Nothing to do with skepticism or mothering, but what the hell.
I’ve been consumed with Mass Effect 3 since its release last week. The ME series is phenomenal, and my hat is off to the writers and artists who created it. At the same time, I’m part of the huge cadre of fans who hate the last few minutes of ME3, not because it doesn’t end the way I wanted, but because it really fails on a storytelling level: it is disconnected from the wonderful complex web of decisions and repercussions that make the games so distinctive. It’s also incoherent, and unsatisfying. I am enjoying the different fan offerings for alternative endings though. There’s so much creativity and passion out there, even if Bioware never tweaks the ending (as they are unlikely to do), it’s fun to watch the movement.
WARNING – Slight spoilers begin around here.
For my part, I was very dissatisfied with the explanation of the Reapers’ motivation. The story seems to be that they preserve organic life by “harvesting” it, but that hardly fits with their malicious and relentless push to destroy every vestige of intelligent species each cycle. So I crafted my own bit of fan fiction that indicates where the Reapers might have come from, and why they do what they do. I’m not much of a fiction writer, so it’s probably pretty crappy, but I take comfort knowing that it can’t be as crappy as the nonsensical explanation offered in-game.
The First Cycle
“This machine will outlast everything!”
The salesman patted the demo model affectionately. “And this isn’t just the most reliable piece of farming equipment, it’s the most advanced. Fully automated, with the new long-life battery, plus solar panels integrated into the surface. She’s even got a revolutionary laser cutter, doing away with the wear and tear you get on physical blades. Once you turn it on, it’ll practically run your operation for you.”
Neela saw her husband nodding and staring at the harvester, his tail lowered in wonder, but she said, “How does it manage that? It may look lifelike, but it can’t be that smart.”
The salesman ably maneuvered to the appropriate talking point: “Ah, this has the most advanced A.I. available. Based on the platform that runs military drones, updated with biomimetic neurological circuits. This unit can gather data and extrapolate from it to cope with novel situations. It can care for your crops virtually unsupervised, from planting to harvest. Then when there’s no work to be done, it automatically stores itself and goes into sleep mode to conserve energy, leaving some low-drain sensors up to detect when it’s needed again. It even has a rudimentary thought-sensing capability – it doesn’t approach our telepathic communication, but it can get the gist of what you want it to do.”
Sinec nodded again in appreciation. “Amazing! And it’s cute, too. Almost looks like a little robot kid.”
It did in fact have some childlike qualities. Its wide-eyed look evoked the large eyes of children, while its elegant contours and stylized shape made it seem non-threatening, even endearing. Neela had read that the company wanted it to resemble a living farmhand, without being so lifelike as to be uncanny. She thought they’d hit the mark pretty well.
“Oh yes, some people get downright attached to them,” the salesman informed them. “I hear there’s a sweet old lady in the next town over who chats with hers! Spends the evening reading The Scriptures to it, if you can believe that. I don’t know if she’s just lonely, or she thinks it’ll get religion!” He began to laugh, but trailed off as he looked up at Neela.
“Oh listen to me, talking nonsense. Of course there’s no possibility of the A.I. understanding such things. Very strict controls put in to limit any, ah, evolution in undesirable directions. They think well enough to sort out problems, much like your shuttle integrates GPS info and collision avoidance data to get you through traffic. A far cry from philosophy, am I right?”
Sinec chuckled dutifully, waving a foreleg as though dismissing the whole line of thought. “The real issue is the price,” he said. “You’ve got to demonstrate that this will repay the upfront cost, and pretty quickly too.”
“Of course,” the salesman’s eye opened wide as he saw the sale coalescing. “Now, it depends on the model you choose. Most people go for the Regent model, but I really recommend the Sovereign. It’s more of an investment, but it also pays back faster. I’ve got the paperwork that lays it all out – maybe we could go inside and go through it.”
As Sinec ushered the salesman toward the house, Neela followed slowly. She looked back at the machine hovering in the yard, its tail held high to capture solar energy, while its large red eye stared blankly out at the horizon. She realized she was holding her breath. She gave herself a little shake, and then went inside.