Yes, I've been away for a damn long time.
Yes, I'm sorry I let you guys down.
Why was I gone, you ask?
Long story short, I had a terrible car accident awhile back, and it took me some time to recover. THEN came Andromeda and boy did that just suck the inspiration right out of me. By the time I got it back, this fic had been collecting dust for years, as much as it pains me to say it. Now, I won't say it was a bad game. But it could have been better. EA really screwed the pooch on that one. Certainly when they abruptly decided to throw the series on hiatus rather than atone for their MISTAKES even after I threw MONTHS of my time away into that game and all for bloody NOTHING...!
Right, I'm ranting aren't I? Sorry about that.
Guess I'm just bitter about the way things have turned out.
So this is me, trying to make amends for being gone, I suppose.
I'd like to think that I've managed to do just that with this particular chapter.
And with that...
We're back on track!
I proudly present the return of...
...Sentinel! Its a nice looong chapter, just like last time!
I've added a lot of stuff, and I sincerely hope you all enjoy this!
Oh, and before I forget, Alpha and Omega's going to be updated a few hours after this is out.
Maybe a day at most.
Hooray for double updates!
"Harmony and discord are but one and the same; two sides of the the coin, forever in opposition...
"And which side do you serve?"
"Both of them."
Shepard soon realized there was a key difference between the combined psyches of Naruto and Sentinel.
Whereas Sentinel preferred to obliterate the enemy through sheer firepower, wading through enemy positions in a masterful parody of a human tank-Naruto reveled in combat.
Specifically close combat.
More than once she caught sight of the blond in the ensuing firefight-his deadly knives carving through the thick armor of Centurion's and soldiers as though they were mere drapes. Others simply lose their minds gibbering madly as they opened fire on their fellows. It took Shepard less than an instant to realize Naruto was adversely affecting the reaper tech planted embedded in their skulls, his sphere of influence causing them to turn on one another, without any other say in the manner whatsoever.
It was...disturbing, to say the least.
"By the Goddess!" Liara seemed to share her opinion; the asari shuddered in cover beside her as entire squads turned on one another and began to butcher their comrades without so much as a second thought. Naruto flitted amongst them; those strong enough to resist the suicidal urges soon found their lives cut short, dispatched at the end of his devastating daggers. She didn't have to ask to know how the rest of her squad felt, all but Near seemed disgusted by the blonde's brutality.
"Crazy bastard," Garrus muttered, popping out of cover just long enough to snap off a shot.
James was a touch less reserved in his opinion. "Hey Lola, he's still on our side, right?"
"You wouldn't be here if he weren't." a new voice quipped.
Isabelle balked at the little reaper known as Near materialized at her back. Her "skin" had been bruised in several places from gunfire, another indication of her inhumanity; those rapidly-healing bruises, would've been full blown holes on even the largest of krogan. The young hybrid holstered her powerful rifle with a malevolent grin, pale eyes regarding the single-handed slaughter with a delirious delight that the organics found to be both disturbing and amusing in equal measure.
"Dios," James muttered under his breath. "Do you have to keep doing that, kid?"
Hanabi looked as though were about to beat his brains in for that remark and she might well have were it not for Shepard's scathing glare.
"You know how to use that thing?" her gaze fell upon the massive weapon the girl had somehow procurred during the chaos. It wasn't just any rifle the commander realiazed, Near, had somehow gotten her hands on a Widow. But not just any ordinary Widow was that little rifle, that beauty was a Black! It could punch hole through armor like a krogan!
"Do you have any idea who you're talking to?"
"Can you use it or not?"
"Good. Then go back up your brother over there."
Her pale face purpled with anger and disgust. "He is not my-
"Less talky, more shooty missy!"
Near cracked her neck, scowling, but did as she was asked-vanishing with another pop. A heartbeat later and two more Cerberus went to the void; ushered onward by the gaping holes in their heads courtesy of one very deadly Black Widow rifle. Even a reaper had to admit that the weapon possessed unquantified destructive capabilities when faced with flesh. Naruto's bemused laugh boomed out over the sounds of their dying screams. he held no delusions about the deadliness of that particular rifle either.
"Thatta girl!" he nearly ate those words when Near fired at him!
"Silence, you buffoon!"
Naruto merely laughed and danced away, dealing death with every step.
The more Shepard thought about it, the more apparent it became. Naruto. Sentinel. The only difference between them was their attitude, an outlook on life. One sarcastic and cynical, the other simple and singleminded in his duty nay, its very purpose. Both gloried in gore and craved combat-their only redeeming qualities being their desire to see an end to the Cycle...
"Close combat!" A salarian's voice jerked her out of the daze, its tones piquing in distress. "Problematic!
The sharp crack of Garrus' sniper rifle put an abrupt end to a soldier's short-lived biotic charge-and his head-before he could reach Mordin's position. Even so, the display gave Isabelle pause. Didn't change the fact that the man had clearly displayed biotics just now. When the hell did Cerberus start using them? In all her encounteres with the pro-human organization they had always employed unusual tech and overwhelming numbers. But never biotics. So why now? Hadn't they cleared out Grissom Academy, rescued Jack and her students, to prevent such a happenstance? Something wasn't right here.
First the attack on the Citadel. Now this? What was going on here?
"Naruto, get in cover!"
The blond simply cackled and vaulted toward where Bailey lay. That was where the fighting was the thinnest and the soldiers seemed to realize it; converging on the wounded C-Sec officer in a desperate attempt to end him before the brutalizing blond reached their position. A flash of kunai, followed by a spurt of blood, and they were no more. Oddly enough, some of the soldiers seemed to drop before Naruto even reached them, their dark helmets lolling dangerously aside as though struck from behind.
"Alright, that's impressive." Garrus growled. "How the hell did he do that?"
"Cover inadvisable." Mordin returned with a gleam in his eyes, slapping another clip into the battered sub-machine gun he wielded. "Likely to limit effectiveness."
"Yeah, I know that," the turain grumbled, "But Naruto-
"Not Naruto." a small smile twitched at the aging alien's lips.
"Wait, if that wasn't him, then who-
"I missed one!" someone sulked, their voice emerging from nothingness. "Jeez, that's what I get for sneaking around in a warzone...
Another small pop signaled the dissolution of a cloaking field, revealing a familiar black-clad body to all. Shepard couldn't quite keep the smile from her face. She hadn't heard that voice in such a long time now; yet she recognized it almost immediately. The dark suit, those dancing eyes, lilting voice...
The smaller woman grinned
"You always do find trouble, Shep." she singsonged merrily. "Or it finds you. Not sure which. By the way," she continued in flawless Japaense, her gaze sliding to Naruto, "That was some nice work back there. I'd shake your hand but I wouldn't want to get blood on my dress. Who's your friend?"
"Osu!" Naruto snapped off a cheery salute, earning the slightest of smiles from his fellow Japanese. "Uzumaki Naruto, at your service!"
"So you're recruiting Reapers now, Shep?"
Near uttered a black oath.
"Hey! I'm not a reaper." the blond put out, perturbed. "Well, my body might be, but still! Blame old wire-head for that. He," Abruptly the blonde's visage furrowed in concentration, blue eyes narrowing. "What? Already? You've repaired yourself and want me to go back? No! Actually, scratch that. Hell no! I haven't had this much fun in centuries! There's no way I'm letting you stuff me back into that hole without a-
Sentinel sighed a moment later, those bright blue eyes subsumed by that eerie glow once more. "Forgive me, Commander. I allowed him a moment's respite, and this is the thanks I receive in return? It appears that he doesn't intend to make this easy, though our fate is-
"Still here, ya bucket of bolts!" a light, almost airy tone issuing forth from the proto reaper's mouth confirmed that Naruto hadn't gone quietly back into the black. "And I thought I already told you, we won't die! Not 'till we see this through, ya know?! So quit yer bitchin' and lets get on with this, Shepard!"
There was a silence.
"Wait...what?" Liara frowned. She knew now wasn't the best time, but it was beginning to sound like Sentinel wasn't the only one inhabiting that body. Indeed if that other voice could at all be judge, one might even try to suggest he had another personality within...or was there actually another mind, trapped in that eerie shell? Naruto, was it? Goddess, this things he must've seen, the secrets he must know...
"Wait...so are you Naruto now or Sentinel?"
"Naruto/Sentinel!" Both answered the asari simultaneously, their voices overlapping in angry unison.
Near groaned, palming her face in a rare expression of human disbelief. "Creators have mercy on me...
"Carumba." James swore softly. "One was bad enough, but this?"
Garrus scoffed his agreement. "Next thing you'll tell me he's going to split in two or something."
"Fascinating." Mordin alone seemed to take this new development in stride.
"He does not wish to return, Shepard." Sentinel somehow sounded affronted; if the pursing of his lips were any indication.
"And who the hell would?! Naruto snapped back. "I like it out here!"
"Let him stay, then." Isabelle waved him off, her attention focused instead on the still-prone Bailey. "Split-personality disorder is the least of my concerns. Just play nice, you two."
A harsh bark of laughter answered her.
"I promise nothing!"
(...Several Minutes Later...)
In hindsight, play nice didn't mean much a reaper.
Or a shinobi.
Playing nice, as she had so blatantly put it...
...meant toying with your prey.
Kai Leng, the most-skilled assassin Cereberus had ever wielded, didn't stand a chance.
In the end, he never saw the attack coming. One moment he stood over Thane, drawing the blade from his flesh. The next, a blur of black and blur ripped him from his feet and hurtled him into the wall. Kai Leng flew. Literally. His feet left the floor and his body the earth and then he was airborne. A muffled grunt left his lips as his head kissed the back of an equally hard wall. Where in the world had that come from? He hadn't even seen an enemy in his peripherals; one moment he'd been standing, squaring off against Shepard even as the Drell's blood coated his blade.
In the next, the hand of angry god descended from the faux skies of the Citadel to hurl him across the room.
His nose exploded in a red mist as he caromed off an adjacent wall to slam into the floor. Stars exploded before his fractured vision and he scrambled upright, only distantly aware of the blood dripping from his shattered visage. Vision swimming, he stumbled forward, palming at his broken brow.
"Human." A bleak voice rumbled. "Your time has come."
Was this some sort of trick?
"So what. Doesn't matter." He said boldly, psyching himself up. "I can take this, I can handle anything these ba-YAH!"
Leng yelped in surprise as his vision was suddenly filled by a wall of red, black, and death. Simultaneously, Shepard heard the sound of flesh meeting metal and she swore.
She'd less than an instant to comprehend Sentinel's statement before she saw something that was simultaneously incredible and terrifying. Near the back of the security office where she had first left Thane, Kai Leng was hurtling across the room. He flew twenty feet through the air before slamming down on one of the tables. The force of the landing launched lunch trays into the air and snapped the fixture's legs-shattering it into a thousand shards, sending its ruined husk crashing to the floor. The Salarian Councilor crouching behind the table screamed in surprise, and then the stunned hush fell over the room as everyone looked to see who was responsible.
Isabelle was as shocked as any of them to see the hybrid standing in the back of the room, his fist still raised to the sky in silent offering, his face twisted in a mask rage and fury.
And then, horror of horrors, she realized the reaper wasn't done.
Leng lurched forward and Naruto stormed forward to meet him; both men colliding in the center with a storm of blade and blows. Incredibly the wounded assassin somehow struck first. Slamming his crackling blade into the blond's neck side with a sickening crunch, he twisted his wrist and wrenched the blade deep, only to receive a rousing uppercut for his troubles. Staggered just as much by the blow as the realization he'd failed to kill his foe, he unwittingly stumbled straight into another attack, his body folding up around the strike.
On the third exchange the blond swept his legs and drove him into the floor, pinning him with his boot.
"What's wrong?!" The blond roared, Naruto's voice superseding once more. "Not so tough when ya ain't fighting a dying man, are ya?!"
"What the hell are you?" The Cerberus assassin spat a bloody glob from where he lay, not even deigning to raise his head. "No...human...should be able to hit like that."
Naruto grinned; it was a terrifying tear of white across his otherwise tan face.
"Whoever said I was human?"
The table in front of him abruptly upended itself, the empty chairs surrounding it cartwheeling away like they had been kicked by an invisible giant. Kicked away by Kai Leng, by a geyser of super-heated pressure erupting from his body as he bucked, lashing out with the last of his strength in a wild, desperate assault. Strangely enough, her first concern was not for the reaper, but for the assassin. The fool! He'd no idea what he'd just wrought! Provoking one of the most powerful synthetics in the galaxy! Naruto would surely...surely...
...raise a hand?
The blade never met its mark.
Sentinel blinked, staring at the blade as it protruded from his flesh of his hand. There was no blood. It was as if it simply phased through him.
The other snaked out, elongating at impossible length to coil about the operative's neck.
Leng gagged, clawing at the vice slowly crushing the life from him, to no avail.
"I have a message for the one you call...Illusive Man; the being formerly known as Jack Harper, the one watching this battle through your tainted eyes." His fingers tightened around Leng's throat, levering the Cerberus assassin ruthlessly into the floor. "We are not to be trifled with. We are not to be opposed. We are to be feared." Leng didn't even have time to answer; because the blond reached down, took his head in those hands in an instant, and pulled.
Despite all she'd seen and done in her storied career Commander Shepard actually blanched, only narrowly managing to stifle her gorge as blood spattered the walls, great gouts of gore spurting in every direction. The untimely end of Kai Leng would be known only to a select few, one of those few cringing now as the man's severed head skittered across the floor to rest at her boot. Sentinel didn't even pause to survey his horrific handiwork; instead making haste for the nearest skycar, his compatriot, Near in tow.
"What?" his voice-Narutos voice-warbled out at her questing glance. "Someone has to put a bullet in Udina's skull. Might as well be me. Or you. Speficifcs."
"You just tore off a man's head, and that's all you have to say?"
"That's it." Sentinel's distant deep voice interposed itself, cutting off whatever his host might've said. "Stay here, if you wish. I will confront the human."
If he was at all alarmed or affronted by her glacial tone, Naruto did precious little to show it; lingering just long enough to lay a hand on Thane's chest before moving on. A strange blue spark leaped from his fingers at the glancing touch and her old friend shuddered, sucking in a deep reflexive breath. Then he was gone, stepping over the wounded Drell and toward the entrance. After a moment's hesitation Near bolted after him, risking an errant glance over her shoulder as she departed.
"Now wait just a-
Silence was the only answer.
"Alright people, you heard him. Move!"
Isabelle sighed as she and Liara wedged themselves into the cramped confines of a nearby hover-car. Garrus and the others remained, moreso that Mordin could see to Thane than the fact that there just wasn't enough room to fit the entire squad inside its meager space. She'd have to speak about the blonde's brutality sometime soon, but not here. Not now. Not when there was still so much work to be done.
Goddess, she needed a vacation and soon.
"Remind me to schedule some shore leave when this is over...
A distant sonic boom informed her that the errant hybrid had already taken flight.
"Since when can he fly?!"
(...Several Minutes Later...)
Where had he gone wrong?
Udina no longer knew.
Scrambled amidst the chaos like a mad dog without its master, it was all he could do to hold to the plan. To guide his "charges" toward their final destination and pray that none of them realized what awaited them. For if they did then thing would get messy, most messy indeed. He'd have to use the pistol they'd given him...and if he did...
Gods, he hoped not.
The galaxy needed strong leadership in these troubled times. True leadership. Real leadership. His leadership. Let Palaven burn. Let Sur'Kesh rot. Let Thessia crumble. If their deaths would somehow save the Earth, if it meant the safety of his people...he would gladly burn thousands more. Bastards. They deserved it. The lot of them! He'd been left helpless, horrified as the Council refused to render Earth their aid. Forced to look on as the horror of Arcturus Station was repeated time and time again, with more lives being lost every day, every hour, every minute...!
Well, no longer.
Was it desperation that led him to make that deal with Cerberus? Or was it greed? Perhaps something else entirely? He wasn't sure he even knew anymore. Everything had fallen apart. Instead of the bloodless coup he'd planned, the plot that would leave the Council arrested and him with emergency powers-powers which he could direct at Earth!-he found a massacre. All thanks to that blasted salarian! This was all his fault! In their blind overzealous rush to silence the Councilor, Cerberus had all but laid waste to the station, killing dozens and murdering innocents and allies alike. No a bloodless coup at all, but a massacre.
And the blame for it all would be laid solely at his feet.
He wouldn't be able to wriggle out of this once they Council found the proof. Nor would he be able to run. They'd hound him to the ends of the galaxy for this, Reaper invasion or no. He would never know peace, never see an end of it, never be given moment's respite. Nor did he believe he could simply run from the doom he had wrought, should the plan fail. He'd gambled and lost, thrown all his eggs in one basket with the vain hope that it would win the day, and for what? This!
It wasn't over yet.
There was still a sliver of hope.
He just had to keep to the plan laid out for him; lead the remaining Councilors to an already destroyed escape vehicle and allow Leng to corner them. It would be quick. Painless. Hopefully. Williams would have to silenced of course, which was a pity, truly, but there was no other alternative. Oh, such a shame! She would've been truly exceptional. Ah, but now the elevator had finished its ascent and it was time for the final act to begin. He glimpsed the burning wreckage of the shuttle beyond as the doors parted, suddenly keenly aware of the gun at his side. The thought momentarily quickened his pulse, but he stubbornly forced it down.
Let them brand a traitor.
-Damnit!" Williams was cursing as he came back to himself. "Cerberus hit the shuttle! Everybody back to the elevator!"
He expected that much.
He did not expect to come face to face with death itself.
They dropped from the sky with a roar of thunder, landing hard and fast to bar the way between them and the elevator. Two of them. Armed and armored to the teeth. The taller of the two alighted in a pointed crouch, hands forward, knees back. A jet black helm unfolding to reveal ghastly blue eyes and a pale, whiskered face. Those same eyes saw Udina, narrowed, looked right through him as though he didn't even exist. The smaller of the two seemed little more than a girl, yet somehow, her gaze was far colder. She advanced half a step, raising a slight arm in his direction.
"Is that him?"
Her compatriot rose. "It is."
To her credit, Williams reacted swiftly.
"You two!" her gun snapped up, tracking. "Freeze!"
"Gee," the large one scoffed, "Let me think about-no."
Even as the Specter squeezed the trigger, it was already over.
The smaller of the two scoffed and flicked a hand, immobilizing the woman in a stasis field. A shot rang out, harmlessly deflected by the man's shield's. Udina saw their eyes and something in him quailed. The gun! He had to reach for it, had to move, had to do something before they-
"Ambassador Donnell Udina." the larger of the two rounded on him then, and there was something in his very voice that sapped him of the will to move, to think, to even breathe. "You stand accused of espionage, treason by your peers, attempted murder, and cruelty of the highest degree. The sentence is death. How do you plead?"
All the world froze.
Udina was suddenly and intensely aware of the other Councilor's their combined gaze boring into his back.
Yet words eluded him.
As if someone had simply plucked out his tongue, his mouth worked at words that would not come. Surprise warred with incredulity and neither triumphed. No. This was impossible. Absurd. Ridiculous! All his schemes and plots withered away before he could think to speak them. A cruel chill raced down his spine and for the first time in his life, he found himself well and truly afraid. No, this went beyond mere fear. This was terror, deep and cloying, choking the very life from his bones. This was the Reaper, this was death, here to claim him; all the lives he'd taken, come to drag him down to hell. No. This couldn't be his end. No. no.
'NO! Speak, you fool!' his mind clamored, gibbering wildly at his unresponsive body. 'Blame them! Run! Deflect! Do...something!'
Perhaps sensing his feeble resistance, the man's smile deepened and the vice on his thoughts constricted further.
At the end of it all, Udina merely managed two words.
The girl grinned viciously.
"Guilty it is."
Near's arm exploded into his chest in grisly relief, found his heart, and squeezed.
It was quick death, if a painful one. For a fleeting moment Udhina physically felt the girl's hand tear flesh and bone to grip his heart. He became keenly aware of her fingers as they applied pressure, the excruciating agony that was the organ slowly constricting, the pressure building. In his death throes he flailed for the gun and actually managed to find it. Bring it to bear against her stomach. Frantic, he squeezed the trigger. Shot after shot discharged itself into her stomach but instead of crumpling to the floor in agony as he'd hoped, she merely blinked. Didn't even deign to reply. Unchallenged, her arm tensed. Then came true pain.
A white-hot burst of agony seared through his lungs, allowing him time for one final thought, or what amounted to one.
'Maker...spit...on you. I...deserved...more.'
Lifeless, his body slumped on her arm body until it was torn away and thrown to the ground. Forgotten, even in its last moments.
"Ah, good. That's done. "
All eyes turned to the Naruto, drawn by the blond's abrupt declaration. Without further pause or preamble, the blond dropped to the floor and folded both legs beneath him. Near bit back a glacial sigh and reluctantly freed the captive Williams from stasis, but not before pointing the baffled Specter towards the elevator. After a moment's consideration, she joind her.
"And noooooow we wait."
"Wait for what?" the asari councilor ventured weakly.
The blond merely glanced at her askance, as though he'd expected this very inquiry.
"Why, for Shepard of course." he replied, feigning a small smile. "She'll explain everything."
A/N: There we are.
Also, the Dragon Age line is intentional.
Story feels much better now that I've gone back and made proper edits to things.
So...in the immortal words Atlas...
...Review, Would You Kindly? And of course enjoy these little previews!
EDI stifled a small smile.
"You created this?"
"Do you like it?"
"You said we needed upgrades, Shep. I upgraded."
"You turned the sation into a giant gun!"
"Thank me later."
"So let me get this straight...you copied yourself?"
"Eh, its an amalgamation of an old trick I once knew before I met the ol' bucket of bolts. Nothing special. Oh, and I taught it ta Near."
"There are LITERALLY dozens of you running around Zakera Ward. What even possessed you to do this?!"
"Alright, but you can't be mad at me...
"Oh, you poor pathetic shadow."
"I don't want to hear that from an impostor."
"Ah, but what is an impostor to a fake, my dear clone? Sadly, you'll never know."
With that, the reaper hybrid raised his ruined arm, the savaged limp rapidly repairing itself as the fake looked on. Flesh and circuits intertwined, wires weaving with bone and blood to rapidly recreate that which had been lost. Within moments his right arm restored itself. Then, incredibly, it began to writhe. Warp. Shift. It extended further and further until it wasn't an arm at all, but something so massive, so utterly unholy that it could be named. Still it grew, groaning and twisting, thousands of hands reaching for him in the dakr.
Terrified, she could only stumble back.
"No, no, no. You don't get to talk. You ruined my day off. PREPARE TO BE ASSIMILATED."
Shepard made a face.
Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani, -wow what a mouthful!- stood there outside the waiting room, and from the look on her face, it was clear she intended to make a mess out of things, to get the full story. Humanity-hell, the entire galactic community was still coming to terms with what had happened-an attack on the council and the betrayal of humanity's councilor, let alone the fact that they had a reaper to thank for saving their collective asses. Shepard might've found it funny if, she hadn't come so close to shooting Williams only hours before. Godamn Udina. At least he was gone now, though perhaps he hadn't deserved an end like that...
God, perhaps she would take Anderson up on his offer and look at that apartment of his...
And, now she had to deal with this woman! Beside her, the whooshing of a door signaled Naruto's exit from what had once been -and would now no longer be- Thane's room. His eyes were still red, whether from anger at his own powerlessness or tears at Thane's passing she knew not. Regardless, he looked to be even angrier tha she was.
"Humanity needs to know-
Naruto said nothing, instead brushing past her to confront Khalisah. Thinking she'd just gotten the interview of the century, the woman never noticed the tightening of the reaper's fist. Then in a very Naruto-like move, the blond walked right up to the tabloid reporter and socked her in the face. She crumpled like a sack of potatoes.
"Dissengenuous assertions?" he offered a wan smile.
Shepard couldn't help but grin.