Tali's combat drone floated ahead of the weary group. The eight surviving colonists who had been there the longest had lost a lot of weight. They were being helped by by the Normandy's crew. Cassidy too was thinner. Abby was walking close to her while scanning for any Collectors. So far they were lucky it seemed like they were all going after Alex.
Abby could hardly believe that she had Cass back. She glanced over, Cassidy had taken her pistol so she could help defend her crew mates. After watching so many people die in the pods she wasn't going to lose anyone else.
Tali stopped them when her drone picked up two life forms ahead. On closer investigation the quarian spotted two Collectors standing very close together. Her incinerate caught them by surprise. She waved them forward again.
As they waited for the all clear Cass wrapped her arms around her wife and held her. Abby kissed her cheek. "We're almost there," she said softly. She was worried about the haunted expression she could see in Cass's eyes.
Karin limped over, "You both okay?" She had been checking the crew over.
The medic gently raised her wife's face, "Cass?" She knew this place was going to give them both nightmares.
"I...have you. I will be."
They started moving forward again. They saw no more Collectors, it took another twenty minutes to arrive at there destination.
The Normandy was hovering with the cargo ramp down waiting for them to board.
"We're all on board," said Tali as she closed the large door. "EDI what do you need me to do?"
Abby didn't listen to the instructions that her friend got as she ran to the elevator. Karin had raided the lockers for any and all medical supplies.
Cassidy had sat down leaning against the cage. It hadn't been that long of a walk but it had completely wiped her out, she knew Abby was torn between wanting to be with her and doing her job. "I'll be here. Go help."
Abby hugged her before going to help Karin.
The platform that the Spectre's squad was stood on was pre-programmed to go to their destination.
Alex was using the time to catch her breath, her epi-pen hadn't rid her of her headache.
"Hey," said Ash, "Have you re-loaded your auto injector?" Alex shook her head. Silently Ash pulled out a new one and slid in into the slot, "How do you feel?"
"I'll get it done." Alex rested her helmet against Ash's.
"I know we will."
Garrus looked over his shoulder at the Spectre and her mate. He smiled. They also had Cassidy back.
"Shepard, the crew is on board."
"Any casualties, Joker?"
"None. We got everyone. We're laying low until you want the Cavalry."
"Good," replied Alex, sighing with relief, "Keep safe. You guys are our ride home. EDI any idea what we're walking into?"
"I am getting very high energy readings. It is not part of the super structure whatever it is it must be massive."
The Spectre stared up at the many pipes above them. How many carried liquidised colonists? And why were they doing it? "Not one more," she whispered to herself.
"Alex," said Jack pointing, "I think we're docking." The platform was slowing as it approached a path by a door. It was the only place it could dock.
"Let's get off in case it flies back," suggested Ash.
It was a good idea and they acted on it. As Garrus hacked the door the platform did detach and float away.
The passage behind was dark, Alex took point she could hear the whirring of machinery. The passage was barely longer than a hundred feet then it opened up into a chamber similar in size to the area in the Collector ship where all the pods were.
"What the HELL is THAT?" yelped Jack.
Instead of pods hanging in the middle was the skeletal form of something that looked humanoid.
"EDI?" Alex had no idea.
"It is part synthetic and part organic. They are making a Reaper."
"Why does it look human?" whispered Ash, "All the Reapers from the beacon vision all looked pretty much like Sovereign."
"I know," agreed Alex.
"Perhaps there is some significance that humans are the only species to delay a Harvest." suggested EDI.
"Its a hell of a scare tactic," muttered Garrus.
The Spectre wasn't going to argue with that, "EDI, is that thing alive?"
"I do not know."
"If we blow the base will we destroy it as well?"
"Yes. You must plant the device on the main power line running under the floor ."
"Where?" asked Alex, scanning the area with her omni tool. She spotted a convergence of power lines near the edge where the human reaper was. "Never mind. Found it." She signalled to the others to maintain a perimeter as she cautiously approached the sheer drop. The explosion should drop the abomination as well as blow it to smithereens. Hopefully anyway.
The Spectre knelt down as she ignited her omni blade and started carefully cutting through the floor plating or whatever they were. It was heavy too. Alex moved it aside then lay on her stomach to fix the fusion detonator to the biggest pipe. She set it for half an hour. Then she'd put the floor plate back she focused her biotics and fused it back in place to prevent the Collectors from moving or disarming it. The hair on the back of her neck went up as Ash yelled a warning. Almost in slow motion Alex looked up to see the reaper turn its head to look at her.
It pulled its arm free from the pipe that was holding it and brought it down. Alex rolled out of the way then ran back to the others. Its mobility was restricted but if it kept hammering the floor it could set the bomb off.
Although Alex was prepared to give her life for the mission, being blown up by her own bomb was not going to happen. She threw a warp at its head. "Ash, Garrus aim for the pipes holding it up. Jack lets keep it distracted."
The biotic attacks they were throwing weren't hurting it but it certainly got its attention.
"Spirits Shepard we're going to run out of ammo," yelled Garrus, so far they'd only shot through two of the five remaining cables.
Ash next to him slammed in her last magazine.
"Jack think you can yank that cable on the left if I do these two here?" asked Alex. They were running out of time.
Jack looked from the Spectre to the cable and back again as she swallowed, "Sure why not? Can't let you have all the fun."
Alex nodded and closed her eyes and thought of losing Ash again, permanently this time. She started glowing.
Jack pulled hers free with a monumental effort that blew her amp then she slumped down blood pouring from her nose.
Ash stopped firing and pulled out the extra epi pens she carried. Her wife was still glowing. She was half afraid that if she held it too long she'd literally explode.
The Spectre obeyed sending up a bright green ball of energy that ripped the cables free.
The reaper no longer supported lurched. It hit the floor then slid off. A few moments later a spout of flame erupted from below with a thunderous BOOM.
Alex landed on her back as the floor shook as it started breaking apart, the section the Spectre and her wife were on tilted dangerously towards the drop off and Alex began sliding towards the edge.
"NOOOOOO!" screamed Ash running then diving to get a grip on her bond mate. As soon as she did she ignited and slammed her omni blade into the floor slowing them down. Alex's lower body still went over before they stopped. Ash hauled Alex back up and injected both epi pens. That was when she looked up and saw a section of the ceiling coming right at them.
Miranda watched as the platform whisked her friends away. She half wished she had gone with them. A few months ago she had thought friendship was a waste of time. She had always seen friends as people that could be used against her. But now after meeting the Spectre, her mind had been changed. Alex Shepard did things for others without any thought of getting something in return. She would literally take a bullet for a complete stranger. She also had great respect for Garrus and Mordin.
She checked her omni tool as she scanned both doors. The Collectors were massing out side both of them.
"Get ready. Let's give Alex as long as we can." She had spread out her biotics and snipers. Legion and Kasumi were to stay cloaked allowing them to shoot unsuspecting bugs and to concentrate on the Glow bugs that were sure to appear.
The Collectors attack was co-ordinated. Both doors breached simultaneously. Miranda threw a warp at one and some one else detonated it. A moment later she returned the favour without knowing if it was Jacob or Samara. Down the line she could hear Garrus still counting his kills, Thane was whispering prayers for his and Grunt was laughing. Alex Shepard had managed the impossible when she merged this bunch of misfits into an effective fighting unit, but it was more than that she had made them a family. Any one of them would be willing to die for any of the others and for a Cerberus agent to be willing to give her life for a non human was unthinkable. Good thing she wasn't with Cerberus any more.
The battle was furious. The Collectors were depending on sheer numbers to over whelm them and not tactics. Which allowed the eight defenders to hold there own.
Miranda had no idea how much time had passed when she heard a beep from her omni tool. The Spectre had synced them so she would know that the bomb was set. That was her cue to retreat back to the Normandy, she had just given the order when a loud explosion sounded behind her. "Dammit!" she muttered. The Spectre was in trouble and there was absolutely nothing she could do.
She could feel intense heat all around her.
She could smell smoke. Her helmet visor was open.
"ALEX! WAKE UP DAMMIT!"
The Spectre slowly opened her eyes and squinted unable to focus on the blur above her.
"Fire in the Hole!"
Ash shielded her wife's body as Garrus detonated all of his remaining Sticky grenades that were planted one a near wall. The Normandy had sent them an evacuation site, they had five minutes to reach it. No one wanted to go the long way around. Alex started retching and Ash rolled her onto her side as Garrus came over. As the turian lifted her up and over her shoulder she could see nearly everything was on fire. They must have ended up a long way down. Ash was following with one of Jacks arms slung over her shoulder.
Alex didn't really remember very much of that mad dash to the Normandy. She had never felt so sick in her entire life.
They cut it very very close, the Normandy was accelerating even as the cargo door was closing. The bomb detonated setting off the chain reaction they were hoping for. EDI and Joker had band and barrel roll to avoid the collapsing sections of the station. Finally they burst out into empty space.
"BRACE FOR SHOCK WAVE!" yelled Joker as the Normandy bucked like a wild bronco for a few seconds.
By that time Garrus had carried Alex to the med bay where Karin had already been alerted.
Ash helped Jack onto an empty bio-bed. "Karin?" She was panicking.
Karin scanned the Spectre then sedated her. "How many epi-pens has she had?"
"Four. Oh God did I do the wrong thing giving her..."
"Ashley, " interrupted Karin gripping both her shoulders, "Calm down. She will be fine. She needs rest. Her system will take care of the rest. These readings I'm getting are similar to after Torfan."
Ash took a deep breath. "Where's Abby?"
"Checking on the crew. Everyone insisted on getting back to their posts."
"Last I heard she was in Engineering."
"How is she?" asked Miranda entering the room.
"She'll be okay," replied Karin.
"Did we lose anyone?" asked Ash, noting the tenseness of the Australian woman's shoulders.
"Thane and Jacob." replied Miranda, quietly, "Thane was hurt and volunteered to stay and slow them down. Jacob stayed as well."
"Nothing a little medi gel won't fix."
Ash closed her eyes.
"I know it doesn't help right now," said Miranda, "But they are heroes. Both would say their lives in exchange for hundreds of thousands was worth it."
"I know," returned Ash, "Do you need me to do anything?"
"No. We have everybody who can hold a hammer helping fix as much damage as possible before were use the Relay."
The repairs would take two days according to EDI. Alex had also woken up briefly and Karin drummed it into the Lt's head that the Spectre would be okay in a few days.
Cassidy's strength was returning slowly, the nightmares she had had after Elysium and Torfan were nothing compared to the ones she had now. Abby did the only thing she could do...she held her as she cried.
Kelly was very quiet, no one had realised how much the Drell had come to mean to her. She was filling her time helping the others as much as possible, she spent hours with Cassidy that first day giving Abby the time to help Karin. Jack had been discharged with orders to rest and no biotics for two weeks.
Alex woke feeling Ash's thumb rubbing the back of her hand. She watched her wife for a moment, waiting for her to notice she was awake. "Hey."
"I know," said Alex with a grin, "We have to stop meeting like this."
The return trip was better knowing they weren't going to fly into a spaceship junk yard.
As soon as EDI cleared the Relay she sent message to Liara with all the info they had gathered.
Alex had insisted on being in the cockpit. She had sent a silent goodbye to Thane and Jacob.
Another message went to Councillor Anderson. They had defeated the Collectors. The colonies were safe.
Anderson replied quickly. There was no doubt in his mind that the Reapers were coming. To that end he wanted the Normandy as the Flag ship for the Alliance. As soon as he said that Alex knew she wouldn't be in command that would need an Admiral or a General. Plans were being made to retro fit the Normandy and the Spectre had to agree the upgrades would help EDI. Anderson had also promised that EDI would remain unshackled. He did however suggest she pretend to be a VI while the work was being carried out. He would also keep Joker as his pilot. He congratulated them on pulling off the impossible then wished them a safe journey back to Earth.
Ash had been standing in the back of the room, "So we're going home."
"Just two small detours first," replied Alex, taking hold of Ash's hand. She lead them to Abby and Cass's cabin. The Spectre had a question for them.
"Are you sure about this?" asked Ash for the fifth time as Joker climbed into the shuttle. Garrus, Abby, Cassidy and Karin followed. Alex rested her forehead against her soul mates.
"We need to put this place behind us."
Ash nodded and hopped in.
The Normandy was orbiting the planet Alchera where the original Normandy had died. The Alliance had put up a statue with all the names of those who were killed. All the people who had been on the ship were going to pay there last respects.
Joker expertly landed then pulled on his helmet, the last time he'd worn a hard suit was in the Academy, but he wanted to line up with the rest.
The Spectre led the way to the monument. A statue of the Normandy has she had been.
Alex's heart was thumping in her chest, she knew probably wasn't much better. The memories that it had dredged up the day before when they'd arrived in orbit.
Alex looked up as she felt Ash take hold of her hand. "Finally the twenty crew who died in that attack have justice," she said, softly. "The Collectors are just the beginning. Now the hard work starts. The turians and salarians still don't believe the Reapers are real. I'm guessing that will change soon enough. In the next few days we'll be dropping off many of our crew mates, our friends. As you know the Normandy is going back to the Alliance. No matter how far we are we are a family and we always will be." Alex stood at attention, the others did too.
"Present arms." They all saluted for the fallen.
Alex and Ash lingered after the others had gone back to the shuttle.
"I thought I lost you up there," whispered Ash.
"You didn't," replied Alex, hugging her wife. "You are going to be stuck with me forever."
"Is that a promise."
"Yes it is."
The last detour was Hagalaz and Liara. She was going to get the ground team members home or where they thought they could do the most good. Legion was going back to the geth. Tali had decided on one last attempt to convince the Admiralty Board.
Miranda and Jack were going to stay with Liara. Jack was overjoyed when Eezo bounded to her and leapt into her arms. Miranda was ecstatic to see her sister. Biltar was in the brig after nosing around too much. The other batarians were working happily, earning decent wages in clean living conditions. The kids had even started online lessons.
Miranda sighed as she nodded towards Jack, "I'm sure she wants to hug you too."
Oriana held her breath.
"If she ever hurts you... tell her I'll bloody kill her."
"YES! You're the best sister ever!"
Alex grinned at that. Liara organised a huge last meal for every one before they went there separate ways. It was a loud joyous affair for they all knew this was the calm before the storm...
A/N. Hi guys. Thanks for reading. This is the end of part 2 but don't worry the next part is already rolling around in my brain.
Keep happy and keep reading. Have fun. T-Rex.
Look out for Shepard's Saga: Endgame. Coming soon :)