I finished this up a few days ago and shared it with fans of the series on Facebook and people are loving it. I've been encouraged to continue this short as a series and so I will be, though not as a primary focus, I had other things I wanted to work on next. Anyways, so I thought I could share it here. Let me know what you think, I'm open to all compliments and criticisms.
A Mass Effect Fan-Fiction inspired by Ryan Dening’s 'Frontier Soldier'
02:13 October 04, 2186 CE
Hope. It’s an interesting concept when you’re trapped on a frozen wasteland and it quickly seems the only way out is biting a bullet. That’s my situation. Alone, hungry, and running for my life with nowhere to go on a planet that is always blanketed by a white sheet that would engulf you if it wasn’t so thick that you can easily walk on it like dirt under your feet. This wasn’t always my fate. There used to be dozens of people here and we had plenty of supplies. But, foul play has changed all of it.
11:34 October 01, 2186 CE
Let me back up a little. My name is Sergeant Samuel Ortiz and I’ve been stationed at Jericho station on Antibaar in the Artemis Tau cluster for a few years now. Though it looks like it, you’d be wrong to say that Antibaar is a barren wasteland. The flora and fauna here have adapted to survive in the negative thirty degrees Celsius temperatures and constant snow fall. We are not so lucky, which is why we stick to Jericho. Outside the fortified walls surrounding the facility, is nothing but death for the residents.
Jericho is a research facility, though what exactly they’re studying I couldn’t tell you. I was stationed here by the Alliance as the law enforcement for this small facility. Along with my deputy, Jake Sanders, I am the respected civil authority of 56 researchers and their families. It kind of reminds me of the Old West stories my grandfather used to read to me. Two men of the law standing between a town and death, miles away from assistance. Of course, the scale is much greater and the death is natural, not bandits with pistols, but you get the point. I feel a great deal of responsibility for these people.
It’s the first of October and we’re preparing to receive our monthly dose of outside contact. We get supplies and provisions for the month. The crew of the freighter plus any passengers they bring along get to stay around for a few days, as well. It’s a great time for Jericho. The few merchants we have get to exchange stock with the freighter crew and the rest of us just get to enjoy some new company and find out what’s really going on in the rest of the galaxy, not just what we hear on the Alliance News Network.
“Sam, you think they brought them girls from Stargazers, again?” Jake breaks my concentration as we watch the crew of the Castaway unloading the month’s rations. He has an eager smile the stretches from ear to ear, touching his short, blonde hair. A couple of months ago, the Castaway brought some companions from Stargazers, a high-end strip club on Ilium. Jake took a special attraction to a young Asari that he spent a lot of time with.
“Probably not, something tells me those frisky drunks down at Miguel’s made that a one-time deal.” I can tell from his sunken expression that it wasn’t what he was hoping to hear, but no sense in getting the boy’s hopes up. Jake was young and didn’t have anyone special here. He spends a lot of time with a young woman, the daughter of one of the lead scientists here, but swears that there’s nothing between them. I don’t think the perception is mutual. “Besides, we have too much work to do this week. You wouldn’t have any time for it, with new residents and all.”
This was true. Normally, we too get to enjoy the week that the Castaway is docked here, but this time is a little different. Apparently, the researchers have made some head way and got approved for more funds, including more staff members. We’re expecting seven more staff members and their families for a total of eighteen new residents. Not something I’m wild about, but they are sending me a new deputy to help balance it out. I have his dossier, but no time to read it. All I know is her name is Sarah Pond.
Overlooking the dock, I can’t see anyone that stands out as trouble or as a deputy. I do see Captain Frank Long coming off the Castaway with a young woman. Her bright red hair dangles just below her shoulders and her bangs hide a beautiful young face. I mentally prepare myself to have to hold Jake back. Captain Long sees us and gives us a wave.
“Well, Sarge, there’s Frank. And, who the hell is that with him? I’m in the wrong line of work if he’s got women like that around.”
“Down, boy. Let’s do the people thing and go say hello.” I pull Jake away from the window and we head for the stairs. I can only imagine that the redhead with Captain Long is my new deputy. In my experience, looks like those mean more trouble than I’m willing to put up with. Especially if I am going to have to babysit Jake and make sure he behaves. We may be out in the middle of nowhere, but we’re still on Alliance payroll and should conduct ourselves as soldiers.
Downstairs, Captain Long is waiting with the redhead by talking with some of the researchers. He sees us coming and excuses them from the conversation.
“Samuel! You look good, my friend.” He sticks his hand out and I grab it and pull him and wrap my arm around him. Of all the people that come off the ship, Captain Long is the only one I look forward to seeing. He’s my monthly drinking buddy. Normally, we lock ourselves in a room for a couple of days and drink until we can’t remember our names let alone our problems. Jake clears his throat as he awkwardly stares at the redhead and so we separate.
“It’s good to see you, Frank. And who do you have here?” Before Captain Long can respond, the young woman clicks her heels together, stands straight and raises her hand to her forehead.
“Private First Class Sarah Pond, Sir!” I smile and Jake gives a small laugh. Sarah just looks confused.
“At ease, Ms. Pond. No need for such formalities way out here. I’m Sergeant Samuel Ortiz, you can call me Samuel or Sheriff, and this here is Jake –“
“Jake Sanders, and it is a pleasure to meet you.” He takes her hand and gives her the quaintest smile. I try to fight the urge, but lose as I slap him in the back of the head. “Ow! What the hell?”
“Jake here is our resident Romeo and your fellow Deputy.” She gives a slightly awkward smile. I can imagine her constantly having to fight off men and flirts trying to get closer to her. She was probably hoping it wouldn’t have been an issue here. She takes her hand back.
“Well, um...Sheriff, I’m ready and able if you need me.” I can’t help but to wonder how long she’s been in the military. I get a vibe that she’s a navy brat, probably on a starship her whole life with her parents. She holds duty close. Hell, I think I know what her dossier says at this point.
“No need, Ms. Pond. We’re a pretty quiet community so I think you can take the day off and get to know the place.”
“I’d be happy to show you around!” Jake is like jackrabbit with how quick he jumps on that opportunity. Sarah gives, what I interpret to be, a worried look to me. Jake doesn’t quite catch it. Captain Long can’t stand it anymore and starts laughing, forcing all to look at him.
“Oh, you’re going to have your hands full, Samuel.” He puts his arm around my shoulders and leads me back upstairs. I take one last look back at my deputies. I think it was a vast understatement. When we reach the top I head straight for my liquor cabinet and pour us a couple of glasses of whiskey. Captain Long has all ready made himself comfortable on the couch, his feet on the glass coffee table. I hand him his drink and sit across from him.
“Thanks for bringing everyone and the supplies.” Captain Long swirls around his drink before he takes a sip.
“It’s my job, Sheriff. Besides, it’s not like I detest our little visits.” I laugh a little. It’s really the only time I do. Having Captain Long around is like having an old friend or a brother that I never get to see. I down my drink in anticipation for the trouble I’m going to be dealing with.
07:23 October 02, 2186 CE
The next morning comes with a splitting headache. It’s only amplified by the constant beeping filling the room. It takes all my strength, but I manage to lift myself to sit up and look around. I’m on the floor, leaning against a couch with a few empty bottles of whiskey all around me. My glass is on the coffee table, some whiskey still in it, so I grab it and down the whiskey. At least, I’m still in the same room I started in last night.
It takes me a minute to get up, but when I do I notice that I’m alone. Captain Long isn’t sitting on the couch across from me or laying on the floor somewhere. The beeping feels like it’s going to burst my head open. I stumble across the room, almost tripping over an empty bottle, and answer my communication terminal. Nobody is on the other line, but I hear a lot of commotion and yelling. I’m about to close it down when Jake’s face appears.
“Finally! Sam, we got a serious problem here. You need to come to the office, now!” Each word stings and my face must show it. Jake frowns and he leans in closer to whisper. “Sam, are you hung over?” I look back at the bottles and shake my head.
“No, I’m still drunk.” I close the terminal and stumble back to the couch. I plop down, causing one of the bottles to bounce off and clink with a couple on the floor. My boots are hiding under the table so I quickly pull them on and stretch. I catch my reflection in the mirror on the wall and get closer. I consider shaving as I examine the ‘Yukon Cornelius’ beard I have going, but decide against it. It matches well with my long, wavy, brown hair that flows just under my shoulders. I refuse to cut it, despite Alliance regulations. Besides, I like the rugged look it gives me with my grey-toned assault armor. It’s unnecessary in a place like Jericho, but it gives me extra respect. Plus, people tend to be more willing to defuse hostile relations when they’re being told to by a Sheriff in a full set of armor.
The halls are oddly empty for this time of day. Normally, especially when the Castaway is docked, the entire station is bustling with activity all throughout the day. Not even Jasmine, our dock supervisor is around. I’m quickly sobering up as it becomes more apparent that something is very wrong. I keep moving only to see that station more empty than I ever could have imagined. Then, I come around the correct corner.
The hall is filled with nearly everyone from the facility. All gathered around, trying to get into our security office. I have to push my way through the crowd. The nasty looks I get from residents that know I’m drunk doesn’t make me feel good about what I’m walking into. Something bad has happened. I finally make my way into the office and there is another body of residents gathered around Jake at his desk.
“I don’t care! My daughter is missing and I’ll be damned before I sit back and wait for something to happen.”
“So what do you want me to do? Lock everyone up until we can sort this out?” I come around the desk. Some of the residents notice me, but most are too involved in the heated argument. Standing over Jake, trying to exert as much authority as possible, is Tony Gardner. Tony is one of the lead scientists and his daughter, Elizabeth, is the girl that Jake spends a lot of time with.
“No, just lock up those damn pirates.” That easily catches my attention.
“What do you mean pirates?” Now all heads have turned to me. The looks are a strong mix between relief and anger. Something seriously wrong has happened.
“Oh, so nice of you to join us, Sheriff. Those no-good-space-faring scoundrels we let in every month. The bastards took my daughter!” The dozens of voices throwing the names of their children in lets me know just how bad the situation is. I look down at Jake who has watched me the whole time.
“How many are missing?” He looks down at the list he has been making and counts the names. It’s too long for my liking, even when I’m drunk.
“Eleven, five kids, three young adults, and three elderly. Disappeared without a trace last night. Not a single clue.” Everyone is waiting for my response. Like I have the magic answer and will tell them that they all were partying with me. I look around and notice of all the people in here, a few key individuals are missing.
“Where are Sarah and Frank?”
“We had to detain Frank and his crew. Sarah is talking with them now.” Angry murmurs come from the crowd. Something about too kind of treatment.
“Everyone, please, I need you to return to your quarters and stay there until this is sorted out. If there is foul play involved, then it is for your safety and best interest to go home and wait until I give the all clear.” I don’t bother to stick around and defend the slander and hatred that is spewed back at me. I’d be upset if I was them, too. But, I won’t let them sit around and play the blame game until I talk to the Castaway crew. I pull Jake out of the chair and we head to the back room.
Sarah is all ready back here with the nearly two dozen crew members of the Castaway. Most don’t look happy to be detained and the rest probably understand this is just a formality and they’ll be done soon. As long as my gut is right and they’re not responsible.
“Just let us search your ship. It’ll clear your name and satisfy the residents.” Frank is about to respond to Sarah’s demand when he notices Jake and I entering the room. He stands up and comes over to me.
“Samuel, what the hell is going on?” I motion for him to sit back down and he does. I stand next to Sarah and look over the men. Most are strong, young men and the rest are older sailors that have been with Frank since the beginning. Really, anyone of them could have done it, if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re all like family.
“Multiple residents of Jericho have been reported missing this morning. Unfortunately, your ship is the only place we can’t check so it makes the crew of the Castaway prime suspects.” The same angry murmurs from outside erupt in here. Even Frank looks at me with disappointment.
“I guess nobody told you, yet. Three of our own crew members are missing. We’ve searched the Castaway top to bottom and can’t find them or any of your residents.” I’ve known Frank long enough to be sure he is telling the truth. Something remarkably strange is happening in Jericho and the Castaway is not responsible, but also a victim. The crew keeps their attention on me.
“What about the new residents? Are any of them missing?” Jake looked back at the door.
“I only got through a fraction of all those people. I know of two missing so far, but I didn’t get through everyone yet.” I head to the door and open it a little. As I expected, there are quite a few people still in the office and a few that I don’t recognize. They no doubt have missing family members. I turn back to the room.
“Then go out and get the rest of those reports. Captain Long, you and your crew can return to the Castaway, but I must order it to remain docked until this investigation is closed.”
“No worries, I’m not leaving until I find my men.” The increased murmurs from the crew lets me know of their intentions.
“Frank, these people think you and your men are behind the disappearances. It’ll be best if you stay on the Castaway.” The room begins to erupt with outrage. “Deputy Pond and I will look into this and keep you informed.”
I don’t bother to stick around and be cussed out. Instead, I give a nod to Sarah and Jake and we leave the room. The residents haven’t seen us yet so I take advantage of the time. I pull Sarah and Jake in close and whisper.
“Jake, get the information from those residents and make sure Captain Long and his crew get back to the Castaway without any incidents. Sarah, welcome to Jericho. You and I will talk with the residents and see what we can gather. We’ll meet back here tonight and see what we’ve come up with.”
21:26 October 02, 2186 CE
“Just find my husband, Sheriff. I…I don’t know what I’ll do if something happened to him.” It’s our fourth distraught wife, tenth missing researcher, and number twenty-three on our missing persons list. This has gotten completely out of hand. The young woman closes her door, trying to hide her tears behind her hands. She’s no researcher. If something did happen to her husband, then she’d have to be sent off Jericho and well, I don’t know what would have happen to her at that point. Probably some measly payoff and then struggles as she finds a new home.
That’s not the kind of thinking I should be having at this point, but the sheer numbers makes the situation just so ominous. Sarah and I start making our way back to the office. She’s handled herself professionally today. Compassionate and attentive to each person, no matter how irrational they were. She definitely always wanted to be in law enforcement. You can see the passion in her eyes for it, but I doubt she had this in mind, especially on her first day.
“That’s twenty-three missing residents and we’re no closer to finding out what happened. No obvious motives and not even a clue as to where they could be.” She scrolls through her datapad, rereading each report and trying to find an answer. I haven’t taken a single note. Mostly because Jake and Sarah have been doing a good job on record keeping, but also because I doubt they’ll be much use this time. “Do you think they could be on the Castaway?”
“No. I trust Captain Long and if he says they’re not, then I believe him.” I can see the doubt on her face. “You have to understand, the Castaway is like family to Jericho. The crew has been coming here for years.” I can tell she’s not really satisfied with the explanation, but she’ll just have to trust me. The Castaway couldn’t have been involved.
“Regardless, I would like to take a look on that ship.” I couldn’t agree more. It would satisfy a lot of curiosity, but Captain Long is a proud man and won’t allow anyone to ravage his ship for the sake of pointing fingers. Then, it hits me. I have no idea why it took so long, maybe because this is Jericho’s first major crime? The security footage for the facility! We never use it, but it should have been running last night. I take off in a run back to the station, Sara doesn’t hesitate or question and follows right behind me.
Just like this morning, the halls are still empty and so we don’t have to worry about any foot traffic. It allows the usual ten minute walk to turn into just a couple minutes of running. When we get back to the station, I’m reminded of why Jake is my deputy. He isn’t at his desk, but in the back room already going over the security footage. We gather around him just in time to see the screens suddenly lose picture.
“What happened?” Jake jumps a little. He hadn’t noticed us come in and was focused on the video. He simply stares at the monitors for a little bit longer. I’d imagine he’s hoping for them to return a picture and explain everything, but nothing happens. Defeated, he finally turns around and looks up at us.
“All the camera’s caught were some shadows, not human, and then nothing but this static. Sheriff, I don’t know what’s going on, but I have a really bad feeling.” I nod in agreement. I start going through a mental check of known fauna to try and pull up something that could break into the station and cause this. “One more thing, the dock camera watching the Castaway was one of the last to go dark, nobody on or off before the activity started. The supply warehouse was the first to go off.”
It’s bitter sweet information. The footage proves that Captain Long and his crew didn’t kidnap the residents, but if the cargo they brought was in the warehouse then they could still be involved. I go back into the office and grab a Predator pistol and my Omni-Tool from my desk. Surprisingly, Jake and Sarah don’t miss a beat and grab their own gear. Well, Sarah hasn’t had a chance to settle in yet and had her gear the whole time. I don’t have to say a word for them to know where we’re going.
Before we can even reach the door, a loud hum that I’ve never heard before emanates from the ceiling and the lights shut off. I can sense where this is going and the repercussions it will have. I jump back to my desk and quickly work on my laptop before it suffers the same fate as the lights. With in seconds, I hear the air ducts turn off. Antibaar is habitable, but with the air system off, the station will soon reach sub-zero temperatures. Finally, I have the system open and I hear the P.A. speakers crackle to life. There is no telling how much time I have.
“Everyone stay calm. We are experiencing a power failure. For your safety, stay inside the dormitories and follow level 3 security procedures. Myself and the rest of the security staff are –“ And that was it. My voice abruptly cuts off from the intercoms and the station is now absolutely silent. Level 3 security procedures state that all residents are to stay within the dormitory areas and that pre-selected residential leaders are to meet me in the main foyer. We’ve never had to actually go into any form of lockdown so I can only hope everyone follows the procedure. Ready to face a shit storm, we head out to the main foyer, just around the corner from the office. One of the three residential leaders is all ready out there.
“Mr. Jackson, you’re here fast.” I admit my surprise, and do nothing to hide the suspicion. Bartholomew Jackson is the Chief Supply Officer of the station, which means I often work with him and he was just the man I want to see. A middle-aged man with quite the receding hair line and a strong jaw, he is exactly the type of guy you’d expect me to enjoy the company off. Preferring a stiff drink to conversation, he and I have spent plenty a nights just drinking in silence at the bar.
“Barty was on the move as soon as the lights went out. I, of course, waited for specific instructions. Just what the hell is going on, Sheriff?” We all look towards the dormitories to see the source of the shrill voice, though you don’t have to tell me who it is. Josephine Verona is a shrew of a woman. Standing taller than most men on the station, she is built like a stick and her pointy nose provides the perfect rest for her half-moon glasses. Her long brown hair is always done in a tight bun. Something about her just makes me tense up.
“It looks like our culprit shut down the station’s power.” I explain. She joins us and we all look uncomfortably at each other. Ironically, Josephine is the Community Manager of Jericho. Essentially, she is supposed to organize events and the day to day living conditions to make the facility feel like home to the families. I have no idea how she got the job. Most of her events involve book readings and knitting classes. The younger population tends to secretly hold their own parties and secret events to make up for it. I allow them, but mostly out of spite for Ms. Verona.
“I’d say it’s something else, Samuel. The Castaway has shut down, as well. I need to bring my crew into the station while our life support is down.” We all turn around to see Captain Long approaching with two of his crew members. It is one thing for Jericho to lose power, but there was no reason for the Castaway to. I can see the distrust on the faces of Barty and Josephine. It isn’t their call.
“Bring your people in. You can all stay in the security station. Though, we have to get the power back on or we’ll all freeze to death before it matters.” Josephine scoffs and returns to her dormitory hall without another word. I prefer that to anything she has to say, anyways. “Barty, head back, too. Keep everyone calm and inside their rooms while we work on this.”
“Henry, go back and tell the crew to come inside. Ian and I will stay and help Sheriff.” The larger of the two crew members nods and heads back to the Castaway. Normally, I’d object, but given the circumstances I think we can use the help. Barty still looks unsure, but does as I say and heads back to the dormitories. The station’s generators and the cargo warehouse are on opposite sides of Jericho so I take a second to think.
“I’ll take Frank and Ian to go check on the power. You and Sara can continue the investigation.” I look up with a smile. Jake and I have worked together long enough for him to read my mind from time to time. I’m glad this is one of them. I give him a quick nod and the three of them start towards the generators. By the time they turn the corner, we still haven’t moved and Sara stares at me.
“Sheriff? We should get going.” Lost in thought, I barely hear the words. The idea of an electric magnetic pulse being used on the station jumps around my head multiple times. The only explanation I keep coming back to for the power failure. I snap out of it as she calls for me, again.
01:08 October 3, 2186 CE
“We’ve been at it for hours. I think we can call it, Sheriff.” Sara is leaning against the wall at the end of the aisle, just outside the racks of cargo and supplies the Castaway brings us monthly. Midway down the rack, I dig through some older supplies that we never got around to using. Mostly useless things like napkins and plastic utensils. With a heavy sigh, I stand up and look around. We have been at it for a couple of hours and haven’t found anything suspicious. It could be a coincidence that the security camera in here was the first to go dark. We checked it and there was no apparent tampering. The EMP theory seems more plausible at this point, but still doesn’t explain the abductions.
“The power isn’t on.” I mutter to myself. Sara gets off the wall and comes closer. I repeat it when she gets closer. She nods as she looks over her shoulder to the door. The systems are a little complicated to mess with, but Jake has worked with them before and should have had them up by now. Each passing minute has plants a lump in my stomach.
“We should go check on them. They may have found whoever is behind this.” Her voice is sincere, but her darkening eyes tell me she’s mostly hoping to get out of this mess and maybe get a little break. I’m right there with her and start walking to the door. I hear her footsteps stop behind me and turn around. Sara is leaning over, a hand on her pistol holster, staring into a rack against the back wall. I join her and my eyes lock. Deep, in the back, bright yellow orbs stare back at us. They are unwavering and unsettling as I risk taking a step closer.
We open fire as some kind of insectoid bursts from the rack, throwing canisters of food and boxes of supplies every where as it flies above us and heads for the door. I curse as our shots stop right before hitting their target and a purple aura radiates around the brown alien. We chase after it as it escapes out into the hall. Each time we round a corner, I get just a glimpse of it as it rounds the next. Whatever it is, it runs faster than us and with in minutes we lose it. I slam my fist into the hard wall next to me when we finally stop and catch our breath. Then the screaming starts.
Bolts of lightning, Sara and I take off towards the atrium to find a group huddled around. As we approach the circle, I see Jake and his team on the other side. Like everyone else, they’re looking at the ground and I already know what to expect. I break through the crowd and see Josephine on the ground in a pool of her own blood. Sara turns away, but I kneel down. There is a large laceration across her abdomen, deep enough that she died a quick yet painful death. I look around at the crowd, hoping for a guilty face. Members of the Castaway as well as Jericho residents are here, but all of them looked shocked and disgusted.
“Everyone, get back to your areas and lockdown. I don’t want any movement until I give the all-clear.” My voice brings most of them out of their shock and the atrium comes to life with question after question. Cries of concern and anger fill my head. After a loud burst, it all stops. I look up at the smoking gun in my hand, raised above my head. I don’t even remember doing it. Without another word, the crowd lowers their heads and start dispersing. I constantly scan the crowd, for their protection, as I get closer to Jake. “What the hell happened?”
“We…uh…I…” It’s the first murder we’ve had on Jericho and in such a brutal manner. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Josephine, nobody deserves to go out like that. I stop scanning and look directly at him. His lips are barely moving, with nothing coming out, and his eyes are shaking. When he finally looks up and catches my own, he clears his throat and tries again. “We heard the gunfire. I guess so did Barty and Josephine. We got out here just in time to see that thing –“
“A Collector.” We all look back at Sara. She managed to compose herself and is now examining Josephine. She doesn’t look up, but must expect the confusion on our faces. “They were all over the news a while back. Commander Shepard stopped them when they were abducting colonies.” We don’t bother to ask how she knows. Shepard was a military celebrity at this point. The first human Spectre, stopping the Geth and, apparently, the Collectors. I’m pretty sure there is a class on it, these days.
“I thought they were all wiped out.” Nobody answers the implied question and I look back at Jake, waiting for mine. “Well…we got out here just as the … Collector cut down Josephine and took Barty.”
“Took him where?” Jake points back towards the power room. Sara and Frank look to me and I know what they’re thinking. “Jake, stay here and keep things locked down. Frank and Sara are with me. Let’s catch that damn bug.”
My mind is on auto pilot as we run down the halls. The Collector just doesn’t make sense. They’ve never even come near Jericho and it’s unusual for just one to show up. We huddle around the power station’s door in a classic breach formation. Sara and Frank form up on either side of the door and I take point. I kick open the door and follow through inside. The humming of the generators drowns out our steps as we fan out. It’s a good sign. It means the power wasn’t cut, but turned off throughout the station. I’m the first to come across a breach point in the wall, a hole big enough for humanoids to move through.
“That wasn’t there before. It must have punched through to escape.” Franks crouches down and activates his Omni-Tool. After a few seconds it glows and then projects a light down the tunnel. It goes to far to know exactly where it leads out at, but the stench inside is rancid. Before I can even decide what to do next, Sara takes off her utility belt and holsters her pistol. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
“Do you have a better one? Every second we waste puts Barty in danger and I’m not going to risk losing that Collector.” Frank looks to me for support. I simply fold my arms and watch as she gets down on her hands and knees. I misjudged the size of the hole as Sara gets down to a crawl and activates her own Omni-Tool.
“Be careful. We’ll be right behind you.” She gives me a quick salute and crawls into the tunnel. Frank gives me one last worried look before he follows after her. Next, I get down and turn on my own light before I start to crawl in. I stop and look back past my legs when I hear something moan. A minute of staring into the dark generator room passes before I assume it was just the low hum of the power. Then, I turn back to the darkness of the tunnel and keep moving.
The stench is getting stronger with each meter. It’s becoming clearer that this tunnel opens up in or near Jericho’s sewage system. The only question was why. I reach concrete and a hand grab’s mine. My first instinct is to draw my pistol, but I exchange it for looking up since I can’t reach it. Sara has my hand and is trying to pull me up. I get to my feet and look around. Definitely the sewage system with some added décor. Frank is standing next to some kind of spike and at the top is a person. Or, it was. It looked metallic and deformed now. He tries to touch it and Sara swats his hand away.
“Dragon’s Teeth. There’s nothing we can do for the residents and we don’t want to activate them.” She’s right. I look around to see dozens of the spikes, each with a body planted at the top. It must be our missing residents. We all draw our pistols and take cover when we hear a weak moan and some kind of strange, but harmonious noise. Up the stairs, towards the control circuits for the sewage system, the Collector is moving Barty into place on top of the base of a spike. I have every intention to run up, but know I have to stay calm.
“Please…don’t do this…I-“ Barty’s sentence is cut short as the spike suddenly extends to the ceiling, piercing through his body and leaving it dangling, lifeless. Sara gasps at the sight and covers her mouth. The Collector notices and turns around, searching for the source of the sound. It grabs a weapon off that table that almost looks like it’s made out of its skin and walks towards us. I can feel a sense of panic filling up my body. I’ve never gone against a Collector before and I have no idea what to expect.
“Hey.” Frank whispers to me and I slowly bring my eyes to him. He mouths the word ‘focus’ and grips his pistol tight. I look down to see how loose my grip is and tighten it up. With my nod, we both leap from our cover and open fire on the Collector. Surprised, it fires sporadic shots around the room and tries to flee towards the consoles. Seeing it on the run sparks some courage and we chase after it, Sara even manages to pull herself together and join. I stumble a little when it doesn’t take cover and instead starts working on the console, taking more random potshots at us.
Frank and Sara take cover from the unpredictable shots, but I’ve had enough and charge the consoles. It takes one glance up and I swear, if it can show emotion, it’s scared. I expertly land a shot right in the center of its head and it goes down. I move around the consoles just in time to see it push a button on the console and I plant three more rounds in its chest. Frank and Sara stop in their jog to rejoin me when a screeching sound fills the room. I look over their shoulders to see the spikes descending and the bodies they held come to life with a sudden pulse of energy. We start taking shots into the forming horde, but they come faster than we can take them down.
Then, I feel the hard, metallic hand on my shoulder and am whipped around as Barty yells into my face and uses all his weight to force me to the ground. I struggle to keep him back as he tries to claw at me. Just as quick as it had escaped me during the attack, my training comes back to me and I bash Barty’s head against the consoles to stun him. I reach out for my pistol just in time to plant the barrel in Barty’s mouth and pull the trigger. A vibrant, blue ooze bursts out the back of his skull with my bullet and I push his once again lifeless corpse off of me. It takes me a moment to realize what’s going on, but then I quickly climb to my feet. Sara is trying to hold the line, but Frank has fallen back closer to me and yells over his shoulder.
“There’s too many of them! Sam, what do we do?” The fight seems to slow down. Each shot has seconds between it and its predecessor. The horrific moans from the bodies seem drag out. And then, it all comes back to full speed and I run towards Frank and give him the hardest shove I can muster. I shield myself from the liquefied waste that splashes up from his body falling in and then grab Sara. I have to dodge a wild shot from over her shoulder before she realizes who has her. She tries to object as we get closer to the running waste, but I tune her out as I jump into the filth and drag her in with me. The moans are immediately drowned out as we splash around in the filth that travels much faster than I anticipated. It feels like a water ride back on Earth, just much more disgusting. It takes all that I have not to open up my mouth and scream when we pick up speed and the tunnels become pitch black. I can hear Sara screaming and can only imagine what is taking advantage of it. Suddenly, we experience a very different sensation. It feels like I’m flying. Then, my stomach lurches and my hair flies out into my field of vision and we’re falling. Pain quickly surges through my body when I hit something that has no give and then, after a few seconds, it goes away with the rest of my senses.
20:12 October 03, 2186 CE
I don’t know which is worse. Waking up in flash freeze temperatures covered in human waste or remembering how you ended up there in the first place. I waste no time and quickly clamber back to my feet. My pistol is gone, probably buried under the mountain of sewage that froze over hours ago. More than that, Frank and Sara are no where around. I have to check my Omni-Tool to see how long I’ve been out, since it’s still dark. Correction, dark again.
I close it up and make my way down the frozen pile of shit. They must have not been able to wake me and either left me for dead or assumed I could brace the cold and would join up soon. I’m glad that I pulled the second card. I look to the sky. Thankfully, it’s a clear night, a rarity on Antibaar. I stop scanning the stars when I come across something that doesn’t belong. A ship, massive judging from the distance, is in orbit. Its design is strange and reminds of the squids that I see at the aquariums on Earth. Whatever it is, it doesn’t jump out at me as a Collector vessel.
I can feel my veins freezing. My armor can only protect for so long against the cold and I decide to book it back to Jericho. The gates to the station are wide open, but Frank and Sara wouldn’t have been worried about closing it up if those things got loose. The grounds are completely destroyed. Crates lay around the snow and blood stains the white canvas, but there are no bodies. I make my way to the main building and quickly get inside. The main systems are off, but the emergency lights pulse a ominous orange glow through the hallway.
There is nobody around, but that’s expected. The dock is where the visitor hub is. This is more of a side entrance for the research teams to travel outside and collect samples. It takes me a few extra minutes in the poor lighting, but eventually I find my way back to the atrium. Only now do I realize how cold it still is. The life support systems have shut down and the facility is quickly becoming a part of the world outside. I don’t know what possesses me to open my mouth, but the frozen puff of breathe escapes my lips.
“Hello, Jake, anyone there?” Nothing immediately follows. I don’t know what I am expecting. For Jake to just mosey around a corner and tell me everything is all right? Then, I get my answer. The loud, mechanic moan. I flash on my Omni-tool light and start to make my way down the hall. As I round the corner, I find the source of the noise. The hallway is packed with those machine-like zombies. My light shines in their eyes and they turn around, screeching that same moan as they charge towards me. My fight or flight instinct kicks in and I spin on my heel to run back towards the atrium.
Much to my surprise and relief, Sara is in the atrium with an M8 Avenger aimed towards me. I duck to the side as soon as possible and she unloads her clip into the horde. I scramble to my feet and join her.
“Grab it!” She motions her head to the M8 leaning up against the bench to her right and I snag it up. I turn off the safety and start firing into the encroaching horde. It quickly starts to feel useless. There are so many of the things trying to break through the gunfire and our thermal clips quickly run low.
“We can’t hold them.” I manage to get out. It comes just seconds before a loud roar drowns out the constant moans. Over the top of the horde we see a large creature round the corner. It roars again with enough force to send some of the horde to their feet. I get a clear look at it for just a second, but it’s all I need. The massive body reminds me of an over-sized Krogan, but the long neck attaches a Turian-like head to it. I don’t know what messed up creature this is, but the mechanical features on it let me know who’s side it is.
“Run!” We shout out together. We run as fast as our legs can move in our armor. I dare not look over my shoulder, but I can hear the barreling sounds as the beast crashes into everything while charging after us. I swear I can feel it’s breath down my neck. We’re starting to slow down. Our armor is too heavy to be running this much and we’re quickly exhausting ourselves out. Sara cuts around a corner and I am just barely able to get my legs to change course and follow. She opens up a door and covers me as I enter.
It takes me a second, but I realize that it’s one of our panic rooms. The room is designed to ‘withstand orbital bombing’. I don’t know about that far-fetched crap, but I’m positive it will hold against that thing. I turn around to cover Sara, but she is all ready facing me from outside of the room, frowning. It doesn’t take me any time at all to realize what is going through her mind. I try to run out of the room, but the heavy, bulk door slams shut in front of me and I hear gunfire from the other side. I look through the small window. Sara shot out the controls.
The deafening roar comes again and Sara turns back down the hallway, unloading an entire clip down it. She’s out of ammo and tosses the gun aside before she takes off further down the hallway. I find myself begging to whatever god is running this chaos to spare her. The small hope crushes in the pit of stomach as the beast barrels down the hallway, far faster than she could be running. The high-pitched, painful scream fills up the room. I put my back against the door and slide down to the floor. My vision starts to go blurry. I think I’m going to start crying until my throat fills up and I vomit all over the floor. I black out.
06:17 October 4, 2186 CE
They tell me that I am the only survivor. I still am having trouble believing it. They found me just a couple hours ago. Apparently, some kind of galactic invasion is underway. The entire galaxy is mobilizing to repel these ‘Reapers’ and Jericho was one of the first Alliance bases hit. They say…they’re telling me that Earth is gone. They got the report of a Reaper at Antibaar and moved in to help secure the station. By the time they got there, the Reapers were gone and the station was empty. I’m lucky they found me. They only landed to recover the research that we gave our lives for. They still won’t tell me what it is.
Jake, Sara, Frank…they all fought to protect the people of Jericho. Everyone was on that station for the Alliance’s little project and I’m not even allowed to know why the hell they all died. They’re making me write this log, to recount the events that took place. I think they’re hoping for some clue as to what we’re going to be up against. All I know is, I’m not going to let the deaths go in vain. The Reapers will pay, I’ll make sure of it. But, the Alliance won’t get to keep that to themselves, either. I’m writing my resignation as soon as I’m done here. Times of war, plenty of mercenary bands will be looking for experienced soldiers. Nothing gets more experienced than surviving a run in with the enemy.
This is Samuel Ortiz, former Sergeant of the Alliance, signing off.