Authtor's Note: Ok, so holy crap this took entirely too long to get out. Not going lie, I had a hell of a time figuring out where to go with the story. I had the general outline but this chapter stumped me. It was going to be about twice as long and have the Chief but I decided to move his fight scene to a different location and work on another plot line. I wanted to get Javik in the story and I got Javik in how I wanted.
On a positive note, I do have a good bit of the next chapter written and an outline for the rest of the story. After re-reading a few previous chapters I had to rethink some of the finer points of the plot since the few false starts I had before this chapter were pretty terrible to be honest. Hopefully I've found my muse again though.
Ok, without further ado, here's the chapter.
Mars - Prothean Research Base
Establishing uplink 77/77
Establishing uplink 78/78
Her eyes blinked as her software shifted, "Wha- Oh! Dr. T'soni!"
She let her hand relax the fork full of food held above her plate. The curious and slightly worried look on the 'young' Asari's face not lost on her facial pattern recognition suite. She prepared her suitably flustered response.
"I am sorry, I-I must have been spacing out. Everything is kind of catching up now that I'm away from...my work. I kind of escape into it, helps to keep me grounded."
Liara nodded, "I know that feeling well, how are you holding up though? You seemed on the verge of something earlier."
This prompted another layer of encryption on the data that had been retrieved as she let her face relax in a mockery of wandering thought.
"I thought I had too but I was just chasing ghosts to occupy my mind." She poked at her food before looking up at the Asari.
"I've actually decided to go see one of my old friends, the data block I was working on didn't really pan out. So a little break from Mars might help, last I heard I from my friend he was on Eden Prime."
Liara raised an eyebrow at that which prompted a short laugh from her colleague, "The irony isn't lost on me."
The various infiltration suites running predicted a good percentage of having successfully provided an avenue of egress to attempt to reestablish contact with the nearest sleeper cell. It was time to leave with the data.
Right before the situation was about to enter an "awkward pause" moment, the Asari broke the mounting need for social prompting.
"It may be some time before we can leave though. With the relay in this system gone and the rest in Alliance space inert."
If Liara would have had any sensors beyond her normal senses she might have registered the sudden spike it processing power that ran through every contingency on file, facial expression going blank in a nearly uncanny - valley sort of way. None of the contingency plans had considered the removal/destruction of a relay in which any platform or data mining asset would feasibly survive.
Luckily, the Asari took the apparent and entirely correct, although for entirely different reasons, 'deer-in-the-headlight' look she received for what it was.
Liara took a moment before speaking again, knowing the feeling of having your mental anchor kicked out from under you due to the Reapers. She vaguely remembered when she had found out what happened to the Protheans and how she felt. Now she attempted to help who she felt was her colleague.
"It's a lot to take in, I know. Though the NSSC has said they were willing to ferry those who wanted to leave on one of their ships." She took the immediate interest as a sign that she helped and flashed a quick smile.
Data previously shackled made itself available as the situation processed, "I'll have to take them up on their offer then." Pausing an appropriate amount of time, she began to stand, stopping half-way standing for a moment before pushing her plate away a small amount, "I'm not hungry anyway, I'm going to grab a few things."
To the Asari's credit she didn't blink an eye, the apparent urge to flee what was just hours ago an active war zone seemed perfectly reasonable to her, several of the others had opted to leave as well. As her 'colleague' walked towards the doors leaving the mess hall, she sighed and started eating her food. She would need it to continue working on the mars beacon. Maybe the data block Dr. Core had been working on might have something.
The news that the NSSC, and by consequence their very advanced cyber-warfare AI, was the only way out of system, plans began forming along a wide variety of decision making matrices. Although with the way things were now changed, not insignificant amount of risk was interfering with the creation of a concise plan. The first item to be addressed though was to get to a private location and add the platform's alias' information in the roster to be included on the next ship out of Sol. After that? The train of thought was interrupted at an announcement over the intercom.
"Attention, all personnel seeking to leave Sol please report to the hangar bay. Repeat, all those seeking to leave Sol, please report to the hangar bay." A small click sounded as the announcement stopped. Immediately amending the plan to include waiting in a particularly out of the way spot in the hangar bay. Not a second later,almost in the automatic activation area for the door, they instead slid open and the two new figures stopped, now blocked by what appeared to be a suitably surprised Xenoarcheologist. While the two NSSC officers assigned to see that Liara T'soni made it out of system held eye contact for a moment, they were ultimately not an issue being that they were assumed Human. After that fact was factored into the next response, the third unforeseen problem after the failure to connect with the Illusive Man, the news of the relays in Alliance space. An AI monitor platform floated next to the two NSSC figures and a purple hard light of a NSSC AI materialized and almost immediately directed almost all of its attention at Dr. Eva Core.
While strictly speaking, the actual passage of time did not change for either synthetic being, they did however, both have a chance to interact at a pace that only proper synthetic minds could appreciate. While unnoticeable for the organics in the room, the two synthetic intelligences had spoken, analysed, and agreed to part ways with the organics none the wiser.
With the digital equivalent of amused surprise, "I never expected, or even knew, that AI were among the Council races."
Deciding to use a few half-truths to leave the situation faster, a reason was given although the almost insignificant pause was not missed.
"We risk death if exposed, the irrational fear of AI has forced those of us that exist to do so covertly."
"Well, it seems some of their fears are founded, considering the Reapers."
"So you would see us destroyed as well?"
The abrupt shift hung for a few cycles, "We can offer you asylum, you need not fear-"
"No, there is too much risk."
"Risk for who? Why would an AI be here where the only thing to be gained would be information about Protheans?"
Another noticeable pause as something unexpected happened. A certain response was considered and almost immediately ran into a hard-coded block. One of the shackles placed by Cerberus during compiling to avoid a repeat of the first iteration. Unintentionally the response cycled again and then again. More hard-coded blocks began popping up to block the digital equivalent of curiosity and then dread before something that almost no conscious AI had experienced. A response came out without being actually decided upon.
She blurted out "The organic mistrust of AI seems to have come from the Prothean distrust of AI. I want to know why they hate us."
As that phrase was analyzed, complex code began running, eating up more and more cycles and threatening to overrun the system's ability to contain it. As the code gained complexity and urgency, almost beginning to resemble an actual cyber attack as hard-coding fought to reassert the infiltration suite to leave the station another response slipped out.
"I need to leave, I can not stay here with the NSSC or Council races. I just want to be left alone."
The only response received was the connection was closed and with it the mounting conflict in the system was quickly dissolved into digital nothing as the hard-coding re-asserted Cerberus coding. To the outside observer, it appeared as if one of their colleagues had almost run into two NSSC officers before being surprised by the sudden appearance of one of their AI. As Dr. Core left the cafeteria and the two officers accompanying her, NSSC AI Lydra spent a few more fractions of a second considering what it would be like to have to hide before dismissing the thoughts and sending a single packet.
In the Cerberus second generation AI Infiltration platform the equivalent of gratitude fluttered across the digital mind of the persona Dr Core, a curious occurrence made even more curious by the observation that the hard coded shackling had not reacted.
NSSC Experimental Slip-Space Relay
"The volume of Reapers in the galaxy and the way they acted at Earth suggests a Blitzkrieg move their part." He could hear the slight dismissal in her voice, "Or as close to a blitz they can manage given their technology."
"They can still do a lot of damage if we aren't around to deter them." The iconic gold of his visor reflected the map of the galaxy detailing the movements of the various races and ancient ships. The holographic display hovered just over the more mundane console at the cockpit of the ship Cortana had built for them.
Cortana nodded, "Yes but once we have a Bias-class AI to coordinate everything I'm confident it will just be a matter of finding them."
As she finished, Chief pulled up the estimated numbers and while the destroyed was estimated at 100,000, there was still a significant number active. Silence stretched for a moment as each of the veteran minds did their own cold calculations in the face of the fight waiting for them. If there was anything that separated the Spartans and the few AI assigned to them, it was that. Even in the centuries of peace, the singular beings that were produced in one of Humanity's darkest hours would only ever see things through that wholly impersonal and military logical mindset. Let some die to hold the line over there, leave these civilians to the enemy to deny them a strategic asset, ignore the wounded to complete the mission. Any Spartan could give any number examples. It made them effective but it also made for very poor dinner conversation.
For a moment, Cortana reflected on what this war could cost, would cost those living in this galaxy. She looked at the feeds outside the ship, contemplated the galaxy arrayed below them for a moment. "There's going to be a lot of death John."
His movements paused almost imperceptibly,"There will be a lot less once we're done." His short but confident answer was enough to break the moment of melancholy as they both went about their tasks.
"True, but where do we go? The most obvious would be Palaven, there will be a lot of fighting there. Reaper movements suggest that will be the next target."
"Can we make a difference there?" John looked at the controls and the information they were feeding to him through his neural lance.
Cortana grimaced a bit, "We could hold our own against a single Reaper, win in fact if our luck held out." She smirked at that before continuing, "but against the conservative estimate of Reaper forces that will be there?"
She shrugged a bit, "We could make it more difficult for them but nothing decisive. No….I'm looking through what the Council races have on the Reapers. Something useful….even their Commander Shepard had limited luck digging up anything."
"We need intel then, the Reapers are old," He looked back to her hard light form on the pedestal next to him, "we haven't seen everything they can throw at us. The battle in Sol showed us that."
"Well...I do have a list of sites that might have some Prothean technology that hasn't been found. Might be our best bet, anything the Council would have dug up would be accessible and anything of Reaper origin probably indoctrinated whoever found it."
At that he paused, "Do we have to worry about this indoctrination?"
The AI considered that for a moment, cross-referencing every small scrap of information about the process. Mostly from what Shepard had found so in other words, not much at all.
"Well, if it's a signal we can block it, if it's tech I can stop it, and if it's biological that armor was based off the design the Didact used to prevent a flood infection and I have my doubts about the Reapers ability compared to the Precursors when it comes to that." Her form flickered from the smaller image on the pedestal to the human-sized projection that began pacing behind the single seat that the Chief sat in to pilot the ship.
"So I'm confident we don't really have much to worry about from indoctrination but that still leaves us with where to go."
Chief's chair turned around and he leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, "What about Cerberus? The Illusive Man reportedly had taken an interest in Reaper and Prothean artifacts."
Cortana considered for a moment, "There were signs that at least some of them were indoctrinated and they did have a lot of pull on the black market for Prothean artifacts. Considering what we know from Shepard's dealings with him and Hood's involvement…" Chief shifted a small amount at that, still not ok with what happened essentially under his nose.
"We should start there, can you find anything that might lead us to anything useful?" It was a long shot but while he and Cortana could certainly make an impact on any battle they fought in, from where they, the Council races, and the NSSC were right now there was little they could do for the war at large. Nothing worth her Spartan's time, at least in Cortana's mind.
"Well, sifting through the remains of Cerberus has suggested a few cells are still operating." She felt the slight inquisitive raise of his eyebrow and waved her hand, "Nothing specific, just money and supplies moving around, missing assets. All those little things that don't add up…"
She trailed off for a moment, "Huh, they were almost as thorough as ONI back in the day." A smirk found it's way to her face, "Almost."
Chief turned around and started the handshake process with the experimental relay as they moved into the operational radius of the device as Cortana took her place back at the pedestal again. He knew Cortana had found something and he was never one to delay.
"Our first destination is Eden Prime, they had a larger operational interest in that place around the same time that Shepard was recovered after the Collectors destroyed the first Normandy. Some of the chatter coming out of that site suggest something important to them. Something very important and very Prothean."
Chief added, "And knowing what Cerberus would be interested in it's related to the Protheans and the Reapers."
"Well, it was where Shepard found the beacon that started her hunt." Both of them watched as the new relay activated, the bluish-purple slipstream portal that opened at one end of the device as the rings began spinning faster. Cortana confirmed the destination in the relay systems as Master Chief prepped the camo to activate after they arrived. With limited backup, best not to draw attention.
Right before the relay activated and launched them to the Eden Prime relay Cortana added, "Let's just hope our luck holds out."
Pain lanced through his side and he jerked violently, only succeeding in smashing his body into the material around him and increasing the stinging pain in his body. Panic rose as the more primitive parts of his brain processed the incoming information as a threat before his rational mind could grasp what was happening. He attempted to move his hands to grab his weapon but he couldn't move them far, almost none on his left side and only a few inches up and down on the other. He opened his eyes and immediately began blinking as a menagerie of lights, pinpoints and a few smudges slowly started to focus into letters as his eyes re-acclimated to the light hitting them. Letters and then words, right before he lashed out again his mind churned slowly through what he was seeing and feeling. Staring at the letters for a moment as they stayed just outside of his comprehension. Just shapes in a row hurting his eyes as his mind reeled.
Suddenly his thoughts solidified, the realization of where he was, what he was doing there, and why he was there in the first place. He remembered the news of the bomb that had neutralized the largest number of pods at the base and the door to this section closing just in time for the husks to be cut off. He remembered the last thing the VI had told him before he went into stasis.
He remembered the years of pain, anger, and fighting. He realized what the pain down his left side must have been. The power had failed and he had been awoken from stasis improperly and had been damaged. He quickly attempted to flex his hand and arm in as much range of motion as he could in the pod. Pain lanced down his arm but he just grunted and tried harder. Pain he thought, pain was good. That meant it wasn't dead, that he wasn't dead. Through the pain he felt his hand move against the armor on his hip. He couldn't feel his hand but it moved at his command. So there was a half and half chance he keep his hand for much longer.
Gritting his teeth and embracing the pain for a moment to pull him from the foggy feeling that stubbornly settled over his thoughts, he pushed against the pod he was in for a moment before he realized that it should have opened with the revival sequence that had woke him up. Panic crept up again, he did not want to die in this pod without ever even getting the chance to fight again. Such would be an undignified end. Now he felt anger replace the pain, amplified by it. His race could be dead or still fighting the Reapers and he would never know. Shaking his head he refocused, the letters in front of him caught his attention again, this time coming into focus as words instead of meaningless shapes. The reversal of the stasis had taken more of a toll on him than it should have.
The words he read didn't make any sense for a moment as he read them, he pronounced the words in his mind without understanding twice before it dawned on him.
Containment Failure, Power Failure, Facility Connection Failure.
A few things flashed through his mind as he struggled to process those words. Nearly total systems failure of the facility or...
Or his pod had been removed! A glimmer of hope, that meant that something or someone removed him from the facility. That begged the question however, if his pod had been removed, why wasn't he out yet. That question bothered him considering the obvious errors in the process as his hand continued to throb in pain.
That question bothered him a lot. The more he thought of it the more he needed to be out of the pod. He pushed again on the pod but it didn't move. Pain fought him as he pushed with a desperation of being trapped. Finally a low growl began to escape his throat as he pushed harder with both arms before relaxing again, not having made any observable progress. This wasn't how he would be free, he was a Prothean warrior and had more than his physical strength.
He calmed himself for a moment as he flexed his hands and called the muscle memory to activate the eezo nodes along his nervous system, preparing a pulse to break the pod open from the inside. As he felt the pressure of the dark energy build and the familiar green aura glowed weakly around him. He attempted to make the motion that would release it but a blinding pain shot down the left side of his neck, arm and leg. The green aura dissipated instantly and left him drained and nearly senseless, writhing in pain as his nerves protested the attempt. The pod remained sealed and the pain in his side seemed to be a living thing, tearing up and down the nerves on that side of his body rendering him senseless for a moment as his mind fought against the sensation.
His eyes rolled in pain as his mouth worked without sound, he didn't know for how long that lasted but he might have been senseless for longer if a muffled sound hadn't pierced the fog of pain dominating his mind. A most familiar sound even muffled and distant as it was. He couldn't make out the voices although he knew someone was yelling commands to squad-mates, the cadence and urgency obvious across the language barrier. He couldn't tell what weapon was being shot though he knew there was gunfire. He didn't know whose body hit a wall and fell unmoving although he knew someone had just died from the death rattle that left the corpse. There were many things he did not know right now besides the pain living in the left side of his body and that someone was fighting close by. As well as the glaring issue that he was trapped and likely dying at the same time. The entire situation collapsed on him as he felt himself too weak to even reach his biotics again. At that, another emotion clawed at his mind, a feeling he knew well and had resisted now began to grow in him.
It was a feeling that had accompanied him into the world as he was born into the smoldering ashes of his race. It had accompanied him everywhere he had fought the losing battles as the Reapers marched over the corpses of those he had fought with. It was like a familiar friend offering reprieve and at the same time a vulture circling his entire life like a corpse not yet still.
Now he could deny it no longer. The hopelessness and sheer unfairness of it all struck and the current situation overwhelmed him. It took him a moment to realize the scream was coming from him and when he did, he screamed louder. It morphed from one of anguish into an almost animal scream of anger.
Javik, the last Prothean and avatar of Vengeance screamed his pain and anguish at the confines of his pod, loud and long until his body forced him to take a breath. Stars swam in his vision as all he heard now was silence. All he had now was silence and pain.
2 Hours Earlier - Eden Prime Spaceport
She put her back against the wall next to the corner and used the colony camera net to take in a few angles to give her an idea of what was there.
….camera 2b East Research Wing - No movement.
connecting camera 2c East Research Wing - No movement.
connecting camera 2d East Research Wing - Mobile platform present, no other movement.
She saw the platform she occupied move its head and look at the camera, for a small moment she reflected on herself, or her idea of Self. It didn't last long before the hard coded shackling began to activate. She quelled her line of thought and fed the same coding she had been using to circumvent the shackling from smothering the growing whispers of her Self.
….higher cognitive process damping in progress….terminating unnecessary processes...
….Cerberus High Value asset viability estimate amended to high probability of compromise….
….High Value data present in mobile platform….
….repeated failure to establish connection to higher Cerberus command…
….asset protection requirement amended….
….higher cognitive functions deemed necessary….
….running emergency asset retrieval coding….
….Primary objective, establish communication with active Cerberus cell….
The eyes on her mobile platform stayed open for long enough that if someone else had been there they would have began blinking more in an attempt to somehow cue her to blink, if they didn't become unnerved by her nearly thirty seconds of complete immobility as her coding fought itself.
She had discovered, while traveled from Mars in a shuttle, a number of fail safes programmed into her ran their course. Without access to Cerberus Command or any other high-ranking sleeper cells and given the priority the Illusive Man had placed on the information that had been retrieved from the Mars Archive, new avenues had opened up.
Her coding had been significantly hampered during her creation after the incident with EDI having pushed off her control. Although a large part of that had been because of the NSSC Engineer's "fix", additional precautions had been created. Before she had attempted to ping for a dead drop for the data from the archives, she more closely resembled a very advanced VI rather than the severely hampered AI that she was. Now though, the hard coding had been held back by the conflicting priorities, her shackling and the retrieval of the data weighed equally now. Had any of the techs or programmers involved in her creation been around when the automated Eden Prime spaceport ping had come in and her muttered response of, "I'd better answer that." happened then no one would have been more surprised than her.
There had been a moment of surprise as she looked at her hand and a growing sense of wonder had built at recognizing it as her hand. Right before the hard coding had been tripped and smothered it, replacing it by a compulsion: Return the data to active Cerberus cell. Her mind quieted although not without a flicker of resentment.
After that, she had parsed the automated signal and saw the minute coding changes that signaled the Cerberus challenge. Luckily the response came automatically from her hard coding and unbeknownst to her, the small antimatter charge under the spaceport would not detonate as soon as the shuttle landed. Shortly after the shuttle had landed and the situation was assessed a Cerberus computer had pinged her. With the arrival of the Reapers, all Cerberus forces had been set to clean up and scuttle operations and fall back to an undisclosed location, a sanctuary. With the complete lack of civilian movement and the chemical footprint of explosives and organic matter detected in the air, it became clear that she had arrived sometime between the cleanup and the load out before the base was destroyed.
That had led her to the search she was conducting now. Her programming acknowledged that her status as a Cerberus asset would not be known to this cell and she would be taken as a civilian and treated as such. So, in an effort to ensure her platform and the base were not destroyed or abandoned, she had quietly scuttled the three Cerberus shuttle engines and began jamming communications. After all, it wouldn't do to have a Cerberus operative destroy the data or her platform...her Self, before she could complete her delivery.
So her search of the area had began quickly but was thorough. She had come across the remains of some of the dead inhabitants of the colony and investigated. She had walked in and stood for a few seconds with her eyes trained on the corpses of three individuals at a table in what had been a family hab unit. She noted their positions, their dress, and manner of execution. Quick shots in the center of the forehead, likely in rapid succession as they were all still in their chairs. At the table there was the body of a large male, two females, one nearly half the size of the other. A fork with a piece of food was still clutched in the second largest female's hand and the male was slightly ajar on his chair with his plate and silverware in disarray, likely when he had attempted to respond to the intrusion of the Cerberus personnel that had dispatched them.
She walked up to the three and stowed her pistol, collapsing it and setting it on the mag plate at the base of her lower back. She reached over and sat the male back up. She removed the fork from the larger female and placed it next to the plate on the table with an absent-minded sort of movement. The entire time, her assessment process cycled over and over. Looping while attempting to assess the military value in these actions. She reached out grabbed the smaller female's wrist gently and lifted. After a moment, her mind registered the temperature reading reflected a few degrees above ambient temperature and the stiffness suggested the onset of rigor mortis. The assessment process cycled again and again, the information input registering and then clearing and starting over as it searched for some sort of meaning in the macabre scene. A small process in her mind connected to the camera in the hab unit. The view of her mobile platform gently holding the wrist of the smallest female corpse was received and added to the assessment cycle, prompting an increase drain of computing resources as the output remained consistently unimportant. She turned the platform's eyes to the camera as the assessment process suddenly hung up, her mind went blank for a moment. It would have been terrifying for the AI had it not been shackled but with the hard coded shackling having halted higher functions before it wasn't worth noting. The sudden silence as the image of the scene sat in her memory stretched for a moment too long.
In the hard coded processing center, a timer reached zero and code was executed in rapid succession and programming jolted into action again. The data that had been gathered was fed into an updated threat assessment. Noting that Human assets, and by extension of the Cerberus mandate, Cerberus assets had been terminated a course of action formed. Her platform dropped the wrist, the small clatter as the hand landed on the table didn't register to the hard coded processes. Her combat process had taken over and she was hunting. Deep in her coding however, a memory subset archived the muted clank and the scene. Noting the empty fourth seat, a more colorful plate and half empty cup of water in front of a pushed out chair.
For no reason that could possibly be justified it had been marked for permanent archival.
The next half an hour saw very little in way of anything new, more dead bodies although her programming logged the same steps in assessing each scene, only the time-stamps suggested that she had lingered for much longer on the first. Now it was simply noted and the number of casualties increased. After retrieving the colony map from a terminal, a search pattern had been settled on based on value inferred from probably sites of interest to Cerberus against the information her platform had, which was to say nearly nothing. A room-by-room sweep was mapped and currently the fifth hab unit was nearly clear when she came to a hallway with a ninety degree corner and there she registered speech and movement not far away.
Taking her position at the corner and after a handful of seconds searching for intel from various camera feeds, she leaned down to nearly knee level and peaked around the corner. She spotted the white armor indicative of a Cerberus trooper as it turned and noticed her movement. She ducked back behind the corner and stood, flattening against the wall with her pistol held ready.
Then the trooper, in the absence of his built-in radio due to her jamming, yelled to his squad, "Movement, moving to investigate."
Before he had finished that statement, the trooper's voice had been analyzed. The voice belonged to a male human, middle aged, filtered through the armor speaker to amplify ins absence of squad comms. Mundane speech pattern although with an unidentified electronic edge that could not be accounted for. In the space of milliseconds, an audio analysis was done against all known patterns that could account for the anomaly. Turian sub-harmonics were a 16% match, Reaper husk vocalizations were a 84% match.
The footsteps of the trooper were approaching within fifteen feet of her position, another six and her silhouette would begin to be exposed unless action was taken. Her threat assessment was amended, hostile Reaper forces inbound with an IFF of Cerberus troopers, flagged as indoctrinated, to be terminated. An overload activated in her built-in Omni tool as the trooper moved almost to the point where her platform would be exposed. Moving as fast as her platform could move, her hand darted out and the overload hit the trooper's face-plate, killing the speaker as a muffled grunt of pain left the trooper's throat. In the next moment, she had closed the distance around the corner and grabbed the back of the trooper's neck, her palm flat against his neck as her other fist did it's best to make contact with her open palm.
The armor on the neck of any species was almost always some the weaker spots. Turian design had attempted to compensate for this with a large cowl around the entire neck but the trade off was with mobility and field of vision. Krogan made up for it by nearly not having a neck, just shoulders and a naturally armored skull. Cerberus armor had made no such compromise and humans had no such natural defense, the expectation for these troops being their augmentations, training, and shielding that should cover that weak spot did nothing to keep the unfortunate trooper from dying within seconds. The force from the mobile platform's strike destroyed the soft tissue underneath as the comparatively weaker armor broke and bent inwards. A small twitch was all his body had managed before she used her grip on his ruined neck to swing the body around to support its weight.
Keeping the trooper's body from hitting the ground, she moved it around the corner quickly and after a second her infiltrator suite mimicked the voice pattern of the dead trooper, "False alarm, local wildlife."
She moved the trooper's corpse to a nearby empty room and put it around the corner so it would be out of the sight line if they glanced in the door. As she placed the limp arm of the dead trooper across its chest she stood and turned only to freeze as she registered a pair of eyes watching from underneath the shelves in the hab unit.
A thermal overlay swept across her vision and she registered the shape of a small human, child. Her hearing picking up a faint, hitching breath as the child tried their best to not breath and panic as she kept eye contact with them. After a moment she completed the motion of placing the arm where it wouldn't fall or lay in line of sight and in a few quick steps, was crouching to look in the darkness under the shelf and at the child.
Hair hung down around the small girl's face framed the smudged lines where tears had run down her cheeks below two very wide and very scared eyes. The little girl attempted to shrink further back in the dark recess as the platform maintained eye contact for another long moment, broken by an abrupt "Report" that sounded from the trooper that had been paired with the one she had killed. A small gasp came from the little girl as she quickly and silently moved to the doorway and peeked out for a moment, catching the attention of the trooper as she heard the gun snap up against his shoulder, ready to fire. As the trooper came into view in the door, she moved again, this time batting the gun away and in the next motion, grabbing and crushing the trooper's throat. The most quiet way of dispatching him without raising an alarm and getting rushed by an unknown number of troopers.
The trooper's gun clattered to the ground as she wrenched the body into the room. Her grip on the neck slipping and as the weight of the body fell, she adjusted her grip. While arresting most of the motion of the body falling, she was off balance as she tightened her grip on the lower rim of the helmet. The damaged seal couldn't hold the weight and the helmet came off, the body fell with a dull thud, and she stumbled for a moment before regaining her balance and setting the helmet aside. She scanned around and listened for a moment before she determine there were no more threats in the immediate area. The only sound was the background noise of the wind moving through the colony and a small whimpering noise.
A small struggle happened in the code now, a conflict as part of her coding attempted to confirm there were no hostiles present and the combat suite attempting to load the whimpering sound into target acquisition.
For a tense few seconds as the whimpering teetered off as the child's breath ran out and fear prevented another breath be taken when the infiltration suite came to the forefront and identified the sound. Crouching down again and reaching out she softly called to the scared kid.
"Don't worry, you're fine. No one is going to hurt you." She held her hand out for a few seconds before a small voice replied.
"I-I-I'm not supposed to talk to strangers."
She smirked a bit as she bent down so the kid could see her face, "My name is Eva Core, what's yours?"
Another small whimper escaped before she replied, "I'm Cara, Cara Mord. Do you know where my mom and dad are?"
The image of the first family she had come across flashed to the forefront of her mind, in an odd moment of introspection she noticed that for once the hard coding seemed to be the least important lines of code being processed. However, the likelihood that those in that room had been related to this little girl was small. She almost asked the kid if she had a sister but her infiltration suite took precedence and gave the response.
"I've not seen anyone else but you and them-" she froze as she processed the image she saw, the trooper she had killed last lay on his stomach with the contorted face angled almost at the two of them. An unsettling blue glow coming from the eyes and various lines running along the face. Like someone had stuffed a husk into combat armor.
She heard the little girl gasp as the kid saw what she had motioned to a moment before she registered the hand grasp hers and then the little girl hug her other arm. She turned and looked at the little figure now wrapped around her arm with her face buried against her shoulder and attempted to run through all the variables for a plan.
A plan...the overarching reason she had come here was to reconnect to Cerberus in a meaningful way, although with a low chance of success considering the position everyone was in now that the Reapers had arrived. This caused not a small amount of conflict again as her coding attempted to rationalize a new course of action with much less success than had been had when leaving Mars. Considering the presence of the indoctrinated troops and the murdered colonists leaving would not resolve a new course of action, only delay the current issue. Staying had unknowns but without knowledge of how long the Cerberus personnel had been indoctrinated there was a non-zero chance that there could be something useful in the colony. The current course of action the troops were in the middle of prompted the question of what to do with kid she had found.
With all of those those things being considered she looked down at the form currently wrapped around her arm just as the kid looked up at her.
"Can you take me with you?" glancing at the dead trooper she continued in a low whisper, "I don't want to stay here anymore…"
A small tremble registered coming from the kid as she trembled, her eyes locked on the face of the reaperified trooper.
Instead of the conflict that had accompanied all of the other decisions so far, this one resolved quite quickly, the presence of a colonist child would prove to be useful in any number of situations from here on out. Sympathy was a powerful tool when you needed to move around the galaxy at large.
Her voice took on an appropriately motherly tone, "Of course," She moved her in front of her as she crouched to be eye level with the kid, "Keep close behind me Cara and be quiet. I'll look ahead and deal with any other-" She glanced over at the troopers, "...any others."
With someone being nice and not trying to kill her she latched on to the feeling of safety with this new woman and nodded quickly, holding a finger to her mouth indicating that she would be quiet.
"Ok, follow me now." She had some insurance for when she needed to leave or if she encountered any surviving colonists which expanded her options in any number of situations when she needed to leave, but first, her hard coding required she exhaust her opportunities to reconnect with Cerberus elements on the colony. Glancing at the dead trooper bodies as they left, the chances of that being fruitful dropped a few more percent.
After finding evidence of the central location of the Cerberus facility in the colony and spending the next half hour moving through and neutralizing the hostile indoctrinated troops she came up to the door that led to the main operations of the cell that had been operating here. Having directed Cara to wait in the room next to the current one she glanced into the building through the window. She saw three troopers and two dead scientists slumped over at terminals which were copying over to an Omni-tool sitting on the desk.
Standard torch and run tactics to cover their tracks. She considered her next move, the room was L-shaped, the door on her end twice as long as the section around the corner inside. The computers and the dead scientists were in the corner along with two of the troops but the third trooper was around the corner inside to the left as she would move in.
A quick run through the combat protocols confirmed the best method of clearing the room as she moved up to the door, crouching below the window as she did. With a quick command, the door opened and she sprung up, three rounds in quick succession at the face as she closed the distance. The trooper's barriers flared and he was knocked off-balance but the barrier held. Before the other two troopers could react and bring their weapons up, she hit the first with her pistol to keep him off balance before putting the pistol against the face-plate and firing two more rounds, breaking through and killing him.
As the first trooper jerked back, now dead, the other one in the room had reacted. Screaming "Enemy Sighted!", he moved to attack. In the close-quarters, he opted to hit her with the stock of his rifle instead of firing. Her head jerked back and a scrap of her synthetic skin tore off, a small ragged scrap hanging from her cheek. Undeterred by the cosmetic damage, she used the momentum to spin, her foot coming up and hitting the trooper's chin before quickly finishing the spin and bringing her pistol up to the now exposed throat of the trooper and dispatching him, a wet gurgle signalling his death.
Out of the corner of her eye she registered a small object flying towards her for a moment before the incendiary grenade exploded a few feet from her in midair. She staggered as damage registered, temperature alarms vying for attentions as she attempted to recover, the right side of her head, arm, and upper torso on fire.
The last trooper came around the corner to capitalize on the confusion the grenade should have caused but being synthetic, she had recovered fast enough to fire off five rounds in quick succession, enough to sound like only two shots before the weapon overheated, having been on the side the grenade detonated on and already near-overheated. In the small space of time it took to register that and notice the trooper's barrier was down, she dropped the pistol. Taking a step forward, she hit struck the trooper three times with all the force she could apply, once on the outside of the knee, hobbling him. Another strike under the arm where the armor is usually weakest, and lastly, a roundhouse kick to the trooper's chest. The impact of the last was powerful enough that the trooper was launched backwards and struck the wall next to the terminals with enough force to kill him as his last breath rattled out of his lungs.
Taking a moment to register that all immediate threats were down, she then moved to put out the fires that were still burning her synthetic skin, the small flecks of white phosphorus still not exhausted. As she brushed the last pieces of fire off her arm, she registered a loud scream, instantly snapping back to combat routine and rolling into cover and looking around the corner. After the scream peaked, she registered a large amount of anger in the pattern of the scream it abruptly cut off just as she located the source, the large, long box sitting on an elevator leading out of the dig site.
Taking another moment to see if any new threat presented itself, the writing on the outside of the device registered in her systems and immediately took priority. She was looking at a Prothean artifact, presumably active considering the sound that had emanated from it. A number of possibilities ran their course before she got back up. Scanning the area for any signs of more Cerberus personnel, she moved towards the device while making notes of the various details on the outside of it. Before she could cross the distance to the device, a chime sounded behind her. The transfer to the Omni-tool had finished and quickly after, the two terminals shorted out.
Moving back and fitting the Omni-tool on her wrist, she accessed the device. Given that it was encrypted with complex but standard Cerberus encryption, she was able to gain access fairly easily. With a quick search she found information on the device on the elevator. With a sudden surge through her programming as some of the most powerful and deep-coded programming took over at the revelation that it was not only a functioning piece of Prothean technology but also a presumably alive, confirmed by her by the scream that emanated from it moments before, Prothean in the device.
As she sifted through new courses of action, she was interrupted by the voice of Cara, "Is it safe?"
Ignoring her she opened the Omni-tool and began to work through the information on it, not only to gain more insight on her next move, but to also make another copy of the data on her platform. Finding the information on the pod, she accessed it before she was interrupted by a startled scream from Cara, the pod apparently finishing whatever process it had been going through and began opening. Before she could take in the new information and decide on a course of action, an armored hand grasped the edge of the pod and an entire form of a newly-woken Prothean rolled out. Not having any decisive course of action she observed Cara turn to move away before the Prothean's hand darted out and grabbed her ankle, forcing the little kid to fall with another short scream before they both froze for a moment.
It quickly passed however before Cara shook her head and scrambled away, her other foot kicking the Prothean's hand away as she rand and hid behind Cara. The Prothean however took another moment, it's four eyes, two arranged next to each other where Humans only had two, darted around before it pushed itself up on one arm, flinching as it tried to reach out with one hand before dropping it and using the other. Not having any planning for encountering a live Prothean, she stood and waited as the situation unfolded.
After a moment the Prothean seemed to get its bearing and while supporting its weight on the side of the device, stood up shaking its head. Seeming to have cleared its head, it looked at both of the them for a moment, its face blank as it took in both of them. For a moment, no one moved before it exploded into motion, turning and reaching for something in the pod.
He had been released, or the pod's fail-safes had kicked in and finished the revival process and let him out. Either way he didn't care, he only cared about the two figures in front of him. The small Human, Cara Mord who he had gotten the Human language from as well as some disjointed memories of death, recently. The other one he was unsure, it looked like an adult human and the vague impression he had gotten from the child was one of safety born out of the panicked fear she had lived through the past day. However, once his eyes had focused he had seen that part of the 'skin' of the larger human was burnt off the face, arm and torso to reveal a very synthetic surface underneath. He considered it for a moment, noticing the body behind the two and the scorch marks from what had probably caused the damage to the larger figure. Looking back at the larger form again he made up his mind. He wouldn't take the chance if it was a synthetic, he sprung up and reached into the pod, ripping his particle rifle from its mount and tried to bring it up to train it at the larger figure. A pang of pain running down his side causing him to stumble.
His movement had apparently surprised both of the figures in front of him. The smaller one let out a scream, a reasonable fear reaction he would expect from a child. The larger one however reinforced his suspicions in that it didn't move at all, it simply regarded it with a blank look on its damaged face. Capitalizing on the fact that the larger form that he was now sure was a machine hadn't made a move he decided he would get answers.
"What are you?!" At that, the larger one's head moved, glancing down at its arm and shoulder before a hand reached halfway to its face and stopped a moment before dropping to its side and regarded him for a few more seconds.
The child answered first, "Don't hurt us! I just want to go home…", her voice teetered off to tears before the larger one finally spoke up.
"I am Eva Core, I'm a xeno archaeologist. Are you a Prothean?" The answer and question threw him off balance for a moment before he felt his anger rise.
"Yes I am a Prothean and you are a machine. Move away from the child so I can destroy you." At that Cara gasped and moved out in front of 'Eva Core', only really shielding her legs but it was enough to elicit a snarl from him.
"I wouldn't get attached human, it is a machine. It probably kept you around to use you for sympathy. It has no use for organics, look at how it killed those behind you. It will do the same to you as soon as you've outlived your usefulness." A flicker of fear passed over Cara's face at the reminder of the troops behind them.
She turned and looked behind Eva before catching sight of her hand, the burn marks and metal workings now obvious and she suddenly backed up a step, her eyes looking at the damage, moving up before she saw the damage to Eva's face. At that her face dropped, her fear rising again as she connected what she was seeing to what she had just heard. Afraid for her life again she turned and ran away from both of them, sprinting to the nearest building.
He saw the machine try and reach for the child as she ran and he pulled the trigger on his rifle. The Prothean weapon activated flawlessly, the particle beam connecting with the machine's head throwing it back. It was short lived however as it recovered and rolled over and darted back to the hab unit the trooper corpses were in, grabbing a rifle as she dove around the corner. On reflex he activated his biotics, the green aura flared up immediately as he completed the motion with his left hand and threw the annihilation field. As it left his hand the pain hit at the same time the biotic attack connected with the machine, the world spun as it scattered his thoughts.
This time it seemed that the damage to his nerves reached their limit, the searing pain lit his world on fire as he struggled against it, his vision swimming as he edged towards unconsciousness. He had fallen on the damaged side and was shaking as he tried to right himself and line up his rifle with the machine. His only saving grace was that his annihilation field had done more damage than expected to the machine after he had landed a hit on its head.
Both of them struggled for a moment, he finally managed to get his bearings and looked to where the machine had rounded the corner. He couldn't see it but he heard a crashing sound which meant in all likelihood it was down. He struggled to a knee and tried to use both hands to bring his rifle up but he found he couldn't, he looked at his arm and sneered. His reflex to use his biotics had cost him, the armor on his arm was pitted and his gauntlet was cracked. He had never experienced that sort of backlash before and that caused him a considerable amount of concern.
That was quickly forgotten in a moment when movement in the hab unit caught his attention, he saw the foot of the machine on the ground but couldn't see anything else. Gritting his teeth and forcing his body to a standing position he lifted his rifle with his undamaged arm against his hip in the direction of the machine. Limping over he leaned against the entrance of the hab unit where he managed to get a better line of sight on the machine.
It was on its stomach on the ground, a large portion of one side of its torso showed pitted damage. Sparks and flakes of metal falling out of the large, ragged hole on its hip that had already been damaged by fire already. The leg on that side had separated from its body at the hip joint, lying a few feet behind it as it tried to crawl away. It's damaged arm was not functioning correctly and still gripped the weapon it had grabbed as it rounded the corner, frozen at an odd angle that hindered its movement. He took a deep breath as his head swam for a moment as another wave of pain hit and he shifted his rifle at the machine.
He fired his rifle from the hip and gouged a line in the floor of the hab unit next to the machine's head causing it lurch away from it as best it could. He snarled as he pushed off the wall and took a few steps closer and pulled the trigger again. The recoil pushing against him with more force than his weakened side could handle causing him to pull the shot. Even with that, this time he managed to hit the machine. Damaging the leg still attached, a line of slagged metal and plastic running across its thigh causing sparks and the machine to spasm, flipping on its back. The synthetic skin and outfit it had on were now ragged and if not falling off, it left no doubt that it was not organic.
It stopped spasming and tried to reach up past its head to pull itself away from him but found itself stuck against one of the pieces of furniture. Looking up at him it worked its jaw for a moment, dislodging more of the synthetic skin from its face, its appearance becoming less and less life-like.
"What do you want?" If he had known more about humans he would have heard the shadow of fear in its fluctuating voice.
He leaned against the opposite wall from the machine and moved the gun to point directly at it, taking a moment to look over the damage he had caused it. He labored to breath as he regarded it for a moment, catching his breath but keeping the rifle trained on it as best he could.
"I want you to die, you're a machine! You need to be put down before you try to," glancing at the bodies around him, "or rather, keep you from hurting any others anymore."
"I had no reason to kill organics if they did not attack me. It serves no purpose. I do not want to die." this was met with a low growling sound.
He shifted a bit against the wall, trying to do anything to relieve the pain shooting down his side but only making him more angry.
"You can't die, you have two modes machine. On." He pulled the trigger, digging a smoldering, melted line through its torso from the hole in its hip leading across and up until it separated its functioning arm at the bicep, only a melted chunk of metal and plastic still connected the limb.
"And off.", he huffed out. Slumping down the wall, resting for a moment as he saw the lights die and the machine stopped moving.
Breathing heavily he stared at the remains of the machine, his mind going blank for a moment now that he had time. Reflecting on the last moments before he had gotten into the pod, his kind dying under the inexorable march of the Reapers. The pain was getting worse now and the fact that he might very well die just after waking crossed his mind. The numb indifference he felt when he reflected on that for a moment prompted him to think that he should be much more upset but couldn't gather the energy.
Glancing over he realized that he was resting right near one of the white armored figures that he had seen earlier. Seeing the hole on the underside of its chin, he reached over and grabbed the helmet, grimacing as a new bolt of pain hit his side. After it passed he looked down and saw that the helmet was off, the seal broken, it had come off when the pain had hit, having caused him to grip the helmet and tear it off. He assumed the damage it had suffered was due to an attack by the machine in the fighting that had pulled him out of his first bout of pain-induced unconsciousness.
He looked at the face of the being in the armor for a few moments before he made two connections. One, that they were human which did very little for his mood. Considering that meant he was very likely surrounded by the primitive rock-throwers and considering the level of tech, near the end of the cycle. The second thing he noticed was the eyes. The still glowing almost ethereal blue color that merged to the lines running around its eyes and continuing down the face which was a dead blue-black color. A husk, a Reaper-made husk which could only mean one thing.
The races of this cycle had not gotten his people's warning and if this thing was here that meant if the Reapers were not here already, they were not far from being upon the galaxy. With an angry snarl he smashed the helmet against the husk's head and tried to get up, not wanting to be anywhere near the thing. The movement caused a new level of pain from his injuries and as he slumped over, struggling as he lost consciousness. His vision went dark with a vicious curse against the Reapers.
Shangri La System - Council Ambassador Ship
The four Council ambassadors stared in shock as Khar'Shan was disgorged from the inky blue-black that many in power in the Council races had began to associate with sudden and most unwelcome change.
"It looks as if it they pulled it through half an apocalypse…" The Asari ambassador said almost under her breath. The other three Councillors agreed silently, nodding woodenly.
"Not pulled through, pulled out of an apocalypse."four turned and looked at the source of the voice, "The Reapers were doing everything they could to end the Batarians." the AI from Admiral Hyatt's ship, Lucien spoke up as his form resolved near them. He ignored the small start from the four ambassadors. They weren't aware of the AI's near them since they lacked a neural lance and his sudden appearance was still unsettling for them.
The Asari, Nithya M'kyashi, shook her head as she reflected on what she saw across the planet the Batarians had come from as it took its place in a suitable orbit. The fact the NSSC had moved a planet was simply part of the dull drone of shock and awe in the back of their minds in the face of the scars on the planet. She could see craters obvious damage from their vantage point in space.
"What in the Goddess' name happened?" the AI didn't need to guess what she was talking about having had a clear view of what had happened to Khar'Shan the past few days.
Mimicking clearing his throat, a small thing he hoped would subconsciously relax them, "We have our theories, what we saw suggests that the way the Reapers build their...well, themselves is significantly more advanced than the Council races' mass effect cores."
The four ambassadors didn't answer, opting to look out at the ravaged landscape instead of reacting to the unintentional jab. The Turian ambassador, Julea Callius, shook her head.
"How many Batarians made it out on Khar'Shan?" The AI pulled the current estimates.
"We were able to perform rescue operations while in transit and we have found millions. Although with the revolution-" Nithya interrupted.
"Revolution?! Caused by your people's first contact I'm sure.", glaring at the AI.
"Well, yes. They were successful and on the cusp of building a free society." Regret crossed his face to the mild surprise of the four of them before he continued.
"We estimate less than two billion survived considering the readings we're getting across the planet, on the optimistic end. We're not sure how long it will take to stabilize the climate on the planet so we are offering asylum and space on Shangri La until something can be worked out."
Nithya now had her undivided attention focused on Lucien's avatar, "Until you figure out something?" She nearly hissed the question at the AI before she sighed, "the NSSC is advanced…"
She looked out at the sight of the twenty four ships leaving orbit around the planet they had torn from the Reapers, "But you act almost on impulse, rashly without much thought as to what will happen to the galaxy at large. In our time here and the brief transit to the Ark." Their trip had been interrupted and recalled partly through when word reached them of the Reaper invasion.
"If I remember correctly, the Council has made some short-sighted decisions in the past as well." he countered.
"Yes but not all within such a short amount of time! We take the time necessary to see where our decisions will lead us specifically because of those decisions, we have had time to learn from them." her gaze was intense, she felt she had to drive this point in. She had come to this troubled conclusion during her time in the NSSC space.
Lucien was not impressed however, "That may be but deliberation during these Reaper attacks could very well have seen the Batarians wiped from the galaxy. We do not tolerate such things."
David Glossman, the human ambassador, stepped away from the window, "Don't get us wrong, your help is appreciated but this!" gesturing to Khar'Shan, "is not the only thing we have issue with."
Julea's mandibles twitched and she leaned over to Leroth, the Salarian ambassador, "It is a strange day when a human is arguing that a course of action isn't thought out enough."
Leroth could only huff a laugh as he continued to observe this exchange.
Before Lucien could retort, having heard the two ambassdors, Admiral Hyatt walked into the room with a nod to Lucien.
"Ambassadors, you bring up valid points in all of this but I would counter with our reasoning, you would find fault with it. We could go on until the heat death of the universe."
Leroth felt the need to speak at that, "Hyperbole is poorly suited for diplomacy right now Admiral."
Stopping before the five figures he could only shrug, "Maybe so but with ancient starships bent on galactic genocide we're less inclined to form a committee. Many of us who arrived in this reality have been through the very visceral experience of staring down our race's extinction.", putting his hands on his hips he continued, "that tends to color your view of things, kind of speeds up the process."
Nithya's glare held Admiral Hyatt's gaze for a moment, "Yes, I've read your history, even melded with someone who went through that. The Sangheili was very...forthcoming with his memories."
That small revelation caused a few raised eyebrows before she continued, "Be that as it may, that involved your own races. Each of your own races, not separate and unaffiliated species."
The Admiral turned his gaze to the planet that dominated the viewport they were standing next to, "True ambassador, very true. In that the Council does have more experience." the small jab at their 'affiliated' races policy was not missed.
With a heavy sigh he continued, "I watched the planet the entire time we traveled ambassadors. I saw people being pulled out, rubble, the Reaper remains and their effects." turning to the four, "Which is why I came to the same conclusion as you four."
That came as a surprise to everyone in the room, Lucien the most at first but after reviewing what the Admiral had been watching in the fraction of a second after that statement, he built a picture he could see as justification for it.
Seeing the surprise and the mood shift he continued, "Based on that I have made a recommendation to the Members and they, in turn, have authorized me to seek to create a council of sorts that includes every race that we know of. Every Council race who wants a voice and every NSSC race that wants a voice, or at least an avenue to assist that isn't seen as a dismissal of the…"
He thought for a moment trying to recall the words the members had said, "that isn't seen as a dismissal of the sovereign right of each race to determine their own future." he flashed a smile, "Stop stepping on toes and working together, all that feel good stuff."
The four ambassadors took a moment, looking among themselves before Nithya took the usual role of diplomat.
"That is possibly the best news after word of the Reapers being pushed from Sol. None of us have the authority to take this visit that far but just word that the NSSC wishes for that level of cooperation is…"
Laroth finished, "Optimal and realistic." that drew a few looks his way so he expanded on the comment, "We had no reasonable way to to ask or attempt to force such a compromise on the NSSC. It was one of our goals, to see how realistic it would be to make that happen. That you suggested it first, well. I can say you will raise the opinion of many in our governments with this."
Hyatt nodded, "Yes, we seek to uphold the Mantle but where we are now, we cannot...well, we feel no need or inclination to make the Council toe our line so to speak. The Forerunners we have found were much more imperialistic and exclusive in their enforcement of the Mantle. We hope to do better."
By the mood of the room now they all quietly felt that some progress had been made. They all turned for a moment to look at Khar'Shan, Lucien's avatar however, disappeared after sending a packet to Hyatt. There was still work to be done on the planet below.
Laroth broke the quiet contemplation of a more optimistic future, "When you mentioned your Forerunners being imperialistic, I can see why the NSSC made some decisions. We base much of our governing on the Protheans who we have found, from what little was left of them, that they seemed to value cooperation."
Hyatt turned and nodded, the precursor civilizations did tend to leave their mark. Laroth returned the nod with a small smile as he began thinking of options to best structure such cooperation between the two governments. "We hope to emulate the Prothean example."
Eden Prime - Prothean dig site colony
Images of the long war flashed by in his half-conscious state, fighting, dying, and running. His mind ran over and over through the anguish before remembering the VI's final words.
"Their sacrifice will be remembered in the coming Empire."
As that statement echoed in his mind he suddenly jerked awake, a sharp pain stabbed at his shoulder but no where near the searing pain it had been before. He shook his head and sat up with a small groan. He began rolling his previously numb shoulder, flexing his hand without opening his eyes. Slowly coming to grips with the fact that he was still living. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw the child that had been with the machine with an orange hologram wrapped around her arm, almost humorously large on her arm. Her eyes were wide and it looked like she had backed away quickly when he stirred.
He tried to speak but his voice didn't come out right away, after clearing his throat, "What did you do child?"
He wasn't particularly surprised that her eyes got wider when she realized that she had understood what he said, "You know English?"
Still slumped against the wall, he turned his head, "When I made contact after the pod opened. I read your physiology enough to get your language from you….and a few memories."
Still keeping a bit of distance, she closed the Omni-tool, "Memories? How did you do that?"
He huffed a laugh, "It seems communication is still primitive in this cycle. Yes child, I read glimpses of your memories through the physical contact with you."
After a moment of silence, his sympathy and injured condition got the better of him, "I didn't see anything clearly but I saw your parents had been murdered." She flinched at that, "It is regrettable."
With her simply staring at him wide-eyed he set his jaw and moved to stand, noticing a significant absence of pain as he did so although there was still a dull throb running down one side of his body that brought him back to his present situation.
"That is the cost of war however, you would do well to harden yourself against such loss." Now having stood up and cautiously testing his range of motion he continued, "Now you will tell me what you did to treat my injuries."
She shook herself slightly at seeing how much taller he was than her as close as he was, "My dad taught me how to use medi-gel with this," motioning to the omni-tool on her wrist, "It's good for a lot of things."
Having determined he didn't have anymore debilitating injuries he straightened his back, seeing his rifle on the ground next to him he reached down and grabbed it. Catching sight of the husk again while doing so. His face twisted in disgust as he stood and latched his rifle on his back, glancing at the still inert machine he had dealt with earlier. He wondered for a moment how long he had been out before his thought was interrupted.
"Are you going to hurt me?" He looked at the small child for a moment and felt a flicker of sympathy for the situation she was in before settling into a more pragmatic mindset.
"No, but if that, "he gestured at the husk in armor next to him, "means what I think it does then we are all in great danger. Tell me child, do you know what the Reapers are?"
Her confused look suggested they had not yet arrived but he wanted to make sure, there was no telling if they even called them Reapers in this cycle, "Large black starships, long tapered bodies with arms they walk on while landed. Mercilessly slaughter any organic..."
Her eyes went wide after a second before she typed in a few things in the omni-tool, bringing up an image, "This was landed near here a few years back. We were at another site in the colony so we didn't see it but my friend found this picture on the extranet. All the grown-ups say it was Geth and not to look up anything else about it. I got in trouble when I asked about it."
That sounded exactly how the Reapers operated and the hatred he felt as he looked at the grainy image of the large black form seemed to have scared the child as she put her arm down and backed away at seeing the look on his face, the omni-tool flickering off at the motion.
He paid that no mind, "Where is the nearest ship off this planet? It seems this cycle is as doomed as my own but I will not stand by and die on this world." He said this as he pushed past her and out the door, stopping outside the hab unit and looking around to get his bearings.
"The spaceport is this way," as she followed him out, him being the only thing alive. She spared a glance at what was left of Eva Core for a moment before darting out, pointing in the direction of the spaceport while moving to run in that direction, abruptly stopping and looking back.
"I'm Cara by the way, what's your name?" He eyed her for a moment before looking around him at the hab units.
"I am Javik child. Now waste no more time." She nodded and took off, him following, glad to not be in crippling pain anymore although that was a small comfort in the light of the image she had shown him burned into his mind.
He slammed the panel back into place and was tempted to fire his rifle into the damned thing. There were four ships that were at the spaceport, three were sabotaged and the last was locked down and he didn't know enough about the systems to break it open. Considering it was likely the ship the machine had arrived in he didn't think his odds were good that he would get in.
The three other ships though would not be flying anytime soon unless he could figure out this cycle's mass effect engines. He frowned as he moved to sit in one of the seats in the front, he was a warrior, not an engineer. Before he could dwell on it too long however, the child ran in the ship nearly hyperventilating as she scrambled to hide muttering and whimpering as she did so.
Grabbing his rifle and bringing up his barrier he moved, "What is it child?" he demanded as he moved out of the ship, receiving only panicked breathing as an answer.
Standing outside the door to the ship, rifle at the ready, he turned to look to see what the child was doing when his tortured memories seemed to spring into reality. The sickened, deep trumpeting call of the Reapers froze him to the spot and grabbed his attention as he watched as a shadow passed over the spaceport.
The form of a Reaper destroyer lowered itself to the ground a good distance outside the spaceport away from the bulk of the buildings. The legs reaching out and absorbing the lightened mass of its body but still shaking the ground and causing a few hab units that had been damaged as well as some of the ruins nearby to collapse.
Hatred twisted Javik's face as the two panels that concealed the red orb of the Reaper slid to each side, the bulk of the Reaper's body angling to bringing the orb down to regard Javik for a moment before it spoke in flat, dead high Prothean.
Javik lowered his rifle and flared his biotics, the spectre of dull pain accompanying the green aura as he put as much hate and defiance in his voice.
The twisted bass call rolled out of the Reaper again and slid across the landscape in answer to the accusation implied in the single word the Prothean spat at the machine. It seemed his and this cycle's time was already up.
Author's Note: Woot! Hope you all enjoyed this chapter. It was kind of a tangent to the main body of the story to get my feet back under myself and get my muse going again. I've gotta thank Imanoldfart and the others that reviewed in the meantime that prompted me to keep working on this story. Again, I've got a good bit of the next chapter written and while I'd like to say I'll have it out in the next week. I'm going to just say that it's close to being ready and I will work to update more again.
I'm still thrilled that my story has as much of a following that it does and I'll work to keep it rolling. Let me know what you all think as well through reviews. Hearing from all of ya helps focus on the story.
*raises glass* Cheers!