Disclaimer: I own neither Prototype nor Mass Effect. If I did Mercer would not have been stereotypically evil in Prototype 2, and the Mass Effect 3 ending would have gone very differently.
A/N: I admit it, my favorite kind of Mass Effect stories are the alternate first contact ones, whether they be crossovers or not. Usually the result is Humanity curb stomping all other life, – which I am fine with if it's done well – though my favorite parts of these stories are the Mass Effect aliens' reactions to humans.
This story takes the concept of an entire species of Mercer and runs with it, damn the consequences. Humanity is a LOT more alien in this story, and in fact isn't even human at all anymore, using Organic Technology rather than traditional metal and wire tech. Blacklight Humanity (known from here on simply as "Blacklight") in this story is going to essentially be an organic version of the Geth.
In this story, Humanity – after becoming a Hive Mind – is essentially very very VERY bored. Then they find the Mass Relays and aliens so now stuff is happening, and they like stuff. Humanity is essentially immortal, and with no need to sleep or breathe, boredom is a big problem. Then they meet aliens, and find stuff, and the aliens and stuff alleviates their boredom. Oh what fun to be had.
A lot of this story will essentially be how aliens perceive Blacklight. Blacklight is a nightmare to them in more ways than one. It has no military because the species itself is a weapon and it has no economy or government because of the hive mind, and Blacklight individuals can become their own ships simply by merging together, and that can adapt literally as they need or want to. This effectively invalidates much of the Mass Effect species' philosophy and knowledge, and is basically just scary.
This story will incorporate elements from Prototype 2, but most of it will be ignored. That's not to say characters from it will not appear, only that the events are being ignored.
This is a story whose purpose isn't 'Humans Rule', but a look at the biology and psychology of a hive minded humanity and of how the aliens see a form of life that is viral, how they deal with it, and what the consequences to the galaxy are of such a race existing at all. Finally what happens when the Reapers learn of this new species. Expect the events of the Mass Effect series to be off the rails a lot.
I would also like to thank my beta Eipok for the work he did on this chapter.
Chapter 1 Rise of Blacklight
Blacklight has spread far and wide. Every single living thing on Earth, from the largest of organisms to the smallest bacteria had been consumed. Even viruses, such as Redlight, had fallen to the ever expanding flesh of Blacklight. Blacklight's mass covered nearly all of Earth's surface. The combined DNA of all life on the planet had allowed Blacklight to evolve past its old weakness to water, even thrive under the depths, and consume all sea life. Of course, this was not the will of Blacklight, this gluttonous hunger was a period only known as the Rampancy. A horrible time where the ever growing biomass mindlessly spread out to consume all living things it came into contact with. Eventually however there was nothing left to consume. And Blacklight stilled.
Over time the many creatures within the assimilating flesh slowly but surely began to gain control over themselves. The collective minds of Billions of Individuals – separate and conjoined – still lived within, and these minds started to guide the super-organism that was themselves. Rampancy had ended, but with nothing left to consume, eventually the flesh would die, and with it the minds. After all, they still needed energy to continue to live. So they evolved. Using consumed plant material, it was simple for Blacklight to mimic the photosynthetic abilities of plants, gaining nutrition from the sun itself using massive helix shaped tree-like towers growing from their body that now all but covered the Earth. In doing so they began to create energy to be used. Though at first it was only used to allow it to continue surviving.
This is where they ran into their second problem. While being rendered self sufficient was good for their continued survival, it didn't allow for much else. In the end, they were bored. Individuality still existed somewhat within Blacklight, but in such a way where the many minds were still connected. With no life left but Blacklight – which was a Hive Mind entity – nothing anyone did was shocking, nor surprising, for all minds knew each other as well as they knew themselves. Humans crave stimuli, and even though the form had changed, the minds were somewhat the same. After a short time Blacklight attempted to change that, and something else grew from the Biomass. Not the photosynthetic helix towers, but humans, or at least what looked like humans. They were called the Evolved, and in truth they were simply avatar bodies of Blacklight mimicking the Human form, with a single Individual mind within, though always connected to the greater Hive Mind. As such it didn't truly help to alleviate the boredom. So Blacklight began to think bigger, and for the first time since the infestation of Earth, Blacklight looked to the stars. It wasn't long until it began to spread.
The first space ships were not ships at all, but hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Biomass shifted into a form to do something no living thing in earths history had ever been capable of. It could leave the planet's surface into the void of space. These Bioships as they were called, with many long tentacles, complex sensory organs, and massive leathery bat like wings, were guided by hundreds of thousands of Individual minds into the sky and past it. Within the truly alien organs of these bioships, hydrogen was burned using fluorine to produce a chemical propellant that allowed these great ships to reach heights no organism ever had seen, this chemical reaction also had the added benefit of creating hydrofluoric acid as an exhaust byproduct that could be collected and stored in organs with an internal teflon coating to be used by Blacklight in various ways. Thick sealed carapaces allowed Blacklight to survive the lack of an atmosphere within the inhospitable vacuum of space, and so Blacklight left the earth. The moon was the second celestial body to be infested by Blacklight, after the Earth itself.
Eventually Blacklight traveled further and further from their home planet, escaping it's gravity well, and heading out to other worlds.
Soon, Mars was infested and terraformed. Ammonia and various hydrocarbons such as methane was used to create a greenhouse effect to warm the planet, and carbon dioxide in the martian soil thickened in the atmosphere as the temperature rose. Ice melted into water and photosynthetic helix towers grew upon the planet. Blacklight evolved quickly, any conditions not suitable for Blacklight could be survived merely by searching the genetics of Earth's life, and applying those traits to itself.
Extreme cold conditions were counteracted by heat-producing organs that used shivering tissues, heightened metabolism, and the usage of antifreeze proteins to stay warm. Extremely hot conditions were counteracted by using enzymes found in many of Earth's hyperthermophiles and through the usage of saturated fatty acids in the membrane of their cells.
Then they made their next discovery. While terraforming Mars, something unprecedented was found. The Prothean Ruins. All seven billion Individuals dedicated everything they had to translating the first signs of intelligent life in the cosmos. Tendrils of biomass grew into the machines left by the Protheans, learning all it could. Though humanity no longer used traditional technology, which was the bulk of what was described in the archives, they did find something of use. An entirely new material. The material was dubbed Element Zero, or colloquially eezo. It was the single most important discovery Blacklight had ever made, for thanks to it Blacklight learned of biotics, or the ability for biological organisms to create and control what was called mass effect fields. To a degree anyway. However detailed information in the ruins on what biotics actually was, how it was gained, and what it was capable of was few and far between, but blacklight continued to decode the messages left by the Protheans, and with the eezo within the ruins, Blacklight could learn.
The archives spoke of some unique object at the outer edges of their own solar system, something only describes as a Mass Relay. From what Blacklight could translate, this was some method of travel to other solar systems system. Over the years the records left by the Protheans were eventually decoded further, and more knowledge on what biotics were became known to the Many. Evidently it was some unique phenomena that occurred to a living beings nervous system when exposed to Element Zero. Blacklight was curious, and from their biomass grew web-like nervous systems around the collected samples of Element Zero, and the seven billion Individuals looked to see how this element zero would effect them. Progress was initially slow, and cancerous growths were commonly found growing on these Nerve Webs, but such things were hardly dangerous for a being such as Blacklight, who had complete control over their own biology to do away with any unwanted traits. Occasionally however, Blacklight noticed that strange nodules of element zero would grow upon the nervous system that reacted in strange and unique ways to various electrochemical signals that danced through the nerves themselves. Creating fields that seemed to alter mass of objects, though this was only observed on a microscopic level, as there were never enough nodules to do anything too drastic.
Of course even as Blacklight learned more from the Protheans, they also spread throughout their solar system, coating many asteroids within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and the gas giant Jupiter, which was rich in elements that proved very useful to Blacklight. New organic ships of Biomass traveled outward, and spread to the other planets. The gas giants were infested with massive floating biological constructs that would suck up needed gasses and organic materials. These biological equivalents of mining equipment were used on these planets, who possessed atmospheres rich in hydrogen, helium, methane, water, and ammonia. Further allowing for Blacklights growth to continue throughout the Sol System, and they continued their search for life. The Moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus were soon thereafter infested, before Blacklight moved outward into the Kuiper Belt.
After little over a century, every planet, moon, asteroid, and dwarf planet, even those where life as we know it should not be able to exist had self sustaining Blacklight biomass growing upon its surface. It was on the moons of one of these dwarf planets in Kuiper belt of their home solar system that Blacklight was most interested in. For it was the suspected location of the Mass Relay, at least according to the ruins on Mars. Through a variety of means, Blacklight melted and shattered the ice of Pluto's moon Charon, to expose the Mass Relay that had long remained hidden from humanity and by extension Blacklight. With the relay now free, Blacklight grew upon the massive tuning fork shaped gate. Individual cells of its mass seeped deep into the machine itself. Massive biological constructs also grew on the machine itself as Blacklight attempted to find out how it worked, though they never were able to get deep enough to truly find out, and their biological technology made replicating it impossible, they still learned how to use it and eventually, they activated the Relay, and quickly sent their first biological ships through.
They ran into another issue by doing so. Nothing sent through survived FTL travel, as they never returned. So Blacklight did what it always did. It evolved, creating new kinds of ships, each time changing something they hoped could help survive the trip. A stronger carapace was added around the bioships with a lattice of carbon to form a graphene weave throughout their shells, that over time was developed into carbon nanotubes to keep the shell of the bioships intact as they were subjected to extreme speeds even photons could not reach. It didn't work, as even this tough substance couldn't handle faster than light speeds, at least not alone.
Then something new was discovered.
The nervous systems around the samples of Element Zero within the Martian ruins grew more eezo nodules than ever before, and as these nodules began to form, progress was made. The Mass Effect abilities of these nodules suddenly was able to be used on a macroscopic level. Electrical activity created by massive brains energized these nodules to do a variety of unique things. Such as the formation of what was called Biotic barriers. Said barriers could be used by the bioships to offer a new and different kind of protection on top of the exceptionally strong carapace. One that could be used to survive faster than light travel.
Thus the first ship survived Mass Effect travel past the relay and into a new solar system.
The Mass Relay led Blacklight to the Arcturus system, some 36 light years away from their home in the Sol system. When Blacklight succeeded in interstellar travel via the relays it began infesting the Arcturus system. While the system was one without life, it still had three planets, many moons, and an asteroid belt which all were infested at a frightening pace, until eventually it was the same as the Sol system. Blacklight spread further, going through the relay to other worlds within this system. It was this act that changed Blacklight forever, for it found another world, one with life on it, plant life mostly, but life none the less, and life meant biomass to consume. The planet was quickly infested. For the first time since Earth, complex life had been found, and though none of it was sapient, this gift would not be squandered, it's myriad of living organisms would not be consumed en mass to leave Blacklight once again alone in the cosmos. Biospheres were protected, populations consumed sparingly, so that these beings could continue to survive to be used as another method of gaining energy long term.
This planet was named Shanxi.
The Blacklight species is a colossal sapient hive-minded super-organism composed of the remnants of all life on the planet Earth after an infestation of a retrovirus dubbed Blacklight. The Blacklight virus is a chimeric mutation-causing infectious agent that can hijack the cells of living organisms and directly manipulate those cells' DNA. The collective minds of seven billion of the species once known as humans composes the entirety of Blacklight's consciousness. Despite the hive mind aspect of Blacklight, each mind possesses some form of individuality, though how much is up for debate. Each individual mind shall be henceforth referred to as an "Individual", or a "Blacklight Individual" when clarification is necessary.
The Blacklight species exists not as a virus but as the collective biomass infested with the Blacklight virus and the various Blacklight strains that evolved from said virus. It is ever evolving, and this evolution is directly controlled by the Hive Mind, allowing Blacklight to adapt at a frightening pace. Blacklight is also able to consume other life forms, infecting them with the virus, allowing the species to assimilate them and incorporate useful genetic traits into its own, this also causes the mind of those consumed to become a part of the Hive Mind.
Evolved are essentially avatars constructed of viral biomass in a humanoid form, used by Blacklight Individuals. Evolved make up the 'citizens' of Blacklight. They are separate from the main biomass of the Hive mind. While in this state the Individual controlling the Evolved retains more individuality than when connected to the main biomass, however they are still connected to the hive mind, though the connection to it is somewhat weaker, acting more like a communication device than a gestalt mind. Evolved possess frightening abilities in close combat thanks to their shape shifting and complete control over their own physiology.
Infected are variants of Blacklight beings, usually possessing minds of animals rather than humans, and are the closest thing Blacklight has to wildlife. Despite this Blacklight has control over these creatures, which come in various forms, such as the Hunters and their variants, Brawlers and their variants, Juggernauts, Hydra, Flyers, and Goliaths. These creatures are usually seen as Blacklight's versions of armored warfare though their uses can vary.
Bioships are large masses of viral biomass which is used by Blacklight to traverse through space through different biological methods, initially using gasses stored within the ship to use as chemical fuel to propel the creature and biological solar sails. Current ships still use these methods, but also use Biotic abilities to move, growing massive nervous systems and Element Zero nodules.
The appearance of these spaceships is subject to change depending on Blacklights needs, and the size is dependent on the amount of Biomass the ship uses or is consumed. The ships themselves are well protected with strong carapace as armor, though this is much weaker than kinetic barriers, it can be changed near instantly and heal just as quick. These ships also are used to transport consumed genetic material to other infested planets.
Weapons can however be formed near instantly. These weapons include tentacles, claws, and blades for close combat, and biological explosives and acids for artillery. These ships also function as Blacklights method of terraforming planets to suit its needs, by crashing into planets the biomass can spread out. Despite this, Blacklight Space craft are notoriously slow compared to mechanical ships, and weaker in space combat due to technological weapons advantage over their biological equivalents. Despite this, it is notoriously difficult to destroy a Blacklight space ship as every ounce of biomass must be destroyed or the ship will survive.
The collective minds of every sapient being consumed by Blacklight, the former human race makes up the bulk of Blacklight thoughts, though the mind of Alex Mercer has more say over what actions Blacklight takes than any other mind. most decisions are based around general consensus, much like the Geth, though the process is not quite as sophisticated as the methods used by the Geth seeing as humans retain some individuality which is noted when biomass separates from the main mass and acts independently, though still acting for the benefit of the collective. Each mind has its own opinions, but sensory data and memories is shared by all connected biomass. When physically separate from the main mass, the mind of a human is able to still keep some contact with the Hive Mind, though they have more individuality when doing so, they also must consume biomass, or failing that return to the main mass that covers planets. Alex Mercer himself is unique for being able to know where any biomass in the galaxy is regardless of distance, though even he may not know exactly what is going on around the separate biomass. It is impossible to kill a single mind of a human as the mind inevitable returns to the biomass, though memories can be lost.
Blacklight is able to strengthen the communication between worlds through biological constructs called Brain Hives, which can transmit memories, thoughts, feelings, and ideas between other Brain Hives.
Blacklight does not use traditional technology, rather it uses Biomass to form organic constructs. Blacklight's buildings work more like an organ than an organism, each 'building' has a different use and is specialized to do different things. The main advantage of these constructs is the ability to rapidly adapt or be changed into new 'buildings' or creatures depending on Blacklight's needs, making Blacklight highly adaptable species, more so than any individual species in existence. Space combat however is where Organic technology falls short, due to the species problems of fighting in a vacuum. However no species in the galaxy is as dangerous in combat on the ground/air/sea as Blacklight.
Organic tech is greatly suited for CQC, and outshines any traditional close combat methods and though ranged combat does exist for Blacklight, it is not as sophisticated as traditional technology. Blacklight's main ranged weaponry are Biological explosives, projectile acids/chemicals, firing of hard mass biomass tissue to crush a single target, and tendril barrage attacks on a massive scale for area damage.
Brain Hives are massive shelled towers of biomass safely protecting countless neurons. Blacklight uses these organs to serve as a replacement for radio communication and super computers. Communication between hives on different celestial bodies would be impossible for blacklight to accomplish without these constructs. Brain Hives can send thoughts, memories, and ideas towards other strategically placed brain hives throughout blacklight controlled space. In many respects, brain hives functioned not unlike comm buoys.
The application of Biotics ensured that thoughts and messages are sent at FTL speeds, but even at such speeds, there is considerable lag, and it may take a while to reach the destination. However due to Blacklights intricate knowledge of other members of the hive they also have predictive capabilities to 'guess' what a given individual would say with a high degree of accuracy.
Nerve Webs are used by Blacklight to study the effects of Element Zero on living things. Nerve Webs are connected to Brain Hives. Nerve Webs are in fact a nervous systems formed from biomass that grow from Blacklight in a web like pattern. These structures grow around Element Zero, usually formed on it, over it, or around it allowing Element Zero to develop eezo nodules on the nerves. This process is not as efficient as traditional in utero exposure to Element Zero, however this is aspect of Blacklight enables it to have the most well developed knowledge of how Element Zero affects the nervous systems of living beings. All changes caused by Element Zero to the Nervous system is analyzed by Blacklight. It was this method that allowed for Organic Space Ships to use Biotics for protection from superluminal travel through the development of Biotic Barriers.
Bulbous globules created by the main mass of Blacklight to create various Infected for different purposes, mainly defense and offense. These 'wombs' can generate any kind of Infected needed, and can be used by humans to grow their Evolved bodies, or their organic space ships. Infested Pustules can grow anywhere on viral biomass of sufficient size. These Pustules can be grown on Blacklight Organic Space Ships to serve as a way for Blacklight to drop Infected or Evolved from orbit onto a celestial body.
The main method of gaining energy for Blacklight is the growth of what is referred to as a Helix Tower. These towers of infested Biomass use the D.N.A of plants to manifest photosynthetic qualities, thereby gaining energy from the sun. A Blacklight infested planet can have as many of these towers needed to feed the mass. These towers' appearance is similar to a D.N.A Helix, hence the name, and are covered in cells filled with chloroplast organelles within their membrane allow Blacklight to gain the needed energy from water and carbon dioxide to produce sugars.
Massive biological structures that use traits from various organisms such as chemosynthetic bacteria to gain energy for Blacklight to use. They are also able to package useful chemicals and gasses in fleshy sacs, these are used by Blacklight to collect resources needed. Superficially they resemble a human lung, hence the name. They are most often seen floating over Gas Giants, hydrothermal vents, Or anchored to the ground over areas rich in needed gasses or liquids. These serve as Blacklight's versions of mining equipment.