Breaking the Cycle

Disclaimer: I own nothing


The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed. -Marshall Mathers


The first thing I'm aware is the very loud explosion that shakes the world around me like an earthquake. The hard ground beneath me that was definitely not my couch seems to tremble from the sound.

That woke me up. I was scrambling to my feet in an instant. A million things running through my mind at once. Like 'Where the hell was I?' and 'Why were people trying to blow me up?!'

I wait for my vision stop being fuzzy and groggy so that I'm able to discern my surroundings. Fortunately, I don't have to wait long. Unfortunately, I'm not in my apartment.

"HIT THE DECK!" I hear a hoarse voice shout. Well, that voice sounded too close for comfort! Doing my best to ignore the instinct telling me to run that's ringing like a warning bell in my head, I hit the ground face first and quickly cover my head with my hands.

The explosion that sounds afterwards can only be described as cataclysmic. The world around me was momentarily deafened as it shook. A plethora of small objects rain down on me and a few very sizable chunks impact against my back. Something large and painful hit my head and the world went dark.

Idiot! wake up! You have to keep moving!

Five more minutes...

Fool, your ass is about to be fried chicken if you don't start moving! Up up up!

That particularly colorful mental prod wakes me. When I open my eyes again, everything is muted and there's a persistent high-pitched whistle in my ears that won't go away. My head feels like a dead weight and there's a dull throb echoing in my right temple. I reach up to feel my forehead, flinching as my fingers came away bloody.

That definitely can't be good. My brain isn't really thinking right. It's like that time I got my wisdom teeth pulled out and after the surgery I was only vaguely aware of my friend leading me stumbling, back to our flat.

Only this was a lot less fun.

And much more painful.

Clenching my teeth in an effort to ignore the dull throbbing in my head, I pull myself into a kneeling position. Immediately, I'm thankful I didn't try to stand right away because a sense of vertigo sends me straight back onto my face. You know, this dirt isn't that unpleasant. Maybe I can just lay here a bit longer? Catch up on some sleep.

Lazy ass, keep moving!

Somehow I manage to stand without careening over. My eyes scan around trying to get a better feel for what the hell I'm doing, only it's like looking at things through a fish bowl.

All I can make out is that I'm standing in the middle of a dirt road with white box like buildings on either side of me. The sky tinged orange signifying the sun was setting.

Are those buildings on fire? Dammit, can't see a thing. Judging from the heat radiating off them, I'm going to assume that they are, in fact, on fire.

I don't even recognize them. They looked vaguely familiar, but I'm sure they weren't in my neighborhood. Come to think of it, I don't even remember a dirt road being anywhere near my apartment. What was I doing last? Sleeping, right? I had been lying in the couch. I closed my eyes...

And woke up here.

That's just dandy.

I turn to my side only to see the area between two buildings covered by twisted steel and caved in walls. Wait, had that been a building? What the hell...?

It's then that the smell hits me like a wall. The smell of burning metal and flesh.

Rubbing my eyes furiously for a final time, my vision clears for me to see that I'm not in any immediate danger. At least not yet. There's no one around me that is currently trying to kill me, so I'm going to assume I am not in any danger. But that also makes me wonder what the hell just almost blew me up? Was it that building? And more importantly; WHERE THE HELL WAS I?

I half stumble half walk through the remains of the completely obliterated building, and, consequently, towards the sound of gunfire. I would probably look back on this moment one day and wonder what the hell enthralled me to head towards the sound of bullets, but right now my brain was convinced that it was the best course of action.

Logic be damned.

I slowly creep through what might have been the kitchen area of the gutted structure, possessing enough sense to at least approach this from a stealth like prospective. An exploded sink rained water droplets down around me, sprinkling my leather jacket and the rest of my clothes, that I had failed to take off last night. Emerging onto a wider, main street, I find my answer as to who was shooting.

What I saw was a group of men and woman taking cover behind a set of crates and another group of consisting of strange bald, four-eyed men hiding and pouring fire down on the men and woman from the safety of barricades.

Wait... batarians? Were those batarians? From the Mass Effect games?

The hell...?

Oh, that explains it. I'm dreaming. That has to be it. One too many nights playing those damn games on insanity and suddenly they fill my head.

It's then that one of the batarians seems to notice me. And suddenly the entire group appears to be hellbent on making me look like swiss cheese.

Shit! I quickly weave erratically through the street, avoiding the fire that is now solely concentrated on me and attempting to meet up with the group not trying to kill me. Where the fuck was I?!

I wince in pain as one of the bullets narrowly grazes my cheek. Holy shit, a couple inches to the left and that would have been it. The bullet shouldn't of hurt. This was a dream, but my cheek still stung. That can't be-

Another bullet grazes against my shoulder, leaving a shallow trench and I instinctively cover it with my hand.

Shit! That hurt!

Okay, this blows the whole dream theory right out of the water.

I dive the last few feet, landing ungracefully on my stomach, knocking the remaining air out of me while my face slides into the dirt. I personally am just glad to finally make it to safety. I hear a strange mechanical sound and glance up to see the about five unfamiliar guns being pointed at me. Well, I may have misinterpreted the definition of 'safety'.

"Stop! He's human!" A voice, the same one that yelled for everyone to hit the deck earlier, calls out over the group. I can't help but let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding, when the guns retract from my face. I reach in the dirt until my hand finds my glasses and place them securely back onto my face.

A few sighs of relief escape the men and women as well. I notice on closer inspection that many of the members of the group look a little worse for wear. There are five of them; three of which are sporting numerous wounds, and two who should definitely not be holding guns, let alone be in the middle of a war zone. Those two look to be around eighty years old and that's being generous.

A hand suddenly grabs me around the scruff of my shirt and hauls me firmly, but not roughly, to my feet. And I find myself staring at a man with broad shoulders and dark green eyes. He has a horrible gash running across his neck that should probably have caused him to bleed out by now, but a gel like substance seems to have stemmed the bleeding.

"What's your name, son." There's that voice again, nice to know there's a face behind that voice of reason. He must be leading this rag tag group. Or at least that's what I assume. He's the one who seems to be taking charge in this crisis and he has this air of authority around him.

"Matthew Carter, sir." I reply with an even tone that I feel a little proud of holding despite the dire circumstances. But my voice sounds odd to my ears, not quite right. Maybe that explosion did something to my ears. Or maybe I've just finally snapped and gone insane. I'll determine that later.

"I don't recognize him from any of the other farm holds, sir. You with the traders, kid?" Another person, a dark skinned woman who was sporting a bloody bandage wrapped around her forearm, asked curiously.

I bristle a bit at the mention of kid. I'm twenty-two. Hell, I am probably around her age.

I keep my thoughts to myself, however, and just nod my head dumbly. What was I supposed to say? 'Nah, I'm actually looking for my apartment, have you seen it? It looks nothing like this dump. Could you also explain to me why video game characters were trying to kill me? That'd be great, thanks.'

Yeah, no. That wasn't happening. I may have just recently suffered a blow to the head, possibly more than one, but I wasn't that out of it. Yet. I just needed to figure out what was going on here.

Wait. Did she say farm hold? So these... are farmers? Well they sure look like farmers, except the man with dark green eyes. He carries himself... differently. I can't explain it he just seems more tense and ready like my father used to look.

Something about this just tickles at the back of my mind. Like a memory just out of grasp. Weird since I know for a fact, I've never seen him before in my life.

The leader of the group laid his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes with a sympathetic look, "I'm sorry, son. We just saw the traders freighter ship get hit by a shell and go down while trying to lift off. They never had a chance."

Freighter ship? As in space ship? I know for a fact that humanity hasn't come so far technologically, for space travel to be common place. Then again, there were batarians trying to kill us, so I guess reason and logic was taking a day off.

How am I supposed respond to this, anyway? People I just claimed to be my family just died in attempt to avoid this mess. I guess I should be shocked? Sad? Everything's just happening to fast. I need some time to think. Figure out where the I am and what the hell is going on!

I shake my head in an attempt to get my thoughts in order. This was no time to panic. I need to get my shit together, "Okay, just tell me what's going on and how I can help."

The leader looked a little taken aback by my forced calmness, and to be honest I am too, though he immediately regains his composure of control and authority, "Batarians came out of nowhere and just started attacking the colony. New Rosa and the port were hit first and we lost all communications with the other settlements."

Well, that settles it.

I've gone off the deep end.

Insanity aside, I remember enough about the Batarians from the games to know that a lot of them are pirates, slavers, and just generally assholes. So that means that what ever the hell is going on, I should take my chances with the humans, right? As if I had much of a choice.

Another person, an old man with a long Gandalf-ish beard, interjects himself into the conversation, "But the Alliance will come for us. We just have to wait it out." The old man glares at the leader who glares right back. It appears there is some disagreement in the group. If it weren't for the old man's awesome beard I'd be tempted to side with the leader.

"Our families our depending on us, James! We just need to buy them time to get to safety." The old man, James, wilts under the younger man's glare.

Just then, a guttural war cry echoes throughout the street. I sneak a look around the cluster of crates with the rest of the group only to see eight charging batarians heading straight for us. The entire group reacts as expected and opens fire on the suicidal chargers.

Only the batarians don't immediately fall down from the combined assault of three pistols and two rifles. A protective like bubble appears seemingly out of thin air around each of them and absorbs the bullets. The group only succeeds in bringing down two batarians before their upon us.

Unfortunately, for me one of the batarians notices that I am regrettably without a weapon and he charges right for me.

For all of you who have never had a batarian decked in full blade armor shoulder check you, here's a bit of perspective: imagine a charging, human sized, four-eyed rhino. Now imagine that rhino has sharp spines extending from every point in their body and has the ability to wield a gun. Yeah, you can imagine my terror.

"What the fu-!" was all I could get out before an armored shoulder slams into my chest. The sounding of ripping leather tears through the air and I thank every deity I can think of that I chose not to change out of my clothes yesterday. That could just have easily been my flesh. The force of the blow still sends me stumbling backwards.

I take the split-second I have to observe the others only to realize that I'm not getting help anytime soon. They're all to busy with their own fights or with helping each other. No love for the trader kid, I suppose.

The batarian holsters his pistol and spits on the ground. A guttural sound comes from his mouth and it takes me a moment to realize he's talking.

I'm not sure, but I think he just insulted me.

"I'm sorry, what?!"

His eyes scan me in an appraising manner, and I have to fight down a disgusted shiver. What the hell is wrong with this guy? He then produces out a collar type object from his belt. He points from the object than to me.

A collar? He was going to put me in a collar?

For figments of my imagination, these guys were real dicks.

"Try it, asshole. I've been having one hell of a day." I growl back. There it was again; my voice just didn't sound right. Deciding to ignore it, I raise my hands in my best boxing stance. I'm sure I look ridiculous, but after everything so far, I lack the will power to give a damn.

He charges again, but this time, I'm ready for him. Time to see what all that boxing with dad amounted too.

Right before he comes within grappling distance of me, I sidestep his desperate tackle attempt. Timing the distance just right and gathering every bit of strength I have, I slam his face with the best left hook I've ever thrown.

My fist connects solidly with his bottom right eye and he immediately crumples to the ground, howling in pain.

HOLY HELL! THAT HURT!

I cringe and start shaking my hand. A bit of blood drips through my fingers from the split knuckles I now have. Crap, I never actually hit anyone that hard before. Without boxing gloves at least. Note to self: avoid doing that again.

The batarian attempts to get back on his hands and knees and I respond by kicking him the side causing him to roll on his back. Ow! Shit! Right. Forgot he had blade armor. Now there was a big hole in my favorite set of sneakers. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I than wisely and cautiously place my foot on his unprotected neck. The message was, I hope, clear. He moves and I treat his windpipe like a spider on my apartment floor and curb stomp the shit out of him.

Three of his eyes glare up at me. The bottom right one is closed and already red and puffy. He would have one hell of a shiner tomorrow. The batarian sneers as his right hand reaches up to grab at my foot. I'm about to make good on my threat, but what I didn't see was his left hand dart for my other foot, the one holding my balance. A second later, I'm on the ground wrestling with the slaver. You know, in retrospect, I really should have done wrestling in high school.

Somehow, after a very brutal elbow to the jaw, (I really hope it's not broken. I kinda need my jaw), he winds up on top of me with his knees pinning down my shoulders. I feel every cut and bruise from our struggle, most caused by his blade armor. Ugh, my entire body feels sore.

"You know, normally don't get this friendly till the second date." I choke out with his hand clasped around my throat.

Suddenly, he reaches for something at his waist, and a collar of some sorts comes into my vision.

Oh... He was going to enslave me. Right. Not good. Very not good.

My mind instantly went to the memory of that poor girl that was from the first game if Shepard had been a colonist. The one who had been enslaved for so long she developed stockholm syndrome.

The mere thought of being some kind of servant for batarians so soon after waking up this morning sends me into a panic.

Thats when it really drives home for me. This was real. I felt his calloused hands choking me and every bruise and cut I got since waking up in this place.

This. Was. Real.

I renew my struggle with increased vigor, no longer caring about the pointed edges of his armor cutting and stabbing into me. I try to reach for the pocket knife that I always carry around in the front pocket of my jacket, but the batarian's knees were restricting my movements. Dammit, if I had only brought it out in the first place maybe I could have avoided this mess. Stupid, stupid!

My fists slam against his sides, but to little avail. Panic and desperation in my system spike to an almost impossible level. Suddenly my hands find the miracle that would save me. Relief replaces the panic so fast, it's laughable!

The collar comes closer towards my neck, but I immediately break into a fit of hysterical laughter. Damn, I'm actually tearing up.

The batarian appears completely taken aback by my response, his hands still poised to secure the collar around my neck, but then he sneers cruelly down at me, and probably says the batarian equivalent to, 'What's so funny?'

"Just this," I respond by pressing the barrel of the pistol I found at his hip against his side. It is probably the single most relief filled moment of my life. There isn't even time for his eyes to widen as I pull the trigger. His shield never even had a chance to stop the bullet. The slaver immediately rolls off of me, clutching his side and howling in pain.

A sudden burst of adrenaline fuels my next moves and I crash down on top of him with my knees pinning down his arms. One wrapped around his neck and the other pressing the muzzle of my newly acquired pistol against his forehead.

Well, that just happened.

He stares up at me, the condescending look gone from his face. An expression of fear and pain dominating his features.

What now?

He tried to take you as a slave. Kill him. He deserves it.

Who was I to pass judgement on him? He was just doing his job, right?

Think of the hundreds he's probably already killed or enslaved. You'd be doing the galaxy a favor.

The hand holding the gun starts to shake

He wouldn't hesitate to do the same to you.

My grip tightens.

Do it.

No.

The pistol lowers a bit and I ease my grip. I'm just a college student, a nobody. I couldn't just kill him. It wasn't right. Even if he did try to enslave me.

Suddenly his arm gets free of my relaxed knee and a knife springs into existence in the palm of his hand. It arced straight towards my side.

There was no time to think. I bring the pistol back up and, without even comprehending what I was about to do, I pulled the trigger.

Batarian blood soaks into my crimson t-shirt, and flecks of it showered over my face. That seems to shock me out adrenaline driven panic. My mouth drops open and runs dry as I regard the now headless corpse. I slowly release my grip I have on his stump of a neck, my hands slightly shaking.

Something cold and heavy settles in my chest.

A wave of nausea hits me and I lean to the side and empty the contents of my stomach.

The panic and adrenaline were gone now, but they were replaced by cold shock and the horrible self-loathing at having just killed another man.

I wasn't- I shouldn't be capable of that, right? This wasn't me. I wasn't a killer. A murderer.

Though the headless corpse seemed to blare the contrary.

My fault. All my fault. If I hadn't of relaxed he wouldn't have gotten free and tried too- Dammit it all to hell and back! Why did he even try- Why'd he make me-

This wasn't me. It couldn't be.

Why not?

Because- this- It's all wrong! Let me wake up! This has to be some kind of nightmare.

Only I don't wake up.

This was very very real.

This was me murdering a man in cold-blood.

This was me killing an batarian who's look of fear still burned into my retinas as I pressed the muzzle of the pistol against his head. The pistol still wrapped tightly in my hand. I turn and chuck it as far away from me as possible as if it were poison.

I slump back onto my ass and crawl a bit backwards on my hands to put as much distance between myself and the dead slaver. My eyes are still glued to his corpse, though I'm not really seeing it, I'm just staring blankly. I tilt my head to the side again before emptying the contents of my stomach one last time. Wiping the corner of my mouth on the sleeve of my torn-to-pieces jacket, I suddenly feel incredibly dirty and covered in blood. Mostly because I am, but it still felt horrendous. Like it was stained into my skin.

The first thing I do is take off my glasses and wipe the blood from them. I don't know why, it just felt right to hold onto something familiar. It was a trivial thing, but something that I was familiar with.

One of the lenses was cracked in the scuffle and the metal frame looks completely bent beyond repair, but miraculously, they still work. My vision just isn't as clear. I scrub furiously with my thumb and forefinger, but I can't seem to get off any of the blood. It just ends up smearing.

Monster. Killer. Murderer.

Unexpectedly, the weight of a hand settles upon my shoulder. I put my glasses back on and look up to see the leader staring back at me with a hard expression painted on his face.

He nods solemnly at the headless corpse, "I'm sorry you had to see this, kid, but ya need to realize you had no other choice."

Despite his reassurance, I can't stop feeling utterly disgusted with myself. There's always a choice. I stare at the corpse a bit longer before shakily standing to my feet. The hand slips from my shoulder and I turn around to face the man fully. I almost wish I hadn't.

His entire front is covered in blood and I have a feeling not all of it is batarian blood. I'm sure look just as bad, it's what's behind him that causes my eyes to widen. Behind him, leaning against the crates, are the rest of the group. At first glance they appear to be sleeping, but I know better. Their bodies are peppered with holes and a few had their throats slashed.

The scorch marks and batarian corpses decorating the ground around us tells me they went down fighting.

The entire scene makes bile rise in my throat and I have to fight the urge to vomit again. Holy hell, is this what war really looks like? They were just alive a few seconds ago. I was talking to them just a couple seconds ago. They couldn't be dead.

All those movies you watched as kid, about war and soldiers. Yeah, they don't do it any justice. There's just something about the blatant violence and carnage of the aftermath that hollywood just can't ever capture on camera.

It then dawned on me how extremely lucky I was. The batarian who came after me thought he could take me prisoner. He could have easily killed me. Their's didn't take that same chance.

Those thoughts only make me feel much worse and I quickly cut my self-loathing off before I become a completely useless wreck. Pull yourself together, idiot. Just... just focus on finding out what's going on. One thing at a time.

"I'm sorry about your friends." the words tumble from my mouth mechanically, as I nod towards the dead farmers. My throat is scratchy from vomiting, but the words are still clear.

He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, "There used to be twenty of us and we first made our stand at the very center of New Rosa." He then shakes his head.

I nod numbly, not looking away from the line of dead farmers.

"Snap out of it, kid. I need you to do something for me." I turn my attention back to the man in front of me, and look at him clearly. He's tired. Very tired. And he has this strange look. This resigned stare. But also determined and ready to take on anything the world throws at him.

I swallow the last of the bile rising in my throat to clear it. To hell with this. I just want to get home. But he was right. I need to pull myself together. Whether I like it or not, I seemed to have found myself in some kind of Mass Effect war zone and if I want to survive I need to figure out what's going on.

"I'm good, sir." I reply hastily, determined to make myself at least look professional and useful. I gingerly reach down and retrieve a folded up rifle from the ground, careful to avoid the dead batarian bodies. The weapon is heavier than I expected, but not unmanageable.

It only takes me a few seconds to realize I had absolutely no idea how to work this thing. Dad taught me and my brothers how to handle a hunting rifle, but this futuristic gun didn't even have any sights. How is anyone even supposed to aim this thing? And where the hell was the clip supposed to go? Oh wait... that's right. This must be sometime before Mass Effect 2 meaning that it worked on an internal heat sink. Or something. I never payed much attention to the inner workings of the game. Now was the time to start kicking myself for not reading all those codex entries.

At least I had some general idea for when I was. Now I just had to determine where and when exactly.

First things first though; I should probably figure out how to unfold the damn thing.

Okay, that looks like the safety, so is this...?

I press a button near the grip and the rifle unfolds in my hands. Heh! I am a genius! Suck on that future!

Not like it'll do me any good without some form of aiming, but I'll take what I can get.

These were just excuses, though. If I was being honest with myself, I don't think I even want to be near any sorts of firearms. Not after what I just did to that batarian. I can't even imagine pulling a trigger again.

"Good," the man sighs as he hoists his own rifle across his shoulder, apparently oblivious to my inner conflict. "This may help though." He then reaches to flips a catch on the rounded top of rifle revealing a built in holographic sight and causing me to blink in bewilderment. How come they never showed this in the game?

Dang it Bioware. Why are you making me look incompetent?

He then reaches for something at his neck line, just below the bloody gash, and tears off a set of dog tags, "I need you to run as far as you can and as fast as you can. Don't worry about the batarians I'll cover you. We sent our families and those not able to fight into the forests, but I'm sure the slavers have already caught up to a few of them." He then gently takes my wrist away from my rifle and opens the palm of my hand. I watch transfixed as he slips the dog tags into my hand. He closes up the hand again. For a man so obviously battle-tested, he is surprisingly altruistic.

"I need you to protect as many of families left as possible," He orders in the voice akin to a drill sergeant, but then in a quieter voice he continues, "And if possible bring these back to my family." I nod in acknowledgement as I slip them into my jean pocket.

He then seems to get an idea, "Your omni-tool? Can I see it?"

My what? He must notice my confused look. "You do have an omni-tool, right kid?" He says incredulously.

I shake my head. He blinks and then mutters something that sounds suspiciously like, 'kids these days'. "Alright, I'm going to record a message on my omni-tool. After that you can have the damn thing. Not like I'll need it soon anyways. Just don't break it, it's new." An orange hologram flickers across his hand. He then looks at me a bit sheepishly, "Do ya mind, giving me some space?"

I nod in understanding and step back a bit, or as much as I can in the ten square feet of space the crates provide as cover. I turn my back on him.

I figure I might as well make myself useful so I start to watch the opposite end of the street. A few bullets fly past my head as I quickly duck back behind cover. Shit! That was not pleasant! Not pleasant at all! I reach my rifle around the corner and spray randomly in the general direction of the batarian's cover.

The rifle butt kicks back slamming against my shoulder. A deafening crack fills my ears and I flinch out of habit.

Holy crap this rifle packs a punch! It took me days to get used to a shotgun's recoil, so that didn't bother me, it was the loud crack when you fired that scared the shit out of me. Need to get used to that if I want to be somewhat useful in the future. And I thought the modern firearms made me flinch.

I look back at the man who was about to sacrifice himself. He continues to whisper into the orange hologram in a low and soothing tones while I continue to feel incredibly uncomfortable. This is a private moment and I'm a complete stranger. Hell, I don't even know his name. This is wrong. Very wrong.

Then again, nothing has been right since I woke up here.

I only catch pieces of his message, and I try to tune it out. The words aren't meant for me.

He turns back towards me and holds out to me a wrist band like object. I take it and slip it around my wrist. It's an odd thing, it seems to be made out of chrome like metal but it acts like elastic. There's also a wire type thing that apparently wraps around my middle finger.

On a hunch, I flick my middle finger until the wire is pulled taught. An orange hologram extends across my forearm. The inner tech nerd in me was currently having a seizure at the thought of having access to the machine, but I know that now isn't the time to start playing with futuristic tech. I flick my middle finger again and the hologram disappears.

"You can tell them yourself, sir."

A dry chuckle escapes his cracked a bloody lips, "You're an alright, kid, Carter." He says cheerily clapping me hard on the back, which nearly sends me toppling to the ground again, "My daughter's around your age." He gives me a sad smile, "Under different circumstances, I bet you two could have been fast friends. Maybe you still can be."

Why was everyone taking cracks at my age? Seriously I was twenty-fucking-two-

Wait. I have been feeling shorter and a bit... softer in the midsection. My clothes felt a bit looser, and my reflexes weren't at all like they should have been. My hand casually reaches up towards my head and I feel long hair through my fingers. I haven't kept it this long since... since I was sixteen? Seventeen?

Ah goddammit.

The man pats my shoulder one more time, obviously oblivious to the situation I was in. He gives me another sad smile, before shouldering his rifle and heading back to his position against the crates, "I'll give you cover fire. As soon as I give the order. You start running." he calls back, not looking at me.

I can't let this happen it wasn't right. I shake my head before realizing he can't see the gesture, "Sir, we can-."

"And enough of this 'sir' bullshit," he calls back in a reprimanding yet good natured tone, "I haven't been in the Alliance for ten years now. The name's Martin Shepard."

I just stare at the back of the man as he peers around the crates, my mouth suddenly dry.

It was only then that it all clicked in my head. This is Mass Effect. And I am on Mindoir. I am on Mindoir during the freaking batarian slavers attack.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, I am so screwed.

And I just met Commander Shepard's father. It could just be a coincidence. Shepard wasn't that uncommon of a name. Still, what are the fucking odds?

Under normal circumstances I would totally be having a nerdgasm. But these weren't normal circumstances. This was me letting another man take the fall while I run away. I can't let that happen. It just wasn't right.

This is not what I would imagine when being trapped in a game.

"We get out of this together, Shepard. I can help." Wow that sounded incredibly weird. Good weird. But still extremely weird. I can thank my family for one thing, teaching me to use my best outside voice. It is surprisingly easy to learn when your father treats you like a soldier. It sounds strange coming from a sixteen year old, but it still makes Martin Shepard stand a bit straighter.

Of course an annoying voice in the back of my head that sounded suspiciously like my father quickly chimes in.

Ha! What do you mean by 'help'? Your skill with a gun is almost nonexistent. How many times out hunting did you nearly shoot yourself? You'd be doing the batarians a favor by even trying.

Shut the hell up, I'm awesome.

Suddenly an idea comes to life in my head. It's crazy, borderline suicidal, but it just may work. "Do you have any spare kinetic barriers?" I ask, glancing towards the dead colonists. I didn't feel like scavenging from a corpse, but for my plan to work, I'd need one.

Shepard nodded, a bit taken aback, "We all had one, not that they did us any good at close range."

I nod before hesitantly bending down in front of one of the dead colonists. I noticed they all wore the same kind of belts. I hope I'm not making a complete ass of myself by just looting a random article of clothing. I give Shepard a questioning look as a I remove the belt from the colonist formerly known as James and he nods his head in confirmation. Right, this must be it.

Mr. Shepard seem to look at me in a new light. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You sure you're a trader, kid?"

"Are you fit to run?" I ask, deciding to ignore the question.

Shepard nods, suddenly all business and not at all fazed by my dismissal of his question, "No. Maybe. Medi-gel's holding me together. Most of my necks fine, despite the gash, but I think one of the batarian's blade armor pierced deep enough to nick a lung." He smiled ruefully, "Should have worn a leather jacket. That old relic must have saved you from the worst of it."

Shit, "Okay, how many batarians are there behind that barricade," I gesture down the street.

"There were eighteen and we just took out eight. I don't think they'll be getting reinforcements, these kinds of pirates only work in small strike teams, so we only have to deal with ten.

"Good," I nod before taking my position by his side. Ten against two weren't the best odds, but what else could we do? I then point towards down the road towards the tree line at the end of the road. It looked to be about ten maybe fifteen meters away. "I can sprint like mad towards the forest and take up a position in the trees. They'll follow. They don't know there's two of us. You can feign death. Once the batarians get to the very middle of the street we rain hell on them."

Before I even finish that last sentence, Martin Shepard shakes his head, "That's suicide kid. And every moment we waste here is a moment the families remain unprotected. Besides, I can't ask you to risk your life for me. I'll probably bleed out soon anyways."

"That's not true! We can get out of this and save your family!" I insist desperately. No kid should have to grow up without their father. It's just not right. And if I remember Mindoir correctly, Shepard doesn't have any family left after this. She deserves better.

"You're a brave kid. A smart kid. And I'm starting to think there's more to you than ya led us to believe." Martin Shepard smiled and with a curious look in his eyes, "But ya can't save everybody. If you try to do more than you're capable of, you'll just end driving yourself insane or getting yourself killed."

He's right. I know he's right, but that still doesn't make it any easier.

He then turned back to looking behind the crates, "Looks like their about to make another charge. "When I give the signal, start running." Martin Shepard then starts counting down on his fingers from three before I can protest.

Three...

I lean my head back against the crates, keeping an eye on his hand. I can't believe I'm just leaving him like this. In this universe for like ten minutes and a guy is already dying for me. What the hell is wrong with this picture?

Two...

I tighten the grip on my acquired rifle and brace my foot against the ground.

One!

Pushing off from the crates I take off running down the street, immediately hearing the sound of rifles being discharged as resounding cracks echo between the buildings. A multitude of flashes race past me and disappear into the growing tree line. I see my shields flicker around me until all the bullets racing past me stop. I still hear the sound of a firefight, but now the batarians seem to be distracted by something else.

Then, as I reach the forrest, the gunfire goes silent. A muffled grunt of pain and the faint sound of something hitting the ground hard is the last thing that reaches my ears before I break into the tree line.

I don't look back. I just continue running hellbent on finding Shepard. The one who was going to be the savior of the galaxy. Not the one who just gave his life for mine.


Author Note: I'd like to thank Endrius for catching one of my probably many mistakes.

I'll try to make sure that doesn't happen again, I thought I edited that. Thanks again

Stay classy.