Chapter 3: The Good Doctor, Pt I

Ben sighed as he walked alongside his new teammate, the silence between them making him increasingly nervous. While he could not deny that Miranda Lawson was both beautiful and sexy, he could tell that she was extremely dangerous. He could also guess that her sense of humor, if in fact she possessed one, was completely different from his. Combine that with the increasingly unhappy look on her face, and it meant that she probably wasn't up for much conversation.

But little details like that never stopped Ben Tennyson before.

"So," he began, attempting to think of a topic. "You're a biotic, huh?"

"Yes," came her curt reply, though she did not bother sparing him a glance.

"Cool, cool," he said, internally raging at himself. 'That's all you can come up with? Even Kevin could do better than this!'

"So what can you tell me about this guy we're looking for?" he asked, trying again to get her to converse with him.

Miranda sighed, but acquiesced. "He's a salarian doctor, regarded highly in the medical field. We need him to develop a conutermeasure to protect us from the Collectors' seeker swarms."

This time, the catsuit-wearing woman did look over at Ben, and, noting his confused expression, explained further. "The Collectors are an insect-like race with highly advanced technology. They abduct the colonists by sending out swarms of insects that paralyze every human they land on, allowing the Collectors to come in and round them up without resistance."

Ben's eyes widened. What exactly were they dealing with?

"Why are they doing this?" he questioned.

"They work for the Reapers."

A simple reply, but a foreboding one.

"Reapers? Those sound real friendly," Ben muttered.

Miranda nodded as they turned a corner. "They're a hyper-advanced machine race that wiped out the Protheans fifty thousand years ago."

Ben remembered that. "But I thought they just vanished?"

"No. The Reapers were thorough. They erased all knowledge of their existence and annihilated all sentient life in the galaxy. Then they retreated into dark space. Now they're trying to return to destroy us."

"So we stop the Collectors, then the Reapers?" Ben guessed.

"Precisely."

The nineteen-year-old hero was beginning to understand everything a lot better now. That must be why Paradox sent him to this alternate timeline. He had already saved his own galaxy (and universe) multiple times. Now he had the chance to save another.

With that, Ben allowed a slightly more comfortable silence to fall upon the two of them.

After a few more minutes of walking, Miranda pointed down a corridor to a large door, where a turian with an assault rifle was busy arguing with a human woman over something.

"We're here. Stay quiet and let me do all the talking," the raven-haired beauty ordered. Ben sighed, but nodded as he followed her over to the angry woman and annoyed turian.

"I told you to get lost, lady!" the turian growled as he checked his assault rifle. "The plague has the whole zone quarantined. Nobody gets in or out!"

"I'm human, you ass!" the lady retorted. "Humans can't get the plague. Now let me in so I can get my stuff before looters get it!"

"This plague affects every other race out there! We're not taking chances! Nobody gets in until the plague has run its course, or that salarian doctor cures it," the turian explained.

Ben and Miranda shared a glance. Looks like they had found the right place. The two approached the turian, and Ben stood to the side as Miranda spoke.

"We're here on important business, and we're not going to simply walk away," she warned as she locked eyes with the turian. Ben frowned. Just what the hell was she trying to do, start a fight?

"That so?" the turian asked mockingly. He then took a step closer and got up in Miranda's face. "Do yourself a favor, babe: Go back to pole-dancing. You're obviously dressed for it."

Ben's eyes widened as he saw Miranda's fists clench up, biotic aura flaring up around her hands. Knowing that assaulting one of Aria's men could cause a problem in the near future, Ben reacted quickly and ran forward, stepping between the Cerberus operative and the very foolish turian.

"Sorry about that," Ben apologized, putting on his best charming style. "My colleague can be a little... headstrong. Let me talk to her."

The turian grunted, allowing Ben to take a few steps back, taking Miranda with him by grabbing her arm. "What exactly do you think you're doing?" she snapped irritably.

Ben frowned. "Look, I get that we're in a hurry, but starting a war with Aria can really come back to bite us, right?"

Miranda's eyes narrowed dangerously, though Ben was not intimidated in the slightest. Gwen's glare was much more terrifying, anyway.

"Let me handle this," he said, turning and walking back over to the turian.

"Hey," he began, "we're looking for Mordin Solus. It's important."

"The salarian doctor?" the turian asked, surprised. "Crazy bastard opened up a clinic a few months ago to help plague victims. But our orders are to wait until either the plague runs its course or the Blue Suns kill everyone. Then we go in and clean up."

Ben felt his temper flare up when the turian mentioned the deaths of innocents so casually, but he held in his tongue. They were on a mission, after all.

"From what I can tell, you're stuck guarding a door over and over until this problem is solved, which could take a few weeks," Ben observed. "Me and my lady friend here can help solve that problem. This isn't the first time I've handled a situation no one else can solve."

The turian rubbed his chin in thought, while Miranda facepalmed at the events she had just witnessed. If this actually worked, she would be nothing short of amazed. And maybe a little embarrassed.

After a few moments, the turian shrugged. "You think you can straighten this whole thing out, why not?"

Miranda's eyes widened in shock, and her jaw most likely would have dropped if she didn't have such rigid self-control. But she was still stunned. All this boy did was ask nicely, and suddenly they're in? That wasn't how things on Omega usually worked.

"I'll radio ahead, let 'em know you're coming," the turian offered as he unlocked the door behind him, allowing Ben and Miranda entrance into the district. "Just remember; we're not letting you back out until the plague has run its course."

"What can you tell me about the plague, anyway?" Ben questioned, wanting a little info before going into a dangerous area.

"Well, it affects multiple species. Turians, salarians, even krogan. It starts off as a simple cough, but that degenerates into spitting up blood. Eventually you bleed from the eyes, ears, pretty much every hole you have in your body. Not a pretty way to go."

At that moment, Miranda walked back up and stood next to Ben. "How is that possible? Turians have a different DNA base than most other species, except for quarians."

The guard shrugged. "No idea. All I know is that anyone can contract it except humans and vorcha."

"Which is why the area is quarantined?" Ben guessed.

The turian nodded. "Aria's orders."

"But if it's crossing species barriers, it can't be a natural occurrence," Miranda theorized.

"Precisely," the turian agreed. "Somebody engineered it and let it loose on Omega. And since humans are unaffected, most people assume it was made by them."

Ben frowned. "What about the vorcha? They're immune too, right?"

"Vorcha are immune to any and all disease," Miranda explained.

Ben nodded in understanding and turned back to the guard. "Thanks for letting us in. We'll have this district straightened out before you know it."

The woman that had been arguing with the turian earlier, and who had been listening in on the conversation, sighed in annoyance, threw her arms up in exasperation, and stormed off.

"Ladies first," the Omnitrix wielder offered, gesturing toward the door. Miranda rolled her eyes and began walking, the nineteen-year-old right behind her.

A few minutes later, Ben and Miranda entered the district, coming across the barricades that prevented anyone from leaving, a dozen turians ready with rifles in case anyone attempted to spread the plague to the rest of Omega.

The guards watched the two with the looks similar to the ones given to death row inmates when they were going to the electric chair.

The pair reached the entrance to the lower end of the district, which had two turians watching it on either side. The one on the right spoke up. "Good luck in there. Blue Suns and Blood Pack are killing anything that moves."

Ben nodded in thanks, while Miranda remained silent and walked calmly through the doorway.

At the bottom of the stairs, the two saw an open area, with what looked like pits of fire spread around. Near the end of the room were two Blue Suns mercs.

Miranda slowly pulled out her Predator pistol and began aiming at the merc on the right when Ben's hand shot up and pushed it down. The beautiful Cerberus operative glared at him as she yanked her pistol out of his grip.

"What the hell are you doing?" she snapped.

Ben frowned as he explained. "From the minute I saw your weapons, I knew I'd have to accept the fact that you guys kill people. While I don't agree, I understand. But I don't kill people. If I see a chance to take down someone without ending them, I'm gonna take it."

Miranda scowled. "Your naivete is a hindrance. You need to grow up and understand that in this galaxy, especially on Omega, it's kill or be killed. Shepard or I might order you to take a life on this mission. Think you can you handle that, boy?"

The teen's face darkened. "I've killed before. But it was a last resort, and it's not something I want to do again. Now stay here."

With that, Ben melted into the shadows and moved away.

The Cerberus operative rolled her eyes, but stayed hidden with her pistol ready, out of sight of the mercenaries. If the kid screwed up, she'd probably have to save his ass.

A few seconds later, she heard a deep voice yell "FRANKENSTRIKE!"

The bellow was followed by yells of terror, gunfire, and what sounded like some form of electric discharge. Shortly after, that same deep voice spoke again, "You can come out now, Miranda."

The woman blinked in surprise and emerged from cover, holstering her pistol as she saw a large creature standing over the unconscious forms of the Blue Suns mercs.

But her attention was immediately drawn to Ben Tennyson's transformed state, which appeared to be a large humanoid that bore a strange resemblance to the classic Frankenstein's monster. He was large and muscular, with skin that looked like a mix between green and grey coloring. He had black hair that became a mullet and sideburns, strange stitching on certain parts of his body, two large conductor towers on his back, brown fingerless gloves and black pants that ended with large boots. The Omnitrix symbol shone proudly on his chest.

"Impressive form," Miranda conceded before glancing over at the fire pits. Now that they were closer, the two could smell the burning flesh coming from the corpses that had been thrown into the flames. "Looks like they were trying to keep the plague from spreading by burning all infected bodies."

"A desperate move," the being known as Frankenstrike noted.

The sound of someone coughing caused the two to glance over to a nearby hallway, where a lone figure sat on the ground, legs spread out in front of him and head lowered.

Ben calmly walked over and kneeled in front of the person to get a better look.

"Hm. Batarian. Looks like he's in bad shape," he reported to Miranda.

"Leave him. We have to find the salarian," she ordered.

"Just leave him here to die? Are you insane?" Ben asked, disgusted by her callousness.

"The more time we waste, the more people die, either from the plague or the mercenaries that control this district," she explained.

Their conversation was ended prematurely as the batarian weakly glanced upward. "What the hell are you?" he asked, staring at Frankenstrike with a mix of awe and fear.

"I'm a human. Kinda," Ben responded.

"Hm. Human. No matter how freaky you look, you're all alike. Here to loot me without even letting me die first," the sick alien grumbled as he coughed up a small amount of blood.

"Whoa, we're just here to help," Frankenstrike protested.

"I don't need your damn help, human!" the batarian retorted, his attempt at yelling falling short due to his sickness.

Miranda rolled her eyes and stepped forward. "We're looking for Mordin Solus. Can you tell us anything?"

The batarian snorted. "Figures. Humans looking for the human sympathizer. I hope the Suns burn that damn clinic to the ground. I hope you... *cough*... dammit, damn you..."

Ben felt his heart race as he realized that the four-eyed alien was going to die if he didn't act fast. He tapped the Omnitrix and spoke. "Omnitrix, can you cure him of the plague?"

Miranda's eyes widened as the device on Frankenstrike's chest began to speak in Ben Tennyson's voice. "Yes. All damage will be repaired and the subject will become immune to the affliction."

"Do it," Ben ordered.

A bright green light emanated from the Omnitrix symbol and covered the batarian in its glow. After about a minute, the light died out and the batarian blinked in surprise.

"The plague... It's gone!" he cried out in surprise. He grunted slightly as he stood up, leaning against the wall as he stared at Frankenstrike with gratitude and shock. "Why would you help me, human?"

Ben stood up to his full height and calmly gazed down at the formerly sick alien. "It's what I do. We're here to find Mordin Solus and cure everyone in the district."

Miranda felt a twinge of annoyance at the boy's nonstop heroism. They had only one assignment: retrieve Mordin Solus. Nothing else mattered. Let Aria deal with the plague on her own time.

But then again, if Shepard were here, he would be doing the exact same thing. He was well-known for his Good Samaritan nature, something that he and Ben Tennyson apparently shared. Maybe the outcome would have been the same way, even if the Commander had come along. So for now, she'd have to bite the bullet and run with it.

"Then, what do you wish to know?" the batarian asked, seemingly willing to help now that he had seen the generosity of a human.

"What can you tell me about Mordin Solus?" the transformed teenager asked.

"He takes in refugees on the other side of the district. Has a clinic there. He's trying to help victims of the plague."

"Why didn't you go there, then?" Miranda asked, curious.

"He's dangerous. I was afraid to go to him."

Frankenstrike blinked in surprise. "Dangerous how?"

"The Blue Suns tried to push him for protection money. He stunned them with some kind of toxin, then killed them. Shot them in the head, once each. He's not just a doctor. Doctors don't just gun down mercs like he did."

The batarian shuddered at his own words.

"Sounds like STG training," Miranda said thoughtfully, touching her left index and middle fingers to her lips in an intrigued motion.

Ben turned back to the plague victim. "You're cured now. Have the guys at the blockade scan you and they should let you go."

The batarian nodded. "You saved my life human. I will never forget this. Thank you."

With that, the batarian slowly walked toward the entrance to the district, leaving Frankenstrike and Miranda standing there near the burning corpses.

"So, Miranda," Ben started as he turned to walk further into the district, "care to explain what exactly the Blue Suns are?"

The Cerberus operative began walking alongside the large alien as she spoke. "They're one of the three biggest mercenary groups in the Terminus Systems."

"Tell me about all three. I wanna know what I'm dealing with," Ben explained grimly.

"Well, the Blue Suns were founded by a man named Vido Santiago, and are well-known for their ruthless efficiency and discretion. They employ humans, batarians, and turians," Miranda began.

"They also run extortion plots, don't they?" Ben guessed.

The woman nodded. "Then you have Eclipse, founded by asari commando Jona Sederis. They rely heavily on mechs, and are commonly used for security purposes and smuggling. They're more stealthy than the Suns or Blood Pack, and prefer strategy over brute force. They mostly employ humans, salarians, and of course, asari."

"And the Blood Pack?"

Miranda snorted. "The most brutal and least intelligent of the bunch. Only uses krogan and vorcha. A krogan battlamaster named Ganar Wrang turned them from a small time gang into a large mercenary organization. They prefer jobs that require copious amounts of bloodshed and violence, with more muscle than the other two."

"And all three are bad news, I take it?" Ben asked sarcastically.

A simple nod was his answer.

After a few more minutes of walking, the pair spotted a Blue Suns checkpoint up ahead, with about a dozen agents all ready to kill anything that dared walk by.

Ben glanced up at the ceiling. "These walls are metal, right?"

"Yes," Miranda asked, confused.

"Good."

Frankenstrike turned around and stuck his foot onto the wall. He then lifted his other foot and attached it to the wall as well. He now hung sideways on the wall.

"Electromagnetic body," he explained as he walked up the wall while Miranda drew her SMG and found some cover, waiting for her shapeshifting ally to start the fireworks.

After a few minutes of walking along the wall and ceiling, Ben was now directly above the Blue Suns mercs. Charging his fists up with electricity, Frankenstrike released his magnetic grip on the ceiling and plunged into the midst of the men below.

He landed with a loud thud, leaping into action before the Suns could get their bearings. He lashed out with a kick on a batarian, knocking him into the wall, before turning and unleashing green lightning from his fingertips into three more, rendering them unconscious.

A turian merc screamed as he began firing with his Vindicator assault rifle, though the bullets simply bounced off Frankenstrike's durable skin. Ben turned and swung a fist into the turian's head, sending him flying a good distance away.

There were six left, and Ben cracked his neck. "You can drop your weapons and run, or wind up like your friends there."

The shapeshifter waved his hand towards the unconscious mercs for emphasis.

Glancing at each other, the remaining six did the most foolish choice possible. They resumed fire.

Frankenstrike sighed and lifted his fists to gather a large amount of electricity, bullets bouncing off his skin the whole time. After a few seconds, Ben unleashed a massive electric blasts that not only knocked the weapons out of the mercenaries' hands, but also shot them into the air before letting them drop back to the ground, all out cold.

BLAM!

Ben quickly turned around, electricity surging, to attack whoever had fired that shot. However, he didn't have to worry. Miranda calmly strolled up, her Tempest in hand, and stepped over a now-dead mercenary with a hole in his head, his hand firmly wrapped around a missile launcher.

"Need to watch your back," she noted as she lightly kicked the merc's body.

"Thanks," he responded, steeling himself. While he never enjoyed seeing someone die, and attempted to prevent death whenever he could, he knew that on a mission like this, death was an inevitable factor. God knows how many mercs Shepard and Jacob were killing at this very moment. But Ben himself would most certainly not be taking any lives during his time in this universe.

Miranda nodded, and Ben looked over her toward a locked apartment door. "Think we should check it out for any survivors?"

"Might as well," she replied, and the two walked over.

"I think I can get this open," the Operative said as she opened up her omnitool and began typing in command codes. After a few moments, the door opened.

"Shall we?" Ben invited.

The two entered the darkened apartment.

What they found saddened Ben heavily.

A man and woman, maybe a couple, were lying down on the floor, hands clasped, dried blood all around their bodies, a knife lying near their slit wrists.

"Why would they do this?" Ben asked quietly.

"They saw no other way out. It was either this or the mercenaries. They thought no one would come to help them," Miranda said, her voice giving away her feelings. She was just as horrified by this as Ben was.

"If they had just waited, we could have saved them," the teenager stated.

"You can't save everyone," Miranda responded, sounding slightly bitter. "No matter how hard you try or how well you do, you can never save every last life."

Ben sighed in acknowledgement. As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. Over the years, he had learned that lesson many times. You could never truly save everyone.

"Come on," the Cerberus operative said, gently touching Ben on the arm. "We have a doctor to recruit, a plague to cure, and abductions to stop."

Frankenstrike nodded. He couldn't save everyone.

But he sure as hell was going to do his best.


Depressing ending is depressing! Yeah, I was gonna end this chapter with Ben convincing that couple to go to Mordin's clinic, but I figured it'd be more interesting to end this chapter on a dark note (plus Disturbed's "Inside the Fire" playing in the background while I wrote this). That's a simple fact in Mass Effect: not everyone survives. So the sooner Ben learns that, the sooner he can accept that difficult decisions must be made. And believe me, some serious choices are going to be made in this fic. Genophage? Geth rights? Should prove interesting.

I feel like I forgot to mention my main inspirations for this story. First of all, the new 'Star Trek' films, with the alternate universe story. Ben in Mass Effect is gonna seriously change continuity. Don't believe me? Give it time.

My other inspiration is LuxDragon's "Fight For The Lost" fanfic, a novelization of ME2. Extremely well-written, I used it when I was stuck writing certain parts of this chapter. Go and read it if you enjoy ME.

Anyway, I've been pulled in all kinds of different directions regarding this story, including what major events I want to change, who lives and dies, and of course, the romance. Now, here's the thing: Ben is NOT going to romance Tali. Why? Because EVERYONE always wants to romance Tali. Seriously, I love Tali and her romance, but it. Is. So. Effing. Overused. So Ben/Tali? Not gonna happen. End of story.

Also, just for the hell of it, romance poll is back up! I've been playing the Citadel DLC, and I've got some new ideas. But I still want to hear your voices. Who do you want? NOT TALI!

Reviews appreciated, and next chapter should be up soon (hopefully).