TO THE BEACON

The beam struck with a force that drove every ounce of air from her lungs. She was flung sideways by someone's dismembered body. Blood splattered her. It was impossible to draw breath for a few moments. Parts of her ached so badly. Sharp pain shattered her spine, driving shards of ice into her skull. Her world was a red haze and she lay there, the thought tickling the edge of her consciousness that it would be okay, totally okay if she could just stay here. She had tried, right? Every strand of her soul was drawn taught to the snapping point with how much she had given to this.

Garrus.

Garrus had given her that order. She had looked into his eyes and wanted to weep. And here it was. In this moment, she had to disobey that order. That most important order. One she had wanted to carry out.

No.

No, it would not be. She had fought too long for this. Too hard for this. Too many people stood up because she had asked it of them.

So she would stand. She would stand up one final time for them.

Fucking…stand…UP.

It took more effort than she would have thought capable. Her armour was a weight she could not bear. She had to draw breath. With fumbling fingers she wrenched the tattered remnants from her chest and lay there gasping for a moment. So much pain. She stripped her gauntlets, and curved her fingers into the soil beneath her fingers. It was cool. It was damp. It felt real. So much more real than the machines that swirled overhead in a lightning display of combat.

Fucking…stand…UP.

She splayed her hand and turned to her knees. She stopped there a moment, nausea roiling in her belly. She spat a gob of blood to the dirt and swiped the back of her hand across her nose. Fuck. It felt broken. Along with her cheekbone. At the searing pain, she did retch. Leaning on her hands on her knees, she stared sightlessly at the mess between her feet.

You can fucking do this, Shepard.

Blue light danced around her. And she clutched her hand to a section of her ribcage. It was staved in and breathing was agony. A gun. She needed a gun. She fumbled for a sidearm and her trembling fingers found the grip of her Carnifex. She could barely lift it. Experimentally she tried to muster her biotics, but she was exhausted. Blackness hovered at the edge of her vision.

Fucking no. No. Push it back. You have to stand. You have to move. You have to fucking move.

She took a staggering step and it drove her to one knee.

Get..UP.

Her green eyes stared at their target. The blue beacon that would draw her to the Citadel. To the Crucible.

A husk swarmed out of the swirling smoke. Her instincts threw up her arm as she shot the thing in the face, snapping its head back. And she moved forward, barely more than a lurching shuffle. She could not stop. If she stopped, she wasn't certain she could get up again.

A Marauder. Her Carnifex clicked on an empty chamber after two bolts carved holes in the wretched creature's skull. But she had no room left for pity.

She hit the beacon, and she was surrounded by blue light.