872: Normandy High – Chapter 14 Part 2 & Chapter 15Posted: October 28, 2014
N: Ok, I think he’s all healed up from the fight with Manus. Should we let him in? I’m against it.
E: To be perfectly honest so am I. Well, physically in the room. I put a communicator in his room though and a live feed to us. He can chime in whenever he wants, and if he starts pissing us off too much we can cut the audio. Button’s right here.
C: I’m keeping one finger on that thing. So when we last left off, 23 and co were stuck in a random ass cave that Cerberus had caved in because reasons (I guess it was to kill 23, but you’d think you’d want to go with something more reliable like poison. The guy still needs to metabolize right?) And then 23 found “Another one”. What is “another one”? We’re about to find out.
Without warning, 23 sprinted as fast as possible towards the machine. Shepard turned, hoping to find 23 next to her, when she saw him running down the path. The rest of the squad jumped into action, following him as best they could.
“Wait! 23! What’s wrong?”
He almost ran into the panel. Quickly, he pressed an assortment of buttons while Shepard caught him. Grabbing his arm, she brought him around.
“What the hell are you doing?”
C: IT’S THE MACGUFFIN! THE MACGUFFIN WILL DO THE THING! I NEED THE THING!
23 pushed her arm back, turning to the controls once more. He spoke with a voice of agitation, body language revealing numerous emotions.
“It’s here! I didn’t think…please…work…NOW!”
He punched in a small code, rendering a mechanical beep from the circuits. They waited for something to happen. Nothing did.
23 wanted to punch the wall. After all this waiting. All this hope. Ruined, because of one stupid—
E: Unless this is a machine that will make Miranda’s head explode, I don’t really see how he’s been waiting for it.
“23! Either tell me what the hell is going on, or I’m having Garrus restrain you!”
N: The Garrus that’s been reduced to the butt of jokes and slapstick this entire story? Yeah that’ll work out. Dear God, everything that comes out of this Shepard’s mouth is so inoffensive. it hurts.
He turned, finding Shepard with her gun out, aiming at his forehead. Tali and Jack were watching him with a look of caution, while Garrus was raising an eyebrow. 23’s eyes widened. He’d gone to far. Shepard could be trusted, but what about everyone else?
-Tali…Yes. I can trust her with anything. Garrus and Jack….yeah-
E: I’ve been keeping this from them the entire story, but the plot suddenly decided that I can talk about it now.
sighing, 23 stepped back, finding a small place to sit. Motioning for the Commander to lower the gun, he spoke.
C: What gun? When did that enter the equation? Also, 23 is the one giving orders to Shepard. AGAIN!
(Shepard the Shitty Leader Counter: 23)
“I’m sorry. When I saw it I just…Shepard. Do you know where I’m from?”
immediately after hearing those words, Alicia dropped her gun to her side. 23 was telling her about his background. He was telling ALL of them about his background. He continued.
“I’m…I’m not from this galaxy.”
N: Looney bin. Throw him in a the looney bin. You should’ve done this from day 1 but now you have all the evidence you need.
Looks of confusion spread across the room. He held up his hand.
“I know. Doesn’t make sense. Let me explain.”
Sighing once more, he began the long tale.
“Ten years ago, I was completely normal. I had friends, family. I went to school, did all the regular stuff. The problem was, the year was 2010, which makes me being here impossible.”
Shepard nodded. 23 spoke under his breath.
C: Either it’s impossible or it’s not impossible. Don’t say it’s impossible then back peddle on it three seconds later.
He stood up, approaching the group so they could hear better.
“You know the theory of the multiverse? Where there’s a galaxy for every conceivable possibility? Well, as it turns out, we aren’t far off from it. In my home universe, I found a machine exactly like this one. I wasn’t thinking, and activated it somehow.”
E: Uh-huh. What was it that Eezo said back in chapter 1 about self inserts?
(C’mon. A magic Xbox?)
E: Yeah, let’s go with the much more logical explanation that you just found a random ass machine.
E: What was that?
C: I’m gonna run a security scan. Stupard might be out of his cell. He’s been rather quiet.
E: You took the ring away from him right?
N: No, we let him keep it. Of course we did, give us some credit Ert.
E: Sorry, just making sure.
Tali alternated from looking at 23 to the machine. Quietly, she walked over, and started a diagnostic report on the ancient tech. It was Prothean, but something was off about the signals. She compared them to previously found signals, when 23 continued.
N: So what?
“I can’t explain what happened, but the next thing I knew, I woke up on the Citadel, lying on the ground of the Presidium.”
Shepard wondered when she should interrupt, but kept the silence. This didn’t make sense, but she trusted 23. To a point.
“That’s when Cerberus collected me, and well…You know the rest.”
C: Not really. How’d you get captured by Cerberus? That’s something the story has been rather vague on. I mean how do you need up on the fucking Presidium, which is a place reserved for the leaders of the Council, and get captured by Cerberus? And while I’m on it, why is there a random ass Prothean teleport that allows people to jump dimensions. Did the Protheans use it? Were there Protheans in the 21st century? And why did they have one on Earth and a random ice block in space? NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!
N: I love how Tali trusts 23 “to a point”. Like there’s some major road blocks stopping her from trusting him. Like him being a psychopath.
N: Ok, rings on.
C: The scan is getting nothing.
The squad sat in silence. Shepard, Garrus and Jack were absorbing the information while Tali worked on the terminal. She was focused, but inside her mind, Tali was abuzz with thoughts. The idea of travel through different realities was unimaginable, but according to 23, it was possible. Even with the machine she was working on at the exact moment!
Alicia couldn’t believe it. First the Reapers, now this. She felt as if 23 was leaving something out though…
N: Yeah, like how this is supposed to make any fucking sense.
-Another time maybe-
N: YOU! ARE! WEAK! YOU ARE A SHEEP! YOU ARE NOT A PERSON! FUCK! YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!
(Shepard the Shitty Leader Counter: 24)
“Shepard. Come look at this.”
All eyes turned to Tali, who stood next to the terminal, which hummed with a renewed vigor. 23 stood, eyes wide. Slowly, he walked over to the machine. Tali watched him, eyes carefully scanning for any signs of distress. She was worried about him. His concern for this machine was large, and she desperately wanted to help him accomplish what he needed to do. Even if he wouldn’t say what.
Behind him, Shepard approached, and the squad turned their heads towards the terminal. Tali spoke to all of them, but she was looking at 23.
“This machine isn’t….I don’t know what it is. But the power levels are incredibly low, and won’t charge for a long time. 23, I’m sorry, but…if you were hoping to leave, it…it won’t let you.”
E: So what? It charges itself? How does that work?
N: I suppose it’s realistic to be in bad shape considering if it’s Prothean this thing is 50,000 years old, but the idea that it’ll “charge” itself over time is just stupid. If it didn’t “charge” itself in 50,000 years, I don’t see it finishing anytime soon. Try back in a few thousand years 23…also, did the Rebirth have one of these teleporter? Is that how we got in the Assassin’s Creed universe?
C: Ok, whatever it is it’s getting close!
N: Ert, only use your ring if we absolutely have no other option.
E: Got it.
He sighed, turning to look at the gate. Memories of his past life flashed by.
He turned back to look at the squad, which looked at him cautiously. This revelation of where 23 was from was huge. They couldn’t think about that now though. It popped to Shepard’s mind that they were still trapped, since this was the last room available.
“Tali, what else can you get from that machine? Does it say there’s a way out?”
E: Yeah, because teleporters usually have maps of local areas to. For plot convenience.
the engineer turned to the console once more, taking her time in decrypting the ancient language. Finally, she spoke.
“There’s a cave behind the gate over there. Garrus, try knocking on the plates. The cavern should be behind them.”
accepting the request, Garrus made his way over to the gate. The imposing metal arch stood high over his head, which lead into a dark, circular room. Crossing the arch, Garrus made it three steps into the room before something happened.
A dark electrical pulse was heard,
C: How the fuck do you HEAR something that’s dark?
and the walls in the room flashed with a deep blood red glow. Stopping, Garrus looked around, waiting for something to happen. The pulses got louder, and the walls flashed bright red, shooting out electricity. The bolts impacted the Turian, throwing him clean out of the room,
N: Oh for God’s sake what does this story have against Garrus? Pretty sure that’d kill him. Or is it just more weak slapstick?
He slammed against the spire, a large crack running up the ice covered the object. The room hummed lower, slowly turning off.
Shepard ran to him, falling to his side. He was laying there, unmoving.
“Garrus. Garrus! Wake up!”
Her voice was strained, and she fought to stay in control. She couldn’t loose him. Not like his.
-Not anyway. I can’t loose him. I can’t-
E: Eezo seems to think that pain + someone getting emotional = drama. I’ll tell him how it really works when I stop banging my head against a wall.
Silence followed, which was soon replaced with a quiet grunt of pain. Slowly, his eyes flickered open, only to find eight others staring back into his. He leaned upward, aided by Shepard.
“What hit me?”
Tali spoke up.
“Apparently the chamber has some sort of defense system. It activated an electric shock that threw you across the room!”
C: Considering it just knocked him for ten seconds, it’s not a very good one. Unless it’s purpose is to make people overemotional and freak out over trivial shit, in which case the Protheans might be onto something.
C: Right outside the door!
The squad sat, figuring out how to handle the next steps. Finally, 23 spoke.
“Listen. I think I can get through. These machines tend to work well with people who’ve gone through a few times.”
N: Then how did you get through in the first place? AND HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS!?
Glancing at 23, Shepard turned to Garrus, who stared at the assassin. Slowly, he nodded.
“He can do it.”
E: I’m an expert on him apparently.
Shepard turned, agreeing with him. Breathing sharply, 23 walked towards the arch.
-Here goes nothing –
crossing the archway, he stepped into the dark chamber. From the other room, the rest of the squad watched, wondering what would happen next. Jack viewed him with a look that most people would associate with stupidity. She seemed to be questioning 23’s very sanity.
N: Only Jack huh? Well at least it’s something.
Garrus and Shepard watched, curious as to what would happen if 23 made it through unscathed.
Tali stood, head forward, waiting for something to happen. She knew that 23 could handle himself, but that didn’t stop her from worrying. She didn’t want him to get hurt, but the feeling was annoying to her. She cared for people, but all this extra worry, which was due to what she considered to be a simple crush, was messing with her mind.
E: WE’RE STILL ON THIS!? Tali, most people who are in love tend to put those feelings on the backburner when more important shit is happening. THIS QUALIFIES!
Breathing in, 23 stepped even closer into the room, nearly standing in the center. Finally, a glowing light appeared on the walls, as the red light returned. The electricity charged once more, flashing bright. The charges shot out, striking 23. He was not thrown backwards however, instead, lifted into the air.
C: I’m guessing electricity is like this bullshit energy 23 uses in his powers. Some sort of magical bullshit that can be molded into an all purpose plot coupon.
The pain was intense, and he could feel the machine probing his mind.
N: So it’s a teleporter, map, mind reader? Don’t suppose there’s a smoothie maker in there too?
-Memories, places, people, things, emotions, comprehensions, data, data, DATA-
E: WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS
The last one was most important, and the electricity grew with strength. 23 was holding onto everything he knew. Something was trying to get in. Something alien.
“What…What are you?”
it didn’t answer him.
“WHO ARE YOU?”
E: Don’t bother man, I’ve been asking that question since day one. Still don’t have an answer.
He just heard laughing. He was on the Normandy, in the CIC. Something was wrong though. Everyone was gone.
Another flash of pain.
He was in Italy, the Vatican. Blood dripped from the walls, and the laughing was heard. 23 brought his arm up, shielding himself.
C: Didn’t know walls could bleed.
Earth, during the Covenant attack.
N: It’s amazing how the flashbacks have so little detail and somehow manage to get even more bare bones with each one.
23 could feel the curiosity of the organism within, going through his memories. It replayed everything, while he was forced to sit and watch them again. Finally, satisfied at the data collected, it moved on.
E: Wait what organism? Is something inside him? Are we going to have a xenomorph on the loose? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!?
“No. No, please. Don’t go here. I don’t want to—”
He saw her. Standing on the beach, staring at him. She smiled, her blonde hair dancing in the warm sunlight. Standing in the cold ocean water, she looked perfect. She turned gracefully, green eyes dancing across his body. biting her lip, she waved curiously, as if she were unsure of how he would react. He grinned, motioning for her to come closer. Running towards him, she jumped into the air, landing on him. The motion carried them onto the sand, which they happily laid on. He was content, as if the world was nothing but a positive image in his head.
C:…Oh yeah, so traumatic that memory was. It was…I have no fucking idea.
23 had had enough. Feeling violated, he decided to go on the offense. Pushing outward, he attacked the entity, shoving his way into it’s conscious.
He appeared in a bright metallic room. Aliens of an unknown variety walked the halls, looking at him with smiles. 23 understood. He was taking the place of the other. He could see them creating portals, opening places to other worlds.
23’s curiosity pushed him onwards, making him ignore the boundaries that governed his control. The entity resented this, pushing 23 back into his own mind. The images stopped, but the pain continued. He felt a strong jolt in the base of his skull, and soon the world turned black.
The loud bang startled the squad, and 23 fell to the ground. Shepard and Garrus ran into the room, which accepted them peacefully. Garrus shook the fallen soldier gently. After a time, he woke to the sight that his friend had seen earlier, and stood.
N: So, what was the point of all of that? What did we learn from it?
E: *Throws hands up into the air.* Blue.
Trying to get to his feet, 23 realized just how weak he was. Clinging to Garrus’s shoulder, the questioning began.
“Are you alright?”
“Did you find the exit?”
C: I thought we already KNEW WHERE THE EXIT WAS!
turning, 23 pointed to a loose hatch, which hid the exit. Tali ran over, starting to pull the machine together for their escape. Finally, 23 spoke.
“I…I don’t know what I saw.
E: That makes two of us. ESPLAIN!
I need your help though. I can’t…”
He stumbled forward, catching himself against Shepard.
“Weak…Thing drained me. We should get out of here.”
E: Electricity can fry you, read your mind and drain your energy. See what I mean about magical bullshit?
Alicia nodded, turning to Tali. A loud series of beeps was heard, and Tali clapped her hands together. As the squad approached the door, they waited for the opening.
23 felt like shit. He had no armor, no water, nothing. He was exhausted, barely able to stand on his feet.
C: If he had no water in his system, he’d be dead. WHY ISN’T HE DEAD!?
-Damn. I hope I get myself together before we get back to the Normandy. I don’t want Miranda to see me like this-
The door began to open slowly, when 23 felt it.
He spoke rapidly, trying to move away from the exit.
“Shepard, don’t open the doo—”
The barrier lifted, wind rushed inside. Blinded by the light momentarily, the sounds of various shuttles filled the cramped room. A figure, tall and sleek, stepped inwards, raising her pistol she aimed past Tali, who stood closest to the door. Turning her head briefly, she looked the Quarian straight in the eye.
“Thank you, Ms. Zorah. We’ve got it from here.”
N: DO IT NOW MIRANDA HE’S WEAK! RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES!
Tali couldn’t speak. Even without the accent, even without the same close-fitting outfit that had so easily become her trademark, she would have recognized her.
Smirking, the operative raised her gun at 23, laser sight caught aimed right at his chest. The sound of a discharge was heard, and the assassin felt the needle hit his chest. Immediately, he fell backwards, the toxin filling his blood. The world faded black before he could think. All that he heard was the yelling of the Cerberus squads relieving Shepard’s squad of their weapons. Only one word came to mind before he faded into oblivion.
E:…You know what? I’d be smirking too. I’d allow it. I’ll even ignore of what a half assed fight Shepard and co put up and how Miranda shouldn’t have known about this bullshit machine. Bullet right in the chest! Nice on Miranda!
C: It’s coming in. We-
G: THAT’S WHAT YOU GET YOU LITTLE SHIT!
E: Oh Christ Goeth it’s just you. Don’t scare us like that. And what do you mean?
G: The teleporters? They’re mine! And he touched them. I WILL NOT ALLOW THE TOUCHING OF MY TELEPORTERS!
N: Oh. So that’s how we all got out of From the Ashes.
G: I was wondering why they were on the loose to let Seiko, Stupard and Manus into our world. It looks like this little shit stole them! So I wired up that one to fry his brain. Didn’t work as well as I hoped, I had to rush it.
E: The visions he saw though?
G: Most likely hallucinations brought on by brain damage. Now then if you’ll excuse me I need to make sure no one TOUCHES MY THINGS! *Crack*
C:…He left a really big hole in the ceiling.
S: You work with him?
N: Where have you been this whole time?
E: Whoops. Ah well, 23 got shot right in the heart. All’s Well That Ends Well. Well, next chapter.
Roughly, all four of the squad members were thrown into a shuttle. Even with her hands restrained, Tali fought angrily, trying to kick the operatives carrying her. She landed a blow between the legs of a soldier, who grunted in pain.
“Damn Quarian! Sit still or you’ll be sucking unfiltered air!”
E: Going for the minimalistic approach eh? No describing how many men there are or how they got in this situation? Ok, scene building is for squares I guess.
With almost blatant disregard for the prisoners, the squad locked them into security harnesses. Miranda stepped into the shuttle. She turned to the pilot.
“We got what we came for. Let’s move.”
C: Not technically considering you can’t “Get” someone dead, but yeah, mission acomplished.
Tali rapidly scanned the area. Where was 23? The reality sunk in.
-23…No…We can’t leave him!-
N: Sure we can, watch. BYE!
“Where is 23!”
Miranda turned, looking at the angered faces of her former teammates. Garrus and Jack wore a similar expression, but Jack was obviously more angered by their situation. She wasn’t looking forward to being an experiment again. Shepard was glaring at Miranda with the utmost of hatred, green eyes gazing so intense, the air felt warmer. The last person to view was the one who spoke. Turning, Lawson felt a deep pang of revolt when she looked at Tali. The silver orbs behind the mask were wide, and it was apparent that she was mad. Her voice trembled though, which betrayed her fear.
E: So as much as I want to high five Miranda for killing 23, what’s her plan her? Nicely ask Shepard to go back to killing the Collectors? Take Jack as a test subject? I appreciate that killing 23 took priority but she doesn’t seem to have a long term plan.
Pointing out of the shuttle, Miranda aimed towards 23’s body. He was lying on the snow, facedown.
“23 was a liability. He’s almost dead anyways,
C:…why is he only ALMOST dead? Get out, shove your pistol in his mouth and finish the job.
E: *Sigh* He’s gonna live isn’t he?
given how much toxin we used to stop him. Don’t worry yourself so much Ms. Zorah. Soon 23 will be a distant, if not pathetic, part of your previous life.”
E: God I wish that was true.
Tali couldn’t believe it. He was either dead or dying, they were leaving, and she couldn’t do a damn thing about it. She knew being quiet was the smart move, but a growing part of her, that section in her brain where 23 was important, wouldn’t let go.
“You monster! How could you do that? How could you do that to one of your own kind?
N: This has been bugging me for awhile now. Tali keeps saying “How could you do this to your own kind.” Would it have been more morally acceptable if Miranda did it to an alien?
You’re almost the same as the Geth. Using those weaker than you to achieve your sick goals.”
C: When the fuck did the Geth do that? In fact, when the fuck did CERBERUS do that? 23 is a lot of things, weak isn’t one of them.
A guard made his way to silence her, but Miranda held a hand. Slowly, a smirk crawled across her face, and she smoothly pushed back her black hair. She began to speak, a tone of mocking came out.
E: Again, will allow it.
“You couldn’t possibly comprehend what this organization does. I can understand how you feel though. No, really. I get it. You love him. Something in that twisted little alien mind of yours is trying to convince you that it would work, that you would be happy with him. Let me make one thing very clear.”
Miranda approached her, kneeling in front of the captive girl. She spoke with absolute precision, striking Tali where she was most vulnerable.
“23, is going to die. His heart will stop, and no one. NO ONE, can prevent it. All this time, all that effort to connect with him, wasted. How does it feel, watching the man you love finally get what he deserved? I can promise you, it feels better on my end than yours.”
E: AWESOME MCEVIL! Slightly ruined by how Miranda is subjugated to Bond Villain Stupidity by not finishing the job, but DAMN!
Tali felt like she’d been shot. She couldn’t look at Miranda. Couldn’t look anywhere. She hated the woman in front of her. She would’ve given anything to kill her, hurt her. But she couldn’t. Instead, she turned, gazing at 23’s body.
It hurt. It hurt so much. The man she watched, the person who saved her countless times was going to die. Inside, the world was gray. She couldn’t feel anything except for the sadness, the horrible weighted burden that fell upon her heart. It was what many would consider the equivalent of a thousand knives piercing her lungs. She fought to keep the sobs in, to stay strong in front of the one person who took the man she loved away.
-Why…he didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve this-
She suddenly felt very shocked. This selfishness was unfelt by her, and the new emotion was difficult to comprehend. Finally though, she agreed to let it flow within her. She didn’t care about anything else. The pain clouded everything. The Flotilla, Shepard, the Reapers, everything.
-I just wanted him. If we lost everything else, I just wanted him to hold me. A kiss, a hug, even a touch. Anything-
C: Really? Your friends have been taken captive, the Reapers and Collectors are ready to take over the galaxy, and you’re more concerned about your fuck buddy?
Tali heard something. Arguing. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Miranda debating something with a gray haired man. She didn’t care though. She lost interest in everything around her. All she did was stare at his body, silently hoping for a miracle. A tear slid down her masked cheek, and a quiet sob escaped her lips.
N: SAD! SAD FOR ME! Then we randomly cut to this
“Damn it, Obediah. This is NOT open for discussion.”
“Actually it is, Lawson. The Cryonics Cell shut down with the Rebirth, but we have 23 right in our hands! We’ve been preparing for this since then. I hate to do this, but you’re overruled.”
E:…NO! NO! FUCKING NO! Obediah get your head of your fucking ass! This ended with 1700 corpses last time!
Obediah stepped back, grinning with victory.
With that, he turned to a small collection of soldiers, stepping out of the shuttle. They gathered the fallen soldier, taking him over to the larger of the two shuttles. After a time, they succeeded in placing 23’s body in stasis, where the decomposition would be nonexistent.
Obediah smiled. This was his time to shine, and along with 47, things were running smoothly.
C: GOD FUCKING DAMN IT! So close! We almost had him dead!
N: So this is what Goeth was talking about when he said you need to have a degree from Mad Scientist university before you do stuff like this. You need to learn when to scrap your projects and move onto a new one. Then another cut.
“NO! Damn it, NO! I WAS SO CLOSE!”
“Screw that! Ten years. TEN FUCKING YEARS! I’ve thought of NOTHING, but ripping her apart. DAMN IT!”
N: Yeah, remember all that “Character devlopment” 23 had in the alternate universes where he learned to stop being so blood thirsty? Yeah, so much for that. Apparently he spent ten years getting hard to the idea of killing Miranda.
He raged at the voice, anger seething. The blackness around him started to take on a red hue. The voice speaking to him increased in volume, and carried a tone of panic.
“Listen. You NEED to calm down. If you don’t you’ll—”
C: Eezo, when people talk to themselves, they don’t have two sided conversations. They usually just think out loud. Even when a person changes their mind we change tract mid-sentence, not having a back and forth talk. Or does 23 have an alternate personality?
The voice was cut off, and the background was replaced with a red one. It unsettled 23. A colder, metallic voice sounded in his head.
“You are dead, 23.”
Immediately, he felt a cold presence.
“Who are you?”
“That is not important now. All you need to know is that I am here for a…Partnership.”
“You have quite unique abilities. I am completely sure that Cerberus will not allow you to perish. At least not indefinitely.”
23 couldn’t understand, whatever this thing was.
“So? They’ll just go back to torture. It’s how they do things.”
“Then allow me to help.”
The red coloring faded ever so gently. Light started to peek in from above, and the metallic voice got colder.
“I will draw upon both our abilities when the time is necessary.”
“Wait! Who are you?”
The voice disappeared, and the light came crashing down upon him.
N: Uh. Not to alarm anyone but I’m pretty sure that 23 just made a deal with the devil. So, does that mean that this is an SMT crossover now?
N: Did this guy just made a deal with 23?
C: Is…is Cerberus Order? Do they serve YHVH? It’d actually make a lot of sense. They seem to be following an almost religious doctrine and showing complete and utter hatred towards everyone who isn’t them. And when I think about it, 23 and co’s obsession with hedonistic pleasures, a complete lack of professionalism and trying to spite Cerberus whenever possible would make them fall into Chaos.
E: So THAT’S why no one in this story is likable! They’re all soldiers in the war between angels and demons, one extreme versus another. We need to find the person who represents Neutral! They’re our best hope! That route is usually the most likable and reasonable one (Minus SMT I where Neutral is borderline sociopathic). The problem is that Neutral has to stand against the forces of YHVH and Lucifer both. A task that’s Herculean in nature. So, let’s keep an eye out for our savior. 23 is pretty much the anti-christ by this point, so we’ve got even more reason to not root for him.
Groaning, 23 sat up. He stared out, trying to get a bearing of where he was. The white horizon stretched out, unending. He groaned once again. Just for confirmation, he looked at his hands. They were uncovered, small scars running their length along his palm. He sighed, leaning back on his hands, closing his eyes amidst the white background.
C: Stuck in a random white landscape? THIS IS SMT! How long until Matador shows up and kicks 23’s ass?
N: On the plus side, 23 has no demons or anything to barter with to get some to join him.
-Well, I’m here again. I guess Miranda didn’t want to take any chances if I woke up-
E: That officially means nothing. Moving on.
His breathing carried across the soft, forgiving landscape. He’d been here more times than possible. It was almost abnormal, his connection to the place. Death was natural, but no one should have to visit the waiting room so many times and come up disappointed.
C: So we’re honestly moving into talking about the afterlife huh? Guess YHVH really doesn’t want him in the Millennium Kingdom.
He looked around, up and down. The white landscape permeated every part of his vision. Not once, until…
He saw the speck. It looked distant, as if he was looking at an ant from high above. It drew him in, and he curiously moved towards it. While he walked, the spot grew larger, and a figure came into view after a time. His eyes widened once they got closer. He could see features. His breath caught in his throat, and he stopped. The person walking didn’t.
-No…She…Oh my god-
C: Are we honestly fucking doing this?
Blue cloth gracefully covered her, while straight black hair dropped past her shoulders, covering most of her head. That radiant face shined through, and 23 saw a beauty unseen before, almost as if she looked truly at peace for the first time.
She walked even closer, within shouting distance. He could see a smile on her face, wider than a star. He felt his feet carry him with a speed previously unknown. His fists pumped up and down, propelling him forward. His breathing became erratic, and soon he was shouting to her.
E: You’re kidding me. You’re honestly fucking kidding me. Who the Hell introduces mystical elements like this completely out of the blue? All jokes about SMT aside, this is a complete fucking disaster. (If it was SMT YHVH would put us all out of our misery with a few thousand ICBMs) I mean, is this confirmation that the Christian religion is true? Or is it more Semitic? Islamic? Something we don’t even know about?
N: And it’s all so 23 can talk to his dead girlfriend who he would’ve been ok with raping. Fuck. Off.
She laughed, that low familiar laugh of hers. They ran, close enough to talk to.
They’re embrace was wondrous. 23 felt all the pain and anger slowly ebb to somewhere deeper inside. He could put it away for this.
Without any hesitation, Lyla threw her arms around his neck, while 23 lifted her off the ground with the force of his hug. She slowly found the ground again, but they stood, holding each other for so long.
C: Yay! I wuv you so much! You wanted to have sex with me after I had been kidnapped against my will!
The love they felt for one another was not traditional in the romantic sense. Rather, it was similar to how two friends would care for each other more than almost anyone else.
E: They are for each other. Because reasons. The only interaction they have had is…none. They have had no interactions. Unless you count one person swearing like a fifteen year old and another one begging for her life in the same room as interacting.
There was no passionate kiss, no deep intimate speech. Instead, 23 felt her, almost trying to bury his head into her neck, while she softly whispered to his ear. Without realizing it, he was crying. His sobs appeared, wracking his armored frame with silent sorrow. Instead of checking him for signs of distress, Lyla held him tightly, quietly assuring him that she was alright.
His soft shaking carried. A voice in his mind was berating him.
-What the hell is wrong with you! You’re breaking down in front of her. Suck it up!-
N: What’s wrong with you having emotions? You’re not a vagina owner! Real men don’t have emotions! Ugh. Hate this uber macho bullshit.
The other 23, the one who was justifying his current actions, spoke within his mind.
-Ten years. I haven’t seen her in ten years. I don’t give a damn how I look. Spare me the lecture-
C: So he almost became a rapist at fifteen? Jesus Christ!
After a time, they slowly parted. Moving away from her, 23 looked into her eyes. The last time he had seen them, she died. With deep emotion, he spoke to the smiling girl.
“I’m sorry. I just…I missed you.”
C: I had no one to fuck! (No we’re not letting that go!)
She laughed, slightly higher than usual. The sound caught 23 off guard, and he brought his hand to the back of his neck. Something he rarely did anymore. She stopped laughing, and continued to smile, almost glowing with happiness. She spoke with a tone of forgiveness.
“There isn’t anything wrong with that. I’ve missed you too. I’m sorry that you’re here though. I know what happened.”
E: You’re sorry that he’s here? YOU are sorry that HE is here? You got raped and murdered, you were going to be used as a fucktoy for him, but you are sorry that HE is here? Fuck’s sake!
23 smiled slightly, the right side of his mouth moving upwards. Lyla was one of the few people to see him express emotion through facial features. He didn’t trust many people with it. He started to look off into the distance, a look of displeasure crossing his face.
“I’m dead. Again.”
N:…This has happened before? One of those stories huh? The kind that makes up new things every paragraph, no matter how little sense they make.
Her smile shrunk, but maintained appearance. She quietly nodded.
“They’re probably taking me to another facility.”
His voice got darker, and he started to walk forward. Lyla’s eyes grew with sadness, and she followed behind him.
“I’ll get to finish CDT. They’ll use Shepard and everyone else to hurry it along.”
C: And how the Hell do you know that? And how would they use Shepard? Kill them in front of you? Yeah that worked out REAL well last time.
His shoulders shrunk. He looked like a man lifting a great burden. Lyla knew just how much he carried.
E: And that burden is mainly “I got hurt a lot and got emasculated.” Usually when people talk about burdens they talk about…I dunno, something actually worth a damn.
23’s voice went quiet, and he sighed with exhaustion. He looked around, trying to find a place to sit. All he found was white landscape spread out in front of him.
He didn’t move. Lyla understood what this was. Slowly, she walked in front of him. His tired eyes came to greet hers, which twinkled with joy. She smiled again, which caused the battered assassin to smile slightly. He began to speak.
“I’m tired, Lyla. I’m so tired. Ten years of fighting. Ten years of killing. I’ve tried to find Miranda the entire time, and when I do…”
N: Oh yeah, you spent so much time fighting in that cell you spent five years in. You know a story fails when it can’t even keep its own backstory straight.
He looked up at the empty space.
C: So Miranda always kills him? I’d like her more and more if it were true, but she was under the impression he was dead, so what is even the fuck? And is Lyla, who has been painted as being an innocent, really going to let him have his revenge murder?
He looked at her again, and her eyes were focused on his. Moving with the utmost of care, Lyla slowly approached 23 headfirst. Gently, she turned her head, and placed a small kiss on his thin cheek.
The touch of her lips relaxed him in a way that he couldn’t understand. The feeling of her affection slowly simmered, almost penetrating his skin.
She stepped back, giving her friend a look of true understanding. She spoke.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
E: A walk in “wherever the fuck we are.”
The situation looked grim. Currently, Shepard resided in a narrow prison cell in the Cerberus base. Across from her, she could spot Jacob, Mordin, and Grunt. They were all in separate cells, and Grunt was passed out, from the looks of it. Alicia guessed that the rest of the squad occupied the cells next to her. Jack was the only exception, as she was put into the furthermost cell, which had a biotic dampener. The large prison cell was clean and metallic, while a large glass chamber dominated the center of the wing. A few scientists were busy manipulating instruments on a panel nearby, which triggered fire throughout the glass prison.
Shepard frowned. Judging from what the room contained, it was obvious that it was a holding cell for 23. She’d overheard the conversation between Miranda and that other operative. Garrus and Jack had been happy with that, since it would most likely increase their chances of escaping. If he succeeded once, he could again, right?
N: Glass? GLASS!? They’re gonna put him in a GLASS cell? Oh Christ, let’s just start the “23’s escape” counter. Oh gee let me guess. 23 is going to wake up, break out and save all of his friends in the near future. Am I close? Tell me I’m close?
Alicia walked around the small cell. Tali’s reaction had been far worse. It wasn’t until halfway through the flight did she understand. Shepard smiled at the girl’s reaction. Her voice had gone up in tone, which signaled her joy at the news, but the gravity of the situation they were in wasn’t pleasant.
The rest of the flight had been relatively calm until they approached the base. From the window, Shepard spotted it in the landscape. While they approached, an agent told them a little about the place.
“Like it? The construction company called it the Nexus. It’s built over a volcano which powers the whole place. You’d never guess, but it’s actually there so we can get rid of any evidence with a push of a button. The whole place would break apart, and drop down to the fucking core. Amazing.”
C: Thank you for that information whoever the fuck you are. Nice to know that Cerberus has outsourced their base building to FUCKING DOCTOR EVIL! Yeah, that won’t MELT anything or fuck with any of your electronics.
E: The rest of the scene is Shepard thinking about nothing of importance, so we’ll just skip to the next scene of Miranda.
Miranda turned, greeted by the sight of a large, armored soldier. His steel black armor covered his body, while a helmet stood between his arm and torso. She nodded curtly.
“Theta 5. I assume collection of Ms. Goto went well?”
The soldier glanced over her shoulder, a flash of worry on his features.
“Well uh…Ms. Lawson. Things went…strangely.”
Miranda’s eyes narrowed. She did NOT need this right now. They were going to bring 23 into his cell soon, and resuming his CDT training would commence.
N: Yeah, five non-stop years of it didn’t work, but I feel like that’s because we didn’t kick his balls hard enough.
Obediah felt that she should be placed in charge, given her previous breakthroughs with the subject. She didn’t approve of this, but she had a job to do, and the more loose ends to deal with, the less time she had to organize this job.
The man glanced back at the rest of the squad, which turned away, almost as if they were scared of the attractive woman in front of them.
“W-we were about to breach the door, when it opened. There wasn’t any warning, and it opened faster than usual. She ran. I almost couldn’t see her, she moved so fast. She then entered the opposite Observation port, which we closed in on. Before we could open the door, we heard glass shatter, and the next thing we knew, the airlock door turned off. Ms. Lawson, Goto spaced herself.”
C: Ah. Well she’s dead. Either she froze to death or her head exploded. I dunno, I don’t know too much about how the vacuum of space works.
Miranda’s eyes widened at this new information. Kasumi? What possible reason…
“Did you scan the area around the ship?”
“We did. All we got were some vapor trails which lead to the engine. If she survived the vacuum, she didn’t survive the engine jets.”
N: So she’s double dead. Froze then got fried.
She turned, facing out over the Nexus. Things weren’t supposed to go this way. They’d just lost a valuable tool to use against 23.
E: Did they even talk?
“You did everything you could, 5. You and your men are off duty. Consider yourselves debriefed.”
The soldier saluted, walking back to his squadmates. They high-fived, moving out of the command room. Miranda continued to stare off. Slowly, she drifted back to the first day of the project. All the horrors she saw. Good men, willing to fight for Cerberus, turned to monsters. Some falling asleep, never waking, while others liquefied painfully. Then 23 came along. Not just with the hope of a child, but with helping cleanse the galaxy.
Smiling, Miranda made her way to the cellblock. She didn’t want to miss the waking.
C: On the plus side I’m seeing a lot less smirks being thrown around. That’s something right?
He couldn’t explain the beach, or the white water that gently waved back and forth in the gray sand. That was the thing. He couldn’t explain anything in this world. But he would never complain. Walking with Lyla, things were good. No one was trying to kill him. No one was trying to kidnap and experiment on him. Instead, they walked.
Lyla was smiling, staring out over the sea. 23 watched her, his eyes slowly roaming over her face. She turned to look at him, and her features shifted. It was obvious he was defending her from some unknown enemy. His face betrayed a sense of worry, and his stance was defensive. She raised an eyebrow.
“There’s nothing to worry about. No one is going to pop out of the sand and rape me.”
23’s face immediately darkened.
“Don’t joke about that. That was…That….”
He slowly started to drift into the memory. Lyla shook his arm, waking him from the dream.
“Hey. Don’t go back there. I’m sorry.”
N: STOP! I can understand that 23 would be uncomfortable about this, but he is taking HER rape and making it about HIM! There are a million different ways he could’ve asked her to not make that joke without pulling the spotlight onto himself. AGAIN!
He looked away, nodding. She sighed.
“You shouldn’t do that. Honestly, you spend more time focusing on the past than a Drell.”
He started to speak, annoyance in his voice.
“What they did to yo—”
“I know what they did. I was there, remember?”
C: That line pretty much sums up why we have so little patience with 23. He makes Lyla’s suffering all about him, despite the fact that she’s…pretty well adjusted. Almost disturbingly so. In fact her being so cheerful is really fucking creepy, not gonna lie.
She sounded frustrated. He turned to look at her, and she watched his eyes.
“No one should have to go through that. It was my fault, Lyla. They used you to get to me. I have a duty to you. I won’t ever let that, or anything else happen to you.”
E: You selfish prick. Always gotta be about you, doesn’t it?
She closed her eyes and sighed.
“I know that. But you need to stop trying to protect me,
N: Because you suck at it.
isn’t anything out there that can hurt me now. You did your job.”
He turned, a look of shock on his face.
“She killed you!”
She leaned back, looking at him with a sad expression. Almost as if she wanted to cry.
They sat in silence for a time. 23 looked out over the ocean, while Lyla gathered sand. She brought it up, letting it slowly slip through her fingers, sliding down over her leg. Finally, he broke the silence.
“Lyla. Do you know why I fought for you?”
C: He fought for her? News to me.
She turned to look at him. She caught sight of a glistening tear in his left eye.
“I know a lot, 23. I don’t do much but watch you live. Being dead isn’t very interesting.”
E: Guess there’s a telescope to life in whatever the fuck this place is.
“Then do yo—”
“Yes. I know what I did. I gave you a goal.”
He nodded solemnly.
“That goal, was to protect you from everything. Do you remember all those nights in the cell? We would talk about escaping, getting to the Flotilla? You would become accepted by your people.”
N: No, I don’t remember. BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T FUCKING SHOW US! This story is basically going “Remember all that character development we had off screen?” You have had so many flashbacks some readers have gotten temporal sickness, why did you hold back and not show those instances? And what, did they just leave Lyla in the same cell as him for a month before shooting him in the head? 23’s backstory has taken up half the story and I’m still not sure what the fuck happened in it!
She laughed slightly, tears starting to build. They were small happy moments in a dark history, where they could escape from the reality of the situation with just their imaginations.
“We…never talked about what would happen to you though.”
He smiled grimly.
“I wasn’t the important one.”
C: Yet the narrative won’t stop focusing on you for five seconds.
She turned to look at him, scared at his tone of voice. She’d heard it once or twice when watching him, and it chilled her blood every time.
“Why do you say that? You have just as much right to a happy life as I am.”
E: No he doesn’t.
She turned, watching the landscape again.
“…Or I did.”
He looked at the ground and spoke. It looked like he was trying to dig with his voice.
“I’ve killed so many people Lyla. I can’t make up for the lives I’ve taken.
N: Ok, is his motivation to atone or get revenge? Because he needs to make up his fucking mind on that one and stop flip flopping.
It would be unfair to live a happy life, instead of trying to make up for all the things I’ve done.”
C: You might want to start doing that instead of fantasizing about killing Miranda.
She looked at him and spoke exasperatedly.
“But everything that you’ve done wasn’t in the pursuit of evil! You did those things for a reason!”
E: It just so happened to be that they were really shitty ones.
She crawled over the sand to him, placing her arms around his frame. She placed her head upon his shoulder. Tears started to flow, but she spoke with strong confidence.
“You did those things for me. You saved me.
E: Eezo, SHE IS FUCKING DEAD! 23 saved no one! The fact that she can be raped and be killed and then talk about how your self insert “saved” her is so fucked up on so many levels that I don’t even know what to call it! The sheer lack of respect you are showing this woman just fucking disgusts me.
You protected me from everything on that ship. It’s because of you that I’m here, and I’m grateful for it.”
C: Yeah, she’s here in vague unspecified bullshit land because 23 did vague unspecified bullshit. A story for the ages.
23 couldn’t respond. He tried to formulate a response, but she cut him off.
“Shut up. Let me finish.”
She raised her head so that her chin rested on his shoulder. They’re eyes met, and she continued.
“Do you remember when those guards finished with me? When they threw me into your cell?”
His eyes flashed with anger at the mention of the guards, but he shook his head. Lyla spoke.
“I remember looking up, seeing this beaten and thin boy raging. He beat the walls, screamed at the door. He formed something on his hands, and they looked sharp. Then he turned to me, and his eyes…they were filled with so much anger, so much hate, it hurt to look at them. I only had one thought. “This was it.” I knew that he was going to kill me, but do you know what? I didn’t care. I’d just been through the most horrific thing I could imagine, and NO ONE cared. They put my suit back on, dragged me to a cell, and threw me in like garbage. As far as I was concerned, me being killed was a blessing. I wouldn’t have to go through that again.”
Her voice caught, threatening to break, but she continued the story.
“When he saw me, he came forward, blade out. I almost felt it pierce my skin, I was so ready for it. A little time went by. Nothing happened. I threatened a glance, and what I saw broke my heart.”
Her voice broke, but 23 didn’t dare interrupt. He was having a hard time holding his emotion back, and speaking would have released it.
“He was standing there, blood covering his face, hands and shirt. The ice covered his fingers, which were sharp. He looked scary. Very scary. But if someone looked at his face…his anger was gone. There were tears streaming from his eyes. I couldn’t understand. He was about to kill me, and then stopped. I must have looked so pitiful laying there, cuts over my face. Beaten, bruised, violated. I didn’t even have my mask. But he didn’t care. He just dropped to his knees, crawled over, and held me. He held me.”
Lyla released her grip on the hug, and placed her hand on his chest, three fingers pressing into where his heart was. Tears were trickling down both their faces. She looked into his eyes.
“YOU held me.”
N:…that’s the big thing 23 did for you? He hugged you? Man. Standards in this universe are really fucking low. You ignore someone being a mass murderer if he hugged you once and all of a sudden your pain is inferior to his.
23 couldn’t hold it back. He turned to Lyla, embracing her with enough force to crush a rock. She returned the gesture just as enthusiastically. They cried together, for the first time in ten years.
He was ready. Lyla knew that they would wake him soon, and their goodbyes would take place soon. He turned to look at her. She smiled, and spoke.
“Please. Think about what I told you.”
C:…What was that again? No seriously, what point did she make here?
He nodded slowly.
“I will. I don’t know if…I don’t know. One thing at a time. I keep my promise to you, then I’ll figure out what to do next.”
Lyla’s face grew worried.
“You’re not going to torture her, are you?”
23 didn’t respond.
E: But I really really want to!
He turned to look at her. Anger was visible on his face.
“She killed you.”
N: Making that about you again eh? Fuck off.
“That’s not enough reason.”
“She tortured me for five years.”
E: She did it first huh? The comeback of first graders everywhere.
He looked at her, and she challenged him visibly.
“I…I don’t know yet.”
Lyla sighed. She approached him, giving him a large hug. He returned the favor, and they soon parted..
“I’ll see you.”
“I’ll see YOU. Nothing else to do while dead.”
He smiled at her. The light started to fade, and blackness clouded his vision. He raised his arm out in farewell, then vanished from the light.
Next chapter, things get interesting.
E: Oh yeah. Deals with the lord of the demons? Fucking over reality and visiting the land of the dead? All of it without any explanation? No no no, NEXT chapter is the interesting one. Oi.
N: He didn’t say anything the whole fucking review!
S: I don’t have anything to say to you.
C: Oh look, he’s too high and mighty for us.
S: Do you have any idea who I am? I fought the Reapers, the Collectors, the-
N: Yeah, because that did a lot of good when Manus tore you a new asshole with a piece of fucking string!
S: YOU DARE!
E: Uh, we gotta go.