10. Get Out of Dere!
As she waited for her brother to arrive, Vixen sat with her back to the wall and her long legs splayed out in front of her. Her body ached like hell. The pain from the bullet wound in her side had been dialed back, courtesy of the medi-gel, to a dull roar but she could actually feel the small slug nestled inside her and belatedly realised she'd need to go under the knife once they got back to the ship. "Oh joy," she muttered, "Unconscious and at the mercy of a sex-crazed nurse." Vixen turned to glare at the motionless form of the doctor lying several feet away, "You'll get yours, buddy."
Tiredly, Vixen reached up to the locking collar at her throat and unsealed her hardsuit's helmet connections. The seal broke with a sharp hiss and Bethany held the helmet before her, blinking in amazement at the damage it had absorbed, courtesy of Savrashi's pistol shot.
Had she not been wearing the helmet, the slug from the good doctor's sidearm would have drilled her right between the eyes. A dimple in the helmet's ablative plating, just above the visor, showed where it had hit. "Jesus," Beth muttered, tracing a gloved fingertip around the hole. She looked back at the troublesome scientist, "Not a bad shot for a civilian," she allowed. Laying the helmet aside, Bethany pressed her hand to the earpiece of her communications transceiver, "Shepard? Where the hell are you? We don't have a lot of time here."
As if in agreement, the facility AI chimed in with "Self destruct sequence initiated. Core detonation in five minutes." A pause then the VI added, "Remember: a safe workplace is a happy workplace."
Shepard's voice came back, carrying barely controlled panic, "Just hold on a little longer, we're almost there." As the voice spoke into her ear, she heard booted feet moving at a run towards her.
Bethany smiled, rested her head on the wall. By the sounds of it, her brother was attempting to achieve a new land-speed record. "Atta boy," she whispered.
Shepard's heartbeat thundered in his ears as he ran flat out towards the blue blip on his HUD that was his sister. As he ran, he was faintly aware of Williams and Fredericks hard on his heels. Tali, Liara and the security team were overseeing the evac of the science team.
Although he tried mightily not to do it, the Spectre cast a glance at Beth's vitals. They looked healthy enough though her heartrate was up and her BP was down.
In his haste to rescue his sister, Shepard lost his balance as he flew around a blind corner - and right into the arms of an approaching geth trooper. Shepard's momentum carried both himself and the synthetic to the ground and for an instant, they lay there, a tangle of synthetic and organic limbs. Then the trooper snaked a hand around and locked it in an iron grip around the Spectre's throat.
Though he struggled mightily, Shepard couldn't break the hold the trooper had on him. Slowly and inexorably, the synthetic rose to its feet, holding its prey aloft in a one-handed grip. Shepard's feet dangled uselessly above the floor.
"Shepard!" Williams cried out as she rounded the corner at a slower pace. Beside her, Fredericks pulled up sharply and swore.
"Williams..." Shepard managed to choke out, "Shoot it!"
"I can't! You'll be hit!"
"I'd...rather...chance that...than be choked to death.." Shepard's voice began to fade as his face turned purple.
Voicing a banshee-like cry, Williams ran headlong at the pair, tackling them both to the ground. The geth emitted a surprised-sounding bleep but didn't relax its grip. Lips pulling back from her teeth in a snarl, Williams slammed her right fist into the centre of the blue-glowing optical interface. The back of the geth's head smacked into the floor. The head swivelled towards Williams who all but shrieked, "Let him go! Let him go, you motherless prick!" and punched it again.
"Damn it, Williams," Fredericks snapped, "I can't get a shot!"
Nailing the geth a third time, Williams rolled to one side, giving Fredericks the opening he needed to shatter the trooper's head with a shotgun blast. The geth's hand opened as it fell limp and Shepard climbed to his feet, breath rasping in and out of his bruised throat.
"You good to go, sir?" Fredericks asked.
Shepard merely nodded and resumed running.
"Self destruct sequence initiated. Core detonation in three minutes," the VI announced to the mostly empty complex. Wearily Vixen closed her eyes, "This isn't how I pictured myself going out - vaporised in a ball of nuclear fire." She sighed.
"You're not dead yet," a voice whispered and she opened her eyes. Her brother stood before her along with his squad. "You look like I feel," he commented and there was something terribly wrong with his voice but Beth didn't think they had time to worry about it.
Shepard knelt by Bethany's side, gently stroked her hair. "Can you walk?" he asked.
Bethany found the strength to glare up at him, "Give me a break, I can barely stand."
"Guess I'll carry you out, then."
"Yeah, well, I'm sorry I'm such a burden!" Bethany snapped as her brother lifted her up.
Bethany poked her tongue at him. Ignoring her, Shepard hailed Joker, "Shore party to Normandy, what's your status, over?"
"All passengers are aboard, we're just waiting for you, Commander."
"Copy, we're on our way."
Liara and Tali stood inside the umbilical connecting the Normandy to the facility's airlock. The VI had just announced that there were three minutes until they were all reduced to their constituent atoms, though not in so many words. Liara had time to ponder all the missed chances in her life. There was still so much about the universe that she now would never have the opportunity to explore. The young asari regretted that she never had the time to get to know Bethany better and suddenly wished that Commander Shepard had brought her along to rescue Bethany, so that Liara could hold her hand and offer comfort in those final few moments before...before
"Oh Goddess!" Liara moaned, tears gathering in her eyes. Tali turned her faceplate towards her, "They'll be here," she said firmly.
Almost as though summoned by Tali's words, the group of humans appeared at the far end of the corridor, running flat out. Liara's heart and spirit soared as she saw Bethany slung across the Commander's shoulders, very much alive. Between them, Chief Williams and Private Fredericks carried the bloodied form of Doctor Savrashi.
As the group approached the umbilical connecting the facility's airlock to the Normandy, Tali raised Joker on the comm, "Joker, they're just arriving! Power up the engines and prepare for launch!"
"Already on it," came the pilot's reply.
The synthesised fembot voice of the VI announced, "Self destruct sequence initiated. Core detonation in sixty seconds."
Hoisted atop her brother's shoulders like a sack of grain, Bethany groaned through gritted teeth. The groan was one part frustration and one part physical pain as with each running footfall, tiny little pitchforks of torment wielded by smiling devils rammed through her body. They were so goddamn close! Just another few dozen metres separated them from the Normandy. A dry voice began ticking off the seconds they had left, one one thousand, two one thousand...
The dry voice had ticked up to 35 when the quality of Shepard's footfalls changed, signalling that they'd crossed over to the umbilical. They were almost there...
Bethany began to chuckle as a line from an old action flick popped into mind, "Get out! Get out of dere! Come on! Get into da chopper!"
Bethany was still laughing crazily, tears running down her face when they got into da chopper...sorry, Normandy.
There were mere seconds left before the installation went nova. No time to run the decon system so the squad threw themselves flat onto the deck inside the airlock as the outer doors sealed shut, severing the umbilical connection. As soon as his status board indicated the hull was secure, Joker punched the thrusters up to full military power, and an audible hum could be heard emanating throughout the bulkheads. The SSV Normandy blasted away from the unnamed asteroid. Milliseconds later, an immense ball of white light erupted from the depths of the rocky terrain, annihilating the remaining geth and rachni and hollowing out the asteroid. The shockwave buffeted the frigate's crew, tumbling Shepard and company around the inside of the airlock like so much laundry inside a gigantic, demon-possessed tumble dryer.
In the bridge, Joker's fingers danced over the amber-glowing controls as he fought to bring the ship back under control. After several tense seconds, the Normandy levelled out and made for clear space beyond the asteroid field and Joker breathed a sigh of relief.
Inside the airlock, a battered and bruised Commander Shepard slowly climbed to his feet and helped his sister up. Bethany leaned back against the bulkhead, muscles trembling as the adrenaline leaked from her system. "Is it just me, or did we outrun a nuclear explosion?"
From her position seated in a corner, Williams answered her, "No, we did just outrun a nuclear explosion." Her voice was subdued as she remembered the last time they'd outrun a nuclear explosion. Virmire. At least this time, they hadn't left one of their own behind.
"What happened? Where am I?" Savrashi's voice, thin and reedy surprised them all.
"What are we gonna do with him?" Bethany asked her brother.
"I guess we deliver him to the Citadel and let C-Sec handle him."
Savrashi's eyes started from their sockets, "No! You cannot! You-"
Wincing slightly, Bethany knelt down until she was eye-to-eye with the scientist, "I suppose we could just throw you out the airlock. What do you think, Commander?"
Shepard stroked his chin in a serious manner before replying, "I suppose we could. The official reports could just say that the good doctor was devoured by the very rachni he was trying to control. Ironic, really."
"No! No, please! I'll come along quietly," Savrashi babbled, holding his hands out in supplication.
"I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I think I need to see the nurse."
The Normandy didn't possess a brig per se so after his injuries were treated by a truly venomous Nurse Kitty - he'd almost killed her new best friend after all - Savrashi was sedated and tucked into a sleeper pod. Private Fredericks' sleeper pod, Shepard informed Bethany with a small smile. Bethany herself rested comfortably in the medlab, chatting idly with Kitty. Now that the awkwardness of their initial meeting had been dealt with, Bethany found Kitty to be quite an interesting conversationalist.
Kitty was telling Bethany about a guy she knew who only dated women named Cassandra - after his first girlfriend - so that he never had to worry about yelling out the wrong woman's name during sex. Bethany laughed at this until the ache in her side made her stop. The bullet that had so recently resided in her stomach now rested in a small glass tube, and Bethany decided to keep the bullet as a souvenir. Maybe have it made into a necklace or something, she hadn't decided yet.
During the flight back to the Citadel, Shepard and his crew discussed what they should do with the research data taken from Dr Savrashi. "We could sell it to the Shadow Broker," Fredericks suggested, "We'd make a shitload of money! Uh, sir."
Shepard just glowered at the private and dismissed him. As he left, Williams spoke up, "You know, that isn't a bad idea. If we turn it over to the Alliance, who's to say that a sleeper agent working for Cerberus won't get the data and start all over again?"
"Williams, I am not dealing with the Shadow Broker. I don't trust him. Her, them, whatever. The data goes to Alliance High Command. I trust them to do the right thing."
Williams smiled at her lover's endearing naivete and shook her head.
"How are you feeling?" Shepard asked his sister. Bethany, still confined to the medlab, scowled up at him from her place on one of the beds. "I'm bored out of my mind back here."
"What? Aren't I stimulating enough for you?" Kitty bantered playfully from her workstation.
Bethany just rolled her eyes. "Look, I'm fine, OK? Kitty opened me up, removed the bullet, closed me up. Can I please get out of here?"
Before the Commander could reply yay or nay, Kitty spoke up again, "Oh, I'm beginning to feel a little maligned over here."
"Kitty?" Beth looked over at the younger woman.
"Be a sweetheart and bring me a coffee or something, hey?"
Kitty practically skipped from the medlab, whistling happily. As she left, Bethany called out, "Dump a slug of whiskey into it, as well!"
"Belay that!" Shepard barked at Kitty's retreating form.
"Spoilsport," Bethany grumbled. She frowned a little as her brother took her hand.
"Beth, you almost died back there," he began. She rolled her eyes.
"Don't think I don't know that!" Beth hissed. "I can pull up my top and inspect the goddamn bullet wound anytime I want!" Irritably, Bethany ran a hand through her hair, tousling it further. "That's my modelling and escort career shot," she muttered then laughed, "Shot. Get it?"
Still holding her hand, Shepard replied, "Can't they just airbrush out the scars? Don't they do that as a matter of course?"
Beth shrugged, "Yeah but the escort agency prides itself on providing 'flawless women.' This one girl took 'em to court after she underwent an emergency appendectomy. The agency refused to sling any more work her way on account of the scar."
"Did she win?"
"Settled out of court. The payout was about two-fifty K, something like that." Beth shrugged again. "I'm getting too old for that kind of thing anyway."
"Beth, as your brother, this is difficult for me to say but you're beautiful."
"Uh huh, I'm also thirty-four and up against girls almost half my age. It's fine, really," she said, waving her free hand. "Besides, after all this action, I feel the need to explore other possibilities."
"How much trouble would you get into if you signed me on as a mercenary?" Beth smiled at her brother's reaction, his eyes went wide as saucers and his eyebrows migrated to his hairline.
"Yeah, like a hired goon."
"Because it's against regulations, right?" Bethany scowled again, wrested back her hand and folded her arms over her chest.
Shepard shook his head, "Because you almost died on my watch once and I won't let it happen again."
"I appreciate your concern but I'm a big girl and I can handle myself. Anyway, I'll be a lot safer with you keeping an eye on me than if I go my own way. Which I will do, if you don't sign me on."
"I'll need some time to think things through, Beth. Promise me you won't go off and..." Shepard stopped talking as the medbay doors hissed open, revealing Nurse Kitty holding a mug of steaming coffee. "Beth, I'll leave you to it." He nodded to Kitty as he passed.
Sitting up in the bed, Beth took the mug and sipped. She smiled as she felt the liquor warm her from the inside. "Thanks," she said. Kitty just smiled and said nothing.
As she drank her alcohol-fueled coffee, feeling the warmth spreading through her, Bethany's mind began to form plans for her future. She figured the Citadel would make a better place to launch her new career as a gun for hire and wandered how much it might cost, having all her crap shifted off-world from Terra Nova. Then there was Mister Darcy to think of. Likely she'd have to hire somebody to babysit him while she was on assignment. Didn't Liara have a place in the Citadel? Maybe she could...Eventually, lulled by the whiskey, Bethany's eyes closed and she slept.
She slept. But she didn't dream.
I just want to finish off by thanking my reviewers and everybody who read this. Writing Catapult was quite a fun experience for me and the fact that so many people had a fun time reading it is just a bonus as well. The little fiction gremlins (or wherever the hell my ideas come from) are whispering ideas in my head for another story starring Bethany. So hopefully she'll be back at some point.