Thursday, September 15, 2011

ME1 - Out Of Their Minds

Not everything is what it seems when Meriel descends upon the human colonies of Feros.

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Nineteen

Location: Feros
Active Companions: Garrus/Williams

I'm not quite sure what I expected to find when we landed on Feros.  Sure, geth were going to be a given, but them I can deal with.  It was the "everything else" of which I was uncertain.  For everything that is unknown about the geth, confrontations with their kind have almost become de rigueur.  On one hand it would be a mistake to call them simple, for they are anything but, and it would be highly dangerous to become complacent where they are concerned.  On the other though, in this hunt for Saren the geth are almost a "known factor."  They are always around the next corner, they are always hostile, and they can always (at least up until now) be killed by our guns.  How sad is it then that I've become comfortable enough with the geth conflict that it is members of my own race, and not those mechanized beings, that continue to catch me by surprise.  Well maybe not so much "catch me by surprise" as "disgust me."  There is a reason that I do not play well with others.    Thankfully, like the geth, troublesome humans can also be eliminated by the dangerous end of a gun.

We landed at Feros hoping to glean some kind of information from its Prothean Ruins which now act as home to various human colonies.  Information was indeed gleaned, but it came in a manner that none of us expected. Assembling a team for this mission was a difficult task since I was torn between the security of maximum firepower and access to in-the-field Prothean expertise.  In the end, despite how ecstatic Liara probably would have been to join the team, I opted for firepower.  Considering the magnitude of opposition we faced on this mission, this was the right decision to make.  Williams joined Garrus, who like usual was at my side, and the three of us began our trek to the Zhu's Hope colony.  As a team the three of us work together well.  Williams is far more loyal to the Alliance than I, but she and I have overtime found common ground, so there is an established trust between the two of us.  Not only is she good at her job, but the Gunnary Sargent, like Garrus, only speaks up when she feels it is important.  At all other times she blends into the background, follows orders, and does what needs to be done.  She is a good woman to have around.

Zhu's Hope was in upheaval when we arrived.  Their colony was overrun by geth, their power was out, their water was out, their colonists were falling ill "from stress," and their leader had been impatiently awaiting my arrival.  My team cleared the geth from their end of the ruins,  found a backup power supply, and restored their water supply without breaking much of a sweat.  The geth were most certainly interested in Zhu's Hope, but it was the colonists, and not our mutual enemy, that was raising eyebrows.  Not only was there an eerie undercurrent laced throughout all our conversations with community members, but it quickly became quite clear that information vital to Z.H.'s present situation was being withheld.  Almost spoken words, unanswered questions, clever skirting of the issue ... all of these pointed to willful concealment on the colonists' part.  What pushed the issue from "irritating" to "eerie," however, was that the colony's residents didn't seem to be aware of what they were doing.  When combined with the prolonged illness that plagued a number of residents (it was being attributed to PTSD, but Garrus considered it the result of unnatural causes) and the whole situation reached this side of creepy.  Something was very very wrong.  Williams did not speak much while there, but when we exited Zhu's Hope I heard her give a sigh of relief.  Even with the geth breathing down out backs, we all felt lighter after moving onward.

That lightness did not last long, however, because that sense of wrongness returned ten-fold upon entering Feros' other colony - an ExoGeni settlement.  If I hadn't already been suspicious of a rat, Ethan Jeong's manner in this next settlement would have changed my perception right away.  As it stood, his downright antagonistic manner raised so many red flags that I began to lose count of them all.  Juliana Baynham, a colonist in heated conflict with Jeong when we arrived, seemed like a decent individual though.  A conversation with the two individuals showed just how confused Feros' colonial situation had become since the geth arrived. For example, Julianna thought everyone at Zhu's Hope was dead while Jeong clearly knew they were alive but had lied about it.  Juliana wanted us to remove the geth threat from ExoGeni's Headquarters, while Jeong threatened us (threatened me!) with retribution should we touch any of the company's property while eliminating their enemies.  I became terribly suspicious, however, when Juliana pleaded with us to find her daughter.  Under normal circumstance I might have disregarded her requests so that I could focus on the main job at hand, and a search for her daughter would have happened only if it directly coincided with my mission.  After all, we are currently at war and everyone is looking for someone.  I would run myself ragged trying to help them all.  That is what normally would have happened.  When Jeong became extremely cagey about the daughter's possible whereabouts though, I began to suspect that the daughters' disappearance was anything but accidental.  When you add her disappearance to Jeong's weak excuses for not combining their colony's numbers with Zhu's Hope's for security sake, now that ZH was temporarily safe, I began to suspect that Jeong knew more than he was letting on.   In fact, I became quite sure that he not only knew what the geth were after, but that Juliana's daughter also knew what the geth were after and Jeong wanted Juliana's daughter eliminated so that she could not share this information.  As for Zhu's Hope, Jeong's willful obscuration of the colony's fate made my team think that whatever the geth was after had to be tied directly to the ZH settlement and its unintentional eeriness.  In the end, we could not leave this second colony quickly enough for ExoGeni's Headquarters.  One should note though, that before our hasty departure we did notice the   ExoGeni settlement to be practically free of the "trauma" afflicted colonists that littered ZH.

Our approach to   ExoGeni's Headquarters grew rather nasty pretty quickly.  There's really no point going into great detail, but let's just say that I needn't have worried about finding Juliana's daughter.  I had been envisioning some little girl run astray (though considering the colonies' curious lack of children I'm not sure why), but Lizbeth was indeed far from it.  A mature young woman in her own right, the girl nearly capped us out of fright the minute we entered the ruins where she was trapped.  Not only apologetic, Lizbeth was also helpful.  Her manner was still cagey at best, but it was certainly a more open form of "cagey" if that makes any sense.  With the aid of Lizbeth's ID card my team managed to discover what everyone else had been trying so hard to conceal - something called "Subject Species 37."  The Thorian.  Located in/near ZH, this botanical species had infected 85% of ZH's colonists (most likely what made them ill) and   ExoGeni was just sitting around to see what would happen.  Those bastards had turned ZH into test subjects.  It was difficult for me to be angry at Lizbeth, for she had at least done what she could to uncover information about the project and been suspended for it.  Joeng, however, ... oh Joeng was another matter.  No wonder he had threatened my team, and forbidden us to touch anything at their headquarters.  What a shame it is for him that I have such difficulty following directions.  I had originally wanted to take this information back with me to ZH and see if this convoluted mess couldn't be cleared up from that end, but the weasel Joeng derailed those plans rahter quickly.  In the hour or so it had taken to liberate ExoGeni's base, he had taken his colony hostage with intent to kill.  After all, as he said, there was something far more valuable on Feros that needed taking care of then his colony.  The colony itself was a hindrance and "nobody [was] going to miss a few colonists" be they his or those of ZH.  It was the Thorian, and information that could be gleaned from it, that was most important. Thankfully, no one was going to miss Joeng either and my pistol put an end to that little problem.  The military and the Council won't be happy with me, but nothing has ever felt better than pulling the trigger on that despicable man.

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty

Location: Feros 
Active Companions: Garrus/Williams

The Thorian.  I had pictured it to be some small plant, growing in a select area, with pollen (perhaps) that was capable of infecting humans and turning them into the crazies that ZH's colonist quickly declined to in my absence.  (No joke.  I had to kill half of them, and the other half had to be incapacitated by some type of nerve disrupting grenade.)  I should have known better by now.  Instead of a field with infectious pollen and quasi-sentient plants, our team discovered the mother of all plants (if that is what you can call it).  Not only was the Thorian older than the Prothians themselves, but it spit out green Asari clones that called it "The Old Growth" and had the power to send the clones and numerous husks to its aid.  Not only that, but Saren had beaten us here and turned the Thorian against all humanoid life.  Our fight was both long and tedious, but in the end we finally proved victorious.  Not only was the Thorian's influence thus removed from the poor colonists of ZH, but upon the "plant's" death, one of its egg sacks broke open to reveal a former comrade of Sarens - Benezia's comrade Shiala.  I will need time to dwell on the situation later, but let's suffice to say that Saren's ship apparently has mind control capabilities, Saren knows that I search for the Conduit, and he's well aware that I'm dogging his steps.  In fact, his attack on the Throrian, prior to my arrival on Feros, was an effort to prevent me from accessing the Cipher.  

The Cipher, thankfully was not so much tangible as it was composed of Prothean ancestral memory.  Shiala shared what she could of the Cipher with me, but I really wish that she needn't have done so in the first place. The horrible dreams that came with the beacon's activation (during what seems like a lifetime ago) were bad enough.  The Cipher though, far surpassed those nightmares with its horrific, mind searing flashes of despair, destruction, and the world's end.  Between the Cipher's cryptic imagery and my ever lessening faith in humanity, I begin to suspect that I shall never sleep soundly again.

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-One

Location: The Normandy - Communication Room 
Active Companions: None

Upon the teams return to the Normandy, I once again debriefed the crew.  Liara, like most everyone else, was largely preoccupied with the Cipher.  I assured them that I remain undamaged from the experience of transferring those memories, but it is uncertain if they believe me or not.  Liara, Asari and Prothean expert that she is, attempted to merge her mind with mine and decode the Cipher.  Unfortunately, the experience not only gave me yet another crippling headache, but it seems to have taken a mental toll on the good doctor as well.  She feels that the Cipher, seriously incomplete as it is, confirms a connection between the Reapers and Prothean extinction.  Other than that, however, it looks as if we yet again are at loose ends.  Our mission, again, was a waste.  Sure our mission freed Feros from the Thorian's influence, but the Alliance (no matter what they say) did not bring me on board so that I could be a good Samaritan.  Like it or not, I'm the tool that the military pulls out of their bag of tricks when they have no where else to turn.  The is no love lost between us, but they know that I will get the job done.  Becoming a Spectre, unexpected as it was, only serves to further that cause, but Spectre or not I'm beginning to feel rather impotent and that is an unacceptable place to be.  Something has to change, and it has to change soon.  As for the Council?  It's time I brought them up to date.

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Two

Location: The Normandy - Communication Room 
Active Companions: None

That went as well as one might expect, as in not at all.  Someone please tell me how the Council ever accomplishes anything when they consistently throw common sense out the window, refuse to recognize danger when it stares them in the face, routinely belittle anyone who tries to dispatch said eveil for them at their request.  Maybe they don't get anything done at all.  Maybe it is all an illusion.  Maybe that is the trick to it all. The Salarian Councilor was angry I did not capture the Torian for study (because that worked so well for Exo-Geni), and the Turian Councilor sarcastically noted that of course I killed it.  That, after all, is all humans do when they are confused and don't understand something.  "Of course," he noted, "Shepard would go to any lengths to help a human colony" as if he was completely unaware of the bloody past which haunts me every day of my life.  "Not any lengths", I disgustedly assured them before ending the conversation.  Everyone has limits, and in my mind nothing is more important  than the mission at hand.  I should have known that the Council would be so self-serving and utterly disconnected from reality.  Honestly, some days I'm not even sure why I try at all.

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