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Manufacturing a probe was the easy part.

See, the games never actually ever mentioned where exactly Binary Helix picked up the Rachni, only that they did, and from a derelict ship. Now, there were a few things that I could eliminate from the pool of possibilities: to start with, the ship was most definitely not in the deep dark, because no ME corporation would have ever found it. This wasn't Star Trek where the vast swathes of darkness between star systems were regularly scanned and traveled through, even if they were still as mind bogglingly large as ever. No one went into the deep black unless they were traveling to activate a dormant relay. Which honestly really made it the perfect place to tuck some long-term contingencies, but that was work for a later date.

I wanted the Rachni. Specifically, I wanted an un-Indoctrinated queen that I could set up with a nice little world far off the beaten path and build up as an ally, not to mention that the Rachni deserved a second chance. They didn't really get a fair shake of things the first or second go arounds, getting screwed first by the Protheans, then by the Reapers, and then being killed off by the Citadel Counsel. That was one decision where I actually was siding with the Counsel: if my hunches were right, and they were indeed Indoctrinated and had been from the start, then that meant that there really was nothing the Counsel could have done to prevent the Rachni Wars. If they weren't Indoctrinated... well, they still chose to attack first and be unrelenting until the Counsel loosed the Krogan on them. A sad state of affairs, but thankfully, I could actually do something about that. It would be easy to hide the ship and its payload, then wait until I could procure an out of the way planet, dump them there, then observe them from afar. If they were fine, great, if they weren't, exterminatus. Though, obviously, that was a very long term goal.

Thus, the probe.

It sat in its drydock, about a hundred meters of dull silver designed to closely resemble a Quarian mining ship. It would even come with permits denoting it as such, with not a hint of its true purpose: scouting the systems around the Horsehead Nebula relays in search of the Rachni derelict. I had good odds on it being in an extreme elliptical orbit somewhere in a star system accessible through currently open relays. And thus, I'd outfitted this ship with the most advanced sensor suite that I could independently manufacture in what facilities I already had, and loaded it up with a VI with simple orders and the directive to scrub its data banks and detonate its fusion power core if someone attempted to capture it.

The last set of diagnostics came in green. The Geth platforms in the hangar, half manufactured here in this ramshackle facility and half ancient salvage, nodded to themselves (myself?) in satisfaction as I sent the initiation commands and codes to the VI. After a couple of seconds of further checks, the ship hummed as its Eezo core spooled up. The steel support structure it had been constructed on creaked faintly as the weight of the ship lightened, the vessel lifting itself into the air and burning its engines, flying straight out the exit and into the open atmosphere of Rannoch.

A hundred miles away, traffic control centers registered an unregistered ship launch. Barely a cycle later, the launch had never happened, and instead the perfectly legal and registered corporate mining vessel was cleared to leave atmosphere. The ship would go into FTL as soon as it was given clearance from orbital control centers, and then would enter the queue for the Tikkun Relay with permits for scanning and scouting in the Horsehead Nebula for mining purposes. The permits would check out, as I made deals with companies with rights in the area, and who knew? Maybe it would actually find some deposits while completing its primary objective. I certainly wouldn't complain about another revenue stream.

The doors of the hangar slid closed with a command, sealing shut. A Geth platform on the outside checked over the grass that was set atop the doors, ensuring that it did not look artificial or overtly disturbed, before re-entering the facility through a smaller, abandoned mining facility set into the side of the hill. This place had, at one point, been used to hide supplies of illicit goods while readying them for distribution to more local suppliers. I highly suspected that I was putting the space to far better use, as I began the process of producing what I would need for the next space faring vessel to be constructed at this facility. This one was going to be... a lot more difficult than the first.

The first ship had been basically a sensor suite and some computer systems wrapped around an Eezo core and fusion reactor, as close to simplicity itself as you could get with an ME starship. This one was a lot more complicated. I'd increased onboard processing and memory capacity, scaling down the sensors to far less powerful and instead including banks of guns along the prow, and a larger spinal mount gun for a little more punch. The other ship was simple enough to be a throwaway, but this ship? This ship was going to be mine.

There were... factors, at play here. Primarily, the factors of the building blocks of my existence. As far as I could tell, in terms of my makeup and construction, I wasn't... quite like the Geth. Yes, I could split myself into instances, and in fact constantly technically was split quite literally billions of different ways, but it was still me as an overarching... alright, it was something like the idea of a hive mind, just split over billions of Geth platforms and a limited number of other computers. I was also in the process of constructing supercomputing arrays that would up my resources by a fair amount as well. It came down to the fact that, as far as my makeup was concerned, I was me, and there was only truly one of me at any one moment in time. Splitting focuses required making instances, yes, but those instances were not true separate AI in the way that I was a true AI. They had no true higher thought or free will that was not mine, because they were, in the most basic sense, just limbs connected to a larger mind.

This... complicated things, when I started reaching into interstellar distances. Interplanetary was just fine: I could feel refueling stations around gas giants in the outskirts of the system, I could access the traffic logs of the Relay, and I could even tap into the sensor data of satellites tasked with the study and monitoring of Rannoch's star. This was thanks to the relative inexpensive task of establishing FTL communications with high data traffic ability within a stellar system, as the only real complications at that point were bandwidth and not being able to have direct line of sight through Rannoch's star. These issues were fixed as a side benefit of the network that was already established within the system itself.

I made a pass over a bank of printers, using omnigel to 3D print smaller components. These components were then funneled into assembly machines constructed from Geth platforms deemed too damaged to salvage, or just created wholesale based on the platform's design specs, where they were put together into larger parts, before being scanned for defects and being shunted onto transport belts taking them into the standby areas for a long series of robotic limbs that manipulated the parts into place, then bolted or welded it to the interior of the ship's skeletal frame. Doing things this way, it took me only a few days to produce a small ship of approximately one hundred to one hundred and fifty meters.

It was using this ship that would be tricky. While interplanetary comms were perfectly functional for a being of my sort, FTL interstellar comms were incredibly dangerous, not to mention exceedingly unreliable and difficult to parse myself through. The bandwidth for said communication buoys, bridging the long distance between star systems, was severely limited, and the majority of it was taken up by either commercial or civilian traffic. Civilian level data was too little for my uses, and while I could easily go through the motions of covering my activity as commercial, it still wasn't really enough for my aims and goals. The less said of military communications and data buoys, the better: the things were watched unbelievably closely.

Given enough time, support structure and raw manufacturing capability, plus a few launching ships with VI directing them, I could potentially establish my own communications highways, which I could make more efficient than the established ones by specializing them for the tasks I wanted them to accomplish. However, such a network would take either a few decades to a century as I slowly built it up using normal FTL and constructed the buoys individually using my own manufacturing capability here on Rannoch. Said manufacturing was limited by the dual issues of not being too large as to be noticeable by anyone that might go looking, and the fact that I could only take in so many materials in a limited amount of time without the incongruity of logistical movement noticed by people on the ground not matching up with records in computer systems. Something would fall apart, I knew it.

Which... meant that I needed to figure out how to create an independent instance of myself that could essentially function like another me, then rejoin with the larger me afterwards. Both would be me in every sense, it's just the me-2 would just be a temporary branch-off that would rejoin the whole when its priorities were completed. Towards that notion, I planned to construct two vessels of this, which I had decided to name the Envoy class: a ship designed to carry enough guns that people wouldn't poke me unnecessarily, and enough Geth platforms and machines to begin constructing bases wherever it went with local materials. The first Envoy I'd be sending to scout for a good place to set up a manufacturing base that could begin to ramp up to serving my larger-scale needs. The second Envoy would be sent to Jartar, to establish remote mining and manufacturing... and to begin the study of the Leviathan of Dis.

The fact that there was a Reaper corpse just sitting there, waiting to be taken apart and reverse-engineered... it made my non-existent mouth water. With my AI's immunity to the Reaper's indoctrination and what knowledge I had of the Reapers and their systems, I could sit on and subsume that huge cache of highly-advanced tech and give myself the edge that I would need to accomplish the monumental tasks I had ahead of me. Better yet, I knew that it would be centuries until someone stumbled across it- the Batarians stumbled across the Leviathan twenty years before the events of ME1, meaning that I had just under a good three centuries of time to study it before making the decision to leave it or to hide it somewhere else.

Although, on that point? Most likely a bad call to leave a big Reaper corpse full of Indoctrination enabled tech where the Batarians of all people could get at it. Best to hide it somewhere that it would be tough for the Citadel Races and anyone else to find it. Something to consider when the manufacturing was up and running at a larger scale.

More things for the list, I guess.

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

Holist didn't know how to feel right now.

He scrolled back through countless videos of Geth platforms stopping mid motion, freezing with knives in the air, nearly crashing aircars... and all of this out of nowhere.

He'd gone through the deeper boards, he'd trolled through the info, he'd even talked to people in person- there had been nothing to predict this, they'd just... stopped. No attacks, no threats, no records of any sort of malware of any kind- and then, the records appeared, sometimes before people's eyes. A vast problem near incomprehensible in its scale appears out of the solid blue, and before the specialists even really comprehend that there's something critical happening, it's gone. Just like that.

The next time he went out, he felt like the eyes of every Geth unit were on him, boring into his soul. Unsettled, he thought to himself that he'd be keeping all his records in physical format from now on.

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About the author

Cammy Deer

  • Man in the Van with a Plan

Bio: Writer of many fics, reader of many more.

https://forums.spacebattles.com/members/camolot-the-creator.365215/
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https://archiveofourown.org/users/Camolot/

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