Finn was still shaking from the experience by the time Kyra returned with a bottle of water.
"Here." She told him, handing him the bottle. "Take a drink and calm down."
"T-thanks." He told her, squeezing his hand.
She gave him a smile, but he could tell that she was just as shaken as he was.
For what it was worth, Finn had calmed down a good bit. Given what they were now facing, he'd hardly call himself relaxed, but the abject terror had worn away, leaving only a dull sense of fear underlying his thoughts.
As she sat down beside him, Finn turned his attention to the rest of the crew. They were all staring at him with concern, and in some cases alarm. Obviously, the sight of Finn so shaken was having an effect on them.
"I found out who is chasing us." He said slowly, willing his voice to remain steady. "Cerberus."
A stunned silence followed his statement.
"Cerberus?" Mannon said, eyes wide. "That's impossible."
"And still true." Finn ran a hand through his hair. "That's not the worst of it; they're still being led by the Illusive Man."
"Disbelieving; the Illusive Man is dead, Finn. Everyone knows that."
"Commander Shepard shot the Illusive Man, that much is true." Finn admitted. "From the context, I'm guessing he uploaded himself into …"
He paused. Everyone was already looking at him like he was nuts except for Jake and Kyra. Sighing, he finished, "Into the Reaper."
"What?" Darsan said, his voice oddly loud. There was no better way to describe the reaction of the others.
"Okay, Finn." Eri said, patting Finn on the shoulder. "I like a good joke as much as the next guy, but this is getting silly."
Finn stared back at him with the dull resolution of a man walking towards his execution.
"You're joking." Eri repeated, a note of desperation in his voice. "This is just some trick you're playing on us."
He looked around the room for support, but only found more confused looks. Mannon sat down next to Billy, looking a bit sick.
"That's … that's crazy!" He said desperately. "Every Reaper in the galaxy was destroyed! There can't be any left!"
"Well, there's one." Finn said, "And now it's got the Illusive Man at the helm."
"It makes sense."
Finn turned, his expression one of surprise at hearing Kyra say those words. She looked back at him, nodding in agreement.
"The Illusive Man wanted to control the Reapers. He was no fool; it makes sense that he had a backup plan in case he couldn't stop … Shepard."
Finn stared at her; the pause before Shepard stuck in his mind, but he didn't know why. "He must've succeeded. Bastard managed to put himself into a Reaper."
"Skeptical; but how did he protect himself from the Crucible blast?"
"The station in Minax must have some kind of special shield." Finn said, shaking his head. "It must've been how Billy survived too."
"Not you too." Mannon said, shooting a glare at Jake.
Finn shook his head. "After all that, the fact that Billy's a geth seems kind of petty."
"Geth?" Kyra asked, perking up instantly.
Like so many things she did, this reaction threw Finn off somewhat. "Yeah. He was investigating the Minax station when the Crucible went off. Maybe that's how his program ended up in the ship; I don't know."
"But he's really in Billy … I mean, the ship?" Kyra's eyes shone with interest. Finn hated to admit it, but her lack of focus was somewhat comforting.
"Oh! Billy was the man on the inside!" Jake said, his tail end wagging. "I knew it! So it's not the Shadow Broker after all!"
"Everyone knows the Shadow Broker exists, Jake." Eri said, shaking his head. "They'd have just taken Billy and left. Cerberus wanted to make sure no one knew they were out there."
"Satisfied; so now we know."
Finn interrupted, "We don't know anything, Darsan. What is Cerberus trying to do? What are they planning to do with a Reaper?"
There was a long silence as everyone considered what could be done with one fully functional Reaper. There wasn't one happy look in the room.
"Maybe we're overacting." Eri said, trying his best to sound cheerful. "I mean, the united fleets of the galaxy took out a bunch of Reapers back in the day, and that was four hundred years ago. We've got better weapons, stronger ships. If it came to a straight-up attack, we'd win easy against just one."
"Thoughtfully; Eri has a point. One Reaper isn't going to be able to take over the galaxy. Granted, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the damn thing, but pretty much any of the main fleets could definitely handle it on their own.”
"And the rest of Cerberus?" Finn asked. "What about them? We have no idea what kind of resources they have at their disposal. Add to that the cloaking generator …"
Eri shivered. “A cloaked Reaper. There’s an unpleasant thought.”
Xyn was watching the group uncertainly. Finn found he envied her; the Neukaraans hadn't been involved in the Reaper War, so knowledge of the Reapers wasn't as widespread as it was among the other races.
"So, what?" Mannon asked. "What do we do?"
"Just what we were already doing; go to Earth." Finn told them as he stood up. "The Citadel's still in Earth's orbit, and so is the Council."
"And if they don't listen?" Eri asked, crossing his arms. "Shepard was a highly decorated Alliance officer, and the Council still didn't listen to him."
Kyra added, "Not until the Reapers were already invading, anyway."
"We have to try." Finn said firmly. "We'll tell them what we know, get some evidence from Billy, and maybe they'll listen to us. If not … well, we still have the cloaking device."
"What? Try to stop Cerberus ourselves?" Jake asked incredulously. "We aren't soldiers! Well, maybe Eri there."
Eri put his hands up, saying, "Whoa! I'm a guard, buddy. Darsan's the man with the firepower."
"Reluctantly; as awesome a fighter as I am, we are going to need more than just firepower to take on Cerberus."
Finn rose to his feet, saying, "We'll worry about that if and when the Council doesn't listen to us. For now, we'll continue as planned."
"The engine's ready to go." Kyra told him. "Just … no streaming, okay?"
Looking at the others, Finn realized the mood of the ship had definitely changed. Their light-hearted adventure had become something darker, something more grim. It bothered him.
"I know this makes things difficult." Finn admitted. "Knowing what we're facing is far from reassuring, but you all deserve to know the truth. If any of you want to leave when we get to Earth, I'll understand."
"Surprised; leave? Now?" Darsan said, stepping forward. "Just when things are getting exciting?"
"Exciting?" Finn asked, not sure he heard the elcor correctly.
The elcor put his hand on Finn's shoulder, saying, "Inspirationally; think about it, Finn! Repairman and friends race to the citadel!"
"Bringing top secret info about the return of Cerberus and the existence of a Reaper from the last survivor of the geth!" Jake added as Darsan's energy spread through the room like a plague.
Excitement in her eyes, Kyra said, "Escaping from New Elysia and Omega with the Blue Suns and Cerberus on their trail!"
"Exactly!" Darsan told them. "Confidently; we play our cards right, we'll be known the galaxy over! Books, movies, commemorative coffee mugs!"
"What about Cerberus and the Reaper?" Finn asked, a smile crossing his face at Darsan's sudden excitement.
"Dismissively; details, details. Let the soldiers deal with that. We're the ones risking everything to warn the galaxy. Trust me Finn, we'll all be heroes!"
"Heroes, huh?" Eri sighed and shook his head. "The bar's gone down over the years, apparently."
Darsan ran two massive fingers over the rim of his hat. “Reassuring; it's all going to work out, you'll see."
"And if it doesn't," Kyra said, excitement in her eyes. "We'll find a way. That's what heroes do, right?"
Mannon rolled her eyes and looked at Xyn, saying, "See what I have to deal with?"
Xyn let out a giggle, her long green hair partially covering her face.
"Cheerful; so let's get this show on the road!"
"Right!" Finn patted his knee. "Come on, Jake! Let's get this tub in motion."
"Right behind you, buddy!"
Once they were back in FTL, Finn let out a sigh and sank back in his chair. To his surprise, a pair of slender three-fingered hands started rubbing his shoulders.
"I'm glad to see you're feeling better." Kyra whispered in his ear.
"I always feel better around you, milady." He told her, turning his head.
She gave him a kiss on the cheek before wrapping her arms around his chest.
They stared out the main window at the stars whizzing by in silence for a good minute or two. Finn rubbed her hands with his own;
"Finn?" She asked quietly. "Can I tell you a secret?"
They both looked at Jake, who stared at them uncomprehendingly for a moment before he caught their meaning. "Oh, right! I need to, uh … go catalog my … er, sock collection."
He scampered off of the bridge.
Once he was gone, Kyra asked, "He doesn't really have a sock collection, does he?"
"I doubt it. Might want to secure your dresser anyway."
She climbed over his chair and sat down in his lap, her legs hanging over the armrests. Wrapping her arms around Finn's neck, she asked, "Comfy?"
"Very." He leaned forward and kissed her. She returned the kiss eagerly, her legs sliding behind his back and hugging him close.
When they released, she smiled at him. Finn couldn't stop looking at her; her smile, her long hair, the adorable blush on her cheeks.
"I like you." She said, her voice strangely quiet.
"I like you too." He told her. "We had this discussion before, I believe."
She giggled. "Yeah, I just wanted to hear you say it again."
After another kiss, Finn asked, "So … was that the secret? 'Cause I think I might need to hear it again."
Laughing, she pressed her forehead against his. "Nah. It's about … well, it's about my family."
"Oh? You have sisters?"
"Three of them." She replied. "And a brother, but it's not about them. Remember when I told you I was omni?"
"I remember you eating my sandwich."
She shoved herself away from his chest and gave him a bop on the head, grinning all the while. "I'm being serious here, sweetie. You remember, right?"
"Of course." He told her, squeezing her hands in his. "Your really great grandparents were converted to omnis accidentally when they were exposed to-"
Finn fell silent as his mind suddenly pieced it together. He looked at her with a mix of wonder and surprise. "It was Shepard, wasn't it? Commander John Shepard …"
"… and Tali Zorah Nar Rayya Vas Neema." Kyra finished. "They produced the first Omni-plants, and helped perfect the process for omni-conversion."
"How did it happen?" Finn asked curiously.
"Well, from what my mother always told us, John and Tali came to Rannoch after the war to make a home. They had brought several plants from Earth; while humans can digest some dextro food, he didn’t want to live on nutrient paste. Well, something about the soil caused some of the plants to mutate into an omni-variant. Since food anyone could eat was kinda a big thing, they helped design a harmless chemical dispensed via mist to encourage the process in other fruits and vegetables, which after months of exposure had altered their own physiology into an omni-state." She laughed again, saying, "Can you imagine how surprised Grandma Tali must've been when she found out she was pregnant? Or Grandpa John?"
"I can imagine." Finn couldn't help but smile. After everything Shepard had went through, he and his wife had a happy ending after all.
Kyra slipped one of her hands from Finn's grasp and slid it into her pocket. She brought out a small round stone. It had been smooth once, but someone (presumably Kyra) had carved various swirls and lines onto it.
"I picked this up on Rannoch before I left." She said, turning the stone over in her hands. "A piece of home to carry with me. It's become a family tradition."
"It's a good tradition." He told her. "If you bring your home with you, you can never truly be homesick."
She laughed again, but there was a hint of sadness this time. "It's been over a year since I last saw my sisters, even longer since I've been home. I miss it, but …"
Excitement was in her eyes as she continued, "My ancestors had an adventure that spanned the galaxy. The odds against them meeting were phenomenal, but they did … just like us."
"Just like us." Finn repeated.
Kyra smiled and kissed him again as the door to the bridge slid open.
"Hey, Finn. I was … Whoa!"
Finn and Kyra glanced around to see Mannon and Eri standing at the entrance to the bridge. Eri was very pointedly not looking at Finn and Kyra, while Mannon looked on the verge of letting out a squee at the sight of them.
"On the Bridge, Finn?" Eri complained teasingly. "Don't make me get a bucket of cold water, you crazy kids."
Kyra hopped off of Finn. Leaning over, she said, "I'm gonna go keep an eye on the engine. We'll talk more at dinner, 'kay?"
She kissed him on the cheek before walking off of the bridge with the usual perk in her step. Just before she left, she turned back to Eri and stuck her tongue out at him.
"Well, well." Mannon said as she and Eri sat at their usual stations. "Have you two set a date yet?"
"Ha ha ha." Finn muttered, unable to keep the smile off his face as his cheeks burned.