AUTHOR: AlyssC01 – Alyssa C.
SPOILERS: Start of Mass Effect 2, Shepard history.
WARNINGS: Mention of rape, personal suffering.
FEEDBACK: ;) Naturally – that's why we're here aren't we?
DISCLAIMER: Mass Effect is the property of BioWare and EA Games. Save for the copies on my computer and PS3, that's totally my own creation. I do not make any money out of this, though rewards through reviews would be appreciated. I do not intend any harm by writing these fics.
AN and SUMMARY: I'm playing Mass Effect 2 at the moment and had to get this out of my system. I'm very fond of Chakwas. I'm working on the reasoning that she was getting close to retirement by the start of Mass Effect 2 – one of the reasons they gave her a desk job when Shepard died. By my standards, this will be a short fic – giving you three glimpses into what has shaped my Shepard. I play Soldier/Paragon/Colonist/Sole Survivor (this time round…). My Mass Effect 1's a bit rusty so if there are any discrepancies I claim author's immunity.
'This is the last one,' she found herself thinking. 'Right after this mission, as in right after it – I'm going to resign from the military and open my own practice. I've done my duty, I'm done here…'
Of course, it was never that easy or simple.
Sitting in the stale smelling transporter, Dr. Elizabeth Chakwas listened to the sounds of battle outside as she had so many times before. The truth was that she never knew any other life than this and, although it had not turned out to be filled with all the glory and the heroics that she had thought she would find when she enlisted, it was a good life.
She saved lives, many lives who threw themselves into danger for the sake of others. It was a noble cause and calling to be a soldier so she always found an excuse to stay behind. But, sometimes that got to her as she listened to the very same lives she had saved destroyed by enemy fire.
Today was no exception.
A couple of hours ago the colony of Mindoir, a small settlement in the Attican terminus send out a distress signal saying that they were being attacked by slavers. The SSV Hastings responded as soon as they heard the distress call but they all knew that they were going to be too late. In the time it took them to get to the planet the slavers had managed to escape with most of the colonists and butcher the rest. The soldiers went to save whom and what they could but Elizabeth knew it was going to be grim.
She had been instructed by Captain Anderson to remain at the transporter until they were sure the area was secured. Then, she and her assistant Lieutenant Michaels were to take control of the medical care of the survivors.
'Or remainders,' Elizabeth found herself thinking dryly as she looked at her assistant. His face was determined as he looked out of the door of the transporter. She saw his eyes following something and stood up to see what he was looking at. A lone ship under heavy fire left orbit, leaving a thin trail of white smoke in its wake.
"That's the last of them," she heard Captain Anderson say over the radio. "Medical team, move out! We have secured the colony medical facility for your use. It's one of the few places still standing. Coordinates will be sent in the next couple of seconds."
'It starts,' she thought already mentally mapping out her triage program and preparing herself for what she was about to see. "Affirmative Anderson," she glanced at her assistant. "Let's move out."
The colony's medical facility was rudimentary at best and not for the first time Elizabeth wondered what drove these humans to stay out here in the desolate areas of space. And this wasn't even the furthest colony. Technically this still fell in Alliance space – there were some settlements out there that were well outside the territories she had been in.
And she had traveled quite far in her almost twenty years of service.
She and Michaels triaged the few survivors, but there were depressingly few people left to treat as those who weren't deemed worthy for slave labor were gunned down and killed brutally. She ended up treating more of the soldiers that had gotten injured in the fight than the settlers.
These people's plight touched Elizabeth deeper than the plight of soldiers did because they didn't choose to have violence in their lives.
She was just finishing up with a particularly nasty gunshot would when a soldier joined her in the infirmary, his face grave.
"Dr. Chakwas," he said gravely, "could you come with me please?"
She didn't look up from the wound she was cleaning, feeling a flash of irritation that she was being interrupted even though she could see that her assistant was just finishing up with his patient.
"If it has escaped your notice," she said. "I am currently engaged. Ask Michaels to help you – he has a moment."
The soldier, a Private Enslin, shifted uncomfortably but didn't move. "It would be better if you accompany me Dr. Chakwas," he said. "Please, Lieutenant Michaels is not the best choice under the circumstances."
Her colleague, having sensed that something was up, joined her immediately, wordlessly stepping closer so that he could take over if she moved away. Elizabeth looked at the private and took a steadying breath. The fact that he wanted her and not her male colleague gave her a pretty clear picture of what she was going to encounter.
Ten minutes later they were trotting briskly to one of the furthest buildings of the settlement. Knowing that they had a specific goal in mind she ignored the destruction around her and rather focused on the private.
"What can I expect?" she queried Private Enslin who grimaced and motioned to a small storeroom ahead of them.
"We wouldn't have looked in there," he said. "But I had this feeling…" He trailed off and sighed. "She's still alive."
Her stomach turned and she didn't want to hear anymore.
The door was open and another soldier, a Lieutenant Mahalma was standing in the doorway, looking at the scene that she was dreading. He stepped back wordlessly when she pushed past him into the din of the storeroom. The first thing that she noticed was the body on the floor.
The slaver was lying on his side in a pool of blood with what looked like an ancient trimming blade in his neck. His lifeless eyes were staring at the teenager against the wall. Her green eyes were almost as lifeless as his, only the slight movement of her breathing giving her life. She couldn't have been more than sixteen, lithe in her youth with long red hair that now hug loose over her shoulders. She had her one hand pressed between her naked thighs and the other hooked around the torn pants tangled around her ankles as if she had tried and failed to pull them back up.
Elizabeth moved forward cautiously, keeping an eye on her hands to see if she had any other weapons close at hand. There was nothing and the youth didn't even acknowledge her presence as she slowly hunched down next to her. After some thought, Elizabeth moved in between the youth and the body, obstructing its view as she tried to meet her gaze.
"My name is Elizabeth Chakwas," she said softly. "I'm with the Alliance – we're here to help you."
It sounded weak even as she said it but then she suspected that the colonist didn't even hear her. "Who are you?"
When the young woman still didn't respond Elizabeth slowly dropped her hand to her wrist. "Let's get this sorted out," she said softly and first applied some pressure so that she could check her pulse. It was surprisingly slow and for a moment Elizabeth wondered if she had entered some kind of catatonia. Grimacing she carefully pulled the youth's hand away from her tangled pants and slowly undid the mess it was in, untangling her leggings from around her ankles and pulling it up to her knees. There she saw for the first time that blood was slowly trailing down her inner thigh from around her left hand.
"Let me have a look at this," she murmured softly and carefully took the teenager's hand from between her legs. There for the first time she flinched and looked up, her emerald eyes raw with emotion when they met Elizabeth's gaze. The doctor smiled reassuringly and pulled her hand closer, studying the jagged cut in her palm. She spared a look behind her at the blade in the slaver's neck and wondered whether she got the cut when she stabbed him. With this image in mind she could suddenly feel the youth's raw fear left over from the struggle. Keeping her face neutral she closed the hand again and rested it against the colonist's shoulder above her heart.
"Keep it there," she said softly, "it will control the bleeding. Are you cut or shot anywhere else?"
Those green eyes held hers for a second longer before the youth closed her eyes and shook her head. She moved suddenly, her face pulling in anguish as she pushed herself up. Elizabeth quickly put an arm underneath her shoulder, catching her pants with the other and pulling it over her thin and bloodied legs even as the youth staggered forward.
"Maybe you should stay down for a moment longer," she said and looked towards the door where the soldiers were watching them, their expressions worried. "Can one of you gentleman get me a stretcher?"
"Wait," the youth breathed suddenly. "Just wait. Let me go."
Her voice was a dull whisper but the plea in them unmistakable. Elizabeth frowned at her as she felt her pull away from her. "What's your name?" she queried, letting her go but keeping a watchful eye on her as she knelt down again next to the body of the slaver.
"Riana," the teenager breathed and with a shaky hand reached out and carefully closed the slaver's eyes, the blood from her hand smearing over his face. "Riana Shepard."
It was well past midnight when Elizabeth finally found herself with nothing to do. Bone weary she walked through the now quiet streets of the attacked colony, looking at the burned down universal 'quick assemble' bunkers that these people called home. She herself had grown up on Earth during a time that humanity foolishly thought it was the only intelligent life in the universe.
'Life was different then,' she thought as she nodded at a passing soldier who was still out patrolling in case the slavers decided to return. 'Slower. Space travel sped everything up. Our lives, our knowledge. Life's too fast for us now.'
And yet one rape victim took the time to close her assailant's eyes after she killed him.
The young woman had touched her. She had been quietly cooperative when they left the storeroom, had silently endured her examination and treatment with no word of complaint or anger. Elizabeth knew that she was in shock but it still struck her as extraordinary that Riana Shepard kept her pose as well as she did. There was something locked in those green eyes that were distinctly different than everybody around her and she couldn't help but fear that this day might destroy that.
When she had cleared her head she returned to the medical facility, moving down the long line of empty beds in the area they had set aside for the patients that never made it there. Only a handful of survivors had surfaced though two of them might not make it through the night and the other two were out wondering amidst the ruins under the supervision of some of their soldiers. They were looking for any more survivors or any people who might've gone missing. Now, Riana was the only one in the bay – her friends and family still missing.
'Missing?' Elizabeth thought bitterly. 'Butchered probably. Or taken.' She didn't know which fate was worse.
To her surprise, Riana was still awake. She had the light on and was in the bed on the furthest side of the room with her back turned towards the wall. Her eyes immediately rested on Elizabeth as she walked towards her and she tensed as if she was thinking of bolting. It was only when the doctor was close to her that she relaxed a little.
Elizabeth cautiously sat down on the edge of the bed and studied the traumatized youth.
"Hey," she said softly. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"
Riana considered her for a long time before she finally shook her head and turned her gaze on the curtain.
"Not now," she said. "I'm… they might come back."
Frowning slightly, Elizabeth resisted the urge to caress the youth's hair. "Who?" she said. "The slavers?"
Riana flinched but shook her head, her face twisting with a grief she was trying very hard to hide. "No," she said. "Anybody. My family. Friends. Somebody. Somebody must be out there alive. I can't…" She closed her eyes and buried her face into the pillow. "I can't be all that's left."
Hesitating, Elizabeth carefully dropped her hand to the young woman's shoulder. "There are some people out looking," she said. "They might come up with something."
Riana snorted a pained laugh and shook her head. "Barras and Aron?" she said. "They are passers, they've only been here a week or two. They're probably raiding us dry. Those men…" She trailed off and for a moment Elizabeth wasn't sure if it was pain or anger that stayed her tongue.
She sat with the young woman in silence for a few moments before she finally got off of the bed and knelt before her, taking her bandaged hand in hers and giving it a soft squeeze, gentle enough not to hurt her.
"Riana… Not all men are like that – like this Barras and Aron… And the others. Not all… Makes use of other people's misfortune." She wanted to say more, feeling the need pressed upon her to tell this youth that all will be well, that there might still be a reason to hold onto her innocence even in the face of such a grim day.
Riana's emerald green eyes moved up to meet hers and she looked sad suddenly and older than the world.
"I know," she said. "Doesn't necessarily mean that I will ever let one touch me again." She turned her gaze away and looked across the dark room. "He died inside me," she whispered. "Do you think that means his soul has passed into me? That he will forever be here?" She placed her uninjured hand over her heart.
Elizabeth shook her head immediately, shocked at the image and once again horrified by the violation this young woman had had to endure.
"He's gone," she said with conviction. "Riana, that man is dead and what he did to you won't change you into him. You are hurt now, but pain heals. Not all of it immediately, but with time. Trust me, I'm a doctor and everything short of death can be healed. Remember this. It will get better, not now or tomorrow or even the next day. But, eventually – it will get better."
For the first time, she could see the walls around Riana's cool exterior begin to crumble as she closed her eyes with the same look of anguish she had had in the storeroom for that brief second.
"How?" she whispered, her voice thinning to a sob. "How will this get better? How?" Tears started streaming down her face and, when Elizabeth stood up again to sit on the bed she cowered away from her, sobbing softly.
"Time," Elizabeth said as she pulled her into her arms, holding her securely for all the teenager's protest. "Time Riana Shepard, time will heal."
To Be Continued…