Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction Mass Effect Epilogue
Mass Effect Epilogue
I've long since lost track of the time. The doctors were very careful in maintaining an inoffensive atmosphere of healing for me. No clocks. No technology. No connection to the outside world. Just a bed, an analog video monitor, a music player, and a relatively pleasant view of the outside. For a wing fashioned out of what remained of the Citadel, it was quite relaxing. Physical therapy came and went, bandages were redressed, bones were set and healed. Several geth platforms came to visit me, equipped with some snippets of information from SAM to help reform my mental state. It was all a lovely comforting little bubble after the nightmare we all survived.
But it didn't change a simple fact in my mind.
My name is Variza T'Som, and I am a war criminal. The power of the Crucible's energy wave actively crippled every single Mass Relay in the entire galaxy. In addition to the bodycount at the Battle of the Crucible, there were still untold trillions of lives cut off from crucial transport and supply lines. FTL travel without the relay network would take years and by then more would have died from disease, injury, or starvation. And my reckless plan at that crucial battle robbed the galaxy of their greatest heroes, several of which happened to be people I could fall friends. All because of the choices I made.
And every single day, I was expecting someone to arrive to carry out the sentence. In the meantime, I was left with my sins and the dull headache from the piecemeal personality reconstruction.
The day started off as usual. A beautiful sunrise waking me up, an asari nurse taking my temperature and redressing my wounds, the usual medical upkeep, some classical Earth music starts playing as I do my physical therapy, trying to get my arms and legs to work again, then the monitor clicks on with the latest chapter of an asari romance I...admit kept me engaged despite dreading the other shoe to drop.
Then that afternoon...I got a visitor.
“Oh Miria, I don't care if we're both asari,” the lead pontificated to her love while overlooking a gorgeous nebula from their space yacht, “damn the galaxy, damn society, and damn our sisters with their cruel backstabbing ways. Who cares what the others think? That we're ardat-yakshi, that we're uncouth. Forget them all. We could live in some colony in the Attican Traverse or a simple yurt on some reserve on who knows where. I just want us to be together!” She threw herself into her lover's arms, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Finally, after ten long chapters of back and forth, she finally said it. Now come on Miria, say those beautiful words. You two have had chemistry for so long and its clear your taste in human and salarian partners is dodgy at best. Just take her in your arms and go make adorable blue children together. Come on, say those magical words.
“Hey, blue! You in there!? Come on, I've been looking everywhere for you!” A voice barked from the other side of my door, fist banging on it all the while.
I almost fell out of my wheelchair, swearing up a storm as my body protested with sharp pains. I fumbled for the remote and the plastic spork I had hidden in my lap (take what you can get) and shut off the monitor, and started wheeling my way to the door.
I tried to ready some sort of attack as I pulled the door back. It was Jack, obviously, but she could be working for someone else. It didn't matter if I didn't see her survive the battle. I somehow lived and we were in the same area so the logistics of her being alive wasn't my priority. Either way, tt would be the perfect ploy for assassination.
I pulled the door back and on reflex unleashed my biotic fury in a blind strike! And there was Jack to greet me. Plain medical looking patient's robe, walking with a cane in one hand and a freshly telekinetically destroyed handful of lilacs in the other.
“What the fuck!?” She declared, her hands thrown up in reflexive defense.
“Jack, just get it over with! There's probably a pistol in those flowers so just-” I spat out, giving a beat to realize what just happened.
“Pistol? What are you- why did you blow up my flowers?!”
“Don't bury the lede, it's not your style. If you're gonna carry out justice, at least be direct about it!”
I shut my eyes and leaned forward, expecting the Psychotic Biotic to do what she came here to do. I felt a force throw my wheelchair back into the wall, my head hitting the back with a light thud. I swallowed and waited for the snapping of my neck, or a bullet to the head, or however she decided to do it.
I felt her arms close around my neck. Snapping of the neck it is. Go on. Get that medal. You deserve it after everything I've put you through. Then... I felt her arms close around my back and her body pressed to mine in a tight and admittedly awkward sitting hug.
“Blue, you are the most frustrating and annoying people I've ever known in my entire life! But dammit...it's so good to see you again.” I heard her holding back tears as her grip on me tightened.
I...guess she's not here to kill me after all.
I slowly reciprocated her hug. After so much time alone, it felt so nice.
I don't how long it took, but she finally let go and hobbled to the bed and sat down, letting her cane fall down where it stood.
“How exactly did you find me?” I finally asked, then in a fit of deja vu after seeing the wooden support clatter to the floor I continued, “and why do you keep ending up using a cane after all of this?”
“I overheard the doctors talk about you. Well, indirectly, but they kept saying something about emotional sensitivity and carefully limiting access to extranet-oriented media, so I figured it was you. Also, I have no damn clue, I don't have a say in what parts of my body gets messed up.”
“Heh, so you were here the whole time?” I smiled, looking down at my bandaged arms embarrassed at my crazy leaps of logic.
“Yeah. Just a lot of tests, medication and boring physical therapy.” She groaned in pain as she tried lifting one of her legs before setting it back down.
“So... guess I'll just keep waiting for the guillotine to come down then.” I exhaled.
“What...what are you talking about, Variza?”
I looked up to her, dumbfounded. “What do you mean what? After everything we've gone through, I should be court martial'd and sentenced to death.”
“Okay what kind of drugs do they have you on, because you sound high as shit with a thought like that.”
“I'm serious, Jack.” I felt my mouth getting dry. “When I first arrived at the Citadel I attempted to assassinate a Spectre, an agent of the Council. That is grounds for an act of domestic terrorism. I confessed to untold crimes that I didn't commit in order to facilitate prison in order to hide from getting killed by that Spectre. And instead I successfully escaped that prison with a notorious serial criminal.”
“Oh don't sugarcoat it too much, Variza, I know too well what I have done in my past. But didn't you forget? We stopped Saren, and we got pardoned. New leases on life. You built that company, I started teaching at Grissom. We became better people.”
“Yeah, a weapon's manufacturing company. Built on patents on stuff from the future given to me by Jump.”
“Well I wouldn't exactly say that's illegal just...really confusing.” She threw her hands up and tried chuckling.
“A weapon's manufacturing company. Weapons hurt people. And I proceeded to lie, undermine, blackmail, double-talk, and gaslight anyone with a fat enough wallet and resources to help me make more of these things, which may I remind you includes a cannon that fires nukes, something I'm pretty sure is banned by the Geneva Conventions by the way, all to get ready for a war that I basically profited off of. So that's a morally skewed occupation bolstered by corporate espionage, emotional manipulation, and at least twenty other bigger laws involving asari corporate culture I don't know about.”
“You mean the company you had blown to pieces to save our asses from Cerberus? Variza, please stop, you're being too hard on yourself,”
“The murder of Matriarch Benezia. Liara's mother.”
“That was a mercy killing. She was in pain.”
“And what about that asari Spectre? The one I just casually shot in the face like a sociopath?” I continued. Jack stopped mid-sentence and looked away.
“It didn't matter if she was working for the Shadow Broker. I...killed people. One who probably did her job well in keeping her part of the galaxy safe. And I just... popped her in the head. Blame the adrenaline, blame me wanting to not let the Broker destroy what I made but I did it. I then went on to be the figurehead of the Shadow Broker and continued to perpetuate a criminal empire, causing unknown suffering to even more people, all while hiding away in a bunker on some gas giant out of fear of getting killed by Reaper agents. So that's two acts of first degree murder, criminal conspiracy, and putting an army of meat shields in the way of reprisals.”
Jack remained silent. She tried to talk several times but stopped.
“Then...there's what I did at the Crucible.”
Jack's eyes lit up. “Variza, don't you dare put that on yourself.” she reached out and placed a hand on my shoulder. I shrugged it off.
“How many people died on that day? Do you have the exact numbers? Or how about our crew? Garrus? Tali? Wrex? Shepard? Can you answer me that?” My tone remained dry and practiced, my inner thoughts finally expressed.
“Jack...I sent Shepard to his death with what I did. He was an icon, a freaking legend that everyone should owe everything to, and I was the one who sent him to die. And who am I? No one. I've never held a weapon before, hell I despise killing and all of this psychological warfare nonsense! It churns my bloody stomach.” I felt my body shake, but I continued anyway.
“It doesn't matter what my intentions were. The law should still apply. If not the Council's then at least my own bloody code. And I broke it, time and again. Because it was easy, and because I wanted to live. I. Am. A Criminal. And I'm. A. Coward.”
I felt tears hit my arms. I started holding myself as they began to fall in earnest.
“Tell me...what am I if not a criminal? With more blood on my hands than anyone can ever understand? A maniac? A butcher? A...A...” I shut my eyes, unable to get the words out.
I felt something grab my hand.
“How about a friend?” her voice was soft. Softer than I ever heard from her.
“How about a liberator of the geth? I clearly remember you being surprised by that so...didn't happen in your games right?”
I looked up. Games...what games? Were there games?
“And...yeah, everything is terrible now but... everyone is still working to make it better. The Krogan are cured. The Quarians are getting a lot of support from the geth in order to resettle their homes. You have helped to do good here.”
“Jack...the cost...I don't.” She put her hand over my mouth and slowly broke into a wide smile.
“Also...there's something you have to see.”
And with some effort she got a hold of my wheelchair and moved me out of the room. Corridors flew by in a blur. Nurses and doctors took off after us in horror. Jack was barely staying upright, laughing through the pain as she leaned on the chair while keeping up with it. I held on in terror, not knowing exactly what to expect.
Finally she tripped and the chair went flying on its own. Out of pure instinct I tried slowing down, the sight of an observation deck coming closer and closer. After some effort I managed to stop the chair. But before I could look back to see if Jack was okay, I saw them.
The Normandy crew. Joker, Tali, Garrus...everyone who was with Shepard at the Citadel. Bedridden. Unconscious. Their bodies...infected with some sort of yellow energy. A side effect of the Crucible? Well, whatever it was, it had the doctor's stumped the way they were communicating with eachother. And in one separate corner...was Shepard. He was like the others...but alive.
I almost felt happy again after seeing it. Then the orderlies ran in and took me and Jack away. On the ride back I started laughing. Like I finally got the conclusion to the longest brick joke.
“Screw you fate!” I exclaimed, “So much for red, blue, or green you giant war-ending piece of crap!”
I was treated as delirious and given something to help me sleep, then sent back to my room.
I don't remember falling asleep, but when I came to I was back in my bed, a doctor sitting in a chair on the other end of the room. She was human, mixed caucasian-asian descent from what I could tell, and she was holding a datapad.
“Hello, Variza. I'm here to assist you with your mental and emotional recuperation and to help you cope with what you saw a little while ago.” She spoke courteously. I looked around and started shaking off the sedative
“Where's Jack?” I sat up in my bed as best as I could.
“Don't worry, she's safe. She made it quite hard for us to get her back to her room, but she doesn't appear to be contaminated.”
Suddenly the isolation made sense, “You have no idea what's going with that...energy. Radiation. Whatever the Crucible unleashed. Only that it seems to be keeping those exposed to it in a comatose like state. Right?”
“Officially we aren't allowed to tell patients but...yeah you're a smart girl. I like that.” The doctor smiled, “which reminds me, let me see if this is working properly,” she swiped and tapped several spots on her datapad.
I felt an odd pressure over my head, like a hundred small fingers gently pressing and searching all over it like a curious child. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, letting the reconstructive therapy do its work.
“Starting to feel more like yourself again, Variza?”
I nodded. “Without the singular threat of the Reapers keeping every single profile unified, I did kind of lose sight of who I was but these sessions here have helped wonderfully.”
“Then let's start with some questions then, see if the long-term and short-term memory is working properly.”
“Right. So let's start with the basics. Who are you? Where were you born? And how did you end up on the Citadel in 2181?”
I took several breaths and allowed the pathways of memory to come back to me, and I spoke.
“My name is Variza T'Som. Daughter to Maria Watson and Sira T'Som, colonists of Xiao's Ambition in the Horsehead Nebula. They were attacked by batarian slavers, then Saren arrived to escalate the conflict. They were caught in the crossfire. He called it justice and left with a job well done. So I kept my head down, got a shuttle out of there, worked here and there at other colonies picking up skills and engineering skills then decided to test out my new mech on a little personal revenge. Then...well you recall the trial. Guess all those little jobs in between caught up to me.”
The doctor frowned and checked the datapad again.
“Well...it's technically correct.”
I blinked. “What do you mean? It's my life, clear as day.”
“Then do you recall Maria's birthday? How they first met?”
“I...that's a very specific question and it's been well over a century since that happened.” My head started to ache.
“A century...and yet Saren was somehow responsible to their death?” She smiled.
My nerves started acting up. But before I could protest, the doctor changed the subject.
“It's alright, you're probably still working out the details, it's fine. But what's really intriguing is this little thing that keeps popping up. A Warehouse, and a warehouse key. Sound familiar?”
“Right...it's...an old-fashioned warehouse, that uses an antiquated key for unconventional security. A friend of mine loaned it to me for nothing when I was starting out T'Som Manufacturing. Great for testing out and storing new inventory.” I grinned. That seemed right.
“So tell me how were you able to pull stuff from it from within a dinner party with Donovan Hock?”
I groaned. “I...well...there was a pack and...it was lined to mess with security so...” My head started swimming again. “Um...I'm sorry I didn't quite catch your name. Doctor...?”
“You can call me Jump.”
“Right, Doctor Jump. These questions are a little too hard for me right now so can we try something else?”
Jump. Jumper. Warehouse. Spark. Quest.
Those five words rattled in my head for a while. Like remembering the old lyrics to a long forgotten nursery rhyme. Wait a minute...how did I get this key? I turned to my left hand, only to see it in my hand. I gasped and dropped it in surprise.
“Oh dear,” Doctor Jump sighed, “Somehow I knew this was going to happen. SAM and the geth kept your memories and your profile, but edited and changed it. Most likely to retain what could 'logically be feasible.' And yet they accepted the spatial screwery that your Warehouse did. Figure that out why dontcha.” She then got up and sat on the bed next to me.
“I don't have much time left and sadly there's only so much I can do so... I'm going to ask you a big question, and how you choose to answer it will determine the future. Alright?”
“This world you're in, this galaxy, this universe, isn't the only one. It is one of untold millions. All filled with fantastic and unbelievable wonders. Mindbending technology, alien architecture, things that can only be described as magic. But also filled with dangers and challenges, some that will destroy the lesser minds of others with a mere thought, others will make you beg for something as simple as death.
“But somewhere out there, is the power of an Old Spark. Something that if obtained, would allow you to do...anything. Also out there is a universe with a single habitable world. A simple world with simple residents. One where you can live a quiet and simple life. So... my question is were you given the option, what would you do? Stay here and recover in this small hospital and fully accept the consequences of your actions? Leave to go into this larger and grander world to have a chance at having your every wish granted? Or, do you wish to escape to this simpler humble existence?”
This seemed to be one hell of a hypothetical. My first thought was the simple life but...then I'd be abandoning the Normandy crew. And Shepard. And Jack. Wait...any wish granted? That could include a cure for this phenomena. A restoration of the Mass Relay network. I could...fix everything. But the horrors, the trials, the pain, the ordeals...
It's what you're fighting for....
“If I had the choice...I'd go for this Spark you mentioned,” I said after a while. “I may be a criminal, but I am a criminal who still wants to set things right.”
Then Doctor Jump quickly got up and cheered! Fist pumped in the air and she let out of an excited shriek of glee! It actually frightened me. What happened? What did I say!?
“Yes!! I knew you were still rattling around in there somewhere! And you just said the magic words! Congratulations! You completed the first link in your Jump Chain! Magnificent!! Magnificent!!!” She exclaimed.
I had so many questions. But then...I didn't need them answered. It all came rushing back to me. The offer at the Cybertavern, the warehouse key, the challenge, my human life, my friends, everything. As clear as my plain pinkish forearms right in front of me. I was me again! I was human!
“I...oh my gosh. Holy shit!” I started cheering as well. Putting my hands through my hair, stepping out of the bed with my fully mended limbs. Testing out my...well cut and impressive physical figure? Wait that's not right.
“Hey, you put in the work when Shepard trained you, way I see it you keep that bod, tits or not.” Jump responded to my confusion.
I took a couple practice kicks at the air and shadowboxed a bit. Perfect. Thank you Jump.
“Right, and now that this is all said and done, time to look over your sheet and get your final preparations ready to move onwards.” Jump spoke more calmly this time, handing me an official looking piece of paper. Embroidered with bright cyan engravings and a bit of gold leaf on the edges. It was... basically a character sheet. But instead of stats it showed things like items like the credits I had at the beginning or the footlocker full of weapons. That and everything else had values attached to them. Including....
“Drawbacks?” I asked.
“Yeah, about that. Every world needs to challenge or press you, so if I think it's going to be boring, I throw some curveballs your way. But you get more to spend on so it evens out. Then I block out your memory before the adventure begins so you can't meta it.” Jump shrugged, “it's only fair.”
I wanted to hit her so hard. The Reaper's obession with me wasn't exactly something I'd call fair. But then I looked over the numbers again. Something isn't right. There was still some points leftover. I brought this up to her.
“Oh. That's so you can have a companion.” she replied,
“A companion. Like how the Doctor has one so he...” my voice trailed off.
“Doesn't become completely detached from humanity? Yes.” She finished my sentence.
“But...why? Why do you care?”
“Oh my dear Jumper. I'm not some cold unfeeling machine of calculations and rigid reason. I do care about those who take this sort of challenge...in my own way,” She added that last part after I raised an eyebrow.
I felt a warmth rise up in me. I knew exactly who to pick.
“Ah. But a word of warning,” Jump intoned, “though your companion will obtain power and skills while by your side, their fate shall be the same as yours. They die, they go home, alright?”
I hesitated at first. But then I nodded.
“Right, so whose it gonna be?”
I knocked on the door to Jack's room and offered my hand. When she answered she did a double take.
“Uhh who the hell are y-?”
“Wanna go on an adventure, Jack? See the multiverse, figure out how to solve this weird outbreak? See me when I don't have blue skin and robots shooting at me?” My voice was light, barely restrained by my excitement.
“I...Variza? Is...that you?” She sized me up. I wanna say she approved by the way her jaw dropped.
“In the human flesh. So...what do you say? Adventure, excitement, stuff you can bring back to help this world heal from its ordeal.” I gave her a knowing smirk with that last comment. Her eyes began to light up, the revelation hitting her.
She took my hand. “Yeah,”
And I pulled her into the threshold from her room into my Warehouse.
“Holy shit...it's big.”
“Yep, and apparently it's gonna be getting some renovations very very soon. So, let's see your room. We got a week to ourselves before our next stop.” I said, gesturing to several robots as they moved the last of my weapons and my Kodiak shuttle to storage.
“I...wow” Jack finally said after starting several times.
“Yeah...wow.” I turned to the threshold and took one last look at the hospital. I'm coming back Shepard, you and the others are going to be fine. I promise.
“Goodbye world of Mass Effect,” I closed the door and pulled out my Warehouse key, causing the doorway to vanish and just leaving me inside the Warehouse, “And hello...everywhere else,”
Mass Effect Jump Complete!!
Jump Stats (1000 CP)
Race: Asari: Blue Monogendered (all female) alien race. Capable of “melding” to mate and have asari offspring with any other alien race of any other gender. Natural capacity for biotics – the ability to manipulate dark matter into mass effect fields for telekinesis and other physics bending powers.
Background: Drop-In (-0). No history, no background, no papers. Have fun.
Starting Location: The Galactic Citadel
Class: Adept. Exceptional Biotic Control with limited direct combat ability. Training in Heavy Pistols, SMGs, and Heavy Weapons
Finesse (-150 With Adept Discount). Fantastic muscle control and with it the ability to finely utilize biotic abilities. Also translates to better reflexes.
Exemplar (-400). Paragon Til Death. Have the uncanny ability to act like a bona fide hero, continuously finding ways to solve major incidents with as little collateral damage as possible
Elite Ordinance (-100 With Drop-In Discount). A Weapons case with ten top of the line weapons inside of them. All pinnacles of production. Weapons include a Cain mini-nuke launcher, the Widow Sniper Rifle, Javelin Sniper Rifles. Current intent is at least one weapon from all major weapons groups, Pistol, SMG, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, and Heavy, are represented.
Kodiak Shuttle (-200 With Drop-In Discount). A small shuttle capable of limited FTL travel and planetary flight. Looks like a flying brick though
Extra Credits (-200). 40k Credits, currency used in the Milky Way Galaxy, universally accepted. Don't spend it all in one place.
LOKI Mech (-100). A simple bipedal robot easily used for security purposes. Can use basic pistols and has a built in energy shield.
Medi-Gel (-50). A Case of medi-gel, capable to healing lethal puncture wounds from bullets and blades. Won't do much good against destroyed organs or severed limbs. Comes with 20 gobs and instructions on how to make more.
Shepard's Flock (+100). No matter what happens, adventures and shenanigans are going to happen to you, always somehow tied to Commander Shepard's exploits.
Reaper's Eye (+300). The Reapers have you on their radar. They will do everything in their power to capture you and understand how you work.
(-800) (+1000) – 200.
Remaining CP: 200. May be used to gain a companion!
Companion: Jack aka Jacqueline Nought, aka Subject Zero aka The Psychotic Biotic.
Companion Specific Universal Drawback: One and Done\ One Life To Lose (+200): Your Companions are treated just like you. If they die, barring any power or item that revives them, they are sent home. Upside is they get bonus 600 CP for powers and perks when getting imported into a Jump. This is Fiated by Jump-Chan herself and cannot be turned off.
One Week Later...
Jack stepped out of the shower and looked over her expansive wardrobe contained within the otherwise mundane looking closet. She couldn't help but try out several looks while listening to some techno music on the player. She had to hand it to Blue or Jump or whoever, they made this place feel like she never left the Milky Way Galaxy. After a while, she finally settled on her look, at least she did until she realized the multiple bracelets and chokers were a bit much. She removed them and threw them on the bed.
But as she turned to throw them down, she noticed something else on the bed. A ball, about the size of a tangerine. It was made of some smooth plastic material, and was colored red and white. She had never seen it before.
“What the hell is this?” She mumbled to herself. The ball then opened with a flash of brilliant white light....