The alien terrain was rocky. The air so silent that Kaidan Alenko could hear the brittle rocks beneath his feet crumble as he made his way through the unfamiliar landscape.
Keeping close to the shadows, Kaidan maintained a slow but steady pace. It had been hours since he had left the safety of his own ship. He was navigating blind, the electric magnetic emissions from about half a klick ahead of him effectively nullifying any tech he could’ve brought with him.
“Damn it, Shepard,” Kaidan muttered under his breath. What was she up to now? He had received a short burst transmission from her ship days ago. Something about how Shepard was in danger. Something about how his ship was the closest one to her location. There was so much static it had been hard to understand but whatever he did manage to decrypt scared the shit out of him.
Tracing the signal back to its origin brought him more questions than answers, and now he was on a solo mission trying to save Shepard’s ass before the Reapers could retaliate.
Kaidan could feel his biotic energy humming just under his skin at the thought of her. They had a good run together. Sweaty nights on board the Normandy. Stolen kisses on every elevator of the Citadel. It may seem like light years ago, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t drive away the memories of the woman she had been before she betrayed everything they believed in. Before she had died.
He shook his head and forced himself to concentrate. Some Spectre he was turning out to be, mooning over a woman when he was on a mission to save the whole god-forsaken universe.
Going by memory, he compared the landscape around him to the terrain map in his mind’s eye. He was close. Hunkering down behind a large rock, Kaidan flexed his hands and flicked a mass effect field into existence. Glowing blue light flared outward and dimmed as the field settled tightly around his body. Textbook-perfect barrier but with one difference: The shifting mass-effect field rendered him invisible to the naked eye.
The thirty feet perimeter around the compound was brightly lit by the three moons high above the sky. There were no shadows and nowhere to hide. Despite the invisibility field, Kaidan moved in fast and low.
Reaching out with one hand, he palmed the control next to the nearest door, letting a short burst of biotic energy surge into the system. Sparks flew out of the panel, and the door hissed opened. Kaidan held his breath. When no one came rushing out, he clutched his assault rifle close to him before peering around the door frame. A hallway stretched out in front of him. Long. Empty. Grey.
The first phase of his plan was complete. Now to find Shepard and drag her sorry ass back to civilization.
He took a step into the compound. Then another. Then another. But something felt wrong. The building was much too quiet, too empty.
Then he heard something. The sound was soft. Like the way her breath had felt against his skin that morning before Ilos. It annoyed him. Grated his nerves. As he walked farther into the compound, the sound grew louder, and he realized he had been listening to an old folk song from Earth. Piped through an old internal speaker system, the melody was disjointed. The sound hollow. It crackled, then stopped, then started again.
A figure stood in front of him.
The hair on the back of his neck stood on end when he realized the figure was staring straight at him. It was a young boy with fair skin and wide eyes. Soft layers of brown hair framed his face. Tears ran down his cherubic cheeks. The boy’s mouth opened and closed as he whispered a continuous stream of nonsensical words.
…Never say never. Baby, baby, baby…
The boy pointed one finger at him. The whispering stopped as rage began to contort his beautiful face into something grotesque.
Then the boy turned around and ran.
Kaidan cursed and pursued the boy down the hall. If the Reapers hadn’t known he was coming, they did now. He shook off his invisibility field and diverted the energy to both his palms. Whatever was waiting for him at the center of the compound would get a full biotic kick to the teeth, and whatever his biotics couldn’t kill, his assault rifle would finish the job.
He burst through one final set of doors and found himself in the middle of a wide open clearing. His jaw dropped. Stunned, he could only watch as the most horrific scene played out in front of him.
Hundreds of bodies contorted simultaneously as if performing an ancient ritual. Krogan, Volus, Salarian, Turian. No one seemed immune to the power of the eerie folk song. A brown bowl-shaped fungus sat on top of every head, its soft hair-like strands waving in time to the rhythm of the music. Kaidan covered his ears with his hands as the wailing of hundreds of voices singing at the top of their lungs deafened him.
And right in the middle of it all was Shepard.
Her lifeless eyes told him everything he needed to know. She danced like all the other marionettes on the stage. Humanity’s greatest hope turned into a puppet. The fiery woman he had loved, still loved, reduced to a crude representation of her once vibrant self.
Something in him snapped. Biotic fire surge to life.
Kaidan staggered forward, making his way to Shepard. He threw both arms around her, holding her safe against his body as he allowed himself to surrender to the violence within. Dark energy rippled outward. Powered by rage, fueled by passion, his biotic fire burned everything it touched. The bodies that danced around them crumbled to the ground.
The sound of her voice broke through his seething rage. It had been too long since the last time he had heard her voice. It brought back a rush of memories. The way she had barked her commands at him, the way she had defied the Council, the way she conquered the galaxy and fought back the darkness through sheer force of her will.
His rage died, and in its place was warmth and life and laughter.
Kaidan opened his mouth, wanting to ask for her forgiveness, to beg for a second chance, when the ground began to rumble. The quaking earth heaved and shook beneath their feet. Kaidan fell. He covered Shepard with his own body as the building around them began to crumble. Large chunks of metal and stone crashed down.
And then there was silence.
Kaidan raised his head to look around. The compound was destroyed, and standing in front of them was the same boy he had seen in the hallway. The boy pointed one finger at him, and hundreds of voices surged into Kaidan’s mind, some whispering, some shouting, all saying the same thing:
…In the year 2012, we were kidnapped and cryogenically frozen by the Reapers. We were held in stasis for thousands of years while the Reapers worked hard to augment our boyish charms and angelic voices with their technology. When triggered, the sound of our voices would spread across the galaxy like cosmic radiation ultimately Bieberizing all intelligent races and making resistance futile…
The voices died once the message was given. The boy nodded at him as if in thanks. He raised his angelic eyes and the most beautiful smile Kaidan had ever seen spread across his face. The edges of his body began to blur, and with tears running down his cheeks, the boy disappeared into thin air, leaving behind the haunting refrain of his song.
...Never say never…