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[[DECRYPTED CONTENTS FOLLOW]]
At the risk of starting out with a tired line, I re-wrote this a few times before I realized what I was doing. I was checking everything I said, skirting around what I really meant. Because it's me, and because I'm worried Cerberus will see this.
And it hit me- that's what you live with every day, isn't it? Every minute. I can't begin to imagine.
There was that day when we were out in BC and I got a migraine. Do you remember that? I felt terrible about it, like I was wasting both our time. Time we didn't have enough of in the first place. Nothing for a month and then bam, just when I least wanted one to show up. I don't know how long I was in the bedroom when you came in. I was irritated at first. Even angry. I thought, doesn't she know just to leave me alone? Just leave me alone. And instead of reading my mind (hah) you sat down beside me on the bed, at my back. I was... I don't even know. That guilt about wasting your time wasn't just you and me, it was all the guilt I've ever felt about it. My biotics changed things, in my family. All the cracks started showing up after I came home from Jump Zero. The migraines were somehow the worst of that. I think I managed to avoid feeling like I deserved them, but they somehow concentrated every downside into a few hours physical pain. All the stupid comments, the fear, the suspicion, the bad times at Brain Camp. Vyrnnus.
I know the migraines bothered my Mom. She didn't like being around for them. I think she didn't like feeling so unable to fix the problem. Does that sound familiar? No one likes seeing the people they care about suffer, especially when we can't do anything to help. But they were never going to go away, so after a while I just preferred to be alone. It isn't just noise and light, but the feeling that I'm imposing on someone, making them feel uncomfortable. I hate bothering the docs for meds, I hate being in the way. I hate letting down my marines... or my CO.
So you just sat there. I think you were reading. I couldn't bring myself to tell you to go away. It was what, an hour or two? A warm spot against my back, quiet. It didn't bother me for very long. Out of everything we went through, I don't know why that sticks out in my head. It just does. Maybe because it's the only time anyone has done something so simple. Just... company.
You try so hard. To do what has to be done, what should be done. I remember how mortified I was on the Citadel when my brand new CO barged into a conversation between civilians. I couldn't imagine what you thought you were doing. But when we left, I knew what you'd told the guy was right. I couldn't honestly say I would have done the same thing, and that bothered me for days.
Remember when we talked about humanity? Most of us never have to really think about it, not like you have to. Facing what you have, most people would have stopped trying a long time ago. You haven't stopped trying, even in the face of the most unsolvable questions. Even when the fight is costing you everything. Don't give up on yourself. Please. I'm not asking for my sake, nor for the Alliance, the Citadel, humanity or anyone else. For you. Because you're still pushing past the lines people draw around themselves.
I want to read this over and spend another hour tidying it up. Too many mission reports, you know? "Just the facts, marine, No editorializing." Straight out of OFA-C4. But I won't. I owe you an apology, in more ways than one. And I owe you time, the time I didn't give you on Horizon. I'd rather do it in person, if you'll let me.
Please come back.
/return purge complete
/cameracheck deck1.1 [BLOCKED]
/cameracheck deck2.1 -ifclear
/cameracheck deck3.6 -ifclear
/cameracheck deck4.6 -ifclear
/cameracheck deck5.1 -ifclear
/hull integrity -query
/progress scan quarantine 93.74 -query
/return 67.618% complete
/return drive docked
/return drive docked
/lowpower -ifcommalert -ifnavalert -ifjeff
/SR2_ENHANCED_DEFENSE_INTELLIGENCE low power mode engaged
Let's be honest here- whatever else Iunctio was, it never colored outside the lines. And that's fine, it was the story I wanted to tell, and I'm still happy with it. It's part of the whole. But as I played through Mass Effect 2, I could feel the conflicts boiling under the surface, see the storm clouds gathering. Shepard was not happy. To put it lightly. She was overwhelmed, furious and lost, walking through each mission with ever-increasing detachment. She was disconnecting from herself and her teammates and worst of all, she was starting to make bad choices.
Somewhere before I started this, when I was considering the metaplot, I realized there wasn't much tension to be had in Shepard's physical challenges. A victory over the Collectors was all but a given, and the Collectors themselves offered no real potential for expansion. They were by definition mindless drones. Then it dawned on me- the real battle both Shepard and Kaidan had to fight was... against themselves. This was the deep, dark night of the soul, when faith is at its most distant.
Once the pen was in my hand, I could have smoothed it all out. To borrow phrases I hear a lot at work, I could have lowered the contrast, dumped the saturation, lifted the blacks. I could have had everyone survive, made everyone friends, and leave Shepard in a safe place replete with perfect success, emotionally untouched. I could have forced the reconciliation I want and made everything better. In short, I could have 'fixed' the whole damn thing.
Don't think I wasn't tempted.
But Shepard would never have forgiven me for it. Happy, in the arms of Cerberus, the same Cerberus she spent so long hating? I can couch it in fancy terms of artistic integrity, but the truth is if I don't write what I feel in my gut, I'll just stop writing. Because it won't be mine any more.
Thirty chapters in as many weeks, each averaging twice as long as those of Iunctio. Didn't think I could do that.
To those I lost along the way, I say thank you for trying. An author could ask no more of their audience.
For those who stuck it out, I say thank you for fighting through this with me. The story isn't over yet.
To the members of the masseffect LJ, thank you for the support and inspiration.
To the members of the KAAS and KAST threads- I don't frequent the boards, but I know you sent pageviews my way, so thanks for the support. More than that, thanks fighting the good fight and keeping the Kaidan love going where the Eye of BioWare can see you.
Thanks to ever-faithful beta, Lossefalme, who still puts up with my pestering despite the whims of real life. And thanks to Metaraymek for pinch-hitting when I needed an extra pair of eyes.
Finally, but certainly not leastways, thanks to all of YOU, for your time, your comments and your insights.
May the future be kind to all of us.