Chapter 12: Transhuman

Jack woke up in bed the next morning with a hangover. The artificial light of the Citadel pierced through the bedroom curtains like natural sunlight. It made her head throb. She grabbed a pillow over her head to blot it out. She rolled over in the covers and wanted to fall back to sleep. She rolled over and Chesterton wasn’t there. He’s not there! She sat up in the bed, her heart began to pound. Relax Jack, he could still be here, somewhere… And what the fuck is all this about anyway? What do you care if he stays or leaves? Fuck, do I care if he stays or leaves? Jack got up out of bed and closed her robe, she walked into the bathroom to get a pain reliever for her headache. She opened the medicine cabinet over the sink, grabbed a bottle and shut it. On the face of the cabinet door was a mirror, she looked at herself. “What are you staring at?” Jack said to herself. “I know what I’m doing… Ok, fuck I don’t know what I’m doing. But does it matter?” Jack popped two pills into her mouth and swallowed. It’s been a long time Jack. Go with it. Part of her fought with the other part. “No, this is nothing serious. That shit takes time. Just go with it and keep your feelings out of it.” She said, took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Ok… Now I’m hungry… and I want to puke. Jack washed her face and put on her clothes. The pain reliever began to work, it was a fast acting pill. She felt a bit of relief and refresh. She walked down the short hallway into the kitchen and checked the cabinets. Most of them were empty. Jack checked the refrigerator cabinet for food. The only thing in there was some spoiled takeout. Jack smelled it and almost threw up the small contents of her stomach. She threw the box back in and slammed the refrigerator door. Nothing to eat. She didn’t want to go out to get food yet, she didn’t feel like dealing with the crowds on the Citadel. Jack sat down on the couch in front of the television screen. The remote was across the coffee table on top of the tv. She pulled the remote with her biotics lightly into her hand and clicked the button. Turning it on the news came up. She slowly brought the volume up to an audible level.

“Cerberus attacks yesterday left automated machine gun turrets in certain areas of the Wards and Presidium Commons.” Emily Wong said, reporting on location. “C-sec officials have closed off the areas with tape and people are not allowed through the marked areas.”

What the FUCK happened yesterday? Jack thought. The news was a complete surprise to her. She wondered how she could she miss something like this.

The reporter continued, “As we now know, human ambassador Udina was killed yesterday, found to be in coalition with Cerberus. But when asked to comment on the incident, the Citadel council declined an interview…” 

Jack sat dumbfounded.

“Stay tuned. Up next we have the scoop on the brave ‘Man Who Saved The Movie Theater’ and an interview with one of the kids who watched the hero jump right out of the movie screen and into real life.”

Jack shut off the tv at the commercial. A moment later Chesterton walked through the front door.

“Hey Jack. Good to see you’re awake.” He said. Chesterton went out for groceries to cook breakfast. He carried 2 brown paper bags in his arms.

Jack didn’t hesitate to say what was on her mind, “Did you know Cerberus attacked the Citadel yesterday?”

Chesterton froze in his step. He almost dropped the bags of groceries. Nervously he set the bags down, “What do you mean?” He asked.

“So you don’t know?” Jack said.

“No of course not.” Chesterton looked guilty. “Cerberus attacked the Citadel?”

“It was all over the news, still is. They tried to assassinate the council. Can you believe that?” She asked him. It was clear Jack didn’t know anything about Chesterton being an agent. He began to relax. He pulled out the groceries onto the counter.

“Oh my god. That’s crazy. Why would they do that?” He tried to make small talk of it.

“You obviously don’t know anything about Cerberus. They’re always power hungry.” She said.

Chesterton thought, now there’s the irony. “That’s right, you have a history with them.”

Jack put up one of her automated defenses, “That’s off limits.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to.” He said, “How about breakfast, are you hungry?” Chesterton was eager to get to talking about something else. Anything else.

Jack stood a little astonished, “You’re making me breakfast?”

“I got eggs, bacon, pancakes in a box. Just add water… and a frying pan. Maple syrup, cheese, salsa and orange juice. Though I prefer apple. They didn’t have any apple.”

Jack could hardly believe it. Chesterton went out of his way to get food early in the morning. Not just any food, Earth food. All that food from Earth must have cost a small fortune.

“You bought all that for me?” She asked.

“Of course babe. You’re worth it.” Chesterton said.

Jack walked up to him behind the kitchen counter and planted a big kiss on his lips, “Thank you.” She said.

Chesterton looked into her eyes, “You’re welcome.”

“Now all you have to do is cook it!” Jack teased and walked into the bedroom.

“Where are you going?”

“To take a shower.”

“What do you want for breakfast?” He shouted.

“All of it.”

Chesterton let out a big sigh. He pulled a pan from under the stove and went to work.

***

On this cold breezy morning in London, a shuttle touches down in the Alliance base. Slowly the door opened and lieutenant Mathews shuffles out of the shuttle-craft and onto the hard pavement. Mathews carried himself around on crutches, he’d spent the last two days  since his operation in accelerated healing with a specialized medigel dispenser calibrated to his exact injury. He wore a large back brace, like heavy armor around his torso. It was heavy and it itched but it kept him from feeling crippling pain as he walked on crutches. Anderson was walking by when he saw the lieutenant. He snapped the young man a salute, “It’s hard to believe how far medicine has come in my lifetime. Good to see you up and around.”

“I’m sorry sir, I’d salute but right now my hands are keeping me from falling over.” Mathews said, his arms shook holding up his weight on the crutches. The back brace added 5 kilograms to his weight.

Anderson hastily dropped the salute, his concern for Mathews was personal. Anderson held himself responsible, “Where are my manners? Do you need some help?” He asked.

“No. Thank you. I just need to move around.”

Anderson nodded his head, “Ok.”

“So what’s happened since I left?” Mathews asked walking on his way across the yard towards the command center.

“Well, we’ve gotten more supplies. You can finally take a shower now. For about 3 minutes in cold water. But I can’t complain, my own stench was starting to bother me.” Anderson tried to make Mathews laugh, “Other than that Colonel Carter got his rank back. You’ll never guess how he did it. I won’t tell you the details, it’s too depressing…” He said, and then added as an afterthought, “It’s also classified.”

“What’s going on over there?” Mathews asked about the tent with the glowing light piercing through the thick fabric. Two figures stood inside.

“Oh that? That’s our little mad scientist and our piece of shit Colonel. They’re running experiments on the artifact.”

“You’re that mad at him?” Mathews asked.

Anderson said plainly, “You don’t know what he did.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

Anderson held up the flap on the large tent of the command center to let Mathews through.

“You know I didn’t expect you to come back. Are you sure you’re capable of duty?” Anderson asked.

“Admiral Hackett believes I can be of use… I trained to be an intelligence officer, not a gun-slinging grunt.” Then getting into a chair, he set his crutches against a table, “I do my best work from a chair.”

“Ok, well you let me know if you need anything or if you need any time off. It’s no trouble.”

Mathews looked at the vidcomm terminal closely, it was the first time he’d seen it.

“What are we doing with only a flat screen interface?” Mathews asked.

“It’s all we have the power for.” Anderson guessed.

“The hologram generators in the field have their own power supply. This is not standard issue.”

“We’ve been scraping by on what we can salvage. See that,” Anderson pointed to a box between the line to the vid-screen and the satellite, “there’s a secure transmitter box. Filled with hundreds of Alliance encryptions. Nothing goes through that, that isn’t secure. I’ve seen this done about a dozen times in field ops in my career. Never had any trouble.”

Mathews found the impromptu communicator more than a little suspicious, “There’s always a first time.”

“I suppose there is. Tell you what, why don’t you run a full diagnostic. Let me know if anything pops up.”

“Aye sir.” Mathews said.

Anderson left the command center, leaving the lieutenant to his work. He walked down past the motorcade, past the small shuttle-pad with engineers repairing the damage. He passed the glowing blue tent where Dr. Gillette and Colonel Carter were performing their experiments.

“Now if you could help me get started, would you please uncover our first subject.” Gillette directed the colonel towards a large item covered by a large sheet of fabric in the back of the tent at the far side away from the active artifact. The artifact was bolted into a large stationary tripod that bent the device to face the direction of the opposing item at the far side of the tent. On the other side of artifact was a transparent shield that the Dr. and the Colonel would use to hide safely behind when the test began. Carter walked up to the item and pulled off the sheet. The sheet fell to the ground uncovering a captured husk. Upon seeing the Colonel the husk looked directly at him and growled.

“It’s alive!” Carter exclaimed.

“Don’t worry its chained to the floor. Really now, how would you expect us to perform a proper experiment on dead subjects?” The Dr. said sarcastically.

Carter walked back to the front of the tent behind the shield.

“Are you ready?” The Dr. asked.

“Of course.” Carter looked impatient.

The Dr. had connected the artifact with a long wire to a data-pad that he held in his hands behind the shield. He spent the last 4 hours writing the programming for it. On the screen of the pad were all the symbols for the buttons on the device along with Henry Lawson’s translations. The Dr. pushed 3 of the buttons in sequence and anxiously watched the device build up energy. Like before the unit began to whir, louder and louder. Its light emission became brighter and brighter and it started to distort the mass of the surrounding objects in the room. When the device built up sufficient energy, relative to its programmed function it released what looked like a lightning bolt on the restrained husk. The synthetic systems of the monster burst into a rapid flame and it quickly melted to the floor and self extinguished. Only the half charred chains, glowing red hot rested on the ground.

“Ooh, that was exciting.” The Dr. said.

“What just happened?” Carter asked the Dr.

“Well, that’s a little difficult to explain.”

“Just tell me.”

“Well in the simplist terms it looks like we can reverse the process of transformation… Only it has a side effect of causing the synthetic parts to burst into flame.”

“That’s a pretty heavy side effect.” Carter said.

“Yes it does appear to be.” Gillette nodded his head.

“Ok. So what now?”

“Well now you’ll go over there and roll that cage into the center.”

Carter began walking to the other end of the large tent. “How am I supposed to move it?”

“It’s on wheels.”

Carter put his hands around the bars and pulled. Something through the sheet swatted his hands away. “What’s in this thing?!” He shouted, startled.

“Now, now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. More to the right please you’re almost there.” Gillette said.

Carter quickly wheeled the cage into position and pulled the sheet off. Underneath was a cannibal.

“How did you capture so many alive?” Carter asked.

“I lured them here with the Artifact connected to the reaper fragments. Thank you for providing me with them. It really is remarkable. You can control the reapers with great precision. Its like they co-opted the technology from the artifact to create the mutant monsters. It’s really ingenious.”

“You talk too much. Next time, I just won’t ask.”

“Suit yourself.” Gillette said. He pushed the three buttons again and watched the device build up more energy and then shoot another lightning bolt. Again the creature burnt to a crisp.

“Ooho ho! This is really quite satisfying.” Gillette said enthusiastically.

“Let me guess you want me to move the last cage into position.”

“Would you kindly?”

Carter rolled his eyes and went to the far end of the tent for the third time. He pulled the cage into the center. It was slightly heavier than the last one. Once more, he pulled on the obligatory sheet of fabric covering the cage. Inside this cage was a turian synthetic.

“You caught a marauder?” Carter asked. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it on his way back.

“This is not just any marauder. This one was alive when they caught it. Usually the reapers reanimate the dead but this one is alive.” Dr. Gillette spoke as if it was important.

“So?” Carter asked.

“So it’s different. This one’s more intelligent.” Gillette said. The turian monster in the cage reacted like it understood what they were talking about. “Like it was some kind of agent of theirs. It came when I activated the reaper dreadnought fragment. Before I connected the artifact. But I still managed to capture it. It gave me the idea to capture the others.”

“It makes no difference to me Dr… Just hit the buttons and get it over with.”

“As you wish.” Gillette pushed the same 3 button code on his data-pad and again the device began to whir. But the turian synthetic in the cage went crazy. Violently it rocked and rattled the inside of the cage. Grabbing hold of the bars it began to pull them apart. As the device built up more and more energy the stronger the will of the synthetic became to survive. Until it finally broke through the bars and ran straight for the machine. Carter stepped aside the shield and opened fire on the monster with his pistol. But the rounds were too small to penetrate its shields. Dr. Gillette fumbled with the data-pad to cancel the experiment. The monster reacted quickly unplugging the Dr.’s wires, it began to press a code of its own into the machine. Dr. Gillette reacted by also sidestepping the protective shield and got into a hand to hand fight with the turian synthetic that ended with the Dr. being punched out on the floor. Finally Carter had had enough he pulled out his knife and attacked the monster from behind. Both Carter and the turian reaper were caught in front of the artifact when the machine went off.

In a flash and a bang the tent filled with blinding light. Matter in the room was distorted as the properties of mass fluctuated rapidly. Carter screamed in pain as the flesh in his body fused with the growing synthetic materials slowly taking over his body. The turian in front of him was suffering a reverse fate, its synthetics were dissipating out of itself and into Carter’s body. The little flesh of the turian that once made up the monster collapsed on the floor. As soon as the transformation started it was over. Carter stood shaking in place. His memory flashed. He began to see images. Not only did the reaper transform his body but also his mind. All the memories of this creature filled the head of the human Colonel. But now he could hardly call himself human anymore. He looked like a hybrid of himself and the turian. He felt different. He felt stronger. Much stronger than ever before. His thoughts and senses were sharper. His reflexes faster. He heard a small sound in the tent. In a twitch, his head snapped to face it. His eyes saw the former Dr. Gillette laying on the ground. The Dr. had been turned into a generic synthetic jackal. Carter opened his mouth unnaturally wide. He growled at his new prey. Leaping on the Dr. he began to tear him apart.

Chapter 13: Phenomenon

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’ Dogs, Chapter 12: Transhuman, Chapter 13: Phenomenon,  Chapter 14: AeonChapter 15: EndgamesChapter 16: FracturedChapter 17: ClosingEpilogue.

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