The Good Shepherd

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Episode 8: Sandblasted-Part 1

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Mass Effect is owned by Bioware.

Carrie is owned by Stephen King.

The 2013 version of Carrie is owned by Metro Goldwyn Mayer productions and director Kimberly Pierce.

The only things I own are this crossover of the two and any original characters that may be featured.

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Sorry this latest chapter took so long, but here it is.

Please note, this chapter contains a slight citrus warning in one or two scenes.

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Excerpt from the Personal Journal of Margaret Brigham.

My name is Margaret Brigham White-and I am both blessed and cursed with a beautiful daughter who is destined to grow up into the vilest of blasphemers.

A blasphemer known as the Shepherd, who will unite all peoples against the Lord's harvest and the ascension of mankind.

I try to tell people that the End of Days is coming and that we should rejoice in it not fear it but they call me mad-they say I went mad in that cavern.

I didn't go mad I found an artefact of the Lord and through it the lord's angels-the lords Reapers-spoke to me and showed me the true path.

I am supposed to kill Carrie-but Shepherd or not she is my daughter.

But if I can prevent her from becoming the Shepherd then I won't have to kill her.

To that end she must live a life of absolute purity, she must never forge any kind of connection with humanity and if possible must see them as not worth saving.

Above all she must never fall in love or have children-because if she has children, a lover or both then she will fight all the harder to protect them.

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February 28th 2170

Second Lieutenant Michelle Drake fidgeted uncomfortably aboard the courier vessel transporting an unspecified item to the Citadel for scientific study.

Just what the hell was in that box that looked unsettlingly like a coffin anyway?

Casting a glance at the door to the cargo hold where said box was secured-the door she and Ramirez were assigned to guard-Drake repressed a shudder.

It was at that moment that her subordinate-Private Ramirez spoke up.

"Permission to speak freely Ma'am?"

"Speak your mind Private," Drake told him.

"With all due respect Ma'am-why do we keep getting these crap assignments?"

"It's not that bad Private," Drake noted as she cast a nod toward the Turian approaching them before allowing him entry to the cargo bay "how many people get the chance to work with a SPECTRE?"

"There must be something more going on for a SPECTRE to be involved in this Ma'am," Ramirez noted "and I hear this Saren has a less than stellar reputation-plus it was this side of twenty years ago his people were shooting at ours Ma'am."

"It's not our place to ask questions Private," Drake reminded the Private "we do our jobs-we follow our orders."

"Yes Ma'am," Ramirez responded compliantly.

"Exiting the Widow relay," announced the voice of the pilot over the intercom "we are approximately twelve light years out from the Citadel-ETA twenty three minutes."

"Can't wait till this assignment is over," Drake noted tiredly.

However, just a few minutes later the ship exited FTL unexpectedly and the door to the cargo hold opened of it's own accord.

"What's going on?" Drake wondered, after a glance inside she noticed somebody missing from the cargo hold "where did Saren get to?"
Activating her omni tool to contact the pilot, Drake found that she couldn't get through, she headed for the intercom only to be interrupted by the sound of hydraulics.

As all of the air started howling out of the bay in a gale of vented atmosphere she realised that the cargo bay door was opening-a glance at their package revealed that the tie down straps holding it had been undone before the wind carried it out into space.

Drake had just enough time to close her helmet before she too was blown out into the void.

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March 2nd 2170

"And in further news, diplomatic tensions between the Human Alliance and the Batarian Hegemony continue to escalate with no resolution in sight," the female news anchor on the holo screen reported as the news vid played in Chambers' lab "At this point in time armed conflict seems to be likely."

"That sounds ominous," Carrie remarked as she waited patiently for Chambers to finish analysing her latest blood sample "So what's the verdict Professor?"

"I can detect no remaining traces of nanotechnology in your blood," Chambers reported with a smile "As far as I can determine your body has finished breaking the nanites down."

"That's a weight off my shoulders," Carrie smiled as she sighed heavily in relief "That news vid may give me new concerns however."

"Yes," Chambers agreed "With you intending to enlist when you officially turn eighteen you may find yourself fighting Batarians once you reach the front lines."

"Is there any word on the L3 prototype?" Carrie asked "Maria's condition is getting worse by the day-She spends half of her time bedridden now."

"They should have a prototype ready for testing soon," Chambers told Carrie "Whether it is soon enough to save her remains to be seen."

"I don't know why Donald Hargenson chose to upgrade to one of those damn L2s from his old L1," Carrie remarked "Aside from the risk involved in the surgery itself the L2s might as well be torture devices unless you're lucky enough to dodge the side effect bullet."

"The L1s didn't provide much of a boost," Chambers explained "He may have been looking for more of an edge, they also didn't know about the L2 side effects when he got his upgrade, but he was among the first to display them-specifically mental instability which led to him being placed on indefinite leave for mental health concerns."

"Then when he finally realises they're not going to place him back on active duty he resigns at the end of his tour," Carrie noted "Drops off the grid, then turns up six months later and abducts me."

"Definitely not dispelling the concerns about his mental state," Chambers agreed "But I assure you we are doing all we can for Maria-now since Emily is in town with her mother on business and invited you to have breakfast with her at your favourite Cafe-don't you think you should go meet her?"

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Carrie sighed contentedly as she ate her bacon and eggs, glancing over at the younger girl whom she considered her first friend in this time-one of the few friends she had ever had.

As an added perk Emily had agreed to pay for breakfast-which suited Carrie fine as she didn't have to pay the cost of satisfying her near bottomless appetite.

The young biotic had never been able to understand why she could eat and eat and eat and hardly put on an ounce until Sally Nellis had clarified the matter for her as best she could-Chambers had later clarified it further.

The truth of the matter being that as a biotic Carrie had much higher nutritional requirements than a non biotic-her daily intake was approximately three times that of a non biotic of her height and weight.

Carrie could remember trying to fill the gaping hole inside herself by eating and eating and eating and barely ever gaining weight because of it-barely being the operative word.

She had still ended up slightly overweight from time to time, not enough to really be noticed unless you were looking for it-which of course Chris and her Ultras were.

Next thing Carrie knew they were calling her puddin.

Carrie could also remember her mother satisfying her blast furnace appetite by feeding her extremely fatty pies and chocolate, it had worked but it had also given her pimples.

And as it turned out those pies weren't giving Carrie the nutrients her body really needed and the high levels of simple fats they contained were in fact bad for her.

Apart from having a high food intake, biotics also required their diet to be high in protein, iron, complex fatty acids and complex carbohydrates-so that basically meant lots of red meat, fish, cereals and green leafy vegetables.

The health problems that could result from a biotic failing to maintain proper nutrition had been made abundantly clear to Carrie;

Loss of stamina resulting in a dangerously elevated heart rate and dangerously lowered body temperature when they exerted their biotics at high level, heart damage, early onset dementia and a weakened immune system if the problem continued over the long term, and in female biotics delayed commencement of the menstrual cycle.

"So how have you been Emily?" Carrie asked.

"The end of the school year is coming up," Emily shrugged "There's exams, there's Prom-hopefully a better one than yours and there's graduation, I just turned sixteen a couple of months ago so next year is senior year for me."

"So um-have you-?" Carrie paused, not sure if she should ask this question.

"Yes?"

"Have you ever had trouble with bullies?"

"A little," Emily admitted "No more than most though, I haven't been through the hell that you have from that. Usually when I point out that I'm a black belt in Taekwondo they leave me alone-that puts off about eighty percent of them."

"And the other twenty percent?"

"I demonstrate some moves for them," Emily elaborated "Then when they're done groaning in agony they leave me alone."

Carrie smirked at this and raised an eyebrow.

"Nothing permanent," Emily added "Though one bitchy little snip of a girl was walking pretty funny for a couple of hours after in middle school-it's funny how so many people don't realise that girls can be hurt by that too."

"I wonder how Chris would have reacted to that," Carrie wondered as she tried not to laugh.

"Billy wouldn't have been gettin' any for a while," Emily noted with a smirk.

"Yeah," Carrie agreed with a wistful smile "if only."

"So how have things been for you Carrie?" Emily asked "Still planning to enlist?"

"My therapist assures me that I'm stable enough mentally speaking," Carrie explained "So yes-the day I turn eighteen I send in my enlistment form."

On Carrie's new identity papers her birthdate had been changed from what it originally was to April 11th 2153.

This date was chosen because April 11th 2024 was the date that she was officially cleared of all charges related to Black Prom-her original birthdate couldn't be used even in altered form as it was a clue that might lead back to her original identity but the exact date she was cleared was not well known unless you were a history buff.

Using that date was also a tactic that few would expect.

"Officially that's next month," Emily recalled "I'm still not comfortable with you being in harm's way Care-but I understand that this is something you have to do."

"It is," Carrie confirmed with resolute purpose, for the most part Carrie had her insecurities under control now "For king and country."

"So what about other than that?" Emily asked.

"Maria's really sick," Carrie added "Her L2 symptoms are worse than ever-if she doesn't get a new implant the doctors don't think she'll live long enough to see me enlist, she's bedridden half the time, wheelchair bound the rest and has to have a respirator when she sleeps-and it's only getting worse."

"Damn," Emily remarked-she was gobsmacked.

"She deserves better," Carrie muttered in frustration.

"So did you," Emily reminded Carrie "Focus on helping those you can help Care."

"I can hope that they complete the L3 prototype in time," Carrie noted "It's a long shot but it might be enough to save her."

A silence descended, solemn and brooding.

"Carrie, Emily," a familiar voice called "I thought I might find you here."

"Sally," Carrie was the first to respond, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Emily "What brings you by to see us?"

"Maybe I just wanted to catch up Care Bear," Sally suggested.

"Your panicked demeanour suggests otherwise," Carrie observed casually.

"You've gotten too damn good at reading people," Sally remarked in apparent surrender "Okay-yes I need your help, or rather Andrew Greiz does."

"Has something happened to Andrew?" Carrie asked in concern.

"When you left the gang," Sally explained to Carrie "Andrew took it pretty hard-he started doing drugs and now he's gotten himself hooked."

"Great," Carrie remarked with a shake of her head "Do you know what substance he's been using?"

"It grants temporary biotics and makes his eyes bloodshot," Sally noted "What drug does that sound like to you?"

"Sounds like Red Sand," Emily remarked.

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"So why isn't Andrew at the gang hideout?" Carrie asked as she followed Sally.

"When Finch found out he was dusting up he kicked him out of the gang and most of the others backed him," Sally explained "I left as well when he did and got myself some honest work and I don't have anything to do with the gang nowadays-last I heard some jackass by the name of Curt Weisman joined and he's an even bigger xenophobe than Finch is."

"Terrific," Carrie remarked "As if Finch wasn't bad enough-I take it you took Andrew in."

"Yeah," Sally confirmed "Somebody had to keep him from doing something stupid and getting himself killed-and the temporary biotics combined with his drug addled state of mind meant nobody else was going to take him in."

"Somebody in New York is selling Red Sand," Carrie muttered, at Sally's quizzical look she amended her statement "What am I saying? With the crime rate in this city of course someone is selling that poison."

Pausing at a transit station Sally pressed a few buttons to summon a public skycar, motioning to Carrie to board once it landed.

"Hop in," Sally told the teenage biotic "And no-I am not letting you drive so leave it on autopilot, the cab company's insurance can't cover your lead foot."

"My driving is fine," Carrie insisted defensively.

"Fine-yes, you get lots of fines," Sally teased "it's a miracle you managed to get a license-though from what I hear some woman named Maria helped you temper your wild streak behind the wheel enough for that to happen."

"I owe her a lot," Carrie agreed.

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As the cab landed out the front of the modest apartment building Sally paid the fare and soon the two were heading into the elevator and taking it to a budget apartment on the fourth floor.

As the entered the apartment Sally gave Carrie a look as she led the biotic teen to the room that Andrew was staying in.

As Carrie entered the room Andrew looked up at her-his eyes didn't look blooshot in the conventional sense so much as the sclera of his eyes looked like they were stained red.

A memory flashed through her mind-this was of a conversation she'd had with Andrew just an hour after she had confided about Black Prom to Emily-about a month after she had joined the Reds.

When Carrie had confided in Emily she had also confided in Andrew at the same time.

"Carrie," Andrew called softly as he sat beside the distraught girl out the back of the Reds' gang hideout.

"Stay away from me Andrew-please," Carrie begged, not for her sake but for his "I know you're trying to help but-."

Andrew reached out to place a hand on Carrie's shoulder-hoping to comfort her.

She flinched away from the contact.

"It's okay-I'm not gonna hurt you," the shy young man assured the shy young woman.

"It's not me I'm worried about," Carrie replied sadly.

"I know you wouldn't hurt me Carrie," Andrew replied with the utmost confidence in her.

"We both know you wouldn't hurt us," Emily added as she sat on the other side of the strawberry blonde "you're not like that."

"Aren't I?" Carrie asked bitterly "you heard about what I did to those people at Prom."

"You were driven to that Carrie," Andrew countered "after what they did to you-."

"Great," Carrie muttered dejectedly "so because they say some mean things and play a stupid prank I lash out and kill them all?"

"From what you described that wasn't 'a few mean things' Carrie," Emily remarked "that sounded to me more like relentless cruelty every day of your life, including several instances of physical abuse-and even attempted murder."

"And that wasn't a prank they pulled on the night of your prom either Care," Andrew added "that was criminal assault and reckless endangerment resulting in the death of your date-so therefore also manslaughter. The worst part was when they laughed about it wasn't it?"

"It always is," Carrie nodded as she softly agreed with this statement.

"How could anybody be so cruel to such a beautiful and sweet girl?" Andrew wondered with a shake of his head "may they rot in hell for what they did-their deaths were well deserved."

Finally trusting enough to not shy away from physical contact Carrie snuggled into Andrew's side-Andrew blushed furiously as he held her close.

Emily rested a hand on Carrie's back as she also sought to reassure her friend.

"What happened wasn't your fault Carrie."

"Andrew," Carrie called softly, getting his attention, he squinted for a moment in his drug addled haze-then his face took on a look of recognition.

He didn't look happy to see her though.

"Oh, now you come back," he muttered thickly.

"Andrew-what's wrong?" Carrie asked, her eyes clearly expressing her concern "Why are you doing drugs?"

"What the hell do you care?" Andrew demanded "You left us."

"I had to Andrew," Carrie told him regretfully "There's no future in a gang-and there's no future in getting sandblasted all the time either."

"It beats feeling this knife twisting in my heart," Andrew retorted angrily "I loved you and then you just turn around and leave."

"You-love me?" Carrie asked "But-."

"I did," Andrew corrected her "Not anymore-so you can just get out."

"I'm so sorry," Carrie apologised, she had never wanted this to happen.

"Get out," Andrew screamed as he hit her with a biotic push.

The push would have been enough to knock an ordinary person off their feet, but by Carrie's standards it wasn't very powerful and it barely made her take a step back.

Nonetheless it was obvious to the young biotic that she was just making things worse by being here.

"I really am sorry," Carrie told Andrew as she retreated from the room.

As she closed the door behind her Carrie took several minutes to regain her composure and then turned to Sally who was standing behind her.

"He needs help all right," Carrie agreed "But what can I do?"

"Well you're in good with a Professor at the Institute for Transhuman Studies," Sally suggested "He has quite a bit of influence right? Notably on the Alliance Parliamentary Subcommittee for Transhuman Studies, maybe his influence can get Andrew into a rehab program for Red Sand addicts."

"No promises, but I'll talk to him about it," Carrie agreed.

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NYU Langhorne Medical Center.

After speaking with Sally and Andrew Carrie had then headed to the hospital to visit Maria.

As she entered the ward that Maria was staying in Carrie could see that the older girl was awake and sitting up.

"Hey," Carrie called softly "How are you feeling?"

Maria looked sickly and pale, but that was normal nowadays as her condition worsened-for all the advances in modern medicine it could only slow the progress of her condition, not stop it.

"I have my good days and my bad ones," Maria told Carrie "The bad days are getting more frequent as my time runs out."

"Keep fighting Maria," Carrie implored her friend and fellow biotic gently "We still have a chance of saving you if the L3 prototype is completed soon."

"I'm not fooling myself any more Care," Maria replied softly "I know that I'm gonna die and I accept it."

"It's not over yet Maria," Carrie reminded her.

"Forgive for not feeling hopeful," Maria told Carrie "I want to get some things done before I die."

"Do you want us to contact your family?" Carrie asked-for her part she hadn't given up on Maria, but if it would set her mind at ease-.

"They're staying away-they believe it's for my own good and nothing will convince them otherwise," Maria informed Carrie with a shake of her head "they never forgave themselves for caving in and sending me to BAAT."

"They didn't know what that place was really like," Carrie protested.

"Try telling them that," Maria note solemnly "I have my own share of regrets of course-like what I said to Kaidan after that horrible incident with Vyrnnus-I'm such a damn hypocrite considering what I did to that paramedic when I lashed out in pain."

"Maria Rhana Wills-you weren't thinking straight at the time," Carrie told her friend sternly "haven't you often told me to stop beating myself up over things? Like Black Prom? Or the fact that I couldn't stop Chris from putting a firecracker in Irma's shoe?"

"Those things weren't your fault Carrie, and before you say anything neither was it your fault that that jerk from Conatix used Black Prom as ammunition to convince my parents to send me to BAAT," Maria insisted "but Kaidan didn't have a choice and I didn't have to say what I said to him and neither did I have to join the Blue Suns-I'm just lucky that Hackett took an interest in my case and got the charges against me dropped."

"Or maybe you did-have to join a merc group that is," Carrie countered "Maybe it was the only way you could survive. At least Chris can't hurt my friends now-I haven't had a lot of friends you know. That's why the friends I now have are very precious to me-I'd do anything for you guys, just wish I could do something for you, and for Andrew."

"That Andrew Greiz kid you told me about?" Maria guessed "The one who was smitten with you?"

"That one," Carrie nodded in confirmation "Apparently he hates me for running out on him and the rest of the gang and he's gotten himself hooked on Red Sand."

"Idiot," Maria muttered, she gave Carrie a meaningful look "Tell the Professor, he'll be happy to make the arrangements to get Andrew into rehab-then you just have to convince Andrew himself to go along with it."

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As Professor Chambers examined the final draft of the design for the L3 Prototype and wrote down suggestions for possible last minute improvements to the design he heard the door chime for his personal lab sound.

"Come in," he called.

"Professor," the voice was instantly recognisable as that of Martin Burns "We're well on track with the design for the prototype, once you've reviewed our design and we have had the chance to implement any improvements you suggest we should be ready to craft the prototype."

"That's good news," Chambers noted "But why do I think that you have another reason for coming to see me?"

"It's about your young ward," Chambers elaborated.

"I can't think of any problems with her," Chambers noted then added pointedly "except for the problem you always seem to have with Carrie."

"Well she did murder her classmates," Burns countered.

"That depends on how you define murder," Chambers shot back smoothly "just for starters; is it murder if your mind is too broken to understand what you're doing? Just watch some historical footage of that night and it's plain to see that after she snapped this was in fact the case."

"So she snaps and goes on a bloody rampage because of a few mean comments and a stupid prank?" Burns asked.

"Firstly, that was blood they dumped on her-dropping blood on somebody is as good as a death threat because anybody twisted enough to drop blood on a girl at her prom is capable of anything-not to mention the dangers of blood borne diseases," Chambers remarked mildly "secondly, this act of criminal assault also resulted in the death of her date and only then did they stop laughing at the inhuman way she'd been treated in that disgusting video."

"Still seems like a gross overreaction," Burns defended.

"One might think so but consider how easy it would be to kill somebody with Carrie's level of power," Chambers suggested "just how easy do you suppose it would be? Carrie herself has stated that the hard part for her was keeping herself from summoning the power any time she got mad or scared when she first came to us. Now though she has enough control that she can get mad at someone without hurting them."

"It's would be very easy to kill somebody with that level of power," Burns reluctantly agreed "as we've seen."

"But just how easy?" Chambers asked "how much do you suppose it would take? A thought perhaps?"

Burns thought about this for a moment.

"Barely even that," he finally stated "and that's when she's calm."

"And yet we didn't see a trail of corpses in her wake from the moment she got her powers," Chambers noted calmly "people only started dying by her hand when she was pushed too far-which suggests that the only time she even thinks about hurting people is when she's angry-very angry."

And let's not forget the nanites, Chambers thought to himself but that information is classified so I can't tell Burns about it.

"I suppose that does deserve consideration," Burns admitted.

"On top of this we have the preceding seventeen years of her life," Chambers added "also the fact that for twelve of those years most of the people in that gymnasium had been complicit-for one reason or another in her suffering. Imagine if your whole life as long as you can remember is nothing but taunts, humiliation, beatings, being locked in closets, being tripped in hallways and then kicked in the posterior for fun, having your fingers slammed in locker doors and being pushed in front of oncoming cars among many other things."

"Okay-that does sound like a living hell," Burns admitted reluctantly "now that you mention it it is enough to drive somebody crazy-surprising that her rage took so long to subside though, but I guess we are talking about seventeen years worth of repressed anger."

"Then one day," Chambers continued "After a particularly severe act of assault committed against you in the shower room-one might even argue that it classifies as sexual assault and have valid cause to do so-you suddenly discover that you have the power to fight back. What would you do?"

"I don't know what I'd do," Burns admitted "who's to say I wouldn't end up killing them all by wishing for it to happen within a couple of days? Assuming I didn't break and kill myself before I even discovered the power."

"And yet Carrie lasted an additional two weeks beyond that before their cruelty finally broke her mind," Chambers remarked mildly "quite strong willed isn't she?"

"No arguments there," Burns agreed as it finally sunk in "but nonetheless-the trauma of what happened has to have left her unstable, she snapped and turned homicidal for crying out loud. Should we really be allowing her to serve in the military?"

"Hannah assures me that she's stable now-for the most part," Chambers reassured Martin Burns "and besides-given what soldiers do for a living being a little bit crazy might actually be useful."

"And what if she suffers a flashback in the middle of a battle?" Burns asked "that could get her or somebody on her squad killed."

"That's always a risk in battle," Chambers remarked "things happen in combat that can cause severe mental trauma just like what Carrie has suffered-that's why all Alliance soldiers have regular psychological evaluations nowadays. She'll just have to have hers a little more often."

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After her talk with Maria, Carrie had headed back to the institute to speak with Chambers regarding Andrew's Red Sand addiction.

As she walked toward the Professor's combination of lab and office she passed Project director Martin Burns coming the other way, he gave her a sorrowful look look in passing.

Given how he had been on her back pretty much the entire time she'd been here any time the two of them were in the same room this caught her flat footed.

"I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you," he apologised quietly.

As welcome as the apology was it was also most unexpected-for a moment Carrie didn't know what to say.

"I'm no saint either," Carrie admitted freely once she found her voice to speak again "your apology is appreciated-I hope you'll extend that same consideration to those who are suffering side effects from your L2 implants. No offence intended."

"None taken," Burns assured the young woman as he stopped and looked back "I'll give it some thought. On your end of things try not to get yourself killed out there okay? Even if you suffer some kind of flashback."

"Huh?" Carrie asked as her brow furrowed in confusion.

"When you reach the front lines," Burns clarified "keep your focus on the battle-you can have flashbacks when people aren't shooting at you okay?"

"I'll try," Carrie agreed.

"Good, you could actually make a decent soldier based on your performance at Ferris Fields," Burns pointed out "if you don't recklessly get yourself shot to death."

"Well I wasn't charging headlong into the enemy," Carrie shrugged.

"You seem like Vanguard material to me," Burns observed "so on that score I say give it time."

"Maybe," Carrie admitted "why are you being nice to me all of a sudden?"

A part of Carrie half suspected a trick-she still had trust issues after all.

"I had a discussion with the Professor," Burns told her with a shrug "he-put things in perspective for me."

"Oh-I see," Carrie replied quietly.

"Miss Shepard, look-I don't blame you for what you did on Prom Night, not any more," Burns assured her "if anything I pity you, I probably would have done the same and probably sooner-assuming I lasted long enough to even discover the power and didn't commit suicide. But a word of advice regarding people like that."

"Yes?" Carrie asked.

"They aren't worth it," Burns told her "scum like that aren't even worth a second glance from you much less a second of your time-and they certainly aren't worth the sleepless nights that horror has no doubt given you."

"Tell me something I don't already know," Carrie replied gravely "sometimes I don't remember it right you know, like in the wrong order, like maybe in a dream where the video and the laughter comes after Tommy's death instead of before."

"Understandable given the trauma involved," Burns admitted quietly "I can see now that you were the victim and despite that you still regret what you did in a period of temporary insanity."

"It doesn't undo what I did," Carrie told Burns with a sigh "but yes-I feel awful whenever I think about it."

"And that's what makes you a good person," Burns told her as he began to walk on "I hope some day you can forgive yourself Miss Shepard."

Still working on that, Carrie noted quietly to herself.

As Carrie reached the door to the Professor's lab and placed her hand against the palm scanner she waited a moment for the door to open, upon entering she caught sight of him setting up a simulation program for the interactions between the brain of a human biotic and a biotic implant design that must have been the new L3 model on his computer.

"Hello Carrie," Chambers greeted her "How was it seeing your friend again?"

"It was good," Carrie smiled "After that I went to visit Maria at the hospital-I really hope that the new implant design doesn't take much longer. Sally Nellis also showed up during breakfast-she's quit the gang and gotten herself some honest work-that's the good news."

"What's the bad news?" Chambers asked, knowing exactly what the turn of phrase Carrie had used meant.

"Andrew Greiz has gotten himself hooked on Red Sand," Carrie explained "Sally has taken him in but he needs professional help-she suggested asking you if you could get him into a rehab program for addicts."

"I know someone who might be able to help," Chambers told the young biotic "Give me a few minutes to finish setting up this simulation and I'll give him a call."

"I appreciate that," Carrie told Chambers with a smile.

"If he needs help then he needs help," Chambers told her "But he must have had to deal with some nasty emotional baggage to start doing drugs."

"Andrew had a crush on me when I was with the Reds-at least Sally believes he did," Carrie explained "According to her he took it pretty hard when I left and started doing drugs. Thing is he actually told me when I went to see him that he loved me back then but not since I 'ran out on him' as he put it."

"I see," Chambers noted as he continued to set up the simulation "I can see why he would feel that way about you-but doing drugs is no way to deal with the pain of separation."

"No, it isn't," Carrie agreed "Not that I'm one to talk about dealing with emotional baggage. But Professor-you said you can see why he would love me, I can't see why he would."

"It's because you're sweet, and kind," Chambers explained "And you're smart, and strong inside and because you're beautiful both inside and out."

"I'm not beautiful," Carrie denied, a downcast expression on her face "I'm not attractive in the slightest."

"Yes you are Carrie, you only think you're not because of things people have said and done to make you think of yourself as ugly," Chambers reassured her "And that's utter nonsense, they were the ugly ones. I'll make a bet with you Carrie, find as many pictures of the most beautiful women in the galaxy by human and Asari standards as you can on the extranet-non airbrushed mind you-and compare their looks to yours-twenty credits says you can't find one definable thing that makes you less beautiful than any of them."

As Chambers extended his hand to shake on it he knew that Carrie was good for the money-her new identity came with her own bank account, which now contained a generous payment for her contribution to the L3 project and she was as honest as they come.

"You're on," Carrie agreed as she shook his hand, convinced that she would soon be twenty credits richer.

Chambers however was fairly certain that she would be paying him twenty credits.

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As the rest of the day passed Carrie was not short of things to keep her busy.

There were pre enlistment formalities to deal with in order to get everything squared away for her to enlist as soon as she was of legal age.

Since Carrie was going to be serving in the biotics division she was given some material on the three classes of biotic soldier that the alliance trained along with the usual reading material.

As Carrie found when she read through it the classes were;

Adept-specialises almost exclusively in the use of biotic attacks at a distance. Adepts learned skills such as throw, shockwave, barrier, lift, pull, slam, warp and singularity.

Sentinel-Sentinels combined biotics with tech skills to allow them to bring down an enemy's technological defences then follow up with biotic powers and finish them off. Sentinels learned some of the same skills as adepts and also tech skills such as overload.

Vanguard-Vanguards were described as the perfect hybrid of an Adept and a Gunnery Specialist or Soldier Class. Vanguards were fast moving, hard hitting biotic warriors who specialised in close quarters combat and were capable of dealing out large amounts of damage to enemy forces in a very short time. Feared galaxy wide for their high risk, high reward fighting style, Vanguards typically learned skills such as barrier, charge, warp, shockwave, lift, pull, throw and flare and were also skilled with most small arms.

Carrie wasn't sure yet which class she considered herself to be suited for, but Burns seemed to see her as a Vanguard.

After reading through the material Carrie had then gotten in an intense workout, both for her biotics and for her more physical muscles.

Ever since Carrie had decided for sure that she would enlist the now Captain Hackett had been sending her information on various conditioning exercises, and when duty had permitted he had come by and spent time teaching her some hand to hand skills as well as the use of a variety of small arms.

Once Carrie's exercises were done she had gone for a shower.

sssssss

A short time later Carrie emerged from the shower, her hair still wet and wearing only a bathrobe, putting on her omni tool she walked up to the mirror and examined her reflection.

The face looking back still seemed unattractive to her-Carrie hated her face.

Time to honour my bet, Carrie thought to herself as she activated her omni tool and ran an extranet search.

What she found was not what she expected though.

As Carrie examined the face of each of the beautiful human and asari women she found that she could not find a single thing that made her less attractive than them.

Frowning in thought she brought up some full body shots of the women in question.

Maybe I'm too chunky? Carrie thought.

But no-it seemed that her figure was very similar to a decent number of these women, as it turned out her figure type would be defined as petite and curvy.

Maybe my small breasts? Carrie thought to herself.

But that wasn't it either, a number of these women had small breasts, some smaller than hers and they were still considered drop dead gorgeous.

And her tush wasn't the problem, as it turned out her ass was in fact quite nicely shaped.

Maybe my scars, Carrie thought as she undressed and stood in front of the mirror wearing nothing but her omni tool and brought up some nude pictures of the women in question.

As she glanced at the faded burn scar on her right shoulder courtesy of Momma and a fire poker along with the knife scars on her right arm and calf and her newest scar on her right forearm courtesy of a varren at Ferris Fields she grimaced.

But for some reason Carrie's scars had started to disappear, the burn scar on her shoulder-already very hard to see was now almost invisible.

Most peculiar-but she was getting off topic here.

But the scarring wasn't it either, one of the women depicted-a former alliance marine, had far more extensive scarring than Carrie, facial scarring even and she was still considered beautiful.

And Carrie realised that she could not find a single thing that made her less attractive than these women-she could only draw one conclusion.

I am beautiful, Carrie chuckled to herself as she realised that she now owed Chambers twenty credits in fact I'd wager that I'm far more attractive than that crabby bitch Chris. I guess she picked on me out of jealousy.

Carrie now understood why Andrew had fallen for her, and she realised in that moment that she found the slightly short dark haired young man attractive herself, she wanted him in her life to spend time with and come home to after a mission.

And she realised that she felt a thrill at the thought of his hands touching her naked body.

I'd like that so much, Carrie realised as she looked at her nude body in the mirror.

Her strawberry blonde hair, silky smooth now that it was receiving proper care, her big, expressive green eyes, her cute little button nose with a slightly upturned tip, her face-heart shaped but round rather than oval, her slender neck, her small but nicely shaped breasts with delicate, perky, light coffee coloured nipples, her voluptuous figure, with gracefully curving hips and down there the proof that strawberry blonde was indeed her natural hair colour along with a very nice pair of legs.

Carrie realised that she wanted to show this body to Andrew as without realising what she was doing she reached up a hand and lightly touched one of her rapidly hardening nipples, letting out an involuntary moan at the tingle of pleasure that passed through her from this.

Once before Carrie had done this-a lifetime ago in Chamberlain, she had stopped in shame then after touching herself down below-feeling that she must tear this 'something' out of herself.

She stopped this time after briefly sliding a hand down below and touching herself in her most private place, but not out of shame.

She stopped because although the sensation this produced was pleasurable it wasn't giving her what she really wanted.

What she really wanted was Andrew.

But would he ever forgive her for leaving him all those months ago?

ssssss

As Andrew Greiz came out of his Red Sand induced stupor and was able to think clearly the first thing he felt was regret as he remembered what he had said to Carrie earlier.

She was only trying to help and you said that? Andrew berated himself The poor girl has been through enough hell already and has enough self confidence problems as it is you selfish prick. And besides, I didn't mean it-I do still love her.

During the first week of Carrie's three months with the Reds she had been afraid to trust anybody but Emily, and she had only trusted Emily because Emily had helped her out of simple kindness.

Andrew had helped Emily nurse Carrie back to health-after all Dexter Finch couldn't be relied on, he had only helped Emily tend Carrie's wounds because she threatened to hit him for trying to talk her into leaving Carrie to die on that street corner.

Andrew was the second person Carrie had come to trust-and as he helped to nurse her back to health he had fallen in love with her-though he never had the courage to confess his feelings for the sweet, shy strawberry blonde girl.

Now Andrew was the one who needed to be nursed back to health.

Sally had brought him a plate of food, it was sitting on the bedside table nearly cold-he grabbed the fork beside the plate and began picking at it.

But he felt too guilty to eat.

Carrie's never gonna forgive me for saying that, drugs or not Andrew lamented silently and she deserves better than some stupid sand tripper like me anyway-she was right, there is no future in a gang and if I was any kind of man I would have gone with her when she left.

He put the fork down, eating was out of the question with how he felt right now.

I want to be with her more than anything, but that's never going to happen and it's tearing me up inside, Andrew thought to himself as he reached for the box hidden under the bed that contained his Red Sand stash for the first time I meet somebody I can connect with because she's suffered much the same way that I have and I push her away because she left the Reds in order to have a future-way to throw everything away you dumb fuck.

Opening the box he pulled out one of the canisters of Red Sand and tipped a large quantity into the palm of his hand, holding it up to his nose to inhale the crimson dust like substance.

I just want this ache inside to go away.

ssssss

As Carrie smiled at the realisation of her own beauty she found herself contemplating her own nude reflection for a long time

Better get dressed again, Carrie decided as she got out a clean change of clothes the Professor invited me to dinner with his family, it'll be nice to see little Kelly again.

As Carrie braided her hair and got dressed she found that she was seriously considering some changes to her wardrobe-for now her current attire would have to do.

As she pulled on her hooded jacket and put the hood up she paused for a moment before putting the hood back down, then took her hair out of it's braid and let it hang loose before taking off the jacket so that she was clad in her jeans and the short sleeved tee shirt she wore under her hoodie.

I see it now, Carrie thought to herself as she examined her appearance in the mirror the people who complimented me on my looks were right after all, Sally, Emily, the Professor, Andrew, Hannah, Kelly and Miss Desjarden-they could see what I couldn't. That I really do have a pretty face and a nice body and I'm done hiding them.

ssssss

Sally carefully knocked on the door to Andrew's room, waiting for an answer and receiving none.

She had brought Andrew his dinner an hour ago and hadn't heard anything from him since then.

In truth she was worried.

"Andrew?" she called "Andrew please answer me."

No answer, but as Sally listened she could hear an occasional thump, like somebody was writhing on the floor in agony.

After a moment they stopped.

"Andrew?" she called again, and again there was no answer.

Finally having had enough she pressed the green hologram in the centre of the door to open it, but the door only opened a foot and then jammed-as Sally squeezed through the small gap she realised why.

The inside of the room was a biotically smashed ruin.

And in the middle of it Andrew lay face down, his breath coming in short gasps as he lay unconscious on the floor, shivering occasionally from the effects of an obvious drug overdose.

Crossing the distance in two steps, Sally kneeled beside the unconscious teen and rolled him onto his side, pressing the back of her hand to his forehead as she did.

His skin was pale, cold and clammy and as she felt for a pulse she found that it was weak, thready and about a hundred and fifty beats per minute faster than it should have been.

Red Sand overdose, Sally deduced as she activated the communicator in her newly purchased omni tool and contacted the nearest hospital.

ssssss

David Chambers smiled in the direction of his wife Hannah as he took the beef rump roast out of the oven and set it on the kitchen table while she grabbed the oven dish that contained the roast vegetables.

The palette that was represented in this meal was quite varied, there were the standard vegetables from Earth but there was also a root vegetable from Thessia, seafood native to Kar'Shan and a ground nut from Eden Prime.

As Hannah and David Chambers were setting the table while little Kelly played with her toys nearby the sound of the doorbell was heard.

"Carrie must be here," Hannah remarked as she set the roast vegetables down on the sink "I'll get it."

As Hannah opened the door she was greeted by the sight of one Carrie Shepard looking positively radiant, with a smile on her beautiful face.

"Carrie," Hannah noted "I see you've stopped hiding your good looks under that hoodie-I'm glad to see that. A face as beautiful as yours shouldn't be hidden."

Carrie's cheeks tinted pink as she blushed in response.

"Thank you Hannah," Carrie replied "And thanks to your husband I can finally see that I am beautiful."

"Ah, I see," David Chambers interrupted as he set the carving knife and tongs down next to the beef roast and walked over to the doorway holding out a hand "You lost our bet now pay up."

"Here you go," Carrie told him as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a credit chit made out for the required twenty credits, passing it to David with a radiant smile as Hannah obligingly moved aside "Best twenty credits I ever spent."

"I contacted the man who runs the rehab clinic," Chambers added "He's a turian by the name of Soloran Vaahn, former military and a veteran of the First Contact War. Now he helps out those humans who are unfortunate enough to become addicted to Red Sand-says his own people shoulder a large portion of the blame for our Red Sand problem."

"How does he figure the Turians are to blame?" Carrie asked "It's not like they invented the stuff is it?"

"No, it isn't," David confirmed "The drug known as Red Sand was developed by the cartels on Mars a few years after the First Contact War, it was presumably based on a drug that was being explored as an alternative to the L1 implants but was rejected because of the health problems and mind altering effects it caused."

"So instead we have the L2s that cause other health problems," Carrie noted dryly "Yes, that's much better."

"At least they aren't addictive," Hannah remarked as she and David finished setting the table and dishing up, now with Carrie's help.

"True," Carrie admitted "I wish Maria could be here, what's happening isn't fair to her. For a girl who overcame so much and has since helped me deal with my own problems to be reduced to the state she's in now is tragic to say the least."

"It is," David agreed "I hope the guys in R&D hurry up with the prototype, if Maria doesn't get a new implant quickly she could die any day now. But let's put these depressing thoughts aside for now and enjoy our meal."

ssssss

As the meal progressed Carrie found that she was enjoying the conversation that took place, although she wasn't a social butterfly by any means and probably never would be she nonetheless felt at ease talking to others.

For their part David and Hannah Chambers didn't pressure her to talk, instead waiting until she felt comfortable opening up, and when she joined a conversation that they were having they were more than willing to include her.

One thing that Carrie couldn't help blushing about was her own appetite.

Carrie was not large by any means-she was barely more than five feet tall and although curvy she was fairly slender, but she ate enough food for somebody more than twice her size.

"I'm sorry to eat you out of house and home like this Professor," Carrie apologised sheepishly as she finished off her third helping of roast beef and vegetables with extra cabbage.

"Don't be," David Chambers reassured the biotic teen with a look of clear understanding "You need it."

"I guess I do," Carrie admitted "This is what I get for having the metabolism of a blast furnace-speaking of which, I hope we're saving a big serve of this for Maria-she's a biotic too remember."

"Yeah-I guess hospital food isn't going to meet her needs," Hannah agreed "Don't worry, we'll visit her and take her some when our meal is finished."

"Carrie," Kelly piped up from her side of the table.

"Yes Kel?" Carrie asked.

"I can't finish mine-do you want it?"

"I'm sure I can find room-thank you," Carrie agreed as she accepted the offered food.

"You do need to keep your strength up," David remarked.

As the evening progressed Carrie found that she was feeling something that was still new enough for her that she treasured the feeling any time she felt it.

It was something that she had been denied in Chamberlain, but something that her days were filled with now because she now had good friends.

The only time she had felt this in Chamberlain was on Prom Night before Chris had ruined everything with her cruelty.

This feeling that Carrie had come to treasure-was happiness.

sssss

As Maria sat up in her hospital bed reading a book she heard the nurse announce that she had visitors.

Looking up she caught sight of Professor Chambers, Doctor Chambers, little Kelly Chambers and Carrie-Who was carrying a large food platter for some reason.

"Hi Maria," Carrie greeted her with a warm and caring smile.

"You guys are here kind of late," Maria noted curiously "Not that I mind but visiting hours finish in just under an hour."

"We just finished a very nice dinner together," Doctor Hannah Chambers informed Maria as Carrie removed the cover from the platter revealing a generous serving of roast beef and vegetables and set it down on the fold out table as it was moved into position "And we thought it would be only fair to save some for you."

"Nice to see you guys are still thinking of me," Maria noted gratefully "Hospital food just doesn't cut it for me."

"It was Carrie who reminded us," Professor David Chambers added.

"I could kiss you," Maria told Carrie with a happy smile.

"I might oblige you on that," Carrie teased lightly "if I didn't already have feelings for somebody else."

"Andrew?" at Carrie's nod of confirmation she complained "that lucky bastard, I hope he realises how special you are-he'd better treat my girl right."

"I hope he forgives me for running out on him," Carrie prayed.

"He'd better or I'll kick his ass," Maria vowed.

"Even in a hospital bed?"

"You obviously don't know how much a hospital bed can hurt when it ploughs into somebody's back," Maria noted with an evil smile.

"Be nice Maria," Carrie quipped lightly.

A moment later the two were interrupted by a beeping from Carrie's omni tool, indicating a new message, Carrie activated her omni tool and opened the message.

"Who's it from Carrie?" Chambers asked.

"It's from Sally," Carrie replied grimly "Andrew has overdosed on Red Sand-he's in the emergency room right now."

sssss

Fortunately the hospital that Maria was a patient in was also the closest hospital to where Sally and therefore Andrew were living, which meant that Andrew was now an emergency patient in that same hospital.

What followed was a mad dash down to the emergency wing followed by a brief search of the busy emergency wing until she caught sight of Sally accompanied by a nurse and Sally waved her over.

"I'll show you where Andrew is," Sally told Carrie as she and the nurse led the way "they've stabilised him but he's still pretty out of it, not to mention the effects that use of uncontrolled biotics without proper nutrition have had on him."

"How bad was his hypothermia?" Carrie asked, wincing in sympathy as she did.

She knew exactly what the ill effects of undernourished biotics felt like-Prom Night had given her a particularly brutal crash course on the subject.

Carrie knew all about the nasty side effects that could result from improperly nourished biotics.

"Not as bad as you'd expect," Sally told Carrie as they approached Andrew's ward "The bad part was how high his heart rate was, it's back down to normal now but the doctors said if it had gone any higher-."

"Heart failure," Carrie nodded in understanding "They're gonna do scans to make sure his heart hasn't been damaged aren't they?"

"Yep," Sally assured Carrie as they walked into the ward.

The sight of Andrew unconscious in a hospital bed and covered in tubes and wires made Carrie feel as though she had been sucker punched in the stomach.

"Can I have some time alone with him?" Carrie asked quietly.

"Sure," Sally replied.

"If you need anything we'll be right outside," the nurse added.

"Thanks," Carrie replied quietly as the two left the room.

"I hate seeing you like this Andrew," Carrie told the young man in the hospital bed once they were alone "Just so we're clear though I'm not sorry for leaving the gang but I am sorry that doing so hurt you, I hope you can understand and forgive."

Carrie walked over and carefully took one of Andrew's hands in hers, gently squeezing it as she continued.

"I should have checked back and kept in touch with you guys, but I wanted to stay away from that jerk Finch so badly and I got so caught up in my second chance that I forgot, and for that I apologise," Carrie bit her lip briefly before continuing "If you still love me as you said you did before then I want you to know that I love you too."

Carrie leaned down and placed a gentle kiss upon Andrew's forehead, smiling gently as she straightened back up.

"Take care of yourself Andrew-and get help, please," Carrie implored the unconscious young man "Professor Chambers knows someone who can help you, I'll get him to come by once you're feeling better. As for me I'm going to find the bastards who did this to you and I'm gonna make them pay."

As Carrie walked back out Sally was waiting for her outside.

"Do we know who sold him the Red Sand?" Carrie asked.

"What are you planning to do?" Sally asked fearfully.

"What do you think?" Carrie asked "They're a bunch of poison peddling lowlifes who put my friend in the hospital."

Sally shifted nervously at Carrie's tone, there was a distinct hard edge to her voice-though her voice was soft and cultured it carried enough steel for a full suit of plate mail-and the broadsword to go with .

"I'm not going to kill them okay," Carrie assured Sally defensively "I'm going to make sure they end up where they belong-now do you know anything?"

"Andrew said once that he got his Sand from Snooky down by the spaceport," Sally told Carrie "He said Snooky hangs around in a sleazy bar called the Roaring Cougar playing pool but that's all I know."

"Thanks," Carrie nodded gratefully as she turned to leave "If I can find the Cougar I should be able to track Snooky down."

Unbeknownst to either of them at that moment Andrew stirred in his bed and whispered a few simple words.

"Still love you-Carrie-Didn't mean what I said earlier."

ssssss

One hour later

Sven Jorgensen, a bartender at the Roaring Cougar looked up as he caught sight of a young and attractive blonde approaching the bar, she looked eighteen or nineteen tops, and what she was wearing made his heart race-modest but still showing the right amount of cleavage and some very feminine arms.

"I was wondering," the girl asked "Would you know where I can find Snooky? I'm told he hangs around in this place."

"The only 'Snooky' I know is Roger 'Snooky' Hernandez," Sven replied, his Latvian accent only just detectable "What do you want with him sweetheart? That guy sells Red Sand-I hope you're not planning to buy any of that stuff, I'd hate to see a pretty girl like you ruin her life on drugs."

Sven knew all about lives being ruined by drugs-it hadn't even been a year since his kid brother had died of a Red Sand overdose caused by Snooky's dangerous wares.

Snooky who also snookered everybody at pool.

Sven felt his heart race a little more as the cute strawberry blonde in front of him blushed at the compliment in regards to her looks, then she leaned forward, resting her forearms on the bar in just the right way to emphasise her modest but nicely shaped bust.

The fact that the pure white tee shirt she was wearing showed just a hint of cleavage added to the effect significantly.

The girl-Carrie,-was for her part nervous as hell about using flirtation like this, but she needed every edge she could get to find that creep.

"Let's just say I have something I need to discuss with Mr Hernandez."

"You are gonna buy Red Sand from him aren't you?" Sven sighed in frustration, this seemed like an obvious conclusion to him "That bastard-he's got another one hooked."

"Don't worry, I'm not going to buy any of his crap," the girl assured him, Sven's scepticism must have shown on his face because she continued "A friend of mine bought his product and I'm rather-displeased with the effect it's had on said friend."

Sven watched in astonishment as the girl gestured with one hand, levitating a set of beer mugs further down the bar into the air using what could only be biotics before lowering them back down again.

"I wish to meet with Snooky and-express my dissatisfaction."

Sven breathed a sigh of relief before he replied.

"I fully understand that desire but you just missed him tonight," he told the girl "but he should be here again tomorrow night around six thirty or seven-give the bastard hell."

"I plan to."

"Good," Sven nodded with a smile, finally that thrice cursed drug dealer would get what was coming to him.

"I should go," the girl decided as she turned to leave.

"Wait," Sven called "I didn't get your name."

"Call me Carrie," the girl replied as she smiled back at him.

sssssss

Later that night as Carrie slept memories of Black Prom once again played through her mind-this time she was observing from outside as her dream self wrought havoc on those who had wronged her.

I don't want to see this, Carrie thought desperately as her blood soaked, maddened doppelganger slaughtered her classmates in retaliation for years of abuse I don't want to remember this.

But I can't let myself forget.

She continued to watch as her blood covered dream self smashed Heather into the locked doors, held Nicky and Lizzy down with her mind as they were trampled by the crowd, smashed Freddy Holt's face in with a flying table, lashed Tina to death and set her alight with a live cable, crushed another boy in the bleachers, came within a hairs breadth of killing Miss Desjarden and electrocuted half of the other Ultras.

Freddy didn't deserve that, Carrie thought sadly I'm pretty sure he didn't mean me any harm-but at the time my fractured mind saw almost everybody as the enemy.

She unwillingly followed her dream self as she levitated out of the wrecked gym-leaving her high heels behind in the process, touched down briefly, spotted Chris and Billy's fleeing car and took to the air once more in pursuit, her powers involuntarily wreaking havoc on the cityscape below as she did.

Watched helplessly as her dream self slammed her bare foot down on the surface of the roadway with all of her biotic power flowing through it-tearing open the earth in her first use of the technique that Carrie now called her Biotic Tremor and nearly swallowing the car whole.

Watched as Billy narrowly avoided sending the car into the abyss, and then attempted to run her dream self over-only to hit an invisible barrier surrounding the biotic teen that was akin to a wall of solid steel.

Billy's face was smashed into the steering wheel-apparently killing him instantly, not surprising really.

She watched as her dream self locked the doors on a distraught and terrified Chris and tried to strangle her with the seat belt-screaming at her other self to stop, that she didn't have to do this-only to realise that the other Carrie couldn't hear her.

Because all of this had already happened and it couldn't be changed.

She watched distraught as Chris shifted Billy's body out of the driver's seat and put the car in gear and reversed back rapidly.

Then instead of doing the smart thing and fleeing she tried again to run Dream Carrie down.

You idiot, Carrie thought in frustration as she watched Chris do this only to realise that the car was already rising into the air under the influence of the other Carrie's powers you're going to get yourself killed.

Then she watched as her dream self saw the look of fear on Chris' face and stopped as it sunk in what she was doing.

Carrie could clearly recall how conflicted she had felt at this time-half of her (the rage that had been magnified by whatever was behind the nanites she now realised) wanted to kill Chris and the other half (Carrie's true self) had wanted to stop and let Chris live.

Sadly the half that wanted Chris dead had gotten what it wanted.

But the only reason there had been any conflict at all was that by this time that awful voice in her mind telling her to kill had become crackly and indistinct and although it could still amplify her rage it could no longer entirely suppress her remorse.

But Chrisbegan revving the engine again-hoping to catch Dream Carrie off guard and rage once again overpowered remorse.

Stupid bitch-she's in mid fucking air, Present Carrie thought as she watched this solid run at a Darwin Award.

In her anger Dream Carrie threw the car into the gas station after all as the spinning tyres grabbed pavement and propelled the car forward even faster, uprooting two fuel pumps-thereby causing gasoline to spill everywhere and smashing in the front of the gas station.

Carrie watched unable to assist as her dream self once again changed her mind about wanting to kill Chris at the panicked last instant as remorse gained the upper hand again and in a desperate attempt to avoid ending up with one more death on her conscience tried to snag Chris with her powers and keep her from flying through the windscreen.

But Dream Carrie managed only partial success as Chris still smashed face first into the windscreen and got stuck with just her face through it.

Too little too late, Carrie thought seeing the look of shame on her dream self's face as both of them watched Chris die.

Dream Carrie turned and walked away from Chris Hargenson's corpse-utterly ashamed of herself, pausing for a moment as she vented her frustration on a lamp post-toppling it into the gasoline and setting it alight.

Chris was already dead so what difference did it make?

It had been several minutes after this that the voice had stopped altogether in real life.

But in the dream Past Carrie turned as she seemingly became aware of Present Carrie for the first time-looking her in the eye as she spoke.

"Do you honestly think you can make amends for this?" Dream Carrie asked as she gestured toward the burning car "you have countless deaths on your conscience-even if you-we-were insane at the time. Even if your rage was magnified by an outside influence."

"I have to try," Carrie protested.

"A fool's errand," Dream Carrie replied, her voice becoming deep, rumbling and metallic and her blood smeared face forming itself into a chilling smile as her eyes began to glow red "you cannot escape us-you cannot escape what you did-we didn't create your rage-we simply amplified what was already there."

"I wouldn't dream of trying to escape it," Carrie corrected "I may be a murderer but I'm no coward, instead I'll make amends by protecting the rest of the galaxy-from you if I have to."

"Will you protect me?" Carrie's dream doppleganger asked as it morphed into Andrew Greiz "you're the reason I'm on Sand to begin with bitch."

"Andrew," Carrie whispered in a mixture of guilt and sorrow as the truth spoken by this nightmare hit home "I never meant for that to happen-I'm trying to help you, I swear I am. I love you."

"Do you think I could love a monster like you?" Not-Andrew challenged.

"But you're not Andrew," Carrie noted as she regained her composure "he would never call me a monster no matter how angry or drugged he was."

"No," the nightmare admitted as it once again took Carrie's shape "I'm you."

"Or something that those nanites left in my subconscious," Carrie deduced "or maybe you're just my fears after all but if the nanotech spawned you then you're a reflection of what I have to stop."

"You cannot defeat us," the nightmare dismissed "we controlled you once before-we can do it again if necessary. All of your struggles shall be futile Shepherd. You cannot stop the ascension of your species-we are your salvation through destruction."

With a gasp Carrie awoke in her bed and came to the realisation that her right hand was charging up a biotic shockwave-with a sigh she dismissed the biotic field and gently lowered her bed and bedside table back down as she also became aware that she was biotically holding them suspended in midair.

Slipping on her omni tool briefly she activated it and brought up the chronometer function-it read 0215 hours.

Might as well try and get some more sleep-I'll need to be rested up for tomorrow night.

ssssss

It was some hours later that both Carrie and Hannah Chambers were standing in the lobby of the rehab clinic that Prof David Chambers had recommended for Andrew.

They had been greeted by a clerk who to Carrie's eye looked like nothing so much as a giant floating pink jellyfish

A hanar, Carrie realised.

She had seen the anatomy charts of hanar in the lab shortly after her awakening from stasis and had even seen one from a distance during her ill thought out escape from the Institute but this was the first time she had seen one up close.

"Greetings humans, this one bids you welcome to the clinic," the hanar greeted them, it's translator interpreting the being's bio luminescent language and translating it into English "do either of you require rehabilitation for Red Sand addiction?"

"No-the rehab isn't for us," Hannah clarified "one of the young lady's friends has become addicted and needs professional help-but he suffered an overdose just yesterday and isn't in a fit state to be admitted just yet."

"This one understands," the hanar replied "it will go and fetch the administrator of the clinic immediately."

A few minutes later the hanar floated back into the room trailing after an average sized male Turian whose face bore the Vaahn family's clan markings.

He was dressed in loose fitting trousers and the hooded jacket that seemed to be the favoured form of casual wear among Turians.

"Hello," the Turian man greeted them "I'm Doctor Soloran Vaahn-I understand that a friend of yours requires the services of this clinic but is currently comatose and not in a fit state to be admitted due to an overdose."

"A friend of mine-yes," Carrie supplied "we were-well we were in a street gang together as ashamed as I am to admit that-until I left. He apparently took it pretty hard and started doing Sand, got himself hooked. Apparently he-wanted to be more than friends with me."

"Hmmm-I see," Soloran remarked thoughtfully "that may well have contributed-but I'm of the opinion that there must also be some underlying psychological issue for this to lead to a drug habit. I'd say the services of a therapist wouldn't go astray either."

"Well I have some time available in my schedule now that my previous patient is mostly recovered," Hannah noted as she glanced in Carrie's direction.

"You could help him a lot," Carrie agreed "you certainly helped me."

"I'm going to want to meet this patient before he's admitted to the clinic," Soloran decided "which hospital is he currently in?"

"Langhorne Medical Centre," Hannah told Doctor Vaahn.

"Let me know when he's conscious and I'll come over and meet him," Soloran instructed Hannah.

ssssss

As Hannah and Carrie were leaving the clinic Hannah heard the chime sound on her omni tool indicating an incoming call on the inbuilt comlink.

Activating the holographic interface Hannah tapped the control to answer the call, quickly recognising the face of her husband as the holographic screen flashed into life above her wrist.

"Hey babe, what is it?" Hannah asked.

"Something that will also interest Carrie," Chambers told her "I understand she's with you right now."

"I see," Hannah noted "she is indeed with me-Carrie, lean in closer so my handsome husband can see you as well."

"Like this?" Carrie asked as she leaned over so that she was also in view of the omni tool's screen.

"That'll do nicely," Hannah confirmed "now what did you want to tell us David?"

"The two of you might be interested to know," Professor Chambers told them "that the research and development department on Arcturus Station has finished looking over the last minute improvements I suggested to the L3 prototype design and have finalised it. They started building the prototype roughly an hour ago-it should be ready for initial testing some time tomorrow."

"That's wonderful news," Carrie smiled happily at this revelation-it looked like Maria's luck hadn't run out just yet "have you told Maria?"

"I thought I'd give you that honour Carrie," Chambers informed the young biotic.

"What do you say?" Carrie asked Hannah "want to come along?"

"I've got some time before my next appointment."

ssssss

As Carrie and Doctor Hannah Chambers sat side by side in the skycar as it took them to Langhorne Medical centre Hannah decided to break the silence by asking Carrie a question.

"So-Carrie," Hannah asked "is there something you wanted to tell me?"

"Not that I can think of," Carrie told Hannah with a shrug "why do you ask?"

"You have developed a good poker face in recent months Carrie," Hannah acknowledged "but not good enough to fool me-have you forgotten that I'm a qualified psychological therapist?"

"I haven't forgotten," Carrie assured her "hell I've probably unloaded several thousand metric tons of emotional baggage on you over the last few months-what are you getting at? Do you think I'm acting out of character?"

"Not so much out of character as an aspect of your personality that can be a little-frightening," Hannah corrected her patient and friend.

"You think I'm gonna go Black Prom on somebody?" Carrie asked "I have no desire to end up with more regrets."

"I know," Hannah noted calmly "and I doubt that you are going to do that-that was the worst side of you brought out by post traumatic stress and then magnified many times by the effect of those nanites. Although that darkness is a part of you it's not who you really are."

"Then what do you think I'm gonna do?" Carrie demanded.

"Well let's just say I've noticed this harder edge to you since yesterday," Hannah remarked "and yesterday was when your friend Andrew ended up in critical care due to a Red Sand overdose-and security Chief Danvers told me that you came home unusually late last night. Carrie-are you planning to go vigilante?"

"Let's say hypothetically that I am," Carrie suggested "are the cops having any success in dealing with scumbags like those drug dealers?"

"I guess not but you're about to enlist in the Alliance Marines," Hannah reminded her "doing that requires following orders and doing things by the book-something like this won't reflect well on you if it comes out."

"I know but how is Andrew going to get off of the drugs with those dealers still out there supplying him with them?" Carrie countered "not to mention how many other people's lives these bastards might have ruined."

"Look," Hannah suggested "when we get back to the institute we'll have a chat with Chief Danvers about this-he knows a few people in the NYPD who might be able to help."

"The cops aren't having any success dealing with these guys," Carrie protested.

"With your help maybe they might have," Hannah countered gently.

"I suppose that might work," Carrie relented "and do you think that they'll accept my help?"

"That depends," Hannah remarked thoughtfully "do you have a lead on these drug dealers?"

Carrie thought about this for a moment.

"Yes," she replied at last "yes I do have a lead."

"Then they'd be fools not to accept your help," Hannah assured the teen.

sssss

An abandoned warehouse in the slums.

"Pay attention Moore-you might actually learn something," Dorian Wrightson told one of his younger lackeys-a tall, well built, square jawed, dark haired man in his early twenties "if you can stop thinking with your fists for a few seconds that is."

"Sorry boss," the lackey-one Gavin Moore replied sheepishly "I'm just the muscle remember."

"Well use your muscle to move those crates where I tell you to instead of just any old place," Wrightson suggested "and hurry up-we need them inside before somebody starts wondering why we're shifting crates into an abandoned warehouse."

"Yes boss."

"I won't be here much longer," another underling told Moore as he placed his crate where instructed, this man-Lucius Zachary-had an insane gleam in his eyes akin to that of a cultist "I'm just here to kill the Shepherd-they tell me she'll be here soon."

"Great, you're here to kill somebody who looks after sheep," Moore remarked dryly "is everybody from New Chamberlain a nut case?"

"Do not mock my holy mission," Zachary told Moore imperiously "the great harvest is coming and none shall stand in it's way."

"That's enough," Wrightson told Zachary "get back to work or I'll be harvesting your balls for slacking off Zachary-I'm sure I can find an interested Krogan."

"Of course," Zachary replied with the kind of politeness that one does not find reassuring because it suggests a possible knife in the back as soon as one's back is turned.

Nonetheless he did as instructed.

"I don't like that nut either boss," another underling, a ferret faced man with red hair told Wrightson as he entered the warehouse "he's a couple of eezo units short of a drive core if you take my meaning."

"Ah-Hernandez," Wrightson noted as he passed the man a nondescript cloth satchel "here's your quota to sell today-I trust you can find a market for it."

"Should be able to boss-even though one of my regular customers didn't show last night."

"Oh?" Wrightson asked.

"Yeah-some kid in the Reds, or he was," Hernandez recalled "started buying from me when his girl ran out on him or something."

"Ah-I see," Wrightson noted "well-there's other customers out there."

"That there is boss-that there is."

Langhorne Medical Centre.

"Hey Maria," Carrie smiled as she entered her fellow biotic's ward and approached her bed-displaying a new found confidence that many found to be a refreshing change "I have some good news for you."

"Really?" Maria asked with a cheeky grin that belied her too pale face "And what would that be? Are you gonna kiss me? Because that would be awesome."

"You tease," Carrie shot back awkwardly as she struggled to control her blush "Look, I know you're into girls as well as guys and I know you like me-I kind of found out both at once when you told me that you love me a couple of months back. I'm not sure if I swing that way or not to be honest. Anyhow-getting off topic; the good news I came to deliver has nothing to do with any romantic feelings. Alliance R and D finalised the design for the L3 prototype-they started manufacturing the prototype an hour ago-it should be ready for initial testing sometime tomorrow. Human trials shouldn't be long after that."

Maria's jaw dropped at the news, then a hesitant smile found it's way onto her face.

"You mean I-."

"Still have a chance of survival if you can hold on long enough," Carrie confirmed "so you damn well keep fighting Maria."

"No promises," Maria agreed "but I'll hold on as long as I can."

"That's all anybody can ask," Carrie nodded amicably as she gently clasped Maria's shoulder "and if you need more motivation to keep fighting just think how upset I'd be if you died. For starters I'd have to find a new volleyball partner."

"I wouldn't want to upset you now would I?" Maria remarked "if you managed to survive seventeen years of hell I suppose I can handle a few more weeks of illness-assuming my body cooperates. After all, finding a new partner for sports can be a pain in the ass."

"That it can Maria, especially one as patient as you," Carrie agreed.

"Well you did have issues back then-or more issues rather," Maria noted "I knew I'd have to be patient with you, the first time we practised together-you were too scared to even hit the ball."

"Yeah-sorry about that," Carrie replied with a grimace "and then I tried to serve and accidentally hit you in the face."

"You had very little self confidence Care," Maria reminded the younger girl "part of helping you to get good at sports was to help you with that."

"You were very patient," Carrie recalled "I appreciate that."

"You were worth it Carrie," Maria noted with satisfaction "You're gonna make a hell of a soldier someday."

The Institute for Transhuman Studies.

"Are you serious?" David Chambers asked, not quite sure he had heard the now Captain Hackett correctly "You're telling me that when the courier ship with the remains on board got within ten light years of the Citadel the whole place went into lock down?"

"That's correct," the now Captain Stephen Hackett, who had transferred recently from the Marines to Fleet Operations confirmed "Whatever tech was responsible for turning Margaret Brigham White into that thing appears to trigger all of the station's defences just by it's presence."

"That is troubling news indeed," Chambers remarked grimly "never mind the fact that we can't get access to the laboratory facilities of the Citadel to bypass the dead end we'd hit at Arcturus. The fact that the presence of this technology triggers such a strong reaction from the Citadel indicates that those behind it are a significant threat."

"The news gets worse," Hackett added "Shortly after this there was an-accident on board the shuttle and the remains were lost to deep space along with two marines-only one of whom we have since managed to rescue. This happened with a Council Spectre guarding the remains-Saren Arterius-and the marine we rescued is still in a coma and not expected to wake up."

"All this stinks a little," Chambers remarked dryly "for the remains to be lost under those circumstances at that specific time while under guard by a Spectre Agent seems a little too improbable to have happened by accident."

"I agree," Hackett nodded in reply "unfortunately there is no proof."

"Not yet," Chambers agreed "but someday whoever is doing this is sure to slip up."

Later-back at the Institute.

Despite the fact that she wasn't nearly as insecure as she had once been Carrie still wasn't what one would call supremely confident and looking at the expectant faces gathered around she couldn't help but feel a little uneasy.

"Okay," she related nervously "After visiting Andrew at the hospital I found out from Sally that he'd confided to her once where he got his Red Sand from-a street pusher who goes by the nickname of Snooky and hangs around in a sleazy bar called the Roaring Cougar. I went there and asked around and the bartender told me that Snooky's real name is Roger Hernandez and that he's there every night around Six Thirty or Seven O Clock, apparently the bartender doesn't like the guy either."

"And why were you asking around yourself instead of contacting us?" the NYPD Captain-Ben Rogers asked "were you planning to take matters into your own hands by any chance?"

Carrie twiddled her fingers nervously.

"If I say 'yes' am I under arrest?"

"Have you actually tried to detain Hernandez or any of his associates yourself?" Rogers asked.

"I haven't," Carrie replied quietly.

"Then no," Rogers assured her.

"Thank you for talking me out of that Hannah," Carrie muttered quietly under her breath.

Rogers nodded simply.

"Thank you for the information, I can assigns some officers to investigate Mr Hernandez and see what they can turn up-starting at the Cougar tonight."

"With all due respect Officer a man like that is sure to be good at covering his tracks," Carrie remarked "he's probably been investigated many times before without success and a man like that would probably know how to spot an undercover Cop-what you need is a civilian informant who can get the location of his nest for you. I'd like to volunteer for that job."

"You're a kid," Rogers protested.

"I'm turning eighteen in less than a month," Carrie protested "and the day that happens I'll be enlisting in the Alliance Marines, I've seen combat before believe it or not when the Blood Pack recently attacked Ferris Fields-and I'm a biotic. Would you like to hear what I have in mind?"

Rogers thought for a moment before he spoke.

"Tell me more."

To Be Continued