A/N: Wait, what's this? Another story? And a SI to boot? Yes folks, Flux Effect will not be continuing. Between a distaste for some of the developments, and a feeling that my writing in first person present was lacking, I have pulled back and decided to attack the concept from a different angle. Many thanks to Herr Wozzeck for helping me iron out some issues with the rough draft. I hope you folks enjoy.
A/N The Second: For those of you who have been reading for a while, you might notice some changes. These are due to some excellent points made by Atreyu429, and some other major brainstorming done behind the scenes. Hopefully this should make for a much stronger story in the long run. (Edit 9/26/12)
Going In For Guns: A Memoir of the Reaper Wars
Book 1: Intercept Course
Maj. Christopher "Nice Boots" Z. Valentine
Systems Alliance Marines Tactical Aerospace Command (ret.)
Systems Alliance Naval Intelligence (aux./ret.)
Citadel Office of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance (aux.)
"I, Christopher Zachary Valentine, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Charter and Citizens of the Systems Alliance against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the Parliament of the Systems Alliance and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and Systems Alliance Military Law."
Even now, I'm not sure I could have done anything else but raise my hand and swear that oath. Life certainly didn't turn out how I expected it.
If you're reading this, you probably are going to think that I'm crazy. I don't care. I have my friends and loved ones who accept me. That's more than enough. But even if it wasn't, the fact that life in the Milky Way is free from the ancient cycle of preservational annihilation and I was one of the billions who fought for it certainly is.
This is my take on our story, from before the Arterius Incident to the aftermath of the Battle of Earth. It's one hell of a ride, and a reminder, that no matter what we dream, the truth is stranger than fiction.
So, ad astra, per aspera. To my fallen brothers and sisters, and those that yet live. This one's for you.
I was not born in the Traverse, or on a ship, like it says in the records in various government files. I was born on Earth, more than two centuries ago. I was born in another dimension, one in which the Reaper Wars formed, vaguely, the plotline of one of my favorite fictional series. To say it was successful would be doing it an injustice. With multiple games, novels, comics, and video projects to its name, along with plenty of licensed merchandise, it had spawned a fan community that compares to Fleet and Flotilla at its heyday, a community I was a member of. As a typical military geek, my head was filled with too much information about the universe and I often thought about tactics and tech. Like anyone dissatisfied with their life, I occasionally yearned for a slice of high adventure that something different offered.
Plenty of people wrote stories where they were transported into the games and ended up part of the main plot, changing things, by and large for the better. Enjoyable as that kind of escapism is, I always had the thought that, realistically, an untrained civilian tossed in with the galaxy's best and brightest would likely get themselves killed, and would be lucky not to take others with them, leaving the galaxy wide open to the Reapers.
Still, the space operatic romance of the idea was hard to deny.
It figures that when I ended up here, I had no thoughts of the series. I was focused on the lesson on Meister Liechtenauer's Knust des Fechten I was going to teach to a friend of mine. He had already headed to my backyard to set up our equipment, including a cutting stand. It was the first time cutting for him, and I had brought out one of my prize blades, an Albion Oakeshott Type XVIa, twin to the sword I first cut with.
It was a thing of beauty, a stunning creation of calfskin, cord, birch, and steel. The shaving-sharp edges tapered to a tip designed to seek out the gaps between armor plate and plunge through to the enemy beyond. The blade's balance made it feel alive in my hands, as if it yearned to jump five centuries back and cut and thrust with its spiritual forebears.
The blade was as pristine as the day I bought it, lying there against the foam of a rifle case. Soon, I promised it. You'll get to cut soon. Filling my hands with the hilt, I ran the blade through some dry handling before striking the side of the pommel to test the blade's harmonics. Perfect as always.
Humming, I headed outside, looking forward to a good cutting session. As I turned the corner of my house, I closed my eyes and drew in a breath to savor the smell of the honeysuckle blossoms, only to have my nostrils fill with the stench of burning plastics and flesh. Screams filled the air, and as my eyes shot open, I could see the sky was purple.
I whipped the longsword down off my shoulder, crouching down as I tried to figure out what the hell had happened. My eyes darted about, trying to place myself. The purple sky was only the beginning of what was wrong. My house was made of classic red brick. The boxy structure I was next to was some kind of metal. A quick rap with my fist produced an odd tone as my vision continued to dart about. Metal buildings, purple sky? I looked down. Orange grass? What the HELL just happened? And, better question, where am I? Before I could puzzle out more, my ears pulled my thoughts back towards survival.
Above the screams and the roar of flames, triple whipcracks split the air, occasionally cutting off a scream with a meaty thump.
That's gotta be gunfire. I crept along the alloy wall of the prefab I found myself next to. Awfully sharp, though. Even .22 long rifle has more bang.
Coming to a door, I shouldered through it, liking my chances of survival better inside a shelter. Whirling at a sudden scream, I stopped myself from putting the tip of my sword through a girl's throat on pure reflex.
"Y-y-y-you're…" Her brown hair was disheveled, and tears filled her eyes. Soot and blood stained her face.
I offlined the tip and released the pommel, bringing a finger up to my lips. "Shhh."
"You're human?" The girl dropped her voice, but with that weird gunfire, it was too loud for my tastes.
"Yeah," I whispered. Looking around the prefab, I saw plenty of what I took to be futuristic farming equipment. "Where am I, and what's happening?"
The girl gave me a look like I was stupid. I couldn't really blame her.
"Humor the nut with a sword, huh?"
"You're on Tiptree…" That was as far as she got before another triple whipcrack blew a hole in the prefab's wall with an almighty banging sound.
Shrapnel from the wall tore across my short ribs. "Sonofabitch! Down!" I shoved the girl down, before clapping a hand to my side. That sent another lance of pain through my body.
Out of the mouths of babes, huh? Snatching my hand away, I noted the crimson palm and grimaced, only for my eyes to shoot open as a helmetless batarian kicked open another door, assault rifle in his hands. He yelled something guttural, and I assume, offensive. He cocked his head to the right and reached for a canister on his belt.
Adrenaline flooded my system as I did what I've got a habit of in dangerous situations. Something stupid.
On paper, I should have died right there. He had a medium hardsuit, kinetic barriers, an assault rifle, multiple submission nets, and a pistol on his hip. Not to mention what was likely plenty of raiding experience. I, on the other hand, had exercise clothes, a longsword, and maybe a decade of spotty martial arts experience. All he had to do was raise the muzzle, tighten his finger, and triple whipcrack my sternum out my back in a bloody mist.
But batarian slavers are driven by profit, and it takes time to draw a submission net. Plenty of time to use three feet of sharp steel to good effect.
I made a deep, ugly advance, abandoning good technique for 'ohGodgottagetcloser', shoving my Alby forward in an unholy crossbreed of Pflug and Langort, hoping like hell that I'd be able to keep his muzzle off me, and the girl too, if fate was feeling generous. He dropped the net in surprise, trying to bring the rifle online.
Somehow it worked, the edge of my blade biting into the rifle's polymer casing, leaving a shallow scar as I forced his rifle wide. His four eyes flashed black as I stepped in, and he snarled, baring his needle-sharp teeth. With my blade and tip out wide with his rifle, it looked like he was going to take a big bite out of my neck.
That was when I gave him a quick lesson in the etymology of the word 'pummel', grabbing his rifle with my left hand and driving the sword's pommel into his exposed cheekbone. The tough bone shattered under the impact of the mild steel counterweight, and he staggered back, dropping his rifle. I passed back into vom Tag and offlined into a Zwerchhau with the tip that took his lower pair of eyes, biting through the nose as it went. A gurgling scream ripped out of his throat, dueling with my cry as I snapped the Albion into a thoroughly wasteful Oberhau that came right down on the crown of the slaver's head, cracking down through the skull to his upper lip before the blade bound in the bone.
The girl shrieked as blood sprayed everywhere, splashing over my glasses, blinding me quite handily. Swearing, I kicked at the raider's corpse, trying to recover my sword. "Look out!"
There was deeper roar of what I had now identified as mass accelerator fire as I pulled the sword free, and the left side of my body exploded into icy white agony, twisting me through the air and into the prefab's wall. My glasses went flying, revealing the blurry shape of a turian with a shotgun.
"Fucking pyjak," he spat in English, flanged voice making a hash of the curse. "Bet the boss would have liked you in the fight pits." He pointed the barrel right at my face. "Oh well."
Just as his talon tightened on the trigger, the girl charged into him. A nine-year old girl tackling a turian in combat armor. That's guts. It wasn't much of an impact, but the barrel moved enough that the shot slammed into my shoulder, sending my arm pinwheeling off and blood spraying everywhere.
I would have died there on Tiptree if it wasn't for the men and women of the Mogadishu. Through the haze of agony and dropping blood pressure as I slumped against the wall, I heard a rippling series of whipcracks and meathammer thunks as the turian came apart in a splash of cobalt blue all over me, splashing in my eyes and mouth. It burned.
"Tango down!" A soldier in familiar slate-gray armor popped the thermal clip from her gun, feeding in a new one, only to swear, dropping the rifle and clawing at a pack on her left thigh. I screwed my eyes shut as the burning got worse. "Holy Christ! CORPSMAN!" She sprinted over, ripping open a packet of medi-gel as she went. "Hang on, buddy, doc'll be right here. Stick with me, huh?" The self-sterilizing, pain-killing, quasi-sentient superglue went to work, but everything was fading, even as the marine slapped at my cheek. "Hey! Hey!" I couldn't see her hand…I couldn't see her.
Darkness closed over me. Soon sound and thought left as well.
"Doc, he's waking up!" Female, familiar.
My eyes snapped open, but darkness filled my vision. In a panic, I grabbed at my face, or at least tried to. My right arm jerked at a restraint. My left arm did nothing. Faced with these facts as well as the return of a galaxy full of aches and pains, I took eminently reasonable action. I screamed.
Or at least I tried to. What came out was more like a croak.
"Calm down, sir!" Male, new.
In no mood to do so, I thrashed about, croaking out my alarm.
"Dammit. 2 milligrams." I'll say this. Pharmacology has come a long way since my time. Whatever it was, it calmed me right on down. "Sir, you are still in bad shape. I'm going to need you to keep calm."
Cursing my lack of voice, I nodded, working my tongue to try and jump-start some saliva.
"Would you like some water?" I nodded. "Okay. Careful now." The voice placed a cup against my lips, tilting it so that I could sip. It tasted wonderful, and was all I could do to not grab the cup with my teeth and drain it. After a few seconds, I gained enough presence of mind to take a mouthful and swirl it around, restoring my voice.
"Where am I, and what happened to me?" I asked in a voice more scratch than words.
It was the female voice that answered. "You're on the SSV Mogadishu…"
The male voice cut in, irritated. "Lieutenant Durand, why don't you let me handle this."
"Fine." I heard footsteps and a door hiss open, along with a familiar voice asking "Is he…" before the closing door cut off the sound, leaving me with just the sounds of the sickbay.
"Right. Sir, my name is Surgeon Commander Dewey. I'm afraid that you were missing identification when we picked you up, and a DNA search was inconclusive. Can you give me your name?"
"Christopher Zachary Valentine."
"Very good. As the Lieutenant told you, you're in the sickbay of the Mogadishu. Do you remember what happened?"
"Ah, I was on Tiptree, I assume slavers made a raid, I attacked a batarian, and a turian shot me?" Something tickled at the back of my mind about my left arm at that. "And a marine blew the turian apart all over me. Was that the Lieutenant?"
"Yes. You were found with a young girl?"
"Saved my life. Is she okay?"
"Just fine, if a little shaken. Look Mr. Valentine, I'm not going to beat around the bush. You were in terrible shape when they got you here. If our corpsman hadn't slapped you in a stasis, you probably would have bled out, medigel or no." A detached part of my brain filed away the fact that the corpsman was a biotic, as I continued listening. "We're talking 5 millimeters deflection on that shotgun blast or 5 seconds later on the stasis and we wouldn't be having this conversation. As it was, I had you on life support immediately after the stasis came off, and we had to revive you four times during surgery."
"You have terrible bedside manner, Doctor. No bullshit, though, how bad?"
" The trauma was extensive. You took a pair of assault shotgun blasts at close range that tore your left side into hamburger, not to put too fine a point on it. You lost your shoulder, lung, plenty of ribs, took damage to the pericardial sac…"
"Lost my my left arm," I realized with a jolt that threatened to overwhelm me through the drugs.
"Yes. The second blast amputated your arm, along with destroying your shoulder. I could go on for fifteen minutes about the extent of the damage, but it all boils down to having a sausage bin where your chest and shoulder should be."
"And my eyes?"
Dewey sighed. "I've no doubt Marie saved your life when she shot that pirate, but between a mild allergic reaction to turian blood and part of the hardsuit's power supply getting in your eyes and mouth, I wasn't able to save your eyes. Your voice should heal in time, but eyes are more delicate."
A wave of depression swept past the drugs. "So I'm blind and crippled. What a day." I heaved a sigh. "Look doc, if it's all the same to you, I think I'm going to just cry for a few minutes, assuming I didn't lose my lachrymal glands too." At a moment of silence, I let out a curse. "Fuck my life. Them too?"
He sighed. "Look, I'm about to get onto sensitive ground here, and I don't know a good goddamn about your politics. Like I said, you were in bad shape, and the ground team wanted you alive. Something about facing down pirates with a sword." He started to pace. "Normally, I would have cloned tissue on hand to effect repairs until a full replacement limb could be grown, but you're not part of the ship's complement, and I didn't have any bloody time with you in that kind of shape. You were going to die if I didn't do anything." The pacing got more agitated.
"If it's anything, I'm happy to be alive. What did you do?"
"My specialty when I'm not shipping out on special operations frigates is the development of combat-grade cybernetic prosthetics for the Systems Alliance Bureau of Medicine. I had a few models along to tinker with during downtime." There was a long pause filled with shifting feet. "Now, I've broken more regulation than I can count, I'm sure a few laws, and saved your life."
"And fuck, you're a human purist, aren't you?" The pacing started again. "Look, don't worry, we can get cloned tissue worked up, it'll just take time, and some pretty extensive surgery. Son of a bitch, how'd they talk me into this?"
"You cybed me! Why the hell aren't they on?" A broad smile broke across my face.
"Fucking PR nightmare, dishonorable discharge, lose my license…" The pacing stopped dead. "…come again?"
"Why aren't they on? God, man, I thought I was screwed."
"Yeah…me too. You're okay with this?"
"A lot more than being killed or crippled by some pirate bastard. Look, if not the arm, can you at least get the eyes on? The drugs are good, but I'd really like to see before I go crazy again."
"Right." I heard the sound I'd end up associating with omni-tool activation. "Your eyes should be calibrated to your visual cortex, but there's plenty of room for error on this, so we might need to do some adjustments. Here goes." Blue text flashed across the blackness, scrolling through a boot sequence. And then the inside of the sickbay snapped into view, sharper than anything I had ever seen. Dewey frowned and tapped a few buttons on his omnitool. "How is the image?"
"Better than my old eyes." I turned my head to take in the sickbay, which looked a bit more used than the Normandy's from the series. "A bit disorienting, actually."
"I can step down the quality, but you should be able to adjust with some time and a few headaches."
"That's nothing new," I assured him. "I'll get used to it."
"Good. Ah, another thing. To make sure the implants took, I had to apply the military-grade gene tweaks, but I guess if you're okay with implants, that should be simple. The headaches shouldn't bother you anymore."
I tried to whistle and failed. "Thanks. Anything else I should know?"
He rolled his eyes. "Where do I begin? Right. You've got Mk. 7 Mod. 42 Heimdall model eyes now. They're capable of microscopic and telescopic focal changes, and can be spectrum shifted to catch IR through UV, or all at once, though that one takes some real getting used to. Standard keeps some UV sensitivity on for an easier time dealing with hanar. It'll show up as a silvery color. The Mk. 7 is also equipped with low-light capability, as well as a flash shield for flashbangs and the like. AR capabilities can be toggled on should you wish, giving you all sorts of options with the right firmware. Most commands are capable of being triggered with an omni-tool or with physical mnemonics of your orbital muscles. We'll go over the most important ones later. What else?" He tapped his chin. "Right. The Heimdalls are as EMP shielded and hackproof as we can make them…"
"But there's always a war going on there."
He nodded. "I'd say it would take a pretty smart quarian or salarian to hack them, but it's possible. Hard as we can make it, but possible." He smirked. "And harder in your case." At the raise of my eyebrow, he nodded at the cybernetic arm that lay inert on the sheets, looking vaguely like a tan sculpture in alloy and polymer of an idealized human arm. "That's a Gilgamesh Mk. 3 Mod. 5. An omnitool is integrated directly into the forearm, and I ran a hardline to the Heimdalls."
"It's a custom job blending Ariake and Sirta architecture, so it should trip them up. There's no direct wireless access to the Heimdalls with this set-up. The omni is untested, so there's possibility for anomalies. Tell me if anything seems strange."
"Right now, I feel like a lean, mean seeing machine," I joked. "But okay."
He laughed. "Right. Well, I can bring the Gilgamesh online as well, but I haven't finished the skinjob on it, so you're going to be lacking any sensation other than kinesthetic."
I shrugged. "Better than nothing."
"Okay, but I want you to be careful. The Gilgamesh is a combat chassis, and easily capable of doing some real damage, even without the omni. Don't grab anything. Don't move it fast. And for pity's sake, keep your eyes on it. We've only got the one sickbay." At my nod, he sighed and pushed a haptic button. "Give it a second to boot."
My arm snapped back into awareness, even if I couldn't feel the sheets it rested on. In a burst of exuberance, I jerked my arms up. My right was held fast by the restraint. The left parted the tough polymer with a strong tug. "Oops?" I grinned sheepishly at Dewey.
He rolled his eyes. "Patients. I'm going to take the myomer offline."
"It was a simple mistake! Don't leave me with one arm again."
"I'll leave the kinesthetic feedback. But I wasn't kidding. The Gilgamesh is not a toy." Another button press and my arm fell limp, but I could still feel it.
"Right. Is there anything else I should know?"
"Plenty. You're sporting a new lung, a heart mod, and reinforcement so the Gilgamesh doesn't tear you apart. That's all hooked in to the integral omni for primary control. There are back-ups, but you don't want to fiddle with the user settings beyond shell level. There could be some real problems. Like I said, this was an emergency and the architecture's kinda a kludge."
"Okay. Any other heart stopping surprises?"
"Look over the files in your omni. And before you ask for a glove, I gave you right-hand haptics. I'll unstrap you, then I've got to report to the Captain. Can I trust you to not break anything before I get back?" I gave him a meek nod and he undid the restraint. "Good. Lieutenant Durand might stop in. I gather she feels guilty about your eyes. If you need anything, page Lieutenant Alenko. He's the corpsman who brought you in, and should be able to attend to any minor troubles."
He walked out the door as my eyes tried to go wide. That snippet of voice through the door fell into place. Kaidan Alenko. One of the main secondary character in the series. Only the drugs kept me from panicking, visions of butterflies setting off hurricanes swirling through my head. Like I said earlier, I was convinced interference was a bad thing. I knew how things would play out, or thought I did.
I activated the omni, simply to think about something else. What I saw stunned me. Dewey wasn't kidding about the extent of the cybernetics. A good 20 to 25 percent of my torso, synthetic. And all of it tied into an omni that combined two companies' architectures and could have anomalies. I reminded myself that it was simply the nature of prototype technology, and that no matter what, it was keeping me alive, seeing, and with a total of four limbs, even if I couldn't move one right then.
Still, if I had been a human purist…whoa. He was putting it lightly when he said it'd take extensive surgery to swap over to cloned parts. I was about to look up the mnemonics for the Heimdalls when the door hissed open and a woman in old-style Alliance BDUs walked in.
Her red hair was cut short, and she had an odd tan bar across her eyes, the characteristic Onxy exo-tan, the rest of her face pale with a sprinkling of freckles. "I hope Doc Dewey wasn't too much of an ass."
I shifted my attention away from the screen and shrugged. "I'm seeing, have two arms, and am coming down off of a truly excellent sedative. I can deal." I offered my hand. "Chris Valentine. Thanks for saving my ass."
She shook it. "Marie Durand. Sorry I wasn't there sooner."
"Eh, I'll live." True enough. "Besides, I think I came out alright for getting shot."
"Well, you can thank Alenko for that, more than me. Doc told me the eyes were kinda my fault for going cyclic like that."
"Well, I don't need glasses anymore. Net gain, I say."
There was a long pause. "Look," I said. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but what's going to happen to me? I guess I understand why I'm in a frigate sickbay, but I'm wearing a lot of Alliance military tech now, and frigates aren't exactly a shuttle service for civilians."
She laughed. "The cybernetics will be combat-lossed out, so don't worry about that. You're not going to see any repo men from Naval Intelligence. As for the 'shuttle service', that's up to you."
"We're getting recalled to Arcturus Station now that Tiptree is secured with the Berlin riding high orbit. We can drop you back on Tiptree, or you can keep under Doc Dewey's care till we hit Arcturus."
"That sounds good. Also, how much trouble would it be to get an application for citizenship drawn up? I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I ended up on Tiptree, and I'd like to get myself under the Alliance's umbrella."
"Shouldn't be too much trouble. The Alliance is pretty easy about letting humans in."
"Anything else I can get you?"
"I don't suppose my Alby survived the fight, did it?" That got a blank look. "My sword?"
"Oh, right! I'll ask the squad if anyone grabbed it."
"Thanks. And thanks again for saving my ass."
"No problem." She walked out, only to be replaced by Kaidan Alenko.
"Good to see you awake," he said without preamble.
"Good to be alive. I hear I have you to thank for that."
He shrugged. "It's the job."
"Couldn't let someone who took on a batarian slaver with a sword for a little girl die like that." He looked me over. "Sorry we couldn't do more."
"Well, I'm not bloody hamburger, so I'll count my blessings."
He chuckled. "Bloody hamburger, no. And I suppose the glowing eyes are pretty striking."
It suddenly hit me that I hadn't seen myself since I woke up. "Glowing? Do you have a mirror?" Kaidan nodded over at a side table.
I looked rough. Fresh surgical scars surrounded my new eyes, which glowed a pale azure. My cheeks had the gaunt look of someone who had been bedridden for a week or so. Explained why I felt so bad…aside from the getting shot. Between the scars, eyes, and my head being shaved bald, I hardly recognized myself. "Death warmed over," I mumbled.
"That's not a bad way to describe it."
"Hoo." I looked away from the mirror. "Getting shot sucks. I need to do less of it in the future."
"Sounds like a good plan." He clapped my organic shoulder. "I suggest you stick to it."
Even then, I knew there was no way I could.
A/N: Well, that's the opening. Tune in next time for adjusting to cybernetics, military bureaucracy, snark, and a plan that's destined to go horribly awry!
In all honesty, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter and look forward to the next one. There's all sorts of fun down the road, and I hope that you'll enjoy reading it as much as I'm going to enjoy writing it.
For anyone confused about the German in the fic, there is a glossary following this author's note.
Any and all feedback is welcome, especially critical feedback. And for anyone who enjoys a gimmick, there's two obscure canon characters in this chapter. See if you can spot them!
Till next time!
Knust des Fechten: "Art of Combat" A martial art originating in the 14th century, detailing the use of various knightly weapons for both armored and unarmored combat. The art centered around the use of the longsword.
Meister Liechtenauer: Johannes Liechtenauer. A 14th century swordmaster, credited with the codification of the German "Art of Combat". Considered the grandmaster of the style, all recovered manuals note his founding role.
Pflug: "Plow" One of the basic guards of longsword fencing. The hilt is held with the pommel at the level of the waist, in front of the rear leg. The tip of the blade is extended out and aimed at the opponent's throat.
Langort: "Long Point" A so-called 'transitional' guard, with the blade fully extended. Most full cuts pass through Langort.
vom Tag: "From The Roof" Another basic guard. The sword is held above the head, tip back at a forty-five degree angle. The guard is modified when wearing armor, moving to above the back shoulder, so as to keep the armor from binding.
Zwerchau: "Thwarting Hew" One of the five 'master hews', this hew is a high cut that is sometimes referred to as a helicopter cut, due to the motion of the blade above the fighter's head. Depending on the opening, it is either performed with the forward or reverse edge of the blade.
Oberhau: "Over Hew" A hew coming down from above.
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