plot ;; Shepard doesn't know how long he's been awake. He doesn't know what they are. He only knows the beating of his heart and the pounding of his feet against the cold metal floor.

sidenote one ;; I had to do this. Shepard is amazing for his three minutes of screentime. And so much potential in storytelling with all the characters! Reviews are always appreciated.

As Good as it Gets

There has been some kind of mistake. It is the only rational explanation. A mistake, and the retraction crew will fix it. He just needs to keep moving, stay out of sight, keep his head down low. So far, so good. Stay one step ahead of those ... those things, and stay alive. It is all he knows and by this point, he can't begin to remember the rest. Since slithering out of the hypersleep chamber, he's been disoriented and dazed. Almost died twice, but Marker was there for him both times. He feels he should know the Commanding Officer better than he does. Like the man is someone important. But he cant remember, and he isn't sure if he wants to.

Hunkering down in a side chamber, he lets his back rest against the wall. They have no weapons, and have not since they woke up. How they are going to survive is beyond him, but he isn't going to give up. Not while there is a fighting chance and he's one step ahead. His eyes trail to Marker, and the man grunts, nodding. Their break is up. They can't sit in one place long. Nowhere is safe. The things are everywhere, and the little ones. Dear Jesus, the little ones move fast. Closing his eyes for a moment, he takes a deep breath and pushes himself up from the floor.

"Aces, Sheppy?" Marker asks quietly, barely a whisper as his hand touches on his companion's shoulder.

"Fuck," he breathes, shaking his head. There is a two inch gash on his arm, under his sleeve. It itches like nobody's business. It is probably infected. It probably smells pretty damn good to the things. He's not alright and he's not going to lie now. He looks to his tattoo, wondering how long he's been out. He is part of Flight Team Six. Marker is the commanding officer of Flight Team Three. There is something wrong here, something they both cant put their fingers on. They should not have seen each other until landing on Tanis. Something is horribly wrong, a mystery hanging in the air.

A mystery they're not sure they want to find out.

"Lets move."

Marker takes the lead, holding a thin metal pole in front of him. Long ago, the light stick tied to the end had given out. Now it is his only chance if he bumps into one of the things and has nowhere to run. They move down the hall swiftly, making barley a sound. The distant click of buckles against zippers and the patter of stockinged feet. Oil and dust cover their bodies, masking their scent. The slime is repulsive, enough to gag the pair, but survival is key. Marker learned to take the boots off early on. It is something he passed on to Shepard, who began also running amok on Elysium in stockings.

It is almost comical.

Except for the hundreds of things trying to eat them.

"Pandorum," Shepard mumbles under his breath. He is breathing as evenly as he can, in the situation. Still, it comes out in hitches as he walks down increasingly familiar corridors. "What if this is all in our fucking heads?"

Marker looks back, a squint to his eye. "Then you have one hell of a sick imagination," he answers.

"There was a warning on my locker," he insists, walking closer to Marker and lowering his voice as he reads from the image in his memory. "Extended Hypersleep can induce Pandorum upon waking."

Marker elbows his younger companion. "Do you know the signs of Pandorum?"

Shepard pauses, his mouth open as if he's going to answer. They stare at each other for a moment before he looks away. "No I don't know the fucking signs."

"Then shut up and lets move. There has to be somewhere safe."

Shepard doesn't point out the uselessness of the word safe. Not now. They are surviving, and that is as good as it will get. Until the retraction crew finds them and takes them away from this hellish disaster. Already, the pair has been to the Bridge. With no way in, they had to turn around. They haven't seen a single other survivor. It was a slim chance they found each other in this darkness, and they aren't about to split up.

Marker stops suddenly, holding the pole out to signal Shepard. A dim green glow emits from the corridor ahead, raising panic in the pair. Tapping Shepard across his chest with the pole, Marker takes several slow steps back. With the pole digging into his chest, Shepard moves back with his companion, eyes training on the light. If they make a sound, if they run, the noise will attract the hunters. If they stay silent, in one place, there is a chance the things will simply move by, down another passage. The odds are stacking against them shockingly fast.

Growing brighter, the light doesn't seem to be moving down a different path. Marker chances a look down, and he turns several shades paler than he already is. "This is a hunting trail," he whispers in shock.

"A what?"

"No, no," Marker whispers, moving back. "Run."

Shepard has no time to argue. They turn around , throwing caution to the wind. Marker is in the lead. Marker has been awake longer, he remembers the blueprint of the ship. It is his way that Shepard will follow blindly, willing to take the same chances and risks. The man knows what he's doing. They turn down a side passage, sliding through the thin space. Coming out in a maintenance corridor, they look down both directions, hearts thudding in their chests, blood pounding in their ears.

"This way," Marker insists, moving down the left of the passage. They break into a sprint, fighting against their screaming legs to save themselves.

Letting out a startled yelp, Marker falls backward suddenly, stopping Shepard in his tracks. There is a whirr above their heads, and Marker is pulled up mid-fall, a steel wire wrapping its way around his body. Gasping, he pulls at the trap desperately, his breath coming out in panicking bursts.

"Oh, fuck!" Shepard cries, damning himself with the volume of his voice. He is at Marker's side in an instant, pulling on the wire in desperation. His eyes trail up to the ceiling, noting the expert knots and the intricate nature of the layering. If only for a second. Then he is pulling and fighting with Marker's restraints. "Shit! Marker, hold tight, I'll get you down!" he says, gritting his teeth.

"Hurry," Marker insists, reaching up to grab the wire. He pulls, lifting his weight from the threads crossing his body to better help Shepard. A light catches his attention, and he grits his teeth. "Shepard, hurry up, they're coming!"

"Oh, fuck. Fuck! I can't get it! Its too tight!"

Marker lets the wire go, dropping his weight back into his death trap. His hands grip Shepard's, pushing him away. "Go!"


"Go! That's an order! Get out of here!"

Staring in bewilderment, Shepard opens his mouth in protest. "But... sir..."

"Get out of here, Shepard! Now!"

There is indecision in his eyes as he looks up at his commanding officer. Swallowing his pride, he nods. No time for last words. He looks behind to see the lights fast approaching. With fear welling in his gut, he makes a mad dash down the corridors. He doesn't know what direction he is moving. He only knows the sound of his beating heart, the pounding of his feet across the metal floor. As far as he has run, he can not escape the sound of Marker's screams. They ring through the metal chambers eerily, echoing off each other until it is the only sound he can hear.

He is falling through the empty space, an empty sinking feeling shoots through his body. Surprise knots his throat tight as his head slams against the metal floor and everything fades to black.

He wakes up swinging punches at a blurry face, screaming and causing a commotion Marker would abhor. Hands touch his shoulders, trailing along the sore lines in his body. Everything aches, the wires holding him up are digging into his flesh and grating against his bone. Fighting is what matters. He wont let them eat him without a good fight. No, he wont go down like that.


The command shocks him, the word bringing him back to reality. He stops flailing, panting heavily. If possible, the wires are tighter than before. Letting the face come into focus, he blinks a few times. The man is distantly familiar, as if they'd met once in passing. He lets himself focus on this instead of the pain, and he begins to rack his brain for every memory before this hellish place, trying to put a name to the face of this man.

"You have to shut the hell up, you understand?" the man demands in a hush, eyes trailing up and down to assess the wiring. "I can get you out of this, but you have to be quiet. Do you understand?"

Shepard grunts, nodding. "Yeah," he says, barely a whimper.

The man sticks his flashlight between his teeth, pulling a knife from his pocket as he moves out of Shepard's sight. There is a sawing sound before the wires drop him to the ground. He lands awkwardly, falling straight to his ass and moving away from the man. Savior or not, he's still under suspicion. With the awestruck expression across his face, Shepard begins to wonder if he's just as confused as he is. But the man is clean, well dressed, composed. There is a chance, a high one, that this man is part of the retraction team.

This particular fact cheers him considerably.

"He's team six," he whispers to a receiver, pausing as if getting an answer. "That's the shift unit that's supposed to follow us."

The man moves suddenly, and Shepard panics, scurrying back and panting with the labor of moving so quickly when his heart wants to give up and burst already. The man is stern, but his words are reassuring, and he feels compelled to introduce himself.

"Shepard. Team six, sir." There is a slight pause, and his eyes shift uncertainly. "I believe I'm the only one. I knew it, I knew you'd come back. Where's your squad?"

"Squad? There's my Leiutennant..."

"Where's your shuttle?"

"Shuttle... what are you talking about?"

Shepard's hopes sink to the bottom of the ocean. His anger begins boiling up, frustration at living this hell to be laughed at and spit in the face. "You're the retraction crew," he insists irately. "Right?"

The understanding between them comes to an abrupt end. The man shakes his head. "No, I'm team five."

"You just woke up?" Shepard demands.

The man looks remorseful, as if he himself feels poorly about it. "Five or six hours ago."

Shepard throws his arm out, motioning to the ship as a whole. "So you don't know what the fuck's going on?"

"That's what I'm saying," the man says passively, nodding. "What's going on?"

Shepard scoffs, an angry smile parting his lips. "You know as much as me, man," he says in contempt, getting to his feet.

"I don't know anything," the man replies, standing with Shepard.

"You?" Shepard scoffs, shaking his head. He turns to the pipes, searching for oil to cover the scent. The other man probably smelled like Old Spice bodywash, for all Sheppy knew, and if that wasn't a fucking beacon, he didn't know what was. Looking over his shoulder, he can't help but snort. "You'll fit right in."

He finds an oil leak, slathering it over his arms and clothes as quickly as he can. Marker's screams are gone. He doesn't know how long he's been out. He doesn't want to know when they would have come in and had him for Take-Out. Still, he doesn't feel that he owes this newcomer a damn thing.

"What are you doing?"

Shepard looks up, his better nature getting to him even in this darkest of times. "Get the scent off," he explains, rubbing it along his arm. The man seems to want to repeat everything being said, and Shepard is getting irrate quickly. "They're fast, and they're fucking faster than you know. They come after you, you run." Marker's words, not his. The thought makes him sick to his stomach as he moves away, shaking out his hands. "You run and you don't fucking look back."

Moving along, searching for something to use as a weapon, he waves his hand in the man's direction. "I can't fuckin' wait for you."

"Who? Who are they?"

"I can't help you," he says stubbornly, finding a discarded knife and wrapping the wiring around his hand. He wont lose his weapon, not if he can help it. Now that the things have his scent, even his oil-covered scent, he isn't safe anywhere.

"There's still an officer on this ship," the man says, stepping forward. "And at the current time, your CO is ordering you to-"

It is a lame attempt to assert control and Shepard looks up sharply. "Ordering me?" he questions darkly. "That's funny." Haha, he thinks dimly.

The man tries to speak, to regain some kind of order, if he ever had it.

Shepard gets up, finishing the improvisions on his weapon. "You're fuckin' late. There is no CO on this ship." Biting back the stinging reality, he shakes his head, moving away with purpose. "Fuck you."

Lights at the end of the passage make him stop dead. The sounds of the hunting coming down. He moves backwards, almost trying to move the man back out of instinct, but he stops. If the man wants to die, he can die with that little pea shooter. Shepard scoffs. "Thats not going to save you."

The creatures spot them, and Shepard moves fast. He runs blindly, without direction. Coming out into a large chamber, he leaps across an open pit, sliding into the next one over and crawling beneath the metal piping. Crouching, he breathes heavily, peeking out only to spot the man. Of course he would follow. Like a lost puppy. Motioning the man away, he mouths warnings and threats. Still, the man doesn't budge.

If ever a guy were on Shepard's shit-list, this guy hit number one.

He is motioning the man away when something wraps around his neck. He lets out a startled yelp before he is yanked back, pulled through the underbelly of the ship. His head knocks off a pipe and he gasps as stars explode in his vision. Suddenly, he is free-falling into darkness. His fingers reach for the wire around his neck, pulling and yanking desperately. The line goes tight, and the last thing he sees, before he passes out from excruciating pain, is the face of a creature not far different than himself.

And that fucking man, standing out there like the lone ranger.

Shepard gave him another ten minutes to live, and that was his generous guess.