The Reality of Forever
Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect.
Note: When I first saw the control ending I was kind of freaked out and I think I've finally figured out why...Spoilers for ME3.
I used to have a name. It was a long time ago. So long ago I'm sure most days that it must have been a dream. Shepard, it was. I had a first name, too. Organics have two names, sometimes three. I don't remember what my first name was and I don't know if I had a third. No one ever called me anything but Shepard. Even the people that mattered didn't. Something about it being…disrespectful? Maybe? Perhaps they didn't know it either. I know I must have had another name, though. I know I must have been a male or a female but which it was escapes me.
I was organic once and now I am synthethic.
Most people don't have a choice about which they are, born organic or created synthetic, and they certainly cannot change.
I was born organic. I died organic and was reborn and created still mostly organic but with a lot of synthetic parts. Organics break down so easily and it's not half as easy to fix as with synthetics. That's why even the long-living organic species lasts barely a millennia and I have been around for…
I don't know, honestly. It's been far longer than a mere one thousand years. When so much time has passed and so much time will still pass it is difficult to remember the details. All is eternal and immeasurable.
I'm not Shepard anymore. I took the first steps away from that path when I chose to control the Reapers. When I chose to become the Reapers.
There is a little bit of me inside all of them, now, and I exist simultaneously in so very many creatures. I didn't know what I expected it would be like but I know that I didn't expect this. How could I? It is truly beyond the understanding of any mere organic. I was scared, I think, and rightly. I knew that what I was could never truly survive into what I was becoming and, like a child, I feared that change.
The change didn't happen all at once. Well, physically it did. My mortal body burned away as I watched in horrified fascination, wanting desperately to take back my choice but knowing that it was too late and that Earth would be doomed if I could.
I still felt like my organic self for a very long time. Or at least it felt long. I still saw time the way that organics saw it back then and I was able to watch the lives of the organics unfolding through their AIs. There was an upsurge in AIs after the Geth proved invaluable against the Reapers and so it was easier to watch than it might have otherwise have been.
I watched everyone that mattered live and love and – sometimes – grow old and die. There were children and children's children and I watched over them, too, until one day I realized that it didn't matter and that I didn't care and so turned away.
When I met the catalyst so many years ago (that's one event that stays burned in my mind while the rest fades due to unimportance and disinterest), I thought only of saving Earth and of proving that I was right to unite all the species. I was looking for an energy source to power a giant gun to murder all of the Reapers.
The catalyst opened my eyes, or at least tried to. I didn't accept what he said at first. He told me that organics and synthetics could never get along and that ultimately the synthetics would destroy the organics. It would have to be that way and not the other way around because no matter how many times the organics destroyed the synthetics, they would continue building and losing control of them so sooner or later the synthetics would win and they couldn't just build more organics.
It didn't make sense to me at the time that killing so many trillions of people each fifty thousand years could be saving anybody but in fifty thousand years primitive species only relatively recently learned to create AIs and so not enough time has passed for the AIs to wipe out all life. And should the AIs be more advanced than predicted, the cycle could move up.
I didn't accept this then. I just knew that a strange creature was telling me that after all the rhetoric I'd heard about how I could not understand the reasoning behind the cycles of extinction, it was all about organics vs. synthetics in the end. The Reapers had been right, though. I heard but I did not understand how true it all was.
I didn't believe any of what the catalyst told me and he offered me three equally bad choices but I had to choose one. If I didn't choose then the Reapers would wipe out Earth and the fleet I had gathered and nothing would stop them.
I didn't destroy the Reapers. I had come there to do that but it would kill all of the AIs as well and I couldn't have done that to the geth after Legion's sacrifice and after all the effort that I had gone through to secure a peace with the quarians. I couldn't do that to Joker and EDI. And I thought that if we had the geth as allies in this then we would move forward into a future where AIs were accepted by society and so we would prove the catalyst wrong about the inevitability of organic vs. synthetic conflict. Just because all synthetic life would have been destroyed didn't mean that it would stay that way. I probably would have died from the amount of synthetic material in my body.
I didn't choose to move to the final evolution of life where all organics were part synthetic and all synthetics were part organic. I was worried that it was too much of a violation to change everyone in the galaxy in such a permanent and major way without their consent. I also thought it was too close-minded to assume that that was the only way for a lasting peace to happen. And what would happen when more AI were created? There would be the semi-organics versus the all-synthetic if conflict really was inevitable so it wasn't a very practical compromise. I would die when my body was burned up to provide the organic material to infect all of the synthetic life forms with just as all of the organics would be infected by the catalyst's synthetic material.
Becoming a Reaper, though…choosing to control them…it had all sounded so very impossible when the Illusive Man had spoken of it but it turned out that it could be done. No one would be altered and changed without their consent and no entire species would have to die. Things could continue pretty much the same way they always had, just without me and I was doomed no matter what.
I had hoped that the unity I had brought to the galaxy would bring about a more lasting sense of galactic peace.
It did…for awhile. Maybe it was decades, maybe centuries, maybe even millennia. It is so very difficult to tell with these things.
One day, things fell apart. There were many one days spread across many times and places.
The krogan recovered their strength and hit the salarians first the next time they decided to rebel. The entire race was virtually wiped out just so they could be sure that there would never be another genophage. The other races because jealous of the asari and their immovable sense of superiority and condescension and a war started there. The asari began breeding with each other again so they would have more Ardat-Yakshi to strike at their enemies with. The turians had their own AI problems. And so much more. I've seen races that the galaxy hadn't even heard of in my time rise up and destroy others and be destroyed in turn. So much death and destruction.
The AIs have been a common theme. The geth were accepted but they weren't seen as AIs anymore, just a synthetic race of people. At first, this was for their actions during the Reaper invasion. Later, it was just because they were always the exception.
The way the synthetic threat rises up is so tiresome and so predictable. Organics create increasingly advanced computer programs to do increasingly complicated tasks either because they are incapable of the tasks themselves or just to make their lives easier. The more advanced the programs, the greater the likelihood of them gaining sentience. If the thought of a sentient machine isn't enough to send the organics into a genocidal frenzy then the AIs resent being treated like simple machines and essentially enslaved and seek greater freedom...which is almost guaranteed to send organics into a genocidal frenzy. Usually, it is the organics who strike first but not always. Sometimes the organics just refuse to stop oppressing the synthetics and as time passes the synthetics cannot take it anymore.
Thus far, the synthetics have never succeeded in wiping out all organic life but a few races have been lost along the way. Even innocent races who have never had anything to do with AIs get caught in the crossfire.
The situation is just getting worse and more chaotic as more time passes and new races are allowed to join the galactic stage without the old races clearing room for them.
Tensions are high from every sector and wars break out frequently.
If nothing is done, I can easily see these organics and these synthetics wiping out all life in existence and leaving it empty and barren. Every inch of space has been explored by now so maybe that's a clue as to how much time has passed. There's no new wonder anymore and this vast, vast universe is almost shrinking somehow.
This cannot be allowed to happen. Too much has been sacrificed to keep organic life in existence. Just because they don't care to maintain themselves doesn't mean that others don't. I cannot let their short-sightedness and greed destroy everything, ruin this careful balance that's been maintained over the years.
But maybe that's the problem. I can't say I wasn't warned. Organics are always so curiously self-destructive.
I don't know when this solution came to me but I've been thinking about it more and more. I would have implemented it sooner but I had one last tie to organics in the form of the human race and throughout all this time I couldn't bear to see it destroyed.
Even that is gone now and I wonder why it ever gave me a moment's pause.
It's time to resume the cycle.
The galaxy must have order.