Standard Disclaimers: I do not own Bioware or Mass Effect
Story Continuity: This story is one in a series and has the following place in its order: Protective Instincts, Marked Territory, Memories that Don't Fade, Of Clear Sight, More than Enough
Of Clear Sight
The husks came in waves, their presence annfounced by the low groans that inexplicably escaped their lips as they climbed up onto the lower platforms and wandered towards the stairs. Shepard and her group were doing their best to tag the hoard before they ever reached those stairs and became a threat. Certainly an easy task at first. The husks shambled in confusion before attacking and that left a brief but vital vulnerability which Shepard and her team relied on. It was a perfect chance to dent their numbers before they could start flinging themselves at those more alive than they were in an attempt to mindlessly batters that life away.
However, as the flood of husks dragging themselves from the depths just kept coming, it got harder. Every step they took in destroying the Mass Effect core, in freeing themselves from the trap the Derelict Reaper had become, resulted in two steps back as they had to take time out to defend themselves.
Sweat trickled down the bridge of Shepard's nose and she ignored it. The husks moved too quickly once they found their purpose, their prey, for her to lose focus even for a moment, much less the time it would take to remove the helmet and wipe her face. Couldn't afford to falter now. Just a little more and it would be over.
It didn't have to be true, she just had to believe it and then make it true.
She had her back to the console, leaving Thane and Garrus to handle the bulk of enemy coming up from the left and right respectively. They handled the initial surges, she was supposed to manage clean up for both sides and keep the enemy from the platform. It worked, it was still working but they were all getting tired. So far the cost wasn't high, though Garrus was bleeding from a cut over one eye and Thane was holding his arm a little awkwardly.
The first group of sickly pale and blue forms that broke through on the starboard platform were greeted with a tightly clustered series of center mass shots, before they even made it to the first step. A second group, farther on the right, Shepard took out with a couple of well ordered head-shots. That left a third though, running too close from port in the seconds she'd lost trying to thin the herd. She spattered it's legs and left it floundering while she tersely angled to take out a fourth, this one now dangerously close to Garrus.
Sometimes, despite their best efforts, they missed a few.
The one who flung himself at Garrus jerked back as the rounds impacted with shoulder and hip, but lurched forward regardless to grasp for the turian. Garrus effortlessly changed priorities, twisting to fire at his attacker and blow the husk back against the railing. His original targets, however, now became Shepard's as they rushed past the turian onto the upper platform proper.
Shepard could pick off numbers from the lower level with as much spray-and-pray shooting as she wanted, as long as it worked. Not the same when they made it up this far. Too close and her allies were directly in her line of fire.
Her head ached but she held out her hand to summon biotic power once more. It tightened her chest, a warmth that varied in intensity based on how often she' d been dragging the power forth. Now, after enduring charge after charge of the husks it was searing, dripping down her arms as she threw the last husks back. They tumbled like rag dolls and a rain of bullets, the rapid tap-tap of Thane's pistol, made sure they stayed down.
"That's the last of them," the turian called but was far to experienced to lower his gun or his guard. The last for the moment was what he meant. No more. No less. Shepard didn't waste that moment, turning neatly on her heel, taking aim at the glowing core behind them and shooting. Bullets disappeared into silvered blue, delivering no discernable damage except for the power spikes that one could read on the console.
She had a fresh thermal clip in the assault rifle, so she didn't bother any pacing. Just held the trigger down and corrected her aim when it threatened to jerk too far off. She got a good few seconds before the defensive mechanism for the core started up once more. Shutters began to close.
No, not again. She'd be damned if they had to go through another charge.
"Come on," Shepard advanced, focusing in tight as her window of opportunity and effectiveness both narrowed. Metal scraped under her foot but she didn't stop, merely took the obstacle in stride, literally, as she stepped up on it. Come on. One more bullet. One more bullet. One more…
The core flared and exploded, sending glass and metal flying through the room. They pinged off her helmet and armor. The Commander took another shot, a petty venting of vengeance that she felt she could allow herself. Then she spared a second to look down in mild curiosity to see what she'd stepped up on.
Ah. Right. The fallen Geth.
She jumped off of it and cleared her throat.
"Shepard," Thane walked over quickly, switching out his pistol for the assault rifle. Nothing was over yet. "That geth. I think we should bring it. Its behavior was strange."
"Leave it," Garrus shook his head, tensed, "We have enough trouble."
Garrus' practicality was rarely far off the mark. As if in response, that tell-tale low moaning began again. Shepard's lips thinned as she scanned. She really and truly hated that. The flinging, the open mouths gasping, the clutching she could all handle from the husks and call it a day. The moaning, however, took a quantifiable alien threat and tipped the scales towards the things of human horror.
She'd kill a hundred of them and whistle a merry tune the entire time if they'd keep their damn agony to themselves.
Eyes confirmed what ears had heard. There were hands beginning to reach over the edges of the lower platforms. Shepard expelled her thermal clip and quickly shoved in a new one, "Tali said no one has ever captured a Geth intact."
Plus, there was the fact that it had spoken. It had called her by name. It had opened up the force field to let them into the chamber here.
It had even saved her life.
"You know the risk. That's all I'm going to say," Garrus' tone was stubborn even as he shifted weight back. Thane wasn't looking at either of them, instead watching the edges of the room. He'd already given his recommendation.
Shepard shook her head and knelt, reaching for the undoubtedly heavy Geth. There'd be no way she could hoist it over her shoulder. Maybe she could get an arm under? "No time for a debate. Move out. Helmets on, too. Might be problems on the way out."
Despite his protests, Garrus was there in the next heartbeat, angling around the other side of the Geth to help her heft it up. She spared him a look and a quick sharp smile. The smile was lost behind metal but the look was understood. He nodded. Time to go.
"Find us a path, Thane," Shepard ordered. The drell started forward, gun at the ready in one hand, the other hand glowing blue in preparation. Thane led and they followed almost blindly. The Geth was damn heavy despite the hole in its chest. Metal and circuits, after all.
Garrus was tall, Shepard was less so. Their uneven gait and the fact that gravity was being a bitch meant that just maneuvering took up a hell of a lot more attention than it should have. Still, Shepard kept her eyes up, watching Thane. Watching their path. Luck held, or their urgency did. Thane only had to fire once or twice on their way.
"Joker," she called on the comm. as they reached the first true branching to what had been a fairly direct set of corridors, "You better be ready."
"Aye, Captain. EDI's got you," Joker's voice came back.
"Commander," the ship's AI's dulcet tones replaced the pilot's. "You should reach a suitable exit approximately a hundred feet port of your location. It is an exterior platform."
"You heard the lady, Thane."
A hundred feet. That was nothing. That was doable. Shepard was sweating but holding on well enough. There was a slight shift in pressure as they crossed some unmarked delineation point. Suddenly gravity tugged a little lighter at their heels and wisps of oxygen trailed up in a faint mist. Not a full loss of atmosphere but a breaking of it. Shepard smiled tersely, exhaling gratefully as hauling became notably easier. There was the platform, too, straight ahead. Thane stopped, turning to scan the corridors behind them, arm snapping up to take aim and fire. The flash of the muzzle announced the shots, incentive for Garrus and Shepard to keep moving even as Thane took up the rear to guard their retreat.
The waves were forming up again. A husk, angling in from the right to run at the group, fell, rocked back by the impact of multiple bullets. Now another, taken down on the left by the telltale flare of biotics. Electric charges could build in the air, deckplates shiver as explosions built and then bloomed, and still the husks attacked. Heedless and relentless.
Well. At least there was no sound to go with it.
Finally there was Normandy, beautiful and perfect as she glided up with hatch doors open and waiting for them. Shepard summoned the last of her speed and pulled forward, a better match for Garrus' longer legged pace. There was a brief blossom of light behind them, something to join the two or three Shepard had already noted, accompanied by a low grunt from Thane over the comm. Getting hotter, definitely. Shepard and Garrus didn't slow down, they charged right to the end of the platform. Without exchanging a word, human and turian both shifted their grips on the Geth, hauled back and tossed it across the expanse.
The geth sailed in a near perfect arc towards the open shuttle door, a marvel of low gravity and intertia. Shepard watched just long enough to make sure that throw had done its job, however, then she was turning, pistol seeking targets. Garrus was smoothly backing up to make his own jump into the ship. Hold the line until Garrus was mid-flight, then Thane, then herself. Almost done.
Motion to her right and she shot a husk only a yard or two away from her, forced to back up rapidly as she did so. Close! Too close! She whirled. One more coming through the doors. Two, over there, swarming a crumpled, dark, familiar form…
Which meant that she hadn't realized Thane had stopped firing with that last explosion and never started up again. She'd simply kept moving. She hadn't even turned her head to check.
There was no thought. Shepard was running, sprinting with a nauseating jolt of adrenaline that washed everything else away. One husk's head exploded and the other was slammed into the wall, shattered under the force of her throw. "Garrus, wait!" she yelled. He wasn't moving. Thane wasn't moving and she couldn't get him aboard ship on her own and shit, his suit was probably ruptured, and that meant there was no time. She skidded, falling to her knees, reaching for the drell. No time to be gentle. No time to check. Damn it. Damn it. "Garrus!"
"Here!" the turian snapped at her. The platform was sparking, moments away from igniting into a fireball that would take them all down. Garrus got an arm around Thane to match Shepard's and they took off, dragging the unconscious form between them. Shepard's breathing was harsh and the hatch on the Normandy had to be wide enough to take all three of them at once because there was no time anymore and she wasn't about to let go of Thane to for any reason, damn it, so it had just better work….
Shepard clutched at the drell's jacket and they flew. Graceful as motes of dust until deckplate and Normandy were beneath feet once more. Gravity, full force. Thane's body slipped a bare centimeter in Shepard's grasp but no more as she lowered him to the floor.
"Joker, get us out of here," Garrus called on comm. jumping to slap the hatch control closed.
Shepard's terse voice nipped on his heels. "And get Chakwas down here, now!"
To be continued…
Author's Notes: This is my first A/U story - at least by strict strict definition. (Because we've all seen the cut scene of the group running from the Derelict Ship and Thane wasn't hurt :P) Hopefully you can forgive me! From here on out, however, we go back to your reguarly scheduled "This could have been happening right under your nose in the game" game-plan for writing :)
[Update - I was informed by review that I had made the mistake of giving Thane weapons that he didn't have in the game. I thought about editing the story to reflect a little more accuracy in the game but, in all honesty, if I do that here? I have to go back and do it for every other story where I have Thane using a pistol. And - frankly, I've got him doing that a lot. *winces* So? I beg a little leeway on that since, in reality, I do believe he'd be skilled enough to use varied types of firearms. Thank you, though, aaasdf! I appreciate the heads-up!]