Had a few typos pointed out to me hence this page has been re-posted. Still no Beta if anyone's interested...
Heading into AU territory a little... okay maybe a LOT, same overall story line of Reapers and Collectors, however, this Shepard is a combination of origins and had a rather different upbringing that will greatly impact what is to come. Oh and there's no way it'll be finished before ME3 comes out, ME3 may or may not influence things but if my story line is just far too different to integrate ME3 then I won't.
As per usual Bioware owns all Bioware characters.
The pain was excruciating. She'd thought she'd felt the worst pain possible when Thresher Maw acid had burned through her left shoulder right into the bones. This... this was so much worse. It was as though every pain receptor in her body had been bathed in Maw acid. She wanted to scream but movement in her throat turned to spasms and made it so much worse, she wanted to puke she was in so much agony, as though the action would purge the pain from her body not cause more. Disjointed voices wafted through her consciousness. It took her a moment to determine there was a man and a woman. The man sounded excited. The woman angry.
Forcing her eyes to open, another agonizing trial of torture, it took far longer than it should to focus. The bright lights making it hard for her to adjust but when she did her focus was narrowed on two unforgettable cobalt blue eyes. She could feel drugs in her system trying to pull her under but she'd been trained to resist and she fought ferociously, not simply to thwart the drugs but because those eyes, she knew those eyes.
The mumbled voices began to gain clarity.
"She's not responding to the sedatives." the man was starting to sound anxious.
"Then give her another dose now Wilson." the woman looked away from her to glare vehemently at the man in the background somewhere.
Stephanie Shepard's focus widened a little to take in the woman's face, her perfect skin, the way her long raven locks hung around her shoulders, the twitch in her left eye that was followed by an ever so slight biotic rumbling which screamed she was outraged over something. When she looked back Shepard's heart rate spiked.
Miranda Lawson prided herself on her ability to compartmentalize and to emotionally detach from any given situation. This one, however, she was struggling with. She'd spent over two years of her life putting Stephanie Shepard, survivor of Akuze, Hero of the Blitz, first Human Spectre, Saviour of the Citadel and Humanities golden child back together. She was not going to lose her to some fools amateur mistakes. Shepard's beautiful amber eyes that had seen so much and held so many secrets were locked on hers. They were focussed with the steely determination the woman was known for but there was something else in them. She had to be swimming in pain but it was surprise radiating from those luminescent eyes.
"Shepard I know it hurts." she spoke clearly and calmly to the woman.
Shepard managed to concentrate hard enough to raise her arm, reaching out for Miranda Solheim just to see if she was real, if she was really there after so long.
Miranda gently pushed the hand back to the table, knowing that the touch would cause her even more pain and seeing it in the slight hiss from Shepard, the clenching of her discoloured jaw. "You must relax, you were seriously injured and need time to heal." she swallowed at the intensity of those eyes, those eyes that were trying to tell her something to reach out to her in some way.
Shepard's voice wouldn't work, it just wouldn't work! She tried desperately to even just say her name but got nothing, not even a grunt for pete's sake.
"You're going to be just fine." she reassured the fighting woman, secretly very impressed at how long Shepard was holding out against a double dose of already higher than normal sedatives.
A ghost of a smile pulled the right side of Shepard's lips, Miri had told her that the last time they'd seen each other as girls. She'd also promised to keep in touch, though she never had, but she was here now and she trusted her. She relaxed back and let the drugs drag her back into numbing oblivion.
Miranda's eyes widened ever so slightly. She had seen that look of unconditional trust in only one other who had surprisingly similarly unique amber eyes, Persephone Calleyuss. Why would Shepard have given her that look? That level of trust to a perfect stranger? She'd think over it later, for now she was livid with Wilson, "I told you the numbers were off. Run them again." she snarled.
Shepard was still listening as they talked numbers and levels and though she wasn't a doctor herself she knew that something in them sounded wrong. She'd been hospitalized long enough after Akuze to pick up on quite a bit of medical talk.
Shepard awoke again to a world of hurt that was being exacerbated by alarms and explosions and someone yelling at her to get up. She heard something about an attack and her military instincts kicked in. Stowing the pain for a later date she sat up, a little groggy as the last of the drugs wore off and new ones kicked her full of adrenaline or something that had similar effects.
"Your armour's in the locker to your right, we'll get you a weapon on the way out there isn't one in med bay." Miranda's voice was commanding her over a loud speaker.
Looking to her right she saw the appointed locker and not caring for her appearance or modesty right now she pulled off the loose surgical gown and bare naked went to get her armour. Only she found it wasn't actually her armour. It was new. Still carried the N7 markings though, the black and red looking even more impressive than she recalled. This armour was fitted to her perfectly. It felt a little heavier but was surprisingly well padded and comfortable against her raw skin that was still screaming at her. She felt a slight hiss through the suit as a pain relief agent was administered by the armours medical VI. The HUD that appeared on the inside of her helmet's visor was a little disconcerting.
"Damnit! Those canisters by the door are going to blow, take cover." Miranda's voice was terse, she was clearly anxious and pissed off.
Shepard smirked as she ducked behind the operating table she'd just vacated. Pissing off Miri was a seriously bad idea, that was a lesson she'd learned via one of her father's goons who'd tried to tell them stargazing on the roof was stupid. She'd sent him flying with her biotics never to be seen again.
A moment later an explosion rocked the lab. Shrapnel flying everywhere and causing some very suspicious sounding hisses from other canisters.
Before Miranda could say a word Shepard was on her feet and sprinting for the now blown apart door. She threw herself through it and hit the deck as another round of explosions rocked the room she'd just vacated.
"Someone is hacking security trying to kill you, you have a dozen mechs closing in on your position." Miranda's voice was coming through her helmet now.
"Wilson doesn't have hacking experience perchance does he?" Shepard muttered dryly, her throat was hoarse and a little husky from lack of use.
There was a pause before a response, "Apparently he does." Miranda's tone was just as dry as she too had been taken by surprise by this revelation.
"Oh what luck. How many mech's he send after you?" Shepard ducked over an upturned table to find the security guard on the other side had been shot, his pistol was on the floor not far from his hand. However, what caught her attention was the activating mech up the stairs to her right. No time to reach the pistol she lit up her biotics and warped the machine with far greater strength than she'd even been able to achieve before.
In the meantime Miranda had checked her screens to see that indeed a formidable force had been sent to her own location. "A few." she answered Shepard's question, her glance away from the screens had meant she'd missed Shepard's slight distraction.
"I'd hazard a guess at more than a few if he sent a dozen after the comatose patient. Where can we rendezvous?" Shepard picked up the pistol and took in her surroundings. Clearly this was a space station. The emergency fire system had kicked in and was hosing down the lab behind her, or at least attempting to in its somewhat compromised condition. There were stairs to her right and a couple doors to her left.
"The docking bay. Take the stairs to your right, there's a more defendable position to engage the mechs through the corridor." Miranda instructed her, quickly making her own preparations to deal with the three dozen mechs coming her way. Wilson certainly wasn't taking chances, she'd ask how Shepard knew it was him later.
Shepard was already on the move as soon as Miranda had said 'stairs'. She seemed to be moving okay. Last thing she remembered, other than the last time she'd woken, was tossing Joker into the emergency pod and being sucked away from him. It all got hazy after that but she figured she was obviously picked up and her injuries a little too expensive for a regular hospital, no hospital had a security force of mechs at its disposal. The room Miranda was talking about had a raised area on the right and plenty of cover behind numerous work stations. Not wanting to risk overusing her biotics as she wasn't sure of her limits now she opted for the high ground and crouched for combat.
It was not a long wait.
The mechs filed into the room in precision order. They were lined up like ducks at a shooting gallery and Shepard blurred into motion. Her hand eye coordination hadn't suffered and she took down the first seven mechs with pinpoint accuracy before her thermal clip overheated. Not having a spare she resorted to her biotics and crushed the remaining five mechs. Normally she'd be feeling a little drained after the string of heavy biotic manoeuvres, however this time she wasn't even breaking a sweat.
"Did you alter my biotics?" Shepard asked curiously as she jogged over to the fallen mechs to scrounge their thermal clips.
"You will probably notice a few upgrades, this isn't exactly how I planned to wake and prepare you for them." Miranda growled, she'd only got a short glimpse of the legendary figure in action before she'd had to go on the offensive against her own diversion.
"Granted. Where now?" Shepard could see only one way ahead and was quickly jogging it. She grimaced as the door opened to a clear walled corridor which showed quite clearly on the other side a fierce fire burning and a couple of doctors running for their lives before a heavy YMIR mech gunned them down. There was nothing she could do for them so she quickly kept moving.
"You're doing great Shepard. Keep following the corridor, take the lift down a level and continue right. You'll find our head of security, Jacob Taylor pinned down on a crossway. He'll get you to the docking bay, I'll meet you..." she stopped as the communications suddenly dropped out. "Damn you Wilson!" she hissed and threw herself at the mechs in her rage.
"Miranda? Miri!" Shepard frowned as the HUD showed that communication lines had been severed. "Alright Taylor, here I come." she muttered to herself and followed Miranda's instructions. She paused a couple times only to check out some logs. It appeared that Miranda had been working on her for quite some time and that her injuries had been far more extensive than she'd thought. All of Miranda's observations were clinical and detached referring to her simply as 'the subject'. It was cold, very cold to be called such a thing, it was almost a little hurtful in fact.
Jacob Taylor got the shock of his life as none other than Stephanie Shepard waltzed through the doors and began decimating the mechs on the other crossway that were pinning him down.
When they were all taken care off she strode over to the dark skinned man who was standing up and doing a double take at her.
"Shepard? What are you doing here?" he gaped, brown eyes wide in disbelief, "Things must be real bad if Lawson has you up and about." he shook his head in dismay.
"Miranda woke me up and sent me to you, if you're Jacob Taylor. We need get to the docking bay where I assume she'll be meeting us once she's dealt with her set of mechs." She wasn't sure if they were talking about the same person, Miranda could've gotten married for all she knew.
"Huh, well Lawson'll be fine, a bunch of mechs won't put her down." He shrugged, still looking at her in disbelief.
Shepard nodded, "I take it she's in charge?" she motioned for him to start walking.
"Yeah, Director of the Lazarus Project." Jacob got the hint and took the lead.
"Lazarus Project?" she wracked her brain as to why that name was familiar, Sunday school came to mind, a story of a guy being raised from the dead. "Wait as in resurrection Lazarus?"
"Yep. You were nothin but meat and tubes when they brought you in, couldn't get any deader if you tried what with being spaced then entering atmo and to top it off hitting dirt real hard." he glanced over his shoulder as she came to a sudden halt.
"Wait, what now?" she was utterly confused and had no idea what he was talking about.
He stopped and turned to her, "Do you remember what happened?"
"I remember up till I shoved Joker in the escape pod, then something sucked me back and things get real fuzzy." her brow furrowed as she closed her eyes and bowed her head to try and remember, "I... it feels like I was spaced, it gets real cold and hard to breathe." she shivered at the sensations it brought.
"Yeah, you died Shepard. There was quite a tussle over your body, Shadow Broker wanted to sell you to the Collectors. As you can tell he, she, it, didn't succeed. Your body was brought here and the docs've spent a bit over two years putting you back together." He watched her closely for her reaction but her face was covered by the helmet.
It took a very long moment for Shepard to process that. She'd been killed but she'd been brought back to life. "Miranda..."
"Project Director. She and Wilson did most of the work, if the technology didn't exist she designed it, whatever was needed to bring you back, no expense spared. How do you feel?" He smiled, it was really her, she was really standing here talking with him, very much alive and kicking arse.
"Like shit actually. I get the feeling I'm not quite up to scratch yet." she shook her head, "Two years? I've been dead for two years?" she just couldn't comprehend that just yet.
"Yeah." Jacob simply nodded, waiting for her to be ready to keep walking. It was clear for the moment but there was no way of knowing how long that would last.
"My crew, did they make it out?" She asked the first thing that came to clarity in her stricken mind.
"Most did." he nodded.
"Oh yeah." he smirked at that one.
Tali and Wrex had already been off ship, Wrex back to his people to pull their arses into line in readiness for the Reapers, Tali back to the Flotilla to complete her Pilgrimage.
Shepard relaxed a little, "Alright so it took two years to bring me back from the dead. Are we talking cloning or what?"
"You'll have to talk to the docs, as far as I know you're all you, just with a few extra bits." he shrugged, not knowing any of the science stuff, he was a hired gun for head of security and this attack showed he'd gotten slack and let something in.
Shepard forced herself to keep walking, so many questions were running through her mind. Where was everyone? How the fuck was she alive? What was happening with the Geth, the Reapers? Why did the Collectors want her body? She was pulled out of her thoughts by a voice coming over her comms.
"Check, check is there anyone on this frequency?" Wilson asked quickly.
Shepard stiffened and bit her lip to hold back the snarl.
"Wilson? That you?" Taylor was pleased to hear the docs voice.
"Taylor? Thank god, I thought I was the only one left." he sounded relieved for some reason.
"I've got Shepard with me, where are you?" Taylor waited for a location before he'd decide which way to go.
"Shepard's alive?" Now he sounded stunned.
"Indeed I am. Mr. Taylor asked you a question sir, it would be prudent to answer." her husky voice was colder than normal.
"Uh, yeah, server room B. Look you've got to hurry, the mechs are right outside... Oh god, help!" he cried out and the signal was lost.
"Let's move." Taylor jogged off at a smart pace.
They encountered some heavy resistance on the way but between their shooting skills, which Taylor proved to be quite the marksman, as well as their biotics, which Taylor had average skill in, the mechs didn't last long. After all Shepard had spent a great deal of time taking out Geth who were a hell of a lot smarter than simple security mechs.
Taylor dashed forward at the sight of Wilson sitting on the ground holding his leg from a gunshot wound, "Wilson!"
"Taylor, thank god. I thought I could override the mechs programming from here but they got me first." he grunted in pain.
Shepard swaggered over and stood over Taylor as he crouched down to look at the injury. Her experienced eyes told her it was one thing... self inflicted.
"There's some medi-gel in the cabinet over there." Wilson nodded to their left.
Second thing her experienced eyes told her was the medi-gel was actually in reach if he'd been of a mind to get it.
"Would you mind Shepard? I gotta keep the pressure on." Taylor glanced up at her.
Third thing, there was a decided lack of mechs in here and no blood trail.
Wordlessly Shepard went to the cabinet and rummaged for the medi-gel. Tossing it over to the man she left the two to their own devices momentarily, always keeping her eye on them of course, and went to the server. Wilson had done a number on it but Tali had taught her a lot about hacking things and geth were infinitely harder to hack than standard terminals.
Miranda was sick of these bloody mechs. It was like Wilson had set just about every mech on the station on her. She threw a couple with another powerful biotic attack when suddenly they just shut down. Waiting behind cover to see what they'd do they remained stationary for a moment before they just powered down. A voice over her communicator startled her briefly.
"Well Director Lawson, would you like a word with our dearly beloved Doctor Wilson in person or shall I?" Shepard's voice murmured in her ear.
"Just shoot the son of a bitch." Miranda growled, "Have you powered down all the mechs?"
"Yes. There are also no other bio signs than the four, soon to be three of us." Shepard murmured.
Miranda silently swore with vehemence all that escaped her lips though was a softly muttered, "Bloody hell."
"I'm sorry about your colleagues Miranda." Shepard offered sincerely.
"You are all that's important now Shepard. Deal with Wilson and get to the docking bay, I'll prep our departure." Miranda growled.
"As you wish." Shepard smiled at the old line, though Miranda didn't offer the standard response which was curious though it had been a long time and they'd been kids. She'd been all of thirteen and Miranda sixteen though the three years difference hadn't meant much to either of them.
Taylor was still working on Wilson when she returned.
Wilson jumped slightly as Shepard bent down and took his pistol from where he'd dropped it on the ground beside him, "I'm gonna need that." he grunted.
Shepard took off her helmet and ran her fingers through her hair that was so much shorter than she was used to, it only came to her shoulders. "Taylor have you worked much with bullet wounds before?" she ignored him.
"I was an Alliance corsair, I saw my fair share and that was before joining... this company." He glanced at her, not sure what he should tell her just yet.
"Then you probably should know that wound was self inflicted." She glared at Wilson with her infamous death glare that had him going sheet white and trembling in his boots.
Taylor jerked back, "What?"
"Find it curious that the medical doctor is in the server room trying to 'fix' the mechs?" she levelled Wilsons gun on the now sweating man's head.
"Actually now that you mention it." Taylor stood and quickly drew his own weapon on the man, "You don't have clearance for anything security related."
"Now wait a minute here, I can explain..." he began to beg for his life, no idea what Shepard thought she knew.
"No need. Miranda sends her regards." Shepard smiled coldly before pulling the trigger and shooting him between the eyes execution style. "Comms are back up. It's just you me and Miranda."
"How'd you manage that?" he was impressed.
"I spent a good six months with a Quarian hacking geth. It wasn't too difficult." she shrugged, "Mechs will no longer be a problem and Miranda is prepping our departure, we should get going." she thumbed over her shoulder at the door.
"Before we do, there are probably some things you should know." Taylor shifted his weight a little self consciously after seeing her just execute the guy on the floor.
Shepard frowned slightly and waited.
"Lazarus... is a Cerberus operation." he admitted openly.
Shepard froze as that sunk in.
"The Illusive Man's put in a whole lot of resources bringing you back Shepard. Everyone else wrote you off and worse." He put in quickly seeing the look on her face.
"I wiped out a fair number of Cerberus facilities. Why the hell would he want to resurrect me? Didn't I get the point across?" she demanded firmly, her death glare aimed at Taylor now. Cerberus had been responsible for Akuze, for the deaths of everyone in her unit except Toombs and then they'd performed horrific experiments on him. They'd also been responsible for the death of another platoon of marines, for the death of Admiral Kahoku, for experimenting on Rachni and husks and Thorian Creepers all of which they'd lost control over and every civilian on their bases had been slaughtered while the top scientific personnel had bunked down in 'panic rooms'.
"That's way above my pay grade. I just figured you should know the truth, Miranda probably wouldn't say anything till we got to another facility." he shrugged, hoping she wasn't going to kill him now, perhaps it hadn't been such a wise choice to make informing her. His fears increased as he felt her biotics surge around her and her cybernetics lit up a fierce red, god they were intense.
"I appreciate your honesty Taylor. Now I'd appreciate leaving." She growled, clamping down on her biotics with fierce willpower. Interrogating him now would only end up very badly... for him and he could prove useful if his 'honesty' continued.
Taylor nodded and led on.
Now that Taylor had said this was a Cerberus facility she could definitely see it. It was far too neat and aesthetic for any Alliance base. It set her teeth on edge but even more was that Miranda was Cerberus, a bloody Cerberus Director, entrusted with billions of credits worth of resources over four billion of which had been just put into resurrecting her alone. That immediately screamed she was a very influential member of the terrorist group. How the fuck did Miranda Solheim become a bloody terrorist? She silently fumed as Taylor led her to the docking bay at a much quicker pace now that mechs weren't trying to kill them every step of the way.
They reached the docking bay to find Miranda waiting outside one of the shuttles that was powered up and ready to go.
Shepard almost skipped a step at the sight of her in a white and black Cerberus uniform that was more like a cat suit that hugged her gorgeous curves. She'd been hot at sixteen but now she was an absolute goddess. Clearing her throat she quickly caught up to Taylor.
Miranda was watching her movements in person now. They were graceful, not the military bearing she'd expected but more the smooth lines of a dancer. She watched as Shepard took off her helmet, her cybernetics were glowing, red cracks breaking through her skin indicating that she was agitated. It was the only sign visually that she wasn't yet fully healed. "Taylor, Shepard." she greeted them with a curt nod and motioned them inside.
Taylor cleared his throat, his sign of being uncomfortable and quickly entered with a mumbled, "Lawson."
Miranda narrowed her eyes after him and glanced at Shepard who looked stone faced which could mean she was pissed as hell at something. Before she went in Shepard paused to study her, scrutinizing her for something. Miranda said nothing and simply scrutinized her right back. Whatever Shepard had been looking for she wasn't sure if she'd found it or not when she wordlessly stepped into the shuttle. Her gaze returned to Jacob and she hissed softly through her teeth as she realized what the problem was. The fool had told Shepard they were Cerberus. Of course she was furious. Both women were now.