Fight for the Lost

Requiem of the SSV Normandy SR1

Location: Normandy SR-2 / En Route to Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik

"I think we need to discuss the unique piece of salvage we've recovered," Miranda said without preamble and started the debriefing.

Only she and Jacob were in attendance. Kasumi, Thane, and Samara had all said that they would stand by whatever Shepard decided before heading to their rooms. Grunt and Jack didn't care at all and left. Mordin cited that this was not within his area of expertise. He did, however, remind Shepard that he needed to head down to the Med Bay later for another SMART Scan before leaving. Garrus also decided to go, saying he didn't care one way or another.

"Stranger things have happened. Why not round out our little team with a geth? I'm sure you'll make it work. Or you'll shoot it. Either way, you don't need me to tell you what to do," he said before heading down to the Main Battery Room.

Tali's opinion on the matter was predictable. And vocal. When her piece was said –shouted-, she left for the sanctuary of the Engineering Decks.

Shepard paced a bit from his position at the head of the table as he stared at the motionless body of the geth infiltrator they'd picked up back at the derelict Reaper. After they'd left Mnemosyne behind, he had it secured in EDI's AI core, with Rolstron and Patel guarding it.

He observed the differences between this geth and the others he'd fought two years ago. It was wearing last-gen N7 armor, but for what reason, he couldn't fathom. There was a large hole on the right side of its chest, but the damage obviously did little to slow it down given its ability to continue functioning and fighting. A large antenna stuck out its back, which was unusual since the only models of geth he'd seen with something like that were Geth Destroyers or Juggernauts.

"This is a rare find. We have to study it to better understand the geth or even the Reapers. An intact geth would be invaluable to Cerberus' cyberweapons division."

"We'll have to disagree on that, Miranda. I saw enough of these things on Eden Prime," Jacob said before turning to Shepard. "I vote for spacing it."

"And Shepard has seen and fought more of these than either of us combined," she replied. "But even he admitted that is different, which means we can't just discard it."

"I've killed hundreds of these things, but I've never had a chance to talk to one. I never even thought they were capable of talking at all," Shepard confessed. "This one tried to communicate with us. With me. Hell, it went out of its way to help us, maybe even saved our lives. Why?"

"Reactivating the geth is a risk," Miranda cautioned. "If you do so, it should be for humanity's best interests and not your curiosity."

"I still think our 'best interests' involve an airlock. Maybe a trip to the garbage compactor first, just to be on the safe side," Jacob said.

"Plus, I want to know why it has a piece of N7 Armor strapped to its chest," Shepard added.

Jacob shook his head and shrugged. "Battle trophy maybe? Would a machine care about that?"

"No. Trophies imply emotions that AIs don't have. I doubt it's more than a convenient field repair," Miranda said.

"Far better things to use than beat up, old N7 Armor," Shepard pointed out.

"It still functioned well enough. Perhaps it believed it needed nothing else," she said.

Shepard shook his head. "Too many things aren't adding up. It was on the Reaper for a reason, which is suspicious. It was alone, which is unusual. It helped us, which is different. And it tried to communicate with me, which is a first time event ever since I've encountered the geth. I'm not deciding one way or another until I know what we've got here. I want to start it up. Interrogate it."

"If we activate it, there's no guarantee we can deactivate it again," Miranda argued.

"Bullets can," Jacob reminded.

Miranda glared at him. "That's not what I—"

"Thank you, both of you, for your recommendations," Shepard interjected. "I've made my decision."

Jacob shook his head in disbelief. "Tali's gonna freak when she hears about this," he muttered.

Shepard sighed and wondered how to approach Tali with this and still manage to avoid her wrath. "I'll talk to her."

Jacob used his omni-tool to show the holographic image of the IFF. "So what about this Reaper IFF?"

"EDI?" Shepard called out.

Her avatar appeared. "I have determined how to integrate it with our systems. However –as you often say, Captain- the device is Reaper technology. It is important we test it thoroughly before attempting the Omega-4 Relay. It will take some time to properly integrate it with our own systems."

"Alright, let me know when it's done," Shepard said.

"Of course, Captain. The Illusive Man is preparing the necessary protocols to successfully integrate the IFF with the Normandy. Chief Engineer Tali'Zorah and her team will be receiving it shortly. Logging you out."

With the meeting over, Jacob saluted and left.

"Miranda, on me," Shepard said after Jacob went back to the Armory.

She was about to leave herself, but stopped in surprise. She quickly overcame her shock and fell in step next to him as he walked past her.

"You're a scientist, engineer, and… well, whatever else you've put your mind to. I might not want Cerberus to inspect this geth, but it doesn't mean that I don't want you to," he said. "You might see something I might miss while I indulge in my 'curiosity'."

"Are you sure about this?" she asked once again, still dubious of the whole idea.

"You might trust the Illusive Man, but I don't. I don't trust anything he'll ever say about it. I give it to Cerberus, I might never hear about it again… unless it's about a geth uprising that killed all the scientists or something," he said darkly. "Besides, think of it like this: if you don't try, you never learn."

Miranda heaved a long-suffering sigh, but followed regardless.

After retrieving their pistols from the Armory—

"I'm not going in there unarmed. That is not negotiable," Miranda had said.

"You sure you don't want something bigger? Like a shotgun? Or a grenade?" Jacob muttered.

—they made the trip in relative silence.

Down in the Crew Deck, Chakwas was leaning on one of the tables in the Common Area. Her arms were crossed and she was staring at her Med Bay with a surly look on her face. Joker and Kelly were sitting and standing nearby respectively.

At their approach, Chakwas turned her head, her eyes demanding an explanation.

"We're here for the geth," Shepard said.

"Thank goodness," Kelly said with a sigh of relief. "Having a geth in the AI core makes me a little uneasy."

Shepard raised an eyebrow at that, but supposed he shouldn't have been surprised. Kelly's expertise in psychology was obviously for organics, not synthetics. The whole situation was probably out of her element.

"Is it finally leaving my Med Bay?" Chakwas asked impatiently.

"Not exactly," Miranda said. "Our captain wishes to… 'interrogate' our prisoner."

Chakwas rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Interrogate," she repeated blandly. "A geth?"

"You want to activate it?" Kelly asked in alarm. "Are sure that wise?"

Shepard stood his ground. "I just want to know a little more about it, that's all."

"Well, um, I'm sure you'd know best…" she hesitantly said.

Joker shook his head at the absurdity of the situation. "Well, why not? Why not just run with scissors and talk to strangers? They might have candy," he sarcastically suggested.

"I'm sure an, an," Chakwas paused as she tried to find the right word, "an autopsy, if you could call it that, would work just fine."

"That's why we're armed, Doc," Shepard said.

She threw her arms in the air. "Oh, do as you wish. You always have anyway. Just make sure you know what you're doing."

"I'm doubtful about that part," Miranda said, shooting another look at him.

"Uh… Geth. On the ship. Geth," Joker blandly reminded as Shepard walked off. "We're all frickin' insane."

Shaking his head in exasperation, Shepard walked through the Med Bay and into the AI Core Room. Patel and Rolstron held their shotguns ready at the 'sleeping' geth. It was imprisoned at the other end of the room, lying on top of a table behind a kinetic barrier.

"Sir," they both greeted at the same time.

"We're here to turn this thing on," Shepard informed. "Be ready."

They both had shocked looks on their faces at his proclamation, but held their silence. They stepped back and gave him and Miranda room to work.

Miranda held her pistol loosely in her hand and watched the proceedings closely.

"EDI?" Shepard said expectantly.

"I have isolated our systems and erected additional firewalls. I am prepared to resist any hacking attempt," she reported.

"Let us know the moment it tries anything. We'll stop it," Miranda ordered.

"Of course, Executive Lawson."

Shepard kept his pistol in his holster and gazed down at the geth. "Okay, then. Wake it up."

"Stand by," EDI said.

Small arcs of electricity coursed through out the geth as EDI carefully coaxed it awake. Soon after, its optic, which was dim, lit up brightly once more. It made the same stuttering sound Shepard had heard hundreds of times from other geth before it slowly sat up and scanned its surroundings. Its 'eye', for lack of a better term, locked onto Shepard. It stood up slowly, but fluidly. Once on its feet though, it made no further moves. Only its eye and interestingly, the flaps around its eye were moving.

Shepard studied it from head to toe and back up again. It stood as tall as other Geth Infiltrators, but the differences seemed to stand out much more now. The gaping hole and the N7 armor were obvious. The addition of flaps was certainly new however. It almost made it look like it could express emotion, if geth ever had any.

The geth was clearly observing him with the same amount of scrutiny. It didn't even look at the other occupants in the room.

Since it hadn't spoken or tried any suspicious yet, Shepard instigated the first move. "Can you understand me?"

To everyone's surprise, but Shepard's, the geth spoke. "Yes."

"Are you going to attack me?" Shepard asked.

"No."

"You said my name aboard the Reaper. Have we met?"

The geth was silent for just a heartbeat before answering. "We know of you."

"You mean I've fought a lot of geth," Shepard clarified.

"We have never met," it said.

"No, you and I haven't. But I've met other geth," Shepard said. He paced a bit to try and see the prisoner from different angles.

"We are all geth and we have not met you," it said. Interestingly, it mimicked Shepard's movements. "You are Shepard. Commander. Alliance. Human. Fought heretics. Killed by Collectors. Rediscovered on the Old Machine."

"What was that? 'Old Machine'? You mean the Reaper?"

"Reaper. A superstitious title originating with the Protheans. We call those entities the Old Machines," the geth informed.

"You seem to know an awful lot about me," Shepard noted.

"Extranet data sources. Insecure broadcasts. All organic data sent out is received. We watch you."

"You watch me or you watch organics?" Shepard asked.

"Yes."

"Which," he stressed.

"Both."

"I'm curious. Why do you say, 'we' or 'us' when you refer to yourself?" Miranda asked and speaking for the first time since the geth was activated.

"We are geth," it explained simply.

"And why do you use 'we' to describe yourself?" she repeated patiently. "Clarify please."

"We are geth," it repeated. "There are 1,183 programs active within this platform."

"And what do you mean by, 'heretics'?" Miranda asked.

"Geth build our own future. The heretics asked the Old Machine to give them the future," it explained. "They are no longer a part of us. We were studying the Old Machine's hardware to protect our future."

"Oh, my God," Miranda said as realization dawned on her.

"What?" Shepard asked, wondering if he should be dreading what she was about to say.

"I think we've been looking at this all wrong," she said. She studied the geth intently, even as its single glowing optic regarded her neutrally, almost curiously.

"Wrong how?"

"The geth isn't… this," she explained, and pointing at the geth… or whatever it was supposed to be. "The geth are the programs residing inside. The individual programs. This-this-this, body, is just something they use to interact with the physical world around them."

"This unit is a mobile platform, designed to operate within organic space, outside the Perseus Veil," it said.

"Yes, right. A mobile platform. We've been thinking like organics to understand the geth. If they're just programs, all they need is some sort of… station or dock or something like that, where their programs can safely reside in."

"We utilize server hubs," the platform supplied.

"Fascinating," she whispered.

"So… what? We haven't been killing geth then?" Shepard asked.

"No, Shepard. You've been… deactivating heretics and either more or less than you thought," she answered distractedly. "Destroying their mobile platforms, their bodies if you will, doesn't necessarily mean you're destroying the programs. If they're able, I suspect they offload themselves and get uploaded to a hub or perhaps another platform."

"Heretics routinely create backups in the event that the mobile platform is no longer able to function," the geth said. "Particularly when combat is expected to occur. This mobile platform is specifically designed to travel beyond the Perseus Veil and operate independently."

"Without the need for the neural network with other geth," Miranda said. "Over a thousand programs working together instead of however much a standard heretic utilizes."

"Yes. We are a unique hardware platform. Most mobile platforms you have encountered can run up to 100 programs. This platform can run over a thousand at once. Doing so allows us to create a network within our own hardware, capable of operating alone."

"Just by yourself? Or can you connect with other geth?" Miranda asked interestedly.

"We can still connect to the greater network for data sharing. Geth installed in mobile platforms always operate in networks. However most geth remain within server hubs."

"And the heretics do the same," Miranda stated.

"Yes."

"And heretics are…?" Shepard asked.

The flaps on its head folded in way that almost seemed to convey confusion. "Query not understood."

"I think heretics are a splinter faction, or even a separate race of what this… geth, considers them to be. That would mean every platform or program you've destroyed aren't actually geth, but heretics," Miranda said. "That would suggest that the geth as… um… a species, I suppose, are not actually responsible for what happened two years ago or even at all."

Shepard shook his head. "I'm not following."

"Think of it this way, we have diverse races among humans, yes? In the end, we're all human, but we're also all different. The geth are the same in a different sense. One the one hand, you have the geth, on the other, you have the heretics," she explained patiently. "The geth, or rather, this faction of the geth, and the thousand programs within—"

"1,183 gestalt programs," it supplied.

"Yes, yes. It, or rather, they state that they have never left the Perseus Veil, while the heretics were responsible for every single attack two years ago until now. As a species, the geth are innocent."

"Huh," Shepard said eloquently and looked at the geth in a less hostile light. "So are the Reapers a threat to you too?"

"Yes."

"Why would they attack other machines? Because you don't follow them?" Shepard asked.

"We are different from them. Outside their plans."

"Just like us," Miranda noted. "You said: 'Geth build our own future'. What future are the geth building?"

"Ours." The answer was so simple, so succinct, that Shepard got the feeling that it didn't want to answer it anymore.

"Will anyone else be affected by whatever is you're doing?" he asked.

"If they involved themselves, they will."

"For better or worse," Miranda muttered.

"So you aren't allied with the Reapers?" Shepard asked intently.

"We oppose the heretics. We oppose the Old Machines. Shepard-Commander opposes the Old Machines. Shepard-Commander opposes the heretics."

"Why is your race divided like this? With the neural network, I thought you would realize that it would be far more beneficial to be more united," Miranda observed.

"The geth and the heretics have reached different conclusions. We accepted it. We allowed it."

"I don't get it," Shepard freely admitted.

"It is difficult to express. Your brain exists as chemistry, electricity. Like AIs, you are shaped by both hardware and software. We are purely software. Mathematics. The heretics' conclusion is valid for them. Our conclusion is valid for us. Neither result is in error," it explained. "An analogy. Heretics say one is less than two. Geth say two is less than three."

"Oh, my God," Miranda whispered for a second time.

"So… what? Your species are having disagreements over a math problem?" Shepard asked in total confusion. "Or does the heretics follow the Reapers over a, what? A math error?"

"No, Shepard," Miranda corrected with a hint of exasperation. "They're conflicted over beliefs. Both are essentially correct, but it's impossible to determine which one is right, or in this case, which belief is more right."

"Huh," he repeated and stared at the geth platform even more differently. "So… I guess they're more like us than we thought?"

"You're still thinking like an organic," she chided.

Shepard bristled a bit. "That's because—"

"—you are an organic. Yes, yes, as if I didn't see that joke coming a light-year away," Miranda said with roll of her eyes. She smiled and gave him a look that bordered on amazement. "Well, Shepard, I stand corrected. I've been here less than 15 minutes and already, we're forced to change what we think we know about the geth. I suppose keeping it was a good idea after all."

Its next statement shocked everyone present. "We have reached consensus. Cooperation furthers mutual goals."

"Are you asking to join us?" Shepard asked carefully.

"Yes."

Again, he turned to Miranda.

She shook her head and shrugged, silently conveying that it was up to him.

Taking a breath, he said, "EDI, drop the barrier."

He tensed a bit when the kinetic barrier vanished, but the geth was still and made no sudden or threatening moves. It simply observed everyone as it did when it woke up.

"What do we call you?" Shepard asked.

The flaps on its head shifted slightly, giving the mobile platform a confused look. "Geth."

"I mean you. Specifically."

"We are all geth."

Shepard crossed his arms in frustration. "What is the individual in front of me called?"

"There is no individual. We are geth."

"I think he means: does this platform have a designation or label that we can call it by?" Miranda translated. "It's necessary since, as organics, we communicate aurally and we'll need to address you at some point."

The flaps returned to the normal places and the glowing optic faced Shepard again.

He got the feeling that it comprehended his previous questions now.

"No designation was given to this platform. We deemed it unnecessary. Would you like to offer this platform a designation, Shepard-Commander?"

EDI's avatar popped up nearby. "'My name is Legion, for we are many'," she suggested.

"Apropos," Miranda commented.

Its flaps shifted in a way that gave off the appearance of looking thoughtful. "Christian Bible, the Gospel of Mark, chapter five, verse nine. We acknowledge this as an appropriate metaphor. We are Legion, a terminal of the geth. We will integrate into Normandy."

Shepard held out his hand. "Welcome aboard, Legion."

Legion looked down at the offered limb and mimicked his actions again.

Shepard reached out and shook the geth's hand, something he'd never imagined doing in his lifetime.

"We anticipate the exchange of data," Legion said.

Nodding, Shepard looked down at the remains of the N7 emblem on Legion's chest. "Why do you have a piece of N7 armor welded to yourself? Where'd you get it?" he asked.

"It was yours," Legion revealed. "When you disappeared, we were sent to find you. We began where you first encountered the heretics."

"Eden Prime," Shepard said slowly.

"After the Old Machine's attack, it was heavily defended. We were discovered." It pointed at the hole dominating much of the right portion of its chest. "This is the impact of a rifle shot."

"How many other geth were sent out to find me?"

"We are the only mobile platform beyond the Veil."

"Only one?" Miranda pressed.

"Organics fear us. We wish to understand, not incite. One platform was judged sufficient. This task was not suited for a network."

"So you've been looking for me for two years?" Shepard asked.

"We visited Therum. Feros. Noveria. Illos. A dozen unsettled worlds," it listed off.

Shepard remembered each of those worlds clearly. He was still surprised the geth would take such great pains to seek him out like that.

"The trail ended at Normandy's wreckage. You were not there," Legion continued. "Organic transmissions claimed your death. We recovered this debris from your hard suit."

"Why are you trying so hard to contact me?"

"You oppose the heretics. Those that took the Old Machines as gods," it explained simply.

"All kinds of organics fought Sovereign and his geth allies. Why am I so interesting?"

"You were the most successful. You killed their god. You succeeded where others did not. Your code is superior."

"That's probably one way to put it," Patel whispered to Rolstron.

"That's what we assumed with the Collectors," Miranda reminded. "Why they were after your body in the first place."

"While all this is fascinating, none of this explains why you used my armor to fix yourself," Shepard said to the geth. He stepped closer to look it straight in its glowing eye.

Its flaps shifted a bit, almost making it look like it was thinking hard about the question. "There was a hole," it finally said after a moment.

"I hate to break it to you, but there's still a hole," Shepard pointed out. "Besides, you found it at Alchera. You just said you were shot at Eden Prime, and then travelled to a dozen more worlds after. Why not fix it sooner? Or with something else more appropriate?"

Again, its flaps folded and moved. This time, it suggested embarrassment though, a very interesting reaction coming from an AI. "No data available."

Shepard stepped back and faced Miranda with a questioning look. Despite her sudden insight into geth 'culture', she was at a loss and could only shrug back at him in response.

"Okay…" he mumbled before he turned to leave. "We should go. Is there anything you'd like?"

"We would like a direct connection to the nearest comm. buoy," Legion requested.

Shepard hesitated and shook his head. "That's going to be a privilege you need to earn, Legion. The rest of my crew doesn't have much love for synthetics right now. I don't want to rattle the saber."

"Very well, Shepard-Commander. We request a terminal that allows for connection to the extranet," it said.

"You want to go on the extranet?" Shepard asked. He turned around and fully faced Legion, giving it his full attention again. Once again, Miranda looked interested.

"Yes."

"For what?"

"We wish to understand organics. This platform was designed to interact with organics," Legion explained.

"And how do you do that over the extranet?" Miranda asked. "Do you want to monitor more of our transmissions?"

"Other programs are tasked with that responsibility," Legion said. "This platform engages with other organics to understand organic behavior."

"And how do you do that?" Miranda asked again.

"We are currently utilizing the program: N7, Code of Honor: Medal of Duty."

"N7, Code of what?" Miranda asked in total confusion.

"Wait," Shepard said. He shook his head to try to understand where all this was going. "You want to understand organics by… by playing games?"

Miranda's eyebrows shot up and stared at Legion, unable to comprehend its request.

"Yes."

"Are you serious?" Patel asked dumbstruck. Her shock was palpable. Rolstron just stared at Legion wide-eyed.

"Yes. We would use Galaxy of Fantasy, but our account has been levied a 3-day suspension."

"Why?" Shepard asked out of sheer morbid curiosity.

"Infraction listed as: Unsportsmanlike behavior."

"Unsportsmanlike behavior?" Rolstron repeated dumbly.

"We were declared the winner of the event: Crystal Genophage Elimination Platinum. We emulated some phases other users have said during the competition upon receiving the award. The account was suspended 24 hours later."

"That's… that's too bad," Shepard mumbled.

"Are you approving or denying our request, Shepard-Commander?" Legion asked. His flaps folded in a way that almost seemed to convey disappointment.

"Uh… no. I mean, yes. I mean," Shepard stuttered before taking a quick breath. "Yes, you can have a terminal in here."

The flaps folded back to its regular places. "We thank you, Shepard-Commander."

"Do you play anything else?" Patel asked interestedly.

"We have played Grim Terminus Alliance once, but have deemed it detrimental to us."

"Why?"

"To reach maximum outcome, victory is achieved by killing Creators. We do not wish to incite further hostilities with the Creators. We have reached consensus that Grim Terminus Alliance is detrimental to that effort."

"Creators?" Shepard asked.

"You know them as quarians," Legion supplied.

"Oh, well, good for you," Rolstron said.

"We have also purchased Geth Attack: Eden Prime Fundraising Edition, Ultra Platinum Donation Level, though we do not play it," Legion added.

Shepard's mouth had fallen open, but he closed it with a snap. "That's… uh… nice of you."

"Thank you, Shepard-Commander."

"Well, we'll get a terminal in here for you," Shepard said. "The rest of you, clear out."

Rolstron and Patel stared at Legion just a bit longer before scurrying away. No doubt, news of Legion's presence and hobbies will spread within the next few minutes.

"Yes, I, ah, I have to type up my report," Miranda said before excusing herself.

Shepard glanced at Legion one last time before shaking his head and leaving as well. "So what are you going to tell him?" he asked her once the door closed.

"We've made contact with a geth. It wants to help us. Some extra information about this separate faction, the heretics," she listed off.

"Nothing on Legion's extracurricular activities?" Shepard teased.

Miranda smiled. "I don't think so. I'm not sure how relevant it is anyway. Or if he'll even believe me."

"Executive Lawson? The Illusive Man wishes to speak with you. He is waiting in the Comm. Room," EDI informed.

"Speak of the devil. Or at least his minion," Shepard muttered. "Have fun."

Miranda leveled a mock-glare at him before changing directions from her office to the elevator.

Shepard took a quick glance at the Med Bay before shaking his head and walked toward Chakwas to let her know she can use the Med Bay again.

Just when you think you got a handle on something…

~o~O~o~

Location: Unknown

"I expected better of you, Miranda."

"As I understand it, my orders were to watch Shepard and follow his lead during the course of the mission," Miranda replied. She kept a cool head and kept her temper under control, but the Illusive Man's accusations was grating on her nerves. "He made the final call and I agreed."

"That site was valuable. You knew that," the Illusive Man admonished. "And you allowed Shepard to destroy it."

"He was reluctant to do so," she said in Shepard's defense. "But the IFF was the higher priority. Given the power the Reaper was still able to put out and the dangers involved, our options were limited. We did the best we could."

"You allowed Shepard to be influenced by his friends. Outside influences."

"He trusts them and their judgment. Arguing against them would accomplish nothing, save for antagonizing him and the others unnecessarily. I didn't like what we had to do, but I stand by my decision. It was best choice we could make under the circumstances."

"Then you're wrong," he said shortly and in a tone that booked no argument.

Miranda clenched her jaw to prevent herself from snapping back. Her gaze was defiant though, bordering insolent.

"I expect you'll exercise better judgment in the future?" he calmly asked as he raised his cigarette to his lips.

"Of course," she said coolly.

"What can you tell me about the geth?"

She had to force herself not to scowl at her superior and considered his question carefully, reviewing everything she learned a few minutes ago. "It's unique. This particular geth is designed for independent action. It can talk, fight, even reason, without the aid of the neural network. It says that it has 1,183 programs residing within, not the usual 100 or so most platforms carry. According to it, the geth have never instigated any hostilities with organics and have never left the Perseus Veil. This particular platform is the first. A splinter faction of the geth, called 'heretics', are responsible for any attack made by synthetics."

"Is this information accurate?" the Illusive Man pressed.

"AI's aren't capable of lying. Omissions of the truth, perhaps, but not direct falsehoods. I believe we can take it at its word."

"And what does Shepard think?"

"He's made it a part of our team. The geth, Legion as we're calling it, has expressed interest in working with us, or rather, with him. The reason that this geth left the Veil was to search Shepard out after hearing about Sovereign's defeat on unencrypted signals, news chatter and the like. According to Legion, the Reapers pose a threat to the geth as well."

Her superior paused a moment to take a smoke. His opinion on Shepard had no doubt fallen in light of his actions on the Reaper and was probably considering if it was worth entertaining the Spectre's whims.

Miranda kept her expression even and waited for him to speak again. She was thankful to be on the Normandy instead of the Illusive Man's office. As much as it was an honor to have a face-to-face meeting with him, the smell of his cigarettes had always revolted her.

He exhaled and released a thin cloud between them. "And what do you think?"

"I trust Shepard's judgment. Thus far, the mission has gone as planned and he's performed better than I had expected. He's been known to surprise, time and time again." She preempted his next question before he could voice it. "To speak plainly, yes. I think it was a good idea. Speaking to Legion has revealed far more insights into the geth, much more than taking it apart would."

He nodded. "Very well. I look forward to your written report."

"Of course," she replied neutrally. Privately, she was glad to be done.

He tapped a button on his chair and ended the meeting.

~o~O~o~

Location: Normandy SR-2 / En Route to Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik

"Excellent!" Mordin said in triumph.

Shepard resisted the urge to reach up and scratch his nose. His eyes shifted over to Mordin as he typed rapidly at the terminal nearby.

"Everything looks good, Shepard. The nodules haven't grown at all," Chakwas said in relief. "We just might be out of the worst of this."

He sighed in relief. "One less thing to worry about…"

"Quite," Mordin agreed. "Stay still for a few more moments, please."

"Your preliminary blood work looks positive as well. The drug is working like it's supposed to and I've found no abnormalities," Chakwas said. "Do you feel any side-effects? Anything out of the ordinary?"

Shepard almost shook his head, but managed to catch himself at the last moment. "No."

"You'll tell us if there were any problems, I trust?" Chakwas asked expectantly.

"Always," Shepard said.

"Very well," she replied. "Dr. Solus?"

"Almost… all done," he said. He typed a few more things and the hologram hovering above Shepard vanished.

Stretching, Shepard stood up and twisted his torso a bit to relieve his stiffness. He caught Chakwas eying the AI core uneasily. "You'll be alright, Doc. I wouldn't put you in any unnecessary danger."

She rubbed her head. "After all we've been through, now I have a geth right in the next room. 'May you live in interesting times' indeed," she said, quoting the ancient Chinese curse.

Shepard chuckled and started putting on his clothes.

"Did you know that maxim has two other curses, all increasing in severity?" Miranda asked when she entered the Med Bay.

Shepard and Chakwas shook their heads. Mordin looked up, intrigued.

"What are they?" Shepard asked.

"What Dr. Chakwas said was the first. 'May you come to the attention of powerful people', and 'May you find what you are looking for' are the other two following after. Ironic, considering your… unique service history," she explained.

"I can see that," he replied with a chuckle.

"What are the results?"

"Doing well. Would like a few more scans, though at this point, see no reason to restrict biotic ability anymore. If something happens, acquire more data, impose restrictions again," Mordin answered.

"I prefer to err on the side of caution, Dr. Solus," Chakwas said. "We should adopt a more patient approach, but… I suppose the decision will rest with you, Shepard."

"I think I'll just restrict myself to using my biotics in life or death situations," Shepard said.

"Given the inherent dangers of the missions you routinely undertake, that will mean sooner, rather than later," Chakwas said with an ironic smile. Her expression became thoughtful and serious when she remembered something. "Though as I understand it, we've secured the necessary technology to cross the Omega-4 Relay. Seeing as our next destination will most likely be the Collector homeworld, I have to rescind my earlier statement. There's probably little reason to hold back. Do whatever it takes to get back to us safely."

"We're not going yet, but I'll watch myself though. Thanks." He turned to Miranda. "What'd the Illusive Man want?"

"Someone to reprimand," Miranda said bitterly. "He wasn't too keen on learning about the destruction of a Reaper. The research the science team had wasn't worth much. Their initial findings were interesting, but they did almost nothing worthwhile by the end. We'll have to assume the indoctrination process had taken over by then."

"Why you though?" Chakwas asked.

"I suspect that the Illusive Man had little patience to deal with Shepard," Miranda answered with a shrug. "Besides, I doubt the captain would even care if the Illusive Man was… displeased."

Shepard crossed his arms defiantly, but gave her a sympathetic look as well.

"Since I'm in charge of this cell, the responsibility, and the consequences, falls on me," she finished.

"Sorry," Shepard said apologetically. "I—"

"—did what you had to do. Remember, I made the call too," Miranda said. "If the Illusive Man doesn't like it, then he should've been more cautious. It doesn't matter. What's done is done. Now, all that's left is integrating the IFF."

~o~O~o~

After talking for a few minutes more, Shepard left the Med Bay. He intended to head back to his cabin when Kelly rounded the corner in front of him.

"Oh! Shepard!" she cried out in surprise. She was carrying something in her hands, but quickly hid it behind her back before he could properly see what it was. "I was actually going to visit you in the Med Bay. How are you feeling?"

"Fine. Dr. Chakwas and Mordin know their stuff. I'm looking at a few more tests, but they're optimistic, which makes me feel better," Shepard answered. "Did you want something?"

"I bought you a present," Kelly said pleasantly. She kept her hands clasped behind her back.

"You didn't have to do that," he said.

"I know, but I did anyway. It's not that big a deal or that big a present. It's just… I was saving it for the right moment, but with the mission coming…" Her smile faltered just a bit before she caught herself. "I thought 'the sooner, the better'. After all, who knows when I'll get another chance?" she said before revealing what she was hiding. "For you."

Shepard said nothing as he gazed at the gift she got him. The thought that she bought him a present wasn't what rendered him speechless however; it was the gift itself.

It was another model ship. Unlike the other model ships he had, this was a ship he had known all too well and yet, not as well as he would've liked. She was the ship class leader that began the stealth reconnaissance frigate class, and the first ship that flew head-on at the Battle of the Citadel. A ship that bravely carried him and his first squad to one end of the galaxy to the other to pursue a relentless foe and reveal the existence of a greater threat. A ship that was doomed from a sudden and direct attack from the Collectors.

"This…" Shepard reached out and took the tiny model of the SSV Normandy SR-1 and turned it in his hands. The detail was marvelous.

"Do… do you like it?" Kelly asked hesitantly. She appeared nervous as the silence dragged on. "I had it custom made back on the Citadel for you."

"I love it," he whispered.

He delicately held it in his hands as if it were a priceless artifact. At this point, he got a good feel of the Normandy SR-2, inside and out, but as held the scale replica of the SSV Normandy SR-1 in his hands, floods of memories returned.

Unfortunately, the most vivid memories also tended to be the most painful. The fires, the explosions, the screams, the tightness in his chest as he struggled to breathe…

"Shepard?"

Blinking back to the present, he looked up to see Kelly looking at him with a measure of concern etched in her features.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

"Fine. Memories. As a psychiatrist, you probably can guess which ones," he muttered. He turned the model in his hands again and studied it from all angles.

"I'm… I'm sorry. I didn't mean—" Kelly apologized before Shepard waved her off.

"I've got a lot of fond memories about her too, Kelly. It's fine…" Even as he said this, he knew what, or rather, where he needed to go. It was something he put off for far too long. "Thank you for this. I think it was just what I needed."

"Really?" she said with relief.

Shepard astutely remembered Hackett's request, but had put it off for far too long. He knew the reason why, but didn't care to voice it.

"After all, who knows when I'll get another chance?"

"Thank you. I really do mean that." Shepard said quietly. "Excuse me. I have to set a course."

Kelly smiled at his declaration. "I can see that. You've got that look in your eyes. A sense of purpose. It's always been one of your many admirable traits."

"Thanks, Kelly."

"Of course, Shepard. I'm glad to have helped," she said happily before going into the Common Area.

Something about her demeanor as she left suggested that she knew exactly what responses her present would evoke within him, and it made him smile.

She's good…

~o~O~o~

"Joker," Shepard greeted as he walked into the cockpit.

"Whoa!" Joker shouted in surprise. He spun his chair around and patted his chest. "Damn, you nearly gave me a heart attack!"

"Sorry," Shepard said, though he didn't sound it.

"Hey, does it breach regs if I get a mirror up here? You know, so I can see when someone is standing behind me?" Joker asked.

"Funny. You know, technically, this is a civilian ship. I'm probably lucky you're still wearing pants," Shepard replied.

"Yeah, I'll save that for the off-hour cameras," Joker muttered. He shot a dark look at EDI's avatar next to him. "Have an AI watch me 24/7? Jerks."

"Another problem?" Shepard asked, almost distantly. He was trying to figure out how to breach the real subject on his mind to him.

"This thing keeps questioning my every move. It won't let anything slide," Joker complained.

"You were deliberately falsifying maintenance reports, Mr. Moreau," EDI argued.

"Not falsifying. Tweaking. I always round up on task times. Makes us look good when we come in under," Joker protested.

"It's fine. Harmless self-promotion. You can ease off on that, EDI," Shepard said.

"Very well, Captain."

Joker grinned. "Yeah, go pout. I win."

"Joker…" Shepard scolded.

"Right, right. No hard feelings. Good game," he said without a hint of remorse.

"Where are we now?" Shepard asked.

"Uh… we're in-between systems. Still travelling at FTL toward Chandrasekhar and the mass relay. Should get there in…" He rotated his chair slightly to check his instruments. "One more hour. Why? Want me to go faster?"

"I'm setting a new course," Shepard said.

"Okay… and what? The galaxy map broken or something?" Joker asked. "Why come here to tell me that?"

"We're going to Amada System, in the Omega Nebula," Shepard ordered quietly. He didn't mention the final destination, but he knew he didn't have to.

Joker paled and he started fiddling with his hat. "Seriously? We're going?"

"I want… I want to pay my last respects," Shepard whispered.

Joker fell silent, a rare event. Eventually, he spoke up. "Me too. I think we've put this off for too long."

Shepard walked to the navigation terminal nearby and inputted the destination manually. "Course set."

Joker spun his chair back to face his station and tapped a few buttons. "Got it. We're on the way."

~o~O~o~

Location: Normandy SR-2 / En Route Omega Nebula / Amada System / Alchera

The cockpit felt constricted and uncomfortable after Shepard set the course. He left, knowing that the helmsman would rather be alone. The ship was in capable hands and he'd only distract or further depress him.

Retreating to the privacy of his cabin, Shepard carefully placed the scale model of the SSV Normandy SR-1 inside the glass case, just under the model of the Normandy SR-2. He closed the door and stepped back, marveling at the differences between the two frigates.

"Captain?"

"Yeah, EDI?" he said distractedly.

"Samara would like to have a word with you."

"Alright. Tell her I'm on the way."

"Of course, Captain. Logging you out."

He walked over to his terminal. He tapped a button and called his XO in her office. "Miranda?"

"Yes?"

"Have the crewmen load Admiral Hackett's package onto the Kodiak," Shepard ordered.

"Admiral Hackett's…? Oh. Yes, right away," she said quietly. "Are you alright?"

"We'll find out in a few hours," he answered just as quietly. "Thanks."

~o~O~o~

"Ah, Shepard. I'm glad you could join me," Samara said from her seat on the floor. Her ever present product of her meditations was still balanced in-between her hands.

"Honestly, I welcomed the distraction," Shepard replied.

"Truly?" she inquired. The ball of dark energy vanished as she left her trance to look up at him. "You do seem a little anxious."

"It's not every day you go back to where you 'died'," Shepard said dryly.

She held his gaze for a moment longer before gesturing that he take a seat on the floor with her. "Would you care to talk about it?"

"After. I don't really have the words to convey what I'm feeling right now," he admitted, but accepted her invitation anyway.

"Yes… I can imagine," she said with a hint of a smile tugging at her lips.

Shepard cocked his head to the side before smiling in return. He remembered that she said something similar to him after their mission on Omega. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"

She smiled at him again. "I was recalling our last conversation. Tell me, how are your biotics?"

"I'm cleared to use them, but only under duress," he admitted.

She nodded. "I had thought that all my knowledge would die with me, but… there is one thing I would like to teach you."

"Really?"

"You have impressed me, Shepard. In more ways than one. I believe you are worthy to learn this."

"I'm not sure I can practice—"

"There will be no practice. What I am about to teach you is not something that cannot be shown because it would put innocents in danger, nor should it be used unless you are in great turmoil."

"Sounds risky," he stated.

"It is. I had developed this technique during my hunt for my wayward daughter to combat her ability to influence the minds of her victims. This is the reason she feared me so. It is why she couldn't face me and chose to run instead. In truth, I was about the employ it when your Singularity decisively ended our conflict."

"What is it?"

"I have taken to calling it: Reave. To put simply, it is similar to what Ardat-Yakshi's does, except instead of mating to overload a nervous system, it requires a precision strike to force dark energy into the target and strike from within, causing crippling pains and burning sensations," she explained patiently.

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "Wait, you said, force dark energy into the target?" he repeated.

"Basically, Reave attacks the body internally. Because of the precision involved, it can also destroy armor and Biotic Barriers with relative ease should you desire to," she lectured. "Biotic Barriers simply rupture from surge in dark energy. For armor, it is a bit more complicated. You strike at more vulnerable areas, such as the joints; elbows, knees, neck, any place where the layering is thinnest. Using Reave will split sections of armor open, damaging shield generators and removing overall protection. Attacking the 'chink in the armor' as it were."

"Attacking from within… Very ironic," he said.

"Mirala had other choice words to describe it," Samara said in all seriousness.

"I thought standard kinetic shielding protected against biotic abilities?" Shepard questioned.

"It protects against direct attacks. Warp and Pull are ineffective. Biotic abilities that utilize force; Charge, Throw and Shockwave for example, do work against shields, albeit limitedly. Singularity is a force that no personal shield can hope to defend against. Stasis does not attack a target directly, but rather encase them within a bubble of dark energy, thus circumnavigating shields," she explained.

"And Reave?"

"Again, this all comes back to precision. Shields are engineered to only manifest under certain conditions. Originally, it designed to protect against objects travelling at rapid velocities, such as bullets. A side effect was the ability to defend against certain biotic attacks as well. The strength behind Reave is its sublime subtleness. It begins as an attack so small that it does not trigger the defenses built within armor. The energy reaches its target and expands. If your attack is successful, it will be far too late for the enemy."

"Pinpoint precision. So this is about elegance and control over brute force and power," Shepard translated.

Samara smiled again. "Very perceptive. You are more right than you know."

He silently urged her to continue.

"To strike at your enemy using Reave, you essentially send a sliver of dark energy, no thicker than a needle, to pierce your opponent, before detonating it. Use this against armor, Barriers, or any exposed skin, and they will suffer for it," she said, hinting at the dangers of her technique.

"Which is why we're not practicing," he said in realization.

"Quite. I will teach you the basic premise, help establish a foundation, and impart the theory behind Reave. Beyond that, you will be on your own," she said. "Are you willing to learn?"

He nodded without hesitation.

"Very good," she praised. "Now, first and foremost, this will require a supremely disciplined and controlled mind to shape the dark energy into the form we need. Sit as I sit and close your eyes. Our first lesson will begin in mediation."

~o~O~o~

A few hours later, Shepard left the Samara's room, stretching and working out the kinks in his body for the second time today. He was able to follow Samara's instructions well enough given his time as an Infiltrator for the Alliance. Lying in a sniper's perch for days at a time with little food or water trained his mind to quickly maintain focus under harsh conditions. He pushed himself through her tutelage by reminding himself of the training he underwent during his N7 academy days. As bad his lessons were, he did endure several equally unpleasant moments during Alliance training as well.

Not that it makes things easier.

Checking his chrono, he was shocked to see how much time had passed. If Joker's ETA was right, they should already be…

"Hey, Shepard. We're almost there."

He turned his head to see Joker waving at him from the Common Area. He noted that the helmsman wasn't wearing his SR-2 cap anymore. Instead, he was wearing the same cap he did two years ago.

Joker waddled over to the tables in the Common Area and sat down. He looked like he was struggling with whatever was on his mind far more than his mobility problems though.

Shepard followed and once he rounded the corner, spotted Tali, Garrus, and Chakwas all sitting together at the same table.

"Something on your minds?" Shepard asked.

"Yeah," Joker said quietly. "Hey look, Hawthorne's at the helm right now, so…"

"You want come down with me." It wasn't a question.

Joker nodded. "I can pilot the shuttle down there. I just want the chance to say goodbye to her."

"Alright, Joker. I wasn't going to say no."

He pulled himself to his feet. "Great. I'll, uh, I'll be in the Kodiak then. See you down there."

After he left, Shepard glanced at the others. "And you guys?"

Garrus shook his head. "I've already said my piece two years ago. I don't need to go down there."

"Me too," Tali said quietly. "Unless you need the company."

"I'll be fine."

"Okay," she said before standing. "I've got to get back down to engineering then. We're still double-checking Cerberus' findings on the Reaper IFF."

"You're being careful, right?" Garrus asked.

"As much as I can be," Tali answered. "I honestly don't know anything about it, so I'm trying to be thorough as I can. If I had a few years and a team of quarians behind me, I'd be more comfortable, but unfortunately…" She trailed off and shrugged. She turned back to Shepard. "Be careful."

"I will."

After she left, Chakwas stood up as well. "I thought about it. I truly have. I've decided not to accompany you on this. For me, it's… it's not something I would like to return to. All those lives lost… I'm not as strong as you, Shepard. For all intents and purposes, you died there as well. The idea that you can go back… If our positions were reversed, I suspect I wouldn't even travel in the same nebula."

Shepard patted her on the shoulder. "It's okay, Doc."

"Please pass along my respects," she requested before excusing herself and walking swiftly back to the Med Bay. He saw the she dabbed her eyes a bit before she could turn her head away, though.

"Captain? We're almost in orbit around Alchera now," Hawthorne reported quietly. "Scans confirm the… uh… the last known position of the SSV Normandy SR-1. No… um… no life signs or any mechanical activity detected. There looks to be a stable landing zone right in the middle of, um, of everything."

"Thanks, Hawthorne," Shepard replied. He gave Garrus a reassuring nod before going back to his cabin to retrieve his armor.

Miranda was waiting in his cabin when he entered. She was looking at his model ship display. More specifically, the model Kelly had gotten him. "It's ironic, isn't it?"

"You're going to have to be more specific about that, especially in regards to me," Shepard said. He moved to his closet and selected his armor. Instead of the usual Kestrel he favored now, he chose his next-gen N7 Armor. The door slid open, revealing his pick. "According to Robert A. Heinlein: 'The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive'."

"Alchera; this is where it all started for me too," she confessed. "When we heard about the attack, a team and I were dispatched to find you."

Shepard took the pieces down and started to put it on. "A lot's happened since then."

"Yes, it has." To his surprise, she walked up behind him and started helping him put on his chest plate. Their proximity was such that every time he inhaled, he caught whiff of her scent. It was more intoxicating than any perfume.

They worked together in silence. Miranda had little to say that would help, but her mere presence was enough to calm his nerves. Shepard, for his part, was grateful for the company.

With everything but his helmet on, he reached out to pick up the headgear when Miranda plucked it out of his grasp first. He tried to take it from her, but she pulled away, forcing him to step closer to retrieve it. Doing so allowed her to steal a kiss. It was soft and brief, but carried more behind it than words could convey.

He had to admit, she had a way of making him feel better, one way or another; whether it was bringing him back from the dead, to keeping him alive, or simply this, she certainly had a gift.

After the kiss ended, all too soon for him, there were still no words exchanged or needed. She silently handed him his N7 Breather Helmet and followed him out of the cabin.

She walked him down to the shuttle bay, but in full view of the crew, all she could do was give him a nod and, "Don't worry, Shepard. We'll still be here when you get back."

Despite himself, he still managed to smile.

~o~O~o~

Atmospheric entry was quick and painless under Joker's nimble fingers. In no time at all, they spotted the remains of the Normandy SR-1 just below them.

Shepard peered out of the windows and looked around. She littered the surface of the planet for miles. Alchera was cold and barren wasteland, freezing everything and leaving the wreckage to be locked in stasis.

"Damn…" Joker whispered as he looked down at the remains.

"Damn," Shepard echoed in agreement.

Joker brought the shuttle down to the designated landing zone. A large flat piece of ice, surrounded by the ship they had once called home. There was a light snowfall outside.

Shepard noticed that Joker wasn't wearing a hard suit. "I'll go out alone," he said. "The terrain looks to be a bit too—"

"I wasn't planning on going out there," Joker said quietly. "Just being here is enough. Take your time." He took off his hat and bowed his head.

Leaving him alone, Shepard walked out of cockpit and sealed the door. Inside the cabin, the Normandy's monument dominated much of the space inside. He managed to squeeze past it and set foot on the final resting place of the SSV Normandy SR-1.

The ice crunched underfoot as he stepped away from the Kodiak to look around. All he saw was snow and ice as far as the eye could see. A light wind ghosted through the valley, creating the only whispers among the hushed silence around the desolate environment, occasionally joined by the sounds of metal groaning; almost as if the Normandy wanted to say her own farewell to him as well.

Pieces of the proud and faithful frigate littered the landscape, some larger than others. A faint layer of snow had dusted everything and ice had begun to creep around bottom. A faint glint of metal caught Shepard's eye. He slowly approached it and saw that it was a set of dog tags, bearing the Normandy's insignia. He reached down and pulled at it, but the chain became taut. Pulling a little harder shifted the frost to reveal the remains of one of his crew. It was skeletal in appearance now, making physical identification impossible. Carefully extracting the tags, the name revealed it to be Crewmen Rosamund Draven.

Carefully placing the remains back down to the ground, Shepard reached into one of his pouches and pulled out one of the many beacons he'd prepared for this. The beacons would allow for the Alliance to locate and bring any remains he'd find back home. Carefully placing the beacon next to Draven, Shepard sighed and began picking his way through the ruins of his former ship and crew.

During the next few hours, he secured several dog tags, some without owners, and some with. He placed the beacons down for each of them, offered a word or two, and moved on.

The cold, dark, and quiet atmosphere of Alchera seemed fitting, since it reflected how he felt. At the same time, it also preserved the sanctity and peace of the final resting place of the Normandy as any cemetery would.

As he walked amongst the pile of debris, interestingly, large portions of the Normandy seemed to have remained in relatively one piece. Each section drew out memories:

The bridge and cockpit where Joker would be, flying the Normandy with his level of precision and skill. How he was able to maneuver the Normandy into position so that the Mako almost dropped right on top of Saren.

The rush and urgency to escape the cockpit as the Collectors bore down on them. The explosions, chaos, and blinding light from the Collector beam weapon... the pain from being blown away from the Normandy and agony of dying as his suit failed him…

The Mako, halfway encased in ice now; it would sit inside the hangar until it was needed. He smiled as he remembered the near suicide charge past Geth Armatures and Colossuses to reach the Conduit. The Mako held up well.

The Command Information Center. It was in pieces now, but he could make out the where the galaxy map was once held. There was nothing but twisted metal now, but the shape was more or less recognizable.

He remembered when he arrived in the CIC and the large gaping hole in the hull, with Alchera seemingly close by. The weightlessness as power failed and artificial gravity was deactivated. The galaxy map flickered in and out of existence nearby.

The crew deck, more specifically, the sleeping pods were resting on top of an icy outcropping. Once again, the similarities of the Normandy SR-1 and SR-2 stuck out. Several dog tags and bodies were hidden inside.

He remembered the fires, explosions, and his final words to Ashley. The frantic rush to get the crew to abandon ship before he made the push to Joker to get him to leave as well.

The Common Area was completely separated from the sleeping pods. He remembered Kaiden was always in his niche, working on something or other, but willing to engage in friendly conversation. The crew held a wake in honor of his sacrifice on Virmire. He remembered that the Common Area was also when he officially welcomed Ashley aboard. It was also the same place when she later offered him her strength to keep fighting, even when they were grounded at the Citadel.

The screams and shouts as the crew frantically pulled their comrades to the escape pods. Parts of the hull and deck bending and warping as the Collectors continued their relentless attack…

After two hours of wandering the site, he finally felt a small measure of closure, though the pain of losing good, brave men and women remained acute. Time would heal that though, that and getting back at the Collectors for their aggressions. He prepared to make the trip back to the Kodiak and unload the monument when something different caught his eye.

There was an over arcing structure. It was a rock formation that almost curved around on itself, making a hollow cylinder shape, but not quite complete. The mouth was large, but it narrowed deeper in, almost a like a cave.

Despite the snowfall, he spotted indentations in the ice, just past the opening.

Footprints.

Upon closer inspection, he saw several sets. He shouldn't have been surprised though. Miranda had already admitted to being here to search for his body along with her team. He also knew that the Shadow Broker had sent some mercs, so the Blue Suns were the most likely. What was interesting was the single set of geth footprints, lending credence that Legion really was here. With his body already taken though, the only thing it did was salvage his armor to graft onto its own chest.

'No data available'. What kind of answer is that, anyway?

The rock formation was enough that it protected and preserved the clues, even after two years. The winds and snow had smothered some of the evidence, but not all. He easily followed the trail deeper inside until he saw something curious at the end.

Propped up on what was obviously an artificially created stack of rocks, was his old N7 Helmet. It almost looked like it set as a grave marker. If the ruins of the Normandy were a burial ground, then he just found a tomb. Laying just beside his helmet it was a datapad. Kneeling down, he was shocked to see that it was his old executive officer's personal journal.

Pressly…

He carefully picked it up and read through it the logs that were still more or less accessible.

Entry 1

[UNRECOVERABLE DATA]

[RECOVERED DATA] spoke to the Commander about this. I [CORRUPTED] all these damned aliens aboard the Alliance's most advanced ship. I just don't trust them. Esp[CORRUPTED] that damned asari. And a quarian! What does Shepard think this is, a zoo?

Entry 9

[UNRECOVERABLE DATA]

[RECOVERED DATA] with the quarian, Tali. It seems she's on kind of pilgrimage, trying to improve the lot of her home ship. I can understand that. I woul[CORRUPTED] babysit my children or anything, but if she has to be on board, I suppose that's not too bad. Adam's seems to like her, so [CORRUPTED]

Entry 48

[UNRECOVERABLE DATA]

[RECOVERED DATA] for a while now and I'm taking a look back at past entries in this journal. I [CORRUPTED] how blind I was at the time. I came on this ship firmly believing humanity was on its own in the galaxy, [CORRUPTED] Shepard brought all these aliens on boar and there's no way we could have accomplished what we did without them. I am proud to say [CORRUPTED] die for any member of this crew, regardless of what world they were born on.

He placed the datapad into an empty pouch and carefully surveyed his surroundings. As much as Miranda cared for him now, he doubted that she had such feelings for him when he was dead. Being a practical woman, it wasn't likely that she set this up and taken the time to offer her respects. Besides, given that her task was to bring him back to life, what would be the point? And the average mercenary the Shadow Broker hired would care even less.

Looking down at the tracks that were still preserved within the pseudo-cave, he spotted more of Legion's footprints. The greatest concentration was circled around the pile of rocks, where it took the time to assemble everything. There was even an imprint of where it took a knee to place his helmet to fashion a makeshift memorial.

Interesting. I should probably talk to Miranda about this.

It felt strange being here, like he was visiting his own grave. He gently picked up his helmet and turned it over in his hands. Astonishingly, it was well preserved, though not likely to function anymore. The visor was missing and deep gouges and scorch marks marred the surface, making him wonder how bad he must've looked when he was actually wearing it.

He rolled the helmet in his hands delicately, examining all the angles before cradling it in his arms and standing up. He left the shelter without a backward glance.

"Hey, Shepard," Joker called when the Spectre walked into view. "All finished?"

"Not quite," Shepard answered. "I need to place the monument."

"Can I make a suggestion?"

Shepard stopped in front of the shuttle and looked into the cockpit window. "Yeah, of course."

"Can you put it there?"

Shepard turned his head at where Joker was pointing and saw why he wanted the monument place there. Nearby, buried amidst the snow and ice, the name: Normandy SR-1, could be seen. It was the hull of the brave frigate, where her name was proudly displayed. The scars created by the Collector's attack were evident.

He remembered when he was floating out in the black. The final attack of the Collectors as the Normandy finally gave in, the moment when she blew apart and he drifted amongst the debris, completely helpless and forced to watch…

"Yeah. I can put there," Shepard said quietly.

It took a bit of time, but with the mag lifters attached to the monument, Shepard managed to get it out of the Kodiak and onto a flat, even patch of ground. He knew he shouldn't, but he used his biotics as well to assist the with move.

Once set, he removed the lifters and stood back. The monument was gold-plated, showing the Normandy taking off to the stars. A plaque engraved at the base read:

In memory of the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the Systems Alliance, humanity, and to all those that look up to you.

Non Enim Stellae Fatum Captare Sed Nobis

He snapped to attention and raised his right hand to his eyebrow. He held his salute for a few more seconds before dropping his arm.

Don't worry. I'll get the bastards that did this and I promise: they won't get away. I give you my word.

"Thank you. For your steadfast service, for sticking by me and… and for believing in me," he said aloud to the gentle winds.

He glanced at the environs one last time before walking back to the shuttle.

Joker had everything primed and ready when Shepard stepped back into the cockpit.

"All set?" Shepard asked.

"Yeah…" Joker replied thickly. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Yeah."

Shepard looked out the winder and the golden statue just outside. "We barely knew her…"

"I know," Joker agreed quietly. He put his hat back on. "She was good to us."

Both men fell silent as the shuttle took off.

Joker called Hawthorne and passed along their current coordinates. Hawthorne chattered back about location for pickup or something along those lines. Shepard only paid attention with half an ear.

"What is that?" Joker suddenly asked a few minutes later and breaking him out of his reverie.

Shepard looked at him quizzically.

Joker pointed at Shepard's souvenir.

He held up his old N7 helmet for him to see.

Joker whistled. "And you were wearing that? Huh, Cerberus did a good job with you then, cause I don't even want to know what you looked like when they found you."

"Me either," Shepard said with a chuckle. "I just know that I'm expensive."

Joker laughed. As the Normandy SR-2 came into view, he said, "That's what I'm betting on. Even if they got an AI to spy on us, there's no way they'll invest this much just to screw us over. Don't worry; it'll be better than the old days."

Shepard smirked and looked down at his old N7 Breather Helmet in his lap. "I hope so. I died."

Joker chuckled again. "You're such a downer, y'know that?"

~o~O~o~

Tali stared at the message in shock. She ignored the formality of the words and focused only on one.

Treason.

Why…? How…?

Almost automatically, her eyes ran over the message again and her mind tried to glean any information, any context, which would explain everything.

-Tali'Zorah vas Neema nar Rayya

You hereby stand accused of the crime of treason against the Migrant Fleet. Given the serious nature of the charges, you are ordered to return to the flotilla immediately if you wish to defend yourself against the allegations levied against you and given the chance prove your innocence. Failure to do so will automatically result in your exile from the fleet. Should that come to pass, or if you are declared guilty by the Admiralty Board, your name, rank, and service history will be stricken from the records.

We pray that there is no truth to offenses cast upon you, and for your safe and speedy journey home.

Keelah Se'lai.

Admiral Shala'Raan

Migrant Fleet Admiralty Board

"This can't be…" Tali whispered.

"Tali?"

She jerked her head up to see Gabby and Ken looking at her in concern.

"Are you okay?" Gabby asked.

"I'm fine," Tali rasped out.

"No offense, Boss, but you don't sound fine. Come to think of it, you don't even look fine. And that's hard thing to pull off," Ken said with his usual bluntness. His Scottish burr came on a bit thicker as he tried to figure out what was going on.

"It's nothing—" Tali tried to say.

"Bullshit," Ken said.

Gabby elbowed him in the gut, causing him to grunt and rub his sore spot. "What Kenneth meant was: We're your friends, Tali. Us engineers stick together, y'know?"

Despite her fears, anger, and worry, Tali still managed to smile. "Thank you. It means a lot to hear that."

"Tali?"

Tali turned to head and saw Yeoman Chambers enter the engine room. She was holding a datapad.

"I have the latest protocol reports for you. Final instructions on how to install the Reaper IFF," she said before passing the datapad along.

Tali took it. "Thank you."

"Of course," Kelly said. Her normally cheerful demeanor seemed a little subdued as she stared into Tali's eyes. It almost felt like she could see right through the helmet. "Um… are you alright?"

"Yes. No. I mean, I don't know. Yet. I… I have to get to work. This will take some time. If you'll excuse us?" Tali asked with a hint of impatience.

"I'm sorry," Kelly said.

Her earnest tone made Tali a bit guilty for snapping at her. She shuffled a bit and tried to mentally shake off the feeling.

"If you need anything, anything at all, even if you want to talk, don't hesitate to call me," Kelly offered.

"I won't."

"Very well, then. Good luck," Kelly said before excusing herself.

After she left, Tali sighed and looked down at the datapad in her hands. She wasn't sure how she'd be able to install this now, not with Auntie Raan's messages repeating itself over and over in her head.

She owed her life to Shepard. Again. She couldn't abandon him or his mission, but treason? What could she have possibly done to be accused of such a crime? And father, what did he think? Did he believe the charges or is he arguing against it on her behalf? There were too many questions and not nearly enough answered.

"Hey, Boss? Maybe you should take a bit of time off. We can get started on the preliminaries while you sort yourself out," Ken offered.

"Kenneth's right. I don't think you're in any fit state to help with the IFF like this," Gabby said. She reached out and plucked the datapad away. "Kelly isn't the only person you can talk to. We're all here for you if you need it."

Once again, Tali smiled. Despite being on a Cerberus ship, despite not being quarians, it was nice to know that the people around her still felt like family in a way. "Thank you."

"You got it. Remember, we're here for you, Boss." – "Anytime, day or night and everything in between."

Tali giggled at their jumble of words, but was grateful for their support all the same.

~o~O~o~

After the shuttle touched down, Shepard waited until Joker carefully stepped out before leaving himself. What happened was hard, but he felt more focused than before. His resolve was stronger, and he was now more committed to the success of the mission. The people that died under his command deserved that much and he wouldn't let them down.

Cradling his old N7 helmet, he was about to head up the stairs for the elevator when he spotted Kelly walking toward him. She had a look of unease on her face in place of her normally friendly features. "Something wrong, Kelly?"

"I think you should speak to Tali, Shepard. She seems rather distraught about something."

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

And there we go! Normandy crash site DLC is done.

To me, personally, I always felt like this was Shepard's loyalty mission. Going back to where it all began for him, paying his respects, and saying his goodbyes. That whole mission, it was quiet and somber, just like it should be.

Samara's Reave… that was a tough one to be honest. As you read, I did away with the whole 'health leech' thing. It felt like something BioWare just threw in to balance the idea that biotics was nerfed against armor/shields/barriers/anything that covered a health bar. I really don't see how dark energy could suck the life out of someone and give it to the caster. It's supposed to be sci-fi, not fantasy! So, I simply made it where it was a custom technique from a badass biotic that can do some real damage if Shepard can do it.

Another reference to NCIS here.

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." –William Shakespeare

In my profile page, I added a request to any artists out there. If you're feeling charitable, go check it out and give it some thought.

Please review.

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