2179 CE, Tasale System
03:00, Illium, Near the Equator
Onboard The Achilles
Under the cover of darkness, the Achilles
began to head towards Illium’s equator. Each change in latitude leading to a corresponding increase in temperature. All across the ship, you could hear the whine of its cooling system struggling to combat the heat. For those members of the crew that were not used to the heat, the experience was rather uncomfortable. And yet, the Achilles
pushed onward with its descent as it chased after its bounty.
Salisa Sarsi was staying in one of the corporate arcologies that dominated Illium’s equator. In particular, she was currently serving as a hired consultant with a subsidiary of the Armali Council, specializing in experimental military technology. The company having decided that the expertise that the Matriarch brought to the table outweighed the several bounties that were currently hoisted over her head; it was the kind of cold business calculus that could only occur on a planet like Illium. The profits mattered more than anything else in the end.
At the same time such an arcology would serve as the perfect hideaway from the Matriarch. Each built with a “cradle to grave” design philosophy that made them self-sufficient citadels. They had everything from their own schools, farms, and even their own security forces. All the while, transport in and out was closely controlled. The colossal towers being an ideal mixture of comfort and security for Sarsi.
A warning flashed across the heads up display as the Achilles drew closer to the skyscraper. At the helm, Kolya directed the ship downward into a thick layer of steam and noxious gas. He switch off all non-essential systems to decrease the ship’s energy profile. With each switch, the running lights began were replaced with the red hazard lights built into the floor. The steam forcing Kolya to be reliant on watching the ship’s sensors to not bottom out. At last though, the ship shuddered as its landing gear made contact with solid ground.
Letting out a small sigh of relief, Kolya picked up his helmet from the dashboard snapping it into place. He did one last preliminary check of the cabin, before making his way to the lower level where the rest of the crew were told to assemble. As he walked down the ship's halls, he drew his shotgun from its magnetic holster. He flicked his eyes to his HUD checking for the ammo counter, signaling to him that the two pieces of equipment were communicating. After dinner, Kolya had spent a majority of the evening cleaning his armor and his weapons. The routine drilled into his head by the Alliance, to the point that some soldiers he knew treated it with superstitious intensity. One lieutenant in particular blaming entire failed encounters on improper cleaning techniques. Kolya thought thinking like that was worthless at best and dangerous at worst. Even so, he still performed the routine using it to organize his thoughts for the coming mission. Holstering the shotgun, he made his way down the small set of stairs that lead to the lower level of the ship.
Sully, and Hann had quickly made the small space into their own over the past few days of their residency. Kolya stayed back on the stairwell looking out over the space. At the far side of the room facing away from him, the crew clustered by the loading doors geared up and ready to go. Kolya took a deep breath forcing down any residual adrenaline from the descent. As he focused on his breathing, Kolya went through a last minute mental checklist. Weapons, gear, meds, he continued down the list checking each one off as he patted himself down. Nodding to himself, he stepped out of the stairwell and went to join up with the rest of his team.
Hopping atop a large storage crate Kolya began to address the team.
“Alright! It’s time for us to get to work.” Kolya stated clapping his hands together in excitement.
“For those of you that were asleep during the briefing this morning, I will provide a brief synopsis. We are heading up through one of waste treatment’s exit drains, the smell isn't exactly going to be great, but it will help us bypass some of the initial security. Once we are in, we work our way up through the skyscraper and make our way to the living quarters. Vash since you so kindly volunteered to take on the role of handling the injector this is for you.”
From his belt Kolya produced a large cylindrical object about seven inches in length. Kolya pressed a switch on the top of the cylinder revealing a syringe built into its bottom. The vanguard clicked the button again and the needle retracted. He reached down and handed the cylinder over to Vash to place where he saw fit.
“We adjusted the dosage to her available biometrics,” Kolya explained, “I could only afford one though, so we got a single shot at this. That’s why I’m making the call that we use it up close instead of trying to make it into some kind of projectile, there is less chance of mistakes that way.”
“After Vash does his thing and we retrieve the target. We make our way towards a landing pad and the Achilles
will be able to home in on our position for Evac.” Kolya summarized the plan making the entire procedure sound easy in comparison.“We can expect resistance from the building’s security force, deal with them as you see fit, as far as I’m concerned they already made their bed when they choose to protect a war criminal. That being said, anyone that isn't trying to kill you is off limits.
We are professionals here people, and I don’t want senseless blood on our hands. Now let’s move.”
Stepping down from the crate, Kolya punched a command into his Omni-tool causing the exterior doors to open. Leading the pack, Kolya was the first to exit the Achilles
and step onto the surface. And almost immediately his HUD began to throw out heat warnings at him. They had an hour to to get back inside a climate controlled area before the heat seals on their suits busted. To keep a mind on the time, he pulled up a timer on his HUD that began to count down the time they had remaining.
Ahead of them built into a rising plateau was the place they were looking for. A significant amount of care had gone into the skyscraper design, despite the minimal number of people that would actually see it. This careful care produced a colossal structure that blended well with the environment, like a large rock formation made of metal. From their angle the structure disappeared beyond the clouds of steam, but there entry point was visible. Sixty above them built into the cliff face was a large circle intrusion of metal from which a constant stream of brown colored liquid poured out of.
The isolated and self-sufficient nature of the compound extended even to its waste treatment protocols. Instead of dumping the entirety of the wastewater, most is filtrated back into the system. This filtered water used from drinking to watering the gardens that grow the food. The waste at the end of this process is that which was too contaminated to be treated. And so they built an elaborate system to direct the waste away emptying through large drains built into the side of the plateau. If they followed the drainage system, back to its source, there would be a way into the arcology proper.
With no time to waste, the team began setting up the grappling hooks. Each of the hooks, fit into large canisters launched by Vash’s ML-77. Numbering three in total, they made quick work launching each of the canisters. The three hooks would end up embedded in a triangular formation above the entrance, two on either side and one above.
Turning to Ardan, Kolya placed a hand of the Turian’s shoulder. “I want you to be the last man, make sure they all get up soldier.”
It was a sign of trust, Kolya couldn’t be everywhere at once so he needed to be able to break up the load a little bit. Picking Ardan was a simple enough decision. He was a military man like Kolya and from what little interactions they had with one another at this point, the two of them seemed to think very much on the same level. And that level of predictably was something that as a commander, Kolya knew was essential to lean on when things got rough.
After his quick words with Ardan, Kolya attached himself to the middle rope and lead the first group to ascend up towards the entrance. Already sweating from the heat, the moisture only increased as he began to pull himself up the wall. Drops of wastewater from the small waterfall fell and collected on his helmet as they made slow but steady progress up the cliff face. Throwing an experimental gaze over his shoulder, the Achilles and the rest of the crew seemed like tiny miniatures atop of a game table. Kolya didn’t have a problem with heights necessarily, the Alliance kind of knocks any such fear out of you after you do your first training for a HALO jump, but even then he could feel his stomach lurch a little bit. Turning his attention back upward, he picked up speed for the last half of the journey.
Kolya pulled himself atop the ledge at the end of the drain. The space he had to maneuver in was cramped especially with the rest of his team starting to pull themselves up. The ground slick with waste forcing careful foot placement as he approached the large iron grate that blocked their way forward. There was a gate built into the grate that was intended to be used by maintenance crews in case of a blockage to be able to push it past. From that point onward, it would be a simple matter of cutting the lock on the gate and letting themselves in, but as he approached the gate to examine it, Kolya immediately noticed that something was wrong. The gate which was meant to be shut closed was ajar and just beyond it was a body face down in the stream of waste.
“We got something here.” Kolya warned as he drew his Kessler.
A closer inspection of the gate revealed that the lock had been cut. The cut metal was still warm to the touch. Gripping his Kessler tighter, Kolya experimentally pushed on the gate which opened without protest. He raised a closed fist in the air with his free hand, signaling the rest of his team that was slowly assembling on the ledge to hold their positions as he pushed deeper in the tunnel. His eyes swept across the tunnel not knowing what to expect. He let out a breath that he didn’t even realize he was holding when he made it to the body.
Kneeling down, he looked at the corpse. They were dressed in a dark blue hazard suit, a single entry wound in the back of the skull a premonition of the violence that must have occurred. Looking around, Kolya noted that there were no bullet holes or blood on the tunnel walls, so he could only assume that whoever, the victim was they were killed further in the tunnel and their body was dropped into the runoff to be carried away, only for them to get stuck. Reaching a hand out, he flipped the corpse over to take a better look.
The first thing that Kolya noticed was the exit wound. The bullet having pierced through the skull and out through the helmet shattering the visor. The face or what was left of it at least, was human, maybe mid-to-late thirties, skin that he could only assume was tan underneath the coating of blood. From his experience with these kinds of things, Kolya assumed that whatever weapon had done the damage was racked to a high-caliber bullet and probably was using shredder rounds at that, a Carnifex maybe if he had to guess. On the front above the right breast, was the etched logo of the Armali Council, probably a maintenance worker that was doing routine work in the tunnels.
All of it was giving Kolya bad vibes. Kolya knew what a random killing looked like or what a pirate or some thug would do. This was professional work there was no joy or malice in it, it was someone dealing with an obstacle because they were in the way. And by all likelihood whoever or whatever it was, was still in the tunnel ahead of them. It wasn’t the type of position, that Kolya liked leading a team into. In such a scenario, Kolya would of liked to take his team, send in recon teams to see if they were still there and if they were flush them out. But the ticking timer in the corner of his HUD reminded him that he just didn’t have that luxury right now. The team had to move, and they had to move quickly. All he could hope for was to try and minimize the amount of sound that they made as they pushed in and hope that they weren’t walking straight into an ambush.
“The lock on the gate was already cut, and I’ve found a body, likely part of a maintenance crew.” Kolya whispered over the comms. “We aren’t alone down here, so I want everyone to bunch up, check your corners and stay quiet.”
And with that he began to make his way deeper into the tunnel keeping the Kessler trained on the shadows ahead of him. It’s never easy is it?