Shepard hadn’t thought she’d be relieved to return to the bowels of the ghost ship. The Catalyst’s room—for lack of a better identifier—had only put her more on edge, both for the creature itself and the corpses within. Still the darkness brought its own issues.
There was no sound at all. Not a whisper of air, not a clashing of debris, or even the faintest tap of Keeper talons. Shepard had thought she was long since used to the quiet of space, but that wasn’t true. However quiet she’d found ships and stations to be, there was still the little hum of a life around you, the residual noise of other lifeforms moving in close quarters. If you tried hard enough, you could usually hear the sound of someone walking floating up the vents.
Her feet touched ground. Quickly, Shepard found the top of the next shaft and swung herself in before she could be thrown upward again. According to the map, this tunnel normally would exit onto the maintenance catwalks by one of the business parks. Now it was a black zone.
A grate was still in place at the business end of the tunnel. There was an equal chance that hitting it would just send her backward, as there was the possibility of it coming loose. Bracing her hands firmly against the sides of the shaft, Shepard lifted one foot and bit back a yelp.
Several deep breaths later, she gathered her wits and tried again. Her foot slammed against the grate. The force knocked the bottom of the grate loose, and sent Shepard sailing backward. Hands still tight against the sides of the shaft, she got her feet down and kicked off the bottom to go forward again.
The grate fell away when Shepard sailed into it, and together they floated out into the dead zone.
A steady rain of curses pounded through Shepard’s skull as she scrambled and caught the catwalk railing with one hand. It was a job to pull herself closer to it, securing both hands around the rail, then over it and back onto the walk itself. For a long moment Shepard just stood there, eyes closed and panting.
When she opened them, she wished she hadn’t. Shepard had expected a hole torn in the Citadel’s arm. She hadn’t expected the alliance frigate.
It was a smaller gunship, probably only fifteen to twenty crew, but its landing field had torn out several levels of what looked like apartment and office space; not factories after all. A long, jagged scar ran down the hull, following the path the frigate had taken. In its wake hung countless corpses amid the industrial wreckage.
“There seems to be a minor gravitational field present, due to our proximity to the planet,” Catalyst said in her ear. Shepard startled, and almost missed the rest of what it said: “It should keep you from floating too far away, provided you do not propel yourself directly into open space.
She’d forgotten the damn comm link.
“Fantastic,” Shepard muttered.
Nervously, she glanced at her arm but did not bring up the Omni-tool. Was it better knowing or not knowing?
Not, Shepard decided as she glanced to either side of the hole. There was enough room on either side that, assuming she could force doors adjar where needed, she could take that route through. The easier way was to just float straight on through. A tiny bit of force would be all she needed, but if she ran into anything it could change her trajectory and send her flying off in whatever direction.
Wetting her lips with a dry tongue, Shepard walked down the catwalk, eyes on the debris field before her. Eventually she found a flight line that looked relatively clear of large objects. Taking a deep breath, Shepard climbed carefully over the railing and settled herself with her back to it.
"Easy," she breathed, and kicked herself away from the rail.
At first it was like a waking dream—nightmare, Shepard corrected herself. Definitely a nightmare. Drifting along in the twilight, a range of stars overhead through the skeletal beams of a mortally wounded station, and only the sound of her own breathing in her ears, Shepard almost forgot about the ticking time bomb of her suit, the hunger sapping at her strength, and the sandpaper of her throat. Until she passed close by the cold blackened body of a small child.
Any identifying markers were gone, as was one of the child's feet and half its arm. The remaining arm had a death grip on a ragged teddy-bear, whose smile seemed to mock Shepard. She shuddered and closed her eyes until she was past.
The next body she neared was alliance, decked in a suit that damn near matched the one she was wearing. More alliance appeared the closer she got to the crash site. Now she could see what had caused the landing: the back end of the craft had been cut clean open. A Reaper's work no doubt.
There was no telling where the back end had ended up—maybe out with the rest of the wreckage, maybe plummeting to Earth to drop on war-ravaged citizens. Shepard sighed. She almost missed the first warning beep, followed closely be a second, more urgent one.
She was no where near the other side, either. Frantically, Shepard's mind raced though her body remained carefully still. What to do? What to do...?
Was this it? After everything she'd done this was the end of her.
It was almost a relief.
"Maki," Lilo snapped.
There was a body directly in her path; another alliance soldier. This one bore her sister's face, glowering at her through its helmet. Unable to stop her motion, Shepard collided with the corpse. Just like the first, this one's suit was the same, standard issue model that infantry used.
The beeping in her ears grew louder with every passing second. Thick fingered and sluggish, Shepard tore at the arms of the corpse, fumbling for the power cells. Finally, she got the cover off. Two slim—and completely dead—charges fell out.
Shepard didn't waste time swearing. The collision with the corpse had knocked her slightly off course, and in a moment another ex-soldier was in hand. Once again, nothing. With the beeping screamed in her ear, Shepard drifted through soldier after soldier.
The beep flat-lined as she grabbed hold of another corpse. Shepard exhaled hard as her fingers fought with the paneling. This time an orange light answered her.
In another instant a fresh burst of air hit her face. Shepard had to remind herself not to breath too deeply, not yet. The suit needed a moment to finish it's recycle, get the system caught up. When it had, she let herself sigh and take stock of her renewed situation.
Drifting in a field of very helpful corpses. Right.