Chapter 03

If there was one thing Karin Chakwas admired about Miranda Lawson, it was her endurance. Unlike the other crew members, she didn't work on a rotational schedule. She was always on duty, always prepared and always focused. Or that was the way it had been up until two weeks ago when they went to find her sister. In that day, Karin had seen the faintest crack in Miranda's attitude. She had come home that day, gone to her room and was unavailable for almost twenty-four hours. But, that was clearly a thing of the past. Despite working and monitoring both women for most of the night, Miranda had only allowed herself a few hours of rest before she came back to the infirmary.

Chakwas could tell that she had not gotten enough sleep by the tight lines around her eyes and she suspected that Miranda had gotten up with a headache but she was trying very hard to hide it. She had been prone to them ever since they returned from Illium.

Gave you a lot to think about, Karin thought as she watched the Cerberus officer approach her desk. Shepard, saving your sister's life. It really gave you something to think about.

She was privately pleased that Miranda bothered to smile at her as she drew nearer. The regard the woman had developed for the old Alliance officer was clear in her piercing blue eyes. They had not had an easy relationship, but Miranda was coming around.

"With your leave, Doctor," Miranda started. "I'm going retreat to my office. I have to look at the information of the mine before our debriefing with Shepard. Would you please monitor Helena's progress for me? And inform me of any change with Rinn?"

Chakwas nodded and returned her smile. She hadn't trusted Cerberus in the beginning, and a part of her still didn't, but she had begun to realise that she trusted this woman. Because Miranda Lawson was loyal to Shepard. So, in a way, Karin was coming around as well.

"I will, Miranda," she said kindly. "And try to get some rest somewhere. You've been very busy."

The woman nodded, but didn't respond as she left the room. Chakwas watched Miranda through the windows until she was in her quarters before getting up and checking on Helena. She wanted to see the patient's progress for herself and didn't want to appear as if she was inspecting Miranda's work.

The red head had slept all night after her surgery. Miranda had spent a considerable amount of time working on her injury and Chakwas couldn't help but marvel at how lucky the young woman was. Unless it got infected, Helena's injuries weren't life threatening. They would, however, have most certainly been crippling if they had been left in the wrong hands. There were very few people in the galaxy that had Miranda's skill and, if all worked out as planned, the young woman might only have the faintest brush of scars.

Much like those on Shepard's face.

Chakwas took a moment to study Miranda's work and was pleased with what she saw. After bringing Shepard back from the dead, this must've felt like a walk in the park to Miranda.

There was a beep from her station which immediately made Karin turn around to look at her monitors. She scanned their data and glanced at Rinn, realising that the younger woman's heart rate was rising. She hated doing it, but she took her pistol from her drawer and slipped it in behind her lab coat, sparing a glance at Legion who was standing in the corner. She too had taken a break from the infirmary and, when she returned the geth was just there. She didn't try and talk to it and had taken a lot of self-control not to take up a gun immediately. Rinn's awakening provided her with the perfect excuse.

The person on the bed was shifting awkwardly, her eyes roaming as she looked around the infirmary. When green eyes met Chakwas, she could immediately pick up on their fear and it soothed the doctor somewhat. From the doctor's experience, she knew that husks didn't show any kind of fear or self regard.

Don't be silly Karin, it's not like turning into a zombie. She won't turn into a husk.

"Don't be afraid," Chakwas said as kindly as she could. "You're safe. You're Rinn, right? My name is Dr Karin Chakwas. I'm a physician on the Normandy, do you remember?"

The woman didn't answer her immediately, but reached out and pulled up the blankets with a trembling hand, her gaze never leaving Chakwas as she tried to sit up. Here, Karin moved quickly and held out her hand.

"I'd suggest you remain quiet, Rinn," she said levelly. "You were severely injured and have had surgery."

The young woman stopped moving immediately and hesitated, her hand once again creeping down to the blankets to pull them up. She looked embarrassed and uncomfortable and, for a moment, Chakwas wondered how much she was registering. Then, before she could ask another question, Rinn spoke up, her words slow and calculating.

"How did it go?" Rinn didn't look up, but fiddled with the blanket, her hands still trembling.

Chakwas smiled and pulled a chair closer as she glanced at the young woman's vital signs. Normal, everything is normal.

"Better than expected," she said. "We had to repair more damage than anticipated, but there's no doubt that you'll make a full recovery, if things go according to plan."

Rinn took a moment to study the doctor, before she grimaced and looked to the other side of the room, pressing her body tighter into the bed. Her gaze grew distant and her mouth moved silently as she seemed to place her words together before uttering them.

"What was the problem?" she said, her tone still clear and slow. "There seemed to be a lot of concern."

Chakwas was very careful with her answer, but tried to be sincere. She didn't want to alarm her patient unnecessarily.

"You had lost a lot of blood," she said and that was the truth. "We had to deal with it very quickly. And Miranda was concerned about the foreign material found in your wound. It had fragmented and some of it had gotten stuck in your vein. It was..." She wondered how to explain it. "Pulled up like a blood clot, on its way to your heart. We had to do some exploring to find all the pieces. Are you in any pain?"

Rinn frowned at her and hesitated before she glanced down at the rest of her body. She was quiet for a full minute before she shrugged awkwardly. "I'm… uncomfortable?" she made it sound like a question, as if she was worried that she might be giving the wrong answer. "It's… burning. Throbbing. But… Not bad. Just…" She looked down, embarrassed. "More than I'm comfortable with."

Chakwas nodded and motioned to the side of the bed. "Let me show you how the pain medication works," she said. "You can regulate it yourself through these. The red button is for pain medication, the green for me. If you're uncomfortable, press the red. It will administer a measured dose, so you don't have to worry about overdosing. Don't be shy to use it, the more pain free you are, the quicker you'll recover." She paused.

"You two put up one hell of a fight."

Rinn immediately looked uncomfortable and crossed her arms over her chest, winching when the IV line pulled in her arm. "Didn't have much of a choice," she said defensively as if the violence that she had needed to keep her alive had shamed her. "Helen..." She froze and looked at Chakwas, wide eyed. Then, shaking, she tried to sit up and looked around the infirmary. "Where is she?" She breathed as Chakwas stood up quickly and pressed on her nearest shoulder. "Where is she? I haven't seen her!"

Chakwas strained to keep Rinn down, but held her hand in Legion's direction, hoping the geth understood the gesture.

"Rinn, relax," she said sharply. "If you move too much, you will hurt yourself." She prepared herself to snap again, but the force against her touch released immediately. Rinn stopped moving and looked at her with fearful green eyes. She was hardly breathing as she trembled under Chakwas's hand. Realising that she had to be far gentler with her than Miranda was with Helena, Chakwas let go of her and moved away from the bed, giving her some space.

"She's fine," Karin said softly, keeping her voice gentle as she stepped aside and motioned to a bed on the other side of the infirmary. "She's over there. We have to keep her in a sterile environment. Tell me, is there anybody that we can call for you? Family? Your employers?"

Rinn frowned at the question and blushed, playing with the blanket again as she pulled it up even higher across her stomach.

"No," she said. "No family for me. With Lena... I almost doubt it." She grew quiet and, for a moment, her green eyes burned like two hot coals as a thought struck her. "As for employers..." She shrugged and the coal receded, making her look very tired. "They're kinda dead, aren't they?"

What is in her tone? Chakwas wondered. Indifference? Anger?

The doctor smiled at her and patted her arm. "It's alright then," she said softly. "We'll leave it till you can tell us where you want to go. I'm sorry about what you had to go through. If you need to talk, I'm here."

Rinn didn't look at her and shrugged. She seemed to settle deeper into the bed and finally pulled the blanket over her whole body. Chakwas, patting her knee, left her to sleep.


"I don't want to change, neither does Rinn."

"Hopefully she won't have to."

Helena opened her eyes and stared at the blurred image of the Normandy's infirmary. She did not try to move immediately, but brought up her one leg a little - uncomfortable, but not sore. Which is wrong, her body told her. I should be feeling pain.

"I can see her muscles moving!" Rinn shouted in her memory. "On her bones!"

Rinn.

Helena, lying on her left side, tried to look around her and determine where she was. She moved with deliberate slow assessment. She was tired, sluggish. Drugged, she suspected. She had to be careful with her thoughts, her actions. She wanted to cry, but could not let herself.

"If you behave yourself, they should take within a day or two and start working to replace the tissue you've lost."

Behave.

She wondered what her back looked like. Whether the surgery was a success. I don't mind scars… Shepard had some. Not her Shepard.

Behave. Anger.

I am not a child, Helena thought and tried to move as well as see what was right in front of her. The basin, she thought. Blurred. I need my glasses. I'm right across from Chakwas's station. She glanced down and frowned.

Something was wrong.

The air was… easy.

Helena reached forward and touched glass, the movement feeling as if it felt an age to complete. Her hand immediately made a ring of condensation on it and her heart skipped a beat.

Glass. I'm in a glass coffin.

She almost screamed. Almost. At first, all she could do was stare at the condensation. Then, slowly, she looked up and reached out to touch the heaven. There was more glass.

No.

Now, she was going to scream. She took a deep breath, ready to let it out in a holler, but coughed instead. I'm going to suffocate in here!

"Helena, Helena relax…" Something moved inside the glass, a black thing, reaching up to grab her. Strangle her. Helena, gasping for breath, daren't try and scream again until she felt something enclose around her wrist.

"Helena, relax."

Dr Chakwas.

Helena took a steadying breath and looked up at the old woman towering over her. The image was even more blurred and she realised suddenly that she had started crying and, immediately, she hated herself for her eyes' betrayal.

"Dr Chakwas," she breathed, not caring for the desperate familiarity in her name. "Where am I?" Is it my voice? Trembling that much?

The woman raised an eyebrow and, through the black, rubber-like material, she squeezed her hand. "I'm surprised you remember my name," she said softly, conversationally.

Helena didn't want to talk about it. "Where am I? What did you do to me?" She didn't care about anything else, she needed to know why she was in a coffin. She couldn't be soothed until she had all the facts. Chakwas sensed it immediately and her eyes became a little bit less appeasing.

"You're in an oxygen tank," she explained. "It's to help set the first phase of the grafts on your back. We need you to be in as sterile an environment as possible. Are you comfortable?"

Helena didn't bother thinking what an oxygen tank might be, she just knew that she wanted to get out of it.

"I want out," she breathed immediately, her voice hoarse and insistent. "I… I need… Please…" She blinked suddenly and realised that there was something she had forgotten. Something she had just thought of. "My glasses." She hated not being able to focus.

Chakwas raised an eyebrow and smiled at her, pulling a chair closer so that she could sit down without letting go of Helena's hand. It was like being in an incubator where there were two holes cut in for the people outside. Gods, anybody can touch me and I won't be able to get away...

"Professor Solus is fixing them for you. He said that the lenses were quite scratched. Why haven't you had them looked at?"

Helena blinked and tried to figure out how to answer that question. "My glasses?" she asked stupidly, thinking. "They work." I have to get out.

Chakwas looked at her amused and shook her head. "Your eyes," she pointed out. "It's so easily corrected. I haven't seen anybody wear a set of specs in… Ages. As a fashion statement maybe, but not a pair as archaic as yours."

Archaic? Helena sniffed, insulted and her anger returned.

"They're mine," she said. "Don't let the salarian break them or so help me…" She didn't know how to finish that threat. Then, suddenly, what she had forgotten came back to her and she went cold.

"Rinn?" she queried. "How is Erinn?"

The older woman raised an eyebrow. "Is that her full name?" she queried. "She's still resting, recovering like you. She woke up a while ago. She'll be fine."

You're lying.

Helena didn't know how she knew it, but she knew this woman. She had spent countless hours getting into the heads of her characters through various fictions and she had always had a feeling for Dr Chakwas. She tried to shift into a more comfortable position, but she couldn't. She didn't want to think about all the tubes that were stuck in her to keep her sustained within this glass prison.

"And that husk fragment?" she queried. "Is all of it out? What's happening?" She tried to imagine an answer into being, like she would a story, but nothing was happening. Instead, she saw Dr Chakwas shrug and smile.

"Nothing at the moment," she said. "She's recovering, just like you are supposed to be doing. You need to get some rest Helena. It takes a lot of energy for the body to accept and convert the graft. The first layer is always the hardest, the most difficult to change."

Helena squeezed Chakwas's hand as hard as she could. It was silly, but it was the only way that she could bring the desperateness of her emotions across.

"Dr Chakwas, will she change into one of those things?" She thought of her own wound for a second and the image of zombies came to mind. "Will I?" Am I being irrational?

The doctor shook her head. "You're going to be fine Helena," she said. "But, you have to relax…"

Helena's patience finally snapped.

"DON'T KEEP SAYING THAT!" she barked. "For fuck's sake, tell me what's wrong with her!" She saw a look cross Dr Chakwas's features, a thought. It was like reading her mind. "And don't sedate me."

The woman raised an eyebrow and relaxed the grip she had on her hand. "Well then, my dear, you have to start behaving."

Again that word. Helena fumed, but took a steadying breath and closed her eyes to reorganise her thoughts, to keep herself from losing her temper. She felt fragmented within herself, her body devoid of pain, but her mind drifting. She had always prided herself in the ability she had to control her faculties, to enslave her own mind. She never got drunk, never allowed herself to speak without thinking and this... This was too close to all of that. She had to focus, be calm...

You're all going to die down here.

The red queen from Resident Evil.

She opened her eyes and used thoughts of a movie to anchor her, to steady her mind and build herself into the person she used to be for the job she hated, the one she wrote to get away from.

"How long do I have to be… in here?" she queried, keeping her voice neutral and making sure to meet Dr Chakwas's gaze as calmly as she could. Dr Chakwas noticed her change and raised an eyebrow, a small smile coming to the corner of her mouth.

"Two days," she said. "Officer Lawson will evaluate your progress in a few hours."

Helena made sure not to show any more reaction than she needed to when she gave Dr Chakwas a questioning look. "And Officer Lawson is the expert then?" she queried. "What's..." Stars, do I want to know? "What's the prognosis? I mean..."

The doctor smiled. "I know what prognosis means," she said gently and Helena blushed. The older woman considered her words for a few moments ,then squeezed Helena's hand.

"The grafts will start acting as substitutes for your body's cells. Muscle, nerves, tendons. They are all pre-programmed to start replacing the tissue you lost. It's a long process, but you're in the right hands. You are very lucky to be here. We have the right facilities to deal with these sorts of injuries." Because they had to be prepared to work with Shepard, if her implants started failing. Helena closed her eyes and tried not to think too hard about the fact that the cells, that were currently working to rebuild her back, were also used to reanimate a corpse.

"And Rinn," she said levelly, making sure not to show any signs of distress. "Is she conscious at the moment?"

Dr Chakwas shook her head. "She was an hour or so ago. Her recovery is on track." So neutral, so good at avoiding the subject. Helena looked at her and tried to imagine how she could turn the conversation in the direction she wanted it to go.

"Asking to see her will be useless, wouldn't it?" She queried. "Is she in a box as well?" She could not keep the dry acid from her voice and Dr Chakwas's gaze became sharper again.

"It would," she said. "We're taking a different approach with her treatment, so she's in the general ward. Right over there," she pointed in a direction Helena couldn't look. "When you two are awake at the same time, I'll bring her closer. Would you like that?"

Anger brushed over the distance that Helen had tried to form in her mind and she knew that her smile was anything but friendly. "That would be kind," she said dryly and swallowed, her mouth dry. She was starting to feel sick, her head throbbing with panic and distress. She wanted to ask them about Rinn, but, for the moment, didn't have the courage to face whatever they could tell her. Unable to shake the feeling that Dr Chakwas was seeing too much, she closed her eyes and swallowed again. The world began to fade without warning and, when she felt the hand moving in hers, she opened her eyes quickly, forcing herself awake.

Chakwas had stood up, a gesture she didn't even notice and was looking at her kindly.

"I'm sorry..." Helena muttered. "I'm... tired."

Dr Chakwas nodded, withdrawing her hand. "You need sleep, Helena," she said. "You have to tell us if there's anybody that we can contact for you, be it your employers or your family."

Helena didn't think about her family, but in her mind's eye she was suddenly back in the corridor, hauling a limping Rinn beside her. Let us reach it in time, she had thought, focusing on reaching the door, watching the lab coat of the young lab assistant in front of them as she ran as well. Just be open. Let us get outside. What had the girl's name been? Penny? She had been younger than them and had died screaming… Crying… Begging for their help.

Anger burned inside her and she couldn't stop it.

"You can fuck my employers," she snapped, her heart beat climbing. "They left us down there to die! They wouldn't wait for us, wouldn't give us an extra ten minutes to reach the top. Fuck them. Fuck them all."

She winched suddenly when she felt a cramp in her chest and immediately pushed her thumb against it, coughing as she did so. Dr Chakwas glanced at some data just beyond her sight, looking concerned.

"I think you need some rest, Helena," she said. "I don't want you upsetting yourself. Your body's not ready yet. Just take a deep breath, the cramp will pass in a moment." She pushed her hand through the glove again and touched her wrist. Helena pulled away from it, feeling flushed and still in pain.

"I'm fine…" she breathed. "Really." She swallowed and closed her eyes. "There's nobody you can contact, Dr Chakwas. It's just me and Rinn. Here." She opened her eyes again and took a deep breath. "I think I'm going to sleep. For a bit. If that's alright."

Kindly, Dr Chakwas responded almost in a whisper.

"That's alright, Helen. Sleep well." The black fingers of the glove brushed her palm before it retreated and Helena could finally close her eyes.

And dream of husks.


When she was a child, Helena had had a severe sleeping problem. She had been kept all night by unwanted conversations that seemed to spring up inside her mind, unbidden and unwelcome. It was only when she started giving them names, identities and eventually putting them down to paper that it went away. It was what had driven her to start writing and what had always kept her writing – because if she didn't, the voices returned.

Now, walking beside Rinn, Helena was sure that she had gone mad and that this was all part of some delusion brought on by her inability to separate reality from fiction.

What was it that Richard Bach had said? She wondered as she looked at the people with them. They were all dressed in the same uniform clothes, practical and not necessarily uncomfortable. And they were all being watched, there were Blue Suns guards everywhere. Not threatening exactly, just... around. Nobody expected these people to give any resistance. Because they were here for work.

And, Helena suspected, none of them had slept well.

She had listened to them in the darkness from her bunk bed, listening to their mutters and whispers. It was a strange echo to those she had found in her own head.

If you practice being fictional for a while you'll find that characters can become more real than people.

This, Helena suspected, was not what Richard Bach had had in mind.

She didn't need to look at Rinn to know that she too had slept badly.

This isn't a dream.

Then what is it?

They were in an elevator, moving down into the heart of the facility. Helena had gotten moved from Rinn's side and found herself standing next to a tense looking Blue Suns merc. She recognized the distant look in the woman's eyes and the way she almost refused to see the people around her.

I don't want to get to know you, I might have to shoot you...

But, it was something else as well. There was something bothering this woman and she kept touching her gun. Helena studied the gesture and glanced around to see that Rinn was three people away from her, her features tensed as they pressed against her. Helena, being next to the mercenary, had more space to move. She turned back to the woman and studied her armour, her weapons and the sun emblem on her breast plate. She was studying the faint tattoo that was visible on the woman's hands, when those hands moved suddenly and grabbed her by her shirt.

"Do you have a problem?" The merc growled, pulling her closer so they were face-to-face.

Helena flinched at the touch and tried to jerk away from her but the woman's grip was surprisingly strong. She wanted to react, but then she heard Rinn curse behind her.

"Shit, Lena..."

Helena glanced back at her and held up a hand, signalling her to stop. Everybody in the elevator was looking at them and the mercenary wasn't the only one with a gun.

"Easy," Helena said, trying to still her heart. "I was just looking. You look tense."

The woman growled at her, pushed her away and gave her a surprisingly fast slap behind the head. "Eyes to the front," she barked. "You're not a fucking tourist."

No, Helena thought, her head ringing from the clout. She pushed back to Rinn's side, rubbing the back of her head. I'm a gamer.

When she was close to her friend, Rinn grabbed her shirt and pulled her closer. The crowd around them allowed this shift and Helena got the impression that they had sympathy with Rinn for being saddled up with her.

"What are you doing?" Rinn hissed when she was within earshot. "Goeie donner, Helena..."

Helen turned back to her and shrugged. "Just looking," she said even though a part of her wanted to point out to Rinn that something was wrong. But she didn't and the elevator moved down to an impossible depth. Helena felt her own panic beginning to surface, but knew that it sprung from the press of bodies against her and the claustrophobic feeling of being underground.

Imagine it's a space station, not a mine.

She shivered suddenly, the knot of panic pulling tighter. Why? And why a mine? What's significant of it?

They were bustled out when the elevator stopped. The person escorting them was a no-nonsense type of man that put Helena in the mind of a head master. There were people waiting for them at the bottom as well and they started barking out numbers – calling for those people to follow them. Helena glanced back to see that the merc was hanging back, her gaze following a woman in a white lab coat that was coming their way. She kept expecting to hear her and Rinn's numbers, but luckily, they weren't called or separated. Only a small group of people were left and they stood together in an awkward cluster, also watching the woman approach.

Helena looked at her and frowned, studying her body language. There was something... off. She found herself moving in between Rinn and the woman, unable to describe her unease. The woman's eyes were too bright.

"Are you for me?" she said. "Wonderful. I'm Dr Anna Holm, you have been chosen to work on our great project. Come, come with me. I will show you." Even her words sounded too bright.

Before she could turn around and walk off, the merc cleared her throat. "Dr Holm?"

The woman turned to the other, a flash of irritation clear in her eyes, but then she relaxed and smiled at the merc. "Yes?"

The mercenary frowned at her and Helena couldn't help but wonder if she had seen the same brightness that Helena had.

"Doctor, I'm First Lieutenant Ramsey. Do you mind if I accompany you to Sector 21? My people have not checked in this morning. Clearly there's not cause for alarm, but... I want to see what they are up to."

Helena immediately turned to study the doctor's face and found it alarmingly unreadable. She knows what she's talking about, but she's not going to offer an explanation.

What's the damned significance of the mine?!

"Of course, Lieutenant," Dr Holm crooned. "Please, come with me."

Helena didn't like the woman's tone and she could tell that the mercenary didn't either. The woman's hand dropped to her pistol and she seemed to check the gun on her back. The group fell in behind the two women, Helena studying the mercenary's guns and Rinn walking hunched, her arms crossed over her chest as if she was in pain. For her sake, Helena winked at her and moved forward with a bit more confidence, although she could not take her eyes from the woman's guns.

It was darker on this level of the mine and the group instinctively seemed to move closer together. The woman leading them seemed to notice and glanced back to smile at them brightly.

"Oh, I have to apologise," Dr Holm said to them. "We're still setting up this section. We've made a very interesting discovery this past month. Our mining unearthed a mysterious object, a... a very fascinating artefact. Possibly from the time of the protheans."

Rinn and Helena looked up as one, frowning at the mention of the artefact. Helena saw the question in Rinn's eyes, but knew that her friend would not find the courage to speak up so she decided to do it for her.

"Do you mean a prothean beacon?" She queried. "Such as... The one on Eden Prime?"

Dr Holm paused and glanced back at her, her gaze searching. When their eyes met Helena was once again struck by the fact that something was really off about her.

"We believe so," she said calmly and looked at the mercenary. "Please, follow me." She started walking again when Rinn spoke up suddenly, her voice uncharacteristically low even though it travelled quite well.

"Have you seen anything?"

The woman looked back at the two of them and cocked her head to the side, studying them. "What are your num... Names?" She queried and Helena felt a moment's anger over something she shouldn't have been. These people were so... condescending. What are your numbers? Really?!

"Helena," she spoke up loudly. "And Rinn." She motioned to her friend. "We're new."

Dr Holm gave them a curious look and nodded to herself. "When the others go down, you two can stay with me," she said. "I'll show you what this is all about. You seem to have some experience."

Helena met her gaze squarely and nodded, not daring to look away lest the woman thought that she had the upper hand over them. Dr Holm in turn met her look with a smile and carried on walking, leading them deeper towards the supposed artefact. She felt Rinn shift beside her and thought that her friend would reach out and touch her, but the woman didn't.

"Helena," she said softly. "I don't like this."

She nodded, she had to. Not even Helena could hide how uneasy she felt about all of this, but she could also not help but think that they had to see what this woman wanted to show them. Prothean beacon in a mine?

"I don't think we'll have a choice," she said to her friend and glanced at the merc whose face was very stoic. Helena could tell that she was searching for something and, when she thought about it a moment, she realised that the woman was probably looking for the other guards. Until now, every level that they had been on had one or two guards always within shouting distance. Here, there was nobody.

Maybe they're on a break.

Somehow, Helena didn't think that it was true.

They stopped at the end of the dimly lid corrider; the air humid and more pressing than before. Dr Holm waved at her and Rinn to join her and, after some consideration, motioned to Ramsey to join them as well. They were standing at the foot of a staircase that went up a level. Dr Holm put her omnitool against the panel and opened the door, showing the others into the dimly lid room. There was a hum of machinery from inside, but other than that, Helena couldn't see anything in the din.

"My coordinator will meet you inside and assign you your tasks," Dr Holm said to the people. "I would like to thank you in advance for the contribution that you will be making to my research."

The people weren't necessarily bothered by her words and shuffled into the gloom, the door closing behind them the moment the last one was through. Helena stared at them, her mind screaming at her that they shouldn't have gone inside. She felt Rinn shift beside her and saw the way her friend's hands clenched in her new shirt. She too must've sensed it, must've felt the foreboding sensation of horror that was starting to creep up through the walls. When the door closed, Helena felt as if someone had cut the power and they were alone, in the dark.

With a mad woman and another with a gun.

"Well," Dr Holm said, sounding relieved. "Now that that's done, let me show you two what we have. I remember your numbers - your names. You weren't listed on this facilities register yet, here you are." She smiled at them, sweetly. "We had thought that you would be better suited for this research," she indicated to the door. "But, with your apparent knowledge of the Eden Prime situation, it might be worth it to see if you can hold some other value." She glanced at Helena. "Your test scores came back quite high. Follow me, please. Lieutenant, you can come as well, I will show you where your people are. They are being utilised to oversee the transfer of the workers."

To Helena's surprise, Ramsey actually turned to her to meet her gaze, the woman's dark eyes puzzled. "It's my understanding that the workers are generally compliant," she said and then followed Dr Holm up the stairs. "This section is very dark."

Helena could not see the look on Anna Holm's face as she shrugged. "We trust that there would be no danger from the ground," she said in a light voice. "And it's crucial to save power, some of the systems we have linked up to the artefact is utilising quite a lot of energy. We would hate to compromise the mining. It is, at the end of the day, what is funding this whole operation. And your company's contract." She glanced back to smile at Ramsey and Helena saw the woman touch her gun again.

They didn't move up far, stopping on a dark landing. There was a vacant monitoring station that Helena suspected was Dr Holm's workspace. Holm went over to put on one of the desk lamps and turned to smile at Helena and Rinn.

"Where do you two come from?" She queried. "You are not like the other workers. You are not sheep, even though you pretend to be."

Two conversations, Helena thought. And the good doctor picks up on it. What's with this place?

"We're just workers," she replied and looked at the wall that would look over the artefact, but found that it was a closed panel. "We're just like the others." She tried to smile lightly to give truth to the lie, but the woman clearly did not believe her.

"No," Dr Holm murmured and went to a console, pressing a few commands. "I don't think you are."

Her commands raised the wall panel which Helena had suspected was a window. Unconsciously, Helena held her breath, shoving her hands into the pockets of her pants to keep them from trembling with anticipation.

"So," Dr Holm queried, seemingly happily oblivious to the mood that they were in. "You two were at Eden Prime?"

Neither of them answered, their gazes fixed on the rising panel.

"Do you know of the visions?"

Helena turned her gaze to the woman, hearing the hunger in her voice. She didn't answer, but frowned at her.

"Do you?" She queried in return. "Have you seen anything?"

The doctor smiled at her and Rinn shifted, moving herself closer to Helena and the woman, as if she expected her to be some sort of threat.

"Why yes," she said. "I have. Have a look Lieutenant, you're people are fine but busy. Please, take the message to those upstairs."

Helena involuntarily turned her gaze to the window and saw that the Blue Suns mercs were standing with a group of slightly puzzled workers. Each of them were being searched through and led off to a section Helena couldn't see. The Lieutenant frowned at them and tapped the window, trying to get her crew mates' attention. They didn't pay the noise any mind, but continued to idly move with the workers.

"What have you seen?" Rinn queried, her voice tight with panic. She too was watching the spectacle, her gaze moving to another panel that had not yet been opened. When Helena looked at it, she felt herself shiver and she remembered the murmurs that she had heard in her sleep the night before.

Whispers in my mind...

It all fell into place. Helen moved, quickly, startling both the doctor and Ramsey who had grudgingly turned to leave.

"What's behind this panel?" she queried. "Show us the artefact."

Dr Holm raised a brow at her demands and shook her head. "Patience," she said with a small smile. "There are a few things I want to discuss with you first. Please, Lieutenant Ramsey, you can take your leave."

Helena immediately looked to the mercenary, meeting her gaze. Something passed between then, an unspoken word between two strangers that had the same idea at exactly the same time. Like lightening, Ramsey pulled her pistol and levelled it on the surprised doctor.

"Do as she says, Doctor," the woman hissed. "Now."

The doctor looked between them, still very surprised. "Now what is all of this about?" she said. "Lieutenant, please lower your weapon. What's the meaning of this?"

Ramsey couldn't answer her but looked back to Helena who had moved closer to the panel. She made sure to keep the mercenary's gaze, realizing for a precious moment that she had the woman's command.

"Open this panel and show us what the artefact looks like," she snapped. "We don't need to give you a reason. She's got the bloody gun."

"Lena..."

Helena glanced at Rinn who was looking at the window. The seeming tranquil movement below them had stopped and now every single one of the mercenaries were looking up at them. The people they had moved into the room were standing around awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

"Lieutenant," Dr Holm crooned again. "Please, just drop the gun. I think it would be better to focus your attention on our two vagabonds here. They seemed to know and awful lot of this facility for people who's just arrived."

Helena immediately snapped her attention to Ramsey, seeing her gaze become a bit vague. And, she felt... something. Like a scratching sensation in the back of her mind.

"Ramsey," she snapped and motioned to Rinn to watch Holm. "Don't listen to her. Listen to yourself. I can tell you're feeling it too. Please Ramsey, look at me..."

With a seemingly inhuman effort the mercenary tore her gaze away from Dr Holm and looked at Helena. Realising that she had her attention again Helena opened her mouth to speak, but suddenly Holm launched herself at Ramsey. The lieutenant swung her gun to the woman, but it was too late. Rinn had moved, no, launched herself at Holm, bearing her to the ground. The doctor started struggling, but Rinn held onto her, pulling her upright and dragging her to the console. Helena felt a moment's elation but it didn't last long when something launched itself at the glass with an inhuman cry.

Helena couldn't help but let out a yelp in surprise, jumping back from the console and Ramsey turned her weapon and fired. A web like crack appeared on the glass, giving the creature perched on it a spiderlike appearance.

It yelled and snapped at them, its claws tearing marks on the window.

Inhuman claws but...

"It's a husk!" Rinn yelled, still struggling with the fighting doctor. "Helena it's a husk!"

"Fuck the husk," Helena yelled and moved to grab Ramsey's arm. "It's a reaper artefact! They're studying a reaper artefact! Ramsey, we have to go!"

The lieutenant turned to her in horror, convinced for the moment that the creature wasn't going to come through the glass. She was about to speak when several shots rang out from below. More spiderlike webs appeared on the glass and it was immediately clear that Ramsey's people below weren't shooting on the husk but on her.

Ramsey stared at them in horror, then at the husk that was still trying to tear through the window.

"Those men..."

"They're indoctrinated!" Rinn shouted. "We have to move! Helena!"

"I know!" Helena snapped and grabbed Ramsey by the shoulders, her stomach cold. Mine. Abandoned mine. That was the significance of it. I had played this mission...

"Ramsey, we have to go! We have to get out of here!" More shots followed and this time Helena saw a splinter of glass break away from the window. The husk, now joined by another, seemed to see it too and started focusing on the spot, tearing at it.

"What the fuck is that?!" Ramsey demanded, pulling away from Helena's grip so that she could move to Holm, grabbing the woman from Rinn's arms. She had stopped struggling and was looking at them with a terrifying light in her eyes.

"You're future," the woman whispered with a laugh. "The future. The visions have shown me. Uniformity. Solace. You don't understand..."

Ramsey gave her a rough shake. "Why are my men shooting at me?!"

The woman grinned at her. "They're not your men anymore," she hissed. Helena didn't give her time to talk anymore, but grabbed Ramsey, forcing her to look at her.

"Lieutenant," she snapped. "If we stay here, we're going to die. I've seen those things. On Eden Prime. On Horizon. They're going to kill us!" A thought struck her and she went cold. "They're going to come through the door!"

Ramsey seemed to struggle for a moment, then blinked and stepped back, pulling her gun again and without warning, shot Holm in the head. The gunshot's sound was somehow worse than before and Helena watched in mute horror as Holm's knees simply buckled underneath her and she fell back, her ruined face hitting the console with a sickening thud.

Rinn made a soft, strangled sound; her eyes wide and horrified as she stared at the mess.

"She's the only one with access from this side," the lieutenant said coldly. "Come on, we have to go and get my other men."

She turned around and started running back towards the elevator and Helena, nauseous with what she saw, grabbed Rinn and followed her. It took a sharp tug for her to get her friend moving, the woman's gaze still transfixed on the body. The small splinter of glass had become a hole and a whole group of husks were now tearing at it, the edges of the glass dark with their now inhuman blood.

How long have they been feeding the artefact? Helena thought. How long have they been bringing people down here? How many of those things were there?

The door was mercifully closed when they reached the bottom of the staircase and started running up the hallway. Helena glanced behind her, her brain buzzing with the sensation she had felt before. Reapers, gods, it's the reapers... Save us...

It was hard to keep Rinn moving and she stepped in behind her, pushing her friend ahead of her, forcing the stricken woman to run. Ramsey was shouting orders into her radio as she moved, speaking to one of her commanders topside.

"Yes!" she was shouting. "I think we need to evac the facility now! Till we know what the fuck these scientists have been up to! Yes, sir!"

Helena hoped that they meant everybody.

There was a stomach turning sound of glass breaking behind them and suddenly the corridor was filled with a sound that Helena knew very well.

Husks! She thought panicked and ran faster. They're out!

They reached the elevator, but it wasn't on the floor level. Helena and Rinn stopped beside Ramsey, their breathing ragged. Helena saw Ramsey check the thermal clips on her pistol and held out her hand, remembering the woman's shot gun.

"I can shoot," she said. "Please, give me your gun!"

The lieutenant considered it for a second before she shoved the pistol into Helena's waiting hands grabbing her shotgun as she did so. Rinn meanwhile stumbled to the console, calling down the elevator. The thought of it made Helena sick, because she remembered how long it had taken them to get this far down.

"What the fuck do you know about these things?" Ramsey demanded. "How did you know?"

Helena took a second to familiarise herself with the gun, but soon realised that the basic principle of it had remained the same for centuries. Just point and shoot.

"Saw it on Eden Prime," Helena said as she saw the faint glow of the husks' eyes and machinery at the end of the corridor. Stars, save us... "Saw it on Horizon. What they had been studying... It brainwashed your people. Like the spectre Saren. If they come through we have to shoot them all!"

What am I saying?

Ramsey didn't look as if she had heard as she squinted down the corridor. Without warning her, she threw the shotgun in Rinn's direction and took another pistol from her armour. "What are those things?" She snapped as Rinn fumbled with the shotgun. There was a sound of machinery from above them and Helena began to have hope that the elevator would arrive before they all died.

"Husks," Rinn breathed. "Husks... You shot her."

Ramsey gave Rinn a very dry look and raised her pistol to her sights. Helena, taking her lead, did the same and began to follow the lights as they moved down towards them. She couldn't quite pick them out in the semi darkness, but instinctively knew where she had to shoot. Right between the two faint orbs...

Ramsey was the first to fire and Helena, having picked a target in sight, did the same. She didn't know how much gun proficiency Rinn had, but didn't dare look to see what her friend was doing with the shotgun. Keep it till they're close, keep it...

The elevator doors opened just as Helena shot her third husk and the horde became clearly visible.

"Fall back!" Ramsey yelled and Helena found herself moving backwards into the elevator. Rinn had slipped in before them and was at the console, ready to hit the close button. "Don't shoot when the door closes!"

Of course not, Helena thought but said nothing, her attention focused on finding another fast approaching target. Not for the first time in her life she found herself immensely thankful that her father had been a keen gun enthusiast and had insisted that both his children learn to shoot as soon as they could sensibly string three sentences together.

Preparing us for the zombie apocalypse my brother had always joked... Joke's on me now.

When the doors closed she let her arms fall and watched as Ramsey pushed past Rinn and hit the up key.

"Give us more time," she said into her radio. "For god's sake, Stephan, you know how long it takes. Yes... Yes... I don't have a fucking idea."

She stopped talking and turned to them. Rinn had leaned against the wall and looked as if she wanted to drop the shotgun. Helena got the impression that Ramsey was studying them properly for the first time. She didn't say anything, but let out a slow breath and reloaded her pistol. After some consideration she handed Helena a series of thermal clips as well. Helena wasted no time to try and figure out how they worked as Ramsey went to Rinn who had now sank down against the wall with the shotgun resting on her lap. She looked as if she was ready to throw up.

"Do you know how to shoot?" the merc queried, her voice harsh. "Hey!" She gave Rinn a clout next to the ear to bring her focus back. Helena found herself baring her teeth at the merc, but didn't say anything immediately, realising that they might need her. And, it had gotten Rinn's attention. She looked up at Ramsey with bright eyes filled with panic. Helena could see her struggle to formulate words, to focus. Then, she nodded slowly, but grimaced.

"Reload," Rinn began. "I ah... I don't know how to reload. The rest is... This is a shot gun... just point and shoot."

Ramsey nodded, but gave her a suspicious look. "And not when we're in the vicinity," she pointed out. "This one's got a mean kick and spray. Don't shoot one of us. I'll make you regret it..."

Rinn nodded and handed her the shotgun so that she could show her how to reload it. The merc did so slowly and deliberately, then handed Rinn an extra set of clips and turned to Helena.

"You good?"

Helena had managed to get her hands around the mechanism and nodded. "Yes, I just need more clips," she pointed out. "What's happening? What are they doing at the top?"

Ramsey sneered, but answered reluctantly. Helena figured that the woman owed them in some way and hoped that she felt it.

Don't think about this, she told herself. Don't think about what just happened.

"We'll sound an evac," she pointed out. "Get everybody out of the facility and then send in a trained team to see what's going on. Does that sound like a good idea?" The last she said with a touch a venom.

Helena grimaced and thought about the game. She remembered what this was now and she was furious with herself for not thinking about it earlier. On an N7 mission, Shepard came to an abandoned mine and found a reaper artefact. They found no survivors, but found the artefact...

No survivors...

Shepard will come for us.

The two thoughts seemed to come in collision with each other and she forced them both from her mind.

"I think we have to get out of this place," she said. "I think everything that relates to that idea is awesome. Fantastic even."

She knew she had hit the spot when Ramsey smiled at her. "Great," she said. "You two stick close to me, I want to know everything that you do about..."

The elevator jerked and the floor beneath them trembled. Rinn shot up like lightening, fumbling with her gun and then pointing it at the floor.

"It's on the elevator!" Ramsey yelled in surprise. "It's below us! Fuck!"

Helena didn't point her gun at the floor, but found her heart clenching painfully. Fuck, fuck, fuck. The trembling increased and Helena could imagine a million husks banging on the floor, trying to get in. How did they get up so quickly?!

"What do we do?" She asked Ramsey who was looking at the floor with a wild expression. She had her hand on her gun, but wasn't pointing it down either.

"We have to ride this up as far as it goes," she said and motioned to Rinn to step away from the console. "This elevator doesn't go all the way to the top. It only interconnects with another one near the middle. We have... a few more floors to go. This is the only one. It's this or the stairs."

Helena imagined that she felt a thud underneath her foot and shifted again. "Any chance your friends will come down to help us?"

Ramsey shook her head and, for a second, the world felt very, very small.

"We have to get to that second elevator."

Helena watched the mercenary as she moved to the console, her gaze fixed on the numbers. She didn't have the courage to ask her how many levels they still had to go and fixed her attention on the floor, praying that the husks won't be able to come through it. She tried not to think about the fact that she was in an elevator or even in something that might read like horror fiction. All she was focused on was the hope that the husks wouldn't come into the small space with them. The floor seemed to be solid enough though and despite the muted cries and scrapings that they heard, the husks didn't seem capable of tearing through the machinery.

Helena was just about to relax when the elevator lurched suddenly and came to a complete stop. Seconds later, the lights flickered out.

"No!" Ramsey cried in frustration. "No, no, no! Damn it!"

Helena, who had never been fond of elevators, could not mute the terrified moan that escaped her lips. She heard another's ragged breathing in the darkness and knew that Rinn was as terrified as she was. There was a pause and suddenly a light sprang to life within the elevator. Helena blinked twice then saw that it was Ramsey's omnitool that was the source. It dawned on her immediately that she'd be able to do it with the omnitool they had given her as well, but she had no idea where to start.

She didn't say anything as Ramsey ran a diagnostic on the elevator, then tried to get it moving again.

"The power's been cut!" she breathed. "It's difficult to say from what. We're just two levels from where we should be!"

There was a squawk from her radio, barely audible. Helena didn't say anything as Ramsey turned her back to them, speaking into her microphone.

"Captain, please, we've run into a situation... What?!" Helena's stomach sank at the horror in the woman's voice. "No, sir! I have no fucking idea how this could've happened! There were some in the passages below us but... The upper levels? They can't move that fast!"

They're out... Helena thought. The husks are out. They've been waiting for this moment. They could probably come out of that level from the start and have been waiting for the artefact's signal.

She closed her eyes and tried to still her rising panic.

Wake up, she thought futilely. Wake up, please...

When she opened up her eyes again she saw Rinn looking at her in the dim light, the conversation between Ramsey and her superior dim and incomprehensible.

"Lena..." Rinn started, then faltered when there was another serious bump from the floor. Helena looked down at the floor below them then up at the ceiling.

"We..." She started. "We have to get out of here."

"Sir! There won't be enough time!" Ramsey shouted, the conversation coming into focus again. "There won't be time!"

There was a loud blaring alarm suddenly from somewhere above their head. "All personnel, proceed to the exits immediately," a mechanical voice blared. "This is a code red evacuation. All personnel, proceed to the exits immediately. Facility lockdown will commence in T minus twenty minutes. This is a code red evacuation, repeat – a code red evacuation. Full protocol activation for code red will commence in T minus twenty minutes. All personnel, proceed to the exitsimmediately."

Helena did not like the look on Ramsey's face as she looked at the ceiling, her eyes white with fear. She didn't bother talking to her captain anymore, but was looking around the elevator, an edge of hysteria in her gaze.

"What's a code red evacuation?" Rinn asked, her voice hoarse in the semi darkness. "How can they evacuate everybody in twenty minutes?"

"They can't!" Ramsey snapped. "There's not enough time! We HAVE to get out of here! You!" She pointed to Helena. "Come here!" There was a flash in her omnitool light and when Helena stepped up to her, Ramsey shoved a knife into her hands and then interlocked her own fingers.

"There's a hatch on the roof!" she said, nodding her head up at the ceiling. "You, mountain, help me steady her! We only need to climb up two levels! Just two!"

Helena gaped at her for a second, then blinked and put the knife between her teeth, not needing more of an explanation. She put her hands on the mercenary's shoulders and her foot into the stirrup of her hands. She didn't get much time to steady herself, because Ramsey immediately pushed her up into the air. Helena in turn did her best to jump and lighten the load as well. She almost toppled, but then another pair of hands steadied her and she could reach the roof without falling backwards. Helen glanced down briefly to see the whites of Rinn's eyes as her friend secured her grip on her belt. She smiled at her briefly and took the knife from her mouth, feeling along the ceiling until she found a ridge. Struggling to keep her balance, she felt both Rinn and Ramsey shift their grips to keep her more secure. She didn't waste any more time, pushing the knife in between the two panels to try and shift them. It took some maneuvering, but she managed to open it up a slit and get her hand in. It threatened to pinch her fingers, but she put the knife back in her mouth and hooked her other hand around the edge.

"Lemme go!" she mouthed around the knife. "Dwop me!"

She tried to squirm out of their grips even before they stepped away from her. Ramsey did so first with Rinn only a second behind her. Helena had pulled herself up against the panel and, when they let her go, gave the panel a hard jerk. It broke loose, falling to the floor next to them with a loud clash and letting in the faint glow of the elevator shaft's light.

"Excellent!" Ramsey breathed as she helped Helena up. "Now let's..."

A shape fell through the hole and into the elevator, screeching as it did so. Helena had time to yell in surprise when Ramsey suddenly grabbed her and threw her to the floor. There was an ear splitting explosion and Helena was only vaguely aware of a brief shimmer around them as Ramsey's shield blocked the assault. The creature fell screeching, withering on the ground. There was a click as Rinn cocked her shotgun, a pause as she took aim and then another explosion as she shot off the husk's head.

Helena pushed Ramsey off of her and looked at the mess, the mercenary already shooting up as well and training her pistol at the hole. Rinn was staring at the mess, at the dark bits of human and machine like matter that was spread across the floor. She was trembling, her hands shaking so much Helena was surprised she could hold onto the gun.

"Rinn ,it's okay," she said quickly and became faintly aware of the mechanical voice speaking in the distance. "Facility lockdown in T minus eighteen minutes. All personnel, proceed to the exits immediately. This is a code red evacuation..."

"Rinn?"

Helena put a hand on Rinn's and purposefully stepped over the body and into her line of sight. "It's okay Rinn, it's gonna be okay..."

"Red!" Ramsey snapped. "That seems to have been the only one. We need to haul you up onto the roof then you can help us out!"

Helena only had time to briefly make eye contact with Rinn before her sense of panic drove her back to Ramsey. The mercenary had adopted the same pose as before and this time when Helena stepped into her hands the woman pushed her all the way up to the roof. She grabbed the sides of the hole, looked around her for any more husks and then hauled herself out of the elevator. She felt a second set of hands touch her legs and knew that Rinn had somehow managed to pull herself together.

Well done girl, well done...

Now, having managed to pull herself out of the hole, Helena took a second to get her breath back. Her celebration was short lived however as she heard the terrifyingly familiar moan of a husk to her left. Helena grabbed the pistol from her pants and aimed to the right just in time to see a husk crawl its way through a small space between the wall and the elevator. She wasted no time in shooting it in the head, its body now stuck between the elevator and the wall. She heard the two women shout from below her and quickly turned to the hole again.

"I'm fine!" she yelled. "Come on! Who's next?"

Rinn stepped into view and Helena, looking around her to make sure that there were no other husks, held down her hand. Ramsey hauled Rinn up in the same fashion as she had Helena. Helena first grabbed her friend's arm, then, as she was brought closer, hauled her up and grabbed her around her shoulder. They all strained together, and finally, Rinn too was free of their metal prison. Her breathing was as ragged as Helena's, but the ginger took a comfort in the fact that they were both still alive.

"Now me!" Ramsey yelled from below, prompting both of them to stick their heads close to the hole again. Both held out their hands and Ramsey quickly tried to jump up, holding up her arms as she did so. Helena and Rinn each managed to grab one and strained, trying to pull the mercenary and her heavy armour up.

They couldn't.

Helena was the first to let go, unable to take the strain. When she did, Rinn was forced to drop the mercenary as well, unable to hold up her weight.

"Shit," her friend cursed. "We can't..."

"Come on, you two!" Ramsey yelled from the elevator. "Pull me up! Come on! They're starting to come through the floor!"

Rinn instinctively held out her hand again, but Helena experienced a sickening pause in her psyche. For a split second, her world slowed down and she just knew that neither she nor Rinn would be able to pull the woman up. Not like this, not in her armour...

"Fuck!" Rinn snapped. "Helena!"

"YOU TWO, PULL ME UP!"

Helena blew out a breath and blinked, dropping her hand down the hole again, but knowing that it would be futile. Rinn saw the look in her eyes, opened her mouth to say something, and then without warning jumped down into the hole again.

"RINN!" Helena yelled. "What the fuck?!"

She heard Ramsey echo her words as her friend landed beside her.

"I'll push you up!" Rinn said. "Give you more height! Then you can reach the edge yourself and pull up. Helena can help you!" Her voice was echoed by the closer-than-comfort snarls of the husks. Helena stuck her head through the gap and saw the strange way the floor seemed to move and how unsteady Rinn and Ramsey looked.

"RINN!" Helena yelled. "Get your ass up here!"

Her friend was mimicking Ramsey's pose of before. "I'll push you up!" She shouted. "Come on! I'll be easier to pull up!"

The mercenary looked at Rinn as if she had gone mad, but didn't waste any more time to concede to Rinn's request. She put her one foot into Rinn's awaiting arms and Helena braced herself to grab the stranger her friend had just risked her life for.

I'm gonna kill her, she thought. I'm going to fucking kill her...

Ramsey and Rinn moved together, Rinn gathering her strength and hauling the mercenary up who in turn tried to lift herself as much as possible to make the effort easier. Helena reached down, grabbed Ramsey by her collar and...

Rinn cried out in alarm and suddenly they both toppled down. Helena couldn't see anything in the darkness, but she could hear the husks crying out in triumph. Her friend screamed suddenly, in agony, and then Ramsey was up, hauling Rinn by her shoulders. It was hard to tell but Helena got the impression that Rinn's leg had sank through the floor.

Right to where the husks were.

Ramsey yanked at Rinn, trying to haul her to her feet, but she seemed stuck, her mouth open and screaming. Helena too was screaming, though she had no idea when she had started calling her friend's name. She was hanging half into the hole now as well, reaching out and desperately trying to grab something of the pair.

The mercenary grunted, strained and then, with a terrible cry, tore Rinn free of the hole she had sunk through. Rinn was still screaming, her body bend double as she tried to grab her leg. Ramsey had her pistol out and was firing at the hole and Helena was still screaming, shouting her friend's name.

It was the depths of hell and her friend was trapped in it.

"Get up!" Ramsey yelled. "Get up, you fucking bitch! Get up!" When she had shot everything that moved within the elevator Ramsey bent down and grabbed Rinn's fallen shotgun, tossing it up to Helena. That shut her up and she instinctively lunged for the weapon, snatching it out of the air and then putting it beside her. She was about to move back to the hole when two pale hands touched the sides.

"Help her!" Ramsey yelled from the bottom. "Fucking grab her and pull!"

Helena blinked and grabbed the first thing she could which was a tuft of dark hair. The figure yelled, Rinn yelled, out in pain, quickly making Helena loosen her grip and grab her shirt instead. For the second time in as many minutes, she pulled her friend out of the elevator, her body taunt and once again threatening to bend double with pain.

"Get off the elevator!" Ramsey yelled from the darkness. "Take her! Move, Red!"

Helena moved quickly, struggling up and pulling Rinn along with her. Adrenaline had taken over and her eyes were hardly processing anything as she scrambled up towards a dimly lit ladder. Rinn was choking, stumbling, barely able to put weight on her leg. At the ladder, Helena pushed her ahead of her, forcing her to start climbing, yelling unintelligible words. When Rinn didn't start moving fast enough she pushed her up, forcing her to move up four steps. Then, Helena went back for the shotgun and shoved it underneath her one arm. With the sheer force of her will, she pushed Rinn ahead of her, up the ladder and, when they were about half a level up, she shouted the words which she instinctively knew would seal the woman's fate that had saved them both.

"We're clear!"

There was a pause, long enough for Helena to move herself over Rinn and grab a hold of the ladder's sides, pressing her friend against it. She thought that she heard a whimper perhaps, a human voice breathing its last amidst those who no longer could, and then the elevator exploded, the force of it nearly knocking both her and Rinn off the ladder.

There was a terrible noise, unearthly cries and then the fireball dropped down the shaft to depth where this nightmare had started.