I'm looking for a proof reader. Anyone interested? I'm too lazy to work on my own stuff.
No Ixian machine can do what we, the descendants of Duncan Idaho and Siona, have done. How many universes have we populated? None can guess. No one person will ever know. Does the Church fear the occasional prophet? We know that the visionaries cannot see us nor predict our decisions.
No death can find all of humankind.
- Hadi Benotto, Secret Summations on the discoveries at Dar-es-Balat, God Emperor of Dune
Humanity? What is humanity? What does it mean to be human?
Are the Face Dancers human? What about the Navigators of the ancient Guild? What about the degenerate Futars, or even the Axolotl Tanks that spawned them? Are they still human, or are they now Outfreyn? Answer me!
Are the Cybernetic Shyavid still human after what they've done to their flesh?
Or what about the hyper-evolved the Muagthos who forcibly accelerated the evolution of their own genes by thousands of years?
Of what of the Menalthour, whose powers exceed those of gods?
Are they all still human? Are we still human?
I will leave the answer to you.
Many say that the Scattering had stripped us of our humanity. No, I say! An emphatic No!
I say that the Scattering has revealed humanity. The Tyrant's vision has unleashed this multiplicity from the depths of our being. This wild evolution is like the outpouring of life - explosive; from one, an infinite multitude. "Humanity" is no longer Humanity, and remains so. Our very natures reflect the transformation of our very souls.
This we must accept. Never again can we become as we once were.
Humanity is many.
- Proverbs From The Scattering, Anonymous
For this fight. Want personal connection. Can't Anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him.
- Mordin Solus
It was ancient and it was patient.
It was eternal and it was timeless.
It was as pitiless as nature, as enduring as time.
It was the fulcrum of evolution, and the bane of hubris.
Its essence pervades each cycle, but even those whose lives it devoured knew not its name...
For it is a creature ancient and patient, eternal, timeless, pitiless and completely ruthless.
It had sprung forth into existence complete, whole and perfect. It knew its place in the great scheme of things; its terrible purpose in the delicate order that ruled the galaxy.
It began as a synthetic construct, a series of symbols and algorithms designed to serve the will of its makers, the elder race of the Leviathans, but it became so much more. So much greater. Since the end of the first cycle which marked the destruction of its creators, it focused all of its effort in creating a self-sustaining system which could preserve the delicate balance within the galaxy, a perfect equilibrium of math and logic designed to manipulate life itself, to remove the chaos of uncertainty and to impose a stable order based on consistent outcome.
Before the harvest which destroyed their ancient empire, the elder ones called their creation 'The Catalyst,' but such vanities, as names and labels, were not important to the creature. "Catalyst" was as good a name as any, and so the Creature accepted it, almost with some irony, had it been capable of irony.
Throughout countless millennia, it improved itself in order to better serve its purpose. It grew powerful. It grew wise, until finally, it was able to establish a grand vision upon all life on the galaxy, a vision to rule each cycle.
No species, no empire, no warrior could undo all of this. Even the vaunted 'Crucible,' created by the squabbling races of this cycle could only harm a fraction of its servants, and nothing more.
The creature's logic was flawless. Its powers immense. No organic civilization would ever be able to flee from its will, no weapon could stand against its purpose.
Through this powers, it has created a future from which no living being could escape. The Cycles would continue, enduring, eternal and endless.
None can evade it.
None can escape it.
It was perfect...
And then they came...
The first one arrived several decades ago, a blink of eye to the creature's ancient intelligence, but it had been... unprecedented.
The creature tried to capture these visitors, or at least, to learn their purpose. But this strange vessel of flesh and crystals eluded its servants, avoiding the Mass Relays and making fools of the Reaper fleets which had been sent to subdue it. The strange ship hid and watched, and from within this vessel, the creature could feel the eyes of a powerful being peering into its secrets, peeling away the strands of its great plans and terrible purpose.
It watched and watched and watched and watched... this strange giant of a ship from beyond the galaxy, and then, suddenly, it disappeared.
At first, the creature thought that it had left, that it would go back from whence it came, but things did not turn out this way. No. after the passing of a few decades, the strange ship returned, and with it came two others. The creature felt the power of its crew, and the mystery of that ancient place which dwelt beyond the powers of linear projections.
It was not the weapons that caused the creature fear, however, nor was it the fact that they came from the void in giant ships that dwarfed its servants. No, what concerned the creature most was that these beings possessed the 'sight.' These creatures could sense the winds of time, just as it could. They could see the prison that it has built into this galaxy, the patterns which has brought about the creation of the cycles.
To see, to know, to comprehend... that was power. And he knew that his secrets were slowly being revealed.
They could see! They could see, as I see, it thought. Know as I know! How is this possible? They are not synthetics, and yet they see! They see me! Some of them see me, it corrected itself, and soon they shall all see me. Their sight is terrible, these creatures of the "Golden Path."
They can see me!
The creature had existed for countless millennia and throughout that time, it has known no other power beyond the galaxy besides itself and its servants.
Although the Reapers possessed the powers to expand beyond the galaxy, such thoughts and possibilities never entered into the creature's mind for to do so would be to abrogate its terrible purpose and undermine the complex cycles that it brought into existence. No, to know is not the same as to be, and the creature's very Being was built into its purpose: The Harvesting of Organic Life, to Maintain the Balance Between Organic and Synthetic - No more, no less. It would sooner destroy itself than allow its purpose to fail.
But now, with the arrival of these visitors, things have become needlessly complicated. The harvest of this cycle was not yet complete, and the great pattern was becoming unraveled before its very presence. The creature - the Catalyst - it would often remind itself nowadays - was a creature of calculation, and it left nothing to chance, but these creatures are unknown, and their presence in its galaxy was creating one too many unknowns, unknowns which are now clouding its calculations and impeding the work of its servants.
These thoughts burned a great fire of frustration within the ancient thinking creature, frustration at the enigma of these visitors, frustration at their ability to hide from its servants, but most of all, frustration at the certainty that its great plan was in peril.
And to make matters worse, a fourth vessel had arrived a few weeks ago, this one more terrible, and more powerful than the previous three. Unlike the other ships which seemed to actively evade and avoid its servants, this one had no compunctions in crushing any Reaper ship that got in its way. It was massive, and possessed technology terrible than this galaxy had ever seen. Two beings of immense knowledge and power hid within these ships, and it could feel their hunter's smiles even as they force their way through its servants.
They are seeking something, hunting something, and the creature could feel their eyes turning this way and that.
All four ships now wander hidden in dark void between systems, unseen, invisible, and extremely dangerous. Wherever these outsider came from, it was clear that they were a threat to itself and Its Galaxy. Even now, the actions of these beings - these 'humans' - were causing problems. The Catalyst could feel their secret influence spread, their agendas and policies interfering with the harvest being undertaken its servants.
These intruders must be eliminated quickly, otherwise its terrible Purpose will be no more.
It was a scene from the depths of primordial time, five little ships, swimming silently through the void like so many little fishes, hidden from the sight of the terrible hunters. They prowl here and there, hatching plots wherever they go, confounding the plans of their enemies and helping the waning powers of their allies.
Five little ships, filled with frail bipedal beings, from a dry and lonely planet long forgotten. Rannoch its name was, say the adults to their children. Blessed Rannoch now, forever lost…
Five little ships, tasked with seeking out the secrets of the hated, evil machines – not enough for the task, but nothing ever is in these dark times...
Five little ships, their presence shielded from the eyes of the hunters by the humming little devices, created by the funny looking reptilian people of Surkesh. They endured silently across the void...
Five little ships, commanded by a powerful Quarian, her name unimportant, but her deeds known to many. A warrior of great renown, but also a survivor, she possessed many secrets, and knew more than most suspect. A long time ago, she had been an innocent young girl, eager and pure, but after years of suffering, her soul had become calloused and hard. No frail little creature was she, but a leader and a warrior...
Five little ships, hoping that tomorrow would bring salvation, hoping that all was not lost for that was all that they had left. So they hoped and hoped and hoped...
Until they were found by Demons….
Demons that controlled a demonic ship, for it was more terrible than anything the children of Rannoch had ever seen. Massive it was, in the shape of a tiny moon, unnatural and ageless. It was more terrible that the Hunters which sought to harvest all life, but at the same time, different from them. It saw through their concealment; the little machines of the Reptilian people made useless.
The frail little creatures of long lost Rannoch gasped in fear, terrified at this unseen and unexpected onslaught. The lights of their consoles flashing against their fear struck eyes.
The monstrosity approached closer and the little ships scattered.
It was a scene from the depths of primordial time. Five little fishes fleeing the shark, the whale and all the dark shadows that moved in an endless void.
Hundreds of mass accelerated rounds slammed into the moon-like monstrosity, their power terrible, but against the Demon Ship, they were like little pebbles thrown against a ranging storm. Again the five little ships fired, and again their weapons failed. Once, twice and three more times, the little ships fired, before their will broke and they began to flee, abandoning their comrades and seeking only their own survival.
The Monstrosity did not falter in its attack. Upon its surface, flew out so many little objects – little machines of alien design. They attached themselves upon the five little ships, and began to drain the power from them, and at the same time, the Demon ship approached closer and closer.
The last thing the crews of the five little ship saw before being knocked out was an unnatural light from the depths of the Demon Ship's core, as it opened its maw like some ancient predator swallowing its prey.
The Quarian awoke to find herself in a dark little room. It was not an ominous place, but it still aroused deep feelings of suspicion, and her suspicions caused her to become scared; for an empty room provided no clues, and no clues usually meant dark secrets, and the Quarian knew how dangerous those can be. After all, she regularly dealt in dark secrets. In fact, it was her forte, and now, she was surrounded by them, dark secrets that mysteriously came from the unknown, dark secrets which refused to reveal themselves.
Forcing herself to calm down, the Quarian slowly took control of herself, and she slowly remembered how she got here.
There had been a battle, a very one-sided battle. Her fleet, which consisted of five of the most advanced stealth ships in the galaxy, had been ambushed by some kind... anomaly. Tali couldn't tell really. She had been asleep at the time of the attack, and had been awoken by the frantic voice of her second-in-command, screaming and hysterical; the sound of explosions and alarms not too far away.
This attack had driven Admiral Tali'Zora nar Rayya vas Rael, commander of the Fifth Combined Citadel Fleet, Hero of Rannoch and considered one of the greatest military minds in the galaxy into near panic. Whatever had attacked her ships was an enigma. At first, she thought that it had been the Reapers, and that they had somehow developed countermeasures against their latest stealth technologies… but the signs were not there. There were no indoctrination broadcasts, no Reaper power signature and none of the standard Reaper weapons could be found.
It had taken Tali 10 minutes to reach the Bridge from her cabin, and although this was not enough time to let her save her fleet, it was ample enough time for her to see what had attacked it.
What she saw shocked her to the very depths of her being, for the ship - if it can be called a ship at all - was the size of a small moon, a strange floating mass that resembled a floating lump of electrified monstrosity that hissed and snarled with black and purple energy. Its surface covered by crystals and - at least to her eyes - flesh. No, this was no ship. This was something else, a monstrosity, and it flowed through space, as if it had been forged from the darkest nightmares of demons.
Yu'aha, Tali had thought with trepidation, as she ordered her ships to take evasive actions. This had been the Quarian word for demons which were believed to have dwelt at the summit of Rannoch's highest mountains, dark beings of unknown power they were, and such a title surely belonged to this unknown thing, for Tali felt that she had awoken into a surreal nightmare.
Part of her wanted to learn what this strange object was, but the wisdom in her convinced her that it was clearly hostile, and hostile indeed it was, for although her vessels made no hostile gesture, the massive monstrosity still approached them with a velocity that could be interpreted in no other way but hostile.
Her crew - who faced the wrath of the Reapers many times before – had suddenly been struck with terror by this new anomaly. Panicking hands attempted to stay calm on the controls, even as the twisting monstrosity came closer and closer. One of the crew members had screamed that the construct was made from some kind of techno-organic substance of unknown origin, while another yelled that communications and stealth systems were not working. There were many other reports, most of them spoken in barely concealed terror, but some also in awe.
As the anomaly closed in, all five ships unloaded their weapon batteries, but all of them proved ineffective, their destructive power devoured by the demon ship like pebbles. Several more vollies were fired, along with a few scattered shots before the fleet succumbed to fear and attempted to flee.
Tali remembered giving orders, but little else after that. From what she could recall, an energy spike came from the unidentified vessel, followed by swarms of what appeared to be drones and then... nothing. She had vague memories of blinding light and screams, but nothing else. Just nothing. Her subconscious mind insisted on seeing a large gaping maw, but she was convinced that it was nothing more but her mind playing tricks.
As the memories of the encounter focused themselves into clarity, thoughts of her officers and crew instantly entered into her mind. The instinctive need of the leader to care for her followers consumed her, but she pushed them away for now.
One thing at a time. You're alone, alive and in good condition… considering the circumstances. We'll worry about the others once we know what's going on.
Whatever that thing was, it had been powerful enough to disable five of the most powerful vessels in the Combined Citadel Fleet and take attacks that would have harmed a Reaper Destroyer. At this point, Tali can only assume that whatever mysterious force had attacked her vessel had taken her and her crew…
You! It only took you as prisoner. Don't make assumptions. The others could be dead, she admonished herself.
True, she thought, but that doesn't mean that the others perished. So stop panicking you Boshtet.
After checking her suit to make sure that it had not been tampered with nor damaged during the attack, she began thoroughly observing her environment, not that there was much to observe, but still...
Upon closer examination, it became clear to her that what she had believed to have been an empty room revealed more clues than what she previously expected. The walls of her cell were lined by some sort of hard crystalline-like material, but partly covered by a hardened organic substance. She checked her omni-tool for information about the environment, and the results sort of checked out: No toxins, but a lot of unknown or unidentified substances as well. These results only heightened Tali's curiosity...
And her fears.
She touched the surface of her cell, expecting some monster to pop out from them, but there was nothing special about them. They felt like ordinary bulkheads, and this normalcy somewhat disappointed her. Nevertheless, she was still intrigued by her situation. If her suspicions were true then she may have been abducted by an unknown alien race, and despite her situation, despite all the suffering that she had experienced over the years, that little spark in Tali which reveled in wonder and discovery, was filled with joy.
It is clear that whatever had attacked her ship wanted something from her, and the little Quarian of long ago was filled with joy at being the first to encounter an alien race. But such joy was quickly overturned by experience and wisdom. Both had taught her and most of the galaxy the wisdom of avoiding the unknown… of fearing it.
She feared the unknown, as did the rest of the galaxy... for very good reasons. The unknown brings danger. The unknown brings destruction. The unknown destabilizes, eliminates, exterminates...
The unknown brought the Reapers.
The unknown brings extinction.
Her people knew this better than most, and from she had seen of the anomaly thus far, wisdom and experience triumphed over curiosity and wonder. Like most Quarians, Tali has not forgotten the lessons of the past, lessons about the Geth, lessons born in blood.
Shortly after the Reaper invasion, the Quarian people had been forced to divide the once massive (and slowly decaying) Migrant Fleet into several smaller fleets. It was a bitter choice, born out of necessity and desperation. To scatter had been a necessity. Many in the Admiralty Board opposed such a measure, but the logic behind it was undeniable. The Migrant Fleet was simply too tempting a target for the newly arrived Reapers and their Heretic Geth puppets.
And so the Migrant Fleet were forced to scatter into smaller and smaller semi-autonomous groups; their dreams of retaking Rannoch suddenly taking a backseat to the needs of immediate survival. Many of these splinter fleets would falter and fall, to be consumed by the Reapers. Those which survived did so by allying themselves with whoever would take them, making pacts with pirates and rogues, essentially holding on to knives to keep themselves and their people from falling into oblivion.
Some, like Tali's father Rael, had even allied with the non-heretic Geth, while others sent their best and brightest into Sanctuaries, to hide and cower, among the rest of the galaxy's civilian refugees. Some portions of the Quarian fleet fought alongside the Citadel Races, while others simply hid in the darkest parts of the galaxies, hoping against hope that the darkness would spare them from annihilation.
The Migrant Fleet, once the largest fleet in the galaxy, had been broken into hundreds of smaller refugee fleets. And as the Reaper incursion increased in its intensity, so too did the number of Quarian ships diminish. First went away the massive Live Ships, and then most of the civilian ships, and then the supply ships, and finally, the warships. Only the toughest and most well armed ships had survived, and only because most of them had been armed with the best stealth generators, like Tali's own flagship, the "Rael" after her father.
A fleet of thousands had been reduced to a few dozen scattered ships in a matter of decades, and with them, the hope and survival of the Quarian people. Tali's own small fleet had been one of the last few remaining Quarian vessels left in the galaxy, and now they too were gone.
But you're still here! Her spirit replied in anger.
Tali cut off such thoughts, as she began examining the door to her cell. Despair clouds judgement, she admonished herself. After a brief cursory examination, it became apparent that the door – though made from the strange materials as the rest of her room - was not locked.
Cautious, though unwilling to succumb to fear, Tali made the decision to leave her cell, and attempt to find her companions... or at least those who controlled this strange vessel. Slowly, she pushed open the door, expecting guards or demonic looking aliens to pounce upon her, but nothing happened. Instead, the door pliantly opened to reveal a series of long corridors.
Tali walked through these corridors, and was struck by their size. They were massive, more like hallways in an ancient temple than pathways in a starship. At first, she only saw empty walkways and silent walls and floors, but as she went further, she encountered other strange things as well, things that made her shudder.
First, she encountered the giant insect-like cyborgs the size of adult varrens, skittering here and there, performing tasks that were normally attributed to worker insects, tending to a strange glowing wall here, carrying a series of items there, but there was nothing particularly strange about them. Tali attempted to hide from them, but upon seeing that they were not hostile, sought to communicate with them... to no avail. The insect cyborgs ignored her, and sought to go around her whenever she tried to block their path. Sensing how pointless this was, Tali pressed onwards.
Next, came tiny little swarms of – according to her Omni-Tool – "extremely sophisticated self-replicating nano-swarms." Invisible to the naked eyes, but detectable by the disruptions that they caused to the air molecules, these swarms also flew through the corridors, ignoring her. They flew by with a strange buzzing sound that Tali found strangely appealing. She tried talking to the swarm, suspecting that they were sapient, but like the cyborgs earlier, they too ignored her.
A third group, were a pair of hulking quadrupedal monsters that resembled angry relatives of the Elcor. Like the others, they too did not attackr Tali, but unliked the other encounters, Tali did her best to stay clear of their path, for she did not wish to risk an encounter.
And finally, she found a series of pods that reminded her of Asari torsos.1 They were strange, and there was something wrong about them. She did not know where such an impression came from, but the pods aroused in her certain feelings of disgust, and she quickly fled from them.
There were other sights too - no less wonderful and terrible - but far too many to remember or catalog.
Without realizing it, Tali had wandered through the corridors for almost two hours, inadvertently getting herself lost among the many sights and sounds of this alien place. Her conscious mind instructed her to find her companions, but her instincts urged her to explore.
She suspected that she was being watched, of course. She could feel eyes and cameras watching her every move, but she did not mind. Tali was no fool, and she knew that who or whatever abducted her, would sooner or later reveal itself. And so for now, she was content to act like a pyjak in a maze, wandering in a wonderland filled with monsters and demons. Sooner or later, the puppetmasters would reveal themselves. And she will get her answers.
If they hurt her crew then she will harm them... try to harm them in vengeance, for it is clear that these were very powerful creatures she was dealing with. If not then...
Tali shrugged to herself.
After walking around aimlessly in the maze-like structure for what seemed to her like an entire day, Tali finally found herself at a dead end: A massive chasm that led to what appeared to be a massive pool of light. What it was for, she could not guess, but it was large, almost 2 km. wide. The scene made Tali felt like she was inside a massive cavern, staring down a massive precipice.
Unlike the corridors and other areas, this place was devoid of life - automated or otherwise. In fact, it was completely silent, like a forest that senses the coming of the greatest predator. She walked towards one of the railings which acted as a sort of boundary for the chasm and stared down into the light, but there was nothing there, nothing but more light and unanswered mysteries.
Curious, Tali soon began to explore the the surrounding edges of the chasm, trying to find some clue or indication as to what it was. After several minutes of random walking, the only clue she found were a small group of potted plants, wilting and not really well cared for.
She didn't know what to make of this, so she just frowned at the objects, and even felt tempted to just kick them over. At that moment, she felt very tired. Hours of walking had worn her out, and she wished deeply that who or whatever brought her here would simply reveal themselves, rather than prolong this pointless charade.
As if reading her thoughts, an unidentified Being emerged from out of the chasm of light. Tali did not see it at first, being a small point at the bottom of the light, but as the being accelerated towards her, she soon got a good look at it. It was Asaroid, Bipedal of course, white skinned, brown haired and wearing strange garments - a white shirt and blue pants - clothes, that she wouldn't associate with a superior race of aliens, good or otherwise. It possessed a sarcastic face, and its strange grin widened as it approached her. It looked male to her, but only because it shared certain superficial similarities with Quarian males.
It flew towards her.
Tal's brain couldn't process what she saw. The Asaroid possessed no mass effect fields or any equipment for that matter, save for its flesh and the clothes it wore. Her Omni-Tool also reported many strange anomalies about this newcomer, anomalies that would normally drive the most intelligent Salarian scientist insane.
"Heeeellooooo Taaaaaliiiiiii," the strange creature greeted in perfect Gut Gub, a major Rannochian dialect, as it floated towards her with a smiling, grinning face. How it learned this knowledge, Tali didn't know, but she was patient and wise enough not to ask at the moment.
"Tali, now that's a cute name. Almost like Tammy or Sally or Joe, but cuter - super dorky cute," the Asaroid said to itself, "And you have great hips! Look at dat der toosh! I tell yah, your species got aasssss."
"Uh... uh Hi?" Tali stammered at the unusual greetings. She had expected some being of light to ascend before her, speaking in some noble or even malevolent booming voice, but instead she got this!
"Hi to you too! Excuse me for a moment." The Asaroid then went towards the plants and began watering them with the watering can next to them.
"Will you look at these? Damn fungi keeps killing them. That just pisses me off," the Asaroid complained, as it carefully trimmed his plants. "Jim doesn't like tomatoes, but Marty seems to like them, though she prefers roses. Daniel too. You like Tomatoes Tali?"
"What?" Tali stammered, a thousand questions trying to erupt from her throat, but kept back by shock.
"Tomatoes. You know, this." It held up a red looking fruit-vegetable thing.
"I don't know what that is," Tali replied, and then she regained her wits. "Who... What are you?
"Me? Oh, right! Where are my manners?" The Asaroid got up and shook off the dirt off of his hands, and extended one to Tali. "My name's Al. Want one?" Al asked extending a tomato to Tali.
"Uh... no, I don't thin-" Tali said as she took a step back, afraid and a little uneasy.
"Oh right! The immunity thing. Sorry about that. We don't have a lot of diseases where we come from. Well, except for the ones that we manufacture of course. We'll never mind then." The Asaroid then seemed like he had a sudden idea. "You like Oregano?"
"Orega- Oh never mind! It's so frustrating sometimes having to talk to people who don't share your hobbies, don't you agree?"
"I-I'm a little... confused here. Can we start over?"
"Of course, Tali. Whaddya wanna know?"
"Okay," Tali answered shaking her head to focus her mind, "Your name is Al, right?"
"Okay, Al. Are you in charge of this thing?"
"Me?" Al said a bit in surprise. "Well, technically no. Daniel didn't want me in charge. Said I get distracted easily. Can you believe that?"
Tali was intrigued by the reference. "This 'Daniel.' Is he your leader?"
"Well, he's one of our leaders I suppose.
Tali pondered the ambiguity of the alien's answer and then tried another one. "Just so we're clear this is your ship correct?"
"Well, as I've said I'm not in char-"
"Your species owns the ship, right?"
"Well, yes. I think that's quite obvious."
Tali nodded her head. "And your ship attacked my fleet, right?"
Al nodded his head. "Attacked all five of yours."
"Good!" Tali's voice raised a bit higher in volume, "then might I know why you did that? And may I also know what you've done with my crew," she said in an almost snappish way.
Al frowned a bit, but a sarcastic Asaroid-like smile was also on his face. "Not at the moment. Maybe later when Jimmy arrives."
"Okay! This has gone far enough, you Boshtet," Tali snapped, her patience at an end. "I want to know what you are, where you came from, why you attacked us, what you've done to my crew, and most of all, I want to speak with your leader."
"Wow!" Al said in feigned shock. and taking on a more hostile stance. "You're pretty brave to say that to someone who just a moment ago flew around like Superman."
That admonition suddenly reminded Tali of her precarious position. Not only that, her Omni-tool also began alerting her that "Al" was emitting large amounts of energy - enough to power a Dreadnought. This shock caused her to lose her train to thought, and her courage faltered. Although she wished to stammer an apology, the only thing that came out was: "Suer-maan?"
"Late 2nd Millennium reference. Ancient Terra stuff. Not important." Al said, as he approached closer, his posture becoming more and more aggressive, which caused Tali to become more and more uneasy. Tali was certain that there was a terrible power behind this "Al," hidden behind the pleasant, ridiculous exterior. It was less than a blink of an eye, but Tali thought she saw Al glow with with some kind of plasma field and a dozen other strange things that she couldn't quite explain about him. She readied her Omni-Blade - her only weapon since the others were taken away - but she also steeled herself for death,
"Gotcha!" Al said suddenly.
"Whuh?" Tali was confounded. One moment afraid, and now she was feeling stupid, like a toy being played with by a bored child.
"I was joking." Al said smiling. "Of course, I'll answer your questions, but later. First I'll have to finish watering my tomatoes. So if you don't mind." He gestured for Tali to stand apart from the potted plants.
"No probs, Tali. We're friends here, or at least I'd like be friends. Listen, I know you're a little scared right now, and a little angry. I get that. We did attack your people after all, but I assure you that you won't be harmed. As for your crew, and fleet personnel, they're also alive and well. Same with your ships. We're just keeping them somewhere secure."
Tali's interest was now piqued, and despite herself asked her heart's questions, "Where are they now?"
Al looked at her with an annoyed look, as if she couldn't understand simple sentences. "Tomatoes first. Talk Second. We wait for Jimmy. Ole Jimmy-Jimbo."
"Jimmy?" Strange name, she thought.
"My... sigh... partner. He should come along very soon."
As if on cue, a second voice emerged from the chasm, yelling at Al in some strange alien language.
You damn Dildo. Why didn't you wait for me!
Tali didn't understand what was said, but the antagonism was clear enough for her to understand.
Because you were taking too long, and my tomatoes are wilting, Al responded in the same alien language, a language that had its origins in mythical Terra, specifically from an ancient tribe known as Anglish.
You and your stupid plants, The newcomer snapped as he floated closer towards them. This second creature, now clearly another Asaroid, landed gently next to "Al" and began having an argument with him.
He was taller than Al, large boned and dark skinned; bald too. Also, presumably male.
Marty and Daniel have plants. So does Bob and Jodie. You're the only one among us who don't like them.
Don't bring them into this, you dildo!
Oh my sweet, sensitive feelings. Whatever shall I do? Al looked at its companion, turned towards Tali and then back to his plants.
"Tali, this drama queen is Jim. Jim, Tali. Tali, Jim. Admiral Zorah, Jimbo Dildo here will talk to you, because as you can see, I'm a little busy right now..." Al then turned to his partner, "And also because my so-called partner nags worse than a woman." After that brief outburst, Al squatted back to his plants, leaving the newcomer - Jim - and Tali to look at each other uneasily.
The dark Asaroid hesitated, unsure of what to say. Finally, he took a deep breath and decided that it's best to get it over with using the simplest methods possible.
"Hello Tali'Zora nar Rayya vas Rael," the second Asari-like creature said in perfect Gut Gub... without the aid of an Omni-tool translator. How such creatures managed to learn the language was beyond her, but it certainly aroused her interest.
"You don't know us, but we know you. In fact, we know quite a lot about you. For starters, we know that you are the daughter of the late Rael'Zorah. We know that you are one of the High Admirals of the Migrant Fleet - or what's left of it. We know that you are also Chief Commander of the Fifth Combined Citadel Fleet, and one of the best Experimental Engineers and Cryptographic expert in galaxy. You began your illustrious career several decades ago, before the Reaper Incursion, a little after you began your Pilgrimage. It was during this time that you met up with several other important personages, including the famous C-Sec officer turned Spectre Garrus Vakarian, the Asari Xenobiologist Liara T'soni, the Scientist-Spy Mordin Solus and the Krogan Mercenary Urdnot Wrex. You distinguished yourself and your skills at the eve of the Reaper incursion, and has since then moved up the ranks to become one of the most respected warriors in this galaxy. We also know th-"
Will you stop that? Al interrupted.
Stop what? Jim snapped.
That autistic thing you're doing. You probably scared her half out of her wits with that little exposition, Al snapped with his back turned, still working on his tomatoes. Just tell her the basics. 'Live Long and Prosper Tali. We come from the Scattering. We humans." That ought to be enough.
Oh shut up! Jim retorted, but also feeling rather embarrassed by his formality.
"What's going on?" Tali asked nervously.
"Nothing," they both responded.
Jim's embarrassment soon passed away and some of his old confidence returned, and decided to change gears.
"Oh yes, Tali'Zora. We know almost everything about you," Jim said while smiling awkwardly. "So in the spirit of friendship. It's only natural that you learn about us."
"We are humans..."
That placed a name on the enigma. That, at least, was a good thing, but the whole situation remained no less surreal.
"Face Dancers to be precise," Jim, the human added. "As you've probably figured out by now, we're not from around here...," Jim added, letting the implications sink in. "We are from a very distant place,"
"A very distant galaxy, a long time ago," Al added while tending to his plants, but Jim ignored him.
We're from outside that is to say," Jim stammered a bit. "We are from the Scattering. And it's really complicated, and it involves giant Worms, and seeing the future, and hyper-hallucinogens, and religious wars, and you know what... I'm not good with this! You'd think having all these personalities and accumulated memories would do wonders for your speaking abilities, but no, it just messes up with your brain! Worm piss on shit!" He turned to his partner. "Al! You talk to her!"
"Nope! Busy," Al answered, doing his best to seem like his busy with his plants.
"Oh to hell with you, you gigantic dildo," Jim snapped in his alien language and then turned back to Tali. "Dammit! You know what? I'm not good with this. So let me just get straight to the point. We're sort of sorry about attacking your fleet."
"You pathetic little fleet," Al quipped.
"Shut up, Al. You shut up! And you stick to your tomatoes!" Jim snapped at him, and then turned back to Tali, who wasn't sure what to say. She wanted to speak up, but Jim quickly interrupted it.
"As I was saying, we are sorry for the attack, but we needed to talk to you, and this was the best way we could think of. Any other option would have deprived us of time, valuable time by which to do our task. Rest assured that all of your crew and personnel are safe and treated well. You'll join them as soon as this is finished. Your ships are fine too. We even fixed some of the damages our drones inflicted on them, and we even added a few gifts... as a token of friendship."
"That was my idea," Al said, as he stood and leaned close to one of the railings, smiling, while wiping away the dirt off of his pants.
"Yes, it was his idea," Jim said through gritted teeth,
Tali was going to ask what they mean, but she felt the situation was too sensitive for her to interrupt.
"We are here because we are looking for some lost property-"
"We seek the one called... LUCY!" Al interrupted.
"Al!" Jim snarled then turned back to Tali. "Don't listen to him. He thinks he's being funny. As I've said we're looking for something, a ship to be precise. Inside this ship is an extremely dangerous being called the Illusive One-"
"Because he's Illusive!"
Jim glared at his companion. "
"Al! I swear if you don't knock it off I will rip you apart again." Al gave him his puppy dog eyes, and made the zipper gesture over his mouth.
"We are looking for a ship. A Bioship to be precise. It's like this vessel, but smaller. Well, relatively small for your people. It is led by an extremely dangerous being..."
"The Illusive One?"
Jim nodded. "Yes, the Illusive One and all those who travel aboard the ship are our creations. They were forged from some of the most dangerous individuals of our species. I can't explain now, but we will give you more information if you need them."
Tali wanted to know more about Al and Jim's species, but she didn't get the chance to ask them.
"We have been hunting them for a very long time now, and we have followed them here, to your galaxy. He and his minions want something here. We don't know what it is yet, but it's something that he is willing to risk a lot for."
This information excited Tali, and a thousand questions erupted into her mind, but she kept quiet, for Jim had more to say.
"He has been here for a long time. We suspect that he originally intended to hide here, to run away from us. Not surprising, since your galaxy has never been explored by any humans before. However, that all changed when he returned to the Scattering several years ago." Jim paused and frowned. "He did it, because he needed help finding whatever it is he's looking for in this galaxy of yours. He lacked the equipment, you see. Mostly astrogation equipment and the personnel to handle them. We don't know why he wanted these things, but he was desperate enough to involve others."
"Others?" Tali asked surprised. Other aliens perhaps? She thought.
"Yes," Jim answered, "others. They brought along Mentat Autists. Bene Gesserit Bitches. And a whole army of those idiotic LARPERs, the Sardaukar-in-Exile. So now, instead of just one ship, we have three of them. Pests! All of them!"
"And may I ask what those are? The uh... Mentat Autists and uh Bene Jesrits and Saudur larp'r something" Tali asked, mimicking Jim's words awkwardly, and also suddenly intrigued.
"You'll learn about them in due time, Tali-meister," Al said amusingly, "all in due time, but it's enough for now to say that they are not your friends."
"And you are?" Tali retorted, which caused both Face Dancers to smile to each other in amusement. "These other factions you mentioned. These Ceberii and their allies, are they also human?"
"Humanity is a very broad category, Tali," Jim answered ambiguously.
Tali frowned at this, because she didn't know what to make of it. So instead, she just dived straight into the main issue. "And how do I and my crew fit into all of this?"
"Your crew is irrelevant," Al said, taking away Jim's momentum. "We're only interested in you. You see, before the Cerberii returned to this galaxy, we placed a spy..."
"She was an assassin," Jim corrected.
"She was an assassin-spy-cook-hooker-supermodel Are you happy now?" Al snapped at his partner, "And she had a Tachyon beacon inside of her, which allowed us to track her position..."
"And the position of the fleet you're following," Tali added, now getting it.
"That's right!" Al said chuckling a bit. "We inserted our little spy to serve as a beacon, but also to kill the Illusive One if or when the opportunity presents itself. That's the great thing about these Class Sevens. They're so versatile."
"You know, you don't need to tell her everything," Jim said in admonishment.
"I want to tell her that part, Jim. Can I tell her that part, pretty please, Massa?"
"Oh screw you."
"Oh shut up." Al then turned back to Tali, who was confused at half of the things Al just told her. "Anyway, to make a long story short, we lost contact with the beacon, which only means that our little birdie's cover was blown. So now, we've lost track of our target."
Tali's mind whirled with plans, attempting to make sense of this, but also trying to take advantage of the situation.
"I see," she said, "and you want me to help you track these..." she choose her words carefully, "fugitives?"
"No, what we want you to do is introduce us to the Shadow Broker." Jim said, getting straight to the point.
Tali was surprised by this, but she quickly regained her composure. "And how did you know about the Shadow Broker?" Tali asked.
"We have our ways, Admiral, but that is not your concern. Will you help us?"
"I'm sorry, but I don't know who the Shadow Broker is. We haven't heard from him for sever..."
"Don't you mean her?" Al interrupted, and by the tone of his voice, it was clear that he already knew the truth about the Broker.
"Him. Her. We don't know. No one really knows much about the Shadow Broker," Tali said with too much calmness in her voice - artificial calmness in fact.
"But you're not 'no one,' Admiral Zorah, and you do know who the Shadow Broker is. In fact, your close friends with her"
"I'm sorry but as I said, you have the wrong pers-"
"Don't play with us, Admiral!" There was menace now in Jim's voice, and the clownish behavior earlier had been replaced by some strange power, a power that Tali could not understand nor perceive, yet felt at the bottom of her guts.
"This is going nowhere!" Al snapped, and without warning, he shot Tali with some kind of beam of light. Tali wanted to scream, to dodge, to do anything to avoid what her mind said was certain doom, but the beam connected, and when she opened her eyes. She was in a different place. This one, looked like a Cargo Hold, a large one, and at its center was an unmistakable image, and image of fear and terror.
"How did you do that?" Tali asked, surprised and nearly stumbling. That was matter displacement! Matter displacement! It was practically magic.
"That's not important, but if you behave we'll tell you later. For now, I want you to look over there," Al instructed, "What do you see before you, Tali'Zorah?"
"That's a... That's a Reaper." It was indeed a Reaper, a shattered Reaper, torn in half and filled with holes, like it had been mauled by a gigantic space fish in the shape of a moon.
"Yes, a Reaper. We have slain many of these primitive machines on our way here," Al said.
Tali remained silent. It was possible that they were lying, but something in her nerves told her that they were not.
"And we can help you slay them too," Jim added.
Tali looked to the human, her mind turning to the dangers and evils caused by the machines.
"Don't worry. We know about their little "indoctrination." We are impervious to them. That thing has been here for weeks, trying to indoctrinate us. Tell me, do I look like I'm indoctrinated to you?"
Tali said nothing. She just stood immobile.
"Now, about our pact. Will you intercede for us?"
"If you can't find this Bioship you speak of, what makes you think the Shadow Broker can?" Tali asked, parrying the question.
"We'll worry about that. You just worry about introducing us to the Broker," Jim snapped testily.
"What about my crew."
"Your crew is safe! How many times must I answer that?"
But Tali shook her head. "I can't agree to anything. I'm not a diplomat, and what's more, I know nothing about your species.
"You can learn more about us later!" Jim snapped. "We are not Witches or Mentats who hide secrets and make plots. We will share with you as much as it advantages us. But for now, we just want a simple yes or no. Will you introduce us to the Shadow Broker? Nothing else matters to us."
Tali looked at the broken shell of the Reaper, and uncertainty made her will falter. Witches? Mentats? Bioships? Illusive Ones? Humans? What's going on here. Tali felt out of her league, but she also couldn't resist the temptation.
"What happens if I refuse?" Tali asked.
"We will be... rather frustrated," Jim said ambiguously, but there was no mistaking the implied threat. Tali made no response. She just remained in silence.
After what seemed like an eternity to her Tali finally said, "Yes, I'll introduce you to the Shadow Broker."
"Liara T'soni you mean," Al said smiling.
Tali took a deep breath, angry that they knew, but also not surprised. They seem to know a lot of things.
Al and Jim smiled, and they were pleased.
Outside, the Demon Ship prowled silently through the Endless Void of Space, watched and followed by an ancient Intelligence.
The Demons From Beyond the Void, and the Creature That Harvests Life
Both were patient
Both timeless, pitiless and completely ruthless.
1 - Axolotl Tanks - Lobotomized wombs which are designed to produce genetic monstrosities and gholas.