Summary: This is the commentary for the work ‘Ark/Angel‘. If you haven’t read that story first, start there as there be spoilers ahead.

Ark/Angel was written as a sort of love letter to the Mass Effect franchise. Like most fans, I had my own vision of who Commander Shepard was and my own interpretation of the characters around her. Ever since Mass Effect 3 was released I have often envisioned how I would continue the story based around a personal canon.

In 2016 I wrote two short stories to explore the emotional inner lives of ‘my’ Garrus Vakarian and Commander Jane Shepard, and released them quietly on Archive of Our Own. Although I have my own original work and a day job, I still sometimes thought about the versions of those characters which existed in my own head. A story eventually emerged in 2020 which was Ark/Angel, my own continuation of Mass Effect. I sat on the story for a full year, not wanting to release it without illustrations, but bogged down by other commitments (namely, the many other personal and professional creative projects which take priority).

When the time was right, I at last set to work on the illustrations. I could have created them in 2D using pencil or digital art, but as always I was drawn to 3D and the power that it offers. Thus, I chipped away at 3D modelling, texturing and rigging Garrus and Shepard whenever I could find the time. I’ve certainly learned something from the process of creating these 3D models, and being what they are, they are now reusable assets that now can be used to develop countless other illustrations for additional stories.

Garrus’ look at the end of the story, after Shepard has gifted him a brand new set of armor.
Garrus’ final look, sans armor.
Garrus’ outfit during the beginning and middle of the story. I was inspired by the look of his C-Sec uniform when he is first encountered way back in Mass Effect 1.

On the subject of the Ark/Angel story itself, I placed Garrus as the focal character. The short story ‘Blue Skies’ explores his relationship with Shepard at the outset, and I was drawn to following more of his journey after the events of the war. Garrus is strong and brave, but with tremendous reservoirs of vulnerability, at least how I write him. In Mass Effect, Garrus is introduced as a guy who believes strongly in justice and in having a moral code, but he doesn’t necessarily give a damn about the rules. I consider him a foil to the paragon Commander Shepard (certainly to my Shepard), who is by-the-book and dislikes having to leverage being a Spectre to get her way.

Even in Mass Effect 2, during which Commander Shepard is forced to join forces with terrorist organization Cerberus, she is clearly uncomfortable at doing so. She even readily accepts imprisonment by the Alliance for her actions (including the unfortunate events of the Arrival DLC). Once again, this puts her in contrast with Garrus who, during Mass Effect 2, had a vendetta against a former associate. He was so consumed with anger that he would have gunned down his opponent in the middle of a crowded street. Only paragon Commander Shepard’s intervention can prevent this.

In Ark/Angel, I wanted to push this difference of perspective further with the two characters. My Commander Shepard, ever the Council loyalist and wanting to obey the rules, does not make use of the considerable authority at her disposal to rescue her marooned crew. I believe that Garrus, had he been in her position, would have absolutely come to her rescue and damn the consequences.

I think both perspectives are morally justified, and ultimately the arc for both characters is to finally reach a point of balance. Shepard realises her inflexibility puts the people she cares about at a distance, and Garrus finally resolves the lingering insecurities he has concerning their relationship. At the end of the story, I imagine that the two will recover the rest of the Normandy crew and move on to other adventures in the milky way together.

Commander Shepard’s look during the story. The armor features both the N7 logo and the Spectre logo on the pauldron.