Malcolm Shepard watched as the shattered fuselage of the Normandy slowly drifted away from him. His heart slowed alongside time as his entire life flashed before his eyes. Growing up on Earth's streets, enlisting in the Alliance military, Akuze, Eden Prime, Saren. All of it was for naught.
The unidentified starship fired its particle beam one last time as Joker's escape pod jettisoned. The Normandy's fuel tank ignited and exploded, bringing a bitter, tearful end to the Alliance's most beautiful ship. He knew the end was nigh. He was exposed and in a decaying orbit with no hope of rescue. But he was used to the impossible.
"Lord," he prayed as he drifted, "You delivered me on Akuze. You delivered me on Virmire. You delivered me from Sovereign. Deliver me now. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." He felt at peace...until a sharp hissing sound caught his ears. His suit began to depressurize. He tore at his throat out of pure instinct, but it wasn't long before his lungs couldn't pull any more oxygen from the vacuum of space. His vision began to fade, and just before he lost all consciousness, his suit began to heat at the friction of Alchera's thick atmosphere.
But it wasn't the end.
He faded in and out of what he thought was the Afterlife. There were always two people watching over him: a woman with angelic features named Miranda, and a bald, middle-aged man named Wilson. In his idle mind, he pondered what had happened. Was he dead? Surely. But still, he knew that he was alive. The days were innumerable; the time, immeasurable. He could tell neither what was happening, nor where he was, so he waited, helpless, a prisoner of his own mind.
But then something changed.
"Shepard!" An explosion jarred him awake. "Shepard!" It was Miranda's voice coming over the radio. "Shepard, wake up! We have to get out of here!" He stood up, and his legs nearly gave out; it had been too long since he'd used them.
"There's a pistol in the locker over there. Grab it and meet me at the shuttle bay."
He shambled over to the locker, finally remembering how to use his legs, and opened it up. Inside was a pistol and a drab grey set of armor. He took it out and looked it over. There it was: the N7 logo. Where did they get this? More importantly, was it his, or someone else's?
"Shepard, dammit, we don't have time! Put that armor on and get moving!"
As quickly as he could, he strapped the armor on. Then he took the pistol and checked it over. There was a slot labeled, "Thermal clip." "This pistol doesn't have a 'Thermal clip,' whatever that is," he called to Miranda, unsure if the speakers were two-way.
"This is a med-bay. What do you expect? We'll get you a thermal clip later. Move!"
He started for the door, but a stack of crates next to it ignited. He instinctively dove behind the gurney and braced for the explosion. When all was clear, he ran through the door.
"Take the thermal clip," Miranda commanded. He looked down and saw something red and cylindrical that looked like it would fit in the empty slot in the pistol. He inserted it and the counter next to it displayed the number of shots he had.
"We must be going backward if we're using magazines again," he scoffed, pressing onward. The door opened and a trio of security mechs came through, drawing their pistols and aiming for him. His aim was still true, and he shot the lead mech cleanly through the head. It exploded in a shower of hot shrapnel, knocking out the other two.
He meandered through the corridors until he came upon another man fighting the mechs. He dashed forward and slid to the barrier next to him. He rose out of cover and nailed one of the mechs clean through the head, but not before a second one almost took down his kinetic barriers.
"Shepard," the man said, sweeping his hand upward. A wave of dark energy rushed forward and yanked the mech into the gap between friend and foe. "I'm Jacob Taylor."
"I'm looking for Miranda," Shepard replied.
"You and me both." He stood up and shot the arm off another mech before pulling it into the pit. "But she can handle herself."
"Can anyone hear me?" called a voice over the radio. "This is Wilson. I'm pinned down my these damn mechs. Gah, I've been hit! Get over here before-" His radio cut off.
"Come on, Shepard," Jacob called, and they broke cover and took off for an adjacent door. Several rooms later, they found Wilson lying against a crate, pinned down by the security mechs. Shepard nailed one in the head, and it exploded, knocking the other over. Jacob unleashed a wave of biotics and hurled the disoriented mech at the nearby wall, shattering it into hundreds of pieces.
"Get me some medi-gel," Wilson grunted, gritting his teeth against the pain. Shepard trotted over to a nearby medical station and retrieved several doses, then gave one to Wilson, who struggled to his feet. "Thanks," he sighed. "If you hadn't come when you did, I would have been torn apart by those mechs."
"What were you doing here, Wilson?" Jacob asked.
"I was trying to shut down the mechs."
"You're with the Lazarus Project. You don't have mech clearance." Jacob's tone was more accusatory than anything.
"I was trying to save our asses, Taylor. This isn't the time for baseless accusations."
A bullet whizzed past Shepard's head, and he ducked behind a crate. "We've got company." He darted up and unleashed a spray of bullets at the advancing mechs. "Wilson, can you do anything here?"
"Just give me a second; that crate has explosives in it. I can overload them." He fumbled with his omni-tool, and a crate exploded with a force that knocked several mechs off their feet, dismembering most of them. Jacob and Shepard finished the remaining mechs, and they all made their way for a locked door at the other end of the room. Wilson entered the access code and said, "The shuttle bay is just beyond this door. We're free and clear after that." He finished entering the code, and the door opened. There stood a dark-haired woman with a scowl on her face. "Miranda!" he exclaimed. "But you're supposed to be-"
She cut his words off by punching a slug from her heavy pistol through his skull. "Dead?" she glared as his body slumped to the floor.
Shepard stood there, having drawn his weapon out of instinct. "Wilson helped us get past the mechs," he explained. "Stand down."
"He's the one that sabotaged them in the first place!" Miranda groaned, holstering her pistol. "Come on, let's go."
"I've had enough of this station to last a lifetime," Shepard coughed.
"Or two," Jacob muttered.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Come on," Miranda urged. "We'll fill you in on our way to see the Illusive Man."
"Wait," Shepard said, stepping back and putting a wary hand on his pistol. "The Illusive Man...you work for Cerberus?"
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"I nearly lost my life taking out your research facilities. You killed Admiral Kahoku!"
"Neither Jacob nor I had anything to do with the Admiral's death. Besides, we brought you back to life. Now get on the damn shuttle."
"You're not going to take me alive," Shepard growled, drawing his pistol.
Miranda held up her hand, and he felt himself rise, ensnared in a web of dark energy. "Either you come quietly or we'll force you."
"Okay, if you put me down, will you take me to the Illusive Man? I want to have a word or two with him."
Miranda slowly lowered her hand and released him. "Yes. Come with us."