Chapter 1: First Contact
Aboard the Normandy, Commander Shepard sat with his assembled team in the comm. room. They had recently finished their mission on Feros, having killed the Thorian and freeing the colonists from its control. She was going through mental pains, having received the Cipher from Shiala, who was under the Thorians control after being given to it by Saren. Her team was taking notice, day by day the Commander was looking more pale.
"Are you alright Commander? You don't look so good." Kaidan asked.
"Shepard had an encounter with an asari who was able to give him the Cipher." Garrus explained.
"Were you able to make anything out of it?" Ashley asked.
"Just more pictures and visions... I can't really make anything of it." She explained rubbing her head.
"Maybe you should go lie down Commander, you've had it rough." Tali said sincerely, but Jane waved off her suggestion.
"I'm fine, I just need a bit of air. You're all dismissed." The crew stood up excusing themselves. Jane was ready to leave until Joker's voice come on the comm. system.
"We just sent the Feros report to the council, do you want me to patch them through?" Her wiry pilot asked.
"I'm not in the mood to talk to them Joker, tell them I'll make contact at another time." She grumbled. She was too distressed to have to deal with them at the time, they would only make her head hurt worse.
"We also have a hail from Admiral Hackett, he said it's urgent." Joker continued.
"Go ahead Joker, patch him through." She confirmed. Hackett was a good man, and she had no problem talking to him. The old admiral appeared in the holo-projector.
"Commander, good to see you." Hackett said saluting, with Jane saluting as well.
"What's this urgent news I need to know Admiral?"
"Our sources tell me that a Geth ship, a Dreadnaught no less, has been spotted in the Armstrong Nebula, in the Gagarin system." He explained, making the Commander widened her eyes in interest.
"Is it Saren?" She asked intently.
"I'm not sure, our ships weren't able to confirm whether he was aboard or not, but we know they're searching for something." The admiral continued.
"What exactly would they be looking for?"
"We don't know, but we have an idea about why they arrived there. Almost a week ago, there were reports of some sort of... space rifts." Hackett answered slowly, making the Commander raise an eyebrow in question.
"A... space rift?" She repeated with slight disbelief.
"Our scientists called it a "sub-space rift" when explaining it to me. That alone wouldn't warrant investigation from the Geth, but what most likely brought them there was what came out of the "rift"."
"What exactly came out?" She asked now more curiously. The admiral shrugged in response.
"Apparently the fields from the rift created too much interference for them to really see at first, they had to wait until it was clear of it to ensure it was safe to look. That was today, and when they looked they found a Geth Dreadnaught heading towards it."
"But if the Geth go out of their way to try and intercept it, it must be worth something." Shepard guessed now, with Hackett nodding in response.
"I need you to get to the Armstrong Nebula as soon as you can, Commander. Find out what the Geth are looking for, see if this connects to Saren, and bring back what information you can."
"Yes sir, I'll do what I can." She answered saluting him once again.
"Thank you Shepard, I know I can count on you. Hackett out." The admiral disappeared from the holo-projector.
"No rest for the weary." Shepard mumbled, but straightened up quickly.
"Joker, set a course for the Armstrong Nebula."
"Aye aye commander."
Cortana watched the ship intently as it came closer and closer to the Forward unto Dawn. The ship was similar in ways to a Covenant ship, but was definitely different. Large, purple, and armed to the waist in weaponry that would shred the remains of the Forward unto Dawn. She had two choices left. First was to wait for the unknown and see if it's peaceful, or wake up John and be ready for anything.
The second was the best choice.
"Sorry Chief, looks like you're getting one rude awakening." Cortana said aloud. She activated the pod's computer, preparing to open it. Suddenly the pod malfunctioned, rejecting her request to open.
"No no no no not now! I need you to get up John!" Cortana said now panicking. The ship was now boarding, and the Master Chief was still unconscious.
"Come on Chief, I picked you for your luck, let's hope it hasn't run out yet!" She said pooling her data to try and open the pod, but still no luck with it. The sound of troops piling in could be heard, making Cortana retreat within the system, keeping an eye on the area.
Finally the group of aliens entered, and made Cortana look in wonder. The group consisted of synthetic soldiers, all mechanical beings. She imagined that they were attack AI's with few human or emotional preferences like herself. She counted the soldiers, estimating up to seven AI drone's (what she would call them for now). She continued to try and wake the Chief, instead of opening the pod, he was more than capable of doing that part himself.
"Get on one of these systems and download the data, see if we can find anything useful!" A voice came, loud and demanding. She saw a new alien, organic unlike the others in the room, although he seemed to have some cybernetic changes to his body. He had mandibles on his face, making Cortana see a small similarity to a Sangellhi, but it was minimal. She would say its face was almost feline like.
"Acknowledged." One of the unit's answered, and went over to the terminals. Cortana, of course, blocked all access to the files. "Error, being blocked by internal AI, data retrieval impossible."
"What? An internal AI? Bring up the AI, show it to me!" The strange alien barked.
"That action is impossible for us to do." It answered simply. Cortana could see that the new alien had a temper when he decided to shoot the synthetic in it's eye without hesitation.
"A bit of a temper I see." Cortana said, now getting his attention. She showed herself on the holo-projector. He turned to her in anger, but it seemed to simmer down to curiosity as he looked her over.
"You're the AI in charge of this ship?" He quipped now.
"Maybe, maybe not. That's not something I really tell to foreign aliens." She explained placing a hand on her hip. This was a perfect chance to buy time. She was still working away on John's pod.
"An AI with an attitude, that is truly something strange." He said crossing his arms, his irritation growing little by little.
"My preference's were made special of course, I'm a very special AI." She said coyly.
"I bet you are, and if you would like to stay active, you will give me all the information from this ship." He now threatened. She looked away from him to look at the Geth, which helped to make him grow more impatient.
"Nice crew of synthetic AI's, what exactly are these?" She asked. He seemed puzzled a bit by her new question, but it seemed like he was biting.
"You must be ancient to not know what these unit's are. They are called the Geth, created by the Quarians long ago. They are now under my control, as you will be." He explained, although the last part much more threatening. Cortana was now curious to see what the cat faced alien was willing to say more of.
"Quarians? I've never heard of them, is that what you are?" She asked now, but he began to laugh mockingly at her.
"I thought you were supposed to be an intelligent AI, but I guess I was wrong. Do you not even know what a turian is?"
"No I dont, seems like I need to catch up on the races. Do you work with the Sangellhi? The Elites?" She said. Keep him talking, distracted until Chief is up. She continued in secret to try and awaken the Spartan.
"Sangellhi? Never heard of them. You are running my patience AI, give me the information I want or I will destroy this without hesitation!" Saren said ferociously. He was tired of this conversation he and Cortana were having, he wanted what they came for.
"Sorry, I can't do that, it's all classified." She answered smugly. It was a good way to buy more time, he would be too busy ranting to notice-
"Saren-Commander, we have found a life form."
Saren turned to the Geth who stood in front of the Cryo-chamber where Chief lay asleep. Saren looked at him with intrigue. Cortana began to work faster now, hoping for a miracle.
"So AI tell me, is this one of your classified specimens?" He said now with confidence.
Come on just a little bit more.
"No answer for me? Well then, I can tell it's alive, so maybe I should just kill him, and we can use his remains as an expriment." He said now holding up his gun to the chambe, pointed at the Chief's head.
"NO!" Cortana said unable to hold the scream in. Saren chuckled deviously. He found her weak spot.
Come on Chief, you need to wake up!
"Did I hit a nerve AI? If you give me the information I need, I'll let this... thing live."
"I wouldn't be holding that gun at him anymore." Cortana said now with a smile. Saren paused for a moment in surprise.
"And why is that?"
Suddenly a hand burst through the glass, grabbing the Turians throat. He brought Saren's head into the the glass with a ferocious slam and threw him back. He fell to the ground, heavily dazed.
"Kill it!" He managed to yell. Two Geth that stood in front of the cryo-chamber raised their weapons, but were quickly incapacitated as Chief kicked off the glass door, smashing the two of them against the ship's wall. Chief grabbed his assault rifle and rolled quickly to the terminal where Cortana was plugged in. The Geth had opened fire, but the Chief only grabbed her chip and placed it in his helmet.
"I see you've been making friends." He said in his deep voice, which was how he spoke, even when joking.
"You're one to talk." Cortana said as John raised up and fired on them. the bullets were at first deflected by some shields on the Geth, but they quickly dissolved away as he continued to fire. He aimed with precision, always aiming for each of their heads, where the shield seemed to be the weakest, like his were.
Two Geth remained, and Chief was running out of bullets. One seemed to have a weapon like a shotgun, and continued to get closer while invisible. It was right around the corner of the terminal, but John moved with lightning speed and punched it's head into the wall, destroying its optics. He took it's shotgun and used it on the second Geth, which fell easily. The room was cleared, but it seemed the turian had escaped.
"Now that we're clear of them, can you tell me what's going on?" Chief said now shouldering his assault rifle. He managed to find ammo for it in a weapons locker after the fire fight was over.
"Well, three days ago, we had drifted into deep space, and I sent out a stronger beacon signal. Next thing I know, a cat faced alien was marching in here with assault AI units." She explained to him.
"It's what he looked like to me." She said simply to which Chief nodded to. "By the way before we move, grab the gun on the terminal, it's a grenade launcher I designed."
"You didn't want to tell me it was their when I was fighting?" He asked with a raise of an eyebrow.
"I didn't want you wasting it's ammo, and I knew you could handle it." She said, and John knew there was an unseen smile she was cracking.
"But we'll worry about those things later, right now we need to get off the Forward unto Dawn. That "turian" thing will want to blow us up as soon as he gets the chance. The ship hasn't separated yet, so we have time to get to an emergency shuttle and get out of here." She explained as he began to run through the corridors. He stopped momentarily though.
"What's wrong Chief?"
"Even if we get off of the ship in time, he could just follow the shuttle and blow us up anyway." He explained, making her go into thought.
"You're right, we need to find a way to make sure he can't follow us. I have an idea, if you can get to the engineering area, I can overload the ships engines, and blow up the rest of the Forward unto Dawn." She explained. Chief nodded and headed for the engines.
Something in Chief's mind clicked though. Cortana should have been able to foresee the results of the first plan easily. Was something wrong? He shook away the thought. He would check on her later, now he had to focus on escaping.
"Chief, more of those mechs coming around the corner!" Cortana announced to him. He looked at the radar, spotting up to five in the area. He took his assault rifle in his hand and as soon as he saw the glow of the optics from the mech, he opened fire. He had no time to be subtle about this.
"Engaging hostile!" One of them yelled. They turned and opened fire on the Chief, who quickly went into cover behind a storage locker. He determined that the guns they held were weak in nature, but shot with great speed to make up for it. He turned around the corner and blasted another and rushed the closest of them. A few shots made contact with his shields, and his assumption was correct as his shields were only reduced by a small fraction. He rammed the Geth into the wall with great force, seemingly killing it. The other's took aim, but he instead threw the remains into the other two. Knowing they were only down but not out, the Chief jumped over to them quickly, shooting them in the heads before they could even move.
"I see cry-sleep hasn't taken away your skills." Cortana said heartily, with him giving a slight smirk.
"Just turn the engine capacitor to max, and it will overload in under two minutes." She explained, with him complying as he did so. The engines let out a large rumble, shaking the station greatly.
"Great, that did it, now go! We don't have much time!" She shouted into the comm, and the Chief now doing a mad sprint. Spartans could run faster than the average car at full speed, although Kelly was the fastest of them.
"How about we pick up the pace here." Cortana said as the Chief was now being lifted into the air. He hadn't notice that there had been modifications to his suit until now.
"When did you add this to my suit?"
"I had a lot of free time." She said simply. They were heading for a wall, but John quickly shot the grenade launcher, making a large hole.
"That's a good use for it." Cortana said thoughtfully as they went. He finally reached the escape shuttles and boarded.
"I hope the engine overloads in time." Cortana said worried, but the Chief remained calm as always.
"We'll make it." He said confidently. This slightly reminded him of their first arrival on Halo, but it was far less tragic now... there were no other marines onboard that may or may not die. Before the door to the shuttle closed, he picked up another one of the Geth. it came close and nearly opened fire, but he reacted far too quickly for it. He slammed it against the wall of the shuttle, but before he could kill it, Cortana stopped him.
"Wait Chief! I have an idea, keep it alive. We need information and this thing might be able to give us some." She explained. John held it by what looked like it's neck, having disarmed it already.
"Commencing self termination." It said robotically, but Cortana acted quick.
"Oh no you don't, Chief, plug e into this thing!" She shouted, with John complying as he took her chip out and found a place to put her in.
"I'm launching the shuttle now." Chief said, but received no answer. Without hesitation he pressed the launch button, and the two were sent flying away.
Back on the Geth Dreadnaught, Saren was steaming with anger. they had finally detached from the Forward unto Dawn, But only barely. The external camera's watched as the shuttle escaped towards the closest planet.
"Pursue that vessel, do not let them escape!" Saren barked out.
"Error, command cannot be met. Larger vessel will explode in matter of seconds, damaging our vessel greatly. Recommend an escape through light speed." The Geth pilot said. Saren growled with anger but gave in.
"Fine, we will escape now, make the jump." He said with the pilot saying "acknowledged.".
John watched as the large ship made the jump into light speed, and moments later, saw the Forward unto Dawn explode. He walked over to the Geth unit and knelt down, trying to find a sign of Cortana. Suddenly it started to activate, and John jumped back with his gun drawn.
"You really going to point a gun at a lady?" The unit said suddenly, but it was Cortana's voice now.
"Cortana? Are you controlling that thing?" He said now putting down his AR. It stood up and examined itself.
"That's right, although I'm not too fond on the new look." She said warily.
"It lookes good on you." John said subtly, giving a small smirk.
"Ha-ha very funny. Go ahead and unplug me, I've got the information we need. I've already set the ships coordinates to where we're gonna land." She said. He took the chip out and watched as the body fell to the ground.
"What did you find?"
"A lot of things. I was surprised by how much information these assault AI's carry. But I'm going to let you know now... it's gonna be a long story."