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The RPG Scrollbars: Before Mass Effect Andromeda

Uneasy Ryder

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Since the original trailers, some players have had questions about Mass Effect Andromeda [official site] and some of its details. In the name of answers, we present this snippet from the official prequel novel. Available March 28th from all good bookshelves.

From where Director Tann stood, the curves of the Nexus stretched out like the wings of an angel, embracing Andromeda and all its potential. He winced at the thought. Human thought. Sentimental. Shameful. A thought most unbecoming of a salarian, who should have seen nothing but steel and forceshields, aluminium and plastic.
        The buzzer rang. Ah. Distraction. How welcome.
        “Send him in.”        “Director Tann.” The nervous human man saluted. Tann did not return it. He did not want to risk poking himself in the eye again. “You have your report?”
        “Yes, sir. We estimate that the damage done by the rebels- sorry, I mean of course, the exiles, sir, will take another three months to fully repair. That’s of course if we continue with current priorities.”
        “There has been no sign of the Arks?” Of course not. The human boy would have mentioned. There would have been sirens. Cheers. Certainly, nobody would ignore one of the gigantic Arks approaching and connecting to the Nexus. Even if the sensors were glitched, the Nexus had windows. Somebody would have noticed.
        “No sign, sir, sorry. We-“
        Tann raised his hand. “A moment. What was that?”
        “What, sir?”
        “You’re grinning, boy. And why are your eyes rolling around in your skull? Stop that.”
        The human reddened. “Sorry, sir. It turns out that spending six hundred years in cryogenic sleep has some unfortunate physical side-effects we weren’t expecting.”
        “Yes, yes, yes. The rubberisation process.” He winced, feeling his eyelids drooping again. “Look, we turned the heating down to hopefully stop anyone melting any further. Still, that is still no excuse for all those insolent facial contortions you keep pulling.”
        “Oh. That. No, I mean no disrespect, Director. It seems that before the exiles fled the Nexus, they sabotaged the life-support systems. Apparently our air supply is now 10% nitrous oxide and ammonium sulphide. Result is that everyone here’s constantly both on the edge of cracking up laughing and smelling an incredibly eggy fart.”
        Well, that explained everything, thought Tann. Still:
        “What? Why was I not informed of this entirely convincing explanation?”
        “Director Addison was supposed to-“
        Tann gritted his teeth. Addison had called in sick this morning. Something about an accident with her recent botox treatments. Don’t ask, they’d said. Don’t tell, he’d replied. “Very well. And all of the people squat-running in the habitation zones?”
        “Oh. No, that’s because we forgot to build any toilets. Luckily, our hydroponics bay is grateful for any… contributions. Our botanists say that if we all do our part, we’ll be able to eat real food again in about eight months.” His stomach rumbled. “Yay!”

Tann dismissed the boy and granted himself the luxury of a deep sigh. So far, it seemed that everything that could have gone wrong with this mission had done, not least that its acting Director, which was to say, himself, was little more than a glorified tax-man now thrust into the big chair. Of course, it would not do to share his uncertainties with the crew. If they had yet to show much evidence of looking up to him, he was damned if they would look down.
        He left his office with eyes held high, and his most officious clipboard clamped under his arm. As ever, the Nexus crew was doing its best to construct a vessel the complexity of the Citadel in what had to be a fraction of the time and budget of whatever precursors had made the original. At least, that was the idea. Instead, he could not help notice that for every person who appeared to be working, there was another behind them doing little but reading from a holographic work order.
        Pausing for a moment, Tann added a small note next to his contemptuous musings. As much as the idea would have appalled his bureaucratic soul back on Sur’Kesh, perhaps there were indeed too many layers of middle management, and-
        “Eight.”
        And there was the sound of a krogan who would passionately agree with that. Nakmor Kesh never let him forget how far he’d been in line for the big chair.
        “What is it, Kesh?”
        “Thought you should know that the last of my clan just left. You know why.”

Publicly of course, he couldn’t look as relieved as he was. He was still somewhat confused as to the reason for the krogran’s presence, not least because the only two options for their species was explosive breeding to galactic-threatening proportions or their current completely unsustainable birthrate, regardless of Kesh’s clan having a certain minor resistance to it. Why had they brought them along instead of, for instance, the many quarians who would no doubt have loved a new home and who could have put their technological and, ahem, ingenuity towards the problem? On second thoughts, if they’d been along, they’d have stripped the Nexus bare before leaving. Not that political correctness allowed him this opinion these days.
        “So, just to confirm, the exiles have already gone out into the universe and established themselves, yet we’re still incapable of finding a single world worth trying to plant down roots without the magical Pathfinder we all keep hearing about? Whose skills, I might add, only make any sense in a universe of single biome planets, and would be far more effectively handled by ship sensors, both to prevent any accidents while exploring and prevent any unfortunate issues like simply not being around while Planet Deathrain has its yearly acid monsoon?”
        “Yes,” stated Kesh. She paused. “We should not think too much about the details of this mission. It is increasingly clear that its planners clearly did not.”
        Tann sighed. “And we still have no real signs of intelligent life?”
        A cough as an asari researcher stepped up. Tann couldn’t remember her name. He’d never really ‘got’ asari in the same way as most of the galaxy, especially how their idea of good work seemed to be either stripper or psychic super-commando.
        “Well, so far we’ve detected two major forms of life and heard rumours of a third. First, the Remnant, being the robotic leftovers of some precursor civilisation about which we know nothing except that they really like triangles, jumping puzzles, and pissing around with Sudoku puzzles that nobody in the galaxy could mistake for fun.”
        “At least it’s not the Towers of Hanoi.”
        “Pfft. The second is a race called the Kett. Strangely, those on the battlefield seem to be males, though our scans of their radio frequencies do seem to suggest that in addition to using titles like Honored and Chosen, there are indeed Kett females.”
        The salarian wrinkled his brow. “Indeed? What do Kett ladies do?”
        “Mostly sit around and make a fuss of Tiddles, Fluff and Mister McPurr.”
        Tann paused. He knew the self-destruct code. He just had to say it…
        “I think you’d better run,” advised Kesh. She glanced at Tann, and a smirk appeared on her lips: “Asari excuse for a pun, that was.”
        The asari grinned. “Oh. Before I go, I have the latest reports on potentially habitable planets. Now that the Golden Worlds aren’t a viable option, I thought…”

Finally, some potentially good news! If Tann was sure of one thing, it was that his career as an accountant was not going to define him now. He had grown up a wide-eyed salarian… well, to be exact, a particularly wide-eyed salarian, always looking to the stars and dreaming of the wonders that awaited. Such incredible worlds of imagination and vision, like none in the Milky Way had ever seen before. Forests of sentient fungus, glowing to the touch. Great planets carved from crystal of every colour, where drivers would ascend huge soaring arcs in the sky. The breathable waters of aquatic heavens, awash in coral and beams of light from above. Living worlds, where settlers would live in symbiosis with a great intelligence more evolved than any species. That was what had drawn him to Andromeda in the first place; the dream of seeing the impossible and oh, meeting the species that must have evolved within. Sentient clouds of crackling energy, forming and reforming. Great tentacled creatures swinging from high thorned branches and-
        “So, anyway, we’ve found a desert.”
        “A… desert?”
        “It’s quite a pretty desert.” The asari considered it. “Oooh, and there’s that one planet with the floating-“
        “Nobody cares about the fucking floating rocks!” Tann gritted his teeth. He was a bipedal amphibian from the other side of the galaxy, and even he’d seen Avatar. “Why did we bother, people? Why did come out all this way if everything was just going be the same as home?”
        “At least there’s no Reapers?”
        “What’s a-” His fingers made air-quotes of their own volition- “Reaper?”
        “Oh, yeah. We don’t know that yet.” The asari paused. “Is my right eyeball stuck in the corner of my eye again?”
        “Yes.”
        “Goddess. I’ll go pop it back into place with a cocktail stick.”
        “You do that,” sighed Tann, as she and Kesh returned to work. Suddenly, he felt so very alone. He’d have gone to the Vortex bar if there wasn’t a big pile of crates in front of it. He’d have gone to his office, if it didn’t feel more like a place where people went to requisition cleaning supplies. Now he thought about it, that would explain all the people lined up every morning to do just that. Time for a new sign on the door.
        He opened the secret compartment and retrieved the bottle. Optimists would have considered it half-full. Pessimists, half empty. Right now, Director Tann considered it not enough to bother getting a glass. Welcome to Andromeda, he mused. It’s just like home, only everyone seems to be doing an impression of a human Stretch Armstrong doll left on top of the radiator for too long, all the new stuff being reported to the Nexus seems to lack any imagination, and this afternoon, I really have to go and find who implemented that scanning mechanic on our scout-ships and give them the bollocking of their lives. Of course, aside from all that, why, it’s Schaklass Day in March!
        Maybe things will get better after this trial, he thought.
        These trials, he corrected, draining the bottle.
        After six hundred years of waiting for this opportunity… he had to hope.

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