Title: Protoculture Effect (1/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Harsh language, violence, that's about it.

Spoilers: Just about anything.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to a bunch of other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Just as robotechnology altered the course of human history, so also did another discovery hidden within Charon.

Author's Note: It was inevitable, I suppose, that I'd try crossing over these two of my favorite science fiction universes. I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to do this beyond just wanting to.

Lieutenant Commander (LtCmdr) John Shepard, United Earth Spacy Special Operations Command and executive officer of the UES Normandy, strode through the corriders of his ship as he made his way to the bridge. He was clad in full CVR-5M body armor, wearing it like a second skin.

The familiar weight of the CVR-5M served as a comforting reassurance in recent weeks, ever since the turian came aboard. The Sentinels and the Citadel had been quietly staring each other down in a cold war ever since the Relay War decades ago, one which was only starting to thaw in the past few years due to the hard work of asari and invid diplomats. The entire Normandy project was shrouded in tension thick enough to cut with a knife. The fact that he was convinced he had seen that particular turian before - through the sights of his Defiant H-303 no less - only made Shepard even more wary. He twisted as the turian brushed past him on the way out of the forward helm area, barely avoiding contact.

He quietly listened to the speculation between the helmsman, Spacy Second Lieutenant (2Lt) Jeff Moreau, and the Marine detachment commander, First Lieutenant (1stLt) Kaidan Alenko, as they discussed their turian guest. A Spectre. That brought up all sorts of red flags, now that he seriously considered it. The Sentinels didn't believe in the Spectres, didn't believe that any individual could be trusted to be above the law without some sort of checks on his or her actions, so allowing one on board was an incredible show of good faith, by Shepard's estimation. More political points for the good guys, as far as he was concerned.


"Pipe down, both of you," he said, breaking up the discussion. "Are you officers or a couple of old hens?"

Joker turned his head, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "Ba-kawk!"

A smile cracked Shepard's face, and he shook his head, chuckling good-naturedly.

"Joker," Captain (Capt) Anderson's voice sounded over the cockpit comm, "status report!"

The helmsman updated the captain briefly - so far, everything was going just fine - finishing off with, "And Captain? Better brace yourself, sir. I think Nihlus is headed your way."

"He's already here, Lieutenant," Anderson replied dryly. "Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing."

"You get that, Commander?" Joker asked over his shoulder.

"I'm on my way," Shepard said, turning away. As he headed back, he nodded to the rest of the crew as he passed by them, pausing when the newest addition to the Marine detachment, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Richard L. Jenkins turned to greet him, interrupting his discussion with the ship's doc.

"What do you think, Commander?" he asked anxiously. "We won't be staying on Eden Prime too long, will we? I'm itching for some real action!"

That's right, Shepard thought. His first shipboard tour. No wonder he's so excited. Not to mention, he recalled, Jenkins was from Eden Prime.

"I sincerely hope you're kidding, Corporal," Dr. Chakwas interjected. "Your 'real action' usually ends with me patching up crew members in the infirmary."

"Settle down, Jenkins," Shepard said. "Get excited like that, and you're liable to get killed before you fire a shot."

"Sorry, Commander," Jenkins said sheepishly. "I'm just so excited. I can't believe I'm going on a mission with a real Spectre."

Shepard couldn't help but shake his head and smile. He remembered Jenkins's rather romantic view of Spectres from earlier conversations with the eager young Marine, and he had to admit, there was a certain attractive mystique about a self-policing agency free of bureaucracy and paperwork, dedicated to the greater good, despite the potential problems.

"Well, I'm going to have to cut this short," he said. "The captain's waiting for me."

Shepard moved past and into the comm room. The captain was conspicuously absent, and he found himself alone with the turian Spectre.

"Commander Shepard," Nihlus said. "I was hoping you'd get here first. It will give us a chance to talk."

"The captain said he'd meet me here," Shepard said.

"He's on his way."

Bullshit, Shepard thought. The captain had been talking to Joker not five minutes earlier and had been with the turian at the time.

"I'm interested in this world we're going to," Nihlus said as he began to stalk around the room. "Eden Prime. I've heard it's quite beautiful."

"Wouldn't know," Shepard shrugged. "Never been there."

The small talk was starting to annoy him - he couldn't escape the feeling that the turian was sizing him up - but he played along as they chatted about inconsequential things. The Spectre was a guest, after all.

"You know, we've met before," Nihlus commented, suddenly changing the topic. "You nearly took my head off on Revanna."

Shepard's face twisted into a scowl. Revanna had been the site of a proxy war between the Sentinels Alliance and the Citadel Council. A low intensity conflict, it was officially a settlers' dispute between two "independent" colonization groups, one human - Tirolian, to be exact - and one asari, with a pirate band thrown in for good measure. Shepard had been sent in as a "military advisor" for the Revanna militia when it became clear the "pirates" had more firepower than was reasonably available on the black market.

"I thought I recognized you," Shepard said guardedly.

"You impressed me, Shepard," Nihlus said. "Revanna was but a taste of your potential. On Elysium, you showed courage, tenacity, and exceptional skill."

Elysium... Shepard thought. The turian was talking about the Skyllian Blitz seven years ago. Shepard had fought there; it was what had made his career. Outnumbered and outgunned, he had rallied the civilian population and held off the pirate coalition for three days until reinforcements arrived to beat them back. The Blitz - and incidents like what had happened to his own home colony of Mindoir - had led to the punitive expedition that culminated at Torfan.

"It's why I asked for you," Nihlus added.

"What are you talking about?" Shepard asked warily.

"I think it's about time we told the commander what's going on," interjected a new voice, the captain's.

The two turned, and as Anderson and Nihlus laid the situation out before him, Shepard wondered what the hell he could have done to deserve this mess. A Prothean beacon and an official turian stalker I nearly decapitated with my Defiant nine years ago, he thought morosely. Wonderful.

That was when all hell broke loose.

The aborted transmission from Eden Prime was disconcerting, to say the least, but the strange starship, resembling nothing so much as a giant hand down from the sky, wreathed in red lightning, was downright terrifying. It tugged at something deep and primal.

It also seemed strangely familiar, though he couldn't quite put his finger on it...

So much for a milk run, Shepard thought grimly.

Shepard performed a final systems check on his Cyclone. The VR-108 Typhoon was the latest generation Cyclone, more versatile than previous models, with multiple modular mountings and a hovercycle mode rather than the traditional wheeled motorcycle. Shepard was wearing his preferred configuration. The hip-mounts were each packed with a quartet of micro-missiles in GR-198 launchers, while the chest farings housed advanced sensors. The left arm mount was configured to amplify the range and power of the omni-tool he wore beneath it, while the right was equipped with the classic GR-97 twin tube micro-missile system in case he needed the heavy firepower. As usual, he left the shoulder mounts empty, as they were designed for heavy weapons, and the power draw tended to slow the Cyclone down. He kept his Defiant H-303 on a magnetic clip and hefted an EP-60 heavy particle beam rifle - too large for a human to wield unassisted - for his primary armament.

Beneath his helmet, he cocked an eyebrow at the unexpected arrival.

"Tali? What are you doing here?"

Tali'Zorah nar Rayya was a civilian consultant assigned to engineering. The Sentinels had good relations with the Migrant Fleet, and many quarians preferred to complete their Pilgrimage in human territory or aboard human ships. Although they had been offered their pick of a number of planets in Sentinel territory, the majority of quarians had chosen to remain with the Fleet, still hoping to one day retake their homeworld.

"I brought her, Commander," Anderson interjected. "I believe she'll be an asset to your ground team."

"How, exactly?"

"The geth," Tali said. "My people created the geth, Commander. You need me."

"Geth?" Shepard repeated.

"We were able to ID them on the last pass," Anderson explained. "She volunteered."

"Understood, sir," Shepard nodded. He looked over at Tali. "Still... your environmental suit can't interface with a Cyclone. Without that added armor, you'll be vulnerable."

"I can take care of myself, Commander," Tali retorted, "and I have top of the line shields."

Shepard met the quarian's gaze, her eyes faint glowing slits visible through her tinted visor. He liked Tali, and he knew she had a good head on her shoulders and was a good shot with the mass accelerator shotgun she favored, but she was still a civilian.

"I'll be fine," she assured him. "I've got you for cover, after all," she added playfully.

"All right," Shepard relented with a forced laugh. "Just stay behind us, okay?"

"No worries about that."

That didn't make Shepard feel any better.

It took a moment to sort out the order of battle. Nihlus was going to perform advanced reconnaissance, while Shepard's fire team provided the firepower. Tali also gave them a briefing on the most common geth they were likely to encounter: troopers, shock troopers, snipers, and rocket troopers.

He glanced at his team. Alenko had chosen a configuration similar to Shepard's, but he had gone for additional protoculture clips over the GR-198 launchers and had forgone the GR-97 for an proton cannon. Jenkins, on the other hand, had his Cyclone geared for heavy combat: GR-198 hip missile launchers, GR-103 chest missile launchers, GR-97 forearm twin tube missile launchers, and a powerful shoulder-mounted MAC-95 30mm mass accelerator cannon; he also carried a heavy particle beam rifle like Shepard's. Compared to the trio of Cycloners, Tali was practically naked in her armored environmental suit, though the mass accelerator shotgun she was packing looked comically out-sized for her; indeed, it looked more like something designed for a Cycloner to use, but he knew how skilled she was with it.

They landed in the marsh from a low-altitude drop. The Cyclones' mass effect fields cushioned the fall to a gentle step and kept them from sinking into the soft ground. Shepard lowered Tali to the ground. Her environmental suit didn't have the space or power source to pack the kind of equipment the Cyclones had, so Shepard had carried her down.

"Let's move out," Shepard said. "Jenkins, you've got point."

"Yes, sir," the Marine nodded. Since Jenkins was from Eden Prime, Shepard was banking on his familiarity with the colony.

After bypassing some of the strange "gas bag" creatures native to the planet, they soon made hard contact with the enemy.

"Son of a bitch!" Jenkins swore the geth recon drones hammered him. His right arm snapped up on instinct as he stumbled back in surprise. Over a century old, the GR-97 twin tube missile launcher was a tried and true weapon system. The Scorpion Mark IV plasma micro-missile was an evolution on the original Scorpion. It contained a powerful plasma warhead and was propelled by a mass effect field, with a rocket motor kicker, which accelerated the missile to kinetic-kill velocities; the plasma warhead was almost an afterthought against all but the most heavily-armored or shielded targets. Two such missiles streaked toward the geth recon drones, detonating on contact with their kinetic barriers and immolating the recon drones.

"You all right, Jenkins?" Shepard asked as the rest of the team hurried to join him. Shepard strafed the last recon drone with his heavy particle beam rifle until it went crashing to the ground. Particle beams were officially classified as directed energy weapons, but that identifier wasn't quite accurate. The beams had mass, so kinetic barriers did affect them, but the energetic state of the beams meant kinetic barriers - the only kind of shield practical on an infantry scale - were very quickly whittled down.

"Yes, sir," Jenkins said, panting from the adrenaline rush. "Damn things ripped right through my shields."

"Eyes sharp, people," Shepard ordered. "Tali, stay close."

"Yes, Commander."

Moving cautiously, the team moved up the hill and into a small grove of trees.

"Sir?" Jenkins spoke up quietly, breaking the silence. "I, uh, I'm sorry."

"For what, Corporal?"

"Wasting those missiles, sir. I... kinda panicked. Won't happen again."

Shepard snorted. "Of course it'll happen again, Jenkins. Everyone panics, and frankly, I'd rather waste a couple of expensive missiles than lose a man under my command, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Codex Entry: CVR-5 Body Armor

CVR-5 body armor is the latest in the CVR series of Cyclone Veritech Ride interface armor. An evolution of its predecessors, it combines the essential survival tools of modern combat with the crucial Cyclone connection points into a single surprisingly comfortable and lightweight package. It features an environmental seal that can be manually engaged for EVA or would automatically engage if its integral sensors detected sudden depressurization.

It is issued with a standard holster for the Defiant H-303 modular weapon system and a kinetic barrier generator, both mounted to the belt. Its hard armor plating can stop most small arms fire, whether projectiles or directed energy. The CVR-5 comes in two varieties, CVR-5M for male personnel and CVR-5F for female personnel.

Codex: Defiant H-303 Modular Weapon System

The standard sidearm of the United Earth Defense Force, the Defiant H-303 MWS is a versatile, handheld particle beam weapon system that can be reconfigured for multiple purposes. The triangular-shaped base unit is a select-fire particle beam pistol powered by a protoculture micro-cell in the forward handguard. An optional rifle stock can accommodate a larger protoculture flat cell for increased power. A forward pistol grip can also be added immediately below and behind the muzzle (right where a barrel extension would attach) for added stability during automatic fire.

For longer ranged targets, barrel extensions of various lengths may be added, providing magnetic focusing to increase its effective range and accuracy, and it can also accommodate a variety of scopes. Also available is a wide-dispersal muzzle adapter, which attaches much like a magnetic focusing barrel extension, but in principle does the opposite, scattering the particle beam. This muzzle adapter is used primarily for close quarters combat due to the reduction in range caused by the induced dispersal of the particle beam.

Codex: VR-108 Typhoon Cyclone

Developed after the Relay War, the VR-108 Typhoon was designed to take advantage of the new technology reverse-engineered from captured turian equipment. This newest model of infantry Cyclone fielded by the United Earth Defense Force is the first Cyclone with a hovercycle configuration to reach general production. Powered by two standard protoculture cells instead of the one used by previous Cyclone models, it has more available power to it and boasts a total of eight modular hardpoints: two in the chest farings, one on each forearm, one on each hip, and two over the shoulders.

The shoulder mounts are not used by most personnel, as they are more vulnerable to incoming fire, but they serve as the only practical location for some of the heavy weapons fielded by the UEDF. Additionally, using all eight modular hardpoints can cause a strain on the Typhoon's power systems, reducing its overall performance, which combines with the shoulder mounts' vulnerable location to make them the first hardpoints to be left empty.

Author's Postscript:

I honestly don't know what I hope to accomplish with this 'fic. I have some ideas on how the histories fit together, but where to go forward is a little more difficult.