The world rocked violently.
“Shepard, get out of that bed immediately!”
“Wha…?” Shepard murmured. When she opened her eyes, instead of seeing a beach, she saw bright lights.
“Oh shit,” she muttered. “Not this again.”
She squeezed her eyes shut against the…dream?…vision? Whatever it was, she didn’t want to go there.
“Shepard, this facility is under attack!”
Shepard opened her eyes again, hoping she’d see something that looked less like a space station and more like some place she’d visit on shore leave.
Lights, glass – a laboratory. Shit .
She supposed that meant the lab was real. And that meant the other place – the beachy meadow place – was a dream.
Damn , she thought as she rubbed her jaw. It had been a nice dream, too.
“Shepard, you need to get out of that bed!”
“Coming mom,” she grumbled. She sat up and clutched at her ribs. They felt odd – new, even. She stumbled off of the bed and blinked her eyes. This was a rather impersonal way for the medics to wake her up.
“What’s going on?” she called to the voice.
“We don’t have time for that,” came the reply. “There’re weapons and armor in the locker.”
“Weapons and…” Shepard felt another lurch of the ground under her feet. “Okay…finding said armor. Who are you? Where are you?”
She opened the locker and blinked as a full suit of armor rolled out at her feet. Nice stuff , she thought. This was an upgrade from her old jumpsuit. Must be Christmas-time for the Alliance.
“I’m trying to keep you alive,” came the enigmatic reply. “Get suited up.”
“I’m suiting, I’m suiting,” Shepard grumbled. She tried to remember back to what she had last been doing – before the beach-meadow dream, that is. Then she remembered, and suddenly froze.
“My God,” she whispered.
Metal and fire; space and cold.
She had been spaced. She thought she had died. One glance around her told her that she must have spent a long time in this medbay.
“Where’s Kaidan?” she asked at once. “Where’s my crew? Are they okay? Do they need help getting out of here?”
“It’s just you,” the voice replied. “Now get moving.”
“Where did you put them?”
“Damn it, Shepard! Just get that armor on! They’re trying to kill you.”
Shepard finished snapping the armor into place. “Who’s they?”
“I’m not sure. Someone hacked security.”
Shepard grabbed the pistol from inside the locker and frowned. “Well, they’re going to succeed in killing me unless you can find this gun a thermal clip.”
“It’s a med bay,” the voice replied.
“And yet you had weapons in here,” Shepard called back.
“We give the clips out separately,” the voice said.
“Right,” Shepard said. “Well, if you can find me some, that would be great.”
Stupid thermal clips, she thought. They made battles more challenging ever since they’d been introduced shortly after the Battle of the Citadel. On the practice field, thermal clips made for smoother shooting. In the mission field, however, battles became a constant game of “find the dead guy’s dropped thermal clip.” Some days, she almost enjoyed that game. Strangely, even the geth had taken to using the thermal clips, so it usually worked out pretty well. At the moment, however, she was not in the mood for being stuck with a gun that could not fire because someone had forgotten to load it.
“Keep your head down,” the voice commanded. “The tanks by the door are about to explode.”
Shepard turned her head and saw the oxygen tanks and immediately jumped behind cover. Her speed surprised her. While she still felt disoriented, there was no doubt that her reaction time was quicker than it had been before. Must be the adrenaline , she thought.
“Security mechs are on their way to your position,” the voice said. “I’m going to direct you to where I am.”
“You got a name?” Shepard asked the voice.
“Miranda,” the voice said. “Get moving, Shepard.”
“Charmed, Miranda,” Shepard said wryly. She walked through the doors to see a dead security worker at her feet. “Damn,” she muttered.
“Get the thermal clip,” Miranda ordered.
“Done,” Shepard said. She took the clip, shoved it into her gun, and cocked the pistol. The cold sound of metal sliding on metal was eerily familiar after that warm dream of hers. For a moment, she felt like she was turning a corner to see a long road before her. Only, she wasn’t sure if she welcomed that road or not. She almost felt…regret, though she was not entirely sure why.
Shepard shook her head. Her road was here before her, she told herself, strewn with bodies and thermal clips. She needed to get moving, not stand here imagining things. Out of habit, she went to throw on her biotic barrier.
” Shit! “ she hissed. The barrier was strange, somehow – like a coating of tar rather than the flickering sheen of blue-white energy she’d used before. It felt heavy and powerful all at once, like sludge made of lightning. Shepard suddenly remembered her earlier episode. They had put her arm back together well, she realized. She hadn’t even noticed the scars.
“What the hell did you do to my biotics?” she asked the voice.
“We gave you an implant upgrade,” the voice named Miranda replied. “You’re an L5 now.”
“An L- five ?” Shepard gaped. “You’re kidding. The L4 model is still in classified development.”
“Just be careful,” Miranda said. “It may take you awhile to adjust. Start slow.”
“I was kicking ass just fine with the L3s,” Shepard grumbled.
Okay, so she’d always wondered if the weaker implants hobbled her. But since she didn’t have the headaches that bothered Kaidan, who was an L2, she really couldn’t complain. Still, to suddenly wake up an L5…
The whole situation was pretty messed up, Shepard thought wryly. Here she was with a pistol with only one heat-sink in it, her biotics had been upgraded so much that she wasn’t sure she could properly use them anymore, and she was about to wander through a facility she’d never been in, while being attacked by an enemy she didn’t know, while being guided by a disembodied voice of someone she’d met only once when heavily sedated.
Shepard grinned and shook her head. Nothing like a crazy situation to bring out the best in her. Now, if only Kaidan was here, she’d almost be having fun.
“Which way?” she asked the voice.
“There’s a barricade…”
“I see it.”
Shepard ducked behind the makeshift barricade just as a security robot of some kind came around the corner and shot at her. She was glad she’d ducked: her biotic barrier had already worn off. She was having trouble keeping the energy humming over her body when the power was so strong to start with. She carefully gathered a little biotic energy in her palm, made sure she had a good grasp on it, then fired it at the target. She was intending to knock it down, but instead the biotic ball snapped the mechanical security robot’s arm off.
“Well hey,” she muttered, “What do you know? You teach yourself something new every day.”
The mech stumbled towards her, raising its gun in its remaining hand. Shepard jumped up from cover and shot the thing square in the head. Its circuit boards exploded and it dropped to the floor.
“Nice shot,” Miranda said.
Shepard nodded grimly. Even if they’d messed with her biotics, she still could handle a gun. In fact, she had made that shot handily, almost as if her vision had improved and her reaction time was better.
“Have you got me on a security cam?” she asked the voice.
“Of course,” came the reply. “I’m in the command room. I’ll unlock the doors you need to find me.”
“And I’ve got mechs all the way from me to you?” Shepard asked.
“Sadly so,” Miranda replied.
“Where’s my crew?” she asked again.
“Not here,” Miranda told her. “Just stay alive and we’ll talk about it later.”
“Fun times,” Shepard said. “All right. I’m on my way.”
She saw a couple more heat sinks lying on the floor near a pile of bodies. Ignoring the upturned faces as best she could, she grabbed the clips, shoved them into her pistol one by one, and hurried down the corridor though the door Miranda had opened.
“Damn!” she hissed, ducking down behind a barrier. She’d walked right into a whole team of mechs.
“Stay under cover while you take those mechs out,” Miranda said in her infuriatingly cool voice.
“Yeah, thanks,” Shepard shouted. She jumped up and shot one of them in the head twice. It fell to the floor. Without thinking, she jerked her elbow back and twisted her wrist. Instead of forming a roiling singularity that pulled every mech in the room into orbit around it, a weak blue ball of light went flickering over to the mechs. It stopped right in front of one of them and hovered there, like some low-class club’s disco ball. Shepard’s jaw dropped. That was what had become of her famous singularity skill?
Shepard hissed out a curse as she ducked behind cover again. The mechs had shot through her shields. She glanced back to see that one of them had lifted off of its feet slightly and was flailing its arms. It was as if the singularity was rubbing its belly and it was hanging in the air, shaking from ticklish laughter.
Feeling slightly bemused, Shepard jumped up from cover and shot that mech’s head off. Floating helpless had seemed to counter the mech’s shields. That was a useful thing to know. Now if she could just get her singularity to work properly, she’d have this in the bag.
Shepard ducked under cover again, jumping up to shoot the mechs as precisely as she could. She attempted to shoot out another feeble missile of energy as she had before. It was nothing like her old ability to shred things with a dissonance field, but somehow, she found that the missile approach worked pretty well. It was like lobbing a baseball, she thought. She’d played on the school’s team back on Mindoir, and this felt a lot like pitching. It looked like she was going to get plenty of practice at it, too, the way these mechs kept coming. She lobbed another ball of energy, then shot the mech’s head as it stumbled back.
She blinked. That was all of them. Okay, that was good.
“Keep moving,” Miranda said, by way of congratulations.
“You gonna tell me what’s going on?” Shepard asked her as she hurried down the hall.
“I’m…facility…hacked…” Miranda’s voice broke up in a storm of static.
“Great,” Shepard sighed. As much as the woman’s voice annoyed her, at least it was someone to talk to. Now she was alone…
Shepard rounded the corner to see a man shooting across a chasm at crowd of mechs. By the look of him, he knew how to use a gun and he was aiming it at the things that were aiming at her. In the Book of Shepard, that meant he was all right for now, and might even prove useful later. Shepard ran to reach him. She realized that she was able to sprint more quickly than she ever had before. She ducked down beside the man under cover of a glass railing.
“Shepard?” the man blinked at her. “What the hell?”
“Do I know you?” she asked. “You with Miranda?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m Jacob.”
They both ducked as a bullet glanced off of the railing above their heads.
“Things must be bad if Miranda woke you up,” he said.
“You wanted me to keep sleeping?” she asked. “Seems I’ve been asleep a while.”
The man gave her a strange look. “You have no idea,” he said.
Across the chasm, even more mechs appeared. Their gunfire was like a rainstorm of bullets, just over their heads.
“What the hell is going on here?” Shepard asked.
“This isn’t really a good time,” he replied.
“Right,” she agreed, popping the heat-sink from her pistol and pulling on another sluggish biotic barrier. “Dead mechs first, questions later.”