|Mass Vexations 3
Author: Herr Wozzeck PM
We kicked the Collectors' asses. But now, we have the Reapers coming, threatening galactic extinction. Good thing we have the crew of the Normandy to try and stop it. And I'm in it to the end. Self-insert, sequel to MV2, various pairings.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure - Shepard (F) & Garrus V. - Chapters: 39 - Words: 513,009 - Reviews: 519 - Favs: 233 - Follows: 240 - Updated: 05-05-13 - Published: 08-21-11 - id: 7309142
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Man, that felt good. It felt good, too, to see that I've gotten back to form in some way. I'm not sure what happened with the Tuchanka chapters, but... well, here's hoping we make up for that.
Anyway, you know how it is. So last time, we set up a bunch of loose ends. So what is Daro'Xen planning? What is up with Tali? And where is everything gonna go?
You'll see, my dear sirs. For now, have the next chapter.
Chapter 18: Webern: Passacaglia, Part Two
The admirals, Miranda, Garrus, Legion, and I are all crowded around the war table. I look, seeing a projection of Rannoch on the screen. Hm... so that's what it looks like. Even in hologram form, it still looks a bit like Earth.
Kinda makes me antsy to get down to Rannoch, but we'll see.
"Our scan is complete," says Legion as he brings up his omni-tool. "According to scans made by the geth, we have detected life signs surrounding the base." He waves his hand, and then the holograph zooms in to what I assume is that Reaper base we're all thinking about. I lean forward, watching as several red markers appear all over the zoomed area. But... all things considered, there aren't that many.
"Hm, I count about ten markers," I say. "How did a force of ten people manage to take out an entire team of geth, marines, and scientists?"
"We are still compiling data," says Legion. "We do not yet know the entire capacity of the force on Rannoch. Additionally, we believe that there are more than ten people on Rannoch. Our scans have several holes on the surface of Rannoch, which is unusual." The head flaps move again. "We are further gathering data on how Cerberus got past us."
"Got past you?" asks Han'Gerrel. "Why is that important?"
"The geth surround the homeworld with ships," says Legion. "We have sufficient numbers that we keep constant patrol on the planet's surface."
"And yet Cerberus somehow managed to get past your ships," says Miranda. "And they've found a way to mask their numbers from your scanners, if I'm reading what you're saying correctly."
"Yes." Legion turns back to the hologram. "The closest drop point is here."
"Yeah, we'll have to hope," I say. "So I take it the plan has us drop a ground team off somewhere?"
"Yes," says Legion. "There are three drop points we would recommend you take."
Shala nods. "I take it we have enough marines to go down there?" asks Shala.
"I think we should," says Han.
I see Miranda take a step forward. "We appreciate the sentiment, admirals, but I think we might be of more use to you," she says. "Me and one other person on this team are both ex-Cerberus operatives. We might be able to shed some more light on this."
Huh. I raise my eyebrow, crossing my arms while looking at Miranda. "Miranda?" I ask.
"It's true," she says. "Besides, I don't know if I can explain Cerberus' presence here. Cerberus is an interest of ours, and if we could find intel..."
Hm, she brings up good points... "But this is their homeworld," I say, gesturing to the admirals. "Don't you think they'd want a stake in this too?"
"We would, but it is true that you have had more experience with Cerberus," says Shala as she opens her omni-tool. "I will call people to accompany you down to Rannoch, then. Perhaps if we do this..."
"That can work," says Miranda as she lays her hand on the table. "Art, do you mind?"
I take a small step back... Shit... Damn it, no, we're about to take back the homeworld, and Tali is nowhere near me so we can experience it together. This is just... Shit. I pause, looking over to Miranda.
But if I don't do this, and we don't have a homeworld left to go to...
"I... Yeah, that's fine," I say. "I just need to check with something first."
I don't really look at the others, but I can sense that they know enough not to ask me what's up. I... God damn it, why haven't I even heard from Tali? She would've contacted me by now, or even replied to one of the messages I sent last night in desperation. Maybe Kal and Iya found her somewhere...
Garrus shrugs. "We can wait," he says. "You check up on what you need to."
"Thanks," I say. Damn it, this is tough... I know Tali would want us to get the homeworld, there's no doubt about that. But I just feel... bad about doing it without her. And now that she's been gone for this long, I'm starting... well, no, I haven't recently started suspecting foul play. No, I started suspecting that earlier than recently...
I sigh, looking up as Han'Gerrel finishes saying something that I don't quite catch. "In the mean time... are there any more points of interest? Tactically speaking, anyway?"
"Until we have more information, that is all," says Legion. "That is part of the purpose of the ground teams."
"So our ground teams gather information for you, as well as finding out what Cerberus is doing on our homeworld, is that it?" asks Zaal.
"Yes," says Legion. "We will update the Creators with more information when we get it."
"So be on the lookout for data, then," says Miranda. "All right." She turns to the admirals. "Now, just because we are working together does not ultimately mean that we have the means to transport everyone." She turns to me. "Art, would you mind taking the shuttle we have?"
I blink, looking over to Miranda. "Sure, I'll take it," I say. "Just make sure Jenny's driving."
"Of course," says the ex-Cerberus operative as she looks to the admirals. "Is it all right if we use some of your shuttles?"
"Be careful with them," says Han. "Other than that... I think we are at an understanding."
"Good," says Garrus. "Art, you get your team together. Miranda and I will team up with the other marines and take some of the ground team with us."
"You do that," I say, looking over to Legion. "Legion, you should stay here with the admirals. We'll update you from here."
"Acknowledged," the geth platform replies. "Caution is recommended."
I nod, looking over to the geth platform as Miranda and I head out of the briefing room. "Noted," I say. "We'll update you too, admirals."
"Very well." Daro'Xen stands back and nods, crossing her arms as she looks at all of us.
Actually, I think I'll make a brief detour on my way down. I need to look into something.
As soon as I get off the elevator, I make a break for the gunnery bay. I don't know if Garrus is going to take Madison with him, but I need to make sure that she does what she's probably more useful at by this point.
I open the door, and sure enough, there she is with Carhon. The two of them both stand up, and it's only then that I notice that Jarel is somehow also in the room with them. Well... actually, that'll make my job a lot easier. Maybe if I can ask them to do stuff...
"Art," says Jarel. "I heard about the death of their friend. I wish there was more I could do."
I nod. "It's fine, Jarel," I say. "Besides, there may be something you can do to help us out." I look over to Madison. "Madison. Do you think you can head over to the Moreh?"
The journalist gives me an odd look. "Let me guess," she says. "You want me to go in there and see if I can shed any light on what Daro'Xen is planning."
"Yeah, pretty much," I say. "I don't know what's going on with Daro'Xen, but I think we should find out what she's up to. Without the admirals knowing about it."
Carhon gives me a pointed look. "You do realize that they'll be pretty angry when they realize that we've done espionage work on one of their ships without their permission, right?" he asks.
"Yes, I realize that," I say. "But I really don't think Daro'Xen is going to tell us what she's planning, especially not at this time where we're now heading over to Rannoch as a fleet. And I don't know if we can wait to see what she's planning. By the time we get it out of her, it might already be underway, you know."
The batarian nods, standing up. "Yeah, that's a good point," he says. "How do we get there?"
"We'll figure it out," says Madison. "I guess now that the admirals know that Daro'Xen is up to something... well, maybe they'll understand. Jarel, I could use some of your hacking expertise in this."
"Indeed," says the salarian. "I'll be coming with you and Carhon, then. Besides, you'll need to find out what anything we find could mean, if it extends to artificial intelligence research."
"Indeed," says Madison. "Do you think we should also look for traces of Tali there?"
"Yeah," I say, looking down. "Unless Kal and Iya's feelers turned up something, I'm beginning to think that that's where Tali might've gone to."
"We'll look for her," says Jarel. "You be careful on Rannoch. It might be dangerous down there."
"Gotcha," I say. "That's all. You should get going as soon as possible while the Normandy is still docked with the Rayya. Within an hour, it probably won't be."
"Then I guess it's time to get suited up," says Carhon. "I wonder if James is doing the same thing."
"Probably," I say. "I'll see you guys later."
With this, I walk off, sparing a last glance at Madison. She is already busy picking up some items of necessity, and I see Jarel walking out of the gunnery bay with Carhon. No doubt they're gonna suit up soon.
I turn, and walk straight towards the mess hall. I notice that Rupert is on shift at the moment, but don't pay much attention to that as I turn to find Wrex sitting there looking up at me. Liselle is seated across the table from him, looking like she's comfortable or something. Hm...
I walk up to the krogan, and he looks at me with an unreadable expression on his face. "Need me for something?" he asks.
"Yeah," I say. "We're gonna be heading off to Rannoch soon, and I'm gonna need a ground team."
"So you need me to shoot things for you," he says.
"Yes," I say. "I'm going to run by Thane, Kasumi, and Isaac, too. So if you could get any one of them, that would be great."
"Got it," says Wrex. "Well, Liselle, it's been fun, but..."
"I'll wait for the next time," she says. I turn to the asari, noticing the delighted smirk she has on her lips. "Kick some ass out there."
Wrex chuckles. "You can count on that." With this, Wrex and I walk away. I turn to the krogan, crossing my arms as we make our way to port observation.
I walk over to the shuttle, seeing the rope ladder leading up to the shuttle itself. I see Jenny sitting over the edge of the shuttle, her legs dangling in the air. She doesnot look happy right now, and I'm sure it's something the rest of us can see. I don't see Gregor in there, which means that Garrus probably had to inform him of Nogond's death separately. I turn to the ground team, seeing them look up at Jenny.
"She seems... perturbed," Thane observes. "Is everything all right?"
I sigh. "Not exactly," I say. "Let me handle this. She just needs someone she can talk to right now, I'm sure of it."
With this, I walk over to the rope ladder, climbing up as quickly as I can. I eventually do pull myself up, looking over at Jenny. She acknowledges my presence with a sad look, and then looks back to the ground.
I pull myself into the shuttle, and rearrange myself so I'm sitting next to her on the edge of the shuttle. I inch closer to her, not close enough that she feels uncomfortable, but close enough that I can talk to her seriously. As soon as I do, I notice the residue of tears on her face.
"Hey, Jenny," I say softly. "Are... are you all right?"
The pilot shakes her head. "N-no, I ain't..." she says. "My closest friend is dead, and I had to find out so late after he died." She sniffles. "I dinnae what I'm suppose' ta do with that." She brings a hand to her face. "It's just... What kind o' soddin' blackguard would do somethin' like that? Nogond was a good person, and someone killed 'im for his bloody suit."
"I'm not sure how to respond to that either," I say, sighing sadly. "I... I'm sorry, Jenny."
"It's okay," says Jenny. "I dinnae think you could see it comin', either." She shifts, looking at me. When I see her eyes, I can tell that there is something quietly furious about her expression. "If that bloody wanker doesn't get what's comin' to 'im, you can be damn sure I'll do 'im in."
I sigh. "I can't blame you, Jenny," I say. "Don't worry. We'll find out who it is running around in his environmental suit and we'll bring him to justice, one way or another."
"Thanks," says Jenny. "I just... I cannae believe 'e's dead." She sighs. "I just..."
I nod, looking down at the ground. We stay silent for a minute or so, not saying another word to each other. I glance at her several times, and eventually, I place my right hand over one of her shoulders. She leans towards me slightly, I guess appreciating the gesture. Even with this gesture, we remain silent. After a minute or so passes, I pat her shoulder lightly.
"We'll be needing to use the shuttle soon," I say. "Do you think you'll be ready by then?"
"Yeah," says Jenny. "I'll be fine. I've... I've accepted it by now. I'll be focused when the time comes, don't ya worry about a thing."
I nod. "If you need anything, let me know, all right?"
"Will do, Art," she says softly.
With a couple of pats, I take my hand off of her shoulder. "You should get the shuttle primed."
"I should," says Jenny. "I'll need some space."
I scoot back to the rope ladder, seeing Jenny's point. "You do what you need to," I say. "I'll be down there with my ground team."
With this, I turn around and lower myself down to the ladder. I grab hold of a rung and start my descent, looking up as Jenny stands and retreats into the shuttle. I hope she's okay... She could use a lot of moral support right now.
I don't even realize when my foot touches on the ground, but when it does, I jolt slightly. I turn back to the others, watching as they all pace around the hangar bay. Isaac and Kasumi are off chatting to the side, and I can see Thane standing close by the rope ladder. Wrex is the closest one to me, and he's giving me a rather pointed look.
"So I see Tali's not here," he says. "You haven't asked her if she wants to come?"
I shrug, shaking my head. "I'd ask her if I knew where she was," I say. "For some reason, she's gone missing on the Fleet."
Wrex scoffs, looking at me incredulously. "Tali? Gone missing?" He shakes his head. "I don't believe it for a second."
"You can ask everyone else if you don't, but the facts are there," I say. "EDI hasn't reported Tali's return, Ken and Gabby say they haven't seen her, people in the Fleet that I've asked don't know where she is..." I look up at the shuttle. "I just hope she shows up soon. I asked some friends of mine who are in the marines to ask around. I'm hoping they got something."
"If they didn't, I'd be surprised," says Wrex. "I don't know how it is, but it seems like everyone and their pyjaks know who Tali is."
"You've got that right," I say. "I'm sure they'll turn up something."
"Unfortunately for us, sir, we couldn't find anything."
I jolt, looking past Wrex as soon as I hear the voice. W... No way!
I watch as Kal'Reegar walks over to us, passing by Kasumi and Isaac. Wrex turns his attention, and I step out from behind Wrex as I look at the quarian marine. I hear a light cough from Thane, but find myself stepping forward to greet Kal'Reegar.
"Kal?" I ask. "What are you doing here?"
"I was assigned here by the admirals," says Kal. "Iya's with one of your former Cerberus operatives. Miranda?" He shakes his head. "Anyway, I asked a bunch of people around the Fleet about Tali. Nothing turned up. I'm sorry."
I blink, shaking my head. "Okay, something definitely went wrong here," I say. "This doesn't make any sense. How could she just vanish on the face of her own home like that?"
"I have no idea," says Kal. "And for once, I'm pretty sure even a tech specialist wouldn't be able to tell you."
Wrex looks between us. "If you want me to crack open a few suits, I'm game."
Kal abruptly turns to Wrex. If he's surprised, though, he doesn't show it. I hold my hand up at Wrex. "That won't be necessary, Wrex," I say. "I want to find Tali as much as the rest of us do, but I'm not making people sick who don't have to be sick."
"We'd get the results faster," says Wrex.
I shake my head. "And I'm sure the admirals will love us for it," I counter.
"Hm," says Wrex as he fingers his assault rifle. "Fine." He snorts in distaste.
"What's the krogan doing here?" Kal asks. We both turn to the quarian, seeing that he's looking at Wrex with a slightly intimidated expression.
Wait. Kal'Reegar, intimidated?
"Relax, Kal, he's part of the crew, and a loyal friend if ever we've had one," I say. "Kal, this is Urdnot Wrex. Wrex, this is Kal'Reegar vas Rayya."
Kal nods at Wrex, taking the krogan's extended hand. "This ought to be fun," says Wrex. "Here I am, working with a quarian marine. I hear the rest of you aren't as squishy as the rest of your species."
Kal appears unphased at this. "I think that sounds about right," he says. "I once took on a bunch of geth on a colony that had a sun that was burning all our equipment. There was a colossus in that group of geth, and the area was full of the things after a while." He looks over to me. "By the time Art and Shepard got there, I was swimming in antibiotics, with only a rocket launcher left." He shrugs, splaying his arms out as he turns his attention back to Wrex. "I'm still not sure how I survived that, but I'm still standing here."
Wrex chuckles. "Going after a colossus with only a rocket launcher?" he asks, grinning. "Stupid, but brave." He turns to Isaac very briefly before looking back at Kal. "Of course, I've seen more impressive survival stories, but yours isn't that bad."
The quarian marine takes a step back. "I don't know if I should be honored that I'm being complimented by a krogan, or nervous about the fact that someone else had to get out of stranger circumstances."
I look back at Isaac as he gives Wrex and I a very odd look. "It's... a long story," I say. "Anyway, we're gonna be stuck here until we get to Rannoch. So..." I cross my arms. "Are you sure Tali didn't come up?"
"I wouldn't have said so if I was sure," says Kal.
I sigh, shaking my head. "This complicates things... and a lot more than I thought they did," I say. "Kal... do you think someone purposefully did something to Tali?"
Kal shakes his head. "I wouldn't think so," he says. "You know the Fleet. We're all kind of like family. I don't know a single quarian on this Fleet who would hold Tali against her will."
Wrex crosses his arms. "I don't know," he says. "After this long, I'd say he's got the right idea."
I shake my head. "I guess we'll find out soon enough," I say. "Well... there's nothing we can do about it now. Maybe the next time I see her, I can show her the homeworld. Once we get it back... once we do stuff with it..."
"We'll see," says Kal. "For now, I guess we just stand here and wait."
"Sounds about right." The three of us turn to see Kasumi walking right up to us. "It's been a while, Kal'Reegar."
The quarian gives Kasumi a blank look. "Do I know you?" he asks.
At this, Kasumi smiles. "No, but I remember you," she says. "You were there when Tali was being tried for treason!"
Sitting in the shuttle, I find my feet subconsciously tapping against the floor. I look up, feeling extremely nervous about this. Wrex seems to have noticed my nerves, but he doesn't say much of anything if he cares. Which I'm sure he does, but it's not in Wrex's style to be that comforting.
"So... Isaac Clarke, right?" I turn to look at Kal as he asks this of the former CEC engineer.
"Yes," says Isaac. "Something you need?"
The quarian leans forward. "No, it's just... Your suit isn't quite like anything I've ever seen on anyone," says Kal.
Isaac sighs in response. "I get that a lot," he says. "Let's just say that it's... confidential, how I got this design."
"I don't doubt it for a second," says Kal. "Well, here we are, about to shoot some Cerberus people."
"Yeah, here we are," I say. I look over to the cockpit area. "Jenny, how close are we?"
"Shouldn't be too far, mate," the pilot replies. "We're about two clicks away from the landin' zone." She pauses. "I think I noticed some'in' weird, though."
I stand up, walking over to the cockpit. "Why's that?"
I walk in, and then see Jenny looking up. "Maybe ya better see it for yourself."
I look up, and...
"Okay, that doesn't look right," I say.
"It doesn't, mate," says Jenny as we look at the Cerberus shuttles flying around. We've broken Rannoch's atmosphere, but the amount of Cerberus shuttles... well, it's only two of them, but it's still rather worrying. It's kinda weird, though...
"Funny how this is a world organic beings haven't set foot on in over three hundred years," I say. "And now, it's going to host a battlefield of some sort."
"Yep," says Jenny. "Funny 'ow that works out, y'know?"
"Yeah," I say, shaking my head. "Still... we'll be at the landing zone soon." I turn to the others. "Ready your weapons, guys. We're movin' out soon enough."
The others nod. I glance behind me to see Wrex walking right towards the door. He pulls out his shotgun, and then the shuttle comes to a standstill. The others stand up, pulling out their weapons. I nod, leaning towards Jenny.
"By the way, Jenny..." I whisper. "If you get a call from Madison asking for a pick-up, that's a cue that you need to go get her."
Jenny frowns, turning to me. "Why would she be-"
I quickly place my index finger in a shushing motion, holding my hand up to stop her. "I sent her and a couple of others to the Moreh," I say. "They'll be gathering intel. Maybe they'll find out just who that son of a bitch who killed Nogond is."
Jenny pauses, before nodding. "I see," she says. "Are ya sure ya shoulda done that?"
"Daro'Xen isn't going to tell us herself," I say. "Besides, the admirals already know about the deception involved with this Iden'Roya character, so..."
"Right." Jenny turns to face the window of the shuttle. "I'll be here if you need me."
I nod. "Got it," I say.
With this, I pull out my pistol, walking out of the shuttle. The door closes behind me, and I look around me. W... whoah... I can't believe I'm saying, this, but... well, this planet is damn beautiful! I mean... the sunset over there... the way the flora grows... the fact that there's a nice scenic vista all around...
...and I need to concentrate here. We've got Cerberus guys and a Reaper to deal with.
I nod to the rest of the ground team. "All right," I say. "Now... let's go find out what Cerberus is up to."
The others nod. "Just don't get distracted by the scenery," says Wrex. "That would be stupid."
"Aw," says Kasumi. "And here I was hoping I could paint a landscape while we were here."
"You paint?" asked Isaac. "I thought you stole most of your paintings."
"I tried it once," says Kasumi. "Didn't really suit me, but..."
Thane coughs rather lightly. "I scarcely think this is the time to speak of such things," says the drell.
"Yeah, what he said," I say, bringing my pistol to bear. "Come on, let's move."
We find ourselves walking for about five minutes before we come across the first of our Cerberus goons. I recognize the armor, though: it's the same armor these goons wore when they carried themselves over to Omega. I raise my pistol, taking point with Wrex and Kal as Kasumi, Isaac, and Thane hang back. It's only about... two of them, I think.
So even I am not that surprised at the fact that once Wrex fires his shotgun, the first guy is pretty much out. Combine that with some assault rifle fire from Kal, and that's that fight taken care of in two seconds. Well, there weren't that many Cerberus goons. I wonder if they're all gathered elsewhere...
I shrug as we begin moving again. Well, chances are, they are. Though, hopefully, they aren't spread out so much that it's uneven. 'Cause that would suck.
We move along as quickly as we can, looking around for Cerberus troopers but seeing none. This goes along, and for some reason it becomes more like the Sparknotes version of a scenic tour of this area of Rannoch. We've figured out pretty quickly that we're in the middle of a sort of plateau. I mean, it's not totally level, so I guess it's not really a plateau, but the terrain is consistent enough in terms of height that I think it could be called that. I dunno. Either way, there's that. We move along quickly, and glance around us.
It's when we reach a certain area that we see something of note. Off to the side, we can see...
"A parked shuttle?" asks Isaac. "What's it doing here?"
"I dunno," says Wrex. "But I think it's worth checking out."
"That shuttle got past the geth fleet," adds Kal. "If we can find out how it managed to do that..."
I nod, keeping my pistol up as we approach the shuttle. By the time we're standing in front of it, Kasumi has already opened her omni-tool, and comes over the door with it. I look to the others as they aim their weapons to the door. After a few seconds, though, the shuttle doors open, and they open to reveal that the shuttle is empty. Well, that's good. I nod to Wrex, who steps inside and points his shotgun. He shakes his head after a few seconds, though, holstering his shotgun.
"Clear," he says dispiritedly.
I shrug. "Don't worry, Wrex, we'll find someone to fight eventually," I say as Kasumi and Isaac step into the shuttle. "Thane, Kal, keep watch. Kasumi...?"
"Yeah, I'm on it," says the thief. She's still on her omni-tool, and she's displaying no signs of getting off of it so far. "I got this. Now..."
Isaac looks to the side. "This... this Reaper," says Isaac. "You say it's supposed to be dangerous, right?"
I nod. "Well, it depends on how you look at it," I say. "If by 'dangerous', you mean it's a gigantic ship that shoots red laser beams of death at everything in sight, then yeah, it's dangerous."
The CEC engineer nods. "So if we encounter one here like they say we will?"
"I... Uh..." I shake my head. "We'll figure that out when we get there."
"It took entire fleets to take one out the last time," says Wrex. "The Reapers are out to kill us all, but you have to admit that they put up a very good fight."
"Entire fleets?" asked Isaac. "And that was for one of them?"
"Trust me, if the stories are true, I don't know how we're going to kill 'em all," says Kal from outside of the shuttle.
"I'm sure we'll figure something out by then," says Kasumi. "We're almost done... and... hah!" We step back as the shuttle puts up some displays. "Easy handiwork. Now... I guess we can open up a systems diagnostic here, and..."
Kasumi does this, and we all look at the panels. Okay, thruster stuff... yeah... that panel does things I don't know about, there's a stealth drive thing, there's-
I glance over to one part of the screen at the same time everybody else does. "Wait, that doesn't look right," I say. "These shuttles have stealth drives?"
"Hmph," says Wrex. "Well, this just got interesting."
"Yep," says Kasumi. "Guess they had to get through undetected somehow. Now, the question is, how did they get a stealth drive that could fit in a shuttle?"
Hm... "Well... from what I understand, Cerberus had to reconstruct the Normandy SR-2," I comment. "They had to completely reinvent the Stealth Drive to do that, you know."
"Maybe they reverse engineered it from that," says Isaac. "I don't know if you can do that so easily here, but... I've seen it happen before."
"Could be," says Kasumi. "That's something we'd have to ask Miranda, though."
I shrug, briefly turning and taking a couple of steps to the edge of the shuttle. I look outside at the scenery on Rannoch. "Kind of makes us lucky that nobody has had any long-range scanning technology they could use against our shuttle, right?" I ask. "We'll figure out what to do with that. For now, what are we dealing with here? Do you think you can find that out?"
"Find that out from a shuttle access point?" asks Kasumi. "Please, remember who you're talking to. I could do something like that in my sleep."
I smirk, turning back into the shuttle and stepping up next to Kasumi. "True enough," I say as she lifts her hand. I watch the thief as her hands flitter across so many displays I barely have any idea where to turn. "Okay... we go there... and say this... and... aha!"
With this, new data comes up. Kasumi looks forward, sifting through relevant information. I blink, licking my lips as we all lean in closer.
"Okay," says Kasumi. "So... it doesn't look like we're dealing with that large a force of Cerberus," says Kasumi. "Apparently, some of their numbers were dealt with by the quarian ground team."
I shake my head. "How'd they get wiped out?" I ask.
"They were a science team," says Kal from outside of the shuttle. "All they had were a few marines as guard. You mix those two, and sometimes you wind up with fewer guns to shoot with and more innocents to protect. Cerberus probably took advantage of that."
"Yeah, they probably did," I say, looking at Kasumi as she does more things. "I can't access much else from here, but from what I can see, their numbers are at about fifty people. Five of them are scientists."
I raise an eyebrow as she closes the window. "I don't like this," says Wrex. "If that planetary scan you showed us on the way down says anything, forty-five people is too large for a security detail."
"Yeah, that's odd to me too," I say. "I think they're up to something."
"Well, we're not gonna find out what that is by staying here," says Kasumi as she walks out of the shuttle.
"True enough," I say as I follow suit. "Come on. This base has to be around here somewhere."
It doesn't take us long before we find ourselves looking at another group of hostiles. This one is larger, consisting of about ten of these guys. I nod, quickly running over to a rock outcropping and planting my back against it. I nod to the others, as they move into position. I lean out over cover... yeah, these guys are about the same. Except...
Hold on a second. Who's that lady that's holding the sword there? I frown, watching as Kal moves over by a discarded crate. That's... odd. Well, to say the least, anyhow. I wonder... why is she using a sword and nothing else?
No matter. We'll have 'em all taken care of soon enough anyway.
I signal to Wrex, who then lets out a roar. This gets the attention of all the Cerberus troopers, but by then, Kal has already risen out of cover to start firing his assault rifle. And it's too late for some, too, for then I see a couple of the troopers get lifted away. Kal redirects his aim at them, and fires.
It's then that I come out of cover, firing at one of the remaining troopers. One of the troopers draws his gun, but I watch as Kasumi becomes visible, punching the guy with a charged omni-tool thing. Okay, that works for me, now all that's left is for me to-
I'm blindsided as I suddenly get my assault rifle shoved in my face. I stumble back, looking in front of me to see that crazy lady with the sword there. W-what? I-
I don't get time to dwell on it before I suddenly see her raise the sword. Instinctively, I raise my assault rifle. It doesn't really block the blade all the way, but I do manage to get it to redirect the direction it slashes in. As soon as I do this, I bring my right elbow forward, clocking her in the face. Right, asari martial arts, don't fail me now! I then turn right around, jumping so that I'm rotating in the air. It's really nothing too extreme, but it's enough that I can get in some momentum. I bring up my legs, and with a swift movement, I kick that lady with the sword to gain some distance. Of course, it doesn't really do me any favors that my legs are splayed out, and that I'm in a prime position to belly-flop on solid rock, but hey, what can I do?
As I land on the ground with a rather hard thud, I look behind me to-
Oh, you've got to be...
Well, actually, maybe it's not so surprising.
I see the crazy lady perform a flip, but otherwise she manages to land on her feet without any problems at all. With this, she then runs back at me. I roll over to the side, catching a brief glimpse of Thane punching a Cerberus trooper in the face before I get to my feet as quickly as I can.
I then promptly have to dodge a sword swipe in my direction. I jump back, raising my assault rifle but finding I don't have to block it this time. However, I jumped back into a rock wall, and so find myself blocking a blow.
It's then that I hear assault rifle behind me, and this crazy lady turns to look behind her.
"Get off him!" I hear Kal shout.
Of course, this doesn't really do much for me, but then, I see the lady in front of me get pulled back by biotics. She struggles in the air, leaving me to look at her in bewilderment.
That's when everybody else comes in and makes mincemeat of her. Well, figuratively speaking, anyway: she gets peppered with so much gunfire it's not even funny.
I find myself standing still for a few seconds, before I push myself off the wall. Well... I must've been very distracted, because the other Cerberus troops are sort of laying there. I mean, I was fighting for my life and all, but still!
I shake my head, looking over to the body of this sword-wielding dame where it's laying now. "What the heck was that about?" I ask.
"I don't know, but she looked vicious," says Kal'Reegar plainly. "You think there are any others like her?"
"We won't know yet," says Kasumi. "I think we're best off trying to take on others like her from a distance, though."
"Right," I say, turning to... okay, there he is. "Isaac, the next time we run into this lady, you're using your stasis module on her."
"Y-yes," says Isaac. "I... Whatever you say."
I nod, shrugging at Wrex as he pumps his shotgun. He and Thane are both a short distance away, and I store my assault rifle as I watch Kasumi and a mildly reluctant Isaac meet up with them.
I turn to Kal. He's giving me a mildly confused look from the way things seem with him. I nod, turning to Isaac. "I think you'll find that Isaac Clarke is an odd one."
"No doubt about that," says Kal. "I swear, I almost didn't distract that woman who was attacking you. I was too busy watchin' his weapons cut people to pieces." He pauses, looking at plasma cutter before turning back to me. "Literally."
"It's a long story," I say. "Probably not best to dwell on it now." I pull out my pistol, checking it briefly and nodding when I see that everything's in order. "Come on. We're almost at the base."
With this, I walk forward. The quarian marine follows me soon after, and then all six of us head deeper into this base.
We approach a small outpost-looking place soon enough. Well, it looks small, but I can see from a distance that there's already been extensive work that's been poured into this place. Well, the outpost is attached to a larger building, anyway. The rest of it is actually below us, where I notice that we seem to hit a valley within this sort of plateau. The outpost looks like it's got some kind of elevator attached, so... I guess that's how we're gonna get to the base. As for the base itself, well, it looks... under construction?
"That's odd," I say, looking at the rest of the base. "Most of this isn't even finished?"
Kal kneels down, looking at some of the steel used. "I don't know, sir, some of this looks old," says the marine. "Actually, some of it looks more like a wall on Haestrom than it does anything else."
"Yeah, looks like it to me too," I comment. "You think they're building over something that was already here?"
"Possibly," says Isaac as he leans down. "From the looks of things, there's a definite age discrepancy between here-" Isaac points at one section of the wall, "-and here." As he points at the lower portion of the wall, I see that yes, he's got something going there.
"That's weird," I say. "So there was something else here..."
"From the looks of things, that doesn't look like the only thing that's odd about this," says says Wrex.
"Yep, I'd say you're right about that," Kasumi adds.
I turn to where I hear their voices, and see that...
Well, okay, maybe the outpost was in front of this massive hole in the ground so I didn't see it, but... What the hell?
I step forward, walking up to a guard rail that comes right in front of a cliff. I gaze out, seeing that someone seemed to have drilled a rather enormous hole in the ground. Literally, it spans from right where the guard rail is keeping us from falling in to somewhere in the horizon that I can't see. This is... this is so damn weird... I look inside, seeing that the hole seems to slope gently downward almost like a rock version of a sinkhole. And then... it suddenly drops off in the center.
I shake my head as Kal and Isaac both come over here. "How did nobody notice a hole this enormous?" I ask. "I mean... this thing was here for... how long?"
"I don't know," says Kal. "I haven't been on this homeworld before..."
I shake my head, bringing my hand up and opening a comm link. "Legion, we found our base. It looks like an outpost that was built on top of another one that has this massive, massive hole in the middle of it."
"Affirmative," I hear in my ear. "Any further information?"
I shrug. "That's what I was hoping I could get from you," I say. "There is no way that Cerberus managed to bore a massive hole in the ground in a few days. You mind filling us in on anything there?"
My ear piece buzzes to life, and suddenly someone else comes on. "Hold on." Hm... that sounds like Han'Gerrel. "One of our ships has a registry that contains records of every government document that pertained to life on Rannoch before we were forced to flee."
Whoah, wait! "You keep that kind of stuff?" I ask.
"Trust me, I don't know why, either," says Han. "But I think it helps to keep a record of what our ancestors did. I never thought it could be used for this, but there you have it."
"Ah." Hm, that sounds like Shala'Raan. "According to a quick search of classified files, it seems that there was a secret government experiment at the coordinates you are currently at."
"That fast?" I ask.
"We may have provided some assistance."
Okay, I swear Legion sounded smug just now.
"Oh...kay..." I say as I look at the hole. "What does this file say?"
"It says that there was something found from a scan of a plateau approximately seven hundred years ago," says Shala. "We thought to check in on it. The scientists there found something enormous... they say it was a ship unlike any other in design. Small, but it looked extremely advanced."
"Aw, crap, they found a Reaper," I say, stepping back. "What happened then?"
"The machine did not respond to attempts to activate it," she says. "The scientists of the time believed that it was... dormant. As if waiting for a signal from something far beyond our understanding." I can imagine the admirals shaking their heads. "We had something like this sitting on our homeworld?"
"We did not know of this base's existence, either," says Legion. "We did not spend all three hundred years of the Creators' exile on Rannoch. When we were..."
"I guess you didn't see everything," I say. "But... the heretics had to find out about the old machines somehow..."
"We believe there is a possible explanation here," says Legion. "We will pose this inquiry to the former heretics."
"Right," I say. "I'm guessing these experiments didn't end well." I mean, c'mon, when have things like this ever ended well?"
"They did not," says Shala. "According to this, the scientists went mad, talking about the coming of something nobody could kill and doing things that made no sense. Finally, the government of the time shut the project down. The base was firebombed."
"So there was some quarian engineering in this base as well..." I comment. "And it had access to a Reaper..."
"Which means that we know why Cerberus is involved," Kasumi adds. "They probably would've killed to find this."
"Yes, but how'd they find out about it?" I ask.
"We are posing inquiries to get an answer to this question," Legion says.
"We can probably find out the answer to that here," says Isaac as he looks out. "Either way... I have a really bad feeling about this."
"You should have that bad feeling," I mention, turning to my ground team. "Historically, everyone who's ever worked with Reaper technology has gotten indoctrinated at some point or another. And I can't imagine this can end well for Cerberus."
"I do not believe so," says Thane. "They have shown that they have already experimented with Reaper technology at the moment. I fear for what we may find here."
I shake my head. "Let's hope that we can get to the bottom of this without getting indoctrinated ourselves," I say, turning my attention back to the outpost. "Well... an outpost of combined quarian/Cerberus design. Let's see what sort of design sensibilities that creates."
With this, I walk towards the door, drawing my pistol. Two seconds later, I've hit the control for the door, and then we're inside the facility.
About a minute later, we find ourselves submerged in darkness after stepping off the elevator. Kasumi has already begun using her omni-tool's flashlight thing, which is great for us for a lot of reasons. Isaac's also turned on the flashlight on the front of his plasma cutter, and with these two points of light we find ourselves advancing through the corridors.
I keep my pistol raised just in case. You never know what you can find in dark corridors, I can tell people that much. Well, except darkness and a lot of gloomy territory, but still. I keep my pistol raised as we slowly make our way through this place.
And this place...
I walk by, seeing a bunch of laboratory testing equipment laying around everywhere. It's room after room of the thing, which seems weird for a lab that only hosted about five scientists. Sure, we come across the occasional half-completed room where we can turn our flashlights off temporarily, but for the most part, we spend our time wandering this base with laboratories everywhere.
It really makes you wonder what they're doing here.
And as we move along, I think we're going to get a clearer idea. We're still waiting to find a functional terminal. All the ones we've checked on the way here are either defunct or they have no relevant data on them. Usually, it's the former, though.
And as I trot through another room of the same thing, I shake my head. I shake my head, watching as Kasumi finds yet another empty terminal.
"Well, that's odd," said Kasumi. "How many empty terminals does that make?"
"About... sixteen, I think," says Isaac. "Do you think...?"
"More experiments?" asks Kal. "Given what we know of Cerberus, I wouldn't be surprised, I can tell you that much."
"Yeah," I comment. "Maybe they were planning on expanding their studies directly under the geth's noses?"
"Perhaps." Thane gives a soft cough before turning to us. "I wonder why we have not heard from Miranda or Garrus as of yet."
I shrug. "They're probably just in the same situation we are," I say. "Not wanting to say anything until they've found something, and they've been reporting stuff to the admirals and the geth." I look to the door. "Well, we've tackled every room in this stupid wing, so... let's move on, shall we?"
We nod as Wrex takes a position by the door, planting his back on one side of it. Kal moves over there quite quickly and follows suit. "Yeah, that would be a good idea," says Kasumi. "Maybe we'll find something there."
"Kasumi, you've said that over the past fifteen rooms," says Isaac as we venture towards the door. I walk over to it, and tap my fist on the door control. "I don't think-"
Wrex and Kal turn to face the inside of the next room at exactly the same time, weapons raised. Instinctively, I raise my own weapons.
But that is not what causes Isaac to promptly shut up.
No, there's... I...
"What the hell is that?" I ask softly, walking into the room.
I... What the...?
I step into the room, looking up in shock at the rig that's on the other side of the room. It looks... it looks like it was constructed from Reaper tech or something. But what's weirder is that it looks kind of like it's structured as a cross or something. And yes, I mean cross like the kind that Jesus Christ was nailed to. Except... except that it's also got these weird tendrils that sort of blossom out from it and connect to all this laboratory equipment that surrounds it. The eerie blue light it gives off in the darkness doesn't help anyone. But perhaps the strangest thing?
I... I see a quarian hitched up to that device. From the looks of things...
"That's... that's the quarian in the vid message Legion showed us!" I say, looking up at the unconscious form of the quarian.
Kal steps forward, his assault rifle pointed at the ground. "Keelah..." he says, walking up to the cross. "Is..."
"This isn't like any Reaper tech I've ever seen before," says Wrex.
"W... what were they doing here?" asks Kal thinly. "This... I've seen lots of things in my time as a marine, but this..."
I walk so that I'm standing next to Kal. "I... I have no idea either," I say.
We all stand in silence for a few seconds, looking at the various pieces of lab equipment. For some reason, my gaze always returns to the quarian who's hooked up to that machine thing in front of us. I can hear someone's foot shift slightly behind me, but I don't really pay much attention to it.
"This is sick," says Kal. "Whatever is going on here, we have to stop it."
"But what are they doing?" I ask. "Why would Cerberus take one of the quarians and hook them up to Reaper technology?"
"I don't know, but whatever it is, it can't be good," says Kal.
I shake my head. "You've got no argument from me there," I say. "But this is the Reapers we're talking about here. We're going to need to know what happened with this for us to know what the hell we're gonna be up against." I shake my head. "Either way... this looks like Reaper technology, so... I dunno about you guys, but I think this means that Cerberus has been taken over by someone who's indoctrinated."
"So you still think the Illusive Man isn't behind this?" asks Kasumi.
"The Illusive Man wouldn't turn his back on his assets like this," I say. "Not without good reason." I shake my head, walking off to the side. "I need to tell Miranda about-"
And before I can get another word in edgewise, I hear Isaac let out a loud yell. We all turn to the source of the sound, and then we see that the CEC engineer is grappling with... with...
What the fuck is that thing? I mean... it's a creature that looks about the size of a human, it's grappling on him, and it looks a little like a machine of some sort, but...
Why, oh why does the thing look so much like a husk?
I raise my pistol, firing wildly. My first shot misses, but the second one manages to get the thing Isaac is grappling with in the hand. This gives the CEC engineer time to grab the husk-like creature in the arm and fling it off of him. He then brings his boot down on the thing's head.
Before we can say anything else, we hear a roar off to the side. We then turn to see that there are more of these creatures... crawling in? What the hell? I count at least four of them, all of them crawling like those geth hoppers from the first game. I step back, raising my shotgun.
And suddenly, one of them bounds off of the ground, aiming for Thane. The drell successfully ducks underneath the creature before he can get tackled, but I then turn to watch as the creature latches on to the wall. Using this as a springboard, he then jumps onto the ceiling and stays there.
... I have no idea what is up with the Spiderman stuff, but this is not good.
I raise my pistol immediately and open fire on the thing on the ceiling. I get about three shots in before I feel something tackle me from behind. My pistol flies out of my grip, and instantly I have hands that are trying to rip me apart.
I elbow the creature in the face as fast as I can, but it doesn't seem to deter it. I elbow it again, this time aiming more for the face. I hear the undefinable sound of glass being crushed even further than it already is, and it lets out a harsh squeal that sounds like something out of a horror movie.
I catch another one of the creatures being tossed back by a biotic attack of some sort just out of the corner of my eye, but I'm so concentrated on the one above me that I don't care. I roll over as quickly as I can, finding that it manages to do the job. The thing lets out a squeal of pain, and suddenly I'm within range of a sharpened pipe that seems to have conveniently placed itself there for me to use. Grabbing the pipe, I immediately stab it into the thing behind me, being mindful of my own torso as I stab the creature.
It lets out a loud squeal, and it finally lets go. I quickly scramble to my feet, rushing to my pistol. I pick it up and turn around just in time to see Isaac use his stasis module on another one of these creatures. Thinking quickly, I shoot it several times in the face, quickly jumping out of the way when it looks as if the stasis will wear off. I narrowly dodge a severed head of another one of these creatures flying at me and hitting me, and then the creature that attacked me and caught me off guard takes a shotgun blast to the back of the head from Wrex.
And then, as the body of the creature that Isaac used his stasis on collides into the wall, we're all left standing there, huffing and puffing. A dead silence takes a hold of the room, and we all glance wildly at each other, wondering what the hell it was that just attacked us.
Finally, I shake my head and look to one of the creatures. Upon taking a closer look... yeah, it looks more like a husk, but very, very different. I see some synthetic parts of it, actually, some which look quite a bit like the geth. The thing... it actually looks like a hybrid between...
...a hybrid between a quarian and a geth...
I reel back, and as I look around I see that everyone else seems to have come to that conclusion too.
"This... this is a new type of Reaper foot soldier," I say breathlessly.
"A dangerous new type of Reaper foot soldier," Kasumi adds. "And here I thought husks were bad enough."
"So they're looking into creating more foot soldiers for the Reapers?" asks Kal. "I don't believe this."
"Well, it confirms the indoctrination beyond a shadow of a doubt, so I'm not going to complain too much," I say. "But still... this is terrible..."
"Sounds like it," says Wrex. "Well, looks like we've got more to kill than just Cerberus troopers now."
I nod. "That's what happened to the scientist teams..." I say, looking over to Kasumi. "There's a terminal in this room, right?"
"Yeah," says Kasumi as she walks over to a terminal that I only then notice is right over there. She opens her omni-tool, and I look around at Isaac. He's standing there with his feet apart so that he's looking at everything in shock.
I stand up, and walk over to the confused CEC engineer. "Hey, are you okay?" I ask.
The engineer glances around wildly, before leaning close. "B... before that thing attacked me... I thought I heard something."
"You thought you heard something?" I ask. "Why didn't you say anything?"
He leans closer. "I... I can't tell them that," says Isaac. "Not without Kal catching on. But..." He shakes his head.
"I thought I heard Nicole calling out to me..."
I lean back, looking at Isaac in surprise. "N-Nicole?" I ask, suddenly keeping my voice down.
"Yes," says Isaac. "I couldn't understand what she was saying, but... but I'd know her voice anywhere. It was definitely her."
"You... you're hearing her even now? But..." I shake my head. "There's no way. Markers don't exist here..."
"And yet I heard Nicole," says Isaac, and then I suddenly notice the resolute posture he's taken. "There's a Marker here, I know it. And when we find it, I'm going to destroy it."
With this, he turns away from me, walking over to where Kasumi is hacking into the terminal. I shake my head. Isaac... No, there's no way he could be right. Markers don't exist in Mass Effect. There... there has to be another explanation.
But what would that other explanation in...?
Wait, didn't he say something about Nicole when that one Cerberus guy came in on Omega? That... Did he maybe see Nicole then too?
I'll have to ruminate on that. But for now... well...
"Ah," says Kasumi. "I've got something. And this something looks very big."
"What is it?" I ask, walking over to where the thief is standing.
"Looks like they were experimenting on Reaper tech," says Kasumi. "They took all the quarians prisoner. They were aiming for something, because they took a lot of tissue samples from the quarian people."
"Tissue samples?" asks Kal'Reegar as he walks up to the terminal. "And what did they do with those samples?"
"I don't know," says Kasumi. "But from the looks of things, all those tissue samples were cloned to be made whole with the geth. Combine it with Reaper technology, and you get a foot soldier..." She shakes her head. "And already, it looks like they have a convenient little data package detailing how they make these things."
"So they were experimenting on that for the Reapers," I say. "This is something the others need to hear about." I look over Kasumi's shoulder. "Anything else?"
"Hm..." The thief looks at the screen. "It looks like they'll need actual quarian samples for this. They can make the geth parts on their own, but without a quarian there..."
I look over to Kal. "That means we have a chance to make sure these foot soldiers don't get used by the Reapers," I mention. "We need to destroy this facility, and destroy the Reaper that's at this facility."
Kal nods, looking at Kasumi. "I guess we've got our work cut out for us, then," says Kal. "Art, you're going to update everyone, right?"
I nod, stepping away from the terminal and nodding. "On it," I say. I walk to a corner of the room, activating my comm unit to Miranda. "Miranda?"
"Art," she says. "Did you find anything?"
I nod. "Yeah, we found out about some of the things they were doing here," I say. "And trust me, Miranda, this is big..."
Well, that was a doozy to explain to the admirals. I stand there after updating the admirals about this quarian/geth super-soldier the Reapers created. Miranda took the news as a warning and told me she'd update Garrus' squad. And so I stand there, watching people do stuff. Isaac examines his ammo off to the side, I notice Kasumi looking over his shoulder, I see Kal sort of just standing around, and I see Wrex and Thane talking about... something, I guess. Wait, Wrex is socializing? Huh... Never thought I'd see the day, but there we have it.
I look up, right as Zaal'Koris speaks. "This is bad," he says. "This place needs to be destroyed."
"Our consensus matches that of Creator Zaal'Koris," says Legion. "We must destroy this Reaper."
"Yeah," I comment. "Any ideas on how we can do that?"
"Is the Reaper anywhere close to you?" asks Shala.
"I don't know," I say. "We still haven't fully explored this base, though I think we have a general idea of where it'll be." I shake my head. "What do we do once we find it?"
"Our best consensus states that an orbital strike would optimize resources," says Legion. "There is one anomaly. We must be able to see this Reaper."
I nod. "So how do we do that?" I ask.
"I think one of the marines we sent with Garrus' team has a laser sight," says Han'Gerrel. "I made sure one of the marines I sent with him had that in case a scenario like this would come up. Hopefully, the laser point should be visible to the quarian fleet from orbit. Light up the Reaper, and we can fire on it from orbit."
Hm. Well, that's good thinking. "Seems like over-preparation if you ask me, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth," I say. "Right. So we find Garrus' group, meet up with them, point a laser at this Reaper, destroy it, and turn the rest of the base into dust."
"Something like that," says Han'Gerrel.
"We find this consensus to be preferable," says Legion. "We require assistance if we are to help with the bombardment of the Old Machine."
"We'll work something out," says Zaal'Koris. "Now, unless there's something else..."
"I think that's about it," I say. "You know about the shuttles with the stealth drive, you know about everything else..."
"Then I think we are done here," says Rael'Zorah. "Be cautious, Art."
I nod. "I'll do my best."
And with this, I cut the link. "Okay," I say, looking to the others. "Now... we need to meet up with Garrus. One of the marines that Han'Gerrel sent with Garrus has a tool that can help us with destroying this Reaper."
The others look at me in surprise. "Leave it to Admiral Gerrel to prepare like that," says Kal'Reegar with an amused tone. "I say we should go and stop whatever is happening here."
"Totally," I say. I bring my hand up to my head. "Hey, Garrus!"
I can hear the sounds of weird Reaper-like screaming in the background. "Art, can it wait a bit?" asks the turian. "We're kind of stuck in the middle of something here."
I frown. "Fighting guys?" I ask.
"Yeah," says Garrus. "We've got a handle on it, but there are a lot of them."
I nod. "Good," I say. "Garrus, we need to meet up here. Han'Gerrel equipped one of the marines he sent with you with some sort of laser sight..."
"Yeah, he did," says Garrus. "Personally, I wasn't sure why he'd do that, but given that there's a Reaper here and long-range scanners might not know where to look..."
"That sounds about right," I say. "Do you know where the Reaper is?"
"Yes," says Garrus. "As soon as we've taken care of our opposition, we're heading right there." I hear something go on his omni-tool. "I'm sending you the coordinates now. If we get there first, we'll wait for you."
I nod, hearing my omni-tool ping as soon as Garrus finishes saying this. "Okay, got it," I say. "We'll see you there."
With this, I cut off the link. "All right, I know where we're going," I say. "I think."
Wrex nods, pushing himself from the wall he's been leaning against for the past few minutes. "Finally," he says. "I just hope there's something to kill when we get over there."
"Don't worry Wrex, I'm sure Cerberus will throw something pretty massive at us," I say, reloading my pistol. "Come on. We've got places to be, and not a whole lot of time to get there."
It takes a while to get through a lot of the things. We run into more of those quarian/geth hybrid things, but it's the decreasing Cerberus presence that I find myself thinking on most. And it's other things about that which unsettle me, too. I mean... what if they've already got an army of those things running around somewhere? I... I can scarcely think of what would happen if I had to deal with that.
But we shoot our way through more of them, and we actually do deal with more of those Cerberus ladies with the swords. Thankfully, Isaac's variety of stasis is on our side here, as he keeps on using his stasis module. Well, when he's not recharging it, that is. In which case, Wrex's stasis serves us well enough.
Either way, we move as quickly as we can through the enemies. For some reason, we don't get that many on our tail, but that just makes life easier for the rest of us.
And finally, after about ten minutes of weaving our way through the rest of the base, we step outside, looking out at the hole. Actually, no. Now we're practically at the edge of that hole...
As I look down, I can see it staring me in the face. There it is... There's that Reaper we've been talking about this whole time. The hole around it is imperfect, but the Reaper sits there... it sits there, almost as if lying in wait. It looks off at the moment, but it looks ready to spring into action.
I walk forward, eyeing the Reaper in question. There's a small path that leads up to a point where someone could probably go in and snipe this Reaper from. Well, from the air, anyway. I step forward, taking a deep breath as the rest of the squad follows me.
I hear a door open on the other end of the walkway. I turn my head, hearing some members of my team raise their weapons. Before anyone can fire, though, I see Garrus' face. So, too, do I see Al and Jack as they go running in behind the turian. There are two quarian marines I don't know, and... a geth unit? Huh, I guess Legion must have sent in a geth unit with Garrus or somethin'. Either way, I see the group of them arrive around where I am, with Garrus nodding at me.
"Good, you made it before we did," says Garrus. "Those quarian/geth hybrids were getting annoying."
Jack scoffs at this. "Please," she says. "I was more worried about those Cerberus bitches."
"Yeah, the way they came at us with swords wasn't pleasant, to say the least," says Al as he glances to the side. "I almost bit it myself."
"Lucky you had Jack, then," comments Kasumi.
"Yeah," Al agrees. "I'm lucky she was there."
I nod, looking to the turian at the head of the pack. "So, one of your marines has a laser sight?"
I see one of the quarian marines come forward. Hm... He looks rather confident, seeing as how he's already hefting the thing in his arms.
"Here, sir," says the marine. Hm... Well, his envirosuit is... colorful. Pink and white adorns it, but it's definitely not a design I'm familiar with. "I was given this by Admiral Han'Gerrel."
I nod. "Yeah, he mentioned something to that effect," I comment, looking at the Reaper. "So... Let's point a laser at a Reaper, shall we?"
"Yes, sir!" The quarian walks ahead of me. Okay, now might be a good time to get stuff going with that. I step along, opening the comm channel to the admirals again.
"Heads up," I say. "We're at the Reaper, and we're about to shine a light on him. Are your ships in position?"
"Yes," says Shala.
"The geth also have ships in position," says Legion. "We will fire when the Reaper comes out."
I nod. "Okay," I say, glancing over to the quarian marine as he checks that laser pointer briefly. "Remember, this is a Reaper we're talking about. It's gonna take more than one bombardment to take this thing down." I shake my head. "No, I don't know how many bombardments it'll take."
"Joker is on standby right now," says Zaal. "He will be helping us with this."
Oh. Well, I was about to say the same thing, so... "Good thinking," I say. "The Thanix Cannon will likely do some major damage against this guy. Just be careful with us, though: if we're caught in the cannon's fire, we're dead."
"Affirmative," says Legion. "We are awaiting the signal."
Okay. I turn to the quarian marine right as we both come to a stop at the end of the platform. There's the Reaper there... I glance to the sides, seeing a few ways down from where we are right now... I turn back to look at the Reaper before turning my attention to the quarian marine.
"Well, soldier, here we are," I say. "Here's an honest to God Reaper."
I look back, taking note of its size. Eh... Sovereign was definitely bigger.
"Indeed, sir," says the marine. "I'm ready to aim this thing when you are."
"All righty then," I say, looking at the Reaper. "They're waiting for the signal, so..."
He nods, and then activates the laser pointer. He points it directly at the Reaper in question, and holds it there for a few seconds. All right...
C'mon, Fleet. Let's light this son of a bitch on fire.
For a few seconds, nothing happens. When I look up, however, I hear the sound of a missile flying through the air. The sounds seem to come from... behind us, actually. Well, I suppose that makes sense given where the thing is pointing. I nod, hearing the ship get closer and closer.
Less than two seconds later, I step back as I see a trio of missiles hit the Reaper in front of us.
I step back in awe. Okay, even knowing the explosions were coming, it still kinda caught me off guard. But... we stand there for a few seconds, looking at the Reaper ahead of us.
And then, the Reaper actually lights up. Like, powers on lights up.
And it's looking right at me and the quarian marine right next to me.
I grab the marine's arm, hearing a soft buzzing sound that crescendos rapidly. We barely get back a few feet before I'm knocked off of my feet from an explosion from behind me. There's a soft ringing in my ears, and for a second I lose my bearings. The world looks so weird like this, but soon enough I'm on my feet. The ringing is still in my ears, but as I get a sense of what happened it dies away. I look back, seeing the Reaper take a step forward as my attention turns to the quarian marine that was just standing next to me.
I get back up as quickly as I can, seeing the quarian marine already dashing back to the group. "Well, we got its attention!" I shout as I rush up to them. "What do we do now?"
But Garrus is already heading in a certain direction. "We found some transports on the way here," says the quarian marine. "We figured we might let this Reaper chase us around to keep the fire off of the bombing squads!"
I nearly stop running right then and there, but something keeps me going. I catch up to the rest of them. "Wait, so we're going to have a Reaper chasing us around?"
"Sounds like it," says Wrex. "Sounds like fun, if you ask me."
I shake my head. "Wrex, this is a Reaper," I comment. "You know how dangerous these things are!"
The geth platform close to us turns to me. "It was agreed on that we would minimize Creator casualties as much as possible," the platform says.
"Wait, so Legion isn't the only geth that can talk now?" I ask.
"Apparently," says Al. "But it's true, trust me."
"We deemed it logical to create a distraction," says the platform. "We must exercise caution."
I shake my head as we run along. "Right," I say. "Now we have a Reaper chasing us on foot, trying to kill us with its laser beam of death while we try to aim a laser at it so the Migrant Fleet knows where the hell it's supposed to shoot." I shake my head. "Fucking perfect."
"Hey, it'll be like old times," says Wrex.
"Yeah, because we all know that we were being chased by Reapers on foot during the old days," I say.
I hear a loud crunch of metal immediately after I say this, and then I look be-
Ah, Jesus Christ on a pikestaff, it's following us!
I turn in front of me, looking on in shock. "Right," I say. "We better not get ourselves killed, Garrus!"
"Don't worry, I know exactly where they are," says Garrus. "Just follow me and you shouldn't get too injured!"
Well... I guess we can't work around it. I just wonder how the hell Miranda's going to get out of this situation...
About a minute or so later, we run right into some kind of hangar. And the transports...
"These look like geth transports," I comment as we run into the room.
"Yeah, our geth platform might have mentioned something about them," says Garrus. "The geth transports were all apparently hijacked."
"We are still gathering data on how they arrived here," says the unit. "We-"
"Right, Cerberus stole them from under you," I finish as I dash to the nearest transport. "I get that. Am I the only one who remembers that we're being chased by something about eighty times our size here?"
By this time, I can already see the quarian marine with the laser sighter mounting... wait, he's able to climb up these things? Huh. He climbs up to the roof of the geth transport, preparing his thing. I look ahead of me to the transport, nodding as I run over to the back and start to climb it.
"We haven't forgotten," says Garrus as he runs over to a third transport that's way down there. "According to our geth unit, these things should be easy to maneuver."
I look below me to see Kasumi, Al, Jack, and Isaac enter the transport below me. As I look out, I see Thane and Kal join Garrus, with the geth unit and the second of the two marines climbing into a third transport. Wrex climbs on top of the transport, and I nod as we both look back.
"Yeah, this looks simple enough!" I hear Al shout through the comm link. "I can figure this out fast!"
I cringe at hearing some more crashing sounds close by. When I look up, I can see that one of the feet of the Reaper has managed to break through the ceiling and bear down into the room.
"Can you figure it out now?" I shout into the comm link. "'Cause this thing is literally right on top of us!"
I glance back up at the Reaper, noticing how huge it is. I shudder, finding that there's... wait, there's a guard rail on this thing? Hm... the geth really do think of everything. It'll be convenient when we-
"A foolish move. You fumble in the darkness, incapable of understanding, and yet you dare to understand?"
Right. Reaper is right above us.
I look up... Oh, fuck, I can't believe we have to take on a Reaper on the ground. Well, we're directing airstrikes, but still...
"What the hell are you talking about?" I ask. "You bitches exterminate all organic life every fifty thousand years!"
"Your ignorance blinds you," says the Reaper. "We will make you underst-"
"Got it!" shouts Al. "All right, hang on to that guard rail on the top, Art, this is going to be a wild ride!"
I feel the vehicle lurch underneath me, and suddenly we're pulling away from the Reaper. I glance up, looking at the giant sentient construct as we move away as quickly as we can. I glance over to the quarian marine to find that his transport is moving as well, and he's slowly preparing the laser sight thing that he's currently setting up against his own guard railing. I feel the thing turning underneath me, and before we can say anything else, we're pulling away from the base. Just in time, too, for then the Reaper crashes through the remains of the base and follows us the rest of the way.
I look over to the quarian marine, feeling the need to shout something. Before I can, though, I see that he's trying to get a fix on this Reaper.
I glance back up at the giant thing in question, grabbing the guard rail as the ride suddenly gets quite bumpy. I look up, watching as this Reaper closes in on us. Oh, dear...
I see the laser start dancing on the Reaper again, though this time I can see he's actually having a relatively hard time keeping it in place. Well, at least the laser is more visible than normal, though that red glow that's emanating from the front of the Reaper is a little on the... ehm... worrying side, I think. If this involves that death-laser that most of these guys have...
But I don't get to comment on it too much, for then we hear something roaring in the skies, and when I look up I see more ships flying low. This time, though, it's a group of ships rather than just one. The ships sweep over us, and I duck as suddenly a series of explosions rips up the Reaper in front... well, behind us, technically. The explosions rock the Reaper, but before it can do much else a second wave of missiles comes in, and bombs the thing. I stand perfectly still, even as the Reaper seems to fall in front of us.
And when the sounds of the bombing and the Reaper falling over die out, we're left with silence. I glance up, suddenly noticing the wind that's blowing around the place. I don't even realize the transport beneath me stopped until I look at the ground and see it isn't moving beneath me. I breathe in, looking at the Reaper.
"Is... is it dead?" I turn to my left, seeing the quarian marine asking this question as he moves ever so slowly.
I glance up, looking at the sentient warship. "I... don't know," I say. "If it is dead, then that's one wimpy Reaper."
And right on cue, the little thing that fires the laser death ray lights up, and I see parts of this Reaper move.
"Yep, it's definitely not dead!" I shout. I stamp on the transport as hard as I can. "Move it!"
The transport moves again. And not a moment too soon, for then the Reaper activates its red laser. It sweeps across the land, and my transport moves out of the way just before this laser can destroy it. As we move away, I catch a brief glimpse of the scar the red laser has left on the terrain of Rannoch. I glance back up at the thing, even as the driver of the transport steers to the side to avoid another death ray from this son of a bitch.
I breathe in and out, feeling the heat as the laser narrowly dodges us. I mean narrowly, too: the transport actually gets knocked to the side from the force of the resulting explosion. I end up gripping the guard rail for support as I very nearly fall off the transport. The transport rocks under my feet as well, and I'm left with wide eyes as I hang there for a few seconds.
Good Christ, why did I climb on top of this thing?
As I slowly pull myself up, I turn my attention to the quarian marine that's in the transport about... about... I think something like twenty yards away? Thirty? I dunno, something like that! Twenty or thirty yards, whatever, he's pulling himself up while hefting his laser sighter. He prepares to aim it again, but suddenly his vehicle swerves to the right. And before I know it, my vehicle is swerving in the same direction as well.
I grip the guard rail a little tighter, even as I see this Reaper shoot out a third laser death ray at us. This one narrowly misses the back of my own transport, and again it rocks beneath me. This time, I manage to keep my feet on the top of it, though, even as it narrowly collides with a random rock that's in the way. As I look up, though, I see that the thing has cut across the ground behind the transport that the quarian marine is standing on. Their transport is shaking too, and I can imagine how close that one probably was.
Nevertheless, I see him aim the laser sight, and I see the laser dancing across the Reaper again. I watch with baited breath, waiting for the tell-tale sign of the next round of bombs to be dropped on this son of a bitch sooner than later. When I don't hear anything, I glance up, turning to the quarian marine on the next transport over...
Say, where did the transport with that geth and that other quarian marine go, anyhow?
I don't get to ponder on this, though, for then I hear the roar in the sky that usually accompanies this thing, followed by the sound of more bombs being dropped on the Reaper. This one doesn't bring it down to its knees, though, and it even manages to dodge some of the bombs that we're throwing at it. And right as the last missiles passes over us, I cringe as it fires its laser beams at one of the missiles.
Crap, it's learning, and it's learning fast.
I realize this as the remains of that missiles crash right behind us. I duck as quickly as I can, holding my breath as some debris passes over my transport. When the debris passes over us, I look ahead, and barely have time to get a stronger grip before the transport suddenly turns and turns as if Al is trying to make up his mind on which piece to dodge. Finally, the transport veers to its right, leaving me slipping off again and hanging off the guard rails.
I let out a rather loud cry as I hang on to the guard rail for dear life. Oh, dear... this is not good. I look up again, gripping the rail even tighter while watching this Reaper gain some distance on us. Oh, dear, this thing just isn't gonna stop, is it?
I pull myself up to the back of the transport as much as I can. I squeeze my eyes shut, holding on even as I feel this transport veer to the left. My legs swing over the back of the transport through no fault of their own, but thankfully my feet find purchase on the back of the transport. I haul myself back onto the top of the transport, turning my attention to the Reaper and the one quarian marine who-
Whoah! I watch as the Reaper's laser manages to connect with the back of the transport. The marine suddenly finds his weapon flying out of his grasp, flying out of his reach and landing several yards away. The transport doesn't really stand that much longer, for then it veers out of control. The quarian marine on top of it smartly lets go of the guard rail, rolling onto Rannoch's ground quickly afterwards.
"Crap!" Garrus' voice comes in on the intercom. "We got hit! We've lost control, I don't know if we can-!"
I then cringe as the transport hits a rock outcropping. Fuck...
"Well, that sounds like a problem," says Wrex over the comm links. "And now, that pointer is under that Reaper."
I turn around quickly, looking to see that the Reaper has indeed perched over the spot where the laser pointer is. Shit, this isn't good at all. I look over to the downed transport, and then over to the quarian marine who seems to have been knocked out.
I shake my head. Crap... Well, I'm closest to it, and... oh, there's Wrex's transport. He comes around, wielding... holy shit, is that a rocket launcher? Where in God's name did he get that?
Holy shit... No, no, Art, don't be too surprised, this is the perfect opportunity. I look over to him. "Well, this is bad, but I have a crazy idea," I say. "Wrex, keep him distracted."
"On it!" With this, I look in Wrex's direction to see his transport cutting in front of my own transport. As his transport does this, I see the krogan launch a rocket at the Reaper in question. The rocket doesn't exactly do anything at all, but it does get the Reaper's attention. As I watch, Wrex prepares the rocket, and the Reaper turns to face him.
I quickly leap off the top of my transport, rolling on the ground. Okay, maybe rolling on stone isn't such a great idea, but at a time like this I really can't afford to be picky. I look up as soon as my feet are firmly planted to the ground, and I... yes... okay, there's the laser sighter...
...directly under the Reaper still, even though Wrex is now shooting at it.
I stand up, and I break out into a run. Thankfully, the Reaper doesn't seem to be paying attention, but...
Holy shit, this thing is huge! I don't really get a good sense of this thing's size until I'm right next to it, but the legs on this thing very easily dwarf me. And that's just the legs. I shake my head, turning my concentration back to the laser pointer. Come on... there it-
And then, the Reaper lifts one of its legs and embeds it into the ground.
The resulting tremor is more than enough to knock me off my feet. I land on my face, feeling the remainder of the ground shaking beneath my body as I lay there. Shit, I should've expected this Reaper to punch the ground with enough force to cause small tremors. Either way... I look up, seeing the laser pointer still there. I stand up as quickly as I can, moving forward when another set of tremors rocks the ground around me. I manage to stay on my feet this time, but when I bend down to snatch the laser pointer I lose my balance and fall over.
I hear another explosion, and I can faintly hear Wrex laughing. When I look up, I see the laser death beam being fired again, but... Oh, damn it, I have other things to worry about!
I turn-there it is! I scramble to my feet, and this time I manage to get a secure hold on the laser pointer. I pick it up, running out to the Reaper's backside as his motions cause more tremors in the area immediately surrounding me. As soon as I get out from under this Reaper, I aim the laser pointer at his back. Damn it... I slowly walk back, very nearly losing my aim with the tremors and being careful to keep the Reaper's back within sight.
The tell-tale sign of missles flying towards the Reaper is heard again, and I look up to see that indeed the missiles have returned. They sweep over, and connect with this Reaper son of a bitch. I nod, smirking as I watch the explosions. It takes a few seconds for all the missiles to hit their target, but when they do, I can see this Reaper starting to stumble around ever so slightly.
Yes! One more volley should do it.
I nod, lowering the device and running as fast as I can. I don't need to hear the tremors behind me to know that this Reaper knows it's been played, and it is pissed. And so, I run as quickly as I can. I hear it prepare one of those laser beams of death, and I look back to see... yep, it's aiming at me.
I sprint ahead as fast as I can, but I'm still knocked off my feet when the initial blast goes off right at my feet. Actually, that's not knocked off my feet: I'm flung from the air, and I nearly lose my grip on the laser pointer as I fly about ten feet in front of me. When I land, I feel a rather sharp pain in my right thigh. I grunt, rolling over for a few feet more. I hug the laser pointer to my body, intent on not letting it fly out of my grasp this time. Holy shit, did... I almost got killed by a laser death beam!
As I come to this realization, I roll to a stop. As the dust settles, I turn my head, and I can see the Reaper advancing towards me.
I frown, attempting to stand and- ow, ow, ow! Okay, maybe trying to stand on my right leg isn't the best idea, but... Ow! Shaking my head, I look up, hoping to turn stand on my left leg. I move my arms, attempting to pull myself up, but it's to no avail, really. I look up and...
Well, shit, it's already standing over me like a schoolyard bully or something like that. Shit... there's only one way for me to do in this situation. I raise my laser pointer, and point it directly at the Reaper.
Before I can activate it, though, it pauses, and I notice something... shift in it. Instead of looking like it wants to kill me... it's... what?
"You are... different," says the Reaper.
I frown. "Yeah, we're not having this conversation," I comment. "You're out to destroy all organic life, and we're out to make sure you can't do that, so I think you'll agree with me when-"
"You have been touched by the Fade."
What the shit!
"H-how the hell do you know what that is?" I ask. "And how the hell do you-?"
Before I can finish my question, I hear a loud explosion go off on the Reaper. Hm... that looks like Wrex's rocket launcher again. Well, whatever the case, it manages to divert the Reaper's attention from me for a few seconds.
Right, I can worry about the fact that this Reaper apparently knows what the Fade is later. For now, we have to destroy it.
I raise my laser pointer, pointing it one last time directly at the red mouth where the lasers have been coming from. "Right," I say. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but we've got things to do, so..."
I activate it immediately after. "You can tell your Reaper friends that we'll be coming after them!" I shout. "You can reap my ass in hell, you son of a bitch!"
I hear the missiles come rushing in from above us after I say this. I can make out their forms above me from where I'm lying on the ground, and before I can process it they've struck. And this time, it seems like wave after wave of missiles falls on this guy. The Reaper can't take the initial hits at first, and it begins wobbling around. I see one of the projectiles take off the top of the Reaper, and then I watch as one of the limbs on this Reaper gets blown off by another blast. Before long, these missiles are falling all over this Reaper, and the thing is blown apart right before my very eyes.
The explosions kick up a lot of dust, though, which forces me to close my eyes while I hear the bombs drop. I remain motionless on the ground, the laser sight now forgotten. I think I let it go and it slid a couple of inches away, I don't really know. But I hear the explosions go off on the Reaper above me, and throughout those explosions I keep my eyes shut as best I can.
After a few seconds, a great silence overtakes the area. I slowly sit up, opening my eyes and looking at the sight in front of me. The Reaper that was standing above me is now... well, he's literally blown to smithereens. I can see bits of it lying around everywhere, ranging from small pieces immediately in front of me to that large chunk I can see over in that direction. Either way, this Reaper is dead as dead can be.
I breathe in, looking at the remains of the Reaper.
And then I remember that it mentioned the Fade just before it got taken out. Shit... how the hell did this Reaper know what the Fade was? And how did he even know I know what it is? This is...
I shake my head, watching as my own transport drives up to me. Shit... that's a lot to dump on me, Reaper. Now you know about the Fade and... and...
Shit! Do... Do they know about me? No... No, there's no way. We made sure that the Reapers didn't overhear. I kept it as quiet as I could on the Collector ship, I didn't mention all that much on the Collector base...
The door to my transport opens, and Kasumi steps out immediately. She's followed by Al, Jack, and Isaac, and the four of them run on over to me.
"Damn it Art, that was stupid!" says Jack. "What the fuck were you thinking when you did that?"
I sigh. "Honestly, Jack, I was asking myself the same thing," I say. "But it's down, so..."
"Yeah, we'll not argue with that," says Al. "Garrus and the others are alright. They had to abandon that transport, though. It's useless now, but..."
I nod. "That's good," I say. "They're helping the quarian, I guess?"
"Yep," says Jack. "I gotta hand it to him, he did good for a while there."
I smirk. "Yeah, we agree on that," I mention. "Well... now we've gotta wait to see what's up with Wrex and with everyone that was on Miranda's team. And then... Then we have to tell the Admirals that we did it."
Isaac kneels next to me. "Yes," he says. "Come on, we should get you moving."
I nod. "Help me up, will you?" I ask. "I think I've sustained yet another leg injury."
Even as I ask, Kasumi is already positioning herself so that one of my arms is draped over her shoulders. "Sure thing," says the thief. "Come on, let's get you up."
With this, Isaac takes the side opposite Kasumi, and then the both of them lift me to my feet.
Well, we're back in the shuttle now, heading back up to the Normandy. I glance over to Wrex, who's looking quite pleased with himself.
"It's a shame Grunt couldn't come along," he comments. "That was a great fight."
I nod. "Yeah, he would've had a great time," I say. "I mean... think about it. We have a bunch of new enemies for him to fight, it's Cerberus... it's practically everything he could want, and more." I sigh. "But... you know how it is."
"Can't have him messing things up," says Wrex. "He'll understand in time."
I glance over to the others. Well, Isaac and Kasumi look like they're all right, as does Thane. He was coughing quite a bit after we had pulled him, Garrus, and Kal out of the wreckage of that transport. By now, the coughing as stopped, but he says he doesn't feel completely comfortable yet. Yeah, I'm sending him straight to Dr. Chakwas once we get back on board the Normandy.
I turn my attention to Kal'Reegar immediately after, looking at him as he stares ahead of him. If I know quarian body language... yeah, he looks lost and confused about things. Well, the fact that he was in a transport crash doesn't do any favors for us, but he still looks lost.
Eh, what the hell?
"You all right, Kal?" I ask.
"I feel... strange," says Kal. "On the one hand, we defeated a Reaper that was on the homeworld, and we coordinated the attack with the geth. That is... strange enough on its own." He looks directly at me. "And on the other... I don't know what the Reapers want with us, but those combined geth-quarian soldiers sound like trouble if you ask me."
I nod. "I think we got rid of them," I say. "Hopefully, nothing more will come of those guys."
"I'm not so sure, Art," says Kal. "What about quarians that are on pilgrimage? What about them? What'll happen to them if the Reapers find them?"
I nod solemnly. "I'm sure those quarians will be all right," I say. "But... well, now you can enter your homeworld."
"We still have to finish negotiations, though," says Kal. "There's nothing that's going to happen until those end."
I nod. "True, true," I comment. "But at this rate... it looks like things will be better for all of us. I mean, we just took down a Reaper through cooperation, you guys know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the geth mean no harm whatsoever..."
"That is all true..." says Kal. "Still, I can't believe we're achieving peace with the geth. If you had told me that..."
I shrug. "I think we all would've had a tough time believing it, Kal," I comment. "Even me. I mean... I can barely believe that negotiations have gone as well as they have. I was expecting everyone to jump on-"
The comm link opens. "*********-Serviceman! We detect an anomaly!"
Oh, shit, it's Legion!
"W-what is it?" I ask. "Did that Reaper get ba-?"
"There are numerous runtimes that have been affected by a virus."
I quickly turn my comm unit to the admirals', and run to the front of the shuttle... Crap, we only just broke Rannoch's atmosphere. "Admirals, did you get that?"
"Yes!" says Han'Gerrel. "We thought it was strange as well when Legion suddenly seized up."
"It's attempting to override the hack," says Zaal'Koris. "I don't know if it will succeed..."
Shit... "Where are you now?" I ask.
"We have not moved from the briefing room since we took position there," says Shala'Raan.
I shake my head. Damn it, they're not going to get to the AI core in time! "EDI, can you help Legion out there?"
The Normandy's AI chimes in. "I can attempt to help Legion scrub out the malignant code," she says. "However, there is not a guaranteed rate of success. We may have to power down Legion to prevent further corruption of his runtimes."
I nod. "You do that, EDI," I say. "Admirals, keep a close eye on Legion, and get his weapons off of him."
"The creators have already removed my weapons and omni-tool," Legion says. "Probability of being able to scrub this virus currentl at 41.6%!"
Shit! I turn to the shuttle driver, who somehow is not Jenny. "Step on it!" I shout.
I turn to the viewport, even as the others stand up. "Art?" asks Thane. "Is everything all right?"
I shake my head, turning back to the shuttle and looking at my ground team.
"Legion's been hacked!"
The shuttle hasn't even been in the Normandy's shuttle bay for two seconds before I'm suddenly sprinting out of the shuttle. Kal comes running by my side, and we both hit the elevator button as soon as we get there. The elevator ride is long and tense, more so than usual, and I'm literally jumping up and down in anticipation. Damn it... Legion's getting hacked... This wasn't supposed to happen at all!
Shit, this is really bad. Not only are we going to lose a friend, but we're gonna lose our chief negotiator! No, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad bad bad bad!
When the elevator door finally does open, I run around to the door to the tech lab, passing through it with Kal on my heels. I briefly catch sight of Anahit and Mordin speaking to each other before I bolt through the door that takes me to the comm room. I open the door to the comm room immediately, and then I step inside, Kal following my every motion.
When I step inside, I find that the admirals are standing around Legion. Shala'Raan is actually kneeling by Legion's side, with Zaal'Koris and Han'Gerrel hanging on to Legion's sniper rifle and assault rifle. The geth platform itself is kneeling on the ground, and I can see its flashlight head flicker. I run right up to Legion, even as Rael'Zorah acknowledges my entrance from where he's standing next to Shala.
"Art, it is good that you are-"
I'm already kneeling by Legion's side as Rael is saying this. "Legion, talk to me," I say. "What happened? How did you come into contact with this virus? What's going on?"
"We do not know," says the geth platform. "Several of our runtimes have been compromised. Approximately five hundred and eighty seven programs have been corrupted. Thirteen have been corrupted beyond this platform's capacity to repair."
I place a hand on Legion's shoulder. "Is it... Do you think you'll be all right?" I ask.
"No data available," he says. "Error. Fourteen platforms have been corrupted beyond this platform's capacity to repair."
I shake my head, looking up. "EDI, what's going on?"
"The attempt to scrub the malignant code was unsuccessful," says EDI. "I can't say what this virus set out to do, but judging by the way the virus was attempting to infect Legion's run times, it is a virus that was eventually meant to control Legion's every action."
I breathe in. "Just like that virus the heretics wanted to use," I comment. "But... I thought we repurposed that."
"Virus?" asks Han.
... Shit. "That's right, we didn't explain that," I comment. I shake my head. "We mentioned we took care of the heretics, right? Had them absorbed into the true geth?"
"Yes, I remember that," says Zaal'Koris. "What of it?"
I shake my head. "The reason we did that was because the heretics had a virus that they were going to use to make the true geth think like heretics," I comment. "I think the true geth would be your enemies now if Legion hadn't warned us about that. Either way, we then ended up using a re-purposed form of that virus to bring the heretics back to the true geth." I shake my head, looking at Legion. "But... but it wasn't malignant programming, like this..."
"We think Legion was able to detect the virus as it attempted to change the coding of the run times," says EDI. "Whoever created this virus left a very careless mistake in the coding of the virus."
I frown. "So this isn't a synthetic virus, then," I say. "But then... What virus was it...?"
"We do not know," says Legion. "My runtimes are slowly being corrupted..."
"You may not be the same again..." says Rael as he kneels next to Legion.
"Yes," says Legion. "Termination of this platform may be necessary."
I jolt. "No," I say. "No no no no no. You can't seriously be asking us to kill you."
"Multiple programs have been corrupted beyond repair," says the geth platform. "The corruption of all my runtimes is inevitable."
I shake my head. "And what'll happen when we hit that?" I ask.
"It would be the equivalent of brain-death," says EDI. "I have already suggested shutting Legion down temporarily, but..."
"It would not work," says Legion. "Unless you were to return this platform to the Collective..."
Wait... if we were to return it to the Collective. "How close is the Collective to here?" I ask.
"They are not far," says Legion. "However, reconstructing this platform's lost programs would take time. We would have to scrub the data."
"I see..." I look up to the admirals before turning my attention back to the geth platform. "It would take time, but I'm sure we'd be willing to wait for you, right?"
"I certainly would," says Zaal.
"And I as well," says Han. "You are the one who made all of this possible. We have seen our homeworld again, and we have been able to liberate it from an enemy that is far greater."
"You have given us... a different insight into the geth," says Rael. "We will wait for you."
Legion nods. "Then we will shut this unit down temporarily," says Legion. "The geth collective can reconstruct my lost programs. We will rejoin Normandy when the reconstruction is complete."
I nod. "EDI, let the Collective know about this."
"They have been informed," says the ship's AI.
"Good." I take my hand away from Legion's shoulder, looking at the geth platform. "What happens if this doesn't work?"
"We do not know," says Legion. "The Collective will find out..."
"I know," I say. "You get some sleep and let them figure out what happened with your programs, all right? When you come back to us, we want you in the best shape possible. We can't really do things unless you're in top condition."
Legion's flashlight head blinks. "That's what she said," he says.
I chuckle sadly, shaking my head as I feel a tear come to my eye. "It is indeed, Legion," I say. "It is indeed."
The geth platform looks at me for a few more seconds. "Commencing platform shutdown."
I kneel by Legion for a few seconds, looking at him nervously. Eventually, his flashlight head goes out, though Legion remains immobile. He's frozen in his kneeling stance, it seems. I stand up, shaking my head as I spare a look at the inactive platform.
"EDI," I say, looking up. "Do you think...?"
"It will take much time for the geth collective to scrub Legion's runtimes," she says. "Thankfully, they will not have to completely rewrite Legion's runtimes. The fact also remains that half of Legion's runtimes were untouched at the time of its temporary deactivation. The geth should be capable of scrubbing most of the junk data in Legion's platform rather easily."
I nod. "Good," I say. "Hopefully, he'll be able to rejoin us in time for when we take down the Reapers. It'll suck to lose him."
The remaining admirals stand up. "Perhaps our negotiations may be stalled a little longer," says Zaal. "I can't imagine how the Reapers would want to stall our negotiations, though..."
"Neither can I," says Rael. "And the crew of the Normandy has worked extensively with Legion, which would mean that the virus could not have been created by them..."
I look over to the other admirals.
Hey, wait a minute.
"Where's Daro'Xen?" I ask.
And right on cue, the door at the end of the comm room opens. We all turn our heads, and in walks Daro'Xen. She looks at Kal, the admirals, and I, and then notices Legion's platform where it knees. I hear the rest of the admirals stand up as Daro'Xen enters.
"I apologize," she says. "I was busy overseeing the return of the bombing fleets. Some of our ships sustained damage, but the overwhelming majority of them are safe. This is good news."
I hear some footsteps behind me. I look behind me, and see Zaal'Koris walk up next to me. "I think you will be inclined to agree with us when we say that it might not have been the only thing you were doing," he says.
Daro'Xen looks to Legion then. "Why?" she asks.
... Really? She's asking why? Oh, now you're asking to be revealed, Daro'Xen!
Thankfully, I hear some more forceful steps. "Daro'Xen, Legion was infected by a virus in your absence," says Rael'Zorah. "Over half of his runtimes were compromised. A few of them were compromised to an extent that the geth collective will be forced to rewrite some of Legion's programming. This virus was slowly eating Legion, and to ensure that it would not be able to terminate him, we were forced to power Legion down. Because of this, our negotiations to bring the Fleet to Rannoch peacefully have reached an unfortunate delay." He steps right in front of Daro'Xen. "It is true that you told us you were going to check on the ships that fired the orbital strike, but now I think there was another motive behind it. You will explain yourself now, Daro'Xen."
The admiral looks very taken aback, and from the way she's looking around the room, I think she knows that we're not going to take bullshit for an answer.
"I... what is the meaning of this, Rael'Zorah?" asks Daro'Xen. "I simply wish what is best for the safety of the quarian people. And yet, you turn on me when I was simply doing a resource count."
I step forward. "Sure, because letting an extremely dangerous person of interest get himself onto the fleet is a great way to keep the quarian people safe," I comment sarcastically.
Daro'Xen looks at me. "Why are you bringing up Iden'Roya?" she asks. "He is on the Moreh, and he is of no concern to the situation."
And she has the nerve to defend this son of a bitch by saying he isn't even relevant to the topic.
Right. The gloves are coming off.
"Actually, Daro'Xen, he has everything to do with this situation," I comment as I open my omni-tool. "You didn't think that the fact that Iden'Roya doesn't exist would be something that would come back to bite you in the ass? Well, dear, I'm telling you that I know for a fact that Iden'Roya doesn't actually exist."
With this, I walk right up to her and shine Nogond's relocation information in her face. She looks at the data quickly, and I can tell her eyes are scanning the information things that are scrolling up and down my omni-tool. She then looks back to me, a surprised look on her face. "I..."
"Oh, but that wasn't enough, was it?" I ask as I close that data. "You know what really gets me about this whole thing? Nogond'Viraliz was discovered on Invictus.Dead. And someone had stolen his environmental suit." I lean in close. "It was the same environmental suit that this person wore when I met him on the Citadel before he was relocated to Invictus, and it was the same one that someone else wore to enter the Rayya. So there's no doubt in my mind that this son of a bitch you allowed back onto the Fleet is extremely dangerous." I step back, looking at Daro'Xen angrily. "You were planning something by bringing him onto the Fleet. And now that Legion is down, I think I have a pretty good idea of what that thing is. So you are going to tell us everything you know about this. Right now."
Daro'Xen pauses, looking absolutely flabbergasted at what I've just told her. "I... He killed someone?"
I frown. "You're damn right he did," I say. "Turns out that said quarian was part of the squad of three of my crewmates, and the best friend of my shuttle pilot. We found out pretty quickly that he was dead." I cross my arms. "So now, you know something about this."
Daro'Xen frowns, stepping forward. Or, I think she frowns, at least, because her gestures are much more tense now. "I..." She shakes her head. "I was never told that he killed someone..."
"So now you're admitting that Iden'Roya doesn't exist," says Han'Gerrel. "Then why lie about that?"
The rogue admiral sighs. "I.." says Daro'Xen. "I..." She pauses, looking at me. "I really will not get out of this without an explanation, will I?"
"No, you really will not," I say. "You've pissed off quite a few people here, Daro'Xen."
She sighs, though I expect it's a more frightened sigh than it is an exasperated one. "Very well," she says. "I told a former exile that I would grant him amnesty with the Fleet if he would help me develop a virus that could infect a geth's runtimes so that we could control it."
I frown, stepping forward. "Damn it, I knew you were planning something!" I say. "I knew since the moment this 'Iden'Roya' character came onto the Fleet!"
"You allowed an exile to return?" asks Shala'Raan. "An exile?"
"You... you deceived us," says Han'Gerrel. "You made us vote on bringing an exile back. You not only thought to bring him back, but you tricked us into allowing him onto the Fleet."
"This is treason that is far worse than anything I have ever seen," says Zaal'Koris. "And now, we will pay the price for-"
"I would have kept him on the Moreh, regardless of how that vote happened," says Daro'Xen defensively. "And I was very clear to the exile that the only reason I was giving him a chance was because he could return control of the geth to the quarian race. I was going to keep a close eye on his activities, and I did warn him that I would send him off of the Fleet if he dared to do anything without my knowledge. I kept constant tabs, and yet..."
"Well, frankly, Daro'Xen, you're an idiot if you think you can control someone who's willing to kill someone for his environmental suit," I say. "So you told this person that he would be allowed back on the Fleet. And you needed him to do research."
"Yes," says Daro'Xen. She looks to Legion. "I... I expressly forbid him from testing any solutions he could find until he was certain, and even then I told him I would find a different geth platform to use it on." She then shakes her head. "Of course, Legion came and threw all of my plans into chaos. I couldn't undo my plans by the time Legion came aboard, so I had to resort to telling the exile about the change of plans. I told him that we would wait first to see how negotiations with your geth platform ended."
"So you were biding your time," says Kal'Reegar.
"I was ensuring that the negotiations went smoothly," says Daro'Xen. "If they ended in peace, I would dismiss the exile from the Fleet. If not, then I would go ahead with my solution. I was set on keeping him on a tight leash, and made sure he was being surveyed by what manpower I could delegate." She shakes her head. "I do not know what happened, but I did not think he would have forged ahead anyway, much less gotten it to a testing stage."
I shake my head. "Well, you apparently didn't do a good enough job of it, because even being kept on a leash, he still managed to nearly kill Legion," I comment dryly. "So somehow, he was conducting experiments without your knowledge. And either way you look at it, the fact that Legion is now dead is now partially your fault as well as this exile's."
"And who knows if the geth will attack us now that we know it was a quarian who developed this virus?" asks Han'Gerrel. "This is a major setback, Daro'Xen, and it is on your shoulders for deceiving us and for allowing this exile to come back to the Fleet."
"Why would you bring an exile back, anyway?" asks Kal'Reegar. "We have plenty of AI researchers here."
"You would not understand," says Daro'Xen as she turns away from us. "I needed more than an AI researcher. I needed someone who understood AIs."
I frown. "Then ask Tali!" I say. "She's had more experience with the geth than any other quarian alive!"
Daro'Xen shook her head. "I did," she says. "I asked her when Legion returned to the Fleet, just in case the negotiations failed."
I lean forward. "Wait... so you did see Tali," I say.
"I did, yes," says Daro'Xen. "After she left the Neema, I asked her to come to the Moreh to answer a few questions of mine."
"And what exactly did you ask her about?" asks Rael.
Daro'Xen looks over at the senior admiral of the group. "I should think you would know the answer to that, Rael'Zorah," she says. "After all, you did ask her to send geth parts back to the Fleet in thatdisastrous experiment on the Alarei."
Rael leans forward, clearly offended by Daro'Xen. "Tali had no hand in the events on the Alarei," says Rael. "She was simply giving me parts for me to conduct weapons tests on. I don't know why you would think that she would have anything from that."
"She was my closest link," says Daro'Xen. "I would have-"
"Oh, no she wasn't!" I shout, effectively interrupting her. "You could've asked me, or you could've asked Rael! So what makes her think you could use something from her?"
"She had data stored," says Daro'Xen. "Data that I assume was given to her by Rael'Zorah after the treason trial. I was... interested in that data."
I look over to Rael'Zorah. "That's...?" I ask. "You did do that, after all..."
"Yes," says Rael'Zorah.
"Data?" asks Zaal'Koris.
I nod. "We found data pertaining to the rogue scientist's experiments while we were running around the Alarei," I say.
"And you did not think to tell us?" asks Han'Gerrel.
"We felt the data would make better use in developing a weapon against the Reapers," I say. "And besides... it felt dirty trying to develop it more, after seeing what had happened on the Alarei. Everyone was dead..."
Shala'Raan looks at us sternly. "I cannot understand why you would hide data such as that," she says.
"It was... a very tense situation," I say. "I'm not sure we were thinking about the data while we were telling you what was up with Tali." I sigh. "Well, whatever the case, we can't worry about that now."
"True enough," says Han'Gerrel. "Though, I wish to speak to Rael about it later."
"Fair enough," I say. "Though, I have to say that it didn't really endanger the Fleet until Ms. Genius over here-" I say this while pointing at Daro'Xen "-decided that she would ask Tali about stuff like that."
"How did you even know about this data?" asks Rael'Zorah.
"I had a hunch," Daro'Xen replies. "I knew that you were doing something on the Alarei, but it seemed strange to me that there would be nothing that could be salvaged if you were on the ship for so long. And so, I guessed that something was taken that was not revealed to us." She looks at me. "I was correct, it seems. But it did not matter when I asked Tali, because she refused to give me the data."
I frown. "Wait, she refused?" I ask.
"I told her my plans to try to find a solution to control the geth in the event that the negotiations failed." Daro'Xen shakes her head. "She refused to help me. She even became angry at me for suggesting such a thing."
"I should say," I comment. "She met Legion, you know."
"Yes," says Daro'Xen. "But I never detained her on the Moreh. She left me when I told her I had no more questions for her. I... I assumed she had returned to the Normandy, but when I heard otherwise..."
Damn it, I knew there was something off. "You checked the Moreh, right?"
"Yes," says Daro'Xen. "I could not find her anywhere, though. And I thought it was strange, but nobody I asked told me anything. Not even the exile."
I cross my arms, shaking my head. "EDI, please tell me you've been analyzing the virus," I say.
The ship's AI waits for a second or two before responding. "Yes," says EDI. "According to the preliminary analysis, I have deducted that the virus that infected Legion was based off of an expansion of the item that is mentioned in the research that was discovered on the Alarei. It is... a very butchered expansion, however."
I frown. "Which means that your exile of course wouldn't tell you anything," I say. "He was hiding his actions from you the entire time." I step forward, pointing at Daro'Xen. "Frankly, Daro'Xen, you're an idiotif you thought you could keep this exile under your control, because whatever you did to make sure he didn't do things against you, it didn't work. And now, you're partly responsible for everything."
"Who did you bring onto the Fleet, anyhow?" asks Zaal'Koris. "This exile needs a name so we can understand the severity of what you have done."
Daro'Xen looks down, and sighs. She pauses, holding her hands and beginning to wring them much like Tali would whenever she's nervous. She glances to the side, and I can suddenly tell that she'sextremely nervous about this.
I cross my arms. "Well?" I ask. "Who did you get?"
She sighs, and then looks up to the admirals. "I... I invited the exile known as Kul'Yenvar back to the Fleet."
"Kul'Yenvar?" asks Kal. "I... He..."
"You got the most dangerous exile possible?" asks Han'Gerrel.
"I needed someone who understood AIs," says Daro'Xen. "He filled that description, given that some tales say he developed one of his own."
Holy shit, this is Jack's Kul'Yenvar!
That same one that Tali regarded with disgust!
I step forward. "You let that son of a bitch onto this Fleet?" I ask. "You... you idiot! I can't believe you thought you could control him!" I step forward once again. "I hope you know what he did."
"I do not know, but-"
Before Daro'Xen can finish, I step right in front of her, pointing my finger in her face. "Because if he hurt Tali in any way, you're partly responsible for it for allowing him onto this Fleet in the first place!" I shout at her. "You hear me, Daro'Xen? I'm holding you res-"
And before I can finish my sentence, the door opens. I look behind Daro'Xen to see who is coming in, when suddenly I see the person wearing Nogond's environmental suit get tossed violently through the door. He stumbles into the room, before laying against the table as we all move to the side. He lets out a loud groan, looking up at the rest of us.
I then look back to the door to see Carhon walking in. The batarian is clearly enraged, and it seems that the only reason he hasn't beat the shit out of Kul'Yenvar yet is because of the fact that Jarel and Madison are right behind her. They both walk in with clearly unhappy expressions on their faces, and...
Tali is being supported by Jarel and Madison. I note a slight limp in her step, and I notice that her legs are turned inward. She is looking down, and if I look at her body language, her body is actually shaking. She's in her environmental suit, but otherwise... otherwise, she seems like she's just... just...
I step towards Tali, fighting the urge to cup her head in my hands. "Tali, you're okay!" I say as I approach her. I hear footsteps, and I see Rael'Zorah walk up to her too. "Oh, God, Tali, I was so worried about you. You... What happened?"
Tali doesn't respond. If anything, she keeps her gaze trained on the floor. I look at Tali, as does Rael, who reaches out to her.
"Tali...?" asks Rael. "Tali, are you-?"
I'm not prepared for when the choked sob escapes her throat. It's only then that she looks up, but the shimmer on her mask is... different, somehow. It's... sad, almost. And... I don't know, but... I...
"Tali?" I ask. "Tali, what happened?"
Tali remains silent, instead shaking her head. Finally, she sinks to the floor, Jarel and Madison trying to let her down as gently as they can. She then looks back down to the ground, and it's only then that she starts sobbing uncontrollably. Rael bends down upon seeing this, as do I. I lay a hand on her shoulder, but am surprised when I feel Tali's shoulder shudder under my touch. I...
"What happened?" I ask. "Tali, are—?"
"Don't even ask her," says Carhon as he points at Kul'Yenvar. "We found her restrained, Admirals. In a clean room. Without her suit on."
I hear a gasp of shock from the other admirals.
Oh my God.
This... There's no way...
No. No no no no no. There's...
Oh my God. Did... did that son of a bitch...?
I turn to look at Kul'Yenvar. If that asshole did what I think he did...
If he did what I think he did, then this son of a bitch is fucking dead.
I stand up, then, my hands clenching into a pair of fists. I look directly at Kul'Yenvar, and as the thought of what he did to Tali circulates in my mind, I feel the hatred for this thing well up inside of me. I step forward, so that I'm looking directly at Kul'Yenvar with the most hateful glare I can muster.
When I speak, even I am surprised by how soft and threatening my tone is.
"What did you do to her?"
At first, Kul is quiet, though I suspect it's more out of fear than it is any defiance. "I... I w-"
Before I can do anything else, I violently grab Kul'Yenvar by the back of his neck. I yank him back, and he lets out a loud yell as I suddenly slam his head onto the table. I just hear a dull thud, but it's enough to get the message across as several shocked gasps sound throughout the room.
"What did you do to her, you motherfucker!" I scream, leaning into the place where the audio receptors on his suit are. "Answer me!"
My grip on the back of his neck tightens as he grabs the edge of the table in pain. "I... I-I needed... answers!"
"That's not good enough!" I shout. With this, I violently yank Kul backwards. I let go of his neck, and watch as he stumbles back. As soon as he has stumbled back a sufficient amount, my fist clenches, and suddenly I punch Kul in the stomach. I then violently tackle him to the ground, glaring at the male quarian beneath me as I hold his wrists above his head. "You're not answering my question! What. Did. You. Do. To. Tali?" I lean closer to Kul. "I will not ask you again, so you better answer my goddamn question!"
He wheezes from the force of my punch, and I still sit there looking at Kul with the most hateful glare imaginable. I turn my glance briefly to everyone else to see that the admirals have shrunk away in terrified awe, especially Daro'Xen. Kal is looking down disapprovingly, but surprisingly, Tali isn't invested enough to offer anything beyond a sob.
"I..." Kul shrinks as he looks at me. "I needed answers, and... and I..." Oh, for the love of all things holy! "I..." he cringes, before mumbling something very quickly.
I shake my head, letting his wrists go and promptly grabbing his throat. "I'm sorry, I don't think we heard you there," I say as I prepare to stand up. "Would you care to repeat that so we can hear it?"
I then stand up, violently yanking him to his feet and letting his neck go. He stumbles back in shock, but this time I don't punch him in the gut.
He looks bewildered by this. "I held her against her will for my questions," says Kul'Yenvar. "I… I never touched her like that, I swear by—."
That motherfucker! I'll show that son of a bitch who—
Before my body can actually move, though, I hear a violent shift behind me. I turn around, and then see Rael'Zorah walk forward. From how fast his gait is, I can tell that Rael is pissed. So much so that I forget my own anger for a second. I step out of his way, watching him as he walks up to Kul'Yenvar.
Rael immediately punches Kul'Yenvar in the stomach. This isn't enough for the admiral, though, who then grabs Kul's neck and pushes him against the wall of the comm room. I hear him scream some more words in Khelish that I don't understand before he pulls Kul by the neck and slams the exile's head against the wall. Rael repeats this motion four more times before shoving Kul violently so that the exile is against the table.
"Exile was not enough for you!" says Rael. "Jeopardizing the Fleet was one thing, and showing remorse over it was another... and then you came back to the Fleet, murdered a fellow quarian, and caused amajor setback in our negotiations with the geth. This is horrible enough, but you went a step further. You dared to lay your hands on my daughter!"
The admiral walks up to Kul'Yenvar. "And I find that what you have done to her is unforgivable!" Rael exclaims angrily.
"I-I wouldn't have-"
Rael grabs Kul by the back of his head. "You... you are pathetic," says Rael. "And you deserve nothing less than death for what you have done."
With this, Rael pulls back, and then slams Kul's head against the edge of the table. I cringe, watching as Kul'Yenvar's face mask collides against the edge. Rael'Zorah slams the exile's head into the table several more times, and finally, I hear the sound of glass being shattered as Kul lets out a scream of what I assume is terror.
When we hear this, Rael flings Kul'Yenvar away, and we can see his face. Kul instantly catches that we can see the terrified look in his eyes, but honestly, I'm beyond the stage where I can be moved by fear with this guy.
I shake my head as he whimpers in fright. "I don't even want to know how you got her alone," I say. "I wouldn't believe it. You're supposed to be Kul'Yenvar, that guy who developed AIs?"
"Y-y-you wouldn't understand!" says Kul'Yenvar. "Th... the admirals did this to me! If I hadn't been exiled, they-"
I stomp over there and promptly stamp on his leg with my left leg. My right thigh throbs again, but the scream of pain he unleashes is loud enough to fill my rage. "You leave the admirals out of this!" I shout. "You... You...!"
I shake my head, stepping back. "I hope your death is slow and painful, asshole," I say angrily. "You deserve no less than the most agonizing death imaginable." I lean towards him. "And from me, that's an accomplishment."
I lean forward, gathering saliva in my mouth. With no small amount of hesitation, I spit in Kul'Yenvar's eye. This appropriately squicks him out, but I leave him no room to rebuff before I shake my head, walking away from the exile. I then look directly at Daro'Xen, before leaning forward and pointing at her facemask.
"And as for you," I say angrily. "None of this would've happened if you hadn't brought him onto the Fleet. And quite frankly, Daro'Xen, you're a moron if you think that it's all right to do that as long as you control every aspect of his life, because at the end of the day, you can't control him. You have a hand in everything that has happened here in this room during the past few hours, and if you think I'm going to even consider letting you off the hook, you've got a whole other thing comin'. I don't care how well-intended your bullshit scheme was: it backfired, and now your people and Tali have to pay the price for your shitty decision making skills."
I shake my head, walking away from the admiral. My sight then turns to Tali where she's laying on the ground sobbing. I quickly kneel by her side, and she looks to me even as I place a hand on her shoulder. She shakes her head, and before I can say anything else, she latches on to me, taking the time to sob against my shoulder. The face mask digs into my shoulder, but I don't care.
I slowly hold Tali in place as she cries against me, and I close my eyes. "Sh, it's all right," I whisper as softly as I can. "It's over now. He... he can't hurt you anymore..."
Tali doesn't say anything, instead continuing to cry as I rock her as delicately as I can.
When the geth prime that was sent from the geth collective comes to retrieve Legion's platform, the admirals and I are standing to the side. Tali isn't there to see him off, but I can't blame her, this time: she just...
I shake my head. At any rate, she's sitting down with Mordin and Jarel right about now, so I know she's safe. But...
Damn it, I should've searched the Moreh myself. I should've stayed with her. I should've actually looked. I should've... I...
I bite my lower lip. There's nothing I can do about it now, but damn it, if I had only been watching her more carefully...
I watch as the geth prime walks over to Legion's platform. He nods to the admirals in understanding. I glance over to the spot where Daro'Xen would've been standing, but instead there is an empty space there. Seriously, I think that was the fastest vote I've ever seen any body of government take; they pretty much exiled Daro'Xen on the spot, their vote was so fast. I thought they would've had a trial to determine her guilt first, but really, I think her guilt came out in that massive confrontation we had with her and with Kul'Yenvar. But right now, we can't really dump her anywhere, so she's being watched over by Al and Jack. We did touch on the data that we found on the Alarei, but... well, nothing really happened with that.
Speaking of that, actually... Kul'Yenvar ended up coughing himself to death. Mordin offered to give Kul his immunization treatment, but Rael expressly refused to allow Kul'Yenvar that mercy. Honestly, I can't blame Rael, especially since we're in the same boat of wanting that son of a bitch to suffer. And suffer was exactly what Kul'Yenvar did as he was dying. Jack ended up paying a visit as she and Al came up, and... well, I'll never forget the evil grin she had on her face when she saw Kul'Yenvar sitting there broken. I get the feeling she would've added to it, but seeing him lying there and coughing himself to death was enough for her. Karma got him eventually, she said. I was kind of surprised, but hey.
The geth prime bends down, picking up Legion's platform. The way Legion is laying back, it's almost as if Legion is a baby. The geth prime looks to us, and nods.
"We thank you for punishing the ones responsible," it says. "The Collective told this platform to pass that message on."
I blink in surprise, wondering how it is that a geth prime can talk. But that quickly gets washed away by everything else that happened. "I... We understand," I say.
Zaal'Koris nods solemnly. "If there is one thing that we can take away from this... we both need to stop fighting this war," he says. "Both of us have paid a very high price today..."
"Acknowledged," says the geth prime. "We will alert the Creators when Legion's runtimes have been reassembled."
With this, the prime turns around and carries Legion out of there. I briefly glance to the N7 armor that is attacked to Legion's chest, and I sigh sadly when I realize that I won't see Legion for a while. Really, I think Zaal understated it slightly. We paid high political costs with the temporary loss of our negotiator and the exile of one of our admirals, but that's nothing compared to the personal cost. We've just lost a good friend on the Normandy, and...
I can barely bring myself to think about happened to Tali. The thought of what Kul did to her... I mean, just taking the face mask off is bad enough, but... the entire suit? Good Lord, what was he trying to do?
The geth prime enters the airlock, having to duck just so it can fit through the door. The airlock door closes behind it, and I shake my head in sadness.
The admirals and I stand there for a few seconds more, pondering on the things that happened. I... Damn it. So much went right, and yet so much went horribly wrong.
I sigh, shaking my head. "EDI, call everyone except Tali and Mordin to the debriefing room," I say softly. "We need to talk about what happened."
I don't even hear her acknowledgment of my command, for I'm already turning around and heading to the door of the armory. My shoulders sag, and my gait feels heavier than it usually does as I walk along towards the armory.