Chapter 15:  Endgames

For the soldiers sleeping in the barracks, their transformations were slower than that of the now captured Colonel. Anderson and Mathews swept the base, including the barracks but they found no sign of the Colonel and the sleeping soldiers could not be roused.

“Ah let them sleep. They’re dead tired and they hardly get enough as it is.” Anderson said and closed the door.

An alert on Mathew’s omni-tool went off. Mathews paused on his crutches to read the message.

“What’s that?” Anderson asked.

“It’s the communications terminal… We’re receiving another hail.” The alert showed the caller as Admiral Hackett but the destination as: Unknown. “From the imposter.”

“I suspect this is going to be one interesting conversation.” Anderson said.

“To say the least.” Said Mathews.

They immediately headed to the command center. Mathews sat down next to the terminal. On the connected computer screen he began to work.

“I can uncover the video overlay. We should be able to see who’s behind the mask.” Mathews said. In the hours that he spent dissecting the communications, he found that the incoming transmissions had a second overlay. But the original recording should be underneath. He just had to uncover it while the transmission took place.

“Set it up.” Anderson ordered.

“We should be receiving it now.” Mathews hit the last button on the enter key.

Who did they expect, but the Illusive Man was behind the identity theft.

“Anderson.” He spoke as if he still appeared as Admiral Hackett. “How did the experiments go? Has Dr. Gillette found anything conclusive yet?”

Anderson decided to play along, if only briefly. After all he had the advantage in this encounter, “Conclusive. Oh, I’d say Dr. Gillette reached an amazing conclusion.”

The Illusive Man looked excited, “What kind of conclusion?”

“The ultimate conclusion. Of his lifetime…” Anderson said mockingly.

“So he’s made a serious breakthrough.”

Anderson smiled, “Yeah, a serious breakthrough into the afterlife… He’s dead.”

The Illusive Man was surprised, “How did it happen?”

Anderson didn’t care what he told the Illusive Man, it was all irrelevant at the moment, “Colonel Carter killed him. Or so we believe, he was the only one in the room with the Dr. And now he’s missing. Along with the artifact.”

“I expect you’ll be searching for him.”

“Far and wide. But you know what else is missing?” Anderson thought it was time to put an end to the charade. “Your masking signal. We know who you are Illusive Man.”

“I’m surprised at you. How did you find out?”

“We have a very smart lead intelligence officer.” Anderson winked at Mathews. “He foiled your plans. So tell me, really. What were you trying to accomplish. From one professional to another.”

“I won’t lie to you. We’ve found a way to control the reapers, and it is all thanks to the research done on the Skyfall artifacts.”

“Is that it?” Anderson wasn’t the least bit impressed, “For days you impersonated an Alliance Admiral. You could have crippled our military if you wanted to. Instead you go searching after artifacts. And for what, to control the reapers. Help me out here, why would you want to do that?”

“I’ve always put humanity’s best interests first. Crippling the Alliance is of no interest to me. It is not my goal to destroy humanity’s chances against the reapers.”

“Really.” Anderson interrupted, “You could have fooled me.”

The Illusive Man returned to being condescending, “I don’t fault you for being dumb. You lack the insight I have. Controlling the Reapers has its advantages. Think of how far we’ve come with the discovery of the Mass Relays, think of how much farther we could go if we had the reaper’s technology in full.”

“You’re drunk with power. Your delusions of control are only an extension of that.” Anderson said. “Are you familiar with indoctrination?”

“I am.” The Illusive man said.

“The reapers use mind control to direct their slaves. Saren was a prime example. While he betrayed his own kind, he believed all the while that he was in control. But he wasn’t. It was the other way around. I don’t see the difference in you.”

While Anderson spoke, Carter fought the voice of the reaper in his head.

“I will not be your slave.” He marched forward up the corridors. On the inside of the massive sovereign class reapers they bore the resemblance to insides of starships. Carter was headed to the reaper’s mass effect core.

“Your resistance is petty and irrelevant.” The reaper Aeon spoke.“I could offer you immortality among your species.”

“Immortality does not appeal to me, if I spend eternity in HELL!”  Carter stopped just outside the massive drive core. He began to enter a code into the buttons on the artifact. Through the artifact’s own control of Carter’s synthetic body it was in part helping him overcome Aeon’s attempts at control. The artifact began to leach energy from the core of the reaper. Carter had set it to overload.

The shock-wave of the explosion hit the Alliance base, sending it on alert. At that same time the transformed jackals woke up inside the barracks.

“What was that?” Anderson asked.

“Be careful Anderson, it looks like your base is under attack.” The Illusive Man gloated.

“We’re not done here. Not by a long shot.”

“I look forward to our next meeting.” The Illusive Man cut the communication. Although amusing it was all a waste of time.

“So what happens now?” Mathews asked.

“Now we go after the son-of-a-bitch with everything we’ve got.” Anderson said about the Illusive Man.

“I meant about the alarms. We’ve got hostiles inside the camp.” Mathews said.

“Oh, well I guess we defend the base from whatever the threat is.” Anderson said.

Mathews pulled his pistol out but remained in his seat, “I think I’ll stay here.”

***

Admiral Hackett was in the citadel docking area, he and a handful of Alliance officers were interviewing each member of Jack’s biotic squad individually. The scene was the first thing Jack saw when she got off the elevator. She marched up fast at a jogging pace, concerned by the sight.

“What’s going on here?” Jack asked urgently.

“Jack,” Admiral Hackett addressed her, “you’re just the person I wanted to see. I need to ask you some difficult questions. And it involves the last mission you were on, and the disappearance of the SSV Paulo Alto.”

Jack was surprised to hear Hackett say that, the mission was old news. “I already gave you my report.”

“I believe you’re telling the truth. But you didn’t give your report to me. You gave it to someone who looked like me.” Hackett said. He took her aside and sat her down. He explained that he was being impersonated by someone very powerful. Someone with the resources and the power to pull off such a deception.

“How this person slipped underneath our radar is beyond me. If it weren’t for the fact that there is a war going on outside I doubt he would have gotten as far as he did.” Hackett said.

He went on to explain that the Skyfall project and the artifact were already deemed too dangerous to continue research. As a failure the artifact along with all files were buried by the Alliance and ExoGeni. ExoGeni alone would have suffered considerable losses from its investors had the news been leaked.

Jack was beyond shocked by what Hackett told her.

“And the worst of it is,” Hackett said, “we have a traitor in our midst.”

Jack took a deep breath.

“I think I know who he is.” She said.

Hackett was surprised, but he was hoping she would know something, “You know this person don’t you?”

Jack slipped into memory. The past few days flashed before her eyes. Her time with Chesterton was fond, but tainted with the knowledge that he was working for Cerberus all along. It disgusted her.

“You could say that.” She said.

“Who is it?”

Jack wasn’t sure she was ready to give him up, but she already dug herself in too deep, “The traitor is lieutenant Chesterton.”

Chapter 16: Fractured

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: TranshumanChapter 13: Phenomenon,  Chapter 14: Aeon, Chapter 15: Endgames, Chapter 16: FracturedChapter 17: ClosingEpilogue.

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