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/qst/ - Quests

There was a time when you would have thought that ending a galaxy wide extinction event would have left the survivors filled with lasting marvel at what a wonderful and fragile thing life is. And you would’ve been right, you could see it in faces and words of many of those you met, and with reasonable amount certainty in all of those you chose to work it.

Even so, it would seem the drive of man to fall back to their old habits, as the clarion call turns from vivid experience to a memory obscured by the mists of time, was not to be underestimated. You got the chance to experience this on your own skin recently, having ventured into bowels of two separate clandestine installations kept alive, as well as seeing fallout of your intervention get twisted by an underhanded political race.

However, it would seem that even with the Reapers gone the galaxy was not wanting for forces that would challenge the fickle spark of mortal life.

You are Henri Ford, special consultant for the Citadel Institute of Xenoarchaeology and captain of MSV Chariot, a modified Kowloon freighter. Currently, you and your crew alongside with several passengers, find yourselves in orbit above Saturn’s icy world of Enceladus. Your mission is to investigate and provide relief for an independent colony founded by Terminus outcasts among ruins of destroyed Alliance installations.

Before you commit to landing, however, you decide to make several passes in low orbit to survey area. The colony has fallen silent days ago and no word of anyone coming from it has reached the Earth.
“Why aren’t we landing already? There could be people down there counting seconds between life and death!” Jessica asks pointedly.

“Because we won’t be any help to them if we get ourselves killed charging in blindly.” You reply, prompting Eve and Kris exchange glances. Undeterred, you continue: “furthermore, If we land at the supposedly compromised outpost straight away we might miss survivors who fled from it and are now stranded in the ice fields.”

This gets Jessica to nod reluctantly and turn her gaze towards viewscreen, watching the features of the icy moon roll back below, dotted occasionally by a ruined, abandoned survey stations or automated extractor.

“Eve, you got anything?”

“Negative. No movement, no energy signatures. Coming into visual range of the settlement in three minutes.”

The time goes by in tension, but without surprises, until a visible indentation appears on the horizon as you approach the khashmere cliff, into which the settlement was supposedly embedded. Chariot passed above, following the geographical feature and collecting readings.

“I have something. Working power source. Resolution... insufficient.”

Eve turns in her seat and looks You in the eye. “Ford. The sensor signal is being scrambled.”

“So, something works there at least.” You say.

“What does that mean?” Jessica asks.

“That whoever is down there values their privacy.” Kris says.

“Maybe the system is automated? They were terminus people, so...”

You hum thoughtfully. “Eve, any active defenses?”

“Nobody shot at us yet.”

“Reassuring.” Kris growls.

“I don’t see any movement on optical sensors, but that only tells us nobody is currently outside or trying to actively signal us.” Eve informs.

Chariot passes over the pirate outpost without event, but unable to get clearer readings without going lower.

You consider your options...

“Hey, what’s that thing over there?” Kris asks, highlighting a metallic glint at the end of a groove in the icy surface, away from the cliff.

“Looks like a starship wreckage. It’s within scrambling range of the outpost so I can’t get detailed readings, but can detect no activity at or around it.” Eve says.

“Reaper casualty? They tend to leave smaller bits, though.” Kris muses.

“If Not Reapers then who brought it down?”Jessica asks.

“Station inhabitants?” You ask dryly. In any case, you needed a plan of approach.

>Go in for landing straight at the outpost. If it was hostile, it would’ve acted by now. Scramblers are probably automatic measure by the pirates.
>Land short distance away and approach the base in skycar. (Select team to disembark)
>Keep the ship in orbit and use the skycar to deploy a team (pick who goes)
>Make another, lower pass over the base, try to glean more details.
>other plan.
I recede for the night.
>Keep the ship in orbit and use the skycar to deploy a team (pick who goes)

Ford, Lea and Eve

Kriss stays with the ship to keep it safe and to land it wherever we might need it.
Giving the scenery that recedes from underneath you a once over you nod quietly to yourself. You were not going to risk your entire ship just yet.

“Eve, Lea, you up for a field trip?” You ask, with intercom active.

“Always.” The Quarian responds over the comm.

“Certainly.” Eve nods.

“We’re taking the skycar, then?” Kris asks.

“No, *we* are taking the skycar. I need you to stay with the ship, keep cargo and passengers safe and be ready to support us when we need it.”

“Hrm. Figures.” The Krogan harrumphs.

“I’ll be sure to call you if there’s skulls that need crushing, my savage friend.”

Kris just shakes his head as you turn to leave the bridge, accompanied by Eve. As you leave, though, he calls after you.

“Henri. Do take care. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Will do.” You nod.

Minutes later you’re in your hardsuit at the Handlebay that right now doubles as an impromptu hangar. Eve is wearing one as well, partly to keep up appearances and partly as an extra layer of protection. Lea was waiting for you at the car, running some checks to ensure all systems are running smoothly. From the pilot seat, you note, and ask her to move over to which she complies with barely perceptible reluctance.

“All systems green, cap.” She says. You nod in acknowledgment and, confirming both the Quarian and the gynoid are prepared, fire the engines. The skycar slides out of it resting place and into the open space, gracing you once more with view of the gas giant above, ice ball below and the celestial rings around and in between.

Chariot shrinks rapidly behind you as you guide the shuttle towards the silent base, the features in the endless white resolving into cliffs, plains and ridges, dotted occasionally by ruined installations or, as you draw nearer to your destination...

“Any readings on that wreckage?” You ask.

“Scrambler field is still active and sensors can’t get good enough lock to cut through the interference. We’ll be entering scrambler’s effective range in four minutes.” Eve responds.

“Could the scrambler affect our flight systems?”

“Negative. Propulsion does not require the affected inputs past what I or any manual pilot can compensate for.”


>Head straight to the landing pad
>come in low, reduce speed and approach carefully
>on second thought let’s land outside of the scrambler range and proceed on foot (lengthy hike)
>other plan
This will have been the sole post for today. Fighting off some malady so posting frequency and quality may suffer.

Safe travels, friends.
>come in low, reduce speed and approach carefully

Get well soon qm, your quest is one I wait for the posts
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>come in low, reduce speed and approach carefully
Let's hope you can give it the colt shoulder before it arctics you off. Just esciknow that it's snow problem as icy it for you to take this at a glacial pace for health reasons. Here's to you not getting toque sick, and having ice days again soon!
>come in low, reduce speed and approach carefully
Here's hoping you get better soon.
Thank you friends, you warm my soul with your wishes.
Something didn’t feel right. Despite Eve’s assurances you pull the car to the side, curving back on a descending trajectory.

“Ford?” The mechanical maiden asks.

“Just being careful.” You explain, bringing the shuttle low and reducing its velocity. Shortly the skycar is back on course towards the silent settlement, on a flatter, slower vector.

And it’s a good thing, too, as before you can shift portion of your focus from your instruments to the scenery, sections of your interface beging to blink red and a warning signal begins to blare.

“Drive core gave out!” You cry.

“Eve! You said...” Lea seconds, looking over diagnostics read outs.

“I have no explanation... I am sorry.” Eve says, her voice labored as she strains to figure out how to reconcile facts with what she thought possible.

Of course, you have hardly time to consider all this as you struggle to keep the shuttle afloat. With mass effect core disabled the vessels entire mass has to rely on the lift from thrusters alone, never designed for this purpose. All you can do is burn them for all they’re worth as you try to brake and nudge the craft to some semblance of a landing position against backdrop of a shout you recognize as your own:

“We’re going down!”
Thanks to your choice of taking the cautious approach the emergency landing actually looks the part rather than turning into a crash one as the shuttle skids across the surface, leaving a quickly refreezing groove of ice behind and you and the two ladies with you shaken up by the bumpy ride.

Eventually, mercifully, the drag brings your skycar to a halt.

There’s a moment of silence as you gather your bearings and quiet your guts.

“Cap?” Lea says with a shaken voice.


“Next time you tell me to move over, I’m flipping you off.”

You laugh, and regret it immediately. You hope those are just bruises. But, to be fair, you recall rougher landings.

“Alright.” You say eventually, steadying yourself again. “Guess we carry on on foot. Everyone’s got their suits sealed?” You ask automatically - and futilely, as both Eve and Lea look at you quizzically. Sighing inwardly you double check your own suit and, satisfied by the outcome, open the crew compartment to Enceladus’s chilling atmosphere.

The three of you clamber out of the car. It looks like it will need a new paint job and some minor external repairs but otherwise damage seems minimal.

Of course, that’s merely superficial judgement. If whatever killed shuttle’s eezo core is non-reversible it might as well be a pile of scrap metal now.

“Ford to Chariot.” You activate the comm as you look up from your disabled vehicle. “Kris, do you hear me?”

You’re not really surprised that you don’t get a reply. Nevertheless you make two more attempts while looking around.

The sky is dominated by Saturn’s globe, the sky peppered by elements of its rings. You wonder if you’d ever be able to see the stars. Maybe on the moon’s other side?
Sky gazing is not why you came, though. Lowering your gaze you see the cliff wall, a solid barrier of ice looming towards either side of horizon. It’s not quite featureless, though. Half dug into the ice, half sprawled out into the ice field at cliff’s foot, laid upon an expansive metal framework, was a ruin of an Alliance water extraction plant somebody took some serious liberties to hastily, though ambitiously, remodel.

You could count at least three separate Kowloons dismantled and rearranged into container housing. These were probably the first seedlings of the outcast colony. Aside from that the massive insulated reservoirs originally intended for extracted water were visibly broken and resealed, probably to give outpost inhabitants more internal real estate to work with.

You were honestly impressed how much they were able to make of it given the short timeframe available to them, even though you realized that any safety inspector would probably have a seizure just looking at it.

Scattered around the outpost are a few smaller ships - two shuttles and a smaller merchantman. If you were to venture a guess, those were first attempts to investigate the outpost’s silence.

Turning around you take in the snow field as well, stretching out and away as far as you could see, the only remarkable feature a half-buried cruiser you saw during your first pass in Chariot. Speaking of which...

“It seems communication is being jammed.” You remark to your companions.

“Noticed.” Lea says. Good, at least short range transmissions could come through.

“Doctor Tufferson will be able to correctly asses our situation from orbit.”

“Yeah. Hope he doesn’t decide to follow us. Getting stranded here would not be good.”

“I can prepare an optical beacon to relay a message. Setting up a link could be tricky though and would require some clever work on his part.” Lea said.

“He’s got the foundation people to help him.” You point out.

“Oh, um, I didn’t mean to say he couldn’t do it. Just that it will take time... and only work while we’re outside.”

“It’s fine. Okay, let’s see...”

>set up a message telling him to stay up there for now
>set up a message telling him to land a way back and join you on foot
>set up a different message

After that...

>let’s head towards the settlement and find the airlock. The sooner we get in, the sooner we can do something about the jamming, right?
>let’s go check out the vessels crashed around the outpost first.
>let’s go check out the fallen cruiser.

>set up a message telling him to stay up there for now
Can't risk our ride being umprotected.

>let’s go check out the vessels crashed around the outpost first.

>set up a message telling him to stay up there for now

>let’s go check out the vessels crashed around the outpost first.
“Do it, Lea. Tell him to stay put up there. We can’t risk our ship now.”

“On it.” The Quarian nods and gets to work on her omnitool before turning to the skycar to set up the signal.

In the meantime you give another look to the grounded ships scattered around the squat. Have they been disabled by the same force that brought down your skycar? What happened to their pilots?

You turn back to your vehicle and retrieve your weapons from storage. You hoped it would not come to that, but given your recent track record you figured it was better to be prepared.

“All done.” Lea announces.

“Good. Let’s go check out how our predecessors fared.” You say, pointing to the nearest shuttle.

The three of you make way through the ice, passing around some outlying structures. The facility continues to mock your presence with silent defiance, and more importantly with active sensor jamming, though even from just passing by you can tell by slight vibrations that some machinery at least is active.

“All structures seem to be connected with this... framework.” Lea notes, checking what little readouts she could manage with her scanner despite the jamming. “To share power and life support infrastructure, i guess.”

“That, and to keep the facility together in case of tectonic shifts. They should be reinforceable by mass effect fields in that event.” Eve adds.

“Not currently active, though.” You remark. “Is it because they’re also disabled, or just because they’re presently deemed unneeded?”

“Unknown.” Eve says. “I can’t reach facility’s network from here.
You were kept from pursuing the topic by reaching first of the grounded ships. It was an ordinary shuttle, possibly landing craft of a larger ship. It was damaged a good bit more than your own skycar, presumably because it was arriving at a more standard approach vector. It’s eezo core seemed to be in the same inactive state yours was, confirming that this was no freak coincidence if malfunctions. However, the crew was nowhere to be seen, dead or otherwise.

Moving on to the next vessel you arrive at an unmarked Kodak shuttle. It was in considerably better state, possibly as a result if it’s crew having taken a similarly cautious approach.

“Flight History of this Shuttle has been scrubbed and it’s transponder seems to be missing.” Eve says.

“Cerberus?” Lea asks.

“Or some other clandestine organization?” You muse. “Could even be an Alliance agent.”

Crew was once again nowhere to be found. State of the ship suggested whoever flew it could still be around.

Last of the three downed ships was a small armed merchantman, a freighter smaller than your Kowloon, only fitted with one relatively small cargo hold. A popular design with smugglers, you understood.

Its cargo hold was empty and the crew was once again nowhere to be found.

“Another relief ship?” Lea offered.

“Or a looter. It’s cargo holds are empty.”

“Maybe he already unloaded?”

“Without help of dock machinery? Not impossible, I guess, but seems unlikely.” You shrug.

“Do you think all the crews made it out on their own powers?” Lea asks. “And if so, where are they now?”

“I don’t know.But I guess we’re gonna find out once we get in.”
You say, gesturing towards the main facility.

>in fact, let’s go try and get in now.
>look back at the fallen ships, search for something specific.
>other plan
I recede.

>in fact, let’s go try and get in now.

Try to extract any info we can from the merchantman and then head to the structure.

>in fact, let’s go try and get in now.

>in fact, let’s go try and get in now.
“Anything interesting in the logs?” You ask Eve, turning back to the small freighter.

“Records of docking with several vessels or improvised space stations, no details or comments. It seems the Omega fleet has concentrated its presence in the asteroid field for easily accessible resources and Saturn region for the gases.”

“I guess they don’t really want to hang out with the Citadel forces all that much.” You grunt. “Well, at least we know where to look if we need to find them.”

“Why didn’t we find any on our way here?” Lea asks.

“Maybe they withdrew when their scouts failed to report back? Enceladus is not the only water moon in Sol, and the mysterious occurrence is likely to attract attention. It did for us, anyway. Speaking of which...”

You turn to size up the outpost once more. It seemed completely inert, but the functioning scrambler meant there would be power running inside at very least, maybe even life support.

“Alright, let’s head on in.” You command and head out towards the structure where you expect the airlock to be, your two companions falling in behind you. As you draw near, you get a better look on the structure, areas where Reaper damage has been hastily welded shut, or where the wreckage has been supplemented with repurposed freighter modules.

The layout seemed to conform to what you’d expect from a n outcast base - quick and dirty set up of what could be living quarters, facility’s basic functionality restored to its bare minimum level by gutting some more sophisticated mechanism to put together a simpler and less effective, but easier to run substitute. And a large storage tank repurposed into what you suspected would be a social facility, or maybe some shared accommodation.

You imagine living in this sort of environment for prolonged periods of time and... don’t immediately find the notion revolting. It’s a remote, peaceful place... on the other hand, the messy repairs did not inspire confidence. If your mother had to file a report about the state this place was in, she’d...

Wait. This was not right. Where did this line of thought even come from? You shake it off just about as you reach the airlock. You had a job here.

Bringing up your omnitool reveals the locking protocols are active - and don’t recognize you as authorized for entry. Well, you had ways around that.

>knock, maybe someone will answer
>Eve will convince the local computer to let you in
>try and bypass the lock
This will have been the sole post for today, safe travels friends.
>>Eve will convince the local computer to let you in
>Eve will convince the local computer to let you in

>knock, maybe someone will answer
“Eve, would you do the honors?” You turn to the synthetic lady. She nods and approaches the airlock terminal, interfacing with it. You wait for several seconds before the door opens and you pass through into the outpost.

“Found anything during that exchange?” You ask over what you hope is sufficiently encrypted channel.

“I’m trying to map the network as we speak, Ford” Eve says. “It’s not what I expected. The architecture keeps changing erratically.”

“Malfunctioning systems?” Lea offers.

“The pattern is not consistent with any network malfunction I’m familiar with.”

“What does it mean for you?”

“For one, I’m unable to embed myself in the station’s computing infrastructure. Re-emergent sections seem to be reverted to system defaults, preventing me from establishing a permanent-ish presence.”

“How about setting up a self replicating network across the nodes that would reapply... yourself... after every reset?” Lea suggests helpfully.

“I’m afraid the individual nodes are not sophisticated enough to support construction of such framework, especially not in a manner that would not be immediately obvious to anyone looking.” Eve shakes her head.

The airlock cycle concluded in the meantime, but you decide to hold on to your hardsuits for the time being, despite visible indicators suggesting livable conditions. You move slowly and cautiously out of the chamber and find yourself in an equipment storeroom, several spacesuits and some engineering equipment stowed away.

“What about logs or databanks?” You ask. “Layout of the Place?”

“I cannot as of now access what little databases there are intermittently active as the resets seem to reseed the encryption as well. I’m gradually collecting what I can for examination, but it will take time.”
“Wait. Can the malfunctions be contagious to you?” You ask.

“I’m being careful, Ford. But it’s unlikely, I’m not detecting any software signal that could be responsible for the network’s state, which is most likely due to a hardware issue. As for the layout, I can glean limited amount of information but it seems we are in the crew section of the station. This is a maintenance access for repair crews, an exit alternative to a larger airlock on the other side that leads out to a landing pad. Directly from this section we can get to original living quarters, a corridor to facility’s control center, a corridor to the industrial section and a significantly less documented corridor to what is presumably the repurposed reservoir.”

Eve pauses to let her explanation sink in for a moment before continuing. “The industrial section seems mostly closed off, only one of the resource processor which double as power generation units seems to be in working order, though its controlling system also suffers from intermittent failures. There may be an off-network bypass in place. Only other sections that show signs of being powered and pressurized are foreman’s office and an auxiliary storage.”

“Okay, well done, Eve. Thank you.”

“Happy to help.” The robot smiles. Then her smile fades. “Although... there’s one more thing.”

You look at her. “What is it?”

“I have this... strange... feeling.”

>”strange feeling”?

>”strange feeling”?

What is it?
"A... strange feeling?" You ask, turning to regard the infiltrator.

"Not something about slaying all the fleshbags and cackling madly?" Lea ribs.

"Not this time, miss Fari." Eve replies softly. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to describe it, but I'll try."

You nod and wait for her to continue. It takes maybe a few seconds more than you'd think it would, but eventually Eve begins to talk:

"When I interface with another system, I'm anticipating it to submit to me responses to my polls alongside with standartized handshakes that I can work with to trick it into thinking I'm an authorised process. Initial probing is done with signals that are easily mistakeable for random environmental effects, then broadcasts along low level protocols that should be expected in the given environment, usually it's standartized manufacturers' protocols or Citadel area regulated ones."

Eve falls silent for a moment, making you wonder if it's for effect or because she genuinely is poring over what to go on with.

"Usually this approach together with my database and adaptability will allow me to take the network over at one or more levels lower than the defenses were designed for, then work my way upwards from this compromised foundation. But..."

There's another pause. Stealing a glance at Lea you can feel the Quarian tensed up a bit as well.

"Hearing you describe this is kinda scary." the alien lady says when the silence drags on.

"It was not my intention to bring discomfort, miss Fari, but maybe it's for the best when it comes to relaying my concern: when I interfaced with the outpost computers, everything went pretty much as I expected it to. The machines here run on protocols that have lagged behind some security updates on account of having been destroyed and deliberately not reconnected to Alliance hypernet, but the Terminus security system is in itself rather crude and easy to bypass."

Eve falls silent once more, but only very briefly this time.

"However, although I've gained access with relative ease, the intermittent resets notwithstanding, some of the polls and handshakes conducted by the low level protocols feel... spooky."

"Spooky?" Lea asks at the same time as you do.

"The ports they probe are all in valid ranges for active services. But the queries line up eerily with... with what would otherwise link to processes from scrambled portions of my consciousness core."
You take an involuntary step back. "Eve, are you saying what I think I'm saying?"

"I need to see your face and eyes with clearer detail to be able to estimate your thought process." Eve says with a small smile you almost miss through her own visor.

"This is no laughing matter." You say before Lea can. "Could it be that there's some active Reaper programming in the systems here?"

"I'm sorry, Ford. But no, at least not as far as I can tell. The "spooky" queries are all carried out by Alliance or Terminus software and I can detect no feeds that would orchestrate them together. I can detect no reaper presence in the hardware I have access to."

"Could it have outwitted your own tactics and subverted your own intrusions against you?" Lea asks.

"That is a troubling thought, because it would imply subtlety so perfect that I was entirely unable to find any indication of an attack."

"So it's not impossible."

"It's not."

"But if Eve was subverted on such level, why would she be left capable of sharing this information with us?"

"Maybe the reaper ghost likes to play with its food?" Lea shrugs, her hand resting near her sidearm.

"I do not think I've been compromised, at least not my central processes, however if you consider the risk to be realistic, I'll submit to deactivation. You can reactivate me in a controlled environment for inspection." Eve says.

>Do it. Eve will be put out of service until you decide to reactivate her.
>Don't deactivate her. You trust her ability and integrity, after all she told you about this. Proceed as normal.
>Don't deactivate her, but ask her to block off any communication with the local hardware and make sure to check herself extra carefully.
>Don't deactivate her, but ask her to block off any communication with the local hardware and make sure to check herself extra carefully.

>Don't deactivate her, but ask her to block off any communication with the local hardware and make sure to check herself extra carefully.

Turn off the Bluetooth and wi-fi, can't risk something that can spook the AI have a lucky shot.

I think we may be dealing with another AI, it could have seen that scrambled reaper data and tried to probe it since it is curious, that would explain why alliance and terminus codes would be trying to look at it.

Lea and Ford can try to look at the main computer when we find it to try and figure what it is

see if the signals continue active after she blocks communication, that could mean it's already "in" and she should deactivate so we can try to isolate it later if she can't isolate it herself
Looking the synthetic up and down in the dim artificial light illuminating the station interior, you don't doubt for a moment that she's both earnest and serious.

How good were Cerberus programmers when they made those eyes and mapped that mimicry? Or was that something she had to learn by herself? Was it something she would call on demand, or would she allow her true feelings - whatever passed for those in the arcane tangle of her quantum brain - to shine through? Would these question ever stop coming up?

"That won't be necessary, Eve." You say. "I trust you." you add and are rewarded by a small smile (you spot it without issue this time). "However, I don't want you to take unnecessary hazards. Eve, block off all communication from the facility and make sure you haven't contracted anything from it."

"Understood. And... thank you, Ford." she nods.

Lea says nothing, but you notice her movements are less relaxed now than they used to be. You catch yourself wondering if it's because of your choice to keep Eve along or something else entirely - looking around you take in the ambience of the dilapidated industrial structure with quick and dirty fixes applied here and there, some access hatches broken open, emptied fuse boxes, non-refilled repair supplies in cabinets with their doors bent or broken off their hinges.

There was a completely different philosophy here at work than what she was accustomed to in the Migrant Fleet. Occasional similarities, for instance when it came to improvised solutions, only served to emphasize the contrast.

"Alright, let's get a move on. And Eve, if you get any of those... spooky pokes... again, please warn us."

"Of course, Ford. I've already severed my connections here though and I'm already not detecting any more intrusions, but I'll be on lookout."

"Thank you."

You make your way out of the maintenance and airlock access through a short corridor lined with small storerooms, mostly containing spare parts and pieces of scrap they were used to replace, up a rusted staircase that ended in an alcove in a corridor junction.
"This is the crew section of the station. It contains living quarters, common room and facilities." Eve informs.

Checking your omnitool's scanners doesn't tell you much, with scrambler still being active, but short range scanning does reveal something.

"Life signs. Quite a good bit of them." You mumble.

"Yeah, one's coming this way." Lea points out. You follow her gesture and see a batarian walking at a leisurely pace down the corridor.

Without thinking you flatten yourself against the wall, your companions following your lead, hoping against hope that you haven't been spotted. The staircase alcove is after all a few degrees darker than the corridor, right?

No, there was no way anyone could've missed this amount of movement...

The steps draw near in a monotonous rhytm. One after another. Then there's a shift as the person rounds the corner and continues in his walk. He did not take note of your presence.

Well, you guess that staying in such a tranquil place with so little to worry about can make one a bit less perceptive... On the other hand, if your mother would catch you this inattentive, she'd certainly -

"He didn't notice us." Lea notes. "Huh."

"His expression was anomalous." Eve remarks. "Emotionless. Dull. Impassive."

"That does sound strange on a batarian." you can't help but remark. Still, to have missed you in these circumstances? Maybe he was just tired, or drugged?

What was he doing here anyway?

>Follow the Batarian as he goes down the corridor.
>Try to interact with the batarian
>Leave him be and explore the area - your omnitool shows some ten blips indicating sapients, most of them resting peacefully in their quarters after a hard day's work.
>Leave the quarters behind and head to the repurposed reservoir -
>Leave the quarters and head to the station control center
>Leave the quarters and head to the industrial section

>Follow the Batarian as he goes down the corridor.

Thought of mother again...I wonder what the others are thinking

>Follow the Batarian as he goes down the corridor.

Oh shit indocrination, shit shit shit how is this working? Follow the guy see what we can discover and maybe take him down.

Also, Lea is jumpy, too much synthetic fuckery.
"Have you guys remembered someone just now?"
>>Leave the quarters and head to the station control center
Something's not right here. You thought you were pretty good at putting away things outside your control, including fate of your parents or the professor on Citadel. Why, then, do they keep coming up now?

Could something be messing with your mind? Could that be why the Batarian looked entranced?

He certainly seemed out of it enough... you walk out of cover to follow him. Your companions fall behind, although in Lea's case with visible hesitation.

"Cap, are you sure?" She hisses into the intercom.

"I want to get to the bottom of this." You confirm, treading lightly. Batarian gives no impression of noticing your presence as he proceeds down the corridor.

"By the way, this may sound strange, but... Lea, did you think of anything... anyone in particular, since entering the station?"

You steal a glance behind you and see the Quarian miss a step as she stiffens at the query."

"W-why do you ask?"

"Because I did. Twice now I've gotten reminded of my mother."



The Batarian comes to a halt ahead of you, turns around, prompting you to twitch and look for cover. Your worry proves needless as the alien simply reaches out to manipulate a door controls and steps through into his room.

"Ford, watch out." Eve says. "I sense movement." She points towards another door. The three of you hurry to hide behind some supportive structures lining the corridor, as comically vain a gesture as it must appear. It seems to suffice, however. The door opens, a Turian walks out, his expression as blank as the Batarian's and he heads out, presumably towards wherever it was the batarian came from without giving any indication that he spotted your presence.

"This place creeps me out." Lea says.

"Welcome to the club."

"And, uh, yeah. I was thinking of Mom, too. I thought it was just because I wanted to think of something comforting. You... you're saying that something's influencing us? Or even... "

"...indoctrinating." You finish with a grim nod. "We can't rule that out, and this..." You wave your hand. "We better get to the bottom of this."

"Or on top of this and out." Lea says. "But... that would mean leaving these people down here..."

"Erm. Ford..." Eve speaks up.

"Please don't tell me you're still getting probed by spooky protocols." You sigh.

"Not that, but... now that I shut off monitoring of ambient devices I could turn more attention to internal analyses and I've two findings to report. One is related to your query, Ford. The other, possibly as well."


"During indexing my databanks when I adjusted my analytical matrix, I noticed statistically unlikely occurence of several memories being referenced multiple times. I set them aside for analysis and could glean two distinct overarching patterns - one was servitude and acceptance. The other was Anastasia Tichonov, an Alliance engineer."

"Let me guess, she was involved in the Infiltrator project."

"I didn't realize robots could have moms, too." Lea said.

"She... read me mr. Lem's tales. Aloud. During my wakening."

"I'll ask you to tell me more about that, Eve, but right now it could be dangeours to dwell on." You interject, worried where this is going. "Or that other thing you mentioned, for that matter."

"Servitude and acceptance."

"Yeah, you're a free woman now."

"Understood. The other issue is related to the cryptic message we recovered in the Cerberus base."

Right. You pretty much forgot about that at this point. Too much is happening in your life. Wait, was that your thought? Shit, you can't afford to begin doubting yourself at every turn.

"What did you find?" You say, shaking off the discomfort.

"A transponder code. It's not enough to break open the contents yet, but when I drew the packet alongside sensor data from our flyover earlier I found a connection. The transponder matches to the cruiser identification of the wreckage we've seen short distance away from this station."

"Well would you look at that. So the cruiser was transmitting back then?"

"That seems likely."

"Any information about the cruiser itself?"

"Transponder carries a name of SSV Palos. I haven't found it in fleet registers as active or decommissioned. That is because it is an exploration cruiser that has been reported as missing in action during its voyage into depths of Attican traverse."

"This doesn't sound not normal at all." Lea murmurs.

"How did it turn up here?"

"Unknown. Perhaps remainder of the encrypted package will yield more information."

"Or hands on investigation..." You muse.

At any rate, you've spent enough time talking in the empty corridors. Although there was no other movement to be seen at this time, the remaining life signs in the vicinity content to rest in their cabins, it was time to decide on your next course of action.

>Actually, you're not done talking. Talk with your companions about something (specify)
>Search around the crew areas. Maybe you could examine one of the resting crew? Or search through an empty room if you find one?
>Head to the station control. It's likely going to be secured, but probably the most likely place to contain controls of the scrambler.
>Head to the repurposed reservoir.
>Head to the industrial area. The corridor both outcasts have taken seems to lead there.
>do something else
>>Head to the industrial area. The corridor both outcasts have taken seems to lead there.

let's see what they are doing, maybe the indocrinator is there too
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I believe that will be the last post for today.
Safe travels, friends.

>Head to the station control. It's likely going to be secured, but probably the most likely place to contain controls of the scrambler.
>Head to the station control. It's likely going to be secured, but probably the most likely place to contain controls of the scrambler.

>Head to the station control. It's likely going to be secured, but probably the most likely place to contain controls of the scrambler.
"Let's take a look at the control center." You decide. "Seems like best place to find controls for the scrambler."

Your two companions express their agreement and acknowledgment and Eve points you towards a corridor that would take you to your destination. You walk along a row of cabin doors, their inhabitants sleeping soundly. No other individual registers on your (somewhat jammed) scanners... except for a group of three blips that would come up as you pass by a larger room.

"Sickbay." You read the label. Well, the readouts were stable so at a glance it would seem they have been treated... or were doing something else entirely. Maybe you can check this out on your way back.

Before long you arrive at a junction, with one of the corridors sloping up. If your memory of plant's layout is right, you find yourself at edge of the crew facility structure from which an access corridor leads up towards a control tower from which all of the installation's processes were overseen.

In facility's better days, this corridor would have viewports open to allow anyone passing throguh a wide view of the outside - extractor structures, cliff face, icy plains, plumes feeding Saturn's rings and the gas giant itself. As it were the viewport shielding has been welded shut, alongside with several points where the corridor itself was mended with scrap metal from other parts of the station. The three of you unconsciously break your step and took each footfall with additional care. Even so you're occasionally treated with a loud whine of strained metal.

Eventually you traverse the corridor and find yourself facing a heavy security door. It's locked and you can make out two signs of life inside, although not with enough detail to make out their state, mental or otherwise.

"Okay, we're here. Now how do we get past?" Lea asks.

"Caution is advised. So far we haven't been target of directed hostile action." Eve says.

"Because we haven't been spotted?" Lea offers.

"Or we aren't perceived as a threat." Eve adds.

"Right, maybe whatever is behind this is just waiting for us to tire out and give in to passive, permeating indoctrination." You grumble.

"Assuming that the driving force is capable of sapient thought. But yes, that is a possibility. However, if there is an active agency at play, it may be prompted to more direct action if we are revealed as potential threat."

"Well, whatever the specifics, our time is probably limited." You say, sizing up the blast door.
Several options were available to you, you knew. You also realized that every one of them carried with it risks and possible consequences.

>Ask Eve to interface again. She should be able to get the door to open without issue. But she will have to endure contact with local systems again.
>Try to bypass the lock with Lea's help. You may be able to gain access but if your attempt is detected, who knows what the response will be?
>Use the force. You can cut your way to the lock and open the doors manually but will be a highly invasive procedure that seems unlikely to be able to escape notice.
>other plan
>>Try to bypass the lock with Lea's help. You may be able to gain access but if your attempt is detected, who knows what the response will be?
>Try to bypass the lock with Lea's help. You may be able to gain access but if your attempt is detected, who knows what the response will be?

Better not risk the AI being corrupted and turning on us.

>Try to bypass the lock with Lea's help. You may be able to gain access but if your attempt is detected, who knows what the response will be?
Please, roll some 2d100s for Ford and Lea
Rolled 85, 34 = 119 (2d100)

Rolled 100, 62 = 162 (2d100)

Rolled 38, 72 = 110 (2d100)

set our weapons to disable before opening just in case

damn, they did a fine job those two
Rolled 85, 88 = 173 (2d100)


Did someone sneak a Leviathan Sphere onto Enceladus?
"Alright. Lea, would you help me with this, please?" You say as you approach the door terminal.


"By the way, I'd rather not kill any of those people until we determine that they're beyond help... so please take this into consideration if we get into a fight on the other side."

"You got it. Mom taught me just the move." Lea nods.

"I'll prioritize non-lethal defense methods." Eve seconds.

With your mind put at ease you turn your attention to the lock as you bring up your omnitool and go through the control mechanism, Lea looking over your shoulder, comparing your readouts on her own 'tool.

The work goes more than smoothly. Perhaps it's because of contrast to the troubling notions you had to chew through moments ago, but focusing your mind on this - otherwise non-trivial - task grants you a measure of inner peace you didn't know you missed as you peeled one layer of security after another, with an occasional thrill of surprise when Lea points out a shortcut you can take advantage of.

Several minutes later the lock is undone, both your minds refreshed by the exercise. The blast doors wheeze open, revealing the control center on their other side, a human and a turian staying at the controls, staring blankly into the holographic interfaces. You're about to walk away from the terminal and into the room when something catches your eye. There was a memory bank before you, an active one and filled with data. It contained not only logs of the door usage but also reference keys! You carefully extract and store the data in your omnitool and distribute it to your companions. You should have no trouble accessing any part of the base now.

With that settled you are now free to turn your attention to the control center itself. There's enough terminals to work with without disturbing the blank faced crew which doesn't seem to have as much as bat an eye at your presence. Still though, that could change pretty fast.

Both Lea and Eve hold back as you make several steps forward towards an unoccupied terminal. No response from the outcasts. Emboldened you begin to fiddle with the holographic interface and manage to bring up overview of the station's systems. You find out that the station is running on a secondary backup generator which provides just about enough power for light, heating, crew amenities, life support and several "unlicensed device"s. No mention of the ice extractor - either it's offline or powered on a separate circuit. In fact, looking closely it seemed that entire industrial zone was running on a separate circuit, not connected to the control center. That must have been outcast modification, you suspect, suggesting that control over the industrial area was transferred wholly to the foreman's office.

Well, you were here now and there was no reason not to dig around a bit more.
Looking into the list labelled "unlicensed device" you uncover a listing of nondescript entries, probably upgrades brought by the Terminus squatters. You're not sure what these could be although you can venture a few guesses on what an outcast would appreciate that's not in standard equipment of an Alliance installation (although, on second thought, miners here could well have their own extras installed...). Looking over them you can't single any out, but you get an idea.

"Eve, that scrambler, how much power do you expect it would need to run given its effects and radius?"

"Sending estimation..." Eve says, relaying a figure to your omnitool. You look it up on the list, singling out one of the devices. With a tap you shut it off...

"It worked!" Eve says. "Posting encrypted update for Chariot... done."

One of the controls under a brainwashed Turian's care blinks. The squatter interrupts the routine he was performing to access the same control you opened and with several automated movements the scrambler has been reactivated.

"Well, that did seem a bit too easy." Lea says.

"At least they aren't shooting at us yet." You say.

"Yet." Lea nods. "Still, what are we gonna do now? They're obviously not gonna take our interference sitting down."

>Look through the network for some more information first. Maybe you'll find something of interest.
>Ask Lea if she can come up with some way of making the setting be a bit harder to revert...
>Maybe you could try incapacitating the crew. There's only two of them... here and now, anyway
>Brainwashed pirate can't play with controls if you disable the controls... but that could be pushing their patience?
>Leave the scrambler on and go to another section of the station. It's not like you have anything to tell Kris right now, or...?
>Other course of action (write-in)

>Ask Lea if she can come up with some way of making the setting be a bit harder to revert...

I guess we will have to visit the industrial zone next.

>Ask Lea if she can come up with some way of making the setting be a bit harder to revert...


what is that?
Please, roll some 2d100s for Lea and Eve and their m4d sk1llz

>what is that?
none on your crew has any idea whatsoever
Rolled 53, 27 = 80 (2d100)

>>playing a Special Mass Effect 3 DLC will give you the required hints, but I'm sure Wanderer will put his own spin on this matter. It was becoming pretty obvious by now, though :P
Rolled 84, 85 = 169 (2d100)

Rolled 25, 56 = 81 (2d100)

"Hmm." Your gaze wanders between the enthralled outcasts and the available terminals. "Lea, do you think you could do something to make the setting stick?"

"Don't you think that is going to sic them on us for meddling?" Lea voices concern you share to some extent.

"I suppose that would depend on the nature of the measure taken and how much intelligence they can exercise." Eve offers. "These persons seem to have been stripped of their own will and set to work on a routine tasks. That could be driven by several reasons, but in most of them the entity or force commanding them would be either unwilling or unable to grant them too much initiative."

"Well, the ones we've seen so far certainly haven't showed any, but how can you be so sure?"

"I am not." Eve shrugs.

"Reassuring... okay, so what you're saying that as long as the sleepwalkers here think they can fix the issue - or don't learn that there's an issue in the first place - they should just proceed along their regular routine, yes?"

"Sounds plausible." You say. "Can you try?"

"I'll give it a shot. Just please watch my back - or more to the point, those guys' arms."

"You got it." You assure her.

"I'll help." Eve volunteers. Lea gives her a look, then nods. "Okay. Come on..."

The two move over to a terminal, switching their gazes between its holoscreens and Lea's omnitool as she looks for a way to subvert the controls. Eve is able to provide her with knowledge of several openings from her earlier interfacing with station's systems. This goes on for several minutes during which you watch rest of the room as well as the entrance for anything (more) irregular, but the crew just stays at their stations and goes through one report after another.
Eventually the two ladies exchange glances and share a handshake before stepping away from the terminal and walk up to you.

"Done?" You ask.

"Yeah. We left a little package here. It's small and simple enough that it can jump around a bit around the intermittent resets Eve was talking about. It should deactivate the scrambler on demand and keep it down... well, for a while at least." Lea explains.

"How do we get it past the scrambler?" You ask.

"Shouldn't be a problem while we're inside, can just use station's infrastructure. Once we get out, well... strong enough pulse should trigger the virus as well, if we don't activate it before we leave. Anyway, it should be enough to give us a brief window of communication at very least."

"Awesome. Good job, ladies." You smile at your minions. Their service is exemplary, truly it must have been fate that guided the- no, what the hell are you thinking? Your mom would look very sternly at you for this and reduced the dinner tier by at least one grade for at least a week, not to mention your allowance tariff. No, wait...

You blink a few times. Okay, you've been reminded.

>Let's head out and continue our investigation in the industrial area
>Let's go take another look at another location (specify)
>Actually we're not yet done here, maybe we can find something
>other plan (write-in)

>Let's head out and continue our investigation in the industrial area

This talk about mom again, and Lea mentioning her mother's trick before, we have to move fast
>>Let's head out and continue our investigation in the industrial area

>Let's head out and continue our investigation in the industrial area
"...yeah, as I said, good job, ladies." You collect yourself. "I think we best get a move on."

"...yeah, we better." Lea says.

With that the three of you head out of the control room and retrace your steps to the crew facility, then take the corridor that takes you towards the beating heart of the entire installation, the extractor area. The corridor is wider than the one connecting crew building with the control chamber and has a pair of rails in its flooring, probably to facilitate easier transport of samples, machinery or, in case of an accident, injured people to the sickbay. There were also several serviceable viewports through which Enceladus's reflected radiance poured in, providing contrast to the dim artificial lights illuminating rest of the interior. You steal some glances through as you pass by them, admiring the landscape and checking that your shuttle is landed where you left it.

Maybe it was for the best that the drive core gave out. After all you have everything you need here with you. You look to either side of you, confirming your mi- companions are following you, the synthetic servant and the innocent, malleable maiden.

Something felt off. Lea used to have more spring in her step. Was something wrong with her?

"Lea, are you feeling okay?"

"Um, yeah. Nothing I couldn't handle. Don't worry, cap, I know my place."

"Good, goo- wait, what?" Something clicks. "Lea, don't let this place bring you down."

"Of c- oh, bosh'tet. It's getting worse, is it?"

"Master, I suspect proximity may be a factor." Eve drones.

You grit your teeth. This was what turned these people into... servants? How much worse is this going to get? And why do you feel like something's missing?

You've reached the end of the corridor. Thankfully you don't need to waste time with dealing with the lock - codes you gained in the control room check out and the blast door opens up, revealing an artificial cave of the size of a factory hall, walls lined with metal supports and insulation plates. Floor was cluttered with wreckage of machines, mostly, but there was a good amount of barrels and cisterns, too, both empty and full, and a number of assemblies for refinement of the extracted elements into desired compounds.

Approximately in the center of the chamber, several power generation units were lined up against several of the larger assemblies, most of them inactive, most of them visibly not in working order. One of the smaller reactors however was humming with activity, several conduits spreading out of it to several other active machines, couple going towards the corridor you emerged from, others towards far end of the chamber.

There, settled atop of a robust, reinforced container, was an elevated habitable prefab component which you identify as the supervisor's office. There was no visible access inside of the reinforced container, leading you to believe it had to be accessible from within the office.
It seemed fitting for the office of the man in charge of the operation to be placed with commanding view of the workplace, and in direct control of a location that could be used to store treasure in.

You grit your teeth. It feels like you're missing something... what is amiss?

>No way to go but forward. Head to the supervisor's office. It seems the most likely place to look for the source of it all.
>Maybe you should turn back now. Maybe the key is elsewhere after all?
>Maybe you should stop thinking about this nonsense and get to work. You can see one, two, three people here, among them the Turian, hard at work. Unburdened by troubles or doubt.
I'm at a loss here guys, Eve said that proximity is a factor and it's getting worse, but at the same time this thing missing could be the thing playing with our head, aaaaarrrrgggg

let's try something different

Turn back, away from the thing and back to the control center to find more information, maybe logs and studies about this thing, maybe the previous guys recorded something about what they discovered or were feeling

while we do that, have Lea send her drone into the supervisor's office to have a look while we keep a safe distance
I think I better retire for the night.
Thank you for staying with me, friends.

>Maybe you should turn back now. Maybe the key is elsewhere after all?
>No way to go but forward. Head to the supervisor's office. It seems the most likely place to look for the source of it all.
I think we're getting close and we don't have time to waste walking back and forth.
>No way to go but forward. Head to the supervisor's office. It seems the most likely place to look for the source of it all.
You hesitate.

You’re fairly certain that you missed something, that coupled with the mounting pressure you can so far still identify as such, urges you to backtrack and have another look around for clues. A mistake here could well spell your doom... or at least render you into a zombie until someone comes to your rescue.

On the other hand you were reasonably sure that even if you turn back now, the unknown force or forces will continue you erode your will. If you spend more time dragging your feet, you may end up having to face this force here again in a weakened state.

You weigh your options for seconds that drag on like eternity. You lose sight of your companions, focusing only on the secure storage ahead. Cursing inwardly at the time lost on this pondering you shake off the presence. It only slinks back, you know. You make your choice.

“No way to go but forward.” You say, now looking for both your companions. They are with you. You push forward and they follow.

You walk up to the office and confirm that the only entry point into the vault it rests upon must be within the office. This is supported not only by lack of other visible access points but also by a rather large entrance to the office itself, and a crane fixture above it.

You try your codes. They work. The office door opens, revealing an area with two desks with terminals and several screens. Most of them inactive, not surprising, given the overall state of the facility. The terminals however are alight with status reports from the machinery still connected to them.

It is a circular hatch, two meters in diameter, that rests in the floor short way in from the office entrance, that gets most of your attention, though. There seems to be no dedicated opening switch next to it. No matter. There’s enough other activities around to keep you occupied. There’s enough purpose here to abandon futile thrashing.

There is a Batarian sitting behind one of the desks, his attention fixated on the terminal before him.

>ignore the Batarian
>incapacitate the Batarian
>talk to the Batarian

>Look around the office for ways to open the hatch. If there’s no switch, maybe there’s a way to get it open from terminal?
>Open the hatch with brute force. No point in wasting time on subtlety.
>look around for clues.
>the supervisor is busy. Let’s leave and get back to work until he has some time to spare.
>other plan
>look around for clues.
Logs, info, anything to help us know what we are dealing with.

Talk with Lea and Eve while we work, focus on things we did together
Ask them some personal questions
>ignore the Batarian
But keep him observed.
this added onto the above.
Alright. You were in the heart of the darkness now, and still in the dark. You needs more to go on, and if there was any place where relevant knowledge would be found, it would be here, in the seat of the first servant.

“Eve, watch the Batarian, please. Knock him out if he tries anything. Lea, I may need your help going through this.” You say as you move to a vacant terminal and dive into the office logs.

“As you command.” Eve says while Lea wordlessly walks into position behind you. Not good, you think. You have to do something before you lose them.

“Say, Eve, What did you consider that you could be doing after the crisis? You know, back when we were fighting together? And what about you, Lea, found your calling, yet?”

You let the logs scroll on your screen as you ask the question. It’s easy to draw distinction between the original Alliance crew logs, ending with a “They are coming. Shepard was right. God have mercy on us all.”, and the new management. There’s not a lot of those and you’re able to single out a few that seem relevant...

In the meantime, Eve delivers her reply.

“I did not anticipate the issue to surface at all and as such did not spare any cycles on deliberating in the question.”

“That’s rather dark, don’t you think?” You keep the smalltalk.

“It was based on my observations and estimations. The probability of me retaining functionality past that of the Reapers seemed... nonexistent. I did not associate any emotions with this evaluation. My existence had a clearly defined purpose and that was enough to carry my consciousness.”

Trying to balance your attention you scroll though the entries...

-paydirt! This installation only suffered minimal damage, bringing it up to serviceable shape will be a cakewalk. I hereby claim this facility as Narak’gez, or Narak’s Rock for the locals.

-Initial repairs are done, mates really outdid themselves this time, got most of the crew areas pressurized and warmed up without risk of sinking. Open for business, soon!

-gods must be smiling on me. I didn’t expect my first customer to be a humie cruiser, but this crash landing means opportunity to build goodwill that could let me go legit if I play my cards right!
“I’m sorry, Eve.” Lea says quietly, looking at the disguised gynoid.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but it is not necessary in this case. Fighting for preservation of my makers was a purpose that I came to accept as a noble, fighting at their side as exhilarating. My only regrets stem from my own failures to meet expectations sometime placed in me.”

“You speak like an Alliance action hero. But in a way that’s actually believable.” Lea says, then looks down. “You’re... not tricking me now, are you?”

“Mistress Fari, I would not make the same mistake again. You have my word I will not attempt to manipulate you again...”

“...thank you, Eve...”

“...unless doing so is the only way to prevent an imminent and irreversible harm.” Eve completes her sentence, prompting the Quarian to give her a tilted look.

“...I’ll take it.” Lea says eventually.

Well, at least the girls are coping for now, you think to yourself as entries continue to scroll past.

-the crew of the cruiser is in strange shape. Most of them seem to be locked in long sleep, the few of them awake move like machines and pay no attention to us. At least we’re free to explore the storage...

-jackpot! We broke into secure storage if the cruiser and found the treasure they were carrying. It was a... I’m not sure what it was, really. A huge pearl the size of a small man? Or some sort of Prothean tech? Regardless, it looks priceless. I’m taking it... for safekeeping. If not for sale, it could prove to be a bargaining chip.

-something’s off. I don’t remember my mates being such quiet, hard workers before. Even Vash’ek works without whining now. On the other hand they’re getting more sentimental during their downtime. I don’t think I’ve seen Oleg cry before. Maybe the planet life is getting to them at last.
This was the last entry in the logs, you note. You close the logs and look through other settings the terminal offers but don’t seem to spot anything else of interest...

“Cap, look!” Lea says, her attention apparently sharpened and back at your work, reaching over your shoulder and pointing at some point of the interface.

“What?” You ask, following her gesture and not seeing anything.

“This row. It’s not a blank entry, just an empty row!”


“Tap it.”

You comply and tap the indicated area. To your surprise and Lea’s satisfaction a new entry pops up.

-none may touch my precious. It is the conduit of the masters will. None may approach it. None may have the *key*.

Without wasting any more time the Quarian standing behind you leans forward as her hand reaches for the holographic interface and taps the highlighted word.

There is a hiss and a whirr and the hatch begins to open. The Batarian freezes in his movement and looks towards it, then at you, his face warped by fury, and he leaps from his seat...

...his flight brought to an ignoble end by several surgical jabs delivered by Eve.

“Neutralized.” The gynoid nods.

“These ones are not, though.” Lea says, pointing out of the office window where the few workers can be seen to converge towards your location.

“Eve, the door.” You bark.

“On it.” The infiltrator quickly closes the few meter distance from the entrance and the door snaps shut, buying you some time.

Time you use to walk, cautiously, towards the vault entrance. This was it. Whatever the outcasts recovered from the cruiser would be down here. You drop down into the dark vault, your suit’s headlight the only source of illumination. It is enough. The vault is empty save for one item.

A spherical artifact that gives luster of a dark pearl, maybe a meter and half in diameter. Your omnitool tells you it’s an inert object. A voice in your head tells you it’s beautiful, trustworthy and safe.

You know better.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

>turn around and get to work, your colleagues are waiting for you.
>turn around and get to work. Good day’s work is its own reward.
>turn around and get to work. You had your fun of looking at shiny.
>analyze the artifact. Surely you wouldn’t want to risk that something this valuable, mankind has much to learn from it.
>orange transparent chainsaw
>other course of action (preferably involving turning around and leaving the pretty orb in safety)
>orange transparent chainsaw

Omnibash it to oblivion!
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>turn around and get to wo...
just kidding
>>orange transparent chainsaw

Lea, I'm about to destroy a priceless ancient probably prothean device, don't take that as a career standard procedure from xenoarcheologists...unless they are indoctrinating you.
The choice is clear.

The artifact is beautiful. The notion that something should happen to it, other than gentle caress of omnitool’s scanner impulses, occurs to you as blasphemous. Not only is the overwhelming presence filling the room urging you to walk away, your own professional drive is telling you that this item should be handled carefully, packed in a shock resistant container and shipped to a population center large enough to warrant a research institute.

Why, then, does something else deep within you tell you that this entire situation is *wrong*?

Why do you clench your fist and, in bringing your omnitool up, pass over the scanning modules, reaching instead for the newest addition?

What could drive a xenoarchaeologist to destroy a priceless memory of ages past?

You take a step forward, then another, the omnitool fabricator spinning up.

Only vaguely are you aware of a slim figure of Lea’Fari dropping into the vault behind you, but her presence only strengthens your resolve. You’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your crew and everyone on this base. Because nobody, not even a priceless artifact, can be allowed to turn people into dolls.

“Ford, What are you...” She begins, but actually stops herself, hesitating.

You don’t stop, even though part of you wish you did. The universe itself, too, as it feels as if your arm, winding back for a blow as sparkles of orange glow coalesced into structure outlined by the tool’s mass effect projectors, moved through a thick syrup rather than recycled air.

Maybe it was an illusion caused by whatever force the orb emanated to give you more time to alter the course of events. Its efforts were in vain - You were committed. With a roar - was that you? - and an orange blaze that set the vault alight with a fiery glow, gift of the Asari engineer came to life, propelled forward by your arm its teeth bite into the ancient(?) device, complimenting the omnitool’s whirr with an ear rending screech.

And then there was light. You don’t notice shrapnel of fragments bouncing off your personal shields. You’re too busy falling to your knees as the dark shroud enveloping your soul, and souls of those around you, is torn and dissipates into the void in a cloud of evaporating dust. You raise your hands to cover your head that began to ache from the sudden shift, the omnitool and it’s temporary creation also dispersing. The darkness is gone, the pressure lessened.


You pick yourself up. Your mother would not be pleased to see you in such sorry state.

It’s raining.
“Cap! Are you okay?”

Lea comes to your side to support you.

“I’m... fine.” You sob.

“You can... feel it too? I thought that was the source.”

You look down at the broken sphere.

“Oh it was a source of something alright .” You say. “Of the enthrallment pressure, at very least.”

“Then... why do I feel so homesick now?”

“I don’t know... but I guess our work here is not done until we figure that out.”

You turn to leave and something cracks under your foot.

>take a piece of the broken sphere with you for future study
>don’t, no point in taking unnecessary risks.
>>analyze the artifact. Surely you wouldn’t want to risk that something this valuable, mankind has much to learn from it.

You can't destroy this! You must pick up where.... Dr. Brysons Research left out.. Wait, who is Dr. Bryson...

KILL IIIIIIT *immense brain pain intensifies*

(Sorry, Wanderer :P)
argh, too late!

>take a piece of the broken sphere with you for future study
We should check the downed cruiser too, see what their databanks have to say.

>take a piece of the broken sphere with you for future study
We should at least determine its origim, this is probably not reaper tech, but someone is trying to emulate it and we should try to find out who it is.

Turn off the scrambler and call up Kriss, let hin and the Sirta guys help the crew here, the 3 of us probably need a breather riggt now.
See if they can find someone from the ship that knows something about this.
Also.....can we....call mom?

>don’t, no point in taking unnecessary risks.
Let Kris handle it.

We should check what the sphere was making them do here on the industrial area that needed all that power.
Raising your foot reveals a fragment of the ominous sphere. With its threat apparently neutralized you decide you could do that much for the science and pick it up. You turn it over in your hand for a moment before stowing it away in a satchel and into your hardsuit’s pocket.

“Is it a good idea?” Lea asks.

“I don’t know. But without learning more about this we will never be any less powerless.”

“Okay. Just make sure to throw it into a star if you begin to feel urges to serve some obscure power.”

“Will do.” You smile.

Climbing back into the foreman’s office you find Eve standing near the batarian’s desk, the presumed foreman still out cold; the gynoid was staring off into distance.


She snaps into a more relaxed pose and looks at you.

“Oh, sorry, Ford. I was reflecting on my logs. There are anomalies I have difficulties reconciling with my core principles.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it too much just yet. We’re not done here. Any disproportionate recollections of Miss Tichonova?”

“...yes, of late. Recent minutes, to be precise.”

You nod. “I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Lea, bring the scrambler down. I don’t think anyone here will be in a rush to reactivate it. And Eve, when that is done, can you call up the skycar and check the drive core status?”

“On it.” Lea says.

“Certainly, Ford.”

You step to the office window. The workers moved by the orb, or consciousness behind it, to storm you, were still around, but not in any shape to pose a threat. Some were passed out, some were curled up in fetal position, others slumped against the walls or machinery, sobbing uncontrollably.

One bond has been broken. But something remains.

“Ford, the shuttle’s drive core is recharging.” Eve informs you.

“Excellent. So it should be safe for Chariot to land... well, more or less.”

“If they’re at peace with their moms, you mean.” Lea nods.

You bring up your comma and open the channel.

“Kris, come in. Landing party to Chariot.”

After a few moments the gruff Krogan voice comes back.

“Ford! Good to hear you. What the hell happened down there? Miss Ferrum’s packet was talking about entranced crew?”

“We found something sinister down here, messing with peoples’ minds.”

“Shit. You fine?”

“Yeah. More or less.”

“Should I bring her down? Or is it still too risky?”

>bring the ship down, we have people here that need help and engineering that needs care.
>not yet, we still have some cleaning up to do down here.
>something else

Where to go after the call?

>poke around a bit
>straight to the crashed cruiser
>some other section of the facility
>some other plan
>>something else
bring the ship down outside of the scrambler range and tell Eve to send the car for them, they can start helping the crew and engineering while us 3
>straight to the crashed cruiser
And tell them to have a look on what they were doing and report to us.
“Bring her down, but not right here. Pick a spot outside of where scrambler range used to be and set her down there.” You say. You were not risking getting stranded here if you could help it. “Eve will send you the skycar when you’re here. Be advised though, anyone down here is still... well, thinking if their mother, it seems. So don’t be surprised. Long term exposure did quite a number on the people here.”

“Gotcha. You be careful, too.”

“Always am.”

“Liar.” Kris snorts and kills the comm.

With that handled you exchange glances with your companions - the three of you seem composed as far as you can tell - and head out of the office.

“So, where are we going?” Lea asks as you go.

“The place where it all seems to have begun. We’re going to the SSV Palos.”

Your group passes through the installation to its primary airlock without incident, if you don’t count passing by a group of awakened workers in the crew section, huddled against the walls or each other, sobbing inconsolably. Attempt to communicate with one was met with a blank stare of bloodshot eyes.

“Seems like padre will have his work cut out for him.” You mumble as you wait for the airlock to open.

“Maybe we’ll find another of those things?” Lea says.

“I guess. Not something I’m looking forward to, though.”

“One thing puzzles me though. Why mother? That servitude indoctrination - was that indoctrination? - made sort of sense, but this...?”

“We’re getting to the bottom of this.” You affirm, stepping out onto the ice plains of Enceladus.

You don’t need to search the horizon for long - the groove cruiser made during its landing is still relatively fresh, even if the ship itself ended up mostly buried in ice. Without wasting time you set out on the hike.

It doesn’t surprise you that with every step you take, your pining for family increases and you have to expend more effort to set your focus straight. While less malignant than the spherical artifact’s influence, this pressure too had potential to be debilitatingly distracting. You hoped the others would be fine when exposed to it.
“Ford, come in.” Kris’s voice comes from the comlink.


“The passengers are loading some of the supplies onto the car, we’ll be ferrying the goods between the ship and the station for a while. How’re you guys doing?”

“Advancing towards the cruiser. Should be no more than couple of minutes’ hike.”

“Okay. Keep me posted. Or don’t if you want me to go over there and look for you.”

“Got it.”

“And, Ford... the foundation guys are too busy doing their thing to consider it for now, but I guess you’ll be wanting to bring this place to attention of authorities. I was wondering... which ones?”

“Hmm...” well, that was a thing to consider.

>This is Alliance base in Alliance Territory, we’re calling the Alliance.
>the people here are terminus outcasts, we’re going to try and reach their compatriots.
>mind control devices with indoctrination vibes? This is above anyone’s paygrade. Call Libella and have her bring this to Council.
>actually, let’s not call anyone until we figure out the other part of this puzzle.
With this I retire
Safe travels friends

>actually, let’s not call anyone until we figure out the other part of this puzzle.

We are not sure who is responsible yet.

Thanks for running
>actually, let’s not call anyone until we figure out the other part of this puzzle.

>actually, let’s not call anyone until we figure out the other part of this puzzle.
“None, for now.” You decide. “We still don’t know enough to be sure the call we make is a good one.”

“If you say so. I’ll stall if our guests want extranet access, then. Be safe, Henri.”

“Will do. Thanks, Kris.”

You shut off the comm and continue your travel in silence. There’s not much of it left - several minutes later your party arrives to a beacon and a small pile of crates, presumably what was left of an earlier squatter venture to the downed vessel. Which is convenient, because from it leads a short path straight below the ice level, the tunnel ending agains one of the cruiser’s airlocks.

“Eve, if you’d be so kind?” You step aside to let the gynoid do her thing.

“Of course.”

Seconds later the exterior door opens, letting you in.

“The security protocols here are obsolete by several years.” She informs.

“So... that implies the ship did not sync with Alliance networks, presumably since it’s gone missing.” You muse.

“How did it turn up in the Sol system then?” Lea asks. “Deserter crew decided to help out with the Reapers on their own?”

“Well... considering they must have been carrying the thought control sphere, I think we can more or less rule out the ‘on their own’ part.”

“Fair. How then did mind controlled people know of the battle for Earth?”

“Maybe they arrived earlier? Perhaps during Reaper occupation, considering earlier arrival would have them intercepted by Alliance patrols?”

“Unless Alliance was in on this.” You note. “Or Cerberus, or someone else that might be able to keep things under wraps...” you explore further possibilities.

“What about timing of the crash? Seems strange the ship would fly all the way back to earth, only to crash when the Reapers got blasted?”

You sigh. “Let’s go find our more clues before we drown in speculations. Mom hated it when people jumped to conclusions.”

“Really? Xera loves to spin the tales beforehand only to sift through them afterwards to figure out which one is correct. Of course, if it turns out none of them fit, she can get a bit grouchy.”

There is a moment of awkward silence as you realize what you’ve been saying.
“Ahem, Eve, any spooky protocols this time?”

“Negative. Although there are traces of meddling with the system.”

“Meddling? Like... an aftereffect of having carried the artifact sphere?”

“I cannot discern anything of sorts at this time, but the signs of meddling I speak of point at irregular access by the crew, one that has been carefully masked.”

“Not carefully enough, I guess?” You say.

“Very carefully, Ford. I found the anomaly by holistic analysis at level past where individual anomalies could pass scrutiny as inconsequential.”

“Okay, then. And what exactly got tampered with?”

“I haven’t yet gathered enough to be able to pinpoint the changes, but it looks like personnel files and shipboard authorizations.”

“Alright, then. Thank you, Eve. Let’s head on in and see what we can find, and let’s start with...”

>...the bridge
>...crew quarters
>...storage bays

>...the bridge
We can probably find the main data storage and start seeing what we can find.
Discover where this ship was, what they were doing and why did they come to earth

maybe we can even find some security footage from when they boarded the sphere
>...storage bays

More spheres?
>...the bridge
“...the bridge. It’s going to have best access to all information pertaining to the cruiser’s fate.”

And so you enter the airlock and initiate its cycle.

“The ship’s systems seem to be in remarkably good shape.” Lea noted. “Power at bare minimum, but enough to run life support systems.”

“And the crew is still aboard?” You turn to Eve.

“As far as I can tell, it seems so. Most of the life signs I can spot are very weak, however.”

“The foreman mentioned sleep... well, no point in speculating.” You shake your head.

The three of you make your way down the corridors of the cruiser towards the bridge. Occasionally you hear a mournful wail, suggesting that the crew suffered similar effects as the squatters did. There was relatively few of these, and far in between, supporting the notion that only skeleton crew was awake... for a given value of being awake.

This was your first time aboard an Alliance cruiser but with Eve’s help you’re able to quickly navigate ship’s interior and before long you reach the CIC, central chamber from which captain and his officers oversaw vessel’s operation, dominated by a central projector, its sides and the chamber walls lined with holographic displays, most of them inactive, the few of the active ones riddled with warning and error messages.

“Assuming direct control.” Eve said. In unguarded moment the synthetic lady had seated herself in an elevated chair intended for cruiser’s Captain.

“Very funny.” You say dryly, your experiences from the collector fights rushing back to you. If only mother was here to comfort you...

You grit your teeth.

“Eve, What have you found?”

“Accessing logs... Ah, curses...”

“What happened?”

“Large portion of the logs has been very thoroughly purged. I cannot find any navigational data at all. Officer logs are cut off at first relay jump of the exploration mission, along with surveillance retention.”


“However, the surveillance feeds must have been reactivated intermittently because I can see traces of recordings for memory banks. I can try to reconstruct them, but it will take most of my attention for a while.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll have to put other analytics on hold and will be unlikely to pick up another trace until I’m done, or asked to interrupt the task.”

“You see other traces worth pursuing?” Lea asks

“I can run deep analysis on data currently available and run it against the data I can draw through extranet link. That will tax my communication bandwidth and will require me to stay focused on the task as well. Additionally, I’d endeavour to keep the network traffic low profile but it might attract attention regardless.”
>Reconstruct the footage. Any knowledge of what exactly happened here can be crucial
>Run the analysis. Learning context and comparing it with what we have will help us see the big picture.
>Don’t focus on either. We’ll look for more clues elsewhere first.
>other (Lea can run some analytics on her own, you and Lea can explore the ship independently, you can bring up specific question you want Eve or Lea to look at...)
I withdraw into the void for now
Solar wind in your sails, friends.
have Eve
>Run the analysis. Learning context and comparing it with what we have will help us see the big picture.
and then
>Reconstruct the footage. Any knowledge of what exactly happened here can be crucial

while Ford and Lea explore
it was where the sphere was located on the station
>Run the analysis. Learning context and comparing it with what we have will help us see the big picture.
Can we lock the door to the bridge? Let's lock the door to the bridge.
"Go ahead and run the analysis, Eve. In fact, go on with the reconstruction afterwards. Lea, you're with me. We're going on a tour."

"Right-o." Lea confirms.

"I'll devote some of my attention to track your movements and will be able to affect some ship systems on demand, but don't expect real-time reactivity. I'm leery of transferring too much computing onto presumably compromised systems. Unless you want me to...?"

"Don't take risks, Eve. Stay comfy and lock yourself in when we're gone." You shake your head.

"Acknowledged. Preparing CIC lockdown. Stay safe, Ford, miss Fari."

With a nod you double check the ship layout you downloaded to your omnitool and head out with Lea in tow.

You find yourself walking down a wider corridor compared to the one you originally took to reach the CIC. It was central corridor of the cruiser, wide enough to accomodate heavier traffic than most other connectors and also adapted for hauling of larger components along the ship interior. In a way the central concourse could appear opulent compared to narrower connectors between rest of the sections, nevermind maintenance shafts that almost doubled as natural selection for the service crews.

"Chariot to away team." Kris's voice comes over the comm.

"What's up, Kris?" You ask.

"You weren't kidding. At one point I had half a mind to take a shuttle and burn it for Tuchanka. Or I would if I weren't the badass space archaeologist you know. The big guy broke up in tears when we made our first round trip, the priest has to stay with him to make sure he's fine. And the Asari is more fidgety than she was on the way."

"Huh. Well, hopefully we'll figure out the source soon enough. I'm expecting it to be somewhere here, considering the intensity... at least it's less oppressive than the other piece."

"What other piece?"

"The artifact I had to destroy back in the outpost."

"You what?"

"Believe me, it's better this way. It was enslaving people... well, we'll talk more on this later. For now though, keep your wits about you."

"Always do. Later."

Kris shuts off the comm but you don't make five steps before Eve's voice picks up.

"I have obtained mission description and specifications of SSV Palos."
"Okay, so?" You prompt her as you go, splitting your attention between omnitool's readouts of your surroundings and the voice in your ear.

"The vessel was one of the three exploration cruisers that were tasked with a long distance journey towards clusters without known Relays in them: Palos, Plymouth and Gdansk. Several candidate regions have been singled out in the Attican traverse where such mission was thought to have greater potential of making a useful discovery than areas within control of Citadel races without risk of political claims being raised by the same. Plymouth has returned with news of a cluster of relatively uninteresting worlds, strategically speaking. Palos and Gdansk have failed to report back entirely and their fate was unknown - until now, in case of Palos."

"Looks like this expedition found more than it bargained for." Lea notes. "And what they found did not want to be revealed. But if that is the case, why did it return?"

"Presently unknown." Eve says. "The crew roster from mission description matches with the ship record. Most of the crew are in suspended animation, as per transit procedures."

"Wait. You're saying the original crew is all on board?" You ask.

"So it would appear."

"And sleep pods are still active?"

"Affirmative. Although since crash the secondary power is struggling to keep up."

"No pressure."

"Pressure is in a way a concern. Waste heat past certain level will cause the ice supporting the vessel to melt allowing it to sink first through the solid surface and eventually into the ocean beneath."

"Peachy." you growl. "Can the cruiser withstand being submerged?"

"Possibly, if reinforcing mass effect fields are applied."

"Alright, got it: Don't melt ice or fix the ship. Well, hopefully we won't need either."

"There's no need for immediate concern, Ford. At present level of activity the ship will remain stable for weeks."

"Okay, open with that next time... anyway, was that it?"

"Not yet, Ford. I've run some models for supply circulation and the stocks don't match up. Life support and matter recycling has been taxed slightly past expected models."

"Someone ate more than their share?"

"Detailed records don't match up with that. There are ways to reconcile that, but they don't seem too practicable as they require very specific sort of out of books shipboard economy."
"Then... stowaway?"

"That seems like a possible explanation, yes."

"So... they picked up an alien on the way?" Lea asks.

You frown "I kind of assumed the stowaway would have board before the mission started."

"Miss Fari's theory seems more likely as I'm not seeing the anomaly in earliest record. Except maybe slightly above regulations food consumption, but in line with individual accounts."

"Interesting... alright, was there anything else?"

"Not at this time, Ford."

"Very well. Thank you, Eve." You say and the comm falls silent, and you stop to consider your next steps. You were on your way to check out the engineering, but perhaps a change in course would be in order now?

>Keep going for engineering. It's as good a place to start as any and you'll be able to better survey extent of damage the ship has suffered.
>Head to the crew section, confirm that the crew still in suspended animation is there and maybe find out more about crew that was active (and enthralled?)
>Head to storage bays, if the ship brought back more than just the sphere you broke, there might be clues there
>head to another shipboard facility (galley, common room, lab/workshop, ...)
>Ask someone about something (over comm)
>some other plan
I'm afraid those will have to be the sole posts for today.
Thank you for bearing with me, friends.

>Head to storage bays, if the ship brought back more than just the sphere you broke, there might be clues there

Lets see what they picked up
No worries QM, thanks for running

>Head to the crew section, confirm that the crew still in suspended animation is there and maybe find out more about crew that was active (and enthralled?)
>Head to storage bays, if the ship brought back more than just the sphere you broke, there might be clues there

>Head to the crew section, confirm that the crew still in suspended animation is there and maybe find out more about crew that was active (and enthralled?)
I fucked up
Meant to vote for

>Head to storage bays, if the ship brought back more than just the sphere you broke, there might be clues there
With several taps on your omnitool you reconfigure the navigation from engineering to storage section. If the ship made a stop on which it brought aboard the indoctrination sphere and now possibly a stowaway as well, it was possible there would be clues for you to find. The map shows several storage bays located on either side of the ship and two somewhat more robust ones, with better insulation, towards the aft.

"Eve," you ask into the comm. "The shielded cargo bays in the aft are intended for items collected during the exploration?"

"That's correct. I have no feeds for the place, they've been removed at some point during the dark period of the logs." Eve responds. "The remaining storage is dedicated to standard shipboard supplies. I'm not seeing anything out of ordinary with these - withdrawal and replenishment data is consistent with life support and recirculation logs."

"In other words, not much point in going there. Alright, thanks Eve."

You resume walking down the corridor.

"What do you think this hypothetical alien would look like?" Lea says. "Can it change shapes to look like people? Or maybe it looks innocuous enough to pass by notice. Maybe it can turn invisible, or perhaps it’s really cute and the crew took it on as a mascot? What do you think, Cap?”

“My mother would scold me for humoring this line of thought.” You answer dryly, the mental image vivid.

“Well, she’s not here now so you can let loose. Come on, cap. Unleash your imagination!”

“Well, *assuming* there is an alien in the first place...”

>”...I’d be more interested in knowing whether it boarded before, after or alongside with the sphere.”
>”...I’d expect it to be (specify)”
>”...no, I don’t think there’s actually an alien at all. The “stowaway” is human.”
>”...no, I really shouldn’t. Mother would say that if we don’t learn all available facts and all available accounts before we begin to assemble a hypothesis we are likely to poison our perception of future evidence.”
>”...I’d expect it to be (specify)”
Capable of blending in and hiding, but my bet is that he looks like the mother of the person observing, no one would brig or throw their mother away.
>”...I’ll also be interested in knowing whether it boarded before, after or alongside with the sphere.”
Maybe it can copy people's forms? that way I could see if you have those flaps like the Geth kek, but that would be cheating

support this
I may explain why we can't stop thinking of our mothers, maybe it identified something everyone on board would be calm around.
"...it would be..." You ponder for a moment, what sort of alien would make sense... for a given value of "making sense" appropriate for this entire operation. "...alright, it would be a psychic alien. One that would be able to read minds and control them, in a way similar to that of the sphere. It would have found that most people feel most comfortable around their mothers and use this to his (its? her?) advantage in infiltration."

You pause to mull this over once more. Psychic aliens. You could almost hear your mother say-

"You mean, like Asari?"


"Creating a psychic impression on people it interacts with to appeal to their deep seated emotions or wishes. Like Asari do to appear attractive to all species they meet."

"Wait, where did that come from?" You frown.

"Well, I mean, it's one of the theories going around the extranet. That nobody ever saw an Asari's true form because they always reflect something their counterparts desire. It explains why they are so sought after by Humans, Turians, even Salarians..."

"Oh come on, that's... how would you explain vids then?"

"Dunno. Maybe the influence can be relayed somehow?"

"Unbelievable." You shake your head. "Anyway, returning to the topic at hand, I'd be more interested in learning whether this hypothetical alien boarded before, after or together with the sphere."

"What would that change?"

"It could hint at whether the two are even related. I'm not sure about you, but I got the impression the two psychic pressures are not aligned but rather at odds with each other."

"Huh. Now that you mention it... Keelah."
That last exclamation was not part of the conversation. The two of you finally made it through the connector off the central corridor and through a security checkpoint leaving you in front of a heavy blast door Eve helpfully opened when you arrived at them, revealing interior of the shielded storeroom, a wide and tall chamber fitted with manipulation fixture allowing for ad hoc creation of irregular scaffolding which in turn could efficiently house a number of items of varying, non-standard sizes.

Intricacies of the warehouse design were not what mattered now. The room was void of content, bar an improvised pedestal made of several elongated metal cases welded together and to the floor. If the crew brought anything else into this storeroom, they must've moved it elsewhere or jettisoned it. You could venture a guess at what the pedestal was meant to support based on a circular indentation in its center.

It was not the only example of crew's artistic expression in the room. More noticeable as well were images apparently cut into the wall with maintenance tools. Along with some abstract imagery the overarching theme you could glean out of it were lower, lesser humanoid figures prostrating themselves below...

"Are those... Reapers?"

"The shape seems similar." You squint. "Although..."

"Could it be that the crew came across some remote instance of Reaper presence?"

"Lea..." You think that over as you walk into the room and get to recording the murals on your omnitool. "Although it does seem there might be a connection."

It doesn't take long to scan everything. You review other readings and can find nothing of interest, except maybe traces consistent with the Squatters from the station outside having come in to take the indoctrination sphere away. No trace of any other expedition, no indication of an alien stowaway. If there was one, he would be elsewhere on the ship.

>Look around some more. (specify what would you want to look for or examine)
>Head to engineering
>Head to crew quarters
>other plan
With this I retire.
Safe travels, friends.
>Head to crew quarters
Maybe mom is watching over her children

I was gonna say its a racchni mother, maybe the one shep saved, but we would probably be singing the song by now.
>Head to crew quarters
"Well, I think we've found what we could in here." You say, adding the state of the storeroom to your list of mental notes. The domination and servitude theme seemed consistent with what the sphere was apparently imparting on people in its vicinity, though you could not spot anything motherhood-related at a glance, and no indication of anything else having been recovered alongside with the sphere.

With a sigh you draw up your omnitool and plot a path to the crew section. You wanted to confirm the state of the crew - most of them would reportedly be in modified sleep pods, resting in suspended animation, presumably put back to sleep for the return trip, since during the expedition there would be no reason to not awaken the full crew.

Maybe the recordings Eve was reconstructing would shed some light on what exactly was happening on board in recent past.

For now you and Lea set out to navigate the cruiser interior once more. You walk past the storage bays and make a cursory inspection of one of them that yield no new information - storehouses were mostly automated and part of them outright integrated into life support systems and ship's infrastructure, the vessel being outfitted with a few additional subsystems for matter recirculation to facilitate longer period without supply stops; in any case, the storage showed no indication of irregularities.

After that you reach the crew section. Most of the cabins were silent, their inhabitants deep in a dreamless sleep in their associated sleep pods. Picking a few at random for examination you confirm that the pod instruments and readings of your scanners are in line with each other. This portion of crew seemed safe and at ease.

In contrast you finally encounter a few of the awakened crew. Not unlike the Terminus squatters, these too seemed entranced and paid no immediate attention to your presence. Unlike them, however, the crewmen showed no sign of doing a purposeful activity. Some of them were sitting against a wall, murmuring something to themselves, something closer inspection and analysis revealed to be nursery rhymes. Others were bundled up on the floor in fetal position. One you found in his cabin, a datapad and stylus in hand, drawing something on the foil surface. You approached him and looked over his shoulder to get a better look. The databad was depowered, although tracing the man's movements showed his creation would amount to simple, stick figurine, scribbles.

"Is there any pattern to these effects?" You think aloud.

"Not that I can spot." Lea says, looking into her omnitool. The two of you stand in one of ship's galleys. "But at least it does seem like every person is accounted for."
"Not every person." Eve makes herself known over the comm. "I have been tracking your progress and comparing your findings with the crew roster. One of the pods was empty."

"Which one?" You ask.

"If the records are in order, one specialist Athena Smiles."

"Does that mean she's awake here somewhere?" Lea asks.

"I am not seeing her lifesigns on the internal sensors." Eve answers.

"So... she's no longer aboard?"

"Unknown. Absence from internal sensors is not conclusive due to state the network is in. Furthermore more recent logs show withdrawals from food dispenser under her account."

"Someone used her credentials?" You ask.

"Unknown." Eve says. There is a pause. "Ford, this may be of interest: the pre-mission consumption anomaly I mentioned earlier is also linked to her account."

"So, this Athena Smiles was a big eater?"

"So it would appear."

You have only a brief moment to recall the nutritional calculation your mother used to determine schedule of your meals for the next week when a flicker of movement in the corner of your vision catches your attention...

>please, roll some 2d100s, one for you, one for Lea.
Rolled 35, 7 = 42 (2d100)

Rolled 20, 81 = 101 (2d100)

Here goes...
Rolled 75, 28 = 103 (2d100)

Rolled 46, 65 = 111 (2d100)

You turn your head reflexively, trying to zero in on the movement. At first you can't seem to be able to discern anything of interest, just ordinary mess hall. Tables, benches, dispenser machines. inspirational posters, some of them mildly adjusted for humorous effect. A blue eyed little boy, maybe five or six years old, with a candy bar walking by, startled by being spotted.

Wait, what?

"Hello? Um... what's your name?" you hear Lea say. So it was not a hallucination.

For a moment the three of you just stood there, exchanging looks of surprise and fear.

"You are not my mommy." The child states in response, then turns back to you.

"Wh-" You begin, but words fail you. You turn to Lea, not sure if to looks for support or confirmation. You exchange glances, and when you turn back, the boy is gone.

"Did you see that?" You ask.

"The child? Yes, definitely." Lea nods.


"I'm... unsure what I saw. I saw an anomaly on the feeds, but was unable to process it properly." Eve replies. "You say there was a child?"

"A boy, maybe five year old by the looks. We both saw him." You say. "Then we left him off our sight for a second and he was gone." Lea adds.

"I see... Yes, now that I hear your confirmation the image processing checks out. Incidentally, this gives context to the surveillance moments I've managed to recover, as requested."

"Good job, Eve. Send them over." You say, bringing up your omnitool's display. Eve doesn't waste time in sharing the videos and soon you are watching them, together with Lea.

"I've sent you three samples I thought could interest you." Eve informs as you begin playback.

First clip shows a small, boy-sized shade in front of a dispenser. The dispenser produces a synthesized piece of food, the shade flickers and vanishes.

Second clip shows a corridor, the flickering shade in the middle, entranced crew men approaching from either side. As they draw near, the shade darts to one side and in the next moment it's gone.

Third clip shows another corridor, and a duo of enthralled crewmen carrying an elongated object - a sleep pod, maybe? - somewhere. The shade from other two clips was nowhere to be seen.

You process what you saw in silence.

"This gets weirder and weirder by the moment." Lea interrupts it with a comment to which you can only nod.

"Alright then. So it seems we have our stowaway. The question is... what can we do about him?"

>You need to try and track the boy (if it is one) down.
>You need to figure out the fate of missing crewmate
>You need to go over something with Eve and/or Lea (specify)
>You need to go to engineering and see what shape it's in.
>You need to call Kris or someone else and talk or confer
>You need to leave
>You need to do something else
>You need your mommy
With this I withdraw for the night
>>You need to figure out the fate of missing crewmate

I bet it's in that sleep pod that the other two were carrying, maybe we can ask Eve where is that corridor and try to find it from there, I bet the missing Miss Athena is in there

thanks for running
After giving the matter some thought you find it rather easy to pick the best course of action.

"Our first order of business is to find out what happened to miss Smiles." You decide. "I get the feeling that if we can do that, the rest of the story will fall into place. Eve, can you give me a time and place for that third recording? And you said 'sample', does that mean you have more of those to track?"

"Not much, I'm afraid. I was fortunate to have been able to reconstruct at least these."

"Why was the surveillance even active?" Lea asks. "If it has been disabled and its records purged at some earlier point, why reactivate it?"

"Well we can probably safely assume it was not without reason. At the same time, it would be at point when the crew was firmly under grip of the sphere's influence..." You trail off "...or would it?"

If there indeed was a clash between the two psionic forces, it would justify one side of the conflict to try and use ship systems to its advantage.

However, you still didn't have clear enough picture of what the opposing sides should be, and what were their motives.

"Alright, Eve, your best guess. And hard facts." You say into the comm.

"Very well. The snippet I've sent you was taken in corridor leading out of sickbay. I've also succeeded in reconstruing two more images - one in the spinal corridor around the storage, the other in corridor leading to auxiliary maintenance access past engineering section."

"That doesn't sound like appropriate place for a sleep pod." Lea noted.

"It's also about as far away from the CIC as you can get." You note. At least without jettisoning the thing, you think to yourself darkly.

"Well, if they were taking it in that direction it does narrow down places to search by quite a bit." Lea says and you nod. With that the two of you set out, down the corridor and towards the ship's aft.

As you go, you begin to once again examine all that you learned so far of this peculiar expedition. You had mysterious mind-controlling artifact, a missing woman, a strange child and your mind kept returning to person of your mother. You couldn't but help thinking these were all elements of a single story...

>I cannot be chosen, even by strongest of wills
>My pressure can feel stronger than laws or the bills
>My bond can be tender, warm embrace of love
>Or it can be calloused like armored glove

>I can sprout like a tree, ancient and wide
>Or I can be snug like a pod to the pea
>Some people would rather keep me at arm's length
>Others yet find in me source of their strength

>Whether you think me your pride or your shame
>Others will judge you by calling my name.
>For neither a fire nor lightning nor flood
>Shall sever a bond that is forged in blood
I withdraw into the void.

sorry for the too easy riddle, I'm too sleepy already to balance it
yup, family too for me
I passed through mother, then love and ended up in household or family
Well done, friends. Unfortunately I'm unable to deliver a story update today.

I will see you tomorrow.
See ya
"...so. A child." Lea says as you walk towards the stern of the ship.

"Yes." You nod. "Unless it was an alien shapechanger..." You pause to consider this. "Eve, does the resource consumption logs line up with a human child?"

"It is a stretch, Ford. It would, if the child had exceptionally high energy demand."

You grimace. "It might, if it's the source of this psychic influence that we're seeing here... but it raises concern regarding his health. But anyway, we can deal with that after we find his mother."

"Yeah, right." Lea nods, then stops in her tracks. "Oh, damn, it almost got me now. Careful, Ford!"

"Hm?" You ask, then it strikes you. "Ah, that. No, Lea, that was not the boy's aura. I'm serious. It fits almost too well. Where else would a child come from on an isolated starship if not from one of her crew? And what would be more likely suspect than the woman that's been conspicuously missing and previously exhibited specific dietary needs?"

Lea inclines her head as she catches up. "Alright... unless it's a psychic illusion of some vastly unimaginable consciousness, I guess. But what happened to your not wanting to make premature conjectures?"

You shrug. "What can I say? I didn't always do as my mother told me."

If you did, you might've become a forensic accountant at department of finance. Likely dead by eyebeam or huskification, all things considered. With a shake you return back to the reality.

The corridor you are taking bends to accomodate a generator block, reminding you that you're crossing through the engineering section. You were nearing the furthermost area of the ship reachable without making use of the airlock. The connectors here would take you between various points of engineering - thruster, generator, drive core access for maintenance... most of them you can rule out as hiding locations just by looking at the size of hatches. There was no way for the pod to pass through them. This elimination spared you hours of scouring, but it still left several locations to explore.

You begin by checking every escape pod you pass by as you go. There's quite a lot of them scattered along the outer hull, not surprising for the ship of this size. Although the notion of having to use these on a world that's months away from established patrol routes is anything but reassuring to you.

Another candidate is the stern airlock maintenance crews could use to embark on spacewalks for external repairs. It's empty, although another disconcerting thought occurs to you, that the pod might have been simply jettisoned. Then again, that could have been done through any of the airlocks. Why carry the pod all the way back here?
Eventually, however, you reach the rearmost section of the ship - stern gunnery section. Far from the cruiser's main weapon system, its rear facing batteries were nevertheless a valuable tool for deterring smaller craft from approaching from that side in absence of, as some theorists liked to call it, "interesting" propulsion systems.

On the floor of the small room, fit between terminal consoles, was the elongated shape of a portable sleep pod that has been taken here all the way from Sickbay.

Without hesitation you step to it and use your omnitool to interface with it.

There was a woman inside. A raven-haired, of modest stature, tranquil smile on her face. Her heart was beating - at a glacial pace.

"This pod is running on fumes." Lea says, standing behind you, her own omnitool up as well.

"Eve, how long can this thing work without power supply?"

"Several days on its internal batteries. It is designed to survive rationing if power supply needs maintenance." the infiltrator says over the comm.

"And when it runs out?"

"Suspended animation ends."

"As in, she wakes up?"

"If there is enough power for emergency awakening, yes."

You make a few taps on the omnitool and frown. "This should not be possible."

The emergency banks are dry.

"You know what else shouldn't be possible? Arbitrarily knocking out shuttle drive cores." Lea points out.

"How much time do we have?" You ask.

"Between several hours and a day or two, based on your readings." Eve says.

"Alright, we need to restore this thing's power." You say. "And here's where we will do this..."

>Right here. Plug it into the systems and find a way to squeeze more power out of them. May require repairs.
>Bring her to sickbay and try to reanimate the woman there. May require repairs or take risks without them.
>Carry her out of the ship and bring her to the outpost's sickbay. Maybe you'll manage in time.
>other plan
>call someone (and how much to tell them?)
These will have to be the sole posts for today. See you in the future, friends.

>Bring her to sickbay and try to reanimate the woman there. May require repairs or take risks without them.

Thanks for running and congrats if you celebrate freedom day
>Bring her to sickbay and try to reanimate the woman there. May require repairs or take risks without them.

>Bring her to sickbay and try to reanimate the woman there. May require repairs or take risks without them.
Realizing you probably should not waste any more time you put your omnitool away and position yourself next to the capsule with sleeping woman in it.

"Lea, please help me with this. We need to get her to the Sickbay." You say. "Eve, I'm going to need you to navigate us."

The quarian nods and takes other side of the pod. With some effort the two of you lift it and head out of the room and, following Eve's vocal instructions, navigate the cruiser's corridors towards its medical facility. The trip goes by quickly and after several minutes you enter the sickbay.

Without wasting any more time you connect the pod to the systems there.

"I've accessed the pod diagnostics," Eve says into your ears. "but I cannot divert enough power to medical systems to facilitate awakening without putting remaining systems, including connected pods, in peril."

"What are our options? Can we supply power from elsewhere?" You ask.

"There's bound to be portable power cells in the outpost. And we have some on the ship as well." Lea says.

"That would be a viable solution." Eve says. "Alternatively, it could be possible to carry out repairs on Palos. However, doing so might necessitate further actions to keep the vessel from sinking further."

"Right. Hmm... Eve, do you think this ship might be spaceworthy, now that the sphere is gone?"

"Insufficient data for meaningful answer." Eve says. "More repairs would presumably be required, along with main-"


Force of the shout, as soundless as it is, causes you and Lea to stagger and seek support of a wall or one of sickbay's devices. When the haze clears a bit, you see the boy from before standing next to the pod, attempting awkwardly to hug it.

You watch the scene for a moment while you allow your thoughts to come back together. As you're about to say something, starting with a simple "Hello", the boy turns around. You feel the azure orbs bore into you and find yourself wondering just how much control the child has over his powers. His attention is definitely on you now, but you don't feel any compulsion to contemplate your own mother. It seems this little reunion caused the psychic pressure to abate.

"You brought mommy back. Thank you." He addresses the both of you. "Who are you?"

You exchange glances with Lea, then say:

"I'm Henri Ford, and this is Lea'Fari. We're friends."

"You don't have so much slime on you as others." The boy says to you. "You smell nice." He turns to Lea.

"Uh... thanks?" She says.

"Mommy is asleep. I don't know how to wake her up."

"We do. We will help." You say, although you're not yet sure how exactly are you going to accomplish this...

>Have Kris bring some power cells along. This should allow you to operate sickbay... at least for a while.
>Go to the engineering and see if you can reanimate the SSV Palos and get a stable supply for the systems
>Maybe you could move the sleep pod to the outpost? You'd have to secure it from elements
>other plan (involve foundation people?)
I'm from Europe, but thanks for the thought. And happy freedom day to the Amerifriends!
>>Go to the engineering and see if you can reanimate the SSV Palos and get a stable supply for the systems

ship get

>Go to the engineering and see if you can reanimate the SSV Palos and get a stable supply for the systems

Take Lea along, she knows more about making damaged space ships work than any of us.

>Go to the engineering and see if you can reanimate the SSV Palos and get a stable supply for the systems
"...okay." The boy says. "Can you help others too?" he asks.

Right. Maybe rest of the crew will begin to recover as well now? The outcasts under sphere's influence seemed to pay attention to their physiological needs, driven by their purpose, but you're not sure about Palos's crew. Another thing to worry about. Well, you can't be everywhere, and your priority right now would be...

"We'll do our best. But first we need to fix the ship so we can wake up your mom."

"That would be neat. She seems like not there when she's sleeping."

You give the boy a small, reassuring smile, then turn to Lea. "Come on, let's go to the engineering and see what we can do."

With that the two of you leave the sickbay behind, the boy apparently content to stay at his mother's pod, resting his head against its side.
The Episode 7 has been committed to Citadel Archives.


Henri Ford and his friends will continue their adventures in episode 8!
thanks for running
Episode 8 is available here:


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