he heard Anderson give the order for the tanks and Hammer troops to advance, he sighted in on his scope to look at one of the Reaper positions setting up to try and stop their push. It was a combined force of cannibals and marauders. Normally a potent threat, to the tanks going along with the Hammer push and the allied troops alongside them, the force lacked any heavy weapons capability beyond grenades, and so Hammer wouldn’t have too much trouble pushing through it.
Rodriguez had gotten himself back to a position he had found while scouting out the lift for Operation Hammer. It was a medium sized building with windows on the second floor for him to see and shoot out of. Right now, it was giving him a great view of the giant white lift leading up to the Citadel, as well as a great view of the Reaper in front of it. Destroyers were the smaller type of Reaper, but usually standing at about one hundred and sixty meters tall, they were still a daunting enemy. A daunting enemy, but a big target. Rodriguez was planning to move ahead of his position once the Hammer troops got there, but until then he couldn’t risk being caught behind enemy lines in an area crawling with Reaper husk variants. Rodriguez turned, hearing multiple explosions between the buildings that he knew Hammer was coming through, Rodriguez headed downstairs to the first floor of his building, making sure to keep out of sight just in case any Reaper forces were around him. He wanted to be available as soon as the troops broke through the building area.
As soon as the first Alliance tank burst out of an alley, Rodriguez left his building and made his way over to where the rest of the Hammer group was filing out. Making sure that they were still intact, Rodriguez told them that he would get himself set up ahead and give them fire support from there. Using the tactics that he had utilized to get into London in the first place, Rodriguez snuck his way past a large amount of Reaper forces to set himself up on the roof of a single story building behind the clearing where the tanks wanted to set up. The tanks and Hammer troops began to move in and encountered the Reaper forces. After taking them out with the help of some well placed shots from Rodriguez, the tanks got in position to fire at the Reaper destroyer. Unfortunately they couldn’t fire yet due to some disturbance caused by the lift, a disturbance that would keep the missiles targeting systems from locking on, effectively making them useless.
The Reapers took this chance to attack, sending wave after wave of husks, cannibals, and brutes to attack the marines defending the tanks. Rodriguez attempted to help, but eventually had to stop because the marines had been overrun, and the tanks destroyed. While the Reaper forces were dismantling the tanks, Rodriguez took the opportunity to move in closer to the lift and the reaper destroyer. Finally someone gave the order to attack the giant machine, and everything from small arms to hand-held missile launchers were directed at the thing and then let go by the Hammer forces that had managed to get in place.
The armor of the Reaper became alight with all the projectiles being fired at it from all angles, but it didn’t seem to take any real damage, and so began directing its giant laser at the attacking positions, taking out most of them immediately. Then Rodriguez saw it directing its fire somewhere else, and it kept firing there for multiple blasts. It was only because Rodriguez was looking there that he saw the missiles, two of the kind that had been mounted on the tanks, fly out and take the Reaper right under the armor where its laser weapon originated. Somebody gave the order, “Give it everything you’ve got.” and the surviving parts of Hammer opened up with their missiles as well, finally bringing down the giant machine. The ground beneath Rodriguez’s feet shook as the shell of the giant Reaper fell to the ground.
Rodriguez stood there for a moment, stunned at actually seeing a Reaper go down. Then he remembered the plan. There was no time for any of the Hammer troops to pick him up, so he simply started running as fast as he could towards the lift. Weaving in and out of buildings and trying to avoid debris and leftover Reaper forces alike, Rodriguez was finally getting in sight of the lift. Approaching it from closer to the left side, Rodriguez could see the rush of Alliance troops to try and get to the lift. It almost looked like they would make it until a Sovereign-class Reaper landed behind the lift. Rodriguez was stunned, and that’s when he heard Anderson over his comm saying, “Hammer squads. Go, go, go!”
They did. Alliance marines, dropships, and tanks all attempted to get to the lift. Rodriguez was now running as well, although he had a slower time due to the wreckage strewn around between him and the lift. The Reaper opened fire with lasers faster than normal. Instead of a long beam with a pause afterward, it fired multiple concentrated beams in succession, taking out most of the forces approaching the lift, including Rodriguez. The Reaper had only scored a glancing blow- the beam had impacted about twenty feet to the marine’s left, but that had been enough to send him flying into a piece of broken metal, almost causing him to faint.
Coughing up blood, and feeling his whole body protest, Rodriguez managed to stumble and pick up his sniper rifle, collapsing onto a girder that gave him a good sight of the entrance to the lift. Rodriguez could see a group of bodies strewn close to the lift entrance from where he was, and he could also see a lone figure limping into the giant white beam. Scoping in, Rodriguez caught the marine stumbling into the lift, looking almost as damaged as the men lying on the ground around the entrance, bleeding. Letting out another cough, which had mostly blood in it, Rodriguez almost let out a sigh of relief- and then he saw one of the prone Alliance forms in front of the lift get up. Losing feeling in his neck, which he knew was a bad sign, Rodriguez couldn’t use his scope to watch as the figure stumbled to his or her feet and, using a pistol, took out a group of husks and then a marauder, alone. Then Rodriguez spotted another hunched form moving towards the figure’s back. Likely injured and focused on the lift, the survivor wasn’t noticing him. Pulling his sniper rifle into place using his leaden arm, Rodriguez tried to move his shaking finger into the trigger guard. Training his sights on the husk running towards the survivor, Rodiguez managed to stabilize enough to make the shot, taking off the head of the running husk.
That was it. The Alliance had two men on the Citadel now. They would succeed in opening the station for the Crucible, and the Reapers would lose. Letting his rapidly numbing arm fall to his side, Rodriguez didn’t even realize that he was on the ground. Turning his head so that he could look at the lift’s white form vanishing into the sky, Rodriguez could only think one thing as his vision slowly faded to black: they had won.