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Reichenbach Falls

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Shepard didn’t have a lot of regrets.  The ones she did, however...they mattered a lot.  She wished she could apologize to Wrex, to the Rachni queen.  She wondered if she should have shot Wreave.  She knew she should have shot the Illusive Man a hell of a lot sooner than she had.

But mostly she wished she could have seen that tropical island with Garrus.  Adopted ten krogan babies.  Raised a battalion of sharpshooters and ne’er-do-wells.  Hell, maybe, in time, they could’ve given Jack’s kids a run.

Garrus had been wrong, there was no bar in heaven.  No clouds or golden gates, either.  Death was darkness, and a promise of pain if she dared so much as to approach the line of consciousness.  

So she didn’t.

Was death the same for all species?  If not, she wished she were a Drell.  Maybe for them death was merely an escape back into their perfect memories.  But then, what memories did she have to escape to?  Even those few stolen moments with friends were tainted.  Everything in her life had been connected to the Reapers. To Cerberus. To one grisly moment or another.  It had never bothered her before.  Did it now?

She wished that she could see them; look down on them like she promised...but everything was so dark.

The tapping of gentle talons against her cheek forced a groan from her lips, and her eyes to open.  What little she could discern from the shadows was awash in blue, blurry, and mis-shapen.  It was an improvement over the dark, at least.

Shepard blinked in slow succession.  As her vision sharpened, blossoms of pain erupted through her body: bruises where she’d been tossed about like a ragdoll in a hurricane, the sharp tug of tight skin against clotted blood, and a throb between her eyes so heavy it made them water.  She hissed.

Inch by inch she lifted her head until she could face the Keeper standing over her.  It chirped and clicked at her, waving its four little arms.  Shepard groaned and closed her eyes again, her forehead resting against the warm blanket beneath her.  

Once again the Keeper poked her cheek.  

She tried to slap it away, but couldn’t.  After several more prods, Shepard re-opened her eyes.

The Keeper met her gaze, then its antennae bobbed and it performed a quick little hop and jig, the likes of which she’d never seen from a Keeper before.  Then it scuttled over her.  

Biting back grunts of pain, Shepard wormed her way onto her elbows to look after it.  With her vision cleared she realized she was lying in the wreckage of...a hull?  Giant pipes made up most of what she was laying on, decorated by piles of structural beams, platforms, and debris.  A frankenstein generator was affixed by a stretch of fresh welding to the pipe a few feet from her head.  A faint hum told her it was still running, probably responsible for the translucent blue dome shimmering around her.  

Turning her head, Shepard found a pool of water collected between ‘her’ pipe and the next one over.  It wasn’t much, but it looked clean enough.  

Trying to move her arm was like reaching out to a phantom limb; it was several tries before she could slide across the chilled metal and down to the water below.  Her fingers had barely grazed the top when she slumped against the pipe, panting and tired.  

A tip-tapping across the pipes heralded the Keeper’s return.  It moved around her this time, and bent to scoop water into a small bowl of warped metal.  Patiently, it waited as Shepard forced herself back onto her elbows.  

With the Keeper’s help she drank what little she could swallow, then sank again upon the pipe.  The Keeper clicked and whirred at her some more.  It reached out and the strong, stringent stench of medi-gel engulfed her.  It was followed by a pressure over her body—another blanket, she thought, but the light was fading once again.  Or was that...

There were no fires in her dreams, now.  Only cold.  

Shepard stood among the trees and shadowed figures, watching as the snow fell.  Sometimes there were voices:  Garrus, Tali, Joker, James.  But mostly there was nothing.  No one.

She stood with the shadows of the dead and wondered Why .  Sure, the Catalyst had explained it....At least, it had tried.  It would be lying to claim she truly understood.  All she knew was that it seemed like there was only one viable option in the end.  

If you had to perform the brutal calculus of war...what was one, insignificant life next to trillions?  

Except she was beginning to believe she wasn’t quite dead.