A/N: If you're uptight about things like language, sex, and whatnot, don't read this series. Otherwise: Enjoy, all my Mass Effect brothers and sisters. Standard disclaimer applies: Bioware owns all except my likeness of Shepard
Synthesis: The combining of the constituent elements of separate material or abstract entities into a single or unified entity; Chemistry The forming or building of a more complex substance or compound from elements or simpler compounds
A Mass Effect fanfic
Chapter I: Synthesis
Pain. It wracked his body, the former Olympean perfection marred by a slough of cuts, bruises, burns, and armour fused into his skin. All of his ribs were broken, some in multiple places, his left arm was as useful as an old man's dick, and he could feel the bones of both ankles grinding against each other with every step he took.
Still, Jack Shepard trudged toward his salvation... and his death.
Every painful shuffle only increased his desire to run away, but the thought of a pair of sapphire eyes kept him going forward, until he was metres away from the precipice. With the last of his will and strength, he straightened, tossed aside his Paladin, broke into a flat-out run to leap over the edge and into vibrant oblivion.
The pain didn't increase or diminish so much as it dulled, and the light of the Crucible's beam did not hurt his eyes. It was warm, and peaceful, even as he felt his body atomise and dissolve. He thought of Anderson and, surprisingly, Joker, chuckling internally as he imagined their expressions if they knew what he was doing right now. The sapphire eyes watched him again, accompanied by the beautiful, round face and that smile that he loved so much.
Jack closed his eyes as darkness came over him.
Liara popped up out of cover, her Hurricane instantly spitting out a hail of bullets that tore through the Cannibal that had been about to flank her. Dark energy flaring around her, she thrust an open palm forward to unleash a biotic projectile that arced through the air to slam into a group of husks flailing around a singularity. The projectile began a chain reaction, resulting in a violent explosion that destroyed the husks' functionality and cast them in all directions.
Somewhere off to her right, she heard the booming discharge of a Widow and watched as a Banshee's head burst like an overripe malva fruit. For once, Garrus didn't crow out his victory, only grimly ratcheted open the rifle's breech to vacate the spent thermal clip before loading a new canister into the weapon's stock and throwing the lever forward again.
James and Ashley were working together, using the ferrocrete rubble of what seemed to have been a store at one point to chew down the Marauders streaming endlessly towards them.
Javik was in a flanking position off to Liara's left, the green beam of his strange Prothean weapon cutting down husks in swathes.
Tali's custom-made attack drone rotated in mid-air below Garrus' position as a short jolt of electricity sent a Cannibal stumbling before it was cut down by a shotgun blast to the face.
EDI flitted in-between the scattered defilade in the field ahead of Liara, cutting down foes with Locust and omni-blade alike in silent fury.
As the asari slid a fresh clip into her weapon, she felt something steal the breath from her, and a sense of emptiness all too familiar engulfed her. She was on her knees without realising it, the submachine gun falling from suddenly-numb fingers as she clutched at her face, tears streaking down uncontrollably. A despairing cry tore from her throat as a single, obliterating thought overwhelmed her.
Jack is dead
It smothered her, a cold fact that curled her body into a fetal, catatonic position. She dimly felt the thumping vibrations of approaching footsteps, glimpsed a massive form through tear-blurred vision.
Brute. Going to kill me.
The clinical thought did not disturb her. In truth, the asari was all but begging for her end. She watched longingly as the creature's massive right arm raised up, the atrocious metal talons splaying wide to maximise the damage the strike would do. A prayer to the Goddess sped past her lips as she prepared to make the final journey of her life, and hopefully go to the same afterlife as Shepard.
Twin blood-curdling roars erupted as a pair of krogan rammed into the Reaper abomination, staggering it. Liara wailed at her denied death, whether out loud or not she was unsure, and did not pay attention to the swift but vicious melee not a metre from her. A few moments later found the cybernetic turian head tossed to the ground, its blue-violet eyes glaring at her menacingly even in death. The shift in weapons fire then reached her, gunshots noticeably closer. She hoped it was more Reapers coming to kill her.
Her grief neither wavered nor intensified as her squadmates appeared, forming a wall between her and the rest of the blasted planet. Loud voices spoke above her, meaningless in her loss and nearly swallowed in the battle around them.
'-the hell happened, Wrex?'
'The fuck if I know! She just started screamin' an' cryin' all of a sudden. Didn't even try to fight that Brute that Grunt killed.'
Several loud booms caused her to wince as Wrex sent sprays of shotgun fire over his cover. A hand grasped her shoulder, rolled her onto her back, and she found herself staring into Ashley's smouldering brown depths. The Spectre asked a question, but Liara didn't hear. After asking a second time and receiving no response, she smacked her hard. Liara blinked dazedly and focussed on the human woman.
'Liara, what happened?' The question, combined with the memory and emptiness, caused a fresh flood of grief to ravage her.
'Jack's dead' she sobbed. The lull in her companions' attention was slight but noticeable.
Tali was unreadable behind her mask, but she took her gaze off the approaching Reapers for a moment.
Garrus' mandibles clenched tightly against his face, eyes steely hard, then he sighted through his scope again a heartbeat before squeezing the trigger.
Wrex and Grunt both narrowed their eyes before leaping over the barrier and entering into a wild melee.
Javik did not move, merely blinked once before his weapon scythed through the Reaper lines again.
James crouched down, eyes meeting Liara's as he loaded a fresh thermal clip before he rejoined the fight.
Ashley's lips parted, eyes wide, disbelieving, then she pressed them into a firm line, took hold of the asari by one arm and hauled her to her feet. Wordlessly, the human picked up the Hurricane and handed it back to her before joining the rest.
Liara stared at the weapon in her hand for seconds that seemed years, thoughts processing at an impossible rate, and came to a decision. Grief galvanised into action, and turning she took her place in the firing line.
The next few minutes were an eternity marked by an ever-encroaching flood of Reaper troops. Grunt and Wrex disappeared, lost in their running brawl. Tali took a shot through her side that punctured her suit, falling down to cover. A round pierced James' visor, just missing his temple, and two more penetrated his shields and armour to send him spinning. Blue-violet targeting lasers settled briefly on Ashley's chest a moment before a glowing red projectile shredded her shields, followed almost immediately by a second that knocked her to the ground. Rounds spanked off Javik's armour as he held off three Cannibals simultaneously before taking a shot in the neck. A husk grabbed Garrus and attempted to pull him over the barrier before his omni-blade ripped it in half. EDI ducked down to avoid a Banshee's biotics, only to be struck by the claws of another the moment she stood back up.
Liara stood alone, ablaze with dark energy as she swept the battlefield with her biotics like an ancient goddess of war. Fatigue like she had never known weighed her down, but she refused to give in until her legs buckled and she caught herself on the barrier, breathing heavily before she forced herself back to her feet. An invisible fist smashed aside the approaching Banshee, and finally the effort of using so many biotics sent her to her knees. Panting hard, she raised herself up on one arm and used the other to biotically swat a pair of husks into the asphalt. A trio of Cannibals took their place, one creasing her cheek with a pair of bullets. They were too close. Bloated hands, corrupted and gnarled, reached for her.
The air was suddenly charged with electricity, sharp enough to make her skin pucker, and the sky turned green. Everything just stopped, all at once. The Reaper troops all looked up, past the Conduit and towards the Citadel moments before a rippling wave of energy, the same hue as the sky, rolled over them. The horde of Reaper foot soldiers was flattened.
Liara could not describe the sensation that accompanied the energy. It was hot and cold, solid and ethereal, pain and healing all twisted together. She blacked out momentarily, confusion filling her when she came to.
The Reapers were leaving.
Massive, cuttlefish-shaped forms filled the air as Sovereign-class dreadnoughts made for space, their cybernetics glowing the same colour as the sky. Moments afterward, the clouds parted with an explosion of light.
Liara could not look away, drinking in the sight of the Citadel as the green energy writhed, shifted, and then finally shot off somewhere deep in space. Then, it detonated, the Ward arms separating explosively from the Presidium as the ring itself shattered, everything beginning to break up as it entered the atmosphere. Through this, a realisation struck the asari.
The light did not hurt her eyes. It should have blinded her, yet she had not even had to so much as squint. The scientist in her compartmentalised the information and stored it for later review as she noted a speck that quickly grew into a burning piece of one of the Wards. The wreckage flew right over them, crash-landing a few kilometres away, the range of motion taking her gaze back over the squad.
They were alive, bloodied and limping, but very much alive. Some were obviously more wounded than others, but the simple fact that they were all standing was reason to be grateful. Tali and Garrus, Ashley and James and EDI, they were all alive. No, not all; Javik lay unmoving in a spreading pool of blood, the wound in his neck still seeping dark green.
Most astonishing of all, however, were the veins of circuitry quickly spreading across their visible patches of skin, as well as the holographic lines linking them with their armour. She looked at her hands, saw the same delineations running along and through the gauntlets. Questions flew through the air as Grunt and Wrex returned, glowing the same colour. She dropped her hands.
'Enough!' Liara quieted them all, the sole focus of their attention. She turned, taking them all within her gaze, stopped, breathed, exhaled. Theories formed and filed away faster than she would have normally thought possible. Inhale. Exhale.
'I don't know what's happened, but there are still people out there who need help. We should find them and-' Any further thought was cut off as three more pieces of the Presidium smashed into the ground not a kilometre away. The shockwave sent them all stumbling.
He brushed against her mind, vapid and gone in less than a heartbeat. Her breath caught in her throat, and with a quick utterance of his name, she was running.
'Dammit, Liara, don't-! Ah, fuck, get after her!' Ashley snarled. Don't even know how many of the goddamn Reapers are still out there and she just goes haring off...
They all started after the asari as she wound her way through the battlefield towards the ruined station. Within ten minutes, shuttles from three different species had landed and another four pieces of the destroyed station had crashed down over London, with two more well on their way.
The search for Shepard had begun.
Darkness. Then, light. Neither bright nor dim, just adequate. He understood: This simply was.
The Catalyst. Creator. Destroyer. Saviour. It watched him.
'You have done what I could not. You have brought peace.' Silence. No need for him to speak.
'You were willing to sacrifice your own life for something you would never see. It is within my power to give you back this life.' A spark of hope, unquenched. Distrust, uncertainty, both expelled, incompatible.
'Live, Jackson Ray Shepard.' Dimming. A pulse of white. The ghost-child fades.
For the longest time, darkness. Dust and the shifting of clouds mottled it, broke it up. Once, a flash of lightning dispersed it. His mind processed the days, counted the endless seconds, made them go by swiftly, filed them away. Repair cycle paused, maintaining stasis cycle. Basic neurological functions online. Starting homeostatic functions. Error. Jump-start of nervous system required. Reviewing memories.
Born human. Organic. Error. Integrated circuitry. Organic tissue. Synthesis. Combined. Proto-organic. The first. The Prophet. Processing... Origin unknown. Relevance: one-hundred-decimal-zero percent.
Injuries: Left forearm, broken. Left clavicle, broken. Ribcage, shattered. Right saddle joint, broken. Right ankle, broken. Left ankle, broken. Left lung, pierced. Large intestine, ruptured. Twelve lacerations, eight bruises, five burns. Internal bleeding. Addendum: Left lung: repaired. Large intestine: repaired. Toxins from bodily waste cleansed. Broken bones mending. Surface wounds closed. Burned tissues regenerated. Internal bleeding repaired, blood re-routed to circulatory system. Overall repair progress: seventy-nine-decimal-one percent.
The processes made his head hurt. More lightning came.
Error, sound patterns inconsistent with lightning. Revisal: lights, omnitool generated. Sound patterns consistent with removal of rubble in accordance with SAR teams. Reinforced by voices, footsteps, radio chatter. Likelihood of search parties, one-hundred-decimal-zero percent. Scanning... Four sapients. Human, two. Asari, one. Krogan, one. Range: fifty metres, distance closing. Contact with asari prioritised. Scanning neurological patterns... Neurological pattern unidentified. Divulge location? Error. Action impossible, requires higher brain functions currently dormant until end of stasis cycle. Contingency Alpha activated. Resuming repair cycle.
The ghost-child smiles.
Green eyes surveyed the room, synthetics glowing as the searchlight swept the space. Rubble was every-damn-where, clogging up any path further through this part of the Presidium. Reyes turned to Ela, both of them haggard and tired, barely having gotten half-adequate sleep due to the events of the past week. None of them had managed to learn anything more about what exactly had happened, and the one person who could was buried under a fuckton of rubble, or disintegrated, or God-knew-what. The one asari, T'Soni, was adamant that he was here, but others were not so sure.
It was enough to make the Lieutenant tired beyond his years.
Regardless, it was out of his hands, and even had it not been, his sense of duty would have compelled him onward despite how he felt. Lieutenant-Commander Ashley Williams would have knocked him on his ass, otherwise. Besides that, the woman was intimidating as all hell.
'By the numbers, people,' she said, not bothering to turn back as she began to pick her way through the detritus. The search-and-rescue team complied, breaking off into teams to help each other comb through the wreckage. After a few minutes, Ashley's comm beeped. She reached up and tapped the ear stud once.
'Commander, it's Admiral Hackett. Any luck so far?' He sounded hoarse, but otherwise strong. How the old bastard did it was beyond her. The rest of her squad looked up from their work, their own radios patched in to the same channel.
'Negative, sir. My team's currently at Crash Five, about three-quarters done with our half. Garrus's team is a little ways behind us,' she replied. Hackett sighed through the line.
'Acknowledged. Finish your sweep and then switch out with Dr. T'Soni. I'll contact Vakarian and update him. Hackett out.'
'Understood, sir.' The reply was automatic, ingrained after years of service. A double-tap on the comm muted the external microphone before she turned to her team.
'You heard the man. Let's finish our sweep, but don't get sloppy. Last thing Shepard needs is for us to become a bunch of slack-asses and pass him by,' she barked. Her eyes drifted around the room again, stopping suddenly as she noticed the dimness brighten minutely. She raised a hand, clenching her fist.
'Hold it... Anyone else notice the light?' The others all strained their eyes, looking for the slight shift. Only Ela caught it.
'I see it. There's another light source in here!' she exclaimed. Ashley continued scanning the walls until her gaze fell on a cage-like formation of wreckage. The light oscillated again, barely noticeable even to her enhanced vision. Ella was scrambling over the rubble in seconds, peering over the edge and shining her omnitool light into the area.
'I see someone!' The others held their breath. 'Black armour... N7 logo! I can't see his face but I think it's him!' Ashley darted up next to the asari and followed her light, glimpsing the midnight-black ablative plates, red-and-white N7 symbol, and the now-familiar digital spiderweb of integrated circuitry.
'Let's get this pile of shit off him!' she ordered, and the team jumped to life, tearing away the dross more than clearing the area. It only took them a few minutes before a massive humanoid form became clear, tucked away behind another layer of debris that had shielded it from any projectiles careening around the space. Pulling away this layer plus everything near his head revealed strong Irish features, flame-red hair, and glowing white synthetics that pulsed briefly. Ashley's features slackened in disbelief (banished quickly), and relief.
'Reyes, med scan!' His omnitool lit up instantly, data streaming across the interface. The Lieutenant's face pinched in confusion.
'Ma'am!' he called. Ashley caught his eye. 'Definitely him. But... This is... weird. Like 'ain't never seen this crap, whole other galaxy' kind of weird.' He passed the information over to her, which she quickly perused before minimising the display.
'Even I know enough to know that medically, he's considered alive, LT. Start clearing the rest of this mess, people. Don't touch him until further notice.' She pressed a few more buttons on her omnitool before she reached up to tap her comm again.
'Williams to T'Soni, come in Liara.' The line was silent a moment before a tired voice spoke.
'I'm here, Ashley. Go ahead.'
'We found him.'
'Where?' Any vestige of exhaustion had dissipated.
'Crash Five, about three-fourths in. Looks like an atrium of some kind. I'll activate my beacon.'
'I'll be there in ten minutes.'
'Got it.' A few more taps changed the frequency again.
'Spectre Williams to Admiral Hackett.'
'Hackett here, go ahead Commander.'
'Sir, we've found Shepard.'
'I ID'ed his face myself, sir.'
'Understood. Does Dr. T'Soni know?'
'She was the first person I called, sir.'
'Good. Do you want to transmit the news to the fleet?' She grinned.
'That I would, Admiral.'
'Wait one... Go ahead, Spectre.'
'Attention all Citadel forces and citizens. This is Spectre Ashley Williams. We found Captain Shepard. I repeat: We've found Captain Shepard. He's alive, people.'
The cheer that rose up could be heard throughout Earth space.
A/N: So, hope you enjoyed this. If you have any ideas, lemme know and I'll see if I can't work them into this. Please R/R, that stuff keeps me going - Prophet
17MAR12 - Added line breaks
17MAR12 - Added one missing line break, edited a little bit here and there
23MAR12 - Took out the Normandy crashing and replaced it with pieces of the Citadel. Javik now KIA
25MAR12 - Corrected Shepard's rank
20APR12 - Fixed a few mistakes