Salvation: A Half-Life/Mass Effect Universe Fan Fiction
Disclaimer: This fan-fiction takes place after the events of both Half-Life 1 and 2 and its episodes, and jumps to the events after Mass Effect 1 and 2. If you have not played or beaten these games this fiction may not make much sense to you. Characters property of their respective companies, Half-Life created by Valve and Mass Effect created by Bioware.
Chapter 8: A Strange Dossier
"Captain Connors Sir!" A concerned crewman called out to get his captain's attention.
Connors stood, gazing out at the blackness of space while sipping on a cup of coffee, a look of concern on his face. "What is it ensign?" He said, as he turned towards the crewman addressing him.
"Sir, something has to be wrong with our instruments." The ensign stated with distress in his voice. "These readings say we're on course, but there is no way this is The Horse Head Nebula..."
Captain Connors stood over the ensign, carefully studying his readouts. "Hmm..." he began. "Yes, it isn't my first haul to Noveria." He affirmed. "And I don't recognize any of this region... run a diagnostic, see if you can find the problem ensign." Connors ordered, as he turned his attention back to the window, taking another sip from his coffee.
"That's just it sir..." The worried ensign began again. "I already did. All scans say our equipment is functioning properly..." The Captain turned back to the ensign once more, this time showing significantly more apprehension. "But, I'm also getting some sort of strange interference, I just figured it was the Eezo we had on board... radiation bleed."
Connors took a moment to think about what course of action to take. He had a shipment on board of refined Element Zero and Omni-Gel en route to Noveria, a prime target for raiding parties and mercenaries in the dead of space.
"Send a distress signal to NDC. Tell them to send us a navsat position." The captain ordered. "We're sitting ducks out here in the middle of nowhere, we need to find out where we are and get our bearings."
"Aye Sir!" The ensign replied as he began to open up a radio channel. "Noveria Development Corporation, this is the SSV Aurora requesting a na..."
"Captain!" A nearby Helmsman yelled out in a panic, startling the ensign, interrupting his transmission. "We're picking something up on the radar sir!"
Connors rushed over to the Helmsman, looking on at his radar display. "What is it Washburne?" The captain asked stringently.
"Two ships sir! One significantly larger than the other... it's massive." The captain looked on at the two blips on Helmsman Washburne's display.
"Alliance?" Connors queried. "I don't think so sir..." Washburne replied. "They aren't registering as any type of Citadel vessel."
"Probably a damn Batarian raiding party..." The captain uttered in disgust. "What's their bearing?"
"Straight for us captain, and closing fast." Whasburne responded.
"Issue an alert, all hands! Ensign what's the status on that distress signal?!" Connors shouted at the ensign who was still attempting to open up a communications channel.
"Trying sir! Getting no response..." The ensign replied, never taking his attention off of the equipment before him. "
"Well keep trying!" Connors responded with a profound sense of urgency.
"Captain!" The Helmsman yelled out again, as Connors rushed over to him. "We'll have a visual on the two ships any moment sir!"
Connors swallowed a gulp down his throat, as he turned and walked toward the ship's forward windows. Peering out into the darkness. Suddenly he took a deep breath, as his eyes grew wide with dread and terror. A loud shatter was heard as he dropped the cup of coffee he had still been clutching.
"Mother of god..."
"Ship's fully fueled and loaded Commander." Jacob Taylor informed Shepard as he watched the Citadel loading crews finish stocking his ship with supplies. "And all crew members on board and accounted for. Even Hawkins..." Jacob said as he laughed.
Shepard grinned and shook his head, as the two started walking through the jetway onto the Normandy, ready to get underway.
"I had a chat with Hawkins..." Shepard said as they walked. "I know I was a little rough on him, but my outlook on the matter hasn't changed."
The airlock door to the Normandy opened allowing the two access to the ships Command Deck.
"I hear ya Shepard." Jacob replied as the two were surprised to be greeted by Joker, standing at the airlock doorway with a data pad in his hand.
"Commander..." Joker greeted Shepard, with clearly something to discuss.
"I'll see ya later Shepard." Jacob said, pointing at the Commander as he walked away. "Got some work that needs doing. Thanks again for the leave."
Shepard nodded and pointed back at Jacob, before turning his attention back to Joker. "Yes, Joker." Shepard stated, waiting for Joker to tell him what he had on his mind.
"You received a new dossier from the Illusive Man Commander." Joker said, with a bit of uncertainty in his voice, as he handed the data pad to Shepard.
Shepard took the data pad in hand, not bothering to look at it before he responded. "The Illusive Man?" Shepard said with a scoff. "I'm surprised he's helping us at all, after I destroyed the Collector base..." Shepard shrugged his shoulders and turned to walk away. "Thanks for the dossier Joker, go ahead and take us out." He said as he began walking down the footway away from the bridge.
"Uh... Commander." Joker shouted, as Shepard walked away. "One other thing, the Illusive Man wants you to contact him as soon as you're able to." Shepard rolled his eyes, as he continued to walk. "And you might wanna take a look at that dossier!" Joker yelled, causing Shepard to stop, and turn to look back at him. Joker nodded, and motioned with his eyes for Shepard to read the dossier.
Shepard looked down at the dossier for a moment. A puzzled look came over his face as he began to read it. He furrowed his brow, trying to understand what he was reading, the further in he got. "Is this supposed to be a joke?" Shepard demanded from Joker, pointing to the dossier.
"Don't know Commander." Joker replied. "It was transmitted straight from the Illusive Man. He doesn't seem like the kinda guy who likes a good practical joke." Joker stated, shrugging his shoulders.
Shepard read the dossier over a second time, trying to make sure that he wasn't misreading it, but there could be no mistake. "EDI" Shepard called out, as the ships spherical blue virtual intelligence emerged from a nearby terminal. "Yes Commander." EDI responded. "Open up a line to the Illusive Man in the comm room." As he continued on through the command deck.
A flicker of static and lights flashed before Shepard as he walked onto the communication platform. In moments the static manifested itself into the form of the same steely eyed man from before.
"Shepard." The Illusive Man started. "I take it you received the dossier I sent."
"I did..." Shepard replied, crossing his arms. "I'm still waiting to hear if this is supposed to be some sort of joke."
"No joke Shepard." The Illusive Man responded, bringing his cigarette to his lips, and inhaling. Smoke poured from his mouth as he continued. "You are to recruit Dr. Gordon Freeman."
"Gordon Freeman died in the Earth Rebellion of 2006..." Shepard stated, as he waved his hand at the Illusive Man in disbelief. "Let me guess... You're planning to bring him back from the dead too? He's been dead a little longer than I was..." Shepard said sarcastically.
The Illusive Man brought his hands together, tapping his fingers against one another. "Not exactly Shepard, but you're not far off... I think it's time you learned the truth."
"Your version of the truth again is it?" Shepard scoffed with his arms still crossed.
"No..." The Illusive Man said, standing up to come face to face with Shepard's hologram. "The real truth... All of it. The Truth about Cerberus, the truth about the Earth Rebellion, and the truth about Gordon Freeman."
"I'm listening..." Shepard said, as he uncrossed his arms, bringing them to rest at his hips and intrigued by the Illusive Man's statements.
"I take it you know your history Commander..." The Illusive Man asked, taking another puff of his cigarette. "Gordon Freeman, The Seven-Hours War, Earth's Rebellion against the Combine?"
"As well as any human I suppose." Shepard responded.
"Good." The Illusive Man concurred. "Then I can start from the beginning." The Illusive Man turned away from Shepard and slowly started pacing about in a small circle as he began his history lesson.
"Cerberus has been around for over 200 years, but we haven't always gone by the name Cerberus." He started as Shepard listened intently. "We were founded in 1947 as a clandestine branch of the United States Government, after an incident in New Mexico gave the world irrefutable proof that humanity was not alone in the universe." He inhaled his cigarette once more, causing the light flame at its tip to glow vividly.
"Although we no longer work for any sort of organized government, very little has changed with our operations. The organization was to be kept strictly top secret. It did NOT exist. In order to sever any ties that any operative in the organization had, their names, backgrounds, and identities were stripped from them. Agents of the organization were given a number designation, while the head operative was given a Shadow Man Designation."
"Shadow Man Designation?" Shepard asked confused. "You mean a name like yours?" He questioned.
"Precisely." The Illusive Man acknowledged. "The very first operative in charge of the organization was known as The Shadow Man. Since then; any operative to take charge of the organization and its cells was given an SMD. Some notable operatives were; The Cryptic Man, The Unknown Man, The Reticent Man, The Mysterious Man, and so on."
"I see..." Shepard replied "So when did Cerberus actually become Cerberus? And when did you break off from any sort of government?"
"Patience Shepard..." The illusive Man stated, shaking off the excess ash from his nearly diminished cigarette. "I'm coming to that. The organization had the same purpose then that Cerberus does now; the advancement of human kind against any threat the galaxy may offer. Our resources have always been nearly limitless, tax payer money at work." He said with a sly grin before continuing again.
"In 1996, the organization funded construction of a state-of-the-art research facility in the middle of the New Mexico desert, with the purpose of advancing recent breakthroughs in teleportation research."
"The Black Mesa Research Facility..." Shepard stated as he nodded, recalling his history.
"Correct..." The Illusive Man affirmed. "The research showed promise, but the organization got reckless." He stated as he shook his head. "Probes had been sent through these portals, and many had returned with a rare new element, the scientists of this era took to calling it Xen Matter. We know it today as Element Zero."
"Xen Matter?" Shepard inquired with a puzzled look on his face. "Why did they call it that?"
"Xen was the name given to the planet used essentially as a slingshot for the relay. It was a planet rich enough in Element Zero to sustain stable portals." The Illusive Man answered. "A technology obviously mastered by the Reapers, evident by the presence of the Mass Relays. And a technology humanity was not ready for... A sample of 'Xen Matter' purer than any previously retrieved was recovered. The operative in charge of the organization at the time was one known as The G-Man. He was overzealous, and demanded that the sample be analyzed and utilized, despite every warning against doing so."
"Overzealous? That doesn't sound like you at all..." Shepard said sarcastically. "You're right, Cerberus hasn't changed much."
The Illusive Man turned to face Shepard's hologram once more, the angry gleam in his eye returning. "Don't insult me Shepard!" The Illusive Man barked. "And don't mistake my willingness to help you, for me condoning your destruction of that base... You have no idea the advantage you cost us, in your shortsightedness. But, despite your idealism, you're still the best hope humanity has. Now if I may finish..."
Shepard threw his hands up, saying nothing, to give the Illusive Man the grounds to finish.
"Now then..." The Illusive Man continued, with yet another cigarette in hand, as he lit it. "The G-Man was overzealous, he demanded the sample be used, which is what caused the famous Black Mesa Incident."
"So Cerberus caused the incident that almost led to humanity's extinction?!" Shepard questioned angrily.
"It wasn't Cerberus at the time Shepard." The illusive man replied. "And the G-Man rectified his mistake."
"I don't know how you can rectify millions of human lives lost to a devastating war and the resulting rebellion..." Shepard said, crossing his arms with a new found disrespect for Cerberus. "If this has a point, make it... I don't need a history lesson. I'm still waiting to hear how you expect me to recruit someone who's been dead for almost 200 years..."
"Your impatience is understandable, however unwelcome Shepard... And this is all vital information. I assure you I have a point, and I'm getting to it." The Illusive Man glared angrily, remaining silent for a moment, making sure Shepard was finished, hoping not to be interrupted again. "A young scientist in the facility took up arms in a struggle to survive the ensuing flood of alien life forms that broke through the portal relay. His skills were noticed by the G-Man, in the same way that I took note of your skills. This young scientist actually managed to travel to the relay border world and close it off, or so they thought. When it was over, The G-Man put Dr. Freeman under his employ, much as I did with you."
The Illusive Man inhaled from his cigarette again, the embers bathing his face in an orange glow amidst the darkness. "Cerberus has always had access to cutting edge, state-of-the-art resources; Such as The Lazarus Project we used to bring you back from the dead. One of the other fields of research at Black Mesa was zero point energy manipulation... We know it today as Biotic energy." He walked back towards his chair, turning and sitting down slowly. "After the Black Mesa incident, The G-Man, taking Freeman under his employ, placed him in a biotic stasis field, until he was redeployed in 2006 in Eastern Europe."
"City 17..." Shepard stated, starting to understand. "Somehow I doubt that Gordon Freeman just allowed himself to get shelved for whenever this G-Man needed him."
"He wasn't exactly given a choice Shepard..." The Illusive Man answered. "Remember, we do what's in the best interest of humanity. We can't afford to be nice about it."
"What about his death?" Shepard queried. "Every history codex I ever read said that Gordon Freeman was killed in a battle with the Combine after they closed the super portal on Earth... Disintegrated by a dark energy blast."
"I'm coming to that Shepard." The steely eyed figure stated, releasing a puff of smoke. "Now, do you remember a Dr. Wallace Breen from your history codices?"
"Of course..." Shepard affirmed. "Humanities greatest traitor... Sold out humanity to the Combine, negotiated Earth's surrender after the Seven-Hours War. Killed in the Rebellion when Freeman destroyed the Combine Citadel."
"Correct." The Illusive Man asserted. "I'm sure you remember reading about the way he would preach how humanity was better off under the oppressive control of the Combine. How all he did, he was utterly convinced that it was in the best interest of the species. That he was doing it for the betterment of mankind."
"Yeah..." Shepard replied with his arms crossed. "So? He was a traitor."
"Who else did you know Commander, who fit that profile?" The Illusive Man inquired. "Who else did you know, claimed that everything they were doing was in the best interest of the various species of the galaxy, despite leaving a trail of destruction in their wake?"
"Saren..." Shepard said on the verge of an epiphany. "Are you saying that..."
"Breen was indoctrinated..." The Illusive Man said, finishing the Commander's sentence. "Just like Saren, just like Matriarch Benezia, and just like the Heretic Geth."
"What are you saying?" Shepard asked, clearly concerned.
"Commander, what history claims to be an unknown alien race, that tore open a doorway to Earth, and brought mankind to its knees; known as the Combine, was none other than what we've come to call The Reapers."
"That's ridiculous!" Shepard shouted in an outburst, waving off the idea with his hand. "I've seen Reapers. Nothing in any of the historical codices show anything that even remotely resembles a Reaper."
"And you've also seen what's become of the Protheans." The Illusive Man replied. "The Reapers turned them into Collectors. Adapted them for their purposes." He stated crushing out his second cigarette in his chair's armrest ashtray. "The modus operandi of the Reapers is sort of a hierarchy of enslavement. They will indoctrinate a certain species, such as the Collectors or the Geth, and use them in their destructive campaign to enslave other races in preparation for their harvest. Humanity came very close to suffering the same fate as the Protheans."
"But if what you say is true." Shepard began. "Then why did the Reapers never return to Earth after the Rebellion?"
"Our guess is that Earth and the Local Cluster had been unknown to the Reapers. The forces sent through the portal relay was a Reaper scouting party, 'advisors' as they had come to be called. Likely another species enslaved and repurposed like the Collectors. When mankind proved easy to subdue, they began adapting us to their needs. That is until Gordon Freeman sparked the revolution and closed the portal relay. We assume they never got any sort of fix on Earth's actual location, due to Freeman and Alyx Vance escaping with the contact code for the Reaper overworld in Dark Space. The only means they had to reach us was the super-portal."
"So Cerberus has known about the Reapers for almost 200 years, and you've kept this information to yourselves?" Shepard asked, sternly.
"You know the reaction you've gotten from the Council whenever you mention Reapers, Shepard." The Illusive Man answered. "Nobody wants to admit it, but the Galaxy is at war. We've been preparing for it ever since."
"So when did Cerberus actually become Cerberus?" Shepard asked, out of curiousity.
"After the Rebellion." The steely eyed figure replied. "After all forms of Government toppled, and humanity began to rebuild, the G-Man continued the organization, no longer affiliated with any form of government, and dubbed it Cerberus."
The Illusive Man brought his hands together, tapping his fingers against one another. "And now we come to Dr. Gordon Freeman the man most directly responsible for saving mankind from a truly dreadful fate." Shepard's eyes narrowed as he took great care to pay special attention.
"As you said, Gordon Freeman was allegedly killed near White Forrest in a battle with the Combine. It was assumed his body was never recovered because he was disintegrated by a dark energy blast." The Illusive Man stated while nodding. "This is, however, not the case. After his battle with the Combine, The G-Man saw fit to recover Dr. Freeman until he would be needed once again. The remaining Combine forces on Earth were scattered and disorganized, they proved moderately easy to defeat in the coming months after Freeman's 'demise'. So there had been no need for him to be reactivated."
"So he's still in stasis somewhere?!" Shepard asked astounded. "It's been a hundred and eighty years. There's no way someone could survive that long, even in cryogenic stasis. He would've succumb to cellular deterioration long ago..."
"A hundred and seventy-nine actually, and not cryogenic, biotic." The Illusive Man continued. "His records had been long disregarded and forgotten by any Shadow Man, but as I've been going through Cerberus' files to try and find any edge I can give you against the Reapers, I found this. According to the records he is being contained at a completely self-sufficient underground facility in the Nevada Desert. The facility, and his stasis chamber, should have a functional lifetime of more than 500 years. I've transmitted the coordinates to EDI."
"Won't this be a bit of a shock to him?" Shepard queried. "Waking up a hundred and seventy-nine years in the future? I thought it was bad waking up and losing track of TWO years..."
"Yes, I imagine so... I have no way of knowing how he'll react to the shock, nor do I have any sort of guarantee that the facility is still there and actually operational." The Illusive Man said, standing up and turning to face the bright red star dwarf outside his window. "But this is the man who led a handful of rebels against the greatest threat Earth has ever known and won. The only other man, besides you, to have ever claimed some sort of victory against the Reapers. If he truly is alive, you'll need his help."
Shepard said nothing, he simply nodded as he turned and walked off the communication platform. He reentered the command deck, and approached the ship's Galaxy Map. "Joker... Set a course for Earth."