A/N: I suggest reading the description before getting into the story.
A flash of light, one brighter than anything else, surrounded Shepard.
Her body felt like being twisted and squashed as it travelled through thousands of kilometers of space in a few seconds. It wasn't at all like making the jump with a ship.
The light disappeared and the relay released its hold of Shepard. She couldn't find her balance in time, and fell down to the hard, cold surface in front of her. She groaned, but lifted herself immediately back up. This was no time for rest. As she rose up, Shepard looked around. She was definitely in the Citadel. She recognized the material used for the walls and the ceiling, stuff so strong it had been used to build both the Citadel and the mass relays. And despite being millions of years old, it still shined bright and clean.
Shepard looked around. She was in a long corridor of some kind, a place she definitely hadn't visited before. The walls were bare, but glowed with a dim, blue light. Outside the small relay behind her there didn't seem to be anything else in there, even the keepers were nowhere to be found.
That was the sound of steps coming from ahead. Shepard lifted her head. She still couldn't see very far, but the dark silhouette at the end of the hallway left no room for interpretation. There, perhaps 20 or 30 meters away from her was the Illusive Man. Shepard's face turned into a furious sneer.
"Stop right now!" Shepard yelled and grabbed her gun. She pointed it at the Illusive Man, waiting for him to stop. But he didn't. Without even turning his head or uttering a single word, the Illusive Man kept walking forward; one step, two steps
"That was your last change", Shepard thought and pulled the trigger.
A loud "bang" echoed in the tight corridor. The Illusive Man twitched as the bullet sunk into his back. But he didn't stop, and continued walking forward with shaking legs. Shepard pulled the trigger again. Another twitch and the Illusive Man staggered toward the wall. He slammed on it, bending down as he did, but still refused to slow down. Instead he kept going, leaning on the wall for support. Shepard fired yet again. The Illusive Man groaned and collapsed on the floor.
"Shepard, can you hear me?"
"I'm listening", Shepard replied to Hacket and holstered her weapon.
"We lost contact to the others. What happened, did you make it?"
I don't know about the others. I'm at the Citadel, I had to leave them behind", Shepard explained as she hastened her walk to a sprint. Suddenly she heard a loud noise from the radio, a collision of some kind. Somebody screamed.
"Is everything okay?"
"Shit, they're coming from the sides again! Fire the Crucible Shepard; we'll keep them at bay for as long as we can!"
Shepard didn't bother to answer, but instead increased her speed. She jumped over the body of the Illusive Man, without giving it a single look.
Suddenly the corridor ended. Shepard slowed down as she looked at the room in front of her. It was large, bright and round, completely different from the narrow corridor. The walls were bare, but the floor had a strange pattern to it. It was covered in circles, molded from the same strange material as everything else around here. These circles rose up to Shepard's knees, and were wide enough to be used as benches. Perhaps that's what they were, who knows, she didn't really think about that. Shepard was completely mesmerized by something else. What had caught her attention was the back wall of the room, or more precisely, the lack of it.
The back wall of the room was covered by huge window. From it Shepard could outside. The sight was
terrifying. She saw Earth, but without the green and blue colors she was familiar with. The lands and the seas were covered in dark smoke, almost completely blocking the view. The little land that wasn't under the smoke was either grey, or burning with an orange light. The planet was
And in front of the Earth Shepard saw the war that was going on. Hundreds of gigantic Reapers were flying around, wiping out everything that got in their way. At the same time they were surrounded by the armada, whit every ship firing at the monsters without stopping even for a second, trying to slow them down. The darkness of space was now lit by the war. Wherever Shepard looked, she saw the armada losing ground. The Reapers might've been slowed down by the fire, but she could see they were winning, fast.
Quickly, Shepard looked around. In the middle of the room, at the end of the aisle in front of her that was cutting through the circles, was a round pole, covered in strange, glowing patterns. It wasn't quite like something she had seen before, but there was something familiar about it. She had seen those patterns many times before already, on Eden Prime almost three years ago and recently on Thessia. The design was Prothean.
Shepard ran through the aisle, forcing herself to run faster than her body would've wanted. Her knees ached, and her legs felt tired. It had been a long day, but it was too early to rest yet. Though admittedly, she was very tired, perhaps more than ever before. What she hadn't given for a change to close her eyes for a bit
But, no time for rest, the war was still going on.
"Okay, okay, okay, so how does this work?", Shepard wondered as she arrived to the pole. Then she remembered her past encounters with the Prothean beacons. They had reacted to her presence, hadn't they? Without hesitating, Shepard placed her hand on the pole.
The room lit up. A wall of red light soared to the ceiling from each of the metallic circles surrounding her. Shepard squeezed her eyes. She could see something, not sure what, inside the walls of light. They were vague shapes that seemed somehow familiar. There must've been hundreds of them. What were they? Shepard knew that she had seemed those things somewhere, but she just couldn't quite
"Wait, are they
A stream of information hit Shepard's mind, like a giant wave. She fell on her knees, holding her head. It was just like before, just like the last warning of the Protheans. Her mind was suddenly filled with pictures and voices, all mixed together, too unclear to understand. But slowly, the pictures and voices started to take a form. They separated from each other, becoming clearer, forming individual pieces of information. And these pieces combined again, and turned into messages, instructions. Shepard knew what was going on. Now she knew what the Crucible was.
"They are, aren't they? Unbelievable
She was looking at hundreds of small Reapers, staring back at her from the wall of light. They weren't doing anything, just floated there, as a representative of each unit. But Shepard knew that she could approach each of them if she wanted, open their minds, read their thoughts. After all, she had now opened the door to the Reaper consensus. The giant network that connected the Reapers to each other, their very being, was now in front of her. It was like a giant mind formed by hundreds of others. To control it was to control the Reapers. And she had full aches to it.
"Computer?" Shepard said in her mind, guided by the instructions that the central beacon had given her.
"Yes?" A voice replied silently. Or perhaps it wasn't really a voice, just a thought, and idea of an answer.
"Delete all units."
"Gathering data and creating connections. Please wait, this might take some time."
Shepard glanced outside the window. The Reapers were pushing the armada back, they couldn't hold on for much longer. She saw Reaper splitting a ship in two, probably launching all of its crewmembers into the vacuum of space.
"Damn it, can't this thing work any faster?" Shepard though, cursing her incompetence.
She turned around and saw the once peaceful holo-Reapers looking at her. Their eyes were glowing brightly, and each of them looked directly at Shepard. And they all spoke with one voice.
"YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS."
"So I've been told", Shepard spoke and looked at the Reapers with fiery eyes. She wasn't afraid of them anymore. This time, she was in control, and the Reapers were at her mercy.
"DESTROYING US WILL ONLY BRING MORE DEATH TO THIS GALAXY. DO NOT DOOM YOUR KIND INTO CHAOS. YOU CAN STILL MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION."
"You've been telling me that over and over again", Shepard said and took a few steps forward, "But whenever I ask what it means, you say I couldn't understand. Well, how about help me understand then? Just tell me, why are you doing this?"
The Reapers stayed quiet for some time. Shepard didn't let her eyes of them for even a second. And then, they spoke again.
"WE HAVE SEEN EVERY VARIATION OF ORGANIC LIFE, AND EVERY TIME THEIR EVOLUTION LEADS DEATH AND CHAOS. THEY KILL, EVEN WHEN IT IS NOT NECESSARY, EVEN WHEN IT SERVES NO PURPOSE. AND THE MORE THEY EVOLVE, THE MORE EFFECTIVE THEIR WEAPONS BECOME. IT WAS CLEAR, THAT IF THE ORGANICS WERE GIVEN A CHANGE TO EVOLVE BY THEMSELVES, IT WOULD EVENTUALLY LEAD TO A WAR THAT WOULD DESTROY ALL ORGANIC LIFE. THE ORNANIC LIFE IF FLAWED, SO WE BECAME ITS SOLUTION."
"That's insane", Shepard replied, "You can't possibly say something like that for certain!"
"YOU HAVE SEEN IT YOURSELF, ENTIRE SPECIES KILLING EACH OTHERS, SLAUGHTERING BILLIONS, REFUSING TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS AND CHOOSING DEATH INSTEAD. AS LONG AS ORGANICS LIVE, THEY WILL CARRY THE SEED OF DESTRUCTION WITH THEM. WE HAVE SEEN THIS, AND YOU CANNOT CHANGE THAT."
"And you think what you're doing is any better, mass genocides, wiping out all advanced life again and again?!"
"IT IS A BETTER ALTERNATIVE. BY HARVESTING THE ORGANICS WE ASSUME THEIR DNA, CARRY IT WITH US, AND USE IT TO EVOLVE. EVERY SPECIES THAT HAS EVER LIVED STILL LIVES IN US, UNITED TO SECURE THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANICS. IT IS BETTER THAN TO LET THEIR HERITAGE BE FORGOTTEN FOREVER."
"You're blind!" Shepard yelled and threw her hand towards the window, "Look at that! You say we keep slaughtering each other, but right now every species in the stands together to fight against you! You say you're above us, but we got you on our mercy! You never saw this coming, did you? No, of course you didn't, because don't understand us. You know as little about us as we know about you and no amount of harvesting will change that!"
"WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED IS A TEMPORALY ANOMALY, INSIGNIFICANT COMPARED TO REST OF THE DATA."
"Those anomalies make us what we are!" replied Shepard and pointed her finger to the Reapers, "We are unpredictable, capable of doing things nobody could expect! We do not evolve only with our genes, but with other each other as well! Even though it took billions of years, we organics rose above you! We won, even though it was supposed to be impossible! You can't even comprehend what we're capable of when standing together! There's still hope for us!"
"AND WOULD YOU RISK EVERYTHING FOR THAT HOPE?"
"Task completed", the voice announced, "Verify action."
"Yes I would", Shepard said and turned her back to the Reapers in front of her.
"I verify, destroy all units."
"YOU WILL BLAME YOURSELF FOR THIS."
"I doubt that I..."
A whistling sound, something hit Shepard in the back, throwing het in the air. The pain filled her mind. She flew through the holo-walls, and crashed on the floor. The impact punched air from hell lungs. She turned around, her gun already pointing forward. Who was it? Shepard groaned as she pushed herself back up, the landing must've broken some of her ribs. Then she saw the attacker through the holograms, standing directly in front of her at the next side of the room.
"As always, you were just too reckless", the Illusive Man said. He was holding a gun on his hands. What kind, Shepard couldn't say.
"I told you, destroying the Reapers isn't enough", he continued, "You had a change to choose otherwise, but once again you were too naïve to take it. I've grown tired of your interference Shepard, and it will end here."