"Emergency Evacuation Protocols are in effect," Avina announced pleasantly to a mostly empty atrium, her purple form flickering. "This is no longer a drill. Please report to your nearest evacuation station."
Two Geth platforms stood at attention near an elevator, the only one that still worked during the emergency, which Saren had taken to the Council Chambers. They dutifully ignored the VI as she repeated her message, carefully scanning the area with their flashing optics. Besides the projected sky being disabled and the dark red emergency lights pulsing, it looked pretty much like business as usual.
The Geth pair snapped onto the Conduit as the spinning rings began to glow and pulse, an orb of blue energy coalescing in the center as they walked closer and raised their weapons. The light in the center built up into a miniature sun, releasing a blinding flash of light and a sharp hiss as a military rover came flying out of nowhere.
Before they were crushed beneath the plated hull, the Geth noted that the vehicle had come out of the Conduit spinning wildly; they also noticed that the instant it came through, the door broke away and a figure flew high into the air, releasing a surprisingly shrill scream.
The Mako bounced off the Geth, flattening them and rolling across the floor to impact the wall with a metallic crunch, ending up on its' back with the wheels still spinning.
The figure arched gracefully through the air, before hitting the Presidium lake with an ungainly belly-flop and a loud, echoing splash.
An armored woman spilled out of the Mako, flopping onto the floor like a wet fish. She pushed herself up and almost immediately fell back down, clutching her head and groaning. "Saul!" Zaira shouted feebly, trying to overcome the dizziness she felt. "Saul! Are you alright?"
Her team came rolling out of the Mako in a tangled mass of limbs, and muffled groaning was her answer. Kaidan stood up on shaky legs, pulling his helmet off and dropping it on the floor with a pained moan. "I think I'm gonna be sick," he muttered, his face green. A second later, he hobbled over to a nearby planter and hurled loudly.
"Saul Dewitt!" Zaira called, her voice tinged with anger and worry. "Answer me, you asshole!"
Water splashed as an armored hand burst from the surface of the lake, latching onto the railing and slowly hauling the rest of the body up. "I'm here…" Saul groaned, haltingly pulling himself out of red-lit water and rolling over the railing with a noisy clank. "…Ow…"
Sighing in relief, Commander Shepard, the First Human Spectre, clumsily staggered over to him, pausing every few steps to regain her balance and hold down her last meal. When she finally made it over, she knelt next to him, peering down worriedly and laying a hand on his chest. "Are you alright?"
"Please tell me we don't have to do that again," he bit out pitifully, slowly reaching up to grasp her hand. "I think I need a medic. Jade's fine, though."
Garrus tried to walk towards them, only to stumble on the completely level floor and faceplant a foot away. "Turians…were not meant for spinning," he muttered into floor, gently bouncing his head off of it.
"I agree," Nihlus said calmly, striding to the downed human and retrieving a packet of medi-gel from a pouch. "Where's the injury?"
"My back," Saul grunted, letting the two Spectres lever him up into a sitting position. His armor cracked open to expose his rapidly purpling back, his mangled jetpack sparking sadly.
The Turian Spectre activated his omni-tool, scanning the human's back while applying small injections of medi-gel in specific places. "You cracked three of your ribs and bruised your spine," he read off clinically, emptying the last of the healing goo into Saul's back, "You'll be good to go in a minute."
Saul sighed as the pain began to fade, his armor closing back up while his helmet parted. "Thanks, Nihlus," he sighed, rolling his shoulders with a series of pops, "How you doin' Garrus?"
"I'm holding onto the floor, and everything's still spinning," he replied slowly. "I don't like it."
Zaira reached up and unsealed her helmet, setting it next to her feet before reaching out and cupping her lover's cheek. "I'm glad you're just bruised," she murmured, stroking his cheek with her thumb, "When the door broke open…I thought I'd lost you."
Saul gently grasped her wrist, turning slightly to press a light kiss to her palm, his lips curled in a warm smile. "Not now, not ever," he vowed quietly, his eyes glimmering intently.
"Good," Shepard whispered, leaning in and kissing him firmly.
Zaira pulls away, taking the remaining pain with her. Huh. A kiss to make it all better actually does work!
I know it's the medi-gel, shut up and let me be corny.
"Aww," Garrus says, finally picking himself up off the floor, "The blaring alarms and emergency lighting kind of ruin it, but I'd give it an eight out of ten."
"Shut it, Vakarian," Shepard grumbles as she pulls her helmet back on, "Let's see if Avina knows how things have been going."
By the time we've made it to the terminal, everyone's pretty much recovered, though Kaidan still looks a bit green. Wrex, that hardy bastard, seems disappointed that we aren't doing it again. "Everyone good?"
Upon receiving a collective 'Yes, but still a little dizzy,' Zaira turns her attention to the flickering VI. Unlike what I remember, nothing is on fire and while there are some of the husk-making spikes, there's no bodies impaled on them. Score. It looks like the Geth strolled right in, completely uncontested.
"Greetings, Spectre Shepard," Avina says cheerfully, "How can I assist you?"
"Give me a run-down of the damage," Zaira orders.
"Primary power has been cut off on this level," the VI reports calmly, fizzing out for a second, "Environmental controls are also disabled. Class one fires have broken out in sectors one, thirty-three, and seven. Civilian casualties are minimal. I am also detecting multiple synthetic lifeforms throughout the station. Please discharge your weapons carefully, as the Citadel infrastructure is mostly undamaged."
"What about Captain Anderson?" I cut in, "And Ambassadors DuPrie and Udina?"
"I'm sorry, but I have no information on the status of specific individuals at this moment. Once the current emergency has been resolved, I will be able to account for casualties and survivors," Avina replies, looking thoughtful for a second as her form fades in and out several times, "As Ambassadors, it is possible they are with the Citadel Council onboard the Destiny Ascension, which, as per Emergency Evacuation Protocols, is hiding within the local nebula."
"Oh. Well that's good to know, thanks Avina," I think the power fluctuations are messing with Avina's personality matrix, because she actually smiles at me. I mean, she usually has a pleasant smile by default, but this one looks genuinely pleased.
"Of course, Mr. Dewitt," the VI beams, folding her hands behind her back, then glitching back to her neutral pose. "Is there anything else I can assist you with?"
"Where's Saren?" Shepard asks seriously, her hands clenching into fists.
"Former Spectre Saren Arterius is nearing the Council Chambers," Avina replies with a frown. "A warrant for his arrest has been issued, but Citadel Security is busy protecting civilian evacuation shelters."
Didn't she just say she couldn't tell us where specific individuals where? Just another question for later.
"Then let's go!" Zaira barks, pivoting on her heel and stalking to the elevator. "Saren's already got a head start, no need to extend it."
A good thing about the elevators on the Citadel: at least they're roomy. Nine of us pile in, and we could still fit maybe four more comfortably. "Did anybody else think Avina was acting kinda weird?" I ask, jabbing the button to ascend.
"She's always been a bit more friendly with you," Garrus comments, pulling off his helmet and cleaning the inside with a square of cloth. "But yeah, she was really off just now. Might be the lack of power. Or maybe you just have some quality that makes synthetic ladies like you, huh Jade?"
"Shut up, Garrus," Jade replies irritably.
"You alright?" I say, resisting the urge to reach up and rub the glowing implant in the back of my head. It's not like she'd be able to feel it, and it'd make my head feel weird.
"I'm getting there," she grumbles, and I can just imagine her rubbing her temples. "You try shoving decades' worth of data in your head at once and see how you feel."
"Will you be ready to assist us?" Nihlus asks calmly, his shotgun cradled in his arms. "The amount of Geth we might face…we'll definitely need help."
"More help than three Spectres?" Tela arches an eyebrow.
"And a Krogan Battlemaster?" Wrex adds.
"And two career soldiers?" Ashley chimes in, nudging Kaidan with her elbow.
"And one Turian cowboy cop?" Garrus joins in, a smile on his flanging voice.
"And one Asari Scientist?" Liara continues, before frowning. "Ah, that's not very intimidating, is it?"
Everyone turns to Tali. She simply shrugs, her cloak fluttering. "I'm just a Quarian with a shotgun."
"Nuh-uh, you're a badass engineer!" I protest, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, "Not to mention the invisibility, and the uh, Arc Cloak? I think a better name is Quarian Hunt-Predator! Quarian Predator, yes."
She elbows me in the side, though with no heat and a quarian blush. "Fine! What are you, then?"
Everyone turns to look at me, amusement visible in their body language. "Hmm," I hum, tapping my chin thoughtfully. "I can't say soldier or cop, since I'm not…inventor? Engineer? Ehh…"
"You're stalling," my bestie murmurs. "How about Human Procrastinator?"
"Shut up, Garrus," I mutter absently, before snapping my fingers in realization. "Aha, I got it! I'm Concentrated Awesome."
Tela snickers. "Is that why people can't stand you more than a little bit at a time?"
The rest of group laughs, and I haughtily stick my nose in the air, restraining the smile tugging at my lips. "Hmmph! You're just jealous I have to dilute myself with you people!"
"Saul Dewitt," Zaira muses aloud, "Human Concentrated Orange Juice."
I can't help but giggle, especially when she looks at me with eyes glittering in amusement. "Bitch please! People love me!" Turns out, laughing and trying to sound serious is really hard.
She shrugs. "Well, I can't say you're wrong about that," she gives me a little wink.
"Alright, I'm good to go," Jade finally rejoins us, sounding a little perkier. "What'd I miss?"
As she speaks, the arms of the Citadel finally close with an ominous clang, just as Sovereign slips in and perches on the tip of the Council tower like a fat tarantula on a dildo. Our elevator grinds to a halt, leaving us a little less than halfway up. "Saren's locked us out," Zaira growls, drawing her pistol. "Hardsuits on, we're going outside!"
My helmet folds up over my eyes, covering my vision before the screen clears up just as Zaira puts a round through the window. Shards of glass spin out into the orange-lit vacuum, dancing and glittering as they arc away. Stepping out into the void brings the feeling of weightlessness, at least for a second before my boots magnetize and clamp onto the outside of the elevator.
Before us lies Sovereign and at this angle it reminds me of just how big that bastard is. If I climbed on one of his fingers, I'd look like an aphid on a human fingernail. At least he's not making that fucking horn sound.
"Why don't we just fly over all this mess and head straight to the Council Chambers?" Liara asks as we begin to move. As if to answer, a Geth ship buzzes overhead, dropping a squad of platforms in front of us.
"Getting hit by a ship won't help anyone!" Ash replies, her rifle out and muzzle flashing from behind cover.
"They're not slowing us down!" Zaira shouts, clapping a hand on my shoulder. "Saul, Ash, with me! Phalanx formation!"
"One sec!" I pop out and fire a Jade-laced sabotage at a Rocket Trooper that taken up a suppressing position, then tap the Omni-Shield application. The thick orange barrier springs to life in an instant, just in time for me to slam the bottom against the floor and lock the right side with Zaira's shield, as Ash does the same on the left. Loosely wielding Medusa in my right hand, just like Ash and Zaira, I fire it over my shield as Tela and Wrex stack up behind me.
The amount of fire going downrange is downright withering and the Geth don't last more than a few seconds; especially with Jade raining rockets on their backs. Moving on is slow, but at least we're not stopped. A Krogan roars out from behind cover, both barrels of his Prime Rifle firing, rockets and bullets impacting against our shields.
"I've got this one!" Wrex calls, firing a salvo back, pausing as the other Krogan roars and charges our formation. "Wait a second…"
A bolt of lightning flies overhead, followed by a small Push that hits the enemy Krogan in the foot. His momentum, plus his lack of footing, sends him arcing gracefully overhead. Wrex reaches up and grabs him by the arm, pulling back and hurling him into open space. The other Krogan shouts as he flies off into the distance, his calls fading out of hearing range.
"That works," Zaira murmurs, tapping her chin and switching her launcher to Concussive Rounds. "Time to switch strategies. Get them out of way!"
"Zaira," I say, collapsing Medusa and reaching for the small of my back. "I have the perfect weapon for this." Hell yeah, here comes The Tyrant! I haven't really been able to use this recently, since we haven't really needed to take our enemies down without killing them for awhile. But here and now, it's perfect.
Taking point, I blast the way through the next squad, The Tyrant's kinetic balls of force being even more deadly in space, sending Geth and Krogan alike sailing into space. It's not just efficient, but effective, too. If they make it through the ships flying above and don't die from exposure, then they'll hit atmosphere on the Ward above us and fall fifteen stories to hit the street. Anything that survives that kinda deserves it.
The others, bereft of my sweet-ass kinetic shotgun, develop their own inferior strategy of hitting our enemies with an Overload to pop the shields, then a Concussive Shot or a Biotic Lift to hurl them into the sky.
A Geth Dropship thrums overhead, coming to rest on the far side of an open stretch of wall, dropping vanilla Troopers on a trio of mounted turrets that then explode, taking them out of commision. "Kaidan, Tela, Liara and Wrex, with me!" I shout, ducking behind cover as the ship drops a multitude of troops and a few missiles as a greeting. Turning to Zaira, I thrust The Tyrant into her hands. "Keep them occupied so we can set up a Biotic Artillery Strike!"
"Got it!" While Zaira, Ash, Nihlus and Tali continue the Geth-launching competition, Tela and Liara create the shell, Wrex and Kaidan reinforce it and add a layer of pure Biotic energy. And me? I provide the over-sized Warp at the Core. The Asari take a knee, aiming our big ball of boom at the ship while K-K and Wrexy pull it back with me. Grabbing the energy with my mind, I pull it back just a little farther before thrusting my hands forward, hurling the shell at the Dropship.
This is what it must feel like to have a cannon for a penis.
The strike sails through the air, impacting just off the nose of the ship and detonates in a flash of energy, nearly blasting the ship in half. It limps away, before sputtering and dying in open space.
Dropship officially dropped, Zaira tosses The Tyrant back to me and we continue on, throwing Geth and Krogan into the skies like a bunch unworking fireworks.
Things get more interesting when we emerge from another trench to find another Dropship at the far end of open stretch, but this time it's lined with four heavy Geth Turrets. A Jade-laced sabotage hits one, which immediately explodes. "Dammit!" Jade mutters, "They're detecting me faster and faster!"
"Saul, Tali!" Shepard calls, unloading a salvo of rockets at the closest turret. "Take care of the Geth! Everyone else, focus fire on those turrets!"
Tali quickly passes her weapons to Ash, joining me as we dash out of cover and flicker out of sight. I charge at the closest group of Geth, about five, and leap over their cover, lightning wreathing my form before I slam into the ground and wipe them out.
Tali reappears amidst a group of six with a flash of Arc energy, pirouetting and releasing a wave of lightning that dazes the Geth. She leaps forward, knife flashing, and decimates them in about four seconds. We do the same to another group, then another, and before long we end up under the Dropship.
I jack a thumb up at it and she nods, so we jump and disengage our mag-boots, sailing into the drop-point as it opens and disgorges another squad of Geth. Landing inside, my lightsaber blazes to life as Tali cloaks herself in lightning and we dash forward, carving through every robot with the poor judgement to get in our way. The corridors are large enough for the smaller frames to fit through, which hobbles the Geth's ability to mount any sort of reasonable defense.
Tali turns off her lightning and quickly hacks into the ship's conflux, disabling it in a few seconds. "You shouldn't have any trouble taking over now, Jade," she comments. "Why don't you take this ship and ram it into another?"
The conflux flashes green as Jade takes over. "Why thank you, Tali'Zorah," my AI companion replies warmly, the ship floating over to the rest of our squad. "I think I'll do that."
Shaking my head and chuckling, I reach over and wrap Tali in a one-armed hug. "You're awesome, Tali, I hope you know that."
"Y-you would think that, you crazy bosh'tet," she mutters, scratching her faceplate.
"It's 'cause you are!" I reply, jumping from the ship with her and floating down to the surface. "Don't let anyone tell you different!"
Landing after just hijacking a ship doesn't even merit more than a glance and a nod, we just take off as fast as we can. Geth can't stop us. Krogan can't stop us. Saren won't stop us.
Powering through the remaining defenses, we jump into the Council Chambers through the maintenance hatch next to the door the elevator would've brought us to. While the airlock cycles, Zaira turns to face us, her eyes hard. "This is it," she says firmly. "We can't fail now. Not after all we've been through. I trust all of you with my life, even the late-comers. Let's get it done."
Nothing else needs to be said as the doors open and we sprint out, pounding up the steps and into the main area. Geth Troopers are stationed around it, creating a crossfire that would've shredded a lesser team. Tela and I pick the two farthest Troopers and Charge across the distance in a blink of an eye, driving our targets into the closet wall and finishing them with a biotic punch.
Wrex roars a challenge and thunders through the middle, tackling a Trooper and crushing it under his boots. Tali and Garrus Overload the shields of a Geth trio; Liara pulls them all into the air with a Singularity; Kaidan detonates it with well-placed Warp. Nihlus blasts the shields of another with his shotgun, before blowing it apart with a Carnage Round. Ash shoots the rifle out of the last Geth's hands, dashing forward to smack its' flashlight face off with the butt of her gun.
Surging up the final staircase, I can see Saren with his back to us, rapidly tapping away at a console that wasn't there before. He glances over his shoulder, slams a button to disable the console, and jumps off the edge.
He reappears a second later on his hovering platform, hurling a handful of high-ex grenades at our feet. The room shakes as they go off right as we dive into cover, leaving a wide crater and a cloud of smoke.
"I was hoping you would make it in time," Saren calls, his voice lower and more sinister than I remember.
"In time for what?!" Zaira shouts back, peeking out and ducking back as a trio of bullets hit her cover.
"The final confrontation!" he replies grandly, spreading his arms, "It's only fitting that it all ends here, Shepard, where the journey truly began. And it is ending, Shepard. You've lost. In a few minutes, Sovereign will have control of all the Citadel's systems. The relay will open, and the Reapers will return."
"Don't count us out just yet!" Shepard calls.
Something akin to physical force settles on my shoulders, and I can hear Saren chuckling. "I see you survived our encounter on Virmire, Wallace," a spike of rage jams into my skull, but I manage to retain control of myself; though Medusa squeals in protest under my grip. "Not rising to the bait, then? Good…but you're not the only one who's improved. Sovereign has upgraded me, as well."
Popping up, I can see Saren giving a Turian smile. His eyes are glowing, with extensive metal plating covering his face, concentrated on the wound I gave him back on Virmire. Wires line his cheeks, the cybernetics glowing with power as are the wires running down his neck. "You call that an upgrade?" I call back incredulously.
"You let that thing implant you?!" Nihlus shouts, standing up and gaping at his former mentor. "Saren…have you lost your mind?"
"I suppose I should thank you, Wallace," Saren murmurs, drawing my knife from his belt and pointing it at me. Asshole! That's my knife! "After Virmire, I couldn't stop thinking about what you said, about Sovereign manipulating me…about Indoctrination. The doubts began to eat away at me, corroding my will, and Sovereign sensed my hesitation. With my new implants, my resolve has been strengthened beyond measure!"
Even through the fervor, I can still hear a tone of doubt underlying his words.
"I believe in Sovereign completely," he continues, "I understand that the Reapers need organics. Join us, and Sovereign will find a place for all of you. We don't need to be enemies."
Zaira pops up, incredulity shining through every facet of her body language. "Sovereign's controlling you through your implants!" She cries, waving a hand at him. "How can you not see that?!"
"The relationship is symbiotic!" The ex-Spectre denies, with just a hint of desperation. "Organic and machine intertwined, a union of flesh and steel. The strengths of both, and the weaknesses of neither! I am vision of the future, Zaira, the evolution of all organic life! This is our destiny. Join Sovereign and experience a true rebirth!"
"Sovereign hasn't won yet," Zaira replies, pointing at the inactive console, "I can stop it from taking control of the station! Step aside and the invasion will never happen!"
"We can't stop it!" he shouts, throwing his arms out. "You saw the visions! You saw what happened to the Protheans! The Reapers are too powerful! Their victory is inevitable!"
Nihlus shakes his head in disappointment. "What happened to the Turian I knew, Saren?" He says sadly. "What happened to my mentor, my best friend? He never would've given up, not even in the face of extinction! Some part of you must realize this is wrong!"
"You…maybe there is…" He clutches his head, crying out in pain. "No! I will…I will prove that Sovereigns needs us! I-I-!"
"Saren," I say softly, his glowing eyes flickering over to me. My helmet unfolds and I meet his gaze with my own. "Take a look in the mirror. You're more machine than Turian now, one step away from a Husk. Sovereign doesn't need you…it needs a slave."
Saren's mouth works soundlessly until he goes still. Then, his organic arm rises, bringing my knife with it. He stares into the reflection of his face, his eyes widening in realization. "I…what have I done?" He whispers with dawning horror, looking down at us with sorrow-filled eyes. "It's too late for me…the implants…they won't allow me to help, beyond one final move."
"Thank you," he murmurs, raising my knife to his throat, his eyes landing on Nihlus. "Goodbye."
With a swift, vicious pull, he draws the blade through his windpipe, spraying blue blood into the air. The glow in his cybernetics dies and he falls limply from his glider, crashing through the plate glass into the center of the garden below.
Peering over the edge of the platform, we get a striking view of Saren's corpse lying on the rock below, blue blood slowly pooling around his head. "…Jesus Christ," I mutter, rubbing my face. "I would've preferred it if he just shot himself." That…that shit's going into my nightmare montage, I just know it. I don't know if I want my knife back now.
Zaira swallows uncomfortably, stepping forth onto the platform and activating her omni-tool, sending out the file. The console blinks once, then opens up. "Vigil's data file worked," she says with a sigh, turning to face us. "I've got control of all systems."
"Open the arms and get the Fleets in here," Garrus replies, his eyes on Nihlus. The Turian Spectre silently gazes down at his deceased mentor, his face unreadable.
"Maybe contact the Council first, give them a head's up," Tela adds, her sarcasm dulled.
The comms. crackle and Joker's relieved voice comes through. "Commander! I'm sitting with the entire Arcturus fleet, ready to jump in on your signal!"
"Alliance vessels, this is the Destiny Ascension!" A female voice cuts in, "We stand ready to retake our home! But we're receiving distress calls from the evacuation shelters on the Citadel; they're being overrun! If they don't get help…millions could die."
Silence falls. I knew we couldn't get through this without a heavy decision needing to be made, but I hoped, I really hoped.
"Shepard, we can deploy soldiers to reinforce the evacuation shelters," Hackett's rumbling rasp joining in, "But they will need protection from the Geth Fleet, and that will make us vulnerable. You control the Citadel, Shepard. It's your call."
Zaira's hands clench into fists, her armor creaking in protest. "Shepard," Ash says softly. "I don't like it, but…we need to destroy Sovereign. The civilians might die…but they definitely will if we don't stop the Reapers now."
"Williams, how can you say that?" Kaidan gasps, stepping away from the soldier. "The Reapers aren't something we can handle alone! We'll need the backing of the entire Galaxy to stand to a chance…if we let them die, no one will trust us!"
"And I suppose trust can stand up to a fleet of Reapers?" Tela cuts in, arching an eyebrow. "We'll need firepower more than we'll need people."
Liara gapes at her, her blue eyes wide with shock. "Power can be regained, ships can be rebuilt, but trust? Alliances? We'll never be able to regain that! In the long run, saving the civilians will be more beneficial," she narrows her eyes, clenching her fists. "Not to mention it's simple decency!"
They argue back and forth, but Zaira and I never join in. Her eyes are searching, but I keep my visage blank. "What should I do?" She asks softly.
"It's your decision, Zaira," I reply quietly. "Whatever you choose, I will bear the consequences with you. It won't change how I feel about you, Zaira."
Zaira sighs, her hands relaxing. With a short wave, all arguments are cut off. She taps the console, opening the comms. "I'm opening the arms now, Joker. Save the civilians. Enough innocent people have died today."
"Roger that, Commander."
Tela sighs, shaking her head slowly. "I hope you know what you're doing, Shepard," she mutters.
"4th Fleet, break through their line! Clear a path for the transports! 3rd Fleet, protect the transports!" Hackett barks, the distant cracks and blasts of heavy weapons firing and ships exploding, "The Seoul is down, I repeat, the Seoul is down!"
"Alliance fleet, form up on the Ascension!" The captain of the Asari ship calls. "We will be your shield!"
"Sir, transports have landed!" Joker reports, "They're on the ground and driving the Geth off!"
"All ships, all Fleets, focus on Sovereign!"
I kinda wish we could see all of the battle. As it is, the wide window just looks out at one of the Wards, cannon shots and debris floating passed.
Zaira looks over her shoulder at me, nodding down to the garden below. "Make sure he's dead," she orders lowly, turning her view back to the chaos outside. Nihlus and Tali go with me as I jump down into the garden, flaring my jetpack and landing lightly next to Saren's corpse. Drawing Invictus, I fiddle with power level and set it to high. At this level, one shot will hopefully disintegrate his head, and we can just avoid-
The ground quakes beneath my feet and my shot goes wide, sending a fountain of dirt into the air. Red lightning arcs through the air with an audible cackle, streaking across the ground and lancing into Saren's body. His corpse dances and jitters, glowing with an unholy light and the ground shakes even more, my next two shots both missing.
With a flash of red, energy explodes off of Saren's body, picking me up and hurling me through the air along with Nihlus and Tali. I bounce off the wall and hit ground dazed, only able to watch as Saren rises from the ground, screaming and shrieking as the flesh melts from his body.
The platform above gives away and Zaira, Tela and Kaidan tumble down in front of Saren's corpse. With gestures like those of a man with something distasteful on his hand, Sovereign flicks away the remain flesh, revealing cybernetic skeleton underneath. The only part the even remotely resembles Saren is his bleached skull, baleful crimson eyes glaring out at us above a rib cage encasing a glowing core of eldritch energy.
"I am Sovereign!" it declares in a bass rumble underneath Saren's voice, "And this station is MINE!"
Declaration made, Sovereign crouches and leaps away, firing off a series crimson biotic-like bolts that hit like a mix between a Concussive Rocket and a Warp. It sticks to the ceiling for scant second, firing off more bolts, one of which hits the ground near Tali and explodes, throwing her into the wall.
I grit my teeth and resist the urge to go check on her; Tali may be small, but she's tough, she can take a few hits. I hope so.
Sovereign zips around the room at blinding speeds, constantly raining blasts and shrugging off every shot that hits it. Emptying another magazine at it, and missing a third of my shots, I draw my arm back and hurl a Warp at it. The skeletal hopper fires another bolt of energy that meets my biotics mid-air, the explosion shaking the ground and tearing a crater into the dirt.
It moves so fast, the only thing I can think of that could damage it would a Smash, but with so many people in this tight of a space, they'll die! Lightning doesn't know friendlies!
The Reaper-controlled corpse launches itself at Nihlus, tackling the Turian Spectre to the floor before rearing back, the light in its' skull brightening with an ominous crackle. "Off the bird!" Wrex roars from above, catching Sovereign in the back with a rocket. The frame scuttles around to face them, shrieking a challenge and receives a salvo of rockets and bullets for its' trouble as Nihlus rolls out of the way.
Saren's Husk falters for a second, the light in its' core dimming until it shines even brighter, unleashing a wave of energy that knocks everyone in the garden the the ground. "Insignificant creatures!" Sovereign roars, the energy core beneath the skull compacting. "BEGONE!"
It rears it's head back and screams, releasing a hurricane of pure force up at my friends shooting down. The red wave snatches them up, ten, twenty feet into the air and drops them. I can hear the heavy thuds they make as they slam into the floor above us. "Son of a bitch!" I shout, clenching my fist and unleashing a torrent of roaring flames.
Its' shields eat the fire attempting to consume it, the crimson core behind the ribcage flickering as it does.
That's it. That's the weak spot!
"Zaira!" I call, turning to face her, "The chest! Disable the ches-"
Something hits me like a train, sending me rolling across the ground. My eyes stop spinning and I realize that Sovereign's tackled me, pulling me on top of it.
My eyes meet his and everything is overtaken by the carmine light washing through my mind. Like the gravity well of a red sun, I'm pulled in, falling deeper and deeper into the core of the star; but instead of an even brighter center, the middle is swirling vortex of abyssal black, sucking away all the light and searing heat until-
My breath rushes out of my lungs as my back slams into the something and Sovereign leaps away. It takes a second for me to realize that the Reaper jumped up and slammed me into the ceiling. The very, very high ceiling.
I can't muster more than a hoarse cry as I fall, my jetpack not responding to my commands. Jade pleads in my ear, either to the nanomachines desperately fixing my equipment or a god.
A blue field encompasses my body, slowing my fall until I land, not gently, but not hard enough to kill me, on the platform above the garden. Wrex grunts as he pushes himself up, the biotic glow fading as he fires down at the bouncing Reaper.
"Liara?" I ask, trying to catch my breath. She's lying on the floor, clutching her left arm tightly, her helmet scattered on the floor next to her as tears stream down her pained face.
"Help…them!" She pleads, trying and failing to curl into a ball.
Hold on, sweetheart. Just hold on.
Pulling myself up, I can easily look down at the battle below. Sovereign is still leaping about like a violent mix of coked-up frog and a tank, firing off red blasts and shoulder-slamming anyone who gets in the way, but the cybernetics are flickering and it's moving marginally slower than before.
From here, something else dawns on me. Saren's Husk bounces in five-stroke pattern: left, right, center, right, left. Drawing my lightsaber, the blades shrieks to life as I track the pattern with my eyes, Jade helpfully supplying a diagram for me. Wait for it, wait for-now!
I leap from the platform, sword over my head and roar on my lips, swinging down as it jumps across the center of the room. Somehow, it seems me coming and twists mid-air, my blade barely passing the body and taking two fingers of the right hand with it.
Sovereign lands, spinning and glaring me, my mind falling into its eyes as it leaps at me, my body unable to respond. A flash of blue hair in the corner of my vision is draws my gaze away from the Husk's abyssal eyes as Zaira lunges past me, time slowing to a crawl.
Her sword is pulled back, blade pointed at Sovereign, a wordless cry on her lips, her yellow eyes blazing with anger and ferocity, cobalt hair trailing behind her.
She's like a Goddess of War.
Her blade pierces through the Reaper's chest, puncturing the glowing core and spraying liquid energy and molten steel as rain. Sovereign smacks her aside, stumbling and grabbing at the sword protruding from its' chest, but no advantage can be taken.
Saren's Husk leans back and roars, the energy core blazing. The hilt of Zaira's sword drops to the ground, the blade melted away. A wave of force rushes out, throwing me off my feet.
What will it take to kill this thing? Can we kill it?
Distantly, something shrieks like grinding metal and something else explodes, followed by more of both. Above us, the console is still active, the comms. still on. "Sovereign's too strong, we have to pull back!"
"Negative," Hackett countermands, his voice still calm despite the chaos, piercing through the dazed veil of my mind, "This is our only chance! Take that monster down, no matter the cost!"
No matter the cost.
…No matter the cost!
I surge to my feet, my eyes meeting Tela's, bloody mud caking her face. I slam my fists together, and she nods in understanding. Throwing my arms out, lightning streams from my hands in two different directions, arcing out and lashing against the ground. Another pair crosses mine as Wrex constructs a net with me.
Sovereign gets caught on one, shrieking as violent energy sinks into his shields, stripping them away with a cackle. Tela wraps herself in biotic energy and I follow, my mind focusing on the skeletal frame hanging in the air, and not on how much this is going to hurt.
Sovereign must. Be. Stopped. No matter the cost.
Then my vision bends, rubber restraints around my body pulling back as I long to rush forward. The restraints snap, my world distorting into a swirling column of blue, Sovereign dead center in my eyes.
Behind it, I can see Tela doing the same, screaming towards him like an Asari-sized bullet. We clash, the only thing between our bodies being two Mass Effect fields…and Saren's body.
The fields mix, react and explode in a flash of blinding blue. I skid across the ground, slamming into a wall, my vision flooded with white. As it fades, I can see Sovereign suspended in the air, a Lift Field holding him in place. Out of one eye, I can see Kaidan cloaked in energy; out of the other, I can see Liara doing the same, one arm hanging limply.
"Kill it!" Zaira screams, bringing her Assault Rifle to bear on the hanging monstrosity. "KILL IT!"
I draw Invictus and squeeze the trigger as fast as I can, a veritable maelstrom of bullets impacting the skeletal cybernetics, gouging out chunks of wires and circuits, ripping through the glowing cores behind the skull and the rib cage.
My weapon clicks on empty, Zaira's rifle hissing as it releases the pent up heat.
Sovereign flickers, its cybernetics dying. It drops from the air and hits the ground limply, sprawling on the floor like only a corpse can.
Silence falls. Our weapons lower. "Is it dead?" Ash asks, her voice shaky. Not that I can blame her.
I heave myself up, steadying my rise with a hand on the ground. Under my palm, something hard becomes apparent, my fingers tightening around it and drawing it up.
My knife. The blade is stained with dirt and blue blood, Saren's blood. His corpse sputters, then roars back to life, spinning to its' feet and lunging at the closest target. Zaira.
My body moves before I can, leaping across the ground to intercept the Reaper. I slide in front of Zaira, drawing my knife back and stabbing forward.
My blade pierces his skull and red core behind it. The momentum of its' body causes it snap forward, my wrist twisting and shattering along with it.
The corpse spins through the air, hitting the ground with a final thud. Crimson flames burst forth, consuming the remains and the cybernetics in a few seconds, leaving behind greasy smoke and ask and taking my knife along with it.
Outside, a storm of red lightning arcs up and down and across Sovereign's form, it's light sputtering and flickering. Slowly, gracefully, it falls away from the tower, controlling cables snapping away, it's underside facing up.
"Its shields are down!" Joker crows, the nimble form of the Normandy darting through the debris to fly overhead, "Now's our chance!"
"Hit it with everything we've got," Hackett orders, his voice firm with determination.
Every surviving ship opens fire, main cannons flashing, torpedoes and missiles lancing through the vacuum to tear chunks out of Sovereign's body. "Hard on my flank, we're going in!" Joker shouts, the Normandy flipping around and diving at the Reaper's unprotected back like a bullet.
A blue ball of energy shines through space like a miniature sun, boring through Sovereign and bursting from the other side, coring the Reaper in one shot.
Sovereign spasms once, red-tinted explosions rippling up and down its' hull, it's body shattering apart. The core gives and a new star blooms for an instant, before fading in the vacuum.
Debris spin through space, several chunks heading directly towards the window we're watching the carnage through, awe-struck by the beauty of the destruction.
Ah. Ah, crap.
"Move!" Zaira shouts, turning and dashing away from the window. The glass shatters as white-hot hunks of dead Reaper burst through, the atmosphere rushing out into the empty vacuum of space, millions of hands snatching at our feet.
Zaira stumbles, a Wrex-sized shard of Sovereign descending on her back. "Zaira!" I cry, lunging over the distance and tackling her to the floor, the Reaper debris gouging a massive trench into the ground she had stood a second before.
We roll across the floor, floating as the atmosphere finally escapes the Council Chambers. A breathless second lasts for minutes; our eyes locked, my arms around her, her arms around me.
Then the emergency shield powers on, atmosphere returning with a rush of air. We fall to the ground, me on top of her. "Hey," I whisper, a smile tugging on my lips.
She smiles back, before her eyes dart over my shoulder and widen in alarm. "Look out!" Her arms tighten around me as she rolls us away from a once-floating slab of purple metal as it rediscovers gravity, slamming into the ground where we laid a second before.
A cacophony of crashes sound out as the rest of the mess falls, but we're safe where we are. Zaira sits up, straddling my hips, and peers around cautiously. When no other danger presents itself, her eyes turn to me.
Her helmet's gone, dirty wet hair sticking to her forehead, sweat streaking through the grime dusting her cheeks, her eyes glittering as she pants, the adrenaline fading.
She's never been more beautiful than right now.
"My hero," I murmur, reaching up and cupping her face, my fingers clearing a trail across her dirty cheek.
Her lips curl and she smiles, leaning down to press her lips to mine. "Damn right," she whispers, kissing me again as her hands grasp the back of my head. Her lips are warm and soft, a bit wet but just as lovely as ever, more so, even, and I lose myself to them for what feels like hours.
We part and she stands, pulling me to my feet. I can hear crashing and clanging, voices clamoring and sounding off when someone is pulled from the wreckage. "I bet they're missing us," I mutter, clutching my arm and wincing as my wrist protests.
"Then let's not keep them waiting," Zaira replies, taking me by the unbroken hand and pulling me along. We step over low debris, climbing over larger wreckage until we reach a small hill. We scramble up, our boots squeaking on the metal surface and we crest the hill, looking down on the destroyed Council Chambers. The entire team is down there, Aelida supporting Liara, Nihlus acting as a crutch for a battered Tela, Chloe with her fiancee's arm slung around her shoulders.
They smile up at us in relief and Anderson steps forward, his eyes shining proudly. We step quickly down, limping with every alternate step. Beaten, battered and bruised, but triumphant.
A day later, we come back to the Presidium, the emergency lights replaced with the holographic sun and clouds, the blaring alarms replaced with the gentle burbling of cool water.
After defeating Sovereign, and goddamn does that feel good to think, we were escorted to closest clinic and had our wounds treated with a veritable flood of medi-gel and painkillers. So tired from battle and stress, we didn't even get to celebrate before conking out for twelve hours.
Well, Zaira and I celebrated when we woke up, but nothing so official as cracking open the alcohol and cigars.
The Council stands before us, 'us' being Zaira, myself and Anderson with Udina and Gabi flanking. Tevos smiles warmly, her eyes glittering. "We're gathered here today to recognize the enormous contributions of the Alliance forces in the battle against Sovereign and the Geth. Without you, so many more would've died."
"Many humans gave their lives in the battles to save the people of this station," Valern continues, his mouth turning down. "Those brave and courageous soldiers will always be remembered as the heroes they were, laying down their lives to protect the innocent."
"There is no greater sacrifice, no greater cause than to lay your life down for another, and we share your grief over the loss of so many noble men and women," Sparatus picks up, his voice tired and sad.
"Citadel Security lost many brave officers, as well," Gabi points out diplomatically, folding her hands in front of her.
"Not as many as the Alliance did," the Turian Councilor counters softly.
"The Council, the entire Citadel, owes you and your team a great personal debt, Commander Shepard," Tevos starts, her eyes meeting Zaira's with a soft smile. "One we can never repay. You saved not just our lives, but the lives of billions from Sovereign and the Reapers." Her gaze locks onto me for a scant second, her lips twitching.
"Commander Shepard, the heroic and selfless actions of you and your team serve as a symbol of everything that not just humanity and the Alliance stand for, but the Citadel as well." The Salarian Councilor adds, folding his hands behind him.
"And though we cannot bring back the valiant soldiers who gave their lives," Sparatus continues, nodding his head, "We can honor their memories through our actions."
"Humanity has shown that it is more than ready to stand with us as the defenders and protectors of the Galaxy, and you are more than worthy to join our ranks. It would be my pleasure to serve beside you on the Citadel Council." Tevos finishes, her posture straightening into her normal, regal countenance.
Gabi steps forward, bowing carefully. "Councilors, on behalf of humanity and the Alliance, we thank you for this prestigious honor and humbly accept."
Valern nods, sighing quietly. "We will need a list of potential candidates to fill humanity's seat on the Council."
"Given your involvement in all that has happened, your recommendation will carry a significant amount of weight, Commander Shepard," Tevos continues, her eyes darting from Udina, to Anderson, to Gabi. "Do you support any particular candidate?"
Zaira turns to look at me, her gaze searching, before it moves to Anderson. "Sovereign may have been defeated, but the fight's not over yet. We need someone with courage, who will stand up for what he believes in, with the experience of the military mind." Anderson's eyes widen. "Someone like Captain Anderson."
"Him?" Udina scoffs, "He's a soldier, not a politician."
"And I think that's why he's perfect for the job," Gabi replies, stepping up and laying a supporting hand on Anderson's shoulder. "We've already got too many politicians as it is."
"And that's why I vote for Captain Anderson," Zaira finishes, a daring smirk on her lips.
"Not that it matters, but I do, too," I cut in, folding my arms. "For what it's worth, Anderson's got my backing."
Tevos smiles slyly, her tone dry. "An inspired choice, Commander. The Council will welcome him with open arms, should he choose to accept." To her left, Valern gives the Asari Councilor a searching look.
Anderson folds his hands behind his back, drawing himself into a strong, stoic pose. "I'm honored, Councilor. As humanity's representative, I'll do everything in my power to help the Council rebuild."
"Sovereign's defeat marks the beginning of a new era for both humanity and the Council," Sparatus declares. "Though the future is uncertain, the path to tomorrow is paved with hope."
Zaira takes a deep breath and speaks up. "Sovereign was just a vanguard," she warns, her eyes firm and serious. "The Reaper fleet is still coming. Hundreds of ships, maybe thousands…and I'm going to find a way to stop them."
She turns on her heel and marches away, but only makes it two steps before I reach out and snag her hand. "And you won't have to do it alone," I vow, gripping her hand tightly.
"Indeed, Shepard," Tevos adds, nodding seriously. "You won't stand against the Reapers bereft of help. The Council, the Citadel and all of us, we stand with you." Valern and Sparatus nod, their faces tight with determination.
Anderson steps forward, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You are right, Zaira," he says lowly, "We need to be ready. But the Reapers aren't coming today or tomorrow, and as humanity's Councilor, I'm ordering you to take a week off and recuperate." He smiles warmly and winks. "And I hear there's a wedding coming up."
Zaira looks back, meeting the eyes of everyone here. Everyone, even Udina, nods in support. A small smile curls her lips and her eyes meet mine. "That's true," she murmurs, intertwining our fingers.
Together, hand-in-hand, we walk away from them, across the peaceful, quiet Presidium. Eventually, we stop at a balcony overlooking the lake. "I know I've never said this before, ever," I start, taking both her hands and facing her. "But I love you, Zaira Shepard. More than anything in the Galaxy. When the Reapers come, I'll be right there beside you, ready to kick their mechanical cuttlefish asses back into dark space."
"And I love you, Saul Dewitt," she replies, her yellow eyes sparkling in the light. "And I wouldn't have it any other way." Zaira leans forward, dropping my hands and wrapping her arms around me, kissing me softly. I pull her close, running a hand through her silky hair and breathing deep her scent.
That's what I call victory, baby.
"Ah shit!" My hand meets my forehead.
"What?" Zaira asks, alarmed.
I grab her by the shoulders, meeting her confused gaze with my serious one. "Zaira, there is something vitally important I need you to do."
"Anything," she replies instantly.
I breathe deep. "Okay…I need you to say 'It's over.'"
She arches an eyebrow at me. "What? Why?"
"I need you to say it," I insist, shaking her slightly, "Say 'it's over!'"
Zaira frowns, her nose scrunching cutely. "But…it's not over."
"I know, just-just say it, okay? Please?" I plead, giving her my most endearing look.
"It's…over?" She says slowly, arching an eyebrow as I draw myself up.
"I'm afraid it's only just begun," I reply solemnly.
Her face goes deadpan. "How long have you been waiting to say that?" she asks dryly.
"Fucking years, man!" I explode, throwing my arms up in triumph, "Oh! It feels so good!"
Zaira smacks my chest, a giggle breaking through her lips. "You're an ass, you know that?"
I wrap an arm around her waist and pull her close. "You love it," I whisper, grinning victoriously.
Her hands grasp my collar and she pulls my head down. "Yes, I do," she murmurs, before kissing me.
A/N: Aaaaand bam! Done! One climax, hot and fresh! YEAH!
And by 'done', I mean this chapter. We've still got a wedding to go to, people!
This chapter just couldn't be held back, man, it came flooding out like a goddamn…flood or something. But a good one. Like a flood at a pudding factory. I stayed up late, almost to the butt-crack o' dawn, but it was worth it, baby!
Massive, MASSIVE thanks to NorthSouthGorem and Kurogane7, as well as Chris and Austin on my Xbox. You guys are the real heroes, here!
And by that I mean non-fictional.
And thank you, the reader, for coming this far with me! You! Yes, YOU! STEPHEN!
That might not be your name, but the intention is all the same.
But don't say it's over yet, we've got a few more chapters left to go. The rollercoaster has sped down the last decline and it's heading for a loop!
I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing it, so why not leave a review! I won't judge ya!
P.S.: AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH OH GOD MY FINGERS ARE ON FIRE! HELP! SOMEONE CALL A BUTCHER SO I CAN MAKE SOME STEAKS AAAAAAHHHHOHGODITBURNS!
Stay Awesome Some More.