In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so paranoid, but how was I to know at the time? The Reapers had been destroyed, nobody close to me has been confirmed dead, and a few people who I thought dead were simply hiding. Thane I could understand; He’d always been ridiculously secretive, so his staying alive despite the whole “Kai-Leng-Death-Sword-Impalement” wasn’t too much of a shocker.
It was Ashley that got to me most. If she had survived Virmire (which by itself was already hard to believe), why hadn’t she got into contact the Alliance? And if she had, why hadn’t Shepard been alerted?
Not only that, but the Crucible went off without a hitch. All the Reapers just shut off, with hardly any collateral damage whatsoever. No nearby friendly ships were destroyed, the Reaper corpses didn’t cause indoctrination anymore from what I’ve heard (I mean, nobody had started worshiping the things yet), and the only real damage that was caused was any casualties or smashed buildings from the Reapers toppling over.
Things were going a bit to swimmingly, and things never went swimmingly.
Ashley chatted with me for a moment, hugged me, then went off to a booth, but I still hadn’t quite understood any of this. None of the obvious questions came to mind, like: “How did you escape Virmire?” or “Where the hell have you been these last three years?”
I looked around and saw Thane too, the man who supposedly died in front of Shepard’s eyes; and everyone here is someone I never really counted on seeing again, either from being believed dead, or simply having really low survival odds in the fight against the Reapers.
Everything around me moved as in a blur, and all the familiar voices sounded like buzzing in my head. I decided it might be time to go see if this bar had anything to drink that wouldn’t kill me.
As it turned out, he did, though it was one of the lighter alcohols, the kind you had to drink the whole bottle to get drunk on. But I took my victories where I could find them. I took my bottle and moved over to my own booth, well away from all the hustle bustle.
As I began to try to drink myself under the table with sweet turian wine, I couldn’t shake the one thought from my head that had me struggling to keep from shaking:
This feels wrong.
I had set my omnitool to direct me to the bar that Vega mentioned, but apparently the device hadn’t figured out that a good chunk of London was now rubble, so it kept guiding me to toppled buildings that the omnitool swore were streets. So it took me a little while to find the place.
When I got there… I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the building was only half intact, with most of the roof gone, though what little there was left was hanging over the bar. Compared to all the destruction I saw throughout the rest of the city however, the place looked downright cozy.
A few members of “the gang” were already there. I knew we wouldn’t get them all though. Grunt and Wrex were busy on Tuchanka, Javik was somewhere in the Terminus, Tali was on Rannoch, and I had no idea where the rest were. Though when I got there, I saw someone I thought I’d seen the last of; an old friend that by all rights should be dead.
I thought I had finally lost it.
"Ashley?" I said. I’m sure the shock was obvious in my voice, but as for my face, I’ve heard humans have a hard time reading the face of a turian.
"What the hell…You are Ashleyright, not just some human who looks an awful lot like her?"
From what I have heard, Earth never had a central government. It was made up of autonomous countries, each governing themselves, some well, some not so well. Not like Palaven, where the Turian Hierarchy controlled the entire planet, realizing that divisions among it’s people were weaknesses to be used by their enemies.
The Humans however, they had several major countries on their homeworld, each deferring to the Alliance in regards to military matters. Whereas other species could potentially use the Human’s patriotism against them, their culture is so diverse as a result that I would almost consider it worth it.
As another result, Earth had several centers of population. Palaven’s capitol, Cipritine, had been the most heavily populated area on the planet, so most of the absolute carnage that the Reapers unleashed was unleashed there. On Earth, however, there were so many population centers before the Reapers hit; London, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, San Paolo, Moscow, Shanghai, Istanbul, and countless others.
London is beginning to rebuild, but for the most part it still lays in ruins. Most of the major landmarks were razed, but a few still remain. Buckingham Palace, most notably.
I realize I’ve been speaking of Palaven and Earth in the past tense, like they no longer exist. I can’t do that. They are still here, still capable of being rebuilt.
But it will never be the same. Not for me. Not for Solana.
Not for Shepard.