It is a science fiction story, of the starships and space aliens kind. Most of the action takes place in a military context, as an apocalyptic threat against the galaxy emerges. It’s one of my favouritest games ever.
Writeups.org offers extensive Mass Effect coverage. The core articles are setting for Mass Effect 1 and the setting for Mass Effect 2, plus the profiles for the heroine – Staff Commander Mandala Shepard.
Unless you are highly familiar with Mass Effect, we recommend reading these articles first.
This article has been split in two parts. The second part of the Subject Zero / Jack character profile has the description, personality, quotes, game stats, etc..
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- Real Name: Unknown.
- Other Aliases: Subject Zero, Convict (Cerberus callsign), “Jack” (most common name), Jacqueline Nought (common alias when she needs something sounding like a real name). “Jack” and “Nought” are presumably based on her “Subject Zero” code name, since they both mean “zero” or “nothing”.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Unnamed mother.
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the Normandy SR2.
- Height: 5’6” Weight: 115 lbs.
- Eyes: Brown Hair: Light brown
Powers & Abilities
Jack is probably the most powerful Human biotic in the galaxy – by a country mile. It seems likely that she could out-Mass-Effect most Asari soldiers, and most Krogan battlemasters.
Her telekinesis is not subtle – augmented punches that can break armour plating, large shockwaves, throwing people around like rag dolls, these things. She’s also one of the few people seen charging ammunition with Dark Energy, making each projectile a mini biotic warp that explodes on impact.
Against most opposition Jack is like a gale, leaving everything broken and hammered in her wake.
Her signature technique is a wide biotic shockwave which hammers everything in front of her like a freight train. Our game stats assume that it works more like in the game’s description than in the actual game. Shockwaves seem to be an advanced technique, as only the top shelf biotic Tela Vasir and some versions of Shepard can use it in ME2.
She’s also a vicious street fighter skilled with common cheap, close-range weapons such as pistols and shotguns. In the same vein, she has various streetwise skills.
Though one might expect to see her go berserk on the battlefield, she’s actually a genuine asset in combat. Jack don’t afraid of nothing and is surprisingly disciplined and willing to follow orders.
Shepard outfitted Jack with one of the captured geth “plasma shotguns”, as with most shotgunners on her team. Plus a Phalanx heavy pistol if she’s out of her shotgun’s useful range. These are good, powerful guns.
Subject Zero demonstrates a keen intellect. She’s remarkably smart for somebody who’s had such a toxic life and little resembling an education. She also remarked about having memorised a biotic implant’s design (which implies some form of eidetic memory), and offers to build it herself.
There’s no further information on that. But a sharp intelligence and/or some technical training are implicit in other incidents, such as flying a shuttle off Pragia as a kid. Our game stats assumes a data storage implant in her brain (perhaps a drive plugged onto her biotic implants), plus solid native intelligence and basic technical training from an unspecified source.
Biotic augmentation implant
Early L3 implants likely existed when Jack was old enough to be implanted. But one suspects that she received a one-of-a-kind prototype instead. In 2185 Shepard has her outfitted with a unique L5x multicore implant. That came after Professor Solus confirmed that, uncannily enough, Jack can be even more powerful with an implant that pumps more energy into her nervous system.
Even Solus is perplexed as to how it works exactly. Jack presents something very much like neural damage that should hamper her ability to generate Dark Energy. Yet what she actually does is generate more. Though the Cerberus research on Subject Zero is lost, it apparently followed a unique path. This research is at odds with the standard modern understanding of biotics in Humans.
Power levels are normalised in Mass Effect 2. Squad members all have the same level and are roughly balanced, though they all shine in certain situations. However, cut scenes, dialogue and non-game media indicate that certain squad members are particularly powerful. Especially Jack and Samara.
The stats on writeups.org draw from this. Our assumption is that pen-and-paper gamers won’t have a situation where having some squadmates be much more powerful than others would ruin the gameplay.
For instance, as Jack appears she engages three YMIR-class mechs, wrecking all three in about 20 seconds with her lil’ girly fists. And that’s seconds after emerging from cryogenic storage.
By contrast, on the higher difficulty levels, a single YMIR represented a significant obstacle for Shepard, Lawson and Taylor early on. And it sheared through a fire team of about ten Quarian marines in seconds.
One suspects that the YMIRs thrashed by Jack might have been less powerful models, though. And she had the advantage of meleeing, which kinetic shields cannot stop.
“Jack” (real name unknown) was presumably born circa 2161. Her pregnant mother was exposed to Element Zero that mutated her daughter in the womb.
If Jack’s presumed date of birth is correct, it was one of the exposures resulting from “Element Zero transportation accidents”. Scare quotes, since Human biotic activists can all but prove these were deliberate sabotage by Conatix Industries to create biotic children. See Kaidan Alenko’s entry for more about this.
By 2165 little Jack was on Eden-Prime. This is a terminus world colonised during the 2150s, and thus one of the earliest Human colonies. Jack was confirmed to be a biotic when she was four. Her power level was way higher than anything observed before. As unluck would have it, the doctor who ran the test was a Cerberus sympathiser.
Cerberus, a terrorist and Human supremacist organisation, is known for its programs to create super-soldiers. Biotics, which had been discovered just a few years before Jack’s birth, immediately drew their attention.
Cerberus were exploring ways to mass-produce telekinetic troopers. They created a network to fetch children with exceptional biotic potential before other agencies could get them.
Back then the oldest Human biotics, such as Kaidan Alenko, were but teenagers. They had already been snatched by Conatix Industries – the company contracted by the Systems Alliance to study biotics. As Element Zero’s incredible properties became better understood transportation accidents ceased. But Conatix set up more “accidents” to get fresh biotic babies.
Cerberus compounded the damage of this monstrous strategy by kidnapping biotic children before Conatix could grab them. Since Conatix survey team were oh-so-conveniently nearby after each “accident”, this presumably meant Cerberus sympathisers, traitors and double agents within Conatix.
Jack was swiftly sent down the Cerberus pipeline. Her mother was told that her daughter had died from a hitherto undetected cancer during tests – as Element Zero is carcinogenic. They pretended that the girl’s body had been so deformed by tumors and seizures that her mother was barred from seeing it.
Welcome to where time stands still
Cerberus’ prize biotic find was shipped to the brand-new Teltin secret research base, on the planet Pragia. It was soon confirmed that she was like no biotic before or since. The four-year old became the crux of the entire research project, under the code name “Subject Zero”.
The goal was to amp her power as high as possible, to understand how to “grow” truly powerful biotics. Research showed a correlation between biotic power and pain, stress, suffering and mental instability. Therefore, Cerberus decided to go down that slope by torturing and breaking Subject Zero to see how powerful she’d become.
There were two categories of tests. Those tests that had significant odds of having fatal results or to completely break the subjects were not done on the prized Subject Zero. They were run on other biotic children stolen by Cerberus. Once a procedure had been refined on these disposable kids, it was used on Subject Zero.
One particularly promising direction was to condition Zero to love violence and fighting with her biotic powers. The Pragia facility organised gladiatorial death matches where Subject Zero was pitted against much less powerful children.
To make sure she’d enjoy using her powers to kill, Zero was pumped full of drugs. Therefore, she’d associate killing with being high.
Moon is full, never seems to change
The Illusive Man later insisted that the work on Pragia was done by a splinter cell and wasn’t the result of his orders. But nobody believes that. There *was* information at Teltin that was hidden from the Illusive Man, but its nature is unknown. It probably was something trivial such as embezzlement.
The events on Pragia are difficult to document since there’s no reliable witness. Though Jack insisted that she knew exactly what was going on and wouldn’t be fooled by more lies, her stance was absurd. She was but a little girl with no context and no information. She obviously misunderstood much of what was going on.
For instance, Subject Zero was certain that the other children at the facility were ignoring her because they hated her and wanted her to suffer. It was years later, when she returned to Pragia with Shepard, that Jack realised that her cell’s window was a one-way mirror with one-way soundproofing.
The kids playing in the patio outside her cell simply couldn’t see her or hear her. That was despite her spending hours stuck against her window yelling at them.
But violent use brings violent plans
One day power went down and Jack’s cell opened. There was some sort of riot going on and the kids and the guards were fighting. The near-feral, paranoid Jack assumed that everybody wanted to kill her. She lashed out, murdering everyone in her path while looking for a way out.
She stole a shuttle and left Paragia at random. Her marooned shuttle was found by a passing ship, but the crew abused her and sold her off as a slave.
The kid was completely dysfunctional, traumatised, paranoid and murderously uninhibited. As a result her life was a litany of violence, abuse, betrayal and death. As a trashy, promiscuous young woman who had obviously fallen off society and would be missed by no one, she attracted all sorts of predators. She was occasionally misled into thinking that those were friends.
Most of these didn’t realise how deadly Subject Zero was until it was too late. Though she was often hurt badly, it was chiefly through emotional manipulation rather than physical attack.
They see it right, they see it well, but they think this saves us from our Hell
Subject Zero named herself “Jack”. That was in the sense of “nothing”, as in the phrases “jack and shit” or “ain’t got jack”. She presumably reasoned that having a boy’s name made her sound tougher.
Jack ran with a gang for a while. She was happy to become the sex pet of the leader — one Manara — and her boyfriend. But they betrayed her out of her share and she killed them. She also tried joining a cult that promised her love and solace. But they just attempted to abuse her biotic power. Jack lashed out and killed everyone.
Her current haircut dates back to her time with that cult, and her ink started when she was a gangbanger. She also was a pirate for a while. Being a pirate also made her a kidnapper since she didn’t want to kill people who surrendered.
Jack’s rap sheet is interminable, with an emphasis on mindless violence and destruction.
At one point she was involved with a colony of outlaws — possibly pirates — that drew the ire of the Turian Hierarchy and was destroyed. Later, Jack apparently commandeered a space station and crashed it into a Hanar moon. One assumes that the space station was used to destroy some sort of Turian base in retaliation for the death of the outlaws.
No locked doors, no windows barred
It was perhaps circa 2180 that Jack operated with a fellow criminal named Murtock, presumably a Human. They became sex buddies as well as partners in crime. But Murtock fell in love in Jack.
One of their piracy raids to steal weapons went wrong. Jack and Murtock were separated in the fighting. Rather than decamp in their shuttle with the guns, Murtock doubled back to help Jack get out. He was killed as a result – though his attempt made it possible for Jack to reach the shuttle and flee.
A few days later, Jack heard a recording made by Murtock in case he died. It told her how he loved her and what had been his projects for them as a couple.
Though Jack apparently wasn’t herself in love with Murtock, she liked him. Thus, the recording hurt her. She was hit by survivor’s guilt. Realising that somebody loved her and died because of it further hardened and damaged her, making her swear off any sort of relationship.
Mutiny is in the air, got some death to do
It was presumably circa 2183 that Jack was arrested. But keeping such a powerful biotic imprisoned was a problem. Thus, she was shipped off to the private prison ship Purgatory. That was a brutal Blue Suns operation specialising in holding prisoners that nobody wanted.
Purgatory was a living hell. The only law was the good pleasure of the psychotic warden, and to them Jack was just another piece of meat. Seven men — guards and prisoners — ambushed her in the latrines. They got her, though she killed two.
Once Jack had recovered from her ordeal she went on a rampage, pureeing every single one of her aggressors with her mind. Even the extensive security forces on the Purgatory couldn’t stop the carnage in time.
Seeing no other solution, the warden had Jack frozen and kept into a cryogenic tank. This also reduced the chance of her mere presence aboard triggering riots. After her gruesome massacre most prisoners were terrified of her.
No more can they keep us in
The Illusive Man soon learned that Jack was on the Purgatory. This meant that he could buy her, as the prison ship made part of its income through the slave trade. However, Project Lazarus was reaching completion. Thus, the Illusive Man waited for Shepard to be resurrected.
The Illusive Man correctly assumed that the Commander could convince Subject Zero to work with her. That would again turn Jack into an asset for Cerberus. Jack was listed among the people whom the Illusive Man suggested that Shepard recruit, and he made arrangements to pay Purgatory’s warden to recover her.
But by the time Commander Shepard boarded Purgatory, the warden had apparently received another offer. One even better than the huge pile of cash Cerberus was paying for Subject Zero. This offer presumably came from Shepard’s mysterious enemies, the Collectors.
The warden decided to renege on his deal with Cerberus. He’d just imprison Commander Shepard and the two operatives accompanying her as they were visiting the prison to see Jack.
That was a truly terrible idea.
No one leaves and no one will
Shepard offered to negotiate. When the warden refused the Commander and her operatives fought their way toward the super-max wing, mauling the security forces. Shepard remotely got Jack out of cold storage.
The young woman immediately went berserk, destroying everything in front of her – including the ship’s infrastructure. Entire sections of the Purgatory lost life support or were outright spaced, killing hundreds.
Security attempting to stop Jack was massacred. The warden gave up, letting her reach the docking bay. He refocused his forces on Commander Shepard’s unit with even worse results, and Shepard ended up having to kill the warden.
Meanwhile, Jack discovered that the only docked ship was a Cerberus frigate, which plunged her into incoherent rage.
Commander Shepard reached the bay and calmed Subject Zero. Jack made aggressive demands to access all Cerberus information about the Subject Zero project in exchange for her cooperation. But Shepard just shrugged her shoulders and agreed.
Realising that she didn’t have any idea about what was going on and who were these people, and seeing how Commander Shepard’s ship was her only way out, Subject Zero grudgingly boarded the Normandy.
Jack immediately decided that she hated Shepard’s lieutenant Miranda Lawson. That was due to her physical appearance and her obvious loyalty toward Cerberus.
“Kill”, it’s such a friendly word
Commander Shepard ordered the reluctant Lawson to make good on the deal. Thus Jack could search Cerberus archives in exchange for serving with Shepard’s tactical team. Though most thought that Jack would be uncontrollable, her psych profile was correct. Subject Zero proved a valuable member of the tactical team, fighting well and reliably.
The Commander then broke out a cot and some basics for Jack to live in a dark, out-of-the-way nook of the Normandy. In this confined technical space Jack’s paranoid, feral reflexes were assuaged.
Albeit she spent most of her time in the Normandy’s belly reading archives, Jack received regular visits – mostly by Commander Shepard and Yeoman Chambers. She came to enjoy these to an extent. One assumes that she also participated in the tactical team’s intensive training program.
She’s getting better, can’t you tell ?
After several weeks, Jack determined that her childhood prison was on Pragia. She told Shepard that she wanted her part of the deal done. The Teltin base had apparently been abandoned after the riot and her escape. But Jack wanted to get there with a big bomb and raze the ruins.
Shepard had to delay this side trip a few times, to Jack’s anger, but then made good on her promise.
As the Normandy approached, some activity was detected in the seemingly abandoned base. Smelling trouble, Commander Shepard and her buddy Vakarian accompanied Subject Zero loaded for bear. Just in case Jack’s destruction-minded stroll in her childhood haunts ran into something unpleasant.
(Continued in the Subject Zero character profile, part 2.)