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Literature / Mass Effect Initiation

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Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiation is the second prequel novel to the game Mass Effect: Andromeda, set in 2185 before the arks departed. Written by Mac Walters of Bioware and the Hugo Award winning sci fi author N. K. Jemisin, this novel features squadmate Cora Harper in the lead role.

Cora Harper is returning to human territory after having spent four years with an asari commando squad known as Talene’s Daughters based on Thessia. Experiencing severe reverse culture shock and a fair bit of xenophobic sentiment for having “collaborated with aliens”, Cora reports to Theia Outpost, the headquarters of the Andromeda Initiative, on her former commander Nisira’s urging. Over there, she meets Alec Ryder, the human Pathfinder, who assigns her what should have been a simple mission to retrieve some stolen property. She is even assigned an implant that integrates her with an "Initiative VI" that is more than it seems. Cora enlists the help of a fledgling mercenary band led by a former member of her asari commando unit, but then the mission goes horribly wrong when the merc band betray her, seize the retrieved property and try to kill her.

After escaping the attempt on her life, Cora heads to Illium to find answers. What is so important that a fledgling merc band that can’t afford to betray its first customer would take such a risk? Why is it that someone is rigging an auction to get their hands on this? Why is Alec Ryder being so cagey about this stolen property? The deeper Cora digs, the more she finds out that she wished she had never known.

Mass Effect Andromeda: Initiation provides the examples of the following tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The experimental SAM-E integrated into Cora has a stuttering problem. Also, Medea the AI that was built using stolen SAM-E code is unstable to say the least.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Cora Harper.
  • And Zoidberg: The poorer nations of Earth that weren’t part of the original Alliance charter formed the Union of Incorporated Nations. And they even established the Home Group - a consortium of their wealthiest CEOs and highest ranked government officials to display a veneer of opulence to match that of Alliance officials.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: It's mentioned that Janae, the most junior asari huntress in the unit Cora served with, is considered the baby. But even then, she's over 200 years old, making Cora a positive newborn by comparison.
  • Blackmail: Alec Ryder uses it on a UNIN government official to force him to resign.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • Cora relates that asari raise biotic barriers when threatened, the same way humans clench their fists or turians click their mandibles. She herself does this instinctively when accosted by a Homeward Sol member.
  • Call-Back:
    • James Vega is featured in news broadcasts for his exploits on Fehl Prime in Mass Effect: Paragon Lost and asari are mentioned to be drooling over him.
    • Another news broadcast mentions that the Omega 4 relay shows signs of recent usage.
    • A broadcast mentions having difficulty in getting Shepard’s estate to release images of the commander for use in promotional materials.
    • The scientists who built Medea mention trying to network a thousand VI programs to form a gestalt intelligence - similar to how Legion was formed.
    • There are quarian twins on pilgrimage from the Kwib-kwib - Admiral Koris’ ship.
    • Khalisa bint Sinan al Jilani returns, and asks the usual set of loaded questions. Cora isn’t as capable as Shepard is at deflecting her questions, which gets Alec a tad bit annoyed with her.
  • Call-Forward: Alec realizes that due to the failure of SAM-E as an experiment to see if the original SAM can integrate into Cora, his son and daughter are the only ones capable of truly inheriting SAM and all its awesome capabilities from him should he die. Therefore Cora could never succeed him as Pathfinder. Of course, he doesn’t tell Cora this.
  • Culture Clash: Cora has been in asari space so long she experiences this returning to cosmopolitan space. Walking through a spaceport leaves her flustered, as humans, turians, krogan, and others all move so differently from asari and leave her struggling to make her way through the crowd.
  • Explosive Overclocking: During the climax, Cora's implant helps her overclock her systems to make her body and biotics stronger. He compares it to entering a krogan bloodrage. He warns her that she'll need to get medical attention the second it's over, though, as the build-up of stress and chemicals in the body is lethal.
  • Fantastic Slur: Cora gets called “bluepie” which is a derogatory term for an asari fetishist.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the game, Cora’s ability to spam Charge and Nova combos as well as Shield Boost make her pretty much indestructible. Over here, she has none of those abilities, just a standard biotic barrier that weakens when shot or warped that forces Cora to stick to cover. She can also toss out Singularities, which she cannot do in game.
  • Going Native: Cora did this with the asari. A former asari commando whom Cora meets, claims that she too went native on Palaven and struggled to readapt to asari society. Consequently, quite a few xenophobic humans accuse Cora of this.
  • Hypocrite: Alec thinks the Alliance is this, with them court martialing and dishonorably discharging him for "illegal" AI research, while secretly pursuing their own AI research as a deniable black project. Subverted ultimately as the personnel on that project had "gone rogue".
  • The Mole: Halfway through the story, Ygara and her crew betray Cora to keep the item they stole.
  • Office Romance: It's mentioned that asari commandos often develop feelings for each other and get together. Cora herself has a chance to engage in one.
  • Polyamory: Cora's commando CO Nisira is shown to have two husbands, a krogan and a turian. While on Ilium, Cora also mentions seeing "couples and multiples" walking around.
  • Stronger with Age: Cora notes that despite four years in the asari commandos, she'll never be a true asari huntress, since the level of experience and skill commandos require is usually developed over the course of a century.
  • Transhuman: Medea created some heavily modified humans that are eight feet tall and have near Krogan levels of brute strength and health. However, these were engineered entirely from basic DNA - and are implied to have fallen prey to a Reaper artifact’s indoctrination.
  • Unrequited Love: Janae crushes hard on Cora. However, Cora had let her down gently. Doesn’t stop Janae from visiting an injured Cora and trying again.