Ghosts of Alchera (ME fan fic)

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Ghosts of Alchera (ME fan fic)

Post by PiEdude on Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:08 am

Long, stark, black shadows threw themselves across the tundra as the Kodiak drop shuttle raced above the surface of Alchera. Commander Shepard anxiously tapped his foot on the deck, the tinny rhythm of metal against metal the only noise ringing in his ears. This wasn’t easy. He knew what he was getting into, and he didn’t like it. Yet he had to do it. There was no real choice. When he’d received the message from Admiral Hackett, he’d only felt a chill. The closer he got to the Normandy’s crash site, the more that chill grew, the heavier it got, like a great lead ball in the pit of his stomach. It was getting hard to breathe.

There were at least twenty crewmen that he’d failed, but they weren’t the first. Not by far. He’d failed plenty of others long before, but there was one that stood out. One that he could not get out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. One that he saw every time he closed his eyes, even after he’d fallen asleep at night. The same one he’d saved twice, but only twice. The only woman he’d loved, for the first time in a long time. The same woman he couldn’t save on Virmire.

There was a slight jump, and Shepard didn’t even need the pilot to say they were there. He reached down and picked his helmet up from
between his feet and watched as the Heads up Display lit up on the inside. There was a small thud as the shuttle hit the ground, telling Shepard it was time to stand up. He took a deep breath, and walked out the exit door. The change in gravity was noticeable immediately. It was slightly lighter than Earth’s, something like 85% according to the information he’d received along with the e-mail. The commander began his walk.

Snow crunched under his feet as he approached the bulk of the wreckage. All around him were pieces of his former ship, and former life. They were largely indistinguishable from each other at a distance, all except for the large section of hull with the word NORMANDY clearly printed on the side. The closer he got to each individual section, the more familiar it became. The cockpit, the Mako, the galaxy map, the sleeper pods, even the old mess hall. There were dog tags strewn about each one, and he collected each one he saw. That was, technically, the pretense for his coming here after all.

Each piece of ship brought back memories. Whether it was Joker manning the helm, Garrus doing something other than calibrations, or Wrex telling Shepard about the Genophage and life as a krogan, they all sent him back, and they all made the lead ball feel heavier. He could hear Joker’s clever banter, see Garrus’ slow acceptance that he didn’t always have to break the rules to serve justice, and almost feel Wrex’s bitter outlook on the destiny of his species. Shepard shook his head. He had to get back to the mission. The dog tags were surprisingly easy to find. Most of them shone in the odd twilight of the planet’s atmosphere, and the ones that didn’t still stood out against the white frost.

He saw another one near a steep drop off, and began walking towards it. The silver glare was sitting just on the edge of the ice shelf, right before the point where several broken shards had drifted off slightly. He picked it up off the ground, read the name, and put it away in his suit. That was when he saw a section of the ship he hadn’t before. It had a large segment of ice between it and the shuttle’s landing zone. It looked, eerily enough, like the entrance to a catacomb, or mousoleum. Shepard moved towards it reluctantly, almost cautiously.

It was different from the others. It wasn’t immediately familiar. All he could see was the metal bulkhead and deck, until a counter top caught his eye. He almost stopped moving. This couldn’t be what he thought it was, could it? Shepard quickened his pace. He saw more of the counter the closer he got. When he reached the space between the bulkhead and ice that kept most of it from view, his eyes widened, and the ball in his stomach seemed as though it would cause him to fall through the planet’s surface.

He ran his hand along the counter, the same way he’d done two years previously. He felt every uneven curve on the once rigid surface. Shepard stopped when he looked up and saw the whole thing. It was little more than a short corridor with a dead end. It was all very familiar now, and the silence was suddenly oppressive. The lead ball started working its way out of his stomach. He felt it slowly crawl up, past his lungs, crushing his heart against the inside of his chest.

The ball forced itself through his esophagus, up his throat, and he could feel it coming out his mouth. He turned away. He stumbled towards the natural doorway, trying to escape the suddenly claustrophobic space. But he wasn’t quick enough. Shepard dropped to a knee, and held onto the counter top for stability. He inhaled deeply, and the ball came out, dissipated in short, choking coughs. He was facing the ground, and saw the tears spatter across the inside of his visor, one at a time. They ran down it into his stomach, pooling around his throat like a liquid noose.

This had been her post. Where she’d stood and constantly checked over and inspected every weapon to ensure that they were in working order. Where Shepard had worked to know her, and later to love her. The place they’d talked about everything from her views on aliens, to her father, and even her love of poetry, Tennyson in particular. This wasn’t where it had all began, nor was it where it ended. It was the glorious purgatory between his heaven and his hell.

“Wow.” The voice was not his own. Shepard turned to see Ashley Williams sitting there, swinging her legs back and forth, just slightly, as she stared at him. “Never thought I’d see you cry, Skipper.” He knew it wasn’t real. She was wearing her mess clothes on a planet without oxygen, never mind all the other compounding factors up to and including the fact that she was two years dead.

“I’m hallucinating.” He tried to keep his voice level as he stood. Shepard kept staring. He squinted hard, but the image of her didn’t fade. “This can’t be real. Can it?”

Ashley simply shrugged. Her eyes were fixed on his transparent visor. They seemed to stare directly into his soul. Strangely, they weren’t accusing, or angry, or even very upset. More than Shepard ever would have expected.

“Well,” She began as she got down from the countertop. “Regardless, of what I am, I won’t be here forever. And I do need to tell you something.”

Ashley walked toward him. Shepard moved forward. He wasn’t sure what this was, but he still tried to reach out, tried to hold her. It wasn’t conscious, so much as it was instinctive. She went straight through him. He turned back around to face her.

Her face had an incredible sadness to it. This, of course, could prove nothing to Shepard. If he was right, and if this was a hallucination, he knew that it would only be natural for him to see her that way. Still, he grasped at the hope that it was more than that, as she continued her speech.

“Skipper,” she rested her hand on the countertop as she spoke. “You need to stop beating yourself up over me. Over what happened on
Virmire. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Of course it was.” Shepard spat back. “I was the one who made the call. I don’t regret saving Kaidan, but I’ll always regret not going back.” His voice was barely under his control. “Why did you arm it Ash? Why would you make me choose like that?” He didn’t mean to blame her, but he couldn’t help it. He tried to redirect it at himself, but he got a reply too soon.

“Because I knew that our mission, your mission, Shepard, was more important than any one of us. That you would make the right choice.” Her words were strong, and her resolve was adamant. It was a very convincing hallucination, that much was clear.

Shepard looked away. He shifted his gaze to the icy tundra outside. It was eerily peaceful, and the night sky, clustered with stars, created the perfect canopy. He sighed, and looked back inside to see that Ashley was gone. It took a moment to realize that most of that may not have even happened. His sleep schedule had been anything but normal since Virmire, and especially since Cerberus had brought him back.

The commander shook his head before starting to walk back out into the snowy terrain. He gazed at the sky. There were probably all kinds of constellations he could invent right off the top of his head, but he was too preoccupied. “It’s nice, isn’t it.” The voice was close.

Shepard knew before he looked down that she would be there again. Standing right by his side, staring up at the stars just as he was. For some reason, he hated admitting to himself that she looked beautiful in this light, fake as she may have been. “I don’t have to be the last one, Skipper.” She stated simply, her gaze still fixed into the night sky.

“Who else?” he asked, hiding a puzzled expression behind his now slightly glared helmet.

Ashley just gestured towards the stars with her hand. Shepard looked up to see a pattern start to form from the static lights in the sky. It was a head, then a face. A familiar face. He stared for a few moments before he saw what he thought he was supposed to see. “Jack?” He kept looking at the stars.

There was no reply. He looked over to see her gone again. When Shepard looked back to the sky, Jack’s face was still there. It was actually clearer now, much more defined. He could see every detail of it, right down to the tattoos, and running mascara. But rather than her usual biting rage, Jack wore a look of sadness, of longing. Shepard knew the feeling.

As he started back towards the shuttle, Shepard heard Ash’s voice one last time:

“Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.


Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.


Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.


Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.


Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.”


It whispered in his mind throughout the entire walk to the shuttle. It was a Tennyson poem he’d read once, though he wasn’t sure of the name. He’d read a lot of Tennyson after Ashley had died. It didn’t matter, the message was clear enough. He stepped down into the depression the Kodiak had landed in. He stepped up into the doorway, but took one last look. Off in the distance, he saw her.

She was just standing there. She nodded to him. Kelly’s going to have something to say about this. Common sense told him. He nodded back before entering the shuttle.

Only if I tell her. Shepard thought as he felt the sharp pull on his body as the shuttle lifted off the ground.
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PiEdude
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Re: Ghosts of Alchera (ME fan fic)

Post by PiEdude on Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:41 pm

Updated, for a sort of late 2 year anniversary. I've touched it up plenty of times since I posted it here. Still needs some of the italics fixed, but I'm tired and lazy.
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