ShiverShiver and AmazinglyVivid
Had to be me. Someone else would have gotten it wrong.
Now go back and get the lieutenant and get the hell out of here, you know it's the right choice LT.
Shepard. Shepard. Shepard Commander.
Does this unit have a soul?
Shepard. Shepard. Shepard... Sheeepard... Sheeepaaard... Shepardshepardshep-
Joana was on her feet almost before her eyes were open. Staring down the barrel of her executioner pistol, she expected a husk, a cannibal, or Kai Leng with that damned smirk and a sword still dripping with Thane's blood. But all that she saw was an empty room. No one was there but her fish and her sleeping hamster. Because there are no more husks, she reminded herself, allowing her trembling body to fall back onto her bed. No more husks, no more cannibals. Kei Leng was dead before he hit the ground, and his body was blown into a thousand pieces. There is no Cerberus, no reapers. No war. But every part of her screamed its protest. The adrenaline pumping through her veins, the echoes of dying screams in her ears, the awful smell of burning flesh that still burned her nostrils, they all demanded that she be ready for the enemy who would be storming the room at any moment. She let out a heavy sigh, took a look at the gun in her hand, and tossed it to the other side of her bed. Eyes clenched shut, she ran a hand through her red, sweat-soaked hair and took a few deep breaths.
"Commander Shepard?" So, that part hadn't been a dream, after all. For a moment Joana scanned the room, looking for EDI's old body before remembering that it, like so much else in her life, had been a casualty of the decision that she'd had no right to make. It was thanks only to the AI's pre-planning that her very consciousness hadn't become another statistic. Her eyes eventually settled on the blue hologram of the sphere across the room, at the entrance to her small captain's cabin.
"Yes, EDI?" Joana acknowledged, this time planting her feet firmly on the ground before standing up.
"We have an incoming call from Admiral Hackett." EDI seemed almost to pause, as a human might when taking a breath.
"Put him on," Joanna prompted, crossing to the other side of her cabin, towards her personal restroom. She stopped and looked over to the blue sphere when the message did not immediately play.
"Shepard, you told Dr. Chakwas that your nightmares had ceased. But my temperature and heart rate readings indicate that-"
"The admiral, EDI," Joana interrupted, tone more curt than the AI was used to; more curt than anyone would be used to hearing from the commander. There was a pause, as if EDI might press the matter, but it ended as soon as it began and Admiral Hackett's voice soon sounded through the intercom.
"Commander Shepard, I understand that you're still in the Hourglass Nebula?" The admiral questioned. Taking a quick stock of her disheveled and altogether unprofessional appearance, Joana felt a rush of relief that they were not on video call.
"Yes, sir. Why? What's the problem?"
"Your work protecting Alliance interests in the Terminus Systems over the last few months had been extremely admirable, and I was not going to issue you further instructions until you requested them. However, if my sources are correct, you may be able to apprehend two of the most dangerous criminals in the cluster," Hackett explained. "It seems that, somewhere in the Ploitari System, two pirate ships have turned on each other. One you are familiar with; captained by the batarian Karek, the New Erszbat has raided several Alliance supply ships, and mercilessly executed their crews. As for the other, our best efforts have not even garnished us a name. At any rate, our unknown ship seems to have docked on the New Erszbat. This situation gives you the perfect oppurtunity to slip in and capture both captains. Do you understand?"
"Good. Stopping these two from pillaging the system is more important than taking then into custody. Use lethal force if necissary. Keep me posted. Hackett out." The com went silent.
"EDI, tell Joker to plot a course for the Ploitari System," Joana ordered, unzipping the N7 hoodie that she'd taken to wearing to bed.
"At once," came the quick, almost disheartened response, and again the commander was alone. She frowned at the spot from her friend's primary physical manifestion had vanished. That was the third time over the course of the last two weeks that she'd been rude to EDI in such a way. Guilt, an emotion more familiar to her now than her very name, settled into her stomach. Once she stepped out those doors she was polite as could be, but the unfortunate AI too often caught Joana before she'd had the chance to compose herself. Before she'd had the chance to look herself dead in the eye and promise herself that the war was over, that it had all been worth it, and that the universe needed her to calm and in control more than she needed the odd joy that came from expressing one's unhappiness in life.
Shepard took a quick shower, then dressed herself in the red and black armor that had been made in imitation of the set which had protected her into the jaws of hell itself. After, she instructed EDI to ensure that Tali, Garrus, and James were all geared up and ready for battle.
"Uh, Shepard, I think we've found our space battle," Joker's voice came over the intercom, accentuated by a tremor that nearly shook the commander off of her balance.
"I'm on my way down."