Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 12

Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 12

The Admiral’s Team

The Normandy arrived in the Artemis Tau cluster which is made up of 4 systems, Athens, Knossos, Macedon and Sparta. The only information that Shepard had, was that Dr Liara T’Soni was at a dig site somewhere in the cluster.

Shepard stood in the Combat Information Center (CIC), overlooking the galaxy map, his hand rubbing the stubble on his chin, thinking of where to start first. Each location was as suitable as another so he decided to start where they already were. The Mass Relay was located in the Sparta system, so they scan the possible planets there for signs of Dr T’Soni. While they were there, he thought they would look for signs of Admiral Kahoku’s missing team, which was performing ops in the Sparta System.

There were 5 planets and a small asteroid belt in the Sparta System, but there was only one planet of them that could harbour life: Edolus. The other planets were either too cold, had no atmosphere or was a gas giant. The chances were slim that they could hit 2 birds with one stone by helping Admiral Kahoku and finding Dr T’Soni. Edolus would likely be where Kahoku’s team was, so they diverted from their search for Dr T’Soni to help the Admiral.

Shepard instructed Joker to sweep the planet and scan for the Admiral’s team. Shortly after starting the scanning, they may well have struck gold. Joker got on the comm to Shepard,

“Commander, err, I’m picking up a distress beacon from the planet surface.” He said,

“Can we get the Normandy in for a closer look?” Shepard replied,

“Negative, Commander. The planet is constantly being bombarded by meteors, it’s like a freaking magnet for those things. Best I can do is find a landing zone near the beacon and drop you in the Mako. Picking you back up is going to be dicey, but we can deal with that later.” Joker said,

“Do it Joker. I’ll get Garrus and Wrex ready to join me.” Shepard told him, as he turned away from the Galaxy Map and headed down the ship to the Mako.

The Normandy flew fast into the atmosphere on the always shuddering planet, its surface an infinite sea of yellow silicate sand with a few rocky highlands. Joker’s expert flying was probably the only reason that the ship wasn’t struck by incoming meteors flung at the planet by the nearby gas giant: Ontamalca. Joker flew the Normandy in, and dropped the Mako out of the cargo bay for it to make a controlled descent to the planet surface. It would be seen from the outside as a high-risk manoeuvre, however with Joker flying the Normandy and Shepard controlling the Mako, it was routine, even as mundane as going to the head for a piss for them.

The Mako dropped out of the Normandy and immediately Shepard applied the vertical thruster in order to control the landing, Shepard was well versed in the workings of the Mako, and landed it perfectly.

Shepard sat in the Mako for a moment, the engine rumbling under his seat and checked the operational map. He quickly found the distress signal that Joker had mentioned in a large flat plain, he turned the Mako around and headed towards it.

After driving a few hundred meters, Shepard drove the Mako to the top of a small hill on the edge of the open flat. They could already see the tank that Kahoku’s team must have been using near the centre of the plain, and nothing else. Things looked too easy, and they had to find out what happened to the squad, so they proceeded with caution.

Shepard slowly drove the Mako towards the tank, the M29 “Grizzly”, and as they approached it was clear that there wasn’t a single survivor of Kahoku’s team. The mauled bodies of the elite Alliance soldiers littered the ground around the Grizzly, Wrex spoke up.

“Erm, Commander. This looks like a Thresher Maw nest.” He said with an unease Shepard was surprised to hear from the big krogan.

“Come on Wrex, whatever it is, we can handle it.” Shepard replied confidently. It was only moments later that Shepard knew his confidence was wildly misplaced. His conception of what a Thresher Maw was, was massively off the mark. He knew they were essentially giant worms, but he thought that meant they were more like big snakes. Wrex on the other hand, coming from Tuchanka, was more than aware of what Thesher Maws were, and why it would be best not to drive into one of their nests – it’s widely thought that Thesher Maw’s originated on the krogan homeworld.

Shepard drove the Mako closer to the distress beacon and the dead Alliance team, when the Thesher Maw showed its head. Literally. Thesher Maw’s live and burrow underground, and break through the surface in order to surprise and catch its prey.

The Thresher Maw’s head alone must have stood at around 50ft above the surface, it immediately faced the Mako, as it ground to a halt in a nervous stand-off that only lasted a second but felt as though it lasted forever. It recoiled its head, and spat its venom, a highly corrosive acid that would have cut through the Mako’s armour like a hot knife through butter. Shepard thought quickly and applied the accelerator whilst hitting the vertical thruster for a moment, essentially hopping over the incoming acid storm.

Although the Thresher Maw had surprised Shepard, that tactical element was now lost to it. Shepard trained the sights of the main cannon and machine gun onto it and fired. Although the blast and spray of machine gun fire hit the monster in its face, it barely seemed to make a scratch, but it retreated back underground.

“Do you think we scared it off?” Garrus asked, he like Shepard, was unaware of the hunting habits of the enormous beast they had just come into contact with.

“Ha! Turians. You’re all the same.” Wrex chuckled to himself, “One battle won and you think you’ve won the war. We’d better have eyes in the back of our heads while we’re sat here, it’s tunnelling around us.”

“Then we’d better not be sitting ducks.” Shepard said, driving forward as fast as he could. As he did, Garrus and Wrex looked at each other, Garrus speaking up first.

“What’s a duck?” he asked genuinely.

There was no time for an explanation, the Thresher Maw rose out of the ground again behind the Mako pausing for the split second before rearing back to spit again. Shepard fired at the Maw again, dodging the acid that started to dissolve the ground where it struck, and again the Maw retreated underground.

“Shepard, you’re doing the right thing if you want to take this thing down. Move and shoot. But I think we know what happened here. I’m not going to shy away from a fight, but this is pointless.” Wrex said,

“No. We need to take this thing down and find out what that beacon is. An Alliance team with the ear of a Rear Admiral wouldn’t just stumble in here without good reason.” Shepard replied.

The Maw rose again and Shepard shot it down again, and again. And again. The dance continued and it took a while, but the Mako’s guns soon wore down the Thresher Maw’s armour-like skin and flesh and finally toppled it. With the Thresher Maw dead, they could finally investigate what happened to the Alliance team.

Shepard, Garrus and Wrex left the Mako to check out the Alliance corpses and the distress beacon. Although it was clearly the Thresher Maw attack that had left the soldiers dead, it was the distress beacon that was intriguing.

“This is an Alliance beacon.” Shepard said, examining it closely,

“Alliance? So Kahoku’s team set it up, maybe when they were attacked?” Garrus replied,

“Impossible.” Wrex said with his worldly arrogance, “You saw how quickly that Maw attacked us, if they were already out of that tank, they wouldn’t have lasted 10 seconds out in the open. That beacon was already here.”

Shepard looked at the beacon more closely, although it was an Alliance beacon, it just didn’t seem right to him. The only thing he could do was report back to Admiral Kahoku on the Citadel the next time they were there.

With that, Shepard contacted the Normandy for a pick up. As they waited in the Mako, Shepard started thinking about where to look for Dr T’Soni next.