Author's note: this story comes from the inspiration of the Mass Effect universe, as created by the awesome writing team at BioWare, to whom I give my thanks!. It's their universe, and their dialog options that inspired me to create different versions of Commander Shepard in my head. This is a story about four different Commander Shepard characters.
Emony Shepard was feeling sick to her stomach, her normally pale skin had turned translucent, and she found herself grateful to finally be breathing in some cold fresh air. The M44 Hammerhead would be undoing. She had an unblemished reputation as the hardy spacer kid who could pilot any vehicle like she was born in the driving seat. This mission had been a real chore, despite picking up a fair few minerals and having some fun blowing up some turrets, the bouncing, crashing, skipping of this vehicle - apparently necessary to compensate for its complete lack of armor - was the final straw. Emony didn't think it was possible for a Turian to look green, but even Garrus was looking relieved to be outside now that the forcefield around the facility was finally down. With every forcefield generator they had disabled, three or four defense turrets had sprung up, programmed to defend the facility at all costs. The rockets had missed them by inches as Emony had swooped left and right to avoid them.
It was hard to read Tali's expression, but she was unusually quiet. Emony did ponder more than once what a Quarian would do in the event of vomit or even tears inside those environment suits. She was grateful for the flexibility of her red custom N7 armor, though she found herself wishing it wasn't quite so uncomfortable around her neck and chest at that moment. With any luck, this would be the last trip in the Hammerhead for a while.
As they walked into the tunnel, a low hum and vibration seemed to resonate around them. "Another generator?" she asked, looking at Tali, who was already looking at her Omnitool. "No, this seems to be coming from a cavern below us. I don't think I've seen or heard anything like this before, I mean, as far as generators and engines are concerned. The resonant frequencies are not matching any known patterns." Garrus looked at Shepard with a thoughtful expression "It feels... I don't know - strangely familiar?" Emony pulled her pistol "Stay sharp, we'll find out soon enough" as she lead them deeper inside the cavern.
As they made their way deeper into the tunnels, the air chilled noticeably, but it remained comfortable enough. "What I don't get is why you didn't let us bring our old Mako from the Alchera crash site on board" smirked Garrus. "That old thing saved us from many a Thresher Maw - the cannon alone could have taken out those Geth in a couple of shots!" Shepard paused and turned to face him "After two years and a crash landing on a frozen wasteland, you honestly think it would have ever worked?" Emony tried to sound confident in her evaluation, but after two hours in the Hammerhead...
Tali beckoned them over to a few Blue Suns mercs - or what was left of them. "Some useful data on these pads" as she handed them over. Shepard played back the logs:
Dr Oloy must have been indoctrinated by the Reapers
An all-too-familiar story. Indoctrination: the betrayal of those closest to you as they start hearing the voices in their heads.
I found him sending our data to a Geth ship
Shepard considered that for a moment - everyone else had assumed that Sovereign was a Geth ship, but her team had discovered it was actually a living Reaper. People had made that mistake before; were they here already? No, they couldn't be, there would be more evidence... must be an actual Geth ship in this case. Wish I'd had the Mako this time. And Kaidan. Shepard smiled briefly, remembering the first time she'd seen a Geth colossus floating in mid-air thanks to his biotics, as Garrus blasted it with an overload and a very precisely placed sniper shot. Their technique improved over the months, and they even started notching marks on the hull for each hit.
He was right, the Mako had a lot of things going for it.
I've silenced O'Loy... forever.
She'd not been expecting to find anyone alive in this hole - the presence of so many dead mercs had made that clear. The hum was getting louder, if this was a device that was indoctrinating these scientists then they would need to be quick.
"I found another pad"
Garrus handed it over, a grim expression on his face.
They're still in my head, stealing my thoughts.
Definitely indoctrination - which made her feel even more uneasy - was this relic actually Prothean, or was this a Reaper device that everyone had assumed to be Prothean? The hum was very loud now, almost pulsating with power. Looking over the obvious pathway, the source of the hum must be at the end of it.
Shepard disabled a security console, stone pillars shifted and moved, revealing a pulsating sphere. "Prothean!" exclaimed Garrus "and there I was worried this was a Reaper device!" Shepard smiled - she recognized it too. It was almost identical in design to a sphere that they'd encountered a few years ago after an epic Mako trip through some insanely rocky hills on Eletania.
We'd only gone over there because Garrus and Kaidan had both decided that getting over the impossibly steep terrain was beyond the capabilities of the Mako, and they'd repeatedly pointed this out to me as their Commander. But I wouldn't listen, I knew if I just continued zig-zagging up the hillside, gently rocking that plucky little vehicle I would eventually succeed, and prove them wrong. And wrong they were, as we made it safely to our destination. Turned out, the anomaly we had detected from orbit was actually a Prothean sphere.
Once out of the Mako, there hadn't been much time - the toxic atmosphere made sure of that. As she approached the sphere, Shepard had noticed the small keyhole-shape that matched the size and shape of the small "trinket" that the consort Sha'ira had given her. Even though he'd had a helmet covering his face, Emony had known Kaidan must have been rolling his eyes - helping the consort had been a strange series of events. Thankfully, the trinket was so small she'd tucked it into a pocket of her armor and hadn't removed it since. As she inserted the trinket into the sphere, Shepard's mind had filled with images of ancient human civilization - a Prothean data recorder! But it had been much smaller than this one. Last time, she'd been briefly unconscious after touching the sphere, the only lingering side effect was a dent in her helmet from her head hitting the ground. That plus some confirmation that the Protheans had studied primitive human civilization.
As the hum throbbed in the underground chamber, Shepard started to walk towards the sphere. "Shepard - last time you did that you passed out - and this thing is at least three times the size" Garrus warned. Tali was also concerned "Shepard, I'm reading a LOT of activity - EM spikes across the board" She sounded awestruck. "Whatever this thing is, it's beyond anything I've studied, but it's definitely Prothean".
Emony took another step forward - what the heck, she'd encountered so many . "This time, Garrus, you'd better catch me - I only just got this new helmet" she smiled at the Turian - she was glad to have her team with her for moments like this. "I'm with you, Shepard." with a small twitch of the mandible. Just like old times.
She reached out and touched the sphere. She saw a ripple of green energy the second her finger touched the surface. Everything went black.
"Commander, are you completely out of your mind?" Miranda folded her arms and took a step back. "how do you know this sphere isn't the same device that indoctrinated these scientists? You're not seriously going to touch it are you?" The constant hum from the device was starting to get to all of them. Alan Shepard stepped forward, "Of course I'm serious - you know how many of these artifacts I've been in contact with, we need to extract every piece of Prothean information we can get our hands on." He sighed. Even after all this time, Miranda still insisted on providing a constant list of obvious questions. "You know more about me than I'd like anyone to know. Of course I'm going to touch it." Alan took a step forward and paused for a moment. "I'd definitely touch it if I were you" Kasumi added with a smirk. That brought a small smile.
Miranda had insisted on coming along - Alan suspected she was feeling more than a little lost, having semi-resigned her position at Cerberus less than two weeks ago. Not that you could truly resign from an organization such as Cerberus, but all credit to her for giving the Illusive Man a piece of her mind. Alan felt it would be good to keep the crew with him after he mission through the Omega-4 relay, making as much of their talents as possible before they inevitably started to move on, now that the Cerberus funds had stopped. Miranda had taken it hard, though she would never admit as much. Such a strong, independent woman, and so damn annoying at the same time. If she could just accept who she was and move on, instead on dwelling on her genetic perfection and the assets gifted to her.
Kasumi couldn't have been more different. She'd become who she was by not being seen, her confidence in her own abilities well deserved, gained over many years of skillful application of her intellect and her unique artistic style and personality. Who would know who was beneath that hood, and that mystery couldn't have been a more stark contrast to the impossibly tight outfits that Miranda insisted on wearing,
They walked a bit closer to the sphere, "Kasumi, what does your 'tool tell you about this thing?" he inquired. She paused and flicked over the data - she was extremely talented with electronics, thankfully. Tali was getting over a fever, and Alan wanted her to recover quickly. "Nothing and everything - I mean, it's full of data, that much I can tell, but it's full of so much data I can't see any one specific piece that stands out, other than the general fact that the main frequencies are definitely Prothean. Although, " and she paused briefly before continuing "I ... thought I just saw something that looked like neural activity but I can't be certain." Alan looked at her "like a memory, or is there something alive...?" Kasumi kept flicking through the settings on her omnitool "I'm not sure, it disappeared almost as soon as I saw it, but it reminded me of some of the patterns I see in the greybox." "Any indication of anything Reaper related?" "Not that I can tell, Shep."
Shepard took a deep breath and turned to face Miranda. "you're right to be cautious, but this is what I do, it's what I have always done. Just trust me, I'm not crazy. When the Reapers come, we will have to be ready, and data spheres like this could give us the information we need to provide a defense." Miranda sighed and raised her hand to her communicator, "EDI, make sure Dr Chakwas is prepped - we have encountered a Prothean sphere of some sort, and Commander Shepard is going to investigate it." Of course he was, she understood, but it was her job to... well, not really to protect, but she'd lead the team that brought him back, she would always feel responsible in some way. Same Shepard that he was before, same short dark hair, same stubborn self-righteous streak, saving the galaxy by solving one problem at a time, if he wasn't so likeable she'd hit him at moments like this. EDI's voice resonated around the cavern "Understood, Operative Lawson. I shall also monitor for any signals coming from your location - if you have encountered a Prothean data sphere then there may be significant quantities of data inside." EDI almost sounded excited - the recent change in her personality was very noticeable.
Alan took a step forward and reached out - everything went black.
"Blue suns again, Massani? Are you rallying the old troops to give us some cannon fodder for the Geth?" Andrea Shepard stabbed the question at the old merc with her arms over her chest. Zaeed grinned "'course I haven't, you gonna jab me about that every time we find a 'suns merc? Just because Vido is dead, doesn't mean I know anything about these kids." And they were just kids, Shepard noticed. Most of the mercs they encountered were. Zaeed checked over the bodies and scouted around the cavern. "Shepard, I got something" Andrea walked over to Garrus and stood close to his side. Garrus coughed slightly and shuffled ever so slightly backwards as she smiled - it was one thing to flirt with Zaeed, but Garrus was in a league of his own, and despite all they had been through, his mission focus was impressive. He handed over the data pad, she frowned. "sounds like this team suffered some level of indoctrination." Zaeed overheard from the corner and looked troubled "Hopefully not from this object - you're sure it's Prothean, right?" Andrea grinned "it's definitely Prothean - I've encountered one of these before... " her grin faded briefly "Garrus, check the perimeter for any reaper tech - I don't want to end up like these scientists." Zaeed had searched the merc bodies, but found little else, but Garrus had been with her years ago, and they'd seen Reaper tech before. A few moments later, he returned "we're good. No reaper tech here - whatever affected these scientists is gone now."
As they approached the sphere, the hum grew louder. Zaeed folded his arms and shook his head "You're fucking crazy, you know that right?". Garrus grinned, "She's been touching strange objects for years and getting away with it, helps keep her alive, I think". Andrea laughed a little, "ok team, stay with me, we know it's a data recorder, but this one's big, and big rarely means good in this universe. Let's hope it's got some useful intel in it." and she reached forward to the sphere. Her black armor seemed to shine as she walked closer, and Garrus smiled as she took her decisive step forward. A green pulse radiated from where her finger touched the sphere, then everything went black.
"Very interesting! Surface extremely smooth, lack of indentation combined with constant resonating aural frequencies, plus ability to defy gravity, indicates an object of " "Prothean, yeah." Kate Shepard cut off the Salarian doctor before he could complete his sentence. Exceptionally talented he may be, but at times like this, Kate needed to think. Mordin had been keen to get off the ship for a while following their return from the Omega 4 relay, so she'd agreed that he could come along. The pause in his thoughts didn't last long, "Almost musical, hum not too dissimilar to Elcor orchestra bass section" Mordin had been strangely quiet on their way to the site, as Kate and Legion had concentrated on wiping out the Geth forces, his normal talkative demeanor changed markedly. Perhaps the Salarian was a little less than comfortable in the back of the Hammerhead. He was making up for that now - Salarians recover swiftly.
Kate ran a hand through her messy short auburn hair - her Cerberus reconstruction had sadly done nothing to improve on that. She had to cut off most of her hair when in her teens as a dare from a bunch of young Alliance recruits she'd met while waiting for her mother to meet her at the docks. It turned out to be a highly practical style for under a helmet, but it rarely behaved. She paused for a moment, "Mordin, these logs point towards some sort of indoctrination, is there anything you can gain from analyzing these bodies?" the Salarian looked thoughtful for a moment as he pulled out his omnitool, " hmm, looks like neural decay postmortem has set in to the point where detailed analysis is impossible. " Kate sighed, "guess we're too late this time." getting intel on indoctrination would have been a bonus.
"Shepard-Commander, Geth presence has been eliminated. We are recording all activity from the device and can assist with data analysis should any useful information be obtained from the transfer." Kate smiled, she had strange travelling companions, but they'd saved her back on many occasions. "Thanks Legion. Mordin, be ready in case this sphere has any kind of negative effects - I've not had much interaction with Prothean technology since I was brought back."
Kate stepped forward, her vision narrowed, darkened, and went black.
...Emony opened her eyes. She was standing - well, seemingly nowhere. The ground was a metallic smooth surface, like polished steel, but there was no visible end to it, it just faded into darkness. She turned around and paused. There were three people - all in N7 armor - standing near her.
...Kate turned and saw three people in armor - all different colors, a woman in red, one in black and purple, and a man in blue and yellow. It seemed they were all N7 Alliance, though none had any identification visible.
...Alan looked around. The woman in the white and blue looked angry. The one in black looked amused. The one in red was just quiet.
...Andrea couldn't help but smile - there she was, in a giant empty space, with three other N7? Well, it certainly made a change from previous sphere encounters. The room felt hollow and endless. And yet while it here was light enough to see, there was no obvious light source.
All four Shepards folded their arms and looked at each other.