Command Center, SSV Daedalus, Near Imir's Mass Relay, Eagle Nebula, May 28, 2196
The command center buzzed with activity. Reports filed in from all units.
-Task Force Cork in position-
-ETA of Task Force Scythe to Korlus, two minutes-
-Cruisers Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax and Herakles standing by-
-Pegasus and Prometheus fighter wings ready for launch-
I hated the feeling of detachment that came with being part of events but not in them. I had no finger on a trigger, no button to push, no enemy fire to dodge, only orders to give. The zone did not materialize. No calm took over me. The filter turned into a wall. Others would fight this battle in my stead.
-Task Force Scythe is one minute from target area-
The systems monitored the enemy's comm traffic. It was the only way to track their movements at this distance. The estimate of enemy numbers held at just over twenty armed merchantmen. Task Force Scythe, composed of two elements of three turian cruisers each, would jump on the flanks of the enemy fleet. Caught in a classic pincer the enemy would either scatter or be destroyed.
That was the plan.
-Task Force Scythe on target. Engaging-
On holo six turian cruisers appeared on each side of the enemy fleet. But the enemy did not scatter. Instead the ships on the flanks concentrated their fire on a cruiser from each element, while the bulk of the force jumped clear.
-Revising target estimate. Total numbers now at forty-five ships-
-Analyzing jump vector. Jump vector confirmed. Enemy enemy force en route to the mass relay. ETA five minutes-
"How many?" I asked.
"Twenty five, sir," said Galeena
The batarians had hidden their numbers by the simple expedient of emission control. The bulk of the fleet orbited Korlus with thrusters cold and no active radio signals. Their emissions disciplined robbed passive sensors of crucial data.
"Tell Pegasus and Prometheus to launch fighters," I said.
"Aye Sir," said Pasha.
-Incoming transmission from Major Rentola over the QEC-
"Patch him through," I said.
Rentola's voice came through the intercom, "Colonel, we discovered what the batarians were up. Transmitting data to you now."
An image of a huge laboratory appeared on holo. Hundreds of stasis tubes lined the walls, all filled with human bodies. More images appeared: a double helix and and a sphere covered in spikes.
"This is a new form of a batarian biological weapon used on a assassination attempt on the Council in 2183. This one," the graphic changed to show the interior of a vein, "attacks human red blood cells, blocking their ability to carry oxygen and nutrients. As they cell die, the clomp together, blocking circulation and causing massive internal hemorrhaging . The spores have a tough outer shell resistant to radiation and temperature extremes. It only peals away when in contact with key enzymes in the blood stream. According to the files we retrieved, it can lay dormant on most surfaces for well over a century."
I gripped the edge of the projector until my knuckles turned white, "Is that what they shipped to Korlus?"
"Yes, inside modified disruptor torpedoes," said Rentola.
-Enemy ETA to mass relay three minutes-
"I need numbers Major," I said.
"Each warhead carries enough material to blanket over one hundred square kilometers. We estimate that they produced and shipped several thousands torpedoes, enough to render entire colonies uninhabitable," said Rentola.
-Task Force Scythe still engaged-
I took a deep breath, "Lethality?"
"Estimated ninety-seven percent lethality for age groups under five years old or over eighty within seventy-two hours from exposure. All other age groups are rated at seventy-seven percent lethality with death occurring within a week of exposure," he said.
"We alerted the Council of the current situation and they are mobilizing the fleets," said Rentola.
But we both knew that there was simply too many targets to defend. It was the reason why my team spent the last decade training planetary militias and fortifying colonies all over the Traverse and the Terminus. But none of our plans covered a massive biological attack. A successful attack would kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of colonist and cut off Earth's food supply. An Earth that hovered on the brink from the Reaper invasion ten years ago.
"Thank you Major," I said.
"Good luck," he replied.
All eyes were on me.
"Pass the data to the rest of the task force," I said.
No need for fancy speeches, the facts spoke for themselves. The cruisers formed a box around the enemy's approach vector. Their crews maneuvered so as to engage the enemy with their ship's spinal mounts and broadsides where ever possible. I ordered the fighters to concentrate on the enemy ship's main thrusters.
"Considered done, sir," said Rodan over the comm.
-Two turian cruisers disengaging-
The enemy jumped in. Long range fire from the cruisers tore four, then eight merchantmen to pieces. The fleet charged toward the relay, heedless of losses. Fighters came from all directions. They fired volley after volley of torpedoes. GARDIAN lasers ripped the squadrons apart.
-Twelve targets destroyed. Four disabled-
The enemy returned fire on Ajax and Achilles. The sheer number of broadsides overwhelmed their kinetic barriers.
-Achilles reports an imminent eezo core meltdown-
The cruiser blinked out of existence. Ajax's captain ordered her crews to the life pods. Within seconds it joined her sister ship in a fiery oblivion.
-Agamemnon's main battery and thrusters are off line. Switching to broadsides and maneuvering thrusters-
Herakles, Agamemnon and the fighters stopped three more enemy ships but six still remained.
"Launch all shuttles and gunships. Have them target the enemy main thrusters. The carriers will close to weapons range," I said.
Galeena nodded. Orders were given to close to with the enemy. The point defense system were designed to stop fighters or missiles not go toe to toe with warships. Only three carriers stood between the enemy and the mass relay.
-Enemy within weapons range-
The ship shuddered under enemy fire.
-GARDIAN systems overheating-
-Prometheus and Pegasus lost kinetic barriers. Reporting multiple hull breaches-
At that moment the zone returned. My mind processed all the relevant data: damage reports, loss updates, range to targets and time estimates. I knew the score. I accept my fate.
Miranda...may you live a long and happy life.
Two new objects appeared on holo.
"Sorry for the delay, Colonel. We were a bit tied up back there," said Captain D'arqui over the comm.
The combined fire of turians and our ships obliterated the batarians. I shook from head to toe. I sat down, drenched in sweat. Galeena put a hand on my shoulders.
"Casualties?" I asked.
"Three cruisers lost, two of ours, one turian. Nineteen fighters lost along with three gunships and two shuttles. Recovering lifepods now," said Pasha from his station.