a friend warning. Things get... graphic at one point. And an important warning, the majority of the first arc jumps from POV to POV and revolve around one key event and all the character reaction to that event. Things will normalize to a more classical Taylor POV during the last chapter and the second arc.
Music suggestion Mass Effect 3 - Catalyst/Wake Up OST (Extended 1 HOUR Loop)
( watch?v=YkQliIqK34Y&feature= )
Updated version of Chapter 1 (18/07/2018) Unbeta
Arc 1: éveil. Part 1: Earth Bet
"The stars they look warm... and inviting... waiting for us, isn't it?"
The voice of a man said softly right next to my ear, I could barely understand his words as my mind tried and failed to properly wake up.
"Places to be explored. Knowledge to be had. Riches to be made..."
I felt his breath on my neck making my body shiver with fear as the weight of slumber on my eyelids kept them shut.
"But, we will not always be welcome. Those who came before may not be willing to share... It is the way of things, it is... inevitable."
What was happening? I remembered waking up, breakfast, going to school then nothing? What happened? Did I get kidnapped?
"Dark times are coming. There is something out there to protect humanity against."
I felt so cold... I didn't know if it was because of my situation, what he said or just the surrounding temperature... I felt so very cold... Battling against the drowsiness, I slowly managed to move my lips, and a half-formed word slipped out.
There was silence. For a second. For an eternity.
"Do what you must."
He finally said softly just before the pain hit me. I couldn't even scream when it did, my brain felt on fire as something pushed, crawled and gnawed at it from the inside out, I saw my numb body fell forward, spasming and foaming, when every nerve in my body transformed into high voltage cable that burned me from the inside. I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't move, I couldn't hear, speak or even think, I was pain and pain, was I.
I don't know how long I was unconscious, but the sudden rush of warm water entering my mouth and nose woke me up instantly, heart beating madly in my chest. In my panic I flayed my arms around in an attempt to swim, trying to find the surface and get some much-needed air but, the warm water was pitch black. I couldn't see anything and, for all I knew, I could have swum deeper but, luck was on my side as my head finally broke the surface and I took giant gulps of air.
I Looked around with fearful eyes, everything was bathed in blood red light coming from somewhere far above me, I was in the middle of some sort of giant pool surrounded by small hills of various size. The water was incredibly warm and had a strong coppery taste...
Don't think about it, Taylor...
I was afraid, terrified and my body felt like it had been set on fire, from the inside out.
I spotted what looked like a beach next to the nearest hill and used what energy I had left to swim in its direction, to my immense relief I felt solid ground under my feet when I did. Through sheer will alone I managed to haul myself out of the water before falling to my knees as my legs surrendered.
My whole body was shaking, muscles burning from the pain and effort, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, my clothes were ruined, I was drenched from head to toes into that bizarre warm liquid and I just wanted to fall over, close my eyes and hope that all of this was nothing but a nightmare.
Then, a loud whining noise boomed from above. I never heard it before, but I knew it. Dread, fear, horror, terror, death, destruction, harvest... I couldn't breathe, I could feel my heart racing madly in my chest, my veins were filled with ice, and I wanted to run, but I was stuck, like a deer in the headlight.
Can't move, can't run, can't run, can't run, can't run... Move, move, MOVE DAMNIT!
I screamed to myself trying to pump what I could into my legs to flee what was coming.
I only had the time to take a first shaky step when the floor shook violently under me and the air was filled with the sound of something utterly massive crashing onto the ground. Incapable of withstanding the quake I was sent sprawling onto the ground, my right arm snapped when I tried to use it to slow myself and my head slammed against the ground with enough force I could see endless blue stars above me as I let out a pained whine.
And promptly froze before curling on myself eyes shut, hoping it hadn't seen me, that it would leave, I wanted mom and dad, I wanted my room, I didn't want to be here, I wanted to leave. I knew. I knew what it was. I refused to see it I thought. I needed to see it another part of me responded. I had to see the enemy. So I opened my eyes and behold it.
Blue dots following an intricate pattern, going up and up along a body made of purple alloy sitting on top of five gigantic legs larger and higher than the tallest buildings. I couldn't see it's top from the ground but I knew what it looked like anyway, a cuttlefish that was more terrific than the sight of the three endbringers combined, two kilometers of an unfeeling mechanical nightmare that had but one goal in its existence. Complete the Harvest. But it was impossible, it couldn't be here, I repeated myself as it slowly rotated to face me, each of its step making the ground quake under its weight.
The word flew out of my mouth, in hardly more than a terrified whisper, yet it was enough for the titanic machine to turn its attention towards me, looking, studying, analyzing. It Reoriented itself in steps that made the ground quake and the blast of a foghorn so loud it physically pressed me against the ground like I was a mere insect as much as it gripped my mind inside an iron grip.
Then it spoke.
"Reaper. A label created by the Protheans to give voice to their destruction, in the end, what they choose to call us is irrelevant, we simply. Are."
Booming, crushingly powerful, devoid of emotion. Its voice trapped me inside an inescapable cold chrysalis of sound as it slowly started pressuring my mind in its grip.
Armored footsteps echoed in the distance, I painfully turned my head toward it, to beg for help or mercy and as I finally was able to saw it, I felt my eyes widen on its alien appearance.
A body born at the end of a very long evolution on another world, a world where the star would shine strongly, irradiating the surface of its world more strongly than other. Legs bend in ode shapes, three-fingered hand and a head more akin to that of a raptor or maybe a bird. I let my eyes linger on his cybernetic arm and electric blue eyes as my mind supplied a name once again.
"You have no idea what stands before you."
The words were spats in my face, my very presence an insult to him. Without any warning his feet struck true, forcing me on my back in one well-placed hit.
"You are out of your depth."
Older, colder and contemptuous said a man voice, I couldn't see its owner from where I was on the ground, yet I knew that voice. It was the same voice that spoke to me at the beginning but different... and... and it was also mine?
"Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh, you touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding. "
I whined in pain on the ground when the Reaper spoke once more, each of its words like nails on chalkboard inside my head, clawing and tearing. Saren removed his foot from my torso and together with the man they started circling around me, like vultures awaiting a fresh meal.
"You are bacteria, germs."
Saren dismissed with a wave of his hand before walking out of my field of vision, just to be replaced with the man. Tall, graying hair, blue eyes and with cloths of good tastes. I knew him too, T.I.M. He pointed an accusing finger at me.
"There are choices that are coming that you are not equipped to make."
And they continued to walk around me even as the Reaper above spoke, uncaring and commanding.
"There is a realm of existence so far beyond your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension."
Saren passed by my field of vision speaking softly to himself, one of his hand scratching pensively one of his mandibles.
"If we work with the Reapers... if we make ourselves useful..."
Soon he was again replaced by the man that was looking back at me, speaking decisively to me even as his face started to melt and change.
"My goal is to save Humanity, at any cost."
His hair growing, curling and darkening, his suits adapting itself to a more womanly shape and his voices became strikingly familiar.
"We have no beginning. We have no end. We are infinite."
I could feel each and every one of the Reaper words pounding against my mind like hammers, relentless.
"I am forging an alliance between us and the Reapers, between organics and machines. My way is the only way any of us will survive!"
Gleefully said Saren, his arms wide open, inviting, smiling.
Then he, no she, replaced Saren once again. She walked with a confidence, an arrogance I would never be able to muster, her words dripping content as my heart froze when I saw her face.
"When we learned there was more to the galaxy than we imagined. That our place in the universe is more fragile than we'd like to think. They were scared of what we'd find. Terrified of what we might let in."
It was a nightmare in its purest form, I thought as I stared at the arrogant smirk on my own face staring down at me. I screamed and trashed on the ground. I cried. I wanted to wake up. Please.
"We are each a nation - independent, free of all weakness."
A pair of alien hands gripped my shoulders and stopped my struggle. My heart was beating madly inside my chest when one of Saren hand stroked my face with care before he started to speak gently to me, almost a whisper, like talking to a young child.
"Organics and machines intertwined, a union of fleshes and skills, the strength of both, the weakness of Neither!"
"You cannot grasp the nature of our existence."
"Since that discovery we've advanced more than the past ten thousand years combined! The reapers will do the same for us."
I heard myself say from somewhere behind me, her voice envious, lustful. With it came flashes and memories that I never lived through.
Saren gentle stroke shifted into a vicious grip on my throat, squeezing he slowly raised himself to his full height and took me with him even as I weakly clawed at his hands with my only viable arm and my vision filling itself with dark spots.
I was face to face with him, and I couldn't feel the ground under my feet, I was dangling uselessly in his grip.
"Do not mire yourself in pointless revolt."
"We are legion."
He said matter-of-factly, looking and searching for something inside my eyes before suddenly sending me airborne as he tossed me aside like a mere doll.
I flew for a few seconds before my back violently smashed against one of the hills. Hissing through my teeth and crying under the pain I opened my eyes just to behold another horror. A mere few centimeters away from my face was a corpse, its mouth forever stuck in an endless scream. I looked away only to find other corpses, pilled on top of each other, piles upon piles of bodies all around me.
I threw up, on the exploded chest of a woman whose face I refused to see. A hand grabbed me by the hair and violently pulled me up until I was face to face with the woman standing amongst the corpses.
"Don't let idealism blind you."
"The time of our return is coming."
Her voice was cold and unfeeling as machines slowly creeped out on her neck... my neck.
A violent pull on my hair forced me to my knees just long enough for her own knee to find my face, sending me barreling down the pill of carcasses until I violently crashed face down on the ground my body in a small pond of wa... blood dripping down from the pill. I couldn't scream, I didn't have the strength left.
"Do not sacrifice everything in the name of petty freedoms."
"Our numbers will darken the sky of every world."
Saren spoke even as the Reaper drowned on and on unconcerned by the words spoken by the mere insects we were.
I tried to crawl away, but I could barely move my own arm, how would I haul myself? Saren chuckled cruelly above me, and I hoped that would be the end of it.
He used his feet to push my head into the blood, his intent clear. Drowning me in it.
I could feel my lungs suddenly scream for air, as my nose and mouth were filled with blood, each spasmed breaths were agonizingly painful and short. I struggled and trashed against Saren, but the turian was bigger and stronger than me.
When my hair was painfully pulled my body limply followed the movement, thankfully it forced my head out of the water, and I couldn't help but feel immense relief as I took giant gulps of air one after another.
"They're just trying to control us. Think about it: If they wanted all organic life destroyed, they could do it. There would be nothing left."
T.I.M. said right into my ear whispering sweet things my brain barely heard amidst the pain suffusing my whole body.
"You cannot escape your doom."
I didn't have the will to fight anymore.
"I believe in them completely. Join us!"
"Control is the mean to Survival!"
I was going to die.
"Is submission not preferable to extinction?"
It was inevitable.
"This is the way Humanity must evolve."
It was the only logical conclusion.
"There is no other logical conclusion."
"Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation, an accident. Your lives are measured in years and decades. You wither and die. We are eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence."
My will was fading, eroding under the strain. I was alone, I've always been alone. Nobody would miss me, nobody would help me. I was going to die terrified, trapped in my own mind, alone and surrounded by enemies.
I was just a fifteen years old girl that wanted her mama and papa.
I don't want to die...
"Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything. "
I saw war.
Peoples, families, flying for their life and relentlessly cut down by husks. Soldiers fighting desperate battles and last stand to give only a few more seconds of life to others.
Kilometers tall skyscrapers blasted away by the red beam of Reapers main weapon. Fleets of spaceships throwing themselves in the paths of Reapers hoping against hope to slow them down.
Children geared for war, looking at their world on fire with dead eyes as Reaper walked slowly toward them. Brothers fought with each other, as indoctrinated slaves turned against old friends, selling them to the Reapers.
Bodies, peoples, entire species pushed inside giant pools and quickly dissolved, processed into a new Reaper or transformed into fresh husks for their endless army.
The entire galaxy screaming for help, for anyone, as one by one each world fell until all that was left was the silence.
That was no war.
Only a Harvest.
"There is no war. Only the Harvest."
It was inevitable...
"Our enemy had a single goal."
A whisper at the edge of my mind, spoken softly, sadly.
"The extinction of all advanced organics lives."
I grasped it in return it grasped back.
"All evidence of the Reaper invasion had been wiped away. Only their indoctrinated slaves were left behind, abandoned."
I felt an old warm and fatherly embrace on my mind.
"You must break a cycle that has continued for millions of years. But, to stop it you must understand. Or you will make the same mistakes we did."
It soothed my mind, fueling me with the only thing that could help me through this.
"Perhaps there is still hope."
"This is our destiny, join us and experience a True Rebirth."
Saren raged on the side, its voice sounding more like a machine than a living breathing turian. I choose to ignore him, pushing him and what he was on the side of my mind even as he started to beat me black and blue, I pushed the pain on the side with him.
I choose the clutch that small tiny silver of hope. The longer I grasped it in my mind, the stronger the connection got more and more voices, memories, came forth. Helping me repel the pain and the Reaper.
"There's hope Jack! Stop thinking for once and feel! I'm not giving up."
Eva's voice... I hadn't heard her voice in decades... I...
"I love you, little owl. I always have and always will."
Mama? Mom, I'm sorry! I love you!
"Shepard's right. Humanity is ready to do its part. United with the rest of the Council, we have the strength to overcome any obstacle."
Anderson... Captain Anderson... I know him too, a good man. A stronger leader.
"When the Reapers come, we must stand side by side. We must fight against them as one. And together we can drive them back into dark space!"
I can't give up. It's what they would want me to do, all of them. Emma, Sophia, their sycophants, the Reapers and their slaves. They want ME to forget who I AM. To force ME to fight against what I believe in.
"We are the pinnacle of evolution, immortal, unfathomable, perfect."
Saren's voice matched its appearance, a skeleton of machines that looked nothing like a Turian would, a desecration of a Turian I knew long ago. A headstrong ass that fought for the good of Palaven and turiankind.
"I AM the pinnacle of our species."
T.I.M raged, showing off her inhuman machines crawling under her flesh slowly but surely encompassing her, making her a mockery of Man.
"No. No, you are not."
I spat back in defiance. I would NOT be cowed anymore.
Her mouth twisted into a snarl of pure hatred as she hurled herself at me. We rolled into the blood, and I saw stars when she smashed my face again and again on the ground, yet, despite that, despite my injuries and my wavering strength, I fought back, pulling her hair, strangling her, kicking her, trying to get her off me.
Her fingers found my face.
With a roar echoed by the Reaper above she shoved them inside my eyeballs.
Struggling with renewed strength to make her stop.
I felt my eyes pop and her nails scratching the bones behind.
"Your mind will be mine."
I felt the tendrils of the Reaper pressing against my mind, forcing their way in by my empty eyes socket, digging and clawing at what it could. Trying to assert its hold on its prey.
It would be so easy to just give in. And I was so tired of the pain.
"Don't let them win! Don't let them control you! Break their hold!"
A woman, a very specific woman.
But a will that moved the galaxy.
A force of nature that got up against the Reaper and Won.
Despite the pain, the loss and the despair.
I followed after her. Raging, screaming, kicking, punching in the dark hitting machines again and again. To not give up. To soldier on.
"You resist but you Will Fail."
It started to move, I could feel and hear its massive legs move towards me. I grinned, I could feel it lose its grip on me. I was winning.
A pair of hands unexpectedly found themselves around me, helping me stand up and walk away. Too wide shoulder and three-fingered hands.
"What's the point of advancing a species to its physical peak if you sacrifice intelligence?"
The voice was younger less mechanical but still one I knew, more alive, surer of itself. My voice croaked as I spoke.
"Saren? Is that you?"
The younger Saren urged me forward as he spoke.
"Enough. I am an Arterius but, I am also sworn to defend my people. I have a duty to Palaven."
"You exist because we allow it."
From behind us I could hear the rapid cavalcade of hundreds of husks quickly gaining ground on us.
The younger Saren freed my arm and pushed me forward with a few sad but determined partings words.
"I wish I could stay to see what happens Taylor but, I have to take care of a few things first."
I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what could say one deadman to another, we failed champion of our respective species.
So I started to limp away as fast and as far as I could.
A hand grabbed my arms and forced me to move into a light, but painful run when gunshots and growls echoed in the distance. The hand was strange and continually shifting, like it didn't know what it really was, between old and young, between man and woman.
"We're at war."
T.I.M. voice was equally strange, a bizarre mix of both me and him, superposing, separating and intertwining themselves.
"No one wants to admit it, but humanity is under attack. Blaming it on fate and burying their heads in the sand. It is easier and more convenient."
Behind us, silence suddenly fell, for a second I believed, hoped that he would have won against the Reaper, but quickly enough the cavalcade of husks denied me that hope.
So we ran faster than before, and I gritted my teeth.
I had no idea how long or how far we ran but after a while, we stopped just long enough for her to strap something to my broken arm before shoving forwards with all her strength.
I ran even as gunfire erupted a hair breath behind my back.
Something tried to grab my arm.
"And you will end because we demand it."
It was cold and made me shiver.
I kicked it with everything I had.
The hand released me, and I took off.
My world was black, but I didn't care. I didn't care that I could fall off a cliff to my death, or that I could launch myself into the Reaper arm.
I would not die cowering on the ground.
I would not let myself be enslaved.
"I will fight you until the end!"
Many times something grabbed me but each time I fought back like a possessed woman, kicking and pushing my way through despite the pain, the muscles on fire, the darkness around me, the cold shiver the husks hands made me feel.
"Your words are as empty as your future."
Voices responded. Many many voices.
From somewhere in front of me, growing closer with each step of my run. I used them like a lighthouse as the Reaper above blasted its foghorn trying to cower me into submission.
The air became warmer, the cold started to recede, the light on my skin was beginning to fill me with energy and not sapping it. I ran faster. The Reaper presence was eroding itself away. Voices pushing me forward as the light became encompassing.
I slowed down before stopping altogether. Still standing in front of something...
I felt a hand on my shoulder. A calming presence next to me.
"However insignificant we might be."
She enveloped me in a motherly hug for a moment as my adrenaline filled body started to finally fail, my legs giving out under me and lance of pain pulsed where my eyes once where.
"We will fight, We will sacrifice, and We will find a way. That's what humans do."
She gently let me go, pushing my body forward.
I fell and hit the floor.
Something broke, like a panel of glass and I crashed on the ground for one final time.
As consciousness abandoned me, I heard the opening of a door, hurried footsteps and worried voices.