Pain.

His body burned, as if every inch of it had fallen asleep...only to awaken with a jolt, a jolt of fire rushing through his veins and muscles...

He jerked, body stiffening as he squeezed his eyes shut...and let it wash over him, letting the ebbs and currents of the pain drive him forward...until he became still...taking a shallow breath, then another, and another...

Each breath coloured by...surprise.

He frowned. Why am I surprised?

Something had awoken him...a distant sound...the frown deepened, pale blue eyes opening.

Above him there were bright blue tiles covering the ceiling, a cold white fluorescent light above nearly blinding him...forcing his gaze sideways.

The room was full of machinery, most resting on wheels, several clearly switched on, various tubes and cords running from them like tentacles as they crossed the room, went up his small bed with wheeled legs of polished steel...and disappeared underneath his clothing.

He blinked, looking down at his body...mind blank. It looked like his body...the skin showing on his hands and feet were paler then it was supposed to...but when he moved a toe he saw it move. Yet it didn't...feel like his body, it felt...oddly distant. He didn't recognise the pale green pants he wore, nor the long-sleeved shirt of the same colour...breezy and soft clothing...large enough to fit the various tubes and cords disappearing through every opening...

I...got injured? Where am I?

He looked away from the large body that had to be his own, once more looking over the spacious room as he swung his legs over the bed and sat up. It was unfamiliar, bereft of any warmth, only cold machinery and wheeled tables full of surgical tools...clearly an operating hall. The walls were white, white and here and there marked with a yellow hexagon open just at the bottom, two bent lines cupping it from below.

He stared at the nearest symbol, feeling a...tingling in the back of his head as he found it inexplicable draw closer...a tingling turning into a shivering as it filled his vision...a shivering turning into white agony as it invaded his mind...

And Michael screamed.

Cerberus.

He fell, knees striking a cold floor, blood exploding from his flesh as his movement tore several cords out of his skin.

A man gasping, Michael's knife buried in his chest, assault rifle dropping from limp hands even as Michael moved to charge another foe...

Cerberus...

A dead admiral, surrounded by broken Rachni corpses, scientists and armoured guards...

Cerberus!

Michael screamed, hands moving up, clutching at his head as a flood invaded his mind. Sights, smells, sounds...jumbled and confused, tumbling over one another as they assaulted him...

A Turian baring his fangs at him..Saren...

Cooked and burnt flesh, screaming people...

Wrex, smirking.

Geth advancing, their shots raking Michael's position among the cliffs...

A voice of doom...

A galaxy in flames...death around him...

Shared laughter, a party in Tali's honour...

Blood pouring from his sides, massive talons digging in as his life ebbed away...

He screamed!

It came too fast, too much, it wasn't memory upon memory, it was all memories, together...rushing at him at once, tearing into him, ripping him asunder...

Can't...not all...

It was all too fresh, each memory happening yesterday...though he knew it couldn't have...

Too many...

Saren bleeding...

No...Saren laughing...no...

Saren dying...shorn in half, a lone tear falling from his dimming eyes...

Yes...sort them...

Ashley flirting, fighting...no...died...him still trying to move, trying even as the bomb ticked away...

It hurt...yet Michael let it roll over him, accepting the pain even as it turned into relief as he felt the memories slide into place, each still felt like it had happened yesterday...but now he could put them in order...

A Quarian defiant even as she showed her evidence to them, them fighting together, deleting Tali's photo before he could see it, her rescuing him from a Krogan, comforting him as he broke apart...only to mend...a near touch...

A galaxy aflame...no...a vision...a beacon...Prothean...Sovereign...its hologram...no...arching overhead...no...marking Michael...no...breaking apart, shot asunder within the Citadel...

His head lolled...and Michael felt reality return, if but a hazy outline of it...

I...these memories are old...older then yesterday...old...

He gasped, wide shoulders shaking as his hands moved over his face...feeling his wide jaw, his small lips...thin nose...no longer crooked to the left? Michael blinked away the memory of the bar on Earth where that flying kick had struck his face...confused as his hands move upwards... finding no scar over his right eye...ignoring the memory of that flashing knife slashing over his face.

Why...? Michael felt a fresh pressure in his mind, a pressure of fear... Where did the old injuries go...? What...?

Not fear, terror...

What happened...?

A gasp...his gasp...and Michael remembered.

I...hunted Geth, searching for information on the Reapers, trying to force the Council to act then...attacked...

His gasp turned into a throaty sound, all air driven from his lungs as he dropped onto all fours.

Burning...

Ice...lungs turning into ice...

No air...

Falling...

Skin melting...

Armour breaking...

Burning!

Skin melting!

No air!

He squeezed his eyes shut, swaying as he lay on all fours, fingers gripping tighty at the floor, clawing at it, feeling the cold tiles...something real.

No..alive...

He opened his eyes, staring at the oddly pale hands before him, fixing his gaze upon them. They were real...he was real...alive...

He frowned. Or am I...? Again he looked around himself, puzzled.

Is this...my hell?

He had always held his religion close to his heart, a motivator, a knowledge that those he failed – killed – at Earth, at Elysium...would find their place in heaven. That he would receive his just punishment...

Yet this didn't look like hell...didn't feel like it...

He couldn't help it, he searched his mind, trying to remember...

It was all too easy.

He, now ready, ignored the memory of him burning, melting even as his lungs turned to ice...pushed past it, feeling his life slip away...

His eyes widened.

Legs and arms gave up, his face thumping into the floor as icy horror drained all warmth out of him...

He saw...oblivion.

No pearly gates, no hell, no heaven... He found his body spinning within the room, all turning into a blur as he pressed himself against the floor... No circle of life, no reincarnation, no anything...

It was but a moment...the briefest of glimpses...as if he had blinked...only to wake up in this strange place...

But he knew it was longer then that, it was an endless moment...of nothing, no sight, no smell, no touch, no sound...nothing!

Nothing!

He shivered...something within him...shattering...

There is no God...

No heaven...

No hell...

Nothing...we deserve...

White lights danced before his vision as he struggled for air, horror paralysing him.

No God...

A mindless chuckle escaped him, a puff of air condensation against the cold floor.

No God!

Another chuckle escaped him...only to turn into a growl as his legs and arms pushed up, forcing him upwards as his head snapped round, teeth bared in a snarl.

He was hearing...gunfire...explosions...screams...

And the growl turned vicious as his gaze moved to the other end of the room, finding a large double-door...the slight gap in the middle glowing ever downwards as something burnt its way down...

He came to his feet, cords and cables snapping as they were wrenched off him, staining his thin clothes with his blood as he reached out, right hand snapping out, grabbing onto a nearby metal rod, tearing the bag of blood hanging from it and gripping onto it with his left, feeling the blood seep from the bag...

And Michael embraced...rage.

Ahead the doors slid open, forced apart...and a two-legged mech walked in, making Michael pause for but a fraction of a moment as he saw the symbol on its black visor glowing red as it aimed its submachine gun at...at him.

His surprise was quickly swallowed by anger.

Michael lunged forth. Ducking low as he charged a a trio of shots whizzed over his body, one drawing a crimson line over Michael's back as his left arm swung forth...

Hate!

The bag of blood struck the mech square in the face, exploding with a wet thump and covering the flailing machine's face.

Kill!

Another burst of fire...striking nothing but walls as the aim was slapped sideways by the rod in Michael's hands...

Tear!

And then he was upon it, the thin metal rod dropping from his hands as he with an animalistic growl reached up, both hands closing around the head of the blinded mech...a snarl and a twist...and he snapped its scrawny neck.

There was a beep, the tear in the machine's neck glowing as the head came off...and Michael snarled once more as he dropped the pathetic cylinder as both hands shot out, catching the machine in the chest and forcing it backwards...

Before him the mech stumbled, dropped onto one knee...and exploded, its now ruined weapon sliding before Michael's feet, a skeletal arm still clutching it.

It wasn't enough.

Growling in anger Michael put a foot on the ruined weapon, ignoring the burning sensation under his foot he reached down, grasped the arm...and tore. The arm came off at the wrist with a crack of breaking metal...and suddenly Michael was holding a pipe of white steel, ends jagged and scorched.

It was but a low growl, and he barely recognised his own voice as he in a red haze advanced: "I want answers..."

And ahead he saw...space.

The window covered the entire wide wall ahead of him...and beyond it the blackness of space waited, the white stars ahead twinkling like tiny diamonds.

Michael lowered his weapon, the red haze narrowing, turning colder...harder.

Out there is the galaxy, billions, and the Reapers... A wordless growl escaped Michael, remembering what had happened after having broken apart on their way to Ilos, remembering Tali's comfort...and his realisation.

I choose to resist...I can always choose...

Silence.

I choose to fight...and I choose to keep my mind intact. A slow and calm breath...and that red anger turned into blade of steel within him.

Then a self-derisive snort as he turned. I also choose to make sense of this crap.

The room was spacious and largely empty, the floor a polished black, ahead and to his left and right white plastic chairs attached to low bannisters lined the walls. A waiting room? And even further to the right, next to the doorway Michael had come from...

He blinked.

Behind a black desk a blond woman's head lay face down on the desk as she sat in a creaking chair, a single red mark showed on the back of her head and a big puddle of crimson blood was spreading over the desk in front of her...her Cerberus uniform stained with the dripping blood from a solitary shot that must have come from the mech...

She didn't even know she was being attacked...

Michael narrowed his eyes, there was obviously no information to be gained from the corpse, and the papers strewn around her were too many to check through. Or so the explosions and gunfire suggests...

A shrug and Michael moved past the desk, weighing the pipe in his hand as he moved towards a set of stairs, stairs turning sharply right towards a closed door...that opened with a thump as he moved closer.

The hallway ahead was wide and fifty feet long...bereft of anything but the cold white walls and more Cerberus insignias..at the end the hall opened to the right as it ended with a large window that from Michael's position didn't show anything but another distant wall...

Better move closer and get a better look then...

Michael took two steps forward...

And heard the clattering of armoured boots against tiled floor, too close, too near...he could do nothing but freeze as he found three men rush in through the entrance ahead and spin round to face him.

They were covered in bone white armoured plates, the armour beneath pitch black, their faces concealed by black helmets sporting round blood-red lenses...and black gauntlets gripping onto their pistols as they lined up their target.

Michael arched an eyebrow, the pipe in his hand cold as he stared at the three men. Who...the hell...are you guys?

He felt no fear, not even a tremor, at the sight of those black muzzles aimed at his unarmoured body...a body too far away to reach them in time to avoid getting shot. He had seen the oblivion that awaited and couldn't fear...

I choose to fight, no matter the odds, no matter the risks. He raised the pipe, glaring at the distant three, relaxed.

The three exchanged looks...before the one to Michael's left spoke, his voice dark and distorted as it left his helmet: "Target found."

Silence.

A low murmur in the left man's helmet.

Then he nodded, voice nearly synthetic in its quality: "Bring in intact."

As one the three moved to holster their pistols, hands moving to grasp onto black batons, freeing them...and instantly arcs of glowing white energy coursed through the larger tips. Stun batons...

Michael's face broke into a vicious grin, voice a low growl as he raised his pipe.

"Bad choice."

8

8

8

Thanks to Abydos Jackson for still standing me.