The way this night is going, I'm definitely going to need this.
Scott pulled out one of the shots that Lexi had given him, taking it into his arm. He noticed Cora's look of worry immediately. He had hoped that nobody had seen the action. "I'm fine."
Cora was clearly unsure. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Scott disposed of the packaging. "I just celebrated Eos a little too hard in the Vortex, that's all."
Cora crossed her arms, a mischievous smile forming on her face. "And where was my invite, Pathfinder?"
"Next time, I swear." Scott held up his hands. "You can even buy the drinks if you want to."
"Lets not go that far. But I'll hold you to next time." Cora glanced over at the bed that Shepard now occupied. Wisely, he'd been shackled so as not to cause more problems whenever he next came around. Harry was checking his vital signs under the watchful eye of Maynard, the guard that Tann had brought into the room with him. The guard had been fairly surprised to see Shepard storming out of the tent. So surprised in fact that he didn't know how to react when the SPECTRE had done so. "So that wasn't what I expected to walk in to."
"Right?" Scott nodded. "What the hell happened there?"
"Best ask the source if I were you. The one that's awake, anyway."
Scott groaned. "Gotcha." He walked towards the bed opposite Shepard. The guard who had been knocked out, Leech, was currently sat up and talking with Director Tann and Foster Addison, who had only recently arrived once she'd heard about the commotion.
Tann glanced at Scott and Cora as they joined them bedside. "Officer Leech here is filling us in on the details of what he remembers. Please, start your account again."
Leech nodded weakly. "Not long after Harr- Dr Carlyle left, a woman came out of the elevator. She was dressed in a labcoat, dark hair.. she was beautiful." Leech groaned. "She flirted with me. Dropped her belongings. I helped them pick them up. Next thing I know, I'm waking up with a blinding headache."
Ryder frowned. "Did you get her name?"
"Dr. Reave, I think. I can't remember her first name, sorry."
"There is no one part of the Initiative with that name, certainly not a doctor. A cover, no doubt." Tann motioned for Ryder and Cora to join Addison and himself in private. "The access code used on the door belonged to Jien Garson."
"Jien Garson?" Cora asked. "But she's-"
"Dead, yes, thank you Lieutenant." Addison groaned. "We're well aware."
Cora held her tongue, but Scott felt the distaste in his mouth. "Hey, we've all been caught with our pants down here. Why the hell was her access code even still valid?"
"An oversight, clearly. Yet another mistake that has been made in the past year." Tann sighed.
"What about the cameras? Surely there's footage. Even if we don't have a name, facial recognition must bring up something."
"They've been wiped clean."
"What?" Scott and Cora both exclaimed simultaneously.
"Kandros is as confused, and angry, as we are. I'd like to say it's not the first time something like this has happened, but.." Addison trailed off.
Scott shook his head. "What the hell is going on around here?" He stopped himself. "Just, now what?"
Addison groaned. "I don't know. I'm saying that too much lately."
Cora glanced at the bed to her left. "What about Shepard? Why was he so angry when coming out of the tent?"
"He didn't seem to know where he was." Tann began to explain his ordeal. "He clearly didn't react to the Initiative. It has true that some have been confused, forgetful, when coming out of cryo. But this was something more. He started asking about his ship, his crew. That's when he blazed fire in his eyes. Shepard was panicked. That's when you arrived."
"So let me get this straight." Scott tapped his foot impatiently. "Someone came here, using Jien Garson's access code. We don't know who she is and we only have a partial idea, thanks to a clearly confused security guard. Somehow not only does she have the access codes, but she has the ability to make footage disappear. Plus Shepard woke up not long after dropping by." He glanced at Cora. "Is this the part where Dad would have kicked somebodys ass?"
Scott looked at Tann. "Sounds like I have some asses to kick."
"Just, wait, Ryder. I admit, this is not how we'd want the situation to play out. But we must adapt, just like we have done since arriving in Andromeda."
"So we're back to the wild-eyed former should be dead SPECTRE who shouldn't be here? Great." Scott rolled his eyes. "Harry? Can we have a word?"
Harry walked over to join the four of them. "What do you need?"
"A goddamn miracle." Scott shook his head. "But until then, what can you tell us?"
"Not much to be honest."
Scott laughed. "What a surprise."
Harry ignored the laughter. "I can wake him whenever is needed. It's not like it was before. He's sedated right now."
"And this tech that's inside of him?"
"No clue. I haven't seen anything like it. Equipment here isn't built for this. I'd hope he'd have more answers for me. But what I can say is this, physically, he's strong. Personally I'd have thought it would take more to knock him out." Harry glanced at Cora. "No offence."
Scott crossed his arms. "Maybe whatever this mystery tech is didn't agree with stasis? Or he's got to.. boot up? He's not a computer, is he, doc? Or a robot?"
"No to both. He's still Human. Just, upgraded."
A wry smile formed on Scott's face. "Damn. If he was a robot, maybe he'd come with a manual."
"We're trying to pull answers out of thin air." Addison was clearly as impatient as always. "There's only one thing we can do now."
"Wake him." Tann added before Addison could finish.
"Yeah, you're both right. He's secure?" Scott asked.
"Very." Harry confirmed. "He's not going anywhere unless you unlock him, or Cora physically moves him again."
"Don't get tempted, Cora." Scott motioned towards Shepard. "Then I guess we should do this." He glanced at Tann. "Since you called me down here, I guess you want me to handle this?"
"As Pathfinder, I believe the responsibility should be yours, yes."
Of course you did. "Harry, wake him."
As Harry went to Shepard's side, Cora whispered closely to Scott. "You got this."
"We're about to find out."
"That wasn't a question, Scott."
Scott smiled softly at the show of confidence that Cora had in him. Maybe she'd seen something, or maybe she was just picturing his old man. But right now, it didn't matter. What mattered was some sort of answers.
And his very first session of questioning was with the first human SPECTRE.
Talking about diving into the deep end.
It only took a minute before Shepard's eyes started to flutter open. Instinctively he went to raise him arm to protect himself from the light. Unfortunately for him, both were chained at his side. He shook his wrist carefully as he looked down at the attachment, before finally raising his head to look at those staring at him.
Shepard's eyes travelled from face to face until they finally landed on Cora. To her surprise, he smiled. "Should have seen that one coming. Nice job." He coughed. "Next time I'll duck."
Cora remained silent as Scott took a step forward towards the end of the bed. "Shepard, I'm Scott Ryder."
"The man with the answers." Shepard cocked his head. "A little young for an interrogation, aren't you kid?"
Scott stood up straight. "I'm the human Pathfinder."
"That's a flashy title. Doesn't mean anything to me though." Shepard pulled at his chains. "I see we've switched roles again, Tann."
The Salarian actually backed up a little despite being the furthest one from Shepard.
Scott tried to regain Shepard's focus onto him. "Do you know where you are, Shepard?"
"The Initiative, or so I've been told." Shepard's eyes narrowed. "That's what your friend informed me of anyway, the Director."
"That is correct. But I'll ask again, where are you, Shepard?"
"Normally I should be the one asking that question, just so you know. Don't worry, apart from that, you're doing a great job."
"You didn't answer my question."
Shepard smiled. "That's correct. Clearly, I don't know where I am. I suppose I've made plenty of enemies over the years. This isn't an Alliance facility, that's for sure."
Scott blinked. Lets try.. kindness? "Shepard, John.. we're not your enemy. Trust me, we're as confused as this as you seemingly are."
"This says otherwise." Shepard pulled at the chains. "So why don't you stop yanking me around and give me some goddamn answers yourself?"
"Fine." Scott quickly glanced at Tann. Forget kindness. Firm. He'll respect that. "You want to hear it, so be it. One month after the battle of the Citadel, you were declared as killed in action by the Alliance and the Council, the very Council you saved. That's what we, the public, were led to believe." He motioned to Shepard. "Clearly that was not the case. What were you doing, John? Why are you here?"
Shepard gritted his teeth. "What do you mean, what was I doing? I'm right here. Clearly, I've been right here. You say your not my enemy? Where's Councillor Anderson? What the hell happened to my ship, my crew, who attacked us?" Shepard's voice rose to a yell.
Scott could feel the people behind him shifting uncomfortably. He really doesn't know. What the fuck? His expression softened. "John. What year do you think it is?"
Shepard let out a frustrated grunt. "It's 2183."
Scott closed his eyes. "The year is 2819, John."
"Bullshit." Shepard stared a hole into Ryder. "I don't know what type of game it is you're playing-"
"It's the truth, John. The year is 2819. You're currently on board Ark Hyperion, attached to the Nexus, in the Andromeda Galaxy. We discovered you in one of the stasis pods onboard. It took us over six hundred years to reach Andromeda. You were asleep for that time."
Shepard didn't blink. "Bullshit. It's not possible."
"I can assure you, it can and is."
Shepard shook his head. "We had a plan. Anderson and I. And then they attacked. Liara wanted me to go with her, but I had to stay, help Joker."
"Wait, Liara? As in Liara T'Soni?" Please be one and the same.
"You know her?" Shepard tried to sit forward but was chained in place.
"No, but I discovered some messages from her in my father's cabin." Scott brought up his omni-tool. What am I even doing? I'm way out of my league here. Maybe this will help? He scrolled through the entries from his father that had been unlocked until he reached Liara's name. He clicked play.
"Hello, Alec - this is Dr. T'Soni. I'm flattered you contacted me. Most scientists dismiss my work. But I'm young and asari and they're getting older, so we'll see who has the final word." Shepard's eyes widened at the voice, taking it all in as she softly laughed before continuing. In the meantime, I'm happy to pass along my research. I hope your team finds it useful." The recording came to a stop, before another quickly started. "Hello, Alec. I received your message. I must say, the thought of exploring another galaxy has my head spinning. I'm honestly not sure how people could survive a trip like that. And anyway, I couldn't bear to leave the Milky Way behind. There's so much about the Protheans I still hope to learn here, so much potential wisdom to tap. I wish you much good luck and future success."
Scott closed his omni-tool. "There's more, but only about the Protheans and her research."
Shepard looked down at the bed. His voice was hollow. "Liara." Shepard's voice trailed off for a moment as he tried to collect the thoughts flying round his head. "You're not lying? We're truly in Andromeda?"
Scott nodded. "Yes. We've only recently arrived. The Nexus has been here for just over a year."
"I have to go back."
Scott bit his lip. "There's no going back, John. This was a one way trip, I'm sorry."
"Damn it, there has to be a way!"
Silence filled the room. Scott didn't know what to say, he couldn't find the words. He'd signed up for this mission. He'd chosen to come to Andromeda, they all had.
Except Shepard. He hadn't made that choice.
"Why did you bring me here?" Shepard asked. Scott could tell he was trying to hold it together, but the reality of the situation was crashing down hard on him.
"We didn't, John. As I said, we discovered you in one of the cryo pods. We were hoping you'd have answers. About why you're here, your condition."
"You're full of tech that none of us truly understand. It was keeping you sedated. After we found you, we couldn't wake you." Scott turned to Tann. "The so called doctor, her name?"
"John, does the name Dr. Reave mean anything to you?"
Shepard shook his head. "Nothing. This tech. Did she put it there? Did I-" Shepard trailed off. "What happened to me?"
"We don't know. But she knows. We're going to find her, John. We're going to find out how and why you're here."
Scott knew it wasn't what Shepard wanted to hear. He wanted his life, back in the Milky Way, six hundred years in the past. If he'd once agreed to this trip, he didn't remember it now. He was a stranger in a strange land, without a friend in the galaxy.
He was lost.
Shepard stared down at his hands. He stayed that way for a little over a minute. Nobody said a word. "I need to see it." Shepard met Scott's eyes. "Andromeda. Show me."
Tann finally found his voice once more. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"No, he's right." Scott turned to Tann and Addison. "Clear operations. Let him see."
The Salarian looked quizzically at the Pathfinder. "This is on you, Ryder."
The trip to operations was done without a hitch. At Scott insistence, Shepards chains were removed and he was free to walk between himself and Cora. Maynard followed closely behind, his rifle drawn just in case along with Addison just behind him. Tann had stated that he needed to have further talks with Leech, clearly trying to get out of going anywhere with Shepard.
Scott stepped back as Shepard gazed out into the vast open void that was Andromeda, just in front of the operation panels in operations. They were locked down, not that Scott thought that Shepard would randomly start pushing buttons in a million years, but it was done at the insistence of Addison. However, the displays to the side were active, listing all the technical data that had been discovered about Andromeda thus far. It included the scans of the planets, including Eos and Habitat-7, that they had encountered thus far.
Shepard was quiet as he gazed out, looking at nothing but yet everything at the same time. He was taking it all in.
Cora whispered closely to Scott as they both watched Shepard from behind. "You believe him? That he has no idea how or why he's here?"
"I do." Scott's gaze didn't falter. "Whether he's missing memories, or completely clueless about everything, yeah.." He trailed off.
Shepard turned his head slightly. "Scott."
Scott stepped away from Cora and joined Shepard by his side. He waited for the man to continue.
"You have no contact back?"
Scott shook his head. "None. Maybe one day, somehow. But right now, we're alone."
A lone tear fell down Shepard's cheek. "The Reapers."
Shepard shook his head and whispered softly. "Just a part of history. Like everybody you left behind." He cleared his throat. "I think I need to go and lie down for a while."
"Of course, John. Whatever you need."
Scott rubbed his eyes as he sat quietly next to his sister, Sara. "You're missing everything, sis. The stories I'm going to have for you." A wry smile formed on his face. "Not that you'll believe any of this."
Cora gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "They're ready for you, Scott."
"Okay." He took one last glance at Sara. "Talk to you soon. Harry'll look after you. And you've got a hell of a roommate." Scott stood from the chair and followed Cora to Addison and Tann. "Quite an evening."
"Yes. The lack of clarity is unsettling." Tann looked towards Shepard's bed. He was once again asleep. "We will keep him under guard for the foreseeable future."
"We need to find this Dr. Reave." Scott was firm. "She's our only link between Shepard and the Initiative. And the whole access code and wiping footage trick."
"Clearly she's not working alone. But until we find her, we can't go accusing anyone and everyone." Addison added.
"So where do I start? You guys have been here longer than I have. Unless she's hiding on Eos, I don't have many leads."
Tann shared a glance with Addison. "Start with Kadara. Home of the exiles. Talk to your krogan. He'll give you what you need."
Addison tutted. "We can't have Ryder running off to Kadara on some sort of wild goosechase. We need to colonise worlds. He's the only Pathfinder we have! Shepard isn't going anywhere. Yes, we need to find this woman, but it shouldn't be our main concern."
Tann rounded on her. "Shouldn't be our main concern? This woman had highly classified access codes. There is no security footage of her crimes! She should be the number one priority!"
Scott could feel the shots starting to wear off. He held up his hand. "Look. I'm tired. I'm going to go get some sleep. Figure this out between you and let me know in the morning. I'm going back to my ship." He motioned for Cora to join him as he took one last glance at Shepard as the sound of Tann and Addison arguing got further and further away.