>[It’s rather hard to find a picture of a male Quarian having his flu jabs, so sorry about no before-pictures. Its also rather hard to find a picture of an Asari with her clothes on, but I did. For the sake of not taking up the blog with a big block of text, I’m sticking a jump break in.]
“Of course , I’ve had Quarians put themselves forward for this before. But I wanted a male, and a strong one. He leaned closer to peer through the visor that seperated me from the world. “You realise this may kill you.”
I nodded. “If this works, my people will no longer be limited by their crippled immune systems. We’ll be able to set up colonies on new worlds, become strong again, maybe even reclaim our homeworld in time.”
“And you will return from your Pilgrimage a hero,” he added mischeivously. “With three girls hanging off each arm.” He lifted a syringe from its metal basin and his smile faded. “I just wanted to make sure you understand the risks.”
A chorus of breached seal warnings rang in my helmet as the needle punctured the suit around my shoulder and down into my skin. The Professor watched the course of the needle through my body on an ultrasound scan, adjusting it occasionally, targeting it towards the grainy white blob that was the Quarian aquivalent of a lymph node.
“You see, the beauty of the solution is that it is inherent in the problem,” he told me as he worked. “If I injected these cells into any other species, their immune system would rip them apart. But your body lacks the capacity to fight them off. In your body they will survive, and hopefully propogate themselves through your lymph nodes, eventually acting as a donor immune system.”
Even being a machinist, I knew enough biology to see a flaw in his method. “The donor immune cells… they’ll see my own cells as foreign and attack them.”
His face fell; showing the full weight of his 100+ human years. “Sadly, that was the case with our first subject. However, with you, we have a very special donor. A half-Asari/half-Quarian. All the strength of an Asari immune system, none of the host rejection.”
The needle finally found its target, releasing its cache of hybrid stem cells into my lymph. The Professor removed the needle and my suit resealed itself, still bleeping indignantly.
“What happens if the cells leave my lymphatic system?”
He shrughed. “I’m sure that won’t happen.”
I was lucky; I didn’t die. The next few weeks I spent in the Professor’s lab, being gradually
introduced to stronger and stronger strains of diseases. They monitored my biosigns closely, ready to pump me full of antibiotics on a moment’s notice, for what good it would do. I didn’t need it. My immune system was perfect.
The night before I was to return home to the migrant fleet, the whole lab had a get together. My hands were shaking as they released the clasps of my helmet. I breathed fresh, unfiltered air for the first time. The Human and Salarian scientists were staring; I realised they’d probably never seen a Quarian face before.
“I always knew he was a handsome devil!” the Professor crowed, waving a glass of Earth champagne around. He threw an arm around my shoulders, laughing. “You will come back, I think. After I have cured the genophage!”
I boarded the ship the next morning – rehelmetted and resterilised. Things took a turn for the worse during the voyage home. I felt feverish – at first I thought it was the lingering excitement of the night before, the after-effects of champage. But the fever quickly became a powerful ache that filled my body. I adjusted my suit settings, turning the temperature right down to fight the fever, adding a mild sedative to my air supply to numb my body, and isolated myself from the rest of the crew, as Quarians are tought from birth to do in times of sickness. Alone in my quarters, I barely ate, and the suit hung loose on my body.
It had been foolhardy of me to expose myself so soon. At the same time however, I felt a pride that I wasn’t dead yet. If this was an infection, my body was fighting it. With each passing day I was getting better. By the time we docked, I was all but well. I made it to the airlock on shaky legs; finally turning down the sedative; it wouldn’t do to meet my parents seemingly intoxicated.
There they were! On the other side of the airlock, friends and family, smiling and waving. They had come to see me complete my Pilgrimage. The sterilisation process seemed to go on for ages. I couldn’t take it. I wanted them to see my unmasked; see the fruits of my travels as I breathed the free air unhindered. I ripped off my helmet triumphantly.
Even through the foot-thick glass of the airlock doors, I swear I could hear the sudden intake of breath. A few of my family staggered. Their body language conveyed suprise, fear, even anger. I’d expected it all; a Quarian almost never revealed themselves, even in sterile conditions.
What I hadn’t expected was the sensation of the cold air over my…head ridges?
I pressed my hands to my face. My nose was slimmer. My lips felt almost swollen. The back of my once smooth head was folded into a series of thick skin ridges. The shock flushed the sedatives from my system, waking me up to my new body. It had five fingers, stuffed into the three fingers of the suit. I almost passed out at that point.
I activated the suit’s micropumps. As the air rushed out of the suit, it contracted, suckering to my flesh, tightening over my thighs and the contours of my… breasts. I had… Don’t faint, don’t faint.
The sickness in the ship had been no disease. It had been the last, dying gasp of my body as the Asari cells invaded it, destroyed it, and rebuilt it.
The doors of the airlock rolled back. I took a hesitant step forward into the ship. My pilgrimage was over. My mother fainted.