The troop carrier shook and creaked as it entered the earth's atmosphere. Weeks of orbital strikes had not cowed the inhabitants of this strange planet into submission, and the Hierarchy had no desire to send another dreadnought deeper into the Sol system for a backwater species with no sense of self preservation. General Arterius had wanted to make short work of the human obstinacy and had decided on a ground assault at the headquarters of several of the nation states of earth to break fleet morale, despite the objections of some of his captains.
Galenus Vakarian clutched his rifle and desperately prayed their carrier would not get hit before landing. The generals plan of breaking from the main fleet and coming to Terra alone while earth forces were engaged over Shanxi and Arcturus Station was typical of the mans arrogance. Earths smaller defensive fleet had nothing to compare to a turian dreadnought, but still, to come almost alone, with only a few dozen cruisers.. Galenus hoped the spirits of the ship would inspire them to a quick victory.
The carriers VI evaded most of the incoming enemy fire, but they were grazed several times and the resonating tremble in the ship almost made him sick. He had never been one for heights, and one direct hit would cause a rather steep plummet down to earths surface. Captain Fedorian shouted orders over the blaring klaxons, explaining that their mission would be to take control over a nuclear missile silo situated in the northern hemisphere. The area was called Siberia, and long range scanners of the Belli Finem had revealed high activity in the camp surrounding the silo. It was inhospitable, uninhabitable and inturianly cold. Galenus suspected the captain had been especially chosen for the assignment after his objections to Arterius' actions.
The carrier landed with a soft thump, but the slippery ground caused it to slide into a snowdrift. Galenus heard safety straps creak as they came to a sudden stop, and he was jerked sideways by the impact. The cold was already seeping into the shuttle, causing him to shiver. Hopefully they were not far from their mission objective. The team inspected their armored survival suits and checked all weapons before opening the shuttle door.
All their training had not prepared the hot-blooded turians for an earth arctic winter, and Galenus felt regret for not applying to C-sec sooner. War was not the way he wanted to serve his people, and standing here on a freezing spirits forsaken planet populated by barbarians was not how he wanted to die. He and the rest of the team huddled at the entrance of the shuttle, not eager to explore this strange new world. Captain Fedorian finished checking his bearing and made adjustments to his omni-tool. The magnetic field in the northern areas could play tricks on electrical components, but he felt sure he had programmed the right compensation.
“We're ready, get out and seal the doors. We don't know if the humans can pick us up on their systems, so we can't stay her for long.”
Fedorian saw in their faces the same doubt he felt in his own heart. The cold would be crippling them in a few hours if they missed their target, leaving them vulnerable to any sort of attack.
“I have calculated our direction, one hour march to target.”
The team sighed, but Fedorian thanked the spirits they didn't seem defeated anymore. The men gathered their equipment and supplies in preparation for travel. He saw Vakarian tie a piece of cloth around the barrel of his sniper rifle to prevent snow from entering, and decided to do the same with his assault rifle. That is, assuming they fired at all in this frost, he thought bitterly. Curse Arterius and his headstrong pursuit of glory. 15 minutes later the turians were on the march.
As the turian team disappeared over a ridge, a smaller snowdrift above the valley began to move. A hooded man with ice crystals in his beard peered out before carefully pulling a com unit out of his white camo jacket, giving the code signal for proximity alert. The silo base activated several mine fields around the area, and reset their turrets with explosive rounds. Three kilometers further down, a small team was latching huskies to an unusually large dog sled and prepared to set off for the landing site.
Captain Fedorian had assembled his men in the hills above the base. His scanner picked up turrets and what looked like a primitive mine field. There was no way to hack through the minefield, as these humans clearly had no high tech capability, and had to settle for mass production of low tech crap. Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing what kind of mines these were, unless he was prepared to set them off. The area scans indicated hundreds of small metal cylinders in the ground, and there was probably more in casings the scanner could not detect. He was unwilling to put the mission at risk but knew they were now working against time, as the cold was already dulling their reflexes. He had decided to send a small recon team to scout the other side, when he saw Vakarian tense.
“What is it, Lieutenant?”
Galenus pointed into the snow clad trees some meters away.
“I heard something.”
Fedorian turned his scanner to the trees. He picked up small heat signals from several four legged animals.
“It's the local wild life, Vakarian. I doubt they'll give us much trouble.”
Galenus nodded to the captain, but something made him very uneasy. An gut feeling he couldn't suppress screamed at him of incoming danger, but he had no evidence to support his inner voice, and so he kept quiet.
The captain continued to instruct corporal Vesperus to scout around the ridge, when 5 furry earth animals trotted out of the forest. Three turians raised their rifles to shoot, when Fedorian hissed an order to stand down. In this cold the sound of a gunshot would carry all over the mountains. The animals began bearing their teeth and stalk forward. The captain issued another order, and five turians stepped forward with their combat knives drawn. The serrated edges would easily tear up these creatures, with less sound than rifle fire. Galenus felt a rising dread, and he pulled the cap off his scope and aimed for the animals. He watched them intently as they crept forward, their speckled gray fur puffed up and jaws open with a menacing growl. Natural predators, he thought, but so were turians.
The alpha was suddenly only three meters away from the formed line. Galenus watched in disbelief. Was this natural behavior of earth predators? Attack when vastly outnumbered? He stood a little above the rest of the team, sweeping the animals with his scope. And there it was. Confirmation of his fear. Under the thickset fur of the brown-speckled animal, he saw a small rein with a container fastened to it, impossible to spot unless you were looking for it.
He shouted a warning to Fedorian as the alpha leaped into the line. When the animal got within half a meter of the first turian, it exploded with a huge flash, taking with it one turian and grievously wounding the one on either side. Galenus opened fire and took out the next animal, before the third jumped into a huddle and took out two more turians in a searing light. Fedorian shot the fourth as it charged him, and the fifth came in proximity of one of the injured turians and went up with an earsplitting boom. Blue snow rained down around them and pieces of blue meat and shredded plates littered the now darkened craters. Captain Fedorian was now down 5 men.
The explosions had been spotted at the base, and the turrets began raining down rocket fire, shaking the ground as the mortars impacted and caused columns of snow and dirt to rise into the air before falling down as mud. Fedorian desperately looked around. If they retreated, the cold and the inevitable pursuit would kill them anyway. They would never reach the shuttle in time. He had only one choice, charge the base through the mine field and hope against all hope that the humans had not buried anything like what was strapped to the animals, which remained undetected by scans. Hidden in the base structure they at least had a small hope of committing sabotage. The mission came first. He yelled at the remaining team to follow him as he held the scanner in front of him, and started to run for the minefield.
Galenus made one last swipe with his rifle and noted humans in the towers of the base, and wondered why they hadn't opened fire. His ears became aware of the shrill whine of an incoming shell and ran after his captain and what remained of his team.
Fedorian made it to the middle of the clearing before the scanner failed to pick up a mine. He threw himself forward when he heard the click, and with a second of delay he thought he made it, before he saw in the corner of his eye how the mine propel itself into the air and exploded into hundreds of shrapnel. The first mine set of the next, and suddenly the field was alive with bouncing bettys, personnel mines the humans had designed for their own kind. The turian armor could take quite a lot of damage, but the field was lined with quite a lot of mines.
Galenus reached the edge of the mine field, saw the captain fall and the mines shredding his comrades with thousands of cuts, tearing through armor and flesh while their victims screams were cut short by more blasts. He stood nailed to the ground, witnessing the carnage and an internal struggle to join them in martyrdom or try to save himself. Galenus was spared the choice when a mortar landed near him and the blast tore open his armor and sent him sprawling into a snow bank. In his last moments of consciousness he heard human voices drawing nearer. His hand pawed the ground aimlessly for his rifle before a spasm of pain knocked him out.
David Anderson leaned back in his seat to watch Shepard’s shouting match with the Russian senior sergeant. Hannah spoke Russian well enough to function as a temporary liaison between the United nations and the United federations, but sadly, this time negotiations had broken down. The sergeant wanted to turn the prisoner over to his superiors for study and probably dissection, while Hannah insisted he was a prisoner of war, and was to be treated as such. Sergeant Volkov finally gave in to what he saw as a crazed soft hearted woman, and gave her the codes to the turians shackles. David tutted at Hanna’s triumphant return.
“Our arrival were supposed to further cooperation. My Russian is not as good as yours, but I'm pretty sure you asked him to sit on a dick somewhere in there.”
She shrugged.“Might've come up. Standard Russian idiom. At least now we have a live prisoner to interrogate. If we left him here, he'd be dead in a week.”
“Are we sure that's a bad thing?” David frowned. “We know very little of these creatures. Now is perhaps not the best time to try and get acquainted. And keeping in mind if that plan of yours works, it won't be many happy turian faces around here.”
“What other time is there if their plan is to kill us all?” Hannah turned and touched the barred window. “We don't know why they attacked us, or how many there are. What we do know is that the giant ship above us is not the only one they have, but it's the only one here. They have decimated our defense fleet, and Mars won't help unless we cripple that thing. These ground assaults provide possibilities.”
She turned back to David.
“Some of them rather farfetched and improbable, but if earth is slated for another round of extinction, who'll remember whose ideas were more crazy? She winked at him.
“Ah, that lovely gallows humor of yours. How I've not missed that.” He gave her a look of disapproval.
“Really Anderson, If I hadn't seen your birth date on file, I would have pegged you for the old married man and me for the young sprout with a man in each port.”
“What? I don't.. You won't say that in front of Sarah, you hear me?” David spluttered.
“Yeah yeah, keep yer pants on. I'm going to check on our prisoner, alert me when our ride arrives.”
Galenus woke with a severe ringing in his ear canals. He mumbled indistinctly to turn it off, before his brain lifted some of it's fog, and it became clear the sound came from his own head.
“The explosions..” he muttered while trying to get up. His movements were stopped by straps and chains snaking around his torso and wrists. He threw a fit of panic, vainly trying to coil and twist his way out of the restraints. The metal chains did not relent, and clinked mockingly in the large room. His head swiveled around the cell before he caught sight of a human calmly observing his feeble escape attempt. Galenus growled at it, daring it to come closer. The humans mouth jerked upwards in an expression he didn't know, showing teeth as it approach him slowly.
Galenus forced himself to lay still as the human reached for one of the chains that reached around his upper body, and punched in a release code for the lock. It fell away, and it stepped back quickly. He tried to lunge again, but the removed chain had merely prevented him from sitting up, he was still tied to the bed, and the bed was welded to the floor. He stared at the human and sneered at it's incompetence. If the locks were digital, then he could easily hack it when.. He felt a sting on his left arm and now saw the bandages around his wrist and waist. They'd operated on him. He felt panic again. They had also removed his omni-tool. Spirits curse these fucking animals. The humans mouth pulled downward, and it said something in a low voice. Galenus didn't care. They had killed his team, and now, as the last remaining man he was going to be tortured for information, he was sure of it. Well, he would not make it easy for the barbarians. He threw himself at the restraints again and shouted in palaveni that he would rip their throats out if he got loose.
Again the metal clinked and jangled with every struggling move. It had the opposite effect of what he had hoped. The human now looked at him with glittering eyes and a small staccato sound escaped from it. He made out the words "feisty one", but not their direct meaning. He got the gist of it, however. The human found him amusing.
The realization that he was entertainment for his captors caused him to fall dejectedly back onto the bed. He felt a warm trickle on his side. All his fighting had caused the wound to reopen. The human saw this as well, and opened the door barking orders to other humans behind it. To larger humans in combat armor and armed with rifles marched in. Galenus assumed these to be males. They lifted their rifles and aimed directly at him, while the smaller female human grabbed some fresh bandages out of a bag. She approached him slowly again, gesturing at his wound and the bandages, and then to the soldiers. The meaning was clear. He considered making an attempt on her life and so cutting his own life shorter, but in truth he didn't want to die on this planet. His family back on Palaven would never know what happened to him, and he'd never see Vistilla again either. He made a low grunt and laid back to convey he wouldn't try anything, and the human did that thing with her face, making her teeth show. Apparently it was supposed to be reassuring, but to him it looked like she wanted to eat him.
Galenus tried not to squirm to much then the clueless female changed the cloth around his waist. Oddly thankful for the pain that prevented any ideas of a mishap with his plates, he stared at the ceiling and felt her many creepy fingers administer care in a unexpectedly gentle manner. When she'd also finished his wrist, she fished a few packets of turian field rations out of her pocket and put them beside him. She also signaled one of the soldiers to hand her a canteen from the corner. He got it hesitantly, while the second soldier kept his rifle firmly fixed at Galenus. The turian could smell the mans overpowering scent of fear in this closed room, and he hated it. The female stepped back again and ordered the soldiers out. She leaned back against the wall as he sat up, eying the rations with care.
It seemed improbable they would poison him when he was already a prisoner. He looked back at her. It seemed like she wanted to make sure he wasn't hungry, and he could choose whether to eat the food or not. He chose the former. If an escape attempt was going to have a chance of success, he could not be both starving and injured. Galenus tore the rations open and tilted his head back, dropping the food in his mouth. The canteen was inspected carefully, he sniffed at it and poured some of it's content on the floor. It seemed to be water. With his head tilted back, he poured the liquid down his throat, then tossed the canteen back to the human. She'd been watching him with rapt attention. The feeling of being fed and cared for by your enemies made him angry, and he refused to acknowledge her presence. This was no more of a deterrent for her than his earlier growling. She stepped into the middle of the holding cell and pointed at herself.
He refused to speak. She sighed and tried again.
“Hannah Shepard. Human.”
She pointed at him. “Turian.” No reply. “Fatuus.”
That made him jolt his head up. Did she speak his languate? No more turian words came, and he figured she must've heard it from others of his kind. How many others had they captured? He decided to play along for now to gain some Intel. He pointed a talon at her.
“Human. Hana Ssheprrd.”
His finger tapped on his own chest. “Turian. Galenus Vakarian.”
The human flashed her teeth again.
He gave her a dark look and muttered “fatuus” back at her.
This time she laughed aloud, and picked up the canteen. She held it towards him, and he understood the gesture. He made a swallowing motion. She walked back to the door and gave more orders, handing the canteen to the soldier outside. While they waited the human made several attempts at pronouncing his name before she go it right.
“Galenus Vakarian,” she finally managed, giving him a nod.
“Shepard,” he replied and returned the nod, it was a similar greeting to theirs.
A dark skinned human came back with the canteen, and whispered something in her ear. Her expression suddenly changed, and she tapped her fingers on her right hand pocket, seemingly lost in thought. The male gave Galenus a suspicious stare, and pointed to himself. “Anderson.” He placed the canteen on the floor and kicked it towards the turian. Galenus felt offended. He did not trust this new human, and with his feet he located the canteen and kicked the water back.
The two males glared at each other.
The female had watched their interaction with an expression Galenus now recognized as amusement. The Anderson human took a step towards him, but she gave him a pat on the shoulder and picked up the water. With her eyes on him she twisted off the cork and mimicked his method of drinking, head tilted back and then poured. It was clear this was not the usual way for humans to drink when she got some water stuck in her throat the wrong way, and started coughing. Anderson started slapping her between her shoulders. Galenus was unsure if this was supposed to help or if it was punishment. When she stopped spluttering, she put the cork back on the canteen and slowly walked over to him. As she held the canteen out at arms length, Anderson pulled his gun out and held it casually along his side. Galenus got the message, slowly raising his own arm accepting the water.
The humans pulled back and continued their hushed conversation.
Galenus drank more water, and tried to observe the two without being obvious. They disagreed on something, and he guessed it was him. Anderson kept waving in his direction with anger in his low voice, and the female calmly rebuffed him. He finally relented, and she left the cell, talking in a changed language to the soldiers outside. Anderson stood listening to their discussion as he fiddled with something in his pocket. Absent absentmindedly he pulled it out. Galenus held back a gasp. It was his omni-tool implant. Immediately he let his gaze fall. It was imperative that he went with these humans now, if he could get his hands on and reactivate the omni-tool his people would rescue him. He would behave for now, but when the time came, he wouldn't hesitate to kill either of the humans.