A/N: This is my first work of fiction so bear that in mind when reading. Depending on your reception this work could become a full, novel lengthed work spanning the entire game. Be forewarned that the path I intend to have Shepard follow is completely different from the game, much darker and, I hope, more realistic.(Don't get me started on the what is realistic in science fiction debate) I invite frank and honest comments on my work and writing but most of all enjoy the first chapter.

The places names and characters in this work which are property of EA/Bioware are of course their property. Anything else and any other names, places and concepts are my property.

Prologue

In retrospect it seemed like a stupid move but, as one instructor was so fond of reminding her, hindsight was 20/20. Couple that with the fact that humans were far from the most rationale beings in the galaxy and you were left with the lethal combination that had left her in this mess. Yes she was well and truly doomed by that one glance over her shoulder. Commander Emma Shepard was left floating away from her last command, the SSV Normandy, with nothing but her not so intact hard-suit and about 90 seconds of air left to her. At least Joker had made it out alive she reflected.

A milk run into geth space with the most advanced ship in the Alliance navy hadn't struck her as being particularly onerous. She remembered Admiral Hackett's recorded briefing. Show up, surprise whatever geth raider had been preying on shipping near that uninhabited garden world whose name she could never remember. Come back and wave the flag. It sounded so simple on paper. Certainly simple for a crack frigate with the hero of the Battle of the Citadel on board. The reality had been far from simple. She had been going back to her quarters after checking in with Tali near the engine core. The quarian engineer had finally addressed herself to the Normandy's most glaring flaw: the elevator between the ship's bottom two decks.

She smiled at the memory of simple problems with simple solutions.

While she had been heading back to her quarters with anticipation of getting some rack time with a certain bookish asari she had felt the tell tale judder of the Normandy dropping from FTL into realspace. For half a second she considered heading up to the bridge deck to check on their progress but shoved the thought away. It wouldn't do to be seen undermining Pressly's authority. Plus she was really tired and her watch had lasted for the past 8 hours. Eight very boring hours of watching the mottled sky of FTL, filling out fuel consumption reports, performance evaluations and tactical readiness drill procedure forms. Ahh, the ocean of bureaucracy that had beset her life since taking command of that ship.

If anyone had earned some R&R it was her. In fact the one week of leave granted to the crew after the attack on the Citadel certainly had to be a joke at her expense by the Alliance brass. One week and then the crew was back on the firing line. In reality heroes were in short supply and it wasn't helped by the fact that she was being sent to do the job that any alliance cruiser could perform. Little could she have known at that very moment she was echoing the exact sentiments of a certain raven haired Cerberus operative.

She had just reached her cabin door when her musings were shattered by a sudden impact to the ship that sent her flying into the bulkhead beside her cabin. She had experienced shell shock stemming from concussion before. First during the Blitz and then later again on Virmire but this time it had a particularly surreal quality. Her hand came away from the back of her head bloody and the clinical part of her noted that she probably had a concussion and would have one hell of a headache the next morning. Another impact rocked the ship sending her flying into her cabin door. Assuming she survived until the next morning her brain corrected. The part of her that had survived the past several years as a soldier had finally settled in and it was all business from there on in. She rushed into her cabin ordering Liara to suit herself up noting, that in fact, the asari was already in the process of doing just that. She snatched the first hardsuit out of her closet, mentally thanking whatever deities were out there that she and Liara shared roughly the same body size and that in a pinch they could share armour. Hustling the dazed archaeologist out of their quarters the two made for the system display panel towards the fore of the crew compartment.

The situation couldn't have been much worse. Barriers gone, hull compromised, core approaching critical and weapons offline. Liara abruptly chimed in that section was losing atmosphere. Both women quickly donned their rebreather helmets and sealed them shut. By this point fires were burning throughout the deck caused by ruptured power conduits and engine coolant fluids. Shepard hastily tossed Liara an extinguisher along with the order to put the fires out and the query of who was left on board. Liara responded that it only seemed to be Joker and that the rest of the crew was making for the escape pods. Shepard remembered ordering her to get herself to one of the pods and how she would handle Joker. There was so much she had wanted to say to Liara. How much she loved her. How much she wanted to have a child with her. How much she wanted to spend the rest of her life with her. In retrospect she thought that these thoughts must have been simultaneously prescient and fatalistic. Instead they had to both be satisfied with a brusque interchange. Liara went her way, having the good sense not argue, and Emma the other.

Joker was one example of a man who took a relationship with an inanimate object a bit too far. Shepard loved her ship just as much as the next skipper but Joker took that to a whole other level of obsession. Now she was stuck wading through the vacuum of the upper deck as the ship pinwheeled across space. Shepard finally reached the pressurized fore-section simultaneously thanking the designers for the redundant power for the vacuum barriers and cursing Joker for being such a pig headed fool and not leaving the ship like any sane human being would do.

Fine one she was to talk about sane human beings considering what happened next.

The words of the hurried conversation eluded her in her present state but she finally convinced her pilot that the ship was doomed and that there wasn't any point in him dying along with her. It was just then that the bright light of weapons fire lit up the cockpit casting it into stark relief. The particle beam had a deadly beauty as devoured the deck in its relentless stride towards them. The survivor part of her mind sprung into action, hustling Joker into the pod. Ignoring his complaints about his arm she practically threw him into the pod and was about to climb in herself when she stopped. What possessed her at that particular moment to turn around and look at the particle beam was beyond her and probably beyond an entire psychology faculty. Turn around and stare she did for just a microsecond. Just a microsecond was all it took for the beam to rupture some fuel cell or coolant tank and create a massive explosion that sent her hurtling into the bulkhead. She hit with a rather impressive crunch. Thanks to the hard suit she hadn't broken her back but she had likely broken several ribs with the impact. The pain was intense and it seemed like the hard suit computer was fresh out of medi-gel or painkillers but more likely broken. Shepard fought through the haze of pain and the zero gravity to the Pod release controls. She remembered thinking that she had to trigger the pod before she could rest and somehow she hit the button, though she couldn't remember how and when. She dimly recalled someone calling her name as she let go of the bulkhead.

Drifting in space with just 30 seconds to go she made a mental note ask for a refund for the whole "life flashing before your eyes experience" she had only gotten the last 20 minutes and they weren't something she particularly wanted to remember. Her thoughts drifted to Liara and she found herself wondering what the asari would do now that she was gone. Would she move on? Would she even remember Shepard when she had become a Matriarch? Would anyone remember her? Shepard began to hear the sound of laboured breathing and suddenly realized it was her own. Living with death had always been a reality for her as a soldier but it didn't quite seem as real as it did now. She felt herself beginning to drift away as though falling asleep. The pain seemed very far away now as if on the very verge of her being. Her sight focussed on the stars and it shifted towards the planet as spun through the vacuum. Stars again.

Planet.

Stars.

Planet.

Stars.

Blackness.