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Fan Fic: Parallel Realities
Parallel Realities is a Mass Effect Fan Fic by InHarmsWay. It is a speculative Alternate Universe Fic, in which Commander Shepard is not human at all.

Rather, Commander Shepard is an alien being from a parallel reality that exists concurrent to the proper Mass Effect galaxy. After an extremely rocky first-contact situation with Cerberus, Shepard’s entire race (the articians) was wiped out. Shepard’s galactic order then charges Shepard (as a very small boy) with going into the Mass Effect galaxy and wiping out Cerberus. However, on the way, Commander Shepard discovers the Reaper threat, and takes on that as well, all while accompanied by an Oracle who talks of tests that Shepard will have to undertake for a reason that’s never adequately explained.

And it only gets stranger from there.

The fic is posted to both DeviantArt and Fanfiction.net.


This fanfic contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: There’s an entire chapter of the fanfiction.net version that has a stat sheet for all of the alien races from Shepard’s home reality. This provides a lot of information that is never even touched on throughout the entire rest of the fic, including what systems of government each individual race uses.
  • Alternate History: It turns out that the Mass Effect galaxy is a mirror galaxy of Shepard’s home reality, one in which artician science created the Reapers through a scientist’s deranged quest for finding the pinnacle of evolution.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Order’s medical technology, which is used to cure both the quarian immune system ‘’in the first game’’ and Kepral’s Syndrome.
    • To a lesser extent, alpha energy.
  • Ascended Extra: Wilson, who only appears in the first mission of Mass Effect 2, is upgraded to being an exion by the name of Xiltro who plays a major role in assisting Shepard during the story’s Mass Effect 2 arc.
  • The Atoner: The Oracle, who is the one who built the Reapers, has been going around behind the scenes setting up the destruction of the Reapers to atone for building them.
  • Author Tract:
    • The author’s views on multiple things in the Mass Effect universe are painfully obvious throughout.
    • Some of his non-fanfic posts on his deviantART page, while bringing up valid points, remove all doubt of this being the case.
  • Babies Ever After: It even employs a plot device concerning artician genetics and other species that comes right out of nowhere for the sole purpose of giving Tali and Shepard biological children to be happily ever after with.
  • Batman Gambit: The artician Oracle set up a rather complicated one against the Reapers which involves a series of temples scattered on the various homeworlds that Shepard has to activate. The existence of humanity was also a gambit on the part of the Oracle.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Shepard gets angry at people who suggest or outright state that he’s a Cerberus sympathizer during the Mass Effect 2 arc.
    • Similarly, being racist in front of Shepard (and especially to quarians) is a very bad idea— just ask the guy he killed in cold blood for insulting his choice of girlfriend.
  • Best Served Cold: To the point where he briefly allies himself with the organization he’s trying to take down to learn more about it so he can take it down, as per the second game.
  • Black and White Morality: Much of the games’ kitchen sink morality gets suddenly fitted into categories of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, depending almost entirely on where they stand when it comes to whether or not they agree/eventually agree with Shepard/the author. Much of the subtleties of each conflict are thus glossed over.
    • In fact, the story is arguably an example of Black and White Insanity, considering that one of Shepard's allies, kill EDI with the only justification being that she was designed from Reaper tech, and no one ever views this as a bad thing
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Illusive Man, once Shepard reveals to him that he’s an artician.
  • Chickification: Tali has to be saved by Shepard twice as much as in the game and overall seems much more dependent on Shepard, as well as crying more often.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Develops between Shepard and Tali, given that Tali was on Mindoir when Shepard was there.
  • Chosen One: Shepard.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A couple.
    • Tali, Shepard, and Garrus running into Nihlus at a specific site of a Prothean beacon. It is possibly justified, though, given that there was more to Nihlus being there than met the eye.
    • What is less easy to justify, however, is the fact that the Oracle, after somehow being the one soul that was freed from a Reaper when it was attacked by a race that put up a good fight, was able to find a mirror universe of the universe she was from at just the right point in time.
  • Convenient Coma: Nihlus, throughout the entire Mass Effect 1 arc.
  • Deep Cover Agent:
    • Shepard, to the point that he begins his mission when he is only a child.
    • Similarly, this is the role of Nihlus in the Mass Effect 2 arc, as he was sent by the Council to spy on Shepard. When Shepard reveals his true identity towards the end of the Mass Effect 2 arc, however, Nihlus admits this to Shepard, and effectively switches allegiances.
  • Deus ex Machina: Shepard is prepared to sacrifice himself to activate the final temple that will destroy the Reapers forever. When he gets there, however, he runs into the Illusive Man, who turns out to be half-artician himself. When Shepard proceeds to stab him with Asha Bel, the Oracle says that the half-artician blood in the Illusive Man and the fact that the Oracle herself is a spirit of an artician (thus constituting the other half) will be enough.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Kai Leng. He gets augmented with Reaper technology, kills Kasumi, and is the only character in the whole story who can kick Shepard’s ass during their encounters throughout the Mass Effect 3 arc. It’s a shame, then, that when he gets to the final confrontation he gets taken out by a simple biotic crate attack sending him falling into the abyss
  • Everybody Lives: With the sole exceptions of Mordin and Kasumi, the rest of the crew of the Normandy make it to the end of the fic in one piece, as well as characters who in the games are Doomed by Canon (Nihlus, Rael’Zorah, Garrus’ squad…).
  • Expy: The articians are basically expies of humans. This is repeatedly lampshaded throughout.
  • False Flag Operation: The Collectors attempt one on the Migrant Fleet by creating fake experiments of Rael’Zorah’s experiments that he supposedly conducted on the Alarei, which he apparently never did in this fic.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Cerberus hates the articians because of the fact that they are expies of humanity.
    • In addition, all the instances of this in the Mass Effect canon are taken beyond their normal canon levels.
  • The Fatalist: The salarian Councillor, once he realizes the Council’s negligence in the matter of the Reapers.
  • Fix Fic: The inevitable result of a fic which keeps several Doomed by Canon characters alive.
  • For Want of a Nail: Some instances of this come up, such as Nihlus living past Eden Prime. The entire Mass Effect 3 arc is also considerably different from what the game will undoubtedly be.
  • Genocide Backfire: Granted, the genocide was the result of Playing with Syringes, but it still counts.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom:
    • A common trait of exion eyes: while their eyes are always glowing, to anyone who looks at them not knowing what they are they seem to glow menacingly. Teilo owes much of her reputation on Omega to this fact.
    • Shepard sometimes displays the more commonly used version of this trope whenever he uses his alpha energy.
  • Happily Ever After: One gets the feeling that the entire point of the fic was to manipulate events so that Shepard and Tali could be as happy as possible in a universe that’s as idealistically created as possible in the end.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Shepard finds out in the second to last chapter of the whole story that he’ll need to die to stop the Reapers. He’s prepared to do it… and then the Deus ex Machina shows its face.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Cerberus and the Council both hold this ball with an iron grip throughout basically the whole story. The salarian councilor eventually drops it, though, and he lampshades his holding of it in a conversation with Shepard during the Mass Effect 3 arc.
    • Also, for some reason it took the Shadow Broker taking an exion prisoner and torturing him for the Broker to find out about the existence of the Order.
    • At one point, Shepard himself holds it, when he tells the Illusive Man at the end of the Mass Effect 2 arc what he is, and that he’s going to get his revenge on all of Cerberus. This, after countless dialogue scenes talking about how Cerberus won’t see their retribution coming and how they’d like it to stay that way.
      • Keep in mind, the events of the Arrival DLC have yet to occur at that point, and the heroes do nothing about Cerberus between the time that the Collector base is destroyed and when Shepard stands trial on Earth.
  • Infodump: Happens a lot.
    • This happens any time Shepard talks about his backstory. It wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that we get the same exact exposition ‘’every single time’’ Shepard talks about his backstory. It doesn’t help matters that the times this exposition is given again are very rarely skipped over, which means that we get the same exact infodump no less than ten times by the time the story ends.
    • The entire reveal is told in a long infodump.
  • In Spite of a Nail: On the other hand, though, there are points where the story adheres ‘’too’’ faithfully to the games. See The Stations of the Canon below.
  • It's Personal: Extremely so.
  • Laser Blade: Nemain (later renamed Asha Bel).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: As you can guess, Cerberus eventually bites it. As does the Council.
  • Last of His Kind: Shepard.
  • Life Force: Alpha energy and omega energy.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Especially in the Mass Effect 3 arc.
  • MacGuffin Location:
    • In the Mass Effect 3 arc, it is revealed that there are multiple temples scattered around the galaxy’s various homeworlds that were erected by the articians that are to serve as anti-Reaper weapons that will purge all the Reapers from the galaxy. Much of the Mass Effect 3 arc is subsequently spent trying to find these locations and liberate them from the hands of the Reapers.
    • Living MacGuffin: It also turns out that in order to effectively harness the MacGuffin, an artician must allow himself to get absorbed. Since Shepard is the last of his kind…
  • Mecha-Mooks: The exions are a subversion of this: while they are basically the geth as recycled in a parallel reality, their intelligence is such that they are viewed as a separate, equal race by the Galactic Order, and thus are given the same rights that any organic would have.
  • Moral Myopia Shepard claims that his race always does what's right, not matter what. Despite this, his allies Kill EDI simply because she was designed from Reaper technology. He himself kills a Batarian slaver trying to negotiate with him, kills an Alliance soldier for making a threat he was in no position to carry out, and smashes Ashley into a crate when she doesn't want to join him and Cerberus. Keep in mind that he is five times stronger than the average Human and could have easily killed her by doing that. Pretty screwed up definition of "right" there buddy.
  • Out of Focus: Other characters besides Shepard and Tali are rather undeveloped, to the point where entire recruitment and loyalty missions happen off screen.
  • Playing with Syringes: Cerberus’ willingness to do this causes genocide, and basically gets the Galactic Order of the other universe involved in the Mass Effect galaxy’s affairs.
  • Plot Armor: Worn by most of the major characters.
  • Plot Hole: A few are left after the big reveal. Of particular note is this one:
    • So the Reapers were created using a scientist who was creating a weapon that could combine multiple people’s minds into one body. But that leaves a glaring question: why didn’t the articians attempt to use alpha energy first? It’s shown that alpha energy has hugely negative impact on omega, and to get the one it would be assumed you’d have to get the other as well. So who decided that the best course of action was to create what would eventually become the Reapers rather than invest in alpha energy?
    • A non-related plothole refers to how Tali and her mother are on Mindoir, despite both of them being the family of an admiral in the Fleet.
  • Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills: Pretty much everyone (with the sole exception of Legion) is unable to figure out the truth behind Shepard until Shepard himself tells them, especially the characters who are tasked with looking into his activities with Cerberus in the Mass Effect 2 arc. As this list includes the Shadow Broker and Liara, it borders on the implausible at several points.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The parallel universe features five distinct races (articians, rastians, ra’ken, tia’zu, and exions), all with superior technology to the Mass Effect galaxy and all who have thrived longer than the Protheans. And yet, the combined population of this parallel reality is smaller than the population of Earth in the Mass Effect canon. Granted, the artician population numbered in the trillions before their untimely extinction at the hands of Cerberus, but given that most of the other races only have populations of two and a half billion or less (which is less than the current human population of planet Earth) the scale is still off.
  • Secret Keeper: Tali, Garrus, and Dr. Chakwas are the only ones who know about the parallel reality by the end of the Mass Effect 1 arc. It doesn’t remain that way for long come the Mass Effect 2 arc, where suddenly everyone who is on Shepard’s crew (and nobody else, somehow) seems to find out incredibly quickly.
  • Secret Test of Character: The Oracle manages to find ways to shoehorn these in, perhaps most egregiously when Shepard suffers a bad case of death between the Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 arcs.
  • Shout-Out: In response to Kal’Reegar expressing shock that the exions are a race of AI beings, the exion standing next to Shepard at the time opens his omni-tool and channels HK-47 in a mocking manner.
  • The Stations of the Canon: Followed more or less religiously, despite Shepard’s coming from a parallel reality: he still has the background and psych profile (Colonist and War Hero, respectively), the plots of the first two games are still adhered to (especially in the Mass Effect 2 arc), and some parts of the Mass Effect 3 arc correlate directly to the few missions that have been revealed to be in the game. Some of the stations are easier to justify than others.
  • Straw Loser: Anyone who tries to argue with Shepard is doomed to lose and look like an asshole compared to him.
  • Technicolor Death: The Illusive Man.
  • The Theme Park Version: A lot of the more subtle parts of the galaxy’s infighting are watered down, particularly in regards to the quarian/geth conflict.
  • Waif Prophet: The Oracle, who is the spirit of a dead artician.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The exions, an AI race, are basically treated as organic beings by everyone in Shepard’s home reality. Compare and contrast the geth, who surprisingly get shunned by the parallel reality as well until Legion appears.
  • The World Is Not Ready: The most frequently cited reason for the Order waiting for so long to reveal itself to the rest of the galaxy.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: What happens when Cerberus decides to mess with artician technology. Oddly, they never call them zombies.
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