What a week.
We fled the creepy ancient coffin-ships and headed immediately to the planet of Eingana to see if the Binary Helix folks rumored to be working there were still alive. Things didn’t look good at first. No ships in orbit, no signs of a base camp on the surface, just a lot of ancient shipwreck bits floating around in space and dotting the planet below pinging our sensors.
Wyatt eventually noticed an anomaly though… he figured it was a mass effect field about a hundred meters across, but it was reflecting sensors unlike other such fields and baffling attempts to find a power source. We figured we’d fly down and check it out and sure enough, got communication threatening to shoot us down almost immediately. Turns out the Binary Helix folks were jumpy. Artemisia dropped her title on them, and they let us in.
They had a pretty nice setup. Their main ship was in a pretty defensible position, nestled in an artificial crater, weapons and sensors aimed skyward, a massive generator producing a dome modulated to baffle sensors. Inside was a lot of experimental stuff, like crops, strange animal habitats, and whatnot. We talked with a young asari scientist named Via who took us by shuttle to the research camp where the leader of this expedition could be found. I was left to guard the ship, but fortunately Lily Asada asked me to follow in the Persephone at a distance.
I was told later that Dr. Ila Vaeris was rather less impressed by Artemisia’s title, seeming pretty obsessed with her research. She and a Salarian scientist, along with four heavily-armed guards, were poking around a very scenic forest. She seemed barely willing to tolerate their presence, but once Artemisia told her about what was floating around Anjea, she suddenly got really interested. She asked our Justicar to let her do that asari brain meld thing, and whatever she saw got her really excited. It seems Dr. Vaeris is an expert on an ancient pre-Prothean species called the Inusannon, one of the two species who, theoretically, fought over Eingana, and whose ancient shipwrecks litter the planet. Apparently the newly awakened beings around Anjea are Inusannon.
She excitedly told them various theories about the species, including one that they were a parasitic race that took over the bodies of other beings. This did not make them super excited to go back to Anjea. Their talk was briefly interrupted by an attack by a pack of pretty immense and violent native beasts, and I got to land the Persephone and come to the rescue.
So we ended up spending about nine days at the Binary Helix camp. Dr. Vaeris agreed to use one of their rare FTL drones to carry some messages back to the Sahrabarik system. We sent a message to Aepheus Virdros and Dr. Ann Bryson asking them to come visit for our impending attempt at Inusannon first contact. We also sent word to Grothan Pazness and Siala Jonis warning them about the Inusannon in case we fail and hordes of ancient beings start conquering everything.
In that downtime, Daro Tas was busy. He helped Dr. Vaeris work on translating what scraps of the Inusannon language we recovered from our first run-in, as well as figuring out a way to plug Silana into the ship so her ECM VI could help protect the ship from electronic attack. Some of us went on safari with the local scientists. The planet really is quite beautiful, if not entirely friendly.
At the end of those nine days, Captain Virdros arrived. We came up with a plan for Inusannon first contact. Wyatt flew us toward Anjea at extreme sensor range, with the Dominant hovering behind as military backup. It seems Inusannon sensors are better than ours, as they started some soft electronic contact. It seems Silana’s countermeasures worked. Apparently one made mental contact with Artemisia, while at the same time Lily’s omni-tool got hacked. Lily invited an emissary to visit. One of the weird coffin-ships detached from the mass and flew slowly to dock with us.
So… Yeah… The Inusannon. It was about two meters tall. It had what looked like a human-ish skeletal structure, if taller and thinner, but where humans have eyes, nose, and mouth, this thing had long undulating black-indigo tentacles, like of like a black hanar oozing out of its face. The chest and abdomen were hollow and writhing with similar tentacles, and the thing’s fingertips wriggled. I have no idea how it sensed its surroundings. The first thing it did was extend its hands, and little squirming tentacles extruded from the finger-tips. Artemisia and Lily, being braver than I could have possible been, reached out and each took one squirming hand.
This somehow taught the thing how to talk, which it did in a weird jumble of asari and human vocabulary. I won’t belabor the whole conversation, but we learned some… things… about them. They ruled the cycle before the Protheans, and apparently cultivated the Protheans to become dominant after them, genetically engineering some sort of “genetic sensing” capability into them, helping them become better hunters. The theory was, apparently, that once the Reapers were done with the Inusannon, the Protheans would have the drive for organization and empire sufficient to more strongly oppose the Reapers.
The Inusannon are, as suspected, a parasitic species, taking over host bodies from non-sentient races. This was briefly a relief for us until we realized that they define “sentient” rather differently. This kinda came out when Wyatt asked about the ExoGeni employees who were in the two ships still floating around Anjea. The emissary referred to them as non-sentient “drones” and that’s when we thought to inquire more deeply into what it meant, exactly, by “sentient.” Apparently, to them, to qualify as sentient, one has to not only advance to space-flight without outside help, but they also have the automatic assumption that such an elevation is impossible without “communication”, by which they mean some sort of electro-neurological “telepathic” communication. Verbal speech is a thing primitive, non-sentients do. By their definition, then, only asari are actually sentient.
This was not reassuring. We tried to (verbally) convince the emissary we were all sentient. I’m not sure he bought it.
It was only slightly reassuring to know that they apparently only need hosts for reproduction. They don’t go through bodies like sets of clothes or anything. Also, apparently their biology isn’t conducive to biotics, they have to “borrow” the capacity from host bodies.
Anyway, Dr. Vaesir decided to return with the emissary and spend a week with them, after proving that she was, in fact, “sentient.” She promised to try to return the ExoGeni employees, who had apparently been put in stasis in preparation for becoming hosts to the next generation of Inusannon. We returned to Eingana full of worry about what half a million highly-advanced parasites who see everyone except asari as potential hosts might do to the Omega nebula