You know I’m not very good at tech or meaningful messages. I’ll look you up when things settle down.
If things settle down.
If I make it back at all.
They were falling.
The first time she’d stepped onto one of those freaky hexagonal platforms and it shot up and out into the air like some possessed elevator, Shepard had thought of how awful it would be to fall off one. Since that time, she’d traversed so many of them that they’d become for her a familiar landscape. She’d almost forgotten that they hung in mid-air. Stupid thing to forget, that. It wasn’t like the things were *designed * to be fought across.
No, instead the platforms were entirely unstable. And of course, she and the team discovered this the hard way. As soon as she had set the charges, the baby Reaper woke up to protect its Collector-womb. Shepard, Miranda, and Garrus fought like hell, but every moment they battled was a moment too long. Shepard had no idea what was happening with the other team, except that it involved a lot of chatter over the comm link. There was colorful swearing on Zaeed’s part and a lot of roaring from Grunt. The rest of the team was silent, other than the constant blasts of gunfire.
As for Shepard, she and Miranda tried their best to keep the Collectors at bay as Garrus used his sniper rifle to take on the Reaper’s vital points. At last, the turian sent one final bullet into the Reaper’s third eye and it fell. But as it fell, it smashed into the floating platforms with its great, half-formed arm. There were a few horrible seconds of sea-sickness as everything rolled. Then there were a few seconds of blisters as Shepard skidded along a platform to reach for Miranda before the Cerberus officer fell off the edge of a platform. Then Shepard was the one rolling, then they were righted, then a platform was flying straight at their heads and then, the world was engulfed in darkness.
I’m sorry about Horizon. For what it’s worth, I tried to contact you as soon as I could.
Look, I’m sorry about Horizon. I wish I could have found a way to contact you, but -
I’m sorry -
Dear Kaidan -
Dear Kaidan -
Shepard started awake with a voice yelling in her ear. Her head connected with something hard and she bit out a curse. The pain told her she wasn’t dead, the movement told her she wasn’t paralyzed. Strangely, that was comforting. Shepard shuffled to a stand.
All around her, debris littered the floor of…well, wherever she was. She didn’t recognize this place, so she assumed it was the bottom of the cavern they’d been floating above. Then she saw a ledge and peered over. The mangled baby Reaper lay below, possibly two hundred feet down.
Damn . Shepard shuddered. They’d crashed landed rather fortuitously. The only problem was, just a few minutes ago, she’d set a ten-minute timer on a device intended to blow this entire station.
“Shepard!” Joker’s voice yelled again. “You there? Come in!”
“Their suits are showing life signs,” the voice of EDI said over the comm link.
“Then they must be knocked out. Goddammit, Shepard!” the pilot shouted. “You’re not allowed to die again. Don’t make me haul my frail ass out of this ship to come get you.”
“I’m here, Joker,” Shepard replied. As she spoke, she saw Miranda and Garrus stirring. She quickly helped them out of the wreckage. “Did the ground team make it?”
“All survivors on board,” Joker replied. “We’re just waiting on you.”
“Right,” Shepard said. “We’re a little lost here. Can you get us coordinates?”
Immediately, a schematic popped up on the heads up display for her suit.
“I tracked the clearest route back to the ship,” EDI said, her voice mild in comparison with Joker’s shouting.
“God, I love you EDI,” Shepard said. “Never thought I’d say that to an AI, but…” She looked up as a buzzing sound drew near. A black cloud of seekers swarmed the air before them.
“You will need to hurry,” EDI informed them. “Collector drones are converging on your location.”
“Get out of there!” Joker hollered.
And then Shepard heard it, a voice that was most decidedly not on the comm link, nor likely even being spoken over the communications of the Collector base. Rather, it seemed to speak right into her own mind, like an icy caress.
Human, you’ve changed nothing.
Shepard frowned. She turned to Garrus and Miranda and in a low voice said:
Take care of yourself, Alenko.
Miranda and Garrus did not need to hear the order a second time. They dashed for the nearest corridor. Shepard paused for a moment to let them by. Turning towards their pursuers, she shot several rounds from her Carnifex back down the tunnel. The seeker swarm let out a collective scream as her bullets connected with their mass. Shepard finished the volley off with a biotic slam that scattered the cloud.
Shepard allowed herself a grim smile. That was rather satisfying.
But then, the voice spoke in her mind again, and as the words echoed through here, the seeker cloud re-formed.
Your species has the attention of those infinitely your greater.
Time to go, Shepard thought. She turned, holstered her gun, and she ran.
On her heads-up display, she could see Miranda and Garrus had gotten away cleanly. She could see the Collector drones nearby were heading for her position, not theirs. And she could also see an indicator of how far it was to the Normandy, the prize at the end of this maze of tunnels. Immediately, she dropped into track-and-field mode: hurdle here, hurdle there, pick up speed on the straight stretch… Only the goal was a little more important than a mere sports medal.
That which you know as Reapers are your salvation through destruction.
An explosion made the ground shudder. As Shepard ran, her display adjusted for where the path had been blown out directly behind Garrus. Shepard ducked to the right, bullets ricocheting off the wall where she had just been. Two drones had found her, and they clumsily ran after her.
Up an incline, down another corridor, no time for Barriers. Shepard calculated the distance in her head. It was going to be close. She needed every last bit of her strength to keep up this mad pace, and if the path got any choppier…
Just then, Shepard burst out into a wide cavern. The Normandy was there at the far end, Miranda and Garrus clambering from a handful of few floating platforms into the open airlock. Joker stood in the doorway, and from the way the Collectors were dropping to the ground as they tried to advance on the ship, Shepard realized he was a better shot that she’d assumed. Still, if Joker was the only one protecting the ship, she wondered what had happened to the rest of the team.
Shoving that thought from her mind, Shepard dropped into a finish-line sprint. As she closed in on the Normandy, debris fell from the ceiling. It smashed into the platforms below, destroying her bridge to the doorway. The heads-up display blinked in protest as it tried to re-calculate a route.
Always the damn platforms , Shepard thought, ducking her head and breaking into a flat-out run. Three more strides, two more strides, one last stride…
And then she jumped.
Take care of yourself, commander.
Shepard clung to the side of the Normandy, her feet blown back as the ship lifted off. Miranda grabbed her by the arm and hung on. A moment later, Garrus lent a three-fingered hand and hauled Shepard onto the ship. She looked back just in time to see the airlock slide shut.
“Get us out of here, Joker,” she said forcefully. Or rather, wheezed forcefully. In fact, Shepard might not have been audible at all, she was so winded. But Joker was already ahead of her. Running for the cockpit as fast as he could manage, he shouted orders to EDI all the way. Shepard limped behind, coming to a halt behind the pilot’s chair.
“Detonation in ten, nine, eight…” EDI’s voice sounded down the command deck.
“Yeah, I get the jist of it, EDI,” Joker replied.
“We gonna make it?” Shepard rasped.
“You cut it awfully damn close, commander,” Joker shot back.
“Always do,” she choked out.
“Let’s hope this one isn’t gonna be too close. We’re going to be riding the shockwave of that blast right into the relay.”
Shepard nodded and gripped the back of his seat. The ship roared through the debris field, the relay looming closer and closer. Then, just as it was right before them, Shepard heard the voice, one last time:
You have failed. We will find another way.
A blast of light exploded around them.
Take care -
Kaidan lay with his back against the wall, his right arm at his side, and his left arm over his chest. The golden light of his omnitool illuminated his face, showing lines that had not been there two and a half years ago. There were new scars on his face; they kept company with a few wrinkles and three gray hairs at his temple. But in sleep, all these signs of time and loss were softened. His lips looked fuller when he was not keeping his expression carefully neutral; the laugh lines that once fanned out from the corners of his eyes were more prominent. If anyone were to see him just then, he would have looked quite peaceful – handsome, even.
On the omnitool in front of him was a message, one of many messages. He’d read Shepard’s messages throughout the night, then re-read them, and at last, nearing down, he’d attempted a reply.
But the words had come slowly. And while he’d been searching for the right ones, sleep had claimed him. Like Kaidan himself, the messages just lay there, waiting to be completed:
Damn, I never know what I ought to call you these days.
Shepard, I didn’t know -
I’m not sure if -
Reading all this, I wonder if I ever really knew you. Some of this sounds just like you. Some of this, I can’t believe you wrote it. I feel like if I were to meet you again, now, I wouldn’t even know where to start. But I’d like to start – over, that is.
Sometimes, Shepard, I wish we could start over again.
Sometimes, I wish I could start over -
I wish I could start over -