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The Stars Asunder

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Another banshee died screaming, with Shepard’s sniper bullet in its brain. She felt a wave of biotic energy behind her, as Liara threw a cannibal into the debris. Garrus’s rifle fired again, and brute went down, screaming.

“Commander. The Destroyer is in range. Missiles ready for launch.”

She squeezed off another shot, and glanced at the truck, and its precious missiles.

“Shepard, go, we’ll cover you!”

Another shot, and she ran. “Roger that, EDI.” A banshee reached for her, and died with a double-tap from Garrus. A pair of cannibals and three husks never made it to her, sucked instead into Liara’s warp before it detonated. Shepard pulled out her autopistol and fired, simultaneously lifting a marauder and slamming him into a nearby building. And then she was clear, sliding to a stop at the missile control panel and bringing up the targeting.

“Targeting is online. Reaper is in range.”

Her hand flew across the keys as Garrus and Liara closed ranks around her, dropping Reaper ground troops left and right. And still they came, and the Destroyer advanced. “Firing!”

They ran for cover together. The missiles flew true.

“It’s going down!”

Shepard triggered her comm. “Hit ‘em with everything you got!”

Hammer opened fire. And the Reaper fell.

Shepard stood, sniping another cannibal as she moved. “EDI?”

“Destroyer terminated.”

“Nice work, EDI.”

Anderson’s voice crackled over the comm. “Shepard. We’re on our way to your location.”

She slammed one last husk to the ground, and took a deep breath. “Roger that.”

It wasn’t long before Anderson’s ground transport rolled up. “Shepard! Thank God you made it.”

She walked towards him, wincing as a muscle in her thigh pulled. “It didn’t look good…”

He walked past her, and stared at the beam that pierced the heart of London. “It gets worse.”

“Of course it does.”

“Hackett just reported in. Several Sovereign-class Reapers—including Harbinger—have broken off from the battle with Sword. They’re headed here.”

Shepard’s jaw clenched. “Harbinger.”

“It’s an opportunity for Hackett to get the Crucible in place, but we have to get a team on board the Citadel to open those arms. Now.”

Major Coates walked up with an abrupt nod. “We still don’t know what we’ll find when we get to the Citadel.”

Shepard glanced at him. Something about him bothered her, but frankly, she was too exhausted. He was probably just an asshole. She shook it off, and turned back to Anderson. “Then that’s our job: find out what we’re up against.”

Anderson nodded. “Alright. Saddle up, everybody.” He walked back to the transport as the remains of Hammer gathered. “Get me Admiral Hackett.”

Shepard waited, while their paltry force reformed. Liara and Garrus stepped up beside her, Garrus still keeping a lookout, while Liara bumped her shoulder. They shared a brief look, noting each other’s exhaustion, but they’d said everything already, shared everything. Before this push, when Liara had given her the gift of her memories. Every moment they’d shared, every thought and emotion. Shepard reached down and joined their hands, and they stood, just breathing, just being, until Anderson was ready.

Together, the small convoy moved forward, to the beam.

Harbinger was there to greet them.

They charged, every man and woman, at Anderson’s command. And Harbinger cut them down, one by one. The Reaper’s laser cut a swath through their charge, crashing tanks and annihilating troops. And still, they ran.

Shepard dodged an exploding Mako, sliding down and to the side as it flew up and over. A second crashed into it as it landed, sending it into the air as well, and she watched in horror as it landed, nose first. Time slowed as it tipped back, and Shepard stood powerless, unable to pull Liara and Garrus out of its way. She reached out with her biotics, trying desperately to slow it, and knowing it wasn’t enough. The tank landed, detonating, and time sped up again. Shepard ran. She leapt over the remains, clambering up, and landing running again, desperate to reach Liara.

Garrus stumbled to his feet as she grabbed her wounded bondmate, and the three of them dropped to cover as the assault continued. One hand on Liara, and eyes moving everywhere, Shepard triggered her comm. “Normandy, do you copy? I need an evac, right now!”

The rational soldier in her knew she was being unreasonable. But Shepard didn’t care. Liara was hurt, and she couldn’t do this—couldn’t finish this—until her bondmate was safe. Liara had to live. She had to.

“We’re taking heavy losses up here, Commander!”

The ground shook around them, as Harbinger continued to pick off their forces. “Just hold on, Liara. Joker, I need you, now!”

“Shepard, I—”

“On our way, Commander.”

The roar of the Normandy’s engines cutting through the atmosphere was music to Shepard’s ears. She prayed the Reaper IFF they still had would confuse Harbinger long enough to get them out. It had to work.

The ground shook again as the Normandy pulled in, and Shepard reached for Liara. “Come on.”

Together, they stumbled to the safety of the hold, as the reserve troops still on board poured off. Garrus charged up the ramp first, stopping halfway when Shepard spoke.

“Here. Take her.”

She eased Liara’s arm from around her neck as Garrus took her weight. She couldn’t stand to see the blood that covered the asari’s armor. It broke her heart.

She has to be safe.

“Shepard!”

She stepped back. “You’ve got to get out of here.”

Liara shook her head, but Garrus didn’t let her go. “I’m alright, Shepard.”

Taking in the blood and the look of exhaustion, it was an obvious lie.

“Don’t argue with me, Liara.”

“You’re not leaving me behind!” The words ground out, laced with pain.

Shepard took a shaky breath, and pulled off her helmet as she walked back towards her bondmate. “No matter what happens. You mean everything to me, Liara.” Her hand reached out, cupping the asari’s blood-spattered face. “You always will.”

“Shepard, I…”

Her hand fell away, and she stepped back, not looking away.

“…I am yours.”

Shepard glanced at the beam, and Harbinger, as the Reaper destroyed another tank. She turned back, and screamed. “Go!”

“Shepard!”

She picked up her rifle, and ran, helmet forgotten. Behind her, she heard the Normandy whine, and lift off.

She’s safe.

She’s safe.

She’s safe.

Shepard charged the beam, the two words a mantra in her head as guns fired around her, soldiers screamed and died, and Harbinger’s beam howled.

And then the Normandy was gone, and Harbinger growled, a wordless noise that she almost understood.

Just you and me, now.

Harbinger growled again, and this time she was certain she understood.

Shepard. They will all die. You have failed.

Fuck you.

And then Harbinger’s laser struck, and all she knew was pain.