Mass Effect: Extinction
Author's Note: This is not a sequel to Mass Effect 2.5. Though the Shepard involved does share a name and backstory, the events of Mass Effect 2 played out differently, as will be revealed through the story.
Chapter 1: Pickup
"Normandy, this is the SSV Orizaba. Prepare to be boarded."
The Orizaba aligned itself with the Normandy. A corridor extended from the Yukon's airlock until it formed a pressure-tight seal with the Normandy's.
Onboard the Normandy, a single soldier stood facing the airlock. She had deep red hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her skin looked slightly tanned, though it was her natural skin tone. There was the hint of freckles below her bright green eyes. Those eyes flicked back and forth from the cockpit to the CIC, but other than her, the ship was deserted.
The airlock opened with a hiss. Four alliance soldiers filed out, taking their positions at the four corners of Normandy's entryway. Once they were in place, a fifth man emerged.
He wore an Admiral's uniform. His facial hair was nearly white and his face was wrinkled with age. A scar, his most prominent feature, extended from just below his right eye down to his upper lip. He faced the soldier and offered a salute.
"Admiral Hackett," The soldier returned the salute. "Welcome to the Normandy."
"Shepard," he lowered his hand. "I wish I could have come under better circumstances."
"Then I take it…"
"I am here to escort you and the Normandy to Arcturus Station. I'm sorry Shepard, but I have to place you under arrest."
Shepard's demeanor was unchanged. "If I may sir, what are the charges?"
"You're being charged with Treason, several acts of Terrorism, Conspiring with known enemies of the Alliance, and impersonating an Alliance Officer."
"Well then, did you plan to clap me in irons and tow the Normandy back, or would you just like to carry out the sentence right here and now."
The two stared at each other for nearly a full minute. Suddenly, they both burst out laughing.
"Easy men, easy," Hackett called out between breaths. The puzzled soldiers lowered their weapons. He steadied himself as Shepard's laughter trailed off. "I haven't laughed like that in years."
"I hear it's good for you," Shepard smiled, "adds years to your life."
"All kidding aside Shepard, I really do have to take you in."
"I know. I said last time we spoke that I would face the consequences of my actions when the time came. If that time is now, then so be it. It's time for the Alliance to see what I've seen."
"I suppose it's time to get underway then. Seeing as how your ship is…" he looked around, "understaffed, I'll call in some spare personnel from the Orizaba. In the meantime, let's head down to the mess. I could use a coffee."
"Here you go: Coffee, black, 2 sugars."
Shepard set the steaming mug down in front of Hackett. She sat opposite him with her own mug. The liquid inside had an odd tint to it.
"What are you drinking?"
"Oh, it's coffee too. I just added a bit of Turian cream."
Hackett nearly spit out his drink. "Turian cream!"
"I've been working on building up a tolerance for dextro-proteins. They're surprisingly sweet."
"What possible reason could you have to want a tolerance for that?"
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "How does the old saying go? 'A Gentleman never asks and a Lady never tells."
Hackett contemplated his mug for a moment before turning back. "Forget I asked," he sighed.
He stood and looked around. By this point, the personnel he requested should have arrived. "Tell me Shepard. What are you doing in the middle of the Traverse on a ship with no crew?"
Shepard took a moment to answer. She leaned back in her chair and took a sip from her mug. Finally, she spoke. "Do you remember our last conversation?" She didn't wait for an answer. "I may have agreed to stand trial, but I did not speak for my crew when I said that. Each and every one of those crew members risked their lives in the pursuit of the Collectors and I'll be damned if the Alliance thinks they can prosecute them for that."
Shepard stood, sighing. "When I received the message from you, I knew it must have been about the trial. That's why, approximately eight hours ago, I instructed my crew to leave the ship."
"That's a Risky maneuver. If you'd been wrong, you'd have been stuck out here."
Shepard looked him square in the eye. "I wasn't wrong."
Hackett could sense the double meaning in her words. He set down his mug. "Look Shepard, I want you to know that I believe you. I've been defending you since you told the Council about the Reapers. That's the reason I was sent to get you, and… that's the reason I've been barred from your trial."
"Who could bar you from anything? Aren't you a full Admiral?"
"True, I'm as high as they come, except in times like these when the military decides to set up a Fleet Admiral position."
"What do you mean by 'times like these'?"
Hackett turned, trying to face a window but finding only another wall. "You've missed some changes Shepard. Political upheaval that's sending the galaxy to crap."
"I'm not sure I follow."
"You missed an election Shepard." He turned back. "Anderson isn't the councilor anymore. Seems the endorsement that got him in is exactly what lost it for him this time around."
"Who's Councilor now?"
"Who do you think?"
"Udina," Shepard muttered through clenched teeth.
Hackett nodded. "And he's wasted no time using his influence to upset the balance Anderson has been trying to maintain. He's convinced the Alliance to appoint a Fleet Admiral, a position we haven't had since the First Contact War."
"Who got promoted?"
Shepard brought her hand to her forehead. "Oh god, not him."
"Those were my thoughts exactly. Mikhailovich is the worst person for this job. I read his report on the original Normandy. He came off as a bigot who valued size and quantity of vessels over newer technology and overall quality. With him in charge, we're sure to lose this war."
Shepard gave a start. "War? What war are you talking about?"
Hackett picked up his mug again, looked at it, then set it back down. "We're at war with the Batarians."
"What? When did this happen?"
"Not too long after you destroyed their colony."
Shepard hung her head. "I tried to save them. I tried to warn them, get them to evacuate the colony, but there just wasn't enough time."
"I know that Shepard," Hackett offered reassuringly. "The problem is that no one else does. Hell, that's the whole reason you're going on trial in the first place!"
"They know they can't win the war, so they're trying to find the Batarians someone to punish. Is that it?"
"In a nutshell." Hackett grabbed his mug and took another drink. It was starting to get cold.
"Maybe I shouldn't have even bothered."
"Turning yourself in was the best thing you could have done."
"I don't mean turn myself in. I mean saving their sorry asses. I've been out here, busting my ass, trying to save this Galaxy. Everyone wants to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend the Reapers aren't coming, and if I make a move to try and stop them, I get labeled a villain! Now they want to drag me off to this farce of a trial. Meanwhile, the Reapers are getting progressively closer and we're still nowhere near enough to finding a way to defeat them." She slumped down in the chair. "Makes me wonder why I even bother fighting."
"You fight because it's a fight worth fighting. Anyone can fight for the rewards or the medals; you're fighting for the future, not these political shell games." Hackett sat back down. "Don't worry about the trial. I've lined up a good advocate for you. We've set up a good line of defense, not to mention your Spectre status is still good so that should shift some weight off you."
Shepard stared at her coffee for a minute. "Do you have the details of the case?"
"I can make them available to you."
"Good. I'm not going into this blind. If they want an explanation, I'm giving them one, but I refuse to be their scapegoat." She stood and turned to leave.
"You realize Shepard that while you're onboard the Normandy, you're to remain unarmed and under guard at all times."
Shepard stopped but didn't turn around. "Then tell the guard to meet me in my quarters. If you need a place to stay, the XO's office is over there. I have a case to prepare for."