Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect or anything else referenced here. Those are the sole property of their writers/companies (Bioware/EA and such). I do not claim ownership of anything but my OC and original concepts. Moreover, this fanfiction "borrows" from a lot of other fanfics – those which I consider some of the best ideas, while adding my own touch –, so don't be surprised if you see familiar things. This is, after all, my attempt at giving a better conclusion to the story than those garbage RGB endings!
The premise of this story was already said in the summary, but do you know what the best part is? I'm sticking to "hard-core" canon (the Codex has precedence over the in-game cinematics) with as much real science my layman ass can fit in without contradicting the Universe, meaning no magical FTL drive or technology that's better than everything just because eezo had been "abandoned" – which I'm definitely not going to do. In fact, I'm going to embrace the MEverse's own Clark Tech (Element Zero) even further than all the factions of that galaxy did, by actually utilizing it logically to derive much of its potential on the given timeframe! Besides that, everything else is going to be technology that is either available today or near future tech, just made possible/affordable by what they have there. I'll also try to bring in characters from comic/novels of the Mass Effect Universe (MEU) just to not have to create new ones.
This prologue was made only to offer a resonable explanation about why and how the Self Insert works, something many other fanfics don't try to do, and to give a few hints at how I'm going to see and deal with the MEverse.
Thanks: Transcendent Humanity (Solaris242); End of Days (Postmeat); The Only Right Choice (guubear); Mass Effect: Plan for the Galaxy (bored peasant); and many of those "First Contact War" and "Alternate Humanity" fanfics, which have analyzed the "Citadel Council Civilization". I might update this with time...
Special thanks: Mass Effect: Logical Conclusions (LittleSeraphim); Mass Intelligence: Close Call (BJHanssen); and First Contact (Ralts Bloodthorne).
Prologue: A Divine Interview
The day was looking to be a quite good one. The weather was clear, the temperature warm and I'd woken up refreshed. Last night, I'd just put the last words on a fanfiction about actually giving Mass Effect 1 a proper continuation/sequel, a cathartic exercise after replaying the OT (Legendary Edition this time) and experiencing the disappointment, depression and emptiness all over again. It couldn't be any other way. After all of the research I'd done in order to write it, everything was still very fresh on my memory.
This was all broken where I suddenly found myself in what appeared to be a futuristic sci-fi office, with some magical undertones mixed in here and there. Sitting in a chair on the certermost desk was an otherworldly beauty (the keyword being otherworldly), looking at me with a smile and an wily expression like she wanted to sell something to me. The office was filled with all sorts of weird gizmos and I could swear there was a half-eaten Cup Noodles in the desk. Oh, I can't forget to mention that we were in a mansion floating in the air, upside down and no one in the city outside was bothered, as if they couldn't see it!
"Well… hello there.", I met her eyes and managed to squeeze a few words, trying to break the awkward silence.
"Don't be shy. Sit down.", said the woman, gesturing to a chair that was right in front of her desk. "We need to have a serious conversation.".
"O… k…", I took a few steps and sat down. "So, first things first, who are you and why am I here?".
"What I am is a 'True God', not to be confused with some pretend guys you might have read or seen in fiction, and why you are here is for an interview by yours truly.", she responded resolutely, not doubting even a little bit when claiming to be a Goddess.
"I can't deny that something really out of the ordinary is going on right now and it likely involves the supernatural, or some crazy, high-tech…", I quickly retorted, almost without thinking. "But forgive me for not taking your claim to divinity at face value.".
Her only response was staring at my eyes with a shit-eating grin. Uh Oh. She waved her hands and, in the next moment, we were in Dark Space, right outside of the Milky Way Galaxy. Understandably, I completely freaked out, expecting to die a very, very horrible death. When nothing happened except feeling the zero-G environment, I turned around to see the same figure, but with her hair floating lazily in the vacuum, a serious stare on her face.
"Wha-... how is this possible?", was all I could ask, surprisingly given the lack of air, before she spoke again.
"Lovely little thing, isn't it? All the sparkles are immense stars, constantly burning up in a dance of nuclear hellfire. Billions of them. And for even longer than I myself have existed.", she ignored my question as these words were muttered in a wistful voice, a clear reveal of this being's personal thoughts. "Yet, it's nothing much. Just a sprinkle of dusk in the great emptiness of the void…".
All of a sudden, she grabbed my head with both of her hands, holding me in place and staring straight into my eyes.
"Look into my eyes and see; see the truth of the cosmos; see the truth of the void!", a voice boomed into my mind, followed by an unrelenting force coming from her eyes, which were dark, but with a hint of starlight shining from them. "And know that it is the truth that I speak!".
Reality unraveled right before my eyes, as I beheld the galaxy going backwards in time, as if someone had hit the rewind button on it. Planets and other celestial bodies started being deconstructed in reversed explosions of supernovae, their heavier elements, like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron, which were forged in the bellies of stars, returned back to their origin. The galaxy itself was quickly being undone, with blinks of supernovae, pulsars and black holes as the only indication of the passage of time – until only hydrogen atoms, too ionized due to having their electrons being stripped by high-energy protons, becoming the majority of its stars' composition.
Hydrogen atoms stopped being ionized and began exuding light while the Universe slowly stopped being transparent; stars and galaxies once formed returning to their primordial states now. At some point, atomic nuclei began to release all of their captured electrons, with the Universe going from transparent to opaque, the point at which Cosmic Microwave Background just ceased to be seen. This was now the moment when the seed of stars took root and, soon enough, matter stopped being more prevalent than radiation. Electrons flew around haphazardly; it was simply too hot for them to be captured. Helium and lithium were broken into hydrogen while the entire Universe was like a nuclear reactor.
The temperature then climbed higher than 2 trillions of Kelvin, something so hot that the first atoms just broke down into protons and neutrons, and those too soon became the fundamental blocks of matter, quarks and gluons, which all permeated a hot plasma soup. Finally, everything contracted, until the Universe was inside a bubble that was thousands of times smaller than a pinhead. It became something… unknowable, that I could barely comprehend only because the same powerful being which was showing me this helped make sense of it. But it didn't stop there! No, it still kept going.
Even my Universe stopped being, becoming part of some greater nothingness. Except, it wasn't nothingness. It was everything ever possible, all concepts that could ever be, and even those which represented the impossible, all at once, nowhere and never at the same time, also in no time at all. And this was… The Void. The chaos which encompasses all of reality, even that which is not real, and from where Universes are born, because, true to its nature, it must offer the possibility of something which is very unlike itself: an orderly world. A singularity happens when a part of its infiniteness decides it's had enough and wants to become the opposite of chaotic. Suddenly, the presentation froze completely and a small print appeared on my vision:
Professional Documentation of Genesis, Trial Version (Rewind Mode). If you wish to restart, please press 2.
With a clap of thunder that tore apart the fabric of those visions, we were suddenly back in her office. Now, it was safe to say that it was better to believe her…
"That's the recording of the evolution of your Universe from this moment to even before the beginning of time. There were a few tweaks done to make you comprehend it, especially what was going on at a time.", she patiently explained while I was recovering from what the heck that was. "Those snapshots were taken directly from information in the depths of the Universe. Basically, you've personally experienced Genesis. No more doubts?", she asked, to which I nodded silently.
"Moving on… I was assigned by the Space-Time Administration the job of God-Manager of a newly discovered Universe in the fringes of the Celestial Domain… No problem there, except for the multitude of headaches this Universe has despite the fact the Abyss never bothered the place.", she said, rubbing her eyes, a very human behavior, in my view. "That was the case until something very peculiar happened not long after starting the job.".
She snapped a holographic representation of a galaxy, not unlike my own, from what little information I could gather.
"I like to dabble in what you'd call 'prophecy'. It's just predictions based on data, lots of mathematics and algorithms, really. And one of the galaxies in my Universe has a 'pest' problem: all sufficiently advanced organic life is 'harvested' by some broken machines in a somewhat strict timescale.", she told me with barely hidden disgust. Now, that sounded awfully familiar, but I didn't interrupt. "The civilizations of that galaxy call it 'The Cycles'. Personally, I prefer to call it 'The Really Dumb Solution'.".
Ha, I bet she mailed a few knives to a certain pair of writers. Or cursed them…
"However, prior to just wiping them out before the next 'Cycle', I decided to do a little 'prophecy' and see the consequences of such an act…", she said jovially. "Imagine my surprise when the result of my little 'prophecy' was that simply destroying those broken machines wouldn't resolve that galaxy's problem! In fact, an even bigger crisis would happen in the future should things stay as they are. So, I cheated a little and used a 'Prophetic Crystal' from the Mother Goddess of Prophecy and it pointed out the solution to my problem in a neighboring Universe… It showed you.".
"Well, I don't know how to feel…", I awkwardly said, while slowly rubbing my neck.
"So I did some digging and found out that you were a big fan of a videogame series called Mass Effect, which, surprisingly, represents the situation that the little galaxy of the Universe in my care will find itself in very soon, about 16 years from now.". Huh, so it's 2170 there. "Just like most fans, you were devastated by the ending of the trilogy and gave up on the franchise for many years. That was true until recently, when you started playing the 'Legendary Edition', reading all sorts of 'fanfiction' and, finally, writing your own, with its divergent ending. Therefore, I decided to talk with you and, perhaps, offer the opportunity for a nice job.".
"Ok... But how does that work?", I asked curiously. "How did the future of the Mass Effect Universe turn into a series of single player videogames of mine?".
"Well… what do you think the Universe, at its most simple basic form, actually is?", asked the Goddess in response to my question, leaning back.
"My answer is that the Universe is made up of a mix of all kinds of particles, quantum mechanics, physical laws, constants and forces (gravity, the electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force), all within spacetime. From them, everything else is created.", I answered with my basic knowledge.
"Good answer, for the level of knowledge in your civilization, but not quite true.", she swiftly began succinctly explaining her own knowledge on the subject. "The Grand Unified Theory states that everything in the cosmos is constructed out of information. There's no boundary between material and energy, abstract and tangible. Information is the raw ingredient of materials, quality, temperature, density, hardness and colors which form all things and from which all things can be formed.".
After saying that, she proposed a mental exercise.
"Think of it like this: if you knew all the laws, constants, forces, equations and so on that represent your reality and perfectly programmed them in a computer simulation, could you not end up with a perfect replica of your Universe? How would that differ from your reality? Couldn't life sprout there too? Would it be any different from you now?". Yeah, this actually was something people have imagined and the basis for the simulation hypothesis (that we all live in a computer simulation). There was also the holographic principle. "However, your computers, no matter how powerful, would not be able to run a simulation that involves all the particles, quantum mechanics and their interaction in your Universe. In order to do that, you would require a Cosmos sized computer. And what IS the Universe if not that?".
"So, in the end, it all boils down to information, data, attributes, definitions, parameters…", I muttered in understanding. "Then what, exactly, are 'True Gods'?".
"True Gods, in simple terms, are the biggest bodies of information around. We are massive sources of information entanglement, one of the reasons that enables us to 'shape' reality as we wish, even by creating something from 'nothing'. We can do that by, for example, transforming the information of some area of vacuum into a space station, by flipping 'a bunch of 0s' into 'a bunch of 0s and 1s'.", said the Goddess. "But enough about this topic. Let's return to your situation.".
"Why is the 'Mass Effect' game series a thing in my Universe…", I nodded.
"Yes. In your Universe, there are many stories in all forms of media. But not all of them are original. A good portion are mere retelling of events that already happened in neighboring Universes.", she revealed something new to me. "How did this happen? The writers were 'influenced' to 'create' those stories, believing it's their 'inspiration', when, in fact, they were merely affected by the 'echoes' from other realities. That occurs because of something we call Information Projection, which can include possible future events (yet to happen) if they have the possibility of resulting in a massive disturbance of information. Now, in the case of the ME Universe, what do you think could cause that?".
"The Crucible.", I deduced immediately. Nothing else offered the same bang as that.
"Correct.", confirmed the Goddess, approvingly. "The entanglement of information caused by the Crucible, even if it has not happened yet and is only the probable future of the Mass Effect Universe, was strong enough to breach the World Barrier and reach your Universe in the form that it did (videogames). Most possible future versions of Shepard end up firing the superweapon, which backtracks all causal events related to him/her roughly up to the point where he/she starts to matter in the grand scheme of things.".
"Eden Prime.", I complemented. "That's where it all began.".
"And that is why the games mostly cover the events from that point on. Shepard is the key, the individual that is intrinsically related to everything.", the Goddess finishes clarifying the truth to me. "The developers of the games made them with him/her as the main character because all of the information sent by the Information Shockwaves of the Crucible mostly involve him/her. Moreover, the first 'game' was made around 15 years ago and that is the approximate age of the current Shepard.".
Now it all made sense. When those self-inserts end up getting transmigrated to the Mass Effect Universe, no good reason is given as to why that videogame world suddenly turned into reality. Most of the time, there's no explanation at all.
"So we get back to you.", the Goddess looked at me expectantly. "Why did the 'Prophecy Crystal' point to you?".
"If I were to guess, I'd say your… device might've approved the solution to the Mass Effect problem found in my 'fanfiction', how I had used everything available there to resolve the Reaper threat once and for all, and the state of the galaxy at the end of my story. Or all of this together.", I offered her my best conjecture. "After all, it was done after reading pretty much all of the best, and even some of the worst, 'fanfics' out there, not just 'fix-it' ones. You name it: alternate humanity and first contact war, crossovers, self-insert, Shepard time-travel and more. Even if they were not finished. Actually, most were just abandoned, but I never forgot their ideas, their premises.".
"And, due to that, you must've gathered a lot of information pertaining to the lore and, even more importantly for now, strategies on how to 'unscrew' what I like to call the Mass Effect conundrum.", she deduced, to which I nodded in agreement. The Goddess stayed still for a few seconds, looking me in the eyes, before speaking again. "Tell me about what you've read in those stories.".
"Well, it's going to take quite some time…", I did warn her.
"Time is… a relative thing to someone such as myself.", she waved her right hand and the world outside slowed down to a crawl. Either that or we were experiencing time much faster than the outside world. "There. Go on.".
"Very well. Here goes nothing…", I then began going over things I'd learned on my journey through "a certain fanfic website", futurism, other sci-fi novels and life itself…
Excluding those that are basically just smut, nonsensical "fluff" and alternative first contact war, the first big category was Alternate Humanity (AU). The truth was that we humans are just paranoid war-monkeys. Even if we like to poke dangerous things with a stick, there was no way that Humanity would look at the Charon Mass Relay, remember it had been watched by the Protheans before those guys disappeared mysteriously and go: LET'S ACTIVATE THE ALIEN CONSTRUCT WE KNOW ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? Well… quite a lot, actually. Worse, we'd never keep opening those up and "colonizing" planets in the "network" with low population and barely any defenses. Besides, space habitats like O'Neill Cylinders were much better than having to deal with all the BS that comes with planets and much easier to build than terraforming was to accomplish. And more mass-space efficient too! I think something went very wrong with the development of that version of Humanity. In fact, the whole 'Systems Alliance' was a big symptom of that. There was no way that our many nations would just give up power like that (too much greed, historical hostility and political incompatibility). Also, it had to be one of the most non-governmental names ever chosen: an 'alliance' only means sovereign powers/nations coming together for a mutual purpose, mostly self-defense, and wouldn't be a good name for a polity made to represent ALL of Humanity. Terran Con/Federation, United Earth Nations/Government, etc. would make more sense.
Fiction that deals with how humanity might develop brings valuable perspectives on how to deal with the whole Citadel Council/Reaper War situation in a better way. They show the potential of technologies that develop outside of the trap laid by the Reapers, which also point to the shortcomings of limiting yourself only to eezo-based tech, and how it might be received by the rest of the galaxy's inhabitants. Too bad almost none of them had a good grasp of even what we could already do technologically today, preferring to give their version of Humanity "technobabble" tech and random big numbers. For what a truly "Alternative Humanity" could do as close as possible to hard sci-fi, just take a look at "Mass Effect: Logical Conclusions". This kind of fics also show the darker side of the Citadel Council, a side that is hidden by the beautiful presentation of the games, but can be found in the Codex entries and other information around. If you pay attention, that is.
"What kind of dark side are you talking about?", the Goddess suddenly interrupted me, inclining herself forward and holding up her chin with one hand.
"Let's see…", I began going through many of the things one could see by not looking at the ME Universe merely at a surface level, something which took many minutes to finish, such as:
How the Council was basically just an oligarchy of three races pretending to be some kind of democratic institution, whose real aim was to further the interests of their own species, many times at the expense of the others.
How the 'Big Three' limit any actual power to only those that 'prove' themselves by whatever arbitrary metrics they themselves set, when it actually all just boils down to military power, which, funny enough, prevents anyone from ever 'proving themselves' because of things like the 'Treaty of Farixen'. Humanity only got a 'seat' because it didn't play by the rules or just sidestepping them, like when building carriers, and had a big opportunity fall on its lap in the form of Saren.
How they had bastardized the institution called 'embassy' from the most basic tool of communication between sovereign powers to some kind of weird 'privilege' to just 'complain' to their 'betters', letting any actual deciding power stay in the hands of the Councilors. There was no appeal. No true representation. No… justice.
How the Spectres were basically a different kind of (Ultra) Secret Police, with a vague enough prerogative (galactic stability) to be able to justify any terrorist act. Think of this situation: if a Spectre puts a gun to your head and says that you need to die for 'galactic stability', but you manage to kill him in self-defense, are you legally clear of any charges or not? Because, if you are not, then does that mean that you are legally obliged to die? Come on, do you not have the most basic of rights, the right to live? The existence of this group just proves that not even the 'Big Three' want to follow their own laws…
How they let the Batarian Hegemony be a thing for more than a few years (centuries, in fact). And then sent Humanity to colonize the Skyllian Verge, an "open scheme" to get it into open conflict with the batarians, weakening both parties in the process, which only resulted in a weakened, scarred and more xenophobic Systems Alliance.
How the Council didn't have any form of due process, passing 'sentences' as they wish, without their 'victims' being able to defend themselves properly. And even when there was barely no justification found in the law, like with the whole quarian situation (I bet the anti-AI laws do not account for emergent AI, do not prescribe the punishment to be eternal exile and, like any proper judicial system would, do not extend whatever punishment it sets to the descendants of the 'criminals').
How they were very active in promoting the genocide of entire species, like when they threatened orbital bombardment against the civilians of a dying race, exiled to equally dying ships, in a planet (Ekuna) THAT race found in the Terminus Systems, the place the Council was very scared of sending fleets during Mass Effect 1, before just giving the colony to the Elcor. Apparently, it's ok to invade the Terminus to kill civilians, but it's a 'big no-no' when it is to catch a rogue Spectre with an army of murdering geth (the sole reason the quarians were punished to begin with) and a Super-Dreadnought (Sovereign).
After a deep breath, I finally calmed down. A lot of frustration I had always felt towards this entire FUBAR situation was released all at once, not unlike how I felt after writing the last line of my "fanfic". The Goddess even raised an eyebrow.
"Those are just some of the dark things they do. I'm sure the reality is even worse. It can't be any different when the surface level is already so rotten.", I said in resignation. "The truth is that the Citadel Council, especially the asari, have led the Galaxy into perpetual stagnation and far away from a post-scarcity society. The mere existence of the Terminus Systems is proof of that! Anyway, next are the crossovers…".
Crossovers are just like "Alternative Humanity", but with a few more variables added by an already established Universe. What sucked was that many of them, for some asinine reason, just weakened the crossover fic's strength and upped the ME side of things, which was just nonsense. This basically completely wasted the opportunity for a possible direct confrontation with the Reapers. Keep in mind that the ME Universe is one of the weakest "hard" sci-fi's out there. For example, a Systems Alliance Everest-class "Dreadnought" can fire a 20 kilogram slug at 1.3% the speed of light for a kinetic energy yield equivalent to 38 kilotons of TNT, while a Sovereign-class Reaper's shot yields the equivalent of 132 to 450 kilotons of TNT. Those are yields of a small and a medium nuke of our current modern tech, respectively. Other sci-fi Universes have warships firing shots that yield something in the range of megatons or gigatons of TNT and they've got lasers, particle beams and much more. Another issue is how passive the "new player" is in relation to the Citadel Civilization, even letting the latter dictate terms to them. For once, I'd like to see the crossover's faction just replace the Council polity with their own Civilization (that is better in all aspects), deal with the Reaper threat from their perspective and the ramifications of that!
Then, there is the category most applicable to this situation: "self-insert" stories. Arguably, those were ones with the most wasted potential. Just think about it: even if you just played the trilogy casually, you'd have enough information to shake entire governments, like the case with the asari's hidden Prothean Beacon. So, considering that some are even transported many years before the events of Eden Prime, what do they (SIs) do with that? Absolutely fucking nothing! They spend all their effort just trying to "get to the Normandy!", 'cause they "gotta join Shepard's crew!", only to be another goon, as if that was the "be-all and end-all" to "saving the galaxy". Even if they have many years to prepare, those are just used as "training" with the Alliance or someone else, so they become just another grunt. In fact, those stories aren't much different than the "novelizations", just with an extra crew member that adds very little to the overall experience. Actually, sometimes they change things for the worse: someone that would survive ends up dying. And they never tell the events to come, which would let someone with actual agency (Shepard) use the information to its best potential. In some cases, they keep "the truth" to themselves despite showing that they "know too much", which just causes unnecessary drama. And many SI's, for some reason, have no backbone and/or are just filled with mental problems, traumas and/or angst. If I wanted to feel down, I'd just what the news (both local and international).
Still, some are very well done. They start by looking for possible allies, working "behind the scenes", sometimes sharing their "information" with friendly asari through melding, which secures steadfast allies, building their own forces, but those are mostly never finished or just don't do enough to make a real difference. IF they got to the "endgame", then I'd assume it'd just result in a rush to build the "MacGuffin" (Crucible) anyway, but with a little more preparation than canon. Plus, they'd probably not even try to fix the "Destroy" ending to just target the Reapers (which would just turn the story into a "fix-it fanfic", not much different than just having the SI pop up a while before Priority: Thessia and revealing what the Catalyst is). You know what would've been interesting? Saving Shepard from the Collectors during ME2, upending the story on its head by actually working on a way to stop the Reapers and actually giving those two wasted years meaning! Basically, trying to give ME1 a proper sequel rather than just a filler sidequest…
Anyway, as things stand now, we're stuck with two endings that don't solve the problem (Reapers), one of which even violates all sentient life on a genetic level, and another ending that solves the problem once all for all, but kills all synthetic life, betraying all that you have build so far and opening a door to further conflicts between synths and organics down the road – and destroys the Relays, which is just a recipe for future conflict between the many fragmented factions of the galaxy.
There were a few seconds of silence in the office. I could probably hear a pin drop. And the Goddess looked to be deep in thought, so I didn't interrupt.
"Well, I'm satisfied with our interview and think you are the right guy for the job.", she had finally concluded, while wearing a smile, after listening to many of my ideas. "You see, I'm new in this Universe and there's a lot of work to do, so I need certain agents to help me, especially with the whole PR side of things. By the way, those agents are named by the Space-Time Administration as 'Inspectors'. So, I thought this whole situation could be turned into an interesting test for the position – assistant to God. And, after talking so far, I decided to give you this opportunity.".
I raised my eyebrows at the name of the job.
"Don't get disappointed by the name. Inspectors, as de facto assistants of True Gods, serve as bridges between the local mortal civilizations and the Gods. Each one of them gets a certain territory of the universe to take care of (in your case, it would be the Milky Way Galaxy) and their work consists of observing, recording and preventing the abrupt annihilation of civilizations. They are the observer and responder to all living things in the universe, and are allowed to interfere only when an apocalyptic event threatens a civilization, like in the case of the Reapers.", she explained to me what the job entailed. "Therefore, put it in your mind that this time we are dealing with a peculiar case. Besides, Inspectors are allowed to work together with civilizations in order to complete their duties.".
"Alright. I get the gist of it.", I told her. "But what if I'm not interested in the job? And what if I accept, but get killed during the 'test'?".
"If you refuse, I'll just send you back, without the memories of this meeting, so you can continue your ordinary life. Alternatively, should you die during the test, I'll bring you back to life, but it means you have failed, so you'll have to return to your Universe too.", the Goddess answered. "Besides that, know that all consequences of your disappearance will be dealt with by me.".
I pondered my choices carefully. I could go back to my boring life of jack shit happening, with the world seemingly devolving into , OR I could make something interesting, something more meaningful with my life, living in the same Universe as one of my favorite stories, exploring the galaxy and maybe even visiting other Universes as well. Besides that, no matter how much I'd accomplished already, and everything I could still achieve in the future, it'd all be washed away with time after my death - like tears, in the rain. Frankly, it didn't seem to be such a hard choice.
"Space… I want to see it again.", I answered, resolution filling me. "But I'll need a few things first: the 'latest' improvements in medicine and gene therapy that Universe can offer, an Omni-tool with a decent amount of credits and a translator. Otherwise, I might just die from space flu without even being able to ask anyone for help or even pay for a space cab.". Honestly, you've got to wonder what those "forces" that "throw" other SIs to the Mass Effect Universe, especially inside the melting pot of alien bacteria and viruses that was the Citadel, actually wanted from them. After all, with no money, Omni-tool, translator and/or future vaccines, all they'd be able to accomplish getting there was a death speedrun.
"That's it?", she snapped her fingers and I could almost feel myself – or my body – getting healthier. Stronger too, in all aspects, due to the basic genetic modifications that Humanity is allowed to develop. And there was a hand-held device in my left arm. "I thought you'd ask for a lot more, not that I'd really give you much more than that - or anything capable of rendering the 'test' useless, for that matter. Still, if that's all you're going to ask, maybe I'll add a little something 'extra'…".
I felt my body changing once again, getting more physically fit this time around, and some new knowledge entering my mind.
"It'll make it as if you had gone to a very serious military boot camp for two years or so. That'll give you enough fitness and fighting experience to get started.", she said, while grabbing something from her drawers. "By the way, the Shepard you'll meet will be female, same as the default, my own inference in that Universe probably affecting things a bit…". A FemShep, huh... "So, where would you like to be sent, exactly?".
"I'd like to 'start' in the Presidium.", I responded, already making some plans. "More specifically, in that first area we visit during 'Mass Effect 1'. Which means I'll need an identity with a clean background.".
"And who will you be?", the Goddess asked me.
That question gave me pause. What name should I give? My boring, normal one? Or maybe change to another one, something with meaning. Considering I might end up working for a Goddess, I already had a name for the main "persona" I was going to assume, Samael – a clear reference to the Angel of Death, who punishes the wicked. Samael… usually confused with Lucifer, Fallen Archangel, the Morningstar and the Lightbringer. Samael… Sam!
As for a last name, since I'll be bringing "a new hope" to that Universe, maybe I should go with Skywalker... It wouldn't matter much anyway, because I'll act on the world as that other persona most of the time.
"Sam Skywalker.", I answered resolutely. "Space-born. Grew up as an orphan in the less hostile parts of the Terminus Systems. Last name chosen from a favorite character when young. Relatively little information, mostly due to that. The rest, I can make up from there…".
"Here. Sign this.", the Goddess gave what she took from the drawer. It looked like a contract, so I started reading, fine print included, which made her smile. "I'll take you in as an 'Intern Inspector' for the duration of the 'test'.".
With the Divine Contract signed, she waved her right hand, cheerfully shouting "Good luck!", and a blinding bright light engulfed me.
Then, just like that, I was gone! I'd set off to upend a galaxy which was doomed to a bad ending, yet didn't really feel like saving itself.
What's more, I was almost only armed with enough knowledge to topple entire galactic goverments.
And a plan on how to use it.
Author's Notes: Just like that, it begins. Every story needs a beginning and this is something I wrote just to get it going. It talks about the source of the Universe, opens the door to a multiverse that is very varied and makes sense (rather than copy and pasting our Universe while just changing it a little bit), and reveals some of my thoughts on how I see and will deal with the MEverse. Plus, it has something else: a reverse Singularity (Big Bang). Literally, the most well-known scientific explanation of the Universe's origin and expansion, only... simplified and going backwards.
As for the SI, I'd appreciate it if you guys gave me suggestions for a better name. For now, I've changed the placeholder last name to Skywalker. After all, everyone seem to be one these days... Ideas for what to do in those 13 years are also welcome. At this time, things are still up for change, since I decided to post the First Act before it had been "reworked". Moreover, some feedback I get might inspire me to go back and "redo" a certain Chapter or aspect of it, be it in a small or big way.
When the First Act ends, there will be an Intermission Chapter to wrap a lot of things up. On it, there's going to be a topic about grammar, to get some feedback, see what's working and what isn't, and so on. Something that's really bugging me until now is the best way to do quotation marks + commas/points. Hopefully, I'll be able to explain why I write the way I do and find a way to make it work for y'all (even thought only 4 reviewers complained until now). Just keep in mind that this is coming from someone who isn't from the USA and whose native language isn't English.
I'm on it for the long haul. The only reason this fic would ever get abandoned without prior notice is if I spontaneously died. Even if I decide to quit (for some reason), I'll still write a Chapter describing what would eventually go down in the story, so don't worry.
Right below is my reply to one of the first reviews I've received, which was made as clarification for all those that found this story. I've decided to move it here so that no one else ends up misunderstanding the premise of this fanfic.
Sci-fi can be as hard or as soft as the authors want, even reaching the level of science fantasy, when worldbuilding is either so lacking or the things happening are so outside of basic science it might as well be magic. And Mass Effect was always closer to hard sci-fi than other "softer" works. It was always grounded in reality, our reality, only set in a theoretical future, where something like Element Zero exists and there are aliens we could meet. For me, it's sci-fi because it's fiction that's based on science; not fictional everything, science be damned. As such, it means we have both our own science to utilize, only being made possible by the advanced tech they have in the MEU, and other creative ways to use said tech.
This is a Self Insert story, where the mere existence of the MC in the universe makes him/her an "Outside Context Problem". Moreover, I've read many other SIs where the people clamor with statements such as "Are you going to change anything or is it just going to be another novelization?". Too many authors do nothing with it and the complaints in the "Reviews" section are endless. After all, the SI can steer things in a different way; he/she is a being who can change things with just a few words. This a big part of what being a self-insert should be. Otherwise, what's the point? Otherwise, how is that different from just a novelization with an "extra lugagge"?
We already have a "in context" solution, one proposed by the in-universe "multiple space faring civilizations worth of geniuses and scientists", and it boils down to: doubting the threat is real, not really doing anything to prepare, letting other people deal with it when it arrives and relying on a MacGuffin they know nothing about and a literal Deus Ex Machina that came out of left field to solve it (while not really solving it). Oh, and it also made them the worse endings that's still talked about today and gave EA the "Worst Company in America" label. This is what we get by "keeping things thematic", which, to me, sound like shutting our brains down and going at it like absolute idiots. So...
I've taken upon myself to show an alternative path, to show how things could've been different. We are not slaves to dumb worldbuilding, neither are we the conformist people living in the MEverse. We're humans. We fuck around with things. We don't bend to nature, but bend our environment until it does what we want. We are the species of Earth who won the evolutionary race by completely breaking it. We want want things to get done; shit to get better. And the people of the MEverse... they had all the tools needed to defeat the Reapers at their disposal. They had it in them all this time. All that was missing was a way to show them; to open their eyes. My chosen way was with a SI, but it could've been done with a young Shepard that received all of my SI's knowledge. Because the point was to show a hopeful message, rather than the preventable bleak depression we get at the end of ME3.
Perhaps it'd still come close to breaking some people's suspension of disbelief, but the MEverse has a very easy way out: the existence of the Cycles and how the Reapers steer the development of civilization along the paths they desire. What many people don't realize is that this manipulation is much more perverse than just steering them towards eezo (I've got an explanation for that in the future). It leads to stagnancy on a deeper level than that, because eezo is actually amazing, as I'll hopefully show with Chapter 3. And the already dumbed down humanity of the setting was made worse when it met this perversion, due to meeting the Citadel "too early" - only having less than three decades to play around with eezo.
In summary, this is a story about using knowledge, wisdom and wits to defeat the antagonists of the Mass Effect Universe (MEU). To show and prove that the Reapers could be defeated by the means available to the people there. That's why I've crafted this prologue the way I did: this "Random Omnipotent Being" is only giving enough help to the MC so that he could prove his abilities (the "test") rather than giving him a "solves-all-problems-card" (such as by make the MC/SI into a Super Saiyan that could just teleport to Dark Space and bitchslap the Reapers into extinction).
Otherwise, why wouldn't a being that's powerful enough to break through Universes and be a "taxi service" for someone simply go there, in the Universe it'd be sending the SI to, and deal with its issue on its own? In this case here, for instance, this "all-powerful being" could just teleport the Reapers inside of a large Star or a Supermassive Black Hole. There's no good reason, in many stories, for something like that not to be done. Unless, of course, you add a lot of contrivances. I only really added one (the prediction crystal). And writing a SI that gets into the MEverse because, I don't know, a portal suddenly opened up and sucked him/her in is just... lazy, to me at least.
Finally, this part is targeted at the few "reviewers" that seem to just hate with a burning passion that I didn't make the MC/SI ultra-super-mega OverPowered out of the gate: if you believe that the threat of the Reapers can only be dealt with by having an all-powerfull being handing cheats like they're candy, then that just says more about you than it does about my story, doesn't it? By the way, I've released 18 Chapters as of the moment I'm writing this and, after all the crazy stuff I've done so far in the story, I'm still half-expecting someone to go in the opposite direction and call my MC/SI too overpowered.