"I tried, Shepard." The Illusive Man said, as he placed the barrel of his pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.
His limp body fell onto the floor, and Shepard watched as his cold, steel-blue eyes went dark.
" Shepard!...-an you me?" Admiral Hackett's voice filled her head.
"This is Shepard, what is it Admiral?" She said into her radio, her free hand putting pressure on her wound. This was all too surreal; almost three years ago she had the same conversation with Saren, the rogue Turian Spectre who has become indoctrinated by the Reaper Sovereign. She was able to convince Saren of his indoctrination, but like the Illusive Man, he was far too gone.
Pushing aside the déjà vu, she started limping towards the console at the end of the platform. She looked back to see Anderson, having been shot by the Illusive Man, sitting up against one of the raised sections. The pain in her side caused her to stumble.
"Commander, can you hear me!?" Hackett's voice crackled in her radio, clearer than before.
"What is it Admiral?" she replied, still limping towards the lit up console. She was so close. The past few hours have been the most demanding hours of her life. The events of the Skyllian Blitz, chasing after Saren, and the suicide mission though the Omega-4 relay all seemed tame compared to the horrors she's witnessed since having to leave Earth after the Reaper's arrival. Seeing the different species twisted and corrupted by the Reapers was the stuff of nightmares.
"Commander, what's the situation on your end?"
"The Illusive Man is dead. He killed himself after realizing his indoctrination and failure."
"What about you and Anderson?"
"Anderson has been shot, and I feel like I just went 30 rounds with a Krogan."
"The Crucible is connected to the Citadel, but you have to activate it. We've managed to hold the Reapers back, but this stalemate won't last for much longer. The Geth and Quarian fleets have made all the difference, without them, we would not have lasted this long."
"Understood." A sharp burst of static filled her ear. She took another step forward, but the pain was overwhelming and she dropped to her knees. Her situation was far worse than what she relayed to the Admiral. Minutes before, she and the rest of the Hammer were running for the transport beam. A Reaper showed up at the last minute, and its laser decimated the remaining soldiers. Everyone was caught up in that blast, and she was just far enough away to where it wasn't lethal. Her body feels beaten and broken, and if it weren't for the cybernetic implants and all that adrenaline, she probably wouldn't have made it into the beam. Remember to thank Miranda.
The console was only a few feet away, but it felt like she was scaling a mountain. She could hear Anderson breathing heavily, coughing violently every now and then. She looked at the blood on her hands, and at the console. I'm so close, so very close. This needs to end now.
Tapping into her last ounce of strength, she got back on her feet. "I promised everyone I would make it back. I promised " Her mind raced back to Therum, where she first met Liara. The memories of their time together on the Normandy brought a smile to her face.
She remembered how awkward and nervous Liara was when she first came aboard the Normandy. Despite being the daughter of Matriarch Benezia, who unfortunately became indoctrinated to Saren's cause, Shepard came to trust, and eventually fall in love with her. Liara, along with Wrex, Tali'zorah, Garrus, Ashley and Kaiden, helped her to stop Saren and end Sovereign's attack on the Citadel.
Seeing her again on Illium, two years after being killed in action by the Collector's was bittersweet. Liara wasn't the shy, awkward Asari that she fell in love with anymore; she was now an information broker, with a cold and confident exterior. But Shepard knew that the woman she fell in love with was still there, and seeing the tears in Liara's eyes at their reunion confirmed that. She helped her to defeat the Shadow Broker, and in doing so, Liara became the new Broker.
"Liara I'm sorry." It took all her will just to keep her eyes open and to keep breathing. Just a couple more steps...
The console was close now, and Shepard stretched out her hand. Her vision started to blur, and she became lightheaded. No, I can't die now, not when I'm this close.
That's when she heard it: SHEPARD!
Liara's disembodied voice echoed throughout the chamber. She turned around, hoping to see that beautiful blue alien standing there, waiting for her, but there was nothing. She turned back to the console, and took another step forward. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she typed away at the console. After the last command, the console lit up.
The Citadel and the Crucible came alive.
She staggered back to where Anderson was sitting. He was breathing, but very slowly. The past three years filled her mind's eye. Her thoughts were off those men and women she came to know and trust, and those who died to see this moment realized.
Kaidan, Thane, Legion, and Mordin; She wondered if anyone back on Earth was still alive. Where was Garrus and Liara? Tali and Wrex? They were all at the FOB, and Liara and Garrus were with her when Harbinger arrived just moments before getting to the portal.
Thane, a Drell assassin, cursed with a terminal and incurable sickness that would eventually claim his life early. He joined up with Shepard, believing that he wouldn't make it back from the Collector Base, and that by helping her, would help make this galaxy a better place. He gave his life to save the Salarian councilor from Kei Leng.
Legion, now that was an eye-opener. Never in her years as an Alliance soldier did she ever believe that she would work with a Geth. He was more than just a Geth, he was her friend and comrade. He sacrificed his life to free the Geth, and in doing so helped stop their war with the Quarians. Before they left Rannoch, she made sure to take his body with her onto the Normandy, so that he could be remembered alongside those who also gave their lives.
Mordin, the Salarian scientist whose work included the continued existence of the Genophage, gave his last breath to make sure it would be removed, so that the Krogan would have a future. Wrex mentioned that Eve wanted to name their first born after him.
Kaidan, who she left to die in back on Virmire, it was one of the hardest decisions she had to make.
"Commander " Anderson was still alive, but she didn't how if he'll last much longer. Shepard hoped that it wasn't too late, that help would come pouring through that beam and they would all make it back home to Earth, alive.
"We did it." Her legs were heavy, and she was getting tired, so very tired.
"Yes, we did. It's quite a view." They stared out through the large glass window onto Earth. Floating all around the Citadel was the debris from the battle between the fleet that she helped assemble and the Reapers. 'You did the impossible', everyone said, 'you united the entire galaxy'. She ended the Krogan-Turian feud that started because of the Genophage, she ended the centuries-long war between the Quarians and the Geth, and giving the Quarians something they haven't had since the beginning of the war: a home.
"Best seats in the house."
"God it feels like years since I just sat down."
"I think you earned a rest." His head was bobbing up and down, she could see him fighting to stay conscious. She remembered what she promised to Kahlee Sanders. Another promise "Stay with me, we're almost though this." Where was the god damn shuttle where was Joker she could use one of his jokes right about now. Wrex would've been disappointed to see me sitting here. She laughed, thinking of what he would say to her.
He was just a simple mercenary that she met back on the Citadel when she was first trying to find evidence about Saren's treason, now he was the leader of the Krogan. She remembered Virmire, and how she almost had to kill him because of Saren's plan to clone the Krogan. With her help, and Mordin's sacrifice, the three of them brought about the end of the Genophage. She hoped that he would lead them into a new future, one not filled with war and death like it was during the Krogan rebellions.
"You did good, child. You did good. I'm proud of you." Anderson's voice was soft and weak. If she only had some medi-gel, she could stabilize him long enough for help to arrive, if there was anyone left back on Earth. She hadn't heard anything from Hackett, for all she knew, she and Anderson could be the last humans alive.
"Thank you sir."
Anderson said nothing. She looked over to see that his head hung low, and his eyes were closed. She was hoping he would pull through, so she could thank him when all this was over for putting her name forward three years ago, a decision that ended with her becoming the first human Spectre. He gave her the Normandy, and he put his career and life on the line to release the lock so that she could get the Ilos and stop Saren. There were so many things she wanted to say to him.
Her limbs were getting heavy and her body was growing tired. Her hand was warm, and looking down, she saw that it was covered in blood from the wound in her side from the Reaper's laser.
The room started to glow as the Citadel finished powering up. She saw the giant burst of energy as it erupted out from the Crucible like a supernova. It engulfed the Earth, and continued to spread. A concentrated beam shot out and hit the Sol relay which passed it onto the next relay, and the next.
A dead Reaper floated by outside, its exoskeleton riddled with holes.
She smiled, as the room grew dark. It's over it's finally over. I'm sorry, Liara.
What's what's happening ? Her eyelids felt like they weighed a hundred pounds. She fought the urge to keep them closed, and slowly opened them. The bright white light flooded her vision.
"Dr. Chakwas! Miranda! I think she's waking up!" The voice was soft and muffled.
Shepard's vision started to adjust. She turned her head to the side to try to figure out where she was. The last thing she remembers was being on the Citadel with Anderson...I'm proud of you His last words echoed in her head as she continued scanning the room. The bright light wasn't making things easy, and her head felt light and fuzzy.
She saw what looked like medical equipment, but there were no windows, just that damn light.
She struggled to lift her head up, but she didn't have the strength to. Dr. Chakwas came into her field of vision.
"Commander, can you hear me?" Her voice was still soft and muffled, but it was getting clearer.
"Commander?" She heard a different voice. Shepard turned her head towards the voice and standing opposite of Chakwas was Miranda, who was fiddling with her omni-tool.
All at once, her vision and hearing cleared. Her head felt better, but she was still weak, and surprisingly thirsty.
"What what happened?"
"Harbinger happened." A third voice echoed in the room, somewhere behind Shepard. It was Liara's voice.
"I'm here Shepard." The Asari walked into Shepard's eyesight. Her face was worn and she looked tried. Her eyes were red, as if she has been crying nonstop for days.
"You've been unconscious for almost a week. Your injuries were severe, but Dr. Chakwas and I were able to patch you up, then all we had to do was wait and see if you would pull through." Miranda said, still fiddling with her omni-tool.
"Yes. For a while it felt like we were back in the Lazarus Project."
"What happened, the last thing I could remember was being on the Citadel with Anderson." She looked back to Liara, who was crying. Shepard reached over and grabbed her hand.
"It was horrifying, seeing Harbinger land next to the beam. Garrus and I got separated from you when the remaining forces went into an all-out sprint for the beam. A pack of husks came at us from our flank. After we killed them, Garrus and I turned back to see Harbinger's laser cut through Hammer. Major Coats was reporting that no one made it through, but amid the chaos, I saw you limping through the portal, so I knew you made it through.
Communications were cut off, and Garrus and I had to bunker down and fight off wave after wave of Reaper forces. Then out of a nowhere, a giant orange ball of energy erupted from the Citadel and blanketed the Earth. The Reapers were dying, and I took the chance and ran towards the portal. Garrus and I made it through, and that's when we found you."
"You were unconscious, and your life signs were dwindling," Dr. Chakwas said. "If they waited any longer, you would've been dead."
"Thank you, Liara." Shepard said.
"Goddess," Liara said, with tears rolling down with her cheeks, "I didn't think I had any more tears left in me."
"Where is she! I heard she woke up!" Wrex's thunderous voice echoed from somewhere outside the door. His heavy footsteps signaled his arrival. The door slid open and the Krogan entered. "Shepard, good to see you alive and kicking; I told you what would happen if you went and got yourself killed."
Garrus, Grunt, Tali, Ash, and Admiral Hackett followed Wrex into the room, all wanting to talk to her.
"Glad to see you're awake Shepard, I knew you wouldn't let Harbinger get the best of you. I took a missle to the face, but you had to go and try to one-up me with a Reaper laser."
"Don't try it, I don't recommend it."
"Noted." He placed his hand on her shoulder, then stepped back from her bed.
"Shepard " Tali said, stepping forward.
"What is it Tali?" She said nothing, instead quickly leaning forward and bear hugging Shepard. Damn, she's stronger than Wrex!
"I wish Legion were here, he'd want to see you awake."
"Thanks Tali." She took a couple steps back and Ash stepped forward.
"Commander please don't run off like that, I already had to see you die once, loosing you again would suck."
"Is that an order LC?"
"No ma'am," she chuckled. "Vega and Jacob send their regards. They're busy helping with clean up. If Vega's muscles were any bigger, he might be mistaken for a Krogan." She saluted the Commander, then stepped back.
"You're awfully hard to kill, for a human." Grunt said, stepping forward. "I'm glad I choose you as my battlemaster back when you first brought me to Tuchunka you're probably stronger than Wrex."
"Watch it whelp," Wrex growled.
Shepard couldn't help but laugh at seeing her two favorite Krogan go at it. "Settle down children."
"Shepard," Wrex nodded.
"Wrex." She replied. He walked out of the recovery room, with Grunt and the rest of the crowd following him, leaving just Liara, Chakwas, Miranda, and Hackett.
Miranda did a couple more scans with her omni-tool. "All done. I'll go run some tests and return later."
"Dr. Chakwas Liara, may I have a moment alone with the Commander?"
"Yes, of course Admiral." Chakwas said, stepping out of the room.
"I'll just be outside," Liara said.
"I heard about Anderson," Hackett said. His voice was soft and he sounded exhausted. "Hell of a thing you did Commander. Uniting the entire galaxy, and then destroying the Reapers. If it were up to anyone else, none of else would be alive." His words echoed Mordin's: It had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.
"Too many good men and women died. I wish I could've saved more."
"You did all that you could've done. You used every resource that you could, the only option left would've been an act of god, and seeing you alive today is nothing short of a goddamn miracle. I think you've earned a break."
"A trip to a warm, sandy beach would be nice."
"I'll make the arrangements." He saluted the Commander and headed for the door, stopping at the exit. "In the eyes of the galaxy, you're a hero Shepard, a living legend."
"I'm just a soldier Admiral. An ordinary soldier placed in an extraordinary situation blessed with vast amounts of dumb luck and the greatest friends and comrades I could ask for. Just keep the reporters away."
"With your track record, I'm sure they'll try to avoid you." He exited the room.
She was left alone with her thoughts. Hearing the door open, she turned to see Liara walking towards her.
"I asked the Admiral to prevent anyone from entering for a little while." She blushed.
Shepard smiled, and then scooted over to the side of the bed, allowing Liara to climb in next to her. Shepard put her arm around her, and Liara placed her head on Shepard's chest.
"I don't know what I would've done without you. I thought I lost you."
"I promised I would come back to you, and I always try to keep my promises."