For Tomorrow We Die

Crossing Lines

The "neck" of the Normandy, the long, narrow passageway that connected the cockpit to CIC, was packed end to end on both sides with the entire ship's compliment as well as the squad. Tali stood near the airlock, next to Legion and Garrus, with Joker, Miranda and Commander Shepard directly across from them.

Mordin worked his way up the corridor, stopping to shake hands and exchange hugs with crew mates who lined up to see him off. Without a doubt, the salarian scientist was one of the most popular people on the ship, and it wasn't just because his quirky disposition and sense of humor held firm through the worst of circumstances. His unwavering desire to help those in need that earned him the respect shown to him now, be it assisting Doctor Chakwas in the infirmary or his tireless research into a threat which promised to doom civilization as everyone knew it.

Tali was no different. Mordin was one of the first of the SR-2 crew she'd come to think of as a friend. She was going to miss him dearly. Otherwise she wouldn't be wasting precious time that should be spent helping the fleet waiting to see him off.

That wasn't entirely true, either. She glanced across the corridor to Shepard, still in his dress uniform, looking over Miranda's shoulder at some display on the datapad permanently fused with her hand. Tali let out a long sigh of relief. The moment Shepard said he'd mediate for the geth, the pressure in her chest abated, and she could finally breathe normally again. It had been a rough couple of days, and who knew what was to come but with Shepard taking charge, there was at least a chance that things would work out.

She blinked and shook her head at the sudden cheers around her. The entire squad had gathered around the airlock now, laughing and shaking Mordin's hand or clapping him on his shoulder. Even Grunt, who had gotten off to a rough start with most of his ship mates, now waited patiently in line to wish Mordin well. Seeing a krogan and salarian together as friends never failed to amuse her and she watched with a smile behind her mask. The tank-bred krogan had no idea how often he looked over at Shepard in situations like this, either seeking validation or just waiting and watching to see how the Commander acted so he could emulate him later. She had her doubts about Grunt after Shepard brought him on board, but it was clear even to her that no one on the ship tried harder Grunt.

"Mordin," Shepard offered his hand and shrugged apologetically. It wasn't often the Commander was ever lost for words. "I'd hoped we'd have a little more time, you know, to send you off right. I don't know what to say except thanks. For everything you've done."

Mordin smiled, his large eyes sparkling in the corridor's lights. "Honor is mine, Commander. Have always striven to serve greater good, have not always succeeded. Can say with certainty, greatest good possible achieved while in service on Normandy."

"Going to miss you, Professor."

Mordin's eyes rolled back in his head. He turned to face the gathered crowd. "Farewells excessive, dramatic. Unnecessary. Once allied defenses against reapers are finalized, will return. So, no need for goodbyes. Instead... Until next time."

Shepard pumped Mordin's hand again. "We'll save your seat."

"Expect nothing less. And please, keep lab in respectable condition. Have everything organized for optimum efficiency. Can't afford to waste time cleaning up again."

Amid laughter from his friends, Mordin turned to the airlock, stopping in front of Tali and Legion. He looked between them and bowed slightly. "Hope negotiations between geth and quarians successful. Can speak from personal experience: peace difficult to achieve, but worth the effort."

Tali reached out and gave Mordin a solid hug. "Thank you, Professor."

Mordin returned the hug and patted Tali on the back, then stepped in front of the geth. Legion's head flaps expanded as it looked to Tali, then at the faces staring back at it in the corridor. To the astonishment of everyone present it extended its arms wide. Mordin stepped in to give the geth a hug accompanied by raucous laughter from the crew.

"Until next time, Solus-Mordin," Legion said.

"Rapid learner," Mordin said. "Hope definitely warranted. Look forward to seeing geth and quarian embassies on Citadel."

"Right next to each other," Tali said, holding back tears.

"Well then," Mordin said to the assembled crew. "Vellius and the Citadel await."

"Goodbye," came the cry from the crowd, until Mordin held up his hand, tut-tutting to himself.

"Until next time," Shepard corrected them loudly and firmly, drawing an even louder echo from the crew.

"Until next time," Mordin repeated, then stepped into the airlock. He paused on the other side to give a wave, then a salarian salute, and the door closed behind him.

The briefing room faded to darkness, then Shepard found himself looking into a face of a familiar red sun. The Illusive Man sat in his chair, puffing on a cigarette while swiping through a series of holo screens before him. He looked up at the arrival of the Normandy's commander.

"Good to see you again, Shepard. I was beginning to wonder if you were avoiding me."

"We've been avoiding everyone since Dashta."

"Understood. A wise precaution, given the circumstances. But I have good news. We know who was behind the attack. I'll send you our complete report-"

Shepard crossed his arms. "It was Admiral Daro'Xen vas Moreh of the quarian Admiralty Board, and possibly Admiral Han'Gerrel as well."

The Illusive Man's finger froze in midair over a holo panel. He closed the screen and leaned back in his seat. "I'm impressed."

"Miranda figured it out. They were the only ones who knew where we we going."

"Her intellect never fails to impress, nor does she ever fail to deliver. I'm glad she reached the same conclusion that we did. I was concerned your silence indicated you felt someone else might be responsible."

"Now why would I think that?"

The Illusive Man stared at Shepard with glowing eyes and the tip of his cigarette sparked red as he inhaled. He blew out a long stream of smoke. "Maybe because you suspect I know EDI is still unshackled, and has overridden all of our command inputs to bring the Normandy back under our control. And that Miranda has been helping you do it."

Shepard stood frozen, not even blinking.

But instead of being angry, the Illusive Man tapped his cigarette over the ash tray and sighed. "I've known for some time now, Commander. Am I happy about it? No. Am I concerned about Miranda? Of course. The damage she could do to Cerberus is incalculable. But the ultimate question is what am I going to do to stop you?"

Shepard's jaw clenched.

"And the answer to that is nothing." The Illusive Man took another puff. "You inspire tremendous loyalty, which is obviously why you've accomplished as much as you have. You create unity in the midst of great discord, succeed in ways I ways I could never foresee with solutions that I would never have considered. It's who you are, and the results are undeniable. Interfering would jeopardize the ultimate goal of Cerberus; to keep humanity safe. Of equal importance, it would put you and I on a collision course, and I hope that's something you wish to avoid as much as I."

"That would get messy," Shepard said.

"Indeed it would."

"Keep it mind that if comes to that, I won't stop."

"I know you won't, Shepard," The Illusive Man said. "I'd be disappointed if you did. It's why I chose you, and why I won't try to stop you now. It's counterproductive to hold you back, and pointless to try. A prime example: I understand your decision to give the collector installation over to the Alliance and Council has already borne fruit. Again, not the route I would have chosen, but the outcome may prove to be the turning point in the coming war against the reapers. The information from the collector base has allowed the Alliance to decipher the purpose behind the so-called 'Alpha Relay.'"

"More than that," Shepard said. "The data they've pulled from that reaper construct at the Collector Base had even more information about the relay network than the IFF from the derelict reaper. Professor Solus thinks it may be the key to controlling the relays themselves. If we can figure that out before they get here, we can lock them out like the protheans did with the Citadel, but with entire relay network. We'll stop them cold."

"Professor Solus is unharmed? That's excellent news. His expertise is irreplaceable."

"I agree. That's why he's already on his way back to the Citadel. We can't afford to lose him."

The Illusive Man straightened in his chair. "This is a great day, Shepard. The entire galaxy will be spared a cycle of destruction that spans the ages, at the same time gaining control of the greatest technology in the universe. And humanity will be forever remembered as the savior."

Shepard cocked his head.

"Forgive my human-centric rhetoric," The Illusive Man said. "It's who I am."

"I know."

"Which brings us to the previous task at hand. Now that the reaper situation looks to be stabilizing, where do we stand with the geth and the quarians? I understand that Arcturus has retracted their offer to mediate the negotiations?"

"Your people must still be doing their jobs pretty well if you know that."

"Not all humans are ready to bow to the whims of the Council. It's discouraging news about the negotiations, but understandable given the circumstances surrounding the death of their last envoy."

"Speaking of which," Shepard said, "let's talk about the Rayya."

The Illusive Man looked down as he tapped his cigarette over the ash tray. "What do you mean?"

"Do you know what happened to it?"

"Are you asking if I am aware of the crisis now facing the quarian people? Yes, I am. A tragic catastrophe, to be sure."

"Do you have any information about who's behind it?"

"We've never been able to successfully infiltrate the flotilla. As Miranda may have told you, that was my intention for her when the negotiations were first proposed. I hoped that she could provide us with an accurate assessment of the Migrant Fleet's disposition and security measures from the inside. However, given her recent activities, that scenario doesn't seem likely now, does it?"

"Do you have any theories?" Shepard asked. He began to pace. "Because we've found nothing. Whoever did it died in the attack or was good enough at covering their tracks not to leave any."

"I'll put my top people on it. Though I have a feeling the most obvious answer is the correct one."

"Which is?"

"A quarian faction, perhaps even an individual, was attempting to disrupt the negotiations."

Shepard shook his head. "No quarian would ever attack one of their own liveships."

"That may not have been their intention. Perhaps Ambassador Castillo was the actual target, and it got out of hand. I don't think you need to look any further than the events at Dashta for proof of how far the quarians are willing to go to achieve their aims. Fanaticism is not solely the realm of humankind, in spite of what the rest of the galaxy thinks of us. Though it's ironic."

"What is?"

"Xen's goal was eliminate you and your crew at Dashta. Had you arrived on schedule, undeterred by her ambush, you might have very well been on the Rayya when it was destroyed. In effect, Xen spared you from the attack that ultimately claimed her own life. I suppose we should be grateful."

"Yeah, what a lucky break."

"Indeed. So what's your plan, now?"

Shepard studied the Illusive Man's face. It was a mask of indifference. The destruction of the Rayya, the deaths of thousands and the starvation of millions more didn't even rate a frown with him. "We're taking the geth back to the Migrant Fleet to restart the negotiations. They've asked me to mediate."

The Illusive Man's eyebrows raised. "An excellent choice. An outstanding one, actually. If there's anyone who can bring them together, it's you. And the benefits-"

"I know," Shepard held up his hands. "Humanity to the rescue, once again."

"That will be a pleasant side effect, yes. But that's not what I was going to say. You talked about the data retrieved from the Collector Base, and attempts to interface with the relay network. Imagine the processing power of the geth utilized in that capacity. If they could be convinced to help, as willing allies, we might learn the secrets of the relays in a matter of minutes, rather than the months or even years it will take organic minds to truly comprehend them."

Shepard blinked. "You know, I never even thought of that. If they interfaced with the larval reaper and the other networks on the base, who knows what they'll find that could help us?"


"But god help us if they ever turn against us afterward."

"Now you see why I'm so eager to earn their goodwill, Shepard. They could be our greatest allies... or our worst enemies. Let's get them on our side, and give them a reason to stay there. Help them reconcile with their creators, be their champion as well. If there's anyone who can do it, it's you."

"That's the plan. We're just need to hash out the fine details. We'll get underway as soon as we're done here."

The Illusive Man nodded. "Excellent. Is there anything you need from me? We still have a tender fleet in reserve specifically for the Normandy. They are on station near the Raheel-Leyya relay outside of the quarian interdiction zone. I will arrange a rendezvous, to provide whatever support the Normandy needs."

"Well the geth have taken care of all of the repairs, and delivered enough materials to fabricate replacement armaments. I think we're okay."

"What about consumables?"

Shepard thought for a moment. "We are running short, that's for sure. We lost a lot during the first collector attack, and we haven't been able to stop anywhere to resupply. So we'll definitely need to restock soon."

The Illusive Man pulled up a holo screen. "I'll send you the tender's ident and coordinates. You can dock before you head for the Flotilla, and they will hold position there in case you need further resupply. You may be there a while."

"Good thinking," Shepard said. "We'll need it."

The Illusive Man closed the holo. "Keep me abreast of the situation and let me know if you need anything at all. All of my resources are at your disposal."

"Thanks. I appreciate it."

"Good luck, Commander," The Illusive Man said and faded into darkness.

As Commander Shepard's likeness dissolved into nothing, The Illusive Man bowed his head and rubbed his temple. Though he was loathe to admit it, he regretted what must be done now.

Shepard had mended the rift between the Alliance and the Council, and set into motion preparations to repel the greatest invasion the galaxy had ever known. But what would follow? The Alliance or Council would eventually grant clemency to Shepard and his crew once the reaper invasion was successfully repulsed. While Shepard had done nothing to compromise Cerberus to this point, would that hold true once their partnership was no longer needed? Would Shepard turn the Normandy and her crew over to the authorities, as he had done with the IFF and the Collector Base?

Shepard himself could do little damage, but Miranda Lawson was a clear threat. Outside of the Illusive Man, no one had more knowledge of all the organization's cells and operatives than Miranda, not to mention the location of Cronos Station at Anadius. Compelled to testify, or voluntarily cooperating with C-Sec, Miranda could single-handedly destroy it all.

And then there was the geth. What a prize the collective AI entity was now. If the geth could indeed utilize the reaper's data to hack the relay network, and did so while under Cerberus control, nothing would ever stand in the way of humanity's ascension. But then again, there was an obstacle. Daro'Xen knew it, just as the Illusive Man recognized it now. Commander Shepard would do everything in his power to prevent anyone from assuming control of the AI species. It was the one factor in the equation that if could not be accounted for, must be removed.

The Illusive Man took a long drag from his smoke and flipped through page after page of Shepard's mission reports on the holo in front of him, going back to the struggle to defeat Saren. If humanity had a champion in the galaxy, it was this man. But a single man lives only a lifetime, he thought, and no one lives forever. Long after we are gone, humanity will still need a protector. The idea behind Cerberus must live on.

The holo froze on a picture taken from a helmet cam, showing Shepard looking over the muzzle of his Avenger rifle, shoved right in the face of a someone who was about to die. Shepard's eyes were visible behind the sights, compressed into an angry scowl right before he pulled the trigger. The file annotation read: Commander Shepard executes Cerberus Operative Uma Sagong, Binthu Installation, Voyager Cluster, 18AUG2183. From the angle of the picture, Shepard looked to be aiming the rifle right between the Illusive Man's own eyes.

He touched the comm panel in the arm of his chair. "Inform our ships at Raheel-Leyya that the Normandy will be arriving in a matter of hours for resupply. As soon as they dock to make the transfer, they are to eliminate the crew and take the ship. Have the senior operative on site send me details of his plans immediately. I'd like to review them."

"Yes, sir," came the reply.

The Illusive Man took one last look at the image of Shepard and switched off the feed as he crushed his cigarette into the ash tray. "No sacrifice too great," he said to the empty air.

A cylinder of light collapsed around Shepard's body and he found himself standing at the head of Normandy's briefing room once more. He turned around and leaned against the table. "That went better than I expected. And I think the chance to resupply is too good to pass up-"

Miranda stared at him from her seat at the table, outside the quantum array's pickup range for the duration of the call. She leaned back and folded her arms across her chest.

"You disagree," Shepard said.

"He knows I betrayed him."

"So? I've done it twice this week and he's still talking to me." Shepard waved a hand to where the Illusive Man sat moments before. "He knows why you did it. And he's still willing to help. I think he's resigned to the fact that you work for me now."

Miranda scowled. "In my time with Cerberus, we've have our fair share of rogue operatives. People who for whatever reason decided they could no longer be in our service. Do you know how many were allowed to leave?"


"None. This isn't a 'right to work' situation, Shepard, where someone can just decide to give notice. Nor does someone from human resources simply escort you from the building and ask for your code key when you're let go. Termination from Cerberus is exactly that. Termination. And in every single case, the Illusive Man personally signs off on the order. He's never hesitated. Not once." Miranda's eyes fell to the table. "I know, because I used to be the one that handed them to him."

Shepard sighed. "Look, I can't explain it... but I think he's coming around. I really do. He may be an extremist, but he knows what's at stake. You heard him. We're making real progress here. We may actually have a way to defeat the reapers-"

"That's what scares me." Miranda stood and walked up to Shepard, her face pinched the way it did any time she was forced to explain the obvious to someone who should know better. But the look in his eye made her stop, and her ire turned to sadness. The Commander's idealism and enthusiasm could actually be endearing when it wasn't suicidal. She sighed. "You want to believe him, I know. But I need you to understand what I'm telling you. In spite of everything he's done for us, the time and resources he's allocated to our mission, everything you've done for him... he doesn't think like you. Loyalty doesn't earn any special favors. Or second chances. We've crossed him, and therefore we can't be trusted. He's saying all the right words, but he's saying them to keep us under control, on his side, where he can keep track of us. And then dispose of us either when we're no longer of use, or we become too much of a liability."

Shepard shook his head and turned back to the middle of the table.

Miranda moved next to him. "If I know him, and I do... he ordered our execution as soon as he got off the line with us. If we rendezvous with that tender, it will be a repeat Dashta. You need to trust me on this."

Shepard closed his eyes. The Illusive Man's words resonated with him. Getting the disparate factions of the galaxy to pull together was the only way that they were going to survive the reaper invasion as a whole. Having Cerberus as a part of the coalition only made everyone stronger at a time when unity mattered most. Rationality and practicality were hallmarks of the Illusive Man's psyche. Would he let the security of Cerberus take precedence over the safety of the galaxy, even if humanity would benefit in the long run?

At the same time, the only crew member on board who was less prone to hysteria or hyperbole than Miranda would be Legion, and even then it might be a tie. Miranda never exaggerated, never resorted to emotional appeals when the success of the mission was on the line. Her pride was a driving force and that certainly was a weakness that had caused disaster for many throughout history. What made Miranda different, though, was that more than anything else, she prided herself in being right. She would have never made such an absolute statement if she had the slightest doubt.

Shepard turned and looked her in the eyes. She looked back on him with concern, unsure of what his reaction was going to be. It had to be an comfortable position for the top Cerberus operative to occupy. Uncertainty drove Miranda crazy. In the final analysis, he knew the situation boiled down to one thing. Who did he trust more? "Set a course for Raheel-Leyya," he told her. "We'll make for the Migrant Fleet immediately upon arrival."

Miranda raised her datapad and started typing. There was the tiniest hint of a smirk at the corner of her mouth. "Very well, Commander."

"We still need resupply," Shepard said, "regardless of where it comes from. The geth are going to bring food for the quarians. Maybe they can do it for us, too. Check with Platform Two. See if maybe Platform Three can make a grocery run for us."

Miranda almost smiled now as she typed. "I'll have Gardner come up with list."


Miranda looked up from her pad to see Shepard scowling. "What's wrong?"

"Well, if you're right, we might be able to dodge an incident at Raheel-Leyya. But the situation's going to come to a head eventually."

"Yes," Miranda said, "it will. We'll need to be ready for it."

"Right," Shepard nodded, to himself more than to Miranda. "On the bright side, we'll be about as safe in the middle of the Migrant Fleet as anywhere. That should buy us time time to figure out what to do about it. Anyway, let me know what the situation is with Platform Three."

Miranda turned to leave. "Aye, Commander."

Shepard called after her. "Hey, have you ever been wrong? About anything?"

Miranda stopped in the hatch, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Only once."

"Yeah? When?"

"When I told the Illusive Man we should put an implant in your head, to make you easier for us to control. I'm glad he overruled me."

Shepard was surprised to see that Miranda was actually smiling now. He smiled back. "I hope you learned your lesson," he held out his arms and did a turn. "You don't mess with perfection."

"Oh, good god," Miranda rolled her eyes, spun on her heel and strode toward the armory, wondering why she even bothered trying.

Shepard, Tali thought as he wrapped his arm around her in their bed. She snuggled next to him for warmth. Do we have to get up, now? A hand continued to shake her shoulder and she blinked awake. She found herself cheek down on one of the tables in the Normandy's galley. A red-gloved arm gently shook her arm.

"Ma'am?" Kal'Reegar asked, looking down over her shoulder.

Tali sat up straight. "Yeah, what is it?"

"Hey, uh, easy now... Shipwide announcement just came across the PA. We're about to get underway."

Tali activated her nervestim routine and shivered as though ice water poured over her body. She checked her message queue through bleary eyes. True to Kal's words, the Normandy was readying to depart to Raheel-Leyya, current home of the Migrant Fleet. "Thanks," she said. "I guess I need to get back to engineering."

"Are you okay?"

"Oh, fine. I just came in to pack my rations for delivery to the Fleet. I've had enough to eat the past few months I can afford to miss a few meals. Any food I can bring means one less family has to go hungry. Besides, if I give it away I won't have to get fitted for a new suit..."

"Your suit looks fine to me, ma'am."

Tali patted down the sides of her suit as she stood. These days, she'd take any compliment she could get. "Thanks, Kal."

"Didn't I hear the geth are going to be delivering food to the flotilla?"

"That's right. They are. But it might not get there for a few days. Every little bit helps."

Reegar looked away. "Absolutely, ma'am. I appreciate you even shared with me. It's way better chow than I'm used to. It's- well, it's always good to see people put the fleet first."

"Always," Tali said. She was about to leave for engineering, to make sure all systems were functional before departure, but something told her Kal had something else on his mind. The ordinarily blunt, forceful soldier couldn't look her in the eye. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Reegar said, "Uh... Look, this is going to sound crazy, and if it does I apologize, because I know there's a lot going on with the Fleet right now, and the last thing you need is more crazy, but... I don't know when we're going to see each other again. And I'd hate myself later if... Well, dammit, I'd hate myself if I missed the chance to tell you."

Tali saw the turmoil in her friend's eyes and put a hand on his shoulder, which made him stop again. "Tell me what?"

"Ma'am," Reegar stammered, "We've known each other a long time, and I've never met anyone like you before. You- wow, I thought of all the ways I could say it in my head, and none of them are coming to me now. Uh, I-"

Tali froze. Before Reegar could finish his next sentence, she knew what he was going to say, and she hoped he was too busy avoiding her gaze to notice the panic in her eyes.

"You mean a lot to me, ma'am," Reegar said. "Everything you've done... everything you've been through, for your father and the fleet, and you still manage to always be smiling. Um..."

"Kal," Tali did her best to smile behind her mask. Reegar was one of her oldest and dearest friends, from her days as a teenager on the Rayya and his days as a marine recruit. He was everything that was right with a quarian, brave, honest, resourceful... Her father encouraged the two of them to interact whenever possible, often asking for the young soldier on every security detail so the two kids might be able to talk. But even then, she knew they could never be more than friends. He just wasn't right for her. She never led him on, and he never brought it up so she never suspected he was interested, either. All she could do now was try to ease the blow. "Listen, you're a good friend..."

Reegar laughed and took a deep breath, and nodded. "Right. A good friend."

She could see the heartbreak in his eyes. Before she knew it, she was making excuses. "There's just so much happening right now. The Rayya, the peace negotiations, we're on the run from everyone in the galaxy..."

"Ma'am," Reegar held up a hand. "No need to squirt sucrose into my tube here. We're not fifteen."

Tali opened her mouth again, but nothing come out. The last thing she ever wanted to do was hurt his feelings. To her amazement, though, he smiled at her.

"Look," Reegar said. "I just wanted you to know how I felt, okay? And if you don't feel the same way, well, that's all right too. It's not an obligation. Uh, I... You probably need to get down to engineering, right?"

"Right," Tali said. "I do. Kal?"

Reegar looked back at her.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" Reegar shrugged. All of the awkward pauses and uncertainty disappeared. He was back in marine mode. "You feel what you feel. I can't make you you feel anything else. It's either there, or it isn't. And I can't blame you if it isn't." He patted her on the shoulder as he walked by the table. "Seriously, don't worry about it, ma'am. I got an answer. It may not be the one I wanted, but it's one I needed. I'll let you get back to work."

Tali couldn't even watch him go. As tough as Reegar was, she hated the thought of breaking his heart. But the truth was, regardless of the crisis with the fleet, she just couldn't return his feelings. Worse, she couldn't even admit it to him. She sat and cradled her face mask in her hands, but tensed up when she heard Kal speak again, especially when she heard who he was addressing.

"Hey, Vakarian."


Tali glanced up to see Garrus leaning against the portside accessway to the lift through which Kal disappeared. He was looking right back at her, which could only mean one thing. "Were you listening the whole time?"

Garrus held up his hands and walked by on his way to the Forward Battery. "Just reporting to my station, as ordered."

Tali gripped the edge of the table as he walked past, staring at its surface and praying that he just kept going. She listened for footsteps up the stairs, but there was only silence. He was preparing to attack. As if Garrus needed any more ammunition. He was always looking for an excuse to pounce, be it criticism of her techniques in combat, her awkwardness in social situations, anything she did. Not to mention that he was still aching for revenge for all of the Fleet and Flotilla grief she'd put him through. So it came as no surprise when Garrus looped around and plopped down in the seat across from her instead of proceeding up to the battery. She shut her eyes. "Garrus, don't. Not now, okay?"

When she opened them, Garrus was leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, but he wasn't smiling or doing anything cruel. He just stared at her. "Fine," Tali said. "Go ahead and say it. I'm a bitch."

"I wasn't going to say that at all."

"Then what are you going to say? Or did you sit down for a staring contest? Why don't you get to your station and leave me alone, bosh'tet!"

Garrus blinked, then stood, his mandibles pressed tightly closed. He took a couple of steps before turning back to the table. "All I was going to say was that it took guts for him to take the shot, even though it didn't land on target."

Tali whirled around in her seat. "He's a good guy, I know that. He's just not what I'm looking for, all right?"

"All right," Garrus said. "The good thing is that he knows that now. He never would have found out if he didn't ask. He doesn't have to wonder anymore."

Tali blinked at him.

Garrus ran a hand through his fringe. "All I'm saying is that if someone means that much to you, it takes guts to tell them how you feel, especially when you don't know if they feel the same way. But in our line of work, well... you might not know you missed your last chance until it's too late." He turned and walked up the stairs to the forward battery but stopped at the top. The look in his eyes made it clear he wasn't talking about Kal anymore. "It's always best to take the shot."

Tali watched the turian go, now alone at the table. It wasn't until EDI's voice echoed through the room a second time that she hurried to the elevator to get to her station.

Joker slid his hands across the helm's primary console like a concert pianist. "All green across the board."

"All systems indicate ready for transit," EDI's avatar confirmed next to him. "Course set for the Raheel-Leyya relay."

Shepard's eyes confirmed the status on his own console. Through Normandy's forward windows, the Xe-Cha relay hovered in the blackness of space, its giant rings spinning around its glowing mass effect core as they approached. He settled back in his chair with a nod. "All right then. Let's get underway."
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