Thunderbird: Chapter Eighteen

Starting File Sequence…  Thunderbirds
Loading Digital Data…    Chapter Eighteen
Initializing Play Back…  War for Omega
Galaxy:   Milky Way Galaxy
Cluster: Serpent Nebula
System:   Widow
Location: Aria’s Fleet
Date:     2186 CE

“…We’re out shipped four to one, and most of our vessels are transports with limited firepower,” a hologram of an asari in full armor reported as Aria paced casually on the bridge of her ship.

On the center of the bridge was a circular hologram projector. Including the image of the asari was the holographic representations of every ship in Aria’s fleet. The bridge was full of others under Aria’s employment. They worked tirelessly as their leader scanned through the images before her.

Aria paused in her pacing and spoke, “We’re not here to win a space battle, Jarral. We just have to punch through their line.”

“So you’ve commandeered a Cerberus cruiser…” a voice said as the bridge doors opened.

Commander Shepard walked confidently onto the bridge with the batarian Bray in their wake. The commander was in full N7 armor, the most elite high-grade armor for the most elite training force of the Alliance Navy. Even inside the ship, Shepard wore the helmet hiding their appearance.

Aria barely looked impressed, “The guest of honor has arrived. We can finally begin.”

“Let me guess: you’re planning on infiltrating the enemy fleet,” Shepard stood beside her before the hologram.

“Exactly,” Aria said as Bray walked passed the two and sat at in the pilot’s seat at the front of the ship. Aria continued, “We position ourselves to strike a crippling blow, then my forces join the fun.”

Aria brought up the schematics of Omega. She smiled with pleasure as she looked over every last detail.

Shepard didn’t seem impressed, “A lot could go wrong.”

“The assaults been planned for weeks, Shepard. For now, just sit back. Let me steer,” she didn’t even look in the Commander’s direction. Aria turned to walk away.

Shepard crossed their arms, “Not the best start to our partnership, Aria.”

Aria continued walking toward the bow, “How things begin isn’t nearly as important as how they end. Bray, move through the relay. Signal the fleet to wait. They only follow on my command.”

Bray did as he was told. He brought the ship alongside the relay as he sent the necessary information. The relay activated and sent them through to their registered location.

The ship dropped out into the Sahrabarik system of the Omega Nebula. It flew through the asteroid field that orbited around the station. The red lights of the station gave the space around it an almost sinister glow and feel. Aria walked up to the viewing window at the bow of the ship. A smile spread across her face not unlike that of a child about to take their siblings new toy. Commander Shepard stood just behind her to her left.

“Head for the command ship,” Aria said her usual cold and stern demeanor returned.”

Naturally, Bray did as he was told. Their stolen vessel headed toward another Cerberus ship. As they approached, they were hailed on their comms from an Omega Control Officer, “Cruiser, I don’t have you on the flight plan. Identify yourself.”

Bray looked over at Aria. She nodded and the batarian played a prerecorded message.

“This is Captain Lentz,” the voice said, “Run voice recognition: alpha, tango, zed. We took damage. Seeking repairs.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Identity confirmed, Captain,” Omega Control responded, “hold for approach authorization.”

Shepard looked to Aria, “How did you get the captain to say that?”

“The hard way,” Aria smirked. She leaned over Bray’s shoulder, “That’s right, nice and slow.”

Bray nodded. At this point, they had passed several Cerberus ships. Each were none-the-wiser. Everyone on the bridge was silent as if they were collectively holding their breaths, afraid that breathing to hard would give them away. Bray flew through the asteroid field and Cerberus ships with ease.

Shepard looked down at Bray, “Be patient. Get as close as you can.”

Aria glared at Shepard. And without looking called, “Fire!”

The ship opened fire on the command ship. Explosions riddled the hull. Normally not easily destroyed by a much smaller vessel, the command ship stood no chance with the stealth attack. With the larger ship disabled, Aria’s ship flew passed toward Omega.

“Signal the fleet through the relay!” Aria called.

Moments later, several blips appeared on their scans near the relay. The rest of the fleet was through and sailed directly for the Omega station.

“We’re through,” Aria reported. She tapped Bray on the shoulder, “Head straight for the station.”

“We’re being hailed by the general,” Bray said as he brought up the comms.

Aria rolled her eyes, “Should be interesting. Put him through.”

The hologram table changed showing a man wearing Cerberus colors. Aria turned to face him with Shepard not to far behind. General Petrovsky’s arms were crossed and he spoke as if everyone and everything were beneath him.

“Aria,” the general spoke, “I knew this had to be you. You’ll never make it. Call it off now.”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, General, but maybe you can convince my partner,” Aria oozed with confidence.

The general looked over at her companion, “Commander Shepard? I’ve heard great things about you.”

Shepard motioned to Aria, “My partner here doesn’t have much to say for you.”

Petrovsky chuckled, eyeing Aria with disgust, “She’s not used to being defeated—it clouds her judgment.” He turned his attention back to the Commander, “A pity you left Cerberus. We all sabotage ourselves in nefarious ways. Perhaps deep down you fear success. And Aria clearly thinks seeing you will unsettle me. Now it’s my turn.”

Petrovsky momentarily looked at something beside him, “I see you’ve gone to the trouble of augmenting that ship with Silaris armoring. An exorbitant waste. I’ve made some improvements to Omega’s outer defenses. My cannons will cut through you at will.”

Shepard leaned into Aria’s ear, “He sounds pretty confident.”

“Yeah. He does,” Aria said, sounding annoyed.

“So again,” Petrovsky continued, “I say turn back.”

Reassuming her confident stance, she placed both hands on the table and leaned in, “Let’s see what you’ve got Oleg. End transmission.”

Bray ended the call. With a sigh, Aria crossed her arms and turned to Shepard, “That went well.” Quickly, she resumed her command sounding slightly less confident than before, “Set preset course—we’re ramming the station. Everyone, brace for impact.”

“What?” Shepard stated.

Aria walked among the many consoles and station on the bridge as everyone secured themselves, “Omega’s kinetic battier will stop my ships from landing. I equipped this cruiser with disrupters to take it out on impact. Don’t worry,” Aria smiled, “We’ll probably survive the crash.”

Omega’s defensive cannons fired up as the ship drew closer. When ready, they fired beams of hot plasma at the ship. Two shots narrowly missed but dropped the shield strength dramatically. The ship continued however, they were now exposed to a direct attack.

“Shields gone!” Bray called, “All systems failing!”

Alarms blared, emergency lights flickered on and off. All those on the bridge did all they could to keep the ship from falling apart.

“We can make it,” Aria stated, standing seemingly unaffected by the chaos around her.

Shepard grabbed ahold of her arm, “Aria, don’t be stupid! Sound the evac.”

Aria pulled her arm away. For a moment, there was a glow of her biotics surrounding her hand. But just a moment later, it was gone. She let out a frustrated grunt.

“Damn it!” she exclaimed. Aria proceeded to walk away, “Program escape pods for the station!”

An explosion ripped through the ship, stopping just short of the bridge as Shepard took command, “Let’s go! Everybody out! There’s no time!”

Fire started licking at the bridge. Bray and several others at their consoles stood and made their way toward the escape pods. An alert beeped rabidly before the bridge was riddled with smaller explosions. Electrical wires hung from the ceiling and consoles shorted out.

The rest of the ship was no better. Sparks rained down of evacuees. Large power relays blew, throwing whomever was nearby to the ground. Shepard continued running through the red bathed halls, dodging electrical wires and jumping over flaming bodies. Just ahead, Shepard saw Aria. The asari didn’t think twice about pushing down those in her way. Fire and explosions funneled the two of them to one of the escape pods.

Aria grabbed ahold of the bar above the opening and swung inside with Shepard hot on her heels. Others were already secured inside as Aria and Shepard strapped themselves in.

“Guess the asshole really did upgrade Omega’s outer defenses,” Aria muttered.

“So it would seem,” Shepard’s voice was thick with sarcasm.

The escape pod doors closed, and the pod was jettisoned. Outside the battle was fierce. Aria’s fleet fighting Cerberus ships. The plasma beams from the station tore through several ships at a time. The decent to the station was anything but peaceful. Explosions rocked the pod back and forth. The reverberations of every close explosion, of every plasma shot, of every near miss could be herd and felt. Shepard gripped the safety harness firmly. Reputation meant nothing when strapped inside an escape pod with an active space war just beyond the metal walls.

Finally, came the hard landing.

The pod had barely rested when Shepard and Aria undid their harnesses and raced out the back of the pod. They were in Omega. Before them were several Cerberus agents. Shepard jumped out and struck the nearest agent, knocking them back. Quickly, Shepard grabbed an N7 issued weapon and used it to shoot several agents. Aria grabbed a pistol and shot two agents in the head. Others in the escape pod jumped out and started providing cover fire. With the immediate area clear, Aria, Shepard and the others from the pod pushed forward.

“Hope the other escape pods made it,” Aria said as she fired at several Cerberus agents whom had come to provide backup.

“Alright, what’s our target?” Shepard said, getting to business.

Aria lifted and agent with her biotics and shot him in the head, “Need to hit the Defense Systems Station, shut down Omega’s outer defenses so my ships can land. If we don’t, they’ll be blown to bits like we were.”

Shepard nodded, “Got it.”

They both took cover behind a makeshift barricade. Aria looked over at Shepard and smiled, “This is what I brought you for: ground assault. In combat, what you say goes.”

Shepard chuckled, “Aria relinquishing command? I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“I can be a team player, Commander,” Aria looked over her shoulder at the coming assault of Cerberus agents, “I know where we need to go and you can get us there.”

Shepard paused a moment. Aria was being sincere. She avoided looking at the commanded directly. It was already too much to admit that she needed help and that she would follow the Commander’s lead, looking at the Commander while saying it would have been too much.

“Okay,” Shepard nodded, “Let’s move!”

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