Title: Under Better Circumstances - Chapter 1: Coincidence
Game: Mass Effect
Characters/Pairing: Commander Nevada Shepard (femShep) and James Vega
Chapter 1 – Coincidence
"You're coming with me to Earth. Now," Admiral Anderson commanded, walking proudly in his Alliance blues. With his entourage following closely behind him, he stood out amongst the crowd of degenerates in Omega. A tall and brawny soldier with blood dripping from his Mohawk also accompanied him on his way to the docking bay.
"Forget it. There's nothing for me there," Lieutenant James Vega barked.
"I've got something for you. Something you haven't had before."
"Just throw me in the goddamned brig and be done with it!"
"You're not far off, Lieutenant," the Admiral shot back from the airlock of the SR-2, "Only you'll be guarding the brig."
Vega followed Anderson aboard and was immediately mesmerized by the Normandy's interior. He heard rumors of the legendary starship but never expected to find himself walking amongst its hallways. Yet there was an unusual settling in his gut. The Alliance emblems coated the walls of the vessel provided an overpowering feeling as if it was recently commandeered from another organization.
Anderson stopped in front of a doorway and suggested the Lieutenant enter, adding, "One prisoner in particular."
Upon walking into the room, he encountered a woman donned in pitch black armor. There was a distinctive red stripe down her right arm and the N7 logo on her chest. "Commander… Shepard?"
Shepard was hunched over her knees, her hands cuffed together. Her wavy brown hair was brought back into a ponytail and curled over the side of her neck. She vacantly stared at her metal restraints, memorizing the tension each dangling chain link demonstrated when she pulled it apart.
She brought her piercing light brown eyes to greet her guest. Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "So you're the one Anderson wanted to guard me?"
"I guess so, ma'am."
"Please don't call me ma'am," she quickly looked away, "makes me feel old."
"Probably shouldn't call me that either… I don't know how much longer I'll have that title."
"Now that sounds more familiar," she chuckled under her breath, "With how many people address me as Shepard, I wonder if anyone even knows my first name."
She immediately brought her attention back to him. With a glow in her wide eyes, she smiled, "Well, this is a rare treat. I didn't expect someone I just met to know anything about me, especially my name."
"I know more than you think."
"Probably from the media…"
"No, I have a great deal of respect for you. You're a goddamned hero in my books so I took the liberty of doing some research."
"Hmph, some hero I am," she raised her cuffed hands and shook the chains at him. "Do I get the pleasure of knowing your name?"
"Lt Vega. You can call me James."
"Well, James, I know why I'm here but did Anderson tell you why he's pulling you away from the heart of Omega?"
"Apparently I need more training," he crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe, his broad shoulders nearly covering the width of the opening.
"So it had nothing to do with that trail of blood dripping down your face?"
"That's," Vega wiped away a portion of the red fluid from his forehead, "it's nothing."
"Surely doesn't look like it."
"I had a disagreement with some batarians."
"Must have been quite the disagreement… granted, it must not have taken much. They have been waiting to pin something on us humans since the beginning."
"Like three hundred thousand deaths?"
"What a coincidence. That's what I'm in here for," Shepard replied with despair vibrant in her tone.
"What exactly happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she forcefully addressed, returning her gaze to her confined hands. She attempted to tug apart the cuffs but failed, letting out a desperate sigh in its wake. She closed her eyes and whispered, "Damn… It's just me against the world…"
A deafening silence filled the small room, changing the atmosphere and causing the air to thicken. Vega stood completely still, unsure on how to respond. From everything he read about her, he never expected to witness the great Commander Shepard showing signs of desperation. The way she was described transformed her into an immortal hero… but she was only human… a mortal who received more than she could bargain for.
"James," Nev Shepard brought her eyes to meet his again, "Anderson didn't say much about you but he did mention something about an incident on Fehl. Can you tell me about it?"
"With no disrespect, I would rather not," he turned his head away.
"I'll share my past if you share yours."
"I would rather not."
"Suit yourself," she grumbled, returning her elbows to her knees and leaning forward.
Refusing the Commander gave him an uncomfortable feeling. There was something about her that he felt he could confide in. He uncrossed his arms and friendly suggested, "Maybe next time I'll tell you."
"Hopefully it'll be under better circumstances," she scoffed, "I know its protocol to have me detained but I think the handcuffs are a bit much. I am doing this willingly…"
The Lieutenant took a seat on the opposing bench. Taking her hands into his, he examined the restraints. They were the highest military grade cuffs available, forged from the toughest metal. The extra precautions must have been a way to appease the batarians.
Nevada leaned back confused, darting her gaze between the large hands encompassing hers and their owner's eyes. She couldn't distinguish if he was merely taking a closer look at the steel clasped on her wrists or if he was doing a random act of kindness. She gently wrapped her fingers around his, anticipating an abrupt retraction. But he didn't pull away… he continued holding on.
She closed her eyes and muttered, "It's a long story."
"What is?" Vega asked completely puzzled.
"Why I destroyed the mass relay…"
"We have a few hours until we get to Earth."
"That's more than enough," Shepard smiled.