Thessia - The Asari Homeworld
The last rays of golden light bounced between tall buildings and streams of airborne traffic until the lazy Thessian sun finally fell behind the long, jagged horizon. In its wake, a sea of moving, flashing lights transformed the massive cityscape of the capital of the Asari homeworld into a reflection of the night sky above, a transition that went largely unnoticed by the busy planet. The city cared little for the difference between day and night, particularly since nothing significant had occurred in the six hundred and seventy-nine years since the end of the Rachni Wars. A succession of similarly mundane days would follow and for most, nothing set that specific day apart. For Tela Vasir; however, it became the night that everything changed forever.
She awoke as she normally did and found no indications of anything unusual, her modest quarters had sat undisturbed since the end of the previous night. She washed, dressed, watched a news vid and slipped her average height, lithe body into pitch black combat armor that was a direct contrast to the tone of her skin. She then sat for a meal while one of her attendants prepared her weapons that were, unusual for common warriors, some of the most powerful in Citadel space. Her pale blue eyes held a distant look as she contemplated the day ahead. An ordinary day, or so she thought.
Her attendants finished preparing her weapons and thanked her for the privilege, then, believing herself prepared, Tela left the room and headed for the immense archives in the Thessian Democratic Archive Center. She found a sparsely populated city, free even of wandering offworlders who had tucked themselves away in bed or did some other, more enjoyable task, much to Tela's envy. The Asari peoples' oldest, most delicate records and artifacts required constant care and monitoring, even at night, and being the most skilled warrior on Thessia at the moment afforded her no chance to not take the assignment.
"Spectre Vasir," Matriarch Phaela said as Tela entered the main hall of records, a musty smell also greeted her and she found neither very welcoming.
Cases of artifacts were dotted around the room, the only aspect of it that seemed unorganized. A central aisle intersected large bookcases that spanned the hall, a statue of a famous Asari Matriarch stood on the end of each. Tela often thought of the central isle as the 'gauntlet' since the cold, calculating stares had intimidated her before she'd become used to them. Matriarchs never smiled, the famous ones less so, their expressions often seemed more than a little malevolent.
"Matriarch Phaela," Tela said and returned the acknowledgment with a nod. Although not famous, the Matriarch was certainly a case in point, her perfect features permanently formed a dour frown.
"Do not tamper with the records in bay fourteen, Spectre Vasir, I have sorted those into their correct order and I do not want you to disturb them." However, the message behind the words was not lost on Tela.
Sometimes being on the outside of the more traditionalist core of the post Rachni Wars Asari annoyed her, but most of the time Tela did not care. She didn't believe her views had anything to do with extremism and they had been formed by many years of study, often reading between the lines as her critical mind inherently did. Such traits were not encouraged by most of the Asari.
"Yes, Matriarch. Anything else?"
"Leave the first hall tidy or I will report you to the Citadel Council and have you thrown off of Thessia."
"That will not be necessary, Matriarch."
"We will see," Phaela adjusted her expression for one of the few times she spoke; her eyes thinned, Tela had no doubts that her words were a threat. As the Matriarch turned and left, Tela felt tempted to respond, but knew it was better to remain silent, Phaela's threats were mostly empty anyway. Tela did have one friend, a very influential one, Citadel Councilor Aesira Al'hyd, one of the two Asari members of the Citadel Council.
Tela made her way to a section of the older records and found a book that she had been studying the previous night then took it to a desk and prepared to continue. Tela Vasir had no idea that as she sat and made herself comfortable, the last few seconds of what she would later consider the normal part of her life, silently ticked away. Nothing marked the end of this comparatively boring section of her existence but an obvious, very notable sign marked the beginning of the anything but boring years that were to follow.
A familiar, musty odor wafted up from pages that quite possibly hadn't been disturbed in several hundred years. Tela's eyes consumed the faded words etched within, each painstakingly printed by hand in flowery, almost unreadable caligraphy. An ancient, wise and witty Asari Matriarch wrote the book. Tela was engrossed. It took her almost a second to notice.
It wasn't that she was unmindful of her surrundings. Like all Spectres, Tela' senses had been heightened through intense training. A more alert Spectre would probably have noticed immediately, and although she did notice, it was only after the signs grew too obvious for her to be unaware any longer. Her arm was on fire.
Tela leapt to her feet, which became entangled in her chair and she almost ended up on the floor, but for being able to save herself at the last moment. She frantically tucked her arm under her compact armor to douse the flames while her other shot out and desperately groped for her assault rifle, her fingers had wrapped around the cool metal barrel before she realized there was nothing for her to cut. Ominous silence echoed around the first hall, the vast room was deathly still.
Tela's heart pounded in her ears, although a Spectre, she had little actual battle experience to her name, mainly because there had been little actual battle for her to experience. Her eyes darted around the parts of the room she could see, they swept over the bookcases to her left and right then floated up the central aisle in front of her. The statues were as still as ever yet suddenly seemed to be collaborating with the apprehension that Tela could feel in the pit of her stomach. She cautiously lowered her eyes to her throbbing arm, her otherwise blue skin had reddened and stung. She looked around the room again, a chill traveled up the back of her spine.
Matriarch Phaela's words came back to her, the chief librarian would pounce on any excuse to have Tela demoted or exiled. Regardless, she slowly walked around the desk. The air was still and musty, just as she expected and the books seemed unsettled. The purposefully dim lighting cast shadows across the hard, cold floor tiles and illuminated the dust that filled the air. Every sound echoed up and down the cavernous room and the statues looked at her with cold, wary features. Although covered by her compact armor, Tela found herself unable to stop shivering.
She reached the opposite end of the room without incident and standing besides the exit was tempted to leave. Her eyes once again surveyed the hall, which remained quiet despite the sense of foreboding that seemed to have settled over it. She looked at her arm again and wondered just what might have caused it to burn, arms weren't generally combustible as far as she knew. Her thoughts turned to potential causes.
Whatever she had experienced was most likely some sort of strange effect of her biotics, she decided. Little actual damage seemed to have been done and tried to use some medi-gel to heal her arm, but strangely it was having no effect. Her arm wasn't unbearably sore but it was odd that the medi-gel couldn't heal it. She started walking back toward her desk, her thoughts slowly returned to her research.
Without warning, Tela felt overwhelmed by a powerful sense of premonition. She charged up her assault rifle and the rifle hummed into life for the first time in months. She turned again, her heart pounding.
Loud shouts came from behind her and she turned to see a squadron of desperate looking Salarian STG agents charging wearily in her direction, their feet falling heavily on the tiled floor. Their badly burnt Salarian Union uniforms were almost unrecognizable and several of them seemed to be running regardless of mortal, bloody wounds. They clutched their weapons close and charged passed her, their blood shot eyes sat above dark bags and their steps were driven only by adrenaline. Completely unsure of what to do, Tela dived out of the way and stumbled over something.
Hot air whooshed passed her and already on unstable footing, she tripped then fell backward. She looked down and saw that she had fallen on a dead Asari body with a large bloody hole in its chest, blood had spattered up one of her legs and blank eyes stared lifelessly upward at her. Sickened and repulsed, Tela jumped to her feet to find herself standing on another body, in horror she looked around and saw bodies and body parts scattered all over the scorched ground.
The air was alive with an intense, searing heat and a morbid smell of burning flesh. Screaming assault rifle fire deafened her as she looked over a sea of assault rifle bullets. Hordes of shadowy figures desperately fought to their deaths, amongst craters, ruins, and bodily remains. Tela shielder herself as a loud, powerful explosion nearby threw dirt and wreckage into the air, a large piece of jagged metal stabbed into the ground meters away as dirt and other things rained on her.
Her stunned mind scrambled for an explanation but she had none. Her heart racing, Tela looked around the battlefield for some sort of protective haven but saw none.
Another, more distant explosion roared in the background, Salarian and Asari soldiers jumped up and ran, some of them being cut down by assault rifle fire, others scuttling into cover before returning fire. The combat was just as intense in the skies above her as fighters and other strange craft dueled, destroying each other more often than surviving, the flaming wreckages crashed on the battlefield killing yet more of the soldiers.
Tela threw herself onto the ground amongst the bodies, looking desperately for a means of escape. Baffled by why she was there, she felt a sickening horror in her stomach and knew she was moments away from throwing up. Another powerful, nearby explosion roared in an incredible destructive fury that hurled large objects and an immense amount of dirt into the air. She covered her face, never before had she ever head of such a battle, even in her wildest, craziest dreams she had never imagined a scene as gruesome as the one she saw. Then it stopped.
Tela, almost afraid to open her eyes, felt a reassuring, cold, tiled floor below her. She timidly removed her hands from her face and looked out to see the Archive Center before her once again, completely undisturbed. For several moments she lay, carefully looking about for any signs of what she had just seen but there were none. Her armor, dirtied and bloodied during the battle, was suddenly pristine, marred only by the dust she had collected on the ground. Though her ears continued to ring, the hall was silent.
Suddenly her mind returned to life and she realized that oddly, she knew exactly what had just occurred. She pulled herself up, ran toward the desk she had been studying at and with uncharacteristic roughness, flicked back through the pages of the book written by the old Asari Matriarch until she found the passage she was looking for. She knew what she would find.
Tela slowly put the book down as the implications set in. The old Asari's vision had proved extremely ominous, as her later writing had admitted, several months later a great war had occurred. She had described her experience as a waking vision.
It seemed no coincidence she had been studying that particular book before the vision. She had clearly received a warnng of some sort, a prediction of future events, a Cipher. She looked back down at the book but the ancient Matriarch's words revealed no more than what they already had. Tela blinked and saw the battlefield again, she knew that from then on she would never be able to sleep.
Hours later, she was know closer to understanding things. It would not be long before a new day would begin and another Asari would come to research in the first hall. Then, she would finally have a chance to think about what had occurred. Somehow, thinking in the first hall had seemed impossible after what had occurred, she kept seeing those desperate, weary soldiers and the scores of dead bodies. Despite that, her next course of action was all but decided; she had to prevent that vision from happening.
Whatever she did, she knew, she would probably being doing on her own and anything she did do, would most likely meet with disapproval from the Citadel Council. The though was somewhat intimidating, yet it seemed she had few other alternatives.
Ekuna - Elcor Colony in the Attican Traverse
The Krogan warrior, Durrlex of Clan Gonamida, surmised the tranquil scene on the display monitor before him. Powerful fighter armor throbbed and hummed around him. Apprehension churned at the bottom of his stomach and his mind was filled with dreams of glory.
The Krogan dreadnought crept as far into the planet's outer atmosphere as it dared. Within its immense launch bay, Durrlex silently counted down the seconds. Each took an eternity to pass. Around him the warriors waited restlessly, communication channels that normally buzzed with threats and insults had fallen silent. It was always tense just before a battle, each warrior not knowing if they would be alive by the end of the day. Krogan did not believe in gods, they believed in battle.
Durrlex had already deactivated the magnetic clamps holding his fighter and it fell toward giant launch bay doors on the bottom surface of the ship. Moments before he would have been splattered against them, the doors flew open and the pristine world below glittered like a jewel as he began a streak toward it. Behind him, hundreds of Krogan warriors in fighters swarmed out of the giant ship and rained down on the planet, the fighters' armor glowing white as they burned a path through the atmosphere.
He contemplated the planet's fate, ignoring both the bone jarring shaking and fiery heat as his fighter violently descended. His body was subjected to g-force that would squash him like a bug, several times over, without the inertia dampeners built into his fighter. As sophisticated as his fighter was, however, it came equipped only with the absolute minimum required to keep him alive. Warriors that mastered the ability to remain conscious and retain their bodily fluids during descent were highly regarded, Durrlex had done so in his first battle. The trick was to ignore it. He considered the planet before him.
He was not a veteran by any means but even he had seen it all before. Upon acheiving their first faster than light space flights, many young planets eagerly began to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations or boldly go where no has gone before. It was often too late by the time they realized that they had not happened upon the final frontier and in fact would need to produce some formidable defenses to protect themselves or convince another planet to do so. Planets that had resources made particularly attractive targets. The Elcor had made this mistake in establishing a colony this far out in the Terminus Systems without having the military power to protect it.
As he reached the surface of the doomed world, he pulled his fighter up then set an attack vector for the capital city. Only the warriors who were new to battle had been dispatched before him and he watched as he engaged the local Elcor forces. Moments later he reached the city, shortly after that the armies of the Krogan decimated the planet's defenses.
The capital city consisted of taller buildings near its center, with building heights decreasing further out. He knew from the briefing that most of the defense was concentrated near the central region, which he also knew was stupid, since the spires would give him plenty of cover. Having preempted the rest of the warriors, Durrlex had given himself the first pick of targets.
His fighter weaved its way between the buildings, ducking and dodging enemy fire, too fast and nimble to hit. Once he had targeted one of the city's defense towers, he shot toward it and his fearsome fighter launched two missiles while unleashing a hail of fire on the powerful but clumsy GARDIAN lasers. The missiles hit their mark and the upper section of the tower exploded spectacularly, flaming wreckage flew off in all directions. Durrlex selected his next target.
He ran out of fixed targets fast, by that stage the Elcor enemy was in full retreat and attempting to evacuate the embattled cit. Durrlex pointed his fighter skyward and shot up into the atmosphere, almost back to the ship, before turning and streaking downward once more. He descended ahead of the Elcor ground forces and leveled out, heading straight for a large group of soldiers and civilians. He had them lined up and from his position would be able to pick them off like fish in a barrel but then he had another idea.
He unleashed his fire at the base of a nearby building. The Elcor were desperately fleeing and he quickly destroyed the building's foundations, it teetered and then began to fall. Durrlex fired a missile into the top of the falling tower and the entire building exploded, catching scores of Elcor soldiers and fleeing civilians. He watched as they died.
An hour later, the once pristine planet had been reduced to ash and rubble. Screams had long since fallen silent. All that Durrlex could hear as he walked across the charred surface of the dead world was the crackling of fires and the scorched soil beneath his feet.
"There's no one here," he said into his comm.
"We will return to the Rachni Hunter," his Krantt leader replied, twelve others made up their small group. In battle, Krogan generally deployed in these groups, Durrlex enjoyed something of a roving commission where fighters were concerned.
He surveyed the scene one last time, the ruins of what had once been a proud city surrounded him, none of it more than waist height. The odd dead Elcor body lay here or there, the expressions of pure terror still etched on their lifeless faces.
His blood grew hot when he thought of battle against a worthy opponent but killing those who were unworthy, slaughtering them to such an extent. He began towonder if it was necessary, despite the orders of Overlord Kredak. It wasn't his intention to openly question his leader, he knew better than to do that but caught up in the moment, Durrlex didn't even realize he had spoken.
"What was the point of this," his voie was merely a whisper but the comm channel picked it up.
"What was that Durrlex?" the Krantt leader relied, a tall, older Krogan known as Jorick, he turned as though challenged and stood before the young warrior, ready to fight.
"Nothing, I was thinking," Durrlex stood firm. In stature he was shorter and smaller than Jorick. The older Krogan held himself confidently.
"It didn't sound like nothing to me. It sounded like you were questioning Overlord Kredak's orders!"
"No. Absolutely not."
"Overlord Kredak orders that the weak and cowards be hunted down and killed. Do you question Overlord Kredak?"
"Stop it. Don't be a fool," Durrlex replied, his blood heating up again.
"I never liked you, Durrlex. You're young, stupid, and arrogant."
"And you're an old fool whose too scared to challenge those above him for position so you have to take your frustrations out on those younger and who you think are weaker than you. If ou want a fight idiot, I'll give you one!"
"Brave words Durrlex. Let's see if you can back them up!"
The rest of the Krantt stepped back except for Intarr, who walked up to Derrlex, Durrlex likewise.
"Are you sure you know what you are doing?" Durrlex had never beaten Jorick in a sparing match, at times he had received brutal beatings for losing.
"Watch my back," Durrlex replied, Intarr nodded and briefly planted his hand on his friend's shoulder.
Durrlex turned around and drew a giant sword from his back, Jorick meanwhile drew his own. The rest of the squadron had formed a rough circle around them, they began to jeer and shout at the two opponents. Durrlex and Jorick slowly circled each other.
"So you think you have what it takes to lead a squadron?" Jorick taunted. Durrlex kept his eyes firmly on his opponent, he could see many marks and dints in Jorick's armor, his own by comparison was relatively flawless.
"I couldn't be any worse than you." The young warrior gripped his sword and held it ready. Each knew that the first to attack would be in a weaker position, unless he could distract the other somehow. Durrlex was determined not to be distracted.
Jorick chuckled at the insult. "Coward!"
Suddenly, Jorick charged at Durrlex and their blades met with a loud, metallic clang. The cheering became louder and the sword fight intensified, the two blades clanged and clashed, neither warrior giving ground. Intarr stood silently and calmly watched while those around him became more and more excited.
Durrlex grunted as Jorick started to push him backward, the old warrior slowly gained the upper hand. He gritted his teeth and redoubled his efforts, his heart beat as if trying to escape the confines of his chest, he knew that he was literally fighting for his life. Despite his efforts, Durrlex still found himself taking backward steps, he might have been a little quicker but Jorick was the more experienced, having fought in the Rachni Wars many years before. Durrlex had only been accepted as a Krogan warrior in his own right several years before.
Jorick's blade pushed through Durrlex's defense and the older warrior was able to swing his weapon across his opponent's armor, striking Durrlex at the lowest part of his neck and cutting a large gash that extended to his opposite hip. The force of that blow pushed the younger warrior backward and he found himself on the ground, pain burned in his chest where the sword had penetrated his armor.
"Today you die!"
Jorick held his weapons above him as he shouted and brought it down in what he intended as a killing blow, Durrlex was able to roll out of the way and he jumped back to his feet.
"I will kill you!" he shouted as he charged his opponent and launched into a series of aggressive blows, knowing that he desperately needed to swing the momentum of the fight in his favor. Jorick dodged and deflected the attacks, a few of Durrlex's blows very nearly got through. The rest of the Krantt had mostly quieted down as they watched intently, Jorick was grinning, enjoying every minute of the fight. Intarr continued to stand calmly, his own hand gripping the handle of his blade.
As Durrlex began to wear himself out, Jorick slowly took the initiative back, he stepped aside of a blow and then counterattacked. Mid way through the offensive, Durrlex suddenly saw an opening and stabbed with his blade, under Jorick's raised arm, impaling the older Krogan. The sword penetrated Jorick's breast and ran through his body until the blade protruded from his back. They stood, frozen for a second before Durrlex removed his blade and Jorick fell to his knees.
"Well done," the older Krogan congratulated him. There was no menace, or hate in his words for neither truly hated the other. It was a simple acknowledgement that he had been beaten by the better warrior and as he fell, Jorick nodded in respect, then he died. The Krantt were stunned for a few seconds, but then withdrew their own blades and attacked Durrlex, each figuring it the perfect time to seize leadership of the group for themselves.
Intarr stepped in behind Durrlex and the two stood defending each other, swords clashing with the other Krogan who attacked them. The fight went on for a few moments before most realized they had reached something of a stalemate. Intarr and Durrlex, though not attacking the other warriors, were allowing them no opportunities. The Krantt stepped back.
"I am your new leader!" Durrlex declared loudly, "You will obey me!"
The other Krogan nodded one by one, as they somewhat reluctantly accepted the youngest member of their group as their leader. They cautiously put their swords away but the issue was far from dead, as Durrlex well knew. Over the coming weeks he would face many challenges to his authority, he would need to prove himself worthy and only then would he have the respect of his men. He felt up to the task.
Later as he was back, sitting in his fighter, docked in the Rachni Hunter as the mighty ship slowly drew away from the world. The picture before him was very different, green had mostly been replaced by brown while smoke and ash had tinged the entire world in grey. A world that barely hours before had sparkled and shimmered with life had become a dull, lifeless rock.
He finally allowed himself to feel contented, though not fulfilled. His appetite for battle could never be sated. Equipment and supplies had been taken from the world, though the world had been declared unsuitable for Krogan habitation due to the high gravity. They would need to find more suitable living conditions on another world.
A part of him still regretted the absolute destruction, even though he knew Overlord Kredak's teachings were true. One day the Krogan would have an army worthy of the Citadel Council. That was the plan anyway.
The comm channel interrupted his thoughts, "Durrlex of Clan Gonamida. Commander Certax wants to speak with you."
Certax was the leader of Clan Gonamida, to even be in his presence was an honor. Durrlex, despite being a Krantt captain, was still only a lowly warrior by comparison.