Mass Effect: New Thadus
Calm After the Storm
The dark was suffocating. Even tucked safely within her enviro-suit with its built in oxygen tank, Raala found it very difficult to breathe. She couldn’t move. Sand cemented her in place. Raala closed her eyes and listened to the sound of her labored breathing. Being a quarian meant that she was trapped within a beautiful sophisticated prison. The weakened immune system of her people may have ended up saving her life.
Raala’s mind wandered. She thought of the Migrant Fleet, her home. Her family congratulating her as they sent her off on her Pilgrimage, her passage to adulthood. There were many tears and hugs as they released her into a war-torn galaxy.
She wandered forward to the message she received just a few days ago: Return to the fleet immediately. The Pilgrimage is postponed. We plan to take back the Homeworld.
Rannoch. An image of the planet formed in Raala’s mind. The planet that her ancestors had lost when the geth, the networked artificial intelligence laborers, rose up in protest. A war broke out across the planet; organic against synthetic. In the end, the geth had the upper hand driving the native quarians from their planet. For the next three hindered years, they were forced to wander the stars.
That was what she felt like as she lay in the dark. Wandering. A glimpse of a terrible monster filled her head. Glowing beasts rampaged through her mind. It was becoming difficult to know what was around her, where her place was in the world. Her mind was floating between spaces.
Suddenly, she jumped.
At first she was unsure why but she continued to listen. In the distance, there was the sound of sand moving. Paws dug quickly into the sand, scraping it away and reviling the quarian tinted helmet mask.
The sudden brightness caused her to wince. She narrowed her eyes to the sun. A raspy tongue of a varren licked her visor. It was a large dog-like creature with large fangs. The varren was mostly off white in color with faded blue stripes running perpendicular down its dorsal side. It’s blue glassy eyes looked down at her as its pink forked tongue lolled to one side of its opened panting mouth.
Behind it, the black and silver AI unit looked down at Raala. Miru petted the warren on the head, “Excellent excavation work, Urz.”
The varren made a noise that only somewhat resembled a bark. The AI unit began to brush away more sand from Raala’s face and started exposing more of the quarians body. After some time, Miru pulled Raala to her feet and out of the sand trap.
“Keelah se’lai! I though I was a—” as Raala struggled to maintain her balance she felt the sand shift behind her. She looked over her shoulder.
A massive mound of sand began to move and stand upright. As the sand fell away a red synthetic being stood before her. It made a few electronic stuttering sounds before looking down at the quarian. Standing at least seven feet high, Raala had to crane her neck to look into its single glowing photoreceptor.
It was a geth.
Instinctively, Raala took a step back. To be fair, it was a juggernaut standing there. Regular geth usually only stood at around five feet or so. The shutter around its photoreceptor closed slightly as it adjusted to the light. After a moment, it bowed its head slightly.
“Are you alright Creator-Val?” the towering geth questioned.
Raala backed away, “Stay away from me, flashlight head!” She nearly ran into Miru. Fortunately, the second synthetic moved effortlessly out of the way.
“I recommend checking your suit for any ruptures. Immediate medical attention might be required. I am aptly familiar with quarian physiology if you require any assistance,” the walking AI offered.
Raala glanced at her but said nothing. She turned to the others standing a good distance away. One of them was a human female, a massive sniper rifle strapped to her back. She was clothed in black skintight armor accented with bright red. The most striking about her was her helmet. Her face was hidden behind a menacing mask. A red hourglass adorned her forehead, standing out against the black surface.
Round red eyes stared back at the quarian, unblinking and emotionless. On the lower half of her face, changed from black to red. Four black lines ran from her nose down to her chin like the legs of a spiders. On either cheek was a grey and black colored rebreather. Even from this distance, Raala could hear her heavy breathing from behind the human’s helmet.
Next to her was a krogan. The massive seven-foot beast stood with a giant war hammer propped on his shoulder. His frontal plate was colored jet black matching his dark grey armor. He walked confidently with his weapon. The warren followed him affectionately, ever to please its master.
“Where are the others?” Raala looked around.
Miru was the one who responded, “We have yet to locate them.”
Raala shot her gaze to the direction shew last saw the turian. She broke into a run, climbing up the large sand dune. She slid down the other side and dropped to her knees. Frantically, she started digging. Unlike herself, the others didn’t have the luxury of an environmental suit.
The others followed behind cresting the dune. The krogan barely seemed interested in the scene before him. He let his hammer fall with a thud into the sand beside the barren. It was impossible to tell what the human was thinking. The two synthetics slid down the sand wall. At the bottom, the geth stayed back, watching from a distance as Miru ran to Raala’s side. Together, they dug.
Several minutes passed by and they yet had to find any trace of the two remaining survivors. Just when Raala was about to give up, she touched something organic. A hand. Startled, she looked up at Miru. The synthetic continued digging, exposing a forearm. Soon they pulled out the turian.
Her creamy complexion of browns, greys and whites almost mirrored the sand she had been buried in. As a female, she lacked the crest of horns associated with the males of her species but it didn’t take away from her appearance. She looked at the quarian with piercing green eyes. They looked like gems nestled in rock. Her eyes matched her armor, shades of green and black. Though she lacked the facial tattoos of her people, she reminded Raala of a beetle, beautiful yet well protected, even deadly.
Amazingly, she had managed to catch, tackle and detain her target through a raging sand storm. As Miru dug out the turians companion, Raala got a better look at the turian’s captive.
It was an asari. Though it was unlike any asari she had ever seen.
Most asari were either purple or blue but the asari before her seemed to change colors. Her face was almost a teal color and changed to a shimmering blue around her scalp. The tips of her scalp and fingers were more purple in color. She seemed to change colors depending on where the sun hit her. Around her eyes a black pigmentation acted as a kind of natural eyeshadow. She had speckles for eyebrows. Each dot perfectly in place. Her full lips were a darker pigmentation with a lighter streak down her lower lip.
Like most asari, she was scandal dressed. She wore a sleeveless high collar one piece suit, the plunging neckline going down to just above her stomach. Fingerless leather gloves decorated her forearms. The only strange thing was the metal electronic collar around her neck.
The turian pulled her out of the sand. As soon as the asari was on her feet, she pushed her captor away and started running in four inch heels. Aggravated, the turian looked down at her arm. An orange hologram interface appeared around her forearm. She typed a few buttons on her omni-tool and waited.
The asari barely got away before she cried out in agony, grasping at her neck and falling in the sand. Her body lay unmoving.
“What did you do to her!?” Raala asked.
“Her vital signs imply that she is simply unconscious,” Miru stated.
The turian sighed, muttering quietly, “I guess there was no time for explanations before the ship was attached.” She glanced quickly at the others as they approached. Straightening herself, she assumed a military stance with her feet apart and her hands behind her back, “Vicia Bellanis; turian military; Cabal. I suppose introductions are in order.”
“What? You don’t just electrocute people all the time?” the krogan’s deep voice resonated.
Vicia looked at him, “And you are?”
“Aint any of your business,” the krogan grunted.
“So you want me to call you ‘krogan’ the entire time we’re on this planet?” Vicia stared down the larger krogan. She met his gaze and held it, unflinching.
After a few moments, the krogan crossed his arms, “Names Vurtak, Turian.” He nodded toward the unconscious asari, “Who’s the inmate? The shock collar is a dead giveaway.”
Vicia glanced at the asari, “Her name is Naryxea. I was charged with transporting her to a secure location for interrogation.”
“Glad to see that the turians have their priorities straight during a galactic war,” Vurtak chuckled.
Vicia’s body stiffened. It was hard to tell if she was angry or furious, “This prisoner is an Ardat-Yakshi. She has a rare genetic condition that causes her nervous system to completely overpowers her target, often causing death. Each time she kills she gets stronger and deadlier. Worst of all? It’s very addicting. The Reapers are attacking designated monasteries for confining Ardat-Yakshi and converting them into Banshees to use against us. Against my homeworld, Palaven.”
Vurtak sneered, “You found her in a monastery? Looks like you dragged her out of a strip club if you ask me.”
“The Citadel,” Vicia answered, “Citadel Security detained her when she tried to sneak in with some of the refugees. The Human Alliance wanted her transported to a secure facility where the Reapers wouldn’t find her. One less Banshee loose.”
Vurtak leaned in, “There’s something you aren’t telling.”
“So what if I am?” Vicia took a step toward the krogan. Claws extended from her gauntlets, “It isn’t necessary for our current mission: our survival!”
“I’d like to be the judge of that!” Vurtak raised his voice.
Miru calmly entered the conversation, “If there are to be introductions, I am an unshackled Alliance Artificial Intelligence Medical Infiltration and Reconnaissance Unit or MIRU. I am accompanied by my handler, Widow. Pardon her silence, she isn’t fond of speaking much. It is a pleasure to meet all of you.”
“An unshackled AI?” Raala backed away. “That’s even worse than I thought. AI’s are never any good. Just look what the geth did to my people.”
Vurtak narrowed his eyes at Raala, “You did that to yourself. What did you think would happen making AI slaves, Quarian?”
“My name is Raala’Val nar Xaaleya not quarian!” Raala stood up for herself, “My people have payed dearly for our mistake, losing our homeworld. It does not make the geth or any other AI more trustworthy.”
The juggernaut turned its head toward the conversation. In a low electronic garbled voice, it spoke, “This unit has no intention of causing you harm, Creator-Val, or anyone else present.”
Raala waved off the geth and addressed the others, “Each geth is part of a neural network. They share information and processing with other geth in the area. The more there are, the smarter they are. A single geth should only be able to function on basic instincts. But look at it! It can reason and make decisions when it shouldn’t be able to! You should all be afraid. It could choose to turn on us at any moment!”
The other organics looked at the geth. Small flaps on its head moved slightly as if it were deep in thought before deciding to answer, “This unit is Geth Heavy Infantry Mobile Platform 87b-224x-001a.”
Vicia raised an eyebrow, “Mobile platform?”
The geth nodded, “After Shepard-Commander destroyed the collector base, our first Mobile Platform known as Legion returned to us. It reported of the imminent approach of the Reapers. As a whole, we decided to construct more. Mobile Platforms are capable of functioning intellectually on their own with more than 10 times the geth programs of a standard geth platform.” A compartment opened in its back and a long antenna extended upward, “If necessary, this unit can access several server hubs if in need of additional guidance or assistance. However, we have been unable to make contact.”
Vicia asked, “What is your name?”
“This unit has been given the label Consensus for the easy use of organics,” the geth replied.
“I still don’t trust it,” Raala anxiously shifted her weight.
Vicia turned to her, “It doesn’t matter.” She moved to include the others, “We’re all going to have to trust each other if we’re going to get out of this alive. Look around. After the ship was attacked and the escape pods were jettisoned, we ended up crash landing on an unknown planet with no immediate way to get back home. The escape pod is extensively damaged. Last I saw, the emergency beacon and the onboard VI engulfed in flames. And landing in the middle of a battle field only made things worse. I doubt that there’s anything salvageable left but it’s worth a shot.”
“What did you have in mind?” Miru asked, head tilted to inside. The human, Widow, stood beside her silently. Her unblinking eyes staring, taking everything in.
Vicia took charge, “We’ll go back, see if we can salvage anything then we’ll need to find some kind of civilization. There was a war in the area, that means there are people on this planet. We just have to hope we meet the right ones.”
“Now, who put you in charge?” Vurtak narrowed his eyes.
The turian placed her hands on her hips, “In charge? I’m making sure we all survive! If that counts as taking charge than I guess, I put myself in charge.”
Vurtak laughed, “I wouldn’t follow a turian if you were the last race in the galaxy.”
Vicia shrugged, “Then don’t. Feel free to wander around the desert by yourself.” She pointed at the geth, “Grab the asari, we’re heading off to the escape pod for supplies.”
Alone, Vicia marched off into the direction of the crashed pod and buried battle field. Reluctantly, Consensus did as it was instruction. It sauntered up to the unconscious asari and picked her up. Consensus threw her over its shoulder and followed after Vicia. Miru and Widow briefly looked at each other. The human was the first to walk after others with
Miru following obediently behind.
Raala looked up at the krogan. His hammer was propped on his shoulder and his varren, Urz, sat calmly at his feet. She quickly looked out over the desert expanse. By herself, she had no chance. Raala sighed. She ran after the others, not wanting to be left behind.
At the top of the hill she turned around. Vurtak slowly stomped after her as the varren ran past Raala and romped up to Miru. Apparently, the war beast had grown attached to the synthetic.
The unlikely group of eight walked together through the desert, searching for way to contact home.