Chapter 27: Heralds, Hope, and Dread
Jane was astonished by what she had seen, though it was only for a few moments it had still happened, she had seen the human side of Lucius, he had seemed so... alien before his voice almost always a plain and uncaring tone. But now she had seen the cracks in his armor, that despite his size, strength and all his other enhancements he was still at heart human and he had a breaking point. But before Jane could try and push to see more of the human within the angel, Lucius was again back to his calm and collected countenance, his face unreadable, and his eyes shining with some strange light.
Jane after that sat down in the strange chair, though it was built more like a throne, Jane indicating for her companions to do like her. But before Garrus and Tali could even lay a hand on the back of a chair an Angel's rough and coarse voice rang through the room. Jane looking to see the Red Armored Angel who sat next to Lucius was speaking. "The Xenos will not deface these seats with their taint, or our meeting will be closed."
Jane bit back a retort, and instead looked at her two friends and gave them a small and displeased nod to do as they were told. Garrus and Tali moved to stand just behind Jane and her massive chair. Tali seemed the most hurt by the Angel's words, her eyes, which usually were lit with curiosity and wonder were now dark. Shepherds heart feeling for her dear friend.
Once Tali and Garrus were done moving Antros again spoke, the Lord Commander giving another sort of opening talk. "I will begin our council. I understand you have little knowledge of us Commander Shepard and that makes us hard to believe or trust. Where our places reversed I know I would have been unwilling to believe the council of ones such as yourself. But you must know this, Commander Shepard, we do not deceive you with our words or with our actions. All we are doing is what we must to ensure our mission of saving this galaxy is achieved. Know then that for as long as you and your worlds are in danger that you may trust me and my brethren and what we tell you."
Antros and Jane spoke for a while longer about trust, Jane expressing that how could she trust Lucius and his brothers if she knew next to nothing about them. Antros took this and responded telling Jane that she had as much knowledge of his people and himself as she needed to. Telling her as well that she would be allowed to learn more in time but that Antros had other more important things to do and that in keeping his secrets he ensured their enemy the Reapers knew next to nothing about them. Jane reluctantly accepted this as at least an answer.
Shepard, after having the question festering within her for some time now finally let herself ask her most important question, worrying and hints of despair evident in her voice. "How is Kaiden? I wasn't able to learn anything from the nurse you assigned to me other than that he's been under medical care."
It was the Angel in white armor who responded, once Antros nodded to him, this Angel's voice was sweet like honey but had an almost wild edge to it, though Jane could not be sure. "Your companion Is being seen to by my master and the head of our order Sanguinary Priest Albinus who has assured me before our meeting that should he be given enough time to operate and enough time to grow new limbs then Alenko should be fine."
Jane held back her relief just enough so she didn't burst into tears, but she still let out a heavy and grateful sigh, Jane saying immediately after. "Thank you."
Antros spoke again, his voice more serious and his face far grimmer. "I would now wish to discuss another topic with you Commander Shepard, one that may have ramifications felt by untold millions on your worlds and on all others. In this, I have a few challenges I must ask you." Antros's face grew darker and his eyes seemed to glow as he spoke, each question being given a moment after to let it set within Jane fully. "Will you have what it takes to unite your galaxies people behind you? Will you be able to make the decisions of galactic importance? Do you have the willpower and strength to see the ones you love torn apart by monsters? Will you have what it takes to send thousands of living beings and to their deaths for a barely worthy victory? Or worse, will you have the strength to send those beings to their death so simply halt the enemy long enough to ensure you are able to retreat? I do not ask you to answer this now Commander but you must think on them, as the weight of the galaxy may well rest on your ability to decide what to do in these moments where such decisions will arise."
Jane was caught unprepared from the sudden shift in the weight of Antros' words so much in fact she was utterly silent for nearly a whole minute, the pressure mounting on her only growing as she felt every eye in the room upon her, both friendly and not so friendly. But eventually, Jane spoke, after finally collecting composure enough to speak without fear of sounding overly weak. "I will do whatever it takes to stop the reapers. I hope I'll be able to rely on you to help me in that pursuit as well?" Jane added her question at the end in the hopes of garnering some reassurance on the Angel's part, but his answer was Anything but assuring.
"You will have to be the one to do these Things, not I or my Brothers, or else our mission to save your galaxy is pointless, you must not only be saved but taught how to keep yourselves that way as we will not always be saved by some benevolent and powerful force, you must be the defenders of your own peace, and your own guardians. We will offer our strength when we can and when it is desperately needed but we will not take the full weight of your galaxy, that is for your people to bear, Not mine. we will continue to aid you but we will only fully come out of our hiding once the true war has begun." Responses Antros, his voice not callus but still serious and foreboding.
The meeting continued on the path of gritty truth and realism for a while. Jane was forced to confront some of her worst fears about what came next, the war. Antros's words were sometimes harsh but Jane began to understand why they were. He wasn't just meaning to insult her or patronize her, he was forcing her to think and he was making her question things, she needed too. Things like what the Council truly wanted, what the Systems Alliance wanted, control. At first, Jane had wanted to protest, Garrus with her, but Lucius quickly explained what he meant in detail. Antros pointed out that they had proven themselves as nothing more than craven fools. This only being proven true by the Citadel Council, even with the remains of a fully-fledged Reaper, had completely ignored it and covered up all evidence of what had really happened. Then more recently, when the colonies needed help when the Collectors were consuming the border territories, the Systems Alliance did nothing to aid them until a colony had survived the attack.
This all had been things Jane had seen, and yes she had seen them as corrupt and bureaucratic but she hadn't seen them in quite the same light as Antros painted it. How instead of the Councilors simply being afraid and the Systems Alliance to busy, that it was the greed and ambitions of the Citadel, and the Systems Alliance Parliament. That these immoral decisions were being made for political gain and for power rather than simple misinformation or fear. On some level, Jane wanted to not believe that the nation she had fought for and the Citadel Council she had saved were this corrupt, but in all Antros' arguments simply seemed to true for her to object. Of course, she held out hope that with these recent events of the Collectors Base, at least what remained of it, that the Council would finally listen to her and the rest of the galaxy with them and start to honestly prepare for the war that was to come.
But Antros showed his grim realism reaffirming to Jane when she expressed such thoughts, telling her that they were juvenile hopes and dreams. Antros also declared that even if Jane brought a hundred 'Collector Bases' still in working order the Council would still not believe her. Why would they want to believe Jane? Because she was showing them the truth? They wouldn't care about that as they hadn't in the past. What they would care about is their personal holdings, their political power, keeping the people of the galaxy complacent and ignorant of the truth. While all they truly cared about was the standing of their species at the end of their reign, all else mattering nothing to them.
Garrus again tried to interject then saying the Citadel was beholden to rules and wasn't run by wild savages like the Angels. The Turian being stopped mid-sentence by the barking of the Angel that had told him to stand, Garrus only just keeping his mouth closed after that.
Antros continued to speak after that, saying that perhaps some would listen to Jane and the truth she brought with her, but those that were true in heart were desperate few in a den of snakes like the Citadel. And those people would often be unable to provide the support needed for what came next. Antros again and deliberately mentioning the War that would inevitably be coming for them.
But before Jane could attempt to push back with her own retorts about how she knew Antros was going to be wrong, he changed the subject as though it had either grown boring to him or he had said all he wished to say on the matter.
The conversation shifted next to a more agreeable topic, at least one that didn't cause Jane any more grief than she already carried.
Antros saying in a calm but more open tone. "Since you have been agreeable and listened to our warnings I will allow there to be a reprieve from our own concerns and our questions. As a sign of good faith, I will permit you to ask me and some of my brethren questions of us, though they may only be one pertaining to more things of culture and beliefs, rather than our military or similar aspects of our people. Is this an agreeable exchange for your time?" Finished Antros his face still looking stiff as though he was holding it tightly like a wild beast.
Jane felt a desire within herself to say no, and to instead now take her chance to see Kaiden. But then she heard the ecstatic noises coming from Kelly at the chance to learn such things of a never before seen group, even if they were in some way human. So knowing if she denied Kelly her chance to do this Jane agreed saying. "Sounds like a pretty good deal," Jane added, mainly in the hopes of lightening the mood further, "I'll finally get to know something about you giants besides the fact that you're abrasive."
Jane could actually hear the gasp of excitement Kelly made when she heard Jane's reply. The sound so strange given the atmosphere of the room Jane almost burst out laughing. And apparently she wasn't the only one as Shepard heard Tali stifle her laughter, with a loud and blatantly fake cough. Jane silently praying her friends hadn't done something to annoy the Angels. Which based on the silence and stoicism that prevailed after the moment of Jane's tension, she seemed to be in the clear.
Finally after taking one last second to ensure that tension was absent in the moment Jane said, indicating with her left hand to Kelly. "I'd like to request that my companion, Ms. Chambers, be the one allowed to ask you these questions, she's a very big enthusiast for different cultures and different groups of people. But I'd let her tell you more about that. Is this alright with you, Commander Antros?" Jane finished and used what she remembered of Antros' title in the hopes of appeasing him more.
Antros looked at Jane a moment then turned his head to Kelly, his face unreadable as though he wore a mask over every part of it. Then after a second of observing Kelly Antros looked back to Jane and said his voice passive. "I will allow this. Now ask what you wish." Antros finished turning his head once again to look upon the Psychologist and Yeoman of the Normandy, Kelly seeming to almost shrink as Antros' steely gaze bore into her.
But once Kelly was given a moment to adjust to Antros' intensity she was able to acclimate to it, the Yeoman even being able to add a bit of a joyous edge to her voice as she asked her first question. "Where do you all come from? I mean where were you born? On earth or were you born on a-"
But before Kelly could even finish with her questions Antros' face grew dark, his eyes turning into all consuming voids. This sudden and grim shift in his features caused Kelly to lose her voice and fall silent. Then as if Antros had sensed it the ship's alarms began to blare loudly, red lights flickering to life along with them. This all causing Janes instincts as an N7 to spring into action, but before she could even move Antros' Brethren were already on the move the one who had earlier forced Garrus and Tali to stand now flying past Jane and her Crew as if they weren't there, the giant warrior nearly smashing into Garrus, the Turian only just dodging in time from the possibly dangerous game of chicken. The Angel warrior leaving the room and disappearing down the hall.
Other Angels in the room moved as well the one dressed all in black armor attempting to speak with Antros. the Commander staring grimley at Shepard as though she had just revealed some horrid and obscene truth to him. His wrath only just being held back by the Chaplain if Jane remembered his title correctly. While this happened the Golden armored Angel moved to stand closer to Antros as well though Jane couldn't tell if he was talking as well to Antros as the Chaplain seemed to. While on Janes side of the table her team were attempting to figure out what was happening, all of them but Jane looking around and asking each other questions in an attempt to discern what was happening. Jane only not joining them in this due to the feeling of ice gripping tightly to her spine as she looked into Antros's eyes.
Finally after what felt like eons to Jane, the sheer intensity of Antros' grimace seeming to slow the passage of time, the giant man placed his knuckled fists on the table ahead of him, his back arching and his powerful gaze sweeping over Jane and her whole group, almost as if they were prey now. This unnerved Jane to no end but finally he broke his silence a moment later, his voice seemed to be held back from a full on roar by only threads of patience.
"I recommend you return to your shuttle Shepard, I will be dropping off those that were being treated in the Medical Bay with you once you arrive."
Jane attempted to speak once he finished her mind racing with questions, like what had happened to turn Antros from grime to dark and brooding. But as if Antros has heard her thoughts he shouted back in response, those tattered remnants of patience clearly having been spent. "You will discover for yourself, but I suggest you may thank your crew for this! Know this Shepard that it is some of your crew that are the ones to blame for what has become of Kaiden, not I. My Brothers would have seen him made whole once more but your crew squandered that! Now get out of my sight before I see you all torn to shreds for your betrayal of our trust!"
Jane felt her heart drop at what he said about Kaiden, her mind racing with all that was happening. But almost instinctively Jane left the room as though her body was auto-piloting itself to safety. Shepard's companions followed her almost without hesitation.
As they raced down the halls of the Angels ship Jane felt watched the entire journey as though now the very walls themselves would crush her should she make a wrong turn. The only other thoughts going through her mind being a desperate mental search for possible answers for what was happening.
After several minutes of backtracking, Jane thanking herself for her impeccable sense of direction, she was finally back in the hangar bay. Now though it was alive like a hive of hornets with people, running around like swarms of workers. Jane's eyes catching on the sight of shuttles being lowered from the ceiling, their size nearly equaling that of the Normandy, yet she could tell they were starfighters rather than a frigate like her vessel. This only cemented in Jane's mind that she needed to find out what was going on, and fast.
But then her eyes caught on to the hangars other group of people, Angels. There were almost thirty of them each with unique looking armor and weapons, and they were standing around the Normandy in a half circle around the ramp Into her ship. Their guns already trained on the opening as if they were waiting for targets to slaughter. Jane approached them cautiously hoping she wasn't about to be killed the instant she gathered their attention. But as if sensing her arrival, an Angel, whose armor was more ornate in its deocation his helmet even possessing gilded wings attached to the sides, turned around and looked down at Jane, the massive assault rifle in his hands being lowered only slightly as he spoke to her.
"Commander Shepard you and your… companions will board your shuttle and await further instruction." Jane attempted to speak but the massive warrior spat back interrupting her, his voice more callous and outraged. "This is not a request, Mortal. Now board that shuttle!"
Jane quickly moved towards her ship, her friends and present crew racing to follow on her heels. Once they were within the ship the Angels lowered their rifles, but they still remained in stances that told Jane that could change faster than she had any hope to survive.
Their present officer from moments ago coming to the head of his group and barking at Jane with instructions, his voice so powerful it seemed to even be booming around the giant hangar. "You and your vessel are to await the mortals that were being treated in the Medical Chambers, they will be your responsibility now. After they are aboard you are to leave The Angel's Retribution immediately. If you have not left once the injured are aboard your vessel you will be forcefully ejected. After you are in the void further orders will be given for you to follow, if they are not heeded the other ships in the system will be destroyed as a result."
The officer spoke with such speed and rage that Jane's mind barely was able to pick up on him mentioning other ships in System.
The next half hour passed in immense tension, Jane being forced to stare down three dozen super soldiers with guns that made hers look like pea-shooters. But finally after all that time Jane saw a set of doors on the far wall open a group of injured people coming from within it. Jane's eyes immediately spotted Kaiden, his condition so terrible he couldn't even walk. His only ability to move was the two Sisters Hospitaller carrying him towards the Normandy. While other sisters helped the others who needed help walking. Kaiden and the rest of the injured boarded the Normandy, many of the wounded asking questions, but the sisters remained silent, as if shunning those they helped. Once the last of the wounded were aboard Jane ordered the Normandy to to take off. Her loyal ship pushing off the crimson deck, then flying through the hangar opening and entering into the vastness of space. Jane's mind was still racing to comprehend what was happening as she took the elevator. Her mind abuzz with emotion and a thousand different thoughts and feelings.
Hello everyone I hope you are all doing well. I hope this chapter was enjoyable and in some way compelling
I'm sorry to say this but I'm going to be taking a break from publishing for a while, I'm unsure how long this time will be but due to things happening in real life I am just unable to concentrate on writing. I will continue in time on both my stories but this chapter will be the last published for a while as I deal with these events in my life. Thank you for reading this and I hope you all will have a lovely day. I hope to return with my head and heart in a better place