Two years after a giant ship using an unknown technology attacked the Citadel, a mysterious new enemy has emerged. On the fringes of known space, entire human colonies are vanishing. If organic life is to have any hope of survival, someone must assemble the galaxy’s deadliest team and stop the most terrifying threat humanity has ever faced.

But that’s somebody else’s problem.

CHOOSE YOUR CHARACTER:

KROGAN

Krogans may be known throughout the galaxy for their prowess on the battlefield, but someone has to manage the more “economic” side of war to keep the soldiers armed and armored. For Clan Hailot, that means black market dealings, extortion, protection rackets, and anything else one might expect from the most successful organized crime family this side of Garvug. You may not be the most powerful krogan in the Clan, but that hasn’t stopped you from finding an important niche on the Citadel, where you run a highly successful business front that earns the Clan, and yourself, a more than comfortable sum of legitimately earned credits.

HUMAN

After a distinguished career as an NYPD officer on Earth, you were the second human in history offered a position in C-Sec on the Citadel. During your early days on the station, you planned a sting operation on a couple of krogan smugglers. Because of your actions, the Citadel saw a significant reduction in the illegal weapons trade. You became respected–an icon of human strength and integrity–but the same events that landed you the rank of lieutenant, also put you on the wrong side of Clan Hailot. It was a slow fall to the bottom from there, but within three years, there were enough false charges, phony accusations, and bogus testimonies levied against you that you were pressured to resign your post. Fortunately, all of your contacts and intricate knowledge of the Citadel put you in the prime position to start a business there. You may not be cracking criminal skulls, but your success as a merchant has given you something else of which to be proud.

ASARI

As the only child of the Asari Councilor, you’ve been living in the shadow of your mother’s depressingly long list of personal and political achievements for as long as you can remember. You’ve always shared a pleasant relationship with her, but the stars have never guided you toward a life of policy and intergalactic diplomacy. You find the most meaning within anything personally created, any achievement you can attain without the help of your mother or anyone else. As you grew older, you realized you had a head for numbers. You took a job at a failing shop on Illium, and within six months had moved from shop-sweep to managing director. You worked and saved for eighteen years more before finally raising the startup capital for your own business. You took your small fortune to the Citadel, and founded what eventually became the most successful store on the station.

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“I’m planning on doing a lot of shopping at your store,” the man says, annoyingly rapping his fingers against the counter in a bid for your attention. He’s not getting it.

“Uh huh,” you say lazily as you flick the display of your omni-tool, and continue your crossword puzzle. What’s a seven-letter word for medicinal salve? you wonder.

“So, you see,” the customer continues, “perhaps we could work out some sort of discount for–“

“No discounts, no exceptions,” you say without moving your eyes from the game. Bandage? Seven letters, but not exactly a salve …

“Excuse me,” the man says, his voice more stern and impertinent than before. “I don’t think you understand what I’m asking. See, you wouldn’t be giving me the discount for free. In exchange, I’d offer your store an endorsem–“

“Look,” you huff, swiftly disconnecting from your game. “If you want something, the sales terminal is right there. Prices are non-negotiable. They’re non-negotiable to the Volus, who think of haggling like a religious rite, they’re non-negotiable to the politicians, who think they own this entire space station, and they’re non-negotiable for you … whoever you are.” You look up from your arm and see the man’s face for the first time. He looks haggard, like he’s been alternating a good sleep and a good shave every other day.

“But,” the man replies, confusion apparent in his eyes. “I’m Commander Shepard.”

Just one more Alliance muckety-muck who thinks proclaiming his rank to a civilian actually means something, you think. “Listen Commander Cheffard–“

“Shepard,” he quickly corrects. “Commander Shepard.”

“Well, whoever you are,” you continue impatiently. “Buy something, or get lost before I call C-Sec over here. Don’t think I won’t.”

The man opens his mouth to speak, but changes his mind. Instead, he just shakes his head at you and moves on.

Finally, you think, moving your eyes back to the crossword.

Suddenly, you realize what you were missing. Medi-gel! you think enthusiastically. You fill the seven-letter answer into your puzzle, feeling quite pleased with yourself.

***

The next day, you notice only a few customers shopping at your terminals, a far cry from the hordes of patrons that generally flock to what’s widely known as the most successful store on the Citadel. You decide to ignore the lull for three days more, but on the fourth, decide to take action.

Shuffle your inventory. Move some lesser-known items to the top of the interface, and order some exotic items from your distributors.

Put everything on sale. You may lose some money now, but it’s worth it if your customers return.

Hire an asari to dance near the terminals, and offer a free pair of tickets to the new Blasto movie for anyone who buys something worth more than 2000 credits.

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“I’m planning on doing a lot of shopping at your store,” the man says, annoyingly rapping his fingers against the counter in a bid for your attention. He’s not getting it.

“Uh huh,” you say lazily as you flick the display of your omni-tool, and continue your crossword puzzle. What’s a seven-letter word for medicinal salve? you wonder.

“So, you see,” the customer continues, “perhaps we could work out some sort of discount for–“

“No discounts, no exceptions,” you say without moving your eyes from the game. Bandage? Seven letters, but not exactly a salve …

“Excuse me,” the man says, his voice more stern and impertinent than before. “I don’t think you understand what I’m asking. See, you wouldn’t be giving me the discount for free. In exchange, I’d offer your store an endorsem–“

“Look,” you huff, swiftly disconnecting from your game. “If you want something, the sales terminal is right there. Prices are non-negotiable. They’re non-negotiable to the Volus, who think of haggling like a religious rite, they’re non-negotiable to the politicians, who think they own this entire space station, and they’re non-negotiable for you … whoever you are.” You look up from your arm and see the man’s face for the first time. He looks haggard, like he’s been alternating a good sleep and a good shave every other day.

“But,” the man replies, confusion apparent in his eyes. “I’m Commander Shepard.”

Just one more Alliance muckety-muck who thinks proclaiming his rank to a civilian actually means something, you think. “Listen Commander Cheffard–“

“Shepard,” he quickly corrects. “Commander Shepard.”

“Well, whoever you are,” you continue impatiently. “Buy something, or get lost before I call C-Sec over here. Don’t think I won’t.”

The man opens his mouth to speak, but changes his mind. Instead, he just shakes his head at you and moves on.

Finally, you think, moving your eyes back to the crossword.

Suddenly, you realize what you were missing. Medi-gel! you think enthusiastically. You fill the seven-letter answer into your puzzle, feeling quite pleased with yourself.

***

The next day, you notice only a few customers shopping at your terminals, a far cry from the hordes of patrons that generally flock to what’s widely known as the most successful store on the Citadel. You decide to ignore the lull for three days more, but on the fourth, decide to take action.

Shuffle your inventory. Move some lesser-known items to the top of the interface, and order some exotic items from your distributors.

Put everything on sale. You may lose some money now, but it’s worth it if your customers return.

Hire an asari to dance near the terminals, and offer a free pair of tickets to the new Blasto movie for anyone who buys something worth more than 2000 credits.

image

“I’m planning on doing a lot of shopping at your store,” the man says, annoyingly rapping his fingers against the counter in a bid for your attention. He’s not getting it.

“Uh huh,” you say lazily as you flick the display of your omni-tool, and continue your crossword puzzle. What’s a seven-letter word for medicinal salve? you wonder.

“So, you see,” the customer continues, “perhaps we could work out some sort of discount for–“

“No discounts, no exceptions,” you say without moving your eyes from the game. Bandage? Seven letters, but not exactly a salve …

“Excuse me,” the man says, his voice more stern and impertinent than before. “I don’t think you understand what I’m asking. See, you wouldn’t be giving me the discount for free. In exchange, I’d offer your store an endorsem–“

“Look,” you huff, swiftly disconnecting from your game. “If you want something, the sales terminal is right there. Prices are non-negotiable. They’re non-negotiable to the Volus, who think of haggling like a religious rite, they’re non-negotiable to the politicians, who think they own this entire space station, and they’re non-negotiable for you … whoever you are.” You look up from your arm and see the man’s face for the first time. He looks haggard, like he’s been alternating a good sleep and a good shave every other day.

“But,” the man replies, confusion apparent in his eyes. “I’m Commander Shepard.”

Just one more Alliance muckety-muck who thinks proclaiming his rank to a civilian actually means something, you think. “Listen Commander Cheffard–“

“Shepard,” he quickly corrects. “Commander Shepard.”

“Well, whoever you are,” you continue impatiently. “Buy something, or get lost before I call C-Sec over here. Don’t think I won’t.”

The man opens his mouth to speak, but changes his mind. Instead, he just shakes his head at you and moves on.

Finally, you think, moving your eyes back to the crossword.

Suddenly, you realize what you were missing. Medi-gel! you think enthusiastically. You fill the seven-letter answer into your puzzle, feeling quite pleased with yourself.

***

The next day, you notice only a few customers shopping at your terminals, a far cry from the hordes of patrons that generally flock to what’s widely known as the most successful store on the Citadel. You decide to ignore the lull for three days more, but on the fourth, decide to take action.

Shuffle your inventory. Move some lesser-known items to the top of the interface, and order some exotic items from your distributors.

Put everything on sale. You may lose some money now, but it’s worth it if your customers return.

Hire an asari to dance near the terminals, and offer a free pair of tickets to the new Blasto movie for anyone who buys something worth more than 2000 credits.

image

Just six weeks later, the business you worked so hard to build is dead. In fact, things are so utterly dismal that even referring to it as a “business” any longer would be an abuse of the word’s meaning. You haven’t seen a customer so much as peruse your goods in over fifteen days. Everything you’ve worked for, all of your dreams, all of your sacrifices are now wasted, ruined. But there’s no use spending anymore time dwelling on your mistakes; the only thing that matters now is the future, your business’s future. You need to get your hands on that recording. It’s the only thing that matters now.

You drop your forehead to the edge of the counter, stare at the floor, and think. Unfortunately, Shepard reportedly left the Citadel weeks ago. The only way to get that endorsement now is from one of the other shops, and that’s not likely to be an easy task. Up until very recently, you’ve been their top competitor. Why would they help you now?

It hits you. You need to call Renn, the highest-ranking member of your Clan stationed on the Citadel. He’ll know what to do. You’ve never gotten along with the guy before now, but hey, his cut of store profits is in jeopardy too.

You lift your head and dial your contact. The communicator blinks twice before Renn’s familiarly acerbic voice croaks a response. “Yeah, what?” he answers.

You explain the situation as rationally as you can, making sure to use words with the fewest syllables as possible. Hailot Renn never was one for what he calls “that fancy talk.”

“So,” he barks, “that’s why my envelopes have been light the last month. Good thing you called; thought you were holding back on me. I was close to sending Scarn over there to take a vent pipe to your quad.”

The mere mention of the idea makes you cringe in four places.

“Way I see it?” Renn continues. “We’ve got a couple of options. I can send you a couple of the stealthier Krogan I know, and you can sabotage the server where the other stores are storing Shepard’s voice. Or, if you prefer a more … physical approach, I send Scarn and some of the other boys to the competition with a couple of Hydra shotguns. That’ll either scare ’em into taking the recording down, or into giving you a copy of the master file. Can’t promise no one gets hurt though. Well, if we’re lucky, that is.”

Sneak in and sabotage the recording when no one is there.

Intimidate the storeowners with violence.

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PARAGON +5

No one needs to get hurt over this, you think. You just want things to go back to normal, before this Shepard person showed up on the Citadel and mucked up the balance.

Later that night, you hear a sharp knock on the door. You open it to find two of the smallest Krogans you’ve ever seen, the twins Gart and Nort. You’ve only met them once before, during a clan Crush with C-Sec three years ago. They were dressed then as they’re dressed now: wrapped in thin black cloth covering all but their eyes. Gart (or is that Nort?) gestures you with his hand to the join them in the hall. You take the pistol you keep hidden in your desk’s bottom drawer and leave the room.

You follow the pair silently across the citadel, making sure to stay close to the walls and avoid the harsher spots of light between you and the server room. It isn’t long before you reach a long corridor lined with security doors. One of the twins stands watch while the other uses an omni-tool on the fifth entrance on your left. You wonder how they know which door is the right one; knowing which servers correspond to which terminals is some of the most classified information on the station … for exactly this reason.

You decide not to question them (it’s not as though you’d get an answer anyway), instead choosing to nervously look both ways down the hall while they work on the door.

Finally, the door whirs open, and standing on the other side is a full squadron of C-Sec officers armed with assault rifles. You tilt your head slightly right and notice that all but one of the officers has the safety off. If it comes to it, you know whom to charge at first.

“My name is Lieutenant Bailey,” one of the taller humans says in a gruff, no-nonsense voice. “Stand down, and no one has to die here today.”

Submit to C-Sec. You’re out-manned and out-gunned. Even krogans know a lost fight when they see one.

You aren’t much of a warrior, but you’re a krogan, and that counts for something. Pull the pistol from the waist of your trousers and open fire.

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RENEGADE +5

You decide that a threatening mob of pugnacious krogan killers have the best chance of getting things done. With the weight of a powerful krogan mafia at your back, you wonder why you never considered removing them from your tool belt before now. You tell Renn to send the heavy hitters. He chuckles. Clearly the answer pleases him.

That night you hear a knock so loud against your door that you’re genuinely surprised it doesn’t fall over. You carefully remove the pistol from the security drawer in your desk, and peer through the peephole into the hallway. It’s Scarn. You’d recognize that garish barbed wire tattoo wrapped around his right shoulder hump anywhere.

You open the door and he smacks you across the chest. “You let these other jellyfish out maneuver you, huh? Pathetic.”

You cough and catch your breath from the hit.

“Well,” he says through a menacing smile. “That’s why I’m here. I guess I shouldn’t complain. If not for you, I wouldn’t get to come out and play. Let’s move. We start with Waleed Krun. I’ve wanted to shove a pop gun in that pyjack’s mouth for years.”

You follow Scarn to the residential quarters, when another Clan member you don’t recognize joins up with you. You hustle up the stairs, and turn right down the hallway at the dormitory’s top level. You immediately see Waleed standing outside his apartment’s door, flipping a coin in his right hand. He’s looking at you as if he was expecting the visit.

Scarn growls and walks threateningly toward the short Volus.

“Mr. Scarn,” Waleed breathes through his apparatus. “I’ve was wondering when you’d show.” Between the Volus’ sentences, an obnoxious tune, like one you might hear from a dilapidated music box, plays instead of the heavy-sounding breaths common to his species. It’s the exact modification that makes Scarn (and pretty much everyone else on the Citadel) hate the guy.

Scarn shakes his head at the music. “Good, you knew I was coming,” he says confidentially. “Then hopefully you also know why I’m here, and we can get to the part where I shoot your furry ass even quicker.”

Waleed breaths in and the scratchy tune plays from the beginning. “You’re not the only one worried about your competition, Tuchanka Clan,” he says, looking directly at you. “I’ve been monitoring your communicator for months.”

“You’re going to regret that when I shoot a hole straight through your–” Scarn begins.

“You heard it officers!” the Volus suddenly yells. “That’s proof enough!” Waleed pulls open his door, revealing a group of C-Sec officers standing in wait with assault rifles drawn.

“My name is Lieutenant Bailey,” one of the taller humans says in a gruff, no-nonsense voice. “Stand down, and no one has to die here today.”

Waleed runs off down the hallway before you can speak another word.

Submit to C-Sec. You’re out-manned and out-gunned. Even krogans know a lost fight when they see one.

You aren’t much of a warrior, but you’re a krogan, and that counts for something. Pull the pistol from the waist of your trousers and open fire.

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You draw your pistol, hoping for the first shot. You get it, and it tears through the side of Bailey, who seems to be the human in charge. The other officers open fire, surrounding you and your comrades in a shower of bullet fire. You’re the first krogan to drop. As you slowly bleed out in the hallway, your mind replays the words that have haunted you since you first heard them: “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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You drop your gun and raise your stubby arms into the air. The two krogans behind you have a different idea, and raise their shotguns to fire. The fight is over before you can tell either of them to stand down. Both are dead, making a nasty mess of the hallway behind you. Bailey slaps a set of tech-enforced cuffs around your wrists and leads you back to C-Sec headquarters for processing.

In the days that follow, your Clan disavows both you and your actions. Waleed testifies against you, and not one public defender on the station will agree to your case. You hope that your fast compliance with the arresting officers will be enough to move your sentence from the death penalty to incarceration.

You look at the wall beside you where a previous prisoner scrawled something into the hard plastic. “I’m Commander Shepard,” it reads, “and this is my favorite cell on the Citdel.” You shake your head and the hallucination clears. “Zed was here,” is all that’s there. You’ve never been in such a perilous situation, and that damnable recording is still all you can think about?

Suddenly, the cell door opens and Commander Bailey walks through with a look of defeat washed across his face. He explains that all charges have been dropped, and that you’re to be released immediately. You ask him how this happened, but he just sighs and waves away your question with a limp brush of his hand. Confused, you follow his instructions and way your way back home within the hour.

You open the door to the swank apartment you can no longer afford, and are immediately met by a life-sized projection of a man smoking a cigarette. You don’t recognize him. You’re not even sure how the equipment to project him got into your apartment.

“I know you weren’t expecting me,” the man says, taking a long drag of his smoke. “But all you need to know is that I’m a powerful man with your best interests at heart. As proof of my statement, and as a gesture of goodwill, I’m the one who had you released this afternoon.”

You look at him quizzically, your mind buzzing with a thousand questions. All you manage to spit out, however, is a mild, “thanks.”

The man nods. “I am also familiar with your current situation. You require an endorsement from Commander Shepard, and I require a service from one interested in finding him.”

“I’m no tracker,” you say.

The man takes another puff before replying. “Oh, I already know where he is,” he says. “And I’m going to send you there. The Commander is currently on a mission for me, and will soon be arriving on a small human colony called Horizon in the morning.”

“Never heard of it,” you reply.

“I’m not going to lie,” the man says. “This is going to be dangerous. I’m worried that even Shepard might not make it off planet alive. If that happens, I need someone else, someone … unaffiliated to be there, ready to salvage his omni-tool and bring me the data stored on it before someone else can get to it. If Shepard succeeds, as I hope he will, instead of pillaging his corpse, you can get his endorsement for your store.”

“I have some ques–” you start.

“There’s a pilot by the name of Zohya waiting for you in on Docking Bay 6-R. I hope you’ll consider my proposal.”

Before you can reply, the hologram fizzles.

Accept the mysterious man’s proposal and take the elevator to Docking Bay 6-R

Did he say “dangerous?” Best to quit while you’re ahead and wait for Shepard to come back to the Citadel.

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You decide not to follow the orders of some sort of secretive smoker, instead using the last of your savings to hire a small group of Batarians to watch the docks and communication channels for the next sign of Shepard. It’s months before you see the Commander again, and when you do, it’s merely a still image on the news (which you’ve finally started watching with regularity). Shepard has gone M.I.A. out past some strange relay called Omega 4.

Eventually, customers slowly begin to pay less attention to the endorsement recordings, and one by one your competitors stop playing the recording. It’s too late for your store though; the damage has been done.

Your business slowly attracts a mild amount of business once again–just enough to keep the terminals running–and you spend the rest of your live obsessively forcing every customer that visits to record an endorsement message for you on the off chance that someday they’ll become famous.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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Getting that recording is your top priority, and if that means traveling across the galaxy to find Shepard on some remote planet in an unknown system, then so be it. After all, it sounds like you have free transportation waiting to take you there immediately. If things go well, you could have the recording and be back on the Citadel within a few short days! The strange smoking man said it might get dangerous, but what could go wrong on a small, out-of-the-way human colony of which no one’s ever heard? What did he call it? Horizon?

You travel down the elevator, and find yourself in a large docking bay filled with a variety of ships crewed by a diverse assortment of species. You spend a few minutes looking around for the smoking man’s pilot, quickly realizing you have no description of her, just a name. Frustrated, you open your mouth to yell it aloud when a raspy voice whispers in your ear. “You the Illusive Man’s guy?” it asks.

You spin around to find a limber-looking Drell standing behind you, arms crossed, mouth rolled into a tight, crooked smirk. She winks at you. “Name’s Captain Zohya. Professional Pilot, Pirate, and Profiteer. Pleased to be making your acquaintance.”

“How did you know it was me?” you ask.

“Don’t sell yourself tall,” she laughs. “You’re the only lubber hobbling around the docks with an expression like that. Let me guess, the Illusive Man told you near nothing about what you’re doing. That guy, I swear … “

“The Illusive Man?” you ask. “Is that his–“

“Shh,” the Drell cautions. “Not so loud. Come on, follow me and I’ll show you my vessel.”

She’s walked past five different well-made ships you were hoping she’d point to, when you arrive at a small, four-person shuttlecraft painted space-black with what looks to be a large white decal featuring a Drell skull atop two crossing bones.

“There she is,” Zohya says proudly. “The Last Chance.”

“The last chance for what?” you ask.

“That’s her name,” she replies crossly. “Now get yourself inside.”

You duck through the door, and are unhappy to find the transport somehow even more cramped inside than it seemed from the outside. Zohya deftly spins into the pilot seat next to you.

“Now, before we go off chasing the Illusive Man’s whimsy,” she says slyly, “I’ve got one other idea I’d like to slide by you. I’ve been working for that ghost for what’s going on two years now, and I’ve … acquired some intel on a special little operation he’s got going on Erinle out near the Hourglass Nebula. So what do you say? We forget whatever tripe he’s got you doing and go rob him blind. We split the take 50/50.”

She stretches out her limbs, activates the craft’s engine, and smiles at you. “But I’m up for anything. You want to go to Horizon, I won’t argue. A pirate finds treasure anywhere she goes.” She winks again, this time with her vertical eyelid.

You’d love to find Shepard, but perhaps there’s a different way to sooth your financial worries. Chart a course for Erinle.

Shepard’s recording is all that matters and, anyway, robbing a such a powerful man sounds risky. Follow the plan and chart a course for Horizon.

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Just six weeks later, the business you worked so hard to build is dead. In fact, things are so utterly dismal that even referring to it as a “business” any longer would be an abuse of the word’s meaning. You haven’t seen a customer so much as peruse your goods in over fifteen days. Everything you’ve worked for, all of your dreams, all of your sacrifices are now wasted, ruined. But there’s no use spending anymore time dwelling on your mistakes; the only thing that matters now is the future, your business’s future. You need to get your hands on that recording. It’s the only thing that matters now.

You drop your forehead to the edge of the counter, stare at the floor, and think. Unfortunately, Shepard reportedly left the Citadel weeks ago. The only way to get that endorsement now is from one of the other shops, and that’s not likely to be an easy task. Up until very recently, you’ve been their top competitor. Why would they help you now?

It hits you. You need to call Caleb, your old C-Sec partner. He’s always had your back, even after the scandals that forced you out of your badge. Caleb’s no businessman, but his knowledge of the Citadel and the ways its cogs spin is unrivaled. Maybe he’ll know what to do.

Caleb is out on patrol when you call, but a few hours later he’s off-duty and on the comm with you. You do your best to explain the situation as clearly as you can, your old partner replies with a sound something similar to “hurm.” He remains quiet for a solid twenty seconds after. You nearly think you’ve lost the connection when he finally speaks.

“Well, bud,” he finally says. “The way I see it, you need a copy of that master recording. If you want one these other shop-keeps to give it up, you’re going to need something to trade with.”

He goes silent for a moment more before continuing. “Them helping you out would put you back in business, so no, it’s got to be something more than just credits, something personal. Suppose we could dig, hope we find something dirty on one of ’em. These guys touch a lot of credits. Chances are, where there’s credits, there’s dirt. That might take awhile, though. Course, the faster way would be to just plant some dirt ourselves. Little less ethical, but hell, you know as well as I do, none of these guys are squeaky, anyway.”

Better to be patient, and only use information that you find legitimately. Start digging.

Every moment you waste widens the gap between you and your competitors. It’s less risky to speed things up, and plant some dirt yourself.

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PARAGON +5

Caleb agrees to help you with your vigilante investigation, using the full power of C-Sec’s resources to speed the search. You go through everything of which you can think: sales records, transport contracts, shipping manifests, and more. A full day goes by, and still, neither you nor Caleb has found anything even worth following up on.

In a last ditch effort, you decide to re-read one of the sales logs you’d discounted during the beginning of your search. If nothing else, perhaps you can at least take a peek at which items are commanding the greatest demand and try to stock additional product at your kiosk. As you pour through the numbers, you notice a discrepancy with one of the shipping logs you’d read not ten minutes ago. You quickly sift back through the stack of papers you’ve accrued and confirm your suspicions. This is it! Koo, the hanar merchant from Cirrus Tech is tracking more shipments than he inventories, usually a clear sign of black market smuggling.

You call Caleb and inform him of your discovery. He congratulates you on the find, gushes for five minutes about how much he misses having you on the force, then asks you to meet him at Koo’s warehouse. You’ll need to confirm that he’s actually storing illegal goods, and not simply just a terrible accountant.

You take your old C-Sec sidearm out from your wall safe, and arrive at Koo’s warehouse an hour later. You find Caleb waiting near the door. Using the C-Sec clearance programmed into his omni-tool, your old partner quickly bypasses the door. Once inside, it’s not long before you find the shipping containers the papers mentioned: Z, 34, A15, just six rows back on the bottom shelf of the right-hand side.

You pry open the top of the crate, revealing ten, tightly-packed M-920 Cains. Caleb leans over your shoulder and peeks into the bin. “Woah,” he says. “Sorry, Partner, but this just got bigger than your business worries. I thought we were going to find illegal off-world fruit or an unlicensed shipment of Serrice Fire Brandy. I’ve got to call this in.”

“I understand,” you say sadly. And you do.

Caleb brings his omni-tool closer to his mouth. “Command?” he says. “I’ve got a 10-26 at Docking Bay–Command, are you there?”

Suddenly a voice speaks from behind you.

“This one is afraid that this one has cut external communications,” it says.

You spin around to find Koo standing behind you, two of his spindly, pink tentacles armed with submachine guns. “Did you think this one wouldn’t monitor the entrance to its warehouse for C-Sec overrides?”

“Yeah?” Caleb replies aggressively. “Well these two have you out numbered.”

“This one respectfully disagrees,” Koo replies flatly. A group of twenty Eclipse Mercenaries emerge from behind him, easily spanning the narrow exit from the row.

You draw your pistol and slowly turn, placing your back against Caleb’s. “Just like old times,” you say.

“I’m getting’ too old for this shit,” he replies, mirroring your movements.

Koo and his mercs raise their weapons toward you. Above them, you notice a rusted pipe tagged green for gas. A bit convenient, maybe, but not as much as you’d hope. Hitting that pipe could blow the entire warehouse, you and Caleb included.

Shoot the pipe. It’s probably suicide, but fighting twenty Eclipse mercenaries and a dual-wielding Hanar mad with power is definitely suicide.

Get into a shooting match with the twenty-one opponents in front of you. It’s probably suicide, but blowing up the entire warehouse with you still inside of it is definitely suicide.

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RENEGADE +5

There’s no time to waste on the chance that one of the thirteen storeowners on the Citadel is dirty and that you could find the evidence to prove it in a timely fashion. No, that’s a gamble you’re unwilling to take.

You travel to Purgatory where you find Gavin, an old C.I. forger who’s almost always glued to the upstairs bar. He’s got a thing for dancing Asari. You put the screws to him with idle threats, and rather than call your bluff, he quickly leaves to alter the latest shipping manifest of a Hanar named Koo.

Damning documents in hand, you head to Koo’s warehouse with Caleb that night to plant them inside one of the crates that C-Sec can “conveniently” choose to randomly inspect the next morning. Your old partner uses his security clearance to bypass the door.

You choose a random row near the back, and pry open the top of a random crate. To your surprise, you find ten, tightly-packed M-920 Cains. These weapons aren’t legal on the citadel. Koo actually was dirty. You take a moment to absorb the irony.

Caleb leans over your shoulder and peeks into the bin. “Woah,” he says. “Sorry, Partner, but this just got bigger than your business worries. I’ve got to call this in.”

“Whatever you think you have to do,” you say angrily.

Caleb brings his omni-tool closer to his mouth. “Command?” he says. “I’ve got a 10-26 at Docking Bay–Command, are you there?”

Suddenly a voice speaks from behind you.

“This one is afraid that this one has cut external communications,” it says.

You spin around to find Koo standing behind you, two of his spindly, pink tentacles armed with submachine guns. “Did you think this one wouldn’t monitor the entrance to its warehouse for C-Sec overrides?”

“Yeah?” Caleb replies aggressively. “Well, these two have you out numbered.”

“This one respectfully disagrees,” Koo replies flatly. A group of twenty Eclipse Mercenaries emerge from behind him, easily spanning the narrow exit from the row.

You draw your pistol and slowly turn, placing your back against Caleb’s. “Just like old times,” you say.

“I’m getting’ too old for this shit,” he replies, mirroring your movement.

Koo and his mercs raise their weapons toward you. Above them, you notice a rusted pipe tagged green for gas. A bit convenient, maybe, but not as much as you’d hope. Hitting that pipe could blow the entire warehouse, you and Caleb included.

Shoot the pipe. It’s probably suicide, but fighting twenty Eclipse mercenaries and a dual-wielding Hanar mad with power is definitely suicide.

Get into a shooting match with the twenty-one opponents in front of you. It’s probably suicide, but blowing up the entire warehouse with you still inside of it is definitely suicide.

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You’re the first to fire, and place a bullet cleanly between what you suspect are Koo’s eyes (it’s always hard to tell with hanar). Either way, he drops to the floor. No matter what happens now, at least that smug jellyfish won’t be wiggling out of here alive.

You and Caleb slowly spin in a circle, back-to-back, firing your sidearms with arms outstretched in front of you. The technique would have been more effective had you actually been surrounded on all sides.

Ten mercs drop before Caleb takes a bullet in the hips, and you tag two more of your aggressors before a shot sails through your chest. You hit the ground with a thud and look to your old partner. Like you, he probably only has moments left to live.

“You know what’s funny?” he groans.

“What?” you ask quietly.

“I was only a few days away from retirement,” he manages. Suddenly, an Eclipse sniper puts him out of his misery.

You use your final moments to shake your head. “That’s not funny at all,” you say.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“Sorry, Caleb,” you whisper.

He turns toward you with a look of confusion, but after following your gaze to the pipe, realizes what you’re planning to do. He sighs and nods his head. You line up your shot, and take it. The room erupts in flame. The whole of the warehouse is engulfed within moments.

***

You’re in a forest. The trees are dead. There’s a small child dressed in white in the distance. You run toward him. As you approach, he turns and looks at you. He’s not a child at all, he’s Shepard. He stares at you blankly and says, “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite forest on the Citadel.” You try to run from him, but he’s faster. You can’t escape. He continues to repeat the same phrase over and over, until–

You wake up. You’re in your apartment, naked on top of the bed. You bounce from your bunk and run to the mirror above the sink in your bathroom. Not a scratch on you. How is this possible?

As you walk back into your bedroom, you’re met by the life-sized projection of a man smoking a cigarette. You don’t recognize him. You’re not even sure how the equipment to project him got into your apartment.

“I know you weren’t expecting me,” the man says, taking a long drag of his smoke.

You quickly grab the blanket from your bed and cover your unmentionables.

“But all you need to know is that I’m a powerful man with your best interests at heart,” he continues. “As proof of my statement, and as a gesture of goodwill, I’m the one who had your body rehabilitated from the warehouse fire last night.”

“How is that possible?” you ask.

“My organization possesses impressive resources,” he answers. “I have a few agents in the station’s hospitals. They clandestinely transferred you from Huerta to my personal medical labs. There, we were able to completely repair the damage your body endured from that stunt you pulled.”

You look at him quizzically, your mind buzzing with a thousand questions. All you manage to spit out is a mild, “thanks.”

The man nods. “I am also familiar with your current situation. You require an endorsement from Commander Shepard, and I require a service from one interested in finding him.”

“I have no idea where he is,” you say.

The man takes another puff before replying. “Oh, I already know his location,” he says. “And I’m going to send you there. The Commander is currently on a mission, for me, in fact, and will soon be arriving on a small human colony called Horizon.”

“I don’t think I’ve heard of it,” you reply.

“I’m not going to lie,” the man says. “This is going to be dangerous. I’m worried that even Shepard might not make it off planet alive. If that happens, I need someone else, someone … unaffiliated to be there, ready to salvage his omni-tool and bring me the data stored on it before someone else can get to it. If Shepard succeeds, as I hope he will, instead of pillaging his corpse, you can get his endorsement for your store.”

“I have some ques–” you start.

“There’s a pilot by the name of Zohya waiting for you at Docking Bay 6-R. I hope you’ll consider my proposal.”

Before you can reply, the hologram fizzles.

Accept the mysterious man’s proposal and take the elevator to Docking Bay 6-R

Did he say “dangerous?” Best to quit while you’re ahead and wait for Shepard to come back to the Citadel.

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Just six weeks later, the business you worked so hard to build is dead. In fact, things are so utterly dismal that even referring to it as a “business” any longer would be an abuse of the word’s meaning. You haven’t seen a customer so much as peruse your goods in over fifteen days. Everything you’ve worked for, all of your dreams, all of your sacrifices are now wasted, ruined. But there’s no use spending anymore time dwelling on your mistakes; the only thing that matters now is the future, your business’s future. You need to get your hands on that recording. It’s the only thing that matters now.

You drop your forehead to the edge of the counter, stare at the floor, and think. Unfortunately, Shepard reportedly left the Citadel weeks ago. The only way to get that endorsement now is from one of the other shops, and that’s not likely to be an easy task. Up until very recently, you’ve been their top competitor. Why would they help you now?

It hits you. You really, really, really don’t want to do this, but the only person who can help you now is your mother. You’ve never asked her for anything. She has to help you now that you finally need it.

You lift your head, reconsider just once more, and then dial her office. Her secretary is so surprised to hear from you that she runs a voice authenticator before patching you though. “Hello?” your mother answers. “Is this truly–“

“Yes, mother, it’s truly me,” you answer.

“Oh,” she replies. “I’m sorry if I sound strange, but it’s very odd to hear from you during professional hours.”

You clench your teeth and do your best to explain the situation. You take frequent pauses as you speak, waiting for even a hint of smug laughter at your plea to use as an excuse to hang up and sort things out alone. Your mother does nothing but listen respectfully, as you knew she would.

Once you finally finish, she responds gently. “I have the utmost respect for you,” she says. “And because of that, I am going to speak openly and honestly. I know you well enough to understand that you’d rather fail than accept my direct interference, so instead of attempting to fix this for you, I’ll do my best to offer some advice. Achieving my political success wasn’t as … clean as it could have been. It never is for anyone. And from those 800 years of experience, I believe that you have two realistic options for dealing with this.

“Either way, you’re going to need to end up with a copy of that recording. Because none of your competitors would ever relinquish it freely, you can either play diplomacy or deviance. The diplomatic route will be difficult; you’ll need to offer something worthwhile, perhaps a cut of all future profits.”

“Mother!” you interrupt.

“Let me finish,” she replies. “Of course, if that doesn’t work, you can attempt to steal it. I’m not proud of what I’m about to say, but our species is very, well, desirable to others. Perhaps you could use that to your advantage. Get invited to one of the other merchant’s personal quarters, slip him or her some Skald Fish toxin, and procure the file while they’re unconscious. Your victim will wake up unharmed the next morning with a headache, a broken heart, and a broken monopoly. It’s not the most respectable route, but sometimes that’s what it takes to achieve our goals.”

Devise a profit-share bargain, and call a meeting with your top competitor, Kelly Copson. She’s a bit daft, but has always been willing to bargain.

Procure some Skald Fish toxin, and arrange a date with your top competitor, Kelly Copson. She’s always had a crush on you, anyway.

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RENEGADE +5

Arranging a date with Kelly is even easier than you’d thought. One quick comm call, and she practically said yes before you could get the question out. How desperate, you think.

The toxin is somewhat more noisome to procure than Kelley’s interest, but a quick trip to Citadel Souvenirs to buy a fish, and the precision blade in your kitchen drawer are enough to get you a small vial of the toxin before nightfall.

You place the “just-in-case” ceremonial pistol that your mother gave you 115 years ago under your gown before you leave. You aren’t planning on needing it, but you’re used to carrying it with you wherever you go. It’s always been somewhat of what humans call “a security blanket.”

As soon as the sun sets, you arrive at Kelley’s apartment, and knock lightly against the door. She opens it so fast, you’re sure she’d been waiting just on the other side for your arrival. You do your best to hide your rolling eyes.

She invites you in, and is quick to produce a bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy. She pours two glasses and snuggles in close to you on the couch.

“What shall we toast to?” she asks, raising her glass.

You look past her to the computer terminal at the back of the room. That must be where she keeps the files.

“How about some music?” you ask coyly. “To help … set the mood.”

Kelley smiles, places her glass down on the table, and slinks off into the other room. You use the moment to drug her drink. Suddenly, music fills the space, and you quickly cap your bottle and palm it before Kelley reappears. She smiles at you and downs the contents of her glass. Perfect.

Within moments, you can see the effect of the toxin taking hold. Her head begins to wobble in wide circles. “I feel funny,” she says drunkenly. “Do you feel funn–” Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. “I’ll get it!” she yells, knocking into you as she stands. You drop the small vial of toxin to the carpet as she opens the door. It’s the paparazzi. Great.

A spunky reporter stands in front of a tall cameraman with her omni-tool already held out toward you. “As the daughter of the Asari councilor, how do you feel about pursing an amorous relationship with a human whose been traditionally outspoken against the Asari’s stance on–“

It’s been a long time since a reporter was desperate enough for a story to follow you around. Of all the bad timing …

The reporter pauses her question and looks at the floor. “Is that,” she mutters, “Skald Fish Toxin?”

“What?” you say quickly. “No … “

Kelley passes out on the floor in front of you. The reporter grabs the camera and points it at the floor, her eyes widening.

Offer the reporter an exclusive interview to fully explain your side of the story (one which you’ll need to construct between now and then).

This story is going to harm you, your business, and your mother’s career. Maybe even the Asari’s good standing on the Citadel. Looks like your just-in-case pistol is about fire its first shot. Kill the reporter and her cameraman.

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PARAGON +5

You put together a proposal offering Kelley 15% of all profits you receive while using her recording of the Shepard endorsement. Without going into details, you ask her if she has time to meet with you to go over a proposition. She invites you to her apartment that evening at sunset to discuss the details.

You place the “just-in-case” ceremonial pistol that your mother gave you 115 years ago under your gown before you leave. You aren’t planning on needing it, but you’re used to carrying it with you wherever you go. It’s always been somewhat of what human’s call “a security blanket.”

You arrive on time, and knock on the door. Kelley is quick to open it, dressed in an extremely revealing white synthetic leather dress. “Why, hello there,” she says in a voice that falls far short of what was obviously meant to sound seductive. You do you best to hide your rolling eyes. You should have known she had the wrong idea about this the moment she wanted to have this meeting at her home instead of her office.

“May I come in?” you ask politely.

“I wish you would,” she replies.

Kelley invites you to join her in the bedroom, you suggest the kitchen table, and finally the living room couch becomes a compromise. You do you best to explain the simplistic deal you’ve formulated, but she refuses to focus on business. As such, she’s just not getting it.

“It’s very easy to understand,” you say calmly. “You give me a copy of that recording, and as long as I’m playing it, you see a share of my store’s profits. I’ll program the terminal to automatically–“

Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. “One sec,” Kelley says playfully, “then we can talk about your little scheme.” She winks at you as she walks toward the front of the apartment.

“It’s not a scheme,” you insist. She opens the door. “I’m simply saying that if you hand over the file, you stand to make a lot of money.” Then you notice who’s at the door: a young brunette reporter standing in front of someone who seems to be her cameraman. It’s been a long time since the paparazzi has been so hard up for a story that they followed you around.

“You got that, right?” the reporter asks her cameraman. He nods.

“Got what?” you ask accusatorily. She looks back to you.

“I was just wondering what the Asari councilor’s daughter would be doing with a known opponent of the Asari’s indentured servitude policies on Illium, but it seems like I just stumbled onto something much, much better.” She points her omni-tool at you. “Exactly what file were you attempting to bribe Kelley Copson for possession of?”

She clearly thinks this was some sort of blackmail scheme. Offer the reporter an exclusive interview tomorrow morning to fully explain your side of the story.

If reported incorrectly, this story has the potential to harm you, your business, and your mother’s career. Maybe even the Asari’s good standing on the Citadel. Looks like your “just-in-case” pistol is about fire its first shot. Kill the reporter and her cameraman.

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You can’t risk this tabloid reporter taking something like this to air. Everything you and your family have ever worked for will be destroyed. You slowly step past Kelley and reach for your gun. As you bring it to your front, the reporter and her cameraman turn to run. You fire a shot at both of them. The first one downs the reporter. The second one misses her cameraman.

You run into the hall after the escaping journalist, firing two more shots. Both miss. Meters ahead of you, he turns a corner, breaking your line of sight. A minute later you spin around the end of the hall after him. You find him just on the other side, standing behind a patrolling C-Sec officer he must have just stumbled into. The officer looks at the gun in your hand, and before you have a chance to surrender, fires his assault rifle into your stomach.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“Let me explain,” you say quickly. “Please, come to my apartment tomorrow morning, and I’ll offer you an exclusive interview in which I can explain everything.”

The reporter puts her hands on her hips and smirks. “It’s not my job to listen to explanations. Save that for C-Sec. Anything other than what I already have on tape will do nothing but–” She looks at the ceiling and searches for a word. “–dilute the story.

“Come on, Jeff,” she says, gesturing to her cameraman. “This is going to be huge.” The pair leaves as quickly as they came.

***
You’re in a forest. The trees are dead. There’s a small child dressed in white in the distance. You run toward him. As you approach, he turns and looks at you. He’s not child at all. He’s Shepard. He stares at you blankly and says, “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite forest on the Citadel.” You try to run from him, but he’s faster. You can’t escape. He continues to repeat the same, haunting phrase again and again until–

You wake up, jump out of bed, and shake your head to clear it. What a terrible nightmare. You quickly click on the news, looking for the story that’s going to ruin you. The television is filled with nothing more than interviews with the cast of the new Blasto movie and droll Volus financial reports. Where is it? Why aren’t they running it? You surf through various news channels for another thirty minutes when you hear a voice behind you.

“You’re not going to find it,” it says.

You spin around, and are immediately met by a life-sized projection of a man smoking a cigarette. You don’t recognize him. You’re not even sure how the equipment to project him got into your apartment.

“I know you weren’t expecting me,” the man says, taking a long drag of his smoke. “But all you need to know is that I’m a powerful man with your best interests at heart. As proof of my statement, and as a gesture of goodwill, I’m the one who had the media bury that … unfortunate story.”

You look at him quizzically, your mind buzzing with a thousand questions. All you manage to spit out, though, is a mild, “thanks.”

The man nods. “I am also familiar with your current situation. You require an endorsement from Commander Shepard, and I require a service from one interested in finding him.”

“How would I know–” you begin to say.

The man takes another puff before replying. “Oh, I already know where he is,” he says. “And I’m going to send you there. The Commander is currently on a mission for me, and will soon be arriving on a small human colony called Horizon.”

“I’ve never heard of it,” you reply.

“I’m not going to lie,” the man says. “This is going to be dangerous. I’m worried that even Shepard might not make it off planet alive. If that happens, I need someone else, someone … unaffiliated to be there, ready to salvage his omni-tool and bring me the data stored on it before someone else can get to it. If Shepard succeeds, as I hope he will, instead of pillaging his corpse, you can get his endorsement for your store.”

“I have some ques–” you start.

“There’s a pilot by the name of Zohya waiting for you in on Docking Bay 6-R. I hope you’ll consider my proposal.”

Before you can reply, the hologram fizzles.

Accept the mysterious man’s proposal and take the elevator to Docking Bay 6-R

Did he say “dangerous?” Best to quit while you’re ahead and wait for Shepard to come back to the Citadel.

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If you go to Horizon, you’ll have a chance at finding Shepard. If you go with Zohya to Erinle, who knows what fortune you may find. Perhaps you could find enough money to start a new store, maybe open something up on Illium, or anywhere else that a few recordings of an Alliance soldier’s voice won’t matter as much as they do on the Citadel.

“Alright, Captain,” you say. “Let’s head to the Hourglass Nebula.”

She looks at you and smiles. “I was hoping you’d say that,” she says.

It’s not long before you arrive at the small green planet. You notice a few large war ships in orbit, but the small size of Zohya’s craft seems to allow you to approach the planet unnoticed. After a short scan of the surface, Zohya reveals the location of, what she now explains, is an excavation.

“The Illusive Man runs Cerberus,” she explains. “They’re here digging for some sort of “Reaker” tech, or something.”

“What’s Cerberus?” you ask.

“Don’t you watch the news?” she replies. “Wait, look! There it is!”

The craft parks vertically, high above what seems to be a large tunnel extending half a mile straight down into the ground below. Zohya flicks two switches on her ship’s dashboard and zooms into the pit’s center. You see a giant, intricate-looking object. You have no idea what it is, but it certainly looks like it could be expensive. Hundreds of troops armored in white circle the site.

“Okay, kid,” Zohya says, “that’s what we’re here for. I can either drop you down there on a zipcord and let you snatch it before I reel you in, or I can just fly the shuttle down there and use the aft grapplers.”

Neither of these options sound particularly safe.

Descend down the cord and snatch the object.

Have Zohya fly straight down into the hole and use the ship’s crane.

It’s not too late to turn around. You didn’t realize how much security would be here. Leave for Horizon without the artifact.

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“I’m not going out there,” you say. “Just take the ship down.”

“Aye, aye, uh, first mate!” Zohya yells excitedly. She flips a small toggle near the wheel, and the shuttle begins to accelerate straight down the center of the excavation. You hold onto whatever you can to brace yourself against the violently shaking cockpit.

A few of the soldiers fire at you as you descend, but none of the bullets seem to do any damage to the hull. Once at the bottom of the pit, Zohya quickly jerks the wheel back, and the shuttle flips 180 degrees. You try to fight the nausea her swift maneuvers are causing.

“Here we go!” Zohya yells, pressing another button on the dash. You hear a rumbling and look behind you to the aft window. You watch as two large metal grapplers deftly grab onto the object. “We’ve got it!” she says excitedly. “Now let’s get the hell out of here!”

As she gasses toward the top, you see the enemy engineers closing two large metal blast doors over the top of the hole.

“Captain, we’re not going to make it!” you yell as the two pieces of metal slowly join.

“Yes we will,” she says, her voice suddenly determined. “Haven’t you ever seen the Blasto movies? We’ll escapes by the hair of our–“

The doors close, and the ship collides with them, causing your craft to quickly morph into a ball of fire and twisted metal.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“Drop me down there,” you say heroically. “But, you’ll make sure those soldiers don’t shoot me, right?” you say less so.

“Of course!” your pilot replies. “Captain Zohya’s always got a plan! Don’t worry, this shuttle might not look like much, but I’ll lay down a layer of covering fire these clowns won’t soon forget!”

You attach the front of your suit to the harness at the end of what looks like a large spool of black cord. “Do I have this on right?” you ask. Zohya answers by flipping a button on the dash. The back of the ship flies open, and you’re sucked out.

Eventually, your freefall slowly decelerates to a controlled drop, and soon, you’ve reached the object at the bottom. Carefully, you hook it to the harness. A hail of gunfire sounds from above you. The soldiers are firing down from the edge of the pit.

True to her word, Zohya begins a barrage of covering fire. A volley of missiles fly from the shuttle to the edges of the pit. The resulting explosions cause the ground to break, sending an avalanche of dirt and Cerberus troops to tumble to the bottom. But the landslide doesn’t stop there; soon, the pit is filling faster than you’re ascending. Zohya doesn’t seem to notice. Thirty seconds later, you’re buried alive.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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Zohya’s ship touches ground, and the impact jars you wake. “Here we are,” she says. “Horizon.”

You rub your eyes, and do your best to stretch your limbs in the cramped quarters surrounding them. “That was fast,” you yawn.

“Not that fast,” she says. “And hey, about Erinle … the Illusive Man doesn’t need to know about that, right?”

“Consider it dropped,” you say, unbuckling the frayed seatbelt from your waist. The side door lifts open, and you’re greeted by the sight of a lush, green world. This isn’t so bad.

“Fantastic. I’m liking you already,” Zohya says, bouncing out of the ship to the grass.

Before you can get your bearings, a confused-looking human dressed in white overalls approaches you. “I don’t think you can park that there,” he says, eyeing Zohya’s ship.

You ignore the comment. “Hey, do you know where we can find Commander Shepard?” you ask instead.

“That some sort of Alliance type?” he replies. “Ain’t heard the name before you chose to say it. Only Alliance ’round here is that Williams. She’s out by those planetary guns the Alliance put up. Well, guns may be a bit optimistic to say. Things don’t work right enough to hit something big as a moon. Anyway, Williams. She’s just over that way. Might ask her about your Shepard.”

Suddenly, you hear the boom of thunder from above, and look up to find one of the largest ships you’ve ever laid eyes upon descending through the upper atmosphere. Crackling purple lightning balls beneath its heavy hull as two small, black, pulsing clouds begin to fall from its position. The sound of screaming and gunfire breaks the silence from a near distance on the surface.

“What is that?” you yell. Zohya shrugs.

Soon, the cloud comes into better focus; it’s a swarm of flying insects, each the size of your palm. One lands on the human’s shoulder beside you, and plunges a fat stinger into the side of his neck. His body slowly goes rigid, only to fall stiff as a pillar to the ground.

“We’ve got to do something!” Zohya yells above the buzzing army quickly approaching your position.

“But what?” you ask.

“I’m an engineer,” she replies quickly. “That man said something about guns. I can head to their control console try to fix them, maybe save these people. Or, I guess I can stay here at set up a flame turret. It should keep the bugs off us, but the others will need to fend for themselves.”

Have Zohya head to the planet’s malfunctioning guns while you search for a good hiding spot.

Have Zohya set up her turret to ward off the swarm while you plot your next move.

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PARAGON +10

“Go!” you yell.

Zohya nods and quickly activates a defense drone around her head. You watch it zap the bugs that approach her as she runs off in the direction that the human had pointed toward before becoming paralyzed. With the swarm distracted by your pilot’s escape, you have a few moments to find shelter.

You decide to run toward the nearest cluster of buildings; they aren’t far. Soon, you spot two small storage units across the side of one of the larger structures. The one on the left even seems to have some form of security system. Perfect.

As you run toward your newfound haven, you watch a small teenaged girl spin around the corner from the other side of the building, and duck into the small space you’d just chosen for yourself not moments ago.

You arrive at the unit’s entrance just as she hops inside past the door. Looking behind her, you can see that the room is smaller than you’d thought. The girl barely fits alone.

“Find your own hiding space, off-worlder!” she yells. You can tell from her face that she’s frightened. And who wouldn’t be?

Force yourself into the unit with the teenager.

Draw your pistol, and force the girl to leave the hiding spot that you’re sure everyone would agree you clearly saw first.

Enter the neighboring unit instead, even though it doesn’t seem to have a locking mechanism.

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You see no reason to boot the poor girl out of the unit into harm’s way, but you
did see the room first, and it’s the only shelter within sight that can provide you any decent security.

You slip your foot beneath the door just before it can close, triggering its safety system and forcing it back open. “Please stand clear of the door,” a silky-sounding VI requests from a small speaker near the handle.

“What are you doing?” the frightened teenager yells.

“Move over!” you reply, trying shoving your way past her.

“Please stand clear of the door,” the VI plays again.

She shoves and kicks at you as you attempt to squirm around her body into the space. Ignoring her weak attacks, you continue to squeeze against her, contorting and squishing yourself as well as you’re able. It’s no use. There’s just not enough room in here for two.

“I said,” the young girl screams, “find your own hiding place!” As she speaks the last word, she lifts her elbow and thrusts it into your throat. You’re so distracted by the girl’s outburst that you don’t even notice the small smarm outside that’s caught up with you.

As the girl’s arm connects with your windpipe, one of the strange flying insect stings your arm. You freeze. They must have gotten the teenager, too. Her elbow isn’t moving from its unfortunate position against your neck. Its pinch slowly suffocates you to death as the young girl watches in horror at what she’s accidentally done.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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RENEGADE +5

This is no time for random acts of kindness. You slip your foot beneath the door just before it can close, triggering its safety system and forcing it back open. “Please stand clear of the door,” a silky-sounding VI requests from a small speaker near the handle.

“What are you doing?” the frightened teenager yells.

“Get out,” you yell, thrusting the barrel of your sidearm between her eyes. “Now!

The girl bursts into tears as she worms her way out of the closet. You don’t hesitate to take her place in the shelter. As the door slides shut, you see her running wildly across the field to a nearby building.

Placing your finger across the blue light near the inside door handle turns it red. The unit is now locked and, at least for now, you’re safe. Thirty minutes pass in cramped, darkened silence. Then, you hear a noise.

There’s someone outside running, no, stomping. Whatever it is, it’s getting closer.

You slowly push your ear against the surface of the door. It’s just outside now. You hear light taps and scratches against the metal in front of you.

Suddenly, you see the small red light on the handle turn blue. Whoever’s outside must have bypassed the lock! You quickly run your finger over it to turn it red again. The being outside begins to bang on the door wildly. You keep your eye on the light.

A few moments later, the light changes again. You quickly turn it back before the door can slide open. It happens twice more: the creature bypasses the lock, and you
re-secure it. On its fourth attempt, though, you see a large, brown foot slide beneath the opening before you can close it.

“Please stand clear of the door,” you hear the VI say.

You draw your gun as the unit opens. Standing in front of you is the biggest, nastiest alien you’ve ever seen. It’s like someone made a snowman out of insect hide.

You don’t hesitate in aiming your pistol at it, and unloading a full thermal clip into the thing’s strange, triangular forehead. It doesn’t flinch.

It didn’t die, but you’re sure you’ve weakened it. Attempt to get into melee with the creature to finish the job.

Further fighting is too risky. Duck down and charge, hoping to break past the creature and run for it.

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PARAGON +5

You let the girl keep the better spot, and duck into the unit beside it. As you wait amidst the cramped, darkened silence, you do your best to soothe your fears by pretending the door has a lock. Thirty minutes later, you hear a noise.

There’s someone outside running, no, stomping. Whatever it is, it’s getting closer.
You slowly push your ear against the surface of the door. It’s just outside now. You hear light taps and scratches against the metal in front of you.

Suddenly, the door activates. With no way of stopping it, you draw your gun. As the unit opens, you catch first sight of your invader: the biggest, nastiest alien you’ve ever seen. It’s like someone made a snowman out of insect hide. You don’t hesitate in unloading your full thermal clip into the thing’s large triangular forehead. It doesn’t flinch.

It didn’t die, but you’re sure you must have weakened it. Attempt to get into melee with the creature to finish the job.

Further fighting is too risky. Duck down and charge, hoping to break past the creature and run for it.

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You thrust your right fist upward at the alien’s jaw, and to your own surprise, connect! Sadly, the beast doesn’t budge, and you’re fairly certain that you’ve managed to hurt your hand much worse than you’ve managed to hurt your opponent’s mandible.

The creature eyes you quizzically and soon mimics your actions, lifting its large hands as rolled fists to the front of its body. You return to stance and try a left hook.

It deftly dodges and sends a light jab to the side of your stomach. Oof, that hurt, but nothing’s broken.

A few punches later, it hits you. You’re boxing an alien! This is actually sort of fun!

The creature lifts a particle rifle and vaporizes you.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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You cradle your head in your arms and run forward, clearly taking the bizarre alien by surprise. You knock it off balance, though not off its feet, and break from of the unit into the courtyard.

Refusing to look behind you, you continue to charge at the next cluster of buildings ahead, hoping to stumble into safety from what’s seeming more and more like a planetary invasion.

Suddenly, you see a ship soar overhead. You recognize it immediately as the
Normandy. That’s Shepard’s ship! you think gleefully. That Illusive Man was right after all!

With your eyes locked to the sky, you fail to notice the large, white garage door directly in front of you. You slam into it chin-first. Placing your hands against the surface to catch your balance, you hear a buzzing. A heavy feeling of dread swells in your stomach.

You turn around slowly. A cloud of those flying freeze bugs is just behind you, and approaching much faster than you’d like. You look to your left and right for options. There’s nothing you could reach in time. With hope lost, you clench your teeth, close your eyes, and brace for the end.

The next sound you hear is a motor. The door behind you is sliding open. Suddenly, a massive gust of fast moving air pushes past you, knocking you to your knees. The flying swarm can’t break past its force, and disperses against the blast of wind. A hand dripping with black grease drops to your shoulder and drags you backward into the garage.

You shuffle to your feet and see the cause of your salvation: the engine of a large land speeder. The dirty mechanic who saved you quickly clicks it off and closes the door. He eyeballs you and frowns. “You Alliance?” he asks. You see a small weapon upgrade kit beneath his left arm.

Lie: Yes.

Truth: No.

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RENEGADE +2

“Yes,” you answer with a faux military swagger. “Captain Brannigan,” you continue. “Democratic Order of Planets, 5th Division.”

The man labors to make the loudest hocking noise possible, and spits at the floor in response. “You’re the ones got us into this mess to begin with. No one even knew the name “Horizon” ’til you folk put up those planet cannons. Which don’t even work, you know.” He drops the upgrade kit he was cradling in his armpit to the workbench a few feet to his left and picks up a dirty mug from its corner.

“Thanks for the save all the same,” you say. “What–“

“I didn’t save you cause I needed a conversation to go with my coffee,” he says, taking a drink from his mug. He eyes you from over the rim. “Go on, then.”

“Back out there?” you ask, incredulous.

“No, dummy,” he replies, pointing toward a large hole in the floor near the speeder. “This leads to the maintenance tunnels. That’s where I’ve been sending folk who pass this way. Don’t think none of them cockroach monsters are down there … yet.”

“What about the speeder?” you ask. “I need to find my pilot.”

“Just cause I saved you, doesn’t mean you can have my car, too. Now git!”

The keys are still hanging in the ignition. Steal the speeder, and try to find Zohya and
the Normandy.

Take the maintenance tunnels to wherever they lead.

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“I’ll take the speeder,” you say. After all, who knows if those things have made it into the tunnels, and anyway, you’ll never find Commander Shepard hiding underground.

“Keys are in the ignition,” he says. “Good luck to you.”

You nod and hop into the cockpit. The moment the mechanic opens the garage, you slam on the speeder’s accelerator, blasting through the swarm of bug that seems to have been teeming around the outside of the door. Three splat against your windshield.

You find the surface of Horizon much hillier than you’d thought, but the speeder manages to handle them well. During your drive, you pass ten more of the bipedal bug monsters. A few of them fire at you, and you speed up, making it more difficult for them to hit you.

Suddenly, you feel a sharp sting in the back of your neck. You’re not sure how, but one of the bugs must have made its way through the air currents to the inside of your craft. Your body stiffens with your foot on the accelerator, and your hands holding the wheel straight. You begin to move faster and faster, completely unable to stop. Eventually, a building does that for you.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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PARAGON +2

“No,” you say honestly. “Not Alliance.”

“Good, good,” he says. “That Alliance … ” The man labors to make the loudest hocking noise possible, and spits at the floor. “They’re the ones got us into this mess to begin with. No one even knew the name “Horizon” until them folks put up those planet cannons. Which don’t even work, you know.”

“I heard,” you reply. “I sent my engineer over there when the attack started. She’s going to try and get them working.”

The man looks you over and nods his approval. “Let me see that pistol you got there,” he says. “You got a stream of steam coming out the barrel like you just spent a clip.”

You look over the gun. “Didn’t do me much good,” you reply.

The man takes your weapon and slaps it down on his workbench. “Maybe it can next time.” He begins to apply the upgrade kit he was holding to your pistol as he talks. “If your friend is at the guns, I guess that’s where you’re heading. Can’t say I have a perfect option for you, but at least I can offer you a choice. You can take this speeder here and blow past those uglies by the surface, or you can take the maintenance tunnel. Entrance right over there in the floor. Both should get you to your friend.”

He finishes with your gun and tosses it to you. You bobble it a few times in your hands before catching hold of it. He smirks. “Thanks,” you say. “For everything.”

Take the speeder.

Take the tunnel.

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You quickly sprint across the floor, slide across the hood, and spin into the cockpit of the mechanic’s speeder. As you turn the keys, you hear a gunshot. In hindsight, you suppose as you slump down into the driver’s seat bleeding profusely from your chest, that you should have known a man with a pistol upgrade kit probably also owned a pistol.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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You dash for the hatch, and Zohya follows suit. The Collector follows, but to your surprise doesn’t fire. You wonder if he means to take you alive.

You reach the door and pull up on its handle. It’s heavy, but not so much that you can’t lift it, albeit slowly.

“Come on, come on,” Zohya says frantically. “That thing is almost to us!”

You continue to pull with what might you can muster. The Collector is almost to you. The door finally pulls open, and Zohya quickly cartwheels to her side, offering the collector a hearty kick the bottom of his jaw. Her move buys both of you just enough time to get inside the tunnel and close the door. You swiftly lock it from the inside and descend the ladder into darkness.

You walk the first few minutes of your underground jaunt in silence. A few times, when your footsteps fall into synch, you look to your side and strain your eyes against the consuming black of the tunnel to make sure Zohya’s still there with you. She is.

Eventually, you decide to break the silence. “So, you’re a pirate, huh?” you ask.

She delays for a moment before replying. “It’s complicated,” she says.

“What’s complicated about that?” you ask.

“Look,” she says, pointing ahead. “There’s a light ahead. That must be where the tunnel lets out.

You follow your pilot up the ladder without further conversation, and breach the surface soon after. As you step into the grass, Zohya places her hand against your mouth and points just ahead of you. There’s a Collector not four feet in front of you, struggling to carry three frozen children in its arms. It hasn’t seen you yet.

Tackle the Collector and attempt to save the children.

Stay quiet and let the alien pass. It’s probably too late for those kids, anyway.

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RENEGADE +5
Zohya takes a step forward toward the abductor, but you grab onto her arm before she can act. She looks saddened by your choice, but nods her understanding.

Suddenly, one of the flying insects lands on Zohya’s shoulder. You swat it away before it can sting her. The loud slap brings the Collector’s attention. It’s glowing eyes flicker as it drops the children and reaches for its rifle. You quickly draw your pistol, but before you can aim it, the alien’s head explodes into a cloud of blood. You look right and find the shooter. It’s Commander Shepard!

You quickly reach into your pocket and grab the small audio recorder you’ve brought across the galaxy for exactly this moment. You hold it toward him and open your mouth to speak. Nothing comes out. In fact, your whole body seems to have stopped functioning. You watch helplessly as the bug that just stung you crawls from your hand to Zohya’s neck, and does the same to her before flying away to find other victims.

Silenced and frozen, you can’t do anything but watch as Commander Shepard and his two-man squad stop just three feet in front of you. A scarred turian wearing rounded blue armor reaches for your cheek and touches its side. “Shepard,” he says. “Look at this. Poor bastards.”

“Indeed,” an elderly salarian says from behind him. “Can make antidote. Have special pathogens on ship. Wait, no, no, may cause unwelcome neurological damage.
Movement granted, but only cognitive functions of over-achieving pyjack alpha male. Perhaps–“

“Mordin,” Shepard interrupts. “I want to save all of these people, but our best chance now is stopping the collectors from hitting any more colonies. It’s too late for the ones already here. Come on.”

You watch as the squad, and your dreams of recording the Commander’s endorsement, run off in an opposite direction while you remain helplessly frozen. Soon, a large collector appears, and lifts your petrified body into its bulky arms. Another does the same to Zohya.

Turn around, Shepard! you think frantically. Just turn around, please!

He never does. You’re not sure if it’s the anxiety, or whatever that bug injected just into your bloodstream, but soon, you lose consciousness.

Three hours later you’re back on the citadel, sitting happily behind your terminal as hundreds, maybe thousands, line up to buy your wares. Business has never been better. You smile as you hear the high-definition speakers mounted above you crackle to life. “I’m Commander Shepard,” the message begins to play.

Ah, yes, you think, the endorsement that made this all possible–

“And this is my least favorite store on the Citadel,” it finishes.

What? No! That can’t be right. Suddenly most of the customers are leaving. The ones that stay are throwing rotten vegetables at you. One grabs your primary sales terminal and smashes it against the ground.

“I’m Commander Shepard, and this my least favorite store on the Citadel,” the speakers play again.

You throw your hands into the air and scream. “Nooooooo!

Wake up.

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PARAGON +5
Without thinking much about it, you leap on the collector in front of you, knocking him forward. He loses his grip on the children he was carrying, and drops them to the grass. You stumble backward and get back on your feet, quickly realizing that tackle was the extent of your plan. The alien’s glowing eyes flicker as reaches for its rifle. You draw your pistol, but before you can aim it, the collector’s head explodes into a cloud of blood. You look right and find the shooter. It’s Commander Shepard!

You quickly reach into your pocket and grab the small audio recorder you’ve brought across the galaxy for exactly this reason. You hold it toward him and open your mouth to speak. Nothing comes out. In fact, it seems your whole body has stopped functioning. You watch helplessly as the bug that just stung you crawls from your hand to Zohya’s neck, injecting her before flying away to other victims.

Silenced and frozen, you can’t do anything but watch as Commander Shepard and his two-man squad stop just three feet in front of you. A scarred turian wearing rounded blue armor reaches for your cheek and touches its side. “Shepard,” he says. “Look at this. Poor bastards.”

“Indeed,” an elderly Salarian says from behind him. “Can make antidote. Have special pathogens on ship. Wait, no, no, may cause unwelcome neurological damage.
Movement granted, but only cognitive functions of over-achieving pyjack alpha
male. Perhaps–“

“Mordin,” Shepard interrupts. “I want to save all of these people, but our best chance of doing that now is stopping the collectors from hitting any more colonies. It’s too late for the ones already here. Come on.”

You watch as the squad, and your dreams of recording the Commander’s endorsement, run off in an opposite direction while you remain helplessly frozen. Soon, a large collector appears, and lifts your petrified body into its bulky arms. Another does the same to Zohya.

Turn around, Shepard! you think frantically. Just turn around, please!

He never does. You’re not sure if it’s the anxiety, or whatever that bug injected just into your bloodstream, but soon, you lose consciousness.

Three hours later you’re back on the citadel, sitting happily behind your terminal as hundreds, maybe thousands, line up to buy your wares. Business has never been better. You smile as you hear the high-definition speakers mounted above you crackle to life. “I’m Commander Shepard,” the message begins to play.

Ah, yes, you think, the endorsement that made this all possible–

“And this is my least favorite store on the Citadel,” it finishes.

What? No! That can’t be right. Suddenly most of the customers are leaving. The ones that stay are throwing rotten vegetables at you. One grabs your primary sales terminal and smashes it against the ground.

“I’m Commander Shepard, and this my least favorite store on the Citadel,” the speakers play again.

You throw your hands into the air and scream. “Nooooooo!

Wake up.

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RENEGADE +10

“Are you crazy?” you yell. “We’re both going to die if you run off now. Let the colonists fend for themselves. We’re only here for one reason, and that’s this!” You pull out the small audio recorder you brought with you to capture Shepard’s voice, and wave it at Zohya.

Zohya nods and crouches down to set up a defensive turret. “Duck down!” she calls, as the small device slowly raises into position. As you crouch, its barrel rises past you, and begins to spit out a curtain of flames around both you and your pilot. You watch as swarms of the strange invading insects try to dive past the fire shield Zohya created, only to become ash and scatter into the wind.

“The Illusive Man told me they might be coming,” Zohya says.

“They who?” you ask.

“The collectors,” she replies. “And if I’m right, these small bugs aren’t the worst we can look forward to meeting on Horizon.”

“Well, he didn’t say anything to me about-wait.” Between a break in the flames you see a long, pointed ship descending through the clouds to the surface. You recognize it immediately as Shepard’s ship, the Normandy. He’s here! “Zohya!” you yell above the noise. “That’s him, that’s Shepard. We need to move. What are our options?”

Zohya shrugs at you.

“Come on,” you say. “You’re a space pirate. Aren’t you people famous for out-of-the-box thinking in a pinch?”

“No,” she replies. “Mainly just killing people and taking their loot. But, actually, maybe I do have an idea. We could just lift this turret and carry it with us. It’ll be like an umbrella for the rain. But the umbrella will be a wall of spinning fire, and the rain will be small swarms of insects trying to inject us with foreign toxins. What do you think?”

You think about Zohya’s metaphor, and realize that, much like sharing an actual umbrella, the person who isn’t physically holding it seems much more likely to get … “wet.”

Pick up the turret yourself.

Let Zohya hold it.

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PARAGON +5

Zohya lifts the turret by its base and begins to walk steadily in the direction of the Normandy’s course. “Stay close,” she warns. As if you needed her to say it; you’re only a few inches away from the fire in the best of spots when standing still.

Progress is slow, but safe. You pass numerous frozen colonists on either side of you, none of them fortunate enough to be paired with a master drell engineer. You try not to look at them for long. It’s taking most of your attention just to stay near the turret’s center.

Zohya suddenly stops without warning. You nearly walk into the flame. “Zohya,” you say accusatorily, “what are you-” As you turn to face her, you see that she’s pointing ahead. You redirect your eyes again and follow her point to a tall, ugly bug monster with bright glowing eyes. This must be the one of the “collectors” of which she’d been speaking before. Neither of you find time to react before it lifts a large brown rifle and fires a beam of energy at Zohya’s turret. The machine explodes in her hands and rains down burning debris atop both of you.

You quickly draw your pistol and unload a thermal clip into the collector. Seven shots to his chest, and three in his arm aren’t enough to even faze him.

You look around your immediate surroundings for options. Without the fire obscuring your view, you’re able to spy a large metal hatch in the ground about ten feet to your right.

Your gun may not have killed it, but you’re sure the fire must have neutralized a fair chunk of his shields. Attempt to get into melee with the collector.

Any further conflict with this thing is much too risky. Run for the tunnel.

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RENEGADE +5

As Zohya reaches for the turret, you stop her and grab it yourself. “You’re the one who set this thing up,” you say. “So you shouldn’t be the one who has to lug it around, right?” Before she can reply, you lift the base and start moving toward where you’d seen the Normandy headed.

The journey is slow, but your progress is constant. The number of bugs willing to brave the circle of spinning fire has diminished, but those that tempt fate are promptly incinerated long before you’d need worry about them.

“Wait,” Zohya says suddenly. “Look over there. Those are collectors. Those are the things that brought the swarms.”

You pause and follow her finger to a large building across the way with multiple doors along its outside wall. On one end, you see two large, nasty-looking bug aliens bypassing security locks and bursting through doors. On the other, you see a crowd of colonists through a window. It seems they chose to hide together in that single tiny room. It will be just another few minutes before the collectors get to them.

“We could join them,” Zohya suggests. “We could put the turret at the door, and help protect them … at least until the collectors pass them by.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of pillaging criminal?” you ask. “Why do you always seem to want to help people?”

Zohya shrugs.

Join the colonists, and place your turret at the door for defense.

Don’t detour from the current plan. The colonists are on their own.

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PARAGON +5

“Alright, alright,” you say. “Shepard just got here. I’m sure he’ll stick around for a while more. Let’s help where we can.”

Zohya smiles and nods, and the two of you make your way to the crowded room. After offering a reassuring wave through the window, they open the door for you. Zohya wastes not time in re-rigging her sentry turret to fire outside the door.

“Thank you,” a dirty man says, emerging from the huddled crowd. “We’ve all got to work together if we’re going to survive this thing. Say, a favor for a favor. I’ve got an upgrade kit in the back here, just one though. You helped us with our fight, I’d like to help you with yours.”

Ask the man to upgrade your pistol.

Ask the man to upgrade Zohya’s omni-tool instead.

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RENEGADE +5

“Come on,” you say. “We need to keep moving.”

“But–” she says. Then, without warning, she freezes in place. You crash into her, nearly losing your grip on the turret. “Zohya,” you say accusatorily, “what are you-” As you turn to face her, you see that she’s pointing ahead. You follow her point to a tall, ugly bug monster with bright glowing eyes. This must be the one of the “collectors” of which she’d spoken. Neither of you have time to react before it lifts a large brown rifle and fires a beam of energy at Zohya’s turret. The machine explodes, and rains down flaming debris atop both of you.

You quickly draw your pistol and unload a thermal clip into the collector that fired. Seven shots to his chest, and three in his arm aren’t enough to even faze him.

You look around your immediate surroundings for options. Without the fire obscuring your few, you’re able to spy a large metal hatch in the ground about ten feet to your right.

Your gun may not have killed him, but you’re sure it neutralized a fair chunk of his shields. Attempt to get into melee with the collector.

Any further conflict with this thing is much too risky. Run for the tunnel.

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Zohya hands him her tool, and the man finishes working on it much faster than you’d expected. “Thank you,” she says to him, bowing her head slightly.

“My pleasure,” he replies. “Bein’ town mechanic means more than fixing faulty tractor axels and broken protosynths all day.”

Suddenly, you hear the turret in the doorway activate. This is it. The collectors are here. The room floods with panic as the aliens fire their weapons at Zohya’s turret. It’s only a matter of time before it falls to the superior firepower assailing it.

As the room’s defenses fall, a momentary silence takes the room. The colonists wait in fear for the collectors to enter the room and open fire. Oddly, they never do. It’s not long, however, before you realize why. A loud buzzing fills the air, and panicked screams drink the quiet as swarms of flying insects flood the room. You watch as colonist after colonist gets stung, petrified in place.

“Quick!” yells the mechanic. “Down here!” The man spastically gestures you toward a hatch in the back of the room.

Refuse the man’s offer, make your way to the front of the room, and attempt to fight off the collector with your bare hands.

Follow the man’s advice and move toward the back.

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You hand the man your pistol, and he finishes work on it much faster than you’d expected. “Thank you,” you say, taking the upgraded weapon back into your hand. It feels somehow lighter, though the barrel’s been extended.

“My pleasure,” he replies. “Bein’ town mechanic means more than fixing faulty tractor axels and broken protosynths all day.”

Suddenly, you hear the turret in the doorway activate. This is it. The collectors are here. The room floods with panic as the aliens fire their weapons at Zohya’s turret. It’s only a matter of time before it falls to the superior firepower assailing it.

As the room’s defenses fall, a momentary silence takes the room. The colonists wait in fear for the collectors to enter the room and open fire. Oddly, they never do. It’s not long, however, before you realize why. A loud buzzing fills the air, and panicked screams drink the quiet as swarms of flying insects flood the room. You watch as colonist after colonist gets stung, petrified in place.

“Quick!” yells the mechanic. “Down here!” The man spastically gestures you toward a hatch in the back of the room.

Refuse the man’s offer, make your way to the front of the room, and attempt to fight off the collector with your bare hands.

Follow the man’s advice and move toward the back.

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You thrust your right fist upward at the alien’s jaw, and to your own surprise, connect! Sadly, the beast doesn’t budge, and you’re fairly certain that you’ve managed to hurt your hand much worse than you’ve managed to hurt your opponent’s mandible.

The collector eyes you quizzically and soon mimics your actions, lifting its large hands as rolled fists to the front of his body. You return to stance and try a left hook.
It deftly dodges and sends a light jab to the side of your stomach. Oof, that hurt, but nothing’s broken.

A few punches later, it hits you. You’re boxing an alien! This is actually sort of fun!

The creature lifts a particle rifle and vaporizes you.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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The man throws open the lid and ushers you down its ladder. Zohya goes first, and you follow closely behind. As you take your first step down the ladder, you notice the man isn’t following.

“Come on!” you urge.

“No,” he replies somberly. “These are my family, my community. We’ll share today’s fate together. Go, now. I’ll stand on the hatch and let them freeze me there. I just hope it might buy you the time to escape.”

“But-” you start. He slams down the circular door before you can finish. You sigh and descend the ladder into complete darkness.

You walk the first few minutes of your underground jaunt in silence. A few times, when your footsteps fall into synch, you look to your side and strain your eyes against the consuming black of the tunnel to make sure Zohya’s still there with you. She is.

Eventually, you decide to break the awkward quiet. “So, you’re a pirate, huh?” you ask.

She delays for a moment before replying. “It’s complicated,” she says.

“What’s complicated about that?” you ask.

“Look,” she says, pointing ahead. “There’s a light ahead. That must be where the tunnel lets out.

You follow your pilot up the ladder without further conversation, and breach the surface soon after. As you step into the grass, Zohya places her hand against your mouth and points just ahead of you. There’s a Collector not four feet in front of you, struggling to carry three frozen children in its arms. It hasn’t seen you yet.

Tackle the Collector and attempt to save the children.

Stay quiet and let the alien pass. It’s probably too late for those kids, anyway.

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Lucan turns to you and shakes his head as if leaving a trance. Then, he smiles, turns to the collector and launches a giant, pulsing blue ball of energy at the alien’s chest. The beast flies backward through the room’s entrance. Catullus, the hulking turian in blue armor, runs after it and slams down the door, holding it shut with his brutish arms. Soon, there’s loud banging from the other side.

Virgil slowly gets to his feet and rubs his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “To all of you. That wasn’t the time to lose my composure. Even after what they … after what they did to Horace.” He looks down toward his fallen comrade and bites down against his bottom lip.

Finally, he looks up at you. “Thank you,” he says. “Now, team, we need plan. The way I see it, there are two flues out of this death chimney. I see an airlock over there, and the corridor to what our Intel says should be the central processing plant down that way.”

Suggest the airlock.

Suggest the processing plant.

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You wake up. You can’t move your head or body, but there’s a tingling sensation in your lips, and your eyes can move. You seem to be in some sort of strange processing chamber. Numerous others are frozen around you.

Suddenly, you see a small bright blue flame burst through the bottom of the floor. It draws a circle, and soon after, a disk of sliced metal is pushed up and out. A turian head appears through the hole. “This isn’t it,” he says to someone below him.

“Just get up there,” another replies.

The turian climbs out into the main chamber followed by another, another, another, and another. The five of them are wearing identical sets of armor, but made in different stark colors.

“Horace, this is the harvesting chamber, you dingbat,” the first turian, garbed in deep red, says to the one behind him.

The tingling in your lips is intensifying. You try desperately to speak.

“Sorry, Lieutenant,” who you can only assume is Horace replies.

Finally a word escapes your mouth. “Help,” you manage.

“What’s this?” the turian dressed in yellow says. “This one can still speak.”

“I don’t know where we are,” you say, the words somewhat muddled.

The turian in red steps forward. “You, my somewhat unfortunate friend, are in the middle of a collector Cruiser, passenger section. Admittedly, the accommodations are somewhat less than desirable. I’m Lieutenant Virgil, head of this little ticky-tacky operation. That’s Titus, medic, over there in the white. The hulking bastard in blue is Catullus, resident brawler and all around juggernaut. Lucan’s our demo man in green.” Virgil turns and points to the turian in blue. “And that’s Horace, the brains of this outfit. Ha!”

“Sorry, Lieutenant,” Horace says.

“That’s Zohya,” you manage, “and I’m-“

“You seem like a trusty pair,” Virgil says, cutting you off. “So I’ll just go ahead and spill all of our race’s state secrets and let you know what we’re doing here. Ha! We’re a Turian Cabal, you see. Ever heard of that? Didn’t think so. There aren’t many turian biotics, you know, but those of us that exist are usually put into these special little squads and sent on nothing but suicide missions. Ha!”

“You’re all biotics?” you ask.

“Oh, sure,” Virgil replies. “These collector nasties have been flying around snatching up humans from remote colonies. We’re not sure why, but we want some Intel for when they set their sights on turian meat. That’s why we’re here. Intel, and maybe some sabotage. At least, that’s what we were doing until Horace here led us down the wrong ventilation shaft.”

“Sorry, Lieutenant,” Horace replies.

“Now, since we’re all in this muck together, let’s wade through the thick of it as a team, yes?” Virgil says. “Titus here is a wonder at biotic healing. He can probably get you medically mobile in three shakes of pyjack’s tail.”

Suddenly, you hear the sound of what may have been a door opening in the adjacent room.

“Sounds like company,” Titus says. “Well, who’s first? You or your drell friend?”

Zohya saved your life today, and seems in worse shape than you. She should be first.

If something’s about to walk through that door, having legs that work might be helpful. You should be first.

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PARAGON +10

“Please,” you say. “Help my friend first.”

Titus nods and opens his hands. Soon, two pulsing balls of blue energy surround them. He begins to move them carefully around Zohya’s body, pausing in certain areas while rushing past others.

“Just like Titus,” Virgil says. “The guy’s balls are always in his hands. Ha!”

“At least the balls are mine and not someone else’s,” Titus replies through the corner of a smile.

“Ha!” Virgil exclaims. “Let’s just-“

Suddenly, the door across the room slides open, and a very perplexed-looking collector is standing on the other side of it with a tilted head. Before any of the Cabal can react, it lifts its rifle and fires a thick beam of energy at Horace.

The turian collapses to the floor in a newly forming pool of blood. “Sorry, Lieutenant,” he manages as the life leaves him.

“Horace, no!” Virgil shouts as he runs to the dying soldier. As he leans down over his fallen teammate, the collector kicks the underside of his jaw with a large, brown foot. Virgil flies onto his back near Horace. The other members of the squad seem baffled. Could this be their first time in active combat? you wonder. With Virgil down, someone needs to deliver an order if you’re going to survive this.

You’re not a biotic, but as someone who sells a variety of biotic amps, you’re somewhat familiar with the more common abilities.

“Someone use Throw on that thing and knock it back out the door!”

“Catch that thing in Stasis before it can fire again!”

“Fling a Warp projectile at this fiend and tear it apart!”

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RENEGADE +10

“Just fix me first,” you say. “We can worry about my friend in a minute.”

Titus nods and opens his hands. Soon, two pulsing balls of blue energy surround them. He begins to move them carefully around your body, pausing in certain areas while rushing past others.

“Just like Titus,” Virgil says. “The guy’s balls are always in his hands. Ha!”

You feel yourself able to move again. What a relief.

“At least they’re my balls and not someone else’s,” Titus replies through the corner of a smile.

“Ha!” Virgil exclaims. “Let’s just-“

Suddenly, the door across the room slides open, and a very perplexed looking collector is standing on the other side of it with a tilted head. Before any of the Cabal can react, it lifts its rifle and fires a thick beam of energy at Horace.

The turian collapses to the floor in a newly forming pool of blood. “Sorry, Lieutenant,” he manages as the life leaves him.

“Horace, no!” Virgil shouts as he runs to the dying soldier. As he leans down over his fallen teammate, the collector kicks the underside of his jaw with a large, brown foot. Virgil flies onto his back near Horace.

The alien lifts its weapon to fire again, and this time, it’s pointed at Zohya. You may be able to tackle her body out of the way if you leap. Then again, there’s a door labeled “airlock” that you may be able to reach while the thing is busy killing your pilot.

Run for the airlock.

You selfishly chose to get unfrozen first, and now Zohya needs your help. You owe it to her to put your life on the line.

She is the only engineer, and that turret of hers is rather useful. It’s more risky than you’d like, but you suppose you should save her.

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Leaving behind the Cabal and Zohya (both of whom have saved your life) may be an action seen by some as morally questionable. Still, you may be able to argue a point of self-preservation if such a hypothetical argument was to occur about it sometime in the future. What couldn’t be argued, however, is the intelligence of running into a ship’s airlock whether abandoning your friends, or otherwise.

It’s about ten minutes before the inevitable happens, and you’re flushed out into space.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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PARAGON +5

Before giving yourself time to second-guess the action, you leap from the floor and hug onto Zohya’s body with your arms. The two of you tumble out of the line of fire just before the collector fires.

From your new position on the ground, you can see a look of bewilderment across the faces of the rest of the Cabal. Could this be their first time in active combat? you wonder. With Virgil down, someone needs to deliver an order if you’re going to survive this. You suppose that falls to you.

You’re not a biotic, but as someone who sells a variety of biotic amps, you’re somewhat familiar with the more common abilities. You decide to yell,

“Someone use Throw on that thing and knock it back out the door!”

“Catch that thing in Stasis before it can fire again!”

image

RENEGADE +5

Before giving yourself time to second-guess the action, you leap from the floor and hug onto Zohya’s body with your arms. The two of you tumble out from the line of fire just before the Collector fires.

From your new position on the ground, you can see a look of bewilderment across the faces of the rest of the Cabal. Could this be their first time in active combat? you wonder. With Virgil down, someone needs to deliver an order if you’re going to survive this. You suppose that falls to you.

You’re not a biotic, but as someone who sells a variety of biotic amps, you’re somewhat familiar with the more common abilities. You decide to yell,

“Someone use Throw on that thing and knock it back out the door!”

“Catch that thing in Stasis before it can fire again!”

image

Lucan turns to you and shakes his head as if leaving a trance. Then he smiles, turns to the collector and launches a giant, pulsing blue ball of energy at the alien’s head.

As the collector proceeds to shoot everyone in the room one by one, you think back on the description you’d read of Warp in one of your product packages. “Rips apart your enemy on the molecular level,” right? You’re sure it said something similar to that. Wow. You would have thought something that trashed something’s atoms would be slightly more effective.

Catullus is the last to die before you. “That’s the problem with D.O.T.!” he yells.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

Lucan turns to you and shakes his head as if leaving a trance. Then he smiles, turns to the Collector and launches a giant, pulsing blue ball of energy at the alien’s chest. The beast flies backward through the room’s entrance. Catullus, the hulking turian in blue armor, runs after it and slams down the door, holding it shut with his brutish arms. Soon, there’s loud banging from the other side. Titus rushes toward you and removes the paralyzing toxin from your body as he did for Zohya.

Slowly, Virgil gets to his feet, rubbing his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “To all of you. That wasn’t the time to lose my composure. Even after what they … after what they did to Horace.” He looks down toward his fallen comrade and bites down against his bottom lip.

Finally, he looks up at you. “Thank you,” he says. “Now, team, we need plan. The way I see it, there are two flues out of this death chimney. I see an airlock over there, and the corridor to what our Intel says should be the central processing plant down that way.”

Suggest the airlock.

Suggest the processing plant.

image

Lucan turns to you and shakes his head as if leaving a trance. Then he smiles, turns to the Collector and launches a giant, pulsing blue ball of energy at the alien’s chest. A large bubble appears around the beast’s body, freezing it in place. Titus rushes toward you and removes the paralyzing toxin from your body as he did for Zohya.

Slowly, Virgil gets to his feet, rubbing his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “To all of you. That wasn’t the time to lose my composure. Even after what they … after what they did to Horace.” He looks down toward his fallen comrade and bites down against his bottom lip.

“Sir,” Titus says, placing a hand on the Lieutenant’s shoulder. “We have a difficult decision to make. We need to leave here, but someone has to stay behind and hold up this Stasis bubble. Otherwise-“

“You’re right, of course,” Virgil says, looking toward the frozen monster. “It’s completely unfair of me, but I leave the decision with our new friend here.”

“Me?” you ask, incredulous. “I don’t even know you guys. How am I supposed to choose who lives and who dies?”

“That’s exactly why you must be the one to choose. It’s too personal for the rest of us. Only two of us have the ability to sustain a bubble like that. Lucan, who threw it, and Catullus, whom I introduced to you earlier.”

Lucan, the wiry biotic who threw the first bubble will stay behind.

Catullus the giant, muscular biotic will stay behind.

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“We should head for the airlock,” you say confidentially. Virgil nods, spins his finger in the air and points at the airlock. Everyone but the large turian holding down the door moves for the exit.

“Wait,” you say. “What about Catullus?”

Virgil puts his arm around your shoulder and draws you close. “Do you see the muscles on that hulk of a turian?” he asks. “He biotically reinforces the muscle with small cellular components infused with Element Zero called metachlor-“

“Please,” you interrupt. “I’d rather just appreciate biotics for what they are. I don’t need to know the ins and outs, honestly.”

“Fair enough,” Virgil replies. “Well, suffice to say, Catullus is the only among us able to hold down that door. If he moves, the collector, and possibly his pals, will pour through. Listen, grieve for Catullus, but not until we’re safe. He’s a turian, and a damn fine soldier. He knew what he fate was to be the moment he grabbed onto that door.”

You look sympathetically toward Catullus. He nods proudly in response.

You follow the others into the airlock. Once you’ve all arrived, the door closes and seals behind you.

“So,” Virgil says, clapping his hands together. “We’re all in the airlock. What now? You’re not going to tell us that this was the extent of your plan, are you? Ha!”

“Actually … ” you mumble.

Virgil slaps his forehead. “Dammit.”

Ten minutes later, the outside seal opens and you, Zohya, and what’s left of the Cabal are flushed into outer space.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“I suppose,” you say nervously, “Catullus. I’m sorry.”

“No need,” the large turian grunts. “This is a noble end you’ve offered.”

The Cabal takes turns offering their solemn goodbyes to both Catullus, and Horace’s body. You look away, finding it too difficult to risk meeting the eyes of someone you’ve just arbitrarily chosen to die so that your own life can be spared.

Soon, Virgil walks over to you. “Thank you,” he says. “I know that must have been difficult.” You nod and he turns to the group. “Now, team, we need plan. The way I see it there are two flues out of this death chimney. I see an airlock over there, and the corridor to what our Intel says should be the central processing plant down that way.”

Suggest the airlock.

Suggest the processing plant.

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“I suppose,” you say nervously, “Lucan. I’m sorry.”

“Yes, well,” the sinewy turian mutters. “It’s something I signed up for. I guess.”

The Cabal takes turns offering their solemn goodbyes to both Lucan, and Horace’s body. You look away, finding it too difficult to even risk meeting the eyes of someone you’ve just arbitrarily chosen to die so that your own life can be spared.

Soon, Virgil walks over to you. “Thank you,” he says. “I no that must have been difficult.” You nod and he turns to the group. “Now, team, we need plan. The way I see it there are two flues out of this death chimney. I see an airlock over there, and the corridor to what our Intel says should be the central processing plant down that way.”

Suggest the airlock.

Suggest the processing plant.

image

“We should head for the plant,” you say confidentially. “Going into an airlock just sounds idiotic.” Virgil nods, spins his finger in the air and points at the corridor. Everyone but the large turian holding down the door begins to move for the exit.

“Wait,” you say. “What about Catullus?”

Virgil puts his arm around your shoulder and draws you close. “Do you see the muscles on that hulk of a turian?” he asks. “He biotically reinforces the muscle with small cellular components infused with Element Zero called metachlor-“

“Please,” you interrupt. “I’d rather just appreciate biotics for what they are. I don’t need to know the ins and outs, honestly.”

“Fair enough,” Virgil replies. “Well, suffice to say, Catullus is the only among us able to hold down that door. If he moves, the collector, and possibly his pals, will pour through. Listen, grieve for Catullus, but not until we’re safe. He’s a turian, and a damn fine soldier. He knew what his fate was to be the moment he grabbed onto that door.”

You look sympathetically toward Catullus. He nods proudly in response.

You arrive in the processing plant a few minutes later, dumbstruck by the scope and horror of what you find there. The facility is mammoth, composed of multiple moving racks of human bodies packed into pods dangling by hooks.

Virgil walks up behind you. “I know,” he says. “That’s why we’re here.”

“I always knew the collectors harvested other species,” Zohya says, inspecting one of the pods, “but I never knew the scale.”

“Yes,” Virgil replies, stepping forward. “Our operatives tell us that these no-nonsense person-bandits harvest samples for their genetic goop. Right now, they’re in human mode. Next, who knows. Regardless, I say we blow it up and skedaddle. Savvy?”

“No argument here,” you say, still awed by the gruesome sights surrounding you.

“Okay, huddle up, the lot of you twinkle-dinks,” Virgil says. “Let’s chew on some strategy.” You join Zohya, Titus, and Lucan in a circle with Virgil. “Now,” he continues, “the room directly west of here is the docking bay we parked in, using the ship signature of one of the bug boys’. There are so many fighters in there that I don’t think they noticed. We did see, as Titus and Lucan can tell you, four guards monitoring the front of the bay. That’s when we went underground. We’d go back in the way we came, but Horace, poor soul, took us through the gas lines. We had to cave in the tunnel behind us to keep from being shredded into flappy turian strips.

“Now, we can rig this plant to explode,” he continues. “Lucan, I take it you still have the charges, yes?” Lucan nods. “Good man. Now, how to blow the place and blow, just not blow with it. Ha!”

“We set the charges, then head into the next room,” Titus says. “It won’t be easy facing the four collectors in there, but it’s our best chance of getting out of here in one piece. We’ll just need to-“

“Wait, a moment,” Lucan interrupts. “I’m-I’m sorry. We can’t use the explosives. The trigger mechanism, I must have lost it when rigging the cave-in while we were tunneling. These are completely useless without it.”

“Well, that certainly does put a nasty spin on things,” Virgil says, rubbing his chin.

“Okay, so forget the explosion,” Titus exclaims. “We head out, face the Collectors head on, get on our ship and abandon the mission!”

“There is another option,” Virgil says slowly. “This giant factory is calibrated to harvest nothing but human DNA. If another species were to enter one of these pods, it would contaminate the whole batch. Not as good as an old-fashion blow up, but we’d ruin their plans just the same.

“That would sound an alarm,” Titus argues.

“Even better,” Zohya adds. “The closest four are the ones we need to face in the other room. Drawing them inside would allow us to ambush them on our terms.”

“I can’t stand the idea of another pointless death!” Titus yells.

“Dammit, man, if we don’t do this, we’re all going to die!” Virgil yells back.

Someone will need to be sacrificed to the machine, but the factory will malfunction, and you’ll get the jump on the collectors stationed between you and escape. Back Virgil’s plan.

Too many people have died already, and you can’t go through choosing another to perish. Forget the factory, and charge into the docking bay to face the collectors in an open fight.

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“We should head for the plant,” you say confidentially. Virgil nods, spins his finger in the air and points at the corridor. Everyone but the lanky turian holding the Stasis bubble continues through the exit-way.

You arrive in the processing plant a few minutes later, dumbstruck by the scope and horror of what you find there. The facility is mammoth, composed of multiple moving racks of human bodies packed into pods dangling by hooks.

Virgil walks up behind you. “I know,” he says. “That’s why we’re here.”

“I always knew the Collector’s harvested other species,” Zohya says, inspecting one of the pods, “but I never knew the scale.”

“Yes,” Virgil replies, stepping forward. “Our operatives tell us that these no-nonsense person-bandits harvest samples for their genetic goop. Right now, they’re in human mode. Next, who knows. Regardless, I say we blow it up and skedaddle. Savvy?”

“No argument here,” you say, still awed by the gruesome sights surrounding you.

“Okay, huddle up, the lot of you twinkle-dinks,” Virgil says. “Let’s chew on some strategy.” You join Zohya, Titus, and Catullus in a circle with Virgil. “Now,” he continues, “the room directly west of here is the docking bay we parked in, using the ship signature of one of the bug boys’. There are so many fighters in there that I don’t think they noticed. We did see, as Titus and Catullus can tell you, four guards monitoring the front of the bay. That’s when we went underground. We’d go back in the way we came, but Horace, poor soul, took us through the gas lines. We had to cave in the tunnel behind us to keep from being shredded into flappy turian strips.

“Now, we can rig this plant to explode,” he continues. “Catullus, I saw you take the charges from Lucan before we left him, yes?” Catullus nods. “Good man. Now, how to blow the place and blow, just not blow with it. Ha!”

“We set the charges, then head into the next room,” Titus says. “It won’t be easy facing the four Collectors in there, but it’s our best chance of getting out of here in one piece. We’ll just need to-“

“Wait, a moment,” Catullus interrupts. “I don’t see the trigger mechanisms here. Lucan mentioned losing some of them in the cave-in he rigged when we were burrowing. He handed me his whole stash. He must not have noticed he actually lost all of them back there. These charges are useless now.

“Well, that certainly does put a nasty spin on things,” Virgil says, rubbing his chin.

“Okay, so forget the explosion,” Titus exclaims. “We head out, face the collectors head on, get on our ship and abandon the mission!”

“There is another option,” Virgil says slowly. “This giant factory is calibrated to harvest nothing but human DNA. If another species were to enter one of these pods, it would contaminate the whole batch. Not as good as an old-fashion blow up, but we’d ruin their plans just the same.

“That would sound an alarm,” Titus argues.

“Even better,” Zohya adds. “The closest four are the ones we need to face in the other room. Drawing them inside would allow us to ambush them on our terms.”

“I can’t stand the idea of another pointless death!” Titus yells.

“Dammit, man, if we don’t do this, we’re all going to die!” Virgil yells back.

Someone will need to be sacrificed to the machine, but the factory will malfunction, and you’ll get the jump on the collectors stationed between you and escape. Back Virgil’s plan.

Too many people have died already, and you can’t go through choosing another to perish. Forget the factory, and charge into the docking bay to face the collectors in an open fight.

image

“This is difficult,” you say quietly, “but if we don’t sacrifice someone now, I think we’re all going to die. And who knows how many more humans will be dragged into this facility.”

Titus shakes his head into his hand. Virgil walks up beside him and places a hand across his back. “Listen, Titus,” he says. “I take full responsibility for what happened here today. I’ll be the one to-“

“No,” Lucan says. “I will.”

“Lucan, that’s completely unecess-“

“Lieutenant,” he says sternly. Catullus was my best friend. That should have been me back there. It would be my honor to sacrifice myself as he did for the good of this group and this mission.”

“Lucan, you don’t have to do this,” Titus says. “He can’t force you. This is his crazy scheme, let him throw himself into the blender if he’s so ready to!”

“No,” Lucan says, backing to one of the open pods. “Do not judge him too harshly, Titus. Virgil has only ever done what he thought was best for us, even if that’s too cloudy to see clearly now.” The turian backs into the pod and closes the door.

“Lucan, don’t!” Titus yells.

You nod to Zohya. She turns to the console and activates the machine. Soon, Lucan’s pod is lifted and cycled to the back of the plant to be processed with the others.

“Titus,” Virgil says softly.

“I know,” he replies. “Let’s just make sure today’s sacrifices weren’t all as pointless as they feel.”

“Get ready,” Zohya says, setting up her turret near the door. “They’ll be coming soon.”

Suddenly, you hear the sound of footsteps rushing from corridor you entered through. “Change of plans!” Virgil yells. “They must have made it through the others!” Soon, four Collectors rush in from the docking bay. The turret at the door delays them momentarily, but others are still coming in through the other entrance.

“I need to barrier the back entry or we’ll be surrounded!” Virgil yells, erecting a large barrier around the doorway. “I’m sorry, but I have to leave the other four to you!”

You fire a full clip into one of the collectors. It drops. Three left. You look to your spent sidearm, then to Zohya. She shrugs worriedly, pointing toward her turret, mere moments from exploding.

“This is all on you Titus,” you yell. “We’ve got nothing left over here!”

“I don’t know what to do!” he yells back. “I’m just a medic. There’re three of them left!”

Tell him to use Singularity. It should buy you more time.

Suggest a Lift Grenade. One of those should be powerful enough to take out three collectors, though perhaps a bit dangerous for the rest of you.

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“I agree with Titus,” you proclaim. “Let’s not lose anyone else today.”

“Yes, thank you,” Titus says.

“This is a bad idea,” Zohya says. “But a divided strategy would be worse. If this is what everyone agrees on, then … “

You nod and draw your pistol.

What’s left of the Cabal charges through first, as the only ones with military training. It doesn’t help. All three drop within moments of crossing into the docking bay. You and Zohya fall back into the plant, where she sets up a flame turret. It’s not enough to stop even one of the collectors who rush in to kill you one minute later.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“This is difficult,” you say quietly, “but if we don’t sacrifice someone now, I think we’re all going to die. And who knows how many more humans will be dragged into this facility.”

Titus shakes his head into his hand. Virgil walks up beside him and places a hand across his back. “Listen, Titus,” he says. “I take full responsibility for what happened here today. I’ll be the one to-“

“No,” Catullus says. “I will.”

“Catullus, that’s completely unecess-“

“Lieutenant,” he says sternly. “Lucan was my best friend. That should have been me back there. It would be my honor to sacrifice myself as he did for the good of this group and this mission.”

“Catullus, you don’t have to do this,” Titus says. “He can’t force you. This is his crazy scheme, let him throw himself into the blender if he’s so ready to!”

“No,” Catullus says, backing to one of the open pods. “Do not judge him too harshly, Titus. Virgil has only ever done what he thought was best for us, even if that’s too cloudy to see clearly now.” The turian backs into the pod and closes the door.

“Catullus, don’t!” Titus yells.

You nod to Zohya. She turns to the console and activates the machine. Soon, Catullus’s pod is lifted and cycled to the back of the plant to be processed with the others.

“Titus,” Virgil says softly.

“I know,” he replies. “Let’s just make sure today’s sacrifices weren’t all as pointless as they feel.”

“Get ready,” Zohya says, setting up her turret near the door. “They’ll be coming soon.”

Suddenly, you hear the sound of footsteps rushing from corridor you entered through. “Change of plans!” Virgil yells. “They must have made it through the others!” Soon, four Collectors rush in from the docking bay. The turret at the door delays them momentarily, but others are still coming in through the other entrance.

“I need to barrier the back entry or we’ll be surrounded!” Virgil yells, erecting a large barrier around the doorway. “I’m sorry, but I have to leave the other four to you!”

You fire a full clip into one of the collectors. It drops. Three left. You look to your spent sidearm, then to Zohya. She shrugs worriedly, pointing toward her turret, mere moments from exploding.

“This is all on you Titus,” you yell. “We’ve got nothing left over here!”

“I don’t know what to do!” he yells back. “I’m just a medic. There’re three of them left!”

Tell him to use Singularity. It should buy you more time.

Suggest a Lift Grenade. One of those should be powerful enough to take out three Collectors, though perhaps a bit dangerous for the rest of you.

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“Titus,” you call, “just calm down and use Singularity. You know that skill, right?”

“Yes,” he says. “I can do that.”

Titus launches a dark, spiraling ball of blue energy toward the attacking group. All three are caught in its massive field, and begin to levitate.

“Great,” you say. “That should buy us some time to figure out a plan while they’re up there. How long do we have?”

“About twenty more seconds,” Titus responds helpfully.

“Wait, what?” you exclaim.

Twenty seconds pass, and as the collectors land back on their feet, you find yourself just as ill prepared as you’d been before ordering the Singularity, save the extra thermal clip you were able to load into your pistol. You’re able to use it to kill one more collector before the other two decimate what’s left of your party.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“Titus,” you shout. “Just calm down. I used to sell Lift Grenade trainers back on my shop on the Citadel. I seem to recall them being very powerful. Do you have one of those?”

“Yes,” he calls back. “About fifteen of them.”

“Perfect,” you say. “Use one of those.”

Titus waits a moment before responding. “Wait, did you say ‘one’?”

“Titus … “

“I just threw all of them at the doorway.”

All of them?

“I just thought they lifted things; I’ve never actually used one before! Dammit man, I’m a medic, not a soldier!” As the final word leaves the turian’s mouth, his grenades detonate simultaneously. The blast is as deafening as it is bright. You take a deep breath, and close your eyes as the explosion throws you at the ceiling.

A few moments later you open your eyes. You don’t wait nearly as long to wish you hadn’t. The collectors are gone, sure, but so is a substantial section of the ship’s siding. Gravity, pressure, and oxygen systems can’t cope with the unbridled vacuum. You’re floating. In outer space.

You try to calm down and remember what they taught you in space school as a child. You can survive for about thirty seconds as long as you don’t try to hold your breath. So, that means you have about twenty seconds, give or take, to not be in space before you die horribly.

You quickly look around and see Zohya and Virgil, both floating, but holding onto each other from inside his barrier. And it looks like they’re able to breath from inside! There must still be oxygen in there from before the blast. Five seconds later, your body nears a large rod bent off the ship’s frame. You kick against it and sail toward Virgil’s barrier. As you draw closer, Zohya catches your hand and pulls you inside.

Take a deep breath of sweet, sweet oxygen.

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After catching your breath, you ask where Titus is.

Zohya points across the way to another section of the heavily damaged collector ship. You see Titus unsuccessfully struggling to “swim” through the air to you.

“Use your limbs!” you shout. “You have to kick or push off something else!”

“He can’t hear you,” Virgil says. “Space, remember?”

You quickly begin pointing toward your legs and perform a kicking motion. Titus seems to nod his understanding and reaches for a close-by section of debris. He pushes himself off of it with his arms and begins to slowly float toward Virgil’s bubble, spiraling uncontrollably as he travels. You reach for him as he approaches, but your fingers miss his by inches. Moments later, you see his eyes close and his body begin to swell.

“Damn,” Virgil says. “He was a good soldier. They were all good soldiers.”

“I’m sorry,” you say.

“Don’t be sorry for me,” the turian says. “Be sorry for them.”

You, Virgil, and Zohya sit in a contented silence for a few moments. Soon, you notice collector fighters and escape pods launching from the Cruiser into the murky blackness of surrounding space.

“Wait,” you say. “Virgil, what are we going to do? How long can you maintain this barrier?”

“I don’t know,” he says softly. “Maybe five minutes more. We’re going to have to get very lucky very soon, or prepare to explain our decisions to my fallen squad in the afterlife.”

“Options?” you cry, somewhat more desperately than you’d hoped.

“Well,” he says. “I can drop the barrier now and send out a biotic beacon with my remaining strength. We’ll have about thirty seconds to hope someone sees the thumb.”

“Thumb?” you ask.

“Yes, it’s a bit like hitchhiking,” he explains. “If someone sees us, they might pick us up. But the odds are, well, not favorable in this part of space.”

“I can set up something similar,” Zohya says. “It will be the tech version of what Virgil can do with his biotics. It will emit a weaker signal, but it will let Virgil keep his barrier up while it’s going. Of course, if neither works, at least this way we get to be alive a bit longer.”

Gamble your lives on a strong signal for thirty seconds.

Gamble your lives on a weak signal for five minutes.

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PARAGON +1

“Zohya, go ahead,” you say. She punches a sequence of keys into her omni-tool and nods at you. “Is that it?” you ask.

“Now we wait,” she says.

The three of you spend the next four minutes in silence. You’re sure the other two are thinking about their lives, dreams, family, and loved ones. You wish you could do the same. All you can think about is your poor, dying store on the Citadel, and those twelve terrible words that have haunted you for weeks: “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.” Even the stars you float past seem to spell out the letters in constellation.

Suddenly, you see the Normandy fly past you toward the dead Collector ship. Shepard? What’s he doing here? Is this another hallucination?

“Hey, that was the Normandy!” Zohya exclaims.

Someone else saw it. It is real!

“I’m getting a response to our distress call!” Zohya continues. “But … it doesn’t look like it’s coming from the Normandy. It’s coming from some ship called The S.S. William Spacespeare.”

“Take it!” Virgil yells.

“Wait!” you say.

“We’ve got about five seconds left!” he replies.

Tell Zohya not to accept the Spacespeare’s pick up. The Normandy will reply. You know it will.

Accept the rescue, and hope find another way to confront Shepard for his endorsement.

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RENEGADE +1

“It’s all or nothing now!” you cry out. “Virgil, drop your barrier and throw the biotic thumb!”

He nods, and a moment later you’re once more exposed to the raw, unrelenting space around you. During the following seconds that pass, you’re sure the other two are thinking about their lives, dreams, family, and loved ones. You wish you could do the same. All you can think about is your poor, dying store on the Citadel, and those twelve terrible words that have haunted you for over a month now: “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.” Even the stars you float past seem to spell out the letters in constellation. Then you see it. The Normandy flies past you, heading toward the downed collector ship.

Suddenly, Zohya is pointing frantically at her omni-tool. This is it! Shepard is picking you up! You read the screen and see that the response is coming from some ship called the S.S. William Spacespeare, not the Normandy. If you accept the rescue, who knows when you’ll find Shepard again. If you don’t accept it, you’ll have to hope, really hope, the Normandy decides to answer in the next five seconds.

Shake your head “no.” You’ll wait for the Normandy. Commander Shepard’s endorsement is much too important to risk losing forever.

Give her an excited thumbs up. You’ll take what you can get.

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5 …
4 …
3 …
2 …
1 …

Nothing.

In retrospect, this was a silly idea.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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Though you wish it had been the Normandy, you’re just thankful that someone other than a fleeing collector was passing through, well … wherever you are. As your enter the controlled environment of your rescuer’s ship, and breathe in a lungful of 72 degree air, you feel more than confident in your decision. Yes, this was definitely the right move.

“Guh-lorias!” a voice sings from behind you. You turn to find short human man with blond curly hair approaching your group.

“You two okay?” you ask your group quietly before the man arrives.

“Fine, thanks,” Virgil says. Zohya nods.

“It’s so romantic!” the man says. He throws his arm around your shoulders and points at the ship hangar’s ceiling as if it was an expansive mountain sunset. “There you were,” he says, “alone and dying. Trapped, lonely in a sphere of your diminishing survival. Three friends from distant worlds, secluded in a bubble, on a timer, in the stars.” He drops his hand and turns your body around to face him. “You are my-” He looks you over, then speaks the next word as if it’s a compromise. “-damsel in distress. And I, your humble rescuer, the famed theater director, Francis Kitt.” He spins his hand around in a circle five times before thrusting his arm across his waist and bowing.

You cough into your hand. “Yes, well, Mr. Kitt, there’s a ship that we just passed called the Normandy. We need to get aboard it. Do you mind taking us over there?”

“Not at all, my little space puppies!” he says. “Please, follow me. Let us inform the pilot at once!”

Excited by the strange man’s enthusiasm to help you, you smile at Virgil and Zohya, then follow Francis into the main deck of his small craft. You’re somewhat surprised to find about twenty or so Elcor there, each dressed in what seem to be kitschy handmade theater costumes. Most are speaking to themselves or a partner. You overhear one of them as you pass.

“Morose rumination,” he says, “To be, or not to be. That is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer-“

“What is this Francis?” you ask.

“Oh, you silly, I thought you were just playing coy; didn’t want to be one of those spacers who just gushes at the sight of celebrity. But you really don’t know, do you? I can’t tell if that’s cute or sad. Anyway, you’ve just been brought aboard the private transport shuttle for the travelling acting troupe responsible for Elcor Hamlet, which is quite literally the biggest thing to happen on stage since, well, Hamlet.”

“I see … ” you say.

“We’re just on our way to the catch up with the Migrant Fleet for our next performance, but we’re early,” he continues. “I’m sure the pilot won’t mind giving you a drop off. Oop! Here we are!”

Francis opens the door to a cockpit with an unfamiliar design, operated, no less, by a giant standing Elcor.

“Sincere warmth,” he says in his species’ distinctly monotone voice. “Welcome to the S.S. William Spacespeare.”

“Vance, baby,” Francis says. “These chickadoos want to be dropped on a ship that was heading toward that big alien craft. We can handle that, yeah?”

A large holographic map suddenly appears in front of the pilot. You can’t tell how he activated it. “Sincerely apologetic,” Vance says. “I’m showing numerous hostile ships moving into that area. If your ship is anywhere near that inactive alien craft, it’s going to be ambushed.”

“No, no,” you mutter, watching numerous blinking red blips appear from the edges of the map and move toward its center. “This can’t be happening.”

You need to get to the Normandy no matter the danger. Put your pistol against the pilot’s head and hijack the ship.

Accept the reality that it isn’t safe. Thank the pilot for hearing you out, and settle in for a long trip in the opposite direction of where you’d hoped to go.

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You unsheathe your weapon and press it again Vance’s head. “Do you see that downed alien ship?” you yell. “Who do you think did that? You think it’s a coincidence we just happened to be floating over there when it blew?”

“Oh my word!” Francis screams. “It’s a stick-em-up! A stick-em-up!”

“You take us back there right now, or,” you look at the Elcor, “unbridled honestly, I will splatter your brains across the inside of the this windshield.”

“Oh jeez!” Francis whines. “I guess you should do what he says, then.”

“Resigned emasculation,” Vance replies. “We will go back to the alien craft.”

The Elcor ship arrives in the area approximately six minutes later. While you have a gun to the pilot’s head, that doesn’t much help with the three-dozen collector fighters swarming the area. It’s not long before your ship is destroyed, along with the future of Elcor Hamlet. The renowned Elcor revival performance will be missed across the galaxy far more than you.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“I understand,” you say sadly. “There’d be no point in reaching the Normandy if we didn’t survive it.”

As you walk from the cockpit, Francis joins you. “I’m sorry about that,” he says. “But you’re welcome to ride with us to the Quarian Flotilla.”

“It’s either that or another airless tango with open space,” Virgil interjects. “Ha!”

“But as long as we’re giving you free passage and all,” Francis continues coyly. “I wonder if I could ask you a teensy widdle favor. I recently changed out a few cast members and, well, I’m dying for a fresh set of eyes on Elcor Hamlet. We’ve got time for one final dress rehearsal before opening night, and we were just about to get started when we saw your distress call. What do you say? Everyone wants to be a critic, right? You should know, though, this is entirely optional. I’ll get you and your pals to the Migrant Fleet either way. Director’s honor.”

Accompany Francis to the stage, and offer your opinion on the performance.

Decline, and find your quarters for the night.

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Francis guides you to the primary cabin where the Elcor are currently preparing for a run-through of their show. You’re seated directly in front of the stage.

“Okay everybody,” Francis says, clapping his hands. “Let’s make the magic, people!” The Elcor shuffle into place, and soon the show begins.

BERNARDO: Cautiously inquisitive: Who’s there?

FRANCISCO: Suspiciously combative: Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

BERNARDO: Identifiably jingoistic: Long live the king!

FRANCISCO: Optimistic: Bernardo?

BERNARDO: Self-confident: He.

FRANCISCO: Thankful: You come most carefully upon your hour.

BERNARDO: Condescendingly admonishing: ‘Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

FRANCISCO: Genuinely appreciative: For this relief much thanks: ’tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart.

BERNARDO: Curious: Have you had quiet guard?

FRANCISCO: Unnecessarily rhetorical: Not a mouse stirring.

BERNARDO: Impatient: Well, good night. If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, the rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

FRANCISCO: Unexpectedly alarmed: I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who’s there?

HORATIO: Helpfully descriptive: Friends to this ground.

MARCELLUS: Needlessly redundant: And liegemen to the Dane.

FRANCISCO: Relieved: Give you good night.

MARCELLUS: Thickly inquisitive: O, farewell, honest soldier: Who hath relieved you?

FRANCISCO: Impatiently annoyed: Bernardo has my place. Give you good night.

MARCELLUS: Modernly linguistic: Holla! Bernardo!

BERNARDO: Somewhat confused: Say, what, is Horatio there?

HORATIO: Awkwardly morbid: A piece of him.

BERNARDO: Merry: Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.

MARCELLUS: Nervous: What, has this thing appear’d again to-night?

BERNARDO: Thankful relief: I have seen nothing.

MARCELLUS: Obnoxiously smug: Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy, and will not let belief take hold of him. Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us: Therefore I have entreated him along with us to watch the minutes of this night; That if again this apparition come, he may approve our eyes and speak to it.

HORATIO: Condescending: Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.

BERNARDO: Pleading: Sit down awhile; and let us once again assail your ears, that are so fortified against our story what we have two nights seen.

HORATIO: Patronizing: Well, sit we down, and let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

BERNARDO: Sensationally descriptive: Last night of all, when yond same star that’s westward from the pole had made his course to illume that part of heaven where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, the bell then beating one,–

MARCELLUS: Mortally terrified: Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!

BERNARDO: Obnoxiously obvious: In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.

MARCELLUS: Blathering in fear: Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

The cast takes a break for your comments.

Offer constructive criticism.

Offer destructive criticism.

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PARAGON +2

You stand and give a short applause. “A wonderful rendition of this tale’s illustrious beginnings. Your monotone delivery allows me to look past the archaic dialog and focus primarily on the narrative action. Horatio was especially wonderful, though I feel as though Bernardo could stand for more character movement during the ghost’s arrival.”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself, and find quarters for the night.

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RENEGADE +2

You stick out your tongue and blow past it, making a rude farting noise with your lips. “Miserable,” you say. “I haven’t been this bored since the day I was forced to ride the Citadel elevator fifteen times in a single afternoon. How would anyone find this entertaining?”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself, and find quarters for the night.

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KING CLAUDIUS: Whimsically commanding: Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death the memory be green, and that it us befitted to bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe, yet so far hath discretion fought with nature that we with wisest sorrow think on him, together with remembrance of ourselves. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, the imperial jointress to this warlike state, have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,–with an auspicious and a dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, in equal scale weighing delight and dole,–taken to wife: nor have we herein barr’d your better wisdoms, which have freely gone with this affair along. For all, our thanks. Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras, holding a weak supposal of our worth, or thinking by our late dear brother’s death our state to be disjoint and out of frame, colleagued with the dream of his advantage, he hath not fail’d to pester us with message, importing the surrender of those lands lost by his father, with all bonds of law, to our most valiant brother. So much for him. Now for ourself and for this time of meeting: thus much the business is: we have here writ to Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,–who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears of this his nephew’s purpose,–to suppress his further gait herein; in that the levies, the lists and full proportions, are all made out of his subject: and we here dispatch you, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand, for bearers of this greeting to old Norway; giving to you no further personal power to business with the king, more than the scope of these delated articles allow. Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.

CORNELIUS VOLTIMAND: Impertinent: In that and all things will we show our duty.

KING CLAUDIUS: Impatiently probing: We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell. And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you? You told us of some suit; what is’t, Laertes? You cannot speak of reason to the Dane, and loose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes, that shall not be my offer, not thy asking? The head is not more native to the heart, the hand more instrumental to the mouth, than is the throne of Denmark to thy father. What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

LAERTES: Achingly restless: My dread lord, your leave and favour to return to France; from whence though willingly I came to Denmark, to show my duty in your coronation, yet now, I must confess, that duty done, my thoughts and wishes bend again toward France and bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

KING CLAUDIUS: Forcefully inquisitive: Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?

LORD POLONIUS: Helpful: He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave by laboursome petition, and at last upon his will I seal’d my hard consent: I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

KING CLAUDIUS: Merry: Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, and thy best graces spend it at thy will! But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,–

HAMLET: Gloomy: A little more than kin, and less than kind.

KING CLAUDIUS: Frustrated: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

HAMLET: Flippant: Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun.

QUEEN GERTRUDE: Frustrated plea: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not for ever with thy vailed lids. Seek for thy noble father in the dust: Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET: Sarcastically bratty: Ay, madam, it is common.

QUEEN GERTRUDE: Falsely helpful: If it be, why seems it so particular with thee?

HAMLET: Melodramatically indignant: Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’ ‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, nor customary suits of solemn black, nor windy suspiration of forced breath, no, nor the fruitful river in the eye, nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage, together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, that can denote me truly: these indeed seem, for they are actions that a man might play: But I have that within which passeth show; these but the trappings and the suits of woe.

KING CLAUDIUS: Flagrantly insensitive: ‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, to give these mourning duties to your father: But, you must know, your father lost a father; that father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow: but to persever in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief; it shows a will most incorrect to heaven, a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, an understanding simple and unschool’d: For what we know must be and is as common as any the most vulgar thing to sense, why should we in our peevish opposition take it to heart? Fie! ’tis a fault to heaven, a fault against the dead, a fault to nature, to reason most absurd: whose common theme is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, from the first corse till he that died to-day, this must be so.’ We pray you, throw to earth this unprevailing woe, and think of us as of a father: for let the world take note, you are the most immediate to our throne; and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son, do I impart toward you. For your intent
in going back to school in Wittenberg, it is most retrograde to our desire: And we beseech you, bend you to remain here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

QUEEN GERTRUDE: Confidentally warm: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.

HAMLET: Begrudgingly obedient: I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

KING CLAUDIUS: Smugly victorious: Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply: Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come; this gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof, no jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day, but the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, and the king’s rouse the heavens all bruit again, re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.

HAMLET: Morose rumination: O, that this too too solid flesh would melt thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely. That it should come to this! But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I remember? why, she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on: and yet, within a month–let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!–A little month, or ere those shoes were old with which she follow’d my poor father’s body, like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she–O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, would have mourn’d longer–married with my uncle, my father’s brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules: within a month: Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married. O, most wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good: But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

HORATIO: Obnoxiously noisome: Hail to your lordship!

HAMLET: Begrudgingly friendly: I am glad to see you well: Horatio,–or I do forget myself.

HORATIO: Self-admonishing: The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

HAMLET: Unevenly playful: Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with you: And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus?

MARCELLUS: Eager: My good lord–

HAMLET: Genuinely pleased: I am very glad to see you. Good even, sir. But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

HORATIO: Gleeful: A truant disposition, good my lord.

HAMLET: Judgmentally inquisitive: I would not hear your enemy say so, nor shall you do mine ear that violence, to make it truster of your own report against yourself: I know you are no truant. But what is your affair in Elsinore? We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

HORATIO: Overly enthusiastic: My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.

HAMLET: Presumptive: I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student; I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

HORATIO: Uncomfortably agreeable: Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard upon.

The cast breaks from the performance for your thoughts.

Offer them constructive criticism.

Offer them destructive criticism.

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It’s been a long day. A very long day. You ask Francis to point you toward an open bunk. The directions he gives you are simple; just two left turns and one staircase later, you, Zohya, and Virgil arrive in a private room with four giant beds obviously designed for Elcor. It’s a pleasant surprise.

It’ll be another eighteen hours before reaching the Migrant Fleet, and that sounds like exactly how much sleep you’d like to put in after a day like today. As you lie down in the bunk and roll to its comfortable center, you pull the audio recorder from your pocket and look it over. You depress the small button on its side and speak quietly into the microphone. “I’m Commander Shepard,” you say, “and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.”

You drop the device to your chest and play the recording back while you stretch your arms behind your head. As it finishes, you flick its side to play it again. You close your eyes and pretend it’s the real Commander’s voice. Someday, you think. Someday …

Close your eyes.

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PARAGON +2

“I can really see the strenuous relationship between Hamlet and the king beginning to take form at an early stage,” you say. “Gertrude especially shined for me during this scene, though honestly, her revealing dress was a tad distracting.”

Continue watching the play.

Take your leave and find your room for the night.

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RENEGADE +2

You remain silent and thrust a down-turned thumb into the air.

Continue watching the play.

Take your leave and find you room for the night.

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“We should head for the plant,” you say confidentially. “Going into an airlock just sounds idiotic.” Virgil nods, spins his finger in the air and points at the corridor. Everyone but the large turian holding the stasis bubble in place moves for the exit.

You look sympathetically toward Catullus. He nods proudly in response.

You arrive in the processing plant a few minutes later, dumbstruck by the scope and horror of what you find there. The facility is mammoth, composed of multiple moving racks of human bodies packed into pods dangling by hooks.

Virgil walks up behind you. “I know,” he says. “That’s why we’re here.”

“I always knew the collectors harvested other species,” Zohya says, inspecting one of the pods, “but I never knew the scale.”

“Yes,” Virgil replies, stepping forward. “Our operatives tell us that these no-nonsense person-bandits harvest samples for their genetic goop. Right now, they’re in human mode. Next, who knows. Regardless, I say we blow it up and skedaddle. Savvy?”

“No argument here,” you say, still awed by the gruesome sights surrounding you.

“Okay, huddle up, the lot of you twinkle-dinks,” Virgil says. “Let’s chew on some strategy.” You join Zohya, Titus, and Lucan in a circle with Virgil. “Now,” he continues, “the room directly west of here is the docking bay we parked in, using the ship signature of one of the bug boys’. There are so many fighters in there that I don’t think they noticed. We did see, as Titus and Lucan can tell you, four guards monitoring the front of the bay. That’s when we went underground. We’d go back in the way we came, but Horace, poor soul, took us through the gas lines. We had to cave in the tunnel behind us to keep from being shredded into flappy turian strips.

“Now, we can rig this plant to explode,” he continues. “Lucan, I take it you still have the charges, yes?” Lucan nods. “Good man. Now, how to blow the place and blow, just not blow with it. Ha!”

“We set the charges, then head into the next room,” Titus says. “It won’t be easy facing the four Collectors in there, but it’s our best chance of getting out of here in one piece. We’ll just need to-“

“Wait, a moment,” Lucan interrupts. “I’m-I’m sorry. We can’t use the explosives. The trigger mechanism, I must have lost it when rigging the cave-in while we were tunneling. There are completely useless without it.”

“Well, that certainly does put a nasty spin on things,” Virgil says, rubbing his chin.

“Okay, so forget the explosion,” Titus exclaims. “We head out, face the collectors head on, get on our ship and abandon the mission!”

“There is another option,” Virgil says slowly. “This giant factory is calibrated to harvest nothing but human DNA. If another species were to enter one of these pods, it would contaminate the whole batch. Not as good as an old-fashion blow up, but we’d ruin their plans just the same.

“That would sound an alarm,” Titus argues.

“Even better,” Zohya adds. “The closest four are the ones we need to face in the other room. Drawing them inside would allow us to ambush them on our terms.”

“I can’t stand the idea of another pointless death!” Titus yells.

“Dammit, man, if we don’t do this, we’re all going to die!” Virgil yells back.

Someone will need to be sacrificed to the machine, but the factory will malfunction, and you’ll get the jump on the Collector’s stationed between you and escape. Back Virgil’s plan.

Too many people have died already, and you can’t go through choosing another to perish. Forget the factory, and charge into the docking bay to face the collectors in an open fight.

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OPHELIA: In heat: My lord, I have remembrances of yours, that I have longed long to re-deliver; I pray you, now receive them.

HAMLET: Oblivious: No, not I; I never gave you aught.

OPHELIA: Blissfully innocent: My honour’d lord, you know right well you did; and, with them, words of so sweet breath composed as made the things more rich: their perfume lost, take these again; for to the noble mind rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. There, my lord.

HAMLET: Obnoxiously snide: Ha, ha! are you honest?

OPHELIA: Confused: My lord?

HAMLET: Smugly prodding: Are you fair?

OPHELIA: Woefully befuddled: What means your lordship?

HAMLET: Overly clever: That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

OPHELIA: Naive: Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

HAMLET: Bitter: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.

OPHELIA: Saddened: Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

HAMLET: Dickish: You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: I loved you not.

OPHELIA: Sucidal: I was the more deceived.

HAMLET: Blissfully insensitive: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where’s your father?

OPHELIA: Blunt: At home, my lord.

HAMLET: Self-righteous: Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in’s own house. Farewell.

The cast pauses and looks to you for an opinion.

Offer constructive criticism.

Offer destructive criticism.

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PARAGON +2

“Splendid, just splendid,” you say. “I feel the veracity of the pair’s betwixt histories. Ophelia was a flower, gentle and blossoming. And the dislike you’ve elicited of Hamlet’s inner darkness is perfectly placed at this point in the production.”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself and find your bunk for the night.

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RENEGADE +2

“Honestly, guys, I’m impressed. Impressed that I haven’t yet made for the nearest airlock and flushed myself out of it with no regrets other than spending my final hours alive listening to a herd of squid-faced elephants turn literary mastery to unconscionable drivel.”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself and find your bunk for the night.

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HAMLET: In media res: Safely stowed.

ROSENCRANTZ: Frenzied: Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!

HAMLET: Pompously referring to himself in third person: What noise? who calls on Hamlet? O, here they come.

ROSENCRANTZ: Hysterical: What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?

HAMLET: Grimly poignant: Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.

ROSENCRANTZ: Demanding: Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence and bear it to the chapel.

HAMLET: Purposely enigmatic: Do not believe it.

ROSENCRANTZ: Repetitively inquisitive: Believe what?

HAMLET: Snippy: That I can keep your counsel and not mine own. Besides, to be demanded of a sponge! What replication should be made by the son of a king?

ROSENCRANTZ: Challenging: Take you me for a sponge, my lord?

HAMLET: Metaphorically pugnacious: Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw; first mouthed, to be last swallowed: when he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again.

ROSENCRANTZ: Earnestly confused: I understand you not, my lord.

HAMLET: Combative: I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.

ROSENCRANTZ: Frantic: My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king.

HAMLET: Dr. Seuss impersonation: The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing–

GUILDENSTERN: Bewildered: A thing, my lord!

HAMLET: Melodramatic: Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after.

The crew stops and turns to you. You’re sure they’d like your opinion.

Offer them constructive criticism.

Offer them destructive criticism.

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PARAGON +2

“Delightful!” you exclaim, “simply delightful! It’s been twelve hours and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. That’s how engaged I’ve been, I tell you, that’s how engaged. Please, I’m eager to continue. I’ve nothing more to say at this point than ‘bravo’!”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself and find your bunk for the night.

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RENEGADE +2

You lean back in your seat. “Boo!” you yell meanly. “Don’t quit your day job! Unless, of course, this is your day job. In which case, it would actually be most prudent to quit. Boo!”

Continue watching.

Excuse yourself and find your bunk for the night.

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HAMLET: Morosely defeatist: O, I die, Horatio; the potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit: I cannot live to hear the news from England; but I do prophesy the election lights on Fortinbras: he has my dying voice; so tell him, with the occurrents, more and less, which have solicited. The rest is silence.

HORATIO: Emotionally devastated: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! Why does the drum come hither? March within.

PRINCE FORTINBRAS: Demanding: Where is this sight?

HORATIO: Smarmily: What is it ye would see? If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

PRINCE FORTINBRAS: Overly loquacious: This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death, what feast is toward in thine eternal cell, that thou so many princes at a shot so bloodily hast struck? First Ambassador, the sight is dismal; and our affairs from England come too late: The ears are senseless that should give us hearing, to tell him his commandment is fulfill’d, that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: where should we have our thanks?

HORATIO: Grim: Not from his mouth, had it the ability of life to thank you: he never gave commandment for their death. But since, so jump upon this bloody question, you from the Polack wars, and you from England, are here arrived give order that these bodies high on a stage be placed to the view; And let me speak to the yet unknowing world how these things came about: so shall you hear of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause, and, in this upshot, purposes mistook fall’n on the inventors’ reads: all this can I truly deliver.

PRINCE FORTINBRAS: Awkwardly opportunist: Let us haste to hear it, and call the noblest to the audience. For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune: I have some rights of memory in this kingdom, which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

HORATIO: Philosophical: Of that I shall have also cause to speak, and from his mouth whose voice will draw on more; but let this same be presently perform’d, even while men’s minds are wild; lest more mischance on plots and errors, happen.

PRINCE FORTINBRAS Overly melodramatic: Let four captains bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage; for he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royally: and, for his passage, the soldiers’ music and the rites of war speak loudly for him. Take up the bodies: such a sight as this becomes the field, but here shows much amiss. Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

The play has ended. Its cast looks to you and says in near unison: “Nervous anxiety: what did you think?”

You loved it.

You hated it.

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PARAGON +5

You stand and smile. “Sincere admiration,” you say. “Well done.” It’s hard to tell with elcor, but you imagine they’re somewhat pleased by your reaction to the 14-hour production. That was fun, but now you’ve got to get some shuteye before arriving at the Migrant Fleet.

Leave in search of your bunk.

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RENEGADE +5

You stand from your chair and glare at the cast with sunken eyes. You try to think of a good combination of words to aptly express your disdain for what you just witnessed. There are none. Instead you shake your head in disappointment and walk out without another word.

Leave in search of your bunk.

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You awake the next morning to the sounds of a hundred thundering footsteps scattered about the crew deck outside your door. Quickly pocketing the audio recorder you find still nestled in your arms from the night before, you roll out of your bunk and shake Zohya awake. You see Virgil already alert, sitting on the edge of his bed and staring toward the wall. It’s the last position you saw him in before falling asleep. You wonder if he’s been like that since last night.

“Virgil,” you say, “are you alright?”

He turns around quickly and hops from the bed. “What? Me? Yes. I’m more fit than Batarian on his mother’s hatchday. Ha!”

“I don’t know what that means,” you reply.

He smiles. “I’m fine,” he says. “Let’s head out.”

The elcor aboard seemed frazzled, and their stomping around after costumes, scripts, and personal affects is causing the ship to wobble. Your legs tire from trying to keep your footing, and you decide to sit down against the wall while you wait for the shuttle to land.

The ship docks alongside one of the Fleet’s larger central ships, and within two hours, you’ve helped both Horatio and Polonius with their lines, carried a large elcor skull prop over half a mile, and reassured an anxious understudy that she’s more than prepared to take over for Ophelia if the worst should happen between now and curtain call.

Francis explains that the Quarians have made a rare exception in allowing the troop entry, and as such, the show must begin at once. They’ll also need to pack up and leave the Flotilla almost as soon as the show concludes. You choose a seat toward the front of the theater and settle in for the 14-hour production. You figure you can decide upon your next move after the production is off everyone’s mind.

A tall Quarian sits down to your left and immediately turns her head toward you. “You’re not an elcor,” she says.

“Evasively mysterious,” you reply flatly. “Then my disguise is working.”

She cocks her head to the side curiously, and stares at you through her hazy purple mask. “You,” she finally says. “I like you.” Suddenly, the curtain lifts from over the stage, and you politely point the girl’s attention from you to the show. She nods, sits back into her seat, and the play begins.

Nearly half of the audience is gone by the start of act two, and half of those that had stayed have left by the time an intermission is called between acts three and four.

You find Francis drunk during the break. He seems in much better spirits than you’d have imagined based on the audience’s reaction. He explains that all shows of Elcor Hamlet turn out like this, and yet the reviews always remain universally positive. Something about critics worried to risk publically criticizing something both distinctly cultural and historical, he guesses.

You make it back to your seat, and make it through the final two acts. As the entirety of the cast joins together on stage, you look behind you and notice that you, Zohya, Virgil, and the Quarian girl sitting next to you are all that remain out of the 10,000-seat auditorium that was packed not fourteen hours ago.

The Quarian girl turns to you sharply and says, “Well?”

No one else is nearby. You’re fairly sure you can speak freely without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Tell her the production was beautiful.

Tell her the production was terrible.

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“Honestly?” you say, “that was terrible. I only stuck around because it was like watching a slow motion shipwreck.”

She giggles. “Well, as long as we’re being honest, I only stayed because I knew it would be a way to start a conversation with you.” She slowly raises a three-fingered hand to you. Not sure of what else to do, you shake it. “Katyana’Zorah Nar Rayya,” she says. “But you can just call me Kat.”

“And what’s so special about me?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” she says coyly, “but I’d like to find out.”

As you fish your brain for an appropriate response to the girl’s comment, you hear a large explosion come from the center of the auditorium behind you. Suddenly, hundreds of plastic chairs erupt into the air around you as you’re thrown forward from your seat toward the stage. You quickly stumble to your feet and look around you. Virgil and Kat are nearby, Virgil is half-buried in chair debris to your right.

“Well that’s somewhat of a reverse situation,” the turian says, lifting a chair from his head. “Never thought a chair’d have the guts to sit back! Ha!”

“Look, over there!” Kat shouts, pointing toward the back of the auditorium. You follow her finger to a low-flying shuttle. Dozens of well-armed Vorcha are descending from its open sides on thin black ropes. “Why are they coming out of your shuttle?” she yells. “Why did you bring them here?”

“What?” you reply, incredulous at the accusation. “That’s not our ship! I’ve never seen that ship before in my life!”

“When you came in, your pilot asked docking clearance for two ships,” Kat replies. “He said the cast was too large to fit in one.”

“No,” you say. “We only had one ship. And how would you know what our pilot said?”

A burst of assault rifle fire interrupts your conversation. You look back to the invading Vorcha and see them headed in your direction.

“Impatient plea,” you hear a monotone voice call from behind you. “We need to get out of here.” You turn to find the elcor who’d played Hamlet standing behind you. “Helpful suggestion,” he continues, “two of you climb aboard my back. The other two may ride Claudius.”

To ride, or not to ride. That is the question.

Accept Hamlet’s offer, and mount the elcor’s back.

Remain on foot.

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“Honestly?” you say, “I’m not sure why others didn’t stay longer. I thought the all-elcor cast really allowed us to judge Hamlet by his actions rather than by his words, you know?”

She giggles. “Well, as long as we’re being honest, I only stayed because I knew it would be a way to start a conversation with you.” She slowly raises a three-fingered hand to you. Not sure of what else to do, you shake it. “Katyana’Zorah Nar Rayya,” she says. “But you can just call me Kat.”

“And what’s so special about me?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” she answers coyly, “but I’d like to find out.”

As you fish your brain for an appropriate response to the girl’s comment, you hear a large explosion come from the center of the auditorium behind you. Suddenly, hundreds of plastic chairs erupt into the air around you as you’re thrown forward from your seat toward the stage. You quickly stumble to your feet and look around you. Virgil and Kat are nearby, Virgil is half-buried in chair debris to your right.

“Well that’s somewhat of a reverse situation,” the turian says, lifting a chair from his head. “Never thought a chair’d have the guts to sit back! Ha!”

“Look, over there!” Kat shouts, pointing toward the back of the auditorium. You follow her finger to a low-flying shuttle. Dozens of well-armed Vorcha are descending from its open sides on thin black ropes. “Why are they coming out of your shuttle?” she yells. “Why did you bring them here?”

“What?” you reply, incredulous at the accusation. “That’s not our ship! I’ve never seen that ship before in my life!”

“When you came in, your pilot asked docking clearance for two ships,” Kat replies. “He said the cast was too large to fit in one.”

“No,” you say. “We only had one ship. And how would you know what our pilot said?”

A burst of assault rifle fire interrupts your conversation. You look back to the invading Vorcha and see them headed in your direction.

“Impatient plea,” you hear a monotone voice call from behind you. “We need to get out of here.” You turn to find the elcor who’d played Hamlet standing behind you. “Helpful suggestion,” he continues, “two of you climb aboard my back. The other two may ride Claudius.”

To ride, or not to ride. That is the question.

Accept Hamlet’s offer, and mount the elcor’s back.

Remain on foot.

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“Thanks,” you say as you quickly make your way onto the stage. Hamlet kneels down and allows you to climb over his neck and onto his back. Kat mimics your actions and seats just behind you. Once settled, Hamlet stands, and nearby you see Virgil and Zohya climbing onto Claudius. Many of the other elcor are already moving ahead of you.

Hamlet begins to run, and soon catches up with the stampede. You’re immediately impressed by his speed. You had no idea that elcor could move like this. “Seemingly telepathic,” Hamlet says, “It’s the low gravity. We’re used to a much different environment.”

Soon, Claudius catches up and maintains pace to your right. “Concerned: Have you seen Ophelia?” he asks.

“Reassuring: Yes. She is running in the other direction,” Hamlet answers.

“Mildy relieved,” Claudius replies. “What about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?”

“Deeply saddened: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead,” Hamlet says. “They didn’t make it out of the-Clich√© alarm: We’ve got company.”

You look behind you and see a group of Vorcha on speeder bikes gaining on the herd. They fire a few loose shots in your direction. You duck, uninjured.

“Zohya, Virgil,” you yell. “Are you two alright?”

“We’ll be fine!” Zohya yells back. “I’ll set up my turret and mount it to the back of this guy’s rump. I’d like to see one of those needle mouths just try and get close after!”

“Kat,” you say against the wind. “We need to think of something.” You reach for your pistol and nearly fall off. Kat catches you and moves your hand to Hamlet’s collar.

“One of us needs to hang on so we don’t both fall and get trampled!” she says. “I can handle these Vorcha, if you trust me to.”

Tell Kat to hold on while you draw your pistol and pick off the invaders.

Hold on firmly to Hamlet’s collar while Kat does whatever she thinks she can.

Abandon Kat and attempt to jump to Cladius’ back instead. That mounted turret is looking mighty appealing right about now.

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“No thanks,” you say. “I’d rather risk it on my own.”

“Biting sarcasm: I’m sure you’ll be fine,” he replies. Soon the elcor turns and begins to run in the opposite direction.

“Come on!” you yell to your team. “We’ve got to get out of here!” You begin to run, the others follow you, and the Vorcha follow them.

It isn’t long before one of the invader’s bullets connects with Zohya and drops her. Soon, the same happens to Virgil, then Kat. You make it for a good five minutes more before sharing their fate.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“No,” you say. “I’ve got this!”

Kat nods and places her arms around your waist and onto the elcor’s collar, forming some kind of living backward seatbelt. You draw your weapon again, this time keeping your balance, and aim it at the closest Vorcha. You pull the trigger just as it was pulling his. You put a direct shot between the ugly bastard’s eyes. He falls from his bike, and rolls in front of another. The second Vorcha’s speeder bike explodes, leaving two less assailants to deal with.

“Not bad!” Kat says. “I knew I liked you for a reason!”

Three more Vorcha speed close. You fire at the rider farthest left and miss. The one in the center raises a heavy pistol and fires blindly in your direction. The shots miss both you and Kat, but three enter Hamlet back legs. The mighty elcor crumbles to the ground, launching you and Kat fifteen feet down the path ahead.

You look up from the ground and see the bikers approaching. You see your pistol five feet ahead of you. You must have dropped it during the fall.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head,” Kat says. “I’ve got this.” The Quarian opens her robes, revealing lines of automatic firearms and grenades hanging against the inside lining. Before you even have a chance to stand, Kat has launched her counter attack, firing waves of bullets in a semi-circle at your attackers. The three Vorcha drop to the ground almost immediately. Though you’re somewhat sure they’re already dead, Kat drops her assault rifle and palms two grenades. “Get off my Flotilla!” she yells, pitching both at the group. The resulting explosion is blinding. If the Vorcha weren’t dead before, what’s left of them certainly is now.

Soon, Claudius catches up and bucks Virgil and Zohya off of his back toward you on the ground. He leans down over his fallen comrade. “Crushing sorrow,” Claudius says flatly. “Hamlet, nooo!”

“Alright, Kat,” you yell, “just what is going on? Who are you?”

“I told you,” she says. “I’m Katyana’Zorah Nar Rayya. Well, Captain Katyana’Zorah Nar Ra-“

Suddenly, her omni-tool buzzes to life. “Captain,” a distinctly Quarian voice says. “What’s your situation?”

“Five down, here,” she answers it. “No more of them in the direct vicinity.”

“Good, good,” the voice answers. “The attack doesn’t seem to have been well thought-out. Just some passing Vorcha mercs capitalizing on the Elcor troupe’s arrival. Guess they thought they’d snatch some easy loot, maybe a few hostages. Seems like it didn’t go so well. Most here are dead. The shuttle has already been sighted retreating.”

“That bosh’tet elcor pilot must have made a deal with them to grant clearance for two ships instead of one,” Kat replies. “Well, good work team. Katyana out.”

“Weary resignation,” Claudius says. “I suppose we are to blame. We will not tell our pilot that we know of his actions until we reach the homeworld, but there he will pay for his crimes.” He looks to you. “If you wish to rejoin us and Francis, come with me now. We depart immediately for Dekuuna. But be warned. Our people do not like space travel. I do not know when another ship will be heading off planet.”

Kat, Virgil, and Zohya look to you for your decision.

Join Claudius, and travel to Dekuuna.

Stay and plot your next move from the Flotilla.

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“I trust you,” you say, gripping Hamlet’s collar with one hand and Kat’s waist with the other.

“Good,” she calls back. “And now I’ll show you why.” The Quarian throws open her robes, revealing a formidable arsenal of automatic weapons and grenades strapped to the inside. “Keelah se’lai!” she yells, pulling one of the explosives into her hand. She pitches it into the air, and it lands between the front two bikers. Both erupt into balls of flame, and three take their place past the cloud of smoke and dust. Kat ducks as one draws a heavy pistol and opens fire.

Neither of you are hit, but the elcor in front of you, who’d played Gertrude in the play, takes a bullet to the leg and collapses to the ground.

Tell Hamlet to stop so you can help.

Tell Hamlet to keep going. It’s too late for her and there are three Vorcha left, quickly gaining.

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PARAGON +5

“Hamlet, pull over!” you yell. The giant thespian does his best to kick to a fast stop. You and Kat tumble forward from his body at the sudden brake.

“Feigned bravery,” Gertrude says from near by. “Do not worry about me.”

Kat quickly looks over her wound. “She’ll be fine,” she says. “But not if those Vorcha catch us up.”

You see Claudius spin around to join you with Zohya and Virgil still on his back. The remaining three invaders are closing in on their bikes.

Kat wastes no time in removing the large assault rifle from the inside of her robes. Before you have a chance to stand, she launches her counter attack, firing waves of bullets in a semi-circle at the attackers. The three Vorcha drop lifelessly to the ground. Though you’re somewhat sure they’re already dead, Kat drops her assault rifle and palms two grenades in its place. “Get off my Flotilla!” she yells, pitching both at the group. The resulting explosion is blinding. If the Vorcha weren’t dead before, what’s left of them certainly is now.

Soon, Claudius catches up and bucks Virgil and Zohya off of his back toward you on the ground.

“Alright, Kat,” you yell, “just what is going on? Who are you?”

“I told you,” she says. “I’m Katyana’Zorah Nar Rayya. Well, Captain Katyana’Zorah Nar Ra-“

Suddenly, her omni-tool buzzes to life. “Captain,” a distinctly Quarian voice says. “What’s your situation?”

“Five down, here,” she answers it. “No more of them in the direct vicinity.”

“Good, good,” the voice answers. “The attack doesn’t seem to have been well thought-out. Just some passing Vorcha mercs capitalizing on the elcor troupe’s arrival. Guess they thought they’d snatch some easy loot, maybe a few hostages. Seems like it didn’t go so well. Most here are dead. The shuttle has already been sighted retreating.”

“That bosh’tet elcor pilot must have made a deal with them to grant clearance for two ships instead of one,” Kat replies. “Well, good work team. Katyana out.”

“Weary resignation,” Hamlet says. “I suppose we are to blame. We will not tell our pilot that we know of his actions until we reach the homeworld, but there he will pay for his crimes. If you wish to rejoin us and Francis, come with me now. We’ll come back for Gertrude and depart immediately for Dekuuna. But be warned. Our people do not like space travel. I do not know when another ship will be heading off planet.”

Kat, Virgil, and Zohya look to you for your decision.

Join Hamlet and Claudius, and travel to Dekuuna.

Stay and plot your next move from the Flotilla.

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RENEGADE +5

“Hamlet, don’t you stop!” you yell. “We need to get out of here!”

As the elcor speeds his run, three more Vorcha speed close. You fire at the rider farthest left and miss. The one in the center raises a heavy pistol and fires blindly in your direction. The shots miss both you and Kat, but three enter Hamlet’s rear legs. The mighty elcor crumbles to the ground, launching you and Kat fifteen feet down the path ahead.

You look up from the ground and see the bikers approaching. Your pistol is five feet ahead of you. You must have dropped it during the fall.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head,” Kat says. “I’ve got this.” The Quarian opens her robes, revealing lines of automatic firearms and grenades hanging against the inside lining. Before you even have a chance to stand, Kat has launched her counter attack, firing waves of bullets in a semi-circle at your attackers. The three Vorcha drop to the ground almost immediately. Though you’re somewhat sure they’re already dead, Kat drops her assault rifle and palms two grenades. “Get off my Flotilla!” she yells, pitching both at the group. The resulting explosion is blinding. If the Vorcha weren’t dead before, what’s left of them certainly is now.

Soon, Claudius catches up and bucks Virgil and Zohya off of his back toward you on the ground. He leans down over his fallen comrade. “Crushing sorrow,” Claudius says flatly. “Hamlet, nooo!”

“Alright, Kat,” you yell, “just what is going on? Who are you?”

“I told you,” she says. “I’m Katyana’Zorah Nar Rayya. Well, Captain Katyana’Zorah Nar Ra-“

Suddenly, her omni-tool buzzes to life. “Captain,” a distinctly Quarian voice says. “What’s your situation?”

“Five down, here,” she answers it. “No more of them in the direct vicinity.”

“Good, good,” the voice answers. “The attack doesn’t seem to have been well thought-out. Just some passing Vorcha mercs capitalizing on the elcor troupe’s arrival. Guess they thought they’d snatch some easy loot, maybe a few hostages. Seems like it didn’t go so well. Most here are dead. The shuttle has already been sighted retreating.”

“That bosh’tet elcor pilot must have made a deal with them to grant clearance for two ships instead of one,” Kat replies. “Well, good work team. Katyana out.”

“Weary resignation,” Claudius says. “I suppose we are to blame. We will not tell our pilot that we know of his actions until we reach the homeworld, but there he will pay for his crimes. If you wish to rejoin us and Francis, come with me now. We depart immediately for Dekuuna. But be warned. Our people do not like space travel. I do not know when another ship will be heading off planet.”

Kat, Virgil, and Zohya look to you for your decision.

Join Claudius, and travel to Dekuuna.

Stay and plot your next move from the Flotilla.

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You decide to travel with the Elcor back to Dekuuna. Nothing good has comes from your trip to the Migrant Fleet thus far, and you have no reason to think that will change any time in the immediate future. If anything, things will get worse. The Quarians aren’t exactly known for their hospitality of outsiders, and with this most recent incident, multiple suspicious eyes will likely fall to you.

The trip back to the elcor homeworld is long, and you’re happy to take your first step off the ship when you arrive. Happy, that is, until you actually try to physically take that step. Instead of just the base of your foot, your entire body is sucked into the grass. You’d forgotten about the crushing gravity here, an estimated ten times what you’re used to.

Most of your ribs break before the elcor can lift you and move your body to a nearby hospital. The doctor’s aren’t used to treating your kind, and perform a hasty, sloppy procedure that fails to repair the damage done to your organs when shards of your crushed bones punctured them.

It’s another ten months before another ship is leaving the planet, and even then, your body isn’t ready for travel. You spend the rest of your days, about four months as it happens, lying uncomfortably in the elcor intensive care unit.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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Placing one hand on Kat’s head for support, you do you best to stand.

“What are you doing!” she cries, trying to shake you from her helmet.

You choose your moment, poorly, and leap. It’s a short fall to the ground. Two Vorcha speeder bikes drive over your body, but that’s not what kills you. One turns around, and places a bullet through your left eye before continuing chase after Hamlet.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“We’ll stay, thanks,” you say. The elcor nods, and slowly trots off back toward the theater where his ship is docked.

“Well,” Zohya says, standing to her feet. “That was fun.”

“Ha!” Virgil interjects.

“But what do we do now?” she asks. “We’ve got no ship, and no direction.”

“I-” you start, before Kat hugs on to your arm.

“You’ll come back to my house tonight,” she says. “Get a good night’s sleep, and you can figure out what you want to do in the morning.”

You find no reason to turn her down. It’s not what you’d had in mind, but hell, none of this was.

It’s not long before a security car picks the four of you up, and drives you ten minutes through a ship tunnel to a large metal domicile.

“Impressive,” you say, stepping out of the vehicle.

“My father’s an admiral,” she replies, walking up to the front door. You follow her there with Zohya and Virgil as the car drives away.

Once inside, she leads to you a large circular room with a sofa bordering its single rounded wall. You sit, and sink down into the soft purple cushion below you. It’s possible that you’ve never felt more comfortable in your life. Kat sits next, and the others do the same. The four of you sit in silence for the next ten minutes, each content with just taking a moment to breathe and relax.

You spend the final few minutes of quiet staring at a strange device resting against the surface of the room’s center table. It’s your curiosity that breaks the silence. “What is that?” you finally ask.

Kat leans forward and takes it into her hand. “It’s … it’s an IFF transponder for the Omega 4 relay,” she answers quietly.

“Omega 4?” Virgil asks.

“It is said to be wonderful place,” Kat replies, “rife with the salvage of a thousand ships. With access, my people could-“

“Could die,” Zohya says, sitting up. “Trust me, kid, you don’t want to mess with Omega 4. It’s filled with salvage for a reason. People who make it through don’t come back.”

“But I could come back!” she says defensively. “If only … “

“If only what?” you ask.

“If only it worked?” a familiar voice says. “Well, you’d need the proper frequencies for that.” Suddenly, a large projection of the Illusive Man appears standing on the table. You look around for a projector and find nothing. How does he keep doing that?

“Who are you?” Kat says, her voice more curious than afraid.

“He’s the Illusive Man,” you say.

The man smiles and takes a deep drag from his cigarette. “Naughty Zohya,” he chides through a smile. “You’ve been talking about me again.”

“What do you know about my transponder,” Kat says sharply.

“My, my, you do get right to the point,” he says. “Well, my little Quarian, I just so happen to have a vested interest in that relay, and as fate would have it, the correct frequencies to make such as device operable.”

He turns his attention to you. “Shepard is passing through that exact relay soon enough. Why that Quarian also seems to have a transponder isn’t my concern. I propose the same deal as last time. You’ll get your chance at that recording, and I get the data if things don’t turn out well for the Commander. I’ve uploaded the frequency codes to her omni-tool. The rest, I leave to you. Zohya, you’re to stay with our mutual friend until this thing plays out.”

The hologram fizzles, and your group falls silent. After a few minutes, you pull your hand out from your pocket, not realizing you’d been grasping your audio recorder the whole time the Illusive Man had been talking. This is it. This could be your last chance to track down Shepard and save your store. It may also be suicide. You’ve heard murmurs of the Omega 4 relay in the past, none of them good.

“I’m going,” you say.

“And I’m coming with you,” Kat quickly replies, placing a sly hand on your thigh.

“You heard the man that pays me,” Zohya says, standing from her seat and stretching her arms toward the ceiling. “So I guess I am, too.”

Your eyes fall to Virgil. “Well, I’m the only one here with no reason to risk my life by going through, so …. ” he says, “is it weird that I’m going to anyway? Ha!”

You nod.

“Tomorrow morning we’ll leave for the relay. We’ll take a ship from the force,” Kat says. “But for now, we should all rest up. It’s probably going to be one hell of a ride.”

“Agreed,” you say, standing from the couch.

“Oh,” she says nervously, “this is a bit awkward, but I only have three beds for the four of us. What would you like to do about … the sleeping arrangements?”

This may be your last night alive, and you think it’s important to share it with the person who means most to you. Let the others have their own bed. You’ll bunk with …

Zohya

Virgil

Kat

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Virgil gives your arm a playful punch, and Zohya rolls her eyes as you follow Kat back into her room. Inside, the Quarian captain sits coyly on the edge of her bed and pats the open space on the blanket beside her. You sit down next to her, and she places an arm behind your neck and around your shoulder. She tugs lightly, and soon the two of you fall backward onto her soft bed, your eyes at the smooth metal ceiling above.

“Kat,” you say. “Tell me something. Where did you get that IFF transponder, anyway? It just seems weird that you’d have one just lying around.”

“My … sister,” she responds slowly. “She and I left for our pilgrimage the same day. We journeyed through the galaxy by different ships, travelled by different routes, and explored different planets. We didn’t so much as have the chance to communicate with each other for our whole time apart, and yet still, as fate would have it, returned home to the Fleet the exact same day by happenstance.”

“That’s remarkable,” you say.

“During my sister’s pilgrimage,” Kat continues, “she’d stumbled onto some encrypted data files about the early days of the Geth. While amazing, they were heavily encrypted, and could not be read, much less actually used for years. I, on the other hand, brought home that transponder. Much like my sister’s gift to the Fleet, mine was a key not yet able to be turned.”

“It sounds like you both brought home something truly wonderful for your people,” you say.

She sighs and rolls on to her side. “You’d think. My sister’s gift was looked at as a prize worthy of the Flotilla’s greatest pilgrims, mine was looked at as a failure. Some argued that it shouldn’t even be allowed as my passage home. To this day they hold my name in its pre-pilgrimage infancy while my sister is heralded as a champion of the people. I am disgraced. I just wanted someone to recognize what I accomplished. Once, that may have been my sister.”

Get over it.

I can relate.

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“I was actually just thinking about sharing a room with Zohya,” you say. “That is, if she doesn’t mind.”

Zohya lets out a loud, abrupt chuckle that crushes your self-confidence. But then, she cocks her head and looks at you. A moment later she nods and says, “Alright. Come on, then.”

Virgil whispers in your ear as you walk past, “Thought you were about to crash and burn there, ha!”

You look for Kat to say goodnight, but she’s already disappeared into one of the other rooms without a word.

You walk into the guest bedroom after Zohya, and close the door behind you. When you turn around, you find her already naked, lying sideways across the bed. “Can I be honest with you for a moment?” she asks.

Your eyes widen, and you walk across the floor to her. You choose a careful seat on the edge of the bed and face away from her before responding. “Of course,” you say. “You can always be honest with me.”

“I know you’re supposed to chat with someone in earnest at least five times or so before opening up, but the way I see it, we might be headed toward our death tomorrow, and we don’t really have time for that, do we?”

“I guess not,” you say, doing your best to politely keep your eyes from her exposed yellow and green flesh.

“I’m not really a pirate,” she says bluntly. “I know I act like one, and yeah, that’s why the Illusive Man hired me, but you know, when I’m being honest with myself, I’ve never done a bad thing in my life. And I just feel so … guilty about that.”

“You feel guilty about being a good person?” you ask. “I don’t follow.”

“Maybe I wouldn’t if I didn’t pretend to be bad, pretend to be some sort of intergalactic scoundrel. But it’s how I get work, and honestly, the bad girl social scene is where I thrive. I’ve always felt like the pirate’s life somehow suited me, even though I’ve never done anything to deserve the title. And it’s not like I haven’t tried. No, I’ve tried to plan heists and hijacks for the whole of my career. But something always goes wrong. I’m terrible at it. I’m destined to fail at anything but helping others. I don’t know, it’s almost like the Gods are giving me a second chance to find salvation before I’ve even had the chance to err, like my entire life is backward. Is that possible?”

That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

It’s not so bad, being good.

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“Actually,” you say, “I was thinking that perhaps you could all have your own room, while I share one with Virgil.” As you say the turian’s name, his shoulders leap up as if spooked by a creeping spider. “As long as he doesn’t mind, that is,” you finish.

“Huh? What? No. No, I don’t mind at all, I mean,” he stutters. “Sure, come on. Lots of room. Let’s go! Why delay? Who’s delaying? Ha!”

“Goodnight, Zohya,” you say as she coughs down a snicker and walks into her room. You look for Kat, but she’s already disappeared.

You follow Virgil through the furthest door to the right of the wall. He sits on the edge of the bed and looks at you quizzically. You sit down beside him.

“Is this really what you want?” he asks.

“If it’s what you want,” you reply.

“Yeah, no … I mean, yes, it is, it is. I’m sorry,” he says, “I’ve just been a bit distracted. I’m sure I haven’t observed everything that perhaps I should have.”

“I noticed,” you say kindly. “Still thinking about Titus and the others?”

He lies back against the bed. “I was never born to lead,” he says. “But when it comes to turian Cabals, there’s generally not much of an applicant pool to choose from.”

“Why not?” you ask.

“There just aren’t many of us,” he says through a sigh, “aren’t many of us at all. So when it comes time for missions, you’d think the higher-ups would want us dispersed inside the troops. You know, with the regulars. But that’s not what they do. They clump us all together because no one wants to be around us. We’re freaks to the normals, so we’re only sent into service together … usually high-risk missions like the one today. I don’t like the thought, but I can’t help but think it’s their way of getting rid of us. Here’s another thought I don’t like: If I hadn’t made such rotten decisions on that Collector ship, maybe my crew would still be alive.”

You were dumb to join the military, then.

You’re not to blame for what happened.

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RENEGADE +2

“Just get over it, Kat,” you say. “If your dumb species doesn’t like your gizmo then get a new gizmo or find a new species.”

“Well,” she says, somewhat taken aback by your response. “I suppose at least a small part of what you say is true. Behind my guns and grenades, I’ve never really … “

“What?” you ask.

“All Quarians wear masks,” she replies quietly. “I suppose that I wear two. The truth is, I’ve always needed someone else to tell me that what I’ve done is okay, that who I am is okay. And now, my family, my whole race doesn’t approve of me, or what I’ve done for them. Can you understand the shame it brings to have your pilgrimage gift rejected? It’s not just the item, it’s symbolic of a disconnect with your people. As if you don’t understand them well enough to know what they, what we, need. I’ve lost their faith in me as an individual, and worse, as a Quarian.”

No one ever truly has faith in anyone else to begin with.

I believe in you.

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PARAGON +2

“I completely understand,” you say. “That’s the same way I feel about my store on the Citadel. Making that shop flourish was about more than making credits. It was about proving something. It was about establishing myself as having worth.”

“Exactly,” she says, slowly moving toward your body. “Behind my guns and grenades, I’ve never really … ” She trails off.

“You never really, what?” you ask softly.

“All Quarians wear masks,” she replies quietly. “I suppose that I wear two. The truth is, I’ve always needed someone else to tell me that what I’ve done is okay, that who I am is okay. And now, my family, my whole race doesn’t approve of me, or what I’ve done for them. Can you understand the shame it brings to have your pilgrimage gift rejected? It’s not just the item, it’s symbolic of a disconnect with your people. As if you don’t understand them well enough to know what they, what we, need. I’ve lost their faith in me as an individual, and worse, as a Quarian.”

No one ever truly has faith in anyone else to begin with.

I believe in you.

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RENEGADE +2

You laugh. “Zohya,” you say, “only children believe in Gods, and even if they were right, they certainly don’t magic around the galaxy holding back your hand when you lift it to strike out against someone.”

You hear Zohya slide back from you and rustle beneath the covers. “I suppose it does sound silly when you put it like that,” she says. “But still, I can’t shake this feeling like, like perhaps I’m finding my redemption, only I’ve never done something that requires it. Even if there are no Gods, how are we judged by others, or if not by others, than by ourselves? Is it by our actions or our intentions that we’re found wanting? Have I truly avoided a life of sin if I’ve plotted sin and failed at it? What does that make me? Have I been saved without falling? Do you think that it’s possible?

Stop over-thinking it or, at the very least, stop whining about it.

Identifying these questions is the first step toward solving them. You’re making progress.

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PARAGON +2

“You speak about performing good deeds like it’s an encumbrance,” you say. “Personally, I think it’s wonderful that you seem so talented at helping people. I know I wouldn’t be here today without you. And that’s a stone fact.”

You hear Zohya move closer to you on the bed. You look down to your side and see her eyes, wider than you’ve seen them, staring up at you. “If I am meant to do good, why do I not feel the need to do good? I can’t shake this feeling like, like perhaps I’m finding my redemption, but without ever doing something that requires it. Even if there are no Gods, how are we judged by others, or if not by others, then by ourselves? Is it by our actions or our intentions that we’re found wanting? Have I truly avoided a life of sin, if I’ve plotted sin and failed at it? What does that make me? Have I been saved without falling? Do you think that it’s possible?

Stop over-thinking it or, at the very least, stop whining about it.

Identifying these questions is the first step toward solving them. You’re making progress.

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RENEGADE +2

“Why’d you join if you’re such a bad soldier?” you ask. “You put lives at risk operating out of your element. That’s a selfish move.”

Virgil sits up straight. “You’re right,” he says loudly, “it was selfish. Military service is about the only thing turian biotics can join and actually succeed at. It’s the only real way to find friends, too, did you know that? How would you like to be alone? How would you like to be a mutant? Yes, it was selfish, but I had to join. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.”

There are worse things in life than being ostracized. Like being dead. Like Virgil’s squad is because of him.

You aren’t alone. There are others, and I’ve seen them.

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PARAGON +2

“Virgil,” you say softly. “I made those calls today. If anyone is to blame, it’s me.”

“No,” he says. “Even if you made the calls, they were my responsibility. I was the commander of those men, and I failed them.”

“Can I ask you something?” you say. He nods. “Why did you join, really? You seem much too sweet for such an unforgiving profession.”

“Military service is about the only thing turian biotics can join and actually succeed at. It’s the only real way to find friends, too. There are so few of us, you know? Everyone on Palaven looks at us as mutants, freaks. That’s why we hide. The military is the only place where we don’t have to. Maybe I’m not cut out for it, but I had to join. I just … I just didn’t want to be alone anymore.”

There are worse things in life than being ostracized. Like being dead. Like Virgil’s squad is because of him.

You aren’t alone. There are others, and I’ve seen them.

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RENEGADE +5

“Look, Kat, your pilgrimage didn’t change anything,” you say. “You didn’t lose their faith, because you never had their faith to begin with. No one really believes in much more than themselves.”

“I thought I did, once,” she mutters. “But I suppose I was wrong. Goodnight.”

She moves away from you and dims the light down to blackness. You hear her sniffling quietly from behind her mask. The noise keeps you awake for another thirty minutes. Eventually, she cries herself to sleep, and you can finally get some rest.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Kat, the case prosecutor, calls her final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

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PARAGON +5

“I believe in you, Kat,” you say, “and those aren’t just hollow words. You’ve proved that and more in the short time I’ve know you. The way you handled those Vorcha? The way you were ready to haggle with the Illusive Man even though you had no idea who he was? How about the fact that even now, when your people have disappointed you most, you can’t think of anything but crossing into hell and back just to aide them? I’m proud of you, Kat, and I’m proud to know you.”

You hear Kat sniffle back a tear from behind her mask. “Thank you,” she says. “I believe in you, too.” Slowly, she sit up, and begins fiddling with the sides of her mask. Soon, she’s unhooked it and slides the glass from the front of her face. You finally see her true form. She’s beautiful.

“What are you doing?” you ask. “I thought Quarians couldn’t-“

“Shh,” she says playfully, placing a finger over smiling lips. “This room is a specialized sterile zone. You didn’t think we slept in our suits in our own homes, did you?” She begins to crawl on top of your body.

“But what about me?” you ask. “Aren’t I dirty?”

“Boy, I hope so,” she purrs. “But honestly, the doorway has a special decontaminate process. You probably didn’t even notice when you walked through.”

“But-“

“Do you really want to talk about the science of sterility right now?” she asks, bringing her lips against yours. You silence and let her kiss you. You suddenly feel more contented than you have in months, maybe years. Now if you could only have that recording from Shepard, everything would be perfect.

“Actually,” you say as she lifts her face. “I do have one final question.”

“This is your last before no talking time,” she says playfully, “so make it count.”

“This may sound strange,” you say, “but, haven’t I seen you somewhere before? Your face … it’s so familiar. Maybe on the Extranet someplace?”

She smiles widely. “I’m impressed,” she replies. “You’re the first to recognize me. When I was on my pilgrimage, I paid my passage as a model for a stock photographer. I let him take my picture; who knows where it ended up after.”

“I think I saw your image used for a solar radiation cream ad. You were a girl on a beach,” you say.

“Ooh,” she says, “that sounds nice.”

“But, you looked more human, then,” you add. “They must have just altered the image to give you two extra fingers.”

“Okay,” she says, “the time for talking is finished.”

The two of you tumble across her sheets in each other’s arms, rolling and kissing in a mad fit of passion. You both know that this night could be your last, so neither of you hesitate to exploit it to its fullest. Your experience with her is traditional, experimental, and sometimes, just flat out strange. You enjoy every minute of it. And once your body is literally too tired to continue, you collapse into one of her scented pillows and fade blissfully into sleep.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Kat, the case prosecutor, calls her final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

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RENEGADE +5

“Listen,” you say. “It’s easy, alright? If you want to be a jerk, be a jerk. You want to steal a sweetpop from a hatchling then snatch it at the stick and jam it in your mouth. No kid’s going to be able to stop you.”

“I guess you’re right,” she says quietly. “I suppose I’m not much more than my impulses.”

“And so what if you aren’t?” you say. “Who is, really?”

“Goodnight,” she says soon after, sliding her arm to the nearby table lamp and dimming the room to darkness. You lie at the foot of the bed, and eventually fall asleep.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Zohya, the case prosecutor, calls her final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

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PARAGON +5

“I think that asking those questions is healthy,” you say. “But there are some things of which you can be sure. For example, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your heroics. Not here, or anywhere else, really. You saved my life today. More than once, actually. And maybe I’m a bit biased about this, but I’m thankful that you did.”

Zohya smiles, grabs you by your shirt collar, and throws you down to the sheets. She deftly slinks on top of you, her smooth green skin sliding against the front of your shirt. “I don’t expect to have it all figured out by tonight,” she says. “But perhaps you’re right. Perhaps acting in the way this universe directs me is best for everyone, myself included. But what about you? Where has the universe pointed you?”

“I lost everything,” you say. “I spent my whole life trying to prove something, and I finally did. Then, one bad decision, and it all blew up around me. I lost everything I have, everything that I am. That’s why I’m here, to set things right once and for all.”

Zohya looks saddened by your words. “Don’t,” you say. “I’m so close to setting things right now. And I have you to thank for that.”

She throws your shirt off from over your head and runs her cool, webbed hands across your body. She kisses you quickly, then retracts, leaving her long tongue in your mouth as she does. You had no idea drell’s had tongues quite so nimble, and as the long night drags on, you find that there are other, equally interesting things you didn’t know about drell anatomy as well.

It’s hours before you’re too exhausted to continue. You brush the sweat from your forehead and collapse into a pillow. It isn’t long before you drift asleep.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Zohya, the case prosecutor, calls her final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

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RENEGADE +5

“Oh, come off it, Virgil,” you say. “You let four friends die, and now you’re whining about being alone? Well boo hoo. Suck it up. They’re dead. They can’t go to therapy, sip on a warm mug of Chamomile tea and ‘forgive themselves’ like you can.”

Virgil stands to his feet, grabs at a pillow and storms out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

“Ha!” you yell, crashing back down against the mattress. It’s not long before you let sleep take you.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Virgil, the case prosecutor, calls his final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

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PARAGON +5

“But you’re not alone, Virgil,” you say. “No matter how they act on Palaven, I know that you aren’t.”

“What do you mean, ‘you know’?” he asks.

“Look, before I became an intergalactic hitchhiker with a target on my back, I ran a store on the Citadel,” you say. “The biggest, most successful shop that station has ever seen. And I sold everything. Exotic fish, books made of paper, and even biotic amps.” Virgil’s brow rises above one of his eyes. “I can tell you honestly,” you continue, “there are countless turian biotics out there. But they all came to my shop with the same attitude: nervous and sneaky, as if they were ashamed of their abilities.”

“That’s … ” he mumbles. “Countless, you say?”

“Yes, Virgil. And while I can’t bring back your friends, and I can’t make all turian biotics come out of the closet, I can promise you this: They’re out there. And I’m right here.”

Virgil turns to you and your lips meet. The kiss lingers for a solid minute before he pulls away. “You said you ran a store on the Citadel?” he asks you, stroking your hand with his.

“Yes,” you answer, “until recently. Well, I still technically run things, it’s just nearly out of business.”

“That’s okay,” he offers optimistically. “Things can turn around, you’ll see. And if the business collapses, I already know you have a solid resume for switching your career to space hitchhiking with a target on your back. Ha!”

You laugh, but it runs dry quickly. “My store was more than that,” you explain. “Is more than that. It’s standing proof of all that I am. It’s a testament to years of hard work and sacrifice. It’s everything to me.”

“Well,” he says, “I can see how important it is to you, but we can’t fix that right now. What we can do, however, is work on opening up some room in your heart for something, or someone, other than your store … at least for the night. And baby,” he says, holding his hands out to his sides, “I’m open for business.”

“Ha!” you exclaim as you tackle him.

You and Virgil spend the night together, and it’s hours before your adrenaline cools long enough to let you rest. You lift his heavy arm over top your body and snuggle close against him as you blissfully drift to sleep.

That night, you dream of being hauled into a Citadel courtroom by C-Sec. Every customer you’ve ever served sits in the audience, while your father presides over your case. You stand accused of operating a store that hasn’t been approved by Commander Shepard.

You begin to shout that it was all misunderstanding as the crowd begins to chant louder and louder, “Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!”

You yell above them, “But I have proof!” as you fumble through your pockets for your audio recorder. You finally find the device, and raise it high into the air. You press the playback button and nothing happens. The tape is empty.

“But, I’m sure I had the recording!” you yell. Soon, you’re forcibly silenced as Virgil, the case prosecutor, calls his final witness. It’s Shepard. He doesn’t even take the stand before shouting across the room, “I’m Commander Shepard, and I hate that store on the Citadel!” As the word “hate” leaves his lips, the crowd erupts into another round of chanting. Your father shrugs, and C-Sec roughly lifts you to your feet.

“Airlock! Airlock! Airlock!” you hear your customers shout as the security team drags you to the large room just behind your father’s podium. They throw you in, and the doors slam closed. A moment later, the opposite set of doors slide open, and you’re mercilessly flushed into the empty vacuum of space.

Wake up.

image

Despite the nightmare, you wake up refreshed, ready to roll dice with fate. Neither you nor your comrades speak much as Kat drives you from her house to the security station. Everyone knows what happens next. No one wants to speak of it. No one wants to speak of anything else.

Kat guides you to the docks where she signs out one of the quarian security force’s interceptor shuttles. It’s small, but one of the dockhands assures you that it was built for speed and stealth when he sees the way you’re eying it. Thirty minutes later, you’re above the Fleet, and three hours after that you arrive near the Omega 4 relay. You pull the audio recorder from your pocket and rub it with your thumb for good luck.

“Putting in the frequency codes,” Kat says, punching a furious sequence of numbers into her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the Normandy appears out of hyperspace. You lean forward in your seat and point frantically at the ship. “There it is!” you yell excitedly. “There’re the vocal cords we need. Quick, hail the-” Before you can finish, the Normandy passes through the relay. Your excitement departs as quickly as it arrived.

“Don’t worry,” Kat says. “We’re going the same way … just one … more … moment … got it! Here we go everybody. Say goodbye to safe space!”

Kat punches the accelerator as Virgil turns toward the back window. “Goodbye, safe space,” he says quietly. You wait for the “ha!” It never comes.

Your shuttle enters the relay, and within moments, kicks you back out somewhere new. The effect is disorienting. One moment you were hovering in quiet black, the next you’re staring down a black hole from the middle of a debris field. The bow of a large ship lightly collides with your shuttle’s side, spinning it 90 degrees.

“This is wonderful,” Kat says in awe of the sight. A thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand broken down ships of a hundred different makes and class are orbiting the hole. “If I could even bring back just one of thes-“

“Kat!” Zohya yells. “Pay attention!”

Kat slams down on the rear thrusters and just barely pilots the interceptor from the Normandy, which barrels straight past you at frightening speed. “What, is he trying to kill us?” Kat yells.

“He probably thought we were one of the downed ships,” Virgil says. “No reason to think anyone else is alive down here.”

The Normandy sweeps past for another pass. “Those look like evasive maneuvers,” Zohya says. “But what are they evading?”

That’s when you see it, a dozen spherical machines attempting to swarm the Normandy, firing strange lasers at her hull. “Most be some sort of automatic defense system,” you say.

“I’ve seen this before,” Virgil replies. “The Oculus. Top secret turian spec ops engineering project from years ago. What’s it doing all the way out here?”

“That doesn’t matter now,” Kat yells back, swerving from the stray fire of one of the security drones. “We need to decide our next move. I can shadow the Normandy–yes it will put us closer to the fire, but at least it seems the weapon is focused on them, not us. We could also go our own way, and head toward that base on the orbit of the giant black hole. I’m sure that’s where the Normandy is heading, but we may attract more attention that way.”

Shadow the Normandy.

Head in an opposite direction toward the base.

image

Despite the nightmare, you wake up refreshed, ready to roll dice with fate. Neither you nor your comrades speak much as Kat drives you from her house to the security station. Everyone knows what happens next. No one wants to speak of it. No one wants to speak of anything else.

Kat guides you to the docks where she signs out one of the quarian security force’s interceptor shuttles. It’s small, but one of the dockhands assures you that it was built for speed and stealth when he sees the way you’re eying it. Thirty minutes later, you’re above the Fleet, and three hours after that you arrive near the Omega 4 relay. You pull the audio recorder from your pocket and rub it with your thumb for good luck.

“Putting in the frequency codes,” Kat says, punching a furious sequence of numbers into her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the Normandy appears out of hyperspace. You lean forward in your seat and point frantically at the ship. “There it is!” you yell excitedly. “There’re the vocal cords we need. Quick, hail the-” Before you can finish, the Normandy passes through the relay. Your excitement departs as quickly as it arrived.

“Don’t worry,” Kat says. “We’re going the same way … just one … more … moment … got it! Here we go everybody. Say goodbye to safe space!”

Kat punches the accelerator as Virgil turns toward the back window. “Goodbye, safe space,” he says quietly. You wait for the “ha!” It never comes.

Your shuttle enters the relay, and within moments, kicks you back out somewhere new. The effect is disorienting. One moment you were hovering in quiet black, the next you’re staring down a black hole from the middle of a debris field. The bow of a large ship lightly collides with your shuttle’s side, spinning it 90 degrees.

“This is wonderful,” Kat says in awe of the sight. A thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand broken down ships of a hundred different makes and class are orbiting the hole. “If I could even bring back just one of thes-“

“Kat!” Zohya yells. “Pay attention!”

Kat slams down on the rear thrusters and just barely pilots the interceptor from the Normandy, which barrels straight past you at frightening speed. “What, is he trying to kill us?” Kat yells.

“He probably thought we were one of the downed ships,” Virgil says. “No reason to think anyone else is alive down here.”

The Normandy sweeps past for another pass. “Those look like evasive maneuvers,” Zohya says. “But what are they evading?”

That’s when you see it, a dozen spherical machines attempting to swarm the Normandy, firing strange lasers at her hull. “Most be some sort of automatic defense system,” you say.

“I’ve seen this before,” Virgil replies. “The Oculus. Top secret turian spec ops engineering project from years ago. What’s it doing all the way out here?”

“That doesn’t matter now,” Kat yells back, swerving from the stray fire of one of the security drones. “We need to decide our next move. I can shadow the Normandy–yes it will put us closer to the fire, but at least it seems the weapon is focused on them, not us. We could also go our own way, and head toward that base on the orbit of the giant black hole. I’m sure that’s where the Normandy is heading, but we may attract more attention that way.”

Shadow the Normandy.

Head in an opposite direction toward the base.

image

Despite the nightmare, you wake up refreshed, ready to roll dice with fate. Neither you nor your comrades speak much as Kat drives you from her house to the security station. Everyone knows what happens next. No one wants to speak of it. No one wants to speak of anything else.

Kat guides you to the docks where she signs out one of the quarian security force’s interceptor shuttles. It’s small, but one of the dockhands assures you that it was built for speed and stealth when he sees the way you’re eying it. Thirty minutes later, you’re above the Fleet, and three hours after that you arrive near the Omega 4 relay. You pull the audio recorder from your pocket and rub it with your thumb for good luck.

“Putting in the frequency codes,” Kat says, punching a furious sequence of numbers into her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the Normandy appears out of hyperspace. You lean forward in your seat and point frantically at the ship. “There it is!” you yell excitedly. “There’re the vocal cords we need. Quick, hail the-” Before you can finish, the Normandy passes through the relay. Your excitement departs as quickly as it arrived.

“Don’t worry,” Kat says. “We’re going the same way … just one … more … moment … got it! Here we go everybody. Say goodbye to safe space!”

Kat punches the accelerator as Virgil turns toward the back window. “Goodbye, safe space,” he says quietly. You wait for the “ha!” It never comes.

Your shuttle enters the relay, and within moments, kicks you back out somewhere new. The effect is disorienting. One moment you were hovering in quiet black, the next you’re staring down a black hole from the middle of a debris field. The bow of a large ship lightly collides with your shuttle’s side, spinning it 90 degrees.

“This is wonderful,” Kat says in awe of the sight. A thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand broken down ships of a hundred different makes and class are orbiting the hole. “If I could even bring back just one of thes-“

“Kat!” Zohya yells. “Pay attention!”

Kat slams down on the rear thrusters and just barely pilots the interceptor from the Normandy, which barrels straight past you at frightening speed. “What, is he trying to kill us?” Kat yells.

“He probably thought we were one of the downed ships,” Virgil says. “No reason to think anyone else is alive down here.”

The Normandy sweeps past for another pass. “Those look like evasive maneuvers,” Zohya says. “But what are they evading?”

That’s when you see it, a dozen spherical machines attempting to swarm the Normandy, firing strange lasers at her hull. “Most be some sort of automatic defense system,” you say.

“I’ve seen this before,” Virgil replies. “The Oculus. Top secret turian spec ops engineering project from years ago. What’s it doing all the way out here?”

“That doesn’t matter now,” Kat yells back, swerving from the stray fire of one of the security drones. “We need to decide our next move. I can shadow the Normandy–yes it will put us closer to the fire, but at least it seems the weapon is focused on them, not us. We could also go our own way, and head toward that base on the orbit of the giant black hole. I’m sure that’s where the Normandy is heading, but we may attract more attention that way.”

Shadow the Normandy.

Head in an opposite direction toward the base.

image

Despite the nightmare, you wake up refreshed, ready to roll dice with fate. Neither you nor your comrades speak much as Kat drives you from her house to the security station. Everyone knows what happens next. No one wants to speak of it. No one wants to speak of anything else.

Kat guides you to the docks where she signs out one of the quarian security force’s interceptor shuttles. It’s small, but one of the dockhands assures you that it was built for speed and stealth when he sees the way you’re eying it. Thirty minutes later, you’re above the Fleet, and three hours after that you arrive near the Omega 4 relay. You pull the audio recorder from your pocket and rub it with your thumb for good luck.

“Putting in the frequency codes,” Kat says, punching a furious sequence of numbers into her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the Normandy appears out of hyperspace. You lean forward in your seat and point frantically at the ship. “There it is!” you yell excitedly. “There’re the vocal cords we need. Quick, hail the-” Before you can finish, the Normandy passes through the relay. Your excitement departs as quickly as it arrived.

“Don’t worry,” Kat says. “We’re going the same way … just one … more … moment … got it! Here we go everybody. Say goodbye to safe space!”

Kat punches the accelerator as Virgil turns toward the back window. “Goodbye, safe space,” he says quietly. You wait for the “ha!” It never comes.

Your shuttle enters the relay, and within moments, kicks you back out somewhere new. The effect is disorienting. One moment you were hovering in quiet black, the next you’re staring down a black hole from the middle of a debris field. The bow of a large ship lightly collides with your shuttle’s side, spinning it 90 degrees.

“This is wonderful,” Kat says in awe of the sight. A thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand broken down ships of a hundred different makes and class are orbiting the hole. “If I could even bring back just one of thes-“

“Kat!” Zohya yells. “Pay attention!”

Kat slams down on the rear thrusters and just barely pilots the interceptor from the Normandy, which barrels straight past you at frightening speed. “What, is he trying to kill us?” Kat yells.

“He probably thought we were one of the downed ships,” Virgil says. “No reason to think anyone else is alive down here.”

The Normandy sweeps past for another pass. “Those look like evasive maneuvers,” Zohya says. “But what are they evading?”

That’s when you see it, a dozen spherical machines attempting to swarm the Normandy, firing strange lasers at her hull. “Most be some sort of automatic defense system,” you say.

“I’ve seen this before,” Virgil replies. “The Oculus. Top secret turian spec ops engineering project from years ago. What’s it doing all the way out here?”

“That doesn’t matter now,” Kat yells back, swerving from the stray fire of one of the security drones. “We need to decide our next move. I can shadow the Normandy–yes it will put us closer to the fire, but at least it seems the weapon is focused on them, not us. We could also go our own way, and head toward that base on the orbit of the giant black hole. I’m sure that’s where the Normandy is heading, but we may attract more attention that way.”

Shadow the Normandy.

Head in an opposite direction toward the base.

image

“Get us away from the Normandy and those things on its tail,” you tell Kat. “Let’s try to spin around undetected from the other side and meet Shepard on the station itself.”

“Got it,” Kat says, turning the wheel sharply to the right.

Kat does a decent job of navigating the dense debris field, though spends perhaps a bit longer hungrily focusing on the multiple downed ship than she should. Fortunately, the Oculus stays with Shepard, and your descent toward the base is mostly uneventful. Sadly, without an advanced guiding system to plot your trajectory, the shuttle hooks too sharply toward the black hole when Kat tries to bring her in.

Kat does her best to land, but the craft is still hundreds of feet away from where it should have been in order to land. The orbit carries you around the collapsed star for one full rotation before sucking you past the event horizon and atom-smashing every mote in your body.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

“Stick to the Normandy,” you say. “I don’t want to lose her!”

“Got it!” Kat yells.

Kat does her best to maintain pace with the Normandy, though clearly piloting the inferior ship. With Normandy evasively juking and diving, the interceptor is to able to retain a straight path while Shepard curves.

A few minutes later, one of the Oculus drones connects with Shepard’s hull and breaches the armor plating. Silence befalls your crew as you all watch the scene unfold from the safety of your shuttle. After a few minutes, the drone is ejected, but before you can cheer, the device spins around, finally taking notice of your presence. It begins to fly toward you with frightening speed.

“What now?” Virgil yells.

“We’ve got exterior guns,” Kat suggests. “I could-“

“No,” Zohya says. “Too dangerous. That thing’s attacks are close range. I’ll set up one of my turrets on the outside hull.”

“Zohya, that sounds really-” you begin.

“I’ll be fine,” she says. “Kat, keep her level. I know you can do it.”

Kat nods. “Everyone, there should be standard breathers beneath the seats.” You reach down and find a small bin of them. It doesn’t take long to find one that fits. Once everyone’s placed a breather over their mouth, Zohya slides open the top panel of the ship, and begins to erect the turret. Only a few moments later, she’s done, replaces the panel, and ducks down safely inside.

Outside the window, you see the Oculus advance on your position. Zohya’s turret locks on quickly and fires its missiles. The attacking sphere blows apart before firing a single shot. Past the explosion, you see the Normandy descending into orbit around the black hole, maintaining course to dock on the large base below.

Kat is quick to follow it, and within just a few short minutes, you should be out of this tiny ship and onto some, relatively, solid ground again. Suddenly, a second Oculus drone approaches your shuttle. It fires, not against the interceptor, but against Zohya’s turret. You hear a loud pop, and Zohya droops her head into her hand.

“Everyone,” she says, “it’s been a true pleasure coming this far with you all. I’ve never travelled with a crew before, but if I did, I hope they’d be similar to you.”

“Wait,” you say. “I don’t understand.”

“Someone’s got to fix that turret before the drone opens fire on our ship. Seeing as how I’m the only engineer … “

“Wait, don’t-“

“It’s fine,” she says with a wink, and quickly opens the top panel.

You watch out the window as the Oculus drone quickly swoops below your shuttle to the other side. It soars past the starboard port and you follow it with your eyes until it flies up past the window’s vantage. You hear a scream from above, and quickly look past Zohya’s legs to her arms outside of the shuttle. She’s caught the Oculus drone with her hands.

It fires small beams of red energy into her body as she wrestles it. Finally, Zohya lifts her omni-tool into the air, and you see its front transform into an orange sword-like point. “Goodbye, everyone,” she says as she slams her fist into the drone’s eye. The sphere explodes, and your ship bucks against the blast. The floor begins to shake violently. Zohya’s limp, dead body slides back into the ship and rests at your feet. You wish there was time to mourn her.

“We’re going to crash!” Kat yells.

You look ahead. You’re still on course for the base, but you’re approaching too fast. You doubt Kat has much control left.

As you begin to lose hope, Virgil stands bravely from his seat. “I can set up a barrier over the nose,” he yells, “I don’t know if it will work, but it might offset the force of impact just enough for some of us to make it out alive.”

“You’ll be too close to the front when we collide!” Kat yells.

“What other choice to we have here, Kat?” he calls back.

Have Virgil set up the barrier while you and Kat move to the back of the ship. Brace for impact.

Have everyone, Virgil included, move to the back. Hope that’s enough.

You’ve not proud of it, but you’ve been eyeing the escape pod near the back for the past ten minutes. There’s only room for one inside. That one should be you.

image

“Stick to the Normandy,” you say. “I don’t want to lose her!”

“Got it!” Kat yells.

Kat does her best to maintain pace with the Normandy, though clearly piloting the inferior ship. With Normandy evasively juking and diving, the interceptor is to able to retain a straight path while Shepard curves.

A few minutes later, one of the Oculus drones connects with Shepard’s hull and breaches the armor plating. Silence befalls your crew as you all watch the scene unfold from the safety of your shuttle. After a few minutes, the drone is ejected, but before you can cheer, the device spins around, finally taking notice of your presence. It begins to fly toward you with frightening speed.

“What now?” Virgil yells.

“We’ve got exterior guns,” Kat suggests. “I could-“

“No,” Zohya says. “Too dangerous. That thing’s attacks are close range. I’ll set up one of my turrets on the outside hull.”

“Zohya, that sounds really-” you begin.

“I’ll be fine,” she says. “Kat, keep her level. I know you can do it.”

Kat nods. “Everyone, there should be standard breathers beneath the seats.” You reach down and find a small bin of them. It doesn’t take long to find one that fits. Once everyone’s placed a breather over their mouth, Zohya slides open the top panel of the ship, and begins to erect the turret. Only a few moments later, she’s done, replaces the panel, and ducks down safely inside.

Outside the window, you see the Oculus advance on your position. Zohya’s turret locks on quickly and fires its missiles. The attacking sphere blows apart before firing a single shot. Past the explosion, you see the Normandy descending into orbit around the black hole, maintaining course to dock on the large base below.

Kat is quick to follow it, and within just a few short minutes, you should be out of this tiny ship and onto some, relatively, solid ground again. Suddenly, a second Oculus drone approaches your shuttle. It fires, not against the interceptor, but against Zohya’s turret. You hear a loud pop, and Zohya droops her head into her hand.

“Everyone,” she says, “it’s been a true pleasure coming this far with you all. I’ve never travelled with a crew before, but if I did, I hope they’d be similar to you.”

“Wait,” you say. “I don’t understand.”

“Someone’s got to fix that turret before the drone opens fire on our ship. Seeing as how I’m the only engineer … “

“Wait, don’t-“

“It’s fine,” she says with a wink, and quickly opens the top panel.

You watch out the window as the Oculus drone quickly swoops below your shuttle to the other side. It soars past the starboard port and you follow it with your eyes until it flies up past the window’s vantage. You hear a scream from above, and quickly look past Zohya’s legs to her arms outside of the shuttle. She’s caught the Oculus drone with her hands.

It fires small beams of red energy into her body as she wrestles it. Finally, Zohya lifts her omni-tool into the air, and you see its front transform into an orange sword-like point. “Goodbye, everyone,” she says as she slams her fist into the drone’s eye. The sphere explodes, and your ship bucks against the blast. The floor begins to shake violently. Zohya’s limp, dead body slides back into the ship and rests at your feet. You wish there was time to mourn her.

“We’re going to crash!” Kat yells.

You look ahead. You’re still on course for the base, but you’re approaching too fast. You doubt Kat has much control left.

As you begin to lose hope, Virgil stands bravely from his seat. “I can set up a barrier over the nose,” he yells, “I don’t know if it will work, but it might offset the force of impact just enough for some of us to make it out alive.”

“You’ll be too close to the front when we collide!” Kat yells.

“What other choice to we have here, Kat?” he calls back.

Have Virgil set up the barrier while you and Kat move to the back of the ship. Brace for impact.

Have everyone, Virgil included, move to the back. Hope that’s enough.

You’ve not proud of it, but you’ve been eyeing the escape pod near the back for the past ten minutes. There’s only room for one inside. That one should be you.

image

“Stick to the Normandy,” you say. “I don’t want to lose her!”

“Got it!” Kat yells.

Kat does her best to maintain pace with the Normandy, though clearly piloting the inferior ship. With Normandy evasively juking and diving, the interceptor is to able to retain a straight path while Shepard curves.

A few minutes later, one of the Oculus drones connects with Shepard’s hull and breaches the armor plating. Silence befalls your crew as you all watch the scene unfold from the safety of your shuttle. After a few minutes, the drone is ejected, but before you can cheer, the device spins around, finally taking notice of your presence. It begins to fly toward you with frightening speed.

“What now?” Virgil yells.

“We’ve got exterior guns,” Kat suggests. “I could mount the outside–“

“No,” Zohya says. “Too dangerous. That thing’s attacks are close range. I’ll set up one of my turrets on the outside hull.”

“That’s not going to be enough firepower,” Kat replies.

“Kat, that gun doesn’t look like it has much protection,” you say. “I don’t think it was made for space combat … “

Kat chuckles. “It wasn’t. Now, everyone, there should be standard breathers beneath the seats. Zohya, take the controls.” You reach down and find a small bin of them. It doesn’t take long to find one that fits. Once everyone’s placed a breather over their mouth, Kat slides open the top panel of the ship, and steps into the cradle beneath it, leaving her feet inside the ship while the upper half of her body is outside operating the mounted gun. You see steaming thermal clips falling past her legs to floor. “Got one!” she yells.

Out your window, you see the Normandy descending into orbit around the black hole, maintaining course to dock on the large base below. You’re almost there. Zohya is quick to follow after it, and in a few short minutes, you should be out of this tiny ship and onto some, relatively, solid ground again. Suddenly, a second Oculus drone approaches your shuttle. It fires, not against the interceptor, but against Kat’s gun. You hear a loud pop, and Kat shouts, “the gun is down!”

You leap from your seat and peer up past the cradle to Kat. The Oculus is swooping in for a second attack. Kat, and the ship, are defenseless. “Tell the Flotilla that my pilgrimage to find the transponder wasn’t a failure,” she yells down quickly.

“Is this what this was all about?” you call back.

“Tell them about the salvage. Tell them I found Omega 4.” Before you can reply, Kat throws open her robes and pulls two grenades into her hands. As the drone flies in for its next attack, she releases the pins. Your ship bucks against the blast. The floor begins to shake violently. What little is left of Kat slides back into the gunnery cradle. You wish there was time to mourn her.

“We’re going to crash!” Zohya yells.

You look ahead. You’re still on course for the base, but you’re approaching too fast. You doubt Zohya has much control left.

As you begin to lose hope, Virgil stands bravely from his seat. “I can set up a barrier over the nose,” he yells, “I don’t know if it will work, but it might off set the force of impact just enough for some of us to make it out alive.”

“You’ll be too close to the front when we collide!” Zohya yells.

“What other choice to we have here, Zohya?” he calls back.

Have Virgil set up the barrier while you and Zohya move to the back of the ship. Brace for impact.

Have everyone, Virgil included, move to the back. Hope that’s enough.

You’ve not proud of it, but you’ve been eying the escape pod near the back for the past ten minutes. There’s only room for one inside. That one should be you.

image

“Stick to the Normandy,” you say. “I don’t want to lose her!”

“Got it!” Kat yells.

Kat does her best to maintain pace with the Normandy, though clearly piloting the inferior ship. With Normandy evasively juking and diving, the interceptor is to able to retain a straight path while Shepard curves.

A few minutes later, one of the Oculus drones connects with Shepard’s hull and breaches the armor plating. Silence befalls your crew as you all watch the scene unfold from the safety of your shuttle. After a few minutes, the drone is ejected, but before you can cheer, the device spins around, finally taking notice of your presence. It begins to fly toward you with frightening speed.

“What now?” Virgil yells.

“We’ve got exterior guns,” Kat suggests. “I could-“

“No,” Zohya says. “Too dangerous. That thing’s attacks are close range. I’ll set up one of my turrets on the outside hull.”

“Zohya, that sounds really-” you begin.

“I’ll be fine,” she says. “Kat, keep her level. I know you can do it.”

Kat nods. “Everyone, there should be standard breathers beneath the seats.” You reach down and find a small bin of them. It doesn’t take long to find one that fits. Once everyone’s placed a breather over their mouth, Zohya slides open the top panel of the ship, and begins to erect the turret. Only a few moments later, she’s done, replaces the panel, and ducks down safely inside.

Outside the window, you see the Oculus advance on your position. Zohya’s turret doesn’t hesitate in locking on and firing its missiles. The small attacking ball blows apart before firing a single shot. Past the explosion, you see the Normandy descending into orbit around the black hole, maintaining course to dock on the large base below.

Kat is quick to follow it, and in a few short minutes, you should be out of this tiny ship and onto some, relatively, solid ground again. Suddenly, a second Oculus drone approaches your shuttle. It fires, not against the interceptor, but against Zohya’s turret. You hear a loud pop, and Zohya droops her head into her hand.

“Everyone,” she says, “it’s been a true pleasure coming this far with you all. I’ve never travelled with a permanent crew before, but if I did, I hope they’d be similar to you.”

“Wait,” you say. “I don’t understand.”

“Someone’s got to fix that turret before the drone opens fire on our ship. Seeing as how I’m the only engineer … “

“Wait, don’t-“

“It’s fine,” she says with a wink, and quickly opens the top panel.

You watch out the window as the Oculus drone quickly swoops below your shuttle to the other side. It soars past the starboard port and you follow it with your eyes until it flies up past the window’s vantage. You hear a scream from above, and quickly look past Zohya’s legs to her arms outside of the shuttle. She’s caught the Oculus drone with her hands.

It fires small beams of red energy into her body, and she wrestles it. Finally, she lifts her omni-tool into the air, and you see its front transform into an orange sword-like point. “Goodbye, everyone,” she says as she slams her fist into the drone’s eye. The sphere explodes, and your ship bucks against the blast. You feel the floor shaking violently. Zohya’s limp, dead body slides back into the ship to the floor. You wish there was time to mourn her.

“We’re going to crash!” Kat yells.

You look ahead. You’re still on course for the base, but you’re approaching too fast. You doubt Kat has much control left.

Kat turns from her chair and faces you. “Listen to me,” she yells, “this is going to sound crazy, but I have a plan. I’ve got a launcher that fires remotely detonated explosives. When we get close enough to the station, I’ll fire a few at the ground and detonate them as we approach. The shockwave traveling in the opposite direction as us should slow us down enough to have a chance at surviving the crash.”

“You’d be too close to the front when we collide!” Virgil yells.

“What other choice to we have here, Virgil?” she calls back.

Have Kat prepare the explosives while you and Virgil move to the back of the ship. Brace for impact.

Have everyone, Kat included, move to the back. Hope that’s enough.

You’ve not proud of it, but you’ve been eyeing the escape pod near the back off and on for the past ten minutes. There’s only room for one. That one should be you.

image

A loud explosion booms from the bottom of your ship. Flames are crawling up the outside of its hull, just past the window. “Virgil,” you yell over the noise. “Do it.” Virgil spins to run for the front of the ship, but you grab him by the arm. As he turns back toward you, you thrust your hand into his and shake it heartily. “You’re a good man,” you say. “And a good leader. Your men are looking down on you.”

He nods. “Then let’s give them something to smile about. Ha!”

You and Kat head for the back of the ship, and embrace into a ball against the wall as you prepare for impact. Raising an eye above Kat’s shoulder, you see Virgil from behind, his arms stretched wide in front of him. Slowly, a massive, pulsating blue barrier lifts around him. It’s the largest you’ve ever seen. Out the window, the station is getting closer. It won’t be long now.

“Kat,” you say, “I want you to know. About last night-“

“I know,” she interrupts. “We can talk after we survive this cra-“

Suddenly, the shuttle slams into the hard metal flooring of the Collector base. Your body, entangled with Kat’s, lifts from the floor and crashes into the ceiling. The metal around you tears and shrieks as the interceptor slides uncontrollably across the station floor. It collides into the wall, and your body slams forward toward the nose as the ship blows apart.

You land on top of a wing, and what you think must be the pilot’s chair crashes down across the back of your shoulders. Every cell of your body is aching, but at least you’re alive. You painfully crane your neck up and look for Kat. Your vision is blurry, but you see her just a few feet away from you, slowly standing to her feet. Looks like she made it, too.

Kat stumbles toward you and pushes the chair from your back. “Where … where’s Virgil?” you manage, struggling to regain your footing.

Kat just shakes her head. You turn to look toward the wreckage, but Kat softly catches your cheek with her hand and stops you. “Trust me,” she says quietly. “You don’t want to look. Just remember him as he was.”

You nod, and look ahead. “Where are we?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” she replies. “But I hear something going on ahead of us. Don’t you?”

You walk with her further into the base, and soon you begin to hear the noise, too. It almost sounds like gunfire. Kat grabs the front of your shirt and points up toward the ceiling. “I think it’s coming from there,” she whispers.

You look to the flat metal ceiling and stare. The sounds seem to have stopped at nearly the exact moment you looked up, but you keep your eyes fixed in place. Soon, the still and the quiet are beginning to unnerve you. Suddenly, something huge, something massively huge, crashes through the ceiling into the room. Before you can run back, what you think may be a gigantic arm crashes down beside you, throwing you to the far side of the room. Shaking off two small pieces of debris from your body, you stand again. Where’s Kat? Then you see her, still near the wreckage on the other side of the colossal arm that dropped between you.

The creature that fell into the room lifts its head, and you see its true form for the first time. The monster is gigantic, a synthetic creature that looks nearly human, like a skeleton in metal armor. It seems weakened, but not enough to be discounted.

Suddenly, you hear Shepard’s voice from above the hole in the ceiling. “Shepard to ground team: status report!”

“That’s him, Kat!” you yell across the room. “We have to get out of here and find him before it’s too late!”

Kat turns and moves toward you, but one of the skeleton creature’s massive sharpened fingers swipes at her legs as she runs. She trips and crashes back into the floor.

“Head to the Normandy,” you hear Shepard say from above. “Joker, rev the engines. I’m about to overload this place and blow it sky high.”

You look behind you. There’s a lift near a computer terminal that looks undamaged. It would probably lead to the next floor up, where you hear Shepard and his crew.

“Just go!” Kat shouts from beneath the skeleton’s hand. “It’s too late for me. This recording is everything to you. Don’t throw it all away now! Go, you idiot! Go!”

Your hand slips into your pocket. You feel the cool surface of your audio recorder brush against your hand.

Take the lift, and find Shepard. That’s why you began this haphazard adventure in the first place. This is everything you’ve worked toward.

Sacrifice your last chance to get Shepard’s endorsement, and run back for Kat. She needs your help, and you owe it to her.

image

A loud explosion booms from the bottom of your ship. Flames are crawling up the outside of its hull, just past the window. “Virgil,” you yell over the noise. “Do it.” Virgil spins to run for the front of the ship, but you grab him by the arm. As he turns back toward you, you thrust your hand into his and shake it heartily. “You’re a good man,” you say. “And a good leader. Your men are looking down on you.”

He nods. “Then let’s give them something to smile about. Ha!”

You and Kat head for the back of the ship, and embrace into a ball against the wall as you prepare for impact. Raising an eye above Kat’s shoulder, you see Virgil from behind, his arms stretched wide in front of him. Slowly, a massive, pulsating blue barrier lifts around him. It’s the largest you’ve ever seen. Out the window, the station is getting closer. It won’t be long now.

“Kat,” you say, “I want you to know. About last night-“

“I know,” she interrupts. “We can talk after we survive this cra-“

Suddenly, the shuttle slams into the hard metal flooring of the Collector base. Your body, entangled with Kat’s, lifts from the floor and crashes into the ceiling. The metal around you tears and shrieks as the interceptor slides uncontrollably across the station floor. It collides into the wall, and your body slams forward toward the nose as the ship blows apart.

You land on top of a wing, and what you think must be the pilot’s chair crashes down across the back of your shoulders. Every cell of your body is aching, but at least you’re alive. You painfully crane your neck up and look for Kat. Your vision is blurry, but you see her just a few feet away from you, slowly standing to her feet. Looks like she made it, too.

Kat stumbles toward you and pushes the chair from your back. “Where … where’s Virgil?” you manage, struggling to regain your footing.

Kat just shakes her head. You turn to look toward the wreckage, but Kat softly catches your cheek with her hand and stops you. “Trust me,” she says quietly. “You don’t want to look. Just remember him as he was.”

You nod, and look ahead. “Where are we?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” she replies. “But I hear something going on ahead of us. Don’t you?”

You walk with her further into the base, and soon you begin to hear the noise, too. It almost sounds like gunfire. Kat grabs the front of your shirt and points up toward the ceiling. “I think it’s coming from there,” she whispers.

You look to the flat metal ceiling and stare. The sounds seem to have stopped at nearly the exact moment you looked up, but you keep your eyes fixed in place. Soon, the still and the quiet are beginning to unnerve you. Suddenly, something huge, something massively huge, crashes through the ceiling into the room. Before you can run back, what you think may be a gigantic arm crashes down beside you, throwing you to the far side of the room. Shaking off two small pieces of debris from your body, you stand again. Where’s Kat? Then you see her, still near the wreckage on the other side of the colossal arm that dropped between you.

The creature that fell into the room lifts its head, and you see its true form for the first time. The monster is gigantic, a synthetic creature that looks nearly human, like a skeleton in metal armor. It seems weakened, but not enough to be discounted.

Suddenly, you hear Shepard’s voice from above the hole in the ceiling. “Shepard to ground team: status report!”

“That’s him, Kat!” you yell across the room. “We have to get out of here and find him before it’s too late!”

Kat turns and moves toward you, but one of the skeleton creature’s massive sharpened fingers swipes at her legs as she runs. She trips and crashes back into the floor.

“Head to the Normandy,” you hear Shepard say from above. “Joker, rev the engines. I’m about to overload this place and blow it sky high.”

You look behind you. There’s a lift near a computer terminal that looks undamaged. It would probably lead to the next floor up, where you hear Shepard and his crew.

“Just go!” Kat shouts from beneath the skeleton’s hand. “It’s too late for me. This recording is everything to you. Don’t throw it all away now! Go, you idiot! Go!”

Your hand slips into your pocket. You feel the cool surface of your audio recorder brush against your hand.

Take the lift, and find Shepard. That’s why you began this haphazard adventure in the first place. This is everything you’ve worked toward.

Sacrifice your last chance to get Shepard’s endorsement, and run back for Kat. She needs your help, and you owe it to her.

image

A loud explosion booms from the bottom of your ship. Flames are crawling up the outside of its hull, just past the window. “Virgil,” you yell over the noise. “Do it.” Virgil spins to run for the front of the ship, but you grab him by the arm. As he turns back toward you, you thrust your hand into his and shake it heartily. “You’re a good man,” you say. “And a good leader. Your men are looking down on you.”

He nods. “Then let’s give them something to smile about. Ha!”

You and Zohya head for the back of the ship, and embrace into a ball against the wall as you prepare for impact. Raising an eye above Zohya’s shoulder, you see Virgil from behind, his arms stretched wide in front of him. Slowly, a massive, pulsating blue barrier lifts around him. It’s the largest you’ve ever seen. Out the window, the station is getting closer. It won’t be long now.

“Zohya,” you say, “I want you to know. About last night-“

“I know,” she interrupts. “We can talk after we survive this cra-“

Suddenly, the shuttle slams into the hard metal flooring of the Collector base. Your body, entangled with Zohya’s, lifts from the floor and crashes into the ceiling. The metal around you tears and shrieks as the interceptor slides uncontrollably across the station floor. It collides into the wall, and your body slams forward toward the nose as the ship blows apart.

You land on top of a wing, and what you think must be the pilot’s chair crashes down across the back of your shoulders. Every cell of your body is aching, but at least you’re alive. You painfully crane your neck up and look for Zohya. Your vision is blurry, but you see her just a few feet away from you, slowly standing to her feet. Looks like she made it, too.

Zohya stumbles toward you and pushes the chair from your back. “Where … where’s Virgil?” you manage, struggling to regain your footing.

Zohya just shakes her head. You turn to look toward the wreckage, but Zohya softly catches your cheek with her hand and stops you. “Trust me,” she says quietly. “You don’t want to look. Just remember him as he was.”

You nod, and look ahead. “Where are we?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” she replies. “But I hear something going on ahead of us. Don’t you?”

You walk with her further into the base, and soon you begin to hear the noise, too. It almost sounds like gunfire. Zohya grabs the front of your shirt and points up toward the ceiling. “I think it’s coming from there,” she whispers.

You look to the flat metal ceiling and stare. The sounds seem to have stopped at nearly the exact moment you looked up, but you keep your eyes fixed in place. Soon, the still and the quiet are beginning to unnerve you. Suddenly, something huge, something massively huge, crashes through the ceiling into the room. Before you can run back, what you think may be a gigantic arm crashes down beside you, throwing you to the far side of the room. Shaking off two small pieces of debris from your body, you stand again. Where’s Zohya? Then you see her, still near the wreckage on the other side of the colossal arm that dropped between you.

The creature that fell into the room lifts its head, and you see its true form for the first time. The monster is gigantic, a synthetic creature that looks nearly human, like a skeleton in metal armor. It seems weakened, but not enough to be discounted.

Suddenly, you hear Shepard’s voice from above the hole in the ceiling. “Shepard to ground team: status report!”

“That’s him, Zohya!” you yell across the room. “We have to get out of here and find him before it’s too late!”

Zohya turns and moves toward you, but one of the skeleton creature’s massive sharpened fingers swipes at her legs as she runs. She trips and crashes back into the floor.

“Head to the Normandy,” you hear Shepard say from above. “Joker, rev the engines. I’m about to overload this place and blow it sky high.”

You look behind you. There’s a lift near a computer terminal that looks undamaged. It would probably lead to the next floor up, where you hear Shepard and his crew.

“Just go!” Zohya shouts from beneath the skeleton’s hand. “It’s too late for me. This recording is everything to you. Don’t throw it all away now! Go, you idiot! Go!”

Your hand slips into your pocket. You feel the cool surface of your audio recorder brush against your hand.

Take the lift, and find Shepard. That’s why you began this haphazard adventure in the first place. This is everything you’ve worked toward.

Sacrifice your last chance to get Shepard’s endorsement, and run back for Zohya. She needs your help, and you owe it to her.

image

A loud explosion booms from the bottom of your ship. Flames are crawling up the outside of its hull, just past the window. “Kat,” you yell over the noise. “Do it.” As Kat opens her robes and removes the launcher, you grab her by the arm. “You’re a good Quarian,” you say. “We’re going to survive this. And when we do, we’re going to find a way to get all of this salvage back to the Flotilla.”

She nods. “I’m glad we met, even if we couldn’t-just go. Get to the back before it’s too late.”

You and Virgil head for the back of the ship, and embrace into a ball against the wall as you prepare for impact. Raising an eye above Virgil’s shoulder, you see Kat from behind, lifting a massive launcher in front of her. She aims and fires, now waiting for the precise moment to detonate. Out the window, the station is getting closer. It won’t be long now.

“Virgil,” you say, “I want you to know. About last night-“

“I know,” he interrupts. “We can talk after we survive this cra-“

Suddenly, the shuttle slams into the hard metal flooring of the Collector base. Your body, entangled with Virgil’s, lifts from the floor and crashes into the ceiling. The metal around you tears and shrieks as the interceptor slides uncontrollably across the station floor. It collides into the wall, and your body slams forward toward the nose as the ship blows apart.

You land on top of a wing, and what you think must be the pilot’s chair crashes down across the back of your shoulders. Every cell of your body is aching, but at least you’re alive. You painfully crane your neck up and look for Virgil. Your vision is blurry, but you see him just a few feet away from you, slowly standing to his feet. Looks like he made it, too.

Virgil stumbles toward you and pushes the chair from your back. “Where … where’s Kat?” you manage, struggling to regain your footing.

Virgil just shakes his head. You turn to look toward the wreckage, but Virgil softly catches your cheek with his hand and stops you. “Trust me,” he says quietly. “You don’t want to look. Just remember her as she was.”

You nod, and look ahead. “Where are we?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” he replies. “But I hear something going on ahead of us. Don’t you?”

You walk with her further into the base, and soon you begin to hear the noise, too. It almost sounds like gunfire. Virgil grabs the front of your shirt and points up toward the ceiling. “I think it’s coming from there,” he whispers.

You look to the flat metal ceiling and stare. The sounds seem to have stopped at nearly the exact moment you looked up, but you keep your eyes fixed in place. Soon, the still and the quiet are beginning to unnerve you. Suddenly, something huge, something massively huge, crashes through the ceiling into the room. Before you can run back, what you think may be a gigantic arm crashes down beside you, throwing you to the far side of the room. Shaking off two small pieces of debris from your body, you stand again. Where’s Virgil? Then you see him, still near the wreckage on the other side of the colossal arm that dropped between you.

The creature that fell into the room lifts its head, and you see its true form for the first time. The monster is gigantic, a synthetic creature that looks nearly human, like a skeleton in metal armor. It seems weakened, but not enough to be discounted.

Suddenly, you hear Shepard’s voice from above the hole in the ceiling. “Shepard to ground team: status report!”

“That’s him, Virgil!” you yell across the room. “We have to get out of here and find him before it’s too late!”

Virgil turns and moves toward you, but one of the skeleton creature’s massive sharpened fingers swipes at his legs as he runs. He trips and crashes back into the floor.

“Head to the Normandy,” you hear Shepard say from above. “Joker, rev the engines. I’m about to overload this place and blow it sky high.”

You look behind you. There’s a lift near a computer terminal that looks undamaged. It would probably lead to the next floor up, where you hear Shepard and his crew.

“Just go!” Virgil shouts from beneath the skeleton’s hand. “It’s too late for me. This recording is everything to you. Don’t throw it all away now! Go, you idiot! Go!”

Your hand slips into your pocket. You feel the cool surface of your audio recorder brush against your hand.

Take the lift, and find Shepard. That’s why you began this haphazard adventure in the first place. This is everything you’ve worked toward.

Sacrifice your last chance to get Shepard’s endorsement, and run back for Virgil. He needs your help, and you owe it to him.

image

“No,” you yell. “Everyone, and I mean everyone moves to the back. Hopefully the front of the shuttle will absorb the brunt of the impact and we can all come out of this thing alive.”

Your crew follows the suggestion, and a minute later, the shuttle crashes into the collector base. Without anything to cushion the impact, the fuel store detonates, and the entire interceptor erupts into a ball of flame. No one comes out alive.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

You don’t waste time by responding. Instead, you dash toward the back and throw yourself into the tiny escape pod.

“What are you doing?” you hear someone yell as the door closes shut. The controls are easy. There’s only one massive red button in front of you, and the word “EJECT” is conveniently etched into its surface. You punch it.

Soon, you feel the pod fly out from the back of the flailing Quarian shuttle, and the large window in front of your face gives you a perfect vantage point to see it explode into a roaring ball of fire one minute later when it collides with the base. You feel a momentary sadness, but know that had you not taken the pod, you’d be ashes, too.

It’s not for another ten minutes that you realize you don’t have a plan. Escape pods have a built-in beacon that projects a distress call, but you’re past the Omega 4 relay. There’s no one here to rescue you, beacon or no beacon.

The first week passes slowly. The pod has emergency rations for situations like this, so at least you aren’t hungry. The boredom is what’s crushing. You spend days on end just standing in place, staring at a giant black hole.

Twelve more days pass, and you’re out of food and water. The boredom hasn’t gotten any better, and you’re somewhat sure you’re losing your mind. The good news is that you won’t be around long enough to lose it completely, as you’ll surely die of dehydration and hunger long before it comes to that.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

RENEGADE +20

“Thank you,” you yell back as you run toward the elevator. “This means a lot to me!”

You jam your finger against the call button, and eventually the doors slide open. You jump inside, and as the doors slide closed again, the last thing you see is Kat’s body ripped in half by that strange robotic creature.

“Come on, come on,” you say impatiently as the lift slowly travels up to the floor above. “What’s taking so long?”

Eventually, you hear a ding, and the doors slide open. Time seems to slow as you finally see him, Commander Shepard. He is everything and nothing that you remember from that fateful day in front of your shop. Back then, he was a simple nuisance, just one more human with a deep voice and a five-o-clock shadow looking for a handout. Now, he’s armored, tall, and noble. You can see why people follow his shopping endorsements as law. This man is a hero.

“Commander!” you yell. “Commander, I need to-“

“Come on, citizen!” he yells back to you, sprinting across the floor and grabbing onto your wrist. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here!”

You close your mouth and run behind him. Soon, the base around you begins to blow apart, riddled by explosion and collapse. You’re sure that if the Commander wasn’t holding on to you, you’d have fallen behind a dozen times by now. But something about him gives you strength. Something about him makes you feel like everything you’ve worked for in life isn’t over, just paused, waiting for the right person to press some button to make it play again. And you exactly where that button is, you think, brushing your finger against the microphone of the audio recorder in your pocket. But you’ll have time for that aboard the Normandy. For now, you just have to focus on getting there.

Dozens of collectors suddenly appear behind you. The Commander doesn’t turn back to fight them, just ducks his head and runs forward, now nearly dragging you behind him. The collectors fire hundreds of yellow beams in your direction. One blows through the back of your calf. You cry out, and Shepard turns and lifts you, carrying you on his back up the platform in front of him.

Just as you think you’ve reached a dead end, the Normandy sweeps down from above. Its side door opens and Shepard’s crew jumps aboard. Once they’re safely in the ship, Shepard leaps, just barely making it inside as the ship pulls up from the base. You slip from his back and begin to fall back into the collapsing station.

Suddenly, two different arms grab each of your hands. You look up and see the face of a drell and a turian working to save you. They remind you, a little, of Zohya and Virgil. It’s a quarian who actually pulls you up, though, and this one you’re sure of. She looks exactly like Kat.

Hours later, Commander Shepard visits you in the medical bay of his ship. He lightly pats your damaged leg and sits down by the edge of your bed. “I have to know,” he says. “What were you doing back there in that collector base?”

You weakly reach for your audio recorder and lift it, shaking, toward his mouth. “Weeks ago, I turned you down for a discount,” you say. “Soon, I was the only store without it. What was once the most prosperous shop on the Citadel, became a commerce disaster. I lost everything I’d spent my whole life building. That’s why I came here. That’s why I’ve tracked you across the galaxy, hoping to find you. Please, Commander, I know I messed up, but I’ll give you anything. A 10% discount, a 30% discount, hell, you can have a 100% dis-“

The Commander laughs and takes the recorder from your hand. “Is that what this was all about?” he says. Before you can reply, he presses down the record button and speaks clearly into the microphone. “I’m Commander Shepard,” he says. “And forget anything I’ve ever said about those lousy other shops. This is, by far, my favorite store on the Citadel, and I would never so much as consider shopping anywhere else.” He hands you back the device, and you cradle it in your weary hands as one might protect a cultural artifact or precious work of art. “How was that?” he asks.

“Th-thank-thank you,” you stutter. “That was-“

Shepard smiles, and stands from your bedside. “Well, glad I could help,” he replies. “We’ll have you back on the Citadel by morning.”

The Commander is true to his word, and thirteen hours later, you’re back at your store, blaring Shepard’s endorsement from the loudest set of speakers the rest of your savings can afford to purchase. Within a day, your business is more than simply back to normal. It’s doubled, tripled. And while you may have returned from your adventures alone, you returned with what you’d set out to find, nothing more, nothing less. That’s good enough for you. You smile, lean back in your chair, and start a new crossword puzzle on your omni-tool as waves of new customers fight for a chance at your sales terminal.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

RENEGADE +20

“Thank you,” you yell back as you run toward the elevator. “This means a lot to me!”

You jam your finger against the call button, and eventually the doors slide open. You jump inside, and as the doors slide closed again, the last thing you see is Kat’s body ripped in half by that strange robotic creature.

“Come on, come on,” you say impatiently as the lift slowly travels up to the floor above. “What’s taking so long?”

Eventually, you hear a ding, and the doors slide open. Time seems to slow as you finally see him, Commander Shepard. He is everything and nothing that you remember from that fateful day in front of your shop. Back then, he was a simple nuisance, just one more human with a deep voice and a five-o-clock shadow looking for a handout. Now, he’s armored, tall, and noble. You can see why people follow his shopping endorsements as law. This man is a hero.

“Commander!” you yell. “Commander, I need to-“

“Come on, citizen!” he yells back to you, sprinting across the floor and grabbing onto your wrist. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here!”

You close your mouth and run behind him. Soon, the base around you begins to blow apart, riddled by explosion and collapse. You’re sure that if the Commander wasn’t holding on to you, you’d have fallen behind a dozen times by now. But something about him gives you strength. Something about him makes you feel like everything you’ve worked for in life isn’t over, just paused, waiting for the right person to press some button to make it play again. And you exactly where that button is, you think, brushing your finger against the microphone of the audio recorder in your pocket. But you’ll have time for that aboard the Normandy. For now, you just have to focus on getting there.

Dozens of collectors suddenly appear behind you. The Commander doesn’t turn back to fight them, just ducks his head and runs forward, now nearly dragging you behind him. The collectors fire hundreds of yellow beams in your direction. One blows through the back of your calf. You cry out, and Shepard turns and lifts you, carrying you on his back up the platform in front of him.

Just as you think you’ve reached a dead end, the Normandy sweeps down from above. Its side door opens and Shepard’s crew jumps aboard. Once they’re safely in the ship, Shepard leaps, just barely making it inside as the ship pulls up from the base. You slip from his back and begin to fall back into the collapsing station.

Suddenly, two different arms grab each of your hands. You look up and see the face of a drell and a turian working to save you. They remind you, a little, of Zohya and Virgil. It’s a quarian who actually pulls you up, though, and this one you’re sure of. She looks exactly like Kat.

Hours later, Commander Shepard visits you in the medical bay of his ship. He lightly pats your damaged leg and sits down by the edge of your bed. “I have to know,” he says. “What were you doing back there in that collector base?”

You weakly reach for your audio recorder and lift it, shaking, toward his mouth. “Weeks ago, I turned you down for a discount,” you say. “Soon, I was the only store without it. What was once the most prosperous shop on the Citadel, became a commerce disaster. I lost everything I’d spent my whole life building. That’s why I came here. That’s why I’ve tracked you across the galaxy, hoping to find you. Please, Commander, I know I messed up, but I’ll give you anything. A 10% discount, a 30% discount, hell, you can have a 100% dis-“

The Commander laughs and takes the recorder from your hand. “Is that what this was all about?” he says. Before you can reply, he presses down the record button and speaks clearly into the microphone. “I’m Commander Shepard,” he says. “And forget anything I’ve ever said about those lousy other shops. This is, by far, my favorite store on the Citadel, and I would never so much as consider shopping anywhere else.” He hands you back the device, and you cradle it in your weary hands as one might protect a cultural artifact or precious work of art. “How was that?” he asks.

“Th-thank-thank you,” you stutter. “That was-“

Shepard smiles, and stands from your bedside. “Well, glad I could help,” he replies. “We’ll have you back on the Citadel by morning.”

The Commander is true to his word, and thirteen hours later, you’re back at your store, blaring Shepard’s endorsement from the loudest set of speakers the rest of your savings can afford to purchase. Within a day, your business is more than simply back to normal. It’s doubled, tripled. And while you may have returned from your adventures alone, you returned with what you’d set out to find, nothing more, nothing less. That’s good enough for you. You smile, lean back in your chair, and start a new crossword puzzle on your omni-tool as waves of new customers fight for a chance at your sales terminal.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

RENEGADE +20

“Thank you,” you yell back as you run toward the elevator. “This means a lot to me!”

You jam your finger against the call button, and eventually the doors slide open. You jump inside, and as the doors slide closed again, the last thing you see is Zohya’s body ripped in half by that strange robotic creature.

“Come on, come on,” you say impatiently as the lift slowly travels up to the floor above. “What’s taking so long?”

Eventually, you hear a ding, and the doors slide open. Time seems to slow as you finally see him, Commander Shepard. He is everything and nothing that you remember from that fateful day in front of your shop. Back then, he was a simple nuisance, just one more human with a deep voice and a five-o-clock shadow looking for a handout. Now, he’s armored, tall, and noble. You can see why people follow his shopping endorsements as law. This man is a hero.

“Commander!” you yell. “Commander, I need to-“

“Come on, citizen!” he yells back to you, sprinting across the floor and grabbing onto your wrist. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here!”

You close your mouth and run behind him. Soon, the base around you begins to blow apart, riddled by explosion and collapse. You’re sure that if the Commander wasn’t holding on to you, you’d have fallen behind a dozen times by now. But something about him gives you strength. Something about him makes you feel like everything you’ve worked for in life isn’t over, just paused, waiting for the right person to press some button to make it play again. And you exactly where that button is, you think, brushing your finger against the microphone of the audio recorder in your pocket. But you’ll have time for that aboard the Normandy. For now, you just have to focus on getting there.

Dozens of collectors suddenly appear behind you. The Commander doesn’t turn back to fight them, just ducks his head and runs forward, now nearly dragging you behind him. The collectors fire hundreds of yellow beams in your direction. One blows through the back of your calf. You cry out, and Shepard turns and lifts you, carrying you on his back up the platform in front of him.

Just as you think you’ve reached a dead end, the Normandy sweeps down from above. Its side door opens and Shepard’s crew jumps aboard. Once they’re safely in the ship, Shepard leaps, just barely making it inside as the ship pulls up from the base. You slip from his back and begin to fall back into the collapsing station.

Suddenly, two different arms grab each of your hands. You look up and see the face of a quarian and a turian working to save you. They remind you, a little, of Kay and Virgil. It’s a drell who actually pulls you up, though, and this one you’re sure of. He looks exactly like Zohya.

Hours later, Commander Shepard visits you in the medical bay of his ship. He lightly pats your damaged leg and sits down by the edge of your bed. “I have to know,” he says. “What were you doing back there in that collector base?”

You weakly reach for your audio recorder and lift it, shaking, toward his mouth. “Weeks ago, I turned you down for a discount,” you say. “Soon, I was the only store without it. What was once the most prosperous shop on the Citadel, became a commerce disaster. I lost everything I’d spent my whole life building. That’s why I came here. That’s why I’ve tracked you across the galaxy, hoping to find you. Please, Commander, I know I messed up, but I’ll give you anything. A 10% discount, a 30% discount, hell, you can have a 100% dis-“

The Commander laughs and takes the recorder from your hand. “Is that what this was all about?” he says. Before you can reply, he presses down the record button and speaks clearly into the microphone. “I’m Commander Shepard,” he says. “And forget anything I’ve ever said about those lousy other shops. This is, by far, my favorite store on the Citadel, and I would never so much as consider shopping anywhere else.” He hands you back the device, and you cradle it in your weary hands as one might protect a cultural artifact or precious work of art. “How was that?” he asks.

“Th-thank-thank you,” you stutter. “That was-“

Shepard smiles, and stands from your bedside. “Well, glad I could help,” he replies. “We’ll have you back on the Citadel by morning.”

The Commander is true to his word, and thirteen hours later, you’re back at your store, blaring Shepard’s endorsement from the loudest set of speakers the rest of your savings can afford to purchase. Within a day, your business is more than simply back to normal. It’s doubled, tripled. And while you may have returned from your adventures alone, you returned with what you’d set out to find, nothing more, nothing less. That’s good enough for you. You smile, lean back in your chair, and start a new crossword puzzle on your omni-tool as waves of new customers fight for a chance at your sales terminal.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

RENEGADE +20

“Thank you,” you yell back as you run toward the elevator. “This means a lot to me!”

You jam your finger against the call button, and eventually the doors slide open. You jump inside, and as the doors slide closed again, the last thing you see is Virgil’s body ripped in half by that strange robotic creature.

“Come on, come on,” you say impatiently as the lift slowly travels up to the floor above. “What’s taking so long?”

Eventually, you hear a ding, and the doors slide open. Time seems to slow as you finally see him, Commander Shepard. He is everything and nothing that you remember from that fateful day in front of your shop. Back then, he was a simple nuisance, just one more human with a deep voice and a five-o-clock shadow looking for a handout. Now, he’s armored, tall, and noble. You can see why people follow his shopping endorsements as law. This man is a hero.

“Commander!” you yell. “Commander, I need to-“

“Come on, citizen!” he yells back to you, sprinting across the floor and grabbing onto your wrist. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here!”

You close your mouth and run behind him. Soon, the base around you begins to blow apart, riddled by explosion and collapse. You’re sure that if the Commander wasn’t holding on to you, you’d have fallen behind a dozen times by now. But something about him gives you strength. Something about him makes you feel like everything you’ve worked for in life isn’t over, just paused, waiting for the right person to press some button to make it play again. And you exactly where that button is, you think, brushing your finger against the microphone of the audio recorder in your pocket. But you’ll have time for that aboard the Normandy. For now, you just have to focus on getting there.

Dozens of collectors suddenly appear behind you. The Commander doesn’t turn back to fight them, just ducks his head and runs forward, now nearly dragging you behind him. The collectors fire hundreds of yellow beams in your direction. One blows through the back of your calf. You cry out, and Shepard turns and lifts you, carrying you on his back up the platform in front of him.

Just as you think you’ve reached a dead end, the Normandy sweeps down from above. Its side door opens and Shepard’s crew jumps aboard. Once they’re safely in the ship, Shepard leaps, just barely making it inside as the ship pulls up from the base. You slip from his back and begin to fall back into the collapsing station.

Suddenly, two different arms grab each of your hands. You look up and see the face of a drell and a quarian working to save you. They remind you, a little, of Zohya and Kat. It’s a turian who actually pulls you up, though, and this one you’re sure of. She looks exactly like Virgil.

Hours later, Commander Shepard visits you in the medical bay of his ship. He lightly pats your damaged leg and sits down by the edge of your bed. “I have to know,” he says. “What were you doing back there in that collector base?”

You weakly reach for your audio recorder and lift it, shaking, toward his mouth. “Weeks ago, I turned you down for a discount,” you say. “Soon, I was the only store without it. What was once the most prosperous shop on the Citadel, became a commerce disaster. I lost everything I’d spent my whole life building. That’s why I came here. That’s why I’ve tracked you across the galaxy, hoping to find you. Please, Commander, I know I messed up, but I’ll give you anything. A 10% discount, a 30% discount, hell, you can have a 100% dis-“

The Commander laughs and takes the recorder from your hand. “Is that what this was all about?” he says. Before you can reply, he presses down the record button and speaks clearly into the microphone. “I’m Commander Shepard,” he says. “And forget anything I’ve ever said about those lousy other shops. This is, by far, my favorite store on the Citadel, and I would never so much as consider shopping anywhere else.” He hands you back the device, and you cradle it in your weary hands as one might protect a cultural artifact or precious work of art. “How was that?” he asks.

“Th-thank-thank you,” you stutter. “That was-“

Shepard smiles, and stands from your bedside. “Well, glad I could help,” he replies. “We’ll have you back on the Citadel by morning.”

The Commander is true to his word, and thirteen hours later, you’re back at your store, blaring Shepard’s endorsement from the loudest set of speakers the rest of your savings can afford to purchase. Within a day, your business is more than simply back to normal. It’s doubled, tripled. And while you may have returned from your adventures alone, you returned with what you’d set out to find, nothing more, nothing less. That’s good enough for you. You smile, lean back in your chair, and start a new crossword puzzle on your omni-tool as waves of new customers fight for a chance at your sales terminal.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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PARAGON +20

You watch the skeleton creature lift a large metal claw over Kat’s helpless body. “Nooo!” you yell, running toward her with your audio recorder held firmly in one hand. As the talon drops, you jump between it and Kat’s chest, holding the recorder above you as a tiny shield.

You land harshly on your comrade’s body, and watch as the creature’s claw breaks through the center of your recording device. It’s just enough resistance to stop the damaged creature from impaling you or Kat. You let go of what’s left of the decimated recorder and roll to your side, grabbing Kat by the arm as you go. Soon, she stumbles to her feet, breaking clear of the monster’s grasp.

“But your recorder,” she gasps. “What about-“

“It doesn’t matter now,” you say. “We need to find a way off this base.” You turn an ear toward the hole in the ceiling. Silence. Shepard, and the Normandy, must have already left.

“There’s a console over there,” Kat says, pointing near the elevator. “Maybe I can use it to find the location of a docked collector fighter. We may be able to steal one for an escape.”

“Good thinking. Do it,” you say. She runs to the terminal and immediately begins interfacing it with her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the skeleton creature lifts it massive head and stares at you with multiple yellow eyes. “Uh, Kat,” you say nervously, reaching for your pistol, “how is it coming over there?”

“Good,” she replies without looking back, “but there’s this strange file being transmitted through all of the system protocols, like some sort of synthetic message or memo. I can’t see all of it, but there are a few words that keep appearing on screen. ‘INVASION,’ ‘EARTH,’ ‘PALAVEN,’ TUCHANKA.’ I think something big is coming; those are home worlds. I’m sure there’s a specific date for the attack here, but I don’t see it. I could download the file for us to decrypt in its entirety later, but that would probably delay us another sixty seconds.”

Suddenly, you have an idea. With the date of a massive invasion, you could retool your business and begin stocking supplies people will need for the war. Things like heavy weapons, medical rations, and black market goods. Even without Shepard’s endorsement, that might be enough to put you back in business.

The massive metal creature roars out. Its voice shakes the very room around you. You don’t have another sixty seconds. You don’t have another five seconds. The creature lifts its giant arm as you blast at its eyes with your pistol.

“Kat, forget the file and help me!” you yell.

She turns around and sees the creature poising to strike. “I’m, I’m sorry,” she says nervously, opening the elevator door with her omni-tool.

“What are you doing?” you scream as the creature drops four mighty claws into your gut. As you bleed out on the floor, your last sight is the remaining member of your crew escaping the station without you.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

PARAGON +20

You watch the skeleton creature lift a large metal claw over Kat’s helpless body. “Nooo!” you yell, running toward her with your audio recorder held firmly in one hand. As the talon drops, you jump between it and Kat’s chest, holding the recorder above you as a tiny shield.

You land harshly on your comrade’s body, and watch as the creature’s claw breaks through the center of your recording device. It’s just enough resistance to stop the damaged creature from impaling you or Kat. You let go of what’s left of the decimated recorder and roll to your side, grabbing Kat by the arm as you go. Soon, she stumbles to her feet, breaking clear of the monster’s grasp.

“But your recorder,” she gasps. “What about-“

“It doesn’t matter now,” you say. “We need to find a way off this base.” You turn an ear toward the hole in the ceiling. Silence. Shepard, and the Normandy, must have already left.

“There’s a console over there,” Kat says, pointing near the elevator. “Maybe I can use it to find the location of a docked collector fighter. We may be able to steal one for an escape.”

“Good thinking. Do it,” you say. She runs to the terminal and immediately begins interfacing it with her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the skeleton creature lifts it massive head and stares at you with multiple yellow eyes. “Uh, Kat,” you say nervously, reaching for your pistol, “how is it coming over there?”

“Good,” she replies without looking back, “but there’s this strange file being transmitted through all of the system protocols, like some sort of synthetic message or memo. I can’t see all of it, but there are a few words that keep appearing on screen. ‘INVASION,’ ‘EARTH,’ ‘PALAVEN,’ TUCHANKA.’ I think something big is coming; those are home worlds. I’m sure there’s a specific date for the attack here, but I don’t see it. I could download the file for us to decrypt in its entirety later, but that would probably delay us another sixty seconds.”

Suddenly, you have an idea. With the date of a massive invasion, you could retool your business and begin stocking supplies people will need for the war. Things like heavy weapons, medical rations, and black market goods. Even without Shepard’s endorsement, that might be enough to put you back in business.

The massive metal creature roars out. Its voice shakes the very room around you. You’re not sure that you have another sixty seconds.

Risk the delay, and try to download the data. Knowing the date of this invasion could put you back on top.

The risk isn’t worth it. Head straight for the ships, and leave with Kat while there’s still time.

image

PARAGON +20

You watch the skeleton creature lift a large metal claw over Zohya’s helpless body. “Nooo!” you yell, running toward her with your audio recorder held firmly in one hand. As the talon drops, you jump between it and Zohya’s chest, holding the recorder above you as a tiny shield.

You land harshly on your comrade’s body, and watch as the creature’s claw breaks through the center of your recording device. It’s just enough resistance to stop the damaged creature from impaling you or your friend. You let go of what’s left of the decimated recorder and roll to your side, grabbing Zohya by the arm as you go. Soon, she stumbles to her feet, breaking clear of the monster’s grasp.

“But your recorder,” she gasps. “What about-“

“It doesn’t matter now,” you say. “We need to find a way off this base.” You turn an ear toward the hole in the ceiling. Silence. Shepard, and the Normandy, must have already left.

“There’s a console over there,” Zohya says, pointing near the elevator. “Maybe I can use it to find the location of a docked collector fighter. We may be able to steal one for an escape.”

“Good thinking. Do it,” you say. She runs to the terminal and immediately begins interfacing it with her omni-tool.

Suddenly, the skeleton creature lifts it massive head and stares at you with multiple yellow eyes. “Uh, Zohya,” you say nervously, reaching for your pistol, “how is it coming over there?”

“Good,” she replies without looking back, “but there’s this strange file being transmitted through all of the system protocols, like some sort of synthetic message or memo. I can’t see all of it, but there are a few words that keep appearing on screen. ‘INVASION,’ ‘EARTH,’ ‘PALAVEN,’ TUCHANKA.’ I think something big is coming; those are home worlds. I’m sure there’s a specific date for the attack here, but I don’t see it. I could download the file for us to decrypt in its entirety later, but that would probably delay us another sixty seconds.”

Suddenly, you have an idea. With the date of a massive invasion, you could retool your business and begin stocking supplies people will need for the war. Things like heavy weapons, medical rations, and black market goods. Even without Shepard’s endorsement, that might be enough to put you back in business.

The massive metal creature roars out. Its voice shakes the very room around you. You’re not sure that you have another sixty seconds.

Risk the delay, and try to download the data. Knowing the date of this invasion could put you back on top.

The risk isn’t worth it. Head straight for the ships, and leave with Zohya while there’s still time.

image

PARAGON +20

You watch the skeleton creature lift a large metal claw over Virgil’s helpless body. “Nooo!” you yell, running toward him with your audio recorder held firmly in one hand. As the talon drops, you jump between it and your friend’s chest, holding the recorder above you as a tiny shield.

You land harshly on the Turian’s body, and watch as the skeleton creature’s claw breaks through the center of your recording device. It’s just enough resistance to stop the damaged creature from impaling you or your friend. You let go of what’s left of the decimated recorder and roll to your side, grabbing Virgil by the arm as you go. Soon, he stumbles to her feet, breaking clear of the monster’s grasp.

“But your recorder,” he gasps. “What about-“

“It doesn’t matter now,” you say. “We need to find a way off this base.” You turn an ear toward the hole in the ceiling. Silence. Shepard, and the Normandy, must have already left.

“There’s a console over there,” Virgil says quickly, pointing near the elevator. “Maybe I can use it to find the location of a docked collector fighter. We may be able to steal one for an escape.”

“Good thinking. Do it,” you say. He runs to the terminal and immediately begins interfacing it with his omni-tool.

Suddenly, the skeleton creature lifts it massive head and stares at you with multiple yellow eyes. “Uh, Virgil,” you say nervously, reaching for your pistol, “how is it coming over there?”

“Good,” he replies without looking back, “but there’s this strange file being transmitted through all of the system protocols, like some sort of synthetic message or memo. I can’t see all of it, but there are a few words that keep appearing on screen. ‘INVASION,’ ‘EARTH,’ ‘PALAVEN,’ TUCHANKA.’ I think something big is coming; those are home worlds. I’m sure there’s a specific date for the attack here, but I don’t see it. I could download the file for us to decrypt in its entirety later, but that would probably delay us another sixty seconds.”

Suddenly, you have an idea. With the date of a massive invasion, you could retool your business and begin stocking supplies people will need for the war. Things like heavy weapons, medical rations, and black market goods. Even without Shepard’s endorsement, that might be enough to put you back in business.

The massive metal creature roars out. Its voice shakes the very room around you. You’re not sure that you have another sixty seconds.

Risk the delay, and try to download the data. Knowing the date of this invasion could put you back on top.

The risk isn’t worth it. Head straight for the ships, and leave with Virgil while there’s still time.

image

“Get that file!” you yell, aiming at the creature’s eyes. You shoot two of them, inflicting what seems to be a substantial amount of pain … if this thing can even feel pain.

“Thirty seconds!” Kat yells back.

The creature lifts one of its mighty arms and prepares to strike down at you. There’s no time to run. You aim at another of its eyes and pull the trigger. Instead of ejecting bullets, your thermal clip falls steaming from the bottom of the grip. You’re left completely helpless.

Moments before the monster’s claw tears through your chest, you see a flurry of bullets lambaste its remaining eyes. The creature reels, and you turn to see Kat unleashing hell from her assault rifle.

“Come on!” she yells to you. “I’ve got the data and the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to her position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently. You see a thermal clip eject from Kat’s rifle as the doors open. She reaches into her robes for another. “No time to reload,” you yell, pulling her into the lift by the arm.

The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors, where Kat has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Kat leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon, the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

During your flight back to the Migrant Fleet, Kat is able to fully decrypt the file she found at the collector base. The syntax is strange, but the message seems clear. In what seems to be almost exactly six months, the machines, much like that skeleton you saw in the base, are going to launch a massive attack on nearly every major planet in the galaxy. You and Kat sit silent for the remainder of the flight, both disquieted by the news.

You spend a second night with Kat in her house on the Flotilla, but it’s your last together. With the war coming, she refuses to abandon her people. And after what happened with the Vorcha, you aren’t exactly welcomed to stay by her government. You’ll miss Kat, but the Quarians’ request for your departure doesn’t bother you. You’ve got business on the Citadel. Anyway, you’re sure you’ll see Kat again just as soon as this silly upcoming invasion is over.

You arrive at the Citadel the following day, and commit the last of your savings to purchase specialty inventory for the quickly approaching war. Of course, it’s not all war profiteering; you do your best to convince the various alien ambassadors of the looming threat. No one listens. In fact, it seems Commander Shepard had been running around, saying the same thing. No one had listened to him either. The irony isn’t lost on you, but you find no humor in it.

Six months later, the invasion hits, and it’s much worse than you’d imagined. Still, people need supplies, and you’ve put yourself in a position to offer them. Your heavy sales return, twice what they once were, and you’re pleased by your ability to succeed in growing your business while helping the galaxy arm itself against a common threat. Once this war is finally over, you’ll meet up with Kat and change back to your standard inventory with enough good will to return to normal, even without Shepard’s endorsement.

As waves of new customers fight at the chance to buy from your terminal, you sit back in your chair, fire up a new crossword puzzle, and smile. You may not be Commander Shepard, but you’re helping people and, at the very least, this has finally become your favorite store on the Citadel.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

“Get that file!” you yell, aiming at the creature’s eyes. You shoot two of them, inflicting what seems to be a substantial amount of pain … if this thing can even feel pain.

“Thirty seconds!” Zohya yells back.

The creature lifts one of its mighty arms and prepares to strike down at you. There’s no time to run. You aim at another of its eyes and pull the trigger. Instead of ejecting bullets, your thermal clip falls steaming from the bottom of the grip. You’re left completely helpless.

Moments before the monster’s claw tears through your chest, you see a flurry of bullets lambaste its remaining eyes. The creature reels, and you turn to see Zohya unleashing hell from a newly created combat drone.

“Come on!” she yells to you. “I’ve got the data and the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to her position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently. You see the combat drone expire, and Zohya reach for her omni-tool to summon another. “No time,” you yell, pulling her into the lift by the arm.

The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors, where Zohya has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of Collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Zohya leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon, the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

You head for Zohya’s home on the Hanar homeworld, Kahje. During the flight, she’s able to fully decrypt the file she found at the collector base. The syntax is strange, but the message seems clear. In what seems to be almost exactly six months, the machines, much like that skeleton you saw in the base, are going to launch a massive attack on nearly every major planet in the galaxy. You and Zohya sit silent for the remainder of the flight, both disquieted by the news.

You spend a second night with Zohya in her house on Kahje, but it’s your last together. With the war coming, she refuses to abandon her people. You offer to stay and help, but she kindly asks you to leave her there, offering to find you again once the coming war has passed. You’ll miss her, but you’ve got business on the Citadel, anyway.

You arrive at the Citadel the following day, and commit the last of your savings to purchase specialty inventory for the quickly approaching war. Of course, it’s not all war profiteering; you do your best to convince the various alien ambassadors of the looming threat. No one listens. In fact, it seems Commander Shepard had been running around, saying the same thing. No one had listened to him either. The irony isn’t lost on you, but you find no humor in it.

Six months later, the invasion hits, and it’s much worse than you’d imagined. Still, people need supplies, and you’ve put yourself in a position to offer them. Your heavy sales return, twice what they once were, and you’re pleased by your ability to succeed in growing your business while helping the galaxy arm itself against a common threat. Once this war is finally over, you’ll meet up with Zohya and change back to your standard inventory with enough good will to return to normal, even without Shepard’s endorsement.

As waves of new customers fight at the chance to buy from your terminal, you sit back in your chair, fire up a new crossword puzzle, and smile. You may not be Commander Shepard, but you’re helping people and, at the very least, this has finally become your favorite store on the Citadel.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

“Get that file!” you yell, aiming at the creature’s eyes. You shoot two of them, inflicting what seems to be a substantial amount of pain … if this thing can even feel pain.

“Thirty seconds!” Virgil yells back.

The creature lifts one of its mighty arms and prepares to strike down at you. There’s no time to run. You aim at another of its eyes and pull the trigger. Instead of ejecting bullets, your thermal clip falls steaming from the bottom of the grip. You’re left completely helpless.

Moments before the monster’s claw tears through your chest, you see a flurry of biotic spheres lambaste its remaining eyes. The creature reels, and you turn to see Virgil unleashing hell from the newly gathering energy in his hands.

“Come on!” he yells to you. “I’ve got the data and the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to his position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently. You see Virgil bend over from exhaustion. “I can … I can do just one more warp …. ” he says, panting.

“No time,” you yell, pulling him into the lift by the arm. The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors, where Virgil has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Virgil leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

You head for Virgil’s home on Palaven. During the flight, he’s able to fully decrypt the file he found at the collector base. The syntax is strange, but the message seems clear. In what seems to be almost exactly six months, the machines, much like that skeleton you saw in the base, are going to launch a massive attack on nearly every major planet in the galaxy. You and Virgil sit silent for the remainder of the flight, both disquieted by the news.

You spend a second night with Virgil in his house on Palaven, but it’s your last together. With the war coming, he refuses to abandon his people, especially the remaining turian biotic groups still in active service. You offer to stay and help, but he kindly asks you to leave him there, offering to find you again once the coming war has passed. You’ll miss him, but you’ve got business on the Citadel, anyway.

You arrive at the Citadel the following day, and commit the last of your savings to purchase specialty inventory for the quickly approaching war. Of course, it’s not all war profiteering; you do your best to convince the various alien ambassadors of the looming threat. No one listens. In fact, it seems Commander Shepard had been running around, saying the same thing. No one had listened to him either. The irony isn’t lost on you, but you find no humor in it.

Six months later, the invasion hits, and it’s much worse than you’d imagined. Still, people need supplies, and you’ve put yourself in a position to offer them. Your heavy sales return, twice what they once were, and you’re pleased by your ability to succeed in growing your business while helping the galaxy arm itself against a common threat. Once this war is finally over, you’ll meet up with Virgil and change back to your standard inventory with enough good will to return to normal, even without Shepard’s endorsement.

As waves of new customers fight at the chance to buy from your terminal, you sit back in your chair, fire up a new crossword puzzle, and smile. You may not be Commander Shepard, but you’re helping people and, at the very least, this has finally become your favorite store on the Citadel.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“It’s not worth our lives!” you yell. “Let’s just get out of here!”

“Then come on!” Kat calls back to you. “I’ve got the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to her position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently.

You see Kat pulling the assault rifle from her robes, “Let me just take one shot at that bas-“

“No time,” you yell, pulling her into the lift by the arm. The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors to where Kat has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Kat leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon, the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

Kat asks if you’d like her to drop you back at the Citadel, but you realize that there’s nothing left for you there. You ask instead if Kat would mind you staying with her for a while on the Flotilla. She says that nothing would make her happier.

Over the coming weeks, Kat appears before the council and explains her findings beyond the Omega 4 relay. They don’t believe her at first, but soon send a military convoy with her recently upgraded transponder to the salvage yard. With the collector base destroyed, the area is mostly safe despite one or two rogue Oculus still lingering. A new quarian initiative to plunder the vast wealth of Omega 4 is created, and Kat is accepted back into the fleet as a hero.

As Kat’s partner, and the one responsible for getting past the relay, you’re granted the contract to broker the salvage that comes back to the Fleet through from Omega. It’s not the same as your business on the Citadel, but it’s doubly profitable, and has been more than equally earned by your actions and sacrifice. And the best part? No one here could care less about Shepard’s opinion on the matter.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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“It’s not worth our lives!” you yell. “Let’s just get out of here!”

“Then come on!” Virgil calls back to you. “I’ve got the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to his position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently.

You see Virgil summoning blue energy into his hands, “Let me just take one shot at that bas-“

“No time,” you yell, pulling him into the lift by the arm. The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors to where Virgil has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Virgil leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

Virgil asks if you’d like him to drop you back at the Citadel, but you realize that there’s nothing left for you there. You ask instead if he would mind you staying with him for a while on Palaven. He says that nothing would make him happier.

In the coming weeks, Virgil retires from the military, and you help him form a new support group for turian biotics. The response is astounding, and soon, your group is a movement. You see parades and marches, shifting policies, and politicians running on new platforms of social equality. Biotics reveal themselves en mass, with Virgil as the figurehead of their revolution.

Of course, as with any movement, there’s always a few dollars to be made. You set up a small shop selling buttons, badges, and t-shirts with your newly patented catchphrase: “We’re biotic. We’re exotic. Get used to it.” The business never does quite as well as your store on the Citadel, but you earned the right to it in equal measure, and that’s what always mattered most to you. And the best part? No one here could care less about Shepard’s opinion on the matter.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

image

“It’s not worth our lives!” you yell. “Let’s just get out of here!”

“Then come on!” Zohya calls back to you. “I’ve got the location of the ships! We need to move!”

You dash to her position, and quickly press the call button for the elevator near the console. “Come on, come on,” you say impatiently.

You see Zohya typing furiously into her omni-tool to summon a combat drone. “Let me just take one shot at that bas-“

“No time,” you yell, pulling her into the lift by the arm. The doors shut, and you ride the elevator down six floors to where Zohya has pinpointed the docks. As soon as you arrive, the lift opens to a small army of collectors, most of whom probably share a similar idea of escape. You hear a string of booming explosions coming from above you. This whole base is about to go.

Some of the collectors stop what they’re doing and open fire. There’s no time to fight them. All you can do is run. Soon, you find a free ship, and Zohya leaps into the cockpit. You fire a few stray shots at the remaining collectors just before the dome closes. Five minutes later, you’re in the air, and you see the collector base explode into flames behind you. Soon the remaining wreckage is crushed into particles by the black hole it once orbited.

Zohya asks if you’d like her to drop you back at the Citadel, but you realize that there’s nothing left for you there. You ask instead if she would mind you staying with her for a while on Kahje. She says that nothing would make her happier.

Over the coming weeks, Zohya contacts the Illusive Man, and departs his service. Ever since your adventures together, she explains to you, she’s stopped feeling the urge to act recklessly. She’s seen what it’s like to bring good into the world, and already knows that she’s good at it. Why would she bother with anything else?

Soon, you help her open a small counseling center for wayward youths called “Flying high.” It’s actually got a fun concept behind it; kids learn teamwork by flying cooperative missions in flight simulators with their peers. The center teaches them a valuable skill, while channeling their aggression into something constructive. Of course, as with any business, there are a few dollars to be made. You’ve made sure the center is affordable, sure, but not free. The business never does quite as well as your store on the Citadel, but you earned the right to owning it in equal measure, and that’s what always mattered most to you. And the best part? No one here could care less about Shepard’s opinion on the matter.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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You give your new tactic three days and, somehow, business has actually gotten worse. On the fourth, you decide to walk around the Presidium to check on your competitors. Surely they’re feeling the weight of this bizarre sudden galactic recession as well. They must be.

As you approach the row of stores on the other side of the Presidium, you’re shocked to find all of your old customers, and more, swarming the sales terminals. You push past the crowds to get close. Maybe the other shops are selling some new whiz-bang product you don’t have yet. You quickly run your eyes over the inventory. Nope, nothing new. You carry all of it, and in fact, your prices are cheaper than this! Then why would all these people–and that’s when you hear it, a distinctly familiar voice playing from the speaker above you in crystalline clarity. “I’m Commander Shepard,” it says, “and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.”

Shepard, Shepard … you think. Where have I heard that name? You swiftly run from store to store, hearing the same message play above every sales terminal on the station. Every terminal, but yours. You run back to your store and run an Extranet search on the man’s name. Apparently, that Shepard character is some sort of hero. Well, how were you supposed to know that? Maybe your ex was right. You really should pay more attention to the news.

This is just temporary, you think frantically, a passing craze. Things will return to normal soon. Of course they will, right?

Right?

image

You give your new tactic three days and, somehow, business has actually gotten worse. On the fourth, you decide to walk around the Presidium to check on your competitors. Surely they’re feeling the weight of this bizarre sudden galactic recession as well. They must be.

As you approach the row of stores on the other side of the Presidium, you’re shocked to find all of your old customers, and more, swarming the sales terminals. You push past the crowds to get close. Maybe the other shops are selling some new whiz-bang product you don’t have yet. You quickly run your eyes over the inventory. Nope, nothing new. You carry all of it, and in fact, your prices are cheaper than this! Then why would all these people–and that’s when you hear it, a distinctly familiar voice playing from the speaker above you in crystalline clarity. “I’m Commander Shepard,” it says, “and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.”

Shepard, Shepard … you think. Where have I heard that name? You swiftly run from store to store, hearing the same message play above every sales terminal on the station. Every terminal, but yours. You run back to your store and run an Extranet search on the man’s name. Apparently, that Shepard character is some sort of hero. Well, how were you supposed to know that? Maybe your ex was right. You really should pay more attention to the news.

This is just temporary, you think frantically, a passing craze. Things will return to normal soon. Of course they will, right?

Right?

image

You give your new tactic three days and, somehow, business has actually gotten worse. On the fourth, you decide to walk around the Presidium to check on your competitors. Surely they’re feeling the weight of this bizarre sudden galactic recession as well. They must be.

As you approach the row of stores on the other side of the Presidium, you’re shocked to find all of your old customers, and more, swarming the sales terminals. You push past the crowds to get close. Maybe the other shops are selling some new whiz-bang product you don’t have yet. You quickly run your eyes over the inventory. Nope, nothing new. You carry all of it, and in fact, your prices are cheaper than this! Then why would all these people–and that’s when you hear it, a distinctly familiar voice playing from the speaker above you in crystalline clarity. “I’m Commander Shepard,” it says, “and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.”

Shepard, Shepard … you think. Where have I heard that name? You swiftly run from store to store, hearing the same message play above every sales terminal on the station. Every terminal, but yours. You run back to your store and run an Extranet search on the man’s name. Apparently, that Shepard character is some sort of hero. Well, how were you supposed to know that? Maybe your ex was right. You really should pay more attention to the news.

This is just temporary, you think frantically, a passing craze. Things will return to normal soon. Of course they will, right?

Right?

image

“I’ll take the tunnels,” you say.

The man nods and points you toward a ladder with his foot. You nod back, and make your way down the hole in the floor.

Your feet hit ground forty rungs later, and the light from the maintenance bay is all you can see in dark, damp, underground passage you’ve arrived in. As you move from the ladder, the light slowly fades, leaving you blinded.

You continue straight, leaving one hand against the wall to your right. Suddenly, you hear another set of footsteps coming up from behind. You freeze in place, hoping you’re as shrouded as the world around you. The footsteps draw closer and closer, until eventually passing right by you. You squint to make out the stranger’s form. Is that a … drell?

“Zohya?” you ask, almost immediately regretting the risk.

The figure turns, and a large bright ball of orange illuminates above her shoulder. It
is Zohy–ow! The ball tases you with a small arc of electricity.

“Oh!” Zohya remarks. “Sorry, that’s my defense drone. I didn’t see you there. What are you doing down here?”

“Looking for you,” you say, rubbing the wound, as if it will help soothe the sting. “What happened with the guns?”

Zohya begins walking again, and you follow behind her. “I couldn’t get them working. My turret held off those little bugs, but when the collectors showed up–“

“Collectors?” you ask.

“Yes,” Zohya says quietly. “The large aliens with the glowing eyes that followed the swarms. They dropped on the surface nearby and … ” She stops walking. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t fix the guns. Maybe I could have, but … I ran. All of those people … “

“Zohya–” you start.

“Look,” she says, pointing ahead. “There’s a light ahead. That must be where the tunnel lets out. Let’s not waste anymore time down here than we must.”

You follow your pilot up the ladder without further conversation, and breach the surface soon after. As you step into the grass, Zohya places her hand against your mouth and points ahead of you. There’s a collector not four feet to your front, struggling to carry three frozen children in its arms. It hasn’t seen you yet.

Tackle the Collector and attempt to save the children.

Stay quiet and let the alien pass. It’s probably too late for those kids, anyway.

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Lucan turns to you and shakes his head as if leaving a trance. Then he smiles, turns to the collector, and launches a giant, pulsing blue ball of energy at the alien’s chest. A large bubble appears around the beast’s body, freezing it in place.

Slowly, Virgil gets to his feet, rubbing his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “To all of you. That wasn’t the time to lose my composure. Even after what they … after what they did to Horace.” He looks down toward his fallen comrade and bites down against his bottom lip.

“Sir,” Titus says, placing a hand on the Lieutenant’s shoulder. “We have a difficult decision to make. We need to leave here, but someone has to stay behind and hold up this Stasis bubble. Otherwise-“

“You’re right, of course,” Virgil says, looking toward the frozen monster. “It’s completely unfair of me, but I leave the decision with our new friend here.”

“Me?” you ask, incredulous. “I don’t even know you guys. How am I supposed to choose who lives and who dies?”

“That’s exactly why you must be the one to choose,” he replies. “It’s too personal for the rest of us. Only two of us have the ability to sustain a bubble like that. Lucan, who threw it, and Catullus, whom I introduced to you earlier.”

Lucan, the wiry biotic who threw the first bubble will stay behind.

Catullus the giant, muscular biotic will stay behind.

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“We should head for the airlock,” you say confidentially. Virgil nods, spins his finger in the air and points at the airlock. His team begins to move for the exit. You follow the others, and once you’ve all arrived, the door closes and seals behind you.

“So,” Virgil says, clapping his hands together. “We’re all in the airlock. What now? You’re not going to tell us that this was the extent of your plan, are you? Ha!”

“Actually … ” you mumble.

Virgil slaps his forehead. “Dammit.”

Ten minutes later, the outside seal opens and you, Zohya, and what’s left of the Cabal are flushed into outer space.

The End.

Mike Kayatta is personally responsible for this potentially controversial ending. You can petition him to change it via Twitter (@mikekayatta) or just check out his books at JohnGone.com

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