This is what I hope to become a better 'version' of Project Lazarus Status: Partial Failure. Why did I delete the entire old story as opposed to merely edit it anyone who may have read it might ask? Because it was so 'broken' when I reviewed it again that I found it laughable. This isn't just a new coat of paint on the story, a few new words added to each chapter so that I can say I've redone it. This is a brand new monster. Hear, It, Roar.
John Kahril Shepard, that was what they told him his name was.
His entire body rocked ever so slightly in the shuttle as it maneuvered towards their target, a faint speck which grew in the window he observed.
Commander Shepard, Hero of the Citadel was the title that a galaxy he had supposedly saved knew him by…. Had mourned him by. He was the only man ever to have come back from death after so long. Two years had come and gone, while he lay comatose or worse on an operating table. The rest of the galaxy still referred to him in the past tense, that he had been a good man, soldier, or friend. It was strange to think about it… They knew more about him then he did.
He shifted slightly against the seat of the shuttle as he let his view wander to the stars that surrounded the planet, in a detached manner he wondered if the planet had any moons that he would see as they approached.
A colonist of Mindoir, the sole survivor of thresher maws on Akuze, N7 Special forces soldier. That was just the beginning of the dossier on the datapad in his hand. Much of the rest was considered a part of history, the hunt for the rogue Turian Spectre, Saren. Noveria, Feros, Virmire, Ilos, The Citadel. The names resonated within his mind, but only went far enough to remind him of how little he remembered.
He turned the datapad off, pushing down a hidden button in its frame with his thumb as he leaned back and studied the two Cerberus operatives in front of him. The woman had been silent for the better part of the trip. It wasn't a comfortable silence, as it seemed to have been borne of her knowing that she had failed her task. The other Cerberus operative was also silent, though it was much less intimidating than the woman's was. It was less disappointed, less demanding that he try to remember what he had been.
They spent two years, and twelve days to try and bring me back as I was, with all my memories. Shepard thought to himself suddenly. That was a long time, the two people in front of him had invested a sizeable chunk of their own lives to try and bring him back to his. Plus something like four billion credits, which he could immediately tell was an incredible amount of money.
But it seemed like modern medicine could only do so much, go so far. He was sure that the gray matter that they had managed to scrape off the planet his remains had been recovered on wasn't exactly perfectly preserved. It was a miracle that he could breathe, walk, talk and especially think after his body had been burnt to a crisp on reentry into a planet's atmosphere. Hell, he had even managed to fight, the motions seeming natural when he had the pistol in his hand back on the station.
The female Cerberus operative… Miranda Lawson, seemed quite unhappy with it though. She struck him as a perfectionist, unhappy with the fact that her resurrection of him hadn't gone as well as she'd hoped, though in reality it had gone beyond every expectation Shepard himself would have had for the project. It seemed so impossibly unlikely to him that it almost made him laugh. Miranda wanted to bring him back to life from a charred corpse, with every single memory and personality trait wholly intact, even though nobody had been brought back so far in the history of medicine.
His mind felt strange as the thought crossed it. How did he know that it had never happened before, why was he so sure? Trying to second-guess himself didn't help, because he knew it was true.
Suddenly, Miranda spoke up. "Nothing, Commander?" It was a question she had asked every once in a while, adamant at first that his memories might come back to him in time, though it had seemed to transform gradually to a resignation that he would say nothing.
"Nothing." Shepard said finally, looking back towards the planet that the shuttle was destined for. It had tripled in size, from looking like a tiny dot to something the size of a golf ball at arms distance. "Or at least… Nothing that matters." Shepard said with a shrug, his mind in wonder at the comparison that had sprung into his mind.
The second Cerberus operative, Jacob suddenly spoke up. "The Commander still has his combat skills Miranda. I'm telling you that he was ripping through the mechs back on the station without a problem. That's got to count for something."
Miranda sighed, nodding slightly. "But fine tuning his motor skills wasn't nearly as difficult as the reconstruction processes we used on any one section of the brain. Reflexes are only a tiny part of the nervous system, as it stands, we've just brought back a single soldier, an incredibly advanced and effective soldier, with all the cybernetic implants and other modifications that we gave him, but still only a soldier. I was supposed to bring back Shepard exactly as he was, the first human Spectre, the one who saved the Citadel. Not to make a four-billion credit soldier."
Jacob gave a single curt nod after Miranda had finished speaking. The two operatives had nothing against Shepard, save the fact that he wasn't the Shepard that they had hoped for. He couldn't help but agree with them in that respect. He wasn't exactly certain that he would be up to the task of destroying the 'Reapers', the giant machine-race that he had supposedly stopped before during the Battle of the Citadel.
"The Illusive Man says that we're to follow your orders Commander." Miranda said after a moment, looking at Shepard once again. "Even if your memory isn't intact, we're hoping that you might still be useful in a command position. What are your orders Commander?"
After Miranda turned Shepard looked back out the window at the rapidly approaching planet, Freedom's Progress. If what had happened to all the other colonies was happening here, every man, woman, and child would have disappeared over the course of two or three days.
"We look for anyone who's still there, and then for any other evidence. Security footage, maybe." Shepard responded after a moment's thought. If there was anyone left on the planet, they would be able to tell the story of what happened better than anything else could. Lacking that, video evidence would be their next best bet.
"There wasn't anyone left at the other colonies." Miranda said simply. "No reason to believe that we'll find anyone here."
Shepard didn't acknowledge the statement, leaving his orders as they were. Jacob nodded slightly after a few seconds of silence. "It'd be good to see somebody down there… Anything's better than another colony vanishing without a trace."
Shepard nodded absently as he watched as they drew ever closer to the colony. The entire shuttle began to vibrate slightly, and Shepard reached for the helmet that he had set in the seat next to him, staring at the tinted faceplate for a second before he put it on.
Faintly, he saw the friend/foe identification system flicker on, identifying Jacob and Miranda in faint lettering when he focused on either of them.
"Weapons safe." He said simply as he pulled his own weapon out of the locker mounted in the side of the shuttle, checking that the rifle had a thermal magazine inserted and had an ammo block in.
We don't want to accidentally kill a witness by assuming hostiles. Especially if they might be the only one on the whole planet…
Prazza'Vedro wasn't someone who Tali could respect. Yes, he was the squad leader for this strike team. But he knew nothing about how to be an effective commander. The concepts of it, he had down. But he lacked in execution for every order, never clarifying himself, ignoring the advice that other veteran Migrant Fleet Marines gave him. His overconfidence and incompetence put together had already sent four of the strike team back to the shuttle, nursing injuries from security mechs. Security mechs. They walked in a straight line forward, never bothering to take cover or to attack the quarians with anything other than the weapons in their hands.
If he were to ever face an enemy with any intelligence… Prazza would find himself very dead, very fast. He was too linear, unwilling to adapt to the situation. They couldn't possibly encourage that in basic training for the Migrant Fleet Marines, let alone for the commanders for their strike teams.
Tali accessed the map of the area quickly, watching as it flashed up across her visor. The route that they were taking had a parallel path that a second team could take to easily flank the enemies concentrated around the next position they wanted to take on their path to Veetor.
"Prazza. Look at this." Tali said simply, forwarding the map to him over a private communications link.
She watched as his pace slowed slightly as he looked at the photo that had been taken from orbit. It seemed to take him too long to reply, and when he did it made her further question his leadership. "What…?"
A turn of her wrist, and a moment of deft control with her omni-tool and Tali lit up what she wanted Prazza to see. "If I could lead a small squad, no more than myself and three others, we could flank the next position and take any mechs out much more easily."
For a moment, it seemed as though Prazza wouldn't allow it, she saw his posture stiffen. It had happened before, where although others had good advice he would see it as an affront to his 'authority' and deny whatever he had been told. But at the crucial moment, he gave a single nod. "Take Amri, Telk, and Quala." He said quickly. Within just another moment, the three other quarians were standing before Tali, each nodding slightly as she looked to them. "Keep in contact so that we're sure to hit the mechs at the same time." Prazza said simply, nodding slightly as he and the larger group began to move again.
Only a moment had passed before one of the three quarians under Tali's command gave a sigh of relief. Telk, a veteran of seven years in the Migrant Fleet was shaking his head slightly. "It's only a matter of time before that bosh'tet gets somebody killed." He said, voice conveying how happy he was to be sure that he wouldn't be the victim of that poor command.
Amri and Quala both nodded, to Tali's surprise, it hadn't seemed like the rest of the strike team had been so disappointed with Prazza's leadership.
"Can't blame you. Besides, I want the right to say that I served under the Flotilla's hero, instead of under the newest squad leader that our strike operations team has." Amri said, checking his rifle, flicking the safety on and off. "I'm sure that Quala will be sharing the fact with her heshla as soon as she touches the com-link back on the ship." He said, his voice betraying the grin under his mask.
Quala merely made a rude gesture, at which Amri laughed. "At least I have a hesh'la back on the Flotilla to talk to Amri. Or are you going to tell me that you're sure you've bonded with your rifle?" Quala said when Amri finally stopped. Telk gave a low whistle at the remark, and Tali made a noise of amusement herself. Amri hung his head in defeat, surrendering his hold of the conversation.
Their walk continued in silence for another few minutes… Eerie silence, given the buildings surrounding them. By all rights the colony should have been full of activity, filled with people carrying on their lives. The light footfalls of the quarians were the only sound that Tali could hear, even with her audio-receivers turned way up. The other marines seemed to notice it as well, and within only a few moments, they began talking amongst themselves again to try and ward off the silence.
It was light banter for the most part, strongly echoing the few words spoken earlier. For the most part, Tali found herself merely listening, feeling unable to be truly involved with the others. They had all been part of the same strike team for months, and she was just a temporary addition for this single assignment… The easy talking, laughter, and company that Telk, Amri, and Quala all had with one another reminded her of-
Tali cut off the thought before it could even fully form in her mind, closing her eyes and taking a single deep breath to try and clear it from her mind.
Yes. Those few months had been among the best of her life. She had to think long and hard about whether she would stay on her Pilgrimage or return to her people, but the decision was made for her in a single instant when every reason she had to stay was torn away from her in an instant. Until the instant that the last escape pod to deploy from the Normandy reported in, Tali hadn't realized just how much Shepard had mattered in that decision.
Her throat felt like it was about to close, just as it had in the memory that leapt unbidden to her mind as she remembered waiting sitting the escape shuttle, listening intently to the short-range transmitter.
"W-What do you mean he isn't in the escape pod, Joker?" Tali asked, the shock in her voice echoing that in the faces of the rest of the crew in her escape pod. Joker's voice had been flat. when he had reported in. The next words were halting, laced with self-loathing.
"I… The Commander, he… He didn't make it. I watched him get spaced… It was my fault. If I hadn't… Fuck." The sound of something hitting a bulkhead weakly echoed over the transmitter before silence took over.
Tali's whole world seemed to collapse in that moment. She had been about to talk with him, about to ask if she could possibly become a permanent crewmember of the Normandy. But… The yes or no answer hadn't been what she most anticipated about the conversation. She knew, knew, that he would try to make sure that it really was what she wanted.
She wanted his undivided attention, to have him focusing on only her for a few moments. Since the Battle of the Citadel, Shepard had been overwhelmed with requests for reports even as he continued to spearhead the fight against the Geth. To just be able to talk with him like she had during the hunt for Saren. His natural perception of people was what made him a leader…
If only he could have noticed what Tali couldn't bring herself to tell him… If only she could have talked to him for a while, maybe he would have caught on, said something. As Tali tried to work the recycled air of her envirosuit into her lungs, she felt the first of many tears welling up in her eyes. She had never told him how she had felt, never even been in a situation where he might have guessed it when she was sure of it herself. She would never know his answer about if he felt anything of the sort.
"Tali'Zorah, where is your squad?" Prazza's voice suddenly cut through the memory, the suddenness of it stopping Tali in her tracks for a moment, shaking off the cold grip that the memory had on her mind.
Wordlessly, she 'pinged' their location on the same map that she had shown Prazza earlier, still a good distance away from their goal. "Still quite a while away. Five, maybe ten minutes. Why?" She asked when Prazza remained silent.
"A shuttle is touching down, right here." Another location pinged on the map, a decent distance away, but clearly closer to her own squad than to those under Prazza. "It's a model that the Alliance military uses, but there were no hailing frequencies, like they expected that nobody was here. Whoever it is could be a lot more dangerous than any mechs. I want you to check it out."
Tali nodded to herself, beginning to search the map for any choke points that were between the Quarians and these new arrivals. Within a minute, she found one, behind a huge set of doors that functioned to keep districts separate.
"We have new orders." Tali said, surprising Telk, Amri, and Quala after her silence for the past ten minutes.
After explaining briefly, Telk rolled his neck and patted his rifle. "Nothing can ever be simple, can it?" He half-asked, half-stated, his tone mildly amused.
The shuttle landed gently, after only a little bit of chop during entry into the planet's atmosphere. Somehow, Shepard thought that it would have been worse, although not for a second was he concerned that the shuttle would merely crash into the surface of the planet. Odd, how natural it felt for him to climb out of the shuttle, assault rifle pointing out while he scanned for anything hostile before he even touched the ground. Granted, the doorway did feel a bit big,
All of this seems as natural as breathing… Should it? Shepard wondered to himself as he looked down at the weapon in his hands. Miranda had said that his combat prowess was from 'imprints' in his mind, reinforced by the fact that his nervous system was 'optimized for such movements'. His body seemed to be designed for combat… And that fact put him ill at ease.
On second thought… Having those skills was probably a very good thing if he was going to merely be thrust into situations like this over and over. While he didn't exactly like being used as a tool, there wasn't much else that he could do. The fact that nobody outside of Cerberus knew that he was even alive meant that there wasn't really any means of 'escape' from the organization.
"Radio silence from here out, unless we run into something." Shepard muttered into his helmet as the Cerberus operatives took positions around the door to the first building that they had decided to move through on their sweep of the colony. Even as he gave the order, he could hear the clicks as Miranda and Jacob both cut their com-links to his suit. Shepard holstered his rifle, and unholstered the machine pistol that he had been give, which freed up a hand to unlock the door using his omni-tool.
The prefab unit's lights flickered on, obvious on a circuit with motion detectors. Stepping into the single-room unit, Shepard scanned the room briefly before holstering his pistol, though he kept his hand close to it. There were two trays of half-eaten food on a table, as if whoever had been here had just gotten up and left in a moment. The silence that Shepard noticed, that he could hear his own footsteps as well as those of the Cerberus operatives disturbed him.
It feels… Wrong. Shepard concluded as he opened the door opposite the one he had come in by. He kept his hand mere inches away from his pistol as took a step outside, surveying the other buildings in front of him. They were all dark, unmoving, silent.
Then something caught his eye, movement. It was some type of mech… Not one that he had encountered back on the Cerberus station. It looked like a large robotic… Dog? It seemed to have noticed him, and began running at him. Small arcs of blue electricity were flashing across it's optical plate, probably meant to incapacitate or overload shields, rather than to kill.
Shepard's hand dropped to his pistol, and he fired a long burst from his hip before the mech had gotten more than twenty feet. Three of the rounds went straight through the mech's 'head', instantly destroying whatever hardware kept it functional. Its body skidded towards him another few feet, before settling and setting off a low-yield explostion.
Shepard frowned; he hadn't been expecting any fighting at all on this reconnaissance mission. Hadn't Miranda said that the defense systems had been disabled on every other colony? He turned around to find both her and Jacob right behind him, weapons drawn, scanning for other hostiles. "Some type of mech charged at me. I thought you said that all of the defense systems would be down?"
"They should be. They were on every other colony that was hit." Miranda said slowly lowering her own weapon when she seemed confident that the area was clear. She brought up her omni-tool briefly, looking at the data. "Freedom's Progress has quite a compliment of FENRIS and LOKI mechs… You probably just encountered the former Commander. It is standard for them to be programmed to explode when rendered combat ineffective." She said as she eyed the small crater that had been left behind.
Jacob grinned ever so slightly at the fact. "Already we're seeing that this colony is a bit different from the rest, might be that the colonists actually managed to put up a bit of a fight this time."
"It might just mean that whoever, or whatever is doing this is just switching tactics, or leaving nasty surprises behind for whoever comes to investigate." Miranda shot back before Shepard could say anything.
Jacob gave a half-shrug. "It could be." He said after a moment, grimacing slightly.
"Let's hope that it's the former. If the mechs are still active, there might be survivors maintaining them, waiting for another… Attack, as it is." Shepard said slowly as he surveyed his surroundings. The colony couldn't be described as being in the aftermath of any type of attack. There weren't any marks that showed that any deadly weapon was used anywhere, of bodies, there was nothing but the colony itself. The only strange thing was the emptiness and silence that pervaded.
"As it is, we know that the mechs are hostile, and that the colony has more than a few of them." Shepard said after another moment's reflection, noticing that he still hadn't holstered his own pistol. Just before he could make a comment that the team would be allowed to go weapons hot, he heard sounds of gunfire in the distance. Immediately his head snapped to look in the direction of the sound, the grip on his pistol tightening slightly.
It sounded like a lot of gunfire.
"It seems that we're not alone, Commander." Miranda said needlessly. Shepard acknowledged the statement with a slight nod.
"At least we know where we're going." Jacob commented dryly as they began to walk in the direction that the sounds of battle were coming from.
It didn't take long for Tali and her squad to get to the choke point that they wanted to be at. They even had time to set up the area in their favor, to even the odds a bit if the shuttle had been full of hostiles. Quala had set herself up seventy meters or so away with a clear scope on the area. Telk and Amri both had their own positions from which they could set up crossfire on the entrance with assault rifles. And finally, Tali had positioned herself near the center of it all.
Her own kinetic barriers were far more powerful than any of the others, so being out in the open for a few seconds of combat didn't concern her overmuch… She doubted that it would have concerned her much even if they weren't. It was probably just a group of looters, who were already running in the opposite direction after hearing the battle between the rest of the strike team and the mechs. But, if they were hostiles, the same gunfire might draw them immediately right into the small ambush the four Quarians had set up, and Tali was fairly certain that the four of them could do a number on them.
As the minutes dragged on, Tali began to drum her fingers along the side of her shotgun. She wasn't afraid, anxious, or nervous. She just wanted this to be done. To encounter whoever it was that had just come, or to watch as their shuttle went away. It didn't matter which, she just preferred anything to the silence that pervaded.
Amri coughed over the communications link, and she flicked her eyes in his direction just as gunfire erupted nearby. Her grip tightened around her shotgun and her eyes narrowed slightly as she looked forwards again. Whoever had been in that shuttle had probably just encountered a small group of mechs. Maybe that would make them more wary of their surroundings, which could be very bad if they were indeed hostile.
Tali cleared her mind, took the deep breaths that would calm her muscles and better her aim, and shifted her shotgun to a slightly better position against her shoulder. Not ten seconds later, a human turned around a corner, pistol in hand. She raised up her own gun even as the man was lowering his own and putting a hand to the side of his helmet, obviously talking on a communication link similar to the type that she and the rest of the strike-team was using.
He was fitted out in what looked like the N7 armor… Special operations, pitch black and non-reflective, the thin strip of visor on the helmet tinted as well. Tali could tell that there were multiple other weapons on his back, holstered by magnetic clasps. Then her eyes traveled to the insignia on the armor, Cerberus. It was all she could do to restrain herself from pulling the trigger as two other humans came stepped out into the opening, their own weapons up.
"What are you doing here?" The woman asked, even as she trained the heavy pistol on Tali. Neither of the two other humans was wearing armor of any description. Either it meant that they merely had a single person for 'point' to absorb all enemy fire, or they were powerful enough biotics to have barriers that might deflect the rounds just as effectively. Much as her trigger finger itched, of all the people who might know what had happened to this human colony, they were the most likely.
"We're looking for one of our people, who was on Pilgrimage here. The Flotilla was very near a Mass Effect Relay when Freedom's Progress went silent. We're a part of the strike team sent to retrieve him. He fled to another part of the colony when we landed though, reprogrammed the mechs. We're working on getting through them and extracting him. What is Cerberus here for…?" Tali asked, the malice in her voice only reflecting on the last sentence.
Tali relaxed as the human woman's pistol lowered, her example followed by the unarmored man a second later. "We're looking for explanations to why everybody is gone. Survivors are our first priority, footage of what happened is our second…" She turned to the armored human. "Looks like you were right Commander." She said, her voice flat, as though she had been proven wrong.
Somehow, the woman didn't seem to notice how incredible tense the man in full armor was. Even through the armor, Tali could see that muscles were clenched together, working themselves silently. Tali found herself gripping her own shotgun more tightly as the silence ensued for another moment. "Commander…?" The woman asked again, concerned by the lack of response. Suddenly, the man seemed to relax, going so far as to sway slightly as he took a step forwards, ignoring the woman as he took a deep breath before speaking.
"… Tali'Zorah… Nar Rayya?"
Tali's jaw dropped in her helmet, she found herself unable to reply as she registered the voice. There was no way… Her mind must just be playing cruel tricks on her, maybe she was having a breakdown of some sort, maybe… Her heart was somewhere in her throat as she watched his hands go up to his helmet. Every prayer to the ancestors that had ever gone through her mind seemed paltry compared to the unspoken one that ran through her mind now, that echoed in every fiber of her being. That when the helmet came off, it would be him, that it really would be Shepard.
His suit hissed briefly as the airtight seal was broken, and Tali managed to get a single breath past the lump in her throat as he started to lift it. She closed her eyes briefly, hoping that it might alleviate the anxiety that was building. Breathing out slowly, she opened her eyes, and felt her heart jump again.
In front of her stood Commander Shepard, literally, back from the grave.
"S-Shepard…? You're… Alive?"
Post-Script (Which merely means after the main body of text. An afterthought. The more you know.)
Comments, concerns, thoughts, problems, issues? Review the story, send me a private message, do what needs to be done followers of fanfiction. I'll answer what I can for you, take your glowing reviews with pride, steam over the ones that denounce me, so on and so forth. Another chapter is on the way, for better or for worse.
There's going to be a lot on Quarian culture in this story. I'll take bits and pieces from where I've seen what I like. I really wish that I could credit all the great stuff I've seen regarding their culture on here, but to be honest I just can't recall where everything I've heard/seen came from.