(Valkyrie, Part 1)
Thank you to all the awesome folks who've read, reviewed, and supported my fan fic.
This is the 1st story in an ongoing fan fiction about Lieutenant Commander Sophia (Kyrie) "Valkyrie" Shepard. The reason for the long name, plus many other aspects of her history and imperfectly paragon character are set up this volume, Valkyrie (which follows Mass Effect 1). The story then continues in Chosen of the Slain (which covers the time between games), and Valhalla (which covers Mass Effect 2, with flashbacks to earlier times).
I have always been fascinated with female heroes. In my opinion, there are simply not enough kick-ass babes in the world of fiction.
Mass Effect's Commander Shepard is one of my favorites female heroes, so I just had to explore what could possibly make such a person tick. If you know the game, you know this is one Shepard out of many, but it happened to be my favorite. I also like Norse mythology, so that was definitely an influence.
This story is also Shenko, meaning that Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko figures prominently - as he should. Thanks to the KAST (Kaidan Alenko Support Thread) for inspiration and encouragement.
BioWare owns Mass Effect and all aspects relating thereto. They set the stage; I just got to play with the sets and costumes. Enjoy.
Lieutenant Commander Shepard gazed out of the observation deck window at the planet below. She could see the western coast of Earth from here, the curve of Alaska's archipelego all the way down to the islands north of the Puget Sound. Further to the south would be Seattle, that rainy city her parents had hailed from. She had never been there. This first visit to earth had afforded little time beyond a quick stop in D.C. There had been no time to go explore the other Washington, with its endless rainstorms.
Perhaps the next time she came to Earth she would make the visit. She loved rainstorms, after all. She had heard the ones in the west were soft and gentle, not at all like the flash floods that struck down every spring on Mindoir. There, the rains beat down from the sky in torrents and swelled the rivers. Those thunderstorms had been like an attack from nature herself, a reminder that the galaxy as a whole rarely tolerated life.
Shepard shrugged her shoulders and checked her omnitool for the time. Her private transport wouldn't be leaving for another half hour. She briefly considered getting a drink, but decided against it. She didn't drink often, and she wanted her wits about her when she reached her final desitation. As of yet, she still had no idea where this new ship of hers was being docked.
The whole mission gave new meaning to the word "classified." She remembered that just a week ago, she had been sitting down there on Earth in a hot, oak-paneled office room, staring across a large table at three somber-looking men. One of them she knew, the other two of she did not. Captain Anderson had apparently recommended her for some top-secret assignment he was on. He had been ready to accept her for the job right away, but she'd gotten a full interrogation from the other two.
Your service to the Alliance is exemplary, soldier, but we have some concerns...
There was that little incident with the media a few years back, Shepard. We can't have public opinion turn against us on this one.
We cleaned that up, Udina. That wasn't Shepard's fault.
Shepard shook her head. If only they knew, she thought.
She continued to gaze out of the window, so wrapped up in her thoughts that it took her a second longer than usual to register that someone was approaching her from the bar. Looking at the reflection in the window, Shepard saw that the woman had a datapad in one hand and a recording-drone hovering over her shoulder.
The press. Damn. Speak of the devil.
Shepard looked towards the exit, but the woman had already reached her. And since Shepard couldn't just shoot her...
Shepard winced, then schooled her features into the most neutral expression she could manage.
"That's Commander Shepard," she corrected, turning around and gazing down at the woman. She drew herself up to her full height, which, with the heavy boots added, was just under 6 feet. She narrowed her eyes in a manner meant to indicate that she was being professional, but was not amused. The woman didn't seem intimidated, in spite of the fact that she was a good half foot shorter than Shepard and had a body like a toothpick. Shepard figured she could snap the woman in half even without resorting to biotic powers.
"Khalisah Al-Jilani of Westerland News," the woman said, sticking her nose into the air. "I wanted to ask some questions."
Shepard gritted her teeth. She hadn't met the woman in person before, but she knew the name well enough. "I'm on duty," she said, turning to go.
"My sources say you're on a classified assignment," Al-Jilani said, stepping in front of Shepard.
"I'm always on a classified assignment," Shepard replied.
"Care to talk about it?"
"No," Shepard half laughed in replied. "If you really have 'sources,' Miss Al-Jilani, then go talk to them. I have nothing to say about my mission."
"Surely you have a moment to answer some questions."
"Come now," Al-Jilani said sweetly. "I would just love to interview the famous Ms. Shepard, the former war hero who has been off the public radar for years now."
Yeah, I just bet you would, Shepard thought.
"After all," Al-Jilani continued, "the public has heard little about you recently – not since the rumors that circulated a few years back that perhaps Elysium wasn't quite the "victory" it appeared to be."
"You should know," Shepard said, turning to stare her down. "You were the one who wrote most of them."
Al-Jilani smiled. "I'm flattered. I didn't realize you'd read them."
"I like fiction."
The woman's smile faded. "My sources were quite reliable," she snapped. "After five years in the spotlight, it was time people learned the truth about you – and the Alliance."
"And they'll be getting the truth from you?" Shepard knew she shouldn't be engaging this woman at all, but she was having a hard time stepping away from the fight.
"Let's get our facts straight, Shepard," Al-Jilani said in a nasty tone. "Starting with your name."
"Sophia Maria Shepard," Al-Jilani's voice was derisive. "I believe that is your full name, is it not? Though you are best known by your alias, 'the Valkyrie'. Where did that nickname come from, I wonder?"
"I couldn't say," Shepard said. Her nickname was well known. She had always assumed that it had been given to her on account of her looks. Blond and fair, her coloring was rare in this day and age. Added to that, she had a scarred face and different colored eyes: the left one was a muddy blue-green, the right, an eerie ice-blue. Her appearance usually unnerved people, and that worked for her – most of the time. It kept the younger male officers in their place, at least.
"According to Old Earth legends," Al-Jilani said, "the Valkyrie were half-mad creatures that rode on the backs of thunderstorms and dragged dying men off to the halls of the dead."
Not quite how I'd have put it, Shepard thought. But close enough.
"I can only assume I was given the nickname because I'm someone the enemy would rather not mess with. That's a good thing in my line of work, Miss Al-Jilani."
"So your friends call you 'Valkyrie'?"
Friends? He friends used to call her "Shepard," but it had been a while since anyone had been that close.
"Given military protocol, I'm called 'commander'," Shepard replied. "You, Miss Al-Jilani, may call me 'ma'am.'"
"But you have embraced the nickname," Al-Jilani pressed. "You are listed as "Valkyrie" in your file."
"My name is listed as 'Kyrie'," Shepard corrected, wondering where the woman was going with this. "That's public record."
The reporter narrowed her eyes, but she didn't back down. "So you did, in fact, give up your given name. Care to explain why?"
"Because 'Sophia Maria' sounds like a nun?" Shepard quipped. She instantly wished she'd kept her mouth shut, because Al-Jilani pounced on her words at once.
"I take it you're not much like a nun, then, Ms. Shepard?"
Shepard forced herself to show no expression. She'd walked right into that one. No point in going there, she thought grimly. There was no graceful way to get out of that question. It might be the 22nd century, but it was still a "damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't" sort of topic.
"That's commander," she bit out.
"I see." Al-Jilani continued to smirk. Shepard willed herself not to kill the reporter.
"If you're insinuating something, Miss Al-Jilani, just come out and say it."
"I merely wonder," Miss Al-Jilani said, "because your given names are the same as those of your mother and grandmother – both of whom were brutally murdered in the attack on the colony of Mindoir – the attack which, if reports are to be believed, has fueled your bloody vengeance against the batarians ever since."
Oh, for God's sake. There was no mistaking the last words. Shepard knew a thrown gauntlet when she saw one. Or heard one. Or whatever. She willed herself to remain calm. This woman hadn't been there. She hadn't seen the burning...
Shepard took a deep breath, the kind she usually reserved for lining up a sniper shot or unleashing a biotic kick, and stared down at her target.
"If those "reports" you're referring to are the ones that you wrote, then no, those reports are not to be believed."
"However..." Al-Jilani began.
"Look, miss," Shepard said, glaring at the woman. "You can find everything you wish to know about Elysium in my service record." Stick to the official line, she thought. That's the safest way. "It's the the one with the Star of Terra pinned next to it," she added, helpfully.
"In spite of your medals, your service record is surprisingly well-classified, Kyrie."
"If you wish to make a story out of the fact that my name as listed in the Alliance database is different than my given name," Shepard said, "then I would point out that this is hardly newsworthy. If you wish to use that fact to imply that I have acted dishonorably in the line of duty, then that's a bit of a stretch." She let her voice take on a slightly patronizing edge, as if she was talking to a subordinate who needed correcting. "However, it's not at all a stretch to infer that a certain reporter who once got famous publishing lies about the Alliance's handling of the Blitz might find herself in a position to try and capitalize on slander once again."
"But you cannot deny that you killed over thirty batarian privateers on Elysium." Al-Jilani pressed.
"I believe the word you're looking for is 'pirates,'" Shepard corrected. "And the final number was closer to sixty."
"And did you or did you not torture surrendering prisoners?" Al-Jilani shot back.
Shepard blinked. How the hell...?
The sudden realization was bitter. He had talked. It had to be. No one else had been there, seen her moment of weakness. After all this time, it shouldn't have the power to hurt her, but it did.
True to form, however, the pain just made Shepard fight harder.
"The POWs from that incident were dealt with in accordance with Alliance protocol," Shepard answered smoothly. After I got done with them, she added silently.
"So, what is this really about, Al-Jilani?" she asked, going on the offensive. Nothing like re-direction to avoid a flank attack. "Your last paycheck a little leaner than you'd like?"
Thankfully, the reporter got distracted by the bait. "You're considered a hero in the Alliance," Al-Jilani snapped, "but no hero is perfect. The Alliance got a lot of good press out of putting you up on a pedestal..."
"And you've made a hell of a career out of trying to knock me off of it," Shepard shot back. Okay, so that didn't come off quite as cool and collected as she'd planned, but damn it, this woman was pissing her off.
"You were a colony kid," Al-Jilani said, nearly spitting now. "You watched your whole family die. People like you have scars, Shepard, and they don't become heroes just like that. They take those scars undercover and they use them as a justification for carrying out their own agenda, betraying public trust and burning through public money in the process."
Shepard blinked in surprise at the reporter's outburst. Mentally, she took a step back. Get under cover, she thought to herself. Re-evaluate the battlefield. This lady is out for blood, but she has a reason for it. She might be trying to do the right thing here.
Or she might just be a bitch.
Still, the thought that Al-Jilani was doing this for reasons beyond her own career brought Shepard's short temper back under control.
"Did you have some particular incident in mind, Miss Al-Jilani?" Shepard asked, her voice softer now. "Or do you just have a bone to pick with the Alliance?"
"The Alliance is working on several secret projects using public funds and they won't tell the press anything about them," the woman said. "And while we're on the subject of 'classified,' how is it that you yourself have been off the record for the last seven years?"
"I've been on classified missions, Miss Al-Jilani. I prefer to avoid the spotlight. Fame just isn't my way."
"And yet you remain one of the most famous soldiers in the fleet, the poster child for the Alliance, as it were."
"An accident of fate, it would seem."
"Or a reward for your brutality on Elysium."
"I didn't ask for Elysium!" Shepard snapped, her temper finally flaring. The emotion manifested as a sudden blue flicker of biotic energy along the outline of her shoulders. Al-Jilani blinked and took a step back.
"I didn't plan to stand in the line of fire," Shepard said, forcing the energy back under control. "But in retrospect, I'm damn glad I held that line."
"And so you became 'the Valkyrie'," Al-Jilani said derisively, "but the Valkyrie of legend were hardly heroes."
"The Valkyrie were warriors," Shepard replied. "They didn't stand on marble pedestals like prissy Greek gods. They were women who walked the battlefields when no man dared to. You can call me a hero or a villain, if you want, Miss Al-Jilani, but I never promised anything more or less than to get the job done."
With that, Shepard turned on her heel and marched away.