Consciousness meant dizziness and uncontrollable shaking. Shepard stood at the console, eyes closed and praying the world would stop spinning.
“Y’lost alotta blood,” Lilo whispered, “Y’need to eat more.”
“Eat what ?”
Lilo jerked her chin toward Anderson and the Illusive man. Swallowing bile, Shepard grimaced and turned back to the console. “That is..what is wrong with you ?”
“Not you.” Glaring at the console, given that the Catalyst no longer had any other visible form, Shepard made fists against it. “The map again, please.”
The Catalyst complied, but there was the strangest sense of confusion to its voice when it said: “Other than yourself, I am the only one preset.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Her gut rolled as she tried to make sense of the multi-coloured map. “OK. Green is good. What are the others?”
“Black areas have been reported as missing or otherwise breached. Red are areas still attached to the ship, but are affected by the hull breaches. Orange areas are sealed, but lack power. These could be reactivated, were they patched into the power grid.”
“Which would drain the grid at a faster rate,” said Shepard.
There was something tugging at the back of her mind; something that screamed of obviousness no matter that she couldn’t seem to figure out what it was. Shepard put her head in her hands, tugging lightly at her scalp. “OK. I need to get to a green area,” she muttered, “If they...they were meant to be...then there should be supplies...”
“I can highlight known emergency caches on your omni-tool. Be advised, the Keepers have already opened many of them, for you and the other survivors.”
Shepard’s head jerked up. “There are others?”
“Seven beside yourself.”
With a faint ‘blip’, seven blinking red dots appeared on the map. Three were concentrated in the one of the green zones--what looked to be Huerta Memorial Hospital--but the rest were scattered. The closest to her position wasn’t in a green area at all. Neither could Shepard decipher what the area may have been. One of the factories? Kithoi ward, possibly.
She tucked both hands behind her head a moment and let her eyes close. Some of the dizziness began to seep away as she took deep, methodical breaths. When she lifted her head, the fingers of her right hand brushed against something hard beneath her skin, just next to her earlobe.
Subcutaneous comm implants were standard military regulation, these days. Normally it was covered by enough fat that Shepard barely felt it when she tapped it into receiving mode. Distantly she wondered what she had to look like if she could feel it so plainly, but the thought was covered by a sudden wash of hope.
She tapped it.
“Gah!” Another tap shut off the burst of static, but the volume left a ringing in her ears.
That either meant the Normandy was out of range, or was...Her gaze drifted to the field of debris just outside the view-port. Nothing drifted by with a scratched up “SR-2” painted on its side, but that didn’t make her feel any better.
“If you would patch me into your--”
“Your omni-tool, Shepard.”
“It isn’t mine,” she said, looking down at her gauntlet. “And it’s locked. I need to hack it.”
She should have done that before she left the generator, Shepard realized. It had seemed like a gamble, but now it was going to be damned impossible.
“Power it on. Please.”
Shepard clamped her lips shut. Though she still felt like arguing, the sheer novelty of the Catalyst saying ‘please’ was enough to get her to comply. “If you fry it, I’ll find a way to fry you.”
“Of course you will.”
The omni-tool popped to life. Shepard barely had time to note the screens and code flashing over it before it settled on a welcome screen. For one moment the name written across the top was “Yolanda Mars,” before the screen blipped and “Maki Shepard” took its place. A small warning icon was flashing over the power indicator.
“I have uploaded the map and rewritten the tool to your biometrics. I also took the liberty of forming a communications link between us.”
“Communications. We need to send out a distress signal, or radio anyone nearby.”
“I am afraid I cannot do that at this time.”
She backed away from the console, glowering at it. “And why not?”
“External communications were severed when I reasserted control over the Citadel.”
“To keep anyone from calling for help,” Shepard surmised.
“Can’t you turn them back on?”
“You misunderstand,” the Catayst said, “They were physically severed. We did not care to risk any potential survivors being able to re-establish a connection.”
Rubbing her face with one hand, Shepard nodded. “Right. Of course.”
“It is possible that repairs could be fashioned for the main communications hub, however the Keepers’ first priority is restoring the main generator’s functionality and closing hull breaches.”
“And how long is that going to take?”
“At current work rates it is estimated to take six months, four days, and three hours. The current power reserves will be gone by that time.”
“Meaning that you’ll be dead.” Shepard smirked.
“No. For all that I have undergone Synthesis, I am still synthetic at my core. I may lose power, but it is the same concept as an organic losing consciousness. It does, however, mean death for all organics on board.”
There were too many questions. Shepard sat down again and put her head between her knees. “Ok. ...Synthesis. I thought you said your calculations were wrong?”
She lifted her head stare at...well, the console. “Any idea how?”
“I have a theory,” said the Catalyst, in a bemused tone Shepard wasn’t used to associating with AI, “that it has something to do with your synthetic half and the Synthesis itself. I am still running through previously rejected scenarios for variables I may have dismissed unduly. I am not accustomed to being wrong.”
“You’ve murdered trillons of people. I’d say you’ve never been anything else.”
“Morality and logic are not the same thing.”
“Yeah. One lets its followers become monsters.” Shepard shook her head.
“Perhaps we should like to discuss the religious genocides your species has committed against its own.”
If the Catalyst had been able they would have been glaring at one another. As it was, Shepard felt the hair at the back of her neck stand up and the uncomfortable weight of an invisible, rather angry presence. For the first time in her life she couldn’t dismiss the feeling as superstitious nonsense, and it unnerved her.
Rubbing the back of her head, Shepard climbed again to her feet. “OK, OK, lets just...agree to disagree.”
“Is that not Human code for ‘I’m right, no matter what how many valid arguments you make?”
“I am starting to really regret that jump,” Shepard replied through gritted teeth. She returned to the map and focused it on the area she was in. There were several maintenance shafts that fed into it, such as the one she had used. From what she could tell, they were the only way in or out of this section.
After a deep breath, she said: “You called them your Keepers. Does that mean you can communicate with them?”
“Yes. They are, in effect, a part of me. You might compare them to your blood cells.”
She scoffed. “Alright. Can’t you order them to fix the communications first?”
“Can you tell your blood which cuts to heal?” The Catalyst seemed annoyed, now.
“Wouldn’t they have been changed by Synthesis as well?”
“They have been. You are alive.”
“I’m guessing organic lives are at the bottom of their priority list?” Shepard drawled, arching a brow at the console.
“But you didn’t override it?”
“No. They made that decision on their own.”
There was still something she was missing. Shepard tapped her fingers on the console and attempted to burn holes through it with her eyes. Lilo stood just inside her peripheral vision, arms crossed and one toe tapping a steady staccato.
“I can’t think with you doing that!”
“I am not doing anything.”
“Not...” Shepard sighed. Then it clicked. “Wait. You said you are programmed to preserve your own life.”
“But you don’t require power to live. Why are you wasting power by keeping your systems active?”
There was a pause that felt almost like a sigh. Or maybe that was just further signs of the fact that she was losing it. Shepard tried not to think about that too hard; it was surprisingly easy. Finally, the Catalyst said, “Despite the Synthesis, I believe there is still a high probability that any sentient whom finds me will attempt to overload my systems.”
“You are different.”
How many times had she been told that? Too many. The old, familiar weight settled across her shoulders, threatening to drive her to the ground. Somehow she kept to her feet, but Shepard no longer understood how...or why...she bothered.
“I will keep most of my functions dormant, but I would like to remain aware as long as possible. For defensive purposes”
Swallowing her annoyance, Shepard took a step away from the console. It was helping her, she reminded herself. She might need that help. “Where is the communication hub?”
The map highlighted a section white. It was in the Keeper’s area of Kithoi ward, and very close to the other blip. “Your fellow organic has also tried to repair this port.”
“Well...they’re about to get some help.”
“Be advised, I do not believe you have enough remaining suite power to reach his location.”
“Funny how the shit you believe turns out.”