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"Salvation comes with a cost. Judge us not by our means, but what we seek to accomplish."
-The Illusive Man
"Sir, we're reading an anomaly on the planet, same readings as before."
Maddock stared at the overhead display, which was now showing a bright blue planet. Alchera was a common ice planet, nothing special, just one more stop on a wild goose chase. They'd been chasing this 'anomaly' for a solid week now. This anomaly was just that, something strange, out of the ordinary. It was an energy signature that none of their equipment could decipher. It had been jumping from point to point within this system. It was like hunting a ghost; one second it was there, the next, nothing. It would leave no trace, not even a whisper.
"Launch a probe," Maddock ordered. The anomaly seemed to be slowing down these last few hours, as if it was finally winding down and running out of places to run.
The scanner nodded. "Launching probe," he said simply, his hands moving like a whirlwind across the orange display in front of him. There was a faint sound, a rush of air, and the scanner nodded. "Probe launched, estimated arrival ninety seconds."
Whatever it was it was an energy that no one in this universe had ever seen before. The amount of energy being released by this single point was equivalent to that of a supernova. To one with any knowledge of physics, knows is impossible. A dying star is a disastrous thing, but for the energy of a supernova to be released on a planet, but to have no destruction? Not even a trace? It should destroy the planet, hell, the system. Basically they are getting the same or similar readings, from the ones they can understand, to that of a black hole; a black hole that happens to be teleporting from planet to planet without sucking up everything in its wake.
"Initial scans coming in sir… reading a high atmospheric content of methane and ammonia, base temperature a minus two-two degrees Celsius; not fit for life."
Maddock grunted. "Of course it's not, it's a damn ice planet; tell me something I don't know."
If the officer was offended, it didn't show. "The probe has reached the surface," the man paused, as if dreading to say the next words, "the signature is gone, sir."
God damn it, Maddock cursed. It was there ninety seconds ago. "I want a vid feed on the screen; I want to see this for myself."
"Yes, sir." A quick few gestures and the image of the planet was replaced by the vid fed from the surfaced probe. "Video feed online, sir."
One look at the display and Maddock should have known it was a waste of time; the planet was a frozen wasteland, nothing but ice and snow. He sighed. "Pan the camera; we'll get a full circle before getting the hell out of there and finding where that signature went."
The camera panned slowly clockwise, until suddenly, "Stop!" Maddock shouted, not quite believing what he was seeing. There, in the show, there was no doubt – That's a human. He gaped at the prone form of a human in a hard suit. "What are you getting from that?"
The officer was flustered, shaking his head as numbers seemed to fly by his feed at light speed. "I'm getting life signs sir, faint but stable. But..." He paused, reading the stats on the display as if to confirm was he was seeing. "The tech is strange, sir. I've never seen anything like it, and neither has the ship's onboard computer, it barely knows what to do with it. All I can tell is that it's damaged, somehow – I think. I'm only getting partial data. Either it's more advanced than our scanners, or it's damaged."
"And you'd weigh in on it being damaged?"
"Yes sir, it's the only thing that makes sense."
The captain frowned. They'd been in the system for an entire week now, and not once had they run into another ship, and for a human ship to be in the Terminus… There sure as all hell wouldn't be an Alliance anything here, they wouldn't dare leave Citadel space, not without a damn good reason. Either way, he wanted that person on his ship for questioning now. Maddock sighed and called out over the ship's internal radios, "Daniels, you hearing this?"
"Then you know what to do."
"Ground team is boarding the shuttle now." There was a pause. "Are you calling the Boss?"
Maddock rubbed his temples. "Not until we know for sure what's going on."
It was a rough ride down to the planet. The wind was an excess of forty miles an hour and Kodiak was being blown around like it was a leaf on the wind. They managed to lock onto the probe's landing site and follow it down. The shuttle landed sharply.
As Daniels reached the loading area he found the others already ready to move out. Ramos was inspecting his sniper rifle while Lynch was leaning casually against the rear wall fiddling with his omni-tool, both of their scout armor already fitted with their breathers. The major grabbed his breather helmet and locked it in place. As he did so his hard suit's onboard computer activated the radio. "This is a rescue mission," he said, his voice muffled over the radio, as his fist pounded the door's seal. The wind howled as it passed the now open doorway. He looked over his shoulder as he stepped out of the shuttle. "Let's make sure it doesn't turn into a recovery."
Both of his squad mates nodded as they followed him outside. They were within three miles of the probe, and they needed to move fast. Whoever that person in the snow was won't have much longer until that damaged hard suit began to fail.
The planet was a white wasteland - not only was it desolate, it was a deathtrap. Blowing and falling snow cut their visibility short, leaving them vulnerable to the rocks and cliffs in the area. Daniels felt he was lucky to even be able to see his own boots. They trudged on through the deep snow drifts, at times past their knees. The wind was so strong the snow never had the chance to settle. He couldn't tell if it was actually snowing or if the ♥♥♥♥ was just blowing around so much that it looked like it was.
There was only the sound of their boots crunching in the snow, until a shout broke out. Daniels turned around to find that Lynch was missing. The fear in Ramos' eyes mimicked the pounding in Daniels's chest. "♥♥♥♥," was all he could think to say. Without another word he sprinted toward where Lynch had just been standing, only to realize that they were on the edge of a cliff and hadn't even known it. He leaned over. His heart leapt into his throat as he saw Lynch hanging over the edge of the cliff face, his hands barely gripping onto the stone.
Daniels threw himself onto the ground, sliding as he neared the edge, and grateful for Ramos' sudden, but firm grip around his ankles to keep him from plunging over as well. "Grab my hand!" he grunted with his arm outstretched.
Lynch reached. Their fingers met but only just. Lynch grimaced as he shifted against the cliff face, inching his hand forward and failing again. Lynch locked eyes with the major. Daniels recognized the look. He'd seen it when Lynch had charged an Eclipse heavy mech with nothing but a hand cannon for protection, and he saw it again now. "Major-" Lynch's voice said quietly over the comm.
Oh no you don't! "Shut up," he barked back. Daniels twisted against the snow, shouting over his shoulder to Ramos. "Give me more! Now!" He ignored Ramos' curses over the radio as he stretched himself as far as he could go. Finally, his fingers locked around Lynch's forearm. With a grunt he managed to heft the man back up and over the edge.
For a moment the three sat in the snow catching their breaths and letting their hearts slow. The major clapped a hand on Lynch's shoulder. "Didn't I say something about not making this a recovery mission?"
Lynch laughed lightly. "Sorry, boss."
Ramos stood, offering a hand to Lynch. "Let's avoid the cliffs from now on, eh?"
"We're about a click from where the probe dropped down," Daniels said as he brought up his omni-tool to confirm. "Let's move."
Daniels led them south, keeping well away from the cliff face. Their little emergency had slowed them down and now Daniels was worried about the person at the probe sight. Whoever they were, friend, foe or otherwise, their suit was most likely damaged. In this weather and on a planet with this atmosphere they were dead already or they didn't have long left.
"Major," came Lynch's voice over the comm. Daniels turned. The corporeal was pointing due southeast. "See that?"
Daniels squinted. Sure enough, there was an orange flashing light in the distance. "Good eyes," he moved ahead. They slid down the snow bank together. The probe sat on the bottom, sunk deep into the ice and snow. And near it, a figure in dark armor lay unmoving. Daniels feared the worst.
Lynch and Ramos took covering positions while Daniels made a diagnostic scan. It was a woman, that much he could tell. What he couldn't tell was much about her condition here in the field, especially while she was in the hard suit. Daniels knelt beside her and opened up his omni-tool in an attempt to assess the damage, to link with the suits on-board medical systems, but somehow his omni-tool wasn't able to communicate with the woman's hard suit. "What the hell?" he said under his breath. He tried again, cursing as once again his omni-tool failed to even recognize the medical programing. It didn't even register the woman at all.
He tried again, figuring it was a malfunction. Only this time he jumped as his omni-tool sparked. He quickly closed it, gaping a bit at the sheer fact that a hard suit, which have the most basic computers, had just shorted his omni-tool. "How?" he said under his breath.
He did a visual inspection of the suit. It actually seemed to be in good condition, save for a few scuffs on the pads and a small crack in the breather's outer glass. There were no insignias, no names or numbers, just black armor; it didn't even had a manufacturers mark. Otherwise, it looked like any standard hard suit. This didn't make sense.
More important than the suit's condition was the slight rise and fall of the woman's chest. She was alive, for now.
Daniels grabbed her and lifted her into a fire man's carry. She was light, even in the armor. His squad looked at him. "Back to the shuttle," he said, letting them lead the way.
As he followed he left the squad's comm and accessed the ships. "Captain."
"What's going on Major? You're fifteen minutes late for check in."
"The planet's a bit rough," Daniels said simply, "we ran into a snag, but we got her."
"Yeah, 'her'. She's unconscious. Her suit is a little damaged, but it seems to be working fine."
There was silence. "Sir?"
"Just get her to the Med-Bay," the captain growled back, followed by the tone that told Daniels that the link had been terminated.
Maddock sighed as door to the communications room sealed behind him The QEC activated as he stepped on the receiver. Orange lights danced around him, scanning him from top to bottom. He had not spoken directly to the Illusive Man for some time. His cell was a minor ongoing operation of Cerberus; space exploration. More recently the Illusive Man had been interested in medical science and weapons manufacturing, not so much into exploration of random and uninhabitable planets. But this strange discovery sounded like just the queer thing that the Illusive Man seemed to latch onto.
He respected the Illusive Man, it was hard not to. The man was driven, focused, and dedicated to his cause. He got work done, that's for sure, and he would reach his goals no matter the cost. It was definitely something Maddock looked up to. There were rumors, though; rumors that their dedicated leader had more selfish motives. Maddock had his own questions, but every time he talked to him those questions would just disappear. The way the Illusive Man spoke, it was enthralling. You believed what he said, no matter what your convictions were before. It was just the way he spun his words.
There was a moment of darkness before Maddock found himself looking at a virtual representation of the Illusive Man's office. The man himself was standing away from his chair, a cigarette in hand, and staring off into the bright orange star that seemed dangerously close.
Silence hung in the room. Maddock watched as the Illusive Man breathed out a trail of smoke, before flicking the ash away and turning to face him. He took in another drag. "Ah, Captain Maddock, it's been some time," he said.
Maddock nodded. "It has."
The Illusive Man took a few steps closer to Maddock. "And what news do you bring?"
"We found something while searching the systems bordering the Terminus." Maddock paused. The Illusive Man's glowing eyes looked at him with interest. Maddock took a breathed deeply before starting. "For the past week we've been chasing something of an anomaly, a powerful energy signature that we followed throughout the entire system." Maddock opened up his omni-tool, sending the file with the specs to the Illusive Man directly. The Illusive Man made his way to the screens where the data was now displayed. "It was off the charts," he continued as the Illusive Man inspected the information.
"That's not all," Maddock said as he searched for another file on his omni-tool, prepping it. "The anomaly stopped long enough on the ice planet Alchera for us to land a probe as close as possible." He sent the file, the image of the woman in the snow now displayed on the Illusive Man's second screen. "A human was found near the probe, on an inhabitable planet. There had been no traffic in the area for at least a week. And to make things even more strange-" he sent the video Daniels had sent him of the pick-up.
He watched as the Illusive Man played the video, his face unreadable. The vid was the helmet recording of Daniels and his squad finding the woman. They watched as Daniels attempted to scan the suit to assess the condition of the woman, only to have his equipment get shorted by the woman's suit. "That suit is all that was on her when she was found, not even identification. Thing is, that suit has been the bane of the Med Bay. So far they've been unable to remove it from the woman - who seems to be alive and well as far as we can tell - and any attempt to access it either leaves the equipment damaged or it is simply incompatible; as if our equipment was too far outdated to work with it."
The Illusive Man looked back at him. He was deep in thought, that much was obvious. "What else of this woman?" he finally asked after a time.
Maddock shrugged. "She's unconscious, that's all we know. We have her under armed guard, just in case. I-" Maddock stopped as he heard the distinct sound of the door hissing open behind him. He turned and froze. There, standing in the doorway, was the woman, and in front of her was Daniels, a pistol pointed to his head. Daniels' hands were laced behind his head. His eyes connected with Maddock's. She had beaten his best officer, but how?
She was taller than he'd imagined, younger too. Her helmet was off now, revealing her short dark brown hair and eyes that would be able to cut through steel. "What is the meaning of this?!" Maddock shouted.
"Move," was all she said. She pressed the barrel into Daniels' back, pushing the man forward. Daniels seemed to comply, taking a few steps forward. She followed, and moved to push him forward again, but this time Daniels was ready to take the advantage. The major turned, trying to grab the weapon, but the woman was already a step ahead of him. She chopped at the hand that moved for the pistol, and then she struck him in the head. He was taken off balance, and with a sweep of her leg, he was on the ground. She gave a low growl as she walked up to where the officer was trying to get up, giving him a swift to the head and knocking him out; all while keeping the pistol aimed at Maddock. "Fool," she said calmly. "I told him that I did not wish to harm him. That headache is entirely his fault."
"What the hell?" was all Maddock managed to say.
"Move aside," she said, as the doors sealed behind her. Maddock stepped back, but stayed on the receiver. She sighed and moved beside him, the weapon still trained on him. The room around them faded away as they were both now in the Illusive Man's headquarters.
She stared at the Illusive Man, and he returned it. Silence hung for the longest moment before the woman spoke, "Hello, Father."
Attn: Well, that took me long enough to get that out there. Finally, here's the start to my newest fic. Right, so, obviously I'm working with a sort of splinter/multiverse theory here. More will be explained in later chapters, don't worry. No, this is not a self insert. This is an AU.
Thanks for reading!