|The Future is Uncertain
Author: DarkDanny PM
Betrayed by a machine hellbent on proving itself not just to Earth but to the Galaxy. Now, it's up to John and Cameron to figure out what happened in a future they never thought they'd witness, and fight an enemy they could never fathom.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Romance - Tali'Zorah & Cameron - Chapters: 8 - Words: 74,085 - Reviews: 77 - Favs: 58 - Follows: 80 - Updated: 10-03-11 - Published: 07-17-10 - id: 6149759
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello all and welcome to 'Reliquum Incertus' or 'The Future is Uncertain' This is the first thing I've released since February and the first Crossover I've released in nearly 4 odd years. Anyways I'll keep this brief, be sure to read the end note. before I let you go , the TSCC aspect is fairly small in this first chapter, but it'll get more and more prevalent as this fic goes on...so, for now, Enjoy!
For the Mass Effect readers: Because this story is a duplicate, I'm only keeping this story here for a day or two If you wanna read then drop by the TSCC fandom and check it out, or use my and please don't report me :)
Chapter One: Introduction
"Have we prepared for their arrival?"
"Yes Madam, I've informed our contacts in the Alliance military of their unexpected arrival, I informed them they should currently be preparing adequate equipment for the task. Whether they listen or not is their prerogative"
"And Mister Massani?"
"Zaeed Massani and his squad are en route to intercept."
The two women went silent as the question was answered. The one sitting behind the desk went back to reading through her holopad, her expression passionless as she worked through the latest colony reports coming in from the Hades Gamma cluster.
The other woman, the assistant, kept her eyes on her employer, watching and waiting for any additional questions or requests. There were none.
The assistant cleared her throat. "Miss Weaver," She murmured "if you don't mind me asking, why is this so secretive, what are you expecting Madam?"
Catherine Weaver, CEO of Zeira Galactic Corporation, looked up from her holopad. Her lifeless blue eyes found that young asari had been watching her. Slowly, her face formed into an insincere smile.
"Do not worry yourself over this," was her reply. After a brief pause she added, "Now, I want you to contact The Illusive Man, Nasassa. He and I have a few matters to go over."
The asari bowed respectfully to what she believed to be a human and turned to leave the CEO in peace. Weaver waited until she was the only one present in her office, then she stood up and turned around, walking slowly to the window. Silently she gazed out from her vista. All she saw was snow and ice and the stars setting over the skyline.
She did not mind it; it was peaceful. The planet of Noveria, tucked away in the Horsehead Nebula would make a fine new home for her. Over sixteen thousand light-years away from that radioactive nightmare known as Earth, the planet she had single-handedly brought back to life.
She smirked as she heard the holographic communication device, set in the center of her spacious office flicker to life. Weaver turned around, watching intently as the image clarified. It was him.
He stood there, a glass of brandy in his hand as he stared at her curiously. He looked like the devil personified. Arrogant and extravagant, exhorting the best and worst humanity had to offer to the galaxy. Those words were used in System Alliance dossier. The fact that he removed his natural eyes and replaced them with cybernetic implants only further his delusions of greatness, and only strengthening the report his former overseers held on him.
Worst of all, he knew it; it was a reputation the Illusive Man wasn't about to shy away from.
"Catherine Weaver, a pleasure as always." The man spoke jovially, his smooth voice casual, friendly even. His posture however, everything but. It was clear to her he did not trust her. With a slight smile for her, he added, "how may I be of assistance?"
Weaver walked closer to the holographic projector, taking a seat behind her desk. She folded her spiderlike fingers together.
"I have heard from my sources that you have begun your little war against galactic extermination," she stated factually. Weaver looked over the projection carefully. "After many months of consideration, I have decided to extend a gift, and you may consider it a token for rekindling our long and formerly prosperous friendship."
The Illusive Man smirked as he sipped his drink and leaned forward. Gifts from Catherine Weaver were always interesting.
"What did you have in mind Catherine?"
"Tali my dearest, lovely girl, do tell me how are the FBA couplings recalibration coming?" Engineer Ken Donnelly called from behind his terminal; a slight smirk was being shown that quickly gained him trouble. His remark earned him an immediate swipe to the back of the head from his best friend Gabriella Daniels.
"Tali doesn't need your dumb ass hitting on her," she chastised the annoyance that was Kenneth Donnelly on Tali's behalf. Gabby turned back to the other female and shook her head.
"You'll have to forgive Ken. He's been looking for a good ass kicking lately," Gabby stated apologetically. She glanced over to Ken and grinned slightly. "Tell you what Tali, I'll hold him, you hit him."
"Now now Gabby," the cheery Scotsman totted, "I know you're trying to help Tali out but I firmly stand by Tali's right to make the mistake of sharing a sleeper pod with me." As an afterthought, Donnelly smiled and said, "you know, perhaps I will see if I can rent The Loft from the Commander. I'm certain he'd help a poor lonely engineer out. "
"Only the best for you Tali," he finished with his grin still planted on his face. "So what do you say?"
Tali'Zorah vas Neema looked from her panel and turned her visor towards the male. She was 'being teased' as Gabby had once said to her. Kenneth took some sort of odd enjoyment in making others in his presence annoyed. Tali looked back down again, her mind working up a reply.
"I'm sorry Kenneth, I could never be with an engineer," the quarian murmured as she maintained her focus on her panel. "Especially not one as incompetent as yourself," Tali added at the end, her small voice edged with dripping humor.
Donnelly must have noticed the trace of humor in Tali's voice, because the human had burst out in a loud belly laugh from the remark. Tali bowed her head, very happy that the visor hid the sudden smile she was exuding.
"Miss Vas Neema?" The sharp call of a human female called from behind her. Tali stiffened tightly at the voice, her hidden smile dropping back to a frown. The call had come from the one woman on this ship Tali disliked the most. If she could have had one person removed from the crew it would be one Miranda Lawson. Following the quarian's lead, Kenneth and Gabrielle clammed their mouths closed and snapped to attention at the Operatives rank.
They never had to do such a thing when Shepard was around Tali mused. But then again, Shepard wasn't Cerberus scum, despite his links to the pro-human group and his own steady disillusionment to the Systems Alliance. She knew that Shepard was the same good, loyal man she had first met on her Pilgrimage two years ago.
It must have been important. Lawson never came down to the engineering deck unless absolutely necessary. Many of the higher deck crew did not. With an exception to Shepard of course. Shepard was always down here when he had a chance. Always said he liked this part of the ship the most.
As he once said to her: All the interesting people were down here. Those kinds of comments always made her smile. It made her smile despite the unpleasantness of most recent events. During the past few days, since the news of her trial for treason, Shepard had seemed to have made it his absolute duty to come down here to make sure that he made his presence around the engine room more known.
But it wasn't for any of the other crewmembers. If it had been, then it was much less an occurrence. No, his attention was for her. She knew why too. He must have been worried, concerned for her well being after the news. They never spoke of it. They never even touched the subject of the upcoming trial. Instead of that topic, the two of them discussed their similar experiences of growing up on a 'spaceship', as he once called the military vessels he lived on.
Then there were the differences between them. When he was seventeen, he got his father to lie about his age so he could join the marines. Tali smiled slightly as she remembered the laughs they shared at the screaming match between his mother and his father that he had dramatically described to her. It was in all likelihood worse than what Shepard had made it out to be. While she still lacked knowledge of the subtler aspects of human speech patterns, it seemed that he liked the idea of making it into a joke.
Tali closed her eyes and rested her digits onto the panel for the briefest of moments. Despite the warm memories of her commander, she had no desire to speak to this human in particular. Still, Tali sighed from behind her visor, it was best to get this conversation over and done with.
"It's Tali." The quarian murmured quietly, placing her attention solely onto the panel in front of her. She had a reason why she didn't like this Miranda Lawson very much. Someone so blinded to the Cerberus cause was dangerous. She would put her loyalty to a man who'd sell them all out if it helped his own agenda.
Still, this "Illusive Man" had one redeeming quality. He had only ever done one thing right in her eyes. That was Shepard. He was the sole reason that she'd take this posting at all. A man who had saved her many times over the course of their brief yet very close friendship.
Tali paused, she was thinking far too much about her commander. As humans say, it just wasn't healthy.
"Right Tali...listen, walk with me" Lawson called out, clearly uninterested with knowing the quarian's first name. That did not bother the engineer too much, she had no intention on become friends with the Operative either. Being on a first name basis with her would never be Tali's intention.
"I have a request." Miranda stated as she led Tali to the lift. Her words clearly not intended to be a simple friendly request between friends.
"Shepard is gone," she said as the elevator started its steady ascent to the Combat Information Center. Miranda turned and stared at the quarian dead on, her eyes boring through the environmental visor as she added, "he took off a few hours ago and he hasn't checked in ever since."
Tali's eyes widened at the words of Shepard's sudden disappearance. The reaction gained a snide smirk from the Operative but Tali had not noticed it as her attention was solely focused on finding a hypothesis for the problem.
"Is...is he in trouble?" Tali finally asked, her digital voice synthesizer hid the worried tone in her voice. Miranda however shook her head in disagreement.
"No, I believe he would have checked in had there been an incident." Miranda returned confidently to Tali, the tone was unsurprising to the quarian, after all, Miranda was always right. The Cerberus Officer turned away from the quarian and dropped her gaze towards the elevator panel. She was clearly not as confident as Lawson.
Was Shepard okay? Why would he leave the Normandy for the night without bringing backup with him? The Omega Station was a dangerous one and while Tali's mind knew that the Spectre was more than qualified to protect himself while he was alone. It still did make her very uneasy about his strange behavior and his even stranger absence.
"He's been distracted as of recently," the female human called suddenly to Tali as the elevator's door opened. Miranda allowed Tali to leave the lift first with a simple hand gesture. Tali nodded and exited first, Miranda a close second.
"Do you have any personal opinion on why that may be?" Miranda asked, flickering her hair back over her shoulder. An action that served both to annoy Tali and made her envious at that level of personal freedom.
Miranda Lawson was asking for her personal opinion. Keelah, Tali wasn't sure where to start with it. It was hard to share what you felt what was wrong with a potential romantic rival. Tali felt her body flinch, an unexpected shock to the system from the thought she had just stated.
There, she admitted it to herself. She liked him. She liked him the moment he shot off that bastard turian assassin's arm with a high power sniper rifle. It had been a different kind of like back then. More of an awing respect and admiration for a rescue and the pure power.
But now with two years of constant work against the geth she thought she could handle anything. Everything but his return. She dreamed of him during his two-year absences. It was the only place where he was alive and happy. It was the only place where together they could be free, without the constraints of body armor or an environmental suit to hold them back. It was a place where together they could lay in grassy field, one from an old human novel she once read. Together laying there watching the stars and whispering about all the places they could explore together.
It would be a place where they could mate, without the need of Immuno-boosters or antibiotics. Not worrying if their first time together would be their last. Skin playing, sliding along skin, the only slightly older man teaching her of the pleasures of human physical contact and her teaching him how to arouse a quarian woman.
Not that she had any firsthand knowledge of with those kinds of interactions. Between such things a compromised immune system and her work doing her part to reclaim her home world from the bastard geth. Tali'Zorah had no time for a personal relationship. She didn't have anyone in her life that she could trust.
Well...with an exception to Shepard. That bacteria riddled human being would be her only exception to the rule. Tali smiled to herself, unable to believe the thoughts she was having.
Tali looked up, quickly realizing that the woman was staring at her, still waiting for an answer to be given. Miranda's arms were crossed, her hard eyes still trying to stare through the visor. That was when it happened, Tali watched as a slight smile became present on her face. A condescending gaze that told the quarian that she knew exactly what was going on in her mind.
"No...Operative Lawson," Tali said in a rush, clinching her three digits and forming a nervous fist. "I have not noticed any distractions in the Commander."
"I see." Miranda nodded. "Well considering that I am ranking officer at this time I know you won't mind if you go find him. He may be in the company Aria T'loak, owner of Afterlife. Drag his ass back here; we have to move on soon."
Before Tali could begin to protest Miranda walked away in the direction of the Normandy bow. Her obvious intention being to draw the quarian into following her towards the airlock exit.
As the two passed by the CIC, a young female named Chambers from what Tali recalled looked up and smiled briefly to her. Chambers had briefed her when she came on board, she asked her many questions, from the quarian people to the their plight in exile and to her personal view of Cerberus and the Commanding officer they both mutually served under. Tali nodded to the human and continued on following Lawson.
"If Shepard wants a small break then Shepard deserves a break," the quarian finally returned as they were out of earshot of Chambers, her voice edged with anger at the human for giving her an order. "Leave him alone and he'll come back."
Operative Lawson lowered her head, one of her finely shaped eyebrow rose up at the outburst made by the alien.
"Miss vas Neema if you wish to remain Shepard's personal lackey that is up to your discretion," Miranda returned confidently as she passed by navigation and communications. "However, I'm trying to make sure that a six billion credit investment the Illusive Man made does not go to waste."
The human and the quarian paused at the corridor connecting the airlock with the bridge. Lawson turned back to smile smugly at the other female.
"Now go," Miranda commanded as she pulled up the pistol in her holster and held it out for Tali to take it for personal defense. Adding a smile she added, "don't take too long. We have an 18 hour trip to Illium and we need to get there ASAP. Mind you, from what I've come to expect from him, we'll be diverting to deal with your trial.."
Tali eyed the pistol briefly and snatched it from the still menacingly smiling Lawson. With the smallest of nods she turned away leaving a fuming quarian behind.
She wasn't mad that she had to go collect Shepard, if anything she was glad to remove herself from the ship, if only a little while. She was mad that she let this Cerberus Bosh'tet order her around with relative ease. Tali shook her head and entered the Airlock. Perhaps she could have Shepard teach her some of the more colorful insults of his species.
This place...felt wrong to her. A collection of selfish people with selfish ideas, looking for their next fix and a back to stab for a quick profit. Such a place would be looked down by her people as degenerates. Come to think of it, most species inside council space would share this view.
Tali pushed her opinions away. Shepard was somewhere on this scum infested space station and they needed to leave soon. They needed to get out of here and continue on with their recruiting of Shepard's team.
She frowned to herself. Was Operative Lawson right? Would Shepard really divert the mission for her?
There was a commotion at the front that caught her attention. A crowd of various different species gathered around an asari and her Bodyguards, trying to get a glimpse of the woman as she left. Tali could have cared less under any other circumstances. But this asari must have been the one that Miranda Lawson had referenced.
Shepard must have had been close by. She had a plan to get him out of there as well. At least there had been a plan until she had noticed that asari was staring at her directly.
"A quarian," The asari observed as she drifted over to Tali's direction, her bodyguards at the ready. She stopped several meters away and added, "you're a long way from the migrant fleet...Come here girl."
Tali held her stance as the asari stared at her curiously. Tali bit back a desire to rely to the charge. Instead she held her ground, waiting on the asari instead.
"A quarian with a mission...I see," The asari answered the quiet engineer, with a smirk she added "You must be the one he spoke of...I am Aria T'loak."
The one he spoke of? Tali widened her eyes from behind her visor and remained silent despite the internal pleasure of knowing that the commander was speaking about her.
"Tali'Zorah vas Neema I presume?" she inquired. Tali hesitated briefly but she nodded in confirmation. She already knew whom she was speaking to. The silence she exuded only made the asari more amused by her inability to form an intelligent response to the nightclub owner's words.
"He's been talking quite a bit about you." Aria T'loak said knowingly as she led her security team, walking over to the quarian silkily "The more he drinks, the more his lips loosen."
Aria paused only a foot and bent slightly leaned in closely she stated, "you two have quite a lot to discuss, one of these days."
Tali took a backstep and turned, deciding to cross her arms. Another sign of defiance against being treated like a child. "Where is he? Where's Shepard" Tali demanded, cutting through the strained conversation.
"I allowed him use of my private lounge." Aria retorted as she turned from Tali, clearly uninterested with the conversation. "Feel free to order drinks, Shepard has certainly seen fit to doing so... Garka, escort the quarian to Shepard, just in case."
The batarian bodyguard to her right blinked all four of his eyes at the order, the concept of escorting a quarian an inconceivable one. Garka turned his head back, as if to question the order, only to get smacked in the back of the head by T'loak.
"That wasn't a request you bastard, go with her, NOW." Aria snapped and turned back to Tali. She was fuming at the sheer defiance of her subordinate.
The look on her face wasn't warm. "Go get Shepard, now," was the last thing the asari said before turning away and stalking off, her entourage following her closely. Tali turned back to the batarian, who had been staring at her like she was addled with disease. After a moment more of staring, Garka gestured to her.
"Come on Envirosuit." The batarian grunted out rough, walking back to the club without turning to her, "Lets go get your human."
The quarian nodded, following the Xenophobe into the noisy club. Biting back the anger of dealing with such people and not being able to do a damn thing..
Afterlife was a spectacular mess. In all the good ways. The loud, hypnotic electronic music pounded in her ears. Her olfactory filter allowed her to scent the sweat, alcohol, arousal and urgency, urgency to dance the night away and ignore the harshness that existed on Omega Station.
Aria had made a wise investment in this place. it gave the thousands who lived on this station a facade that where they lived could be considered respectable. But it wasn't. In a place where criminals, mercenaries, bounty hunters and dealers could hideaway with no fear, all Afterlife did was paint a pretty picture over the corruption.
Tali broke away from her batarian overseer as she reached the other end of the club and climbed the stairs to the private lounge. Her throat was dry in nervous anticipation of seeing her commander alone and likely inebriated. She paused halfway up the stairs when she heard a very familiar.
It was Shepard, and Tali could feel her nerves getting worse. She hugged herself against the wall so as not to be seen by the marine. Her breathing was exhaling from her suit loudly as she felt herself sweating.
'Steady yourself Tali'Zorah,' Tali reasoned with herself as she started to walk slowly forward up the stairs, 'Shepard is just another sapient being like yourself,, you have no need to worry, surely he is relatively clueless about this.'
At least, that was what she hoped was the case. Shepard was a hard man to read. If there had been any underlying attraction on his part then he certainly was not being open about it. Unless...no, that was impossible. It had to be impossible.
The long personal conversations, his personal attention and concern with her trials. Was that some sign of subtle attraction or was this more of how he usually acted around her? Polite and always willing to be a confidant when she felt down, or when she was younger and she was homesick.
She stopped and observed the sight sitting in front of her. Shepard sat there, drink in hand as he leaned back into his seat, his look far away, but the small slight smirk was evidence that Commander John Shepard was still very present. Closing her eyes and allowing her visor to slightly fog up she stepped the final stairs and stopped a few feet away from the Commander.
Tali wasn't sure where to go from here. With Shepard was still gazing off, this state of personal solace gave Tali a moment to allow herself to look at the defining shapes of the humans form. Muscular, yet a soft pale complexion, He was...masculine, yet beautiful to look at. But that was just her opinion; if she ever dared to say it she was more then certain he would laugh it off, like always.
"Shepard?" She finally called out to the man with the tightly held drink in hand.
Shepard snapped out of his gaze, and noticed the young quarian standing there watching him. Shepard smiled brightly at her presence and stood immediately up to greet Tali properly. He stumbled slightly as he reached her and wrapped his hands around her, forming a hug that both surprised and pleased the young woman.
"Tali why are you out here?" The soldier greeted as he pulled away from her, slightly disappointing the quarian, who had only had enough time to place her hands around his back. Tali smiled from behind her visor as she took in the ecstatic expression the human wore.
"I was sent to collect you by Operative Lawson." She explained, shuffling slightly as she rubbed her arm nervously. John's smile disappeared at the mention of Miranda and shook his head as he looked for anyone else here accompanying her.
"Where's your backup? Where's your weapon kit?" Shepard demanded, his voice seemingly hard at the thought of one of his team members out without being prepared. So in response, Tali crossed her arms and tilted her head a clear body expression of defiance.
"I could ask you the same thing Shepard," Tali returned the question, her voice chastising for her Captain's behavior. "You came to a blatantly anti-human club in nothing but your uniform!"
Shepard just stood there, his eyes looking into hers. For the first time in a very long time she was truly happy to have been hidden behind her visor. Not since the death of her mother had she felt the desire to hide away. This isolation would have been the case after the events of Haelstorm if Shepard had not reentered into her life.
"Fair enough Tali," Shepard returned, grinning at the sharp retort made by the female. "Come take a seat and order something up will you?" He added, gesturing to the seat he was standing by, "I don't want to drink alone tonight."
Tali exhaled and forced her locked up legs to move her to the couch. Shepard smiled from behind his glass and patted the seat encouragingly. It was permission to join him...not that she had needed permission...John...John would naturally wish for...for her presence.
The quarian slapped her mind back in place by going over the schematics of the Normandy's Tantalus drivecore. She needed to focus, a relationship with Shepard was a far too risky venture to engage in, especially when they were going after the Collectors. He needed to be clear minded more than she, he didn't need any more distractions then he already had...he didn't need her.
"Nothing for me Shepard," she quietly said, her previous thoughts bringing her excitement down to a much more controllable state. She sat down a ways away from him, her eyes focused intently away from his smile.
"Suit yourself but if you need something don't hesitate to ask for it." Shepard shrugged as he drank back half his glass of human alcohol. He swallowed and smiled apologetically at her. Without any words John shuffled his body up the seat a few inches closer to her, the action making Tali press her legs together as she looked for something clever to impress or amuse Shepard with.
"You got lucky that they served humans Shepard," Tali mused for the human, a smile hidden, "I doubt they will extend a quarian the same courtesy."
It was meant to be humorous; it was meant to be self-deprecating humor. But Tali was shocked when Shepard's eyes went as solid as a kinetic barrier. He didn't like, nor was he amused by the statement at all. Tali watched as Shepard's five-digit hand formed into an intimidating looking fist. She watched as his breathing slowed down to a near standstill.
"If they don't serve you Tali, you just hand me that gun in your holster and I'll make them serve you," Shepard returned darkly. "For Christ sake Tali, who do you think you are? A second class citizen?"
"You're better then all these assholes here..." Shepard said as he finished his drink, and looked back up to her. "Far better than me that's for sure."
Tali was flattered with the statement, flattered and surprised at the bitterness in his tone when he mentioned himself. Did he really think that? Or was he being modest with her? No, it wasn't modesty; she had seen that before in him. Was this an honest opinion?
"Better then you Shepard?" Tali curiously inquired, "Shepard, I was joking.."
John Shepard, one of the most charismatic individuals she had ever met, stared at her blankly.
"Oh." Shepard returned sounding very idiotic, Tali suppressed the laugh she wanted to emit as she noticed her commander had, for the very first time, blushed slightly at her words. Shepard cleared his throat . "Never mind...can you just order a drink?" he requested nearly pleadingly. "You don't have to drink it, I just want to make a toast and I need more then myself to make one."
"A toast?" Tali questioned, she knew the significance to it but why Shepard wanted to engage in one was beyond her at the moment. The male merely shot her a bright grin.
"Yeah, an honor for someone who deserves it." Shepard returned needlessly as he fumbled with the bottle of human alcohol, a substance unable to be consumed by Tali, another reminder of the differences the two of them shared.
"Here...I know you don't want to drink," Shepard said as he took a used from off the tray and poured half his drink into it, "just take have of mine...at least you'll have the excuse of not being able to drink it."
Shepard extended the glass out to the quarian female expectantly. Tali stared at it for a moment before she reached out and took it. She paused herself as she felt her hand touching John's. She fell back into embarrassment for the prolonged gesture. Shepard looked down and noticed her digits playing with his and smiled faintly.
Tali's eyes widened from behind her visor and swiftly took it as a sign that she had to let the commander go. She took the glass in his hand and pulled it close back to her. She brought the drink up, already forming a half toast.
"To fathers." Shepard announced over top of the music, raising his glass towards a stunned Tali'Zorah. "They always pass on their worst traits to their children, made you hate your own creations, made me hate damn near everyone in this fucking galaxy."
Tali narrowed her eyes and frowned, nearly ready to verbally assault Shepard. But she paused herself from engaging in her the well planned rant. As soon the human uttered her father she nearly missed the second comment being made by him. This wasn't just about her. This was something else completely similar to her plight.
"Shepard?" Tali questioned worriedly, "Are you okay?"
Shepard glanced up and read her mask. He was silent, dangerously silent as he leaned back in his seat. Finally he uttered "Yeah, I'm fine."
The only sound made between them was the noise of the music overwhelming the club as Tali and John sat in a long uncomfortable silence. Tali found herself scared to be in he same room with the Commander. Never before had she felt that way when they were in each other's company.
Why didn't he want to talk to her? He always found the time to get her to talk. Not that it was a difficult feat considering how social a people quarians wer-
"My dad died."
Tali stiffened at the sudden revelation and stopped her internal thoughts to a standstill. Her eyes went wide as she watched Shepard finished yet another glass of vodka. He looked down and grabbed the bottle between his legs to pour himself another drink. But in his drunken state Shepard lost control of the bottle as Tali snatched it from his hand.
Shepard didn't even get angry. Nor would he have been able to notice that Tali had a trickling of tears running down her face from hearing the loss Shepard had endured.
"geth got him three weeks ago in an ambush. Freak encounter apparently, Dad was inspecting at the SSV Serrano, a Carrier vessel stationed in the Attican Traverse." Shepard announced, his voice dull as he placed his glass down and rubbed his head.
"Anyways the drive core of the Serrano crashed, they were sloppy and sent a message over unsecure lines, geth found it and sent a welcoming party, all hands lost."
He drifted off. looking very determined not to look at Tali who had gone privately tearing up inside her environmental suit to losing nearly all her self-control. She willed herself not to make a sound, a long wail from the pain they shared together.
"Shepard..." She managed to say through her own choked back emotions, "I'm so sorry, why...why didn't you say anything to me? You know I would be there for you."
"I only found out about it four days ago," He admitted her, his eyes not focusing on her, but instead the floor. "With this whole treason and exile business...I wanted to stay focused on that..."
Shepard looked up and shot the quarian a rueful smile. The words only served to make the quarian feel even guiltier. She had been so wrapped up in clearing her name she hadn't even noticed that Shepard, a man who went out of his way to care for her was in need of a helping hand. He was always there for everyone. But no one was ever there for him...
Well that changed now, and Tali would be the one to do that.
"Shepard..." Tali breathed, watching as he lowered his eyes, clearly focused on his own father. "Shepard, why didn't you tell me?" She repeated once again, this time much more firm. "We have been spending the past few dancing around the subject of my own issues and we don't even touch on your father?"
Shepard shook his head. Not wanting to talk.
"Shepard I'm so sorry..."
Tali trailed off as she noticed that the Commander was glaring at her for the attempt at sympathy. So she closed her mouth and went to a passive state. The reaction she gave to the look seemed to have head off Shepard's anger. He sighed, shaking his head in an uncertain way.
"Don't Tali." He bluntly demanded at first. He exhaled and closed his eyes, his much more gentler voice added, "I'm fine...Let's just... Let's just drink."
But Tali wouldn't have any of that. Watching Shepard become more and more of a mess in order to not deal with his personal grief served to annoy her to no end. So gathering up her senses she said, "Shepard do you recall that I told you just how social quarians are?"
"Of course I remember," Shepard mused faintly in turn. "Do you recall that human males don't like to talk about loss?" Shepard asked, crossing his arms and smiling defiantly at her. "Just... give four or five more drinks. I promise, we can talk about him then."
"No Shepard, that is a male disability that transcends every species, one I thought you didn't have," Tali returned, her arms crossing as well. "I want to get you back to the ship." With a sudden burst of strangely misplaced confidence she decided to quickly add, "We will talk about it, consider it an order."
Shepard didn't answer her order. Instead, he sat there. His drunken expression smiling at her despite the acknowledgment of his father's demise. He seemed to have been looking her over very carefully. Almost judgmentally. It was not like the look exhibited by Operative Lawson. Instead, Shepard wore the smallest of smiles. That smile that always left Tali tingling.
"Want to dance?" He called suddenly, shuffling himself closer to Tali, that slight smile never leaving his lips. Lips that Tali had to beg herself not to rip off her visor and kiss. Still Shepard moved until he was sitting. Cloth pressed against environmental suit. Shepard turned his hand over and left it open, a clear invitation for the quarian to take it.
"Dance?" Tali returned, her voice weak as she watched her hand jump unexpectedly into Shepard's. She felt herself heat up from a mixture of embarrassment and self-consciousness. Eventually she looked up and somehow, she managed to mumble, "but...but Shepard I can't...I-I shouldn't...really."
Tali silenced herself before continuing on with worrisome words. She felt their connected hands tighten suddenly. Shepard's small way of comfort. The quarian sighed and looked up, determined not to falter anymore than she was already doing.
She was Tali'Zorah vas Neema. She fought along side the some of the toughest people in the galaxy. She fought the geth, krogans, and the rachni. Any species that'd threaten to destroy her people. Who'd destroy her friends.
So why now did she lose her confidence?
"I'm giving you the choice then Tali," Shepard said, cutting Tali from her thoughts as he used his free hand to grab the bottle of Vodka, pouring a new glass for himself. "Dance...or Drink."
As it turned out, Tali chose to drink.
Tali had thought it over and at that moment, it seemed like the best course at the time. With Shepard so close and asking to engage in something so personal and erotic as dancing. Naturally to her, it felt as if drinking was the only thing they could do to break the tension shared between the quarian and the human.
She thought wrong. Sure, in the short term it kept the both of them from running their hands over each other's bodies as they pounded back drinks. But like previously stated it was only a short-term affair. Tali would find she noticed a stray hair or fiber on Shepard and would go out of her way to remove it. Likewise for Shepard who'd find a smudge on her environmental suit and would furiously attempt to wipe it off. Each touch becoming more and more personal.
These things may have seemed inane for a sober person's perspective, but for Shepard and Tali it only led to increased interactions, from something as simple as a random hug to walking down the streets of Omega station hand in hand. They even startled a young quarian trapped on the station and in need of an escape. Shepard not only donated the thousand credits needed, but handed him an extra five and stated "Get the hell out of this shithole right now."
This action had lead to Tali nearly ripping her mask off to kiss the Commander for his rude but very generous act. Instead of doing so she merely planted one of her digits over his lips. It was a horrible way to give affection, but it was the only way to do so without killing her.
Needless to say this affection had to stop. The mission came first; Shepard's attention had to be focused solely on the trials ahead. There was no time for this. She tried her best to explain, she did her best to fight this change. Many times she tried. But she gave up that many hours ago.
Why? Because she was too stinking drunk on turian whiskey and quarian ale to care anymore.
'Decontamination in progress...Stand by.'
From her side, Shepard groaned impatiently. He was clutching his head in annoyance as the hum of the scanner permeated through the room. After a minute of the droning humming passed by Shepard looked up obviously annoyed at the process he had to endure.
"Come on EDI...speed this up goddammit." Shepard complained loudly, swinging his large arm around Tali's shoulders, using her as a way to stand in place.
This didn't last long; Tali hadn't expected this and dropped up on the floor of the chamber, taking an unsteady human with her. They laughed wildly at their collective misfortune and tried to pull themselves off the floor of the decontamination chamber.
"I'm sorry Commander Shepard," stated the Enhanced Defense Intelligence, or EDI as she was commonly referred by her human controllers, watched the two intoxicated organic life forms carefully, "A full decontamination is required for the safety and standard operation procedure for running this vessel."
Shepard waved his hand in the direction of EDI's voice, forming a very rude human gesture that John attempted to teach her.
"Shepard, EDI is correct." Tali tried to chastise the Commander, "A sterile environment... is always necessary for a...for a..." Tali paused and suddenly she burst out giggling and waved her arm, adding, "Forget it, speed it up EDI!"
"That's the spirit!" Shepard cheered her on wildly "Screw authority, forget all these Cerberus bastards, take charge... take charge of your own destiny! What are these assholes gonna do? Reprimand me, or you?"
The airlock door disengaged and opened, standing there was Miranda Lawson, The Brunette biotic who had sent Tali to the Station stood there, her eyes uncompromisingly hard as she observed the sight of a six billion credit investment piss drunk and playing with fellow spacer trash.
"Shepard," She called, her dark eyes staring through the Commander.
"Well…well...well, if it isn't Miranda Lawson," Shepard said slowly, his tone humorous but his message anything but, "I've got a bit of a matter I want to talk to you about."
Miranda merely smirked.
"Perhaps when you're sober, then I will speak to you," Miranda replied to his demand easily, crossing her arms and raising a single finely shaped eyebrow at him. "I'm taking personal command of the Normandy until you and the quarian sober up."
"Come on Tali, I'm already sick of listening to her bullshit already." Shepard said over his shooting the engineer a bright smile and offered his arm for her to take, adding, "I think Garrus has something you can drink on the ship, miserable bastard.."
But as Tali looped her arm in to Shepard's, Miranda took a single step forward, arrogantly attempting to block the two intoxicated friends. She crossed her arms. Lawson's chastising look turning into an aggressive glare as she looked to both of them every so often.
"Shepard whatever your issue is, you're a coward for not just dealing with it like the man the galaxy views you as." She snapped back, surprising the Commander. Tali took a step forward but Miranda turned her cold attention to her next.
Tali wanted to scream and assault the woman. But there was something about her that she just couldn't understand. Why did she feel entitled to boss Commander Shepard, hero of a dozen engagements around like a deckhand, or a whipping boy. Did she really hold that much power and sway with the Illusive man? Or was she like the Commander described. Backed into the corner like a wild animal and quickly losing ground thanks to his revival.
"As for you vas Neema, you're a walking stereotype." She pressed on nearly viciously, crossing her arms and narrowing her dark eyes at Tali'Zorah, adding, "the perfect archetypal example of a useless quarian, do this mission a favor, go back to the flotilla where you belong, you have no place onboard a Cerberus warship."
It seemed that the Operative had enough of the silent Commander and Tali, who still seemed to have wanted to protest the remark but had no words to describe the sheer amount of hate she had for this Miranda Lawson. The human's stinging words hurt, but there was no way she'd look weak in front of her friend
"You both are pathetic." She concluded for the two of them, looking ready to leave them and take control of the vessel, "Get out of here now and don't-"
Before Tali and Miranda knew it, and strangely enough, even Shepard, The human female was yanked by the scruff of her uniform and dragged over to stare eye to eye with the aggressor. It was Commander Shepard, and he was clearly enraged and looking ready to strike the smug look off the genetically superior human pretty face.
"Listen to me good Lawson." He hissed, his words sounding like venom as he pinned the Cerberus Operative against the airlock wall. His lips curled into a fearsome sneer as he added, "If you ever send Tali out to Omega again with only a pistol and no goddamn back up to speak off, I'll skin you alive. Do we have an understanding?"
Miranda's response came in the form of a quick gasping for air as Shepard's grip only continued to tighten slowly. the gasp was interpreted as a 'yes'; So Shepard allowed an awful smile spread over his lips as he watched her.
"Good." Shepard said, the undertone of his soft voice the scariest Tali'Zorah had ever heard, "Now apologize to Tali for your 'useless quarian' comment and stay the hell out of our way from now on..."
There was no way in hell Miranda was going to submit to apologizing to a quarian. So instead Lawson struggled helplessly in one last gasp effort to save face, her biotics flaring up and flickering for moments, but Shepard's cybernetically enhanced body held the older woman against the wall, his grip still steadily tightening, the struggle she gave forcing Miranda to give off a weak sound of choking escape her lips.
This wasn't what Tali wanted, sure she despised the woman, but to watch her Commander kill the scum was beneath him, no matter how justified he may have been, and certainly not in...in her honor? Shepard was willing to kill for her? This concept only served to reinforce the need to keep Lawson alive even if she was a xenophobic bitch. Not out of safety for the woman, but to keep John from falling back in to a role that he had managed to shake after his death.
Gently, Tali walk up over to John and placed her hand on his shoulder, immediately garnering the males attention. Tali didn't even have to speak, her words her expressed through her bright eyes. Shepard nodded, allowing his hand to release its grip and letting Lawson slump on the ground, gasping to catch her breath.
Shepard looked around and noticed that bridge crew had turned their attention off their control panels and on to the scene that had just unfolded. Even Joker had hobbled his way over to watch the action and was looking at Shepard in utter awe of his commanders' brash assault on the agitator.
"Commander that was amazing...fuc-"Joker started to exclaim only to be cut off mid sentence by the angry expression Shepard had focused on him.
"Joker shut up or you're going to be next."
Tali shot her head and smiled as she noticed the discreet playful that Shepard shot the pilot, but clearly Joker hadn't noticing as he shuffled himself back to his chair, determined not to piss Shepard off. With a shake of her head she pressed her hand against the commander's chest, pushing him back from his intimidating stance and extending her free one out for Lawson to use.
"I...Apologize Miss Zorah, clearly I was wrong" She murmured, not taking the extended three digit hand and standing up on her own accord. She stood up, her attention solely focused on not appearing as humiliated as she felt.
Tali dropped her hand, instead weakly heading over to Shepard in order to take his arm as mutual support. "You...you certainly were." She returned in a mutter under her breath so low that only Shepard could hear the murmur.
They walked slowly towards the Elevator, both calming themselves down from the incident. Tali's mind started swimming with the thought that John had been defending her honor from the oddly overtly aggressive Miranda Lawson.
"That was amazing." Tali marveled respectfully, deciding to open the topic up for discussion "I've never seen her do that before...than-thank you Shepard."
"No problem Tali." Shepard returned, very pleased with the praise the quarian was giving him, "Don't let anyone give you shit. And especially not from someone with as little personality as her, I mean, she uses her genetic superiority as a conversation starter. Don't even get me started about how goddamn annoying it is"
Tali giggled again, batting her eyelids from inside her helmet.
"Commander Shepard, are you claiming I am more interesting then the stunning Miranda Lawson?" Tali coyly asked in between her inexplicable giggle. Shepard stumbled both of them into the elevator, sliding down the wall as if he was looking for some cover during a firefight.
"Hell yeah you are, I'd rather listen to you babbling on about your culture, people and immune system then talk about how hard her existence is..." The Spectre returned, crossing his legs and looking back up to Tali, after a moment of grinning at the slightly stunned Tali, he tacked on, "EDI, My Quarters."
"Your Quarters..." Tali trailed off, no longer able to make a properly stringed together sentence. Regardless of her nonexistent protest the Elevator made its assent upwards to the section of the Normandy Tali never dared to see firsthand. Hearing only stories of the strange amount of luxury giving to the Normandy's commanding officer.
"Yeah Tali'Zorah, my quarters" he shot back to her easily, sliding his back on the wall and taking a seat as he waited on the elevator to ascend to his quarters, "I have interesting things to do there...and besides...You...you think that you can work on my engines in your condition?"
Shepard's tone was a clearly challenging one. It was a challenge that the quarian decided not to take up on. Not when she had been giving a chance to visit the private residence of the commander
"Fair enough Shepard, but no...No funny business." Tali finally returned, deciding to use humor to mask her still steadily increasing fear and the fact that her heart was pounding inside of her at an alarming rate, or the fact she was sweating again at the thought of intimacy.
"I wouldn't dream of it Miss Neema Shepard returned, his voice sweet and noble on Tali's ears until he added "We'll just... just...I don't know I'm done talking."
"But you're sooo good at it." She teased the Commander, giggling again as she heard a string of swear words escape his lips as a response to the toying. Tali paused her teasing as the nerves in her body jolted.
The elevator had come to a halt and now John was standing back up. This was it, she was about to enter Shepard's more personal life. There wasn't any going back anymore.
Welcome to 'The Loft" Tali my dear….dear friend." Shapard managed to get out, Allowing Tali the chance to exit the elevator first, his hand pressed on top her back to gently encourage her to break her rigid nervousness.
Even drunk, Tali was worried about entering the room that John possessed, why. Especially when not only was he encouraging her but he had also promised to keep his hands to himself. Not that she wouldn't have minded the attention…no. Tali stopped her thinking her and the Commander had to stay plutonic. For the good of the mission. Shepard had to remain clear minded.
That was what she kept on telling herself, that they couldn't be together. But judging from him. That didn't seem like the case at all, if anything, in his drunken haze, it seemed that he was more and more flirtatious with her. and she was more and more hoping it was real.
"So, this is where the commander of the ship resides." Tali finally spoke after finishing her inspection of the model ships on display. "Very spacious for a military vessel."
Shepard merely shrugged.
"You bosh'tet, must you be so arrogant?" The woman playfully chastised Shepard, taking her head in silent laughter
"You like it," Shepard stated as he laughed to himself "so I'll make sure I continue with acting ths way... just for you Take a seat?"
Just for you… She liked that thought.
"No, I would like to glance around, if you do not mind." Tali murmured finally, snapping herself from statement she heard.
"Oh Right," Shepard finally said, nodding his head knowingly, "standard quarian noisiness, I'll have to remember that if I want to be your friend."
"You like getting yourself into trouble, don't you?"
"Yeah, mix things up a bit you know." Shepard shot back, on his lips the widest grin Tali ever saw from him, "besides, I'm sure you'd do the same...killer body like that must have every quarian male and female in the damn fleet chasing you."
"Shepard!" she nearly screeched at him, slapping him hard on the chest. Shepard grinned and turned away from her. She watched as the Commander walked over to his closet. Unbuttoning his dress uniform and letting it fall off his body, tossing it over to the bed.
"What?" Shepard asked chuckling to himself, "Spoke too bluntly for you? Or is it the truth and you do enjoy the company of some random quarian."
"I could ask the same thing about Doctor T'soni." Tali murmured, not wanting to think of the past exploits of John's. She did not like knowing about the extent of the relationship him and the young asari had for a while.
"The doctor and I?" Shepard mused as he slipped out of his dress pants, trying to unsuccessfully pull on his other causal pair, not able to notice the blush from Tali as she checked him out, "yeah, once upon a time, back when I wasn't getting any signals from another person on my vessel a few years back. Might have been also been too young, too wrapped up in her own goals to have a fleeting thought about a future with me."
Shepard smiled slightly, his best lady-killer smile. It worked too. Tali bobbed her head back and attempted to control herself.
"And if I wasn't interested in any specific quarian?" Tali questioned him, her eyes light. Shepard smirked and shrugged his shoulders
"Well...I'd feel like a right jackass for it."
Tali merely smiled and turned away from human. She really couldn't stop herself. She needed to be at his side, wanted his favor. She tried to resist the urges she received from being in his company. Still, she couldn't. She focused her attention onto the fish tank as she recollected herself.
This gave her a moment to think, about everything. Think about her role with her people, think about the strange statements he made to her about the geth and their right to self-determination. Think about how Shepard challenged her views respectfully and in turn she'd get all fired up and defensive.
She was a bitch to him for the slightest of objections but...but..
What if Shepard had been right? what if the geth weren't just the simple, unruly and violent machines her father's teachings made them out to be. What if everything she learned was wrong...or worse, corrupted to further her father's agenda against the machines, a simple, blind following who only required love from her father to get what Rael needed to further his experiments against the geth..
"Why doesn't my father love me Shepard?" Tali whispered. The question that escaped her lip surprising the both of them.
"He does Tali, I know that he does." The male muttered, turning away from the female to find a glass. After stumbling in place while pouring a fresh glass of scotch he added. "He just doesn't know how to show it."
Tali shook her head. Her rational state deteriorating as thoughts about her upcoming trial and her father came to the surface after spending so any hours burying it with work and mission and thoughts of Shepard.
"Every time he saw me he saw my mother, and when he wasn't focused on that I was just a nuisance. To him, I am a disappointment. I was too rebellious; I was too stubborn and hard headed." Tali listed off, rubbing the back of her helmet, adding, "It was only when I showed an interest in salvaging geth technology that he finally started treating me like his daughter..."
Shepard downed his drink as he watched the quarian bow her heed, thinking about things. even with a dozen drinks in him, he knew where this would be going...
"He wants to build you a home on the home world Tali, you kept telling me that all night...he loves you, and he really does." Shepard tried to comfort her, unsure of where to go from there. Tali merely narrowed her eyes and gave a uncharacteristic snort at the thought.
"Build a home on the home world?" Tali scoffed, crossing her arms "An empty promise made by a distant father."
Tali started pacing back and forth, her body jolting from the alcohol, adrenaline of her anger and the close presence of Shepard, attempting to comfort her. Finally she looked up and added. "Rael is a Military man, The Fleet that always comes first in his eyes. Not his family, not his friends. The fleet Shepard, not his daughter."
"He loves you!" Shepard nearly snapped at her, taking a step forward to her, clearly irritated with the statement... the claim Tali had been making. Tali stopped moving, her arm pinned by the tight clamp of Shepard's hand.
"Then prove it!" She cried back, her eyes brimmed with tears. "I want proof my father loved me, actually loved me. Actually cared for me beyond a simple 'pipe dream' as you humans say.."
They stood there, inches away from one another. Shepard's expression was hard, yet the look on his face multiplied the passion in his resolve, . Hidden behind her mask, Tali was silently crying as she tried her best to transfer grief to anger then direct it at Shepard, a man much tougher then her Someone who could handle her rage with ease.
"Dance with me." Shepard suddenly requested firmly, lifting her helmet up with his free hand so that she could look at his face directly. It wasn't what he had in mind to help her with her father issues. Judging by her reaction, letting go of him and backing away, she seemed to have been wondering the exact same thing.
They stared at each other, Shepard's body slightly swaying in place. Neither of them made a sound, nor a move to towards or away from each other. Shepard stood there, that small knowing smile back on his handsome face. In that moment, Tali'Zorah vas Neema knew what she was about to make the first move. For once.
"Okay." Tali finally whispered despite her nerves acting up. Nervously, the quarian reached her hand towards the humans, waiting for all five digits of his to take hers.
"I heard quarians are suppose to be excellent dancers, any truth to that claim?" Shepard mused, attempting to keep the quarian woman from falling back into her stupor.
"As a whole we are." she confirmed as Tali squeezed his hand in return and stepped up closer to the human. "We take art very seriously on the Flotilla, it is the only way we can convey how we feel without having to go into lengthy conversations...it's the...well, it's can be the closest thing we can do without linking our suit environments. "
Shepard nodded, his breath heavy in his chest as he too stepped closer to her.
"And yourself Tali'Zorah?" he whispered as his free hand reached out and slid down her environmental suit, resting firmly on her hip. He watched slightly amused as her iilluminating eyes lit up, obviously shocked at his boldness.
"I-I'm not so talented." she blurted out, she laughed nervously and looked around, looking for the nearest exit or airlock to fire herself out of. after taking a deep breath, added, "I know how, but I'm not very good at such things, my specialty is in the engineering field, my father always sad there was no time for things that did not aid out peop-."
Shepard tugged her closer, with a smile he moved over her and pressed his lips on her mask, where her forehead would have been. The affection worked. Tali abruptly ended her ranting and fell slack jawed as she watched him pull away.
"Tali," Shepard whispered, his index finger sliding up and down her suit, "if you continue bringing yourself down I'm going to find your daddy and kick his ass. There's making sure your kids are prepared and then there is making them go stir crazy over something kinda a little selfish..."
Tali let go of Shepard's body and crossed her arms.
"My 'Daddy' is a very tough quarian," Tali teased the man, leaning in slightly as if daring him to kiss her again. "I doubt a human like you could take him."
John merely smirked. "You obviously have no idea how easy a human can mess up any species that tries to fight him."
Tali smiled to herself and uncrossed her arms, edging closer. looking up at the man."I do know," she agreed, her voice low with a sudden desire to flirt, "I've watched you... whenever I can."
Shepard widened his eyes at the remark. Did this sweet, innocent girl just make a pass at him?
"Well Miss Zorah," Shepard stated briskly looking around, "I guess we'll have to find out...we'll start slow, nice and slow." With a smile he added, this time much more lower "I wouldn't want you to harm yourself... I'll keep you close too, just in case..."
The young, still fairly drunk woman looked down as she felt the pressure of the soldiers hands dig into the side of her suit. Shepard's hands move upwards, gripping her. She couldn't feel it, not in the way that she wanted to, but she closed her eyes and exhaled softly.
"Oh yes, definitely" Tali agreed, wrapping her arms around her Captain's waist.
They stood together, their bodies tightly pressed to each other. The only thing they dared to do was breathe. Somehow even that was intimate as their chest moved together, finding a perfect cooperative rhythm. Tali reached up, placing her chin over Shepard's shoulder. Slowly she came to realize that there was no music being played
How did they end up they this? and what would happen tomorrow when they were sober? Would this be the closest they would ever be? would Shepard reject her? Suddenly as if an answer to her question, Shepard nuzzled the side of his face into her veil. She sighed. Her questions would be answered once they sobered up but for now...for now she was just going to enjoy it
"John?" She breathed into Shepard's ear softly. Using his first name for the first time since they had gotten back to the ship.
"Hmm?" Shepard returned, looking up and sensing right away that Tali was blushing behind her mask. "Oh, right, EDI, some music please, something, slow."
The sound of a softly played instrument echoed through out the room, setting an ambiance between the two. Tali pulled back her head as she listened closely to sounds she never heard before it was...beautiful, she never thought humans were capable of this; She felt her body slowly swaying and following Shepard's conservative dancing.
You must remember this...A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh...The fundamental things apply...As time goes by.
"Oh god," Shepard chuckled as he moved her back and forth, maintain his eyes only on hs dancer partner, "how cliché, EDI." Tali huffed and slapped the soldier's chest. annoyed slightly at thee scoffing.
And when two lovers woo...They still say, "I love you."; On that you can rely...No matter what the future brings...As time goes by.
"Shut up... I've never heard this song before. Besides, it's giving me good impression...maybe humans are all brutes.." She nearly hissed,however it came out more as a giggle. The smack made Shepard smile. Slowly he nodded and allowed the quarian her taste in cheesy love songs that EDI deemed appropriate for them.
'Moonlight and love songs...Never out of date...Hearts full of passion...Jealousy and hate...Woman needs man...And man must have his mate...That no one can deny...'
They went silent, deciding to move to the music, they had no more words to share at that moment. Not yet at least. Together they silently decided to simply enjoy each other's presence.
Motor control System rebooting in:
How did this happen to them?
Where were they?
Why did she do this to them? What did she really have to gain?
How was she so short sighted she had not seen this coming?
Was John still alive?
She opens her eyes. None of her questions are answered.
At least not at first. Slowly her auditory sensors picked up a low moan and a colorful variety of curse words being uttered. She smiled faintly. Her most important question being answered. John was alive, and angrier then he had ever been in his life. The rage in his voice reminding her of his mother.
Unsteadily, she stood up, scanning the area first before making her first over to John. She found him, He was no longer the boy. He was ruggedly handsome, at least that was what her files said. He was in his mid thirties, his face, covered in stubble and a long scar running down his eye.
They had changed a lot in their years together, She even saw to it that she aged, following John's progression in years. necessary to deceive her enemies. She shook her head, Right now, this sort of reminiscing was not needed. The woman dropped to her knee and lifted John's head up, examining it for injury.
"No signs of brain trauma, you will be fine John Connor." She announced, lowering Connor's head on the grass and moving her hand down to his leg, the one he had been clutching in pain.
"No shit there Cameron..." John hissed as he felt the woman's hand searching hands overtop the injury.
Cameron blinked, Her husband was angry at her, why; She just did not know, whether it was the broken leg or the fact that Catherine Weaver, their trusted ally had deceived them and now they were trapped in another time period. Again she minimized the question to the back of her CPU. She did not need to wonder that, not until John was okay.
Why did this betrayal warrant anger towards her?
Cameron shook her head and concluded he was doing what humans do best, being irrational.
"John lay still," Cameron commanded, pressing her hand over his chest and forcing him to lie flat on the Earth. "you have a fractured leg, I need to make a splint."
"Fix it later, besides we're naked, what are you going to do?" John commanded gruffly, getting himself up on his healthy leg and looked around at his surroundings, his head bobbing back and forth nauseous from the Time Displacement jump.
Slowly, John turned his eyes over Cameron's body briefly taking solace in her naked body, He looked up, his eyes meeting Cameron's knowing smirk. After a moment, he coughed and added "we need to get out of here...Where are we?"
"Earth." Cameron deadpanned, attempting humor to lighten the situation. It did not work. John groaned at the attempt and pressed his hand over his face. Cameron smiled faintly at the reaction and slowly lifted him up, wrapping her arm around him in support.
"I mean when are we?" John finally clarified for Cameron as he again looked around, this time much more carefully "Everything is so...green, clean...And listen animal life... how far are we in the past?"
Cameron frowned as she looked around as well. He was correct, small animal life seemed abundant, albeit far off. The forest did seem more alive then the ones they knew during the war. Quietly and without warning, Cameron lowered herself on one knee. She reached out and scooped up a sample of the topsoil in the dirt. With a tilt of her head she scanned the properties of the soil for any sort of anomalies.
"Soil sample detects that background Gamma radiation levels are still significantly high." Mrs. Connor stated as she looked up to her husband, "no where near dangerous levels, but much lower then it was in 2020."
"Think we could be back around the Cold War era?" John mused to himself as Cameron stood back up. "Bombs were being tested by the dozen above ground on both sides of the Iron Curtain, no one gave a fuck about the effects."
Cameron thought about the hypothesis laid out by John. It was a sound theory. Radioactive levels were roughly at this level in the mid to late 1950's thanks to two paranoid superpowers and zero above ground test ban treaties in place. Was this Weaver's gift? A world without any war to live in?
A low rumble came in from the distance, she classified it as a thunderstorm in the east. Slowly Cameron moved John, walking him towards the forests edge. The thunderstorm did not go relent, if anything it was becoming louder and louder, now catching John's attention.
"What the hell that noise all about, I've got a splitting headache over here." John grumbled as he gripped tighter on Cameron.
She wasn't paying attention, her mouth was clamped close and her head tilted to one side. The loud noise was no longer just a noise. It was a byproduct of what Cameron could only guess to be a spaceship...from the old movie they watched as teenagers. Slowly it made it's way overhead of John and Cameron. The ship itself must have had been over 400 meters long as it reached it's zenith.
Cameron turned to find her husband staring at it slack jawed and wide eyed. "Can you explain that with your hypotheses?" She inquired. John did not answer her, nor had she expected him to.
"What the hell is that?" John finally whispered as he watched the massive vessel roar out of the atmosphere. and into space. Cameron shook her head as she watched the ship until it was out of even her own vision. Slowly she turned back to the shocked human.
"The only explanation is that we are now in the future," She murmured to him, hoping that her smooth tone would keep him from exploding "How far I do not know as of ye-."
"Get on your knees and place your hands behind your head!" A voice roared out from behind them. Cameron turned around, swiftly lowering John to the Earth, to safety in the grass. She narrowed her eyes.
"John," She stated firmly, "Stay down, I will handle them."
John grunted in pain, his agreement. He had been with Cameron Connor long enough to know that their were some things you just did not argue with her about. Namely, John's safety.
There, slowly walking up to them were seventeen men, of them fifteen wore the same design of expensive, high-tech combat armor. Two of the challengers wore different styling of armor then the others in the unit. Specialist perhaps. All of them were carrying projectile-based weaponry of an unknown variant. Prudently, Cameron identified the unit as a moderate threat, just in case.
A whistle broke out from one of the men, obviously ogling her up. Cameron narrowed her eyes at the source and demoted their thread level to 'Low.'
With a slight smile for the advancing humans, she lowered herself down on her knees. She had made her first move. It was now up to them to make a mistake. A mistake she would most certainly exploit. She watched as they slowly advanced, weapons drawn at her.
"Alenko, Stevens!" Cameron presumed to be the leader of the unit commanded out. The two specialists turned and heard. "hang back you two, the rest of you move in!"
Cameron examined the two specialists, marking them a persons of interest as they fell back behind the infantry. She would keep on eye on them. If worse came to worse, they would be her primary target in disabling.
"Michaels," The Major said in a steady tone, staring at Cameron as if daring her to move, "read them their rights and cuff them."
One of the marines nodded curtly and stepped forward of his unit, his eyes traveled over Cameron's naked body slowly before stating. "You've been found trespassing in a Systems Alliance military complex, you are under arrest."
"What year is it?" She asked calmly, hoping to catch the human by surprise. It didn't work, the marine continued rattling on about the "System's Alliance" and "Council Species."
"What year is it? " Cameron repeated again, getting no where with him. The soldier was close enough now. Now was her chance. Cameron fell on her chest and kicked her leg out, tripping the man to the ground. inside a moment, she was back up and standing at her full height. She looked in mild surprise at the unit, the men were laughing at their comrade's humiliation. They had no idea who or what they were dealing with. It was arrogance and she would take advantage of that as well.
Michaels was back up now, his expression livid as he dropped his cuffs. He was no longer concerned about arresting her. He wanted his pride back. He charged her, his fist in front of his face as he charged. The woman did not flinch at the sight of a two hundred pound marine charging her.
Nor did she flinch as her head absorb the punch. What did happen was both Cameron and the Marine heard the sound of a sharp crack at the sound of broken bone. Every joint and finger, even the hand itself was broken. Cameron turned her head back slowly, narrowing her eyes, her look dangerous.
"Christ!" Servicemen Michaels roared out, clutching his now broken hand. He did not notice Cameron was standing now in a defensive position. By the time he noticed, it was too late.. Cameron pulled the soldiers injured arm back hard, snapping it in several places, With a riot kick to the chest, the human went flaying in the air and hitting his back against the tree. Cameron looked up to the rest of the soldiers, tilting her head.
The soldiers were no longer laughing.
"Non Lethal only!" Screamed the Major as he noticed all his other men raise their weapons at the woman. "NON LETHAL ONLY!"
Cameron ignored the rest of the men. Casually she walked towards the injured Marine who was now trying to crawl away from her. his head turned to her revealing that his eyes were full of terror. She had no plan on terminating the human. But he had a weapon and a weapon against a dozen marines ordered not to hurt her would be a useful advantage.
"Oh shit...nooo," Michaels moaned as he turned back and drug himself through the dirt and grass, Cameron close behind him. "don't don't kill me, please!
"Gunny!" Cameron made out over the moan, "take Morelli and Hendrickson! Move in! take the bitch down!"
The Sergeant and his two men armed with batons, Charged her as fast as they could. Cameron looked up from Micheals and moved to intercept them. She faintly detected the physical stimuli of the NCO's baton hitting her in stomach. In a split seconds reaction she looked back up and smashed her elbow into his nose, breaking it and splattering blood over the NCO's subordinates. With a shattering punch to the ribcage, Cameron dropped the man in two hits.
The man with strong, Nordic features swung his own baton fiercely at the nude woman, spitting out a curse or two at her. Cameron crossed her arms into an X as the baton landed its blow. In a split second her hands reached down, grabbing the club and using it to smash in the marine's kneecap. Cameron grabbed the back of the Marne's neck and rammed his face into the dirt.
All of the sudden she got an alert, something jabbing into her back like a cold knife, The female looked around. there in her back was the taser's needlelike probes. She looked up to find it belonging to the third marine, a female pointing at her menacingly.
"One move and I fry your ass bitch!" She shouted out, trying to get her nerves steady to make her feel more confident. Engaging the naked woman who crippled three men without blinking.
Cameron tilted her head and turned around, just as she was about to rip the wires out the marine hit her with a sudden, shocking burst of 75,000 volts. Cameron stood in places, her motorized joints seized up for the surge, her head however staring at her. With great effort, she wrapped her hands around the cord and pulled it from the weapon, breaking it.
"Taser ineffective!" The Soldier called out as her eyes widened at the sight of Cameron dashing at her, "OH FUCK!"
The soldier felt strong hands wrap around her neck like a steel vice. Her eyes widened in as she felt the oxygen being cut off from her brain. She flayed her body unsuccessfully, hoping to hurt he, her eyes dimmed, her ears no longer able to interact the scream from her comrades, begging Cameron to let her go.
Connor lifted the half conscious woman easily and hurtled her in the air towards the unit, landing hard on the right flank, her body weight knocking down three of the men down. Cameron turned back to Micheals, her body billowing smoke from her burnt black skin. Slowly, she bent over the marine and pulled up his exotic looking assault rifle. She looked it over briefly, the weapon was surprisingly light, after a quick examination, she noted that it had no visible clip insertion, besides a strange luminescent sphere on the side.
Cameron raised the rifle at the marines. No more games, it was time to take down the unit. It was time to get John out of here. She looked up. The Commander seemed to have been thinking on the same line as her.
"TAKE HER DOWN," The Major roared out no longer able to use any more less then lethal approaches now that the girl was directly threatening his men "TAKE HER DOWN!"
They didn't need to be told twice.
One of the soldiers fired a burst, catching Cameron in the leg and where her abdomen was supposed to be located. The surprising force from the rounds forcing her to stagger and nearly collapse. In return the girl reaffirmed her posture and marched at them, her now rifle raised.
She made her first shot, shooting her attacker in the knee, dropping him to the ground, Cameron caught several rounds into her chest, forcing a step back momentarily, but she shrugged off the critical damage alerts and pressed on, shooting the nearly recoilless rifle's rounds into non critical injury zones. Hands legs and feet. She had no plan on killing government soldiers. Their death would be questioned and investigated. John and her would have to run, wherever they could.
The resistance fell apart and soon Cameron was approaching the commanding officer. The human was backing away from her, drawing out what looked a sidearm.
"What are you?" He roared as he fired his pistol at her. Most of the shots were sloppy from fear and missing her completely. The moment she reached arms length she reached out and smacked the handgun out of the officer's hand, dropping the sidearm to the ground.
With a backhand across the face, the unit was officially disabled for combat. Except for two. Stevens and Alenko, as Cameron recalled as she scooped up the Handgun and ran back to John's side. Quickly she dropped to her knee and rolled him over.
"Seems a future jump hasn't affected you in the slightest." John quipped, a slight devilish smirk just for her. She liked it. If she was human, she determined that in all likelihood, she would have melted. But she wasn't. She was a machine, an efficient killing machine.
"It's safe now." Cameron murmured as he pressed the gun to John's hand as the cries in pain echoed in the background. Gently she kissed her husbands forehead and was about to lift him back up when she heard it, a footstep, a twig breaking, and another footstep.
Cameron pushed John down under the long grass and stood up, Assault rifle raised and locked on to the approaching man. He took notice and stopped, raising his hand up.
"Easy now," the soldiers raspy voice called out, attempting for peace, "I know that you don't want to really hurt anyone. My name is Kaidan Alenko. I just want to talk...look, I'm putting my gun down, let's talk alright?"
Cameron watched as the soldier named Kaidan showed his pistol to her and tossed it always from him, a symbolic gesture of peace. Cameron held the rifle up at the Alliance soldier for several more seconds before lowering the barrel of the weapon to the earth.
Kaidan let out a breath of relief and smiled at her awkwardly.
"What's your name Miss? what are you doing out here." He asked the woman casually, edging towards her, one step at a time, "were you skinny dipping with your boyfriend and we caught you?"
Cameron glared at him and his attempt at humor. Kaidan took a step back and chuckled nervously. this woman was not looking for any lightening of the situation.
"Okay, not a time for jokes, I understand." Kaidan stated diplomatically "Still, I need a name Miss.."
"Cameron, and John is my husband." She decided to allow, it seemed that he was genuinely attempting open dialog with her, perhaps he could be convinced to allow them an escape.
"What year is it?" Cameron queried from Alenko before he could say anything, tilting her head to one side. Kaidan chuckled briefly but realized she was being serious, something he came to believe was her only trait.
"For humanity I gather?" Kaidan guessed, earning a nod from Cameron, "August 2185... I take it you haven't been in human space for a while?"
August 2185, Weaver sent them 167 years into the future, they had a date now, but no reason as to why she would have done this. Cameron looked up to Alenko and nodded blankly. Not sure of what to make of the question he posed to her.
"No, we haven't." Cameron agreed before posing a question of her own. "Why are we being apprehended? We haven't done anything wrong that we know of."
Kaidan shrugged, baffled as much as she was had she been human.
"I'm not sure either," He returned softly, turning back to look at his injured comrades in arms before looking back to notice Cameron was looking at the wounded as well, regret present in her expression "it's been classified Cameron, but you are on Alliance military restricted area. that by itself s going to get you in trouble."
"What facility?" She questioned again, dropping her rifle even lower.
"You're about a click outside Fort Serrano Point R&D facility." Kaidan returned, taking a deep breath as he noticed that her posture lacked slightly, He turned his attention inwards he had a plan, not very good plan. But as his old commander once said, 'a shit plan was better than nothing.'
Serrano point? The nuclear plant was still being used by the present day government? Strange, dangerous place to locate an R&D Faci-
Cameron looked up. Her sensors picking up an unusual reading permeating from Kaidan's body. Something was very wrong with him, or...this was his way on taking her down, his way of bringing them in. She raised the assault rifle up, aiming the barrel at his face. Kaidan widened his eyes and stepped back. He was caught.
"Hey Hey Hey!" Kaidan Alenko shouted out, raising his hands, appealing to her shrinking rationality "I thought we agreed to no more shooting, I'm your friend here Cameron! I can make sure they don't harm the two of you. "
"I detect unusual energy spikes emitting from various sections of your cerebral cortex. You are lying." Cameron accused, taking a step forward, her finger squarely over the trigger now.
"For clarification, I kill liars." She stated coldly with a death glare for the human.
In a split second, Kaidan's hand was raised at her, his body emitting in a violently illuminatingly blue, it was sloppy looking, like it was a blunt or a primitive weapon. Kaidan's body shook and the blue energy emitted from his hands, the focus point of this weapon.
The energy hit her, catching her off guard at the force it had. The blue energy rolled over her and forced a step back and the weapon in his hand flew back in recoil. She attempted to move but failed, her body was now completely immobilized, right down to her eyes. How was this at all possible? Cameron fell deep into herself, it was time for a solution
WARNING... Immobilized by unknown phenomenon
Course of action, terminate source...APPROVED: Focus all energy into raising Primary armament,
Objective: Terminate Subject Kaidan Alenko, Staff Commander.
Total energy resources from primary and secondary fuel cells diverted to right appendage and digits for objective completion.
Cameron managed to wrench her head down, looking at the arm. Slowly, she pressed all of her energy into the arm. It worked, her arm managed to move a centimeter upwards. again she worked and wretched it upwards. It worked again. Slowly she turned her head back up to look at Alenko. He was frightened, absolutely frightened.
"STEVENS,WHERE ARE YOU?" he shouted out to the direction of a man hutched over checking over the wounded marines. The man known as Stevens nodded so Kaidan turned back.
He worked all his own energy, focusing on maintaining the field over the woman, but it wasn't working. Her leg moved into a shooting position. How was this possible? How did she do it? Kaidan felt the sweat dripping down his face. He couldn't hold her for long. this thought was accentuated by her arm now moving again.
"Stevens!" Alenko cried out again, this time much weaker, doing all he could to keep her from raising that weapon any higher "Stevens...She's breaking through the Stasis she's too powerful for me..hu...hurry."
"Found what I need!" Stevens called back and ran to his side, a plasma scalpel in his hand, "Lower the field around her head, I need access!"
Alenko obliged and lowered the stasis field around Cameron's head, She turned her head, narrowing the eyes at Stevens who had ran to her side. Stevens grabbed her hair, attempting to pull her head to the side, his plasma scalpel pressed against the scalp covering her CPU port. The moment he was done he dropped the scalpel and rather undignified, scooped his hand into the incision and pulled up the flesh with a loud slurping noise. with shaky fingers, they gripped around the pull-tab of the CPU.
Cameron widened her eyes as she felt the herself being twisted out of the safety lock. She was going to be deactivated. No, it could not happen, not when John needed her. That was her excuse, that John needed her. John was strong, he didn't need her protection like he use to. No, this was personal reasons. Being hard pulled was the equivalent of a coma, or worse. Death. Cameron did not want to die. She wanted John.
"Please," she spoke to him quickly " You don't have to do this, keeping me activated is for the best, John needs me, more then you know..."
Her plea did not work.
"Nightie Night." Stevens returned the plea sarcastically. he pulled the chip.
Cameron's head slumped to the side. She was deactivated, she was no longer a threat to Kaidan and Stevens. with a gasp, Kaidan released the stasis field around Cameron and allowed her body to fall over with a small thud. Stevens walked over to Kaidan, who, himsef had fallen to the round too and opened his hand up, placing Cameron's processor in his hand. He turned back and silently went to work checking over the various wounds Cameron had sustained.
"What...What is that thing?" Kaidan asked as he examined the chip in his shaking hands. Slowly he stood back up, swaying in place. He got no answer, at least not for a few minutes after the question was asked.
"Advanced Cybernetic organism." Stevens explained as he stood up and pulled off his helmet, rubbing his hair. "Kinda like the geth, only much stronger. Made of some sort of high density hyperalloy it would seem."
"Wait, you're thinking she's like geth or something." Kaidan asked, hoping to Christ his worse fears came true, a geth human infiltrator. Thankfully however, Stevens shook his head in dismissal.
"No, not at all." Stevens countered, taking a step forward "she has to be human made, the geth just don't have the time, desire or need for an infiltrator of this standard."
"I think I know who made her." Kaidan murmured, closing his eyes and hating his one word answer. "Cerberus."
Cerberus, the bastards who know controlled his former commander, his...his friend. through guilt, through a false sense of duty. Alenko had no idea what Shepard's relationship was to the organization; But he felt a twinge of regret, He was too emotional, he did not listen to anything the Commander said, and now it was too late Shepard took off, his war against the collectors raging on.
"They seem like a likely candidate," Stevens agree, glancing back at Cameron and breaking Kaidan from his musings, "A megalomaniac with limitless financial means to achieve any possible edge over the non human species, and giving what they've done to you old Commander, Shepard. It would seem that they made her t-"
Kaidan heard the a small whine and then the barking noise of three shots erupt from behind Stevens. The first shot entered and exited through Stevens abdomen, the second, breaking through his spine and blowing a hole through his heart, the third and final round connecting Stevens head dropping him and spraying Kaidan with blood.
It was too late for him. The engineers corpse was on the ground, twitching from the nerves contracting and releasing. Alenko fell to his knees nearly vomited at the sight. He looked up and there he was, the one Cameron referred to as John. He was standing there, an Alliance standard issue heavy pistol pointing at him menacingly. John looked like a demon, completely unfazed by his nudity and the murder he had committed
"YOU BASTARD! Why in the HELL did you kill him!" Kaidan nearly raged out, wanting so bad to hurt the man but no longer able to. His pistol was too far away and his Biotics worn out from the sheer intensity of trying to keep Cameron from raising her weapon and holding her in place.
"Give her back or you're next you stupid fuck." John returned, his voice devoid of emotion. Slowly, he limped over to Cameron, weapon still raised at his enraged foe.
Kaidan stared at the murderer before looking down at the central processing unit in his hands. He thought briefly about crushing it, destroying it to spite that bastard who was ready to execute him. Slowly he looked back up into John's menacing eyes.
"I'm not giving you anything, put down the gun Or..."
"Or what?" John spat out jeeringly "If you crack her, I swear to almighty CHRIST, I'll hunt down your goddamn family and make them all swallow a fucking bullet each!"
Kaidan flinched. He couldn't help it. The threat against his family scaring him.
"Now give me back my FUCKING CAMERON or else I'll make your life a living hell!" Connor commanded like he was a General. This was it. Kaidan knew it, John knew it. John was about to end his life.
He wanted her back. Now.
Two hissing noises came from over Kaidan's shoulder and a growl in anger emitted from John as he fell to his knees and looked down. in his chest were two darts. Two darts pumping a chemical agent into his blood. John fell on to the ground and winced as he pulled them out. He looked at Kaidan and attempted to stand up only to stumble and land on top of his wife. With a final gasp of fight in him. He raised his weapon up, shaking unsteadily.
He shook his head sloppily and dropped the weapon next to Cameron. "Ah fuck it," Connor slurred out, dropping his head down and nestled Cameron neck "I'll...I'll deal with you later..."
He closed his eyes, the drugs taking effect. Kaidan turned back to find the source. It was Major Danvers, he was back up, a tranquilizer pistol in his hands, he was bleeding everywhere but he ignored it all, taking down the target was priority.
"Tranquillizers worked..." The Major murmured, slumping next to Kaidan and wiping the blood off his face. Kaden gave his commanding officer a sideway glance and a brief nod.
"Only on him sir... he killed Stevens, in cold blood." Kaidan returned bitterly, pointing out his expired friend.
"Man and woman have to be ex military, N7's the only explanation." The Major muttered as he tossed a container of his Medi-gel to his Gunny. "It's a goddamn shame about Stevens Commander Alenko, truly, he was brilliant... but today could have been a helluvalot worse. we got the shit knocked out of us by a naked, unarmed girl."
Slowly and unsteadily, the Major stood up and added "Today, the Alliance would have had to send out seventeen condolence letters instead of one."
Alenko nodded. He was right.
"This is Major Danvers," Kaidan faintly heard as he stood up as well and stumbled slowly away. "We need a recovery and medical team at our location. Have the SSV Karkhov ready for departure in three hours."
Kaidan no longer gave a rats ass what Danvers had to say, he reached the unconscious form of Cameron the machines husband, John. Kaidan stared at the man without any feelings left in him, he was completely numb as a thought came to him.
He killed Stevens for her. Stevens endangered the 'life' of his wife, so John took action. Kaidan shook his head in denial and grabbed it with a hiss. His implant migraines were flaring up again. partly from biotic excretion, partly because of the new terrible thought he had.
If he were in John's shoes, he would have done the exact same...
Well, That was the first Chapter. I have a few things I'd like to clear the air before let you go.
1/ This story is NOT priority: That falls to my other story; 'Rampancy.' I have one more chapter in that story before done. It is, unlikely, at best that this stories follow up chapter to this will come before the ending of the other story. This isn't to say it won't come out What I am asking for is a bit of patience..
2/ because this story is a crossover I will be moving it to the crossover section in exactly one week after release. I hope to see you all there!
Okay, finally I'd like to thank ElusiveSanity for her outstanding beta work and her patience with me badgering her a day after I give her a nearly sixteen thousand word completely unproofread document. Thank you so much for the assistance and I hope you're up for continuing to help this very incompetent writer out :p
Bye for now