300: Parallel Realities – Chapters Twenty and Twenty-One

Title: Parallel Realities
Author: InHarmsWay
Media: Video Game
Topic:  Mass Effect
Genre: Supernatural/Romance/AU
URL: Parallel Realities: Chapter 20
URL: Parallel Realities: Chapter 21
Critiqued by Herr Wozzeck

Hello yet again, children, and welcome to this-

Oh, hey! I get post number 300! Sweet!

Anyway, it’s that time again, folks: it’s that time where we get to tackle two chapters in the space of one installment of snarking. Why? Well, Chapter 20 is short and has more than its fair share of plot regurgitation, and Chapter 21 has a bunch of parts we can skip because—believe it or not—there are actually scenes that are decent in that chapter. Of course, the rest of it is kind of stupid, so we’ll get along with that.

Oh yeah, and the pacing is really bad for Chapter 21. That too.

So without further ado, let’s get on it.

Chapter 20 begins with this:

Shepard touched down at the Presidium with Mordin and Garrus. He made the assumption that walking into the embassy with Miranda or Jacob, two Cerberus operatives, would not look good for him. Anyways, Garrus is famous among Turians and Mordin used to be part of the STG. They walked up the steps and entered inside the Human embassy in time to hear them speaking.

“This meeting would be more productive if Udina was here to join us,” Tevos said.

“My advisor is… unavailable,” Anderson said. “As Councilor, I represent the voice of Humanity and the Alliance. Shepard will be here at any-” Anderson finally notice Shepard walk in.

I apologize to everyone who is susceptible to temporal sickness, since the tenses will shift a lot in this chapter. Here, have some bags.

*hands out some temporal sickness bags*

As for me, I’m somehow immune to temporal sickness, so… you can have all the bags you need.

Anyway, with this, the meeting begins, and we get some introductions. The Council wanted to meet with Stupard so that he could explain his actions and why he slipped off the radar for two years. Stupard mentions that he’s out in the Terminus Systems, an area which the Council has no jurisdiction over. Anderson of course mentions the fact that the Reapers are involved.

And yes, InHarmsWay does transcribe the line that spawned a meme…

“Ah yes, ‘Reapers’,” Velarn said while using finger quotes. “The immortal race of sentient starships allegedly waiting in dark space. We have dismissed that claim.”

Again, I say to you: InHarmsWay could never come up with a line like that.

Stupard takes it well.

Shepard couldn’t help but feel furious at not only his tone but by the fact that it was true that the Council still doesn’t believe the Reapers exist.

Oh really, Stupard?

You’ve been saying that they’re freaking morons since the ME1 arc. Given how you’ve taken every opportunity to badmouth them about being ignorant, you frankly should’ve expected this to happen. And you didn’t expect it to happen because…?

Oh yes, because it’s easier to justify the Council bashing that’s rampant throughout this fic, that’s why.

Anyway, we then get some plot regurgitation, with a couple of extra lines from Mordin and Garrus peppered in for good measure:

“Conclusion is illogical,” Mordin jumped in. “Sovereign’s composition does not match any Geth structure. Its weapon systems are not consistent with any Geth ship.”

“That doesn’t mean that Sovereign was not a Geth creation, Professor,” Dalo argued. “Sovereign is likely just a one-time Geth superweapon.”

“This Reaper theory proves just how fragile your mental status is, Shepard,” Velarn said. “You have been manipulated—by Cerberus and before them, Saren.”

“That’s too far!” Garrus roared. “I was there! I saw Sovereign first hand. And it’s pretty damn hilarious you say he was manipulated by Saren. Shepard managed to convince Saren to turn on Sovereign during the battle for the Citadel. Saren opted to shoot himself in the head to stop Sovereign and help Shepard. I was there when we spoke to Sovereign. I was there when Sovereign possessed Saren’s dead body.”

“I remember you. Ex-Officer Vakarian. You quit from C-Sec two years ago. I’m afraid that testimony from one of Shepard’s crew members is not admissible evidence of the Reapers, due to loyalties they may have for you.”

“This is a sick joke,” Shepard muttered. “You tell me that Sovereign is a Geth creation, yet Saren was able to convince the Geth, a race of sentient supercomputer AIs that a ship that THEY created is a Reaper. This is nothing but terrible circular logic.”

Says the guy who is using terrible circular logic to justify not telling the Council about his galaxy.

I know that the treatment of the Council in ME2 involves some of the less stellar writing in the franchise, but Commander John G. Stupard has no right to point out canon plot holes when his own logic is just as bad. Oh yeah, and the Council is OOC here too, in that they’re meaner than they are in canon. So this is really nothing more than bare-faced Council bashing of the highest order.

*groan*

After this, we regurgitate some more canon dialogue. The Council is in a difficult position since Stupard is technically committing treason, which is a capital offense. The asari Councillor suggests that they reinstate Stupard’s Spectre status since Anderson takes offense to the capital offense thing, with the turian councilor adding that they’ll do so on the condition that Stupard stays in the Terminus Systems. Stupard accepts these conditions, and gets unofficially reinstated as a Spectre.

And then Udina comes in and is surprised that Stupard is there.

The doors to the embassy opened allowing Udina to enter. “Anderson we need to talk about-” His eyes went wide. “Shepard… What are you doing here?”

All the tension and anger Shepard felt from the meeting finally gave away. “I had a whole list of people I didn’t want to see today, and you’re right at the top, Udina!”

As I recall, this was actually the renegade response to seeing Udina again. I won’t deny that it’s justified since Udina screwed Stupard over back in the ME1 arc, but it still makes me wonder if InHarmsWay is even trying to make Stupard a pure paragon in the ME2 arc.

They have a brief conversation in which Udina is a little miffed about Stupard meeting with the Council. Anderson and Stupard calm Udina down and tell him that they managed to get Stupard’s Spectre status reinstated. Udina takes it as a good thing, but is still a little miffed that Anderson didn’t tell him about it first. So then, Udina goes into his office to think.

And yes, this is all plot regurgitation, piled on to more plot regurgitation. And after this, Anderson gets to talk to Stupard a little bit about how life with the Council is. Stupard asks him about where Ashley is. (He asks Anderson about Ashley, but he doesn’t ask Jacob about any of his crew earlier in the ME2 arc? Okay…) Anderson says that he can’t tell Stupard where Ashley is.

And then, we break away from canon.

Shepard sighed. “Did anything I accomplished matter?”

“You saved the Citadel and got Humanity a seat on the Council. I’d say that matters. The Council may be stubborn, but I know you’ll sway them eventually.”

“I wasn’t talking about them,” he muttered. “I was talking about you.”

“What?”

“Two years ago you were basically planning to go against Alliance orders to get me out of the Citadel. Now… Now you can’t even look me in the eyes. Haven’t I done enough to gain your trust?”

Actually, Stupard, you haven’t done enough to gain his trust. Right, Anderson?

“What am I suppose to think, Shepard?” Anderson pushed himself off of the railing. “We thought you were dead two years ago. Now you reappear after two years in Cerberus company. And that’s just not it. You always had a mysterious side to you. No one knows about you before you were ten. You apparently have a network that rivals the Shadow Broker. Tell me, what am I supposed to think?”

Thank you, Anderson, for exercising some actual logic here.

Stupard?

“Maybe, ‘Hey! I know Shepard. He’s never expressed human-extremist ideals. He was never the results at any costs type of guy. Maybe he’s just trying to do the right thing.'”

Well, Stupard, I seem to recall that you threatened Anderson with desertion over not getting your way in your very first conversation with him. As well, you always make a point to show your extreme temper with various happenings when they result in you not getting your way. So hey, maybe he just thought you’d go join Cerberus because they’d let you do whatever you damn well please.

Some dark energy briefly surged around his hands as they gripped the railing tightly.

What Anderson probably should do: “Udina, help, I think Stupard is gonna try to kill me!”

What Anderson actually does: he lets Stupard continue.

“I’m trying to do the right thing here and save as many lives as possible. If I’m not successful…” Shepard let go out of the railing and brought up his omni-tool. He played the footage from Freedom’s Progress. This caused Anderson’s eyes to widen. “Every Human colony will suffer the same fate as this. Good bye, Councilor.”

Shepard briskly walked out of the embassy with Mordin and Garrus by his side.

“Sorry, that did not turn out too well,” Garrus said.

Gee, you think Garrus? Thank you for stating the blatantly obvious there! Also, thanks for stating it so sarcastically. It’s not like your commander is actually angry about it or anything like that!

*groan*

Seriously, did that comma after ‘sorry’ have to be there? It makes Garrus sound like an uncaring douche.

“I can’t believe they still won’t believe the Reapers exist after that attack.”

“Council prefers status quo,” Mordin said. “Dislike chaotic elements in their politics. Why laws were passed to limit the understanding of the Citadel. More evidence will be necessary to break their habits.”

So of course, Stupard is going to ask the Ra’ken if they can find more evidence that the Reapers exist given that they have to have something from when the Articians killed a bunch of Reapers over the Ra’ken homeworld around 50,000 years ago, right?

Nope!

“It’s just that after the attack on the Citadel they all were telling me that I was right all along and that the Reapers are a threat,” Shepard exclaimed. “Were they humoring me?”

“So fearful of the truth that they choose believe their own lies. I do believe the Reapers are a threat. It all adds up. From the relays to Sovereign.”

Uh… That’s not how Mordin speaks, InHarmsWay. That’s totally not how Mordin speaks.

Shepard suddenly stopped and stared at the area before them. He smiled. “It’s been a while, old friend.”

A figure appeared before them as he decloaked. “It is good to see you again, Commander.”

Oh. It’s this guy again.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why attributing dialogue is your friend.

“Have you been keeping yourself busy for the last two years, Aether?”

“Ah, I remember you,” Garrus said.

“Who is this?” Mordin asked.

“A very old friend of the Commander.”

“I was hoping to catch you before you left the Citadel,” Aether said. “It is good to see you alive and well.”

“I’d expect that your salarian friend would ask a lot more questions, but I know that this isn’t the main thing that this chapter wanted to talk about, so let’s get this out of the way as fast as we can, yeah?”

“Though I have the feeling that this is more than a trip to check up on me,” Shepard said.

And before you ask, no, I did not omit any content between the last two quote boxes. It really is paced like this in-story.

“Somewhat true,” he replied. “I see the Council still doesn’t believe you. Bastards. I came to deliver something to you.” Aether held out a large box with an oddly design lock on the top. He passed it to Shepard. “It’s your father’s armor.”

Shepard nearly dropped the box. “Y-You found it?”

“Yes. Salvage teams recovered it and repaired it.”

“I can understand sentimentality,” Mordin said while looking at the box. “But this armor must be over twenty years old. Antiquated.”

Shepard laughed at the comment. “Dumat. This is the most advance armor in the galaxy.

Yes, Mordin. Refrain from asking about anything but the functionality of the armor. You know, because you don’t also have to question why Aether’s eyes are glowing as well, why he’s wearing that stupid-ass cloak on his body, how Stupard knew him, or anything like that. Yeah, those aren’t more pressing questions in any capacity at all.

*headdesk*

Thank you, Aether. You have no idea what it means to have my father’s armor back.”

“Any time, Commander. I also wish to notify you that we have people keeping an eye on Tali’Zorah. We will be able to notify you as soon as something comes up. Good luck on your mission.” Aether vanished.

“Interesting person,” Mordin muttered.

“Stick along long enough and you’ll meet many more interesting people,” Garrus joked.

Really? Mordin finds him interesting? ‘Cause I find it hard to find anything interesting about a giant cardboard cut-out with very little in the way of actual personality apart from the fact that he’s an artificial intelligence and a yea-sayer for Commander Stupard here.

*groan*

Well, I’d complain more, but we just hit the end of Chapter 20.

Okay: apparently Kasumi’s recruitment wasn’t important enough for him to show to us or anything. And this is a major issue for a reason that you’ll see why when we hit the end of Chapter 21.

Speaking of which, we should get to that. So let’s get to Chapter 21, which begins with this:

The next mission was coming soon as the Normandy quickly approached Purgatory. It seems a little surreal the places Shepard’s been going to. Comes back from the dead but now he goes to Afterlife to find Archangel. And now he’s going to Purgatory. The multiverse has a sense of humor.

“Get it? ‘Cause Purgatory is an allusion to the location in the Christian afterlife? Aren’t I so smart for noticing that? Tell me I’m smart for noticing that! Tell me!”

I guess we’re going to be jumping to Jack’s recruitment here. Well, I guess we’ll ultimately be in good hands with that. I mean, Jack canonically hates Cerberus because they took her as a little girl and did all sorts of messed-up shit to her. Oh yeah, and she’s also one of the coolest characters in the ME franchise, so hey, maybe we’ll see some more of her than we normally would in ME fanfic.

Shepard was making his preparation for his mission. The box Aether gave him sat on the table in his cabin. “Treyo n’eda toike.” The lock on the box opened revealing a digital pad covered in holographic text. Shepard placed his hand on the pad. Light flashed from it. The final lock was released and the box top split in two and hissed as it opened. The top halves slid apart and wrapped over the sides of the box. Inside was a grey cube with two holes in the top.

Shepard reached inside and pulled out the cube and placed it on the table. This was it. It really is his father’s armor. Shepard placed his hands inside the two holes and lifted the medium grey cube over his head. “Dumat, awaken!” he called to it.

*snerk*

Oh, dear, someone in the parallel galaxy actually created armor that takes the form of a cube in its storage mode, and which responds to calls like “Mystical Object X, awaken”?

Good Christ, where are the Indiana Jones villains when you need them?

Green electricity sparked around it. The cub split into two as if it was being held together magnetically.

Remember guys, this fic has now killed a bear cub. It is now okay to call PETA on this fic.

Shepard’s arms dropped to a horizontally position. Crack lines appeared all over each half of the cube. Each side started sliding up Shepard’s arm, forming the armor. It continued moving up his arms until it reached his shoulder. Plates shot out and attached to the other half forming the chest plate and back plate.

Oh God. Don’t tell me…

It continued to grow downwards. The armor covered his torso. It moved downwards still. It covered his thighs and then down his shins. The armor quickly slid under his feet to avoid pushing him off of the ground. The last part of the armor, the helmet, came up around his head in three pieces. Two parts came up behind his head to form the back. The front part extended in front of his face and connected to the back. The transformation was complete.

The under layer of the armor resembled very light grey muscle tissue, similar to the structure of a Geth hopper. This was just the secondary defense of the armor. Plates are used for the primary defense. Medium grey plates cover the area around his toes, but allowed the muscle fiber-like armor cover around his ankles. His shins were protected by one plate that extended from the ankles to the knee. A section at the top of this plate went over the knee. The outer thighs had two plates that surrounded the outside. It was split on the sides for flexibility.

Plates covered the abdomen. These plates were small and followed a six-pack abdomen pattern. There was a plate to each side of these plates to cover the sides of the torso. Two large plates cover his upper chest.

The plates on the arms were separated into segments to cover the fore arm and upper arm, with a small plate to cover the elbow. Small plates covered the fingers, but the area around the knuckles was thicker that the arm plates for improved melee. At the top there was a small collar of armor that protected the neck.

The helmet was the armor’s most eye catching feature. The lens was triangular-shaped with the flat base stretching over Shepard’s entire brow and the bottom point ends at the tip of his nose. The lens glowed blue. The plate that covered the lower part of the head was silver with three vertical dark blue stripes. The plate on the forehead was black with dark blue markings. To most the markings looked like a design pattern. The markings were the writings of the Artician language. Courage. Strength. Fortitude. Compassion. Each word was a value that a Tiven’Vian was to uphold.

You know, I went into this expecting there to be many, many things wrong with this fic: I was not expecting costume porn to be one of those things. I mean… Jesus Christ, there is more description that has been put into this one suit of armor than has been put into anything else in this entire fic.

Well, except for the sex scene back in Chapter 12. Which makes me reiterate: why not just write a porn novel?

Shepard raised his hands in front of himself and clenched his fists. He examined the piece of armor that adorned his body. This suit was his birthright. It was constructed by his father decades ago due to a vision he received. The vision showed him that his son would become a Tiven’Vian and that he was to protect against a cataclysm. During the Plague years, the armor was lost due to the chaos.

Once the war was finished, many searched for this armor that would prove vital towards fighting the coming blight. The armor was made out of a composite material was could resist projectile and energy blasts. The armor also has to benefit of amplifying Shepard’s powers.

This pointless information dump that will eventually have no bearing on the plot has been brought to you by InHarmsWay for America: Costume Porn You Can Believe In.

Dark energy briefly surged around his body before he made his approach to the elevator.

And then we get a line break. So of course, that means we’re jumping to Jack’s recruitment mission, right?

The Quarian shuttle touched down on an old landing pad next to a tall concrete structure.

Wrong!

The researchers and soldiers exited the vessel in awe. It had been three hundred years since a Quarian first set foot on any of their homeworlds. Upon getting out of the ship, the radiation of the sun became readily apparent. Their shields were starting to deplete.

“Everyone who is out of the ship, get to some cover or shade!” Tali ordered.

Yes, this chapter alternates between Stupard and Tali. It talks briefly about Stupard’s exploits, and then it turns to Tali on her mission to Haestrom. Yeah, this is going to be crazy.

So let’s see what Tali is up to with this, shall we?

They quickly went behind a large stone pillar. Their shields stopped beeping and started to recharge. Tali scanned the area and spotted a warehouse. Reegar walked up next to Tali and asked, “What are your orders, m’am?”

“Reegar, I’ve told you many times you can call me Tali.”

“Sorry, m’am.”

Tali relented and sighed. “Tell the teams to move all our equipment to that warehouse over there. I want to start taking soil samples by mid-afternoon.”

“Yes, m’am.”

*groan*

There we go with the bad spelling and grammar again. InHarmsWay, the spelling you’re looking for is ‘ma’am’. With two ‘a’s. Especially since Kal’Reegar lacks a Cockney accent.

Good Lord, is it too much to ask you to go find a dictionary for this kind of thing?

“Nola, Vell and I will scout the area while the equipment is unloaded.”

Oh hey, it’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 again! I missed you guys more than I was expecting to.

Reegar nodded and ran off to follow his orders.

The three Quarians ran from shadow to shadow to travel through the area. Each exposure to the sun made their suit alarms go off. Eventually they made it to a tall hill that had some cover from the sun. The hill gave them an overview of the surrounding areas. The structures still stood after the centuries, but they were decaying. How they still stand was a mystery.

“Keelah,” Nola gasped.

“This view is incredible,” Vell added.

Tali pulled up her omni-tool and started scanning the area to get a layout of the area. “It is beautiful.”

“Did you see any views like this in the other galaxy?” Vell asked.

“Yeah,” Tali replied. “When we approached Nexus.”

“What’s Nexus?” Nola asked.

“It’s their version of the Citadel.

And this is why I’ll be skipping most of the remaining scenes with Tali in this installment of the snarking. See… there’s really not much that is wrong with them apart from the fridge logic that plagues the entire rest of the fanfic and the usual spelling/grammar mistake. Yes, you read that right: we actually have a group of decent scenes in this chapter. We’re finally shown what kind of relationship Tali has with Thing 1 and Thing 2, Tali does her work, and the dialogue isn’t as incredibly inane as it is elsewhere. Honestly, these scenes on Haestrom are the only actually decent scenes since the one at the start of Chapter 9.

This comes as a relief, ‘cause it actually makes my life easier. Why? ‘Cause we have to cover a lot of material in this installment.

So after we get some establishment of Tali working in Haestrom, we jump to Jack’s recruitment, right?

Shepard, Zaeed and Kasumi walked into the plant entrance. They spotted Vido Santiago and several Blue Suns mercenaries run out onto the walkway above.

Oooooor, they’ll jump straight into Zaeed’s loyalty mission. That works too, I suppose.

Vido had a cocky swagger as he walked towards the railing. “Zaeed Massani,” he said. “You finally found me.”

“Vido…” Zaeed growled. He subtly reached for his assault rifle.

“Don’t be stupid, Zaeed!” Vido chastised. “I have a whole company of blood thirsty bastards willing to kill or be killed on my command. Or maybe you should, so my men have a reason to put you down like the mad dog you are… again.”

Which means—you guessed it—there will be more plot regurgitation involved with this.

So of course, Zaeed blows shit up, things go down with the factory, Stupard has to choose between going after Vido and saving the factory workers, and—

Shepard could see the rage build up inside Zaeed. He had to act fast before he did something stupid. “Hey, Vido!” Everyone’s eyes were on Shepard. “It ends here.” Dark energy surged around him and he charged up onto the platform, impacting the Blue Suns mercenary on the far right. The impact sent the merc into the wall instantly killing him.

Shepard pulled out his sword and sliced the next merc in half. Vido was so terrified from what he saw that he couldn’t move. Shepard used his biotics to throw Vido off of the catwalk and he continued to tear the mercenaries to pieces.

Zaeed and Kasumi were just as surprised as the Blue Suns. It took Zaeed a moment to realize Vido was right before him. The coward broke his ankle from the fall. He struggled to get to his feet. Vido screamed as he tried to put any weight on his broken ankle. Zaeed took out his pistol and wickedly grinned as he approached Vido. Shepard leaned against the railing above the area and watched Zaeed approach him.

“How the tables have changed,” Zaeed commented.

Ooooor, Stupard will just use his “mad skills” to have it both ways.

*hits buzzer*

Ah, Yes, “Badassery” Count: 11

“C-Come on, Zaeed,” Vido plead. “I swear it wasn’t personal.”

Zaeed fired a round into his leg. Vido fell to the ground.

“Aaaah, fuck!” Vido tried dragging himself away. A streak of blood was left behind himself. “Please Zaeed! Don’t do this!”

Zaeed fired a round a round in his right shoulder.

Vido screamed again. “Zaeed, I’m dying here! Please! I’ll do anything!”

Zaeed looked over him. “Yeah, there’s something you can do.” Zaeed aimed the pistol at his head. “Die, you son of a bitch.” The back end of Vido’s head blew out from the gunshot. After twenty years, Zaeed had his revenge.

Shepard jumped over the edge of the railing and used his biotics to float down. “You good, Zaeed?”

Zaeed fired several more rounds into Vido. “Yeah, I’m good. After twenty years, this bastard is finally dead. I owe you Shepard. Now back to the original mission. There are still more Blue Suns mercenaries in this plant and the company is not paying me to leave a job half finished.”

Yes, Zaeed managed to get his revenge on Vido while also being able to save the factory workers. Thus goes the death of much of Zaeed’s characterization in ME2.

And you know what? I think I need to go on a tangent here, because this scene is actually the best example of a much larger problem that plagues Parallel Realities.

Think back to the ME1 arc again. Specifically, think about the Bring Down The Sky chapter, where Stupard had it both ways. Where was the moral dilemma there? Oh, wait, it got taken away by the fact that Stupard had it all set up so they could have it both ways. And here, it happened again. Save the factory workers, or let Zaeed have his revenge? Oh wait, we can do both now that it’s been watered down. And then there’s also everything that happened with Sidonis. Oh, wait, Sidonis had to betray Garrus, which would have caused Garrus to be angry to the point that it’s not him? Sorry, I’m gonna have Teilo the Mary Sue change that so that Garrus doesn’t have to deal with what happens when a betrayal occurs within his ranks and we won’t have to work on any interesting characterization here. And then there’s Mindoir (where the colony survived instead of having only one person), Akuze (where it’s no longer really “Sole Survivor”), and Torfan (where it’s no longer really “Ruthless” so much as it is “Counter-Ruthless”).

Are you sensing a pattern here?

This isn’t Mass Effect, where you have to make choices that have consequences and then you have to deal with the ramifications of it later. This isn’t Mass Effect, so much as it is the watered-down, sugar-coated, rom-com version of the series in which everything has the best possible outcome and Stupard doesn’t actually have to deal with any real moral dilemmas or tension.

And this poses a very clear danger, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now. The fact that Stupard repeatedly shows that he can do anything by ‘fixing’ canon in the ways he does only reinforces the fact that he’s an Invincible Hero, and this story gets boring fast because of it.

This, of course, is a problem that shows its ugly face all over the damn place.

And to be honest? It’s prevalent enough that we can form a counter out of it.

*runs out, gets some electronics, comes back in*

Okay. So… We have all the things I mentioned above. Okay.

*hits buzzer six times*

Wish Fulfillment Outcome Count: 6

After we see Zaeed Massani’s loyalty mission go better than it did in canon, we then jump to Tali again. There’s really nothing much you need to know there: it just shows context behind one of Tali’s audio logs from the Haestrom mission. Thing 1 and Thing 2 aren’t there, it’s only three paragraphs long, and nothing new really happens, so you don’t really need to see it.

We then cut to Stupard again on this note:

Shepard examined the tank that held the sleeping Krogan.

“The tank has been successfully integrated into the Normandy’s systems, Commander,” EDI said.

And on that note, the reader realizes that we have just completely skipped Grunt’s recruitment mission, and that we’re now at the part where Stupard is considering letting him out of the tank.

And again, we hit that oh so wonderful thing called ‘plot regurgitation’. And in this case, Stupard releases the tank-bred krogan, and they have that conversation. The only real difference comes here:

Shepard took a couple of steps forward. The Krogan’s eyes open wide. He roared and charged forward. Shepard didn’t hesitate. He charged forward as well. As he approached he tackled the Krogan at the waist using the Krogan’s momentum against him. The Krogan flew over him and hit the wall.

The Krogan stumbled to his feet, bewildered. “Human,” he stated. “Male. The tank did not say Humans could match up to a Krogan in close combat. Odd… Before you die, I need a name.”

In canon, it’s the other way around, where Grunt pins Shepard to the wall with almost no effort at all. There, it serves to show that Grunt is intimidating, he is powerful, and he is not to be taken lightly. And Stupard here has basically owned him.

Way to completely nerf Grunt, Stupard.

We get some more plot regurgitation where Grunt clarifies that he’s looking for his own name. He settles on ‘Grunt’ because it doesn’t mean anything, and then we get some stuff until we get to this:

“I have a strong ship and strong crew. A strong clan. You would make it stronger.”

“If you’re weak and choose weak enemies, I’ll have to kill you.”

“My enemies are the Reapers. A race of sentient machines that have wiped out organic civilizations every fifty thousand years. They are more powerful than anything that has ever existed. I think they would make a worthy foe.”

Grunt let out a throaty chuckle. “That is a worthy foe. Very well, Shepard. I’ll fight for you.”

“I’m glad you saw reason,” he said while nodding downwards.

Grunt looked down and saw Shepard’s sword pointing at his stomach. He expressed an amused grunt. “Offer one hand but arm the other. Wise Shepard. If I find what I want. If I find a clan. I will be honoured to eventually pit them against you.”

Yes, because that self-defense maneuver totally makes sense when Stupard overpowers Grunt.

After this scene ends, we cut back to Tali after leaving another one of the game’s audio logs. Thing 1 shows up almost out of nowhere, and…

…well, I can’t really skip this part, because it’s irritating:

“So, tell me… Have you and Shepard… connected suits?”

“You saw us kiss on Freedom’s Progress.”

“I know that! I mean did you and Shepard connect suits?” This time there was more emphasis on the word ‘connect.’

Tali finally clued in on the sexual euphemism Nola was trying to convey.

I see the narration is about as subtle at pointing out the sexual overtones of Thing 1’s question as someone saying ‘that’s what she said’.

“Oh! Uh, uh… We really should get to the observatory.”

“Keelah, you did!”

Tali feeling embarrassed repeated again, “Uh, we really should get to the observatory.”

“We can still walk and talk,” Nola pointed out. “Tell me… How was he?”

“Look Nola, I don’t want to talk about this,” Tali said to change topics.

“Okay,” Nola relented. “So he wasn’t that good? I’m surprised. I thought the great Commander Shepard would be-”

That set Tali off. “Of course he was good! Not just good but great!”

Nola put up her hands. “Easy, Tali. I’m only teasing.

*groan*

This is so out of character for everyone involved that I’m not sure where I’m supposed to start with this.

Or maybe I am. How about I start with the canon conversation in which Tali mentions that the mere act of taking your mask off in front of somebody else is considered intimate by quarian standards? Yeah, ‘cause that is one of the things that Tali mentions in the romance in ME2. I find it extremely improbable that Thing 1 is so curious about Tali’s sex life that she’ll intrude upon some extremely personal space to ask about it.

But hey, I’m not a character who has very little in the way of a defined personality, so maybe I don’t get it.

Of course, this talk about the sex life is quickly interrupted by one of Tali’s soldiers phoning in and saying ‘shit, there are geth coming in everywhere’. So then Tali gets Thing 1 to sprint over to the observatory they were heading to in the first place.

We then cut to Miranda in a briefing with the Illusive Man. She mentions that there are things about Stupard that she isn’t comfortable with, and that it’s not something that can be encapsulated in a report. TIM asks what the matter is.

“He knows a lot more about what’s happening than what he’s letting on. When we first got to Freedom’s Progress he ordered the pilot to fly over a small group of Quarians. That group of Quarians just happened to have his former teammate Tali’Zorah with them.”

“You did mention in the report that you pulled up a video of the battlefield. He could have recognized her.”

“She was in a completely different suit. There was no way he would recognize her. Unless he saw that thing she had?”

“Thing?”

“Some sort of swordstaff. Shepard had it after landing on Freedom’s Progress. I assume it was his from before.”

“There you go. That would explain how he recognized it was her.”

“But she happened to have it at that time? I’ve seen the offers collectors and historians have offered the Quarians for that swordstaff. That is not something you bring to every battle.”

“What are you suggesting exactly, Miranda? That Shepard was giving orders while he was in a coma?”

*raises eyebrows*

Could it be? People are actually starting to suspect things about Stupard?

It’s about damn time, InHarmsWay! You can’t honestly expect me to believe that Stupard would be able to go through a period of seventeen plus years where nobody suspects that there’s more to him than he’s telling.

“That isn’t everything. When we went to the Citadel, I had someone track him. After the meeting with the Council, he met with someone who dressed in a cloak. This person gave him a box that contained the Commander’s new armour. I have been monitoring any outgoing communication and at no point did I find a communication from Shepard. And I highly doubt he just called this person once he visited the Council and that person had this armour ready to go. I checked experimental prototypes from many companies and none of them have any armour that comes close to what Shepard is wearing.”

“I’ll admit that is something of interest. We should keep a closer eye on him.”

Oh yes, because the unnaturally superhuman combat prowess, the fact that he claims he was a child soldier in a canon not known to have child soldiers, the fact that he has an information network that is almost as extensive as the Shadow Broker’s network, and the fact that nobody knows who he was for the first ten years of his life weren’t signs that you should be suspicious of him in any way at all.

“There’s more. I wanted to learn more about Wilson and why he betrayed us. I looked into his records, but I’ve come across evidence that his credentials were falsified.”

This news caused TIM to shift in his seat. “Falsified?”

“For all intents and purposes, his records are very real, but I dug deeper. I contacted the institutions he earned his degrees from. He has records he was there, but there is no evidence that he was there.”

TIM downed the last of his whisky and rubbed his temple. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Wilson had official records that he attended at the institutions, but I had some people check into things. No one at any of these places knew Wilson. Absolutely no one. There is also no video record of him attending these schools. In fact we don’t have any photos of him before ten years ago.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“That Wilson was an infiltrator from the start.I don’t know who he was working for, but that is the only conclusion I can come up with in the light of current facts.”

Okay, stop right there.

Miranda, are you seriously telling me that you needed to find out that his records were falsified to figure out that he was an infiltrator from the start? The fact that he hacked into every mech on the facility and tried to kill you didn’t ring any alarms? I mean, he betrayed you! What logical, non-parallel-galaxy-related reason would he have to betray the project, other than ‘he’s an infiltrator for someone who was sent here to sabotage the project’? And really? By this point, we’ve been through six recruitments, a plot-critical conversation, and a loyalty mission. Are you seriously expecting me to believe that it took you eight plot-critical missions to figure out that he was an infiltrator?

Come on, Miranda, you can’t seriously have me believe that you could be this intensely stupid!

Okay, so after that, TIM and Miranda postulate that Wilson might have worked with the Shadow Broker to sabotage the Lazarus project.

“He may have sabotaged Lazarus more than we thought before.”

“How so?”

“I have done scans without Shepard’s knowledge and discovered that Shepard doesn’t have a biotic implant.”

TIM stabbed the ember end of his cigarette into the ash tray.

“Shepard has been using his biotics without his implant all this time.”

“It disturbs me to no end that Wilson tried to directly sabotage Shepard. It was entirely possible that Shepard could have awakened without his biotics because of that stunt.” TIM pulled out a new cigarette and lit it. “Though it is not completely impossible for him to use his biotics. It is common knowledge that Shepard operated without an implant. That was one of his qualities that have made him well known in the galaxy.”

Wh-whoah, hold it right there!

I know Stupard was established as a natural biotic, but you’re seriously telling me that the entire ME galaxy knows that Stupard never used a biotic amp all the time that they’ve known about him?

I… I’m sorry, fic, I don’t follow you. You seriously expect me to believe that this “human” with superhuman abilities who says he was a child soldier and can use biotics without the use of biotic amps and has a massive information network somehow didn’t catch the attention of Cerberus for fifteen plus years!? I… Girplip…. Chack…Chack… Krig…

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

“About that. I have watched him in combat and just what I’ve seen. It’s beyond anything I have ever seen out of a soldier. His speed, strength and biotic capabilities. It is… super-human. And that bothers me. Lazarus made him a better soldier, but he was already leagues beyond anyone in the Alliance. Even as a child he saved his colony from slavers just with his biotics and his sword. Despite all of his renown, the first ten of his life is a mystery. I need to know this. Did Cerberus or the Alliance have a project where they tried to create a super-soldier and one of the subjects escaped or is unaccounted for?”

Well, that’s an oddly specific question, Miranda. Are you sure that’s you and not the plot that’s speaking?

TIM gave the question thought. His cigarette hung from his fingers as his rested his hand against his mouth. “No. In any project similar to what could have created Shepard was secure. No one is unaccounted for. Is this everything?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll have some people look into Wilson’s past. That is indeed something to know about. In the meantime, keep an eye on Shepard.”

Oh, good, we’re finally done with this scene. Quick, transition to the next one before Miranda notices we’re here!

Shepard was inside the AI core. He felt it necessary to report what happened on Aite to the Order.

“EDI, hook me up with the Order,” Shepard ordered.

“Yes, Commander.”

Holographic image of the Order appeared before him.

Okay, we’re going to the Order. At this point, I really don’t give a shit what happens next! Just take me away from something that points out how utterly moronic Cerberus is in this fanfic, please!

“Commander, we have received your report on Aite,” the Rasitian said. “Even after the horrors they committed against us, they still have not stopped.”

“The bastards nearly caused an apocalypse before the Reapers even arrived,” Shepard cursed.

“But you stopped Overlord,” the Rak’en said. “Even if this galaxy doesn’t realize it, you saved it again. I hope David can find peace at the Grissom Academy.”

And now, we have also skipped over the Overlord DLC. Honestly, I’d sum it up for you guys so you can get the context, but I’m fast approaching my quota of how much I can take from this fic for the day, so I’m going to point you to at the Mass Effect wiki so I don’t have to explain it.

Also, I’m going to assume that Miranda’s talk with TIM came before Stupard did Overlord. Trust me, by this point I’m willing to assume just about anything if it’ll keep my sanity intact.

So Stupard talks with the order about that, they talk about how evil Cerberus is, and the Order assures Stupard that he’s still doing good work. They cut out, and then—

“If only the Council could be as accommodating,” Xiltro quipped.

“If only,” Shepard chuckled.

That is not witty or clever!

God, I’m beginning to think it’s less that this author doesn’t know the definition of the word ‘quip’ and more that he just doesn’t know how to write clever comments.

Shepard suddenly felt a presence in the room. He spun to his right and pinned whatever was there in the room to the wall with his right arm. The invisibility cloak gave away revealing Kasumi.

Uh… what?

Shepard’s eyes widened.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“I-I was here to thank you,” she gasped, “for decrypting the grey box and deleting just the information and saving the memories.”

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now skipped over Kasumi’s loyalty mission. And we get exactly one line about the choice from that mission, and wouldn’t you know it, he gets to have it both ways.

*hits buzzer*

Wish Fulfillment Outcome Count: 7

But all that? All that is nothing compared to the stupidity of the situation here. Kasumi, if you want to thank him, you don’t wait for him in the AI Core while you’re cloaked. You find him at your own convenience, you walk up to him uncloaked, and you thank him. You know, the way a normal person would thank someone!

“How much did you hear?”

“Everything,” she admitted. “W-What was all that? I’ve never seen aliens like them before?”

“EDI lock the door.”

“Door is locked.”

“I find myself in a tight spot here. This is a secret that I don’t want Cerberus to know about, and yet you are on Cerberus’ payroll.”

“I’m an independent contractor,” Kasumi countered. “Anyways, I wasn’t paid to spy on you for them. I was paid to fight for you. But after what you did for me with the Hock heist, the money doesn’t matter. You earned my loyalty, and I promise you I won’t tell anyone about this.”

“I do not detect any deception,” EDI said.

“Alright, I’ll explain myself,” Shepard said.

“But if you tell anybody, you’re dead, all right?”

He could have mind-melded with her, but his head just hurts too much after the day.

Right. So you’re not going to do the only thing that can plausibly get Kasumi to believe you because you have a headache.

I never thought I’d say this, but I know six year old girls that have more dignity and strength than Stupard does.

Well, after this, we get an infodump from Stupard. Stupard tells Kasumi about everything, and I’m not gonna put you through it too since we the readers have been reminded of it every ten seconds or something like that. All you need to know, is that it somehow gets Kasumi to start crying, even despite the fact that it’s one of the dumbest zombie apocalypses in fiction. At the end, this exchange is shown:

“The Reapers once attacked my galaxy. We managed to defend ourselves, but lost a lot of people in the battle.”

Kasumi whistled. “That is something else.”

“You certainly are taking this news really well.”

“Well, I always thought you were very different from most Humans. This explains why. This mission has gotten a lot more interesting.”

Yep, Kasumi takes it about as well as everybody else in this dumb-ass fanfic has.

How did I guess this was gonna happen?

“Commander Shepard,” EDI called out. “I am receiving a message from one of our operatives.”

“Bring it up,” he ordered.

A hologram of an Exion appeared before them. “Commander Shepard,” he said. “I’m Colonel Welk. I was tasked with keeping an eye on Tali’Zorah.”

“What do you have to report?”

“She is currently on Haestrom. A Geth scouting patrol has arrived. I’m doing my best to slow them down, but you need to hurry.”

“I’ll get there right now! EDI, tell Joker to set a course to Haestrom.”

“Yes, Commander.”

So it’s not TIM’s dossier that brings them to Haestrom this time, but rather an exion that was tasked with keeping an eye on Tali’Zorah. Okay, I can see why the Order would task someone to keep an eye on her, given that Tali is a Knight of the order and all that…

But given that the exions are involved? I think we all know where that’s going.

Next time, we tackle Haestrom. Next time, we’ll also see the one thing that renders Stupard’s logic even worse than it’s ever been throughout this entire fic. Next time, we’ll see the return of a certain turian Spectre to the fold.

And tonight, we dine in hell.

*is kicked into a pit*


4 Comments on “300: Parallel Realities – Chapters Twenty and Twenty-One”

  1. This is the probably the only time I’m Gonna say this, but….. I agree with this fic on one thing: Zaeed’s loyalty mission.

    Hear me out first. I LOVED bring down the sky for how there was a legit moral dilemma. It’s not that I want to have my cakje and eat it.

    It just that the choice in Zaeed’s mission was forced. What was to atop Shep and the crew from shooting Vido when they first meet him? What was to atop you from sending your other crew member to save the colonists? It just felt like someone tried and failed to imitate Bring Down the Sky and failed because the situation just felt too easy to solve and get both ways.

    Everything else in this fic? Ruining Bring Down the sky, Overlord, and having Grunt lose to Shep (I’m sure grunt is WAY more than five times stronger than a human), and especially the Kasumi memory hack all can go *pardon my French* suck on Satan’s dried ass crack.

    • Herr Wozzeck says:

      I dunno, I think that Zaeed’s loyalty mission was the first case where you really began to get a sense of just how much the canon was being Flanderized for the sake of wish fulfillment and all that. And really, after a while, that sort of thing gets annoying fast.

      But yeah, the stupid is about to multiply beyond this point. Beware…


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