Deviantart Showcase, October 2016: ‘Break Through’

 break_through_by_nelleke-d9y2j01

Was this taken on Earth?
Well, of course it was.  What could say Earth more clearly than such a picture? But it hardly seems to be the mundane earth we trod through so carelessly every day.  Glorfindel should ride round that corner.  Who knows what might be found dancing amongst those trees.  Here is such laughing splendor of gold and green.  Here is such a profusion of life and glory of light and and rich suggestion of earthy depth below.  Some other world – not in the sense people often use that term, not a lesser, littler, wispier world, but a greater deeper, richer world.  It is one of the greatest things art can do to remind us that our ‘mundane earth’ is in fact that rich and glorious world. (And perhaps to wake our minds to a world deeper yet … but that’s beyond the scope of this piece.)  ‘Break Through’, by Nelleke – for me at any rate – does this beautifully.
There are a great many ‘forest’ photographs on Deviantart, many of which are marvelous.  But I do not know that any have quite such rich resplendence of life or such light – at once glorious and subtle – as Nelleke’s photographs do.  When looking through her gallery, one scarcely knows where to turn, for not just the beautiful – but the exquisite lies on every hand.

The primary note that her gallery leaves me with is the lush verdancy of summer woods, half-hidden clearings and sheltered lanes. But there is in truth great variety in her work, even – in contrast to ‘Break Through’ – some which capture chillingly wide-windswept bleakness, with its own kind of stark beauty.

scottish_reflections_by_nelleke-d9o9hdw

    ‘Scottish Reflections’ chief feature seems to me to be the great expanse of open air.  The trees and the scarf of fog are far away.  It sits almost strangely in the gallery, far less inviting than the woodlands which surround it.  Yet it is stunning.  One seems to draw a deep breath of cool air when one looks into it; it seems so present.  It seems like one could skim across that lake, towards those valleys, the distance seems so real.

She also has some amazing ‘conceptual’ works often containing little more than a hand in light.  Yet somehow, they too burst with the fantastical.  (She doesn’t sell prints on deviantart, but she does sell some on a separate website🙂

    When all is said and done, I believe her main note is also the best; perhaps simply because no cityscape, no bleak moor can compete in beauty or richness with the woodland. Though more of us now live in cities than woods, the woods are in some ways more our place than the environments we have made ourselves.  ‘Break Through’ may not be Nelleke’s best work, but I believe it is one of the best works on Deviantart.  I want to run down that road, and I want to linger amongst the ferns in that shaft of golden light.
(This showcase is also featured on The Art Spot.)
Art Criticism by Charlotte Ann Kent

What is Mary Watson up To?

mary
(An attempted analysis of ‘Mary Situation’ left us in ‘His Last Vow’ the 9th episode in the BBC ‘Sherlock series’.  I don’t recommend that you proceed unless you have seen seasons 1 – 3.)
The question as to what is really going on with Mary Elizabeth Watson (aka Morstan, aka A.G.R.A.), whether the revelation of “His Last Vow” has in fact left us with a true understanding of the situation, or whether there are still plots and villainies on her part yet to be revealed, has been much talked about. We could of course go over all three episodes which include her, analyse dialogue and facial expression, investigate her (and Sherlock’s, and Mycroft’s, and John’s) every move, look for apparent inconsistencies and double-meanings, and postulate all kinds of theories. And that might make sense to do. But I’m going to try something simpler at the moment.  Setting aside all these observations and postulations, I will see if I can reduce the problem to the simplest terms that I can see.  What options are possible?  I see four options we can look at. One: Mary is in fact as she has been revealed to be, there is no plot, no underhanded motives, she’s just an unscrupulous woman with a dark past who happens to have fallen madly in love with John Watson. Two: Mary is still lying, and has some kind of plot going on, but Sherlock Holmes and John Watson do not realize it. Three: Mary has such a plot, and Sherlock knows, but he has not told John. Four: Mary has a plot, and Sherlock and John both secretly know about it. And technically, to fully cover the matter, I have to list a fifth option (however ridiculous): There is a plot, and John knows about but Sherlock doesn’t. As far as I can see, any possible scenario would HAVE to fit under one of these five categories.
One – Mary is as she now appears. 
Lots of people don’t buy this. And they do have a point. Intentionally shooting Sherlock Holmes is a very understandable reason to look at everything a person says or does with suspicion. I highly suspect her of not being what most of us would be inclined to call a very ‘good person’. But that does not in the slightest make her story implausible, or provide anything resembling proof of there being ulterior motives behind her actions. While I strongly disapprove of her behavior, I can see no actual proof at this point that this is not the case.  It seems in any case, to be quite possible.
Two – Mary has a plot, but Sherlock doesn’t realize it
I suppose that is not beyond the power of the human imagination to invent a scenario where this would be possible. However, it is so immensely improbable that I should call it a practical impossibility, and I should have a very hard time ‘buying’ it if it were in fact to happen. Sherlock was betrayed and shot by someone he counted a friend, and so naturally, he applied himself to an investigation of them. That under such circumstances, he – Sherlock Holmes – could overlook a plot in action, is not believable. (And as a side note, if there is a plot, it cannot possibly center around Sherlock Holmes. She passed up what we can only imagine were countless chances to kill or otherwise injure Sherlock – so it couldn’t be a plot to kill him or make him miserable. Then, during a chance meeting which it is impossible that she could have planned, she made a spur of the moment decision to shoot him – so it could not be a plot which consisted of long term spying on him. If there is a plot, it looks as though Sherlock himself is totally irrelevant to it.)
Three – Mary has a plot and Sherlock knows but John doesn’t. 
We all know that Sherlock is perfectly willing to keep John in the dark on all sorts of matters. He does it all the time, and sometimes about very serious things. But I cannot see that happening in this particular case. Sherlock went through no small amount of effort and pain to make sure John knew about the shooting, to see that he heard it from Mary’s own lips, to show him precisely what it was that he had married. That he would have put both John and himself through such pain, and then not bothered to tell him the whole story – tell him the most important part – is preposterous. But not only did he not tell John there was a plot, he actively encouraged John to reconcile with her, just this time with open eyes and a full awareness of just who and what he had chosen to love. It is true that there have been times that Sherlock has tricked John into believing a falsehood so that John can more effectively convince the villain of it. But quite simply, I don’t think that Sherlock would do that to John here. He may have missed the fact that he was John’s best friend, but he understands perfectly well that Mary is John’s beloved. And in any case, he would not leave John in the hands of a woman who he thought couldn’t be trusted with him. Yet leave them together, he did. He was leaving at the end of the episode, and rather than warning John to get away from her before her plot became ripe, he bequeathed the care of John to her, and left them standing hand in hand. I cannot see Sherlock distrusting her intentions, and yet letting this happen.
Four – Mary has a plot, and Sherlock and John both know it. 
Plainly, I don’t think John could, I don’t think John would, do that to his wife. I could see him leaving her forever over the matter. I could see him letting that event turn his love to hatred. I cannot see him pretending to forgive her. He could not do that, and remain the man who we know. It would be an out-of-character act on a monumentally grand scale. Furthermore, even if he were to attempt it, he does not have the skill set to allow him to do so. He simply couldn’t keep up the pretense, he’s a terrible liar. (And for that matter, we’ve seen Sherlock use people shamelessly, but never extend a hand of friendship to someone when he is actually seeking to destroy them.) Also, this would seem to be directly contradicted by the content of His Last Vow. We repeatedly see Sherlock and John talking about Mary with no witnesses present, and we there is absolutely no sign of this. / When the only other conscious person in the building is Bill Wiggins – John: “Did you just drug my pregnant wife?!” _ Sherlock: “Don’t worry. Wiggins is an excellent chemist.” / When the two of them are standing alone in a field – Sherlock: “Want your wife to be safe?” _ John: “Yeah, of course, I do!” / When they are standing on Magnussen’s porch, surrounded by police, but in the presence of loud machinery, Sherlock’s: “Give my love to Mary. Tell her she’s safe now.” / And when they were saying goodbye, plots and plans were never mentioned, Sherlock just jested and asked John to name his and Mary’s daughter after him. Magnussen’s infliction of petty cruelties on John (and hence on Sherlock) was only made possible by the fact Sherlock and John were trying to protect her. If they were counter-plotting against her, this would just not happen.
Five – Mary has a plot, and John realizes it, but Sherlock doesn’t. I think we can all agree that this doesn’t even need discussed.
Conclusion. Option one is open to suspicion.  But options two, three, four, (and five) seem to be practical impossibilties.  I do make the disclaimer that the BBC can technically do whatever they like with their series, in whatever defiance of logic, consistency, and character that they like. … But so far, they’ve proved themselves far too competent to do so.
When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains must be the truth.
And if I may go meta for a minute, the name of the episode is His Last Vow. Sherlock’s vow was to be there ‘for all three of them … whatever happens’. What is that episode, but precisely that? … The very name of the story seems to preclude all the plotting and counter-plotting I’ve seen suggested.
Therefore, primarily by the process of elimination, I conclude that Mary Watson does not have a evil plot going on.
What do you think is going on with Mary?  Tell us below in the comments!
Sherlock criticism by Charlotte Ann Kent

The Song of the Shepard: Canto 1 ~ The Attack Upon Eden Prime

Unknown Threat by Orioto
© Bioware  –  Introduction
~ Stanza 1· The Departure of the SSV Normandy ~

Above the warmth of air we rise
Through the frosty turbulent skies
To where the blaze of heat and light
Clashes with black in the roofless heights.
Our ship is new, her lines are clean
The crew is eager to fly
Before us is Space, the seen and unseen
In the untold depths of the sky.
We leave Earth behind – we’re out past the moon.
We turn the ship’s prow from the Sun’s golden noon
And sail, sail away more fleet than a ray
Of that glorious, brilliant, ancient day.

We’re embarked on our vessel’s maiden flight,
Her first dive to the deep night’s sea.
A shakedown run for the young prototype,
The stealth frigate Normandy.
She’s set for a colony claimed by mankind
Renowned for its beauty, called Eden Prime.
I’ve worked on the moon and I’ve put by on Mars.
I’ve walked other planets, around distant stars
My boot has marked lands where no human has dwelt
I’ve trained among alien asteroid belts
From my youth starships have been my home.
And they still are now that I am grown.
For proudly I tread where my parents trod
An Alliance marine, before man, before God.
For ten years I’ve guarded and fought and served
And many have heard the name Rosamund Shepard.
But though I’ve seen much in my thirty-years time
I’ve never set foot on fair Eden Prime.

Pluto the frozen looms up and goes by,
We’ve dropped out of light speed. The Mass Relay’s nigh.
I tread the command deck up to the bridge.
The Relay’s ahead; it pulses, glows
A huge black curve and a whirligig
Spinning, spinning, juxtaposed
Across the speckled field of night
Swiftly drawing huger, near.
Work of an ancient massive might.
The stations call. ‘All go! We’re clear!’
And the Normandy dives to the light.

~ Stanza 2 · The Pilot, the Co-pilot, and the Council-Spectre ~

A billion miles from our former place
We come to rest in the calm of space.
Off the bow is sweet riot of black and light.
From the bow, gulfs of glory blaze clear to my sight.
The constellations are different from here.
Greater the bright Milky Way appears.
Far off there burns a sparkle of green,
Eden Prime reflecting an alien sun’s beams.
Joker, the pilot, leans back in his chair
With a smug little grin and a triumphant flair.
Beside me stands a tall grim Turian.
Nihlus he’s called, a rust faced alien,
A member of an allied race
And an agent of the Council of civilized space.
I’m accounted tall, for a daughter of men
But I stand barely up to his mandibled chin.
Armour sheathes his wasp-like waist
His face is covered in natural plates
Which are splashed with war-paint in bold white stripes
And jab back from his temples in sword-like spikes.
He reported to the captain while we were ashore.
But I’ve not been told why a Spectre’s on board.
He nods at the pilot magnanimously.
‘That was quite good for a relay leap.
It will please your captain.’
He turns and goes.
His footfalls fade to mere echoes,
Joker grumbles and mutters:
‘I hate that guy.’
And turns to the helm, his fuzzy face wry.
The co-pilot beside him, Lieutenant Alenko
(A marine like myself; dark-haired, sturdy fellow)
Glances up from his work from the second helm station.
‘Nihlus gave you a compliment, so … you hate him?’
I hear the two of them debating our guest,
Only half listening, my mind’s on our quest.
And my eyes are on the green sparkle ahead.
Though Joker has left what Nihlus said,
(That leap was “incredible” not just “good”)
And has now declared the guy’s up-to-no-good.
He doesn’t trust Turians or those agents the Spectres
And elaborates this in a portent projecture.
While Alenko counters we have no sound reason
To accuse the stern Nihlus of ill-will or treason.
(The Turians helped us design this new frigate.
And Citadel Council would of course ask to see it.)
Over the com, a deep voice is heard:
‘Commander Rosamund Shepard?’
I hear my Captain call my name,
Anderson, my father’s friend, of great and well won fame.
His voice is serious, almost grim
As he summons me down to speak with him.
I wonder aloud whence comes his gravity,
The source is more than I can see.
The pilot shrugs and resettles his hat.
‘Oh, Captain Anderson? He just sounds like that.’
Alenko half smiles, I hear him aver:
‘That’s just when he’s talking to you, Joker.’

~ Stanza 3 · Distress Call ~

Down in the com-room, Nihlus stands alone
A strange and fearsome figure, clothed in living bone.
He turns to greet me with words smooth and fair,
Hissing through his lipless mouth, in the quiet air.
Mere light pleasantries his speech seems to be,
Small inquiries and praise o’er the Eden Prime colony.
But his manner is probing, of what I can’t tell.
Not of that colony. I don’t know it well.
He turns to another; Elysium,
And the day when Batarian pirates had come.
It’s me that he’s probing. That day is well known.
I was there. I rallied resistance alone
And led colony’s folk in defence.
Til the Alliance sent reinforcements.
But what significance does the tale hold for Nihlus?
He is coolly but quite clearly curious.
As we converse he watches appraisingly.
I wonder, what must a Turian see?
I am called beautiful among my own race
Stalwart of bearing, fine-featured of face.
But to Nihlus, how shelless my pale skin must seem
How little beside him, and stocky, I deem.
How strange my soft curtain of short crimson hair
Must look to a head so horny and bare.
As we speak, firm steps sound down the corridor.
Captain David Anderson strides in the door.
His strong frame is tall, his brown face is dark.
On his blue uniform, bright medals spark.
A red stripe runs down to his wrist from his shoulder,
The uniform mark of an N7 soldier,
The toughest within the Alliance Fleet.
I too wear the stripe, though I’ve not yet his feats.
He tells me our shakedown run’s only a cover.
The SSV Normandy’s been sent to recover
An intact Prothean beacon from Eden Prime.
No greater discovery’s been made in our time.
‘Its big, Shepard, big. Most seen for many lives.
There’s been none bigger since the Mars archives.’
What this might do for our technology…’
Now Nihlus’s presence is clear to me.
The Protheans were an an alien race
Whose crumbling monuments are seen across space
The first humans found were those archives on Mars
Through them we learned how to fly to the stars
With the mass effect principle which draws on dark energy
By sending a calculate stream of electricity
Through element zero, a substance strange
Which seems to exist between the two planes.
And thus for a little, a lot is returned
And greatly less fuel does a ship have to burn
To accelerate up past the speed of light.
Thus the Protheans taught us FTL flight.
(This element’s a fair but a dangerous thing
Many have died from its touch.
And yet, when it imprints on young human cells
It teaches them that which it knows itself
Those that live can themselves do as much.
The mass effect principle in living form
Biotics they call them. Thus, was I born.)
Some Prothean relics in deep space lurk.
They say that the whole Relay system’s their work.
And built of the same massive workmanship
Is the great Citadel where the Council sits.
But rarely we find ought else intact.
A working com beacon? I’ve not heard of that.
Of course the Council sent out a Spectre
He’s here to protect it. It’s quite past conjecture.

Over the com speakers, Joker’s voice chimes.
‘Captain! Com-link from Eden Prime!’
On the opposite wall a screen lights up.
In the quiet room gunfire erupts.
A man is shouting they’re under attack.
He stumbles and falls and does not come back.
Now only sky can we see on the screen,
Red turbulent clouds like I’ve never seen.
And darkly through them, like a great fingered hand
There reaches a shape grasping out toward the land.
Nihlus, the captain, and I breathless watch
As it slides through the sky.
The signal is lost.
‘Well’ says Anderson, ‘this changes things.
Suit up, Commander! Let your feet grow wings.
I will summon Alenko and Jenkins.
Heaven and Earth – what was that thing?’

~ Stanza 4 · Colony Approach ~

Armoured in black, gloved, booted, and armed
I report to the bay to the sound of alarms.
Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko – he from the bridge,
In quiet stone green armour
And eager Rich Jenkins – worked-up just a smidge,
Swinging a rifle on his shoulder,
Are ready; two sturdy, bold Marines.
We three make a standard Alliance recon-team.
Jenkins once lived here, some years before
And scarce seems to believe that below there is war.
He’s anxious to get there and join in the fight
Yet he seems too buoyant, too sure its alright.
We’re coming in close for the door opens in.
The captain raises his voice o’er the wind,
Tells us where to find the beacon dig-site
And tells to get there, go not left nor right.
‘But what about survivors, Captain?’
Alenko’s rough voice calls the question.
‘That beacon is your top priority!
It must not fall to the hands of an enemy!
I’ve sent for help. It will here soon.
Get in. Stay low. And secure that beacon.
It’s probably the target. Understood?’
‘Yes, Sir!’ I say.
I know full well that should
A foe be the one to gain the new knowledge
All of our colonies would lose an edge.
‘Approaching the drop zone!’ Joker tells us.
‘Hey, Nihlus!’ calls Jenkins ‘You coming with us?’
Out of the shadows the Turian comes,
With a feline grace. He shoulders his gun.
‘I move faster alone.’ he says.
And is gone,
Empty and bare is the hatch he stood on.
The Normandy’s slowed and swooped down low.
My squad leaps out to the ground below.

~ Stanza 5 · Death in Eden Prime ~

She’s gone, and we stand in a vast and lovely land.
Below us stretch away rich rolling ploughed lands.
Behind us rough crags, red in the low light
Rise up crowned with leaves, to steep, lofty height.
A sharp distant bark of crackling gunfire
Shatters the evening, makes the calm scene a liar.
Our prototype stealth ship swooped quietly
Under the ridge, dropped us off in the valley
Away from the gaze of enemy eyes
And whatever that was looming large in the skies.
But just over the ridge, just out of our sight
Lies the colony centre, and a terrible fight.
Quickly we climb through bramble and tree.
I look to the skies, but no dark shape I see.
As we pass through a green and mossy dell
A large form moves, which I cannot see well.
It floats from the brush, a lumpish grey mass.
Two of us startle, but Jenkins laughs.
‘They call ‘em “gas-bags”. They aren’t any harm.’
I lower the gun I have raised in alarm.
He’s right, the thing ambles – or drifts – right by.
Scarcely noticing we three passers-by.
Still chuckling he trots ahead, to the next bend.
‘It’s clear.’
And he goes.
We hear the air rend.
We seize our weapons, break into a run,
Dash to the corner. But we see no one.
In the air, by a ledge, a tiny globe hovers
Dipping and whirring, behind follow others.
We let loose a volley of gunfire pale.
We lash and we hurl them across the steep vale,
With forces unleashed from our empty hands
In streams of blue light, fierce swift-streaking strands,
Seizing the drones in strong scintillating fields
Biting right through the shell of their shields.
For Alenko and I are biotics both
And we throw down the drones to the undergrowth.
Their blasts fly about us, some find a mark.
Hot plasma against my biotic field sparks.
Though I stagger beneath the force of the blow,
I am untouched, protected below.
When the last globe burns and falls to the ground.
We call out for Jenkins and look all around.

At the foot of the slope lies a silent form, grey
We reach for our omni-tools, run down, and assay
To render him aid. But he’s far and gone.
Red is the stony bank he lies on.
Alenko stares down at the man on the rock
His white face is filled with what seems to be shock.
I know that ere now he’s seen battle and war
But his voice has grown smaller than it was before.
‘He didn’t have time to put up his shields.
He hadn’t a chance!’
Life’s blood soaks the field.
‘Sometimes soldiers die. You have to go on.’
I seek to rouse him, we have to be gone.
He nods, mumbles ‘Yes, Ma’am’, and raises his head.
We stow our omni-tools and leave the dead.

~ Stanza 6 · The Gunnery-Chief ~

Onward, quickly, the dig-site is near.
Distant crashing and shouting and gunfire I hear.
Then close, through a thicket, harsh shots ring out.
Gleaming steel figures leap all about.
A lone human woman, swift, pink, and white,
Is running and shooting in outnumbered fight.
Without a word we abandon the path.
Through brambles and briars and boulders we crash.
Strange vining plants tangle round ankles and heads
Alenko rips free and plows on ahead.
For a moment I see him burning blue
Hear the crack of his gun, see his shots fire true.
See the light from his hands hurl the Geth to the cliffs
And then I’m beside him. The outcome is swift.
The lone woman turns to us, panting and worn,
Her tall form is straight, her armour is torn.
She thanks us in tones both martial and warm
Her face speaks of woes she’s had no time to mourn.
Her enemies scattered about on the ground,
Are robotic bipedals, lean as bloodhounds.
Those long curving heads … I recognize “Geth”.
I’ve never met one, but I know they bring death.
They’ve never been seen out in human space,
And why they’re here now in this quiet place…
I turn to the woman, her story is brief.
‘My name’s Ashley Williams, Gunnery-Chief.
My unit is dead, wiped out by the Geth.
They’re here coming after our beacon, I bet.
Well, I’m after it too! It’s just to the south.’
She’s calm and collected, I see she has nous.

~ Stanza 7 · The Prothean Dig Site ~

We three go on, to the lip of a dell,
A deep rounded hollow, it’s paths travelled well.
Down at the dig-site, the sun’s ray are gone
And the darkness of evening is quite far along.
The gleam and clang of a swift metal body
Slick sterilized white, shiny and gaudy,
And a Geth and more move in the shadow and stones.
The tread of their feet is like breaking of bones.
Alenko’s bright omnitool flashes,
Overloading their circuitry
His gleaming biotic force lashes
The Geth at velocity.
Williams is not a biotic
But boy can she handle a gun!
Deadly and sharp, far beyond quick
Quick and knows which way to run
My biotic warp fields crumble the Geth
Had they been alive, they would now know death.
Unliving, unbreathing, insensate steel!
They do not live so they can’t die … or feel.
We came on them swiftly from out of the dusk
We saw them plain, but they never saw us.
They fall in the twilight down on rugged stone
And we three marines are left here alone.
We look for the beacon, but see it not.
We spread out grimly and search through the spot.
‘It was here. Been moved. By us I hope.’
Williams calls out from low on the slope.
Nihlus calls me over the com.
He thinks it’s been moved and may not be gone,
But rather conveyed to the near-by space-port,
Prepared for the Normandy’s awaited report.
He says he’ll be waiting at a tram nearby,
Tells us to be ready, but doesn’t say why.

~ Stanza 8 · The Valley of the Shadow of Death ~

Back out of the hollow, into the sun,
We take the main path from the site at a run.
Around the bend and down an avenue
The valley and sky open up to our view.
‘What is that?!’
Hanging above the broad verdant vale
As big as the ridge where we stand on the trail
Gleaming and flashing long arms of black
Sending out lightning across its huge back
Is the distant dark shape I saw in the sky.
It looms o’er the world, all’s darkened thereby.
It’s fingers or tentacles reach toward the ground.
The air is filled with a terrible sound.
‘That is the biggest ship I’ve ever seen!’
Williams exclaims as we leave the ravine.
But is it a ship?
Alenko asked well.
It’s more like a creature.
Come up out of Hell.
Down the hillside out on the plain,
Buildings and roads cross o’er the terrain.
I see the tram station, like Nihlus said,
But I see no one living – yet many dead.
One gunshot rings out. One. Close at hand.
No answer follows. A car leaves the tram.
We start down the slope, I see movement below
Dim figures running, no loping – No …
I cannot believe what I’m seeing here.
My companions’ eyes have grown large with fear.
These are humans, were humans, are not anymore.
What devilry’s been here? What act of war…?
The things swarm up the hillside, blind objects thrown
Unnaturally, without will of their own,
Stumbling and lurching … and searching, I’m sure.
They crash into our cover, and we see what they’re for.

I call ‘Open fire!’ with pity and dread.
And the three of us mow down the horde of the dead.
We’ve no words to say. What can there be said?
But I stop, ere we go, to make sure that the dead
Are cold and mere corpses and not something worse.
It’s not. They were dead. It’s a tactic perverse.
The blackness hangs still in the sky like a curse.

~ Stanza 9 · Betrayed ~

We go on. Down the slope. To the station below.
Farther down into this valley of woe.
The station seems emptied of even the dead
Silent and lifeless, I hope some have fled!
‘Nihlus!’ I call.
My voices echoes unanswered.
The Spectre comes not, and says not a word.
But near the tram, a lone figure lies,
A Turian, armoured in familiar guise.
Alenko goes to him, but we’ve come too late.
He was shot from behind, close quarters. Checkmate.
What out-spectred a Spectre? So close yet no doubt?
‘Look there! Something’s moving!’ Williams calls out.
A man, living, breathing, has appeared near the rail.
There’s something yet living in this dreadful vale!
‘The other one killed him.’
Says he who’s alive.
‘Did you see what happened! How did you survive?’
‘Well I was sleeping, or, catching a nap
Where the boss couldn’t see me, back there in the gap.
When the real fighting started, well, I just stayed back.’
‘So you lived because you’re a coward and slack!’
Williams’ voice pierces the heavy red air.
The man shrinks away from the blaze of her stare.
I look at her, bearing the marks of her fight
Faced down alone, with her sole, single might.
And I think of the fellows that she’s left behind,
And I do not wonder her tone is unkind.
But I am just glad to see some have survived
If he has lived here, there’s many alive.
‘And what of the Turian, who has killed him?’
‘The other one; kinda tall, pale grey, and grim.
I think he knew him, he called him by name.
This one was all tense and ready to aim
Then he saw the other, and seemed to relax
Then they were talking and he turned his back.
He shot him, I don’t know, don’t ask me why.
Then he took off on the tram really spry.’
‘What name did he call him? What did you hear?’
‘Nihlus.’
‘The other.’
‘Oh, let me think here.
Saren, I think, no wait, I’m quite sure.
Saren Arc-something-or-other he were.
A really big fella, the colour of tin
With mean beady eyes, look out for him!’

~ Stanza 10 · Saren’s Command ~

We leave him and Nihlus and take the tram,
Out into the valley and over a dam,
Across broad green meadows and past walls of cream.
They said it was beautiful, it’s like a dream.
A dream and yet a nightmare beneath.
I see none of its folk but the Gunnery-Chief.
She stands beside me, stoic and grim,
No tears in her dark eyes or on her tanned skin.
Others live, surely, in hiding or flight
But I see no signs of still active fight.
And still in the clouds, broods the evil black thing
And through the air still, I hear that dull ring.
Far on the platform, I see white figures moving,
Not men, they’re Geth. I can’t tell what they’re doing.
Yet among them I see a lone living creature
It’s too far to make out specifics of feature
But he is Turian. That much is clear.
He strides right among them without hint of fear
And directs like a master or an overseer.
He’s gone before the tram comes near.
We give the Geth battle, those few who remain.
As we retake the platform I see in a drain,
A cylinder, blatantly out of place.
It’s little lights blink at a very fast pace.
I duck out of the firing, next to the drain.
An explosive, fit to light up the plain.
‘Lieutenant!’ I call.
Alenko ducks down.
I see that he sees what it is I have found.
‘Can you disarm it?’
He nods and takes over.
Williams and I stand by and give cover.
Whole precious moments slip by as he works.
Most Geth have pulled off, but still a few lurk
Near corners and ledges sniping at will.
I’m surprised that they’re hanging around here still.
‘Got it, Commander! This one’s disarmed.’
‘This one?!’
‘There’s four, synced together and armed.
We’ve got minutes to find them, we have to move now!
I’ve got leads on them, we’ll get them somehow.’

~ Stanza 11 · Battle of the Space Port ~

We run through deserted, sun-lit ramparts,
After the signal his omni-tool charts.
The beacon’s forgotten, or nearly so,
I guess it is now in the hands of the foe.
Yet the colony still can be partly saved,
There’s people alive here, where roads are paved.
And many more farther, out in the rural lands.
But these huge bombs will turn meadows to sands.
The plains, and the ridges, the sweet mossy dells
Infernos will crumble them into a hell.
We disarm two more, but we’re searching too long!
Then, on a causeway we’re running along
We see farther down, where the last bomb lies,
It’s little lights blinking like small evil eyes.
The Geth rise up from behind the bulwarks,
The heat of their bolts turns concrete to sparks.
We gain ground, too slowly, dodging cover to cover.
Enough! Lose this chance and we get no other!
I strengthen my barrier and charge down the road,
The two marines at my side.
We clash with the Geth. They crash and explode.
Our shields shudder but they stem the tide.
We drive our foes back and duck into cover
Right near the explosive, our strength near over.
Beside me stands Williams. We hold the Geth back,
Alenko’s crouched down and turned his green back
On the battle beside him, the fury and fire
Working as though he did not hear their ire.
His brown fingers flash and his omni-tool whirs.
Over his set brow his dark hair is stirred
By the wind that throws up the dust from the fray.
Hurls it in our eyes and throws it away.
Williams’ assault-rifle and my shotgun
Cry out like mad hounds in the fast sinking sun.
‘It’s done!’He leaps up, and hurls blue at the foe.
The moments tick by, but the bombs do not blow.
It’s the Geth that collapse, they fall, move no more.
Just then I notice, I don’t hear the roar.
The sky has grown clear. The blackness is gone.
It’s only the soft red of sunset – halcyon.

~ Stanza 12 · The Beacon ~

We head back through the space-port, searching the platforms
Though the beacon must surely have long since been borne
Away in the hands of the marauding Geth
Must surely now be in that black hulk of death.
And yet, on a deck, a tall pillar stands,
As if, untouched by enemy hands,
It sits unhurt, and waiting for us,
Humming and greenly luminous.
It is the beacon. Williams confirms it
But she is puzzled, it didn’t emit
A light or a sound when it was first found.
Before it sat quiet and still on the ground.
Like polar aurora, pulsing, singing
The light dances up its cone, emblazoning
Dark steel with flickering green, mesmerizing.
The sound seems to grow, a low murmuring.
I shrug, turn away, and open my com,
To call to the Captain that all is now calm.
Alenko still watches as I pass by,
Strong curiosity in his brown eyes.
The thing is lovely, strange, and old.
For this, he has fought and Jenkins lies cold.
I contact the ship, get Joker on-line,
Tell him the beacon still seems to be fine.
Movement catches my notice-
‘Alenko!’
He struggles as though in a strong under-tow.
It’s dragging him towards the glimmering beacon
Seizing him fiercely, he seems to be weakened.
Over the deck, towards the beacon, toward him
I dash and I shout, the light has grown dim.
His planted heels slip and his hands find no grip.
The humming grows louder. His booted feet trip.
I leap and I grasp him. The beacon grasps me.
A moment I wrangle, then hurl him free.
He falls safe to the deck, crumples down to the ground.
But the beacon still drags me, it twists me around.
Glimmering, shimmering – it won’t let go.
My feet leave the ground, I seem to be falling
Darkening, thundering – cruel shrieks of woe
Though them I hear my two comrades calling:
‘Shepard!’
He cries. She shouts:
‘Lieutenant! No!’
The sounds of their struggle fade from my ears.
Sights fill my eyes like the shooting of spears.
Fire and darkness. Silence and screams.
Foreign eyes sparkless. Death swarms in reams.
Shattering, blackening, gathering dark.
Light flickers feeble, crush of the spark.
Faltering, smouldering, perishing, gone.
Raging untrammelled. Dark steals the dawn.
Dimly I know that I’m still in the air
Above a space dock on an evening fair.
But this blast seems quite real, not like before.
I’m thrown to the deck and I know no more.

Canto 2 ~ The Citadel ⇒

eden_prime_by_celyntheraven-d7pxkfj-copy

Mass Effect Poetry by Charlotte Ann Kent

Reflection on the Concept of a Free State

american-flag-3
All forms of government can be divided roughly into slave states and free states. The slave state is a state where the people are there to serve the government. A free state is a state where the government is there to serve the people. Of course, very rarely (if ever) does a pure example of either exist.
The function of a free state rests somewhere between two extremes which I shall refer to as the libertarian and the socialist. The terms are imperfect and heavily weighted, but they shall have to do for now. The extreme which I refer to as ‘libertarian’ is where the government serves the people by leaving them alone. And the extreme I refer to as ‘socialist’ is where the government serves the people by doing things for them. The bill of rights and the absence of unnecessary government functions are examples of the first. Criminal law and public roads are examples of the second. Every free state must rest somewhere between these two ideas.
If the government swings too far to the libertarian extreme, it becomes totally absent and ceases to be a government at all. Then, in the absence of a free state, predatory forces have full leave to create their own ‘slave states’ (be these military, criminal, or economic). There is no protection against them, for there is no longer any state.
If the government swings too far to the socialist extreme, everything comes under the purview of the government, and once again, the people cease to be free. This government may ostensibly still be doing all these things ‘for the people’, but in reality the people become mere cogs to serve the functions of a ravenous bureaucracy.
Both the idea of leaving the people alone, and the idea of serving them, carried to their extremes, result in the loss of the free state. Without the ‘socialist’ element, it is not a state. Without the ‘libertarian’ it is not free.
A free state lies in maintaining that balance.
Political Commentary by Charlotte Ann Kent