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Endgame

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Major Persaud’s ‘simple mission’ had been anything fucking but: getting supplies to the Resistance back on Earth. On the upside, at least the arsehole had been upfront. There was a very high chance that this was a one-way trip. With no guarantee of an extraction window, who knew how long they’d be stuck on Earth.

He was surprised that Kaemus accepted. Zaeed knew he wouldn’t want to be stuck on Palaven, wondering when the food would run out. Kaemus had merely shrugged and asked if Jisseya would be tagging along.

Buksor had been in, but for entirely different reasons. “Earth got hit first. Do you know how many motherfuckers I can shoot?” Hell, Zaeed had no idea she even knew that word, but damn if she didn’t sound gleeful saying it.

All Jisseya had done was give a terse nod in agreement. “Thessia’s already a fucking write off. Too many old, rich bitches clinging to their superiority and their past. Feel like this is the time they blasted off their stupid crests. Your planet should at least get a shot.”

Laerdol, the smarmy little shit, had found Zaeed first. He had some new scars, a crooked horn and a fat lip. But there was something a little different about him now, especially with him wearing a sleek black and teal STG uniform. His voice was pure steel when he came to them with an offer from his captain: they would team up and fly them since they were headed to the same place anyhow. “Besides, can you even say that the Alliance won’t give you a joke of a ship? We have better.”

To be honest, Zaeed was wondering how Laerdol wound up in STG but he wasn’t gonna question this too much. It was saving him a world of headache. When they were escorted onto the ship’s hold, Zaeed had a deep sense of deja vu cause it looked like this STG unit somehow had a damned carbon copy of the Normandy. Any bet he could navigate this ship blindfolded.

He was watching the Alliance supplies get loaded up when a voice by the elevator caught his attention. Everything about the salarian there screamed ‘leader’ from the easy posture to the sleek black matte armour. It make the skin colouration all the more striking. The deep green of his horns fading down to the paler green of his lower face and tipped off with veins of light orange between deep green patches. Once the salarian spotted them, he came over and briskly shook Zaeed’s hand.

“Captain Kirrahe, STG. Hope you don’t mind us giving you a lift. We’re headed to Earth anyhow, with a brief stop at Sur’Kesh.”

“No skin off our backs,” Zaeed shrugged. “This bucket going soon?”

“Right now actually. I’ll fill you in once we’ve left Sur’Kesh. In the meantime, make yourselves comfortable. Might be the last time you get it for a long while.”

Sometimes, Zaeed would kill for someone to not be cryptic and just get everything out at the get-go. The few salarians in the cargo bay watched as they plunked themselves down on cargo crates.

“Last I heard on the Citadel,” Kaemus sighed. “There were rumours of the Alliance fleet amassing in the Horsehead Nebula. Whatever the Alliance is up to, it’s big.”

Zaeed grunted. “Means Shepard is gonna be there.”

There was silence between them for a moment before Kaemus said quietly, “This is it, isn’t it?”

“Maybe. Probably.” Buksor drummed her fingers on her arm before she shook her head. “We’ll find out at our pitstop.”

Getting to the pitstop didn’t take too long. But when Zaeed peered out, the STG base was a hive of activity. The crates of supplies loaded on did make Zaeed wonder why they were bringing so much for two small regiments. With the Alliance supplies, it would feed this ship twice over for almost a year. Once the ship was underway, Kirrahe gathered everyone in the cargo hold and Zaeed got that explanation.

“As of an hour ago, the Citadel was taken by Reaper forces,” not a damn peep out of anyone, it was a testament to how Kirrahe ran his ship. “All intel and the projected trajetory along relays seems to indicate their destination is the planet Earth in the Sol system. As of thirty minutes ago, the Alliance fleet made a push against a Cerberus base in the Fortuna system. Initial reports indicate that it is the base that the terrorist known as the Illusive Man was operating from.”

Zaeed really hoped that Shepard tore that raging arsehole a huge new one. The undercurrent to the silence shifted as Kirrahe clasped his hands behind his back, studying his troops for a few minutes.

“Make no mistake: this is the endgame. The fight for the galaxy will be fought on Terran soil. Commander Shepard was there when we infiltrated Saren’s base, went far above the call of duty. I could do no less than to return the favour to them now. Especially now, because I will not let the politics of the dalatrasses seal the fate of salarians. We will do out part to help hold the line and we will either win and end the Reapers once and for all or history shall know that salarians fought to the last alongside so many others.”

Huh, Kirrahe really didn’t mince words. Though, those words sounded an awful lot like the sort of speech that Shepard would make. Zaeed absently watched Kirrahe move through his men, talking quietly. The Reapers had the Citadel and were taking it to Earth. If the fighting there was already shit, then it was gonna be nothing short of Hell real soon. Fuck, anything else would have been better than what was no awaiting them. Like a little house by a lake. There’d be a creaky old dock, paint peeling from the sun-warmed wood. Just fishing off the end of the dock in peace and goddamn quiet. ‘Javik would probably hate that.’ Yeah, he would cause there was still the bunker, with the pods that were still patiently waiting. It had been so many dreams before the location solidified in his min. Hell, as far as he knew, the system didn’t have a name, just a bunch of fucking letters and numbers for a designation. But the damn place was about a month and a half’s travel out from the rim of the galactic core because that area was inaccessible as shit.

“Zaeed Massani?”

He looked up to find a salarian standing in front of him. “Yeah?”

“Captain Kirrahe would like you to know that you and your team are welcome to our data feeds and that he would like to speak to you all at your earliest convenience.” The salarian seemed like he’d rather shoot Zaeed than talk to him.

All Zaeed did was nod and look away, waiting to be left alone. As soon as the salarian was gone, he pulled up his omni-tool and started through the feeds. Hell, everyone else was already doing that, probably while he was sitting there thinking. Shit, as if Earth wasn’t already in chaos, reports were flooding in that the Reapers were already building something massive and ramping up harvesting. With it this bad, he knew Shepard was gonna come charging in at some point to play the big goddamn hero. The only question was when.

When he closed his omni-tool, he took in the grim expression on everyone’s face. Shit, might as well go and get that talk done and over with now. Kirrahe was in his quarters and granted them access immediately, even though he was on a shaky looking call. The image of Admiral Anderson flickered in and out.

“We’ve set up a FOB and are holding it for the moment. Commander Shepard is en route but is encountering plenty of Reaper patrols. They estimate their earliest arrival is—” there was a few moment of static before it resumed. “— Man is currently missing—”

“Repeat again.”

“Shepard’s arriving in 24 hours hopefully. The Illusive Man is currently missing, no idea where. We need to hold out until Shepard arrives.”

“Agreed.” Kirrahe gestured for them to step forward. “I have one of Shepard’s former squadmates here. I’m sure Major Persaud will forgive me for snatching someone competent to ensure we all reach the base and you get your needed supplies.”

“Zaeed Massani,” Anderson sounded impressed. “Shouldn’t be surprised you’re still kicking.”

“Heard you fellas have some things that need shooting,” Zaeed jerked his thumb behind him. “Just the four of us but we’ll fuck up anything you point us at.”

“Just what we need. Kirrahe can—” the line cut out for a bit. “—Out with whatever you need.”

“I’m gonna assume you’re giving us shit to shoot at things, yeah?” when Anderson nodded, Zaeed grunted. “Good. Kirrahe can fill us in on your little chat. Save us some big ones, Buksor will like that.”

The low chuckle from behind did make Anderson smile a bit. “Will do. Over and out.”

“We’re delivering the supplies to these co-ordinates,” Kirrahe brought up his omni-tool, sending them the numbers. “An escort will meet us there and our main goal is to get as much to the FOB as possible with as many people as possible,” he brought up a new set of data feeds. “The Reapers have been bringing in troops and the fighting has been intensifying as they spread out from the urban centers to the countryside.”

Great, that probably meant massive hordes of husks in the very least. Zaeed recalled half the info he saw in the feeds.

“When are the Reapers expected to arrive in the Sol system?”

“Current projections show that it should be in six hours. We’re aiming to beat them there before the planet is blockaded. Laerdol is gunning to get us there before it does. He’ll hopefully be our extraction, so I’m sending him to hide for as long as he can in the dark of one of Jupiter’s moons.” Kirrahe looked between them all. “I’m going to be blunt: I’ve never really been a fan of mercs. Too prone to do their own thing, break rank and just cause a lot of chaos. But you worked with Commander Shepard. And quite frankly, I think salarians could use a little more chaos with how we fight.”

“You got a point to this?” Zaeed was starting to wonder.

All Kirrahe did was grin. “Show us how to really fuck things up.”

Buksor started laughing, earning a look from everyone. She shook her head, her yellow eyes fixed right on Kirrahe. “Stick with me and we’ll see if you survive.”

“Can’t argue that. You kicked a damned Ravager to shoot a Banshee.” Zaeed shook his head. “You want all your boys to get a lesson?”

The rest of the flight down was spent down in cargo hold, divvying up the troops into the most effective teams. Some looked pleased to be given such free reign. Other looked distinctly unpleased. Zaeed said it before and he would definitely say it again: salarian tactics fell firmly in two camps - those who toed the line and those who really got shit done.

With everything in such chaos, Zaeed liked Kirrahe’s plan to keep things simple. Two teams to escort the supplies on modified maglifts so they didn’t have to waste time loading it up. It would be attached to the back of the vehicles and secured as best they could before they headed for the base.

The theory was keeping it simple gave them more flexibility once they were actually on the ground.

Thank fucking god for simple plans.

When they arrived on Earth, Laerdol was dodging and weaving the ship through heavy fire from ground troops and smaller AA cannons and landing just in decimated city block that was relatively flat where the ground escort vehicles waited. Zaeed barely had time to take in the sight of the ruined London skyline where he was born, dominated by a three strange spires and a column of glowing white light of some sort off in the distance. The supplies were taken off, tethered onto the ground vehicles and no sooner had the vehicles started forward that the fighting started.

Maybe they lucked out, hitting a lull when they landed. But when the first husks crested over the hill of rubble, their moans drowned out by the howl of Cannibals he honestly was worried that for the first time in his life maybe he didn’t have nearly enough heatsinks.

The push to the FOB was long and bloody, with Reapers throwing damned near everything at them and with Marauders swarming up to direct the battlefield. Didn’t help one damned bit that Buksor took the appearance of every Brute as a personal affront. Zaeed would fully admit it was a hell of a sight to see Buksor charge at the Brutes, some screaming salarians right behind to back her up. Thankfully, no Banshees came their way and they all took a sigh of relief once the FOB door slammed shut behind them.

Everything was covered in a fine layer of ash and grime, a perpetual stink of burnt settled firmly in the air. Zaeed turned to survey their little convoy and was surprised to see everyone was still there. He’d take it as the minor miracle it was.

Kirrahe was being approached by a stern faced man, who shook his hand.

“Major Coats. Can’t tell you how glad I am to see some you guys. We’ve got some accomodation lined up for you. Not the best but—”

“Major Kirrahe, STG. Not to worry Major,” Kirrahe gave a terse nod. “We can go for another ten hours before my teams will need to rest again.”

“Speak for yourself. I ain’t got your metabolism.” Zaeed felt like he needed a hot bath and a good sleep. He’d be lucky to get any sleep.

“Course, if you give me a moment Major,” Coats turned to Zaeed. “There’s four people in your squad?”

“Yeah,” Zaeed could hear them sauntering over to flank him. “Me, and this lot.”

Coats was silent for a moment as he took them in. “Right, we have food and somewhere to sleep in that building there. Would I be right in assuming that you lead this team, Mr Massani?”

Zaeed eyed the man, wondering who was saying his damned name. It was Jisseya, voice thick with amusement who spoke.

“It would be him. Do we get to watch him get strung up?”

Coats gave an amused huff. “Admiral Anderson would like to speak to you at your earliest convenience.” Coats gestured to the remains of a building. “Commander Shepard is due to arrive within the next twelve hours and we’re receiving reports that the Reapers have just arrived in the Sol system with the Citadel.”

No fucking rest yet it would seem. “You guys go on. I’ll see what the hell Anderson wants.”

“Can do. Got anything dextro?” Kaemus asked.

“We do, General Victus arrived two days ago. Speak to Quartermaster Arcanus, he’ll set you up.”

“I’ll have whatever the hell you guys are having. So long as it’s food, I don’t care.” Jisseya admitted. “C’mon Kae.”

Zaeed turned to watch them go, before looking at Buksor and raising a brow . All she did was cross her arms and stare him down. Okay then. Zaeed nodded to the Major and set off for the building, his unexpected partner in tow. Everybody was too busy with their own shit to bother with a human and krogan heading to the main operations of the base.

There was a table with a holo-layout and standing in front of it, talking to some grunt was Anderson. The guy looked tired, beyond that even. Like he’d punched tired in its damn face and was going through sheer force of will. When he spotted Zaeed, he came over, shaking his hand.

“Zaeed Massani, just the person we need,” Anderson glanced over, offering his hand. “And Buksor Rulaka. Your reputation precedes you.”

“Didn’t think you Alliance types gave a shit about krogan mercs.” Buksor sounded skeptical.

“I give a shit about competency and ability. Persaud forwarded your mission reports to me and your team is just what we need now. You four have proven yourselves to be highly effect against Reaper troops and we need that to help secure the base. We fully expect an assault on the base when Commander Shepard shows up. We’re getting reports that the Reapers are setting up Hades cannons on Reaper destroyers.”

“Those are some big AA guns,” Zaeed could see that easily enough. “And you want them taken out.”

“Precisely. Rest up for now. Once we get more intel, we’re gonna take out as many of those things as we can.”

Anderson had already turned his attention to something else and Zaeed was more than happy to get something to eat and catch some sleep in a relatively secure location. Buksor’s chuckle did make him wonder though. At least, until she explained.

“You really picked a hell of a mission from Persaud.”

“Yeah,” Zaeed shrugged. “At least we’re not with those poor sods still on the Citadel.”

Buksor gave a thoughtful ‘hm’ before she shrugged. “Nothing to do about that now. We got some AA guns to take down later. Who do you think will lose their shit, Jisseya or Kaemus?”

“20 creds says Jisseya just wants it done and over with and Kaemus takes it as a challenge.”

What did get everyone to look was Buksor’s deep, booming laugh.

________________________________________________

Shepard was running late, dodging the ever increasing Reaper patrols. Zaeed and his squad had left with two other Alliance ones. Their singular goal had been to take down as many AA towers as possible. The Reapers had managed to get four up and running. They managed to take down two through some of the hairiest fighting Zaeed had ever experienced in his life.

Jisseya was nearly blinded, her face gouged up by a Marauder and Kaemus was still in emergency surgery, getting the remains of his lower left leg amputated. Buksor had some new scars and some nasty, seeping gouges on her back from when Husks tried to swarm her. Not to mention her smashed shoulder from when a Brute had clobbered her into the ground. Zaeed… he had enough burns from weapons fire and why Cannibals suddenly decided he made a great snack was fucking beyond him. Literal chunks of him were missing in spots and he was trying real hard to not think, ‘zombie infection’.

But even injured, they still achieved the mission objectives, destroyed their opponents with that ever lovely Cain and somehow managed to limp their busted asses back to base.

And all the people on base decided their new call sign: RK. Zaeed would admit, it was shorter and to the point, but ‘Reaper Killers’ had a nicer ring to it.

They had just gotten Kaemus finished up when the news came in. Commander Shepard had arrived, with a massive fucking fleet behind them and the Battle for Earth had started.

Really explained why Zaeed was here on the farthest side by operations, manning the shit out of a turret while Reaper forces tried to take the base. Tried being the operative word. They were raining down enough heavy fire that even the Marauders were trying to thin out their defenses by sending waves of Husks and Cannibals while the Brutes held back.

Not that it mattered because Zaeed was mowing down Husks before sniping at the Brutes with turret. He already dropped three of them, but he could see some more approaching off in the distance to support the remaining two. His arms were sore and his teeth felt like they were still chattering from the vibration of the turret gun when the Reaper forces suddenly pulled back. Zaeed stayed on that gun for another twenty minutes, absolutely convinced that the damn things were just waiting for them to let their guard down. It was another ten before someone came to get him, said there was a QEC call for him.

He hopped down, still feeling the phantom recoil in the arms as he went to the damn room, surprised as all hell to see Shepard here. If Shepard was here, that mean Javik was probably floating around somewhere. He honestly couldn’t remember half his conversation with Shepard. He was already half distracted and keyed up from so much fighting for so long. As soon as Shepard was gone, he looked at the QEC operator.

“You see a surly looking bug in massive armour anywhere?”

“Uh,” the lady looked perplexed. “Got a name?”

“Javik. Prothean.”

That cleared shit up as she nodded. “Yeah, I think I heard they were by the krogan troops, talking to Urdnot Wrex.”

“Thanks.”

That wasn’t to say that Zaeed wasn’t hotfooting it, but who the fuck knew when all these troops would be thrown against the Reapers. He wove through the base, coming up a sloping hill of rubble to find Javik talking to Wrex. Down below, krogan troops were milling about, a palable air of excitement around them. When Javik saw him, he said something that made Wrex snort and laugh but wave him off.

Privacy was something of an illusion here with practically no ceilings and half destroyed walls. But Zaeed would take it. When they were alone, Javik looked right at him, gaze unwavering.

“I do not care what it takes. Survive.”

Zaeed chuckled at that, offering his hand. Javik was surprisingly gentle as he clasped it and shit, Zaeed was laughing even harder now. Seemed that Javik had the same idea, even if it meant shooting Harbinger in the face himself. Pretty much the same idea Zaeed himself had to. He had already intended to do as Javik asked; he survived the Omega 4 relay, enough insane missions that he had a squad with a frankly insane moniker and more than enough reasons to actually consider a retirement plan that didn’t involve dying. He had no illusions, he very well could die out there somewhere, but it would be through no damn fault of his own.

Hell of a time to figure this shit out though.

“I plan on insisting the Commander take me with them on the final push.” Javik’s expression was thoughtful. “I…”

Javik’s words trailed off, but Zaeed could pick up some hazy impressions but the overwhelming feelings were imperative. Surivive. Afterwards. Hell, same damn shit he was trying to figure out.

“You survive. Kill those motherfuckers and give ‘em a bullet for their funeral,” Javik’s chuckle was low and Zaeed could help but draw him in, those smooth thin lips giving a vicious grin. “One for the road, eh?”

If any krogan heard, hell if anyone else heard, Zaeed really didn’t care. Neither did Javik for that matter, that much he could feel.

_________________________________________

It was beyond anything Zaeed thought he ever knew. Once the push from the FOB began, it seemed like the Reapers threw everything they had at them. With Kaemus out of commission, Jisseya seemed a little more brutal, tangling with Banshees with extreme efficiency. While she couldn’t Warp to save her life, she used that Warp ammo with extreme prejudice. Between the three of them, they managed to carve a path for the team they were leading. There were still some fortifications that needed to come down, so naturally that was when they ran into some Brutes.

Fighting Brutes in close quarters was something that Zaeed didn’t care to repeat. Especially since Buksor seemed to like jumping on the back of one and letting the others attempt to smash her off.

It worked great until it didn’t and Zaeed had to do the batshit crazy thing of charging in, managing to get a grenade down it’s throat and barely having time to drag Buksor away from the messy explosion.

“You fucking lunatic!” Jisseya looked like she could murder Buksor herself. “Are you trying to get us all killed?”

Buksor just stood up with a laugh. “Where those Alliance children at?”

“Giving your insane asses cover fire, Jesus fucking Christ!” a beleaguered soldier fired back from around cover as they dispatched some Husks.

“That’s it for—”

A loud reverberating boom came, and they all looked up to see a Reaper land by the glowing white column of light. Zaeed knew that fucker, those orange eyes were familiar when they kept targeting your squad leader. Harbinger. Right where Shepard and Javik were. Shit shit shit.

But then came the slicing red of the laser and then Harbinger was flying off. Rage just coursed through Zaeed then. He didn’t want to think about how Shepard took Javik with them on the final push, or what Harbinger landing and then taking off not even a minute later could have truly meant.

Javik would survive. He could. He would. He fucking, bloody well would.

It was the only thing running through his head as they pressed on. The team managed to reach the ruined office building where the Marauders were bunkered up and directing forces. It meant that the second Zaeed got his team in there, he was dispatching any Reaper trooper he saw. Bullet or blade it didn’t matter. They died. Their fucking funeral for thinking they were gonna stop him now.

Shepard had always said his rage was gonna get him killed. Maybe that’s why he didn’t spot the trip mine in the rubble scattered about. He simply registered the click of something and then he heard and felt the explosion, sending him flying backwards. Jisseya ran forward and caught him, as he tried to sit up.

“You lot, keep them off us,” she turned her attention to him as the team fanned protectively around them. “You fucking idiot, had to go and match Kaemus didn’t you?”

Zaeed just stared at her, the echo of gunfire sounding strangely distant. And was that a leg over there? His eyes widened as he took in the shredded yellow armour and the remnants of a boot. Shit that was…

The pain was quickly cutting through the haze of confusion and making everything crystal clear. Jisseya was doing something to his leg, probably tying it off to stop his dumbass from bleeding out. If blood loss didn’t get him, sepsis just might. He brought up his gun and plugged an approaching Cannibal right between its damned eyes.

“Go,” Zaeed didn’t have to look down to know that his leg was mangled. “I’m —”

Jisseya flared, powerful biotics crackling off her. “You shut your goddamn fool of a fucking mouth Zaeed Massani. Buksor, get your insane ass over here!”

Never in his life did Zaeed think he’d be strapped to the back of a krogan and still shooting for all he was worth. Not that it was much, even with the ragged stump of his leg tied off tight. They somehow managed to clear the base and once they got a moment, the Alliance medic came over, the worry plain as day all over their face.

“It’s bad,” they were pulling out medi-gel packets and smearing it on his stump and goddamn if it didn’t have him clenching his teeth hard to keep from making noise. “We need to get you back to base ASAP. God knows you have an infection now.”

Zaeed gave a snort, shivering involuntarily. “Still got one base left to clear.”

“I’ll take him back.” Buksor began.

“No you won’t you’ll —” Zaeed glared as Jisseya yanked the gun from his hand but paused when she got right in his face.

“Buksor is taking you back! Fucking dipshit asshole.” She looked at the rest of the Alliance troops. “We got one more base to deal with boys and we’re gonna fucking do it.”

Not that it mattered anyway, because up in the sky, a bright bubble of red light swelled, growing so rapidly that Zaeed was sure he was hallucinating. But it burst out, sweeping over everything and the Reaper forces literally dropped where they stood. There were a few staccato bursts of gunfire, the echoing boom of the skyscraper tall Reapers falling, dust clouds rushing out from the impact. And then quiet came in. Just an eerie silence and fallen non-responsive Reaper troops everywhere. Even when Jisseya hustled them back to the base, it was with guns up and ready for the smallest sign of trouble.

All they saw were other confused soldiers, doing sweeps and trying to figure out the sudden stop to the Reapers. Not that Zaeed could really tell, everything was going fuzzy and murky and it took Jisseya slapping his face a few times to bring him around.

“Piss off, ‘m fine.” He pushed at her hands even as dark spots bloomed in his vision.

He could barely see Jisseya’s lips moving and he couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t just leave him there to die like the fucking angry and now lonely idiot he was. When the blackness came again, he just went with it. It was quiet, it was peaceful and it certainly hurt less than everything life had done to him so far.