7. Lunar Sunrise
As soon as Piers left the room, Shepard's eyes opened and she jerked herself painfully upright. There was a talon-blade built into the sleeve of her hardsuit, a little something-something for emergencies. If she could just twist her wrist enough to. Click. "Oh yeah, come to mother," Alison muttered as the blade locked into place. Working as quickly as possible and fighting the cramps that came from being restrained for so long, she managed to saw the blade through the restraints enough to break free. Alison spent a few precious seconds trying to work the pins and needles out of her arms before she cut the ties around her feet and got up. A wave of dizziness almost sent her crashing down again before the drugs from the medical system cleared her vision.
Her weapons had been taken by Piers and her goon squad but she still had her biotics.
Alison made her way out of the mess hall, stepping carefully over the body of the turian scientist. I never even asked the poor bastard his name, she thought sadly.
She could hear voices from just outside the computer lab, Williams and Garrus' so they were both still in the game. Shepard ran a hand along one wall as she walked for support, each step sending spikes of pain from the bullet wound in her stomach down into her legs. Note to the manufacturers, up the pain meds, she thought as she left the mess hall and headed down the hall. Now she could hear a third voice - Piers and the rather unsettling sound of her own shotgun going off. Then the sounds of physical combat.
Pushing herself to go faster, faster still, Shepard squeezed through the doorway before the door was fully opened and found Piers on her back, one hand pinned by Garrus' foot and Williams' boot grinding her into the floor. And Williams was about to blow Piers' brains out.
"Stop!" Shepard yelled, slumping against the wall for support. Taking a deep breath, she went on, "Let her up, we'll let the Council deal with her."
"Shepard!" Garrus cried.
"You're...alive?" Williams said in relief.
"Oh...frack...me.." Piers ground out, her eyes rolling around to face her, staring daggers at Shepard.
Garrus and Williams stepped away from Piers. Ashley hauled Piers up by the armpits, spun her around and slammed her face first into the wall. Piers' breathing sounded raggedly. "What's the matter, Shepard? Don't have the guts to finish me off?"
"Oh just shut up," Alison said tiredly. She limped over to where Ash had Piers jammed against the wall and used a nerve pinch to finally silence the woman. Piers' eyes rolled back in her head and she slid to the ground.
Ashley embraced Shepard tightly, only stepping back when she felt Shepard tense in pain. "Uh, sorry about that, Skipper, don't know what came over me."
"It's fine, Ash. Feels nice to be missed."
"Commander, you're bleeding," Garrus pointed a three-fingered hand at the blood seeping from her body armour.
"Yeah, a forty calibre round tends to do that to a person," Shepard said, wincing.
"Here's some medi-gel," Garrus removed a unit of the magical-mystery healing substance from a pocket of his hardsuit and offered it to Shepard. The bleeding stopped instantly and the waves of pain eased somewhat.
"What now, Skipper?" Ashley asked.
"We have to track down the rest of those aliens and eliminate them," Shepard answered.
"You're in no condition to keep fighting," Garrus pointed out. "We should set the fusion plant to self destruct, it's the only way to be sure."
"You're right." Alison activated her comm, "Joker, do you read me?"
"Loud and clear," the pilot answered.
"The situation here has...changed. Find a place to land and inform Dr Chakwas that I've got another bullet for her collection," Shepard said.
"Uh, aye aye," Joker replied.
"We have to work fast," Ashley said, "We heard more of those things moving around in the air ducts. They like to drop out of the ceiling and take people's heads off,"
"The building housing the reactor's on the other side of the complex. We'll have to take the Mako, it's too far to walk."
Ashley retrieved Shepard's shotgun and the three began walking back to the Mako, Garrus carrying the limp form of Lieutenant Piers. The Normandy flew low overhead and settled on a flat plain a few hundred metres away from the complex gate. Shepard strapped herself into the rear passenger seat and closed her eyes. Across from her, Piers was securely bound into her seat, head lolling to one side.
Garrus climbed in behind the vehicle's controls and Ashley got in beside him, "Why do you get to drive?" she asked.
"Because the Mako has never been quite right since that time you drove it off that cliff," Garrus responded as he powered up the vehicle.
"Hey, we landed the right way up didn't we?"
"Due more to luck than your skill, I believe," Garrus said as the Mako rumbled to life.
"Normandy to shore party, come in Commander," Joker said over the commline.
"This is Shepard," Alison replied, eyes still closed, "Piers was dirty and there are...loose contaminants to be dealt with. We're setting the reactor to self destruct."
"The Council won't like that," Joker said.
"The Council can go to hell," Shepard answered, "Shepard out."
After a short drive, the reactor building came into view - an unremarkable low building painted a dull grey that blended into the lunar terrain. Garrus parked the Mako and he and Ashley got out. Shepard joined them a few seconds later. Ashley's eyes widened in concern. "Maybe it would be best if you stayed..."
"I'm going. I've been shot up worse before. Just not recently."
"What about her?" Garrus pointed at the woman inside the Mako.
"Ash, keep an eye on her, Garrus, I need you to set off the reactor."
The door to the reactor building opened silently, revealing smooth grey walls coated with a strange substance, like a thick resin. "Somebody's been redecorating," Shepard remarked and ran a hand over the excretion.
"It looks as though the aliens are building some kind of nest in here," Garrus said as they began heading deeper inside the building. After a few steps, the lights became dimmer as more and more the the resin-like material was coated over the walls, floor and light fittings. The air become hotter and more humid, fogging up their helmet faceplates.
"I can hear them just up ahead," Garrus warned.
"Let's go meet the locals," Shepard answered and reached for her shotgun.
A rising chorus of hisses drew closer as half a dozen of the creatures ran at them across the walls, floor and ceiling.
"Fire in the hole!" Shepard threw a high explosive grenade into the aliens' midst then turned away as she hit the remote detonator. The blast scattered bits and pieces of alien, concrete and excretion up and down the corridor. The shockwave rattled Garrus' teeth and he could feel the vibration deep in his chest.
"Let's move," Shepard ordered and moved at a jog down the corridor. A holographic sign warned that the reactor was off limits to non-authorised personnel. Alison guessed her Spectre status over-rode that. The doors to the reactor whisked open, revealing banks of computer consoles and thick heavy cables.
Garrus located the main terminal and powered it up. His omnitool glowed as he used it to hack past the failsafes and access the self-destruct sequence. More hisses could be heard from inside the room.
"Oh this'll be fun," Shepard remarked as another alien crawled along the floor towards them. Shepard used her biotic abilities to throw it back across the room. It slammed into a wall and scrambled back to its feet. "Oh for Godsake..." Alison shouldered her weapon and fired. The shot blew half the xeno's head off and still it came.
"I'm almost done here," he answered.
"Warning: reactor core safeties offline. Catastrophic failure in one zero minutes." The facility VI told them.
"Joker, come in!" Shepard yelled as she unloaded another blast into the xeno. This time it stayed down.
"I'm not deaf you know, Commander," Joker replied.
"Prep the ship for launch now! Williams, fire up the Mako, if Piers gives you any trouble, shoot her and throw her outside."
As though aware of what they planned to do, more of the aliens emerged from the walls and ran at Garrus and Shepard. Backing towards the door, Garrus laid down suppressing fire while Shepard used her abilities to lift the aliens into the air where they writhed and hissed powerlessly.
Shepard turned to Garrus and said one word: "Run."
Garrus sprinted towards the exit, Shepard lagging behind and limping quite badly now. Garrus reached the door, and looked back at Shepard. She was coming along as fast as she was able but it wouldn't be fast enough to outrun the xeno coming up behind her.
"It's right behind me, isn't it?" Alison gasped as she saw Garrus raise his assault rifle. "Frack me..." she said wearily and dropped to the floor. Gunfire echoed loudly in the tight confines of the corridor. Shepard rolled onto her back in time to see the alien collapse to the floor, riddled with bullet holes.
"I'm getting mighty sick of this," she said as Garrus jogged towards her. Leaning on him for support, Shepard finally reached the exit. Ashley had the Mako parked nearby with the ingress ramps lowered.
"How much time do we have?" Ashley asked as she gunned the engine.
"Oh about three minutes," Shepard replied.
"Great," Ashley said and floored the accelerator.
"Joker, we are coming in hard, recommend you open the ramp into the garage and ready for lift off."
"Aye, ma'am, ramp is open, you're good to go."
The Mako sped aross the ground towards the Normandy and at a highly unsafe speed, slammed up the ramp into the garage. Williams slammed both feet on the brakes but was unable to fully stop the vehicle before it rammed the back wall of the garage. A deep metallic sound rang out throughout the ship.
"Whoops," Ashley commented.
"Joker, we're in, close up the ramp and get us the hell out of here!"
The ramp closed up, sealing the interior of the ship from the vacuum outside and the Normandy surged upwards, leaving the moon and the research complex behind.
Far below them, a small sun was born on the lunar surface.