Born In Fire

Prologue

This Is How It All Ends


" ... Why must the show go on?
It can't be all that indispensable.
To me, it really isn't sensible on the whole,
To play a leading role..."


Life had been good, I reflected to my own quiet shame, back in the vault.

It's not really something you appreciate until long after you'd left it behind. I mean, three square meals a day and all the water you can drink, the kind of security that only complete secrecy and five feet of solid metal can supply and, last but not least, the adoration of my peers weren't something I really thought about until I'd ventured Outside with my friends all those...

With a heavy effort I turned my head to my pip-boy.

Huh.

All those...three months ago.

Seemed longer somehow.

Yes, life had been pretty good.

I closed my eyes and drew a ragged breath, trying to ignore the twisting knives in my skull that were threatening ti overwhelm me with every passing moment. The second it did, everything was over. Humanity. Earth. The galaxy. Life as we knew it.

Gone, in an instant.

This was our last stand.

SUBMIT.

No, I try to open my mouth to say, but the word sticks in my throat, and only silence issues forth.

Meh. Didn't matter. They'd get the message anyway.

You suck, I added mentally. Let them have that as well.

Life wasn't so great anymore.

My meals had been reduced to whatever I could salvage or whatever I could force myself to not think too hard about and all the dirty water I could stomach. Every day broght wth it some fresh horror or threat, something new to dread. And while I had the respect of some, was even looked up to by others, it was a far cry from adoration. (Not that I was bothered much by that. I would have felt dirty about it if they did: there was nothing glamorous about me anymore.)

And to top it all off, I probably wasn't going to survive this.

YOUR TIME IS OVER.

Stop copying me.

I know it sucks, but I'm still here. Goddam space-Cthulhus.

THIS WAR WAS OVER A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

War? Didn't both sides have to have a chance of winning for it to be a war? Slaughter was a better word.

SUBMIT.

Talk to a Reaper for any length of time, and you really began to understand that the machine was wearing the daddy pants in its unholy union of organic and synthetic. It's either "give up", "this is for your own good", "we are so much better than you", or (my personal favourite,) "let us eat your tasty man-flesh".

WE ARE YOUR SALVATION.

See? All four at once. Can't be all that much better than us.

To demonstrate, I focussed. I let myself drift into the Crucible, let it fill my eyes with illusions tha were truer than anything I had ever known. Below me, the floor vanishes into darkness, replaced by a broken globe made from thousands upon thousands of tiny lights, surrounded by distant stars. Those tiny lights were clustered together in places, forming great, radiant patches interconnected by thinner, dimmer strands like gleaming spider thread. I looked for familiar shapes, but there either wasn't enough or too much for me to see.

Above me, I see the sun in the night sky, a blinding circle of poisonous light surrounded by stars. It hurt me to look upon it, more than I was hurting before, but I did so all the same.

With a herculean effort I lifted a hand to it. I put my thumb and forefinger just on the bottom and top of that vile light, like I was holding in between them.

"Squish," I managed to whisper, and brought my fingers together slowly. It was a lot harder to do than you might imagine.

The evil sun flared bright for just a moment, and then died.

I let my hand fall with an exhausted sigh, and drew myself back from the Crucible. I was returned to the world of flesh and metal and lies so true they were never questioned.

Peace and quiet were mine again for a time.

I wonder what DJ Squidhead would have to say about that, her Shepherd of the Wastes laying down on the job. But then I remember that I don't care what she thinks. Allegedly.

So I busied myself thinking of other things.

I thought of Palaven, a victim of its own hubris. The greatest military force in the galaxy, brought low from distrust and resent.

I thought of Rannoch, the final resting place of thd Quarian people. Or what should have been, in a kinder universe.

I thought of Thessia, and the great sadness left there by the destruction of the Asari. A civilization of peace, wiped clean of history by the whims of monsters.

I thought of the many failures of the past, a hundred tiny flaws coalescing into calamity. I knew it wasn't their fault. How could it be? Nobody could have prepared for something like the Reapers. The best they could do was set the stage for someone else to finshe the work. They had made their Crucible, after all, just on the off chance that someone likeme could use it.

It would have nice if they'd completed the damn thing, of course, but I understand that there were distractions. End of times, and all that.

Still, even though it was sure to kill me, even though my last hours would be filled with a torture for which there are no words, I didn't regret leaving that life behind. I'd have just gotten old and fat, and that would have been a travesty.

YOU CANNOT WIN.

Ah, there they were again. Like sharks sensing blood in the water, they were coming for me.

No, I couldn't beat them. I stood alone against them, and I was already dying.

But I could make their final victory a dear one. I could show them an ounce of our suffering.

As I submerge myself once more into the Crucible, I allow myself to think of better times. Simpler times, with adventure and wonder and friends and laughter.

I thought back to the beginning, and that fateful night.


AN: Whew, that was a bugger to write! Fun fact: it is really annoying to type on a psvita. I regretted my foolishness halfway through this.

As you might have gathered, this story is different from the others I've submitted in this section. Here, we're aligning the timelines a little more closely, ony except US/China war the ME plot happened... kinda. You should be able to see what was different next chapter.

Anyways, not much else to say, other than that I'm not sure when I can really get started on this, as I'm kinda walking the world atm. I'll try to have something out next week, provided I can find something better to write with. (And that I have internet.) Pen and paper would be vastly preferable to this, really, were it not for my horrendous penmanship.

Lastly...

The prologue is not the end of the story. And even if it was, then it still isn't the important part. Honestly, hasn't anyone heard the saying "it's not the destination that matters, but how you get there"? Don't you ever wonder why things happen the way they happen?

Remember to review, and all that junk!

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights or what-have-ye for either the Mass Effect or the Fallout franchises. They belong to Bioware and Bethesda respectively, and my only involvement with either of these companies are my enjoyment of their work. Also the song at the beginning is "Why Must The Show Go On?" by Noël Coward. I have received no pay for this, and unless something completely amazing happens I likely never will. So... yeah.