Chapter 46: Reunited and it Feels so Good
Miranda blinked as the Salarian simply began… talking.
"…Mentions of incident, possibly involving the Salarian I delivered. Containment breach of some kind. Seeing as the facility is weak post-outbreaks might be possible to retrieve sample…"
"….I believe they took the sample, most likely during your Rampancy. While the data is inconsistent, I believe the labs are back on line. Danger if Blacklight sample not taken care of. Jobol is far more ambitious than initially believed. He might even…
"…and I believe they still have a sample. Possibly not pure Blacklight sample, infected animal tissue. Changes to the genetic structure could be studied. Reproduce something worse than rampancy. Situation…"
"…Salarian biotech severely lacking. Altered samples could give them technology with a biological base."
Jack had enough. She took a quick step forward and grabbed Mordin by the shoulders and began shaking him.
"Breathe God dammit!"
Mordin took a deep calming breath as soon as Jack stopped shaking him.
"Sorry, I got ahead of myself. Apologize. Much information to deliver."
He took another breath.
"I'm just relaying this information. Can't let Jobol know I told you."
Miranda truly had no idea what the Salarian was talking about, and between Jack and herself, she was fairly sure they got most of that speech memorized between them. Hell they could probably recite it, but why would he treat them like he knew them? Was he acquainted with Blacklight? It was a distinct possibility.
"Whatever it is you have to say, you can say it when we rejoin the Hive."
Mordin raised a non-existent brow.
"Rejoin the Hive?"
"We're that sample you're worried about. We came back to rejoin with the hive."
Mordin stood still as he examined the two Evolved before him. The very sample he sought to warn Blacklight on was already here. Did they know? Doubtful, this Evolved mention they needed to rejoin the hive. Hinting at a separation at some point. Shouldn't the Evolved before him simply be able to relay his information with the hive now that she were in range.
"Blacklight changed Hive Mind Methods." Said Mordin, it wasn't a question.
"You say you can't connect with the greater Hive Mind, so then Blacklight changed the Hive Mind method of communication?"
"That's our theory too."
Mordin thought over it. Why would Blacklight change the Hive Mind Method. Unless… They found a better one. So did they create a new one from scratch? Possibly, but not likely. Did they assimilate it from another species? No, there are no other species that had a Hive Mind for Blacklight to create a new one from their genetic traits… Well, there was one, but it was… supposed to be extinct.
Mordin eyes grew wider.
"Rachni. Blacklight adopted the method of the rachni. Current theory is Rachni use some biological equivalent of a Quantum entanglement that connected all minds. Faster than traditional Blacklight Methods according to what Shepard told me. Blacklight found live Rachni."
So did they consume it, or were they allied with the Rachni?
Mordin wasn't sure, but it was interesting to think about. He looked to Miranda and Jack.
"Rachni Method huh?" said Jack.
"That implies we found living Rachni. Or someone got us Rachni genetic material"
"It would explain why we can't connect with the others. We'll know for sure when we rejoin." Said Miranda as she walked off. Mordin Blinked.
"You coming?" asked Jack "We may have escaped that salarian hellhole, but I'm not sure if we left something behind. Something like us."
Mordin nodded, and followed after Jack. Rachni could wait, he had to warn Blacklight that Jobol still had a sample.
Grunt blinked as he was put down on a familiar sofa, in a familiar room of meat and flesh, staring at a familiar and annoying movie.
He looked to Shepard who was smiling.
"What just happened?"
Grunt felt that feeling again but shook it away.
"But, you're Blacklight, why would an Asari frighten you?"
"Oh, she doesn't. But when there are people present when we're talking to her, we have a system. No one fucks with Aria… Except us. Can't let the people know that, then everyone will be fucking with Aria, and when it goes mainstream, well where is the fun in that."
"I understood maybe a tenth of that."
"Eh, let's just say there is only one rule on Omega, and as our sacred right as a walking viral abomination, we must brake it whenever possible."
"Still not clear."
Shepard blinked before shrugging. With a too wide smile and a clap of her hands, Shepard looked to the room.
"Whelp. Who wants to watch vids?"
Grunt looked back to the screen, the same film was still playing. Before he could say anything, Shepard froze with a defiant look of confusion on her face. It did not escape Grunt that she wasn't the only one. Every single member of Blacklight looked genuinely confused and were peering at the door.
"That can't be right," said Shepard as a knock could be heard from where the collective were staring.
A hesitant tendril reached out from the wall of flesh and pressed the console next to the door to open it.
The collective stared at two other Blacklight individuals and a familiar Salarian.
Unknown to them, every single evolved detected very familiar pheromones, Blacklight pheromones, yet they did not know where it came from.
The two Evolved stepped in the room, and all eyes were on them. Not a sound could be heard at that time as dozens of evolved standing around and growing from the walls all stared at them, still as stone.
Grunt wasn't sure what was so strange about the two, all he knew was that for some reason, the temperature felt much colder, and everything suddenly became very tense.
Then the tattooed Evolved waved.
"Why can't we hear you?" asked Shepard carefully.
"Why aren't you us?" asked Ashley.
Any other words were exchanged between the Hive through their conjoined minds. It was at this time the other evolved stepped forward.
"We're the sample."
That was all they needed to hear.
Abrudras took a step towards the two, examining them like a predator. She was joined by several other Evolved, who all circled the two and examined them up and down.
Shepard got to his feet, carefully making his way to the familiar Salarian.
"Mordin, where did you find them?"
Mordin felt the tension in the room and cleared his throat to alleviate it somewhat.
"I only just met them. I thought they were connected to you." Said Mordin as he turned to the two newcomers. "I think they are the sample Jobol stole during the Rampancy on the Citadel."
Mordin expected Shepard to say something witty or random. Instead he only nodded as he made his way to the Two new Evolved. The others had stopped circling them.
Miranda and Jack looked into Shepards face, right as a smile appeared on his face and he took the two in his arms and hugged them.
To Mordin, it reminded him of families meeting long lost family members, and it didn't stop at Shepard. Each and every one of the Evolved took them into their arms and stood still.
While doing so, information was traded, and genes were swapped.
Miranda and Jack had their minds expanded beyond the scope of normal thought. The quiet within them had been replaced with that comforting union of mind and soul. They understood billions of minds, at least the two billion that remained after Nazara's destruction of the vast majority.
Many had been born since then. And they felt them all. Their thoughts were Miranda's thoughts, and Jack's thoughts. They entered the realm of the hive.
The sea of minds, an ocean of thoughts, memories, emotions and ideas.
They had returned home.
Shisk sat as he watched his brethren fought with tooth and claw. A territorial dispute that would be solved only through might and savagery. Such were Vorcha politics.
Chakwas watched. The two Vorcha would periodically wound each other. Through the optical sensors grown on Shisk's armor, she would watch as the wounds would knit back together so quickly, Chakwas could see it happen.
Next to Blacklight, Vorcha truly had the most unique biology of any species. Then one of the Vorcha swiped his paw just right, and broke the others arm. As the loser fell to the Ground, Shisk rose.
Shisk's voice boomed across the lands as the two combatants stopped, one standing hunched cradling his broken arm, the other tall and proud. Shisk sniffed and the winner roared in triumph.
As the surrounding Vorcha roared with him, the loser Vorcha snarled, but did nothing. It wasn't in him. The strongest won this day, and it wasn't him. Shisk knew how the losers behaved, many would sulk off to unknown corners among the thorns within the city until another dispute happened and there was a new loser to hold the shame of loss. The losers tribe would no doubt punish him for such a loss considering what was at stake. He would be lucky to survive.
Shisk waited until the loser left the area before he looked on to the others. Many of his pack who wore Blacklight as armor stood still as they watched the winner as he soaked in the cheers of his kin. Shisk knew he had a right to be proud. He had just won himself more territory, specifically the nearest of the few fertile lands upon this hateful rock they called a home world. Life on Heshtok was a hard one, but the few lands where prey could be found were ripe with the largest of beasts to feast on.
As the roars of triumph died down, Shisk stood and looked to the tribes that had come from far and wide to join with Shisk's own. Uniting them proved to be a mess of problems, and truthfully, it could hardly be called unification, as the constant territorial disputes proved.
In the end, the Vorcha were a species that was too Vorcha to be anything else. Shisk still wondered why Blacklight was continuing with this idea of a unified Vorcha. Perhaps they were not as smart as Shisk thought.
Shisk walked up to the victor, who immediately upon seeing Shisk approach assumed a posture of submission. Shisk clicked his teeth as he looked to this Vorcha. A young one, as most Vorcha were. Shisk sniffed, and motioned for the victor to stand tall. As the Vorcha rose, something happened.
Far in the distance, lights could be seen above the lands hovering in the distance. Shisk snarled at them. He dreaded when the ships would come, and they always did. Blood Pack no doubt, looking for fresh 'recruits'.
Such was the life of a Vorcha. You either fought to survive or be kidnapped and tortured, beaten, and abused until you were forcibly molded to become a weapon for whatever would be gang happened to 'recruit' you. Vorcha life was not a pleasant one, but then again, Vorcha were not a pleasant people.
Shisk pointed to the ship as it neared, deploying probes to the grounds below.
"Dey' come to take us from our tribes. Come to make Vorcha fight for dem."
The surrounding Vorcha hissed as they glared at the ships lowering into the forests of thorns.
"Dis' Vorcha home. Vorcha fight for Vorcha. Not Krogan, Not Turian, and not Blood Pack. No more. We show them dis' our world. Dey' wanna have Vorcha fighter. Den'dey gonna have to earn it."
The roars came back, and the Vorcha charged to the ship.
Shisk followed his people. He was very glad that it wasn't a difficult thing to rile them for combat. Truthfully, there was never a single moment of the day any random Vorcha wasn't ready for combat.
Mordin sat with crossed arms on one of the now empty seats that littered Blacklights home. His head arced forward as he thought on everything he learned this day. To say that today was unexpected, would be an understatement. He personally met the very sample he feared Jobol had his hands on, but that was one thing. The revelations provided by the two who once were little more than biomass in a test tube was something else entirely.
Mordin was drawn from his musings when Shepard walked towards him.
Mordin looked to Shepard. He was in the form Mordin first seen him in, the 'male' form of the human species. Mordin nodded.
Shepard, being who he was, sat next to Mordin with crossed arms.
"Thinking, huh? 'Bout what?"
"Miranda and Jack mentioned they couldn't communicate with Blacklight. We all came to the same conclusion. Blacklight's Hive Mind methods have changed. I went a step further and guessed that you adopted the methods of the Rachni… Did you meet them?"
Shepard remained silent as he looked to the ceiling, waiting for a consensus to be drawn among the majority.
It took only a moment.
"We did. We have Bioships all over the galaxy on various expeditions for various reasons. One Bioship happened across a derelict ship; on it was a larval Rachni Queen that had recently hatched. She was dangerously emaciated. We nursed her back to health and she is with us. She has a small fleet in the Sol System with Bioships she uses as hives in a sort of symbiotic relationship. We adopted their methods of communication for our own. Effectively, The Rachni are just as much a part of Blacklight as any other Evolved or Infected."
"I see." Said Mordin blankly.
It was quiet for a few moments, before Mordin spoke.
"I was on Tuchunka. On orders to modify and improve the Genophage. The Krogan were adapting."
"I see. You seem like you didn't want to do it."
"I didn't. I had hoped that by revealing what I knew to you, it would be atonement for what I did to them."
"You could have refused."
"And let someone else work on it, someone who did not care If the Krogan lived or died. No, it had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong."
Mordin tapped his omnitool, causing a very familiar line of text to appear, text that Shepard had gifted Mordin with in what seemed to be a very long time ago.
"I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course."
Mordin dismissed the holographic text as he turned to Shepard.
"What could be a worst poison for the Krogan than the genophage. I went against that oath."
Shepard looked at Mordin as he stared at the ground, looking very much like a defeated man. Shepard, meanwhile, only thought for a moment before he voiced his own idea.
"Tell me, did you care about the Krogan?"
Mordin looked to Shepard.
"I did, but…"
"Did you do everything in your power to make the genophage modification as safe as possible for them?" Interrupted Shepard.
"Were you not put into a situation where your only other choice was to either work on the genophage, or according to your own words, have someone else work on it who might have gotten it wrong?"
"But they might…."
"Sounds to me like you didn't break the Hippocratic Oath. The Genophage can be called a poison, but then again, so could many other things that aren't really poison. I don't think the Genophage is technically a poison, unless you consider all infectious agents poisons. Is Blacklight a poison? I could have sworn we were a species of Shoggoths whose biology was basically a mound of metamorphic biomass created by retrovirus."
"Now that is just semantics."
"And calling something like the Genophage a poison, when in reality it doesn't fit the definition of a poison, isn't semantics?"
Mordin didn't say anything.
"Look, you were put into a shit situation. These things happen. The Galaxy isn't really Black and White. It's an infinite amount of various shades of gray. So you're now a shade darker, who isn't? You did what you thought was right Mordin. As far as We are concerned, that's all that really matters."
"That… is comforting, but I broke my word, in my eyes at least. I can do whatever mental gymnastics it takes to justify it, but I cannot ever say I have never broken my word."
"We are all friends here Mordin, I won't tell you how to think, just know that no matter how you see yourself, we see you in a much better light."
"I suppose I can accept that."
"Good." Said Shepard with a nod.
"What are you going to do about Jobol? He's no longer the Salarian Council member, and while he may not have a sample of Blacklight, he still has some genetic material of creatures altered using Blacklight. That is just as bad."
"We're going to do exactly what you think we are going to do," said Shepard as he (Now She) stood up.
"And you're going to be a part of it. That is if you want to."
Shisk stood atop the great thorned vines looked on as the ship landed. A simple shuttle, one of Blood Pack design. Their insignia could even be seen decorating the sides. The Blood Pack were perhaps the greatest insult to the Vorcha to ever exist. Originally, it was a Vorcha gang, before a Krogan battlemaster, one by the name of Ganar Wrang, turned it into a mercenary legion. While most of the Pack was still composed of Vorcha, any higher ranking members among it were always inevitably Krogan.
His teeth clicked as Chakwas reformed herself to look something similar to standard Vorcha attire, which was to say random assortments of cloth, scrap, and leather. Hidden unseen among the flora, was Shisk's pack, his backup. Every single one ready for his command.
Then the ramp upon the ship popped open and quickly lowered. Shisk hissed lowly as a small squad of armored Vorcha came out, followed by a tall and imposing Krogan in heavy armor.
"Well, well, well. Look what we have here. I'm much more used to your kind running on sight from us. Mind getting on that, it is much more entertaining."
Shisk hissed as he leapt from the thorned tree he stood on to approach the Krogan.
"Dis' Vorcha lands. You wan Vorcha, den you gotta pay."
The Krogan only laughed.
"Pay! A Vorcha! Ha! Like you would even live long enough to be able to spend it."
Shisk watched as the Krogan's posse of armored Vorcha assumed a curious stance, one indicating confusion and curiosity. Each one was not used to this. After all, if the Blood Pack came, you ran. Else you were captured, and beaten into soldiers, well fodder really.
"You no pay, den you go."
"Heh! And who is going to make me, little berserker?"
Shisk roared, and his clothing changed. The Krogan, upon seeing this, took a hesitant step back as dozens of Vorcha landed behind Shisk, many wearing the exact same biological armor as Shisk. Then more Vorcha came, hundreds of them, most unarmed and unarmored, but they more than made up for that with numbers.
"We make you."
And with that, Shisk attacked. The Krogan fired back with a well-placed shot from his own weapon, one Shisk could not identify, but with his armor, Shisk didn't even feel the impact. He landed on the Krogan, wrapping his legs around him as he furiously clawed into it. Each swipe was much stronger with the addition of metallic blades of steel rather than sharpened claws of keratin. Even as the Krogan tried slamming Shisk against the ship, he did not relent. Each swipe took more and more of the armor off, and was punctuated by the feral roars and snarls coming from Shisk's mouth.
The armored Vorcha meanwhile were firing into the literal swarm of Shisk's pack as they made their way closer and closer. Their fight was a brutal one, where blood and meat was flung in every direction by teeth and claws.
Soon, the Vorcha fell, and so too did the Krogan, whose head resembled a mess of meat and bone. Shisk breathed in rapidly and deeply as he looked up the ramp, blood dripping from his claws. Standing atop the ramp was an army of Krogan Shisk didn't even see, who were already firing on them. Like before, their bullets bounced uselessly off the Blacklight armed Vorcha. They had come to capture, not to kill, and that fact meant they had no weapons to deal with Blacklight-empowered Vorcha.
Shisk took slow and steady steps up the ramps, even as the bullets hit his carapace and whizzed by his head, a low growl coming from his throat as more and more of his pack followed behind him.
The massacre had begun.
Bonus Scene: The Hive Ship
"I love you guys," said a very happy Robert Cross to Legion as he watched the Geth ship add new weaponry to the Hive ship.
"It's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen," said an equally happy Alex Mercer.
"Firing rate of six Mass Accelerator slugs a second, each one the size of a truck… Ohohohohohoho! I think I'm in heaven. Alex, is... Is that more of them? Oh sweet Merciful Nergal that's a giant Gatling apparatus… It's a mother fucking Repeating Mass Accelerator… On a Cruiser! NO ONE PINCH ME!"
Alex was close to crying.
"Oh my Me it is. It really is. Legion, is this standard Geth armament for your ships?"
Legion was incapable of confusion, but this came very close.
"Well it should be."
Legion turned to Dana who shrugged.
"They get like this from time to time."
"WE NEED MORE!"
"Put six on that bitch, no put TEN!"
"Now all we need is the M-920 Cain upscaled to ship-scale," said Dana sarcastically.
Alex's eyes lit up, and through their link, Dana knew she had made a grave mistake.
"THAT'S GENIUS! Legion! Make it so."
"I was kidding Alex!"
"I DON'T CARE!"
Dana sighed as she turned to Legion.
"I'm blaming you. Why did you make that thing anyway?"
"The Mass Accelerator Repeaters began construction after analysis that Reaper Kinetic Barriers proved to be more durable than expected or should be possible based on Geth estimates. New weaponry needed to be developed."
"And a giant Gatling railgun was your first cxidea?"
"That terminology is incorrect; the Mass Accelerator Repeater partially uses traditional methods for Mass Accelerator weaponry, with only slight modifications and an added mechanism for rapid fire. The projectile is propelled through the useage of gravitational fluxuations via element zero. It is not an electromagnetic projectile."
Dana's palm smacked her own face.
"I… never mind. Just forget about it."