Shepard stood gazing out into space as the ship made its way through the expanse. It was in these quiet times that memories she wished were laid to rest came back to haunt her. People called her heroic, brave, fearless. What that really meant was that she had watched those around her fall time and time again, yet somehow she still remained. She didn’t feel like she deserved the commendations that went into her file. Those little gold stars on her career felt like blood money. Without a second thought she would turn every single one of those in if there was even a chance of bringing one fallen comrade back.
She caught her reflection in the glass, a stern faced soldier. Scars from shrapnel marked her as surely as any uniform. Blonde hair cut short and pulled back out of her face pulled it tight in the process. Piercing eyes narrowed from years of looking through a gun’s sights. Those eyes saw none of this though, what they saw were the faces of everyone under her command. Each face weighed heavily on her conscious.
“Shepard,” Captain Anderson’s voice cut through her thoughts, bringing her back to reality. “I’d like to see you in the command center.”
“On my way sir.” she replied in a crisp and clear voice that cut across the space.
“Shepard, good luck. That Spectre we have on board has got to be up to something” Joker’s hands flew across the controls as Shepard glanced at him from the corner of her eye.
“Somehow the simple fact there is one on board at all tells me you’re right about that one.” Patting him on the shoulder as she turned to leave the bridge she tossed over her shoulder “Wish me good luck then.”
“Better you then me.” he teased as she left.
As she walked through the ship it seemed like Joker wasn’t the only one a little uneasy with the fact that a Spectre was on board the ship for this “standard mission”. Nothing was ever standard when a Spectre was involved. They were like the history lessons they had learned in school of the cowboys of the Wild West of Earth. Answering to no one for their actions and living by their strength, cunning, and most importantly by their weapons. Dishing out justice as they saw fit without any repercussions. Somehow that much power in the hands of a single being didn’t seem right to her, it opened the door to dangerous possibilities.
“I just hope we run into some action on this one.” Shepard overheard one of the new guys spouting off to Dr Chakwas. “Its been so quiet and boring!”
Diverting her course she join him and Dr Chakwas, “Let’s hope it stays that way. We don’t need anything throwing a wrench into this mission.”
“Yes, and I don’t need to stitch any of you all up Jenkins.” Chakwas agreed in a dry, humorless voice.
“I’m sorry Commander, its just hard sitting around waiting for something to happen. At least with that Spectre on board we know to expect a little excitement.” he bounced on his feet like an impatient child.
“Just do your job Jenkins and keep your head down. There is enough to worry about on a mission without having someone wishing for trouble.” With that Shepard let the two of them to continue their discussion without glancing back.
All too soon she entered the command center to be greeted by Nihlus Kryik, the Spectre the Council had sent with them. They thought they could pass this mission off as standard and send a Spectre with them? Yeah that didn’t give away that something bigger was going on at all. Warily Shepard walked to the center of the room as Nihlus turned around.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt you, the Captain asked me to meet him here.” she stated, switching over to soldier mode. Her spine as straight as a board, hands held behind her back, voice no nonsense and cutting straight to the point.
“I am well aware of that. I was actually hoping to get a chance to talk with you before he arrived.” Somehow that didn’t put Shepard anymore at ease with Nihlus’ presence.
Thankfully though she was saved from any sort of interrogation the Spectre had in mind by the arrival of Captain Anderson. Making sure to keep Nihlus in her field of vision Shepard turned to face the Captain as he entered. “Good, you’re already here Shepard….”
Most of what Captain Anderson had revealed about their mission still rumbled around in her head, added to that was the rather unpleasant transmission they had received upon entry and suddenly this mission had just become a whole hell of a lot dicier. Outwardly Shepard seemed like a calm soldier, as solid as a rock and just as unwavering a force. She was the squad leader that nothing phased who lead those under her command without hesitation. They trusted her completely, which as it turned out was part of the problem. Internally she was fighting to calm her nerves down as they approached their drop off point. Their supposedly peaceful and easy “standard mission” had just been tossed a huge curve ball. She was leading her squad into an unknown situation with no intel on the status of what they were getting dropped into or what they were up against. All they had was a goal: Recover the beacon. SAFELY recover the beacon, Shepard added to herself. She barely registered what Nihlus had said, nodding her head as he lept down to the ground.
Okay Shepard, time to girl up and focus. Get in, recover the beacon, get out. Simple. Easy. Everybody makes it back. “Let’s move!” she barked out as they approached the second drop zone.
Jumping easily out of the Normandy, Shepard bounced on her feet as she brought her weapons up and scanned the area. Signalling to her squad they moved forward. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so far which was strange. After that distress message they had gotten the quiet put her ill at ease. Something just wasn’t right…
And that was when it happened, out of nowhere one of her squad was mowed down. Leaping to cover Shepard rolled into a crouching position. Popping up out of cover she brought her weapon to bare on what appeared to be a floating turret and opened fire. It was over just as quickly as it had begun, the silence almost overbearing after the firefight. Together Shepard and the remaining squad member quickly checked that the parameter was secure and safe before returning to their fallen comrade. Kneeling beside the body she gently rolled it over.
Jenkins looked back up at her with eyes that would never really see anything again. A pained and shocked looked distorted his face as Shepard removed his helmet to close his eyes. Not even a minute into this mission and things had already gone to hell. She had lost another one, another face to add to the ever growing number of those that haunted her at night. A hand gently came to rest on her should, Shepard looked up at Kaiden.
“What are your orders Commander?”
Slowly Shepard put her hands on her legs and rose, readjusting her helmet. “We finish the mission. It is what Jenkins would have wanted.” Checking her weapon she glanced one final time at Jenkins dead body before moving forward. “We finish this mission and then we give him the proper burial he deserves.”
Of course nothing after that point went well. They learned who was behind the attack at least in part, the Geth. They weren’t suppose to be here. Geth hadn’t been seen in the Traverse since their war against those that had created them, the Quarians. If they were here it had to be for something important and if Shepard were a gambler she would put her money on it having to do with the beacon they had been charged with recovering.
All of these thoughts just tumbled around over and over in her head as they made their way slowly forward towards their target. Shepard was being overly cautious after the surprise attack that had mowed down Jenkins before he had had time to react. Which worked in her favor when she saw a streak of white and pink running away from a spray of fire. Shepard switched out to her sniper in a fluid motion that had the weapon armed and the sight up to her eye before her next breath.
“Cover fire!” she shouted out, bringing the first of the targets into her cross hairs. Exhale… the shot tore right through the target, dropping it to the ground. Kaiden opened suppressive fire on the other as the poor overrun soldier finally ducked behind cover.
As Shepard reviewed the situation of the fire fight quickly using her scope, she had to hand it to the soldier. They got to cover, took just a fraction of a second to catch their breath, then started returning fire. Between her sniper rifle, Kaiden and the new addition they had dispatched all of the potential threats in no time. Keeping her weapon handy she made her way down to check on the status of this new soldier. Maybe they had some intel on what the lay of the land down here was now. If nothing else they would have a better idea of what it was they were getting ready to walk into.
It happened as Shepard reached the newcomer, they had looked up. That look of pure distress and sorrow. Overwhelming guilt. Whoever they were they had survived but not without losing alot of fellow soldiers. It was a look Shepard knew all too well and it was one that punched her right in the gut as she stopped in her tracks. All she caught was the soldiers name, Ashley Williams, before the story of what happened tumbled out of her mouth. Her squad had been caught unaware by the Geth, gun downed around her as somehow she remained. The pain in her voice masked because soldiers didn’t show emotions in battle, yet that slightest of waivers in her voice as she spoke out loud what had happened was there.
“It wasn’t your fault Ashley, there wasn’t anything you could have done to prevent it.” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop herself. “You’re more then welcome to join up with us. We need to get to the beacon, then we can get you out of here.”
“Just lead the way ma’am.”
Shepard would have smiled if she could have, but the situation only let a small smirk cross her face. Ashley reminded her alot of herself before so much tragedy over so many years had taken its toll. Nodding her head in response they moved out, working smoothingly together for a new squad. She would often take out the lead targets with her sniper, thinning the herd out as Ashley and Kaiden easily handled the rest of them from cover. It almost made what they found out during their march to the dig site bearable. Almost. Colonists, scientists, and soldiers alike all dead. But not just dead because that would be too simple. Somehow the Geth had managed to figure out a way to transform them into these grotesque synthetic lumbering things. So for a second time Shepard had to put them out of their misery, each shot weighed heavy on her as she thought about who they once may have been.
An empty dig site did nothing to improve Shepard’s mode, though the one bright moment was when they had found a pair of scientists hiding out in one of the small buildings. At least a few had survived the genocide level massacre of every human on Eden Prime. Along with a sense of relief at finding the scientists they were also told that the beacon had been moved, so the mission shifted for the new location. It was this new intel and the thought of possibly more survivors that let her push on. If they might find even just one more survivor then it would make this mission worth wild. Lives saved would mean that Jenkins and every other soldier hadn’t died in vain. A life saved for a life lost, it was Shepard’s attempt to balance the scales. Of course none of this mattered if they couldn’t recover that beacon.
Of course the mission just kept right on with its nose dive to hell. When they arrived they found a dead Nihlus. If a Spectre could be killed on this mission, the supposed ultimate soldier of the universe, then what hope did they have of making it out of here alive? In a twist of good and bad they found another survivor who informed them of what had happened. A Spectre on Spectre murder, a rogue Spectre working with the Geth, the news they were one more step behind the enemy, and a name. Saren. Well at least now they had someone to point the finger at for why this whole planet had gone to hell in a burning handbasket.
Now add bombs set throughout the whole area counting down to blowing them all to kingdom come and you get the idea of what Shepard’s day was turning out to be. Just one giant shit storm after another. If disarming several bombs wasn’t hard enough she had an army of Geth tossed at her for good measure. Cause there is nothing you want going on around you while you attempt the delicate process of bomb disposal like a fire fight complete with rocket launchers. Somedays you really should just stay in bed for.
Who could blame the squad then that when they had finally reached the beacon, eliminated all targets in the area, and secured the perimeter that they all sighed in relief. Finally they had completed their mission. Here was the beacon which miraculously was somehow still intact with no Geth in sight. Finally something was going their way. But then that itch started at the base of Shepard’s skull. That kind of tingling sensation you get after years of dangerous missions that tells you something bad is about to happen. It made her twitchy so she started to do another perimeter sweep.
That was when she heard the sound. The beacon was on and it was dragging Ashley towards it, and no matter how much she struggled she couldn’t break free of it. Without a moments hesitation Shepard closed the distance between them and shoved Ashley out of the way. Losing the battle to break free of the beacon’s grip herself she was hoisted up into the air. Suddenly Shepard felt like her head was being split open as images tried to stuff their way into her brain. Painful searing flashes of images she couldn’t quite make out swam across her vision. Pain. It was the overwhelming feeling in the images. Pain. Fear. Death. Pain. Fear. Death. Pain. Fear. Death. Pain Fear Death. Pain Fear Death. PainFearDeath. PainFearDeath. Painfeardeathpainfeardeathpainfeardeath.
Shepard’s eyes shot open as the vision faded. Slowly, with muscle that ached as if horses had tap danced on her chest, she sat up with a groan. “Its nice to see you finally awake.” Dr Chakwas stated as she set about checking all of her vitals.
“We were all really worried about you.” Shepard blinked and looked up, she hadn’t realized that Ashley had been there.
“What happened?” she asked, putting her head in her hand.
“It seems that the beacon was damaged and you all somehow managed to activate it.” Chakwas was very matter of fact while checking on her patients.
“You saved me. I guess I triggered it somehow and it caught me in a field of some kind. You pushed me out of the way.”
“It looks like you are all fine, everything checks out. Although I did read alot of activity when you were out like you were having a very intense dream.”
“More like a nightmare…” Shepard mumbled as Captain Anderson entered.
“How are you feeling Shepard?” his concern was genuine, which was what made him such a great leader in her eyes.
“I’ll live. What about the beacon?” she asked, not liking the look on his face.
“Destroyed. I’ve been briefed on what happened and have submitted my report. Ambassador Udina should be meeting us at the docks of the Citadel.” he sighed as he let his shoulders sag a little. “I just wish we had found out what was on that beacon.”
“We did.” Shepard muttered as she rolled her neck. “Or at least I think we did. Its more like a vision, a nightmare really. Some sort of warning of mass extinction and something called the Reapers that cause it.”
“We will have to let the Council know about this. All of it.”
Great, like that ever goes well. Shepard thought as she slowly go to her feet.
The whirlwind adventure that had followed was how they ended up where they were now. They had no proof against Saren so nothing was done. Big surprise. The Council didn’t want to hear about Reapers. Big surprise. They refused to help protect the human colonize from more possible attacks. Big surprise.
Of course none of them could leave it alone, but luckily they weren’t the only ones. A rather large Krogan named Wrex happily joined their party with a point in the right direction to look for the information they needed. So did a rather unhappy C-Sec officer, Garus, who was more than willing to share the details he had been able to find out about Saren. Somehow though all of those thread had lead back to one point, right here. With the growing squad of a rather diverse cast barreling down hallways and through doorways to try the life of someone who actually had evidence against Saren. Real live, physical evidence. That was if they could make it in time to save them. With everything riding on this Shepard wasn’t about to let this slip through her fingers.
As they got close to where the meeting sight had been set up for Saren’s hired thugs to ambush this informant, Shepard slowed down. Signalling to the squad members Kaiden and Garus went along the right wall while Wrex and Ashley took the left wall. All of them paused waiting for her signal. When they reached the meeting spot Shepard took out her scope and surveyed the situation. A bunch of hired guns had been sent to intimidate the Quarian into giving up the evidence and probably kill her either way. Little did they know that she had just been pleased with a full squad of guardian angels armed to the teeth.
When the merc in front of the Quarian pulled their gun on her, Shepard had already had them in her sights. A simple exhale and the echoing sound of the shot was the signal to the rest of the squad. Shepard’s target was the first to hit the ground but the others were quick to follow as they were quickly dispatched by the rest of the squad. Putting away her weapon Shepard slowly approached the Quarian to show she meant no harm.
“Don’t take another step.” the Quarian demanded turning to sight her pistol on Shepard.
Shepard’s heart skipped a beat, not because of the gun pointed at her or because of the adrenaline of the fire fight. Her heart jumped because here was this Quarian all alone, having just had bodies drop around her, putting on brave airs to face down a stranger decked out in weapons and armor. This Quarian was all alone but she wasn’t backing down without a fight.
“We’re not here to hurt you, I’m Commander Shepard. We heard that you might have evidence against Saren.” Shepard showed that her hands were empty, slowly the Quarian put her pistol away.
“I’m Tali'Zorah nar Rayya.” she replied as she visibly relaxed some.