Spectres. Members of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch of the Citadel Council. Some are peacemakers. Diplomats that seek to prevent violence with words. Others are hard-eyed assassins, removing threats from the shadows. All are among the most elite operatives ever produced by any government or species. Few individuals ever know of the decisions made by Spectres, but billions can feel the consequences of their actions. To be a Spectre is to stand outside the law, beholden only to the Council... and to one's self.
In 2183 the first human Spectre was appointed by the Council in the opening days of the Eden Prime War. His name was Johnathan Shepard, a commander with the Alliance's elite N7 special forces. His mission to Saren, a rogue turian Spectre leading an army of synthetic troops, changed the face of the galaxy. In its darkest hour the Council was saved by humanity and the System's Alliance. Saren's massive fleet was defeated at great cost. But the mission also revealed a threat of unimaginable power. The Reapers. Sentient dreadnoughts, thinking machines that wiped out all sapient life every fifty thousand years.
Most believe the Reapers to be nothing more than a myth. But those that serve aboard the SSV Normandy know the truth. Their victory against Saren and the geth was only the first shots in a battle to decide the fate of the galaxy. The war has just begun.
A tortured scream of rending metal overloaded Shepard's senses, the world around him lurching with such force that his feet left the deck. Only the equally sudden loss of gravity kept him from slamming into the bulkhead. He was dazed for a moment. Entering combat mode meant the artificial gravity was disabled to reroute power to vital systems and barriers to prevent widespread decompression. Reflexes from a lifetime shipboard kicked in: push off, hit the locker, helmet, seals, hoses, check.
"Joker! Report! What the hell is going on?"
"They came out of nowhere, Commander! Ignored the stealth completely, we might as well have been waving a flare out the window!"
He triggered his omni-tool, feeling a knot tighten in his chest when the computer showed a wire frame diagram of the ship. Part of the rear fuselage was simply gone. Decompression and fire warnings covered the display like the lights of an frantically overcharged Christmas tree. Whatever had hit them wasn't messing around and possessed more firepower than anything they'd ever run across. Activating the magnetics in his boots he pushed towards the cockpit, nearly losing his footing again as the ship shuddered and leaned.
His ship was under attack, no warning or provocation. The geth couldn't have hit that hard and fast, not to mention possess the ability to see through their stealth systems in the first place. There were nearly fifty soldiers aboard, his crew, his people. Not to mention the ones that had stood at his side against Saren. Wrex had shipped out soon after Saren's defeat, saluting him as a fellow warrior and saying that he had given him the chance to accomplish something he'd put off for too long. But the others were still here, Tali, probably still in engineering, always so fascinated with the Normandy. Garrus. Garrus and Ashley would make sure the below decks were cleared. He stabbed a button on his omni-tool, the wailing of the abandon ship siren adding to the bedlam a second later. Liara came stumbling out of the elevator, he caught her arm steadying them both with a hand on the railing.
"What's happening?" she asked, frantically double checking the seals on her own suit.
"We're under attack and we're losing. Get everyone out! If one hit has the Normandy coming apart we can't wait," he said.
"What about Joker?"
"I'll get him, just go!"
The asari looked at him for one long moment before nodding. When they met her she was just a nervous young researcher. Amazing how a few months could put some steel into someone. He trusted her to make sure the others made it to the escape pods. It was up to him to make sure their excessively competent, and confident, pilot got out alive. He had just started towards the cockpit again when everything went white for a moment then the visor opaqued to save his eyes. He was moving before his vision had even cleared. The blast had sliced through the Normandy's neck, a gaping hole exposed to space, rimmed in the melted edges of the ship's hull still glowing dully.
He plunged through the decompression barriers, the moment of absolute silence as he passed between one sealed part of the vessel and the next almost deafening in its own right. Stepping into the pilot's area was another kind of hellish noise, beeping and screeching alarms of every variety reinforcing their dire situation. "Come on, Joker. Abandon ship order already went out."
"I can still save her, Commander!" Joker insisted, fighting with the controls, fingers moving in a blur. He grabbed the man's flight suit, bodily hauling him up out of the chair.
"The Normandy is dead, I won't have her crew joining her!"
"Ow! Watch the... everything!" he said with a wince, bumping into one of the consoles before his voice took on a more resigned tone. "Fine fine! Escape pod, this way."
They quickly made their way to the pod, the circular opening giving a hiss. He glanced over his shoulder one final time as if to say goodbye to the Normandy. Then he saw the golden flash and old reflexes took over once more. Joker was shoved forward into the escape pod, the lack of gravity sending him back to other direction. Grabbing the side of the bulkhead he tried to hold on. But the torrent of fire wouldn't let up... with a final word he slammed his fist on the activation panel.
The escape pod's hatch slammed shut with finality and then the Normandy came apart around him in a roar of fire and chaos. Sharp pain bit into his shoulder and back, the metal surrounding him came away and he was floating free in space. Beneath him the Normandy fell apart, being pulled into the embrace of the planet below. He gasped for breath but found it shallow, finally hearing the hiss of escaping air, feeling the pain of something lodged in his back, blood between suit and skin.
He reached back, trying to find an air hose, fruitlessly trying to seal the holes in his ruptured suit. The rational part of his mind knew that it was hopeless. The fact that he wasn't in more pain meant whatever had struck his back was likely fatal on its own. His survival instinct wouldn't let him give in, though, even as he gasped for air that wasn't there. His gasp was an unpleasant, croaking sound. His chest burned. Everything burned. Another airless choke. Another tightened fist clutching nothing as the planet's pull began to claim him. The last thing he saw was the smallest glimmer of hope, if not for him then for what he fought for. Tiny blue flares against the void... escape pods burning away noticed.
And then he was gone. Commander John Shepard, Hero of the Citadel, The Survivor of Akuze, Savior of the Council died in space above a planet without a name, to an enemy unknown.
Five people sat around an oval table in one of the few bars back up and running on the Citadel in the months since Saren's attack. Shepard's crew. His loyal team.
"I c-can't believe he's gone."
"Me either, Tali. But the Alliance made it official. Couldn't even recover a body," Garrus said, his gravely voice cutting through the silence that followed the engineer's statement. "Council is going to 'honor his memory'... but they won't see any of us and don't want to make a big deal of it. Apparently with their new Spectre gone, they think his problems died with him."
Joker's cup slammed into the table, liquid sloshing over the edge. The slim man leaned forward and placed his head in his hands. Tali's suit couldn't completely muffle the miserable sniffling sounds that came from her helmet and even Garrus and Joker's witty commentary was absent.
"Command told me I'm 'not to speak about any events involved in the so called 'Saren Incident' or make any mention of 'Reapers'."
"What do we do now?" Liara asked. Her voice held that calm strength that many asari seemed to possess, earned from her experiences aboard the Normandy.
"I've already been reassigned. Special training or something, told to keep my mouth shut," Ashley sighed, idly spinning her empty glass on the table. "I can't believe how fast they turned... without Shepard they just want to go back to the status quo."
"Yea, did I mention they grounded me?" Joker added. "That's right, save the galaxy, lose your commanding officer... congrats, enjoy walking from now on man-with-creaky-legs."
Garrus rapped his glass on the table, summoning the server, motioning for a refill all around. The salarian simply nodded and quickly poured the variety of liquors between the group before moving away once more. Each spent some time staring into their drinks, lost in thought. Shepard had brought them together, made them a team... made them heroes. Now that he and the Normandy were both gone it was like watching one's home burn down.
"I-I guess it is time for me to return to the Flotilla," the quarian said, her voice losing a little of the shakiness. "Thanks to S-Sh... the Commander I can complete my Pilgrimage."
"If you need somewhere to stay in the meantime..." Garrus said, placing a hand lightly on the girl's shoulder. "I know people aren't always friendly towards Quarians and us dextros have to stick together."
Liara nodded to them both. "I will have to find a new path. What about you, Garrus?"
"I'll continue what Shepard started. Before... before the attack, we had talked, I told him I was going to apply for Spectre training. I intend to stick to that."
Ashley glanced over at Joker. "And we get reassigned. Keep fighting the good fight."
With a raspy cough, Garrus raised his glass. When he spoke it was greater strength and conviction than he had in the past two weeks, his voice clear and loud.
"We carry on, because that's what Shepard would have wanted. To Shepard!"