Damn, damn, and double damn.
Shepard flung herself into the seat of the transport and rubbed a hand over her forehead.
That had gone badly. Well, truthfully, it could have been worse, but it would have been much better if she’d just walked away. There was nothing like thinking about the Blitz to make her feel raw and nothing like listening to the press to piss her off. It was a hell of a combination.
She shifted in her seat and looked around the empty cabin. They’d spent good money to keep this mission under wraps, she thought. According to the pilot, he’d been ferrying people to some secret docking station all day. Apparently, the Alliance was bringing people from all over the place, via any number of stop-over stations. They didn’t want too many people to be seen leaving for the ship at once, or all from one place.
The crew roster was classified, too – as executive officer Shepard still hadn’t seen it. Shepard found it all very odd. Based on what the pilot had said, he’d transported far more people than was necessary for a shakedown run. It sounded like this new ship had a full crew.
With no one to talk to and no mission-information datapad to distract her from her thoughts, Shepard let her mind roam. The station faded from view as the shuttle pulled away, replaced by a view of Earth below. Shepard let her gaze settle on the Hudson Bay, shining bright blue against the greenish brown mass that was Canada.
Such a big place , she thought. And yet, Earth’s just a speck in all the galaxy .
That was the wonder of space. You could fly past a nebula that was actively forming stars from billions of miles of dust or watch from orbit as electric storms churned the primeval ooze of a pre-garden planet; you could see radio readings of a star gone supernova or spent a day traveling from one system to another across a vast expanse of vacuum. And for all of that, what it really came down to was people: just people, human and aliens, all trying to find a place in this galaxy to call home.
Shepard frowned. She’d been thinking about home a lot lately. She didn’t really have one any more, had sort of accepted space as her home, the job as her home. But her childhood on Mindoir had been on her mind a lot lately, and Elysium wasn’t far behind. It was only natural that the reporter’s words would bring them to mind.
You were a colony kid. You watched your whole family die. People like you have scars, Shepard, and they don’t become heroes just like that.
She hadn’t become a hero just like that, she thought. She had begun by being just a normal kid. Then there had been smoke and fire. She still remembered coming to in a pool of blood, a screaming pain behind her ear. An Alliance officer had pulled the neural inhibitor out of her skull with one horrible wrench, then slapped a full pack of medigel on her head. She’d howled with pain, and a strange blue light had gone shimmering over her body.
“Damn,” a voice had said. It was a woman’s voice – human. Shepard had relaxed a little at that sound. “I can’t believe this kid is still alive. Half her face is gone”
“Look at that batarian,” a male voice replied. “There’s nothing left of his face. Did she do that?”
“How?” the woman replied. “The kid’s got no weapon.”
“She’s got to be a biotic,” the man said. “Look at that! See, she’s still flaring.”
“She’s got no implants,” the woman said. “They can’t augment without them.”
“Are you sure?” the man asked. “I mean, under stress, people do weird things.”
Shepard must have moaned then, because the woman had leaned down to get close to her face. The woman was out of focus and blurry.
“Where’s my mom?” she whispered.
“We’re getting you out of here,” the woman said. Either she hadn’t heard the question, or she wasn’t going to answer it. Either way, Shepard knew that was bad.
“Where is she?” Shepard pushed herself upright, realizing belatedly that something was very wrong with her bones. “Where is she?” she screamed.
“Sedate her, quick,” the woman said. The man grabbed Shepard by the arm. She screamed, blue light flashed all around her, and something sharp and hot pricked her skin. The world began to fade, and she fell into darkness.
Shepard woke the next time in the medbay of a makeshift refugee camp. She’d broken almost all her bones and had lost her right eye. They grew a new one for her by using samples taken from her own DNA, though they hadn’t quite gotten the color of her new eye to match the old. They’d taken the liberty of enhancing the vision in both eyes while they were at it. Her parents had been conservative and religious – they abhorred genetic manipulation and had refused to have their children altered in any way. It was part of the reason they’d left for a new life – going back to the old ways, they’d said.
Thanks to the slavers, Shepard didn’t need glasses anymore.
After surgery, Shepard spent hours staring at her new eye in the mirror, feeling completely changed. There was no way she could go back.
One eye from the past, one eye for the future , she kept thinking.
After a long while, she decided in that as long as she was genetically modified as Frankenstein’s monster, as long as she had survived and no one else had, that she might as well make it count. So she’d opted to serve. And the rest had been history.
Shepard rested her head on the seat back and closed her eyes, allowing the hum of the engines to calm her frazzled nerves.
At least she would be working with Anderson again, she thought. He didn’t have a problem with her icy attitude, her troubled past, or her biotics. The fact that he trusted her so implicitly was a nice change from the usual nervousness that other elements in the fleet showed to her. Being a war hero and a biotic to boot tended to make people nervous. Thankfully, Anderson just took it in stride.
Shepard could only hope that her new crew would be as accepting as he. Otherwise, this was going to be a very long trip.