Actions

Work Header

I: Enigma

Chapter Text

ENIGMA
THE BEGINNING BEFORE THE BEGINNING

December 16, 2250
1305 hours.
SSV Normandy SR-2 Exhibit, History of Earth and the Colonies Museum, Kikowani Ward, The Citadel.


"However kids, this is not the full story of the man I knew as Marcus Lee Shepard. No, that was only the small snippet of what I had to tell you. You see, I was there myself. I was on his squad," he finished with a slight grin, his mandibles switching ever so slightly. The human children looked at him ever so curiously, some with their eyebrows up high, the others with confused expressions, and others who just held blank stares, their emotions bottled up so no one could see their expressions. He simply shrugged it off: it didn't matter to him, he was here to teach. And teach he would.


Finally, as if hours later, one human finally raised his hand, his posture screaming for attention. His mandibles creased into a weary smile and he pointed towards the child, his hand still hanging in the air, "Yes, Jason, what is your question?"


The child named Jason finally let his hand fall, his posture relaxing, "If there is more to tell about The Shepard, then why don't you tell us?"


He tried to laugh, but the strangled sound that came out was only a sore reminder of how old he was, how close to death he was coming. Is that truly what they call him now? 'The Shepard'? If he were alive, he'd laugh.


He had lived a long life, traveled the galaxy with the human he called a brother, and fought enemies many would cower from. Hell, he saved the galaxy...what was it? Seventy years ago to the day. The man was no longer full of youth, no longer in his prime, he had fought, done his duty, and now he had to give it up so he may die in peace. He was content with his fate, spirits, he deserved the rest more than anyone, as he had fought armies that many thought only existed in nightmares; hordes of emotionless machines, drones of twisted hybrids and to top it off; a race of sentient starships hellbent on galactic harvest. As for the conflicts that followed...


Yeah, if anyone deserved a rest, it was the man standing right before them. That name however: that always took him by surprise, despite the fact he'd heard it constantly over the years. All the kids knew him as 'The Shepard' as if he was some kind of messiah, as Shepard called them, or God. Shepard was a tough son of a bitch, a bit of a stubborn idiot, and he had been close to bulletproof in status, but in no way was he a deity.


"Well, there are probably a lot of things that your parents taught you about Shepard that aren't necessarily the full story. No, you see the Coalition tells you all the good stuff: the propaganda, the deeds, the actions...but I was there, I served with the man, and I'm telling you, there was more to him than meets the eyes. You may know all the basics; he cured the 2,000 year old genophage virus, he gave the quarians back their homeworld, he retook Earth from those sentient bas-" he was about to continue when he caught the glare of a woman nearby, the quarian fixing him with a glare that told him to watch is language. Nodding, he amended his words. The words that came out made him want to laugh, "..synthetic bosh'tets. They tell you all the good stuff, but they never told you what happened behind the scenes."


The kids looked between each other quizzically, giving each other puzzled looks. He winked at the quarian teacher nearby, and she rolled her eyes as her mouth twitched upwards in a grin. Another kid, a young girl, Patricia Deltarans, rose her hand, but her body didn't dance in curiosity, instead it was a posture worthy of a professional reporter, as if she had gone through years of training just for this moment. He nodded towards the girl, and she didn't wait for him to approve her question before she spoke with exuberance, "What's your name mister? And what happened behind the scenes?"


Another voice answered; a cool, raspy but exotic voice, the accent so recognizable to him, it wasn't even funny. The smile dropped from the turians's face as he identified its owner, frown creasing his mandibles as he realized the voice was coming from behind him.


"Garrus Vakarian, ex-turian cop, vigilante, known by many as Archangel, ex-Primarch of Palaven, ex-Council Spectre, and finally...the bosh'tet turian I have come to know as a big brother and my Meka'lish." Garrus turned behind him to see the slim and petite form of his quarian friend enter from the back, her long, thin arms and purple skin dangling at her sides, slim purple legs forwarding the quarian on a beeline for the group, three toes flexing at each step.


She wore traditional quarian attire, a long fillas wrapped around her torso and upper legs like a scarf around the neck, the color that of the dark brown bark of human trees with a milky white outline. Her deceptively large, but well concealed, breasts were easily concealed by the fillas, and her arched back moved so fluidly, it was almost dazling. Her face however, that was her most striking feature, one that had barely changed throughout her old age. As one particular old relic once said, quarian beauty was unmatched, hence why the quarian's Latin name was Perfectus Decore: perfect beauty. No one would ever have guessed, but the quarians were so similar to humans in appearance it was uncanny.


Three fingered hands, arched back and legs and three toed feet aside, quarians were almost exactly like humans. Her eyes glowed with a luminescent silvery glow, a glow that could easily have been mistaken for a blue light, but the light was so warm it was comforting. Her lips were a parched red, a testament to the once rose red color it had once held.

Her hair was long and a jet black color, her hair streaking in long strands just past her shoulders and ending just below her breasts. The hair showed streaks of grey, the once young and vibrant quarian showing signs of entering her twilight years. Her ears were exactly like human ears but slightly pointed at the tip, with two lines, almost like tattoos but natural, one on the left and the other on the right, curved from the side of her forehead and ended just above her eyebrows. Two more of the lines, not curved however, came from below her chin and ended below her mouth.


Her once smooth purple skin was now wrinkled with age, her freckles however still stood out like dots on a white chart. Every bit of her body once echoed with feminine beauty, but was now withering with age. Many men would have fallen for such beauty, but only one man had taken her seriously, only one had fallen in love with her and caught her attention.


"Spirits...is that you Tali?" Garrus asked, still shocked by the quarian's sudden appearance. He hadn't seen her in what felt like...decades. What was she doing there? Last he heard, she had been leaving in solitude on Rannoch ever since the Post-Apocalyptic War. She was single, with no mate to speak of. The only mate she did have had passed away long ago. Tali giggled.


"Tali'Shepard pav Rannoch, to be precise. And yes, you bosh'tet. Do you know any other quarian who would call you brother?" she teased. Apparently her sense of humour hadn't aged with her.


"Point taken," the turian returned, glad that Tali's spirit wasn't entirely broken.


The young quarian turned towards the group of excited children, excited because they were meeting another member of Shepard's crew, and excited because they were about to learn more about the deceased hero. Tali turned to Garrus, as if awaiting his permission to tell them all about Shepard's life, about how they fought side by side, and how they faced down the deadliest threat the galaxy has ever known.


Garrus gave a simple nod, although he didn't hide the concern he did in his eyes. What they were about to divulge...it was a well healed wound. It had been sealed seventy years ago...and he wasn't sure Tali could handle it. But his quarian friend seemed to hold no such qualms.


"Many know him as Spectre Shepard, The Shepard, Hero of the Citadel, Bane of the Reapers, Destroyer of the Collectors, Benefactor of the Council, Posterboy of the Alliance, Protector of the Geth, and of course, a crazy bosh'tet who saved those in need and commanded the smallest but most advanced warship of the decade. But we knew him for what lay underneath his invincible mask, we knew him for what he really was; he was organic just like the rest of us. He was what you humans call, 'just human.' He felt pain, anger, sadness, distress...and love. He knew all of these values that your people hold so dear, that most organics hold dear. He wasn't just a machine, he wasn't some superhero. He was one of us, and only we know the full story. Those and all those that served alongside him. So, do you want to hear a story kids?"


The kids began to quiver, like a wreathing swarm of bees they converged and assembled each other like rookies in basic, just not as organized, not as disciplined. Finally they stopped as they looked at the quarian expectingly. She felt tears well up in her eyes, but only one managed to break out, to streak down her cheek, decades worth of melancholy travelling with it as it fell off her cheek and onto the cold, tiled floor.


She wanted to cry at the memories, of how he was gone. Garrus' comforting talon landed on her hand, squeezing as the turian gave her a comforting and reassuring look. She managed a weak, but eerily convincing smile as a second tear streaked past. She built up the strength to resist it, and she finally spoke, carrying as much strength as she could.

"This is the story of the man I loved."


{FILE CORRUPTED. ATTEMPTING RECOVERY}
{WARNING: FOLLOWING FILES COULD NOT BE RECOVERED. FILES HAVE BEEN SPLIT AND FORCED INTO COMPATIBLE FOLDERS}
{NEW COMMAND ISSUED: ACCESS EARLIER FILES THAT CORRELATE WITH ORIGINAL FILE IN NUMERICAL ORDER. DO YOU ACCEPT?}
{COMMAND ACCEPTED. SEARCH INITIATED. SEARCH COMPLETE. FIVE RESULTS}
{SEARCH NARROWED WITH COMMAND 'ZORAH: ANDERSON: MEETING'. ONE RESULT FOUND}
{ACCESSING FILE. FILE CREATOR: TALI'SHEPARD PAV RANNOCH. FILE DECRYPTING}
{FILES MOVED INTO NEW FOLDER. PLEASE DESIGNATE NAME FOR FOLDER}
{...ENIGMA}
{FILE NAME ACCEPTED. OPENING FILE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO VIEW IN AUDIO, VIDEO, OR BOTH AUDIO AND VIDEO?}
{AUDIO AND VIDEO ACCEPTED. ACCESSING FILE}