How Shepard winds up with a Space Hamster (600 words)
Shepard doesn’t notice anything amiss when he shuts the door to his quarters. He actually doesn’t notice anything when he gets back to the Normandy. Joker makes the mistake of asking him about how the meeting with Anderson went and Shepard can’t even speak, just shoves on past and heads straight for the elevator.
Anderson is just another name to cross off the list of people he can’t turn to anymore.
It’s getting to be a long fucking list.
He’s sitting at his desk with his head in his hands when he hears the squeak.
Of course, Shepard’s brain immediately assumes that something that squeaks in his cabin is something that needs a bullet. He’s actually got the pistol in hand when he spots the furry head staring at him from a glass cage that has mysteriously appeared on the shelf.
What the hell?
“EDI,” he says cautiously. He hasn’t put away the gun, though the pocket sized mammal doesn’t exactly look like it’s about to explode.
If Shepard has a baby – soon after the Reaper War or late, no matter – Wrex knows it’s important to visit. Shepard came to see his offspring, after all, and humans don’t have nearly so many, or at least not so many each, so they must be even more special.
Humans are fragile, but Shepard isn’t, so Wrex isn’t sure what to expect of Shepard’s offspring. Bakara, though, she spends the whole trip reading. Reading about human, what is it, babies. She reads books intended for pregnant mothers. She reads books intended for hospitals. She reads books about How To Raise Your Child and books about How Babies Are Born and books that are really just catalogs of things that are soft and padded and pastel. And she condenses all the important information into lectures for Wrex. They are tiny. They are fragile. The skull is like cardboard, the ribs are twigs, the skin thinnest tissue. They have to be warm, but not too warm; they have to eat regularly, if you can get them to eat at all; they can’t be dropped, or shaken, or squeezed.
The REAL Reason for the Harvest: An April Fool's Day Headcanon
Dark space: the ideal hiding place for Reapers. In dark space, they can remain undetected and undisturbed as they wait for organic civilizations to develop toward the point that they are ready to harvest.
Dark space, unfortunately, is also extraordinarily boring.
Vigil described the Reapers as “hibernating” and indeed, they do turn off many systems that are unnecessary in deep space. But the Reapers are loathe to shut off their minds for millennia, leaving them in need of ways to occupy themselves. Analyzing the tactics, successes, and failures of the last invasion, planning the next one, all grow stale and old after only a few years. They have long since proved every mathematical theorem within their reach. So the Reapers turn to an alternative pastime familiar to many of my readers: smut.
The Reapers’ collection of organic races is primarily geared toward establishing an extensive library of each race’s kinks. When a Harvest concludes and the Reapers return to dark space, there is a flurry of creative activity as the Reapers explore the newfound kinks of the harvested races. Epic libraries of smut are composed and shared among the Reaper fleet, up or downvoted by the Reaper collective. Animations and other artistic renderings of sex acts are also popular.
Experts on the Reapers, to the extent there are any, would swear that the Reapers have no sex organs, nor any use for them. While the relevant parts are carefully protected by heavy plating during harvests, and thus never witnessed, Reapers are partly organic and capable of expressing the sex organs of any race they have successfully assimilated into Reaper form. (From this point of view, the Protheans’ “failure” to become a Reaper suggests that their sexual organs and response were deemed inadequate by Reaper standards. On the other hand, there was great enthusiasm for the project of creating a “human Reaper…”) The more “avant-garde” of Reapers use their array of sexual parts to experiment with the kinks they discover, individually and in combination.
Eventually, all of this palls. The Reapers, despite their vast intellect, are fundamentally not creative; they endlessly recycle the same invasion plan, after all. So when all the latest kinks have been fully explored, boredom and ennui begin to make an appearance, and the angry, sexually frustrated Reapers know that it’s time for another Harvest.
When Kaidan Alenko turns his back on her under a hazy sun on an ever-darkening Horizon, her breath catches in her chest. The defensive “Let’s get the hell out of here” that she manages is choked, but firm– the Commander, the soldier. She is not shaken by her dear friend’s doubt. She is not.
The shuttle-ride back to the Normandy– not her Normandy, but a Normandy nevertheless– is spent in relative, uncomfortable silence. Garrus stands at her six (vigilant and in position as always) as the Salarian scientist takes readings from their armor with his omni-tool, muttering under his breath about timing and efficacy and more tests. The scientist at one point pauses when he glances down to see her fingers trembling minutely, but Dr. Solus is strategic, if nothing else, and he does not comment on the more-than-adrenaline quaking.
She’s at the end of her rope and she can feel herself fraying fast. The resurrected Commander manages to not sprint from the shuttle, ignoring Garrus’s concerned “Shepard!” as she power-walks to the elevator and slams the emergency door-lock, keys in the code to her cabin, and leans heavily against the steel panels.
Later, she chases peace at top speeds.
She’s not sure when something as basic as breathing became so difficult, but she’s certain it gets better when she hits her limit on the treadmill Cerberus had installed in the cargo hold. The addition of a small gym behind what used to be the Mako was suspicious– how they knew of her personal coping mechanisms was beyond her but she tried not to think about Cerberus rifling through her psychological files, much less her brain.She’s gasping, chest heaving and sweat cascading down her neck and back as she pumps her arms furiously to maintain her sprint.
She hops off the belt just in time as her feet start to stumble, nail beds blanching white as she hunches over to rest her forehead against the control panel.
Her head sags lower between her forearms for a moment, then she straightens, turning to lay a cocky, lop-sided (completely unstrained, she hopes) grin in Garrus’s direction. "Yea, Garrus?”
He’s uncomfortable, potentially even nervous. Though she isn’t an expert in Turian body language, she’s an infiltrator, trained to study body movement and fluidity, to exploit weakness and penetrate strengths. The tension in her fellow sniper’s body looked painful– but maybe all Turians look like that and I’ve just been that unobservant–
He clears his throat and looks down – that can’t be a good sign– “Uh, I just wanted to…” He shrugs. "Um. Check in with you and see how you were doing?“
"Great. Just you know…livin’ the dream.” She flinches inwardly. She doesn't sound hurt. She does not.
The vigilante rocks back and forth on his heels. Even after his metamorphosis from cop to vigilante leader, he is quintessentially Garrus to his core. “I mean, are you sure? After Alenko’s reaction on Hori–”
“I’m fine.” There. That should do it. "No big deal. He has his own junk to work through. I get it. We’re with Cerberus and it’s no big deal. We just do what we have to do and…yeah. We just do.“
"So what’s with the running?”
She’s badly imbalanced and the question throws her. "What do you mean?“
"Shepard. We’ve been through a lot, enough for me to know you well enough to know something’s off, that this rattled you.”
“Garrus, I’m fi–”
“Yes, you’re fine. I get it.” If they were Alliance, she’d reprimand him for insubordination. He crosses his arms, pushing, but not quite offensive. "But what are you running from?“
She jerks, the words are a concussive round taking down her shields. If anyone on this damned ship knows her, it is Garrus Vakarian.
"Shepard, if you tell me right now that you are honestly okay, then I will leave you alone, but please…just don’t lie to me. We’re in this together.”
The flanging near-desperation in his military-trained voice is almost enough to unravel her. She swallows hard, shivers, and stares into the cold deck near Garrus’s feet. Her eyes are conspicuously moist and her throat is tight and she doesn’t want to do this anymore but good soldiers follow orders and she has a mission and she’s failing fast and–
She doesn’t have time for this. The Commander shakes her head and stiffens her spine. "Never better.“ She pushes past the turian and jogs to the lift, leaving her closest– potentially only – living friend standing confused and disheartened in her wake.
Headcanon Wednesday: The Normandy Crew versus Video Games
In 2186, video games are one of the dominant forms of entertainment, and have been for many years. No where is this more true than than on Alliance naval vessels: tight quarters and limited personal baggage allowances make virtual entertainment a must. Citing ‘improved morale’, 'skill building,’ and 'greater mental engagement’, the Alliance even stocks ships with a pre-selected game library to compliment the collection of books, music, and video (all deemed vital to mental health on a prolonged space voyage). Granted, the HR-and-Brass Approved list is never on the cutting edge, but it still makes it easy to get together a shift-wide multiplayer match on occasion.
It doesn’t stop everyone from bringing their own choices on board, of course, and those choices indicate a lot about the character of the player.
Tali, especially post-pilgrimage, prefers sims. She likes the ones where you can build a house, or better, a city. She unabashedly loves farming sims. She plays the big RPGs, too – Galaxy of Fantasy, in particular – but she spends so much time decorating her player home that she never manages to level at the pace of her friends.
Her guilty pleasure is dating sims. Especially badly translated dating sims from other species.
Kaidan has been playing Galaxy of Fantasy for years. He’s got a character at the level-cap and a few more approaching it, and he gets most of his joy out of meeting obscure self-imposed challenges and providing gifts and help to newbies.
He leaves high level items at Tali’s house at least once a week, since he knows she can’t really be bothered, and she will wander into higher level areas.
Garrus claims he doesn’t game much – and compared to the human members of the crew, he doesn’t – but he has a bizarre and un-Turian fascination with gambling games. Not that he ever bets actual credits, but those things are strangely addicting. As are the click-games on the extranet.
James Vega is the ship champion at Guitar Hero. Everyone aboard assumed that was the only thing he played (oh, he has the obligatory GoF character, a ridiculously muscled barbarian in a fur thong, but he’s hardly ever on)… at least, that’s what they assumed until the fateful night someone suggested Dance Dance Revolution XXVII.
The crew’s impression of Vega has never been the same again.
EDI observes the other crew member’s media habits with great interest, but does not partake herself.
Chakwas claims that she’s old and tired of such things, but if you catch her in the right mood she is hell on wheels in any first-person shooter you throw at her. Many people suspect she bows out of multiplayer matches just because she’d cause friction by unbalancing the teams.
Joker plays all sorts of things, except for the music sims (as anyone who’s played a musical instrument can tell you, it actually makes the sim-version more difficult). He’s very flighty about it, though. He has a list of abandoned GoF characters, and he keeps making new ones whenever he gets a really great silly name idea to bug Kaidan with. He tends to avoid extranet click-bait games just because, anytime the ship has a good extranet connection, he has so much else to do. The only thing he sticks with really persistantly is the space minecraft world he plays with Shepard, because, well…
Shepard absolutely fucking sucks at any game involving gun play, strategic movement, platforming, or really any kind of life-or-death movement-in-space of any kind. She sucks, and she is hugely frustrated by it. She is so frustrated that people try to get her to attempt them just to watch the inevitable explosion.
See, for most people a game like Galaxy of Fantasy or Loud Screech of Duty or Heroes of Metal is a power fantasy.
For Shepard, it’s a down-grade.
And she resents it.
“What do you mean, I fell to my death? I could make that jump! I could totally have made that jump AND shot that guy! And how the HELL are you supposed to react realistically when you don’t have your fucking peripheral vision? THIS IS BULLSHIT.”
Watching her watch cut-scenes is even worse.
(Or better. Bring popcorn and stand well back).
So, for her own enjoyment and the interests of ship equilibrium, Shepard sticks to rather… calmer things. Things that don’t remind her of work. Space Minecraft is a good one – even she can manage not to fall to her death too many times, and she doesn’t expect much of a little dude made out of cubes – and when that fails there’s usually something indie and mellow and story based, or one of those point-n-click adventure things where somehow you need a pair of duck lips, a souffle, and a rubber mallet to get past the final door (she loves those).
And late at night, when you really can’t sleep but you’re too tired to focus on a book… well, there’s this fantastical varren breeding thing on the internet, where they can be all sorts of colors, and some of them have wings, and –
The colony on Mindoir was initially established in a region known as the Great Basin. The Basin is a former sea bed which has been tectonically stable for millions of years. Extensive watering by steams has covered the entire region with a deep layer of sediment, resulting in a landscape that is flat as a board and extremely fertile. Advertisements recruiting colonists compared the area to the North American Great Plains, pre-Dust Bowl. (Colonists were reassured that modern farming techniques and technology would prevent a re-enactment of the Dust Bowl.)
In the 22nd century, most mechanized farm equipment is operated by VIs, but it’s considered prudent to send an organic life form along to keep an eye on the VI in case it does something stupid. The first shipments of farm equipment to Mindoir came with an especially flaky group of VIs. The colony didn’t have enough adults to detail to mind all the VIs (not to mention all the work that wouldn’t get done if they were doing so), so children aged 12-16 or so typically were dispatched to babysit the VIs. The children of the colony promptly figured out how to override the VIs and operate the farm equipment manually, and tractor races became a popular pastime.
Shepard, on the other hand, preferred to take the farm machinery out past the limits of the colony’s farms, far from any people, and look out over the native landscapes of Mindoir. This was originally part of her unending search for the “interesting” alien life she belived she would one day find. (The common fauna of Mindoir resemble couch cushions in both appearance and temperament.) As she grew older and more dissatisfied with colonial life, she took to the edges of the colony just to be away from everyone, especially her parents.
Given the flat, almost featureless local geography, navigating on Mindoir was basically a matter of pointing the vehicle toward your destination and driving in a straight line. Shepard had little opportunity to drive after the colony’s destruction - until she was given access to the Mako, which she drove exactly the way she’d learned to drive in Mindoir.
When Shepard steps back onto the dust of the Tuchanka for the first time after the Reaper War, Wrex is there to greet her with his whole brood. They crowd around his ankles and make grumbly grunting sounds at the strangers. One of them burps. Then a little krogan – not necessarily the oldest, or the biggest, but the boldest – lowers its head, aims at the funny-looking alien newcomer, and charges.
Shepard just squats down, almost on her knees, and lowers her head. Presents a nice stationary target for the hurtling toddler.
There’s a resounding kthunk.
The wrexlet bounces backwards, rolling over its little tail in the dirt.
Kaidan pulled the doors to the pod shut, his shaking hands hesitating over the eject button. But finally he did, as he felt the eyes in the pod glaring at him, waiting for him to save them before they had to do it themselves. He secured himself in a seat, pulling the straps over his head.
He flipped open his omni-tool and opened the panels he kept open during battle. His armor was synched to everyone in the crew, capable of monitoring their life signs. He opened Shepard’s panel, seeing her vitals pop up in front of him.
Elevated heart rate, he observed. Normal though. Under stress, with pressing endurance, of course her heart rate would be dramatic.
A notification popped up, glaring red letters that were all he could see.
His system had to have been acting up, because if Shepard’s helmet had ruptured, her oxygen would be seeping out, letting harsh, toxic air sweep into her lungs, leaving her helpless, suffocating to death.
He unlocked his seatbelt, aware that everyone else was watching him. He muttered her name under his breath, a somewhat silent prayer that she’d hear him, that she’d hang on until he could get to her.
His omni-tool buzzed again, and again, and didn’t stop.
Critical: Elevated Heart Rate
Critical: Broken Ribs (4)
Critical: Internal Hemorrhaging
Critical: Insufficient Oxygen
He looked out the small window in the escape pod, the flaming corpse of the Normandy all he could see, and no signs of Shepard. He saw a single escape pod spewed from the front of the ship, and prayed to god that Shepard was in there.
The Normandy exploded into an array of colors and debris. His omni-tool deployed a single, chilling shock across his arm, and then it stopped.
He looked down again, where Shepard’s life signs had gone completely flat. No heartbeat, no brain activity, more broken bones and blood loss than he could imagine happening to a person.
7,666 credits seems a lot for such a tiny creature. Shepard’s not going to deny that. She’s also not going to deny that this is 7,666 credits that she’s spending just on her, and that if she’s going to drop this much on just her she could probably get a new set of gauntlets. And lunch.
And she’s definitely not going to deny that she doesn’t have the best history keeping things alive. She killed a Tuchankan cactus once. Wrex told her he didn’t think those things could be killed.
But she’s thinking about buying the hamster. It’s 7,666 credits that could be spent on other, more practical things, but she’s lonely. She doesn’t know or trust this crew and her old friends aren’t talking to her (and the one old friend who would talk to her is too busy calibrating to do any actual talking) and, if she’s honest, she’s a little scared.
She died and now she’s back and working with an organization she hates, not entirely trusted by her own Alliance, with the fate of the whole galaxy resting on her shoulders and some days it’s an effort to stand up straight under that kind of pressure.
Yeah. She’s going to buy the hamster (and 7,666 credits is still cheaper than 9,200; this could be worse, she rationalizes). Because he’s cute and fuzzy and he squeaks, and she thinks she can break her track record for him. And he doesn’t seem afraid of or intimidated by her, doesn’t seem to have an opinion on her at all. She gives him a finger to sniff and he chirps.
Maybe he likes her. Maybe that’s enough. She hands over her credit chit and tucks his cage under her arm and heads back to the Normandy feeling a little lighter.
Blue Origin tests New Shepard suborbital rocket on maiden flight.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space start up, achieved a significant milestone in its goals of space tourism Wednesday, 29 April.
The New Shepard launch vehicle and crew capsule launched from the company’s west Texas launch site in an unannounced test.
its first all-up flight, New Shepard is a single-stage, suborbital
vehicle designed to loft a crew capsule into sub-orbit. Following
spacecraft separation, the rocket - dubbed the Propulsion Module - would
return for a vertical landing downrange for reuse.
test saw the Propulsion Module and Crew Capsule separate nominally,
with the capsule reaching a peak altitude of 307,000 feet - or 58 miles.
However, the successful recovery of the Propulsion Module did not occur
due to a loss of pressure in the landing hydraulic system.
“If New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight.” Bezos said in a statement post-flight.
Shepard utilizes a single BE-3 engine to loft the vehicle uphill. The
company is also working on creating the BE-4 engine for ULA as a
domestic replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engine.
images above, New Shepard can be seen lifting off from the company’s
test stand in Texas. The second image shows the Propulsion Module from
the crew module shortly after separation - with Texas 56 miles below.