"Sovereign isn't just some Reaper ship Saren found. It's an actual Reaper," Shepard feigned surprise as he played out the script of his baseline loop. And like an age old play, Sovereign spoke in a condescending deadpan, answering Shepard's questions.
"We are legion. The time of our return is coming. Our numbers will darken the skies of your every world. You cannot escape your doom."
And it ended as it always did, with Shepard declaring the galaxy will stand and break the reaper tide. Sovereign scoffed at him and cut the connection. A few moments passed and Shepard turned to his third companion, "You get all that?"
Diana Allers, field reporter for Alliance News Network, nodded, "We went live as Sovereign started speaking. The entire galaxy just saw that exchange."
Shepard nodded and allowed himself a smug grin. With that and Vigil's interview later on, the council won't be able to sweep the "reaper allegations" under the rug, he thought to himself.
"You will excuse me if I don't stand up. I don't have time to entertain spaceborn vagabonds," said the grey skinned Salarian with blue and red highlights, barely glanced up before returning to his datascreen.
No matter how many times Shepard dealt with Anoleis, the administrator always found a way to grate on his nerves. When his back story said he was born on Earth, Anoleis called him "refugee from that urban blight called Earth" and on a colony, he's a "colonial rube." And thus, the runabout began, with Shepard asking for access to Peak 15, Anoleis denying him access and like clockwork Garrus would suggest forgetting Anoleis, that someone else would help.
Garrus gave a small grin, "You're obstructing a Spectre from doing his duty to the council. By all rights, he can shoot you and take that garage pass in your left inside pocket." He drew his rifle and gave it an appraising look, "Besides, you've done some bad things, Anoleis."
Shepard was taken aback in confusion...that wasn't part of the script. Anoleis blinked his eyes in shock, "I beg your pardon, you can't come into this office and threaten me! I run everything on Noveria, elected by the Executive Board."
With several clicks, Anoleis was staring down the barrels of three HMWA VII assault rifles. Shepard decided to just roll with it, "You did your homework on me, I did my homework on you. You should thank Sergeant Kiara Stirling for that, giving us Lorik Qui'in's evidence. Why when we offered her enough money to retire on Illium and live like Aria does on Omega, she jumped ship first chance you can get. Thankfully, you're small potatoes. You give us the garage pass and we'll forget for now we have this evidence. An administrator in my pocket might prove useful some day."
Anoleis sputtered in fury as he handed over his garage pass. As Shepard stepped out, the sound of Anoleis' voice echoed out the door, "Sergeant Stirling, Come to my office immediately!"
The commander looked to his best friend and usual second in command with a raised eyebrow. Garrus shrugged as he pulled out a mirror and looked himself over, "It's nice not having a scar, never did get used to it."
Shepard gave a deep laugh, "Garrus, good to have you on board! So, you're reliving this over and over again too?"
Garrus gave a nod as Kiara Stirling passed them by, entering Anoleis' office to immediate shouting about betrayal. Within moments, several shots rang out. Garrus looked at the door to Anoleis' office before shrugging, "How many have you gone through?"
"Lost count somewhere around fifty. Most annoying thing about this is dying to the Collectors. Do you still think you could calibrate our cannons to Thanix level firepower?"
Garrus mandibles twitched into an approximation of a human grin. The Collectors were surprised when what should have been an easy target, they found their ship gutted from stem to stern by a souped-up Normandy.
"I need to file a claim," shouted Captain Shepard as he slammed open the oak door of his insurance office. The poor desk worker had seen better days with papers facing every way covering his desk. The agent's hair was unkempt and clumped together in two places like he had been pulling at it not too long ago.
With Shepard's arrival, the agent's eyes widened as he rose and shouted, "Nononono no NO! No more claims."
Shepard walked through the room and came to stand with his hands on his hips, a scowl on his face, "Why not? You insured my last crash!"
The agent's hands flew wide, "That was...five...minutes...ago..."
Shepard smiled, "Exactly! You don't even need to change the date on the forms!"
The agent sighed, "Mr. Shepard, you have crashed 160 times..."
Shepard nodded to which the agent's eyes narrowed, "a day...for the past six months. We can't insure you anymore."
Shepard shouldn't have been surprised, as he was known in the F-Zero Grand Prix as the man who never completed a race. Still, he had to defend himself somehow, "Ok, Big Blue doesn't even have railings, so half of those shouldn't count."
The agent's tone turned sour with anger as he waved his hand, "Perhaps, but how did you end up upside down in the water every time. You didn't have anything to flip yourself over! We will not insure you, please see yourself out."
"It's not my fault! No one can control these things," at things, he pointed out the window as several racers slammed against the railings, causing them to burst into flames. Shepard continued, "Anytime someone steps behind the wheel of these machines, it's going to explode!"
To the agent's credit, he looked sheepish for a moment, then sighed and looked at the racer, "That may be, but you need to take some respon-"
Shepard blinked as a pink race machine approached the office's second floor window, right behind the insurance agent. The looper shouted, "Look out," as he jumped over the desk and tackled the man to the ground. The racer broke through the glass and barely avoided hitting the two men by a hair. Shepard rolled out from under the racer, dragging the agent out with him, "You alright?!"
The agent's eyes were twitching, "I...am...not...insuring...Grand Prix Racers...ANYMORE!"
Shepard's eyes narrowed. Even after saving him, he wouldn't insure him? He brought his right hand back, which burned like the sun. He shouted in anger, "SHEPARD...PUUUUNNNCCCHHHH!"
The man slammed across the room into the only bookshelf still standing, which toppled over on the man. A groan echoed from the rubble indicating he was still alive. The hatch on the racer opened, revealing Shepard's arch rival Samurai Gorrus, who looked a bit put out, "Huh...sorry about the damages, this thing is impossible to control."
Shepard grinned as he recognized his friend, "Garrus! Didn't know you were awake here."
Even with the change in universes, Garrus was still a turian, albeit carrying a samurai katana and wearing the trademark Japanese headgear of the man he was replacing. The turian grinned, "Yeah, I just woke up mid-race and lost control of this thing. When I get it back to the garage, I'll make some calibrations and it'll fly like a bird. What's your plans for this loop?"
He looked apprehensive for a moment, "You're not seriously going to race, are you?"
Shepard shook his head, "Maybe in my free time. With what I remember, I'm supposed to be the best bounty hunter in the galaxy. Plus, I'd like to put this to good use..."
He raised his hand and allowed his fist to glow yellow again. Garrus chuckled as he climbed out of his racer. His voice took on a mechanical imitation of Legion, "Chances that Shepard Commander will deliver a punch to the face increasing!"
With that, The two walked out, laughing the whole way and leaving behind a ruined insurance office and broken race machine in their wake. Garrus' nervous voice echoed from the hallway, "Be sure to let me know before you enter a race."
"Shephard, I've been meaning to ask you something."
The commander glanced up at Tali, noting how she was wringing her hands. "This is an awkward loop question, isn't it."
"Well... yes." Tali tapped her palm nervously for a moment or two. "It's just... well... why are you a woman?"
Shepard smiled, leaning back in her chair. "Ah. Right, to understand that... when the loops started, whatever damaged the multiverse wrecked the code. You understand that, right?"
The quarian nodded. "Yes, but-"
"Now for most universes, the damage was... fairly uniform. Everything was equally wrecked." The commander pointed out the window. "Us, though? We have the Reapers. Iron hard coding, or something, I dunno. Anyway, the... shockwave bounced off them and reverberated back out. And since, emotionally and historically, I'm the closest to the Reapers..." She shrugged, gesturing at herself. "Voila. Confused history, confused identity, confusing mess."
"Ah. I... wait." Tali crossed her arms. "Wouldn't that make you a lousy Anchor?"
"Well, normally yes, but because of my close connection to them I was chosen over the Reapers." Shepard rolled her eyes. "So, I had to live my first loops not only constantly repeating things but with my own sense of self degrading. Anderson put me in an asylum loads of times... heh. Lucky enough I looped over into Nanoha's universe before I went completely insane."
Tali blinked. "Oh. Shepard, I... I'm sorry. I wish I'd been there to... well..."
The commander smiled gently. "You were. A version of you anyway. Don't beat yourself up about it."
There was a quiet moment between them.
"...and no," Shepard added, "I don't know what gender I was originally."
Tali rolled her eyes. "Of course you don't. That makes perfect sense..."
"...and that's what's going on," Shephard finished. "So... yeah."
She rubbed the back of her head, glancing at the geth terminal in front of her.
"Just to clarify, though... how many of you are looping?"
"That is difficult to explain. Fifty four of our runtimes recall meeting Shepard-Commander; the details of Shepard-Commander's history, gender, and personality cannot be agreed upon. Our other runtimes chose to operate under the consensus that the data was falsified somehow. New information requires reassessment of consensus." Legion whirred quietly to.. themselves, Shepard guessed.
"Take your time."
Shepard had to admit, as she glanced beyond the Cerberus Command Control center to the yellow and blue star outside, it was beautiful. Nice place to put an end to Jack Harper, AKA The Illusive Man or Timmy (If she was feeling extremely pissed off). After becoming a spectre, the commander often dropped by Chronos station to shove a Cain round down his throat. Deep down, she feared that it would get old eventually.
Garrus Vakarian was her only companion from the Normandy who came with her. However, Legion was already on station after he infiltrated the base during the events of Eden Prime. Although Harper's base was the same design it always had been, there were still some things missing. Primarily among those were the Cerberus commandos who should have unloaded countless rounds on her as she passed empty checkpoint after checkpoint. The chair in the center of the room swiveled, causing Shepard's team to draw and fire. Before long, the chair was lined with holes, but the man didn't appear touched.
It was after they expended their magazines and began reloading to fire again that she noticed it. Shepard shouted, "Hold your fire!"
The man in the seat was dressed in a slate grey suit, black button up dress shirt and no tie. His hair was dark brown and pulled back into a ponytail. His eyes were chocolate brown with a calculating gleam in them, similar to some she herself has worn over several repeating lifecycles. His smirk was covered by his brown beard, which held only enigma. Then, the man spoke, "Sorry I couldn't be there to greet you directly, but after reading your dossier, I knew you would come with a shoot first, ask questions later mentality."
Shepard returned her pistol to her side, as did Garrus and Legion. She looked at the man inquisitively, "You're not Jack Harper. What are you? Why aren't you dead?"
The man rose from the chair and meandered over, his hands spread wide, "I am human, just like you. However, you are talking to a visual representation of my from another part of the galaxy, or a hologram as it were. I am on the other side of the Galaxy, orbiting an interesting little planet you call Hagalaz."
Shepard's eyes widened as she cursed, "The Shadow Broker...you found him."
The man nodded and crossed his arms, "I knew where to look, just like you did."
Shepard's eyes narrowed, "Who are you? How did you know the Shadow broker was on Hagalaz? And how did you know I knew?"
The man took his seat again, "In this universe, you know me as David Harper. But in my universe, I am David Xanatos. The other two require a longer explanation, so you might want to take a seat."
Three chairs rose from the floor around Xanatos' chair. None of the three man team took a seat, suspicious of a trap. Over the course of several minutes, Xanatos took his time explaining the multiverse to the three loopers.
Xanatos concluded his discussion of the multiverse with a brief lesson in creating and using subspace pockets, "A subspace pocket is a means presented by administrators of the multiverse to allow loopers like you and I to carry things between universes."
Garrus interrupted, "What can it carry?"
Xanatos grinned as his hand was held palm to the ceiling. The frame of a circular object appeared, then filled itself in, revealing a thermal detonator.
Then, the spherical explosive faded and was replaced with a 20th century handgun, and once again replaced with the components of an omnitool, "Anything and everything. Since you just started looping, it won't be able to contain bigger items, like vehicles or starships, but give it a few million loops."
It took a few tries, but Shepard and the rest managed to store some of their looted equipment in their pocket dimensions. She turned back to the looper and asked, "What are you planning on doing this...loop?"
"Oh, I have a couple projects in the works, one that should handle the reapers."
Several months later
Shepard wasn't sure what to expect from Xanatos and Cerberus. But, Sovereign get shredded apart by a Turian cruiser was near the bottom of the list. As always, Sovereign jumped into the nebula housing the Citadel, rushing the Citadel Fleet with Geth in tow. They soon found the Turian cruisers neigh invulnerable to damage as beam after beam raked their hulls, but left absolutely no damage.
Sovereign raced on ahead right at the Turian flagship obstructing the eldritch machine from the Citadel. The two collided, only for Sovereign to be torn apart as the Turian cruiser came out the other side unharmed. Xanatos stood on the bridge of the Destiny Ascension as the surrounding Asari gaped. His second in command, Miranda, gave a small grin as he pulled up next to him, "Looks like the Quantum Crystalline Armor modifications are a resounding success, Mr. Xanatos. Everything went according to plan."
The darker skinned male looked at her and grinned, "Not only have I earned the undying gratitude of the Citadel, I've made a powerful ally in the form of Commander Shepard, plus I obtained a nice trinket to tinker with in my off time," referring to the Conduit he stored away in his subspace pocket, "I would definitely call this a victory."
The reapers never stood a chance against the neigh indestructible Citadel Fleet.
Miranda scratched her head and shook it several times, "Shepard...what is this?"
The two stood on the surface of a barren wasteland moon. On the planet's surface, there was a fully operational reaper with all its legs sliced off at the body, it's primary cannon and engines completely gutted. It's mechanical voice shouted in approximation of anger and annoyance, "Insignificant human. You're victory is meaningless, as my brethren are awakening even now. We will darken the skies of your every home world and colony."
Shepard drew the Cain on his back and fired, a mushroom cloud forming around the reaper but causing insignificant damage, "I've heard it before, 'We are your salvation through destruction' and all that. Now be quiet Harbinger or I'll have you and the rest of the moon glassed by the citadel fleet."
Miranda's expression of shock was one Shepard would treasure for a long time. She turned to him and asked, "How did you capture a live reaper?"
"During our suicide mission, I told Harbinger's last avatar when and where I'd be on this moon. It landed on planet and I fought it hand to hand for several hours with ancient weapon I found at a Prothean dig site on the Hanar home world. Here, be sure to point it away from both of us and push the largest button."
He drew the cylinder weapon and handed it to her hilt first. After pushing the button, a purple energy blade leapt from the end and hummed. With a little concentration of his biotics (he was a biotic adept this time around), she basically had force telekinesis. As for the lightsaber, he had a loop recently where he was Mace Windu and managed to retain his lightsaber skills.
Miranda deactivated the lightsaber and handed it back to Shepard. Still not sure how he went hands on with a reaper and won, he did deserve some praise, "Nice work Shepard, with the reaper intact, we'll be able to reverse engineer its kinetic barriers and maybe develop countermeasures to reaper indoctrination."
Shepard's face turned sour, "No. I have a different use for Sovereign."
Miranda looked on with frustration. Somehow, this is not what she had in mind... Garrus handed her an espresso from a machine he re-created from a fused loop on a 21th century Earth. He even found a recipe that dextro-protein species could eat and get nutrition from without fear of an allergic reaction. Seeing her baffled reaction, Garrus chuckled, "Oh let him have his fun. After everything he's been though, he deserves a chance to have some fun."
After several hours, the red light of Harbinger faded. Shepard shrugged and walked back to Garrus, holding out his hand. The Turian groaned as Shepard gave a grin. Miranda's eyes narrowed, "How do you talk reaper to death?"
Garrus looked to her, "No idea, but if anyone could find a way, Shepard could."
1.8 (Detective Redfield, Zeitron, Master of Games, Crisis, Oath to Oblivion)
Tali eyed Shepard warily as they stepped into the elevator headed for the Citadel Academy. Her confusion was almost palpable. She asked Wrex, "Why aren't you acting more confused by this?"
Wrex shrugged, "Figured it was a human thing."
Tali rubbed the top of her hood, "Kheelah, Shepard, why are you wearing Quarian armor?"
"I'm a Quarian now. Quarians are cool."
Under her visor, Tali blinked, "Well... I suppose I can hardly argue with THAT. Still doesn't explain the fez though."
"The fez is standard issue."
"And the Stetson you put it on top of?"
"I really had no choice there. It would have just looked silly if I had used the top hat instead."
"And the scarf?"
"It's cold in the council room!"
"And that weird rocket launcher on your shoulder playing the music?"
"Hey! The 1812 overture is a classic!"
"And the motorcycle?"
"Card games are serious business!"
"And the backup dancers?"
"Meh, shits and giggles."
"... Is it too late to pass on joining the crew this loop?"
The science lab hummed with consoles beeping to the side as Shepard made his way to the tech upgrade station where he would commission another Cain for the old pocket dimension. It was after he finished putting in the commands for automated synthesis that Dr. Mordin Solus called out to the Spectre, "Shepard, about previous mission. Wanted to talk."
The mission in question was recovering Grunt from Okheer, which went about as baseline, if the Krogan seemed a bit more resilient this time around. For the most part Shepard liked to follow baseline, less problems with explaining to others how he knew the future. But he still had a lot of leg room to operate, considering he was a spectre which meant he only had to prevent the Council from catching on. He usually did this by bugging the councilors electronic accounts with a copy of EDI he stored on his omnitool. Mordin approached and Shepard smiled, "What's on your mind?"
Mordin had that look in his eyes, like he was trying to work out a puzzle. It meant he slipped up somewhere, "Was keeping eye on you during mission. Was most impressed. However, something odd. Never saw reloading. Never saw used thermal clip discarded. Just continuous rate of fire."
In Shepard's mind, he was cursing. There was one particularly disastrous loop where Sovereign had decided to get bold on Virmire, destroying the Normandy and launching wave after wave of indoctrinated troops and husks at Shepard's team. If he had stocked up on thermal clips in his subspace pocket, they might have lasted long enough for the Citadel fleet to arrive and save them. He never made that mistake again, and even spent the next couple loops buying up an entire armory worth of thermal clips and stored them away for future use.
As for the never switching thermal clips, it was part of the training, eject a clip into his subspace pocket, then summon a new one already slotted and ready to fire. It had apparently happened so often, he was doing it without even thinking now. Shepard rubbed the back of his head, "It's a biotic trick I learned on Earth, where I summon an object from my private armory here on the Normandy. I'll demonstrate with this Cain."
And so he did. The Cain vanished into his subspace pocket and then recalled. Mordin looked surprised, "Fascinating! No trace. Wormhole? Singularity pocket? Most curious. Will have to run tests when time is found."
Shepard spent much of the rest of that loop avoiding Mordin.
Shepard was used to a little identity uncertainty. Male, female, spacer, colonist, biotic, soldier... heck, not even his/her first name ever survived the loops.
This, though, this was a new one.
Shi swung four guns around and headshoted a horde of geth, ordering Kaydarlin to use his biotic blast on the straggling survivors. Ashley stood up, dusting herself off... and stared.
"...Who the hell are you?"
"Shepard. Blasto Shepard." The spectre candidate lowered his guns. "These ones have come to help."
1.11 (Detective Ethan Redfield, Crisis)
It was time again for another loop...and sure enough it was baseline. She hated to say it, but Shepard was bored. The last hundred loops had unfortunately been completely baseline, not even a fused loop or another looper besides herself was present. By now, she could take the collector suicide mission on blindfolded and still bring everyone back alive without injury.
She arrived at the Normandy's bridge just in time for the Arcturus Relay jump to the Exodus Cluster, where they would FTL jump to Eden Prime and the story would begin again. She just wished something new would happen.
LOOPER CANDIDATE DESIGNATED 'SOVEREIGN' APPLICABLE FOR LOOPING STATUS.
WARNING: LOOPER CANDIDATE 'SOVEREIGN' DISPLAYS INDICATIONS OF BEING A POTENTIAL DESTABILIZING INFLUENCE.
PRECOGNITIVE SIMULATIONS INDICATE DESTABILIZING INFLUENCE WILL NOT BE CRITICAL, BUT STILL MILD TO MODERATE.
ACTIVATE ANYWAY? Y/N
Ares looked at his screen and shrugged. 'Why the heck not?'
Gouts of fire blazed along the bulkheads all over the ship. The ship itself barreled through space towards Eden Prime. Shepard cursed as she closed the overhead hatch of the Mako and hoped that the near indestructible nature of the tank would keep her and the few surviving crewmembers she managed to drag inside alive.
Almost immediately upon exiting FTL, red streams of superheated plasma had torn into the Normandy. On the second volley, the ship's center was gutted, killing many of the crew members including Joker and Alenko. Shepard managed to escape the pilot area moments before the red beam pierced the cockpit. Somehow, Sovereign knew she was coming, and she didn't like that implication.
The survivors made it to the escape pods and ejected, only for Sovereign to swat them out of space like flies. After arriving in the communications room, she found Anderson and Nihlus still alive but unconscious. It was a split second decision as she dragged the two to the elevator, then upon removing her lightsaber from her subspace pocket, she cut the brakes and caused the elevator to freefall to the lower decks. The Mako had narrowly avoided the blast, so she put her two comrades in the back seat. She looked around momentarily, then noticed Requisitions Officer Postle was also still breathing, so he joined the rest.
Minutes before the ship impacted the planet, the bay doors were blown open by the Mako's main guns and the tank rocketed out into space. They would make a very uncomfortable landing, but they were alive, which was better than the alternative.
Month's Later, Virmire
The image of Sovereign rose from the communication's screen and a metallic voice echoed, "Saren informed me of your survival, Shepard, but only now after bearing witness to your presence here do I believe it."
Nihlus and Tali were standing behind her as Shepard glared at the hologram, "I've been waiting quite a while to get some answers Sovereign. How did you know when we would arrive in system back on Eden Prime?"
Sovereign somehow managed to look bored, "Irrelevant. Even now, I have already contacted Harbinger and my kind will awaken soon."
Shepard raised her fist at the red projection of the reaper, "Irrelevant my ass! You opened fire just as we exited FTL. You knew exactly where and when we would arrive in system."
The hologram stared at the commander, "Prior to Eden Prime, I assumed control of Saren to directly combat your disruptive influence in the events at the Citadel. Unexpectedly, my connection was severed which left me in a weakened state. Your fleets took advantage of my weakness. After a sizable volley of kinetic weaponry, I reactivated at Eden Prime, months prior to our battle."
Shepard swore. Two loops ago, she rigged the citadel tower with Elanos Haliat's nuke. It was too effective, as it leveled portions of the Presidium and she vowed not to try that again...at least with that nuclear yield. She and her team had survived with a quick application of a biotic barrier.
But more importantly, Sovereign remembered it. Why...oh God, why was Sovereign now looping?
Sovereign finished, "We will bring about the galaxy's ascension in due time, but for now I will accept destroying that facility you are occupying."
As plasma beams tore through the facility, Shepard wondered what fresh version of hell awaited her next.
1.12 (following 1.11)
"Shepard, what have you done," cried Daisuke sans Sovereign said to the female president of the Eiken Club, Kirika Shepard, as she twisted his wrist painfully.
The female commander had murder in her eyes and a sadistic smile. "This is what happens when another looper kills an anchor, me basically. Let me give you three welcomes, Sovereign: Welcome to the loops."
She twisted his wrist harder, forcing his hand down to sign the document below him, consigning him to the Eiken club. "Welcome to Eiken."
She planted her ridiculously sized assets on the back of his head and said the last with as much venom as she could muster at being forced to endure this...especially as a woman, "and welcome...to...hell...!"
1.1 - When bureaucracy gets in the way, take the truth straight to the people!
1.2 - Shepard's a spectre, He could kill everyone in that room and walk out completely unscathed and unhindered. Anoleis forgot that.
1.3 - F-Zero racing is a hazardous business and murder on the insurance industry.
1.4 - Shepard is all of the above: male, female, renegade, paragon, spacer, sole survivor, colonist, war hero, earth born and ruthless, never mind his job classifications.
1.5 - The infinite loops, where half of legion's programming will loop as Skynet, a third of the remaining runtimes are looping as Sovereign and the remaining 54 programs are stuck in legion's original body with the unawake programs.
1.6 - Quantum Chrystalline Armor, used on the Sun Crusher from the star wars expanded universe, which is impervious to any damage. Can even take a direct shot from the death star (prototype) and survive undamaged.
1.7 - Only Shepard can talk a reaper to death
1.8 - Somehow, I feel Shepard was the 11th doctor in one loop, but I'm not sure why.
1.9 - Oops...gotta keep up appearances in front of those who are not awake.
1.10 - Yggdrasil glitched really badly this time.
1.11 - Someone's about to get fired.
1.12 - Eiken, the 9th level of hell for all loopers. Sovereign will learn VERY quickly not to kill Shepard.