I don't own Mass Effect, nor will I profit from this story.
This story is because I'm stalled on my other work, and wanted to try something in the first person. Thankfully, the Mass Effect universe has plenty of potential for this kind of story, and it gives me a chance to take it in a bit of a different direction. I know that there are plenty of self inserts in this particular setting, but I'm hoping to do something relatively fresh by arriving freakishly early in the game's timeline, and having a bit of a different situation in the long term.
Additional thanks to LogicalPremise for allowing me to utilize some of the plentiful background fluff he created for his stories.
Act 1: The Beginning
Chapter 1: The Arrival
When I woke up, it was to pain.
Not 'I have a headache' level of pain either, more like 'someone has a rusty piece of rebar and is currently using it to drill slowly into my skull' kind of pain. So, naturally, I groaned aloud and tried to get up, firmly intending on digging some Tylenol out of my suitcase before stumbling into the bathroom for a blisteringly hot shower.
Instead, a pair of firm arms pressed against my chest, and a woman's voice spoke urgently in a language I didn't know as she fought to hold me in place. My eyes snapped open in shock, only to be blocked by a gloved hand before I could see anything besides a blur of light.
"What the hell?"
Well, that was what I tried to say. It came out more of a loud mumble of random syllables than anything else.
"Wh.. zhe he..?"
"Calm down, I'm... gah, not going to hurt you!" The same woman's voice, cold and crisp, and more than a little alarmed, came from somewhere above me.
I wasn't awake enough to fully process what she was saying, and truth be told, my body was operating entirely on reflex by that point. She grunted loudly as my strangely sluggish body attempted to shift, my arms reaching up to try and gain some leverage to get her arms off of me. Now, I wasn't the strongest guy in the world, but I'd been a solid wrestler in high school, and I knew how to grapple, but her arms were like steel pillars firmly keeping me in place even as I tried to get some, hell, any leverage.
"I said," Ozone suddenly filled my nostrils, and every hair on my body felt like it was standing on end, "Calm. Down." Even as she said the words it felt like a mattress made of air had been dropped onto my chest. It didn't hurt, but just because it wasn't causing me pain didn't mean it was comfortable. Both of my arms dropped limply to my side, my muscles unable to fight the...whatever it was that was suddenly holding me down.
"Who... you..?" Was all I could get out, doing my best to keep my very real fear and impending panic from my voice.
There was a soft, almost tired sigh, "That is a very, very complicated long story, and one that you will likely not care for."
"In... my hotel... room?" It was getting easier to string the sentences together, while the pain in my head slowly receded. The cool glove over my eyes and forehead had gone from something restraining me to something actually comfortable against my aching skull. Not that I was about to say that. "How?'
There was a long pause before she spoke again, "You are not in your hotel room anymore."
Another gentle sigh followed, and then her hand slowly pulled back, making my skull throb in protest. I left my eyes closed for a moment, then carefully opened them to slits. The pale lights definitely weren't the pallid yellow I was used to seeing, and the pristine white of the ceiling was another unusual change. It was obvious that she was telling the truth about me not being in my hotel room anymore at least. Trying not to groan with the effort, I opened my eyes fully and turned to face my... captor?
She was sitting primly in the chair next to me, her eyes staring into my own. Her dress was a resplendent tan and green that complemented her strong figure well, without resorting to exposing an overt amount of skin to do so. To further enhance her statuesque figure, it looked like she'd be easily over six feet tall when standing, and her black gloved hands were folded neatly in her lap in a fashion that struck me as vaguely aristocratic.
All of that, of course, was utterly secondary to the fact that she wasn't human.
She was an Asari.
A freaking Asari was sitting right next to my bed, her body blurred slightly with blue light. It was like looking at an aurora that just happened to be constrained to remaining in place.
Biotics. She's using biotics to hold me in place.
"..Dreaming. Or Nightmare." I slowly but firmly closed my eyes, trying to force myself into the relaxed state that usually served to wake me up from either.
"Neither, I am afraid." Her tone was apologetic, her English smooth and unaccented to my ears. "Again, I am sorry."
"How is... possible?" My eyes opened again, staring at her in confusion... and no small amount of shock. "You're a...an Asari. Fictional. From a video game."
Her head tilted to one side, her eyes widening in an oddly human show of surprise. "You know what I am?"
I stared at her blankly, still suffering as my head continued its slow pounding. I found myself vaguely wishing that she would put a gloved hand back on my forehead. "How am I here?" Ha-ha, at last an actual sentence!
She frowned slightly, but instead nodded towards a wall. Following her gaze, my eyes tracked across a sheet covering something on top of a dresser. Something that looked very much like... like a body.
Oh shit. This... can't be fucking good.
"My sister." There was a soft sigh as her eyes dropped to her lap, "Always looking to prove herself. We've been looking for the right person for many years now, and she thought you were the one chosen. When the rest of us disagreed, she took matters into her own hands. Unfortunately... the strain was too much. It is not easy to pull a spirit from one realm to another."
Yeah... this cannot possibly be good. "I don't suppose.. you could send me back?"
"I am sorry, only she knew the exact moment in time where she found you and brought you here. And as I said, to pull a spirit here is difficult, even when you have located a dimension similar enough to even make the effort. We have... lost many of my kin learning how to even peer between the universes. To push you away would likely drain me of my life, and you could end up anywhere at any point in time." She kept her tone apologetic throughout, and it sounded like she was truly sorry for what had happened.
At least, to me. She wasn't human, who the hell knew if she was actually sorry about it or not.
Shit, this whole thing could just be a bizarre hallucination brought on by someone spiking the alfredo sauce at that run-down Italian place I had eaten at the night before.
"So... stuck. Here. Family. Friends. Everything I know."
"Left behind." One of her hands reached out to gently touch my shoulder. "We don't know what happens when a spirit is taken from one realm to another. Perhaps... it is as if you were never there at all."
"Or maybe my corpse is cooling in my hotel's bed." I shot back, a bitter anger rising inside of me. Her supportive expression cooled noticeably, and her hand quickly retreated. The combined actions were more than enough to make me feel an asshole, and I winced, stammering out an apology. "I'm sorry, I... just... yeah."
"I believe I understand. I cannot imagine that I would not be upset in your place." Turning slightly, she gazed at what was apparently her sister's shrouded body, "And it cannot help that she is not here to explain herself, why she felt the need to bring you here, even though we know that you are not the one. Although she did at least give you our language."
So, not only did I just get ripped away from my own freaking reality, I'm a mistake, not even the person they're looking for. That bit of information also massively lowered the odds of just a strange drug trip. Usually in one's imagination, you're the center of things, not the accidental discard. And...wait a second, I'm talking in.. no, I'm freaking thinking in a different language.
It was a bizarre realization. The words and phrases were flowing as naturally in my thoughts as English. There weren't translations going on in my head, it was.. instinctive. I just knew what it meant, as if I'd never spoken any other language in my entire life. I shifted between the two mentally, quickly counting to ten in English, then again in the other one, trying to wrap my head around what the fuck was happening to me.
"This apartment was hers," The Asari's voice broke me from my swirling thoughts; "I will transfer it to your name, and find someone to help you settle in."
Ah... seriously? That's what you're worried about right now!?"I have questions."
"So do I." She leaned forwards, her eyes narrowing as she regarded me, "You are from another dimension, from the past of another realm, yet you know what I am. How is this?"
"Um… " Are we really going to have this conversation with her sister's body just laying over there? I didn't mean that we should start twenty questions right this second. "Shouldn't you… we… you know, do something about…" I weakly waved at the shrouded form. "And.. already? I mean.. I'm still-"Trying to process this.
She cut me off with a wave of a gloved hand, "Several of my compatriots are on their way, when they arrive, we will… take her home. Now, my question."
"Well… you're uh.. fictional. Made up. From a game."
Her silence spoke volumes, and her blue eyes continued to regard me stonily.
"Ah. I played them, obviously. You're an Asari. There's also Salarians, Turians, Quarians. And Krogan. And there's the Citadel." Her eyes narrowed further as I listed things off, and I licked my dry lips and tried to control my sudden babble attack, "And… seriously, can we you know, do this in a room that doesn't have a body in it?"
"No. What else do you know?"
Well, a few things from Mass Effect Three would get me a death sentence from your government, not that I'm about to say that. Or even try and think about that if I can help it."Well, your people found the Citadel, and then the Salarians. And you made the Council. Then there was the Rachni wars mess, and the Krogan rebellions. And then the Morning War. And-"
Crap."The Geth Rebellions?"
"Why did you call them that?"
"That's what the Geth call it. I don't think they explain why." And if they did I missed it. Hell if I had known I was about to be dragged here I would have definitely done a full run through more recently than last year. Before she could press further, and to distract myself from the freaking body that I couldn't help but keep noticing, I asked a question of my own, making sure to keep my eyes on hers, "Where am I?"
I got that same cool, calm look for a moment, and then she nodded very slightly, "You are in a suburb of Nos Astra, on Illium." Something of my internal reaction to that world must have shown on my face, "Ah, you are aware of it. No, I do not intend to place you into indentured servitude, though that is an option open to you."
"No." It wasn't difficult to make my voice flat and hard. "I don't differentiate between that and slavery."
"I find the practice distasteful as well." Her mouth crooked into a small smile, "It seems we are taking turns. Very well, are you aware of my Order?"
"You're not a Justicar, and you're not creepy enough to be an Ardat-Yakshi." She started badly at that, her face becoming several shades paler, "And I don't have you pegged as a priestess of Athame either, so I'd have to say no."
"This…game, it had ardat-yakshi?"
"Yes. You have the option to hunt and kill one of them, with the aid of a Justicar." And help several others survive the Reaper invasion, definitely need to make a 'keep to myself' category."That was two questions. What are you going to do with me, and what year is it by the Systems Alliance calendar?"
It took her a moment to recover from my off-hand mention of the Asari's own demons, though she brought up her omni-tool quickly enough. In person it's even odder to look at than in game, with a holographic screen surrounded by the strange circular buttons. For a dedicated keyboard and mouse jockey like myself, it was easy to tell that it was going to be a pain in the ass to learn.
"The year is twenty-one eighty." That's… three years? Four? Dammit, should have paid more attention to those details. "As for you, I do not intend to kill you. As I stated before, it was not your fault what happened. There are a number of options open to you, though we have eliminated the simplest among them. I still have some contacts on this world; one of them may be able to help you… adjust, until you can live on your own. Your occupation, what was it?"
"Software engineer." My shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. It was getting a little uncomfortable looking her in the eyes constantly, but the alternative was noticing what is still in the room with us. "It paid well, and it was easy for me. I also studied history as a hobby."
Those flat eyes narrowed yet again, "You have never fought before."
"In a war or combat no. I've done competitive wrestling and was all right at it, and I have fired weapons before." Now that she brings that up, that's something I'm going to have to change. Thinking conservatively, you've got three years until Eden Prime, maybe a few months until the Battle of the Citadel, and then a month until Shepard dies. Two years for the gap, a few more months for the second game and the extra content. Maybe a year there in total. Then six months until the Reapers knock out the Batarians. Six years, give or take. The last thing I want to be is helpless when that happens. "I'm guessing it will be wise to change that."
"Indeed" She broke eye contact, openly regarding my entire body, "I recommend you work on building yourself up as well. And I seem to have asked a pair of questions once more." Which was, I supposed, an honest opinion. I was of above average height, just a hair short of touching six feet, but my body was built like a rail even when I was in shape, with a metabolism that usually had me eating plenty of food at all hours of the day without gaining a pound. I did work out, but only lightly, more out of habit from my high school days than for any other reason.
Memo, if you survive the next few hours, get back into real shape.
"And you are being fair about it, for which I thank you" I inclined my head politely, returning my mind to our little session, a gesture she seemed to recognize, "If you could, could you tell me the details of one Commander Shepard? Additionally, when you look for someone who could help me, would you please find someone with engineering skills?"
"I will see what I can do about the latter." Her fingers flew over her omni-tool's buttons once again, the orange lights flashing at each 'tap'. "Shepard. Commander, human female from Earth. Assigned to the N7 program, named the Lioness of Elysium for her defense of that world during a pirate assault."
I bit my lip, thinking as furiously as I could in the circumstances. Focus. There will be time to be upset about…everything…later. Compartmentalize that and move on. What's the play. Standard reaction would probably be to get on the Normandy, and ride that train to glory and friendship and all that stuff. But… not sure yet. I don't have any skills that could help, not right now at least. I've got time, years. I need to start getting ready now if I want to survive, never mind somehow get in with Shepard and the team. That can be revisited when its closer.
"Is she important?" the calm question broke me from my thoughts.
My head nodded slightly, "She'll be the first human Spectre, in a couple of years, and the center of... well, of everything."
She nodded slowly in return, another twitch of a smile coming to her face, "Thank you. That was a mystery we did not know."
Why does that give me an ominous feeling? "What is your name?"
"You may call me Matriarch."
I raised my eyebrows at that. "Don't trust me with your name?"
"No." Aha, someone is keeping secrets. Well all right then Miss Matriarch, I suppose that's fair, given that I'm not exactly being fully open and honest either. "There is something coming. Something that this center, this Shepard, will be at the heart of. What is it?"
And there was the million dollar question. I was less surprised that she knew that something was coming and more surprised that we were still talking calmly with her sister's freaking corpse in the background. Unless it wasn't her sister. In which case… a bad feeling began to grow in my gut. "The Reapers. The machines that wiped out the Protheans, and every other civilization every fifty thousand years or so, depending on the rate of evolution."
"Well…" I hedged slightly. Personally I didn't have a problem with the reasoning given in the third game, though I was definitely in the minority there. "According to the final script of the last game, their purpose is to prevent artificial life from killing all organic life, and they do it by blowing everything to hell. They should have come when the Geth became self-aware, but the Protheans were able to sabotage the way they enter the galaxy. The only Reaper to remain behind, as a sentinel I suppose, has been trying to find a way to open the gate on its own since then."
"In the game, no. That's the first game of three, which is how many questions you asked. Is that really your sister?"
Her lips tugged into that little smile again, "Spiritually perhaps. We were sisters in our order, though not by blood, and I truthfully did not care for her."
Well that certainly explained why she was so comfortable having our little chat with her like that.
Wait… My always ready paranoid streak stared kicking into full gear as a few things started to add up, She's way too calm for all this to be right. Sure she didn't care for her, but I would have thought she'd be more squeamish about this entire affair.
I took a stab in the dark with my second question, "Bringing me here… was it really an accident?"
The little smile faded as quickly as it came. "In a way. You were selected at random, so by technicality, you are here by accident, and through no fault of your own." Some of my increasing worry must have begun to show on my face because she continued on rather rapidly from there, "Please relax, I was being honest with you when I stated that I do not intend to kill you or otherwise harm you. You may not be the one chosen to aid the Center, this Shepard, but you are the one who may help us find him or her."
"Uh, my inter-dimensional scrying abilities are a bit rusty you know." Despite her reassurances, I wasn't exactly feeling relieved. While she may not have lied to me directly, she was definitely saying as little as she thought she could get away with, and making it increasingly obvious that she was doing so. "Maybe if I know what you were looking for?"
The Matriarch's smile returned, and she seemed to smother a chuckle at my response, "All I desire from you is the information you are already providing. You cannot be the one to aid the Center, because you already believe you know the ending. The one we seek must not have such preconceptions, so that they are free to do as they will."
Oh. "So…"I puzzled through that for a moment, "So you're saying, because I played the final game, I can't help Shepard, because everything I'm doing would lead to the ending that I've already seen. You want someone to help her make something new, unrelated, hopefully better. More cheerful. Less Citadel exploding."
Her eyes widened slightly at the last. "The Citadel-"
I waved a hand vaguely, wincing as the motion brought my eyes back to the corpse still contentedly cooling in the corner, "Everyone aboard was long dead anyways, and not pleasantly. I can understand wanting to avoid that bit."
Part of me took a little perverse thrill at the way she blanched again, her jaw shifting. Even as hard as this Matriarch seemed to be, it would appear that the games had the Asari pegged right in being horrified at that level of death and destruction. Which brought up something else…"She brought me here, and you can look into other dimensions, right?"
My frown deepened as I worked my way through that, "Is it possible, theoretically, that a human could do the same? That someone from my dimension could have watched yours, and made the game based on that? "In which case we might be looking at an inevitability paradox and all kinds of a mess.. or maybe they're just looking at another one?Dammit, this infinite universes thing is even worse to think about when it actually affects you.
"Anything is possible I suppose, although I find that to be doubtful." She brought a hand up slightly, "Not that I am disparaging your species, but even for myself, with centuries of preparation, the act of merely looking is exhausting. And as my compatriot proved, attempting to do more than look can be damaging. I would put such thoughts out of your mind. It is likely we will never know why our realm is a… work… of fiction in yours."
"Did she really die pulling me here?'
There was a slight pause before she responded, "She still breathed when I arrived, but her spirit had already gone to Athame."
Any further conversation was cut off when a soft knock at the door sounded off. Matriarch, Damn it's going to get old just calling her that, waved her omni-tool in its general direction, her fingers tapping away as she did so. It opened without a sound, revealing a pair of similarly dressed alien women, though both look far younger than her.
Asexual aliens technically, not women. The difference was technical, sure, but I had a bad feeling that if I kept thinking of them as human females I'd end up being burned in one way or another.
One of them gasped at the sight of the shroud, and again when she caught sight of me sitting on the bed. The other just shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"Of course she did." It was the latter that spoke, her tone irritated, "One little mention that we might want to thinkabout sometimebringing someone here to help us make sense of what we've seen, and she runs off and drags a human here."
"Sisters." The Matriarch rose to her feet, "This is…"
I sighed as she paused. " At least I had asked her name. "Call me Cieran. Cieran Kean." A good family name, especially considering I was probably the only Kean around now. The compartment where I'd buried my panic, depression, and fear shook within my skull. Firmly ignoring it, I nodded respectfully to the new arrivals, "Nice to meet you."
"Whatever." Oh yeah, let's hope I'm not dealing with you for the next few years. "I'll take care of it." Without another word to any of us, and ignoring her still stunned companion, she moved into the room and heaved the body up onto her shoulder in a single smooth motion. The sight of a pale, blue arm dangling from beneath the cloth was enough to roll my gut, and I hurriedly looked away. "You going to deal with him?"
The Matriarch's tone was disapproving, "I will be helping him. He gave me what we needed, and it was not by his choice that he was brought here. Besides," her face turns back towards me, her lips set into a thin line as her eyes flashed, "I do not believe he would be so stupid as to reveal us."
I bit back a sarcastic response with the very real terror that I got from that expression, "No, of course not."
All that earned me was a grunt, and then the rude one with the disturbing arm dangling from over her shoulder is gone.
"By the goddess…"
"Are you all right, sister?" There's enough of a gentle emphasis on the last word that I can pick it up, though what it was supposed to imply I had no idea.
Probably just reminding her not to slip up and give me names or something.
"I'm..." The smaller, younger Asari swallowed. "I'm all right, honored Matriarch."
"If you could," Her tone remained gentle, "Please contact Trena T'laria for me, and ask her to come here tonight. Tell her.. that I need her to repay the favor she owes me. You should have her information."
"Yes… yes." Nodding thankfully, she almost tripped over her own feet as she practically sprinted out the door, slapping a panel somewhere to close it behind her.
"The daughter of one of my old friends, though not a member of our order. She is a quality mechanic, and has enough commando training to help you in that regard as well." Turning, she regarded me frankly, "You know much about us, though I am guessing your knowledge is not complete."
"I know the story, generally, but," I shrugged, "The games weren't big on the basics of living in this century. I have no idea how to work an omni-tool or go shopping or…" my expression twisted into a grimace as I began to fully realize how pathetic I currently was, "anything really."
The honesty earned me a slight nod at least, then she began to speak more quickly, "You know your name, and some things. That is enough. I found you here, being attacked by an Ardat-yakshi, and killed her just as she began to meld with you. Unfortunately I was not in time to prevent damage to your mind, though my intervention did save your life."
Well... that was probably better than anything I could have come up with, "I'm guessing that's possible?"
A slight shrug of one shoulder, with her head tilting in what must be an Asari gesture of some kind, "I am a Matriarch, and one whom she owes much. She will believe me."
"Oh. Well, all right then." At least it was simple enough that I wouldn't have to worry about keeping my story straight.
"I must take my leave, for a time." Not bothering to wait for me to respond, she rose in a smooth motion, then turned to make her way towards the door, "I will return with human food in a few hours. In the meantime, I suggest you see what you can learn on your own."
"Wait, what about-" She was out the door before I could even finish, leaving me staring at nothing in particular.
Thanks for nothing bitch...
Without the distraction of conversation, the reality of what was apparently happening to me began to sink in once more.
Well then Cieran. Welcome to your new life. No friends. No family. No money. Just a dead woman's apartment and a less than stable alien woman that dragged you across dimension for company. No reason to be depressed, not even a little.
A breathy laugh at my own mental sarcasm is out before I could stop it, and I could feel the
hyperventilation threatening to set in even as I struggled to maintain my calm.
No… no, control. Control, compartmentalize, and move on. There will be time to angst over the situation later, when you can actually stand on your own feet.
Nodding firmly to myself, I closed my eyes and did my best to focus on my breathing. It took several minutes before my hands were still enough that I felt comfortable planning out the next few hours of my life.
All right. Goals. Goals are important. Computers. Kitchen. Bathroom. Figure out how to get the simple things working first, so you don't need a nursemaid at the very least.
With that plan in mind, I slowly let my eyes open, nodded once more, and started exploring my new home.
Next up is Chapter 2: The Deal
As you've probably guessed, my other stories are all on hold right now. To be honest, I just don't have the motivation to work on Vitae right now, and probably won't until the next movie comes out or I find another fanfic to get annoyed at enough to find inspiration.
This is mostly an exercise in working on my first person writing skills, but I'm hoping to actually take it somewhere fun and different from most other fics like it. The full outline is complete, and I have some scenes completed as far out as the second game. While I can't promise that we'll see a return of my Victoria days in terms of update speed, I can at least promise that this fic will actually be updated.
Here we have the usual arrival scene, though I skipped over the actual mechanics of the dimensional shift. And because someone will ask, no, that isn't my actual name, and the character is not intended to be an avatar of myself. He is a variation of an OC I created for an original series with.
Please read and review, criticism is welcome, flames not so much, as usual. Reviews are my lifeblood as a writer.. every-time my email goes off with a review it makes me want to write more, so please take the time to leave one. Guests can leave them as well, and it only takes a minute, so please. Even if it's as simple as "I enjoyed it, please continue."
Author's Fun Facts: Pronunciation
Cieran Kean → Sigh-ran Keen
Trena T'laria → Tren-ah Ti Lahr-ee-ah