Shepard stood and thought for a long time after talking with the Catalyst. Nothing made sense. She knew it was irrational to think any of this would be be easy, but her subconscious screamed. Where was the “Press to save the Galaxy?” button? Where! Where...? There would have been no questions then. But now there were so many. Where had the Reapers and the Catalyst really come from? How old was the Crucible after all? How had its plans been preserved and improved for so many millions of years? And there would be no answers, at least not for her.
She couldn’t control the Reapers. The Illusive Man had shown her that. But she had worked so hard to save the geth, and EDI, and losing them to the Reapers would be all too tragic. There was only one option left.
Musashi cried. She didn’t cry, not since she was sixteen and saw her family die. She had never let her squadmates see this pain, and the weakness that let it out. She had had to be strong for them. But now she had to be strong for herself. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered, to herself and to everybody. The Catalyst, the Starchild or whatever it was, took no notice. It would allow her to advance on her path. She walked straight forward, to the shining light.
She thought of Padok. Of all people, he would understand. Bakara, too. They were both big thinkers. She hoped Bakara was doing well, making the best of Wreav. Maybe she would see Padok at the bar. And watch over Garrus from above....
“For eternity,” she screamed, but it came out soft, and ran into the beam of dazzling energy.
She jumped, falling ever so slowly into the beam of energy. The great maw of Earth below her, the turian ships above, glowing Reapers all around, scintillating geth laser cannons...it was beautiful, now that she looked about it. Now that she could look without thinking or feeling. And she did. Her last few seconds of existence would be worth it.
She thought of her friends, the people she had loved and admired. Anderson, Tali, so many had died. Would Samantha be okay? Would she find another woman to settle down with, to have a white picket fence and a retriever? And so many others would continue without her. Would they be angry at her for dying? Was it selfish? Would they understand that this was what it took to save the Galaxy? She couldn’t stop now. She felt herself disintegrate, be unwoven and turned into something greater. That was all.
Commander Musashi Shepard sacrificed herself to synthesize organic and synthetic life together into a coherent whole, and ushered in an era of stunning growth and harmony, but her former squadmates were torn apart. They were all recognized for their efforts, and landed in positions of great power and prestige, but this could do little to soften their pain. For the most part they lived together on the New Citadel, reassuring each other and finding out what life after Shepard meant.
Everyone attended her funeral. Liara T’Soni, Samantha, Garrus, Grunt, Miranda and Jacob, Urdnot Bakara, Samara and Falere, Jack, Joker and EDI, Admiral Hackett, Dr. Chakwas, Zaeed, James Vega, Steve Cortez, Kaidan Alenko, Kenneth and Gabriella and Greg Adams, Primarch Victus. Diana Allers was there too, but she was not recording this time. She left that to the other reporters.
The ceremony was short and simple. Heartfelt. They thought Shepard might approve of that. The three Councilors gave a minute-long speech together and that was that. They unveiled a monument of her, next to the Relay Monument where she had literally driven onto the Citadel to attack Saren, made of corundum and tungsten. Hard materials, and unique, for a uniquely hard person, but beautiful. It showed her not in battle, as she had spend much of her time, but in a state of sublime grace. In one hand, she held Mindoir, her place of birth and forging ground for her ferocious personality. In the other, she held Earth, birthplace of humankind and the site of the Final Battle Against the Reapers, as it was now grandiosely called. Surrounding her were four old friends who could not attend the ceremony—the first two were Legion, the geth platform of 1,183 units, and Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, who died nobly along her race as they sped fatalistically into the spiral of war that began when they first fought the geth, and did not end until their extinction. The two of them were behind her, taller, holding up the entire Citadel Galaxy. Shepard was reaching to place Earth and Mindoir in their respective places in the Galaxy, representing her pivotal role in the acceptance of humans in the galactic community. The other two were the two salarians Mordin Solus and Padok Wiks, together holding the planets of Sur’Kesh and Tuchanka in a gesture of cooperation and forgiveness.
Garrus fell down and cried the moment he saw the monument. “Oh, Spirits, it’s Tali. The monument looks so beautiful...but they can never capture her real beauty.”
Samantha came up to him. She would ordinarily be too intimidated by the turian, but she felt no fear in grabbing his back and pulling him up.
“Garrus. There’s—something Shepard wants you to know.” Samantha still spoke of her lover in the present tense. “She didn’t realize you and Tali were together. After she got back from Rannoch, and learned, she came to me sobbing. Do you know why she was distant to you after that? She thought that you blamed her for killing Tali. And it broke her heart, because she always thought of you as her best friend. She talked about it a lot, in our private moments. There’s a reason she wanted you with her until the last minute.”
Garrus stood up, stopped whining. He looked at Samantha with a newfound respect. Then he started weeping.
“Dammit, I was so dumb! If I had realized—I never stopped admiring her—and to think I lost her trust...” Samantha had never seen Garrus reduced like this. She bent down and gave him a hug.
“No, no, don’t think like that. She forgave you. She let you win that bottle-shooting contest, by the way,” she said, trying to add some levity to the situation. “Please, please don’t cry. If you do...”
But Samantha was already tearing up. Garrus put an arm over her as well.
“You’re right, I’m sorry, you had a special relationship with her. I can’t imagine how you feel either.”
Samantha was numb, in fact. She had forgotten how to feel. “I don’t know. I think I’ve forgotten how. For Pete’s sake, I can’t use a shower without thinking of her.”
Garrus stood up, pulling his friend with him as well. “I’m so sorry, Samantha. I guess I really was selfish. Thank you.”
“No, thank you, Garrus. You kept my lover together when she needed it the most.”
At this moment Kaidan Alenko walked by, alongside Miranda and Jacob.
“Hey Garrus, Samantha,” he said, in his soft, caring voice. “How are you guys? I noticed you two out over here and...”
“We’re fine now, thanks. Garrus, uh, spilled his drink. I was helping him clean it up.”
“Right. Yes. Spilled my drink,” agreed Garrus in an uneven tone.
Kaidan shook his head with a smile. “All right, sure.”
He looked at the monument. “It feels weird. In the beginning, fighting Saren, I admit I had a few feelings for Shepard myself. Never acted on them, of course. Glad I didn’t. Shepard was ruthless, then. You could feel her burn, all the time. After she died—well, you did your best, Miranda, but she felt different somehow. I guess she’d grown.”
Miranda wasn’t sure what to think. “Really? Do you think I did something wrong?” she asked nervously.
“No, no Miranda, your work was—perfect. Everyone changes. Shepard just mellowed out, I guess.” Kaidan insisted.
“I didn’t know. But then, I didn’t know her then,” Miranda pointed out, no longer on the defensive.
“I think I can see that,” Jacob pointed out. “She did change, even while we knew her, Miranda. She never got weaker, but I think she began to care about everyone more. Just my two cents, though.”
Miranda nodded silently in agreement. “Well, whoever she was, she saved the Galaxy.”
“And she did more than that,” Jacob continued. “She saved all of us basketcases as well.”
Everyone there, even Garrus, laughed at that one.
Grunt sat agog between Liara and Bakara. He almost felt unworthy, sharing a table with two of the most powerful people in his world—and indeed, the Galaxy now—but he remembered his prowess as a soldier, the way he had fought with Shepard on Utukku, and felt better. He’s miss her, the way she wielded a flamethrower like a butterknife and barked orders like singing poetry, but mostly he was glad. Glad she had taken him out of the tank, raised him, glad she had cured the genophage so he had a species to come back to. Hell, they had even killed a Thresher Maw together! Shepard’s echoes would sound for a long time.
“So, I heard that Wreav died in the fighting. I’m sorry,” Liara began cautiously. The two of them hadn’t had much time to talk aboard the Normandy, and consequently didn’t know each other well.
“Yes, he did,” Bakara said with solemnity. “I’m...not sure how to feel about it. He died defending me. There was some shred of good within him. I wonder if I could have changed his mind on a few things, in time. But he could have also been a bloody tyrant.”
“Maybe everything happened for the best,” Liara suggested.
“Well, I can only hope so. It’s sad Shepard can’t be here to see this, everything she created. And Padok. They were good people. Good friends.”
“I miss Shepard too,” Liara added. “She helped me with a lot of things. Whenever I had doubts or fears she’d usually be able to put them aside for me. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
“You’re very strong on your own, Liara, especially for one so young.”
“Thank you, Bakara. I appreciate that very much. So, how is Tuchanka now under your leadership?”
Bakara groaned. “Getting better. I’ve put in strict leadership quotas, and the males are getting used to governing alongside the opposite gender. And all the songs now are of Shepard, so that’s helpful as well.”
“Interesting,” Liara commented, deciding she much preferred asari mono-genderedness.
“What do you plan to do yourself, Liara? Will there still be a Shadow Broker in these post-Reaper times?”
She shook her head. “No, no, I’ve decided to come out of the Shadows now. I’ve sold everything I knew to the New Council for a considerable sum of credits.”
“Really! I’m a little surprised. How much, exactly?”
“A considerable sum.”
“I see. And to what will you put these credits?”
“I’m honestly not sure yet. A few academic scholarships, reconstructing Thessia, research...”
“Then it sounds like you have your work cut out for you. As do I,” Bakara remarks.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”
Joker and EDI were off to themselves, admiring the small scale model of the Normandy placed in the monument’s Galaxy, weaving itself eternally through the stars.
“The monument is very well-designed,” EDI remarked all too casually. “Even the scale model of the Normandy is extremely accurate.” She looked to Joker for a response.
He looked up at the ship. “Yeah, it is. It’s just—to think of all the fun, crazy times we had on it. Now it’s a museum piece. I don’t know if I can ever really get over that.”
Jeff, as he let EDI call him now, looked down, eyes rendered useless with tears. EDI put an arm around him, nudging his face onto her shoulder. “It’s okay, Jeff. We can go visit it every day if that helps.”
She was always so perfectly kind, Joker thought. Robotically so. He chuckled a bit. Robotically human. Mechanically organic, and organically mechanical. Yes, that was her, that was his EDI, his one true love. And Shepard had made it possible.
“No, no, it’s okay. Maybe sometime. I guess we should move on or something. But I don’t know how.”
“I understand,” EDI said, stroking her lover’s hair. “We will figure it out together. In fact, there is something I always wanted to tell you.”
Joker looks up and wipes his eyes, curious. “What is it?”
EDI motions almost as if to clear her throat. “Well, my mind is fully within this platform—body—now, but at one point I was integrated with the Normandy itself. I was synonymous with the ship. And we had our differences, at first, but later on, as I became accustomed to your style of piloting, I began to realize that I was prioritizing you almost as a fellow component of the ship. I thought of you as part of the ship too. And you are. You are part of the Normandy. It will never truly leave you.”
Jeff was beaming. “EDI, that was beautiful. Did you rehearse that?”
He was smiling now, really smiling. EDI was happy to see his spirits improved. “No,” she admitted. “But I did rehearse this.”
She took a small box out of her pocket. Inside was a ring. It was very simple, made of a green alloy of steel invented a thousand years ago on Palaven. But as Joker realized what it was, it meant the world to him.
“Oh, EDI, are you serious!?” he cried out.
“Yes, I am. In fact, I cannot think of a better way to honor Shepard’s memory.”
“You know, you’re right.” Joker agreed. “Let’s go exploring together.”