Author: Theninjamang PM
The Reapers. Warnings of their coming have been hastily rejected and met with large amounts of ridicule and disbelief. But will the questionable actions of Commander Shepard be enough to finally get the galaxy to recognize the danger? Post-Arrival DLCRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Shepard (M) & Miranda L. - Chapters: 13 - Words: 57,324 - Reviews: 60 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 60 - Updated: 05-14-13 - Published: 05-19-12 - id: 8130034
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Well, it seems as if my tendency to leave things unfinished has struck again.
Alas, it was because of how much I wanted to rewrite the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it looks like Chuck vs. the Game is going to have a very long stint on the back-burner.
Either way, this is going to be my take on the Mass Effect 3 storyline, and it will be DRASTICALLY different from the original.
Please try and read this like an official Mass Effect tie-in novel rather than a fanfiction, as it was what I had in mind when I was writing it.
Clearly, none of the Mass Effect creative rights belong to me. Of course, I'd hate to be the one that did though. Imagine the hate mail…
Points to note: Admiral Hackett's ship shall be dubbed "the Washington" following the tradition of every Alliance cruiser being named after a large city in the ME universe. Also, there will be none of that Renegon/Paragade bullshit here, I shouldn't have to say what morality Shep falls under, it should be clear to the reader. Obviously.
So, please, read, enjoy, review. In whatever order you please!
Good evening, i'm Henry Parker, and this is the ANN Report.
It seems Commander John Shepard has made it onto our front-pages once more. His heroic deeds at the Battle of the Citadel rocketed him into galactic recognition, followed soon after by his untimely, yet temporary death. Needless to say, he hit the cover of every news-burst after his miraculous resurrection at the hands of Cerberus, and almost a year later, it was his return through the Omega-4 relay that captured our attention. It gives me great displeasure to report now however, the drive behind his latest burst of fame.
Sources have revealed that it was his decision that led to the recent destruction of the Bahak relay, cutting off the Viper Nebula from the remainder of the galaxy. His actions have also been rumoured to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of lives. We here at ANN Report were stunned to hear about this blatant genocide. We can only assume what led him to destroy the relay, but one thing's for certain: where ever the Commander is now… if he's the hero he is, those lives will NOT weigh lightly on his conscience.
Scientists and researchers alike have hypothesised over the result of the destruction of a mass relay. Many say that the energy contained within the relays would be enough to rival the force of a supernova, should they ever be tampered with. They say that the force would be so great, it would wipe out entire systems, but overall, they were theories.
John finally had the evidence to support them, and it would stay with him for as long as he lived. Theory or not, those lives were gone. It didn't matter how. They could've died from the predicted explosion, or at the hands of the Reapers that were seconds away from entering the system, but ultimately, they were gone.
Had he had a choice, they would've been spared, but the destruction of that relay was essential for the survival of the galaxy. Even if it did make him the man behind the deaths of countless people. He had been in the armed forces for long enough to know that a soldier needed to move past their choices if they wanted to keep their sanity. So he bargained with himself.
The moment I step out of this elevator, they'll be out of my head.
A beep came from the console, and the doors shot open to reveal the chipped white lettering that marked his cabin. Hesitantly, he lifted his boot over the threshold, coming so close to stepping off, but still hovering above the ground. Shepard knew the futility of his own self-bargain, but it didn't stop him believing that what he did made a difference.
His boot fell onto the cold metal floor, its thump rattling around in his cluttered mind. That was it. He accepted the fate that he was responsible for the deaths of thousands, and it hung like a lead weight at the bottom of his already frail heart. Just walking to the door was a terrible challenge, with every step dragging him closer to the floor. Every part of his body just yelled at him to give in and fall, as if the entire Bahak system was clawing at him from their graves. Before he knew it, he was on the cold metal ground, listening to nothing but the eerie hum of the Normandy's drive core. Shepard buried his face into his calloused hands, the tips of his fingers tingling as they ran over his short, stubbly hair. Everything closed in around him, choking him, an icy hand wringing the air from his lungs. He tried to find solace in the good of what he did, but nothing would tear him from the thousands of people he killed. Nothing.
"Commander? Shepard, are you all right?" came a sultry voice, laced with an Australian accent. It reminded him of Earth. One planet among many that was saved by his damning of the Bahak system. Clearly, he was mercilessly consumed by his own thoughts, as he was oblivious to the elevator reaching his cabin. Lifting his face out of his cold hands, his eyes fell upon the alabaster complexion of an angel. Miranda Lawson.
"Yeah, Lawson. I'm fine." heaving himself off of the floor, and bringing himself to his full height.
"Shepard, it doesn't take someone as skilled as me to know that you're lying." she said, as he hit the sensor to his cabin and paced into it. "You haven't been on deck for days, and I- the crew were worried sick." she declared, gulping down her true intentions. "Not to mention docking with the Washington. I know Admiral Hackett came to debrief you on what happened." hounding him even as he entered his bathroom.
John waved a hand over the tap sensor, cupped his hands under the steady flow of water and brought it over his face. He could feel the few scars that marked his skin; a few on his jaw line, and one on his right cheek.
"I'll be fine." he dismissed her.
"Which means that you're not fine now." leaning against the bathroom door with her arms crossed. Her expression belied the true concern that bubbled under the surface. On the outside, she was all business, showing little emotion. On the inside however, she was filled to brim with concern. The soldier that she admired and followed into battle was nowhere to be seen. All she saw now was the husk of a man who took the burden of thousands of lives to save trillions more. If she was still with Cerberus, she could've pawned off her concern as just "part of her job". Now, after her resignation, she had no leg to stand on, nothing to mask her true emotions over him.
He hadn't moved from the basin, his highly defined forearms propping him up over it. Water dripped from his face, following the sculpted line of his jaw, before falling into the sink.
Miranda could tell from his huddled form that he was close to breaking, and she knew why. The second the admiral had set foot on the ship, she'd sent Kasumi, the one person stealthy enough to spy on them for her. The former thief's shaken form had walked into her office only minutes ago, and the news she had to bear wasn't pleasant.
You're not going to like it… I-I- don't even like it.
Spit it out Kasumi, why was the admiral on board?
Shep was on a mission for him. He was recovering some kidnapped Alliance agent.
Miranda could still remember the subtle quiver in her voice and the confusion in her hooded eyes.
Is that all?
No. Something went wrong… look, I'm sorry, it's too hard to explain now. Just watch this…
She remembered feeling her arm falter as she watched the recording, like it carried all the weight that John had to carry. It still hung over her now, as she leant against the entrance to his bathroom. Miranda could only imagine the burden that he must be dealing with though. Her concern was rightfully placed, of course. He was feeling a myriad of conflicting emotions. Eternal regret… immense pain… deep sorrow, but her? She could only feel angry at how narrow sighted the Alliance was. She knew that it wasn't a desired outcome, but in their line of work, sacrifices were unavoidable for the salvation of others. Shepard had to follow through with destroying the relay, it was for the sake of everyone in the galaxy. Finally, after hanging his head for what seemed to be forever, the Commander spoke up.
"I did what I could, Miranda. But Kenson, and everyone else, they were already indoctrinated. There wasn't enough time to evacuate the system." he admitted grimly. "After Virmire, and leaving Kaidan to die, I told myself I wouldn't leave anyone behind. I left an entire fucking system this time." running a hand over his scalp. "An entire system…" he whispered to himself.
"You can't think that, Shepard. What good would you have done dying on that asteroid?" strutting closer to him, following his empty blue eyes as he straightened up.
"At least I could've-"
"What? All you could've done was die. In vain I might add." she reasoned.
"But the entire system Miranda. The whole goddamn system is doomed. Those who aren't dead, are probably being harvested by the Reapers."
"Yes, but it gives the rest of the galaxy a fighting chance. You saved more people than you killed, John." feeling a foreign feeling rise as she said his name.
"I still have to face the Alliance, and the Batarians are calling for my head." waving his hand as he said so. "I want to forget about all of this, put it behind me, but with that hearing, its going to be near impossible."
"I never said you had to put it behind you." drawing herself closer to him. "It wasn't the best choice, but in this case it was the only one. You did the right thing, Shepard."
For the first time since their brief stint in the Engine room, they shared an embrace. Miranda perched her arms upon his tired shoulders, linking her fingers behind his neck. Shepard returned the gesture, grasping her curvaceous waist and pulling her closer to him.
"If its any consolation, I won't leave your side. Terrorist charges be damned." placing an assuring hand across his jaw.
He was instantly taken aback by this, and to both of their displeasure, he gently pushed her away.
"No. I can't let you do that, Miranda. As much as I want you there, yo-"
"John…" she interrupted him. "I'm not going to let you face this alone. After all you've done for me, with Oriana, it's the least I can do." she said as he paced out of the bathroom and back into his cabin.
"Miranda, you're going to be put to trial just for being with Cerberus." he argued.
Her demeanour held solid, not wanting to back down. She reached for him just as he was about to step down into his bed-space.
"I don't care. To hell with the trials. If I can't even support you throughout all of this, then what's the point?" she fumed.
She's as stubborn as I am.
Realising that arguing would be fruitless, Shepard breathed a deep sigh of surrender.
"Thank you." he admitted, causing Miranda to relax. He stepped down the small staircase and sat at the foot of his bed. "You know I want you to be there, more than anything in this goddamn galaxy. But the Alliance won't take kindly to it-"
"Who said they'd catch me?" smirking playfully at him as she mounted him, digging her knees on either side of his waist. Again, her arms found themselves perched upon his shoulders, feeling their strengthened resolve. Looking at her calm, yet seductive face, John felt rejuvenated, ready to face the Alliance Admiralty. Her peach coloured lips seemed to beg for his touch, and so he obliged, angling his head towards her. They met with a slow, breathtaking embrace. Their lips danced gently with each other, passionately conveying the emotions that words could not.
Shepard marched his way into the bridge of the Normandy, with Miranda trailing closely behind. Her hands were still smoothing down her raven-black strands of hair, tousled by their intimate session in his cabin. Joker was as always piloting the ship, his fingers expertly dancing around the holographic display.
"Joker, set a course for the Citadel. EDI, tell the crew to assemble in the Cargo hold." he ordered.
"Very well, Shepard." said EDI's disembodied voice as her avatar blinked on.
"Heading to the nearest relay, Commander." Joker obliged.
He nodded his acknowledgement, and turned to head for the elevator. Miranda stepped out of his way to let him pass, and then continued to follow him. He was striding with purpose, driven towards something. Granted, she could still see the burden pressing down upon him, but he was determined to carry it. If she had to say it, that would be one of the things that drew her close to John. His unyielding determination, his stubbornness. The times their equally resistant personalities locked horns were almost innumerable.
The doors slid open to admit the two of them, and they both stepped inside the carriage as EDI's voice rang on the ship-wide intercom.
"All non-essential crew, please report to Cargo hold." announced her synthetic voice.
"What's this about?" she asked him.
"The Normandy's final port of call. I know you're staying with me Miranda, but it doesn't mean I won't give anyone else the chance to get on with their lives." he explained.
John knew that she wouldn't argue against that, and she didn't. She gave a slow nod, and reached to give his hand a squeeze of support. They both knew they had to cherish these little moments that they had alone, as they couldn't be very public with their relationship. Despite her cold skin, he found a sense of warmth among her fingers intertwining with his. The console beeped, and the doors slid open to reveal the metallic cargo bay of the Normandy. Jack and Zaeed were already here, puffing in exhaustion as they put away punching dummies. The holes blown open by the Reaper Occuli were there as well, revealing the glistening expanse of space through the safety of the ship's kinetic barriers.
"So, you finally took my offer for piracy. Is that why the cheerleader's here? We're going to throw her out the airlock aren't we!" Jack remarked with a smirk on her face.
"Ha! Never ceases to surprise me, this one." Zaeed commented, jabbing a thumb at Jack as he approached Shepard.
"Stand down, Jack. Once everyone gets down here I'll explain."
The elevator doors behind him hissed open a few times before every non-essential crew member was standing before him and Miranda. He looked fondly upon their faces, Garrus standing next to Tali, towering over her lithe, suited frame. Kasumi and Thane were at opposite edges of the pack, standing stock still and observing as they did best. Peeking over the crowd, he could see Jack and Zaeed leaning against the wall next to the elevator, looking apathetic, yet threatening as always. Jacob stood to attention, sandwiched between Mordin and Grunt, clearly to mediate Mordin's strong scientific curiosity over Grunt's perfect krogan physiology. Samara stood almost dead centre in the pack, side by side with Dr. Chakwas, Legion's illuminated head just a few feet behind. Save for a few crew members, this was the team that he led into the fire and back out of it. They all looked at him with the utmost respect. Even Legion's eye-light seemed to glimmer with the Geth equivalent of admiration.
"I won't beat around the bush." John began. "For the past few days, I was on a mission that was handed to me by an Alliance colleague of mine, Admiral Hackett." he said as he paced back and forth. "The details of the mission are classified, but at this point, I trust all of you enough to let you know precisely what happened."
So, he elaborated on it. All of it. He owed them that much. He told them about rescuing Dr. Amanda Kenson, and the project she and her team were working on. When he was explaining the project, and Artefact Rho, Garrus interrupted.
"Wait a second. You're telling me that she had a Reaper artefact that told them when the Reapers were going to break system?"
"Yes. At that point in time, their ETA was near 48 hours."
"So they put thrusters on an asteroid and were going to launch it at the relay…" Tali mused.
"Yes, Tali. I was under the impression that the project was going ahead, until I hit a complication."
"Shepard-Commander, previous encounters with the Old Machines's artefacts have proven to have adverse affects on organic minds. Could it be possible that your complication was present because they were indoctrinated?" Legion vocalised.
"I wasn't aware of that until I was shown the artefact. But yes, they were indoctrinated."
He continued on with his recap, mentioning how he was knocked out for a while, and despite their attempts to sedate him, he woke up. The next parts didn't come back easily to him, but he had to own his decision to destroy the relay, and not be haunted by it.
"The countdown estimated their arrival at one and a half hours when I came around. It was clear what I had to do." he watched his crew's faces drop with understanding. "I tried to send out a warning to the rest of the system after I activated the engines, but Kenson cut me off." he pinched the bridge of his nose. Miranda placed a consoling hand on his shoulder, feeling a rush of strength pulse through him. "She was already past negotiation, hell-bent on witnessing the Reapers' might. She said it was a 'blessing', and that she'd stop me even if she had to set the reactor core to meltdown and destroy the whole damn asteroid."
"You killed that bitch, right Shepard?" Jack asked from the back of the bay.
"I had no choice. Even after I had stopped the meltdown, she threatened that she was going to cut power to the engines."
"That's one crazy bird, I'll tell you that." Zaeed chuckled.
"She obviously expected me to stop her, because she had rigged the engine room with explosives. I shot her, but she still managed to key the detonator. …I got knocked out in the explosion." all eyes were trained on him. Their faces were a mix of anticipation, and shock. "I came around, and the countdown had reached 30 minutes. It was then that I had to fight my way to the comm tower and hail the Normandy. That was when Harbinger appeared and spoke to me, told me that I was an annoyance for fighting the inevitable. By then, the countdown had scampered down to a few minutes. Thankfully, Joker got to me in time, and well… we were the last ones to ever use that relay." he finished, directly avoiding the casualties that would've been sustained, as the thought alone was already making him feel heavy.
"You actually destroyed the relay? Keelah…" exclaimed Tali.
"What about the batarians? Did they get warned?" Jacob asked in a concerned tone.
"Improbable. Dr. Kenson cut off all communications. No method of warning them. Plus, mass relays rumoured to wipe out entire systems when destroyed. No survivors." Mordin hastily added.
"There's no real way of knowing what happened to the system. All we know is that the Commander delayed the invasion." Miranda spoke up from behind his shoulder.
"That brings me to my main point of order." he said grimly. "The batarians want my head for what I did. Despite… why I did it, the Alliance has decided to put me on trial to avoid another war between the humans and batarians."
"What?" Garrus exclaimed.
"That's fuckin' bullshit!" yelled Jack from the back of the room.
"What a bunch of bosh'tets! You had to do it! The Reapers would be everywhere by now!" Tali almost screeched.
"Everyone, calm down." ushering them with his hands. "They didn't listen to me before, so there wouldn't be any reason for them to listen to me now." he said, finding it hard to not be angered by the moronic politics of it all. "As of now, we're heading for the Citadel. Joker, what's our ETA?" he spoke over the ship's intercom.
"We've got about three hours till we reach the relay, and we'll be in Citadel space soon after that." he replied.
"So, that means that you have 3 hours to reach a decision. The Citadel is going to be our final port of call." he announced, the words finally sinking in. "After that, I'll be heading to Earth to turn myself in for trial. I suggest you get on the comm channels to look for work, or a place to keep your head down. Fair warning, many of you will not be welcomed on Earth with open arms. I'll open a list for those who are leaving, and for your own good, I hope to see most of your names on there." with a final sigh of admittance, he said, "Crew dismissed."
There's already a few chapters waiting for an upload. Not to mention a 5th/6th/10th edit. Drop a review, and we'll see if this story shall continue to see the light of day!