Chapter 52 - Liara T'soni and the Hotel/Restaurant of Scheming

Once the spike was firmly in place, the Reapers' nightmarish fabricators did their work. Microscopic ports along the side of the spike's surface opened as the internal mechanism began to quickly and efficiently begin mass producing nanites by the trillions which swarmed the sickening parody of the beings circulatory system. The pain from the spikes caused the misshapen and deformed bodies of the Children of Saleon to release a liberal amount of adrenaline, which was used as the delivery medium for the nanites, who began collecting necessary resources to return to the spike to construct even more nanites. Those that did not return instead began to construct various mechanical devices throughout the fleshy core's body.

From the blood, the nanites quickly made their way to the cardiovascular and nervous system, and began stripping useless tissue to be replaced with the colony of constantly replaced nanites. As the tiny machines connected together, long wires, nearly a micron in diameter, began snaking through the innards of the Child of Saleon. Merging with the flesh and leaching off the electrochemical energy to power the process of huskification.

The high levels of radiation did wipe out massive amounts of the nanites' software, preventing many of them functioning properly, but those that remained were more than capable of retrieving the damaged hardware and returning them to be disassembled and rebuilt within the spike's fabricators.

Interestingly, the very organs of the Children of Saleon seemed to attempt to squirm and move around in a feeble attempt to escape the painful conversion if they had a mind of their own, but the nanites found them none the less, and began converting the flesh into useful cybernetics.

Once the nervous system was hijacked, the mind was immediately flooded with various signals that broadcaster the final moments of many hundreds of races that met the Reapers, before they would, through horrifying unity, become Reapers themselves.

This had the effect of increasing adrenaline output allowing for the augmentation process to speed up significantly. Flesh was knit into machines made from the very bodies of the injected nanites. Becoming merely parts and components for the many nightmarish cybernetic additions to come.

Carefully aimed electrical discharges from the spike accurately hit the nervous system in key points, rendered the abomination paralyzed,as still as death. While it remained alive, it was incapable of movement to feebly attempt an escape from the hellish nightmare they were subjected to, but so long as the nanites had complete control over the slowly permuting nervous system and random assortment of various brains, they could do nothing. Only lie still, subjected to the memories and abject screams of trillions. Memories of the trillions who were twisted, melted, and melded into the mechanical nightmares from beyond the stars.

All during the process, the spire embedded within Saleon's abomination sang the song of indoctrination. Whispering mind shackling words, and scratching themselves into the thoughts of Saleon's Child. Sewing subjugation and enslavement as it reprogrammed the very way the eldritch beast thoughts.

This process of huskifying Saleon's abomination enabled the Collectors to board the once Eclipse vessel and watch as the Children of Saleon twitched and squirmed in crippling pain and abject hysteria. The Collectors then did what they were built to. They began to collect.

Liara stood on the home planet of her people, of herself with a look of nostalgia upon her face. Hands in her pockets she slowly made her way through the busy and crowded streets she had not seen in decades. She had spent the better parts of her life in tombs and temples, digging up artifacts that told a grand story of those who came before. It had been such a long time that the busy streets were alien to her, and despite the fact this was her homeworld, it no longer felt like home.

However there were certain memories that put a smile on her face as she looked to see young maidens with their friends, Matrons with their children, and matriarchs with their colleagues. It reminded her of her own youth, digging for imaginary artifacts in playgrounds and parks under the watchful eye of her mother.

Still felt weird to be in sunlight though. A resource very much lacking in caverns and caves. She pulled the brim of her hat over her eyes, ignoring the confused stares of others who have probably never seen a hat of this design before, as she made her way to the designated meet up spot.

A hotel.

Not the grandest of locations, and certainly somewhat cliched, but she supposed it was a better spot than a restaurant. Then she'd have to dress up.

Taking her mind of that terrifying train of thought, Liara continued on her journey until she stood before the single most ostentatious hotel in all of existence. Curved architecture that looked to be carved from marble and the very best polished windows of opaque colored glass that would reflect the light of the sun to create a rainbow of colors across the iridescent surfaces.

Excess, thy name was Morinth.

"This had better be worth it," she muttered as she walked through the doors.

Mordin stood in the makeshift laboratory he had Blacklight help him with. Nothing much, just enough to do a small bit of research on further investigating Blacklight biology while he was here on Omega. He had been notified that Saleon was dead, more than dead, he was absorbed into a different and distinct entity not entirely unlike Backlight itself. The plan to hand deliver Saleon was null and void at this point.

This new biological pseudo-Blacklight was very worrying, especially considering that the entity in question was lost to Blacklight. It's main mass had been incinerated by being thrown into a star, but the remaining biomass of this entity had escaped on a badly damaged, but still functional Eclipse cruiser.

Looking over his notes Mordin watched as a familiar face stepped out of the blacklight biomatter growing along the walls. Male this time.

"Shepard," greeted Mordin with a nod.

"Sup Mordin."

Mordin looked over his notes.

"Just looking over my old notes and comparing them to new Blacklight cells. There are a few changes. New proteins I am currently analyzing. Not important… I heard that the idea to capture Saleon isn't possible. I've been trying to think of new ways to get me on Gorath Station. Nothing comes to mind at the moment."

"Jobol is your Uncle, does he have a history of nepotism?"

"Not particularly, only cares if you can get the job done, and in most efficient way possible. I was not chosen because of nepotism. Am just that good."

"Alright alright, don't get a big head there Mordin."

"Not prideful. Just a statement of fact."

Shepard nodded as he crossed his arms.

"Well, we'll help however we can. We're compiling everything we know so far about Saleon's little abomination. Maybe you can use that information to get in on Jobol's little project."

"I have been considering that. It might be the only thing I might have that can be useful. I'd have to reveal I had placed spyware on Saleon's omnitool, which would clue Jobol in on my spying on the projects of Gorath station, at least the ones going on since Saleon was apart of it."

"I take it that isn't a good idea?"

Mordin shook his head.

"Jobol is paranoid enough as it is. He isn't above ordering my assassination."

"I see… Your uncle is a real bastard, you know that?"

Mordin shrugged.

"More than you know. Still, it's probably the only option we have at this point. I am willing to do it."

"If security is as good as you say, it is going to be difficult to get us anything useful from Gorath. And if things go bad, we can't bail you out. You'll be alone for the most part."

"I have my ways. Besides it has to be me." said Mordin as he looked over his notes once more.

"Let me guess, someone else might get it wrong?"

Mordin only smiled.

Liara took her seat across from Morinth, who was currently eating what Liara thought must have been the most expensive thing on the menu. Of course it would be a restaurant they would meet at. One that Liara knew she was very underdressed for. The Justicar however, Samara, was dressed in the same clothes Liara saw her in on their video call, Morinth however… She fit right in with the elaborately dressed patrons that no doubt frequented this establishment.

Morinth, looking at Liara, smiled as she put her silverware down.

"Cliche enough for you?"

Liara said nothing.

"Down to business I guess. I already told you my theories, no need to elaborate on them further. I just want your help finding where a beacon might be."

"Assuming one exists," pointed out Liara.

"Assuming one exists," agreed Morinth with a sharp nod.

Liara looked to Samara for a moment, before crossing her arms and leaning back in her seat.

"Protheans never really hid their beacons, not historically anyway. They were usually limited to what we think might be temples of some kind, but these structures are far too old for us to tell what their original purpose might actually be. That said, it wasn't uncommon for surviving statues to hold beacons within them. None work, but it's theorized these beacons were mostly used to display information about the artists who made the statues, though nothing is conclusive. What is known is these beacons were built into statues. That is probably the closest Protheans came to hiding Beacons."

"Do you think it might be possible for one of the Athame statues to hold one of these beacons? One that actually works."

"Only if you accept that Protheans had somehow come into contact with Asari 50,000 years ago, when our civilization was in its infancy. Something I have my doubts about."

"Noted." said Morinth as she went back to eating.

"Is there any way to narrow down the most probable locations?" asked Samara.

"Again, assuming you are right, only early Asari artwork would have been around at the same time the Protheans were. So it would only be the very oldest of statues. I'd say the Athame Museum would be your best bet, it houses the largest collection of statues and artifacts of that era."

Samara nodded.

"Yeah, we checked there…" Said Morinth as she idly stirred her soup. "...But we never checked the statues themselves. Might have to break in again," said Morinth quietly.

Liara rose a brow.

"You broke into the Athame Museum?"

Morinth only smirked.

"Not my first time engaging in less than legal behavior. Trust me, I'm pretty much permanently on Santa's naughty list."

"The hell is a Santa?"

"Pre-Blacklight Human figure of folklore. Delivered gifts during the winter to the good little boys and girls of the world in a single night, gave the naughty kids hunks of coal."

"The history of Blacklight before it became what it is today isn't exactly well known."

"Not entirely True, Galaxy of Fantasy added some monsters, figures, and beasties from various Human mythology as DLC when they made Earth a visitable planet. Everything from Gods and Fae to Monsters and Demons from human mythology was included. You see the Trailer for it by the way? King Arthur is a beast."

"I don't play video games."

"Shame, I'm a level 95 Turian Cabal."

"Is any of that important?" asked Samara.

"Nope, just bragging."

"Moving on..." said Liara. "...I'll help how I can, but if we don't find anything, I will be leaving, after punching you in the face of course."

"Of course, it's only fair," said Morinth with a smile, before she pushed her food off to the side.

"We broke into the Athame Museum before, thing is we're going to have to get you up to speed on a few things."

"And, what makes you assume I'm actually going to actually be apart of the breaking and entering phase of your little heist?"

"Well I can think of a few reasons. Like why else would you come all the way over here? Do you want to know if there is a conspiracy going on, or don't you? Would you like info on the very species you study? Take your pick. Either way, you kinda have to go inside. You are the expert, you'll see things we couldn't. "

"...Point." said Liara.

Morinth smile widens as she clasps her hands.

"Ok, now that we got that settled, we're going to go in the legal way, help you get a lay of the land so to speak. After that, we'll get in the same way we did before, the fire exit on the main floor, I'll make sure it won't go off. Mom here is going to stay on the roof and be our lookout." said Morinth as she motioned to Samara.

"I will be vigilant." said Samara with a nod.

"Alright, then what are we doing here? Let's go to the museum and buy a goddamn ticket already," said Liara.

Morinth's smile widened even more, and Liara noted the strange twinkle in her eye as she did so.

"I think you and I are going to get along just fine."

Samara could only sigh.

Shisk looked over the new spaceport constructed on the densest cluster of vines nearest his growing village. It was an ugly thing, made out of scrap and shoddily put together. Still, it was good enough to hold together as the Blood Pack ships retrieved from their most recent raid were parked in their new hangars. So far, they had collected a small fleet of 15 frigates, some of which were stocked with weaponry and vehicles of war. It wasn't much, but for the first time in history, the Vorcha could leave their planet under their own power.

'You've come a long way Shisk.' said Chakwas.

Shisk sniffed.

"Ships small. Not big. No cruisers, no dreads."

'True, but these are pirate ships we are talking about. Everyone has to start somewhere.'

"Vorcha make do."

Shisk leapt from his perch to examine the ships. They were all heavily modified for maximum offensive capabilities. Armor was bare minimum, but the shields were adequate. Currently they were being looked over by a small crew of Vorcha Engineers.

While Vorcha Engineers were not as skilled as any other species, they were still skilled enough to keep the frigates up and running, and they did know how to actually drive the damn things… Well, mostly at least.

Some other Vorcha were marking the ships themselves with various clan markings, painted over the normal Blood Pack insignia.

Shisk clicked his teeth as his gaze went from the ships, to the sky. He remembered the ways ships were normally docked. They favored orbital docking, as opposed to planetary docking. It was much more useful to have a fleet already in space. Especially since Heshtok was a very inhospitable planet, whose own atmosphere made keeping the ship's functional a much more difficult task.

"Chakwas, do you tink' Blacklight might help Vorcha wit' a project I has in mind?"

'Depends, what were you thinking?'

"Shisk want vorcha military, need cruiser, and nought's, but Vorcha can't land big ships on bitch-planet Heshtok. Vorcha need own orbital spaceport."

'I think, we can help you there Shisk.'