How long had it been?
With a sigh, Shepard rose from where she had been sitting, barely healed wounds weeping blood as her body screamed in agony. Pushing the pain aside, she brushed a few stray strands of greying hair off of her face as she began to limp across the twilight room. However, after just a few steps, Shepard felt the cold floor rising to meet her, waves of white-hot pain shooting up her leg as the taste of blood and bile filled her throat.
As she fought to remain conscious, Shepard thought she saw something move in the shadows. Grasping her pistol in a single bloody hand, Shepard winced slightly as the bulky Carnifex weighed down on her sore wrist. In the shadows, the creature moved again, and Shepard fired a single shot into the darkness, whooping as the recoil threw the weapon from her hand.
“By the Goddes, what are you doing?” a meek voice whispered as a figure staggered from the shadows.
“Liara,” Shepard coughed, blood trickling from the sides of her dry, cracked mouth as she struggled to speak, “Where… where are we?”
The asari blinked in confusion, scarred brow furrowing for a moment before softening, “We’re on Earth, remember?”
“Earth…” Shepard murmured, eyes glazing over as she stared at nothing, “Earth… we need to… save… Earth. Anderson is… he’s… he’s counting on us…. on all of us!” Stumbling, the Commander made her way across the room, breathing becoming increasingly laboured with every step.
“Shepard, please,” catching a hint of despair in her voice, Shepard turned to face Liara, creased eyes searching the other woman’s face for something.
After what seemed like hours, Shepard let out a weak gasp, “Liara, your eyes…”
Liara was fumbling around the edge of the room, her movements slow and cautious as she held her hands out in front of her. Her once pristine blue skin had been marred with a mixture of dirt and blood, an angry blue scar bisecting an empty eye socket as her remaining, misty white eye stared unseeing across the room.
“... I’m blind,” she finished, a note of sorrow hanging at the end of that final word, “when you told me that you’d forget things, I was under the impression that you’d still remember the important details.”
“Forget things? Help me understand this, Liara, please?” Shepard limped across to her, feeling the asari jump as she laid a hand on her shoulder.
Liara hesitated, sinking into Shepard’s touch for a moment before turning to face her, a single eye turning inky black as the two fell through eternity.
Everything was dark as they fell, swirling whorls of black ink spinning and whirling around Shepard’s head as she half-floated, half-drowned in the suffocating darkness.
Sensing her bondmate’s mounting fear, Liara cooed softly, running her hands through Shepard’s burnt, grey hair as she urged her to be strong; just as strong as she had always been…
The ruins of London appeared around them, distant sounds of battle echoing unnaturally as the memories took form. Just a few feet from the pair strode a young Shepard, eyes filled with fire as she emptied a thermal clip into a charging husk. Behind her ran Liara, two eyes filled with the glow of biotic power as she threw another husk across the street, smiling in dark satisfaction as the sound of cracking bone and crumpling metal rang out. Garrus crouched behind the two, face a mask of furious concentration as he took down target after target with pinpoint accuracy, sniper rifle blazing as incendiary ammo scythed through flesh and metal alike.
As that memory faded, another one took shape around it. Shepard crouched over the lifeless body of Anderson, tears and blood mixing as her own life signs began to dim. Somewhere far away, a crimson beam scythed through the Normandy SR-2 and, as the frigate began to fill with smoke and flame, a single shuttle departed from the hangar, filled with a handful of confused and frightened soldiers. Shepard watched helplessly as her pilot refused to abandon ship, and she wept as the once proud vessel exploded into a cloud of debris and dust.
One memory morphed into the next as Shepard faced down a glowing hologram, gun raised as she collapsed to her knees. A single shot rang out, and the hologram fizzled away. Opening her omni-tool, Shepard ordered a full retreat…
As the galaxy began to die.
Another memory appeared. In what remained of London, a small team dug through ruins and rubble. And there, they hid from the victorious Reapers; there couldn’t have been more than a dozen of them, but each one fought and worked with the strength and conviction of a hundred men. One of them died on the first day, her biotics failing her as she was dragged, kicking and screaming, towards Reaper territory.
Miranda, thought Shepard. She was beginning to remember…
Years flashed by in a matter of seconds, and with each passing moment another member of this final force met their match. Tali’Zorah and Garrus died within the first year; the meagre dextro rations that could be scavenged from the ruins couldn’t sustain them both, and so they both left the bunker together, locked in an embrace as a passing Destroyer incinerated them where they stood. And as Shepard watched her closest friends burn, something died inside of her...
One by one, friend by friend, they all gave their lives: Jacob was buried alive underneath what remained of Big Ben, his desperate screams echoing across London as Shepard clawed and tore at rubble with her bare hands. Samara went out to scavenge for food one night, but after 5 months even Shepard accepted that the proud Justicar had perished.
Urdnot Grunt sacrificed himself to save Shepard from a horde of husks, the roars of the young Krogan slowing fading away as what remained of the group fled even further underground. Years later, Ashley passed away from a sudden illness, her remains burnt and scattered on the Thames- no Reaper would claim the Spectre as a husk.
EDI was vapourised whilst searching for a shuttle off of Earth, her once calm demeanour shattering mere moments before her death as a Destroyer loomed over her. James saved Liara from a swarm of Reaper-Rachni mere months ago, though it ultimately cost his life and Liara’s sight. And finally, just two days ago, Wrex had died in single combat against a form of Reaper-Quarian, his orange blood staining the concrete as he wept for his people.
After over two decades, only two remained…
Shepard collapsed as the meld broke, eyes filling with tears as she fought to retain consciousness. Liara braced herself against a wall, head buried in her hands as she recovered.
“How many times have you had to remind me, Liara?” Shepard whispered after a few minutes, her voice shaky and weak.
In reply, Liara shook her head, tears staining her cheeks as she murmured, “Too many times to count, my love,” Shepard opened her mouth to speak, but before she could even say anything, Liara continued, “And… because you ask every time, the year is 2213.”
Shepard grunted, struggling to believe the asari, “So how old does that make me? 59 years old?”
“60 actually, it was your birthday a few weeks ago,” Liara corrected half-heartedly.
“Huh,” was all Shepard could say as she rose from where she had been sitting, her old, battered armour creaking as she hobbled across the musty room.
“Shepard,” Liara mumbled, her words slurring slightly as she fumbled towards her, “you should know, our food stocks are almost completely gone. At most, we only have a few weeks before we have to go scavenging again,” she paused, her hands brushing against the Commander’s armour as she took a moment to centre herself, “neither of us are in any state to look for food. I fear… I fear that this might be the end…”
“I know that you don’t want to believe that, but please, just look at yourself…”
Shepard didn’t need to, she could feel her mind and body crumbling around her- the fatigue of almost three decades of struggle had taken it’s toll on her in every conceivable way. She knew, deep down, that she didn’t have much time left, maybe one more fight if she was lucky…
One more fight…
“Liara, my light,” Shepard said, her words soft and gentle as she turned to face the blind asari, “for years now, we’ve hid from the Reapers. I think it’s time we stopped hiding, don’t you think?”
“We’ll be fine, my dearest” she whispered, pulling the fearful woman into a gentle embrace as she continued, “As long as we’ve got each other, nothing can ever hurt us.”
“Shepard, I-” Before she could finish, Liara’s lips were captured by her love’s, and the two kissed as the sun rose over what little remained of London.
+FORWARD TRANSMITTED STRING TO REAPER:HARBINGER+
This is Lieutenant Commander Shepard of the Systems Alliance
Hero of the Citadel and Reaper of Reapers
Come find me at 51.498247, -0.130955.
+STRING END- ADVISE+
+++HARBINGER DIRECTIVE- DEPLOY GROUND FORCES FROM HARVEST SECTORS 8 THROUGH 13 TO SUPPLIED COORDINATES. DIVERT REAPER_DESTROYER:AZARHNA TO GIVEN COORDINATES. EXPECT MINIMAL RESISTANCE+++
“That should do the trick,” Shepard grunted, the message flickering from her omni-tool as she unholstered her rifle.
“Let’s hope so,” Liara said, an old, tatty visor covering her remaining eye as she joined the Commander outside the bunker, “we would look like quite the pair of fools otherwise.”
Shepard suppressed a chuckle as she gave her partner a quick look over, “How’s the visor working?”
“It’s a bit battered, but it’s working fine,” she ran her fingers across the smooth metal of the visor’s frame, “You know, I never understood why Garrus wore this, I guess I do now.”
“Neural interface for rudimentary targeting in poor visibility,” Shepard nodded, “Should be useful in… well, whatever happens next.”
As if on cue, the sounds of husks echoed across the ruined cityscape as distant buildings seemed to come alive with the mutilated corpses of every species.
Shepard turned to Liara, pulling her into a deep kiss as the screams of the oncoming horde grew louder and louder.
“I love you, so much.”
“I love you too Liara… now,” a smile spread across Shepard’s face, “let’s give the Reapers hell.”
With a roar, Shepard wheeled around, assault rifle blazing as husk after husk fell to a barrage of anti-personnel rounds. Mere moments after, Liara opened fire with her pistol, felling enemies with surprising accuracy as her biotics began to flare.
A dozen husks fell in the first few seconds, with another dozen being cut down by either bullets or omni-blades as the last human and the last asari cut a bloody swathe through the Reaper forces. Biotic shockwaves rippled across the ground, sending cannibals and marauders flying as their tortured bodies were fried by blinding bolts of energy.
The two warriors stayed close, almost back to back as they repelled wave after wave of abominations. When the asari’s shields dropped, the human would scream and rage, turning husks to paste with repeated shotgun blasts, and whenever the human took a heavy hit, the asari would throw her partner’s assailant across the slaughtering grounds with her biotics.
Five minutes turned into ten, then into twenty minutes as the bodies began to pile up around the human and the asari. When the brutes came, their grotesque forms joined the piles, and when the harvesters came, they were plucked from the skies one by one.
The two warriors fought as one, entwined in both body and spirit as the hours began to drag on, spending what little respite they could get wrapped in one another’s arms, until once more they were set upon by the forces of the Reapers.
And when their ammo ran out, they used their biotics and blades to keep the foe at bay, grappling and charging the foe with reckless abandon.
When the asari grew too tired to use her biotics, and when the human’s omni-tool flickered and failed, the two used their rifles as clubs, the burning-hot metal of overheating weaponry scolding the warped flesh of their enemies as the heavy weapons battered and broke bone and steel alike.
And when their shields sputtered and died, they used the bodies of fallen husks as shields from weapons fire, the bodies turning to tattered ribbons of viscera and wiring as the warriors carried on fighting.
And as the surviving husks turned tail and ran, the two warriors did not celebrate. Instead, they collapsed where they stood, bodies and minds on the brink of total meltdown as they crawled into one another’s arms.
Shepard held Liara close, bloody fingers tracing shaky circles across her back as she tried to centre her mind. The dull ache of a thousand wounds throbbed across her body, each tiny movement making her wince in pain as she struggled to retain consciousness.
Liara held Shepard close, their dormant meld flickering in the back of her mind as she caught her breath. Her entire world was filled with stinging pain, every sound, every movement sending a sudden flare of agony across her nervous system as she fought to stay lucid.
Shepard sighed, “… Liara?”
“Told you… we’d be fine…” she murmured, a wry smile flashing across her features as Liara suppressed a groan.
“Goddess…30 years after Therum… and you’ve barely changed at all, my love…”
Choking back a gasp, Shepard continued, “Has it really been 30 years?”
Liara offered only a weak smile as she placed a blood-soaked hand to Shepard’s forehead…
A younger Liara opened up her omni-tool, opening a new file with a slight sigh. The excavation of the Prothean ruins on Therum had been proving… problematic, so she had been working overtime to meet project deadlines. None of her fellow archaeologists had even showed up, leaving her alone once again. Absolutely typical, she had thought, they were so close to a breakthrough, she could feel it! Turning her attention back to the file, Liara typed in the date- 5/5/2183- and began typing up her report for another fruitless day of labour.
As that memory faded away, no new memory came to replace it. Instead, flashes of images and sounds echoed across the meld. A mining laser triggering a cave-in as Liara fled from Geth alongside a human Commander. The roar of a nuclear explosion as their ship lifted off from a jungle world. The snarky comments from the human crew, and how the Commander had scolded each one who had berated Liara. The rediscovery of the Rachni on Noveria. The final moments of her mother. Gentle confessions of love at twilight as they stole the Normandy from the Citadel. The rush of air as the Mako fell from the cargo bay. The hope and despair of the Prothean VI on Ilos. Gripping the seat of the Mako as it tumbled through the Conduit and back onto the Citadel. The deafening crack of gunfire as she fought alongside the Commander, up through the war torn recesses of the Citadel tower. The triumphant whoops of the Fleets as the Reaper exploded overhead. The frantic search for the Commander after the fight, only to discover she had survived moments later.
A loud bang reverberated across the ruins, and Liara tensed in Shepard’s arms, gasp caught in her throat as blood trickled down her chin.
The flashes grew faster and faster as they progressed, flashing past the couple’s eyes in seconds. The Normandy was torn in two as Shepard died in the vacuum of space. Liara cut a deal with a rogue agent to save the life of her beloved, falling into darkness as her light was reignited faraway. Nearly dwindled hope overcome by joy as Shepard reappeared into her life after two years. Sadness and panic as they hunted down both an assassin and a shadow- renewed love burning away the darkness.
“... Shep… ard…”
Mars. Death. Frenzy. Panic. Surprise. Love. Shepard. Palaven. Death. Frenzy. Panic. Surprise. Concern. Shepard. Thessia. Death. Frenzy. Panic. Surprise. Despair. Sanctuary. Death. Frenzy. Panic. Horror.
So much death. Millions, perhaps even billions of bodies raining from the skies around them as Reapers ripped and tore through the Allied Fleets.
Death. Death. Despair. Death. Slaughter. Darkness...
As Liara fell to the floor, Shepard snapped back to reality. The sound of a gunshot lingered in the air, the smoking gun of a half-dead marauder falling to the floor mere feet away as it’s owner finally succumbed to it’s wounds.
“Liara... no.. No! Please stay with me!” Shepard half-shouted, cradling the dying asari in her arms.
“M-my… Shepard…” Liara breathed, her once-powerful voice wisp-like as her misty eye stared into the sky, “the… li-little b-blue… child… ren…”
“No, Liara, please don’t talk like that!” Shepard sobbed, her voice breaking as she tried desperately to apply her non-existent medi-gel to the fatal wound.
“Shep… ard…lis.. listen to… me…” A single hand cupped Shepard’s tear-streaked cheek, directing the age-worn face to Liara’s, “I… I will… al… always… l-love…”
A moment passed.
“Liara?” Shepard murmured, her voice almost child-like as she gently shook the asari’s still body.
“I’ll see you soon, my love,” Shepard said, closing Liara’s eye as she began to sob.
As the last human mourned the last asari, the ruins were once again filled with the shrieks of husks. But the human did not leave the asari’s body- instead staying at her side as her omni-blade spluttered and coughed back to life. As she rose to meet the enemy, she retrieved the broken visor from her comrade's face, placing it over her own tear-scarred eye as she stared down the approaching horde.
A dozen husks crested a pile of their fallen brethren, gibbering and screaming as they rushed at the last soldier who stood before them. As the closest dived at her, the human made no move to dodge, instead cleaving upwards with her sizzling omni-blade, a cloud of molten viscera spraying over her as the first husk died at her feet. She kicked it away from the asari’s body, screaming a litnay of curses as she continued her defiant stand against the rest of the horde.
The last human stood as a stalwart barrier against the enemy, not moving an inch as she weathered blow after blow from husks and cannibals alike. Only after thirty enemies fell to her did she falter; the crack of sniper fire brought her to her knees, blood spurting from her shoulder as she screamed in pain. Another shot impacted her abdomen, and she doubled over in agony, tears mixing with her blood as she struggled to her feet once more.
Another husk fell to a weak lunge, the barely functioning omni-blade fizzling out of existence as the cadaver fell to the floor, but still the human did not relent or retreat. Kicking and pushing husks away from the fallen asari, claws and teeth sank into the human's flesh, ripping chunks of skin and armour alike apart as decades-old cybernetics jutted out from tortured muscles.
Lashing out with every extremity, she managed to bat away all the husks, and, as she staggered over to the fallen asari, she felt her life beginning to slip away.
So focused on the asari was the human, that she didn’t hear a giant Reaper Destroyer landing a hundred metres away, a single red eye trained on her with unblinking intensity.
Tracing a bloody finger along Liara’s head crest, Shepard suppressed a ragged sigh.
I’ll see you soon, my dear…
Rising once more, she turned to face the giant Destroyer who loomed over her, blinking as the setting sun shone past the great machine-construct.
YOU ARE THE HUMAN KNOWN AS COMMANDER SHEPARD
“Good to see that you lot haven’t forgotten me…”
YOU HAVE HIDDEN FOR 27 SOLAR CYCLES WHILST YOUR SPECIES WAS HUNTED TO EXTINCTION
Shepard bowed her head to that news, but she remained undeterred, “So what? New civilizations will rise, and they’ll finish what we started!”
YOUR NAIVETY HAS NOT DIMINISHED OVER THE YEARS. WE ARE EACH A NATI-
“Spare me… all that b-bullcrap, you… glorified t-toaster,” Shepard collapsed in a fit of coughs, blood filling her throat as she struggled to maintain eye contact with the Reaper.
YOU ARE DYING. YOU HAVE LOST EVERYTHING, SHEPARD
“Yes, I’m dying,” Shepard looked down at Liara, eyes brimming with tears as she memorized every line on the asari’s face, “but that’s… not necess… cessarily a bad thing…”
SURVIVAL IS THE KEY FACTOR IN ALL LIFE; YOUR COMMENT IS INCORRECT ON MULTIPLE LEVELS OF INTERPRETATION
“Bloody… m-machines…” Shepard spat, “You can… pretend… to be alive… b-but, you… will never know…”
SILENCE. THE TIME OF YOUR DEATH HAS COME, SHEPARD
Before Shepard could even respond, the ruins were filled with the ear-splitting screech of the Reaper, the very air ionizing around her as her surroundings began to heat up…
And then everything went white.
Several thousand years later, on a distant garden world...
"If you're hearing this, then there is still hope. Hope that you can avoid the same mistakes we made. We fought the Reapers, but we failed to stop them. We did everything we could. We built the Crucible, but it didn't work. We fought as a united galaxy, but it wasn't enough. I only hope that the information in this capsule is enough to help you before it's too late. My name is Doctor Liara T'Soni. Herein lies the recounting of our war with the Reapers, and of the woman who led us..."