Lapsed Judgement owns neither Mass Effect nor Dead Space. They are both the property of EA. Lapsed Judgement seeks to make no monetary profit with the publishing of this fanfic.


Prologue: No Escape

-41 Days Prior to the Arrival of the SSV Normandy-

Slowly, Bel Anoleis' eyes cracked open, returning the Salarian to consciousness. Almost immediately the Salarian's face twisted into a grimace as he sensed the soreness in his arms and legs, and the crick in his neck from how he had slept. Despite these pains, Anoleis relaxed as he realized that he remained in his once-grand penthouse, and had not been dragged elsewhere while he slept.

Sitting up, Anoleis reached blindly at the ground to his right, searching for the pistol he had scavenged days ago. Initial fears dissipated as the Salarian felt the angular contours of the pistol, and Anoleis soon found the grip of the gun and brought it up, placing it onto his lap. Surveying his once-grand penthouse for changes, Anoleis' bleary eyes could find no disturbance of the room since he had fallen asleep, and with his immediate safety ensured the Salarian knew it was time to get moving.

Carefully standing up, Anoleis avoided the various strewn about pieces of art, furniture, and amenities that had once been immaculately placed throughout the room. Around him chairs and sofas had been ripped apart as though a wild animal had been let loose inside his penthouse, legs having been removed and upholstery torn to shreds, while various lamps and other devices had been knocked to the floor. The mechanical devices had been treaded on, stabbed through, clawed, bitten, and a number of other forms of violence had clearly been employed against them when Anoleis' room had been ransacked.

And of course, the irreplaceable would need to be replaced. With his position as Administrator on Noveria, Anoleis' pocket book had been well-lined by a mixture of his very good salary and some less-than-legal deals. The sculptures, paintings, and rare items that he had once admired had been put through the same treatment as the rest of his belongings, yet now Anoleis felt some disgust with himself for wasting his money on things that did nothing for his survival.

Stretching, Anoleis winced at the ache in his legs and arms. The pain in his neck had slowly left him as he had looked around his dimly lit apartment, but days of struggling for survival had left him a bit out of it. He was no security officer, he was a company bureaucrat, after all.

His stomach gurgling and the sense of dryness in his mouth turned Anoleis' attention from these things, however. Tapping his omnitool, Anoleis waited for the device to activate. Briefly the device glowed on his arm, and then faded out as it sputtered and died. Cursing under his breath, Anoleis decided to fill his basic needs, and with pistol in hand he made his way to the kitchen, carefully avoiding the minefield of objects strewn about.

Compared to the rest of the room the kitchen was dark, a product of the lights in the room having been torn apart. While much of it was still visible from the low-power lighting in the main living space, Anoleis still felt a rush of fear as he slowly walked inside. The counter provided an ideal hiding spot for someone who crouched or lay behind it, and in the last few days Anoleis had learned that ambush was how the creatures rampaging throughout the facility liked to catch their prey.

Stepping forward as quietly and slowly as possible, Anoleis brought up his pistol and aimed the weapon at the area behind the counter. Inching around slowly, Anoleis' heart raced as he tried to catch a glimpse of anything, be it a corpse, an abomination, or something else that may be occupying the space behind his kitchen counter. Finally, Anoleis found himself looking at an empty space between the counter and the wall, and he lowered his weapon and sighed in relief as nothing ill awaited him.

Stepping to the sink, the Salarian checked behind him for any disturbances before turning the water to cold and waiting for it to leave the spout. Not unlike his omintool, a few drops left the spout, and then there was nothing. Looking behind him once again, Anoleis froze as he thought he saw movement. As nothing else seemed to move or make noise, the Salarian soon returned to the inactive tap.

Turning the cold water setting to the maximum, Anoleis waited again, until finally something semi-solid left the sink, plopping to the ground in the middle of the metal drain. Leaning in, Anoleis peered at what had exited the spout. It was formless, like sludge, and even with the limited lighting Anoleis could make out what it was doing. It pulsed. Like a living being it pulsed, as though inside it was a lung pumping oxygen or some other gas in and out.

Backing away, Anoleis looked around for a light of some kind to better illuminate what he was seeing. Finding nothing immediately available for lighting, Anoleis went for another route and picked up a once-pristine towel from the floor. Wrapping it around his left hand, the Salarian picked up the deposit from the sink and brought it out into the living room. Bringing it up to one of the low-power overhead lights, Anoleis felt his heart sink as he realized what he was dealing with.

The pulsing object looked like a clump of dead flesh, a mix of mottled brown and pink with flecks of some unknown substance dotting its form. Before, Anoleis had seen it lining the walls of some of the facilities that had been overrun. For it to have come from the sink added a new dimension to the dead biomass he currently clutched in his towel-covered hand. The water supply on Noveria was useless now, consigning him to a slow, painful death at the best.

"No…." A single word escaped his cracked, dry lips, and Anoleis tossed away the dead flesh.

"Yes."

Anoleis whirled around, his pistol brought up in his shaking hand as he found himself face-to-face with Lorik Qui'in. The Turian sat casually on one of the two overturned couches behind Anoleis, watching the Salarian train his weapon on him without flinching or fear.

"You-you-you-" Anoleis stammered, gun continuing to shake despite having identified the source of the other voice in the room.

"Surprised to see me?" Qui-in asked, his smooth baritone voice contrasting with Anoleis' more high-pitched own.

"You're dead!" Anoleis finally got out, circling the Turian.

"Am I? Are you? You've seen things before that didn't happen, Administrator. Things that weren't real. Things that you were told were impossible. Certainly you don't trust your senses anymore?" Qui'in smoothly replied, his head and body turning to stay focused on Anoleis.

"No. Not like this. When you opened the gates, Qui'in, I saw what happened," Anoleis said, a little confidence regained.

The Turian sighed, and the two watched each other. Compared to Anoleis, Qui'in looked like he had lived in luxury for the past couple of days. His clothes were pressed and clean, unlike the wrinkled, dirty rags Anoleis wore. The Salarian was also dirty himself, thinning with dry skin, and looking like he had slept badly lately. They were opposites, the calm, collected Turian and the panicked, uncertain Salarian.

"Did you see yourself write those words on the wall?" Qui'in asked, pointing at one of the room's walls.

Anoleis turned away from the Turian and looked to the wall, his blood freezing as he realized what he was gazing at.

The wall had been marked in ink, graffiti lining it in Salarian, Asari, and an unknown alien script. Of the two scripts he could read, Anoleis found his handwriting all over a freakish mix of gibberish, pleas to deities across numerous cultures, and questions regarding his survival. And only moments ago Anoleis was certain that this wall had been lacking this writing.

"Not possible…. Not possible…" Anoleis muttered, and as turned again towards Qui'in he found himself shocked again. The Turian had disappeared.

"Very possible, Administrator. Perhaps it is time to accept that this world is no longer as you think it is," Qui'in's smooth voice came from behind again, and Anoleis turned again, pistol up, as he stared down the Turian.

"No."

"Yes. The dead walk. Your wealth useless. Your eyes are not telling the truth. Why do you fight so hard, Administrator? Why do you resist? There is a way to escape this world, but I'm not sure you're willing to do what is necessary," Qui'in shot back.

"I will do what I must to live!" Anoleis shrieked, his panic beginning to get the better of him.

"Then make us whole again, Administrator. You know what those words want you to do."

Looking down at his pistol, Anoleis thought long and hard for a time, and then looked back up at the unmoving Qui'in, who continued to fiercely gaze at the Salarian.

"You're sure?" Anoleis asked, defeated and dejected, as he relaxed his posture in resignation.

"Yes, Administrator. Make us whole again," Qui'in softly replied.

Bel Anoleis nodded, and shut his eyes tight. Bringing up his pistol to the side of his head, Anoleis took a few deep breaths as he steeled himself for what he was about to do. Escape seemed impossible, and with the water system out of commission he would be hard-pressed to find filtered water. With food being a less serious issue and the fact that he was seeing things working against him, perhaps it was time to finally surrender.

And so, the cold, metal muzzle of the pistol lay to the side of his brain, his finger on the trigger, and finally Anoleis gave in. The trigger was squeezed, and a single shot was fired as Bel Anoleis gave in and blew his brains out...