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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 17 (c.3): Navidad


Spectre Office, Citadel Embassies, Presidium, Citadel, Widow System, Serpent Nebula, December 23, 2197

Miranda and I waited for our contact to take delivery of the intel extracted from Talrom’s mangled computer console, “So…erm, I went over that list of…things you told me to get. Personal lubricant, massage oils, and mineral supplements?”

“Yes.”

“I mean, I am all for it, but this seems to be a bit too much. ”

Miranda looked me straight in the eyes, smiled and said, “Theodore Thompson-Ramos, failure is not an option.” Then she gave me a peck on the nose.

“Love you to.”

The front door opened. A tall blonde human woman stepped in. She fit the description given by Admiral Shepard. “Commander Thompson-Ramos?”

“That’s me. Eda I presume?” I asked.

“Umm,” said Miranda.

“Something the matter?” I asked. She shook her head but kept her eyes on the newcomer.

Eda smiled warmly, ” I believe you have something for me, commander?” I didn’t move a muscle. “Oh, right.” She tapped on her omni-tool. I looked down at mine.

-ID verification in progress-

-ID verified-

I handed her the OSD, “Here you go. If you don’t mind me asking-”

She cut me off again with a smile, “I am sorry commander but this is strictly on a need to know basis. But I assure you as soon as I have something you will be the first to know.”

I turned to Miranda the moment Eda left, “What was that about?”

“Nothing. And don’t look at me like that.”

“Yeah. I am sure you will tell me when the time is right.”

“I always do.”

I tapped my omni-tool, “XO is the board clear?”

Navigator Johnson voice came over my earpiece, “No new assignments from Alliance Command or the Council.”

“Then tell the crew they have seventy-two hour leave to enjoy the holidays.”

“Understood commander. Navigator Johnson out.”

“You know, I haven’t seen my family since the wedding.”

“You want to go to Earth? Just drop in unannounced?” Miranda asked.

“It’s the holidays in Puerto Rico. You are expected to dropped unannounced. It’s the best thing to do. As long as we bring a few snacks. We can do a bit of shopping on Presidium before we head out.” We boarded the shuttle to Earth loaded with gifts and candy.

Boquerón, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Caribbean League, Earth, Sol System, Local Group, December 24, 2197

Blinking lights, tables full of food manned by the staff of the local Salarian /Criollo/Italian restaurant, and a giant pine tree decorated the town square. “Tiiio!” screamed Naera from across the plaza.

“Ven aca Chiquita,” I said as she jumped into my arms. “You remember, Miri, Jack and Vega, right?” Still in my arms she leaned over to kiss each of them in the cheek. The rest of the family came over as well. A flood of hugs, handshakes, and well wishes swept over the four of us.

Several hours later Vega and I found a quite corner and downed a few shots of pitorro, “Wow, this stuff will put hair on your chest,” said Vega.

“Sweeter than mezcal to be sure,” I said.

Vega coughed, “Yeah, it goes down easy but it hits hard. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about something, jefe.”

“Shoot.”

“Well, if that data is as useful as we think it is, I mean, it could change everything.”

“Maybe.”

“You’re not sure?”

“As of right now I don’t have enough info to know if its useful. Whoever this Eda person is the Admiral thinks she can help figure it out.”

“Well if Shepard says that she can do it then she’ll do it.”

“I hope so.”

“Anyway Jack is giving me the ‘come here idiot I want to dance’ look,” said Vega.

Miranda also had come hider look plastered on her face, “Had a few, I take it?”

“They told me it was like eggnog, but…it’s noot.”

“Are you sauced?” I asked bemused.

“Tipsy.”

“Ah.”

“Yes, because in a few months we, and by we,” she pointed at herself, “I mean me. I won’t be able to do this.”

“You don’t usually do this anyway.”

“It’s christmasss, Theo.”

“It is.”

“And I love you.”

“Do you now?”

“Yes.”

“It so happens that I love you to.”

“Lucky girl I am.”

“We both lucked out.”

“Pssht. arse.”

I laughed out loud and guided her to the dance floor.

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Script Doctors: Fallout 4


We rip the spine out of the Fallout 4 narrative and see if we can keep it alive:

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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 16 (c.3): Apocrypha



Security Office 3, Gozu District, Level 33 Omega Station, Sahrebarik System, Omega Nebula, December 22, 2197

The Talon Security office was cramped with computer screens, a tiny desk, three security agents, plus Galeena and myself. Galeena and I sat opposite the desk as we waited for updates on the Matriarchs summit down the hall.

“Five days and nothing so far,” I said.

Galeena smiled, “Standard procedure for the diplomatic corps. This is just the ‘airing of grievances’ part of the negotiations.  Next week we will see the real wheeling and dealing kick off. After that fails, there will be a day or two of vague and not so vague threats and in the last day or so you will see some sort of agreement on the ground rules for the next round of talks.”

A batarian steward came into the cramp space and served hot tea to the occupants. “Here you go, commander,” he said as he handed me a large cup.

As I lifted the cup to my lips, a mini-OSD slipped from between the coaster and bottom of the cup. I pocketed the OSD, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” said the steward as he left.

“Didn’t expect to spend Christmas in Omega, but that’s part of the job,” I said.

“Christmas was her favorite…” Galeena’s voice trailed off.

“I’m sorry.”

“Not a problem, sir. I do miss the Christmas parties at the old office. And the way you insisted we celebrate all the way to, what was that holiday called?”

“Epiphany.”

“Yes, that one.”

“And then you insisted we throw Chinese New Year party as well.”

“She loved that one to.” She took another sip from her mug.

“Miranda is also fond of the holidays. Maybe we can put something together, a little new year’s eve celebration.”

“Isn’t she scheduled to arrive today?” asked Galeena.

I checked the time on my omni-tool, “In about an hour. I better hustle down to the docks.”

“See you later, commander.”

I walked out of the office and found a quite space down the hall. It made sense to deliver sensitive information through an encrypted OSD. Omega’s communications networks were a fractured mess of cobbled together systems, layers of conflicting software updates, and billions of adware bots.  Plus, everyone just tapped into the nearest network adapter in an attempt to avoid extranet provider’s fees. Omega was the pirate capital of the Terminus systems, in more ways that one. It also made sense to disconnect from the local network to avoid any snoopers.

-Connection to local area extranet network terminated-

-Scanning external media-

-Scanning-

-No intrusive/hostile software detected-

-Alliance cipher key detected-

-Do you wish authenticate cipher key. Y/N-

An Alliance cipher key? Now that is interesting.

“Yes.”

-Key authenticated-

-Decoding in progress. Decoding complete. Would you like to play-

I pressed the yes button. A blurry humanoid figure, cloaked in shadow and with a electronically altered voice came online, “Commander, the Shadow Broker sends their regards. You are to find a salarian by the name of Talrom, on level twenty-eight of this district. Secure him or his data. My employer is sure that you will know what to do once you secured the asset. Good luck, commander.”

-End of recording-

So the Shadow Broker wants me to fetch someone, without any mention of either payment or reward and trusts that I will know what to do with with them? Are they even related to the Shadow Broker? Well, there is only one way to find out,

The nav point on the OSD led to a row of apartments tucked into a dark back alley.

This is it, apartment twenty-eight one. And someone beat me to the punch.

Static scrambled the holographic lock on the front door. A hasty hack job to be sure. Murmurs from within indicated that whoever did it was still inside. I activated my cloak.

-Maglocks disabled. Manual override engaged-

Someone spotted the movement of the door and came to investigate.

Come on, just a little closer.

“Hey, is anyone-”

A quick jab to the stomach with my electrified omni-blade knocked him out. I grabbed the back of his helmet and eased him to the floor. I ducked behind the wall and waited for my cloak to recharge. Whoever else was inside failed to notice the commotion by the door.

“Hurry up, the Talons could be here any minute,” said voice from within.

“This thing has multiple layers of encryption,” said another.

“How long is going to take?”

“Unless you want me to mess this up, it will take as long as it is going to take. Just keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.”

-Cloak engaged-

I stepped over the stunned guard and went inside. Two more armored figures, one with an assault rifle, and another with an active omni-tool, stood in front of a extranet terminal. A third tossed a mattress aside in search of something or someone. Two quick omini-blades strikes neutralized the pair by the terminal but brought my cloak down. The third merc wheeled around, gun in hand and pointed a very visible me.

Theo, you dumb piece of shit.

I drew my rifle and dove away from his line of fire. What ensued was a cat and mouse game as we took potshots at each other. Five seconds later my hardsuit recharged.  I cloaked again.

Time to end this.

I maneuvered slowly around the upturned furniture for a clear shot.  The console beeped as I walked past.  The merc pointed the gun at the machine. I aimed and pulled the trigger. His head snapped back.  Blood spray bathed the wall behind him. I restrained the others before I made my way back to the console.

I wonder….

I inserted the OSD into the drive slot. It took less than a second for the data to download. Sparks and grey smoke poured out of the machine.

“So much for you then,” I said aloud.

“And your sanity, I see,” said someone to my left. I wheeled around to see Miranda, submachine gun in hand.

“Missed you too Miri. How did you, never mind, we have to get out of here before a Talon patrol shows up.”

“After you.”

Back at the Kursk, Pasha and Utah gave the data a once over. “Commander Thompson-Ramos, decryption is complete. No hostile programs detected.”

“Thank you, Utah, have the command staff join me in my cabin.”

With everyone gathered around the main viewer, Utah loaded the data. A haggard salarian came on screen. The holo was timestamped 03/21/2194. He spoke right to the camera, “This is my, what, seven hundred entry? Right, well, here we are, still stuck. Nobody wants to admit it, but we can’t get past the power problem. We need an alternative. If they, no, no if, when they come back, we won’t be ready. This system is too unwieldy as it is. I tried to make some inquiries, but our job here is highly compartmentalized. Everything is filtered and checked. It makes sense, of course, but still, we should have access to as much data as possible, regardless of the source. I’ll keep trying.”

The camera cuts to another scene, timestamped 05/15/2194, “I got a hold of some data from what happened on Vermire. I wished I had this sooner.”

The image shifts to an office with a tropical background. An asari comes into view. “Is this thing on? I can never really tell. Ok, my name is Rana Thanoptis and I am researching the effects on indoctrination on organic minds. My research shows that it has varying results on difference species and even within members of a given species. Some are immune, most others suffer rapid mental decay. Now, one can slow the decay based on the strength of the signal, but the damage is irreversible. Not a very effective way of controlling minds come to think of it, at least not long term. However, in those subjects that have been exposed to a signal pattern of a given strength and duration, I noticed a mirroring of behavior. Their body language become nearly identical. They even have shared speech patterns, with one subject starting a sentence, and another finishing, while a third continues the conversation which is flows back to the first. It is as if they were nodes in a larger network.”

The camera cut back to the salarian, “Nodes in a larger network? Curious.”

The next track occurs on 09/30/2195, “I had to leave project. I had to leave salarian space entirely. The STG is after me. They have some questions for me. But I was getting nowhere. I made contact with the Shadow Broker, or at least someone claiming to be working for them. They sent me a  recording. Something about Cerberus using indoctrination to control the Reapers.” Miranda took in a deep breath. “Crazy, I know. But the project works along those same lines, not to control, but to disrupt. Still, it doesn’t solve the power problem. But I know I am getting close.”

The last recording was from twenty hours ago, on Omega. “Thanoptis was right. It’s not mind control, not really. Her idea about neural networks was correct. The problem is that it is still a hypothesis, speculation without confirmation. But I know am right. There is another problem or problems. STG is still after me and Cerberus and who knows who else. Could turn myself to STG, but that means I couldn’t verify my data.  And to do that I need to go to the Citadel. But even if I get there, I won’t get access to the central command console. So, if you are my contact, as promised by the Broker, you need to take this OSD straight to EDA, she, she will know what to do. As for me, well, I done everything I can, made as many enemies as one salarian can make, but if I am right, and I know I am, this will be a game changer.  We will never have to fear them again. I will, that is, I am going to disappear, for good this time. Don’t come looking for me. Even a red dwarf should be enough to erase a body. Not the way I expected to go but that is not important Take the information to EDA, after that, well, good luck.”

“This is loco, jefe,” said Vega.

“If I may commander,” said Utah.

“Go ahead.”

“This OSD contains a wealth of references, including detailed analyses of post-invasion Geth neural networks. It appears that this Talrom was working on the weapon system known as the Crucible. The power problem might be a reference to the fact that the Crucible can not operate without the Citadel. If he found a way to bypass this requirement, then it would be, as he stated in the recording, a game changer.”

“Well, the Matriarchs will have to look after themselves.” I switched to the ship’s intercom, “Navigator Johnson, prepare to depart immediately and set a course for the Citadel.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” came the reply.

 

 

 

 

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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 15 (c.3): Love


Captain Quarters, Deck 1, SSV Kursk SR-3,  En route to Omega, December 16, 2197

Miranda face filled the the screen, “Everything went well. I am fine”.  As she spoke I  noticed the stray hairs that floated just above her black eyes. She breathed in soft but labored breaths. “Did you make the pick up?”

“Yeah. The Matriarch is on board. I invited her to dinner-”

“Theodore Thompson-Ramos, I am gone a week and you are already inviting women up to your cabin?” she said with a stern voice. But I heard the chuckle at the edge of it,

“Mrs. Ramos, I wouldn’t dream of mixing business with pleasure. Except with you, of course.”

“You arse!”

“So when can you get back?” I asked

“I should be out in a day or so, then I’ll take a shuttle to Omega.”

“Will be waiting.”

“Love you.”

“Same to you babe.”

The moment the screen switched off I let out weeks of tension in a long breath.

She is alright. Everything is alright. 

I knew she would be fine. She had the best doctors and done everything to minimize the risk and maximize the chances of success. But there was always a risk, something that lurked unforeseen.  And that scared me more than anything. More than pirates, mercenaries, even Reapers.  The fear of loosing her.

That’s going to be a fun conversation when she gets back. But does she need to know? 

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Mass Effect/AEC: Soundtrack #2 – Dark Side of Luna


Mass Effect: After Earth Chronicles (C 3- C 4)

  1. The Ones We Lost/The Ones We Love (Enjoy the Silence Ki – Theory Cover)
  2. The Nights Are Long and Full of Terrors (Demise of a Nation – Conspiracy Theory Music)
  3. Divided We Fall (Past in Flames – Secession Studios)
  4. We Left Them Behind/I Am With You (Nowhere to Run – Hidden Citizens)
  5. Battle of The Kelphic Valley/Hunting Party (What’s up Danger – Blackway and Caviar)
  6. And the Sky Will Fall (Paint it Black – Sebastian Böhm Official Cover)
  7. We Are Krogan! (The One to Survive – Hidden Citizens)
  8. Commodore (The Last of the Brave – Martin O’Donnell)
  9. We March/The Fleets Assemble (Th3 Awak3n1ng – Ivan Torrent)
  10. Beyond Life (Wicked Game – Cover by Ursine Vulpine feat Annaca)
  11. A Promise to Keep (Mass Effect OST – Vigil Extended Version)
  12. The Strength of a Trillion Souls (Strength of a Thousand Men – Two Steps from Hell)
  13. To Absent Friends/To All Those That Came Before (Mass Effect Emotional Suite Version 3)
  14. And the Story Lives On (The Magic of Love – Two Steps from Hell)
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It’s official. I am a published author!


 

That’s right, my first speculative fiction anthology is available over at Amazon for Kindle devices (working on releasing it in other places as well), for just $.99.

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089636XJ7

And thank you so very much to all of you who have supported me over the years with your kind words, encouragement, and meanigful critiques. This one is for you!

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Mass Effect/AEC- ANN News: 1 Trillion Illegal Downloads of CoT


 

From: Alliance News Entertainment Desk

December  16, 2197

1 Trillion Illegal Downloads of CoT

By Joan Calder

MILGROM, BEKENSTIEN– Champions of the Terminus, the hit action-drama from Star Wolf Productions, became the first Extranet show to reach one trillion illegal downloads across the galaxy. This record was matched by over a billion downloads (as tracked by Rocket Media Enterprises) of the series soundtrack written and performed by none other than Sheryl Stone. While piracy has been seen by media conglomerates as a problem CoT’s showrunner Kiko Diaz said the following to ANN News:

This news merely highlights the popularity of Champions of the Terminus and that we have to find new ways to serve our audience. After all, media pirates are merely consumers we haven’t reach yet.

Diaz added that part of the reason why the show is so popular in the Terminus systems (where most of the illegal downloads originate) was that the episodes were not only made on location, but that the writing staff went to great lengths to research and respect local laws and traditions. He pointed to a recent episode titled “Shaandara” were the cast took refuge in a batarian community in the midst of a local festival that celebrated the sugar-rich tuber of the same name. While the episode was largely humorous, it did not make the locals the butt of the joke or turned into what Diaz called “a school day afternoon special about a vulnerable population”. Instead he highlighted his joy at exploring new ideas that come from the connection between cultures.

 

The mid-season finale of Champions of the Terminus is set to air in December 20, 2197.

 

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Shadowrun: Fetishes and Foci


 

 

Seattle, the Sprawl, the Metroplex, was a city.

And cities, cities have character.

Cities have history.

Cities, real ones, not the hallow constructs of corporate suburbia or that drek they fed you in the trids, live and breath.

The denizens make them, well, unique. The built the cities, they kept the cities, the infused the cities with life.  Folks like the barista that managed a tired smile as she handed me a double latte soykaf. Or the guy behind the counter at the convenience store that knew, that I knew, that he knew, that his 1-7 a.m. shift sucked and that I didn’t want to be there anymore than he did. It was the elderly couple in the corner of the capsule hotel that played Koi-Koi quietly until the wee hours of the morning, and gave me all the ins out of the metro system, what train led to where, which bus was best to take if you wanted to hit downtown in middle of the day.

Then you had the hidden places. They holes in the walls, the door most people ignored in that back alley that nobody knew about. The club so exclusive you wondered how it stayed opened and who really went there. Stefenaia was such a place. The worn red door creaked open to the touch. Inside a collection of old Christmas lights, thin veils that hanged from the ceiling, and the faded paint on the walls tinged everything in deep reds and blacks.

The proprietor, a tiny rotund matron with a pixie haircut for whom the shop was named spoke from behind a large ebony desk, “So you’re Adamaris kid, eh?”

“I was her apprentice, yes.”

“She still picks the handsome ones, doesn’t she,” cackled Stefenaia. “Well, any friend of Adamaris is at least an acquaintance of mine. So, wha da ya need?”

“I left L.A. in a hurry so, well I need the basics. Spell books, some fetishes, that sort of thing,” I said.  Twin yellow eyes stared at me from under a bed.

“Don’t mind Felix, he will warm up to ya soon enough. So ya needs the books and such. It’ll cost ya, you know.”

“I got the Nuyen.”

“Do ya? Well that is good, because, well, everything expensive as real coffee these days. So, are we thinking esoteric, scholarly, or street smart?”

I handed her a folded piece of paper.”Street smart,” I said without hesitation.

She read the list. “Need something to light up the bastards in the shadows, eh? Well, I have a few things that could help.  I got Foci-”

I interrupted her, “No.”

She raised an thick black eyebrow, “Don’t trust them?”

“Not my style.”

“Okay then, well maybe something like say this,” she opened a long box. Inside laid a long metal rod, covered in green runes.

“That will do.”

“So, you are into fetishes then. Now I know what to have them on stock. Any who, it will take me awhile to get these things together. You got a number a I can call.”

“I got a cell.”

“Good. One more thing, this city ain’t as crazy as L.A. certainly not as hot, buuut,” she held up a long bony finger, “The shadows here are colder, deeper, and nastier.”

I nodded and walked out into the rain.

 

 

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Shadowrun: And Now We Are Here….


 

I jammed a finger in my ear to block out the sounds of the PCH. The long distance charges on the pay phone ate at my patience. What I heard made it worse.

“Listen kid, this is just the way it is,” said the guttural voice on the other end.

“But I can help,” I said exasperated with the Old Man’s attitude.

“I don’t got time for this, ok? The Gunners should be there in a minute, so just go with them. You got me?”

“C’mon, you need me, Rocky.”

“Yeah kid, I need ya, alive. Don’t worry, once things get sorted out here, I’ll give ya a call.”

“Yeah, ok,” I said with a sigh. The sound of motorcycle engines drowned out Rocky’s response. “Looks like my ride is here.”

“Good. Those guys are solid. They owe me a few. But don’t take shit from them, ok?”

“Got it. Hey, how do I–” The staccatto sound of gunfire on the other end made my heart skip a beat, “Rocky? Rocky!”

Rocky shouted at the receiver, “Go, just go. And good luck!”

The line went dead.

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Mass Effect/AEC- ANN News: Batarian Conclave on Khar’shan


 

ANN News Now

December 15, 2197

Batarian Conclave on Khar’shan

by David Rukil

ANN News Center, Vancouver – After a series of victories over Reaper remnant forces, the Batarian Assembly declared the majority of their home world, Khar’shan, to be under their control. They have called an summit of existing batarian factions to establish a new government for the batarian people. An spokesperson reiterated the assembly’s commitment to end caste system, with special emphasis on the total abolition of slavery. Other items on the agenda were: representative government, reparations (to former slaves and foreign governments), foreign policy, membership in the Citadel Council, and other related topics.

The conclave started on December 14 and will continue until the end of the year.

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