Mass Effect/Dune Crossover
Mass Effect AU
Prequels and Sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson will not be used.
From the Great Void, We come...
To this place will We abide, We who are the children of Siona and Idaho, Heirs of Shai Hulud and the Atreides Emperors, We who tread the Golden Path, from the realm of visions, where men walk without feet unto eternity and beyond...
- A Passage from A Human Poem (Written in Ancient Galach), allegedly recited by Lord Burseg Faradan Shepard, Sardaukar-in-Exile, upon meeting the Citadel Council.
When the humans first revealed themselves to the combined fleets and the remnants of Citadel Space, they seemed to everyone like the Reapers, or more accurately, their opposite, a powerful, secretive race, ancient and wise, from a galaxy very far away, possessing technologies that we could only dream of, but bereft of the desire to destroy.
They were relatively small in number, only a couple of hundred thousands, but their ships... Ah, I will speak of their technology later, but for now, it is sufficient to say that they changed everything.
To some, they were a new potential enemy, but to others, they were our very hope for survival. But for a small few, they were simply an enigma, a glimpse into something terrible beyond the edge of our galaxy.
- Liara T'soni, Humanity's Golden Path
The Asari stared in shock at corpse next to her.
Captain Grevax Farsolas, 1st Captain of the Aras(1) Sanctuary security defense force, fell dead right next to her; half of his head blown off by a stray shot. The stench of the dead Turian soldier's blood and brain matter overpowered her senses, and she emptied the contents of her stomach right then and there on the floor where she lay half buried in rubble.
"Tevura! Hang on! Vero, help her out of there! We'll cover you." The voice came from Faelus Desolas, Tevura thought. He was the nice Turian boy who always gawked at the Asari maidens whenever they went out on patrols, and who had only recently joined the Sanctuary's . Gone was the gentle voice of boyhood. It had been replaced, at least for now, with focused desperation.
Tevura Tsoni winced as the pain filled her entire body, the sounds of screams and death not too far away. She couldn't see anything in the darkness of the tunnel except for the glowing eyes of the Husks coming right towards them. The sound of explosions and fading kinetic barriers filled her ears even as the stench of death and fumes clogged her nose.
Tevura tried to move, to crawl pitifully away from the impending doom of the Reaper's biomechanical pawns, but she could only whimper in agony as she attempted to do. Having your legs crushed and buried under rubble usually does that.
She spat out a curse that was drowned out by the noise of weapons fire and explosions. Today, her home, her life, her friends, her family and everything that she knew had been destroyed in less than three hours.
Maidens weren't supposed to die this way, she thought. According to her mother, Liara, they were supposed to "waste their lives pole dancing or running around as would-be explorers and mercs." Heh, Pole... I would have been an awesome Pole dancer... literally and metaphorically... Great! I'm going to die and my last dying thoughts are about sex. Stay classy Tevura.
Tevura closed her eyes, and tried not to think about how, in a fit of boredom, she had wished that Aras would be attacked just ten months ago, because then she and her friends could leave the refugee bunkers hidden underneath the planet's surface and make a difference in the galaxy for a change. Dreams of glory and courage filled her then foolish 40 year old head, as well as those of her friends, only a few months ago. If they were out there in the Galaxy, why they would have slaughtered the Reapers and all their minions. The Citadel Council were obviously idiots for letting their best warriors languish here in Aras instead of fighting out there among warriors, like her parents, Captain Liara Tsoni, the Slayer of Harbinger, and Spectre Garrus Vakarian, Hero of Great Battle for the Citadel. She dreamed of living up to their legacy, to be the heroine that the galaxy needed, to command armies and star ships, and most of all, to fight the hated Reapers. Teruva Tsoni, the Asari Champion, and at her side, Vero'Forah , the cunning hero of the Quarian people, Wux, the mighty Krogan Berzerker, and Dear Sweet, Faelus Desolas... such a nice Turian.
Together, they would strike down the evil machines and restore the Citadel to its former glory.
Well, you got your wish, idiot! You're now about to die before the Reapers, you and all your super-hero friends, here in lovely, beautiful Aras. Congratulations. Wish granted.
Prior to the Reaper invasion, Aras had been a barely explored, barely habitable hell hole in the middle of nowhere, with an icy surface and depressing landscape. No one wanted it, and save for a few probes and exploration missions, no one visited the planet's surface either. It had very little eezo deposits, almost no useful minerals, a hostile atmosphere, next to no fertility and worse of all, it had been located close to a sector that was known to have been a Pirate's Nest.
Mining ventures as well as colonization efforts had been considered over the years for Aras, but projections on the probable Return On Investments from either mining or settling the planet was simply too unrewarding for even the most desperate mining conglomerates in the galactic community. Not even smugglers wanted it.
And so Aras was left to rot, a cold ball of nothing... that is until the Reapers arrived.
As the war became more desperate for the Citadel Council, their strategy turned from "active engagement" to "strategic defense and containment," a euphemism which basically meant that they were losing. For despite the sacrifice of Specter Garrus Vakarian and the destruction of more than half of the Invading Reaper Fleet in the legendary Battle for the Citadel, they were still badly outnumbered and outgunned.
A Fabian strategy of guerrilla warfare and asymmetrical combat was soon carried out by the remnants of the Galaxy's races against the Reapers. Combining all of their military assets, the remnants of the Citadel Council, and even those not affiliated with them, formed the Combined Fleets. These fleets were basically a ragtag collection of ships from whatever the remnants could scrounge up.
This change in strategy was also followed by the creation of "Sanctuaries" for the Citadel's remaining civilian population. These sanctuaries were originally built close to military instillation as well as in star systems, where major fleets were still available.
However, after the destruction of all the major worlds of the Citadel Races, and the subsequent exodus of most their survivors, many of the existing sanctuaries could not absorb the influx of so many refugees, and new installations had to be installed. But with most of the Citadel's military assets dwindling, and the war turning into vicious blood bath, the new Sanctuaries had to be built in such a way that they could thrive and survive isolated from military protection and most the rest of galaxies.
These new Sanctuaries were based on ancient Prothean models, complete with cryostasis pods, a self-sustaining geo-thermal power source and stealth generators. If worse came to worse, the inhabitants of these Sanctuaries will be able to go into suspended animations, to wait out the holocaust of the present cycle. Should the Combined Fleets and Armies of the Citadel fall before the Reapers, they would become the last of their kinds - the last fading hope for the organics of this cycle.
Needless to say, Aras was the perfect planet to house a Sanctuary. Soon Three ships equipped with the latest Salarian stealth technology were sent to the planet, and within a span of a year, they built a medium sized Sanctuary inside the planet with enough facilities and food production to support a population of several thousands of refugees. Soon after completion, the first batch of refugees arrived, and among them was the daughter of Liara Tsoni. Aras was to be her new home, along with six thousand refugees from all of the known races in the galaxy.
Over the course of 5 decades, Aras' population would steadily grow three times its original size. Life was difficult in the Sanctuaries. All inhabitants were restricted inside, forbidden from ever leaving their home lest they draw the attention of the Reaper fleets. Work was hard, the food always rationed, but they survived, these last pitiful band of survivors. They survived against all odds.
Some went insane from their ordeals. Others went into voluntary suspended hibernation, abandoning any hope that the wider galaxy could triumph over the pitiless machines. But they survived. Beneath the surface of Aras, thousands of refugees prayed that those who still fought among the stars will not perish, and that some day, they might emerge from the darkness back into the bright shining light of life without the fear of extinction. But their gods and ancestors did not answer them.
And so they remained in Aras, in shadow and fear. This barely habitable rock had become one of the last remaining bastions of sapient life left in the galaxy...
At least until about a month ago, when several anomalous gravity wells began to appear inside Aras' star system. The stealth probes couldn't identify the nature of the anomalies, and Aras' science team didn't know what to make of these phenomenon.
Unfortunately, Aras' stealth probes were not the only ones that detected the anomalies. After about a week since their appearance, two Reaper ships entered into the system, looking here and there for the source of the anomaly. They couldn't find it, but after days of searching, they found something else: The Sanctuary.
It took the two Reapers, and their reinforcements, a little over a week to reduce Aras' population from 15,300 to 260. Thankfully, Some of the inhabitants managed to escape to their evacuation ships, cleverly hidden in various underground bunkers all over Aras, but a large portion of the Sanctuary's population also didn't make it out. Aras would become their tombs.
When evacuation protocols were initiated, Tevura, her friends and several other younger members had volunteered to act as rearguards for most of Sanctuary's inhabitants to flee from Reaper devastation. The security forces were slaughtered in the battle, but they succeeded. They helped the innocent and the helpless flee... even as they perished in their defense.
"You're gonna be okay!" Vero's distinctive Quarian voice filled her ears, as her hands fought to free her from the fallen rubble. Tevura yelled at Vero to escape, to save herself, but she couldn't even hear the sound of her own voice.
More explosions erupted around her, and Tevura knew then that the end had come. Soon enough, the main body of Reapers would break through the tunnel and crush all that was left of her friends and family. But something else happened. A strange sound erupted from somewhere outside the tunnels, like the voice of a dying a tortured Krogan. It was soon followed by several rays of bluish light emerging from several unidentified sources. The lights punctured through the husks cutting them down like chaff.
The remaining husks in the tunnels soon turned to engage the new interlopers only to be cut down themselves by the rays of bluish light. Soon, strange figures emerged from the darkness beyond the tunnels, moving about with impossible speed, some of which engaged the husks with long knives and even swords.
After a brief fight, Tevura leaned closer to see that most of the husks had been destroyed, and in their place, stood several asaroid shapes. She blinked her eyes once to see more clearly, but couldn't focus on the details on their features. At first, she thought that they were Asari, but upon closer examination, it became obvious that they were not. In fact, they didn't look like any race she had heard of. Drell perhaps? No. There was something unnatural about them. If she wasn't half buried under so much rubble, and suffering from blood loss, she would have been able to clearly see their actual features, but as things are now, they just seemed like strange looking creatures.
Tevura saw the last of the Husks, a hulking Brute flanked by two Cannibals, rush one of the unidentified beings - possibly one of their leaders. The creature appeared to be covered with some kind of organic armor, and armed with a glowing blade. Instead of retreating back to its companions, the creature moved with incredible speed, first ripping off the head of one of the Cannibals, and then perforating the second Cannibal's head with an upward thrust through the jaw. It was over in just two heartbeats.
The Brute, however, was able to land a powerful blow on the creature's torso. The creature flew back like a ragdoll, but quickly spun off the floor and attacked the Brute with a furious charge. Again, came the blinding speed, and the creature threw a jab at the Brute that cracked the Turian shaped casing of its face, before impaling it with his sword. He did this with such speed that it was over in a little less than a second.
To make sure that she was not imagining things, she turned to her companions to make sure that they saw what she saw. They were, and like her, they were staring in shock at the creatures that stood before them.
She strained to have a closer look, but something inside her burst, and she began to lose consciousness.
Stravan Hackett was angry. His synth-trout carapace armor (2) had been damaged by that giant Husk. His armor! Damaged by a Husk, when it had endured attacks from much worse. Three Synth Trouts fell off the area on his torso where the Brute had struck him, while those next to them were slowly peeling away. It was a little painful. Synth trout carapace were not supposed to get damaged like that, which meant that those fools who managed the synth trout colonies in the Brazil were not taking care of them properly, he thought with anger. He hissed as he peeled off another dead synth trout off his chest.
Someone is going to be doing latrine duty for a year because of this mess, he thought.
Synth-Trouts or Synthetic Trouts are the artificially produced cousins of sand trouts. Unlike ordinary sand trouts, however, they didn't grow into giant sand worms, nor did they produce any spice. They were just little creatures that liked to bury in the sand and trap water. Like their sand trout cousins, however, they can be attached onto the human skin to form a powerful and highly durable exoskeleton (much like the one used by the Tyrant Worm prior to his ascension). All it required was the proper manipulation of certain hormones and chemicals within the human body, which most humans in the Scattering were perfectly proficient at.
This batch of Synth Trouts, however...
You were lucky. You shouldn't have underestimated that synthetic abomination. You were careless, incompetent, he thought with a great deal of self-criticism.
"Where's my wife?" Hackett snarled as he emerged from the hole in the tunnel, leaving his men and some of the Xeno survivors still inside. Gods curse this wretched icy hell hole, he thought as stomped through Aras' cold surface. "Kasia! Kasia!"
He grabbed one of his men, a young mentat of 30 by his looks. He wore the same Synth Trout Armor that he wore, just like the rest of his men. "Where's the Witch?"
"Sorry Milord. The Lady Shepard is inspecting some of the Xeno Structures. Maybe she's still there." The young mentat then saluted and left quickly.
"Dammit! Gods Below that was close," Hackett sighed as he deactivated Disruptor Blade, an elegantly decorated Shamshir covered by a Disruptor field, and sheathed it into his scabbard. Disruptor fields were originally designed to dissipate Holtzman fields found on most body shields, but they were also quite effective at simply tearing things apart.
He sat down on the remains of wrecked Ravager and tried to catch his breath. Stravan Hackett looked liked an old man, but then so did most mentats, even the young ones. A scar was on one of his checks, and his weathered face showed the burdens and trials of a lifetime of struggle and fighting. His pale skin and white hair were sharply contrasted by the dark color of his synth trout carapace armor. He rubbed some of the stress and pain off his neck before allowing himself a few seconds worth of deep breath relaxation.
Gods Below, that was too close! He thought once more.
"I told you to wear your shield," a woman from behind him said, and by the tone of her voice, it was clear that she fully aware of what he was thinking based only on a few subtle clues.
"Dammit Witch! I told you not to sneak up on me like that," he snarled at the Bene Gesserit Witch who stood behind him."
"How many have we saved?" The woman asked without bothering to indulge his frayed nerves. Her voice was kind and very feminine, the kind of voice that placated kings and gentled conquerors, but her face was a bit unsettling. Unkempt red hair, with lines of grey - The hair of a Witch. Her eyes were blue within blue, and face that bore an elegant and patrician shape, though slightly sagging from age. Under any other circumstances, Kasia would appear like an ordinary Bene Gesserit witch, but her mannerism, however, were completely unsettling. There was something wild about her - laughing and mocking, a sort of ridiculing tendency not normally found among the Bene Gesserit.
"A little over two hundred," responded Stravan, too tired to make trouble.
"And what of Kasumi?"
"Your pet face dancer is safe. She's waiting for you in one of the shuttles. She has the Xeno artifact."
"Good. Good. Let us retreat back to the shuttles before the Machines return."
Hackett gave a hand signal to one of his subordinates, and the retreat immediately went underway. He then turned back to Kasia. "Do you think the artifact is really what the Cerberii claim it to be?"
A smile emerged on Kasia Shepard's face, and strange spark came to her eyes. This was her face whenever she plotted her constant pranks.
"I have no patience for your tricks today, witch! A yes or no would suffice."
Shepard chuckled and looked to the hole where the xeno survivors were being evacuated. Blue creatures, hulking lizard creatures, elephant like giants, little lizard things, weird looking avian aliens... So much variety, she thought.
"We will discuss the artifact and the Cerberii later my beloved husband. For now, let us enjoy our very own First Contact," she said without taking her eyes off the procession of xeno refugees, who were gawking at her and most of their men. Some looked like they were protesting, others were whimpering, but most simply looked scared. They clearly did not wish to go along with the strange creatures, but the alternative was to stay in a planet that was being attacked by Reapers.
Hackett thoughtfully touched the hole on his armor again, and decided to change the subject. "What are you planning Kasia? Really? Why the Xenos?"
"Why the Xenos? Oh, you know. I just felt like it. That's all!"
This was too much. "You and I know what will happen when our fleet finds out that you rescued these Xenos. The Sardaukar will be furious and there's no telling what the Cerberii will do. Even some of my own mentats are complaining about your orders."
"If you'll recall correctly, Stravan, the senior officers of the Brazil voted on rescuing the Xenos. We have consensus on our side, so there's no need to worry."
"Some of the the crew and junior officers disagree."
Ah! So that's what he's worried about. "They think that the Bene Gesserit Witch has manipulated their leaders. The vile Witch with her wiles and tricks? Ehehehehehehe?" She cackled as she rubbed her hands together in the caricature image of a plotting Bene Gesserit.
Hackett did not take the bait. "I am concerned about the morale and opinions of our crew and allies. They will question your motives. You know that very well."
"Are those the words of a focused mentat? Or are they the mewlings of a neurotic old man?" The rebuke was spoken with a small tint of Voice, and a great deal of sarcasm.
"Our interference here is unnecessary, at best, and dangerous at worst," Hackett snapped. "We came here to rescue your Face Dancer. She is safe. We should not complicate our situation by exposing ourselves to unnecessary dangers."
"These Xenos are dangerous?"
"To bring them to one of our ship is VERY dangerous, and that is a prime projection of approximate certainty." Hackett saw the Bene Gesserit's face frown. She hated it when he used Mentat-isms, which is why he used them often. "They will divide our crew and our allies, cause friction. You know that. Half of them want to reveal ourselves to the Xenos, while the other half want to keep our existence a secret. Look Kasia, I know the potential rewards of learning more about the inhabitants of this galaxy, but our current situation is both dangerous and volatile."
"Danger and Volatility is the essence of the Golden Path, my dear Mentat, an eternity of surprises, remember?" The Bene Gesserit answered, but the meaning of her words cut deep. It was meant to rebuke Hackett, to remind him that humanity's survival was based on the paradoxical need to confront the unknown, to seek danger. This, Hackett understood all too easily, a lesson that most of humanity had learned from Leto's Peace, but the Mentat in him knew and understood other lessons as well. Witches were not the only ones who saw the terrors and beauty of the Scattering after all.
"There are many kinds of dangers, many kinds of paths." Hackett answered, an obvious taunt.
"And the safest ones lead to destruction..." The Witch answered, refusing to play his word games. All humans know these lessons in the very depths of their being, wherever they are; whatever they may have become.
"Dangerous ones sometimes lead to the same ends as well," the Mentat retorted, and his normally harsh face softened, "Please Kasia. I just want to know what you're planning. How do we benefit by saving these Xenos?"
Shepard's Blue in Blue eyes stared at him with a poise and self-control that was rare for her. "We came to this Galaxy seeking many things, each one of us, husband," she spoke the word tenderly. "But we are interlopers. If we are to settle here then we must get acquainted with our neighbors."
"Your neighbors are being exterminated by the Machines." He left his true statement unspoken: This galaxy is an Abattoir. Let the Cerberii have it if they wish, but we and Sardaukar should go back to the Scattering, back among other humans, even the dangerous and evil ones. I do not wish to be among Xenos...
Kasia gently caressed her husband's face and spoke in a gentle tone. "We cannot escape from everything that makes us uneasy, Stravan. Infinity is our birthright, remember? The Scher Nbiw," she said simply, the meaning of her words clear enough. Then, her face lit up, and her tone changed. "Also, because one of the aliens have two pairs of testicles. I want to see what their genitals look like." The implied infidelity quickly shattered whatever atmosphere of tenderness existed before.
Stravan's wrathful glare returned and he quickly got up and tried to go back to his men, before turning around and snarling at Kasia with a look of uncertainty on his face. "Please tell me that you didn't have us go through all this trouble just so you could observe the genitals of a bunch of aliens!"
"Of course not! I also plan to dissect them," she said with a dimpled smile.
Stravan shook his head in surrender. "I give up. You can't argue with a Witch. All I ask is that you tell me your plan when the time comes."
Kasia looked at her husband as he walked away back to his men. Silly old fool, she thought with some tenderness. Of course, I'm plotting something. But the Xenos are simply a distraction. The chaos that they will cause among our allies and crew will buy us precious time, especially against the Cerberii... and then, we'll see.
"And besides," she said to herself, "I really want to meet the neighbors."
1 - Aras is 2181 Arion in Mass Effect, a planet located in the Psi Tophet System, the same system that is home to 2181 Despoina (Cuttlefish Land).
2 - In God Emperor of Dune, Leto II, attached sand trout on his skin, and they formed into a complex exoskeleton that gave him super speed, super strength as well as protection from poisons, projectiles and even Las Guns. The Synth-Skins here are cheap knockoffs of that armor.