Fires rage across the city and the shouts and cries of the human inhabitants of the small backwater Terminus colony echo across the night sky. The blood red moon shines down as in debris filled city streets alliance marines trade gunfire with soldiers in white and yellow armor. Cries of agony from civilians and combatants alike as the alliance marines push forward. Overhead fighters duel in the air while in orbit Alliance cruisers control the system but the fight is still just beginning.
It has been almost fifty years now since the galaxy was nearly exterminated during the Reaper War. Where once the Reapers were viewed as harbingers of death they are now seen as the guardians of the galaxy by all but those who once fought against them. Entire generations have been born since that war and in that time they have never known anything of what the galaxy was once like but apart from what they learn in history books in their schools. They learn the names of those who so changed the galaxy but to them it is just a distant lesson.
Still despite all that has happened, despite how Reapers now are the shepards protecting the many, there are still some tasks that must be handled by those that live within the galaxy itself. And so alliance marines exchange gunfire with Cerberus soldiers as they advance on the last Cerberus base of operations left in the galaxy. Once an organization that was a boogey man in the dark to many the organization became little more than petty terrorists and criminals, pirates and savages. Any lofty nature to their goals and ambitions not only long since forgotten but eradicated in its entirety. Even the pretense of working for the good of humanity is little more than a memory to those in its ranks. One thing though has not changed and Cerberus fights to the bitter end. Alliance marines are forced to fight for every foot of ground in the city where Cerberus elected to make their final stand. Normally for a group such as Cerberus an asteroid would simply dropped on them to eliminate them all but the group had taken the inhabitants of the city their facility was located under hostage, while a fiery death as the asteroid crashed home would be a fitting fate for its members the Alliance wasn't about to extinguish the lives of all the captured civilians as well. And so marines fight slowly through the city, making their way towards the entrances to the underground facility to force their way in and retrieve the civilians and eliminate Cerberus at last, once and for all.
Projectiles race back and forth as the grey armored figures of the squad of marines slowly advance. Soldiers all apart from their sniper and engineer they were engaged in a slow paced gun battle. Elsewhere in the city biotic units storm Cerberus defensive positions but from what the seargent in charge of the squad can make out their biotic support were pinned down by sniper fire farther back, and since the snipers in question were too far forward of their current position to take out, they were stuck at a snails pace. The sergent swore, spit at the ground in frustration and slapped a fresh thermal clip in before peeking around a ruined column to give a burst of fire to try and pin down the Cerberus troopers hunkered down in a strong defensive position that was only accessible to the marines by crossing a lengthy open and heavily exposed street.
"Mathews if you don't start doing some good with that sniper rifle of yours get down here with the rest of us."
He shouted up towards the top of a nearby tower where the squad's sniper was laying low as two Cerberus troopers kept him under constant fire effectively pinning him. The sarcastic Irish accented came back through the stutter of weapons fire.
"Sure sarge, why don't I just pop up and take a shot at one of those bastards, I'll only take five holes through my head while I'm at it, no big deal, I'm sure the docs can patch me up right?"
The sergeant just spit at the ground again in frustration.
He muttered under his breath, but he couldn't call the marine out on failing to do something that would only get his ass killed and leave the squad another man short. Leaning around the column again he let loose another burst of fire from his rifle before his hand went to his helmet.
"Captain Kyeen, Ma'am, we're still pinned down here, where are those biotics you promised me twenty minutes ago."
The response at the other end was carry the sound of gunfire from another part of the city but the voice of the female captain came through loud and clear.
"Still pinned down sergeant but don't worry help's on the way you should be freed up any minute now."
The sergeant gave a sigh and gave another burst of his rifle around the column as the connection closed. An explosion collapsing the wall of a nearby building caught his eyes but his heart quickly dropped into his stomach as the man watched white and yellow armored figures forcing their way through the breech.
"Three o'clock, troopers trying to flank, open fire on those sons of a bitches, Grimes, Akston, get over there and make sure no more come through and if either of you are the praying type get started cause if our backup gets here soon we're going to need to pull back before they flank us one too many times."
Even as he was finishing speaking though a biotic projectile flew past him from behind their position back towards Alliance lines throwing a Cerberus trooper back through the breech while a singularity quickly followed sealing the breach temporarily to more intruders. The sergeant's eyes were drawn to the lone figure standing near a building back the way they had come from. The first thing the eyes of the sergeant were drawn to was the N7 emblem upon the soldier's right breastplate and his eyes quickly traveled outward from there.
The figure was armored in what was most commonly worn by N7 Vanguards. The black armor gleamed both with a polished shine but also with a shine that only armor
that had seen a lot of battle picked up. The soldier was obviously female as evidenced by the curves hidden beneath the armor although the helmet hid the head in its entirety. The Vanguard walked forward and looked down at the sergeant a few stray round of fire hitting her biotic barriers and harmlessly richoceting off.
"What's the situation?"
The voice muffled through the helmet's speakers lacked any noticeable accent but the sergent really didn't give a damn about that, not only had backup arrived but backup was N7, as far as the sergent was concerned Christmas had arrived early and if Santa had decided to wear armor for the occasion so be it.
"They've got a strong fortified position at the end of the street, all the side routes have been blocked off and this is the only way down, we've tried advancing but this is as far as we managed to get, after this there's no more cover and they've got a shot on you the whole damn way, I'd have lost my entire squad if I tried to push forward so I called for backup half an hour ago but my company's biotic support is pinned down somewhere else so I've just been trying to keep them occupied so they can't do anything else. What do you want us to do Ma'am?"
Referring to the soldier as if she were an officer had just been a guess on the sergeant's part but he figured it was pretty safe, you had to have been in for quite a while and done a whole lot of good while on the job to make N7.
"Just keep them pinned down I'll take care of the rest."
And as the woman drew one of the swords that were scabbard on her back and started walking towards the road leading to the Cerberus entrenched position the Sergeant and one of his squad could only exchange glances skeptically from one to another. In the end he only shrugged and gave his squad a moment to pop in fresh thermal clips before shouting.
In that moment the Vanguard became sheathed in biotic energy and then vanished as she propelled herself down the street with a single biotic charge that carried her directly into the heart of the Cerberus position. Cerberus fire pinning down the soldiers instantly ceased although the sound of gunfire continued although as the seconds passed it quickly became sparser and sparser until only gunfire from other parts of the city could be heard. And then when the sergeant was beginning to seriously wonder if their heavy hitter was lying dead and how he was supposed to get to her if there were any more Cerberus soldiers lying in wait for them to make a rescue attempt the armored figure cloaked in biotic energy vaulted over one of the barricade walls and came into view.
"All clear sergeant, get your squad up here you're coming with me from here on in."
The soldiers all exchanged wry glances from one to another before in relays they started pulling out of their position and advancing down the road making sure to give each other cover as they moved up to where the Vanguard was waiting for them sword in hand. The sergeant took the time to peek over the wall to view the carnage within where the Vanguard had been and could only give a whistle of approval before checking his rifle making sure it was ready before looking at the N7.
"Ready when you are Ma'am."
The fighting got steadily worse the closer they got to the nearest entrance into the extensive Cerberus base beneath the city but through it all with their N7 leading the way the squad advanced. It didn't matter what they encountered they laid down cover fire while the Vanguard leapt into the heart of the fray and in seconds every single engagement would be over. Even when the aged and hulking form of an Atlas emerged from a garage the Vanguard didn't hesitate and danced up its exterior and back digging her swords in deep through the weak points in its armor before ending the fight by stabbing her sword through the canopy to kill the driver within.
Hell it almost became actually enjoyable for the squad as they made their way from Cerberus position to position through the streets, steadily advancing. The grunts of the squad openly started chatting back and forth what their one man wrecking crew looked like under her helmet and though the sergeant gave them all a stern look whenever they were discussing it a little too loudly he himself was entertaining his own thoughts of the same question as well.
They reached the entrance at long last and linked up with two other squads already trading gunfire with turrets guarding the entrance. Again their N7 guardian angel made quick work of the defenses and under her command the three squads of regular soldiers formed up behind her to prepare to breech the facility. Still it took a bit for their engineer to hack the blast doors that sealed the entryway and so the squads did have a bit of a breather during which the squad the Vanguard had originally joined up with were peppered with questions by members of the other squads, all of course regarding their mystery soldier who was standing nearby obviously listening to it all but remaining outside the conversation, the members of the squad thoroughly enjoyed it as it gave them a bit to brag even if most of the bragging was about how efficiently their mystery guest was cutting through the Cerberus forces they encountered. The stories brought the appropriate "ooh's" and "ahh's" at all the right spots. N7 were half mythical beings amongst the regular grunts, everyone heard the tales that a friend of a friend of a squad mate had all heard but it was another thing to hear them from the person who'd actually seen it occur, and the stories were so far living up to expectations.
Still the good times ended quickly enough as the engineer at last hacked the doors and opened the way in. The squads formed up their N7 leader at the front and they entered into the dark entryway of the facility. The power to their section of the facility cut off they were forced to travel through the darkness only with the lights on their guns to illuminate the way, the greener soldiers would jump at all the noises
but the veteran soldiers kept their composure, at least on the surface, as for the N7 she was as hard to read as ever and didn't say a word just leading them through the labyrinth of pitch black tunnels. There were two ambushes in the dark and the marines did sustain three casualties although none of the wounds were fatal. The men were left with two more to hold a strategic point and ordered to maintain radio contact and wait for the medics to come while the rest continued on.
Eventually they reached the powered sections of the complex and came first on the prisoner holding cells. Though in the deapths of the facility the roundabout route the squads had been forced to take had actually had them emerge out into the lower levels where they encountered minimal resistane. One squad remained behind to release the prisoners and start escorting them out the way they had came while the rest moved on past the mix of all manner of species that constituted the colonists of the Terminus system colony. As they moved into the labs of the facility they started encountering resistance but it was the sight of what remained of those that had been 'test subects' in the labs themselves that had the soldiers feeling weak, not the thought of facing more combat. Gruesome experiments with no apparent goal filled all the labs, most of the occupants of which were long since dead. They did manage to find two living survivors, a human and a green asari that drew the curious eyes of several of the soldiers. They stabilized the two as best they could but the two were too medically unstable to be evacuated by anyone other than medical professionals. And so at the N7's orders the squad bunkered down there and protected the survivors to wait for the medics while she proceeded farther in, and that was the last of their engagements they had, or the last they saw of that Vanguard until after.
It wasn't until two days later that the sergeant and his squad again saw the Vanguard, as before fully armored with helmet on talking with the Asari they'd found in the labs. The campaign was over, Cerberus beat and the mission done, so as far as the soldiers were concerned it was time to celebrate a job well done and all of them had it in mind to buy their savior a drink. So when visiting one of their squad mates who'd taken fire during the mission while in the hospital and seeing the N7 and Asari talking they'd naturally waited for her to finish. A few of them even started groaning as the observed how close the Asari and Vanguard were but the others just quietly elbowed them, damsel in distress and all that, and after all, everyone loves the Asari, why should an N7 be any different from any other grunt when it came to something like that.
Still they all got their chance to thank their savior, even the sarge although his was considerably less colorful and more formal than his squad was. The moment was almost spoiled by one of the squad who'd been taking the celebrating and starting early and had gotten rather sour at seeing Asari and Vanguard so close together and wasn't about to give up on his hopes.
"Ma'am no disrespect and all that but what do you see in her? Don't get me wrong I like Asari just as much as any marine but still, when it comes to romance you won't do better than a marine."
A lot of angry glares got shot in the direction of the marine who had dared to judge their savior but the N7 just laughed a bit and reaching up removed her helmet. Needless to say all of them were shocked when they saw the blue skin beneath as the Asari within the armor removed her helmet.
"Soldier, I know marines pretty damn well, I also know what I want, however I'll let you off so long as you're buying for all of these guys for the rest of the night, do we have an understanding?"
And with a formality and seriousness that even sober individuals can rarely reach the soldier came to attention in nervousness and fear and saluted.
With a laugh the Asari clapped him on the soldier as he dropped the salute.
"Good man, now if you boys will excuse me, I need to be places."
As she started walking off helmet tucked under her arm she heard a question from behind her and turning a smile crossed her lips for a moment before she answered.
"Lieutenant Commander Benezia Shepard-T'soni."
And with a smile and laugh as the realization dawned on them she walked away.