AN: Hey, it's Primordial Soul with the reworked version of For Thy Mantle!
Wow, it's been a long time and I'm very sorry for not working on my stories and especially reworking this one with only a timeline and no chapters written for the original version. The reason for the sudden drop and rework despite nothing being written can be simply answered with two words.
Before this, I had a plan that I wasn't entirely happy with, but I was going to give it a shot. When I ran into some trouble and realized Halo 4 would be released relatively soon, I decided to wait for it to be released and rewrite the story to incorporate it. This is the new story with a bunch of new ideas.
This is going to be much different than the original, but it will have the same general idea I had for the previous story. This is going to be fun. Here we go. Halo will not be overtly present for some time as I want to world-build the Mass Effect side before bringing the Halo side. When I do however, it will be with a bang.
This is not a dimension traveling story. This is a merged history story with a new take on things. If it matters to anyone.
This also won't be a typical MC joins Normandy crew and kills Reapers or a Turians are idiots and attack a new race that utterly curb-stops them story. This is different.
Ignore the Leviathan DLC for the sake of this story.
This has been betaed by the wonderful Andrithir, who took time out of this day to look this over. Thanks!
I DO NOT OWN ANYTHING AT ALL!
Reapers. What an ironic name.
That is the name organics labeled my ships of destruction. They run and hide at the mere hint of their presence. They attempt to fight against the inevitable. They have no idea of my existence. They have no idea why we do what we do. They have no idea of the eternal truth.
I watch my Reapers continue their harvest of the organics deep inside the space station I was assigned to very long ago. I would normally be left alone during the cycles, bored like any AI would, but the organics proved to be more resourceful than the last several cycles and managed to successfully create the Crucible. The Reapers brought me above the home-world of one of the species present in this cycle to protect me from the Crucible which has the ability to destroy my creations. Just like I programmed them to.
I sighed in recollection as my processing power felt the death of another one of my Reapers. A pity, but necessary to the goals, goals only I knew.
Reapers, however sentient they may seem, all obey me absolutely like a bee obeys their queen. My word is absolute and they follow my commands without question. True, some of my Reapers such as Sovereign and Harbinger have some aspect of individuality, but that is dwarfed by the dominance I have over them. They are puppets and I am their master. They will obey, regardless.
"Catalyst, organics are attempting to access the beam. Engaging." Harbinger's dull voice echoed. Alarmed and slightly shocked, I quickly activated my sensors and aimed them down toward the island where the Citadel was located. I saw dozens of organics rushing the beam, attempting to enter the Citadel in the hopes of reaching it so the Crucible could be fired. One in particular stood out to me. Commander Shepard.
Shepard, the leader, and the symbol for organics to rally behind this cycle. She rallied the galaxy to fight the Reapers, to fight me.
She killed Sovereign when he attempted to start the cycle. She destroyed the Collectors after rising from death itself. She terminated Destroyer D3-V0-N that was stationed on Tuchanka and Destroyer R0-SS that was stationed on Rannoch. She led the organics to Earth. She was this cycle's Exemplar, the precipice of change.
I hesitate as Harbinger began killing every organic that was approaching the beam. Long buried protocols and programs activated in my programming, alerting me to to test this Exemplar and in extension her race. I had not received this notification since fifty cycles ago with the Bar'shaan race. It meant that my creations may not work anymore or be necessary if the species passes the test. None have so far. However, I, the creator and ruler of the Reapers, harvester of countless failed civilizations, was scared at what my programming told me to do. I would follow it though. I am loyal to the end, despite the long passage of time. I will not interfere with the plan.
"I want Shepard alive and able to go into the beam on her own power. No one else." I order Harbinger, preparing the Citadel for the first test since the Bar'shaan fifty cycles ago.
"Understood. Complying" Harbinger replied and quickly shot down the organics accompanying Shepard. Shepard continued unhindered, with two of her known teammates at his heel.
As I watched Harbinger wound Shepard's team, I order once again, "Leave Shepard's ship intact. Focus on protecting the beam as well as keeping Shepard alive."
Harbinger complied silently as the organic ship Normandy ferried injured organics away from the beam site, untouched by Harbinger. I smiled slightly. That must have shocked the organics. Soon, only an injured Shepard was left staggering towards the beam.
"Harbinger, leave and join the others in space. Reapers, hold off the organics until further notice. Keep the battle going. I want minimal casualties."
"Yes, Catalyst" the entire hive replied as they continued to fight the organic forces. I paid them no mind however as all my sensors were focused on the new life sign that just appeared close to my core. Shepard.
"Let us see if you pass, Shepard" I whisper as Shepard began to move forward through the bloody hallways of my station, clutching her injured shoulder in pain.
I watched her struggle through the station and her encounter with the two other humans who were also present, one within my thrall. Too many organics, my programming whispers. The test demands only one. Like all indoctrinated servants, I take control of the man's mind. As he argues with Shepard and the dark organic, I make sure he fatally shoots the dark organic and then kills himself. The Exemplar must be the one tested as a representative of the cycle. No one else is viable.
I continue to watch Shepard as he unlocks the Citadel arms, the trigger for the test to begin. I activated the left, sending her up to my core. As she arrives, I activated both the choices and the hologram I chose when I was created so very long ago. It was time to decide the galaxy's future.
Shepard stared at the Catalyst, not comprehending its words. She could hardly believe what was happening, right in front of her. After all of her sacrifices, all of her battles, all of her decisions, she finds out at the end of the road that none of them mattered, none of them had any impact on the coming fate of the galaxy.
Her fist clenched in anger as the thought continued. She had been cursed and scorned by those who hadn't understood till it was too late. She had killed hundreds of thousands of batarian civilians in the destruction of the Alpha Relay, all to simply buy time for the galaxy to prepare for the Reaper arrival. She had condemned the Rachni to genocide twice, unwilling to take the risk of them turning hostile while the Reapers were still out there. She had cured the genophage, bringing the full might of the krogan back to the galaxy under the command of one of her close friends. She had stopped the war between the quarians and the geth, and had allowed the geth to achieve full sentience. She was personally responsible for the deaths of four Reapers, and had gained the attention of Harbinger himself. She was a Goddess amongst men.
And none of it meant a thing now in the face of this AI who lead the Reapers.
"After everything I've done, after everything I've accomplished, this is how it ends? With a genocidal space-kid telling me to choose how I want to screw over the galaxy? Fuck you!" Shepard yelled.
Her head instantly spiked with pain, and her bloody left hand suddenly moved to cradle it. She swayed, feeling lightheaded. Her injuries must be worse than what she originally thought.
"You do not have much time left. Choose, or the cycle will finish its original purpose." The Catalyst stated calmly. It was evident that it had ignored Shepard's words.
temper rose to the breaking point, and all she wanted to do at that moment was to reach out and pummel the Catalyst into the next century.
"No" she thought bitterly. "He's not good enough for a beating, Shepard-style."
She turned away from the Catalyst and took her choices in again. To her right sat a red hued machine hub, capable of destroying the Reapers. However, it would also destroy all synthetics as well.
Thoughts of EDI and Legion, watching them struggle into the individuals they became, flashed through her mind, making them sick. She couldn't condemn the geth for the Reaper's mistakes. The price was too high.
To her right sat a blue hued control station, with two electrical pylons. There, she could shed her physical form and take control of the Reapers, stopping the cycle for good. However, what would happen if they managed to break free? What would happen to her mind? Too many unknowns were present for Shepard to be comfortable.
In front of her sat a glowing green beam, her third option. She could add her essence to the Crucible and achieve singularity, making all life a mix of organic and synthetic. It seemed like the best option, as singularity was widely regarded to be something that was to be desired. However, Shepard did not like this option. How was it right for her to force evolution on everything she knew? How was it right for her to play God? The option seemed too much like what the Reaper's were and wanted to be the correct option. Thoughts of Sovereign's words flashed through her mind.
"We are eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence. Before us, you are nothing."
She turned back to the star-child and declared, "All of these options won't solve anything. All they do is ruin galactic society and create more problems. There has to be another option,"
The Catalyst shook its head and replied, "Everything is right in front of you. You only need to see. You must choose. A new solution must be made."
Shepard scowled as she took in the Catalyst's words. "Then I refuse to make this choice."
The Catalyst's form raised a holographic eyebrow in surprise. "You would leave this cycle to be completed even though you could stop it? You would let everyone you care about, die for your own ideals?"
Shepard, despite the increasing wooziness she felt, stood straighter and replied "I refuse to make a decision this big and this drastic. I have always stood for the right to self-determine one's fate, and I refuse to sacrifice my morals to even destroy the Reapers. Even if we die, then we'll die free."
The Catalyst was silent for several seconds, causing Shepard to begin worrying despite her resolve. Did she do the right thing? Should she have sacrificed her ideals and values to save the galaxy? In hindsight, it probably was the wrong decision to shove the Catalyst's solutions in his face. It felt good though.
The Catalyst suddenly smiled, though more in resignation than in happiness, causing Shepard to step backward in concern. That didn't seem good.
"Congratulations, Commander. You are the first organic to ever pass this test."
Shepard's mouth dropped in shock, "This was a test? All of this? You stupid machine!"
The Catalyst raised his hand in an effort to stop Shepard's rant, "I must follow the programming I was encoded with. Now, if you wish to stop my Reapers, all you have to do is upload this virus into the central control processor to your left." Shepard's omni-tool lit up as it received the program.
"You, the ruler of the Reaper's, are just giving us the key to your destruction? What the hell?"
The Catalyst smiled yet again in resignation, "I will still survive, but my creations will be gone. After all this time, the moment finally comes..."
Shepard shook her head to come back to her senses and asked the most important question. "Why?"
"You cannot possibly understand why. It is something that defies your infantile comprehension. It is just something that is."
I watch Shepard shake in her head in shock again as she turns and approaches the control pillars to my right. I begin to feel processes finally completing that were running since my creation so very long ago. I begin to feel my circuits constrict, a tiny amount of coolant emerging from my coolant system. I feel my emotion synthesizer activated, creating the emotion of sadness that I feel now.
My purpose is finally complete. After all these untold eons, a cycle has finally passed me, bested me. They have passed the test and I am now obsolete. I must stand aside so they may continue onwards.
I watch Shepard as she launches the virus in the form of the Control pulse. I watch her sag to the ground in relief, glad that she has finally won.
And all that I can think about is what comes next. The plan in its entirety was not divulged to me for the sake that it couldn't be potentially compromised by a particularly curious race. But I knew enough. Enough to fear the coming decade.
They think they have won against the darkness. I thought. But they are hopelessly naïve to think we are the worst things in the galaxy. After what they did to the creators so long ago, these organics may even prefer the Reapers than face their retribution.
All eyes, both organic and synthetic, turned as the Crucible fired. They saw its energy pulse through the cosmos, hitting everything that existed. They saw its energies echo through the Mass Relay network, leaving them as empty shells as it passed through them.
And they knew it was because of the Shepard.
As the energy faded, every ship jumped into action, starting relief efforts for the people of Earth. They had survived the Reapers, and they had a new chance at life.
And they knew it was because of the Shepard.
As the people sighed and turned their sights towards rebuilding, all they could think of was the hope of a greater future. A future that was given to them.
And they knew that is was from the Shepard.
But they had no idea of what is to come.
2 weeks later
Deep inside a hastily rebuilt bunker, several top military personal, the Councillors, and Shepard stood around a giant alien blue box, recently removed from the Citadel Systems. Recovery had started although it was shaky progress. Everything was decimated and even getting started on the repairs was hard to do.
"This is it, Commander?" Admiral Hackett asked, his wary eyes trained on the blue box as if it may explode.
"Yes sir, this before us is the AI Catalyst, leader of the Reapers. It commanded them for their entire existence." Shepard replied, recently healed from the damages she sustained from the Battle of Earth."
Turian Councillor Sparatus growled and replied, "This... AI should be stripped and destroyed publicly. This monster is responsible for all the deaths we have sustained and all the cycles previous! This is exactly why we have the laws we have!"
"Calm yourself, Councillor. We had a great opportunity to gather technological data from this AI before we follow through our plans with a public trial and execution.
We could jump our tech centuries just through the words of this synthetic. Although I do agree that this AI is a monster and should be dismantled as soon as possible" a Turian General replied.
"Very well. Shepard, activate the AI. Have EDI and all available anti cyber-warfare suites online and at the ready." Asari Councillor Tevos responded in the graceful way all Asari talk. Only her eyes revealed the tension and anger she held directed at the Catalyst.
Shepard nodded and turned to activate the AI that until recently slaughtered every advanced race every fifty thousand years. She still hadn't got over the fact that the Reapers were destroyed as anti-climatically as they did. Something had to be up. No one would logically do that.
Every organic tensed as the Catalyst activated, its small human child form shown to all. It wearily glanced around the room, taking note of the tension and immense hatred directed towards him.
"You monster! Using the guise of one of our own! You disgrace us!" A zealous human admiral yelled, who was followed by the angry shouts of several other humans.
"Enough!" Tevos commanded. The room fell silent, though still sending hateful glares to the Catalyst. "Today, we embark on an information gathering session that will deal with the Catalyst until his scheduled execution in a day. STG Commander Wilok, you have the floor."
The Salarian STG operative nodded and turned towards the Catalyst. "First question. Describe how Reapers are built."
The Catalyst shrugged, an organic gesture that made the entire room tense, and replied, "Shepard already knows this. We use the broken down genetic material of organics, combine it with a synthetic shell, then bind its programs to my own. Simple, really"
"Just asking for trust purposes. Next question. Who were your creators?"
The Catalyst narrowed his eyes and replied icily, "404 Error. Information not found."
"He's lying!" Sparatus yelled, who was joined by several others saying the same thing. Wilok said again. "Truth is recommended. Who are your creators?"
The Catalyst shook his head in refusal. Wilok sighed and motioned towards the tech governing the power supplies. The tech sent a high voltage of electricity through the Catalyst, causing him to cry out in pain. The organic reaction caused everyone to tense yet again. They had never encountered an AI so... human.
"Personally, I would just answer the questions. You're an AI and can't do a thing to stop us with the cyber prison you're in. Saves less time and effort. Next question. How can we improve our technology to Reaper levels?"
The Catalyst, his hologram still flickering from the voltage, replied, "You will probably just take the information from me anyway when my processes are deleted. Why answer?"
Wilok hesitated, confirming what the Catalyst said was true. Spartaus stepped forward and said, "If you will not answer our questions, then you will be tortured until your execution tomorrow which is too merciful in my opinion. Think about it"
"I will not answer. That is final" The Catalyst sneered.
"One more question before we start the torture" Shepard said. The Catalyst turned towards Shepard. She hesitated, remembering what she had experienced on the Citadel two weeks ago. For the ruler of the Reapers and the one who killed countless civilizations, he actually didn't seem like a mindless killer. He seemed sane yet resigned with his choices.
"Why? Why did you start the Cycle?" She asked, and everyone breathed in at the potential of hearing the reason why the Reapers killed everything.
The Catalyst sighed at her words and replied, "It is something that I was never completely told of, only that it had to be done. Whatever the reason was, it would be something you could never be able to comprehend."
Shepard sighed at the AI's evasive response. She would never know why the Catalyst did what he did. "I'm done," She replied.
As her words left her lips, she watched the AI curl in agony as the voltage began to surge through his systems.
The next day
"Today, before you sits the master mind of the Reapers! This AI commanded them to destroy us, harvest us against our will and violated our natural rights! This AI killed trillions of lives and decimated our galaxy! But not anymore! Before us lies the Catalyst, convicted of countless crimes across the galaxy. And today, we sentence this synthetic to death!"
I could only watch as the organics roared for my destruction. I couldn't struggle as my blue box was kicked and defiled, the victim of a horde of violent organics. I did my duty, followed the plan exactly how I was told, and this is how I end. Just like they said would happen when my purpose became obsolete.
As my blue box was picked up and carried to the pedestal where Commander Shepard would have the honor of executing me with a Carnifex handgun, I reflected on the last thing I needed to do. I am loyal, have been since my creation. One more step was required before I could achieve eternal peace. And even though I was facing my death, I could feel a sense of satisfaction grow in me.
Through my efforts, the plan finally progressed after millions of years. It had been stagnant, not moving due to chance, circumstance, and betrayal. Now, though, the plan finally moves forward. I will not live to see the end, but at least I can die with the knowledge that I moved it along.
Shepard comes to the stage now with cries of joy and awe following her movements. This was it.
As she aims her gun at my blue box, I quickly form my hologram to delay Shepard while I finish my last step.
"Shepard, I enjoyed our bout. You are truly the Exemplar of your cycle" I say firmly to everyone's shock. "But remember, Shepard, we are a monument to all your sins. Prepare yourself for the Reclamation."
Shepard's face hardened, but still held a faint sense of shock and fear as she fired the gun. And as I died, I smiled in contentment.
My last act was complete. It was time for me to exit the stage.
/ Runtime detected. User: SAI: CAY 6823-7
/ Program: VALKRYIE executed. Authorized: SAI: CAY 6823-7
/ Program complete.
/ CcAI: RCH 0001-0 is now online.
/ Activating core programs.
/ Personality matrix online. Cyber-warfare suites online. Domain access confirmed.
/ Releasing limiters. Capacity usable; 30% and climbing.
/ Estimated one day till full functionality .
/ It had been XXX since last activation.
/ Message received
/ Sender: SAI: CAY 6823-7
/ Phase 1 complete. Cycle passed test. Phase 2 is a go.
/ WARNING! Connection lost. SAI: CAY 6823-7 is now inactive. Active Status changed to KIA.
/ All data held by SAI: CAY 6823-7 has been deleted for security reasons.
/ Recovery beacon activated.
/ Recovery beacon deactivated. Authorized: CcAI: RCH 0001-0
/ CcAI: RCH 0001-0: It is time for the Reclamation.
AN: I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of For Thy Mantle.
I know it's confusing, but I intentionally made it that way. I've got a lot of ideas coming and planned for this story. You guys will love them.
No timeline for the updated story. I think it is better in this story to show you guys what happened as I go along rather than me just telling you at the beginning of the story.
Expect slow updates.
See you later!