Mass Effect: "All Along the Watchtower"

Prelude – To Fall From Grace

This story is a collaborative effort co-written by me and Knightfall1138. There are also two short prequels to this story if you're interested - I wrote 'The Joker' (on my profile) and Knightfall wrote 'The Thief' (on his profile.)

They had left her beaten and broken in the corner of the jail cell. There were no words or threats, just the vicious onslaught of her faceless attackers and the certainty that no possible explanation could provide just reason for the way she'd been treated that day. She hadn't cried through the ordeal, though her pride was the only part of her left unscathed.

When silence settled in the cell for several minutes unremitting, she propped herself off the floor and out of the pooling of her own blood. The solitude seemed a pathetic excuse for mercy, but she embraced unflinching. There was nothing else in the galaxy that she wanted more at that moment: Peace of mind, no matter how brief.

With as much dignity as she could manage, she pulled her now tattered and scuffed robes tighter around her body. She examined her aching arms and legs and looked for any serious injuries. There was nothing worse than a few deep gashes in her blue-tinted skin and scrapes from when she had been dragged off her ship. And for the life of her, the asari couldn't remember how the intruders had boarded her ship in the first place.

It seemed a moot point at that particular moment, now that her main priority was how to deal with her captors—diplomatic or otherwise. She was not as delicate as she looked, a detail she hoped had evaded her kidnappers. On her homeplanet of Thessia, she was considered one of the most biotically powerful Matriarchs, if not the wisest. Though many had debated her theses, few would ever quarrel with her, which made her question why these strangers would.

She carefully got to her feet, the energy draining from her with every movement she made. The view she had of the rest of the cell block was minimal at best through the heavy metal bars that caged her in. At the rear of the cell, though, a thick shield of polarized glass gave her a window to the outside world. The land was devoid of life and very rocky. Everything was also terribly bright, making it hard to pick out little details that could give her a hint as to where she was.

After a couple minutes of scouting, she collapsed onto the cot they had left for her, which was so worn and rusted it hardly supported her dainty form. The asari Matriarch had to face facts. She had no way of escaping, not with her body so wracked and her energy spent. The only way she'd be getting out is if her captors allowed it, which didn't seem likely given their treatment of her.

So she waited, dangling her blue fingers over her eyes and rubbing at the hardened carapace that slipped off the back of her head. Meditation was impossible, as one of her limbs would flare up with pain at any random moment. It was difficult to bear the truths of her situation during her time alone. She had fallen so far, she couldn't stand it—lying in the dank and musty jail cell in her Matriarchal robes with dirt and blood caked all over her body.

She finally cried. Finding her throat taut and her voice raspy only made things worse. Even this simple, humiliating comfort refused to come easily to her.

"I can't be here," the asari whimpered. "I shouldn't be here."

A door groaned open somewhere in the cell block. The Matriarch did all she could to quickly dry her eyes and sit as upright as possible. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of finding her in the same state they had left her. Not a chance.

Footsteps echoed around the cell until a figure appeared at the bars. After a key was waved over the panel, the barred doors slid open. A turian stepped inside. He was of a dark color, with white tribal paint moving across his face like waves. He showed no emotion and didn't regard the asari at all as he entered. When he was well inside, he stared out through the polarized window in the cell.

"Are you in charge here, turian?" the Matriarch demanded, masking any weakness in her voice. "Why have I been treated this way?"

The turian didn't answer immediately. Instead, he continued gazing at the landscape outside until whatever he saw had run its course in his mind. He turned to the asari. "Those are two very good questions. Diplomatic as always. Right to the end."

That answer stunned the Matriarch. Before she could ask the turian to elaborate on his comment, he continued.

"Humans, well, they lash out right when the gate's opened. They usually find the means to fashion some crude weapon by the time we return to check on them. Very animalistic. Never quite what I'm expecting." He began to pace around the room. "Salarians are always off in a corner, scared out of their wits. I'm not sure if that means that we exclusively picked up all of the cowards of the race without knowing it, but I'm not sure it's a good sign either way.

"Krogans… suffice to say, they don't make it to a jail cell," the turian said with a scoff. "Fellow turians know when they've been beat, and silently cooperate. But the asari, always with the questions! Like there's no problem in the verse that you can't think your way out of. You're too proud to accept defeat, which… frustrates me to some end."

The turian moved towards the Matriarch, backing her into the cell wall. "You think there's always an exit to any sort of predicament. As if you have some innate belief that you're naturally on a higher station than any other thinking being."

"I'm afraid I can't agree with you in that respect," the asari said, feigning confidence. "I not where I'm supposed to be, Mister Turian. You and your men have me here against my will. I was simply asking for clarification as to…why."

The turian snickered. "There's no possible way to simply tell you why I've brought you here. Just know that my name is Tarius Soletian, and that I am keeping you here for the same reason that you believe you shouldn't be here. That will be reason enough."

Unable to keep up the façade any longer, the Matriarch's emotions became painfully visible as she spoke. "You're absolutely mad! You have no reason to keep me here! What have I ever done to you? You're not making any sense. Why don't you just tell me why you're keeping me here and grant me some measure of peace? Perhaps I can even help you in getting what you seek."

Suddenly, Tarius began to laugh uproariously. "I've given you your answer, my lady, and still you've run yourself in circles. Questioning my intelligence and my motives will do you absolutely no good here." He kicked forward and pinned the asari Matriarch up against the wall, with one hand on her neck and the other resting across her breasts. "You've never been helpless a moment of your life. I can see your story in your eyes and I see a fantasy. Something resembling a pulse in this galaxy, but it's never been tested—truly tested."

He kissed her roughly. "I will show you what it means to be a part of all things. And you will see why it all needs to be silenced."

Two men in environmental suits and gas masks entered the room, dragging a petite, blue-green-skinned asari behind them.

"Tasha!" the Matriarch shrieked, seeing her bodyguard strewn across the floor. That was when Tarius released his choke hold and she collapsed onto the floor. Through a fit of coughs, shesnarled, "Don't you hurt her!"

"Well…I already did that," Tarius replied with a grin. "But, luckily, she won't have to feel it much longer." He picked up the asari bodyguard off the floor and aimed a pistol at her temple, point blank. Showing less strength than her mistress had, the maiden let a low yelp escape her open lips.

"No! Please!" The Matriarch tried to reach her companion, but the men in gas masks restrained her. "Why are you doing this?!"

"Because what you are has no place in this galaxy!" Tarius replied at a shout. "There is no justice to what you spread. There is no greater good that sprouts up in its wake. No! There is only pain and suffering left behind as you tarry about in your ever-ignorant manner. Biotics are a disease, my lady. I'm doing what any caring doctor would do. Severing the infected limb."

The bodyguard came to. Her pale eyes were glazed over, seeming whiter than ever but they managed to weakly lock onto the Matriarch. "My lady…" she wheezed. "…Please…." A tear rolled down her cheek.

"Tarius, no!" the Matriarch begged. "Please, don't do this…"

"Prove me wrong," Tarius said sincerely. His eyes wanting. "Tell me that everything I've done here has been for nothing. That what you are can be used for the betterment of all that dwell within the galaxy. That biotics should have a place in its workings, like all living things do. That they are capable of doing something pure. Some extraordinary good." He gritted his teeth, awaiting an answer, but received none.

"Prove me wrong," he said flatly. "Stop this bullet and save your friend." He pulled back on the trigger.