Chapter 25:

The End is Here

During the debriefing in the Communications Room, Kaidan and Ashley kept looking at each other, then at Shepard. Ashley was a little disappointed to still be alive, because she had thought she could die a hero and wipe out the prejudice generated when her grandfather, General Williams, surrendered the garrison at Shanxi. As a result, her father had never risen above serviceman third class, something she was very bitter about.

Ash had thought she would be the one to break the curse, but it was not to be. Kaidan sat next to her and reached out and patted her hand. He knew what it was like to be ostracized. L2 biotics were considered unstable at best.

Shepard wound up her report and Liara told her they should do the bond thing again since she had interacted with another Prothean beacon. Shepard dismissed everyone but Cal and Liara. The three held hands and Liara looked deeply into their eyes, her own eyes becoming black pools that drew them in. They all shared the vision they had seen before; but things had been added, as if whoever had drawn with the waxy crayons changed to a holo and sharpened the pixels and the distance seemed closer so more details could be detected.

"Anything new?" Shepard rubbed her temples.

Cal waved a hand, sending Force healing to her to take away the headache.

Liara sat down wearily. Using her telepathy always wore her out. "Ilos!" She jumped up and went to the console and punched up a star map. "In my studies I heard of it. It is like your ancient Troy―Ilos is only known through second-hand sources. References to it have been found at several other Prothean ruins, like the one on Therum."

"So how do we get to Ilos?"

Liara was really wound up now. She paced and her face was alight with excitement. "Now I understand what my mother needed from Noveria and the message recording HK was sent!" Liara punched in different coordinates and the map altered. "It is impossible to get to Ilos using conventional FTL drive. Without the Mu Relay the journey could take years or decades, passing through the hostile Terminus Systems and dozens of unexplored systems."

Shepard and Cal exchanged disbelieving looks. "You mean we have everything we need? The location of the Conduit is Ilos?" Shepard queried.

"Yes." Liara followed them as they hurried to the cockpit to tell Joker to set a course for the Mu Relay.

"Ilos?" Joker scratched behind his ear, knocking his cap askew. "Are you sure, Commander? I was just about to let you know the Council sent word they are ready to send in their fleet."

Shepard made a fist and banged her knuckles against Cal's. "They're finally taking us seriously! Head for the Citadel, Joker. I'll let them know the odds we face so they'll be prepared."

Cal shook his head and took her aside. "Not a good idea," he told her quietly so nobody else could hear. "The Guide says the Normandy will be put in lock-down and the Council doesn't believe you about the Reapers."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Shepard ran her fingers through her hair, grey eyes flashing in annoyance.

"Oh, and, Commander, our prisoner says he's ready to talk," Joker offered over his shoulder as he punched in a course for the Citadel.

"Belay that Citadel order, Joker, until I've talked to him."

Skippy had been incarcerated since Feros, and at the moment he was receiving a vision from his master telling him he had to make sure Shepard returned to the Citadel. He smiled nervously at the commander. "I know who the Shadow Broker is and he's in the big middle of this."

"Let me guess," Shepard said coolly. "Tall, muscular, long midnight hair, pale blue eyes?"

"Uh…I wouldn't know what he looks like. He wore armor the only time I met him. I'll tell you his name and where you can find him, if you promise me I'll be returned to my galaxy and released."

"Our mission is too important for us to be side-tracked." Without another word, Shepard turned and left the brig. (I know they don't show one, but they have to have somewhere to put bad guys, right?)

"You have failed me."

Skippy sank to his hands and knees and began to cry, more frightened than he'd ever been in his life.

"Joker, patch me through to the Council," Shepard told the pilot as she entered the Comm Room.

The three exalted ones appeared in holo, and when she told them what was at stake, they ordered her to return to the Citadel ASAP. Shepard held up a hand and told them to pick a finger and rotate.

"I'll alert you when we break through the Mu Relay, Commander."

Cal took Shepard's hand and led her to her quarters. Swagger found Tali in the engine room and they discovered what was under her suit together. Kaidan and Ash (who had secretly had the hots for him all this time) spent some quality time together. Atton and Liara mated physically and telepathically, although he kept telling her to get out of his head. Wrex broke down his weapons and worked himself into a krogan bloodlust. Jaden and Carth worked on another baby. Garrus dwelled on all the red tape at C-Sec. Saunter practiced throwing his dagger like Vasa. And Joker spied on everyone on the ship.

The trip seemed to take forever in some ways and seconds in others. Cal awoke with Shepard in his arms. He slid his arm out from under her, rose and went to her desk and studied the Guide. They would need to navigate Ilos with all possible speed. He was very troubled as he read about the odds they would face. He knew Shepard would not want to take him with her. She had already told him he had his own destiny, and he knew he had to survive so he could finally fight Kreia and her minions. But that was impossible to dwell on as he leaned back in the chair and turned it around so he could watch Shepard sleep.

He had loved her for so long and the end was near. She had no knowledge of what she faced, but he had bought a Guide for ME2 and knew what would happen to her in the first few minutes of the beginning of the game. Somehow he had to prevent it, but he had no ideas.

Shepard opened her eyes and met Cal's soft browns and her heart melted. How had it come to this? Facing impossible odds against an unbeatable foe—the lives of all organics hanging in the balance? How could she convince him to stay on the ship?

"That was incredible." She stretched like a cat and he smiled at her. "Cal, I want you to take over in my absence. You were Revan's general and I trust you with the lives of my crew and the well-being of my ship." She got out of bed and put a finger to his lips. "Please do this for me."

"I…" His brows furrowed and he looked away from her a moment as he crossed his fingers behind his back. "Okay, if it means that much to you."

Joker's voice rebounded in the dark, quiet of her quarters. "Commander, hate to interrupt, but we have a problem. We just broke through the Mu Relay and there's a whoooole geth fleet orbiting Ilos."

"Can't anything be easy?' She sighed, turned her back on Cal and they dressed in silence. "Joker, I'll be right there. Tell Navigator Pressly we'll need a close point of entry."

"There is nowhere closer!" Pressly was announcing, his voice tight, barely under control as Shepard entered the cockpit just under a minute later.

"I can set us down within 20 kilometers of the ruin." Joker's tone was confident.

"Drop us in the Mako!" Shepard made her decision. "Tell Wrex and Garrus to meet me in the garage."

"Aye-aye, Commander."

Shepard would not even raise her eyes to meet Cal's woeful expression. He hurried after her. "You could take the mondo Mako," he suggested. "There would be room for two more."

She shook her head. "This is how it's supposed to be, Cal. Me here and you returning to your galaxy."

"Bas-mia." He gulped and tears swam in his eyes—it felt like the backstroke. "I love you."

She softened a moment and then her resolve firmed and she motioned for Wrex and Garrus to climb into the Mako M38. "See you on the other side, Joker. I'm giving Cal control. Your goal is to reach the Citadel. By then, the Council won't have any choice but to listen, because they'll see it first hand."

Joker dropped the Mako just as Saren and geth troops passed through the door into the inner tunnels of Ilos. The door they had just sped past shut with a thunderous thud and they were set on by geth soldiers. Shepard stayed in the Mako, picking off as many as she could with the cannon, but then they had to get out and face the rest of the ground soldiers.

Two armature Colossuses—she wondered if Cal would call them Collossi—guarded the Lower Ruins. Shepard did not have much time to sightsee, but what she saw of Ilos was a wreck of what must have once been a beautiful world dotted with statues, spires and arches and magnificent cities. She knew what had devastated it—the Reapers. They had turned a verdant world into a landscape of rust and overgrown trees that writhed like giant serpents, twisted as if the earth was scorched with pain, and a graveyard full of statues honoring a once great civilization.

Shepard and her team were too busy fighting to stay alive to notice the scenery. Using her HUD, she led Garrus and Wrex up and down winding paths. All the lost beauty was blended together by the desolation; it was a landscape of ruin and death. She tried not to think of what could be happening at the Citadel. Had Saren already arrived? Had the Reapers attacked? What was Cal doing?

It was kill or be killed and she used her Force biotics as well as her battle skills until she was so weary she could barely lift her weapon. It seemed as if the geth would never stop coming, and then as the last one fell, an eerie quiet infused the place. Shepard's party raced up another path to the security panel that would open the door and allow them to follow Saren. When Shepard hit the panel, it turned on an old VI holo. Shepard could recognize some of the words because of her interaction with the beacons and the cipher from the Thorian, but it was so damaged she could not learn anything about the Conduit.

They rushed back to the Mako. Cal had warned her about the upcoming opposition and Shepard kept the pedal to the metal, mowing down the few geth that had been left behind in the root-infested archives. Garrus turned his head to stare at the massive tunnel. "Are those stasis pods?"

Shepard spared a glance from her driving to look at the pods jutting out from the walls. "It must be the way the Protheans tried to keep themselves alive during the Reapers' assault."

"BIG thing at the top of that hill! It's a trap!"

What Shepard saw was a benevolent, if disturbingly large, face and she slewed the Mako to a stop. "It's a barrier, but I don't think it's geth."

They exited the Mako and took the elevator that beckoned them to its black maw with a gleaming, glowing red strip. It opened on a small, quiet chamber with a long walkway. Something large, golden and orange flickered at the end and identified itself when Shepard stopped to examine it.

"I am Vigil. I am the Prothean VI interface. You are not like the one who came before. I sense no taint of indoctrination upon you. There may still be hope."

Vigil was the one who had erected the barrier so she had to make the detour so it could speak with her and tell her the history of the Protheans and what had happened.

"What was all that Commander?" Wrex hadn't been paying much attention.

"Okay." Shepard filled him in. "To make a long, boring story short, it turns out the Citadel is a devious trap placed by the Reapers. Its entire design is to ensure the destruction of every organic species that rises to power in the galaxy. The station is a giant mass relay—one that links to dark space where the Reapers live and wait. When the Conduit is used to activate the Citadel relay, the Reapers' doorway will open and they will exterminate all living societies as they did the Protheans 50,000 years ago."

"That's that thing in the lake!" Wrex exclaimed. "It's not a statue!"

"The main quest will be for us to stop Saren from activating the control, which is located inside the Council Tower." Garrus had already caught on to the plan.

Shepard continued, "The doomsday signal will be received by the keepers, who are innocent, only doing their jobs. They have been indoctrinated to the Reapers' will. The Prothean scientists who survived the invasion, if only briefly, used the Conduit to travel to the Citadel and succeeded in finding a way to alter the signal. It was as simple as scrambling it, and the keepers ignored it, so the Reapers have been trapped in dark space all this time. Sovereign's goal was to correct what went wrong."

Shepard waved a hand in front of the corrupted VI and transferred the data to her omni-tool. "We have to go! I can't wait to hear any more."

"Yes, well, I hope you can stop the vicious cycle of galactic extermination. This VI will self-corrupt in 5…4…3…2…1."

"So do I," she vowed quietly as she led her stunned team back to the Mako.

We won't go through all the battles—seen one inside this complex, seen them all. What mattered was that time was running out. Shepard stomped on the accelerator as the Mako made the trench run and they glimpsed the Conduit for the first time, a smaller version of the mass relays that linked vast stretches of space together. What had brought them together would be used to destroy them.

"Not if I can help it," she muttered.

"Armatures!" Garrus twisted in his seat, gazing fearfully out the window. "And there seems to be a timer. We have thirty seconds to make it past them and up the ramp or we get a mission failed."

It was the worst spot of driving Shepard ever faced—armatures firing at them, geth shooting at them, rockets blasting them—and she had no time to engage. She had to keep the Mako moving. The damn thing kept skewing left and right, and it felt as if the over-sized tires were mired in tar. They barely made it through the Conduit in time.

"Brace for landing!" she shouted as she tightened the crash webbing around her body and jammed on her helmet.

In the lake on the Presidium where the tribute to the mass relay stood, the statue suddenly came to life and began to spin. A second later the Mako shot out of it as if ejected from a twenty ton cannon. It landed on several geth that were standing there minding their own business, sticking humans and other organics on the dragon's teeth of indoctrination that turned them into husks. The Mako hopped, landed again, skidded sideways and slammed into the walkway, tires popping from the stress, and then it flipped over. After a few moments, Shepard crawled out. It was not a landing she had expected to walk away from considering the velocity they had been traveling. A Mako is tough but not equipped to travel at FTL speed. The vehicle was a total wreck. She was grateful she would never have to drive it again.

As they made their way across destruction, Shepard recalled what Cal had told her. Following his instructions, they took the elevator to the presidium. Cal had warned her she would not reach her destination because Saren would deactivate the elevator. She used her gun to blow out the glass, switched on the magnets in her boots and the air on in her suit and stepped out onto the maintenance shaft.

"Which way, Shepard?" Garrus' mandibles flapped in agitation. "I can't believe we made it in one piece," he added, staring at Shepard with admiration.

"If anyone could, Shepard could." Wrex seemed utterly dour instead of looking forward to more battles. He would not look Shepard in the eye and she wondered what was going on, but before she could ask another elevator came barreling past and disgorged a detachment of geth troopers and rocket troopers. The time to talk was past.

They took cover in the low alcoves to the right. The geth were as determined to prevent them from reaching the Council Tower as they were to complete their mission. They took on more geth as they reached a steep rise. There were more of the krogan Saren had created on Virmire with them. They cut the synthetics and the rogue krogan down without mercy.

The exhaust plain was well named, because Shepard and her team were exhausted by the time they reached it. "We have to avoid the turrets when we come to the next part," Shepard warned them. "Cal told me about a short-cut."

At that moment a dropship appeared. None of them had enough electronics to turn more than the two freebie turrets on the ship as they fought wave after wave of geth.

"Quick!" Shepard gestured toward a long trench. "Krogan!" She unleashed a combination of Force whirlwind and singularity and they were able to pick off the enemy easily. She jerked her head for them to follow her. "We're going to skip the main fight here and take the eastern side tunnel. We'll have to fight a lot of krogan."

"Why not head across there?" Wrex pointed forward.

"Because the geth have control of the turrets and we are running out of time!"

Grumbling, Wrex followed, but he hung back and his attitude concerned Shepard. This fight was the worst so far, especially since Wrex seemed to have forgotten about his abilities of carnage, etc. It was up to Garrus to watch Shepard's back. The turian was furious with the krogan by the time they reached the hatch at the far southeast corner and used it to arrive at the tower's apex at long last.

Shepard imagined this was how Ilos had once looked—fires, annihilation, broken bodies of the few that had tried to defend the tower. The Council would have been evacuated to the Destiny Ascension. She directed Garrus to help her secure one side of the area so they could utilize cover while shooting the geth opposite them.

Wrex kept mumbling and Shepard wondered if the krogan was suffering from battle fatigue or stress because he did not seem like himself. She depended entirely on Garrus. Finally, they were able to access the far north end of the tower and found Saren there, transferring control of the Citadel to Sovereign.

Shepard switched from cryo to incinerator rounds and rushed Saren, but he was aware of her presence and tossed a grenade at them, forcing them to dive for cover. He hopped on his glider, but did not seem inclined to attack. He wanted to talk. Basically, it was like all bad guys who want to gloat and brag about what they've done and outline what they're going to do next.

"You let Sovereign implant you?" Shepard could not believe what she was hearing.

"He knew I was having doubts after we talked on Virmire, so he implanted me to strengthen my resolve. You…could be useful to him, Shepard."

"Be a mindless slave? No thanks!" Shepard realized where she had chosen to hide and knew it was the worst possible place. Only a very thin railing stood between her and death.

"It is the only way. By doing this I am saving more lives than you can imagine."

"Yeah, and then you can stand on street corners and sell flowers. Don't you see? He's already enslaved you! You have no free will left."

After a moment, Saren seemed to get it. "I…see the error of my ways. Thank you, Shepard." He raised his pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. Blue blood shot out the side of his head and he fell off his glider and onto the glass that covered the garden beneath. His body crashed through it.

Shepard activated Vigil's data file into the control panel. This gave her complete control over all Citadel Systems and she opened communications with the galactic fleet.

"Commander, is that you?" Joker's voice boomed, breaking the silence. "I'm here with the armada. The Destiny Ascension is in deep ca-ca and the Council is on board. What we need to know is, do we save their asses and you do remember how many times they would not stand up for you and let you down and…?"

"Save the Council, Joker. This war is not just about humanity and maybe we can show them once and for all what we're made of."

"Admiral Hackett agrees. Dammit! Uh, sorry."

"We'll jump in and attack the geth warships," Hackett announced over the comm.

"Check and see if he's dead," Shepard told her team, watching them go to the lower level where Saren had fallen.

Garrus put a couple rounds into the turian's head and looked up at Shepard. "He's dead."

Finally something was going right! Wrong! There was something like a quake that caused Shepard to fall down to where the rest of her team stood on the grass. Then suddenly the whole tower began to shake and Saren's corpse began doing some really interesting things, like an impression of the Terminator as his skin peeled off showing a horrific synthetic endoskeleton. His glowing red eyes bored into Shepard, and he hopped about like a huge toad.

Shepard had not listened to Cal's input for the final battle. If she had taken Kaidan and Liara, all three could have used lift and the fight between the enhanced Sovereign/Saren would have resulted in an easy win. But no-oooo, she brought a krogan who had stopped fighting, and no matter how good Garrus was, he did not have enough biotics to help much. She had to draw on her Force powers. Only their shields and taking cover behind a large section of wall saved them from Sovereign/Saren's wrath. At first…

Shepard was running out of medi-gel and her Force heal was exhausted. She saw Garrus and Wrex fall to the ground again. Unity…again…and again. All the while, she fought her enemy until her own health dipped dangerously low.

Suddenly, Sovereign/Saren grabbed her and drew back with one of his terrible talons to slice her to ribbons. It was then that the place lit up like a Christmas display at Macy's. An invisible hand seized Sovereign/Saren by the neck and threw him away with crushing force. Lightning flashed—thunder roared and the turian's body was turned into smoking debris that quickly deteriorated into ashes that drifted to the ground like used confetti.

Luce knelt beside Shepard; she had fallen limply to the ground and he placed his hand on her forehead. Her eyes fluttered open and met his. "Revan?"

"Yes, my love." He lifted her body and lowered his head to kiss her. "Will you come with me, Bastila? Become what you are destined to be? The Sith Queen of my heart?"

She was too weak to struggle and what angered her was she did not even want to. "I…have to finish this." She used Unity one more time to revive her team.

"Very well. I can communicate with you through the Force." Revan gently set her down and then froze as he saw something beyond Shepard.

"Shepard!" Garrus was slowly getting to his feet but his gaze was riveted to the large window that looked out over the Presidium.

Shepard had never expected to come out of this alive, although she was not a fatalist, but what she faced was something nobody had ever faced. For her to die because a big chunk that looked like a gigantic stone crab leg of the now destroyed Sovereign was hurtling toward the window. It would crash on top of her in seconds, and that pissed her off. She signaled to Garrus to run.

Wrex was not present and Shepard was saddened, thinking he had been killed. If supercharged geth hopper Saren had used his lightning strikes on the krogan then she would not be able to find Wrex's body.

Revan shook himself awake and used Force speed to get out of harm's way. It was time for the Shadow Broker to make his way back into the shadows.

Shepard was injured and tired beyond belief and she didn't think she could make it to shelter. Sovereign's remnant exploded through the glass, taking out the side of the tower, showering the interior with glass shards. The room was plunged into darkness.

(Cue dramatic music!)

Garrus was found a few hours later when volunteers from the Normandy―like the guy who wears an eye patch and salutes the commander all the time―sifted through the wreckage. The turian had not come out of it unscathed, though. He was badly shaken and had already started mourning for the brave commander. He had called her name over and over and tried to contact her with his radio, but his efforts were met with only an ominous silence.

Captain Anderson led the search teams and handed Garrus over to the medics, asking where Shepard was. Garrus could only glance at the huge Reaper crab leg that must have fallen on Shepard.

It was then that Anderson heard a sound. He and Garrus spun about, hope glimmering in their eyes. Anderson and the turian watched in disbelief as Commander Shepard stumbled out of the surrounding ash and debris. The smile on her face told them all they needed to know. Mission accomplished!

When she met with the Council they were at their most humble and thanked her profusely for saving their hides, tentacles, scales…whatever. She was told her heroic actions and the human lives sacrificed had finally opened their eyes and they extended an invitation to her to pick the first human councilor. She chose Captain Anderson, knowing they needed a military background rather than a political one because this was only the beginning. The Reapers were still out there.

Leaving them to discuss the political fall-out, Shepard went to C-Sec and took the elevator up to the hangar. When she boarded the ship the entire crew stood up and cheered. Joker twirled his cap in the air and whistled. Garrus looked pleased, but Shepard could see he needed some serious R & R.

"Do you think Wrex died?" he asked Shepard.

"Saren may have killed him," Shepard agreed. "He wasn't acting like himself, did you notice?"

"I…ahem…thought it was just me."

"He acted reluctant to fight." Shepard just wanted to get out of her torn, filthy clothes and take a shower with Cal and then sleep for a week.

But Cal, Atton, Swagger, Saunter and Skippy were nowhere to be found. When she asked Joker where they were, he told her the Ebon Hawk had docked and they had departed in the ship.

She found a holo waiting for her when she entered her quarters. Cal's image appeared. Tears filled her eyes as she stared at the man she loved.

"Bas-mia, I hope to return to you before a month passes. I had to finish what I started, too." His voice took on a Bogart accent. "Bastila, I'm no good at being noble. But it doesn't take much to see that the problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.

And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you."
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.

"Here's lookin' at you, sweetheart." Cal blew her a kiss and disappeared.

One month later…

The stowaway aboard the SSV Normandy crawled out of the Mako. The ship was shaking and explosions were erupting throughout her. The stowaway watched in horror as part of the garage was ripped asunder, a huge yellow beam searing through the hull of the ship like it was made of tin and not reinforced metal. The shields had already failed. Alarm klaxons blared and lurid red lights flickered as the back-up generator failed to produce enough power.

Encased in armor from head to toe, a spare N7 helmet pulled over the face, the stowaway, lurched into the elevator. There were more explosions and screams and the screech of metal being shredded. The Normandy was being ripped apart!

The elevator arrived on the second deck, the doors slowly opening to a scene of such destruction and turmoil that the stowaway was rooted to the spot in horror for a moment. Bodies were sprawled on the deck. Seats were torn from their moorings. More of the huge beams knifed through the ceiling, and the gravity of the planet the ship was orbiting tugged them loose. Half of the ship was flotsam now.

Where was Shepard? Eyes strained through the slit on the helmet and caught sight of a figure racing up the stairs to the next level. The stowaway flinched when another beam sliced through the metal skin of the ship. Glancing above, the stowaway saw stars and the haze of the planet's atmosphere. And first sighting of the ship that had attacked the Alliance ship. Not geth. Nothing like any the stowaway had ever seen.

But he had a reason for being here! Turning from the chaos, creeping up the stairs, through the door, into the CIC area of the ship with the galaxy map and the rows of crewman at their posts, the stowaway found his way to the cockpit. Only none of that was here now. No artificial gravity, so the weighted boots were the only thing that kept the stowaway from being sucked into the great black void to float into the stratosphere.

Cockpit! Shepard would be there. Joker was there and Shepard would never let a crew member perish. The stowaway could only hear breathing in the helmet as he slowly passed floating cables and chairs past the barrier that protected the cockpit.

Shepard was there! With a slight hiss, the stowaway removed the helmet. Shepard heard the small sound and turned, eyes widening.

"Cal, what are you doing here?"

"I got my hands on the guide to ME2 and I know what happens." As he spoke, he drew a coiled line around Shepard's waist and tossed it to Joker, who was inside the last evac shuttle. "Attach the line," he added to the pilot, who was moaning about his arm.

Cal fixed it with Force healing.

"Get in there with him." Shepard could be felt staring at him even through the visor of her helmet.

"No, I came to save you!" Cal pushed her to the shuttle. "Bastila…I mean, Shepard, I love you. I can't let this happen!"

"You bloody idiot!" Shepard stamped her foot. "This is what I wanted to happen. I come back as someone else, which means I can go back to the Star Wars galaxy and we can be together. I had it written into my contract."

"Oh." Cal looked down at the armor he was wearing and saw it was full of holes, and it looked like steam was rising off it. He gulped as a gigantic beam cut into the cockpit and gravity chose that moment to exert its pull on his body. "Uh-oh." He quickly jammed his helmet back on.

"Cal!" Bastila/Shepard/Shepila/Slutty Girl, whatever you want to call her, gasped and started toward him.

"I love you, Basmia."

Shepard attempted to undo the cable and Cal Force pushed her inside the shuttle and hit the button that closed the hatch.

An explosion rocked the Normandy cockpit, tearing struts and the entire front of the ship apart. Cal became a piece of the flotsam, twisting, air escaping from tiny holes in his suit. He looked like one of those mist attachments kids love to screw onto a water hose and play in during the summer.

Cal found that dying from suffocation was not pleasant at all. His life flashed before his eyes and he came to the conclusion that he was too young to die and also that it was his own miscalculation that was responsible. Before he lost consciousness, all coherent thought faded and re-entry into the planet's atmosphere turned him into an over-baked ginger bread man that pieces kept breaking off of, and he saw his lover's face and he was glad he had saved her from this.

"I…should…have…brought a line….for…me-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

As his crispy body plummeted to the ground, he thought he heard that damned director say…

Cue Music-That dramatic bong sound that you hear right before the Mass Effect 2 shows on screen.

Less Effect Too

Two years and almost three months later…

"Wakey-wakey."

Cal's eyes fluttered open at the female voice he heard over the speaker, or was the voice in his head? He tapped the side of his head near his ear. At first, he'd hoped it was Bastila, but the vowels were flat and the accent was different. It must belong to the woman Miranda. He shook his head. Wasn't Miranda the name of a planet in the movie Serenity?

"I said, wake up, Shepard!"

Cal sat up and yelped when his face felt like it was coming apart. His hands went through his hair and he discovered his disheveled beautiful brown locks had been shaved to his skull. He had a Swagger Vasa hair cut! His moustache and trimmed beard still felt the same. He needed a mirror.

"Good, you're finally getting up, Sleeping Beauty."

Boy, this babe needed a wake up call of her own. First she called him Shepard and now Sleeping Beauty.

"Shepard, mechs have gone all haywire and are attacking everyone in the station. They want to kill you."

"Not me!" Cal shouted at the voice. "I'm not Shepard."

"Your memory may be spotty at times. You need to get dressed." She told him where the locker was and he changed in a flat second, now wearing N7 armor and holding a pistol.

"No lightsaber?"

"Sorry. I did not hear you since, like I said, the mechs are over-running this place and half of them are after me. You'll need to find a thermal clip. Should be one on the floor, but be sure to take cover behind the place with the large white arrow before you go to the door."

There was a large explosion just as Cal sank down behind the glass. He picked chunks of glass out of his short, short, short hair. Actually, he found he could just whisk it off with the flat of his hand.

Sure enough, there was a shining red cylinder and somehow he knew it was a thermal clip. He also knew the person playing the game was paying attention since he or she hit the X button so he could get rid of that annoying RELOAD sign that kept flashing.

He looked to the fourth wall and waved. "Chuck, is that you?"

He was swung around and moved through the door, picked up the grenade launcher and fired down to the deck below to take out some mechs He followed Miranda's advice to take the elevator down and run through a blaze of fire that blocked his path.

He was doing okay and then Miranda had to deal with the remaining mechs that weren't after him, so he was on his own. Not a good thing when it came to Cal without a Guide. Where was he supposed to go? He saw arrows on the walls and followed them, eventually arriving at an area where a dark-skinned man with scrawny legs, but an enormous torso and impressive muscles everywhere else was behind cover, firing at the mechs. He identified himself as Jacob Taylor.

What bothered Cal the most was, here they were in terrible peril, and he had to keep stopping to hack datapads and wall safes and listen to monotone reports on some poor soul who had been recovered after being breaded and thrown into a deep fryer. That poor person was Shepard, and Cal knew that was wrong because he had saved her.

Yet, the few people he met―the chief medic Wilson being another, all referred to him as Shepard. Wilson had a self-inflicted wound from a gunshot and Cal was not about to waste medi-gel on a liar-liar-pants-on-fire type. He could plainly see the gunshot residue on Wilson's hands.

Cal shook his head when they instructed him to get the medi-gel from the medic station and use it to help Wilson. He was pretty sure there was something not quite on the up and up with the medic, and he stubbornly withheld the application.

Jacob stared hard at him. "Going for the Renegade points, are you?"

Cal's brown eyes widened. "Dark side, you mean?"

Jacob's black eyes narrowed. "Look, just because he got caught in a restricted part of the facility and had that lame excuse that he's here to see if he could fix the problem with the mechs, and, yes, I see the gunshot residue, but…" Jacob slapped his leg in consternation. "I'll be damned! Wilson, you tried to lead us to the mechs. You almost got us killed. You're responsible for all these deaths."

"Well, the Shadow Broker told me he'd pay me more credits than TIM." Wilson was whining. "I want recognition! I want fame!"

Just then the door to the shuttle opened and Miranda appeared and shot Wilson. "We have to get you out of here, Commander."

Cal was tired of telling them he was not Commander Shepard, so he bit back a retort and substituted a nod.

He smiled privately when he saw the shuttle, thinking Bastila had told him she was going to make a note for the people at Bioware to have something better than the Mako as a transport.

As he followed Miranda into the shuttle, Cal commented, "Wow, that's some caboose, babe! Where'd you get that outfit? Can you breathe in it?"

"It stretches," she replied tersely. They settled into the shuttle and Cal began mentally comparing Miranda's body to Bastila's.

Miranda ruined his little reverie by asking him questions and he had to rely on who was playing the game to supply the answers. He was staggered when they told him he had chosen Kaidan Alenko to die on Virmire. Nobody had died on Virmire! He had read the Guide and with the combined efforts of his crew and Bastila's, they'd managed to save everybody. He was caught in a version of the game where he had not been imported and of course, he wouldn't be, because he was not Shepard. They even had the gender wrong.

And that is the beginning of the end, because nobody cares what happened on Malachor V. Cal went there, fought a LOT of Sith and had the end game with Kreia and, since he knew Revan was the scum of two galaxies, he did not go off in the Ebon Hawk to find him. What he did was contact Hiro and have him transport him to ME2. He knew what was in store for Shepard and he vowed to stop it. Well, he had. Problem was-now he was Shepard.

Swagger Vasa killed Skippy and took Saunter as part of his crew, along with Flynn and Mira, who had become a couple. The Handmaiden, Bao and Mical started a new Jedi Academy. Atton became Captain Jaq again; he resolved his droid issues and signed on T3M4 as his first mate. HK has still not be seen or heard from. It is thought that he perished when the bomb went off on Virmire. Visas remained in the Consort's Chamber. Wrex, well, if you remember all the way back to the beginning, he was working for the Shadow Broker.

As to Revan, aka the Shadow Broker, he is still lurking around somewhere. Jaden and Carth made another baby during that down time while traveling to Ilos and will name her Callie.

And thus ends our adventure. Cal wants me to thank all of you who read about him and put up with his extreme dumbness and his literal interpretations. He has saved Bastila, but now he has become Shepard. Thanks to the faithful few who left reviews. They meant a lot to me. And now Cal will reap what he has sown, going down another road to adventure.

And now, the end is here

And Cal, he faces the final curtain

He did what he had to do

Saved his love but nothing else is certain

Final author's note and disclaimer: I do not own anything Star Wars or Mass Effect. I want to thank all of you who read this crazy thing. I wanted Cal to go out with style, and it was getting harder and harder to be funny and find songs, so it was time to end this.

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