She is running through a literal hell on Earth, nothing but the pistol in her hand and her father to aid her, watching as several towering Reapers turn Vancouver into a wasteland of rubble and burning corpses. Kaiden's voice comes over her comms, telling Anderson that the Normandy is in the air and coming to them just before a dreadnought gets blown out of the air and the connection is lost because of large-scale Eezo contamination in the air. They are alone again, and they are running out of real estate. With a mighty leap, Vicky throws herself off the edge of a mostly collapsed building, her father right behind her as they come to a small group of soldiers huddled under some rubble, one of them pinned by the leg as Reaper cannibals fire at them. Anderson lifts the beam off the man's leg with the help of the others, and Vicky uses her training as a soldier to kill the enemy troops to clear the way.
The scene shifts and she is on Mars, fighting through the Cerberus infantry outside the facility and grumpily making do with a Mantis model sniper that she picked up from a dead Alliance marine. Kaiden is at her right, Vega at her left, and she is having to listen to a man who should have known her question whether or not she knew about this invasion beforehand. She does her best to keep calm and explain that she hasn't had contact with any element of Cerberus since turning herself and her ship over to Alliance Command, and still Kaiden won't drop it. She hears the sound of a heavy impact on armor plating, turning with her gun raised against the new threat, only to see Vega standing over Alenko growling that he can confirm she hasn't had contact, having been her guard more often than not and still being with her as a friend when off duty, reminding him that her communications have been monitored according to protocol the entire time. Once inside the main building of the facility, Kaiden questions her again, and she's had enough. She drags him down to her level and speaks barely above a whisper to tell him in no uncertain terms that she's been out of the loop, and even if she had been able to get a message out, it would have gone to Miranda, now an Alliance Operative tracking Cerberus funding and actions, or Tali, recently made an Admiral of the fleet.
Minutes later, they hear a firefight in the ducts and it is a great surprise to see a familiar blue face come tumbling out, a singularity thrown negligently behind her as she rolls to her feet and smoothly puts two bullets through the helmets of each soldier behind her. Liara is just as surprised to see her there but happily reunites with the woman who had enabled her to become the Shadow Broker and begin to use those resources to help the allied governments of the galaxy. James bows out, knowing how his commanding officer likes to run her fireteams, and heads back to the shuttle to prep their exfiltration. With her help, they hack into the base-wide surveillance network and uncover the truth about what has happened here. A new arrival, Dr. Ava, had gone into the security offices and taken over, shooting the on-duty soldier and venting the atmosphere from several key points in the facility. Vicky and her team continue their pursuit, all the way to the database at the center of everything, only to learn that they are too late and the Cerberus infiltrator already has what they came for. Vicky pursues and calls Vega in, breathing a sigh of relief when just as the enemy shuttle seems it will get away, an Alliance Kodiak barrels into the side of it and knocks it down onto the roof of the building. The next several minutes are a blur of fire, screaming, and bullets, then she is hoisting Alenko's broken body over her shoulder and running up the ramp of the Normandy with James and Liara behind her.
The crash of something heavy smashing against the wall jerks Vicky out of her deep unconsciousness, her heart pounding in her chest and panic burning in her eyes. The first thing she sees is the remains of the clock she threw in her sleep, scattered across the private quarters on deck one of the Normandy SR-2. The second thing she sees is her Collector armor spread over her personal workbench. She'd been working on it the previous night, trying to prepare for the next mission given to her by the Turian councilor. Communication with Palaven had been lost about twenty minutes after the Reapers touched down, and the Normandy had been asked to assist in whatever way possible. Victory was also personally told by Councilor Sparatus that if she wished to get aid for Earth, she would need the Turian Primarch to call for a council of war.
Though she wishes once again that anything would ever be simple, at least now she has a direction and a target. A flick of her fingers pulls up telemetry data provided by EDI, letting her know that she has two hours and forty three minutes before they have reached Menae. A long stretch and several cracks later and she flicks her fingers again to check for any comms about Kaidan's current status, but nothing is there. For now, she has to assume that no news is good news and move on.
She gets out of her bed and begins her routine, the ever-present pressure that she has no name for still on the edge of her mind, a haze that seems to whisper to her constantly. There is no calm for her these days, nothing to make her feel ready or even rested anymore. Her eyes slide shut and she centers herself, falling into the rhythm of her workout, running through the motions of her CQC training and a few other disciplines that she picked up here and there. She can still feel the edges of her mind pinching until she reaches what Samara taught her those many months ago.
~The ancient woman sits in the starboard observation deck, surrounded by a brilliant blue glow, churning the air and pulsing in time with her breaths. Beside her sits a scarred woman of Indian descent, breathing as evenly as she can while seated in the lotus position. She's been here for three hours now attempting to shut off her mind, her worries and insecurities, but it isn't working.
A rich and soft voice speaks from her right, "You are not quieting your thoughts, Shepard. You must find something to focus on, something that you can make your fixed point and then see only that, hear only that, feel only that. It must become all that you are. Only then will you find peace and serenity within." For a moment, anger and mulish stubbornness flashes across her face and her eyes open to glare at the Justicar, then she breathes deep and tries to find something to focus on.
At first she focuses on the face of her beloved Tali, but that proves more of a distraction than a centering point. Seeing her beauty behind her eyes causes her pulse to race, her skin to flush, and several other sensations to drive her nearly to total frustration. In trying to force her heart to slow, she inadvertently finds her focus when she can feel her blood slow in her veins and her breaths even out without prompting. Each beat pushes a quiet murmur through her ears, her muscles relax, and the galaxy in need falls away. Nothing matters now but the gentle thrum in her veins, the muscle at the center of her chest slow and strong.
Her pulse drops further and further until the AI monitoring her pings the ship medic in alarm, the Commander's vitals registering at twelve beats per minute, only breathing in and out every ten seconds. In her mind, all Shepard sees is the expanse of nothingness that is most of the universe, broken with stars and bands of cosmic dust. Her conscious mind begins to grasp a greater truth, a greater purpose for her life when the thought that all of this is still less to her than the eternity of a life well lived in love. When she comes to again, seemingly seconds stretched into eons later, it is to see Karin hovering over her, omni-tool glowing and face frantic, the harsh light of the medbay driving into her pupils like needles as a calm Samara stands against the far wall seemingly repeating over and over that it is alight, that Shepard is perfectly healthy and nothing is wrong with her. EDI notices the rise in her vital signs first, then Chakwas, and even through the scolding and the crushing hug, all she can hear is her own thoughts of how much she loves the family she has built.~
The meditation training had evolved from there to Asari Kata, turning the already proficient little woman into a being of extraordinary grace both on and off the field of battle. Unbidden by choice, a slender asari sword makes its way into Victory's hand as she slowly mills through the opening moves of the most natural fighting style she has ever learned, each movement sure and precise in pacing that escalates and grows with progression. This has been her routine every morning since the aged Justicar Matriarch had insisted that she learn it, and every repetition becomes more fluid and closer to the perfection that is usually only achieved after nearly a millennium of practice and use. Even on Earth when confined to a gilded cage Victory did this, unarmed and without fail.
Halfway through, the door to her cabin slides open and a blue wraith slips in to speak to her, stopping with a gasp and a look of awe. Liara has never seen her friend do this, has not even heard a rumor that this is what she was doing. Any reports she ever had mentioned something from Old Earth history called Tai Chi, some Chinese art that was half yoga and half self-defense, but if this is what was being reported of then her agents have much more to learn. This is something more, something sacred that Liara herself at barely more than one hundred and fifty years old cannot match. This is the Dance of the Huntress, the final evolution of the Asari Kata that is only known to the most elite warriors of her people. If Vicky knows it, let alone is as skilled with it as she seems to be, then there is only one soul whom could have taught her, and Liara knows better than to ever ask Samara why. Knowing what she does of the ancient, there must be some obscure part of the Code that allowed, even suggested, that she teach this to her pledge. Without a word, she simply stands and watches a spectacle that she last saw nearly fifty years ago just before she graduated from the Academy with her doctorate.
She has fallen into a familar rhythm once again with her companion, their banter on the field punctuated by the loud and low bark of their rifles. It is good to see Garrus again, even if the reunion will have to be put on something of a hold for when they are less pressed by the reapers. Not even five minutes ago, Liara went back to the Normandy to suss out whatever issues that EDI was having, Joker's call about electrical issues causing quite a few concerns. For now, she has her hulking young friend running point with his heavy armor and his Cyclone spun up and belching an ungodly number of rounds into the enemy while she and Archangel pound them from long range.
Her mission here seemed to be over before it really began when she first reached the command post only to learn that Primarch Fedorian was dead. One short crash course on the Hierarchy later however, and she had hope once again, a general who likes to play fast and loose with protocol by the name of Adrien Victus. Ever since learning that, she and her team have been tearing ass across the surface of the moon to get to him before some enemy trooper gets a lucky shot off and kills him, resulting in another scramble. Command is in their ear telling them that they have nearly reached Victus' last known location and it seems to be smooth sailing from here when a hulking brute drops out of the sky and slams Vega back nearly thirty feet in one swing of its arm.
Vicky can hear another one lumbering closer as well, Vega standing back up and pumping his weapon into the first, incendiary ammo lighting the damn thing up and a carnage shot crumpling it when combined with three rapid headshots from her and Garrus. The second however is right on top of them now and they have no more time. Praying to every god she can for luck and precision, she draws the sword laid against her spine in one fluid motion, the reservoirs in her left gauntlet setting her blade ablaze with her modified incinerate tech and her cloak shimmering to life as she runs and launches herself off of a near bunker wall. The first cut confuses the great beast at the same moment it ignites the flesh, the second cut breaks her cloak as she cuts the smaller arm off at the shoulder. A graceful spin and gliding flip over the club of its remaining arm results in her hanging in the air above the tiny head that juts out from the heavy spine, and a third cut neatly severs the column that holds it together. The earth shudders as it crashes down, the lithe and small woman geared in the armor of fallen enemies standing on the shoulders that no longer bear a head, flaming sword in hand.
For a moment all is still, then a chorus of screeches fills the air as the remaining reaper troops break ranks and flee, the turian military quickly mopping them up even while still struck dumb at the sight of the first human Spectre. After that moment, everything is a little rushed and strangely reverent. After that moment, though she doesn't know it just yet, Victory Shepard has gained another title: Palaven's Avenging Angel.