Who would maintain the topiaries?
Polish the silver?
Sweep the endless marble halls?
She spirals through the halls, watching her figure glint in and out of view of the mirrors. The gardens have grown wild and courtesans haven’t walked these halls since the only villains the earth knew were the rich.
It had all been taken for granted. The men standing in front of velvet ropes to keep people away, the women who came to make the bed in quiet servitude, and Kasumi realizes she misses all of the mechanisms she never noticed.
The wealthy didn’t exist anymore in their world, their mansions and supper clubs were empty. No one was there to stop her from running her fingers over their canvases anymore.
The thief turned savior turned art collector could touch her cheek to the granite and breathe in the old world that seemed to linger in the only places that still felt real. Everyone seemed convinced that the future would save them, trusting in the metals mined after their great leap forward and the computer systems that were built to safely provide for them.
Kasumi’s steps echoed against baroque ceilings, the ghosts of empires long gone to comfort her. She could wear the past as armor and she could bide her time to wait for voices to return.
Her spray paint is a Crucible red, and it drips fast on the ground as she scrawls the letters across the wall.
sound of the Reaper
but I have not prepared you
the sky grows blacker
She hadn’t slept since Shepard had gone missing and the universe didn’t snap back into the orderly pattern that Kasumi had grown to love.
Job. Theft. Profit. Dancing. Repeat.
Even when the pattern had shifted slightly, she had still waited for its familiarity to take over.
Job. Theft. Profit. Shepard. Absolution. Repeat.
Kasumi finds hotel suites and vacant penthouses with feather beds and soft cotton sheets. She clicks a button as the curtains swing opened and closed, revealing the darkened city skyline.
She rests in beach cottages sprinkled with sea salt, feet perched on the deck to face the waves. The owners had kept oil paints and a wool blanket by the door. Kasumi hides a small plastic pail and shovel in the closet after the first day, left in a pile beside a child’s pair of sandals.
She spends a week in a Victorian mansion with clawed foot tubs and she can sink under the lavender scented water to pretend everything will be all right again when she just takes a breath.
Most of the time she doesn’t find a body. That is less comforting than she would imagine.
Sleep comes in odd moments, curled in the rafters waiting for mercs to leave or under the satin covering on an altar in an empty church after retrieving the relic she had set out to find. A few minutes of rest before the urge to hide comes back again. Her cloak falls around her and she’s running fast to the first museum she can remember.
The world seems empty and on a cobblestone street in Prague, she uses her omnitool to carve into a statue of a saint.
my home was with her
the mother country now gone
the room now vacant
Keiji had hated Western art, preferring to specialize in the woodblock carvings and fine brushstrokes of calligraphy meant for a ruling class long gone. He covered his apartment in gilded statuary of bodhisattvas and long murals of the mountains from their ancestors’ shared homeland.
Over time, he’d developed a soft-spot for primitive Asari art, choosing to meditate between a early statute of Athame and a silk painting of Amaterasu. Both goddess looked down on him as he ran through mantras, Kasumi always watching to give him a respite from the shadows constantly lurking.
Her own tastes seemed to expand as the market of buyers decreased.
A day in Berlin, sitting quietly in an installation piece surrounded by technicolor photos of skyline.
A chapel in Rome, watching the face of a saint overwhelmed by the grace of a God who chose to show himself.
A tiny gallery in Amsterdam, featuring self-portraits from a woman who chose to hide in her characters but live long after the world had decided to end.
Each city comes with the expectation that people must be arriving, must be coming back. But she still has her choice of planes and cars, and the earth still seems frightened of the places they once called home. She knows it is all an illusion and that the world is slowly coming together in camps and villages to rebuild. Her inbox blinks with regularity as people make their attempt to confirm if their favorite thief had made it out alive.
She doesn’t read them, even though her hands hover over the ones from Shepard’s friends.
In Sofia, she sees her first piece that Keiji would’ve loved, a ukiyo-e print of a cypress tree with the moon peeking out behind.
With an ink font and pen, she writes across the scene with careful script.
your ghost comes to me
you laughed with me for just me
does your form remain
She starts to see more signs of life.
Music playing down a tight city alley, the smell of bread baking in the morning, and the return of security systems on the banks. Kasumi’s schedule shifts as she finds herself hiding in the nighttime when the populace is still too scared to walk about.
The museums are still left unattended and she could spend each evening dancing across the stage of opera houses across the continent. As the days push forward, she hears Shepard’s voice telling her to stop and help in the back of her head more than Keiji’s suggestions on the crown jewels still left to steal.
Kasumi is still good at ignoring both of them even if she does leave ammo and food in front of the shantytowns that litter city limits’ from country to country.
She only listens to the Alliance reports to avoid their patrols, only being spotted once by Garrus when Shepard’s voice had screamed at her to find her crew and she had finally relented to her loneliness.
He locked eyes with her for a moment before she cloaked and ran back to her car.
They had never been her crew, but Shepard had been her Commander and she still couldn’t disobey an order.
Keiji’s gray box sits unused as Kasumi laughs her way through another shared memory on Omega. On the Normandy. On Earth as they say goodbye and they pledge to meet again.
She marks a day on her calendar to find a ride off planet, and makes her way to Budapest to steal an El Greco to complete her set of paintings by Spanish masters.
But before she leaves, she stamps large letters onto a collection of sewn curtains. The bridge is covered quickly by her banner, waving back and forth in the breeze.
a flock in the wind
lightning and rain beat against
the shepherd protects
The message arrives in her box the next day, blinking wildly from a priority address consisting of random symbols and an unknown domain.
A set of coordinates and the picture of Boudica screaming into battle.
Kasumi locks the storehouse behind her, securing all of the works and treasures she had gathered from the corners of the continent.
It was time for the next stage of her pattern, Shepard was waiting.