A/N: Before we go any further, this needs to be said: if you're looking for a story where Revan is all-powerful, unbeatable and destroys everything in her path, then this is not the story for you!
Jedi and lightsabers have plenty of weaknesses that I won't hesitate to exploit for the purposes of writing a better story. And since we don't know how the Force or any other Star Wars tech works when applied to the ME universe, I won't hesitate to make up some appropriate new ones. If the characters are all-powerful from the start, after all, that leaves no room for growth, and nothing interesting to write about.
That said, thank you so much for sticking with me, following and favouriting. As a Christmas present from me to you, here are TWO new chapters to tide you over during Christmas and the New Year! Merry Christmas everyone, and for those who don't celebrate it enjoy your holiday!
Shepard studied the magnetic plate concealed within the backplate of her armour, frowning in annoyance. She snapped her assault rifle into place on the plate and pulled it back off again, feeling it come away far too easily.
She sighed. That last fight against the two krogan and four vorcha had been a little hairy; she must have dented one of the magnetic coils. She hadn't been able to stop moving, charging then darting around behind the slower krogan to keep one of them between her and Miranda's SMG, rolling away, then charging again. Her implant had been uncomfortably warm at the end; although she was quick to note that if Cerberus hadn't upgraded it she wouldn't have been able to pull any of that off at all.
It was perfect timing for her backplate to break, too: they were due to arrive at Purgatory this afternoon, and she still had to go over the Cerberus intelligence report on the prison. And then verify that as best she could via the extranet.
She grabbed the backplate from its storage clasps and headed for the elevator. Maybe there'd be some spare parts in the armoury she could use to fix it.
She stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the CIC, sighing to herself in frustration. She wasn't sure why she bothered double-checking the Illusive Man's information with what she found on the extranet, really. After all, EDI controlled all the information that was sent both to and from the ship. If the Illusive Man was fabricating intelligence, EDI wouldn't allow anything to get through that contradicted it. Hopefully Carth and Joker could come up with something that might help with that… but to be honest, she doubted it. Cerberus was proving themselves too good at this sort of thing.
She gave Kelly Chambers a quick nod as she stepped into the CIC, then headed straight for the armoury. As the door slid open she spotted Jacob leaning over a work bench with the parts of what looked like a heavy pistol spread out in front of him, and she found herself hesitating for a moment.
He looked up, and straightened as he saw her. You weren't just hurt, Shepard. You were dead.
She shook herself firmly, forcing the memory of the words he had said to her shortly after she had woken up on Lazarus Station out of her mind. She had to get it together when it came to this man. She was his commanding officer, and she had been avoiding him based on things he had said while he was under a great deal of stress. It wasn't fair.
Besides, he had been tactless, but he had also been honest.
"Commander Shepard," he greeted her, saluting smartly.
Shepard didn't expect salutes from anyone aboard the ship – after all, Cerberus wasn't a military operation, even if the Normandy's personnel were behaving as though it was – but she nodded in return anyway. "Jacob. How are you doing?" she asked, trying to keep the stiffness from her tone. "Have you got everything you need in here?"
He fell into an unconscious parade rest, hands clasped behind his back. If she remembered the information she had read in his file, he had been a soldier with the Alliance before he joined Cerberus. The tension in his arms and shoulders was obvious. Clearly she wasn't the only one feeling a little uncomfortable. "Yes, ma'am—well, everything I need for now," he amended. "Some of these guns are a little on the basic side. I recommend we get some upgrades soon."
Shepard nodded, clutching her backplate under one arm and trying not to fidget with it. "I agree. You would think Cerberus would spring for a few decent weapons and some quality armour after they spent so much money bringing me back, but here we are."
Jacob smiled awkwardly and eyed the backplate. "Something wrong with that?" he asked.
"After the last mission it's lost some of its magnetic strength," she explained, turning it over in her hands. "I think I might have damaged one of the coils. Do we have any replacements on hand?"
He nodded and gestured for her to hand it over. "We've got a couple, yeah. I'll have it repaired within the hour."
"Oh… that's all right, I can fix it myself," she protested lamely. It felt somehow wrong to accept any assistance from the man.
He raised an eyebrow. "It's my job, Shepard," he said bluntly, but not without a hint of surprising, but welcome, humour. "And I'm happy to do it. Hand it over."
She forced a polite smile. "Thanks, Jacob."
She waited probably a beat longer than she should have, then spun and headed for the door, inwardly cursing her own awkwardness. She had to figure out some way to fix this—
"Shepard, wait." She stopped, and heard him sigh in resignation. "I've been wanting to talk to you. About what happened after you found me on Lazarus Station."
Cautiously she turned back, making a conscious effort not to fold her arms over her chest. "That… wasn't a good day."
He winced. "No. Look, Shepard… I'm sorry," he said, and she found herself fighting to keep her surprise from showing. "Seeing you walking around was a shock. I didn't think… I mean, I wasn't sure if the doctors would succeed at all. To see you up and around was… I mean… ah, shit. I feel like I keep saying the wrong thing to you." He rubbed the back of his neck and looked up at her, and she could see the sheer discomfort in his eyes… but also the effort he was making to overcome it. He seemed to gather himself before continuing. "Shepard, I'm really sorry for how I spoke to you. I made what had to be a pretty confusing situation a lot worse. I should have kept my mouth shut."
She eyed him warily. "It wasn't just confusing. It was scary as hell, Jacob," she told him bluntly.
He grimaced and nodded. "Yeah. I bet. And I go and say these bullshit things… I'm sorry. I really am."
She blinked, and felt a weight she hadn't realised she'd been carrying lift from her shoulders. He sounded completely genuine. "I… It's all right. Thank you. Sorry about the, uh…" she mimed pressing her forearm against his throat.
He snorted. "I deserved it. In your position, I might have done the same. Look, Commander, I guess I say dumb things sometimes, but I'll try and keep my foot as far away from my mouth as possible in future."
She returned the smile hesitantly, but less warily than before. "Thanks, Jacob. Appreciate it."
She made her way out of the armoury and back into the CIC, running and rerunning everything Jacob had just said to her over in her mind. She hadn't expected him to apologise to her. Hell, she hadn't even expected him to realise he had done something wrong. She had originally pegged him as the kind of person who said what was on his mind without worrying too much about the consequences, but maybe circumstances had led her to the wrong conclusion. After all, he had been stuck on that station, under attack, just as she had. Under attack by his own mechs, even – as the head of security they would have been his responsibility. It certainly hadn't been a normal day at the office for him.
She frowned to herself. She was usually a good judge of character, but it wasn't the first time she had been wrong about someone thanks to first impressions. She had to fix her mistake.
The first step was to stop avoiding him. He was a member of her crew, whether he was with Cerberus or not, and she knew how important it was to know her own crew. She resolved to drop by more often and talk to him.
Second… it galled her to admit it, but she knew she had been subconsciously omitting him from her battle plans. She would have to stop doing that. Part of knowing her crew was knowing how they fought, too, and he had shown himself to be a solidly talented biotic and a dependable soldier on Freedom's Progress. Going forward, she thought firmly, she would have to make much better use of the man.
Everything was dark, an oily, inky blackness. And quiet. So quiet, she could hear her own thoughts, like the tiniest whispers in her ears.
She turned slowly, robes rustling around her legs, conscious of the cool weight of her mask pressing down on the edges of her forehead and cheekbones. She was alone... and it should have been comforting, but for the barest tickle of something at the back of her mind.
She clenched her hands tightly around her lightsabers, fingers running over the well-used solid ridges of the grips. Something was making her index fingers twitch toward the activation studs.
The feeling in the back of her mind grew, forming itself into something more. A presence. Something dark, malevolent… ancient. She clenched her teeth, forcing herself not to spin around, searching for the wraith in the dark. Nothing was there. She was alone.
But the presence grew… slowly, billowing like a bank of fog.
Anger rose up within her to match it, stoking the fires of her power. She was not going to be toyed with. Her lightsabers ignited with a deep, reverberating thrum that echoed around her in the empty space. She stalked forward, step by step through the dark, and reached out with the Force, searching, hunting for that dark presence.
It shrieked, a sound like a metallic klaxon, and suddenly it was rushing toward her. Fear stabbed her with icy claws, and some base instinct she hadn't given in to for years took over. She dropped, throwing herself to the floor and covering her head. She couldn't move, could only feel as it rolled over her, and into her, and through her… and spoke to her.
"We are unstoppable."
Revan gasped, eyes snapping open, rising into a crouch and reaching frantically for her lightsabers—
But nothing was there. The Normandy's air-filtration unit hummed quietly overhead, and the stars glimmered outside the viewport, seeming to flicker slightly as the ship sailed between them at faster-than-light speeds. She was right where she was when she had first closed her eyes, directly in front of the viewport, intending to meditate.
She let out a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding and collapsed back down to sit cross-legged on the floor. Another dream—or vision.
Sithspit. It had been clearer this time, she was sure of it. The feeling of that… presence. The feeling of being so utterly out-classed and powerless that there was nothing she could do but wait to die.
She pressed her hands firmly against her knees, stilling the shaking of her fingers. The feeling had been abhorrent… but also familiar. If it was a vision of the Reapers, as she suspected, why did it feel familiar? She had never heard of the Reapers before coming to this galaxy, not even during her travels in search of the Star Maps with the Ebon Hawk crew.
It had to be something from her time as Darth Revan. Something the Jedi had stolen.
She raised her left arm before her and awkwardly made the thumb-sliding-across-fingertips motion that activated the omnitool Miranda had issued her with. The bright orange interface spilled upwards from her forearm and into her chin before she adjusted the angle. It took her a moment to remember how to navigate to the holos but once she was there she found the file Shepard had loaded up for her.
The orange disappeared, replaced by a slightly grainy image of a huge, red holo of a vaguely mollusc-shaped creature. 'Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh, you touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding,' Sovereign rumbled, the weight of his voice somehow carrying through even a secondhand recording.
Revan shivered. She had watched it many times, over and over again, trying to make sense of the feelings it evoked. Fear, foreboding… recognition.
'… Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything.'
It was bluster, hyperbole… and yet, it wasn't. Every time she heard those words, it was like tendrils of the Force were scratching at her spine, tickling the base of her neck, whispering move, move move, do something, fix this...
She sprang to her feet, unable to sit still any longer, and the image of Sovereign shattered at the movement, the omnitool closing itself down. She began to pace the room, but before she had taken more than a few steps, she heard a rap on her door.
She stopped, taking a deep breath and shaking her hands by her sides, forcing herself to relax. They were still a few hours away from Purgatory – a space station that doubled as a prison, apparently – and the next stop on Shepard's recruitment drive. She hoped she hadn't missed any briefings.
She palmed the door open and found Shepard herself standing there, eyeing HK warily. The droid was very obviously – and obnoxiously – watching the commander. "HK," Revan snapped. She did not want to deal with him right now.
She hadn't known it was possible for a droid to play innocent until she had met HK-47. "Yes, master?"
"Do you remember the command I gave you regarding the crew of this ship?"
"Affirmation: Master, it is impossible for a well-maintained droid to forget instructions."
"True," she agreed. "Perhaps I should ask Carth to give you a once-over. Just to ensure you remain well-maintained."
HK paused for a moment, then subtly angled his body away from Shepard. "Retraction: That won't be necessary, master."
"Good." Revan turned her attention to Shepard, who seemed a little uneasy, although she tried to hide it. She smiled wanly. Dealing with HK was like dealing with a teenager sometimes. A heavily-armed, volatile, and single-minded teenager. "Shepard. What can I do for you?"
The commander dragged her own attention from HK with visible effort. "I've had to revise our strategy for Purgatory," she said. "I need to go over it with you."
Revan nodded and stepped to one side. "Come in." She led the way, taking a seat on one of the couches that lined the left side of the room.
Shepard sat too, but paused a moment before speaking. "Are you all right?" she asked. "You seem… spooked."
"Spooked?" Revan repeated. She felt her mouth twisting into a half-smile as she considered that assessment. "That sounds about right, I suppose. I watched the recording of Sovereign again," she confessed. "I…" She paused, unsure how much, if any, of her worries she should pass on to Shepard. Shepard knew she knew something about the Reapers, but the commander didn't know Revan's full story. If Revan revealed that she couldn't remember what, exactly, she knew about them, she would have to explain why.
She felt a sudden compulsion to spill everything, but bit the inside of her lip before she could open her mouth. She couldn't do that. Carth was right, Shepard wouldn't react well to it.
Or would she?
Frustrated, Revan fidgeted, shifting position and curling one leg up beneath her. She didn't know the commander well enough to know how she would react, yet, so she would have to keep her past as Darth Revan to herself for now. "I'm worried," she admitted – truthfully – instead. "The Force told me I need to be here, but I'm just one woman. I've been through all the data you shared with me. How is my presence going to help you go up against a foe so… overwhelmingly superior?"
Shepard sighed. "I don't know," she admitted, "but I need all the help I can get, I know that much. Maybe it's less about the destination and more about the journey?"
"Maybe," Revan agreed doubtfully. She shook her head. "We can worry about that later, though. Right now there are more immediate concerns. You wanted to brief me on changes for the Purgatory mission?"
Shepard nodded, visibly switching gears. "Yes. Right. So, Jack is a prisoner on Purgatory Station, and by all accounts he's incredibly dangerous. On Purgatory, particularly dangerous prisoners are kept in special cells designed to keep them completely immobilised and in some cases, in a state of hibernation."
"Hibernation?" Revan made a face. "That seems harsh. Back home they're usually either locked up or sent to work in prison colonies."
"This isn't a normal Council or government-run facility," Shepard explained. "It's privately owned and unregulated. So…" she shrugged, "they can do what they like."
"Right," Revan said grimly. "And I'm sure the people running the place are pillars of the community. Are we going to need to break Jack out, then?"
Shepard shifted in her seat. "Maybe. The warden has agreed to a deal with Cerberus, apparently."
Revan snorted. "I'm sure he has. And of course, both parties to that deal are eminently trustworthy. So the answer is yes, we'll probably need to break Jack out."
"Yes," Shepard confirmed. "The problem is, however, that we don't know how. Of all the data Cerberus has been able to gather on the prison, information about the cells themselves has been very sparse."
Revan raised her eyebrows. "You don't know how? Surely there's some kind of master control we could override. There always seems to be one of those. Do you have any slicers in the team?"
"'Slicers'?" Shepard repeated, frowning.
Revan searched for different words. "Technical experts."
"Oh." Shepard nodded. "Yes, both Kasumi and Miranda are skilled with tech. Kasumi, in particular, should be well-suited to this kind of task. I'll be bringing her along. The problem is, though, we don't know if there'll be a convenient master control system at all. In fact, it's likely there won't be, since it's a maximum security prison. There's a significant chance the only way to break Jack out will be by accessing his containment cell directly and disabling its mechanical components. We'll need an engineer for that – and we don't have one trained for combat."
"You shouldn't need one. My lightsabers can cut through almost anything," Revan reminded her. "Even solid durasteel isn't usually a problem, unless it's been reinforced by cortosis ore."
"I don't think we have either of those materials in this galaxy, but I get the picture," Shepard told her wryly. "Still, I don't want to risk it. You wouldn't be trying to cut through a door, you'd be slicing into the containment pod itself. There'd be too much of a chance you'd accidentally cut through something vital."
Revan propped an arm up on the back of the couch and set her chin on her hand, thinking. "All right. So you're going to bring one of the non-combat engineers with us." She wasn't a huge fan of this idea, she had to admit, but Shepard had earned her trust. If the commander said it was necessary, it was necessary.
Shepard nodded. "Yeah. I don't like it, but I don't see a way around it. If I only had civilian engineers on board I wouldn't risk it, but according to his Cerberus records Matthran Cherry was a marine for a few years before he switched to the Engineer Corps. He'd be able to handle it."
"Matt Cherry? I met him the other night." She still wasn't sure if he had been flirting with her. He had seemed like a decent enough guy, though, and knowing he had once been a soldier made a couple of things click in her head. She had thought he seemed in better shape than the average engineer.
"Oh, really? Well, good. I want to assign you the job of protecting him," Shepard told her.
Revan stared at Shepard. Idle thoughts about Matt fled, and suddenly she wasn't quite sure what she was feeling. "Protecting him?" she repeated.
The commander didn't seem to notice her hesitancy. "Yeah. Normally I would assign two of my team to take on a job like that, but your talents would be perfect for it. What do you think? Could you manage it on your own?"
Revan sat back, crossing her arms over her chest. She hadn't needed to focus all her efforts on protecting someone for… well, as far back as she could remember, without bringing the false memories of Asha into it. She highly doubted Darth Revan had been too focussed on protecting people, and no one had required her protection during the quest to find the Star Forge. Even Mission, a literal child, was more than capable of looking after herself.
But her hesitancy had nothing to do with the person involved, she knew that. She had met Matt for a total of about five minutes; the extent of her feelings toward him were that he seemed nice. So what was the problem?
"It'll take me mostly out of the fight," she warned Shepard, buying time to sort through her feelings.
"Will it?" Shepard countered. "You're effective even from a distance, and fast enough to move in and out of range before any potential opponents realise Matt is unprotected."
Realisation dawned. She had received a taste of the serenity and satisfaction of the light side on Omega yesterday, when she had used the Force to enhance her speed and reflexes enough to take out that krogan mercenary, and she had liked it. A lot. Protecting a non-combatant was a very… Jedi-like thing to do.
She wanted to feel that hope again. That tiny kernel of light. She had only decided to use the tools of the dark side back on Korriban because she hadn't had time to figure out how to defeat Malak any other way. Now, like it or not… she had time.
She was feeling a little apprehensive about it, though, because agreeing to act as a non-combatant's bodyguard and protector from the beginning was practically the same as throwing her lot in and deciding to go full-Jedi for this mission. She hadn't done that since those few weeks just after Bastila had brought her to Dantooine. The title of 'Jedi' carried with it a heavy weight of responsibility. Could she live up to it, after all this time spent dabbling in the dark?
She had to try. And regardless of whether she was light or dark, from a purely pragmatic point of view Shepard was right. With her ability to sense moods and intent, and block projectiles with her lightsabers, she would be ideal for the job. She sat forward again. "True. All right. I can do it."
"Good." Shepard grinned, and got to her feet. "I need to go talk to Kasumi, get her briefed as well. We should be at Purgatory in about two hours."
Revan followed her to the door, which slid open at the commander's approach. "I'll be ready."
As she stepped out, Shepard eyed HK-47 again and stopped. She glanced back over at Revan. "I want to bring him along too."
Revan raised her eyebrows as HK visibly straightened. "Really? I mean, sure, he'll be an asset, but he hasn't been particularly… nice to you."
Shepard snorted. "I've made friends with a krogan battlemaster. Your droid doesn't scare me."
HK drew himself up indignantly. "Retort: I am unable to convey menace effectively because I am currently relegated to the role of 'ornament'. I expect this will change when I am finally able to put my skills to proper use."
Shepard smiled lop-sidedly. "I look forward to it. See you on the battlefield, HK."