Fight for the Lost

Awakening

Location: Lazarus Research Station

Miranda Lawson. One of Cerberus’ top operatives. A woman with a reputation for getting the job done, regardless of the odds. Taking on the most difficult assignments from the Illusive Man himself, she completed her missions with cold efficiency. Some would say she was the consummate professional, the best operative Cerberus had. Others would see her as a cold, unfeeling machine. The less polite would simply say ‘bitch’.

None of that mattered as Miranda looked down at the operating table before her. By the Illusive Man’s orders, she had been made director of Project Lazarus, of the Lazarus Cell. Virtually unlimited credits, the best scientific minds, and the latest cutting-edge technology bought, stolen, or forced into her service, all combined to achieve what should have been impossible.

Bringing the dead back to life.

Such were the dreams of mortals across countless ages on Earth: the ability to conquer death. That was the mission Miranda had been given—make a dream become a reality.

She continued to study the body before her. With the death of the Reaper Sovereign, Shepard would have no doubt made an enemy more powerful than anyone dared to imagine. Had the Illusive Man predicted his demise? Or had he simply been exercising caution?

Having studied her orders, the resources and time needed to bring Commander Shepard back would be staggering. More so than any operation she had ever been a part of or had even heard about. Turning to the lead medical technician, she asked, “Can it be done?”

Looking up from his work, Dr. Wilson regarded Miranda cautiously. Despite her beauty, he knew that any untoward behavior would result in swift retribution. Keeping his eyes firmly above her neck, Wilson nodded. “Most of the physical damage is what we expected. Physical trauma from the explosions, mainly, but the exposure to the sub-zero temperatures of space…”

Miranda nodded as she turned toward a nearby console. After poring over the technical data and calculations, she asked, “Will organ and tissue growth be sufficient?”

Wilson shrugged. “Maybe, but considering the damage here, we may need to consider cybernetic implants as well to supplement and assist the functions of organs and muscles. Unfortunately, the level of tech to put in him will be extremely sophisticated. Some of the stuff might be impossible to try to use.”

She waved off his concern. “We’ll get whatever is necessary, Wilson. If we don’t have it, we’ll get it. If it doesn’t exist, we’ll make it. What I want to know, right now, is: can it be done? Yes or no?” Her piercing gaze demanded a clear answer.

Knowing only one answer to be the right one, Wilson simply said, “Yes.”

She continued to gaze at him for what seemed like an eternity before saying into a recording device, “Commander Shepard has been recovered. The Lazarus Project will proceed as planned.”

~o~O~o~

Over the next two years, Project Lazarus continued. Miranda oversaw every part personally. If there was anything that she didn’t know, she learned it. If there was anything that she didn’t understand, she educated herself. Over the next two years, she studied everything involving Project Lazarus. From molecular biology, to cellular anatomy, to bio-synthetic augmentation; everything was learned.

The Illusive Man had forwarded all of Shepard’s operational history to her. His health records, his past life, his skills as a soldier and infiltrator, and every mission he’d taken part in for the Alliance and as a Spectre were catalogued and memorized. Her goals were clear: when Shepard woke up, he would be the same man; same personality, same morals, and—most importantly—the same potential. Nothing less than what he had been, or the project would be a failure.

Every report she had brought to the Illusive Man thus far had gotten positive results. Despite her personal fears about the budget given, the Illusive Man had simply stated, “Get the job done. No matter the cost.” Just like that, her request for more credits or technology would be granted.

However, the enormous cost of Project Lazarus drove Miranda harder. After putting in so much time and money—Cerberus’ time and money—she knew, out of all the missions she had been given, this was the one that she would not fail.

~o~O~o~

Shepard had suffered multiple breaks up and down his skeletal structure, organs, and tissues.

With so much dead tissue, cybernetics were the start of resurrection, helping to supplement tissue growth and healing. Drugs were used within the circulatory system to restore red blood cells and blood flow. Implants along key areas of the nervous system allowed for skeletal repair and movement, as well as a steady heartbeat. Finally, nanomachines were injected into the brain to repair it and restart neurological functions.

What was most amazing, however, was the discovery of element zero nodules throughout his nervous system. Shepard was an undiscovered biotic. Upon further examination, the nodules were found to be very small and easily missed. Per the Illusive Man’s orders, experimental L5x biotic amps were installed in addition to the cybernetic implants. Utilizing all their knowledge of biotics from multiple experiments Miranda hadn’t even known existed, they cultured the nodules within Shepard with further exposure to element zero.

~o~O~o~

Pain. The only other thing that had hurt nearly as bad had been the Prothean beacon. The pain Shepard was feeling now was far worse than that had been. It felt like a herd of krogan were dancing up and down all over his body.

Dimly, Shepard heard voices and forced his eyes open to look around. A woman’s voice, an accent he couldn’t place…. “There. On the monitor. Something’s wrong.”

Wrong? Where am I? What’s going on?

Another voice, male. “He’s reacting to outside stimuli. Showing an awareness of his surroundings.”

Shepard’s eyes adjusted to the bright lights around him, but the rest of his body seemed unresponsive. Turning his head, he heard the male voice say, “My God, Miranda. I think he’s waking up.”

Looking to his left, he saw a figure dressed in white with black sleeves. Everything was blurry, but long, black hair was easily identified. Turning to his right, he saw a bald man with a neatly trimmed beard staring down at him. A strange emblem on his shoulder, not Alliance….

The woman spoke again, her voice cross. “Damn it, Wilson! He’s not ready yet. Give him the sedative!”

Shepard looked back to his left to see the woman again. Probably in charge, his foggy mind thought. The woman bent down over him as he tried to reach out to her.

“Shepard, don’t try to move,” the woman—Miranda?—tried to reassure.

Shepard could hear his heart beating rapidly, his breath becoming faster.

Miranda grabbed his flailing left arm and gently, but forcefully placed it back on the table. “Just lie still. Try to stay calm.”

The man—Wilson—said, “Heart rate still climbing. Brain activity is off the charts.”

Shepard could hear alarms ringing. He fought off the sedative they were administering, standard N7 training to resist interrogation. I want answers! his mind yelled through the fog. His voice only came out as a wheeze.

Miranda moved above and around him to look more closely at the monitors.

“Stats pushing into the red zone. It’s not working!” Wilson exclaimed.

Shepard turned to his right to see Miranda pushing him away.

“Another dose. Now!” she ordered.

Shepard heard his heart beating painfully fast, his breath coming in shallow. He looked down to see Wilson fiddling with some equipment before the fog came back into his mind. His heart slowed, and his breathing became steady and deep.

“Heart rate dropping. Stats falling back into normal range,” Wilson said, sounding distant.

The world started becoming blurry; light began fading in and out. Shepard’s head lolled to the right, only to see Miranda fill his vision again as she stepped closer to look down at him. She looked like she was smiling.

“That was too close. We almost lost him,” Wilson said in relief.

At his comment, Miranda’s look became severe. Turning toward him, she said, “I told you your estimates were off. Run the numbers again.” Turning once more toward Shepard, he could swear she was smiling, just before the lights dimmed and the darkness claimed him.

~o~O~o~

Miranda walked back to her quarters. She knew they were in the final stages of Project Lazarus. She knew that Shepard was clinically alive. Motor function, nervous functions, and, most importantly, basic neurological functions were all exceeding predicted estimates. Whether he remembered everything was another test for another time, but she couldn’t help but admire his strength, waking as he had done several days earlier, despite the drugs they used to keep him comatose.

Thankfully, her research into Shepard’s N7 training had paid off before the commander could have done something rash. Still, to have resisted in such a weakened state….

Perhaps his potential still exists, then.

Turning a corner, she prepared to submit her latest report to the Illusive Man and spotted Jacob coming out of the shooting range. She slowed her pace and nodded to him. “Jacob.”

Jacob turned toward the voice and gave a nod of his own. “Miranda. Heard there was some excitement a few days ago.”

Miranda frowned, wondering how he knew that. “Shepard fought off the drugs. He almost woke up.”

“Damn,” Jacob said. “Is he okay?”

“Stable,” came the curt reply.

Jacob shrugged off the answer; knowing Miranda for a few years had accustomed him to her personality during a job. “We almost finished, then?”

“A few more months. Physically, he seems to be doing very well. It’s his psychological tests that might prove challenging,” Miranda answered as she turned away and continued down the hall at a leisurely pace.

Jacob knew that most men would take it as a brush-off, but her slower pace meant the conversation could continue. “‘Challenging’, she says. I would’ve thought turning something that looks like hamburger into a human would be the hard part,” he muttered to himself, though his voice was deliberately loud enough for her to hear.

She chose not to dignify his comment with a retort.

“Looks like everything is going to plan, then?”

“Of course.”

“Can’t wait to move on from this place,” he grumbled. As Miranda’s top ‘lieutenant’, his job was security. Considering all the mechs they had in the facility, all he did was paperwork involving security.

“Getting bored, Jacob?” Miranda asked without turning to him or breaking stride.

Jacob shrugged. “I’m a soldier; I’m where the action is. No offense, but this is more like a science project than a mission.” At Miranda’s glance, he quickly held his hands up. “A very expensive, very important science project that I’ll defend. No worries there.”

She nodded and looked ahead. “We’ll be done shortly.”

Jacob nodded as well and then looked around to see if they were alone. “Another colony was hit.”

Miranda looked sharply at him. “How many?”

“More than a thousand. At least.”

She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “Still no other intel?”

“None. Same as before: everyone’s just up and gone,” was the simple reply.

She could detect the resentment in his voice, though. The worst kind of enemy to fight was the one you didn’t know anything about.

“Think Shepard could help?” Jacob asked thoughtfully.

Miranda shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s done some great things, but even this might be too much. We’re going to find out soon, though.”

Stopping at her quarters, Jacob asked, “The Man tell you anything?”

She glanced at Jacob before opening the door. “Get the job done. No matter the cost.” With that said, she entered her room to deliver her report.

~o~O~o~

Several weeks later, Miranda lounged on her bed as she looked over the latest results on Project Lazarus before turning in for the night.

Nothing short of remarkable.

Ever since Shepard had ‘woken up’, his healing had increased dramatically. EEG showed normal brain waves, even spiking sometimes. The other doctors monitoring him noted increased REM, signifying that he was dreaming.

Memories, I hope.

Implants of the L5x’s had also been a success. Exposing the former Spectre to carefully controlled amounts of element zero had allowed his nodules to grow significantly, much more than what had previously been estimated. With training, Shepard could very well become quite the biotic.

As she studied the reports, an alarm suddenly sounded out through the station, startling her.

Station-wide alert!

Miranda leapt off the bed and darted to her desk. Opening her terminal, she tapped into the station’s security cameras. She felt her blood boil as she studied the images. Someone’s hacked the security mechs!

Just as quickly as her rage had come, it faded as she began to analyze the situation as quickly as she could.

Shepard!

She immediately tapped into the medical suite where Shepard was. Cameras showed that no mechs were there.

Thank goodness.

Miranda remotely ceased the flow of the drugs that were keeping Shepard unconscious and began flooding him with meds that would counteract the sedatives.

I hope he’s ready for this.

She knew that the drugs would take a little time to flush out. Fingers dancing across her terminal, she accessed the security cameras to find out who was doing this.

It has to be coming from the control room.

All she could see was static.

Disabled. Damn it. Only around the control room, though, so they must still be there.

Looking for the recorded footage was useless as well, since the intruder, or traitor, had wiped the records clean. There were still backups, periodically downloaded to another area. Miranda knew she needed to find out the identity of the one who had done this or she’d be fighting blind. Or worse, walk right into a trap.

Immediately syncing her omni-tool with her terminal so she could get access to any working security camera remotely, she got up immediately to put on her modified Cerberus Assault Armor.

~o~O~o~

Location: Lazarus Research Station

Two years, twelve days after the destruction of the SSV Normandy SR-1

Consciousness came to Shepard slowly, but surely. Dimly, he was aware of the alarms. Distantly, he could hear the sounds of gunfire. Training kicked in, and soon, he was forcing himself awake to prepare for confrontation. It wasn’t long before he heard a female voice speaking overhead.

“Wake up, Commander.”

He opened his eyes as the voice continued to speak.

“Shepard, do you hear me? Get out of that bed now—this facility is under attack.”

His head ached, and his face felt like it was on fire. Reaching up, he felt numerous cuts on his face, as if he had tried shaving while completely drunk.

“Shepard, your scars aren’t healed, but I need you to get moving. This facility is under attack.”

Finally rising, more pain flooded his mind. His chest, his arms, his legs; everything hurt. Looking down at himself, he saw many tubes and needles stuck into him and that he was wearing nothing else. Immediately, he started pulling out the needles, hissing in pain, but hurrying as the sounds of explosions began echoing throughout the room. Stumbling off the side of the bed, he was ill prepared for the weakness in his limbs and fell right off the bed. Forcing himself to his feet, he looked for anything he could use.

At least something to wear.

Focusing himself, he called upon his training as a soldier and forced adrenaline into his veins. The effect was immediate; the world seemed to slow to a crawl as strength returned to his limbs. The pain receded, and his thoughts became clear. Feeling better than he had felt before, he stood straighter to survey his surroundings. He had to resist the urge to cover his crotch as a slight draft reminded him that he was still completely exposed.

The voice spoke again. “There are some gowns to wear in the nearby drawers. I can direct you to more suitable attire after.”

Shepard marched up to the nearby cabinets. As promised, some hospital gowns were there. He picked it up and frowned. While it would serve to protect his modesty, the length and loose-fitting nature of the garment might compromise mobility, especially if something were to start shooting at him.

Tossing aside the gown, his eyes looked up at the ceiling and spotted the cameras. Common sense prevailed over modesty as he said to his unknown—and female--benefactor, “Forget it. I’d rather run fast naked than being able to run at all.”

“Fine. If you can make it out and down the hall, there were some things we were going to present to you.”

“What?”

“Equipment that we were sure you would be familiar with. No more time, get moving!”

Doing as she said, Shepard quickly darted to the only door in the room. “Who are you? Where am I?”

The voice answered, “My name is Miranda Lawson and I’m here to get you out. Hurry!”

He peered around the door, saw nothing, and lightly jogged out of the room.

“At the end of the hall will be a chest with your name on it. Take the equipment inside,” Miranda said.

Shepard approached the entrance of the hallway but had to dart away when a lone mech—LOKI he suspected—appeared at the other end and started shooting.

This is a hell of a thing to wake up to.

He waited patiently around the corner. No armor and no shields meant any shot that struck him was going to hurt. The mech tried to round the corner with its weapon out. Shepard gripped the outstretched arm and planted his foot on top of the foot of the LOKI. With a jerk, he tripped the mech and forced it to tumble to the ground. He scooped up the dropped pistol and placed two rounds into the prone machine’s head before whirling around and fired twice more at a LOKI that appeared at the end of the hall. With the threats down for the moment, Shepard took the opportunity to inspect his new weapon and blinked when he saw it was a model he wasn’t familiar with and he felt he was well-versed in current armaments considering he either used or were being shot at by a variety of weapons.

“Nice work, but you need to go. Now,” Miranda said.

Putting aside the mystery weapon later, for now, it shot bullets and killed mechs. That made the weapon valuable enough for now. Shepard stalked down the hallway, pistol ready, and still naked as the day he was born.

Approaching the door Miranda had instructed, he saw the name ‘Miranda Lawson’ stenciled on the side. Arching an eyebrow, he wondered if the woman herself was inside. He cautiously opened the door and peeked around the threshold. No one and nothing were inside.

“There’s a pistol and your armor in the locker on the other side of the room. Hurry!”

Looking around, he spotted the locker—though it was more like a footlocker than an actual locker—and ran toward it. Again, he arched an eyebrow when he saw his own name stenciled on the top of it.

“You don’t have time to wait around, Shepard. Grab your weapon and armor!”

Opening the locker revealed next-gen N7 armor, a new variant he’d never seen or heard about before. Beside it were a change of clothes, boxers, and boots.

At least that hasn’t changed.

Glad to finally tuck in his tackle rather than having it flop around in the wind, he locked the door, placed his pistol on top of the desk, and hurriedly put on the clothes. Putting on his armor felt like second nature, and in no time, he was protected. As he donned the armor, Shepard called out, “Where’s the weapon?”

“Underneath the desk, tucked in the side,” Miranda promptly answered.

From his kneeling position as he strapped on his boots, he could see a pistol, securely strapped underneath the table.

Tradecraft. She’s not a civilian. Alliance operative?

He plucked the pistol out its hiding spot and took the time to thoroughly inspect his newfound weapon. He looked in confusion when he noted a button on the left side of the grip just above where his thumb would rest. Pointing the business end away from him, he pushed it and blinked when a cylindrical cannister dropped out of the bottom of the grip. He bent down, picked it up, and turned object in his hands to inspect it. Comparing pistol to the same weapon he had taken off the LOKI revealed they were the same model. A button on the side of the LOKI’s pistol also dropped out a cylinder-like cannister as well. Putting the objects down, he picked up one of the pistols and noted the hollow grip and even more interesting, a movable slide at the top of the gun. When he pulled it all the way back, a tiny, pale orange cylinder popped out of the top. Shepard was reminded of ancient firearms he had seen in military museums back on Earth. It was certainly no weapon he’d ever handled before in the modern climate. “What the hell kind of gun is this?”

“Technology has changed while you were out. Most—almost all—weapons have adopted a new method to handle rapid engagements. Open the bottom right drawer of my desk. Inside, you’ll find two thermal clips filled with heat sinks. A button on the side of the weapon will eject a spent clip. You load the new clip into your M-3 Predator heavy pistol.”

Doing as instructed, Shepard picked up the thermal clip and loaded it into his M-3. It took him a few seconds to discover the right orientation before it slid inside.

“Here’s a fast lesson on the thermal clip system. To prevent firearms from overheating, a stock of thermal clips is used to contain the heat. Your weapon will have a set number of shots before you need to manually eject a heat sink using the slide at the top of the weapon. Just pull all the way back and release. When the clip is out of heat sinks, you’ll need to eject the spent clip and load a new one. Now get moving!”

“Wait. When was this made? I’ve never heard of anything like this ever being developed!” Shepard said as he looked over the gun to see if he was missing anything else new about it.

“It’s a long story, and time is something we don’t have much of. You have to get to the evac shuttle!”

Leaving the office, Shepard cautiously left the medical suite he had been a guest of for who-knows-how long and eventually found some bodies on the floor behind a makeshift barricade. Raising his pistol, Shepard peered over the barricade to see what had killed them. Directly to his right was a LOKI mech shambling toward him. Shepard immediately opened fire, aiming for the mech’s weak head. The mech barely had time to raise its own weapon before its head disappeared in an explosion of sparks.

His radio chimed, “Keep moving! We need to get you to the shuttles!”

Deciding not to question his mysterious benefactor, Shepard began running up the stairs and down halls. Every so often, Miranda would give him seemingly odd directions or tell him to turn back and take another hallway. Hearing the mechs shout out warnings told him why she was seemingly being random with her instructions.

Entering a large room, filled with equipment he couldn’t even begin to imagine the function of, he held his pistol at the ready, while he was stocked with thermal clips taken from the dead he had passed by and various mechs he’d dispatched. He learned quickly of the advantages and disadvantages of this gun he was using. Across the room, Shepard saw that something was cutting the locked door open. Taking cover, he waited for his chance.

The doors opened, and one LOKI mech wandered in, shouting its nonsensical warnings. Shepard stayed behind his cover and trusted his instincts. Peering out, he saw another door at the far left open, and four more mechs walked out. Taking a breath, he burst out of cover and opened fire on all five mechs. The first volley of shots blew the head off the first mech. The body exploded as it fell, causing the other mechs to stumble. Shepard wasted no time in picking off the mechs. A few seconds later, he stood over nothing but scrap metal.

“Nice work, Shepard. Coast is clear.”

Continuing forward, he kept his eyes open for any sign of trouble. Entering a hallway lined with windows allowing a view into another room, Shepard saw two people firing their pistols hopelessly against a heavy mech.

An YMIR mech. This just keeps getting better and better.

He opened fire on the window, hoping to give the people within a chance to escape. The window cracked, but did not break. The heavy mech shot down the two using its superior weaponry. Without shields, the humans had no chance.

“Don’t waste time! I can’t keep the mechs distracted for long!” Miranda shouted.

Turning away from the mech and its two victims, Shepard ran down the hall. The next room had a lower floor with what looked like tanks and pipes. Looking down, he saw an M-100 grenade launcher next to another dead security officer.

Finally, a real weapon.

“More mechs heading toward you. Use the grenade launcher!”

Picking up the launcher, he saw four more mechs open the door below him. Taking aim, he shot toward the center of the group, destroying all of them in one blast. Collapsing the launcher and attaching it to his hard-suit, he held up his M-3 as he took the lift down toward the bottom floor. Running through the flames, he heard is radio crackle with static. Pressing his hand to his ear, Shepard shouted, “Miranda, are you there?! Miranda!”

“You’re doing… —Shepard. Head to the… —meet you…”

“Miranda, something’s interfering with your signal. I can’t hear you!” he answered.

“Shepard… —read me? I’ve got… —closing in… —position,” came the crackled reply. The last thing Shepard heard before the line went dead was gunfire and an explosion.

He shook his head. Realizing he was on his own, he refocused, double-checked his weapons, and pressed forward towards his objective.

~o~O~o~

Moving slowly and cautiously, Shepard peered down what seemed to be another empty hallway. He guessed that whoever had programmed these mechs was intent on killing everyone on the station. If that was the case, the best plan would be to place mechs on routes toward evac shuttles. Against conventional wisdom, Shepard decided to follow the sounds of mechs and hope that he could avoid the bulk of the mechanical army. Without directions or even a map, this was the only plan he could think of.

If only it wasn’t a stupid one.

Luckily, his training as an infiltrator for his solo missions for the Alliance allowed him to use a tactical cloak against most opposition. It saved his life when avoiding two more YMIR mechs. Armed with only two rounds of grenade launcher ammo and a pistol were not favorable odds.

Hearing more mechs coming down the hall, Shepard darted into the nearest room, closing the door and sweeping for hostiles. He saw two LOKIs on the ground—damaged, but still active. Grabbing the closest LOKI’s head, he twisted sharply, silencing the mech, before doing the same to the other. Waiting for the mechs outside to march away, he took stock of his surroundings. The room he was in appeared to contain medical data on himself. Looking at the pictures more closely, he saw that some were pictures of his pulmonary system, others of his skeletal system, and even one of his brain and nervous system.

I’m pretty surprised to have lived after getting spaced. Must’ve been in really bad shape.

He looked around for more details about the facility he was in, but everything was strangely secret. All he found was that diamond-like symbol everywhere.

I recognize this symbol, but from where?

Going back to the door, he strained his ears, but couldn’t hear any more mechs. Deciding to take a chance and making sure his tactical cloak was ready, he walked over to one of the terminals. Taking off his helmet and placing it on a table, Shepard studied the terminal in front of him. It was locked, but he had long since learned the fine art of hacking and bypassing.

Within a minute, he broke through the firewalls. Inside were personal notes detailing something called Project Lazarus. The director was… Miranda Lawson!

Shepard narrowed his eyes at that name. Thinking furiously, he tried to put what little he knew together.

This facility definitely isn’t Alliance. No names, no obvious records. They want me for something, but I’m not a POW. Lawson goes out of her way to wake me up and help so far….

Clicking on the terminal, he idly noted that Miranda had kept meticulous and detailed notes. One particular thing caught his eye: 2185 CE.

The hell? 2185…? I’ve been out for two years?!

Looking over the list of notes, Shepard clicked on the earliest one and listened to Miranda’s dictations.

“Test subject has been recovered, but the damage is far worse than we initially feared. In addition to the expected burns and internal injuries from the explosion, subject has suffered significant cellular breakdown due to long-term exposure to vacuum and sub-zero temperatures. Despite the extent of the physical trauma, Wilson assures me subject is salvageable. The Lazarus Project will proceed as planned.”

Salvageable? Harsh words. My injuries must have been bad to be out for two years.

“Progress is slow, but subject shows signs of recovery. Major organs are again functional, and there are signs of rudimentary neurological activity. In an effort to accelerate the process, we’ve moved from simple organic reconstruction of the subject to bio-synthetic fusion. Initial results show promise.”

Bio-synthetics. Follow-up explosions from the Normandy must’ve torn me up. How the hell did I survive that?

“Physical reconstruction of subject is complete, but we still need to evaluate all mental and neurological functions. Our orders were clear: make Commander Shepard who he was before the explosion—the same mind, the same morals, the same personality. If we alter his identity in any way, if he’s somehow not the man he used to be, the Lazarus Project will have failed. I refuse to let that happen.”

‘Make me who I was’? What the hell does that mean?

Mental trauma wasn’t foreign to him. All soldiers changed in some way after killing someone, getting injured in a firefight, or watching friends and civilians die.

They make this sound a lot more serious than a near-death experience, though….

Seeing another terminal on the other side of the office, Shepard hacked his way into it and found another name.

Wilson…. I remember them now. When I regained consciousness, those two were there. Wilson, lead medical technician.

Looking through the files, Shepard found notes detailing Wilson’s thoughts and searched through them.

“Log update: The cost of this project is astronomical—over four billion credits so far. But nobody seems to care we’ve gone over budget. I don’t know where the boss gets all his money…. Maybe it’s better not to know. I just wish he’d kick a little more in my direction once in a while.”

Four billion credits? What the hell kind of medical project needs that much money?

“Log update: I can’t figure Miranda out. As project director, she should be ecstatic at all the progress we’ve made. But she’s still the same old ice queen. Maybe’s she’s worried Shepard might become the new favorite. Or maybe she is just a pure, cold-hearted bitch.”

Problems in the ranks, it seems. Or maybe he had a crush on her.

“Log update: The Lazarus Project is about to enter the final phase. It’s taken nearly two years, but we did it. Commander Shepard is alive! This is the most amazing medical achievement in recorded history! Maybe now Miranda will finally show some appreciation for everything I’ve done.”

Confusion was an understatement. The implications were enormous.

I was dead? I was dead?

Everything made sense, in some crazy way. With his suit failures, there was no way he could’ve survived, but then…

This was a project to bring people back to life?

The physical reconstruction, the bio-synthetic implants, the mental tests, and even the cost began to make sense. Except… there was no way he could believe the technology existed to bring him back. Looking at the holomonitors again, he studied his injuries more closely. Pictures of his arteries, pictures of his skeleton….

There.

He saw highlighted dots all over his skeleton. Spine, limbs, chest, head, all over his major organs…. I have more metal in me than in my gun. Explains why I felt like shit earlier.

Shepard turned away from the monitors, fully intent on leaving this place and finding as many answers as he could. As he headed toward the door, stopping only to grab his helmet, an orange glow reflecting off the wall’s metallic surface caught his eye. Turing toward the wall, he saw his distorted reflection on the surface. Looking closer, he finally saw the source of the glow. Instantly, he remembered Miranda’s words back at the medical suite. “Shepard, your scars aren’t healed, but I need you to get moving. This facility is under attack.”

Son of a bitch.

~o~O~o~

Miranda held her position behind some crates as the LOKIs continued to fire on her position. Taking a peek, she saw that they were all funneling through the only door into the room.

Seizing the tactical opportunity, she engaged her omni-tool and unleashed a full-powered overload. All the mechs were caught in the blast and crumbled to the floor. Moving quickly, she sealed the door, then went back to the terminal she had been hacking. Someone had wiped the main copies of the security footage, but she was able to save the backups before the traitor could destroy them, too.

She fast-forwarded through the vids, keeping an ear out for any mechs coming to her position. Her eyes narrowed as she saw a very familiar face skulking about in the control room.

“Wilson,” Miranda hissed. He was the traitor. She was sure. There was no way he had access to the security mechs; she kept strict control over security privileges, and any Wilson had worked only in the Bio Wing.

She continued to hack the terminal to see if he was still online.

No doubt that bastard is using the mechs to protect himself.

She smiled thinly when she found out he was still online and coordinating the attacks.

Probably sent more mechs to try and kill me.

Immediately, she launched her counterattack. The terminal she was using wouldn’t allow her to take control of the mechs, but Wilson’s genius was geared toward biology, not engineering. A few carefully timed commands….

Done.

Wilson had now lost all control of any security mechs in the facility. He was just as much a target as anyone else.

More importantly, now I can avoid the mechs instead of fighting them. Once he realizes he’s lost control, he’ll try to leave the station.

Continuing her hack, she sealed the doors to the shuttle bay from his position.

That should slow him down. Now for the finishing touches.

Overloading the control room’s consoles was child’s play.

Now he can’t regain control of the mechs. With luck, Wilson might even be caught in the blast.

Her work finished, Miranda checked her omni-tool, armor, shields, and pistol before running out of the room and toward the shuttle bay. Privately, she hoped that Shepard was prepared to deal with this mess and was already there or, at the very least, en route. Two years of work was not about to undone by one sniveling traitor.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

~o~O~o~

Leaving the office, Shepard saw that the coast was clear. Hearing gunfire upstairs, he readied himself and quickly, but quietly climbed up. Looking around, he couldn’t see the source of the gunfire, but he did see another living soul behind a window.

The man looked surprised to see him. “Shepard!”

Shepard walked into the room, intent on getting answers, but the sound of actuators grinding and heavy footsteps made him stop. Both men turned to the side to see another YMIR mech entering the unknown man’s room.

“Shepard!” the man shouted again.

Shepard opened fire on the glass once again, but saw only cracks. The next sound he heard was the sound of a rocket firing just before it struck its unfortunate victim. This time, the glass shattered, but Shepard’s hard-suit shrugged it off. The more immediate concern was the heavy mech’s guns.

He dove to the side as the mech unleashed its deadly stream of bullets. Sliding along the ground, he activated his tactical cloak, blending in with his surroundings and effectively rendering him invisible. Jumping to his feet, he holstered his pistol and brought his grenade launcher to bear against his enemy. Thankfully, the mech couldn’t fit through the window frame. Holding his breath, Shepard waited and watched as the mech looked around for its target. Noting that his cloak was almost drained, he stepped closer to a shadowy corner and watched as the mech turned around and left to find other targets.

As his cloak fell away, he pulled out his pistol again and ran through the nearest door. Taking off down yet another hallway, the sounds of gunfire became even louder. Slowing down, Shepard judged that the door on his right was the source. He could hear another man exchanging fire with more mechs. Unlike the other people Shepard had seen, this voice sounded more confident in the face of danger.

Finally, someone that might not die on me.

~o~O~o~

Jacob Taylor cursed as he popped off a few more shots at the unrelenting LOKI mechs. He couldn’t help but note the irony of his situation after his conversation with Miranda a few weeks back.

‘Be careful of what you wish for.’ Ain’t that a bitch?

Another shot pinged off his cover.

I goddamned didn’t mean it! I liked being bored!

Jumping from his cover, he unleashed his biotics and levitated a mech into the air before taking aim and blowing its head off in one quick motion. Ducking back down, the other mechs continued their barrage.

Jacob sighed.

Damn it.

~o~O~o~

Opening the door and looking in, Shepard saw some sort of lounge. A man dressed in some sort of assault armor he had never seen before was exchanging fire with four LOKIs.

Shepard stayed close to the archway inside the room and began firing at the mechs. The stranger turned around from his cover after seeing two mechs drop.

Shepard saw the surprise through the transparent faceplate of the dark-skinned man’s helmet. The soldier recovered quickly, though, and together, they easily dispatched the last two mechs.

The immediate threat down, Shepard ran up to the other soldier and ducked down behind the glass railing.

The man looked at Shepard in confusion before noticing the N7 emblem on his chestplate. Eyes widening, the man said, “Shepard? What the hell…?”

Just then, more LOKIs came in from the door across the way and immediately opened fire on both of them.

Keeping his head down, the soldier asked, “What are you doing here? I thought you were still a work in progress.”

Shepard narrowed his eyes, easily seen through his visor. “Look, pal, I don’t know where I am or how I got here! I’ve been drugged, shot at, and nearly blown up ever since I woke up! Plus, my head feels like an overripe melon ready to split open! How ’bout you fill me in a little?”

“Damn…. Yeah, I forgot this is all new to you. Sorry about that. I’m Jacob Taylor. I’ve been stationed here for—” he started, but before any more was said, a ricochet alerted them to the mechs wandering toward them. “Damn it!” he exclaimed, before both men stood up in tandem and blew four more mechs in a hail of gunfire.

Ducking back down, Jacob continued, “Things must be worse than I thought if Miranda’s got you running around. I’ll fill you in, but we better get you to the shuttle first.”

Shepard wasn’t budging, though. Not with too many unknown variables. “Ever since I woke up, someone’s been telling me where to go and what to do. I need answers!”

“Fair enough,” Jacob said. “I’ll give you the quick version. You and your ship were attacked and destroyed. You were killed. Dead as dead can be when they brought you here. Our scientists spent the last two years putting you back together. You’ve been comatose, or worse, that whole time.” He smiled grimly. “Welcome back to your life.”

“This isn’t an Alliance facility,” Shepard said. It was a statement, not a question.

“It isn’t,” Jacob replied. “I can’t say much more than that for now. The Alliance officially declared you killed in action. The whole galaxy thinks you’re dead.” More bullets struck their impromptu cover. “And if we don’t get to those shuttles, they’ll be right.”

“Were there any other survivors from the Normandy?” Shepard asked.

Through the sounds of gunfire, Jacob merely said, “I’ll tell you what—you help me finish off these mechs, and I’ll play Twenty Questions with you all day.”

Shepard nodded. Looking through the glass, he saw that five more mechs stood in their way. Only LOKIs, though. He looked at Jacob to see if he was ready, but saw him concentrating. He recognized that look; he’d seen Kaidan do it enough times to know that Jacob was biotic. A second later, dark energy surrounded him as he threw out his arm and thrust it upwards. A LOKI mech took to the air, helpless to Shepard’s follow-up shots. Between the two experienced soldiers, the clumsy mechs had no chance. Moments later, all was quiet.

Holstering his pistol, Jacob turned to Shepard. “Okay. I promised I’d answer your questions. What do you want to know?”

Shepard held his pistol loosely in his right hand. “You said they spent two years rebuilding me. How bad were my injuries?”

“I’m no doctor, but it was bad. When I first saw you, you were nothing but meat and tubes. Anywhere else, they’d have put you in a coffin,” Jacob answered. Thanks to the plated helmet, he didn’t see Shepard’s lack of reaction to the news. “But Project Lazarus was different. Cutting-edge technology.”

It was likely Jacob didn’t know the details behind the science, but having some information was better than having none at all. Shepard pressed on. “What can you tell me about the project? Were there other test subjects?”

“Project Lazarus only had one subject. The whole point was to bring you back. Just you,” Jacob said. “Even that was a challenge. Two years. All the top scientists. The best technology money could buy.”

Four billions credits spent on me? I’m flattered.

Shepard knew that neither the Council nor the Alliance would drop that kind of cash just for him. “What did they do to me? Cloning? Cybernetics?”

“I don’t know the details. You’d have to ask the scientists. But I’m pretty sure you’re not a clone. They wanted to bring you back exactly as you were,” Jacob said. “You’re still you… you just might have a few extra bits and pieces now.”

That’s an understatement.

Shepard easily recalled the X-rays they had of him. “The last thing I remember is the Normandy blowing up. Did anyone else make it?”

Jacob nodded. “Just about everybody survived. A few servicemen from the lower decks didn’t get out. Navigator Pressly was killed by an explosion. But everyone else, including the non-Alliance crew—the asari, Liara, and the quarian—they all made it out alive.”

Two years thinking I’m dead? Damn.

Sounds of gunfire and explosions echoed in the background. Shepard looked around and decided to focus on the present. “Do you know anything about this attack? Who’s behind it? What they’re after?”

Jacob shrugged. “Damned if I know. I was getting ready for some shut-eye, then BAM! Bunch of explosions. Next thing I know, every damn mech in the place starts shooting. At us. I’m guessing it had to be an inside job. You’d need top security access to hack all the mechs.”

Glancing at Jacob, Shepard asked, “What’s your job here, anyway?”

Jacob shrugged again. “Depends on who you ask. Technically, I’m Miranda’s top lieutenant, but I’m just a soldier. I served five years in the Alliance before this. Now I’m in charge of the station’s security. Usually a lot more dull than this. Normally, I don’t fire my gun unless it’s target practice.”

Bingo. Someone who knows Lawson.

“When I first woke up, someone named Miranda was talking to me over the radio. We lost contact just before I ran into you.”

“Miranda Lawson is the station’s ranking officer. She led the Lazarus team. It was her job to bring you back to life, no matter what. Should have guessed she’d try to save you. She’s not about to give up on you now.” Concern clouded Jacob’s face. “You said you lost contact. Could you tell what was happening?”

Shepard nodded. “There was some gunfire and an explosion right before I lost her.”

Jacob looked away. “She knows how to take care of herself… but I hope she’s okay.”

Deciding he’d heard enough, Shepard looked around. “What’s the quickest way to those shuttles?”

Jacob reclaimed his professionalism. “Depends where the mechs are thickest. It’s probably best if we—” He suddenly stopped himself and put his hand to his ear.

The gesture was one very familiar to Shepard. It was standard Alliance procedure for incoming radio calls. Most soldiers, mercenaries, and some civilians got implants to be able to receive and send radio messages without any external devices. Since the implants were placed directly in the ear, hearing wasn’t an issue unless the ambient sounds were too loud. More often than not, putting your hand to your ear meant you were on the radio.

Shepard used the time Jacob spent on the radio to figure out the man before him. The way he handled himself, the way he had taken down those mechs, the biotics….

Definitely a former Alliance Marine.

“Wilson, this is Jacob.” Shepard paid closer attention to the conversation after hearing Wilson’s name. “I’m here with Commander Shepard. Just took out a wave of mechs over in D wing.”

Pause.

“Roger that, Wilson. Stay on this frequency.”

“I think I remember a Wilson checking on me one time when I woke up,” Shepard commented off-handedly.

Jacob nodded. “That’s him. He’s the chief medical tech. Answers directly to Miranda. Come on, service tunnels are this way.”

~o~O~o~

The two unlikely allies ran through the hallway toward the service tunnels. Shepard, for his part, was simply glad he wasn’t wandering around lost again, while Jacob was glad to have an extra gun on hand.

Opening the door, Jacob looked around, but turned when Shepard shouted, “More mechs!” Ducking immediately, they waited for a pause before standing and fired on their opponents.

After the first wave of mechs was down, Jacob yelled into his radio, “Damn it, Wilson! This room is crawling with mechs!”

“This whole station is crawling with mechs! I’m doing the best I can!” Wilson yelled back.

The second wave was downed as quickly as the first. Jacob couldn’t help but be impressed with Shepard’s marksmanship. It was as if he calculated the best shot, the best target, and the best time all in a split second before popping once out of cover and taking the LOKIs down.

“Wilson, find us another route outta here. Preferably one that doesn’t lead straight into an enemy squad.”

“Just keep moving toward the control room. Don’t get pinned down. I’ll see what I can do.”

Noticing Shepard looking at him, Jacob nodded and moved past all the pipes and toward the door. Just before reaching it, his radio crackled again.

“Oh, God! They’ve found me! Help!”

“Wilson! Where are you?!” Jacob asked.

“Server Room B! Hurry! They’re out of control!”

Jacob turned to Shepard. “Up those stairs, Shepard!” he said, before turning and running toward the control room. Another transmission came.

“Oh, God! I’m hit! They shot me!”

~o~O~o~

Shepard easily kept pace with Jacob, both of them keeping their pistols up for any sign of danger. Jacob stopped in front of a door labeled ‘Server Room B’ and held up his hand. Shepard nodded and took a position on one side of the door as Jacob held the other. A quiet three-count, and Jacob opened the door. Shepard ran in, pistol up, and quickly scanned the room for hostiles.

Nothing. No mechs, no remains of mechs, no telltale sign of gunfire. The only thing in the room that showed any signs of damage was a smoking console. The only things moving were the doctor Shepard had seen once before and the sparks coming from a nearby terminal. Shepard’s instinct flared up at the sight of him.

“Jacob! Shepard! Down here!” Wilson yelled. “Bastards got me in the leg!”

Shepard scanned the room one more time surreptitiously. There was nothing here that could’ve shot Wilson except the gun Wilson was already holding. Shepard began recalling his conversations with Jacob.

“That’s him. He’s the chief medical tech. Answers directly to Miranda.”

“Miranda Lawson is the station’s ranking officer. She led the Lazarus team. It was her job to bring you back to life, no matter what. Should have guessed she’d try to save you. She’s not about to give up on you now.”

“Damned if I know. I was getting ready for some shut-eye, then BAM! Bunch of explosions. Next thing I know, every damn mech in the place starts shooting. At us. I’m guessing it had to be an inside job. You’d need top security access to hack all the mechs.”

A suspicion began forming in Shepard’s mind about the attack. “You were there the first time I regained consciousness.”

A pained expression crossed Wilson’s face as Jacob inspected the wound. “Yeah… that was me,” Wilson grunted out, before letting out a sharp gasp as Jacob ripped open one of Wilson’s pant legs to better see the wound. “How about we talk about his after we fix my leg?”

Jacob looked up. “Should be some medi-gel in the first aid station on the wall. Hopefully, there’s enough to get him up and moving again.”

Shepard walked up to the first aid station and opened it, revealing three medi-gel packs. Grabbing all three, he walked back and gave two to Jacob.

Wasting no time, Jacob applied the medi-gel to the wound. The results were immediate: blood stopped leaking, and Wilson’s breathing became slower and deeper.

Standing up and gingerly putting weight on his wounded leg, Wilson said, “Thanks, Jacob. Shepard.” Looking directly at the commander, he smiled thinly. “Never thought you’d save my life. Guess that makes us even now.” He gestured to the broken control panel. “I thought maybe I could shut down the security mechs.” He shook his head. “But whoever did this fried the whole system. Completely irreversible.”

Jacob crossed his arms. “We didn’t ask what you were doing. Why do you even have security mech clearance? You were in the bio wing.”

“Weren’t you listening?!” Wilson growled. “I came here to try and fix this! Besides, I was shot! How do you explain that?”

Shepard shook his head. “I don’t care who set up who! Those mechs are shooting at all of us! We’ll sort it out later!”

After a last glance at Wilson, Jacob turned to Shepard. “We need to find Miranda first. We can’t just leave her behind.”

“Forget about Miranda,” Wilson bit out. “She was over in D wing. The mechs were all over that sector. There’s no way she survived.”

“A bunch of mechs won’t drop Miranda. She’s alive,” Jacob stated with conviction in his voice.

“Then where is she? Why haven’t we heard from her?” Wilson argued. “There are only two possible explanations: she’s either dead, or she’s a traitor!”

Shepard shook his head. “Then why did she wake me up and warn me about the attack?”

“Okay, maybe’s she’s not a traitor. But that doesn’t change the facts. We’re here; she’s not. We need to save ourselves.” Pointing down the corridor, Wilson said, “The shuttle bay is only a few—”

Further directions were cut off when the door at the far side opened, revealing more LOKI mechs. Jacob wasted no time and opened fire on them.

Shepard glanced to the side to see barrels with the word ‘Flammable’ etched on their sides next to the mechs. Raising his pistol, he fired two shots and watched as the explosion destroyed the mechs.

The threat removed, he started walking towards the doors. Jacobs’s voice stopped him, however.

“Shepard, this is getting tense. If I tell you who we work for, will you trust me?”

Wilson leaned against some crates and crossed his arms. “This really isn’t the time, Jacob.”

Jacob glanced at Wilson. “We won’t make it if he’s expecting a shot in the back.”

Shepard couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of Jacob’s statement as his eyes glanced at Wilson. Other than that, his mannerisms betrayed nothing.

Wilson shrugged. “If you wanna piss off the boss, it’s your ass, Jacob.”

Shaking his head, Jacob turned back toward Shepard. “The Lazarus Project. The program that rebuilt you. It’s funded and controlled by Cerberus.”

The name immediately clicked in Shepard’s mind. Floods of memories came. A pro-human splinter group. Experiments with biotics, rachni, husks, and Thorian creepers. Corporal Toombs and his torture after Akuze. Admiral Kohoku and his assassination….

Keeping his stance neutral, all he said was, “I’ve wiped out my share of Cerberus projects as a Spectre. There were trying to kill me. Why the change of heart?”

Jacob shrugged. “Those answers are way above my pay grade, but basically, things changed. The Alliance declared you dead. They gave up. Cerberus spent a fortune to bring you back.” He sighed. “Look, I’d be suspicious, too, but right now, we have to work together. I thought you deserved to know what’s what. Once we’re off the station, I’ll take you to the Illusive Man. He’ll explain everything. I promise.”

Illusive Man? Dramatic.

Shepard racked his mind, but couldn’t recall ever hearing the moniker. “Illusive Man? Is he in charge of all this?”

“Yeah,” Wilson said. “That’s not his real name, of course. Nobody knows who he really is.”

“It was a code name the Alliance used for him. Kinda stuck,” Jacob added.

Shepard shook his head. “I don’t care what his name is. He just needs to answer my questions. All of them.”

Jacob nodded. “He spent a lot of money and time bringing you back. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to tell you whatever you want to know.”

Wilson limped toward the two soldiers. “It’s not much farther to the shuttle bay.”

About time.

Entering the next room, Shepard knew they were almost out. On the wall, the words ‘Docking Bay’ were written in blocky script and the area resembled a cargo room. There were crates stacked haphazardly, ramps leading to another area, lifts going up and down….

Where there’s cargo, there’s transport.

Looking ahead, though, Shepard’s guess about mechs blocking the evac area was proven correct. Thankfully, they were only LOKI mechs, and no YMIRs could be seen. Between two hardened soldiers, the LOKIs stood no chance. Even Wilson had the technical expertise to use overload and take one or two down.

After fighting their way through the cargo room, Wilson quickly limped as fast as he could toward the door to the shuttle bay. Shepard narrowed his eyes and readied his pistol. Covert ops taught their operatives that victory was when someone was at their weakest. Always stay on your guard at those moments. If Wilson was going to betray him, this would be the moment.

“Come on! Through here.” Wilson started typing in his commands to unlock the door. “We’re almost at the…”

The door opened long before Wilson finished, revealing another figure dressed in the same kind of armor as Jacob, sans helmet.

Shepard had just enough time to admire her beauty as her blue eyes narrowed and her mouth showed a scowl, all directed at Wilson.

“Miranda! But you were—” Wilson stuttered, before Miranda raised her pistol and shot Wilson right between his eyes.

“Dead?” Miranda finished derisively.

Shepard trained his pistol on Miranda immediately, keeping one eye on her and one inside the shuttle bay for any more hostiles.

Jacob took off his helmet and looked at Miranda incredulously. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Miranda simply glanced at Shepard, seemingly uncaring of the pistol pointed in her direction, before turning to Jacob. “My job. Wilson betrayed us all.”

Convinced that she wouldn’t raise her weapon against him, Shepard slowly lowered his gun. “I had a feeling Wilson was just looking for a chance to shoot me in the back.”

Miranda turned her gaze toward him, her face betraying nothing. “Good instincts. Some people are far too trusting to ever see that coming.” She nodded her head towards the shuttle. “Come on. Let’s grab this shuttle and get out of here. My boss wants to speak to you.”

Shepard took off his helmet and stared down the raven-haired director. “You mean the Illusive Man? I know you work for Cerberus.”

Miranda immediately glared at Jacob, her eyes piercing. “Ah, Jacob. I should’ve known your conscience would get the better of you.”

Crossing his arms, all Jacob said was, “Lying to the commander isn’t the way to get him to join our cause.”

Miranda faced Shepard again. “Well, since we’re getting everything out in the open, is there anything else you want to ask before we go, Commander?”

“You’re the Lazarus Project’s director, aren’t you?” Shepard asked.

“That’s right. I put two years of my life into this project. Into you.”

“What does Cerberus want from me?”

“Maybe you should ask the Illusive Man when you meet him,” she said. “He poured virtually unlimited resources into Lazarus. Obviously, he has some kind of plan for you.”

Shepard looked at the shuttle before turning his gaze back to Miranda. “Where are we going?”

“Another Cerberus facility. The Illusive Man is waiting for you there,” she replied shortly.

Shepard regarded the woman in front of him, trying to find some measure of her character besides saving his life and shooting a man in the head. “I’m not sure I trust you.”

Miranda shrugged her shoulders, looking unconcerned. “This is the only shuttle off the station. You want to stay and rot with the mechs? Be my guest.”

“I just think it’s convenient that you show up as we’re leaving. Where were you during the attack?” he asked, keeping his eyes on her.

She didn’t even flinch. “Besides trying to save your life?” she rhetorically asked. Shepard didn’t twitch at her remark. “Wilson sent an army of mechs to take me out. I got here as soon as I could.” She broke eye contact with him to look down at Wilson’s corpse. “Too soon, if you ask Wilson,” she added as she kicked Wilson’s boot with her own.

“What about the rest of the people on the station?”

Miranda shook her head. “This is the evac area. If they’re not here now, they’re not coming.”

“We can’t leave without knowing for sure,” Shepard said. “We need to go back and look.”

“Don’t you get it? The only one worth saving is you. Everyone else is expendable,” Miranda said.

“She’s right,” Jacob said. “We all knew the risks when we signed up. Without you, there’s no point to any of this.”

Shepard appeared unconvinced.

Miranda sighed. “I’ll call for reinforcements if that makes you feel better. A squad can help anyone else faster than the three of us.”

Shepard considered her words carefully, trying to detect any deception. Eventually, he nodded. “Fine. I’ve had enough of this station to last a lifetime.”

A ghost of a smile appeared on her face. “Or two, in your case.” As quickly as the smile had come, it left as she turned around. “Come on.”

The trio stepped into the Kodiak shuttle and seated themselves. Miranda informed the pilot to take off and call for a search-and-rescue team to sweep for survivors.

~o~O~o~

As the shuttle continued at FTL speeds, Shepard couldn’t help but stare at his reflection in the window, his eyes tracing the glowing orange scars on his face.

Eventually, Miranda said, “Before you meet with the Illusive Man, we need to ask a few questions to evaluate your condition.”

Jacob turned his head to face Miranda. “Come on, Miranda? More tests? Shepard took down those mechs without any trouble. That has to be good enough.”

“It’s been two years since the attack. The Illusive Man needs to know that Shepard’s personality and memories are intact,” she said. “Ask the questions.”

“This is a waste of time. I feel as good as ever,” Shepard said.

“The sooner we start, the sooner we can be done,” she countered. “Start with personal history.”

Jacob sighed, but brought out his omni-tool to look at the relevant data. “Okay, records show you grew up on Earth. Tough environment, no parents. You enlisted and won a medal fighting batarians during the Skyllian Blitz. Do you remember that?”

Shepard remembered. “Elanos Haliat.”

Miranda and Jacob gave each other questioning glances before former raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow and asked, “What?”

“The mastermind behind the Blitz. A pirate that was paid by the batarians to attack Elysium,” Shepard answered. He sighed. “A lot of lives depended on me holding that position.” He met the eyes of the Cerberus operatives. “I did what I had to.”

Miranda looked pleased, while Jacob nodded. “However you want to put it, it was damn impressive. I had friends who were there,” Jacob said. He turned to Miranda. “Satisfied, Miranda?”

“Almost,” Miranda said with an appraising look at Shepard. She almost sounded pleased. “Let’s try something more recent. Virmire, where you destroyed Saren’s cloning facility. You had to leave one of your squad behind to die in the blast.”

Noticing Shepard’s darkening look, Jacob said, “Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko was killed in action. It was your call. Why did you leave him behind?”

Shepard took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that these people had saved his life. Shooting them wouldn’t be the way to repay them. Looking at them, he said with conviction, “I left a friend to die that day, and I didn’t do it casually, but I had to save as many people as I could. Kaidan gave his life for the rest of the team. Without him, I couldn’t have stopped Saren. He died a hero.”

Jacob nodded. “I understand, Commander, and I wasn’t judging your decision. Everybody at Cerberus knows that cloning facility had to be destroyed.”

“Shepard, think back to the Citadel, after the Alliance saved the Destiny Ascension and you killed Saren. What happened next?” Miranda asked.

“Humanity was offered a spot on the Council. I recommended Captain Anderson for the position,” Shepard answered.

Miranda smiled. “Yes, Captain Anderson is now Councilor Anderson. Though from what I hear, he preferred life in the military.”

“Still, good to know that the human Council member isn’t going to put politics ahead of defense,” Jacob added.

“Your memory seems solid. There are other tests we really should run—”

“Come on, Miranda. Enough with the quizzes,” Jacob interrupted. “The memories are there, and I can vouch for Shepard’s combat skills personally.”

Miranda nodded in acceptance. “I suppose you’re right. We’ll have to hope the Illusive Man accepts our little field test as evidence enough.”

~o~O~o~

Author’s Notes:

First off, I want to thank everyone that showed an interest in my story. To every person that reviewed, every person that is tracking, and every person that simply gave me a chance: Thank you.

I’ve never really considered writing fanfiction before, though I’ve entertained the idea several times. Mostly, it was geared toward Zelda, but Mass Effect 2’s story and characters drew me in.

This is a novelization. It won’t just be Shepard like in the game. I’m planning to add the parts people don’t see. What the other characters are doing when they’re not risking their lives or joining Shepard on his missions. I’m also going to take liberties with some of the dialogue. Mix in some paragon and renegade options. I’m sure many agree that 90% of the script was awesome, while the other 10% were… well, I’m sure the opinions vary.

BioWare did something rather amazing. They created an entire party that is really likeable. Some more than others, of course, but each has their charm. That said, this will not be a hate fic. All characters will have their own individual moments.

As many of you may have noticed, I’ve already begun blending Shepard with multiple talents instead of restricting him to a “class”, since many people within his squad seem to be a unique blend themselves. When Shepard enlisted, he became a soldier. When he became an officer, he added the skills of an infiltrator. During ME 1, he learned other skills from other teammates as he was able. Not biotics, but the quarian engineer Tali could impart some more tech skills. Thus far, Shepard is a blend of soldier, infiltrator, and engineer skills. A blend, not a master.

I’m removing certain weapon restrictions on all the other characters. For instance, Garrus carries only an assault rifle and a sniper rifle, yet in some cutscenes, he holds out a pistol. So don’t be surprised or dismayed when Miranda starts using an assault rifle or Jacob picks up a heavy weapon.

Finally, I’m not gonna write about thermal clips. Maybe in a few cases, where a “dramatic reload” or a sustained firefight is necessary, but for the most part, let’s just assume that everyone is carrying enough ammo to get through a mission, okay?

Edit: Thanks to illuminios for pointing out my mistake of EKG vs. EEG. Electrocardiogram is for the heart, but Electroencephalograph is for the brain. Corrected.

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