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Omnia Vincit Amor: Chapter 1: Homecoming
Posted By: (ENS) Rabid_Gallagher<rabid_masterchief@hotmail.com>
Date: 21 May 2008, 2:29 pm

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"…Well, what about Shepard? She grew up in the colonies."

"Her parents died on Mindoir, only a few people made it out of that mess."

"She knows how tough life can be out there. Her whole unit died on Akuze. Fifty Marines, and she's the only one who made it out alive."

"Is that the kind of person you want protecting the galaxy?"

"That's the only kind of person that can protect the galaxy, Ambassador."

"I'll make the call."

      Cortana sighed.
      It was a programmed function to simulate some sort of humanity that she could not possess, but it was still hard for even her to describe the intense loneliness that she had to embrace out in the darkness of deep space. No one to engage conversation with, nothing exciting to come across, and not even anything to endanger her only friend's life out here, in darkness.
      Deep, deep darkness.
      They were now heading within the direction of Earth, and they were on the distanced border between Dark Space and UNSC-explored space, distanced on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant. Distanced on the edge of reality and the unexplainable.
      Cortana knew that such space myths were not readily to be explained.
      The floating debris of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn drifted on a course that was Core-ward, to the absolute center of the Milky Way. Against the starry background of light emitting from far away stars and other phenomena that exploded with light, the once mighty ship floated across the invisible spectrum of all things unseen, from dark matter to radiation, to un-seeable colors, dressed across the infinite ocean of dust, gas, and…nothing.
      But something unlike anything Cortana had ever experienced was happening, a large hole in the Galaxy was being torn right in the Frigate's path.
      It was large, colorful, an arrangement of those unseen colors matching with the beauty of the known universe. Dark matter collided with light, radiation collided with gravity, and all of the beauty of the universe exploded and imploded within that hole in space. It led to another place, unseen by all of the Milky Way, a place where time itself bended and shifted.
      Cortana sighed again.
      She knew they were going to go through, but she did not have the heart to awake her friend. If they both were going to have their lives ended by that explosion of gravity and time, she 'thought' that he would rather die sleeping. It was the best fate for anyone, her brilliant mind calculated, to die in their sleep, harmlessly.
      She was envious, another one of those damn preprogrammed human emotions.
      They were caught by this…she could not call it a black hole, because it was different. It was brilliant, a pink and vibrant color wrapping around the singularity in such a fashion that gravity wasn't trying to eat it alive. She, the AI who knew nothing about life's majesty, was stunned by how the light and…beauty of it worked. She hated using that word; it was describing something she could not grasp.
      A human ideal reserved for humans.
      They were now past the point of no return, not that the dead frigate could have propelled its self to safety anyways.
      "I've got to stop sighing", she said to no one.
      The ship started to shake, as the hull was attempting to save itself. The massive ship groaned as the titanium-A ablative armor plate started to buckle. The ship was heading right towards the event horizon now, making a curve across the infinite plane to enter into the singularity itself. Cortana, as she sat there and waited, replayed every recorded memory she ever had as an AI, and she let a smile cross over her digital face.
      They were now within the… thing, and she closed her digital eyes, and did a very human thing.
      She prayed.

      Commander Rebecca Shepard dropped her knee to the ground, her Lancer assault rifle letting loose energy blasts that could melt the skin off any human. A piece of concrete acted as cover for her target, a geth solider. She had to end the fight quickly, the black robotic AI was adapting by the second. It turned around, and foolishly revealed its full body toward the female N7 Commando. Its bright, single 'eye' illuminated the area around him, but it did not stop the energy 'bullets' from cutting into its chassis and destroying the hardware within.
      The geth soldier was destroyed, falling to the ground inert.
      "Nice shot, Commander." A female voice picked up from behind her, belonging to Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. She and the Commander had met only half an hour ago, but they worked flawlessly together already, a sign of their adaptability. They were silenced when a squad of geth soldiers, four of the robotic warriors, sprinted into view from behind another outcropping of metal, the lift station's balance beam, so close to the Beacon.
      A large wave of biotic energy swept over the squad, throwing them over the railing to a rocky death fifty feet below.
      Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko crouched, a hand gently rubbing his forehead as a wince crossed his face. Every time he used his powers, large or small, a headache came, and with prolonged usage of his powers he received some very nasty migraines. The man, of Eastern American decent, looked up at his commanding officer with a smile, nodding that he got the enemy good. Rebecca, her short red hair covered by the helmet she wore, smiled back before they stared with awe at the Beacon.
      "Look at it, it's so amazing…"
      "Don't touch it, we don't know a thing…"
      "Joker to Commander Shepard, come in", called the Normandy's navigation officer.
      Rebecca raised an eyebrow, she was approaching the beacon but now she stopped, dead in her tracks.
      "What is it?"
      "Uh, something massive just popped up off of our bow, and it shot something towards your location. I'd keep my eyes open so a giant piece of junk doesn't land on your head and kill you…'mam."
      Rebecca looked up, her neck arching upwards towards the amber-colored sky, not colored by the sun but by the numerous explosions illuminating the atmosphere.
      "Joker, are you pulling my leg?"
      "No Commander. But the big… hulk hasn't done anything since though. We've scanned it, and we found nothing, but we're still going keep our eyes open."
      "Roger that, Joker. I've…Ashley, look out!"

      The HEV pod burned through the atmosphere.
      Master Chief John-117 braced himself, both for the landing and what to expect. From what Cortana told him about what happened, they could be in an entire different galaxy, or even a whole new universe. It wasn't like he could even see what was happening outside: what the planet looked like, its color, and the things around it, the HEV pod was not made with such luxuries as windows.
      He was, like on all drops, worried. But not scared.
      Spartans don't get scared.
      "Heart rate's going up, Chief. You breaking down on me?" Cortana's voice, attempting to lighten the mood, broke through his communicator within his helmet, her voice indeed lending a knife to the tension.
      But he still had to force himself to talk.
      "Not one bit, Cortana."
      He was bracing himself for the hit, the final impact. Inside the HEV he saw the drop data rolling downwards on the screen, then felt the pod beginning to slow itself to a point where he knew he was in the safe zone, at least somewhat. His eyes were closed, as he went through his pre-mission shakedown.
      I am a soldier. I do not fear death, or destruction. I fear for only the lives of my comrades, for I am alone. I am fearless. I am John.
      I am Spartan.

      The HEV pod slammed down on the ground hard, the door blasting out and flying thirty feet across the ground, explosive bolts having propelled it out. The Chief, with his MA5C ICWS Assault Rifle, shoved himself out of the HEV pod and quickly gathered his surroundings. In a split second, he knew exactly where he was.
      He was on a platform, metal to be exact, with a sky colored by the light of nearby fires, lending an amber and red hue to the sky. Metal siding was prevalent, as if it was all prefab construction, and there was a strange obelisk nearby, about twenty feet high. Next to him was a female dressed, to him, in odd armor that did not match anything he saw outside of the UNSC. His rifle was immediately trained on her, a quick movement.
      "Who are you?" He asked, his voice gritty as steel.
      "Drop the gun!" A voice nearby shook him out of his 'seek and destroy' mode, and he slowly turned his head to a point where he could see who was ordering him and the woman who he had pinned to the ground. They both appeared to be soldiers of some kind.
      "Not until you tell me what the Hell is going on."
      "Alright, alright, I'm putting my gun down. Let the Gunnery Chief go." The other female, the one with the gun still in her hands, gently placed it on the ground with careful hands. But the Chief wasn't stupid, he saw how the barrel was still facing him. "You're on Eden Prime. It's 2183."
      "Bullshit." A word that Master Chief never used to say, but he knew it couldn't be. There was no way the 'hole' as Cortana described it could have been something akin to time travel. The quick thought left him as he slowly lifted his rifle up a few degrees and took a step back. The Gunnery Chief quickly rolled towards the female and picked up her weapon.
      "Who are you?" She asked again.
      "Master Chief 117, United Nations Space Command. Where the hell is Ed-" His words were disrupted by a violent show of force, thrown forward against a bulkhead by a huge amount of force from behind him. Behind him, as he turned around, a male with an odd design of a pistol stood, his pistol aimed straight for John. His stance, how he held himself, screamed to John that he was a soldier.
      He put his hands up.
      "Look, Commander, a gun that still uses bullets."
      What the hell is going on?
      "Joker, this is Shepard. Tell Captain Anderson we found someone here, we don't know who…what it is, but we found someone. The beacon is secure. We need immediate evac." The female soldier, away from him, said in her communicator as she turned to face the beacon itself. She and the Gunnery Sergeant were talking in private near the beacon, but the male continued to train his pistol on John.
      It was irritating.
      Suddenly, the beacon, as they called it, exploded with light in a flash, energy humming loudly, and Shepard was caught in it. She was visibly struggling, pushing herself back with all her strength, but the beacon was using some sort of unknown energy to pull her in. The male was distracted, now staring at her, as the other was too, screaming at the male.
      "LT, get her!"
      "We'll both get caught, and that won't help anybody."
      John took a chance.
      He ran forward, amidst the screams for him to stop, and a few blasts from their pulse weapons hitting his shield. It did little against his now-realized superior shields and armor, and he could now fully concentrate on getting to Shepard, as they called her. He was now next to her, planting his armored foot into the ground, hard. She was surprised, to say the least, when John picked her up and threw her away from the beacon, a heave towards the other two humans with his superhuman strength. Shepard, as they called her, fell down onto the hard metal bulkhead. Her head snapped up to the Spartan, to see if he was alright.
      But now he was caught, lifted up into the air by a strong, invisible force. His arms were spread out, and his head was now filled with images.
      A hallucination.
      Or perhaps a vision?
      They were haunting to John, however quick they were, of giant ships and metal being fused to human-like people. His teeth grinded together as he felt the pain of the images being thrusted into his head. Cortana was screaming, telling him to do something, but he couldn't. All he could is watch the images play out in his mind, the death of the Protheans.
      Make it stop!
      All he knew now was that the images hurt, they hurt badly and he wanted them to stop, and maybe the pain would go away, but that was a fading hope for something unknown, but all he saw was images, and it hurt him. Screams, not of his own mixing with his deep yells of dark pain, were racing into his ears, a cry for help, or the call to end all life.
      He stopped screaming as he fell to the ground, unconscious.
      The three humans gathered around him as the life around him faded to black.
      "Who is he?"
      "I dunno, but he saved your life Shepard. Crazy, probably. He thought he was a member of some sort of United Nations militant arm."
      She looked over at the now-destroyed beacon.
      "Joker, this is Shepard. We need that evac now, the beacon's destroyed." She said solemnly, as Kaidan attempted to try to see if the mysterious man was still alive, if he was a man at all…

      He awoke slowly, to the face of an unknown female human, her face wrinkled with age and her hair bright white. She smiled as she waved a hand over his head.
      "He's coming around."
      John pushed himself off of the table, swinging his muscular legs around so they were now dangling on the side of the medical table. The room was lit darkly, but it did revealed the good doctor who treated him, a black-skinned officer with a bald head, and the female soldier that he identified as Shepard. The officer had a swagger in his eyes, his hands folded across his chest, but the female was standing next to him in what he would consider a laid-back parade rest.
      "How are you feeling?"
      He answered the doctor's question truthfully.
      "Fine, now. Will I be going to your brig?" He asked, with care, towards the female and male officers in the room.
      "That won't be necessary. Your AI companion told us all we need to know, Chief. I'm Captain David Anderson, of the SSV Normandy. This is Commander Rebecca Shepard, my XO."
      "Thanks for pulling me out of there. No telling what could have happened to me."
      "Not a problem, 'mam."
      A small smile tugged at Shepard's cheeks.
      "We decided to take you back here, to the Normandy. No telling what the damage did to you at the time." Shepard continued.
      She nodded at the 'old' Chief, a look of understanding, before the doctor continued.
      "When I was doing a check of your life signs I detected a large amount of beta-wave activity; flashing eyes and such, typically associated with intense dreaming."
      The Chief looked away from the Doctor and stared at the floor.
      "I…don't know what I saw. Death, destruction…" He stopped, looking up at Captain Anderson.
      "I saw humans being transformed into…machines."
      "Doctor, Shepard, if you give us a moment…"
      "Alright. I'll be in the CIC if you need me, Captain. Chief, you might want to apologize to Gunnery Chief Williams."
      Rebecca and Doctor Chakwas left quickly, exiting the Medical Bay, leaving the Captain and the Chief alone.
      "It's true, this is the year 2183. We are part of an intergalactic society, spanning past the Orion Spur and the Persius Arm. There is one huge alien government, based on the Citadel, a massive station in the Widow Nebula. We are not a member of the Citadel Council, but we're trying. Shepard was attempting to become the first ever Human Spectre, a group of individuals who are the best of the best in the Galaxy.
      "We're heading to the Citadel, and if I have my way, I'll keep you on my crew until we get your problem sorted out. From what your friend told us, you're a hell of a soldier John. Talk to the crew, but, when we get to the Citadel, don't mention Cortana."
      "Artificial Intelligences are outlawed in Citadel space."
      He nodded.
      "Talk to Shepard about your deck assignment. But be prepared for some unexpected things." Captain Anderson spoke one more time, before he walked around and out of the Medical Bay, leaving John alone.
      He looked down to the floor again as he pushed off, and he felt normal again. He stood tall, feeling the blue fabric of the shirt they gave him, tugging at him because of his massive height. He took a breath in, and smelt the recycled air in his nostrils. He winced, the air too familiar to him.
      He walked out of the Medical Bay with slowness, as if he was attempting to baby-walk. It was a feeling he wasn't used to: The suit's shield barrier made him 'forget' how to walk without a shield.
      "Hey, Chief, you okay?"
      That was the woman he had pinned down earlier, who Shepard had identified as Chief Williams. She had a look on her towards him, and the Chief understood Shepard's then cryptic words. Williams holds grudges, apparently.
      "I apologize for earlier, Gunnery Chief."
      The woman stared at him with a deep, piercing glare, as if she was trying to see any sort of hidden insult behind his words, but after a few moments of time she let a soft smile crease her face, a hand outstretched.
      "No problem, Master Chief. I'll lead you to the bridge."

      Admiral James Hackett was an old-liner officer, who always put the Naval Code of Ethics before any such order came before him. It dictated him to be chivalrous in all manners, to put his life in front of his soldiers, and to deem any sort of action where loss of life happens a mission that had failed. The old Admiral was stern, but not to the point of dread. He was hard on punishments, but rarely gave them.
      Not a lot of the New Guard held those beliefs anymore.
      Hewas on the Dreadnaught SSV New York, a giant of a ship that had more weapons than any sort of ship in the Alliance Fleet. It was his flagship, that of the 5th Fleet. Stationed at the Arcturus Mass Relay, Hackett looked over the files of interesting fleet activities that happened daily: From the missing Alliance investigators in Hawking Eta all the way to Noveria, where the Navy held no power whatsoever.
      Damn corporations
      "Admiral? Communication coming in from Citadel Station. ID Tag is from Ambassador Udina."
      "I'll take it." The officer said in his ready room, his small quarters unbefitting a man of his rank and his service. His extranet port dimmed, and the picture of Ambassador Udina shoved into view. He was another old soul, but he was much different from Hackett. His face was not as wrinkled as the Admiral's, and his hair was cut into a simple but humble style of hair, compared to Hackett's lack thereof. He had no facial hair, like Hackett, but he had an air of superiority, something that Hackett did not share.
      "Admiral, it is good to see you."
      That makes one of us, you heartless son of a…
      "Likewise, Ambassador."
      "I just got a report from Captain Anderson and Commander Shepard, concerning what happened on Eden Prime. Do you know anything about it?"
      Hackett minimized Udina's window, bringing up the report that he had received an hour ago. It also had an attached report from Captain Anderson about the artificial intelligence 'Cortana', and about the man called 'John-117', the SPARTAN supersoldier.
      "From what I gathered, I'd take anything she says with hesitation. I've never heard or seen that kind of armor before, but it puts our standard troops' armor to shame. But, then again, it's very different."
      "What do you mean?"
      "It's both very advanced but then very archaic, all in the same. Personally, I'd keep this from the Council, especially the section in the report detailing this John character."
      "I was thinking that as well. I have the commanders of the First and Second Fleets on hold. How do you want me to displace the troops in this situation concerning Saren?"
      Hackett tapped his chin with his index finger in thoughtful little messages, thinking hard on the truth of Shepard's words. Maybe the Reapers were true, or maybe they weren't.
      Either way, he knew how to fix it.
      "If Saren can't get his status as a Spectre revoked, then I recommend sending an AST on him wherever he goes. If he does get it revoked, then unless we hear or 'see' anything about geth supporters that attempt to attack us then we won't do anything to suspect that the general populace will be worried about. Maybe we should increase the size of the fleets' Marine personnel, but that's all I can see in the foreseeable future."
      "Good. I'll see that all politicians that are concerned in this matter are informed. I'll talk to you later, Admiral. Udina out."
      Hackett sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing the side of his temple with a smile. Surprisingly, Udina kept this meeting short for once, and he was in a good mood.
      But the smile faded as he wrapped his mind around the issue of their new comrade-in-arms, a human displaced. If what the construct said was true, then humanity aged poorly, and they needed help. To take a kid and push him through the training that they did to John was, to Hackett, inhuman.
      But it was necessary.
      And James Hackett wasn't above making sacrifices.