[Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancients

For submitting and talking about story ideas, individual scenes that need doctoring, outlines, or other detail work that isn't quite ready for the C&C thread.

Idea submissions must be at least five paragraphs long, and include plot points, summaries of which characters are involved, and, for fanfiction, how it differs from canon. Both original and fanfiction ideas welcome. Though original works should have more development. Replying posts must give actual commentary, no "GREAT IDEA" or "THIS SUCKS".

Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:33 pm

And more still! (This chapter may be a tad longer than the last. as I have at least three more scenes of equal length planned)



Admiral Steven Hackett had done a lot in his lifetime. He had started his career as a mere enlisted officer, and now he was Admiral of the Fifth Fleet in the Alliance. He’d seen humanity colonize beyond the Sol Relay. Hell, he’d helped colonize beyond the Sol Relay. He’d fought on Shanxi against the turians, and he’d seen the peace that was negotiated afterward. He’d gone from thinking humans were alone in the universe to planning a possible rendezvous with the asari consort the next time he went to the Citadel. So yes, he’d done a lot and seen more, but never in his lifetime did he expect to ever need to use the time travel protocols.



They were meant to be purely theoretical, established as a thought exercise on what could trigger it. Being the highest ranked officer on Arcturus Station, Hackett was responsible for debriefing the possible time traveler, and he was supposed to determine if she was telling the truth, and what specifics among her story needed to be addressed and how. The information she had could not be released whole-cloth, and if she was who and what she’d claimed, she’d know that. The report also could not be written down, had to be entirely verbal.



He showed up at the front door of Hannah Shepard’s apartment at 0855, by human time reckoning. He was dressed in his full dress uniform, prepared to receive the report. He rang the buzzer and waited.



The door opened, revealing Lt. Commander Shepard, dressed in her own dress uniform. “Admiral, please come in.”



He nodded and stepped into her home. “Thank you, Commander.”



Standing in the living room was the supposed time traveler, Andrea Shepard, dressed in a similar manner to the Lt. Commander, only her dress blues were sans any markings to identify rank. They must have been spare blues that the Lt. Commander had, as they were the tiniest bit too tight on the younger Shepard. Andrea Shepard stood at attention, and he gave her a once over. The girl was young, that much was certain. Physically, she was barely an adult, but from Anderson’s report, she had claimed the rank of Commander, one higher than her biological mother. It was possible, he supposed, that she was a clone of some sort, a half-zygote clone from the Lt. Commander, but he wasn’t certain. She held herself like a soldier, one that was used to command, and one that was used to seeing an Admiral. Still, her eyes are what drew him in. Hackett knew those eyes. He saw them whenever he looked in a mirror. Andrea Shepard had seen things, done things, and he found himself looking forward to her report.


“At ease, Shepard.” He ordered the both of them, not bothering to distinguish. “Commander, according to protocol, you unfortunately need to leave. Captain Anderson is waiting for you at the training grounds.”



Hannah acknowledged with a simple, “Sir.” Then she addressed Andrea. “I’ll see you later.”



After Hannah left, Hackett nodded to the younger Shepard. “Now, we should do this right. Name, Rank, Designation, and Serial Number, please.”



The young woman didn’t even hesitate. “Shepard, Andrea, Commander of the SSV Normandy SR-2, Designation N7 Vanguard.” She then rattled off a serial number from rote memory. Hackett knew there wasn’t even a Normandy SR-1 in service currently, let alone an SR-2, but the way she said it, it wasn’t a lie. Also, a Vanguard, eh? He looked forward to seeing her biotics in action.



“Right. Under Systems Alliance protocol 195511-05, I am treating you as someone who has traveled here from the future. Being that you consider yourself of the Systems Alliance, I am asking for a debrief of important knowledge, along with verifiable claims that can be backed up. For the duration of this debriefing, you will be treated as your stated rank, but understand, Shepard, that afterward we can’t give it to you.”


She nodded. “Yes, sir, I understand.”



“Alright, Shepard, begin your report.” Hackett prepared to listen.



“Well, for me this all started when I was appointed as XO of the Normandy under Captain David Anderson...” Shepard gave her report, summarizing the events of a three year timespan within the space of four hours. She spoke of fantastical things, such as ancient AI ships, known as Reapers, being the first human Spectre, a geth uprising, and the results of a massive war. Hackett interrupted her at points to get clarification, but Shepard’s story was also peppered with names few people knew. Amanda Kenson was one of his friends, but not many people knew that directly. He also latched onto events from her story that were easier to disprove, specifically, the events of Eden Prime.



Eden Prime, one of the first human colonies past the Sol Relay, apparently housed a cache of prothean artifacts. That would be the easiest thing to prove or disprove, as all he would have to do is send her there to find out where. Still, if she was telling the truth, humanity needed to prepare. If the Reapers were coming, the galaxy needed to be ready for them. Then there was the matter of the attack on Arcturus station.

“Shepard, what about the attack here?” Hackett asked.



“Sir, the attackers set off a bomb and then...” Shepard shook her head. “I can’t explain it all that well, other than they somehow brought zombies in. And something that made a Brute look like a puppy.”



“The video only shows the cultists attacking using some sort of advanced weaponry. And they were cultists.” Hackett paused. “Whatever their reasons... there may be more of them out there.”



“Sir?” Shepard looked slightly confused. Frankly, he was as well.



“Let’s revisit that after your certification. Report to Captain Anderson in the training grounds within the hour. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. “ Hackett ordered, and he smiled at the look of determination that appeared on Shepard’s face. Somehow, he didn’t doubt that she’d pass with flying colors. “Dismissed.”



He let himself out of the apartment and headed to his office. There was some paperwork to prepare, and some rules to bend. Admiral Steven Hackett had a plan.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:52 pm

Target up. Charge. Second target nearby. Nova. Third target further away? Two shots from the Predator in her hand. Another target up. Charged to recoup her barrier. Incoming fire. Cartwheel dodge to the right. Shepard’s mock combat part of the certification exam had been going on for the past half hour, and she hadn’t felt the need to stop, save to swap out biotic amps.

Anderson had been observing her from the beginning. The girl was skilled. Normally the certification exams for the N7 were done in groups, with competitions between potential graduates, but Andrea Shepard was handling the simulation like a pro. Combined with the results on her mental aptitude test, there was now no doubt in Anderson’s mind that the girl was qualified as an N7. Now, if only she could stop burning out the biotic amps that she had been lent.

“So how’s the test coming?” Admiral Hackett showed up from behind him, and Anderson considered it a mark of pride that he hadn’t jumped at the admiral’s speech.

“She’s N7 all right. She’s passed all the requirements that N7s normally would have to pass, and you can just see it on her while she’s in combat.” Anderson didn’t know why, but he felt a bit like a proud parent when describing Shepard. Perhaps it was the way the girl looked at him on the Tokyo. From her recent actions, she deserved a lot.

“Yes, I thought she might.” Hackett sounded thoughtful. That worried Anderson a little. Hackett didn’t get to where he was today by making careful decisions. “How long has she been at this one?”

“Thirty minutes or so. She’s had to stop twice due to burning out the biotic amp she had. Repairing the amp took a few minutes.” Anderson shook his head. “Of course with the techniques she’s using, I’m surprised she hasn’t burned it out more.”

“Must be her implants; the amps are designed to interface with L-3 implants, and from Doctor Chakwas’s report, these are more advanced than those. Perhaps even more advanced than the L-4 implants used at Grissom.” Hackett pulled up his omni-tool. “We’ll have to issue her an appropriate one from Serrice. I’ll pay the expense.”

Anderson nodded and he watched Shepard demolish another ten targets in half the time it would take a normal soldier. Of course, at that point, he saw the sparks fly from her implant port and Shepard clutched her neck again, rubbing medi-gel in to deal with the burn. Anderson stopped the test. There really was no point in continuing anymore; she’d passed with flying colors.

Andrea rubbed her neck again. She kept overdoing it on the biotics. It really shouldn’t have been that hard to keep the amp from burning out, but once she was in combat, she looked for the most efficient way to deal with the threats, and in the case of most foes, a Charge Nova combination was just that. The amp just wasn’t built to handle the energies being put through it when she did that though. Perhaps she should have switched to Singularities instead.

When the targets disappeared, Shepard made her way over to the sim-room’s entrance. The door opened, revealing both Captain Anderson and Admiral Hackett. On seeing the Admiral’s presence, she instinctively stood at attention.

“Sirs, I burned out another biotic amp.” Best to be truthful, even if she hadn’t told Hackett everything during her debrief, she still told the truth then.

“At ease, Shepard.” Hackett said with a smile. “When it was stated that you were found wearing an N7 labeled armor in Anderson’s report, I was uncertain. However, your performance in the attack on the station and in these tests did not disappoint. You are definitely an N7 operative. I would like to make that official.”

Shepard felt pride swell up in her chest. It wasn’t every day that you got to have a second Special Forces graduation, even if this one wasn’t as public as her first one. “Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t thank me yet, I’m not done.” Hackett continued. “The contents of your debriefing this morning put you at the rank of Commander prior to the events that had you here. However, due to your lack of service record, and due to your age, I can’t restore that rank to you. I can, however, make it a bit easier for you to re-obtain it. Welcome to the Alliance, First Lieutenant Andrea Shepard, assuming you accept, of course.”

Well, she wasn’t expecting to be a Commander again, not in a place where she functionally didn’t exist, and definitely not in 2177 when she looked like she was younger than twenty. Still, at least she wasn’t starting over from the very bottom. Andrea smiled. “Yes sir, of course I accept.”

“Good, now, we come to your assignment. Due to certain... circumstances, you aren’t getting a regular posting on a ship. If it turns out you are correct, we will need you mobile and able to do what needs to be done. As such, you are being placed under my direct command, Shepard. Unfortunately, I can’t come with you myself on your first assignment. You will be riding along on the SSV Waterloo to Eden Prime, where we will be locating what you reported was there.” Hackett continued. “Remember, while you should obey the commander of the SSV Waterloo, you are not in her chain of command. The Waterloo will be receiving her orders through me, so you will be able to go where I need you. “

That seemed relatively clear and concise. There was just one thing that was nagging at her about this assignment. Even though she was certain they’d find proof that she was telling the truth fairly quick, just one thing seemed off. “Who is commanding the Waterloo, sir?”

“Lieut... Excuse me. Commander Hannah Shepard will be the CO of the Waterloo for its upcoming tour.”

There it was. If Hackett weren’t an admiral, Andrea would describe his grin as shit-eating. “Oh...”
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:34 pm

Andrea made her way through the corridors of Arcturus Station, munching on an energy bar as she did so. After instating her and giving her orders to her, Hackett had given Shepard the rest of the day off to relax. She managed to make N7 again, not that she’d had any doubts about it. N7s don’t doubt that they can get the job done. She’d told the same to James on the Normandy. Sure, she wasn’t a Commander anymore, and she didn’t have her own ship, but considering that Hackett had no real reason to believe her story and up until a few days ago, she didn’t legally exist, being Commander could wait. Warning the galaxy about the Reapers on the other hand... could not.

Eden Prime... The planet where everything began for her... As a direct result of the events there, Shepard earned her SPECTRE status. The beacon had been broken when she used it back then, what would it show her if she used it now? Also, Javik slept somewhere there. Was it possible that there were more protheans than just him? Would it be possible for them to repopulate their species with the population that was sealed somewhere on Eden Prime? Andrea had no clue. When she was last on Eden Prime, Javik’s pod was the only survivor. It had been dug up by the archeologists along with the other prothean artifacts, but Shepard only knew vaguely where to start looking. Hackett was going to base his entire belief of her story on whether they found a prothean cache or not.

Finding Javik would definitely corroborate the story about the Reapers though... and would throw centuries of theories about prothean society out the window. If Shepard could grab Liara prior to heading there, she knew that her... well, this Liara’s mind would be blown. A real live prothean for her to study would be the best courting gift that Shepard could provide. Of course, she was starting over here. Liara hadn’t met her yet, and with the existence of Michael, Liara wouldn’t meet her here ever. At least not until Andrea showed up the way she did. Item one on her agenda. Find an excuse to meet up with Liara. Possibly bringing Javik along.

The others... Garrus... Wrex... Tali... perhaps Michael never would meet them, but if he was who replaced her here, would it be right for her to snipe the friendship there? Garrus Vakarian was one of her best friends, but the Garrus she knew probably thought she was dead. Everyone probably thought she was dead. Well, except the ones who died before she made her own sacrifice.

Andrea shook her head to break that train of thought. It didn’t help to dwell on what she couldn’t change. She needed to focus on what she could, the here and now. As far as she knew, there was no way back. She’d look, but she needed to help the people here. The Reapers were coming.

Andrea was so focused on her thoughts that she barely avoided bumping into a young woman who looked to be the same age as her. She nearly dropped her protein bar while she was at it, but her reflexes helped her catch it.

“Oh, I’m sorry... was a bit lost in my thoughts.” Andrea apologized quickly and did a double take. The dark-haired girl was very familiar.

“It’s not a problem, just be a little more careful next time.” Now Shepard was sure of it. You don’t fight alongside someone for several months and forget them that easily. Of course, the look on her face seemed to be more one of wonder.

“This your first time on Arcturus?” Andrea asked.

“Yeah. I had a bit of leave saved up between my last assignment and my next one, so I decided to check out a place that I could hopefully get assigned to one day. Well, this or a ship.”

“Thought so. The station’s a bit overwhelming the first time you get here, but believe me, it’s got nothing on the Citadel.” Andrea said with a smile.

“Yeah, I’ve seen the holos.” The girl paused. “I’m Ashley.”

“Andrea. How about I show you the best bar on this hunk of metal?” Shepard figured it couldn’t hurt to offer. Besides, Ash had always been a good friend. Even if she had some issues of her own. Of course, who among her crew didn’t?

“Yeah, why not? Better than standing here and gaping at everything.” Ashley grinned, and Andrea joined her. Shepard beckoned the girl to follow her, and they decided to go get drunk.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Mon Jul 14, 2014 8:01 pm

Andrea slowly opened her eyes. This was not the bed in the Captain’s cabin of the Normandy, nor was it the bed in her apartment on the Citadel. It wasn’t a hospital bed, she also noted as her memory slowly trickled back to her. It didn’t matter; the bed itself was comfy, nice and warm. Andrea snuggled deeper into the bed and into the slightly taller person beside her.

Wait. She was in bed with someone. Andrea moved her hand surreptitiously to pat down her body. Okay then. She had no clothes on, nor did her bed partner. Still, it was nice to snuggle up to... Andrea’s memory of the previous night slowly filtered in to her waking brain.

Ashley and Andrea had gone to the latter’s favorite bar on Arcturus station the previous night. While they hadn’t known Andrea by sight, they easily served the pair of women what they asked for. It helped that the Alliance’s policy on alcohol was “if you’re old enough to serve, you’re old enough to drink.”

The bartender was surprised when neither woman ordered a fruity drink as he expected of girls their age, but he served them their liquor anyway. Andrea had ordered a glass of brandy while Ash drank a scotch and soda. Ash was an eager conversationalist, talking to Andrea about how she decided to join the Alliance, what went on with her first assignment, and the woman even boasted a little about how she was easily the best in her class. Ash couldn’t wait to get her first space assignment, and it bugged Andrea because she knew that if things went the way they did the first time, Ashley would be waiting a good amount of time and go through some major loss before she managed to get it. Andrea swore to herself at that moment, that she’d do right by her former subordinate.

“So, how about you, Andrea? I’ve told you a lot about my family already, what’s yours like?”

Andrea blanched a bit, both from the official story and from the actual one. Her familial situation... “It’s kinda complicated, Ash. Outside the military, I haven’t really had much of a family for the last seven years. My parents were on Mindoir... they resisted and well...”

“I’m sorry.... I didn’t mean to bring up that kind of memory.” Ashley put her hand on Andrea’s arm, offering some comfort.

“Yeah... It’s only recently that I found out I had an Aunt and cousin. Both are career military and officers. Aunt Hannah just made Commander, and I think Michael’s a Second Lieutenant.” Andrea didn’t really like lying to Ash, but the truth would sound far crazier, and she didn’t want to scare off her friend.

“I notice you didn’t include yourself in there. What’s your rank?” Ashley asked with a smile.

“Ah... First Lieutenant... Just promoted today, actually.” Andrea’s cheeks tinged a little pink on saying that.

“And you only waited till now to tell me this? Congratulations, girl. I’m sure you earned it.” Ashley said with a smile. Some dance music came on through the overhead speakers. “You know... I think this deserves a congratulatory dance. Come on, Andrea.”

“I don’t know...” Andrea shook her head, and then finished off her drink.

“Come on, it’ll help get your mind off of things and onto tonight where we can have some fun!” Ashley dragged Andrea out onto the dance floor and started moving to the music.

Andrea started dancing as well. She could feel the rhythm, and she stepped to it. She was just starting to get into it when she heard her dance partner’s snickering. “What?”

“You call that dancing?” Ash’s lips were quirked up in a smirk.

“Uh... yeah, never really got any complaints before.” Shepard said in answer.

“Oh, hell no. Andrea, that is not dancing, that’s a walrus moving across the ice. Who taught you to dance?” Ashley actually managed to look offended. Andrea wasn’t sure whether to feel embarrassed or hurt so she settled on confused.

“Nobody really... Dancing’s supposed to be moving to the music, right? I do that.” Andrea explained.

Ashley nodded as if that fully explained it. “Well, we’re going to get you dancing right tonight. If you’re going to be dancing with me, you’re going to be dancing proper like someone as hot as us should.”

Ashley moved behind Andrea and pressed up against her back. “I’ll try to guide your movements a bit, just go with it.”

Andrea flushed a bit as she felt Ashley’s body press against her and as the slightly taller brunette’s arms slid down her own. “Okay...”

Ashley smiled and guided Andrea forward a little. “Right, first thing, you need to loosen up a bit. Dancing’s more than just bouncing on each leg a little and moving your shoulders. Get your arms above your waist...” Ashley pulled the redhead’s arms up a bit. “Don’t be afraid to touch your hair a bit, you don’t really have much to toss, but bringing your hand over your head like this can work. Then you move your shoulders a little like this...” Ashley moved along with her instruction. “And then work your hips a little...” Ashley slid her hands down to Shepard’s hips and moved them for her. “Then you can step... You put that all together, and it’s a bit of a dance.”

Andrea nodded. “I think I can do it.... Head, shoulders, hips and then step?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry though, I’ll be right here with you.” Ashley said as she continued to guide Andrea’s dancing.

The pair continued dancing for a while, Andrea finally seeming to get it, but Ashley never stopped being close at hand. Ashley even made sure that her guidance looked good, and the Andrea noted that people seemed to stare at the two of them even more when she was being helped. Yeah, she’d gotten stares before with her normal dance, but these ones were different, almost hungrier. Andrea had liked that feeling, and she moved closer with Ashley. The two’s dance moves almost becoming one as they moved in unison, pressed together.

Eventually they returned to their table where a fresh round of drinks was waiting for them. Some of the onlookers had paid for their refills and had them brought out to them. The pair weren’t really interested in anything but talking with each other though. Andrea was far more comfortable around Ashley than anyone else, and Ash was finding the reverse to be true as well. Of course, after they’d been there for a little while, some upstart marine thought to get it into his head that he would challenge the bar to a drinking contest.

Andrea, being an N7, and Ashley, being a Williams, decided to take up that challenge. On their joining, five more men decided to participate as well. Ash and Andrea were easily the only women taking part, and they managed to match the marine shot for shot. They even snuck in two more shots of tequila after the last marine had finished before they declared a mutual win over the men of the bar.

This time it was Andrea who dragged them onto the dance floor, drunk as they both were. The music of the bar pulsed and the pair danced the night away, their bodies intimately close. Andrea didn’t quite remember the interim between that and the bedroom or how they ended up here, but she definitely remembered the duration.

Andrea’s bed partner ran a hand through her hair. Andrea smiled at that, and just snuggled closer to Ashley. She knew that this was probably not going to be a repeat thing, so she figured she’d enjoy it as long as possible. As far as she knew, Ashley was straight, but last night disproved that assumption.

The door to the bedroom opened at that moment, surprising both Andrea and Ashley into full wakefulness. Hannah Shepard, dressed in her full uniform, stood at the doorway.

“I just wanted to remind you that the Waterloo’s boarding call is at 1200 hours.” Hannah made sure to look directly at Andrea when she said this. Did she not notice? “So I suggest you finish getting ready within the next hour or so, so that you can claim a good bunk.”

“Y-yes ma’am.” The station couldn’t just swallow her up here. No, that would be too easy.

“Private Williams, could you please make sure my niece eats properly before she boards the ship? There won’t be a proper meal until dinnertime.” Oh. She knew about Ashley? Wait, how did she know about Ashley?

“Yes, Commander.” How did Ash sound more confident than she did? She was Commander Shepard for crying out loud. Sure, she was nude, but she’d faced down Sovereign, she’d faced down Harbinger, taken down a total of five full-sized Reapers, and stared down a Leviathan. Why couldn’t she be confident before this woman?

“Good. Remember, Andrea, 1200 hours. It’s 0730 right now...” Hannah turned and left the room, letting the door close behind her.

Andrea buried her head under a pillow to hide that her face had almost turned the same shade as her hair. “Gah...”

Ashley patted Andrea on the back comfortingly. “Well, that could have gone worse...”

“How?” Shepard’s voice was muffled from under the pillow.

“She could have shot me.” Ashley said as a joke. “Look, Andrea, she’s your Aunt, not your mother, and yeah, it’s embarrassing, but she obviously means well.”

Andrea lowered the pillow and turned toward Ash. The Ashley she knew was definitely a bit more jaded than this one, but she guessed this was more the older sister coming out. She hadn’t seen any of that side of Ashley from this perspective before; usually it came from when Ashley was talking with Tali. “Yeah... I suppose you’re right.”

“One thing you’ll learn about me, girlfriend, is that on family matters, I’m always right.” Ashley grinned. “See, I used to do the same thing to my sisters when they brought home boys... of course, I never caught them like this, but the principle is the same.”

“Embarrass the hell out of them?” Andrea hazarded a guess.

“Definitely.” Why hadn’t she noticed how cute Ash was when she grinned like that before? Well, she had, but it was mostly directed at James. They’d made a cute... pairing? Well, perhaps it’d have been something that developed into them being a couple, but... Reapers. “Now last night...”

“We were drunk... but it was...” Andrea paused. She didn’t want to come on too strong, and well, she wasn’t sure she really wanted to go beyond friends with Ash. Last night was something she hadn’t expected to happen, but it wasn’t really something she regretted.

“It was nice, yeah... Fun too. Once you learned to dance properly.” Ash gave Andrea a bit of a playful shove. “But beyond that... I don’t want you to think this is something I normally do.”

“Pick up women in space stations, get taken to a bar by them, teach them to dance and seduce them like the sexy latina you are?” Andrea teased. “If that were common, I’d advise everyone to hang out on space stations.”

“No! I mean... I don’t normally have...” Ashley seemed to struggle to get the words out.

“One night stands?” Shepard hazarded a guess, and then she offered a couple more. “Sex with women? Sex on the first date?”

“Any of them... all of them... Last night wasn’t my first time like that, but it isn’t something I do for just anyone. Andrea, even drunk, I wouldn’t normally have done that... You’re special.” Ashley explained. “You’re easy to talk to, you seem to understand me, hell, it’s like you already know me. I could see us being good friends... possibly even more than that...”

“But..?” Andrea respected Ashley Williams far too much to leave it at that. The woman would be a Spectre one day, and while Shepard had never considered her a romantic prospect before, not with Liara or Thane in the picture, she never doubted the woman’s loyalty nor her friendship. Not even when Ashley doubted her own.

“I’m about to go on assignment in the middle of nowhere, and you’re about to leave on your own assignment. Starting anything now beyond a friendship would be setting it up for failure. I’m not saying that there won’t be a repeat of what happened this time when we see each other again, but I don’t want to guarantee it.”

Andrea nodded. “I understand.”

“And there’s regs to think about too. We’re both military; you’re an officer, I’m enlisted. I’m not under your command, but...” Ashley trailed off.

“But you could be.” Andrea nodded. That was one reason she never got with Kaidan. It wasn’t the reason that she’d decided that he should be the one to detonate the bomb on Virmire... God, that decision still haunted her.

“Yeah. So doing anything after this time would be stupid.” Ashley said in explanation.

“I guess so...” Andrea wasn’t disappointed. She knew that she and Ash couldn’t be an item. Besides, there were Liara and Thane to think about... Both of whom didn’t know her from Eve at this point...

“Good thing this time isn’t quite finished yet...” Ashley said as she brought herself in for a kiss. “We’ve got a few hours... let’s make the most of them...”
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Sat Jul 19, 2014 8:37 pm

After some morning activity to get the pair awake and then cleaning up... and then cleaning up again, Andrea and Ashley managed to find themselves dressed and in the living room of the apartment. Well, to be perfectly honest, Ashley was in the kitchen while Andrea was finishing packing her things for her deployment. She made sure to pack something comfortable that wasn’t against regulations for her time on the ship, and she was certain that her... Commander would set her up with a good hardsuit for ground missions.

Whatever Ash was cooking in the kitchen smelled delicious. Andrea could pick out the smells of bacon, eggs, and some sort of cooking cheese dish. Whatever it was, she couldn’t wait to try it. She’d always loved trying new things; it came from her time in the Reds, when she wasn’t sure what the next meal would be so she had to settle on whatever she could get with her crew. Still, she wasn’t a part of the Reds here, nor was Michael for that matter, and that meant that there was little to no chance of any of their representatives bothering her for whatever reason, even if she became famous again. The fame was never the goal though. The goal was always doing what she could to keep people safe, to keep her loved ones safe. Andrea was a good soldier, but she was better as a Spectre when she had more freedom.

“Thinking deep thoughts?” Ashley’s voice interrupted her a bit.

“Little bit. Thinking about the upcoming assignment they have me on.” Andrea answered.

“Oh? I didn’t quite get to ask you about that last night. Where do they have you heading?” Ashley asked.

“Eden Prime. I’m supposed to keep watch over a dig site of some kind there.” Andrea didn’t elaborate too much. As much as she wanted to read Ash in on all of this, and as trustworthy as she was, she was still a young private who hadn’t been in the military long. There was a thing called OPSEC, and Andrea knew how to adhere to it.

“Huh, wonder what they could find on that planet. As nice as it is, it wasn’t occupied when we found it, right?” Ash was definitely smart. She probably could puzzle it out. “So your job is the dig site, not working with the 212th then?”

“I expect I’ll help a bit with the planetary exploration, but my orders come from elsewhere. Even the CO of the Waterloo isn’t in my chain of command.” Shepard shrugged. “Though that probably is more to prevent nepotism accusations.”

“Your aunt’s the CO, then?” Ashley flipped what she was making in the pan to the other side and Andrea nodded. Ashley continued, “Given what happened this morning, she seems nice.”

Andrea blushed at the recent memory. That wasn’t an experience she would soon forget. She’d never had a mother to walk in on her before, but now she did. Given how short a time she’d known the woman, Andrea wouldn’t have thought that it would be as embarrassing as it was to be walked in on by her, but it was a testament to just how accepting the woman had been that it happened as it did. Something like that might have been how Liara would have felt if Aethyta had walked in on the two of them. Well, her or Benezia if Benezia had still been alive rather than the indoctrinated person she was at the end of her life.

“Yeah... She’s been pretty good since we found out. She’s the one who suggested I stay here rather than the barracks. “

“Well...” Ashley flipped the pan one more time before laying out the food on some serving plates and grabbing some other plates to go with them. “She’s your family. Family’s important, and she seems to realize that. Even if she’s deployed as often as my Dad was, I’m pretty sure that she did a good job raising her son too. “

Andrea nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ve seen some pictures of Michael, but I haven’t gotten the chance to meet him yet. He’s deployed elsewhere at the moment.”

Ashley brought the plates over to the table, and Andrea took a look. Damn, it looked great. Ash had prepared eggs, bacon, rice and beans, and some sort of flat pastry that was the wrong color to be a pancake but smelled delicious. “Breakfast is ready... and given your biotics, you get three quarters of it.”

Andrea blinked. “I didn’t me-“

“I know. But it’s kind of hard to miss the port for your amp when you’re seeing as much of someone as I did last night. Biotics need more food than nonbiotics. You burn more energy, so eat up.” Ashley punctuated this by placing a large portion of the food on Andrea’s plate before scooping the rest onto hers.

“Smells great... what is it?” Andrea asked.

“Traditional Colombian breakfast, just like my grandma used to make. Arepa con huevos, arroz y frijoles, and bacon, of course. In case your translator didn’t quite catch that, it’s rice, beans, eggs, bacon, and arepas. The arepa is what makes the meal great.”

Andrea, having already started as she listened, swallowed and nodded in agreement. “Definitely tastes good.”

“Glad you like it.” Ashley started her own. The pair made light conversation as they both continued eating their breakfast, but once it was finished, it was time for the two of them to go. They cleaned up the mess Ashley made and gathered their things.

Ashley hugged Andrea at the doorway. “Whatever happens on your deployment, we’re going to have to do something when we see each other again. Good luck, Andrea.”

“You too, Ash. Don’t get disillusioned with the brass either. Some might be bigoted assholes, but enough aren’t that I’m sure you’ll end up where you belong. You’ll earn it.” Andrea then kissed the taller girl on the cheek. “I’ll keep in touch.”

“Looking forward to it.”
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:18 pm

Next Snippet, almost to Eden Prime!

At 10:45, Andrea stood at the docking bay that housed the SSV Waterloo. From her vantage point, she could see engineers working on the exterior, doing the last of the refueling operations that the frigate needed, and she noted, with a small amount of glee, some people loading up an M35 Mako into the cargo hold. She was definitely going to badger her m-aunt into letting her drive that. The ship’s slender body took up about as much room in the dock as the Normandy SR-1, but little differences stood out. The wings of the Waterloo attached much closer than those of the Normandy, and the body itself resembled a missile in its shape, albeit a decently wide one. Shepard estimated the ship at one hundred fifty meters, bow to stern, and the top of the ship was about twelve meters from the ground, ten from the bottom.



Andrea shouldered her bag and prepared to head on in. Of course, the moment she entered the airlock, she heard a female voice cry out, “Wait!”



Andrea held off on pressing the activation button as a quartet of servicemen ran up to join her. All four of them were in shipboard BDUs that identified their rank, unit and last name. Of course, her own BDUs did the same. She looked them over, Ops Chief Fujiota, a red-haired Japanese woman, Private Second Class McCormick, a blonde Caucasian man, Gunnery Chief Smith, a dark-skinned woman, and someone she recognized, Private Jones.



“Thanks for holding the door, ma’am.” Fujiota saluted her. “Lieutenant... Shepard, yes? Thank you for what you did during the attack, ma’am.”



“At ease. Jones here did as much as I did, and he didn’t pass out from biotic overuse.” Shepard smiled and pressed the button.



“Yes, but you were the reason the others rallied... I’ve heard the stories, ma’am. I look forward to serving with you.” Fujiota bowed slightly as the outer door closed.



Andrea nodded, “Same here.”



Once the inner door opened, Andrea made her way inside, flanked by the others. The SSV Waterloo was a typical Alliance frigate, from what Andrea could tell. Closer to the bow, Commander Hannah Shepard was standing in the CIC, doing a pre-launch check. Toward the back was the elevator to the various other decks, which is where Shepard made her way now. She’d examine the CIC later. Once in the elevator, she pressed the button for the Crew Quarters Deck, where she assumed she’d have assigned placement.



Luckily, the Waterloo’s elevator moved at a speed faster than watching paint dry, and it merely took fifteen seconds to change decks rather than the thirty to forty-five it took on the Normandy. The men swiftly walked toward their crew quarters once the elevator doors opened up while Fujiota and Smith leisurely made their way toward theirs. Andrea paused to let them pass and brought up her omni-tool, linking up with the ship’s intranet.



Oftentimes on ships like this, bunks were assigned. You couldn’t go in and just claim a bunk, especially if your CO needed you for something. She checked for where she would be bunking and found herself directed toward the guest’s quarters. Andrea had seen guest quarters on some ships before. The Normandy SR-2’s quarters were especially nice and adapted for various species. This wasn’t all that different from her quarters on the SR-1. The single bed was a bit smaller, but it looked like the closet was around the same size.



Sitting on the bed was a small package with a data-pad laying on it. Andrea laid her gear down next to the bed and picked up the data-pad, activating it.



I noticed your problem with biotic amps. This should help.
-Hackett



Andrea raised an eyebrow and opened the package. Under the brown box was another one with labeling in an asari script. It took her translator a second to process it: Armali Council’s Prodigy Model VII. Admiral Hackett got her a new biotic amp? Okay, she’d planned on purchasing one herself, but this worked well. She opened the box and pulled out the piece of hardware, making sure not to touch the interface ports directly as she removed the sterile-guard. Andrea used her free hand to remove the amp that was currently in her and plugged the new one in. A blue glow surrounded her for a second as she lifted the box to eye level. Yes, this wasn’t bad at all. The true test would be when she started doing her recent tactics of nova and charge. From what she remembered, the Armali Council tended to design good things. They were usually in direct competition with the Serrice Council for the best technology. The Savant line tended to be a little better, but the Prodigy line was pretty good too.



Shepard finished setting her room up appropriately and headed out to explore the ship. This was the one thing she liked to do when in a new place: explore and familiarize herself with her surroundings and the people there. The first stop, of course, would be the CIC to check in with her moth-aunt. Even if she wasn’t directly under her command, she needed to do something on the ship.



After going up the elevator and then heading toward the bow, Shepard couldn’t help but notice how empty the ship felt without being able to talk to EDI. While she didn’t find herself talking to the ship as if it were a person, she almost wished it were. Still, this was the Waterloo, not the Normandy, the trip up the bow to the CIC proved that. How one was supposed to be able to address the entire crew from up here, she wasn’t sure, but she bet that the Commander knew.



As she approached the CIC, Hannah Shepard was looking at her terminal. She cleared her throat to get her attention. The older woman turned her attention from the terminal toward Andrea and smiled. “Andrea, I’m glad to see you made it on time. I was worried that perhaps you might be tempted to dally a little longer like your cousin occasionally does.”



Well. Shoot. Why did she come up here again? It wasn’t to blush the way she was, she was sure of that. She was thirty-one yea... actually, no she wasn’t. Not anymore anyway. “I think punctuality is appropriate for duty, ma’am.”



“Now if only Michael could learn that all the time.” Hannah shook her head. “So how are you finding your quarters?”



“They’re nice. I wasn’t really expecting solo quarters here, though.” Andrea answered.



“Well, as you’re not really under my command, you shouldn’t be in with those under it.” Hannah said. “And this way you’re closer to my cabin if it’s necessary.”



Andrea nodded. She hadn’t had too many nightmares recently, but the ones she did have were worse than on the Normandy. “So, why did Admiral Hackett put me here?” She left the “with you” part of her question unsaid, but she was certain that Hannah heard it.



“Honestly, why he did it is mostly on him. Admiral Hackett’s mind is something that is a bit of a mystery to me, but I asked him if he could find a way that the two of us could spend some time together during deployment. Plus, the Admiral trusts my judgment about as much as he does Anderson’s.” Hannah smiled.



So it was partially to keep an eye on her, partially because she was the woman’s biological daughter. Andrea supposed that made sense. “So, why the Waterloo? Why not some other ship or something?”



“You tell me. Admiral Hackett ordered us to Eden Prime and we’re actually going to be there supporting the 212th while something’s going on... and we’re supposed to be able to transport some cargo. My best guess is that the Waterloo was chosen specifically because it’s a frigate, and taking one frigate out of rotation hurts the navy less than if it were a cruiser, dreadnought or carrier.” Hannah pursed her lips. “I don’t like being out of the loop on the specifics of the mission, but given the protocols you reported under, I understand.”



“I’m sorry, and I would tell you if I thought it would help, but there are too many ears on the ship.” Andrea glanced around. “And if the information got out, something could go wrong.”



Hannah nodded. “Like I said, I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand.”



“So, I met some of the NCOs on the way in, who’s who on the ship?” Knowing who she should talk to about things was important. It’s not that the others on the ship weren’t important, but very few of them expected to talk with her.



“Let’s see here... the XO of the ship is Staff Lieutenant RJ Kinsey, his specialty is in engineering, so you’ll often find him down with the other engineers of the ship. Our navigator over there is Second Lieutenant Carlos Vasquez. He apparently got top marks on star charting and navigation drills. Our medical officer is Operations Chief Tetsuko Fujioda. She really should be commissioned, but she chose to stay NCO. Then we have Gunnery Chief Jane Smith, demolitions expert. She likes the Mako a bit. We also have Gunnery Chief Daniel Alba. He’s our requisitions officer. He’ll make sure that we have the gear we need.” Hannah pulled up her omni-tool to check. “Then we also have several enlisted and civilian staff, but I’m not fully familiar with all of them.”



Shepard noted that there weren’t any female commissioned officers other than herself and Hannah on this ship. She guessed that the female NCOs shared the officers’ quarters for that gender then. There was one more thing she needed to ask. “Since I’ll be on this ship for a while, is there anything specifically that you need me to do?”



Hannah shook her head. “I’m actually pretty sure that Admiral Hackett left you some orders in your inbox. You should work on those while you have the chance.”



Andrea nodded. “I should go.”



“Right, talk to you later.” Hannah waved her off and Andrea headed off to introduce herself to more people. Wait, why hadn’t her mother introduced the pilot?
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:28 pm

And... after a fun birthday, I return with more fic:



This was both the third time and the first time that Andrea had come to Eden Prime. Both prior times had been under circumstances that no soldier would ever want to visit the garden planet. The very first time, she had been on what was supposed to be a simple courier run picking up the Prothean beacon that had been found here. Unfortunately, when they’d gotten there, the colony was already under attack by geth controlled by Saren and his Reaper master, Sovereign... or Nazara as the geth preferred to call it. Her first time on Eden Prime was a life-shaping event. By comparison, finding a live Prothean the second time was simply business.



However, this was the first time that Andrea would have the chance to check out the arcologies of the planet. The beacon had been stored on a landing pad on the surface, and the closest she’d come to where anyone actually lived was a scientific encampment made out of prefabricated housing. According to the codex, 3.6 million people lived on Eden Prime at the moment, belonging to several different corporations which used the surface for gardening purposes while they lived above it. From what she understood, that was where they were going to go to meet the archaeologists, and then once the area was defined, they were going to be staying in, surprise, surprise, prefabricated housing on the surface nearby.



Looking out the window of her quarters, she could see the planet as they approached. A garden world like Eden Prime was mostly lush green plants and beautiful oceans. From this distance, it was pretty much impossible to make out the arcologies that towered over the surface. Of course, the pilot, who always seemed to be busy this trip every time she tried to meet him, managed to guide the ship down into the atmosphere with ease. Upon entering the atmosphere of Eden Prime, Andrea felt the subtle shift from artificial to natural gravity and stood up to get a better look.



The pilot directed their ship to the Alliance spaceport near the Hahne-Kedar arcology, and Shepard started to get dressed. She needed to make a good impression on these archaeologists so she called to mind various things Liara had told her about beliefs on Prothean culture... Unfortunately, that was mostly overwritten in her mind by what she’d seen and heard from Javik.



Still, she had a vague idea of where they needed to start looking for the Beacon. She’d spent most of the trip here going over continental maps and thinking on her memories of the last times she was here.



“Lieutenant Shepard, please report to the bridge for briefing. Lieutenant Shepard, please report to the bridge for briefing.” The VI of this ship had a female voice, but there was no real inflection to it, no emotion. EDI hadn’t even been created yet; Shepard wondered if the VI that was EDI’s predecessor had even been programmed yet, but then she shook her head. Andrea made sure her uniform was straight and headed out to the bridge.



As she approached the bridge, she could hear arguing from up front, where the pilot’s chair was.



“... and I’m telling you, that the only way this bird is going to set down on the surface is at a slow clip, it has to coast to a stop.”



“I’m telling you I can do it, Lieutenant, just have to set her down gently. The eezo cores can handle it, and all you have to do is pull up slowly at the right moment, and you can land this baby on a dime.” Well, that voice was familiar.



“And if you’re wrong, the ship rattles apart and more than just your bones break, Moreau. No, we land the way we’re supposed to.” Andrea made her way up to the pilot’s area of the bridge to get a better look at the two arguing men. One was a tall Germanic blond, standing next to the chair, while the other... was a young brunette man with the ghost of a beard growing in on him. Both wore flight uniforms befitting their ranks, the blond a Flight Lieutenant, and the brunette a Flight Chief. Andrea had to do a double take because she knew she recognized the brunette.



“And if I’m right, which I am, by the way, the ship lands without a scratch and she sets down sitting pretty.” Andrea approached closer at this point.



“Joker?” The word left her mouth before she could stop it. Both pilots turned to her. Well, to be accurate, the blond physically did so, while the brunette adjusted something on the console.



“Done and done. Please, no applause, we’re only landing in the arcology landing bay. Save it for when I do something truly impressive.” And now, the brunette turned toward her... in the pilot chair. “Lieutenant, I don’t believe we’ve met.”



“No, I don’t think the two of you have. Nor have I met her, vision of radiance that she is.” Andrea just raised an eyebrow at him. “Forgive my somewhat boorish subordinate, I am Flight Lieutenant Thaddeus Sitwell, and this is Flight Chief Jeff-“



“Joker.”



“Moreau. We’re the pilot and co-pilot team for the Waterloo.” The blond grinned. She already didn’t like him much. “And you are?”



“First Lieutenant Andrea Shepard.” Andrea answered quickly.



“Well good, now we’ve all been introduced, I can get back to telling the Flight Lieutenant how wrong he is about landing protocol. Assuming he can take his eyes off you for a few seconds.” Joker said with a grin. “Of course, given he was losing the argument, I can see why he’d want a distraction.”



“I was not.” The blond looked affronted.



“Dude, you were pulling rank on me when you knew I was right. I could land the ship like that. You’ve seen my record.” Joker confidently stated. “Of course, I’d much prefer a better ship, but the Waterloo works well enough for what she is.”



Andrea shook her head. “I guess I’ll leave you two to it then. Have a briefing to go to.”



“See you later, Shepard.” Joker waved before turning back. As she headed toward the CIC, she heard one last thing. “Oh, by the way, Flight Lieutenant Sitwell, that was the Commander’s niece you were ogling.”



“What?” Andrea snickered as she made her way to the CIC.



“Well, you certainly took your time. Enjoy your detour?” Well... at least her mom looked like she was more amused than anything else.



“Heard them arguing, they always like that?” Andrea asked.



“This is the first time I’ve worked with Moreau, but from his records, he is highly skilled. His disability is what has kept him from flying much more than a shuttle before this. As for Sitwell, he’s a good pilot, but he has a bit of a roving eye. Anyway, we should get to the briefing.” Andrea stood up a little straighter at that. It wouldn’t look good on her mother if she didn’t act the proper soldier, even if she wasn’t under her command technically. “Admiral Hackett has contacted an archeological team and put them under an NDA for the duration of their dig. You will be meeting with them and directing them on the area in which they’re going to be looking for... whatever it is that Hackett wants them looking for. We’re going to be stationed here and supporting the 212th with exploration security while the dig’s going on, and you along with the two privates who will be assigned under your command will be doing some exploration to try and help tease out this spot that Hackett thinks you know.”



“How will we be doing the exploration?” Andrea asked.



“As Eden Prime is a big world, and we’ll need to keep in radio contact during your exploration, you and your team will be using the Mako provided for this mission. I assume you know how to drive one?” Hannah looked sharply at Andrea.



“Yes, I definitely do, ma’am.” Andrea was an excellent driver. She never did anything with the Mako that wasn’t supposed to happen. Well, then again, she did drive it into a Mass Relay on Ilos, and there was that dream she had about the Mako tumbling through the air. It was definitely a dream. The Mako was not equipped with flight capability. “Who will be assigned to my team?”



“I believe you’ve met them both already. Private First Class Martin Jones and Private Second Class Kenneth McCormick will both be joining you on your exploration trips daily.” Hannah glanced to the airlock door. “The archeology team should be coming onboard in a few minutes. We’ll be adjourning to the conference room opposite the elevator once they’re here.”



Andrea nodded. It was a similar call to one she would make. If this were the Normandy, she’d know that it was more or less safe from spy intrusion, and she suspected that Hannah knew the same for her own ship. Of course, it was entirely possible that Cerberus or the Shadow Broker had some agents here, but that was a risk she’d have to take. If she played the Javik thing close to her chest, she was certain that when she found the Prothean, it wouldn’t get interrupted by agents from either organization.



The airlock doors opened, revealing a sandy-haired man and a blonde woman. Clearly both were civilians from the way they dressed, and if Andrea had to guess, she’d say that they were both archaeologists. After all, both had the fedora that was almost standard to all vids, the man wore sturdy cargo pants and a sleevless pocketed denim vest. The woman, on the other hand wore a pair of really short shorts and a tank top, which while attractive, Andrea had no clue how useful they’d be on a dig. Slung over her shoulder was a bandoleer with pockets along with a bag which she assumed had gear she needed in them. Both clearly had omni-tools on their wrists, and the woman had a tactile glove on her right hand while the man probably had the implants. They flashed some ID and at that point, Hannah and Andrea made their way to the conference room, the archaeologists directed there not long after.



Once they had retreated to the conference room, the archaeologists introduced themselves. The man was Jonas Lindsey, and the woman was his partner, Haley Jackson. Both had already been on the colony when Hackett contacted them about a potential dig site for ancient alien artifacts, and they’d leapt at the chance at finding them to study. Even if most races had written histories longer than humanity’s, there were always records of protheans to study and even artifacts from several asari generations back that were interesting. Of course, this being a human world, humans had first dibs.



Andrea explained where they would be digging, using a combination of maps she’d generated from her omni-tool and memories that she’d been shared from the artifacts she’d interacted with. While both archaeologists were understandably skeptical, the areas in question were areas they had planned on looking when they managed to get funding available. Of course, they’d had a wider area of study than Andrea had narrowed it down to, but that was mostly due to them not knowing a whole lot other than what was discovered when setting up the farms on the surface.



After explaining to the archaeologists where they should start to look, the dig was planned. Luckily they’d had express channels for funding already set up, so the dig itself was able to start within the week, rather than waiting the several months it usually took. Of course, the first place they looked didn’t quite reveal much, but there was evidence of ruins there that led credence to Andrea’s claims. So the search area was widened a bit. After helping to set up the dig further, there really wasn’t much else for Andrea or the other soldiers to do other than keep watch.



The newly expanded dig had been going on for a little over a week and a half before Andrea had started to get antsy. As interesting as archaeology was made in movies, sitting around and watching others dig, getting excited over every little thing they found was boring when the archaeologist wasn’t the asari you were sort of dating. Then, at least, there were certain perks to being nearby when she discovered something. Ultimately, though, Shepard felt the need to explore, and she decided to bring it up that morning at breakfast with her mother.



“Aunt Hannah, I think I’ll start the exploration with the Mako today. I’m getting a little stir-crazy with just watching them dig all day.” Andrea said. The two of them had been getting together for meals for the past week, but both had different duties during the day.



“I was wondering when you were going to get around to that. The Mako’s fueled up when you’re ready to use it. Just be sure to take your team along.” Her mother was smirking. Why was she smirking? “Also, we managed to find a hardsuit in your size; it’s in the locker near the Mako. Sorry it’s not quite as advanced as the armor that Anderson found you in, but it’s what we have.”



Andrea nodded, calling up her omni-tool to ping Jones and McCormick. “I’m sure it will be fine. It’s not like we really expect any combat out here, but better safe than sorry. I’ll be sure to check in every few hours.”



“Good luck. Hope you aren’t too bored out there.” Hannah said as Andrea stood.



“I’ll be driving a Mako. That’s hardly boring.” Andrea smirked and headed out of the prefab toward the hangar. Upon her arrival, she quickly identified Jones and McCormick though they were already dressed in their hardsuits. Andrea had to blink a couple times because McCormick’s was... well, rather loud. Somehow he’d gotten one that was bright orange, not really a model she recognized at all. Maybe he customized it somehow, but orange was definitely not a color she’d expected to see. For some reason he was also wearing his helmet with it already.



They both saluted her as she approached, and Jones even made sure to call her “Ma’am.” While protocol was nice and all, she needed to get them a little less stiff. Too much adherence to protocol could lead to them burning out before their time.



“At ease. I’m going to go change into my hardsuit, make sure the Mako’s ready for driving.” She eyed the pair.



“Yes ma’am. Ken and I will make sure.” Jones nodded to McCormick who then made some muttered comment about the Mako, but she didn’t quite catch all of it.



“Something wrong with your helmet’s microphone, McCormick?” Andrea asked. The orange-clad private shook his head. “You should speak a bit louder then, if your mic’s not picking it up properly.”



“McCormick’s accent’s a bit thick, and he tends to mumble. It’s something that got him in trouble a few times in boot, but you get used to it after a while. He’s not that hard to understand when you know what to listen for.” Jones said.



Andrea sighed. “Right. Anyway, I’ll be back.”



Shepard made her way to the locker her mother had told her about near the Mako. When she popped it open, she narrowed her eyes and let out a low groan. It had to be that armor. Well, that explained why her mother was smirking for certain. Ultimately, the Sirta-manufactured armor was definitely something she’d prefer not to wear, not only because pink just wasn’t her color, but because it didn’t allow her the best flexibility for her biotics. She’d gotten to try on some commando armor one time and it was like wearing armored silk. Still, a hardsuit was necessary for Mako travel, so she’d put it on. If anyone complained or made fun of her, she’d make sure to get them their own set of Phoenix armor. After all, pink was more a manly color, and she could just picture Garrus and Wrex in this. The thought almost had her giggling. She grabbed the hardsuit and moved to a semi-private area to don it.



Once everything was in place, she headed back toward the Mako. Luckily for them, neither Jones nor McCormick said anything about the color. She’d left the helmet off, as she didn’t think there was any real need for it at the moment.



“Right, let’s get going. Hop in, boys and scoot over; I’m driving.” Once both the privates were inside the Mako, she boarded it herself. Oh, sweet Mako, how she missed it. The Normandy SR-2 never had a Mako, and the Hammerhead didn’t really compare. Sure, the Hammerhead was far more maneuverable with its hover capabilities, but it felt so flimsy at times, almost like it was made of paper. The Mako could take a beating and keep on going.



“So, which of you is on repair duty?” Andrea asked. “Because engineering is far from my specialty.”



“I’m a trained engineer, but repairs shouldn’t be needed, right? It’s not like we’re doing anything dangerous.”



“Never know. Eden Prime still has some unexplored areas, which is where we’re headed. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” Andrea said with a smirk. McCormick muttered something about how his navigation would be... something then. “Don’t worry about it, McCormick. You can be on turret duty if we need it.”



“Woo hoo!”



“Glad you’re happy. Let’s go!” Andrea shouted with her own bit of glee as she started up the Mako and drove out of the parking bay. It didn’t take her long to reach the Mako’s top speed, the vehicle barely bumping as the side wheels rolled over some rocks in the way. Unlike most of the planets that Andrea had explored with the Mako prior to this point, Eden Prime was mostly flatlands. The area that she was headed toward was beyond the farmlands that were under the arcologies, untouched thus far by the corporations that made Eden Prime their home. She kept up the top speed, even when turning the vehicle, drifting a bit on the grass. After pulling that maneuver, Jones turned in his seat toward her.



“Who taught you to drive?” Jones was almost accusatory.



“The Mako? My first CO. Driving overall? That would be a former friend of mine from Earth.” She turned again, jumping the Mako a bit to give it a sharper turn. It was definitely around here somewhere. While the area was mostly flatland, she was quickly approaching one of the mountain ranges, which she knew matched it in some way.



“All due respect, ma’am, but I think you need to be retrained!” Jones grabbed onto his seat.



As Shepard sharply turned again, she quoted someone very dear to her. “Why is it that whenever someone says ‘with all due respect,’ they really mean ‘kiss my ass’?”



McCormick gave an eloquent “Iunno” sound and then muttered something to Jones that sounded both like an insult and something fairly vulgar. Andrea just focused on her driving.



They’d been driving at speed for about a half hour when Shepard felt it. The ground shook slightly, and Andrea cut the throttle. Something felt off about this to her. The ground shook again and she glanced to Jones and McCormick. “McCormick, get on the turret. I may need you shooting in a second.”



Without asking any questions, the orange-suited man climbed into the gunner seat. This wasn’t supposed to be needed, but Andrea activated the kinetic barriers of the Mako.



“What do you think is out there, ma’am?” Jones asked.



“I don’t know. I hope it isn’t what I think it could be...” The ground shook again, and it started to part, bulging upward. “McCormick, there!”



Shepard put the Mako in reverse, flipping to the rear camera on her view. There was no way she was getting these two near enough for the Maw to do more than spit.



The ground shook again and bulged upward behind them. The ground ahead split, bits of it falling down somewhere. Shepard attempted to gain some more traction, flipping switches and turning levers inside the Mako... and then the ground just wasn’t there. She kept them aloft as long as she could, clamoring for the nearest bit of solid ground, but the eezo generator inside the Mako could only hold them up for so long. So she immediately tried to get a look at where they would be falling, to find the best possible place to land. Unfortunately, the cavern below had a good distance between where they were and the ground, so she did her best to control where the Mako would land before the eezo generator gave out and they started falling.



Once the generator failed, she immediately flared her biotics, placing a lift field under the Mako to slow it down to a safe speed. If she could keep this up long enough, they’d land safely, or the generator would get back and the boosters would be useable again. Unfortunately, she had never done a field as wide as this one before, but she knew that in order to keep those under her command safe, she would have to put every ounce of effort into it. Andrea strained, her amp clearly straining with her, but unlike the other amps she’d used before, this one held... longer than Andrea could. The mental strain was too much and she blacked out about 40 meters into the fall.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Sat Aug 09, 2014 2:11 am

Wind blew through the forest tonight, the branches reaching, stretching toward her as she stood in the clearing. They grasped at her like the claws of a banshee, never quite reaching and the trees whispered her name.

“Andrea...” they whispered, voices carrying on the breeze urging her onward. She stepped forward, into the wind. A glimpse of movement, a child she’d failed... she would get there this time. She ran forward, chasing the mirage, moving slowly... so slowly. She was running at top speed, but the woods barely moved beside her.

“Andrea...” the voices whispered again, more urgent... “Shepard...”

She came upon a large tree. A body, human, was tied to it. Armor, jagged and cracked coated in blood, adorned the human, who was unmistakably female, an N7 emblazoned on the shoulder. She approached the likely dead body and carefully poked at it. The helmet fell off, revealing her own face, cut, bloody and broken. Dead. This was her corpse.

“No... I’m not dead. I’m not.” Shepard tried to reassure herself.

The body’s eyes suddenly opened, revealing deep black pools. The head turned toward her, and in her own voice, the corpse said, “The Darkness is coming...”

Andrea’s eyes shot open. Standing over her was McCormick, and she could hear him muttering her name. Or maybe he was saying it; the man’s voice was so faint, even with his helmet’s speaker right near her. The light coming from his omni-tool illuminated the area around her, and she could see that she wasn’t in the Mako anymore.

“Lieutenant!” McCormick’s voice actually came out clear that time, and then he ruined it by muttering about her being awake. How he managed to call over to Jones at the same tone and have Jones actually hear him was beyond her.

She climbed to her feet and took a look around. About three meters away was the Mako, looking... well, if she had to be honest, the Mako actually looked pretty fine. She wasn’t sure it would be able to run with its wheels cracked the way they were, but other than that, it wasn’t that bad off.

“Lieutenant, glad to see you’re awake.” Jones stepped out the back of the Mako and over to her.

“Glad to be awake... where the hell are we?” Andrea looked around the area. The only light around came from the omni-tools of the two privates and the Mako’s headlights. She was deeply considering putting on her helmet to get a good look around with night vision, but for now, she could already tell that this was no ordinary cavern. The walls, though vegetation had started to come through, were obviously either metal or some sort of composite material. The walls were too well formed to be anything natural.

“No clue, Lieutenant, but I’m not so sure what happened was a cave-in.” Jones pointed upward. No light shone down from the surface. “We’re a good distance down, but something that size should still leave a hole wide enough for us to have some natural light. We’re lucky the Mako’s electronics are still working, even though its eezo generator’s shot.”

“Lovely. Can you get anyone on the radio?” Shepard looked again. There seemed to be a way that this cave continued down that way. Definitely didn’t look like there was a way out any other way.

“I’ve tried, but when I try to call out, all I get is static. Luckily the helmet radios seem to be working fine.” Ah, that explained how he heard McCormick.

“Right, keep at it. I’m going to get my helmet and take McCormick for exploration. I want you staying here at the Mako getting the Commander online. Also, if you can get the generator working again, that’d work well.” Andrea knew what she needed to do.

“Aye, ma’am. Your helmet’s where you left it in the Mako, as are the weapons.”

Andrea nodded and went in to retrieve them. She put her helmet on and lowered the visor, syncing it with her omni-tool. While she didn’t have an accurate map of this place just yet, exploring would help her map it out. Night vision on the helmet would help her see, and the Storm VII she attached to her belt along with the Predator pistol would certainly help with any trouble she ran into along the way. Shepard also slung a carry bag over her back. She didn’t want to just leave the Tome where someone could find it.

Stepping out of the Mako, Shepard gestured to McCormick, who already had his weapons on him. “Come on, Private, let’s get you some exploration done. Stay with me, and follow my lead. I don’t know what we’ll run into down here, but I don’t want to take any chances.” She then tapped her helmet. “Jones, I’m testing radio contact.”

“Read you loud and clear, Lieutenant.” Jones’s voice came over the helmet radio, and Shepard waved to the Mako.

“Right, let’s see what we have here...” Andrea led McCormick down the opening. As she passed the threshold, a familiar flash of memory passed through her mind. The Collectors were out in force as this facility was being prepared for use. There were many casualties... Too many. Only a few would survive, and it was important that one did.

“Lieutenant!” McCormick’s voice broke her out of her memory. He then muttered something about her eyes going green for a second and lights turning on.

She looked around as ancient lights began to flicker on, and what looked like an ancient console blinked. One would think that, as old as this was, Millennia of dust would coat the console, but somehow it was only lightly dusted, easily brushed off. Shepard looked at the console’s display, and while the words weren’t in any language her translator recognized, she could identify it as Prothean. She placed a hand on the console and text began to appear.

>Facility VI Victory online. Prothean user detected

Shepard blinked. She hadn’t expected that bit. Perhaps something about her pinged as Prothean. Who knew? “Let’s see here... What’s the status of the facility?”

McCormick muttered something that sounded vaguely like “it’s beat to shit,” but she paid it no mind in favor of the upcoming text. It sounded like he had no clue what she was reading.

>Preservation facility active. Warning. Power supplies at ten percent. Four stasis pods remain active. Power reroute from Pod 03 in two solar cycles. Warning. Facility structure compromised. Non-Prothean life-forms detected. Indoctrination levels... at 0%.

Non-Prothean life-forms? Did Victory mean McCormick? Four pods? When she’d come here in 2186, there had only been the one pod containing Javik. Maybe with four, there would be the chance that the Prothean race could be revived. Imagine how that would look for humanity. No indoctrination levels was a good thing. It meant that her own fears about being indoctrinated were negligible, and that there weren’t any Reaper forces already here lying in wait. She could relax.

“Send a map of the facility to my omni-tool, Victory... we’ll go wake up the four.”

>Sending map now.

McCormick looked to her and muttered something about not understanding what she was dealing with.

“It’s a long story, McCormick... But it looks like there might be four active stasis pods here. If we can crack them open, we might have four actual Protheans to talk to.” Andrea smirked. This time she didn’t have to wait for Cerberus to do the digging.

“Awesome.” Once again, McCormick’s vocabulary seemed to be rather monosyllabic when he wasn’t muttering.

“Indeed. Let’s go see if we can find them. I’ve got the map of this place... and maybe we’ll be able to find a way out.” Shepard led the way further down the bunker’s entrance when she heard something strange, almost like electricity sparking across a wire. She turned her head back to check where the sound came from, and then she blinked. A translucent wall of green energy had formed between where she and McCormick were standing and the entrance.

McCormick ran up to the wall and tried to push against it with the tip of his gun. The wall sparked, sending a shock of green electricity over the Private’s kinetic barrier. Whatever it was, it didn’t look like they could pass through it. Luckily McCormick looked okay. He muttered something about not going back that way as he approached Shepard’s side, and she had to agree.

“Guess we push on.” Neither Shepard nor McCormick were tech focused, and she couldn’t see anywhere to slap the omni-gel; so there was no way they could get around it. Plus, it obviously was some sort of Prothean Tech. This meant that, like for the force field that once held Liara on Therum, there was probably some sort of off switch further inside the bunker.

“Shepard to Jones.” Andrea figured she should let the other Private know what happened.

“This is Jones, reading you loud and clear, Lieutenant.” He sounded somewhat chipper.

“Seems the structure nearby was a Prothean bunker of some sort. According to the VI, there are four Protheans in some sort of stasis further in. McCormick and I are going to go see if we can recover whatever’s there.”

“Wait... Protheans in stasis? You mean that there might be live Protheans here?” Jones sounded about as incredulous as she felt. Four of them alive... she was only expecting Javik. How the hell did Cerberus gum that one up last time?

“Yeah. We also seem to have tripped some sort of sealing mechanism... so don’t try to come in after us. Hopefully there will be something further in that can disable it. If not, I want you to get that Mako cannon working.” Shepard knew it was best to have a backup plan. “We’ll blast our way out if we have to.”

“Aye, ma’am. Anything else?”

“Keep trying to contact the Waterloo. They probably won’t be looking for us yet, but if you can boost the signal somehow, they’ll find us once they start.” Andrea ordered. “McCormick and I are headed further in, Shepard out.”

For something that was close to fifty thousand years old, the facility was truly well preserved. Especially when she considered that the place had not only been attacked by Reaper Forces, but it had also been subject to a self-induced neutron purge. The bodies of the Collectors, husked versions of the Protheans, were nowhere to be seen, and despite some bits of corrosion, there was little damage. Well, there was little damage up until this point. The way forward was blocked by some sort of cave-in from the wall.

McCormick cursed and looked around. “Lieutenant!” He pointed to where the cave-in likely originated with his omni-tool’s light, revealing a cavern beyond.

Shepard took a look herself, and while the cavern didn’t appear on the map of the facility, it seemed like it was their only way forward at this point. Unless she wanted to severely strain herself by biotically moving the rubble, they were going to have to chance the cavern.

Andrea led the way into the cavern, getting a first look around. A pile of rubble led the way down to a hewn stone platform. Carefully, she made her way down the pile followed shortly by McCormick. Once on the stone platform, she got a good look at the walls. This was no natural cavern. The walls, like the ground she now stood on, were hewn, and a mural decorated them.

She couldn’t tell what the mural depicted with night vision on, so she switched to regular vision and aimed her light at it. The mural depicted, from left to right, a group of... something, bowing down in reverence before a thing that looked vaguely reaper-like, but wasn’t metal. A Leviathan perhaps? Then something came... with greater power. A green light shone through or maybe a green energy... and the Leviathan was destroyed... They gave sacrifices to their new god. Or maybe they did something else... the mural got more erratic towards the end. This wasn’t Prothean. Liara would have a field day here. This... She didn’t know.

Shepard turned her night vision back on and turned off the light. “Come on, let’s get moving.”

She and McCormick made their way across the platform, down what seemed to be a corridor. It surprised her that this place, whatever it was, was this well preserved if it dated back as far as she thought it did. Not even the Prothean complex, which compared to this place was young, stood the test of time that the mural on the wall out there did.

Wait... was that sounds of movement? Shepard held up her hand and stopped, indicating that McCormick should stop too. When he did so, Andrea listened. Step, step-step. Step, step-step. Whatever it was, the noise it made as it moved was abnormal. Giving the hand signal for slow forward movement, she drew her pistol and approached the sound.

As she reached the end of the corridor, she saw into an open room, with a stone door opposite the entrance. There, in the middle of the room, pacing the width, were three small creatures, barely the size of a cocker spaniel. The creatures had three legs, some sort of rib-like structure alongside an almost visible spine that curled up into a scorpion-like tail. None of the creatures had any visible eyes, but they paced.

“The hell are those things?” Oh, now McCormick chose to be loud. All three creatures stopped in place and began to chitter loudly. The chittering echoed through the chamber, getting louder and louder and one by one the creatures started glowing. Shepard smacked McCormick upside the head and shushed him.

She slowly approached, careful as she got there. Shepard aimed with her pistol at one of them, when she felt she had a good angle... and squeezed. She wasn’t going to let this be like another Shifty Cow incident. Her bullet struck true, driving into the creature and causing it to fall over. She let out a slight breath of relief.

“Nice shot!” McCormick called over. And the damn chittering got louder. The creature nearest her started to glow a bright green, and she didn’t like that. So she aimed at it and pulled the trigger again. But before the bullet left the gun, the creature sent out a wave of green energy, catching her in it. As the world faded around her, Shepard thought on how she was going to retrain McCormick for appropriateness in situations.

Shepard blinked when she realized she was definitely alive, and she hadn’t blacked out as had been annoyingly common these past few weeks. She also realized she had no clue where she was. Once again, she appeared to be standing on a platform floating over nothing. She looked over the edge, and she could see nothing but grey. A cloud floating over what might have been a planet’s surface, but it was unrecognizable from where she was at. There were other platforms here too. As she looked out, she could see four other ones. Three had glowing altars of some sort on them, while the fourth had stairs leading up to what looked like the ruins of a gazebo. None of the platforms were even close enough to attempt to jump to, and there were no viable targets for her to biotic charge on any of them. Ahead of her on the platform she was on was a circle of light that kept cycling between colors every few seconds. It went red to green to blue to purple, and she could see similar circles on other platforms, though they didn’t cycle.

Shepard activated her radio. “Shepard to Jones or McCormick. Come in...”

Static. Wherever here was, it wasn’t in range of the radio. She needed to find her own way out. Once again, the only way to go at this point seemed to be forward, and there really was nobody around to call her stupid for trying something like this. The circle switched from green to blue. She’d seemed to have been teleported here by that creature. Perhaps she could get back by some sort of teleportation. The circle switched again from blue to purple. She had no clue what the colors meant, but going ahead had to be better than standing around and doing nothing. Shepard stepped onto the circle, and she felt a tugging sensation as she was transported to the platform with the half a gazebo.

“Well, that worked. “ She wasn’t sure whether to hope she was dreaming or hope she was awake as she climbed the steps into the gazebo. The ground at the center had a rune etched on it, a rune that matched the one on the cover of her book. She stepped onto it, and purple circles rose around her, transporting her back to the room she disappeared from.

Immediately, Shepard shot the third creature once she saw it. No way was she going back to... wherever that was.

“There are worlds beyond this one, worlds as we’ve never seen... nor can we... Our eyes do not open far enough... Try it... Try holding your eyes open... You can try holding them open as much as you want, but you’ll never see... never ever see... The world beyond the veil... The Veil of Reality... It’s there to protect us, from them: The Ancients... the Darkness... that... which... we... CANNOT... understand. Nor should we... Welcome the oblivion of ignorance! For to have knowledge... is to be DAMNED!”

“Lieutenant!” McCormick muttered something about her being alive. He didn’t seem to know where she had gone, and was afraid that she’d be gone forever. At least, that’s what she thought he muttered. He could have muttered something nasty and she wouldn’t be certain.

“Yeah, I’m back, McCormick. No clue where the hell I was. If we run into those things again, we should pick them off from afar.” Shepard shook her head. That was far too strange. Those creatures... they couldn’t really exist... but they did. There was no logical explanation for them the way there was for husks. “We should press on. Hopefully we’ll find those Protheans and they can help us get out of here.”

Across the room was definitely a door of some sort. The stone was a different color from that surrounding it and she could see where it would be pushed inwards. She could not, however, see how to activate it. There was no visible button, nor was there any sort of technological interface to slap omni-gel on. The door simply had an inverted triangle on it and the double boxed green rune that was used on the mural outside.

“McCormick, can you make any sense out of this?” Andrea stood aside for a second as the Private came over to examine it. He tried to push on the door, kicked it twice, and then stepped away shaking his head. “Right then, stand back.”

Andrea took hold of her biotics, going through the mnemonic motions to activate a lift field. She attempted to apply it to the door, to reduce its mass and move it, but the door refused to budge. Either the door was well wedged into place and was never getting open, or there was another way to open it.

“Lieutenant, your bag.” McCormick’s warning came just a tad too late as the Tome of Eternal Darkness fell down out of her pack, opening to a page. McCormick muttered something about his translator glitching when he looked at the page, but Shepard could read it just fine. The page was simply titled, “Magick,” and Shepard raised an eyebrow. Still, those cultists that attacked Arcturus had used something to revive those bodies, and they definitely weren’t using Dragon’s Teeth. What if... it was some sort of magick?

“McCormick, why don’t you look around the walls or something for a lever or a switch. There has to be some way to open this door.” McCormick nodded and she bent down to retrieve the book. She looked over the page, trying to figure out just what this “magick” was. It seemed simple enough to do. She would read a small incantation that involved the spell’s runes, and something would happen. Of course, she really didn’t expect anything to happen at all regarding this. Magic wasn’t real, even if it was spelled with a k at the end. Still, there seemed to be no other rational way to open the door. Even biotics failed to budge it.

“This is probably going to be stupid, but I’m going to do it.” She ran one finger along the book to the spell that seemed like it might help if magick were real. Maybe the thing was invisible. Then she’d have to reveal it. “By Xel’lotath, reveal yourself.”

Weird incantation, but when three runes appeared on the ground near her, she couldn’t deny that something had happened. Each one was read off in what sounded like a parody of her own voice.

Narokath. Redgormor. Xel’lotath.

“What the shit?” McCormick’s eloquent voice verified that she wasn’t seeing things herself. The runes really did appear on the ground, lighting up in sequence with them being read, and then her vision was tinged with green. Night vision had evolved from the 20th century to include more colors than just green, so it wasn’t just the night vision that caused it, and as she looked at the door, she could see, right where the triangle had been, a pull handle.

Reaching to grab the pull handle, Andrea felt she had to respond to McCormick. “I have no clue, but the book says it’s magick. With a K.” Pulling the handle out and turning it before pushing it back in, she continued. “I can’t deny its results... it revealed the way to open this door...” The door rose, revealing the room beyond it. “And now we’re one step closer to...”

Shepard trailed off as the torches lining the walls of the next room began to light and she could see the contents. The floor was littered haphazardly with corpses. It was littered haphazardly with flayed corpses. It was littered haphazardly with flayed Prothean corpses.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:27 am

Andrea couldn’t believe her eyes here. As much as she wanted to believe it to be a trick of the light, which speaking of: auto-light torches on door opening are strange, she couldn’t deny what her eyes saw ahead of her. There really were only five of them in the room, but they were five things that should not be possible. The Prothean corpses that lay around the room looked almost fresh, as if they had only just recently had their skin torn off and eyes plucked out. Oddly though, the musculature of them was a deep red. Shepard knew from experience that Protheans didn’t bleed red. Their blood was a sort of greenish color that matched the biotic aura they got around them, yet these corpses, they were red.

McCormick, having never actually seen a Prothean before, walked into the room. The private muttered something about aliens looking really ugly without their skin and bent down to get a closer look. Andrea for her part was still mulling over about how fifty thousand year old corpses could look as fresh as these eyeless skinless things did. Reapers didn’t do this. The corpses would have been liquefied, harvested for what they were, or they’d be turned into Collectors. Or they would have been left to rot. At most, they should be running into skeletons, not this.

Wait, what exactly was McCormick doing now? Was he poking the bodies with his assault rifle? What the hell were they teaching at boot these days?

“Private! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Andrea couldn’t believe anyone could be that... She was going to force some retraining on McCormick when they got back.

McCormick for his part managed to actually look up toward her and mutter something about examining the bodies. Apparently he figured that since they were dead, it was alright. Of course it was at that point that, almost to spite McCormick’s blasé attitude, the corpse’s eyeholes lit up a burning green gaze, and it reached up to wrap its arms around the Private. Opening its mouth wider than it had any right to be, the living corpse bit into McCormick’s shoulder.

Immediately, the other four in the room climbed to their feet, their flesh making a sickening squishing sound as it touched the stone. The four empty eye sockets on each Prothean corpse burned with a green light that seemed to bore right into Andrea’s soul. The only thing Andrea could think to compare them to were the Collectors, but these were no creations of the Reapers. No cybernetics were visible, nor did their eyes glow a yellow hue. These creatures did not chitter and whir like the collectors. No, the sound they made could only be described as moaning, groaning, a sound of pain which they clearly they wished to share. The creatures lumbered toward her, clearly unaffected by the fifty thousand years of rot and decay that should have afflicted them.

For an eternity, Andrea stood dumbfounded, zombified Protheans stalking toward her. Of course, the eternity only lasted half a second as she shook herself out of her reverie. They were slower than Collectors and had no guns. This was an advantage. Andrea simultaneously stepped towards McCormick and removed her shotgun from its holster. Once next to the Private, she shoved the barrel of her shotgun underneath the zombified Prothean’s head and fired. The head exploded off the creature, and it let go.

“Back up, McCormick. They’re slow, fire at them from a distance and don’t let them get close to you again.” She shoved the private away from the creature, which was feeling the stump where its head would have been and followed her own advice.

“Yes ma’am.” McCormick stepped back and away, firing his assault rifle in short bursts at one of the other zombies. Andrea, for her part, unloaded two more shots at the headless zombie. Each shot seemed to remove one of its arms, yet the torso remained standing but stilled. These zombies seemed more resilient than either of the ones that she’d run into on Arcturus station, but she wasn’t sure if it was because they were Prothean or because of another reason.

Even with short bursts, an assault rifle can overheat without the right mods, and it took McCormick enough bursts to do so for one of the zombies to drop to the ground, squirming. Her own shotgun blasts seemed to be more effective than the assault rifle, but that was likely because she was actually hitting with more than forty percent of her shots and they were more spread out. It took four shots to the torso to get the zombies to drop. Unfortunately, the way these guns were designed, she couldn’t just pop in a new heat sink once this one overheated. She actually had to wait for the gun to cool down.

Luckily, she had another option. The bright blue corona of her biotic aura flared around her and she sent a shockwave at the nearest group of zombies, the force from which would kill a normal husk. It simply knocked the two Prothean zombies that it hit to the ground. They climbed to their feet and then the strangest thing happened. A red glow formed around each one of the zombies who just got back up. That... didn’t look good.

“Hit the deck!” Shepard ordered as she did the same, trusting her instincts about this. McCormick followed suit, and the pair barely managed to dodge a red gravity wave that passed over their heads. The zombies could use biotics? Well, to be fair, Protheans could use biotics, but she wasn’t expecting this. Her shotgun finally chilled, Shepard rolled toward the biotic zombies and fired off three shots in each torso. Once they fell, she fired again, and the zombies laid still. She turned around to survey the room, and her gaze fell upon the first zombie. Its head had grown back. Its right arm was growing back. Great. They could regenerate too.

“McCormick, finish off the remaining ones on the ground, I’ll see about bringing this one down.” Not that it was supremely hard to do; bringing down these... zombies was certainly easier than bringing down Collector drones, even if they took more shots. As Shepard approached the zombie she first blasted it in the torso and head with her shotgun, then she hooked a leg around its legs and fired another shot to push it over. She heard the assault rifle fire behind her, indicating McCormick’s finishing off of the others. Shepard fired another shot into this one’s chest, and she watched as the body slowly disintegrated.

These creatures... these flayed Protheans... they were somewhat like the zombies created by the cultists on Arcturus. Perhaps here there would be some sort of clue as to the origins of these things, something that may not have been found in the book that sat in her pack, its weight making itself known on her shoulders.

These wretched creatures, these flayed corpses! Wandering, decrepit soulless vessels, content only to gnaw on human meat, to spill human blood... Even... Even headless, their hate for the living grew in propensity... flailing maniacally in their bloodlust... killing anything close!

“Lieutenant, finished.” Andrea glanced to McCormick, who, despite his helmet, looked a bit glad that the zombies were gone. “What were those?”

Well, that was probably the first clear sentence she’d heard out of the Private’s mouth all day. “I wish I could tell you. I don’t really know myself. I think, at one point they were Prothean.”

“Shouldn’t they be...?” McCormick mimed a neck-slitting motion.

“Yeah, most of them... except for the four in the pods... hopefully. Of course... apparently the dead can walk. And use biotics.” Andrea glanced across the room at an open hallway that she could see curved around. “Looks like the only way to press on is through there.”

McCormick nodded and then muttered something about taking point before starting down the passage, doing so. Andrea followed close enough behind him so that she could get at whatever happened to be nearby. There already were enemies here; it wasn’t that much of a leap of logic to assume there would be more. If not for the enemies, Liara would have a field day with this place. It was obvious that this was older than the Prothean bunker; of course, the magick required to get in did present its own challenges along with the creatures that it hid.

“L-l-lieutenant!” McCormick stopped up ahead as the torches flickered to life in the next room. That sounded like genuine fear in his voice. Shit. More creatures to deal with.

Shepard followed into the next room, where on the wall was yet another mural. This one depicted some sort of massive creature that almost hurt to look at. The drawing made no sense. It vaguely resembled a giant jellyfish, almost like a hanar, but the shape was off somehow. Of course, that only caught her eye for a second before she saw what caused McCormick’s fear.

Another creature like on Arcturus Station stood still in the center of the room. Well, that wasn’t completely accurate, now that Andrea got a better look at it. The creature in the center of the room had blue skin rather than green, and instead of eyes, it had heads, plural. No eyes at all on them, just three gaping maws of teeth and something. It could see. Andrea could feel it reaching out with its senses. Raking over her, body and soul, trying to reach out to her, and yet... The creature remained motionless. It made no effort to get at her or McCormick. Why?

“Well... that’s certainly... unpleasant.” Andrea’s eyes were drawn to the creature’s feet. Surrounding it, five glowing green runes were etched on the air. She recognized two of the runes from the ones which appeared when she used that spell. Redgormor. Xel’lotath. Two of the runes in the circle were identical, while the third remaining rune was not. What this meant, she didn’t know, but obviously magick was holding the Horror back.ʞɔɒd ɿoɿɿoH ɘʜƚ ǫnibloʜ ƨɒw ʞɔiǫɒm ylƨuoivdo ƚud ,wonʞ ƚ’nbib ɘʜƨ ,ƚnɒɘm ƨiʜƚ ƚɒʜW .ƚon ƨɒw ɘnuɿ ǫniniɒmɘɿ bɿiʜƚ ɘʜƚ ɘliʜw ,lɒɔiƚnɘbi ɘɿɘw ɘlɔɿiɔ ɘʜƚ ni ƨɘnuɿ ɘʜƚ ʇo owT .ʜƚɒƚol’lɘX .ɿomɿoǫbɘЯ .llɘqƨ ƚɒʜƚ bɘƨu ɘʜƨ nɘʜw bɘɿɒɘqqɒ ʜɔiʜw ƨɘno ɘʜƚ moɿʇ ƨɘnuɿ ɘʜƚ ʇo owƚ bɘzinǫoɔɘɿ ɘʜƧ .ɿiɒ ɘʜƚ no bɘʜɔƚɘ ɘɿɘw ƨɘnuɿ nɘɘɿǫ ǫniwolǫ ɘviʇ ,ƚi ǫnibnuoɿɿuƧ .ƚɘɘʇ ƨ’ɘɿuƚɒɘɿɔ ɘʜƚ oƚ nwɒɿb ɘɿɘw ƨɘyɘ ƨ’ɒɘɿbnA ”.ƚnɒƨɒɘlqnu ...ylniɒƚɿɘɔ ƨ’ƚɒʜƚ ...llɘW“

␚yʜW .ʞɔimɿoƆɔM ɿo ɿɘʜ ƚɒ ƚɘǫ oƚ ƚɿoʇʇɘ on ɘbɒm ƚI .ƨƨɘlnoiƚom bɘniɒmɘɿ ɘɿuƚɒɘɿɔ ɘʜT ...ƚɘy bnɒ ,ɿɘʜ oƚ ƚuo ʜɔɒɘɿ oƚ ǫniyɿƚ ,luoƨ bnɒ ybod ,ɿɘʜ ɿɘvo ǫniʞɒЯ .ƨɘƨnɘƨ ƨƚi ʜƚiw ƚuo ǫniʜɔɒɘɿ ƚi ]i/[lɘɘʇ]i[ bluoɔ ɒɘɿbnA .ɘɘƨ bluoɔ ƚI .ǫniʜƚɘmoƨ bnɒ ʜƚɘɘƚ ʇo ƨwɒm ǫniqɒǫ ɘɘɿʜƚ ƚƨuႱ ,mɘʜƚ no llɒ ƚɒ ƨɘyɘ oИ .lɒɿulq ,ƨbɒɘʜ bɒʜ ƚi ,ƨɘyɘ ʇo bɒɘƚƨni bnɒ ,nɘɘɿǫ nɒʜƚ ɿɘʜƚɒɿ niʞƨ ɘuld bɒʜ mooɿ ɘʜƚ ʇo ɿɘƚnɘɔ ɘʜƚ ni ɘɿuƚɒɘɿɔ ɘʜT .ƚi ƚɒ ʞool ɿɘƚƚɘd ɒ ƚoǫ ɒɘɿbnA ƚɒʜƚ won ,ɘƚɒɿuɔɔɒ ylɘƚɘlqmoɔ ƚ’nƨɒw ƚɒʜƚ ,llɘW .mooɿ ɘʜƚ ʇo ɿɘƚnɘɔ ɘʜƚ ni lliƚƨ booƚƨ noiƚɒƚƧ ƨuɿuƚɔɿA no ɘʞil ɘɿuƚɒɘɿɔ ɿɘʜƚonA

.ɿɒɘʇ ƨ’ʞɔimɿoƆɔM bɘƨuɒɔ ƚɒʜw wɒƨ ɘʜƨ ɘɿoʇɘd bnoɔɘƨ ɒ ɿoʇ ɘyɘ ɿɘʜ ƚʜǫuɒɔ ylno ƚɒʜƚ ,ɘƨɿuoɔ ʇO .woʜɘmoƨ ʇʇo ƨɒw ɘqɒʜƨ ɘʜƚ ƚud ,ɿɒnɒʜ ɒ ɘʞil ƚƨomlɒ ,ʜƨiʇyllɘႱ ƚnɒiǫ ɒ bɘldmɘƨɘɿ ylɘuǫɒv ƚI .ɘƨnɘƨ on ɘbɒm ǫniwɒɿb ɘʜT .ƚɒ ʞool oƚ ƚɿuʜ ƚƨomlɒ ƚɒʜƚ ɘɿuƚɒɘɿɔ ɘviƨƨɒm ʇo ƚɿoƨ ɘmoƨ bɘƚɔiqɘb ɘno ƨiʜT .lɒɿum ɿɘʜƚonɒ ƚɘy ƨɒw llɒw ɘʜƚ no ɘɿɘʜw ,mooɿ ƚxɘn ɘʜƚ oƚni bɘwolloʇ bɿɒqɘʜƧ

“This... isn’t... really... happening!” Andrea clutched her head and rubbed it. Whatever that was, it was unpleasant. She needed to get into that room after McCormick. She could have sworn she had actually gone in after the Private, but here she was, back in the room where the Prothean zombies had been. She’d heard him. Maybe that creature would still be there.

Andrea continued her way down the hall, which was far longer than she remembered in whatever that was. Where was McCormick? Torches continued burning along the way, so he must have come this way.

“McCormick!” Andrea cried out. Damn whatever heard her, the kid needed to be found. She activated her radio. “Damn it, McCormick, answer, please.”

“L-lieutenant! In here!” McCormick’s voice echoed through the radio and the hall, where she finally managed to reach the opening. Standing close to the entrance of the room was the Private, his body language indicating a little bit of fear.

“You okay, McCormick?” Andrea placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I saw...” McCormick shook his head for half a second before reaching up and retracting his helmet. He bent over, and released the contents of his stomach onto the stone floor. “Wasn’t real... it wasn’t real...”

“Your mind can play tricks on you with these things. It’s okay, Private.” Andrea attempted to comfort him. According to her navpoint tracker, the room with the Protheans in it should be about five hundred meters north-east of here, and coincidentally, the next exit to the room happened to go in that direction. However, something wasn’t right.

Andrea’s eyes flicked around the room. There was no Horror here, no magickal circle. Yet an aura of menace permeated the area. She switched from her shotgun to her pistol and took her hand off of McCormick’s shoulder. Something was there. She could feel it in her bones. The only feeling she could compare it to would be Virmire... Sovereign’s presence. It wasn’t a Reaper, but it felt just as bad. Just as wrong.

Then the giggling started. This was nothing that could be made by human vocal cords, nor was it of any alien species she knew. It echoed throughout the room and it began to shake. Dust fell from the ceiling, slowly at first, and the rumbling got faster, harder, louder. Then something burst upward from the ground in the center of the room. Not a thresher maw. The ground would still have had the hole in it, and the maw wouldn’t come out with its entire body. No, this thing came out, all one and a half stories of it, curled into a cannonball. It flipped in the air before unfurling itself.

The creature was humanoid save for the fact that it lacked a head and had six limbs, four of them arms. Green skin didn’t negate the humanoid descriptor, or asari would have lost it with their blue skin ages ago. The creature looked emaciated, probably from the lack of ability to feed itself properly, assuming it followed normal rules. Where its head would have been if the humanoid model were followed, was a floating, glowing green rune that Shepard recognized. Xel’lotath. Though the creature had no head, no visible face, she knew it could see her and McCormick. Its presence... It was unnatural. This thing should not exist, but it did.

Then it spoke. A gentle whisper contrasting its unnaturalness yet it somehow betrayed a sense of malice.

“These are the ones... who seek to do combat... with me?”
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Spica75 » Fri Aug 22, 2014 9:36 am

The mirrored text is REALLY annoying...
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:29 am

The mirrored text also has a point to it. It's a sanity effect. The game, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's requiem had several fourth wall breaking sanity effects.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Mon Sep 01, 2014 4:16 pm

Private Kenneth McCormick was not having a good day, and he felt he could at least partially blame it on the lieutenant he had been partnered with. Though Lieutenant Shepard seemed to be a good leader, she somehow managed to get him into a situation fighting unknown aliens and creatures that just didn’t make any sense whatsoever! If his friends from back home knew how he felt right now, they’d be making fun of him for being such a quivering mess.

First the Lieutenant was able to read what was apparently the Prothean language. He supposed he could excuse that, as apparently she actually could read it. Weird though it may have been, the Lieutenant could have studied it for a while and figured it out. She managed to get a nice map of the facility here. Of course, then there were those things that had caused the Lieutenant to disappear. That defied explanation. He supposed that they could have teleported the Lieutenant like in some Sci-Fi vids, but even then, it didn’t explain how something that was obviously biological managed to do it. Nor did it explain why they only did it after he’d called out to her.

At least those were easy to kill. The... well, he supposed they were zombies, but they didn’t go down nearly as easy as the ones Jones had described at the Arcturus attack. Zombies shouldn’t exist, but he’d played enough sims that used them as a viable target that he wasn’t fazed by them much at all. Sure, that one had gnawed on him a bit, but the hardsuit he was wearing protected him from the bulk of it. Really, the safest way to poke at the unknown was with the tip of a gun. If the Lieutenant hadn’t distracted him, he could have unloaded his clip into the zombie before it had even managed to grab him.

Then there was this room. He’d taken point only to stop when he’d reached this room. Something about it had set off all his warning bells. It wasn’t the torches on the wall, nor was it the fact that the walls themselves were bleeding. Horror vids, got to love how numb they made you to the most dangerous of things. No, something else set him tingling here, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it until after the Lieutenant got in here. He must have been feeling that.

The creature had come out of the ground without breaking it, passing through like a ghost. It made no sense, defied explanation. It lacked eyes, but it could see. It lacked a head, but the rune on it seemed to bore into his very soul. This was the source of his unease. This too big humanoid, this four-armed emaciated creature shouldn’t exist. No. Not only shouldn’t it exist, the whisper which clawed at his soul like nails on a chalkboard taunted him with its existence. He would shut it up. He just needed to let the Lieutenant know first. It was... the only way.

He looked to his gun and then to the creature. “Lieutenant, I’m going to shoot it.”

McCormick always spoke clearly. It wasn’t his fault that nobody else seemed to hear him. They just needed to listen. When he was given no orders to the contrary, he aimed at the two-story tall floating thing’s torso and fired. It was a big target, so full-auto was appropriate. He kept firing. The benefit to using this ammunition system is that it was really difficult to run out of ammo. The gun would have to overheat multiple times before there even became a chance of that happening, and typically if your gun overheated, whatever you were shooting at would be close to dead.

McCormick’s gun stopped firing as it overheated, and he looked up. The creature seemed unfazed by where he was shooting. He thought he heard the Lieutenant questioning what he was doing, maybe even ordering him to cease fire, but as he stared at that rune that was above the creature’s torso, everything else faded. The only thing he could focus on was the extreme pressure in his skull. Throbbing, building, green leaked into his vision, and he could see. It was massive. An eye would be the size of the Mako itself, and there were three of them. What kind of creature was this... this Xel’lotath? What sort of abomination to God and the Universe dared to spit upon all of its sanity? It was enough to drive one mad as a hatter, and this unholy beast saw him. Judged him. Tore at his mind as the pressure continued to build.

They were doomed. There was nothing to be done; she would win. But one thing he now knew with certainty. He wouldn’t be around to see it.

He spoke his last words clearly. “Lieutenant... The Darkness comes... and it will damn us all!”

His head pulsed with pain one last time as it exploded off of his body.

***********************

“My God...” Shepard had seen a lot of death during the Reaper War. People were stabbed through the gut by banshee claws; they had gotten slammed to death by brutes; they’d been shot through various different ways; they’d also been killed by biotics, but never had she seen someone die by their head spontaneously exploding. It just didn’t happen. The gore of it exploded so quickly that it triggered her kinetic barriers, keeping her clean, but still. It just wasn’t right. It definitely wasn’t natural, and since she hadn’t done it, the only possible thing that could have was in front of her. “You killed McCormick. I don’t know how, but you killed him, bastard!”

It would be so easy to just pull out her own gun and shoot the thing, but McCormick’s own efforts showed her what folly it was. There was no easy way that she’d be able to get the marine’s body out of here without dying. Not if this thing wanted her dead. What it did seemed more than effortless.

“Your companion was a weak-minded fool. Unlike you... Andrea Shepard.” The creature’s whisper caused her to shiver. It somehow was simultaneously gentle and malicious. “You who have faced the Leviathans, who have faced the Reapers, and your mind remains strong! Yes. Unlike your companion, you are no weak-willed pawn, but still you remain a pawn of greater powers than your own.”

This was at least partially new. The Leviathan had only managed to get surface thoughts off of her as she encountered it. It projected itself into her mind so that it could talk, and she managed to convince it to fight the Reapers. This... thing... whatever it was... was getting far more than just her surface thoughts.

“What are you?” If it was in a talking mood rather than a killing mood, that was a good sign. She needed to figure a way out of this as she couldn’t beat an enemy she was unprepared for.

“I have been called many names in my service to my mistress, Xel’lotath. But the most important is Greater Guardian.” That was interesting. She wasn’t exactly sure how relevant it actually was, but it certainly was interesting. “You as well have been called many names, Hero of the Blitz. Savior of the Citadel. Prophetess of the Reapers.... Or is that perhaps what you will be called?”

Andrea narrowed her eyes. “Stay out of my head. What exactly is it that you are guarding?”

That laughter filled the room again. The odd mixture of child-like and psychopathic glee sent shivers down her spine. This thing killed McCormick, and it could easily do the same to her. She needed to be careful on how she pushed. “Nothing that need concern you, Chosen of Mantorok.”

Shepard’s hand went to her shotgun, but she knew that this wouldn’t quite work. Something more was needed to beat this thing. Perhaps the Mako’s cannon would do the trick. “Why bother talking to me? Why not just kill me like McCormick?”

“Because you still may yet be of use to my mistress.” The creature spun about in the air, gesturing with its lower set of arms. “I have been ordered to extend to you an offer. Renounce Mantorok and swear fealty to the true ruler of the galaxy, Xel’lotath. You will be granted magickal power beyond your wildest dreams, and your rule will be second only to my mistress.”

Wait, what? This seemed off. Andrea didn’t know nearly enough about Xel’lotath to make any sort of decision on this kind of thing, but what little she did know was that she probably didn’t want what the creature was selling. “And if I refuse?”

“Then you will be treated as an enemy of my mistress, with all that entails.” The Greater Guardian gestured with its upper hand again. “But today shall not be your day of decision. When next we meet, I will have it. Before I leave you, I shall give you one gift.”

A circle of green runes appeared around Andrea at that statement. Seven of them were there, four identical, the remaining three were not. Narokath. Pargon. Pargon. Santak. Pargon. Xel’lotath. Pargon. When the last rune lit up, Andrea felt a weight lift from her mind. Something about that restored some of her sense of self. Even the war weariness seemed to be less of a burden now. “Thank you...”

Never hurt to be polite.

“A mere taste of my mistress’s offerings to you, Andrea Shepard. Until we meet again.” The Greater Guardian curled itself into a ball and rapidly spun in place before changing into a glowing green ball of light. The light shot up and out of the room, leaving Andrea alone with the headless corpse of Kenneth McCormick.
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Re: [Mass Effect/Eternal Darkness] The Problem of the Ancien

Postby Sailor Sedai (Ellf) » Tue Dec 16, 2014 12:03 am

Well, I felt that the last two scenes were due a small rewrite as I kinda got stuck on starting the scene after it so here:
Nothing about today made sense. Nothing about today was right. Private Kenneth McCormick could feel himself shaking in his armor as he pushed through the complex. No, today was definitely not one of his better days. This Lieutenant Shepard, supposedly an N7, an N-fucking-7, was who he was serving under and he couldn’t manage to conduct himself in such a way to impress her. The elite of the elite had him, and he couldn’t hold himself together for two damn seconds to keep things from happening.

Of course, given the situation, he really couldn’t blame himself, no matter what his friends back home would say. Sure, the day started out alright. The Lieutenant had let him man the turret on the Mako, not that he or Jones were expecting her to drive how she did. Holy shit, he thought he was going to die multiple times even before the ground collapsed, but when it did, the Lieutenant knocked herself out using biotics to save them. He didn’t think it was even possible for a human to be as strong a biotic as Shepard appeared to be.

The woman appeared to be full of surprises as they’d landed in a Prothean complex, and she was able to actually read the language. That set off some internal warning bells, but by the time the two of them had managed to get to where Shepard was reading it, they’d become trapped. He supposed that she actually could read it as she’d managed to obtain a map from the somehow still active Prothean operating system. Of course, the map didn’t include the part of the complex that they were in. Of course it didn’t, that would make things easy, and Heaven knew, he couldn’t stand when things were easy.

He didn’t know much about Protheans, but he was pretty sure that they were more advanced than some sort of ancient people painting frescoes about sentient sacrifice. Feed the creature and it will leave you be for a bit, he supposed, but what exactly were those murals about? Were they about those... those... things? The things that were walking around in that room? Scorpions didn’t get that huge, and they didn’t explode causing someone to disappear. There was no earthly explanation for what he saw; God, he needed to just get drunk off his ass and damn the consequences. Too bad he didn’t have that luxury now.

As if teleportation scorpions weren’t enough, there were the zombies. He was sure that R&D would call them some scientific name, but they were moving corpses, blood-red and animated by an unseen force. Some even had biotics. It wasn’t right. Fighting them wasn’t like the sims. A headshot didn’t take them down, but enough shots did. He certainly was in the right about prodding what he thought were corpses with the tip of his gun. It was the safest way. The gun couldn’t be fired at him that way, and he’d be able to shoot at a moment’s notice. Of course, then the Lieutenant had to distract him with her sexy voice, so he was unable to unload as much as he could into the zombie before it grabbed him. Damn thing had a tight grip. If he wasn’t wearing a hardsuit, he’d probably have been in much worse shape.

Even he had to admit that the Lieutenant seemed better collected during that fight than he was, but that wasn’t saying much as she’d pretty much spaced out afterward. He’d decided that if the Lieutenant was going to be like that, he’d take point and head down the hallway. He only stopped when he arrived in this room to wait for the Lieutenant. It in no way had anything to do with the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. No, he was perfectly fine when he entered the room; he was absolutely certain.

Of course that all changed when the Lieutenant got there. Something set his hackles on edge, and while it wasn’t Shepard, it started as soon as she entered. Of this, he was certain. He’d scanned the room for threats, and then it appeared. The giggling announced its presence even before it showed itself. The inhuman sound resonated in his skull, laughing, tearing. It bounced, throbbed, and the room shook as the giggling had continued.

It revealed itself... the monstrosity. It defied reality. It defied every single bit of biology lessons drilled into his head since grade school, and it defied physics even. All the while it continued its giggling. But there was no head! No mouth! Where the head should be was a floating marking, no a rune! A rune hovered over its mouth, and its giggling continued even as it spoke. That harsh whisper that carried hints of madness as it clawed at his soul. Nails on a chalkboard, but the infernal giggling hadn’t stopped. It needed to be stopped.

He pulled out his sidearm. It was the only way. The creature was the source and the giggling would stop. It would. All he had to do was shoot it dead. Eliminate the source, and the giggling would stop! Yes, that was all. He’d give the Lieutenant some warning. She needed to know. The plan was so simple, it was almost funny.

“Lieutenant,” He chuckled. No he didn’t. “Lieutenant... I’m going to shoot it.” He chortled. No he didn’t. That was the giggling. He needed to stop it. He just needed to shoot. “I’m going to shoot it now.” He snorted. No he didn’t.

What he did do was fire his damn gun at the abominable source of the giggling that continued its assault on his brain. What he meant to do to that damn zombie that tried to take a chunk out of him, he did here. Fire until he couldn’t fire anymore due to overheating. When his pistol started to overheat, he laughed. No he didn’t. He switched to his assault rifle and unloaded another set of rounds until it too overheated. He opened his eyes after that last volley, and the creature stood there, unharmed by his attack... and the giggling was louder. It was manlier.

Heaven help him, he was giggling. He couldn’t help it; the situation was just so funny. He had no hope in facing this thing down. It was hopeless and that was funny. It was impossible and that was hilarious. The Mistress of Madness would take his mind... would take the mind of the Universe, and it would be handed to her on a silver platter! The humor in that was palpable. He needed to tell Shepard. The Lieutenant would get the joke. He was certain of it. She seemed like the type.

He switched to his sidearm again and turned to the Lieutenant. “Lieutenant...” He giggled, oh yes he did. “Lieutenant... the Darkness is coming...” Another giggle, yes, and the barrel against a head. “It’s coming and it will damn us all!”

A squeezed trigger. The best jokes are the ones that end with a bang.

********************************8

No. Shepard had seen more than her share of death during the Reaper War, and even before it. She’d even seen suicide before. No. Hell, she’d inadvertently talked a couple people into suicide before, but that was a result of fighting off indoctrination. Fighting off the Reapers’ influence, allowing one self to be free for that final second, that, she’d seen before, but this? Hell no. This was in no way the same thing. This wasn’t Reaper indoctrination, but it wasn’t unlike it. Whatever that thing was, it got into McCormick’s head, and it killed him. It pulled the trigger. “My God...”

Shepard turned her attention toward the creature, raising her shotgun toward it. Sure, it probably wouldn’t do more than sting it, but she had to do something to distract it so she could get away and figure out a way to kill it. “You killed him, you bastard. You’re the reason McCormick’s dead.”

“Kenneth McCormick was a weak-minded fool. Very much unlike yourself... Andrea Shepard...” Its whisper drove a chill down her spine, almost as if it were caressing her core. She stepped back slightly, so she could get a better angle on it. “You, who have faced the Leviathans, you, who have faced the Reapers, yet your mind remains strong! You are untainted by the corruption of the usurpers! You are no weak-willed pawn, but you do the will of greater powers than your own.”

Untainted? Well, she supposed she wasn’t indoctrinated, not for lack of trying on the part of the Reapers. Still, somehow this creature knew. The Leviathans may have gotten her surface thoughts, but this... thing... whatever it was, it got something more... something deeper... She needed more intel. She didn’t have time to grieve the loss of a Private whom she’d just met this morning.

“What are you?” Commander Shepard stalling tactic number one: get the enemy to speak about itself. Perhaps it would work, perhaps it wouldn’t, but most unfathomable enemies loved the sound of their own voice. Even the Illusive Man wasn’t immune to that one. If it wanted to kill her, she was certain that she’d already be dead at this point, so it was best to get it talking before it remembered.

“I have been called many names in my service to my mistress, Xel’lotath. But the most important is Greater Guardian.” Xel’lotath... she’d heard that name before... That spell from earlier... It was aligned with Xel’lotath. This creature worked for whatever powered the spell. “And you too have been called by a number of names.... Hero of the Blitz... Savior of the Citadel... Prophetess of the Reapers... Though perhaps that last one is a future name.”

That last bit wasn’t helpful, but she wasn’t going to show weakness to the enemy. “With that sort of name, I’d assume that you actually guard something. Is it this complex?”

Never mind the why; Shepard wanted to know the what, the where, the how, and the when. The why would only matter if the what and where weren’t objectively bad. The Reapers may have been created to stop organics and synthetics from warring, but the methods they used were not only abominable, they were untenable. They refused to allow for something outside their paradigm.

The creature seemed to stare down at her from its position floating in the center of the room. If Shepard knew how the creature saw, she could easily say that it was staring at her, but she could only approximate at the moment. Then the creature’s laughter filled the room. The mixture of child-like and psychopathic glee was certain to give her nightmares. She couldn’t let it get to her, not the way it did McCormick.

“What I guard is none of your concern for the moment, chosen of Mantorok.” The whisper seemed almost taunting at this point. It made Shepard wish she had a bigger gun. Maybe the Mako’s cannon would work... or perhaps a Thanix Cannon.... but she didn’t have the Normandy.

“If it’s not this complex, why show up here? Why bother killing McCormick and not me?” Shepard regretted those words the moment they left her mouth. Good job reminding the eldritch abomination that it didn’t kill her yet. Maybe her luck would hold out and it wouldn’t decide to kill her. Or maybe she’d die and join Thane in the beyond. Either way, the words were out there, a challenge floating to the giant.

“Because you may still be of some use to my mistress, Andrea Shepard, my hands have strayed from you this day.” The creature did a flip in the air before gesturing to her with its lower set of arms. “I have been ordered to extend to you an offer, one which no mortal has been given for more than two thousand years. Renounce Mantorok, swear fealty to the true ruler of the galaxy, Xel’lotath, and you will be granted power beyond your wildest imagination. Together with my mistress, you will crush this galaxy underfoot, drive its heretics from their hiding places, and all who dare oppose you will surely perish.”

Okay, that was unexpected, but it didn’t seem all too different from what Harbinger seemed to want from her. Xel’lotath wanted her to be its Saren, from what she could tell, but she was too loyal to the Alliance to do something that would threaten it like that. No, from how the Guardian was speaking, it would have been more than that. She would not herald a force in like the Reapers... but if this thing could read her mind, it already knew her decision. “And if I refuse?”

The Guardian laughed again, only with a little more psychopathic bent to it this time. “Then you and I shall meet on the battlefield as enemies, Andrea Shepard, and I shall treat you as I have ever treated enemies of my mistress.” It paused for a moment and gestured with its upper set of arms. “But you need not decide today. When we next meet, I will have your decision, but before we part, I will leave you with a gift. ”

Seven runes appeared around Shepard at that moment, green ones that lit up in order. This was similar to the spell she’d cast earlier, save that she only recognized one of the runes, the same one that adorned the Guardian’s head space.

Narokath. Pargon. Pargon. Santak. Pargon. Xel’lotath. Pargon.

As the last rune lit up, Shepard felt different... as if a weight had been lifted from her mind. She felt more like the woman she was before she started fighting the Reapers, before she saw the child die on that shuttle... before she destroyed that Relay. It wasn’t that the memories went away, but she felt as if she were better equipped to deal with them than before. As if the stress from them had just been lifted from her mind, and she could handle it better.

Turning her head upward so she could look at the Guardian once more, she spoke. “That... spell, what... what was it?”

“A mere taste of what my mistress offers you, Andrea Shepard, that is all. We will meet again.” The Greater Guardian laughed once more, causing Andrea to tighten her grip on her shotgun. It then curled into a ball before transforming into a ball of glowing green light. The light ball then shot upward toward the ceiling of the room, passing through it and possibly beyond. Shepard doubted that such a creature obeyed the laws of physics.

She looked down at the corpse of Kenneth McCormick. There was no way she’d be able to drag him to the surface and be able to fight off whatever else this hellhole had. She reached down and removed the helmet from his suit, revealing a beautiful head of blond hair, cut short and caked with blood out the back. She reached down around his neck to retrieve his dog tags.

Standing, Shepard started toward the only other exit to the room that she hadn’t come through. “Jones, can you read me? McCormick’s down. He... He didn’t make it. Self-inflicted gunshot wound... I’m going to press on and see what I can find. There has to be a way out. I’ll try and reestablish contact in ten minutes.”

Shepard took one last look at the corpse before exiting the room.
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