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Aphreal's Dragon Age fanfic

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Parallel Lives: Six Glimpses: The Turian Outcast
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aphreal42

Parallel Lives is a crossover AU (Dragon Age:Origins characters in a Mass Effect setting) that has spiraled into a major series. Six Glimpses introduces the six "Wardens" (one from each origin) and their place in the galaxy circa early ME2.



Althgar Aeducan stood stiffly at attention through the entirety of the memorial service. It was a solemn ceremony full of honor and tributes for the turians lost in the Battle of the Citadel. His father and eldest brother had been among the fallen, so Althgar was honor-bound to attend in a place of prominence. He listened with a set, stony face to speeches full of flowing language about valiant sacrifice, upholding the finest traditions of the turian fleet, and great warriors whose legacy would be remembered.

Althgar wanted to scream.

Today should be a rallying cry, not a congratulation. The Citadel had been saved and Sovereign was dead. But the rest of his kind was still out there, and they were coming.

The empty platitudes fill Althgar with a mixture of grief and rage. While he would never dishonor the memory of his loved ones by regretting the sacrifices they had chosen to make, he was damned if he would let the government do so by denying the magnitude of the threat.

General Endrin and Lieutenant Commander Trian had died stopping a Reaper.

Althgar had been there. His position on the deck of a cruiser in the turian fleet had given him a clear view of the battle. After years of facing the geth on the far edges of the galaxy, he couldn’t accept the Council’s explanation that Sovereign had been a new type of geth flagship. The synthetic race had never shown evidence of technology even half that sophisticated. The idea that they had made such incredible advances with amazing speed and complete secrecy was ludicrous.

And yet the entire turian hierarchy clung steadfastly to that fiction. Althgar assumed their denial was motivated by fear, coupled with a refusal to accept that one of their own – a celebrated Spectre – could ally himself with something so monstrous. Regardless of the reasons, Althgar was unable to contain his contempt at their blatant cowardice and deliberate ignorance. He couldn’t remain silent in the face of idiocy even if speaking would cost him his career, which he suspected it was going to.

His commanding officer had warned, cajoled, and finally ordered him to abandon this unwise crusade, not wanting to lose a promising young officer he was grooming as protégé. But Althgar had never learned how to follow bad orders for the sake of political expediency. Harsh words had been exchanged before he left to attend this ceremony, and he wouldn’t be surprised if there was no longer a posting for him when he returned. It didn’t matter. This was bigger than one soldier’s career, and he couldn’t let it rest, no matter the personal consequences of his actions.

The cost of inaction would be higher, and he wouldn’t be bearing it alone. The Council’s blatant denial only meant that more lives would be lost when no one was prepared for the next offensive. It was unconscionable, and it took every ounce of Althgar’s will to remain silent through the proceedings. He seethed every time someone spoke of success, of having ended the geth menace. The threat had not been the geth, and it was not over.

When the memorial ended, Althgar walked away briskly, seeking somewhere to clear his head and regain control of his emotions. He avoided eye contact, hoping to discourage conversation that could only go badly. As much as he wanted to be heard, this was not the time or place. A shouting match, however satisfying and necessary, would be disrespectful to those being honored, and he refused to bring disgrace to his father’s memory. Given his current mental state, Althgar was fairly certain the only way he could prevent that was keep to himself. Anyone who noticed his coldness would likely write it off to grief, an understandable and acceptable response under the circumstances.

Althgar heard familiar footsteps deliberately approaching behind him and came to the grim realization that conversation had become unavoidable.

“Brother.”

“Bhelen.” Althgar didn’t turn. He had hoped to avoid his surviving brother today because he knew any conversation would be unpleasant, but he should have known that Bhelen would never pass up the chance to confront him.

“Lovely ceremony.” Bhelen’s voice was calm, smooth.

If their past history was any indication, Althgar suspected the bland remark was deliberately intended to nettle him. Althgar clenched his jaw and took a deep, calming breath, steeling himself not to respond to the bait.

Bhelen continued as if he hadn’t expected a response. “A fitting tribute to honor the sacrifice of the fallen.”

Althar’s resolve snapped. Despite every instinct screaming that it was a mistake, he whirled on his brother, fists clenched. “That farce was a disgrace! It dishonored the memory of every turian who fought by ignoring the magnitude of the real threat.” With effort, he kept his arms locked at his sides; the satisfaction of decking Bhelen wouldn’t be worth the court martial proceedings for striking a superior officer.

“Real threat?” Bhelen spread his hands theatrically. “Sovereign is destroyed. The Citadel and Council are saved. The remaining geth are weakened and leaderless. The threat is over.”

“The Reapers are still out there.”

His brother laughed in his face. “The Reapers are a myth! A fable Saren used to bolster his authority among the synthetics. It’s a testament to the gullibility of humans that Shepard was foolish enough to believe it. What excuse do you have, little brother?” Bhelen’s smile was full of condescending sympathy, right on the edge of pity.

It was an expression that always made Althgar’s fist itch with the desire to smash into his brother’s jaw. Somehow he’d always managed to resist doing so, but he suspected there was a day coming when he would give in. Not today, though.

“I’ve seen geth technology. Sovereign was something else entirely. There’s no way a VI built that thing.”

“The Council’s best experts have examined the wreckage, and they say otherwise. Do you really think you’re so much smarter than they are?”

Althgar shook his head. He’d had this conversation – or one like it – so many times since the Citadel was attacked. With his brother, with his commanding officer, with anyone who had the slightest hope of reversing the turian position, of breaking the fleet free from blindly following the Council’s lead. None of them had listened.

“This is a waste of time, brother.” With thoughts of Triam so fresh in his mind, the word grated. Bhelen was not what a brother should be. “What did you really want?”

“To warn you!” Bhelen stepped closer, his voice lowered to an urgent hiss. “Think of what you’re doing to your career. Would you really throw it all away, soil the family name – father and Triam’s name – over this obsession?”

The pieces clicked and Althgar stepped back in disgust. “Soil your name, you mean. Are rumors of your little brother going rogue hurting your climb up the ladder?” He shook his head in disgust. “Bhelen, I’m not like you. I won’t back down from the truth for the sake of my career. And especially not for the sake of yours.”

Bhelen sighed heavily, and there was a hint of genuine regret in his eyes. “I had hoped to talk some sense into you so it wouldn’t come to this.” He pulled up his omnitool. “Lieutenant Aeducan, you will not be returning to your posting on the Apparitus. As of today, you are on indefinite bereavement leave. Your lapses in judgment make it clear that you need time to regain perspective following your recent losses.”

Althgar smiled bitterly, pulling out his datapad and confirming receipt of the new orders. “And it’s less damaging to have your brother unhinged by grief than just plain crazy. Or worse, in open rebellion.”

“This isn’t personal, little brother. No one wants to punish you.” Bhelen placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “As soon as you’ve come to your senses, your captain has made it clear that he will be happy to have you back on board. Just don’t wait too long.”

Althgar shrugged off the touch, rejecting Bhelen’s false sympathy. “You forget one thing, brother.” He spat the epithet. “If I’m not an active soldier, I don’t have to take orders from you.” Althgar turned and began walking away. “In fact, I don’t have to listen to you at all. Let me know when you’ve come to your senses, and we can talk. Until then, goodbye, Bhelen.”

As he returned to the docks to seek non-military transportation, Althgar spoke softly, not knowing or caring if his brother would hear. “Father would be very proud of one of us. Perhaps it’s just as well that we’ll never know which one.”

Six months later, Althgar still hadn’t relented, and he hadn’t spoken to anyone in his command structure during that time. So far as he knew, he was still officially on leave, but it was highly improbable that anyone was holding a position for his return.

That bothered him far less than his near-total failure to convert anyone to his cause during that time. Out of desperation, he had come to a place he never would have expected to be asking for help: Grissom Academy, an Alliance-run school for human prodigies. For all he knew, he was the first turian to set foot on the station.

While most tactical calculations involving Grissom Academy – and especially the biotic-focused Ascension Program housed there – were centered on the students, Althgar had little interest in any of them. They were children, full of raw talent and potential, but future potential was irrelevant. The problem was mounting now; there wasn’t time for them to grow into their talents. He was hoping to recruit someone with far more extensive experience.

“Matriarch, I appreciate you agreeing to meet with me.” He nodded his head respectfully at the asari, wondering for a moment if his research on her had been wrong. Dressed in the standard faculty uniform of the Academy and sitting behind a desk in a small, nondescript office, her appearance hardly matched his idea of a Spectre.

Her initial words didn’t do much to change that impression. “It’s my pleasure. I rarely get visitors, so I admit I was curious.” She smiled, looking wise and motherly and not in the least bit dangerous. “And please, the only title I’m accustomed to at this stage of my life is ’professor’, from my pupils. Since you aren’t one of them, you’re welcome to call me Wynne.”

“Thank you, ma’am. My name is Althgar Aeducan.” He deliberately omitted any mention of rank since he had no idea if he still officially held one. “You’re familiar with the events surrounding the Battle of the Citadel?”

“Grissom Academy is connected to the Galactic News Net.” Her tolerant smile made him feel like one of her teen-aged pupils, asking the simplistic questions of youth. Of course, from her centuries-long perspective, there was probably little difference.

Still, he needed to establish credibility in her eyes if he was going to have any hope of enlisting her aid. “I was a part of the turian fleet that flew that day, and the official reports got a lot of details wrong.”

“They always do.” Wynne chuckled, a warm sound. Althgar could hear decades of experience in her voice, calm acknowledgment of official incompetence and deliberate political falsehoods that she had grown to accept as part of life.

For him, though, the injustices still rankled. “This time it’s bigger. They’re ignoring a threat to the entire galaxy.” He laid out all of the information he had about Sovereign and the Reapers, trying his best to present it impartially, to avoid sounding like a raving conspiracy theorist. Wynne’s eyes narrowed as he spoke, and he could only hope that meant she was considering his words and taking his message seriously.

“The Reapers are real, ma’am. Despite what the Council says. We have no time to waste hoping otherwise. It’s time to stop pretending the threat will go away if we issue enough statements about advanced geth and rogue turians.” Althgar leaned forward towards the asari matriarch, his hands pressed flat on her desk. “Someone has to start speaking the truth. They’ll listen if it’s you.”

He knew as soon as he finished that he had failed.

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve come here for nothing.” Her smile was kind and her voice gentle, patient like a grandparent speaking to a favorite grandson about things he couldn’t possibly understand.

Althgar struggled against giving in to his disappointment and pushed harder. This had to work; he didn’t have another plan. “I’m not crazy. You have to believe me.”

“Perhaps I do; perhaps I don’t.” Wynne shook her head slowly, smile widening without a trace of amusement or pleasure. “It doesn’t matter whether or not I accept your story. What matters is that I am no longer the Spectre whose help you seek. That part of my life is over. My place is here now, with my students. A matriarch does not return to being a commando.”

“Listen to yourself!” Althgar surged to his feet, chair skidding backwards, leaning heavily on his hands still planted on her desk. “That’s your excuse? You’ll let the galaxy be over-run because you’ve chosen to retire? This is important!”

Wynne didn’t flinch at his outburst, continuing to lean calmly back in her chair. “So is what I’m doing now.” Her eyes flared blue for a moment, a reminder of the formidable biotic power at her disposal. Her expression shifted from tolerance to disapproval. There was a harder edge to her voice when she continued. “Do you have any idea of the potential inherent in human biotics? Do you know the first thing about the history of this program or its predecessor?”

Althgar faltered, confused by this apparent change of subject.

She shook her head sadly. “I thought not.” Crossing her arms, she continued. “Before Ascension, human children with biotic talents were trained through a program known as BAaT: Biotic Acclimation and Temperance.” She pursed her lips. “A ridiculous name. And a ridiculous program. Children were isolated and brutalized, forced to develop their abilities under conditions of extreme stress.

“Oh, it worked. No one could deny that. Those that withstood the training became powerful tools, but they were damaged by the process, often irrevocably. I had nothing to do with that travesty. So far as I am aware, not a single asari had a hand in it. And I pray I never learn otherwise. But that does not entirely free us from blame. Inaction makes us complicit.”

“Like the Council,” Althgar interjected, seizing on a parallel. “Their willful blindness strengthens the Reapers by crippling our ability to fight back when they come.”

Wynne appeared unmoved. “I see a path where I may do some good at Grissom Academy, unlike with the Council and the Reapers. I would be one Spectre among many, and not one with high status or connections. Besides, a rogue Spectre defying the Council is unlikely to be well received on the heels of Saren’s betrayal.

“As a professor at Ascension, however, I am one of the few sets of hands sculpting the future of humanity’s biotic program. I have the power to ensure that the abuses of BAaT will never recur.” She fixed him with a level, placid stare. “You want my aid, but these children need my guidance. There is no choice to be made.”

Althgar tightened his hands, feeling the tips of his fingers pressing hard against her desk. He wanted to scream, to find more words, more passion, something that would break through to her. But it was clear from the composed, serene expression on her face that he would be wasting his time.

Instead, he opted to gather the remains of his dignity and accept his defeat. She was wrong, but he didn’t know of any other way to show her. “I am sorry you feel that way. Again, I appreciate your time, matriarch.”

Without waiting for a dismissal or any parting pleasantries that would have felt unbearably false, he strode from her office and navigated the corridors back to the docking bay. Althgar was out of ideas. The retired Spectre had been his last and best hope, and he wasn’t sure where he could turn next. But with the memory of Sovereign burned into his mind and the threat of the Reapers hanging over every step he took, one thing was certain.

He couldn’t give up.



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