Mass Effect: Subjugation

Chapter One

Sanctuary, Horizon, 2186, 1947h

"No deal."

Shepard watched Miranda Lawson biotically throw her biological but estranged father Henry Lawson down from the control tower to plunge to his death. He lowered his weapon and holstered it as she caught her breath. Once she did, she hurried over to Oriana, who was just picking herself up from the ground. "Are you all right? Did he hurt you?" Miranda inquired, as her eyes searched her sister's body for wounds.

"I'm fine, I just…wanna get outta here," the young adult returned warily and stepped into her sister's embrace. "It's over for us, now, isn't it?"

Miranda sighed, pulled away, and gave her a smile. "Yes, it is. Neither of us will have to suffer from Father's punishments any longer." She wiped away a few tears that had run down her cheeks. "Both of us can stop running now."

"Could we get out of-…I mean…oh God, 'Randa, you're bleeding!" Oriana exclaimed as she examined her own hand and saw that it was stained with blood.

Shepard stepped towards both women and tapped his omni-tool twice in order to prepare an activation of medi-gel. "We need to get you some medical attention. Dr. Chakwas will take a look at you back on the Normandy."

"Give me a minute, okay?" Miranda told Oriana and limped over to Shepard. He immediately swept the omni-tool over her left side. The blood began to clot instantaneously like a freak of nature.

"Damn, I forgot that you said that you heal quickly. You weren't kidding," he shook his head. "Miranda, about your father, I..."

"I'm glad he's gone, Shepard. I'm sorry if that sounds cold." She motioned to the broken glass window with her head and frowned.

"No, it doesn't. I only know a little about what he put you both through, and believe you me, if you had waited half a second longer, I would've done it myself to the son of a bitch."

Miranda turned, and her face brightened into a genuine smile. "I'm glad you came, Shepard." She paused and folded her arms across her chest. "I never expected to play the part of a damsel in distress. It's quite an antiquated notion, really."

"It's a role that I was certainly happy to fulfill." He ran his gloved fingers down her right cheek. "Time and time again, Miss Lawson."

"I took a few precautions against Kai Leng when you mentioned that he was involved, and thank you once again for trusting me with those Alliance resources."

"You're more than welcome, and I only wish that you'd told me about this place so that I could have helped you."

"Shepard, you've already got enough to worry about," Miranda sighed. "You didn't need any more complications to your mission."

"I'd hardly call this place a 'complication' or a 'tangent'. But nobody else could've done it better than you," Shepard lifted one of her hands away and kissed the back of it. "We'll make sure that everyone knows the truth about this place, thanks to you."

"I couldn't just walk away from this evil."

"I know." He released her hand and glanced upon his comrades, Lt. James Vega and Lt. Commander Ashley Williams, who were studying the console in front of them. "What've we got?"

"Some data is here on the shuttles and departures of the experiments this bastard made. There should be enough info for EDI and Traynor to sift through to make a few wild educated guesses about where Cerberus' HQ are," Williams stated. "They did get us here."

"Speculation on your part is no longer a necessity," Miranda announced and withdrew a small data pad from her weapon belt.

"What?" Shepard turned around with an incredulous expression on his face.

"I managed to plant a bug on your friend before he left." She handed the device to him. "The bastard's not as clever as he thinks he is."

"Thank you, Miranda. This is just what we needed."

"Good news is difficult to come by these days."

He sighed. "You have no idea. Listen, Miranda, I'd like to ask a favor from you."

"From me?" Her face became a question mark.

"Yes. Since you don't need to run anymore, and well, I can't think of a safer place for the both of you…" he gestured to Oriana as well. "Could I ask you to stay with me, aboard the Normandy?"

Miranda's eyebrows raised incredulously, and she took a step backward. "Me, on an Alliance ship? Shepard, have you lost your mind?"

"And that's yet another reason why I call him 'Loco'," Vega rolled his eyes. "Are we done here, Commander?"

"Call Cortez for our extraction. I'll rendezvous with you in a moment," Shepard nodded. The Alliance soldiers saluted him and strolled back to the elevator. Once they were out of sight, he immediately wrapped his arms around her waist and smashed his lips to hers. She returned his passion eagerly, until she heard her sister vocalize her surprise with a multi-syllabled 'wow'.

"So how 'bout it now?" he whispered into her ear.

"I…I…don't…" She broke eye contact with him and gazed at the floor.

"I think I remember a promise you made to me a long time ago. It was something about me hitting the Illusive Man in the chest with the first bullet, and you nailing him immediately thereafter with a second. You haven't lost your nerve, now, have you, Miss Lawson?" He rubbed his finger lightly underneath her chin.

"Well, if it's okay with you, Ori," she gave a cautious sidelong glance to her sister, who grinned.

"Are you kidding? I've always wanted to see what a military warship looks like!" Oriana enthused. "Come on, 'Randa."

"All right, we'll come," Miranda agreed and intertwined her fingers with his as they made their way into the lift.

Oriana leaned closer to her sister as Shepard activated the buttons. "Wow, he's hot, 'Randa, much better looking in person than on the vids."

He bashfully looked away while Miranda's cheeks flushed.

Orbit of Horizon, Iera System

Normandy SR-2 Medical Bay, 2026h

"Well, both of you pass muster, without a doubt," Dr. Karin Chakwas declared as she scanned both Williams and Vega with her omni-tool. "There's hardly a scratch on either of you." She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I know what that will mean."

The door opened and in walked both Lawson siblings as well as Shepard, who was nursing his left shoulder. "Well, as I live and breathe. Miranda Lawson, it is good to see you once again," the doctor gave her a large beam. Her eyes swept over the Aussie's body; she spotted blood on her catsuit. "What in heaven's name happened down there?"

"Have you ever read the book about the island of Dr. Moreau? Mix in the twist that he had two daughters," Shepard retorted and leaned against one of the beds.

"Doc, I've got some repairs to make down in the armory. Am I good to go?" Vega pointed with his thumb towards the door.

"And I've got some Spectre expense reports to file," Williams said.

"Yes, you're both fit for duty. The commander, however, and Miss Lawson," Chakwas shook her head, "will not be leaving anytime soon."

Both Alliance soldiers disappeared, casting suspicious glances towards Miranda on their way out. Chakwas wasted no time; she dragged a wheeled tray over to Miranda. "Please, Miss Lawson, make yourself comfortable." Miranda nodded and hoisted herself onto one of the beds closest to Chakwas' desk. "And you must be Miranda's sister. I beg your pardon, I've forgotten what your name is, since we haven't been introduced."

"Oriana." The younger Lawson's eyes studied Chakwas as she swept her omni-tool over her body. "I'm fine, really. I think I might just be in a bit of shock."

"Hmm, yes, well, your adrenaline levels are spiking. Your blood pressure and heart levels are quite high, but that's quite normal. You probably haven't seen your sister nor Shepard in a battle before, have you?"

"No, I haven't. My father was going to try and kill us…" She ran a shaky hand down her side.

"You're safe, Ori. No one would dare to touch you here," Miranda soothed.

"Your blood sugar levels are also low. When was the last time you ate?" Chakwas inquired.

"I…um…had some breakfast sometime this morning, I think," Oriana muttered. "The Reapers came soon after that."

"Well, I think it's best that you have something to eat now, even at this hour, if you want a good night of rest." Chakwas peered out the window. "Ah, I see that Lt. Commander Williams is in the mess now. Unfortunately, we're back to the old Normandy's menu of army rations since we're with the Alliance, but I'm sure that she could find you something to eat."

"Okay," Oriana nodded and gave one last look at Miranda, who gave her a reassuring smile with a nod of her own.

After she left, Dr. Chakwas settled upon a stool to inspect Miranda. "Now, let me see here." While she was distracted, Shepard straightened and made for the door. Her head snapped in his direction. "And just where do you think you're going, Commander?"

"I'm sure that Admiral Hackett is expecting a report from me. I'd better-"

"Freeze, soldier," Chakwas ordered. "I meant what I said earlier. When either of your two squad mates return from a mission without flesh wounds or burns, that means that you took the brunt of it. Ah-ha." She stared at the back of his weapon belt. "You're also out of medi-gel."

"Only because I used the last application on her," Shepard gestured with his head towards Miranda and passed his hand over the door's sensor. "Come on, Karin, I've got things to do."

"Wrong." The British physician disagreed and locked the door with her omni-tool. "Now sit down over there so that I can have a look at you when I'm done with her." "All right, two can play at this game," Shepard growled and crossed his arms. "EDI, override the lockdown in the medical bay."

"I must apologize, Commander, but I concur with Dr. Chakwas," EDI's voice boomed over the ship intercom's system. "You should be examined for further internal injuries; your left shoulder has been dislocated, and you were shot twelve times."

"Goddamnit, Shepard," Miranda rolled her eyes. "That's even more fire than you took while we were leaving the Collector base. What the hell were you thinking?"

"I wasn't…really," he shrugged and turned back around to obey Chakwas. "Besides, only a few of them actually penetrated my armor."

"Just a bit more antiseptic ointment here, now, and ah, yes," Chakwas stated as she fussed over Miranda's wound. "How are you feeling, Miss Lawson?"

"Fine." She motioned for Shepard to come closer and undid his left shoulder epaulet. "You, however, are a mess, as usual. I can see that that hasn't changed."

"I admit that biotically charging into that brute probably wasn't the best course of action," he chuckled and rolled his neck around. "I couldn't get to you fast enough after seeing that security footage of Kai Leng."

Chakwas arose from the stool and seized hold of his shoulder. "I've lost count of how many times I've had to do this to you now, Commander. Ready on one, two, and-"

With a loud crack, Shepard's shoulder went back into place. He howled in pain and sank onto the stool. "Commander, this is very counterproductive. You know what I'm going to ask next. And I'll also have to recruit some help if necessary," she made eye contact with Lawson.

"All right, all right," he raised up his left hand in surrender. "Everything?"

"Just from the waist up. It looks as though your lower half hasn't suffered much from this battle," she replied and walked across the room to open a few cupboards.

"We might have to test that theory later on in my quarters," Shepard smirked as he began to remove his armor. Miranda's eyes gave him a frosty glare.

"Well, at least she doesn't have to argue with you in order to remove your clothing," Chakwas retorted as she returned with a bottle of medi-gel and set it onto the tray. He unzipped his polymer-nano suit and carefully extracted himself from it. As she hunched over him to start smearing the gel onto his wounds, he squirmed as the cool gel made contact with his bare skin. "And my medical recommendation for tonight would be to play it safe with that shoulder, Commander, lest it slip out of place again. No weight on it until tomorrow morning."

"That's okay, she's usually on top anyhow," Shepard hung his head.

Miranda's eyes became even more inflamed. "You're walking on thin ice, Commander, if we continue this line of conversation."

"Apologies, Miss Lawson, just some friendly advice," Chakwas said. "He rarely follows it anyhow." As she slathered some more medi-gel onto Shepard's forearm, she noticed that he was staring at Miranda and halted her actions. "I think that I might be feeling a bit peckish. Would you mind taking over, Miranda?"

The Aussie gladly accepted the jar from her as the Brit unlocked the med bay door and wandered into the crew mess. "I wondered when she'd take the hint," Miranda remarked and continued where Chakwas had left off. "Stop fidgeting."

"It's cold and it stings like a bitch."

"Good, that means that it's working."

"I wish that we'd had more times like this during the Collector mission."

"I had reports of my own to write at the time, you know."

"Speaking of reports, I wanted to ask you something."

"Yes?" She moved onto his abdomen.

"When we went to Aite to stop Project Overlord, you came with me and Garrus. You were silent the whole mission, with the exception of the occasional 'look out' or 'they see you, Shepard'. You usually are chock full of opinions; why didn't you say anything? Or better yet, when you told the Illusive Man to piss off, I had no idea in sam hell that you'd do that."

"I could see that Dr. Archer meant well, and had he not forced his own autistic brother into the experiment, I would probably have condoned his actions."

"What? Why?"

"The overall idea of the project was brilliant. The cruel and unethical methods that Archer used were inexcusable." She hesitated her actions for a moment to think and made a motion with her finger for him to twirl the stool around. He obeyed her gesture as her eyes swept over his back. "The Illusive Man does demand results on his projects, but he would also understand why Archer would have needed extra time."

"But there was a log in Atlas station telling us otherwise. Don't you remember, I played it right before we went down into the V.I. core? It said that the Illusive Man was about to shut the project down; that's why Archer resorted to taking drastic measures."

"Yes, I have to admit that the Illusive Man has lost sight of what Cerberus is. Our…I mean…their doctrine was created with the intention of being humanity's barrier when the Alliance shield failed."

"It looks like you still have trouble separating yourself from them at times."

"I've spent more than half my life with Cerberus, like you've spent yours with the Alliance." She gently spread her fingers across one gash that ran along the back of his neck. It must have come from one of those brutes he rushed into. "I was heavily conflicted when we boarded the remnants of that derelict Reaper."

"And now? Are you having any regrets?"

"None." The fact that she answered him so quickly made him believe her. "It's another reason why I agreed to come with you."

"The Illusive Man sold your sister out to your father," Shepard realized.

"He did, and you know damn well what happens to the people who betray me."

"I do, and I won't stop you this time." He was referring to Niket's duplicity and remembered shoving the gun away from harm's way before she could fire it.

"Even if it means getting more intel from him?"

"I'm laying out the ground work for the Illusive Man's grave as we speak," he motioned to his head. "And I'll be dancing on top of it after we send the Reapers to hell."

"Good." Miranda closed up the medi-gel and set the jar onto Chakwas' desk. "In regards to Project Overlord, for what it's worth, Shepard, I would also have done the same thing you did, in the end, I mean."

"You mean you'd have sent David to Grissom Academy?"

"Yes."

His expression lightened. "That's a relief. I was hoping to avoid having an argument about that issue, because shortly before I saw you the second time on the Citadel, I ran into both of them."

"Is that so?"

"Mmm, yes. Archer was with Dr. Brynn Cole on Gellix, and David got off of Grissom Academy with the other students safely." Shepard turned around and arose. "I ran into Jacob on Gellix, as a matter of fact. He's seeing Dr. Cole, and apparently, they're going to have a kid together."

Miranda's cool exterior dropped as did her jaw. "Would you care to repeat that again?"

Shepard crossed his arms across his chest. "I think you heard me the first time. And although you two hated each other's guts, I bumped into Jack at Grissom Academy. She's been teaching there ever since I surrendered to the Alliance. Now they're prepping for supporting our marines on the front lines."

"So Jacob wants to settle down…about bloody time." She settled herself against the cupboards. "I'm glad that he finally found someone who accepts his protection."

"Did you know Dr. Cole?"

"I never met her, but the Illusive Man always spoke highly of her when we were delegating new tasks to cells. It's good that you got the lot of those scientists out from under his claws."

"They already left; I just helped them escape his hurricane wrath," Shepard shrugged and shuffled one of his armored boots onto the tiled floor. His eyes met hers as his mind's wheels began to turn. "So can you give me a clean bill of health since our illustrious physician seems to be busy?"

"Hmm…perhaps." A smirk tugged at the corners of her lips. "I might need some assurance."

He closed the distance between them as he crossed the med bay over to her and slid his arms around her waist. "Need me to perform some experiments, Miss Lawson?"

"Take part in one, more likely." She threw her hands around the back of his neck.

He wasn't sure who really started their kiss nor did he care. He moaned into her as she took control of their mouths and suckled upon his lips. All he knew was that she wasn't close enough. Shepard squeezed her closer, and she broke away from him momentarily to gasp. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" he breathed.

"Yes, but I'll be all right." Miranda ran her hands along his pectoral muscles and shoulders. He was firm but not oversized like Vega. That man was as large as a grizzly bear and likely would nearly crush any woman he slept with.

"Still admiring your handiwork?" Shepard teased but never gave her a chance to answer. He moved in again, seemingly hellbent upon making her sigh with pleasure. He rested one hand against the shelves and danced his fingers along her sides, just centimeters away from her breast. She moved one hand from its previous position and embraced his jaw. Her actions caused him to deepen the kiss and gently push his tongue past her lips. A hint of her biotics flared up, just enough to encourage him.

"Commander Shepard, sir?" The communications officer, Samantha Traynor's voice droned over the ship intercom.

He was quite reluctant to break their kiss, but Miranda gave him a gentle push to signal that she needed some space. He complied and glanced upward at the ceiling.

"Yes, Traynor?"

"Admiral Hackett is available on the vid com; he asks to speak with you immediately."

"I'll be there in just a moment." Shepard donned his protective suit, grimacing slightly as his sore shoulder reminded him that it needed rest. "I'll see you later. Feel free to look around as much as you'd like. Mi cassa su cassa."

She said nothing but nodded and watched him leave the infirmary.

Normandy SR-2 Vid Com Room, 2051h

Admiral Hackett's image appeared on the holo pad. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, and Shepard took this moment to place his hands behind his back.

"Commander, I wasn't pleased to hear about your deviation to Horizon," Hackett stated. "There were too many variables about that facility."

"The sins being committed there could not be ignored, Admiral, sir," Shepard answered and stiffened even further. "I can't tell you how savage and callous Henry Lawson's experiments were. The worst part of it was listening to how he thought that he was saving the human race. He was trying to justify it all."

"Indeed. The truth is out, and the Alliance will make sure that everyone knows about the lie." He hesitated for a second before continuing on. "And I understand that you've procured a new crew member. Or perhaps she's not new to the Normandy, but rather…to the Alliance's cause?"

"Miranda Lawson agreed to come with us in order to stop the Illusive Man, sir. Being the former second-in-command of Cerberus gives us a significant advantage to infiltrating the Illusive Man's base."

"So it may," Hackett nodded and turned his head to glance at the conversation's newest participant, which was Anderson. "But how much do you trust her?"

"With my life, sir."

"Are you absolutely positive about her loyalty, Shepard?" Anderson inquired.

"I'm certain of it, yes."

"Commander, this is the first time I've ever said this to you, but I don't like this at all," Hackett commented and shook his head. "This next attack is vital to the success of making the Crucible functional, and Ms. Lawson could compromise you."

"Then why would the Illusive Man send dozens of assassins after her?"

"Your report mentions only one, Shepard," Anderson said while scratching his cheek. "It also mentions the fact that Ms. Lawson planted a bug on him."

"Yes, sir, that's true. We know exactly where Cerberus' main headquarters are, thanks to her," Shepard nodded.

"Hmm, well, I've read over Ms. Lawson's dossier, Commander, and although we are nearly finished with the Crucible, we could still use more technical expertise once we receive the Catalyst from Cerberus," Hackett admitted. "She'd be in good hands here."

"I've also had a look at it, Admiral, and it says that Lawson's a hell of a powerful biotic," Anderson interjected. "We could use her as part of the 'hammer' forces on the ground here."

Shepard held up his hands. "Why don't I ask her after we've completed our hit on Cerberus?"

"Because once we start our assault on Cerberus, it's likely that the Reapers will be alerted to the Crucible's presence. And then, we'll only be able to protect it for so long," Hackett replied. "So she would need to come as soon as humanly possible."

"Things aren't getting much better down here on Earth, either," Anderson announced.

"I know that this is a huge step of faith for the both of you, sirs, but as a favor to me, I would request that Ms. Lawson remain aboard the Normandy for now."

Both admirals eyed one another warily and then made eye contact with Shepard.

"Please," the marine emphasized.

The moments that passed as the admirals thought over his plea seemed to tick by like several days. He felt more nervous now than he did when Sovereign first spoke with him on Virmire.

"I owe you one for Kahlee," Anderson nodded.

"And I also owe you one for Dr. Kenson," Hackett agreed. "It's never been a habit of mine to micromanage my commanding officers. I trust that you all know precisely what you're doing, which is why I gave you the authority in the first place. We'll play it your way for now, Commander."

"I promise that I will ask her after our assault, Admirals," Shepard saluted them. "And thank you."

"Keep up the good work," Anderson returned the salute and disconnected his side of the call.

"You've done a helluva lot of good so far, Shepard. I've got no reason to disbelieve that you'll get it done," Hackett remarked. "Hackett out.