“Oh thank goodness, Commander. You’re alive!” Lizbeth said as Judy and her squad met up with her.
“I just have one question for you... did you know the Gnu’s Hope was deliberately placed over an alien planet creature? Because that’s what we learned from the ExoGeni VI, you’re ExoGeni. So you’d probably have been kept in the loop. Because otherwise, you would have lied when you said you didn’t know anything... and I, absolutely HATE being lied to.” Judy said, with an insincere smile on her face.
“...I tried to stop the experiments. But they threatened to throw me into the colony. I’ve been trying to get a message to Colonial Affairs since the geth arrived. Where to find the Thorian, but thanks to the power outage I couldn’t send it! I understand your upset Commander, but I NEVER wanted this to happen.” Lizbeth pleaded, Judy took a few deep calming breaths.
“You did what you could in a bad situation, just help me find the Thorian and I’ll help you however I can.” Judy said.
“It’s underneath Gnu’s Hope, but the entrance to the Thorian itself has been blocked off. The colonists parked a freighter over the entrance shortly before the geth attacked.” Lizbeth explained.
“Smart thinking, but this must be asked. Why are the geth after the Thorian in the first place?” Judy asked.
“Well the Thorian does have spores that can control an infected host.” Lizbeth blurted out.
“Excuse us?” Tali asked taken aback.
“Yes, that’s the whole reason ExoGeni is even interested in it.” Lizbeth said.
“Figures, an interstellar corporation is interested in something with mind control capabilities. Oh, and hi Judy. Joker let me know that coms were reestablished.” Davies said.
“Davies, are you okay back on the Normandy?” Judy asked.
“Yep, there trying but I’m not seeing the colonist’s brute forcing their way in. At any rate, there is a lot of geth chatter in your area. Most likely there not happy, and want to have a word with you... most likely that world will be ‘ratatata’... or whatever noise those guns make.” Davies explained.
“Understood, let’s get back to the Mako.” Judy said.
“Let me come with you! I’m not a fighter, but I want to help fix the mess I’ve made.” Lizbeth said.
Eventually Judy and her squad arrived at the location of the ExoGeni survivors, after having waded through geth forces a second time in the Mako. Down in the bunker, Lizbeth’s mother was being accosted by an ExoGeni guard.
“Let go of my mother!” Lizbeth said as she ran towards her mother.
“Lizbeth! Thank God you’re alive!” Juliana said in relief as she to her daughter.
“Oh for the love of- come out! I know you’re here!” Jeong said in aggravation.
“Jeong, you have one minute. Just one, to explain what’s going on here.” Judy said in annoyance.
“N-Now, now. I’ve red your record in the database. Granted, most of your feats MUST be exaggerations. I mean a little bunny holding off-”
“EVERYTHING, was true, and happened. Now stop avoiding my questions, and tell me what’s going on here.” Judy said in frustration.
“Alright... ExoGeni wants this entire place purged.” Ethan admitted.
“WHAT?! This is a mammal colony! You can’t just kill everybody!” Lizbeth said in protest.
“Corporate isn’t interested in the colonists... there’s something far more valuable here!” Jeong said.
“Species 37, AKA the Thorian, the one thing your company is even interested in... wouldn’t surprise me if they about it even BEFORE Furos was colonized.” Judy said with contempt.
“Beg pardon?” Juliana asked.
“It’s... a telepathic creature that lives under Gnu’s Hope. It’s been taking control of the colonists, and ExoGeni knew all along about the thing.” Lizbeth explained.
“I swear, every minute I find a new reason to knock out your teeth.” Juliana said in irritation.
“So what? No one’s going to miss a few colonists.” Ethan said... and then something in Judy snapped.
“Make that about TWO reasons a minute.” Juliana said in exasperation.
“I have a better idea.” Judy said as she drew her pistol. “You shut your bamboo chopping muzzle. While the NOT-SOCIOPATHS! Actually try to figure out how to fix this horse pie we’ve all stepped in! No offence Brayham, either of you.” Judy said, glancing at the Brayhams.
“Non taken, Lizbeth. You got any ideas?” Juliana said.
“I have something that could be worked with. I have this nerve gas that affects ONLY Thorian spores. The worst it should do is paralyze anyone infected by the Thorian. Unfortunately, there’s at least enough to ONLY cure the colonists.” Lizbeth explained.
“Those could work in grenades.” Ashley pointed out.
“Then let’s get going. My squad and I have a colony to save.” Judy said as Lizbeth gave her the nerve gas.
Eventually, Judy and her squad pacified the enthralled colonists. They were however, exhausted from having to not only avoid killing the colonists. But from the literal hordes of horrifying Husk like creatures that were blocking their way into the colony itself.
“Judy, your vitals are going nuts. Are you okay?” Davies asked over the com channel.
“Yeah... yeah we’re alright. Just had to wade through some geth, some kind of spore zombies, and... and colonists that’ve been infected by the Thorian. And we’re... we’re catching our breaths before we get to the Thorian itself.” Judy said panting.
“Keelah... I have just one question at this point... why are the geth even interested in this thing?” Tali asked.
“No idea... probably doesn’t even matter at this point. Just... just gotta see if this thing is worth all the hype.” Ashley said.
“What... is that?!” Judy said as she and her squad looked upon the Thorian itself. It was an enormous plant like abomination.
“If I was a betting wolf, I’d say THAT is the Thorian.” Ashley said, then without warning. A green skinned asari wearing a skin tight suit fell out of the Thorian. “Though I wouldn’t have called that THAT would happen, however!” Ashley said in surprise.
“Invaders! Your every step is a transgression. A thousand feelers appraise you as meat, good only to dig or decompose. I speak for the Old Growth, as I did for Saren. You are within and before the Thorian. It commands that you be in awe!” The green-skinned asari said.
“Okay... you gave something to Saren, and I would very much like to have it.” Judy said, confused as to what was going on.
“Saren sought knowledge of those who are long gone. The Old Growth listened to flesh for the first time in the Long Cycle. Trades were made. Then cold ones began killing the flesh that would tend the next cycle. Flesh fairly given! The Old Growth sees the air you push as lies! It will listen no more!” The green-skinned asari said.
“This is ridiculous. I eat plans not talk to them! Just tell me what you gave Saren, and release the colonists from your control. And we’ll be out of your roots before you know it.” Judy said, trying not to lose her temper.
“The Thorian is a piece of this world, extending across this land and back through the ages. You can no more kill it then cut the sky. Your blood will feed the ground and the new growth!” The asari said as she drew her gun and opened fire.
“Well, diplomacy is out of the question. Get to cover!” Judy ordered.
Eventually, Judy and her squad had destroyed the Thorians neural nodes, causing it to fall and die. “Well... the one solid lead on the beacon vision, and Saren. And it’s dead.” Judy said in disappointment. Then an asari, not another of the Thorians thralls, but a purple skinned asari emerged from a pod on the wall.
“Praise be to Athame! I thought I would never be free. Did... did you kill the Thorian?” The asari asked.
“Yep. No I have two questions. Who are you, and why are you even here?” Judy asked.
“My name is Shiala. I am- or rather I was a servant of Matriach Benezia, and through her a servant of Saren. Benezia foresaw Saren’s influence would have. She went to him to try to stymie his more violent desires. Appeal to the... what do you mammals call them again? Regardless, Benezia fell under his influence. As did we.” Shiala explained.
“Really? And what did Saren promise Benezia, and her retinue by extension to betray the Council?” Judy asked.
“It’s not quite that simple. Benezia underestimated Saren, as did we. We came to believe in Saren and his mission. The strength of his will is more than worrisome.” Shiala explained.
“Leave it to an asari to screw up like this.” Ashley muttered to herself.
“But that doesn’t make sense. Asari Matriarchs are some of the most intelligent and powerful beings in the galaxy. How could one fall under the command of a rogue turian?” Judy asked, ignoring Ashley’s aside.
“Saren has a vessel... an ancient one. An enormous one the likes of which I’ve never even seen before. Saren has dubbed it Sovereign, though I imagine that in ancient times it went by a different name. I’m certain how it does it, but it can dominate the minds of Sarens followers. While even near Sovereign, it indoctrinates one to Sarens will. It’s a subtle thing... days, weeks, regardless of how long it takes. His will becomes absolute. When we came to Furos I willingly obeyed Saren when he commanded that I be sacrificed to the Thorian. He needed an asari to properly communicate with the Thorian. In exchange Saren received an alliance with it.” Shiala explained.
“Ah... no wait, that doesn’t explain why the geth were trying to destroy it.” Judy said.
“After Saren got what he sought, he saw the Thorian as a liability. Saren already knows that you are after the Conduit, and that you’re tracing his footsteps. He saught to kill the Thorian so that you would not attain the Cipher.” Shiala explained.
“And the Cipher is...?” Judy asked.
“The beacon on Eden Prime gave you both visions. But the visions are unclear to you, at best just a random assortment of gruesome and violent imagery. The beacon was meant to be used properly by a Prothean mind. To put it simply, you must understand the history, culture and very existence. The Thorian was around long before the Protheans even came to this world, it watched and studied them. Then when they were gone, it consumed him and they in turn became a part of him.” Shiala explained.
“And the Thorian taught Saren Prothean, how exactly? Because I’m pretty sure whatever langue they spoke is literally a dead tongue.” Just asked.
“The Cipher is the very essence of a Prothean. It’s... it’s not an easy thing to explain. Like trying to describe sound to a creature that cannot hear, or color to the blind, my point is that the Cipher is the endemic memory of the Protheans spaning hundreds, if not thousands of generations of the species.” Shiala explained.
“So it’s obvious then. Teach me Prothean, if nothing else I can at least try to make the visions coherent if not understandable.” Judy said.
“Very well, now relax.” Shiala said as she knelt down to Judy. “Slow, deep breaths. Let go of your physical shell. Reach out to grasp at the threats that bind us, one to another. Every action sends ripples across the galaxy. Every idea must touch another mind to live. Each emotion must mark another’s spirit. We are all connected. Every living being united in a single, glorious existence. Open yourself to the universe, Commander. Embrace eternity!” Shiala said as her eyes turned black.
And in the vison, Judy’s vision was clear... or at least less muddy on Eden Prime. Planets brought to ruin, beings torn apparat by the apocalypse that brought the cycle crashing down. Terrible atrocities committed, as words burned across the galaxy. And at the end... the ship that was seen at Eden Prime approached her.
At the visions end, Shiala and Judy were silent. “There, that is the same I gave Saren, the Cipher. The ancestral memories of the Prothean race. Your as much a part of them as they were.” Shiala said.
“Judy, are you alright?” Tali asked.
“Well the vision still makes absolute know sense. But thankfully my brains aren’t scrambled... so really all we have to show are some unconscious colonists. So that’s a win at least.” Judy said.
“Regardless, you will need time to truly understand the gift that has been given to you.” Shiala said.
“Perhaps... but now what are we going to do with you?” Judy asked.
“I’m... I’m not certain. I’ve served the Matriarchs will since I was a girl. And I’m not certain what to do next. If you would have-”
“We already have an asari aboard the Normandy. And the Council is already unease about Beneziahs daughter.” Judy said.
“Oh... then I shall stay here. So that I might help the colonists recover the damages the Thorian and the geth inflicted.” Shiala said.
“That’s a good thought. Now let’s get a move on... I have a Council to endure.” Judy said.
“Don’t you mean report?” Shiala asked.
“Trust me; the only difference worth noting is in the spelling.” Judy said.
“Commander Hopps? Are you alright? You don’t look well.” Liara said as Judy and the other Squad members sat in the briefing room.
“That depends, is having something like the Cipher dumped into your head normal? Because I seriously doubt that having the knowledge of the Protheans uploaded into you head is something even your people have found medication for.” Judy said.
“What?! How did-”
“Well apparently Blue, Saren traded one of your moms servants to the Thorian to understand the visions in the beacon. Then tried to cut the thing loose via geth. That summarize things Carrots?” Nick interrupted.
“Basically, and used spores to enthrall the colonists. And apparently turned enough of them into an effective zombie army... good news is that the colony is still getting support from ExoGeni despite it being dead. Don’t ask... had to twist an arm or two to secure that.” Judy said.
“Oh... well regarding the Cypher, I might be able to help. I am an expert on the Protheans, so if I were to join my consciousness to yours. I might be able to make sense of it.” Liara explained.
“Fair enough, let’s get this over with, and see if I can actually make sense of the visions.” Judy said as she stood up and the two women approached each other.
“Relax Commander, and embrace eternity.” Liara said as once again, the beacon visions. “By Thessia that was... never in my years have I experienced anything like that. Nothing so vivid and... and so intense. Your will is remarkable, a lesser mind would have broken into an insane mess.” Liara said in exhaustion.
“Really? Do you see anything new Hopps? Or was it just more of the same. I have a bet with Joker that says it’s the same.” Nick said.
“It’s not that simple. The vision is incomplete; the beacon must have been damaged. And downloaded its data into the Commanders-”
“Liara, you’re among friends, you don’t have to refer to me by rank.” Judy said cutting off Liara.
“...into the Commanders mind. In turn it’s incomplete because of that damage.” Liara asked.
“Please tell me you found something new we can work with?” Judy asked.
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing new for us to work with.” Liara said.
“Well... next stop Novharia it seems. Liara, go back to Chawkways for a checkup. Everyone else, dismissed.” Judy said.
“And the report to the Council?” Joker asked.
“Send it to Bogo and Admiral Hacket. As far as the Council is going to know is that I found a clue. And nothing beyond that, if only so that I don’t end up like Lionheart and down a bottle of aspirin every time I speak to them.” Judy said as everyone left the communications room.
“Fair enough, sending reports, and stipulating that there not to tell the Council anything. No more buffalo messenger like last time.” Joker said.
Later on, Nick was alone in the ships canteen, with a sundae glass with blue ice cream in it. “Carrots, heard that what happened down there... and you look sad.” Nick said, noticing Judy entering with her ears drooping. She sat down next to him.
“Yeah... it’s something that happened as we were liberating Gnu’s Hope. Fai Dan, the red panda leading the colony... he was under the Thorians control. But... but rather then open fire on us he... he... turned his gun on himself.” Judy said, chocking at the memory.
“Oh... OH. Wow, that’s... that’s pretty dark.” Nick said.
“I didn’t even try to save him... I don’t know why. Not throw a grenade with the anti-Thorian poison, not try to shoot his gun out of his paw and knock him out. I... I couldn’t save him.” Judy said, sniffling.
“I know Judy, I’m sure he was a good man. These things happen sometimes... you can’t save everybody. Not even you. But your short comings should never stop you from being a hero. Now come on, I got blue berry ice cream, and apparently I’m not as hungry as I thought I was. That good with you?” Nick asked as he offered her a spoon.
“Yeah... yeah I could go for some ice cream. Thanks’ Nick.” Judy said as she took the spoon, and the two mammals ate there dessert.