Chapter 7: Ghosts From Shadows Past

Edition 2.0

Out of the blue sky of Ontarom came the two Alliance shuttles carrying Jack, lieutenant Chesterton and their two squads. It was a remarkably cool day for the planet, Ontarom was notorious for its hot weather. The climate of this Alliance colony world fluctuated in large part with the erratic decaying orbit of its moon Thonal. Electrical storms also plagued the planet’s surface from time to time due to the strong tidal forces. However in the last few days the moon’s orbit had mysteriously increased with no apparent explanation available. As a result the temperatures ran very moderate. Which was excellent news for Chesterton and his squad: Bill, Haley, Donovan and Jess who all wore heavy armor.

“Jack, we just received word that Cerberus entered the sector about an hour ago,” Hackett came in over the radio. “Likely in an attempt to extract the artifact for themselves. We believe they failed, but we have no idea how far they’ve gotten. Keep an eye out for any Cerberus activity once you’re inside the mine.”

“You got it. If there are any down there, I’ll kill them,” Jack said.

“Your priority is to retrieve the artifact. Any other objectives are secondary. Hackett out.”

The door to the shuttle opened and the wind filled the cabin. Jack turned to her squad and said, “Alright, we’re coming in hot. Get set to come out swinging,” the shuttle touched down at the base and Jack leapt out onto the catwalk and down the ramp toward a standing group of cannibals and husks. With the power in her fist she biotically pushed the entire group up and over the railing. They fell onto the ground, crushed 5 meters below. Chesterton dropped out of his shuttle with his team behind him just in front of Jack.

“Thanks for clearing the way ma’am,” he said.

Jack got a good look at the strong built lieutenant,”You can call me Jack,” she said.

“Much obliged. You can call me Chester,” He said, “Lets clear the way to the elevator for you then Jack.”

“After you.” She pointed the direction. “Chester.”

Chesterton walked forward a few paces. Jack’s eyes lingered on the lieutenant for a few moments longer, she liked what she saw, before he turned around and barked out orders to the teams, “Bill, you’re with me and Jack. Donovan, Haley and Jess push up the back of the building with Prangley. We’ll assault the points north and south at the same time.”

Jack followed up on the orders, “Prangley you heard the man split up and lead half the squad with Donovan. Rodriguez, you’re with me.”

Chesterton turned around and sprang into action, “Let’s roll!” He shouted.

The two groups moved together, pushing ahead in opposite directions.  Jack immediately encountered two armored Ravagers. The Rachni artillery units began to spray Chesterton’s group with shells. Jack put up a large barrier that protected all of them while Chester, Bill and Rodriguez put down heavy fire back on the enemy. The ravagers went down quickly and Jack ran forward up the first ramp. 3 marauders popped out from behind cover and started attacking. Jack lifted one and tossed it over the edge before she sent a shockwave that knocked the other 2 off their feet. Behind Jack on the southeast ramp into the base, a wave of cannibals approached with a group of husks, followed by a big lumbering Brute. Chesterton set up a line of fire down the long and wide catwalk. Jack prepared something unusual on her biotic amp that she hadn’t tried before.

“What are you doing?” Rodriguez asked intrigued.

“Warp just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I’m gonna try Reave for a while,” Jack said punching in the final code. She blasted an approaching cannibal with the attack. The biotic wave ripped through the enemy from head to toe. But Jack entered something on her amp incorrectly. The energy from the reaved cannibal was supposed to be transferred back to Jack to bolster her armor. Instead the energy overloaded inside the cannibal’s body, exploding on the ground and damaging the nearby enemies with shrapnel. The effect of which mirrored that of a frag grenade.

“Huh,” Jack said as she watched it occur, “I kinda like that.”

“Where did you learn that ma’am?” Asked Rodriguez.

“The Normandy med bay, two years ago. I hadn’t gotten it to work until now,” said Jack. She hacked the machine to modify her biotic implant but Jack didn’t tell Rodriguez that.

Just then the Brute came up the ramp behind the wave of slaughtered enemies.

“Bill, Sticky-Grenade!” Chesterton shouted out.

Thatcher, “Bill”, knew what he meant. He was a trained Infiltrator; he pulled out two sticky-grenades and tossed them onto the face of the brute. A moment later WHAM, they detonated. The brute shook its head in pain. It breathed heavily through its nostrils and then charged at its attacker Bill. Jack jumped forward in front of Bill and in the way of the Brute put up a barrier to protect them both. WHAM, the brute crashed down against the biotic shield breaking it. Jack was lightly stunned and pushed back. The brute immediately tried to pound its fists into Jack when Rodriguez stepped in putting another barrier around Jack. Jack looked up at Rodriguez in amazement, the girl probably saved her life. Bill pulled out his third and final sticky-grenade and tossed it at the brute. Jack and Rodriguez ran out of the way and behind cover before, WHAM, the third grenade went off. With the way clear Chester and Bill opened fire on the beast endlessly running bullets through the barrels of their Avenger rifles until it finally collapsed dead. It was their first kill of the Goliath reapers but it wasn’t their last. Donovan’s fire-team were steadily flushing the enemies out of the main building out towards Jack. Bill and Chester about-faced and ran up to where Jack and Rodriguez were standing. Jack and Rodriguez were playing off each other’s attacks; Rodriguez warped the enemies one by one as they flooded out of the building while Jack followed up with a reave attack or two that creating biotic detonations. The combination attacks were devastating on their enemies.

“Frag grenades out!” Chesterton called out while lobbing them into the group of husks and marauders.

The two grenades killed the husks and drained the shields of the marauders. The marauders would have been killed too in the blast except they rolled out of the way just in time to escape the deadly brunt of the shrapnel. Jack managed to toss out another malfunctioning reave on the marauder on her right. This time the reave seemed to be combined with some kind of energy drain that collapsed the marauder dead on its feet.

“Eh,” she shrugged, “That works too. But I still got to work that out.”

SHRIEK! Zip-Thump came the cries of banshees in the last wave of enemies.

“Alright, I’ve heard about these.” Chesterton commands their attention. “They’re biotic reapers. They call them banshees, cause of the screams. Don’t let them get close, if they grab you you’re dead!”

SHRIEK! Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump the two banshees came closer. They poped up three meters from Jack, Donovan and Prangley came running down the hallway and opened fire immediately upon exiting the building. Prangley shot out his damaging singularity which started to drain the banshee’s barriers but couldn’t do anything to move the levitating monsters. Jack turned around and ran to get away; but one of them charged in and grabbed her from behind.

“JACK!” Rodriguez screamed.

An adrenaline rush flooded through Jack’s body. She struggled to get free. She thought quickly and drew up her barrier with all her power and detonated it in a bubble, narrowly pushing apart the claws on the banshee’s hand. Jack slipped free. Pissed off and overloaded on endorphins and dopamine, Jack turned around and attacked the banshee with her biotic-powered fist. In a rare turn of events the banshee was the one to get a hole punched through its gut.

SHRIEK! The remaining enemy screamed. Rodriguez tossed a warp and Jack followed up with a throw that detonated the last of the banshee’s health. The body of the beast fell to the ground in ashes burned by the blast.

Jack paused with her hands on her knees, she gasped for breath. Her heart pounded in her chest.

“I thought you were done for ma’am,” Chesterton said.

“I almost thought so too.” She said.

“Are you ok ma’am?” He asked.

“I’m ok, and call me Jack.”

“I’ll try,” he said.

“We found the elevator,” Donovan said.

“Yeah it was weird, it was hidden behind a control panel for one of the comm-satellites,” Prangley added.

“The entrance into the base is top secret. Makes sense that it would be hidden,” Jack said out of breath.

“It looked like the Cerberus team already cracked it though. They might be down there already. Are you sure you don’t want backup?” Donovan continued.

“I’m the only one cleared to go down there. Hackett’s orders,” Jack said marching forward into the building. The rest of the team followed her. Carefully she climbed into the small elevator car. GOD its cramped, she thought. The rest of them stood around in the room facing her awkwardly.

“Ok, I’m ready,” Jack said.

“Alright, see you on the other side Jack,” Chesterton said and punched the button.

Jack continued to breathe heavily as the car made its slow and shaky descent into the dark. She started to worry about her team above, she’d have to move fast once she was down there. They would have to hold their ground up top against any enemies they encountered until she came back. She didn’t like to leave them but the darkness in the depths below had no room for visitors.

***


Back on Earth, in the tunnels of London, Anderson’s team was under heavy fire from a new enemy. The team scrambled to maintain a resisting line behind and maintain momentum up front protecting the artifact bearer. In teams of 3 the soldiers they took a knee at the back burned through a clip each of ammunition upon the approaching wave. After each clip was spent, the next soldiers in line dropped covering fire as the reloading group sprinted to the front. Anderson and Carter took their turn shooting against the enemies. Anderson gazed down his scope 1…2…3… went the shots, right between the eyes of the of the unseen enemies. The only things they saw were the eyes, glowing blue, yet after the shots from Anderson they collapsed to the ground clanking on the floor in a heap of metal. Four more eyes could be seen replacing them.

“They’re synthetic!” Carter yelled to Anderson, running to the head of the line.

“I gathered that Carter,” Anderson said. He could hear the mechanical noise they made.

“What are synthetics doing down here?” Carter yelled.

“I don’t know,” Anderson shouted.

“They’re not geth!” Carter reloaded and took his knee.

Whatever they were the enemies were gaining on them. ZIP-ZIP-ZIP-ZIP, came a 4 round burst from one of the hostiles. The weapon fire was unlike anything in the known galaxy. Each round from the enemy’s wrist cannons shot across the air at lightning speed. The munition was composed of concentrated Mass Effect fields, similar to the attacks of those with biotic abilities, except these projectiles were small like bullets and shot like spearheads through the air; and with much greater force.

Anderson pulled one of his 8 grenades off his belt and tossed it into a group of 4 hostiles. The explosion knocked them to the ground. Clips spent, Anderson and Carter sprinted back to the front of the line. The 4 synthetics repaired the damage from the shrapnel and returned to their feet, only briefly stunned.

Anderson noticed, a headshot kills them, he thought. But did it really kill them? He couldn’t tell running away from them in the dark.

“The train station’s ahead!” Mathews called out from the front. Mathews entered first and after searching the large room he turned around for a moment to watch the team file out of the tunnels. Not paying attention he ran into a wall. A wall in the middle of the tracks. Mathews turned around to so see what wall he ran into. The wall turned around to face him. Walls don’t turn around to face anybody. The wall was actually a reaper brute.

“Oh, SHIT!” Mathews screamed.

***

CLANG, the elevator car came to an abrupt halt. Jack stepped out into the dark and onto the gravelly floor. Her legs shook underneath her. She was cramped inside the 1 person car for nearly 3 jarring minutes. To her, it felt like 10. The only light that shown in the dusty cavern was the one above the elevator door.  Jack pulled out her wrist light and strapped it on her right wrist. On her left wrist she activated the light on her omni-tool. She quickly looked around her perimeter for any Cerberus hostiles that might be in the mine with her. But so far she saw none. Satisfied that she wasn’t in any immediate danger, she checked her omni-tool for the direction of the artifact’s signal. It was only 100 meters away to her right so she began moving. The caves of the abandoned eezo mine were reinforced with concrete pillars. When the artifact was discovered they built concrete walls to ensure safe passage to the device. Someone inside the ExoGeni headquarters leaked the find to the Alliance and soon the Alliance took over operations at the facility. But that didn’t stop ExoGeni from driving a bargain to study the device. In the end they reached an agreement around a government contract that satisfied both parties. Jack hurried through the darkness, using her lights and omni-tool to guide her. At the end of her short trek Jack entered a large, dark room full of testing equipment. On the walls were giant computers that spanned all sides from floor to ceiling. Cables ran from the dormant artifact on the pedestal in the center of the room to the computers, they were trying to download information stored on the device. In a hurry and unaware of the danger, Jack pulled the wires off the machine and unlocked the clamps that held it in place. Then grabbing the device herself, it shocked her with a pulse of electricity.

“What the fuck?” She exclaimed, shaking her hand in pain.

The device looked innocuous but it put up many safeguards. Jack looked around and saw a pair of leather gloves on the table. She put them on and tried to grab the device again. The artifact began to shake and whir into motion. Jack felt weak all of a sudden. Her barrier started to drain into her hands. Into my hands, she thought and it occurred to her. The device was parasitic. It was draining her biotic energy. She quickly let go when the device sprang to life. It cast a bright blue light into the room. Things began to levitate in the air: the tables and chairs, the cables and wires, data-pads and equipment. Ok, this is thoroughly spooky, she thought. Putting an end to it, she kicked it off the pedestal and onto the ground. The device hit the floor and sent out a pulse through the mine.

The ground shook and the ceiling above cracked sending dust into the air. Down the hallway behind her, Jack heard the sound of rushing footsteps careening down the mine towards her. Alerted, she prepared to fight. The first enemy jumped out of the shadows into the room and stood up. It looked like a Cerberus trooper. Although, it stood taller on synthetic legs and had an elongated spine. Its head turned and looked at Jack with glowing blue eyes and a synthetic, mechanical howl cried out of its elongated jaw. It had claws like a bear and had a long reach. The machine jumped onto Jack, she narrowly dodged out of the way and sent a biotic slam onto the creature, crushing it against the wall. Two more came out the hallway into the room. One ran towards her, the other stood in the doorway and shot. The rounds pierced through Jack’s barriers and hit her in the leg.

“Motherfucker!” She screamed.

With a shockwave she pushed the two enemies back against the wall and followed up with a biotic detonation between them. The two synthetics whirred to a stop, sparks flew from their bodies. What the hell? Jack limped on her left leg, What the hell are these things?

***

The brute swept at Mathews with a vicious back hand sending the lieutenant into the air and knocking him back 8 meters. Landing on his back, he struggled to fill his lungs with air again and climb to his feet. Reapers were starting to flood the rail station from the street above. On the other side Anderson and Carter were the last ones out of the tunnel. The room filled with the muzzle flashes of light coming from the besieged Alliance Soldiers under attack. A synthetic enemy chasing Anderson jumped out of the darkness of the tunnels and into the strobe lit station. The creature ran after Anderson with a fury and jumped onto his back. Anderson wrestled it to the ground and shoved the hot end of his rifle into the mouth of the beast. Pulling the trigger he blew its brains out. Scrambling to his feet in the war torn room, Anderson spotted the brute running down the tracks at Mathews. Mathews barely got to his feet before the brute picked him up in its hand and squeezed on the spine of the young man. Anderson took aim at the brute’s head through his scope and shot off two rounds. The disoriented brute dropped Mathews onto the floor, the cadet fell limp. The brute then charged Anderson, it clawed ruthlessly at the air trying to swipe Anderson to the ground. Anderson narrowly sidestepped each attack of the beast. He jumped beside the brute and dropped two frag grenades onto the ground before he ran as fast as he could out of the way towards Mathews.

“Are you alright son?” Anderson shouted.

BANG! The grenades went off behind them killing the brute.

“I, I just ran… right into it,” Mathews explained from the ground.

“Can you get up?” Anderson asked.

“I… can’t feel my legs.”

Anderson stomped hard on Mathews’ boot, “Could you feel that?”

“No,” he replied, “leave me, get out of here!”

“You’re alive. Why the hell would I do that?” Anderson said.

Anderson pulled the lieutenant up into a seated position and leaned him against the wall in the trench of the tracks. Seeing no weapons around he handed Mathews his N7 Valiant. “You know how to use this?” Anderson asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Good, hold them off until we clear them out of the station. I’ll be back for you with a medic and a stretcher.”

“Thank you sir,” said Mathews.

“We take care of our own,” Anderson said.

He activated his omni-blade and pulled out his knife for his right hand and charged down the tracks to deal out some real punishment on the enemies. Out of the tunnel came 4 more synthetics Anderson grabbed his fourth grenade with his left hand, the hand with the activated omni-blade, from his belt and pulled the bolt out with his right. He tossed it into the group shattering their legs. He clambered up off the tracks onto the level floor of the train station. The woman carrying the artifact set it down by her feet and fought off reaper cannibals and husks climbing over the turnstiles. Anderson ran after them with his blades,

“Come on, follow me,” he shouted to her.

Anderson lept up the stairs and over the kiosk onto a cannibal, skewering it with his omni-blade, it broke his fall before his feet hit the ground. The light of day shown into the station from the stairs ahead, two shadows cast down the hall. Anderson charged toward the last flight of stairs before daybreak; the female cadet followed behind him with the artifact. Two Marauders emerged onto the floor in front. Anderson lifted his blades to neck height, he swept quickly in 1 fell motion he chopped the heads off the enemies  and continued up the stairs. The two made it to the trucks with relatively little resistance.  Anderson put his knife and omni-blade away and hurriedly grabbed a med-kit and a folded stretcher from the back of the truck.

“Lock that in the tank and follow me back in,” he said to the cadet with the artifact.

Anderson rushed down the stairs past the group of soldiers marching up past him and out of the station.

“The station’s clear. Let’s get to the convoy!” Colonel Carter shouted to Anderson, going the wrong way as Carter saw it.

Anderson didn’t bother to answer him. In the trench on the tracks below Mathews left a pile of bodies, Anderson looked at the trail of synthetic hostiles that lay dead on the ground.

“Did you shoot all of them?” Anderson asked leaning down beside Mathews.

“They made it easy sir. They came out one right after the other,” he said.

Anderson unfolded the stretcher beside him and popped the medigel under Mathew’s armor, “You did good son. Come on, I’m gonna get you out of here.”

The female cadet grabbed his feet, Anderson grabbed him underneath his arms.

“One… two… three,” Anderson counted and they set him on the stretcher. Picking him up, they lifted him up over their shoulders and onto the main floor of the station. They jumped up and picked up the stretcher again.

They carried Mathews up the stairs towards the truck. Everybody filed in. The driver started the engine. Anderson and the female cadet slid Mathews onto the truck bed between the boots of soldiers. Anderson pulled himself up onto the truck and took his seat at the front looking down at Mathews’  head.

As the convoy started to move back to the base camp, Mathews looked up at Anderson and asked, “Do you think there’s anything they can do to fix my legs?”

The question caught Anderson off guard. He owed it to him to answer.

Anderson thought a moment before he replied, “I don’t know…” he said sincerely, “but I’m gonna do the best that I can to get you all the help in the world. And I’ll be damned if you hadn’t earned a promotion for what you did today.”

***

On the surface of the planet Ontarom, Chesterton led the team of N7 soldiers and biotics against a hoard of reapers ever increasing in severity and numbers. The two teams worked incredibly well together decimating the enemy and holding the main building waiting for Jack to come back up out of the elevator shaft. Below, Jack jammed the medigel into her leg, it quickly went to work knitting together the injured tissue. For now it seemed like the pain was gone and Jack could move without limping. She grabbed the device on the floor. It began to glow again pulling energy from her biotics. She started jogging down the corridor moving as quickly as she could towards the elevator. She didn’t want to hold the device any longer than she had to. The ground began to shake with each step.  The more she rattled the artifact in her hands the more it began to glow until it lit the path in front of her. Behind her in the lab the 3 enemies she faced began to move. Their proximity to the artifact allowed them to repair themselves to a limited degree and they started to chase after her. Jack had about 30 meters head start on them and she was moving fast enough to outrun them for now. She heard the cries of the beasts behind her, the howls of the synthetic jackals echoed through the chasm in their computerized tone. The artifact grew blindingly bright the closer she got to the elevator. She was just 10 meters away before the eyes of her pursuers peered out of the darkness behind her. Quickly she rammed the artifact into the elevator and slammed the button sending it up to the surface. The door closed and the car shot up the shaft before a jackal pounced on her from behind. Jack slammed a biotic wave at the machine knocking it back onto the two enemies behind it. In the shaft the artifact drew more energy from the kinetic lift, it built up reserves of power to send out another pulse wave. The wave shot up the elevator shaft past the surface into the communications tower and into the satellite dish on the surface pointed towards the sky.

The satellite dish glowed red hot with the lightning like energy spreading and sparking all over it. The gears on the dish began to move and turn the massive chunk of metal around, redirecting the center in alignment with Ontarom’s moon Thonal. Once in position it shot a strong beam into space barraging the surface of the moon with incredible power. The moon began to shake and break apart at the seams. Underneath the shell of rock and dust lay dormant an artificial satellite of metal and alloy. It was built out of the rare ores mined and refined from the moon by a civilization that predated the Protheans. The Innusannon built many wonders before the end of their cycle. They mastered the stars and built extensions to the network of Mass Relays. But this was their crowning achievement  this was their salvation. From underneath the shell of the moon emerged a giant sphere. The shell of the moon broke apart as the cataclysmic machine emerged to life and began to move away from the planet. Debris from the moon started to fall into orbit and in the next few minutes meteors began to pelt the surface of Ontarom with incredible power. Below the satellite dish began a similar reaction, the ground broke apart and cracks in the earth began to rupture; fault lines spread around Firebase Dagger.

Chesterton watched the elevator door open. Shocked he stood there, the artifact arrive at the surface without Jack. He hadn’t much time to spare. The red hot satellite dish was struck by several meteorites and began to break into pieces. The pieces began to fall and hit the ground around the building; inside the floors began to shake and Chesterton snapped out of his daze and grabbed the artifact.

“This is lieutenant Chesterton and the N7 team,” he contacted the SSV Paulo Alto in orbit, “requesting immediate evac with cargo in tow.”

The shuttle pilots circling the base responded, “Entering approach vector. Pickup in 30 seconds.”

Chesterton rallied the teams out of the north entrance towards the drop zone, “Come on, let’s move, move, move,” he shouted over the noise of gunfire.

Meteorite impacts hit the ground all around them. While the shuttles touched down Rodriguez ripped off the heads of any husk that got too close. The two teams filed into the shuttles in a hurry. The doors closed and the pilots broke off from the base at full throttle. Out of the sky fell a giant piece of the moon’s crust. It impacted the base and sent shock-waves across the ground and through the air knocking the passengers about in the shuttles.

Below in the mines, Jack felt the impact from above. The concrete columns buckled under the pressure. Cracks split along the ceiling and the ground shook for almost two minutes. With all the dust in the air Jack coughed and gagged while trying to breathe. On the floor lay the three synthetic jackals dead this time from Jack’s repeated attacks they scattered the ground in a million pieces. Jack punched the button on the elevator endlessly trying to call it back down. But the power was dead and the base above was gone. Fearing the worst she tried to contact Chesterton.

“Chester, this is Jack, can you read me?” She shouted over the static on the open channel.

But no answer came. Pissed off and convinced she was trapped, she looked around for another way out. Then she checked the map she had of the mines on her omni-tool. On the far side of the mines about 16 kilometers in length was another exit under Firebase Hydra, Ontarom’s hydroelectric reservoir dam and powerplant. Jack’s leg began to ache. 16 kilometers, she thought. On a bum leg. Fuck! Jack, what have you gotten yourself into!

Chapter 8: Skyfall

Navigation: Chapter 1: Resistance Earth, Chapter 2: Grissom AcademyChapter 3: A Knife in The DarkChapter 4: Smoke and ShadowsChapter 5: Cold Revelation, Chapter 6: London Crypt, Chapter 7: Ghosts From Shadows Past, Chapter 8: SkyfallChapter 9: Apparatus DeusChapter 10: The Devil WithinChapter 11: Hades’ DogsChapter 12: TranshumanChapter 13: Phenomenon,  Chapter 14: AeonChapter 15: EndgamesChapter 16: FracturedChapter 17: ClosingEpilogue.

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