Authors Notes:

This will only be a short chapter but it's necessary before we head to the grand finale so here it is. As usual I hope you enjoy it and please let me know if you guys like it. I run on reviews so please keep them coming.

Admiral Steven Hackett

Location: Shield Fleet

Alliance Dreadnought Orizaba Bridge

"This is it everyone. The arms are opening." Hackett announced to the fleet as the escort ships brought 'The Crucible' into the back of 'The Citadel'. The large casing that had protected the sensitive machinery inside broke away perfectly revealing the device that the brightest scientific minds throughout the galaxy had painstakingly labored on for months. This was the moment of truth.

Hackett watched as the Virtual Intelligence that they had installed into 'The Crucible' took control of the device long with its directional thrusters and brought the massive machine into dock with the space station.

"Ten seconds to contact." He announced as the VI extended the four separate arm mounts at the side of the device so they would connect with the ring of the Presidium.

As the spectacle unfolded the Admiral was pleased to see the Virtual Intelligence was working as intended. The VI had been created to the exact specifications that were in the instructions from the mars archives and had been surprisingly complex and time consuming to create. But right then Hackett was glad of it as 'The Crucible' slotted neatly into the back end of 'The Citadel' and the ships in charge of its integration into the space station could instead turn their attention towards defending the device from the Reapers.

The VI had been a small final addition to the device due to the fact that it wasn't a key component, just one that, as far as anyone was aware, made final docking procedures easier. It had almost not been installed due to that fact that it had required an extremely large amount of hardware to support its programming and its specifications had been written in one of the oldest, most encrypted and obscure Prothean dialects ever encountered.

Many of the engineers had argued against wasting more resources on such a component but Admiral Hackett had insisted that every single component, no matter how small, was to be included on the device to give them the best chance against the Reapers. And if it was so heavily encrypted then it might serve some other purpose unknown to them.

Still it would have been impossible to translate the designs without the Prothean Data Drives, Sphere, Hesperia-period statue and the Obelisk of Karza that Commander Shepard had recovered. (1)

Just another way the man had given more than had ever been required to the galaxy. After this was all over Hackett very well intended to make him an Admiral at the very least for all he had done.

Finally 'The Crucible' came to a halt as it connected to 'The Citadel' and the clamps engaged around the presidium locked the device in place.

"That's it 'The Crucible' is docked." He announced.

For a few seconds the entire CIC was quite waiting to see what 'The Crucible' would do.

A minuet passed, but nothing happened.

Then another minuet, but still nothing.

There was no discernible difference in 'The Crucibles' energy output. The device was inert.

At that very moment Admiral Hackett felt sick to his stomach.

They had failed. He had been dreading this outcome. 'The Crucible' had been their final desperate hope. What now seemed to be a fool's hope. They had sunk billions of credits worth of resources into the device along with countless materials, hours of manpower and it had all been in vain.

Maybe they had missed something in the plans. No! They had followed them to the letter, double checked and triple checked them and then started all over again. The device was complete.

It had to be something else. Maybe 'The Crucible' had never worked. Maybe it had all been a Reaper trap. An elaborate ploy to get them to waste resources on something that would never work.

Panicked whispering was now starting to break out through the CIC. "Admiral" his combat specialist announced "The Reapers are converging on our location we won't be able to hold them back for long."

Desperately thinking now the Admiral looked back at 'The Citadel' when it came to him.

The Catalyst! That had to be it. Something on 'The Citadel' must still be needed to fire the device.

"Scan the Citadel. Do have a location on Shepard and Anderson?" He asked his communication specialist.

"I have Admiral Anderson's emergency beacon on my scanners, sir." She replied.

"Where are they?"

"They appear to be directly beneath 'The Crucible' at the base of the Citadel Tower sir."

Hackett's tactical mind went into overdrive as he analyzed the situation. As far as he knew there was no way to open 'The Citadel' from the base of the Tower so how had Shepard and Anderson done it? The fact that they were also so near 'The Crucible' couldn't be a coincidence.

He knew it was a slim chance but Shepard had performed miracles before and if there was ever a time for him to do it again it was now. If anyone could get 'The Crucible' to fire it was him. He hated to ask so much more from the solider that had gone through hell to achieve this moment but he had no choice. The galaxy needed him one last time.

"Patch me through to the Commander." He said.

Commander John Lewis Shepard

Location: The Citadel

Directly beneath the Citadel tower

There was a groan behind me and I turned around to see Anderson propping himself up as he sat on the floor gazing out at the stars.

Slowly, now that my work was done, I walked over and sat down next to him. As I did he opened up his Omni-Tool and applied a large dose of Medi-Gel to the wound in his side. Once I was seated next to him he then wordlessly did the same thing to my shoulder where I had been shot by that Marauder. (2)

Finally he activated his emergency locator beacon and then sat back and looked out at Earth as I did the same.

"Commander…" he said eventually acknowledging me.

"We did it sir." I replied hardly believing it. It was finally over.

"Yes, we did." He said with a smile.

"It's… quite a view" he remarked after a couple of seconds.

I made a sound that was halfway between a grunt and a laugh "Best seats in the house." I replied.

After a quiet moment of reflection Anderson said "God… It feels like years since I just… sat down."

I couldn't help but agree thinking back on all that had happened over the last three years "I think we've both earned a rest." I said.

"You ever wonder…" The admiral asked "If things had been different … how our lives would have been different if all this hadn't happened?" (3)

"Yeah, I think about it all the time." I replied.

"I never had a family Shepard. Never had children." Anderson went on to say, not hearing me.

"There'll be time enough for that now." I said trying to reassure my old friend.

Anderson laughed at that.

"I… I think that ship has sailed." He responded with a melancholy tone.

He turned to me and asked "What about you. Ever think about settling down?"

"Yeah, I've thought about it but…" I trailed off thinking back to a few hours ago about my final conversation with Miranda.

"But…" Anderson queried.

I couldn't quite express what it was about having a family that seemed so impossible to me but eventually I tried.

"I'm a solider Anderson. Like you. I've been doing this for so long now that… I'm not sure if I'm fit to do anything else anymore."

"Sure you would." He said now trying to reassure me.

His warm and friendly tone made me almost believe it myself. I smiled slightly as my mind started to imagine the possibilities and I eventually said "Yeah…I like the sound of that."

But then I gave small chuckle and added "But even if I was I'm not sure how good I'd be at it."

"I don't know Shepard." Anderson said smiling at me now as well "I think you'd make a great Dad."

"Uh…huh" I grunted again in pain as I moved my shoulder slightly to get more comfortable.

"Think how proud your kid's would be…" Anderson went on his voice getting softer and more tired "telling everyone… that there Dad… is Commander Shepard."

"I don't know about that." I said thinking back over my life. "Not everything I've done is something to be proud of."

That caused Anderson to turn and look at me with a serious face and say "Now you listen to me Shepard… because this is important. No matter what you've done, or whatever happens when this mess over I want you to know this…"

I was starting to get worried about my friend now. "Hey, come on Anderson don't talk like that. Stay with me, we're almost through this. You and I are goanna make it out of here. Then you and Kahlee are going to get married and have lots of kids running around your house in no time."

Anderson slowly leaned back and said weakly "You did good son. You did good. I'm… proud… of you."

"Thank you sir." I simply replied unable to think of anything else to say.

But he didn't hear me. The moment he finished his sentence his head lolled forward and his eyes closed.

"Anderson?" I asked my voice lined with fear.

"Anderson!?" I said more forcefully terrified that he was dead. He couldn't be dead! Not now. Not after everything that we'd done! Everything we'd been through together.

He still didn't respond. Quickly I put my fingers against his neck checking for a pulse. For a few seconds I couldn't find one. But then almost imperceptibly I felt the faith throb of a heartbeat against my fingertips. (4)

He was still alive! He must have just passed out from the pain. I must admit that I was pretty close to doing the same thing. Leaning back I could only hope that the Normandy or somebody picked up our distress signal sooner rather than later.

Once 'The Crucible' fired or did whatever it was supposed to do hopefully it would be a quick matter of getting picked up and finding a hospital where I could just lie down for a few weeks doing absolutely nothing.

Right then to nobody in particular I just said out loud what I was thinking.

"I want to go home." (5)

I didn't even know where I meant. Earth, the Normandy… it didn't matter. I just wanted to go home; to a place where I felt safe, where I didn't have to worry about the fate of entire races or the death of my closest friends. I was through saving the Galaxy. I just wanted to go home.

Suddenly there was a burst of static from my radio "Shepard…" It was Admiral Hackett. "Commander…" he tried again. A hint of panic creeping through his voice.

"Shepard I don't know if you can hear me but we need you! Please respond. Nothing's happening. 'The Crucible's' not firing. It's got to be something on your end."

He had to be joking. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. After all this I still had more to do?

I was at death's door and still the Galaxy had the nerve to ask more of me. I'd already died once! Wasn't that enough? Hadn't I sacrificed enough? (6)

Even though no one could hear me I still shouted out "Haven't I done enough?!" to the heaven's in front of me. But there was no response except silence.

"Commander, come in." The Admiral tried again oblivious to my situation.

"When is it ever going to be enough for you people?" I screamed into space again cursing whatever cruel entity that existed in the universe that was tormenting me.

"We need you Shepard. Please come in." Hackett tried again abandoning all pretenses of hiding his fear.

I was silent for a couple of seconds before finally taking a few deep breaths and activating my radio and asking "What do you need me to do?"

"Honestly I don't know. But according to our scans you're directly beneath 'The Crucible'. Is there anything near you that you think could activate it?"

Looking around I realized there was only one thing I could interact with. The Terminal now had a 3D hologram of 'The Crucible' next to the one of 'The Citadel'. A single symbol was flashing next to it. (7)

I had to get back over there and do… something. But now my body was betraying me. I tried to stand up but only succeeded in falling forward and collapsing on the floor.

With a groan I slowly crawled and clawed my way back toward the control panel.

I finally got to its base. Now I had to reach the holographic display above me. Such as small distance might as well have been a mountain. But refused to let a simple thing like this doom the rest of the galaxy. Everyone was counting on 'The Crucible'. It had to work!

I propped myself up on one arm and reached forward with the other. I was so close. So close!


Finally I managed to press the flashing symbol next to the hologram of 'The Crucible' before collapsing from exhaustion and passing out from the pain of my injuries. (9)

But before I did, I distinctly remember feeling like I was rising upwards.

To be continued...

(1) I don't believe that ships alone would not be able to guide a device a massive as 'The Crucible' into dock perfectly with 'The Citadel' on their own. Tractor beams do not exist in the Mass Effect universe nor are there any pilots for 'The Crucible'. Therefore having a VI control the device's docking procedure is the only way I can see it coming in to attach so perfectly with 'The Citadel'.

Also I have made it so that its construction made some of those collection missions have a purpose. Because if 'The Crucible' gets created no matter what why do we need to collect these objects which help in its creation? And how could they affect our Effective Military Score?

(2) Even though Shepard's Omni tool is probably fried from Harbingers attack there is no reason to assume that Anderson's was. And if that was the case you would think that he'd apply some medi-gel to his wounds.

(3) Of course I added this conversation between Anderson and Shepard. I can't believe that it didn't make it into the final cut of the game.

(4) I know that this will probably be my most controversial change to the Mass effect story besides the meeting with 'The Catalyst' but I have some good reasons for this so just hear me out:

First it is never actually confirmed in game that Anderson dies. Shepard never checks his pulse or confirms to anyone he is dead. He just looks at him sadly but that doesn't mean anything. For all we know Anderson could have just passed out from the pain and blood loss.

And the fact that his name is on the memorial wall of the Normandy doesn't mean anything either because in the destroy ending they are about to put Shepard's name on the wall despite the fact that he survives. This means that both Shepard and Anderson at this point haven't been found and are only assumed to be KIA. Which makes me feel like your crew was a little too premature in thinking that Shepard is dead.

Come on guys! At least check to make sure Shepard's dead before you put his name up on the wall!

So for all of these reasons yes Anderson will live in this story.

If you think that is too cliché and Hollywood just remember that Thane, Mordin and Legion are all still dead. And that is in my opinion is as it should be. Their deaths were powerful and worked within their own character arcs and the context of the overall plot. There is no way that any of these three character's could have survived their deaths.

Anderson's death however I feel doesn't contribute to the progression of the story and there are also many in game reasons why he could survive.

(5) I added this scene just to try and humanize Shepard a bit more. After all the pain and suffering the character went through I think it was only fitting that now he thought the Reapers were defeated he could be a little selfish.

(6) Again just another moment to humanize the character. In the game Shepard just gets up and on with the mission. While this is very admirable I thought it would add a little more drama for him to rebel against being asked to be the Hero one last time after he thought his part was done.

(7) It would make no sense for 'The Catalyst' to bring Shepard up to his chamber if he threatened his precious cycle. Nor would it make sense that you collapsing on the exact spot where the elevator is would activate it. So now I have made it so that pressing the symbol on the control panel activates the lift taking Shepard up to 'The Catalyst' and his date with destiny.

And that's it. All the dominoes are now set up for the ending. This next chapter may take a little while longer to write, but don't worry its coming. I know most of you are looking forward to Shepard beating the shit out of 'The Catalyst' or as I like to call him Casper the genocidal brat and don't worry. He will.

And on a final note I learned today that Bioware finally decided to give Harbinger some lines for Mass Effect 3. Sadly they are only in the new multiplayer trailer but this gives me some hope that he may return as a main antagonist in a later dlc along with another ending patch.

One can only hope. But until then I will keep substituting in this story once I get to 'The Conduit' beam at the end of the game.