Deus Ex Human Revolution is the property of Eidos/Square Enix
Mass Effect is the property of Bioware and Electronic Arts
Mass Effect: Human Revolution:
Chapter 43: Lessons in Ancient History and Physics.
Loads and Loads of exposition
Spellcheck by WarpObscura
"The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous."
"Something I can do for you?" asked Hein. The DARPA Chief was sitting at his desk in his office aboard the Durendal. He motioned at Adam to take a seat, even as he toyed with his chess pieces.
"Got a few questions I was hoping you could answer," said Adam as he pulled up a chair.
"It's about Ramsus and his abilities."
"Don't be coy. I meant his mind-reading and the fact that he could make a man's head explode."
"Ah, his Psionics. What about them?"
"...Wait, you don't sound all that surprised."
"Of course I'm not. The Shadow Broker and I know a great deal about the Illuminati, and we know that they've been trying to unlock the secrets of the Gift for centuries."
"Why am I not surprised? A mind-reader would be the ultimate spying tool."
"Indeed. And they've come a long way since the Crusades... especially after they started experimenting with Element Zero."
"So there is a connection between Dark Energy and Psionics."
"There is, but what that relationship is, exactly..." he chuckled. "Well, that's still a bit of a mystery."
"And before they got their hands on Element Zero? I assume they must have had some success, seeing as they didn't give up on the concept."
Hein nodded, then winced. "Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. You see, humans with moderate psychic abilities, such as strong empathy or even psychometry, had popped up here and there throughout history without any kind of interference. But they were extremely rare."
"About one in ten million."
"Yeah. So you can imagine the Illuminati would be very interested in increasing the birth rate of psychics somehow. They tried eugenics, and they've had moderate successes... right up until World War II... Let's just say blondes were no more likely to turn into psychics than anyone else." Hein laughed. "Silly Nazis. Centuries of work, ruined."
"Seeing as a lot of Nazi Germany science projects got hijacked by the United States after the war, I take it they tried their hand at it, next?"
"Right you are. It started with Project MKULTRA, a joint operation between the CIA's Scientific Intelligence Division and The Army's Chemical Corps' Special Operations Division in the 1950s. The purpose of MKULTRA and its offshoots was, simply put, mind control."
"And they researched psychics to do it?"
"Not quite. They were more interested in altering mental states and brain functions through more conventional means: hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, torture..." As he sounded off each method, Hein counted them with his fingers.
"That's just great," said Adam, sarcastically.
"...And — this is the important part here — drugs. Officially, MKULTRA only used LSD, barbiturates and amphetamines, but in truth they came up with some very, VERY interesting compounds which resulted in some very interesting results: enhanced intuition, reflexes that bordered on prescience..."
"And the Illuminati were watching with great interest."
"Quite. MKULTRA kickstarted the Illuminati's first real foray into Psionics — Engineering, applied to the mind. When MKULTRA got canned, they gathered all the relevant data and personel, and began the Imaginary Number Project. They found subjects with ideal genetic markers, pumped them full of neuro-chemicals, and strapped them to machines reverse-engineered from Soviet experiments. The results were much, much better than what was attempted before."
"And yet, the world isn't overrun with Psychics. I don't recall encountering any in my time."
"Or maybe you did, but you don't remember." Hein smiled. "But you're right. Few survived the enhancement process. Out of a thousand, maybe seven would survive. And while they were mentally powerful they were physically unfit for field work. You may not have encountered them, but they were most likely watching you."
"Huh. That would explain why the Illuminati always seemed one step ahead. Still, that was before the Collapse. What about after?"
"After the Collapse, the Order Church managed to collar the handful of descendants from the project's successes and restarted the experiments, this time based on work done by the Versalife Corporation for Majestic 12. The result? The Phantom Society."
"Phantom Society. I kept hearing that name, among others. Some kind of black ops group?"
"The Order Church's own black ops group, yes."
"Bit hypocritical of them to use nanotech while condemning it."
"Oh come on, you're not exactly new at this: are you really all that surprised that they would do so?"
"...Not really. And it's only hypocrisy when they get caught, right?"
"Right you are."
"And Majestic 12?"
"An offshoot of the Illuminati, founded when they realized that they needed to control post-atomic technology if they wanted to maintain their grip over the world. In the 2030's it rebelled against the Illuminati leadership and took it over. With their resources, The Majestic Council of the Twelve pretty much ruled the world. They were led by... well, let me give you a clue. Ahem!" Hein cleared his throat, and his voice became much more nasal. "Please, call me Bob."
"...Page." Adam practically snarled the name out loud.
"You met him."
"Some time before Sarif put me on ice, yeah."
"Yes, well, then you know what kind of scumbag he was before Denton blew him up."
"That's another name I keep hearing a lot. I know he had something to do with the Collapse, but not much else. What do you know about him?"
Hein took a deep breath, leaned back into his comfy chair, and tented his fingers. "Before the Collapse, JC Denton was a prototype MJ-12 had created to test out its nano-augmentation architecture. Before the Collapse, Denton was a man trying to find his way in a maze of mirrors."
"And after the Collapse?"
Hein swivelled his chair, and stared out at the stars. "He saw the destruction he caused, and became the Illuminati to restore the world as it was, and make it a better place."
"...So. The state of the world is all his fault?"
"And yet Lunch seems to worship him."
"Denton wasn't some simple cartoon villain. Like Adam Weishaupt before him, Denton had restored the Illuminati with the best of intentions."
"That sounds suspiciously like admiration," said Jensen, his tone almost accusing.
"Admiration? Maybe, but I mostly pity him, just like I admire and pity anyone who tried to make the world a better place, and would have succeeded were it not for petty ambitions. History has a way of repeating itself, and it wasn't long before other members of Denton's Illuminati had their own ideas about what to do with the world."
"Let me guess: those other members with other ideas killed him?"
"Yep." Hein turned his chair back to face Adam. "As to what any of this has to do with the corpse down in the morgue, well..." Hein tossed a holographic document towards Adam's Omni-Tool, which prompted its user to accept it. "Denton wrote quite a paper on the potential applications on a portable universal constructor, considering every angle, even theological and sociological ones. It's a long read, though."
"I'll get to it once I have time."
"As for what that has to do with Ramsus, the silver rod he handed to you is a container for billions of the most advanced nano-machines in the world. Each one is cored with a pair of atoms of an Element Zero derivative which serves as a sort of antenna."
"...Which allows them to be controlled by any psychic augmented with biotics," Adam concluded. "Together, they make a small Universal Constructor."
"Exactly. It also allows the nanomachines to float in a gas-like state. Before? Nanite swarms could only move in a liquid state, each nanite supporting the other."
"And now people can just breathe the stuff. Scary." Adam sighed, thinking about the horrible implications of a an entire population breathing in the stuff. What would this Phantom Society be able to do, then? "So to sum up, Ramsus is the result of an eugenics program started in the Middle-Ages, Nazi science, a CIA project, Illuminati psionics research, Soviet engineering, and modern day biotics? Oh, and his extended family came together thanks to a paper written by JC Denton?"
"Blows your mind, doesn't it?"
"A bit, yeah."
"But wait! There's more! Or there will be, once Brea and Ross are done examining Ramsus' corpse. They'll share their findings in the briefing room, along with Grey's report on his encounter with the 'angels', and yours."
"Your report. I want everyone on this ship to be on the same page — well, almost everyone: I don't quite trust the Krogan, yet."
"And you expect me to make a presentation?"
"I'm not one of your employees, Hein," said Adam, annoyed.
"True, you're not obligated to do it, but the Deep Eyes, Brea, Manah, and Tali are going to be essential in this war, even if you were to choose to walk away from it. I think they would benefit from knowing exactly what is going on, don't you?"
"I don't actually know exactly what's going on, Hein. I don't think even Aleph as a full picture of what we're up against. He's damaged, and fragmented, I can feel it!"
"It's better than nothing, isn't it?"
Adam had to agree. "I suppose. I'll try to put something together for the crew. But Hein, I have to warn you: once they know exactly what I know, they'll probably want to jump ship."
"Maybe, maybe not. That's for them to decide, and for me to deal with. The briefing will start at 1800 hours. That leaves you plenty of time to prepare."
One of the perks of Sarif's augmentation package had been superhuman typing speed, so it had taken Jensen only two hours for him to write his presentation. The first hour and a half had been spent writing the rough draft: that had been easy, as his brain tingled and it seemed his hands went on autopilot. The last half-hour had been spent making up for the gaps in the text. As Adam suspected, Aleph's own memories of ancient history were still fragmented and incomplete.
And because of the subject matter, Adam had given up on making slides. Many of the places he wrote of were long gone, and nobody took pictures. Or if they did, those were long gone as well.
Or perhaps not. T'soni was had been studying Promethean art for close to a century, and could perhaps show Adam to an extra-net database, or maybe an illustrated Codex entry.
He sought her out throughout the ship, and eavesdropped on a conversation between Dr. Ross and Lelia along the way.
"Still no luck?" asked Ross.
"No... where are those girls?" Lelia's voice was laced with both worry and frustration. "I hope they're still on the ship..."
"They should be: the Durendal's airlocks would have alerted us if anyone tried to open them while in FTL travel."
"Can't the ship's internal sensors track them?"
"They could have, if only the girls put Omni-Tools on."
"Damn. It looks like I'll have to track them the old fashioned way."
Adam went about his business, and found T'soni in the cargo bay, of all places. What was even more surprising was the company she kept: it was Grey, who was instructing her in the use of a pistol.
She wasn't doing so well: the training pistol, essentially a laser pointer, was fitted with micro-thrusters to simulate recoil. Even at their lowest setting, their bursts caused her shots to go wide.
"Well, at least you're not flat on your back like last time," sighed Grey, before noticing Adam. "Jensen," he greeted.
"Grey," replied Adam. "T'soni," he said, as he turned to the Asari.
"Hello..." T'soni found herself hiding the training pistol behind her back, as if she had been caught stealing something.
"You mind helping her with her posture?" asked Grey, before Adam could say something. "There's only so much I can do just by talking to her."
"Sure," replied Adam, nodding, seeing no harm in helping. His business with her could wait.
"Good. T'soni? Get into your firing position."
Adam watched as Manah fired her pistol again, and quickly deduced what was wrong with her stance. "Like this," he said, as he gently kicked at her shoes.
"Oh, so that's what he meant," said Manah, now realizing the more precise meaning of Grey's verbal instructions.
"Let's see if you can at least hit your targets," said Adam, as stepped behind her and grabbed her wrist and hand to keep her weapon steady for her, while letting her freely take aim. Her shots never quite hit the center, though beginner's luck let her come very close a couple of times. Still, success built her confidence, and before long she was consistently hitting the target without Adam's help.
Before each shot, Adam felt a slight trembling in her arm. Once he let her go free, he looked at her smooth, slender pale fingers: they didn't have much strength in them, and the trigger was hard to push.
Grey, however, could only see that she was squeezing the trigger too slowly. "I keep telling you—"
"Her index finger isn't very strong," interrupted Adam. "She would need a hair-trigger mod."
Grey shook his head. "You don't give those to beginners, that's a disaster waiting to happen." He turned to T'soni. "Report to the gym. From here on in its arm strength training, daily."
Manah winced, and put the "...Every day?"
"That's what daily means, recruit."
"Actually," said Adam, "I've got some business with her, about the briefing later this evening?"
"Prothean techno-wizardry, huh? Right, I'll let you get to it, but T'soni? If you're serious about defending yourself, talk to Whitaker. He'll show you around the gym."
As Grey got to work on putting the firing range back into storage, Adam and Manah walked to a more private corner of the cargo bay. "So," asked Adam, "got roped into training by Grey, huh?"
"No," she replied, surprising him a bit. "I requested his instruction."
"Well, actually, I asked your Turian companion first, but he was far too deep into his cups."
"You mean he's drunk?" Adam was perturbed by the news. "That's... it's not like him; it's too soon in the day for him to get plastered."
"Plastered with what?"
"Ah, nevermind. You were saying?"
"I was saying... I was saying that your words echo still in my ears."
"On Illium: 'The best thing you can do is stay out of the way'."
"But I cannot stay out of the way. Hein told me that we will be exploring some Prothean ruins very soon, and those tend to be visited by pirates or... or tomb raiders," she said the last couple of words disdainfully. "I do not want to hide and cower while others fight them, as I did on Caleston. I want to be a capable fighter and a scholar both, like..." she began to stare at her white shoes. "...like your Quarian companion."
"Quarian companion? Wait, you mean Zorah? We've worked together a couple of times but she's hardly what I call a companion."
"Really? But you took her with you along your mission on Noveria. You choose her, amongst so many and..."
"I actually picked Spooky as my tech expert, seeing as he's both street smart and a veteran corporate hacker, but I was pressured into taking Zorah along. And as I recall, you didn't cower and hide back in Caleston. In fact, your biotics saved the day more than once."
"T'soni, I'm sorry about what I said on Illium. You're more than capable. I only meant that the kind of task we had just accomplished, well..." How do I put this delicately? he thought. "...it required a certain amount of military training. You were powerful, too powerful, for the finesse required in defusing a hostage situation."
That wasn't the entire truth of it, however. When Adam looked at Manah, he saw a fragile young woman. Thus, his instincts had taken over, and he sent her as far away from danger as possible.
Come to think of it, he realized, she might have been a great help against Toombs' Frost. She did help with the Templar one back on Caleston, and that thing was huge.
"Then I shall learn finesse," said T'soni, firmly. "You had business with me, yes?"
"Right, about that..." Adam proceeded to show her what he had written for the briefing. A quick reader, Manah's eyes lit up like red gems as she processed the information.
"Oh, my... this is an account of the last days of the first era of the Prothean Empire! The rise of Nazara, the birth of the Reapers... Oh! And events preceding the founding of the Empire, for context, and... hm..." Manah's expression went from starry-eyed wonder to an inquisitive stare at the datapad. It was the stare of a scholar.
"What is it?" asked Adam, a bit worried.
"Did you write this? Or was it the Prothean Virtual Intelligence?"
"Promethean, and I'm fairly certain there's more to Aleph than just a VI. In answer to your question... yes and no. I wrote it, but I could feel Aleph's influence the whole time."
"I see... well, it seems to me that he's hiding something."
"Well, this Nazara's origins, for one thing. Such an important entity, and yet Aleph tells us almost nothing of his origins, save that he was 'twisted by the energies of the Void'. And where was Aleph as Nazara corrupted the other three Prometheans?"
"I would really like know more about this Nazara," agreed Adam. "Seeing as he's ultimately responsible for the current state of affairs."
"I hoped you would feel the same way," said Manah, and she gave him a smile full of hope and meaning. "A-anyways, do you have any evidence to back up this paper? Any references or annotations to lend weight to its words?"
"It does look a piece of Tolkien fiction without any, huh?"
Manah looked confused "Sorry?"
Of course she hasn't read Tolkien, he reminded himself. "Nevermind. I was actually hoping you could help me lend weight to it. Do you have any pictures I could use for my presentation? Of Promethean ruins and dig sites and the like." Just as he uttered the words, he got an unpleasant tingle in the back of his head, and he understood then that he shouldn't have bothered to ask.
"The first era of the Prothean Empire was close to 10 million years ago, and little remains of that time, as its relics have been unearthed, studied, and re-purposed by the Protheans of the second era. The relics of the second era were in turn unearthed, studied, and re-purposed by the third, until..."
"...Until nothing was left of this first era you speak of."
"...that I speak of? Mr. Jensen," she pointed at his head, "you of all people should know of the Prothean eras, the downfalls and rebirths of the empire?"
A gentle buzzing washed over Adam's brain. "T'soni, the Promethean Empire lasted ten thousand years, and ended ten million years ago. What came after were simply other space-faring races that discovered Promethean technology, and carved out a huge territory before Nazara destroys them from within."
"But that's..." Manah considered what she was about to say, then: "...entirely possible. Why did we assume that these territories were controlled by the same race? It's improbably, now that I think about it!"
"Probably due to the similarities in technology."
"So many questions arise, now..." she looked up at Adam, eyes now full of admiration, "and you, YOU are the key to answering them all! Oh, how I envy your mind, touched by the Ancients!"
"It's not all in my brain, the Grimoire in Hein's lab should have more info, provided I can interface with it without it causing my head to explode.
"Have you... have you given any consideration to my—"
It was then that Manah spotted a pair of long yellow ears moving from above a stack of crates, and wondered to what creature they belonged to, so much so that she forgot about Adam entirely and followed them.
"Salutations and a good morrow to you, Omar!" greeted Alistair with a bow. Drebin, who had just finished maintaining the Deep Eye's weapons after their sortie, had just locked the cage that led to the weapon's lockers and workbenches when the small creature approached him.
"Ah, Hein said you might want to talk to me. Montblanc, right? Well, look, I handle the guns here, and I don't need any—"
"Oh, no no no, I have no interest in becoming the ship's armourer. I'm a Chemist by trade! No, the owner of this ship took me on as an acquirer of goods both common and rare, so that he might make some decent coin with his frequent trips across the galaxy."
"What sort of goods?"
"Raw materials for crafting. Metals common, rare, and exotic. Food, even. He's given me a purse to get started, but I was told you recently had a successful pirate hunt? Were there any goods worth trading in their holds?"
"It was a slave barge," replied Drebin, "and they had fallen on hard times, so all there was of value was a few hard-suits, which are already cannibalized for parts, and enough weapons to outfit a small crew, which I already sold."
"Damn. Oh well, I suppose I'll have to make do. I've never been to the Citadel: what exactly do they produce there?"
"Not a damned thing, unless you count those terrible Blasto films."
Suddenly, Drebin heard a voice right behind him say: "Enhancement!" As he turned around, he saw a Volus inside the cage, already disassembling one of the Serpent Carbines.
"The hell?" said Drebin, trying to figure out how that kid had picked the lock without making so much as a sound. "Hey, don't touch that!"
"I'm afraid that once Sandal gets his hands on a piece of hardware, nothing can stop him from 'enhancing' it, as it were." Alistair smirked. Don't worry, once he's finished—"
"Hee..." said a sweet voice right behind Alistair. As Alistair turned around and saw who it belonged to, his big brown eyes widened in horror as they laid upon the small form of a pale Asari, her cheeks flushed, her face an expression of barely contained excitement. "Your eyes..." she squealed.
"Oh no," he muttered, backing away, his hands up in defence.
"Your little hands!" she squeaked.
"Please, stay calm..."
"And your ears!" She shouted her upper lip quivered as she bit her lower one. And then, she lunged at him. Alistair was quick to hide behind Drebin's mechanical legs.
"Keep her away from me!" he pleaded, but Drebin was too confused to act. The Asari was inches away from grabbing the Pookah when Shadow himself, not wearing his armour, wrapped his arms around her chest from behind.
"Whoa whoa whoa!" he said, keeping his hold on her firm, much to Alistair's relief. "You're not supposed to touch anyone without your Tech Armour, remember?"
"It's a bunny! A big fluffy bunny! Let me gooooo!" the Asari whined as she desperately grasped at Alistair. "I just want to pet him, and hug him, and squeeze him, and..."
"Okay, that's it!" said Shadow, backing away, "we're going to back away from the Pookah and we're not going to—"
The Asari's voice grew more distant and more desperate as Shadow dragged her to the elevator, and was silenced as the metal doors shut.
"Confound those Asari!" grumbled Alistair, his small heart beating hard in his chest.
"That happens often?"
"Every single time! Every Asari I've encountered goes completely daft at the mere sight of me and begin to treat me like some kind of toy! I once smelled of goat shit — long story, please don't ask — and instead of being repulsed this matriarch offered to give me a bath! You can't imagine my suffering!"
"Yeah, I feel your pain, brother." Drebin, of course, was being quite sarcastic. Still, something clicked inside his head. "So Asari go nuts over you Pookah, huh?"
"Most alien women do, really, but Asari are the worst. I mean, they melt!"
Drebin smiled inwardly. "Well, I have some bad news and some good news. Bad news: Asari are all over the Citadel."
"Oh, curses! It looks like I'll be conducting my business from the ship, then..."
"The good news, I've got a plan for that purse of yours. How much cloth, cotton filling and thread do you think you can buy?"
"Oh, quite a lot, why?"
"Because once I program the ship's fabricator right, you and I are going to make loads of money..."
Away from prying eyes, the blue haired girl shattered the cube with her bare hands.
Once he was certain that T'soni would behave, Adam decided to check on his partner at the newly opened lounge. It didn't have much a few couches, tables, a bar, and a liquor cabinet, but it looked like Echo had tried to give the place a bit of ambiance, though it was obviously a work in progress.
"Levo, levo, levo..." said Garrus from behind the counter, as he checked bottle after bottle. "Come ooon, where's the tasty stuff?" He looked up from his search when he heard Adam clear his throat. "Hey there, partner!" he greeted, his speech slurred. "Take a seat, I'll pour you a drink."
"If you can," said Adam, as he took a seat at the bar. "Give me a shot of whiskey!"
"Coming right up!" replied Garrus, with forced enthusiasm. When he messed up pouring the drink, Adam gently seized the bottle and the glass.
"Alright, partner, looks like you've had quite a bit to drink. A bit too much, if you ask me."
"So? I'm on vacation!" he laughed bitterly, as he sat on a stool and leaned against the counter to keep himself steady. "And spirits, do I ever need to... kill some inner demons."
"Talk to me, partner. What's bothering you?"
"You were right..."
"You were right, Adam. You were so damned right. I wasn't ready to face the darkness... and I paid the price for it nonetheless. You... you remember that movie we saw when you got promoted to Detective? I forget the name, the one with the human kid losing his parents in a filthy alley and growing to beat up criminals wearing a stupid costume?"
"...Batman? You're getting miserably drunk over Batman?"
"No... Yes... It's Scholar. I just lost the first nine years of my life to him and his Dream Machine. Instead there's this... this FANTASY about me being born to a couple of rich parents — one of them very possibly a costumed vigilante — and then losing them to the Omega riots. Sound a bit familiar?"
"Yeah, classic origin story."
"I wouldn't know." Garrus shook his head and sighed. "And then you've got the rest of my life, contrasting with the fake memories..."
"That's good, isn't it? I mean, if it weren't for those, you wouldn't even be able to tell."
"I mean how they DON'T contrast... if anything they provide context to my rotten time in the military."
That took Jensen aback. How deep had Scholar gotten inside Garrus' head? To check, they began to reminisce about their career together at C-Sec, to see if their memories of their adventures matched up. After an hour, it seemed that the last few years had been left untouched in Garrus' head. His speech became less slurred, as his liver quickly broke down the alcohol in his system, the benefit of a military gene-mod package.
"One more thing," Garrus asked. "How did I get that scar in the back of my head?"
Adam winced. "Yeah, I don't think I can confirm that one. Sorry"
"The hells do you mean?"
"Let's just say that story got better and better every time you tell it, and sometimes you even made shit up to impress the ladies."
"...I never told you the truth of it?"
"Maybe, maybe not. I never got the chance to separate the lies from the truth of it, Garrus."
"I may not even remember... that spot? That's where we Turians keep our long term memories," he hiccuped. "In our brains, I mean."
"...Seriously? Tell me your parents got that checked out!"
"Don't know! Memories got toyed with, remember?"
"...Something doesn't add up about this. Why would Scholar of all people want to turn you into space Batman?"
"Hells, I don't know. Maybe he just wanted me to suffer." He rubbed his small blue eyes. "Because that's what this is. Torture. It's... it's seeing my fake parents' heads held up high by Aria T'loak for all to see. And the cheering... thousands of people so very, very happy to see them dead while I'm..." He choked back tears. "While I'm screaming on the inside... Damn it, I need another drink!"
Adam stopped him from drinking from the bottle of whiskey. "Garrus, it's going to be okay... Echo told me that it doesn't take long for the original memories to resurface. Soon, all that you're going through will feel like some bad dream, long forgotten."
"...Really?" Garrus' eyes became hopeful. "I won't have to deal with that crap in my head for much longer?"
"That's what she told me, but maybe we ought to go see her? Maybe she can help you deal with the fake memories, work them out?"
"Yeah, okay. Later, though, when I can stand upright."
"I'll go see Zorah, in the meantime. Maybe she's got something in her medkit for that hangover you've got coming to you."
Unseen by the adults, the purple-haired girl found three knives, a scalpel, and a pair of scissors for herself.
Wrex didn't know what to say. Bakara was just standing there in the cold, staring at the glass jar silently like she had been doing for hours, her expression completely unreadable. Inside the jar was the corpse of an unborn Krogan child, suspended in a clear fluid. The sight of it unnerved him for many reasons, chief among them was that it was seemingly intact. When the Genophage decided that the child inside an egg didn't deserve to live, it melted it down to a protein-rich goo.
Well, mostly into goo, thought Wrex. The Salarians wanted to drown us in the corpses of our own dead, not puddles. Bastards, all of them...
But this corpse was intact, and when Wrex had asked about the egg to bury it, the black-haired human doctor had said that there wasn't any.
"Blood rage," said Bakara, finally.
"It was the Blood Rage. We came under attack by some mercenaries sent to clean Peak 15 up. I fought, and I fought desperately. The baby's heart was damaged from exposure to my adrenaline."
"So it's true. The baby was inside of you..."
"Yes, and it died because of it. I'm told I was given a great deal of concentrated tranquillizer. That should have helped, given me a chance to save it... unfortunately, nobody knew of my pregnancy until it was too late, and I could do nothing as I was unconscious." She picked up the jar, and began to laugh bitterly. "This child is dead because of me. Because of my body, because I had to keep it a secret."
"Bakara... why? Why did you... alter yourself like that?" Wrex could barely hide his disgust. It had always bothered him, how most aliens reproduced. Growing something inside of you, like some pyjak. And before him stood a woman that had altered herself to do the same.
Bakara stared at Wrex right in the eye. "To change the rules. To make the Genophage useless. I understand why the Salarians designed it so. I understand the method and logic behind their cruelty."
Wrex felt his blood boil. "There's nothing to understand: Once we stopped being useful to them, they neutered us all!"
"Ha!" Bakara shook her head, and began to move towards the morgue's exit. "I've heard the same argument before. I have no time for hatred, Wrex."
"Where are you going?"
"To the ship's incinerator to destroy this."
"That's all? Don't you... don't you want to say a prayer for it, at least?"
"I have no time to dwell on my failures, and I still have much work to do... Feel free to do or say whatever you like when I leave."
As Bakara made her way out, she felt the sudden urge to look to her right, and saw the sole active refrigeration unit. Curiosity overwhelmed her, and she opened it to have a look at the occupant.
"Someone you know?" asked Wrex.
"That was my new secretary. What a shame. I liked her."
Wrex peered under the sheet. "Pretty sure that's a man."
"Yes, well, I wasn't aware of that. This Ramsus fellow was very good at sinking into an identity. I was completely fooled."
"Couldn't you tell by the scent?"
"He smells dead, mostly, but... no, I can't tell by scent alone. That's weird."
"No matter. Let's just leave."
When the two giant lizards left, the girls stepped out of their hiding places, and opened the refrigerator that had been left ajar. The tray slid out automatically, far too high for them to see who was in it. They all found stools to stand on, and loomed over the corpse.
"He's so pretty!" said the fifth girl, the golden-haired one, with a half eaten chocolate puppy in her arms. "I want his pretty head all to myself!" she squealed.
"Hey, you were supposed to share that!" said the fourth girl, with the brown hair. She had been eyeing that chocolate puppy all day. She had been offered one, one of many, but she had wanted that one in particular.
"Heheheheh..." the third, with the purple hair, had a laugh that lacked all mirth. "They cut him, cut him deeply, took bits out and put some metal bits in. Over, and over, and over again. Until he became what they wanted him to be."
"He looks heavyyy..." whined the second, with the blue hair. "Do I really have to carry him out?"
"We need a place close to the heart of the ship with plenty of room," said the first, with the pale blonde hair. She stared at the flower in her hand. "She commands it."
"She commands it," the girls said in unison.
In the Durendal's Engine Room, Tali checked her email account on her Omni-Tool. Alpha and Beta sent her a video, telling her that they were okay, though the club had seen better days. They were planning on moving to another colony, or maybe out in the Terminus. They hadn't decided yet.
"You're our new best friend!" Alpha declared happily. "Email us every 5 minutes so we can talk about boys!"
"Or girls," said Beta.
"Or both!" they said in unison, "We don't judge!"
Hey you two,
I have to keep this short, as I'm busy with work.
So happy to know that you survived the attack. If safety is what you're looking for, though, then the Terminus is not for you. Maybe you should head deeper into Council space, where it's safer. Maybe the Citadel?
Oh, by the way, I tried using the Ono-Sendai. Turns out I'm compatible with the technology, and Spooky offered to teach me how to use it properly. Have any tips for me, or software?
Another email, this time from Molly the Bouncer. Tali wondered how she even got her email address, and figured that Alpha and Beta had given it to her... though now she wondered how they got it in the first place. Maybe she out to triple-check her Omni-Tool for bugs.
I'm a little hurt that you didn't take my offer, but seeing as the club is in a sorry state and the owners are thinking about leaving, well... I guess the offer's off the table. A shame, that. I really wanted to see you dance.
So did our mutual friend, incidentally. Yes, she's alright too, and she was worried about you. Alpha and Beta told her you were okay, and she wanted me to send you these pictures on her behalf. I took them myself.
Tali wondered who this mutual friend was, right up until she opened the attachment. It was pictures of the brown-haired young woman she had encountered at the Elerium-115, sitting on a bed with silk sheets. The further Tali flipped along the set, the less clothes she saw, and the more the woman seemed to beg her to come through the lens of the camera and join her. Tali couldn't stop herself admiring the way her sunlight coming through the windows seemed the highlight her creamy skin and her lovely hair...
Then she shook her head. "No no no, I can't..." and promptly put the pictures in the recycling bin.
Then, she replied:
What is her name?
It was then that Adam came in. "Zorah?" he asked. "I need your help."
"Of course," she replied, cheerfully.
He told her that Garrus had been drinking heavily for the past few hours, and needed something to flush out the alcohol out of his system. With the Durendal's medical supplies geared towards humans, he thought she could help out.
"I've got an alcohol flusher," she said, as she produced a small vial from her suit. "It should work on him, seeing as the Flotilla gets the stuff from Turian merchants. Put it in a hypo and inject him with 5 cc. It will make him feel a bit nauseous, though..."
"Better nauseous than hung over, thanks." As he moved to exit the Engine Room, Tali stopped him.
"Do you have to go already?"
"Well, yes, unless you need help with something."
"Well, I don't but... Right! I finished putting your broken eye back together! I can install it right here, if you like!"
"Hm, it would be nice to get some depth perception back. How long will it take?"
"Not long: just need to disinfect the eye and..."
"No need, my eye sockets are lined with plastic."
"Oh! Well then this will only take a minute."
Tali found a stool for Adam to sit on, set it up besides her workbench, and then proceeded to take the eye out of the box and double check its parts. "Adam?" she asked, as her hands disassembled and reassembled the eye with practiced ease. "I've been meaning to ask, but who are you to Brea?"
Adam gave her a confused look. "What brought that on all of a sudden?" Then, he realized something. "Wait, we had this conversation before!"
"Did we?" Tali pondered that fact for a second, and was coming up blank.
"Illium, Tali." When she didn't reply, he added. "The bar?"
"Oh!... wait, I think I was really, really drunk."
"Well, to repeat myself, Brea and I aren't a couple."
"Hm... does SHE know that?"
"Well, of course she does. Why wouldn't she?"
"Are you sure? Garrus told me she got aboard the Copperhead once she heard you were in danger. And speaking of Illium, didn't she invite you to dinner?"
"I went to dinner with T'soni, too," said Adam, and Tali's heart sank a bit when he said that. "Turns out, Brea was a lot more interested in her."
"Oh... wait, what?"
"She wanted to know more about T'soni's condition." Adam clarified. "As for Noveria, Brea had an agenda of her own." He sighed, when he saw that Tali needed a bit more convincing. "Look, she's physically attractive, no denying it, and that would be enough for some... but I find her attitude rotten most of the time. She either complains, or gives me veiled insults. I'd honestly rather NOT talk about her, if you don't mind."
"...Of course. I'm sorry I brought her up."
Silently, Tali fished out the nerve cable and the polymer strips from Adam's empty eye socket, and connected them to the artificial eye. Adam covered his other eye with his hand, and said: "Yeah, I'm getting a feed."
"Good," said Tali, as she helped him put the artificial eye into his socket.
As they did so, Adam caught sight of Conrad at his workstation. "Huh, now there's a first. Verner's in the same room as me and he pays me no attention." He blinked, as the automatic calibration began to kick in.
"He is a handful," agreed Tali.
"Well, let me know if he bothers you too much."
Tali's eyes widened in surprise. "What? No! He's amazing! I wish Veetor and Zev knew half as much as he does about Dark Energy field manipulation. Give him a month on board and he might get our FTL rating up to a light frigate's."
"Well... I wouldn't trust him with a spanner, and I have to double check his modifications so that they don't blow up the ship, but otherwise I can see why Hein wanted him aboard."
"Hein does have an eye for talent, doesn't he?" agreed Adam."
"That's what I like about him. Race doesn't seem to matter to him so much as long as you're capable. How's the eye?"
"Good as new, thanks."
"You're wel— uh oh..."
Tali peered into the replacement eye. "I... might have gotten the colour wrong: your new eye is a bit more blue than green."
"Oh, it's fine." Adam took out two plastic clips and fit them on his temples. "It's not like anyone will be able to tell the difference behind these." The golden shades deployed, hiding his eyes.
"...I knew those things were clip ons!" said Tali almost victoriously as Adam got up to leave. She noticed the ports on the back of his head, and found herself wondering what it would be like to plug into Adam using the Ono-Sendai. What would she see inside his mind? How deep could she go?
Would he enjoy it?
Stupid pictures, she thought, cursing her state of mind. Stupid sexy pictures.
"Huh, there it goes again," said Conrad, observing the Warp Field's harmonics on his workstation.
"Verner?" asked a voice behind him, which he immediately recognized.
"Oh, Adam! Sorry! I didn't notice you coming in!"
"I know. Something bothering you?"
"Oh, yes, most certainly."
"...Do you want to talk about it?"
"Well, I'm in the middle of some calculations... so while the computer works them out, I have time to chat a little."
"So, is the ship going to blow up or...?" Adam asked, half-jokingly.
"Hm? Oh, nothing that catastrophic!" Conrad dismissed. "But our Warp Field's been shifting by 0.04, give or take, for a few hours now. It's weird..."
"Warp Field?" asked Adam, confused. "Don't you mean Mass Effect field?"
"Oh, right, most people don't understand the difference." Conrad took a deep breath, and Adam braced himself for some exposition. He was getting a lot of it, lately. "The thing people don't quite get about FTL travel is that we're not using the same mass lightening field that you use to... say, make a shuttle float or propel a bullet. No matter how light you make something, the closer you get it to lightspeed, the closer the energy required to make it go that fast gets to infinite. At some point it doesn't matter how much kinetic energy you put in, the diminishing returns catch up. Whether it's a chip of metal or a warship, you're going to need the same amount of energy to get it to go a ninety nine percent lightspeed, mass effect or no."
"I thought mass effect fields got around that by raising the lightspeed limit," said Adam.
"They do and they don't. Let me explain: In order to raise the lightspeed limit, a ship needs to generate a mass lightening bubble with a specific dark energy harmonic signature that we like to call the 'Warp Field'. The more powerful and stable the Warp Field, the further the ship inside it can go into FTL speeds... but there's a hitch. A strong enough gravity well, like a planet's, interferes with the stability of a Warp Field. The closer a ship travelling at lightspeed gets to a planet or a sun, the harder it is for it to maintain the field and the slower it has to go."
"And once you get too close, the Warp Field destabilizes completely..."
Conrad nodded, "Right, and the ship snaps back to Sublight. It's the reason why it can take days to travel inside the gravity well of a star system, but it takes hours to cross the void between stars in a cluster."
"So how come we don't use Warp Fields to propel bullets? I would think the military would love a gun that powerful."
"Well, unlike a normal mass lightening field - which can linger for a period of time after power to the Eezo core is shut off - once a warp bubble destabilizes completely, it pops and dissolves instantly. You CAN make a bullet go at five times the speed of light... inside the gun. But once it's out the barrel it snaps back to a fraction of lightspeed, like any other bullet."
"So, are we getting too close to a solar system? Is that why the Warp Field is oscillating?"
Conrad shook his head. "I checked: we're only half-way to the nearest star, at the moment, so the Warp Field should be perfectly stable."
"The core's fragmented. That might be causing it."
"I thought about that, but... well, it doesn't account for an oscillation that big. It's really interesting, though. If I can figure out what's causing it I might even get this ship to match the Warp Factor of a light frigate."
"Warp Factors? What, like in Star Trek?"
Conrad nodded. "From one through ten. One's fast, Ten's ludicrously fast... in theory. Dreadnoughts and Supercarriers can only manage a factor of five or six, while heavy cruisers can go up to seven, tops. The Durendal can do eight point two, and the Normandy can go up to nine point one.
"And corvettes can go up to ten?"
"Ah, they can come close, but no one's managed to cross that threshold. Some people have tried to go up to eleven, but..."
Adam could feel a crawling sensation in the back of his head, and understood that going past Warp Factor 11 would be a disaster. "...But what?" he asked.
"Something always seems to go wrong. I guess the ships can't handle the stress, or something."
"Shouldn't it be the same as Zero Shift?"
"I mean, shouldn't it be the same as going through a Relay?"
"It should... if we had a full understanding of how relays work."
"You mean we don't? Christ, we use these things all the time!"
"Well, the prevailing theory is that Relays create a mass-less conduit between each other, allowing a ship to go through it a infinite speed. The other, less popular theory, submitted by Dr. William Weir, states that Relays actually fold space!"
"...But it happens too fast for anyone to observe the truth of it," Adam realized.
"Yeah, exactly! Our fastest computers and our most powerful sensors can't seem to get a lock. Therefore, no one's been able to recreate the effect, even on a small scale."
"Thanks, Verner. That was actually quite illuminating."
Nearly everyone on board the Durendal had gathered in the briefing room, with the exceptions of the more recent additions such as Bakara, Montblanc and, of course, the children. Echo and Lelia were taking care of them, while Zev and Veetor were watching over Engineering and the Electronics lab, respectively. Drebin had excused himself, more interested in trying to figure out what Sandal had done to that gun.
Hein began the briefing. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Soldiers and Scoundrels, welcome! The reason I brought you all here together is that you've all caught glimpses of something... insidious. Something terrifying. You all saw parts of a greater whole, and today is the day we try and put together the information we've personally gathered, and share it so that we are all on the same page. But first, some ancient history! Take it away, Mr. Jensen."
Adam stood behind the podium, cleared his throat, and began:
"It started around ten million years ago, on a planet in a star system no longer in our star charts. It started with a war of ideologies. Two factions vied for the world, the Messians, and the Gaians. The Messians believed in the rule of law and order, and used machines for warfare. The Gaians believed, above all, in the rule of strength, and used war beasts to fight. For centuries, the war raged, and escalated each side's technology. The Messians started using swarms of robots enhanced by Programs, and the Gaian war beasts were replaced with mutants enhanced by Blood Music.
"To break the stalemate, a scientist aligned with the Messians, whose name was Stephen—"
"Wait," interrupted Neil. "Stephen?! I mean... Stephen?!"
"Yes, Stephen," repeated Adam. "What's wrong with that?"
"I dunno, I expected something a bit more... fantastic."
"Sounds plenty weird to me," said Wrex.
"Let him finish," said Grey, who then nodded at Adam.
"Right then," continued Adam. "Stephen, to break the stalemate, created the first of a group of cybernetic constructs that would later be called the Prometheans. His name is Aleph, and he's inside my head right now."
Behind Adam, on the holoscreen, appeared five regal figures, completely covered in metal, cloth and or plastics sculpted organically to resemble ideal physiques. Adam presented them all:
The first, in a tan long robe that left his arms exposed and emitting a gold and green light from his circuitry was Aleph. He was the first ever built, and was the Prometheans' jack-of-all-trades.
The second, a pale-skinned woman in a black-and-blue, impossibly elaborate, high-tech dress, and with three glowing blue rings made of water hovering around her, was Beth. She was their biotech expert.
The third was a tall, slender man that looked both like a warrior and a fop. He was covered finely sculpted jade armour inlaid with gold, wearing breeches made of colourful cloth. He was called Gimmel, and served as their infiltrator.
The fourth was an even taller, and very well built man, his red-skinned body exposed save for a pair of tattered white slacks covered in a flame motif. His muscled body was covered in glowing orange veins, like magma. His name was Daleth, and he was their fighter.
The fifth and last was the size of a Roegadyn, but a bit more slender of limb. He was covered in a white shell, though wet black cords of muscle peeked through some gaps. His eyes glowed a pale blue. His name was Zayin, and he was, as Adam put it, their meat-shield.
All of them wore masks, covering their faces.
"At first," Adam went on, "They served as assassins for the Messians, and later, when the war escalated into space, to the nearby planets, they became generals of—"
"Whoa, wait! You mean like, like Cyborg Jedi?" asked Lunchbox, a glint in his eye.
"...Yes, like Cyborg Jedi."
"Aw, that's totally sweet!"
Tali shushed him. "Let him finish!"
Adam continued. "Then, they became generals, and eventually, when they learned of Molecular Control, they became as armies. Eventually, the Promethean-Messian alliance pushed back the Gaians to the edge of the star-system, and that was when the Akasha Lords — the leaders of the Gaians — opened a gate to the Void and escaped... and that was when the war burned the entire galaxy. A thousand years later, the Gaians were nearly eradicated, and the Messians had been left scattered and leaderless. The Prometheans, save for Aleph and Daleth, built and ruled three civilizations that spanned over half the galaxy. Aleph, for his part, wandered the other half, discovering new, fledgling races, and teaching them the basics that they would need to become full fledged civilizations."
Adam paused for effect, then: "These four, these four alone, had been responsible for the destruction of two galactic powers, and the rise of newer ones. So when I tell you that Nazara is responsible for their downfall, you should understand just how dangerous he is."
According to Adam, the fall of the Promethean Empire had begun almost as soon as the nation came to be. Zayin had declared himself Emperor, and Gimmel and Beth became his followers, ceding control over their territories.
Aleph had encountered the Empire's conquering armies when they attacked a world he had been on. Its civilization had still been in its antiquity, and had no hope of defending itself against the invaders. Enslaved and fed to machines designed to drain Anima, Aleph had rebelled against his former kin, and created an Alliance of free worlds to halt the Empire's advance.
Aleph's plan had been simple: the alliance would hold the line while he would personally deal with his brothers and sisters, leaving the new Promethean Empire leaderless and scattered. When he encountered them, Aleph had realized that something had driven them to extreme behaviour. Beth had become obsessed with creating monsters, and experimented on her own people. Gimmel had become obsessed with his own gratification, and left his people to rot. As for Zayin, his vision for the Promethean Empire was even worse than the Messians', as he planned to convert everyone into cold, unfeeling automatons.
Reasoning with them had proved impossible, and they all died at Aleph's hands.
The Empire had scattered into different nations, and with the threat gone, the Alliance dissolved. Some had begged Aleph to become their new Emperor, but he refused. Instead, he wandered the Galaxy again, guiding, investigating, waiting. For he knew that there was one more Promethean that had yet made his presence known.
That was when Daleth had appeared at the head of a Gaian horde, intent on ravaging everything. Once again, brother fought against brother, and between blows Aleph accused Daleth of using the Blood Song to corrupt the minds of his own siblings. Daleth denied it even as he tried to kill Aleph, and upon his defeat, uttered the name 'Nazara'.
Nazara, the Enemy, was a psychic entity that sought to harvest the Anima of all life in the Galaxy, and to do it, he needed a war to hide behind, and to accomplish that, he worked through proxies, people corrupted by artifacts of power. Gimmel had been corrupted with a pair of knives, Beth, with an orb, and Zayin, with a crown. Daleth himself had fought off the influence of a sword, but even he succumbed eventually.
Nazara's other tool had been the Black Fleet. Once conflicts reached their zenith, ships with hulls as black as night would unleash creatures from the Void that would devour all sapient life that lived on ravaged worlds.
"Some of you caught glimpses of these creatures very recently," said Adam. "Like ghosts, creatures of living flame. These are Nazara's creations. These are the Reapers."
Grey nodded sagely, being the only one who had actually gotten a clear view of them.
With the galaxy rife with conflict, nobody paid attention to a few silent worlds until it was nearly too late. On the brink of galactic annihilation, Nazara and Aleph finally faced off. The battle lasted days, and it ended with Nazara banished deep into the Void and Aleph severely damaged.
With the galaxy at peace and the Void now a prison for a being bent on the extinction of all life, Aleph transmitted plans for massive rails that could propel a vessel great distances to all that could build them, creating what would be known as the Relay network today, keeping the people of the galaxy safe from harm. After a hundred thousand years, the so-called first era of the Prometheans had ended, and from the ashes a new civilization had risen, following in the footsteps and listening to the echoes of those that came before. With such similarities, the new age was mistaken for a second era by those that would come after.
Dying, Aleph created Anima backups of himself inside thousands of terminals, with instructions to lie in wait for signs of Nazara's return, and prepare the galaxy to fight him once more.
This had happened 107 times before, and with each return Nazara's methods had become more and more refined. Proxies ruled by proxies, plots within plots, organizations slowly corrupting civilizations from the inside out, keeping them ready to tear at each other's throats.
"Humanity," Adam concluded, "is no different. There is a secret cabal, one that has shaped the past hundred years of our history to serve their ends. But even they are just puppets, and Nazara's pulling the strings. If we don't stop them, whatever plans they execute will mean terrible things for the entire galaxy."
The presentation concluded, Wrex began to clap, and laugh. Manah, who had been engrossed with Adam's tale, gave the Krogan a dirty look for snapping her out of her focus.
"Nice one, Jensen," complimented Wrex. "I mean, I've heard better from my Shaman at a camp fire, but not bad for a first draft."
Spooky let out a chuckle. "It is pretty out there."
Lunchbox frowned at him. "Oh, come on! You believe in countless conspiracy theories!" He pointed his finger in accusation. "You believe in ancient societies faking the first moon landing but ancient space ninjas fighting ghosts from hyperspace is too much?!"
"It is too much," replied Spooky as he coolly lit a cigarette up. "Kid, I believe in the capacity of men to manipulate, lie, cheat, and murder their way to power, that these men hide behind lies and a maze of organizations to keep themselves safe from reprisal. What I don't believe, what I refuse to believe, is that behind those men is an ancient evil straight out of a bad Lord of the Rings fanfic. No offence, Adam."
Fuck you, was Adam's intended reply, though he kept his mouth shut.
"And you saw some pretty outstanding stuff on the ground with us," Grey told Wrex. "How do you explain any of that?"
"I've seen plenty of things, all of which can be explained one way or another. Holograms, mad science, whatever. But some dark lord at the head of an army of space ghosts? That's bullshit, and you know it."
"So you don't believe Jensen because the truth isn't banal enough?" asked Hein. "Because it isn't mundane enough?"
"You're damned right, I don't. I believe in what I see, and all I saw down on Noveria was a bunch of monsters that die when you shoot them."
Hein smiled. "Funny you should say that. Grey? It's your turn, I believe." As Adam stepped down and Grey took his place in front, Hein went on: "As ancient as they are, as outlandish as they seem, the Reapers are a very real threat, even today, since the Illuminati are working towards their return. Since I pride myself on being prepared for everything, I outfitted Captain Grey with some specialized equipment designed to fight them. His suit's cameras picked up quite a bit of footage, which we analysed and edited together. Take it away, Captain. Oh, and Mr. Moody?"
"No smoking, please. And Mr. Urdnot? Do sit down and shut up, at least until we're done."
Grey's presentation, in contrast to Adam's, was quick and to the point, since he was reading a written report on his datapad, skipping parts that didn't need to be said or adding some for context.
"Here is a tactical analysis of the hostile alien entities codenamed 'Phantoms'..." he nodded at Adam, "...also known as 'Reapers', based on an encounter during the Geth attack on Dosadi, Noveria, on the 17th of October, 2183. At 0324 hours, the 1st Special Weapons Group, along with Spectre Jondum Bau, an Alliance Marine Squad from the Normandy, and several freelance mercenaries, came under attack by a group of mutants ostensibly created and under the control of Europa Genomics. However, footage gathered from the... my Demonica suit suggests origins alien even to this galaxy."
As he spoke, footage of the Deep Eyes' encounter with the 'Angels' played behind him on the screen. Jane and Ryan recognized the Granada's atrium, though neither of them recalled the blobs of blue voxels and static going around the battlefield.
"As you can see upon the hostiles' destruction, blue globes of static emerge from their bodies as soon as they turn into powder. Said globes can be easily mistaken for visual artifacts from faulty sensors or displays, which would explain why everyone on the footage is ignoring them, but the virtual intelligence integrated in the Demonica — Burroughs — resolved the issue quickly, at which point the true appearance of the hostiles became visible."
The blue static dissolved and made way for various creatures made of ghostly fire. Some appeared like serpents with snarling, all too human, skull faces. Some looked like hideous blobs. They moved about the battle, unseen and unheard, and passed through walls and pillars as if they weren't there at all.
"These 'Phantoms' are apparently unable to interact with solid matter, but when they come into contact with a living being..."
The footage cut to a Phantom trying to burrow inside an European soldier, who promptly began to spasm horribly.
"... they are capable of bypassing all personal defences and cause seizures that lead to death, or..."
Cut to another unfortunate soldier, who had a serpent pass through him, only this time he didn't seize up. Instead, the serpent dragged something on its way out, a ghostly blue figure in the shape of a man. The blue ghost desperately grasped at its own body in vain, trying to stay in, but the serpent simply dragged it away, kicking and screaming silently, to a corner far and out of the way.
"Take something out, and the victim is left catatonic."
"Oh, Goddess..." Manah murmured, trembling in horror. The others had been quiet, but were no less horrified. Except Wrex, of course.
"Can anything hurt those things?" asked Lunchbox.
"Maybe some kind of anti-ghost insecticide gun?" suggested Conrad out of nowhere.
With a glare, Grey silenced them all, and he continued: "Based on the fact that Phantoms pass through solid matter, it can be safely assumed that physical attacks cannot harm them. However..."
Grey brought up footage of him shooting the Phantoms with his Serpent rifle, alongside footage of Jondum Bau launching an incineration attack at a group of angels.
"For unknown reasons, energy weapons fire and the brief flash of plasma from an incineration Omni-Tool app can cause them harm. Further adjustments from the Demonica allowed the Serpent Carbine to neutralize the Phantoms completely."
The footage then cut to the massive creature that called itself Hashmal Lephantis fighting a group of Wanzers.
"For reasons unknown, the angels ceased to function completely, and shortly after we were attacked by a much larger creature. This one was apparently capable of speech, and called itself Hashmal. It was at first engaged by the Silver Drakes, the European Navy Wanzer squad, who managed to bring it down after 30 minutes of intense fighting. Once it fell..."
Cut to footage of Hashmal's back opening up, revealing glowing tendrils of flame that sought out bodies to attack.
"...Hashmal revealed himself to be an even larger variant of a Phantom. Based on the reactions from everyone on the scene, this time he was perfectly visible, with no visual enhancement whatsoever required. You all know what comes next," he gave Garrus a meaningful look as he closed the video "so I'll just skip this. In Conclusion, it is this soldier's opinion that Europa Genomics is consorting with hostile non-corporeal alien entities, and that EG is supplying them with physical hosts in exchange for advanced technology, such as the cloaking system that allowed Scholar's massive vessel to escape detection. As such, I recommend that EG should be considered a terrorist organization with a threat level of Black, and should be dealt with accordingly."
Grey put his datapad down, "Any questions?"
Everyone raised their hands.
"Later! Later!" dismissed Hein. "But allow me to answer a question while Ross and Brea get set up. Did you see those lines on each reaper, like strings on a puppet?" With his Omni-Tool, Hein put a video on screen of a 3d map of the Granada overlaid with data gathered from both the Demonica and the 108. Using triangulation, the strings of light all pointed towards a single room on the upper floors of the hotel. Hein zoomed in on it, and reconstructed the scene where Theodore had been encountered. All of the ethereal lines were focused on his head.
To Garrus and Adam, the implications was obvious: Even as he was fighting them, he was commanding a small army against a battalion of marines and winning.
"Who the fuck is this?" asked Jane, nodding at the pale, well dressed man on-screen.
"That, my dear," replied Hein. "is an Imaginary Number." He went on to tell everyone the history behind the Illuminati's psionics research, which seemed to catch Spooky's interest a great deal.
In the Durendal's cargo bay, quiet as mice the five sisters set up a circle, at the center of which lay the cold body of Ramsus.
They took their places, and hummed a gentle tune.
Manah thought she heard something as Brea and Aki set up their presentation, but ignored the noise when the two women started to speak.
"Subject's name," began Aki, as holographic images of Ramsus' body rotated behind her. "Johann Liebert Ramsus. Height: 182 centimetres. Weight: 71 kilos. Age? based on observations alone, estimated at 19 years. Autopsy and scans revealed that Ramsus has been the recipient of a great deal of corrective, cosmetic, and neural surgery throughout his childhood. This includes spinal fusion to correct scoliosis and distraction osteogenesis to lengthen and straighten his limbs. Well over half of his skull's face has been reconstructed at least three times, while his jaw is a plastic prosthetic. His left arm is a vat grown replacement, made using compatible, but nonetheless different genetic material."
Ross zoomed in on Ramsus' torso, and then his bare skin became covered in elaborate tattoos, the most prominent of which was that of a red dragon struggling with a white one. "This was covered up with a layer of thin, artificial skin that could become transparent to reveal these."
Brea cleared her throat, and Aki skipped ahead to the more relevant part of her report. She highlighted Ramsus' implants and element zero nodes. Manah noted that Ramsus' number of nodes was surprisingly below average for someone with the reputation of being one of Humanity's most powerful biotics.
"On the neurosurgical front, Ramsus' biotic implant architecture appears to be an evolution of the Alliance's L2, though far more invasive. Based on the neural scarring, one can tell someone began stapling and shunting his nerves with polymer wiring at the age of six."
Neil found himself wincing, expressing a sentiment shared by everyone.
"As for the brain itself..." continued Aki, as the hologram of Ramsus' brain became enlarged. "...much of it has been perforated with hair-thin conduits of conductive polymers connected to several regulator chips. This was done to mitigate damage from high doses of psychoactive drugs laced with element zero, of which there are many deposits deep within a dozen lesions all over the surface of the brain."
She highlighted another part of Ramsus, two almond shapes, deep in the center. "The most interesting alteration done to his brain is to the amygdalae. They've been enlarged through mutagen injections that also caused neuron density in the area to nearly double, then lesions were inflicted here, here and here. For those of you who don't know what this part of the brain does, it performs an important role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotions."
The holograms of Ramsus' various body parts winked out, and Aki concluded her part of the presentation with: "In conclusion, the people responsible for these neural modifications have access to a great deal of funds, as well as specialists with little regard for medical ethics: Not only are the modifications incredibly painful and caused irreparable damage to Ramsus' psyche, they also used highly illegal and very dangerous surgical techniques. Indeed, many of these modifications could only be achieved through nanomachine surgery. Any questions?"
Garrus raised his hand. "The biotics I understand, but why modify the amygdala at all?"
"The exact purpose? I wasn't certain, but I do know that these modifications would have increased his sex drive and aggression two or three-fold and force him to feel... every emotion with great force, except for fear, due to the intentional damage."
"And the pay-off for all that would be?" asked Ryan, not seeing the benefits.
"Superhuman social intelligence and charisma," answered Aki. "Which would mean an increased capacity to cooperate with others, and the ability to integrate perfectly in any society, big or small. Also, Ramsus would have had extreme empathy, been capable to manage an extremely large social network, and make perfect judgements based on facial expression alone... in theory. In practice, well, some of you actually interacted with him, so you would be better placed to know what he was capable of."
Adam shifted uncomfortably in his seat, while Brea merely frowned. Both of them had been played by Ramsus, though not quite for fools, thankfully.
"Such talents would be very useful for a spy," commented Brea.
"Or a general," added Grey.
"Or a tyrant," said Ryan.
It was Brea's turn to speak: While Aki had been responsible for the autopsy, Brea had taken various cell samples from Ramsus' corpse to analyze his DNA. The results appeared behind her on the briefing room's video screen, at the center of which was a double helix.
"Johann Ramsus. Actual age: 28, based on the length of his cells' telomeres. Half of Ramsus' DNA is a match for people with Germanic and Anglo-Saxon ancestry, which includes a Mediterranean great-grandfather. It is also riddled with indicators for conditions such as Williams-Beuren Syndrome and Urbach-Wiethe disease. Considering the purpose of Ramsus' biomodifications, it is quite probable these were inflicted through gene therapy. Williams-Beuren sufferers have no social fear whatsoever and incredible language skills, while Urbach-Wiethe sufferers present symptoms very similar to schizophrenia, probably caused by the hardening of brain tissue... which also affects to amygdalae.
Then, over half of the helix became highlighted in red, in various spots. "As for the other half, it simply makes no sense at all, to the point where it can't even be called human. None of these sectors, when combined with the rest of the genome, should result in a living creature, let alone a psychic supersoldier. As for where the DNA came from, I can only guess at the origins. It doesn't match any known galactic species, not even Asari, who display abilities closest to psychic powers we know of. To try and figure it out, I ran Ramsus' genes through a growth simulation."
As she brought up the file, Neil asked: "Why? We all know how he turns out."
"As stated by Dr. Ross," replied Brea, not even looking up from her Omni-Tool. "Ramsus has had a lot of surgery done to him to correct... well, you'll see."
A hologram appeared next to her, that of an ovum turning into an embryo. It quickly became obvious, however, that it would not grow into a normal fetus. As it went on, the being that should have been Ramsus became more and more twisted and deformed: its skin became marred by white scales, and its bones in the right leg and the left arm deformed into twisted shapes. Its back became more and more crooked as time went on, preventing it from assuming a normal posture. Its head became deformed, the entire left side of the face was puckered and scarred, nearly covering up the oversized red eye. The jaw permanently dislocated, and the hare-lip revealed oversized, warped teeth.
"Oh, keelah," muttered Tali.
"Sweet mother of god..." added Ryan.
Manah merely covered her mouth in horror.
Then, the child stopped growing. The chronometer at the hologram was frozen at 12 years, 6 months, 18 days, 6 hours, 48 minutes, and 36 seconds.
"...Why does it stop there?" asked Lunchbox.
"12 years and six months is the estimated time when the heart finally fails, and that's being generous. This simulation assumes that the child would receive some care: food, and shelter. Anything less than that, and Ramsus would have probably perished at the age of five due to morphogenic anomalies due to corrupt homeobox genes. However, when you add the mutagenic properties of Element Zero... things get quite interesting."
Brea restarted the simulation, this time with the added parameter of in-utero Element Zero exposure and a steady diet of element zero supplements. Ramsus still turned out monstrous, but his left arm became more and more overgrown, its fingers becoming claws, its skin becoming even more scaly and marred by protrusions of bone.
"Based on this, it is quite probable that Johann Ramsus' parents suffered genetic corruption due to disease or exposure to radiation, and the damage was made worse by years of flawed eugenics. My personal conclusion, however, is that Ramsus is possibly the first successful case of human-alien hybridization ever."
"Not the first," said Spooky. "There were others. Back in the 2050s Versalife experimented with alien DNA from Area 51. The result? The Greys."
"Never heard of them," said Neil.
"You wouldn't. JC Denton had them all shipped to Antartica. All twelve of them. They're probably all dead, now."
"So how do you know that these Greys even exist?" asked Manah. "Did you see them yourself?"
"Nope. But there are plenty of sites with printed documents that—"
"—and why should I believe your tale?" Her tone was almost accusatory.
"Well, aliens exist, for one thing," Spooky grinned. "So all of a sudden Area 51 sounds a lot more plausible. When I meet Gandalf and the rest of the Maiar, I'll happily take the whole tale of the rise and fall of the Protheans a lot more seriously."
"Don't be a dick, man..." chided Lunchbox.
"Don't be ready to believe everything you hear," he shot back, more to Manah than Lunchbox.
Before Manah could start an argument, Hein interrupted her. "All tales are true," he said, "but few are ever accurate. Still, there will be plenty of time to argue about that. For now, I want you all to pay attention to what I'm about to say."
He got up on stage, brought up every image presented for the past hour, and continued: "You may all be wondering what Ancient Promethean history, the Reapers, and Ramsus' cold corpse have to do with each other? Well, if you do, you haven't been paying attention. It's the Illuminati. They want the secrets of the Prometheans for themselves, and they want the power of the Reapers. But they're playing with fire, and they know it, and that's where psionics come in..."
He brought up Theodore's picture again. "The Reapers you encountered in Dosadi were but mere infants. And a powerful psychic like Ramsus could easily exert his will over those... but here's the catch! Everything that the Illuminati know about psionics... they learned from the Reapers. Oops."
He paused, and grabbed images of Ramsus' malformed body and his pristine, post-surgery face. "But they don't care. Look at the great lengths they went through to turn a malformed child into a psionic supersoldier! Look at their success! But as Adam said, they're doomed to drag the galaxy down with them when they inevitably fall. But they're still part of the Enemy, MY Enemy, and they're your Enemy as well. All of you have suffered in some way to their machinations, and you've had glimpses of their plan for the world. So I ask you all, will you stand by and do nothing?"
Hein reactivated the lights, and the door out to the hall hissed open. "Think on the answer, and let me know in the morning."
The crew members had dispersed throughout the ship, their heads full of wonder... and full of worries. Adam had been asked more than a few questions, such as 'what is the void?' or 'what did Gaians and Messians even look like?', or even 'the hell is Blood Music?' Adam told them that he would write a few articles on the ship's wiki that would answer those questions.
Speaking of questions, Adam had expected Manah to ask plenty of them, but instead she had excused herself to her quarters. That had worried him a bit, mostly because he suspected she was lying and couldn't wait to track down Montblanc and surprise him with a hug. As he tracked her down, he came across Brea in the hall.
"Ah, Adam. Looking for your little damsel?" she said, her tone a bit sardonic.
"Right, I'm a little worried—"
"—Of course you are. She just hits all your buttons, doesn't she? She's small, fragile, weak, constantly frightened..."
Adam was starting to have had it up to there with this nonsense. It seemed every woman on this ship had some silly idea about what his ideal woman was. First Manah thought Tali and Adam were partners, Tali thought he and Brea were together, and now Brea was getting in on the action by assuming Adam was chasing Manah. Why did they even care?
"...As I was saying," said Adam, barely containing his annoyance, "I'm worried that she might actually attack one of the crew."
Brea was genuinely surprised, if only slightly. "Wait, what?"
Adam told her about the recent incident in the cargo hold, and she smiled wickedly.
"Is that so?" said Brea. "Thank you, I'll file that little bit of information away. Could be useful."
"Look, are you going to help me, or are you just going to stand there and be smug?"
Brea rolled her eyes, and grabbed Adam's wrist. She activated his Omni-Tool, logged into the ship's internal tracking app, and locked on to Manah's signal.
"Huh, she's headed for the cargo bay, but Montblanc isn't there."
"Maybe you should—"
That was when the ship trembled.
"...What the hell was that?" Brea asked.
Wrex entered the cozy (by Krogan standards) laboratory space Hein granted to Bakara, and found his former bride setting some equipment up. "We're getting out of here," he said without so much as a greeting.
"...No." Her reply was quick, and she barely looked at him as she unpacked a DNA scanner.
"Bakara, the guy that runs this ship intends to fight a war against ghosts. He's insane!
Bakara chuckled. "And?
"And following him will lead you to ruin! Next port we dock in, we're gone!"
"You, long ago, lost any right to tell me what to do. As for Hein's insanity, that may be true, but seeing as he's given me such resources, I can hardly complain, can I?"
"That's it? That's the only reason you want to stay? Look, if it's hardware you need, I've got savings in the millions! I can get you what you need! Anything!"
"Can you put me in contact with peers, Wrex? Because that is what I truly need. Like-minded individuals to share ideas with." She gave him a challenging stare. "What do YOU know of life, Wrex? What do you know beyond the art of ENDING it?"
Wrex was about to say something, but whatever it was died quickly in his throat.
"You can't help me, Wrex. Hein can, so I don't care if he believes in ghosts. Most people do."
"It's not that simple—"
That was when the ship trembled, and the lights flickered.
"Are we under attack?" whispered Bakara.
In the elevator, Spooky and Lunchbox rode the elevator down to the cargo bay, boxes of spare electronics in hand.
"Look," said Spooky. "I'll see about Hein getting you an office job back on Earth, something quiet and away from danger. Failing that, I'll see about getting our contracts annulled."
Lunchbox scowled at him. "What the hell for?!"
"I'm supposed to keep you away from danger, kid."
"Yeah, as if putting on a white hat is gonna fix that. You know how bloody things get in the business, right? Look, there's NO WAY I'm walking away from this. I thought Hein was just some pencil-pushing fascist, but he's fighting the Illuminati, man! And they're consorting with an ancient evil!"
"Christ, you say that like it's good thing. Look, if it's really the Illuminati we're talking about, then Hein's going to have hell rain down on him, and everyone close to him is going to die."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take."
"It's not worth it! The Illuminati's been around for a very long time. If the goddamned Collapse wasn't enough to destroy them, what makes you think Hein can? What makes you think you'll make a difference?"
The doors opened, and the two of them walked to the area designated for spare parts and sundries.
"The Illuminati are scumbags, yes, but what do you think will happen when they're gone?"
"The world will be a better place, that's what!"
"Wrong. The world will keep going on as it has for thousands of years before. People in power exert power over the little guy, and the little guy does whatever he can to go on living. That's what it's all about, kid, for people like us. It's all about saving yourself. Let idiots like Jensen and Vakarian try and save the world, and see where that will take them."
"Yeah, well..." he set his crate down. "Maybe I want to help save the world."
Spooky just shook his head. Kids. Kids always wanted a cause to die for. Why couldn't they just do the sane thing and choose to live?
"What's that sound?" asked Lunchbox.
"Oh, so we're changing the subject now?" asked Spooky, sarcastically.
"Dude, shut up, and listen!"
Spooky strained his ears, and indeed heard someone humming a tune. They followed the sound to a tiny fort made out of storage crates right in the middle of the large storage space, right behind the Copperhead. Inside of that fort they found the five girls Lelia had been looking for, standing in a circle around the stitched up body of Johann Ramsus.
"What the hell... Kids! Get away from that!"
The girl with the pale blonde hair stepped towards the corpse, knelt besides its head, and put a flower on its right eye.
The hum became an unearthly wail, and a light surged out from the corpse and the girls. It was imbued with more than enough force to knock both Spooky and Lunchbox away, along with the barrier of crates. They landed on their back, and groaned as they tried to get up.
The entire ship rumbled.
"Spooky to Bridge," he winced in pain as he spoke into his Omni-Tool. "We, uh... we got a situation in the cargo bay!"
"So," managed Ryan finally. "Phantoms."
"Yep," replied Grey.
The Deep Eyes had congregated on the CIC, as Neil was now stuck to the helm. Apparently, they had gone off course by about two degrees. When one dealt in interstellar distances, two degrees was a major error, and so he no longer trusted the autopilot to get them to their destination.
"Secret societies," added Jane.
"And psychics!" added Neil, cheerfully. "Don't forget those."
"So, do we believe everything?" asked Ryan. "The Prometheans, and...?"
"I don't know what to think about Adam's story," said Grey, firmly. "It's ancient history. The truth of what happened back then may be lost forever."
"And the psychics?" asked Neil. "We believe that too?"
"I think we can safely assume that Ramsus really did have psychic abilities. His biotics were way too powerful and... it's weird, even though he was doing his own thing, truth is he coordinated pretty well with us, like he knew what I needed him to do as soon as I did."
"Huh, didn't think you'd buy into that, sir," said Neil. "No offence, Captain, but you do seem like a no nonsense kind of guy."
"I believe in what I see," defended Grey, "and what I saw were nearly invisible, untouchable alien creatures killing good soldiers with impunity... and I'll be damned if America isn't prepared to face them. We're going to help Hein. We're going to capture these aliens, and whoever cooperates with them. We're going to study them, dissect them, interrogate them, learn all of their weaknesses... and then, we're going to kill them. Oorah."
"Oorah," said the other Deep Eyes in unison.
"Well," added Neil. "That's all well and good, but does it have to be just us? Us, against the forces of Darkness with a capital D?"
"We could send some reports up the chain of command, sir," suggested Ryan.
"Thought about it," Grey shook his head. "It's up to Hein, really. You know what he said to me? 'People believe that only lies are incredible, and that the truth is boring'."
"In other words, we could tell everyone about what we found..." said Jane.
"...but then everyone will have us put in the asylum," finished Neil. Just then, some displays on the helm began to blink, and a worried look crossed his face. "The hell?"
"What is it?" asked Grey.
"We uh... yeah... this is weird." He tapped his comms window and contacted engineering. "Tali, why's our drive core past the red line?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing!" replied Tali. "I told you not to go past a Factor of 7.5!"
"Well, I didn't push the throttle!" Neil dialed down the speed, but then it seemed the drive core pushed itself harder to make up for the difference.
That was when the entire ship began to shake. Almost everyone in the CIC nearly fell down.
"Aw, shit!" shouted Neil as he frantically fired several thrusters across the Durendal's hull in an attempt to keep her steady. "We're going off course!"
"Something's wrong with the drive core!" shouted Tali frantically "...it's...it's glowing RED!"
"Warp Field harmonics have gone completely chaotic!" Verner's voice seemed more distant over the comms. "We have to shut it down!"
"Screw it, full stop!" Neil attempted to make the ship do a 180 and make the fusion drives go full burn, but the constant shaking and strange turbulence made that a difficult endeavour.
"Spooky to Bridge! We, uh... we got a situation in the cargo bay!"
"Explain!" barked Grey, wondering all the while what the hell that strange noise was coming through his channel.
"Well, I've got five of those kids doing some kind of ritual over Ramsus' dead body and the ship's rumbling all over! Coincidence? You tell me!"
It all sort of clicked in Grey's head. Ramsus, a psionic, was ultimately the product of Reaper technology, and his corpse was being used by them as a Trojan horse. He went to the nearest emergency switch and put the entire ship on red alert. "Neil, stay here and keep the ship in one piece! Ryan, Jane! Go down to the cargo bay, grab a couple of Serpents, and secure the area!"
Grey, for his part was going to suit up in his Demonica.
Nearly the entire crew, save for Tali and Neil, had found themselves in the cargo bay, drawn by the strange sounds that emanated from its center. It was a chorus that seemed to resonate from a thousand echoing crystals, so powerful it cut through the powerful alarm that rang throughout the vessel. An intense light illuminated the room, the source of which were four mandalas of light hovering above.
Manah had been the second to last to arrive at the scene, and saw the Krogan woman desperately shout at the singing girls to stop whatever it was that they were doing right this instant, backed up by the dark-haired woman that had recently boarded the ship to work as a bartender.
Adam, along with Garrus, attempted to enter the circle set up by the girls, but were pushed away by an unseen force.
"Tried that already!" shouted Spooky over the noise.
"Stand aside!" The last one to arrive on the scene, Grey, was clad in his newer suit, wielding his energy rifle. He shoved some of the crowd aside, took aim at the corpse at the center of the circle, and pulled the trigger.
A barrier of light appeared, and the energy bolts came to a complete stop, becoming marbles of light that danced all around the shield.
"Hit the deck!" screamed Adam. "Those things will—"
The energy bolts surged out of the barrier like grape shot out of a cannon. Manah, panicking, covered herself in the vain hope that the bolts coming straight at her would be stopped by her measly limbs. She felt her own biotics surge, and a barrier of her own formed, protecting everyone from the reflected attack.
Voices could be heard all around, whispering blessings at what was to come. The pale blonde girl stepped forth, she pointed at Adam, and spoke:
"Bear witness, cursed one, as you always have, age after age, cycle after cycle! Bear witness to the power your children, and your children's children, have been denied! The power of the Blood Music!"
She turned her back to them, and brandished a knife. "Sisters! It is time to feel the love of the gods!"
Adam and Manah both recognized the words. "NO!" they both screamed, though Manah understood best what they were about to do.
The pale-haired girl's voice became sing-song. "A deep love! A great love! A love powerful and formidable!"
"Stop it! Stop it, stop it!" Manah pleaded in desperation.
And, without nary a fear of neither pain nor death, the girls stabbed themselves in the heart.
"A love eternal..." whispered the pale-haired girl, and she fell in her own pooling blood.
For an entire minute, the entire chamber was devoid of sound and voice. Nobody dared to speak, out of shock and horror. Aki and Echo merely covered their mouths shut, for fear that they would scream if they removed their hands. Brea simply stared at the scene, confused, holding herself as if she was about to shiver, as if her very skin was about to crawl off. Zev consoled Lelia, who was on the verge of tears. Wrex's expression was unreadable, while the Deep Eyes and the Spookies simply stared.
After that minute, the shock wore off just enough for Bakara to scream and cry, and cradled one of the tiny bodies. "DO SOMETHING!" she screamed at Aki.
The poor doctor was at a loss. "I... I don't know what to... They're dead. I'm sorry."
"Bridge to Cargo bay!" Neil's voice rang out of the intercom. "I got the ship down to a stop but what the FUCK happened down there?!" When he failed to get an immediate response, he said: "Hello? Hello...?"
"Neil, it's Grey. We... we got... we got civilian casualties. We'll get back to you just... just give us a moment. Cancel the red alert."
"Why?!" Bakara asked as she wept, as surely as she just lost her own children. "WHY?! What madness possessed you to DO this?! WHY?!"
Grey approached her, carefully. "We need to clean this up."
Wrex gave him a dirty look. "Let her mourn, damn you."
"Believe me, I would gladly give her all the time in the world to mourn, but those girls were obviously Reaper agents, and whatever the hell they tried to do might have destroyed the ship!" He nodded at Ramsus' still corpse. "Thank Christ they didn't succeed, but we can't afford to..."
It was then that everyone heard a strange noise, like the chirping of a thousand little gremlins. "Get away!" shouted Brea, who seemed to shiver uncontrollably.
Quickly, the five tiny corpses turned into orange goo that fused with the blood, and the noise became louder as the puddles of red moved of their own volition towards the center of the circle. The liquid crawled over Ramsus corpse, and it began to convulse violently. Grey tried to shoot it, only for his weapon to fizzle out.
The flower set in the right eye began to grow to nearly a twenty times its original size, and roots dug deep into the corpse's flesh, draining it of what remained of its fluids. A hand popped out of the stigma, completely covered in slick red blood. The hand was followed by an arm, and the arm was followed by a head, then a torso, then legs.
The man opened his eyes and mouth, the white of his eyes and teeth providing a sharp contrast to the dark red that covered him entirely. He screamed in agony as he fell on top of Manah, who had fearlessly approached the strange event unfolding before her. The newborn was utterly confused, and flailed on top of her.
"Get off!" growled Adam as he pulled the creature off of her and tossed it down to the ground.
Flat on his back, the man kept screaming as he tried to shield his new eyes from the lights above with his left hand. It took him a moment to realize that he had no left arm at all.
The crew gathered in a circle around him, and stared down at the flailing, crying, and reborn Johann Ramsus.
Spooky summed up the situation in just three words, and twice: "What the fuck...? What the fuck?!"
"So," said Hein, grinning from ear to ear. "Anyone else still have doubts as to what we're dealing with, hm?"
AUTHOR'S NOTES: *Braces himself for inevitable complaints about lack of knowledge in the field of neurobiology and genetics* I tried to sound as vague as possible while using actual medical terms, but I suspect I got something wrong anyways. I always seem to. :/
Some of you have been commenting on chapter 8 (Know the Face of your Enemy) that I apparently forgot that Adam doesn't need neuropozyne. I didn't. Read between the lines, and you'll understand.
For visual references, Prometheans look like combinations between Warframes, the Demigods from Asura's wrath, and the Occuria from Final Fantasy XII. Furthermore:
-Aleph looks like a cross between Warframes Oberon and Volt
-Beth looked like a cross between Saryn and Meyneth (from Xenoblade Chronicles)
-Gimmel looked like a cross between Loki (Warframe) and Egil (Xenoblade)
-Daleth looked straight up like Asura ('s Wrath)
-Zayin looked like The Forgotten One (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow) with Wyzen's (Asura's Wrath) huge shielded arm, and covered in metal. And some details from the Mechonis (Xenoblade)