Shepard stood there as her mind pondered the choice ahead of her. It seemed like so long ago that she had watched Nihlus jump out of the Normandy’s cargo hold onto Eden Prime. It was that mission that had thrown her life into a whirlwind of adventure and chaos. One that had taken her from the heart of the battle of the Citadel where she had made the controversial decision to save the Council, all the way to the centre of the galaxy, where she had blown up a base full of mutant Protheans.
Now here she was, in a place where no organic being had gone before, faced with a monumental, and potentially devastating, question.
How was she going to end this war?
The holographic Catalyst had narrowed her options down to three. Three equally confusing and potentially disastrous options.
Out of sheer frustration, or maybe perhaps anger, Shepard turned around and fired a few rounds from her apparently bottomless pistol into the smug hologram behind her (*). It didn’t do much to help, so she focused back on the task at hand
As she stared out over the choice ahead of her, voices from her past began to invade her mind, each with a thought of their own, clammoring, buzzing around her head, begging to be heard.
To her right was the option to destroy the Reapers, but according to the Catalyst, that would wipe out all synthetic life.
“Shepard-Commander. The Geth only acted in defense after the Creators attacked. Do we deserve death?” came Legion’s voice as she stared at the power conduit that would end all synthetic life.
To her left were the terminals that would allow her to seize control of the Reapers. How ironic that if she did choose that, she’d be fulfilling-
“Control is the means to survival. Control of the Reapers, and of you if necessary”
-the Illusive Man’s greatest desire.
But absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Shepard wasn’t certain she could maintain control without losing herself.
There was still the third option, and as she looked down the long catwalk towards the pulsating beam of light, another voice presented itself.
“Organic and machine intertwined. A union of flesh and steel. The strengths of both, the weaknesses of neither.” came Saren’s ominous droning.
No closer to making her decision, Shepard turned once again to the power conduit to her right. The Geth and EDI constantly invaded her thoughts, and the Catalyst had not missed the opportunity to get it’s own 2 cents in, claiming that the created would always rebel against the creators. While that may have been true at some point, it wasn’t in this cycle. The Geth had simply responded to the Quarian’s attempted genocide – twice. And each time, the instigator of the war had been the Quarians. EDI on the other hand had actively assisted in saving and protecting organic lives from day one, and had even engaged in a relationship with Joker.
Shepard almost smiled as she remembered EDI’s method of protecting the Normandy and her crew from Cerberus attempts to regain control in the days after Shepard went rogue.
“We destroy them or they destroy us,” commented her mentor and friend, David Anderson.
Shaking her head, she turned back to the beam that would grant, as the Catalyst called it, ‘synthesis’. What would happen if she fused synthetic and organic life? The Reaper’s primary goal would certainly be fulfilled, thus leaving them no reason to continue their genocidal cycles. But what of life in general? Mordin broke through her thoughts here.
“All scientific advancement is due to intelligence overcoming, compensating for limitations. Can’t carry a load, so invent wheel. Can’t catch food, so invent spear. Limitations! No limitations, no advancement. No advancement, culture stagnates!”
It made sense. Her pilot, Joker, had suffered from Vrolik syndrome his entire life. It was this impairment, this limitation, that had driven him to become the best pilot in the Alliance navy. A limitation that shaped him as a person. David Archer was also subject to a limitation of a different sort. The same disorder that impaired his social skills was also his greatest strength, making him a mathematical savant. Such limitations shaped a person and by extension a culture or people. Synthesis, as she understood it, would remove such limitations.
Shepard turned to the control terminals and considered them, and again Mordin had his input telling her that it “Works other way too. Advancement before culture is ready, disastrous.”
Was humanity ready for the possibility of gaining control of the Reapers? Was she? If she did control them, what would she be able to do? She supposed that she’d be able to send them back to dark space, but what else? The Catalyst said she would die in the process. What would happen then? Would the Reapers come back? Or would they obey whatever the last command given to them was, for the rest of eternity?
The questions bounced around her head, almost as incessant as the echoes from the past.
Time was running out. She had to make a choice. With that thought, Shepard squared her shoulders and moved toward her answer to the dilemma. As she proceeded onward, one last memory came forth.
“You did good child. You did good.”
I’ve left the ending deliberately ambiguous for several reasons. The first and foremost is so that you can make your own choice as to what Shepard does in the end. The second is that certain details that I perceive in the endings may be untrue or have a different meaning in the Extended Cut.
This story always has been and always will be a oneshot. I will not be writing any new chapters or sequels.
For those that are curious, this play through was a female Shepard from the Colonies. She was mostly Paragon. Ashley was the Virmire survivor, and Liara was romanced in ME1 and ME3 with no one romanced in ME2.
(*) = SPOILER WARNING: This fic was written before the ME3 Extended Cut endings, which added a 4th “Reject” option, triggered by shooting at the Catalyst hologram. I have no intention of changing my story despite this.
Finally, I would like to thank my Beta reader and friend. You know who you are 🙂
I would also like to thank BioWare for creating an absolutely epic game series. Thank you!
<Disclaimer> Of course this means that the characters and universe belong to them (BioWare that is), and no money is made off this story.</End Disclaimer>
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