This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chapter 10: The Devil Within

Major Carter towed in 4 of the largest pieces of the reaper dreadnought into the London base camp with the convoy. Along with 40 bodies. Of the soldiers he sent into battle, of the dead whose bodies were still in tact, they managed to gather for a proper burial. Carter hopped out of the truck, he couldn’t care less about such rituals. If it were up to him, he’d burn the bodies in the streets. It would certainly cut down on the growing husk population. He marched straight towards the artifact, towards the tent the mysterious Dr. Gillette had been filling with expensive equipment purchased at the leisure of ExoGeni. Even when the war broke out, especially because the war broke out, ExoGeni relied on its military contract to stay profitable. Carter didn’t care about that either. About the only thing he did care about was himself. He fought this war, hell he’d even win this war just to stay alive. He even took an assortment of stims and steroids just to stay alive. Carter went so far as to buy some very expensive pocket equipment to clean his samples at each of the random drug tests. Any edge he could find, technologically or biologically was his key to survival.

“You’re back.” The Dr. expected Carter to be gone longer. He’d returned with the precious cargo in tow in under 6 hours. Carter knew Gillette from the start of project Skyfall. To Carter, the Dr. was brilliant if not demanding. He always needed everything the Alliance offered in the contract, sometimes more. Carter was able to stretch the terms of the agreement, sometimes outright change them with a little leverage on Admiral Hackett. But his blackmail only went so far and Hackett was a strong man. More often than not, the Admiral didn’t cooperate. But the times that he did made Carter believe he had the man firmly under his thumb.

 “You should know by now that I work fast.” Carter said. “I expect you to do the same.”

The pretentious Dr. spoke in a pretentious tone, “I am nothing if not the standard of efficiency.”

“Tell that to the Man.”

“As far as I know, he’s quite pleased with my performance. As he will be with yours. Have you spoken to him yet?” Dr. Gillette asked.

“I’m about to.”

“You can send along my preliminary reports on the device.” The Dr. handed Carter his data-pad. “It’s incredible, it’s an exact replica of the one we found on Ontarom.”

“What does it do?” Carter wanted the efficient Dr. speak more efficiently and get right to the point.

“Many things! All very well. For instance…” the Dr. broke into a monologue, “It’s able to leech energy in almost any form, and it’s power storage unit is a unit not unlike the mass relays. As far as we know the relays store the energy of a large O type star. Massive proportions!”

Carter was not amused by the Dr.’s dry humor.

“This device however can store up the energy of lets say a large mass effect drive core. Not a small one, a huge one! Like the one we saw on the derelict reaper.”

Carter interrupted him, “I told you never to talk about that.”

“I’m sorry. I got a little carried away describing this magnificent machine.”

“So it’s powerful?” Carter asked.

“But that’s not all it does. You know those creatures you ran into in the underground?”

“Yeah.”

“Well they had to come from somewhere.”

Carter wanted Gillette to stop playing games but he held his tongue, “Are you saying that that thing,” he pointed to the device, “is responsible for turning those men into machines?”

The Dr. Carefully chose his words, “What I am saying is that IT IS,” he stressed the words, “the basis for turning humans into husks and all the other reaper abominations.”

Carter had to admit he was right about the Dr. he was in fact brilliant. This discovery was huge. It was the largest discovery of project Skyfall other than the discovery of the device itself. It was extremely good work on the Dr.’s behalf. Except for one snag.

“How come you only discovered this now?” Carter asked.

“Don’t insult me. You have no idea what kind of science I do.” Dr. Gillette moved over to a table with a sheet over what looked like a large piece of equipment. “I’d suspected for months, only now was I able to take a sample of the synthetic creatures and compare it to the device.” He pulled the sheet off to reveal a dead synthetic jackal.

“Dr. where did you get that?”

“While you were away, I took a small trip to the train station. You encouraged me to be resourceful. So I did.”

Carter got angry, “I encouraged you to deal with what resources I give you. Not for you to go out in the middle of a war zone and bring back, potentially hazardous matterials into this Alliance base!”

“Hazardous you say? HA!” The Dr. laughed. “You have no idea how dangerous the artifact is.”

“I don’t need to. What I need is for you to follow regulations, and stay on base at all times!” Carter yelled in the Dr.’s face. “And just so we’re perfectly clear. That means no more unscheduled trips.” Carter settled down, “Are we clear?”

The Dr. blinked, “Perfectly.”

Carter paused a moment to regain his composure, “Make good use of the reaper samples we brought you.” He said. “I’ve got to go speak to the man.” Carter didn’t want to hear another word out of Gillette, so he spoke while leaving the tent before the man could get a word in edgewise, “And I’ll forward your report.”

Anderson woke up with the sound of engines rolling in. He sat up in the bed checking the time. He’d slept a standard 6 hour shift, he was sore and tired but he didn’t want to set a different standard for himself than the rest of the troops. Picking himself up he dragged his grimy self out of the barracks trailer. The impromptu base had no water and only a few portable latrines. Anderson felt lucky he didn’t have to go. He wandered his way towards the supply tent, perhaps getting something to eat. Except what he saw weren’t crates of rations but rather body bags. Dozens of body bags stacked inside the tent. Anderson stood there, understandably shocked. He’d been asleep for only 6 hours. His mind began to race with questions. What could have occurred in that time? Was the base attacked? No, couldn’t be, the alarm would have woken me. Who did I leave on duty? Anderson made up his mind. He settled that Major Carter was responsible for this. Only he could botch a mission this badly. And who knows how many men and women died that they didn’t recover? Anderson marched directly to the command center. This seemed to be turning into a habit of his.

“Major.” Anderson spoke up. “Would you like to explain to me why a third of our men are dead in the supply tent?”

Carter turned around from his console, He spoke only a few words, “We had a mission to complete.”

As a response Anderson put on a sarcastic attitude,”I assume you were successful?”

“We were.”

“And what did this mission accomplish? Other than getting a third of my men killed?!’

Carter tried to placate Anderson’s growing temper. “Settle down Admiral. I know we have different ways of doing things. But you can’t argue with my effectiveness. We were ordered to attack a reaper dreadnought and recover the fragments.”

Those words made Anderson livid, “You did what?” Carter seemed crazier than Anderson thought. “You actively pursued a reaper in reckless disregard from the defense of this base? Or the lives of the men and women under your command. And so we get this perfectly straight, I’m your commanding officer. You do not tell me ever under any circumstances to settle down!”

Carter had just about enough of Anderson’s good soldier routine, “You got a problem with me Admiral?”

Anderson’s eyes widened, “Yes, as a matter of fact I do.” Anderson was a half second away from throwing Carter in the brig, “You are possibly the worst officer I’ve ever met in my entire career. You’re not only emotionally reckless, you’re pompous, superior and lethal to your own kind.”

Carter returned to his console, turning his back and rolling his eyes, “Don’t insult me.”

 Anderson tightened his fist. He wanted to punch Carter out. The way Carter tried assault him. But Anderson wasn’t about to stoop to his level.

Instead he spoke slowly, “You’re relieved soldier.”

Carter turned around, “Excuse me?”

“That got your attention. Did you not hear me? I said you’re relieved of duty.”

Carter had an expression of disbelief “Are you serious?”

“Dead serious. I want you to go to your barracks… and stay there.”

Carter stood up to him, “You’re not sending me to the barracks.”

Anderson grit his teeth, “The other option is the brig.”

“No.”

“What?”

“I said no… You have no idea what you’re talking about. Just like you have no idea who I am, or what I’ve done. You’re mad, I get that. But I completed a critical mission last night that came with orders from the highest level. So don’t come crying to me that a few men died along the way.”

Anderson disappointed himself. He stooped to Carter’s level.

“Are you fucking insane?” Carter felt the blood running down his lip.

“You know what? I’ve changed my mind.” Anderson said. “I’m not going to send you to the brig. I’m going to send you on patrol. And the next person who comes back crying or in a body bag will be you.”

“That’s enough Anderson!” Hackett said, establishing a hard link over the vidcomm.

“Colonel Carter did everything I asked him to. Nothing less.” He added.

“I assume that means you’re reinstating my rank.” Carter said.

“I am.”

Anderson turned to face the screen. “You sent him after a reaper dreadnought?”

Hackett began to explain, “It’s not just any reaper dreadnought. Ever since we found the artifact we’ve been scanning for similar devices. That reaper dreadnought happened to be one of them.”

Anderson continued in disbelief, “And this was worth the lives of 50 men?”

“It was worth the lives of 63 brave men and women. To be exact, and they’ll be remembered for their contribution to the war effort. If you’re still hung up on the casualties, think about how many people that reaper killed. How many more it was going to kill. Carter did us all a great service today.”

“Hackett,” Anderson said. “I’m beginning to think I hardly know you.”

Hackett began to realize he had a developing problem on his hands, “Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision to get you involved with project Skyfall. But before you pass judgement on me or my methods. Perhaps you should learn more about its potential. There’s so much we can accomplish with this technology. It along with the Crucible could be the key to defeating the Reapers.”

Anderson looked upon Hackett with disgust, “I think I know all I need to know.”

***

Marcus stood outside his home about to ring the bell. Securing residence on the Citadel’s nicest ward doesn’t come cheap. But Marcus was willing to pay the price to raise his children in a better neighborhood. That and they were fairly well off. Emily had a well-paying job working at the Citadel Human Embassies and the turian military aptly compensates its veteran Commander’s. The expensive condominium was worth the cost for Marcus to be able to come home as often as he had time to spare. He and his wife Emily had two wonderful sons and Marcus was determined to be a father to them with an active role in their lives. He’d spent his childhood without his father. He had one, but he never got to see him. His father Captain Aurelius Sr. was always away on duty and never made time for the landmarks of Marcus’ life. Maybe that’s why he latched onto his father-in-law so much. George was there for Marcus in ways his father never was. Like on his wedding day, or the birth of his grandchildren. Marcus rang the doorbell dreading the news. When an officer dies in or out of the line of duty, someone always comes in person to tell the family of the deceased. With the permission of the Alliance, Marcus elected to be the bearer of this terrible news.

To Marcus’ surprise, the door opened not on the lovely face of his wife Emily but onto Martha, his mother-in-law.

“Martha. I didn’t expect to see you here.” Marcus said. From inside the room came the voice of Emily, “Mom, who’s at the door?” Emily got up from her chair and looked up to see the figure of her husband, “Marcus!” She said jumping into his arms. She gave him a big kiss before letting him go.

“You’re here, I can’t believe it. You didn’t say you were coming home.” Emily said.

“You also didn’t tell me Mother would be here.” Said Marcus.

With the massive influx of war refugee’s, the Citadel overflowed with people from all different races from all over the galaxy. Hotels and individuals with rooms for rent took advantage of the housing shortage by charging exorbitant rates.

“The hotel became too expensive. They kicked me out.” Martha said.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Marcus said. “Not that I’m sorry to have you here.” Marcus quickly added, “You’re always welcome in our home.”

“That’s very kind of you.” She said with a fake sincerity. She was half blocking the doorway, Marcus couldn’t tell if it was intentional or simple absent-mindedness but he felt extremely awkward standing there.

“Can I come in? I’ve got something important I need to tell you all. Even the boys.” Marcus said.

Emily moved out of the way and welcomed him in. The door closed automatically behind him. Marcus walked into the living area and sat down on the large sofa.

“The boys aren’t here. They’re at school remember?” Emily said.

Marcus looked at his watch, he hadn’t realized the time. “Oh, that’s right. Its ok, it’ll be easier for them if they learn of it later.”

“Learn what?” Emily asked. She moved back to her chair sitting opposite to him. Martha Whitaker stood by the coffee table.

“Martha, you’re going to want to sit down for this. I’ve got very bad news.” Marcus said.

Martha looked surprised, even concerned. She took a seat next to Emily, holding her hand. Part of her knew what Marcus was going to say, but she never expected the words to come from his lips.

“At about 0’seven hundred this morning… General George Whitaker… was killed in the line of duty.”

Martha’s face flushed. Emily began to sob, “No, you can’t be serious. You can’t be.”

“Ema, I’m sorry.” Marcus said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it myself.”

“No it’s not true,” her hands shook as she brought them to her eyes, “it’s not, true.”

Marcus got up and sat next to his wife in the small chair. He put his arms around her and said, “Ema, he’s dead.”

She broke into tears, “Daddy!”

Martha sat there beside her daughter. She didn’t move, she didn’t speak a word. She was just over-stricken by the news. Quietly, she got up and left the room. Leaving Marcus to comfort Emily alone.

***

“Gerald.” The Man addressed him. Chesterton hated that name. “I thought I should warn you that a Cerberus strike team is about to attack the Citadel.” The Man said.

Chesterton responded from the private terminal he rented in the merchant district. He hijacked the signal onto half a dozen extranet buoy’s to hide any form of tracking signal. In addition the call was made with his own private encryption, “I appreciate the warning. Listen, I filed my report a little early. I’d like to update it with a key piece of information.”

“What would you like to correct?”

“Before I left the ship I snuck past the restricted zone into the cargo bay.” Chesterton said, “The turians have a Skyfall artifact.”

The Man looked surprised at the news but was not anything he hadn’t anticipated.

“Thank you for being so thorough.” The Illusive Man said. “You took initiative sneaking around a turian dreadnought. They don’t take that sort of thing lightly.”

“I made sure I wouldn’t get caught.” Chesterton said. He continued to discuss his report, it was much larger than usual. He had been out of contact for an abnormally long time, “So I take it you’re not upset that I had to fight back during the invasion.”

The Illusive Man looked confused, “You mean at the academy?”

“I had to kill a lot of Cerberus to keep my cover.”

“Don’t worry about it. I expected nothing less of you.” The Illusive man said. “We still managed to capture a few key members, despite the ultimate loss of the station. The intel you provided was invaluable. Thank you.”

“Thank you sir.” The communication quit and he walked out of the booth. Jack was there waiting.

“So what did Hackett have to say?” She asked.

“He wanted to congratulate us for a job well done.” He said.

“Really, I thought he’d be more pissed that we lost the artifact?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he was just glad to have all of us out of there alive.”

“Well we did lose a whole ship. I guess that makes sense.”

Chesterton changed the subject. “So what do you want to do now? You want to see that Blasto Movie?”

“Are you kidding me? That crap’s lame. I’d rather go to the bar.”

“The bar it is then.”

***

Admiral Hackett was sitting in his private quarters. He just finished reading the reports from lieutenant Chesterton and Jack. Jack wrote all about her experience with the artifact. Its leeching effects on her biotics. And about the enemy jackals. Hackett soaked in the descriptions of their appearances, weapons fighting styles and tactics from range to melee. He compared them to the video feed from the lieutenant’s suit. The brief minute and a half video that showed him fighting the synthetics was all Hackett needed.

“Get me Commander Shepard on the line.” Hackett said over the intercom. A minute later Hackett steps out of his quarters and onto the holo-pad in the comm room.

“Admiral Hackett.” Commander Shepard addressed him. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Commander I didn’t call for you. I need to speak with your Prothean crew member.” Hackett said. “In private.”

Shepard rescued the last surviving Prothean in existence from cryo-stasis. He survived the previous 50,000 year cycle since the Reaper invasion of the Prothean civilization in his time by being frozen in a pod on Eden Prime. Eden Prime is Earth’s first colony world and a prominent location of many Prothean artifacts. It turned out that Eden Prime was once a Prothean colony world and recently researchers unearthed the Prothean stasis pod. When the discovery was made Cerberus attacked the colony of Eden Prime, unwittingly alerting Commander Shepard to defend the colony.

“His name’s Javik. I’ll go ask him.” Shepard said.

“Commander, this is urgent… Don’t ask.”

“Aye sir.”

Shepard stepped out of the comm room and into the CIC, pressing a button on the intercom, “Javik, come up to the CIC immediately, past the war room. I’ll meet you at the security checkpoint.”

Javik responded, “Understood Commander.”

A few moments later Javik, the tall Prothean had 4 eyes, two larger inner eyes and two smaller outer eyes positioned diagonally under his brow. Each eye had two pupils, horizontal to one another. His brow jutted out from his forehead at an acute angle giving him a naturally aggressive appearance. Appropriate for his species that evolved as the galaxy’s deadliest predators. His skin was dark and he spoke in a deep vibrato voice. He always wore his armor and to everyone who saw it, it looked exactly as alien as he did.

“What is the subject of this meeting?” Javik asked.

“A high ranking leader of our military named Admiral Hackett has some very important questions. Try to answer them as honestly as you can.” Shepard said leading him past the checkpoint and through the war room.

“I’ll do my best.” Javik answered.

“Through there.” Shepard pointed him through.

“You are not a part of this meeting?” Javik asked.

“Admiral Hackett asked for you alone.”

Javik looked puzzled for a moment before he turned and walked into the comm room.

Hackett spoke to him upon entering, “Javik I presume.”

“That is my name.”

“My name is Admiral Hackett. What I am about to show you is highly classified. That means you cannot speak with anyone about this after you leave this room. Do you understand?”

“Yes. I do.”

Hackett began to roll the tape of footage from lieutenant Chesterton’s suit camera. “As you can see here we encountered a race of synthetic combatants unlike anything we’ve seen in our cycle. We were hoping you could identify them from yours.”

Javik looked awestruck if ever a Prothean was, “Zha’til!”

“Excuse me?”

Javik breathed deeply through his nose and spoke again, “Those are Zha’til. They are extremely dangerous, you must eliminate them at all cost.”

“We believe they are all dead.” Hackett reassured him.

“That is what you believed about my race. Yet I am standing in front of you. And that is what I believed about the Zha’til until you showed that they live again.”

For what it seemed, for all the artifact’s potential, Hackett carefully took the risks into consideration.

“What are the Zha’til?” Hackett asked.

“They are synthetic race that existed in my time. And in yours it would seem. But they were not always synthetic. They were once a race of flesh and blood known as the Zha. When their home-world was threatened by a collapse of their sustainable ecosystem the Zha implanted themselves with artificial intelligence and turned their body’s into machines… Of course the Reapers exploited the Zha’til. They made them their slaves. Their numbers grew until they became an unstoppable army.”

“How did you fight them?” Hackett asked.

“We didn’t.” Javik coldly answered, “We detonated their star and watched the planet and all the Zha’til die.”

“Somehow I doubt we could replicate those conditions.”

“Unless you’re planning of bringing the Zha’til back into existence.”

Hackett answered quickly, “That’s not what we have in mind. I can assure you. That’s all the questions I had for you.”

Javik interrupted Hackett before he could cut off transmission, “If you are finished asking questions. I have a question of my own to ask.”

“I’ll do what I can. But most information you may be asking for is classified.” Hackett said.

“I only have one question. And it is simple. Did you find the artifacts?”

Hackett tried not to give up the truth, “What do you mean?”

“I mean the cubic artifacts that the Zha discovered on their home-world. Instead of destroying them they used them to change themselves into Zha’til.” Javik answered. “And to be honest. I could tell you were lying to me. You do have an artifact.”

Hackett gave it up in favor of the information the Prothean could possibly provide regarding the devices, “Yes we do.”

“Then you should destroy them immediately.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because to my people they are cursed. We called them ‘grim boxes’ in your language, for they are death. They bring only destruction to every life that has ever encountered them. They are why the Zha are no more. They are why Reapers turn every dead of every species into synthetic monsters. Do not be lured by its power, it is a form of mind control. Destroy them immediately. It is your only hope.”

The speech Javik gave, disappointed Hackett. It was not what he expected to hear, “Then I suppose we have no other choice. Thank you for your time.”

Javik stood silent. Hackett cut communication. After a moment Javik left the room and went back to the cargo hold. His face grimaced, the Admiral had no intention of destroying the artifact.

Chapter 11: Hades’ Dogs

Navigation: Chapter 1: Resistance Earth, Chapter 2: Grissom AcademyChapter 3: A Knife in The DarkChapter 4: Smoke and ShadowsChapter 5: Cold Revelation, Chapter 6: London Crypt, Chapter 7: Ghosts From Shadows Past, Chapter 8: Skyfall, Chapter 9: Apparatus Deus, Chapter 10: The Devil Within, Chapter 11: Hades’ DogsChapter 12: TranshumanChapter 13: Phenomenon,  Chapter 14: AeonChapter 15: EndgamesChapter 16: FracturedChapter 17: ClosingEpilogue.

Advertisements