By Misfire Anon

The gun in his hand is past the label of ‘outdated’ and well on its way into the category called ‘antique’. He clutches it like a lifeline nonetheless. I am almost sorry. Then I remember all the choices he must have made during the life that dyed his hair grey and I am not sorry anymore. This is how such things go. Some are armed with Carnifexes and some with museum pieces. Obtain the former at all costs, if life’s what you value. The latter look nice next to your corpse.

I shoot off his left hand with ease. The armour there is as weak as ever. Humans have need of such brittle joints. Mobility, they say. A philosophy to be scorned. If you do not have the strength to lift the weight, and the will to carry it, you do not belong on the battlefield. Turians have the concept down solid as titanium and they mock the humans with their tetrachromatic eyes. They think I don’t know. That one across the warehouse, for instance. Thinks I didn’t find out about the nasty little surprise in the system, rigged to the door of Receiving. The surprise will be on him, I’m afraid. Species has a rather limited field of view for all that they value vision. Even Garrus, sometimes. Thinks I do not know what dreams stir behind that visor. But youth lays everything bare for the beholder, lest the beloved is drawn to the secrets darkly fair. The disappointment, again, will be his.

Even unhanded, the man still has some fight left in him. I hate that. I shoot off his right hand, easy as fish in a bucket. The ex-convict laughs. I smile right back. Other creatures may fear that woman. I see what she’s all about. Laughter and tears and pieces of a person too broken to put back together. Vengeful on the battlefield–and that’s all I need or will ever ask. I am not cruel to deny her the Citadel. She finds her catharsis in bloodshed and into bloodshed I will take her.

But in the end this is not about bloodshed, despite how the stumps, only partially cauterised, spurt blood at irregular intervals. This is about information. Why kill these few dozens when you can conquer millions with a word? He knows. That’s why he’s still fighting, poor, broken man. A noble streak for a fallen creature. We’ll just have to see how long it lasts.

-The kid’s not right in the head, they whisper. Doesn’t work with this ship. Or anywhere else. Yeah. The kid’s broken. Shepard’s dealing with it surprisingly well.

-Maybe she doesn’t know. Another interjects.

-Or doesn’t care. The retort comes quickly.

-Why did you do it? The caretaker asks. Her eyebrows are furrowed. Anxiety. Incomprehension. Anger. But beneath it all a horror that betrayed the rest.

-Fear. Pause for breath. Clarify. The integral of sine times cosine is negative one-half cosine squared. I wanted to see if animals could feel fear. The young commander-to-be coaxes the horror into the open, coaxes it from the depths of her eyes.

I shove the barrel in his face and pull the trigger. Didn’t last long. But still, it was quite the mistake to surrender an OSD with the code rather than beg for his life first. What stopped him? Pride? The same idiocy that led him to use the museum-piece pistol? I would have killed him anyway, certainly, but with what they call a heavier heart. All creatures want to live. The echo if that ancient longing would have resounded within me as well.

Bullets fly around us. A lifetime of battle has made me rather insensitive to that sort of thing, and besides, my shields can take it if their aim is not too good. Which it isn’t. I’m holding up the corpse of their leader by the throat for intimidation. Pleasing. They take the bait and lose accuracy. Garrus does not, as expected of him. Jack–she’s being herself. Accuracy has never been her concern. This is all a game to her. What is this for Garrus? Sometimes, when I listen, I can hear the murmur of incomprehension beyond the keen edge of his voice. He only talks as if he does not care about painting the walls with the blue blood of his kin.

I toss away the body and let loose a few rounds myself. Bursts of sound and light. A whiff of ionised air.

I will have to agree with Jack on this one. All of this — is a game. The only difference between us is that I can see the pixels.

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