Chapter 7!

I'll cut to the chase.

Shepard was laying on a field, the ground strewn with blood. Mangled bodies littered the landscape, corpses half-devoured. The familiar thick, coppery odor of blood reached his nose.

"Commander!" called a lone marine. He was wounded in the leg, and he now limped to Shepard. The ground shook as the monsters below now made their way to the surface, savoring the meal to come. A dark figure burst out of the ground and snatched up the soldier in its razor sharp fangs. The private cried in pain as he was dragged beneath the surface.

Shepard now saw more marines, hundreds of them, all wounded on a blood-red battlefield. Every one was struggling torwards the commander as if he would bring them safety, and every one met the same brutal end as the first. All cried out for him as they disappeared into the black abyss below, but there was nothing Shepard could do...nothing.

There was now a quake below Shepard, and another dark giant sprang from the ground. It towered over him, examining the fresh meat. Shepard tried to move, but he was frozen in place by an unseen force, making him easy prey for the Thresher Maw. Shepard struggled as hard as he could, but to no avail. The creature loaded back, and struck-

Shepard jerked up from his slumber inside the small, cramped space that he occupied. His head nearly slammed into the roof of his makeshift sheltar. At first the commander was afraid at waking to this situation, but he gradually remembered where he was. Shepard's heart slowly returned to its normal pulse as he escaped from one peril to face yet another. Sweat poured down his face.

"Why the hell did I hide in this metal oven? God, it's burning up in here! And who falls asleep at a time like this?"

Shepard tried to think of something else to avert his mind from the unfortunate situation he was in. He hoped Tali was safe, and maby in a more comfortable enviroment that he was. If he just knew where she was...

A noise outside the crate got Shepard's attention. He lifted up the lid just enough to peer out and see what had made the noise. It was a geth trooper. The commander simply waited for the synthetic to pass by, as it wasn't the first to check the cargo hold. Five others had done the same routine check. Very thourough indeed. Occasionally, they would open a crate to check the condition of the cargo, but Shepard's hadn't fallen under the list of the inspected ones. He hoped that if Tali had hidden in a crate that it hadn't been checked...

The geth finally passed by. Shepard put the lid down once more, bringing darkness around him once again. It was as hot as ever. He wondered if the Quarians' environmental suits kept it cool at times like this. That would be nice. At least Tali would be a little better situated than he was. Tali...

"Why can't I stop thinking about her?"

It was true. Shepard had thought of little besides Tali ever since they had left Solcrum. He couldn't get her out of his mind, no matter where it ventured. It would always come back to the strong, independant woman Shepard had been through so much with. All he cared about was her safety.

"I hope we can both make it out of this, Tali."

Shepard felt a lurch in the ship's movement unlike any that had shaken the cargo before it. They must be landing. He lifted the lid once more, and seeing no geth outside, climbed out of the metal prision. He stayed low and moved through the crates in the cargo hold, trying to find out what was happening. Shepard heard the engines of the dropship slow down and die, followed by a swarm of activity above him in the ship. They definately had landed.

The commander looked around the cargo hold. There was not much he could do to escape at this point. The doors leading outside and to the upper levels were sealed shut, and they only opened to let geth units in and out. As time dragged on, it became clear that the geth were not going to unload the cargo hold.

"Nice one Shepard. You didn't think of the possibility that these crates would stay on the ship. Shit."

The Specter felt a sense of Deja Vu as he remebered the cavern on Solcrum. This didn't feel too different. As the geth buzzed in thier hive around him, Shepard began to think. He still had stealth. He had an endless supply of weapons in the crates. Maby the geth brought something else that could help him get out. Shepard began to open any crate that he could manage to pry the lid off of. He found some useful items and some powerful weapons. Some small arms, four rocket luanchers, satchel charges...However, they didn't aid him in his current dilemma.

"Let's see here...I could create a diversion with the weapons. No, that would give me away."

Shepard began to force open the lid on another crate. This one was red instead of the standard blue or gray.

"I might be able to--son of a bitch!"

An enraged creature launched itself out of the crate and barreled into Shepard's chest. The commander was knocked off of his feet by the sudden force, and he fell back onto the floor. The ravenous monster lept onto him and began taking bites at his throat. Shepard caught the creature by its own throat with his left arm, holding it back with all his strength. He managed to get his right hand around the animal's head, and he twisted his arms in unison, snapping its neck.

Shepard pushed the now lifeless carcass off of his chest and checked himself for any injuries. His left forearm had been cut by the dog-like creature's fangs, but there was no other wound worth paying attention to. Then, his gaze turned to the dead corpse, teeth still bared for the kill.

"Damn Varren. What the hell are they doing on a geth ship?"

The sound of footsteps alerted Shepard of another sentry passing by. He quickly positioned himself by the dead varren's body, and lifted it up. A hot stream of pain ran through Shepard's arm as he held the heavy carcass, but it wasn't enough to stop him from dumping the animal back into the crate from which it came. Shepard made a mental note not to open any more red containers.

The footsteps drew closer, and without any time to hide inside of one of the crates, Shepard dove behind the red box. Judging by the rhythm, he guessed that there were two walking together. The stow-away peered out from the shadows at the enemies, trying to see where they were going. To Shepard's amazement, he heard deep voices accompanying the footsteps. With new intrest sparked, he listened and tried to glean any information he could.

"--a sound from over here. I'm telling you, I heard it!"

A Salarian. The geth had worked with them before in the Citadel and Virmire, and it came as no suprise to Shepard that one would be on board. This one wore a white armor suit.

"It was probably just one of the damn varren waking up. Things are gonna' drive me crazy."

Shepard's heart skipped a beat at the sound of the second voice. It was a human! This made Shepard more cautious of the situation. If huamns were working with the geth now, then there was no telling what they planned to do.

"Why the hell does Damien make us keep these poor excuses for dogs on the ship?" The human sounded like the kind of person that didn't care about the mission or the cause, only the pay. He wore dark gray hydra armor.

The Salarian lowered his pistol and began to walk away from Shepard. "Varren can track a scent for miles. That's how we hunted down those Alliance teams stationed here."

"Yeah, and some of the soldiers got away. The Specter did too. Real efficient."

Shepard's stomach did a backflip. Admiral Hackett did say that Alliance units were sent to secure the bases and that all contact was lost with them. They were not the only ones that had eluded the geth.

"And that might explain why we haven't been caught yet. The geth are preoccupied with other matters."

Shepard made a mental note to search for some survivors once he got out of here and met up with Tali. The mention of the name Damien didn't mean much to Shepard, probably another hotshot mercenary working with the geth for high wages, so he paid no attention to it. He did, however, watch the pair of hired guns to see where they would exit the cargo bay.

The salarian glared at the human. Their race obviously wasn't know for its rich sense of humor. "Well, if you don't like them, why don't you complain to Damien yourself?"

"Are you crazy? No one questions that guy! The last guy that tried to tell Damien what to do ended up..."

Fortuantely, the two were out of earshot, so Shepard didn't hear what befell the poor soul that tried to challenge this 'Damien,' although he could guess. The two mercenaries strode farther away from Shepard until they reached one of the doors leading to the main ship. The human swept his omni-tool across a scanner, and the door slid open. The activity outside and above hadn't ceased, so Shepard decided against making a break for the door now.

Then it hit him. In spite of the downsides, the fact that humans were on the ship had provided Shepard with an advantage. A way out. If he could get his hands on one of the mercenaries' omni-tools, he could blend in with the rest of the humans on the ship. That is, if he could also disguise his armor. Shepard doubted that any hired gun on this ship could manage to get their hands on Colossus armor.

Shepard crept torwards the door the two mercenaries just passed through. He kneeled behind a crate, drew his pistol, and fired a round into the floor. There was a commotion on the other side of the wall, and Shepard readied himself to pounce on what ever came through. After a minute of conversation, probably about who would go and check out the noise, the door slid open. Shepard saw a shadow pass on the wall as the sentry got closer.

He sprang from cover and caught the mercenary square in the face with an elbow. The gaurd fell to the floor, unconscious.

"Dammit, it was the salarian."

The salarian's omni-tool could allow Shepard to escape from the cargo bay, but it did him little good on his disguise apparatus. Then, the commander heard a sound come from his left. It was another mercenary. Shepard quickly grabbed the salarian and dragged him behind the crate which he hid. The footsteps drew closer.

"Hey, Rivan, what the hell was that noise? Did one of the varren get out of--"

Shepard lept from cover to ambush the enemy. This time it was the human, and he had his pistol already drawn. The mercenary wheeled around to face Shepard, but he was too slow. The trained Alliance marine knocked the pistol out of his hand. This however, gave the mercenary the advantage for a split-second as Shepard's focus was diverted on the firearm. He caught Shepard in the face with a punch that would make even a Krogan flinch. Shepard recoiled from the impact and tried to keep his balance.

It was all he could do not to buckle as the mercenary delivered a crippling blow to Shepard's stomach. Relying on only instinct, the marine grabbed the mercenary's shoulder and swept his foot across the hired gun's shins to trip him. If he could get his enemy on the ground, it would be an advantage enough to decide the fight. It would have worked, but the mercenary caught hold of Shepard's neck, and the two went down together.

Shepard ended up on the bottom of the pile, taking blows from his adversary. He quickly reached inside himself for that superhuman power that he used so many times before, but the pain from the repetative punches in the face made it difficult to concentrate. Finally, a sphere of biotic energy exploded between him and the mercenary. The man flew back and slammed into the metal surface of a crate, and he was still.

Shepard layed on the ground for a minute before getting back up. He lightly touched his left cheek, only to have a sharp jolt run through it. No one seemed to notice the fight, or they possibly just didn't care.

"This is pissing me off. It's time to get out of this ship."

The commander sluggishly dragged himself over to the human mercenary, and began to detatch his armor and his omni-tool. When it was off, Shepard dumped his body in the crate with the dead varren and did the same with the salarian. He then removed his own armor and donned the newly aquired hydra suit. It dismayed the commander to leave his Colossus armor behind. It was the best armor he had ever worn, and it had saved his life a number of times. Out of pity, he found a crate loaded with other armor suits, marked a small red X on the side with some blood from his lip, and stored his own armor in it with the false hope that he might find it again.

With his makeshift battle suit on, Shepard used the mercenary's omni-tool to unlock the door out of the cargo bay. He was careful enough to wear the helmet to avoid recognition, even if the environment outside was breathable. Shepard took a deep breath, and stepped through the doorway.

"Tali, hang on. I'm coming"

Inamorda and his human comrade stood before a sinister figure, explaining the unsatisfying events of the past few hours. The three were alone in the cockpit of a ship.

"And then we decided to get off that damn piece of rock. The Specter was clearly dead," the Krogan finished.

The shadow was silent for a minute, pondering the indigenous hired gun's report. "And your take on this, Sasha?"

The human remained calm, despite the nervousness of the Krogan beside him. "I think he's still alive."

"That's impossible!" shouted Inamorda. "Why haven't we had any trace of him yet if he's alive?"

"Because you were too impatient and careless to be thourough," came Sasha's simple reply.

"That's enough, both of you." Damien could never get these two to work together in peace. There was definately going to be a fight between them one day. Damien's money was on Sasha.

The leader continued. "Sasha, I can understand your undying desire to seek out Shepard yourself. I know what happened to you on Akuze, but we have more to worry about than this pest."

"Yes, you're right," started the Krogan, "And that's exactly why I ordered the battalion-"

"Silence," commanded Damien. "I know the details of the mission, Inamorda. You broke a direct order. As you well know, the penalty for that is traditionally death."

The Krogan's back stiffened at this. There was not much Inamorda was afraid of. Damien scared the hell out of him no matter what he told Sasha.

"However," he continued, "your usefulness to me is too good to let go to waste, so I'll give you a second chance. Also, if John Shepard turns up again, both of you hunt him down and kill him. If that is too much of a task for you Inamorda, then your usefulness has reached its end."

There was silence as Damien let the threat seep in. Sasha was enjoying every minute of the Krogan's misery, and he was making no attempt to hide it.

"Is that clear?"

"Yes," answered Inamorda.

"Yes, but..." Sasha wanted just one thing more. "When, not if, Shepard returns, I will be the one to kill him."


Thanks for reading this far.

More to come, I promise.