Monday, April 3, 2017

Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction Chapter 9

Chapter 9: Rising Consequences

A month passed with us chasing leads on Saren. Despite us knowing his fascination with the Nu Relay we still couldn't figure out the exact destination once on the other side. There were too many factors working against us, so chasing leads was the best option we had. It would be embarrassing for us to go through the Relay only to be vaporized by Geth warships or Sovereign himself, and I was seriously beginning to doubt how much my own knowledge was still reliable.

That isn't to say we weren't busy.

There was an attempt to destroy Earth by a bunch of batarian terrorists weaponizing an asteroid with stolen warp drive engines. Alliance military called us in and we shut them down. The Batarians had hostages, Shepard didn't want to negotiate and wanted to just kill them as they stood. As much as I understood not wanting to take having your home planet blown up, I selectively disagreed and took a secondary team to get them free while Shepard, Garrus and Wrex did what they did best. I was reprimanded since it was against orders, guess I'll never get that medal I clearly deserve.

But other than the usual false leads, calls back to the Citadel to handle delicate matters between elected officials, and an admittedly amusing moment of “I told you so” when we were ambushed by pirates on a barren moon only to be rescued by a swarm of rachni, things were frustratingly going nowhere.

On a more personal matter things were... also frustratingly going nowhere.

Liara T'Soni wouldn't speak to anyone, mostly staying in her laboratory and coming out only for meetings and giving basic answers and updates on her research on Prothean tech. Very few members of the crew reached out to her and as for the ones that did, myself included, she kept waving things off.

When I tried pressing as to why she kept acting unusual, she turned the question back on me. Asari body, human mind, at least two dozen different cans of worms opened.

If I was still controlling Shepard he would have helped Liara deal with Benezia's death, soldier on, and then go on to make scintilating space love to her like James Kirk. But before I got thrown into this mix, Liara actually got out in the field with Shepard's crew, because putting an asari scientist that's a wunderkind with Prothean technology into active combat zones with only the most basic of training makes total tactical sense, and Commander Shepard acted more like...well me. A paragon of virtue wanting to do the right thing and not this...pragmatic militant dick.

However as a shadowy benefactor trying to push weapons development along by a few years, things were going hilariously well. Technically I didn't just drop ten thousand credits on a random asari merc and got in direct contact with the Salarian Dalatrass. The only other beings in the galaxy that could have that wealth of connections would be the Shadow Broker and the Illusive Man. The latter is a giant prick that I'd love to pull apart with my mind and the former is one that could do the same to me with a single word. Instead, I got a collection of contacts of various black market weapons manufacturers and off the books illegal modifiers, the intelligence agencies of the various races tracking them, and through some creative strokes to racial or galactic patriotism and some half-truths, got in contact with the heads of the Council which included the Dalatrass, the speaker for the asari, the head of the turian military, and Alliance Chief Admiral Hackett.

Then I gave every single one of them weapon scans and exhaustive technical information of my Paladin pistol for them to hand off to their respective R&D divisions; from there I watched the fireworks go off. The low level criminal scum would love to utilize this tech in order to forward their agenda and so they would bust their asses to figure it out. I gave the various intel communities the locations of these operations in order to shut them down and take in any work they made in that field, because technology is technology regardless of motives. Meanwhile the military fields of some of the smartest races in the galaxy were racing against each other to reverse engineer my enhanced weapons and the thermal clip tech as well. This is also to say nothing of prototypes being worked on already that I'm not aware of getting a huge shot in the arm by how saturated the galactic science community will be with field tests and theory.

I have effectively kicked off a new arms race behind the scenes. Now I just need to be sure Saren is dead before he uses this stuff against us. It is one hell of a gamble, one worthy of the Commander Shepard I thought I knew.

It'd be freaking embarrassing if it blew up in my face.

Then, it happened.

A mere two months after my seeds were thrown to the cosmic winds and after a lot of dead-ends, we found out where Saren was operating: A recently captured Salarian Scientific Research Facility on the planet Virmire.

According to a joint venture with the Salarian Special Tasks Group and Alliance Intelligence it was made abundantly clear what exactly Saren and his Geth were after at the facility. The first was what I was expecting and dreading: using the abundant scientific research the salarians had in order to cure the krogan of the Genophage. But have that cure permanently tied to further genetic tampering to make the krogan race entirely obedient to Saren.

He's putting one of the deadliest races in the galaxy on a genetic leash and using them as shock troops for the Reapers. 

My only comforting thought at this reveal at the meeting was that everyone looked like they lost five years off their life expectancy. Except Wrex, he looked like he was in the climax of a living nightmare with a century of his life gone at the revelation. And that giant tank of an alien is nine-hundred years young. Do the math, I can't; I'm in shock.

We began arming up and made contact with the STG unit and coordinated our assault. The plan was to infiltrate the facility by dividing up into separate teams, destroy the krogan shock troops and any other opposition we came across, erase all data of the Genophage cure, and then blow up the facility with a bomb placed at its center. And of course if possible, kill Saren if we see him on site.

I did a sweep of the STG's base camp, looking for what could be a WIP thermal clip. No dice. The salarians are good but they're not that good.

However, I was around in time to stop Ashley Williams from pulling a total dick move. Wrex had some very strong emotions about effectively blowing up twisted versions of his own people. For all of his gruffness, Wrex actually wants to re-unite his people and his world's culture, rebuild their society as something less feral and more deliberate. At the same time a potential cure for his race's mass sterilization was something he didn't want to see exterminated.
Shepard was yelling at him for stepping out of line, even outright telling him these krogan weren't his people and a cure would come with subjugation.

Wrex wasn't backing down. It almost looked like he was going to rip Shepard's arms off.

I then saw Ashley reach for her pistol with intent to fire on Wrex. I used my biotics to give that pistol the weight of fifty tons and watched her crumble to the ground.

“What the hell are you doing, Variza!?” She yelled.

“Stopping you from disobeying the Commander and making a huge mistake.” I remarked.

She left her pistol and went to ready her rifle, but I already had my pistol drawn and in her face.

“Trust me, Williams, I don't want to do this but you need to trust Shepard to say the right thing.”

I was then knocked off my feet by a thrown Shepard. Lifted off the ground by a royally pissed off krogan Battlemaster.

“Do you really think I don't understand the opportunity I have here Shepard?!” Wrex roared, looming over us like a harbinger of doom.

“Either I take this cure and bring it to the right people or my people will continue to wither and die! I don't care about killing other krogan, I care about how these salarians are gonna make this whole thing vanish! If you won't help me with that I'll go by myself!”

The look in Shepard's eyes frightened me, and it wasn't just because it was millimeters away from mine and separated by a helmet visor. It was the look of a man that had to put a dog down. It wasn't anger or indignation, it was pained resignation.

I saw him reach for his shotgun. I grabbed his arm and shot him back another look.

“Wrex, wait” I called out, putting up my hands in a sign of surrender. The good news is he let me get on my feet before he came after me.

“Stay out of this Variza. Last I checked you were just a penal troop, not the CO of this operation,” he growled as he balled up his fists, them coursing with biotic energy. Well at least I won't leave a body if this goes wrong.

I slowly removed my helmet and peeled the gauntlets off my suit.

“I know you don't trust me but...I need to show you something from my mind. I won't say this will convince you to stay or not, but I think it'll help you calm down,” I calmly spoke.

“Variza, what are you doing?” Shepard responded, his hand still on the handle of his shotgun ready to go. The rest of the crew and the STG had the same looks on their faces, all their weapons drawn and pointing to the enraged Krogan.

Wrex took a step closer to me and got in my face, his breath hot and reeking of death.

“Better be something quite serene, Variza, or else I'm taking you with me to the beyond,” he said in an unbelievably icy tone.

I gulped and barely stopped my knees from shaking. I finally put my hand to the side of Wrex's face, caressing his temple and moving around his eye and jawline.

“Very well. Urdnot Wrex...embrace eternity,” I declared, beginning a mind meld with the krogan warrior.

As mentioned before, asari have an unusual way of interfacing with other alien races' nervous systems as a means of procreation. But another more focused ability by the race is imparting knowledge, ideas, or even images to a willing participant by interacting with their mind. It's how Liara has helped Shepard make sense of the various Prothean information that's been shoved into his brain by the various clues left behind during our missions.

Now it was going to help me with Wrex.

I pressed into his mind the various futures spinning out from this moment, using scenes and battles from my knowledge of the game. Admittedly it was uncanny as hell to go from flesh and blood to pixels and polygons but it had the right effect.

Possibility number one: Wrex dies. The mission goes on as normal and eventually we go on to kill Saren and stop Sovereign. The Genophage remains uncured and krogan society continues to squabble amongst itself. Eventually a leader does arrive, and it is a relative of Wrex's: Urdnot Wreav. An utterly unlikeable character of the kind of chest-pounding aggressive stone age warrior mentality that Wrex despises. He leads the Krogan into the impending war with the Reapers, as their giant ships reign fire on Tuchanka, all to go after the carrot on the stick that is a cure for the Genophage, whipped together by the salarians and turians to convince them to aid in the war. Except the Genophage is sabotaged, and the krogan join the galaxy on a doomed path to destruction.

Possibility number two: Wrex lives. He takes Wreav's place, bides his time, and the krogan earn their place to demand a cure when the Reapers come and things turn out better.

But then I added too much. My frustration at Ashley killing Wrex before Shepard could talk him down. Flashes of me talking to friends back home about wishing Wrex stayed alive and how I should start a new save file.

I broke contact and stepped away from Wrex.

He looked utterly stunned at what he had saw.

“Variza...what the hell are you?”

“Someone you should trust.” I responded, my hands still out, my face still presented, “there will be other battles, this is just a bitter pill you'll have to swallow to get there.”

There was an intense silence that seemed to last for an eternity.

It finally ended when Wrex turned around and walked back to collect his weaponry.

“You can thank Variza for this, Shepard. But if any of you pull weapons on me again, there isn't a single doctor in the galaxy that will recognize your remains when I'm done with you.” He grunted.

Shepard and the entire crew turned to me, dumbfounded.

“I know I know, we're gonna have a talk about this when we get back, right?” I remarked.

Shepard just activated his comms.

“Joker, bring the Normandy around to to pick up Miss T'Som and escort her from the combat zone,”

“Roger that, Commander,”

“What!?” I blared out, utterly devastated.

“You have continuously disobeyed my orders, I can't have you going off half-cocked on a delicate operation like this. You're a liability so I'm discharging you from it. You're dismissed, Variza!”

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