That night, Emmanuelle Sharon had a dream. In the dream, she was naked and standing on a raft in the middle of a dark, moonless ocean. Her lack of clothing did not bother her too much - the air was not particularly cold - but the raft was not sturdy or solid, and she felt the ice-cold water on the soles of her feet.
She looked around, wondering where she was and hoping to see something - a rock, a landmark, anything. But the cold ocean spread out as far as she could see in all directions. Finally, she gave up and sat down.
But the raft did not feel right. In addition to not being sturdy, the logs felt too soft, too much like human skin. She looked down to examine the logs more closely...
Bodies. They were bodies. She was sitting upon a raft made entirely of corpses. She was back on her feet at once, and as she looked down at the dead men and women, dread crept up her spine like an icy spider. Oh god, no...
Her older brother Eli, dead for over ten years, was directly under her feet, staring up at her with dead eyes. She recognized him from his crooked nose; when she was eleven, they got into a fight and she broke his nose. It had never been set right. But that was the only part of him that she recognized. His body was badly burned, the flesh sloughing from his skin like wax. The batarians burned him alive, she recalled, him and...
Her mother was floating beneath Eli, peeking up from under his left shoulder. Her body was badly burned as well, but one of her hands was mostly intact. They always were tough, she thought. Hard work had blistered those hands, and then the blisters had burst, creating callouses. And every finger had been broken at least once, and the finger bones had knitted themselves back together over and over. Getting spanked by her was like being struck on the ass with a shovel...
Her father floated up against Eli's right side, but he was upside-down. As burned as he was, there was no mistaking that wide, bulky frame.
It was hard to look at them. She tried to turn away, but her eyes fell upon another body, badly mutilated, which she eventually recognized as one of the other casualties of that awful night. And soon, she realized that they were all there, all dead, even those she knew to have survived the raids. She stepped back, and the bodies suddenly shifted, and more bodies floated up to the surface. She didn't even want to look at them, didn't want to identify them, but all the same, her eyes fell upon poor Jackie Mifune, his chest covered with bleeding holes where he'd been shot. And then she saw an asari, thin and gaunt and missing a nose. Visin. T'Shar was right next to her, and she quickly discovered Arine as well, and Gen. Chak'ran, his wounds still fresh.
"What is this?" she wondered aloud.
And suddenly, Mifune stirred and pointed a finger at her. We are your dead, he said, or maybe she only imagined that he said that; his voice was a barely-audible croak.
"But I didn't kill all of you."
Irrelevent, Mifune insisted. We are dead because of you.
"What do you want?"
You should have died, Visin said as she rose up. Why did Arine die, and not you? You don't care about Siani at all.
Eli stood up next. You should have died with us, he said. When he spoke, the burned flesh on his face contorted in ways that made Emmanuelle's skin crawl.
More of them began to rise, and as they did, the bodies that still made up the raft shifted. Eventually, Emmanuelle lost her balance and fell.
The water was colder than she ever imagined anything could be. The shock of it jolted her heart and seemed to force all the air from her lungs. She struggled, but all the bodies were moving now, and they all clawed and tugged at her. She barely managed to suck in a mouthful of air before her head dropped below the surface of the water.
She fought as fiercely as she'd ever fought in her life, but they were too many, and she could not hold her breath much longer. She realized that she was going to die, that there was no way she could fight them all on her own.
And yet, she made a final effort, wrenching herself free and managing to surface at the very moment that the breath that she held expired, and for the first time in over ten years, she screamed for help. She screamed until her lungs and throat felt as though they were on fire, and just when she thought all hope was lost, as the dead prepared to drag her back under the water, a hand, smooth and slender and feminine, reached out and grabbed hers.
And suddenly, she was rising, ascending so rapidly that her stomach lurched the same way it had the first time she had experienced FTL. And when she finally regained her bearings, she found that she was high above the sea, and when she turned to look at her savior, she saw her. "Charlotte..."
She was as naked as Emmanuelle, and taller and more beautiful than Emmanuelle remembered. Her skin was like polished mahogany, her hair long and black and braided, and her eyes were an impossible icy blue."Mon petite lieutenant," she purred, her wine-colored lips forming a smile that promised both pain and pleasure, "you have come back to me."
I never left you. You dumped me, Emmanuelle thought, but such thoughts vanished the moment that Charlotte reached out her hand and ran a finger in the soft flesh below the corner of Emmanuelle's jaw. "I... missed you..." she stammered, like a child who ran away from home and got caught in the rain.
"And I missed you. Say you'll be mine again."
Deep inside Emmanuelle, a voice raged, you bitch, you fucked up my life and wrecked my career and shattered my heart into a million fucking pieces and now you want me back?! But then Charlotte's other hand went to Emmanuelle's nipple...
Charlotte's face was a mask of virginal innocence as she rolled the nipple between her thumb and forefinger. "My poor Emmanuelle... You're hesitating. I don't blame you. I treated you so cruelly..."
Emmanuelle struggled to keep control. Fight it, you stupid slut! the little voice screamed, FIGHT IT! Don't let her control you again! But she took another step, and now Charlotte's perfume flooded her nostrils.