The universe burned.
Flashing red lights. Fire. A countdown clock she couldn’t halt.
A million voices, crying out in pain as they died.
Pain that tore through her as she burned, and died with them.
And through it all, the metallic screaming of the Reapers.
You will all die, Shepard. You cannot stop the harvest.
Shepard bolted upright in bed. She scrubbed her face with her hands, and stared out the giant window of her room at the red sunrise over Vancouver, and the bay beyond. She gave a hard sigh, shivering at the cold sweat that covered her. At least the Alliance gave me a nice view to wake up to.
Her feet touched the floor, walking the too-familiar path to the shower. The dreams were definitely getting worse again. They’d started again about a month after her voluntary surrender, after she’d sent an asteroid careening into the batarian relay. A month in judicial limbo, while the Alliance brass argued about what to do with her, what to do with the Normandy, and what to do about the Reapers.
If they believed her.
If they keep wasting time like this, it won’t matter. We’ll all be dead anyway. Despite everything I’ve done. Despite everything I’ve sacrificed.
She slammed her hand into the shower stall as the familiar frustration overwhelmed her. It was the wait, really. Her days were filled with endless waiting. Waiting in meetings. Waiting in her room. Always waiting. I need to be doing.
The thought sparked a memory. Liara, smiling, in that timid, awed way she had, back when this all began. Her amazement at being in Shepard’s company, in the company of a woman who, as she put it, was always doing, always reaching, always there, saving the day.
Shepard shook her head, letting the water cascade over her. I wish that were true now.
I wonder how Liara is.
She cut off the water and stepped out, continuing to think while she dried off and dressed.
If six long months of Alliance ‘hospitality’ hadn’t been bad enough, she’d been cut off from all outside contact. Only Vega, the hulking lieutenant Anderson had assigned as her watchdog, Anderson himself, and occasionally Hackett came to visit. As boring as the meetings she was often dragged to were (nothing but brass sniping at brass, mostly), at least she got to see a few fresh faces.
Her mother had visited, once. Early on. Hackett and Anderson had quietly colluded to get the newly-minted Admiral Shepard in to see her. But they’d both known it would be the only time, no chance for a repeat performance.
Of Liara and the rest of her crew, she’d heard nothing.
She still wrote in her journal, letters to Liara that would never see the light. Maybe one day, when this is all over, I’ll show them to her…
It wasn’t the first time she’d had the thought. But honestly, she wasn’t sure anymore if one day would come. Not while the Alliance dithered, and the Reapers drew nearer. Because they were getting closer. She could feel it, somehow. In every headache, in every nightmare. The Reapers were coming. And they were very nearly out of time.
Not that the brass would do anything but argue.
Shepard leaned forward, resting her arm against the giant window of her room, resting her head on her arm. In the rooftop courtyard of the next building over, a boy played with a model ship, flying it through the sky. She’d watched him before, realized the first time (thanks to her cybernetic eye) that the model he held was an SX3 Fighter model, but Shepard liked to pretend it was the Normandy. She had no idea what his name was, or anything about him, but there was something comforting, something calming about watching him play.
Or maybe she just missed her own model ships.
Alliance had better not have touched them.
Footsteps outside her room made her turn, just as the door slid opened, and Vega stepped in. He stopped with a crisp salute. “Commander.”
Shepard snorted. “You’re not supposed to call me that anymore, James.”
“Not supposed to salute you, either.”
She glanced at the datapad that held the text of her journal, and didn’t quite hide her smile, but Vega continued brusquely.
“We gotta go. The Defense Committee wants to see you.”
He turned on his heels, and headed for the door without waiting for her. “Sounds important.” The Defense Committee usually gave her a heads up before summoning her.
Shepard shook her head, and tossed the journal to her bed, before following.
Shepard surveyed the devastation around her as the Normandy lifted off. Alliance shuttles zoomed back and forth, trying to pickup anyone they could, while space-black Reaper ships descended, red beams tearing through metal and concrete like butter. She watched Anderson run towards them, helping an injured soldier.
Damn him. She understood why he had to stay, but God… The last thing she wanted was for it all to be up to her.
At least I have the Normandy.
A handful of Kodiak shuttles dropped into the dock area, soldiers jumping out to assist everyone they could. Shepard started to turn away, but at the last second, a familiar form caught her eye.
Spaceship model boy.
He shouldn’t have been able to survive the reaper blast that destroyed the building she and Anderson had cut through. Shepard had almost convinced herself she’d imagined seeing him in the heating ducts. But there he was again, running to the shuttles, looking straight at her, then trying to climb aboard.
Dammit, why wasn’t anyone helping him?
No one seemed to see his struggle, as he got first one leg, then the finally the other over the edge of the Kodiak. He shook himself off, then stared, terrified, at the approaching Reaper.
Shepard couldn’t figure out why no one helped him, comforted him. Then the shuttle door closed, and off they flew, ahead of the Reaper. Safe.
For a few, precious seconds.
The Reaper’s laser blew them out of the sky a moment later.
Shepard turned away, steeling herself as she closed the Normandy’s ramp. They wouldn’t be the last to die.
Not by a long shot.