Shepard wasn't exactly sure what had happened. At first, it was just another routine infiltration of a Cerberus station. Simple. Get in, disable the underground laboratory, and get out. However, something had went horribly amiss during the process of carrying out such a simple command as she suddenly felt a terrible pain flare up in her head, almost along the lines of a migraine. Except, you know, fifty times worse than that. Crippled by the mind numbing assault, Shepard only managed to catch a glimpse of her squad, Garrus and Tali, staggering around in pain much like her before fading out to darkness.
"Sir, she's showing signs of consciousness again."
"Good. About time. Keep a constant dose of sedatives. Don't want her rampaging around the place."
Shepard blinked. The world was slowly coming back into focus, and a bright light was coming into view.
Well, wasn't this familiar, she thought sarcastically. Glancing around, Shepard took in her surroundings. A sterile lab. Medical tools. Was she at some hospital? Too dark, she told herself. Her movements were severely limited, as her whole body was incased in a conforming capsule, save for her head. Something was horribly wrong. Her body, it felt... so wrong. She could feel the wires sticking into the back of her head as she groggily tried to assess her situation. She groaned.
A strange, guttural flanging noise came from her chest.
That's not right. Panicked, she tried to struggle, flailing her head around to the best of her abilities. Mandibles clicking, she hissed in frustration.
Oh dear god. I'm a-
"Turian. Well done, commander." A smug voice announced, "Welcome to Experiment A74-2, which you've so wonderfully volunteered to participate in. I take it from your frantic movements that you've realized your new form. I'm Doctor Nostromos Gale with the ever so lovely, Cerberus." A pale man walked into the room. He was of average height, black hair, and had the sick blue glow of cybernetic eyes that Shepard had grown to hate in her exchanges with The Illusive Man. Stroking his goatee that framed his sharp face, Shepard couldn't help but immediately take a disliking to him. Grinning proudly, the man walked around admiring his handiwork. Her. He chuckled. "I'm sure you have plenty of questions, commander, but perhaps let's see if you can even speak correctly first." Ruthlessly, he grabbed her face, hands pressing her mandibles together as he shown a flashlight into both of her eyes. "Excellent. Full transition into a dextro species. Quite the achievement I'll have to say myself."
"Whar hall didstyou do?"
Shepard tried to speak, but being unfamiliar with her new mouth, all that came out was a slur of dual-toned attempts.
"Oh dear commander," Gale chuckled, "Turians speak with more control than humans do. Try pressing your mandibles together before speaking for enunciation. Take your time. We've got plenty of that."
Shepard glared at the man, narrowing her eyes to try to look defiant. At least, tried to narrow her eyes. Her face wasn't as flexible as it was when she was a human. All the good doctor do was grin back at her, which infuriated her even more.
Pursing her mandibles close to her cheeks (or was it jaw?), Shepard finally managed to growl out,
"What the HELL did you bastards do?"
"Orders from the top, my dear. The Illusive Man just simply wanted you out of the way." Gale sighed. "Of course, if it was up to me, I would've done other things, but strangely enough he was quite adamant on just helping you 'transition' into another species." He paused, looking up at her, "Commander, just know this. We've got plans. Now that you're out of the way, well, good luck stopping us. Especially in that-" He waved his hand at her, "-form. Good luck telling everyone you're Commander Shepard."
So this was their plan. To eliminate Commander Shepard from the face of the galaxy. Was it their way of punishing her? For not keeping the collector base? For taking Miranda and Jacob? It was a miserable predicament, to completely lose the sense of identity. Shepard would've gladly taken a bullet in the head than to live through this humiliation.
"So is that it, doctor?" She spat, "Strip me of my identity? To erase me?" Her voice flanged with anger. Gone was the confusion, replaced by rage as she realized her situation.
"Just the first part," Gale responded, "We won't be holding you long either Shepard, as we're sure you'll need time to cope and ah- convince others of what you've been through." He shrugged. "We're not all that bad. We didn't take away your free will as what we've done to some of our subjects."
The huskified soldiers, Shepard recalled, those soulless eyes of the abominations that fought her tooth and nail from time to time.
"Consider it as punishment from The Illusive Man. You've meddled with our affairs for way too long. We just simply needed you to stop. The experiment has been in the works for the longest time you know, in fact, it's been in development for so long that it has only taken a week for your complete transition to the other side."
"How long, Nostromos, tell me. The Illusive Man really hated me, didn't he?"
"Well, of course, that Mars incident didn't help, but I'd like to say... oh, ever since you've rebelled against your savior."
At that, Shepard had to laugh. "Saviors? All you've done is bring me back to life. I've never asked for it. And what did you do after doing so? All you've done is use me."
Gale pulled away in a mock expression of hurt, "Oh, I'm sorry commander, I didn't know you would've regretted the Lazarus Project in that regard," He walked up to her, inches away from her fanged face. She could smell him, with her new senses she could not just smell his breath, but his confidence, his lack of fear. The doctor narrowed his eyes, "We're the ones who gave you a second chance. We're the ones who made you who you were. We're just simply taking it back now."
Shepard growled at him. It was something that she had always made fun of Garrus of whenever he's angry, but now it just comes so naturally for her. She couldn't deny that she had enjoy her resurrection. It was what gave her a second chance at numerous things, saving the galaxy for one, and the second: Love. Without being back alive she would've never had the relationship she had now with Garrus. Her mate.
Wait. Garrus. Tali!
"What did you do to my squadmates?" She yelled as he was slowly making his way to the door. Turning around, his eyes met hers and smiled.
"Don't worry Shepard. They've been... properly disposed of." Gale waved his hands in a circular motion to the tinted windows on the walls before she could say anything else. "Power her down, folks. Prepare for more testing on the subject!" Before Shepard could say anything else, the doctor disappeared behind the door, sealing her in by herself.
"Increasing sedatives," a female voice stated calmly. "Heart rate lowering. Subject resuming stasis."
"YOU LITTLE BITCH!" She screamed.
Oh god. Garrus, Tali, where the hell are you? She couldn't bear the thought of their bodies, left here on this foreign planet to rot. She could care less about her situation if she knew the status of her friends. She choked out a muffled sob. Commander Shepard, savior of the galaxy, reduced to a lab rat for Cerberus. Once a human, now a Turian. Now wasn't the time. There were still the reapers. What the hell was she going to do now? How the mighty have fallen, she thought before her vision faded out back to black.
Chakwas looked around the medbay. It's been almost a week before the incident with the Cerberus lab, and Shepard was still missing. To top it off, both Garrus and Tali were under critical condition from multiple bullet wounds in their chest. It was a miracle that they were still alive after the second team immediately responded to their distress call. Vega and Kaiden had found the two crumpled in a heap near the back entrance of the structure, left to bleed out in the harsh environment. It wasn't easy getting them out either. Security had been elevated since the first squad's contact, and as Vega put it, "Ever had to run your ass down to the ship while carrying limp bodies on your shoulders with bullets flying at your face?"
Everyone was bloody, exhausted, and crushed. The absence of their commander was a sordid discovery, as the knowledge of Shepard stuck behind in enemy territory alone was enough to make most of the crew members fall silent and distressed. Vega had insisted on going back in immediately, but Kaiden talked sense into the soldier, revealing that a full on assault on a heavily alert base was NOT a good idea. Plus, they already have two critically injured crewmates to attend to.
Chakwas sighed and poured herself a cup of Serrice Ice brandy. She wasn't supposed to drink on the job, but perhaps just this cup would ease her up a bit. She hadn't slept the past couple of days, constantly tending to Tali and Garrus's vitals. At least EDI was helping out too, with her precise instrumentation she was able to extract and suture all the wounds the two injured squadmates suffered from. Tali's suit was also quickly repaired, and although a mild infection had set in, there wasn't a full on fever, so that helped.
It was now just a matter of time before they recovered. Their steady breathing and beeping of the machines was all that can be heard in the medbay.
Shepard, where the hell are you? Chakwas wondered as she took another sip. Her musings were cut short, however, as Kaiden came in.
"Hey doctor, how are things here?"
Chakwas looked up at Kaiden with tired eyes. The man was doing a good job maintaining the ship under the commander's absence, even though that job was supposed to be appointed to Shepard's second in command, Garrus.
"Things are looking better Kaiden," Chakwas replied, "Both Garrus and Tali have been stable for quite some time now, and the infection that Tali had is pretty much gone. They just need rest. Of course, they shouldn't be seeing any action anytime soon."
Kaiden nodded in response, "Just checking up on them. EDI and Joker have been monitoring the base's status and it seems like security has been lowered a bit. We've also been analyzing what Garrus has managed to tell us what happened." In the past week, both Garrus and Tali's moments of consciousness was drilled with questions of what the hell happened on the ground. All they could muster was something about "the noise," or "head splitting pain."
"We've concluded that it was an assault on their senses through waves of crippling sound waves," EDI stated over the com, "We have managed to get a sample of the noise from Officer Vakarian's eye piece and I've managed to create a opposing wave to create a destructive interaction, effective rendering their wave useless."
Kaiden sighed, "I believe it's now or never doctor. We're going to try to find Shepard this time, so I'm just checking to see if you've got room for one more, you know... just in case if she's in a bad shape."
Chakwas managed a weak chuckle, "It's Shepard we're talking about Kaiden. This is her ship so of course we'll be ready for her. Besides," she cocked her head over to a stirring Garrus, "I'm sure these kids here would be up and out of here soon too."
Kaiden strained a smile, "Tell Garrus not to worry when he's up. I know he'll be freaking out about Shepard immediately when he's lucid enough to be coherent." With that, Alenko walked out. Perhaps this was his chance to get her to trust him again. He knew the relationship between him and her was over, ever since she adamantly told him she was with Garrus now. At first Kaiden felt bitterness, but he knew he had to get over it. He isn't her lover anymore, but he still is her friend. They still butt heads now and then but he still respects her. He just wants her to be on good terms with him again.
He wants her to be happy.
Of course, that wasn't going to happen they find her.
"Ugh..." Garrus slowly shifted his hands as he felt himself reawaken. However, as soon as he touched his chest, stinging pain shot through his body. "Spirits, that hurts!" He hissed. Chakwas quickly swam into his view, a placid smile on her face.
"As if a missile to the face wasn't enough Garrus, five armor piercing rounds into the chest?"
Garrus managed a weak grin. "You know me, doc. Always putting myself in trouble there." He slowly sat up and noticed Tali's slumbering figure on a bed next to his. "Where's Shepard?"
Chakwas's face quickly darkened.
"She's... still missing."
Panic struck Garrus's heart. Where the hell was she? All he could remember was a head splitting pain and an annoying noice filling his hearing before blacking out. He recalled seeing glimpses of Shepard collapsing before he blacked out...
Oh Spirits. Just what the hell happened? Putting his talons up to his forehead, Garrus rubbed his temples in nervousness. His commander, his mate, Shepard, no, Jane, was missing. He couldn't protect her. A deep rumbling growl emanated from his throat. Those Cerberus bastards! "Where are we doc? I'm going in for her." He managed to swing a foot off the side of the bed before quickly restrained by Chakwas's firm hands on his shoulders.
"Listen to me Garrus. It's been a week. A week, for god's sake. You and Tali were critically injured when you came in, with Kaiden and Vega dragging your bodies into the ship under heavy fire. I've finally managed to fix you two up and I am NOT going to tolerate more reckless behavior from you until you are healed! Understand?"
Garrus said nothing but stared at her intensely, his deep blue eyes boring into her. "Chakwas. Shepard's my mate. I've failed her as her protector and I need to make things right again." He attempted to get up again but the old woman proved to be surprisingly strong in holding the towering Turian down.
"For god's sake Garrus, look at yourself! You're still wounded, your chest is still hurting even after I slapped on hellish amounts of medigel and sutures. Now you sit your ass down. Kaiden, EDI, and Vega are going back in at this moment to try to find her. We don't even know if she's still there!" The words hung in the air and stung Garrus. Often he would argue, being the stubborn Turian he is, but the doctor's words held truth in them. He's wounded, laying here in the medbay while Jane's still out there in enemy hands. He can't even move without pain lancing up on his side. He lowered his head in defeat. Some mate he is.
Chakwas, noticing Garrus's sudden shift in attitude, quickly placed a supportive hand on his back. "For what it's worth," she stated soothingly, "At least we're trying. We've got the best shot right now and we're taking it."
Garrus remained still.
"Besides, you've done more than you can," fumbling around her cabinets, she pulled out his eye piece, "Thanks to your monocle, we've managed to determine their main defense mechanism: High frequency sound waves set to knock enemies out. EDI managed to create a counter wave to negate it from your recordings." She placed it into his hands and turned around to check up on Tali's machines. "Quite the deep sleeper she is," she mumbled to herself. After a few adjustments Chakwas turned and faced Garrus again, raising an eyebrow, "Do you always record your fights?"
"Ah, not exactly. I knew something was wrong so I activated the recording VI before we blacked out."
"Pretty astute. Sort of like a blackbox. Good thing you were with Shepard."
At the mention of Shepard's name Garrus's heart clenched. I guess, but it would've been better if I could have just prevented it in the first place.
Chakwas continued on, "Kaiden told me to tell you that he's got it. Don't worry. Even with you and Shepard's absence on this ship, things still ran smoothly, albiet everyone's on the edge for news on the Commander."
Getting back up, Chakwas adjusted Garrus's IV and blood supply, its deep blue color flowing smoothly into his arms. "You've lost alot of blood Vakarian, so get back to resting. I'll increase the sedatives to ease the pain and help you sleep. I'm sure by the time you're awake she'll be back."
Garrus's mandibles flared in a slight smile. Shepard, her long red hair cascading down his side as her head pressed against his shoulders. Perhaps, just perhaps, Chakwas is right. He wishes he could be down there with the squad, searching for her, but he knew the doctor was right. He was in no shape for combat, and going with them would probably just endanger their chances of finding Jane.
Spirits, protect Shepard. Keep her safe.