I'd heard you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their hands. But at that moment, as I sat on my bed staring at mine, all the inspection gave me was more questions. More were raised as I crossed the room and looked myself in the mirror.
The eyes that looked back at me were glowing like small blue suns, and three crimson scars went across the face- two across the left cheek up to my ear, and another matching one over my right eye and down to the middle of my cheek.
They'd been inflicted by...well, maybe it'd be easier to start at the beginning.
The name's Bourne. Jason Bourne. Well, actually- that's not my name. Not my real one. It's an alias I picked at a time when I couldn't remember my real name. There's a lot I couldn't remember.
It all started one random day, when I decided on one last playthrough of the Mass Effect series. It was intended to be my last for a while- maybe I'd pull the games out in a couple years for something different, or when it would be considered 'retro' gaming. I created a mostly paragon Soldier named Raptor Shepard- I'd always given my game characters odd names- but before I could hit enter, a lightning storm started up outside. Not wanting my console to be fried, I reached for it to turn it off- and instead, my life was changed forever.
I woke up on Eden Prime as Saren's geth attacked, with the aforementioned glowing eyes, grey armor with a mysterious red omega on the chest, knives and matching sheaths for several spots on my body- and the knowledge of how to use them.
Oh, and I was also a biotic now, which threw me for a loop. Slowly, I began to uncover the truth. I'd been brought into the alternate universe by Sovereign and Saren- intended to be used as a weapon to secure the Reapers' victory in the coming cycle of extinction. They'd expected a mind they could bend to their will- but apparently they didn't count on my being from a reality where I would know everything about them, giving me the ability to resist them, albeit just barely. So they tried again- bringing two new minds into my now augmented body, deciding to test the three of us to find who'd be the most usable candidate.
The thing was that both of them were also from alternate realities, versions of Shepard I'd created myself. Hero Shepard, the perfect paragon Adept, and her dark counterpart, Iron Shepard, the most brutal and evil renegade Vanguard I could have imagined.
Hero had eventually managed to throw off their control, landing us on Eden Prime, rendering me in control of the body again, and leaving her and Iron mere voices in my head that only awoke far later.
The Shepard that found me on Eden Prime was none other than Raptor Shepard herself- a sniper of unmatched skill, and almost inhuman punching ability...On second thought, scratch the almost. Thanks to some strange paradox my being here caused, reality itself conspired to make me her second in command, the second human Spectre in history...and eventually, her best friend, and she mine.
I tore my gaze away from the mirror. Iron had inflicted the wounds across my face from inside Saren's body- taking it over for a final fight against me.
A fight I'd only won due to Hero's sacrifice.
In the aftermath, we'd had awards heaped upon us- the two Spectres that saved the Citadel, and even the Council.
I grimaced. Even with three weeks to get used to the idea, I hated that I'd been the one to order the fleets to save them.
I forced myself to look back at the mirror, especially my chest. I'd gotten a perfect memory from all of this - as good as a Drell's, if not better- yet there were scars there I couldn't remember getting. The first were two long scars under the armpits (stopping just short of scars from a Krogan's knife, and the incision for when my liver had needed to be replaced with a flash cloned organ). I'd woken up with the new scars in a hospital not long after defeating Sovereign, with my most of my major organs and bones cybernetically enhanced- on top of the genemods I'd gotten from Saren's tampering.
And if Cerberus isn't involved, I'll eat my pistol. That was one of many questions I'd had lately. Could it truely have been them? If it was, then why? And if it wasn't them- who else could it have been? Could they know my secret- know that I was from another world where all of this was only a video game?
My eyes moved to the other major source of questions- another new pair of scars on my chest. Chakwas thought they'd been inflicted when I took a rocket to the back, but...since that day...things had been weird. More so than usual.
A few days before:
Raptor swore for what must have been the millionth time since landing, bullets flying past on all sides.
I hid my irritation only slightly better. "Remind me to ask for a pay raise when we talk to Anderson after this." I said, flicking a knife into hand, and using it as a mirror to see past the corner of the crate we were hiding behind.
It'd been about two-and-a-half weeks since we'd taken Sovereign down. Unsurprisingly, despite all the awards we'd had heaped upon us,The Council was more ready to believe in Santa Claus than the Reapers. So instead of having us do anything worthwhile to prepare for the coming invasion, we were out here wiping out the last remnants of the Geth forces.
I wasn't surprised that they'd ignored us, but I'd been half hoping that with me backing up Shepard up, they'd have been at least a bit less skeptical.
I'd also been hoping that last remnants would have meant that this abandoned warehouse would only have a few Geth, maybe 50 at the most, something we figured two Spectres would be able to handle. We were currently pinned down by at least thrice that number.
Raptor had run out of Thermal Clips pretty much as soon as we went in. Luckily, I'd held onto my older weapons, and so she was currently using my Assault Rifle to inflict as much damage as she could, while I held them off on my side with my biotics and shotgun.
"I don't suppose you have a plan?" Shepard asked as she ducked back, shields barely holding.
"You're asking me about a plan?"
"Who else am I going to ask, the Geth?"
I saw an opportunity and threw a singularity at a group of the synthetics. I followed it with a warp field a moment later, causing a biotic explosion.
I glanced back at the hallway we'd entered through. "It's about a hundred meters back to the door. Our options are to call in for backup, or make a break for it."
"If we call in back up, the Geth are going to just mow them down." She said, shaking her head. "And our radios are jammed anyway."
"Well, that's just perfect."
"At least it means its easier to decide which to go with." She said, forcing a smile.
I glanced around the corner, and pulled my head back as a rocket flew past the crate. It landed close enough to drop my shields to half strength. "No kidding. We stay here, we're slaughtered." I slid my shotgun onto my hip. "I say we get the hell out of here and just bomb the place from orbit."
"Great, except for the part where they shoot us in the back. Even as fast as we can run-"
"Who said anything about running?"
After a moment of confusion, she groaned. "Do not tell me you want to carry me and do that charging thing?"
Another rocket hit nearby, this time closer to her.
She tossed me back my gun and moved close enough for me to pick her up bridal style. "I swear, this is just embarrassing."
"Then I suggest you hold on so I don't leave you here with your embarrassment." I deadpanned, biotics surrounding us both.
A moment later, I was standing in front of the door, and I hurriedly hit the button to open it, putting up a barrier around us, though the Geth were pouring on everything they had onto it.
The door finally slid open, and I stepped through, still holding Raptor. I heard it closing, and sighed in relief, glad to be out alive.
A moment later, something hit me square in the back, and I was sent flying forwards, dropping Raptor mid flight, and landing hard enough to knock the wind out of myself.
"Alright, that's it. We're both asking for a raise after this." I heard Raptor say, but her voice seemed faint, and my vision seemed to be fading as well.
"I think...I might also need...some new...armor." I managed to get out amidst my coughing. I saw something flying from my mouth as I coughed, staining the ground red.
I dimly heard Raptor swearing as her footsteps moved my way, but couldn't hear anything after that.
Then, my world went completely black.
But though the blast should've knocked me into a state where dreaming was impossible, strange images filled my memory- like dreams remembered both more and less strongly than normal.
"Doctor! I think he's waking up!"
Slowly and groggily, my eyes opened. The pair that looked back at me were much like my own, save they glowed purple instead of blue.
"You know Raptor-" I moaned as I slowly tried to push myself up- I was lying on my side on a cot in the Normandy's medbay- "Not that I'm saying I want to see you hurt or anything, but it'd be nice if just once I wasn't the one injured during a mission." I moved so I was at least sitting upright. "How badly did I get banged up this time?"
Chakwas came into the room before she could answer and looked me over. "Once again Lt. Bourne-"
"I really hate being called that." I muttered.
"Your capacity to recover from wounds that should kill you is astounding." She adjusted something on the cot, and a scanning device quickly ran over me. "As far as I can tell- you've completely healed."
"Miracles of modern medicine, eh?" I joked, though my head felt like it'd been stuffed full of cotton...or maybe like I'd gotten a brainfreeze. "How long was I KOed this time?"
"About-" She checked the time. "36 hours."
"Huh. Why does it always feel like longer on my end?" It felt like weeks had passed- if not months. I slowly brought a hand to my head. "God, feels like I have history's worst hangover."
As I lowered my hand, I felt it brushing across something on my chest- when I looked down, I saw two thin scars cutting across my chest at an angle, and the image of my omega burned into my chest in the same spot it would've been on my armor. "...I have no witty response for this one."
"I'm still not sure how the explosion caused that." Chakwas fretted. "Your armor was of course heavily damaged in the back, but the front was more or less unscathed. It could have transferred the heat differently, but…"
I stopped listening as she talked, two new images flashing in my mind as clearly as on a TV screen- par for the course with my memories. The first was me fighting Iron in the Normandy's cargo bay, the second an image of me being grabbed by the Thorian's tentacles as I pushed Tali out of the way.
Only thing was… neither of those things had ever happened to me.
"Something wrong Jason?" Raptor suddenly asked, noting my lack of attention.
"I...guess I just had some weird dreams." I rubbed my head. "Also, for some reason I have the weirdest question for you; you're probably going to hit me for it."
"What's that?" She asked, sounding amused even as she gave me a look that said to think about my words very carefully.
"Well...have you ever gone commando under the armor?"
Her eyes flashed with that oh so familiar light that meant I was about to get punched in the arm, and I felt instinct kicking in, making me dive to the side to avoid it.
A moment later, I was on the other side of the medbay doors, out in the mess hall. I thanked god my pants had been left on.
For a moment, I thought I'd just charged, but it felt different. Then the doors opened behind me, and I wheeled around to find the surprise on my normally composed face mirrored by Raptor's.
"...I again have no witty retort ready."
"Did you just teleport biotically? Through the doors?"
"...Uh...Yeah. I think I just did. Somehow." I frowned. I didn't say it, but suddenly other abilities flashed in my mind- powers I'd never used, but somehow could do- Flare, Nova, Dark Channel and Lash, among others.
Did something Saren did just kick in?...Or could it have been Cerberus again? "If you're going to ask me how, I have no idea."
"Nothing's ever simple with us, is it." Raptor sighed.
"Ain't that the truth." I agreed, heart dropping slightly. If I'd been out for 36 hours, that meant there were 36 hours I'd missed to spend time with my friend. And her time was running out.
I forced a smile onto my face. "But come on, normal is boring."
"Only for you."
I frowned again. "Huh."
"For some reason...I think I want to punch someone named Ty the next time I see him."
Back to the present
I still couldn't shake the feeling there was something I'd missed. And this "Ty" person...who the hell could he have been? Someone from my former life, memories starting to come to the surface?
I forced the thoughts down, grabbing my armor off the floor and lifting most of on biotically, manually putting on the few components that I didn't quite have the control to don biotically.
As I walked into the mess, I overheard a few snatches of conversation- an annoying side effect of enhanced hearing. "Been out here for more than three days searching-"
"No sign of geth activity-"
"Bourne is really a hunk. The Chief is lucky."
...Okay, I made that last one up. But the first two definitely got my attention. I normally would've kept a composed face until I was in the elevator and then let my emotions show when nobody was around, but in this case I just jumped in the air and did a backflip- biotics activating halfway through.
When I landed, I was in the shooting range of the Normandy. Normally being able to skip the long elevator rides would've filled me with joy...but not today. Not now.
Those two were right. It'd been three days since we entered this sector- the others had been smaller, able to be cleared in a day and a half, two max. This had been the first to take more time.
I sat down on a nearby bench, feeling like a krogan was standing on my shoulders, weighing them down.
If Raptor doesn't die tomorrow, four days searching this sector...it'll be the next sector. Or the one after that. Her days are numbered. Then it'll be another two years before I see her again.
Or to be precise, two years, and twelve days.
I threw a trio of knives from my arm that imbedded in the mirror across the way. I wouldn't normally have let my emotions get the best of my like that, but considering that the ship was about to be destroyed, I didn't much care right then.
I didn't know how long I sat like that- time became meaningless.
I wanted to go to Raptor, to spend what time I had left with her- but I couldn't. I couldn't have looked in the eye- not knowing that by not telling her what I knew, I was consigning her to death. For the millionth time, arguments raged in my mind. I could tell her, prevent a tragedy.
If I told her, she wouldn't learn about the collectors, wouldn't have Cerberus's backing.
If I told her, we might be able to sway the council ourselves, not need Cerberus's backing.
If I wasn't working for Cerberus, maybe Ashley wouldn't end up hating me and leaving me on Horizon.
If I wasn't working for Cerberus, maybe Shepard would just die some other way, without being brought back.
I swore loudly, somehow in prothean. Telling her presented too many unknowns.
Not telling her produced knowns I didn't much like.
As I felt the ship rock suddenly to the side, I knew the choice had been taken from me. My helmet was on my head and sealed almost instantly, biotics working almost on their own.
I stood up and teleported in one fluid motion, ending up in the mess hall. I took a step to the side an instant before a giant laser cut through the wall- close enough that my barriers dropped from the ambient heat, but far enough that I wasn't instantly bisected.
"Joker! Status Report!" Raptor's voice came over a channel to all hands.
"We've taken heavy damage, Kinetic Barriers are down- Someone get that fire out!"
I looked over at the elevator as it slowly came up and opened, and something kicked into gear as I saw Ashley stepping out, in armor but disoriented.
I instantly charged over to her, wrapped her in my arms and teleported- a second before a second laser almost cut the ship clean in two.
I could see it from the lower deck I'd teleported us to.
"What the hell is going on?"
I shook my head. "Couldn't tell you." I noticed a group of people running past to the escape pods nearby. "Ash- listen to me. Get to the escape pods- get to safety."
"I need to help Shepard and the others get out of here." I said, making my mind up. If Shepard was going to die right now, so be it. But I'd be damned before I just stood by and watched it happen without at least trying to stop it. "I can't do that until I know you're safe."
She looked at me for a long moment before nodding. "Be careful."
"That's the plan."
I watched her enter the pod, and the second she was away, I teleported. It only occured to me a minute later that if the escape pods were leaving, the only one left might end up being the one Joker would end up in. Or I'll end up getting killed.
Not like the possibility of me dying is a new thing though. Especially as the ship started to drift apart. I suddenly was floating a foot in the air, gravity gone. I didn't bother with the mag boots, I just charged at the nearest ledge and pulled myself up, using a couple of singularities to hold myself in place. I held myself there a moment before kicking off and towards the next deck.
As I got to the mess hall where I'd started, I could distantly see Raptor walking slowly up the stairs. I tried not to see all the bodies that were closer to me.
A beam collapsed as I reached the stairs, blocking me off. I grit my teeth, and activated my magboots. My biotics flared around me, and I drew back a hand, as though I was getting ready to pitch a baseball. A huge orb appeared in it, and I hurled it at the debris, looking away as it hit. As the Flare detonated, my biotics seemed to shut down completely, and as I looked back I saw a gaping hole now- and the vacuum of space waiting for me. I stepped through as quickly as I could, which wasn't fast with the magboots.
I could distantly see Shepard helping Joker up, and tried to pick up the pace. My biotics came back online, and I tried to charge, or teleport. I couldn't do either, only trot along helplessly as I could distantly see the Collector Ship bearing down on us.
I got within sight of the pod just as Shepard was climbing inside- but I was still too far to reach it, and my biotics wouldn't kick in.
She saw me before just before she could hit the ejection button, and jumped to her feet, reaching out a hand to help me as she walked towards me.
Her fingers brushed mine, and for a moment, I allowed myself to hope. Then another blast rocked the ship, knocking us both off balance, and causing an EMP to damage the magboots. As we started floating away, Shepard's eyes took on a light I'd only rarely seen- one of pure determination.
She hit me in the chest- sending me right through the open door of the escape pod, slamming me against the far wall, and into the launch button. I was stunned, unable to react as the doors shut- and I could see her drifting away, newton's third law in full effect. I moved towards the viewplate, trying to keep her in sight, maybe do something with my biotics. I'd already lost her against the void.
I couldn't see her suit begin to leak air- the only small mercy.
She was dead because of me- not just because I hadn't told her- because I'd been too stupid to just let it happen. She would've lived if not for me.
It was my fault she had died.
I felt something sliding down my face, and removed my helmet and reached a hand up to wipe it away. Another replaced it a moment later. It was only the second time I could remember crying since I'd arrived there.
I'd learned, I was stuck in this world of fiction, for better or worse.
Now, that would no longer be enough.
For the next two years, I'd only have one goal.
It would carry into the months that followed.
It was the only way I could make Shepard's sacrifice not be in vain.
The only way I could help her when she came back.
It would ultimately evolve, but it's basis would always be the same.
My goal was simple, but it would not be easy.
My goal was Surviving.
Surviving a World of Fiction.
T117: Well, the good news is that I've finally started the 'proper' sequel to SiaWoF. The better news is that I'm got over two dozen chapters done, so there shouldn't be any big delays for a long time. Best news? I'll be uploading new chapters Twice a week, on Monday and Thursday.
)You mean as long as the backlog holds and you don't get hit with a super busy schedule or writers block.(
T117: What the- are you still showing up for the A/Ns? Didn't know we were still doing that after UiaWoF ended.
)Well, maybe it's because half this chapter was made of the prologue and epilogue for UiaWoF.(
T117:...Meh, if the fans are into having you here, we can keep doing things this way. If they're not, but I still enjoy it, I'll do it anyway.
)Kinda like how you make awful cliffhangers because you're a sadistic bastard even though everyone hates you for doing it?(
T117: So, before people start asking how Bourne can teleport now- basically the short version is 'go read Users in a World of Fiction' if you really want to know.
)So you used the crossover as an excuse to amp me up?(
T117:...I wouldn't say excuse, exactly… Look, I wanted you to still have some of that stuff, but have it so that people didn't need to read the crossover to understand why you had the new powers. Especially since you don't remember getting them either...which begs the question of how you remember them in this A/N.
)Whatever. Anything else to say?(
T117: I've said it before, but since people might not have heard/read it yet, big thanks to CJohnson1990 on the site for the kickass cover image.
It seems to have been met with approval on facebook, based on the few likes and comments from people that saw it.
T117: What the- you're here too CTHI?
Affirmative. And knowing you, it is likely you'll have Starspike7 and/or his characters in the A/Ns at some point as well if he is agreeable to it.
)Yeah, that'll make the people reading this happy.(
Do not feel too bad that you are the least entertaining person of the three of us so T117 will need to bring in someone else to replace you.
)Even if that was true- why exactly would I not feel bad that you had to go and say that?(
T117: Okay, well since I want to upload this, I think we better end the A/N here.
)Fine by me.(
T117: Alright, well, here's to a new story, that'll hopefully live up to the expectations I set in the last one and entertain everyone who reads it. Until next time, Sayonara.