For many years I have lived my life roaming, helping others everywhere I could. It has been my way of keeping a connection to my most important person. He liked that, helping others. So I have always been compelled to do it too; as a way of keeping his memory alive with me, and never letting it fade into the past.
It had been a peaceful and pleasant life, until recently, when major trials started arising for Humanity to face. So I bade farewell to that life, I would stand up to the challenge again, to honor his memory, to keep him with me.
The first contact war had been important, but in a sense, non-critical; since it never even reached earth. Assisting the war effort sporadically in earth's colonies was the most I had to do, and soon enough the conflict ended with a peaceful political resolution.
Then came the battle of the citadel, it all happened so fast, clouded under a veil of politics and branching agendas from those involved, that I didn't have time to really make myself useful there. But it was very relevant, because it was foreboding of things to come.
The Geth, a sentient species of artificial intelligence beings created by the Quarians hundreds of years ago, attacked the citadel under the command of former Turian Spectre Saren Arterius; he mounted the attack from a gigantic space ship denominated Sovereign. The behemoth craft was a design like no other ever seen, or heard of.
The citadel was saved, but the politicians and their struggles to keep peace and balance within the barely held alliance of space-traveling species muddied the aftermath of the battle. And of course, they also had to save face.
To someone already on the trail of these recent events though, someone with my computer hacking expertise and tracking abilities, it wasn't hard to acquire more information than the public was entitled to.
The future looked grim indeed, Commander Alexandra Shepard, a Spectre, the top special agents of the galactic council, and the most relevant figure in the defense of the citadel had spoken of a sentient race of bio-machines called Reapers. These Reapers swiped through the entire galaxy harvesting all sentient life, for no known purpose, and leaving utter annihilation in their wake. The Reapers repeated this task about every fifty-thousand years, and the time for their return was coming soon.
Commander Shepard's story about the Reapers return, and their involvement in the attack to the citadel was dismissed by the galactic council. A cover-up story was forged to keep the masses at ease, as panic was certainly not an option. Complete dismissal of Shepard's report shouldn't have been either.
But I knew better, I knew someone like Shepard does not simply lie about a threat like this; people like Shepard do not pursue fame and fortune, they were examples of what was called a hero.
Only one person like this Commander had I met in my life, committed to help others to the point of self-sacrifice. Natural leaders able to change the tide of a battle by means of inspiration and tactics. Great strategists and warriors, hell-bent on making the world a better place to live in.
Only another one like her, but that was enough to place my trust in Alexandra Shepard.
At the time, it had been very hard to swallow the news. Commander Alexandra Shepard, first human Spectre, savior of the citadel, had died. Her destiny unfulfilled. Back then I thought a number of scenarios in my head on how to mount a defense against the Reapers, I had the tactical knowledge, the strategies; I had the brains and the brawn to do it, but not the charisma, I was not a leader. I would've been unable to rally the people for such a task.
The Commander had died spaced, suffocated due to her suit rupturing, and burnt when entering the atmosphere of a neighboring planet after her ship, the Normandy, had been shred to pieces by an unknown vessel.
The Normandy was an olive branch project between Turians and Humans, former enemies in the first contact war. It was one of the most advanced frigates in the galaxy, and it had been mysteriously destroyed in an instant.
The threat to the galaxy was now looming closer, and the one person who knew the truth, the one person willing to do something about it, was dead.
But Humanity can sometimes see beyond their noses, and is capable of great things, this mostly happening when faced with the edge of the precipice. Someone besides me knew how much Shepard was worth.
Apparently, Shepard's body had been recovered, and it was undergoing the impossible feat of being resurrected in a facility owned by a pro-human, extremist organization, named Cerberus.
Indeed, someone else besides me knew how much Shepard was worth. Attempting to bring someone back from the dead, does not only require immense amounts of resources, but faith also. Faith in the process and faith in the subject.
This faith was embodied in the project's name: Lazarus. A fitting name indeed, this Lazarus was a man in the scriptures of the human catholic religion, who died, and was later resurrected by the prophet and messiah of said religion, Jesus Christ.
When I learned of Cerberus' plan, I knew it was the time to get involved. I would infiltrate the Cerberus facility and ensure everything went well, to the extent of my abilities. I had to make sure that even if there was a minimal chance of success; Cerberus' plan was carried over uneventfully. Otherwise, I would have to fall back to my own plans.
Everyone is entitled to a little hope, even me. This thought amused me every time it crossed my mind.
After successfully infiltrating the Cerberus facility, I started working there as a maintenance engineer.
I must say, it was no easy task, even for a proficient infiltrator like me. Months went by as I played my role and watched the seemingly endless work of the scientists.
One day, every one of them started going around the facility in a rush. Shepard's resurrection had been successful.
When her body was brought back to life, the previously silent rooms and corridors became lively, filled with chatter. Her mind's recovery was the only matter left and it was no small feat by any standard, but faster than rebuilding a whole body.
Was Alexandra Shepard to return as the person she used to be, or had Cerberus created a mindless zombie worth billions of credits?
Humans could indeed be miracle workers, when they put their minds to it. Made me speculate about the reasons why, they then tend to focus on the negative applications of their ingenuity.
Commander Shepard seemed to attract trouble wherever she went, even when being technically dead.
Just some days before her resurrection was a hundred percent complete, someone inside this facility had decided to betray Humanity by having Shepard killed.
Along with everyone else in the building apparently.
The security mechs had been hacked and they were running amok, murdering their former human protégées. This was what people called irony.
It didn't come as a surprise though, as I was always expecting trouble, I tried to always be prepared.
Walking to the terminal in the corridor, I took in the view from the windows at my sides. People were being murdered by gunfire, and I could hear their screams as the bullets flew by. Screaming for help, for mercy.
The security mechs were machines with simple computers, programmed to perform straightforward tasks. They did not know mercy; they just performed their given task without any thought about it.
This mech model was a LOKI; they were humanoid in form, stood 1.80 meters tall and were armored with a metallic alloy painted in white.
It was a massacre. Blood tinted the windows at my sides as people were screaming in the rooms. It did not disturb me as it would others though. I was used to this, so focusing in my data retrieval was not a problem.
The terminal I was accessing provided me with disturbing news, not only the security mechs but also the whole system was compromised. This left me unable to confirm Shepard's status.
The mechs finally turned their attention to me. Such was their simplicity sometimes that not all of them tried to trace a path to my location, some opened fire. A fruitless endeavor, the glass was bullet and shock resistant. I knew since the first days of my stay in here.
Nevertheless, I readied my pistol, which I recently acquired from a dead guard. The mechs were going to find their way to me soon. Didn't bother counting them, they did not pose a relevant threat to me.
While I continued my way down the corridor, I contemplated the fact that at this point, all losses were acceptable as long as Commander Shepard was safe. A thought creeped into my mind right there, demanding that I helped whomever I could. That would be the worst course of action though, as Shepard's life was more important than anyone else's, including mine. The thought would have to stay creeping.
The controls to the door at the end of the corridor were now in reach of my Omni-tool, which had the security clearance codes needed to open it, and with a wave of my hand, the door gave access.
As the humming of the door receded, indicating it had finished opening, a security mech turned to face me. It took a second to assess if I was friend or foe. By the time it raised its rifle against me, a single shot from my pistol pierced the camera in its head.
Now in possession of an assault rifle, I tucked the pistol in my pants. A secondary weapon was always useful.
The room I came into had two doors, one close to my left, and another at the far right corner from my current position. This room looked the same as the corridor I just left, there was no remarkable decoration, and it lacked color. Cerberus was austere like that, and they seemed to like the color of polished metal.
As I made my way to the door in the far end of the room, which was the one leading to Shepard, it opened revealing a human female clad in black N7 operative armor.
I stopped for a moment to look at this person. It was a female in her early thirties, about 1.75 meters tall, with blonde disheveled hair grown close to her chin. Her eyes were a dark but shining hue of blue. Muscle mass seemed just above average, but the armor she was wearing did not allow me to correctly assess it though.
I decided that what I saw was enough to identify this person. It was Commander Alexandra Shepard.
She did not look like much at first sight; she did have that aura of leadership though. While thinking of this, I walked quickly towards Shepard; her eyes were fixed on me, most likely analyzing me too.
"Alexandra Shepard, Commander in the alliance army?" I asked while closing in. Her eyes grew wide for a split second, most likely surprised at the fact that a complete stranger was addressing her, by full name and rank. Maybe this was an incorrect approach given the circumstances, but there was no time to correct it.
"Ah, yes," she answered. "And who might you be?" The expected question came.
"My name is…" I started my sentence, but noticed that for some reason Shepard started running towards me. The door that was at my back produced its characteristic hum and as I turned around to check what was coming through it, I took a heavy hit on my back that dropped me to the metal flooring.
A security mech was coming through the door, and after tackling me down, Shepard now stood between it and me. She quickly raised her pistol and aimed at the mech, but did not open fire. She was probably waiting to see if it was hostile.
Conversely, the mech was more eager to end this meeting, and started shooting at Shepard with its assault rifle. She turned her body to show her flank to the mech, and took a side step, all in a single motion.
This effectively reduced the targeting area for the mech and forced it to adjust its aim to her new position.
Not bad at all.
Even though the Commander had an active kinetic barrier in her armor that absorbed some of the mech's initial rifle shots, she did not waste time, and as soon as she was repositioned, her pistol was already firing back. Four shots between the torso and head rendered the mech non-operational; it made a stuttering sound, and surely enough it exploded after that.
My marksmanship was better, but I made no comment about it. Shepard was just as effective as I was; she just lacked the efficiency I had.
I was able to witness that Shepard was indeed all the hero everyone imagined her to be. Before even knowing if the mech was hostile, she had removed me from harm's way thinking I was defenseless.
A moment after the mech exploded she turned to me, and extended her hand. "Come with me if you want to live."
She helped me stand up, and I finished my introduction. "My name is Cameron."
"Well Cameron, nice to meet you, and since you already know my name," Shepard said raising one of her eyebrows, "I guess the introductions are over. So I need to ask you some things real quick."
"What is your full name?"
I did not voice my surprise to her first question.
"Cameron Connor," I answered smiling. Every time I use his last name, something in me tells me that smiling is something I should do.
"Do you have any idea what the hell is going on here?" Shepard asked while motioning a circle with her hand.
"This facility is under attack by an inside agent who has most likely hacked into the computer mainframe. Most systems, including the ones controlling the security mechs have been compromised and in some instances disrupted in order to prevent anyone from regaining control of the facility. This was likely an attempt to stop your resurrection, and any consequent events branching from it."
"What? Wait a minute!" Shepard's eyelids had separated enough to show her irises fully, and this time they stayed like that. "Resurrection you said? W… what the hell do you mean? So I died, I really died! I was not in a comma or anything, I really died!"
The Commander started pacing very fast in front of me, her heart rate was elevating considerably, and she was grabbing her head with her hand. Apparently, I kept providing information in an incorrect manner.
"How long have I been out?" Shepard asked without looking at me, still pacing around.
"It has been two years, one month, two weeks, four days…"
"I get it! I get it! It's been two fucking years!"
Shepard was now pacing faster, her breathing was becoming short, and her heart rate was very elevated. My response had made her very nervous. I wondered why humans asked things they actually did not want answered.
Seeing how disturbed she became, and considering her health conditions were likely delicate, I decided the best course of action was to take her mind out of this. Perhaps someone else in the facility had survived and could explain the recent events with more tact.
"Sorry Commander, I should not have been so blunt," I made a pause to see if I had her attention.
Shepard looked at me a moment after I apologized, so I went on. "We need to evacuate the premises, lest the attacker is successful in its endeavor." After saying this, I placed my hands on her shoulders and apologized again. "I was an idiot for saying something like that so bluntly, but we really need to go, someone wants you dead again." Subterfuge was a thing I could do well, one last touch and my mistake would be partially undone. I made my eyes teary.
"Sorry kid," Shepard shook her head, and lightly took my hands off her shoulders. "I shouldn't panic like that, you're right. The first thing is to get the hell out of here, and ask questions later. Any idea where we need to go?"
Motioning my hand towards the door directly in front of us I started walking to it but my chain of thought was cut off again. Shepard grabbed my hand and started dragging me behind her.
"I'm not letting a little girl take point in a place like this," she declared. Her heart rate was normalizing; she looked composed again, confident. She was focusing on something that was not the news I just broke to her.
Little girl... if only she knew.
We walked through various corridors and rooms, which were very similar to any of the previous ones. Cerberus and their austerity, and love for polished metal.
Shepard stopped suddenly and turned to me, then requested the assault rifle I was carrying, claiming, "Can you even lift that thing?" A small smile adorned her face.
I could dual wield an M-300 Claymore shotgun in one hand, and an M-98 Widow sniper rifle in the other. A fact that was to remain secret for the time being.
Smiling, I surrendered the assault rifle to the Commander. She grabbed it and weighted it, aimed around to check the sights, then started walking again. With me in tow.
As we approached yet another door, we heard the sounds of shooting up ahead. This made the Commander retreat to a corner we had previously turned. While doing so she pushed me back, and put her arm on my chest to keep me pinned to the wall.
Even though John used to treat me almost like a human, he always knew what I was; he of course had known that standing behind me was the best choice in a gunfight.
Even though I no longer used the typical Terminator strategy. Walking up the front door, taking all the shots, and shooting back at every threat –mainly because there are no more factories to repair myself. I am still the better choice for being in point, shielding and attacking.
In the previous battles I had managed to make myself a team leader, here I did not have time to devise anything past my engineering cover. The unexpected attack had left me as a civilian teenager.
This was a refreshing change of pace; it would have to change in the short-term future though.
As I thought of all this, I stared at Shepard's arm on my chest. She was peeking around the corner, assessing the situation on the other side of the door. Apparently, she had made a choice, because she turned her head towards me, and she saw me staring at her arm.
"Oh god, I'm so sorry!" She apologized while laughing slightly, and took her arm away, most likely thinking I was bothered by her arm touching my simulated sexual features. Another mistake I won't correct, and not because it didn't bother me, but because I do not want to be seen as the easy girl. High school taught me many lessons outside of the classrooms.
Shepard put her hand on my head and made me get into a crouching position, I allowed her to do so, and then she motioned with her head towards the door. "It seems various shots are coming from the far side of that room, and only one source seems to be responding from this side. It's safe to assume the loner is being attacked by mechs from the far side. I think we can get in the room at a relatively low risk."
A correct assessment, I nod. I made it the moment we first heard the shots. Still, Shepard is very good at this, for a human. Especially one that just woke up after being dead.
With her hand still on my head, Shepard walked towards the door motioning for me to move together. Once we were close enough, I opened it.
We walked in the room and I scanned around. There was a dark skinned human male, also in the thirties of age. He was taking cover behind crates near the safety railing of the long overpass corridor we were standing on, wearing a black, tight fitting non-armored suit. Most likely relying entirely on a kinetic barrier for protection right now.
From the opposite side of the room, four security mechs were alternating bursts of fire to keep him pinned down. At the end of the corridor, was a door, which is where we needed to go.
The dark skinned human noticed us, the mechs did too, and some of them started shooting towards our position as we ran to the crates. He stood out of cover and shot five rounds with a pistol, downing one of the mechs.
The human did not waste time to counterattack when the mechs shifted their attention to Shepard and me, I could tell he was going to be useful.
We took cover behind the crates alongside the dark skinned human. The Commander's hand was still on my head keeping me down. This was what people call being a worrywart.
"What are you doing here?" The male asked looking at Shepard. "I thought you were still a work in progress."
"Well, I'm trying to get away from this mess, that's what. As for your other question, someone woke me up over the intercom."
The male's lips tightened, and then he spoke, "things must be worse than I thought if Miranda's got you running around. I'll fill you in, but first we need to get to the shuttle. The name's Jacob Taylor by the way."
"This is Cameron, and you seem to already know me," Shepard answered. "This is your place Jacob, so we'll follow you."
"Ok, first step, let's finish off this metal bastards. I'm a biotic, so if you see an opening, let me know and I'll hit them with the good stuff."
Shepard looked at me saying, "Don't move kid. Jacob, on my signal we pop up from opposite sides of these crates, you take a mech on your side and I'll do the same."
Only three security mechs did not pose a big threat, I would let them handle it. Fighting, worrying about me, this kept Shepard focused, not thinking of her demise and resurrection.
Shepard and Jacob were looking at each other, she nodded, and both of them sprang outside of cover almost at the same time. The mechs were too late in adjusting their aim at the two simultaneous targets. Several shots flew their way destroying the two intended mechs.
Back in cover, Shepard spoke to Jacob. "I'll be popping out again, once it shoots at me, you do your stuff Jacob. We need to conserve ammo."
Jacob just nodded and waited. Shepard got out of cover and merely stood there, as the mech started shooting at her. Her kinetic barrier absorbed a couple shots, and then the security mech was pushed against the wall by an invisible force. The pressure was so strong, the mech made a slump in the steel wall, and a loud crunching sound could be heard in the room. It made a stuttering sound and detonated.
Biotics… Skills that, decades ago were confined to the sci-fi genre. They recently became a reality and the subject of much study, to humans at least, as the other races of the galaxy were already using them by the time Humanity showed up. The Asari were particularly adept at these skills since they were born with great biotic powers. And given their lifespans of about a thousand years, they had a long time to hone their usage.
Humans though, rarely have lived for a hundred years, and they had to be infused with this ability. Nevertheless, humans were very adaptable and fast learners, and they also were very keen of things that furthered their abilities in wars.
Shepard and Jacob stood in the open making sure all of the mechs were done for good. The door behind the destroyed security mechs then opened, revealing three more of them. Most likely the ones that were tracking me, back from that corridor before I bumped into Shepard.
Having an assault rifle Shepard took the appropriate action, firing making an arc in front of her in order to spray most of the mechs to buy at least some time. Jacob started shooting also. Since it was a reflex action, it was not very effective; they were not hitting any important points in the mechs.
I saw their lower limbs flexing, indicating they were about to take cover again, I took my chance. I fired three shots from my pistol, they hit their intended targets squarely, the cameras on each of the mechs heads. This effectively terminated them. I got back into cover immediately after shooting.
Shepard and Jacob were back too, panting a little. It seemed the sudden appearance of this second wave of mechs had made them nervous.
The Commander peeked around the corner of the crate. "What the hell?" She exclaimed. "What the hell happened...? Jacob? Can you see that? All the mechs are down."
Jacob peeked over his side of the crate. "It seems you have a guardian angel Commander," he mused turning to Shepard and grinning.
I prefer guardian Terminator, thank you. The comparison was a good analogy though.
"Well, I guess we got some lucky shots there," Shepard said, looking into an indefinite spot on the other side of the room.
This was inaccurate, but then again I never intended for my intervention to be noticed.
Jacob walked towards the door at the end of the corridor. "Ready to get the hell out of this place?" He asked, motioning for us to follow.
As expected at this point, Shepard grabbed my hand and dragged me in tow again. "Come on kiddo, let's get out of here," She motioned with her head towards the door, smiling.
All of this attentiveness and protection would make for good memories, but soon I was going to have to prove myself as a fighter.
Jacob's Omni-tool turned on as we approached the door. "Check, check, anyone on this frequency? Anybody still alive out there?" A most likely human male voice questioned over the comm, quite alarmed.
"Wilson! This is Jacob, Shepard's here with me and we have another survivor from the staff. We just took out a wave of mechs over in D way."
"Shepard's alive? How the he…" This Wilson person made a pause. A pause that told me a lot more than he would have liked. "Never mind, you need to get her out of there. Get to the service tunnels and head for the network control room."
"Roger that Wilson, stay on this frequency." Jacob acknowledged walking again. When we reached the door, he waved his Omni-tool at the control to open it.
We walked through a long corridor with several turns. There were many doors on the sides, and since we passed all of them, I knew Jacob Taylor was indeed taking us to the service tunnels.
I was not sure this was the best course of action though. Wilson was involved in the attack.
We soon reached the service tunnels. Crates and ventilation shafts crowded the first room. Only the emergency lamps lit it, which turned the entire place red.
There were four security mechs in the room, which Shepard and Jacob quickly disposed of after exchanging some shots. The fact we had cover from some of the shafts and the mechs were in the open, made it easier than previous encounters.
"Dammit Wilson!" Jacob yelled at the comm in his Omni-tool, "this place is crawling with mechs!"
"The whole building is crawling with mechs! I'm guiding you the best I can!" Wilson's voice did not sound as sure as he probably intended.
At this point, I was almost certain Wilson was behind the attack. He blatantly made us bump into more mechs, and possibly even re-routed them here.
We made our way to the exit of the room when Jacob's Omni-tool lit up again.
"Oh God, they found me! Help!" Wilson screamed over the comm.
Hopefully the security mechs would get to him before us, making all this easier.
"Wilson, where are you?" Asked Jacob in a hurry.
"Server room B. Hurry, they're out of control!"
We started running through the maintenance tunnels in order to save Wilson. Just in case we got there in time, I started simulations to terminate him unnoticed.
Some more security mechs got in our way, but Shepard and Jacob just mowed them down. Humans motivated by the distress of a fellowman were remarkably efficient.
Exiting the service tunnels we made a right into another corridor, lighting was normal again.
We reached the end of the corridor, and Jacob motioned for us to follow into a flight of stairs on the left. As soon as we started climbing the stairs, Jacob's Omni-tool flashed.
"Oh god, I'm hit! I'm…" Wilson's message cut off. This was a good thing.
The rest of the team did not share my view; I saw their faces tensing up.
At the top of the stairs was a door. Just across it, lied server room B. Jacob Taylor explained the layout of the room. It extended to the left from this door, so we took positions sticking to the corridor's left wall.
Jacob opened the door and we peeked around the corner. The room was vacant of mechs. Right in front of us, a man in the mid-forties lied against some crates. There was another door in the left end of the room, and some computer servers to our right.
"Jacob, Shepard, down here!" Wilson called in pain. "Bastards got me in the leg!"
He was still alive… And that injury would not kill him as the shot had gone through the leg sparing the tibial artery. There was a med-station across from us, most likely with some medi-gel left, so we could heal him.
It was then that I put the pieces together in my head. Single non-lethal shot to the leg, easily accessible med-station in the vicinity, and no mech bodies or remains anywhere. Wilson had shot himself in order to distract us from the truth. I was not easily distracted, unlike my companions, who could actually feel worried for him.
His continued existence was a threat to Shepard. My simulations had provided me with five ways to terminate him unnoticed. I would proceed with the one that yielded me the quickest results, and then move down the list if that failed.
I adjusted my face into a worried look the best I could, and ran ahead of the other two. "Sir, are you okay¡?" I asked Wilson faking alarm.
Sliding next to him, I started doing a checkup, grabbing his head to check his eyes. Ignoring the man's yelping, I probed his leg with my hand.
"The shot made a clean wound, it shouldn't be too bad," I informed them. "Commander, there is a med-station over there." I pointed my hand to said station. Now I had to trust Shepard's soldier training, the success of my plan depended on it.
Understanding my request Shepard moved across the room, walking in a prone position aiming around with the assault rifle.
"Hey Jacob!" Shepard called to the man still in the door's threshold. "Come over here and cover this door, we don't want any surprises while we patch up Wilson," she ordered while motioning with her hand towards the door in the left end of the room.
"I'm on it Commander," Jacob answered, and started walking too. He should be going past Wilson and me soon.
The plan was going as predicted. I put my hands around Wilson's neck and started probing his neck with my fingers. His face indicated surprise at this. I ignored him, aware that it was not the standard procedure for this kind of injury.
Once sure that Shepard and Jacob had their backs to me, I continued with my plan. Being designed to terminate living creatures in the most efficient ways, I had extensive anatomical knowledge, and John Connor had provided some ideas too.
Surprise the victim to incite a gasp, thus avoiding words that could accuse me. I lit up my eyes to maximum and they now had an intense blue glow in them.
Wilson gasped and tried to say something, it would not work. Adjusting my voice to a horrified scream, I yelled. "No Wilson, stay with me!"
As I screamed, I crushed Wilson's trachea under my right thumb, and my left index and middle fingers dislocated his seventh cervical vertebrae. My screaming muffled the cracking sounds in his neck.
It all happened in two seconds. Since my first plan to terminate the human traitor succeeded, I scrapped the rest of them.
"He passed out! This is bad!" I yelled at Shepard. "Hurry up Commander!"
The Commander and Jacob Taylor ran towards me, I just needed to go through the motions now.
After ripping Wilson's pants, I took the medi-gel from Shepard and applied it to the leg injury. I got close to his chest to simulate hearing his heartbeat, obviously there was none, so I laid Wilson down and started simulating CPR. Shepard and Jacob were yelling at me, demanding something done about saving him.
When I considered enough time had passed, I informed them that Wilson had passed away. Shepard and Jacob lowered their heads shaking them a bit.
The door opening broke the silence. I turned around and saw five security mechs coming through it. Shepard immediately lowered me into cover behind the crates and she and Jacob took cover at my sides.
"They haven't noticed us yet. I have an idea," Shepard whispered while looking at Jacob. "I need you to push those canisters in front of us towards the mechs."
Jacob nodded and smiled. "I know what you're trying there Commander, sounds like a plan to me."
They already had synergy, this happened after a short time when well-trained and experienced soldiers teamed up.
Standing up from cover at the same time, they made the mechs delay their aim. Not for long, but enough to let Jacob focus his biotics on the canisters. The canisters flew forward, and Shepard ran towards the med-station to take cover behind a pillar over there.
The kinetic barriers did their job, and when the Commander reached the pillar, she shot at the canisters with the rifle in full automatic mode. If everything went well, conserving ammo would not be an issue.
The canisters blew up as intended, and they took out with them all the security mechs, sending metal pieces flying all over the room. We took cover from the debris.
After that, Shepard and Jacob made sure the room was safe. Jacob walked towards the door motioning for us to follow.
Outside the server room, we took a right turn down a flight of stairs, and we got to a corridor that had access to the hangar at the end of it.
The hangar was very spacious, in front of us lie an overpass corridor that made a couple of turns into a flight of stairs, which would take us to the main platform.
There were three security mechs in the first turn of the overpass, I deemed them a non-sufficient threat, and let the humans handle them. After exchanging several shots, two of the mechs had been destroyed.
"Gravity is a mean mother fucker, huh?" Jacob Taylor asked the last mech as he levitated it from the ground. He moved it over to the other side of the safety railing, and dropped it to the floors below. The noise of metal against metal could be heard a moment after. Judging from the delay before the mech hit the floor the height was about thirty meters.
The mech was now unable to answer Jacob Taylor's question. Though I did not think security mechs had an opinion on gravity.
Access to the main platform was now clear, so we went up the stairs, and got ready to take the elevator to our right. In that moment, two security mechs came out from behind the crates on our left.
"Are these things breeding? Dammit!" Jacob cursed as he took cover behind the crates.
Shepard and I did the same, or rather, Shepard made me do the same.
There was a door in the far end of the platform, opposite to us. From our position, the faint sound of the door opening could be heard.
Jacob peeked around the crate, and cursed. "Goddammit! Here come three more!"
The imminent danger were the two first mechs that were getting close to us, as they would render our cover useless in a few seconds. But the continuous bursts of fire from all the five mechs made it impossible to attempt counterattacking. We had to deal with the two approaching ones to have a chance at keeping Shepard alive.
I calculated the distance, position of the closing-in mechs by the sound of their footsteps, and I knew their exact height. I adjusted my voice to a horrified shriek, and prepared my face accordingly.
"Noooooooo!" I shrieked, and started shooting my pistol over the crates without looking, making it seem random, but attempting to calculate the mechs positions in real time. Aiming for headshots, I kept shooting my pistol until it over heated. I noticed that the others had followed suit. They did not shriek though.
Shepard took a quick peek over the crates and her expression when she returned let us know we had succeeded.
"Yes! Eat that tin cans!" She elbowed my side smiling. "I didn't know you had it in you kid."
There are a number of things inside this body that you ignore, Alexandra Shepard.
"Guys, we still have three more to go, we can party right after ok?" Cut in Jacob, while replacing the thermal clip in his pistol.
"Gee, don't be so stiff Jacob," retorted Shepard reloading her assault rifle. "Ok, I'm sick of these guys, let's get it done!"
She had barely said this, when she was already charging towards the three mechs shooting in short bursts.
Quickly exchanging the thermal clip in my pistol, I started providing cover fire along with Jacob. As Shepard closed in to the mechs, her kinetic barrier overloaded. She was about 5 meters away from the mechs now, and luckily, one of them was already falling apart.
I stopped my pretend shooting for a moment and did a headshot on another mech. Only one left.
Shepard slid with her feet upfront and smashed in the shins of the last mech, and since LOKI's were not overly heavy, it fell on its face. The mech was slow to recover from the fall, and before it turned, Shepard was already on top of it, repeatedly smashing the butt of her rifle on its neck. The machine made a stuttering sound, Shepard got up taking some steps back and covering her face with her arms. The small explosion was easily absorbed by her N7 armor.
Commander Alexandra Shepard was going to make me work for her safety more than anticipated.
We regrouped and headed for the elevator. Jacob Taylor attempted to scold the Commander for her antics, unsuccessfully. Shepard was too busy making a fuss about me being able to shoot a gun.
Checking her armor while she talked I noticed several impacts on it. If this weren't top quality N7 armor, the shots would have pierced it through. Perhaps she knew it would hold, she was an experienced soldier after all, or perhaps being woken up before her full mental recovery, made her a little unstable.
While thinking of this we reached the elevator, Jacob moved in to open the doors, but was stopped by the sound of the elevator docking. Shepard and Jacob moved some steps back and raised their weapons. She pulled me behind her.
The elevator doors opened, and I heard my team mates swallow hard.
A human female whose age was hard to calculate was inside, also aiming a pistol. She was wearing a white suit, similar to Jacob's in the aspect that it provided little combat utility, since it also was tight fitting, very. Surely, she was relying on kinetic barriers too.
Jacob lowered his weapon letting out a sigh, most likely relieved at the absence of mechs. "Miranda. Good to see you're ok. We need to get the hell out of this place."
Miranda walked out and also lowered her weapon. She approached Jacob and gave him a small pat on the shoulder. "Jacob," Miranda greeted smiling.
She moved on to Shepard, her eyes scanning all over her. "I´m Miranda Lawson, glad you made it here safely Commander."
Then she looked at me. "Your hair is pretty," and with that she turned around walking in Jacob's direction.
"It was very hard to get it right," I explained while she walked away.
"Did you see Wilson on your way here Jacob?" Miranda asked, but no response was given.
I terminated him for treason. Another thought that would go unvoiced.
Shepard and Jacob lowered their heads just a little. The Commander opened her mouth a bit, and then closed it again.
I understood what was going through their minds. They felt guilty, for letting a scientist, a non-combatant die. Shepard felt guilty for allowing the death of an innocent, Jacob for allowing the death of a co-worker, possibly a friend.
They were both wrong, and they were wasting time with their grieving. So I spoke first, even if it meant being out of place. "He is dead, gunshot wound to the leg resulting in heavy blood loss."
Miranda looked at me and laughed a little. "Well the world does know about poetic justice; that prick is the one that started this mess, serves him right," she coldly stated and returned to the elevator.
Shepard and Jacob looked at each other for an instant, their expressions relaxing. Good.
"Let's leave this place already, I have a shuttle prepared," Miranda said, motioning for us to join her.
Jacob stepped in, followed by Shepard and myself.
Recalling that I saw her name before, I checked if I had information on Miranda as we rode the elevator.
Miranda Lawson, Cerberus officer in charge of project Lazarus. Some information about previous operations and their respective results. Limited personal and background information.
I had glanced at her profile when I hacked into the terminals around the facility. I did not pay much attention though; I was more interested in the status update reports about Shepard. Most of the personnel profiles I just scanned for dubious information, and then discarded.
Miranda gave out an aura of being the most important person in the world. She was not, especially when sharing a room with Shepard. Another point to people like Commander Shepard and John Connor, that it did not matter what they accomplished, they were humble. Most of the time.
Finding myself involuntarily smiling at the thought of John again, I quickly corrected my expression and looked around for any sign that someone had noticed. No one did, so I continued with my profiling of Miranda Lawson.
Officer Lawson's body proportions and symmetry made her attractive to most standards, giving her leverage when negotiating. Her demeanor and looks indicated she was very professional, a perfectionist in her work and personal life. She would make a valuable addition to the team.
While I checked my information on Miranda, Shepard broke the silence. "Um, Miranda?"
"I'm still waiting to get some answers from you people, during this whole mess I have managed to start coping with the fact that I was dead, and brought back. But I still don't know for what purpose, or who did it."
"I see Commander. Well, as shocking as it is, you indeed died back when the Normandy was destroyed. We recovered your body, and invested immense resources attempting to bring you back, because we need you, Humanity needs you Commander. The fine details of what we need from you will be cleared by the leader of my organization, the illusive man."
"And exactly which organization is that?"
"Well Commander, this will only add to your recent shocking experiences, given that we have a history with each other. The organization I work for is Cerberus."
"And this is where it all comes down in pieces." Shepard stepped to the back wall of the elevator and leaned heavily against it, then crossing her arms on her chest, she continued. "So, a couple years ago I was running around, ruining your operations, and now you invest in resurrecting me? Care to elaborate Miranda?"
"We need you Commander, as I said, Humanity needs you. We will be at the shuttle bay soon, and it's not a long ride to the neighboring facility, where you can get all the answers directly from my boss."
"Ah well, I can tell this is the most I'm getting right now," the Commander sighed while stepping up front again.
"I'm sorry Commander." Miranda said, not even looking at Shepard, and her voice lacking the characteristic tone variations of an apology.
"Yeah well," Shepard added. "I understand chain of Command miss Lawson."
All the time we were in the elevator Jacob just stiffly stood beside us, a silent witness to everything. His eyes looked at Shepard and Miranda from time to time, his hands moved from his sides to join behind his back, and then to join in his front, and then rested at his sides again. But that was it; Jacob Taylor was going to make my blending in easier.
The elevator docked and the doors opened. We made our way to a shuttle that was floating close to the ground on a nearby landing pad. It was a Kodiak drop shuttle in almost perfect condition.
As we approached the cargo door, it opened to let us inside, so the pilot must have noticed us coming.
We accommodated ourselves in the shuttle and took off, leaving behind the facility in a matter of seconds.
While traveling to the other Cerberus facility, Miranda ran the Commander through a series of tests. She had insisted on checking Shepard's mental state, to which Shepard –and Jacob, whom tried to vouch for the Commander after fighting security mechs with her- reluctantly agreed. Anyone with decent extranet searching skills could have answered most of the questions in the tests though. There were also questions that helped determining someone's character, personality, decision-making capabilities and so on. Miranda was attempting to profile the resurrected Shepard, to check if she was the same as before the accident.
That part of the test I could understand, if Shepard's personality had changed because of the brain surgeries, it would diminish her capacity of successfully leading a campaign against the Reapers.
After fifty-four minutes of traveling, we arrived at another Cerberus facility. The landing was uneventful, and after going inside we walked through some more of those, austere-polished metal corridors and rooms. Cerberus is very consistent in its decoration standards, almost machine-like.
When we arrived at an observation room, Miranda motioned at some chairs inviting us to seat.
"The illusive man will see you immediately Commander," Miranda said, while indicating a flight of stairs going down on the far right corner of the room.
"Thanks Miranda," Shepard nodded, and walked towards the stairs.
Miranda cut me off when I attempted to follow. "Shepard has to go alone."
This relationship will never progress beyond the professional level.
"I understand; I will stand outside the nearest door then, if you'll excuse me." I said, trying not to sound menacing, and brushed her aside.
"What are you?" Miranda shouted at my back, "her bodyguard? The Commander can take care of herself. Or her pet perhaps?"
"Yes." I did not stop walking to answer, and as I turned to descend the stairs, I could see Jacob Taylor walking to Miranda.
"That's enough Miranda," he reproached, "whoever she is, she helped us out of that place. She could be an asset."
"Why of course Jacob," Miranda's voice sounded sarcastic, "see, I have two words for you. Jail bait."
"The hell you're saying woman…"
Then I stopped focusing on them, since it was a pointless conversation.
Standing as close as possible to the door, I amplified my hearing again, focusing on the other side of it.
According to the conversation Shepard had with this illusive man character, my suspicions were correct, they needed Shepard's heroics and leadership to fight the Reapers. The first step would be investigating the disappearance of humans in several colonies in the terminus systems. The illusive man believed there was a link between the colonists' disappearance and the Reapers.
Even if there was no such link, Shepard would want to help, I was certain. I would too; John Connor taught me there were no small causes when it was about saving people.
Our first mission would take us to Freedom's progress, a human colony that recently went silent.
Shepard and the illusive man exchanged some opinions about the trustworthiness of Cerberus' personnel, and the conversation was over.
This illusive man seemed like a sketchy character at best, if Shepard distrusted Cerberus' employees as much as I calculated, I needed to start proving myself as soon as possible.
The Commander stepped out of the room and walked up the stairs.
I stopped her. "Commander Shepard, I need you to know that you can trust me, and that I care for your well-being more than anything. I was not at the Cerberus facility because I worked there, I was there looking for you, to ensure your safety."
Shepard was looking wide-eyed at me. I tried not to give her a chance of speaking, and continued. "I want you to know that Cerberus means nothing to me, and that I stand ready to fight the Reapers at your side."
"Wait, what the… what's up with the all-serious act now? You're starting to sound crazy kid." Shepard said, trying to walk again, but I stopped her. If I didn't make things clear right now, it would compromise my mission to protect her.
She fixed her eyes into mine. "Look Cameron, that's all fine and everything, but I have more important things in my head right now," she dismissively said. I could hear anger in her tone, but I wasn't going to back up.
Shepard brushed my arm aside and started walking up the stairs.
"I have to go to a colony called Freedom's progress," she stated. "You will stay here, and when I get back we'll talk, ok?"
"No." I pulled her by the arm. "I must go with you, I am sorry that I behaved deceivingly back at the Lazarus facility, but I am trained in combat, and willing to demonstrate it."
"Cameron, you're what?" the Commander answered mockingly, "twenty years old? How much training can you have? Listen, we'll talk when I come back."
My exact age is one-hundred and eighty-six years. This of course would be yet another secret for now.
"Test me then, test me here, right now."
Shepard crossed her arms and looked at me, her eyes moved down and then up, it was as if she tried to measure my worth by doing this.
"You know what kid," she spoke in a serious tone, "I like you, but you're starting to piss me off. This has been a very bad day, but I'll give you a chance, know why?"
"Because you like me?" I answered, believing that was the correct response.
"No," she smirked, "because you have guts."
I do not, but this is just a human saying that indicates one has courage, which I also lack, since courage is the ability to confront fear, and I do not feel fear. At least not in the sense humans do.
"Thank you Commander," I smiled to show my appreciation.
Shepard walked up the stairs, and motioned for me to follow. "Come on let's see what I can come up with real quick before we leave."
The test would consist of shooting and melee combat, no biotics, which is good since I am incapable of using them. We moved to the hangar in this facility since it would provide the necessary space, and was far from the most crowded areas, to avoid disturbing other employees. Shepard convinced Miranda and Jacob to participate, she was reluctant, and he just smiled.
With the exception of Shepard, we were all at the hangar waiting. The commander came in fifteen minutes and forty-three seconds later, carrying empty glass receptacles. I assumed we were going to use them as target practice.
The four of us stood side by side looking at a set of four of the glass receptacles, placed at a distance of forty meters. Shepard explained we would take turns shooting at the receptacle in front of us until we destroyed it. She was going to be counting the shots each of us made.
We began shooting, one at a time.
Jacob Taylor's target shattered with the fourth shot. Miranda Lawson's target shattered with the fifth. John had taught me, that if I was trying to blend in with humans, I needed to make some mistakes. In order to gain Shepard's trust in my abilities, and remain human in her eyes, I hit my target with the second shot.
I was not stepping any lower than half my usual accuracy on an immobile target at this distance. I noticed that I gained the looks of the three of them. It was possible that I would have to keep my ego in check on future occasions.
Then the Commander did something unexpected, aiming her assault rifle she shot a burst at her target, shattering it.
"Done in the first attempt," she said in a smug tone. "Thinking out of the box is a good quality in a soldier too. I don't know why you guys assumed you had to use your pistols, I expected you to do it though." She ended with a small laugh.
Jacob smiled at Shepard, and Miranda just rolled her eyes.
"Well Commander," Miranda lectured staring at Shepard, "there are security rules we are already breaking by using a regular pistol in here, let alone an assault rifle." She brushed the hair from her face and fit it behind her ear, turning her eyes away from Shepard.
"Ok," Shepard sighed, "moving on. Miranda and Cameron will spar first, nothing that can cause lasting injury guys." The Commander instructed clapping her hands.
Miranda and I stood facing each other. I planned to go all out. Within safety parameters of course. I had to show Shepard I was better than these humans were so she could trust having me in every mission.
Hunter killer mode, melee combat against human targets, restricted to disabling attacks only.
Officer Lawson inhaled deeply, and got into a battle stance while exhaling. She made no attempt to attack me. This looked like a defensive martial art, possibly derived from something like Ai-Kido or Ju-jitsu. The kind of martial art that favors lightweight people that lack in raw strength. She would attempt to use my own momentum against me, focusing in stressing my joints to disable me.
My main challenge was going to be avoiding her noticing my weight –which is not remarkably high, but noticeable for the size I represent- and the fact that my joints were impossible for her to stress.
Closing the gap between us, I swiftly grabbed her with both hands by the neck of her suit. Predictably she pulled her arms up from beneath mine to break the hold, I allowed her to do it. Next, she would attempt to get a hold of my arm, turning me around and bending it behind my back, in an attempt to submit me by stressing the joints in it. That would be the outcome, given the momentum caused by her move, and the reaction time an organic has.
However, this was not the case. Dropping to one knee on the ground, and catching her off-guard, I hit her solar plexus with the palm of my hand. Feeling the muscles in her abdomen giving in against my hand, I knew that was it.
Miranda Lawson sank to her knees struggling to draw breath, and with a sharp pain in her chest. At least that was what my medical data indicated should happen.
I turned around to face Jacob and walked towards him. This sparring was going to happen at hunter killer pace.
Commander Shepard looked at me, and pushed Jacob in my direction. He turned around and made a face; I was unable to see it clearly due to my viewing angle. Most likely he was angry with Shepard.
As I closed in, Jacob entered a stance with both of his arms in front of him, making fists with his hands. He was most likely adept at some form of mixed, custom martial art, the kind usually taught to soldiers.
Predictably enough, once I was in range, he tossed a punch at me. It was a good punch, fast, backed up by his body weight. The kind of punch to the face that could one-hit a male adult human. I could not believe he would send a punch like this against a teenage girl. It did not matter though, Jacob Taylor would be learning manners soon enough.
Without stopping my advance, I brushed the punch outside trajectory with the back of my hand, immediately counterattacking to the space between Jacob's biceps and triceps. A well-placed punch in that area would hurt the main nerves, making it hard to use his arm properly.
His other arm was already travelling in my direction, so I stopped it with my elbow, and hit the same spot in this arm. Unable to defend his body effectively, I launched a punch against his trachea, but stopped a centimeter before, and just touched it with my knuckles.
Jacob Taylor nodded acknowledging the situation. I smiled at him in response.
I walked around Jacob and directed myself towards Shepard, she had her arms crossed on her chest, and her head was slightly inclined to a side and upwards.
I have decided to call it, the Shepard stance.
Shepard said she had given me this chance because I had guts when I continually stopped her from walking, back there in the observation room. It was logical to assume she liked this quality in people, so I was going to attack her too. I would show her just how much guts I could have.
Stopping before her, I took on a fighting stance –even though I did not need one- just to let her know of my intentions.
"Oh," Shepard said smirking. She got on guard too.
"Commander, I don't think you should do that in your condition," Miranda advised. I could hear her behind me, still unable to breathe with ease.
"Come on Miranda, my muscles don't feel bad, and I have some implants to complement them. It will work as a test of how well kept my body was."
Miranda Lawson exhaled a long sigh.
Commander Shepard gets into a battle stance much like Jacob.
I threw a quick jab at her face with my right arm, in a fluid movement she grabbed my wrist with her right hand and spun around in front of me lowering her body, and elbowing me in the stomach with her left arm.
She was fast, very fast. For a human of course. I played the part and stumbled back grabbing my stomach, I faked grabbing a big breath and got on guard again.
This time Shepard initiated combat, and threw two successive punches to my face. I could see she had learned that speed is her most favorable attribute.
I dodged the first punch by moving my head back, when the second punch came, I brushed her arm to the side with the palm of my hand. A human could not have done this, unless the difference in corporal mass and muscle was very big. I expected Shepard to ignore this fact, and that she would attribute what was going to happen to martial prowess.
The strike to the arm offset her balance completely, and turned her flank to me. I took the chance to punch her in the ribs, and then indicated five punches to her face.
Shepard stood straight and smiled at me rubbing her ribs with one hand, and putting the other on my shoulder.
"Well damn it kid," she said catching her breath, "I felt that through the armor. I think I can trust you to be an asset in missions. But trusting you as a soldier doesn't mean I trust you as a person, you did lie to me back in the other place, why were you playing innocent anyway?" Shepard finished speaking and crossed her arms again.
"It felt nice being protected for a change. From where I come from, the opposite was always expected from me." I looked to the ground and accommodated a pensive look in my face. I really felt that way, there was no need to show it to the Commander though, but I had to gain her trust as a person now.
She smiled and put her hand on my shoulder again. "Jacob, Miranda, let's get prepared, we need to get going ASAP."
"Yes Commander," Jacob saluted.
Miranda just turned on her heel and walked away.
"Miranda," Shepard called, "can you please procure some gear to get Cameron fully outfitted?"
She stopped and looked in my direction for a moment, then continued walking away. Shepard walked after her, and I could hear her giggling, probably at Miranda's antics.
Now I could stand at Shepard's side to help her, and keep her safe in the missions to come. I was going to war again. To save the human race a second time, and even the galaxy. If John Connor were able to stand by me, he would be proud because I was pursuing the ideals he taught me.
A smile was on my face again, as most times I remembered him. But this time I also sensed the void in my mind, where the active thought processes about him used to be. The longing for his company had been too strong this time.
Humans compared the loss of a loved one, to having a hole in the heart, impossible to fill.
John Connor had left a void in my mind, and it was impossible to fill too. Nothing I ever tried had worked. That area of my mind was impossible to reactivate or repurpose. Bumping into it meant that thoughts of loss and vulnerability, amongst other things, were going to overwhelm me. And I would feel a need for him to be here, to fix it all with a kiss to my forehead.
Years after John's passing I had learned that the only other way –besides going into stand by- to clear my mind of these thoughts, was to let that void take control of me. Shepard was already far enough, so I could just let go.
I felt my awareness waning, I sank to my knees with my hands on my face, and silently cried.