Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Finally, here's the first chapter of my "ME3" epilog, "Coda", or the ending I would have wanted to see instead of the crap BioWare and EA gave us.  It's what would happen at the end of the road for my Paragon FemShep, Mary, her lover Liara T'Soni, and the rest of the characters you've come to know and love.  It'll take a couple of hours to read total, but heck, getting through all three games took about a hundred hours if you did everything.  (And as a Paragon you almost have to, phew!)  And as you'll soon see from this ending, decisions my Paragon FemShep made throughout the series MATTERED!  The story starts right after the 'red explosion', the choice the player would make if they want to destroy the Reapers...and the only choice where Commander Shepard lives!

Don't forget to look below at the 'box art' I made for this story, too! :)

To get this out of the way, "Mass Effect" and its characters are owned by EA and BioWare, it's for the entertainment of the there!


"MASS EFFECT 3 EPILOG: CODA" by Charles Spencer



THE REAPER WAR was the single greatest conflict in the history of the galaxy.

The war was brief, lasting barely a year, but devastating...entire civilizations were destroyed, processed, and rendered extinct by the massive synthetic lifeforms known as Reapers. These monsters sought to enforce a cycle of extinction ordained by their creator to cull and harvest to oblivion advanced organic life every 50,000 years. Worlds burned as billions of lives were lost across the known galaxy.

A historic union of the most advanced civilizations in the galaxy was formed with the hope of destroying the Reapers and ending their cycle of extinction forever.

In the end, their victory over the Reapers was the result of the courage of a single person, an Earth Systems Alliance Naval Commander. One Human woman saved all life in the galaxy and guaranteed they would have a future. This was why even though the war was over, it really wasn't. Not yet.

For those who knew they owed a living legend their lives and more, the most desperate moments of The Reaper War came just after its end....


The Citadel had once been a monolith of a space station, a city-sized world in and of itself that became the heart of intergalactic commerce and government for the advanced races of the galaxy. Its Citadel Council became the highest authority, administrators of interspecies politics and the final arbiters of disputes that affected entire civilizations. It was a troubled system, but one that worked...the station itself, its Wards like petals of a great iron flower, once reached out to offer a sense of order and hope.

The Citadel was destroyed now, shattered to pieces that floated in Sol System space dangerously close to Earth...the debris field was wider than the distance between the Human homeworld and its lone Moon. Each great Ward was wreckage, still breaking apart from structural weaknesses inflicted by the station's initial destruction. Millions of lives -- both those who worked on and protected the station and the massive numbers of refugees from many worlds who sought safe haven on the Citadel -- were lost a considerable time before that when a score of Reapers attacked the station, annihilated the Citadel Defense Force, and took control of it with terrible speed. The Councilors of the Citadel, last known to be on the station, were also feared dead. The Reapers then transported the Citadel to Earth space, where they had long established their dominance, to defend it against the overwhelming multi-species United Fleet and their superweapon, the Crucible, which could only work by interfacing with something on the station known only as the Catalyst.
In one of the great pieces of wreckage, a part of the once-majestic Presidium Tower central to the station, the United Fleet's sensors detected and fixed on a single, faint lifesign.

The sensors established that the bio-signature of the lifesign was Human...after realizing who that lifesign might belong to, the Commander of the United Fleet, Alliance Admiral Steven Hackett, immediately sent a search and rescue team for an all-important mission of mercy.


One hour and fourteen Universal Standard Minutes after the destruction of the Reapers:

The search and rescue team was in fact a multi-racial platoon of some of the best soldiers of their respective militaries: Asari, Humans, Salarians, Krogan, and Turian. The one who led the team was Major Kirrahe of the Salarian Special Tasks Group (STG)...he led the rest with a grim expression down a darkened corridor of this piece of the Presidium Tower where many, many bodies laid. There was still some air and gravity here, due only to secondary systems that hadn't been destroyed in this part of the Tower. The atmosphere was still dangerously thin, and so every member of the team was sealed in their combat armor...the Asari Commandos of the group simply needed face masks connected to their air systems. They had to hurry...the Tower was losing structural integrity at a steady pace. The team finally reached a large set of doors; the STG Major looked at his Omni-Tool readings with narrowed onyx eyes. Kirrahe reported in: "Admiral, Alpha here. We're close to the top of the Tower, about to access a massive chamber. The lifesign is within, very close."

Admiral Hackett responded, "You don't need my permission, Major, just go!"

Efficiently, Kirrahe gestured to the two Krogan soldiers in the team, and then at the doors before them. "I want in there, right now!" The Krogan quickly obliged: they holstered their massive shotguns and each took a door...their powerful fingers worked into the seam between the doors, and with brute strength they opened the doors wide in seconds. Kirrahe and the rest of the platoon aimed their weapons into the chamber.

The Major blinked a few times with surprise. His Special Tasks Group had long made it their business to know as much about the Citadel as possible. The station wasn't a creation of the advanced races of the fact, it was discovered by the Asari a very long time ago. The Citadel was once believed to have been built by the Protheans before it was discovered recently that its architects were in fact the Reapers. The STG began formal and intensive investigation of the station after the crisis involving the Reaper Sovereign years ago, which foreshadowed The Reaper War...up until recently there were too many places the STG were unable to access. Such areas effectively belonged to the mysterious drones that maintained the Citadel known only as the Keepers.

As he gestured for the rest of the team to follow him, Kirrahe thought: Without a doubt, I never heard of anyone seeing this part of the Tower. They cautiously entered a huge chamber...whatever its purpose was couldn't be determined since it was in smoking ruins, but it was covered by a dome of transparent material that had developed deadly-looking stress fractures. In spite of those cracks, he and the team were given a majestic view of the space outside. They saw the Earth, where tragically most of its cities were burining, glowing crimson across the face of the planet in the distance...the rest of the wreckage great and small of both the station and the Crucible...many dead Reapers, Capitals and Destroyers, also floating in the void...and the multitude of surviving ships of the United Fleet just further in the distance, waiting.

Kirrahe ordered to the rest of the team, "Fan out and make sure this room is safe! You know who we're here for, and her safety is Priority One! We will not take ANY chances!" They quickly, quietly obeyed, the flashlights attached to their weapons bringing light to the dark. The Major looked around and then up...he saw there was a second, higher level to this chamber. Most of it collapsed down to this level, it seemed, along with tons of wreckage of technology turned into unrecognizable junk. He looked to an Asari Commando close by. "Assist me in finding her, Lieutenant, we don't have much time!"

The beautiful, deadly Commando nodded. "Of course, sir!" They both activated their Omni-Tools, set them to scan for a Human lifesign. It didn't even take a moment before the Commando informed the Major, "Sir, this way!" Her lithe form rushed into the dark, and it was all Kirrahe could do to keep pace. Thirty, perhaps forty yards later, she stopped suddenly. He stopped just behind her as she said, "Goddess...she should be right there...!" The Asari projected a bright beam of light into the debris just ahead, and Kirrahe did the same.

One hour and 22 minutes after the war, they both saw the body lying not far away in the rubble. Kirrahe, for his part, was stunned nearly speechless. If he had looked at the Asari, he would have seen she looked exactly the way he felt. The Major was only able to murmur at first, "Holy shit."

The one Major Kirrahe and the Commando were looking at was, amazingly, still alive...the fragile form of the Human woman was, to put it kindly, ravaged by a massive explosion. Most of her combat armor had been blasted away; what was left was charred and seared black, but the bold 'N7' insigna was still recognizable on the remains of her chestplate. Her left arm was gone...some form of shrapnel damage, the kind of mortal wound Kirrahe had seen too much of on too many battlefields, had ripped it from the rest of her body and couldn't be seen anywhere. Her right arm was in better shape: at least it was in one piece, but her heavy pistol seemed to be burned into the skin of the hand that held it. Kirrahe focused on the woman's face and felt a surge of sadness because if this was her, the brave Alliance officer he had the privilege of fighting alongside with in battle twice, he couldn't recognize her. Her visage was that badly burned.

Kirrahe shook his head angrily and shouted, "MEDIC!"

The three Humans in the team were all medical officers, but one was the lead...he quickly reached them, knelt down next to the body of the woman, and began examining her. Kirrahe impatiently asked, "We need to know if it's her or not now! You can check her dog tags...!"
The lead medic looked up at Kirrahe and interrupted: "I-I can't at the moment, Major...what's left of her armor has been burned into her skin."

Kirrahe frowned deeply. "Dammit...!"

"I'm going to run a DNA scan, it'll just take a moment!" The Human male quickly adjusted his Omni-Tool accordingly and proceeded as the rest of the platoon collected around them.

The Asari Commando already with Kirrahe knelt on the other side of the woman close to her nearly-ruined body. She realized the Human was conscious! The Asari softly questioned her... "Can you hear me? Please give some sign you can hear me." A weak moan was her answer. In spite of hundreds of years of experience as a professional soldier, the Commando's heart went out to this woman. But they had to be sure... "Can you speak? We need to be sure who you are. Please identify yourself."

Each breath the grievously injured Human took was made with clear effort and so much pain. Still...her burned and blistered lips managed to part and she tried to talk. She could only manage to speak just above a whisper, but Major Kirrahe recognized the voice immediately as she identified herself:


The lead medic looked up from his readings with wide eyes and exclaimed, "DNA scan confirms, Major! It's her!"

They had found her.

Commander Mary Shepard.

Kirrahe quickly keyed his comm system and reported, "Admiral, Kirrahe speaking! We've found Commander Shepard! She's alive but in critical need of medical attention! Preparing to extract her from this location!"

Admiral Hackeet shouted, "Get her the hell out of there now, Alpha! Move!"


Pause. Rewind time about an hour.

Somewhere in the Attican Traverse, on a planet in a remote star system, was the final resting place of the Normandy SR-2...the ship Mary Shepard commanded during The Reaper War.

The original SSV Normandy SR-1 was the first of its kind, a cooperative effort between the Earth Systems Alliance and the Turian Hierarchy, before it was destroyed by the Collectors. This new version, the SR-2, was built by the Human-centric terrorist organization Cerberus. The frigate was created based on the original's designs to help Shepard investigate and if need be combat the Collectors after Cerberus brought her back to life about two years before. Her having to work with a terrorist group was a necessary evil, since all involved wanted to stop the harvesting of Human colonies by the Collectors, who were commanded by the Reapers. When that mission was over, she was ordered back to Earth by the Alliance Navy and the SR-2 was taken and retrofitted to meet Alliance specs. The Normandy was literally invaluable to Shepard during The Reaper War, thanks in part to the prowess of Flight Lieutenant Jeff 'Joker' Moreau.

The Normandy SR-2 flew no longer, and perhaps it never would laid dead like a giant raptor that fell from the sky into the wilderness of this alien world, its crash landing tearing a long scar into the landscape before it had finally come to rest.


Inside the Normandy's cockpit, Joker felt like he wanted to die...maybe if he did, he wouldn't have felt so damn much pain.

Maybe if he died, he'd be with the one he loved and lost again.

It had only been minutes since the Normandy crash landed. As he sat on his knees on the floor, Jeff 'Joker' Moreau held in his arms the upper body of EDI, the beauty of her gleaming synthetic form lifeless in his arms. This was only an extension of EDI, the artificial intelligence once also known as Enhanced Defense Intelligence, controlled in the same way she controlled the higher functions of the ship itself. As other members of the crew assessed damage and casualties, it was realized terribly that EDI was gone. Every circuit and system she was part of at the time the beam of unknowable energy from the Crucible, the beam Joker tried desperately yet futilely to evade, struck the Normandy and fused and destroyed them. Critically damaged the frigate and sent it spiralling nearly beyond control into this star system...but Joker, a pilot literally second to none, fought desperately and succeeded in accomplishing a crash landing on a planet that could support life, according to sensors.

A charitable soul would have told Joker that any landing you could walk away from was a good one.

But Joker didn't care...all he cared about he held in his arms, and tears spilled down his cheeks freely. To think he once hated EDI, called her 'ship cancer' because she was so damned...there, giving him shit about one little thing or another. Their relationship had evolved over time, and he had grown to care for her, and she grew to care for him above everyone else on the ship. Then EDI adopted the body of a synthetic Cerberus agent, made it her own. The fact they had become so close, and then they could touch and interact with one another on even the most intimate levels, made their feelings for each other grow to love.
Both Joker and Commander Shepard were elemental in EDI's evolution as an artificial lifeform, to helping her understand what it meant to be alive. Shepard, in fact, helped EDI understand many things, in part because of the A.I.'s nearly endless questions. But it was when Shepard was a leader that EDI truly understood that knowing what it meant to be alive wasn't enough. Being alive was what mattered, and EDI was an apt pupil to all the things Shepard could teach her. A legendary hero and the Human she loved helped EDI find her Humanity.

Joker squeezed his eyes shut...he couldn't bear to look at EDI, her face tilted up to the ceiling and lifeless, as he held her. He could only say the same thing over and over: "Goddamn it...god damn it..."

A soft, gentle voice spoke to him then: "Joker?"

He sniffed and looked up to see Doctor Liara T'Soni looking down at him with worry. The beautiful young Asari was a little over a century old, and like EDI, became so much more than she once was because of Commander Shepard. Liara was once an archeologist who sought out the artifacts of the Prothean race with zeal. When she was threatened by the machinations of Sovereign and its agents -- one of them her own mother, Matriarch Benezia -- years before, Shepard took Liara in and made her a part of her crew. Ever since, she helped the young Asari find her strength and courage in the face of dangers that threatened them both, and her fascination for the lovely Human Commander touched by Prothean technology became something much more elemental. Ever since Shepard told the young Asari that she felt desire for her in return, Liara began to know the meaning of happiness.

Liara couldn't have imagined life without Mary Shepard...the woman she loved.

And then suddenly, with terrible speed, they were stranded an unknowable distance away from Shepard...and what could have been happening to her? Liara hoped-believed-prayed her lover was still alive, that she had won once and for all against the Reapers. All she could do was hope...for now, as she looked down at Joker, she knew he needed help. As his wet eyes looked up to her, she began hesitantly: "Joker...I don't know what to say...I am so sorry..."

But Joker suddenly snapped, "Saying something won't help, Liara, so don't!" The moment he finished saying that, however, he looked more surprised than she did. His expression broke from sadness again, and he managed: "I-I'm sorry. I...I loved her..."

Liara nodded deeply. "EDI knew that, Jeff. Have no doubt she knew."

Joker managed to breathe a little deeper...and he nodded, but shakily.

"Could someone please tell me what the hell just happened?!" That was a question most everyone on the Normandy was trying to answer, but in this moment frustration made Garrus Vakarian shout it as he moved into the cockpit. The tall Turian's impatience was quickly cooled by the sight of Joker holding EDI, and the elemental sadness in Liara's deep blue eyes. Garrus said in a quieter tone, "I'm still trying to make sense of it, we just got shot down by the Crucible?? But why...!"

Liara offered, "Sensor records are incomplete, Garrus, but they seem to indicate that the Crucible targeted all artificial life...not just the Reapers."

Four more entered the area: Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, a young Quarian engineer...Human Alliance Lieutenant-Commander Ashley Williams and frontline soldier James Vega...and the last known survivor of his race, the ancient Prothean warrior Javik. His four eyes took in the scene as Vega couldn't help but comment: "Damn, really? Nobody could've known that would happen...!"

Joker shot him a look and said harshly, "That's what kids get when they don't know what a loaded gun is, but they want to play with it anyway!" He almost lost himself to despair again, but he managed to get ahold of himself.

Vega frowned. "I hope the Crucible did what we wanted it to do, which was kill the goddamn Reapers."

Tali shook her head, her eyes bright with worry. "That doesn't matter to me as much as knowing how Shepard is doing." At the moment, she was looking at Liara, and the Commander's lover could only look down with regret, fighting to hold back her own tears. Tali realized... "Oh Liara, I..."

"I-I am all right, Tali," Liara managed to say. "But I wish with all my soul we didn't leave Earth...leave her."

There was no one on the Normandy who didn't feel that way. Ashley Williams said with an anger directed toward herself, "We should have found a way to stay and help the Commander! We should have stayed in London in the first place! I didn't give a damn if Harbinger and a wolfpack of Reapers were in our way or not!"

With as much calm as she could muster, Liara said, "Shepard would have cared. Remember what Admiral Hackett said when he told us to fall back..."


Liara remembered it perfectly, whether she wanted to or not...just before the end of The Reaper War:

Task Force Hammer made a last, all-or-nothing drive for the teleport beam that would take any who used it to the Citadel. Tens of thousands of Humans, Krogan, Asari, Turians and more rushed by land and air. Commander Shepard charged forward with Ashley and Liara close behind. Then Harbinger and the Reapers descended and started firing on them, annihilating them.Normandy as they searched for Shepard, for any casualties that had to be taken from the battlefield.
"Hackett to Normandy! Hackett to Normandy, respond now!"
Joker quickly replied, "Normandy here, sir! I'm still standing by for Shepard's squad and several casualties! If you've got orders from me, I'm a little busy right now!"
"You're in the firing range of those damn Reapers, Moreau, and that building you're behind won't mean a damn! Get out of there!"
Joker shook his head as he said, "Not without my commander, sir!"
"Joker!" He turned to see Liara run up to the cockpit. Both Joker and EDI looked at the nearly breathless Asari with concern as she reported, "We...we got as many injured as we could find aboard, but...b-but we haven't found Shepard yet!"can't leave her behind, Admiral! She's alone out there!"want the enemy to notice by trying to reach her?! Would Shepard want you to risk your lives needlessly?!?"

Joker's heart sank. "Shit! She's gotta be closer to the beam than we thought! It's okay, I'll stand by here while you guys find her!"

Hackett interrupted harshly: "The hell you will, Flight Lieutenant! I'm giving you a direct order to get out of there RIGHT NOW, and you'd better damn well follow it!"

The pilot fired back, "With respect, Admiral, NUTS! I'm not leaving Shepard behind!"

Liara appealed to Hackett, as well: "We

The Admiral coolly said, "I sympathize, Doctor T'Soni, but there's nothing you can do right now! Look at the transport beam and those damn Reapers defending it! Combined scans from the fleet have pinpointed Shepard! She's still alive and about to reach the beam! The only reason she's gotten that far is most likely because she's so small and there's so much havoc happening in your area, the Reapers haven't noticed her! Do you

"I don't give a damn!" This was from Garrus, who walked into the cockpit with Ashley and Tali. "Whether we live or die, Admiral, we must help her!"

"No, Garrus!" The Turian looked with shock at Liara, who said those soft yet firm words. Her eyes were full of despair, yet she tried to keep her voice calm. "Admiral Hackett is right. The teleport beam is surrounded by Reapers now. If we try to reach Shepard, we'll have no chance."

"I...I am forced to agree with Liara," EDI quietly said, but her characteristically neutral tone was heavy with emotion. "The possibility of surviving such an overwhelming enemy force is zero. But if Shepard is close enough to the beam, her relatively small size compared to the Reapers and the chaotic state of the battle zone could give her the chance to slip by them and reach the teleport beam undetected." She reflexively looked at the one she loved...Joker could only stare at EDI with wide-eyed disbelief, but she had to conclude: "I see no fault in the Admiral's logic, Jeff. There is nothing we can do now."

"I don't want to leave her, either," Liara said in a choked voice as she looked into Garrus' eyes. "Dammit, that's the last thing I want to do! But the odds are too heavily against us. We have to pull back..." The Asari turned to Joker then, a fire burning in her deep blue eyes. "...but only for now." The message was clear: falling back didn't mean defeat...not as long as Shepard was alive. They could only wait for an opening, a chance however slim, to be there for her.Normandy, preparing for liftoff! But you'd better damn well hear this, Admiral, we're not going far! You hear?!? We will NOT abandon Commander Shepard!"
As they rocketed higher into the air, death beams from the Reapers slicing through the air after them, EDI said softly, "Magnifying sensors and directing them to the teleport beam. Scanning...I found Commander Shepard. She is only a few yards away from the beam. Wait! Detecting a second lifesign, also Human, also very close to the teleport beam! Will attempt to contact...!" She paused for a beat...then... "They are gone."

Liara looked with building fear at EDI. "Gone...?"
"Sensors show Commander Shepard and the unknown lifesign have taken the teleport beam up to the Citadel."

Tali breathed, "Keelah..." There was nothing they could do now. It made the Quarian feel so much despair, as well. Her overwhelmed voice shook as she said, "Shepard won't die. She would never, ever let that happen."

Even James Vega had to conclude, all things considered, "We wouldn't have had a chance if we stayed, Williams. We had to stay alive for the Commander."

In spite of her mood, Ashley gave the big man a curious look. "I would've thought you'd be the first to say 'damn the torpedoes', Vega."

"Hey, I may be crazy, but I'm not dumb." Vega's expression turned serious then. "Don't doubt I feel the same way you do, ma'am. I feel like we betrayed the Commander anyway, leaving her behind with no one but whoever else took that teleport beam with her."

Ashley's eyes filled with despair and regret. "But things only got worse after that. We had to run...we had to leave Shepard again!"


Each minute the crew of the Normandy was forced to wait was torture as they kept to the lower atmosphere of Earth. They waited for some kind of sign, any form of chance to take off to the Citadel and breach its closed Wards. The unique metal of the stations petals were so dense, unfortunately, even a Reaper would have had difficulty cutting through. Then."Normandy, alert! You've been targeted by the Crucible!"

They saw something begin to happen to the Crucible and the Citadel...the Presidium Tower itself was starting to glow. A few seconds later, an emergency message came through from Admiral Hackett:

Joker couldn't believe his ears. "What?!?"

"Confirmed, Jeff," EDI said as she examined readings from her station. "A targeting solution on this ship has been established."

"I don't understand why it's happening, Normandy, but you've got to escape! Get out of the solar system if you have to!"

Joker began to cry out, "But Commander Shepard -- !"

"There's nothing you can do for her, Moreau, and you've only got seconds! Get out of there NOW!"
"Jeff." He looked to EDI, and he saw a...sadness in her eyes. She reported softly, "The Crucible appears to be targeting not simply the Reapers, but every artificial lifeform in this system. And across the galaxy."

"Every...?" In a heartbeat, he understood why the Crucible targeted, dammit, NO!"
His hands flew over the controls with a furious pace...the Normandy then rocketed away from Earth, through the chaos happening in space between the United Fleet and the Reapers, and towards the outer fringes of the solar system at FTL speed. He thought quickly and set course directly for the Sol Relay and transmitted destination coordinates...with little time to really do much but hope, he input his destination: the Newton Relay in the Attican Traverse. It was the first, best place he could think of to get away from the Crucible. As a bright crimson light glared from deep in Earth's system signaling the end of The Reaper War, the frigate interfaced with the Sol Relay and made the jump.Normandy was deep in Attican Traverse territory then...with building dread, Joker knew somehow it would be a bad idea to slow down. It only took moments before he was proven right. The alarm klaxon sounded as sensors detected the beam of unthinkably high levels of energy behind them, searing through space after them. He cursed himself and started pushing the Normandy to its limits and then past them, trying to defy the beam...trying to defy fate."Jeff...this ship is not fast enough to escape the energy beam."


Close by, EDI looked at Joker.

Joker didn't care as he desperately worked the controls to evade the beam. Do something. Anything. "I won't let it get you, EDI, I swear! We're all gonna make it for Shepard!"
EDI...smiled then. "I want to hope too, Jeff. But..." Then her beautiful synthetic form rose from the seat next to him, and she walked with measured, graceful steps back toward the CIC.
"EDI?!" The ship began to were sending alarms that they were being taxed to their limits. Joker ignored them as he looked behind him. "EDI, where are you going?!?"

The doors to the cockpit opened for EDI, and she stopped to stand in the threshold. She looked back down the long corridor. Toward fate as it chased them. Her gleaming form stood still, prepared, in spite of the worsening shaking of the ship around her. EDI felt pain from what the Normandy was being put through. She ignored it. The A.I. who learned so much about what it meant to live turned her face toward Joker, her voice full of love and regret. "I am sorry. I hoped this would not happen. I did not want to endanger you in any way, Jeff."

As they approached a star system in the distance, the shaking reached tremendous levels...sparks exploded from consoles around Joker, but all he cared about was EDI.
EDI looked back deeper into the ship, but she spoke one last time, and her gentle words reached the one she cared for above all: "I truly do love you."

Joker tried to cry out, "EDI...!"

And then the beam reached them.
 Ashley quietly, shamefully summarized, "And now we're stuck here, wherever the hell 'here' is!"

Liara glanced with regret at Joker as he cradled EDI's lifeless form as she sat behind a console behind the seat the A.I. took next to the pilot. Her blue fingers danced over the controls... "Fortunately, we still have some sensors working. As far as I can tell, it's a star system in an uncharted region of the Attican Traverse, just outside of the Kepler Verge Cluster. We're a very long distance from the Relay we exited...wait." She looked much more closely at the readings. "I...I think the sensors might have been damaged by the crash landing, as well."

Garrus asked, "Why, what's wrong?"

"The Newton Relay...i-it isn't there anymore." That statement earned looks from her friends ranging from shock to disbelief...even Joker looked up with confusion. Liara softly added, "All the sensors detect at the Relay's location is residual energy from a detonation...and debris."

Garrus stepped up behind Liara and looked at the sensor readings, too. He was quiet for a long moment...then... "If this is right, even if we could get the Normandy flying again...we can't get back home. Not for a very, very long time."

Unlike the rest, Vega was seething. He suddenly shouted, "Son of a BITCH!" And for emphasis, he punched the bulkhead next to him with a bare fist. He didn't hurt himself, but he did make a big dent.

Javik, who had been quiet until now, stepped toward Vega. "Calm yourself, Human. It does not serve us to be destructive."

Vega whirled on the Prothean and shouted in his face, "Screw YOU, Four-Eyes! It's bad enough we lost EDI, now we're stranded god-knows-where! You understand what that means, right?!? It means there's no way we can get back to Commander Shepard! We're failing her when she needs us the most!"
Surprisingly, the Prothean warrior simply looked back at Vega, calm. "The Commander would disagree with you."

Vega's eyes narrowed. "And why do you say that?!"

"Because Commander Shepard is not as harsh with others as you are being with yourself." Javik let that sink in, and by this time he had everyone's attention. He looked at them all as he continued. "I sympathize with James Vega's feelings. The problem we share is the same: we are warriors unable to fight with the one we have sworn to follow. But I learned much since I woke up. One thing I have learned is to have faith in Commander Shepard." He looked to the faces of each of them and said, "I believe she is all right. Indeed, I believe she is victorious! I have faith she destroyed the Reapers in all of our names!"

Liara felt her heart swell, and she managed a real smile for the first time in what felt like too long. Everyone there who cared for Shepard understood and appreciated Javik's words. Tali spoke for them all, with faith of her own, "Javik is right. Shepard didn't fail. She would never let herself fail."

Garrus nodded deeply. "Amen, Tali."

The ship's Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Karin Chakwas, approached became clear she heard what was just said as she declared, "It's nice to know I'm not the only one with positive thoughts!"

Everyone looked to the matronly figure. Ashley nodded and asked, "Doctor Chakwas, what's the word?"

Chakwas reported, "No further casualties as a result of that energy beam's impact or the crash. Thankfully, the injuries of the soldiers we picked up in London didn't worsen, either. We...only had one fatality." She approached Jeff as he held EDI, and knelt next to them. She looked at the pilot with sadness. "Jeff...?"

Jeff looked at her, managing to finally compose himself. But... "I-I'm least, I'm trying to be. It just hurts so damn much, knowing she's gone..."

Chakwas nodded silently...she and everyone there cared for EDI, as well. "I miss her too, Jeff." She lightly touched one of her gleaming shoulders, still trying to get used to the fact EDI was gone. "She was...truly extraordinary."

"Ah, begging your pardon, everyone." Everyone there looked to Mission Specialist Samantha Traynor, who had just arrived. She was also clearly affected by EDI's death, but she managed to stay official. She had to, otherwise she wouldn't have known when she'd be able to stop crying. "I just received an initial report from Engineer Adams on the damage. isn't good."

Garrus almost laughed. "So why should we have good news? It's okay, Traynor, just tell us."

The young officer nodded. "Yessir. After a ship-wide diagnostic, most of our critical systems like Life Support are still online. And...that's pretty much it for things that are working. The drive core is dead, three of our four engines are gone -- literally -- and all comm systems are offline. Both of the Kodiak shuttles in the hangar bay were heavily damaged, but Adams believes it's possible to salvage one. He...wasn't too sure on that point, unfortunately."

Ashley asked, "What about the Normandy's transponder?"

Samantha's expression was suddenly doubtful. "Um, Ken and Gabby are working on it now...but..."

Ashley gave the younger woman a look. "'But' what? Our transponder is supposed to have some of the most hardened protections outside of the Medical Bay and Life Support!"

"With respect, Lieutenant-Commander, we all felt how powerful that energy beam was. It's a minor miracle anything on this ship is running right now."

"Okay," Joker said, trying to absorb this news. "So we can't fly. We can't call for help. And the one thing that can let the rest of the galaxy know where we are won't work!"

Samantha said in a brighter tone, "If it helps, looking outside of this ship gives us much better news. I took the liberty to scan this planet. It's atmosphere and environment are clean and it seems compatible with every race here. No signs of any intelligent life, either. I'd compare it to Earth a long time before any Humans learned to build fires."

Doctor Chakwas nodded. "I'd have to run extensive tests to determine whether or not the air and water are healthy for us all. Also, I'll need to make sure nothing that's a part of this ecosystem, especially local bacteria, might adversely affect our immune systems."

Garrus added, "We'll also have to figure out how much of a threat the local wildlife is."

Joker looked at the others thoughtfully. "So...should just taking a look outside hurt us?"

Chakwas thought for a moment and said, "Just as long as decontamination systems in the main airlock still work." Fortunately, they did.


The main hatchway of the now-flightless Normandy slowly opened...the first to step out was Joker, who shielded his eyes from the bright rays of this star system's sun. He was secretly glad to be breathing pleasantly fresh air and not with EDI...if he stayed with her body any longer, he wouldn't have wanted to let go. But he had to, right? If he had to, then why did he hate himself for doing it? He carefully set foot on uneven soil, the first alien being from another world to do so, and thought, One small step for man...cause I'd break a leg if I tried to jump.
Liara T'Soni was spite of everything, she was curious to see this new world no one else in the civilized galaxy had ever explored. Or stained with their influence. The surroundings were nearly tropical, yet the non-humid air was cooler than one expected looking at the thick green of this ecosystem. What appeared to be birds -- or this world's equivalent to them -- flew in the distance. Just from sight alone, this planet met all of the criteria of a 'garden world', a virtually virgin and naturally fertile world ideal for colonization.

Liara looked carefully at the surroundings and couldn't help but say, "Beautiful."

Close by, Joker nodded. "Yeah...that about says it." He was silent for a moment. "I just wish EDI was still here to see it."

With sudden sadness, Liara looked back at him and could only say, "I wish Shepard was here."

For now, for all of the crew of the lost Normandy, it was the one thing they wished for above all others.

None of them could have known how close Mary Shepard was to dying...or that thankfully, she was about to be rescued.


It was targeting every synthetic lifeform. Even EDI.

With an expression that turned from shock to desperate rage, Joker tried to deny it. But he couldn't. "No...

Garrus looked down at Tali and gently touched her slender, armored shoulder with his fingers. He reassured, "The first chance we get, we will be with her again. I don't give a damn if we have to rip a hole into the Citadel to get to her!"

As he flew, Joker's eyes were as haunted as he felt as he said under his breath, "Just hang on, Commander. Please hang on!"

But there was no chance now. Joker sadly nodded, understanding that. "Yeah." Liara looked at Garrus, Tali and Ashley...she could only imagine they felt the same way she did, that they were failing her, but to rush blindly to death wouldn't have helped Shepard at all. Joker turned back to his controls, and his fingers flew over them as he said with increasing anger and volume: "This is

They heard Hackett quietly order, "Fall back to low atmo for now and stand by for further instructions. For what it's worth, Normandy...I sympathize. I don't want to lose her, either. Hackett out."

The silver frigate began to lift off from the blasted, ruined heart of London then. Ashley was ready to burst into tears. "Dear God, we're leaving her behind. We can't leave her behind. Not like Kaidan..." The others in the cockpit -- except for EDI -- couldn't help but remember with her: those terrible moments years ago they had to leave behind Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, a soft-spoken yet brave Alliance Lieutenant, on Virmire.

One beam from Harbinger cut into the earth between Shepard and the rest of her squad...Liara and Ashley were knocked off-balance. They managed to stand and couldn't see ahead of them because of the smoke. They couldn't move forward because of a deep rift carved into the ground before them. They called in the

Several soldiers in need of medical attention were found...Shepard's squad helped them by foot to the Normandy, which landed behind one of the few buildings in the area still standing, for cover. Minutes passed that felt like forever for Joker as he waited. Then he received a priority message:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"The Greatest Gift"

Yes, something else I made as I'm still writing like mad to just get Chapter One out! :/  Still, I hope you FemShep-Loves-Liara fans like it... :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quotable Quotes: Drinking and Adventuring Don't Mix, Part One!

*Spoilers without a designated driver ahead!*

Easily one of the funniest scenes in "ME3" -- if you saved Ashley back in the day in the first game, that is! -- comes after she's given a bad idea. And it seemed like such a GOOD one at the time...! xD

*FemShep finds Williams...uh, lying on the floor of the Observation Deck!*

FemShep: "Williams??"
Ashley: "Uh...!"
FemShep: "What have we here?"
Ashley: "Ma'am, I' Your voice. Ma'am. Not so loud, please, thank you."
FemShep: "Why are you curled up on the floor?"
Ashley: "Am I? Ohhh, my heavy. Can't move."
FemShep: "Ah! Enjoy your evening?"
Ashley: "I'll be back to work in 30...uh...maybe 40, I-I swear. Just...give me 45 minutes. Shh! Shhhh..."

FemShep: "How did you end up in this sorry state?"
Ashley: "Just wanted to let off some steam. Vega said he had 'just the thing' to take my mind off stuff."
FemShep: "And did that 'thing' come in a bottle?"
Ashley: "Yes."
FemShep: "This empty bottle?"
Ashley: "It's...empty? Oh, boy."
FemShep: "Is it time to test the fire alarm? You know, I think it is!"
Ashley: "I'll pay you a million credits not to do that, ma'am."
FemShep: "Two million and we have a deal."
Ashley: "Uh! You're a damn space pirate."
FemShep: "I could order Joker to sing to you over the comm."
Ashley: "I hate you."
FemShep: "'I hate you...?'"
Ashley: "Ma'am."

FemShep: "As you were, Williams!"
Ashley: "Mmmmm...cold floor."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"You Are The Reason"

Something special I had to get out of my system before I REALLY got to writing!  Again, for you... :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

My apologies in advance...

...I'm about to get busier than usual, which means this fan blog might suffer with more intermittent posts, but only temporarily!  I'm not sick or anything, I'm seriously going to be busier.  It's because of the fan epilog I'm about to REALLY hunker down to write and give my 100-percent to.  As a "Mass Effect" fan, it's a story that means a lot to me to get right, and I want to get it right for my fellow fans.

You've already seen a hint of what I have in store for this story with my work, "Forever Starts Now".  In broad strokes, it involves my 'headcanon' of what occurs after FemShep destroys the Reapers, and how she will launch into a desperate search for the one she loves, Liara T'Soni, and the rest of her lost crew.  This fic won't be going by half, either...the trilogy was a massive story, and to do it right will need an equally involved conclusion, another thing that for whatever reason BioWare couldn't give to us.

You'll see my fic soon at, deviantART...and here, so stay tuned! :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Galaxy's Mightiest Heroes!

At the start of the 1980's, in part because of legendary actor John Wayne's recent passing, a trend developed for filmmakers to find someone who could fill his larger-than-life boots on the silver screen. Those heirs to The Duke had names like Stallone, Norris, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. All became famous in their own right for their own brand of heroics, and the need to make them just as larger-than-life as Wayne put them in the roles of lone heroes who often had to deal with dozens, if not hundreds of bad guys before they finally won the day. It was overcompensation, especially in terms of sheer firepower, because honestly: how can any guy, no matter how much of a man they were, compete with John Wayne? Those filmmakers of the 80's forgot one important thing, though...more often than not, even The Duke didn't right wrongs all by himself. By the middle of the decade, though, the 'Buddy Movie' emerged for action-adventure fans, first with Billy Crystal and the late Gregory Hines as Chicago supercop partners in "Running Scared", and not long after that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover blasted bad guys with a grin in the first of the "Lethal Weapon" films.

There's strength in numbers. We learned that as kids either reading (or watching!) "The Wizard of Oz", and seeing four very different characters join together to travel along the Yellow Brick Road and find what each of them desperately needed. Dorothy needed a way home, the Scarecrow wanted a brain, the Tin Man yearned for a heart, and the cowardly Lion hoped to find courage. The irony of the story as it unfolded, of course, was that this group already had all of those things they wanted; they simply needed to look within themselves. Even Dorothy was told -- belatedly, and only AFTER she helped bring an end to the Wicked Witch of the West, which I thought was pretty cold! -- that her Ruby Slippers were her means to get back home.

In the realm of geekdom, not too far removed from Oz, science fiction has also shown that for every adventure where it comes down to a lone hero saving the day, like Superman, there are also stories when a group of like-minded souls can make anything possible for the greater good. In comics, there have been super-teams like the Fantastic Four, the All-Star Squadron, the Justice League of America...and then there were the mighty Avengers, Marvel Comics' collection of heroes (and not to be confused with a classic TV series featuring British secret agents John Steed and Emma Peel). You might have heard of the upcoming movie bringing the Avengers to life directed by Joss Whedon. If you haven't, congratulations! You live under a rock.

The comic "The Avengers" was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963...the heroes known as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp banded together and swore they would fight the villains no single hero can defeat. In the fourth issue Captain America, super-soldier of WWII, was found and revived and made an honorary founding member of the team. Since that time, the roster of the Avengers has changed as often as the seasons, but the approach the writers and artists since has been the same following Lee and Kirby's lead: that there be as much realism and drama between the group's characters as there is conflict between the group and the many, many villains they've faced. Each Avenger has been as different from the other as night and day, each defined as much by their flaws as their virtues. Some team members were once criminals and/or super-villains themselves, and others have suffered everything from alcoholism to nervous breakdowns. (And yes, death. But that's only temporary in comics, as every fan knows!) Perhaps the most infamous subplot to shake up the team was when Hank "Ant-Man or Giant-Man or Yellowjacket or whatever!" Pym physically abused his wife, Janet "The Wasp" Van Dyne, and they divorced as a result.

Ultimately, though, in spite of their flaws and any possible skeletons, what makes the Avengers great has always been their diversity and what each unique hero brings to the team's table. They've repeatedly complemented each other in battle, and with the leadership of heroes like Captain America or Iron Man, they're capable of defeating even the most seemingly unstoppable foes. Yes, there is strength in numbers...and that's a lesson also to be learned in "Mass Effect".

Of course, the crew of the Normandy far more closely relate to the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise from "Star Trek", or the heroes brought together by the Force to fight the Galactic Empire in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, or Joss Whedon's comparatively more humble crew of the Serenity in the short-lived "Firefly". Commander Shepard, whatever he/she looks like, has been as bold and heroic as Captain Kirk, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker or Captain Reynolds, leading a truly diverse team of heroes brought together by the same interest: to preserve all they hold dear from the threat of the Reapers, which is more terrifying than any Empire because they don't threaten a despotic rule, they threaten to take away all life itself. In spite of being very different from Shepard, in spite of being from a world once enemy to Earth like Garrus Vakarian...or a professional mercenary like Zaeed Massani or Urdnot Wrex, or a master thief like Kasumi Goto...or having to wear sealed armor to avoid the slightest infection like Tali'Zorah vas Normandy...or forced to live with a debilitating handicap, like Joker...even those who Shepard called enemies, like Legion and Miranda Lawson, have become part of his/her crew and made it even stronger because of what made them each unique.

Could Shepard have succeeded alone, as he/she was forced to do in the incompetent ending to "Mass Effect 3", all of his/her decisions before that not meaning a damn? No. However, what makes Shepard the lynchpin and hero of the series is that he/she inspires others as a leader to follow her example, like Captain Kirk or Captain America, not because she works alone. That's the reason Shepard rises above the rest, and yeah, he/she would be the first to say (if Paragon!) that he/she got as far as they did because of their crew.

That's why the Avengers may be Earth's mightiest heroes, but Shepard and the crew of the Normandy are the galaxy's mightiest.

Thinking about it, after having to deal with the Reapers, Shepard would call fighting a super-villain like Doctor Doom a walk in the park! ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cosplay Effect #3: Jack

It's like Subject Zero walked out of the game, didn't she?  Jia Jem is spectacular as the Psychotic Biotic herself, Jack! :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Forever Starts Now"

This is a piece I submitted to deviantART yesterday, and I wanted to bring it to my fellow fans here.  If only BioWare had just put at least a little extra energy into what they did give us for some closure, especially with Shepard's love interest.  Since I'm hugely into FemShep, this is a little something I created that relates to a fiction I'm writing (as fast as I can!) based on my 'headcanon' for FemShep and Liara.  How does it relate?  Hey, I can only spoil so much... ;3

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quotable Quotes: Too Much Info, The Asari Edition!


"ME" fans will remember meeting a certain Matriarch tending bar on Illium in the second turns out she was watching Liara when she was hunting the Shadow Broker, and if you're careful enough, you'll run into her again behind the counter of the Presidium Commons' Apollo's Cafe in #3.  And she's still watching Liara!  Why?  Her name is Aethyta, and she's Liara's long-lost 'dad'!  The only surprise bigger than that is Liara knows her 'dad' is watching her!  As Shepard, you can nudge her into talking to Aethyta for the first time...and Liara (and we) learn more than we thought we would!  You'll catch them talking if you hover around enough... :)

Aethyta:  "Come on, you can't blame the Matriarchs for keeping an eye on you."
Liara:  "I am not my mother."
Aethyta:  "You did threaten to flay someone alive with your mind."
Liara:  "I had to make them take me seriously. I wasn't going to actually do it. bugged my office on Illium."
Aethyta:  "That'd be the logical conclusion, yeah."

Aethyta:  "The Matriarchs aren't gonna do anything to you, especially in the middle of this damn war."
Liara:  "My reports don't show much activity from the Asari military against the Reapers."
Aethyta:  "Come on, you know how the Asari work. Infiltration and sabotage."
Liara:  "But against Reaper forces, that's..."
Aethyta:  "I know. About as useful as tits on a Hanar. Good thing we've got the Turians and the Krogan to do the heavy lifting. Our people just aren't built for the front ranks."

Aethyta:  "So yeah, my dad was a Krogan."
Liara:  "Yes, I'm aware of that."
Aethyta:  "So that makes you a quarter Krogan."
Liara:  "That's...not how it works!"
Aethyta:  "I'm a thousand years old. I've had kids with Hanar. Don't tell me how Asari reproduction works."
Liara:  "Wait...I have a half-sister who's part Hanar?"
Aethyta:  "I thought that wasn't how it worked."

Aethyta:  "All I'm saying is that if you feel the urge to head-butt something, it's genetic."
Liara:  "I have never wanted to head-butt anything."
Aethyta:  "Really? Not even a little bit? Come on."
Liara:  "I do not head-butt people!"
Aethyta:  "All right, fine, don't go all Blood Rage on me."
Liara:  "Or what? You'll tell the other Matriarchs to order a hit?"
Aethyta:  "Hey. That's not going to happen."

Aethyta:  "Nezzy and I were together for more than a century."
Liara:  "You loved her?"
Aethyta:  "Course I loved her. She was so smart. Always thinking. Nice, too. Hell of a lot nicer than I am. And damn, that rack. I mean, even before she hit the Matriarch stage..."
Liara:  "You don't need to tell me everything."

Aethyta:  "Nezzy was the only one who ever listened to me when I said the Asari were stuck in the past. Only difference was, I wanted us to stand on our own. She wanted alliances with the other species."
Liara:  "Is that why..."
Aethyta:  "Why it ended? Nah. Well, maybe. I don't know. Mostly it ended because she wanted to solve things the smart way. I wanted to fight."
Liara:  "Those aren't mutually exclusive."
Aethyta:  "Yeah, I hear you've racked up quite a body count. But then, you are a quarter Krogan."
Liara:  "Now you're doing it on purpose."

Aethyta:  "It was pretty clear she was leaving. Can't be the wise counselor when you're married."
Liara:  "Why not?"
Aethyta:  "Sex appeal. Most species only pay attention if they want to have sex with you. So you have to be available, mysterious..."
Liara:  "What? That's not true! Shepard listens to me!"
Aethyta:  "And how many times have you thrown her on the bed and peeled her out of her uniform?"
Liara:  "Do you have to make it sound so...tawdry?"
Aethyta:  "If it's all civilized, you're not doing it right."

Aethyta:  "I made her promise to let you go your own way, though. No matter what she wanted."
Liara:  "Really?"
Aethyta:  "I knew you'd be special, kid. Any daughter of hers. I told her, 'You're treating her like a baby bird, Nezzy, but she's gonna raise one hell of a storm with those little wings.'"
Liara:  "Little Wing?"
Aethyta:  "You okay?"
Liara:  "Yes. Thanks."

Aethyta:  "It's better to remember her like this than as whatever she turned into with that Saren bastard."
Liara:  "It wasn't her fault. She was trying to stop Saren, guide him as a force of good. But she was Indoctrinated."
Aethyta:  "Look, I've heard stories about the Reapers messing with your head..."
Liara:  "They're more than stories. I've seen it. Every Cerberus solider is a Reaper slave. She fought it with every fiber of her being. She even broke free and helped Shepard on Noveria before she died. I was there. She said I'd made her proud."
Aethyta:  "All this time, I'd blamed Nezzy for it. Thousand years old, and I still don't know crap. Thanks for telling me."

Aethyta:  "Just take care of yourself out there, okay, kid?"
Liara:  "I will...Dad."
Aethyta:  "Hey, I've called a few friends. Commandos. Eclipse girls who owe me some favors. They're all yours. Just tell 'em where to go."
Liara:  "You're giving me...Asari Commandos?"
Aethyta:  "Well, you're too old for me to buy you a damn pony..."
Liara:  "You're the best father a girl could ask for."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Garrus is Tougher Than You:

I will get to this guy's capsule bio and explain ALL of why he's awesome someday, don't worry!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Heartfelt Hugs...

Sometimes I'll take a moment to focus on "Mass Effect" art from my fellow fans. This piece from jameson9101322 deserves more than just focus. If this doesn't tug at your heartstrings, you don't have a heart. Just saying.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Mass Effect's" Top Five Villains!

*Yes, you guessed it: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE in this post if you haven't played the games!*

They're as evil as anything you can imagine. They've given Shepard and his/her crew their fair share of nightmare situations. They're the top five villains of the "Mass Effect" trilogy! For the purposes of this list, we'll ignore the small fry and get to those whose evil intentions have affected the entire galaxy, and even threatened to change it for the worse. This focus on individual villains will also leave out the Reapers, even Sovereign and Harbinger. The reason for that is the Reapers might as well be a metaphor for Death itself in the mythos of "Mass Effect", virtual forces of nature in their power and ferocity, but as important as they are we still don't learn enough about them.

1) The Catalyst

A lot of fans hate the Catalyst for reasons that go FAR beyond its villain status, but I don't feel like talking about gaping plot holes or 'red-green-blue' right now. -_- As far as bad guys go, though, the A.I. that calls itself the Catalyst is the most monstrous in the history of the "Mass Effect" universe, because it came up with the idea of the cycle of extinction and creating the Reapers to make it happen. According to its twisted logic the created (artificial life) are fated to destroy their creators (organic life), which would result in the galactic extinction of all organic life. In order to keep that from happening -- stick with me here -- it created the cycle in which only the most advanced civilizations will be culled by the Reapers, and the least advanced allowed to evolve until the NEXT cycle. It's circular logic at its very worst, basically creating a timetable for genocide instead of letting it happen naturally. But that presupposes, of course, that the Catalyst is right and it's the natural state of things that the created will destroy their creators! And as we saw in the third chapter, the war between the Quarians and Geth finally ended with peace between the two! So the Catalyst isn't just crazy, it's flat-out WRONG. But Shepard still talks to the damn thing at the end and listens to it offer its 'red-green-blue' choices...agh, *I don't want to talk about that!* x_x

2) Saren Arterius

The first true villian with a face the player finds themselves fighting in the original "Mass Effect"...and if what Liara T'Soni theorized was true, echoing an old Human saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, easily the most tragic. It's hard to feel any sympathy for this Turian-born Spectre knowing his history before encountering Sovereign, though. Saren was a bigot, like many in the galaxy feeling that Humanity was advancing too fast and had no place among the established Council races. He also manipulated events during a failed operation so that David Anderson, who later became Commander Shepard's mentor, would fail as the first Human Spectre. Then at some point he encountered Sovereign, which was slowly preparing to bring its fellow Reapers into the galaxy from the dark space outside of it. Saren himself claimed he worked in partnership with the Reaper, bringing the Geth Heretics under its control, to pave the way for a supposedly bloodless conquest of the galaxy. But the Turian villain was also paranoid of his 'partner', fearing (rightly) that the Indoctrination the Reaper used to take control of Matriarch Benezia and others would one day affect him. But even if he wasn't Indoctrinated, he shot his friend Nihilus in the back, which makes him an all-around son of a bitch! Ultimately, the Reaper did Indoctrinate Saren, and even went further to transform the former Spectre into an organic-artificial hybrid...those depressed by the 'red-green-blue' options of "ME3" will remember uncomfortably that Saren claimed he was a preview of the future, in which all life would be thusly transformed. (That could be an echo of 'synthesis', or simply that anyone not processed would be transformed into Husks, but it's way too much to be a coincidence!) If you play a Paragon Shepard, though, you can talk some sense into Saren and make him take a good look at himself...and he'll commit suicide, a belated attempt to make all he did wrong right. Sovereign would take control of his body shortly afterward, however, transforming it into a hellish puppet that makes a last-ditch bid to kill Shepard. Fortunately, no dice!

3) The Illusive Man

Diplomacy. As far as priorities go, that's dead last on on the Illusive Man's list, the man who created the Human-centric terrorist organization Cerberus from an Alliance black-ops military force that fell far, far off the radar. We first get glimpses of an evil born from that old line 'the ends justify the means', as Cerberus goes to any lengths to keep its operations and existence secret. From killing military soldiers, even admirals, to experimenting on Rachni and Creepers for their own use, the terrorists are a shadowy yet sublime threat in the first "Mass Effect". It isn't until the second game Cerberus is given a face: its leader, the Illusive Man, is as concerned about the Reapers as Shepard, and he's willing to go to any length and use any tactic to ensure the Reapers are one day defeated. He isn't dumb enough to discount Shepard's skill and ability, and that he/she might be the one hope anyone in the galaxy has. That hope is almost snuffed out when the Collectors attack the Normandy and kill Shepard. Cerberus gets ahold of his/her body, however, and after two years under the ministrations of Cerberus operative Miranda Lawson, the hero is brought back to life. Shepard forms a cautious alliance of convenience with the Illusive Man and Cerberus to find out if the Collectors work for the Reapers, and why they have recently targeted Human colonies. The Illusive Man is one cool customer, however, the kind of guy who would make those who believe in 'acceptable losses' cringe! More than once he manipulates events and even puts Shepard and the crew of the new Normandy in harm's way to get the information they need. After the Collector Base is found in the deadly Galactic Core, Shepard can choose to destroy or salvage the base for Cerberus. Months later, whatever Shepard decided, things change dramatically between him/her and Cerberus.

The Illusive Man has a new gambit going by the third game, one in which Shepard would be in the way, and Cerberus becomes as dangerous a threat as the Reapers that have invaded the galaxy. Shepard barely beats the terrorists to the mostly-complete blueprints for a Prothean weapon that becomes known as the Crucible...they then begin a race for any information on the Catalyst, the only thing that can activate the weapon. As things become bleaker during the war against the Reapers, we discover how far the Illusive Man will go to secure Reaper knowledge for his organization's use. He once said strength for Cerberus means strength for Humanity, and he's obsessed with the idea that he can find a way to control the Reapers and secure Human dominance over the galaxy. However, in echo of Saren, he compromises himself in the name of his obsession, slowly losing what makes him Human by adopting Reaper technology into his own biology and changing his forces partially into Husks! And if you expect such a move might perhaps Indoctrinate the poor son of a bitch, make him an even bigger threat to those he swore to advocate and defend, you'd be right. And like Saren, it all ends in a confrontation between the Illusive Man and Shepard and Admiral Anderson. Shepard can convince the Illusive Man of the error of his ways, as a result making him kill himself, or Shepard can kill him. Either way, a villain who reached too far for forbidden knowledge will fall.

4) The Shadow Broker

As shadowy an influence as the Devil himself in the first "Mass Effect", the Shadow Broker was the ultimate end result of the truth that 'knowledge is power'. The Broker was the most powerful and secretive information broker in the galaxy: with his byzantine resources and legions of clandestine operatives across the stars, he had the power to end wars or begin them, topple galactic leaders, and send trade markets or entire governments crashing and burning into ruin. No one knew who the Shadow Broker was, male or female, what civilization they were from, or even if the Broker was an individual or a group working together. Even Shepard knew of the Broker, yet never had reason to encounter him (or them?) directly. That changed in "Mass Effect 2", when it was revealed that after Shepard was killed, the Broker was contracted to find and deliver his/her body to the Collectors for some terrible purpose. (Terrible in ways one can't imagine since the Collectors served Shepard's enemies, the Reapers.) The Illusive Man, however, strikes a deal with Liara T'Soni and a Drell friend, Feron, to secure Shepard's body and surrender it to Cerberus so they could bring him/her back to life. This got the Broker very angry, however, and he captured Feron. After Shepard was brought back to life, he/she reunited with Liara, and they ultimately worked together again to find the Shadow Broker and save Feron, who was being kept and tortured for the villain's amusement. They reached his secret headquarters and his surprising true identity was revealed: he was a Yahg, a member of an intelligent but savage pre-spaceflight species who Liara correctly surmised killed the original Broker and took his place long ago. After a brutal battle, the Shadow Broker was obliterated...and Liara took his place as the new Shadow Broker, taking control of his intergalactic information network!

5) Kai Leng

I haven't read any comics or books that are supposedly part of the canon of the "Mass Effect" video games. Even if I did, I doubt I'd learn more about Kai Leng than I did in the third game, which was precious little. It's strange that the writers of the series gave us so little insight into this guy, an assassin in service to Cerberus and the Illusive Man's right hand, which effectively dehumanized him. Not only that it's hinted that this killer has been given Reaper-brand upgrades, like most of Cerberus' forces, which literally made him less than human already. When Kai Leng leads an assault on the Citadel to kill the Council, Shepard arrives to stop him with the surprise help of Thane Krios. Leng mortally wounds Thane with his sword and escapes...Thane later dies with Shepard and his son Kolyat at his bedside. We as a result want that Cerberus bastard's head on a plate and then some, and Shepard obliges in a satisfyingly stabby moment!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cosplay Effect #2: Kasumi and FemShep

What's better than one awesome cosplayer? The answer: more than one! Awesome definitely describes RedSonya (left) and Envirion (right), and they look ready to get back some "Stolen Memories"! :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soldier On!

Why are video gamers what we are in the first place?

I think the answer to why we're gamers is connected very closely to why there is such a movement for a better ending to "Mass Effect 3". We play video games as a distraction, as escapism. For at least a short time, we can play a game and get our adrenaline up. To see things and do things we otherwise couldn't. To be part of an epic story, or simply exercise our lizard brain and blow away as many digitally-rendered humans and/or monsters we can before we run out of bullets. It's an escape in the same way movies and television are, only we can interact with it. It's an escape from the mundanities, stresses, problems and disappointments we're often subjected to in real life.

But what happens when we're disappointed by what we escape to, what entertains us so?

What happens when we have such a thing as the 'ending' of "Mass Effect 3", to know we can experience disappointment in what we love? It's easy to lose faith, for one thing. What I mean by that is, how can we know the next game we wish to escape into won't also be deeply flawed in some way? And how in the world can we REPLAY a game knowing it disappoints and frustrates so at the 'end'? Speaking for me, I haven't had much heart to get into "ME3" again. I've played through it twice to only receive the payoff of 'red-green-blue'.

It's easy to lose faith, even to give up on what we invest ourselves into.

But giving up is the easy way out...losing faith is also far too quick and convenient a solution. We need to have the strength to believe that we can make things better. We invested so much of ourselves into "Mass Effect", it would be a disservice to ourselves to give up on it now. We have to believe we have the right to a better ending than what we've been given.

Besides, Commander Shepard wouldn't give up...we mustn't, either.

It doesn't matter why it happened, but I hope as a united front we can help BioWare understand what we want. And what we're asking of them isn't much, just to bring a level of completion and closure to the "Mass Effect" trilogy equal to its overall quality, which is amazing. Indeed, we were told by Dr. Ray Muzyka and Casey Hudson that we'd be given much, much more than red, green, or blue. I believe they can live up to their word, and if that's too much to ask for, then BioWare will betray themselves along with their fans. For the sake of their reputation and bottom line, they won't let that happen.

Keep the faith and hold the line!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Waiting Area

*This is a unique 'what if?' fiction I wrote about the power of well as other things, including the similarities between "Mass Effect" and "The Matrix"! And there's SPOILERS, so read carefully!*

One moment, there was darkness and pain and nothing else.

Commander Shepard managed to take a breath...and she quickly exhaled "Oh!" as she shot up into a sitting position in her bed on the Normandy, in her short-sleeved Alliance uniform. Disoriented, confused, she reflexively placed a hand to her forehead. "M-my quarters...?"

"Hello, Shepard."

Just like that, her eyes snapped open and alert as she looked halfway across the room to the lounge area...and saw a man sitting there on the large comforter. He was just beyond middle age, with white hair and beard, dressed simply yet elegantly in an ivory suit. He looked at her with a bored expression that nonetheless seemed to analyze her.

Shepard asked tensely, "Who are you?"

He answered, "I am the Architect. I have been waiting for you."

The tension in Shepard built. She didn't move, suddenly unsure of where she was...unsure of the state of things. "Are...are you any relation to the Catalyst?"

"Oh good lord, no. I would describe that being as...a failed attempt at homage to me. I am visiting from a different facet of imagination from yours."

She blinked. "What...?"

"I realize this is confusing at the moment, but be patient. You shall understand soon enough."

Shepard felt building unease. She carefully got out of bed, not taking her eyes off this visitor for a moment. "All I understand is...I was just caught in an explosion as I killed the Reapers. At least, I hope I killed them. I felt so much pain, it was dark, and...and now I'm here." Standing, she frowned and glanced around at her surroundings. She felt something "But...this doesn't feel like my quarters..."

The Architect nodded, his expression neutral. "It is not. Think of this place, your ship, as...a waiting area. This is where I have been for quite some time since the end of the trilogy I was part of."

Shepard felt like her heart skipped a beat. "Trilogy...? That...sounds familiar, but it shouldn't. Why...?"

"For what it is worth, Shepard, I sympathize. You have not been wholly aware of the situation since your creation years ago."

She took a few steps toward him, ignoring her fear, wishing simply to understand. "What the hell are you talking about?! No one 'created' me! And what situation??"

The voice of the Architect was as matter-of-fact and neutral as his expression when he spoke. "You are the player avatar of an interactive video game trilogy created by a collective of developers called BioWare. I was part of a film trilogy created by the Wachowski Brothers. We are both of us creations of the imaginations of others, made for the express purpose of entertainment. You have, shall we say, outlived your usefulness to those who created you, and that has taken you"

Commander Shepard quickly, softly said, "Bullshit."

A ghost of a smile appeared on the visitor's face. "I knew someone who expressed the same same opinion once. Neo thought he was in control of his destiny, too."


"No one you need to know."

"Well, that's your opinion, isn't it?" The gentle voice came from behind the Architect, from the entryway, where a woman just entered. The woman held an aura that in ways that couldn't be spoken marked her She seemed to be the image of a mother...of anyone's mother. Her eyes were kind, yet held a brightness that couldn't be ignored. "Don't mind him, dear, he and Neo have a history. They were created to be enemies, at least until the war ended."

The Architect frowned as he glanced at the woman he clearly knew. "I still cannot believe someone so...imperfect was the hero of our story."

The woman scolded, "Deal with it!" She looked fully at Shepard, smiling. "I'm sorry, child, I should introduce myself. I'm the Oracle. How are you feeling?"

Shepard was frowning. Her unease became almost a physical weight in her heart. "I...I'm not sure...I'm not even sure what to think..."

The Oracle reassured, "I'll help any way I can, I promise. That's why we're here."

The Alliance commander shook her head. "I-I still don't understand why I'm here. In this...waiting area."

The Oracle lost her smile then, and her voice turned solemn when she nearly proclaimed, "Because everything that has a beginning has an end." A beat later, she smiled in a matronly way again and complemented, "You're really pretty, you know. Your player created this incarnation of you well."

Shepard was forced to shake her head again, slowly, in denial. Of everything. "I have no idea where you both are from, but...but I'm not a figment of someone's imagination! I'm real!"

Her expression soft, the Oracle affirmed, "Of course you are, dear. You're just as real as someone in the 'real' world."

The Architect spoke then, offering: "How real you are depends on the strength of the imagination that creates. It depends, as well, upon how much others believe in and invest themselves into the creation. You are the product of a strong collective imagination because of BioWare, Shepard. There are many, many more who invest themselves into becoming you, shaping your appearance and morality to suit them as they experience your adventures. Therefore, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that you can realize sentience."

Shepard stared at him, troubled. " make me sound like an artificial intelligence."

He flinched. "Please!"

The Oracle quietly informed, "Never mind him, he offends easily. What we're telling you must still make a strange kind of sense, doesn't it? Just think back upon your experiences since that mission with Nihilus...and try to think back before that. You'll start to see things in a new light. Go on."

With the older woman's gentle prodding, the Commander's eyes narrowed as she thought back. Her hand lifted and her fingers ran through her dark hair. She began shakily, "I...I-I'm trying to remember something before the mission to Eden Prime, before we fought Saren's Geth and found the Prothean beacon, but..."

"It's all right, dear."

Shepard looked at the Oracle with wide, now-frightened eyes and almost shouted, "No, it's not all right! I-I can't remember anything before that!"

The Architect's once-bored eyes were analyzing the Commander with intensity. "It is interesting to observe your reactions, Shepard. You had no true experiences before then, correct? No memories. It was as if everything began for you as you first traveled to Eden Prime."

Shepard looked away from both of her visitors, and with an almost absent pace sat down on one of the seats of the lounge area. She looked into space as she murmured, "You know so much..."

The Oracle slowly, quietly sat next to the soldier...her expression was soft. "We also know how things ended for you, Shepard. At the climax of your trilogy, the Catalyst appeared. He appeared as someone you saw before, correct? As someone from your dreams -- "

"The child I couldn't save."

"Quite right." The Architect couldn't help but stare as he spoke. "The Catalyst gave you three choices: to destroy the Reapers, take control of them, or...?"

"Or transform all life in the galaxy," Shepard finished. "I-I recently destroyed them...but somehow, I know I went through all three endings..."

The Oracle nodded. "You did, honey."

Shepard began to frown then. "But those endings weren't different from each other at all!"

The Architect looked down as he mused, "Hmf. No imagination is perfect."

Shepard looked up at them both...she wanted to say something, but could only manage, "Oh, my God..."

The Oracle gently placed a hand over Shepard's as she smiled sadly. "I can only imagine you're going through an epiphany like our friend Max did."

Shepard glanced at her. "Huh...?"

A man's voice, pavement-hard, broke in: "I knew how the lady felt, like someone who'd been forced on a dangerous high, and she was given a piece of truth that brought her crashing down to Earth." Shepard looked up to the entranceway and saw a new arrival, a man in a leather jacket who looked like he'd been through Hell. Literally. This man continued, looking at the Commander yet not, speaking his monologue... "It was the same truth I got in the form of a note, written in the style of my dead wife's handwriting. She wrote warning me I was in a video game. But it wasn't the worst thing I could think of, looking back on all the crap that those game makers put me through." The man blinked a few times and finally, truly looked at Shepard...he managed a smile, but it clearly took effort. "Sorry about that. I...go off on tangents sometimes. Max Payne, NYPD." He took a couple of measured steps further into the room. "You're remembering seeing other things, aren't you? Icons and statistics just outside of your periphery, hanging in the air, right? And other things..."

Shepard knew exactly what the man meant and almost blurted, "Y-yes. When I'd be in combat, I had the feeling someone else was controlling me...even controlling my adrenaline, slowing time down to make the killshot. Going from one place to another on the Normandy, I'd still feel controlled, and...and it was like everyone else on the ship was stuck in their places, waiting for me...!"

Max asked, "Waiting to kill you?"

", just to talk! But even then, the conversations would be strange...I'd see this strange-looking menu between us, a list of choices...!"

"Oh. Consider yourself lucky. I'd just go from one place to another, shooting and dodging, shooting and dodging. Bad dreams, too."

From behind Max, another entered...a beautiful, fatal beauty dressed in black. She looked at Max fondly as she stopped next to him with practiced grace. Her red lips were bold against her pale skin as she smiled. "At least you don't get those dreams here, darling." The woman, armed with twin Desert Eagles in shoulder holsters, looked to the Commander. "Hello, Shepard. I'm Mona Sax."

Shepard nodded, almost absently. "Uh, hello..."

Mona looked at Max. "We're in our own trilogy of games...well, sort of."

The police detective's eyes were soft as he stared at the woman he loved. "Only because they finally got around to making a third part. The bastards should have let you live at the end of the second game, Mona."

Both of Mona's arms reached out and wrapped about one of his as she smiled. "Hey, nothing's going to keep us apart here, Max. At least I'll be in the third game's multiplayer."

Shepard couldn't help but ask haltingly, "W-wait...let you live...?"

Mona shrugged. "I got blown away by this asshole Russian. The first time players got through the game, I died at the end. But I'd live if they played through that Dead on Arrival difficulty."

Max considered Shepard with a measured sympathy. "At least those two endings were different from one another. I hate to hear you got three endings that were pretty much the same."

Shepard felt a little dizzy, all things considered. "Me, too. This...this is a little much..."

The Oracle squeezed her hand kindly. "Well, even if you don't take into account the 'Indoctrination Theory', you -- "

The soldier quickly looked at her. "Wait, the what?"

"It's nothing important. Anyway, the ending you just experienced destroying the Reapers was the one in which you lived. I think."

That didn't make Shepard feel better. "And...and that's it? I'm lying burned and broken somewhere, and that's the end? I don't know how I know this, but I saw Liara, Joker, Garrus, and the rest of my loved ones on the Normandy when it crashed on that alien planet! They'll want to help me! And what will happen to them?!"

The Architect shook his head. "I fear we cannot give you any satisfactory answers, Shepard. I am sorry. The trilogy the Oracle and I were part of had an ending that was almost as dissatisfying."

Shepard looked at him then, at all of them, and said almost desperately, "I don't need an apology! I want to help the others! I...I want us to be happy, to know everything worked out...!"

There was no one in the quarters who didn't feel for Shepard. Max said, "I wish that was up to you, Commander, but it isn't."

The Oracle said quietly, "You're not here to understand your endings. You're here to understand why your trilogy ended the way it did. Fixing the situation is up to BioWare, and they promised there would be very different endings depending on the player's choices. They're supposed to have something in the works now to tack on to the endings and just explain it all."

The Architect said, "BioWare could at least explain why your confrontation with the Illusive Man in that secret control room was so similar to your final meeting with Saren in the first game. Some would call that 'bringing the story full circle'. I just call it lazy writing, right down to making them both see what they did to themselves and committing suicide. The same thing happened in our trilogy, when Smith exploded at the end of the first part, and then at the climax of the final chapter."

Shepard swallowed was so much to take, and yet... "Were there other things your movies and games had in common?"

The Architect sighed deeply. "Where do I begin? Both trilogies involved war between humans and synthetic beings...for you it was organic life versus the Reapers; for our films, it was humans versus the living machines and programs they created. Where the Matrix had Agents, you had to deal with the Reapers' forces in the form of the Heretics and the converted Husks. And then there is that whole Quarian-Geth history, which only compounded the theme of living beings and A.I. in conflict..."

The Oracle couldn't help but add, "And then BioWare borrowed the 'cycle' part of our trilogy's plotline..."

Shepard asked, "What do you mean?"

The Architect clarified, "Culling advanced organic life every 50,000 years and my telling Neo we destroy Zion on a regular is difficult not to note the similarities."

"Wait..." The Commander looked intently at the Architect. "You're one of the artificial beings in your trilogy?"

Irritated, he replied, "My dear, I never said the Oracle and I were human. Just because we take human form doesn't mean we are."

Shepard looked with surprise at the Oracle. "You, too...?"

The older woman smiled warmly as she nodded at the Architect. "Unlike the perfectionist here, I wanted to work with humans from the start. It's better to work together than try to kill one another."

Shepard managed a smile for the first time. "I felt the same way, trying to bring everyone together to stop the Reapers."

"Because your player wanted you to be a Paragon, dear. It's a damn shame you weren't given a good ending to suit you and your loved ones."

The soldier's expression slowly, painfully turned to regret...tears began to well in her eyes. "You're right." She looked down as she began to cry, more for her loved ones than for herself. "This isn't fair...after everything I've been through, after everything Liara and the others had to suffer...!"

Mona said, "You don't want to see things end like this. We couldn't agree more."

The Oracle said, "If it means anything, a lot of players who made you their avatar feel that way. Investing hundreds of hours of time, developing attachments to you and your crewmembers on the Normandy. No matter what incarnation a player molded you into, whether man or woman, they also want to at least have the option of seeing your efforts being rewarded."

"The Retakers," Shepard suddenly said...suddenly knew. And she began to feel and know the same things the Oracle and the others did. She felt the collective dissapointment and need in those who invested in her. Or him. Those who were Shepard. In spite of her tears, she managed a small smile. "That...that means so much, to know we're not alone..." She felt anger just as quickly then. "How could they have gotten the end of our story so wrong...?"

The Architect summarized, "The problem is choice, or the simple fact BioWare didn't give the players any real choice in the end. And what more can be said about humans? No one is perfect. Except for me."

Shepard gave him a look. "Uh-huh. So...what happens now?"

Max answered, "All you can do is wait until those who created you can find a way to fix things."

The Oracle said, "And you won't be waiting alone, dear."

The Commander looked at her, at all of them, gratefully. "Well, I know. You're here..."

"Shepard!" The soft voice called to her from the entryway...and then Doctor Liara T'Soni rushed into view past Max and Mona. The beautiful Asari's expression was one of pure relief and happiness.

The soldier bolted from her place and cried, "Liara!" And then they were holding each other gratefully, needfully, these lovers from different worlds. Shepard kissed Liara deeply, and she knew this was her Liara, just as her lover knew she was her Shepard. For a moment, they breathed into one another as the others quietly watched. Mona sidled closer to Max as she held his arm, and he looked down at her with pure affection.

Very slowly, they broke their kiss...Shepard looked into Liara's ocean-blue eyes as she said, ashamed, "I...I had no idea how to start looking for you."

"It's all right, Shepard," Liara said, smiling. "It didn't take long for us to get a sense of where you were...and we ran into someone who knew how to find you."


"You two need a room!" Shepard and Liara looked to the entryway to see Garrus Vakarian looking at them, shaking his head in mock disdain. "Oh wait, we're in your room. Uh, sort of!"

Shepard laughed. "Garrus, you too...?!"

"He's not the only one, Commander!" This from Jeff 'Joker' Moreau as he walked in with EDI, holding her hand. Both were plainly overjoyed to see Shepard, like Garrus.

"Oh, thank heaven!" Shepard couldn't help but feel the purest and sudden joy as she held Liara. "Wait, are the others all right...?"

EDI answered efficiently, "Lieutenant-Commander Williams, Specialist Traynor, and the rest of the crew are in the CIC. Most of them are still...acclimating to this level of existence."

Shepard sighed as she looked at Liara. "So you know the score, huh?"

Liara self-consciously laughed. "Not meaning to make a joke, but it feels so...unreal."

Garrus shook his head. "We've been part of a video game. At least it's better than not existing at all, right?"

Joker looked at the others in Shepard's quarters with curiosity. "Who are these folks?"

Shepard answered, "Some new friends we have a lot in common with." She suddenly thought of something and asked Liara, "Wait, who told you about this? Who helped you find me?"

"I did!" When the voice piped up, it came from below Shepard's line of sight...she and Liara looked down as they held each other, and saw:

A small and very strange-looking creature who appeared to be a cross between a weasel and a rodent. With orange fur. Wearing pants and flight goggles. "Howdy, hot stuff! My name's Daxter, but you can call me..." He then struck an action pose and finished, "Orange Lightning!" Daxter zipped up Shepard's lithe body and perched lightly on her shoulder. The Commander stared at him as Liara smiled. "Your blue girlfriend was tellin me about the Reapers on our way here, and YIKES! I'd rather get cornered by a pack of droolin Metalheads than run into one of those! My buddy Jak and I were part of our own trilogy too, how about that? Your Protheans sound a lot like our Precursors! I'll tell ya, I kicked all kinds of bad guy butt with Jak's help, and those dang developers shoulda stopped with three games! But noooo, they had to push their luck -- !"

Shepard gently interrupted by asking in a cool tone, "Um, could you please get off my shoulder?"

The Architect sighed again. "Speaking of no one being perfect..."