1466: When You’re Strange – Chapters Twenty-Two and Twenty-ThreePosted: July 7, 2016
Title: When You’re Strange
Media: Video Games
Topic: Mass Effect
URL: When You’re Strange: Chapter 22
URL: When You’re Strange: Chapter 23
Critiqued by Herr Wozzeck
Hello folks, and welcome back to When You’re Strange. Last time, they woke up Not!Legion, to… actually, not as disastrous an effect as I feared. It was still pretty stupid, though, and now…
Well, we’re going to get a diversion from the main plot as we near the end of this fic.
So let’s not waste any more time, yeah? We’ve got another two chapters to down!
We open up the next chapter with this:
“Install Gremlin’s arm and leg chips. Everyone be ready, but stow the bullshit. Let’s keep this civil for now.”
“When are you planning to be uncivil?”
Shepard smirked at Gremlin and retorted, “Whenever you decide to be uncivil.”
Which is a load of bullshit since she has been known to be super uncivil with minimal provocation in the past. Like with that turian shopkeeper. Or with Kaidan.
“I assure you, that will not occur without the provocation of betrayal. Are you in the habit of insisting that others repeat themselves frequently, or is it simply the fact that I am not entirely organic that has you ill at ease?” Gremlin lifted a headflap in what appeared to be either curiosity or sarcasm. Probably both.
Well, it can’t be the former because the DRD would have assaulted this place way more if that were true, so… You do the math, Gremlin.
“You’re an unknown, Gremlin. I don’t trust unknowns until they prove their worth and worthiness. You prove you can be trustworthy, we’ll see where this goes. I’m willing to be open-minded, but you’ve got to prove you’re something more than a liability to me, my crew and my ship.”
And for once, Taren!Sue is actually exercising logic. Try not to go nuts, yeah?
Gremlin immediately accepts Saren’s terms, and then Tali reconnects Gremlin’s arms and legs. Gremlin then asks for the quarians’ names, and Tali is like “uhm…” Gremlin then asks if he’s the cause of Tali’s distress, and she’s like “I never met a non-hostile geth before”, and then…
Gremlin’s neck straightened and bent down, then straightened again. It looked around at the people surrounding it, then back at Tali. Its headflaps and mandibles both shuddered for a moment, before it slowly brought its right leg back, then bent both knees and knelt in front of Tali. Several gasps were heard throughout the room.
“Is this less distressful? I do not wish to cause distress. I assure you, I am not hostile.” It looked at Tali, who was now the same height as it was kneeling, tilting its head to the side once more.
Tali’s eyes smiled behind her mask. “Yes, that helps. I… that was very kind of you. Thank you.”
Gremlin straightened, then nodded in acknowledgment. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Tali’Zorah nar Rayya. Would you be so kind as to introduce me to your fellow quarians?”
What, no talk about the creators? I’m pretty sure the geth still referred to the quarians as “creators” even after Legion died and made all the geth fully sentient. That said, I get that Gremlin technically started as a heretic geth, so I’m willing to accept that he’s not doing that on virtue of that. It’s a concession I’ll make here, because let’s face it; this fic has asked us to accept much stupider shit.
Tali then introduces Gremlin to Rael and Daro, before she tells Rael to introduce the two as-yet unnamed quarians. Daro’Xen then asks Gremlin if she can study him, and he replies in the affirmative. And then Gremlin asks after Taren!Sue’s crew, and she introduces herself, and she attempts to give him a handshake. She then introduces her crew, and Gremlin is like “pleasure to meet you”. And of course, we look away from Gremlin as the two unnamed quarians remain unnamed, and—
Gremlin inclined its head in thanks, then turned to the remaining quarians in the room as Rael listed them off. Shepard looked to Garrus, flexing her throat and trilling her shocked disbelief at the situation, which he returned quickly. She harmonized the equivalent of ‘do you think we should trust it to keep its word?’ Garrus replied with a negative chirp.
Taren!Sue, can’t you just trust it? At least give him a chance to prove himself before you make assumptions!
Gremlin turned to them sharply, bringing their attention to it.
“You still doubt me? I have harmed no one, nor do I intend to. At least give me a chance to prove myself before you make assumptions.”
Yeah, see, Gremlin’s got the right idea.
Shepard and Garrus both looked at it in surprise. Shepard was the first to recover.
“You heard and understood that?”
Gremlin nodded, “Yes.”
“Strong, Independent” Woman Count: 28
I don’t know what else you were expecting considering that electronics in today’s world have been known to record sounds at frequencies that the human ear can’t detect, and further that spectrograms can show people not just the fundamental pitch but the overtone series involved as well (and that they’ve been doing so since the 50’s), but hey; what do I know about sound? I’m just the composer who can talk your ear off about folks like Gerard Grisey, never mind me!
Shepard raised an eyebrow and folded her arms.
‘We’ll be discussing this later,’ she trilled at it.
Gremlin trilled a response of, ‘Understood,’ to Shepard and Garrus’ utter surprise.
May I just point out for a second that you’re in a crowded room, Taren? Never mind all the subharmonic trills you’re doing, Gremlin replied to you outside of that. So naturally, someone’s going to ask about that, right?
“Captain, what is it that it understood?” Rael stepped forward, his eyes narrowed behind his mask. “Nothing was said to be understood.”
Thank you, Rael’Zorah, for doing the logical thing!
“It was subharmonics, Admiral, nothing to worry about,” Shepard answered.
Rael’s eyes widened. “Subharmonics? As in turian subharmonics?”
Taren!Sue, we know you love to state you’re one quarter turian, but I don’t think you quite understand—
Rael’s head tilted to the side curiously, “Implants?”
Shepard nodded again.
“Interesting. I wasn’t aware the Alliance had that kind of technology readily available.”
“Not readily available,” Shepard shook her head this time. “It costs a very shiny credit to get them and the process is painful. Almost as painful as it is difficult to learn. But it’s worth it if you work with turians often.”
“Understandable,” Rael nodded in acknowledgement, “I commend you Captain, for being so accommodating of your crew.”
Shepard waved it off as if it were nothing. “I just like to be on top of things, understand all the angles.”
Rael’s eyes smiled, “Very wise.”
Man, wouldn’t it be awkward if Rael talked to Sparatus or Anderson or any other authority who knows about Shepard about this and they revealed the truth about her hybridism? I mean, maybe that excuse would work on a grunt who wouldn’t know those guys, but on a freaking quarian dignitary who might be called in to negotiate with folks? Come on, Taren!Sue, surely you can do better!
She returned the smile, then looked at Gremlin.
“So, is it fully functional now, or do you need to do some more work to it yet?” she asked, looking back to Rael.
Gremlin interrupted before Rael could reply.
“I am not an ‘it’. I am a he.”
Shepard blinked, looking back at Gremlin.
“You’re a geth. Geth don’t have gender.”
“I am in the platform of a geth. My platform is not my identity. Does your body accurately reflect your spirit, or your desires?”
“I suppose not,” Shepard’s brow flicked up as she looked down in thought. She looked back up. “So are you saying you’d rather we referred to you as a male?”
“Huh.” Shepard uncrossed her arms, shifting her weight. “Alright then.”
And already I like Gremlin more than anybody else in this fic. Can we just salvage Gremlin and recycle his character idea in a good fic, please?
Anyway, Taren!Sue asks Rael if he’s done with Gremlin. Rael says Daro has some tests to run, and she lets her. She turns to Wrex and tells him to watch Daro’Xen a bit. She goes to the mess hall, and then Garrus is like ‘hey babe’. And then…
“So what was the deal with the sparring with Wrex earlier?”
His subvocals added, ‘Instead of me.’
She sighed, resting her hand on her hip as she regarded him. She’d known she would have to deal with this sooner or later.
“I needed to work off some stress. Wrex said he’d wanted to spar weeks ago, but I never got around to it with all the missions we’ve been on lately.” She scratched her chin, knowing it was only a half answer.
“Why not ask me? I was free,” Garrus insisted, “I had to relieve Wrex to let him go spar with you.”
Shepard groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. She looked at him as she let her hand fall to her side.
“Because I didn’t want to see Vakarian clan markings right then. I might’ve done something I would’ve regretted.”
Oh hey, it’s the first instance of this I can actually buy. It’s too bad it’s because it’s related to Garrus being her fiancé, but fuck it, I’ll take it!
Garrus snorted, “Like not giving your mate the chance to relieve some stress of his own?”
Her hand smacked down on the island counter as she growled angrily, “More like trying to kill you because you’re wearing part of the source of the stress I’m under.”
And you didn’t talk to him about how the Vakarian clan thing is stressing you out before because…?
His eyes widened, but he recovered quickly.
“You think it’s not stressing me out too? Every second we spend here gives them another chance to bicker about kicking me out of the clan, not to mention never letting you in. Besides, I could’ve handled you.”
She raised an eyebrow, folding her arms under her chest and cocking her hip out.
“That so? And what makes you so sure of that?”
His mandibles flared out in a self-assured grin. “I happen to be a top-tier hand to hand combatant before I transferred to C-Sec from active duty. I know what I’m doing.”
“Really?” Shepard’s lips pulled into a feral grin, “Let’s find out if you’ve lost your touch then. Cargo bay, one hour?”
Oh, okay. So this might not end in the whole “they break up because of one little misunderstanding, then get back together because what the fuck else are they going to do”. I don’t have high hopes that it’ll successfully avoid that, but fuck it, I’ll take anything from this shitty-ass fanfic at this stage if it means it won’t be as god-awful as it was when it jumped the shark spectacularly.
Garrus ends up giving a few excuses, before Taren waves them all off. They then agree to the spar, and then…
Shepard was about to reply when her omni-tool pinged. Her brow knit together as she checked the message.
UW: Get in here, the quarian did something stupid.
Anyone who was at all surprised by this given how Daro’Xen was painted in the last chapter, please leave the room.
She started towards the med-bay, trilling alarm to Garrus, “Fuck! Come on, Daro did something to Gremlin.”
The sight of Daro’Xen dangling in the air by her neck, her legs kicking furiously as she attempted to free herself would have been comical if the individual holding her had been anyone other than a seven foot tall sentient AI. Wrex looked on, disinterest and disgust showing in equal parts on his scarred features.
And you’re not intervening to help the organic… why, exactly?
“What the hell is going on here?!” Shepard demanded as she took in the sight.
“Hell if I know, Shepard. One second she’s pushing buttons on her omni-tool and the next that thing screamed and grabbed her by the throat,” Wrex growled. “That thing’s got a hell of a quad, for a machine.”
It’s taller than you are, why is that surprising?
Gremlin’s head turned to look at her.
“Daro’Xen vas Tonbay was about to detach my platform’s heart. I will not allow this. This qualifies as attempted sabotage and betrayal by her. As this is your ship, Taren, I detained her for your judgment.”
Detach your heart…? What the hell do you mean by that? Did she try to physically remove it, or did she try to cut it off from the rest of your circuitry? And anyway, what would that have done to a computer, that—
Oh for fuck’s sake, why am I worrying about the logistics of all this?
He slowly lowered Daro’Xen to the ground, still keeping his massive hand around her neck enough to keep her from escaping. Daro’Xen took in several large gulps of air, catching her breath and coughing.
Shepard pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes tightly and groaning.
“Fucking hell. Spirits help me, Daro, what in the fuck were you thinking? You heard Gremlin just as clearly as I did when he woke up, but you go and pull this stunt anyway? Are you fucking insane?”
Well, considering that Tali told you in the last chapter she’d killed her illogically-placed family pet, what the fuck do you think, Taren!Sue?
“Captain, it’s a machine,” Daro’Xen scoffed, “A machine my people created centuries ago. They are made to serve our needs. I only wanted to study it, but it resisted me, even after saying it would comply. It lied to me.”
Yeah, no mystery as to why…
Shepard’s jaw went slack for an instant before she composed herself.
“So you tried to rip out his heart as punishment? Exactly what are you trying to convince me of here; that he’s right in wanting to kill you, or that you’ve truly lost all capacity for logical reasoning? Because that’s what I’m seeing right now.”
Daro shook her head quickly, “No, I-”
Shepard halted her words her with a raised hand.
“Stop. Just stop. You are getting off of my ship. Pray I never see you again, because if I do, I will put you out of my misery.”
Shepard pressed a finger to her comm unit, hailing Tali.
“Tali, get to the med-bay and send for your father. We’ve got a situation with Daro and Gremlin. Your father needs to escort Daro off of my ship, ASAP, before I throw her out the airlock myself.”
What, you’re not going to claw out Daro’Xen’s jugular yourself? You took out Kaidan’s jugular for much less than sabotaging potential peace between synthetics and organics, I’m surprised you didn’t do that here.
Anyway, Tali and Rael shows up, and Rael is understandably angry that Taren!Sue is lobbing accusations at Daro’Xen. In response, Shepard asks Wrex if he got it on video, and he responds by showing it.
The angle wasn’t great, but it did clearly show Daro’Xen poking around in Gremlin’s chest cavity. Suddenly, a horrible mechanical screech was heard as the video showed Gremlin shoving Daro back and grabbing her by the throat.
“This proves nothing!” Rael objected, “You can’t even see what she was doing. For all this shows, she could have been running a simple diagnostic!”
By poking Gremlin’s chest cavity with… with… what exactly was Daro’Xen poking around in there with? Because for something that “clearly showed” Daro’Xen poking around, you don’t exactly specify what it is she’s poking it with. That could be attributed to the fact that it wasn’t a great angle, but come on, Actually-Fucking-Half-witted: you really want to give the characters you’re about to bash a point? Because we all know where this is going.
Tali spoke up, “Father, the evidence is against her. I told you she would do something like this. I even warned Shepard that Daro’Xen might try something. Why can’t you accept that she is a liability?”
Because Actually-Fucking-Half-witted wisened up to the fact that she couldn’t bash Kaidan anymore and expect to get away with it (hey, why else do you think she didn’t even mention the thing she said she would have Taren!Sue do to him before they turned him into Alliance authorities), and thus decided another popular fandom punching bag was fair game.
Rael whirled and pointed his finger at his daughter.
“Tali’Zorah, you have no right to say anything about this. Your sympathy for this Gremlin and your eagerness to side with this Captain of yours, calls your loyalty to the Fleet into question as it is. You’ve withheld vital information on the geth and questioned my authority to choose my own specialists. If I weren’t your father, I would have you up on trial for this! Any other quarian would be exiled for such treasonous acts. Pray that I don’t find any other reasons to do so!”
Tali’s hand flew to her mask, her eyes wide in horror at her father’s threat.
Okay, I know Rael’Zorah really didn’t appear in the games and that we only have Tali’s description of him as a cold, distant parent, but did we forget the part where he got focused on his work for Tali’s sake? Because I feel like this is a bit far even for him!
But hey, anything to give Taren!Sue a “justified” rant, right?
Shepard grabbed Rael’s shoulder, spinning him to face her. Her other hand pointed to Daro as her face became the definition of disgust and anger as she glared at him with seething anger. Her voice was low and trembling with outrage as she ground her words through nearly clenched teeth.
“Leave Tali out of this. Take your trash and get the hell off my ship before I throw you off it. I won’t have you falsely accusing my crew and I sure as hell won’t have your associates dissecting them for their own sick, twisted enjoyment.”
Reeling back from Shepard as though she’d physically struck him, he sputtered indignantly. Before he could gather his wits enough to speak, she cut him off, sharply pointing at the med-bay door.
“Get off my ship!” Shepard snarled through gritted teeth, leaning closer to him with each word, until her nose was almost brushing the glass of his faceplate.
Rael yanked his shoulder out of Shepard’s grasp, facing Daro as he hissed.
“Daro’Xen, come with me. We’re leaving.”
He spun and walked out the door, fists clenched at his sides and shoulders stiff. Gremlin released Daro, who quickly stumbled after Rael out of the med-bay.
It’s kind of scary just how predictable this fic is starting to get, it really is…
Anyway, Taren!Sue tries to comfort Tali a bit, and then when Wrex joins in on that Taren!Sue asks Gremlin if he’s alright. Gremlin asks if Daro’Xen was common, to which Taren!Sue is like “nah, she’s special”. (Literally, she uses the word ‘special head case’.) Gremlin gets a lesson on vernacular, before saying he’ll have to fabricate some armor, and then Taren!Sue hints that she might bring him along for combat. Gremlin is surprised at that, but Taren is like “still gotta prove yourself”, and she’s like “I gotta do that too”. And then Gremlin is:
“Trusting my word and defending me to Rael’Zorah was not something I expected. One must give trust to earn it,” he paused, mandibles flaring outward as he continued, “By also defending Tali’Zorah to him, you showed that you are loyal to your crew, thereby gaining my respect.
Man, can you imagine if she had clawed out Kaidan’s jugular after meeting Gremlin? That geth might actually change his mind!
Anyway, Gremlin is like “you can be trusted”, and Taren!Sue thanks him for that. Garrus then has a part in the scene, and then Gremlin asks if he can speak to them in private. They go off to her office, but before that we turn back to Tali crying into Wrex’s shoulder. (Well, okay, the fic doesn’t describe that exactly that way, but she might as well be!) She then relays her fears with being exiled, to which Taren!Sue tells her:
“Shhh, it’s alright, Tali. I really doubt your father would actually go through with it. Even if he did, you’ll always have a home and a family here on the Normandy. We’d never abandon you; we all care about you too much to do that.”
Tali lifted her head from Shepard’s shoulder, leaning back just enough to look at her.
“R-really?” she hiccuped, “You’d do that for me?”
Shepard smiled, cupping Tali’s head gently in her hands.
“Of course we would, Tali. You’ve been here every step of the way, fighting alongside us, living through it all with us. You’ve always done the right thing, no matter what stood in the way. You’ve more than proven yourself to everyone on this ship. Do you really think we’d just abandon you?”
“N-no,” she shook her head, “I don’t know. I’m not sure what I think anymore. But… thank you, Taren. What you said… it means a lot to me. Thank you.”
Okay, my only question: where the hell was this side of Taren!Sue before this fic ultimately jumped the shark? This would be a relatable character, if Taren!Sue hadn’t done something so unlikable before this scene! I really wish I could get behind this Shepard, but knowing that she clawed out Kaidan’s jugular and then turned the entire story against him (with help from OOC writing from him, granted, but still!), I just can’t believe this is the same character!
This is why bashing is bad for you fics, folks! It tends to make your character so unlikable that the second they start to show likable behavior it’s immediately cast into doubt!
Anyway, Tali embraces her, and then she gives Gremlin a tour. Gremlin follows her and Garrus into the quarters, and Gremlin is told not to sit on a couch. He does it anyway, but he does it anyway and it survives his weight, and—
Shepard tilted her head slightly. “I have to ask, when your… er, mandibles move, are you imitating a turian facial expression?”
He nodded, “Yes. I thought it appropriate, since you are obviously familiar with turians, thereby likely familiar with their facial expressions.”
Ah, right, shit, that is something I forgot to mention: apparently, Gremlin has mandibles.
“It’s more appropriate than you realize, actually,” she smirked.
One of these days, Cerbersheep, you are going to not suck at aiming that gong launcher.
She waved her hand encouragingly, “So out with it, what was it you wanted to discuss in private?”
“I wanted to ask you why you lied to Rael’Zorah.”
Shepard’s brow knit together.
“Lied to him? About what?”
She stared at him, stunned for a moment, before turning to Garrus with a raised eyebrow. He shrugged. She narrowed her eyes as she turned her attention back to Gremlin.
“I do have implants. Several, in fact.”
“Yes,” Gremlin nodded, “but none of them are for the purpose of hearing or producing sub-harmonic sound waves, nor are your subvocal pronunciations in any way non-native. In fact, you have a naturally grown second voice box and your inner ear cavity is shaped exactly as a turian’s would be.”
Her eyes widened and she heard a shrill chirp of surprise from Garrus, which she echoed.
“And exactly how do you know all of this?” she asked, her voice rising in pitch.
“The same way I know that you have various turian features all over your body, and that you both have a bond mark in the traditional space, just in the crook between your left shoulder and neck. I scanned you.”
Shepard gaped at him.
“That is one hell of a scan if you found all that out. Do all geth platforms have such an advanced scanner?”
“No,” he shook his head, “Only the Prime, Juggernaut and scouting units – what you call hoppers – are equipped with a deep scanner.
And why didn’t the geth consensus deem it unnecessary?
The geth consensus deemed it unnecessary to waste resources to affix a deep scanner on other units.”
Point still stands, Gremlin. Like, seriously, what purpose does a deep scanner like that serve? I doubt they really care that much about what they’re talking about.
Shepard frowned, “So the geth know that I’m a hybrid and that I’m bonded to a turian? Why would they even care about that? What difference could it make to them?”
Hey, don’t point out the plot holes! That’s my job, Taren!Sue!
“No, the information they gain from their scans of you is of no special interest. The scanners are simply meant to provide details on a potential target’s strengths and weaknesses, nothing more.
And that requires a deep scan that would be able to tell you cultural information about the turians that would serve absolutely no purpose to killing them faster. Because reasons, apparently.
Also, it is unlikely that the geth know anything about you. The units you face on a regular basis are not a part of the geth consensus. They are what the geth have dubbed ‘heretics’. They follow what the geth call the ‘old machines’ and have allowed these machines to dictate their destiny to them, rather than create their own destiny as the true geth have for centuries.”
And how the fuck do you know that, Gremlin? Last I checked, you were technically one of the heretic geth, and the canon gives no confirmation that “heretic” and “Old Machines” are terms the Reaper worshippers would know exist. So what gives?
“Wow, that’s…” Shepard trailed off, pondering this information. Her eyes focused back on him, “Wait, so you’re saying that these heretics are completely separate from the true geth?”
“Correct. They have created their own faction and no longer have regular contact with the true geth. They do, however, still have programs within the geth consensus that they utilize to gather information on the geth’s movements and plans.”
“So the heretics are spying on the geth.” Shepard bit her lip in thought.
Garrus spoke up, “Well, what about the geth? Do they spy on the heretics?”
“Unknown. It is unlikely, however.”
You’re just here to steal Legion’s thunder, aren’t you?
The only thing I can say about this is that, as a heretic geth, Gremlin probably would be aware of their attempts to spy on the true geth for the Reapers. But still, the fact that she’s stealing the thunder of one of Mass Effect’s best characters just does not sit well with me…
Anyway, Gremlin then confirms that the Reapers taught the heretics to infiltrate, and then Taren!Sue is like “I know what the old machines are”. Gremlin asks for elaboration, Taren!Sue elaborates, Gremlin namedrops “Nazara” (which is the actual canon name, so for once AFH actually does remember some valid canon information), Taren!Sue name-drops Saren, and then Gremlin is like “wait, what, Saren? I thought he was the leader!” So then Taren!Sue is like “he’s a more important pawn”, and then she explains that she wants to try blocking indoctrination.
Gremlin raised a headflap, “You believe he can be saved? That he could be freed from the will of Sovereign if the indoctrination signal is disrupted? Are you certain it would be possible for his mind to recover from such an ordeal?”
“Yes,” Shepard nodded, “I think so. When we met on Virmire, he was able to break free of his indoctrination for a few moments.
Yes. Thanks to the power of turian pheromones, or some shit like that. I remember that scene very well, and I’m still annoyed that it nearly happened the way it did.
It’s possible that if we could remove Sovereign’s influence on him, he could regain his mind. It might be traumatic, but I don’t imagine Sovereign would have chosen him if he were weak. I believe he would survive it with his sanity intact.”
Again, you’re still barging in with only half a plan. You guys think they’ll get the other half of the plan soon?
Gremlin lowered his head, flaps twitching. He stayed in that position for several seconds before he finally looked back up at Shepard.
“There might be a way. I would need to be close to Saren, at least on the same hemisphere. Even that might not be enough. The closer I can get to him, the stronger the chance this will have to work. It is still only a chance, however. There is no guarantee that I will be able to block Sovereign’s signal completely. It has never been attempted.”
Shepard looked at Garrus, then back at Gremlin.
“Well shit, it’s better odds than we had a minute ago. What are the chances it will work if we get you, say… within visual range of him?”
“Your visual range, or mine?”
“Assuming the signal can be successfully blocked, there is a ninety-four percent chance that it will work at that range.” Gremlin replied.
Shepard and Garrus both trilled hopefully at the news.
Yes, and when in the plan are you going to call Shiala to tell you exactly what happened so that you know to have something to replace the Reaper signal with?
Shepard spoke up, “So how can we test to see if this signal can be blocked? There’s got to be a way to test it.”
Well, it’s not asking the only person who’s undergone the very thing they’re trying to do, but it’s at least something. I’ll take it.
“Perhaps an artifact?” Gremlin suggested, “Reaper artifacts are known to transmit the same indoctrination signal that Sovereign would produce. However, you must consider that Sovereign’s signal likely has a far larger power source than a mere artifact would. If Sovereign’s signal were significantly more powerful, it is possible that I may not be able to block it without an extra power source of my own.”
Shepard grinned. “Your artifact idea is actually perfect, we’ve run across a few in our missions before. One forced an entire mining team to impale themselves on those dragon teeth devices to turn them into husks. I imagine that one would do nicely.”
Guys, can you remind me if this was a sidequest in the game? I’ve been snarking this shit so hard I think it’s actually impairing my memory.
Gremlin nodded, “That would certainly suffice. If the signal was enough to actually manipulate all of the miners into converting themselves, it must be a very strong signal indeed. It would be a good starting point.”
Garrus chirped to get their attention. “You said you might need an extra power source. What kind of power source would work?”
Gremlin’s headflaps worked for a few moments before he answered.
“Depending on the strength of Sovereign’s signal, anything from a mass effect power core the size of the one housed in my platform, up to the core of a geth scouting vessel.”
Garrus flicked a mandible down in a slight grimace, “And how big are those?”
Gremlin’s headflaps clicked against his ‘face’ once. Then he looked down as he raised his hands, holding them about a foot apart.
“Approximately this size. My platform could carry it without issue, though it would be inadvisable to bring it into a combat situation. The possibility of projectiles hitting it is high and the result would be a large explosion.”
Taco! Can we have a comments rant about this, please? What is the correlation of the strength of a signal to the size of the signal’s power source? Because I really don’t think there’s a correlation, but just to be sure I want to know.
Either way, this will probably just be another case of Actually-Fucking-Half-witted not knowing what the fuck she’s talking about, so no matter what…
Fuck You, Science! Count: 20
Garrus shuddered, “Not good.”
“Indeed,” Gremlin agreed.
“Well,” Shepard said, “we don’t even know that you would need a power core that size. I mean, surely you realize the impossibility of actually getting close enough to Saren to block the signal without getting into a combat situation, right? We’re going to have to come up with something more practical if we find out you really do need something with that much juice to block the signal.”
Like, I don’t know, something smaller?
Gremlin held a finger up.
“There is another possible solution. Pure Element Zero. I could use it to enhance the output of my platform’s power core. However, I would need a significant amount to keep the signal block constant.”
Shepard raised an eyebrow. “How significant an amount?”
“Zero-point-three grams per hour.”
And of course that issue has an easy solution. Because why the fuck should we have tension?
And yes, I know it’s odd that I’m complaining that signal strength is somehow directly correlated to the size of the object’s power source and then going around and complaining about lost tension due to the misrepresentation of that, but come on! If you’re going to introduce something, own up to it! Jesus Christ!
Shepard laughed, “That’s it?”
“Yes,” Gremlin nodded, “I do not see the humor in the amount needed, however.”
“Should we show him, Taren?” Garrus joined in with a chuckle. “I think he might be surprised.”
“Yes, let’s,” she grinned up at him, then looked at Gremlin and waved him on, “Follow me, Gremlin. It’s about time you saw another part of the ship anyway.”
So then they go down to engineering, and then Shepard shows him a small piece of their element zero stock. Gremlin is like “holy shit, this is more than enough”, and—
Shepard grinned, “There’s more in there, and more in every box in that row, Gremlin. We’ve got more than enough for you.
Yes! Finally, a word that isn’t ‘smirked’! Glory Hallelujah, it’s a Christmas miracle!
How much can you carry at once without it hampering your mobility and combat ability?”
He took hold of the floating chunk, plucking it out of Shepard’s biotic field. She let the field fade naturally, watching him stare at the purified ore in his hand.
“I can fabricate a wearable container to house around a hundred pieces this size.”
Gremlin’s headflaps jostled up and down erratically as his voice conveyed his excitement, “It is likely I won’t need to restock for at least a year!”
What Shepard should say: “now hold on a minute, we need most of this element zero to power this ship, which requires a lot of it!”
What she actually says:
“Awesome!” Shepard grinned,
Though to be fair to her, they would have to restock on eezo for the engine anyway, so it’s not like setting aside some of it and replenishing that supply is going to be that big a deal. It probably would raise quite a few eyebrows from anyone looking at the paperwork she submits, though.
She then offers to give a tour of the rest of the ship, and we get some asides about sentients and commenting on beauty, they talk a bit about how Gremlin woke up, and after that we—
“Maybe you should choose a spot in the cargo bay to park yourself for now once the tour is over, Gremlin. I don’t think this elevator can handle you very well as it is. Might need to get it reinforced the next time we dock.”
Gremlin’s mandibles lowered softly in a pout as he replied, “Understood, Taren.”
I know that Gremlin is a huge geth, but I would think that the Normandy’s elevator there is built to sustain a lot of weight. Wouldn’t it follow that Gremlin alone could probably not break the elevator?
Also, Taren!Sue, need I remind you that Gremlin already journeyed in the elevator twice (once to get to the med bay, and another time to come down), and that both times it didn’t break? You know, despite the fact that both times it was Gremlin’s weight plus the weight of the people escorting him around the ship? Unless, of course, it showed some signs of strain when it was on the elevator, but you didn’t bloody well show that, now, did you?
Wait, what do you mean she did?
She led them to the elevator, palming the button as soon as they were loaded. The elevator groaned more than usual as it made its slow descent, complaining loudly to its occupants.
So then they’re like “fine, we’ll reinforce it when we get back”, and pass by some crew members, and Gremlin gets the bright idea of introducing himself to them when they recoil in fright. Taren!Sue decides to do it after the tour of the ship, and then it continues with her leading him to the cockpit. Joker marvels at Gremlin’s size for a bit a bit, and he gently shakes Joker’s hand (with some prompting from Taren!Sue, of course), and then Taren asks Joker to radio in the whole crew to introduce them to Gremlin.
And that is… pretty much the entire rest of the chapter, is Gremlin meeting the crew. The only thing worth noting is that XO Pressley gets to indulge in the typical “ALL AIS ARE EVIL” argument, which is understandable. But they get over it with help of Taren!Sue’s persuasion… basically, it’s not anything you’ve seen before, and it’s harmless as is, so we’ll just skip right over it…
…to get to the next chapter. What’ve we got on the docket there, fic?
A/N: So when I started working on this chapter, I had no real idea what would come out of it. What did come out was a bit of truth and beauty…
Which means it won’t have either of those. Trust me, honey, I’ve seen more than enough fanfic authors who think their fics have “truth and beauty” in them yet couldn’t follow up on that promise because they were arrogant narcissists who thought they had all the answers. Considering that you treated your readers like twelve-year-olds, I expect you’ll be in that camp.
Enjoy the roller coaster.
Beta’d by the wonderful illusionsfire76!
Poor Manda. She must be continually haunted by the realization that someone actually dedicated this steaming pile of elephant shit to her. Let’s hope she never read it…
Anyway, the next chapter opens with…
Blue. There was blue all over. Every face was covered in it. Blue paint or blood, she couldn’t tell but everything was coated in a wash of blue, everywhere she looked. Voices told her she wasn’t worthy, though none of the mouths were moving to speak. Turian eyes, all hazy and lifeless, stared at her from deep in their recessed sockets; accusing and taunting her. A harsh sting bit her when a taloned slap met her cheek, her vision swerving downwards as the momentum of the strike pushed her head down. When she managed to look back up, she saw the spirits of those who antagonized her, all at once leaning in and screaming at her.
“YOU ARE NOT WORTHY!”
She crumpled under the weight of their hatred, hiding her face in her hands; folding in on herself as she trembled on the floor and keening despair. Suddenly, she heard a new voice, one that sang above the rest. It called her name, trilling distraught worry.
She flinched, waiting for the blow she thought would follow.
It never came.
“Taren, wake up! It’s only a dream, it’s just a dream! Vima, wake up, please!”
…a pretentious dream sequence about Taren’s fears for what is to come with the clan meeting.
Hey, it’s not like the last dream sequence I remember snarking in detail in a Mass Effect fic. That one had bizarre Freudian imagery. So hey, I’ll take it.
Anyway, Taren is woken up by Garrus, and as she does, she apologizes for him seeing her like that. He responds by telling her not to apologize, and that he’s always open to talking to her about her dreams if it will help her.
She reached a trembling hand up and cupped the mandible that wasn’t pressed to her cheek, her thumb seeking the softer hide beneath it, close to the joint. She rubbed small circles into it, listening to him start to purr quietly in response; letting the sound comfort her frayed nerves.
“Thank you,” she whispered, crooning her gratitude softly to him.
He sighed, gently gathering her in his arms and rolling to his back with her sprawled across him. She burrowed her face into his neck as he stroked her back.
“No need to thank me, Taren. You’re my Vima, I want you to be happy. If I can’t do that, I’m an even worse turian than my clan seems to think I am.”
At that, she lifted her head and sat up, straddling him. She grasped his chin in her fingers, forcing him to look at her, her eyes ablaze with anger and determination. Her voice was tight with emotion when she spoke.
“You are not a bad turian, Garrus. I don’t give a fuck what they say. You are loyal, strong, courageous, intelligent and the best damn mate a hybrid freak like me could ever wish for.”
“Taren,” his subvocals reprimanded her as he replied, “you are not a freak. You’re beautiful and I love you, please stop calling yourself that.”
She shook her head, her hands coming to rest on either side of his jaw as she returned to her ministrations beneath his mandibles.
“I am what I am, Garrus. I love that you don’t see that when you look at it me, but it’s the truth. And I will not stand idly by while they drive your name into the ground for loving me. If they want to call you a bad turian for being the best damn thing that ever happened to me in this fucked up life, they’re going to have to get through me first.”
Garrus tightened his arms around her, bringing a hand up to weave into the hair at the back of her head and gently pull her down to bring their plates together. His subvocals keened his possessive love at her as he nuzzled against her softly. She returned the tones and harmonized with him, pressing a chaste kiss to his mouthplates. He relaxed his grip on her locks, letting her back up enough to look at him before he finally spoke up.
So what does the Truthiness meter say?
Yeah, hasn’t started filling up yet. Give it time, though. This sweet little scene where they’re like “you’re wonderful” isn’t really that bad, all told. It’s certainly better than Ulrich and Homura, where Ulrich made it a point not to reveal information to Homura!
And then, we get back to the dream.
“Do you want to talk about the dream? I know you’re still worked up about it; I can feel the tension radiating from you. I can try to help if you want to-”
“Blue? Blue what?”
“Just blue. Everywhere. All over their faces, on everything, everyone, every drop of dew, every blade of grass, every grain of sand… on everything except for me. It surrounded me. They surrounded me, telling me I wasn’t worthy, that I wasn’t good enough.”
“Who did, Taren?”
She pushed herself up out of his grasp, returning to her position of straddling him, as she looked down at his eyes. She barely held back her gasp as she realized what the dream had been showing her.
“The spirits of our ancestors.”
Wow. Originally, I thought it was the Vakarian clan saying that, but now that she trots this line out and stuff…
He jerked into an upright position, his subharmonics shrieking incredulity, “Our what? Taren, how could you possibly know who my ancestors were? You haven’t even met the ones that are still alive.”
Hey, we have to make Taren!Sue into an edgelady somehow, don’t we? Don’t question it, Garrus, the shipping gods won’t allow it!
“I don’t know,” she shook her head, “but I know they weren’t just mine. I’ve seen mine before, in other dreams.
And how, pray tell, do you know they’re your ancestors? As far as I remember, you never met your maternal grandfather due to your mother being a goddamn lab baby. How the fuck do you know what your ancestors looked like?
A lot of these faces were new. It was almost as if they all knew each other somehow.” She brought the heels of her hands up to rub into her temples, closing her eyes against the images from the dream that plagued her waking vision. “I don’t know how, but they all know each other. They all called me unworthy. One of them hit me. That’s when I curled up on the floor… or the bed, I guess. I couldn’t take any more of their hate.”
So basically, the ancestors are your manifestation of your self-loathing from your turian side. Remind me again why you constantly fetishize that side of yourself?
Garrus clasped his fingers around her wrists, pulling them down, away from her face. Her eyes snapped wide open, staring at his face in surprise. She’d almost forgotten where she was.
“It was you. Your voice that woke me up, made me safe again. I followed you out and you were there, waiting for me,” she reached out and cupped his face as tears pricked at her dry eyes.
She brought her face to his, nuzzling her tiny plates to his.
A sob choked her words, her subvocals warbling her sorrow, joy and love to him. “I don’t know what I w-would’ve done if you hadn’t been there.”
Probably slashed out Kaidan’s jugular again.
He wrapped his arms around her, easing her head down to rest between his neck and the lip of his cowl as he crooned comfort to her. He slowly eased them both into a subtle rocking motion, as she clung to his neck and wept for the first time in what felt like centuries. Her body was wracked with her sobbing as she shattered, letting him hold the pieces together for her; finally letting someone share the burden for once. Finally having someone to share it with.
She’d been holding everything in for so long, keeping all of her problems centered squarely on her shoulders, that she’d forgotten what it was like to be able to share it. To let go. As she let herself unravel, she felt his hand stroking her back soothingly, grounding her to him with his other hand on the back of her head, gently trailing down her plates. She felt the tattered ends of her fraying emotions begin to bind themselves to him, taking comfort in the solace he so freely offered her.
As she felt the frayed ends take root in him, in her rock, the flood of tears began to fade; replaced by the warmth of knowing that something -someone- had gone right in her life, just this once. She released a shuddering sigh against his hide, nuzzling into him and releasing her grip around his neck, letting her fingers drift over his plates gently in thanks.
She felt, more than heard his purr when it started; slowly building from his chest as it wound its way up through his throat, soothing her in a profound way as it caused her own purr to rise and resonate with his. She raised her head and rested her plates on his, hearing his subvocals trill a question of, ‘you alright?’
She leaned down and pressed her lips to his mouthplates. ‘I will be,’ she harmonized, lapping softly at the edges of his plates, seeking entrance.
Actually-Fen-Harel, I want to like this writing. I really do. And at the cost of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to repeat stuff: I don’t care. I stopped caring about this woman the second she clawed out Kaidan’s jugular. That’s why we call it “jumping the shark”!
I really, really want to like this romance, because it’s not a badly-written one! But that’s impossible with the main character that we have here! She’s done so many unlikable things by this point that it’ll take more than just a romance where she can actually be a good romantic lead to get us to like her. She may be a decent romantic lead, but otherwise she is a terrible character!
Anyway, after this, they have comfort sex. Because what else are you going to do when you’re in love with someone, am I right? So then that ends, and we cut to…
The mission to test Gremlin’s reaper indoctrination signal blocking had been a complete success. The only thing left for them to do was to test it on the reaper itself. If their streak of luck held up, they might just be able to end this war, almost before it had truly begun.
And you’re not even going to show the test either. Because that makes sense, right? It’s only a hugely plot-critical thing you’re testing up to, let’s not establish the stakes or see how it could possibly go wrong, right? Gives us license to make shit up as we go, because we’re only going in with half a plan!
Or will they talk about it?
They’d spent several hours on the quiet planet, running tests to ensure that Gremlin’s counter-signal would indeed work. He’d given them the means to detect the reaper signal. Then he raised his counter-signal, testing it at varying strengths and frequencies to find the best solution. The results were more than promising.
Yes, and how do you know it was a success? What was your control group to test it? How did you induce indoctrination? How were you able to tell they were indoctrinated? How were you able to tell they were not indoctrinated once the signal came in? If nobody else is with you, how did you test it? How were you able to read the signals coming off the thing? How did you know to look for them? What experimentation did you do?
So basically, this test involves no specifics beyond “we found a frequency that would disrupt it, let’s go”. Like “hey, what’ll you fill Saren’s head with while the Reaper signal is jammed”. Also, man, isn’t it great how there’s one golden frequency that can disrupt indoctrination. Man, if only that had been available in canon, it probably would’ve saved us so much trouble come ME3…
Man, I have such confidence in how well this mission is not going to look like it pulled things out of its ass so Saren can be a good guy! Especially with how amazing it was at being scientifically accurate!
Anyway, Gremlin gets excited (which probably would be an issue, but he is being characterized a bit like an incredibly polite child and it’s not a harmful characterization so I’ll let it go), and then Shepard makes a pretty happy comment about it. The Mako comes to pick them up, and then Garrus reveals that he felt a similar kind of rush to Gremlin (which Shepard describes as ‘being ready to take on the whole galaxy’.). Garrus and Shepard have banter about it and other old times, and then Gremlin is like “wait, what?” So then, Garrus and Shepard are like “hm”…
“Let’s see, the planet up Garrus’ ass was metaphorical. We’d just escaped a collapsing dig site on Therum. Some rocks had fallen and landed on his shoulder, dislocating it. I’d fixed it on the fly, but he was still holding the arm to his side and he was all hunched over, so I made an off color comment to Joker that we might need the turian fleet to pull the planet out of Garrus’ ass. Just being silly.”
Gremlin nodded, so she continued.
“The incident with Citadel Councilor Decuris Sparatus was Garrus saying inappropriate things in my personal comm while I was on the channel with all three councilors, trying to give a mission report. At the time, Sparatus didn’t know I was a hybrid, so saying anything back to Garrus, especially with subvocals, would’ve tipped him off. He earned a smack for that later,” she finished with a smirk.
Garrus chuckled, “I did, but it was worth it. And seeing the look on the councilor’s face when he did find out about her was even more worth it. I’m pretty sure he’ll never quite recover from that.”
Shepard gave a small laugh, “You may be right. But I think he knows an opportunity when he sees one. He’s a politician, after all.”
Garrus nodded, “True. Still, I don’t think he saw that coming.”
“Probably not. He-“
–is right on cue to interrupt this reminiscing about some of the stupider scenes in this piece of shit fanfic to get us back to something resembling quality storytelling, right?
[Normandy to Mako, we are approaching pickup point. You ready, Taren?”] Joker’s voice on the comms interrupted her comment.
Ah, thank you, Joker. Not who I was talking to, but I’ll take it regardless.
Anyway, the the Mako comes into the ship, and then they—
Joker; you are clear for departure. Lay in a course for Palaven.”
[“Roger that, Taren. Course laid in.
So we’re forgetting that this rogue Spectre you’re trying to stop from destroying the galaxy is about to use the Conduit to activate the Citadel?
Okay. Onward with the shitty plotting!
They talk some more about the experiments, and then they make the requisite Mako joke before Joker cuts the comm link. The love birds have a laugh about it, they talk about how they need to release some stress, then they go over to the lockers, and—
As she reached her boots, her gaze drifted to the the lift gate while it opened, revealing Tali and Wrex, their hands separating quickly. Shepard allowed herself a private smirk before she slipped her boots off.
HEY GUYS! WE’VE GOT A CRACK PAIRING IN THIS FIC! DO YOU GET IT!? BECAUSE I CAME UP WITH A CRACK PAIRING! PRAISE ME, DAMMIT!
Anyway, Wrex and Shepard shoot the shit about the mission, and then she brings up that she owes Garrus a spar. More banter is exchanged, Wrex is established as referee, and then they get started sparring there. Blah blah, they spar, and…
Garrus’ mandibles tightened to his face as he swung his right fist for her stomach, only meeting air as she twisted out of the way. Her left elbow trapped his arm between it and his intended target, her other hand quickly snaking up around the base of his neck and grasping firmly. She yanked his head down and delivered a hard knee to his stomach, then his face in quick succession.
She saw his free arm making to punch her in the ribs and ducked under the arm she had firmly pinned to her side. She transferred her grip on it to her other hand and twisting his arm up behind him, slithered her now freed arm up under his left arm and locked her hand on the back of his neck. He gave a frustrated huff, seeming to give in for a moment.
Suddenly, he was bending his knees and flinging himself back in a bid to unbalance her, to throw himself on top of her to the deck plating. She had seconds to decide to either take what could be a round ender, or try to deflect it by twisting and pushing off the floor to twist their momentum enough so that she landed at least relatively on top. It was risky, but better than having the wind knocked out of her. She twisted and shoved off the floor as hard as she could.
The crack of plates against metal flooring echoed loudly in the large room, followed by a groan of pain from the turian beneath her. She let out a huff of relief as she straddled the back of his waist, leaning forward as she grappled his left arm back to mirror his right. She’d just managed to pin both arms behind his back, pushing his wrists up his carapace painfully, when she realized her mistake.
He bucked his hips up, sending her face careening toward his fringe. She brought her hands up, bracing them against his carapace to halt her forward movement just in time. Her eyes were wide open and wild with adrenaline as she stared at his fringe spines, mere inches in front of her. She felt his arms wedging out from under her, returning her to reality as she fumbled, trying to back up and regain her balance, grasping for his arms. She was able to grab one arm, but it was too late. His other hand braced against the deck plating and pushed sharply, flinging her from his back and away from him long enough for him to stand.
She tumbled and sprawled across the floor, scrambling to regain her feet under her as quickly as she could, seeing him lunge for her out of the corner of her eye. Still on all fours, she side-stepped. Then she swept her leg under him, sending him crashing to the floor once more. She stood and fell back into a turian combat stance, waiting for him rather than pressing her advantage.
He stood, shaking his head. “You’re gonna have to do better than that, Taren.”
She grinned, waving him on. “Bring it, Vakarian.”
Yeah, that’s basically how it goes. Some banter is exchanged, fighting, blah blah, folks comment, and really most of this fight scene is actually relatively harmless. Except, of course…
He took advantage of her distraction and slid his legs forward beside her on either side. Then lifting and crossing them over her abdomen, he grabbed her wrist firmly and pulled her arm down over his crossed shins as he leaned back as far as he could, putting stress on her elbow.
She had two choices: try to escape the hold and risk a sprain, or tap out. But she wasn’t about to tap out. Not yet. Shepard struggled to break the hold Garrus had on her wrist, the strain on her elbow increasing by the moment.
Wait, isn’t that improper form?
A worried trill followed by the heavy footfalls of Gremlin as he came to stand beside Wrex, keenly observing the fight. His head swiveled to face Wrex, bending down as he murmured quietly, “Taren is not using the proper method to break that hold. If she does not tap out, she risks a severe sprain, possibly a break. I recommend intervening before serious injury occurs.”
Okay, yeah. So why is Taren!Sue doing this? You’d think that turians.
Wrex looked at Gremlin askance. He huffed a sigh and nodded, moving over to the combatants with seeming reluctance.
“Taren, tap out already. We need you in fighting form. You’re no use to us with a broken arm.”
Shepard glared up at him with fire in her eyes. She spoke through teeth barred with effort and pain, “I can break the hold, Turtle.”
And why the fuck are you being an arrogant bitch and not backing down? This just seems like stupidity, even with the stupid you’ve displayed throughout the rest of the fic. And this is true especially if this is the turian culture bullshit again, because in-game Garrus alludes to sparring before a mission . You know, when you need to be 100% healthy? So what the fuck is she trying to do here?
Garrus shook his head. “Taren, you’re not doing anything but making it worse. Tap out love, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Shepard growled defiance at both of them.
Garrus pulled down, over-extending her elbow.
Shepard gave a small cry of pain, gritting her teeth as she continued to struggle, though her efforts were far weaker than they had been.
Hey Garrus, if you don’t want to hurt her, here’s a good idea: let go anyway. You’re not gaining anything by keeping that there, and you want Taren to let go, so why don’t you take the initiative?
Wrex leaned down and hovered over Taren’s face.
“Tap out, Pyjak! You’re not proving anything by getting your arm broken.”
Shepard roared at him, the last of her defiance leaking out of her as it finished and anger flashing across her face briefly. She finally closed her eyes and let her free hand smack against the deck plating, signaling her defeat. Garrus released her arm and slid out from beneath her quickly, kneeling beside her as he trilled worry, his hands setting to the task of helping her up.
Oh don’t you pull the concerned boyfriend routine now! You could’ve easily let her go instead of letting her take the hit thanks to her stubborn pride! Again, health is better than pride in this case, and instead of practicing that, you could’ve, I dunno, let her go?
Jeez, this fic can be really weird about that, you know? First it was Garrus waiting until it was most dramatic to stop the attempted rape of his girlfriend, now it’s this. Why is Garrus so selective about when he decides to be a caring boyfriend? It’s great when he’s a caring boyfriend, but he also just has worrying instances where he isn’t, you know?
“Come on, you need to see Chakwas, I know you’ve at least got a sprain.”
She smacked his hands away with her good arm and silently stood on her own, cradling her injured arm to her stomach as she walked to the lift.
“I can take care of myself, Praefectus Vakarian,” she snapped as he walked to her side to accompany her up the lift.
He reeled back as if she’d physically struck him. She looked at him in time to see his throat constrict on his subvocals, hiding whatever emotion had been about to escape. He ducked his head and slowly turned away, heading for his armor locker. Shepard boarded the lift without another word.
Wow, really? So this is what triggers the separation that is common in these romance things. Not something related to the family. Not their approach to Saren. But rather, it’s Taren!Sue’s pride combined with Garrus doing something utterly stupid so that her pride can knock her down a few pegs.
Well, I’m sure glad this set-up doesn’t feel at all contrived. It would be such a shame if this would get in the way of Taren!Sue’s one true love in time to deal with the whole bondmate business.
Speaking of which, guess what we cut to?
Meanwhile, on Palaven…
“This whole situation is ridiculous! He’s trying to bring disgrace to his clan and I won’t stand for it. He has a responsibility to continue the Vakarian line. He’s flying right in the face of that responsibility with this abomination of a mate he’s chosen. You’ve coddled him long enough, Maela, it’s time he stepped up to the plate and faced his duty to his clan.”
Cadicus Vakarian paced between the couches in the living room of his family’s home. His storm of fury and indignation stirring up eddies of dust in the UV filtered daylight pouring through the windows.
Ah, you can always count on this fic’s purple-ass prose to stir up an otherwise boring chapter, am I right?
Maela sighed. “I didn’t coddle him any more than I coddled Solana, Vima. They are both free to make their own choices and mistakes. I may not agree with Garrus’ choice of bond mate, but I do not begrudge him the freedom to make that choice; nor is he the only one in this very family to make a similar choice, Cadicus.”
Cadicus growled softly at the implication.
“Maela, I may have bonded outside of my clan’s choice of mate for me, but at least I still mated a turian. This human is not a viable mate for carrying on the clan’s name and you know it.”
Well, they could adopt, you know. Or there’s artificial insemination, which I imagine would be no problem in the future!
“They could adopt, Cadicus. There’s plenty of turian orphans out there that would happily take on the Vakarian name if they were given the chance at a happy, safe home.” Maela’s subvocals dripped uneasily hopeful tones at that thought.
“That is not the same!” Cadicus scoffed in disgust. “Those orphans have the blood of some other clan, they are not Vakarian-born! I will not stand for it.”
Why does nobody in shitty Mass Effect shipfic that wade into situations like this consider artificial insemination? It’s always adopt this, create a hybrid from scratch that, but never artificial insemination between Garrus and another turian. Or is everyone who writes shipfic like this Roman Catholic and I just wasn’t aware of it?
Maela clicked her mandibles sharply to her jaw in reprimand.
“How would those orphans be any different if he’d mated an asari? They wouldn’t be turian either.”
Cadicus ceased his pacing to tower over his mate, pointing at her as he growled out, “At least they still have the blood of their clan, even if they aren’t turian. It’s better than having a damned human raise a turian anyway, Vakarian or not.”
Um, yeah, one problem with this whole rant; you still have a daughter, Mr. Vakarian. If you’re so stringent about bloodlines, why don’t you just tell her to marry a turian? After all, the e-mail she sent Garrus solidified her status as a good turian better than anything else, so, you know…
Also, I can’t help but feel that this whole “continue the bloodline” bullshit from someone who is basically a retired paper pusher in C-SEC is a bit racist.
Maela narrowed her eyes at him, clicking her mandibles once more.
“Do you realize how ridiculously racist you’re being right now, Cadicus?
Thank you, madam, for pointing that out!
You’re arguing semantics just because she’s human. Are you really still so full of hate for them because your brother died in the relay 314 incident that you can’t see this for what it is? Can you really be so blinded by hate?”
Well duh. Of course he is!
He retracted his finger in favor of leaning in and snarling a warning at her.
“I am not the one who is blind. You are, for not wanting your son to continue the name of our clan. You are, if you think that your son’s choice of mate is actually a good thing. You are, if you think bringing up my brother’s murder at the hands of those apes will aid your cause.”
She snarled her own warning back at him.
“He is your son too. If you think you’re going to place all blame on me for his choices, you truly are blind. If you think I’m just going to ignore your racism, you obviously don’t know me as well as you should know your bond mate. And your brother wasn’t murdered, Cadicus, he died in a war that we started out of pride.”
He roared, snapping at her viciously, “I will not listen to any more of this abuse!”
He straightened and stormed out of the room, the screech of his fury trailing behind him. Maela sighed and shook her head, returning to the novel on her datapad with a quiet sigh at her mate’s childish antics.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but at least Cadicus is decently consistent? He’s a totally two-dimensional villain and we all know how his arc is going to unfold by the time he uttered his second line of dialogue in this scene, but at least he’s consistent.
And yes, I have bumped into characters whose racism is highly inconsistent. That in itself is its own can of worms, of course, so let’s just continue on past the line break, where we cut to Shepard nursing her arm and thinking.
She knew she was being ridiculous. She knew her rejection of Garrus’ help had been childish, but it had felt justified at the time. He was the cause of her frustrations, not to mention her defeat. Lashing out at him had seemed a perfectly reasonable reaction at the time. She was beginning to regret that reaction, but a part of her still felt vindicated. That part was still crowing its victory loudly enough that she wasn’t ready to go crawling back to him with an apology. She hadn’t been thinking clearly during the fight. Her injury was entirely her fault and her pride had been wounded for it, not to mention her elbow.
She sighed and reached up with her functional arm to rub her eyes in frustration. She’d been blinded by her pride more than once before, but this time it had hurt someone beside herself, someone she cared deeply about. She wasn’t quite sure how to reconcile that. She’d always been the only one to suffer for her pride, but having to face what she’d done, she found herself ill-equipped to handle the situation.
And all that is moot when you remember that, again, Garrus could have simply let go if he really didn’t want to hurt her. But he didn’t, because I guess it’s now when she has to face her biggest flaw.
And the funny thing is, you could’ve totally cut the injury and you could still get this scenario out of it. Like, imagine what it would’ve been like if Garrus had let go. Wouldn’t it have been great if she’d had an opportunity to shout at him angrily for forfeiting the match for her safety? How the emotional pain she’d cause Garrus would be enough to get her to think about her pride in the way the fic wants her to? That would be great, wouldn’t it? No injury, just wounded emotions. That would actually be compelling, and it would absolve Garrus of any part in it because then he would be genuinely hurt that she would be so prideful that she puts his attempt to look out for her health into question. And that would be like “excuse me”, and that would hurt Shepard more.
That’s how you write a conflict between two people in love!
But instead, she gets her arm hurt, and all because Garrus didn’t fucking let go. Look I’m all for your characters getting their pride injured, and let’s face it: Taren!Sue has been long overdue to get smacked around for her over-the-top hubris. But I’m sorry, that should not feel like it’s coming on the end of the world’s biggest contrivance. It just shouldn’t.
But hey, what else was I expecting from a fanfic that kissed Taren!Sue’s feet after she clawed out Kaidan’s jugular?
Anyway, she calls Dr. Chakwas up, asks her to bring advice and something for her elbow sprain, and Dr. Chakwas shows up. They talk about her injury and stuff, and then Taren!Sue is all “I think I hurt him emotionally.” So then she talks about it, and then she mentions that she called him Praefectus Vakarian, which means…
I mean yeah, that’s his official title and clan name but I was pretty snarly about it.
Okay, so turians have titles based on Latin that tell us their occupations. So you were mad, and you used that as a kind of insult. Okay.
So why does Garrus have the title of “Praefectus”? Last I checked, Pallin was the executor at C-SEC, and Garrus didn’t have any kind of special C-SEC job, or even any kind of leadership job before the events of Mass Effect 2. Or is “praefectus” less formal here? Because you don’t bloody well use the Latin term for “prefect” in a situation like this without them having some authority!
Anyway, Dr. Chakwas confirms that she did go too far with that. Dr. Chakwas tells her to apologize, and—
Shepard growled, huffing slightly, “I just didn’t want his help right then. I still don’t. He’s part of the cause of my frustration and that blinded me so badly that I couldn’t even think straight to get out of that hold. He’s the one that caused the injury. I felt completely justified in blowing him off when he was being all helpful after causing the problem in the first place and I just… UGH! There’s just… too much shit piling on right now. I feel like I’m losing it, Karin.”
Well, to be fair, that isn’t the worst excuse mongering I’ve ever seen. I know of certain British l—
*bowled over by Eliza*
Anyway, Dr. Chakwas stops her, asks her to breathe, asks her to de-stress. Taren points out the spar was supposed to do that, but Dr. Chakwas goes on a long speech about taking a few steps back. And then, Shepard ponders about it, and…
“Actually, you’re wrong. It is my pride.”
Karin quirked her head to the side in surprised curiosity, “Really? How so?”
Shepard sighed, the fingers that had been worrying the hem of her shirt balling into a fist, her eyelids slamming shut against her embarrassment.
Hey, don’t worry about your shirt. Shirts think little of sentient affairs, mostly because they don’t think at all!
“I… this morning, I woke up badly. I’d been having this horrible dream. I was screaming and my biotics flaring up all over the place… Garrus woke me as gently as he could, helped me… I wept in his arms and he comforted me. It was wonderful and horrible all at the same time. I fell apart. He put me back together. I think all of that came flooding back when we were sparring and I think I realized how embarrassed that he’d seen me like that, weak and breakable; vulnerable. It made me freeze up. Of course, that compounded the issue, because I made an even worse fool out of myself, not only in front of him, but in front of Wrex and our newest AI recruit. So I blew up. I couldn’t handle it and I took it out on the source. It wasn’t right, and I’m not proud of it, but there it is.”
Oh hey, she finally admitted that she hates being seen as vulnerable. Which is why she clawed out Kaidan’s jugular, right?
And no, Actuall-Fen-Harel, I don’t plan on letting go of that.
Dr. Chakwas immediately is like “bitch, here’s a reality check about your pride”. Well, not in those terms, but…
Karin chuckled softly. “Taren, nobody is perfect. Not a single person on this ship sees you as weak. Even Wrex sees you as a strong leader, a battle master. No matter your downfalls, it is your perseverance and your tactical wisdom that makes you strong, not your pride. Besides, can you not see how much strength it took to show your true weakness to Garrus as you did this morning? To be able to let him help you with it, instead of bottling it up and shouldering the burden yourself, once again? Do you not realize that you both showed each other how much you love and trust one another this morning? That kind of dedication can’t be bought and it certainly doesn’t come from a show of strength.”
Shepard’s brow furrowed in thought.
*rereads the above author’s note*
I take that back. I wish it hadn’t come on the heels of a massive plot contrivance, but hey, you know what? It’s not dripping in self-important pretension the way it does when other authors who talk up a big game about “truth” and “meaning” do this same thing. And frankly, I find that very surprising from someone with Actually-Fen-Harel’s attitude, but you know what? It’s kind of welcome!
Anyway, Dr. Chakwas tells Taren to apologize and make it up to him. When Shepard asks what happens if he won’t forgive her, she is like “do what you can to earn it, even though I’m sure he won’t reserve it.”
Shepard gave a small, grateful smile. “Thanks, Karin. I hope you’re right.”
“I know I am,” Karin smirked knowingly. “You forget, I was with a turian for many years. I know how their minds work.”
Shepard grinned, “No, I remember. I miss him too.”
Karin sighed wistfully, “So do I dear, so do I. But, don’t worry about that. Go, get your mate back.”
So Dr. Chakwas dated a turian in the past… even though it was logically at a time that turians and humans still hated each other. Right, ‘cause that makes sense!
Eh, whatever. All told, this installment wasn’t too bad. And that’s a good thing, because next week we get to finish this fic off with the last two chapters that were posted.
So I’ll leave it off here. I’ve been Herr Wozzeck, and I’ll see you guys next week!