Monday, February 20, 2017
Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Steel Hearts
After an admittedly rocky start with my cell mate, things started falling into a routine.Meals in the mess hall were standard, although the ongoing harassment wasn't. Inspections of our cell for contraband were just erratic enough to dissuade any wannabe pusher. Yes, even on a space station with no internet access, people still somehow found a way to get stuff from the outside world.
But of course the crown jewel was the rec field. Technically it was an open area in the center of Purgatory station and it was more akin to a gym than anything else, comes with the territory of being a giant flying metal box full of tough hardened criminals. But it wasn't just the opportunity to work out that made it enjoyable for me. It was the grand power of the rumor mill.
Word travels fast and echo chambers are amplified when you're in isolation, so I used that to my advantage. Letting word spread that I came close to assassinating a Spectre and lived to tell the tale. Making it frighteningly clear I was a ghost, beholden to no organization with no skeletons in my closet to be used against me. But above all, playing up just how well-informed I am. I'm a nice guy all told, but prison rules have to be observed.
It only took about two weeks before I became a full blown demon in the eyes of the small fry. Jack was clearly impressed but wasn't going to say anything. She made it clear we weren't friends, but it was always fun to see certain inmates go pale as sheets when they realized how casual we were about being cell mates.
It was after about six months or so that I finally asked Jack a difficult question: asking her for help with utilizing my biotics. I got the usual backhanded comments for asking. Asari are naturally gifted with biotics, no implants required, not to mention it's directly tied to their version of the birds and the bees. I might as well have been a fish asking a scuba diver for better swimming lessons in her eyes. Nonetheless, it seems that our mutual situation, rising friendship, or Stockholm Syndrome – has to be one of those three, lead to her giving me some discreet lessons. They were at night, away from the prying eyes of the patrol guards, and they were slow.
The good news is I was a fast learner. The bad news is Jack's teaching methods facilitated a very... dangerous way of thinking. Thanks in no small part to her dark past. She was the result of a highly unethical series of experiments done on a discreet training facility on the planet Pragia, all to create the ultimate biotic warrior. Experimenting on children, performing horrible surgeries, forcing the experiments to fight to the death, rewarding the winner with narcotic drugs and other positive reinforcement to equate sadistic action with pleasure. All performed by a human supremacist group called Cerberus, a bunch of radical ex-Alliance types that believed humanity had to become the top of the galactic food chain at all costs. She was their success. And she escaped, turned pirate, and became the gold standard of the crazy chick that will literally blast you to pieces if you looked at her funny. As such, learning to use a telekinetic throw or distortion field to “rip the bastard apart” had to become more clinical and detached, for my own sanity.
This was life for a solid two years or so. Training from Jack, becoming a boogeyman to the criminal underworld, bulking up, food, bed, repeat. Now it was just a matter of things playing out the way I expected. Saren using the knowledge he obtained about the Reapers, a sentient machine race that wiped out all organic life thousands of years ago, to control and utilize another machine race called the Geth into attacking human colonies. All to look for an ancient artifact called the Conduit. Using it would summon the Reapers back from their deep slumber in dark space so they can wipe out all life in the galaxy again. He's convinced that aiding their slaughter will spare him, sad really. But the actions of one Commander Shepard and his crew will thwart him, ending in a battle at the Citadel with Saren's death and the destruction of Sovereign, the Reaper he was using as a flagship. Then once the dust settled I'd get myself an early release from the Council for attempting to warn then, cutting down my two century sentence pretty low.
I was forced awake by a defiant curveball at that future. The lights were all out, alarms were blaring, and everything was awash in a deep shade of red. Jack was gone. The door was open, and there were the sounds of a massacre.
And I have an orange jumpsuit and some basic biotic training.
I ran towards the conflict, looking for Jack. If she died to whatever was attacking Purgatory Station, it might mean trouble down the line. I bumped into other prisoners along the way, all of various alien races like the six-eyed Batarians or the large lizard-like hulks that were Krogans, all taking advantage of the ensuing pandemonium to attack or attempt to escape. Thankfully, no one bothered to pick up a pistol left behind by a dead Blue Suns guard near me, so I took the opportunity to arm myself and get a better look around.
Purgatory Station was in chaos. Prisoners were attacking each other. Fires were breaking out. There were the signs of a dogfight happening outside the windows, the impacts of exploding ships vibrating and rocking the space station. As for the guards, they were all teaming up against the invaders. A collection of tall metallic horrors with flashlights for faces and deadly plasma weapons grafted into their hardware. Speak of the devil.
The Blue Suns didn't last long against the Geth attackers. Superior numbers certainly helped the synthetics' tactics but it was the fact that the prisoners were stabbing them in the back at every opportunity. They seemed to have entered through the docking station, probably stowed away on a smaller shuttle then called in reinforcements after their initial stab at security.
I finally drew my attention away from the Geth assault and found Jack. She was being hauled away by several other Blue Suns members and a Batarian inmate across the cell block. I broke off in a dead sprint trying to reach her as her captors moved her off into a slightly larger cell. I had a feeling what was going to come, and I had to stop it if I was going to get off this station alive.
Then because the universe loves to take a dump in my Easter basket, I heard the head of the Geth assault broadcast to the entire station.
“Attention inmates and guards of Purgatory Station. Bring us the Asari known as Variza T'Som, dead or alive and you shall be rewarded with your freedom. Resistance will be met with lethal force.”
It was a pre-recorded message. In Saren's voice. And the three inmates in front of me heard it. Joy.
I pointed my pistol at them and yelled, “Either get out of my way or say your prayers now you pieces of garbage!” The grand benefit of being seen as a literal demon is you can threaten someone's life with no gun training at all. They took off in the opposite direction. Thankfully for me, those inmates were human, best not to stick around to see if everyone else has the same amount of common sense.
I doubled my pace and made it the cell Jack was put in. I suddenly wish that I hadn't. The Batarian was in the middle of a monologue about how the clearly paralyzed Jack messed up some operation he was doing out in the Terminus Systems – the area of space for outlaws and criminals. I got there just in time for him to say something about how this will be a fitting punishment, as the guards started to undress and cut off her outfit. With the Batarian holding a pistol to her head. Since it was such a great trend and I wanted to be popular, I did the same with my pistol to his.
“I'm only going to say this once. Back away, all of you.” I demanded, pushing the pistol into the Batarian's temple. I also readied myself some biotic power in my free hand in case any of the Blue Suns thought they could flank me.
The Batarian rolled his eyes and responded, “And of course you show up. Let me guess, one of you owes the other something?”
“That's for our ears only once you guys are gone,” I responded, “besides, should you guys be worried about the Geth attack?”
“Why should I be? They're here for you.” He retorted with a smug grin.
“If you believe that I have a bridge in New York to sell you,”
Before the Batarian could even parse out my human turn of phrase I unleashed my biotic power as a telekinetic wave, coming in low but at a high angle. It knocked the Batarian and the Blue Suns mercs into the ceiling and wall of the cell. Fun bonus, since all of them were basically out of their armor and with the newtons of force I put behind this throw, they were knocked out instantly.
I dropped to one knee out of exhaustion. That was a lot of power and I still haven't fully developed my endurance yet. I took the Batarian's other pistol and went to Jack. While doing what I could to cover her bare body with the remains of her suit I started talking as fast as I could.
“Jack, can you move?”
She slowly nodded no.
Seeing how I had very little fabric to work with I ripped the sleeves off of my own jumpsuit for a makeshift bra and started wrapping it around her top while retying the bottom of the suit.
“Great. Now what am I supposed to do? I won't make it out of here alone, especially if I'm carrying you with me.”
“Antitoxin... in his pocket...” Jack managed to slur.
I put my second pistol down and looked through the discarded armor of The Blue Suns. After some digging I found a small injector written in some language on it. I held it up to Jack, she nodded yes, to which I stabbed it into her neck.
The reaction was almost instantaneous. She jumped off the bed and started kicking her would-be attackers in the crotch, yelling obscenities the entire way. While that was going on I tried throwing on one of the Blue Suns sets of armor, an appropriately blue-colored affair with a white sun emblem on the shoulders. It was clearly made for a human male which lead to some chafing but as long as I moved carefully I should be fine. Once Jack was done venting her frustration I handed her a pistol and pointed to the other suit of armor.
“Come on, we have to go.”
After some exasperated panting, Jack started to slip into the Blue Suns' armor and responded, “This doesn't change anything, blue,” she turned to me and managed a genuine smile before slipping on the helmet, “but thanks.”
She then turned her pistol on the unconscious group in the cell. I quickly knocked her hand away as it let off a shot. She stared at me with a fierce gaze, even through the opaque visor of a helmet she was scary.
“What the hell was that for, Variza!? You know damn well what they planned to do to me! They deserve to die!”
“We have more important things to do, like taking that shuttle the Geth came in! Hurry, before they figure out these disguises.”
Jack clearly wanted her fix of karmic justice and conditioned pleasure but it seems what I said got to her. Her hands shook with rage but she ultimately relaxed and motioned to me to lead the way.
We made our way across the cell block towards the shipping dock, using our biotics to remove or incapacitate anyone that gave us trouble, all while staying at a consistent sprint. A throw into a wall, a pull into a guard rail, whatever was effective at the time. Except for Jack, she just kept shooting.
We finally made our way to the docks to find one shuttle still in one piece, the Geth's own Trojan horse. Worse still they were guarded by two elite units, Geth Primes. Taller and more durable than regular Geth, as well as access to rockets and bombs.
“Any bright ideas?” I asked.
“This was your plan, blue, I'm just along for the ride.”
“Lovely, would you like to add anything constructive to this or should I just click my tongue for the next fifteen seconds?”
“Alright blue bitch, what did you have in mind?”
I looked around the open docking area and noticed there were several fire suppressant devices lying around beside several dead guards.
“See those extinguishers? We'll use our biotics to hit the Primes with them. The materials inside should rupture and obscure their optics-”
“Leaving us open to take the ship from under them and get out of here. I like your thinking.” Jack interjected.
We slowly made our way to flank the ship. I put away my pistol and took several deep breaths to call upon what little strength I had left. The trick wasn't lifting the extinguisher, it was hitting the Prime with enough force to have it double as a chemical smoke bomb. I threw out my two hands and concentrated as hard as I could. My vision began to blur and I could feel my heart rate go up but my improvised missile was off the ground. I looked across the way and saw Jack had hers ready as well. With one hand no less.
With a simple nod to each other we threw our weapons. The results could have been better. Half-way through their trajectory, the Primes noticed the incoming threats and readied their weapons to intercept. The one on Jack's side didn't react in time and the extinguisher erupted into chemical fire suppressant all over its face. The one on my side did, blowing it to pieces with a single shot from its plasma rifle. It then focused its fire one me.
I ducked to cover as fast as I could behind the flaming remains of another shuttle, listening to the Prime's energy weapon reduce it further into slag. I had to think fast, otherwise Jack might easily leave me on this station to die, assuming of course that none of the Prime's bolts gets lucky and takes my head off. I began to get a throbbing headache but I focused on my biotic power one last time, trying to create a protective barrier over myself to give me some extra protection.
“Jack! I need your help, the one Prime has me pinned down!” I yelled. I heard no response. Looks like I was on my own.
I broke away from my cover and made for a dash against the Geth Prime. As I ran past, I saw that I was right to do so, as a rocket soared past and hit the shuttle, blasting it to pieces. Thank goodness for sound dampeners on these helmets. I screamed, half in terror and half in defiance as I rapidly fired my pistol at the still alert Geth Prime, aiming for its face. Granted, I was in a mad dash towards the shuttle which means my aim wasn't the best, but I managed to tear through the hulking brute's kinetic shields pretty quickly. As for his plasma shots, they made short work of my stolen armor's built-in shields pretty quickly, leaving my own telekinetic defenses left. I could feel the kinetic force I was mitigating through my biotic barrier, how each blast continued to chip away at my stance like a sledgehammer.
My headache was turning into a full blown migraine, my vision turning to red, all while my legs felt like they were on fire from all the running. I was almost to the ramp of the ship when the Prime finally decided to get physical and swatted me away with the back of its arm. I was thrown back and clattered to the ground in a heap, my biotic barrier dissipating. I tried to get up, but every cell in my body just wanted to lie down and be done with it, my legs like noodles. Not even being threatened by an eight-foot tall terminator with a plasma gun was going to change that.
So this is how my grand adventure ends. Not even halfway through my first decade and I go out like a punk to some Geth. I closed my eyes and awaited the inevitable shot that would end it all.
Several shots rang out and I heard the squealing of a synth's processor going out, followed by several hundred pounds of metal and plastic fall over. The next thing I felt was someone picking me up and yelling at me, “Don't you dare think this means something, blue. I'm just making us even.”
“Watch what you say, Jack. You might actually start to care,” I manage to gasp.
I remained conscious just long enough to see how Jack handled the other Geth Prime. A focused blast of biotic distortion energy straight to the head, crumpling its central processor like a soda can. All thanks to that extinguisher going off so she could get in close. I have to assume my assault on the second Prime lowered its shields enough for Jack to get the killing blow, Geth's shields are notoriously impressive but their actual bodies are frail.
Jack set me down in the back and took to the pilot's seat. The last thing I remember was just how nice it felt to be off my feet as I slipped into a deep sleep.
I came to some time later. Seeing as I was still alive and Jack hadn't crashed the ship, I pulled off my helmet and let out a relieving laugh. I made it, I escaped. I escaped an attack on my life by Saren's Geth. Which means I'm just as important a threat to Saren's plans as Commander Shepard....
I made my way to the cockpit as fast as possible to see Jack about to make an FTL jump through a Mass Relay; your standard intergalactic highway network.
“Oh great, you're up. Guess that means you and I go our separate ways once we reach Omega.” She said casually.
“We have to return to the Citadel!” I pleaded.
Jack turned away from the controls to scowl at me. She had ditched the Blue Suns' armor so I got to see just how annoyed she was with me. Silver lining, she clearly appreciated my fashion ingenuity.
“Alright how hard did that Geth Prime hit you? You got caught killing a Spectre there and your first thought after getting attacked by machines that haven't been seen in three centuries is to go right back to your crime scene? I thought your kind were supposed to be super smart, blue!”
“Did you not hear who sent those Geth? It was Saren. He has command over them and they are swarming the Terminus Systems and the Attican Traverse, looking for us! If we go to Omega we are walking into a death trap. The best chance we have is to return to the Citadel.”
“Oh sure! Except for the fact that he's a fucking Spectre! He'll just kill you himself if you go there!”
“Saren has gone rogue!” I blurted out. “The Council have removed him from their ranks.”
“Check the Extranet the minute you can, search for Eden Prime Attack. He attacked a human colony there to get a Prothean artifact, Commander Shepard of Alliance Military has been promoted to Spectre status and charged with hunting him down. They have evidence and everything.”
Jack growled and got up, thankfully she stopped the shuttle's approach to the relay. “How the hell do you know all of this? Purgatory Station doesn't allow Extranet access.”
“I just know alright, I have my sources!” I interjected.
“Bullshit!” She screamed as she attempted to punch me.
I ducked from the attack and struck her hard in the chest. She dropped to her knees in pain, looks like she's just as exhausted as I was.
“Believe me or don't believe me. Just know that right now the Citadel is the closest thing to safe in the galaxy that we have. I know a guy at C-Sec that can vouch for me. We'll both be safe there from what's going to happen. So I'm asking you to trust me Jack. Please?” I reached out my hand in good faith.
After spitting on the floor in disgust she took my hand and I helped her up.
“Fine. But the minute they lock you up when you step out of this shuttle I will leave you to rot. Got it?”
“Perfect, now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna see if there's any water or snacks on this thing for us.” I replied as I headed further into the ship.