From the writers' pen: Almost year ago in a desperate attempt to write something for NaNoWriMo we started this project for fun. Perhaps because it was NaNo, the plot soon escalated out of control and it became considerably bigger than either of us originally planned on. Now, with more than a novel length's amount of words, we decided to post it here. We hold no illusions to its grandeur. It's certainly not in the calibre of what some of us are used to writing, being typical – 150k words in 30 days – NaNoWriMo style. But, it has been a journey and we'd like to share it.
A new chapter will be posted every Monday as life and all its turns allows us.
For more information on topics and information broached in this – specifically the Myers and Briggs personality models which we refer to quite often – please feel free to go to our profile.
Helena went down without warning, crashing hard and feeling an immediate pain in her right shoulder. Yet even as she cried out in surprise, she moved. They had been moving for so long that she wasn't going to stop now. Not now, in this moment.
But she couldn't move. Even as she pushed herself up, there was a triumphant cry and then it pounced on her. It was far heavier than she was; its weight bearing her down hard. Helen let out a yell of frustration, but it turned to pain as the husk's claws tore across her back again and again, slashes of white pain and agony trailing down her nerves. She hit at it with her elbow, trying to buck it off her back. She had moment to think that she was going to be paralysed; that it was going to tear through her spinal cord. Then she realised that she was going to die. And that was even worse. She tried to reach for the gun, to get turn herself around, but she couldn't even as it bit into her shoulder, its cool, metallic-like skin brushing against what was left of hers.
And then, then she heard a twin to her cry. Yet it wasn't in pain, but pure animal fury. The weight from her back shifted abruptly and she turned around just in time to see Rinn tear the husk off of her. Her friend moved with a speed belying her size, belying the awkwardness with which she normally moved and the pain that she must've been in. The dark-haired young woman had dropped her shotgun and now tore into the husk with her hands. Fists rained down on the creature's face and chest and even the bloody wound on Rinn's leg, that bloody damned wound, didn't stop her from throwing the creature on the ground with a cry and crushing its head under her foot. Two more husks charged at her and she managed to grab one before it could pounce on her and practically tore its head from its shoulders.
Helena, having turned on her side and still lying down, shot the second.
And that was it. There were no more.
Turning on her back and trembling, frightened, yet angry, so angry, Helena tried to push herself up, tearing her eyes away from her black-haired friend for a second, who stood where she was, panting just as loudly with blood pouring down her leg. The pressure bandage that Helen had put on earlier had fallen off. Helena swallowed nauseously and looked up at the ceiling, her eyes jumping to the vents. Should've thought of that, she thought as she tried to push herself up, wiping some of her red hair from her face. Should've fucking thought of that.
Shepard won't come for us.
Growling at herself, ignoring her body's protest, Helen tried to push herself up again despite the pain in her back. her right arm fet sluggish and useless. Yet she forced herself, screamed at herself that she could get up on her own and that she could do better. That this mistake, this death trap, lay on her hands. She tried to get up… But couldn't. Her legs refused to work.
Then Rinn was there – towering over her. Her friend was one of the few people taller than she was, bigger and possibly stronger. They had never pitted their strength against each other.
They had spoken very little to each other since becoming trapped. There had been no time and they had said what they could say, which was at times more than the other had wanted to hear. And there had been so little time. She remembered, briefly, standing in a corridor with the other people and then she remembered running towards the door.
Help me, she had asked a man moving to run past her... Help me...
It had been futile. Her hope... Everything.
And Shepard hadn't come as she had hoped, prayed that she would.
As Rinn towered above her, their gazes met and Helena could feel her anger.
I told you so, her friend's green eyes said, but she didn't utter a word. Helena didn't know what to say to her. Would apologising cut it? She didn't think so. Somehow she expected Rinn to turn away from her, yet surprisingly, her friend bend down slightly and held out her hand. Although it was shaking, there was still a surprising amount of strength left in it as Helen gave her own hand and was hauled to her feet.
Their ragged breathing was the only sound in the room, the husks momentarily silenced. Until the next wave comes.
As soon as she was able to stand, Helen let go of her hand and stepped back, away from Rinn. She could feel the hot blood pouring down her back and, in one insane moment of clarity, realised that she shouldn't turn away from Rinn. Not with all the blood.
Why isn't it hurting? Shock?
Looking around again for any more assailants and seeing Rinn do the same, she spotted what looked like a janitor's jacket lying over one of the crates and carefully moved towards it, turning around to put it on only when she knew that Rinn wasn't looking. Then she turned back to her friend and started to speak, her words cut short when the door slid open and the boxes that they had piled in front of it flew away.
They reacted immediately, moving closer together again as Rinn grabbed a broken chair and Helena tried to raise her gun. Her right shoulder and her back flared up in agony and she had to drop her hand, but quickly shifted it to her left. She had a brief, insane image of Lara Croft and used that madness to push away the wild fear and pain that she felt.
There were two people who had come into the room and, if it had not been for the delay that she had had with her shoulder, Helen would've fired on them. But her delay had also given her the time to get some clarity. She should've been happy, even relieved to see Commander Shepard and Miranda Lawson take point by the door, but as it was, their arrival ignited a fresh wave of anger and Helena barely had time to stop herself from shouting at them.
Where the hell have you been?
The where escaped her lips, but it was interrupted when Miranda yelled, clutching what looked like the heavy canon pistol.
"Drop the gun!"
Clearly she didn't think Rinn's chair was a threat. Helena glared at at the woman, her anger blinding her to all reason, and stepped in between them to shield her friend.
"Fuck you!" she snapped and tightened her grip on the gun, levelling it to Miranda's pistol. She had no intention of shooting the Cerberus officer, but she held no such hesitations to the woman's gun. "Drop yours!" The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. She saw their madness. She knew that she was outnumbered and outgunned by two armoured women, one of which was a biotic, but she didn't care. Nobody just shouted orders at her, especially not when they should've been there hours ago, protecting her and Rinn from the very creatures that now lay dead around them. "You can't ask me to drop my gun! You weren't here!"
Shepard moved and Helena immediately turned to look at her. Their eyes met across the distance and for a moment, Helena held her breath even though she tightened the grip on her gun. Her stomach tightened, but the commander looked away and the moment was gone. There was no flare of recognition. Nothing. She knew suddenly without a doubt that this wasn't her Shepard. It made her clutch her gun even tighter. If this Shepard was a vanguard...
"Everybody just calm down!" the Shepard shouted in Jennifer Hale's voice. "Miranda, stand down. You two..." Again, the woman turned her gaze on Helena, but it was unfamiliar eyes. Even her features looked different and Helena suspected that it had nothing to do with the transition from a 3D computer image to real life. She did look vaguely familiar, but Helena wasn't in the space to debate it. She was angry, so angry with this woman, her Shepard or not. They had almost died. Died. They'd been holed up here for hours and Shepard wanted them to be calm about it?!
"Just relax," Shepard continued talking, her voice dropping to a soothing undertone. "Please, we're not going to hurt you. We're here to help."
Behind her, Helena heard a funny breath from Rinn. It was the faintest exhale. Tight. Shaking. She hadn't expected Rinn to talk, but her friend breathed suddenly in a voice barely audible.
"Who are you?"
There was something in Rinn's voice that pulled away at Helena's anger. The horror and awe. Helen had to fight against the urge to turn back and look at her, because it would mean that she'd lose sight of the two women before her.
Shepard had no trouble ignoring her still drawn gun and turned her green gaze on Rinn.
"Katelyn," she said. "Commander Katelyn Shepard of the Alliance."
The chair came down hard and suddenly Rinn wasn't holding onto it. Instead she was using it to hold herself up, to prevent herself from falling. Helena finally tore her gaze away from the two and glanced back at her friend. She wore a look of excruciating pain, clearly keeping her full weight on her uninjured leg. Yet when Helena looked at her, she also got the impression that the woman's surrender to the pain was perhaps an escape from something far more complex. She started to reach out to steady Rinn, her mind reeling belated.
Katelyn. Katelyn Shepard.
She went pale suddenly and realised why Rinn was reacting the way she was.
It was her Shepard. The indoctrinated one.
Helena's heart missed a painful beat and she turned around in an instant, again pointing her pistol at the two women, stopping them where they had rushed forward to assist them.
"Shepard's dead," she breathed, her mouth dry and her chest tight. "Stay where you are."
Of course it's her. Of course she's not dead. But she had to hide what they knew. She had to... Helena's mind was reeling and she couldn't focus. Katelyn Shepard. Slave to the reapers. Indoctrinated.
No. Her body jerked as she tried to keep herself from throwing up and she had to blink several times to clear her vision.
Katelyn gave her a cautious look and held up her hands. "It's complicated but, I'm not," she started to explain. "Please, lower your weapon. Let us have a look at your injuries. We will take you with us. Get you to safety."
Shepard never stopped looking at them, but Miranda shifted and turned to her commanding officer.
"Commander, we don't have time for this," she said, her tone clear with impatience. "This place is overrun with husks. We have to get out of here." Her ice blue eyes glanced to Helen. "I suggest that they either come with us or take their chances with the bomb that Mordin's planting. There might be other survivors more keen on being rescued."
Helena had a suicidal urge to tell Miranda that they'd take their chances with the bomb, but then she felt a light hand on her shoulder and turned back to see Rinn give her a pale, but pointed look. Her friend didn't say anything, but her meaning was clear.
Helena looked at her for a moment, meeting Rinn's gaze before she finally grimaced and slowly lowered her gun. For the first time, both the new women seemed to relax a little.
"They've left," Helen said bitterly. "And died. We're all that's left."
Shepard had crossed the distance between them and, as Helena moved out of her way to avoid coming in contact with her, the commander knelt next to Rinn to look at her leg.
"Can you run?" she asked, looking up at the injured woman. Rinn had a look of horror on her face that could not be described in any words. Yet she nodded and pulled away when Shepard took a hypodermic from her one armour pocket.
"It's medigel," the commander explained, but Rinn didn't allow her to come any closer. Helena meanwhile had returned her attention to Miranda and, although she didn't pull the pistol on her again, she wished that she could. She didn't like the look of displeasure that the woman had on her mouth and she found it difficult to read. When their gazes met across the distance, Helena could feel Miranda's cold calculation as she weighed her. As one, both their grips seemed to tighten on their pistols and neither broke away from the other's gaze.
"I'm fine," Rinn's words broke the spell as she joined Helena's side. Seeing that her attempt to provide aid was futile, Shepard stood up and picked up her own gun again, her piercing gaze travelling over both of them.
"Let's go then," she said. "Our shuttle's waiting."
She pushed past them and went to the door where she stood there waiting, looking at them expectantly. Miranda didn't move at all and Helen could suddenly see, very clearly in her mind's eye, that their intention was to have them run between them, with Shepard taking the lead and Miranda covering their backs.
She didn't want to feel relief; she didn't want to feel as if she had just been saved. Helen wanted to be angry for just a moment longer, for just a second longer, but it was difficult.
It's almost over, she thought. But then of course, it's only just begun.