April 2, 2170
Zody rubbed her eyes against the sunlight shining through her window. Kicking off her covers, she stretched her limbs as far as they would go and yawned. Laying back she wiggled her fingers and toes, trying to wake up her body. Lazily, she glanced at the clock; school started in a few hours.
Heaving a sign she rolled off the bed. Digging through her closet, she tossed her clothes over her head. Pants, shirt, underwear, socks, and shoes bounced unceremoniously onto the bed. After dressing she stopped in front of her full length mirror to primp. Running her long fingers through her ebony hair, it glistened in the sun and fell down her back like silk. Her skin was sun-kissed; the colony was warm and sunny throughout most of the year. Perfect weather for farming, it also gave her plenty of time outside to be young and full of life.
The smell of breakfast cooking drifted into her upstairs bedroom. Padding down the stairs she found her mother placing their warm breakfast on the table. Eggs, France-toast, bacon, and hash browns were place neatly on delicate china. Zody's mother, Hannah was committed homemaker. Their home always looked like a picture out of a woman's editorial magazine. Every detail had been considered, from the drapes, to the napkin holders. Her mother even wore an apron when she cooked.
Hannah was a lovely woman and Zody got her looks from her. She was slender and pretty, but what people noticed first was her striking blue eyes. Blue eyes were a recessive gene and throughout the years it had become rarer to find a human with natural blue eyes. Especially, the livid pale blue that Zody and her mother shared. Hannah kept her hair long were most women had chopped theirs off in favor of an easier to maintain fashion.
Her father, James was already seated at the table absently drinking coffee as he read the mornings news. He was a large man, not fat by any sense of the word, just muscular. His strength came from years of manual labor in the fields. If Zody got her figures and eyes from her mother, then everything else came from her father. He was a gentle soul, and would always try and talk around a problem instead resulting in yelling or throwing punches. Zody got her dark hair and athletic nature from him. He would never have pushed her in to do athletic actives but he was proud when she made the school's track team. Though he made sure she focused on her school work as much as sports. He had also been the one who suggested she take honors classes, and he was there supporting her the whole way.
They both looked up as she jumped the last step on the stair cast. Her mother chimed a, "Good morning, Princess," as her father raised his coffee mug in greeting.
Sliding into her usual sit, she waited for her mother to sit across from her before plopping three pieces of France-toast on her plate, smudging it was butter and syrup. Waiting just long enough for both her parents to have a mouthful of food, she asked. "So, you guys give it any thought?"
Her mother nearly choked on her mouthful as her father forced swallowed his bite. "I thought I said we were going to wait to discuss this later, Princess." He scolded.
Zody melodramatically threw her head backwards. "But Dad, it's been days, I really want to do this."
She was referring to the two Alliance representatives who had shown up at their door a few days ago. A few month's parlor Zody's school had tested the students for biotic potential. Zody had been the only student from her colony selected. With the school on Gagarin Station closed, that left the Alliance as the only place a biotic could train. The representatives had told her parents how rare and exciting this news was and that they should be proud of their daughter. Her parents had nervously thanked them and sent them on their way without giving a clear answer.
Her father was the first to recover, a hint of pride tugged at the corners of his mouth as he glanced over at his wife. Hannah's face was mixed of worry and terror. Clearing his throat behind his hand he resumed his neutral demeanor. "Princess, enlisting in the Alliance is very serious, especially as a biotic. If a major offensive breaks out, I'm sure you would be sent to the front lines."
"Princess, I really don't like the idea." Hannah offered.
Zody passionately told her parents the speech she had repaired days earlier. "Isn't being on the front lines protecting humanity the reason to join the Alliance?"
The future of humanity was in space, surely as colonist her parents could understand that. And that future needed to be protected. It was also no lie that she wanted to be trained to become a better biotic. Without implants all she could do was maybe wiggle a salt shaker if she really concentrated. Being able to pick and throwing someone across the room really had an appeal to a seventeen year old.
Whatever her father was about to say was silences by a low rumbled from outside. Her parents exchanged worried glances before James slowly stood and ventured out the front door. Zody moved to follow him when her mother called out. "No, Zody stay here."
Zody looked back at her mother surprised; neither parent used her name unless they were either worried or angry at her. Instead of going to the door Zody went to the window and craned her neck to try and see down the street. Quietly her mother joined her.
From her vantage point she could see only a few houses down. Several cookie cutter pre-fab homes line the street, each of them had been built as a housing project. Every house was a neutral beige color with a single door and large picture window out from. A small porch was the only other decoration.
Far off in the distance Zody could still hear the low rumble. "That sounds like a ship engine." She told her mother.
Without warning she saw her father tearing around the corner of the farthest house. Even from this distant she could see the fear on his face.
"James?" Hannah said quietly clutching the window seal.
Jumping the steps he busted into the house. "We got to get out of here!" He yelled grabbing both women by the arms and rushing them to the back door.
"James, what is going on?" Hannah cried. "You're scaring me."
James ducked his head outside scanning in both directions. "We have to get to the shelter, Han." Glancing at his daughter then back to his wife, he whispered. "Slavers."
Zody knew she was not supposed to hear that last part. As much as her parents tried to protect her from the horrors of the galaxy, she was not naïve. She had heard stories, smaller colonist then hers had been hit by batarian raids. They enslaved as many people as they could, killed the rest. It did not seem real that it was happening to her.
A rough angry voice caught Zody's attention. Coming through their neighbor's yard was a small group of batarians. They were shouting in their strange language and waving their guns at them. Zody had seen a batarian before. She had gone to town with her father to pick up supplies and there had been a batarian merchant. He seemed nice enough, if a little stoic. They had diamond shaped heads with two pairs of eyes, the smaller set directly above the larger. Their skin tones ranged from green to shades of brown. They were nowhere near as attractive as others alien races and much less friendly toward humans.
James hustled his family behind him. "Please just let us…"
His words were cut off by gunfire. Droplets sprayed Zody's face as she watched her father collapse to the ground. Her mother's screams seemed far away as she stared at the neat little red hole in the back of her father's head. Hannah clutched James' shirt as she wailed, but no matter how many times she screamed his name he did not move.
Acting on motherly instinct Hannah got back to her feet and shoved Zody behind her, as she hid her young from the advancing predator. "Please, no!" She cried.
One of the batarians started shouting at them but without a translator neither of them had any idea what they were yelling. The batarian grabbed Hannah's arm and pulled her away from Zody, forcing her to her knees in front of him. He continued shouting waving his shotgun at them. His yells must have been instructions, for one of the other batarians grabbed a fist full of Zody's hair. She winced in pain as the batarian forcefully jerked her head back. She was too scared to struggle back.
"Let her go! Don't hurt her!" Hannah shrieked at them. Her words fell silent when she turned to see the shotgun pointed down at her. Her eyes widen as she realized her death was at the end of the barrel.
The blast silenced the world to Zody, all she could see was her mother's chest exploding to a red blossom as her body landed on top of her father's. Dull blue eyes stared up at her daughter. Zody went numb from head to toe as she stared at her mother. A voice deep inside her screamed for her to fight back, to run, to hide, to do anything, but she simply stared at the bodies before her.
The batarians did not give her time to grieve or to accept what she just seen. The one who held a fist full of her hair began to pull her around the house. Her body went with him for a moment before something finally broke and she fell back into realty. If she went with them, she would be gone. Not in the matter her mother and father were gone, she would be a slave. A pet for a cruel alien master, suffering horrors and indignities never meant to be inflicted on one sapient creature to another. Giving out a somewhat pitiful attempt at a war cry she twisted out of his grip, leaving several strains of black hair in the batarians fist. He blinked all four eyes at her in astonishment as she reared back and punched him square in the face. He clutched his bleeding nose and cried out. He really had not expected a pretty little human girl to fight back.
Not wasting a moment she bolted between the houses. Out front she saw several more batarians heading her way, wheeling cages behind them. Some were empty, others filled to capacity with her neighbors and friends. She could hear people crying and screeching in pain. Forcing herself not to understand what she was seeing she turned and ran. The batarians shouting after her as she sprinted down the street.
Zody did not know where she was going; she just knew she had to run. Her lungs felt like she was breathing fire as she franticly she tried to think of a place she could hide. Not paying attention to where she was going, she failed to see the batarian in front of her until it was too late. Stretching out one hand he clothed lined her sending her flying head over heel. She landed on the ground hard, knocking the wind out of her. With her body still in flee mode she was trying to get to her feet, when the batarian grabbed the front of her shirt and began screaming at her. From his pocket it pulled out a cranial implant. It was a wicked looking device, design to control its victim. Holding it in front of her face he grinned madly as her eyes widen in horror. Then he struck her, her head bouncing against the gravel road.
Grabbing Zody's jaw roughly he jerked her head to the side as she screamed and thrashed at him. When she felt the sharp end of the implant brush up against the back of her neck, despair set in. Her parents were died, her home was burning, and she was going to be a slave.
Just as she felt the tip of the implant pierce her skin, his head mysteriously jerked to the side and he fell over to the ground. Blinking at him dumbfound she seen the bloody round hole that went through one side of his head and out the other. Alien blood mixed with the dust and gravel.
"Kid you alright?" Someone shouted.
Still in shock she turned to see a young man running toward her, flanked by a handful of other men. All of them wore dull gray combat armor and carried military assault rifles. Immediately, Zody recognized the symbol painted on their armor, the Alliance. They were a sight to behold, charging across the street to where she lay. No Alliance propaganda film could compare to what they were actually like. They were heroes, the bravest of the brave.
Her hands went to the back of her neck. "Get it out! Get it out!" She shrieked fumbling with the implant that was imbedded just under the surface of her skin.
The young soldier dropped to his knee next to her. His gentle hands pushed hers away as he grabbed the end of the implant. "Hold on, this is going to hurt." He coached her.
With a quick jerk he pulled the implant free, throwing it into the grass. He moved so he could look her in the face. "You okay?" He repeated.
All her could do was nod.
"Are there more?" He asked. Even through his helm she could see the sympathy in his eyes.
Pointing behind she said. "They came from that way. There are a bunch of them. They have a ship."
"How many are there?" Said one of the other marines, his voice gruff and much less sympathetic.
"She doesn't know! She has been running for her life, Clark." Snapped her rescuer.
Determined not to let them down, she willed herself to remember what she had seen as she fled. There had been three batarians who killed her parents, there had been one batarian with each cage, and there had been twelve cages. Seven of them filled with people, most of them her age or younger.
"Fifteen batarians, they are loading people into cages, mostly kids. They…they are killing everyone older than that." She reported to them hoping she did not sound as unhinged as she felt.
The marine nodded as she talked. "Definitely a slave raid." He said when she had finished. Standing he pointed to two of the marines. "Franklin, Loughran, stay with the kid and secure the area. Zabaleta, Clark, with me."
"Aye, aye, Commander." Zabaleta said.
With that they charged down the street. Zody watching them go until Franklin touched her shoulder and motioned her to hide in one of the nearby houses.
Hours past as Zody sat in her hiding place hugging her knees to her chest, rocking slowly back and forth. Her mother's screams echoing in her ears. Her parent's bodies burned in her vision. For some strange reason she could not cry. She knew she should be but her eyes remained dry as she stared at her knees.
The two marines came in every once in a while to check on her. Franklin gave her a cantina of water and applied omni-gel to her neck and on the busted lip the batarian had given her. He apologized saying that it would probably scar. She nodded numbly at him, she did not care anymore. Neither asked her about what happened before they arrived. They saw the haunted look in her eyes and decided not to pry.
Another low rumble made her glance out the window. The batarian ship rose off into the smoke filled skies. They were fleeing, heading back into the sky that Zody had once found comforting and so full of promise.
She returned to her slow rocking. She thought of her classmates, her friends, her teachers, her neighbors who were either taken or dead. She thought of her parent's. What was she going to do now? Had her grandparents or some of her cousins survived? If not then what?
Outside she could hear raised voice. Slowly standing, she numbly walked to the door.
The commander and his squad had returned. Zabaleta had taking off his helm and was yelling. "We have to go after them! They took half the colony. All those people! They took kids!"
Glancing over his shoulder the commander saw Zody standing in the doorway. With a simple raise of his hand he shut the Lieutenant up. "We have done all we can, we have to help the one left behind now. Radio the Einstein let them know we need immediate relief add."
"Aye, Aye, Sir." Frankin saluted but the commander was already walking over toward Zody.
Stopping in front of her, he removed his helm. He was a good looking man, maybe late twenties early thirties. Tucking his helm under his arm he nodded at her. "Name is Commander Kyle Fairchild of the Alliance Military. What's your name, kid?"
"Zody Shepard." She whispered, the last Shepard.
Staring at him she made up her mind. On the morning of her eighteen birthday she would join the Alliance, to ensure this would never happen to another colony. She would stand between the innocent people of the galaxy and the horrors that sought to destroy them.
January 15, 2173
Kyle Fairchild threw his arm around Shepard's shoulder and held her tight in a one armed hug. Like dozens of other cadets, they were on their way to celebrate their hard won graduation from their Alliance training. Shepard had even more to celebrate the most to them; a N7 was boldly pinned to her dress uniform jacket.
"Proud of you kid," Kyle said affectionately.
In the years since the raid, Kyle had become Shepard's benefactor. For some reason he felt a personal need to make sure that the skinny survivor from Mindoir made it to womanhood. He had seen that she was placed with a good foster family and even coached her into going for Special Forces training when she enlisted in the Alliance.
He was not entirely sure if it was because of the raid, but in spite of not being quiet nineteen, this spunky girl had surprised him greatly. He constantly forgot she was six years younger than him.
August 16, 2177
A Cerberus operative sighted through the scope of his sniper rifle at a young dark haired woman. She looked like hell; blood was running down the left side of her face. One hand clutched her side indicating an injury there, probably a couple broken ribs. Her rifle hung in her other hand like she barely had the strength to carry it. Somehow she managed to limp her way up the raise and away from the thresher maw nest; she was the only marine who had.
He moved his finger to rest on the trigger, ready to take the shot and end the woman's unfortunate life, "One marine escaped. Orders to terminate?"
From his office light years away the Illusive Man was observing the steaming footage his operative was transmitting. His chin rested on his knuckles as he watched the young woman struggle to get to safety. Her face was a mix of agony and determination. Like rage was the only thing that made her place one foot in front of the other.
Curious, he tapped a handful of keys and the dossier of the woman popped up in front of him floating next to the video feed.
Lieutenant Zody Shepard: born and raised on Mindoir, enlisted on her eighteenth birthday, adept, special forces training, top of her class, several commendations. Flagging her dossier, he then opened the communications between him and the sniper.
"No, we will watch this one. Un-jam communications; allow her to radio for help."
"Sir, yes sir," the operative responded pointing his rifle away from the woman and shook his head. After what she had just went through it might have been more merciful to put a bullet between her pretty eyes.
"For the love of God, someone please respond!" Shepard shouted through her mic for what seemed like the thousandth time.
"Lieutenant?" The pilot of the SSV Dallas responded.
"Mission critical, we were attacked! Giant subterranean aliens came up from the ground and attack us," Shepard relayed trying to keep her voice steady. She knew she was going into first stages of shock.
"Lieutenant," It was Captain Huang voice boomed over the comm., "I'm sending you the pickup location. How many are still alive, how many need medical attention?"
Looking behind her she stared at what was left of the colony of Akuze. Those creatures still were raging through the colony. They seemed furious that these alien buildings still stood on their planet. Under different circumstances Shepard would have been fascinated by their sheer size and ferocity, like watching a shark shred apart its prey. However, it was the bodies of her comrades they were tearing apart along with the colony.
Kyle was dead, Toombs was dead, everyone was dead. She knew she should feel pain, anger, something, anything. Yet as she watched the aliens roar and erupt from the ground she only felt empty, like she was watching everything unfold third person.
"Lieutenant, report!" she realized he had been trying to get her attention for a while now, "How many are with you? Does anyone need medical attention?" Huang repeated, he sound irritated by her lack of response.
"There is no one else, sir," her voice was hollow and distant, "I'm the only one."
It was Huang's turned to be silent for a moment, when he spoke again his voice had lost its hard edge, "Do you need medical attention, Shepard?"
Shepard's body had begun to shake and she felt clammy and cold. Her chest hurt, every breath was agony. The blood pouring down her face blinded her left eye and she was pretty sure her arm was broken, "Yes, sir."
The shuttle landed only a couple of yards away. It had barely settled when the hatch opened and the lead medical officer and his aides rushed out. Taking a few uneasy steps toward them Shepard heard the medic call out her name right before her vision went black and she fell, face first, onto the cold dirt.
From then on she faded in and out of consciousness. She remembered the feeling of the shuttle shaking as it escaped Akuze's atmosphere. It rattled her to the core making her cry out. The medical officer was there in a second with an injection in the neck and everything faded to black again.
When she finally came back, she was in the Dallas' medical bay. Her arm in a case and bandages covering her hands, chest, and her left eye was covered. The doctor told her she did, in fact, have a broken arm and four cracked ribs. There was small gash above her eye as well has some minor burns on her hands were she had touched the worms' acid.
He told her those aliens were called thresher maws. While she had been sleeping the Captain had been investigating what those things were that had killed his marines.
The doctor saw her struggling to hold back her tears. He left trying to give her some privacy. Once he was gone the tears came unrestrained. There was no one left in her life. Her family, her friends, and her comrades were gone. They had all died violently by the horrors this galaxy had released upon them. They had died because there had been no one to stand and defend them.
Kyle was more family than her foster family had been. At first he had been like a big brother to her, but slowly as she grew older it had become something more. There had even been talks of marriage and kids, but then something had changed. Out of the blue he had pulled her aside and told her he wanted to break it off. His reason, he said, was because she did not actually love him. She loved what he was, not who he was. He told her she was not in love with a soldier; she was in love with being a soldier.
It had taken a long time after that for them to mend their friendship. They had just in time for her to be assigned to his unit. Their first major mission, investigate the missing pioneer team on Akuze. Now he was gone. For her part she had tried to save him. The burns on her hands were testament to that.
Taking a deep sharp breath she willed herself to stop crying. She took in her sorrow and rage, burying in deep within herself. Staring up at the medical bay ceiling she swore that she would make herself stronger. She would be that wall that stood between the people of the galaxy and the tragedies that had shattered her life. No one else would suffer as she had. Angrily, she wiped her tear stained cheek. She would never cry in front of someone ever again. People would only see her confidence and determination.