Friday, March 4, 2016

Mass Effect Chronicles: The Attack upon Eden Prime



An interpretive poetic narrative of a Mass Effect play-through

An audio version of the poem is available here: Canto 1 (Youtube)
The following is fan-fiction. Mass Effect belongs to Bioware.  Image Credit: Bioware and Celyntheraven
PG-13 rating for scenes of battle and darkness.
Note, this contains a glaring inaccuracy to Mass Effect not attributable to poetic license. This is not an error, it is the main character's ignorance.
For those interested, an image of Rosamund Shepard is available here:Commander-Rosamund-Shepard

Canto 1 ~ The Attack upon Eden Prime

We rise above the warmth and mists of air
And we turn our prow from the sun so fair.
Luna, our cold white satellite
Is left behind in the sea of night.
We sail by Mars, and on through the Belt
We’re far out in space, where I’ve always dwelt.
The ship she hums and pulses as we go.
Her hull is as white the driven snow.
Her prow is as long as a sword of steel
Yet her bright beauty, she can conceal.
Not her light from the gaze of men's open eyes,
But her presence from scanners, in space and in skies.
We’re embarked upon her maiden voyage
Leaving Earth and her youthful anchorage
On a quiet run to a colony world
Young Eden Prime, of which I’ve long heard.
Pluto the frozen looms up and goes by.
Farther, round Charon, the moon of her sky,
Lies a great ancient structure, huge, black, and bright
Spinning like a whirligig in the dark of night.
Flashing pulsing blue light in arms of ebony
Like two vast mirrored sickles, from the bridge I see.
This is the closest Mass Relay to Earth.
Though billions of miles the journey's still worth.
Now all hands are bracing. All systems are right.
And the Normandy dives to the piercing light.
In a distant place in the depths of space
We and the Normandy appear apace,
Thousands of light-years leaped in but moments
Swept through deep space in the Mass Relay's torrent.
Off the bow is sweet riot of black and light.
From the bridge, gulfs of glory blaze clear to our sight.
The constellations are different here.
And brighter the Milky Way appears.
Far off I see a small sparkle of green,
That colony world, which I haven’t yet seen.
Joker, the pilot, leans back in his chair
With a smug little grin and a triumphant flair.
Beside me stands a tall grim Turian.
Nihlus he's called, a rust faced alien.
White battle stripes adorn his horny face
Full armour sheathes his limbs and wasp-like waist,
He nods at the pilot magnanimously.
That was quite good for a relay leap.
It will please your captain.’                                  
                                            He turns and goes.
His footfalls fade to mere echoes,
Joker grumbles and mutters:                                  
                                               ‘I hate that guy.’
And turns to the helm, his fuzzy face wry.
Lieutenant Alenko looks up from his station.
He gave you a compliment, so … you hate him?’
I hear the two of them debating our guest,
Only half listening, my mind's on our quest.
And my eyes are on the green sparkle ahead.
Though Joker has left what Nihlus has said,
(That leap was “incredible” not just “good”)
And has now declared the guy's up-to-no-good.
He doesn’t trust Turians or ‘Spectres
And elaborates this in a portent projecture.
While Alenko counters we have no good reason
To accuse the stern Nihlus of ill-will or treason.
(The Turians helped us design this new ship.
And the Council would watch a prototype's trip.)
Over the com, a deep voice is heard:
Commander Rosamund Shepard?’
I hear my Captain call my name,
Anderson, my father's friend, of great N7 fame.
His voice is serious, almost grim
As he summons me down to speak with him.
I wonder aloud whence comes this gravity,
The source is more than I can see.
The pilot shrugs and resettles his hat.
Oh, the captain always sounds like that.’
Alenko half smiles, I hear him aver:
That's just when he's talking to you, Joker.’
Down in the com-room, Nihlus stands alone
A strange and fearsome figure, clothed in living bone.
He turns to greet me with words smooth and fair,
Hissing through his lipless mouth, in the quiet air.
Mere light pleasantries his speech seems to be,
Small inquiries and praise o’er our young colony.
His manner is probing, of what I can’t tell.
Not of Eden Prime. I don’t know it well.
He turns to another; Elysium,
And the day when Batarian pirates had come.
It's me that he's probing. That day is well known.
I was there. I rallied resistance alone
And led colony's folk in defence.
Til the Alliance sent reinforcements.
But what significance does this hold for Nihlus?
He is coolly but quite clearly curious.
As we converse he watches appraisingly.
I wonder what must a Turian see?
Though I am tall for a daughter of men
I stand barely past his mandibled chin.
To a race with sharp spikes on the back of their heads
How strange must appear my soft strands of dark red.
How shelless and pale my bare face must seem
Though humans have called it strong-boned and cream.
I wonder, do five fingers, rather than three,
Make Turians jealous? Or seem fussy?
Firm swift steps sound along the corridor,
And Captain Anderson strides in the door.
His strong frame is tall, his brown face is dark.
On his blue uniform, bright medals spark.
A red stripe runs down from his right shoulder,
The uniform mark of an N7 soldier,
The toughest within the Alliance Fleet.
I too wear the stripe, though I’ve not yet his feats.
He tells me our shakedown run's only a cover.
The Normandy has been sent to recover
Intact Prothean tech from Eden Prime.
No greater discovery's been made in our time.
Its big, Shepard, big. Most seen for many lives.
There's been none bigger since the Mars archives.
What this might do for our technology...’
Now Nihlus's presence is clear to me.
The Citadel Council has sent a Spectre
To watch o’er this beacon, it's quite past conjecture.
Over the com speakers, Joker's voice chimes.
Captain! Com-link's come in from Eden Prime!’
On the opposite wall a screen lights up.
In the quiet room gunfire erupts.
A man is shouting they’re under attack.
He stumbles and falls and does not come back.
Now only sky can we see on the screen,
Red turbulent clouds like I’ve never seen.
And darkly through them, like a great fingered hand
There reaches a shape grasping out toward the land.
Nihlus, the captain, and I breathless watch
As it slides through the sky, till the signal is lost.
Well’ says Anderson, ‘this changes things.
Suit up, Commander! Let your feet grow wings.
I will summon Alenko and Jenkins.
Heaven and Earth – what was that thing?’
Armoured in black, gloved, booted, and armed
I report to the bay to the sound of alarms.
Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko – he from the bridge,
And eager Rich Jenkins – worked-up just a smidge,
Are ready; a pair of sturdy, bold Marines
We three make a standard Alliance fireteam.
Jenkins once lived here, some few years before
And scarce seems to believe that below there is war.
He's anxious to get there and join in the fight
Yet he seems too buoyant, too sure its alright.
We’re coming in close for the door opens in.
The captain raises his voice o’er the wind,
Tells us where to find the beacon dig-site
And tells to get there, go not left or right.
But what about survivors, Captain?’
Alenko's rough voice calls the question.
That beacon is your top priority!
It must not fall to the hands of an enemy!
I’ve sent for help. It will here soon
Your job is just to secure that beacon.
It's probably the target. Understood?’
Yes, Sir!’ I say.                                            
                                       I know full well that should,
Our foes be the ones to gain the new knowledge
All of our colonies would lose an edge.
Approaching the drop zone!’ Joker tells us.
Hey Nihlus!’ calls Jenkins ‘Are you coming with us?’
Out of the shadows the Turian comes,
Tall, dark, and deadly, bearing his gun.
I move faster alone.’ he says.                        
                                                   And is gone,
Empty and bare is the hatch he stood on.
The Normandy's swooped low, nearer the ground.
The fireteam leaps to a low grassy mound.
She's gone, and we stand in a vast and lovely land.
Below us stretch far away rich rolling ploughed lands.
Behind us rough crags, red with evening light
Rise up crowned with leaves, to steep, lofty height.
A sharp distant bark of crackling gunfire
Shatters the evening, makes the calm scene a liar.
Our prototype stealth ship slipped in low
And quietly dropped off my team below
Away from the gaze of enemy eyes
And whatever that was looming large in the skies.
But just over the ridge, just out of our sight
Lies the colony centre, and a terrible fight.
Quickly we climb through bramble and tree.
I look to the skies, but no dark shape I see.
As we run through a green and mossy dell
A large form moves, which I cannot see well.
It floats from the brush, a lumpish grey mass.
Two of us startle, but Jenkins laughs.
They call ‘em “gas-bags”. They aren’t any harm.’
I lower the gun I have raised in alarm.
He's right, the thing ambles – or drifts – right by.
Scarcely noticing we three passers-by.
Still laughing he sprints ahead, to the next bend.
It's clear.’                                                        
      And he goes.                      
                                                We hear the air rend.
We seize our weapons, break into a run,
Dash round the corner, but see no one.
In the air by a ledge a tiny globe hovers
Dipping and whirring, followed by others.
We let loose a volley of gunfire pale.
We biotically hurl them across the steep vale,
With forces unleashed from our empty hands
In streams of blue light, fierce swift-streaking strands,
Seizing the drones in strong scintillating fields
Biting right through the shell of their shields.
Their blasts fly about us, some find a mark.
Hot plasma against my barrier sparks.
Though I stagger beneath the force of the blow,
I am untouched, protected below.
When the last globe explodes and falls to the ground.
We call out for Jenkins and look all around.
At the foot of the slope lies a silent form, grey
We reach for our omni-tools, run down, and assay
To render him aid. But he's far and gone.
Red is the stony bank he lies on.
Alenko stares down at the man on the rock
His white face is filled with what seems to be shock.
I know that ere now he's seen battle and war
But his voice has grown smaller than it was before.
He didn’t have time to put up his shields.
He hadn’t a chance!’                                   
                                            Life's blood soaks the field.
Sometimes soldiers die. You have to go on.’
I seek to rouse him, we have to be gone.
He nods, mumbles ‘Yes, Ma'am’, and raises his head.
We stow our omni-tools and leave the dead.
Onward, quickly, the dig-site is near.
I know not what we’ll find, but greatly I fear.
Close, through a thicket, harsh shots ring out.
Gleaming steel figures leap all about.
A lone human woman, swift, pink, and white,
Is running and shooting in desperate fight.
Without a word we leave the path behind
We plunge into the thicket where we find,
Creeping brambles tangled under trees like yew.
Alenko rips free and plows on through.
I see him burning blue with barrier.
Light flies from his hands, he hurls the things higher
Than ever they leaped with their legs of tin.
The voice of his pistol joins in with the din.
Behind him I struggle out, into the open
But the metal fiends are gone, blasted, broken.
The lone woman turns to us, panting and worn,
Her tall form is straight, her armour is torn.
She thanks us in tones both martial and warm
Her face speaks of woes she's had no time to mourn.
Her enemies scattered round on the ground,
Are robotic bipedals, lean as bloodhounds.
Those long curving heads … I recognize “Geth”.
I’ve never met one, but I know they mean death.
They’ve never been seen out in human space,
And why they’re here now in this quiet place...
I turn to the woman, her story is brief.
My name's Ashley Williams, Gunnery-Chief.
My unit is dead, wiped out by the Geth.
They’re here coming after our beacon, I bet.
Well, I’m after it too! It's just to the south.’
She's calm and collected, I see she has nous.
We three go on, to the lip of a dell,
A deep rounded hollow, it's paths travelled well.
Down at the dig-site, the sun's ray are gone
And he darkness of evening is quite far along.
The gleam and clang of a swift metal body
Slick sterilized white, Shiny and gaudy,
And a Geth and more move in the shadow and stones.
The tread of their feet is like breaking of bones.
Alenko's bright omnitool flashes,
Overloading their circuitry
His gleaming biotic force lashes
The Geth at velocity.
Williams is not a biotic
But boy can she handle a gun!
Deadly and sharp, far beyond quick
Quick and knows which way to run
My biotic warp fields crumble the Geth
If they had been alive, they would now know death.
Unliving, unbreathing, insensate steel!
They do not live so they can’t die … or feel.
They fall in the twilight down on rugged stone
And we three marines are left here alone.
We look for the beacon, but see it not.
We spread out grimly and search through the spot.
It was here. Been moved. By us I hope.’
Williams calls out from low on the slope.
Nihlus calls me over the com.
He thinks it's been moved and may not be gone,
But rather conveyed to the near-by space-port,
Prepared for the Normandy's expected report.
He says he’ll be waiting at a tram nearby,
Tells us to be ready, but doesn’t say why.
Back out of the hollow, into the low sun,
We take the main path from the site at a run.
Around the bend and down an avenue
The valley and sky open up to our view.
What is that?!’
Hanging above the broad verdant vale
As big as the ridge where we stand on the trail
Gleaming and flashing long arms of black
Sending out lightning across its huge back
Is the distant dark shape I saw in the sky.
It looms o’er the world, all's darkened thereby.
It's fingers or tentacles reach toward the ground.
The air is filled with a terrible sound.
That is the biggest ship I’ve ever seen!’
Williams exclaims as we leave the ravine.
But is it a ship?                                  
                              Alenko asked well.
It's more like a creature.                                     
                                        Come up out of Hell.
Down the hillside out on the plain,
Buildings and roads cross o’er the terrain.
I see the tram station, like Nihlus said,
But I see no one living – yet many dead.
One gunshot rings out. One. Close at hand.
No answer follows. A car leaves the tram.
We start down the slope, I see movement below
Dim figures running, no loping – No …
I cannot believe what I’m seeing here.
My companions’ eyes have grown large with fear.
These are humans, were humans, are not anymore.
What devilry's been here? What act of war...?
The things swarm up towards us, blind objects thrown
Unnaturally, without will of their own.
I don’t instantly shoot, not till I’m sure,
That they’re coming to kill us, that's what they’re for.
I call ‘Open fire!’ with pity and dread.
The three of us mow down this horde of the dead.
We’ve no words to say. What can there be said?
But I stop, ere we go, to make sure that the dead
Are cold and mere corpses and not something worse.
It's not. They were dead. It's a tactic perverse.
The blackness hangs still in the sky like a curse.
We go on. Down the slope. To the station below.
Farther down into this valley of woe.
The station seems emptied of even the dead
Silent and lifeless, I hope some have fled!
Nihlus!’ I call.                                                 
                                    My voices echoes unanswered.
The Spectre comes not, and says not a word.
But near the tram, a lone figure lies,
A Turian, armoured in familiar guise.
Alenko goes to him, but we’ve come too late.
He was shot from behind, close quarters. Checkmate.
What out-spectred a Spectre? So close yet no doubt?
Look there! Something's moving!’ Williams calls out.
A man, living, breathing, has appeared near the rail.
There's something yet living in this dreadful vale!
The other one killed him.’                                    
                                             Says he who's alive.
Did you see what happened! How did you survive?’
Well I was sleeping, or, catching a nap
Where the boss couldn’t see me, back there in the gap.
When the real fighting started, well, I just stayed back.’
So you lived just because you’re a coward and slack!’
Williams’ voice pierces the heavy red air.
The man shrinks away from the blaze of her stare.
I look at her, bearing the marks of her fight
Faced down alone, with her sole, single might.
And I think of the fellows that she's left behind,
And I do not wonder her tone is unkind.
But I am just glad to see some have survived
If he has lived here, there's many alive.
And what of the Turian, who has killed him?’
The other one; kinda tall, pale grey, and grim.
I think he knew him, he called him by name.
This one was all tense and ready to aim
Then he saw the other, and seemed to relax
Then they were talking and he turned his back.
He shot him, I don’t know, don’t ask me why.
Then he took off on the tram really spry.’
What name did he call him? What did you hear?’
The other.’                     
                                       ‘Oh, let me think here.
Sarin, I think, no wait, I’m quite sure.
Sarin Arc-something-or-other he were.
A really big fella, the colour of tin
With mean beady eyes, look out for him!’
We leave him and poor Nihlus and take the tram,
Out into the valley and over a dam,
Across broad green meadows and past walls of cream.
They said it was beautiful, it's like a dream.
A dream and yet a nightmare beneath.
I see none of its folk but the Gunnery-Chief.
She stands beside me, stoic and grim,
No tears in her dark eyes or on her tanned skin.
Others live, surely, in hiding or flight
But I see no signs of still active fight.
And still in the clouds, broods the evil black thing
And through the air still, I hear that dull ring.
Far on the platform, I see white figures moving,
Not men, they’re Geth. I can’t tell what they’re doing.
Yet among them I see a lone living creature
It's too far to make out specifics of feature
But he is Turian. That much is clear.
He stands among them without fear
And directs like a master or an overseer.
He's gone before the tram comes near.
We give the Geth battle, those few who remain.
As we retake the platform I see in a drain,
A cylinder, blatantly out of place.
It's little lights blink at a very fast pace.
I duck out of the firing, next to the drain.
An explosive, fit to light up the plain.
Lieutenant!’ I call.                                
                                       Alenko ducks down.
I see that he sees what it is I have found.
Can you disarm it?’                                 
                                         He nods and takes over.
Williams and I stand by and give cover.
Whole precious moments slip by as he works.
Most Geth have pulled off, but still a few lurk
Near corners and ledges sniping at will.
I’m surprised that they’re hanging around here still.
Got it, Commander! This one's disarmed.’
This one?!’                                                               
                              ‘There's four, synced together and armed.
We’ve got minutes to find them, we have to move now!
I’ve got leads on them, we’ll get them somehow.’
We run through deserted, sun-lit ramparts,
After the signal his omni-tool charts.
The beacon's forgotten, or nearly so,
I guess it is now in the hands of the foe.
Yet the colony still can be partly saved,
There's people alive here, where roads are paved.
And many more farther, out in the rural lands.
But these huge bombs will turn meadows to sands.
The plains, and the ridges, the sweet mossy dells
Infernos will crumble them into a hell.
We disarm two more, but we’re searching too long!
Then, on a causeway we’re running along
We see farther down, where the last bomb lies,
It's little lights blinking like small evil eyes.
The Geth rise up from behind the bulwarks,
The heat of their bolts turns concrete to sparks.
We gain ground, too slowly, dodging cover to cover.
Enough! Lose this chance and we get no other!
I strengthen my barrier and charge down the road,
I dash in among them. They crash and explode.
The barrier shudders, but stems the tide.
Alenko and Williams are still by my side.
We drive our foes back and duck into cover
Right near the explosive, our strength near over.
Beside me stands Williams. We hold the Geth back,
Alenko's crouched down and turned his back
On the battle beside him, the fury and fire
Working as though he did not hear their ire.
His brown fingers spin and his omni-tool whirs.
Over his set brow his dark hair is stirred
By the wind that throws up the dust from the fray.
Hurls it in our eyes and throws it away.
Williams’ assault-rifle and my shotgun
Cry out like mad hounds in the fast sinking sun.
It's done!’                                                                     
                 He jumps up, and hurls blue at the foe.
The moments tick by, but the bombs do not blow.
It's the Geth that collapse, they fall, move no more.
Just then I notice, I don’t hear the roar.
The sky has grown clear. The blackness is gone.
It's only the soft red of sunset – halcyon.
We head back through the space-port, searching the platforms
Though the beacon must surely have long since been borne
Away in the hands of the marauding Geth
Must surely now be in that black hulk of death.
And yet, on a deck, a tall pillar stands,
As if, untouched by enemy hands,
It sits unhurt, waiting for us,
Humming and greenly luminous.
It is the beacon. Williams confirms it
But she is puzzled, it didn’t emit
A light or a sound when it was first found.
Before it sat quiet and still on the ground.
Like polar aurora, pulsing, singing
The light dances up its cone, emblazoning
Dark steel with flickering green, mesmerizing.
The sound seems to grow, a low murmuring.
I shrug, turn away, and open my com,
To call to the Captain that all is calm.
Alenko still watches, as I pass by,
Strong curiosity in his brown eyes.
The thing is lovely, strange, and old.
For this, he has fought and Jenkins lies cold.
I contact the ship, get Joker on-line,
Tell him the beacon still seems to be fine.
Movement catches my notice-                       
He struggles as though in a strong under-tow.
It's dragging him towards the glimmering beacon
Seizing him fiercely, he seems to be weakened.
Over the deck, towards the beacon, toward him
I dash and I shout, the light has grown dim.
His planted heels slip and his hands find no grip.
The force picks up speed and he starts to trip.
I leap and I grasp him. The beacon grasps me.
A moment I wrangle, then hurl him free.
He falls safe to the deck, crumples down to the ground.
But the beacon still drags me, it twists me around.
Glimmering, shimmering – it won’t let go.
My feet leave the ground, I seem to be falling
Darkening, thundering – cruel shrieks of woe
Though them I hear my two comrades calling:
He cries. She shouts:         
                                                            ‘Lieutenant! No!’
The sounds of their struggle fade from my ears.
Sights fill my eyes like the shooting of spears.
Fire and darkness. Silence and screams.
Foreign eyes sparkless. Death swarms in reams.
Shattering, blackening, gathering dark.
Light flickers feeble, crush of the spark.
Faltering, smouldering, perishing, gone.
Raging untrammelled. Dark steals the dawn.
Dimly I know that I’m still in the air
Above a space dock on an evening fair.
But this blast seems quite real, not like before.
I’m thrown to the deck and I know no more.

For those not familiar with the story - Commander Shepard is not dead.  She blacked out.  Williams and Alenko will look after her. I will be posting the next piece of the story whenever I have it.
Thanks for reading!

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