A/N: Give it a chance. It's not going where you think ;) This is going to be an original story that loosely follows the cannon line. It's a nifty idea I've had stuck in my head for a few months, so I thought I'd share with other ME junkies. Please read and review, I'm an avid reader, and once upon a time was a decent writer, but the years have made me rusty so any input is greatly appreciated.
This is Audrea's story and follows her, but there's plenty of all the characters you know and love.
I plan for this to be a full fleshed story with character and plot development *with a few twists*, so don't expect a wham bam thank you ma'am.
And I promise that this isn't like anything else you've read on fan-fic *or at least not what I have read;p*
Oh and I'm still looking for a beta if anyone wants to be so kind.
"Commander, I'm detecting an anomaly from the planets' surface." EDI's voice cooed over the intercom.
Jane Shepard set the data pad down on the desk.
"What kind of anomaly?"
"It appears to be a distress signal, but encrypted data streaming with it. Commander, I believe this is a Cerberus facility."
Shepard's eyes narrowed and her stern green eyes swung toward Miranda.
"Do you know anything about this?"
"No, Commander. As I've stated before, I was only on the Lazarus Project. Whatever other facilities and operations the Illusive Man has going, I know nothing about them."
"Commander," EDI chimed again, "I am also detecting a Geth presence in the same area. It's logical to conclude this is the reason for the signal."
"Thanks EDI. Alright, well as much as I detest Cerberus, I do hate the Geth more. Garrus, Mordin lets go save some scientists."
From the shuttle they could see the facility. The edges were blazing with white fire from the Geth assault. Landing the shuttle to the far south end where the damage was the least, Shepard and her crew vaulted out and moved with a deadly and graceful precision. They moved through the building seeing the scattered bodies of a few scientists, but the only signs of life they saw were the Geth.
"Shepard," Garrus hummed through the com, "I'm not detecting anything but Geth."
"Right. Let's see if any of the squints are hiding or if they left any useful data. I'm always looking for another nasty secret against Cerberus."
They moved toward the center of the facility swiftly, and with every step Shepard felt a creeping sensation crawl up the back of her neck. The only noise all around was the wailing of the alarm the staff had sounded before their demise. The facility wasn't the same as the others they'd previously encountered. It had seemed to have been repurposed for some reason, with a bunch of temporary equipment scattered around.
"This doesn't feel right…" Garrus flanged.
The door in front of them slid open into a room lined with terminals and what seemed to be a central processor. There were half-dozen bodies in various positions around the room. One looked like he was in the middle of punching information into the terminal when he'd been shot. On the floor in front of the processor was a scientist laying in a pool of blood. There was a hole in the middle of his forehead, and a data chip in his hand.
Mordin plucked the chip out of the dead man's hand and immediately started analyzing it.
"Mmm, yes. Good good."
"What we got Mordin?"
"Uploading to EDI currently. Needs extensive analysis. Information makes little sense. Genetic manipulation? Nono. Interspecies cloning? No, also wrong. Title Project Oracle."
"Alright, well whatever this Project Oracle is you and EDI can work it out back on the ship."
Just then EDI chimed over the coms.
"Commander, I'm detecting a massive source of element zero in the adjoining room. It wasn't there a few moments ago, I'm finding this very…odd."
"Odd huh?" Shepard mused over EDI's choice of words. " Well, let's go see what the fuss is all about."
They all checked their clips and opened the door into a small courtyard and what they saw shocked them all.
There was a human woman kneeling over a scientist, legs straddled on either side of him, punching him repeatedly in the face. A guttural, angry scream was coming from her throat and she didn't appear to be stopping any time soon even though the man was clearly dead. That wasn't the strangest part either. She had a lab coat from one of the scientists but from what Shepard could tell, she appeared to be entirely nude underneath. Dark, curly hair stuck out in tendrils all over her head and blackish eyes blazed on her face.
"Well, she certainly doesn't like scientists much does she?" Garrus chuckled.
At that moment the crazy woman grabbed a pistol that had been lying beside her and plugged three shots into the dead man's cranium.
Shepard had lowered her gun half way when she was watching the woman but quickly jerked it back up as soon as she picked up the pistol.
"Easy there." Shepard tried to say in a calm, trustful manner.
The woman's head jerked up in surprise to look at Shepard, a baleful look on her face. She snarled at the commander, but saw the assault rifle in her hands and didn't even try to lift the pistol in her bloody hand. Shepard's green eyes locked with black eyes and she immediately saw they weren't truly black, but severely dilated to the point she couldn't tell what color they were.
"Test subject." Mordin murmured thoughtfully to himself.
The woman's eyes had been trained on Shepard the entire time, until Mordin spoke. As he spoke she saw the black eyes swing over to assess the new threat, and saw the look of utter shock cross her face. It was so profound the woman dropped her pistol.
"What the fuck?" Her voice cracked.
"Easy, we're not going to hurt you." Shepard lowered her rifle to show her.
Uncertainty flitted across her face, and Shepard could see the woman trying to grasp what was happening. At that moment Garrus screamed across the courtyard, gaze pointed to the rooftops.
The three of them scattered from the giant blast, but the woman made no move. She just stared at the death shooting towards her. After a moment it seemed to dawn on her that she was in mortal danger, but had no time to move from her prone position. Shepard saw her raise her hands in futile defense as the shot blasted into the courtyard floor. They quickly dispatched the armature and scanned for further hostiles. Seeing none, Shepard quickly swung her gaze to what she was sure would be a charred mass at best and at worst a blood smear. Twice in so many minutes Shepard was shocked by what she saw.
Not only was the woman alive, but she was completely unharmed. She had her arms still up in a defensive position eyes squeezed tight and a grimace that told anyone looking that she was fully expecting to die. Around her was a small, but absurdly strong biotic barrier around her, smoke still rolling off it in waves.
"Spirits, not even Jack could take a full on blast from an armature."
The woman heard their voices and squeezed her eyes open slowly. Her arms lowered, and the barrier disappeared. She tried to stand, wobbling erratically, but failed. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, and her body fell limply against the corpse she was still kneeling over.
"Shepard!" Joker's voice held an edge as he called across the comm. "EDI is detecting a self-destruct that's hiding in the alarm channel. She's trying to disable it now, but you need to get your asses out of there. Now!"
"Garrus, grab the woman. We'll take her with us and figure out what to do later."
Garrus swung the nameless woman across his shoulder, and the three of them bolted to the shuttle.
The hot seaside breeze was blowing through her dark, curly hair pulling it back from her face as she drove down the highway. The radio was cranked and long slender fingers tapped on the steering wheel beating the rhythm while her mind wandered. She always loved the music, pulsing thing out that she was never able to quite put to words. Her gear was packed in the back of her jeep; ropes, harness, carabineers, chalk bag, not to mention the pack full of supplies that would last the weekend. It wasn't often she got to have a little time to herself especially after everything that had happened, so she was relishing the idea of a weekend alone. Recently, everything revolved around the questions.
She sighed, remembering she forgot to call her brother to tell him where she was headed. Oh well, she had to pull over for gas anyway. Spotting a sign for a Conoco, she pulled off, parked at the pump and flipped open her cell phone. She twitched impatiently as she waited through the monotonous rings and watched as the pump sucked a little more of her soul away. Finally.
"Hey Audrea, what's up?"
"Hey Finn, I just wanted to let you know David has the kids this weekend so I'm going the caverns for a few days."
"Good! I'm glad you decided to finally check in with me. I hate it when you go off alone and don't tell me where. I've seen 72 hours."
"Yeah, Yeah. That's why I'm calling you, dufus."
"Heh, it's only because I nag."
"Possibly. Got any big plans?"
"Oh yeah, I'm stoked. I'm taking that girl I told you about, Emily, out on Saturday."
"Ooooooo, well I wish you all the luck in the world bro. Mmm, don't tell her the story about the goat."
"Pfft, that's the best one. Talk to you later, Rea."
She laughed as they said their goodbyes, and she slid the phone closed, tossing it the passenger seat. Audrea paid and jumped back into the drivers' seat, eager to be back on her way. She hummed to herself, enjoying the moment, and before long she pulled off on the dirt track that lead to her favorite spot, Ocean Drop Caverns. Kicking her shift into park she popped her hatch and snatched her equipment with a well-practiced ease and slung it onto her back. Long legs ate up the dirt track as she strode down to the rocky and slightly concealed entrance. It wasn't a place that many people knew about, which made its appeal even greater to her and other cave dwelling enthusiasts. Rea slide through the small crag into a small antechamber. She dropped her bag, and let out a big sigh of relief. It was a good 15 degrees cooler in the cave, which made the droplets of sweat cool her skin quickly.
Audrea's bright green eyes wandered around the vaulted ceiling. Stalactites clutched tightly, faintly glimmering with streams of quartz. Thoughts unbidden wandered to a different cave deep in a desert half a world away. She could still feel his femoral artery leaking its life out from under her fingers, could still smell the scorched flesh, and could still hear the whistling of death from the confines of their small rocky womb. Nothing had been the same when she came back from that, and she couldn't do anything to change it, so she approached those memories with just trying to forget. She was no longer a surgeon, a soldier, or a lover. Rea scoffed at herself, shoved her ear-buds to plug the leaking thoughts and blasted them away with the click of a button.
Rea stepped into her harness, attached the chalk back, and settled the various clips into their assigned places. She walked from the antechamber to further back in the cave, the ceiling dramatically sweeping up with every step. Nestled in the darkness was her goal, a crevice barely larger than the width of her body. Audrea squeezed her body through the crack, dragging her bag sideways. It was only a few feet of navigating before she was able to nestle the pack onto her back. She attached on of the clips to the spike she'd used so many times before after a careful examination of its stability, and made all the appropriate knots to the sturdy nylon rope. She took a deep breath, gripped the rock with her strong hands and swung her feet out over the abyss.
Flex, grip, stretch.
Audrea let her body take over the familiar motions on the path she had traveled dozens of times. Normally she would have someone else with her. On any climb it was only prudent to have someone there for safety's sake, so many things could go wrong; equipment failure, rock stability, simple human error. This was one climb she could make on her own freestyle, so with a little gear and the appropriate knots it was a path she took often by herself. It still wasn't entirely safe to do, but the gear at least kept her brother off her back. He was always on to her about her borderline, self-destructive behavior.
After an hour of patient climbing Rea placed her feet back on the ground a few hundred yards from where she started. Her muscles burned slightly from the exertion, but the adrenaline that coursed through her more than made up for the fact. Unclipping herself from the rope, she left it attached to the wall, leaving it for her return.
Glancing at her watch, Rea sauntered across the rock, to the final cavern. Far to the left she could see the opening to the ocean. Waves crashed determinedly against the rock, and she smiled as she looked at the natural rock break keeping the turbulent ocean from disturbing the glassy pool that was in the center of the cave.
Rea quickly stripped off her pack and gear, kicked the flexible shoes off her feet, and dove into the pool. Ocean Drop was her favorite spot in the entire world. With only the two entrances, the climb that only a well-trained climber would make, and the small ocean entrance that only a crazy kayaker would take, it was secluded and beautiful. She had taken Trevor here once when they were on shore leave. They had camped in the cave over-night. Rea could still feel his breath hot on naked skin that had been chilled by the low temperature of the cave. That had been before…
She glided around the pool for a while, enjoying the weightlessness of her body that had been so heavy crossing an abyss just minutes before. She let her mind wander through memories she had of Trevor, forever skirting the one that made all others obsolete.
From the ocean entrance she could see the sun halfway down the horizon, blazing its colors proudly across the sky. It was time.
She ferreted a rock from her pack, brown and completely unremarkable. Rea pulled her dog tags from under her wet tank. Attached to her chain was a smaller chain with a second set belonging to one Trevor Raymore. Audrea detached the second set, took a deep breath and dove beneath the water. All the way to the bottom she swam, ignoring the pressure on her eardrums. Breathe escaped her in small bubbles as she buried the tags in the sandy bed and placed the rock from a different continent on top. An amusing thought crossed her mind. What if some geologist a thousand years from now found the desert rock amidst all the limestone? She hoped it would drive this imaginary man crazy trying to figure out the mystery.
Rea burst to the surface of the pool, gasping deeply to replace her air. It wasn't much, but it was the only thing she was able to do for him. She couldn't save his life, but she could bury a piece of him in the spot they loved.
She hauled herself out of the pool, and sat at the edge, watching the last bits of light fade.
Rea gasped awake as the world seemed to shake itself off its axis. She had fallen asleep at the edge of the pool; her head nestled on her pack. It was pitch black in the cave, and the only thing she could tell was that she was in real trouble. She was stuck in a cave in the middle of an earthquake. Audrea did the only thing she could at the moment and curled up into the fetal position, covering her neck and head with her arms. Rocks crashed around her and the earth groaned its protest loudly. She yelped as a stone struck her shoulder.
Seconds seemed to stretch into eternity, but after what she knew (but didn't feel) was a short time the tremors ceased and the world was quiet again.
Audrea vaulted herself off the floor, still feeling like the world was warbling around her. Her hands were shaking as she yanked her magnum from her bag and shone it around the room. The first thing she noticed was the ocean entrance was gone. Large boulders had smashed down on the already small opening. Dread started to well up in her and Rea bolted to the only other exit. The crevice on her side was clear, but as she waved her flashlight along the wall that should have been there, she came to the realization that the path she'd climbed so many times before was gone.
Shit. She was trapped.
Audreas' mind raced as she tried to grasp her situation. Mechanically her hands reached out to the rope she had fasted to the wall earlier for her return trip. Slowly she hauled the nylon up from where it had been knocked off the wall, wrapping it up. Stupid. She'd left her cell phone in her car. Not that it would have gotten reception in here anyway.
After retrieving her rope, she quickly packed the few things she had scattered.
She swept her magnum slowly across the walls, and thought to herself that if one wall had fallen, perhaps another had been open. It was a long shot, but Rea was never one to give into despair easily. After several minutes her beam landed on a crack on the wall adjacent to where the ocean entrance had been. Rea trotted quickly over to the slight promise of escape, mindful of the debris that now littered the floor. She waved her flashlight into the crack, and saw there was another cavern on the other side. It was especially dangerous to explore any new cave, much-less one that had only been opened because of an earthquake. There was no telling what can happen in undiscovered caves. There was little chance the area was stable, and there was always a risk of toxic fumes. Rea didn't care. At that moment the ugly beast of fear was gnawing at her. It told her she didn't want to be trapped again, no matter how big her prison this time.
Recklessly she squeezed herself into the unknown.
The new cavern was small and circular. The walls were smooth and a single stalagmite stretched toward the ceiling. Hopelessness swept over Rea as she realized there was nothing else in the room. She moved a couple of steps toward the stony pillar before her knees buckled and she sat heavily on the floor.
Rea pressed her forehead against the stalagmite and closed her eyes. The stone was starting to warm underneath her face as tears streamed down her cheeks. It was a few moments before she realized she was seeing a faint blue glow creep in through her eyelids. She snapped them open and her eyebrows drew together, trying to understand what she was seeing.
The pillar she thought was a stalagmite was a stone pillar, but it wasn't natural cut at all. Perfect and conical it was covered with carvings unlike any she had seen. The blue light was steadily growing, emitting from the runes, and soon she was able to switch the flashlight off. Amazement conquered fear as she stared at the alien structure. Higher brain function took over for a moment and she retrieved her camera from her sack and took a few digital pictures. There was no way anyone would believe her otherwise. All could claim her PTSD.
She put her camera back in her bag, and her long fingers reached out to trace some of the runes. The instant her skin touched the pillar, a screaming tore through her brain. Terrible, incomprehensible images sliced through her consciousness.
What she didn't see were the runes from the pillar, still glowing blue, march their way from the pillar, down her fingers and arm to settle on different parts of her body.
The last thing she felt before she lost consciousness was searing pain as the ancient writing flashed brightly and etched into her body.
Audrea floated in the empty spaces. Pure Id flew along the soft whiteness of her unconsciousness. She had to get away, away from the pain, away from the realities. She could feel the hounds of the Super ego on her ethereal heels. Faster!
Id was in desperate flight and Super ego in determined pursuit. Neither was paying attention to calm and patient Ego, who was the only one aware of the voices.
"Doctor, her brain waves are off the chart. There's extreme activity on all levels."
As Id traveled she could see snippets of the past. The tragic moments were traps, trying to snare so the Super ego could consume. So further she dove into the happiness. There moments with her brother Finn, and the birth of her two children, moments of child hood with her parents before they passed. Then there were so many images of Trevor. He was in his fatigues, rifle in hand and grinning like an idiot as they shot practice targets. They were at a café in Paris sipping coffee. They were lying naked in the cave. The cave…there was something important about the cave…
"Prepare another sedative, she's not ready yet."
Id flew faster heedless of direction. Super ego was directly behind herding her into the darker memories. She saw the look in David's eyes and she learned the truth. Her parents charred remains lay on the pavement, the government boarding school and all the tests, endless tests. His hands were around her throat, squeezing the life out. There was the war, endless and bloody, and Trevor's eyes glassy, empty as the Chinese soldiers dragged her away from his lifeless body.
"Doctor they're not having any effect."
"We can't let her regain consciousness yet, there's still much to do."
Id was trapped. All around she could only see the memories that had wounded her. She was back in the camp, starving and empty, bloody and hopeless. There were eyes as empty as hers, pleading, begging her to do something. It was only a matter of time before Super ego would consume her.
Ego was the only one that heard the alarms ringing through the facility.
"Attention all employees, secure all research and evacuate. Self-destruction sequences have been initiated."
Id whirled around desperately looking for an escape but there was none. Super ego closed the distance rapidly, and Id was paralyzed as Super ego sucked Id into itself. Ego quickly moved to Super ego and let it-self join, after a moment the person that was Audrea was back together.
Rea gasped desperately as her torso jumped upright of the metal table. Alarms were sounding all around her, and there were tags and wires all around her body. She ripped them off her body and tried to slide to the ground, but her legs were limp noodles and Rea collapsed. Her psyche may be back together, but utter confusion had its grip on her. She was alone and naked in a medical room, and there was something akin to a fire alarm going off around her.
She had to find a way out.