Boop. I posted it.
This chapter is my take on the Overlord DLC from Mass Effect 2.
The shuttle’s front viewscreen glimmered with the jeweled horizon of the garden world of Aite. Legion had decrypted a distress call while on Heretic Station, which was evidently intercepted and blocked by the heretics from reaching the consensus. A geth cruiser had crash-landed on Aite, and their final transmission was, in Legion’s words, “flagged exceptionally urgent.” Shepard found the unshackled EDI quite willing to divulge that a Cerberus cell tasked with investigating AI was stationed in the same system.
Shepard’s hands relaxed on the shuttle’s haptic controls, flying the squad in easy curves to the coordinates of the crashed ship. It was rarely this quiet on the descent. Legion might as well have been cargo, and riding copilot was Thane, master of the companionable silence.
The shuttle jostled in the slipstreams, affected by the planet’s larger gravity well despite being propelled in its own mass effect field. Thane swayed with the turns like a meditating cat. He wore his breather at Shepard’s urging, because the geth ship was crashed near one of Aite’s bodies of water, and EDI had calculated the humidity to be higher than advised thresholds for Kepral’s sufferers. At that, he had closed his eyes and prayed a moment, then acquiesced with a bittersweet half-smile.
Shepard was beginning to resent the shot of not-quite-adrenaline that raced through her circulatory system every time she looked at him. It felt so woefully teenaged. She was suspicious of the pleasure it gave her, an entirely un-cynical rush. It was particularly irksome while on a mission, when he was at his predatory best, and there could be no hastening off to her cabin to make something useful of the feeling.
And she had no emotional context for being in love.
She guided the shuttle around a cliffside bend. The geth cruiser was partly submerged in soft sandy earth due to impact and time, and Cerberus techs had left their mark in the forms of hastily constructed struts and prefab labs around the downed vessel. Beyond, the landscape was beautiful: yellow sunlight glinted off the water sea, lending a rich emerald glow to the primitive grasses that populated the banks of young and jagged cliffs.
There was no activity there now. Sensors failed to pick up any humans in the vicinity, although there seemed to be a sub-structure beneath the ship that was impervious to scans. Readings of synthetic life were present, but hummed at a low level that Shepard had never encountered before.
She landed the shuttle and swung out of the cockpit into the passenger compartment. Legion lifted its lamp-head to watch her, and rose to its feet.
“We are experiencing difficulty establishing a connection to local networks,” it said. “Ports are closed despite the presence of functioning units. This deviates from geth standard operation. We suspect tampering by Cerberus agents. Immediate intervention is requested.”
It sounded legitimately worried, but maybe that was just an anthropocentric projection. Hell, if she couldn’t figure out her own feelings, she sure couldn’t trust her read on a geth.
“Let’s hustle, then,” Shepard said, and hopped down from the shuttle onto springy, grassy turf. She wondered if she should be feeling any nostalgia for Mindoir, another human-friendly garden world. She realized with abrupt certainty that she shouldn’t. Mindoir was all arid air, dusty roads, and vast fields of grain. Not like this place at all. She glanced at Thane, pleased with herself for the recollection, and wanting to share it with him.
“Alert: open network zone begins at perimeter of geth cruiser,” Legion announced. “Cerberus has piggybacked wireless infrastructure on geth network protocols. Ready infiltration countermeasures in case of viral attack.”
Shepard nodded, and glanced to Thane. He inclined his head in acknowledgment. Anyone in Shepard’s crew knew to keep all active omnitools locked and off-grid while on a mission. Only she and Tali had permission to open ports, and only under carefully controlled conditions. This policy existed for the same reason that Shepard kept her notes on paper in her cabin: having a cyberwarfare suite is well and good for a frigate with an onboard AI to manage it, but Shepard knew too much about cracking omnitools. The hacker cold war and its spiralling ecosystem of backdoors and trojans could pop out with an unexpected new exploit at any time. Better just to lock everyone’s tech in a wooden box, so to speak.
But after infiltrating and exploding the heretic stronghold from within, this lone and crippled geth ship seemed quite unintimidating in comparison. After all, Cerberus was here, and their techs’ primary innovative talent was finding new gruesome deaths for themselves.
So it was with hubris that the impenetrable Commander Shepard stepped through the threshold of the geth ship.
It was dark, all systems down. The bright sunlight from outside dimmed more quickly than she expected. She took no more than ten steps into the ship before she needed to activate her pistol’s torch. Thane left his off. No doubt he was quite comfortable in darkness, but his breather mask would also supply him with wide-band visuals.
Shepard surveyed the scene, which was illuminated by the beam that swung at the angle of her firearm. The geth designers of the low ceiling had no reason to concern themselves with claustrophobia. Every inch of bulkhead was probably jammed with server infrastructure. As she had observed on Heretic Station, passageways in a geth ship were no more than an unfortunate necessity for the occasional manoeuvring of mobile platforms.
Some of those mobile platforms were there, in the trapezoidal chamber just past the airlock. They were definitely not dead, but not a threat either. Sprawled against bulkhead panels, their lamplights flickered, lenses contracting and dilating. Electric pulses crawled across limbs, repair protocols that seemed to have gotten lost. One pair of legs continued its forward march despite its carrier body being horizontal on the floor.
It was eerie enough for her, but it occurred to Shepard that Legion might find it truly disturbing—rather like a first encounter with human husks. She turned to look at it.
Legion had stopped precisely on the threshold, frozen.
“N–n–n– not virus,” it said, its vocalizations skipping as if from an overclocked processor. “Network overwhelmed—nature of data—un-pr-ssssss—”
The pitch of Legion’s voice dropped like it had been abruptly unplugged. It dropped to its knees and plummeted forward onto the bulkhead.
“Fuck,” Shepard said. “We need to get out of here so we can safely open comms and—”
She turned on her heel to stalk towards the door, but she was suddenly hit by a wave of generalized agony. Pain rolled through her, tearing through her insides until it billowed out of her eyes like a raging spirit.
Read on at Archive of Our Own | Fanfiction.net
I should have remembered last week that Tuesdays at 6:30 weren't going to work as a weekly posting time because my new sewing class was starting at that time. I wonder what effect posting at 4am will have on my pageviews.
I used to update Friday evenings. I don't know. I guess it's arbitrary. You never know when people are browsing fanfiction, especially in the summertime.