Adam whirred and clicked at her, its little arms waving at the plate in distress. Larva and Speed had brought it to her a while past. Shepard’s immediate reaction had been to lose what little had already been in her stomach. At least she’d managed to get to the edge of the containment field first, she thought. Her tiny space between the wall and the generator was yet comparatively clean.
Now that she knew there was no going back. Her stomach rolled in alternate directions: first nauseous at the idea of eating more of that, then growling with hunger, and back again to nausea.
“I’m not eating that,” Shepard muttered at the Keepers for the upteenth time. They were all hovering around her; it was the first time she’d seen all five at once. Their clicking chatter suggested that they were talking to one another. Could they even understand English?
Adam picked up the plate and thrust it at her.
She slapped it out of his talons. “Do you know what that is ?”
The other four scuttled backward, whirring excitedly. Adam’s skin began to bubble.
“No.” Shepard held her hands up, shook her head. “No, no. I wasn’t attacking you , I just...!”
The Keeper’s skin boiled and slid, revealing a hint of mechanical parts beneath just before they, too, became goo in a puff of hissing, bubbling muck and smoke.
Larva approached the mess, stopping just short of touching it, and whirred softly.
“I’m sorry—” The Keeper’s head jerked up. It stared at her a moment, then scuttled out of the bubble and into the darkness beyond. Looking about, Shepard realized they were all gone.
For what felt like days, Shepard remained huddled by the generator, staring at the piles of dissolved Keeper and human flesh. Or maybe it was volus. Or turian. Or Batarian. None of those made it any better. She couldn’t imagine it was asari, at least. Not blue enough.
Sleep might have helped, but for once couldn’t. Her eyes closed and her body would spasm to wake her. All the while her hunger grew.
The stream of water dried to a trickle, and the level in the basin was gradually dipping. Shepard tried to drink as little as she could, but with the injury and the lack of food it was difficult to control her thirst as well.
Maybe the meat was batarian. She’d never really liked batarians. Or elcor. There were elcor on the Citadel when...
Despite herself, Shepard licked her lips.
The pile of meat was deteriorating. There weren’t flies here to eat it, though. No roaches or silverfish or any of the pests present on worlds to break down waste. Neither was it cold enough in her little bubble to preserve the dead flesh the way it was likely being preserved through the rest of the ship.
Shepard wished there were roaches. Those she’d eat— had eaten—without reservation. Of course, here those roaches would in turn be feasting on the dead. Wouldn’t that be nearly the same thing, if only vicariously?
“What does it matter? They already dead.”
“ Were people,” Lilo corrected, arms crossed. She was alive this time, standing near the edge of the bubble. Her face was peaked, sure, but it was normal. She stared at Shepard with the same, hard expression she’d had the first and only time Shepard had balked from eating what Lilo brought her. “They’re good for you,” she’d insisted then, and hadn’t stopped staring until Shepard had swallowed the half-eaten sandwich, maggots and all.
Lilo had been right. Lilo had always been right when it came to Shepard’s survival. Just...never her own.
“They’re gone,” Shepard whispered and Lilo’s lips moved in sync. “You aren’t. If they had this chance to live, wouldn’t they take it?”
Moving like weights were tied to her every limb, Shepard crawled to the pile of meat. With a shaking hand she shoved it into her mouth, one fingerful at a time. It was still tasteless and chewy, and hard to swallow around the lump in her throat. But she managed.
In the back of her head she heard her sister say: “That’s my good girl. That’s my Maki.”