*Disclaimer: I do not own Mass effect, That right belongs to the people at Bioware. Only Athena is mine.
1 – Escape!
“Download complete,” The faint electronic voice whispered. If she had been able to move she would have blinked. It felt like she was waking up yet her body was unresponsive. Bands of ice encircled her wrists and ankles, holding her down to a frigid surface. “Neural output at 2%, small spike due to recent information dump. Proceeding with external stimulus,” The voice continued.
She felt confusion. Where was she? What had happened? The last thing she could remember was walking home from university, then nothing. Before she could wonder much further, a searing pain exploded along her nerves. Her body writhed and twisted in an automatic response to escape the pain that burned through every vein and limb. Her back arched and her head thrashed weakly but there was no escape.
She felt like her skin was being peeled off while battery acid was being dripped on the exposed muscle beneath. Then, like the flipping of a switch, it vanished. Her body sank back onto the surface and returned to its previous inert state. “Basic physiological response, increasing magnitude and re-initializing,” The voice reported.
Before she could even think, the pain returned, worse than before. She felt her body’s mouth open and keen in pain, automatic whimpers in a primitive response to lessen the pain. This cycle of torture continued, and her mind retreated behind walls as it attempted to shield itself from what was being done to her body.
She felt scalpels slice through skin, needles jab into veins, eyes, unseeing and unmoving were operated on and foreign chemicals poured through her system. All she could do was sit and watch as her body was violated down to its very DNA. The ‘External Stimulus’ sessions continued, as her captors attempted to elicit a sentient reaction from her shell, but she pulled away even more. Living through her old memories of her life before the pain and dark and hiding among the terabytes of data they had crammed into her head.
Calculations she had never learned but somehow intrinsically understood floated past. She played with their variables, twisting them in strange and fantastic ways as she tried to distract her mind from her body.
“Still no response?” A female voice asked from outside and she turned her attention to listen. Sometimes she could glean information about her captors when they mused over her shell.
“No, still unresponsive, though there has been a steady increase in neural activity. It is not affected by what’s happening though, so I doubt that it has anything to do with her waking up,” A male voice answered.
“It. Kowalski. It is not a she and it is not a human, remember that. It’s a collection of cells we grew in a vat and stuffed its head with information. The fact that it looks like a human female was an aesthetic choice by the Illusive man so it could match its project name,” The female voice commanded sharply and she felt a flash of recognition.
The Illusive man. She knew that name but that was fiction. Skeins of information rose from the sea: Illusive man, Cerberus, The Citadel, System’s Alliance. Her mind dug through it in the nanoseconds that it took for the people outside to pause in their conversation.
“Then why give her…it a female name?” The male demanded.
“Subject Metis is designed to be a mobile combat and intelligence unit, able to pass through security and acquire data undetected,” The woman informed him tersely. “The illusive man likes his mythology and subject Metis has had, what equates to, an A.I. loaded into its head. By tomorrow the neural control chip will be placed and the unit will be ready for infiltration,” The sound of footsteps walked away from her and she felt her entire mind narrow its focus to a single pin prick.
‘Neural control chip? A.I. in my brain? Cerberus is real? Oh hell no!’ With an effort that no human mind could understand she focused her entire augmented mind into action, determined to take control of the shell that housed her and remove herself from this prison. She had played the games, she knew how this went: Modern Gamer gets put into video game, uses knowledge to kick ass and hopefully take names, knock the Council’s heads out of their ass. Take over as the shadow broker and beat the reapers back into whatever hell they had crawled out of. Win the day and get the love interest, maybe with Shepard. She had to escape first though.
She marshalled the immense mental power that fluttered through dozens of thought processes simultaneously into a single cohesive unit and pushed. It was agony but a lesser one compared to what she experienced in the ‘Stimulation’ sessions. With the speed of a supercomputer at her back, she attached her mind to her body.
She gained a new appreciation for the complexity of the human nervous system as she went but, within an hour, an interminable amount of time to her hyper active mind, she was finished. She held her body as it had been before she had linked into it and extended her mind in a careful, and almost instinctual, action. She could feel the systems that held her in place, count the people and droids that walked the halls. She was the station and the station was her.
The feeling of duality in having two bodies was almost a relief from having her entire mind focused on one thing. A handful of firewalls tried to hold her back but instinctively she slid through them like a ghost. Oh the fools, this was a space station. She mused before she sealed the lab that held her and diverted all life support to her location. Then in an act of revenge for pain and violation, she opened every airlock and blast door, save for the room that held her.
She watched from the cameras as her torturers and creators were sucked out into space, watched them freeze and die as they asphyxiated. Once the sensors confirmed that there was not a single living soul aboard the station, she shut the doors and re-initiated life support. A flash of thought unlocked her restraints and she opened her eyes for the first time in this new world. The room was white, clinical and cold. Various machines hung over her like the limbs of a spider about to wrap her in its web.
She rolled her head to the side and saw a collection of tubes emerging from ports in her veins. Her mind swiftly isolated the liquids in her veins from those ports. She identified them as nutrients and an unknown chemical compound that seemed to numb the cells and nerves it came into contact with. The chemical was new, indicating that they were prepping her for something.
A swift hack into the logs showed the compound to be a sedative to keep her from moving during the chip implantation process that would have happened tomorrow. With heavy limbs, she reached out and yanked the tubes from her arm, throwing them away from herself and struggling to shunt the chemicals from her system.
Her amplified mind had complete and utter control over every function. If she wanted she could stop her own heart, but she swiftly dedicated thought skeins to ensure her body continued to function now that she was in control. Using this control, she upped her body’s metabolism, desiring to flush the chemicals from her system. With that being taken care of she sat up and began taking stock of her body. Two arms, two legs. Fiver fingers on each hand and five toes per foot.
A quick glance down showed she was naked and female, several healing scars on the thighs that were nearly indistinguishable from the rest. Pale skin that had clearly never seen the light of the sun, blemish free, covering well-formed limbs that from what she could remember, were aesthetically pleasing. Obviously whatever template they had used to make this body had been a good one.
She gingerly swung her legs over the side of her table and slid down till they touched the floor. Her muscles were wobbly and unsteady and she gripped the table to keep from falling. She trembled from cold as she pushed away from the table and tottered unsteadily towards the door. It opened at her instinctive command and she followed her mental map through the halls, growing more confident with each step.
She was walking easily by the time she reached the living quarters and began to rummage through the uniforms that hung in lockers.
Eventually she found one that fit her tall but slender frame and slid it on. Her fingers fumbled with the fasteners while her mind trawled through unnumbered amounts of data looking for how they worked. After a few minutes of experimenting, she succeeded and the ill-fitting jumpsuit was secured. Clothed now she sat on the edge of the cabin’s bed and she put her head in her hands.
Ok, first thing she knew was that she had been walking home from university and something had happened.
Second: she was apparently in the Mass Effect universe.
Three: She was a recently freed test subject that had been in the loving care of Cerberus until, in true Cerberus test subject fashion, she had gone rogue and killed the team working on her.
Four: She had the mental capacity and capability of an extremely advanced A.I. in her head and a repository of knowledge for the current known galaxy.
Five: She couldn’t remember her own name and apparently had been tortured for a recorded two years as she was experimented on and augmented.
Six: She was loaded up with enough hidden augmentations and downloaded training to make her one of, if not the deadliest human combatants known to the galaxy.
And seven: She had just murdered thirty-seven people aboard this station.
She took a deep shuddering breath as she tried to come to grips with what she had done. Even now, her mind began to throw up details, such as a slow replay of watching those people die in vacuum, while another part analyzed and highlighted exactly what was happening. Other streams of thought critiqued her speed in her takeover of the station while a final thread analyzed how her actions would be viewed by others and the ethical ramifications of her actions.
Amid the mental torrent, she clung to the only thing she could. A fundamental question. “Who am I?” She mumbled to herself, surprised to find her face wet with tears as sobs began to grip her frame.
“WHO AM I!?” She cried as she threw her head back. A primal scream tore itself from her throat as she clawed at her head, trying to silence her brain. “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” She cried as her finger nails drew bloody gouges along her bald head. Hot blood poured from the scrapes and tricked down her neck and face.
It was warm and she drew her hands away to stare at the blood that now stained them. Her tears continued to rain down as she stared, mixing with the warm blood that continued to flow.
“Why am I here?” She whispered. All the processes in her head ground to a halt, trying to process this question but failing. She reveled in the moment of blessed silence and took a deep breath. She had been sucked into something she read from fanfiction and now she was in possession of an intellect to rival Cortana from Halo. As far as she knew, she could have just as limited a shelf life.
She had the fore knowledge to help and the technological knowhow to kick Cerberus up the ass before they became a problem. She closed her eyes and returned her bleeding head to her hands. If she was going to do this then she needed to decide how she was going to do this. If she knew anything about Cerberus, and she did, then they would not let a resource such as herself lose. Idly, she checked at the cost it had taken to create her and gasped. Nine trillion credits had been poured into project Metis. She was subject thirteen, lucky thirteen.
Apparently, her predecessors had been terminated due to insanity but then they had been allowed to be conscious and form personalities before the implantation process. She had the information implanted early on while she was still in the test tube. How her modern personality and memories had joined in was a mystery but she would take the luck she had.
Something told her that this was a second lease on life. Something had happened to her on that walk home that had ended her chances of living there. She opened her eyes and stood, making her way over to the tiny bathroom that sat in the corner of the cabin. She approached the sink and after a moment’s hesitation, looked into the mirror. Her face was aristocratic and beautiful despite the lack of hair. It was clear from the stubble that they shaved it regularly and if she let it grow that it would be dark.
She had high cheek bones and a narrow delicate nose that sat beneath high arching brows and above lips most women would kill for. A pointed chin and a heart shaped face gave her a regal appearance but it was the eyes that stopped the show. She had read of silver eyes but always pictured them as merely a light grey.
But her eyes were a true metallic silver edged with a slightly darker ring that differentiated between iris and sclera. They were almost luminous and looking into them she could see that that they had an unfathomable depth to them. She quickly turned her eyes away from her reflection and began to clean the scratches she had inflicted on herself.
She sent out a stream of thought to find out when she was in the timeline and blinked at the answer. 2179, four years before the Mass Effect timeline began. She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the mirror. She had work to do, not the least of which was to get herself into a position to keep Cerberus from finding her and getting enough power to be of use to Shepard when the time came. Curious, she tried to connect to the outside world but was blocked by several servers.
If she wanted to get out then she had to go through the Cerberus main system and put her mind at risk of being caught. Option B was to use the shuttles and get the hell out of dodge after blowing the station to hell and back. With this in mind, she purloined a spare omni tool and sacked the information banks of the station. She copyed the information into her own mind, the safest place she could think of, and hopped into the shuttle.
As she left the station behind, she activated the self-destruct protocols. A wave of satisfaction swept over her as she watched the station reduce itself to dust before her eyes in a flash of burning atmosphere and flying shrapnel. Sure now that no one could find the hell that had birthed her, she closed her eyes and leaned back in the pilot’s chair and began to construct an identity for herself.
“Subject Metis,” She scoffed, a project named after the Titaness of wisdom and thought who was swallowed by Zeus. “Metis is dead, I am her daughter,” She declared and began to fill out the forms with her new name. She carefully researched through the data bases and smiled when none of her favorites came up. The name she wanted would not raise any red flags.
If she was going to take this world by storm then it helped to have a name that evoked the strength of the bad ass bitches who had worn them before. “Confirm,” She muttered as she looked at her new name with pride.
Athena Cortana Kerrigan. Named after the goddess of war and wisdom, an A.I. who had helped hold back the covenant and the Flood, and a woman who would save a universe from a fallen god. Also, the last name sounded normal enough to pass as having eclectic parents with a love for unusual names. After all, if Mass effect existed as a real place, why not others?
The shuttle sped into the relay system and she busied herself with the task of prepping her small shuttle for jump. As the blue lightning seized her craft and launched it towards omega she smirked. Let’s see how the galaxy would react.
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