Isaac Clarke stared out the cockpit window into the vast, empty void of space stretching before them. With the destruction of the Marker, he felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his soul. The necromorphs were gone, and the fake Nicole no longer haunted him. He was finally free.
"Wait, this isn't right," said Ellie Langford, who sat next to him, in the pilot seat.
"What's not right? What happened?"
Ellie shook her head. "I don't know. I can't get through to anyone. CEC and EarthGov comm channels aren't working."
Isaac shifted in his seat. "Maybe the communications on the ship are down?"
Ellie shook her head again, turning to Isaac. "No, they're working fine. But that's not even the strangest part. Look." She hit a few buttons on the control panel, and a holographic display of the solar system appeared. "Here's where we were on the Sprawl, see?" A red, blinking dot appeared on the image of Titan. Isaac nodded. "And here-" She hit another button. "-is where we are now." The screen wavered, as the image changed.
Isaac stared at the screen, furrowing his brows. "But... That's impossible."
"Impossible or not, that's what happened. Our coordinates haven't changed, but somehow everything else has shifted." Ellie sighed. "I've run a diagnostic on the systems three times. There's nothing wrong with them."
Isaac sat back. "I wouldn't be surprised if the Marker had something to do with it," he groaned.
The two of them sat in silence for a while, contemplating their situation. It was beginning to get uncomfortable, when the comm crackled to life. Static screeched from the speakers, and only bits of the message were discernable. "... anyone on board? Alliance regulation... Identify..."
Ellie almost jumped out of her seat. "Yes yes! Hello! We're here! Do you read? You're barely coming through!"
The comm crackled again, and the voice spoke again, less garbled this time. "Attention, unidentified craft. You are in Alliance controlled space. Under Alliance regulation, identify yourselves, or you will be considered hostile."
"Alliance?" Ellie turned to Isaac, who merely shrugged at her. "Uh, my name is Ellie Langford. I'm here with Isaac Clarke. We're with CEC."
The comm was silent for a moment, before the voice buzzed back, "Come again? Did you say you were with C-Sec? What the hell are you doing in this system?"
Isaac and Ellie exchanged a confused glance. "Yes, we're with CEC. We were stranded out here after a... Mining operation."
The comm was silent again, an excruciating pause, as Isaac and Ellie waited in anticipation. Finally, the voice replied. "Okay, sit tight. We've sent a cruiser to your location to pick you up."
Both passengers let out a sigh of relief.
After a few minutes, the shuttle's scanner picked up a vessle heading towards them on an intercept course.
"I guess we're finally getting out of here," Ellie sighed.
"Maybe," Isaac said, his eyes on the approaching ship.
"Maybe? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just look, Ellie," Isaac growled, pointing out the window, "That's not a CEC ship. It's not even EarthGov."
"Then, who is it?"
The shuttle shook as the rescue ship's docking clamps latched on to it.
"We're about to find out."
Isaac got up and stood in front of the shuttle's exit hatch. Outside, there was a loud hiss, as the airlock repressurized, then a metalic whirr, the sound of a door opening. He glanced over to Ellie. "Well," he said, "Let's go meet our saviors." He opened the hatch and stepped out the door.
"Don't move!" shouted a voice, as Isaac found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. On the other end of the weapon, was a man in an amored suit, much like a RIG, but simpler and more streamlined. To the man's right, holding another pistol carefully trained on Isaac's head, was a woman in a form-fitting body suit, with a hood and mask that covered her face. And to his left was...
"What the hell?" Isaac said, taking a strp back. The thing standing there definitely wasn't human. It was tall, at least a full foot taller than Isaac, and wore a suit of heavy armor. It was grey, and looked somewhere between a reptile and an insect. Two mandibles twitched on either side of its mouth, and a scaled crest swept back from the top of its head. Two small, blue eyes watched him, unwavering, and the creature's three-fingered hand tightened around its gun.
The man standing across from Isaac smirked. "That's not very nice. Garrus may be ugly, but he's not that bad."
"Watch it, Commander," the creature replied.
"Who are you?" the man asked Isaac.
Isaac turned his attention away from the scaled creature, trying to sort his thoughts. "I, uh, I'm Isaac Clarke, CEC engineer. This is Ellie Langford, also CEC."
"CEC?" the grey creature asked. "Is that some imitation of C-Sec? Sounds like a Cerberus plot to me."
"Let's not jump to conclusions yet, Garrus. We should find out more about them, first." The man holstered his gun, and moved toward Isaac, extending a hand. "Commander Shepard, captain of the Normandy. The grumpy turian here is Garrus Vakarian, and the quarian is Tali'Zorah."
Isaac shook his hand with a look of confusion. "Turian? Quarian?"
Garrus shifted slightly. "I don't buy this, Shepard. How could they not know about turians or quarians? And they can't be backwater hicks, they're too well equipped. I've never even seen armor like that before."
Commander Shepard frowned, then turned to the quarian. "Tali, check their files."
"Right." The quarian held up her right arm, and an orange gauntlet appeared around it, some sort of holographic interface. She began tapping at it, and a small light on Isaac's RIG began blinking. "Hold on," she said after a moment, "This can't be right."
"What's wrong?" Shepard asked.
"It must be a glitch, I'll run it again." After another pause, she shook her head. "Something must be wrong here. It's saying he was born in 2465."
"Nothing's wrong with that," Isaac said, "That's when I was born."
Garrus made a disgruntled noise. "You really expect us to believe you were born almost 300 years in the future?"
"I don't know what world you're living in, but the year is 2511," Ellie commented. "I've got it right here on my RIG."
"You're lying!" Garrus countered. "The Alliance regulation calendar puts the date at 2186 in Earth-time. Now, if you're done making excuses, I think-"
"Hold it!" Commander Shepard interrupted. "We're not going to get anywhere by being hostile, Garrus. Something's not right here and we need to find out why, but that's not going to happen if we're at each other's throats. Back down, and we'll do this reasonably."
The turian looked annoyed, but he took a step back and lowered his weapon. "Fine. If you think it's the right thing to do, Shepard."
"First things first, I think we should get them up to the med-bay and have Dr. Chakwas take a look at them. Give them some first aid, and see if we can find out anything about them."
Shepard led the two of them up an elevator and on to the crew deck. They passed by a small mess hall, and several human crew members looked up to watch them pass. As Isaac looked around at the ship, he was reminded of the design of the USG Planter Crackers, only sleeker and brighter. The med-bay door slid open as they approached, and an energetic voice reached their ears.
"No, no. Adaptation would cure symptoms, but would effect secondary organs. Shutdown of all redundant systems. Not lethal, but could compromise krogan health, damage immune system further... Unacceptable."
The voice was coming from an orange, amphibian-like creature standing at a computer console. It was wearing a clean, white suit of light armor, and several scars marked his head. His fingers blurred over a virtual keyboard as he talked to himself in a one-sided conversation.
"Mordin," Shepard spoke.
The alien turned. "Ah, Shepard! Good to see you. Genophage cure progressing nicely. Still working on side effects, but viable cure is within reach. Something you need?"
"Where's Dr. Chakwas?"
"Crew quarters. Said she would give me room to work. Considerate of her. Perhaps I could be of assistance?"
"Maybe you could. We've got a bit of a problem with these two here." Shepard gestured to Isaac and Ellie. "Found them floating in a shuttle. Records for them say they were born 300 years from now."
Mordin perked up. "300 years? Interesting. Time travel perhaps? Possible with faster than light travel. But improbable. Who are they?"
"My name is Isaac Clarke, CEC engineer," Isaac answered, "and this is Ellie Langford."
"Mordin Solus. Salarian scientist, former STG." Mordin held his hand up to Isaac, and a holographic interface, similar to the one Tali used appeared. "Interesting. No omni-tool, but an integrated system connected to nervous system. Identification. Communications to other users. Vital signals monitor. Displayed on back. Counterproductive unless working in groups. Not as efficient as an omni-tool, but effective nonetheless."
Mordin took a deep breath, then waved the omni-tool over Isaac again. "Hm. Very interesting." He pointed at the stasis module on Isaac's wrist. "This device. What does it do?"
Isaac held the device up for the salarian to see. "It lets me use telekinesis and project stasis fields."
"So you're a biotic, then?" Shepard asked.
"What's a biotic?"
Mordin examined his omni-tool. "Device allows for manipulation of biotic fields, even if user has no biotic ability. Fascinating."
Shepard took a step forward. "If that device can let someone with no biotic abilities use those powers, imagine what it could do for an actual biotic. This kind of technology would be invaluable to the Alliance. It could help turn the tide against the Reapers."
"Yes, yes. Will study it. Send plans to Alliance. Later, though. First, examine anomaly in this human."
"Anomaly?" Isaac asked, a bit worried.
"Yes, anomaly. Very odd. Never seen this before."
"What is it?" asked Shepard.
Mordin paused for a moment. "All creatures in galaxy are exposed to element zero. Relays scattered throughout galaxy. Ore in planets. Eezo drive cores. Biotics. Inescapable. So, all creatures in galaxy exposed to element zero radiation. Small amounts in every living thing. But this human..." He took a deep breath. "None. At current age, would have had to have come into contact at some point. Impossible. Yet results do not lie. Troubling."
"Troubling?" Shepard asked. "What do you mean?"
"Results imply he came from another galaxy. Perhaps different universe."
"Wait," Isaac interrupted, "You're trying to tell us that we're in another universe? That's impossible. It's crazy."
"Crazy, yes. Highly unlikely, yes. But impossible, no. Currently, only possible explanation. Will have to study this more in depth. Most intriguing."
Isaac shook his head, putting his hand to his temple. "This... This is crazy. Necromorphs are one thing, but a different freaking dimension? It's making my head hurt."
"It is quite an enormous concept to accept," came a robotic voice from the ceiling, "I would suggest taking a rest in the port observation deck."
"What was that?" Ellie asked, looking around.
"My name is EDI," the voice said. "I am this ship's artificial intelligence."
"Artificial intelligence? Is that safe? Last time we encountered an AI, it was trying to kill us," Ellie stated.
"I assure you, I am perfectly safe."
Ellie didn't look convinced.
"That's a good idea, anyway," said Shepard, "You two can wait there for now. I need to go inform Admiral Hackett of what happened here. Mordin, I'll let you work."
"Good talking with you, Shepard," Mordin chirped, "Isaac, Ellie."
"The observation deck is down the hall on the port side of the ship," Shepard told the two of them as he got in the elevator. "I'll assume you can find it."
As the doors closed, Ellie turned to Isaac. "He's pretty casual about having two completely unknown people on his ship. I mean, he just left us down here, alone."
Isaac turned, heading for the observation deck. "If I was in his position, I'd be pretty casual too. After all, they're the ones with the weapons. Either way, I just need to relax right now."
The door slid open, revealing a small but comfortable room. A poker table occupied one end of the room, while a small bar was nestled into the other end. A large window spanned the remaining wall, giving an uninterrupted view of the dark void outside the ship. A table sat in the center of the room, along with several chairs scattered around it. Isaac immediately slumped into one of the chairs, putting his head down on the table. Ellie stood in front of the window, gazing out into space.
"Another universe," she spoke, "I can hardly believe it..."
Isaac sighed, closing his eyes. "At least we never have to deal with those undead freaks again."
-End Chapter 1-