"We have gathered here to recognize the unique contributions of Lt. Jason Bourne and Commander Raptor Shepard."
I frowned slightly at hearing that. We had done a lot of the work, but we wouldn't have been able to do it on our own. We'd have failed without Ashley, Liara, Wrex, Tali, Joker and -as much as I hated to admit it- Garrus.
And the rank thing seriously just grates on my nerves at this point. I mean, would it kill them to give me a higher one after saving the goddamn Citadel? And the Council?
"Though little can be said that has not been said already, they are the reason the Citadel still stands, the reason the Council lives, and the reason the Geth were defeated."
There was some applause, which just made me roll my eyes.
What is this, the seventh one of these things?...ah, so nice to not actually be answered now. I kinda like having my brain to myself.
I started tuning out as the guy continued to talk, bringing up my omni-tool and using the camera to look at my face. After a week, the scars still looked like fresh wounds- unnatural and crimson red.
They were each about a centimeter wide and all three I knew would be permanent reminders of Iron just as those on my palm reminded me of Hero. Not every wound had lessons to teach, but those that did were very potent lessons.
"Do they know we aren't going to show up yet?" Raptor asked, tossing me a can of beer that I caught in midair with only a half glance at it.
"I'm waiting for him to figure it out." I replied, looking back at the vid screen, before looking out at the Presidium. We were in a relatively undamaged part of it, but in either direction the rubble could be easily seen.
"Think they'll track us down?"
"I used an alias to rent the place for the day. And even if the guy recognized me- well, I don't think he's dumb enough to get on my bad side."
She popped open her beer with a shrug and raised it my way as she sat down. "To saving the goddamn citadel."
"To saving the goddamn Citadel." I echoed, before downing the thing in one gulp. "How many of these did we bring?"
"You know there's no way you're getting drunk from these things, right?"
"Someone has to drive home after." I chuckled. "And you're a bad enough driver when you're sober."
"Hardy har har." She looked back at the screen as someone rushed on stage, a small datapad in hand.
The speaker looked at it a moment, face whitening as he read it. He looked back out at all the dignitaries we were blowing off and gulped. "Um, Lt. Bourne and Commander Shepard appear to be running a bit late."
I raised my hand, omni-tool glowing around it. "There's supposed to be a biotiball from earth being broadcast. Mind if I change the channel?"
"You're the one who rented this place." She gestured towards the range. "And I've had enough of shooting things for a bit."
"Meaning we can have another competition after the game?"
"I've got my money on the Seattle Sorcerers."
I smiled and changed it over- to a commercial. Figures.
"So, any idea how before the Normandy repairs are finished?"
"Should be done tomorrow. There's a situation on Luna Base that Admiral Hacket wants us to look into."
Well, that'll be a fun way to meet EDI. Not.
"Then the brass wants us out to look for and finish off any remaining pockets of geth."
I felt my heart skip a beat at that. One month after the battle of the Citadel...
I shook my head. "Nothing. Just being pessimistic again."
"You really need to work on that."
"A little pessimism is healthy. Kept me alive this long hasn't it?"
"If you can call that face alive."
I scowled. "At least my eyes are cool instead of making me look like-"
She gestured to the pistol lying at her side.
"-Like a person I'd rather not piss off."
"You're finally starting to learn."
I smiled. "Maybe a little."
We sat back to watch, enjoying the calm before the storm.
We didn't know that lightyears away, someone else watched us.
Looking at a dozen screens at once, the man paused his observations only to light the cigarette in his hands.
At a knock on the door, he pushed a button on his chair to open it, turning it to face his second in command.
"Ah, Miranda. I wasn't expecting you to be here so soon."
She didn't reply as she walked across the room, his glowing eyes following her until she reached the window in front of him, which gave both an amazing view of the blazing star.
"So, what were you able to find out?" He asked.
"Our agents were able to retrieve Bourne and augment him- but he woke up ahead of schedule. The DNA sample degraded so we can't reverse engineer his enhancements without also having him there- apparently a safeguard to prevent just such an attempt."
She turned to face him, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. "And the control chip was never installed."
He waved a hand. "We already knew that. What about the agents in charge of the procedure?"
"Most of them were never found out. The two that were committed suicide before they could give anything away.."
He nodded. "A regrettable, but necessary sacrifice."
"I'm not sure it was necessary." She said after a few moments.
He raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
"Kidnapping Commander Shepard's second in command- even for his own good…he seems to have some connections to Saren, but how much could he really tell us?"
"We both know that his backstory has to be false. Not a single element of it has been confirmed."
She looked back at him a moment before turning back around. "But they did everything right. Saving the Citadel- even saving the Council- Humanity has the trust of the entire galaxy. From an ex-mercenary and a former psych ward patient."
"And yet, they remain our best hope."
She turned around, somewhat angrily as she walked towards him. "But they're sending them to fight Geth! We both know by now that they aren't the real threat!"
He nodded calmly as a new report flashed across the screen. He glanced at a moment before pushing it away for later.
"The reapers are still out there."
"And it's up to us to stop them." He agreed. "The council and the Alliance have refused to admit their existence."
Nobody who truly thought about Sovereign could think it was a Geth creation-not one that could withstand the full power of the Alliance and Council fleets. No single species would be able to create such a vessel- no known Species.
"The Council will never trust Cerberus- they'll never accept our help. Even after everything humanity has accomplished."
He held up a hand to stop her. "And given Commander Shepard's experience on Akuze- and their attacks on other rogue factions- their trust will be hard to earn as well."
"If it can be earned."
"They'll need resources only we can provide." He said with a wave of his hand as he raised the cigarette to his mouth and taking a deep drag. "Shepard is a soldier. She'll do what it takes to get the job done. And from what our admittedly limited psych profiles for Bourne say- so will he."
"If we can get them on our side…at this point, they're heroes, bloody icons…But if anything happens to them, humanity might well follow."
"Then we'd better make sure nothing does happen."
The Illusive Man took another drag as he watched the screens, while on the other side of the galaxy, I remained ignorant, happily enjoying the last of my days of peace.
"You know, I saw a pizza place nearby on the way here." I commented to Raptor.
"Dial it up."
"Peperoni work for you?"
"Not my first choice, but better than those MREs."
"…you're not a vegetarian are you?"
"Oh hell no. How about half pepperoni, half Hawaiian?"
I brought up my omni-tool to place the order.
I'd learned thus far that I was stuck in this world- there was nowhere else for me to go anymore. I'd accepted it, even embraced it.
But soon, I'd learn that it wasn't necessarily true. There were other worlds I'd never seen, from the seedy bellies of darkness, to the oh so high and mighty ranks far above me.
I'd learned, I was stuck in this world, for better or worse.
But now, that was no longer good enough.
Now, I had to learn not only how to be Stuck in a World of Fiction…
I'd have to learn about Surviving a World of Fiction.
Can I just say: Wow. 71 chapters- not counting the originals- over 500 reviews, 400+ follows, and 300+ favs. I am honestly unable to wrap my head around that. I started the original version of this story September 19, 2011. Over three years ago. I started it on a whim, and expected to kinda rush through it- maybe just start it on a doc and rush through most of it in my head. I never expected anything close to what this story has become. I've said that before, but I just have to say it again.
I really just have to say thank you- to all of you. Some more so than others, such as the lady who finally got it through my thick head the difference between "rogue" and "rouge", and finally got through to me that it's spell "Kaidan". And then there's the knucklehead who somehow managed to talk me into writing an entire crossover story with him. And all of you who review and leave constructive criticism, ask questions, leave suggestions, and generally make my day.
Alright, I better cut the sappy stuff off there before this starts to read like a diary.
Users in a World of Fiction goes live in less than 48 hours, and it will be on my profile, just in case I haven't said that before.
And until that time- for the last time, all I can say is: Sayonara.