For Tomorrow We Die

The Messenger

Contact between quarians and geth must be prevented. Ensure the destruction of the Normandy by any means necessary.

"Well that's a bit extreme," Garrus said during the stunned silence. "Whatever happened to asking nicely?"

Enlea inhaled to begin what was sure to be a lengthy explanation when the briefing room hatch hissed open behind her. She turned to see the quarian engineer, Tali, flanked on her left by the scrap-laden geth named Legion and on the right by a shiny blue model she'd never seen before. The young quarian stopped short, evidently surprised to see the asari at the head of the table. Her eyes focused past Enlea to the words projected in giant letters near the far end of the table. They grew wide, then immediately narrowed to glowing slits as they locked back on the asari.

Enlea didn't have to see Tali's face to recognize the expression of abject hate and rage. Tali could no longer make out the words on the projection behind the asari for the tears that flooded her eyes. She'd long suspected the Council would try to interfere if they learned the geth were trying to make peace, but to deny her people their future? To destroy her ship and her family at same time? She'd worn a knife on her ankle for years, and used it many, many times; as a screw driver, a pry bar, the hilt as a hammer, the blade to cut insulation or packaging for replacement parts. Rarely was it used for anything else as phasic slugs and kinetic barriers rendered a knife almost useless in battle. Friends and detractors alike teased her mercilessly about trying to project an image of rugged toughness by sporting what was essentially a multi-tool on her ankle. But she was never happier to feel its weight in the palm of her hand as she lunged toward Enlea, her blade aimed squarely at the center of her chest.

It never connected. The panorama of her faceplate filled with black as Shepard grabbed her wrist and shoved her blade down, at the same time wrenching her over his hip. Her momentum carried her around and she flipped over flat on her back with Shepard laying flat one her chest, her left hand pinned with the knife above her head.

"Legion, don't!" came Miranda's shout, but the geth bypassed both the Cerberus operative and Shepard and now lifted Enlea into the air by her neck, its eye glowing hellish red. The asari shimmered with energy as her hands clawed at the geth's tightening grip. Her boots kicked against its legs for leverage and sparks erupted from Legion's head as Enlea pounded it with her fist, sending biotic pulses through its metal surface as Miranda tried in vain to pull its hand open. Miranda thought briefly about sending her own charge into Legion to overload its circuitry, something she'd done to countless other mechs. But this wasn't just some random LOKI gone rampant.

Garrus vaulted onto the conference table and rushed behind Enlea to support her weight with one arm while trying to break Legion's grip with his free hand. Mordin muttered under his breath as he brought his omnitool up. With no weapons, options were limited. But he couldn't let the geth terminate their only solid lead to who was working against them.

For a split second, Tali was nose to nose with Shepard. In his eyes she saw shock, anger, and confusion. Her own eyes conveyed a sorrow her voice never could as she realized what she had almost done. She let the knife fall from her hand.

"Legion stop!" Shepard pushed himself up and forced his way into the circle surrounding Legion. "Let her go!"

Legion turned its eye on Shepard. It turned back to its normal blue-white color, but the Council representative still dangled in the air from its hand. Legion focused behind the Shepard-Commander where Tali'Zorah vas Normandy now stood.

"Let her go," Tali pleaded, her hands up in the air, as if the example might encourage the rampaging geth to comply. "Legion, don't hurt her!"

Legion's camera-eye shifted back to Shepard. It released Enlea from his grip and she fell back into Garrus' arms as he knelt on the table and he lowered her to the floor. She spun about and braced herself against it and coughed as her oxygen-starved lungs struggled to recover. The geth did not move, staying within easy reach of the asari.

Captain Artuis crouched at her side of the table, cursing her decision to agree to come aboard unarmed. She had no love for Enlea T'Vari, but if they killed the asari there was no reason for them not to kill the only other witness. Fortunately, the geth and quarian still seemed to respond to Shepard's commands. She then noticed she was not the only non-combatant. While the rest of Shepard's people attempted some sort of intervention, a blue geth platform stood in the entryway across from her, neither attacking the asari with its brethren, or retreating. Like her, it seemed to be waiting to see what would happen next. The turian named Vakarian slid off the table, whoalong with the human female and salarian doctor helped Enlea stay on her feet while she caught her breath.

"Are you all right," Shepard asked Tali once he was sure Legion was taking no further action.

"I'm okay," Tali said. There was genuine concern in Shepard's voice, which reassured her. But from the look on his face, she knew it wasn't going to end with that. If she were in his position, she might have actually been compelled to strike her.

Shepard turned to the geth. "Legion?"

"Affirmative, Shepard-Commander. We are undamaged."

Enlea looked over her shoulder, tears streaming from her eyes, one hand massaging her throat. Dark blue bruises were already forming where Legion had attempted to crush her windpipe seconds before. "Are they all right?"

Shepard blinked. "They're fine. Thank you for asking."

"I don't believe this!" Enlea stared at Shepard, mouth agape. "I came here to help you, two of your crew assault me, and you want to know if they are all right?"

Shepard crossed his arms. "Let me explain to you how things work on this ship. Counting your last visit, we've known each other a grand total of three hours. I spend more time than that with them, under fire, every week. Legion's been with me for about four months. Tali, three years. Do the math."

Tali clasped her fingers in front of her. The other members of the squad gathered around T'Vari as Shepard spoke. All of them, from the ones she'd only known for a relatively short time like Mordin and Miranda, to Garrus, whom was almost as important to her as the Commander, watched the Council dignitary with eyes that held no remorse of sympathy. And Legion, who had charged forward with the same murderous intent as Tali, looked about his organic counterparts as she did, registering the same reaction.

Shepard continued. "I tell you something else. If I walked in when they did and saw what was up on the screen, I would have reacted the same way. Only they wouldn't have been able to talk me down. Make no mistake, Miss T'Vari. I'm not on your side. And until you prove otherwise, you're not on ours."

Enlea turned back to the table and closed her eyes. It was a mistake to come here, she thought. But what could she do now? Could she talk her way back to the shuttle? Would Captain Artuis try to stop her, after she worked so hard to get here? Would the Normandy let them fly away, or blow them to dust in the middle of deep space where the wreckage would never be found? She shifted her palms, leaving cloudy imprints on the table that evaporated quickly in the cool air. When opened her eyes, Shepard was standing next to her, watching.

"That doesn't mean we won't listen," Shepard told her. "You obviously went through great trouble to be here. And I'm sorry you didn't get the greeting you were expecting. But after Dashta, after everything that's happened, we're running a little short on trust. Remember, you have the advantage. You know exactly where we stand. We can't say the same about you."

Enlea studied the human. His species was notorious for quick changes in attitude, but Shepard did it so fast she felt her already sore neck might twist off. But he was right. In spite of overwhelming opposition from an obstinate turian fleet commander, the Council, even the threat of arrest under the guns of a Citadel heavy cruiser, Shepard delivered his message about the reapers. The Alliance didn't want him to do it, and certainly Cerberus had to disapprove, but Shepard did it anyway.

She looked up to the damning marquee still displayed on the briefing room's holo display, condemning the Normandy and its crew to death. She then looked to Artuis who from her posture made it clear was not going to get involved. Enlea thought back to Erinle, when she had been ordered not to interfere and she followed the instruction, but the turian captain refused to stand by and watch the Normandy be destroyed. Was it was blind luck, intuition or something more on the turian's part? Regardless, Artuis had already cast her lot with Shepard.

With a sigh, Enlea reached out to the control console and brought up the interface linking the table's projector with her omnitool. She entered an encryption key, and the single message about destroying the Normandy vanished. Replacing it, a cascade of data that streamed down in front of everyone in the room. When it stretched floor to ceiling, a second window resolved in the air next to it, then another. Thousands of documents and messages, organized in folders by subject, filled each pane.

Mordin stiffened. "STG correspondence. Intelligence estimates. Recognize headers, senders, recipients. Highly classified."

"And those are C-Sec operational orders," Garrus pointed to the center display in disbelief. "From Executor's office itself."

Enlea wrapped her arms around her torso. "He really should screen his subordinates more carefully."

"And fleet communiques," Artuis interjected. Apparently, she didn't have to worry about Vellius' message archive being lost forever after all, as her own ship's communications were neatly contained in their own folder, along with those from around the entire Citadel fleet.

Miranda scanned the data scrolling before them. She sounded more impressed than angered. "Alliance as well... and Cerberus. Interesting."

"What?" Shepard asked, standing between her and Enlea.

Miranda pointed to a name, one of hundreds on the screen. "Roger Ashton. Traffic dispatcher on Arcturus station. I always had my suspicions that he was a double... I just didn't know for whom."

"We still don't." Shepard's mouth turned into a thin line. The amount of information in this one omnitool made him shudder. Outside of Cerberus, there was only one other entity in the galaxy who would have such a diverse collection of intelligence. An uneasy burn settled in his stomach. The Shadow Broker. He was about to voice his opinion when he saw it. He checked himself and inspected the screens once again. There was a telling gap in the archive before them. "Notice anything missing?"

Enlea gave a slight smile and cast down her eyes.

"There's nothing on the asari," Miranda said.

Garrus looked over the list, disappointed that he had not noticed that himself. "Evidently they don't spy on their own kind."

"That, or she's filtered the list to hide anything that might compromise her people," Miranda said. "Either way, I'd say it's pretty obvious she's working for the asari government."

Mordin sniffed. "Unlikely. Asari legislative body communal in nature, highly decentralized. Open, transparent, democratic. Could not support covert intelligence arm, even if inclined to do so. Too free with words and thoughts, ability to keep secrets limited. Dependence on salarians for intelligence gathering well documented."

Shepard crossed his arms as he turned to Enlea. "Yet here we stand with a treasure trove of secrets before us. Enough with the theatrics. I'm not going to guess. Who do you work for?"

Enlea inhaled deeply. "Commander, you have to understand what I'm about to tell you, no one outside of the asari knows. It's difficult to even know where to begin. Professor Solus is correct. The Asari Republics would never support these efforts. As a whole, discussion and diplomacy are preferred. But over the millennia, some recognized that in spite of our open nature and willingness to cooperate with other species that we could not count on them to reciprocate.

"And so was borne the idea that while we would openly maintain a leadership role in brokering peace through diplomacy throughout the galaxy, we should commit resources to maintaining the balance so that no species would ever have to fear annihilation at the hands of another. So we... keep tabs on the activities of our neighbors, help them make the correct decisions if their path is unclear. Discourage those, discretely, who chose to take the wrong path. And in those rare cases when someone takes a course of action that might cause irreversible harm, prevent it." Enlea cleared her throat. "By any means necessary."

"So, what, you're part of some kind of secret police force?" Garrus asked. "Saving the galaxy from itself?"

Enlea gave a half smile. "Something like that."

Garrus did not look convinced. "And who these paragons of civic duty answer to?"

A serene expression swept across Enlea's face. "The wisest, most respected minds in our society, with untold centuries of collective experience to guide them."

While the Normandy crew bristled at that last addendum, Captain Artuis was apoplectic. "Commander Shepard, we need to report this to C-Sec immediately."

Shepard held up a hand to the turian, his eyes locked on the asari. But before he could get a word out, he was interrupted by a voice that so far had yet to be heard.

"Why would you want to prevent us from communicating with our creators?" asked Blue in a perfect quarian accent, its tone one of utter confusion.

Enlea turned around at the unexpected sound to see Legion glaring at her. She stepped aside to try and find the source of the question and saw the smaller, highly polished blue platform standing in the door behind Tali. "Because we believe your creators will try to subjugate you at the first opportunity."

The face plates on both geth widened to their maximum configurations, as did Tali's eyes behind her mask. "What? No. That's not- that's insane!" She pushed her way past Legion and Enlea to the table's console and scrolled through the messages on the screens, then opened a search window. The results came back empty, and she spoke so quickly her words almost ran together. "There's nothing from the Flotilla in your database! My people want peace! The Conclave is going to vote on it. Admiral Gerrel has even changed his mind! They were waiting to take us home, you know this!"

Shepard put his hands on her shoulders, but Tali pulled away. "Legion, Blue. This is a trick. I don't know what she's up to, but don't listen to her. Please, I beg you!"

"Commander Shepard," Blue said as it clasped its hands together in front of it. "I understand the need to maintain operational security, but I need to contact my people so we may form an opinion on this matter. I would also very much like to see any proof our guest has that back up her assertion that the quarians' intentions are hostile. Now would be an excellent time."

Enlea winced. "I'm afraid I can't provide any right now."

The way Tali clenched her fists made Shepard note her knife was back on her ankle, but he only watched as the quarian got nose to nose with the asari. As the blue alien was a full head taller, Tali had to stand on her toes and tilt her head back, but it was enough to make Enlea back against the table again. "Do you have any idea what you've done?" Tali's finger was centimeters away from her blue face. "You have no proof, you have no cause! Why are you doing this? Tell me!" Like a whip, Tali's hand smacked across Enlea's right cheek. "Tell me, bosh'tet!"

Shepard jumped forward and grabbed Tali by her arms, pulled her back and forced her around to face Garrus. "Okay, okay," he cooed. He nodded towards the hatch. Garrus clasped his talons on her shoulders and guided her away, her screamed quarian curses turning to sobs as he led her from the room.

Legion watched the pair head for the hatch and looked at Shepard.

"Yeah, go," he told the geth, who walked quietly after them. Blue followed and the hatch sealed behind them. He turned to Enlea, who still leaned against the table and soothed her burning cheek with her hand. "I should have anticipated how personal this was to her."

"Personal?" echoed Shepard. "What, like having someone show up and single-handedly doom your entire species to a slow death in space kind of 'personal?'" He waved a hand at the data screens behind her. "Or finding out your ship and entire crew fall into the category of any means necessary 'personal?' You'd better start giving me some straight answers, or you're going to find out how hard I can hit! You're telling me you're willing to destroy my ship and kill everyone on board to disrupt peace negotiations for a three-hundred year old war, and you don't have any proof. How the hell do you expect us to react?"

"That's right, Commander," Enlea folded her arms in front of her, a dark blue patch spreading on her cheek to match her neck. "I don't have any proof. Only orders. My area of expertise is the Citadel, and I was dispatched by the Council to aid Captain Lorian in detaining you. When my superiors learned of the negotiations, and that you had a geth aboard after every last one of them in the galaxy had disappeared, they ordered me to monitor you."

Miranda scowled. "So how did you go from monitoring to cold blooded murder?"

"I didn't, did I?" Enlea fixed Miranda with a cold stare as she stood and turned back towards the holo projections. "No. I came to warn you instead."

Shepard stepped next to Enlea. "Why help us now?"

Enlea half laughed, half cried, her tone now manic. "Are you kidding? I mean, forget Normandy's Hope, and the krogan and the colonists and batarian in the worst hellhole in the known universe singing your praises. I get it. You and your crew are heroes. As if you didn't prove it again at Sahrabarik. You saved my life there too, by the way, I was on the Selelucia. I never thanked you, did I? Add that to the list. But forget all that. That's all insignificant next to what I saw in this very room two days ago."

Enlea looked over at Captain Artuis, who had not moved a centimeter since her question had been ignored and still wore the same fierce expression of disgust on her face. "You weren't at that briefing, were you? Probably above your pay grade." Enlea touched a few keys, and Artuis' jumped as her omnitool resolved around her arm. Under Enlea's control it showed a picture of the giant squid-shaped ship commanded by Saren Arterius bearing down on the Citadel. "Fascinating material. I hope you don't mind not sleeping again, ever, after you read it."

The asari now had tears in her eyes as she turned back to Shepard. "You killed one of them, Commander. You figured out what they were, what they were up to, and you stopped all of them from coming through at Citadel. If they're coming back, I think you and your crew need to be leading our defenses against them."

Enlea ran her hands over her ridged scalp as if trying to keep her brain from exploding. "And I told them all of this. I sent them the Professor's report, told them everything I learned, I begged and pleaded for hours on end." She reached down and touched a key. Ensure the destruction of the Normandy by any means necessary reappeared across the screens. "This was the answer I got." She took an uneasy step toward an empty chair and sat. "Could I have a glass of water, please?"

Shepard walked to the dispenser and poured the diplomat-turned-spy a cup while Mordin, Artuis and Miranda stared in silence. Enlea took the cup in a shaking hand and smiled as she raised it as in a toast. "My hero. Ha ha." She sighed heavily and drank. "It's a shame this isn't Serrice ice brandy but beggars can't be choosers..."

"Enlea," Shepard leaned against the table next to her. "We appreciate what you've done. But I need to know one thing."

"Just one?" Enlea let out another humorless laugh.

Shepard leaned in close so she had to look him in the eye. "Were you or your superiors behind the attack at Dashta?"

Enlea stopped drinking and her frenzied, frazzled demeanor vanished. "No. I swear to you. I- we didn't even get there until after the attack started."

"You were there?" Miranda asked.

"We were," Artuis said. Everyone turned to face her. "Monitoring from a safe distance. But T'Vari is telling the truth. The battle was already underway by the time we caught up with you."

Enlea took another swig of her water as if it were something strongly alcoholic. "As impressive as my homing routines were, they can't predict the future. We were behind you by at least an hour. But I think you should know, that's the first time I started to wonder."

"Wonder what?" Shepard asked.

"If I was doing the right thing. I reported the Normandy was under attack. I was expressly ordered not to interfere."

Shepard looked at the turian captian, who nodded in agreement. "That's too bad, we could have used the help. We were ambushed out in the open."

"I know," Enlea bowed her head. "I'm sorry. I hadn't yet come to my senses. For what it's worth, there was someone aboard the Vellius who did take action." She pointed toward Artuis, who looked like she wished she were somewhere else.

"You destroyed the jammer," Miranda said to Artuis. She looked at Shepard. "EDI said she detected inbound missiles, but couldn't follow the track back to the shooter."

Enlea waved at her omnitool. "My logs will corroborate it. It's all in there. They're yours. Take them. All of them."

Shepard gave Miranda a nod, and she picked up the omnitool, then stopped. "We're not going to have any trouble if we interface with this?"

"Oh, no!" Enlea sat up straight. "Definitely not. All connectivity has been severed, save for the link to your projector." When that got her a dull stare from both the humans she smiled once more. "Believe me, I have as much a vested interest in avoiding capture as you now. I think this little chat has rendered my confidentiality agreement null and void. I've probably blown my security clearance at the Citadel as well."

Miranda held the asari's omnitool up in front of her. "Commander, I'd like to take this down to my workstation for analysis."

"Right," Shepard said. "Miss T'Vari, would you mind assisting her?"

The asari nodded and stood. "I'd be happy to."

"Mordin, do me a favor and show our guests to CIC. Then you can get back to work."

"Of course." Since the data displays were no longer visible, Mordin had nothing to keep him further occupied anyway. "Thank you, Commander. Ladies, follow me, please."

The two women followed Mordin through the hatch. Artuis trailed the pack, and Shepard moved to intercept. "Captain, if I can have a moment."

The white-faced turian stopped with her hands behind her back. "Commander?"

"I just wanted to say thank you, for stepping in back there. And at Dashta."

Artuis stared at the human, who looked even more disheveled now than when he greeted her on the hanger deck. She didn't know what to expect of the legendary Commander Shepard, and before Sahrabarik only knew of his exploits, good or bad, from news vids and out-of-date intelligence reports. But seeing how he handled the situation with T'Vari, how he stood up for his crew and how they responded to him, she had no doubts she had made the right choice in coming. "It was my pleasure, Commander."

Shepard smiled. "As soon as things quiet down, I'd love to talk more."

"I'd like that," Artuis replied. "In the mean time, request permission to return to the Vellius. My XO is probably shredding gouges in the deck with her pacing."

That made Shepard laugh, and the stoic turian smiled as well. "It would be an honor escort you down to the hangar as soon as I'm done here."

"Thank you, Commander," Artuis said, and followed Mordin and Enlea through the hatch.

When it closed, Shepard looked over at his own XO. "You buy any of that?"

Miranda shook her head. "I don't know. Enlea sounds convincing. She certainly believes it. We'll know better when we have a look at her omni. But it doesn't make sense."

"What?" Shepard sometimes resented the way Miranda made him guess.

"That the asari are doing this to protect the geth."

"Yeah, I know. That's pretty weak. I've never heard of any asari caring about either the quarians or geth. You know the worst thing?"

"What?" Miranda wasn't used to having to guess. Ordinarily, she knew.

"We're still no closer to finding out who sold us out at Dashta." Shepard rubbed his forehead. "God, and now Tali's all fired up."

"You should go talk her. She probably feels awful about what happened."

Shepard nudged Miranda's shoulder. "Look at you being all caring. Maybe you should go instead. You know, sis it up a little."

Miranda sighed and stood. The constructive part of the meeting was clearly over. Sometimes Miranda wondered if her eyes were suffering permanent damage because of Shepard's tendency to make them roll as much as he did, but he was still yakking away as he followed her into CIC.

"You two could talk about boys, do each others' hair. I mean, if she has any under there..."

Miranda was relieved to see Mordin and the two visitors waiting by the elevator. Now Shepard would be Artuis' problem.

"Commander..." Kelly called out. "There is- You have a new message at..." The yeoman's words faded as her throat clenched tight and tears streamed down her cheeks. Shepard stopped in his tracks, a goofy grin still on his face that fell as he walked toward her. Kelly took a deep breath and steadied herself, focusing on her panel. Her voice was almost free of the previous anguish. "At your terminal."

Shepard watched as Kelly shook from trying to maintain her composure. During Normandy's egress from Dashta, Garrus commented that surviving the fight on the docks and the boarding action without losing anyone was nothing short of miraculous. The only problem was, he didn't believe in miracles. He reached out around her to to the comm panel and pulled up his mailbox on her screen and read the single message, timestamped ten minutes before when he was still in the conference room.

From: Karin Chakwas
Subject: Crew member Jack (Last Name N/A), SR2-EKA-0037, Time of Death, 18:10:25
Commander, I regret to inform you that Jack died of her wounds. Please find attached my full report...

Shepard put his hand on Kelly's shoulder, and she sobbed once more. "Go on without me," Shepard murmured. "Miranda, please escort Captain Artuis to the hangar deck."

"Aye, sir," Miranda said and summoned the elevator. The two alien women watched as the yeoman buried her head in the Commander's chest, and he held her close and whispered things they could not hear. Around the CIC, the other human crew watched with sad expressions and talked quietly amongst themselves. Miranda pulled up her datapad and sighed when she saw the notification. "I'll enter it into it into the log, Commander, and process her through."

Shepard only waved, and the elevator arrived with a musical ding and Enlea, Artuis and Miranda stepped in. Miranda keyed the hangar deck, then went back to work scanning her datapad.

"I hate to pry," Enlea said, "but is something wrong?"

"One of our crew. A casualty at Dashta. She didn't make it."

"Oh," Enlea said. Artuis bowed her head respectfully, but it didn't seem to matter to the lift's sole human passenger who continued pecking at her datapad as if she were filing her taxes. Enlea felt like she had had to say something more. "I'm sorry."

Miranda shrugged. "It's a miracle we only lost one."

Enlea looked into Miranda's spacious quarters with amazement. She had spent time on many different warships, and the XO was usually lucky to have private quarters the size of the room's foyer, let alone an entire suite. In fact, her office at the Citadel wasn't nearly as nice. She halted, though, along with Miranda in the door.

"I'm sorry," Miranda said, holding her datapad up, "I have ship's business to attend to. I'll just need a minute."

"Oh, of course," Enlea said, and tried to laugh without sounding awkward. It didn't work. "Paperwork, I know how that goes."

"We have a variety of refreshments in the galley. I'll have EDI call for you when I'm ready. It won't take long." Miranda watched Enlea turn the corner to the galley and shut the door behind her. She walked to her office chair and sat, placing her data pad on the desk in front of her before bringing her main screen to life with a wave of her hand. Before it had even finished resolving, she was pulling up pages with movements so practiced she could do it with her eyes closed. Finding and opening the crew roster was a painful fifteen to thirty second trial for Shepard even when she was around to assist, but for Miranda it only took only two.

She touched a square from the page of portraits without having to look as she scanned ship's status in the sidebar. The repairs to the loft were complete and all stations were reporting ready. When she turned back to the roster page, a pale, bald, tattooed visage sneered back at her, partially obscured by a giant middle finger.

It wasn't that Miranda tried to find the most unappealing picture of the ex-con, it's just that every picture anyone tried to take of her ended up like this. Even when Commander Shepard had taken the crew on an all-night bender on Illium, Jack somehow knew when a camera was pointed in her direction and reacted accordingly, either making an obscene gesture or slipping down the belt straps she called a shirt to give the photographer "something worth taking a picture of."

Jack's roster picture was the same one Miranda pulled up before the crew disembarked at Dashta. She shook her head and sighed. Subject Zero deserved a better valediction in the data banks of Cerberus than the picture they had on file.

She waved open another screen and pulled up Normandy's security archives. She knew better than to pull up the feed from the maintenance sublevel where Jack secluded herself, because Jack's supernatural ability with cameras was not limited to hand-held models. Instead she focused on the crew areas of the ship where she was more likely to be off guard. Hangar deck, armory, mess hall, certainly not the CIC, anywhere Jack had been tracked on the ship. But as hard as Miranda looked, none provided anything to work with.

Miranda checked the clock. Enlea had already been waiting close to four minutes. That was more time than she had ever spent on anyone else's file to be sure. Jack would have to be remembered in death how she was in life. She closed all the security camera feeds, but stopped on the last one, which didn't seem to show anything. It was of the portside lounge, many months ago before Kasumi made it her home. The frame almost seemed empty, until she caught movement in the corner of the window. Jack sat with one leg up on the sill, her back against the frame. In the distance outside the viewport a nebulae burned with orange and red fire, but Jack wasn't looking at it. She was focused on something in front of the ship, outside of the view of the camera. But at least that provided a three-quarter profile of the girl where she didn't look like she was going to rip out the throat of the photographer with her teeth.

Miranda drew a box around Jack's head in the picture and dragged it onto her roster sheet. That done, she reached up to save. The picture was now almost life sized, and quite clear even enlarged as it was. Instead of furrowed into a scowl, Jack's brow was smooth. Instead of in a perpetual squint, her soft, brown eyes looked serenely into the distance, and she wore a gentle smile on her face that Miranda never thought possible. It was the first time she'd ever seen Jack at peace.

Miranda closed the file as well as any other sensitive screens that Enlea would not need to see. Then with great precision she slid her datapad to the side of the desk and squared it lined up neatly with the desk corner. Her throat and chest tightened, her vision blurred with tears and her nose flooded with mucous. She clenched her fist tightly and held it to her lips and forced herself to take several deep breaths.

Wiping her eyes, she sniffed loudly and cleared her throat as she sat back in her chair. "EDI," she called into the air. "Would you please tell Miss T'Vari I'm ready to see her now?"

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