Ghost, Part 2
August 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
Goodness I should be asleep. I worked open to close today, didn’t sleep last night, and have to go out again. I only have time to drop off the next part of Ghost and wave hello.
Speaking of which, hello.
I should say that, in defence of sleep, I don’t mind it. In fact, I quite enjoy it when I am asleep. It’s just the getting there that’s the problem.
In any case, enjoy more story. There will be spelling mistakes and whatnot, as I haven’t had time to thoroughly go over it. So sue me. I’d rather be sailing.
The Weyrloc Chief put up a bit of a fight, at least, but he went down behind a pile of Vorcha corpses. Shepard stood over the broken body and lit a cigarette, breathing in the bloody silence. Most of Clan Weyrloc was strewn across the floor, and only one armoured door stood between them and the completion of their mission.
They were in a medical research centre, and in-between the corpses and bullet holes were beds and operating equipment. Mordin soberly examined each bed’s occupant, verifying the cause of death and progress toward the cure. They were all Krogan females, desperate enough to find some cure, any cure, so they wouldn’t have to bear a 90% pregnancy fatality rate.
Tali shivered from where she worked on opening the door. “These bodies make me sick. It’s bad enough that they were experimenting on their own people, but to use them like this? It’s disgusting that they would even consider it. How many were forced to die?”
Mordin dropped the sheet. This female had a smile on her dead face. The report said that, until the tumours killed her, she was able to carry a child to term. The smile was angelic on her brutal Krogan face. It tore at Mordin’s stomach, that she was so happy just to be able to have a child.
“None. They were all volunteers.” Shepard said in-between puffs.
“Correct. The Blood Pack and Weyrloc, brutal as they are, had no need of slaves. Volunteers were not..hard to find, it seems. Problematic.”
“Why, doctor?” Garrus asked. He was policing the bodies of the dead. Ever the career policeman, that was Garrus.
“Perhaps they…perhaps…” Mordin frowned. “I have never seen despair on such a racial level before. Death should not seem preferable to life. It does not make sense.”
Tali had begun tearing wires from the door and rerouting them with her omni-tool. “Of course it does, doctor. Many Quarian on pilgrimage succumb to the temptation that freedom offers. To feel the breeze on your face, to actually taste food that hasn’t been processed to gruel, to actually feel. I think that was what these women felt. To have almost every child you bear die…would be difficult.”
Mordin could not stop staring at the sheet. The outline of the female’s face could be made out, but it hid her smile.
“I wonder…no, that is not logical.”
“What?” Tali asked. The circuit board sparked. She swore under her breath. “Five minutes, Shepard.”
“Perhaps…the genophage was an inelegant solution. I do not deny the necessity, but I am now conflicted. We never meant…to destroy the Krogan like this. It was only in order to keep them from self-destructing, from destroying the galaxy.” He waved his hand to indicate the rows of beds. “We did not mean for this.”
Garrus laughed bitterly. “Really, doctor? That sounds like bullshit to me. You and your team were smart enough to know exactly what the hell you meant, and let’s not lie to each other.” He shook the blood from his hands. “You intended that only 1 in 10 of every Krogan births would be viable. You intended to commit nine-tenths of a genocide on a species. You intended to control the reproduction of billions of people, all because of what they might do.”
“Not might, projected. We had data. Reasonable projections concluded that another Krogan War would be inevitable once population reached a critical mass.”
Garrus shrugged. “Oh, back on the Citadel there was a class of perp we knew well. They were the guys that just didn’t stop. We’d pick them up, lock ’em up for a while, and then the day after we let them loose they’re killing and raping and stealing again. We knew it, just as much as your projections would tell you. But we never, never arrested them before they did something. No matter how certain we were.” He dragged another Krogan corpse away from the door. “It just seems like you’ve got regrets now that you’re looking face-to-face at what you’ve done. That’s a guilty conscience.”
Mordin shook his head, determined. “Not possible. The genophage was the only possible solution. It was the only correct solution. It was the necessary solution.”
“Then why the regret?” Garrus pulled air-quotes. “You never meant to do this?’ Well, if this was the only possible solution, then what’s there to regret?”
Mordin didn’t answer. The sheet stretched over the dead Krogan was answer enough.
The door hissed open. A Salarian worked furiously at a terminal and didn’t even bother to look up when the door opened. He was clearly sweating and breathing heavily, determined to finish as much as he could before they shot him. Clearly, he imagined them to be a rival clan or gang.
Mordin swallowed. They were worse than that. “Maelon.”
Maelon swung around, shock and relief on his face. “Solus? You’ve come here? Why? Not likely. I didn’t send out…”
He stopped as Shepard and the others fanned throughout the room, making sure it was clear. Mordin was surprised, but hid it behind his years of discipline. This was no kidnapping. The room was full of medical equipment but there were no cameras, no security bots, nothing that suggested Maelon was forced into this. Mordin’s stomach sunk. If Maelon was here willingly, then the Weyrloc Clan wasn’t the threat. And Mordin knew what Cerberus would do to such a security breach. He would not be allowed to continue his research, even if that meant shutting him down permanently.
But this was Maelon! Together they had worked on improving the genophage, together they had decided the genetic fate of the Krogan species. He never had cold feet, not once. What was he doing here, then, if he wasn’t being coerced?
“We’ve come to rescue you, Maelon. When we heard that the Blood Pack had kidnapped you, we realized the security threat inherent in your capture. Now that Weyrloc has been…neutralized, we can extract you and return you to Salarian space.”
Maelon hesitated and Mordin’s hearts went cold. He knew what Maelon was going to say before he said it.
“I’m not going with you, Mordin. I…can’t.”
Shepard checked his pistol. “I assure you we can arrange that.”
Maelon suddenly looked very nervous. His eyelids pulled back and the small frills on his forehead flapped erratically.
“Why not?” Mordin asked.
“It’s simple, Solus. I’m not here because I was captured. I came to Tuchanka several years before to continue work on the genophage but when I actually saw what had happened with my own eyes, I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s worse than barbaric, what we did, and only now did I see that. When I heard that Clan Weyrloc was looking for a cure, I volunteered myself.”
“Barbaric?” Tali shouted, her voice rising. “What you did to those women was barbaric! How many died because of your experimentation?”
Maelon, though he was almost shaking, answered her levelly. “Thirty-four. I made sure to be with them when they died. But I’m under no illusions of who was responsible for their deaths. It was my fault, our fault Mordin, that they suffer like this. A little more blood on my hand makes no difference…not if I can undo what I’ve done to them.”
They stood in silence for a moment, the rhythmic beeping of the terminal the only sound in the room.
“How successful were you?” Asked Shepard. He lit another cigarette, the scars on his face shining in the half-light.
Maelon smiled. “Of the forty-four Krogan women treated, we had twenty-one births come to term. Of those, sixteen survived their first four months.”
Garrus whistled. Poorly, because Turian mouths are not adapted for whistling, but the surprise came through. “That’s pretty high. Promising even.”
Shepard just grunted, but Tali was shocked. “Maelon, this is…unprecedented! This just might be real progress towards beating the genophage!”
“Not yet,” Maelon shook his head, “the fatality rate of the mothers is too high. They develop radical, powerful cancers that even Krogan physiology can’t handle. But cancers are easy, compared to the genophage. I can work with cancer. Deploy my cure and prevent the cancers. That would be progress.”
“Why?” Mordin asked.
“What?” Maelon asked, confused. “Why work on the cure?”
“Yes, Maelon. You worked with me for years on the genophage. We were partners. Friends, perhaps. You say you saw this first hand and that changed your mind. That is…a radical change for you. Difficult to believe. I suspect your motives. Uncertain, but unhappy.”
Maelon sighed and sat down. “You have every right to question why, Solus, but I’m being honest. I…regret what we did. Everything about it. We can’t even say we were successful. Look at the galaxy now! The Batarians are making noise about the Terminus sector, the Geth are still out there, beyond the Veil, and the Reapers are out there too. The Council squabbles while the galaxy teeters closer to the edge. We unleashed the genophage to make the galaxy a safer place, but we haven’t. All we’ve done is nearly destroy a species.”
“Destroy? Impossible. The Krogan were a rogue element. Prepared to war against the entire Council. The genophage saved them. Made them viable, but not a threat. Saved them.” Mordin repeated, but he felt his certainty shaking. Maelon was clearly being radical…but he wasn’t entirely wrong. The Council could use an army at their beck and call, and now that he looked around the ruins of Tuchanka, he could see the despair that made its subtle way into the Krogan people. But he had to defend his efforts, or else they were worse than simply vain.
“Saved the Krogan? Look at them now, Solus. Nine males to every female, and Tuchanka is a hell-hole of warring clans and monsters. When we made them this way, we did more than just remove their ability to reproduce. We killed their culture, their society, and their hopes. Krogan males have to be mercenaries just to survive off-world. They have to fight just to reproduce, and even then that’s likely to be unsuccessful. We can’t pretend that the genophage was a clean solution and wipe our hands of the issue. It was messy, and it ruined the Krogan people, and our hands drip with their blood.”
Maelon turned his back to Mordin and returned to his terminal. “I’ve made my decision. I’m not going with you, and I’m not going to stop. Solus, I valued our friendship, but I’m not going to lie to myself anymore. I know what I did, and I want to make it better. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Mordin shook, his entire being conflicted. Maelon was just wrong, but he was also right. If the Krogan were cured, it wouldn’t be long until they spread across the galaxy, warring and destroying like before. The galaxy, no, the future depended on the Krogan having their population limited. They couldn’t be trusted to control it themselves, only the genophage would work.
But Mordin couldn’t shake the image of the dead Krogan out of his head. Her contented smile, even in death. He wondered if she was one of the twenty-one or the sixteen. Perhaps she just lived long enough to see another give birth. To hold a child in their arms; it was a dream beyond ninety-percent of the Krogan people, and it was his fault that that was so.
Yet…he knew what he must do. The Reapers were coming and the Collectors waited beyond the Omega-9 relay. There was too much at stake, much too much. Perhaps in the future, Mordin thought, a cure could be found and employed. But not now.
Mordin drew his pistol and aimed it square at Maelon’s back. “Maelon, I will ask once. Stop this, and come with us. The cure must wait some other day.”
Maelon stiffened and turned to face Mordin. “I see. I am not surprised, nor can I blame you. But you have to realize that you are making this choice. You know what’s actually at stake here. You’d better do it.” He was shaking almost uncontrollably as he stared down Mordin’s gun barrel. Mordin smelt the distinct pheromones of Salarian terror, and was startled to see his gun was steady. Maelon blinked.
“Please.” Mordin asked. Maelon shook his head, his unblinking eyes focused on the gun.
Garrus sighed and Tali stepped back. Mordin looked at them for help, for comfort, for anything, but they just looked back unblinking. They had no say in this decision.
Mordin looked to Shepard, pleadingly, and the champion of humanity looked back with his hollow black eyes. There wasn’t a glimmer of regret, of indecision, of pity. Maelon had to die. Mordin pleaded for some excuse, some reason to stop.
Shepard stared at Mordin. There was no reason in his eyes, no pity, no remorse. Only the cold truth: Maelon had to die. Mordin pulled the trigger. Maelon’s head rocked back, his eyes wide in pain or surprise.
No, thought Mordin, not surprise. He was dead the moment I told Shephard about him. He knew it and I knew it. I made this choice a long time ago.
Shephard nodded, pleased. The last betrayal then, was Mordin’s.