Monday, March 27, 2017

Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Intentions and Consequences

The following three days went by in a blur. I remember being chastised by Shepard for jeopardizing the galaxy by releasing the rachni queen and getting grilled by him. I was informed later that the rachni somehow got word to the Alliance that the mercy shown to their race would not go unrewarded as they ventured into uncharted regions of space to regain their numbers once again. Apparently they used the body of a salarian as an intermediary. I recall the crew, even Ashley, actually complimenting me for my quick thinking against Benezia and her commandos, saving their lives. Although Jack's idea of gratitude was a punch in the arm and buying me a drink later.

But it wasn't exactly praise all around. It still didn't change the fact that for the first time in my life I looked another person in the eyes, shot them in the face, then had to inform their next of kin that I did the deed for the greater good. To make matters worse it was someone that I liked.

There was also the fact that Benezia was even cybered up to begin with. Before I was even a part of this world she was under a more subtle form of manipulation by the Reaper Sovereign; the process known as indoctrination. Basically if you spend a prolonged amount of time near a Reaper they send out some sort of inaudible ultrasonic frequency that slowly alters your mind, making you more accepting and submissive to their influence. Instead she was one step away from cackling like a comic book supervillain and turning into a space elf Terminator.

It was a lot to unpack. Liara's mourning, the future of the crew, and how much my influence has altered these events and the events to come.

So I took Jack up on her offer of a drink after my meeting with Sha'ira on the Citadel. I'd tell you what the meetings with the Citadel's go to fortune teller and professional shoulder to cry on entailed, but there are things best left unsaid.

Chora's Den is in one of the seedier parts of the Citadel. Dark colors, a continuous thrum of electronica music pulsing through the world, dubious dealings done in the dark, and a lot of erotic asari dancers. Compared to other hives of ill repute found in the Terminus Systems, it might as well be Disneyworld but it's still a noticeable departure from the chaste pristine of the station's other locations.

Jack and I sat at the bar while a human bartender poured us some shots; one for me six for her. I downed the shot, it was some sort of blue liquid. I honestly didn't care as long as it was heady and gave me a small buzz. It did.

“Come on, blue. You sure you don't want to just get totally smashed?” she asked, casually pounding down three of the shot glasses. The bartender shot a look to me, waiting for my answer

I stared at my empty glass and shook my head, the booze already making it swim. “I'm not exactly a hard drinker, Jack. First time I had a hangover in my life I couldn't stand it. Don't like having my mind clouded up.”

Jack barked out a laugh and proudly threw back her fourth drink.

“Such a fucking lightweight because you like to think about stuff clearly? How's that working for you, blue?”

I turned away from her and focused on the dancers. Yes, they are hot and gyrating pleasantly, asari catch on really quick how desirable they are and some dedicate a few decades to skills of erotica. They were an easy distraction to have while I pondered.

“A brilliant Prothean scientist just lost her mother to some horrible mutilating cybernetic implants put into her by a genocidal maniac. I can't help but worry about her mental state right now, Jack.”

“Why? She's just some cream puff in a lab coat that helps Shepard deal with that weird Prothean shit we've been finding through our missions. How old is she? Like eighty or something?”

“One-hundred and six. Younger than me, practically a child. That's why I'm worried about her.”

Jack snorted and spat on the ground, much to the bartender's chagrin.

“So what? She'll get over it, parents are overrated,” Jack remarked, sucking down her fifth shot.

I had no response to that statement, not without showing my true nature nor without hitting a mine field of touchy subjects. So I just let her have her moment while the harsh red lights and flashing strobes showed off the sensual performances of the dancers. This was meant to be shore leave after all.

After a while one of the dancers came by bringing a sensual gait practiced to perfection, trailing her fingertips across Jack's neck and mine. My body shivered at the sensation while Jack seemed immune. She bent down between the two of us and whispered in a seductive tone,

“I'll be in the private booth with some friends in a few minutes. How about you two join me? I'll even give you a discount.” 

I think my skin went from blue to purple in an instant. Also I think my vocal chords started malfunctioning because I couldn't talk. As much as I tried reducing her behavior to just good business, this asari's pitch was just that good. It was beyond tempting too, especially after my session with Sha'ira ended with the assignment to “be more comfortable with my asari heritage.” But before I could say anything resembling a submissive yes, Jack responded first.

“Get lost, not interested,” her tone was fierce and harsh.

The dancer looked confused at the diverse reaction her approach yielded. But to her credit she retained her posture and still playfully walked away with a cute, “well if you change your mind,” and a blown kiss thrown in for good measure.

It took me a while to steady my breathing again, and the heat in my cheeks finally started to fade. I turned to face Jack. She just casually finished her sixth shot like nothing happened.

“Alright, Jack, you can not just tell me you weren't at least a little turned on by that,” I inquired.

“Variza, maybe your people are obligated to spread 'em for whoever seems nice at the time, but I ain't exactly a “girls club” kind of woman if you know what I mean.” She droned, her speech starting to slip into slurs.

“But technically asari aren't women, we just look like this,” I replied. My tone came out more demure than I ever thought possible.

“But you sure as hell act like them. Screw talking about feelings, screw being all flowery and caring, screw that whole “unity through passion” bullshit you always go on about with melding. I just want to get off and get out when it's over. Besides it's more honest that way.”

I kept quiet. I haven't exactly batted a thousand myself in terms of relationships and Jack has clearly lived a harsher life than most.

After another long silence she spoke up.

“You know I think that's why you and I get along, Variza,” she continued, her posture relaxing through all the poison in her system.

I met her gaze, genuinely curious.

“You talk way too much when you should be killing but you actually get it, unlike these blue tarts shaking it all around,” she motioned to the other dancers on the floor, all putting on different forms of acrobatic physical showmanship, “I mean every single squidhead I've always talked to keeps going on about being nurturing or sympathetic to those in the universe. Like they think they're better than me or some shit.”

She motioned to the bartender for another drink.

“But you actually had the balls to get right in my face and tried to slap me around. None of this olive branch stuff. You run out, get your hands bloody and don't try to dress it up. You got more hair on your chest than some of the losers in the Alliance, and you're not even human!”

“Jack, you're drunk,” I replied in a deadpan tone, “besides there are asari that spend centuries learning to be mercs.”

“But do they have an official military? Hell no. They have bankers and information brokers and doctors. They'd rather look like they're keeping the world from cutting itself to death out of the goodness of their hearts rather than just taking what they want. It's boring!” she practically yelled that last part.

Some of the dancers and bartenders started looking at us weird, the krogan bouncer was starting to get out of his seat. I had to defuse the situation.

“Are you forgetting that all that sympathy and love you think you're so above is what got me to stop Benezia from killing all of you?” I said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

She shrugged it off, “Oh really? Cuz from what I saw it was the live grenades thrown into that monster's cage while you put a boot to her heel. All that talk was just you being you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

She laughed a lot louder than I expected, causing me to jump.

“Your whole mind games thing you've been doing since I've met you. You're like the damn Shadow Broker or something! You might be a yappy dog but you got some bite!”

“Jack please I think you're getting a little disruptive,”

“As a matter of fact, she is,” the bartender interjected.

Well shit.

“I'm afraid I'll have to ask for you and your friend to leave this establishment.” she asked quietly.

I activated communications on my Omni-Tool and called Garrus and Tali to help Jack back on to the Normandy. They met us outside Chora's Den within about twenty minutes. Luckily for them they missed Jack slurring on about wanting to blow up something and then going on about not wanting to trust anyone again before losing consciousness.

Once Garrus and Tali had her safely back on the Normandy I had a small amount of time to check on something else I had cooking on the sidelines. I slipped away from the rest of the crew of the ship's docking bay and pulled up external communications.

The problem with the supplies Jump provided me for my ten years in this world is that the technology that supports them doesn't exist yet. Everything from my Paladin pistol to my Cain do not operate on the standard cooling system but a more advanced method that will become commonplace in about two years. Basically through a combination of improved materials and a greater focus on firepower, every single weapon became more powerful, we're talking the equivalent of a standard hand pistol being twice as deadly as a top of the line military hand cannon in terms of power difference. But all of this comes at the cost of utilizing a form of ammunition called thermal clips. A device that helps mitigate the large amounts of overheating and energy consumed for this newfound power. Without any clips I may be able to get two or three shots out of my pistol before the delicate parts inside melt into slag, this is to say nothing of my own portable tactical nuclear strike launcher. I've been getting by with a small collection of regular pistols and SMGs picked up in the field, but that well will dry up soon.

But if there's one thing I know about engineers and scientists, it's that they have a knack for figuring things out. And you can always count on asari to at least know a way to talk to the best of those scientists if you forward them about ten thousand credits

After fiddling around and entering in some information Jema provided me, the CO of the asari commando unit I had the foresight of keeping in contact with, the extranet communicator on my Omni-Tool turned on to reveal the image of the reptillian visage of a member of the Council, the Salarian Dalatrass.

“Hello? Who is this? How did you get access to this channel?” she responded, confused as to my unexpected call.

I activated some basic voice modulation to my voice and kept my video feed off.

“Hello your highness. For the sake of both our lives I must keep my identity secret but I am here to grant your people a grand opportunity to forward weapon craft in the galaxy by years. I wish to arrange a secret collaborative project with the Salarian Special Tasks Group to replicate some experimental weapons I have obtained in absolute confidence....”

After some contemplation, the Dalatrass responded, “You have my attention.”

We might stand a chance after all....

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