(A little disclaimer: still learning ins and outs of the formatting with the blog here . . . for something that is built around the idea of posting writing, the “un-formatting” of what I’ve written is a bit frustrating. Anyone with tips on formatting or maybe what software for writing in before hand would be helpful. Currently using free version of evernote so that I can work on the story on my phone, my tablet, and my PC at will and when ideas come to me, then copy and paste to here. Formatting doesn’t carry over. Trying to format within this is undone as well. Hard breaks (“Enter” key) gives me my indentations but I don’t need those extra blank lines. This isn’t a film script . . . though that might be an easier format . . . but whatever. May just go with it as you see it now if I get no workable tips… ENJOY!)
A pair of full and soft lips found Commander Shepard’s own. Despite all the pain coursing through his body, he allowed himself the brief extra effort in pain that accompanied the pleasure of Miranda Lawson’s mouth. Shepard’s hand found its way to the back of Miranda’s head and pressed her to him harder, the burned fingers weaving into the brunette’s thick, dark hair. She encircled her arms around him, ignoring his blood covered armor, as she drew him to her in response. Shepard ignored the pain in his ribs. The moment of enjoyment, hinting at even further blissful moments in the near future, sidelining any other perceptions attempting to intrude on the Alliance officer’s mind. For the first time in a long time, Shepard felt calm, his mind at ea–
“Alright, you two, there’s other people in your room here, ya know,” laughed Alliance Admiral David Anderson.
“Yeah, and I’m having enough trouble with my stomach as it is with some of this survival ration shit. Don’t need a crap ton of sappiness to choke down with it,” C-Sec Commander Bailey added with a knowing smile. “But at least I only have to see the good looking half of it,” he tacked on, tapping at his new visual accessory with a laugh.
“Why Commander Bailey, I’m flattered,” Shepard replied.
“Ha ha, Shepard. If you were the good half, I’d finish what the Reapers started and gouge out my other eye.”
“Ouch,” the commander said. Turning to Anderson, he added,”And, sorry, sir,” with a mock salute. He lay back down on the table turned hospital bed, his breathing slightly labored. Miranda smiled and found a rag to wet with a nearby bottle of water and began cleaning the blood from Shepard’s face.
“Easy, Shepard. Let me take care of you for once,” she said.
Shepard looked into the eyes of the beautiful woman whose side he had fought by in stopping the collectors from harvesting humans and more recently ending her father’s experiments, in collusion with the Illusive Man, to use Reaper technology on humans. Of all the loves he had had, all the romances that had come and gone, he knew now that the woman wiping the cold cloth across his lips and then readying another container of medi-gel was his perfect fit. He smiled. She smiled back and rested her free hand on his shoulder.
“I can’t believe you made it,” Miranda almost whispered, as if saying it too loudly would be to risk the reality of it.
“Me either,” Shepard agreed. “Saren and Sovereign, the collectors, Reaper war and the Illusive Man . . .” He was silent for a while, thinking about all battles, all the cities and worlds destroyed by the Reapers, and most of all, the friends lost along the way. Then the Alliance soldier, and natural leader in him, started to take over the thinking processes. “You come all this way by yourself? Any word from the rest of the crew?” he asked her.
“Some of them are in the other room. Joker is on the Normandy. So are Tali and the engineering crew, hard at work on what repairs can be done at the moment. And it was all I could do to keep Ms. Allers off the station. She said that if I find you alive, you owe her another . . . good exclusive,” Miranda said, giving Shepard a questioning look. “Care to explain that one?”
Shepard shrugged. “I give her interviews, she get’s big ratings because she’s the only one who has direct access with me and anyone on the Normandy.”
“Sure that’s all there is to it?”
He figured it was best not to bring up the reporter’s advances on him, that had been quickly turned down. One thing he had learned from his various relationships: which were real and which were based on taking advantage of others. Shepard figured most reporters generally fell into that latter category.
“Yes ma’am,” Shepard said, raising a hand in salute. Miranda smacked the hand down with a shake of her head and a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth.
“You’re impossible,” she laughed.
“I really am,” Shepard replied, smiling. “But what about my favorite doctor? Chakwas could get me patched right back up and free you from playing nursemaid.”
“She’s there and waiting. We’ll get you to her as soon as I think you’re ready to move.”
Shepard nodded his head in acquiescence.
“What about everyone that was planet side?” Anderson asked from the other table, beginning to try and sit himself up, Bailey offering assistance.
“Haven’t heard anything,” Miranda answered.
Shepard lurched upwards, pain racking his body, and contorting his features as he looked at her intently.
“Nothing?” he and Anderson asked in worried unison.
“Easy, love,” Miranda said, putting her hands lightly on Shepard’s chest to lower him back down. “The Normandy’s communications are shot to hell right now. We literally haven’t heard anything and that Traynor girl hasn’t come up for air trying to fix that. Last I heard through my own ship was just that whatever you did up here had worked. Reapers were dying in mid-battle, on land and in space. It appears all Reaper forces were destroyed on the spot as the blast hit them. The coalition you brought together has plenty of survivors. There’s just no telling how many or who right now. But whoever they are, they’re all going to owe you and the rest of the Alliance, big time.”
Shepard nodded, the look of contentment returning to his face. He turned to Bailey. “What’s the status of the Citadel’s communications?”
“Just as bad, I’m afraid. The Reapers locked down so many systems with their proprietary bullshit that I’m surprised the few things we have working are working- life support and backup lights to name a couple of the very few. Can’t even tell you who our visitors are until I get all up close and personal with them.”
“Visitors?” Shepard asked.
“Yeah. Ms. Lawson and your other friends out there aren’t the only ones on the station, now. A bigger crew crashed a shuttle into the station just after the Normandy arrived. Could be they were damaged and lost control, simple and innocent. Could be mercs and pirates already looking for spoils of war.”
“We’ll go check it out,” Shepard said, finally righting himself on the table.
“The hell you will, Commander,” Anderson said. He shook his head. “You’re in no condition to take a stroll through the park . . . if we still have any to stroll- never mind fight. Ms. Lawson,” he said.
“I know you’re not Alliance, so I can’t order you, but I’ve seen your files and I know your work. So I’m asking you to take a team to investigate this unknown group. I’ll trust your judgment in how to deal with them.”
Shepard looked past Miranda to his old friend and superior. Anderson held up a hand signaling for the commander to back down. Shepard paused, then nodded his head in acceptance. Then he looked at Miranda and cupped her cheek with his hand. “You be careful,” he said, and pulled her to him for a deep, passionate kiss that pulled a slight moan out of Miranda that only Shepard heard.
“I will, Shepard. Don’t worry. I’ll take Zaeed and EDI. Javik and Liara can stay here and help watch after things.”
“So they all made it . . . the others . . .” Shepard trailed off, his eyes lowering to his up turned and ravaged hands.
“We’ll find them, love. Trust me.” Miranda gave Shepard a soft squeeze of the hands and then turned and left. She exited the room. A few moments later, Javik tentatively stepped in. The sole survivor of the Prothean race, who had battled the Reapers in the previous cycle, some fifty-thousand years ago, surveyed his latest battleground and saw Shepard. They locked eyes and nodded in unison as Javik was pushed aside by the more excited Liara.
“Shepard!” she yelled with a relieved laugh.
“Good to see you, too, Liara,” Shepard said with a smile.
* * * *
Miranda took point, maneuvering through the wreckage and reconfigured layout of the Citadel. Zaeed followed, back to her right, and EDI took up the rear to the left. Miranda looked down at her omni-tool.
“What’ve we got, Lawson? Bailey’s scanner feeds showing anything new?” Zaeed asked.
“Not really. It is a decent sized group. Eight of them, if the readings can be trusted. Not moving too fast, but who could in this place now?”
“Well, let’s hope they aren’t looking for a fight. I’m runnin’ low on clips,” the battle-scarred mercenary replied.
“And no grenades. Feel naked.”
“I am confused. How does the lack of explosive weaponry relate to feeling as if one has no clothing?” the synthetic EDI asked as the team continued.
“It’s just an expression, EDI,” Miranda answered. “It’s a feeling of being exposed, of not having what you feel you need in a given situation.”
“I see. It’s obvious that there are still things I have to learn to fully understand what being human means,” the AI traveling in its female body said.
“I’m sure Joker will help you out,” Zaeed quipped.
“Jeff has been very helpfu–”
“Get down!” Miranda yelled. The small team dove for cover as a variety of gunfire rained down on them.
“What the fuck?” Zaeed asked, peering around the edge of a raised platform that held the remains of what had once been a large sculpture.
“Vorcha,” Miranda answered across the hall from him, crouching inside the entrance of a small shop of some kind.
“And Cerberus bastards, from the looks of it,” Zaeed added. Miranda rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“Confirmed,” came EDI’s voice from an unseen location.
“Scum teaming up with vermin. Why am I not surprised?” Miranda asked, ducking out and firing off a few rounds at the enemy. There was a muffled cry and the clatter of an armored body hitting the floor.
“That’s one,” Miranda said.
“EDI, watch my six,” Zaeed said.
“Affirmative,” she answered.
“Yaagghhhh!” Zaeed roared, charging out from his cover, gun in each hand. He laid down a wall of fire as he ran forward, closing the distance with the enemy, taking a few of the poorly trained vorcha down. EDI shadowed him for half the distance, popping off shots of her own, but broke right when he slid back to cover to the left. Miranda provided suppressive fire, keeping any would be enemy snipers from taking their shots.
“Two more down on my count,” Zaeed called.
“I have injured two as well, though the severity of the wounds is unknown,” EDI offered.
“Well that evens the odds just a litt–”
There was a crackle of static and then a whispering voice,”Captain Mastoon, send in the reinforcements! We are facing heavy resistance!” hissed one of the remaining vorcha.
“Kwirlex, where is Smith?”
“Dead, Captain. Send the rest or we’ll never take the Citadel!”
“Damn it! Heading to your location now. Brace for impact.”
Miranda, EDI, and Zaeed all exchanged surprised looks. “Impact?” Miranda asked.
Zaeed’s eyes widened, his head swiveling from side to side, scanning floor, walls, and ceiling, looking all around in rapid fluidity. “Boarding darts!” he yelled.
“The hell is a–?” Miranda began.
Before the question could even be finished, an answer was provided. Two large shafts slammed through the ceiling, sharp tips of the enemy vessels piercing the Citadel’s hull with deafening metal on metal screeching explosions, a feat unthinkable had the Citadel’s true defensive measures been up and running. The darts drove through the bulkhead with no regard for what lay on the other side. That was unfortunate for the vorcha Kwirlex. One boarding dart seemed almost aimed at him, crushing its way directly into the floor on the other side of his torso. Blood erupted from the creature, adding a new coat of paint to the craft that was now dropping ramps from two sides and raising doors for a new wave of enemies to pour forth.
“Oh shit,” EDI exclaimed.
“Fall back!” Miranda ordered under a new barrage of gunfire. Her two companions took little time to debate the command, using up the last of their thermal clips as they ducked and dodged their way back down the hallway they had come.
* * * *
“I’ve heard enough. Javik, let’s go,” Shepard said, taking his finger off the communicator in his right ear.
“Yes, Commander,” was all the Prothean said and grabbed his weapons.
Shepard felt Liara watching him as he dragged himself off the table and limped over to Bailey’s cache of weapons and picked up the M-15 Vindicator and an alien shotgun that caused him to smile and raise an eyebrow. The commander looked at Bailey as he picked up the Geth plasma shotgun.
“Hey, that’s your doing, Shepard,” Bailey said, raising his hands in mock defense. “When you worked that deal with the salarian, trading those ancient artifacts for C-Sec getting access to his high level weapons, that was part of the last shipment we got.”
“I’m not complaining,” Shepard laughed, slapping heat dissipating thermal clips in place.
“Shepard,” came Liara’s voice, her hand on his back as he fitted a new omni-tool onto the makeshift armor he had pulled together.
“Liara,” he replied.
“You know what I can’t do is sit on my ass and listen to my crew- my friends- fight for their lives.” He paused, looking down at the young 109 year old, blue-skinned, asari beauty who still caused strong feelings to increase the beat of his heart just a touch faster. He held the backs of his fingers against her cheek. “Liara, you know I’ve already died once and almost died here to save them all before. I haven’t changed. That’s something you and I both know. So either grab a weapon and come with me and Javik, or stay and help Anderson’s old ass catch up in the healing process.”
“Hey, I’m right here, Shepard,” Anderson complained in mock protest.
“Sorry, I thought your hearing was worse than that by now, Admiral,” Shepard said, raising his hand in salute that was simultaneously mocking and conveyed the respect the commander truly felt for his friend and mentor. Liara looked to the admiral and then to Bailey and his young helper, Kenny. Bailey waived her on.
“Go on, Ms. T’Soni. We’ve got this area covered.”
Liara looked at Shepard as she blindly grabbed a heavy pistol off the table.
“Wouldn’t be the same without you, Liara,” Shepard said with a smile. “Move out,” he added, motioning with his gun to both Liara and Javik. The two aliens nodded and hustled out the door with Shepard, only a slight limp now in his step, right behind them. “Maintain radio silence. No need to tip off the enemy if they’re listening,” Shepard said as he left Bailey’s safe room behind.
* * * *
Miranda felt debris pelting her more consistently as the enemy forces closed in on her squad’s location. She checked her ammo for the tenth time but it still had not miraculously regenerated itself this time either. “Damn it!”
“Is that how you greet me, now?” Shepard asked, ducking down next to her, Javik and Liara behind him, splitting off to pair up with Zaeed and EDI. Shepard and his newly arrived team each unloaded extra thermal clips to their comrades, much to their surprise and relief.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Miranda asked, shocked and pissed, but still taking the offered godsend nonetheless. “I told you to stay and heal at the stronghold.”
“Yeah, about that,” Shepard said, taking a quick peak out at the creeping vorcha and Cerberus organization soldiers on the battlefield. He quickly rose, flicking a switch on his gun and firing freezing rounds of ammunition into the fray. Four enemy were hit, two completely frozen in place, the other two losing an arm and a gun, respectively, to the cryo upgrade’s effect. Four targeted shots later and Shepard was ducking back down with four fewer enemies on the other side of the wall that protected him and Miranda.
“Jesus, Shepard! I barely had time to take a breath!”
“I have that effect on the ladies,” he said with a smile. Miranda smacked his shoulder.
“What happened to bleeding all over a make shift hospital bed?” she asked him.
“Um, I got better?” he answered.
“Obviously, but how this quickly?”
“Cortexiphan?” he suggested and laughed. Miranda rolled her eyes. “Mods from a certain Cerberus Shepard-rebuilder then?”
“You are feeling better,” she said.
“Much. But that doesn’t make our odds in the here and now a lot better. We need to continue to pull back but take every chance to pick off more of these bastards as we go. If we’re lucky, they press the advantage they think they have and fall for the tactic.”
“And if we’re not lucky?”
“Then it doesn’t work and we die,” Shepard said nonchalantly.
“Oh, simple as that?” Miranda asked, shaking her head.
“It’s not so bad, really. Hell, they have people that can put you back together now, haven’t you heard?”
“And,” Shepard said, leaning in conspiratorially,”some of them are pretty damn hot,” he added with a wink.
“Oh god,” Miranda said. She looked back out at the opponents. The gunfire had waned slightly. “Here’s our window,” she said.
“Yeah, reloading. Okay . . . let’s move!” Shepard yelled to the entire group. They complied without question, the plan having been explained to Javik and Liara on the way and in turn they relayed it to the others, though with quite a bit less conversation than Shepard and Miranda had needed.
Shots poured out from the team of six and human and vorcha fell as Shepard and crew retreated. They made their way down the hall connecting the main room they had just left to the door leading to the next major area still intact, to some degree, of the Citadel. Shepard located the lock and held his omni-tool up to it. The device scanned the lock and Shepard waited for the green light indicating it had been hacked open. Instead, a red flash and an unpleasant alarm buzzed at him.
“Fuckin’ hell!” Zaeed yelled from his corner of cover. “What’d you do, Shepard, break it when you came through to save our asses?”
“Looks like,” he replied. “EDI: give it a shot. We’ll buy you time,” Shepard said. EDI nodded and sprinted over to the door as the commander and his team unleashed all the fury of their arsenal. After what felt like an eternity, Shepard heard EDI call from behind him. “Shepard, this door has physically malfunctioned. It will require repair before it will be able to open again.”
“How long, EDI?” Shepard asked.
“With the correct tools and replacement parts, it would be a simple task to–”
“EDI!” Miranda shouted.
“I can’t do it.”
“Damn it!” Shepard swore. He looked down the hallway, dark with only the eerily appropriate red auxiliary lighting, with close to twenty angry men and vorcha hesitantly closing the distance between them, brandishing their weapons now in a more threatening manner, sensing their impending victory. “What I wouldn’t give for just a couple grenades,” he thought out loud.
“Tell me about it,” Zaeed agreed.
Shepard looked into the eyes of his crew. “Make every shot count!” He turned back to the enemy, raised his assault rifle in one hand, his shotgun in the other and spewed hell down the hallway. The commander saw Liara moving to a central area, her biotic energies beginning to course through her body.
“Liara?” he asked.
“All out of clips, Shepard. I’ll shield the rest of you as long as I can!”
The vorcha were now rushing in, seeing their opponents’ situation deteriorating rapidly.
“No!” Shepard roared.
“What choice do we have?” Liara asked as a vorcha began to pound on the outside of her biotic shield with the butt of his gun. Wave upon wave of fire rained down on the dome of purple and white energy and everyone could see its containment area gradually shrinking. It would be gone completely in very short order.
Shepard looked to the rest of the squad. If there was another option they could not see it either. They kept firing.
“We could . . . “ Shepard trailed off, looking around for another weapon, a hidden escape route, anything. A Cerberus armored engineer set down a small briefcase sized box and began tapping at a control panel on the side. His head promptly exploded into a fine mist from a precision blast that had come from behind the enemy’s lines.
“Well, you could let the damn cavalry come to your aid once in a while instead of the other way around, Shepard,” came a smooth and familiar turian voice over Shepard’s communicator.
“Garrus?” he asked.
“I’m thinking of reclaiming the Archangel name, actually,” came the friendly voice again, as another enemy was cleanly dispatched from an unseen attacker.
The vorcha and Cerberus soldiers suddenly realized what was happening and turned around to find a new force, eight deep and guns blazing, slicing into their ranks from behind.
“Woo! Take it!” James Vega shouted enthusiastically causing a malestrom of chaotic destruction with rapid thundering rounds from his Revenant assault rifle into the scattering enemy. Half a dozen were cut down in seconds.
A new source of biotic energy flung a handful into the air, smashing them into the walls before ripping them apart, limb from limb, in a grotesque display of power that could only have come from one biotic in the known galaxy.
“Jack,” Shepard said with smile.
“Fuck yeah, Commander,” the biotic, once named Subject Zero by unethical Cerberus scientists, answered.
More gunfire erupted from a handful of other locations and the would-be pillagers of the Citadel were destroyed, caught in the crossfire.
“Shepard, you’re alive?” It was the excited voice of Ashley Williams.
Before Shepard had a chance to scan for any survivors or locate the source of the voice, he was slammed into by an Alliance-armored brunette who nearly cracked is already aching ribs with an overjoyed embrace.
“Agh. Not for long if you keep that up, Ash,” Shepard answered with a laugh as the astonishingly attractive Spectre and Alliance soldier slid off him and backed up a few steps, a smile dominating every other feature of her face at the moment.
“Holy shit, I can’t believe it,” Williams said, staring at Shepard and shaking her head. “How many lives do you get?”
“At least one more, apparently,” he answered smiling back at his old companion. He looked beyond her and saw Garrus trotting up, sniper rifle in hand, followed by Jack, Vega, the krogan Wrex and Grunt, and a large red synthetic Geth platform he was not familiar with. Vega caught the commander’s look and gave him the thumbs up.
“That’s Heavy Metal,” James offered.
“Uh huh,” Shepard said crossing his arms and giving the hugely muscled soldier a look.
“Yeah, that’s the best the dumb jock could come up with,” Jack said, coming up to slap Vega on the back of the head with a mischievous smile.
“And you did better?” Shepard asked.
“You bet your tight ass, I did,” Jack said.
Miranda gave the tattooed biotic a mild glare. She had come to expect that attitude, and Jack’s affection for her lover, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Jack saw the look and rolled her eyes.
“Aw pull the stick out of your tight ass, cheerleader,” Jack cracked at Miranda. Miranda paused, took a deep breath, and let it out. “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Jack asked, trying to further provoke her target into argument. The deadly stare Miranda cast Jack’s way was cut off by the two massive krogan coming up and congratulating their comrades.
“Another glorious Shepard-led battle!” Grunt exclaimed. Wrex nodded in approval of the statement as he grabbed Shepard’s hand and shook it.
“Glad to see you’re still causing the enemy to shake in their books, Shepard,” the de facto leader of the krogan race said.
“I don’t know about that right now. Another few seconds and I’d have been reduced to nothing but my boots,” Shepard said, laughing. He looked around, surveying the carnage in the shadowy gloom of the reformed Citadel. “So, now that all this mess is taken care of, someone want to tell me how bad it is out there? I’ve heard a little from Miranda. The Reapers were defeated? In space and on the ground?”
Grunt looked up from wiping his gun clean. “Let’s just say that you can now officially be called Commander Shepard, killer of all Reapers.”
“You’re as subtle with words as you are with your fighting, kid,” Wrex said, giving Grunt a sidelong glance and shaking his head with a smile. “As it should be with any true krogan.”
Shepard looked from Grunt to each of his team and saw spreading smiles on every single face that could do so. Even the geth’s eye seemed to glow a bit brighter for a few seconds. Shepard returned the smile and found a nearby surface to sit down on. “And our forces? What’s the state of our coalition? How many are left? What is everyone doing? What’s being done with the Reaper remains? Does anyone have a line of communication to Hackett?”
The last question caused one person to stiffen as those preparing for an oncoming crash. Ashley looked to the ceiling with a guilty face.
“Uh, I might have had some interference on my line when the admiral might have been giving me orders to do something. Funny thing about that energy you unleashed.”
“Ash?” Shepard repeated with more emphasis and a hard stare.
Ashley rolled her head around on her shoulders and then dropped her chin to her chest.
“He may have said that the Mass Relays were also destroyed and he was worried about all the alien races being more or less stranded with their military surrounding or actually on Earth. He was about to order me to do something.”
“Well, it wasn’t to come find you, so I didn’t give a damn!”
Shepard held up his hands in a calming gesture. “Easy, Ash. I’m not going to court-martial you for bringing in the team to save our lives. Maybe I’m biased, but I’ll let Admiral Hackett know you did the right thing. You were just following orders, afterall.”
“By responding to the coded distress signal I sent you at that exact moment you lost contact with Hackett. Remember?” Shepard said with an overly obvious wink that drew a laugh from his surrounding crew.
Ashley picked up on the line and nodded. “Of course that’s what I did,” she said with a smile.
“So let’s go check on Bailey and Anderson and get some of this sorted out. We need to find out if it’s as bad as Hackett was saying. No Mass Relays is not a good thing. Not from an Earth’s safety perspective- as long as we keep an eye on Aria’s people, definitely- but from a rest of the galaxy perspective. Who’s protecting Tuchanka, Palaven, Thessia, Sur’Kesh, Rannoch, and all the other home worlds or colony worlds? They have some of their military back home, but the majority of their fleets and a sizable chunk of their ground forces were brought to Earth for the final showdown with the Reapers. We don’t need a massive power vacuum to destroy the victory we’ve earned today.”
“That you earned,” Miranda added, pointedly, coming over and resting a hand on Shepard’s shoulder.
He lifted his own hand and rested it on top of hers and looked up at her, locking eyes and smiling for only a moment. He turned back to the rest. “It’s too many questions, too many unknowns, and we need to get in contact with whatever leadership is left to fill in what blanks they can. Let’s go.”
Shepard stood up and his team followed.