The dreams always ended with an explosion. That is all that she could ever remember, aside from the occasional flashes of blue, red, and yellow. She had been having them for as long as she could remember. Since she was a child. She couldn't actually remember a time in her life when she hadn't dreamed.
A nebulae, glorious. Someone shouting at her, indistinct. Strong, male. The voice brought up strange feelings of loss, of love, of a brother that she had never had.
It didn't matter.
Kara Shepard clawed her way back to consciousness, finding herself staring up into deep blue eyes, swirling with amusement. Liara smiled down at her. "EDI wanted me to let you know we are approaching the Sol relay."
Kara nodded, pushing herself up. It was time. The final push. She groaned, stretching as she pushed herself up off the bed, wiping sleep from her eyes. "Are the fleets ready?"
Liara nodded, darting her head down to steal a kiss. "They're waiting for you in the War Room."
Groaning, Kara rolled off the bed, grabbing her service uniform off the floor. "How about you, Li? Are you ready... for this?" She leaned back into Liara's embrace as the asari walked up behind her. "Cause... I don't know... I don't know if I can do this."
"Kara." Liara said the name with such love and devotion, a warm smile on her lips. "You can do this. "Your destiny has already been written, Kara. You'll win this. You were born to defeat the Reapers." Her voice was quiet and reassuring. "You have done something no one in the history of the entire galaxy has ever done! You've united all of the races. Krogan and Turian. Quarian and the Geth! Mercenaries and Admirals. You will win this, because you are Shepard. First human Spectre. Commander of the Normandy. Best friend of Garrus Vakarian, sister of Urdnot Wrex, confidant to the Geth Consensus! You will win because you are Kara Shepard, my love, and the strongest woman in the galaxy!"
Smiling, Kara turned, clutching Liara tight to herself. "I love you, Liara T'Soni," she whispered. "After all of this is over..." She pulled away, opening a small drawer and pulled out a small box. She got to her knees, taking the Asari's hands in her own. "Liara T'Soni, after all of this is over, will you do me the great honor of becoming my wife?"
Stunned, Liara was silent for a long moment. "Shepard... I..." She blinked owlishly. Liara dropped down to her knees, touching her forehead to her lovers. "I love you, Kara. Yes. I will marry you!"
How had everything gone so wrong?
"What... Where am I?" Kara opened her eyes, looking up off the ground to see a child, glowing and brilliant. After everything. The beacon, Eden Prime. Killing Saren, destroying Sovereign... Nazara. Dying, rebuilt by Cerberus. Making it through the Omega 4 Relay, surviving with her entire crew. Falling in love with Liara. Destroying the Alpha Relay, killing over three hundred thousand batarians. Escaping Earth, uniting the galaxy. After everything she had been through, she was right back where she started.
All of this has happened before.
"The Citadel. It's my home." The child spoke.
You have a gift, Kara. I've always known that, here in my gut, and I am not going to let you piss that away! You're special, don't you understand that? An old woman's voice echoed through her head, unfamiliar, and painful all at the same time.
"Who are you?" The pain was fading, becoming numb. Kara couldn't bring herself to care.
"I am the Catalyst." The child was cold, calculating.
There must be someway out of here.
"I thought the Citadel was the Catalyst." Was this how it felt to lose your mind?
Godsdamn it Kara! You come back! Come back!
"No. The Citadel is a part of me."
Shepard could barely listen to what the child was saying. Her mind was drifting, drifting faster and faster to... something.
Momma. Something's about to happen. You know that thing you were trying to prepare me for? I don't know if I can do it.
Oh yes, you can. You can.
How can you be sure?
You're my daughter.
Kara shook her head, trying to clear away the encroaching darkness. "I need to stop the Reapers. Do you know how I can do that?" Focus, Kara. Focus. Everyone is depending on you. She repeated that, a mantra in her head.
There is to much confusion. I can get no relief.
"Perhaps. I control the Reapers. They are my solution."
That brought Kara back to reality. This child was a Reaper? The Reaper?
"Solution? To what?" She didn't want to ask, but something was guiding this moment.
All of this has happened before, and it will happen again.
"Chaos." The god-child said.
"The Created will always rebel against their creators." The child continued, unknowing, or uncaring of the growing horror in Kara's soul. "But we found a stop that from happening. A way to restore order for the next cycle."
"By wiping out organic life?" She wanted to scream. To shoot the child to pieces.
I'm here to prepare you to pass through the next door. To discover what hovers in the space between life and death.
"No. We harvest advanced civilizations, leaving the younger ones alone. Just as we left your people alive the last time we were here."
"But you killed the rest." Kara wanted to cry. The god-child simply did not seem to understand. Life was just an anomaly to it. Something that could be destroyed without repercussions.
"We helped them ascend so they could make way for new life, storing the old life in Reaper form."
"I think we'd rather keep our own form." Kara wanted to argue. She wanted to scream, to rage, to blow something to hell... but she couldn't.
No reason to get excited... life is but a joke.
"No. You can't. Without us to stop it, synthetics would destroy all organics. We've created the cycle so that never happens. That's the solution."
Kara found herself thinking of a slim man, straw blonde hair. Scruffy, a knowing smirk on his lips. This god-child was familiar, singing an old tune.
"But you're taking away our future. Without a future, we have no hope. Without hope, we might as well be machines, programmed to do what we're told." Kara wanted the child to understand. It needed to understand! Life was so much more than numbers, statistics!
"You have hope. More than you think. The fact that you are standing here, the first organic ever, proves it. But it also proves my solution won't work anymore."
You and I, we've been through that. This is not our fate.
"So now what?" Kara wanted it done. So close. She could return to Liara after all this was over. As soon as she got back to London, she was finding the nearest priest, captain, or justice of the priest and getting married. Start on making those little blue babies.
"We find a new solution." The god-child simply stated that, like the fate of the galaxy didn't rest on whatever it decided.
"Yeah, but how?" Her voice was barely a whisper. Tired. So tired.
Let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late.
"The Crucible changed me. Created new... possibilities. But I can't make them happen. I know you've thought about destroying us. You can wipe out all synthetic life if you want. Including the geth. Even you are partly synthetic."
Her heart felt like it was ready to break. She wanted... no, needed, to return to Liara! She... was afraid.
"But the Reapers will be destroyed?" If she had to die, Kara was going to make sure that her blue lady would be safe. That she would live.
"Yes, but the peace won't last. Soon, your children will create synthetics, and the chaos will come back."
"Maybe..." If anything like the Reapers could be created again, Liara was going to live for at least another nine-hundred years. Her children would live for a thousand years beyond that.
No. She couldn't subject Liara, her dearheart, to that.
"Or do you think you can control us?"
"Huh. So... the Illusive Man was right after all." It was kind of funny that the asshole actually managed to be right in the end.
"Yes, but he could never have taken control, because we already controlled him."
"But I can..." Control the Reapers. She never wanted that much power. All she wanted in the universe was to marry Li, to make little blue babies, and to grow old with her love. But if it was the only choice.
"You will die. You will control us, but you will lose everything you have."
All along the watchtower...
"But the Reapers will obey me?" If this could work...
"Yes." The god-child was silent for a moment, glancing up at Earth, at the stars twinkling beyond.
"There is another solution." It said it almost reluctantly, as if it had no choice in the matter.
"Yeah?" Kara felt her heart jump. There was still hope.
"Synthesis." The god-child simply stated.
"And that is?"
"Add your energy to the Crucible's. Everything you are will be absorbed, and then sent out. The chain reaction will combine all synthetic and organic life into a new framework. A new... DNA."
"I... don't know." Kara couldn't even begin to comprehend what that meant for the galaxy. Her mind flashed to massive robots, a single red eye, slowly moving back and forth.
All of this has happened before, and it will happen again.
"Why not. Synthetics are already a part of you. Can you imagine your life without them?"
Kara couldn't help but look down at herself. It was true. Cerberus brought her back, but she was kept alive through machines. The skin that had sloughed off her arms revealed the intricate synthetics beneath. She already was the embodiment of organic and synthetic life.
"And there will be peace?" This was the thing that truly mattered. If there was no peace, than Kara was out of options.
"The cycle will end. Synthesis is the final evolution of life, but we need each other to make it happen. You have a difficult decision. Releasing the energy of the Crucible will end the cycle, but it will also destroy the mass relays. The paths are open, but you have to choose." The god-child gave Kara one last look before disappearing.
Kara began to move, stumbling towards the middle beam. Synthesis. The only viable option. Life with Liara was impossible, but she could still make sure that her lover was safe.
She brought up her omni-tool for what would be its last use. It flickered unsteadily for a moment before steadying out. "Record message." Kara wheezed out.
"Liara, dearheart... I'm so sorry. I won't be able to join you after this is all over. I'm doing this for you. Please... forgive me. You have a long life ahead of you. Don't spend it mourning me. Move on. I..." Kara tried to choke back a sob, failing. "I love you, Li. Never forget that. I love you!"
She quickly sent the message, sighing in relief as it went through in the clear. In the distance, a Reaper tore a ship in two in with its massive laser.
Kara dropped her gun as she continued struggling towards the middle beam. "Lords of Kobol..." The words came unbidden from her mouth, but they felt right. "Hear my prayer. I don't know if I have a soul or not... but if I do... please take care of it."
Tears streamed down her face as she simply jumped. She felt a sense of rightness as her body, molecule by molecule, was torn apart, joining the catalyst. Whatever was happening, was the will of the gods.
The moment before she lost consciousness, a chorus of a million warriors rang through her head.
"So Say We All!"