► death is the fate of all life. we only shorten the way.
at first, Torfan is just another name. another place. another word on a mission brief Shepard barely listens to over the sound of his rising ire, hands curling into clammy fists at his side. he stands awkwardly, his armour is too heavy for his young shoulders, and it doesn’t fit him properly either.
it’s not meant to.
Shepard’s too young. he’s too brash, too bold, too bright, and Torfan will turn his hope into a weapon for hands that don’t know how to pray. his superiors know that. his superiors don’t look him in the eye when they walk past.
he knows how to hold a gun, and that’s all that matters.
his boots hit the ground along with everybody else’s, and it’s like any other mission. eyes forward, shoulders straight, finger on the trigger. one foot in front of the other, kicking up dust that makes him choke.
(it’s not the dust.)
the cloud of red dissipates long enough for a scream to sound, the first of too many, and Shepard steps over the first body on the ground.
one foot in front of the other.
cold sweat beads at the back of his neck and his stomach rolls with nausea. the stench is iron and seared skin, the sound is hollow screams and death-rattles, the sight is dead-eyed marines looking up at him from the red ground they’re calling a grave. Shepard clamps his mouth shut on a whimper, and locks his sights on the pleading faces of batarians dug into trenches and bunkers that they call home.
he pulls the trigger, and he doesn’t think twice.
(this is their home–)
he thinks more than twice.
(this is mindless slaughter–)
he thinks too much.
(this is your fault–)
when he stops next, Shepard takes a burning breath, lungs pulled excruciatingly tight. he looks around, and finds frightened, human eyes staring back at him.
they’re looking at him. they’re waiting for orders. their chain of command is dead. it’s just him, now.
Shepard reloads his gun slowly and surely, and wills the last of his humanity to leave him be. they came here to complete a mission, and he’s not leaving until it’s done.
“no turning back. we hunt them down. they’ve got nowhere to go.” Shepard tells them coldly, and a chill runs down his spine when they all turn like mindless dogs to the slaughter, and bare their bloody teeth. “not one single soul gets to live another day when those children on Elysium didn’t.”
it’s over. the ground is red, the sky is red, his hands are red. Shepard sees nothing but red, and it stains him to the bone.
this was a massacre.
there was nothing honorable about the sacrifice of his entire platoon, nothing honorable about the slaughter of hundreds of batarians, even when they surrendered.
nothing is going to wipe those pleading screams from his mind, playing like a broken record that scratches on an endless loop. nothing is going to stop them calling him the Butcher of Torfan. nothing is going to wash the blood out of this ground.
Shepard knows that.
he sits, alone, waiting for the evac shuttle, thinking of what he’s going to say.
no apology, no remorse, no single shred of regret expressed would ever begin to make up for what he’s done. Shepard looks up, staring bleakly out into a black sky. was it always this dark? not even one pinprick of distant light shines back.
do the stars know how to mourn? maybe this is their grief, spilled out like a shroud. maybe this is their sorrow, for every life snuffed out like a flame that never grew brighter.
maybe the stars do know how to mourn, and maybe that is why they grow dark: because Shepard doesn’t know how to.