Kirk woke up at 0515, showered, and got dressed. He looked at the picture of him and Miranda one last time, and then headed down to the briefing room. A few of the commanders were there already. Commander Teykal came over to him.
"Sir, I just want to let you know that two dozen of my squadrons have volunteered to act as a diversion for your assault. Also, Electronic Warfare System (EWS) bombers will target the Revelations to hinder Advent tracking systems."
"Good to hear, commander. We will need all the diversions we can get."
"Hopefully your squadrons and the rest of the fleet will be enough."
Also, sir, intel says that the ship you are supposed to go after is called the Direnus. The ship Garrus is going after is called the Luminescent."
"Thank you commander."
The marines began to file into the room. Most looked nervous, and they had a right to be. The prospect of flying through the Advent fleet in what might as well be an aluminum can is anything but appealing. But there were, of course, the gung-ho types that were boasting about the heroic acts that they would do, but Shepard knew that they would break first. They always broke first.
It was 0600- time to brief the men.
"Gentlemen. I hope you are ready for this mission, for it will be a tough one. Most of you have not participated in such types of operations until now. It will be a hit and run. We bust in, get to their control center, shut it down, and bust out. Operation time can't be longer than a half-hour; otherwise we risk ourselves getting caught on the ships when our fleet opens fire on them. We have just received intel that the names of the two targets are the Luminescent and the Direnus. Team one, led by me, will go after the Direnus. Team two, led by Lieutenant Garrus, will go after the Luminescent. Commander Teykal of the Eighth Carrier Wing will be providing squadrons to cover our troop transports and possibly be our diversion so we can get there. A schematic of a Revelation-class ship have been downloaded to your omni-tools, and can be accessed through your HUDs in battle, so there should be no issues with soldiers getting lost. Also, there is no air on Advent ships so don't even think about taking off your breather masks. Are there any questions?"
A private raised his hand.
"Sir, how much ammo should we bring?"
"Private, bring as much as you can carry, and make sure it's disruptor ammunition. The Advent are synthetics, not humans, so we shouldn't have to deal with any organic foes, unless there are merc teams on board, which will make this mission all the more enjoyable."
The men laughed, easing the tension in the room.
"Alright men, are there any last questions?"
There were none.
"Alright, we board the ships at 0700 sharp. Good luck."
The men got up and headed towards the armory. Shepard went to see Garrus.
"Garrus, is everything set?"
"Yes Admiral, everything is in order. Weapons calibrated, ammo pouches filled, grenades activated."
"Very good. I just hope everything falls into place today."
"So do I commander, so does everyone. Everyone just has to remember their training and we will be fine."
"That sounded like it came from a corny action movie, Garrus." Shepard laughed.
"It might have, but it rings true all the same. Well, we'd better load up onto the ships. See you on the other side, Shepard."
"Yeah, you too, Garrus."
Shepard got his gear on. His body armor was fitted on. His Mattock rifle and Revenant LMG were strapped to his back. Ammo pouches strapped to his arms and legs. Finally, his N7 helmet fitted with a breather mask.
He went over to Jax, who just finished talking to an ensign about proper battle procedures.
"Jax, I am confident in your abilities to command this ship in battle. Remember, if you lose the ship I will personally kill you. Good luck."
"Of course sir, of course."
"One last thing Jax."
"In case I don't come back from this mission, give this letter to my wife."
Kirk handed Jax a sealed letter, addressed to Miranda.
"Admiral, I'm not taking this. You will come back from this alive, I'm sure of it."
"Jax, do as I say. In case I don't come back, give this to my wife. I will not repeat myself again."
"Yes sir, I understand. Good luck, we are all counting on you."
"Thank you Jax, see you in a few."
Kirk went down to the docking bay, where about 200 Alliance Marines were milling about, fidgeting nervously as they waited for the order to board the transport ships. Kirk took a look at the ships that were to take them. He saw four Orion T-274S's on deck. The Orion T-274S was the latest in Alliance combat transport vehicles, capable of transporting 50 soldiers and travel in space, which made it ideal for this operation.
He looked over the profile of the Revelation-class ships one last time. The armament of a Revelation was impressive. On the front, two heavy plasma beam turrets, a WDS targeting bolt system, and eight anti-aircraft turrets. On the sides were four heavy pulse laser turrets and another six anti-aircraft guns. Hopefully the squadrons would provide a sufficient diversion for the assault group, but still, Kirk worried. The Orion T-274S could easily withstand small-arms fire, and it could even withstand a shoulder-mounted rocket, but he doubted it could withstand the heavy weaponry of an Advent capital ship.
A sergeant tapped his shoulder.
"Sir? The men are waiting for you to address them."
Kirk got up on a nearby crate. Two hundred pairs of eyes plus god knows how many more pairs of service crewmen's eyes were on him once more.
"I was thinking of making whole long speech about courage and duty for this moment, but I think what Lieutenant Garrus said to me earlier would be more effective- everyone just has to remember their training and we will be fine. I don't need to talk to you about courage because I am sure that every one of you will show it in the coming mission. And if everyone remembers his training then duty won't be a problem either. So remember the mission objectives, stick with your squad, cover your buddy, leave no man behind, and we will all come back home alive. Good luck and Godspeed to you all! Ooo-rah!"
The men cheered as Shepard stepped down from the crate. The men were beginning to board the transports. He read the passenger list that was posted on the wall and saw that he was assigned to the first of two transports assigned to his team. He began to head towards his assigned ship.
The flight deck officer came over to Shepard.
"Sir, there has been a last minute change with regards to who goes on each transport, and we didn't have time to update the list on the wall. You have been reassigned to the second transport for your team."
"Sounds good to me, thank you." replied Shepard.
Kirk boarded the second transport. He saw the name "Flaming Flora" on the nose of the transport. Stepping inside, he saw forty-nine marines, head to toe in gear and weaponry. They all looked worried, yet at the same time happy that the admiral was on board with them.
"If Admiral Shepard is on board it means we will survive for sure!" he heard one private say to his friend.
Shepard walked to the cockpit of the ship to meet the pilot.
"Which one of you is the pilot?" Kirk asked jokingly.
The navigation officer pointed at the man who was obviously the pilot. The pilot turned around and introduced himself.
"Hello Admiral, hope you don't mind this, but I'm just a trainee, and they gave me this mission as a trial run for me."
Kirk raised his eyebrows.
"Just kidding, Admiral, just kidding. Sam Karenish- one of the best combat transport pilots in the Alliance! I won't let you down today sir, I promise."
"I have every confidence in your abilities, Sam."
Sam reminded Kirk of Joker, or at least his sense of humor did.
Kirk walked back to the hold, where the marines were sitting. Kirk found a seat next to a private who looked especially nervous.
"What's your name, soldier?" he asked.
"Ben, sir. Private Ben Teller."
"Where are you from, Ben?"
"Illium? My wife and I took a vacation there a while back. Beautiful place. But don't worry private, I'll make sure you, as well as everyone on this mission, gets home safely, and that's a promise."
Shepard could see that the private began to ease up.
"Thank you sir, we are all honored to be serving with you on this mission."
"Actually private, I'm more honored to be serving with you young men. I don't get many chances to do this. I spend most of my time in the command center arguing with old farts, and I'll tell you, it's pretty damn boring."
Ben and a few others laughed.
"I'm an old soldier, Ben. You and the rest of this team are the future of the Alliance. I'm just here to make sure you pick up the reins in the smoothest way possible. I am sure you will all do just fine today."
"Thank you, Admiral."
Kirk could tell that the private had eased up considerably.
Sam got on the intercom.
"Welcome aboard, my name is Sam Karenish and I'll be your captain today. As usual, this is a non-smoking flight, at least until we are fired upon, in which case we adopt a policy of 'light 'em if you got 'em.' In the case of a water landing there are life vests under your seats. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight. On a more serious note, we will be phase jumping in five minutes, so please fasten your safety belts. Thank you for flying Flaming Flora Airlines!"
The marines laughed as they nervously fastened their safety belts and prepared for the ride.
The charge-up for the phase jump was smooth and painless, which is what could be expected from the TDN Miranda. Joker and Tali made sure the TDN Miranda was in perfect shape.
"Admiral, how long is the phase jump?" one marine asked.
"I was told it's about ten minutes, fifteen maximum" Shepard replied.
The ride seemed longer than it was. Every minute that passed seemed like an eternity.
Finally the TDN Miranda came out of Phase Space.
Sam got on the intercom.
"30 seconds until we launch!"
Shepard and the marines gripped their weapons tight as the "Flaming Flora" launched from the docking bay and sped towards the Advent fleet.
Looking out of the small window next to his seat, Kirk could see the other three transports next to them. He could see the enemy fleet rapidly approaching. Just then, three strike craft buzzed past the transport.
Here we go, Shepard thought.
He unbuckled and went to the cockpit.
"How are things up here?" he asked.
"See for yourself Admiral.
He looked out the front window. He could see heavy pulse lasers and beams going every which way from Alliance and Advent ships. He saw a couple Destra Cruisers blow up, and then he saw an Alliance Kodiak Heavy Cruiser go down in flames.
Shit, I hope this battle goes well thought Shepard.
He heard Alliance EWS bombers fly overhead and bomb the Advent with weapons that targeted the electronic targeting systems on the ships.
He saw flak from the Direnus begin to go up around the transport. But the flak was way off target, thanks to the EWS bombers. Then he saw a lone squadron of Advent fighters in the distance. They seem to have spotted the transports, for they turned onto an intercept trajectory.
"Shit! Evasive maneuvers!" Sam said as he took the transport into a dive.
A voice came over the comm system.
"This is 'Maverick' of the Fifth Gunship Strike Wing, at your service. We see you've got a fighter problem."
"Yes Maverick, we do! Get those Advent fighters away from us!" yelled Sam.
The gunships flew overhead and engaged the enemy fighters. It was almost no contest. The gunships ripped apart the Advent fighters. The cockpit crew cheered as the gunships resumed positions above the transports.
"Yaaa-hooo! I feel the need. The need for speed!" Maverick shouted into the mic.
"Thank you Maverick, we owe all you flyboys a drink when we get back. And you should really lay off those 80's movies!" Sam laughed into the mic.
Shepard could see the Revelations were coming up fast. He turned on his helmet comm system to speak to Garrus.
"Garrus, how are things there?"
"Just fine Admiral. These gunship squadrons are really helping."
The transports were joined by another two squadrons of Alliance fighters, just as another group of Advent fighters appeared. Maverick came on the radio.
"Don't worry fellas, we got you covered."
His squadron rose to meet the coming threat. As they did, another squadron of Advent fighters appeared below them.
"Shit!" Sam yelled again.
"This is Wild Boar Strike Wing, going to meet the-"
Sam saw a massive flak burst take down a good amount of Alliance fighters. The Direnus was maybe a minute away, so there was no time to fall back and wait for reinforcements to arrive. They had to go for it. Sam turned the ship in the direction of the Direnus's docking bay.
The remaining Alliance fighters fought with the Advent fighters, with neither gaining the upper hand. At least the Advent fighters are too occupied to attack us, thought Shepard. With the Direnus rapidly approaching, Shepard tuned on his helmet comm to the other half of his team, which was in another transport.
Just as he did, Shepard heard screams over his helmet comm.
"Status report! Now!"
Garrus came over the radio.
"Admiral, a flak burst got one of the transports. I checked in with the other half of my team and they checked in fine. I think the transport which was hit was the one carrying half of your team. I'm sorry sir; nothing could have been done about it. But if it makes you feel any better sir, my team is intact."
Shepard put his head in his hands as he sat down heavily. Damn, this is not good, not good at all. What will I tell the men?
"It's ok Garrus, We will just have to do the mission without them. Just tell your men to keep focused on the mission, and leave no man behind. Good luck."
"Yes sir, good luck to you too."
Shepard felt a cold chill run down his spine. He was originally assigned to that other transport. That could have been him. He felt very sick all of a sudden.
But there was no time to be sick.
"Admiral!" yelled Sam, trying to speak above the comm chatter that filled the cockpit as status reports were being flung around like snow at a snowball fight. "We are 30 seconds from impact with the Direnus! Tell your men to get ready to disembark!"
"Thank you Sam! You did great today! Just sit tight while we do our job, and make sure no harm comes to this ship!"
"Yes sir! I have already issued assault rifles to the crew to make sure that no Advent soldiers come near!"
"Good work Sam!
Shepard moved back to where the marines were.
"Ok marines! We are about to land on the Direnus! Get ready and make sure your breather masks are on! I wish you all the best of luck, and remember, leave no man behind! OOO-RAH!"
The marines replied with an enthusiastic "ooo-rah" as they got their gear together and got ready to go into action.
All of a sudden, they heard a massive crash as the transport violently landed on the flight deck of the Direnus, and the doors to the transport swung open.
"This is it! LET'S GO!"