Epsilon Eriadani System, Babylon 5 Space Station.
After they told their story, they excused themselves, entering one of the private, sound proofed rooms in the Ambassador's quarters while the adults discussed...well, whether or not something that horrific could be true. He didn't lie. He didn't embellish.
He told them that they were the only survivors of an alternate Earth where Mankind's attempt at Godhood blew up in their face, and how they two, of all the humans in the gestalt that humanity became, decided to chance individuality on a dead world. He wanted to curl up and cry as he explained what he knew, about Third Impact, the Angels, and the Evas. But the window of these quarters looks out to the central shaft of this cylindrical space station, where he sees a garden that reminds him of that watermelon patch at home.
A depopulated broken sphere of molten rock two universes away.
But that isn't the part that pains him the most. There's the fact that Asuka hasn't said a word for the past half an hour.
"So, yeah," she finally says, "The Captain...looks a lot like my father."
He tilts his head, the confusion evident.
"You're kind of lucky. Your father was an evil son of bitch," she continues, "Mine just fucked up. And now he's dead, like everyone else we ever knew."
She sits on the flat, hard bed in the guest room, knees tucked into her chest, arms wrapped around her legs as she clenches her eyes shut. He watches her, paralyzed, like always, finally sitting down at the window.
It was no surprise that midway through the discussion about the implications of their guests that the newest interested party dropped by the quarters. The seven foot tall encounter suits of curves and glittering lights and metal regards them cooly, the angled head and cycloptean eye showing neither emotion nor intent. When he speaks, he speaks in harps and orchestra, alien music filtered into words.
"The humans of their world broke the natural order," Kosh states, "For that, the natural order had broken them."
"What the Hell, Kosh?" Sheridan yells, "Is that even possible? You told us you tweaked humanity. Is there any way something like that can happen to us?"
More music, the sound of alien breathing and whispers.
"Even the Shadows are not insane enough to attempt what that universe's humanity did," Delenn states, "This tragedy was the making of their mankind."
"I think that illustrates the idea of Pride as much as anything can," Marcus says, staring at his cup of tea, "If I can step back and offer the proper English response...Bloody Hell. I think that may be the most twisted story I've heard this week."
They go silent, save for the steady hum from the encounter suit.
"So," Susan says, "What do we do with them?"
Chapter 2: Space Case
He has left the others to their discussion, leaving them with a curt nod. He has greater things to consider. Still taxed, as he had to reveal himself before so many. Still tired. Let the others discuss what to do with the children. In the end, it does not matter. Only the finality of this matters. Gliding along the hallways towards the alien residences, towards his residence, his thoughts turns to great and important things.
The vent opens, Kosh staring as the pale skinned girl drops out. Kosh stares at her, his iris closing partially, a narrowing of his eye.
"Who are you?"
She folds her hands at her waist, tipping back and forth on her heels.
"I'm Rei," she says.
His gaze turns, seeing something beside her. The light plays over, canceling out the cloaking effect to see the ebon insectoid figure standing next to her, staring at him with four glowing eyes.
"One of them wants to come with me," Rei says, "Ain't that great? I named him Mr. Chirples! Say hi, Mr. Chirples!"
The Shadow chirps, a dead language which the old alien understands.
We wish to observe this one. She is like chaos, an oncoming storm. The Pale and Silent King wishes to see how chaos can so incarnate in the younger races.
"You overstep your boundaries. This one is innocent. This one has not gone to Zha'ha'duum."
She is innocence in chaos. A whirlwind of emotion and instinct. She may be the perfection of the younger races to our ideals.
Footsteps clang, and Kosh turns, the Shadow disappearing once more as Rei grins and launches herself upwards and into the ventilation duct. Skidding to a halt, G'kar spots the Vorlon and runs over, Kosh inclining his head in favor of the Narn as he skids to a stop.
"Ah, Ambassador," G'kar says, "You wouldn't have happened to see a pale girl with blue hair and a propensity for jumping people around here, have you?"
G'kar pauses, listening to the inflection.
"Ah, I see," he says, "She got you, to. Very sorry. I'm trying to find her. She may have some...offer...for my people. Excuse me."
He turns, walking down the hallway. Narrowing the iris, Kosh watches, waiting as G'kar is just about to turn the corner. And then the vent over his head opens, the pale hand reaching out and dragging the Narn into the duct system. Inwardly, Kosh shudders. Outwardly, he shows no sign.
And he continues on.
The door opens. Shinji looks up as Marcus walks in, pulling over a chair and sitting across from them.
"There's this person no one in the command staff likes," he says, "Named Alfred Bester. They're sincerely hoping you'll stay on the station until he arrives. That way you can have him scan your mind and make him cry."
The british man sighs, pinking his nose as the two teenagers stare at him.
"Right," Marcus says, scratching his head, "Tough crowd. I'm not going to say I know what you've been through, as I'm rather glad no one else I know has. Um...well, what's your plans?"
"Are you going to make us fight the Angel?" Shinji asks.
"The one that appeared," Shinji says, "Um...that's what we did, back home."
Marcus blinks, staring at them.
"Oh, no," he says, "Wouldn't do that. The...um...Angel's a friend. You might have met him. Large, gold encounter suit, talks in riddles. He'd be right crossed if I told you to fight him."
Shinji and Asuka stare at him.
"Well, I'd also rather he not find out I told you," he coughs, "What are your plans, now?"
"We're helping Rei get home," Shinji says with a sigh and a shrug, "We don't know, otherwise. Maybe stay on her world."
"We'd offer you a place here," he says, folding his hands in his lap, "But...well, it's not the safest here. And I wouldn't want you to have to be put in harms way."
The vent cover of the room releases, Rei leaning out.
"Heee~ey," she sing-songs, "I just ringed up Go-kun. Seems he wants a little bit to tie up something, then we're gonna ring up Aunt Lilly and go."
Shinji nods, and Rei vanishes into the vent.
"Thanks," he says, "You remind me of someone who...well, tried to do the right thing by us."
"What happened to him?"
"He kept looking for the truth," Shinji sighs, "And he died."
Marcus nods, standing. Staring at the boy for a long moment, he reaches out and takes his hand in a firm shake.
"Some things are worth dying for," he says, "Some's worth living for. Find a little of both if you can. Keeps you balanced."
Leather gloved hands rest against the railing, as the ship once more converts into the gargantuan form of Unit 05. The golden visor rises to his level, steam blasting out of the vents along the chin as it regards G'kar neutrally.
"I've done as you asked," he says, "I've spent...time...with the girl. She would sacrifice herself to save my people."
"And will she?"
G'kar stares at the machine. Hands clenched on the railing, the old Narn closes his eyes, shaking his head.
"No," he says, "I will not sacrifice an innocent to free my people. I will not sacrifice their souls to save their lives."
The machine nods, standing up straight and overshadowing him.
"Then your people are worth saving," Go-kun states, "To be able to resist power means that if this is a just universe, your people will be freed. Either by the failed machinations of their tormentor or by others who value the lives of the oppressed more than their own."
"And if it is not a just universe?"
"Then a soul such as yours will make it one. Never give up hope. Never fail to find the way to the bright future. Remember, Ambassador, that freedom is the right of all sentient beings. Hold that close to your heart and you will find your goal."
"Okay, Go-kun! Ready to go!"
The mecha turns as Shinji, Asuka, and Rei hurry down the walkway. Stepping aside, G'kar watches as the Entry Plug spins out the back of the Evangelion's neck, the hatch opening as the three of them, and some shimmer in the air, climb into the cylinder.
"I wish you well," Go-kun says, "Leliel. We are ready."
The shadows in the hangar bay gather, forming into a circle with white lines over it which surround the Evangelion. And as the light restores and the world goes back to how it was, the Eva is gone.
And with a sigh, G'kar begins his trek back towards his quarters. More to be done. And no easy way out.
Horizon Colony. 2185. Next universe over.
The carapace-covered humanoid creatures are, to the best of their knowledge, called Collectors. Every now and then they stream out of the Omega-4 relay and make grabs of people, aliens, things, and retreat. Usually they do so through deals.
Nowadays, they haven't been bartering.
Twitching a mandible, he taps the holographic optic screen and grimaces. Garrus Vakarian is wondering if there is a way he can be put back in the deathtrap den that his old friend and current commanding officer found him in three weeks ago. Every merc in Omega gunning for him is starting to seem safer, or at very least less likely to get him anal probed.
Not that he has an anus, he has a cloaca. But that's not the point.
"We're pinned down," the black haired human in the surprisingly un-combat worthy white bodysuit says, her normal tones of superiority taking on 'shoot her in the face' levels, "We need to make an opening!"
Garrus glares at Miranda Lawson, idly bringing his assault rifle up and pointing it over the cement block the two are ducked behind, firing off a volley.
"With such a careful observation, it's no wonder you're the executive officer," he growls, "Times like this I wish I stayed with C-Sec. Sure, I could get killed there, but I wouldn't feel stupid for doing it."
She glares back, narrowing her eyes. He's also point out that she shows her buck teeth when she gets offended, but things better of it.
"Shepard!" he shouts, "I need a distraction!"
The woman in the full body black and red armor and full helmet twenty meters away holsters her pistol, reaching behind her and taking out a device which resembles a large black ball with three prongs jutting out of a silver barrel.
"Distraction coming up!"
She ducks out from behind the cement, aiming and pulling the trigger. The three prongs light up, electricity arcing and forming into a pinpoint sphere, firing out. The handful of particles compress against the mass field, forming into infinite density right at the middle of the enemy crowd. The pinpoint singularity pulls everything towards it; Collectors, cement, grass.
And then one Collector's head bursts, then another, so caught up in resisting the gravity that they don't notice that Garrus has broken out his sniper rifle.
Or at least, they did, as the black hole finally bursts, one of them rises, liquid fire pouring through its veins. Two more eyes open up on its flat, cockroach like head as it rises into the air.
"Assuming direct contr-"
And then the massive, four toed foot slams down. The avatar of the Harbinger disintegrates into ash as the light clears and the two hundred foot tall green and gold giant slams down on all four feet, lifting its visored head up as the drill spins to capacity.
Go-kun turns towards the vertically standing Collector Ship, opening up the ports of his shoulders and letting loose a spray of plasma.
As the Evangelion stomps off towards the craft, Shepard, Garrus, and Miranda stand up from behind cover, Miranda's mouth hanging open as Shepard tilts her head.
"Right," Garrus says, and closes his sniper rifle, stowing the near blue box on his back, "Let's take a five. Smoke'em if you got'em."
If the giant robot laid on its stomach, the cargo hold of the Normandy was big enough to accommodate it. So, with the two hundred foot tall mecha lying prone in front of her and the three teenagers standing in a line like a mug shot photo, Commander Jane Shepard runs a hand through her short red hair and stares at the group.
"Welcome aboard the Normandy," she says, still in her armor sans helmet, Garrus and Miranda behind her, "I'm Commander Shepard, the commanding officer. Names?"
"Shinji Ikari," the boy says.
"Asuka," the red haired girl responds, not meeting Shepard's gaze.
"And I'm Rei," the albino responds, and gestures next to her, "And this is Mr. Chirples!"
"And I am Go-kun."
Shepard stares at the giant robot, blinking.
"Well, a fully realized and unleashed AI," Miranda says, folding her arms, "I'm thinking this will not be reported to the Council?"
"It did try to perforate the Collector ship with its drill," Garrus responds, "If you ask me, something like that deserves sentience."
"I'm more concerned about the imaginary friend," Shepard sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose, "Okay. We're in the middle of combat operations, so we can't just drop you off anywhere. The three of you will go to deck 2 and get full examinations by Dr. Solus. Considering we try not to put the Normandy into situations where it can be shot at, you should be safe here. Just avoid Deck 4."
"Why Deck 4?" Shinji asks.
"Jack and Grunt," Garrus responds, "One will kill you, the other will eat you. They take turns deciding who does what."
The three teenagers blink. Rei grins.
"Thank you, Garrus," Shepard says through clenched teeth, "Dismissed."
"Fascinating. Cybernetic megascale organism capable of creating psion-biotic barrier of indefinite force capabilities, meshed seamlessly with superscale systems to allow it to function as an unleashed AI and create mass effect fields to combat megascale threats. Fascinating. Fascinating."
The weedy alien with brown and white skin, with the head coming to one fleshy horn and the flat face with large, black eyes walks in a circle around the hologram of Go-kun floating in his laboratory, Shinji and Asuka sitting on the bench in front of the desk and computer overlooking space.
"It accepts an organic as a pilot?" Professor Mordin Solus asks, hands clasped behind him as he continues staring at the diagrams, "By synchronizing with its intelligence?"
"I guess so," Shinji responds, "I never really understood how an Evangelion works."
Mordin stares at the two, blinking, before walking back to his computer. Tapping on the keyboard, two devices unfold from the ceiling, hovering at equilateral distances from Shinji and Asuka before two beams of solid light fold to around half their standing height.
"Shinji first," Mordin says.
Nodding, Shinji stands up, standing between the two beams as they spin in a slow circle, light playing over him.
"Mm. 15 years old. Heightened neurological activity. Mm. Good health otherwise, will prescribe vitamin enhancements and corrective diet. High blood pressure. Thank you. Asuka."
She stands up, listlessly standing between the two devices.
"Get it over with."
They spin in the full circle. On Mordin's screen, the holographic three dimensional image of the girl etches itself in. He cups his chin, stroking his lip as he nods.
"Mm. 15 years old. Malnourishment. Heightened neurological activity. Scar tissue, odd. Scar tissue too even for normal scarring. Related to connection between biomechanical creature and pilot? Fascinating."
He walks out from behind the desk, walking over to Asuka and cupping her chin. Narrowing an eye, he stares at her left eye, producing a small, rod light device and shining a light into it.
"Odd. Retinal bleaching without loss of overall sight. Color diffusion in cells without affecting rods and cones. Mm. Fascinating."
He flashes the device, releasing her chin and walking back to his console.
"Touchy feely," Asuka mutters, turning back to Shinji, seeing him staring, "Yeah, what, Third?"
"Asuka, your eye..."
She blinks. Turning back to Mordin, she looks around, running over to the window just as he taps a button on the console and the window turns opaque and reflective. In her reflection, she sees her face, hands wandering towards her left eye. In particular, her left, once again blue eye, the same perfect shade as her right.
"Working on dermal restoration package for medical lab," Mordin continues, "Originally for reintegration of Commander Shephard's dermal implants with cybernetic enhancements. Also usable for restoration of your scar tissue."
Asuka nods, voice caught in her throat.
"Good," the scientist says, and turns back to Shinji, "Please send in Rei, if you can find her."
Mordin stares at the screen. He blinks, tilting his head, his more flexible non-human neck allowing him an almost 180 degree rotation as he stares at the cross section of the girl in front of him.
"What...is this I don't even...what are you?"
The blue haired girl in the examination device smiles.
What is that, he thinks, Is that a...gummy bear or a horses head or did it just wink at me...
"No...what are you?"
She weaves back and forth on her heels. For a moment, Morden swore her eyes glowed.
"I already told you," she says, "I'm Rei."
Morden stares at her. He stares at the screen. He blinks, trying to see if what he saw on the screen...yep. It's still there.
Floating in space, the great and ancient megascale device sits, the twin rings spinning around the glowing blue core. It is shaped like a massive gun, and that is what it is. Created millions, perhaps billions of years ago, it is one of the keystones of civilization, artifacts of travel connecting the far corners of the galaxy.
A Mass Relay.
Four engines blazing, the gunmetal gray and black cruiser, its form reminiscent of a twenty first century air fighter, the Normandy approaches.
Following their medical examinations, they were given free run of the third deck, where the living quarters, mess hall, and the non-essential equipment was. The AI core room was carefully locked, as was the door to the forward gunnery control.
That last part was ordered after Shinji explained Rei's habits to Commander Shepard.
He sits at the forward observation room, sitting on the couch and watching as the great structure comes closer and closer, and in a flash is replaced by a new field of stars.
"Huh. I'm usually the only one who uses this room."
Heavy foot falls from the armored boots, and Shinji looks up as one of the aliens sits down next to him. Tall, wiry under the armor, skin a metallic gray and resembling more a bird or lizard than human, Garrus folds his arms in front of his face with a sigh.
"We're heading to a planet named Halstrom," he explains, "Me and Shepard are on edge. An old friend of ours is there, and she's gone silent. We're hoping she's still alive, but we're not sure, and there's a large enemy presence on the planet."
"Are we...are we going into a battle?" Shinji asks.
"The Normandy isn't," Garrus responds, "Me, Shepard, and Grunt will take a shuttle to the surface. The Normandy will orbit and keep an eye on us. You'll be safe. We're not sure about her."
"I see," Shinji says, "She's a friend?"
"A very close one," Garrus says, and pauses, "A lot like you. You'd like her if you met her."
The speakers crackle. The glowing blue globe appears on the small shelf by the window.
"We are ETA five minutes to Halstrom," EDI announces, "Garrus, the Commander requests that you report to the shuttle bay."
Garrus nods, patting Shinji on the shoulder.
"Don't worry about us," he says, "Shepard and I've been through worse than this."
"Don't worry about him, either," Garrus says with a shrug, "He's Krogan. I'm pretty sure the Normandy could fire on him and it wouldn't phase him. We'll be fine. I'm just hoping Tali is."
Standing up, he fixes the headset on his right ear, nodding as he listens to the voice on the other end.
"On my way, Shepard. Just keep Grunt from blowing up the shuttlebay."
He exits, the door shutting behind him. As the dusty gray world comes into view outside the window, he watches as the combat, boxy shuttle flies out, engines glowing as it heads down. And he waits.