Thursday, 27 February 2014

Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 9

Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 9

I’ll Stop Him

Shortly after walking down from the Council platform from the successful damnation of Saren and his induction as a Spectre, Commander Shepard, Tali and Wrex came across an Alliance Rear Admiral, trying to get through to the right people about the disappearance of one of his elite squads. He saw Shepard, and knowing the no-limits access of Spectres, decided to approach him.

“Congratulations on becoming the first human Spectre, Commander. I’m sure you’ll be up to the challenge.” The Rear Admiral said, saluting his lesser ranking officer in a sign of respect. He exuded authority, his grey beard just about covering his weathered face, but his Hawaiian ethnicity shining through a youthful exuberance to get things done.

“I appreciate that, sir.” Shepard said, firmly shaking the Rear Admiral’s hand,

“I’m Admiral Kahoku. It’s about time we got one of our own in with the Spectres. We need people like you to deal with our… problems.” Kahoku said,

“Having some difficulties Admiral?” Shepard enquired.

“Just being stonewalled by bureaucratic assholes. So nothing new there.” Kahoku said, cleared pissed off by the situation he found himself in. “One of my teams was out in the Traverse, investigating some disturbances. They dropped out of contact yesterday and now suddenly it’s a restricted area – I can’t get anything from anyone. But those rules don’t apply to you, Shepard. You’re a Spectre, you can go where you want. You could find out why my team dropped out of contact.”

“I’ll be out in the Traverse Admiral, I’ll look into it.” Shepard said,

“I appreciate that Shepard, despite my gut telling me otherwise, I’ll try and find out what I can through the official channels.” He said with a slight chuckle, knowing it would be futile. He nodded to Shepard, and returned to his console, trying to get information that he knew only Shepard could retrieve.

Shepard, Tali and Wrex left the Citadel Tower and returned to the Presidium below, as they walked through it to reach the C-Sec Academy and the Alliance Docking Bay where Udina and Anderson would be waiting, they passed a large krogan statue, Wrex stopped and sighed,

“This statue represents what the krogan used to be – a proud, noble, warrior race. Responsible for saving the galaxy from the rachni. Now look at us. Reduced to mercs and killers only available to the highest bidder.” He said remorsefully, knowing it wasn’t quite the time or the place, they moved on to the Alliance docking bay where Udina and Anderson were talking beside the Normandy. Udina saw Shepard coming and turned to face him.

“I’ve got big news for you Shepard. Captain Anderson is stepping down as Commanding Officer of the Normandy. The ship, is yours now.” He said, as Anderson crossed his arms and gave Shepard a determined look, he was stepping down to give Shepard the best chance of hunting down Saren.

“She’s quick and quiet, and you know the crew. Perfect ship for a Spectre.” Anderson added.

“This isn’t right, the Normandy is your ship. It belongs to you.” Shepard replied, knowing that Anderson had been coerced into it.

“You needed your own ship. You answer directly to the Council now. And it’s time for me to step down.” Anderson said, looking down with a slight glint of disappointment, the words he said were clearly well rehearsed.

“Come clean with me Captain, you owe me that much.” Shepard said, wanting the truth from Anderson.

“I was in your shoes 20 years ago Shepard. The Council were considering me for the Spectres.” Anderson said reluctantly. “Ask me later and I’ll tell you the whole story. All you need to know for now is that the Council sent me on a mission with Saren, and he made damn sure that I wouldn’t succeed. I had my shot. It came and went. Now you have a chance to make up for my mistakes.” Shepard nodded thoughtfully, and respected Anderson enough to leave well enough alone for the time being.

“Saren won’t get away this time.” He said,

“Saren’s gone. Don’t even try looking for him.” Anderson said, pointedly, “But we know what he’s after: The Conduit. And he has his geth scouring the Traverse looking for clues as to its whereabouts.”

“There have been reports of geth in the Feros system, and sightings around Noveria.” Udina added,

“Find out what Saren was after on Feros and Noveria. Maybe you can figure out where the Conduit is before he does.” Anderson said,

“I’m more concerned about the Reapers. They’re the real threat.” Shepard said, reminding them of what was said in the audio recording.

“I’m with the Council on this one Shepard.” Udina said, holding his chin, “I’m not sure the Reapers even exist.”

“But if the Reapers do exist, the Conduit is the key to bringing them back. Stop Saren from reaching the Conduit, and it will stop the Reapers from returning.” Anderson added, clearly not on the same wavelength as Udina and the Council, and much more thinking the same as Shepard.

Shepard looked back at Anderson as though he was staring down the sight on his rifle, and sternly but simply said, “I’ll stop him.” Anderson nodded in agreement.

“Oh… there is one more lead. Matriarch Benezia; the other voice on the recording. She has a daughter, a scientist who specialises in the protheans. We don’t know what her role is in all this yet, and she may not even be involved. Her name is Liara, Dr Liara T’Soni. We have reports that she was exploring one of the archaeological digs on one of the uncharted worlds in the Artemis Tau Cluster.” Udina said.

“I think I’ll start there then.” Shepard thought aloud.

“It’s your call Shepard, you don’t answer to us anymore.” Anderson reminded Shepard,

“But your actions reflect on humanity as a whole,” Udina aggressively pointed out, “You make a mess out there, and I’m stuck cleaning it up.”

“I’ll worry about Saren. You worry about any political fallout.” Shepard said, clearly not giving a crap about Udina’s worries.

“Not exactly the answer I was looking for. Remember, you were a human long before you were a Spectre, Shepard. I have a meeting to get to, Captain Anderson will answer any questions you might have.” Udina spat as he walked away. Shepard looked over his shoulder to see Udina descend in the elevator, then he turned to face Anderson.

“Yes, Shepard?” Anderson asked,

“How are you holding up?” Shepard asked, knowing that it had been a big day for himself, but also had been a big day in a different way for Anderson.

“Honestly?” Anderson asked, “This isn’t how I imagined my career coming to an end. Pushing papers really isn’t my thing. But you’re the one who can stop Saren. I believe in you, Shepard. If that means I have to step aside, the so be it.”

“Tell me what happened between you and Saren.” Shepard said, wanting to know the full picture from Anderson.

“It’s getting on for 20 years now. I was sent on a mission by the Council, and they sent Saren along with me to evaluate my performance. Much in the same way that they sent Nihlus along to check you out.” Anderson said,

“I want the full story Anderson, tell me what happened.” Shepard insisted.

“We had intel on a rogue scientist being funded by batarian interests. He was trying to set up a facility to develop illegal AI technology out in the Verge.” Anderson started to explain, “Alliance intel had done all the work, but the Council wanted a Spectre involved. We compromised: I was assigned to help Saren in his investigation. We tracked the scientist to a refining facility on Camala. He was hidden away somewhere inside, protected by an army of batarian mercenaries. The plan was simple. We sneak into the plant, capture the scientist and sneak back out. Quick, quiet and a minimum of bloodshed.”

“I assume things didn’t go as planned?” Shepard asked,

“Saren and I split up to cover more ground. Then, about halfway through the mission, there was a massive explosion in the refinery core.” Anderson started, “Officially, it was ruled an accident. But I think Saren detonated it on purpose to draw off the enemy guards.”

“That’s smart. Create a diversion to distract the guards.” Shepard said,

“This went much further than a simple diversion Shepard. The explosion tore the refinery apart, killing everyone inside. Black chemical smoke poured out of it. There was a small settlement, not far from the refinery. Between the explosion and the chemicals spilling out into the atmosphere, the death-toll was well over 500 – mostly civilians.” Anderson started to explain, “But Saren didn’t care. The target was eliminated. Job done. And I got the blame.”

“But the explosion was Saren’s fault!” Shepard exclaimed,

“In his report. He blamed me for blowing his cover, said it was my fault the guards were ready for us. He claimed that’s why it turned into a massacre. Saren’s report was all the proof the Council needed to kill my chances of becoming a Spectre.”

“Why’d you let him get away with it?” Shepard asked,

“Who do you think the Council was going to listen to? Me? Or their best agent? I had a bad feeling about him right from the start. I should’ve been more careful. Maybe I could have stopped things before they go out of hand.” Anderson told Shepard,

“Don’t blame yourself Captain.” Shepard replied,

“I don’t. I blame Saren. I think he wanted things to go bad. He was looking for an excuse to blow that refinery. Maybe he just likes the violence. Maybe he was just trying to make me look bad to keep human’s out of the Spectres. If so, he pulled it off.” Anderson concluded. Shepard nodded his head one in acknowledgement,

“Well, the only thing I care about now is stopping Saren.” He said, “I should go.”

Shepard saluted Anderson and he reciprocated, as Shepard, Tali and Wrex boarded the Normandy.