This is my entry to the Mass effect flash Big Bang 2014, not that I managed to write a short fic. I'd like to thank Asylum Farm (EJ) for the beta work, I would be lost with out you! Robotkumo for lending me an ear and her zombie expertice. And thank you Maxxiedemon for putting up with my raving and ranting, and your feedback, it meant a lot. And lastly but not least thank you Georgia le Flay for the gorgeous art, it has been a pleasure to get to know you, and I love the illustrations you made. Who knows? Maybe we get the opertunity to work together again.
If you want to see Georgia's art, you have to read this on Ao3, 'cause you know this place and links.
The sirens sounded like a constant high pitched screaming, and John wished someone would just shut them the fuck off, he couldn't think with this damn noise. "Somebody! Shut that off!" He yelled. Two soldiers hurried from the room, and moments later the deafening sound stopped. "Finally." John sighed in relief, hearing only the panicked yelling of people and feet running,
"Commander Shepard, Sir!" A young soldier named Anne Gibson yelled, her face white as she gasped for air so hard she had to push out the words between gulps of air.
"Slow down, Gibson." Shepard said, his eyes trained on the large window to the hall, watching the scientists run back and forth like imbecile chickens, while waiting for Anne to talk.
"Lab 3." She panted, "The fire is in lab 3"
Shepard felt his stomach churn, but kept his poker face on as he trained his eyes on the soldier in front of him. "Are you sure?" He asked with a steady voice.
"Positive, Sir." Anne said, finally able to breathe almost normally.
"You get those damn eggheads out of here, and I don't care if you have to carry them." Shepard said sharply as he set off running towards lab 3.
By the time he got there, the fire was under control, and he hovered over the scientists until they could tell him that none of the level 4 pathogens were damaged in any way. He walked away from there and felt pretty good, it had just been a fire in a secondary unit to lab 3, where they stored their equipment, so Bunsen burners and bio-suits could be requested again. And he already knew who he was gonna push all the paperwork on.
"Sir?" One of the soldiers saluted him, looking slightly nervous. "Uhm, one of the scientists from lab 2 says that his assistant didn't return."
"One of the assistants of lab 2 didn't come back after the evacuation of the units. Sir!" The Soldier looked down at his boots, trying to not see the displeased expression of the commanding officer. "It's Honnecker's assistant, Sir."
"Fuck." Shepard sighed, he had been thinking of a quiet evening with internet porn and maybe a beer. This would severely damage his chances of downtime, if he had to chase after some fucking moron who wandered off. "Take me to him." Shepard said, setting a fast pace towards lab 2. The doors swooshed open with a soft airy sound, and Shepard stepped inside lab 2, he hated the smell of recycled air, but these units were kept strictly self-contained. After all, if what was in here got out there, the consequences would be disastrous. Personally Shepard thought it was all kinds of bullshit that something like this was even necessary, it was some asshole politician who had gotten spooked, and had demanded that they have bioweapons of their own. And so Project Protean was born. "Doctor Honnecker!" Shepard said, approaching the elderly man in a white lab coat that made his red glasses look like something out of a cartoon. "I hear your assistant went missing."
"He didn't return from the evacuation," Honnecker said, clearly distraught, searching through papers and data on his desk.
"You think he took something with him?" Shepard asked, wondering if Honnecker's peculiar behavior was related.
"I don't know." Honnecker said.
"Think he might have been a spy?" Shepard asked.
"I don't know." Honnecker said.
"Alright, so where do you think he might have gone off to?" Shepard asked, this time a little more intimidating.
"I don't fucking know!" Honnecker sneered, "Look Commander, all I know is that he didn't return, and it's imperative that you find him. Do your goddamn job, and I will do mine."
Shepard rose a brow, unimpressed. "Do I look like people-finder-dot-com to you?"
"God damn it! Just find him!" Honnecker almost yelled.
"A little politeness goes a long way, doctor." Shepard sneered, and then turned his back to the doctor, ignoring his answer. He pulled the walkie from his belt and called, "All units! Commander Shepard here, we have a man missing. One of the egghead's assistants so one with his own teeth and hip."
"His name is Niels," Honnecker groused in the background, "and he is 27."
"Right'o" Shepard shook his head annoyed, "All units, the assistant is 27 and his name is Niels. So Unit one, Toby! You take your unit to the east and look by the dam and the water supply, Unit two, Maria! You take your unit down by the gates and the nearby area and look there. Remember to check if there is a car missing." He rubbed his temples as he walked outside again, and filled his lungs with fresh air. "Unit three, Nelson! You look through all the labs. And unit four you're with me, we're going west to check the fence. Rally by lab 2 entrance, on the double. And everyone else, unit, five, six and seven you make sure those damn geeks stay in place now. Shepard out." He sighed, and pushed the speaker button again. "Control, this is Commander Shepard, We have a young man missing, a lab assistant named Niels, would you make some enquiries in town? See if he might have gone somewhere?"
"Control to Shepard. I'm on it."
"Roger. Thanks Control." Shepard pushed the walkie talkie back into its pocket, and waited for unit 4 to arrive. They walked in grave silence towards the west side of the compound, the tall chain-link fence that kept nosy locals away, and usually held all the nerds in. They looked up and down the fence but didn't find a breach, and there was no way he could have jumped that barbed wire. The other units called in one after one, and reported that they came up empty as well. Niels, the asshole was officially on Shepard's shit-list.
The brass came down pretty hard on Shepard, and he had to stand there while a bunch of video calls on monitors yelled at him for his incompetence, herding geeks. He took it like a man, but knew they were right, and there would probably be some sort of sanction, maybe in his service records, he didn't know. The theory that the brass had settled on was that Niels Abrahamsen had been some sort of industrial spy, even if their security and background checks were pretty damn tight, he somehow managed to fake his way through. In his mind Shepard wondered if Niels maybe just had had enough of Honnecker's shit, much like he was pretty done with old mummified generals and skittish politicians.
Later when they finally found Niels, all thoughts of what the brass would say were gone, and he almost wished the man had been a spy. Shepard stood there and stared at the half decomposed body in the water supply, Honnecker said something to him, but he didn't listen. "Shepard!" Honnecker yelled at him, his voice high pitched and frightened. "Are you listening?"
Shepard nodded politely at Honnecker.
"He was infected with the goddamn Proteus strain!" Honnecker screamed.
"Doctor!" Someone called from the water edge, "The water tested positive."
Shepard blinked, trying to make sense of the information he was getting. "He was infected with your goddamn bioweapon? How the hell did that happen?" Honnecker didn't answer, he just stood there mumbling, looking at the huge water reserve. Shepard grabbed the doctor by his shoulders and shook him violently, "How the fuck did he get infected? That thing is under strict level 5 security clearance, and I'm sure it didn't jump from the petri dish and bite him... Explain!"
"I infected him." Honnecker gasped as Shepard shook him.
"You fucking infected him? Are you mad?" Shepard yelled.
"I wanted to test the antivirus, and the shareholders had said that... I had to..."
"Shut up!" Shepard yelled angrily, spit flying, sticking to Honnecker's tacky glasses. "Shut up, shut up!" He tossed Honnecker on the ground like a ragdoll. "I should fucking shoot you right here!" Shepard went for his gun, watching as Honnecker tried to crawl away on the ground. One of the soldiers grabbed Shepard's arm. "Don't." Gibson said "Sir."
"Give me one good reason marine. And then fucking unhand me, and that is an order." Shepard snarled.
"Maybe he can fix it, maybe he knows how to -" Gibson didn't get further before Shepard pulled his arm back, but holstered the gun. He pointed at Honnecker at the ground. "You fucking fix this, it's your mess." he growled and then stomped away, dreading the report he had to go make to his superiors.
It didn't take long before Honnecker himself and some of the other scientists fell ill, it spread like wildfire until there were more people in quarantine than ones working on a cure, or guarding the quarantine area. Anne Gibson was the first to succumb and reanimate, the few soldiers left tried to control it for a little while, but before long they too had almost all left.
Just a week later Shepard was standing at the edge of the quarantine area, which was more like a slaughterhouse now. He wondered if he should call Tyler or maybe Selma just to check up on them... just to make sure that... But he already knew that if they picked up, if they even still were alive, he wouldn't know what to say to either of them, so he abandoned that thought. Because 'Hi honey, the world ended on my watch, and I'm sorry about being a confused, immature dickhead back then.' just didn't really sit that well.
A young soldier stood beside him, shifting his feet nervously. "Sir?" He asked the silent Commander. Shepard just nodded for him to continue. "Are we being evac'ed?"
"I hope so." Shepard said, he turned and looked at the solder beside him. "But I wouldn't count on it. He eyed the nametag on the solders uniform. "Santos."
"What did the command say, sir?"
"They said nuke the damn place." Shepard shrugged, "But it's already too late, it got out into the town, and it probably spread from there too. It's the end of the line, kid." He smiled bitterly at the young man, "There is a satellite unit not too far from here, I think they might still be okay. If I were you, I'd see if I could make it there."
"I could maybe..."
"How many are left, kid? What's your estimate?" Shepard asked.
"Around fifteen. And nine of them are soldiers." Santos said.
Shepard nodded, "You take them two clicks south, there is an old school, it says Rose-something on the front. The satellite unit should be holed up there."
"What if they aren't? And what about you? Sir?" Santos asked, his nervous shuffling was back with force.
"Then you run for the hills kiddo." Shepard said, placing a friendly hand on Santos' shoulder. And me? I have something I have to do, alone.