The premise story is based off an idea that my friend Silver-06 gave me back when I finished 'Different Horizons', about what would happen if John Shepard time-warped back to an alternate Virmire and stumbled upon Jane Shepard and her crew. Me and another author, Mine6Chan are both writing our own versions of it. I highly encourage you to head over to her profile and read "Dual Reality". It's totally different from my version.
NOTE: While Silver-06 came up with the idea of the Omega 4 mishap that results in the two Shepards meeting on Virmire, the rest of the plot line is my own creation.
You all know the drill: I do not own Mass Effect. All rights belong to BioWare and EA Games.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy! ~J
"And I am you and what I see is me." - Echoes, Pink Floyd
Chapter One - When Worlds Collide
"This is for Miranda, you sons-of-bitches!" John shouted as he emptied his assault rifle into the eyes of the giant human-shaped reaper. It didn't take long for the heat sync to reach its capacity but he was too driven by anger and hatred to notice until the gun clacked repeatedly in response.
John Shepard knew that going up against the Collectors on their home turf could very well turn out to be a one way trip – a suicide mission. But he'd been cocky enough to think that he and his team would come through it unscathed. That assumption had been dead wrong.
It had all started when the Normandy went through the Omega 4 relay. Since no one had ever returned from a trip through the relay, they had no idea what to expect on the other side. Joker had been quick on his feet – so to speak – and maneuvered the Normandy past all the debris from the mangled ships that had gone on only to be torn apart, but he wasn't quite fast enough. The ship clipped a large hunk of twisted metal, sending it and the crew inside somersaulting through the stillness of space, crashing into more fragments as it went. Thane had been the first casualty, having been impaled by a steel girder as the Normandy tumbled about – the first of many.
They had barely righted themselves when a Collector ship launched from a port in the very base they were trying to reach and began a slow, measured attack. Knowing full well what the Collector ship was capable of, Joker weaved in and out of the wreckage trying desperately to stay out of the reach of the massive beam that had torn the first Normandy apart.
Even still, the white hot stream penetrated the hull in the starboard observation room. Samara had scrambled to get to safety before everything around her was seared with fire, but the flames quickly encompassed the small area. She never stood a chance.
Joker throttled the engines to full power and angled the Normandy straight up so that he could loop around and attack the Collector ship from behind. It was a risky move that most pilots wouldn't dream of attempting. But then again, most pilots weren't Joker. Unfortunately the bold move came at the cost of yet another crewmate. The engines, taxed to capacity, overloaded and the resulting explosions had quickly ended the life of Tali Zorah vas Neema.
When the listing Normandy finally crash landed on the Collector base John gathered the remaining crew members together in the debriefing room.
"We need to attack the Collector's where they live," he had told them, pummeling his fist into his other hand. "They attacked our ship, took the lives of our crew – our friends. We're not just going in there to defeat them, we're going to make them regret ever teaming up with the Reapers!"
From there the crew had split up into separate groups. Legion had agreed to crawl through the ventilation shafts. Garrus took charge of the first fire team, Miranda the second. They were making good progress. After making the gruesome discovery about what happened to the crew and the colonists, Shepard had sent the survivors back to the Normandy with Mordin.
The next step had been to navigate the remaining tunnels toward the core of the base. Miranda had volunteered to escort the ground team through the seeker swarms using a biotic barrier. However, it was a slow and grueling process and toward the end of the tunnel Miranda was starting to feel the strain. She didn't have enough energy to push back the swarms tha rushed them when they reached the doors and as a result, Grunt had been carried away.
But even that wasn't the worst of it.
No, the final straw was when they took Miranda from him. They seemed like such an unlikely pair at first. She was cold and a bit of a snob and well, he could be an asshole at times, but somehow they had made it work. The team had just made it to the doors and was trying to get them shut when a stray bullet slipped through the gap and struck Miranda in the gut.
She'd staggered backward before collapsing to the ground, a look of shock and grief in her pale lavender eyes. "There were just too many of them," she whispered as he cradled her in his arms. "I'm sorry John…"
He had lingered a little longer than he should have, but he just couldn't let her go.
The heavy reaper toppled forward against the edge and then fell into the chasm below in a deafening jumble of twisted metal. The platform they were standing on rocked dangerously back and forth before it finally tilted to one side.
"Not one more!" John growled as he dove after Garrus.
He managed to grab hold of one of the turian's taloned hands just as the he went over the edge and pulled with all his might. He'd already lost Miranda; he couldn't lose Garrus as well. The gruff officer had been with him since the beginning and had made it clear that he was with Shepard no matter what.
Garrus shifted his weight and thrust his other hand up to John. He caught it, dragging him back over the edge to safety just as the platform shifted in the other direction and crashed violently to the ground.
When John came to he was lying underneath a heavy slab of rock. Though things were quiet around him, he could hear the muted sound of gunfire in the distance and knew that he didn't have much time. He still needed to get to the other half of his team before the bomb went off. With a mighty effort he pushed himself free and stood up. Garrus was lying on his back, but was clearly okay. Jacob however, was still pinned underneath a similar chunk of stone.
"Jacob!" he called out as he struggled to move the boulder. The young soldier gave no answering reply. John slammed his fist against the ground. "Damn it!"
"Shepard!" Zaeed called over the comm. "We're taking heavy fire! I recommend extraction immediately!"
"Fall back to the Normandy! We'll be right behind you," he ordered.
John and Garrus broke into a run, hoping they could get back to the ship before the Collectors finished them off. The ground shook as they raced through the winding hallways and on several occasions they had to dodge stasis pods and crumbling pieces of rock that fell from the ceiling and nearby walls.
He could see light at the end of the corridor and after a few more steps the Normandy came into view. Joker and EDI had managed to repair it enough to get them out of there and it was now hovering patiently, waiting for them to jump on board. He could see Joker standing in the open airlock, an assault rifle in his hands as he tried his best to keep the Collectors at a distance.
Beneath them the narrow walkway started to buckle. Garrus leaped head first through the airlock and slid along the metal floor. But just as John made to follow him, the ground under his feet gave way. He held his breath and jumped.
The pain that exploded in his chest was acute as he slammed against the edge of the airlock, but it was overshadowed by the intense feeling of relief that washed over him. Garrus knelt down and pulled him up as Joker continued to fend off the hordes of Collectors that were rushing the ship, despite the absence of the walkway. They gathered at the edge of the crevasse and peppered the side of the hull in a shower of armor-piercing rounds.
"Thanks," John said to Garrus as he stood and brushed the dust off his armor. "Let's get the hell outta –"
Joker screamed as a bullet tore through his right shoulder, splintering it into tiny pieces. The gun he was holding clattered to the floor and then dropped soundlessly out the airlock into the open expanse below.
Somewhere outside, an explosion rocked the base.
Joker doubled over. John pushed Garrus aside and ran to the pilot, barely catching him by his left hand as he fell through the opening.
"GAH!" Joker yelped as the brittle bones in his forearm snapped. "Commander!"
"Hold on Joker!"
"Yes you can!" John could feel Joker's grip weaken as a result of the fractures in his arm. He grit his teeth together in an effort to keep the pilot from plummeting into the void. "I've got you!"
Another explosion erupted on the ground, this time powerful enough to shake the Normandy roughly. Joker's hand slipped.
And then he was gone.
John didn't have time to be sad or angry. The entire base was rapidly falling apart and he literally had only minutes to get the Normandy away from it and to the Omega 4 relay before they were completely wiped out from the blast of the bomb he'd planted in the core.
"EDI!" he shouted as he ran through the CIC to the cockpit. "Can you get us out of here?"
"I can," the AI replied smoothly, "but it will take someone else at the helm. Where is Mr. Moreau?"
"Gone," he said sliding into the plush leather seat that Joker loved so much. "Shit! You're gonna have do this with me then. There's no time to find someone else on this damn ship who can drive this thing!"
EDI was silent for a moment and then said, "Thrusters are to your right. Throttle to full power."
The Normandy shakily pulled away from the Collector station and took off.
"This isn't so hard," John said with an uneasy laugh. "I see the relay up ahead."
"Shepard, you need to plot a course to the next relay."
"Okay. So how do I do that?" He started tapping frantically at the console in front of him.
"Stop pressing buttons!" the AI snapped in a tone that almost sounded reprimanding. "Shepard, you are confusing the interface!"
"I got it! I got it!" he fired back, waving her voice off with his hand.
The console started to beep loudly as the ship was captured in the bright red energy field of the Omega 4 relay and instantly they were warped to a distant destination.
"Where are we?" he asked when the Normandy reappeared moments later.
EDI was uncharacteristically silent. Then, after a minute she said, "My scans show that we are in the Hoc System, somewhere close to the planet Virmire, but…something is wrong."
Just then, another ship flew overhead, just barely missing the top of the Normandy. It seemed to come out of nowhere and involuntarily John found himself ducking in his seat to get out of the way. A large explosion lit up the atmosphere of the blue-green planet in front of them.
"What the hell?" he exclaimed. "EDI, see if you can get a lock on them and channel me through to that pilot. I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind!"
"Patching you through, Shepard."
"Pilot, identify yourself!" he raged when the comm. opened. "I demand to speak with whoever's in charge!"
The voice that answered back froze the blood in his veins.
"This is the SSV Normandy SR-1." Joker replied. "Standby for Commander Shepard."
"You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it."
Jane looked up at the deep red hologram of Sovereign – an actual reaper – and swallowed hard. Behind her Kaidan voiced the words that seemed caught in her throat.
"They're harvesting us!"
"We are beyond your comprehension," it replied. "This exchange is over."
Sovereign's imaged vanished and suddenly Jane Shepard had the most awful feeling of foreboding. In all the time that she had been chasing Saren across the galaxy, she could never have guessed that it was more than just a rogue spectre and his geth. This new information settled like a hard rock in the pit of her stomach.
"This changes nothing," she finally managed, looking over her shoulder at Kaidan and Garrus. "We need to get back to the landing zone and arm that nuke."
She wished that Sovereign had been the first terrifying discovery that day, but it wasn't. Upon arriving at that salarian outpost camp she and her crew had unearthed the grizzly details that Saren had created a cure for the genophage and was going to use it to engineer his own breed of Krogan. Coupled with the geth that had already allied themselves to his cause, he would be virtually unstoppable.
As the commander of the Normandy she had been in the unfavorable position to make a decision, a choice that had almost cost her a crewmate. Wrex had passionately disagreed with her. His people had been waiting for a cure for centuries, he'd argued, and who was she to throw all that away? The moment had quickly turned tense when Wrex pulled his assault rifle on her. She lifted her pistol in return and the two had paced in a slow circle.
"Help me out here Shepard," he'd said, looking down the barrel at her.
"These aren't 'your people' Wrex. Saren is using them, making them into slaves. Do you really want that to happen?"
The rifle shook in his hand. "No. You're right."
He holstered his weapon and Jane waved off Ashley, who had been standing behind the krogan with her own rifle trained on a spot at the back of his head.
After that the team had split up into three groups. Wrex and Ashley went with Captain Kirrahe to help with the ground assault while Kaidan and Garrus went with Jane to infiltrate the compound and disable the AA guns. Tali and Liara stayed behind to ready the nuclear bomb.
"We'd better get going," Kaidan said, bringing her back to the present.
Garrus waited until Kaidan had exited the small room before pulling Jane into his embrace. She sighed against the cold metal chest plate of his armor and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"How are you holding up?" he asked softly.
"I'm fine. The visions are painful and there is still a lot of stuff I don't understand about them, but it's over now," she replied.
She had been haunted with visions ever since they'd found that prothean beacon back on Eden Prime. Every now and then another piece of the vision would unravel, like a puzzle, and the muddled images that flashed in her mind would become a little clearer. And that's exactly what had happened when she activated the beacon right before Sovereign had appeared.
She pulled away to look into the deep blue eyes of her mate and was rewarded with his easy smile.
Something had sparked between them the moment they'd first laid eyes on each other back at the Citadel Tower. At the time he was trying to investigate Saren but C-Sec kept tying him down with procedures and red tape. When Jane offered to let him join her crew, he'd jumped at the chance. From there the two had been nearly inseparable and what had started out as a mutually beneficial friendship soon blossomed into a deep abiding love.
"I guess we'd better catch up to Kaidan," she said.
The bright light of the mid-day sun glinted off the water as they made their way to the landing zone. Off in the distance big dark clouds hung low in the sky and the first rumbles of thunder could be heard ahead of the impending storm.
Joker slowly brought the Normandy down, momentarily blocking out the sun. The three of them were helping Liara and Tali unload the bomb when the first shots were fired. Jane looked up to see Saren and at least two dozen geth steadily advancing toward them.
"Shit!" she cried. "Everyone get to cover!"
Because Tali and Liara were unarmed, they ran back inside the ship to get their weapons. But as soon as they were safely inside Jane radioed to Joker and told him to take the Normandy and retreat. She couldn't risk Saren or the geth somehow disabling it and preventing them from getting off the planet once the bomb was armed. Besides, she knew that Kaidan and Garrus were more than capable of helping her dispatch a few geth. And if they were lucky, they would get Saren in the process.
"Keep them distracted," Garrus shouted as he knelt down to open the control panel on the nuke. "I'll arm this thing and then we can get the hell out of here."
Jane threw out a biotic shockwave that managed to send three geth flying before she dropped to her knees in an attempt to make herself as small a target as possible. Out in the open like they were, there weren't many places that the small group could use to hide behind. A well placed pistol shot brought down one of the geth snipers, but not before it got a chance to fire off a round in return. She ducked and quickly rolled out of the way.
Something splashed in that water behind her.
"Infiltration team to ground team, come in ground team! We've got a man down and need immediate back up. I repeat: Garrus is down!" Kaidan called frantically over the comm.
His words sounded so distant as they echoed in her ears. She looked down at her right to see the turian laying face down in the water and everything went dim around her.
"Garrus?" Dropping her pistol she scrambled over to him and turned him over. Bright blue blood gushed from the bullet wound in his temple. "Garrus!"
Kaidan's warning came too late. Suddenly a thick three-fingered hand swooped down and caught her by the neck, its talons digging sharply into her soft flesh. Saren hoisted her away from Garrus's limp body and dangled her high above him like she weighed next to nothing. She clawed at his hand in a desperate fight for air.
"You cannot win Shepard," he snarled. "The reapers will come and there is nothing you can do to stop them."
"Maybe not," she spit back, "but I can stop you!"
"We're coming LT!" she heard Ashley yell from somewhere behind them.
It was just the opportunity she needed. While Saren was distracted by the advancing ground team she took advantage of the diversion and slammed her fist into the side of Saren's face. Stunned, he dropped her and staggered back a few paces.
As she landed on her hands and knees in the water she heard Kaidan ask, "Where's Captain Kirrahe and the rest of the salarian troops?"
"Gone. Me and Wrex are all you get."
To Jane it felt like a lifetime, but in reality the exchange took only a fraction of a second and soon all three of her teammates opened fire in Saren's direction. Shock had made her numb, frozen her body to the ground and made it seemingly impossible for her to move. She watched as Saren and the remaining geth retreated and then crawled back over to Garrus.
"There's no time for that Skipper!" Ashley hollered. She ran up to the commander and grabbed her by the collar of her armor. "We've got less than a minute to get the hell out of dodge!"
"No!" Jane cried. She reached up and pried Ashley's hand off her armor.
A large black shadow fell over them as Joker brought down the Normandy once more.
Two pairs of strong hands lifted her away from her dead mate and together Kaidan and Wrex dragged her toward the ship.
"There's nothing more you can do Shepard," Kaidan coaxed.
She knew he was right, but that didn't stop her from struggling against them.
"Garrus!" she sobbed.
As soon as they entered the cargo bay Wrex closed the hatch and she felt Joker fire up the Tantalus drive core and the Normandy sped away. For a long moment she just sat on the floor, staring at the empty station next to the Mako.
"I'm so sorry Shepard," Tali said, giving her shoulder a slight squeeze.
However, comfort was the last thing Jane wanted or needed at the moment. "Don't. Let's just get as far away from this shithole planet as possible," she muttered, getting to her feet.
She had barely reached the elevator when Joker's voice came over the comm. "Uh Commander, I think you need to see this."
She sighed, all thoughts of secluding herself in her cabin vanished as she started toward the bridge. But her annoyance quickly turned to confusion when she arrived at the cockpit to find Joker staring out the window at a frigate that looked almost identical to theirs, only it was double the size and had Cerberus markings all over it. It even bore the same name, but instead of having 'SR-1' it had 'SR-2' painted on the hull.
"What the?" She looked down at Joker. "I thought the Normandy was a prototype. Did you hear anything about there being another one in production?"
The helmsman shrugged. "Beats me Commander."
Just then an angry male voice came over the comm. channel. "Pilot, identify yourself! I demand to speak to whoever's in charge!"
"This is the SSV Normandy SR-1," Joker replied. He took his finger off the 'talk' button. "Man this guy's an asshole," he said, which elicited a smile from Jane before he pressed it again. "Standby for Commander Shepard."
Jane took a deep breath to answer the request but the man's next words stopped her cold.
"No, I'm Commander Shepard and somebody better tell me what the hell's going on here!"