Once upon a time I died. Let me tell you, that hurt. What hurt even more was coming back to life. When a scary-smart, cat-suited, mad scientist woman reconstitutes you from dehydrated space debris and screws ninety percent of your bones back together, that should come as no surprise. To be fair, that part didn’t hurt because I had no working nerves or brain function. It was the part where I was alive and awake, with holes in my skin and my bones still knitting, that really killed me, so to speak.
I woke up in a blinding white room with some woman on a loudspeaker telling me to get up and grab an empty gun. Except for a few crazy glimpses, the last thing I remembered was my ship getting sliced to bits by unknown parties. I’d shoved everyone into the escape pods, been slammed into a bulkhead, and then floated out into open space with two blown seals in my suit. Needless to say, waking up was the last thing I expected. I presumed that I was in some Alliance facility, as that’s for whom I was working when I died. I presumed wrong.
It turns out that some psychos whose nefarious experiments I'd repeatedly foiled had gotten hold of my body and resurrected me. If you don't think that's creepy you try it once. They figured I'd be so grateful not to be orbiting junk any more that I'd happily go to work for them. The kinky mad scientist was named Miranda Lawson and she worked for these goons as part of an organization named Cerberus. How a three-headed dog made sense as the name for a bunch of freaks who wanted humanity to rule the galaxy is still beyond me.
At any rate, her handler was called The Illusive Man and he was as pompous as that makes him sound. I called him TIM, both because it annoyed him and because I wanted him to know that his authority was as illusive as he was. Well, also because saying The Illusive Man more than once in a conversation sounded stupid. I heard Miranda talk about him often enough to know that pretty quickly.
My first fight upon Miranda's waking me was bizarre. I ached everywhere and had nothing more to go on than the fact that I was being attacked by a bunch of crazed robots with the Cerberus logo on them. That seemed pretty normal, actually, until I started listening to some of the research reports I found on the way across the station. They described Miranda's work in detail, including nauseating shots of my before, during, and after looks. I hoped no one ever leaked those onto the extranet. There's nudity and then there's exposed organs. A girl's got to have some secrets, after all.
At any rate, along the way to escaping I ran into Jacob Taylor, an ex-Alliance Special Forces stud who also wore the Cerberus icon and apparently-requisite catsuit but didn't try to kill me. I figured the enemy of my enemy and all, seeing as their mechs were trying to kill them, and thought I'd arrest him or bump him off when we got to the shuttle. It wasn't until we'd saved another guy and were just about ready to leave that he filled me in on the situation. Then Miranda stepped out of nowhere, popped a slug into the head of the guy on whom I'd just performed first aid, and introduced herself. I was outnumbered and my whole body felt like a giant exposed nerve. I decided that discretion was going to be the better part of valor for a while, especially if I wanted to get off of this space station and figure out where I was.
In an attempt to keep me off-kilter, in the shuttle Jacob and Miranda told me I'd been dead for more than two years. I figured that they wouldn't lie about something so easily verifiable so the revelation did its job. To me, it'd been about an hour and a half since I'd ordered my one and only, Kaidan Alenko, into a pod and gone to kick Jeff Moreau out of his pilot's seat before the Normandy crumbled to bits around us. Jeff, or Joker as he usually introduced himself, hadn't even had an environment suit on and would have already been dead if it hadn't been for the kinetic barrier around the bridge. The idea that all of that had happened more than seven hundred days earlier seemed like a bad joke. Miranda and Jacob kept grilling me about my own history, apparently looking for brain damage, until the dominatrix was satisfied. I spent the rest of the flight thinking, Two years? Two years!
As you can imagine, I was hardly in the mood for TIM to be cute. For our first meeting, Miranda sent me into a basement room that turned out to be a holographic chamber. Who knows where TIM was, because he certainly wasn't in the room with me. He basically told me how I was going to be the savior of the human race if I would just do what he told me to do. I smiled and nodded. I had to lull them all into a false sense of security so that I could escape and figure out how to get home. Well, since my ship had been my home I didn't really have one anymore but I could go back to the Citadel and figure out what the heck had been going on without me. Apparently the Reapers hadn't arrived and destroyed all of the sentient species yet, so that was a positive. But thousands of people were disappearing from colonies, and only the human ones. I had to believe that TIM was right about that being significant.
Miranda and Jacob showed up in contrasting cat-suits and showed me where I could put on some armor. The jerks didn't even give me a private room in which to wriggle my abused body into the pieces, either. Then we hopped a shuttle for the most recent abduction site. Talk about a ghost town: you could still smell dinner in the living modules where half-eaten meals adorned tables. There were few signs of struggle, most of them very minor. It was as if something had just vaporized everyone before they had known what was happening.
Halfway across the colony's main town we ran into a group of Quarians, a highly unusual sighting as they usually kept to themselves on the Migrant Fleet and only left it in search of necessary raw materials. Cerberus had screwed over the Quarians as hard as they had any other species so you can imagine how warm their greeting was until I realized that I knew one of them.
Tali'Zorah had been in my crew on the Normandy and a good friend to boot. I hate to think how it would have gone if we hadn't been so excited to see each other. For me it was a tiny piece of normalcy in a mind-bending couple of days but for Tali it was literally seeing a ghost. I so wished we had more time to talk. I wanted to know where everyone else had gone and what she was doing. Unfortunately, we had more pressing matters than my love life and personal curiosity. Someone had programmed all of the mechanized security forces to attack anything that moved.
In short, a bunch of Quarians bit it in the ensuing firefight and we found Veetor, the guy they'd come looking for, hiding out in a surveillance shed suffering from serious paranoia and orchestrating the robo-attacks. He'd recorded what had happened to the colonists, thankfully, so we saw fist-sized bugs immobilize people with their venom and then their eight-foot-tall cousins put the Humans into pods that they spirited away in an enormous and rather slimy-looking ship.
Miranda wanted to kidnap the quarian guy and submit him to “questioning” but TIM had put me in charge so I vetoed her idea, asked Tali for a copy of the data, and sent them back to the flotilla. Just getting the poor guy out of his protective suit might kill him and he was obviously terrified out of his wits. I wasn’t about to approve of torturing an unarmed man for something we were getting for free. At least we knew what was taking colonists and how they were doing such a sneaky job of it.
We returned to whatever super-secret facility it was from which we'd left and I popped back into the holo chamber to milk TIM for any information I could get. Apparently the big creepy crawlies were known as Collectors, which seemed perfectly reasonable given their recent activities. He told me that he had a present for me to use while I put together a new team together to go after the buggers. Apparently, my old team was unavailable, like Tali, or missing entirely. At that point I'd have agreed to bring a batarian slaver if it got me onto a ship under my own command. He told me he had a great pilot for me, too.
Wouldn't you know it? I went upstairs and there, in all his gimpy glory, was my old pal Joker. It took me several seconds to repress my desire to deck him in the face and I succeeded in large part because I needed him to fly my happy behind out of there. But when he showed me the ship Cerbrus had made for us I decided to forgive him. They'd surprised him, too, and he sounded just like a kid on his birthday. A bigger, shinier version of my beloved Normandy floated in the dock just begging us to take her for a spin. Unfortunately, I could only have the ship if I agreed to take Miranda and Jacob along. I hoped that their skin-tight leathers indicated that they'd be far too busy with each other to bother me much.