Another generator, another little bubble of safety. Adam had just finished installing it when Shepard and Lucy reached the crook of hull the Keepers had picked out. This place was backed on two sides by large, intact walls, and was properly floored at least. Water was leaking out a nearby pipe. As soon as gravity was once again in effect the liquid poured into a basin that had been welded to the floor. How much of it had already been wasted out into space, Shepard wondered.
Inside the LS field, the weight of the armor was beginning to take its toll. Shepard shut the LS system off, then fell on her ass. Lucy hovered at her side, clicking nervously. Waving her off, Shepard tugged the helmet off and put it aside.
Despite the premium water was at, Shepard knew she needed to get herself clean. Cleaner than this, at the very least.
Piece by piece Shepard divested herself of clothing under the curious gaze of the Keepers. Naked, she cupped water in her hands and tried to wipe her legs clean. Adam disappeared for a moment, then returned with the same cup-like piece of metal he had had before.
“Thanks,” Shepard tried to say; the result was rusted and wrong. Even in the dim light she could tell that her skin was all the wrong colours. Deep black bruises were edged by smaller, sallow patches. Gashes and abrasions generously littered her legs and arms. Open, festering wounds were running with pus.
Though her body screamed at her, she squeezed the puffy skin around them until the fluid from the sores ran bloody again. There were no bandages, but...
Lucy held up a new canister of medi-gel. Tears pricking her eyes, Shepard accepted it and scooted her way backward, out of the pool of disease left upon the floor, before applying it.
Only then did she curl into a ball beside the generator and pray for sleep.
The light in her cabin was usually on, even when she was sleeping; Shepard hated the dark. Tonight it was filtered through the fish tanks she’d never bothered to use, flickering over her desk and the empty model pegs. Someone, hard and warm, lay behind her.
A smile rose to Shepard’s lips, and she covered his hand at her waist. “Are you awake?”
His arm tightened around her. He did not respond.
“Yeah,” she said, “I wouldn’t want to talk to me, either.”
“Do you really think I’d blame you?” Garrus’s voice was a whisper through a winter tree, but it was Garrus. Letting herself relax upon the mattress, Shepard closed her eyes.
“No. You would understand. You usually do.”
“Only usually?” He laughed against her neck.
“Yeah.” Smirking, Shepard moved his arm and turned to face him. Her scream was drowned by the roar of the marauder.
Shepard fell off the bed, scrambled to her feet, and dashed into the office. Gun. Gun. Where was her fucking gun?
Certain the marauder was right behind her, she looked up to find...nothing. Panting, palms pressed so hard to the desk there was a sucking noise when she lifted them, Shepard stared at the empty bed. “...a dream?”
“It all is.” Lilo stood at the fishtank, dirty hands and forehead against the glass. In the fractured light her appearance was almost ghoulish, with shadows highlighting the hard angles of her malnourished body. “You know that, don’t you?”
“I...” Shepard carded her fingers into her hair, tugging at her scalp. “I should be dead.”
“WHY?” Jumping back, Shepard starred as the corpse of her sister lurched toward her. Lilo’s limbs moved like a puppet on strings, miming her rage with twisted fingers and contorted, hateful snarls. “This is whatchu want? Is this whatcha fought for?”
“I fought for them!” Shepard sank to the ground and pulled her knees to her chest. The ghoul fell upon its bony knees and hands to crawl the rest of the way to her. Its fingers left chills against her skin. Lilo crossed her arms over Shepard’s knees and rested her frost blackened chin atop them.
“Can’t save everyone, Maki. Y’really oughta know that by now.”
"Then what makes you so sure I can save myself."
Her skeletal hands cupped Shepard's face, and Lilo's blazing brown eyes filled Shepard's vision. "I did not teach you to lay down and die."
"But you did."
Shepard woke to the world trembling around her. She groaned and rubbed her face as a wave of dizzy nausea made her reel.
Familiar talons prodded at her arms, and a piece of metal was laid in her lap. On it was a small pile of pink and white pulled, raw flesh. Not the most appetizing thing in existence, but she'd eaten far worse. This was probably the same whatever-it-was they'd been giving her all this time, anyway. And it might settle her stomach.
Her shaking hands made it difficult to eat, but under the watchful gaze of Short Stuff she managed. That seemed to please the little Keeper, for its antennae bobbled and it jigged in placed. Then it took the empty "plate" from her and scuttled off again.
A clean blanket had been tugged around her sometime while she slept, but she was still cold. Pulling it tight, and slipping it underneath her so that her ass was no longer against the metal hull, Shepard leaned against the wall and waited as her shivering gradually abated. At least she was able to stay awake this time.
Reaching one hand down beneath the blanket, she felt along her legs, wincing where her fingers scraped bruises and sores. The medi-gel was helping close the least of them, but the worst areas were once again sticky with pus and blood. Another wave of nausea drew her hand away. Shepard curled in on herself, waiting for it to pass. She couldn't afford to throw up, it would waste too much water and food.
What the hell was she eating, anyway?
The citadel seemed to be in complete ruin. If there was anyone else alive, wouldn't the Keepers have already taken her to them? Besides, they would have all been killed when the Reapers took control...wouldn't they? There had certainly been enough bodies...
A sudden numbness spread through her, starting from stomach and extending to the very last fibers of her hair. No, she didn't want to know. No, no...