|Mass Effect: Iron Rebirth
Author: Mashadar PM
Killed in action, Shepard is deemed lost to all save those who run Project Lazarus. But when betrayal strikes well before the Project is near completion, only one option is left to save him. An experimental brain to machine transplant. The Iron Rebirth.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Drama - Shepard (M) - Chapters: 12 - Words: 140,180 - Reviews: 175 - Favs: 316 - Follows: 282 - Updated: 07-14-12 - Published: 04-15-10 - id: 5898628
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't own Mass Effect, Bioware does. Credit goes to SteamedBun for providing the initial concept of a different sort of Shepard with his story, but aside from the starting concept, the remainder of this particular one is my take on it, keeping in mind the original Bioware plot points. If you want to read SteamedBun's story, you can go here:
http: //www. fanfiction .net/s/5785095/1/Commander_Shepard_Ymir_Mech
Otherwise, read on.
Chapter 01: Complications
Activation Protocol 12.0.02
Initiating primary boot sequence...
Optical Data Storage integrity check...complete
Command processes online
*IFF database update received*
*External Sensors online*
*Unknown Audio #1* "-sure about this? We didn't even test the neural links for stability."
*Unknown Audio #1. Human. Male. Warning. IFF Corrupted. Target #1 Designated.*
*Warning. Weapons discharge detected*
*Unknown Audio #2* "No time! We're dead either way if we don't do this!"
*Unknown Audio #2. Human. Male. Weapon detected. Warning. IFF Corrupted. Target #2 Designated.*
*Threat response protocols online*
*Booting secondary priority protocols*
*Target #1 Audio:* "Goddamnit it's on automatic! He's not awake yet! Get out! Get-"
*Target #1 terminated. Cycling targets. Firing-*
COMMAND OVERRIDE SIGMA
He woke to the sounds of gunfire and screaming. Instinct took over, and he dived for cover away from the gunfire. What he didn't expect was to crash into the wall with the screech of tortured bulkheads threatening to give way. The shock lasted for a moment, and he was back on his feet. It took him longer than he expected, his limbs didn't seem to want to respond as smoothly as he commanded. It took a few abortive tries before he was back on his feet, looking for the gunman. It had come from right next to him. A quick scan of the room revealed a pair of corpses, their bodies still twitching with the last spasm of life, but no one else. Had he? No. He didn't feel the weight of a gun in his hand. Or his hand. He looked down.
Instead of familiar digits, there was gleaming white armor plate. Rivets. Thick slabs of steel where his feet should be. Blocky, angular limbs and chest plates, all armored at rigid angles that would never fit around a human arm. A small printed emblem proudly proclaiming Arakure Weapons manufacture. Twin autocannons. His hand. He clenched a ghostly fist in surprise, and a hail of flechettes roared out of the autocannons, cratering the wall ahead. He let go and the storm stopped with a hiss, the weapons venting their accumulated heat in a cloud of hot steam. He caught his reflection on a piece of polished pipe. An unblinking monocular sensor pod glared back at him.
A machine. Two arms, two legs. All machine. He was a mech. And obviously not a synthetic personal assistant either. Who shot those people was pretty obvious now. He was... servos quietly whined as he brought his other arm, a rocket launcher judging by the weapon's size, to look at. Who was he?
"-der Shepard, can you hear me?"
He didn't hear it, but it was there, a female voice suddenly in his memory. Surprising as it was, the name struck him harder. Shepard. Yes. The confusion slipped away. He was Alexander Shepard... and he remembered choking on the hard vacuum of space as the last of his air leaked out through his damaged suit. If he wasn't trapped in some horrible nightmare, he could guess what had happened after the blackness claimed him. Not the most comforting of conclusions. But there was the voice to answer to. It made ignoring that one important question much easier.
"YES" The booming voice was harsh, metallic, but it was better than being mute. "IDENTITY. LOCATION."
"No time to explain. You need to get out of there. The whole station is overrun. I'm uploading the coordinates to you now."
Shepard didn't hear anything like before, but he could recall the words clear as day. A moment later, a fresh memory landed on top of that. A map layout, and a marked exit. It was very disconcerting. He would have demanded more answers of the voice when the door leading out of the room exploded, sending debris flying everywhere. Gunfire roared through the smoking portal, catching Shepard in the open before he could dive for cover in his new, cumbersome form. Bullets sparked off his kinetic barriers, and he responded in kind. The first autocannon's roar went high, harmlessly chewing away at the bulkhead as the first intruder, a human sized mech, pushed past the smoke, gun blazing. Shepard would have cursed his body's clumsiness, fighting the way it lagged as he brought the weapon to bear on the machine, hostile shots sparking off his kinetic barriers. This time his aim was true, shredding the mech and its two companions that had just entered under a withering hail of armor piercing flechettes.
More mechs lay outside the hallway where they had intercepted his fire. They were smaller, more human shaped than his current form. Looking at them brought another alien memory to mind. These were LOKI security mechs, it seemed to say. Light weapons, light armor, but equally capable of killing as any soldier. Another one stepped through the door, droning a canned message about not resisting as its machine pistol chattered angrily, right into Shepard's field of fire. Another short burst from his autocannon tore it apart and sent it flying out the door. Crushing the fallen mech under his feet on the way out, something in the room caught his attention and he turned around to focus on it. He had been wrong with his earlier count. There were three bodies. The other was covered in a plastic wrap.
Clumping over to the covered body, he eyed the array of machines it was hooked up to, silent where they weren't smoking, sparking pieces of debris. He recognized a few of them as life support machines, the others were completely alien to him. Hesitant, but unable to stop himself, he clamped down on the wrap with his gun sheathe, tugging at the material until it fell away. The sight made him want to put it back. Commander Alexander Shepard, captain of the Normandy, first human Specter. That was who he was. Born on an Alliance cruiser, son of Cassandra and John Shepard. It only took a microsecond to go down that list. That was him. And right in front of him, laying on a slab, missing the entire back half of his head was Alexander Shepard.
He took a step back, carelessly tearing away the rest of the wrap still in his grip. The autocannon drifted over to face the body before he became aware of what he was doing, forcing the weapon down. That was Alexander Shepard. That was his face, even with those scars, staring back blankly into the ceiling. That was his body, lying like a lump of meat with bits of cold metal gleaming where the cuts and tears were large enough to peer through. Surprisingly, that last thought helped him calm down as his marine training kicked in.
Think of it as just a battlefield injury instead of... him. And that he was simply using a prosthetic until the doctors could patch up his meat body. He could have a case of fidgets later, if he still could. Dammit, he had survived the weeks of thresher maw attacks in that godforsaken colony on Akuze when nobody else had. He would survive this. The body's missing brain didn't escape his notice. He hoped that just meant it was sitting somewhere inside of this overbuilt metal man. And that it was really him. If not, that voice and he were going to have a long talk once this was over.
For a little while, he considered carrying the body with him. They brought him back, transferred his brain to this machine. Maybe they could... no. . Focus on surviving. The station was filled with an unknown number of hostiles. He didn't have any hands, and trying to carry and shield a body from enemy fire in this shell would only distract him. Cut losses and keep moving. It was a better deal than being dead, and he intended to keep it that way.
The other humans in the facility weren't so lucky. Clumping through the station, adjusting to his new body, Shepard passed hallways littered with bodies. Many shot in the back as they were running away. The mechs had been relentless in their slaughter, and very few of the dead clutched a weapon. If he still had a mouth, he would have scowled. He didn't know these people. Maybe they even deserved death. But not like this. Not a massacre. Once, he ran across a uniformed couple, both armed with heavy pistols. He had tried calling out to get them to stop, but they took one look at him and darted into a hallway. A fatal mistake. Mechs had been waiting for them, and when he got there, they were already dead. Tearing the smaller machines apart with his heavy weapons was a poor vengeance.
A wet cough caught his attention, and he turned around, finding one of the crew had survived. For a little while. Her chest was riddled with holes, and a mangled wreck of an arm tried to steady her as she crawled away. Then she noticing his gaze. She whimpered, falling on her back and bringing the pistol to bear uselessly on him.
"STOP. NO HARM INTENDED."
Her eyes widened to an impossible size at his voice. Then she laughed, a hysterical wet gurgling sound. Medigel he didn't have might save her, but maybe her partner had some to spare now that he wouldn't be needing anymore. Shepard took a step closer. That was when she pressed the gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Just like in Akuze.
He turned his head away. Not again.
"Check, check, is anyone alive on this frequency?"
Shepard turned back to the unexpected voice, spotting the fallen ear piece one of the station crew must have worn. He reached out by habit, and nearly crushed the piece with the steel slabs that were his arms. He would have hissed with frustration, but his machine body remained silent. He didn't even have an omni-tool, if he could somehow use the blasted thing. How was he going to use this thing with no fingers?
*Active wireless signal detected: Frequency 114.01*
This, this was different. It wasn't that voice in his head, but the knowledge was there. Of course. The mech must have had a Virtual Intelligence interface. He just had to switch to frequency 114.01...
*Network protocols identified. Switching frequency. Secondary connection established.*
Which the VI was already doing. This was easier than he had thought.
"What the... who the hell is this?"
A blip appeared in the map of Shepard's mind, glowing with a dull red. The other person on the radio unless he missed his guess. Friend? Foe? He started walking. It wasn't far off. He'd get answers soon enough.
"Chief medical officer Williams. Now who the hell is this? Why do you sound like a... shit!"
*Connection terminated at source*
Shepard sped up the pace, and went from a deliberate stomping gait to a rattling and clumsy walk. Shepard felt like biting off another curse as his shoulder caught on the edge of the hallway with a shriek of metal. Basic control was simple enough he found. Think of the act of walking, and his body walked without tripping over his own feet. But the change in height perception and massive bulk made it impossible to run without clumsily clipping things. Up ahead, a reinforced door slid open, and a human head poked through it. He didn't even have time to call out when he caught a telltale glow of an omnitool. His kinetic barriers exploded in a shower of light. On reflex, he brought up his weapon.
In hindsight, he probably shouldn't have bothered. The man up ahead yelped and vanished around back into the room, the heavy door sliding shut. Shepard made it to door just in time to see the holographic control display winking out to an angry red denying all entry. Server Room B was in lockdown. Banging on the heavily armored door would have been unproductive, so he took a step back, preparing to blast at it with his other arm. Superheated steam was venting out of the rocket launcher's charging ports when there the voice called him again.
"Shepard, hurry up, there isn't... time left... mechs overrun...."
Static and gunfire punctuated the blank spots. The situation was going from bad to worse. But he wasn't about to leave someone behind. He returned his attentions to battering down the door.
"SURVIVOR LOCATED. ATTEMPTING EXTRACTION."
"There isn't time... mechs closing... everywhere... explain when you... incoming... destroy station... shuttle bay before..."
*Primary connection terminated at source*
Shepard took a look at the door, weighing his options. It was still standing, if pockmarked by his efforts to break it down. She mentioned something incoming, and the station being destroyed. Warships? He didn't know what defenses the station had, but from the silence, either no one was running them, or they were destroyed. Both possibilities boded badly for his chances. The other alternatives didn't say a lot for his chances either. Reactor damage? Uncontrolled de-orbit? He didn't think he'd have a lot of time if any of them were the case. He began to move out when a a flicker of motion caught his eye. A patrol of LOKI mechs clattered into the hallway from where he had come from. Instead of firing, they completely ignored him as they walked ahead, guns at the ready. They had just passed him when a gun poked around the corner and fired, the single shot taking the head off one of the mechs. Simultaneously, a blue tinged ball of distorted air materialized and streaked down towards him.
The old Shepard would have been able to dive out of the way before it hit. In his current body, he was simply too cumbersome. He had barely moved out of the way before it struck his left arm. Armor plates buckling with a groan under the biotic assault, pulling him nearly off balance. That was when the server room door slid open again, revealing the other man with his glowing omni-tool.
*Warning. Process corruption detected. Command error. Administrator access granted. Priority conflict.*
His vision started to flicker, his body already falling over, but that didn't stop him from seeing the black uniformed biotic clearing the hallway, the other mechs already destroyed. He tried lifting his arm, speaking, anything, only to find that nothing was responding. He felt a bolt of panic in realization. Hacking, and a pincer trap. Not like this! He wouldn't let it end like this! He needed control. Now.
*Primary control interface non-functional. Direct control established.*
A thousand voices immediately shrilled in his head. Status updates, kinetic barrier strength, reactor power levels, myomer fiber stress levels, remaining munitions, life support nutrient levels, gyroscope warnings and a multitude of other demands drilled their cacophony of noise into his head. Shepard pushed through them all with single minded determination.
"STOP" Shepard punctuated the booming words by shoving his rocket launcher into the hacker's face, arresting his fall by slamming the other arm onto the ground. Another shrill stress alarm blared in his head. "CEASE FIRE." This to the other black clad man who was rapidly backing away into cover. He hoped they bought it. He could barely focus on keeping the weapon arm straight, but he was sure he could fire it at least once.
"Command override zeta twelve one, command override zeta twelve one! Override damn you!" Shepard turned his head back to the hacker, and the man instantly fell silent with a whimper, not even able to back away from the barrel of death in his face. His omni-tool winked out.
*Cyclic redundancy check complete. Restoring process database. Restarting primary control interface.*
The voices subsided immediately, leaving Shepard's head clear enough to speak further. "I AM SHEPARD."
Omni-tool man sputtered. "Shepard? But that's-"
"Shepard? Damn. Things must have been really bad for Miranda to have Jason's techs put you in that casing." The dark skinned biotic poked his head around the corner, exposing very little of himself. Smart of him. "They must have been around when you woke up. Do you know what happened to them?"
Shepard forbore saying anything. That was going to be his demon to deal with. Better nobody else knew about it. The biotic seemed to draw a conclusion from his silence, hissing in frustration as he popped out of cover. "The mechs got them did they? Don't worry about it Shepard. We're just lucky you woke up in time to defend yourself. The name's Jacob Taylor, chief of station security. Or what's left of it. And that's doctor Wilson. He was the one who patched you up. You can relax Wilson. He's not just one of the mechs."
There was a shrill laugh to that. "R-r-relax? With a gun to my face?" Shepard acknowledged the point by letting his arm fall to the floor, followed by a thump as Wilson fell flat on his backside. "God. You scared fifty years of life out of me."
Shepard leaned forward, looming over the man in a way most would have found intimidating. He would not be forgetting what had just happened anytime soon. Wilson twitched.
"Maybe not." Jacob raised an eyebrow when Shepard turned to stare at the man, but he looked him straight in the optics "But you don't look any different than any of the YMIR mechs we have around here and those have gone rogue as well. The techs could have painted the body a different color at least, save us some of the unpleasantness just now." Somehow, Shepard doubted that. Jacob must have read the silence correctly, because he shook his head in bemusement. "Probably not huh? Can't count on people paying attention to your paint job when you've got that autocannon and every other heavy mech is trying to shoot at us."
"Right, you probably don't have any idea what's going on. Your ship was attacked and destroyed out in the Traverse. Except for a handful of servicemen in the lower decks and Navigator Pressley, everyone else and all the aliens got out unscathed. You weren't so lucky. That's where we came in with the Lazarus project. We got your body back and spent two years, just a month short of the full two, trying to put you back in one piece. In case you hadn't noticed, we're having a bit of technical difficulties with that plan." Off in the distance, there was the faint rattle of gunfire, followed by a muffled thump Shepard's long years of experience identified as a concussive grenade going off. Jacob didn't seem to hear it, and continued without pause. "Other than that, there's not much else I can tell you I'm afraid. Those two years were pretty quiet, the only time I ever fired my gun then was at the firing range. And then this happened. I was getting ready to bunk down when the station mechs turned on us."
He frowned at that. "That... could be possible, but I doubt it. I inspected every last one of these mechs before we brought them online. Reprogramming all of them like this would need the master override codes, and nobody but me and Miranda should have them. Not that it matters anymore. The mechs won't respond to any of those overrides. Come on, we can figure it out later once we're out of here."
"Jacob? What the hell is going on?" Wilson's voice had taken on an angry hysterical edge, cutting across anything else Jacob might have said. "This... this can't be Shepard. I spent nearly two years working on his body and this overgrown tin can isn't him! It's not possible."
This was the doctor who brought him back? He wanted to ask more but Wilson was still babbling.
"His brain didn't even have enough synaptic activity to keep the heart beating. It barely registered on the electroencephalography charts. He was a vegetable. There was no way that a bunch of techs could get a spike in brain activity that fast. Even if they did, he would have had a hell of a time adapting to his old body, if the trauma didn't kill him outright, much less a mech. And I damn well know his brain didn't go missing for any tech to stick in a goddamn mech for calibration." He stabbed a finger in Shepard's direction "That, is a medical impossibility. It's got to be an AI."
Vegetable? AI? Shepard found his dislike of the doctor's bedside manner growing. Luckily for him, Jacob stepped in before he could go any further. But there was something that didn't fit right.
"Relax Wilson. You're losing me with the medical talk, but I saw the tech, it really is him. I don't have all the details, but this was the backup plan, in case things didn't pan out. Need to know basis only. Guess we were lucky Miranda thought about it. But this isn't really the time to argue over what's possible."
That was the second time this Miranda was mentioned. Shepard guessed she was the project director, probably the one who had been talking to him earlier. Given their last communication, her chances were poor, but Jacob was right. A link up was out of the question. He didn't even know where she was, or if she was alive, and the station itself was under threat. He forbore telling Jacob about their last communication. He didn't doubt the man's word on not having time, but sometimes, you never knew how they would react. He filed that away the knowledge on Miranda for future reference, focusing on what Jacob had said. Chief medical officer. The last dot connected, and Shepard turned on the Wilson, optics whirring as he focused on the man. He gestured with the autocannon. "WILSON CONTAINS FUNCTIONAL MECH OVERRIDE."
"What? Are you-" To his credit, Jacob's surprise lasted only a moment as he turned back to the doctor, a quiet edge to his voice. "Why are you here anyway Wilson? This is the security wing. Medical is on the other side of the station."
"There were mechs and... this is ridiculous! I don't have any mech overrides! If that's really Shepard, he's just revived. He wouldn't know up from down. He's obviously confused." Shepard could see Wilson's deflection having an effect as Jacob relaxed slightly. "Besides, the controls are locked out."
Jacob was quick to catch the slip, but Wilson was faster. His pistol was already cleared of the holster when Jacob reached for his. A blue flash of biotic energy flared as Shepard's autocannon barked, slamming the doctor against the bulkheads and reducing his gun hand into red ruin. Jacob followed up by jamming his gun in Wilson's face before he could even scream. "You son of a bitch! You're the one who set this up?!"
"You don't understand! None of us would have been left alive once the project was done. Miranda would have had us all killed with the mechs. That's why I-"
"Why you what?" Jacob's contemptuous snarl cut short Wilson's babbling. "Wiped out the rest of the crew? Tried to get us all killed? Or did you sell us out?" He shoved the doctor back to the ground, kicking away the shattered remains of his weapon. "Come on Shepard, we can leave Wilson to rot. Let's get out of here while there's still a here to get out of."
Shepard didn't turn to follow. Not immediately. Losing his body hadn't made him any poorer a judge of character. Wilson's words sounded true enough. But there was also a lot more to it. Optics clicked quietly as he observed the doctor shakily applying a pack of medi-gel to the stump of his right hand. Wilson gritted his teeth as the gelatinous white strip warmed, darkening as it wrapped around the wound. It only took a few seconds to harden completely, and when it did, Shepard made his decision by pointing the autocannon at the doctor's head. He jerked back, legs kicking as he tried to push himself deeper into the bulkhead.
"Oh god. Shepard, I put you back together. I saved your life. Don't do this. Please!"
Wilson complied hastily, but Jacob turned to look incredulously at him. "What? You can't seriously be considering taking him along with us? What for?"
A few seconds ticked by as Jacob just continued to stare at Shepard's unblinking optics. Jacob sighed. "Alright, we'll do it your way Shepard. Just be ready to shoot him in case he tries to cause us any trouble."
Shepard replied by gesturing his autocannon at Wilson, an act that seemed to both satisfy Jacob and cow the doctor.
When they finally reached the hanger bay, Shepard found himself revising the planned interrogation.
Six people were waiting in ambush for them, popping up from behind cover once they had entered the bay. Most were armed with rifles, but one had a rocket launcher trained on Shepard. They weren't wearing the black and silver of the station crew, but yellow painted combat armor that he recognized from his Alliance briefings a lifetime ago. Eclipse mercenaries, and not here for a friendly visit. One of them, a Salarian, stepped out of cover to speak, spherical combat drones floating besides his head. "If you have any interest in breathing for the next two minutes, don't try anything stupid. My men already have you in their sights. Your mech might do some damage, but it won't stop us from killing all of you before you even twitch."
They thought he was just an ordinary mech, Shepard realized. Good, he could make use of that. Optics clicked as he scanned the room, noting mercenary positions and more hazards alike. Jacob continued to train his gun on the Salarian. It would never punch through the mercenary's kinetic barriers before he was shot, but something in the way he held himself said that he still had a trick up his sleeve. Wilson on the other hand, the doctor let out a sigh of relief as he took a step forward towards the Salarian. "Mollus? It's me, Wilson. Listen-" a gunshot cut him off with a flinch.
"Wilson. Is it?" Mollus hissed from behind the smoking barrel of his shotgun. "I see you've managed to make that particular mech work for you, and not just shoot everything that moves. Unlike every other damn mech on this station. That was an unpleasant surprise you had waiting for us in the shuttle dock. Mechs kill station security, and we'd make the pick up? Should have known better than to trust a human to stick to the plan. I should kill you for that, but our employer wants you alive and intact as well as the package." He gestured towards Jacob with his shotgun. "And who's this? He's not the package. They didn't say anything about extras."
Pulling himself together, Wilson laughed weakly at the question. He began walking towards Mollus "He's not. Listen. The mech is Shep-" Shepard opened fire.
Wilson's last words died as a flechette exploded through his chest. The next round would have caught Mollus unarmored head, but Shepard's control over this body remained imperfect and the shot went wide. The mercenary broke out of his shock, diving to the ground. Luckily, his rocket launcher was self guiding and not hampered by his poor aim. The Salarian had only time enough to look up when the rocket struck him full in the face and exploded. Air distorted around the human with the rocket launcher, slamming her into the ceiling, presenting a target he couldn't possibly miss. Autocannon rounds tore her to rags. Four left. Impact sparks began flaring around Shepard's barriers while others cratered the floor where Jacob had stood a moment ago.
Behind the kinetic shield, optics whirred and clicked. Shepard swung the autocannon towards a pair of mercenaries creeping out from behind a stripped out shuttle. They spotted the movement, ducking under cover as his fire hammered the craft. Motion on his left formed into the other group of mercenaries, battering away at his shields. He ignored them, autocannon rounds battering the shuttle and ripping hull metal apart. One of the rounds must have struck something vital, as the shuttle vanished in a flash of light, leaving behind only tortured steel and blackened streaks on the ground where the mercenaries had hidden.
Shepard turned towards the remaining pair of mercenaries, a constant stream of fire from them causing Shepard's barrier to shimmer with a threatened overload. He tried to return fire, but his autocannon remained silent, vents hissing with coolant steam. The rocket launcher clicked uselessly. A pistol cracked twice in the chatter of rifle fire, and a mercenary crumpled bonelessly, clutching the ruins of his face. The other ducked behind cover, exposing only his arm and chattering rifle. Servos whining, he accelerated into the stream of fire, closing to melee distance. But instead of pausing to vault the crate as he intended, his legs continued running. Several tons of charging metal hulk rammed into the packing crate the mercenary hid behind, and inertia took over. The crate went sparking across the ground, the mercenary's terrified shriek cut off with a wet crunch when it smashed into the bulkhead.
A flicker of motion caught Shepard's attention. He turned to find a mercenary crawling away, blood pumping from the head wound Jacob had given him. A grenade fumbled in his fingers. He didn't get two paces when Shepard's armored foot came down on the mercenary's back with a crack of shattering hardsuit. The man yelled in pain, grenade skittering away with arming cap still attached. The autocannon pressed down on his head. He had only a moment to look up before his head vanished under a storm of fire, spattering Shepard's optics with gore. When the smoke cleared, he stepped back from the red stain on the ground, superheated steam hissing from his thermal ports. Scanning the area, he caught sight of Jacob swiftly moving from corpse to corpse, checking to see if they were all dead.
"ALL HOSTILES TERMINATED."
The station security chief paused in his search to shoot a brief look in Shepards direction. "I'll say. You really tore them apart. Didn't think you'd to shoot Wilson though, after all the trouble you went to bringing him along." He shook his head. "He really sold us out big time. Not just hacking the mechs, but bringing in Eclipse? He must have had an outside man before he was brought into the project. Seems like someone really doesn't like you."
He could think of a lot of someones who didn't like him, enough to want him staying dead. Batarians, pirates, slavers, mercenaries, power brokers, a few Turians, probably the entire Krogan race for blowing up Saren's cloning facility, the list went on. Alliance N7 operations, and his duties as a Specter, were not exactly geared towards earning him friends. Pruning out those who were already dead, that still left a list long enough to fill a starship. But that didn't mean these mercenaries were out for him. "LACKS REASON."
"You're kidding right? The man who took down Sovereign, back from the dead, isn't reason enough? That was the whole point of the project. Anyway we'll find out who and why sooner or later I bet." Pulling out a memory chip from the Salarian's hardsuit, Jacob's omni-tool glowed for a few seconds as he scanned its contents. When the tool beeped, he pointed down the hanger bay towards the shuttle docks. "Looks like we got lucky. This was a recon team. The rest of the mercenaries are waiting for this one to check in before coming station side. Come on, the shuttles are that way. We can borrow their transport and jump out before they figure who's really driving it. Probably."
Probably. That didn't sound very hopeful. The shuttle dock doors quietly slid open and Shepard turned, leveling his autocannon at the intruder. Jacob stopped him with a hasty gesture.
"Miranda? Wait. How did you-"
"Get past Eclipse? Through the airlock." The newcomer answered easily, stepping daintily past the corpses without a second glance. Shepard idly noted that this Miranda wasn't in a uniform like the rest of the station crew. The only similarity to them was the emblem pinned on her jumpsuit. "Eclipse isn't as thorough protecting their rear as they would like to think." She stopped in front of Wilson's corpse to give it a brief look. "I see you've dealt with our traitor as well. And in the back too. I'm surprised Jacob. I didn't think you had it in you."
"That... wasn't me." Jacob ran a hand through his close shaved hair, gesturing with a flick of his eyes.
Miranda turned to look at Shepard, sizing him up with smile that didn't reach her cold, calculative eyes. If she found his size or bloody glowing optics to be disturbing, she didn't let on the slightest. No stranger to bloodshed this one. "Ah Shepard, good to see that the backup plan is working. I take it we owe most of this destruction to your new changes." It wasn't a question, and Shepard didn't feel inclined to answer. She nodded, as if getting the answer that she wanted. Jacob took the moment to step up.
"Shepard, this is Miranda Lawson. She was the one in charge of the Lazarus project at this facility."
"Not for much longer I'm afraid." She stated frankly, a slightly bitter edge to her voice. "Shepard is back, if not complete, and Eclipse isn't going to oblige us the facility. I certainly won't let them have it either. Fortunately, that particular loose end is tied up. The station's self destruct will take care of that once we leave."
Self destruct? Logically, it made sense. Who knew what the mercenaries would do with a base like this, or who they'd sell it to? But that meant watching his flesh and blood body go up in a controlled nova, and any chance of getting it back. Not surprisingly, he didn't like the idea. He turned an optic towards Miranda.
"I'm sorry Shepard." She sighed. "Even if we had the time to collect it, with Wilson gone and your current condition, it wouldn't help. Your body is irrecoverable at this point. I don't like it anymore than you do, but our options were limited. Attempting a revival with your biological body in that state would have killed you. If we had the time for a proper transplantation it could have been salvaged but, given the circumstances, the only process we had the time to perform is irreversible." For a moment, she looked genuinely troubled before she straightened her back with a placating gesture of her hands. "Come on. We need to take the Eclipse transport and leave before they wise up. My employer would like to see you."
If he had eyebrows, Shepard would have twitched. Irreversible? He was trapped here, in this overgrown tin can, forever? He resisted the sudden irrational urge to gun down the woman, and maybe throw himself out the airlock or into a reactor core. But he had refused to let Akuze break him, and he wouldn't break down here either. He bit down the anger, focusing on her last sentence instead.
"Not my place to say Shepard. You'll find out when you speak to him. It's where we're going now." She called back, already heading for the armed dropship that had brought the Eclipse mercenaries. She paused at the pilot hatch, taking the time to drag out a pair of bleeding bodies. "Shepard, you should be able to fit in the troop compartment. It's big enough."
Shepard took a look and weighed his options. Stay on the station, fight hostile mechs and an unknown number of likely angry mercenaries, get consumed in the upcoming fireball, or leave the station with the only people who had the necessary fingers to control a shuttle and were not actively trying to kill him? The survivor of Akuze found the decision easy. The rest of him found it harder to swallow, but followed suit, watching the cargo hatch close and leaving him in the dark.
The troop compartment was dark, leaving him alone to his thoughts. He found that he cared for very few of them.
The escape from the station had been smooth, almost perfunctory in how clean and effortless it had been. The Eclipse gunboat waiting like a predatory insect over the station had asked a few questions once they had cleared the bay. Status reports. Where they were going. What in a Krogan's fourth testicle did they think they doing and to get back here. Those queries had been quietly ignored as distance increased between them, away from the upcoming blast. A final warning, and then the ominous beep of a targeting radar painting the transport. Then the station's reactor core had gone up, the antimatter pile burning away as a short lived star of impossible brightness, consuming the station and melting the Eclipse ship like butter in a furnace before the fireball engulfed it. The expanding cloud of plasma, the jump to lightspeed, all of that happened mere moments later. And then he had been left in the darkness once again.
Up in the pilots compartment, Jacob and Miranda were conversing in hushed tones. Occasionally, they would direct a glance his way through the troop door before returning to their discussion. Discussions of his mental stability. Memories. Personality. He didn't acknowledge them. Something in the way he had been brought back let him recall every memory since his waking with precise detail. Every shot, every face down to their individual features. He only had to think it to see and hear it in holovid quality detail. He suspected that if he wanted to, he could review every last word exchanged between the two at a later date. But the one memory he found himself dwelling on right now, he wished he could forget.
'The process is irreversible. I'm sorry Shepard.'
He didn't want to believe her. He had been dead. It was almost funny how blase that thought seemed. He remembered dying, the last gasp that didn't fill the lungs, the struggle to get one, just one more gulp of sweet air, amidst the white hot debris of the Normandy, and then the cold silence that made vacuum seem noisy. The dimming vision, the fading strain of his lungs as they pumped uselessly, he remembered all of it. He was dead, but they had brought him back. There should have been a way, somehow. But the birth of a temporary star had been the end of any hopes and objections. His body was gone forever, more thoroughly than bullets, biotics and asphyxiation could ever accomplish. But he wasn't dead. He was trapped inside this pseudo existence, more machine than... mostly machine.
He felt clumsy in this body. His control over its motions were rudimentary at best. The crisp, fluid motions he had been used to as a human were gone. And he couldn't feel. There were no tactile senses in this body. Taste, smell, those two were likely gone forever as well. He was not deaf nor blind, but he had lost everything else. He was fine now, but how would he cope with its loss in the long term? Now he knew how the quarians felt, living their entire lives trapped in environmental suits for fear of fatal infection. Would he be able to adapt?
The survivor in him said yes. If Thresher maws could not do it in that week of deadly nightmares when everyone else died or killed themselves to escape the horror, then a life trapped in this shell would not unman him. He had been brought back for a reason. Raising the dead, a notion that disturbed him until he was one of them, could not have been cheap. Bringing back the dead was a fantastical notion, and would definitely need equally fantastical resources. And more importantly, a very good reason. Yes. That was something to help him hold on. A reason to come back. One he could throw himself into.
His crew mates on the lost SSV Normandy would have reason enough. But unless Garrus, Liara or Tali had actually been secret billionaires, they couldn't have commanded such resources. Perhaps the Council had finally taken his claims of the Reapers seriously and wanted him at the forefront of the fight. Or maybe they were just repaying the debt owed for having their scaly, or shapely when considering the Asari matriach, alien behinds saved by the Specter they had dismissed as 'mentally unsound'. It was the least they could do. Repaying one life, his, for the three most powerful people in galactic politics he had preserved. That was a good trade, wasn't it?
And could he complain? It was his brain, so he was still him. And he was alive, in a body that even a six hundred pound Krogan of pure muscle would never be able to match in raw power or durability. How often had it been that he had found himself in situations where the firepower of the Mako would have been useful, but the conditions too cramped to bring in the infantry fighting vehicle? Or the durability of the layers of heavy armor plate it carried? He had all of those now.
But the price was not to his liking.
As the ship lurched in acceleration, the telltale sign of a mass relay jump, he lifted an arm to his optics. The autocannon's protective sheathe opened and closed with an experimental flex of his mental fingers, mimicking his flesh and blood ones. Maybe he could learn to adapt to the machine, adjust to its size and quirks, make it move like he used to when he was flesh and blood. Maybe he could learn to live without more than half the senses he had grown up with. He could and would adapt. The survivor would. But the machine had little in the way of expressive capability. How many times had bloodshed been averted with smooth words and a convincing expression? How often had he drawn in the allegiances from the most unlikely of people, those who would become his closest shipmates, in that other life, simply because he had been able to bring them around to his way of thinking with words? Action had always backed those words, but without words, action alone would have been meaningless.
He had tried already to form full sentences in the station, before and after meeting Jacob. Every attempt was a dismal failure. He didn't try to pretend to understand the underlying technology that allowed him to command the machine's audio systems and turn thoughts of speaking into actual words, but he knew it was far from adequate. Complex words and sentences came out flat, shortened to a simple vocabulary and completely devoid of the man called Alexander Shepard. Who would believe this machine to be him? Pitifully few, if any, would believe those claims. And who could blame them? Alexander Shepard had been a human, a face, a person. He was a bipedal war machine with all the grace and animation of badly crafted toy. An articulate giant potato man would make a more believable Shepard.
And two years. Gone just like that. What was fresh five hours ago was now two years old plus five hours. Jacob had told him his friends and shipmates had escaped Normandy's end, but that was where it ended. Were they still alive? Were they still committed to the cause they had joined when they had chosen to follow him? Or had it died when he had? Had they died as well, either in pursuit of his quest or by some other tragedy? Had they gone on to live their lives, finding a piece of normality to return to after the hunt for Saren had ended? What had happened in his... absence? Not knowing, worse, knowing that even if he knew he would be able to do nothing to change the outcome, gnawed away at him.
"Shepard, we'll be landing in a few minutes. I know you've got a lot of questions, but you'll have to wait a bit more. Our employer will have the answers you'll need." Miranda's voice cut through his musings as the ship lurched again, this time in deceleration. Shepard considered them for a moment, let out a not-sigh and felt a stab of irritation at the silence. Even that small human comfort was denied. He pushed aside the irritation, and his previous concerns, craning the sensor pod that was his head towards the cockpit. Sure enough, a station loomed up ahead. Soon, he would find out why he was brought back.
And the reason, hopefully a good one. If not, the Reapers were still out there. The thought strengthened his resolve, stiffening a back he did not have. He had been lost earlier, overwhelmed by what had happened to him But he had sworn to end the Reaper threat one way or another. Dying hadn't changed that. The Reapers were still out there, as did the threat they posed. If coming back in this shell was the price to pay to finish that task and end the cycle of galactic extinction, what did that matter?
He hoped he never found out.
A/N: A return after a long hiatus from writing Fanfiction. Here's to hoping that I haven't gotten rusty in those years. Reviews, rants, criticisms and accusations of plagiarism welcome (maybe not so much the last.)