7 Mar 2014

Mass Effect Journal - 05

This post has been the hardest to date and it coming in much later then the previous posts. 

Commander Virgil Shepard - CO, SSV Normandy SR1

After Feros Shepard has realized two things:

1. He is ignorant
2. He is not alone

Shepard is changing. After the mission a priority call from a Salarian Special Task Group (STG) pulls Shepard towards another emergency. Noveria can wait Virmire is the next fire and Shepard needs to put it out. So he plots a course and decides to take some time to pounder and reflect with his team and crew.

For me as his player I've come to understand, through Virgil Shepard's eyes the level of severity that the story is trying to impart. The video below, for some reason since I've started this, hits home quite a bit more. This experiment has been getting some positive feedback, so for those who are reading look at the video made up of scenes from across the whole Trilogy of games. Enjoy and thanks for reading this experiment.

That's the now, the future, and the end. It's reminiscent of Shepard's visions from the beacon on Eden Prime and it's very fitting as I move onto one of the more prolific missions of the first game.

As I mentioned before Shepard has learned two things.

The first is his ignorance. The universe is much darker and layered with issues that are compounding on each other. He was glued together through military service from surviving a slaughter of his family and friends. He has vowed to never again let someone else suffer when he is strong enough to do so on that being behalf.

His ignorance is going to get him and everyone else killed. He needs to smarten up and get educated right quick.

He's learning of the impact of the Shadow Broker and the network of informants at the Broker's command. He's learning first hand the power and danger of being a Spectre. Saren is the example of things going bad. He's trying so hard to make it the best of his position but folks are still dying... like the casualty on Feros at the Zhu's Hope colony.
Salarian STG getting a brief from
Capt. Kirrahe - Virmire

Upon learning of the Salarian STGs, Shepard is realizing that even his allies have secrets. Secrets that can change the world and hurt those who can't fend for themselves. STGs are just another piece of evidence to his ignorance of the galaxy.

Then there are fragments of more. Organizations like Cerberus, human centric former military think tanks, now rogue. Groups like Terra Nova or the military might of Asari Commandos. Shepard is learning that this is just the first layer of secrets and it's only getting worse.

Shepard is also ignorant of his companions and how he and they are affecting each other. They trained at Pinnacle Station to be the best. Yet Feros someone died and Liara and Garrus suffered alongside Shepard.

This leads to his second revelation. Shepard is not alone. This weight, these burdens and hardships that he takes on are not just being taken on by himself they are being shared by those who volunteer to follow him. The people who follow him are willing to help him with those burdens. They are stepping up to the task along side him.

On the way to Virmire Shepard talked with his crew.
- Liara has become closer, she is just as naive as Shepard and she is willing to help. Even against her family, her mother. They are bonding and it's becoming more than simple friendship.
- Garus is angry at his past but he wants to start succeeding now. He's asked for help with closing a cold case that is now possibly within Shepard's reach. Shepard is learning about the Krogan and how they suffer and how far they have fallen.
- Wrex has asked for help to find an heirloom, a piece of Krogan past that is evidence of a once greater species.
- Kaden is accepted his past like Shepard, they have much in common. Kaden's outlook allows him to bring to Shepard a unique neutral view of the crew and mission.
- Ashley is still trying so hard to change her fate. She's a romantic who has made herself hard to be able to succeed with the stain on her family name. She recites Charge of the Light Brigade from memory.

Landing on Virmire was a mess. The training at Pinnacle Station paid off and the team was able to breach the Geth defences and get to the STG with little worry of the danger. Upon meeting up with Capt. Kirrahe and getting the run down, Shepard is coming to understand how dangerous this place was. This was Saren's base and he was making something - researching a cure.

Here there was a cure for the Krogan. A species broken and fractured, slowly dying and trapped in a cycle of violence. They suffer from a genophage - an artificial genetic mutation to drastically curb the rate of births of the Krogan race. Wrex had taught him that. Now he knows that this 'cure' could change things. It would allow Saren to hold it over the Krogan's like some genetic carrot. It could make Saren even more dangerous, his army of Geth and Krogan would be unstoppable.

Wrex expressing himself to Shepard
The true power of true Freedom
The Krogan involvement in previous missions was making sense. They had joined him on the ground level. Shepard learned of this from one of the most dangerous and skill Krogen battle-masters - his crew and teammate Wrex. This was Wrex's dream...

Wrex drew his gun.

Shepard was going to lose an ally and a growing friend because of Saren. Shepard had learned enough. Krogan as slaves was not Wrex's dream, Wrex's dream was freedom. Freedom to explore, fight, and live as they should. No longer hampered by the Genophage...

Wrex understood, he proved his loyalty to Shepard and true understanding of his people. Shepard would not waste this trust. If there was a cure it would make the Krogan free not slaves.

There was still Saren and his base on Virmire. The Normandy was grounded and Saren's base defenses outnumbered Shepard and the Kirrahe's STG unit. The plan was simple, two teams. One had to get to the base shut down the security for the other team and then shut down the AA systems. The first team would then deploy a bomb to destroy the base while the second team now in control of the a defensive position would hold off Saren's reinforcements.

Kirrahe needed a liaison for his team while Shepard led the first team. Shepard chose Kaiden. Another systems alliance officer would be just the thing Kirrahe needed. The fact that Kaiden was Shepard's number two for the away team made it a moot point. Ashley wanted the job but she was a hot headed NCO and Kirrahe needed a leader. If things went wrong Kaiden would take over for Shepard, he would need Ashley.

Of course Kaiden was part of the diversion team. Kaiden was tough and smart. If anyone could make the mission work, it would be him. Shepard didn't just need a tough solider, he needed a smart solider. I feel that had Shepard not made the connection with Kaiden - he would have chosen Ashely. Kaiden has been through more then most but he doesn't wear it on his sleeve like most NPC's in video games.

Shepard would have preferred to take the brunt of Saren's defences as the diversion but he and the team were better at equipped and trained to go in quite and break down the door for the second team.
Kirrahe gave a rousing speech. Shortly afterwards Shepard looped off with Liara and Garus into the Virmire wilds.

Shadow team was a go.

Right off the bat Shepard listened as Kaiden rhymed off targets and needs. Shadow Team spent the extra time making sure they could help. Shepard was not going to repeat Feros. Shutting down Geth Comms, Dropping Sat support, and grounding the air security was easy as Shadow moved in on the base.

Upon reaching the base Garus hacked the base security system and Shepard was given the option of cutting the response on his side. Shepard knew his team could take the heat and ordered Garus to set off the alarm systems to pull forces off Kaiden and Kirrahe. This is what Shepard did best.

Ripping through the base defences and internal security was smooth. Once more the training in Pinnacle Station is evidence to the teams success. Near the end of the initial assault, Shepard ran into a neuro-specialist named Rana Thanoptis who asked for mercy. She explained the mind control aspect of Sovereign, Saren's unique ship. Shepard already had met up with Salarians who seemed deranged and it now made more sense. At the time he knew he had no time to save them and the STG team so Shepard moved on. Rana's intelligence gave Shepard some peace of mind... but only a bit.

Shepard spared her, if the plan worked Rana would have to escape a 20 megaton blast. No more innocent deaths, no more Feros. Rana may not be innocent but Shepard had no desire to execute someone without more evidence and he was already in the middle of something. Saren lost his soul working as a Spectre, Shepard would keep his intact as best as possible.

Rana gave Shepard the codes to get into Saren's private chambers. Inside was a second beacon more intact than the one found on Eden Prime. After accessing the beacon, Shepard discovered the truth behind Sovereign. It was an IA, it was old, and it could control your mind.

The world became scarier while the sounds of the base under attack still rang off in the background. Sovereign was a Reaper, those that wiped out the Protheans. It explained that it's race, the Reapers, was responsible for the Mass Relays and the Citadel... everything the galaxy used was made so those that used it would mark themselves as targets for the Reapers to return and wipe out the sentient life.

It was madness.

Shepard had a mission, those who trusted him were in danger and Sovereign was coming for them.

Finish the mission and then deal with Sovereign.

Shepard shut off the AA systems. Kirrahe and Kaiden took up a defensive position. Watching the Normandy come swooping in was brilliant. Ashley escorted the bomb into place when it went wrong. Kaiden and the STG were pinned on the AA tower, holding the defense - if they fell the ship may not escape. Shepard's reply was easy - "No one get's left behind!"

Ashley took command of the nuke while Shepard led the charge to rescue the cover team. Without them the ship might not escape. Shepard would not let anyone die, if someone was to suffer and it could be Shepard - It would be Shepard. Too bad Ashley changed that. Geth moved onto her position and the Normandy had to pull out.

She activated the bomb.

For everyone to escape the STG had to hold off enemy forces long enough for the Normandy to escape. Only one needed to stay with the bomb... Ashley.

With little time left Shepard moved towards the STG and Kaiden. Once more someone was going to die and Shepard could not do anything. It was Mindoir, it was Elysium, it was Feros... now add Virmire to the list. Shepard would once more make the call and escape. He saved as many as he could but sometimes there was a cost. Making those calls is how he got this job, it was time to do the job.

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams
SSV Normandy SR1
KIA - Virmire "Hold the line"
At the top of the AA tower, Shepard took the heat off the STG but then Saren showed up. The last time he was seen it was a hologram on the Citadel in front of the whole council. Now the monster was face front in the middle of a warzone. Shepard reached out to Saren, to unify against the Reapers... the was offer rejected and the fight with Saren was quick.

Ashley bleeding and lying next to bomb continued to defend it. She watched the Normandy fly away. She saved Shepard and everyone on the mission.

Ashley will be missed.

As a fan of Tennyson the final verse of her favorite poem is given below.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred!
- The Charge of the Light Brigade