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Fanfic / Renegade Reinterpretations

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Renegade Reinterpretations is a Mass Effect Alternate Universe Fic by College Fool, written more in the style of a counterfactual historical document than a traditional narrative.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A freshfaced new race, barely out of its gravity well, discovers the remnants of precursor technology and uses it to bootstrap itself to the stars, only to be hampered by an older race with a hostile interest. Sound familiar?


Not quite. Instead of the Turians, it's the Batarians who discover Relay 314. Without canon's lightning-fast advancement rate, humanity gets steamrolled in the initial fights. It takes decades of frenzied research (pushed along by the constant reverse-engineering of any captured alien equipment), and a guerrilla war that would make the Vietcong proud, to get into a position where humanity can even begin to effectively fight back. When it finally can, though, it does so most fiercely, pushing the Hegemony all the way back to the Batarian homeworld of Kar'Shan and more. Turian interference eventually forces an armistice...though only after a far more vicious, if still short, Human/Turian war, and treaty stipulations neither side is fully happy with.

The story thus continues into a option-by-option rewrite of the events of the games, with a much less nice humanity in play. As a result, there is no more Paragon/Renegade divide; the divide this time is between "Xenonationalism" and "Assimilationism". Both are aspects of Renegade, but with their own nuances. Advocates of the former are xenophobic, self-centered, specist and arrogant...yet recognizing the necessity of cooperation and compromise while being strongly against coercion. The latter are idealistic, wish for aliens to be a part of the galactic landscape, and seek to improve the world...via humanity doing the fixing, being paternalistic, and never taking no for an answer.


Although it is effectively finished, that happened before the release of ME3 and the author has stated that he has no interest in revising it for the trilogy-ender.

Compare and contrast Mass Effect 2 AU Lanius, another Mass Effect Alternate Universe Fic by the same author. Also contrast two separate response fics both titled Paragon Reinterpretations, one by MB18932 and the other by RillyB.Dilly, that take the Paragon route instead. College Fool himself talked about writing a fic of that type, called Paragon Persuasions, but never got to it.


This fanfic contains examples of the following:

  • Above Good and Evil: The work tries to reconstruct Morinth as amoral, clearly distinguishing it from her psychopathic canon behavior.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: 'Mordin is an awesome character as it is, and not simply for his Simply Sublime Scientific Salarian Singing Skills.'
  • All Asari Want Bad Humans: In this fic, Asari who are attracted to humans tend to view them as "wounded bad boys" who need "the gentle love of an Asari heroine" to "reform" them.
  • Ascended Extra: Kasumi, canonically a DLC character, becomes part of Cerberus and one of Shepard's starting companions in ME2 alongside Miranda.
    • Kelly's role is expanded, with her being allowed to act as a true ship's counselor and potentially become a proper love interest for Shepard.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Sidonis turned traitor this time because the Shadow Broker threatened his last sibling's life.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Hey, Thane fans! Annoyed your favorite character didn't have an obvious place to shine during the Suicide Mission? One part's specifically dedicated to you, where success or failure equals a sure death, but opting not to send anyone leads to other teammates dying down the line!
  • Brains and Brawn: Okeer and Grunt come as a package deal here, unlike in canon. Okeer doesn't do any fighting, so it's still Grunt who's the frontline companion.
  • Brick Joke: After hearing various tall tales about the (unrecruitable) Batarian One-Man Army and summarily dismissing the idea he exists, Shepard can find a dossier on him in the Shadow Broker's files.
  • Child Soldiers: Morinth is one — at least, by the standards of the Asari.
  • Clone Army: See below
  • Clones Are People, Too: Humanity resorts to mass cloning to supplement its numbers. The clones are given full legal rights some time in. Practically seamless integration is greatly assisted by the fact that they're not all exact duplicates of each other, but more like mass-produced, normally-genetically-varied people. However, mass human cloning is made illegal at the close of the First Contact War at the discretion of the Citadel, and no clone can become a Spectre.
  • Composite Character: With a dose of Legacy Character. Jack was the original Subject Zero, but that was a long time ago. Miranda is a clone, but also exhibiting aspects of Jack as a sort of split personality. On the romantic history aspect, that gets merged into Morinth.
  • The Confidant: Kelly's role as this is expanded; after major decisions, Shepard can now discuss them with her, hear her thoughts, and then choose whether or not to justify their actions.
  • Crapsack World: While it was never exactly nice place to begin with, aligning with the Assimilationists and giving the Collector Base to Cerberus causes the galaxy to turn into one giant warzone, where either the humanity enslaves most of the sentient species and systematically wipes out the rest, or creates its own empire in Terminus, starting the era of conflict, conquest and genocide.
    • None of the other endings are particularly ideal either:
      • If the Assimilationist path is taken and the Omega Base is given to the alliance then:
      • Victory: The non-council and associate races rally behind humanity due to the alliance treating them better than the council did. The human-allied races are rewarded lavishly, while those that opposed them, which can include anything from minor associate races like the Volus to the entirety of the original council, have their relays cut off and eventually become the new Terminus systems.
      • Failure: Humanity and the Citadel engage in a centuries-long war which ends in the alliance retreating behind the 314 Relay, and eventually disappearing over the centuries. Eventually, however, humans learn how to build their own relays.
    • If Assimilationist Shepard gives the base to the council:
      • Victory: Human leadership during the Reaper War leads to the galaxy's races accepting the Human Council's authority. Humanity, in turn, gives Council status to the species that supported it, which, depending on the choices made, can be anything from the volus to the vorcha. This would be, overall, one of the better endings, if it weren't for the fact that the species that opposed humanity, which, at minimum, constitute at least one council race, are exiled to the Terminus.
      • Failure: Humanity's poor leadership of the galaxy during the Reaper War leads to a war between the Council and Alliance. Humans fare poorer here than in the above failure timeline and is reduced to a Turian vassal.
  • The Xenonationalist path is better, but not by a lot.
    • If the Xenonationalist route is taken and the Council is given the Collector Base:
    • If Xenonationalist Shepard gives the base to the alliance:
      • Victory: Humanity uses the base to become the strongest race in the galaxy, leaving the rest of the galaxy in the dust.
      • Failure: Humanity has its council status removed and falls behind the Citadel developmentally. It still does quite well for itself though.
    • If Xenonationalist Shepard gives Cerberus the Base:
      • Victory: Humanity studies and harnesses Reaper-tech before the rest of the Galaxy, becoming a leading power. Human Mega Corps practically take over the galactic economy, including in the Terminus. Human political lobbies dominate galactic politics. All of the above groups, however, are under the thumb of Cerberus, which almost no one even knows about, much less can challenge.
      • Failure: Humanity has the same fate as in the Alliance Base/Failure ending, but is much less able to recover. Cerberus eventually pulls strings to have the Alliance re-admitted into Council space.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several feature in the revamped Suicide Mission, but special mention must be given to the fate of the infiltration/tech specialist: burning to death in a matter of seconds.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: At the start, even the weakest Batarian rent-a-mook tears through several times his number in humans.
  • Darker and Edgier: The classical Grimdark Space Marine would now be quite at home in this galaxy. Hell, the rank and file ground soldiers of humanity are actual Space Marines, given the naval terminology of the Alliance interstellar forces; they just now live up to the term.
  • Death or Glory Attack: The Assimilationist endings give the possibility of putting humanity in the worst possible positions... but also the best, if you see human dominance as good. Xenonationalist by comparison is more moderate; there's no way to get an overwhelmingly bad end-condition for humanity, but no very good one either.
  • Deal with the Devil: Present in The Assassin's Backstory: Thane was raised as a Cerberus assassin, rediscovering his culture upon meeting his future wife, and attempted to escape that life... but turned back to Cerberus for help getting revenge on the Batarians who murdered her.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The darker tone of RR's Suicide Mission becomes undeniably clear with the fate of the infiltration/tech specialist. Specifically, they're sent inside the vents with the belief they can be retrieved, only to be lost regardless of success or failure because of a simple sealed hatch.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Morinth doesn't find much pleasure in seducing and killing the company Hock finds himself in.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Or, Inter arma enim silent leges: With the survival of the species genuinely on the line, all Cerberus research programs are seen as justified, even by the Alliance, regardless of ethical concerns.
  • Four Is Death: You get the "Minimal Losses" achievement if you manage to make it through the Suicide Mission with only four deaths.
  • Genetic Memory: Used for Subject Zero Miranda.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: The Xenonationalism and Assimilation views. While the former are suspicious, racist, and all-around jerks, they're willing to compromise with the other species, always keep their word, and never subjugate someone's free will. The latter are idealistic, xenophilic, and want to spread peace, but are also very reminiscent of The Empire—you will obey them or die, give up your culture or die, do as they say or die.
  • Golden Ending: Explicitly averted with the Suicide Mission; there is NO way to save them all unlike canon.
  • Heroic Neutral: This is Xenonationalism in a nutshell-it states that it is the right of all beings to not have outsiders meddle in their affairs. All of its choices are based around isolating humanity from alien influence, or ensuring the free will of sentient life in general.
  • If I Can't Have You…: The Shadow Broker, realizing that he can't have Shepard alive, tries to have him killed.
  • Interspecies Romance: Just like in the original universe, Shepard can romance Garrus, Tali, Thane, or Morinth, whichever side of the Gray-and-Grey Morality spectrum they fall on.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Humanity as soon as they find themselves on equal footing with the Batarians, promptly kick them... and keep kicking them.... and keep kicking them... and then, after getting bored, kick them a little more.
  • Kick The Wrong Dog: When humanity was striking back against the Batarians through orbital-strike-and-run tactics, they accidentally razed some minor races' property too. In the aftermath, most humans find it to be the fault of those who did business with the Batarians.
  • Kill It with Fire: During the Suicide Mission, the infiltration/tech specialist always dies this way, regardless of whether they succeed or not.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: A key aspect of this universe's Jacob.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Played for Laughs in Liara's Dossier, which casually reveals the identity of Archangel while noting that it wouldn't have been revealed during the events being recapped.
  • Memetic Badass: Invoked In-Universe, the Shrouded in Myth Batarian Cerberus agent Zaeed: all the war stories his canon counterpart tells are now second- or third-hand accounts.
  • Moral Myopia: The author suggests that 'If Bioware hadn't tried to play the emotional anvil by having Morinth's only victim with a face be apparently the only young, pretty, white, harmless, nice virgin girl on the pit of vice and sin that was Omega, and instead let it be some Omega crime boss who caught Morinth's notice for his inner-fire, most people would find the exact same character a lot less evil.'
  • Nature Versus Nurture: Central to the reimagined Morinth, who is now a Child Soldier raised by Cerberus, biologically Asari while culturally Human.
  • Only Sane Man: Jacob is explicitly described as one.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Jacob is said to be struggling with the shadow of his much more famous grandfather.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Shepard awakens at the start of ME2, they're drugged up and thinking they're still under attack. The 'tutorial' level becomes Shepard rampaging while Cerberus agents frantically try to get them under control long enough to explain they're not the enemy.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The backstory takes 41 chapters, with content directly relevant to the first game only showing up in the 42nd.
  • Red Herring: There are several regarding the best specialists for the different parts of the Suicide Mission.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Once humanity gets the upper hand against the Batarians, you better believe they go on one.
  • Sadistic Choice: Several, particularly during the reimagined Suicide Mission where certain choices mean death either way, and it's more a matter of how much death happens.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Deliberately averted. There is an entire chapter on that.
  • Shadow Archetype: Okeer to Mordin. As put: 'The moral scientist focuses on the weapons of war: the immoral scientist develops life.'
    • Turians consider humanity to be this to them.
  • The Shrink: Kelly is allowed to actually act as a counselor: if Shepard speaks to her, she brings up choices they've made and gives Shepard the chance to justify or otherwise talk them out without offering judgement.
  • Shout-Out: Jacob has Spice soap.
  • Shrouded in Myth: This universe's Zaeed.
  • Space Pirates: The Corsairs are divided into Ruthless Modern Pirates IN THE FUTURE! and genuine Robin Hood types.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Okeer. The fic demonstrates very well just how much Bioware threw away in canon by precluding his recruitment.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Discussed and Averted during Liara's Dossier entry for ME2. The reinterpreted 'Redemption' comic ties Garrus and Tali into the plot. (The author also notes the irony of Liara not being the full focus of her own entry.)
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Though it probably qualifies as Blatant Lies as well. In the RR-verse, the extranet's largest MMO, Galaxy of Fantasy, which claims influences from Turian mythology but also totally doesn't have in-game groups analogous to all the significant species, was totally not inspired to start a new period of in-game plot development by having the in-game race that was totally not the Batarians instigate a threat to the entire in-game world that is totally not the Galaxy by summoning a terrible, all-destroying presence that is totally not Humanity from the nether-realm that then turned on them and nearly destroyed the world. Really. And the fact that over 95% of Human players sign up as that faction for their first character when it later became playable is just a coincidence as well.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill:
    • Early human war attempts to fight the Batarians had to rely on this to score victories, thanks to their massive technological inferiority. The most glaring example is that human weapons by and large could not penetrate Kinetic Barriers without using massive amounts of fire to take them down.
    • The human fleet sent to attack the Batarian Homeworld is described as thus: "The humans went out of their way to look up the largest fleet in galactic history and then overshot that by one-fourth."
  • Tragic Villain: The Council considers humanity to be one, In-Universe—they're sympathetic to what they went through, but think humanity is going way overboard in retribution and needs to be either put in place or terminated.
  • Tyke-Bomb: Cerberus abducted various aliens as babies and raised them to be loyal to humanity. Morinth is the first Asari they did so with.
  • We Have Reserves: The only real thing humanity had going for it at the start, especially after the advent of mass-cloning. Subsequent galactic politics involves Council fears of the Humans succeeding where the Krogan uprisings once failed.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Humanity's hat is "Woobie, Conquerer of Worlds".
  • You Bastard!: Seemingly to head off complaints of being too pro-human, the author calls out readers several times for thinking genocide and domination of the other races is a good thing. In response, in their reviews, several readers have called him out right back, with the conviction that in a Them-Or-Us world, it is.
  • Zerg Rush: Stated to be the most common Human tactic for most of the war - because that failed less than anything else.