Sunday, October 23, 2011

ME1 - Maternal Confrontation

Merial fights to keep an even head as diplomacy and science complicate her team's quest for Saran and the Conduit.

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

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Three

Location: Novaria - Port Hanshan  
Active Companions: Garrus/Liara

When we arrived on Novaria, it was cold. Bitter cold.  The planet is so cold, in fact, that The Normandy's database considers it to be "barely inhabitable by conventional definitions."  Sounds like the perfect place for a vacation, or in this case, Saran hunting.  Rather unexpectedly, my team's "welcome" to Port Hanshan was just as icy as the planet itself.  When greeted by Capt. Matsuo of Elanus Risk Control Services, who was alarmed by the Normandy's unscheduled arrival and insisted on seeing my credentials, I originally tried to play nice.  I did, after all, come here looking for Saran, and where that Turian goes havoc follows soon there after.  Whatever patience I started with, however, eroded when Matsuo refused to acknowledge my status as Spectre.  It there disappeared altogether when she tried to take my team's guns.  Thankfully the local Administrator's Assistant straightened everything out before things progressed too far, because even Liara and Garrus refused to give up their weapons.    Fine sitting ducks we would have made without those.  Personally, I figured that taking out docking bay security was a minor issue, if that was the only to keep our weapons.  After all, I wasn't there to appease local authorities.  I was there to settle a score with a power hungry, rogue Turian.

Once through the security detail, Novaria proved to be an exercise in patience.  With powerful corporate interests and a corrupt Administrator running Port Hanshan, learning anything of use was akin to pulling teeth.  After a great deal of running about, trying to make connections, bending off "business" propositions, spotlighting corporate corruption, and assisting in the Administrator's Arrest; we did learn two things of great importance though.  1) Matriarch Benezia passed through this port very recently and 2) she departed for Peak 15, with a number of crates concealing geth, not long before the scientific facility went into emergency lockdown.  After following her across the galaxy, I honestly look forward to a confrontation with the Matriarch herself.  Thankfully Liara, whom I instinctively asked to accompany Garrus and I to Novaria, seems equally driven to continue onto Peak 15.  It seems harsh to force a confrontation between mother and daughter, but above all else Dr. T'soni has routinely sought my trust and reiterated her dedication to eliminating Saran.  She could return to the Normandy if she wanted to.  Liara, instead, chose to stay.

I need to take a moment to address something important here.  Over the last couple of missions I've noticed shifts in my own behaviour.  Historically speaking I have always made an effort to maintain an even demeanor, a false patience if you will, when dealing with figures of authority.  While politicking is always a pain, I have generally considered it to be a necessary evil since joining the military.  One catches more flies with honey, and adopting a facade of cooperation, when an official figure, tends to get one where they need to be in the quickest manner possible.  One glance at my, and thus my teams, reaction to Novaria's security measures, however, will show you that something about this search for Saran has changed that.  One could argue that Spectre status has gone to my head, but that is too easy an answer.  If anything, being a Spectre has freed me.  It has given me  permission to complete the mission at hand through any means necessary.  Personally though, I've never understood that "permission" to be a blank check justifying rash actions.  But then again, one could rightfully argue that threatening local security with violence is a "rash action."  It's not like I pulled my gun without trying to negotiate first, though.  I did try to reason with security, and I even graciously accepted Administrator Assistant Parasini's apologies for detaining us, all the while thanking her for getting us through.  Specterhood has not made me lose all tact or sense of social decorum.   After all, Spectrehood does not condone idiocy, but we both know that is not an issue here. I do not suffer fools lightly - not even myself.

No, while one cannot rightly say that Spectrehood has gone to my head, yet one can still suggest that having Spectre status has affected me.  More than the "permission" I mentioned a second ago, this new status has given me professional and personal freedom.  I do not spend much time harping on my past, frankly because I'd like to forget the years I spent running with the Tenth Street Reds.  But if it taught me anything, my childhood with the Reds taught me to trust my own judgement, to always question others' motives, and to rely on no one but myself to pull through in a difficult situation.  The military, for practical reasons, did what it could to train that last bit out of me.  I don't always make a very good student though, and thus tension  has existed between me and the Alliance ever since Torfan.  They call me The Butcher.  They call me cold, and they call me brutal.  They also call on me when there is no one else they can turn to and failure is not an option.  Normandy's crew will tell you that I'm not brutal, and my team will tell you that I'm not cold.  I am, however, efficient.  There is a mission to complete, a galaxy to save, and an enemy to eliminate.  Before Eden Prime I still had to be conscious of whose feet I was stepping on.  Now, as a Spectre, there exists the freedom to disregard pointless negotiations (e.g. Novaria's security detail) when they hamper my mission and one could say that the new me is taking full advantage of that. 

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Four

Location: Novaria - Aleutsk Valley/Peak 15  
Active Companions: Garrus/Liara

Novaria's Aleutsk Valley, like the rest of this infernal planet, possesses an ice encrusted surface.  Upon leaving for Peak 15 in a Mako, this most immediately meant that I had to actually be a careful driver.  Since my skills lie elsewhere, this was actually much more difficult than it sounds.  One false move could have sent my team hurtling to their deaths.  (I will never admit to this out loud, but there is also a secret glee to be found in making, an otherwise stoic, Garrus curse when the Mako bounces down the side of a mountain and threatens to turn on its back.  After all, even I, despite popular belief, can have a sense of humor.)  Less immediately, when icy death was no longer an issue, the painstaking care needed to navigate the Mako left me in a foul more.  Combine that mood with my team's geth blessed welcome to Peak 15, and patience was at a premium well before we reached the Matriarch several hours later.  Re-activating the facility's VI, Mira, while bringing the Peak's systems out of emergency status and back online, was fairly simple.  Even the elimination of  numerous giant bug-like creatures, that are now identified as Rachni, was more of the usual.  Kill a rachni here, take out a geth there, turn on a system here ... when did all of this become so routine?  No, Garrus and Dr. T'soni worked together efficiently, and between the three of us that portion of Peak 15 was soon just a bad dream.  As always, it was the Peak's scientists themselves that challenged my resolve to do things diplomatically.

The Scientist's Rift Station was a maze of top secret labs that even Spectre status could not break us in to.  The Council's authority helped get a foot in the door, but getting anywhere else, much less learning anything about Benezia, required top secret clearance that even the Peak's state of emergency could not solve.  No one would say more about the "contamination" Mira had mentioned earlier, and most refused to talk about their work despite the fact that, by now, my team had killed dozens of rachni their work had created.  It does not take superior intellect to connect the two ideas.  Entrance to the Hot Labs and Research Labs, where Benezia was last seen, was blocked and remained Restricted.  Breaking in would have been more trouble than it was worth since the guards were on edge and most likely would have seen a break-in as hostile activity.  Reasoning with the scientists and guards didn't work, so finally I had to conspire with a doctor and threaten the Guard Captain before progress could be made.  Even then, an Asari Sleeper, planted by the Matriarch, nearly eliminated us before all was said an done.  By lending a sympathetic ear here, threatening there, and skirting around the truth when necessary;  Garrus, Liara, and I finally infiltrated the Restricted Area.  Sometimes I wish that my actions did not reflect back on the whole of humanity.  Breaking in and gunning the guards down would have been so much quicker, albeit a bit messier.

 Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Five

Location: Novaria - Peak 15
Active Companions: Garrus/Liara

I had thought to return from the confrontation with Matriarch Benezia with a feeling of triumph, or atleast one of accomplishment.  Instead, it left me feeling flat.  From a mission perspective, the trip to Novaria was a success.  While we did not capture the Matriarch, which would have been ideal, given the extent of her mind possession, but we were at least able to eliminate her as a threat.  My team also received valuable information regarding the Mu Relay, which will hopefully lead us to the Conduit.  Saran may still be a step ahead of us, but at least I, and the Alliance, will not be as far behind as we were.  From a personal perspective?  This encounter was far more emotionally draining than it should have been.  Instead of invigorated, I left Novaria deflated.

Let's get official details out of the way first.  Benezia was possessed by "Saran's Light" when we first arrived.  After a brief monologue, she sent geth snipers and an Asari Death Squad after us, all the while accosting us from a far.  When her personal power was temporally weakened by the Death Squad's demise, Benezia briefly came to herself and spoke of Sovereign's hold over her.  She talked of the rachni queen and of removing information of the Mu Relay's location from the queen's mind.  She also provided us with the relay's location.  Too weak to fight off Saran's hold for forever though, she soon assailed us once more with her bionic gifts.  I personally fired the fatal shot.  At the end of her life, Matriarch Benezia was once again free of Sovereign, and charged us with stopping Saran.  From a Council perspective we completed our objective.  Yet, from a personal standpoint things feel unresolved.

The most obvious issue at hand lies with Dr. T'soni.  No matter how I may justify the Matriarch's demise, one cannot deny that I am responsible for her mother's death.  Atleast I did everything possible to prevent Liara from laying the killing blow.  In fact, despite the extra effort it required on Garrus' and my parts, I did everything I could to remove Liara from the fight as much as possible.  Strategically it was not a wise move to  remove someone so strong in biotics from the fight, but even I, "The Butcher of Torfan," could not ask a daughter to kill her mother.  Dr. T'soni does not seem to resent me for pulling her out of combat, so this seems to have been the right decision from a personnel standpoint.  Instinct drove me to bring the doctor to Novaria's surface.  She fought well, and more than proved her loyalty to our mission, so I cannot honestly say that I regret making her part of this team.  The silver lining, I suppose, is that she had a chance to say farewell to her mother.  In between possessions by Sovereign, The Matriarch even had a chance to say that Liara had always made her proud.  It is difficult to say though, whether watching your mother be killed (even if you do get to say goodbye) or simply finding out that your mother has been killed is better.  While there have been older women I have respected, there has never been a true maternal figure in my life.  Therefore, I feel a bit a loose ends and now that we are back on the Normandy, it is quite obvious to my crew.  Not only did I snap at Williams when she went on snother one of her tirades about alien species, and then cut the crew's post-Novaria conference abrublty short; but I more than bungled an attempt to commiserate with Dr. T'soni.  Instead of offering socially accepted platitudes, I agreed with the doctor that her mother brought this situation upon herself, and then urged Liara to use her grief to fuel out fight with Saran.  What was I thinking?  I had intended on simply giving the doctor her space, but Williams, of all people, urged me to not distance myself.  Personal relations have never been a strength of mine, and prior to the Normandy I had been remarkably successful at distancing myself emotionally from anything but the central objective.  Hopefully this misstep post-battle, combined with my part in the Matriarch's death, will not turn Dr. T'soni wholly against me.  It is not so much that I care for myself, but the rest of the team would suffer should cracks appear among the crew at this point in the mission.  

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