The End and the Beginning

Mass Effect and all related characters are owned by Bioware.

Chapter 1

"Everybody in! Go, go, go!" Liara T'soni waved the scrambling crewmen past as they dashed for the life pod door. She watched as one by one they leaped through the small opening and began filling the pod from the innermost seat to the outermost. Dr. Chakwas and the several other crew members took their seats and secured themselves with the crash bars.

Liara was nearly knocked off her feet as the ship took another direct hit from its unknown attackers. She watched in horror as an exploding bulkhead rocked the passageway sending a female crewman's charred body crashing to the deck just meters from her. Liara quickly regained her composure and turned away to climb into the life pod. She hurriedly pushed the button to close the doors, and pulled the crash bar over herself as she sat in the adjoining seat.

A calm feminine voice began sounding through the pod. "Please stand by for life pod separation." Liara held on to the bar as she felt the vibrations of the ship's armor plating detaching to allow the life pods to launch. The disembodied voice continued, "Separation in 3...2...1" The pod lurched forward half a meter as the explosive bolts holding it in place let loose. The pod occupants were suddenly jerked downwards into their seats as the escape thrusters fired. The inertial dampeners kicked on a split second after, giving everyone a stomach churning feeling of vertigo as they were launched into space. The thrusters continued to burn for several more seconds to get the pod a safe distance from the drifting wreckage of the dying SSV Normandy.

The thrusters abruptly disengaged, leaving the life pod's occupants in silence. Liara and the other crewmen simply looked around at one another in shock for several seconds before someone finally spoke up. "What the hell happened?" a crewman asked frantically. "One moment we're sitting in the mess hall, the ship suddenly accelerates, then not two seconds later the whole ship starts blowing up! I thought the Normandy was running silent!" Everyone glanced at one another searching for answers.

Liara's thoughts went immediately to Commander John Shepard. He had calmly ordered her to get to the life pods as the fires burned around them. She had reluctantly left him as he proceeded towards the cockpit to save Jeff Moreau or "Joker" the Normandy's pilot. 'Goddess let Shepard be alright,' she silently pleaded. She had cared deeply for Shepard ever since meeting him on Therum. Though the young commander had broken her heart by expressing he only felt friendship for the asari maiden, she still harbored feelings for him. Lately however, Shepard had been spending more time in the med bay's lab and seemed to sit with her at meals more often. Liara pushed the thought away. This was no time to entertain her own foolish hopes.

The doctor spoke, "Liara can you see anything?" Her had shaken slightly but she retained her usual serene demeanor. Liara turned her head to look out the view port near her. All she could see were the stars and some large pieces of debris floating at a distance. She reached up, unlocked her crash bar and removed it from her shoulders. The pod warning immediately squawked at her, "Please remain seated, assistance will arrive shortly!" She pushed a few buttons on the holographic interface above her to silence it. She then engaged the maneuvering thrusters, slowly rotating the pod allowing her to visually follow the debris trail to find the Normandy. Finally she saw it.

The SSV Normandy had been her home for the past several months, but now she could barely recognize it. Most of the wing sections had been shot off, and the main hull was breached in multiple places. It looked more like some one had slashed at it with a gigantic knife rather than a typical mass accelerator weapon. Still the main thrusters were firing. Joker must have been desperately trying to save the ship. That meant Shepard was still on the Normandy! He would never leave without Joker. 'Please hurry Shepard!' she thought to herself.

Suddenly a long yellow beam of energy sliced through the black sky and struck the hull. She couldn't see the source of it, but at the moment she kept focused on the Normandy and its wreckage, looking for any signs of a life pod launch. The ship's main thrusters had ceased firing and it was now simply drifting. The unknown attacker fired again and again as the Normandy began to explode and disintegrate completely. Liara's heart seemed to stick in her throat at the sight, and she felt tears roll down her blue cheeks. No, it couldn't be. Shepard couldn't have...she suddenly caught the faint bluish glow of a thruster moving rapidly away from the drifting nose section of the wreck. It could only mean one thing: Shepard had succeeded!

Liara breathed a great sigh of relief, and she smiled. Shepard had escaped. He was alive. She hadn't noticed that most of the crewmen in her life pod had left their seats and were now huddled around her. The crew cheered as they saw the thruster fire. Liara was shaken out of her trance like state and was again aware of her own situation. She quickly dried her eyes. "Liara," it was Dr. Chakwas, "Can you find the attackers?"

"Yes, just give me a moment." She slowly rotated the view in the direction she had seen the beams fire from. The whole group gasped as the culprit came into view. It was a ship, but unlike any they had ever seen. It was massive, and could have rivaled the Reaper ship Sovereign in size. This ship was almost cylindrical in form with long organic-like mounds that seemed to run along a metal hull and protrude from the front. The space between the mounds glowed a bright yellow which was slowly fading. "The weapons must be powering down," she thought aloud. The behemoth ship's engines fired to life and began steering the ship away from the wreckage. After moving a few kilometers away, the Normandy's assailants engaged their FTL drive and were gone as quickly as they had appeared.

The crew all began talking at once trying to discern who the attackers were, why did they attack, were they slavers, if so why didn't they retrieve the life pods? The small craft was almost in an uproar when Dr. Chakwas interjected, "Everyone calm down! We won't find any answers with all this bickering." All of them went silent. Liara was surprised. The doctor could project quite a commanding tone when she wished. "Now," she had reverted back to her usual serenity, "is anyone injured?"

Most had simple cuts and bruises, but one crewman had suffered a large gash on his arm from some flying shrapnel. The doctor took several minutes stitching up the wound with the pod's medical kit. When she finished she walked over to where Liara sat. "Are you alright Dr. T'soni?" Liara felt a bit shaken but she nodded slowly. Dr. Chakwas gave her a warm smile. "I think you can remove the helmet dear, no one here is going to attack you."

Liara nearly laughed at herself. "I am sorry doctor. I was attempting to meditate and order my thoughts," She reached up to unfasten the helmet's pressure seals and slid it off her head. As she did a small rivulet of lavender blood snaked down her face and a few drops fell on her shoulder. "Oh, I didn't realize...I am sorry doctor."

The doctor smiled at her reassuringly. She carefully examined the wound. "Hmm...No swelling or serious trauma that I can detect," Dr. Chakwas said as she shined a light into Liara's left eye, then her right. "It appears to be superficial. It seems you'll live to reach 107 at least," Liara smiled at that. "Still, I would like to examine you in a proper facility when we return to the Citadel." Liara nodded gently at her advice. She did feel a bit weak, and uneasy. Perhaps from the stress coupled with the loss of blood. Dr. Chakwas proceeded to disinfect and dress the wound. When finished, she looked down at Liara with a concerned look, "Do you feel well Liara? You look rather pale."

"I feel fine physically, but I get a strange sense that the commander..." she shook her head as her vision blurred slightly. Why did she feel so exhausted? "It is probably just mental strain brought on by..." an expression of horror crept over her face, "Shepard! Oh Goddess!" Liara's vision began to spin and she could hear the doctor calling her name from far away. She felt herself falling forward. Then everything went black.