The mission had been a complete clusterfuck.
They'd been sent on one of the first joint quarian-human ventures, a collaborative mission to reclaim enslaved soldiers from turian-controlled space. The target was supposed to have been a relatively unguarded slave camp, used for labour and little else.
Jenkins grunts, twisting in the restraints that securely hold his body, slamming his head back against the wall of his cell as his efforts are once again proved useless. The Alliance was growing more desperate; more and more humans were being captured by the damned Citadel races. They hadn’t expected an inspection of the facilities by asari overseers to be conducted on the same day. The inclusion of those extra soldiers, powerful biotics, had overwhelmed their small task force, easily subduing them.
Captured by fucking asari, possibly the worst thing that could have happened. He was collared and bound, separated from the other captured soldiers. He now regrets his ambitions to become an Alliance officer. He suspects that the blue bitches would be on to him for his intel anytime now. His thoughts were suddenly proved correct when he heard the door at the end of the block open, light flooding the dimly lit hallway. Jenkins breathed in deeply, reminding himself that he was an Alliance lieutenant and could handle anything these blue bitches could throw at him. The door closed, leaving the cells dimly lit once more.
What he is not expecting is another human to slip around the corner in view of his cell, dressed only in the black underwear and boots all asari slaves are, a thick slave collar locked around his neck. Jenkins can’t hold back a gasp when the man turns around, revealing the barcode tattooed across his chest and slave brand upon his forehead; he knows this man.
“Alenko? What the fuck did they do to you?!” He knows he’s loud, he can’t help it! One of the missing Normandy officers is here! If they managed an extraction, this mission would be totally worth it!
Kaidan holds a finger to his lips, looking incredibly anxious as he nervously glances back at the entrance. “Please, Richard, if they catch me…”
“You’ve been missing for fucking years; how have you survived?” He heeds Kaidan’s warning, lowering his voice to a hiss. This is a fucking miracle! Lieutenant Alenko and Commander Shepard had been captured nearly four years ago, a rescue mission that went wrong. The two men had single-handedly held off Turian forces, allowing the Normandy to escape with almost all of her crew intact. Both were considered fucking heroes back home. And oh, the opportunity to bring one of them home after all this time...
“I want to get out of here but this fucking thing is locked on,” Alenko said, his hand flicking nervously to his neck. The light from the locked collar seems to mock them. “I can’t get you out right now and I can’t get this collar off. Is there back-up coming? Or we can get a signal out to any allies in the area?”
Jenkins frowns. There was a backup-crew --a small contingent of krogan-- but that piece of intel was meant to be kept under wraps, not to be divulged in any circumstances. He sighs, then shakes his head, averting his eyes. He really can’t tell the biotic, no matter how much he wants to. “No, this was a volunteer mission. No backups if we got captured.”
The biotic rocks back on his heels, his eyes darting back to the entrance. He looks positively frantic, on the verge of a panic attack. “Is there really no-one else coming?”
He sighs. It's the sight of the other human, looking so desperate to be rescued, that gets to him. He can’t really imagine what Kaidan has been through these past few years. Jenkins tries to imagine what it would feel like to be enslaved for so long and to have freedom so close but so far. Closing his eyes, he makes his decision. “There’s a second force, some krogan shock troops. They’ve been instructed to wait for orders in the Nura system, somewhere near Oma Kur.”
Alenko’s eyes open wide; something that Jenkins thinks is hope crosses his marked face. “Are you sure?”
He nods, smiling slightly. It seems he has given the other man a little bit of hope. His nightmare will be over soon. “Yes, they were instructed to wait for a few standard hours before heading in.”
“A few hours?” The biotic frowns. “Please, Richard...you can’t be more specific? I don’t know how much time I have.”
Jenkins feels his heart clench, sympathy for the biotic foregrounded in his mind. He actually doesn’t know any more. His instructions upon capture were to hold tight if possible. Then everything that he understood about Kaidan is shattered in an instant.
He watches it, as if the world has turned to slow motion: the panicked expression on Alenko’s marked face smooths as he stands and walks serenely out of view. Jenkins hears four knocks on the entrance, the biotic’s calm voice loudly calling out, “Master, I found something.”
The sound of the entrance chills him. Jenkins shivers, the moment seeming to stretch on forever. Finally, one of the blue bitches walks into the room and stops outside his cell. He stares, acutely feeling the bondage that holds him in place and the feel of the slave collar around his neck. His voice is stuck in his throat, and he feels an absurd urge to cry.
“Councillor Tevos was right.” She clicks her fingers, then points at the floor beside her, smirking at Richard as she does so.
Kaidan obeys without hesitation, returning to Richard’s line of sight and kneeling in front of the alien. The asari reaches out as if the man is a dog, patting him on the head. Alenko leans into the touch likes he adores the fucking bitch. “Report SL12-B.”
He watches in disbelief, feeling the gorge rise in his throat. He just can’t fathom the sight in front of him. One of the Alliance's most powerful men, an incredible biotic, sitting on his knees like a dog, betraying everything they stood for. He stares at the asari brand on the man’s forehead as he talks, repeating the information that Richard himself had just given him.
“Alenko!? What are you doing??” Jenkins finally finds his voice, though it’s harsh, a battle to even speak. “We were in the Alliance together!” And you just betrayed us all. Why Alenko...why??
“Is that true?”
The biotic nods. The asari bitch has a hand resting on his head, and she smiles, though it doesn’t reassure Jenkins in the slightest.
“Don't worry too much. This one fought for months against everything we did to him. Now though...” The asari reaches down and unlocks the slave collar. He wants the other man to fight, needs him to prove that he’s still an Alliance man, to use the opportunity to activate his biotics and kill the blue bitch.
Instead, Alenko shivers, eyes flicking towards the collar like he needs the foul thing back on. A whimper escapes from his throat; he looks like he’s about to start begging the alien to recollar him.
The blue bitch shows the unlocked collar to Jenkins, smirking. “Now he’s just chattel, property of the Asari Empire. As you are.”
Richard moans, sickened beyond belief. Rumours of the asari mind meld come unbidden to his thoughts. The Alliance had had theories on how the asari could meld with biotics of other races. Apparently they could even fuck with a non-biotics head, but this…this is worse than he could have ever imagined. One of the Normandy heroes, reduced to this shaking, whimpering slave...If this could happen to Alenko, then he has no fucking hope. Jenkins slumps against the restraints, already on his way to having his will broken.
The bitch replaces the collar on Alenko’s neck and he watches the man relax, shivering as the collar locks itself back into his implant. The light on the collar turns on, indicating it was active.
The asari turns her eyes back on him. “Don’t worry. I don’t intend to do the same to you. Takes too much time and effort. All I want from you is for you to tell me what you know. How much it hurts, well, that’s up to you.”
“SL12-B.” She points at the back of the corridor behind them. “Watch.”
There is no hesitation in Alenko obeying.
Operation Valiant was meant to be one of humanity’s crowning achievements. Less than a week ago, a delegation of their finest military minds and scientists had been sent to the massive station known as the Citadel to negotiate a peace. They had been lured into the heart of the Asari-Turian Empire on the premise of an alliance, an invitation into the greatest empire in this galaxy. They had instead been betrayed. Rather than organising a peace, they had been stripped down like animals, paraded like spoils of war; their humiliation and capture had been broadcasted back to the Alliance.
Shepard had forced himself to watch the entire vid, almost snarling at the degradation of some of the finest people humanity had to offer. He volunteered without hesitation to mount the rescue mission. He hadn’t been alone either, some of the best soldiers the Alliance had to offer were with him, and within less than a day, the Normandy SR-1 had been prepped for departure. The state-of-the-art stealth vessel was crucial for their mission of infiltrating the Citadel.
That mission had been a complete failure.
-Approximately four years earlier-
“Adams, give me a status report.”
“Not good, Commander. The IES is almost full. We’ll need to vent it soon, or risk damage to the Normandy. And well...us.”
Shepard swore. They were only at the Annos Basin cluster, still too far for backup from the Allied Forces to arrive. Venting now would give their locations away to any enemy ships in the area. And considering the statement that they had made on the Destiny Ascension during their attempt of infiltrating the Citadel...it was too much to hope that the Asari-Turian Empire had merely given up on pursuing them. Especially when the assholes knew that they had effectively blocked the Normandy from using the relay in the Widow System.
“Expel the sink. We’ll just have to rely on the drive core to get us out of here. Head straight towards the Pranas Mass Relay.”
Though there had been nothing to physically show that the IES had been purged, Shepard swore he felt the cockpit grow colder.
“Alenko, Williams,” Shepard switched on his communications to the two Marines waiting in the cargo bay, heading down to meet them. “Get the rest of the Marines in armour and weapons at the ready. I’m not letting the alien assholes catch us with our pants down.”
He’d barely made it to the cargo bay before Joker was back on communications.
“Turian frigates just came in range of the sensors, Shepard. Looks like there are approximately three on LADAR.”
Shepard grimaced, his armour clicked into place. He had been hoping for more time. “Of course, it’s fucking turians!” Growling under his breath, he readied his Black Widow, snapping it to his shoulder. “What else would it be?”
Alenko and Williams were already ready with a contingent of Marines. The sentinel was already flaring slightly, and Shepard found himself sharing a smile with the other man.
The moment was broken. A deafening squeal ran through the bulkheads causing all the Marines to flinch. Then everything that wasn’t strapped down seemed to spiral as the Normandy’s artificial gravity failed. Shepard and several other bodies were slammed against the cargo bay before the gravity managed to right itself. He winced, picking himself off the floor. What the fuck had that been?
“Everyone okay?” Alenko’s voice called out from across the bay and several voices answered in affirmative.
Joker’s voice crackled over the main system, “We’re going to need to make an emergency landing, Commander! The turians hit us with something that’s fried several of our systems.”
“Fuck, is there a suitable option near?” Shepard clicked his breather helmet into place, checking his guns for damage.
“Got us a nice asteroid, Commander. Can’t promise the landing is gonna be soft though.”
“Do it, Flight-Lieutenant.” He then turned to address the team of marines in front of him. “Right, once the Normandy lands, take defensive positions. We do whatever it takes to make sure the Normandy doesn’t end up in turian hands. Understood?”
There were more than he had expected.
Flaring his biotics, he made sure the assholes noticed him. From what intel said, biotics were of interest to the fuckers. Well then, he’d make sure to be very interesting indeed.
Anything to make sure as many as possible of as his crew got home safely. With what happened to the delegation...well that was a fate he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. And the Normandy...well, there was no way he was going to leave the most advanced warship of the Alliance in enemy hands.
“Joker! Status report on repairs!”
“Engineering reports fifteen minutes until the core is operational again.” The pilot sounded a bit frazzled. The ship only had one working turret for the moment.
Shepard swore under his breath. That was a hell of a long time on the battlefield. They could do it, though. He smirked as a few shields on the aliens suddenly failed, courtesy of the sentinel on the ground. Williams had already taken a few out, her skill with her shotgun and grenades impressive. He himself lined up some shots on what seemed to be key members of the current ground forces.
“Lieutenant!” Shepard yelled as an explosion detonated around where he knew the sentinel had been. Waiting for his cooldown to finish, John waited anxiously to hear Alenko respond. Anderson would kill him if he lost the other biotic.
It was a few anxious moments before, “It’s okay, I’m okay, sir.”
Shepard sighed in relief but frowned at the sound of Alenko coughing through his earpiece.
Kaidan continued, “Fucking turian bastard crept up on me. Watch out: they’re beginning to try to flank us.”
“We’ve lost contact with Alenko, sir!”
Ashley’s voice reverberated inside his helmet and he felt his chest constrict. Refocusing himself, Shepard threw his biotic field over his cover, grinning when the shock knocked over some turian soldiers. Fuck but he couldn’t concern himself with individuals right now. The Normandy was what mattered: getting time for those repairs to be concluded, buying time in whatever way possible.
“We’ll find him later, Williams.” Shepard hated himself for what he was about to say. “Focus on defending the Normandy. We can’t let these assholes take her.”
He could tell from Ashley’s tone that the gunnery chief wasn’t happy, but he knew he could count on her to follow orders.
“Status report on those repairs, Joker!”
“Engineering reports five minutes.”
He let himself breathe for a moment. They could do this.
The turians just seemed to keep on coming.
“Just how many of these fuckers are there?!” Shepard knew he had to retreat. He switched to his pistol, moving away from the position they were converging on. He had one chance to make it and by god, he was going to take it.
He ran, biotics flashing as he worked his way through the lower grunts. Brilliant blue wisps caused death on the battlefield, each one a step closer to the Normandy. Pistol, warps, singularities, everything he had, he threw it at the enemy. If he had to go down, he was going to take as many of these assholes as possible down with him.
Desperation clawed at him, the amp on his neck growing hot as he refused to pay attention to cool down times. He could deal with the consequences later, when he was back on board the Normandy.
Finding a suitable rocky outcropping to hide in, John let himself breathe for a moment, just one moment. Taking the Black Widow out, he spied down the scope. Then he swore profusely as he spied armour with a distinctive winged symbol. Fucking Spectres!
Taking another look, Shepard let loose a colourful string of swear words as he spied the distinctive markings on the two. Saren Arterius, well known to be prejudiced against humans, and Nihlus Kryik, his protege. His chances of escape had just dwindled significantly.
“Normandy? Come in, status report.”
“Engines are good to go, sir,” Joker stated.
Shepard nodded to himself, taking a deep breath at what he going to say, what he was about to do. “If there are any troops in the immediate vicinity, recall them immediately. You have one minute and then get the Normandy out of here. Anyone who doesn’t make it gets left behind.”
He could hear the silence from the other side of the comm. Joker knew how far away he was, the situation he was in.
Shepard nodded, satisfied that the flight lieutenant would follow his orders. Possibly his last orders.
“Give them hell, Shepard.”
He cut his communication from the ship and focused on the field in front of him. His biotics were almost off-line at this point. Shepard steadied himself before opening fire once more.
Exhausted, he didn’t notice the combat drone behind him until it was too late. It overloaded his shielding before he had a chance to take it down, and that was when Saren and Nihlus moved in tandem.
Nihlus was fast, faster than he had ever seen one of these bastards move before. He followed the drones overload with a taser, and John didn’t even get a chance to scream. It felt as though a live wire to attached directly into his nerves, and Shepard’s body convulsed as the violent electrical current pulsed through him. It couldn’t have lasted for more than a few seconds, but it was enough.
Gasping as the current finally let up, Shepard tried to get up. His eyes swam from the shock of the electrical charge and he was momentarily helpless, limbs weakened and still lightly spasmining.
Saren was there now, removing his helmet and holding him in place by his head. He could feel the spectre fiddling with his implant, removing the biotic amp. Vision came back into focus as Nihlus approached from the other side, swiftly taking out and opening a suppression collar. The front was held against his throat and the other was snapped into place behind him.
He didn’t think he would ever forget that sound.
Shepard twitched, feeling the collar attach itself into the amp at the back of his neck, and screamed. His biotic field collapsed, leaving him breathless. The sensation made him want to dry retch.
Saren was talking to Nihlus, saying something, but John could barely hear him. The shock of losing his biotics made him unusually pliant, the two turian spectres easily subduing him, expertly wrapping a cord around his throat then tying his hands behind his back. For the moment, his feet were free, but that wouldn’t do him much good.
They tugged him upright and pulled him towards a waiting ship. All Shepard could do was hope that most of the crew had made it aboard, that the Normandy had indeed managed to clear the system, that his sacrifice had not been made in vain.