(The Recent Past)
'C'mon, teach, tell us,' the young woman clasped her hands in front of her begging with the subtlety and humility of a poorly trained thespian.
'Yeah, you can't have that story floating around while we're trying to concentrate. We need closure,' the young man coyly added.
'You are both dangerously full of shit,' Jack barked in mock irritation.
A chorus of pleas erupted from the other students flanking the young woman, Ensign Rodriguez and the boy, Jason Prangley. Each one concocted a more desperate reason as to why Jack should reward them with the tale of perhaps her most notorious exploit. Opting for the full frontal assault, her Grissom Academy students barraged her from every angle and avenue.
'Personally, I think it would help my confidence,' another girl added.
'I feel that my sleep patterns could finally normalize,' said someone in the back.
'You've always told us that the more we know the scarier we'll be,' a smaller boy assured her.
'You look really pretty today, Teach,' milked a dark haired girl.
Flaring her biotics violently produced the desired effect, silence.
'Correction,' Jack rolled her eyes, 'You are all dangerously full of shit.'
'Just tell us, Ms. Nought, please,' Prangley begged around a half smile.
'Please,' Rodriguez batted her eyelashes.
Jack's gaze narrowed as it examined each of her students with the measured duty of a perfectionist. For several seconds the youth before her shifted on scales only she could see until finally, the weighing and measuring concluded, Subject Zero spoke.
'Rodriguez, what was today's lesson?'
The Ensign's mouth opened and closed, as the younger woman thought about challenging her instructor, but instead selected the wiser option and answered Jack.
'The combat application of kinetic and telekinetic abilities, and the varied combinations of gravity in these raised and lowered mass effect fields,' Rodriguez parroted robotically.
'Now, instead of all of that text book horseshit, tell me…what was today's lesson?'
Jason Prangley returned Jack's smile,
'Size don't matter.'
Subject Zero nodded,
'Just this one time, Prangley, but why doesn't it?'
The normally accomplished student paused, struggling and failing to find the correct response.
Bailing him out, Jack answered her own question,
'Because with the right field projections and combos, you can lift, slam, lash, or push anyone in the universe. Mass, gravity, none of it means a baker's fuck to people like us. We make the rules, not Mother Nature, so never think something is too big to…redirect.'
Again she paused for several seconds, before quickly turning on her heel and walking away; informally dismissing her students.
On her fifth step, Rodriguez's yell reached her ears,
'Wait! You didn't tell us how you crashed the space station into the moon!'
Jack kept walking but was rewarded with Jason Prangley's answer to his classmate,
'Yes she did.'
Harbinger 'crouched' down readying to blast into orbit and attack the Crucible directly in an effort to stop Shepard. With the rest of the organic armada engaged with the vast Reaper horde, no one would be able to defend the space station from an earth oriented assault.
If allowed to reach Shepard, the Reaper Chieftain would certainly kill its wounded adversary and crush any hope for the organics.
Harbinger sprang into the air.
A brilliant white line of biotic energy blistered the night.
Harbinger came to a complete stop before being jerked down.
'Get back here, fucker!', Jack raged at the massive machine.
With a lash of biotics tethered from her clenched fist to one of the Reaper's tentacle appendages, Subject Zero recreated the laws of nature and anchored the devil to the dirt, preventing the fiend from flight.
She knew the only way to save Shepard was to continue to occupy the Reapers. Victory, in the traditional sense, was not an option, but belaying Harbinger for even a few beats constituted the next best thing.
With a determination undefinable by equation or logic, the Witch wrestled the Giant.
Harbinger fought to escape the leash, but at each turn it was met with fields lowering or raising its mass, keeping it off balance and unable to fly…unable to flee. Several times it tried to simply accelerate but because of the instability Jack created, the great machine ended up smashing into a building or reeling toward the ground. The largest sailor ever granted leave in London, Harbinger stumbled and shook like one drunk on more than just power.
Shepard was its task; Harbinger needed to meet its nemesis in space to conclude this conflict and end the anomalies of this cycle once and for all. But its desired bout wasn't meant to be; instead of a battle in the stars, the Reaper remained earthbound and waged war with the unlikeliest of enemies, a witch wielding science.
Despite the momentary success of Subject Zero, the battle was neither one-sided or cheap. Jack had little left, and what she had was only a delaying tactic and not a stratagem for victory. She just needed to hold.
The blood running from the corners of her eyes made a macabre lens for the scene, tinting the world red, darkening her already dimming sight. Red, one of the colors of sunset, and an unnecessary reminder that the end was near.
Yet still she raged.
Somehow the order of her execution made her happy. Despite all of its assurances otherwise, Harbinger was frightened: not for its species, not for fear of failure. No, self-preservation drove the ancient machine; otherwise it would have ordered the other Reaper into orbit to stop Shepard.
Harbinger feared death.
Harbinger feared her.
KILL THE WITCH
'That's right,' Jack whispered to Harbinger, 'In the end, you're just a fucking coward.'
KILL THE WITCH
The other Reaper turned its great 'eye' on Jack, and tethered as she was to Harbinger, she would be unable to raise a shield to defend herself. In seconds it would be over.
'Shepard, they're coming!', she wailed in agony, praying somehow her voice would reach his ears.
KILL THE WITCH
'FUCK YOU!', Jack raged, as the second Reaper fired.
Unexpectedly, hexagonal plates of pure energy materialized around her like the great interlocking shells of some mutated, holographic tortoise, splashing the red energy up and away from her. Large bipedal robots, dozens of them, surrounded her exposed flank and as one turned their heads toward the attacking machine.
As soon as the great beam relented, Jack's large robotic saviors began firing on the Reapers.
Massive explosions from more conventional weaponry punched at the smaller titan's armor, prompting Jack to dare a glance away from Harbinger.
'Legion?', she whispered to the hulking Geth closest to her.
Instead of answering, the robotic life-form rallied its kin and charged the smaller Reaper.
To Jack, the normally tinny, synthesized voice seemed…alive,
'For the Shepard! For the Creator!'
'For your souls!', a shout came from a pile of debris to Jack's right.
Resplendent in her enviro-suit, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy stood high upon the mound of rubble; her arm pointed forward at the smaller Reaper.
Jack shook her head,
From behind her, the heroes of all the worlds, comrades-in-arms, the sons and daughters of the Normandy…the brothers and sisters of she and Shepard exploded around her position and threw themselves at the monstrous machine.
Of operas sung and seen, the one playing before Jack's dying eyes burned brighter than any ever performed.
All around her, the only family she had ever known rushed to her defense…and their deaths.
Fighting side-by-side and laughing, Zaeed, Jessie clutched in his scarred grip, and Grunt raced gallantly with the Geth toward the Reapers, knowing they sped not to victory but oblivion assured.
'Go back,' Jack begged, tears streaming down her cheeks. 'Please…go…back.'
To the left, Samara, weapon in hand and Code in heart, led the exhausted, empty biotics in a flanking maneuver. Some of them wielded only sticks, yet on they charged.
'No!', Jack screamed.
Ashley and a very visible Kasumi Goto pressed the right flank, point guards for all that remained of Hammer: techs, engineers, medics.
'Please,' Jack begged.
'Down here, asshole!', Garrus Vakarian bellowed up at the Reaper, as he deactivated the Salarian's tactical cloak and materialized by one of the machine's massive legs.
'Garrus! RUN!', she wailed.
Suddenly a great roar split the sky above and behind her, and a moment later, The Normandy blasted down the lane; an angel on high piloted by a Joker that had lost his laughter.
Everywhere, Turians, Asari, Krogan, Quarians, Salarians, Humans, the very last of the armies of the organics charged.
Panic gripped her soul and Jack jerked her head back toward the former Alliance line, hoping, praying that not 'everyone' had attacked.
She was rewarded immediately with the most beautiful image she had ever seen. Much like her own biotic bubble had floated among the Reapers rays, Liara T'Soni's shown like a lighthouse beacon atop the highest structure left standing; one far removed from the conflict.
Jack couldn't see the Asari but she knew Liara had made herself visible to relay her position, not to the Reapers but to her. Liara and her cargo were safe.
The smaller Reaper was engaged, her friends had bought her enough time…time left for one last dance.
Harbinger's voice exploded in her skull,
SHEPARD YOU WILL ASCEND
'You…won't…get him,' Jack strained to slip the words by her clenched jaw.
Crushed by pain as she was, it took Jack a moment to realize Harbinger wasn't talking to her anymore…it was talking to itself.
'That's right, fucker,' she hissed, 'That's right.'
With the very last of herself, Jack drew upon the final wisp of her reserves, power that she shouldn't have had, power that had come from the sacrifice of her most accomplished adversary. The criminal, fueled by the power of a dead cheerleader, modified the lash line with unbalanced fields in a godlike display of biotic precision, and like a decathlete of ancient worlds, Jack began to slowly 'swing' Harbinger. Centimeters bled into meters, meters turned to much, much more until the massive machine traveled in a lazy arc, an arc that intersected with the brilliant beam.
The Reaper Chieftain's great energy weapon fired red blasts erratically into the night, the desperate signal flares of a keened ship.
In its last moments, Harbinger proved itself no higher than the 'insignificant organics' it had sought to exterminate. It fought for its 'life'. The Reaper rocked and rolled against the gravity wells and fields that forced its flight, but despite all of its herculean power, all of its infinite experience and knowledge, Harbinger hadn't prepared for the one thing that could defeat it.
Less than twenty meters from the beam, Harbinger uttered its last word.
Jack choked out a chuckle,
'Fucker, you haven't seen anything yet.'
Harbinger touched the beam.
Power incalculable surged through the machine, flaming every point of the Reaper.
Energy backlashed through the tether to its source.
Jack knew no more.
(To be concluded)