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Action and Reaction

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She was just so tired.

The strange glowing child kept talking, and Gina tried to understand, but although the fate of the universe depended on her paying attention she was consumed by other thoughts.

What should she have done differently?

Why did everything hurt so much?

Was this really it? The best she could do? She had tried so hard, and yet all she had to show for it was death.

So much death.

Every time she closed her eyes she saw them, the bodies on the Citadel. The soldiers on Earth. Kelly. Thane. Anderson. Those poor people on Horizon. So much sacrifice, and for what? So that she could live? So that she, some random human soldier, with so many deaths already on her hands, could decide the fate of all organic life? How was that fair? How was that just?

And how had she come this far and still remained naive enough to expect the universe to be just or fair?

The child had finally stopped talking, and it stared at her, it's eyes innocent and merciless. Gina shuddered as she forced herself to lift one leg and then the other, to stumble almost blindly down the path to her own destruction. It was obscene that she should be the one to make this decision. But there was no alternative. And so she chose.

There was a flash of light, and then everything changed.

Jeff had been trying not to think about the Citadel, or "Catalyst", or about what Shepard was going through up there (had she made up there? Had any of them?) If he let his mind wander from the immediate task of attacking the Reapers and keeping the Normandy in one piece he became overwhelmed by how tiny the odds were of any of it making any difference, by how few of the other human and alien ships remained in the battle. So he didn't think about it.

And at first he barely noticed the flash, it was just another explosion in space, probably an Asari cruiser or geth dreadnought or if they were really lucky an actual Reaper. The flash was awfully bright though, and the light seemed to linger, it was as if the air itself was vibrating with a faint purple-white glow, like a misty afterimage in the corner of his eye.

And then he realised that the Reapers had stopped. They weren't firing their lasers, they weren't crushing tanks under their massive legs, instead they just stood there unmoving for a moment and then they just...left, flying silently straight up into space as if pulled on invisible strings. A weird buzzing noise hissed on the edge of Jeff's hearing only to fade as the giant black forms of the Reapers disappeared into the sky.

"What. The Fuck. Was that?" he said, too shocked to be relieved. Was that what the Crucible did? Just got the Reapers to...go away? Were they coming back? He could hear himself laughing with mild hysteria.

"Joker!" said Traynor over the comm, "I'm getting a message. That buzzing sound it's...oh my god." She stopped, and then he could hear her quietly sobbing. "Traynor?" he said. "Traynor what is it? Speak to me dammit! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?"

"Joker. Joker I'm sorry."

He turned to his left. And it was only then that he noticed that there was something wrong with EDI.