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Salvaging from Strife (Chapter Cover Art)

Salvaging from Strife[]

Chapter 28 - Restoration[]

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Part 1[]

Aurgian Coalition, Coromodir System

Day 6

Captain Argentus stared at the data flowing in from the sensors of his turian scout frigate Pollus suspiciously. "Nothing?" He asked his sensors specialist.

"No, Captain," she told him, studying the same readings intently. "Nothing within the inner system, unless the geth were able to develop stealth in space. Doesn't look like anything active in the outer system either. No geth anywhere in Coromodir system."

No geth. That was unexpected, and a concerning change to what the last scout frigate had reported. The only thing worse than a geth fleet with an unknown dreadnought was its absence. "Bring us in closer, and run if we see anything even remotely suspicious," Captain Argentus cautiously instructed his crew. They were on their own here, with the rest of the Citadel expeditionary force light-years and days away. The debris from the salarian scout frigate Ix'Pindebol's was a clear reminder of what happened to the unwary.

Five hours later, Captain Argentus made the decision, and Pollus finally arrived in high orbit over the first of the two human colonies in the Coromodir system. Still nothing. No broadcasts from the ground, no replies from the world to turian hails. Where there should have been the lights from cities, the dark side of the planet remained dark. And on the other side…

"That's Cordia City, the capital," he commented, looking through Pollus' telescopes and sensors. There were signs of intense battle visible from space, like the ones he remembered from orbital overwatch over Taetrus. Damage and destruction across the entire urban sprawl and beyond. But the city still existed. The HPG complex of Cordia City too, was still intact, technically, though the debris and collateral damage visible even from up here suggested there was nothing inside anymore. "Still nothing?"

"Still no broadcasts, Captain. Silence on all frequencies. We're the only ones transmitting."

And no movement or sign of life visible either. Captain Argentus thought about the geth dossier he'd received, compiled and transmitted in a hurry to the expeditionary force when their mission parameters had changed from diplomacy to war. After the near extermination of their quarian creators, the geth had left their infrastructure alone. There had been images of intact, but empty cities on former quarian colonies, still heavily defended by a geth presence. This was all too similar.

"We have a shuttle ready for launch, Captain," his second-in-command reminded him.

The rest of the fleet needed to be updated and the humans too, Captain Argentus supposed. Their uncoordinated and scattered reinforcements to this isolated region of space were finally beginning to assemble and organize in force.

"Negative, stand down the shuttle. There could be a trap down there, and we're not equipped for whatever the geth may have done. The Pollus will return to Itrom, and pass on what we've gathered."

The planet had been under geth control for weeks. One scout frigate wouldn't be able to do anything meaningful by itself. Any survivors on Coromodir would have to wait a fews days longer for help to arrive.

Part 2[]

Ruins of Cordia City
Aurgian Coalition, Coromodir System
Day 0

Lieutenant Marleen Munro of the Normandy Initiative, also Ensign of the Canopian Magistracy Armed Forces, knew she was expendable.

Warrior VTOL (Farseer Animation)

Warrior Scout VTOL

Why else would she be in the first wave of the landings to retake Coromodir, flying ahead in her Warrior VTOL? The Magistracy of Canopus was a Periphery power, and no matter what the Star League Council promised, the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere still considered the Periphery inferior. She was cannon fodder against the Geth defenders who would contest their landings, a tripwire for the traps awaiting the attackers, still disembarking from their dropships.

"Catgirl One, this is Sunburst Actual," she heard Lieutenant Wilson contact her. "Sitrep."

Marleen, suppressing her irritation at the callsign, cast a glance over her instruments before replying, "This is Catgirl One, Sunburst Actual. Still all clear, on first pass of target."

Beneath her Warrior, the buildings of the agricultural settlement of Turangu streaked by. The dropship landings were obviously not on top of the capital, the plan was rather to secure a drop zone a safe distance away, before advancing and engaging the robots to liberate the planet, and Turangu was to be the first objective on the way. And so Marleen was scouting the town for Geth and survivors.

Scars of urban combat littered the streets, but there were no bodies in sight, either rotting human or cold Geth. Marleen kept moving, painfully aware of how vulnerable she was to concealed AA weapons. Her Warrior was stock, unupgraded, without any of the fancy alien tech. Hands tight on her controls, she turned her craft on a wide arc over the buildings, looking for life or geth, and found none. Then her scanners went haywire, and she saw it.

In one of the open spaces, an outdoors recreational area for the residents Marleen guessed, there were multiple weird pillars in the middle of a field. The tall, thin, alien looking objects were clearly out of place, and so she didn't hesitate to open fire. SRMs and autocannon shells hammered into the pillars and obscured them from view. When the smoke cleared, she saw only one of the pillars had toppled over.

The others must have been close enough to hear her weapons. Marleen contacted Lieutenant Wilson before he could demand an update, "Sunburst Actual, this is Catgirl One, multiple unidentified geth bogeys at my position. Purpose unclear, but they're messing with sensors and resistant to my weapons. Hang on," she tilted her Warrior forwards, to get a better look at the ground, before adding, "Sunburst Actual, I have eyes on civilians at my position."

"Copy, Catgirl, on our way. What's their status?" Lieutenant Wilson asked.

"Several dozen, at least, more coming out of the buildings. They're all mobile." She couldn't tell more than that. Her eyes were only so good, and the Warrior's old sensors were still glitching. "Following me." She circled the edge of the field, wary for the ambush that would hit while she was distracted.

"Catgirl, any sign of hostiles?" the Federated Commonwealth officer asked her after a few seconds.

"Negative, Sunburst Actual. I'm only seeing the civilians."

"Land and make contact with them, tell them the Star League is here to liberate Coromodir from the Geth."

"This is hostile airspace, I'm not turning into a sitting duck," Marleen protested. "And they're still chasing me, I can't touch down without killing some." Desperate for rescue, she suspected.

"Fine, Catgirl, then we'll do it. Sit tight. Alright, lads, we've the honour of making first contact with the locals, so remember-" the Warrior pilot heard before Lieutenant Wilson shut off the channel.

Aside from a few more potshots at the geth pillars, spikes, poles or whatever the whitish things were, and the crowd slowly accumulating under her, distressingly nothing happened for the next few minutes. At least a hundred were there already, with others still trickling in in small numbers. Over the radio, other units were beginning to fan out from the landing site, including an alien unit, from what rumors she'd heard. She made a few attempts to communicate with the survivors on the ground using the Warrior's speakers, but nobody below seemed to understand her, continuing to move under her or mill around the field aimlessly.

Finally, after what seemed to be forever, Lieutenant Wilson emerged from the maze of buildings bordering the field, his Enforcer Mech leading several light vehicles. Rippling out across the field, the survivors began streaming towards him, with a frantic burst of speed.

"Citizens of the Aurigan Coalition!" Lieutenant Wilson's Enforcer announced bombastically, while the rest of Sunburst Unit spread out, "the Star League has come to liberate this world and save your ives! Stay calm," he added when the survivors showed no signs of slowing down, "there are more of us coming with supplies for you. Everything will be fine."

"Sunburst Actual, there's something wrong with them," Marleen heard on her radio.

"Of course there is, they've been under occupation by aliens. Who knows what they've suffered. Ugh, they look horrible."

"Sunburst Actual, they're not stopping," another voice spoke. "Requesting permission to fire warning shots."

"Negative, hold your fire," Lieutenant Wilson ordered. "I will not have any of you besmirch the good name of our First Prince. We aren't Kuritan snakes or Cappie scum. These are friendly Star League citizens, so play nice and-"

One of the vehicles, a Scorpion light tank, had come to a stop a dozen or so meters ahead of the rest, and its tank commander was waving towards the survivors. When the first one leapt straight onto he tank, then took a second lunge into the tank commander.

"OH HOLY, WHAT IS HELP-," someone on the radio screamed incoherently.

More of the survivors reached the Normandy Initiative unit, slamming into the vehicles at full sprint. Panicked gunfire erupted, including from Marleen's Warrior, and several vehicles lurched into motion backwards. The Scorpion remained still, and Marleen saw someone emerge from the hatch, crawling down the side. She redirected her fire, wrecking the tank.

"Hold fire, hold fire!" Lieutenant Wilson yelled, his Enforcer backpedalling as he tried stepping away from the survivors. "Catgirl, watch your fire!"

Nobody paid attention to him. The survivors were climbing onto the vehicles too slow to escape, and from the terrified chatter Marleen could hear, were somehow breaking through the military-grade armor. Indiscriminate fire tore into the crowd, but there were too many. Marleen kept firing, overriding the emergency heat cutoff as the autocannon began overheating from sustained fire. From behind Sunburst Unit, more humans appeared, also charging their rescuers.

"What is going on?" someone shrieked. Marleen didn't know if it was her.

The vehicles of Sunburst Unit were covered with the swarming survivors, and she heard the scream of armour slowly tearing open through the radio. The Enforcer finally opened fire, but its weapons ere meant for anti-armour work, overkilling too few individuals of the crazed horde. Many were climbing up its torso by now, and two had already reached the cockpit.

The Enforcer groped with its arms, but even as it ripped them away, more clung onto its arms, and others began clawing and hammering at the armoured canopy. Marleen's autocannon jammed, barrel warped by overheating, and she was left with only her missile racks. The cockpit of the Enforcer exploded wide open, and Lieutenant Wilson ejected upwards, a brief escape before he began descending downwards, parachutes deploying to slow him down.

"Catgirl, this is Sunburst Actual," Marleen heard the Lieutenant pant, "I need extraction now. That's an order!"

That would require touching down long enough for the Lieutenant to climb aboard. She hesitated, then turned her Warrior away from the descending ejection seat, aiming towards the landing zone and away from this nightmare.

Lieutenant Marleen Munro of the Normandy Initiative, also Ensign of the Canopian Magistracy Armed Froces, knew she was expendable. But not that expendable.

Part 3[]

Ruins of Turangu
Aurgian Coalition, Coromodir System
Day 7

Ghouls, cyborg, cyberghouls, husks, zombie, everybody had their own name for the transformed victims of the Vampire Stakes. What mattered was that the higher-ups had turned down the suggestion of nuking the infested cities from orbit. There would be losses clearing out the abominations, but it was an opportunity as well.

With the arms of his Thunderbolt, Subaltern Soedergard grasped and lifted the Vampire Stake off the ground. The long spike receded into the human-sized base, and he carefully laid it into the Taurian truck, where two agents of the Taurian Ministry of Intelligence quickly covered it under tarps and innocuous looking equipment.

The truck sped away, escorted by a pair of light Mechs to rejoin a supply convoy returning to the Taurian dropships. With any luck, Taurus would be able to quickly study and copy the alien technology. The perfidious Davions of the FedCom had no doubt already smuggled all the devices they could offworld. Subaltern Soedergard moved on, deeper into the urban sprawl, to meet up with the rest of his battalion sweeping Turangu block by bloody block.

Part 4[]

Aurgian Coalition, Coromodir System
Day 9

"How bad is it?" Lady Sumire Arano demanded, face pale but still collected.

"According to Precentor Lipeltic's report, every single major population centre approached so far had been targeted with these weapons," Precentor Kamea Shepard elaborated. "From what the survivors are saying, the Geth secured a position to deploy the Vampire Stakes, built up a critical mass of ghouls, then left, leaving the ghouls to hold the area. An effective strategy."

"Those are my people you are talking about, dying, and turned into monsters," Sumire snapped, before slumping down in her seat. "I apologise for my outburst, Precentor Shepard. That was not considerate of me. Coromodir was your home too, this must be hard for you as well. There were survivors?"

"Normandy Relay can handle a few days without you, Precentor." Precentor-Citadel Udina looked gravely at her through the vid-screen. "The Lady Arano requires careful handling, and you are best suited for the task."

"Think nothing of it, my Lady," Shepard soothed. "This has been a difficult time for all of us. Yes, the Geth focused on the population centers, and mostly ignored those living in or fled to the countryside. The defenders of Coromodir fought bravely, and bought time for many to escape. High Lady Kamea Arano saved many lives with her actions."

"She fought for her people until the end. It was how she would have wanted to go. Did, did any nobles escape?" Lady Arano tentatively asked with cautious hope. "Other members of my family?"

"I'm afraid there's no evidence any of House Arano escaped. A few lesser nobles evaded detection, and they claim Saren and the geth were hunting them in particular. In total, pessimistic casualty estimates on both worlds combined are up to around a billion."

"That many ghouls?"

"Most of the known casualties perished from exposure or starvation. The ghouls were only a small portion, but they denied access to critical infrastructure and emergency stockpiles, and the Geth were thorough in eliminating any resistance. Anybody broadcasting and coordinating the survivors was hunted down, including via orbital bombardment. They lured out the more cautious with fake transmissions from other survivors or offworld relief forces." Kamea tried consoling her. "The Normandy Initiative is still making contact with more isolated bands. There may be more survivors."

Lady Arano took a moment to compose herself, before asking, "What happens next?"

"If our intelligence is accurate, the Taurians, Capellans and Canopians are working to partition the Coalition into administrative areas," Precentor Shepard looked around, gauging the other Precentors' reactions to her speech. "And the Clan Khans are no doubt dusting off their proposals for Clan enclaves all around the Periphery. It is a certainty they will establish strongholds in the Aurigan Reach, to be governed in the Clan way. Our work with the Star League will be undone if a member state is destroyed by the Star League itself."

"You need to be officially installed as High Lady of the Aurigan Coalition as soon as possible, to ensure the smooth succession of power," Kamea told her. "The Cormorant Throne is still intact, barring some minor damage. It seems Saren ignored it, and it was far enough from the worst of the fighting. ComStar is currently establishing a command circuit from Terra to Coromodir, the Normandy Initiative is covering the costs. You should be able to reach Coromodir in around ten days, barring any unexpected issues along the jumpship chain, and the ceremony can be performed immediately upon your arrival."

"I see." The noble looked away from Shepard, eyes downcast, lost in her thoughts. "Precentor Shepard, I have a request. Could you accompany me to Coromodir? I will need ComStar's help to rebuild the Coalition, and your family has always been loyal friends of my House."

"I need to first visit Noveria to handle the business there, but I would be honoured to join you, my Lady, and help you settle in. And please, call me Kamea." said Precentor Shepard

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