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Entropy

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She wakes up groggy. She's usually a light sleeper, so it's strange to feel her dreams clinging to her as she forces her eyes open. It must be a bone deep kind of tired she's feeling now if it's this hard to just get up.

Her yawn is broken by a rough jolt of the ship. Still drowsy, she stumbles slightly as she gets out of bed. What the fuck was- Another jolt nearly knocks her back on the bed.

Wide awake, she bolts across her cabin. Maybe she should have wondered how she got to her cabin in the first place, but the feeling of Normandy being her home was so deeply embedded in her that she didn't think twice. So what if she's here instead of on lock down on Earth?

"EDI, status report."

No response. To the CIC then.

Another jolt - this one obviously caused by weapon fire on her goddamn ship - has her falling into the crewman stationed outside her quarters. "What's going on?" she shouts as the man, probably ten years her junior, tries to help her regain balance. She gets a good look at him and realizes she knows him. Jimmy? John? James - yes, James. "Who's attacking us?"

"Probably everyone," he mutters. Shepard ignores him and starts moving towards the elevator. He side-steps in front of her, surprisingly graceful for someone twice her size. "I've got orders to keep you here."

"Whose orders?" This is ridiculous, this is her ship and she'll be damned if anyone's going to tell her-

"The Captain's, ma'am."

"Captain?" She grows pale. Captain? What Captain? The Normandy hasn't had a Captain since... well, this Normandy's never technically had one. Who the hell did Alliance give her ship to? Why wouldn't they tell her-

This time the jolt knocks them both from their feet. Taking advantage of the distraction, Shepard darts up and over her would be guard and into the elevator.

"Lola- Shepard- wait-" But the door's closed and she's gone.

The CIC is in bad shape. Crew are injured but everyone who's able is frantically working at their stations. She's been in enough space side fire fights to know this isn't good. They don't seem to notice her as she makes her way to the cockpit. As little sense as the last five minutes have made, the scene before her makes even less sense.

Joker at the helm was the only thing that seemed right. His hands flew across the controls with the skilled precision she had always marveled at, though it always worried her when his usual bravado was dialed down for the task before him. A mechanical... woman (she had no other way to describe it) was going through technical read outs of not only the Normandy but what looked like a hundred ships in the vicinity, monitoring their systems and helping coordinate attack patterns.

And behind them, leaning against Jeff's chair was none other than Garrus Vakarian. She hadn't seen him in... months, and here he was, barking commands at Joker like it was his ship, like he wasn't just used to giving orders but expecting them to be followed.

The battle around them didn't make much of any sense either. Ships of every kind she could imagine - Krogan, Turian, Human, Quarian, Batarian, a half dozen others she couldn't recognize - fighting what looked like a dozen, no at least two, maybe three dozen Reapers.

Being the soldier she was, she said the most poetic thing she could think of at a time like that.

"Holy fuck."

That gets Garrus' attention, his head snaps to her. She has no way of understanding the look in his eyes, but it chills her to speculate.

"Get her out of here," he snarls, actually snarls, before turning away and back to the battle at hand. "Do not let the Crucible out of your sight, keep her steady and do not let a shot get through."

About a half dozen calls of "Yes, sir" follow from behind them.

The guards manage to get her about a few feet before she breaks through. With as much force as she can, she grabs Garrus' shoulder and spins him around, pulls him down a bit and makes him look her in the eye. "What the fuck are you doing with my ship?"

It galls her when he ignores her - just fucking ignores her - but before she can say anything an explosion rocks the Normandy off course. A nearby ship goes up in flames as a Reaper beam cuts straight through it. The light is blinding and they all shield their eyes but as it fades she feels the atmosphere change instantly. It reminds her of what how it feels when someone dies, but the weight of those seconds make her think that that number is now in the billions because of that one ship.

It's not until Joker mumbles, "Shit," in the most dejected, most despondent voice she's ever ever heard from him that it sinks in. This battle's lost. Hell, maybe they're all lost.

The comm chatters to life. "This is Hackett. All ships retreat to rendez-vous Delta One. Repeat, this is Admiral Hackett. All ships are to retreat immediately to rendez-vous Delta One."

"Do it," Garrus mutters.

"But Captain-"

"Jeff... just... just do it."

"But... but Earth-"

Garrus puts a talon gently on his shoulder. "I know." Shepard stares blankly at the two of them, arguably two of the most loyal crew members she's ever had, share something that she feels ill-equipped to understand.

"Yes sir." His voice is so mechanical, so lifeless, that Shepard can barely believe it's really Joker.

Shepard's still staring motionless as all the ships turn tail and make for the Mass Relay. A quarian battle cruiser gets knocked into a nearby Alliance frigate and still she just stares. It's not until Garrus' hand is guiding her to the elevator that she can blink and turn away from the utter devastation still being wrought outside this ship.

"I'll handle it from here," he mutters, a hand lazily dismissing the guards. Too somber for words, they barely register him guide her out of their grasp. "I envy you this, Shepard," his voice a deep rumble that seems full to overflowing with feeling. "You at least won't have to remember this in the morning."