AN: Thanks to all of my reviewers! We are going to get back to Citadel space and Chellick/Garrus interaction stuff after this chapter. Rated M. I own nothing.
As she loaded the next thermal clip, prepared to go into a veritable hail storm of bullets, Shepard couldn't help but ponder for the close to the thousandth time why exactly it was that everything simply had to go to shit at the worst possible time. If she were going to be honest about the situation, and she painstakingly was, the entire universe as anyone knew it was being threatened with a very possible; if not probable, end. To top that off her new employer was attempting to send her in guns blazing to kill her. Or not, Shepard was still under the assumption that the Illusive Jackass wanted something from her. Not to mention a load of political shit that had to be dumped on her, while trying to figure out her less than stellar love life.
Alright, that was it. She needed to kill things.
The slide of the clip, the familiar sounds and weight brought her to life once more. On the precipice of life and death straddled in between the known and unknown is when she had always been told she shined. Some found their moments of glory in peace, some in battle, and some in death.
Shepard had found it in two ways, but it was the middle that made her the symbol she was today. Tarnished though that symbol may be at the moment, Shepard stood pivoting her body. Leaning out as shots rained passed her cheek, narrowly missing other parts of her body. She was coiled low, ready to spring, her vital organs mostly protected.
The real pisser was being on a damned Reaper ship.
Shepard drew a breath, executing a tight cluster of fired shots at the closest target. The sickening blue glow of its twisted skin caused her throat to clench in disgust. Fucking husks! She knew how they came to be, and in knowing that, knew that they were once humans. She'd carved out payment for every slaughtered one of her kin from every reaper she came across. They would pay for this atrocity.
She'd known something was up when the hairs on the back of her next stood at attention when she'd come aboard this dead space nightmare. It had been too good to be true that a random reaper ship just so happened have a problem, to have been stumbled across. It had been another trap that her dear benefactor had neglected to warn her about.
She'd expected geth, when the silhouette had been marked, but an active fucking reaper ship seemed like something someone should mention in a damn report! Granted the since team had been indoctrinated, and turned into husks. Shepard was grateful that Grunt was at her side.
This was some fucking horseshit is what this was. Grunt warned her that the blood smelled wrong, but was she allowed to turn right around and leave like an intelligent person would? Nope. It was one Commander Shepard's job to go out and save the whole freaking galaxy from every threat and itself. Whoopee fucking do.
Dragon teeth. Damn, that is the last thing she wanted to see staring her down while she dealt with this highly technologically advanced atrocity. She had been distracted and allowed a husk to come too close. It grabbed for her, blue eyes eerily arranged in a menacing glare. Hissing and screeching that signified ti was no longer human in any fashion. Monstrosity. Without feeling or mercy she viciously slammed her fist repeatedly into its head. Dark sickening blood rained down, she'd crushed its skull, she knew. The dying gasp on its lips, Shepard threw it to the ground and kicked it over and over. A fine blood mist and chunks of blue scalp sprayed the nearest wall.
"It's dead Shepard," Grunt told her with exasperation.
"I know that!" She huffed as she kicked it twice more. She'd already noticed how the room was arranged like some damned altar. It was sick and wrong and she raged against it the only way that made her feel better.
"Shepard," EDI's voice chimed in, "Are you alright?"
The Cerberus Scientist's words haunted her once more. 'The Ship isn't dead. It knows we are inside." She had started to wonder if it wasn't the truth. "Fine," She growled over the com. Shepard started forward, checking for all signs of possible threats. Her gun felt light in her hands, the adrenaline coursed through her and though she'd had years of practice honing the sudden rush, the tell-tale tremble in her pinky fingers still remained.
A Bullet flew past her, sparking as it struck the metal hull of the ship.
"Sniper!" Grunt rumble.
"Shooter is good." Grunt continued growing excited and Shepard could feel him brimming over with the possibility of another good fight. "Good enough they should come out of hiding."
He apparently had not learned the purpose of a sniper in his cozy little tank.
Shepard kept her eye sharp, but moved carefully out of the line of sight as she picked up some more ammo lying haphazardly around. The Scientists likely turned on each other when the paranoia set in, but before they were sacrificed on the dragon teeth. Fucking Reapers. She signaled to move them forward behind the bulkhead.
Her heart felt strangely quiet in moments like this, where breathing seemed like an overly loud task. She leaned out from behind the pillar she'd chosen for strategic cover.
"Come on," Tali whispered behind her. "there is more of the ship to see to."
Shepard craned her head to stare at the Quarian. It never ceased to amaze her that everyone was so callous when it wasn't their species being impaled on big ass spikes by some messed up Alien species with a God-complex.
"Let's shut this thing down," Shepard conceded. They were seeing things, hearing things, being indoctrinated just by being on this forsaken ship. "We won't let the machines use their corpses like this." Fucking-A, she'd kill every last one of them.
More warped minds speaking gibberish, but all saying the same things in recordings. They were being hijacked in their thoughts and minds. Shepard felt the cold well of fury building inside of her. She ran moved with her team. Guns always at the ready, cautious and slow they pushed forward. She did not feel the sticky fingers of indoctrination gripping at her mind, but they hadn't been here nearly as long as the science team.
Shepard moved stealthily down corridors, walkways, and ramps. It struck her as strange that so much of this appeared to be made for bi-pedal beings to move through. Had the Reapers thought of this? Was it another trap? Or were the Reapers something much smaller than Sovereign had been?
Her thoughts were kept at bay while she hacked through another door. Once through she led them down yet another hallway.
"Please stand by. Equalizing pressure with exterior conditions. Remember safety is everyone's concern. We have gone five days without a workplace death." The Cerberus announcement flooded her ears with unwelcomed noise.
Shepard wore a grim mask of determination. Five days. That was how long it had been since the last scientist had likely died a gruesome death.
They moved into a much larger room. Shepard signaled her teammates forward as she felt the uncomfortable sensation of being watched. Wherever that sniper was, they were close and watching her.
A Husk head exploded behind her. The sound of wet and meaty chunks of flesh and modified bone splattering against the metal floor, caused her to shudder inside. Unnaturally iridescent blue blood spurted in thick waves. Shepard's eyes caught sight of a second husk, with a new hole in its head.
The sniper was a friendly.
She watched it fall, her face questioning as she turned toward the trajectory of the bullets. A geth, stood watching her. Wearing her damn armor.
What the fuck was this?
"Shepard Commander." It said.
That'd be her.
Grunt turned toward her, like she knew what was going on.
"Geth Talk?" Grunt muttered unamused. "Since it knows you, tell it I don't need its help."
"I'll get right on that buddy," Shepard commented absently.
"It shouldn't be able to talk," Tali piped in upset. "A single geth has no more intelligence than a varren."
As far as she knew went without saying. Shepard didn't give a rats ass if it could talk, sing, or do the hokey pokey. It was helping them, and given the current lack of friendly faces she had to work with, that is all Shepard cared about. If it turned on them later, she'd personally rip its circuits out.
The groaning and moaning started once more. She really hated husks. She clipped in more rounds and they pushed forward. Bullets flying, heart pounding, vision tunneling until she was forced to break it by looking around. Two Scions. Damn.
"Tali!" Shepard barked angrily. "Move your damn drone!" That thing was always getting in the way. Four rounds had gone to waste because of that floating pain the ass. If they made it out of here alive, she was going to shove that thing so far up=
"Incoming!" Shepard roared as a wave of biotic energy came rushing toward them. She dove to the side. Gripping her gun tighter, she readjusted with enough time to steady herself. With the familiarity born of consistent use, she gently squeezed the trigger. The round sliced through part of the twisted body. She needed something stronger.
Exchanging clips with a deep breath, Shepard inwardly cursed the day she decided that she needed to join N7. Actually she cursed the day she first picked up a gun thinking a little target practice wouldn't hurt anything.
"Taking Fire!" Shepard called out when the second Scion came with biotics blazing. A triple tap took care of the first, large holes with gaping gore appearing as a testament to her skills. Grunt was busy with suppressing fire on the husks that clamored toward them with strangely vacant yet hungry expressions.
"Come on now," Shepard muttered, "I'm not trying to dance with the things. Kill them."
Two minutes and 11 seconds later everything was dead. Right until Shepard led them to an ominous looking door.
"To your right!" Grunt warned, and she'd had about all she could take. Another husk met a Cerberus regulation combat boot to the face. It then sailed over the bar and into what she assumed was a very long fall. "I am Krogan!" Grunt roared as he charged the last husk knocking it over and squishing it under his impressive girth.
"Can we have one battle where you aren't shouting that?" Tali quipped with irritation.
Shepard agreed mutely, it wasn't obvious that he was Krogan? Look at him. He looked bigger than an old Earth Winnebago. She said nothing as she broke the encryption on the last door. Her eyes landed on a group of husks and one lone Geth.
Hm. This was far too interesting for a normal Thursday.
It looked as if he was attempting to shut the core down. That worked for Shepard. The Geth turned and shot at the approaching reaper abominations. She watched the geth drop the field that kept them from entering just in time to be sucker punched in the circuits. The marine winced, that had to hurt.
For a geth, it sure had a glass jaw.
Shepard pumped what felt like endless rounds to keep the core safe, and by proxy the unknown geth. Did they even have names? She wasn't sure, but wondered if dog names were apt for this. The Reaper core opened and she began unloading into it. What was with making everything look like a giant eye? There was doubtlessly some symbolism in that and if she had the time to care, she might have.
The core was destroyed, a large burst of energy into a fizzling pop, and the husks had finally stopped. Oh thank goodness for small favors. She wiped the sweat from her brow and moved her head around to get the kink out of her neck.
"Shepard!" Oh for crying out loud, what did Grunt want now? "The geth is still here. Want it for target practice."
Yes, that was precisely what she had in mind for an intact captured geth… Shepard shook off the thrum of battle and focused on the task at hand.
"Leave it there!" Tali insisted. "You know what they are."
Yes, yes she did.
"If it gets into Normandy's computers…"
It reminded her all to clearly of another time when she was asked to make a choice. Her gut instinct told her that this moment could be pivotal. Just as it had been when Wrex had screamed at her to kill the Rachni Queen. Moments, to many and to fast to truly comprehend played before her eyes as she weighed the nearly endless possibilities or consequences of her choice.
Let it live?
Was a geth even truly alive?
Her training, and her experience had destroy it on the tip of her tounge. But the dim light reflected the N7 insignia back at her. Her armor. Her death. This Geth had come looking for her and had helped her team.
The sounds of husks, the moans and hisses that haunted her deepest nightmares reverberated off of the walls. They were climbing up over the sides. Vile things.
"Grab it." She heard herself say, voice firm and unyielding.
"I'm not sure it's worth the risk Shepard," Tali said.
Shepard glared at her. "There is not time to debate it Tali, come on!" She started hefting one side of the Geth up, and Tali grudgingly grabbed the other. Shepard sighed. Tali was going to pout about this, she could feel it.
"Open the port side airlock," Shepard commed to Joker.
They could hear the sounds of Grunt using suppressive fire on the husks that were nearly literally nipping at their heels. Shepard and Tali moved as quickly as possible to the side bar and launched the geth into the thinner atmosphere. Backing up a step, she nodded for Tali to jump.
Grunt and Shepard took out as many as they could, a few explosions started at the back of the Reaper ship. Damn. It was time to go.
"Grunt," she commanded and he too took a running start to leap toward the Normandy. One more shot and She only had a few feet to attempt the jump herself. She would recall later that she hadn't even holstered her weapon as her eyes caught the planet below and for a single moment in time she recalled the last images before she died.
Planets were as beautiful as the terrifying now.
Two feet down and stumbling in, Shepard wanted to get the hell out of here. She still had to help Chellick, and with this ordeal over, there would be time for the detour. But for right now she needed a drink.
The geth was laying harmless at her feet. Not the death machine it had looked like on Eden Prime. This one was somehow different. Tali was staring at it like it was a snake about to bite.
"Alright fine Tali," Shepard said tiredly, "We'll lock it up and leave if off for the time being."
And, she'd have to sleep outside the holding to make sure Tali didn't throw a grenade in "Accidentally".