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/qst/ - Quests

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You couldn't believe it was over. That the Reapers have been defeated and the galaxy was safe. That the sapients inhabiting it would have chance to catch their breath and be given opportunity to rebuild their future from ashes of the menace that wiped out countless of their predecessors. You couldn't believe that new era was dawning where bright future would be ushered in, paid for by blood of billions of lives so swiftly extinguished by the ancient menace.

As it turns out, your disbelief was not entirely unwarranted. There would be no foregone conclusions, no pre-paid peace and prosperity. All of it would still have to be built on more sweat and blood, and you already had personal run ins with challenges galactic community would have to overcome - within, in form of conspiracies and corruption, as well as without, in form of a mind controlling artifact of origins unknown.

Even so, you think to yourself as you stride down the corridor of a grounded cruiser, mental image of a child snuggled up against his sleeping mother, you could not relinquish hope.

You are Henri Ford, special consultant for Citadel Institute of Xenoarchaeology, captain of MSV Chariot and presently a freelancing adventurer.

Along with Lea'Fari nar Namek, one of your recent crew additions, you are headed towards engineering section of SSV Palos in hopes you would be able to restore function of the exploration cruiser and in doing so, hopefully, save everyone on board (along with an expensive piece of Alliance hardware) from sinking into the depths of Enceladus' ocean.

"So, cap..." Lea asks as you walk. "You think it was that kid that was... you know..."

"Making everyone think of their mother?" You say. "It would seem so."

"How is that even possible?"

"I have no idea. Although, if I were to venture a guess, the spherical artifact had to have something to do with this. But I suppose this will be something for scientists to pore over."

"Yeah, scientists... what's going to happen to him? And his mom?" Lea presses on. "I mean... what happens now?"
That is quite the question. You have an Alliance cruiser with its full crew complement on board, a little boy with apparent psychic powers, records of a mysterious mind control artifact and a number of more or less knowledgeable witnesses from among Terminus outcasts and the four volunteers you brought here. This situation will have consequences, that's for sure.

The cynical voice in you tells you that everything would be easiest if someone decided to contain this situation, yourself included, with nuclear fire. You quietly hoped that nobody with that amount of firepower would make this sort of decision. Hackett didn't strike you as a type that would resort to atrocities for sake of expedience, so there was that.

>Yes. No matter who gets their hands on the kid, or his mother, their fates are pretty much decided as test subjects. They're too unique and valuable to pass up.
>Alliance are not monsters. I'm sure they'll offer both adequate comfort and protection to both mother and the child, alongside with other students from Grissom Academy.
>We could ask Libella to extend some protection to the child. She'll be for sure interested in his powers, too, but I trust she'd be able to shelter him from the worst of it.
>Maybe... there's no need to mention the child's involvement. We could shelter the kid, maybe even the mother? Eve should be able to help us cover the tracks.
>First things first. Let's get this girl on her thrusters first, then we can get back to happy thoughts of bright future.
>Other response
shit, that's a tough one

>I...don't know, I'm afraid that wherever we send them they'll end up as test subjects so...maybe we could shelter them somehow?Eve should be able to help us cover the tracks.

>Maybe... there's no need to mention the child's involvement. We could shelter the kid, maybe even the mother? Eve should be able to help us cover the tracks.
Man I don't know, we can try to hide them but then we should let his mother decide, maybe she will prefer the academy
"Maybe..." You begin, then fall silent, weighing all the possible fallout involved.

"Hm?" Lea urges you.

"I was thinking... maybe we could shelter the kid. Keep it a secret."

"Are you serious?" the Quarian asks. "I mean... we haven't exactly told anyone yet, but..."

"Eve, you hearing this? Do you think you could cover our tracks if we decided to go this way?"

"In terms of digital records, yes, I could. However, I cannot affect memories of the crew, or of the outcasts that recovered the sphere." Comes Eve's reply over the communicator. Your synthetic friend was still securely locked in the CIC, ship's systems and memory banks at her virtual fingertips. "However, Ford, do you think that would be wise? You would be deliberately misleading the Alliance and potentially exposing yourself and your crew to repercussions. Additionally, the child and his parent would be exposed to risk of their own without any suppport to lean on. They also don't have a cover identity. We would have to secure one or they would be revealed by first biometric scan."

You groan internally. There were bound to be difficulties with this line. Still, it felt viable.

"There are ways to secure fake identity or gain real one by trickery." You say, scenarios running through your mind, from asking someone for a questionable favour to presenting the two as unknown survivors of an unrelated wreckage, or finding them place with Terminus outcasts.

Although, idea of a mind controller in service of Omega pirates is not a very pleasant one, you have to admit.

Putting your train of thought back on track. "Anyway, all I'm saying is that obscurity is possibly best protection for the child, and for any hope for him to have an actual childhood without ending up as a test subject. And in any case, in the end it will be the mother that has the final word. But I want them to have that option."

"I understand." Eve says. "I will explore the possibilities."

"Thank you, Eve. And Lea."

You spend rest of the walk in silence. There's not much of it, though, as you've nearly reached your destination as the blast door before you open and reveal an engine room, at end of which you could catch a glimpse of the drive core chamber. Most of the machinery is dormant and inactive, only one section, presumably the backup power source powering those of ship's systems that are currently active, had some flickering lights in it.

"Well. Here we are. Time for you to work your magic, Lea." You say.

"So that's how it is, hm? Just because I'm a Quarian I'm supposed to be the expert on making wrecks move?" She pouts playfully.

"Sorry, sorry. So, can you do it?"

She sighs. "I'll try my best. Let's start with this terminal..."

The young Quarian approaches one of the control panels that seemed like it's just in standby mode rather than completely unpowered and raised her omnitool to begin with some diagnostics.
You look around, searching for another opportunity to help out. Partly to distract yourself from thinking too much on what could come.

>Talk to Lea about something as you work? (specify topic)
>Call someone over the comm as you work? (specify person and topic)
>Leave Lea to it and head somewhere else?

>also, please roll some 2d100s, first die for Lea, second one for (You)
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With this I recede. Safe travels, friends.
Rolled 31, 92 = 123 (2d100)

that actually makes a lot of sense, we should discuss it with his mother


>>Talk to Lea about something as you work? (specify topic)

ask her what she thinks about the child thing
check if the mother thing is over for now
talk about the mission, and what we faced up to now
Rolled 91, 26 = 117 (2d100)

>Talk to Lea about something as you work?
Rolled 25, 53 = 78 (2d100)

Spotting another workable terminal not far away you walk over among the dormant machines and access it as Lea has. A single holoscreen flickers to life, showing a list of nonresponsive systems. It's a bit overwhelming at a glance, but as you look at each of the error messages, you begin to see a pattern. You begin to routinely navigating the system, gathering information to confirm your hunch.

As you go through with your tedium, you risk a distraction to both of you and chat your companion up.

"What do you think about this whole thing, Lea?"

"Hmm... which part? Children with power to impose their thoughts on others? Mysterious mind-controlling artifacts? Auspiciously returning long lost starships?"

"All of it?"

"Well... I certainly didn't expect anything like this when I signed up with you, that's for sure."

"Having second thoughts?"

"Never. I'm frankly amazed I got to see a piece of mysterious civilisation without even leaving the solar system."

"Happy to hear that." You check your progress. By your estimation you've trawled through about a third of what you thought would be necessary to get a decent enough picture.

"So, what do you make of this mess?" You press.

"I'm not sure how you feel about that, but I'm glad that sphere was destroyed. Idea that there are things like this around is not exactly a comforting one to me."

"Makes two of us." You nod.

"But... at least now we know they exist."

You work in silence for a while.

"I'm worried about the boy, though." Lea speaks up after a while. "I understand you want to give him chance to live out a normal childhood, but... what if despite all our efforts, someone will find out about him? He'll have no protection then. And those powers, if this is what happens when they run out of control, he could be dangerous to himself and others as well."

You nod silently. "You're right." You say eventually. "No path is without hazard, I'm afraid... all we can do for now he's got an informed mother to make this choice for him. And to that end..."

With few taps on your omnitool you bring up schematic with overlay of the diagnostic signals you've collected.

"...we have to make sure she's alive and well, first."

"Nicely done, Cap. Show me yours and I'll show you mine." Lea says, another set of schematics hovering over her own omnitool. You walk over and transmit your package to the terminal she's working on. The two of you look over fruits of your work.

"Okay..." Lea says, running her fingers along the projection. "Looks doable. Mostly just burned out fuses, several fried circuit boards and disrupted lattices. With the maintenance stock we should be able to get this venerable lady up and running." The Quarian looks at you. "You handle replacement of the broken parts, I'll handle the bypasses for what we can't replace."

"Yes, mistress Kee'Cass, at once." You say with a bow.

"Full name, Ford, always full name." She says.
With grin on your face and amused sparkle in her green eyes the two of you get to work. Your first steps lead to the maintenance storage where under Lea's guidance you single out several crates. After that you head off to your respective tasks, which end to be as routine as they seemed when you first looked over the diagnostics reports. Still, though, this is the first time you were repairing a crashed cruiser. Partially distracted by idle musings you let the time fly by as you work and are almost startled by beeping of your comm unit.

"Hey, Ford, you alive in there?" Kris makes his presence known.

It was, you suppose, about time to give him a status report. Question is, how detailed should it be?

>Tell him everything
>Don't tell him everything (specify ommissions)
>Be vague

>Tell him to relay something to the foundation volunteers (information, request for help...)
>Tell him to contact someone via ship's comms

>something else
With these sole posts I withdraw into the void.
>>Tell him everything

but tell him to be away from the others while we talk

>Tell him everything

>ask the volunteer leader to give us an update on how are the survivors doing
"Alive and well. You with the others?" You ask, hoping he'd pick up. Fortunately, he does.

"Out of earshot. So shoot, what did you find?"

"Well, we haven't found out all the details but the short of it seems to be that the source of the 'mother' psychic pressure was a boy missing his mother."

There's a moment of silence.

"Are you kidding me, Ford? Because it sure ain't funny."

"No kidding. He's maybe five or six, assuming he aged normally. Seems one of the crew became a mother early into the mission."

"Huh. Alliance allows that?"

"Not usually, as far as I know. But I guess it can happen."

"And you say this boy made the entire area cry for their moms?"

"So it would appear."

"Good grief. If there were not enough conspiracies around, something like this is going to start one alright. Hmm. I guess that's why you didn't want to talk in the open?"

"Quite right. Want to keep as many options open as possible."

"Yeah, which brings me back to why I'm calling."

"I thought you were just worried."

"Don't be absurd. However, our passengers are getting a bit antsy about my stalling with external communication. We better pick where and what to report now unless you want them to make the choice for you. I don't think I could stop the Asari from using the outpost comms when she decides to use it."

"I see..."

>Ask for a conference call. (specify what information you want to divulge and what plan to propose)
>Suggest that Kris calls the Alliance with an update
>Suggest that Kris calls Sirta
>Suggest a general broadcast for anyone there to listen (likely to attract Terminus outcasts)
>Ask him to stall a little bit more (supply justification)
>something else

>Ask for a conference call. (specify what information you want to divulge and what plan to propose)

Explain to them that we are in the middle of investigating the origin of the psychic influence and the effect, and we would like them to not report on it before we do, if the wrong party gets wind of the information about a mind controlling device, our crew, their crew and the survivors might be in danger.

and make sure to tell them we will contact the alliance, we just want to have a full picture before we do so, we recently helped them deal with a Cerberus cell so they would trust us with this much
>>Suggest that Kris calls the Alliance with an update
You mull over the situation for a short while before deciding that it would be best to address your passengers directly. After all, even though it was your choice to bring them over, the initiative to launch this relief effort was theirs. It wouldn't be right to keep them entirely out of the loop, even though you still had gaps to fill in.

"Kris, please, find some comm gear - there should be something appropriate at very least in the outpost control center - and we'll make a vidcall. I'd like to talk to all of them at once."

"Hmm... okay, I think that will work. Well, depending on what you're gonna tell us, I guess. I'll call you back when we're ready."

"Outstanding. Until then." You say and Kris grunts an acknowledgment into the comm before severing the connection.

You turn your attention back to the engine room. You still had some work to do when the call came, but that would have to wai-

"You done?" Lea asks, a case of spare parts in her hand.

"Not really, had to talk to Kris-"

"Oh, I meant with the call. I saw you talking and picked up your slack."

"Mistress is too kind." You say, prompting a small chuckle. "Anyway, we need to find some common room or study here with better comm units. We'll be talking to our passengers."

"Yeah? What do you want to tell them?"

"That we're finishing our investigation here and will call Alliance when we're done."

"Huh. Well, I guess it's the truth." Lea says, sets the case on the floor and brings up her omnitool with the ship layout. "Alright, I think I have what you're looking for. Chief engineer's station seems to have a decent setup for when he needs to talk to his fellow officers."

"Lead the way." You say.
Lea consults her omnitool once more and then sets out, guiding you to a nearby control room commanding a view over decent portion of the engine room. It had a desk, a few terminals and a door to a cabin. Looking inside revealed a prone human form resting on the cot, a quick scan of vitals identifying the figure as ship's engineer, presently unconscious, passed out from exhaustion. You close the door and let him rest, for now.

"Alright, let's keep it down." You say and Lea nods. You sit at the desk and activate its integrated interface.

"Eve, do you hear me?"

"Yes, Ford. I'm running diagnostics on repairs you and miss Fari have performed."

"Okay, how are we doing then?"

"With much of the engineering reconnected, I can now power more subsystems, including the one you're presently accessing. Drive core is mostly depleted, but can recover with enough time and power."

"Enough that we could take off with this thing?"

"Possibly, yes.

"Great news, and great job. Thanks, Eve. Lea."

"No problem." Lea says cheerfully. "Not every day you get opportunity to get an actual wreck moving."

"Alright, anyway we came for something else-"

As if on cue, your omnitool beeps with incoming communication.

"Ford, our guests are ready." Kris says.

"Excellent." You turn to the desk interface. "Eve, Patch them through."

The light grows dimmer and several holographic faces flare into existence.

"Captain Ford!" Jessica says. "It's good to see you in good health. And sanity, considering what seems to be going on here." Jessica, the Sirta representative, says.

"Indeed. Thank you all for the meeting. I've requested it because it will be some time still before I return personally to the outpost and you deserve the update before that."

"Yes. Explanations would be good." Viktor, the medic, says. He seems to have recovered from his reminiscences Kris was talking about, if his level voice and stoic expression was of any indication.

"Very well. As you've presumably noticed by seeing the state of the crew, and later on your own skin, the outpost has suffered some sort of psychic attack."

"Normally I'd call you crazy, but I guess you can't argue with the evidence." Kareeda says. "Not something I can fix with these people... hopefully the priest can."

"Ah, um. Well, the crew seems to be recovering from their ordeals already. Still, Viktor gave them some sedatives to make sure they get enough rest. I must confess, the impression during initial arrival was... quite intense." Don Paolo picks up.
"Doctor Tufferson said you found the source of this... sensation." Jessica takes the word again. "What was it?"

"It looked like some sort of artifact, or maybe some unknown organic matter. I destroyed it. Thanks for the tool, by the way, miss Kareeda." You answer.

"Heh." The asari simply smirks.

"But if you destroy it, why did we still feel some sort of pressure when we arrived? I admit I didn't realize it at first, but when doctor Tufferson relayed us your warning, and I've seen othes sharing the effects with me..." Jessica trails off.

"Yes, that's exactly why I'm here in the cruiser. We're still investigating what happened, because the "artifact" has been brought from this ship. Gotta make sure there's not more of them around."

"On your own, well, with your crew? Respectfully, Captain, but I'd say we're overdue call to our central on Earth, and maybe directly to the Alliance forces."

"See, that's the other reason why I wanted this call. I believe we've neutralized source of the prychich attack, but just to be sure I want to finish our search here and conclude my investigation. Rest assured that I am going to call the Alliance after that, if nothing else then at least so they recover their lost cruiser, but for now I'd like to ask for more forbearance on your part."

Jessica hesitates, her image looking you straight in the eye.

"Captain, I appreciate your bringing us here safely, but aren't you taking too much upon yourself now?"

You give her a small grin. "I understand your concern, miss Schumacher. I assure you I'm not taking it lightly. Don't forget I do have experience with strange and unknown - I work for the CIX."

That seems to put her at ease somewhat as her features relax.

"Very well, captain Ford. I'll trust your judgement. After all, we have our work cut out for us, anyway.

"Thank you for your vote of confidence." You nod at the image.

Jessica and the others are looking at you with slightly anxious, expectant expressions. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss with them?

>Yes, give them more information and request their input (specify)
>Yes, specific query (specify)
>Yes, request someone's help on the cruiser (most likely revealing the child's presence)
>No, terminate the call and head to the sickbay.
>something else
With this I recede, well overdue my sleep period.
Safe travels friends
>No, terminate the call and head to the sickbay.
I'd say we got this.

>Yes, specific query (specify)
Ask the psychologist if the trauma suffered by the crew can be recovered from, and his opinion on the mother fixation we've all experienced.
In his opinion, the source of that influence would be reduced if a mother was presented to it?

Ask them what are their plans, evacuation of the afflicted or asking for support from alliance and terminus nearby?

I must say I really enjoy your writing.

>No, terminate the call and head to the sickbay
After this.

>No, terminate the call and head to the sickbay.
With one more question on your mind you turn to Don Paolo.

“The station inhabitants are getting better, then, father?”

“Oh yes. At first all we could do was to try and calm them down, to little effect, but for a while now they seem to be much calmer, including the ones that Viktor didn’t medicate. It’s too early yet for more elaborate assessment, but I’m optimistic in that full recovery seems likely.”

“That’s good to hear. Thank you.” You say with a small smile. “Alright then. I believe I better get back to work. Thank you all for being here.”

You get a few smiles and nods in response before severing the connection.

“All right.” You turn to Lea. “Let’s go wake up the sleeping beauty.”

You bring up the ship layout on the terminal and after confirming shortest route to the sickbay you head out, barely noticing a murmur “...seemed kinda plain to me.” behind you.

After a short trip through the cruiser’s corridors you make your way back to the sickbay and find it in the same state as you left it. The boy was still there, too, asleep against his mother’s pod. Your entry causes him to stir, however.

“Oh. Hello.” He says, rubbing his eyes.

“Hi.” You reply and move to a terminal. It flares to life as you approach, rows of self-diagnostic information scrolling past as power begins to flow through the previously dormant systems.

“Yes.” You nod with a grin. Then it occurs to you that between you and Lea you have only minimal expertise in the field in case something went wrong and your grin falters.

“Eve, how does it look?” You ask into your comlink.

“All systems green. Pod’s diagnostic return no errors save for low power, which is now being remedied. We’re good to run the awakening sequence. Or we can extend the sleep safely, if you’d like.”

You consider this but shake your head after a second.

“No. We already promised the boy we’d wake his mom, and I’ve got some questions she should be able to answer.” You look at the pod, and the boy standing next to it and looking back at you. Turning back to the terminal you say: “Eve, make it happen.”


More terminals and control lights come to life throughout the sickbay, causing the child to look around in wonder.

“The cold lady is doing all this?”

“Cold lady?” Lea asks.

“Yeah. The other lady stranger. She feels cold, but kinda warm cold.”

Your stare at the child. There was really only one person he could be talking of and the notion was... unexpected.

“He must be talking about Eve.” Lea noted. “But...”

“Yeah. Another mystery. But yes. You’re right,” you turn to the boy. “that’s her. She’s the one that’s waking your mum up.”
The child smiles and looks up to a surveillance camera.

“Thank you!”

You resist the urge to say that thanking at this point might be premature and quietly wonder if you shouldn’t have requested doctor’s assistance for this.

There is some buzzing and hissing to be heard from the pod. Then a period of silence that almost has you asking what is happening until eventually a soft beep announces that procedure is complete and the lid of the pod opens, exposing the woman inside to cruiser’s internal atmosphere.

The boy is at her side so fast you can’t recall to having seen his movement. Admittedly your attention was not at him at the time.

Athena’s chest heaves as she draws in a deep breath and her eyes flutter open, revealing irises of the same piercing blue as the boy’s.


The boy clambered into the pod and into his mother’s embrace.

“Manny...” Athena says in a soft, weak voice. “My boy...”

For a time they are content to stay like that, mother lying in the open pod with her son in her embrace. You think you can see sparkle of water welling up in corners of her eyes. In either case neither you nor Lea feel like interrupting the moment.

“Wait. Why aren’t you asleep?”

“I woke up.” The boy answers. “Very long ago. It was boring and scary and sad. And then they took you away. That was extra super scary. But you’re back now! And I’m never letting you go, ever!” Manny reaches out, wanting to return to the embrace.

“That’s...” the woman says as she pulls the child back in, though her vision is more focused now, and at last she notices and acknowledges your presence.

“Who are you? You’re not the alliance.” Her eyes dart to Lea. “Scavengers?”

“I’m Henri Ford, I work for Citadel Institute of Xenoarchaeology.” You opt for the most respectable title you can offer. “Your ship-“

“Wait!” Woman’s expression wraps into mask of fear as she remembers something. “The Orb! The Orb is dangerous!” The woman shouts.

“It’s destroyed.” You assure her. For a moment she stays silent, breathing wildly as panic subsides. “Unless there was more than one.” You add.

“No... no, there was only one. Thank God. It really is over. We’re safe...”

It occurs to you that the woman and rest of the crew are in for a nasty shock when they do catch up with the news.

>take the woman and the child to the galley and talk more over some stale rations.
>leave the woman alone for now and go check out rest of the crew
>call someone over something (specify)
>other plan
With these I retire for the night.

>take the woman and the child to the galley and talk more over some stale rations.

Two things to add.

>“...seemed kinda plain to me.”
Oh Lea

>“I woke up.” The boy answers. “Very long ago. It was boring and scary and sad. And then they took you away. That was extra super scary. But you’re back now! And I’m never letting you go, ever!”

How didn't the kid grow up? Can we check for how long the mother was asleep? Is it possible that the kid is just a psychic projection, a very good one that you can even touch, and that his real body is still in one of the pods while his mind wanders? Would explain how he is incorporeal or can move in a blink of an eye sometimes
>take the woman and the child to the galley and talk more over some stale rations.
He's totally psychically projecting.
For a moment you and Lea stay back, letting the mother and the child enjoy their reunion. There is something magical about this moment, the kind many have been doubtlessly deprived of by the Reapers, although you do find yourself wondering how much of the happiness you feel from the sight comes from your own empathy and how much from the boy’s psionic powers.

This line of thought in turn leads you to consider more possibilities that haven’t occurred to you before, like that of the boy being some sort of psychological construct, or alternatively his mother being that. The illusion would have to be extremely convincing to be able to mimic mass and touch, but considering what you’ve already seen today, it was not that much of a stretch to imagine even more esoteric phenomena could have been at work. But then again, at what point does an illusion turn into an existence in its own right? If an image behaves in all ways exactly as its origin would, where does then lie the distinction?

Before you can make full circle and begin to question the truth of your own existence, Athena clambers out of her pod, a non trivial task with the child hugging her tightly. Still, she makes it out, looks around the sickbay and ultimately turns to face you.

“I’m sorry. I guess you are ones that woke me up and reunited me with my son? And did you really... no, of course you had to. I can feel the darkness gone...”

You wait for the woman to collect her thoughts.

“Sorry, I’m rambling... im Athena Smiles. I worked on Palos’s computer systems. Who may you be? What happened?”

“I’m Henri Ford, and this is Lea’Fari nar Namek. We’re here on a rescue mission, and as for what happened...” You say. “We were hoping you’d help us shed more light on that.”

“Oh.” The woman sags at the notion. “I guess I’ll have a lot of explaining to do.”

You nod. “Let’s head to the galley and talk more over some food. I’m not sure how long were you out of it, but you must be famished.”

This makes her smile. “Yes, you’re right. Thank you.”
You move over to the mess hall and with Eve’s help get the dispensers to cough up something edible for you. Your synthetic friend even gets the processors to produce something Lea could ingest through a straw. And so the four of you sit at the table and trade tales.

“I’ve been hired by Sirta to ferry a team of volunteers to an outpost that abruptly shut off contact with outside world.”

“Oh, God. We really brought it to civilization. I... I Guess I knew it would have to happen. I considered I could... but I couldn’t have... Not with Manny on board...”

The woman breaks down into tears. Maybe you didn’t make the right call with your storytelling?

“There’s no need for distress. The psychologist we brought with us believes the station inhabitants will all make full recovery, and I have no reason to think Palos’s crew would not.”

Athena stops sobbing and looks up.

“The crew... the crew is alive?” Her voice skips.

“Their life signs are weak, but stable throughout the ship.” Eve announces over the intercom.

“The cool lady! Thank youuu!” Manny cries.

“You are most welcome.” The infiltrator says.

“...Eve Ferrum, she’s one of my crew and watches over us from CIC.” You explain to Athena.

“I... see. And thank goodness. I... assumed the darkness would drive them to death, or they would be killed when the ship was being reclaimed. Thank you. Thank you for saving them.”

“There was no need to harm them. And I strongly suspect you can guess why.”

“I? But... no, wait, you’re right. I suppose you already have an idea of what happened to Palos. But I interrupted you, please, continue.”
“Right. Of course. Well, upon landing at the outpost,” you decide to omit the crash part for now. “we discovered that the station personnel were in some sort of trance, and after some investigation managed to find its source. I’m guessing you already know what that was. It was not a pleasant feeling.”

Athena nods.

“We destroyed the artifact and the hold it had over the settlers was broken. However, that was not the end of it.”

Athena frowns.

“The affected people began to weep and cry for their mothers, which together with persistent recollections me, Lea and” you catch yourself just short of saying ‘even’ “Eve experienced gave us idea that the artifact was not the sole origin of psychic pressure in the area.”

Athena pales.

“It is my hypothesis that it was your son, feeling great distress at having been separated from you while you were asleep - by the mind controlled crew - who unconsciously exerted his own power to rival that of the artifact. And it was a good thing, too. It was thanks to this opposing force that we were able to weather the artifact’s power and ultimately find your sleep pod and reunite you with your son.” You conclude and let your tale sink in.

Athena smiles.

Then she breaks down in tears again, holding Manny against her. At least this time you suspect they are tears of joy.

“I can’t believe it. I was completely lost in despair. I knew if the artifacts power and believed I should...” once again she stops short of admitting something. “...but I could not, not with my child on board. And now... I feel like I don’t deserve this.”
“All’s well that ends well, right?” You smile in what you hope is encouraging manner.

You wait for Athena to calm down and allow her to absorb it all before continuing with topic you know you’ll have to breach:

“Although, well, I suppose you realize what your son’s powers could mean if or when they become known to authorities.”

The woman sighs heavily as she collects her thoughts.

“You’re right. His power, and his existence in the first place. I suppose it us too early for me to talk about deserving anything. But at least no other was harmed.”

“I’d go so far as to say that thanks to your son here everyone was saved.” Lea points out.

“He did, didn’t he? My little treasure.” Athena ruffles boy’s hair, prompting a mildly annoyed groan. “Anyway, I suppose it’s my run to give you my account of the events.”

You lean in, motioning her to go on.

“I suppose the most relevant point to begin would be when I learned I was with child. We were already en route, so there was no turning back. And I was not willing to lose my child. Irresponsible, maybe, illegal for sure, but I just couldn’t. Captain relented and ship’s Doctor supported me throughout. So I travelled with new life growing in me.

I was maybe four months in when we arrived to the remote cluster, ready to begin our real mission of mapping new worlds for the Alliance. However, this mission was over almost before it even began. On our first survey we came across some ancient ruins, and within an ancient temple we - well, our away team - found the artifact. In hindsight it must’ve immediately taken hold of our people, commanding them to bring it aboard.
Of next weeks I have no memories. I was under control of the dark sphere as well. For some reason, though, at one point my mind began to return. Now I realize it must have been thanks to Manny. Somehow he must have reacted to the darkness’s intrusion... and shielded me from it. I regained my senses and realized what was happening. The crew was working like automata and paid me no attention, although I was also too fearful to get in their way. So I worked alongside them, doing my best to not look out of place.

I gave birth. It was... I’m lucky to be alive, and that’s as much as I’m going to say. The doctor helped me. Whether the dark force just wanted to keep its minions alive, or it was because of Manny’s powers even then, or because of his still present humanity, I cannot tell. Still, I survived and so did my son, whom I named Emanuel.

It was a bizarre life, hanging between the joy of my child and despair inducing circumstances of the mind controlled Palos. But somehow we managed. We fell into a surreal routine as the ship carried out the darkness’s bidding, suspended a over the first planet it investigated, its crew keeping it operational while collecting and cataloguing seemingly random data.

And at one point I noticed that crew was beginning to disappear. My horror as quickly gave way to relief when I learned they were returning to sleep pods, as it cane back when I realized what it could mean for me and Manny. The ship was set to return to the Relay network, carrying the damnable sphere with it. I considered... considered...” she sobs before resuming the story. “But you know already, I just couldn’t. So instead I put Manny into my sleep pod and did my best to place myself into the spare one in the sickbay. And... that’s it. I didn’t know where or when or if I would wake up. I just hoped I’d be able to see Manny again, and if not at least rest with knowledge he’d be safe.”

The woman looks you straight in the eye, her azure orbs boring into you.

“I cannot begin to thank you for doing what you apparently did, mr. Ford, but I still want to ask you one thing - whatever should happen to me, I just want my son to be safe.”

“I understand.” You say. “In fact, I’ve given the matter some thought as well...”

>Ask her more questions, first (specify)
>Offer vanishment - Eve can fix the records to make it look like she was lost during the mission. Carries risk of discovery later on, with political consequences. Exposes her and the child to hazards with no agency to provide support and security.
>suggest going to the Alliance. Grissom academy may be unreachable, but some students along with an instructor did participate in battle for Earth... can carry political consequences
>offer facilitating contact with a friendly Spectre. You are reasonably sure Libella is in good position to provide protection for the mother and her child. Can carry political consequences.
>suggest Something else, probably also carrying political consequences.
With these I head off to rest.

Note that the choice reflects suggestions and reasoning (You) will present to Athena. Rather than making her choose (you) are only presenting her options. Although if you later decide to go against her wishes, can do that too.

>Ask her more questions, first (specify)

What would be the most important to you? I can offer safety, but that comes with the price of an agency or organizations that may want to use your son's capabilities.

Qm question: I'm not familiar with Sirta from the games but are they really philanthropists? Would asking Sirta to care for them be too much of an insane Idea?

Also, so the mund effect of the kid started before he was born? Damn.
>>suggest going to the Alliance. Grissom academy may be unreachable, but some students along with an instructor did participate in battle for Earth... can carry political consequences
Any group could want to train him, try and make more people like him, or find some way to dampen the effects of his power. I don't think this is necessarily a BAD thing, but it won't be a normal childhood... not that having mind powers would lend to that in the first place.
If I had to pick one of the options, I would want him with the Alliance. Humans know best how to treat humans, so it should be the best, most healthy option for him.
>suggest going to the Alliance. Grissom academy may be unreachable, but some students along with an instructor did participate in battle for Earth... can carry political consequences
I would like to add that maybe pitting him under

>offer facilitating contact with a friendly Spectre. You are reasonably sure Libella is in good position to provide protection for the mother and her child. Can carry political consequences.

Could mean safety and maybe that they wouldn't be used, depending on how good can Libela hide them

Maybe just presenting the option since she doesn't know it exist
“...in the end, however, I believe the Alliance to be your best recourse. For the both of you.”

“You realize that they are going to court-martial me.”

“The threat may be used to leverage you, but I think you will be way too valuable to be punished too severely, Miss Smiles. Furthermore, Alliance has a respectable institution to uniquely gifted youth - the Grissom Academy. The station itself may be unreachable, but I understand their students, along with their instructor, have distinguished themselves during Battle for Earth.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Unreachable? Battle for Earth?” Athena frowns. Damn, you may have let that slip a bit too early. Still, there was no way around it.

“A lot has happened while you were gone. You... may want to collect yourself before delving into galactic news.”

“Mr. Ford, my son has powers that defy known physics and we’re talking in mess hall of what only recently amounted to a ship flown by brainwashed zombies. I don’t think you can say anything that would give me a pause.” Oh, boy. “What happened? Market crash? Insurgency? Turian rebellion?”

You sigh and ponder for a moment how to put it.

“Well,” eventually, you settle for a cold turkey. “The short of it is that a fleet of ancient borderline invincible AI warships returned to the galaxy and very nearly succeeded in wiping out all sapient life around the Relay network, as they were doing every couple of thousands of years, and we only survived because admiral Hackett arranged some sort of similarly ancient superweapon to be constructed with help of the first human Spectre.”

There’s a moment of silence as Athena just stares at you.

“Mommy, what’s an ee-eye?”

“Okay, I take that back. You’re not making fun of me, are you?”

You shake your head. “There is too much pain and mourning around to make this a funny topic, despite the miraculous asspull that saved all our lives.”

“Clearly you don’t spend enough time on the extranet.” Lea says. “Do you know why Reapers never modified the Volus? They were afraid of insider trading and corruption. Or do you know why they never turned Quarians? Because they were afraid we’d break down their ships for scrap and sell it on black market.”

You give her a look and keep your lips from twitching. She just returns the gaze innocently. You sigh and turn back to Athena, who just stares into distance. Noting your focus, she shakes her head. “I think I’m going to need a drink after this.”
“Well I’m not sure how much that will help, but we’ll certainly give you space to think things over. First though, I just wanted to let you know that if you so choose, I’m willing to help you disappear into obscurity, if you decide you’d rather not throw your lot in with Alliance authorities. However, I’d warn against it as you’d be depriving yourself and your son of protection Alliance can offer.”

“I understand. And I appreciate it.”

“Besides that, there is a person I trust, am Asari Spectre of some integrity. If you decide to go to Council, or just ask her personally for protection, I can arrange a contact and believe she’d be willing to at least hear you out and be discreet about it.”

“That’s... remarkable. Thank you, I’ll consider that. Although I’m not sure, personally, if I could bring myself to rely on council’s pure intentions, certainly not compared to those of the Alliance. In any case, you e given me a lot to think about.”

“Yes. But there was no other way - your window of opportunity to make a choice will not be open for long. And I suppose you’re the last person to which I’d need to emphasize importance of this choice for Manny’s future.”

With that you decide to make good on your promise and withdraw, giving the mother some privacy to work through her now no doubt agitated mind.

“So, what’s next? Are we calling the Alliance now?” Lea asks as you leave the alley. “Will Take them a while to arrive.”

>yes, call the Alliance. Should be enough time to hide away Athena, although things might get interesting if she decided for that option.
>no, call Kris instead and get the doctor and the priest to come over and take care of the crew.
>no, check on the crew yourself
>head to CIC, check on the cruiser’s status from there
>other plan
With these I recede.
>>yes, call the Alliance. Should be enough time to hide away Athena, although things might get interesting if she decided for that option.
>no, call Kris instead and get the doctor and the priest to come over and take care of the crew.

tell her to head to the CIC to think about her options since others will be coming over
Let's also make sure her son is physically awake first, she might be hugging a psychic projection.
“Yes.” You decide after some consideration. “There’s no reason to deny the crew their assistance.”

Stepping forward you approach the table Athena was sitting at once more.

“We’re going to inform the Alliance about the cruiser. Assuming they will not drag their feet in sending someone over, you should have at least three hours to decide on your course of action.”

The woman looks up at you. Her countenance is marked by recent tears, but her look is steady now.

“That won’t be necessary. You’re right, I owe it to my child to ensure his safety, even if it means having to face the music. And if the world really was on the brink just recently... this must sound horrible, but perhaps this will give us some hope for new beginnings.”

“I understand.” You nod. You do, although you suspect she will think differently when seeing the devastation with her own eyes. An evil man once said that death of a million was a statistic. Cynical, but it gave away well how difficult it can be to encompass magnitude of a disaster with just figures.

You turn to leave, motioning for Lea to come with.

“We’ll be in CIC should you wish to seek us out.” You say as you go. Cruiser’s control nexus would definitely have comm stations usable to access ship’s comm systems, bypassing need to relay your message through Kris and then the outpost or your ship. Besides, using cruiser’s transponder code would be sending a message of its own.

Athena just nods as she watches you leave.
“Where are you going?” Lea asks as you head towards the crew sleep pods instead of going straight to the CIC.

“Just wanted to check something out...” you say, consulting your omnitool for guidance. “There.”

You come to a halt before a sleep pod.

“It’s Athena’s.” Lea notes, looking at the labels.

“And it’s... alright, it’s really empty.” You nod. “Hmm.”

“What did you expect?”

“Just a hunch. The kid looked like he moved at unnatural speeds sometimes, so it occurred to me - what if he is a psychic projection in his own right? Of himself, or maybe his mother.”

“Psychic projections don’t eat, Cap.”

“How many psychic projections have you seen to be able to make that assertion?” You retort. “If it’s capable of interacting with solid matter by touch, why not by other means as well?”

“Huh. I guess that’s too much of an open mind for me.”

“Well, I suppose the issue is moot now.” You say and step away from the pod.

“The child may have some innate biotic ability.” Eve says over the comm as you walk towards the CIC. “Fetus’s Exposition to ambient dark energy fields on a starship in transit can have this effect. It could be employed by him in intense situations.”

“Could be... it could also be a factor in this... psychic ability. Dark energy is still relatively poorly understood, perhaps it also serves as a vector for this sort of effect?” You muse.

“Insufficient data for meaningful answer.” Eve says.

“Well, perhaps the scientists will come up with something.” Lea shrugs. “Although... mind control is not exactly a technology I’d like to find in anyone’s hands.”

On this bright note you arrive to the CIC and as Eve undies the lockdown, you have chance to ruminate on who to actually call, after you give your updates to the volunteers, that is.

>public broadcast announcing that the station is once again secure.
>colonel Graves seemed like the kind to know who to... talk to.
>try to contact The Man himself, admiral Hackett.
>just call nearest alliance vessel a d ask them who to talk to.
>maybe Libella knows someone? Although she did recently sedm you an encrypted message, suggesting her comm is tapped.
>call the foundation hq
I retire once more.
>>colonel Graves seemed like the kind to know who to... talk to.

can we ask the mother the location of the star system where they found the orb? I'd like to see those ruins for academic interest, if we ever have the chance

>colonel Graves seemed like the kind to know who to... talk to.

That guy talks funny
>colonel Graves seemed like the kind to know who to... talk to.

>colonel Graves seemed like the kind to know who to... talk to.
As the blast door to the bridge recedes out of the way, you make up your mind. Of the People you’ve recently dealt with, one stood out as someone who would know proper channels and have direct access to people whom would be most interested in what you have found. And whom you have found.

But first things first.

“Hello Eve, nice going.” You say to the synthetic lady sitting in the captain’s chair.

“Happy to help, Ford.” She nods.

You make your way to the central holoprojector and access the communication systems Eve readily authorizes you for. Before placing a long distance call, though, you make a local one.

“Miss Schumacher, do you read me?”

“I do, although I do not recognize the calling node. You managed to bring the crashed vessel on-line?”

“More or less, yes. I’m calling because her crew needs to be checked by a medic and by the psychologist as well.”

“The crew are alive? But... we have our hands rather full as it is. I’ll try to send Victor and Paolo over at least for a checkup.”

“That would be most appreciated. Thank you.”

With that you hang up and switch to the long distance comm. You double check your omnitool, then dial in address of colonel Graves.

You don’t have to wait long for connection to be made, you do however have to wait for a few minutes before it finishes verifications.

“I am... listening.” A voice says eventually.

“Hello. I have-“

“That will do... for now. Standby.”

You shut up and wait.

“Ford, there’s a signal piggybacking on that transmission. It’s handshake of one of my sisters.” Eve tells you over your private comlink.

“Family reunions can be such a beautiful ...occasions, can they not?” Graves speaks again.

“I think he wants you to take it.” You note. “Do be careful though.”

“Certainly. Initiating contact... alright. It seems at least one of my sisters is awake and working for the Alliance. Receiving security update over our encrypted channel. Implementing... done. The cruiser’s systems now have modernized encryption.”
“Good, we can speak ...freely, now. Doctor Ford, it seems you’ve been keeping... busy.” Graves is Heard once more.

“You could say that, colonel.”

“Then speak. What did you find on your mission of ...mercy, and how are you calling from a long ...lost cruiser?”

“Well, you’re aware already of the relief mission... as it turns out, this ship carried with it the reason why the mission was needed in the first place.”

“Did you learn how did the vessel... find itself in Sol?”

“I did not.” You admit. “It seems it must have moved in its own power, either during the battle for Earth, or shortly before that. We only know that the ship picked up, during course of its mission, a mind controlling artifact.”

“Come again?”

“A spherical artifact of organic appearance, capable of suborning minds of people in its vicinity.”


There is couple of seconds of silence.

“Ford, my sister is requesting that I share our findings in this place.” Eve informs you in private.

“Doctor Ford, it is ...imperative that you and ...whoever you brought with stay put. This situation needs to be ...contained.

The way he paused before speaking “containment” sent a chill down your spine.

“Not that kind of ...containment. In case you are wondering.” Graves said as if reading your mind. “The cruiser is much too valuable at this point. And so are lives of its crew and yours.” Graves says.

“Ford? Awaiting you input.” Eve says.
“Go ahead and send her everything, there’s not much point in hiding anything while Athena already expressed her will in allowing Alliance to take her and Emanuel under their wings.” You tell Eve and turn back to Graves’s image.

“There’s one more thing you should know. One of the crew gave birth during the mission, and the child is exhibiting some.... remarkable powers. I’d like to request protection for her and her family.”



“I hear you, Doctor Ford. Rest assured that the.. measures will be taken. We will talk again ... soon.”

With that the Colonel severs the link, you allow yourself a small sigh as you wonder, whether what was to come would be more difficult and dangerous than the investigation itself. For

>talk to someone about something?
>check on the cruiser’s crew
>read newscasts
>check on the cruiser’s crew
>check on the cruiser’s crew
>check on the cruiser’s crew
And so ends the first communication the silent outpost had with civilization for days, even more so for the cruiser, even though you could not discount the possibility that mind controlled crewmen made some attempts to make use of the extranet once they got in range of a buoy.

In any event, the cat was out if the bag. As strapped for capacities as Alliance might have been, you did not doubt something at least cruiser sized would be on its way to Enceladus in this instant, or maybe within minutes, depending what exactly Graves’s position and standing were.

It would take them some time to arrive, depending on measure of urgency Graves was able to convey, and you didn’t intend to spend that sitting on your thumbs. It was long enough that you passed by the incapacitated Alliance mariners in your rush to solve the mystery before you join them in their condition.

“Eve, where are the crew members?” You ask the synthetic lady.

“I can pick up twenty life signs, most of them in the crew area, there of them in the engineering. Remainder of the crew complement is securely asleep.”

“Right, we’ve seen one of the guys in engineering...”

“Chief engineer Gupta. Two maintenance engineers are in the engineering section recreation room.”

“Can you tell their status?”

“Between surveillance feeds and other internal sensors I can deduce that all of them are unconscious.”

“We’ve seen them active just a while ago. Sitting, mumbling, drawing...” Lea says.

“And we don’t know how long they’ve been that way. They must be exhausted.” You note. “Let’s check them out and move them to sickbay if possible, before the doctor arrives.”

Eve raises herself from the captain’s chair.

“I’ll help. My strength and medical database may be useful.”

“Very well.” You nod. “Lead the way, let’s start with the closest one.”
First of the crewmen was indeed quite close by. First crew cabin from the CIC belonged to the captain. A tall, powerfully built brunette was curled up in the corner. Eve approached her and scanned her with her omnitool.

“Captain Tara Said. Condition stable, in line with previous estimate.”

“So how is this state different from those in the sleep pods?” Lea asks.

“Well, not monitored by instruments, I reckon.” You say.

“Elevated stress levels, lack of dreams, higher metabolic rate, risk of damage from improper positioning.” Eve adds.

“Will she recover?”

“She should, given time and proper care, including nutrition.”

“Well, she’s not getting any here. Let’s move her to sickbay.”

With one more scan confirming the movement doesn’t endanger the officer you pick the woman up and with Eve’s help carry her to the sickbay.

You are met with sight of Athena crouching next to one of the sickbay’s beds. She was holding a hand if the man lying on it.

She jumps up seeing you enter.

“Oh, mister Ford. Didn’t you say you were going to the CI- oh dear, is that the Captain?”

“Indeed she is.” You say. “And we were, Did call the Alliance. They’ll be arriving in a few hours, I expect. Though we could check on the crew members in the meantime.”

“I see. That is... good. I’m sorry, I must look selfish for not realizing it sooner.”

“I understand, its think.” You say. “Is that the boy’s father?”

She falls silent for a while, looking downcast. “I suppose there’s no point in hiding it. Yes, Nikola Turm, the ship’s doctor. I... her voice skips and she’s on the verge of crying again. “Sorry. It’s just... I didn’t expect to be able to see him again, and if so, it would be without that spark in his eyes that... ah, please, forgive me. I am rambling.”

“It’s fine. I’m happy for you. However, be advised that the sickbay may see more traffic shortly. A Doctor is coming to-“

“Actually...” Eve begins but is quickly silenced.

“The Doctor is In!” The announcement reverberates through the sickbay, startling Athena and waking up Emanuel. Source of the sound is not difficult to spot - the huge medic followed by the usually composed don Paolo.
After a round of greetings the doctor approaches his knocked out colleague.

“Hmmm... Interesting.” He say. “But fortunately not fatal. He’ll be right as rain in a few days, you’ll see!”

Athena Smiles at that. “Thank goodness. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

“Extrapolating yields a simple most likely case - life as a slave to the artifact, at least until someone came to the rescue.” Eve informs her.

“...thank you.”

“Oh, the cool lady!” Emanuel notices Eve’s presence and hurls himself towards the gynoid, who stands there at first, then reciprocate the gesture,

“Good Lord, is That a Child?” The priest exclaims.

“Indeed. His name is Emanuel and, well. I guess his mother is here to explain more. In the meantime, we wanted to collect rest of the crew in here so they’re closer to the facilities.”

“Oh, yes, of course. Don’t let me stop you, Captain.” The cleric nods.

And with that you, Lea and eventually Eve get busy collecting the passed out crewmembers. The activity, useful as it is, is not very intellectually challenging, allowing you opportunity to think of what you’d do next...

>talk to someone about something
>read/listen to/ watch newscasts
>power nap until authorities arrive (timeskip)

>talk to someone about something

Just talk to the girls while we work, maybe see if there is any bar on the cruiser, se could use a drink after almost being mindslaved.

take a look at that piece we took from the orb too
I don't remember what the other downed ships were, but is there anything salvageable that we could strap to our ship?
another thing, I would like to grab the starmaps with the location of those ruins, we may never be able to go there but it's an important piece of information
It doesn't take long to complete your task, especially when doctor Malchenko, father Leonforte and Athena spread out to help. Eventually you gather the mariners that are not tucked away in sleep pods under the care of the two specialists in sickbay. You reckon you still have at least two hours before Graves's "containment" unit arrives and you contemplate what to do with them... ultimately you decide to head to the engineering rec room, accompanied by Eve and Lea - Athena was quite content to stay at her partner's side, and her son stuck with her.

Upon arriving to the recreation room - you didn't need to look for it as you've just done recovered two engineers from it - you begin to snoop around for that which is not immediately apparent.

"What are you looking for, cap?" Lea asks.

"Jet fuel dispenser, Lea. As disciplined as Alliance men tend to be, if there is a place where the men would allow themselves this forbidden pleasure, it would be here." You say, looking through your omnitool's readouts.

"If I understand you intention well, Ford, I'm seeing what you might be looking for in an undocumented compartment behind this console." Eve says.

"Ah! Thank you, Eve." You say, approaching the indicated location. There is no visible mechanism allowing smooth movement of the console and so you decide to try and access the terminal on it instead. Among choices offered, pertaining mostly to light setup and ambient music, one entry catches your eye: "Uplifting Primer". You hit it and a window pops up on the holographic interface featuring image of three columns with three cylinders of descending radius placed on the leftmost one.

With a small grin you solve the old classic. Really, now?

However, that was not the end of it. Another screen comes up, this time with three pitchers, each of different size, a specific volume highlighted on one of them.

This one took slightly longer to deal with, but you manage to separate the target volume without much effort.

Finally, third challenge pops up before you. This time, it's a riddle: "I have no lid nor seam in my side, yet there is golden treasure inside." You grin again as you type the answer. As soon you do, upon terminal these words appear:

Well done, nerd. Now beat it. This is real man's domain.
You chuckle at that with only a hint of annoyance and try a different approach. Returning to the root menu you pick the suspicious option again but this time don't bother with the puzzles again. It works - as you swipe one riddle away, the other appears, and when you swipe the third one the servos behind the console finally come to life and move the terminal out of the way, revealing a still stuffed into the wall of the room.

"This has to be violating some safety measures." You mumble.

"Actually, by my estimation it does not. The bulkhead is reinforced here and fire suppression of this sector has elevated redundancy." Eve says.

"You mean this facility is part of the ship's design?" Lea asks.

"Either that or its emergence was anticipated and actions were taken to mitigate the risks."

"Impressive." Lea says.

You set aside swelling pride of human engineering and ponder the still. It strikes you only now that you're going to be the only one drinking, unless Lea feels particularly adventurous and Eve decides to go along just for the sake of appearance. With a sigh you let the console slide back into place.

"I thought you wanted a drink?" Lea asks.

"It wouldn't feel right to be the only one drinking." You shake your head. "But, I think I could use a rest after all this." You indicate the couches in the corner of the rec room and the three of you sit down. You reach into your pocket and take out a fragment of the mind control sphere you picked up earlier and begin to idly collect data with your omnitool's scanners.

"How do you ladies feel about this job?" You ask as rows of data pop up and are collected into the tool's memory.

"Honestly, I'm torn between scared and really warm and fuzzy inside." Lea says. "I mean, I thought that indoctrination is dead with the Reapers, but now... now it seems that this is not the case. Was that reaper tech? Are there Reapers unaffected by the coalition superweapon?"

"I think I can answer that one. This sliver doesn't match with any piece of Reaper tech we encountered during the war." You say. "But I get you. It's troubling. Was this last artifact of the ruins Palos's crew found it in? Or are we going to be finding more of them? Why didn't we find any earlier? Or we did and... just don't know about it?" Your response turns into thinking aloud.

"Yeah. Are we going to be jumping at shadows now? Double checking every stray thought, wondering if it's really our own?"

You offer no reply.
"I could establish a monitoring process observing behaviour deviations and pointing out anomalies." Eve says.

"Aren't you doing this by default?" Lea asks.

"I run continuous analysis, yes, but it's not a focus. I realize that there's a number of circumstances impacting one's behaviour so I am careful with my judgement."

"If you're asking whether you should point out to us if you feel we're behaving weirdly, then by all means go ahead, Eve." You say. "Still, let's hope this incident is an isolated one, originating in a faraway cluster. I've certainly never encountered or heard of anything like this before so have no reason to believe it's more widespread. Maybe we'll have opportunity to investigate more of it later, but I guess we'd be taking precautions."

"What sort of precautions, though? Taking the boy with us?" Lea asks. "That's the point, how do you defend from such a force?"

"Well, at least we have a place to start now. I'm sure the Alliance command will spare no effort or expense in trying to compose an answer to this sort of threat." You reassure her - and yourself. "For now, let's focus on the good."

"Yes. This once, everybody lives." Eve says. "It seems everyone was saved - the squatters as well as the Alliance crew. Ford, I'm glad I could have been part of this. Although the experience was indeed... unsettling. I didn't realize I could register this manner of sensation."

You nod slowly, remembering that counterintuitively, even though Eve is entirely synthetic form of life, classification some would contest as an oxymoron, she was affected by the mysterious influence alongside with you and Eve.

Silence descends for the moment.

>talk more about something (specify topic)
>stay quiet, maybe one of the ladies has something to say yet
>go somewhere else
>call someone
The other ships still have their owners around. They were recovered by mind controlled squatters and put to work.

You know approximate location of the world from Palos's mission description. Narrowing it down is not going to be an issue should you choose to do so at some point later, although there are matters to consider when going out of your way to find origins of a mind controlling alien device...

>talk more about something (specify topic) I guess this is what we are doing for now right? Helping out however we can until things start moving on again...

>stay quiet, maybe one of the ladies has something to say yet
Is the fragment protean or something entirely new? A new precursor? The reapers told us they've been doing their thing for some time but to actually find something.

Complain that the only archeological find that was still uncovered on Sol was an alien mind control device and we had to destroy it, not a good time to be a xenoarcheologist.
>>stay quiet, maybe one of the ladies has something to say yet
>talk more about something (specify topic)
Maybe mention that somehow the kid could read her thoughts. Shouldn't that have been impossible?
You are the first to break it again.

"Yes... spooky alien artifacts notwithstanding, I'm glad to be able to share this with the two of you." You look at both of the girls. "It's not exactly what either of you signed up for by joining crew of a travelling archaeologist, I realize..." You pause for a while as your gaze wanders to the shard in your hand and you chuckle to yourself. "Heh, kind of ironic, first mysterious alien artifact we actually find and first thing I do is crush asunder."

"Good riddance." Lea says. "Don't sweat it though, cap. I'm with Eve - happy to be part of it. I don't know what crazy place you'll take us next, but I've got your back."

"So do I." Eve nods. "I see now that any fears I may have harbored of my purpose being lost, or replaced with something sinister, with the defeat of Reapers, was misplaced. Your seemingly arbitrary choice of assignment has felt remarkably fulfilling upon completion."

"Ladies..." You say, trying to not blush or tear up at this sudden vote of confidence. A smile you can't stop from forming, though, and you decide to enjoy it while it lasts.

Which is not for long.

"So... cap, this whole mother business made me wonder... what about yours? You didn't talk about her, until, you know."

"Well, you don't usually go talking about your mother out of the blue either." You say, maybe a touch more abrasively than you intended. With a sigh you rein the emotion in. "Sorry. I just..." You fall silent for a moment.

"Um, sorry. I didn't mean to-"

"No, it's fine. My mother was... was on the Citadel. With father." You say.


"Yeah. Well, there's not much point in contemplating this at this point."

"I guess. Sorry for bringing it up."

The silence takes hold once again, slightly less comfortably than previously.
"Specialist Tichonov was still on duty in the covert facility on Tyr according to most recent information available to me."

You look at Eve with raised eyebrow.

"I am looking for input on wisdom of attempting to contact her when an opportunity presents itself."

You think the matter over, but Lea answers seemingly on reflex.

"Go for it." She says. "I mean, why would you even hesitate? If you feel like it, do it."

"I am concerned that I'd be imposing."

"How could you be imposing on someone you apparently consider your mom?"

"She is not my mother. The association formed in my consciousness for some reason, but I have no means of knowing her feelings on the matter."

"Except asking her. Which could be imposing. Keelah, Eve, you're overthinking it. You said she read you stories, right? I'm no AI expert, but I'm sure that's something above and beyond regular development process."

Eve gives Lea a look, processing her input. Once again it strikes you how genuine the synthetic woman looks. It was easy to forget her body was made out of smart alloys when her soul shone through.

"Thank you, miss Fari." Eve nods. "...Ford?"

>Lea's right. Just follow your heart.
>I think you should contact her. Worst that could happen is that she'll dismiss you, but at least you'll not go on with an unanswered question.
>That's not something I can give you advice on.
>I don't think you should seek to contact her, at worst it would be awkward for both of you, at best it will give both of you someone to be worried or upset about.
I withdraw into the void once more.

>Lea's right. Just follow your heart.

Maybe agreeing here may cloae the gap the two had
>Lea's right. Just follow your heart.
It's important to face ones feelings. Even if most never do until they must.
>Lea's right. Just follow your heart.
>Lea's right. Just follow your heart.
Go for it.
“Lea’s right.” You affirm. “You should follow your heart, and from what you’re saying it seems your heart is urging you to reach out. It may perhaps feel awkward, or you may be finding reasons not to. That is often how it works for people. And in the end you’ll be making the final call with all these pulls laid out before you, with your reason and conscience to guide you, but... yeah, ignoring or suppressing your feelings may only make you worse off in the end, and failure to act in them is a frequent source of regret.”

As you finish you are caught a little off guard by Lea and Eve’s eyes locked on you. Maybe you got a little carried away?

Your mind drifts once more off towards fate of your parents, technically unknown, but you knew better than to cling to unrealistic hopes.

Or did you? Or maybe you ought to have been following your own advice?

“Thank you, Ford. And again, thank you, miss Fari. Your input has been most helpful.”

You allow yourself a small smile at Eve’s softly spoken words. Before you can decide on what, if anything, you should discuss next, she takes the vote again, tone changed to that of urgency.

“Ford, multiple vessels have fallen out of light speed in orbit. Largest of them is identified as SSV Orizaba, accompanying it are SSV Jakarta and SSV Madrid and several frigate class vessels.”

You blink.

“I’m sorry, I must have heard wrong. Flagship of the fifth fleet is above us?”

“That is correct. Along with a formidable escort.”
“Well, they certainly don’t mess around.” You note when that information settles in. That was sizable portion of the Alliance capital ships that remained after the battle for Earth, just maybe two cruisers short of “half of them”. Whoever Graves alerted of the situation must have taken the it seriously.

“They are issuing a broadcast. Enceladus is now under quarantine.”

“Bit late for that.” You say dryly. The threat was-

Right. Emanuel Smiles.

“I guess we better get ready for some interviews.” You shake your head and rise from your seat.

The question was, where would you go?

“What shape the ship is in?” You ask Eve. “Marines are going to be scouring it soon, and you said it’s not entirely stable.”

“I have not yet attempted igniting the drive core, but diagnostics show sufficient functionality to allow for liftoff. First however several cycles of kinetic barriers will be required to clear the ice crust.”

“Wait a moment. Won’t that cause the ship to sink further?” Lea says.

“If the thrusters and drive core malfunction critically, yes.”

“Are they going to?” You ask.

“To the best of my knowledge, no.”

“What alternatives do we have anyway?”

“We can leave the ship on foot and let the Alliance salvage it later as its resources allow.” Eve states.

“And leave the crew in sickbay and sleep pods?” Lea objects. What if they decide to just leave them down here?”

Well, that was an option. If the area was considered under quarantine, it could be tempting to just leave the ship as it is, possibly writing off its crew as well. Although you doubted that’s something Alliance would consider.

>Eve, Fire The engines. We’re taking this baby up where she belongs. (You will naturally inform the Alliance of your intentions, they will not stop you unless you decide to make a break for it.)
>It’s too risky and not necessarily our problem anymore. Let’s have the Alliance pick up who can walk by shuttles now, the rest can wait here in relative safety.
>let’s quickly call Kris and talk about our plans for the Chariot and/or request Jessica or Kareeda’s aid
>other plan
>>let’s quickly call Kris and talk about our plans for the Chariot and/or request Jessica or Kareeda’s aid

bring them all in and put that engineer to help Eve to make the ship work
>Eve, Fire The engines. We’re taking this baby up where she belongs. (You will naturally inform the Alliance of your intentions, they will not stop you unless you decide to make a break for it.)

Just to make sure they won't leave them sleeping
>>It’s too risky and not necessarily our problem anymore. Let’s have the Alliance pick up who can walk by shuttles now, the rest can wait here in relative safety.
>Eve, Fire The engines. We’re taking this baby up where she belongs. (You will naturally inform the Alliance of your intentions, they will not stop you unless you decide to make a break for it.)
The time was short, you knew. If you wanted to act, it would have to be now.

“Kris.” You call your friend over the comlink.

“Hrm? You-“ the Krogan answers but you follow up immediately.

“I need you to come aboard the cruiser, and take miss Kareeda with you. I intend to take off and want you two here to make sure nothing goes sideways. Don’t drag your feet.”

“Got it. Will be there in five.”

“Thank you.”

Flicking off the comm you look over your present crew.

“Eve, can you control the ship from here?”

“Which one?”

Okay, this was a question, too. You had your freighter and a skycar out there. So you settle on an answer:

“All of them.”

“To limited extent allowed by bandwidth. It’s quite a lot of feeds to manage, even if I condense them by handing routine analysis to autonomous processes embedded in ship controls, which already reduces finesse if my control...”

“Damn...” you curse.

“However, I could do it quite effectively if I find a high priority terminal, like the one in chief engineers office.”

“Oh, good. Okay, let’s head there. And while we’re going, open channel for me. I wouldn’t want some hothead up there to crash this ride with no survivors.”

“Certainly. Routing comm system...”

Bringing up your omnitool you note the new connection options and pick one of them...

“SSV Orizaba, please come in, this is Henri Ford aboard SSV Palos speaking.”

You wait for a moment.

“Greetings, Doctor Ford. This is Captain Jaeger of SSV Orizaba. Please, stand by. Our men are already being deployed to secure your location.” A pleasant, gentle female voice came back.

“That’s exactly why I’m calling. The cruiser’s resting place is not particularly stable, but the ship itself is in good enough shape to allow for takeoff. We’re making final preparations, then we can accept your men without risk for them or the men aboard.”

There is a brief pause. “Very well, you may proceed. Be prepared to take indicated orbit and inform us if you’re capable of accepting a gangway.”

“Understood.” Is your final acknowledgment as the three of you reach the chief engineer’s office.
Eve settles herself at the desk and pulls out some cords from her hand. You find yourself shuddering a bit at imagining the spectacle if she was dressed more casually and her human features were less obstructed.

“These conduits are not actually meant to be used that way.” She says, noticing your look. “Wireless interfaces are more than adequate for their designed purpose. But to control all three vessels, I’d rather secure additional bandwidth. Don’t worry, the epidermis is self mending.”

An awkward period of waiting for Kris follows, which you decide to pass by following Lea’s lead and double checking diagnostic reports, making that a triple check. Maybe you are being too cautious, you muse as you pass through row after row of mostly non-critical warnings and several green lights. But no, with the lives at stake, some additional checks were no luxury.

Eventually Kris announces his arrival and you direct him and the Asari savant to join you in engineering, to which end Eve helpfully provides them with guidance.

“Eve,” You ask her while you wait for the two to traverse the cruiser, “what’s our status?”

“All systems are prepared for launch.”

“Well, as prepared as they’re going to get without a shipyard.” Lea remarks.

“In any case, I am ready to initiate takeoff on your mark.”

Part of you urges you to say it, but you resist and wait for just a moment longer. In the end it doesn’t take long and Kris and the Asari technician emerge in the machine room below.

“Alright, we’re here!” Kareeda shouts when she notices you. “What needs fixing?”

“Hopefully nothing.” You shout back. “Get ready, though, in case something comes up.”

“I was born ready.” She says, more quietly, presumably to herself. “Naked, too. But mostly ready.”

Meanwhile you turn back to your synthetic friend. “Alright, we’re all in place. Eve, bring her up.”

“Initiating.” Eve says, then shipwide intercom awakens. “Attention, all. Please sit down or hold on, Ship is about to move.”
Shortly after that, there is a lurch and a groan of strained metal. You almost lose your balance, not just because of the force of the shift itself, but also because how uneven it was and difficult to predict. What you did not see was how the air outside of hull began to shimmer with blue discharges as the mass effect fields wrestled with cruiser’s icy prison.

“Igniting thrusters.”

You did hear the ice crack, though.

Then came another lurch, and another. Both weaker than the previous, in contrast with the drop the ship has undergone as the terrains grip slackened, obscured as it was by snow, ice shards and fog and vapor.

“Full thrust achieved.”

You could feel nothing at this point, inertial dampers fully compensating the movement, and part of you regretted not watching the spectacle from the outside. A thought strikes you.

“Eve, can you record this from the skycar’s cameras?”

“Already am.”


And so the SSV Palos breaks the surly bonds of Ice, crests the wall of the freshly made crater and emerges from the billowing cloud of snow and water, powering up, through and between the ice plumes already there feeding the Saturn’s rings as it soars up and out of Enceladus’s atmosphere.

“We are clear. Navigating to orbit.”

“Excellent job, Eve.” You say, squeezing her shoulder. “Well done and thank you, everyone.” You announce louder and into the intercom.

You look down on your omnitool, checking the positional data. Sure enough, soon you’d be aligned with the Alliance vessels.

“I guess wer’re almost done here...” you mumble.
So ends the Episode 8, now committed to Citadel Archives:

Henri Ford And his stalwart crew will return in Episode 9!
thanks for running
cool, thanks for the run.

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