It’s a tight squeeze. I don’t think this crawl space was designed to fit a fully decked out marine. I guess I shouldn’t complain though- I have no idea how Wrex is even managing to move behind me.
“If you had told me this morning that a toothbrush was going to save the Normandy, I’d have been very skeptical,” says Lola, crawling along in fronts of us. At least I can’t complain about the view.
I feel the pull of the ship as she leaves dry dock; it seems we made it on board just in time. I can hear the mercs moving around above us as we approach the CIC. Joker is going to be so pissed.
“Pretty sure we broke Traynor’s toothbrush,” whispers Shepard. “Remind me to reimburse her for that.”
“Really?” I whisper back, exasperated. “That’s what your worried about right now?”
“Little cramped in here,” chimes in Wrex. Lola glares at him over her shoulder, but I’m not sure how he stayed quiet this long.
“Quiet!” She turns her glare at me. “We can’t risk them hearing us.”
Wrex rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. Get off my tail.”
The crawl space opens up in front of us and Shepard switches from a crawl to a squat, rifle out and ready. We’re coming up on the hatch that gives us access to the CIC, time to get prepped.
“All right, spread out,” says a merc above us. “Find the real Commander Shepard.”
Damn, it looks like they know we made it on board. I guess it would be too much to hope for otherwise.
Lola takes point and waves Wrex and I into position behind her. We move carefully, practically silent, and with the noise they’re making there’s no way they can hear us. They may know we’re on board, but they don’t know where we are. The element of surprise is still on our side.
“Hey, what’d she mean by ‘slow her down’?” speaks up another one. “We’re allowed to kill Shepard if we have to, right?”
The first one scoffs. If I wasn’t concerned about giving away our position I’d scoff along with him. “She said ‘slow her down’ because she thinks we’re cannon fodder.”
I smirk. They are cannon fodder. You think they’d recognize that by now.
“Oh,” says the second merc, sounding shocked. Shepard holds up her fist for us to hold. “Well, shit.”
Lola hits the button to stair access, taking out the nearest merc with a headshot before he can blink.
I laugh and launch myself into the fray. “Shit is right!”
Lola’s mouth quirks up in a quick grin as she takes out another one. I might bitch about the danger she’s in every now and then, but damn I love our jobs. Lola and I both head for cover, but not Wrex. He charges the merc Lt with a laugh.
“I’ve always wanted to do this!”
I throw a grenade to the left and Shepard launches a flare to the right. “You’ve always wanted to have a fire fight on the CIC of my ship?” Lola sounds incredulous. I stifle a laugh. This revelation does not surprise me.
A delighted Wrex doesn’t catch Lola’s tone. “And it isn’t even my birthday!”
We take out another half dozen mercs before I hear Shepard yell “Clear!” Wrex and I echo her and I shake my head in amazement. How many fucking mercs are there?
Lola tries to reestablish contact with EDI but to no avail. They must have disconnected her. I hope she’s okay.
“Let’s get to the cargo bay,” says Shepard, striding determinedly towards the elevator, not even bothering to take in the carnage. I fall into step behind her. Damn straight. The only thing on my girl’s mind is destroying-
Lola stops short and I walk right into her. She doesn’t seem to notice. “Please send this to an animal shelter for proper disposal as a warship is not an appropriate… oh that is not okay!”
I look around her to find her hamster cage, complete with hamster, in the trash with a note attached. I have seen Shepard in many different moods and situations. I’ve seen her take down a slaving warlord without blinking an eye. But I have never seen murder in her eyes like I do right now.
She spins around, eyes darting between Wrex and me. “Should we go check on my fish?”
I attempt to get my expression under control. “Babe-”
“Right,” she says with a nod, cutting me off. “The clone.” She turns back to her hamster, “All right. Sit tight little guy. Anybody gives you any trouble, go for the eyes.”
We step into the elevator and Lola slams another clip into her rifle. “She messed with my hamster guys. Now it’s personal.”
Wrex glances over at me, but I shake my head. Best to leave this one alone. The elevator starts to move and a thought occurs to me.
“Hey, those assholes are in the shuttle bay. My shuttle bay!”
Wrex nods approvingly. “That’s right. Get pissed off. You’ll fight better.”
“I just know some asshole messed around with my weights. I finally got them set up right!”
“Damn straight!” says Wrex. “Nobody touches your stuff!”
Lola turns to me with a raised eyebrow.
“Hey,” I say defensively, “you just lost your shit over a hamster.”
Her eyes narrow but I’m spared a tongue lashing by the elevator doors open.
We step out carefully, painfully aware of our surroundings but everyone seems to be in cover. At least until the clone comes around the corner, wearing Shepard’s fucking N7 armor.
“Well that’s creepy,” Lola says as Wrex and I take up positions. She doesn’t sound nearly as pissed off as I would.
The clone tries to take us by surprise and fires a few rounds, but Lola heads for cover and quickly returns fire.
“You want to stop shooting up my ship?” the bitch has the nerve to say.
“It’s not your ship,” responds Shepard, sounding like she’s dealing with a 2 year old.
“It will be! I’ve taken your name, your spectre rank, even your fingerprints!”
I move up to cover Shepard as she advances. She stays low and takes cover behind a crate, moving towards where we saw the clone.
“And then you left me to die…” she says, peeking out the side for targets, “only I didn’t. You really think fake fingerprints are going to fool the council? Or Hackett?”
I bark out a laugh. “You’ll never fool anyone!”
Lola pops out, rifle trained on where the clone was, but she’s no longer there. She circles, keeping her weapon up. “How’s that big plan looking now?’
With a roar, the clone launches herself out of hiding, attempting to deploy a biotic Nova before Shepard can defend herself. No such luck. She spins and and counters it with her own biotics faster than my eyes can trace. It seems they’re evenly matched though, and they’re both knocked back a few feet. Before Lola can get her rifle back up Brooks appears, taking a pot shot at Shepard and radioing for reinforcements.
“This mercenary company has as many soldiers as the Alliance!” I yell, turning to cover the elevator. I shouldn’t have bothered. They came out of the woodwork. I had just taken out my 3rd one when EDI’s voice came through our comm channel.
“Shepard, can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear,” she responds, dropping part of the clone’s shields, “you cut through the jamming?”
“We did,” comes Liara’s voice. “It was heavily defended but we got through and disabled their tech.”
“Take her down!” screams the clone.
Wrex laughs. “Keep dreaming, Pyjak!”
Esteban’s voice cuts through the battle. “Commander, the Normandy is prepping for a jump to FTL.”
“Can you get to the cockpit, like soon?” urges Joker.
“Negative, I’m occupied in the shuttle bay,” says Lola, dodging fire.
“Yeah, we’re a little busy being shot at! Remember how that feels?” I chime in.
“Shove it, Vega!” Joker returns.
“Roger Commander.” interrupts Esteban. “ We’ll proceed to plan B.”
“Plan B? What the hell is plan B?” Joker demands.
Brooks tries to creep up on Lola’s right, but I blast her back with a frag grenade. Unfortunately she dodges the majority of its damage.
Wrex’s laugh rings out and I look over to see him charging the clone. “Is that all you got? The real Shepard hits harder!”
“I can testify to that!” I yell out, covering Lola’s six.
“I’m overriding the sky car’s safeties, Commander. We’re going to obstruct Normandy’s path, try to get her attention,” says Cortez.
“We’re bait?” complains Joker. “Plan B stands for bait? I am so sick of being bait!”
"You still want the ship after all this?” I ask.
“I don’t know, Vega,” says Lola, firing a shot that makes her clone retreat again. “I’ve grown pretty attached to her. She belongs with the real Shepard.”
“I am the real Shepard!” shrieks the fake Shepard, slapping on more medigel.
Lola laughs. “Are you kidding me? You’re nothing but one more mercenary thug.”
I’ve got Brooks back in my sight and am about to take her down when the Normandy takes a hard turn and everything goes flying.
“10 credits says that’s Esteban!” I call out.
Wrex headbutts a merc. “Of course it is, no one’s taking that bet.”
I’m guessing her pilot tells her about Esteban because the next thing the clone orders is for them to launch the shuttle and blow the sky car out of the sky. Right. Whatever amateurs she’s employing don’t have a chance against Esteban.
“What kind of idiot opens the bay door during a firefight?” scoffs Wrex, aligning himself for another shot at the clone. Lola does the same.
“The kind of idiot that doesn’t deserve the Normandy.”
I spot Brooks and fire, catching her in the arm. “You’re ruining everything!” she yells. “I had the perfect plan!”
“Except for the part where you’re losing!” declares Wrex.
Lola has her focus on the clone, but this bitch, the one who conned and lied and betrayed us, this bitch is mine. I circle around behind her, my shotgun lined up with Brooks’ head, when I catch movement to the left.
Shit! Lola and the clone just rolled out the bay door! Without a second thought I drop my gun and run like hell. I’m just in time to see her go over the edge, fingers holding on for dear life. I dive for her, sliding across the ramp. I’m pretty close to toppling over after her, but Wrex grabs hold of my leg and doesn’t let go.
I reach out for her. “Come on, Lola, I got you. You didn’t think you’d get rid of me that easily, did you?”
She grabs my hand and I haul her up, immediately clasping her to me. I hold her there for a moment, taking a deep breath and thanking God she’s all right.
She laughs, letting the edge off her adrenaline. “Thanks guys.”
“What about this Pyjak?” asks Wrex, looking over at the clone still hanging. Shepard pushes away from me and walks over to the clone, dropping to her knees in front of her.
“Grab my hand!” she says, reaching out.
“And then?” sneers the clone.
“And then you live!” replies Shepard. The clone shakes her head and lets go, falling to her death. Lola sighs and stands back up.
Wrex shrugs. “Should’ve just killed her.” Lola gives him a rueful smile, but is saved having to respond by Esteban landing the skycar in the shuttle bay.
Shepard claps her hands once. “Well, looks like it’s time to clean up what’s left of the bad guys.”
Brooks has her weapons dropped and her hands up when I approach her. Too bad. I’d take any excuse to shoot her. I cuff her a bit too tightly and lead her back to where Lola is talking with Esteban. EDI comes over the speakers to let us know that she’s fully back in control of the Normandy and is returning us to dry dock.
“Any surviving mercs?” asks Shepard.
“Just one crappy ass pilot and her,” says Joker, gesturing to Brooks. “Alliance is taking her to a high security facility. Maybe she can give them some dirt on Cerberus.”
Brooks smirks. “I’ll be more than happy to cooperate with the authorities.”
“You’re getting a chance to redeem yourself,” says Shepard evenly. “Don’t waste it.”
Brooks winks at her. “We had some laughs. And who knows? Maybe we’ll have more some day. You know you’ll miss me.”
I shake my head. “Yeah, like a bad rash.”
Lola doesn’t break eye contact. “No, we won’t, Because you’re going to stay in your cell and do your time.”
“Afraid I’ll escape?” mocks Brooks. “Come back for revenge? Is the great Commander Shepard pleading for her life?”
Lola takes a step towards her, eyes crystal clear and serious. “No. I’m pleading for yours.”
That wipes the smug look off Brooks’ face instantly. Though it does put a smug look on mine.
“You know, she wouldn’t have let me live,” she says as Esteban leads her away.
Lola shakes her head. “You can’t clone everything.”
Wrex watches her walk away and sighs. “In the old days we’d have just shot her. Good times.”
Lola grins at that. The Normandy touches down and the shuttle bay opens to reveal the rest of the team waiting.
I wrap an arm around Lola’s waist and walk down the plank with her. “So, what do you want to do for shore leave next time?”
She laughs. “Come on. Maybe we can take some actual time off. No explosions or anything. Just us.”
I nuzzle my nose behind her ear. “I like the sound of that.”