By the time preparations were finished, the Normandy headed out of the Citadel and through the Mass Relay. It took an hour or so to reach the Petra Nebula. After they approached the station, they attempted to open coms with the academy, all to no avail. Even if the squadmates sighed in frustration, they already suspected Cerberus might've infiltrated it by now.
"Jammer's probably in place. Shall we continue?" Joker asked.
"Get word out and take us in. Make sure stealth systems are engaged as we make our final approach. I'm going to prepare the away team," Nihlus walked back to the armory.
Once he arrived, he met up with Jack, Garrus, Wrex, Liara, Javik, Tali, James and Kasumi.
"This is where we're at," Nihlus explained, "Cerberus is attacking Grissom, thinking they'll find Jack there. We know for a fact that General Petrovsky is heading the operation in her capture. This is an opportunity to find him and kill him outside of some hole he can hide in."
"You have any ideas of sabotaging any traps they have?" James asked.
"They still think they're the hunters," Nihlus shrugged, "they won't expect being hunted in turn. Our current objective is to kill Oleg, then we can rescue any personnel aboard the station."
By now, Garrus, Liara, Tali, James, Javik, Wrex, Jack and Kasumi finished gearing up. Already surrounding the station were several Cerberus cruisers. Nihlus, Garrus, Jack and Wrex boarded one shuttle before it launched out of the vessel. They departed for one of the open docking bays with minimal effort. After they disembarked the shuttle, they scanned their surroundings, only to notice the hangar was empty.
"This doesn't look good," Garrus muttered.
Several other Cerberus boarding craft already littered the hangar area, as did a few guard bodies. They didn't have time to lose, so they ventured deeper into the hangar and entered the corridor, scoping for any Cerberus soldiers on patrol. The first squad they encountered was at the front lobby, all bundled at the receptionist desk. The instant the soldiers spotted the quartet, they began opening fire, so Jack and Wrex emitted their biotic fields with Nihlus and Garrus returning fire. They quickly handled the group of combat engineers and closed the distance with the desk. The terminal displayed a large number of sections locked down with another monitor displaying staff names.
"Where do you think we'll find this Cerberus general?" Garrus pondered, carefully eyeing the map on the terminal.
Garrus took a step back, allowing Nihlus to catch a glimpse of the map. Nihlus worked with the monitor to pull up the camera feeds from around the station and sifted through each one. By the time he checked the camera feed to the administration office, he found General Petrovsky on the screen. He was looking over the shoulders of his lackeys as they dug for Jack's files.
"There he is, other end of the station. Let's go."
Jack nodded before she and Wrex made a sprint ahead of the turians. They knew the layout of the Academy well enough, and knew where to go. They wasted no time as they sprinted through the corridors, gunning down any Cerberus soldiers in sight. It didn't take long before they reached the door to the administration office. Petrovsky and his personal guard were just outside.
"There she is! Get her!" the Cerberus general barked.
Just as the personal guards charged after Jack, she resisted the urge to panic long enough to emit a biotic field. Wrex took the hint and opened fire at the guards. Shortly after the guards were taken out, the Cerberus general was the only one left in the room. He pulled out a small, pocket-sized defense weapon and aimed at Jack. Her heart skipped a beat as he fired. Suddenly, Wrex yanked her aside and charged head-first into Oleg, knocking him to the ground. The krogan placed his foot atop Petrovsky's shoulder to keep him pinned to the ground. He brought a clenched fist back and rammed it into the Cerberus officer, following with a second and third.
"Take away the endless legions of grunts and you're nothing but a sickly rat," he smirked.
Wrex glanced over his shoulder.
"You alright, Jack?" Wrex called over.
Jack nodded before she took a few steps closer and aimed her pistol at Petrovsky's head.
"Missed me, huh?"
Petrovsky grunted in defeat as he gave up and lay on the floor.
"Subject Zero…you should have stayed in your pen."
"Don't call me that," she snarled.
She fired a few rounds into his left collar, causing him to grunt with pain. Wrex glanced over his shoulder once he heard approaching footsteps. Too late did he respond to the surge of Cerberus troops approaching behind them. A biotic discharge threw him and Jack off their feet, leaving him dazed and her unconscious. One of the soldiers helped the general to his feet while the others picked up Jack's limp form.
"Leave the krogan! Let's go!" Petrovsky ordered.
Petrovsky and the Cerberus soldiers left the office with Jack while Wrex struggled to get back to his feet, even if the aches hadn't faded.
"Jack," Wrex muttered, "no."
Shortly after Wrex burst out of the office, he tore after the retreating Cerberus soldiers, struggling to keep up as they lay down suppressing fire to keep him back. The Cerberus soldiers managed to make it to the hangar when they saw another shuttle arriving at the station. To their disappointment, Liara, Javik and Kasumi emerged from it instead. Suddenly, the General and the soldier who was supporting him fell in a helpless heap, as the soldier's helmet exploded outward. The Cerberus troops found the source of the shots as the two carrying Jack dropped dead as well. Garrus was on a balcony above providing overwatch to his companions below. Nihlus also sprinted into the scene as Petrovsky clutched onto his still bleeding shoulder. Wrex pulled Jack to the side, gradually shaking her awake.
"Jack, are you hurt badly?" Wrex cooed, "you took a bit of a hit back there."
Jack groaned as she slowly stirred.
"It hurts a little," Jack mumbled, "but I'll be fine."
Liara, Javik and Nihlus surrounded General Petrovsky moments later. The rest of his men had been forced to fall back deeper into the station, leaving them time to recover.
"Nihlus," Javik insisted, "do we finish off this wretched parasite?"
"Leave that to Jack and Wrex," Nihlus suggested, "let's keep going, look for survivors."
Javik hesitated for a moment while Nihlus and Liara scurried further into the station. Wrex helped Jack to her feet before handing her another weapon.
"There," Wrex said, "all yours."
Having recovered from her recent blow, Jack took a few steps closer and aimed her weapon at the Cerberus general. She didn't hesitate any further before squeezing the trigger. She stood there for a moment, panting. The memories and thoughts circled her like vultures around dehydrated prey, fading in and out of existence. This prevented her from focusing on the blood trickling out of Petrovsky's gunshot wound. She almost stumbled, so Wrex rushed over to her side and placed his hands on her shoulders to keep her from falling over, which was enough to snap her out her trance.
"Easy," he murmured softly.
"I…I can't believe it's over…" she quietly sobbed.
Jack turned around and embraced herself to Wrex, encouraging the krogan to gently stroke her head.
"Take it easy," Wrex whispered, "you're safe for now. Cerberus is still out there, but Oleg is dead."
Since Javik already headed further into the station and the hangar was empty, Jack and Wrex spent a short while in silence, the krogan soothing the human biotic while she nestled in his embrace. Eventually, he got up, helping her to her feet.
"Feeling better?" Wrex asked.
"A lot better," Jack nodded.
Jack and Wrex sprinted back into the station to help Nihlus, Garrus, Liara, Javik and Kasumi drive out the remaining Cerberus soldiers. Kasumi located bombs that Cerberus brought over to the station and didn't hesitate as she disarmed them. Garrus and Liara continued to provide her cover as she rushed to the explosive charges. At the same time, Javik, Nihlus, Jack and Wrex freed the hostages once they located them.
"Is this everyone? Are there any others we have to look out for?" Nihlus pressed, helping one of the captive instructors to their feet.
"They were dragging students off," one instructor mentioned, "I'm not sure where."
"Then we gotta find them," Garrus suggested, "fast."
Jack and Wrex exchanged glances before they continued venturing through the station. Meanwhile, Garrus, Javik, and Kasumi were assigned with escorting the personnel to a safe position. The human biotic and the krogan began their search at the hangar. There were a few Cerberus vessels left, which made good places to search for the students. They began a jog around the station towards the docking ports in search of ships that hadn't disconnected with the station. They found one Cerberus vessel with a few guards patrolling its entrance not a minute later. They were dragging students onto the ship, with biotic suppressant collars around their necks. Both Jack and Wrex emitted their biotic field and began charging after the soldiers, catching their attention.
"Open fire!" one soldier shouted.
"Forget the students, that's Subject Zero!" another soldier barked, "fall back to the ship and prepare for launch!"
Just as the soldiers began scrambling into the ship, Jack and Wrex made their way towards the engine. Holstering her weapon, she raised her arms above her head, gathering a ball of energy before throwing it down upon a couple of the thrusters. Wrex did the same thing at the other side of the vessel, thus disarming the thrusters and leaving the ship grounded. They jumped off the hull and walked up the boarding dock. Since the hatched hadn't been closed yet, they stormed into the ship to clear out the Cerberus soldiers before rushing to the students onboard and helping them onto their feet.
"Here, lemme have at it," Wrex grumbled, tearing the collars off the students.
"Thanks!" one of the students smiled in relief.
Jack also lent a helping hand in ripping the collars off the students. They all left the vessel and met up with Nihlus, Garrus, Kasumi, Liara and Javik.
"The other Cerberus vessels have left the station. Probably bolting for the hills before help arrives," Nihlus reported.
Wrex sighed as Garrus carefully examined the students behind the krogan, his subvocals letting out soft coos in an attempt to soothe them.
"Is that all of them?" Garrus asked.
"We can account for losses once the fleet arrives," Kasumi added.
It was only half an hour later before another Alliance fleet arrived at the station after they reactivated the station's coms. Nihlus stood to greet Anderson the instant he disembarked.
"Good job holding the Academy," Anderson greeted, "any idea what they were after?"
"They we're trying to get Jack back," Nihlus started to explain, "but she and Wrex managed to take out General Petrovsky."
"That's one less problem to worry about. We can take it from here, Kryik."
Anderson and Nihlus stepped through the hangar and ventured deeper into the station.
"We did manage to rescue most of the students and Jack is still out of Cerberus possession. It was a relatively successful mission," the young turian Spectre informed.
Anderson sighed in relief.
"I'll take all the good news I can get."
In the meantime, Miranda entered the large chamber of a research facility, laying her eyes on the artifact as scientists ran some tests on it. Nearby, several corpses lay on separate tables. She turned on her datapad and read the reports on their progress.
"What's the situation with these bodies?" she asked one of the scientists.
One scientist shifted his focus towards Miranda while the others kept working.
"We found them in Akuze a long time ago," he explained, "and we've been keeping them in storage for future experiments."
"Anything noteworthy besides extensive acid burns?" Miranda pressed further.
The scientist made a brief glance at a corpse before returning his attention towards the Cerberus operative.
"They're most likely Alliance soldiers," he shrugged.
Miranda rubbed her chin as she gazed at the corpses.
"I suppose the Alliance won't consider trying to find them," she commented.
"I checked. They were all listed KIA," the head scientist agreed.
She nodded in approval while eyeing one particular corpse. The young soldier's body was heavily marred by the Thresher acid, and almost couldn't tell it had once been human.
"So who's this one?" she asked.
"Based on the tags, what's left of Corporal Toombs," the scientist answered.
By now, the other scientists finished preparations for their experiment, so Miranda gestured the scientist in front her to get into position. Since the scientists hooked up the corpses to the artifact via cables, the head scientist approached the terminal and tapped on a few keys.
"Ready. Exposing the tissue to the artifact."
Upon the press of the button, they activated the artifact and energy particles danced along the cables. In almost a similar fashion to old horror vids, their dead muscles spasmed as the artifact riddled their forms with new life. In seconds, dead organic tissue materialized into metal. Lines of some phosphorescent blue material etched lines into their skin. Suddenly, one shot its eyes open and clawed at the air. The scientists stiffened as the new creature let out eerie cries. In a split second, more of the newly formed metallic beings sprung to life. As they reached for the nearby scientists, Miranda used her biotics to slam them down, causing them to flake like dried onions. This gave the scientists a chance to scramble to safety while she observed the beings under her restraint. Drawing her pistol, she finished them off, each with a single shot to the head.