ME: All the Things That I've Done Ch.43
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Chapter 43 – Breakdown
One of the last holdouts resisting the Reapers conquest and it was being overrun finally. The Asari councilor had requested their assistance, seeing that they were not invisible to the Reaper’s interest. To add to the offer, Mira was made known about a Prothean artifact on Thessia. She kept her temper under control but to hear that the Asari knew about something that could help them with the Crucible and the war, incensed Mira. Liara was even angry and demanded to join Mira and Kaidan on the mission.
Now, they stood there overlooking the expanse of Thessia burning, Reapers firing and walking through the metropolis. They had cleared their way to the temple but a brief moment to watch Thessia’s destruction struck the team speechless. Mira gritted her teeth together, trying to keep under control at seeing the senseless destruction. Millions of lives were being slaughtered each day and she could feel their time running short as more systems were overrun.
“Let’s find this artifact and get out of here.” Mira said.
They walked around the temple and to the tall statue of an ancient Asari goddess. Kaidan couldn’t help but comment that the ancient Asari looked eerily similar to Protheans. Liara argued there was no resemblance and continued searching for clues to open the base of the statue where they got energy readings. Going around the display cases that showed artifacts from various archeological digs, they managed to find the key to opening the statue. Instead, the deep thrum of it activating, shattered the marble of the statue and revealed something else that took the squad in surprise.
“It’s a beacon!” Mira exclaimed.
“But…that is impossible!” Liara blurted.
“Nothing is impossible and I think the Asari government knew this beacon was here and kept it hidden from the Council.” Kaidan said cooly, deducing the facts they had to a logical explanation.
“Indeed.” Mira agreed. “Being a repository of such advanced knowledge, it isn’t a wonder that the Asari has jumped so far ahead in their evolution.”
“Shepard, what you are saying is borderline conspiratorial!” Liara looked hard at Mira.
“Then explain to me, Liara, why hide this beacon?” She met the Asari’s look with equal hardness. “It seems that the Asari are bending the Accords to suit their own purpose.”
“I…it…” Liara shook her head and looked up at the awakened beacon.
Then it flared for a moment and a ball of energy came out of the base. It looked like the VI that was on Ilos and Mira looked over to Kaidan to see if he came to the same conclusion she had. He nodded to her, agreeing silently with Mira’s assessment. Liara wasn’t with them on the ground at Ilos, so was fascinated by the construct. The VI scanned them and then paused in front of Mira.
“You are the herald of this age?” It asked.
Mira looked at it in confusion and let instinct speak. “I am.”
-= || N7 || =-
“I will take that now.” A familiar and deadly voice echoed in the temple, along with a whine of a gunship.
Mira whipped her head and Paladin around to point it at the newcomer. Her other hand started to flicker with biotic energy. The assassin they encountered on the Citadel strode down the length of the temple, stopping halfway with an arrogant smirk on his face.
“Kai Leng.” Mira’s mouth twisted with suppressed hate.
“Commander Shepard.” He riposted. “You have saved me from the work of tearing apart the temple to find the beacon. I commend you.”
“You will have to get the VI over my dead body.” Mira hissed, as her body started to ripple with barely controlled energy.
“Tsk tsk, Commander…having some control issues, are we? The Ilusive Man somehow knew that this would happen but he took a risk in giving you those first generation L5 implants.” Kai Leng walked closer to Mira, Kaidan raising his rifle toward the former N7 operative. He snapped out a hand to Kaidan, throwing him back from Mira, doing the same with Liara who was trying to shadow his side.
“What do you know about me?”
“Plenty, dear, dear Mira.” Kai Leng stepped up and leaned closer to her. “I’m the improved version of you.”
“You are not me.” Mira growled, balling her fist to keep from unleashing the gathering dark energy. It was making the nodes heat up to an unbearable level but Mira kept enough self-restraint not to let loose until she had to.
“Oh, we have a lot in common, Shepard.” Kai Leng sneered. “We are both hunters and killers. We both do what needs to be done to get the job done.”
“I still work with a code, whereas you don’t. Not anymore.” Mira hissed.
“I work for humanity’s best interests, as does Cerberus.” Kai Leng laughed sardonically. “You, however, are an idealist and that is your ultimate weakness. This is a cruel world, Shepard, and sometimes, cruel measures are needed. The Illusive Man understands this.”
“And that will be his downfall.” Mira said.
“So you say. We shall see, though. Now, enough talk, I’m here to take the VI. Be a good soldier and hand it over or your friends will die, just as you will.”
“You won’t kill me, Kai Leng.” Mira surmised.
“Not today but there will be a day I will have your pretty head.” Kai Leng hissed. “If you value your friends, however, hand over the VI…NOW!” The edge of his temper showed then to Mira.
“Fuck you.” Mira spat.
He growled and backhanded Mira, making her fall to the trembling floor of the temple. Her ears rang from the blow but she heard Kaidan yell out and saw a bright blue flash launch towards the assassin. With a yell of her own as Mira stood up, she unleashed the searing buildup of dark energy toward the flashing form of Kai Leng. He stumbled backward from her throw, looking up at her in surprise. He turned his focus on her and rushed towards Mira, katana upraised. Mira rolled away from the downward slash and kicked out at the assassin’s feet. He jumped away from kick and came forward again, roaring in anger at his prey’s tenacity. Kaidan and Liara pummeled Kai Leng with bursts of biotic energy, making the man fumble back.
The ground shook, trembled, and cracked around the group as the vibrations and fire of a Reaper approached their location. Mira was tossed as the floor cracked and fell away near her. She rolled away from the edge and gathered her legs under her again, searching for Kai Leng.
“Mira! Look out!” Kaidan called out a little too late as Mira was slammed from behind, an arm wrapping around her throat.
“Maybe today is the day I will kill you.” Kai Leng hissed in her ear and put more pressure on his enhanced arm, closing off her airway to where she had to gasp in short breaths of air. She faintly heard someone speaking to the assassin over a comm unit and felt the pressure release from her throat, making her dizzy from the sudden intake of air.
Kai Leng kicked her in the ribs, sending Mira rolling back to the broken edge of the floor and over it. She started to fall and instinctively reached out for a ledge, halting the fall but jerking her shoulder painfully. Mira blinked away the tears from the flaring pain and moved her body for a more secure hold on the broken piece of the temple floor. She painfully and painstakingly pulled her body up, keeping the goal of the main floor in sight and reuniting with her squad, praying that they hadn’t been killed. When she saw the head of the man she loved more than anything, and his arm outstretched to her, Mira cried out in joy and lunged for Kaidan’s arm. He grasped her tightly, face in a set grimace of pain and determination while he started to pull Mira up.
When she was back on solid ground, Mira threw her arms around his head, shaking violently at another narrow escape to death and knowing that Kaidan was safe and alive.
“Hey, it’s alright.” Kaidan whispered in her ear.
“Where’s that bastard?” Mira pulled back, her mouth settling into a grim line.
“Gone. He took the VI.”
“Damn!” Mira cried out in frustration. “Just when we were one step ahead, those damn bastards always take it away!”
“I know.” Kaidan tried to soothe Mira. “We don’t have a lot of time. The Reapers are closing in on this location.”
“Is there no hope here?”
Kaidan shook his head sadly. Liara stood by the balcony, watching the continuing destruction up to the point Cortez arrived in the shuttle to extract them. Mira tried to stand up and winced at the pain of her shoulder and in her hip. Kaidan slid her arm around his shoulders and helped her stand and walk to the shuttle. Liara lingered a bit longer at the balcony and turned away, tears streaming down her face as she boarded.
-= || N7 || =-
It had been hours since the fall of Thessia. Kaidan looked out at the streaming stars in the Observation Lounge. It was also hours since anyone had seen Mira after she had given her report to Hackett. Liara locked herself away in her quarters, leaving the mood on the Normandy a rather grim one. The Asari homeworld was gone, its resistance broken. The last of the Council homeworlds had fallen and the only hope they had left was Earth. Then another blow that Mira had taken so deeply to heart was the Prothean VI that had the answers they needed about what the Catalyst was in order for the Crucible to work.
The door opened into the darkened lounge but Kaidan knew who entered as the buzz of Mira’s biotic signature called out. He turned around and opened his arms, in which she hurried and collapsed into his chest. Kaidan swallowed a rising lump in his throat as he enveloped the trembling woman in his arms. Then he heard something from her that he hadn’t heard in many years. Mira was crying.
Kaidan tightened his embrace, sinking his face into her hair, offering his support and comfort to the strongest woman he knew, who was now trembling with grief and anger. Thessia was a breaking point in Mira in this long and hard campaign against the Reapers. Much like Virmire was when this whole mess began when they chased after Saren.
“Let it go, Mir, just let it all go.” Kaidan told her softly.
She did, her body shaking violently as the pent up frustrations, pain, and tears that she had denied herself for so many years let loose. They sank to the floor of the lounge, Kaidan holding and rocking the galaxy’s best hope against the Reapers. However, to him, she wasn’t a savior but a woman who needed comforting, needed a shoulder to let loose all the troubles she held inside. He was more than willing to be there for Mira. Mira’s mask was shattered, and the woman she was, was laid bare for all to see.
Kaidan held Mira for over an hour as she cried into his chest. When there was nothing left and Mira was sniffling more than crying, Kaidan continued to hold her until she was ready to speak. When the hiccups began, he knew Mira was ready.
“Why?” her voice whispered roughly.
“I don’t know.” Kaidan replied.
“I wish I knew, then maybe some sense of why our destruction is set, I could understand.”
“Could you really?” Kaidan turned Mira’s face up to look at him. “These are machines with a destructive protocol programmed into them. There is an off switch; we just have to find it.”
“But if there is no hope…”
“Don’t say that!” Kaidan narrowed his eyes at her. “If you lose hope, Mir, then what is left for the rest of us? I won’t go into this dark night silently.”
“I have given so much of myself, Kai! I don’t think I have anything left to give! I’ve failed on so many levels, who is to say that this isn’t our final farewell to the galaxy?”
Kaidan sighed deeply, this was new in Mira, this deep despair. “Mira, answer one simple thing for me.”
“What and who do you love?”
Mira’s eyes widened at the question and then chewed on her lip as she thought about it for a minute. Kaidan knew that she had the answer but wanted her to talk from her heart and soul.
“I love this ship, the crew on it…even with all the difficult missions; I love my career and the good that has come from what I have done. I love life.” She paused a moment. “I love you, most of all, Kaidan Raphael Alenko.”
Kaidan smiled, hearing and feeling the truth behind her words. “You have so much to live for, so much to hope for, Mira. You are angry because something has come along, and wants to destroy the life you have come to love. You fight because that is what you do; it is who you are! If we are weak, Mir, you are there to fight with us, to strengthen us. Yeah, what has happened, it’s depressing, it’s overwhelming. However, none of us has lost the will to fight. I have never lost my faith or my love in you.”
“Even when you doubted me?”
His mouth hung open before saying something and then looked hard into Mira’s face. “We all have doubts from time to time, Mira. Even you doubted me for a while. It’s part of being human.”
“But when humanity can do such cruel things…”
“We aren’t perfect. As you once told me long ago, the world isn’t black and white. There are many shades of grey. Just being with you on this Normandy, meeting the people you worked with while working with Cerberus, I realized, that they are people too. They made a choice because they believed in something. When that belief disappointed or threatened them, those people left. People can change, you showed me that. You are unique, Mira. You see people for who they are, not what they are, or the colors they wear.”
Mira sighed heavily, resting her forehead against Kaidan’s chest. “I seem to have forgotten who I am along the way.”
“You never forgot, Mir, you just got lost.” Kaidan held Mira to his chest again.
“Just like Thane’s prayer.” Mira whispered. “He was not praying for himself for having lost his way, he was praying for me.”
“He was a good friend, one you needed desperately at the time. His spirituality and faith helped you in more ways than you know. Just as he helped me before he passed away.” Kaidan told Mira.
Mira sighed again. “So, what do I do?”
Kaidan pulled back and cupped Mira’s chin, bringing her eyes back up to look at him. “You live. No masks, no keeping yourself apart from people and yourself. You live, love, feel, all those things that make you human.
“These defeats…they wouldn’t have affected you so deeply if you didn’t feel, Mira. You do, and you care and love so much, it is frightening.” Kaidan brushed his thumb across her lips.
“You think you understand me so well, Major?” Mira said.
“I don’t think anything, I know.” Kaidan couldn’t suppress the little hopeful smile that Mira was coming back from her brink as she made the snarky statement about him. “I know the woman I fell in love with and have constantly fallen in love with time and time again.” His smile softened.
“You are right, you know. You do know me well.” Mira gave a trembling smile. She leaned up, kissed Kaidan softly, and pulled back, allowing him to see her quirky smile. “Thank you.”
“Reminding me who I am and what I love.”
“That is why I am here for you, Mira. Always have been and always will.”
She gave him a nod and proceeded to stand up from the floor. Kaidan got up with her and laid a loving hand on her face. Mira’s smile was stronger and brighter. “I’m going to go see Liara.”
“That would be a good thing to do.” Kaidan agreed. He watched her leave, and knew he didn’t need to worry about Mira anymore. Some small part would but the worry about the woman cracking on them and giving up, that was gone.
The comm came to life in the lounge with Joker’s voice. “She’s going to be all right?” He asked Kaidan.
“Yeah, she’s going to be fine. Let Hackett know.”
“Done.” Joker said and clicked off the comm.
The Whisper of Touch
It is difficult some nights to get to sleep. When I do, it feels like only minutes have passed before the alarm sets off with its chirping morning birds, letting me know it is time to get up and get the day started. Sighing, I close my eyes and breathe in and out slowly, making my body release the day’s tensions to float away into the moonlit night. Slowly, I feel myself get heavier, the world tuning out and my mind quiet from all the little random thoughts that pop in and out like an errant child. As I feel myself sink further into the oblivion of sleep, what was once darkness starts to form into shapes, sounds, even taste and touch.
thessia is one of the most emotionnal chapter of mass effect 3 . But in the game shep is alone with her despair. In your fan fic, kaidan support her. I love the sensibility in that chapter, perhaps the "you make me feel human" is most for shep than kaidan in the heart of fan. Thanks again.
Yes, just like with Horizon, another emotional point for Shepard, BW should have put more impact on showing emotions and that Shepard would turn to their LI for support. It's lonely enough being the commander of a crew but to handle all these failures alone? It's enough to make one go crazy.
I needed more than one tissue. Great chapter! Sometimes, even playing Shepard, it's hard to remember that she's human and has human reactions. They should have shown more reaction after this mission on the Normandy.