Starting writing a Mass Effect story. Unlike most of what I write I can actually post this here, so I am. This is a first draft, it hasn't been polished. Mostly just looking for opinions on it.
Mass Effect 2: Interstitial Spaces
Disclaimer: Rated R (or M depending on the site) for the good stuff, you’ve been warned. Currently its cursing and violence, we'll see where it goes from there. Mass Effect is owned by whoever owns Mass Effect and I do not begrudge them it at all.
Chapter 1: Sweet Dreams
"What happened on Torfan?"
"Ugh," she replied letting her head fall back to rest on the top of the couch.
"Well?" she pushed.
She covered her eyes with her hand, rubbing her temples as she tried to block out the overhead lights. "Did you see the news stories afterward?"
"I think everyone did."
"Well that's what happened, sort of," she trailed off.
Again she probed, "Sort of?"
"This is why I don't go to shrinks," the raven haired woman said in a huff.
"Fine," she sighed in resignation. "It was towards the end of the Skyllian Blitz. The Alliance brass was finally convinced it wasn't a distraction by the Batarian government so they could sucker punch us elsewhere and sent in the fleet." She shifted on the couch and stared up at the stars rushing by through her skylight. As she continued her voice was flat and monotone, "I'd been on Elysium with my unit, 2nd Company, 37th Heavy Recon Battalion. Spec Ops troopers all of us. We'd been about the only troops on Elysium when the slavers hit. We'd held them off and trounced them so when the Fleet arrived they didn't have much to do but sweep their space support out of the sky. They sent down a battalion of line grunts to relieve us and scooped up us. We'd gotten intel on one of the slaver's big staging bases and they wanted us to hit it. Most of their native marine battalions were tied up cleaning up the last of the Blitz and securing the colonies so they wanted the two thirty seven to hit the ground early, scout the slaver base, and get the intel so when they got together a bigger force we could come on and curb stomp those fucking Batarian bastards. At least that was what the mission was supposed to be."
The redhead shifted her data pad in her hand, quitely bringing up a transcript of the action the Commander was describing to compare her words against. "It didn't go as planned?"
She chuckled darkly, "It never does. This wasn't one of their bases, it was THE base and there wasn't going to be any follow on assault by Alliance marines. When we arrived they were well on their way to loading up and pulling out. They knew their cover was blown and they weren't sticking around no matter how well set up their base was."
"News reports all said it was a very impressive fortress."
"Oh it was, but if they'd stayed they'd have had been facing Alliance marines backed up by Alliance warships. Sure, it was impressive if all you had to attack it was ground troops and maybe some APCs but we'd have brought cruisers and dreadnoughts. A few rounds from a dreadnought's main guns and there wouldn't have been a base to speak of," she finished with a wan smile.
"So?" she prompted, trying to remain clam and detached. For two years she'd read the Commander's dossier. It had been stuffed to the brim with everything known, thought to be known, and simply assumed about the Commander. It had been almost completely devoid of any real first hand accounts however. The Commander's reports had always been short, to the point, and carried nothing but facts.
"Captain Kyle, he was still a captain then. He didn't get his promotion until after this." She snorted. "His promotion is part of why he lost it, couldn't stand the thought of gaining from the death's of so many of his men. Even if he had jack shit to do with it."
"You had to kill Major Kyle later didn't you?" she said with concern.
She sighed. "Yeah, I did. He went off the deep end with guilt. Latched onto biotics and tried to make things better for them. He eventually made himself into some kind of messiah figure and started up some kind of commune. No big deal, except that when some Alliance investigators dropped by he had them killed. Admiral Hackett asked me to have a look into it since I was in Kyle's old command. I couldn't talk him down, he was totally sold as his biotic's messiah. Convinced himself they were children and would die without him. He attacked us, we put him down." She shook her head slowly, her eyes closed as she relived the memory of their confrontation.
"So was I. He didn't deserve what happened to him. Anyway, he called me and the other lieutenant's together. I was fresh out of the academy back then. Right out of basic they'd tagged me to go to N7 school. I did, and excelled. Someone there thought they say officer material and right out of N7 boot they sent me to the Academy. Back then during the colonial boom the Alliance was desperate to put bodies in uniforms. No way I'd have been able to make it as far and fast as I did back then now. Hell, I'd only gotten rid of my butter bars and made first lieutenant on the ship pulling us out of Elysium. Pinned them to me right before the Medal of Valor."
"You got a medal for Elysium correct?"
"Yeah, a Medal of Valor. Probably the only thing that allowed them to shield me from the media later." The Commander absently rubbed her tight black uniform top over her left breast as she turned towards her office. Her work space was half a level up and behind them but her eyes stared through it, towards the small medal case she kept there.
"But Captain Kyle had called you all together..." she prompted to get the story moving again.
The Commander shook her head lightly and refocused. She stared back across the compartment at the fish tank that dominated the port wall. "Right, sorry. Yeah, he called us together to talk it over. Alliance command said it would be a solid week before they could scrape together the troops to assault the base and take it. We wanted intel not a crater so Alliance command was intent on taking that base and not just having a dreadnaught hose it from orbit. We figured they'd finish pulling out in three days tops. Alliance brass said to handle it as we saw fit." Again the dark chuckle. "Gotta love the way people like that pass the buck. They just say handle it so later on they can cover their own asses by either claiming credit if you succeed or dumping full responsibility on you if you don't."
"Is there any other possible explanation? Could they just feel that you have a better understanding of what's going on on the ground and have faith in you to decide what to do?" she asked hopefully, not completely ready to cast the actions of others in so negative a light if a plausible explanation might exist.
She let out a deep drawn out sigh. This pixie-ish little shrink was far too astute for her liking. "If it came from someone like Admiral Hackett with fifth fleet maybe. These guys, they just didn't have the stones to make the tough call."
"And you do?"
The Commander flinched. "Ouch. In this case it was Captain Kyle who did. He knew that if we didn't move now the slavers would not only get away, but they'd take their records with them and likely level the base to boot. They'd keep their infrastructure intact and we wouldn't know anything more about the Blitz. We'd all been on Elysium, we knew what was at stake if they got away so the Captain put together a plan and we executed it," she said matter of factly.
"What was the plan?"
"Put the screws to them. We worked on infiltrating their compound. Mostly we were rigging everything we could to blow. The idea was to cut off their escape route, mostly, so they couldn't run, then clean them out. In the middle of the night we raided half a dozen transports. Made sure nothing important was on them, either slaves or information, then we rigged them to blow," she said casually. She reached for a small cup of water on the coffee table and took a sip.
"A half dozen transports in a night?" The reports from Torfan said as much but the dismissive way the Commander said it was surprising. She expected more emotion out of her.
"After Elysium we still had a hundred and eight effectives in the company. A hundred and eight N7 troopers can do a lot of damage," she said with no small amount of pride. "Anyway, we rigged those transports to blow and captured a seventh. When the morning came their larger day crews came out to keep loading the transports. We blew them up just as they got close and realized something wasn't right. Probably killed a good two hundred of them right there," she said with a smirk.
"Why didn't you destroy the seventh?"
"A relief valve. We wanted them to think there was still hope they might get off planet, hope they could still get away. We left two squads on that transport to guard it and in the confusion of the exploding transports the rest of us hit the fortress. They hadn't realized they were in danger but still managed to get some of the smaller doors shut tight on us. We used breaching charges to blow open the access ways and found our first surprise. There weren't a few hundred slavers on this rock, there were a few thousand. We breached the fortress and immediately were hit with wave after wave of slavers. Batarians stacked up ten deep. The only thing that kept us from being completely mobbed were the narrow corridors of the fortress. They had to come at us in small teams but it didn't matter. That first half hour was some of the most brutal fighting I've ever experienced."
"Worse than Saren?" she nudged.
"Yeah, worse," she said as her expression revereted back to a thousand yard starye. "Against Saren and the geth we were advancing, pushing forward. There was always wiggle room. On Torfan there was only cold stone at my back and endless waves of Batarians coming at me. It wasn't like there was time or room for disciplined accurate fire. When you encountered someone you were almost touching. You didn't have time to aim you just got the weapon in the general direction and held down the trigger and prayed you were faster than the other guy," she shivered. "It's kind of amazing how few casualties we took, N7 hard armor is pretty good stuff. Not quite good enough for the captain though. He got caught in a cross fire, stripped his shields and a Batarian put a shotgun in his back and pulled the trigger. First platoon managed to extract him but their lieutenant ate a frag," she said tonelessly.
"And that put you in command."
"Yeah, Kyle was combat ineffective, we had to extract him back to the transport and that wasn't easy. We'd captured the east entrance to the fortress, the transport was on the north. Getting him to that transport put the extraction under a lot of fire. They got him back though. Saved his life so I could end it a few years on down the line," she said quietly. "The lieutenant in charge of the transport's defense was a butter-bars who'd joined us after Elysium. He was our 'reinforcement,'" she spat. "I outranked him by maybe six months and one brevet promotion but that made me the commander. Elysium wasn't that bad. I mean it was bad, real bad, but the captain was in charge and I was third in line to take over from him. The shit hit the fan on Elysium and it was tough but all I was ever responsible for was my platoon and I had a great sergeant backing me up. Suddenly I found myself in charge of a hundred troopers. We were assaulting a heavily defended compound full of thousands of pissed off slavers and we'd managed to position ourselves right between them and their only means of escape. For someone still looking forward to the one year anniversary of their graduation from the academy it was a bit overwhelming." She put her foot up on the coffee table and pushed against it trying to make more leg room for herself. Like most furniture on a starship it was bolted down though.
"But you got it together and took command?"
The Commander dropped her foot back to the floor. "I did, after a five second panic attack that I let myself have." She looked over at the shocked expression on her crewman's face. "What, I'm not allow to freak out a little? I wasn't always some big damn hero. Right then I was a scared shitless twenty three year old kid with a hundred people depending on me and the odds so stacked against me it was just about comical," she snorted. "You try not freaking out in that situation." She shook her head and took another sip of water. "I knew the plan though, and I knew the layout of the base. I remembered Elysium, the death, the screaming. People who only wanted a better life now fighting for their and their families against heartless bastards who wanted to treat them as cattle. Dead bodies in the street, burning because the slavers made examples of them for resisting. Transports lifting off with their holds full of slaves because we weren't fast enough. Peaceful people dying or being enslaved by greedy monsters across dozens of worlds. It's at that point that my five seconds were up. I knew what I had to do. It had to end here, the people responsible for the Blitz had to be brought to justice. Their ability to do it had to be stripped away. Not one of those Batarians deserved to leave this planet alive. They had to be stopped. That was the moment I remembered what one of my academy instructors told me. 'You're not always going to bring them all home. Someday you won't have overwhelming superiority. You won't be able to call in artillery, airstrikes, armor, or orbital bombardment. You'll be on a mission where the stakes are too high to accept defeat. You'll be facing the prospect that any order you give will get men, your men killed. At that point you have to remember, you are an officer. This is your job. Casualties are acceptable, failure is not.'" She finished the words harshly, the muscles in her body tightening at the memory of them and what it meant for her.
"Three quarters of the troops on Torfan died. Was that acceptable?" She asked. To her it might make some sense rationally, the comparative handful of troops for many times their number in slavers and countless thousands saved from lives of slavery in the future. It made sense in a clinical detached sort of way but she couldn't fathom giving orders like that.
Hot anger flashed across her features before fading away slowly. "The mission was accomplished. We took the fortress and stopped the slavers. We cut the heart out of their entire operation. After Torfan there wasn't a single slaver raid on any human colony in the Verge for two years." She breathed deeply from her nose trying to calm herself. "If you just go off the news vids you'd think I just ordered my troops to march single file into the Batarian's guns and didn't stop until they were all dead. The truth was we fought hard through that entire compound. We fought, and fought, and fought until we couldn't go any further then we got our shit together, hit the stims again, and kept pushing. We didn't do anything stupid, we fought a close combat action for nineteen hours straight before making it to the final citadel." Her balled up fist pounded her thigh.
"The military agrees with you. Three years later Torfan became one of the case studies in assaulting a fortified position and your actions have been scrutinized by every class of cadets since. Based off our information the instructors have been using it as an example of persevering in spite of the odds."
"Well... I did the best I could. It wasn't what we trained for. There was no 'securing' anything. We were outnumbered something like thirty to one. The only territory we could control was the small bit of the compound we were in. We'd fight through a section only to start taking fire from it again a few minutes later as they filled in behind us. It was brutal. If we stayed put they'd overwhelm us. If we moved we'd expose ourselves," she shook her head slowly before putting her elbows on her knees and leaning forward to stare at the coffee table, not really seeing it all all, just staring through it like she could see back in time.
"At the end of the battle you only took eleven prisoners out of a garrison of twenty one hundred slavers. The news reports had helmet cam footage of you executing prisoners personally." She did the best she could to keep the distaste from her mouth. That was part of the Commander's dossier she didn't care for. It didn't match the heroic figure so much of the rest of it painted.
"That, yeah. I did. What of it?" she asked more defensively than she had intended. "No one has yet explained to me how we were supposed to take prisoners. The Batarians certainly weren't. We needed every rifle firing, not covering some Batarian filth too gutless to do the galaxy a favor and just die. We had to keep moving, we couldn't be dragging prisoners along. We'd have had to turn them loose, and with their only route off planet blocked they'd just grab a gun and come back at us."
The redhead looked down at her pad and said solemly, "There were two vids in particular that played. One had a line of prisoners kneeling in a room and your men asking what to do with them. You took your pistol and shot each one of them in turn before telling your men you weren't taking prisoners..."
"And in the second I was interrogating some. Yeah, I know the vids," she replied tersely. "I shot that first batch so it would be me alone doing it. It's one thing to claim to have accidentally shot a guy trying to surrender, which happens more than most people will admit. It's another to shoot an unarmed guy on his knees. I did it so that at the end of the day I'd get court martialed and not them." She paused to collect her breath before continuing a little less snippily, "In the second one, they always leave off the context. We'd cleared the compound and the last hundred or so slavers were holed up in the central keep. Any evidence on the causes of the Blitz were inside with them. The longer we took the higher the chance they'd wipe all that info and that couldn't happen. In spite of ourselves we captured the command squad of the guys trying to defend the citadel. They'd gotten locked outside by their mates," she said with a wicked smile. "They had some basic insignia and I knew who was in charge. At that point we were down to nineteen effectives, including me. We were all injured to varying degrees but still mobile. We were out of heavy ordnance that would have let us breach the tower. We needed the access codes to open the doors and the garrison commander had them. So I decided to get them out of him. There were a pair of regular troopers there and I knew they wouldn't have the codes so as I walked up to the group of them I pulled my pistol and shot the batarian fucks right through their face," she said with a touch of self satisfaction.
"They weren't batarians though," she said with concern. "Those first two were a human and a turian. Not all the slavers were batarians."
The Commander blinked, "...yeah, you're right. My memory's fuzzy. Most of them were batarians, not all. Don't know why that's important."
"Because you said they were batarians, so you shot them," she pressed.
The Commander's demeanor hardened, "I'd shot a lot of batarians that day."
"But those two weren't, in fact thirty percent of them were humans, turians, salarians, even a couple of volus."
"What's your point?" she snapped. "They were slavers, inhuman scum. Fuck'em."
The redhead paused before continuing cautiously, "Alright, what happened after you executed the human and the turian?"
"That left their commander and his two lieutenants. I put the gun to the first lieutenant's face and told him to tell me the codes to open the doors. He said he didn't know, they'd scrambled the lock after they shut it. Since he wasn't any use to me I shot him. I went to the next lieutenant and asked him about the codes. He said he didn't know, but he ratted out his commander that he had an override he'd been trying to use. I shot him," she said flatly. "I moved to the commander and put the gun to his head and demanded he put in the code. He'd started off full of piss and vinegar, calling me everything he could think of. Well, until I started to just shoot his men without a second thought. He puckered up real quick then. By the time I killed his last lieutenant he was sweating bullets, trying to worm away from me. I pressed the gun right between his upper eyes and told him to hit the override. It was funny, the only thing he did was point out that if he did I was going to kill him," she said with the beginnings of a sneer.
"And you replied that of course you were."
She cracked a smile. "Yeah, I did. I didn't end it there though, I told him that it didn't matter, because way down deep in whatever shrunken blackened mess passes for a batarian soul he was just a slaver and a coward. He was going to tell me the codes no matter what in the vain hope that I might just let him live. And he did. Got the door right open," she said with self satisfaction.
"And then you shot him," the young redhead said as that portion of the vid played on her pad.
"Of course I did," she replied plainly.
She nodded and made a note. "Your team managed to finish capturing the citadel and acquired a tremendous amount of information on the Blitz."
"Information that let us round up dozens more small bases and ships. We wiped out slaving operations in the Verge for two years and it still hasn't recovered to the level it once was. Torfan ended the Blitz and secured the Verge and all the human colonies in it," the Commander said defiantly.
"At the cost of eighty three men," she prompted.
"Eighty three troopers killed in action, twenty five wounded, yes I know the numbers. I also know their names, ranks, serial numbers, and next of kin. I remember how they died, where, and why. Do you want the list?" She demanded as her voice rose. "'Butcher-of-fucking-Torfan,' if all you ever saw was the news reports you'd think I personally executed every batarian on that planet then slit my own people's throats for fun," she spat.
"They smeared you?"
"Of course they did. What else would they do?" She barked as she propelled herself up from leaning forward on her knees to slump back into the couch.
"Tell the truth?"
She laughed, loudly and darkly. "We are talking about the news right? The news organizations that are owned lock stock and barrel by the mega-corps? The mega-corps that had pushed and pushed and pushed for decades to expand outwards? That news?" She shook her head in resignation. "The Alliance tried to put the breaks on them by making them fund colonies anytime they wanted to stake a claim to a new world but that didn't slow them down even a little. The mega-corps used their bought and paid for politicians to ensure they got every colonial claim they asked for, never mind that the Alliance navy was screaming their heads off the whole time about how we didn't have the ships or manpower to adequately protect claims as far flung and numerous as the mega-corps wanted. They tried to get new taxes on colonizing companies passed to fund new ships. Obviously that wasn't passed." She sighed, "The news feeds wanted to try and put a happy face on the Blitz. They figured if they did a whole series on 'Heros of the Blitz,' they could distract people from asking why it happened. How we had colonies so poorly protected that a bunch of two bit slavers could attack and actually endanger an entire colony of millions. They wanted to put a shinning smiling face on Elysium so they picked me. After all I'd been there, earned a Medal of Valor, then gone on to Torfan and commanded the company that ended the Blitz. The problem is that when they got to me I told them what I told you. That a bunch of mega-corps got greedy, weren't willing to pay the tab to keep people safe, used their pet politicians to make things go their way and a bunch of innocent people got killed for it and thousands were now in chains in the Terminus being bought and sold like farm animals."
"They didn't appreciate it?" the redhead prompted with a touch of irony.
"Their masters didn't. Unfortunately my bosses had already given them full access to the whole story. They were eager to get someone like me in front of the camera as a recruiting tool and maybe to lobby for a bigger budget."
"Which is how they got the helmet cam footage."
"Exactly. Should never have been released but they schmoozed the right people and got their hands on it by, 'accident.' Accident my ass. By the time they were done I was officially, 'The Butcher of Torfan,' and they'd even managed to make it look like I was killing colonists on Elysium for sport. I think they even alluded to me being responsible for the First Contact war and World Wars three and four. All of which made me one hell of an embarrassment with the brass seeing how they'd not only pinned a Medal of Valor to my chest on Elysium but now Medal of Honor and promoted me to lieutenant commander. They'd just hit me with the two highest medals you can receive in the Alliance along with a promotion while a few of the politicians the mega-corps owned were starting to make noises about war crimes trials. Officially I got a reprimand. Unofficially they made it clear that I was likely never going to go far in the military and a lot of unpleasant, difficult, and thankless jobs likely lied in my future." She finished with a sigh and closed her eyes trying to shut it all out.
"Like this one?" she asked quizzically.
"Exactly like this one," the Commander said in a huff. "But I was just a street rat orphan from Earth. What was I going to do? I'd been picked up in the Phoenix megaplex along with a lot of the rest of my gang. I was stupid and head strong but I was a first offender. The judge couldn't ignore who I was with or what I was doing but he wasn't ready to throw me away for life just yet. He told me I could either join the Alliance military or I could stand trial with my gangmates, as an adult, on charges that could put me in jail until menopause." She chuckled. "You know it's funny, if I'd stuck with that gang I'd likely have wound up doing the shit that I shoot people for now, red sand running, slaving, being an even bigger bitch than I am. Maybe I should find that judge and thank him."
"But you have no sympathy for those that wound up in that life?"
Her face turned hard, "Anyone who's seen it up close can't have any. I saw what happened on Elysium. I know how these animals operate. It's not like slavery from a couple hundred years ago. It's not cheap labor. Slaves just aren't worth it for simple manual labor. Mechs are cheaper to buy, maintain, and more productive. No, you don't get captured by slavers and spend your life picking crops or carrying crates any more." She opened her eyes and captured the redhead's with them. "On Elysium they'd pick families apart. The only men they took were those big and strong enough, or skilled enough, to fight. There are honest to God gladiatorial games some places still. Most of the men they kill though, there's little market for them outside of the gladiatorial games. No, strike that, a few wind up kept as subjects for medical experiments. The kind of experiments that you have to have slaves to use for them because no sane person would ever submit to them and no government would let them happen. They took most of the women but with a preference for the younger ones. After all when it comes to sex slaves the younger the better. They're better looking and will last longer than the old ones. They'd take kids too. Mostly the slightly older ones that can survive without their parents. Anyone too old, or the wrong demographics, or too young... they'd kill. Worked pretty well. Slit the father's throat in front of the wife and kids and they'd lose it. Be too grief struck to stop you from taking them. The lucky ones might have been sold to someone who just raped them on a regular basis. The unlucky ones were likely sold to some alien whore house. The really unlucky ones would spend what little of their lives remained being cut apart on some psycho doctor's table for experiments, or just killed slowly because that go their owner off, or being eaten. So no, I don't have any sympathy for slavers. Every last one of them deserves to be dragged out of hiding and killed, slowly and painfully," she said with a menace that let it be known she'd be happy to be the one doing it.
She broke eye contact to look down at her pad, unnerved by the pure hatred she's seen in her Commander's eyes. "That's... a lot to think about."
"Slavery is a nice catchall term, it's also a nice mask. It lets you imagine that all those women and children that were taken might be off working in some batarian's corn fields picking them instead of what's likely happening to them. I can't stand slavers and I can't stand anyone who works with them." She closed her eyes again and took a long deep calming breath. "My own semi-exile wasn't even all that bad. I got assigned to Fifth fleet, worked for Admiral Hackett. He let me work and do the jobs I was assigned without having someone looking over my shoulder all the time."
"Changing the subject what about Virmi...,"
"No, Kelly, not today."
Adrianna Shepard lifted her head off the back of the couch and looked at the little ship's councilor sitting on the other sofa a few feet away. She fixed the young Cerberus operative with a steely glare and repeated herself. "No, not today." She didn't try and run the SR-2 the way she'd run the SR-1, it wasn't an Alliance ship with an Alliance crew but there were moments where she was still the captain and the crew had damn well better fall in line.
"Understood," Kelly said as she gathered a few pads together. Her omnitool beeped at her but she dismissed it. "Thank you for sharing what you did," she said nervously.
Adrianna sighed. Somehow Kelly was managing to look like a whipped puppy, or a toddler being denied their favorite toy. As much as she despised Cerberus and everything it stood for Kelly herself was one of the nicest people she'd ever met, bar none. No matter what her reputation was as a hard ass she still couldn't be mean to Kelly when she earnestly wanted to help. "Torfan is a lot of bad memories, Virmire is almost as bad. That's a lot of depression for one conversation. Ask me about it later alright?"
Kelly perked up a little. Not to the point of being happy but less of a little girl who'd dog Shepard had kicked and more one denied a lollipop until after dinner. "Later then."
Adrianna watched Kelly turn to go and followed her Yeoman's movements, specifically the ones below her belt and above her knees, out the door into the foyer. The way Yeoman Chamber's pants fit across her ass made Adrianna smile a moment before shaking her head violently. "Fuck you Timmy."
1) Welcome to my Mass Effect fic. Why? Because all the cool kids are doing it.
2) The lore-whores out there will quickly hit on a couple issues with Shep's backstory. Deal_with_it.jpg
3) This chapter is essentially prologue. In game it takes place somewhere just before Horizon. The rest of the fic will proceed chronologically.
4) Expect things to be truncated for the sake of not wanting to write out every damn moment of a video game we've all already played. Deviations from canon are intentional.