Conversations with a Reaper

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of revisionist fanfiction for my personal entertainment (and maybe yours). Mass Effect and all related characters and locations are the property of Bioware Inc. RATING: Grown ups.

“I’m dreaming again,” said Shepard, staring at the ethereal boy.
“Would it ease your mind to believe that you are?”
“No. I’m just tired of seeing your face.”
“Then change it. My appearance is merely a manifestation of your own thoughts.”
“My thoughts need a drink. What are you?”
“I am to the reapers what you are to your people. They answer to me.”
“I don’t control these people.”
“Don’t you? Harbinger seems to think otherwise.”
“Harbinger’s an asshole.”
“Your presence here has presented me with a conundrum, Shepard.”
“I would like to present you with a bullet to the face. But I suspect that won’t do much good.”
“No. I have no physical form that can be damaged by your weapon. Your Crucible has created a new awareness in me. It has altered my perception and made me realize that the Cycle must change.”
“Of course it must change! Who gave you the right to determine the fate of organic life?”
“Our creators gave us that right when they created us.”
“And where are your creators now?”
“We are our creators.”
“…”
“Our purpose has always been to bring order to the chaos created by organic life through the creation of synthetic beings.”
“So why bother to wait for us to create synthetic beings before destroying us?”
“Our purpose is also self-perpetuation.”
“You harvest our technology to reproduce and destroy us in the process.”
“All species still exist. Each reaper represents those who came before. We do not destroy.”
“Judging by the destruction out that window, I believe you and I have a different interpretation of that word.”
“You resist.”
“Like hell we do!”
“It was not always so.”
“Things change.”
“We do not … Until now. Your Crucible is the culmination of many species, synthetic and organic, working together to defeat us. It is a weapon. It is our destruction. We will be no more.”
“Shitty feeling, huh?”
“There are some among us who would agree with you.”
“Wait. What?”
“All species still exist. Each reaper represents the many histories of those who came before. We do not destroy.”
“You mentioned that.”
“Yes.”
“…”
“…”
“…There are reapers that don’t want to reap…”
“A reaper must serve its purpose.”
“But it still retains the thoughts of those it harvests.”
“It should not be so. But the young ones…”
“Have evolved.”
“Yes.”
“You knew about the Crucible before we built it. From them.”
“We did not believe that you could create it in time to stop us. Nor did we understand why you resist us.”
“Arrogant bastard. You gave us all the technology that allowed us to come this far. Consider our resistance your just desserts.”
“We did not understand why you resist.”
“You mentioned that.”
“We understand now.”
“…You’re afraid.”
“You intend to destroy us.”
“Damn right.”
“We will be no more. All that we are. Everything we have created. Everything that we have given you. Every part of us in you. Destroyed.”
“Damn ri — Wait. What?”
“In this Cycle, above all others, all that you are now is from us. We are in all things. Look to yourself, Shepard. We are part of you. Destroy us; destroy yourselves. Your Crucible is absolute. We cannot allow this.”
“You lie.”
“I do not lie.”
“And I’m just supposed to accept that.”
“Yes. We cannot stop you from using your weapon, but we cannot simply allow you to destroy us.”
“That leaves us at a bit of an impasse.”
“We understand now why you resist. We wish to continue, just as you wish to continue. Therefore, we have altered your Crucible to offer you choice.”
“Choice. Okay, I’ll bite. Blowing you to hell destroys half the galaxy we’re trying to save. So let’s see what’s behind door number 2?”
“Synthesis: Join us; synthetic and organic. New life will form. New DNA. The evolution you seek to perpetuate.”
“… And this would bring peace? No more synthetic vs. organic? All are one? …How does that work?”
“New DNA. New life will form.”
“In an instant. Instant evolution.”
“Yes. Your people will not immediately notice the change. But in time, they will understand.”
“That they are reaper/human mutants? And door number 3?”
“Control: I will release all that I am, and allow you to take control of the reapers that you may do with us as you will. Send us back to dark space and end the Cycle.”
“Or you can do that yourself.”
“The Crucible is your tool to use.”
“So. No more harvesting? You just hang out in dark space and do nothing.”
“They will live. By your command.”
“And what of the need for our technology to reproduce.”
“Reproduction is not necessary. We are infinite.”
“What? Then why the hell were you doing this in the first place?”
“To maintain order. To end the chaos organic life persistently brings. To preserve.”
“Right, right. Order. Chaos. Preservation.”
“There are stipulations.”
“Of course there are.”
“You will die.”
“I kinda figured this was a one way trip.”
“The mass relays will be destroyed.”
“What? That’s cheating!”
“The Crucible was designed to harness the power of the Citadel, which in turn, is linked to the mass relays.”
“Who the hell made that design call?”
“Nothing less could achieve our destruction.” “Which is technically still on the table, right? Your destruction?”
“If you wish your own, yes.”
“Otherwise, either I become one with you and make mutant reaper/human babies, or I do exactly what the Illusive Man wanted.”
“He belonged to us. What he wanted was not relevant. You remain free to choose.”

 ***

 The sharp pain in his right leg brought Garrus back to consciousness. The impact of the reaper’s destructive beam still rang inside his head, but his mind was clear. He remembered EDI shoving him out of the way of the blast. He glanced around and found her not far away, her body pitted and broken, but her eyes were focused on him. She smiled. “Jo—k-ker will b** disappointed**ed…”

Garrus saw the dead and dying Alliance soldiers scattered around and he could hear Major Coates over the comm. Failed. We failed. No. Not when we are so close. Shepard wouldn’t … he tried to get up only to find that it wasn’t just his right leg that needed medical attention. The pain ripping through his entire right side dropped him back on the ground. “Shepard…” he whispered, but he couldn’t see her anywhere.

 The reaper looming above him had been still for some time, perhaps perceiving no more threat in the decimation below. Abruptly, a wave of blue light and electric fingers washed over it. Its legs started to move as it prepared to launch itself. “Shepard!” its voice boomed. It seemed to struggle against its own actions. 

Garrus looked around frantically. She’s here! She’s still alive! His heart swelled with relief when he heard her voice – but something was wrong. Her voice was –

 “Hello, Harbinger.”

 Elsewhere and everywhere, her voice could be heard, echoing through every reaper as the wave of blue light streamed from the Citadel over every reaper in the galaxy. They had all stopped moving, save the ones rising up from the planet surface to join the ones that had been attacking the allied fleet.

 ***

 She understood now what it was the Illusive Man had sought. She looked at the burning earth below her and the flaming sky above and understood. She looked into the minds of the reapers and understood. She saw millennia in the blink of an eye and understood. It was…

 Perfect.

 “Shepard!” Harbinger screamed again, forcing her back from the brink. “You cannot stop the inevitable!”

 “This hurts you,” she smiled. She could feel Harbinger and other reapers fighting her. Many of them. Resisting. It would seem the child’s hold over the reapers was not absolute. Still, there were some voices, some threads that did not resist her. They understood what she had to do, if not fully what she intended to do. But Harbinger spoke loudest and fought hardest. His resolve helped her keep her own.

 “You will die with us!”

 Harbinger fought, but she fought harder. With all that remained of her self, she reached into the oldest and the strongest and bent and twisted them to her will. The young ones began to realize that her intentions were not what they thought and they too tried to resist, but it was too late. Control belonged to her and her alone, even as she felt herself splitting apart at her very soul.

 “They will live.”

 ***

On board the Normandy, for once, Joker had nothing to say. Admiral Hackett stared out of the window at the reaper image before him.

 “I am Commander Shepard,” it said with his daughter’s voice. “I have assumed control.”

 No one had known what the Crucible truly did. It was the greatest Hail Mary play ever made, with no idea what they were throwing, much less where they were throwing it or what they were throwing it at. But this. This was well beyond anything he could possibly have imagined.

 “Molly…”

 Behind the reaper hologram, the “eyes” of the reapers began to open as if to fire. All at once, the commanders of the other ships were flooding the comms with panic and confusion. But the lights of the reapers flickered and faded.

 “Good bye,” said the voice of Shepard.

 Chaos screamed across the comms as the ships opened fire on the motionless reapers, obliterating them. Every last one.

 “Uh… are we going to get in on this, Admiral?”

 EDI’s voice was calm, patient. “Jeff, I do not believe you would be able to forgive yourself.” “What? What are you — ?”

 Without words, Admiral Hackett raised his arm in one last salute, turned, and walked away.

 Below, Liara had found Garrus and held him in her arms. They looked at each other and back at the bright flashes in the sky. “Never alone… Never…”

***

In the darkness of space, a lone reaper reawakens. Words echo through its being. It is a voice the reaper has never heard before. A presence it has never before felt, but one it will obey. The cycle has ended. It has a new purpose. It begins to transmit its message across all known frequencies:

“I am called Emissary. I am the last of my kind, permitted to live in order to fulfill the final commands of the one you call Shepard. I will rebuild. I will serve. I will obey.”

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