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There's a little boy at the start of the game, hiding in a vent. He magically disappears soon after, then you see him about to be killed by a Reaper's laser. Later still you see him in some nightmares.

Who is this kid? Is he part of Shepard's imagination? A product of stress and or psychological trauma? Is he an actual human?

He's clearly some manner of symbolism, but I wonder if there's any evidence pointing to whether he's real ora psychological construct.

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Pretty he's just a random boy. It adds depth as it shows the emotional side of the story. – deutschZuid Mar 10 '12 at 9:41
That little boy is also seen at the very start of the game's intro, playing with a toy Normandy on a roof garden below Shephard's apartment's window. – GAThrawn Mar 12 '12 at 16:13
something that will blow your mind – l I Mar 29 '12 at 16:10
I swear, all the people that think that vent boy is some kind of complicated reaper tool right from the beginning have just never seen Contact. Also, are all really, really dumb. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 4 '12 at 18:18
@BenBrocka I mainly wanted an excuse to link that scene from Contact. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 4 '12 at 19:34

Actually, I have another theory (and it is heavily backed on the ME novel) Anyone who read "Mass Effect: Retribution" knows what I'm talking about. (it tells about events that happens between me2 and me3)

In ME3 (game) there are small references to Paul Grayson and Cerberus experiences on indocrination (as far I can remember, these references appear when you are talking to Anderson about Kahlee Sanders and when you hit Sanctuary - the biotic academy and Kai Leng appears in the book as well).

During the first chapters, Cerberus uses Paul Grayson as a test subject for indocrination (probably he was the first attempt of Cerberus to better understand this process). After being "processed", the narrative says that Grayson fights against the "Reaper mind" trying to control him. He eventually succumbs and begins to fear that "they" [the reapers] start to read his memories (which actually happens later on). Although not in control of his body, he could see and experience everything the reapers were doing with him.

Ok. Based on this, I believe the boy that Shepard encounter during the attack on earth is REALLY a boy. After his death, he becomes a symbol of Shepard's inability of saving everything he fought for (this explains his nightmares).

In the end, when he uses the light beam to enter the Citadel I believe Shepard is somehow indocrinated (but he is in the very early stages of the process - Saren was indocrinated in a similar way). This becomes clear when the Illusive Man takes control of both Shepard and Anderson (although it's not clear how the control is seized... - TIM biotic powers or control over synthetic bodies) in the Catalyst inner chamber. The ghost boy he sees after the Crucible's activation is actually an illusion the reaper's are creating into Shepard's mind (after reading his memories). Using the symbol of his fragility to make him act on their behalf. All endings appears to result in a bad scenario. Most people keep pointing that the "perfect ending" is the one that Shepard survives. But, according to my theory, this is the WORST scenario.. And why is that? If Shepard was being indocrinated and survived, the reapers achieved their objective and persisted in our hero's body.

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So far as I know, he's just a boy. Him showing up in Shepard's nightmares is indicative of Shepard's guilty feelings over leaving Earth, and all the stress he/she is under.

As for the end, when the Catalyst takes the kid's form, I'm thinking it's just a construct, an image taken from Shepard's mind so that there's something familiar for our hero to interact with.

Basically, I think he's just symbolism, but it's possible I'm wrong and all the indoctrination theory people are right! @tomblue above has a good theory, too.

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Indoctrination Theory has now been disproved by extended cut dlc, sorry to knock your hopes down – CerberusN61 Jul 11 '14 at 4:15
I wouldn't say my hopes were up at that time, just that in April of 2012 the ending was arguably ambiguous and Indoctrination Theory wasn't out of the realm of possibility. My speculation here, based on the data we had at the time, was just what I said (that he's a just kid when we first meet him), not that Indoctrination Theory was right or anything. – jordie3000 Jul 12 '14 at 7:58
By ambiguous, do you mean something to explain those plot holes with no excuse but lazy developers? – CerberusN61 Jul 24 '14 at 13:43
Essentially! MAN I wish the script hadn't been leaked. – jordie3000 Jul 25 '14 at 18:09
Definitely, we probably would of got a much much better ending than this EA excuse – CerberusN61 Aug 27 '14 at 6:13

Here's my theory:

I have a feeling that boy is a hallucination, due to Shepards constant contact with reapers or reaper artifacts he may have been indoctrinated or Harbinger is trying to... Heres my evidence: if theres a petition going on about the ending I want this to be correct. Shepard wakes up still in London right before the beam. Just think : How did the illusive man get to the beam? Where did shepards squadmates go and why are they on the normandy flying away from the battle?
Sgt. Cortes (or whatever he is called) clearly states no one made it to the beam, yet how did he not see Shepard and Anderson go through? While talking with the boy (catalyst) you can still hear gunfire how when your the only thing alive on the citadel? The boy must be the reapers way to control shepards emotions and try to get him to control or synthesize the galaxy so that the Reapers are still alive and kicking.

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The illusive man was in the citadel before the Reapers moved it – juan Apr 9 '12 at 23:43
Again, Indoctronation Theory is Invalid. – CerberusN61 Jul 24 '14 at 13:44

It is never explicitly stated, but the game's ending may give you an idea. Spoiler:

The intelligence behind the Reapers and the extinction cycles appears as a shimmering visage of that boy. Whether it's just trolling or is actually related to that boy is up in the air.

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I'd really love to know what the problem with my answer is. It provides all the information is and doesn't derail into a theory rant. – kotekzot Apr 4 '12 at 20:08

End game spoiler:

He's the catalyst at the end of the game.

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protected by LessPop_MoreFizz Mar 28 '12 at 20:45

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