“Those are your options.”Like you have to ask.
Shepard turned toward the red conduit. The Reapers didn’t deserve to live. The galaxy could sort its problems out without their final solution. But the Catalyst’s words echoed in his mind.Even you are partially synthetic.
A blatant test to Shepard’s resolve. He wasn’t falling for it.The Catalyst will not discriminate.
The geth could be rebuilt if it came down to it. But an image of Joker and EDI appeared in his mind. Shepard faltered.
“You son of a bitch,” he spat at the hologram. The geth were strangers. The only one he really cared about died on Rannoch. Even so, they didn’t deserve this. But he knew EDI, and he knew EDI more than deserved better.
“It’s time to choose,” the Catalyst replied.
Shepard’s gaze shifted across to the blue electrodes. If only... no. The Illusive Man fell for that trap. They’ve pulled this before, Javik mentioned the same thing happening in his cycle. Control won’t work and
you know it.
Synthesis was never an option. He’d seen what the Reapers thought “evolution” was. A galaxy of nothing but husks, banshees, and whatever other horrors the Reapers could cook up was not his idea of victory. Destruction it was. There was no other option.
So why did his gut churn at walking down that path? He turned back to the Catalyst.
“You said the Crucible won’t discriminate. You’re part
of the Crucible. You created all this. You make
“No. I cannot,” the holographic child petulantly replied.
“Why the hell not?” Shepard demanded, his frustration boiling over, “didn’t you say ‘the variables have changed’?”
“There is not enough time to explain.”
Shepard turned to the conduit again and hissed as the movement aggravated the injury in his leg. His hesitation was absurd. What, the Butcher of Torfan doesn’t have the guts to break a few toasters to save the galaxy? You’d let your own men die just to kill a few more batarians. Now that the fight actually matters, you fall apart?
He’d been a different man then, or so he’d often told himself. Driven by a single-minded hunger for vengeance and precious little else. It was why Jack infuriated him so much when she was in his crew; she was like a reflection in a funhouse mirror: You saw something grotesque, but you saw just enough of yourself in it to disturb you. But in the end, maybe that’s all he was: the galaxy’s best psychopath with a gun.“He was born on Mindoir, but he never let it define him.”
Shepard had come way too far to prove Liara wrong now. Focus
. Time to reevaluate the situation. The enemy had presented him with three, technically four choices. None of them were acceptable, and all of them were doing what the enemy wanted him to do, albeit with varying degrees of preference. They seemed to really
favor Synthesis. But that was neither here nor there. He’d been allowing the enemy to dictate his course of action. That was going to change. Now.
“The Crucible will fall. It is time to choose,” the hologram said again.
Shepard’s mind raced as he went over what he knew about the Crucible now that it was linked to the Catalyst. It was a massive energy source, capable of releasing that energy through the mass relays, and it was governed by an AI, which made it...
Shepard looked down at his bleeding left arm and tried activating his omni-tool. The orange light flickered and died, before suddenly reappearing strongly over his arm. Clipping his Carnifex to his waist, he began tapping furiously at the holographic buttons with his right hand as he hobbled towards the blue electrodes. Standing just in front of them, he stopped typing, pointed his omni-tool at them, and ran the Sabotage hack, pnchrprkng.exe.
“What are you doing? There’s no time to waste,” the Catalyst said.
“I’m an infiltrator. If I’m not cheating, I’m not trying,” Shepard said.
“That has no bearing on-” the holographic boy was replaced by a poorly-rendered likeness of Shepard himself.
“Great to see you again, soldier! Yow! You should probably seek immediate medical attention,” the Shepard VI said.
“Shepard,” said Shepard, “Use the Crucible to install yourself on all Reapers. Then smash them into each other or something.”
“Roger Wilco, over and out!” the hologram replied enthusiastically, and disappeared. The electrodes seemed to go berserk, throwing electricity everywhere. David Shepard hobbled as fast as he could away from the platform. He had no idea if this would work, but it made at least as much sense as the options the Catalyst had given him. Unsure of where to go when he reached the end of the platform, he turned just in time to see the Crucible fire a beam of blue light into infinity, and everything around him seemed to pulse with the same light.
Shepard fished his visor out of his pocket and put it on to see if it could tell him anything, but both it and his omni-tool reported the energy as white noise. And then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the energy was gone. Shepard blinked hard, trying to peer through the windows into space, to see if anything changed.
The Reapers weren’t shooting anymore. They moved drunkenly, occasionally hit each other, but missed more often than not. The buggy simplicity of the pirate VI wasn’t enough to smash them all together in one fell swoop, but it was enough digital nonsense that the Reapers were negated as all but navigation hazards.
Shepard looked down and saw that the hologram version of himself was back.
“Is it over?” he asked the VI. It nodded.
Shepard sighed, finally starting to relax, when he looked up again, and saw Harbinger careening towards the Citadel.
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Shepard groaned. Harbinger flew over the platform and slammed into some other part of the Citadel nearby. The resulting explosion threw Shepard off of his feet, and everything went black again.
A sharp, crushing pain in his legs brought him back to his senses. He gasped as his eyes snapped open; the pain was intense. Looking around, he found himself pinned below the waist by rubble.
Even with his augmentations, he wasn’t able to free himself. He felt weak, dizzy, tired, and everything hurt. His armor was squeezing his limbs tight to keep the blood in his torso and ward off shock. His left arm still bled, as the sleeves of his armor were destroyed. Better get the bad news first.
Shepard cued up a medical diagnostic. The results were displayed on his visor:
In short, he was fucked up. He tried his radio, but nobody answered. His omni-tool flickered, and then died for good when he tried to activate it. I’m gonna be here awhile, and this is really going to suck,
he thought. He was so messed up, he couldn’t honestly tell if the bullet wound in his arm was life-threatening or not. Despite the pain, he felt lethargic, and oddly uncaring. His armor applied its last dose of medi-gel, which only resolved one of the major lacerations and the second degree burns. The anaesthetic helped, too.
But either way, he was stuck under the rubble, and probably bleeding out. The fact that he was only trapped by his legs felt like bitter mockery. Taking stock of his surroundings, he found that he had landed in front of Huerta Memorial Hospital. The irony was enough to make him laugh, which he instantly regretted.
It was... slower than what he experienced over Alchera, but Shepard knew the sensation. He was dying, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. On top of that, he felt wind across his face, which meant that somewhere, atmospheric containment was failing, and his helmet was destroyed. Sealing up wasn’t an option. But there was something he could do that he couldn’t do before. He reached for his datapad. He still had something to say. If nothing else, he had to let everyone know what had happened.
Nothing but a shattered frame came out of his pocket. His datapad was toast, and without his omni-tool, he had no way of recording anything. No one would know what happened here, and Liara... she’d never know just how she’d saved him, and indirectly saved everyone. There was only one option left.
Shepard reached over and dragged his fingers across his left arm, picking up the blood, and wrote a message on the floor, with an abbreviation human warriors had used long before they set foot on Luna:LIARA
It’d have to do. God, I’m so tired.
All he wanted to do was put his head back and