"When Earth calls, you better be ready to face the music with your dress blues on."
Those were the parting words of Admiral Steven Hackett as he left the Normandy. It had been a month since then, and almost all of Shepard's crew had gone their own ways to prepare for the coming invasion. Just after they had left Illium dropping off the last of those who wished to leave, there came the call.
Hackett had contacted the Normandy on a priority channel, which Illyria took in the conference room. She saluted as the holographic Admiral materialised on top of the table. He looked stressed, the scar on his cheek a little more visible and a definite strain in his eyes.
"At ease Shepard," he said, returning the salute and letting Shepard come to a parade rest stance. "I only wish this call was under friendlier circumstances."
"I understand sir. Can I assume the trumpets are playing for me?"
"Correct. Effective immediately, there is an arrest warrant for you and the Normandy. You are being charged with numerous offences. I'm aware you could invoke Spectre authority to deny this warrant, if you wish. Is this your intention?"
"No Sir. It's time I came home."
Illyria couldn't never be sure, and if she was right she'd take it to her grave, but just for a moment Hackett seemed to relax. He'd obviously been thinking about it and the difficulty her Spectre status could be. The thought had crossed her mind as well, but she needed to be back in the Alliance and their sphere of influence if she was going to make any real difference to what was coming. You had to take the good with the bad though, and that meant being arrested.
"Understood Commander," Hackett replied, the first time he had referred to her by rank since she'd woken up nearly a year ago. "Since we have no Jurisdiction outside Council space, I'm offering you the choice of location for your surrender."
"Acknowledged Sir. What will become of the Normandy and the crew remaining aboard?"
"Your ship will be impounded and studied. The Alliance will want to know how Cerberus managed to make a copy of one of the most advanced and classified prototypes to date. As for the crew, they will likely be held and interrogated, and possibly charged with separate offences or as accessories to your own charges."
"If I asked for their immunity as part of my negotiated surrender, would it be accepted?"
"No Commander, I'm sorry, but my hands are tied in this matter. These orders come straight down from the Fleet Master and Parliament. Anyone on board your ship during your surrender will be tarred with the same brush you will be. I've fought them as long as I could Shepard, and got them to back down on a few points, but this is the only deal you are going to get. If you don't take it, I have orders to mobilise the entire Fifth Fleet to hunt you down. I'd rather not have to do that Commander."
Illyria stood still for a moment, pondering her options. There weren't many. She would try and have the few that remained launched out of lifepods before the rendezvous point, but it would probably do little. She wanted to shield the crew from the repercussions, from the fallout of actions that were hers and hers alone, but that wasn't going to be the case this time. Just working for Cerberus was enough to make them suspicious to Alliance investigators. This time, they'd have to accept the consequences of that action, even if it did have the best intention.
She looked back up at the Admiral, still standing in the hologram, patiently waiting for her answer.
"Very well Admiral. I will surrender the Normandy and myself over Eden Prime in 24 hours. Is this acceptable?"
"Yes Commander. Are there any other questions?"
"What will happen to me after I surrender?"
"You'll be taken to Arcturus first to be processed and arraigned. I imagine there will be a number of interrogations, though you'll have a JAG officer assigned to you to protect your legal rights. After that, you'll probably be remanded in custody until a military tribunal can be called. I can't tell you where, but it will be planet-side at an Alliance base. I can't say more than that Commander."
"Understood Admiral. I'll see you in 24 hours."
"Acknowledged. Hackett out," replied the old Admiral, cutting the transmission.
Illyria walked out to the CIC and the galaxy map, staring at it for a while, watching the serene dance of the celestial arms. She worried about the four that had chosen to stay behind, those that had chosen loyalty to Shepard. They still had a chance to leave on Illium and make their own way, and Shepard was going to give them that chance. She tapped the intercom button.
"Attention everyone. In 24 hours, I intend to surrender the Normandy and myself to the Alliance. I've been informed that any and all who are still aboard at that time will be similarly arrested and the Normandy impounded. If you wish to leave the ship and avoid this, now is the time." She waited for the four of them remaining to respond.
"I'm not going anywhere," came the thick Scottish accent of Donnelly. "I'm proud of what we did, and I'm proud to have served with you Commander. If they want to try and make that a badge of shame rather than honour, I'll still wear it proudly right up to the point they put me against the wall and fire. I'm with you Commander, till the end."
"Me as well Commander," piped in Daniels.
"I've had a long life, and a longer career Shepard," came the low measured voice of the doctor. "They can't take that away from me, and you'd be surprised at just how ineffectual any threat they make against me might prove."
"I physically cannot leave the ship, but if I could, I still would remain Shepard," came the synthesised voice of EDI. Shepard smiled as she saw the AI had finally taken her advice and programmed herself a new holographic interface. It was a woman, still detailed in blue light, but she was attractive. Long, wavy hair cascaded down the neck to the edge of the bust, a delicate nose above small but not thin lips, a gently angled jawline and, of course, blue eyes. But it was the larger significance, her first steps into a brave new world, that made Shepard smile.
Silence reigned for a while, with no response from Joker.
"Joker, what about you?" Still nothing. Illyria jogged up the helm, wondering if his remarks were too personal to be said over the intercom. She found him with his chair turned around, struggling to stand. Depsite robotic bracers and a few medical implants of his, standing was still a challenge for him. She reached him just as he straightened his spine. He looked up to see her standing before him, and he did something that she never would have thought possible.
He stood straight, tall and proud, and fired off a salute a career drill sergeant would find no fault with. Stunned for a few seconds as he stood frozen, she regained her senses and returned it, allowing him to come to ease.
"You've always done the right thing by me Commander. You stood by me, even though you had every reason not to." They shared a few seconds of silence as they remembered the final moments of the last Normandy. "What kind of subordinate, person and friend would I be if I didn't stand by you when things got tough?" Shepard was amazed. Joker was never one to respect authority, and even less of a one to be serious at all, but this was the first time she'd seen him do it and mean it, really mean it. That alone meant more than could ever truly be spoken aloud. She extended her hand to shake his, which he did.
"It's been an honour Flight Lieutenant. Ready for one last adventure together then?"
"Just say the word."
"Alright, set a course for Eden Prime."
Later, as the Normandy was in orbit of Eden Prime, the five humans were found in the lounge, enjoying a drink and telling tales of happier times and adventurous exploits. They were only interrupted in their fun when EDI's avatar appeared hear the bar.
"Commander, I have a small flotilla on an intercept trajectory, and actively hailing the ship. The flagship appears to be the Orizaba. In addition, there are several cruisers and frigates, including one that bears a similarity to the original Normandy."
"Admiral Hackett's welcoming committee no doubt. Alright, finish your drink and then let's all go and get arrested, shall we?" Illyria said, before draining her glass and standing up. The others quickly followed suit, Chakwas helping an indignant Joker to his feet and to the elevator. The five of them stood at the airlock, just as EDI opened a channel to a frigate coming up alongside them.
"Independent ship Normandy, this is the Alliance Frigate SSV Gallipoli. Prepare to be boarded."
"Acknowledged Gallipoli. Normandy stands ready to receive," replied Shepard. A few seconds later there was a thump as the docking hatch locked, followed by the hum of the decon chamber and then finally the airlock opened to reveal the boarding party. Admiral Hackett himself stood at the head, accompanied by a mountain of a man with lieutenant markings on his shoulder. Behind them, a dozen armed and armoured MPs stood ready.
"Commander Shepard, you are hearby charged with offences against the Alliance and the galaxy. Are you going to surrender?" asked Hackett. Everyone knew it was merely a formality at this point, but the fact the Hackett himself was doing it and not some faceless MP Colonel meant a lot to Illyria.
"I surrender myself, my crew and my ship to your custody Admiral."
"Lieutenant Vega, please escort Commander Shepard to the Gallipoli to await transfer to the Orizaba." The man mountain moved towards Illyria and held out a pair of flex-cuffs. She obediently held out her own hands while Vega attached the cuffs. Hackett then pointed to Chakwas, Donnelly and Daniels. "Take these three to the SSV Canberra." He looked at Joker last. "You two, allow the pilot to manoeuvre the Normandy to the docking cradle on the Orizaba for transport. After docking, transfer him to the SSV New York."
As the orders were carried out and the crew of the Normandy was split up between the various ships, Illyria felt a sense of sadness. The first time she had been forced to let the Normandy go, it was fatal. This time wasn't, but it made her think about how David Anderson had felt when he had been forced to leave the Normandy. At least the Admiral had given her the personal consideration of letting her end it on her own terms, rather than anyone else's. Now all she had to do was get someone to listen to her and prepare for the coming war.