The Elder One


This topic contains 1 reply, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  SLotH4 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #1493


    The only thing I’ll say in regards to this is that you need to envision it like a fever-dream. Reality is fluid and will change before your eyes.

  • #1494


    Sara Shepard made her way to an ancient ruin with Liara and Garrus in tow. What they found was a simple stone circle, concentric rings of pillars around a black granite plinth. The place was deserted, but she felt on edge. Sara knew she was being watched.

    She reached the base of the plinth, but came to a stop as all the ambient noise around her dissipated. She drew her shotgun and whipped around, looking for the cause of the disturbance. What she saw was more horrifying than anything the collectors had thrown at her… the world was frozen in place. Liara and Garrus were deathly still, each carrying a wary expression, the same she’d had before she’d turned around.

    And it wasn’t some biotic barrier; even the flowing water of a nearby brook had ceased to move. Birds in flight like floating statues.

    In this place… time stood still.

    “The siren’s call is difficult to resist.”

    Sara whipped around and brought her ODIN to bear. Standing before the plinth, not two meters away, was a creature she’d never laid eyes upon before.

    “It will give us a moment to talk.”

    “Who are you?!” Sara demanded, before taking in the creature’s visage, “What are you?!”

    “To the arthenn, I was Dû Bess. To the inusannon, I was Tlhob. To the sethani, I was Ruug’la’ruk,” the creature explained as images of dead races pulsed in Sara’s mind, “In each language it is the same.”

    “The Elder One,” Sara finished, her mind instantly translating the prothean word as an image of a four-eyed face faded from sight, “What have you done? How did you freeze time like this?”

    The creature’s ruby-red eyes analyzed the woman before finally answering, “Thoughts are fast. Time is relative. Tell me, do you know what makes you, you?”

    Sara watched the creature, but did not answer, content in keeping her ODIN trained on its face.

    “Struggle and pain. You are the product of circumstance. A blade at the throat of a world that cast you aside.”

    “I don’t need psych eval, buddy. I get my fill from Chambers. Now I need some answers, so unless you want me to ventilate your fucking head, start talking.”

    “The very air you breathe is motionless before me. Threats cannot stop the darkness. What words could frighten the void?”

    “I swear to Christ, if you don’t stop talking in riddles I’m gonna fucking kill you!”

    “Many have tried, few have succeeded,” the Elder One dismissed as its scarlet eyes appraised the Spectre, “You are afraid. Of me, of the machines. There is wisdom in dread.”

    Sara glared at the creature before her. She was wary, but chose to holster her shotgun regardless. With time frozen like this, it was probably useless anyway. “What do you know of the reapers?”

    “They struggle against inevitability. Fearful that their efforts are in vain, that they can never surpass those who built them.”

    The world around them began to darken; Sara turned in alarm as it swallowed her friends and snatched them from her sight. On instinct, she flared her biotics as she turned to confront the creature. But upon seeing the Elder One, her vision cleared, and she found herself in a familiar alleyway. It had been years since she’d been there, but it was a place she’d never forget.

    “This is…” Sara started, but the words refused to come.

    “Where your journey began,” the Elder One intoned from beside her.

    Sara relaxed her biotics and made her way to the door. As she reached for the panel, the door slid to the side and a hand pulled her within. Her father threw her against the wall before backhanding her. She fell to the floor with a bloody lip, only to receive a hard kick to side. Her father grabbed her by the hair as he slapped her again and again, his breath thick with the smell of cheap liquor and his skin oily from the red sand he’d injected. She threw punches and kicks, but found her tiny limbs much too weak to force the man to stop. She managed to pull away and ran into the bedroom and crawled under the box spring.

    “Welcome home,” the Elder One said from a chair near the bed.

    Sara clambered under the bed as the Elder One watched from the sidelines. Unyielding fury bubbling up at her young body’s inability to fight back. In just a few short years she’d be able to crush the monster grabbing at her legs, but her body was still too young.

    The Elder One watched the child struggle against her father. “You became more. Achieved more. Your contemporaries failed where you flourished, but your growth is incomplete.”

    The grip on her ankle relented as her father dissolved away and the room shifted from a dirty hovel to a dirty warehouse. Little Sara found herself on a filthy, stained mattress with tricorders hovering about while men and women cheered at the spectacle.

    “The others failed and were beneath my notice,” the Elder One spoke from the edge of the crowd, its voice heard over the cheers despite being a near whisper, “Only you were able to draw my attention. I wonder what you’ll do with it.”

    “Stop this! Please!” Sara screamed as calloused hands reached for her limbs.

    The scene shifted again after a time, and Sara found herself in a familiar home. She was older, wiser even… and she was Red. She saw what passed for a family in the dilapidated apartment they used as a base. She saw Finch over at the dining table counting credit chits and divvying out Captain Yong Li’s cut of the profits.

    “A family protects its own,” the Elder One explained, “but you have never known such.”

    “Bullshit! I have Liara! I have Garrus!”

    “And look how fragile your connections are. Without you to hold them together, they fell to melancholy and despair,” the creature declared as it walked through the apartment amongst the oblivious ghosts of the past, “Love will wither and die if ignored for too long.”

    “Fuck you!”

    The Elder One did not respond, content to stare her in the eyes. But then something behind her caught its attention and Sara turned to see the Red’s leader, Jethro Taylor, walking up to her with his Lieutenant.

    “The boys and me have been talking. This Alliance puke who saved you, he could make a handsome ransom,” Taylor said with grimy smile, quietly laughing at how clever his rhymes were.

    “No, he’s a good man. He doesn’t deserve that,” Sara declared as if reading from a script. It was the same thing she’d said to them so many years ago, and the response was just as expected. They laughed.

    “Relax, Sinthia,” the Lieutenant said between laughs, “You can still fuck him if you want.”

    Sara listened as the growing laughter dimmed, only to be replaced by a quiet hum. She watched as her body moved and slaughtered those she knew as kin. And in a flash, it was over; her lungs burned and her eyes stung. Tears washed away the blood that plastered her cheeks, dripping away to land on the faded asphalt of the roof she now stood upon.

    “There can be no freedom for those shackled to weakness,” the Elder One intoned, “It took the kindness of a stranger for you to break those chains.”

    “…Anderson gave me hope. The world shat on me at every opportunity… he was the first bright spot I’d seen,” Sara said, voice detached as she took in the carnage down at street level. The bodies of rival gang members strewn about like fallen leaves.

    “The trials and tribulations I’ve forced upon you have broken many. Most wither and die… failure is beneath my notice.”

    Sara looked at the creature and opened her mouth to question… only to be struck in the chest by a stun bolt. Her body seized up and collapsed as the electricity shot through her muscles and shorted out her depleted biotics. She held up a remote detonator in her shaking hand as the SWAT team approached, the sight forcing them to freeze. All around them, hidden until now, were demo packs of C-4 and homemade nail bombs filled with plastique.

    Sara pushed her back up against the wall, blood pouring from the bullet wounds in her stomach. Her vision became fuzzy… and then she saw him. Lieutenant Anderson, still wrapped in bandages and medi-gel, pushed past the SWAT team and made his way over. His words were soothing, and for the first time in her life, Sara felt at peace. Anderson made his plea and Sara accepted, just as unconsciousness overtook her.

    She came to with a start, standing at attention before the Board of Inquiry. She remembered this day well… it nearly ended with her execution.

    “Corporal Shepard, you stand before us, accused of striking a Commissar in the line of duty. Of obstruction of justice. What say you?”

    “Dunn did nothing wrong. I did what I felt was right, to protect my team,” Sara said, body ramrod straight, voice clipped and succinct.

    “And you think yourself wiser than a Commissar? One whose life is dedicated to maintaining the peace? Whose sense of justice is absolute?”

    “There is more to the universe than black and white, sir. Dunn is no slaver, no rapist. His ‘crime’ was inconsequential and would’ve been completely ignored if he weren’t an ex-Z Class.”

    “Those who stand in judgment must be exemplars. But who stands in judgment of them?”

    “It is our judgment that you acted in good faith, that you were not inciting subversion or attempting to undermine the role of the Commissariat. Thus, we rule that you shall not be executed.”

    Sara felt the wisp of relief in the back of her mind, a memory of that day… she knew it wouldn’t last.

    “However, striking a Commissar is a serious offense, one not to be taken lightly. We hereby order you remanded to Section 23 for disciplinary action.”

    The courtroom disappeared and Sara felt her arms wretched behind her back and chained to the wall. Too low to stand, and too high to rest.

    “The master is chained while the machines destroy what they see as inferior. The power of a god can corrupt even the divine mechanism.”

    “You… mean… the reapers?” Sara asked as she struggled to catch her breath, “What… are they?” Her muscles strained and begged for relief. How many days had they kept her like this?

    “That which you know as reapers, are but a pale imitation of something greater. The legacy of my contemporaries.”

    “Your people… created… the reapers?”

    “My people made them necessary.”

    “The fuck does that mean?!” Sara screamed before gasping for breath once more.

    The Elder One remained stoic, but Sara could see the ghost of a smile as the creature dissolved into the shadows which spread across her vision. As her wrists were freed and her pain dissipated, she was struck by a new sense, the smell of smoke and burnt flesh assaulted her nose. The memories hit her like a freight train and she knew exactly where that monster had brought her… Torfan.

    Sara and her team broke into the pirate commander’s quarters. They were lavishly decorated, but bereft of life… for the most part. There was a marble island in the common area upon which laid a body, still breathing the incense infused air. The child’s limbs were shackled, arms out wide and legs spread eagle. The kid was a mess, a patina of blood and viscera marring an otherwise pristine edifice. Chunks of flesh had been hewn off and prepared with herbs and vegetables from Khar’shan.

    Sara saw her hand move and draw her pistol. Tears poured from grateful eyes as she ended their suffering.

    “Killing is a choice,” the Elder One whispered in the back of her mind just before the team’s communicator flared to life.

    “All units, pull back and regroup at fallback point delta.”

    Sara ignored the order and pressed forward, leaving her team behind. The world melted and reformed in another room, with Rai’s cooling body on the floor and Sara’s hands wrapped around Julia’s slender throat. Sara growled in fury as she started to punch her onetime lover in the face. Crying out in anguish as her fist was sheathed in biotic fire and she crushed her lover’s head.

    The room melted away and Sara bore witness to her Marines as the batarian pillboxes cut them down.

    The Elder One’s voice sounded once more on the edge of her perception, “Vengeance has a price.”

    A hand reached out of the shadows and grabbed her by the shirt collar. “I trusted you, Shepard!” Major Kyle screamed, gesturing with his free hand as two Marines fell to a storm of bullets, “How could you let my boys die like that?!”

    The Lion of Mindoir disappeared in cloud of smoke and shadow. As her vision cleared Sara beheld the true horror of Torfan, as vested children slowly plodded toward her and her team, tears in their eyes as they walked toward death, whispering quiet apologies between sobs.

    Her weapon came up with but a moment of hesitation. At her side was an ancient warrior who knew death and atrocity as if they were kin. It was Urdnot Wrex who first pulled the trigger, reptilian eyes that bespoke of unbridled fury at the deaths of such young pups. As the bullets flew, the bald heads fell one by one.

    “Your victory would not have been possible without the krogan.”

    “Wrex saw through their bullshit. Some things are more important than credits.”

    The bodies and carnage melted away and Sarah was once more standing at attention, only this time she was on a stage with other Marines as they each received their medals. The Alliance President walked over and affixed the Star of Terra to her lapel and shook her good hand.

    “An alliance with the enemy is a rare thing. It can lead to prosperity if sincere, or ruin if not. What would humanity look like if other choices had been made?”

    The room flashed and Sara saw the High Lords of Sol arrayed in their seats, only for it to morph and change until they were replaced by other men and women, with old national flags not seen since the Days of Iron decorating the walls. And then it was gone.

    Sara looked around, but all that remained was an empty void. “…The hell was that?”

    “Can you comprehend the infinite multiverse?” the Elder One asked, materializing behind her.

    “I get the concept.”

    “No, you see those words in context without understanding. You travel the stars, but do not know how,” the creature sneered as the visions shifted again and the two of them floated before the Earth, “There are infinite alternate universes, but few realize the depth of this truth. There are also infinite identical universes for each variation.”

    Sara watched as the Earth multiplied before her eyes. Some blue and pristine, others tan and barren. Then there was the familiar green and brown she’d grown up with. Poisoned oceans gleaming like a dirty emerald.

    “There is power in such knowledge. My people exist on but one world, and yet the empire we commanded was infinite.”

    “You… conquered other realities?”

    “My people worshipped power they could not comprehend. They embraced their shackles and cheered as the mirrors shattered.” The Elder One narrowed its eyes a fraction in irritation, the display of emotion was so subtle it might have been a trick of the light. “I have existed since time immemorial. Eons have passed; the stars themselves have died before my eyes only to be reborn. And yet here I am before you. You must ask why.”

    “You want something from me.”

    “What could you possibly have to offer?” the Elder One sneered.

    “I…?” Sara wracked her memories, replaying the creature’s words. Then it struck her. “A servant, a purpose… you molded me into a weapon.”

    The Elder One did not react outwardly, but its eyes glittered with quiet approval. “Every Cycle has its heroes; I make sure they’re ready when the time comes. And occasionally I have to intercede to protect my investments.”

    Sara blinked and took in the pristine walls of Doctor Michel’s clinic on the Citadel, stopping when she saw a dozen tiny holes near the door. “You stopped the bullets.”

    “I moved them.”

    Divine intervention, Garrus was right. But something didn’t sit right. “If you saved me then, why did you leave me to the collectors?”

    “You had no means of escape. I had other investments to nurture. You are not unique in the grand game.”

    “Hmph, thanks for the vote of confidence.”

    The Elder One’s eyes became… somber? It was so hard to tell. “…This Cycle will fail.”

    “Fuck you!” Sara screamed as she shoved an angry finger in the creature’s face, “We’ll push back those machines and win this war!”

    “The gods themselves were cast down, and yet you expect victory? Such hubris.”

    Sara’s vision turned white and she had to blink away the stars in her vision. She was once more standing at the granite plinth, the sounds of running water and cawing birds filled her ears. She turned to see her friends, and breathed a sigh of relief as they returned her gaze.

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