A/N: Spoiler ALERT!
A/N: This is my rendition of the ending I choose for ME3. Personally, I subscribe to the Indoctrination Theory, and hope for a "real ending" DLC, but this is meant to work somewhat within the bounds of the mess we were given. Even then, as you will see, I have taken some liberties. I would argue that we only have the Catalyst's word that anything happens to any synthetic other than the Reapers. Do not mention that "Such-and-Such did not happen exactly like" it will be portrayed in this story. I know. I just like this way better. And "Jack" in this is Jack Shepard, not Subject Zero.
Disclaimer: Seriously? If I owned it, the ending would be far more satisfying.
Date: Three months after end of Reaper War
Dark trees and a darker barren ground were the only things visible to Ash through the murky haze. She looked about, trying to figure out where she was and how she'd gotten here.
A short way ahead, she saw numerous shadowy forms, some of which looked similar to people she had known…people killed in the war with the Reapers. They were gathered near someone. A few steps beyond them was a portal of bright white.
As she watched, a man stepped from the light and bellowed, "Atten-hut!"
The Shadows snapped to attention, affording her a clear line of sight at the object of their respect. Though she could only see him from the back, his build and the red hair that flared across the distance were more familiar to her than her own features.
Commander Jonathan Tobias Shepard stepped forward and returned the salute of the detail commander from the light. As the two men shook hands, she noted the Serviceman (Third Class) uniform. Ashley watched as the two men most important to her began to enter the portal. As Shepard stepped through…
Ash's eyes snapped open as she bolted upright. Dr. Karin Chakwas was suddenly steadying her. "Relax, please, Commander. You're safe in the medbay."
Ash took a moment to breathe and get her bearings before turning to the doctor. "What happened?"
Chakwas's attention returned to her omnitool. "According to our new XO, you blacked out in the CIC. I understand that Ms. Traynor barely managed to catch you in time. As for why you passed out, I'm still trying to determine that."
The medical officer stepped away to go over some more information at her console, leaving Ash to think. The Normandy was flying again after two weeks in a heap on some garden rock whose name escaped her, followed by two months being rebuilt in drydock.
In those two months, the galaxy had changed for her. Shepard had been declared dead, but so had the Reapers. The Mass Relays were gone. Somehow, the Crucible had caused them to explode, but had also somehow channeled the energy into frequencies harmful only to the Reapers. The only casualties on the part of the united galactic forces were those unfortunate enough to be under a Reaper that collapsed, or an unwary ship that crashed into a suddenly inert Reaper hulk. Any ship in transit through a Relay tunnel was damaged badly and crashed. This had happened to the Normandy. Luckily, everyone had survived. It was during the rebuild that their little family went their separate ways.
Primarch Victus had contacted Garrus to inform him that Central Command had deemed him next in line for the Primacy. Garrus had left immediately for Palaven, but not before promising "Admiral Tali'zorah vas Rannoch" that he would see her again soon at that beachfront house.
Vega had vanished into the N7 program. According to his instructors, he was apparently doing outstandingly well, with many of the marks he was beating having been set by Jack Shepard. Ash was, of course, surreptitiously keeping an eye on his career; she owed Jack that much.
Ash's thoughts were interrupted as Dr. Chakwas leaned back from her display with an expectant look. "Commander, you may wish to see this."
The medbay hatch opened to reveal EDI standing very patiently, picking bits of lint off her Alliance Navy uniform. She turned to face her CO and fell into step for the brief walk to the elevator.
Ash sighed. "Well, I'm…pregnant."
EDI nodded. "I guessed as much. You have been displaying several signs commonly associated with pregnant humans."
Ash shook her head. "I really don't wanna know."
As they entered the elevator, EDI continued on a related topic. "Three months' progression, correct?"
At the arch look she received in reply, she pressed on. "You forget, Commander, I "am" the ship. I am aware of everything that occurs within the Normandy. I am also aware that you have not been in a relationship since Jack Shepard."
She noticed Ash's grimace and stopped. "Is something else the matter, Commander?"
Ash ignored the query.
EDI stopped the elevator and turned to face her. "Ashley, I would be remiss in my duties both as your executive officer and as your friend if I did not continue to ask you about this."
The commander gave in. "I…I had the dream again."
EDI looked at Ash, then glanced at the elevator control panel. A moment later, the door opened at the CO's quarters. EDI explained, "This seemed to be a more appropriate location for this discussion."
Ash entered and dropped onto the couch. "Thank you, EDI."
The synthetic officer smiled as she sat before scowling at some more lint collecting on her uniform. Ash noticed. "Still having trouble with the static polarity, huh?"
When the Normandy had crashed, with all systems down, the crew had feared the worst. After a few minutes, EDI had come online once more, revealing that the Reaper tech used in her construction had been mildy damaged by the pulse that had destroyed the Reapers. The geth had reported a couple of ships destroyed by the pulse, though the Consensus claimed that they were run by former heretics who had utilized a lot of Reaper tech in their ships. The only lingering issue seemed to be an inability by EDI to properly adjust the polarity of her body.
Despite this, she was essentially fully functional. Since she was tied to the ship, it had made sense to assign her formally to it. At her request, Admiral Hackett had ordered her commissioned at the rank of Lieutenant, in an effort to better fit in with the rest of the crew.
Ash then realized that both the CO and XO were away from the bridge. "Shouldn't you be in the CIC? You know, you have the bridge, and all that?"
EDI quirked a smile. "Commander, I AM the bridge. If there is a report from any section that you want, I can provide it immediately."
Ash grinned. "Cheater."
EDI rose to leave, then paused in the doorway and canted her head momentarily. Then she turned back toward Ash. "We are receiving a signal via QEC from Councilor Osaba. He requests to speak with you at your convenience."
The image flickered momentarily, then came fully to life in the form of Councilor Dominic Osaba. He smiled briefly as he cleared his throat. "Commander, thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I have some orders for you and the Normandy.
"You are aware, I'm sure, that the Pioneer Project is almost complete. We still need to test the Relay pair, however; that's where the Normandy comes in. As a Spectre, and the ship's commanding officer, your assignment is to take your ship through the Relays and, hopefully, report back to us at Citadel Station promptly afterwards."
Ash nodded in acknowledgement, then signed off. With the Relay Network gone, the galactic economy was in the toilet. The Citadel could be replaced, in function, by a basic space station that would eventually be built up. But the Relays were key to commerce and transportation. The galaxy at large was at a loss for how to handle this problem, until a lone unexpected voice rose up.
Javik the Prothean had reminded everyone of the Conduit project on Ilos and had proposed taking an expedition there to recover any data that might be of use in rebuilding the Relays. Liara had backed, and accompanied, him in this endeavor, citing that, as a Prothean, he might have means to access information that were unavailable to other species.
They had set out three weeks after the Battle of Earth for Ilos, arriving a month later. A week had passed before translated research notes and schematics were sent back via QEC. The result was the Pioneer Project – a grand undertaking by the Citadel systems to build a pair of Mass Relays.
One Relay was placed in the Athena Nebula; the other, in the Hades Gamma Cluster. The theory was that this initial pair would expedite travel from one side of Citadel space to the other. After all, why waste the vast resources to make Relays that weren't also marginally useful? The pols were probably already dickering over how to divvy up any taxes or tolls.
Ash walked through the Situation Room, currently serving as Spectre Central Operations. Jondam Bau was using the QEC and the former War Room to coordinate the operations of Spectres throughout Council space. She got his attention, briefed him on the situation, and arranged to drop him and the others presently aboard at Citadel Station on their way to the Athena Relay.
As she reached the hatch, he called to her. "Commander Shepard!"
She ignored to urge to look over her shoulder for Jack, as Bau stepped closer to her. He extended a hand in a human manner. "Commander, I would like to say that it's been an honor to work with you. Just in case."
She shook his hand. "The same to you, Agent Bau."
She smirked as she headed back to the CIC. In the wake of the Reaper War, she had claimed that she and Jack had, on the eve of the battle, slipped to the Comm Room and arranged for a chaplain on Earth to officiate their wedding by QEC. The unit the chaplain was attached to had been wiped out during the Battle of Earth, and the only ones on Normandy who could testify in any way to the veracity of her account, EDI and Sam Traynor, were steadfastly maintaining silence. And so she had claimed the Shepard name, but still found it odd to hear others use it to refer to her.
No one seemed particularly interested in disputing the matter, either. Especially after Admiral Hannah Shepard had very openly acknowledged her as her daughter-in-law.
With a happy thought turning into a grin, Ashley Shepard walked to the galaxy map and set the destination: Citadel Station.