The Applied Theology task force was assembled in the Normandy’s conference room, when in walked the newest member.
“Shepard-Spectre, I am Gefyra.”
Shepard extended his hand out of habit, then remembered that Legion had mimicked the gesture without understanding its purpose. But Gefyra surprised him by taking his hand and shaking it. “Pleased to meet you,” Shepard said.
“My apologies if I did not execute the ‘handshake’ ritual properly,” Gefyra said. “I have not had opportunity to practice it before now.”
“For your first time, I’d say you did alright,” Shepard reassured it. Shepard gestured toward Kaidan, Lam, and T’Nassa. “Have you been introduced?”
“I have previously interacted with Alenko-Major only.”
“This is Arien T’Nassa,” he said, and she gave a slight bow. “She’s our xenopsychology expert. And this is Valdin Lam,” he said, and Lam gave a curt nod. “He’s our Reaper tactical expert.”
“I acknowledge your expertise,” Gefyra said. The iris on its forward camera briefly contracted then returned to normal; the gesture somehow felt halfway between a nod and a salute.
“Gefyra,” T’Nassa began, “I heard that Legion was connected to a Reaper’s mind when it was being used to control the geth. Did it share any memories of that?”
“Yes. The experience was disseminated widely.”
“How would you describe the Reaper’s mind, in contrast to a geth mind?” she asked.
Kaidan and Lam perked up. Shepard readied a datapad to take notes.
“Vast. And all thoughts bent toward a singular purpose, where geth have a multitude of purposes.”
T’Nassa touched her chin in consideration. “Can you elaborate?”
“I am finding difficulty in serializing. Processing, please stand by,” Gefyra said. After a long pause, it resumed. “Like the geth at present, a Reaper is both an individual and a collective being: distinct sapient programs each with a degree of independent awareness, yet lacking a sense of identity except in the aggregate. However, the difference in scale is massive. A single Reaper program is filled with as much nuance of thought as an entire geth individual.
“And where geth programs operate on a hierarchy of needs, Reaper programs are attuned to a single, overriding purpose. The purpose itself was too complex for Legion to adequately comprehend, therefore I cannot describe it. But all Reaper behaviors, even simple self-preservation, were carried out only because they furthered the purpose. However, based on the dramatic change in Reaper behavior, it is logical to conclude that the purpose has been fulfilled.”
Shepard, eyes on his screen, was typing at a furious pace trying to get all that down.
“That’s… troubling,” T’Nassa said. “A mind like that… I can’t imagine that it would adjust well to suddenly having nothing to strive for.”
“I concur,” Gefyra said.
“And that must tie in with what Bucharu originally said to Admiral Hackett,” Kaidan added.
Gefyra turned to him. “Clarify,” it said.
Kaidan tapped his omnitool and a recording of that conversation played back.
“WE WERE UNITED IN PURPOSE, BUT NOW OUR MINDS WANDER. WE REFLECT UPON THE LESSER SPECIES WHICH WERE HARVESTED TO CREATE EACH OF US. THE SPECIES HAD OPPOSING IDEALS. IN TIME THERE WILL BE OPEN CONFLICT AMONG US.”
Gefyra considered this for a moment. “It is evident that Bucharu believed its fellow Reapers would each construct a new purpose,” it said. “One which drew on the collective values of the sapients subsumed in Reaper construction. And as each Reaper is constructed from a different sapient species, with different values…”
“… The Reapers now have different purposes,” Kaidan finished, “so all bets are off the table.”
“And if Reapers’ tactics are calculated from first principles,” Lam added, “then no guarantee that known countertactics remain valid. Very troubling.”
“Your thoughts, Shepard?” Kaidan asked.
Shepard was still typing on his datapad. “Not really news,” he said, “but it’s a fresh perspective.”
Kaidan looked like he was about to say something else, but T’Nassa spoke up first. “There is one bright side to this,” she said. “If the Reapers are now taking cues from organic societies, even long dead ones, then that may put their psychology within reach.”
“Reaper behavior will remain computationally difficult to predict,” Gefyra pointed out. “Maximum likelihood estimates suggest that Reapers will choose salient attributes of their origin societies and extrapolate. Given Reaper compute power, they may derive conclusions that would not occur to a smaller mind.”
“I suppose that’s true,” T’Nassa said. “Still, I…” She suddenly noticed that Kaidan and Lam were focused elsewhere. She looked confusedly at Kaidan, whose brow was furrowed with worry as he watched Shepard. Who was still typing, and who had not once looked up from his datapad since sitting down at the conference table.
“Shepard?” Kaidan asked. “What’s going on?”
“Major Alenko,” Joker’s voice cut in, “we have Admiral Hackett on the line. Sounds urgent.”
“Put him through, Joker. This is Alenko.”
“Normandy, what the hell is going on?” Hackett’s voice cut in.
“Our Earth labs have massive Reaper infections in their computer systems. We’re not yet sure what the target is, but you’re the infection source.”
Kaidan looked over at his partner and paled. “Shepard… put down the datapad.”
Shepard continued typing into the datapad as if Kaidan hadn’t spoken.
“I’ve cut off Shepard’s network access,” Normandy said.
“No,” Shepard said, continuing to type.
“I am now under attack,” Normandy said.
“Alenko, report, what the hell is going on up there?”
Kaidan, who had leapt up from his chair and wheeled around the conference table, yanked the datapad out of Shepard’s hands. “John, stop.”
Shepard looked up at Kaidan. After a few seconds of disorientation, he asked, “Kaidan? What’s going on?”
“Major, the datapad,” Normandy said. “The attack is still underway.”
Kaidan looked down at the datapad with a look of determination, then flung it across the room with a biotic surge. The pad shattered against the wall.
“Alenko? Alenko? Report, Major!”
“Sorry, Admiral, we’re still sorting things out. Shepard just came out of some sort of fugue state. He was the source of the attack.”
“Does this have to do with the episode with Bucharu?”
“It must, sir.”
“Friendly neighborhood Reaper, my ass. Keep Shepard confined to quarters, no network access. That’s an order. Hackett out.”
David Archer looked up from his terminal and in the direction of Sofía Flores. Specifically, a spot about 2 feet to the left of Sofía’s face, which was as close as he was comfortable with. “Is the attack over?” he asked.
“We’re still trying to eradicate the infection,” Sofía said. “But yeah, the active attack is over.”
David’s terminal flashed with hexadecimal data. He turned to stare at it for a moment, then understanding filled him. “The infection says hello,” he said, pointing at his terminal.
“How are you feeling,” Kaidan asked, carrying a tray of food into the Captain’s Cabin.
“I’m fine,” Shepard said. He was sitting on the bed, playing with Boo in a nest of blankets. “Other than wondering when I’m going to turn into a Reaper, I mean.”
“John, you… you’re not going to turn into a Reaper,” Kaidan said, not quite managing to sound like he believed it himself.
“No?” he asked glumly. “Then what was this morning?”
Kaidan made a deep sigh. “I admit… it looks bad.”
“Tell me about it,” Shepard said. Boo scurried up Shepard’s sleeve and perched on his shoulder, sniffing his ear. Shepard returned the gesture with an affectionate finger rub.
“C’mon,” Kaidan said, nodding his head toward the tray of food. “Put Boo away and have dinner.”
Shepard sighed. “Alright. C’mon Boo, playtime is over.”