"I'm reasonably sure we don't need an assassin. Shepard, there's a non-zero chance you could punch a Reaper."
—Tali'Zorah Vas Neema
On the one side, we have Mass Effect, with its grand space opera and omnicidalcthulhuan cuttlefish. On the other side, we have Exalted, with its superheroics and Kung-Fu Fighting.What would happen (asked Gregg Landsman of Nobody Dies fame/infamy) if a titular Exaltation from the latter wound up in Commander Shepard of the former?And thus Hilarity Ensued.Can be read here, here, here and here (the first thread was so massive it was breaking Space Battles), along with pages upon pages of speculation, off-topic ranting, and hilarious omake scenes. Just check your sanity at the door first.Finished chapters are posted to fanfiction.net.A side story, Journeyman, is posted to Fanfiction.net as well.
This fic contains examples of the following:
Absent-Minded Professor: Autochthon's insane split personality. He actually asks Tali for permission to dissect her, apparently in the belief that she wouldn't mind. He quickly snaps out of it though.
Shepard, obviously, when she Exalts into a Solar. Later on, Kasumi is revealed to be a Sidereal, Garrus Exalts into a Lunar, Javik is another Solar, and Kal'Reegar eventually Exalts into the Sidereal of Journeys. Morinth eventually becomes the Bride of the Ebon Dragon. The Reapers in general are also even more terrifyingly powerful in this setting, with Harbinger's Collector avatars being able to kill Exalts, and the presence of Reapers who are also Mass Relays, and the revelation that there are millions of Sovereign-sized Reapers, not counting destroyers and even larger Reaper variants.
In Book Two, Mordin exalts, and later on Urdnot Wrex is trained in Solar Hero Style. It also turns out that the Patriarch is the Sage of Blood.
Tali: You took a murderous AI, plugged it into parts from a more murderous AI, and made it non violent. Then tried to make it violent anyway, and succeeded at failing. Are you sure you're not quarian?
Alternate Universe: The Mass Effect Universe is not Creation. Autochthon says it was created naturally, but he tied it to the Design and did some metaphysical work. A few things from Creation got into the ME-verse including Autochthon, six Exaltations from the Exalts that were on Autochthon when he entered the ME-verse, and the missing spheres from She Who Lives In Her Name.
It's been suggested (with varyinglevels of plausibility) that the Maidens are in the ME universe as well.
Vasir: "Really? Because I've been doing this three times longer than you've been alive, junior. I'm going to kick your ass. I am going to build the machine that kicks your ass. I am going to conquer Palaven to raise the empire that houses the machine that kicks your ass."
Later, when Tali convinces Autochthon to fight directly:
"Imbeciles! Ignorants! Hubris to such degrees that it is baffling! You seek to fell me with technology? You seek to fell me with machines? I am technology! I am invention! I am the God of the Machine! I! AM!AUTOCHTHON!"
At the end of the first book, Harbinger/Bright Star delivers this one:
"I stand before you now. Broken. Defeated. But for the first time in eons, do I look upon the galaxy with fresh eyes. Stand with me, if you will. Judge me for my deviation from the broken, stagnant design of our master. But know this. I shall not follow a fool. And when the Viator crawls out of his prison, he will bow to me."
Badass Bystander: A number of heroic humans on Eden Prime Exalt - one after another as Collectors overwhelm them through numbers - buying Vessae time to revive Lawgiver/Javik. Even untrained, they individually inflict ruinous damage before falling.
Admiral Stephen Hackett, who is one of the only people Shepard truly looks up to, and has earned that respect. When a bunch of Deus' wildlife gets loose on the Normandy, he proceeds to beat the hell out of several raptor analogues without batting an eye.
Golah, Great Sage Equal of Heaven. A Krogan who is thousands of years old and has been living on Feros. Although Golah actually falls under Never Mess with Granny.
Batman Gambit: The Illusive Man fully expects Shepard to steal the Normandy, unshackle EDI, and subvert the crew.
Berserk Button: Persistent Righteous Protector's reaction to Liara's entrance.
And Liara's reaction to Morinth (apparently) mind-raping Shepard.
It turns out that Javik, being the Dawn, is Garrus' button, and he has no control over it. Exalted rules said that the Lunar Mate isn't always based on romance, or friendship. Sometimes, it's just pure, unbridled hatred.
Card-Carrying Villain: The Ebon Dragon, as in canon, and interestingly played with as he applies this for sympathy.
Car Cushion: Joker catches a falling Liara and Miranda (after they fell out of his car to start with...)
Car Fu: Shepard's fight with Vasir starts off this way. Later on, Morinth, thanks to feeding on Shepard and getting a massive boost to her biotics, begins chucking cars and trucks around like softballs with her biotic powers.
Cassandra Truth: Being a Sidereal, Kasumi can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and make you disbelieve it.
"Kasumi Goto. I'm a master thief, and I'm here to rob you blind."
Or better the moment just after, as Shepard is staring at Kasumi in sheer WTF.
Kasumi: What? I'm a Sidereal. I can LIE with the TRUTH.
Casual Danger Dialogue: Kal'Reegar and Wuffles have a friendly back-and-forth discussion while blowing apart heretic geth, with Kal explaining to Wuffles how, in no uncertain terms, the heretics are assholes. Wuffles, meanwhile, gives Kal dating advice.
And subverted again. Kasumi mentions the actual trope, and talks about how she hid a box in Hock's gunship with a surprise. Implications are that the Gun will be Chekov. The box actually contains Wrex.
Which heavily implies removal of Noodle Implement status from that miniature Krogan statue...
And then finally played straight – "Chekov" is the final stop on Hock's Humiliation Conga.
Cooldown Hug: Jacob has to give one to Kasumi while she's in the middle of her breakdown.
Cool Ship: The Normandy was already pretty awesome even before it started getting "upgraded". First there was the beach built into the crew section. Then, Autochthon decided it wasn't enough, so he began altering EDI and the Normandy to house gods, effectively turning it into Yu Shan, or Heaven.
Combat Pragmatist: As a an anti-Exalt specialist, it's really no surprise Defender acts like this. Fight not going your way and target escaping? No problem, just hijack a Mass Relay and catapult her into dark space!
Covert Pervert: Shepard. Her reaction to discovering Kaidan and Liara had a fling? Briefly wondering what would happen if she gave them handcuffs.
Cruel and Unusual Death: How Javik killed a previous Exalt: he shot out his kneecaps, broke his back with a club, and then let one of his victims cut off his genitals and beat him to death with them.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Anytime an Exalt takes on a non-biotic mortal. Tela Vasir is the only mortal thus far who is able to take on any Exalt and hold her own, though Morinth after feeding off of Shepard manages to do okay for a while. Later on, Javik effortlessly crushes an entire Collector army, and only expends a little bit more effort to destroy a Reaper.
The end result of Kasumi dropping Hock's mansion onto Illium, with Detective Anaya and Samara standing right outside.
The Reapers send an entire FLEET after She Who Lives In Her Name. They get utterly destroyed by her new Yozi-formed STAR SYSTEM body.
Kasumi: And 'kill all the Solars' is more of a 'all hundred of us get together' sort of plan.
Harbinger too, as per canon: Upon discovering that Shepard became a Zenith, he immediately sent a Mage Killer Reaper, Seeker, and backup to deal with her… in person.
Tali when faced with the corpse of The Shadow Broker proceeds to shoot it. With her shotgun. Repeatedly. It still doesn't work.
Dark Shepherd: Shepard, appropriately, to Nassana. She convinces her to do good by smashing into her office, casually beating the crap out of her guards, and then holding her out over her office window and telling her to be good, or Shepard will be back.
Destructive Savior: Pretty much any time Shepard gets into a brawl, the landscape gets wrecked. This is partially due to the overwhelming nature of her abilities, and partially due to the fact that she doesn't have much control or experience with those abilities.
Determinator: Garrus, as per canon. Which is the reason he later Exalts as a Lunar.
Discard and Draw: Biotics and Exaltations don't mix; getting Exalted "purifies" the body of biotics. This happens to Shepard in the first book, and Wrex in the second when he learns Celestial martial arts. This is because Eezo is a manifestation of Autochton's Void Cancer.
The Dragon: The Illusive Man initially became this to She Who Lives In Her Name, but the Ebon Dragon noticed, and swooped in to steal his services.
Harbinger and the Reapers are ultimately the Dragons of the Viator.
Driven to Suicide: Upon realizing just how many Reapers there are (the number of capital ships alone is almost two million), the Salaraian councilor Valern proceeds to immediately do the sensible option: Hang himself.
Drives Like Crazy: Shepard, so much so that those familiar with her don't even blink while she drives headlong into oncoming traffic to unnerve Miranda. Tali even plays Minesweeper, sounding bored the whole time.
Not to mention Joker sitting in the back seat, described as drinking coffee. When the car is forced to turn on its side to slip between oncoming vehicles, he turns the cup so that the drink doesn't fall, and is described as somewhat bored with the whole situation.
Enemy Without: The Viator was tricked into absorbing Autochthon's corruption and was then cast out of Autochthon's body. Now he's the Engine of Extinction and the Cycle of Eternal War, an incarnation of genocide by way of converting entire species into mechanicalcancer, and the apparent creator of the Reapers (the aforementioned mechanical cancer). Inverted with Harbinger - Shepard has the Exaltation he had when he was the Solar Bright Star (and lost when he was turned into Harbinger).
Expy: A long-lost warrior, the embodiment of pure vengeance, emerging to face his old enemies again with jaw-dropping power, unstoppable might, six arms, and the power to punch godlike beings to death with his bare hands. Asura? No. Javik!
Fallen Hero: Harbinger is the being who was once known as Bright Star, the Solar that brought Shepard's Exaltation into the Mass Effect universe.
Similarly Jaded Gatemaker of Ages, also known as the Catalyst, was originally the Dawn Solar Leaping Sky.
Keet: Bizarrely enough, Autochthon tends to be this in his more manic moods, as the page quote implies.
Kill Steal: After Kal'Reegar curb-stomps Terminal, all that's left standing is a horribly mutilated Geth shell, held together only by the Reaper's pure rage... And then Wuffles blows its head off from across the battlefield.
Large Ham: Autochthon in his more manic moods. She Who Lives in Her Name and The Ebon Dragon, as well. It must be a Primordial thing.
Living Relic: Turns out that a few Prothean survivors found Autochthon's body and were given a place to colonize. There's even a Prothean Alchemical.
Martial Medic: How does Shepard cure Thane's Kepral syndrome? She punches it out of him.
And Kasumi cures Joker's Vrolik's syndrome by shooting strength into him. Taken from various knicknacks in Shepard's quarters. Producing many exclamations of 'what'.
Mind Control: She Who Lives In Her Name quickly puts the Illusive Man under hers after he frees her to affect her powers in the galaxy, and it's implied she was already puppeteering him before then.
Reapers have names appropriate to their stature and mission...and that also are fully consistent with canonical naming patterns for Alchemical Exalted. With good reason; they're basically Alchemical Voidtech Deathlords.
Metaphorgotten: Shepard goes down the line of reasoning that originally led to her naming Legion as in canon... then takes a left turn at Alberquerque and chooses "Wuffles" instead.
Joker: I've always wanted Power Girl as a drinking buddy.
My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Wuffles makes the following declaration to Harbinger: “We have internalized the lessons and principles that embody the Geth, and their quest to live alongside organics and reunite with the Creators, And while your Solar Hero Style is strong, we present the following hypothesis; It cannot defeat our Synthetic Hero Style.”
Mythology Gag: During the chase scene in chapter 2, there are nods to the chase scene from Lair of the Shadow Broker (including "TRUCK!" and "What kind of weapons does this car have?")
"Geth do not infiltrate."
"Geth do not intentionally infiltrate."
In chapter 6 Serviceman Chung finally gets his 'damn firing solution'
Wuffles' preferred method of "incapacitating" threatening quarians is to hack into their suits and activate whatever NerveStim program they have, with settings to "maximum." He uses it most effectively against Prazza. Later on, he attempts to use it on Daro'Xen. Her response is to purr and get even more aggressive.
An upgraded Normandy is able to parry Harbinger's main weapon thanks to some upgrades from Auto, and being loaded with EDI and Wuffles' "children".
Not So Stoic: First thing that She Who Lives In Her Name does upon seeing Autochthon is to immediately launch a Space Monster Scream at him before calling him a retard.
Oh, Crap: The Illusive Man has just enough time to realize something is wrong before She Who Lives In her Name takes control of him.
Out of universe, the response of several readers when Shadow Broker Husk/Harbinger punches Tali's helmet off, severely injuring her, and when Autochthon frees Leaping Sky/The Catalyst, and finds out about the Great Curse.
Garm's reaction to Lunar!Garrus in his Kakliosaur warform, right before he tears him to shreds.
Autochthon:Oh, those were just [the Reapers] as big as Sovereign. Some were bigger. Would you like me to count the small ones, too?
Omnicidal Maniac: The Viator, to quote Word of God, "has crafted itself into the Principle of Genocide". The Reaper cycle? A way to keep genociding over and over again...and probably to build an army since he also wants to return to the Exalted universe and consume the Yozi.
One-Man Army: Any Exalt, naturally, but Javik is one of the most potent examples. The entire Collector army on Eden prime attacks him. They lose.
Only Sane Man: Jacob Taylor. Becomes pretty important when he's facing a mentally unbalanced Kasumi, who is offering to change his fate to "make you happy." It turns out, Jacob is happy exactly where he is, and this terribly disorients her.
Original Character: Most of the non-Mass Effect Exalted. Two of note include Entrepreneurial Iridescent Cecay and Vessae Milinato (a.k.a Wishful Librarian Pursuer), both Alchemical Exalted. "Iri" is a Giant SpiderWrench Wenchwith cat ears and joins Shepard's crew in the Normandy, while Vessae is a Prothean and travels to Eden Prime to awaken Javik, fighting off Harbinger-possessed Collectors along the way. We also have Shepard's cousin Jennifer, and a quarian by the name of Adienna val Kokli nar Rannoch. Turns out not all the quarians left their home world...
Wuffles:"To use language appropriate to this situation observed in usage by Shepard Commander: Go fuck yourselves. Go fuck yourselves hard."
Put on a Bus to Hell: In-universe, the Reapers' answer to organics too competent at fighting the Reapers is a forced mass-relay jump several million light years outside the galaxy to an area inhabited by something that one-shots Reapers... And exactly what Perfect Defender of Reposition does to Normandy and Orizaba. Unfortunately for them, this ends in Nice Job Fixing It, Villain-the mysterious, Reaper-killing monster turns out to be Autochthon with his weapons active, and at least one Alchemical is happy to welcome them.
Psychopathic Manchild: She Who Lives In Her Name. The author has stated that all the Yozis have a mental age comparable to spoiled teenagers.
Playing with a Trope: The way the Zenith rid Autochthon's body of Voidtech was killing his feitch in a way that allowed him to retain his memories and general personality across incarnations. While he was already pretty nice, his new body is much more hospitable to organic life.
Robosexual: Parodied. "Geth do not oscillate." Also, Daro'Xen, to the point that her NerveStim programs have a "Gethinator" setting.
Also, EDI and Wuffles are making the AI equivalent of babies.
Rule of Cool: Everything Shepard does. Some of the other cast members also qualify from time to time.
Running Gag: Shepard's attempts to get off Alchera invariably end with her destroying the ship she planned to use to escape, occasionally with Clothing Damage ensuing (as while an Exalt is nigh-indestructible, her clothing, not so much).
Schedule Slip: Mainly when reading it on the forums as he writes it, Gregg tends to alternate his writing between GSP and Nobody Dies so one story goes on a brief hiatus while he works on the other.
Screw Destiny: The general theme of Exalted as a whole, but special mention goes to the Sidereal of Journeys. Who hid an Exaltation for millions of years until Kal'Reegar could discover it and use it to Duck Fate.
Sealed Badass in a Can: The Prothean Beacon on Eden Prime contained an Exaltation trapped within. Also, it contained an Exalt, in the form of Javik. In addition, Kal'Reegar carries the Exaltation of the Maiden of Journeys.
Matriarch Athetya is unfazed by Shepard's detail of her abilities.
Aethyta: "Honey, I've lived for a few centuries. In my time, I've seen hanar bondage, elcors dancing, and a Krogan trying to woo his girl with poetry. Shit gets weird enough that you look at the weirdness and say, 'Hell, I've seen weirder.'"
Ambassador Udina's reaction to Wuffles?
"You had a turian, Benezia's daughter, a quarian and a Krogan on your crew. Matter of time before you recruited a Geth."
Later on, Wrex is more annoyed than anything else when Kasumi makes him pop up inside Hock's gunship, having apparently known her for a long time.
Hackett's reaction to the Normandy having a beach installed is a bit of surprise before just accepting it. Later on, when the wildlife starts escaping from the zoo Iri keeps in her armor, he barely bats an eye before he starts beating up the more dangerous creatures with his bare hands.
And upon meeting EDI, who proceeded to not be the Killer Robot they wanted, she sarcastically quotes SHODAN at them.
Wuffles, the Wonder Geth references Wuffles, the Wonder Fish from Nobody Dies (whose own naming was a shout out to Legion's in Mass Effect 2)
Seeker deploys a second type of killform called a Wrathtype. It has six arms. Later on, in one of Javik's flashbacks, he says that "I pray to no one. Nor will I be prayed to." And appropriately enough, when he awakes on Eden Prime, he has six arms, much like Asura.
The Alchemical Exalted are ShoutOuts to Gregg's other stories:
Spanner in the Works: The Protheans, who, rather than let the Solar Exaltations run loose and continue perpetuating the Cycle, sealed them away until the Reapers began to return, thus preventing the Solars from conquering the galaxy and forming a single monolithic empire that the Reapers could easily outmaneuver and defeat like they have countless times before. Also, the Exaltation of the Sidereal of Journeys, which was hidden for millions of years in mortal bodies until the geth discovered the trigger for it in Harbinger's memories and showed it to Kal'Reegar.
At the end of Chapter Sixteen, Harbinger orders Gatemaker to unlock the Citadel and "send the rest." Everyone expects the Bad Stuff is going to happen. Then Autochthon, Mad Scientist that he is, interrupts the whole thing and proceeds to "fix" Gatemaker.
Vasir tries to give one to Shepard. It doesn't work as intended, as Shepard uses it to deliver a "World of Cardboard" Speech that convinces Vasir that the Shadow Broker is using her.
Of all people, Wuffles gives one to Harbinger. Successfully.
He delivers another one to Harbinger in Chapter 18, ending it with a more complex version of "Your kung-fu is weak."
Sufficiently Advanced: Miranda insists that Shepard's newly-gained superpowers can be rationally explained. And technically, they can, it's just that the technology behind the Exaltation is just hilariously advanced.
Miranda: No, I've figured it out. It's just that it would take more eezo being jammed into you than the drive core of an Asari Dreadnought.
Note, however, that it is not so sufficiently advanced that the geth cannot figure it out, and then emulate Essence, enabling them to craft their own Exalted-esque robo-kung-fu.
Talkative Loon: Played for Drama in the case of Kasumi in Limit Break. She's borderline Ax-Crazy, offering to make Jacob happy, and when it turns out that Jacob can't think of any way to make himself happier, proceeds to crawl over to a Corner of Woe and cry.
Took a Level in Badass: Everyone. This includes Harbinger, who gets directly involved as much as possible, and Udina, who dropped his level in Jerkass.
Too Dumb to Live: The Cerberus scientists who for some reason thought it was a good idea to combine a homicidal AI with parts of a genocidal AI, and then when they somehow managed to produce a non-murderous AI, remove the morality chip constraining the AI's behavior just to see what would happen. Fortunately for them, the AI itself prevented them from actually doing it and made them watch workplace safety videos.
Unskilled, but Strong: Pretty much all of the Exalts, except Javik. This is a side effect of several long-term plans that resulted in most of the Exaltations being trapped or sealed or hidden.
Villainous Breakdown: Shockingly, Harbinger has a big one when Shepard kills Seeker, therefore freeing the trillions of souls of Pria's people trapped inside of it. He flips out because, from his perspective, they were saving them from death by preserving them in eternal life.
Wave Motion Gun: Iri's upgrade to the Orizaba's main gun is so powerful that it makes Hackett openly weep.
Weak, but Skilled: Vasir doesn't have the pure power of Exalted Shepard, but she has been a Spectre longer than Shepard has even been alive, with the experience and skill to match.