2376: Mass Effect: The First War — Chapter 1 Part 2Posted: July 16, 2019
Hello hello all you patrons, and welcome back to Mass Effect: The First War, the purported mother-of-all HFY ‘fics which thus far is shaping up to be a particularly boring, lazy, plot-regurgitational, bog-standard HFY ‘fic.
Maybe CT was right about it being the purest form of the species after all.
Also, I have said it before and will say it again. Prepending “Mass Effect:” to the title of your Mass Effect ‘fic accomplishes jack diddly because we already know what category it’s in and it also makes the ‘M’ section unreasonably large when sorting ‘fics by alphabetical order. So quit already.
Anyway, last time we got a bunch of codex entries outlining the development of human society in the absence of some of the technology the prothean ruins canonically contained. It occurred… pretty much exactly the same as in canon, just a little slower and there are AIs. Yay mankind, I guess.
We left off just as things were actually supposed to start narratively happening, with an expedition to open an unexplored Mass Relay.
Space. Many beings called it by many things,
Most of which meant something along the lines of “space”.
but Captain Byron Connor simply knew it as big. His ship, an Alliance Naval Destroyer, was big too, but that was compared to planetary measurements, compared to a star system, to a galaxy, or to the universe, his ship, let alone he himself, was terribly insignificant,
Oh they was, was they?
like an atom trying to make its mark upon a planet.
Or a clumsy metaphor trying to make an impact on a reader.
Though he interestedly noted that splitting an atom could easily make a mark on a planet,
A very, very small mark since single atoms fission naturally all the time and only when you get a bulk quantity of them to go all at once do you get a nuclear reaction capable of doing damage visible to the naked eye, but a mark nonetheless.
Also, what exactly is the point of all this ruminating about the power of atoms?
he pushed that thought aside as he admitted one thing: Space, in all its vastness and danger, was beautiful.
And very, very purple.
There was absolutely nothing like exiting the Warp and, as your eyes adjusted and the feeling of acceleration left your gut, seeing the starlit void again.
“Eden Alliance Control, this is Captain Connor, of the SSV Reach reporting.”
Three… two… one…. aaaaand…. ripoff, we have ripoff!
Uniformly said the Captain of the lone Alliance Destroyer of the escort group of four military ships, and three science ships.
Well, that was awkward.
The Captain rubbed his balding head, as he came to terms with what he was doing: Protecting a bunch of eggheads for several days while they try and understand things millennia beyond his race’s technological capability. The aging captain appreciated one aspect of the mission, though: It was simple. All he had to do was survive several days of tormenting boredom, and he would be able to go home.
“Go ahead Reach.”
“We’re approaching Tuning Gate B, our AI, Rosenda, is about to activate it.” Reported the captain, in a crisp, clear tone as his miniature fleet of ships soared across the silent, dark void.
“Understood. Report back the moment you can. Control out.”
“This is it, people.” Said the Captain, as he surveys his surroundings.
Is it just me or are there a hell of a lot of tense shifts in this story? If somebody sends the Captain a disc with an evil AI that inexplicably looks like Sonic the Hedgehog on it, I’m bailing.
The circular bridge of Captain Connor’s ship, the Systems Space Vessel Reach, contrasted the triangular design of the ship itself. In front of him was a map of known Human Space, a ‘space-chart’, as opposed to a sea chart.
Really! And here I thought they were going to call it a ‘sea-chart’, even though they are nowhere near and have nothing to do with the sea, as opposed to a sea grimiore!
It was two-dimensions in appearance, not at all like the 3D Holographic charts on the more modern ships, but it served it’s job well. Around him, forming an ‘O’ around his chair and the map, were walkways leading to the navigation center, and to the elevator behind him.
That sounds suspiciously like the standard Star Trek Federation bridge layout.
Next to the walkways were depressions, in which communications were located.
What, do they manage everything with paper memos and throw them in the bins for sorting?
The captain smiled, as he saw one woman converse with the ship’s Artificial Intelligence, Rosenda.
Ok seriously what actually is this name?
AI’s had gone a long way during their relatively short life. While initially, many were apprehensive of the AI’s ability to coexist with humanity, primarily due to the 20th and 21st century’s movies instilling them,
Why only movies, specifically? Why not comparatively serious philosophical types, or for that matter books?
these fears were dashed when an AI was responsible for detecting the 79-mile wide meteor that would have hit Luna, and then Earth only a few months after it was detected.
That sounds more like a failure of whatever conventional asteroid-tracking system the Alliance already had in place than anything particularly heroic on the AI’s part.
And I’m not really sure how this demonstrates the AI’s good intentions, since a planet-cracking asteroid would also be an existential threat to synthetic life so it could’ve just been acting in self-preservation.
And I’m also a little unclear on how a
79-mile127-kilometer asteroid could have hit the Moon and then gone on to hit Earth since they are usually disintegrated on impact.
The entire Alliance Navy worked tirelessly to remove the threat, and eventually, a combination Rail-gun and Mass Driver-assisted Nuclear Strike managed to split the meteor in two, and cause it to harmlessly float past Earth in two chunks.
I am not 100% certain how railguns and mass drivers (a term which is sometimes used as an umbrella designation for all kinetic weapons including rail guns, and sometimes more archaically for kinetic weapons which use preexisting environmental objects like asteroids as ammunition) were supposed to help split the asteroid in two since they would be applying impact from only one direction; it seems like if the thing wasn’t liable to split on its own just for being jostled (some asteroids are indeed rather loosely held together) just going with more nukes would have been the better option. Or, instead of splitting the asteroid into two chunks, just moving the entire thing into a different orbit.
The people in the United States and in some parts of Africa got an amazing shooting-star show that night, according to the history books.
This was, in fact, untrue, but the history books included it anyway.
After the ‘Great Artificial Rescue’, AI’s had become much more accepted in human society, and were integrated into many levels, including average society, naval, military, and even education.
The Navy is a different thing from the rest of the military for… some reason.
Funding was diverted towards the AI’s in a show of faith towards this new ‘SynthHuman’ race, even gaining a token taxonomic classification, ‘Synthesapiens’;
I’m sure they got their own massive table of pronouns, too.
and immediately after the funding was acquired, the AI’s evolved to a point where the only difference between a human brain and the Artificial Intelligence’s mind was the fact that the AI worked at a rate much faster than a human, and that the human had a body, and even then, AI’s could opt to release themselves from their AI Disks and populate an android’s body, the closest an AI could ever get to true life.
Implying that a conscious being that cannot move or does not possess a body is not ‘truly’ alive.
Also, I thought we were supposed to be done with the rich, chunky exposition already!
Personality updates were among the many things that made AI’s more human, and more acceptable in human society.
“Isn’t it great how we can now alter your personalities to better fit our societal preconceptions!”
Oh, right, he was a thing that was happening.
For a very loose definition of ‘happen’, at any rate.
saw – in a camera image brought forth by Rosenda upon request –
Instead of just having a button you can push or just having the forward cameras display by default.
the Tuning Gate. It made him feel small, when he looked at it, not as small as he felt in Space,
Which is Capitalized for some Reason.
but small nonetheless. And he was in his ship, a Destroyer; an Alliance Destroyer was
also Capitalized for some Reason.
a marvel of modern engineering, it was nearly as maneuverable as a frigate, but was lengthier, had thicker armor, and had more firing power. An Alliance Destroyer was designed to go into the thick of it, to break the rules of modern naval combat and flank, suppress, and destroy the enemy using Warp Travel and several broadside and deck-mounted Rail Guns. When the calculations had been done, it was said that it would only take five Alliance Destroyers to take out a Space-Craft Carrier in a single volley.
a marvel of masturbatory engineering, it was nearly as flexible as a frigate, but was lengthier, had thicker foreskin, and had more ejaculating power. An Alliance Destroyer was designed to penetrate into the thick of it, to break the hymen of modern naval combat and flank, suppress, and destroy the enemy using Warp Thrusting and several broadside and dick-mounted Rail Balls. When the calculations had been done, it was said that it would only take five Alliance Destroyers to make out with a Space-Craft Carrier in a single squirt.
Why does this thing even have a top deck? It’s in space!
This was notable, as the Space-Craft Carrier was the next step up in class, and it would take ten frigates worth of firepower to take out a carrier in a single volley. Sadly, when calculations were done against an Alliance Dreadnought [The next step up in military naval vessel, from Space Craft Carrier],
Why thank you for informing us of that fact, brackets!
five turned to twenty. When pit against a virtual flagship, the AI simply said: Don’t.
Even their own AIs are getting tired of this expositional shipwank.
“Activating the Tuning Gate.” Said the AI’s synthesized voice; it spoke with a tone and speed of a young woman, it’s tone and volume was light and friendly.
Young women being known for speaking at a specific speed shared by no other demographic group.
A moment after the AI’s fleet-wide declaration, the celestial machine in front of them activated, and the massive blue orb erupted into a ball of energy, as the massive rings kept said energy contained. The Captain and the Artificial Intelligence had little idea how they worked, he remembered something about ‘Dark Energy’, but he knew even less about that.
Just a quick suggestion, but maybe it would’ve been a good idea to put someone with an actual scientific background in charge of this science mission?
As the Reach flew towards the gate, Connor felt a cold feeling run down his spine.
It was a spooky, scary Mass Relay.
When the Reach entered the gate’s radius, large swaths of blue electricity arced to the ship. As the ship continued down the gate’s length, more energy connected to the ship, until after a few moments, it was catapulted forward at several light-years a second.
“Arrived at new system. Activating scanner, scanning for exit Tuning Gate, habitable planets, and mining systems.” Declared the AI, as it carries out it’s own orders, “Friendly ships arriving in three… Two… One.” And with that declaration, the rest of the fleet arrived behind the Reach, to stop suddenly next to the cold, dead celestial machine next to them.
“Open up communications to the other ships, make sure everything is okay.” Ordered the captain, as he calmly sat back in his chair.
“Other ships responding, everything’s green.”
Gosh, I hope no tragic misunderstanding with a better-armed alien race ensues, resulting in the destruction of the ship that just so happens to be named after a planet glassed by a better-armed alien race in a popular video game franchise!
“Rosenda, are you ready for the transfer?”
The transfer of…. what, to what, exactly?
“Yes Captain. I have scanned the system, there is another Tuning Gate at the opposite end of the system’s star. This one shows active power signatures.”
“Alright… Wait, what?” The suddenly alert captain, “what does that mean?” He clarified, fear creeping up his spine with all the subtlety of a water balloon.
A spooky, scary water balloon!
“It is activated.”
“Is… anyone else in the system with us?” The Captain asked, hiding the nervousness in his voice with a gulp.
“I detect no Anti-Engine signatures in this system,
Why would ships have ‘anti-engines’? What even is an ‘anti-engine’??
Although whatever it is, it too is apparently deserving of Spontaneous Capitals.
nor do I detect any other power sources, aside from the Alliance ships and the other Tuning Gate.”
“Alright… Wells, contact the other Navy vessels, inform them of the situation, tell them to be on standby, and be ready for combat at a moment’s notice.” The Captain ordered firmly.
“Yes sir.” Responded one of the communications officers, “what about the scientific vessels?”
“Tell them it’s just a precautionary measure. Same one we took when we found Valhalla.”
“I want the most vulnerable members of our fleet to be as poorly informed about a potential threat as possible!”
Five minutes later, the Artificial Intelligences from the scientific flotilla were pouring themselves into the Tuning Gate, learning everything and anything the could. Connor tried at one point to read a report, but found his head spinning after the first few sentences.
It was something titled Mass Effect: The First War.
The aging Captain wasn’t stupid, not by any means, but advanced particle and molecular physics were something far beyond his level of education.
Several hours passed by, the aging captain could almost feel his dark wrinkled skin settle, and balding hair turn grey. To say he was bored was an understatement, but he wouldn’t say so, nor would he show it, and as such he maintained his upright posture and stoic expression.
And we all have to read about it anyway.
He couldn’t wait for the rapidly approaching Eden weekend, he’d been granted the week following off, in return for accepting this mission. He couldn’t wait to see his wife, the last time they’d talked after was their daughter had gotten married, and that had been several weeks ago. The captain had fond memories of his daughter’s wedding, and meeting his new daughter-in-law’s parents for the first time had been a treat.
Yeaaaahh, he’ll die horribly before this ‘fic is over.
“Captain!” Roared the synthetic voice of Rosenda, suddenly the Captain realized there were several people calling his name, the AI had gotten through to him by using the phone in his pocket’s speaker.
Which for some reason he is inclined to respond to even when the ship’s own speaker system and people right next to him shouting his name are ignored.
Hmm, actually, that’s pretty plausible. I have in the past had to send email reports to my PhD advisor while sitting in his office with him looking over my shoulder watching me type.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“A dozen contacts just exited the opposite Tuning Gate, and have disappeared into Warp Space. Most likely they’ve detected us and are moving to contact.” A communications officer urgently updated him.
If you can see them, why can’t they just signal you from over there?
“Update, new contacts, previous approximates wrong, estimated forty -“ The AI cut itself off for a half second, “ninety seven – three hundred four – six hundred twelve – eight hundred forty four contacts and counting. All seem to be spreading out from the Tuning Gate from which they have erupted from.”
“Recall the scientific vessels!” The Captain ordered urgently, his mind shifting into combat mode, “get them behind the Frigates and hail the ships coming in. Are they friendly?” He asked of the AI.
“How in Android Hell would I know? We literally just met them!”
“Unknown. They do not match any known Alliance signatures.”
“They are not human, captain.”
Several of the longest, most silent seconds in Human history passed as the Captain digested this information, ” what are you saying, that they’re… Alien?
“No, I’m saying they’re piloted by Thompson’s Gazelles!”
That this is a first contact scenario?” He almost whispered.
“Hail the ships on all channels and frequencies,
Channels are just delineated sections of frequencies.
but do not – I say again, do not – appear hostile. Prepare the FCP.” No Human in history had ever given the official order to prepare the First Contact Package, drills had been run and scenarios tested, but never once in Humanity’s space-faring age had they ever truly had to execute it. Connor cleared his throat, “my name is Captain Byron Connor of the SSV Reach, of the Human Systems Alliance.” He said, his heart thundering in his ears as the AI recorded the message, “we come in peace, and we do not seek hostilities of any kind.” He had to speak slowly, and calmly, anything – and his OCS instructors had stressed anything – could be misconstrued as hostile words, actions, or tones, “I hope your species and ours can coexist.”
He is, however, saying this in English so it probably won’t be construed as much of anything.
“Sending First Contact Message and Package on all available channels.” The AI broadcasted, “estimated number of contacts breaching three thousand, and continuing to rise.”
As the Captain waited for the AI to stop counting and bring up the scanners,
AIs, of course, being notoriously slow to do their jobs.
he thought of the First Contact Package. In essence, it was a video greeting, recording a ‘welcome to Earth’ on several key societal locations upon said planet. It would show cheerful images of peace, friendship, love and brotherhood so as to suggest the same to whatever aliens Humanity may meet.
Literal months had been spent after Eden’s initial colonization on what exactly should be put in the message, some had argued to put in mathematical formulae to show our advanced state, while others had stressed we show our military to show that we were capable of defending ourselves. In the end, the current FCP had been decided upon, and once every ten years it was updated to show modern Humanity.
Good god… Aliens! Thought Connor, as it sunk in what was happening: First Contact. The First Contact! He, of all people, was going to be the human that decided the fate of every other one in the Milky Way, through a simple series of videos, statements and pictures. He couldn’t believe that it was he, that would be the first human to find, meet, and speak to any aliens in the galaxy.
He’d honestly wanted his species to have a military presence at least five times larger than it had, so it would be able to fend off any possible alien invasion or incursion, and maybe a planetary presence of at least twenty, with Eden being the most developed of the twenty, so it could be mistaken for the human homeworld, Earth.
Given that he knows nothing about the potential size or technology level of the alien civilizations he may encounter, I think it’s a little odd that he settled on such specific numbers.
I can only imagine what the crew is thinking… Thought the captain,
“Is he going to sit there and stare into space for the whole rest of the mission? Or will he go back to his cabin and take a nap?”
before he got too impatient waiting for the AI and brought up the scanners himself, replacing the two-dimensional map of the star system with a two-dimensional scan of the star system.
This…. doesn’t get displayed automatically??
Wow, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have every single function of your ship be managed by a self-aware AI that also has to carry on conversations!
A sea of yellow dots were spewing forth from the Tuning Gate, Rosenda was reporting that the numbers were going upwards of five thousand, and showed no sign of letting up.
What have we stepped into? The captain asked himself.
We will have to wait until next week to find out, because dear GOD this chapter is boring!