After the surge, the lights flicker off again, but it’s apparent that several systems are now operational. After some work, Mitch finds that the glasses are part of an augmented reality system, and pulls the ship’s floor plan. Pvt. Buck doesn’t respond to Janks’ orders, but makes an obscure statement over the radio about there being a “piece missing, but there’s a head”.
The squad moves down to deck three, at which point Blake notes that his suit had been compromised in the firefight and stops for a moment to repair it. The team moves on to the medical suite – upon gripping the latch for the door, it comes free in Hudson’s hand and begins to crawl up her arm. Janks and Stella pull the thing free, but it begins to chew through Janks’ suit. They cast it down and Hudson puts a few bullets into it before it goes still. Aaand then it jumps up and attempts to drill through Hudson’s face plate. Jack snatches it away and casts it aside and Blake riddles it until it’s obviously destroyed.
Moving into the computer core, the team finds a section of the core missing, and in its place, a severed head. The augmented reality glasses allow Mitch to access a series of master controls for the ship. He immediately uses the security cameras to locate Pvt. Buck in the forward gunnery bay, and then begins re-pressurizing the ship in order to let the air scrubbers identify if there are any foreign elements in the air. A futher review of the internal security cameras reveal no other obvious hostiles on the ship. Janks notices that Blake is becoming increasingly agitated, and attempts to calm him a bit.
The team moves to the forward gunnery bay, and Janks starts sneaking up on Buck, who is facing a small observation port. Hudson notices flashes that may be explosions in the port. Janks tackles Buck and subdues him and finds that Buck has a one-inch hole in his faceplate and a similar hole through his left eye socket. He can see a glint of the silvery material in the marine’s brain cavity. A high-pitched wail ensues from Buck and the team evacuates just before his head explodes.
Back in the computer core, the air analysis reports no unknown elements. Also, a view through the ship’s external cameras reveal a raging battle taking place outside. A League-era Aegis heavy cruiser is firing torpedoes on Normandy, which are being intercepted by Agamemnon and her fighter screen. The team decides to power-up the ship and attempt to join the fight (or at least maneuver out of harm’s way).
Stella, Jack, and Mitch get Normandy moving and make a few passes at the Aegis before Agamemnon, now free to maneuver, closes in for the kill. When the battle is done, Becker dispatches medical and security personnel to help secure the ship and quarantine the team. During Janks’ report, he mentioned that Blake had to patch his suit, to which Becker replied, “Blake who?”. Everyone looks at each other in shock (and Becker quickly verifies with Summerville, Barrett, and the ship’s roster that no Jeremy Blake ever served on the ship). It becomes apparent that no one outside the team on the Normandy knows who Blake is. When confronted, the man appeared to take up a reverent pose, and speak in a very inhuman voice:
“This place has been sanctified in cunning and blood. It is good.” He then looks up, adding, “Do not presume to steal from the Consu again.” A fire then consumes Blake and the ashes drift away, as if he were made of paper. Immediately, the team’s memories of Blake begin to get somewhat fuzzy. The team finally concludes that Blake never truly existed, but was instead a construct implanted in their memories at some point after boarding the Normandy.
The session ends with the team being examined by the Agememnon medical staff. Darryl Gerst, who remembers Blake as a career-long best friend, kept asking the nurse how many people she saw in his squad photo.
“Darryl, there are only eleven people in that picture,” she insisted.
Gerst sighed in frustration and despair.
“I see twelve.”
It has been an … interesting day.
Just minutes after the team was cut off when the Normandy’s airlock closed, an Aegis cruiser, the Principle, dropped in. Clan, of course. And it was headed straight for the Normany, launching torpedos. We spent what felt like hours taking down torpedos, trying to find an opportunity to take out the cruiser, but saving the Normany had priority, unless Agamemnon herself were threatened.
Sitting back and not taking the helm is hard, but major Summerville was on duty, and taking over would have been bad in so many ways. And, damn it, I really should give him his own ship, he deserves it. And I’d lose one hell of an XO.
The pilots weren’t doing too badly, though we still lost three. Two of the new ones; Yamada Akira and Jurgen Zimmer. And one of the old crew, Mira “Thorn” Kensington. She used her own fighter to stop a torpedo that would have hit the Normandy, had she not used herself as a shield.
Then it seemed the team on board the Normandy got control of the ship, and we could concentrate our fire on the Principle. And major Summerville’s maneuver was insane, but beautifully executed. He actually brought the Agamemnon _inside_ the shield of the cruiser. I am not going to think too much about that maneuver, and the consequences had something gone wrong.
After the Principle was taken down, contact with the Normany was reestablished. Sergeant major Janks gave me a report. And kept mentioning a Jeremy Blake. I try to keep track of the names of the people I send off on missions, but I have never heard that name before. There was no mention of a Blake in the computer systems either, nor had major Summerville or sergeant major Barrett heard of him.
And then the voice came over the link. It was very much not a human voice. I think we have had an encounter with an alien species, as strange as it may seem. “This place has been sanctified in cunning and blood. It is good.” A short pause, then: “Do not presume to steal from the Consu again.” And then he disappeared. He? I don’t know that. They might not even have genders, or they might not have males and females as we know it. But he chose to wear a male form among my men, so I’ll think of him as he.
I suspect the ship is safe now, though I am still going to take precautions. The things they saw on board the Normandy were too dangerous not to. But it seems to me that the Clans stole something from these aliens, these Consu, and they came to take it back.
This encounter is disturbing on so many levels I do not even know where to start.
First, their technology seems vastly superior to ours. We do not know exactly what the Clans stole, but they clearly have made contact with this other race, and must have decided that it was worth the risk. An AI? Could it have been a real AI? After all, I know it is possible. And some sort of shield. I suppose we will never know.
Second, the creatures the team found on ship. Whether they were sentient or some highly developed robot, or something else entirely, I do not know, and we will probably never find out. They were made from metal, so most likely they were some sort of robots, but I am not going to assume anything.
Third, it is clear that these aliens can, to some extent, at least, control minds. To some extent; rubbish, it is much more than that. They can control minds, plain and simple. If they created those metallic worms, they have an understanding of human physiology that is quite disturbing. And even more disturbing, he was able to convince the entire boarding party that he was one of them, and that they had been working together for a long time. Which basically means that should these aliens decide we are a threat, we do not have much of a chance against them.
Fourth, if the Clans have made contact, how much technology have they gotten from these Consu? Enough to win the war? Possibly.
Fifth, he left. He just left. In the middle of nowhere, lightyears from anywhere, he just disappeared, the body he had been using turned to ash.
Maybe he suicided, but I find that highly unlikely. Or maybe he was some sort of construct, a more advanced version of the metallic worms, that didn’t need to actually infect people to influence them. But if so, he must have been very close to an AI, if not an actual AI, and then again I doubt he would have suicided. Meaning that there is, at least, a very real chance that he can travel through space without a ship or suit. Or perhaps he wasn’t really there, perhaps what the team encountered was simply a mind, while the body of the alien remained where he belonged.
And maybe there were an alien ship close, one that our sensors couldn’t pick up. Cheerful thought. Though in that case, they left us mostly alone.
Sixth, what he said. That the ship has been sanctified. In blood and cunning. There seems to be something religious on that. And that, I find unsettling.
Did he realise that we are not of the same group that stole from them? Most likely; if he was at all intelligent, which I must assume he was, he would have figured that out from what they were saying, at least. And given that he had the ability to manipulate the team members’ minds and memories, chances are he could read them as well. So these aliens now probably know everything about us that anyone on the team knows.
He still killed several of my people. Stearnes, Spears, Davis, Buck, Page. But why did he stop when he did? Was it meant as a warning? Had he killed the number of people he was supposed to kill? Or was it because we figured out that Blake wasn’t who they thought he was? Or some other, alien reason. Well, technically, he killed noone, but the metallic worms did, at least indirectly.
Seventh, are those aliens part of the reason why the Clans are coming back? And have they pissed those aliens off enough that they might come here to deal with them? That would be … bad.
And that’s just the beginning. And it’s not really even the most pressing issue anymore. I have a new ship, at some point, I need to let the team return to the Agamemnon. Hopefully, the alien is really gone, with all his worms and other tools.
Now, what to do about the prisoners. About a hundred prisoners from the cruiser. Which is a problem. I cannot keep them on the Agamemnon indefinitely. But if I leave them behind somewhere, chances are they will either be killed outright, or somehow join the Clans again, with more information about us. And spacing them is not an option. They surrendered.
If I could somehow convince them to join us, they might be an advantage, but I cannot really trust them. Except one small detail. All of the old ships we’ve seen so far have kept their old names. Perhaps the fact that they are on board the Agamemnon, and that some of the crew are still of the original crew, will mean something to them.