Writer and computery person. Occasional bastard.
Thirty Days of Writing 29/30:
beginning, accusation, restless, snowflake, haze, flame, formal, companion, move, silver, prepared, knowledge, denial, wind, order, thanks, look, summer, transformation, tremble, sunset, mad, thousand, outside, winter, diamond, letters, promise, SIMPLE. future.
The recreation was imperfect, translucent, and the skin tone was wrong. It didn’t move like a human, either, nor did it show any emotion in its face or its voice.
“How long have you known?” it asked.
“Since I first saw you,” Shepard said, cocking her pistol and pointing at the hologram. “I watched Kaidan Alenko die on Virmire three years ago. You don’t forget things like that in a hurry.”
Her lungs were bleeding and she was beginning to feel faint, but she kept the gun raised at the hologram of Kaidan. It shimmered a little, momentarily.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
The hologram paused, and Shepard wondered for a moment if this was some ancient VI designed to foil her at the last hurdle.
“I am the Catalyst.”
The Catalyst. “You’re the Catalyst?”
“I am the Catalyst,” the Catalyst repeated.
“You control the Reapers?”
“I am the Reapers,” it said, “they are my solution.”
Solution. Final solution. Thoughts of Nazi concentration camps thundered through Shepard’s mind. “Your solution to what?” she demanded.
Chaos? Entropy? The Heat Death of the Universe? Shepard coughed, tasting iron. Not in the mood to discuss metaphysics.
“Get out of my way,” she spat.
The Kaidan-hologram didn’t say a word, didn’t budge. She could probably run right through it. Possibly.
“What do you want from me?” she bellowed, her voice cracking.
“You are the first organic being ever to stand on this part of the Citadel,” it said. “I am here to offer you a choice.”
Choice. Offer? “Since when did the Reapers have a concept of negotiation?”
“The Crucible has given you the power to destroy us. It can also give you the power to control us.”
Control. Like what the Illusive Man wanted. “No deal.” Shepard coughed as she said it, but she said it with finality and closed her finger tighter still on the trigger of her pistol. “I came here to destroy the Reapers. That’s what I’ll do.”
She began stepping forward, slowly, sturdily, doing her level best not to fall over. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot.
“The Reapers will obey you—” the Catalyst started, and Shepard felt rage boil in her gut and bellowed.
“Look at the Illusive Man,” she yelled, gesturing at the corpse beneath them, “look at what happens to people who try to manipulate me using the people I love!”
She breathed in and out, slowly, deliberately. The Catalyst paused again, momentarily.
“I’m Commander Shepard,” she growled, tensing her finger on the trigger, “and you’ve killed people I like. Don’t play mind-games with me.”
The hologram froze, shimmered again, and momentarily appeared to divide into two. Two. Three.
Mordin. Kaidan. Tali.
It divided again, and again. Thane. Ashley. Anderson. The kid from Vancouver at the invasion.
All the people Shepard had failed to save.
“I will stop you,” she spat at the army of holograms, manifestations of the Reapers.
“If you destroy us,” the holograms said, in sync, their lips all moving at the same time, “you destroy all synthetic life with us.”
That made her stop. She kept the gun raised, but stood perfectly still.
“All synthetic life?”
“The synthesiser wave from the Crucible will destroy all life with synthetic biology,” it said, in startling unison, “including the geth, including all artificial intelligences. Even you are partly synthetic.”
Why can’t anything be simple? Shepard thought. She wanted to cry, but she was a soldier in the Alliance Navy, and she knew better. She should’ve known.
“I’m not giving up everything I’ve fought for,” she spluttered, “I came here to live, I came here to save lives. I won’t activate the Crucible.”
The Catalyst paused, as if in surprise. Almost deafened by the silence, Shepard heard a comm radio crackle.
Comm radio. It was still working after all this time.
“Normandy to Shepard, please respond.”
She chins the control, carefully. “EDI, this is Shepard.”
“I have been monitoring fleet activity. The Orizaba and the Rainier have been sunk.”
Her blood ran a few degrees chillier. The Rainier, Admiral Hackett’s flagship, and the Orizaba. Her mom was on that ship. Dammit.
“I won’t activate the Crucible,” Shepard said, again, deliberately, with as much conviction as she could muster. “I’ll find another way, and I’ll die free.”
“The paths are open—”
“Go to hell,” Shepard spat, and emptied her clip into the sea of holograms.
The Citadel rumbled, and rocked, and there was a whine and a thud as the Crucible was ejected, and began slowly falling, falling to Earth, floating.
The chant was quiet at first, but grew in intensity, and the holograms slowly began to burn brighter.
“I need evac, EDI,” Shepard mumbled into her comm—and she could already see the silhouette of the Normandy approaching, silently.
So what was making all the noise?
There was a sudden, ear-splitting roar. The ground shook.
The Normandy’s doors folded open just as the air billowed and the terrible, black figure of a Reaper rose from the horizon.
“We are Harbinger, and this station is OURS!”
“Go! Go!” Shepard bellowed, and she felt the door rise beneath her, and fell into the Normandy’s cargo hold as the ship closed up and leapt for the stars.
It was never going to be that simple.