Robocops and Robbers 15
- Normandy, Briefing Room -
"That's an ugly plant," Ashley frowns, the image of the Thorian plastered up on the briefing screen.
The others nod, even the ones that had been on Feros for the mission. Only Alex and their prisoner had actually seen the creature, so all they had for experience was what he saw. They were are fairly sure the thing didn't get any better from other angles.
"Not to mention a terrible conversationalist," Murphy notes, a soft smirk on his face, "thankfully it was easy enough to talk to, though."
"Speaking of, what exactly did it want?" Kaiden asks.
Murphy gives some commands to the screen and the image of the Thorian is replaced with an image of Feros itself. The whole planet has a red outline to it, and in the six major languages of the galaxy are warning against entering the atmosphere.
"I've quarantined the planet," Murphy tells the team, "That should keep civilians away and anyone stupid enough to try and get down there now will have to deal with the Thorian themselves."
"That doesn't sound so hard," Wrex chuckles.
"It wouldn't have been," Murphy agrees, then he brings up the image of the Shiala clone, "If it weren't for this."
There are a few reactions to the image of the naked clone, the soldiers and Garrus don't really react too strongly due to preference or training. Liara and Tali both blush, though it's harder to tell with the Quarian. Wrex just chuckles more, "So what?"
"Those creepers," images of the plant zombies are posted next to the asari clone, "Were human clones. This one, the asari clone, I think it could use biotics."
"How could you tell?" Shepard asks, standing and moving up to the image. His eyes narrow as he stares at the face before he notes, "It looks like the asari we have in lockdown."
"Like I said, clone," Alex tells him.
"And asari are naturally biotic," Shepard frowns, getting it.
"What am I missing?" Tali asks.
Shepard turns to her and explains, "If it could make as many clones of her as it did of the humans, then it'd have an instant army of biotics at the drop of a hat."
"The drop of a what?"
"Human idiom," Garrus tells her, "Means… really fast."
"like an infection through a system?"
"That'd be the Quarian equivalent, I guess," He agrees.
She nods, getting it now, "Dangerous."
"Exactly," Shepard nods, then commends Murphy, "Good call, with the quarantine, I'd've just killed it."
"Like you killed that Rachni in the hold?" Wex asks, he'd spotted the creature on his way up, and only his respect for Robocop had stopped him from pulling Kalros off his back.
"The Queen claims that Benezia is under some kind of mind control," Shepard tells him, not looking at Liara, despite the asari's sudden focus on him, "Until we know what it knows, we can't just kill it."
"My people killed more than enough to know how, Shepard, I'd be happy to show you," the krogan grunts.
"I don't doubt that," Shepard agrees, "And if it causes any trouble, feel free to remind it. But when it was talking to us it said that the Queens before it were under some kind of control, like how most of the asari with Benezia are."
"And why aren't those asari with us, then?" Wrex demands.
"Because the Normandy isn't big enough for a dozen or so corpses," Shepard shrugs.
Kaiden feels the need to jut in and adds, "The asari that survived our firefight are being held by Noveria police, Spectre Tela Vasir is on the way to pick them up for interrogation."
"And it really felt like the matriarch wasn't trying to kill us," Ashley points out, "From what you said, Liara, your mom trained most of the commandos under her, right?"
"Not most, all of them," Liara corrects, her brow furrowing.
"Exactly," the gunnery chief points at her, and the asari pulls back a bit as she continues, "Benezia wasn't fighting like the commandos. She was too flashy, to… big. It was like one of those villains from a Saturday morning cartoon."
"Boasts, brags, and too much bravado to actually kill the heroes?" Alex asks.
"It's something we'll need to take into consideration," Shepard nods, "Especially if there's something out there powerful enough to control an entire species. If there's something out there, I want to know about it, I want to know how to kill it, and I want first crack at it."
"For now, everyone get some grub," Alex tells the team, "We need to debrief the Council and plan our next move."
The team get up together, heading for the door. Once everyone but the three Spectres are left, Shepard calls, "Joker, patch us through to the Council."
"Will do, Commander."
There is are a few seconds of buzz, then the figures of two of the Councilors come into focus. Tevos and Demos nod in greeting to them, with the asari nodding cordially, "Spectres."
"Afternoon… right?" Garrus ventures.
Amused, Tevos nods, "Yes, Spectre, it's afternoon on the Citadel."
"Will Councilor Sparatus be joining us, Ma'am?" Shepard asks.
She sighs, "Unfortunately not, the Batarians are getting angry about something new, he's currently speaking with their representative in his office."
"Oof," Alex winces, "Please, pass along my condolences."
"We will," Tevos nods.
"We've read the reports from your latest missions," Demos speaks up for the first time, eyes locking with Shepard, "A Rachni, Spectre, really?"
The Commander nods, "Yes sir, I felt it the best tactical choice at the time. It wasn't hostile and it was giving information freely."
"Yes, understand reasoning, just unexpected that you would let it live, given your history."
"My history is with Batarians, sir," Shepard points out, "Not other species in general. If it tries anything, it's dust, but until then it's a guest on my ship."
"And once you have all the intel you need from it?" Tevos asks.
"We'll revisit its options," He tells her.
"Speaking of the intel it offered, your report mentioned that it said something about a 'yellow note?'" Demos asks.
Shepard nods, "Records from the Rachni War indicate that it was speculated that they communicated through either telepathy. When it started talking, it talked through the unconscious matriarch, so I give that thought some credence."
"And the 'yellow note?'"
"I think it was talking about mind control," he tells them.
"Impossible!" Tevos refutes, "multiple studies proved that the Rachni couldn't control other species, only that they could communicate amongst themselves."
"It wasn't talking about it being able to mind control other species," Shepard clarifies, "It was talking about something being able to mind control the entire Rachni species as well as the Matriarch."
Tevos and Demos look faintly sickened by the idea, and Demos asks, "Do you have any proof?"
"We have proof that mind control is at least possible," Garrus points out.
"Right, your mission to Feros," Demos nods, "You both noted that a fungal creature was able to take control of the colonists and forced them to attack you?"
"The Thorian is able to command other organic species with spores," Alex points out, "Like the cordyceps fungus that can be found in Earth's rainforests."
"That is disturbing," Tevos shudders, "Do you think it would be able to control a matriarch like Benezia?"
"I think it could," Alex agrees, "But I don't think it is. From what I could gather, its only interactions with modern society has been in the last year, and the only Asari it had contact with is Shiala."
"The asari you recovered from the Thorian?"
"Yes, and while the creature did say it had contact with Saren, it never said that it had contact with Benezia."
"Along with that," Garrus interrupts, "According to Lizbeth Baynham, an Exogeni whistleblower, the Thorian can only gain control of a subject after prolonged exposure."
"And word would have quickly spread if an asari Matriarch was staying on a human colony for an extended period of time," Demos notes, nodding.
"Quarantining the planet was a prudent move," Tevos nods as well, "Hopefully we will be able to create countermeasures to the Thorian's abilities. But for now we must table that discussion and move to your next course of action."
"We need to question Shiala and the Rachni Queen," Shepard tells them, "from there, we'll be able to determine if we have a clear path."
"Any news from Virmire?" Garrus asks.
"That is actually a matter we wanted to bring to you," Demos tells them, "We lost contact with the STG team sent to the planet."
"When did they last make contact?" Shepard asks.
"Thirteen hours ago," Demos tells them, "Their last check in before they were to jump the relay into the Hoc system."
"Twelve-hour check ins?" Shepard asks, "I thought STG standard was a full twenty-four hours?"
"Usually," The Salarian agrees, "But we are dealing with a rogue Spectre, not a Pirate cell."
Shepard nods in understanding, "So we head to Virmire, interrogate our prisoners en route?"
"That is what we would suggest," Tevos nods.
The three nod, and the conference ends.
"Alright, I'll tell Joker the new course," Garrus tells his fellows.
"I'll get to work questioning the asari," Murphy nods.
Shepard doesn't bother saying what he'll be doing, they already know.
- Citadel, Councilor Demos's Office -
"Troubling news," Demos frowns.
Tevos nods, "Rachni returning, mind controlling plants, Matriarchs under thrall… what's next?"
"Don't know, but do not look forward to finding out," Demos sighs.
The door slides open behind them, and they both turn to look at an irritated Sparatus. The turian is glaring down at the datapad in his hands, and if he had less control of himself it is clear that he'd be swearing up a storm.
Once he reaches them, he asks, "Our Spectres have verified their reports?"
"They have," Demos nods.
Sparatus sighs and moves over to the drinks cupboard, he pulls out two bottles. The dextro brandy he uses to pour himself a generous shot, and the levo wine he pours a pair of glasses for his companions, "How the hell did it come to this?"
"I wish I knew," Tevos sighs, picking up his wine.
"Spirits, it's like in one of those old Vids," Sparatus grumbles.
"The ones starring Robocop?" Demos asks, grinning.
The turian growls at him, but doesn't disagree. After a long pull of his glass he tells them, "the Batarians are planning something."
"What do you mean?" Tevos asks
Mouth flanges twitching, Sparatus tells her, "That four-eyed bastard was smug, too smug. He knew he was wasting my time, my energy, and my patience."
"You think they'll try for true independence?" Demos asks.
The Batarian Hegemony had seceded from the Citadel a few years after humans had entered the stage. They'd declared that the humans were stealing their worlds, taking their lands, and… most importantly… infringing on their cultural identity.
The Systems Alliance had taken one look at the Hegemony and declared war. Not war in the traditional sense, but the humans had an impressive concept called 'Cold War.' Apparently two of their superpowers back when they'd only existed on one planet had been at polar political opposites, but they were equal militarily. So, they had waged proxy wars for decades.
The Systems Alliance was doing much the same against the Hegemony, though now they fought with mercenary bands rather than small countries. The Blue Suns mercenary group had apparently been started on this front, though it had fallen to decadence when their founder had been betrayed.
Because of this hostility, the Hegemony had been slowly closing ranks around its territory for years, calling back those "pirates" still out in space that were really just members of their military on slave collecting duty.
If the Hegemony was finally breaking from the Citadel for good, it would be both a blessing and a curse.
It would be a blessing, as the Council would immediately be able to null any treaty that still allowed slavery. On top of that, they would finally be able to start considering new species for the Council.
It was nearly written in stone that there would only ever be three members species to the council, but most didn't realize that no new species had been admitted because the damned batarians would have demand a seat at the table, and as much as the turians, asari, and salarians might disagree on some things, they were all firmly entrenched in the belief that slavery was the kind of amoral they couldn't tolerate at the political table.
Asari may still have indentured servitude, turians may have had forced labor for prisoners, and nobody really wanted to talk about what the salarians did to their worst prisoners, but there were rules in place. With the batarians, there were no laws to protect the slaves. A little girl could be bought, raped to death, and left in a ditch, and the most a batarian could find themselves charged with under their laws was littering.
So… the Council was willing to take the blessing, but the curse that would come with the Hegemony finally leaving might not be enough to warrant it.
War. All out, full on, no holds barred.
The Systems Alliance had built their fleet to the tolerance level for the express purpose of destroying the Hegemony should they ever try to attack. When Elysium had happened, the only thing that stopped open war was a lot of politicking from Tevos's predecessor, so much so that it was what had lost the woman her position and opened it for Tevos to take her place.
It was entirely possible that war could break any day and none of them had seen it coming. It was a terrifying concept.
- Normandy, Shuttle -
Shiala woke to a gently prodding to her side. She groaned and tried to swipe at the offending implement and found that her hands were bound. Jolting up, the asari finds that she is in a small cell… no, the interior of a shuttle. From the feel of it, they'd probably removed the mass effect core from the vehicle, so she couldn't hijack it if she wanted.
Good thing she didn't want to.
Looking up at the face of the man who'd rescued her, a name drifts into her head, "Robocop."
"You've heard of me? Good," Alex nods.
"Not before," She says hesitantly, "Saren would rant about you, and your partner. He does not like you."
"I gathered as much," Alex nods, "Why'd you join him? He didn't seem that convincing when I talked to him?"
"I didn't join him," She tells him, "I followed my Matriarch. Benezia learned that Saren was planning something big, something deadly, and that he was looking for backing."
"So, she offered her resources?"
"Yes. The intention was to become his advisor and try to turn him from his path," Shiala nods, then shudders as she remembers the voices, "But… Saren had a way about him."
"What do you mean?"
"It was like… I couldn't help but agree with him," She says, "When he spoke on our ship, on a planet, his madness was clear as Thessia's seas. But… once he had you on his ship, everything he said was the truth."
"How was it the truth?" Alex asks.
"It was as though his thoughts clouded my own, blocked them, beat me down as a willing puppet took my place," She tells him.
"And you aren't feeling like that now?"
"No," She shakes her head, "When I was given to the Thorian, it took me for its own."
"Its thoughts became my thoughts, I was one with it," She shudders, "It was going to eat me."
"Like the Mirror Bulbs of Illium, or the venus fly trap of Earth," She gives examples, "If you had not come, I would be gone. When you came, it released me and I could think for myself for the first time in years."
"You mentioned something about a Cipher?" Alex asks.
"Yes, it was why Saren went to Feros," She tells him, "The Thorian is old, older than our recorded civilization and perhaps even older than the Protheans that claimed Feros for themselves."
"The Thorian has consumed Protheans," She tells him, "It had their thoughts in its head as they died. It knows how to think like them, and if it knew, I knew. Saren wanted the Thorian to make a clone to transfer the knowledge of how to think like a Prothean to him."
"My clone did," She tells him.
"Do you still have the ability?"
"Good to know, we'll keep that in mind for the future," He notes, then asks, "What is Saren after?"
"Something called the 'Conduit,'" she explains, "It is the key to returning the Reapers."
"And what are the Reapers?"
"I am not sure. He did not need to tell me, so he did not. I caught glimpses, when the Thorian was sharing the Cipher with Saren, of giant creatures that could fall from the sky and fly through the blackness of space without the aid of machines."
"How do you mean?"
"I saw images of hands the size of cities crashing upon Prothean colonies, wars between Protheans puppetted by the Reapers. I wish I could give you more, Robocop, but my mind was not my own for years, and it will take a long time to piece everything back together."
"That's okay," he tells her, "you've been a big help, thank you."
"What will happen to me now?" She asks.
"For now, you'll be confined to the ship until we can hand you off to a Council specialist," He tells her, "You've been cooperative, and I hope you'll continue to be, so I won't be giving you to my fellow Spectres or the STG for interrogation."
He nods, then moves to exit the shuttle. But before he can step out of the door, a shot rings out.
- Normandy, Cargo Bay -
Shepard stood in front of the Rachni, wondering how he could question it. Thankfully, though, he didn't have to wonder long, as one of the prisoner Asari spoke up, "You come with questions."
"I do," He nods, ignoring the grumbling behind him. Wrex had taken up residence at the other end of the cargo bay and was twirling Kalros's barrels threateningly while glaring at the alien bug.
"What did you mean when you said Benezia was infected with a 'yellow note?'"
"It is not easy, to explain to the blind."
"Our world is sound, endless song that leads from one end of creation to the end. We are all part of the song, each a different note. You are a harsh red, the man of metal a soft blue, the Krogan a burning Orange. There is only one that can create the Yellow."
"No, it is not a natural note. The note breaks the song, interrupts. It demands to be played, rather than the true tone. Those with the Yellow note can no longer be a harsh red, a soft blue, or a burning orage. All there will be is yellow, all there will be is a sour note that breaks the song."
"You're saying that Matriarch Benezia isn't an asari?"
"She was, once, but no longer. Her song has almost been snuffed out. It is too weak to play on its own and must beg us forgiveness while the yellow takes control."
"Why would she need forgiveness?"
"Because she does not know we can recognize the yellow note, that the souring of the song has happened to our kind as well."
"The Rachni War?"
"The note needed to stop the species of the galaxy from expanding. So, it sent its agents to our burrows, infected the mothers of my mothers with the yellow note. Then it waited."
"Waited for some poor bastard to discover you."
"They hell does that mean?" Wrex demands, finally getting sick of playing audience, "My people waged war with yours, destroyed yours! And you're saying that was planned?"
"No," The queen's eyes turn to him, "Krogan are strong, stronger than the note expected. When you killed our kind, it poisoned your minds as it did ours."
"What do you mean?" Shepard asks, he'd been about to chew Wrex out, but this was new information.
"War!" the Queen snaps, "The note cannot tolerate strength! It cannot tolerate resistance! It must break us before it consumes us!"
Shepard and Wrex hit the deck at the same time, but neither was the target. Rolling both raise their weapons, expecting to find one of the Asari with a weapon raised. Instead…
"Pressley?" Shepard blinks at his executive officer.
The man stood stiff as a board, with a shotgun raised in the direction of the Rachni queen.
Which finally topples over… dead.
- Question for the Readers -
How should I kill off on Virmire? Should I kill anyone off on Virmire? Please let me know who and how in the reviews, please! If I do it, everyone lives.