“Send us Mass effect fanfic,’ I said last week. ‘It’s for a competition! You have a chance to win a copy of Andromeda and a handy remote-controlled Nomad! Come on, it’s going to be fun!”
We asked, and you delivered — and my inbox will never be quite the same.
Sorting the entries was surprisingly difficult as there were so many excellent stories. Some stumbled upon the 500-word limit, telling stories of a post-Reaper universe or of how Sir Isaac Newton really is the deadliest bastard in space. Others were short and sweet. Multiple entries played on the “for sale, baby shoes, never worn” theme (one of which featured krogan baby shoes). Many made me laugh. Some of them brought me to tears. You have written great things.
The winning entry: On calm shores
But there can only be one winner, and that winner is Ars reader Eliza Stone. She is now the proud owner of a new copy of Mass Effect: Andromeda and an RC Nomad, and here’s the story that won her the award:
Mordin has no more shells yet.
He conducted tests on their chemical composition (CaCO3 calcium carbonate). He has tested their structural integrity (questionable). He licked them, just to see what all the geologists were talking about (utter nonsense).
Yet there are thousands. Millions, perhaps, scattered over an endless beach with a warm sun and a nighttime cycle of familiar stars. Science to do, tests to run, things to think about. Little songs to hum when the world goes quiet.
Mordin will eventually question it all; maybe when he’s done with the shells.
It’s quite the afterlife, he thinks – since he wasn’t sold on the idea of an afterlife in the first place, he’s happy to be pleasantly surprised. No budgets, no peer reviewers, nothing for the company except the pleasure of scientific research.
…he probably shouldn’t be as lonely as he is.
One day he sees red hair in the distant sea and his old lips thin. Way too early, but it was predictable. Didn’t expect any other outcome of the war – was naive to hope otherwise.
Well, there’s no point in staying, Mordin decides. Another bucket and shovel have materialized on the beach and might as well be put to use. Moreover, scientific collaboration is always more stimulating than working in isolation.
“Scheper!” he says, holding out the bucket to an old, weary friend who is finally at peace. “Good to see you. Need a research partner.”
Runner-up the first: out of reach
I wish I could name 50 runners-up, but I only have room for two. The first is Mr_Hilikus, who wrote this piece that started off slow but hit me pretty hard at the end:
“The M-98 Widow is a single-shot sniper rifle that can eradicate kinetic barriers and armor of extreme range. The design is original, believe it or not, and without modifications to your personal armor and the rifle itself, only the recoil can shatter human bone. The widow is not an anti-personnel weapon – it kills monsters.
“For customization, I personally recommend anything that makes it difficult for the enemy to find you. Oppressor is good. The widow makes a very striking ‘thumm’ after shooting. Heat protection is also good. Thermal optics is a sniper’s worst enemy. Finally, make room for lots of thermal clips. You need them. And don’t waste time or resources expanding the barrel for more power. An extra two percent higher projectile velocity doesn’t matter if you’re using a tank killer.
“You need patience to operate a weapon like this. This is not a weapon for a vanguard, an engineer or an ordinary soldier. You calculate the shot as a firing solution on a frigate. The collateral damage isn’t all that different if you miss. You take your time. Double check your goal. To breathe. If you don’t, the wrong person will have a bad day.
“Pick a good spot away from the action. Don’t feel bad. You are useless on the front line. Leave that to the men with heavy armor and shotguns. Concrete floor is best if you can find it. Stay away from foliage unless it is wet. You don’t want an ejected thermal clip to set things on fire. Embarrassing way to reveal your position to the enemy. If necessary, bring a partner. No spotter – your gear does that for you. I recommend one of those guys with a shotgun, in case Charlie locates your position and wants to say hello.
“After knocking out a few targets, you take a break and change positions. This is necessary. If you stay in one place too long, the enemy will find you. You’re a valuable target, so it’s a good bet they have spotters calculating the angles of your shots to find your nest. Stay mobile. Request a jump jet, so achieving a vertical position is not an adventure. They are also good for escaping quickly if things go wrong.
“You see things more clearly than other people. faces. expressions. Don’t let it bother you. Don’t think about it. Don’t let them force you to take risks. You’re a killer, not a hero. You can’t save a mother and her child in two clicks. Even if you managed to hit the shell rushing them, it’s just too close. A weapon designed to obliterate heavy armor leaves an oversized crater. If anything, just give them a clean death. It is better to die than to become one of those things.”
“I’m very happy with your progress, Johnathan. I know this is difficult. Want to talk more about it today? The mother and child in London?”
“Not today, Doctor. I’m just not… Not today.”
Runner-up the second: ghost of a ghost
Our second-place finish made me smile early in the morning, which is always a sign of a good story. Here it is, by Cody Perez:
Battle of a Citadel Soup Server
Scoop, lift, scoop onto plate. That was the daily life of a soup kitchen worker like me. Down in the Wards we went about our business, ministering to the downtrodden and the seedy underbelly that lay beneath the expansive and concealing beauty of the presidency. The Citadel soup kitchen – or C-Soup, as the locals called it brilliantly – was a haven for the oppressed and the oppressors alike to get their breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It wasn’t too challenging a track, but it presented a lot of the problems. Rival gangs, dirty mouths and trigger fingers occasionally led to fights in a place where everyone is welcome. Unfortunately, today was such a day.
It was lunchtime when in line I heard an even more annoying and louder krogan than most. The target of his harsh words? A timid, trembling volus right in front of me that seemed to be money to him. A quick look at the krogan’s deep scars told me he was part of Clan Edrix, notorious ruffians who specialized in your usual extortion, smuggling and the like.
At that moment, the thug plucked poor Volus from his feet and slammed him against the counter, sending the dextro-protein goulash flying everywhere.
“Where’s my money, soft skin?” exclaimed the Edrix.
“I … I’m working on it,” the volus squeaked through his breath. “I have a few businesses that will be lining up soon. Then you have all your money, including interest!’
“We have rules. You wouldn’t expect me to take my word for it like you did? I’m going to show everyone here today what happens when you lie to Clan Edrix. Just be glad you have me and not one of my brothers.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a shotgun was aimed at the head of the volus. The whole place was quiet and waiting expectantly for a beautiful show. I sighed. Why didn’t I stay on Thessia to help my parents?I changed my mind.
Before I had Volus brains covering me, a voice rang out. “What have we got here? This is a nice establishment. Why ruin the friendly atmosphere?” From the crowd, a man in sophisticated dark armor with an N7 engraved on it approached. Both the krogan and the volus turned their gaze to him as he went on.
“I suggest you put it down, have some food and enjoy your meal. Or else, sick have to participate.”
Dropping its victim, the krogan began to walk towards the hero known in the galaxy. “You may be a celebrity, but I’m not afraid to crush you a little bit.” The thug gave a blow, but before he could land, he was swept off his feet and knocked unconscious on the ground.
The hero came to me, picked up one of the fallen trays and said, “Here’s a signature for everything you do.” I looked down and saw a holocard that read ‘Conrad Shepherd’. I can’t remember – was Conrad For real his first name?
Thanks to the hundreds of people who took the time to enter. I wish I could give something to everyone, because reading all your work over the past week has been a wonderful, joyful experience. If anyone wants to post their stories in the comments below, feel free to – the world is a better place with so much creativity and awesomeness in it. Even you, asari tentacle porn dude. Yes, your story was great too, even though I couldn’t use it.
I would also like to do such a competition again in the future, provided I can give away more nice things. Based on the responses, it seems that Ars readers are happy and willing to submit stories for awards, and I totally agree. Stay tuned!