This is Chapter 3 of A Serpent in the Citadel, a pulp noir detective story set in the Mass Effect universe. I try very hard to make it unnecessary to have played the games to enjoy the story. Let me know how poorly I’ve done so in the comments.
The bar was called Tranquility but Surly would’ve described it better. I’d envisioned asari dancing girls and a lively crowd of villainy, but the place wasn’t a wretched hive. It was barely a disheveled nest. The place wasn’t small, with tables and secluded booths in a large open area that looked like it could seat a hundred with more on the spacious elevated dance floor. It was, however, nearly empty. There was an asari but she wasn’t dancing. Instead she wiped a spot on the bar with a towel and seemed intent about it. A krogan sat on the right side of the bar, in heavy armor that looked beat to hell and halfway back, nursing a drink. On the left was a lone turian, female, dressed like a merc looking to get in a company. Ragged was too kind a term. A quartet of salarians sat at one table and a pair of quarians were at another, their environmental suits dusty and worn. The bar was quiet, except for a vague electronic dance tune that sounded like it was on a loop and the whispered conversations from the tables that stopped when I got there.
This is part 2 of my sci-fi detective story. Part 1 is here. Enjoy. If you want, I mean. I’m not your boss.
It took me longer to get to my apartment once I was on the Citadel than it did to travel the millions of miles from Arcturus to the giant station. Customs was no problem. A scan of my new agent license made them ignore my firearm and I got waved in like I was reputable. Citadel security was slipping. Past security was the no-man’s-land between the Presidium and the Wards. The Presidium was where the people who were a big deal hung out, diplomats and councilors and their hangers-on. The five Wards jutted off the central ring of the Presidium and was where the real action was. Each was a city unto themselves, full of noise and light and the crammed masses of a half-dozen species gawking and wandering. The place was a great equalizer among all us aliens – none of us built it, we were all in awe of it, and being there instantly made every visitor a tourist for at least a little while.
I decided to walk a lot of the way down the long arm of Tayseri Ward, packed in among the milling masses. I could have flagged a shuttle or a ground car, but something about the crazy bustle of the crowd appealed to me. It reminded me of home, the sprawling slum on Earth, only Tayseri was a lot cleaner and I didn’t get mugged every fifth step. There was a buzz to the Citadel, something I could appreciate. Quiet places got to me after a while. Elysium was quiet until the Blitz. Now quiet just meant I was waiting for the explosions and screams.
I’ve never written fan fiction before. Now I have. It doesn’t feature any characters from the game, it takes place a few years before the first Mass Effect, and is a noir detective story instead of sci-fi, but since it’s in the ME universe I suppose it’s fanfic. Once again, I can’t help but mash genres. Hey, I’m just happy I’m writing – this plus the short story I wrote for my wife for Valentine’s Day means I’m on a roll!
This is Part 1 of the story – I’ll be posting it in serial form.
Anyway, here we go:
The last time I was this hungover while being escorted through a military facility I was looking at ten years in a prison colony. Lucky for me I wasn’t wearing tin bracelets this time and no one had their gun drawn. Unlucky for me I was being marched to the Alliance Judge Advocate Corps office on Arcturus Station, the giant place where the most muckety of the mucks who ran the entire Systems Alliance Navy called home. I was krill in the mouth of humanity’s whale, and that wasn’t even the worst part.
The worst thing was, I was being escorted to my sister. Yes, I, Corrigan Blake, ex-Marine, former mercenary, galactic traveler, feared nothing in the universe half so much as I did my big sister.
OK. When it came to the Mass Effect 3 ending, I’d said my piece (spoiled and non-spoiled) and counted to three. I was good, I was finished, I was content. Then I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday. He’d never played any of the Mass Effect games and wanted some questions answered, so he could put the frothing waves of rage into context. I answered them from my perspective. Then he said something about a theory that was the hot thing on the Intarwebs, something I’d paid zero attention to, a little thing called the Indoctrination Theory. I decided to check into this theory. What I read changed everything.
Essentially, my friend took a stick and jammed it into the anthill of my brain and stirred it all up. The rat bastard.
Oh, and if I haven’t been entirely clear, there are spoilers below the “Read the rest of this entry”. SPOILERS. Spoilers. (spoilers)
I’m going to go ahead and talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and their curious decision to have Chewbacca appear at the very end of the game and lead everyone in the Macarena while the blue elephant plays his round piano. Yes, I know that didn’t happen, but I didn’t want the preview thing to show any actual spoilers to ruin someone else’s experience. I will wait until after the jump, which is right here.