Monday, March 20, 2017

Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Team Trust Exercise Part 2

“Spear maneuver now!” Shepard bellowed over the hail of death raining from our would-be executioners, Jack and I snapping into position throwing up biotic barriers to protect the group.
Without missing a beat, Kaiden, Garrus and Tali activated several programs on their Omni-Tools and started overloading several of the asari's weapons, sparks flying from the intricate parts and the metal becoming noticeably superheated.

Funny aside about the weapons of this world. Technically every single firearm has an unlimited supply of ammo. Each gun takes a fraction of a piece from a large block of metal, something smaller than a grain of sand taken out of something the size of a giant brick, and that fragment is then propelled with Mass Effect technology, ignoring certain things like inertial mass in order to make something already quite deadly even deadlier. The problem is firing too often without discipline or discretion leads to the weapon overheating, making it a giant space age club for a few minutes. So, naturally several talented engineers and hackers have taken advantage of this fundamental flaw. Unless your target has some powerful anti-virus software ready to go or other form of cyberprotection, your guns aren't gonna be getting much use.

Thankfully for us, these asari weren't prepared. Then Wrex charged in with a powerful bellowing roar, activating his krogan berserker mode, ignoring the reactionary fire by the commandos attempt at a kill box. His shields were shredded along with any biotic protection he implemented; and he didn't care.

Then a single shot rang out through the barrier Jack and I were maintaining. Garrus Vakarian had his sniper rifle at the ready, taking one of the commandos' heads off. Wrex slammed into the second asari next to Garrus' victim, hitting with the force of a semi-truck. She flew past Benezia and crashed into the far wall, her helmet shattering like cheap fiberglass and her neck snapping like a twig.
The kill box was broken. Jack and I lowered our barriers, much to the joy of my buckling knees and heavy breathing, and the soldiers proceeded to take point as we dropped to cover. Shepard and Ashley started firing from the hip as we took advantage of the hole punched through by Wrex. Kaiden took advantage of his tech training in addition to his biotics to overclock his armor's shields and layered it on top of a biotic barrier, but not before igniting a highly compressed container of liquid nitrogen near three other commandos. They all saw what happened, but the brilliant thing about cover fire is that it's meant to induce panic, not death. The explosion of flying metal and subzero temperature coolant that flash froze their bodies to brittle icy chunks saw to that. Apparently even with centuries of experience, a fraction of a second of indecision is all it takes to mess up.

Five down, five to go. Garrus stayed in position and started scanning for new targets. Tali charged through with Shepard and Ashley, pistol at the ready and unleashing some more impromptu flamethrower action.

In the chaos of our reactionary attack, I lost track of the others. Hunkering down near a dissection table and taking potshots at an enemy with way more experience than you tends to do that. She had the high ground and was slowly chipping away at my table, so I took a risk and sprayed from my smig while diving to a better form of cover. There wasn't any, and my gun was glowing red. But I was already moving in her direction, why not do something even more reckless?

I threw my full weight into a single strike, vaulting over the supply crate she was using as cover, coming down on her crouching form with a double kick to her face. She moved just in time to avoid such a major blow, but thanks to a quick shift of weight I was able to redirect the attack into kicking the assault rifle out of her hand. Without missing a beat, my opponent got into a fighting stance and opened upwith some rapid punches and kicks.

Before this crazy Jump nonsense began I did have some knowledge of martial arts. About ten years of Tae Kwon Do, seven years of Hap Ki Do, and some weapon disciplines like bo staff, swords, nunchucks and sai, and a fundamental understanding of other martial disciplines like wrestling and fencing. Broke some bones, won some medals and trophies in sparring matches, and even used it in self-defense in several small instances. This is now on top of two years of living in prison with cutthroat criminals, some of which could easily qualify as miniature tanks, and two months of hardcore military training by humanity's best and brightest martial artists and marksmen.

With all of that muscle memory and knowledge, I was made acutely aware of how much my opponent outclassed me. Moving quickly yet efficiently, her body perfected to that of a killer, her blows were ruthless and precise as they broke through my guard and exploited my weaknesses. Powerful punches and kicks were felt through my armor as I tried to double back and get some distance, the wind knocked out of my lungs and the pain adding up.

Then she pulled out a combat knife and went for a killing blow. My legs were like jello and she pummeled my body so hard I was sure I had some broken bones; I was in no position to deflect that attack the way she was holding it and the way she oriented her center of gravity. Then my own special turian guardian angel delivered some aid with a shot to the head, her body falling over in a lifeless pile. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I turned to thank him but saw several things in the chaos of the battle that made me bite my tongue. First, Wrex was unconscious, the three remaining asari commandos had combined their biotic power and had launched a focused distortion field in his direction. They brought the equivalent of an air strike to a close quarters gunfight, and the crumpled crater that was once the laboratory's testing area with a barely conscious krogan inside was the result. At least I hope he's just out cold. As for the others, they were casually being beat back by Matriarch Benezia. She didn't even have a firearm, she was just casually using her biotic power to throw blasts of energy and deflect attacks like they were nothing.

This wasn't right. As powerful and versatile as biotics are and even with almost a millenium of experience, Benezia shouldn't be this powerful. There's a reason why even asari biotics still wear body armor after all, this stuff is exhausting. Yet there she was backing up the other two commandos casually lifting my teammates out of cover with a thought and casually deflecting fire with barriers conjured with her other hand. Tali and Garrus were already thrown bodily into a wall, their weapons clattered on the ground. Kaiden tried for a close quarters shotgun blast but was slammed into the ground by the commando's coordinated telekinesis. Shepard's team was losing ground fast, Benezia's unit closing in on them, and their strikes were becoming more desperate.

Then I saw something on her hand, some sort of metal device that was grafted into the flesh of her skin. Then it hit me like a slap in the face; Matriarch Benezia has gotten cybernetic upgrades from the Reaper, Sovereign. A sort of experimental defense system that can somehow cancel out and absorb the kinetic force of incoming fire, and then channel it in other ways. Such as redirecting that kinetic energy in a concussive blast, or bolstering shields...or biotics if you have implants compatible with the tech. The kind of tech that's over three years too soon for this world and was originally the result of untold ethical tampering and illegal body modification.

Meaning the more and more Shepard and his crew try to punch through her defenses, the worse it'll get for us. I saw it in her eyes, even from far away. That predatory sneer before the kill, the euphoria of taking down a prize for a master. The shell of a woman who was once a loving mother to a brilliant scientist currently on our ship worried out of her mind. A puppet controlled by heartless machines....

I leapt to the top of the containment unit containing the rachni queen. With some adjustments on my Omni-Tool I cut a hole through the transparent protector. I then leaned down and spoke to it.

“If you can understand me, nod now.” I projected.

The queen did so.

“I know your children are scrambling, unable to join in your guidance. I shall guide them to you, but you must help us. Do you understand?”

The queen nodded a second time.

Then I unhooked all the grenades on my belt and the remote detonator for all of them. I threw the grenades in the containment unit and held the remote in my hand. The queen screeched in fear.

I then leapt down behind Benezia and her five troops, interposing myself between her and the command console to the queen's prison.

“Benezia! Stand! Down!! Now!!” I yelled over the gunfire, holding out my detonator with as much menace as I could muster.

She turned and saw what I had done. Her face went from arrogant pride to a bitter scowl. She called for her troops to hold their fire. Just around the same time they were about to execute Wrex's helpless form and finally brought together the rest of the crew for a mass execution.

“Any of your groupies shoot my friends there, I pull the trigger and your little science experiment for Saren goes up in smoke. Rachni share a hive mind with their queen, you know what that means if she goes.”

Benezia's face went from anger to one of amusement. She slowly approached me, I took one step forward and held the detonator out. She stopped. Nevertheless, she elected to speak.

“Oh my dear, aren't you the bold one? Saren was right to mark you as a person of interest. No history, no records, and the first record of you showing up anywhere was you trying to kill him. Tell me something, Variza, what makes you think you can rebel against something as gloriously all-powerful as the Reapers? The ones that lead to a new golden age of power and knowledge,” She let the sleeves of her dress to roll down, exposing her azure flesh covered in harsh looking metal protrusions.

My hand was starting to shake, but I forced down my anxiety and maintained my stance.

“That's simple, I haven't been indoctrinated. Maybe you shouldn't be spending so much time in a ship that actively messes with your head overtime” I declared.

“Please, indoctrination is for the weak-minded. I simply see the truth” she shot back defensively

“And for those with more common sense, they use more aggressive body modification to directly influence your mind. All the easier to have more slaves to do the Reapers' bidding.”

Benezia took a step back, her stance oozing self-doubt. I took a step forward, detonator over my head.

"You're lying! This was a gift for my loyalty! I am still me!"

“Come on Benezia, you're more than this. Your daughter Liara has spent decades of her life studying the Protheans, their vast empire of technology and intelligence, the kind that we're still figuring out to this day. If the Reapers wiped them out without a second thought all those millennia ago, what makes us any better? I mean, our entire Mass Relay network is just us borrowing their old tech, we're not exactly on their level.”

“Liara,” Benezia gasped, her mask of callous hatred shattering into a mother's warmth, “my girl, my brilliant girl,” she started muttering.

“Yes. Liara T'Soni. Your brilliant scientist of a daughter. The one who is helping us stop Saren. We just need your help to know exactly where he is going. What he's planning.”

And for a beautiful second, I saw the true Matriarch behind all of the mutilation done to her by the Reapers. Wise but strong. Motherly but stern. All ready to do everything and anything to protect her family.

Then she started holding her head, screaming in excruciating pain. Several of the asari commandos were looking at each other in confusion. I stared them down while Benezia fought Sovereign's programming. I also proceeded to take several steps towards the console and hit some buttons. The rachni queen slipped away. I looked quickly to Commander Shepard, he recognized what I was doing, even if it was perfectly clear he didn't approve.

Benezia managed to collect herself and spoke once more, but in a more urgent tone, like she was afraid of retribution by some dark presence.

“Saren has rediscovered the Mu Relay, a Mass Relay at these coordinates,” She quickly pressed several buttons on her Omni-Tool and sent them to Shepard. “they lead to the lost Prothean planet of Ilos. He believes that is where the Conduit is, that will help summon the Reapers.”

The Mu Relay was considered lost to the galaxy in the aftermath of the Rachni Wars. Made sense that Saren and his Geth would discover intact rachni eggs and try breeding an army.

“Good, Benezia, now we need more,” I pressed. “this technology that Saren bonded to you. Where was it discovered? The Reaper flagship Sovereign have it on board?”

“No!” Benezia bellowed! She fell to her knees, her arms beginning to spasm.

“Sovereign did this to me! Sovereign is a Reaper!!” She screamed. Her body contorted and twisted in horrible ways, her bones snapping. Sovereign was trying really hard to shut her up. 

The commandos finally had their weapons completely at their sides, some actually looking away at the grotesque spectacle of it all. Shepard and the others were also dumbfounded and shocked by it all.

I couldn't bear to see her in pain anymore. No matter what, she didn't deserve this. I got as close as I could and drew my pistol, aiming it between her eyes. There was a flicker of understanding through her teary eyes, and she nodded in acceptance.

“I'll tell Liara you died like a hero,” I say, my voice shaking as much as my hand, “she loves you very much.”

And I pulled the trigger.

An eternity of silence followed. Then I realized I started crying at some point as tears hit the floor. I may not be a true asari, but there are certain primal things that all sentient life hates to do.

“Tali,” I finally managed to say, “I know you were recording this on your Omni-Tool to send back to the Normandy in case we didn't make it. Please tell me you got all of that.”

She nodded. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Whoever was the new lead of the asari commandos finally broke their silence.

“By the goddess, what did we just see?”

“Saren's glorious future for the galaxy,” Shepard replied.

“Holy shit, Commander!” A voice exclaimed on our comms.

“Oh it's you, Jeff. Thank heaven.” I mentioned.

“That's Joker to you, hot stuff,” he shot back

“You two can flirt later, we need pick up and medical evac. We got four down and in critical condition.” Shepard ordered.

“We also have five eyewitnesses willing to give testimony to what happened and... a body to collect.” I added, looking back at the pile of mangled flesh and metal that was once a proud asari Matriarch.

I started to lose my balance and started to fall forward, the adrenaline wearing off. I remembered someone catching me. Or maybe it was two people, I couldn't tell. But I could definitely hear them distinctly say one beautiful phrase,

“You did good soldier, you did good.”

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