From the Crow's Nest
Thanks to The Lonely Traveler, my dear Beta. You have my gratitude.
The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.
- Richard Bach
Earth was on fire.
If the Armageddon in the Book was real, this would have been it. The enormous machines came from the sky. Their powerful lasers burned and destroyed everything in its wake. On the ground, hordes of monsters charged in. Human tried to fight back, but there were too many.
Swaying, and then falling, the feed was cut just a few seconds after a husk grabbed the cameraman. Still, the last thing it caught was the horrible sound from the machines. It was the horrid voice of the horn of the Reapers.
At another location, Commander Amala Shepard turned her face away from the screen in rage. Same as James, she didn't want to leave Earth. But Anderson was right. They couldn't win this war without the help from the other species in the galaxy.
She came asking for help from the council. Well, perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised. Three years ago, she told them about Sovereign and they didn't believe her until it hit the Citadel. About two years later, she told them about the Collectors, and they ignored it. How could she have expected them to be helpful this time?
Damn. That day she sacrificed a whole fleet of Alliance soldiers to save their asses. And all they repaid them with was a seat for a human councilor. Shepard chose Anderson as councilor until he decided to step down. However, the seat still didn't give humans much of an advantage.
To her surprise, Udina sided with her. That arrogant bastard always was a pain in the ass but this time, he tried to convince the council to send help to Earth. She still didn't trust him, though.
She had the schematics for the Crucible: the Prothean's weapon that might help them defeat the Reapers, but it wasn't enough for the council.
The Crucible... Shepard bit her lip in frustration. They got the data from Mars but almost lost the man she loved in the process. Now, he was unconscious in Huerta hospital and no one was certain he would pull through.
No, don't cry, she told herself. Commander Shepard couldn't show her weakness in public. Gnashing her teeth, Shepard walked toward the airlock that connected to the Normandy.
"Commander Shepard?" a small voice called her from behind.
Quickly, the Commander spun around. She saw a very thin and pale woman. The face wasn't familiar, but at least she didn't look like another Conrad Verner.
"What can I help you with?" Commander Shepard replied. People seemed to think Commander Shepard was running some kind of service business. But, she tried to stay polite.
Looking around as if she feared to be seen, the woman thrust something in her hand. "Cargo bay number E3. If the guard asks you anything, just tell him 'butterfly'. Please, go there as soon as possible."
Shepard tried to protest but the mysterious woman left so quickly. She looked down at the OSD in her hand and gasped in shock when she took a good look at it.
The logo on it was Cerberus.
Should I go? The question swirled in her mind. This could be a trap.
If it's a trap, they wouldn't use Cerberus' logo. Another side of her mind disagreed. But, that woman was really desperate.
After thinking for a moment, Shepard decided to go, but she wasn't going there alone.
"There's no cargo bay number E3, Shepard," Liara told her. "They shut that place down after Sovereign's attack."
"That means it's a good place to hide something." Shepard walked into the elevator and chose their destination. Almost three years since she hadn't stepped foot in the wards. And somehow she missed her old companions, Ashley and Kaidan and wished they were there with her.
The cargo bay was in the lower ward that had been shut down for years. So it was in ruin despite the keeper's attempt to restore it. Shepard had to hack the door.
As soon as it hissed opened, a familiar turian pointed his gun at them. However, he lowered it down when he realized who she was.
"Commander Shepard," he didn't look so surprised.
"Sidonis, I thought you would never return here?"
About a year ago, she saved his life from Garrus' grudge. That time he swore to disappear, but here he was.
"I had to." The turian glanced another way for a second. Although it was hard to read the turian's expression, Shepard could tell he was in trouble. "I knew you would come but... One can't be too careful. Tell me; what's the caterpillar calls the end of the world?"
What an odd question? The Commander might not have been able to think of the answer if that woman hadn't told her.
"Butterfly," Shepard replied.
He sighed, either out of relief or regret, she didn't know. "I know you have so many questions, but you should meet someone first."
Inside the old cargo was a ton of junk. Some were empty barrels. Sidonis opened one of those and then a little girl crawled out. Very gently, the turian helped her stand and led her by the hand to Shepard.
Shy, or perhaps out of fear, the girl hid behind her guard as she was looking at the visitors. Shepard couldn't take a good look at her until Sidonis gently pushed the girl toward her.
"Goddess..." Liara exclaimed as she saw that face. She stared at the Commander and the girl repeatedly to make sure her eyes hadn't deceived her.
The timid, frightened, and nervous girl that was staring at them almost looked like a miniature version of Shepard. But her eyes were warm brown instead of bright green. Her wavy hair was darker than Shepard's dark-brown.
Her legs gave in, Shepard fell on her knees. Still, her hands reached out to hold the girl. When the little one finally yielded to her embrace, the badass Commander couldn't hold her tears anymore.
"Mommy," that wasn't a question. It seemed the girl knew who she was.
"Yes, I'm your mommy." At least that's what her instinct told her. "But how...?"
"There's no time to talk," Sidonis chimed in. "Take Butterfly out of here before Cerberus finds out. They're after her since she was in Marian's womb."
"Didn't Marian give you something? Everything you want to know is inside it. Just take Butterfly and leave, don't make Marian's sacrifice in vain."
He was going to leave, but Butterfly grabbed him. "Sid.."
Shepard couldn't say she knew much about the turian, but Sidonis was tender when he wiped the tear from Butterfly's cheeks.
"I have to go now, my star. Please stay safe for all of us." She was about to cry, but bit her lower lip to suppress it. "Spirit will always protect you."
"I won't forget you, ever." Through tears, Butterfly promised.
"Then I'll be with you forever. Now go, and don't look back." It was a sad smile, but somehow a satisfied one.
Still confused, but Shepard did as she was told. She carried the girl out the door while Liara watched her back. And as soon as the door shut tight, they heard an explosion within the abandoned cargo bay.
"Why... Why did he?" the asari asked.
There was no answer. There was no sound other than Butterfly in Shepard's arms crying.
Note: The chapter's name came from Thai's classic lullaby: the cuckoo. The song is about a cuckoo that laid her egg in the crow's nest. Of course, the crow thought that little bird was hers, so she raised the little cuckoo as her own. By the way, the song didn't end well. The hunter captured both of them and cooked them for his dinner.