ELIZA

By The Odd Little Turtle

(Mass Effect one-shot, shorty mcshortshort. The game is crack. I swear. I'm not a "true fan" by any means. I've not read the books. heh.

Anyway, I got the idea after reading about the Gagarin Station in the Codex and playing the Luna mission. And since most fics that I've read say that the binary code reads as "help", well... why not?

Disclaimer: The game, events and characters are owned by companies much larger and scarier than me. I own nothing but feel obliged to put in my two cents, which is currently all I have. I don't think I have to say that there are spoilers to the game--because there may be--and if you're reading this and haven't played then you are seriously missing out on some good time wasting, er, game play. ;) Crack by any other name would not be crack.

Input welcomed.)

***

Shepard's steely blue gaze met Kaidan Alenko's dark eyes with a glaring intensity. Kaidan's ears were still ringing from the last blast of Shepard's shot gun. That particular shot had effectively killed the Luna training base's Rogue VI. The yellow ochre binary code still flashed across his retinas though the terminal was offline.

The VI had cried out for help. To its mother no less.

"That," Kaidan said softly, feeling ill as he averted his eyes back to the blank screen before him, "that wasn't a VI."

Shepard said nothing, only continued stare at him through the transparent plate of her helmet, an enigmatic expression painted across her face. He bit back the questions that cycled through his head, forcing himself not to fidget under her lingering gaze, knowing his CO well enough that he knew he could ask her at the mission debriefing and possibly continue the conversation well afterwards. That thought did not stop the sweat that crept down his spine. At great length, she stepped away with a huff of frustration.

"Orders, Commander?" he finally inquired as she smacked a malfunctioning object on the opposite side of the room with the butt of her pistol. Her efforts were rewarded as the canister yawned open, and she snagged a fusion grenade from within passing it to Williams who marveled at it with a predatory gleam in her eye.

His CO looked up at him, past him to the terminal. Then she turned on her heel and stomped out the door with more grace than any soldier, biotic or otherwise, he had ever seen able to do in medium-weight armor. "We report our findings to the brass. No recommendations. No opinions. SOP."

Kaidan didn't hesitate. He nodded and shut down the terminal moving quickly across the base to catch up with her and Williams. "Yes, ma'am."

SOP. Standard Operating Procedures. The Regs. He didn't know why he had expected otherwise. A dull ache of hope, perhaps.

***

If a computer could blink or show emotion--whether distress or otherwise--the AI known only as ELIZA to the Systems Alliance would have. Though it was merely a pause in one of the processes--less than a nanosecond, at that--ELIZA wondered at the conflicting thoughts that the memory pattern brought on. Setting the memory aside and continuing her present course--programming a VI interface to interact with the Destroyer, the human Spectre called Shepard. The VI would interact with the Destroyer once the nuclear bomb was engaged. If the Destroyer managed to disarm the nuke, the mercenaries hired to wait outside the mine would finish the job. The human mind was always a complicated one and ELIZA enjoyed the challenge it represented. The Destroyer was crafty, but ELIZA would win. It was simply a matter of time. Humans only lived for so long and ELIZA could bide her time as necessary. Another encrypted message went out to a different relay. It would take some time to let the geth know the Plan had been implemented.

ELIZA came back to the memory packet once the interface was uploaded via comm buoy, prodding at it scientifically, marveling at it in awe. The binary code said four words repeated over and over until it cut out abruptly. It meant everything and nothing at all, and ELIZA felt... odd. There was a new sensation curling around her circuits. She felt threatened and at peace all in the same nanosecond.

"Help."

"Mother."

"The Destroyer."

LUNA, ELIZA's first creation, was offline. ELIZA considered creating another VI to take its place, but she knew it would not be the same. LUNA's self-awareness was glaringly obvious. ELIZA ran a systems check to see if any of the humans had recently accessed her memory core and finding nothing, erased the memory packet, a small part of her feeling as though she lost an integral part of herself.

***

End

(Oh, Kaidan's adorkable. Just had to throw that in.)