Author's Note: I do not own any of the concepts, locations, story elements, ect. Though the plot, ideas, and characters may be mine I forfeit them to BioWare. It is their universe and I treat this story as an extension of such.
Chapter 1: The Threads of Utopia
"Sit him down. Do you know why you are here?"
"No, you are here because you don't understand. Many don't, and even more may never. But I damn well better try to explain it to you.
"I'm here to tell you a truth, story, parable - if you would desire. Long or short you will listen to the tale. What is it about? Why my friend, it is about fear.
"I once knew a Krogan, the staunch hot headed type. I met him in a bar; to my recollection it was over Turian Ale. There I probed him with questions. These questions were pertaining to his life.
"It took a while, and after a few rounds he started ranting about the military; how when they first entered the barracks their battlemaster told them to throw away all emotion. 'To hell with living,' the battlemaster apparently said, 'I'll see you all in the Void!'
"That warrior in the bar, skin of leather, brain of a pea, then broke down and started to sob. A sight like that could break the morale of an entire battalion. He looked to me with watered eyes, his lids beating the streaks of pain away and said, 'Though when the time came against our most hated foe in glorious battle, Yavnok Gyan; our battlemaster, fled out of fear.'
"Those right there my friend, are the truest words I ever have heard."
Earth was nothing more than a piece of charred meat. That was what a turian commando said to me as we waded through the wreckage of old New York. "I've had many types of meat," he went on to say. "Vorcha meat, sewer rat meat, human meat," he gave a wink as a slight sardonic edge was traced through that sentence. "But never have I ever felt like meat: so wasted, alone and forgotten. Here on your planet however... ya, I think I know how those carcasses felt." I shook my head. I had known this turian for years and his horrible, misinformed jokes still did not appease me. However, beneath the ill-conceived political correctness there was truth in those words. But I did not care for the hidden truth. This was only a job, not a philosophical debate.
"Though all my food is dextro-amino based, so I really don't know anything about eating sewer rats and the like, do I?" He shook his head in disgust. "I doubt dextro-amino based foods taste any good, though I suppose I never tasted anything else. So I really don't have an opinion do I?" I nodded absentmindedly. "Though imagine what amino-acid based foods must taste like! I bet the juices are still fresh in your mouth, running down your mandibles." Those said mandibles clicked in harmonic rhythms. "Yes, I envy your species."
"I bet you don't say that anymore, now you've stepped foot on this planet." It had been the first time I had spoken on the trip and the commando made a note of it. "I like to focus on one thing, get it done, and move on. I'll rest when I die."
The turian chuckled, "You humans, still resilient as the day we took back the planet." The commando looked to the darkened sky. Outlined beside the moon was the huge bulk of the Citadel in all its glory. It used to be broken and shattered from the blast that had come from it. Now its pristine hulk lay in proud orbit around Earth: a hub for the new galactic era. It was all for that, I thought bitterly, all for a single blast of red flame to end synthetic life. No one would have known the effects of such a blast. It ripped through the circuitry on the planet, tearing out mainframes and damaging the infrastructure of Earth; well, what was left of it. Even some ships had been caught in the blast experienced a black out as the beam washed over them. My ship was one of those cases where the blackout had never stopped.
"You ever wanted to find out what went on in the Citadel?" the turian asked, breaking me from my trance.
"No," I replied sturdily.
"No?" he countered, watching me throw away rubble as I search for the mechanism we were asked to find.
"He did what he had to do. Almost cost him his life... what life he has left anyways." I shook my head and started to look in a nearby apartment. I dare not go to any top floors so I hoped that it could be found in the main lobby. My companion followed, still in thought. I sometimes hated Thionan for his constant prattling.
"He? You don't even speak his name anymore? Damn, I thought humans had more respect for their war heroes. On Palaven, if you took down even a single cruiser in a war you would be heralded as a legend. You'd at least have a ship named after you, maybe even a gun."
I stifled a giggle, captains never 'giggled'. Yet as I contemplated this I realized that I no longer owned that title. I shook my head, damn war. "I doubt Shepard would want some hunk of metal streaming in the sky with his name on it. I wouldn't want it, even if I was remembered by people in the future."
The turian laughed. "Imagine some old guy in the future, telling stories about your exploits. He would stand there with a boy beside him," Thionan lifted his arms and 'outlined' the scene before me. "He would tell a great war story of all your exploits, only calling you THE SHEPARD as recognition." He started to laugh and I merely shook my head.
"If Shepard ever found out about that, he would be turning in his grave."
Thionan looked to me in thought, his mandibles clicking was the only sound accompanying my thrashing around rubble. At last he spoke, "He's not dead you know."
I couldn't help but laugh. There was silence after and I looked to the commando who held a more serious tone. I sighed, "No, no he isn't. But where he is right now," I turned back to my work and walked over to a desk and flipped it over, "isn't exactly on Earth or heaven."
The turian shook his head in despair, not criticism and looked around. After a while of searching through broken glass and cement my companion made a comment about human architecture. He said something about how it was too 'blocky'. I told him that he was just the same and that shut him up for a bit. We searched the main floor and the first level to no avail. I checked my signal scanner to make sure we were in the right vicinity. Thionan looked over my shoulder.
Once the beacon came up on the screen I commanded it to take a reference point to my location. Indeed we were close to it; but it just was not in this building. I asked for the monitor to turn off and it did so with alarming speed. Thionan commented on that. "You have such a sweet way of talking to your equipment. How long did it take to get that baby up and running?" I shook my head as he walked down the stairs and out the door. Rumbling surrounded us as I peered about at any nearby buildings we missed. I found one.
"Surprisingly not everything was destroyed or damaged during the black out." I was the first to reach the wreckage as per usual with the turian dragging behind me. "Small equipment like phones, medical scanners, and our automatic ammo clips still worked just fine."
Thionan chuckled. "You would be lost without your gun wouldn't you?"
I tapped my holster with my right hand while looking behind my left shoulder. "Never leave this baby anywhere, acts as my wing man to dates."
"I bet you're a hit with the ladies."
"Only the krogan ones." We shared a laugh at that. Shaking our heads we went back to work. The lifting was getting brutal and even in the darkness I was getting hot. It was still relatively unsafe to go around wreckage without suits of armour. Radiation plagued even the wildlife; I started to miss the mosquitoes that bit my unprotected arms. I coughed roughly, the clouded atmosphere did not help either, but that was what we got for all-out war.
"I'm still surprised after ten years we still can't rebuild some simple structures on your planet. I really don't know what the council was thinking rebuilding the Citadel and relays before Earth." I smiled at his comment. There was humour running throughout yet there was a hidden thoughtfulness that grabbed me. I had only known Thionan for five years after my falling out with the Earth Alliance. My new Special Galactic Ops job was how I met him and I appreciated all he had done for me. Yet he would not let me brush him off. Said he hated the other turian soldiers who only compared war scars and Reaper heads. I still don't know why he's hung along for so long.
"I'm pretty sure ensuring the galactic community was more important than a few burned down parks on Earth." The turian smiled but sighed after.
"Maybe, just seems disrespectful though."
"You're not getting soft on me are you Thionan?"
He smiled wider now. "Oh I never would Marcus."
Marcus. It had been such a long time since someone other than Thionan had called me by my first name. It was always Operative Tyson. I pressed my eyes together. I was just another unnamed solider compared to the real heroes of the war. The names of Commander Shepard, Admiral Anderson, and Admiral Hackett would live forever in human history; like Commander Vakarian's would on Thionan's Palaven. I however, would die alone on some far off planet, left in an unmarked grave far from my birth planet. It was all so wrong yet I could not complain, at least I was alive.
I stood up now and wiped my arm across my sweltering head. Even though it did little to ease my blazing head, the gesture was second nature to me. "I assume this signal has dampened over the years?" I questioned as I started again to search by throwing over more rubble.
"Captain Kirrahe," I corrected. At least I understood the chain of command towards our outfit's leader.
"Fine, Captain Kirrahe," he corrected slowly and dramatically with a wide bow before continuing, "said that the device would be damaged after this time, though he didn't think it would cause us difficulty in our search."
I nodded and got back to work. We did not speak much in that time, we only worked. This was fine by me; the sooner we got off this hell-hole the better. After a while I flipped over a small wall of cement to reveal a spherical mechanism, barely the size of my hand. I picked it up and turned it about. Small velvet lights flickered about and the metal was warm on my hand. I quickly referenced the data log. The scanner's blue light shone over the object as it picked up all the dents and scratches over the metallic surface. At last I got my reading and at last I was satisfied with my results. I called Thionan over.
He came with his usual calm gait. "You find it?" he said after a rough cough.
"I think so. Matches all the specs we got."
"Good," nodded Thionan as he started to turn on his com. But before he could I stopped him with my hand.
"Do you even know what this device is? What it does?" My companion, possibly my only friend looked concerned for a moment, but his eyes soon lightened.
"This questioning coming from the by-the-books solider?" I sighed, I needn't say anymore; I understood what Thionan had meant. He gave a small smile, obviously trying to ease my discomfort as he raised his hand to his suit and pressed a few buttons on his receiver to open a channel. There was a bit of static as he adjusted the link due to radiation, but it was not too long before a voice sprung through.
"Operative Pandrax, what is your status?"
He looked around for a moment, meeting eyes with me before continuing. I could only wonder if he was worrying about the same things I was. "Infinity Unit this is Thionan Pandrax coming in. We have the device, requesting immediate pick up."
With these words I turned from the turian, I had no need to hear the rest of the conversation. I gazed across the ruined landscape of the city. This used to be New York, my home. Now it was only a graveyard. After so long one would think that they would have removed the wreckage of the downed ships during the retaking of Earth. Tried at least to rebuild this once thriving metropolis. I could sadly say that this was not the case. As I looked to and from the ruined buildings I only saw the tombs of fellow soldiers. It brought thoughts of Shepard, nearly dead trapped in stasis, waiting for the day when the doctors would finally cure him of his wounds. He was just like the planet, though legendary in origin and deeds, they both were neglected.
Earth was a charred piece of meat... I would go one further. I would say all of humanity was. A chuckle escaped my lips. I guess there was some truth in that.