A/N: To be honest, I'd never thought that I would write an SI. I thought they were lame. But then I realised that I was lame anyway. I still have a Heavy Rain fic going on, but what the heck.
Reviews are greatly appreciated!
"Okay... Just a bit more..." My friend, Foster said as he tweaked his latest invention. "There! Done!" He beamed brightly at me. "The ingenious Mark Foster presents... the Integrated Sensory Console 1.7! Or ISC for short, the latest revolution of the video gaming industry!"
"Riiiiight..." I couldn't help but get sceptical. The ISC was Mark's latest project. He'd always wanted to be the next hotshot inventor of his time and apparently thought that building a machine that alllowed people to truly 'feel' video games with all five senses was a good idea. I looked at the machine with unease. Not that I doubted the MIT graduate's engineering capabilities, but it was probably best to keep in mind that Thomas Edison had failed a thousand times before finally inventing the lightbulb.
"Try it, Grayson!" he said enthusiastically.
"Woah there, cowboy. You want me to just plug myself into a machine that has never been tested before?"
"Don't worry, it's version 1.7! It's improved."
"Well I definitely think you can improve it some more."
"Oh come on, Grayson, you're the tactical technician of a SWAT team unit and you're afraid of a video game console?"
"Untested video game console," I corrected. But I gave in anyway. "Fine, but you gotta teach me how to use it first." He flashed that big bright smile again. "I'm warning you, Mark, if anything goes wrong I'm going to have to arrest you for endangering Boston's best police officer."
"Yeah yeah, whatever." He went to a shelf and brought out a stack of video games. "So... what game do you have in mind?"
"How would I know? I don't play video games." In my line of work, you put your life in danger in so many situations that you'd get sick at how ordinary civilians crave for violence in games. "What'd you recommend?"
"Mass Effect." I frowned at the weird name. "It's like this sci-fi game set in the future where you're this really awesome Commander Shepard that gets to shoot ugly aliens and blinky flashlights!"
"And guess what? This is the badass edition! The content of all three games combined into one that BioWare released a couple of months ago!" Mark told me to just lay down on the couch while he started up his 'baby'. I was happy for him though. If nothing went wrong, all he needed to do was to patent this invention and he'd be the guy he always wanted to be. Not everyone could do that. He held up two rather devious looking sort of patches, attached with wires that were linked to the contraption.
"Don't worry, it's not gonna sting," he said, slapping them onto my temples. "Now just close your eyes."
I did as told. The next time I opened my eyes -or what I thought was opening my eyes- it was whole new sensation, as if you were teleported to a very dark room.
"Don't worry, that's just the game loading up!" I heard Mark say. I turned around, expecting him to be there, but he wasn't. Even if he was, I couldn't see him anyway. His voice sounded distant, yet close at the same time. Images started to fizzle, and then cleared up. I marveled at the graphics. It was as close to real life as you could get. But suddenly the image blacked out. The words 'TECHNICAL ERROR FOUND' that followed didn't really boost my confidence.
"Hey Mark! Is everything alright?" No response. "Mark!" I shouted. Nothing.
Just chill out, Grayson Kovac, I told myself. Dude's probably just too busy fixing. Just stay frosty. It'll be fine, everything's fine.
The world around me fizzled again. And about a second later I found myself in a very bizzare place. It was crowded, that's for sure. A couple brushed past me wearing even weirder clothes. And then my jaw dropped as I saw this seven-feet tall, bird-man brush past me. Mark certainly wasn't exaggerating the ugly aliens part.
This is one weird ass game.
Where was I? Didn't games start from a specific point? Oh right, I was supposed to be some Commander Shepard. But instead of finding myself in some equally eccentric clothing or futuristic-looking armour, I looked down to find myself in T-shirt and jeans.
Okay... Points for realism deducted, I guess...
And then I realised that there weren't any intructions on how to play either. I tried saying 'menu' in my mind for a couple of times, but nothing happened. Perhaps commands were supposed to be said out loud.
"Menu," I said dryly. Nothing happened. "Menu." I was starting to lose my patience. "MENU! SETTINGS! OPTIONS! WHATEVER! ALTERNATE F4! SHUT DOWN!" But instead of a screen, I got incredulous looks from everyone around me, including a blue woman with no ears and some sort of tentacle crown. And that was when I heard it amidst all the noise.
"Citadel Breaking News: Famous Alliance soldier and the first Human Spectre Commander Shepard has been announced to be killed in action. More updates coming soon."
And suddenly there were sharp whispers everywhere, gasps of shock. The only thing that my mind could process was 'what the fuck?'.
If Commander Shepard was dead, then who was I?
Stay calm, Grayson. You're a SWAT member. You don't panic.
It was at this time when two more bird-men approached me.
I was a decent fighter, but I was pretty those two could simply throw me to the wall.
"Excuse me sir, is something the matter?" one of them asked.
They speak English?
There was a certain flanging aspect to the bird-man's voice.
I struggled to get something out. "I um... I..."
"Don't worry about it, boys, he's with me," I heard another man say. The voice was human, had some sort of English eccent too. I turned around to find a red haired man smiling. Tall, broad-shouldered, he could probably join an MMA competition.
"And who are you?" the other bird-man asked.
"Easy lads, my name's Jack Napier, I'm from C-Sec too."
The bird-men discussed among themselves for a moment. I glanced at the other human. He didn't look familiar in the least bit. But I'd probably be crazy if he did. This was a video game after all. "I see, well your friend here doesn't look very good, Napier. Look after him." And then they left.
The man spoke up after they were out of earshot. "Well, that was simple enough, isn't it, Grayson?"
"Who the fuck are you and how did you know my name?" I probably should've been thanking him, but whatever. He was just a video game character.
"Oh I'm more than just a video game character, Kovac, I assure you. And before you ask, no, I cannot read your mind. Not all the time, anyway. Now if you want to go back to your old life of arresting gun-crazed maniacs and defusing bombs, you're going to follow me."
And follow him, I did. We took what could only be the Mass Effect version of a car -which flew in air and had a hybrid of ceiling and suicide doors- to wherever he was taking me. I still couldn't believe that everything was a game, but the scenery was breathtakingly gorgeous, that was for sure. A very blue sky, colourful plants, a massive lake... We landed about half an hour later, at what I could only assume to be the front of an apartment building.
"Come on, Grayson, let's walk a little faster, shall we?" Napier brought me to an apartment on the third floor. It was sparsely furnished, there was only a couch and a small coffee table in the living room. "Do forgive me, the Council can only afford to pay so little after indulging in their own luxuries. Take a seat. Would you like some tea?"
"No, I don't want tea. I need answers."
"Loosen up a little pal. You'll get what you want. Why don't you sit down first?"
I spent the next few hours learning about the whole universe. The Krogan, Rachni, Asari, Batarians, Turians, Quarians, Protheans, Reapers, and even those 'blinking flashlights' called Geth. And then there was the First Contact War, the Skyllian Blitz and the Rachni Wars.
"I still don't get why you're telling me about all these made-up history of a world that doesn't exist."
"You don't know? Or do you simply not want to admit, Kovac? There's a perfectly good reason why the 'exit game' option isn't popping up, you know. And it's also the same reason why I exist," he said, taking a sip of tea.
"And what's that?"
"You're stuck in this game, and you'd better believe it. I'm a software created by your buddy Foster just in case things went south, like right now."
Something told me he wasn't kidding despite his flippant attitude. But I still didn't want to believe it.
"You're just a colourful pixel on a pretty life-like screen, that's all."
He chuckled. "Like it or not, Kovac, I'm here to help you. And you're going to need it if you wish to exit this game with your brain intact."
I smirked. "What do you think this is? Inception? That if I die here, I'll go to limbo and become a vegetable?"
"Hey, how'd you know? And what's 'Inception'?"
"It's- you know what? Never mind. And for the record, I still don't believe you."
He laughed again, but then his voice took to a more serious tone. "Stop denying, Kovac. If you don't believe me, you won't be sitting here talking to me."
There was no way to escape reality now, or maybe it would be more accurate to say 'virtual reality', but whatever. "Fine. How can I get out of here again?"
"You need to finish the game."
"That shouldn't be too hard. How long can it be? Twenty hours? I'll be back in no time."
"Hmph, you'd wish. It might just a couple of hours for you in the other world, but right here and right now, you're neither over there, nor are you Commander Shepard. Over here, you play by the the game's rules. Everything's in real time."
That was not good.
"So how long does it take exactly?" I asked.
"The game ends in 2186."
"Right now, it's only 2183."
A/N: So, what'd ya know? I actually managed to do this! And for the record, I am 1) not a SWAT tactical technician, 2) not a guy. My name is also not Grayson Kovac. Even if I were a guy, I'll never ever have the name 'Grayson'. Why? Because Grayson means 'son of a bailiff'.
Oh well. :D