After thirty minutes, the progress indicator on the omnitool clicked from five to six percent as it processed Legion's stored memory. Tali continued to pace, and think.
The geth omnitool was designed to trace over one hundred processes in a standard geth. Legion had ten times that number, which meant Tali could effectively trace only a tenth of them at a time. Branching paths turned into logical mazes with multiple dead ends at every turn.
The omnitool's library was similarly thwarted. Legion's processes were far more numerous and advanced than any other geth platform. Some processes and routines were recognizable, but most were coming up as 'unknown' and would continue to do so until the compilers could make sense of them. Then were were times in the trace when all of Legion's programs seemed to activate at once, generating a completely new set of code that threw the tool off completely. Any time the scanner hit such a logic bomb it would hang for several minutes to catch up. Doing a high level scan, she was able to map out where they occurred throughout the logfile, and avoid them.
Legion had amassed a wealth of information in his journeys. It would take her days to sift through it all. But what she really needed was one small piece of information: the virus that the heretics had planned to use on the true geth. If the code for that virus, or even countermeasures for it existed in Legion's memory, the quarians could reverse engineer their own version to destroy all the geth. She might be able to single-handedly end the war.
Tali checked the omnitool again. It was still stuck at six percent. She looked over Mordin's console. The lab's computers had enough processing power and storage space to speed the analysis over a hundred times, which was her original intention when requesting to work in the lab. But how well were Mordin's systems isolated from the rest of the ship? Would EDI be able to detect what she was doing? And how would she transmit the data once she collected it?
A knock on the hatch to CIC made her jump. She wondered how long it would be before someone came to investigate the locked door. She made a quick survey of the lab. It looks like someone's working on a geth in here, she thought. Which is what you're doing. Why would anyone suspect anything else? It will only make people wonder if you don't answer. She pushed a button and the hatch lock disengaged. It opened with a hiss.
"Ma'am?" Gabriella Daniels poked her head through. "Can I come in?"
"Gabby, of course!" Tali walked out to the research station halfway to the hatch. "Is everything all right?"
The hatch closed behind Gabby and she walked in hesitantly, looking about nervously. "Oh, no. Everything's fine. Engineering's running real smooth. I don't mean to interrupt."
Tali could tell everything was not all right. Gabby wouldn't be here if it wasn't important. "No, it's okay. What's on your mind?"
"We heard from some of the guys about what's going on. You know how it is, people are talking."
Tali sighed. "Of course."
Gabby looked around for a second before taking a deep breath. "I just wanted to let you know that Ken and I are right behind you. Anything you need, you got it. We'll help you fix that thing or drag it to the garbage compactor, either way you just say the word."
"Thank you, Gabby," Tali said, surprised. "You two don't need worry about this. It's just- I appreciate it, but this isn't your problem.."
Gabby nodded her head vigorously. "Oh yeah it is. You're the best chief we ever had. I mean, we're just wrenches, but you always treat us real good. Always looking out for us, you know? So if anybody's giving you crap, we just want you to know we got your back, all right? Uh, ma'am."
Tali regarded her junior with an unsteady gaze. After everything that had gone on today, she didn't want to break down in front of her.
The silence made Gabby even more nervous. "We're just worried about ya, boss."
Tali couldn't stop herself. She reached out and hugged the propulsion engineer. "Thank you, Gabby."
"Woah," Gabby said, but returned the hug. "Wow... Ken's gonna be sorry he didn't come up."
Tali laughed and stepped back. "He would've gotten a pat on the head. At best."
Gabby grinned. "Well you know Ken would've said you that he has two heads..."
"Ah, yes, thank you," Tali put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side. "I'm well aware of his talent for turning anything into innuendo."
Gabby laughed again. "Yes ma'am. Well, if there's nothing I can do for you, I'll get back down to the hole."
"Sounds like a good idea," Tali replied. "But I appreciate you coming up here. I really do. Tell Ken, too. I'll let you know if I need anything. Dismissed."
"Yes, ma'am." Gabby nodded, still smiling. She walked back out the door, her nervousness now gone.
Gabby's smile resonated with Tali. Both of her underlings were very special people. Unlike to most of the other Cerberus crew, they were both young, friendly and eager to please. It was the same impression she always tried to give with Adams aboard the original Normandy, she realized. It didn't matter how different they were, she always aimed to please. Working together in the lower decks, one tended to bond more tightly with peers. It should have not surprised her that Donnelly and Daniels both took her side, but it did. She had thought the entire crew was against her when it came to Legion. Lines are not always drawn as clearly as they seem, she thought.
Tali returned to the lab's table and its unwilling subject. She had to get back to work. The problem remained. How could she extract the data and get it back to the fleet? And then it hit her.
Just remove the static memory module and send it back home for analysis. The facilities on the Alarei and other ships could do the work in minutes where it would be safe and secure, directly in the hands of those who needed it most. And who knows what other intelligence they'd be able to uncover. Tali's heart raced again thinking about the potential.
It might be tricky getting it off the ship without anyone noticing, but she doubted any of the crew would be able to recognize it for what it was. She might be able to hide it in plain sight. The crew was used to her sending gifts back to the flotilla. If she didn't make a big deal about it, no one would know.
She stood up and studied Legion's torso. The ragged hole in Legion's right side would not provide enough access this time. She would have to cut out the core from several directions once she isolated its location. Tali searched Mordin's tool drawer and found several laser and plasma cutters that should do the job. She laid them out and scanned the area with her personal omnitool to pinpoint the best place to start.
Her eyes fell on the red armor plating Legion used to repair itself. The N7 logo was even more badly scraped and faded than before, but still recognizable. Shepard had commented on how the armor had failed to save either himself or Legion. She thought back to the haunted look in his eyes when she told him Legion was beyond repair and her promise that she would do everything she could to recover its last moments. She pulled the cutting tool away and stared at it in her hands.
"Damn it," she whispered to herself. You promised him. You saw how he looked. She started to pace again. She still had no idea how much time she had before someone would come and try to take Legion away. Her first priority had to be the safety of the flotilla.
The voices of the admiralty board echoed in her head. Four different voices, four different viewpoints. Retake the homeworld, or find a new home. Destroy the geth, or retake control of them. The admirals were all pulling in different directions, with the quarian people divided between them. Would what Tali recovered unify them, or just make things worse? Was there more than one right viewpoint? It's a miracle Shepard can function at all, she thought. He has to make these kinds of decisions all the time. And not just for you, but for everybody on the ship.
Thinking of the admirals and Shepard brought her right back to her trial, when her leaders summarily exiled her from the fleet. She stood before them willing to sacrifice her own standing to protect her father and prevent them from being able to exploit his death for their own goals. But you weren't alone. Shepard stood by you when no one else would. He kept your secret because you asked him to, even though he thought it was the wrong thing to do. And it hurt him to do it. Whatever happened on the last mission hurt him more. How can you let it go on, if you have the power to stop it?
Tali set down the cutting torch and picked up the geth omni, still reading six percent. She paused the copy but kept the compilers working - she'd need those to translate any information she deciphered. Removing Legion's memory core could wait. Shepard would get his lost day. She would make sure of it.
Time was still of the essence, though. She examined the high level scan for the logic bombs so they could be avoided. In the two weeks that Legion had been on the ship, there had only been a dozen of the odd system-wide interrupts. She checked them against her personal log. The first one happened almost immediately after Legion had been reactivated. Four more hit in rapid succession during the assault on the heretic station. The last one occurred almost exactly when Shepard intervened after Legion scanned her omni-tool. But what caught her attention was the final two hours of the geth's existence.
Legion experienced over a hundred interrupt events, becoming more frequent right before it ceased functioning. Were they malfunctions as the result of damage, maybe? More than ever she wanted to piece together those last moments, partially out of professional curiosity, but also to give the Commander the information he needed. She hoped whatever it was would bring him some comfort. She knew the Shepard took casualties very personally - no matter who it was.
It could still take hours to go through the events during that time period via the trace log. Legion's audio and video codecs were a standard geth format and could easily be translated and viewed in real time. She could run the compiler in parallel and maybe hasten the interpretation. Tali patched in her personal omnitool leaving the geth omni to compile. She set the playback to start a few minutes into the mission, before the first interrupt to provide context.
For the next two hours, she would see the world as Legion did before its destruction...