Lian Shepard and two members of her squad were hiding behind the largest cover they could find as they attempted to bring down the human reaper larvae before them. Lian's black, waist-length ponytail was wild and crazy looking, and her face had multiple scratches on it.
She was also bleeding heavily from a bullet wound to her chest and was swimming in heavy medi-gel doses. Samara and Kasumi were also pretty badly beat up, but she knew they were all just praying to survive this last battle. She leaned out from her cover and stared the hybrid monstrosity in the eyes for the last time. She was determined to see Joker's face again, and to tell him how much he meant to her, no matter what she had to do.
She kissed the top of her grenade launcher lightly. Then hefted it up on her shoulder and took careful aim, and as the devil was about to fire his mouth's lethal cannon, Lian's grenade hit her target, the reaper's lit eyes going dark as it flailed about, trying to find the being that had done so much damage. Lian dropped her grenade launcher and sank to her knees, relief flooding her mind in waves. It was over. They had survived the suicide mission.
Just as she was getting to her feet in pure joy, the reaper's arm appeared in a last attempt to bring them down and flailed about momentarily in the air, crashing down on one of the nearby platforms. Lian screamed as the platform they were standing on gave a jerking lurch and began to fall. Kasumi lost her footing, and started to slide feet first towards the edge, and her death.
She screamed a bloodcurdling wail of pure fear and clawed at the metal surface of the platform, her fingernails leaving a bloody trail after her as she tried to slow her frenzied slide towards the edge. Lian launched herself towards her best friend, pressing against the metal to slide as quickly as possible towards her. She reached out a hand, hoping to catch Kasumi and slow their rampage, but then she grabbed a hold of her, another lurch broke their grip apart. Then the lower half of Kasumi's body disappeared over the edge, and Lian had a brief flash of her face, her eyes wide with pure and absolute horror. She made one final wild grab as Kasumi disappeared altogether, and was rewarded with a trembling black-gloved hand in hers, the owner of it dangling haphazardly over the edge of the falling platform.
Lian pulled Kasumi up, and they both tried maintain their balance as their platform fell into the abyss below, both embracing that death was coming. Samara was grimly balancing in the center of the platform, her head looking up, her mouth mumbling what was most likely a prayer to the goddess. Another jerk rocked the platform and Kasumi and Lian were sent sprawling, tumbling over one another as the rolled away from the edge and back towards Samara who had also been knocked off her feet. One of the last thing Lian remembered about seeing her friends for the last time while they were living, was that they both had a look of pure horror on their faces as another platform hurtled at them at top speed, sending all three women into a panic before everything went dark.
Lian felt like she had been hit by a train, and she knew that she had also lost a lot of blood. She felt a heavy, restricting object laying on top of her, and tried to raise her hands up to push it away. The metal beam lifted easier than she thought it would, and she tossed it aside, looking around for her friends. The first one she saw was Samara.
"Samara!" she yelled, running over to the asari Justicar. She flung the shrapnel off her friend's body, and flipped her over, scanning her face. Samara's molten silver eyes were glassy orbs, all life gone from them. Her skin was cool to the touch and her body was limp. Lian bowed her head, trying to hold in the tears at losing the asari. She had been such a good friend to Lian, and now she was gone, just like everyone else. Lian gently closed Samara's eyes, resting her fingers on the woman's eyelids.
"Find peace in the arms of the goddess," she said, repeating a phrase, she had heard the Justicar use before. Lian raised her head, looking for any sign of Kasumi. She saw a pile of metal shift ever so slightly and darted off towards it, leaving Samara's body behind.
"Oh God, Kasumi, please!" she begged, tossing the metal panels aside. Kasumi's heavy, labored breathing could be heard, and Lian pulled her friend close, rocking her gently in her arms.
"I can.." said Kasumi, her voice choking off with a gurgle. "...see Keiji..." She gave a final sigh and went limp in Lian's arms, her eyes fixating on a point off on space. Lian's tears fell unchecked now, landing on Kasumi's pale face. She gently laid the body of her friend down, wiping her hand across her eyes. Half her team out of everyone she had pulled together for the suicide mission, gone. And unless her contact with the ground team had just been lost, she knew they were all gone.
Even the crew of the Normandy, Chakwas and Kelly, they had all died when Mordin had so bravely tried to bring them back home. Shaking her head she pushed herself to her feet, trying to get a hold of Joker.
"Do you copy?" she heard his voice ringing in her ear. "Commander? C'mon Shepard, don't leave me hanging here! Do you copy?"
"I'm here, Joker," she breathed thankfully into her comm system. She was so glad to hear his voice again. "Did the ground team make it," hoping beyond hope that she was wrong and their connection had just been lost.
"There's no sign of them Shepard." he replied, his words laced with loss. "I-I guess they didn't make it."
Lian screamed in grief and slammed a fist into a nearby wall, shaking her head and sobbing in agony. She had lost everyone. Everyone.
"Blow this hell hole sky high," she said, taking off for the Normandy's landing zone. Seeker swarms were congregating behind her, and she had no intention of falling prey to them after all she had been through today. She pushed them back with a biotic wave, firing off a couple rounds from her pistol as well. She sprinted faster, pushing her body to its limits, running and hoping that she could make it in time. She watched Joker pull the Normandy carefully up to a bridge made of platforms, and increased her pace. The airlock slid open, revealing Joker himself standing there alone, an assault rifle in his hands, firing at the collector drones and seeker swarms massing behind her.
Then everything seemed to slow as debris from above rained down, causing Lian to stumble in her vicious run for safety. The heavy chunks of metal landed on the few platforms that made up the bridge connecting her to the Normandy, and her heart sank. No human could make that jump, no one.
Still, she would try, she had to try, for the sake of everyone in the entire galaxy. She launched herself away from the ground, pinwheeling her arms to try to propel herself towards Joker, to get herself to safety. She felt one of the collector's bullets embed itself in her knee, but she ignored the ripping sensation as she rammed into the airlock of the Normandy, dangling from the edge.
Her held on for dear life, not wanting to fall, but knowing it was unavoidable at this point. She wasn't going to make it out of this base. Not alive.
"Joker!" she screamed as he knelt down to try to pull her up, grabbing her hands and heaving with all the strength in his brittle bones. "Joker you have to tell them!" she choked, tears welling up in her eyes.
"No!" he said, giving another heave. "You tell them! You aren't doing this to me again!"
"Tell them," she whispered, barely audible over the gunfire and the shouts of the collectors. She let go of the ledge and Joker wasn't strong enough to hold on to her. She slipped, a single tear trailing down her bleeding and dirty cheeks, making a single clean streak. Her body seemed to fall in slow motion, her eyes closing in acceptance, her arm still reaching up towards him, as if wanting to push him away, to send him to safety.
"Commander!" he yelled, watching her fall. "Shepard..."
It was the last word she heard over her comm system before everything went dark, and finally, at long last, she could rest undisturbed. And when she opened her eyes all her friends were standing there, Samara, Kasumi, Thane, Tali, everyone. Smiling at her with their arms extended. Finally, they were all allowed some peace....
Joker stood in the cargo hold of the Normandy, his eyes closed and his hand resting against the cool metal surface of a large rectangular surface. It was a coffin. Inside rested his one true love, the one things that had made him feel he had a purpose, and it had all been taken away in a single moment. If only he had been stronger, if only...
And now he had to return the Normandy to port and he had to bring home thirteen coffins plus the whole dead crew. And he had to explain to all their families or friends how he had been unable to save anyone, and how they had all died.
The worst part was he had to bring Lian's body back to her parents. The beacon of humanity's broken body would be given to her Alliance parents in a Cerberus coffin. What could he possibly say that could make this right? There was nothing, nothing anyone could do.
Cerberus had truly sent them on a real suicide mission.