Mass Effect: Destination
**A/N**-So if you've read "Subjugation", you will know that I heavily implied that Shepard was struggling with the effects of indoctrination. Bioware's EC did not leave us with that option, which would have been neat, but it's their creation. I've come to understand that as being a fellow artist, albeit an amateur one; whenever someone criticizes your work, you shouldn't always have to kowtow to his or her every whim. I think that Bioware did a commendable job of listening to their fans…just wish that TV studios would follow that same path, but they don't sell to the viewers. They care about their advertisers. Perhaps we didn't get any Miranda new content, but at least she was added to the 'flashback' scene. Anyhow, this novel picks up sort of where I left off at the end of "Subjugation". Remember, I said that I'd consider doing one after the EC was out, and here I am to fulfill that promise. If you didn't like any of the endings that Bioware made, then I am sorry. I hope that you will enjoy this story regardless of that. Now, to borrow a colloquialism from Freddie Mercury, on with the show!
London, U.K., Earth
Kodiak UT-47A shuttle, 1038h
The smell of grime and human perspiration permeated the shuttle. Miranda found herself pinned in between two Alliance marines. Neither of them held substantial ranks; they were just grunts. The conversations that were occurring in the shuttle were in short spurts. The CO of the 102nd marine unit was a corporal by the name of Julien Bèrnard. He was either from France or Canada and been given control of this unit just recently. Compared to Shepard, he was certainly no leader. After Miranda had been introduced to him, she could immediately tell that one day, perhaps if he survived this war, he would have the makings of being a decent one. However, he did not give much encouragement to the soldiers around him. He lacked that charisma and fire that Shepard had.
The last conversation that she and the love of her life began to play through her mind again.
"What are your hopes and dreams, Shepard, if you survive this?" she'd asked him.
"To be with you for the rest of my life. And doing whatever you'd like with you."
She lowered her eyes from his and hung her head. "There's one thing, Shepard, that…" her voice wavered. "That I can't do. I've tried to…-"
"I already know what it is, Miranda." He lifted her chin and forced her to gaze into his eyes. "And I don't think any less of you for what you might not be able to do."
"But how…?" A few tears welled up within her eyes. Then reality dawned upon her. "T'Soni told you. How long have you known about this?"
"She didn't blatantly tell me this; I read over a few transcripts that she had run across that had been in the old Shadow Broker's dossiers. He had one on every single team member that was on the Normandy, along with a file on the Illusive Man, Anderson, and Commander Bailey. I've known about this for probably…oh…almost a year now," Shepard admitted. "Your file mentioned that you did try to conceive a child. But I don't care about that."
"You don't care that I tried or-"
"I mean to say that I don't think any less of you for your present condition. And that's why I worded what I originally said with the word 'might'. With all the miracles of science that are out there nowadays, I'm sure that they'd be able to fix it if that's what you want. Besides, there are many other ways to have a family should we both decide to go upon that avenue one day. I love you just the way that you are, Miranda. "
"Really?" she wiped the tears away before they could start to run down her face. "You still want me…?"
"You make me feel human, Miranda. Everyone else puts me up on a pedestal, almost like I'm some god or something," he said and made a motion over his head to demonstrate his point. "But with you, I don't have to be the savior of the galaxy. I don't have to give you a deeply emotional and poignant speech to get a response out of you."
After that, he'd kissed her so hard that she thought that her lips would permanently be intertwined with his. Then Shepard told her about Mordin's revelation about Cerberus personnel.
"Back on the Collector mission, Mordin told me that Cerberus operatives are all outfitted with cyanide capsules in their molars." He paused to study her for a moment. "Do you still have yours?"
She didn't answer him at first but rather looked away.
"Answer me, Miri," he ordered her in a gentle but firm tone.
"Yes," she sighed. "I still have it."
"Promise me that you'll never use it, no matter what becomes of me."
"Shepard…-" She attempted to turn away to hide the tears that had begun to fall, but he stopped her and wiped some of them away. He gave her one final nervous but gradual kiss, cupping one of her cheeks and rubbed the pads of his fingers along it.
"Don't use it," was all he said afterward. "I love you, Miri."
She licked her lips and ran her fingers through his hair one final time. "I…won't." Even more bittersweet tears began to fill her eyes. "Damnit," she soughed. "Now…finish this…and find me."
With one final backward look, like a good soldier, he followed his orders and trudged up the wreckage to the FOB.
Miranda opened her eyes to snap herself out of her reverie just as the gorgeous but sagacious Samara repeated her question to her. "Did you hear me, Miranda?"
"I…I'm sorry, no, I didn't, Samara," the Aussie confessed and shook her head.
"I had asked you if you and Commander Shepard were still in a relationship. I believe that you humans call it…dating?"
"Yes, that's true, we do." She rubbed her eyes and stood up to shake the hand that Samara had extended to her from across the opposite side of the shuttle. "To answer your other question, that's also a yes."
"Is he your bond mate now?"
Miranda pondered over this metaphor in her mind for a few seconds. It had been a while since she'd lived in Nos Astra, and she'd never actually had this type of conversation with an asari before. Miranda did not make friends easily; she was reluctant to give her trust away freely, but she admired Samara deeply. They shared a few conversations over a few meals on the Normandy previously, but Samara also had kept herself at a distance. It was possibly due to the fact that she had just been forced to kill her own daughter Morinth, but Samara was a justicar after all. The role often forced her to become unattached from society altogether, and Miranda wondered if Samara was aware of the most shocking revelation that Shepard had told her about the Asari. Did she know about the Protheans' instruction, protection, and genetic intervention? Now was unfortunately not the time to ask, but since Samara ascribed to being a justicar, she would also say 'by the goddess' like many of her species.
"Yes, he is," she finally told her colleague. "I'm fortunate to have run into you again, Samara, and that you're here with me. Have you seen him since you left the Normandy?"
"Indeed. I had gone to the monastery on Lesuss in Asari space where my other two daughters lived in seclusion. Unfortunately, the Reapers came there and began to harvest them…as you know, the Ardat Yakshi are extremely powerful biotics among my people," Samara explained.
She had two other daughters? Here I thought that I was an extremely private person, Miranda mused.
"What happened to them? The Reapers didn't-"
"Rila was lost to the Reapers' control but did not falter. She had not been turned into one of those foul creatures quite yet, and Asari Command sent a unit of commandoes to deal with them. Shepard assisted me to rid the monastery of the horrible beasts, and I found Falere unharmed. We left Rila, who in turn, set off a detonator to several charges placed around the complex." Samara's voice remained neutral throughout the whole narrative, but Miranda knew that inside, she must have been grieving in her own way. It was that same strength that enabled her to forever strike down her other daughter.
Miranda wondered if perhaps there was more to the story but did not dare to ask because she understood how hard it must have been to do that. She in turn, was prepared to shoot her best childhood friend Niket, in order to protect Oriana. Shepard had stopped her, and he was right, she would have regretted it later on.
"Had Shepard not intervened, I would not be here with your fellow species," Samara's tone changed into a warm one finally. "I am glad that he did not allow me to fulfill my code. Should I actually survive this, I will possibly be able to go back to Lesuss and rebuild the monastery with Falere. I now owe him very deeply for that, and coming here to your home planet was the least that I could do to honor our friendship. I am relieved to see that your relationship with him has flourished and stayed healthy."
"Thanks. It's a pleasure to work with you again," Miranda stated and gave her a tight-lipped smile. "Hopefully we can kick these buggers off of our planet for good. I was sorry to hear about Thessia."
Samara's eyes met hers. "As was I, but our leaders made a grave mistake for not trusting your species or the others any sooner. Unification would have possibly saved Thessia, but the Matriarchs are not always known for their humble attitudes with the rest of the galaxy. We may seem to be the most advanced species in the Milky Way, but without the brute force of the krogan, turians, and even your own people…-"
"Might I ask you a question about your past?"
"Did you ever consider being a leader? Did you become a justicar because of…well…-"
"I needed to assume the responsibility of my lost daughter. She killed many, and it was because of my decision to mate with another of my kind instead of-"
"That wasn't your fault, though, Samara. How could you have known? Are there actually any hard statistics on having a pure blood daughter that would be an Ardat Yakshi?" And at least you were able to have a bloody daughter.
Samara did not answer Miranda's challenge; she merely glanced about the shuttle at the soldiers who were trying to desperately hide their fear. Since Bèrnard was clearly not going to talk to his men, the asari decided to approach him. "Might I have a word with you, Corporal?" she inquired.
Miranda crossed her arms and planted her heels firmly onto the shuttle's floor as she witnessed this exchange.
"Yeah, what is it?" Bèrnard demanded.
Samara kept her voice low and calm as usual. "I would like to say a few words to your men before we head out onto the battlefield. Do I have your permission to do so?"
His eyebrows furrowed. "Why?"
"This area where we are headed that Major Coats showed us has the potential to give the Reaper forces an advantage with the terrain and perhaps corner us if we are not careful. It is also very likely that it will rain soon." Samara pointed to the cloudy sky that was being pictured on the holographic screen to their left. "Do you not feel that you should encourage your troops to embolden their strength?"
"What are you, some kind of Asari general or something?"
"I have served for several hundred years as a justicar, but I am also a warrior and understand how it feels to be led into a battle with an unknown enemy."
"We know exactly who we're fighting," he rolled his eyes.
"Then I should perhaps be more candid with you. Have you been watching the soldiers under your command?" she lowered her voice to a whisper now.
"Fine, you wanna say something, go ahead." He did not whisper. "Think you're our fucking savior? Your own planet got mashed into nothing!"
"Show some respect, Corporal," Miranda cut into the conversation. "Samara has been fighting for centuries and has served under Commander Shepard, as have I. If there's one thing that both of us know, it's how to survive a suicide mission. And this area that your Major Coats has sent us into might as well be a bloody pot of boiling oil. Being a commander isn't easy, and it's obvious that you've got practically no experience leading a team."
Bèrnard was about to reply, but then Samara held up a gloved hand to silence him. "If you do not wish for me to say a word, then I will not," she humbly stated.
He bit his lip and swallowed his pride. "No, I'm sorry, go ahead."
The shuttle started to make its final descent now, and Samara stood in the center of it so that she was facing as many of the marines as possible as well as Miranda. She cleared her throat, and all conversations that had been going in between the troops immediately ceased. "Our enemy is strong but not infallible. Take everything that you have with you into this fight, not only your well-made weapons but also your wills. If there is one thing that I have learned about your species, it is that you do not break easily. I once told Commander Shepard that there is much that humans can offer to the galaxy, and I still believe this even to this very day. Put everything that you have in your souls into this battle, my comrades, so that you will be able to stand up to everything that the Reapers throw in our path. They represent the ultimate evil that threatens not just your planet but ours and many others as well. My home has fallen, but I am here with you because I believe that we can rid ourselves of these atrocious creatures. Will you all stand with me?"
The marines all eyed one another cautiously. None of them were exactly sure of what to say to this alien. It seemed as if she were being genuine.
Miranda uncrossed her arms. "I will, Samara."
Seconds later, they gradually all nodded their heads, and smiles came across their faces. The asari nodded her head graciously and continued. "Fight for your wives or your husbands. Fight for your daughters, your sons, or your children that have yet to be born. Fight for your mothers or your fathers; we will see them again. Honor your gods and those who gave their lives before you in the hopes that one day, we might all be free."
"Oorah!" one marine finally yelled. The rest of them joined in, and Samara actually smiled to encourage them all. With that, she stood next to Miranda and did not say another word. The chorus kept on going even as the shuttle touched down, and Corporal Bèrnard found his commanding voice.
The shouts instantly died, and the soldiers all arose to snap to attention.
"Nothing special, let's just stay frosty. These two," he pointed to Miranda and Samara," will be giving us barrier support. If you wanna keep having kids or body parts, stay with 'em at all times. And if either of you can't keep up your goddamned barriers, let me know ASAP so that we don't get into a charlie foxtrot."
"I'm sorry, I do not quite follow you," Samara honestly stated.
Miranda rolled her eyes. "He means a cluster fuck, which means a very bad situation that usually ends up with retreat or death."
"Ah, then rest assured that my barrier will not falter, Corporal."
He gave Miranda a look as if to ask if Samara were lying or pretending to give him some sort of false hope, but Miranda shook her head 'no'.
The door of the shuttle opened from the pilot's controls at Bèrnard's command, and Miranda and Samara instantaneously activated their barriers. "Just how many people can you cover in those bubbles, mes femmes?" he gruffly demanded.
"As many as you need," Miranda shot back as the shuttle finally came to land.
The two biotics jumped down onto the ground. Almost immediately, they began to be pummeled by shots being launched at them by ravagers from all sorts of directions. Miranda inwardly grimaced with the ferocity of the projectiles that hit her but did not lose her strength. "Now would be a bloody good time to get in!" she yelled behind herself with deep concentration.
"Get the hell down there, you lazy porkers!" the CO screamed.
The marines all nervously began to jump down and disperse themselves into Samara's and Miranda's protection. Bèrnard was the last to join them, and the shuttle departed from them right away. Miranda glanced over her shoulder as it left. Bloody coward. I'd rather have that quarian engineer from the Normandy leading this unit. At least she knew how to take charge from Shepard. He's not even taking the lead here; I'd better ask him how he wants to proceed.
"Got a plan, or are we just going to keep getting nailed here from all sides?" Miranda groused.
"Yeah, let's go over there and take cover." He pointed to a place in the rubble that had some cover from the ravagers but not much. They still had the advantage of the higher terrain.
As the marines' gunfire spread all around her, she guided about six marines in that general direction. Is he mad? There's no way that we can hope to survive this attack if-
"Uh, Samara, was that your name?"
The asari's head snapped towards his. "Yes."
"Yeah, uh, Samara, you take the others and take our flank. Maybe we can even this up."
Great. He wants to go with me? Miranda inwardly sighed.
She felt the sting of yet another ravager blast begin to penetrate her barrier. "Care to pick up the pace? This isn't as easy as it damn well looks, you know!"
"Then you set it, and we'll follow you!" Bèrnard shot back angrily and started to fire his assault rifle at the same ravager that had been firing at her.
Right. Just as you say. I hope that you can follow your own commands, then.
Miranda made eye contact with the other soldiers. "On the count of three, I'm going to drop the barrier, and we'll head for that ridge over there at ten o'clock. I can't protect us all while we're running."
"What? I didn't get that!" the CO came back and stopped firing his gun.
She hated repeating herself, and this incompetent fool was getting on her nerves. She had enough of him. "One…two…three!" she thundered and let go of her protective field. The rest of the unit took off with her.
"What the hell? I said to-"
Bèrnard never got a chance to finish his sentence as yet another few powerful shots from a ravager hit him squarely in the chest.
Miranda tossed a perfunctory look over her shoulder as his body slumped to the ground with a soft thud into the earth. Belligerent ass; he should've listened to me the first time.