The Song of the Shepard: Canto 3 ~ The Search in Artemis Tau


 ⇐ Canto 2 ~ © Bioware  ~  Introduction
~ Stanza 1 · The Strike Team ~

Artemis Tau is a cluster of stars,
Middled aged stars, hot, pulsing red stars.
They glow in the distance like apricot moons,
Blazing unceasing in unfading noons.
The Artemis dust cloud, hanging in space
Glows like a tapestry red-gold with lace,
Half hiding the blaze of the great Milky Way
Returning the light of Artemis’ day.
Somewhere within this shining expanse
Is the only child of our foe’s confidant.
Whether Dr. T’Soni is friend or foe
At this point in time, I really don’t know.
But I fear the use she could be to Saren
And I hope she knows her mother’s location.

The Normandy’s all that they said she would be,
Quiet and fast and quite hard to see.
She runs like a dream (I think Joker’s in love)
Her drive core hums like a cooing dove.
The crew sails her well with eager intentions.
But under the surface, there’s simmering tension.
Presley, the Navigator and new XO,
Is clearly unhappy but won’t tell me so.
Gunnery-Chief Williams however speaks straight.
She doesn’t trust our alien shipmates.
She doesn’t like that they are aboard.
She grates me with her suspicious, sharp words.
‘Will this be a problem in combat, Williams?
I need you to be able to work with them.’
‘No, Ma’am. It won’t be. I can rub by.
It’s a matter of safety, of info-leaks.
But you ask me to jump, and I say, “how high”?
And if – “kiss a Turian”, well then, “which cheek”?’
She looks at me straight with bold black eyes,
Unabashed in her notions but bright in reply.
‘Well, I doubt kissing Turians will be necessary.
I’ll try not to ask you for something that scary.’
Wrex is merc, that is very true.
I don’t trust him and sometimes I rue
The impulse which led me to bring him aboard
Yet this is his job and he’s known for his word.
He chills and cracks tales in the hold below,
Makes no sort of trouble, deals no foul blows.
Tali – the girl’s barely more than a kid
Sent out alone, and for nothing she did.
The Quarian’s have a rite of passage
Which they call merely the ‘Pilgrimage’
The Migrant Fleet leaves them, all on their own
To sink or to swim when they’re barely full grown.
Those who return and bring back something more
Than they started out with, are brought back aboard.
Tali assures me it need not be much
Just something to prove that you don’t need a crutch.
Her people are nomads, floating in space.
They built the Geth – that fell robot race.
Their servants revolted. They fought for their lives.
The battle was lost and they took to the skies.
So they float ever in rickety-ships

Pressed for resources, counting their chips.
I can’t help but smile and laugh when I see
How amazed the girl is by the Normandy.
She’s made herself useful. She’s a sharp engineer.
Chief Engineer Adams likes having her here.
And eager young Garrus, the Turian cop?
He has already fought beside me.
In the dim and grungy back-alley
Young Tali’s would-be assassin he dropped.
Garrus left C-Sec over this case,
Sick of the red-tape, the time gone to waste
Grieved for the unavenged victims defaced
Enraged by this Turian disgrace.
And he is as eager as any man here
To track down this criminal, this scourge of fear.
No! I have no fear for Garrus!
Unless it just might be
That in his righteous anxiousness
To do the rightful deeds,
In his single-minded focus
On preventing some injustice
He may trample heedless over something just as large
And, unthinking, towards some evil innocently charge.
In honest cheer, he mentions once:
‘That’s what I like about the spectres.
How did you do it? It shouldn’t matter.
As long as you get the job done!’
‘Not if it gets people hurt, Garrus.
We have leave to ignore the red tape.
But the “how” darn well better matter to us.
We do things right. Are we straight?’
But it was the right he was talking about!
And not letting hurt happen for bureaucrats’ doubts!
At least Alenko does not seem to mind
The presence among us of alien-kind.
He has concerns for the mission, true.
He thinks that we’re in a political brew,
And he doesn’t quite trust large organizations
With all their politics and limitations.
The Council, yes, and the Alliance too.
They can be corrupt, unwise, and untrue.
The current struggle for clout and positions
Might get in the way of this critical mission.
But on the plain topic of ‘aliens’,
He doesn’t seem to think ill of them
He doesn’t claim any special mistrust.
He says:
‘They’re jerks and they’re saints – like us.’
When a distress call draws us from our course
To barren Edolus where lies the weak source.
It’s Tali and Garrus I take down with me
Down in the truck to look round and see.

~ Stanza 2 · On the Sands of Edolus ~

The sky is the colour of mustard brew.
The cold ground beneath us could never construe
A fleck of good earth on its sharp barren slopes.
Sand trickles round us in hard wind-blown ropes.
In our truck, the “Mako”, we search fruitlessly
The Quarian, the Turian, and human me.
The site is bare rock, sand, poison wind
Though we scour the ground where the signal rings.
But there’s scattered equipment about in the dust
Rent, as if gnawed, and half eaten with rust.
I know it still, the marks are still clear.
A squad of Alliance marines died here.
The killer soon finds us, a huge snake-like beast
With a foul ringed maw, and limbs many pieced.
I take the wheel and Garrus the guns.
Tali just tries to make sure the truck runs.
Long we give battle on pallid grey sands
Between the dark hills in their tumbling bands.
But the killer is killed by the Mako’s hot blasts
And Garrus’ quick eyes and his clawed hand so fast.
The marines who died did not send the call.
It was set up before, they were lured to their fall.
We cannot discover who did it or why,
Who set it up to send cries to the sky.
One well placed shot blows the death trap away.
We contact the ship, and we fly away.
No travellers more will be lured to its hands
But never those men will return from the sands.

~ Stanza 3 · World of the Ancients ~

Therum was formed many ages ago,
From the hot iron rocks that round Knossos flowed
For aeons it bloomed and blossomed and grew
Peoples there flourished, who we never knew.
Long since it was emptied of rational nau,
A few marks still stand, surviving somehow,
Where the land has not changed to bury them,
Where the sea has not risen engulfing them,
Where the mountains rose not to break them in pieces
Where they fell not as prey to weather’s caprices.
It’s chiefly for these few crumbling ruins
That the planet is taken note of at all
Few things now grow there
Wizened and small.
An ancient world, drawn close to its sun,
A sad, empty world, it’s days near done.

We turn to the miner’s posts. They send back our hails.
But no Asari is told in their tales.
So to barren ruins we turn our gaze,
Scanning for signs in each far hidden maze
Of recent activity, working machines
Or signs of life other than sad native gleams.
In a dry northern region not far from the pole
In a volcanic region where few things are whole
A ruin exists, extensive and crumbled
With quite recent structures, built-up and jumbled.
No one answers our hails, yet there’s movement below
So through the thin atmosphere down the ship goes.
I assemble two teams to search through the ruin.
I take Alenko and Garrus Vakarian,
The second I place under Williams’ command,
Assigning her Tali and Wrex as her band,
The Quarian mechanic and the big Krogan merc.
Show me you can, Williams. Make this team work.
We drop off Squad Bravo in a densely packed stretch
To search it on foot, while my squad takes the rest.

~ Stanza 4 · Dust and Ash ~

Over a rippled and reddened landscape
Lit up with the glow of the rivers that drape
Their hot molten ore across the worn bluffs
The Mako rumbles and climbs through the dust.
We call through the hot, thin, but breathable air,
We scan for fresh footprints on weathered stairs.
Our infra-red scanners are no good at all.
Volcanic activity makes life-forms too small
To stand out on the background of radiant heat.
We look with our eyes, there’s no way to cheat.
The sky is dark with volcanic smoke.
When the wind’s from the north the air starts to choke.
Garrus keeps checking we don’t dehydrate
And bits of heat training he coolly relates.
As Kaidan Alenko wipes sweat from his brow,
He points out that at least the humidity’s low.
They march cheerfully, stoutly along by my side
Combing the ruin in the dust, heat, and dry.
As we drive out of a rugged ravine
Onto a plateau that’s ripped up and seamed
I glimpse swift bipedals of polymer steel
I hit the accelerator, grip tighter the wheel.
‘Bravo Squad! We have Geth! Watch your backs!’ I shout.
‘Garrus! The guns. Lieutenant, scanner readout.’
A missile blast streams past
Crashes a cliff.
Rock flies into the skies.
The ground shifts.
This was the movement. Seen far from the sky.
They’re here for T’Soni, as foes or allies.
Those blocking our path fall to Garrus’ sharp aim
And we swiftly keep on by the rivers of flame.

~ Stanza 5 · The Guard at the Stope ~

Shortly we come to a pass through a cliff
So small and so steep that the Mako can’t fit.
We leave the truck parked and slip into the rift
And climb between boulders that crumble and shift
Till we emerge on a broad rising slope
That leads to a open, wide miners’ stope,
A recent built shaft leading into the ground
With modern metals and platforms framed round.
But the open equipment shed before it…
Our omni-tools’ radar is picking up hits.
Forward we dash to the shed and take shelter
Amongst the equipment which lies helter-skelter.
Then from the dust beyond the platform.
On four mighty legs like a spider deformed
There rises a huge and terrible Geth
Nearly as broad as the low structure’s breadth.
Great plasma bolts fly from its fearful head
Where the bolts crash, crushed metal glows red.
The lesser Geth fall as they come on.
But deadly, unmoved is the one beyond.
I lean out of cover to take a shot.
One moment I’m there, the next I am not.
I’m on the ground. My barrier’s down.
My limbs are numb, head’s spinning around.
Through foggy eyes, unfocused and red
I realize a Geth is come, over my head.
Crack! The sound of a lone sniper rifle.
The sharp scent of medi-gel through the air’s stifle.
And a big Turian claw and a strong human hand
Lift me back to my feet, and I find I can stand.
Of the small Geth, not one soldier remains.
The one Garrus shot was the last to be slain.
But still the colossus, huge in the gloom,
Hunts in the twilight of volcanic fume.
The walls are scorched with the plasma blasts,
The abandoned equipment is pulverized, smashed.
But we can still hide, make it guess where we are.
We don’t have to guess, it’s seen from afar.
Shot after shot, hurled biotic fields,
Little by little, we wear down its shields,
Til our blows against bare metal lash
And the monster topples; a screeching crash.

We sink down on the rubble bleeding and dazed
Exhausted and bruised, relieved and amazed.
Smoke fumes up from the wreck of our foe
On hot blistering winds to the ash clouds it blows.
We apply first-aid before we go on
Sitting under the ramp where the dark stope yawns.
The medi-gel seals our burning gashes
Cools inflammation from forceful crashes
Refreshes, revives, and clears our sore heads.
We rise, lift our gear, and march on ahead.

The stope leads steeply into the ground
Echoes rattle away as our booted feet pound.
Lamps flash up before us, lighting the mine,
Flicker out as we pass, dark follows behind.

~ Stanza 6 · The Maiden in the Ruin ~

Long we search through the ancient rooms
Their purpose lost in endless glooms
Til deep in the maze far under the ground
Where clatter of rock is the only sound
I see in the distance a pale cool light
Beyond the orange lamps, in the long buried night.
We follow and come to a gap in the wall
That seems to be filled with a waterfall,
Translucent, impassable, softly it glows
Over our faces its rippling light flows.
Suspended within it, a blue maiden floats.
To us she calls in mellifluous notes.
‘Hello! Hello! Can you hear me out there?
Please help me, I’m trapped, I’ve been caught in a snare.’
Her face is young, like a blooming girl
Smoothly away her pert head-tails curl.
Her eyes are as blue and as round as the sky.
Her small, dainty hands are work-hardened and dry.
She is dressed in a slender tunic of green.
That face is the sweetest that I’ve ever seen.
‘We hear you!’ I call. ‘We’ll get you out.
But what is your name? What is this about?’
‘I’m just a researcher, Liara T’Soni.
This is an old Prothean piece of security.
I turned the field on to hold off the Geth.
But I did something wrong…’ she seems short of breath.
‘-This was probably meant to catch persons of doubt.
Now the Geth can’t get in, but I can’t get out.’
‘Can you tell me how to shut down the field?’
‘Yes, there’s a button. Just past this shield.
It’s out of my reach, over there on the wall.
But you can’t get through here, that’s no good at all.
And I know of no other passage but this.
I cannot direct you to paths in the darkness.
‘We’ll find one.’ I say. ‘Stay calm, you’ll get out.’
‘The Geth have been trying, searching about.
Be careful out there, there’s a Krogan who leads them.
The Geth may be deadly, but beware of him!’
I call to the ship, let them know she’s been found,
But we’ll be some time for she’s bound underground.
We leave the blue maiden floating alone
And take a dark path leading off through the stone.

~ Stanza 7 · Farther into the Mine ~

Back and forth along the line
Through the dark and dusty mine
We travel scanning for a road
To lead us back into the hold
But paths all turn and twist away
Or turn to dead ends far from day.
At times we encounter small troops of Geth
Combing the labyrinth, searching the depths.
That they have pursued her is beyond doubt.
Garrus halloos:
‘Hey, Shepard! Check this out.’
It’s an old mining laser left here to rust
It’s worn, out of power, and covered in dust.
But he thinks he can get it to wake up and run
(He likes to tinker, it’s useful and fun.)
The miners left power banks, as shown by the lights.
Alenko sets out to the upper heights
To divert the power, whatever is left
And bring it down to the drill in the cleft.
I with my omnitool sound out the halls
The sonar bleeps testing the depth of the walls
The three of us haul the drill through the dark
To the spot that I’ve found, and set off a spark.
Red blazes hot in the narrow space
The three of us spin round and swiftly race
Away from the crack of rock, shatters of stone
As the drill breaks apart the earth’s granite bones.
Then the scream peters out and the light fades away.
And we make our way back through the settling stone spray
Of splintered rock and choking hot dust.
The drill’s power’s gone, the reserves hadn’t much.
But a broken path lies through the bone of the ground.
The granite still rumbles; a strange shifting sound.
The opening of the tunnel is wide
The rock sizzles and cracks as we walk inside.
The heat’s like an oven but air’s rushing through
The hot and the cold turning it to a flue.
As we go on it gets filled with crushed rock
Till near the end the path’s almost blocked
A biotic blast and then some hand-work
The narrow way widens. We climb through the murk.

~ Stanza 8 · The Quake ~

In the blackness we search for an upward path
Climbing old stairwells half fallen and crashed,
Counting the levels and measuring the depth
Making sure that our sense of direction is kept.
Our only light is the lamps on our guns.
Now and again, the uncountable tons
Of granite above us, grumble and shake,
Slow growing tremors, minor earth-quakes.
Finally above us, we see the blue light
And climb the last stairwell, blinking in bright.
‘You made it!’
Her voice falls like dew on the grass.
‘I was afraid there might be no way past!’
‘We couldn’t find one. So we made one instead.’
‘Oh. That’s what that was. The crash was widespread.
That panel, right there. It should release me.’
I reach out to touch it, but Garrus stops me.
‘Hang on, Shepard! You sure we can trust her?
Her mother’s with Saren. Where does that leave her?’
‘I am not my mother!’ Liara cries.
‘I don’t know how she joined Saren or why!’
Her voice is indignant, her head is held high
Her hov’ring form quivers, and flash her blue eyes.
‘The Geth are clearly pursuing her, Garrus.
And even if not, I’d still have to chance it.’
A moment’s work and the shimmering blue field
Flickers outs and collapses, the doorway unseals.
Liara lands lightly on slippered toes
And turns to face us where our white lamp light glows.
‘Thank-you. It was so long in the dark and the silence
… And the eyes of the Geth. You’re with the Alliance?’
‘Yes. I’m Commander Rosamund Shepard.
We came to find you, I take it you’ve heard
Of your mother’s friend and the people he slew.
Do you know why his Geth have come after you?’
‘No I do not!’ She shudders, and then:
‘You don’t suppose that Benezia sent them?’
Alenko speaks calmly out to her
‘You are a well known Prothean researcher.
Saren is looking for the “Conduit”.
He probably wants you to help search for it.’
Before Liara can answer a word,
A louder rumble, crashing, is heard.
The ground starts to shake and the stone above cracks.
Shattered rock crashes about in the black.
We’ve triggered an earthquake while under the ground.
This place is unstable. It’s going to come down.
‘Let’s go! No more words!’
I sprint through the trap.
Behind me, the three run behind in the black.
Without the orange lights, the way is more deadly
We run with our lamps held aloft so we see
The myriad pitfalls, precipitous drops,
The fallen stone heaps in leg breaking blocks.
Over my com, I hear Joker calling.
I do not stop. I answer while running.
‘That volcano, Commander? It’s having a fit.
We’ve got to leave soon or we’re going to catch it!’
‘Squad Bravo’s aboard?’
‘Not yet, Commander.’
‘What’s held them up?! Go get them, Joker.
We’re on our way now. I’ll send our nav-point.
And the Mako is parked. Near the gorge. Just adjoint.
Pick it up and stand by. We’ll be there. Soon.’
‘Okay, Commander. But she’s not immune.’
“She” is the Normandy, our beautiful ship.
Joker sounds worried…
                                           Crack! The wall rips.
Stone slides and crashes to depths we just guess.
Light shines ahead through a doorway, lifeless.

~ Stanza 9 · Envoy of Saren ~

In the chamber before us many Geth stand.
Silent and waiting, a cold statue band.
Through their ranks stumps a hulking orange mass.
Geth slide aside, and slide back when it’s past.
‘Just hand the Asari over, Human.
Or don’t. If you’d rather. That’s lots more fun.’
The maiden beside me stands straight and stiff.
The chamber walls shudder, an ancient sill slips.
‘This place is collapsing.’ I shout. ‘We can’t fight!’
He oafishly chortles: ‘Oh, we can alright.’
‘What do you want with Dr. T’Soni?’
‘Saren wants her for something, didn’t tell me.
You better come, girl. You’ll find out more later.
‘No!’ Liara’s voice rings through the air,
‘I will not go with you anywhere!
And I certainly will not help Saren the traitor!’
‘Thank-you, Liara T’Soni.’ I breathe.
I prepare to defend her. We all four will leave.
Alenko and Garrus, on our left and our right
Close quietly in, our circle grows tight.
The earth above groans in its own deadly fight.
Our barriers spring and our ring becomes bright.
‘You heard the Lady. Now let us pass!’
I speak mere defiance. He knows and he laughs.
His Geth slip tighter to seal fast the road.
‘One thing, ere we go-’ I add ‘-to what abode
Would you have taken her if she had come?’
‘To his ship!’ he snorts. ‘In space! Are you dumb?
Kill them.’ he croaks. ‘Except the Asari.
If you can help it. No skin off me.’
The change in the motionless horde is abrupt.
One moment they’re still. Then madness erupts.
The old dusty chamber so long dark and still,
Blazes with fury and gunfire screams shrill.
A whirlpool of chaos, of flying steel
Exploding plasma and biotic fields.
Tornadic winds send the dust all awhirl
Through the chaos the quake its sharp stone shards hurls.
On my right hand, Garrus’ rifle cries out
Back to my back, Alenko hurls Geth about.
n my left is the scholarly youthful blue girl.
But what is this? Around her light swirls!
I only half see her, beside as I fight
Yet her small hands spin masses of light,
Which form, coalesce into globes of dark blue
Pulsing and glowing with reflective hue,
And whirl away towards the mass of our foes
Catching them up in the field as they go.
The Krogan is dead. I saw not by whom.
Though we are battered, now fewer Geth loom
Driven back ‘neath our blasts to the walls of the room
Over our heads, the rocks itself booms.
‘Break off and come now!’ I shout to my crew,
And sprint up the steps to the chamber door, through.
‘Commander, where are you!?’ I hear Joker shout.
‘We’re coming! Hold on if you can!’ I call out.
Rock crashes behind, before, overhead.
I leap to the side and look back whence we sped.
‘Ahead of me! Go! Go! Straight up the slope!’
They hurtle past, in the dust, up the stope,
Garrus. Liara. Alenko. All there.
I swing in behind them and bring up the rear.
Light shines ahead, Therum’s dim, rusty day
Seen through the dust and the fallen stone spray.
We leap from the tunnel, are hit by a blast
Of scorching hot wind, choking and fast.
Through burned stinging eyes, we see just above,
The Normandy swoop like a great silver dove
Down through the dust and the smoke and the ash
Towards the slow spreading streams of earth’s blood that splash
Over the melting bones of the land
As the Mountain rumbles and coughs where it stands.
Before us she drops, her bay doors flung wide.
We sprint down the slope, and leap the divide.
The doors crash behind us. We breathe the cool air
As the Normandy bears us away from the flare.

~ Stanza 10 · In the Comm-room ~

The com-room is quiet, fresh, and clean.
Soft is the light from the circular walls
Silent the circle on which the light falls
Myself, T’Soni, and the two fire-teams.
I start to speak, but Joker’s wry tones
Come over the coms, in a sarcastic groan.
‘So, maybe, Commander, for next time, ya’know
Don’t have us land in an active volcano.
They tend to fry sensors, and sometimes melt hulls.
We almost went swimming like hot lava gull.’
Liara looks up as Joker’s tongue runs.
‘We nearly died and he’s making fun?’’
‘It’s a joke, he copes with stress that way.’
‘Oh. I see. I’ll get it someday.’
Williams gives me her mission report.
Her team hunted Geth up and down the old fort.
Urdnot Wrex, the biotic Krogan
Mistakenly calls his canon a shotgun.
In his wake a beeline of havoc burned
Structures fell and trucks overturned
The Geth he blasted from his path
Were trampled down in the crush of his wrath.
But little Tali, the Quarian girl,
With her clever fingers and purple swirls?
Way down low behind the lines
Out of sight and out of mind
Using mostly her omnitool
She hacked, overloaded, and the battlefield ruled.
Together they cleared posts near several stopes.
Williams’ tone is no-nonsense. Her tale fills my hopes.
I’d intended that they would do naught but search.
But they saw battle and she made it work.
The Asari researcher quietly sits
Watching us speak, her mild gaze flits
From one face to another, like a shy child
Though she’s held her own alone in the wild.
When I turn to her, she sits straight and replies
Looking up with her round, intense blue eyes.

~ Stanza 11 · The Archaeologist’s Tale ~

I explain the matter, the little we know
And ask of her mother allied with our foe.
‘No I don’t know if my mother is near.
We haven’t spoken in over a year.’
‘A year? Why so long? Did you two fall-out?’
‘Oh no. We’ve been busy, both travelling about.
I knew she was serving as Saren’s advisor
But I gave it no thought til I heard he turned traitor.
his only I know, the woman I knew
Would have never conspired, or consented to
An act such as that done on Eden Prime
No matter the goals or the passing of time.
I can only hope now, from where I stand
That she first went to hold back his hand
And draw him along to a gentler path
She’s done it before. I’ve seen it. She has.’
‘And what of this Conduit they’re searching for?
How does it connect to the Prothean’s war?’
‘I’ve never heard of the Conduit.
But, Commander, I can tell you this,
The Council is wrong, the Geth unit right.
The Protheans saw that terrible fight.
Something destroyed them. They didn’t decline.
This matches with everything I can find.
It’s said they just fell, as Empires do.
But I could find naught to attribute it to.
They didn’t destroy their resource base.
They had for their use everything found in space.
And their order, their structure, was maintained late
It didn’t fall to a slow, crumbling fate
Of corruption and layers of cancerous growth
Of disjointed complexities and broken troth.
It was cut off of a sudden. Still in its prime.
And all in a very, very short time.
And – here’s the thing – they were not the first,
They were not the only to be thus curst.
Such civilizations have risen before
Though they come barely into our lore.
The Protheans killed them? No. Not at all.
Though that is the reason most thought for their fall.
The dates are not right. It doesn’t add up.
If they had, they would interrupt.
But the latest known marks of the elder folk
Were abandoned before the younger awoke.
Almost nothing we know goes back farther in time
But the little I’ve found, suggests it still rhymes.
A cycle of rises and then sudden falls,
Externally forced, not natural.
The record is strange to be so incomplete
Small quiet ruins pop up like wheat…
It’s like someone’s consciously foiling us.
Like somebody wiped the Galaxy bare
And purposely hid the past from us.’

She pauses a moment, inclines her blue head.
I’m young, and my theory hasn’t yet been much read.
And the lack of specific records of this
Have prevented others from suggesting it.’
‘Well, just how young are you?’ I ask the young lady.
I know spans are longer among the Asari.
She blushes and takes a deep breath ere she speaks.
‘I’m only one-hundred-two years and eight weeks.’
Williams interjects, blithely amazed.
‘I hope that I look that good at your age.’
‘Among the Asari I’m counted quite young.
A child almost, a girl barely sprung.
But, Commander, this is what alarms me.
If I see truly what I think I see,
If this is a cycle, as it appears,
Predictable over an average of years
Then within my life-time the next wheel is due
And we will fall. If the pattern holds true.’
Nobody moves and no one replies.
The sights of the beacon swim in my eyes.
‘Commander,’ Liara looks up to me.
‘I do not know how much use I can be,
I’m not an engineer or a mercenary,
I don’t have the intel, and I am sorry,
But, let me come with you,
I will try to help you,
There’s few who know even the little I know
Of the last cycle spun so long ago.’
She sits, parted lips, hands folded before her,
Like a child facing a group of her elders.
But now that her explanation is oer
She look as though she’ll droop down to the floor.
Her eyelids flutter and trembling blue hands
Rest on unsteady legs still covered in sand.
‘Hey, you don’t look so good, Dr. T’Soni.’
Alenko bends forward, his arm on his knee.
‘How long has it been since you ate? Or slept?’
‘Yes!’ agrees Wrex. ‘You need need food and rest!
Your kind aren’t as hardy as mine.’
(The Krogan is gruff, but I think it’s meant kind.)
‘Maybe you should see the ship’s doctor.’
Alenko recommends to her.
‘I suppose … seeing a medic wouldn’t hurt.’
Liara agrees. She seems to exert.
‘Of course you must, I’ll send someone to guide you.
She gets first check-up, but the rest of you too.
But one more moment, before you all go
Our colony, Zhu’s Hope, on the planet Feros,
As I recall, was built on a ruin
Ancient, alien, and I think Prothean.
Anderson said that they’d seen Geth about.
What might they have done there, what did they find out?
It can’t be coincidence Geth were there too.
They went for the ruins, or I misconstrue.’
‘The towers of Feros!’ Her tired eyes light.
‘I’ve heard, but I haven’t yet gone to that site.’
‘Then come with us now, Doctor! We’ll follow his trail.
What I’ve seen matches far, far too well with your tale.’

Canto 4 ⇒

Mass Effect Poetry by Charlotte Ann Kent

The Enemy Within: A Criticism

For those who do not know, the plot of this episode revolves around a transporter malfunction. For some reason the transporter starts splitting the beings who come through into two, one with their good qualities, the other with their bad qualities. Of course, before anybody figures out what is going on, Captain Kirk beams up from a planet.  Two persons who call themselves Kirk beam up to the ship, one mild, the other raging. Now they have to figure out not only how to fix the transporter so they can beam up the rest of the landing party before they freeze to death they also have to figure out how to fix the captain.

Let’s start with what is either physics or metaphysics. Not ‘how could the transporter have accomplished so bizarre a feat?’ but, how could the ‘good … cells? molecules? quarks?’ be differentiated from the evil ones? Let’s take insanity. If a man is insane (and not from external removable pressure on the brain) you cannot do surgery and ‘remove’ the ‘bad’ cells, while leaving the ‘good’. It’s not that simple. You have to heal the whole brain. You don’t have good cells and bad cells. Since the good and evil in men is not physically separable like that, the transporter couldn’t have done it.

But supposing it did. Well, then you’d have everything that was Kirk spread out over two persons. The transporter converted him from matter to energy, then back to matter in two bodies … both of those bodies are going to be only half as large as the original Captain Kirk. Or at least neither as large (one might theorize that one might be smaller than half, and the other therefore larger) since there’s only so much mass in the original Captain Kirk. (Just imagine it … Three foot high Captain Kirk running around screaming “I’m the Captain!!!!)

But, let’s forget these points, and just say, it happened. Okay, so now we have two Captain Kirks (both apparently his full five foot ten or whatever), the one with EVERYTHING that is good in Kirk, and the other with absolutely EVERYTHING that is bad in him. Alright, let’s take a look at what we’ve got. We’ll call them Kirk One and Kirk Two. Kirk One is all of Kirk’s Goodness. Kirk Two is all of Kirk’s badness.

So what’s good? Let’s take an easy one, and one that the episode actually noticed, and say that gentleness is good. Okay, so Kirk One will have all of Kirk gentleness, and Kirk Two will have all of Kirk’s inclinations to cruelty and harshness.

Let’s take an important one, love. Kirk One will of course not have any more love than the original, but it will be free of the evil elements in it which trammeled and perverted it; all of the bad in his love is now in Kirk number two, and Kirk Two will of course have gotten love’s opposite evil, hatred, untempered by the good things in Kirk’s nature that restrained it before. (Of course, this is a little simplified, while Kirk Two will not love anyone or anything, and Kirk One will likely not hold hatred for anyone (that would be evil and belonging to his counterpart), Kirk One would probably still be able to hate the qualities of such things as evil and ugliness in themselves, for that is the ‘right’ and therefore ‘good’ response to them.)

Now let’s take pride and humility, pride not as in the noble, the honorable, but as in the antithesis of humility, which is evil. Now, along with his many good qualities, Kirk seems to have a significant share of this dangerous vice. Kirk number two is going to have the biggest head in the galaxy. Kirk number One, will obviously have Kirk’s humility, and without any pride mixed with it, so it seems inescapable that Kirk One, lacking any pride at all, cannot do ought but be humble, and stop thinking himself quite the pinnacle of mankind he often seems to think he is, while Kirk Two will think himself great enough to tear God from his throne.

Selflessness, or the antithesis of selfishness. Kirk really can be extraordinarily selfless, it is one of his strengths. Remove ALL his selfish impulses from Kirk One and tack them all of Kirk Two. Kirk number Two will be incapable of so much as slowing down to avoid hitting a smaller person the corridor (not that he’d be able to care about knocking them down anyway), While Kirk number One, being completely unselfish, will be able to act without being influenced by his prejudice in his own favor at all. Which brings us to:

Justice. Kirk does care about justice. Kirk One will inherit that from him, all of it. Kirk Two will have not the slightest interest in it left in him. No injustice will phase him, for the concept means absolutely nothing to him, since justice, being a good, has been entirely given to his counterpart.

Mercy. Kirk is quite capable of being merciful, and also of being vengeful, look what he did to Mudd. But Kirk One, having kept the mercy and lost the vindictive tendencies, would have forgiven him. While Kirk Two, having kept the vindictiveness and lost all trace of mercy, would be just as bad as the Mirror Kirk with his ‘destroy the Halkans’.
It is long since time we mentioned Courage. None of these virtues could exist in any strength without it. Certainly Captain Kirk is brave, Kirk Two will have NONE of that bravery, leaving him, by default, the most cowardly thing in creation, this will make him not only unable to act selflessly if he wanted to (which he can’t), but incompetent to an insane degree, he will be able to do nothing which might in the slightest provoke him to fear. Kirk One will be brave without a hint of cowardice, able to unhesitatingly face death by torture for a friend, or walk (or sail) into a mouth of flames to keep a destroying robot from reaching a planet … (Er, hmm, come to think of it, even the mixed Kirk could do that one.)

Strength of will is of course closely related to Courage, and it is beyond all shadow of a doubt that it is good to be strong of will. Strength of will can be used for bad purposes, courage can be used in evil causes, but it is in itself good. Kirk number One, inheriting Kirk’s very significant share of the enviable attribute, will be exceedingly strong of will, Kirk number two will of course have none, since if it is good, he cannot have it.

Wisdom, and foolishness. If we are truly separating all that is good from all that is evil in Kirk, we must make this distinction as well. Kirk has ample amounts of both, unlike many who have just enough sense to get along and just enough foolishness to get themselves into trouble now and again, Kirk swings from the one extreme to the other. He is capable of both displaying excellent judgment (wisdom), and extreme foolishness. Kirk number One will still need to increase in wisdom to be as wise as he ought, (and since he is also humble enough to learn this shouldn’t be a problem), but he will be bogged down with less foolishness (not to mention that arrogance which got pawned off onto Kirk Two). And Kirk number Two? There has never been such a fool as he’s going to be! Wow, a spiteful, cowardly, weak willed, cruel, self worshiping remnant of a man, Kirk number Two is looking pretty sorry if you ask me. Without a scrap of courage, he can’t even be vindictive and self promoting very effectively. With his complete foolishness he shall never be able to do anything halfway sensibly, for you recall, he had to leave his sense to his counterpart. This guy is incompetent in the extreme. Kirk number one on the other hand …

Lust. Most will agree that this was a great weakness of the original Kirk, indeed a vice. But sexual desire is in itself a good thing, it is when it is twisted that it becomes evil. Therefore, Kirk number One will be left that desire, free of all its impurities and unlawfulness, from everything in it that was evil. He will now be beyond behaving in any but the most excellent and upright fashion in that regard, retaining wholesome desire. And what will Kirk number two have left? A poor shrimpy thing, utterly and wholly loathsome, yet only a vile ghost of a thing.

And reason, you may balk at this one, but didn’t we say we were trying to divide EVERYTHING good in Kirk from everything evil? And Reason is a good, therefore, Kirk number One will get ALL of Kirk’s reasoning ability. Irrationalities, those were evils, are now all in Kirk number Two, and Kirk number one, can now reason far more clearly. He may even prove to be more logical than Spock. For while his faculties for reasoning may be inferior to Spock’s, Spock will still have to contend with the irrationalities in his mind, which Kirk number One will now be free of. And Kirk number Two, I do not know, but I would hazard a guess that he would be hard pressed to figure on his own steam that if you put two and two together, you get four. That would after all be doing a good thing, called reasoning, which we have established that he cannot do.

Now we’ve covered a lot of ground here, but we set out to divide Kirk completely, leaving nothing good in the one, and nothing evil in the other, so let’s keep going.
Life is a good. Kirk has life. That life goes to Kirk One. And with no life, this leaves Kirk number two, by default, … um … dead, and that is an evil, which is in keeping with his character. So, this stinking, evil, loathsome, spineless, barbaric, idiotic, fool is now not only completely incompetent and self-destructive, he isn’t even alive.

Existence is good. It looks like Kirk number Two is gone.

And where does this leave Kirk number One? … Infinitely better off, I should think. Kirk (as now we must call him for there is no other) has not yet perhaps reached perfection, to be what he truly ought he must grow grow in wisdom and love and humility and understanding, perfection is after all, a great deal more than the absence of evil, but look at him!

Courageous, gentle, merciful, loving, just, humble, iron willed, and exceedingly rational …. who would suggest, who would be fool enough to consider, that Kirk should again be saddled with the petty vindictiveness, the cowardice, the self absorption, the vile twists, again bogged down his irrationalities? Because it would help him? Heavens no! He is infinitely better off without all that nonsense. Because the other stuff is, after all, Kirk too? No more than the Rigelian fever virus in his blood was him, or the beginnings of arthritis in his arm. No indeed, those twists, those perversions, those diseases in his soul and flesh, were but mars upon him, twists which, separated from the good things in him, ceased even to exist at all, they were so nearly nothing, they had no substance in themselves, diseases which, removed from their victim, perished, and were no more. And Kirk himself is left, all that was ever Kirk, is here. Kirk number one is not just the only Kirk that’s left, he IS Kirk. The disease is gone and only Kirk is left. Had they not been separated, the disease might have overcome him, true, it could have continued its twisting, till he was twisted past recognition, it could have eaten away at him, till Kirk himself was all but gone. But since it is the disease that is gone, Kirk is now freer than he ever has been before, free to think without irrationalities, to love without selfishness, to command with wisdom and reason, to fight and to kill if need be, to argue in the times when argument is needed, to kiss when it is right to do so, to do everything as well or better than he did before, to continue to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before …

But of course, as I started out by saying, there is no way that Kirk could ever achieve this by physical means such as a transporter. No, it’s much more difficult than that, a much longer harder road, requiring a much different sort of aid than a transporter, filled with the danger of the disease winning, and Kirk being destroyed by it.

But if it HAD HAPPENED it would be insanity to try and recombine them the way the episode insists they must. It is the shallowest treatment of good and evil that I have ever seen. It doesn’t go all the way of course. And it fails to recognize what is good and what is evil, it fails to make sense of its own propositions. It is completely foggy headed. In it, the ‘good’ Kirk is incompetent, indecisive, and fearful, and no explanation for this is ever given. It cannot, even on the episode’s own terms be cowardice or lack of reasoning ability, for it is clearly displayed that it is the good Kirk who will listen to reason, while the bad Kirk throws fits, and it is the good Kirk who will face hard things, and the bad Kirk who becomes hysterical at them. So, what did the good Kirk’s inability to command without the bad Kirk stem from? They never explain this. They seemed to be assuming that decisiveness is bad or something, and then based the whole plot on how incompetent Kirk would be without decisiveness, without investigating into whether their assumption makes any sense. Well it doesn’t. The whole thing is ill thought out, (or never really thought out at all), the ideas behind the story don’t make sense, and the story doesn’t make sense even within those ideas.

But perhaps the most annoying thing about this episode, is that they seemed to think that they were being profound.

Star Trek Criticism by Charlotte Ann Kent