Thursday, November 3, 2011

ME1 - Decisions

Torfan's gruesome legacy returns to haunt Meriel when she must value the mission over the survival of her team. 

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

Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Six

Location: Virmire
Active Companions: Garrus/Tali

While on our way to Novaria, the Asari Councilwoman contacted me about a Salarian infiltration unit who was stranded on the planet of Virmire.  Their unit's emergency message was garbed, but the Council asked that the I and the Normandy check it out.  I could have refused them, I suppose, but currently our leads regarding Saran and the Conduit are slim at best.  I do not know what situation these Salarians are facing, but the concern conveyed by the Asari councilor was notable.  She was clearly distressed, something I have not seen before from her.  Plus, if something has gone wrong enough that this Slaraian unit cannot establish proper contact or send home reports ... well, it seemed worth checking out.  Since my pre-planned mission to Novaria is now completed, and the Matriarch is out of the picture, it seemed Virmire was the next logical step.

Upon arriving at Virmire, it became clear that the planetary situation was tense at best.  Active defense towers guarded the planet's surface/atmosphere and in order for the Normandy to land, these towers would need to be taken off-line.  Thankfully, Joker is highly skilled at what he does, and managed to evade the towers' notice long enough to leave Mako (including Garrus, Tali, and I) surface-side.  I departed ship with the understanding that Joker would bring the Normandy to ground once my team brought the defense outposts under control. The process of shutting down Virmire's defense turrets ended up being rather involved, given the massive number of geth troopers, snipers, and colossi guarding both the outposts and the watery "road" in between them.  The sheer number of geth colossi present on Virmire, with two or more generally grouped together at a time, is certainly worth taking note of.  In all the time my team has spent searching for Saran, we have encounted maybe three or four colossi on all of the visited worlds combined.  To encounter so many in one backwater planet like Virmire raises some serious red flags.  I hope that this is a sign that we are getting very close to something that Saran does not wish us to find.

The geth and Saran aside, however, I should note that Virmir's landscape is breathtaking.  I'm sure the Salarian unit, if they are still alive, probably does not appreciate the planet so much since they have long been stranded on it.  Yet with it's lush greenery, large bodies of water, rocky corridors, and sandy beaches; Virmire is quite the planet to be stranded on.  As with anywhere else, however, a  this picture perfect paradise could easily hide an otherwise hellish existance.  I would like to think that the Normandy will be able to drop in, pick up the Salarian team, and then exit without incident; but even Tali would say that is overly optimistic.  One can not` deny that the concentration of heavily armored geth we've been faced with here is hitherto unprecedented in our experience - an experince wherein geth conflict has become all but routine.  This does not bode well.

Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Seven

Location: Virmire - Salarian Camp
Active Companions: none

I wish I could say that I spoke too soon about the concentration of geth on this planet not boding well, but sadly I cannot.  After meeting up with the rest of the Normandy crew at the Salarian camp, and then with Captain Kirrahe, one thing became quite clear.  We left "not well" far behind us on Novaria, and have since progressed on to "catastophically bad."  Not only has Saran been on Virmire, but according to the Salarian captain, our favorite rogue Spectre has an entire scientific facility here where he is building a Krogan army.  That's right.  a Krogan Army.  Shockingly, however, he's not simply cloning the Krogans, which would admittedly be bad enough. He is breeding them.  I do not know how any of this is possible.  Captain Kirrahe insists that this is bad news, and lives in fear of the Krogans dominating our galaxy.  While I tend to see the breeding of Krogans in a more neutral light, it is the fact that Saran is behind this that makes me nervous.  The idea of Saran with a homebrew Krogan army at his disposal is terrifying. When you combine that kind of force with the mass of geth who are already overrunning the planets, the once-Spectre will soon run unchecked if nothing is done.  Understandably, Wrex did not agree with these sentiments.

Back when Wrex first joined my team, he told me about the genophage which had been introduced to his homeworld.  This poison made it all but impossible for Krogan females to bear viable offspring.  Wrex, like many of his breatheren, have given up all hope and see little positive in their race's future.  Along with many of his brothers-in-arms, Wrex left his homeworld because of this.  He would rather live his life as a mercenary,  then remain near his people and watch them all die.  It is this very reason that the idea of Saran overcoming the genophage's effects is so monumental.  It is also this reason that Wrex took the potential idea of us destroying Saran's labs quite personally.  It must be disturbing to realize that the Turian you have been fighting  against all this time could be single-handedly responsible for the preservation of your species.    Given his obviously agitated demeanor, Williams and Alenko were very apprehensive about Wrex's stability after the Krogan seperated himself from the rest of the Salarian camp.  I was not.  Agitated, actually, is not quite a strong enough word.  He was visibly very disturbed and upset - so much so that Wrex pulled a gun on me as soon as I was within speaking distance of him.  The discussion that followed is one that I do not wish to ever have again.  (How do you tell someone that saving the galaxy from Saran and the Reapers depends on destroying the "cure" for Krogan fertility and the Krogan species' future?)  During our time on the Normandy, Wrex thankfully has come to trust me enough that I was able to reason with him.  Only when he realized that Saran was just creating Krogans for a personal army, and that the rouge Specter's research would not benefit Wrex's species as a whole, were guns sheathed.

I entered this assignment determined not to let my emotions get involved and to keep myself distant from my colleagues.  Respect, especially when it is earned, is a good thing.  Emotions, however, tend to complicate matters more than need be.  Maybe it is the assignment we are on, but emotional distance from my team has been much harder to achieve then first anticipated.  Case in point, this discussion with Wrex.  I genuinely feel his pain, and can see how difficult it was for him to trust me on this matter.  It is one thing to know that something is difficult, but it is another to actually feel it.  I know that destroying Saran's lab is the best thing to do, but that does not mean that this will be a mission undertaken lightly.  I am honored that he finds me so worthy of his trust.  Out of respect for him, and the sacrifice he is making for me (not for the Alliance), we agreed to leave him at base for as long as possible during our attack on the laboratory.   If I would not let Liara kill her mother, then I certainly will not require Wrex to destroy the one thing that could save his people from extinction.

Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Eight

Location: Virmire - Research Base and Labs; Krogan Breeding Grounds
Active Companions: Garrus/Tali; Garrus/Wrex

This is a suicide mission, not for me, but for the Salarians attacking the research facility's front.  It is also a suicide mission for Alenko.  I am in no way happy about this.  It is not my practice to place people under my command under the leadership of others, but what could I do?  The Salarian general knows he is leading himself and his men to their deaths, yet he has accepted he consequences because it must be done.  What right have I to deny him the extra man he needs to complete his part of the mission?  After all it will be him, and not I , who will be fighting off geth as they force their way into the facility.  Both Alenko and Williams volunteered for the position, but only Alenko's heart was truly in it.  As much as I respect Ashely, her prejudice against alien races (and her overwhelming desire to salvage her family's tarnished legacy) made her a poor candidate for this mission.  Alenko had the technical and biotic skills to best assist the Salarian infiltration unit, an therefore his request to join the team was honored.  I must be frank about this.  Everything about this mission feels wrong from the beginning.  I know we are doing what must be done, but it feels off ... rushed ... foreboding.  This same sense of wrongness hung in the air before Torfan went down and the all know how that went down.  The difference between now and then, however, is that I have allowed myself to become attached to the soldiers under my command.  After Torfan I promised I would never do that again, yet here I am doing it all the same.  Back then I did not really have anyone to lose (well not anyone I had established  bond with ... a bond that went beyond generally recognized mutual respect), and that sense of attachment served me well.  We lost a lot of good individuals, but the mission was completed.  Now ... now I don't know.  I cannot allow anything but the mission at hand to matter, but that does not mean that sending Alenko on a suicide mission is any easier.  When we parted ways, I told Alenko and Williams that we would all reunite on the other side.  That, after all, is what one says to keep elevate team moral.  This time though, the words were merely platitudes.  No one knows what the end of this will be.

Garrus and Tali completed my "shadow" team.  Charged with disabling the research facility's security mechanisms, we entered the complex through the back door.  While resistance was certainly in place, the odds were not insurmountable.  Comm feedback made it clear that hings were a different story for Alenko and the Salarians.  My team did what we could to improve their odds, but we could only do so much.  After a look inside the compound itself, I was glad that the research facility was being shut down.  Prisoners driven insane by indoctrination, husks held in stasis (for research one assumes), a scientist willing to reveal Saran's sanctum in exchange for freedom from the laboratory - none of this spells harmless research.

Entry Break ...

Saran's sanctum ... that is where the true horror lay.  It is hard to explain what one feels with all sense of hope is obliterated, even temporarily, but it is one experience that no one should ever have to endure.  Your heart sinks through the floor at your feet, the air is sucked from your lungs, the world grows silent around you, and for a moment time appears to stand still.  While I did not ask, I assume that Garrus and Tali experienced these same emotions.  We had heard from Matriarch Benezia and the Asari on Ferros about Sovereign's ability to indoctrinate.  In the Matriarch's case, we even saw said mind control at work.  Sovereign, their testimonies had led us to assume, was simply an advanced type of technology - a ship with mind control control capabilities.  After encountering a sentient hologram of Sovereign himself I can honestly say that he is all that, but he is so much more.  Sovereign is a Reaper.  How you respond to someone telling you that your center of political activity (the Citadel) was created by Reapers to attract lifeforms for harvesting?  What do you say when you are told that humanity and the alien races are following in the footsteps of the Protheans -a race eradicated by the Reapers?  I did not want to encourage Sovereign in his gloating.  It was difficult to strike a balance between finding out what I needed to know about this situation without looking like I was pleading for details.  I had to present a solid front without looking like I was being overly defensive or stupidly confident.  I could not let him see the hopelessness that I felt in his presence.  You do not show the enemy weakness, and Sovereign is most certainly the enemy.  Next to him, and the doom he prophesies, it is finally clear what Saran is - a tool, a minion, a henchman.  Saran is a Turian so steeped in Sovereign's power that conversing with the ex-Spectre is like conversing with Sovereign himself.

Desperate to put an end to this nightmare, my team quit Saran's sanctum with all haste and plowed our way to the location where the bomb (the Salarian's plan for destroying this facility) was to be placed.  On the way I yelled at Alenko over the comm and ordered him to make it out way as soon as possible.  Once there, Ashley and the Normandy crew were already at the meeting place ... waiting.  When it became clear that geth hostiles were overwhelming Alenko and the Salarian infiltration unit, I took the best gunpower I had (Wrex and Garrus) with me to help them out.  Ashley was manning the bomb, and Tali stayed to assist her.  My team had barely left Ashley and the Normandy's crew though, when Ashley commed  to say that they were swamped with geth.  If she did not set off the bomb now, it was never going to happen.  I told her to wait, I needed to retrieve Alenko.  She did not listen.  She said that there was no time.  I heard her activate the explosive device.  There was no time.  I could keep the geth from overtaking the Normandy and Williams, or I could assist Alenko and the Salarians.  There was no time.  How do you decide something like that.  Nightmares of Torfan and the lives lost there rose before my eyes.  The dead taunted me as I made my call.  Alenko elected himself for the frontal assault knowing that it was a suicide mission.  Above the cries of Torfan's dead I heard him pleading with me to take care of Williams and the bomb.  If the research facility was not destroyed, then all of this death and destruction would have been for naught.

There was no time.

I'm so sorry Kaidan.  I'm so very very sorry.

Meriel's Journal, Entry Twenty-Nine

Location: Virmire - Krogan Breeding Grounds; Normandy
Active Companions: none

I ran back to support Ashely, and Saran appeared.  We fought off Saran but did not take him down.   Alenko's lost.  That was all I could think of as I finally faced off with Saran, back at our meeting place, before the bomb detonated.  The ex-Spector and I argued, he tried to convince me that if you could not beat the Reapers, that one might as well join them.  He tried to convince me that he joined the Reapers in order save humanity.  Maybe Saran believes what he said.  Maybe he is so oblivious to his indoctrination, that he thinks that is what he really believes.  To be honest, I do not care.  The conversation is all but a blur.  We fought off Saran but did not take him down.  Ashley was shot, and I physically carried her back to the Normandy before we were all obliterated in the bomb's blast.  I had a job to do, I completed that job, and I just wanted to get away.

People die.  That is war.  I just hate that one of those people was mine.  People think that I'm cold because of the decisions I make in the field.  Sometimes they think I'm too quick with my gun or too dismissive of "proper" negotiations and protocol.  They are not wrong, but none of those things means that I'm unfeeling either.  Every soul that has died under my command continues to haunt my dreams.  Most of them were good soldiers, some of them had families, other had bright futures, and most of them were missed by loved ones when they were gone.  All of them, however, died for a cause that they believed in.  Kaidan doubly so.  I hate that a choice needed to be made between him and Williams, but he knew the stakes.  The most we can do is make sure that his sacrifice is not wasted.

Upon our return to the Normandy, Ashley was openly grieving.  True to form, I proved ill equipped to provide "proper" consolation.  I did try to convince her though, that it should not have been her instead.  It is the moment talking, but she cannot effectively complete this mission if everything she does is burdened by misplaced guilt.  When she asked me how I dealt with the deaths at Torfan, I told her the truth.  You deal with it later.  If grief is allowed to bog you down in the present, then you will not have the energy or presence of  mind necessary to complete the mission at hand.  You will not have the drive to ensure that those sacrifices mean something.  That most likely is not what she wanted to hear, but unfortunately it is all I have to offer at the moment.  Even so, I, like the rest of the Normandy's crew, am raw, and during my report to the Council (the encounter with Saran was too big not to report), I let emotions get the better of me.   The Councilors were willing to buy the fact that their ex-Spectre was breeding a Krogan able army.  Ask them to swallow the idea that Soverign, and not Saran, is at the wheel though and you enter a land of fantasy.  "The news is alarming," the venerable Salarian council informed me, "If it is accurate."  What does he mean if it is accurate?  I risked my life discovering that bit of information.  My men risked their lives.  Alenko lost his life .... It was too much too soon.  I lost my cool and simply disconnected the call.  I don't need someone sitting in an ivory tower doubting me and the job they brought me on to do ... especially not now.

Meriel's Journal, Entry Thirty

Location: Normandy - Kaidan Alenko's Work Station
Active Companions: None 

I took issue with a number of things Alenko did in past, but at the moment I cannot remember what they were or why they mattered.  Despite our differences, he was a good soldier and a valuable member of my team.

We all feel his absence.

I'll grieve later when there is no one to see me fall apart.

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