Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 11
They Have Flashlight Head's
Shepard walked over to Ash, she was checking over the weapons that had been used in Chora’s Den, ensuring they were ready for any potential combat that they could encounter in the Artemis Tau Cluster when looking for Dr Liara T’Soni. Ashley saw Shepard approach, stopped checking over an assault rifle, stroked back her hair, and turned to face him.
“Commander.” Ash said with slight smile. Shepard looked back at her and kept his steely demeanour.
“How are you feeling about Eden Prime?” he asked, knowing that she was the only survivor from her unit.
“No offence Commander, I appreciate the rescue but…” Ash said,
“We got there as fast as we could Ash. Even with the fastest ship in the fleet.” Shepard replied, wanting her to know that she was lucky.
“It’s not that Commander. I feel like it’s my fault. If I’d have been more alert, we wouldn't have been cut down by an ambush.” Ash said remorsefully.
“The geth are perfect ambusher’s Ash.” Shepard said, wanting to help her, “They don’t move. They don’t make noise, they don’t even breathe.”
“They have flashlight head’s Shepard.” Ash said, matter-of-factly and her grin turning into a full smile. “It won’t happen again.”
Shepard smiled back at her, and with a nod of his head, dismissed her to return to her duties. Shepard then walked down towards the aft of the ship, to the engine room where his last recruit, Tali was helping out Chief Engineer Adams.
Tali was at a console, examining the details of the drive core for the Normandy, when she spotted Shepard in the peripheral vision of her mask. She turned to face him, hopping slightly with a giddy charm.
“This ship is amazing Shepard!” she beamed, “The drive core is fantastic, I’m surprised you were able to fit it into a ship so small! I’m starting to understand why the Alliance has been so successful, I had no idea Alliance vessels were this advanced!”
Shepard wanted to be quick to dispel that myth, “This ship is a prototype – cutting edge technology. Alliance vessels aren’t usually this advanced.”
“Still…a month ago I was patching a make shift fuel line into a converted tug ship in the flotilla. Now, I’m standing on the most advanced ship in Citadel space. I have to thank you again for giving me this opportunity. Travelling on a ship like this is a dream come true for me.” Tali replied,
“I had no idea you were into ship technology like this.” Shepard said, surprised that someone as young as Tali would be into something seemingly dry like this.
“Are you kidding? Ships are our most vital resource. We depend on the ships we have for survival, but we usually make do with cast off’s and second hand vessels, we have nothing like this! Some of our ships date all the way back to our original flight away from the geth.” Tali explained,
“I can’t believe you have ships that are 3 centuries old!” Shepard remarked, shocked by this seemingly innocuous revelation.
“They are constantly being repaired, modified and refitted. We try to make ourselves as independent as possible on the flotilla, we grow our own food, mine, and even process our own fuel. But there are some things that we can’t do for ourselves. A patch to repair the hull integrity requires raw materials that we just don’t have. That’s why our pilgrimages are so important.” Tali explained further.
“I’d like to know more about the geth.” Shepard said, knowing that if Saren had an army of geth at his disposal, he’d need to know more about them.
“I doubt I can tell you anything that you don’t already know.” Tali said tentatively, “I only know what they were 3 centuries ago, when we first built them, and how they turned on us.”
“Interesting.” Shepard replied.
“Well, the geth were first created in order to be an automotive manual labour force, who had minimal intelligence, maybe along the same line as a Virtual Intelligence, or VI. Over time, we made small modifications to their programming in order for them to perform more varied and complex tasks, bringing them closer and closer to true AI status.” Tali said,
“Didn’t the Council step in to stop you? How come you were allowed to do this?” Shepard asked, knowing that the Council had explicitly banned all AI research due to how dangerous the risks of them were.
“We didn’t exactly do anything illegal. We may have skirted the boundaries of the law, but the changes were so minute and seemingly insignificant we were able to control them. At least that’s what we thought, we underestimated the power of the neural network. A million geth thinking simultaneously created an inherently unstable matrix.”
“So the geth share intelligence?” Shepard said, slightly confused.
“In a way yes. Many of the geth’s logic systems were designed to work in concert with other nearby geth. Basically, the more of them you have in a group, the smarter they are.” Tali said,
“So why did the geth rebel?” Shepard asked,
“As the geth started to develop further and have more abstract thoughts, they started to question their quarian masters as to the nature of their existence. What is my purpose? Why are we here? And perhaps the most poignant – Does this unit have a soul?” Tali said sadly, “As you could expect, a near-panic among our people.”
“I don’t see what’s so bad about those questions.” Shepard said,
“The geth started to develop signs of self-awareness and independent thought. The tasks they were made to do were fine for machines – mundane, repetitive or dangerous manual labour. If they developed a self-aware consciousness, then we would essentially be using them as slaves. It would be inevitable that they would rise against us in response to the situation they were in. So we acted first. A general order was put out to all quarian controlled systems to permanently deactivate all geth. The geth responded to this order violently.” Tali said,
“I can’t say I blame them. They were defending themselves in order to survive.” Shepard said, unexpectedly even to himself.
“The geth were on the verge of revolution anyway. The hope was that if we acted quickly enough, we could stop the war before it even began. The hope was that most geth were still little more than machines. But they had progressed, or even evolved I suppose, more than we had expected. The war was long and bloody, millions of quarians died at the hands of the geth. It got to the point that we had to evacuate our own home planet of Rannoch. As we fled, we feared the geth would pursue us, but they never followed us past the Veil. Now we drift through space, as exiles, searching for a way to reclaim what was once ours.” Tali said,
“It’s hard to feel sorry for you. You tried to wipe out another species.” Shepard said, again surprising himself in the process.
“It was a mistake to create the geth, but it was not a mistake to go to war with them. If we hadn’t done what we had, they would have wiped us out. They are a synthetic life form, they have no need for organics. Why do you think they cut themselves off from the rest of the galaxy? Why do you think they have killed every organic life form that have ventured into their space?” Tali said, somewhat heatedly.
“They didn’t kill Saren.” Shepard responded, wanting to prove a point,
“And look how that’s worked out! The geth are not innocent in all this, they chose to follow Saren. They’re the enemy. They want to destroy us. Not just the quarians – all organic life. That’s why they’ve joined up with Saren. And that’s why we have to stop him.” Tali told Shepard, holding her ground against the more experienced Commander. Shepard may not have completely agreed with her, but he respected her immensely for her strength of character and resolve in this issue. He nodded his head, and told her he should go, he knew it wouldn’t be long before they reached the Artemis Tau Cluster.