The Normandy was dry docked with the Rachni's ship. The frigate was a shell of it, appearing hollow without the Commander. If there was no Commander Shepard, there seemed no reason for the Normandy. The two went hand and hand, the Normandy serving as Shepard's noble and faithful steed during his many galaxy saving expeditions.
The crew had gathered in the mess hall to do what most were doing across the galaxy, watching the trial of Commander John Shepard.
"This is bullshit we should be doing something," vented an angry Joker. The pilot nearly slammed his fists into the table to placate his anger but thought better of it. The brooding helmsman received a chorus of agreeable words.
"Do not let your anger consume you," Samara stated plainly. The asari Justicar who had just been cleared by Doctor Chakwas to leave the Med-Bay was now sitting at a nearby table, her vacant stare on the pilot.
Joker shook off her words as he went for another drink of the whiskey that Hawthorne was distributing amongst the crew.
"Mr. Moreau, your blood alcohol is steadily rising. The consumption of one more drink will make it illegal for you to fly the Normandy," informed EDI, her avatar appearing across from where the pilot was sitting.
Joker responded to the AI scolding by raising his glass. He mockingly tipped his cup in the avatar's direction before drowning the whiskey in one sip.
"I don't think the Commander would want you to drink yourself drunk," commented Kolyat carefully. The usual silent drell sat with the asari Justicar.
"I am not drunk," Joker protested, frustrated that he was the one receiving grief when everyone's anger should be directed on the Council.
"Shepard deserves so much better," said Gabby softly. She sat across from Joker but her attention was on the projection screen that was at the moment broadcasting a seemingly unlimited amount of commercials.
"Good to see people are profiting off the Commander," Jack stated. The powerful biotic was leaning against the wall, her arms crossed, she stood alone but her face betrayed her growing interest for the trial and the fate of her Commander.
"Some things never change," said a disgusted Joker, remembering the commercials that the Alliance and the Council used of Shepard's likeness after his death. They used to haunt the helmsmen, the image and voice of the commercial Shepard gnawing at the built up guilt that the pilot had allowed to fester within.
"Where is Wong?" asked Goldstein, who sat on Joker's left. She like everyone else noticing a Citadel asari reporter instead of the staple Emily Wong.
"You didn't hear?" asked Donnelly, from Gabby's right.
Gabby rolled her eyes, "none of us pay attention to the gossips Kenny."
Donnelly frowned at the engineer's jest.
"Are you going to tell us?" asked Joker, sitting across the two engineers who were now staring at each other. One was wearing a frown, the other a smile.
"Oh yeah," Donnelly recovered, his Scottish burr prevalent while he looked flustered that he was lost in thought. "She resigned in protest to Shepard's arrest and trial."
"Good for her," said a pleased Gabby. "That's what a good soldier would do. Stay loyal to your Commander."
"Shepard has always considered Emily a friend," Joker nodded, remembering the bubbly reporter during their chase of Saren.
"They knew each other?" asked Donnelly, his accent piquing along with his curiosity.
"Yeah, Shepard helped get her started for the Citadel news," answered Joker with a shrug.
Donnelly let out a low whistle. "Is there anyone Shepard doesn't know? Next you will be telling me that he met the escort."
Joker smiled, "well as a matter of fact…" However the pilot's words died in his throat as he turned to see the asari reporter had returned and began to speak.
"In all my years of reporting, I have never seen so many people at the Citadel. Asari, turians, salarians, and humans have come to the Citadel Tower in droves, picketing and protesting the arrival of disgraced Spectre John Shepard as he tries to make his case against the Council.
The mood is hostile and C-Sec has had to bolster their security in an attempt to make sure the peace is upheld. The trial between the Council and Commander Shepard is expected to begin in the next hour. The trial is being broadcasted with viewing monitors being positioned throughout the Citadel to allow people to watch the trial."
"It is ironic to note that Shepard's fate will at the same location where his name became legend. The Citadel was, where he famously halted the rogue Spectre Saren and his geth armies more than two years ago. Stopping a war before it started. Many believe that was Shepard's undoing when it was made clear that he and the Council were not seeing eye to eye on several important issues."
"The Council ignored his pleas and refused to listen to his reason even after he saved their ship, instead they sent him and his crew to quell the remaining pockets of geth resistance where he was supposedly killed and was reported as so by both the Alliance and the Council.
However after two years, Commander John Shepard reappeared and was now working for the terrorist organization known as Cerberus. Perturbed by this decision the Council still allowed the Commander to keep his Spectre status as long as he stayed to the Traverse. It is after this where the truth stops and the possibilities, speculations and theories begin.
Only Shepard and those who followed him know of the events that culminated in the next few months. Councilor Anderson later confirmed that Commander Shepard had defeated the mysterious species known as the Collectors and had proof that they were responsible for the kidnapping of millions of human colonies."
"The rocky relationship between the Council and the famous human Commander took a turn for the worse when he returned to the Citadel after defeating the Collectors. Where he was informed of a pending investigation for his time as a Spectre. Shepard remained steadfast in his belief of a greater galactic threat that had been behind both Saren and the Collectors.
When the Council refused to see his reasoning, and informed him of the possibility that his status was pending and charges for his actions were being considered was when many people believe Shepard snapped…"
"Turn it off," ordered an annoyed Miranda. She turned her head to see the holo-news of an asari reporter as she stood among throngs of people all waiting the arrival of Shepard.
"It's all political bullshit," Jacob added, shaking his head at how his Commander was being portrayed.
Garrus obeyed, clicking the off button of the remote. Before he readjusted his C-sec armor, he examined himself in the mirror, a sense of déjà-vu overcoming him. "I never thought that I would be wearing this again."
Miranda, Garrus, and Jacob were at C-Sec's headquarters, Cerberus insiders had been able to successfully pass off C-Sec armor, tools and weapons. All three carefully disguised to resemble ordinary C-sec officers who would be handling crowd control for the coming trial of their Commander.
"We are leaving in sixty are the others in position?" Miranda asked, wanting to keep her group focus.
"Mordin, Tali, and Eli are in position," Garrus confirmed.
"I still think it was a mistake to bring Tali," Jacob said delicately. "Quarians stick out like a sore thumb on the Citadel."
"You try telling Tali that," replied an amused Garrus. He could already guess the result of that conversation, knowing how loyal Tali was to her friends.
Jacob immediately shook his head before putting up his hands. "Pretend I didn't say anything."
Garrus chuckled before sliding on his C-sec helmet. Shielding his face, he now resembled the many hundreds of turians who were working for C-sec.
"Come on we need to get going, or we will miss our contact," Miranda instructed. The three friends were meeting up with a high end C-Sec officer who would personally lead them to the trial. Where they should be in good position to monitor the situation and be ready to help.
Jacob had already put his helmet on and gave the thumbs up while Garrus only nodded. Miranda watched them both leave the room. She could feel the knots in her stomach at what was awaiting them, but she tried her best to keep her demeanor and focus. She needed to be at her best, if they had any chance of saving Shepard, and the last thing he needed was for her to come undone when his life was on the line.
Miranda steadied her nerves before putting her helmet on. Pretending this was just another one of the countless other missions she had done for Cerberus and then for Shepard. She wasn't going to allow the council to decide his fate. Hold on Shepard, we're coming.
It all comes down to this, Shepard noted softly. He readjusted the cuffs on his borrowed suit for the umpteenth time. A habit the Commander had fallen into ever since he boarded the shuttle that was to take him to the citadel tower. The fabric was not very comfortable against his skin. He was after all a soldier; he was use to donning armor, or the casual tees and pants when he was off-duty. Not stuffy suits and ties. It beats a prison jumpsuit. Yes, at least I will be sentenced in fashionable attire.
He looked across his seat to see two turian guards, both of whose rifles were pointed towards his chest. Their faces showed neither emotion nor concern of shooting the Spectre. He sighed, before turning his attention to the shuttle window, as he noticed its descent, his heart plummeted into his gut when he saw the throngs of people waiting for him at the base of the Citadel Tower.
He was more than sure that they were not going to wish him good luck. The Council had done a good job marching out their supporters and his enemies. He was sure Udina had a part to play in all this.
The shuttle door opened with a soft hiss, he blinked in the artificial light of the space station that illuminated his shuttle hold. The voice of hundreds of protestors washing over him was unsettling for the Commander.
One of the turian guards poked him with his rifle. "Let's go Shepard."
Shepard nodded, standing up gingerly before stepping out of the shuttle. He could see the crowds of people stirring behind the C-sec barricades while security watched on. All were donned in armor with matching helmets, their rifles raised ready for the slightest sign of disturbance.
An armed escort of C-sec guards was waiting, even though they were all helmeted, Shepard could guess their species. Two salarians, two asari, two turians, and four humans, the irony wasn't lost on Shepard that there were more humans. It was a clear message by the Council that he was now a pariah of his own people.
The cuffed and shackled Commander stumbled for his first few steps while the C-sec guards took position around him beginning their march to the Citadel Tower.
His head held high, his posture of a soldier not a prisoner. His strides were confident, his expression defiant. He had done nothing wrong and he knew it. He wasn't angry at the mob. He pitied them.
The noise was deafening. The jeers and curses were clear to hear but Shepard refused to be baited as he kept walking. The mood was of controlled passion, their anger or feelings manipulated and stirred up by the council to show the galaxy uniting behind them and their decision to press charges. A few who were close enough actually spat at him, taunted him, cursed his name, his very existence.
He stopped in his steps, wanting to wipe the spit off of his face, but couldn't because of his cuffs. He merely turned to those who had done the deed, to see that they were a handful of male humans. They were toothily smiling at him while guffawing at their actions.
"What are you going to do Shepard?"
A push to the back with a rifle butt forced him to keep moving, but it didn't stop him from turning back to them to answer their question. *"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He smirked at the vacant stares that he received from the verse he recited.
"Why did you say that?" asked a guard to his left.
Still walking, Shepard glanced over to the human guard. "Because I meant it, I know what I did; all my actions had a purpose. My reasoning was sound, and one day all will know that I was right. I only pray that it won't be too late to rectify the mistakes made here or everything you know will be wiped away."
"The Reapers?" asked the guard, in a near whisper.
Shepard gave a curt nod, not paying attention to the guard's response as he was ushered into the elevator with the other guards taking positions around him. He turned back to the people who were now silenced by the closing doors of the elevator. He had faced the mob, now he had to face the judge. His fate now lay in the hands of four individuals.
Ashley shifted uncomfortably as she stood in Councilor Anderson's office. She resisted the urge to check the clock again. She looked over to the two other occupants of the room, the Councilor himself and one of the higher Captains of C-Sec.
The Councilor's eyes were on the C-Sec captain, whose eyes were on a data-pad he was holding. The data-pad that Ashley had provided, she had spent weeks gathering the information that proved Shepard's innocence of the Citadel bombing by revealing the true culprit.
"This information is accurate?" asked Captain Bailey, pulling his eyes off of the data-pad and towards the Alliance soldier.
"Yes," answered Ashley, after a moment's pause, not realizing the Captain was speaking to her.
Captain Bailey sighed, as he ran his fingers over his curly blonde hair. "Shit, this job is never easy."
Councilor Anderson gave the man a small sympathetic smile. "Try this one."
Bailey let out a hoarse chuckle but shook his head. "I knew it wasn't Shepard."
"Really?" asked a surprised Ashley, turning to the man to see the seriousness in his eyes before he nodded.
"Shepard's a soldier, not a terrorist. He's certainly not insane either from the few times I met him."
"You met him?"
"A couple times, he was helping out a few of his friends."
Ashley smiled, knowing that was the same Commander who she served under during their chase of Saren.
The first human Councilor crossed his arms, regarding the two in front of him before speaking. "Yes, it is most unfortunate how his legacy will be tarnished by the Council but hopefully this will go a long way into helping clear his name."
Captain Bailey gave the Councilor a firm nod. "I am going to personally arrest Ambassador Udina. If I hurry, I can do it before Shepard's trial starts."
"Wait," Anderson said, his word catching the C-sec Captain before he could leave the room. Bailey turned back to the Councilor, with a puzzled expression. "I don't think that would be the best time to arrest him."
Ashley rounded on the former soldier, not understanding why he was delaying the snake's day in court. "But Councilor, Udina needs to be brought to justice."
David Anderson turned to her, releasing a smile. "Yes, he is going to be. That is why you are going to arrest him during the trial."
Ashley couldn't help but laugh. She loved the image that came to her mind of Udina being interrupted in one of his political rants by Bailey and C-sec where they would publicly announce the charges against him. It was too perfect.
Captain Bailey too seemed to understand the importance of the act, as he gave the Councilor a smile and a nod. "Sounds like backroom politics."
The irony wasn't lost on Anderson. "I learned from the best."
"I will gather my officers and we will wait for a convenient time to make our presence known," Bailey suggested.
"It will definitely make us look bad, as well as misinformed," Anderson said, referring to the Council that he was deliberately sabotaging.
"Captain Bailey?" asked Ashley.
"Can I come with you? I want to nail this Son of a Bitch," Ashley said fiercely.
Captain Bailey turned to an amused Councilor who gave a soft nod. "She deserves it. It was her who gathered the information."
"That would make you a C-sec informant and capable of serving the warrant." Bailey agreed.
Ashley couldn't help but break into a wide smile as she joined the C-sec Captain by the doors. She was not only going to seal Udina's fate. She was hopeful to spare Shepard's. Thank you God!
Anderson noticed the triumphant smile on Ashley's face and the amused one on Bailey's as they left together. He went back to his desk, to gather his notes for the trial. The tired soldier sighed, the man who was regarded with honor, pride and a sense of duty was still unable to forgive himself for the mistakes he made against Shepard. He had failed the young soldier. He could only hope that the plan he set in motion could lead to his atonement.
Before he could further put thought to the matter, he was interrupted by the very man who was just as guilty as he was. However this man held no remorse, and hopefully would soon be held accountable for his deplorable actions.
"Anderson!" Udina's harsh voice, echoed in the Councilor's office as the figure approached.
He gave his second, a soft nod. "Yes, Donnel?"
"What are you doing? The trial starts in ten minutes! The other members of the Council are waiting," Udina said, not bothering to hide his annoyance or disappointment.
Anderson offered him a shrug, before putting on his jacket as the two walked out of the office.
"This must be killing you," Udina said softly, his tone laced with satisfaction.
Anderson could see the smugness in Udina's face but didn't comment.
"Having to sentence your former protégé," Udina commented, before adding. "It must be very embarrassing, for the both of you."
"Unless I was misinformed Udina, I am attending a trial not a sentencing," Anderson replied, using his military discipline to keep his tone level while not allowing his stance to betray his growing annoyance.
The human Ambassador let out a haughty chuckle. "If we're lucky the Council will be the judge, jury, and executioner."
Anderson knew that someone was going to be sentenced in the near future. He only hoped that it was the man he was currently sharing an elevator with and not the man whom he was about to confront at trial. He was thankful that Shepard's fate did not rest with the man to his side, whose grudge over the man had led to his undoing.
"Damn, the AI wasn't kidding. There is a lot of information on here," Eli commented. The batarian infiltrator's attention was torn between entering commands on his omni-tool before turning to the monitors to make sure the downloading was going smoothly.
"Less talking and more downloading. Shepard is depending on us," replied Tali, whose attention was fixed on the monitor in front of her. She was watching the scrawling information passing between her omni-tool and the console.
"Plenty of time, guards are unconscious," Mordin said. The salarian doctor was pacing at the entrance. His eyes ever so often turned to a pile of C-sec guards who were momentarily unconscious. "Very disappointed with lack of security."
The three friends found themselves in one of the control rooms of the Citadel Tower. They were downloading vital information about the Reapers into the computers under Miranda's order. They were also preparing to send the same information to numerous invaluable sources and contacts throughout Council space. The messages were encrypted and would be unable to open unless the sender entered the password.
"How the guards doing?" asked Tali.
Mordin checked on the nearest human C-sec guard. "Heart-rate normal could wake up in five minutes or five hours. Not very sure, there is a slight possibility that he might not wake up."
"What?" Tali nearly shouted, spinning to the salarian doctor only to see his lips twitching into a smile. Tali sighed and muttered to herself before turning back to her console, while Eli laughed soundly.
"Good one Doc."
"Oh shut up," Tali injected with mirth.
"Ok I am done," Eli said, turning off his omni-tool before powering down his monitor.
"Did you double check everything?"
"Yes, then triple checked," answered Eli.
Tali ignored the batarian's bored tone. She knew that was more of his personality then attitude on the mission. "You do know that Shepard is depending on us?"
"When have I failed the Paragon?"
"That is a good question. What about the time you failed to kill him?" asked Mordin, the corners of his mouth tugging upwards.
"Yeah, but that seemed to work out for everybody," Eli chuckled. "Unless you're complaining?"
"No, no one is complaining," Tali stated. "We are very thankful of your mediocre aim."
Eli grumbled with no real venom, knowing that the quarian was only teasing.
"Ok, I am finished; we need to leave before our presence is compromised." Tali said rising to her feet. Her eyes scanning the room to make sure that there was no sign of their presence.
"Yes, because I am sure they will not notice the unconscious guards in the corner," Eli commented, motioning with his head to the guards.
"That will not lead to what we successfully were able to do. That is unless you did a sloppy job and left a trail," Tali paused, leaving her suggestion to speak for herself.
"Hah! Then we have nothing to worry about," Eli said.
Mordin opened the control room door to see that the close was clear, giving the signal the three friends silently snuck out of the room. They were careful while walking down the stairs to one of the anterooms of the Council Chambers. The three were not given a second look as they blended themselves into the diverse crowd who were all waiting for the arrival of Shepard and the beginning of the trial. Leaving the three friends, the perfect vantage point to execute their plan and hopefully save Shepard and change the fate of the galaxy.
Miranda was no fool, she knew that a rescue in such a crowded area would more than likely end with them all being arrested or shot. Even if the rescue were to succeed, it left them back where they started, outlaws and leaving the galaxy still divided and unconvinced of the Reaper threat.
Her objective was clear in saving the man she loved, but she hoped in the process to turn the tide of the people's beliefs by hopefully loosening the hold that the Council had on its subjects.
She walked through the bustling crowds of the Tower Council chambers where the cherry blossoms and ornate fountains served more as barriers then decorations. The crowd was more polite and civil then the mob outside; all different species lined the council chambers and the adjacent anterooms and balconies. However the ignorance was still present as well as the off-handed insults.
She resisted the urge to biotically slam one individual after a crude remark he made about Shepard. Miranda soon realized amidst such narrow-minded people that her patience was being tested to the limit. She was thankful that her helmet consisted of a visor, so the people she passed were unable to see the roll of her eyes or the gnashing of her teeth. They should be thankful that I don't want to blow my cover by biotically throwing these fools through the nearest window.
"Shepard is coming up the elevator," Jacob reported, on a secure comm. that was being shared by all of the companions in their attempt to keep communication uninterrupted when they set their plan in motion.
Miranda immediately spun on her heels, 'accidentally' shoving two turians in her way, ignoring their protests as she moved closer to the barricades. She could see the turning of every head in the room, as all eyes were focused on the elevator as its doors finally opened to show several heavily armed C-sec guards walk out and in between them was the man she had grown to love.
She gave a thin smile, as she saw the stance he took as he walked. He was marching like no prisoner but a soldier. Even though every individual in the room shunned him, Miranda was sure that each one was impressed with how the man was carrying himself. He radiated a confidence that Miranda had never seen in any man. He more resembled a victorious military commander then a seditious subject.
As she saw him approach her current position, she wanted to communicate to him that he was not alone. That he was with friends, that people believed him, that people would still follow him, that people still loved him. Her XO persona nagged that any clue of revealing her location would not only compromise her and the others but it would endanger their plan and further doom Shepard's chances of surviving this mockery of a trial.
Her thoughts came to a sudden standstill when he walked by while his eyes scanning the room fell on her. Not knowing what else to do, she gave him the smallest of nods. Careful to make sure the gesture could not be detected by the numerous guards and civilians. He returned the nod before returning his attention to the path ahead of him.
"Alright everybody this is it. You all know the plan and what is at stake. We are only going to get one shot, so be ready," Miranda reminded her friends. She received affirmative replies from everyone. She carefully slipped herself back into the throngs of civilians, before making her way to a good vantage point where she would be able to witness the trial. Don't worry Shepard, even in a sea of enemies you will still be able to find those who care for you.
Shepard climbed the last steps of the anteroom, before stopping on the threshold of the Council Audience chamber. He stood patiently as the C-sec guards stepped forward, removing his restraining cuffs and shackles. He took the time to look up at the four-person Council, the turian Councilor looked down at him with disdain and hatred. While the salarian Councilor's large eyes scanned him, before forming a frown. The asari Councilor was looking at him like a scolding mother would to an insolent child.
The look that surprised him the most was Councilor Anderson. His expression was neutral. His face betrayed no emotion. His eyes fell on him for only a second no sign of friendliness. When Shepard was about to turn away, he could have sworn he saw Anderson wink at him. However he did not have time to register the reason for the wink or if it even happened as the Councilors addressed him.
"Do you know why you are here Shepard?"
Shepard rubbed his wrists, the cuffs that had been binding him since his arrest had left a nasty reddish bruise. He could recognize the smugness of the turian Councilor's voice. "Yes, I came because I seek your audience."
"Is that what allusions you are under?" questioned the turian Councilor.
"There are no allusions Councilor, I speak truthfully," answered Shepard, turning to see the turian's eyes narrowing down at him.
The salarian Councilor regarded his fellow Councilor before speaking for the first time. "You do not acknowledge that you were brought here under an arrest warrant by this Council?"
"You must heed my words." Shepard began wanting to make his point but he was immediately cut off.
"Your delusions you mean," corrected Udina. The former human Ambassador walked out of the shadows.
"Your grudge against me will be the doom of the galaxy," replied Shepard. The Commander forced his tone to remain calm and civil.
"You speak of course about the Reapers?" sneered Udina, before turning his back on the prisoner, so that he could address the Council. "We have heard all this before Shepard."
The turian Councilor nodded, "Saren indoctrinated you Shepard. He wanted you to believe in the Reapers, hoping that while you were chasing this myth he could succeed in his own plans."
Shepard gritted his teeth. "I have seen them! They are real."
"Anything to make your voice be heard Shepard. Isn't that why you blew up the Citadel Tower? You wanted to rally us under your banner to go after these imaginary monsters instead you killed innocent civilians and wounded dozens!" Udina said, crossing his arms. "This trial is pointless. This man is guilty of treason and should face immediate sentencing."
Udina's words stirred within the anterooms as the masses of people shouted their agreement. These people hadn't come for a trial. They came for an execution.
"With all due respect Udina," began Anderson, not bothering to hide his disdain for the man. "You cannot dictate to this Council."
"Councilor Anderson is right," agreed the asari Councilor, looking as if it pained her to admit that Shepard had rights.
Udina's cheeks reddened whether it was from anger or embarrassment. Shepard couldn't guess but any rebut by Udina never came as a handful of C-sec officers were pushing their way through to the hearing chambers.
"What is the meaning of this?" barked Udina.
Shepard immediately recognized the lead C-sec officer as Captain Bailey, but that wasn't what caused Shepard's jaw to nearly drop. It was the person standing beside him. His former crewmate, companion and lover: Ashley Williams, who showed him a small smile before returning her frown to Udina.
"Captain Bailey why are you not at your post?" asked the salarian Councilor.
"We have an arrest warrant for Ambassador Donnel Udina," answered Captain Bailey.
Silence filled the chambers and the anteroom. Shepard was sure he could hear a pin drop, no one made a noise. He was sure that he was wearing the same bewildered look that everyone else was. He turned to see the dismay amongst three of the Councilors. The fourth was looking down with a smile; Anderson turned to Shepard and gave him a nod.
"For what?" asked the turian Councilor, the first to find his voice. His gruff voice breaking the silence as the crowd within the anteroom and chambers filled with buzzing.
Captain Bailey regarded the Council before turning to the Ambassador with a cold stare. "For murder and terrorism. We have evidence proving that Udina orchestrated the Citadel bombing with the intention of blaming it on Shepard."
"This is an outrage! Of all the insults! Of all the disrespect!" shouted an enraged Udina.
"What is the evidence?" cut in Anderson in an innocent tone. His expression held a small amount of curiosity while the corners of his mouth were struggling to stay neutral.
Udina rounded on the Councilor but before he could hurl a tirade, Ashley Williams stepped in. Her omni-tool aglow as the recorded voice of Donnel Udina played to the curious throngs of people.
"I am practically doing this myself! I told you where to find the damn components, time and location! Do I have to detonate the bomb itself! I do not have time for your failure. If we are going to have any success in pinning this on Shepard everything needs to be perfect. Now no more excuses, get it done if you want to get paid!"
For the second time in minutes, the crowd was silent after the recording played. Udina looked livid but defiant for his actions as if the need to explain his course was beneath him. The asari and salarian Councilor was looking down on the human with a look of disgust. The turian Councilor's eyes widened, mandibles twitching fervently but no words came out, he was struck silent.
Anderson had his arms crossed, a small smug smile growing on his face. "Pretty damnable evidence if you ask me."
Udina spun on his heels, jabbing his finger in Anderson's direction. "You did this! This is your fault! You are nothing more than a mistake made by a delusional Commander! You shouldn't even be on this Council!"
"Is that why you planted the bomb? You wanted to get your revenge on Shepard for passing you over for me," Anderson said, allowing his words to sink with the crowd as Udina's motivation for his actions became transparent to everyone.
"I was the human Ambassador! I represented the interest of humanity! I should have been on the Council." Udina shouted, spit flying, his face reddening.
"You went from the most important human in the galaxy to a glorious aide," Councilor Anderson finished, practically closing the case himself.
"That's enough, cuff him and let's get out of here." Captain Bailey said. Two C-sec figures stepped forward, forcibly grabbing Udina's arms. The man winced at their grips as his hands were cuffed behind his back.
Do the words political shit storm mean anything to you? Shepard mused, unable to hide an amused smile at the irony. He watched with everyone else in the room and across the galaxy the protesting Udina being escorted out of the hearing chambers.
"I am sorry to have interrupted this trial Council," Captain Bailey said with a small bow of his head.
The asari Councilor nodded. "No, Captain you were only doing your job. We appreciate this intervention; it does shed a new light on this matter." The salarian Councilor shared her sentiment with a nod it seemed evident that the two Councilors were beginning to rethink their stances.
"So Shepard didn't blow up the Tower, he freely admits to working with the terrorist organization known as Cerberus. He actively worked with geth soldiers. A species that has been declared an enemy of this galaxy," argued the turian Councilor with his sharp pointing down at the man who he slandered. The turian was taking up the banner of damning Shepard and ending this trial with a guilty verdict.
Shepard sighed, not knowing what he had done to piss off the turian Councilor. "I do admit to these charges but wouldn't you think I would have a good explanation if I associated myself with Cerberus or Geth. Hell, I was the one who shut down several Cerberus cells, I am the one who stopped the Geth invasion!"
"Your reasons are not our concern Shepard, your guilt however is," the turian Councilor hastily added, before the other two Councilors could speak.
"The Reapers are coming!" Shepard said, feeling his resolve cracking, his anger rising, his patience waning.
The mention of the sentient machines brought a loud uproar among the crowds of people who had been watching the interplay in rapt attention and silence.
"We will have silence," the asari Councilor bellowed. Her firm voice brought immediate silence, pleased with the crowd's behavior. She turned her attention back to Shepard, with a look close to pity that one reserved for the sick or mentally unstable. "You have said this before Commander but the fact remains-"
"I have proof!"
Shepard knew the Turian councilor was dead set against him just as Anderson was in his corner. That meant Shepard needed to convince the asari and salarian Councilors, but how? When an idea suddenly came to him of how he could show some of his information to the Councilors but not both of them, only one.
The asari first frowned at being interrupted, but her frown immediately disappeared when his words sunk in. "Proof of the Reapers?"
"Yes, but it is limited," he said softly. Realizing that this could be his only chance to inform the Council and to a latter extent the galaxy about the pending Reaper invasion.
"What do you mean Shepard?" asked the salarian councilor. His large black eyes were looking down at the prisoner with great interest.
"I can show the asari Councilor my memories, my encounters with the Reapers," Shepard said, trying his best to keep his tone firm as he turned to the asari Councilor who had tilted her head, her eyes examining him closely.
"Mind melding?" she muttered before frowning. "That is an intimate act amongst my people Shepard."
"I know, I do not mean to insult your customs or heritage but I am offering you what you are asking. You want proof; I can give it to you. If you are willing to sentence me before knowing everything then that is on your conscious not mine."
"He has the right to a fair trial. If he has evidence why can't he present it to the Councilor? We can trust her to speak truthfully about the encounter." Councilor Anderson reasoned.
"This hasn't been done before," the salarian Councilor observed, but his tone betrayed his desire at finding out what evidence Shepard had.
The turian Councilor threw up his hands, looking at his fellow Council as if they had lost their minds. "This could be nothing more than nightmares."
"A skilled asari will know the difference between a dream and an event." The asari Councilor cut in, her voice stern, sounding insulted at the thought that she could be confused between the two.
"So you will do it?" asked a hopeful Shepard.
The asari Councilor turned to Anderson who nodded, and then to the salarian who also nodded before turning to the turian who immediately shook his head. She slowly nodded; her action alone caused more loud murmuring and contagious conversing to spread through the chambers as the crowd eagerly awaited more. She stepped down from her podium and closed the distance between her and Shepard in seconds, stopping when she was within arm's reach of him.
C-sec guards immediately stepped forward; rifles raised and pointed at the prisoner. All of them weary that he was going to use this slack given by the Council as a means to orchestrate his escape. The last thing these C-sec guards wanted was a televised hostage event if Shepard was able to get his hands on the Councilor.
Shepard sensing the C-sec guard's trepidation, offered up his hands for them to be cuffed. He wanted to prove to them that he was doing this with the truest intent.
"That will not be necessary," she said, waving off the C-sec guards. They nodded; taking a step back but their rifles remained on the Commander ready in an instant. "You have done this before have you not?"
"It shows doesn't it?" asked a nervous Shepard, trying to push down his anxiety that was beginning to swell in the pit of his stomach as well as the nausea that threatened to climb up this throat. He remembered too well the painful feeling of his mind melding with Liara during their quest for Saren.
"Take deep, calming breaths Commander," soothed the Councilor patiently. "Pull up the memories you wish to share with me. Tell me when you have them."
Shepard obeyed her orders, taking slow breaths while forcing his encounters with the reapers to the forefront on his mind, focusing on his intimate conversations with Doom and Sovereign. He gave the asari Councilor a ready nod.
"Relax Commander, and embrace eternity," she said, her eyes glowing black as the connection between the two minds was formed.
The contact and formation of a connection between the two minds brought complete silence into the anteroom. Every eye in the galaxy was glued to the live broadcast. Every one of them was trying to pinpoint anything in the two's movement or expression to try to uncover what was being seen. People had held their breath not wanting to interrupt the intimate exchange of information that was being sent between the two.
The seconds dragged on like hours, until finally the two broke apart, both breathing heavily, acting as if they had never breathed before as they gasped for air. The asari Councilor brought both of her hands to her head, swaying in place while Commander Shepard brought his hands to his knees, his breathing heavy as he seemed to be fighting the urge to vomit on his boots.
The asari Councilor recovered first, composing herself, as she took a few steps away from the first human Spectre. Her eyes surveying him closely, and when Shepard finally brought himself back up to his full height with their eyes meeting, he was sure he saw remorse behind her eyes.
"He speaks truthfully," the asari Councilor said in a near whisper. Her voice in awe, while cracking under the realization of the many mistakes she had made.
"What did you see?" asked the salarian Councilor, in a gentle voice.
The asari councilor turned to face her equals. "I saw… I saw them… The Reapers."
The reaction was immediate as the anteroom's noise increased ten-fold. Shepard was unable to pick up what the people's reaction was within their conversing but he didn't care at the moment because the people he needed to convince were now all looking down at the asari Councilor with a mix of expressions and emotions.
Councilor Anderson gave a sympathetic nod. The salarian Councilor's eyes were roaming over the asari Councilor while the turian Councilor was staring down at her as if she had grown a second head.
"We will have order," the turian's voice carried over the murmurs and conversing which immediately died out. "If you are asking for this Council to be swayed by something you and only you can see then you are very much mistaken."
The salarian Councilor gave a hesitant nod. "He speaks truthfully; we need to see true data, information, records, reports, something that is concrete that cannot be debated."
"Then I can help you," came an accented voice. Every head in the room turned to the northwest balcony; seeing a beautiful raven-haired woman with sparkling blue eyes.
However what Shepard saw only caused the beating of his heart to increase. Miranda, when her gaze turned to him and she showed him a smile that always caused his heart to skip.
"You want proof, we have proof of the Reapers," Miranda said, turning her attention back to the Council who were staring up at her.
"Another one of Shepard's stooges?" dismissed the turian Councilor before signaling to the real C-Sec guards to remove this intrusion and terrorist from the courtroom.
"Wait," said the salarian Councilor to the C-sec guards. He looked up at the young woman. "What information do you possess?"
"You seriously cannot be considering allowing her to speak?" protested the turian Councilor, his talon pointing at the woman.
"Why not?" added Councilor Anderson, trying his best to hide a smile.
The asari Councilor nodded, "bring her down here. Let us see what information she has for us."
The turian Councilor mumbled something as he crossed his arms, fuming at the thought that he was being over ruled…again.
Miranda raised her arm to signal she had turned on her omni-tool, as soon as it began to glow, low buzzing could be heard from the Councilor's computers signaling the information was downloading.
Shepard didn't know what the Councilors were seeing but judging by their expressions, he was sure that everything was about to change. He turned to Miranda to see she was watching him, as their eyes met; she smiled down at him before shooting him a wink.
Shepard wasn't a betting man, but in that instant he had a safe hunch that his fate had been saved and the galaxy was about to change for the better…
Commander John Shepard enjoyed the view that Councilor Anderson's office provided of the Citadel's Presidium. He was a free man again as he filled his lungs with the cool air that the Presidium provided. He was enjoying the peace and quiet of being alone after hours of meetings that had followed his innocent verdict rendered from the Council.
That verdict was made this morning, and he had spent the hours that followed in boardrooms and war-rooms discussing strategy with officers from every species as well as the political ramifications with the galaxy's most important domestic leaders.
His attention back to the Presidium, Shepard noticed that the crowds had died down and that very few people could be seen wandering the paths below. Shepard was sure that part of the reason for the decrease in population was because the Council's declaration of his innocence which opened the floodgates of panic and hysteria, as they had to confirm the worst. A sentiment species of floating gods could very soon be descending on the galaxy.
Shepard sighed, he should have expected the outcome that the average person would have but he was too busy focused on the military and political ramifications to pay close enough attention. He knew there would be fall out, riots, mobs, panic but he was confident that these people's fears could be quelled in good time and hopefully refocused on the preparations that needed to be made.
The familiar voice of Ashley Williams snapped the Commander out of his train of thought. He turned around and offered her a friendly smile as she approached.
"Do you have a minute?" she asked, hesitance creeping into her voice.
Shepard nodded; he hadn't seen her since her appearance at the trial. In that time he was told the full extent of her commitment and work that she had put in to catch the real culprit of the Citadel bombing.
"I wanted to say I am sorry," she said quickly.
"I know you are," Shepard replied kindly. "After everything you have done to help me Ash, we are square."
His words seemed to improve her mood but she still looked as if something was bothering her. "I should have believed you Skipper, but I didn't and it cost me."
He regarded her silently; he knew what she was hinting at and admired her for speaking truthfully. He could hear the pain in her voice as she admitted to what she thought she had lost. He gently put his hands on her shoulders.
"Ash don't think about that. What happened has happened and none of us can fix it. We will never know what could have happened and allowing us to wander down that road will only end badly."
Ashley nodded, "I know Skipper it's just hard to forget."
"It is, but that doesn't mean I want you out of my life. You were always first and foremost my friend Ash," Shepard said honestly, hoping she would take the concession.
"I would like that Skip- I mean Shepard," she corrected herself. She seemed to realize that the time for 'Skipper' had past.
Shepard smiled, "I am glad to hear it Williams."
She leaned towards him before planting a chaste kiss on his cheek, before whispering, "for old times."
Shepard immediately sobered when he heard the doors of the office open. His eyes finding Councilor Anderson and Miranda who had been talking but both had stopped and were now staring at what they walked in on.
Ashley had the good sense to straighten up at once, raising her hands in submission.
Miranda for her part did not scowl or glare at his former lover instead she gave her a polite smile. "I never got to thank you Miss Williams for all the help you put into trying to clear Shepard's name."
"It's what friends do," Ashley said, looking and sounding a bit surprised at Miranda's reaction. Not wanting to ruin her good fortune, she quickly added. "I think I should be going, I need to send a message to Admiral Hackett." Without waiting for another word, Ashley slipped past the former Cerberus XO and former Alliance soldier now Councilor and exited the office.
Shepard smiled at Miranda, knowing that he had her trust just like she had his. She immediately came to his side where his arms wrapped around her side. "Behaving?"
Shepard chuckled at her whisper before nodding.
Miranda nodded, trusting the man she loved. "Where are the others? We need to start packing."
"Packing?" asked a quizzical Councilor, with a raised brow.
Shepard nodded, "yeah, taking some much needing rest."
"If anyone deserves it, it's you Shepard," chuckled Anderson.
"Remember that when you are tempted to contact me in the next few days," Shepard joked.
Councilor Anderson looked at his watch, before letting out a tired sigh. "Sorry, Shepard but I have to meet with some of the Alliance brass.
Shepard offered his mentor his hand, "it's understandable. You're an important man."
Anderson shook his protégé's hand. "I won't lie about the temptation of a vacation. But someone has to get some work done."
"Thanks again for all the help, sir," Shepard said sincerely.
"You deserved it Shepard. I am only sorry that I didn't fight harder from the beginning," said Anderson softly.
"You helped get Udina arrested. As far as I am concerned we're even now," Shepard said, noticing the change in his friend's stance.
Anderson chuckled and nodded, before shaking Miranda's hand. "Closely watch this one. We are going to need him for what's to come."
Miranda smiled, turning from the Councilor to Shepard who looked amused at the interactions. "Don't worry, I already brought him back from the dead once."
"What's that suppose to mean?" asked Shepard, watching Anderson leave.
"Nothing," said Miranda quickly with a smile.
Shepard reached out to grab her, but she avoided his reach with a laugh and a sidestep.
"When does our vacation officially start?" hinted Shepard.
Miranda smirked at his sudden boldness, but before she could speak, the doors of the Councilor's office opened.
"Shepard going on vacation this I gotta see," Garrus said, stepping into the Councilor's office followed by Tali, Eli, and Jacob.
Even though his intimate mood with Miranda vanished as soon as his turian friend spoke, he still couldn't help but be pleased with seeing them. He had yet to see a friendly face since his trial and now they seemed to be coming in droves.
Tali immediately went to her good friend and put him in a vice grip of a hug.
"Good to see you too Tali," Shepard said in a cough as he gently patted his quarian friend.
"You're going to kill him if you keep squeezing," commented an amused Eli. "Not that I would mind or anything."
Tali let go with a flustered giggle as she stepped back. "Sorry, Shepard."
He waved off her concern with a hand and a smile. "It's all right Tali, it's good to see you too." He paused turning to his other friends. "All of you… even Eli."
Eli chuckled, shaking his head as he crossed his arms. "Hah-hah Paragon."
"It's good to see the Council finally wising up, Commander," Jacob said bluntly.
"Yeah, it really is," Shepard agreed.
"So what's this about a vacation Shepard?" asked Garrus, his eyes alight with mirth.
Shepard shook his head at his friend's antics. "That's right. A much needed break, for everyone. I am giving you guys all two weeks off."
"I take it the two love birds are finally going to stretch their wings?" Eli said with a chuckle, his eyes falling on the Commander and the XO.
"Oh, I didn't know that you were taking Jack somewhere," commented an amused Garrus before Shepard or Miranda could reply.
"What!" shouted Eli, rounding on the turian soldier.
Garrus threw up his hands in a submitting gesture but not before he started laughing, which soon spread to everyone in the room.
"I hate all of you," grumbled Eli, with no real venom and soon the batarian joined in with his own dark chuckling.
Shepard cleared his throat, wanting his friend's attention while waiting for the laughter to die down. Knowing the next part that he had to tell them was not going to be easy.
"I already have gotten your next assignments."
"Assignments?" Asked Jacob, with a raised brow.
Shepard nodded, "it seems that the galaxy is going to need your skills."
"So we are splitting up?"
Shepard turned to his quarian friend, "Only for a little while."
"It's about time," Eli said with mirth.
"I thought you would like that Eli, but you may be away from me but you will still be following my orders," Shepard added, his smile growing when he saw his friend's frown.
"What are our orders?" asked Garrus.
Shepard opened his mouth to give them but was interrupted by Miranda.
"You will get them in the morning."
He shared a look with her; she gave a bow of her head. Knowing that he didn't want to undertake the issue of splitting up his friends at the moment, he couldn't help but admire her and smile, which she returned. He turned back to his friends who were watching him closely, expecting him to confirm her decision.
"That's right. You will get them tomorrow that if you don't get too drunk from the party," Shepard joked, his eyes falling on his best friend.
Garrus chuckled before offering his friend a shrug, "No, promises."
"When is the Normandy supposed to be docking?" asked Jacob.
"Very soon," answered Miranda, remembering a very slurred report from Joker when she called, before entering the Councilor's office. "We should be heading up that way."
"Good idea," agreed Shepard. The Commander and XO leading the troupe of diverse friends out of Councilor Anderson's office in the presidium, through the Embassies where they received several stares and gaping as they passed.
Shepard was just pleased that none of the people who they had passed were bold enough to come speak to him. It's not like he hated his fame, it was just the constant posing and autographs that grinded on his nerves. Not to mention the crazy fans like Conrad Verner, who he ended up shooting, just to prove a point. Something that Garrus would never let him forget, as the turian would constantly tell that story, whether it was for the attention or amusement, Shepard would never know.
"They must know I am famous," Garrus commented casually, at a pair of asari who were watching them with flirtatious smiles.
"Maybe there are some perks at this whole Paragon stance," remarked Eli, whose eyes were still on the asari.
"Men," said Tali and Miranda simultaneously with a sigh and a roll of the eyes. The two looked at one another before letting out a laugh.
The friends gathered at the C-sec elevator that would take to them to their private hangar where the Normandy would be docking shortly.
"Shepard you still haven't told us where you are going?" Tali asked, once the elevators doors slid open. The friends piled in before Jacob hit the close and then ascend button.
"We are going to see my sister," answered Miranda, with a smile. She was excitedly looking forward to spending some time with her sister and alone time with Shepard.
"Isn't she on Mindoir?" asked Garrus. The mood in the elevator suddenly sobered. All of them knowing how much their Commander and friend had suffered at the colony.
"Yeah she is," answered Shepard, breaking the uncomfortable silence, as he scratched the back of his neck, not meeting any of his friend's eyes. He felt Miranda's soft hand on his shoulder, gently pressing her body to his side as he instinctively wrapped his arm around her.
Ever since he had received that vision, or visit to the afterlife aboard Doom, he couldn't shake the image of his parents out of his head. Shepard took it as a sign that he needed to finally visit the colony that he had called home for the first sixteen years of his life.
"I thought… I would pay my respects to my parents."
Seeing the inner struggle in his best friend prompted Garrus to speak up. "You know, I've always wanted to know where the great Commander Shepard grew up." He paused when he noticed he had his best friend's attention, "If you don't mind the extra company."
"Not at all," Miranda said, knowing the difference that it would mean if Shepard was with friends when he came back to confront his own demons.
"I wouldn't want to be there the whole time," Garrus added hastily, not wanting to step on anyone's toes or other plans that Shepard or Miranda had made.
"Maybe a day or two," Tali finished, latching onto the idea of supporting her friend.
"Really?" asked Shepard, looking up at his two best friends.
"Really," confirmed Tali, turning to the turian.
"Only if you beg," Garrus said wryly, receiving a chuckle from Shepard and a gentle swat from Tali.
The doors of the elevator opened with a bing. Shepard was the first to get out and he couldn't help but smile as he saw his precious frigate waiting for him. He stopped to admire the sleek design, upgrades and repairs that it had gone through these last few months. He frowned when his eyes fell on the large Cerberus insignia, one of the many that would have to be taken down during his vacation.
When Shepard finally entered the ship and exited the elevator that led to the Mess Hall, a deafening roar of cheers, and applause greeted him as his entire crew and all of his companions had waited for him with smiles and alcohol. They immediately rushed him; with as much discipline as they could muster to congratulate him, reenlist in his cause and offer them their thanks for everything he had done for them.
"Shepard, good to see that there was no permanent damage done to you during your stay with the Council," commented Dr. Chakwas warmly. The corners of her lip tugging upwards before she sipped her cup that smelled faintly like Ice Brandy.
"Shepard knew you'd beat them!" said an excited Gardner as he quickly handed Shepard, Miranda, and the others cups of small amounts of whiskey.
"You truly are a noble spirit Commander Shepard," Samara noted, with a respectful bow of her head.
"Glad to see those political bastards finally found some common sense," Jack stated, the powerful biotic showing her Commander a polite smile and nod.
"I knew justice would prevail Commander!" said Kolyat, enthusiastically shaking Shepard's hand before saluting his Superior Officer.
"Commander," said Joker, whose eyes were still a bit red from his earlier drinking. The pilot raised his cup with everyone else following his example. "To the best damn Commander that anyone could ask for."
A raucous echo of 'here, here' followed as the crew drank including Shepard, nodding his thanks and appreciation to Joker at the gesture. When the crew quieted down, he cleared his throat, receiving every eye in the room.
"I just want to say, that a Commander couldn't ask for a better crew. These last few months haven't been easy for any of us but I never heard complaining about missing family or friends because you knew what was at stake. Well I am thankful to report that starting tonight; every one of you will be getting two-week vacation with a stipend coming from the Council. You guys deserve it." Shepard had to shout the last sentence as the crew already began to celebrate with more cheers and drinking at the unexpected news.
Shepard enjoyed the burning taste of whiskey as it went down his throat. Looking on his friends and his crew who continued to laugh and joke with one another. He realized how blessed he had been. He was thankful for their willingness to stay behind him, even when everyone else had turned their backs or came gunning for him. Not them, they were with him till the end. And he took comfort in that.
"Gather around, I have a story to tell about the Commander," Garrus's voice broke over all the others as he received everyone's attention. "It's about a Commander and a certain fan."
The crew cheered, all of them loving this particular story while Shepard rolled his eyes, rethinking his gratefulness for his friends.
"We can slip out of here," whispered a voice to his left.
He turned to see Miranda smirking; he looked forward to notice that she was correct. Everyone had gathered around the turian to hear the story. He looked at the turian, their eyes met for a moment before Garrus gave him a wink. Shepard smiled, realizing his friend's antics and gave a thankful nod, before he and Miranda slipped out of the Mess Hall and into the elevator.
You owe me Shepard.
Miranda immediately kissed Shepard as soon as the doors closed, putting all of her love, care and affection towards the man that days ago she had feared she could possibly lose. Shepard returned her passion with his own fervor as his arms snaked around her waist while hers went behind his neck. Only the need of oxygen caused the two lovers to pull away, both wearing satisfied smiles.
"I could get use to that kind of celebration," remarked Shepard.
"Is that so? Then I'll inform the rest of the crew," smirked Miranda, her smirk only growing when she saw Shepard's reaction.
However before Shepard could recover from her jest, the doors of the elevator opened with a soft bing, signaling top ascent to Shepard's personal quarters. The doors of the cabin opened sensing the two's presence, Shepard was immediately bounded by an excited Hades.
The varren jumped up to greet his master. It's tail wagging gingerly. Shepard laughed at his pet's reaction, petting Hades behind the ear. He received a very satisfied growl from the varren. "It's good to see you too Hades."
An amused Miranda watched the scene unfold before her. She was sure if someone had told her months ago that she was not only going to fall in love with the famous Commander John Shepard but share a pet varren, she would have dismissed such claims as absurd. However fate had a way of changing things and Miranda could not find herself more thankful for her situation.
Shepard plopped himself next to her on the foot of his bed. Hades following his master, not satisfied with the attention it has received.
Miranda offered Hades another hand to scratch his other ear before she leaned towards Shepard. "I hope you're not too tired."
The purr of her voice in Shepard's ear had the commander straighten up at once. "I am sure I can manage." His words barely escaping his throat as she kissed his neck.
Shepard lay awake, hours after he and Miranda had properly celebrated his verdict from the Council. He could feel the warmness from Miranda, as her body pressed against his side, one of her arms draped on his chest. He looked over to her sleeping form, unable to conceal a smile as he realized how grateful and thankful he was for her consistent presence. He squirmed under his blankets trying to get comfortable, knowing that he needed sleep, he slid his arm over Miranda who accepted his touch with a stir, as she nuzzled closer to him. Content, he closed his eyes, stifling a yawn.
He didn't know when the Reapers were going to come, but he did know that he wasn't going to stop fighting. He had something worth fighting for and he was going to make sure that he was not going to lose it to the Reapers. He had been the first at many things growing up, the first human Spectre, the first to enter the Omega-4 relay and survive, and he was going to help be the first to defy the Reapers and finally end their cycle of death.
But at this moment there was no politics, no war, and no Reapers. There was just peace. It was just him and her.
In that moment, life was perfect for Commander John Shepard.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you enjoyed the story. Don't forget to leave a review.
*The Verse that Shepard uses is from Luke 23:34 (ESV Edition).