I don't own Mass Effect, but I wish I could work for Bioware.
EDIT: Thanks to Chooser for pointing out that it was the Omega-4 relay used in the suicide mission. There are some universes in which I know every single name and detail...Mass Effect is not one of them. Sorry. Also, I wrote this before the extended endings came out, so I may or may not use them.
He's not sure where he is, or what's going on. The last thing he knew, he had fallen to the ground, unable to go on, the Reapers destroying everything. Obviously he's no longer at the control panel where he and Anderson had made their stand against the Illusive Man. A beam of light illuminates the mechanism in front of him…and a shimmering construct that looks like a child walks towards him.
"Wake up," it demands.
He gets to his feet, looking around. "What? Where am I?"
"The Citadel," the child replies. "It's my home."
"Who are you?"
"I am the Catalyst."
"I thought the Citadel was the Catalyst," he says. That is, after all, what the Prothean VI told him.
"No, the Citadel is part of me."
"I need to stop the Reapers," he tells the being. "Do you know how I can do that?"
"The Reapers are mine. I control them. They are my solution." He can't believe this is happening. He can only react as surprise after surprise is leveled on him.
"Solution? To what?" he asks.
"Chaos. You bring it on yourselves. The created will always rebel against their creators. But we found a way to stop that from happening. A way to restore order for the next cycle."
"By wiping out organic life?" he asks incredulously.
"No," the Catalyst replies. "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…"
"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," he says. It's a massive understatement, of course. He's aware just how monstrous the Reapers are. He's seen the horror on the faces of colonists as they're dissolved while still conscious…
"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."
"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."
"You don't need hope. The fact that you are standing here, the first organic ever, proves it. But it also proves my solution won't work anymore."
"So now what?" he asks.
"That depends on you."
"What do you mean?"
"The Crucible changed me. Created new…possibilities. But I can't make them happen. And I won't."
"Make what happen?" he asks again. He wonders if the Catalyst is being intentionally mysterious.
"What you came here to do. You want to destroy us. You can wipe out all synthetic life if you want. Including the geth. Even you are partly synthetic…"
The Catalyst makes a dismissive gesture towards a section of the room. He gets a brief glimpse of Anderson, shooting it with a pistol. He wonders if he might be going crazy. It isn't the first time that he's wondered this – it's an easier situation than fighting giant sentient starships – but it's the first time he's actually hallucinated like this.
"But the Reapers will be destroyed?" he asks, trying to distract himself from the hallucination.
"Yes, but the peace won't last. Soon, your children will create synthetics, and then the chaos will come back."
"Maybe…" he says. He's seen that peace is possible. He's brokered it between geth and quarians.
"Or do you think you can control us?" the Catalyst asks, pointing to another section of the construct. Two pillars, crackling with blue something. He gets another vision, of the Illusive man sticking his hands between the pillars.
"Huh. So…the Illusive Man was right after all."
"Yes, but he could never have taken control…because we already controlled him."
"But I can…" he says, trailing off, wondering.
"You will die," the Catalyst cautions. "You will control us, but you will lose everything you have."
"But the Reapers will obey me?"
"Yes. There is another solution."
"Synthesis," the Catalyst says, gesturing to the beam of light.
"And that is?" he asks.
"Add your energy to the Crucible's," the Catalyst explains. "Everything you are will be absorbed and then sent out. A chain reaction will combine all synthetic and organic life into a new framework, a new…DNA."
"I…I don't know."
"Why not? Synthetics are already part of you. Can you imagine your life without them?"
"And there will be peace?"
"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 Catalyst falls silent, and Shepard takes a moment to look around.
Destruction of the Reapers is what he's been fighting for. But this…the Crucible would destroy all synthetic life, not just the Reapers. He remembers Tali telling him about the geth helping the quarians adjust their immune systems. He remembers Legion's question, the one that started the geth wars.
"Does this unit have a soul?"
On Noveria, he had been unwilling to commit genocide against the Rachni. And now, with the geth as his allies…there was no way he would be willing to do so.
And…EDI. She and Joker had begun a relationship; to doom her now would be awful.
Synthesis was better, but still troubling. To make such a decision as to affect every being in the galaxy without their consent was not ethical in the least.
And control. He had argued against it with the Illusive Man, told him that humanity wasn't ready for such power. But he wonders now just how much control he will gain. The Catalyst told him he would die…but why?
"Why will controlling the Reapers kill me?" he asks, and the Catalyst does not reply for a moment.
"The energies of the Crucible will destroy your body completely," the Catalyst says.
Shepard thinks a moment longer. He's faced insurmountable odds. The Prothean beacon should have shredded his mind. He's been dead and brought back to life. He's destroyed Reapers, gone through the Omega-4 Relay on a suicide mission and escaped unscathed.
The Reapers have always underestimated him.
He begins to limp, slowly. He watches the mechanisms, admiring their geometrical structure. He glances back once to the view behind him; the battle rages on, and explosions dot the inky blackness of space.
His mind flashes back involuntarily. He watches Joker, Anderson, and Tali. They've all stood by him. They're the reasons he fights.
And then he shoves his hands between the pillars. Blue energy washes past him, and his skin begins to crumble into dust, flaking away to reveal blackened cybernetics. He grits his teeth and holds on, using every ounce of his mental fortitude to push on through the pain, and communicate with the Reapers.
And then his body dissolves completely, and Shepard is no more.
On Earth, the fight rages on. Soldiers dodge behind cover, firing at husks and other Reaper monstrosities. A Reaper moves, and buildings crumble. The plating over its massive laser is removed, and red glows.
Then the wave hits. Blue energy explodes from the Crucible in a bubble of what appears to be lightning. It rushes over Big Ben, the top of which explodes into rubble. As it passes over the Reapers, the giant starships stop their attacks. Then, without further ado, they lift off of the ground, rising back into space, away from Earth.
Soldiers cheer. It seems the war is over.
The Normandy rushes through space, catapulted by the Sol Mass Relay. Behind it, a large amount of blue…something follows them, slowly gaining. Joker presses controls, struggling to keep the Normandy abreast of whatever is following them; it seems dangerous, and ship is shaking more every second.
Finally, it overtakes them. The engines at the back of the ship shudder and detach, and then there is a flash of white, followed by darkness.
A/N: It's mostly a rehash of canon at this point, but next chapter will go beyond the ending we were given, as well as resolve some of the clues I dropped in this chapter. I don't think there are enough fics that both accept the "canon" (aka non-Indoctrination Theory) ending of ME3 and have a continuation of the series. This is my attempt at such a work.
I probably won't update this regularly, just when I want to get away from Connections, so...don't hold your breath.