Author: Serenarey Chiba PM
In a flash, the reapers are gone, replaced with a history already lived. How will Shepard and his team deal with their situation, and can anything be changed or absolved? M!Shep/TaliRated: Fiction M - English - Suspense/Adventure - Shepard (M) & Tali'Zorah - Words: 5,311 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 8 - Published: 06-07-12 - id: 8192201
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I began this out of a need to add something to the ME line, but didn't think of every seriously continuing it. Maybe if people like it, perhaps, but it's something I'll just dish out whenever I have the motivation otherwise. Which may be never, or could be like, tomorrow. Who knows, yeah? Enjoy.
Disclaimer: The Mass Effect franchise belongs to EA and Bioware respectively.
We picked up a new crew member the other day – an asari named Liara T'Soni. I've gotta say, I wasn't too sure about this one. She's the daughter of Matriarch Benezia, and there's some bad rumors floating around about her. I'm concerned about my crew – will she prove a danger? Will I have to take her out? I'll admit though…when I see her slight interaction with the crew, it doesn't look like she's going to run on a killing spree. Honestly, she's pretty kind, and earnest about her work…and, dare I say…lonely? I'm not exactly sure how to go about talking to her, but maybe we'll have something in common with each other. I'll give her a chance.
– Entry 22, from the records of Kaerhyn Shepard
Chapter One: Liara T'Soni
T Minus 29 Days
The young asari maiden lifted her eyes up to gaze at the bright purple sky, soaking in the surreal beauty. Her shadowed, sapphire-blue eyes peered down at the people walking along the street below, her hands gently clutching at the metal railing. She took in a deep breath and turned around to look behind her where a great many students walked by, laughing and talking amongst themselves. Most of them never noticed her – which was fine; she actually preferred it that way. Glancing over her shoulder again at the foot traffic several stories below her, the asari found herself feeling antsy. Lifting a hand to massage her brow, she let out a soft sigh.
Liara T'Soni pushed herself off of the metal railing, turning right and walking down the strip to an inner corridor. She nodded gently as she passed a couple of fellow faculty members, weaving through several groups of students walking past. As the asari turned down another corridor, she was stopped by a senior staff member asking for her opinion of a certain historical artifact. Liara gave a polite smile, gently explaining that the artifact belonged to a species she was not entirely knowledgeable over, and that the senior member should perhaps take it to someone more suited to that specific area. The other asari grumbled slightly, but patted Liara on the shoulder and walked away, only to stop the next faculty member she saw.
Liara let out a small breath of air, shaking her head slightly. Turning back around to continue down the hallway, she ducked inside a room along the way, passing several asari seated at their own prospective desks, either typing or busy reading away on material. She paused in front of one desk, opening a couple of drawers and gathering a couple stacks of datapads. Tapping them on the desk a couple of times to make certain they were nice and neat, she carried every datapad in her right hand and swiftly walked back out of the faculty room.
Back out into the corridor, she upped her pace, the heels of her boots clicking hard on the marbled floor. With her left hand, she adjusted the high collar of her uniform top, finding it slightly too tight when she was moving so hurriedly. Without paying too much attention, she rounded yet another corner only to smack straight into someone else. Luckily, her datapads didn't budge even a little from her right hand. Liara bowed her head down in apology, but a hand on her shoulder forced her to look up quickly in surprise.
"I haven't seen you for a while, Dr. T'Soni."
"Astrya," Liara greeted calmly, her tone civil. "Back from the Citadel so soon?"
"Just a couple hours ago, actually," the 400-year-old asari replied. "You should take a break every now and then and visit there."
Smiling politely, Liara said, "Maybe someday in the future. I'm a bit too busy at the moment, to be completely honest."
"Ah, yes. I hear you'll be taking a trip to Therum soon. Do you think you'll find anything useful there?"
"…I'm not quite certain. I suppose I'll find out when I arrive."
"I suppose you will then," Astrya responded with a quick laugh. "And I hope you do. I couldn't imagine putting so much work into something and getting nothing out of it. Alas, I suppose you can't help it – it's in your blood, after all."
Liara's eyes darkened slightly, though her cordial smile never even twitched. "I suppose you're right."
"Of course I am," the other asari agreed. "But look at me…I'm keeping you from getting important work done. Have a good day then, and good luck on Therum, dear Dr. T'Soni."
Liara bowed her head down again, her eyes narrowing deeply as she glared back at the other asari. Her empty left hand clenched into a fist until she forced herself to relax. She was well aware that by asari standards, her blood was as good as mud, but she would not let this affect her. After all, she had far bigger fish to fry.
T Minus 33 Days
Liara typed in a couple of keywords, surprised when the screen of her terminal flashed red. She looked around her at the dark, empty faculty room, shifted in her seat a bit and then placed her fingers back onto the keyboard. Typing in the word, "Prothean", she pulled up a series of data, mostly accumulated by her own findings, but not of anything else otherwise. Liara sat back in her seat, tilting her head left to and right to loosen up her neck a bit. She leaned forward again, thinking rapidly to understand the situation she was currently in. Hitting the backspace key a few times, she instead typed in the word, "Reaper". The screen flashed red again and Liara let out a small sound of frustration.
Pushing away from her desk, she quickly stood up and ran a hand along her crests, irritation bubbling up within her. One last thought crossed her mind before she seriously considered giving up. Turning back and bending over the desk, she placed her fingers on the keyboard once more and typed in, "Shepard". When the screen flashed red again, she slammed the terminal closed, her irritation taking over. Her right hand curved into a fist, and she rolled her knuckles against the surface of the desk.
Her blue eyes peered through the darkness as she contemplated what that lack of data actually meant. "Damn it," she murmured. "What is this…"
A few more keywords went into the search box: "Catalyst," "Beacon," "Omega-4 Relay," "Collectors," and a number of other terms.
The screen flashed red over and over, and Liara couldn't stop herself from slamming her palms against the desktop. The only search terms that warranted any findings were "Omega-4 Relay" and "Cerberus", but even those results were sparing. Sitting back down, she closed her eyes tightly, drumming her fingertips on the keyboard panel. Nothing was adding up; she clearly remembered the past four years of her life – they were somewhat too crazy and horrific to suddenly forget, but nothing else was matching up to what she could recall. That included her waking up back on Thessia and back to work like normal at the University of Serrice. It was almost as if every psychotic thing she'd experienced aboard the Normandy had never took place – like the memory of the entire universe had been wiped clean.
Liara drummed her right hand's fingers atop the terminal keyboard further, her left hand cupping her forehead as she thought quickly. Her blue eyes opened slowly as she pensively studied the screen in front of her. She shifted in her seat again, input a few shortcuts and was granted a blank, word-processing program. Liara rubbed the back of her neck a few times, thinking about what would be best to write to get her point across most suitably. A thought ran across her mind quickly and her expression relaxed slightly.
Hitting a key a few times, Liara leaned forward, and began typing.
Liara stood tall in front of a large door, realizing this was a part of the university she was keen to stay away from. Taking a step forward, she pressed a button on the wall panel next to the door, and let the scanner read her staff badge. After a moment, the scanner lit green and the door swooshed open. She stepped in past the door and walked down a long hallway until it eventually opened up into a moderately-sized room. Approaching the desk in the middle of the room where an older asari looked over a number of documents.
Liara waited patiently while the other asari continued perusing through her work, and it was only when the older asari lifted her head and made eye-contact that Liara spoke, bowing her head all the while:
"Greetings, Dr. Seriv. I have come to discuss my upcoming dig, amongst other things."
"Dr. Liara T'Soni," Dr. Mascena Seriv acknowledged gently. "A pleasure to see you doing well, all things considered. Now," she paused slightly, clearing her desk a bit, "just to clarify, you are the one who will be attending to the Therum site, is that correct?"
"Yes," Liara agreed. "However, if I might have a bit of your time…"
Mascena chuckled. "Oh dear, that's never a good sign. Proceed then."
"If you could take a look over these documents I've written up…"
Handing the various datapads to the overseer of her department, Liara took a couple of steps back, falling into the military parade rest she had become so used to. She carefully watched Mascena's expression for any signs of surprise or annoyance, but the other doctor kept whatever emotions she was feeling hidden. Mascena shifted from one datapad to another, carefully reading the typed documents, her eyebrows raising slightly with some and narrowing slightly with others. Liara took in a deep breath as she watched Mascena set the datapads onto her desk and then cup her hands together.
"By the look of things," the overseer began, "you don't seem like you're continuing research on simply the Protheans. Are you still maintaining the idea of sentient races beforehand being struck down in continual procession?"
"I am, " Liara stated confidently, knowing for a fact that she was absolutely correct. "Every 50,000 years, above-average sentient races are eliminated – harvested, if you will. As you have read, I would like to visit the Citadel instead to speak to some higher-ups to, ah, clarify my theories further."
It was a bullshit request, and Liara had a feeling she should have come up with something perhaps a bit more…mainstream. The expression on Mascena's face convinced her that there was no way her request would be granted in a million years.
"Providing that I were to believe your newest theory, Dr. T'Soni," Mascena began, rubbing her forehand with one hand, "tell me why sentient races would be harvested. What purpose would that serve?"
Ah hah, the very question that followed her around like a plague, and yet could never seem to be answered without a metaphorical reference. Liara steeled her features slightly, not knowing exactly what to say. "It is a means to an end, Dr. Seriv. By ridding the universe of these sentient races, not only is a semblance of order restored, but those races are used as fodder, or as a foundation, with which more races can then build a society and culture all of themselves."
"A lot of words, but not necessarily an actual answer to my question. I'll ask again: what purpose would that serve? It seems that you are saying these…Reapers, you say? These Reapers rid the universe of variants of chaos to make way for order, but yet, allow the chaos to once again build up to the point where the process must repeat itself."
"In the same manner that a genetic strand of DNA would refine itself when pitted against something of an abnormal origin, and is thus repeated until another abnormality takes place, the universe must also take action to quell the issues present and make way for a type of cure," Liara explained. She honestly had no idea why she was talking about DNA – that was not her specialty, but it did make sense in a manner of speaking.
"So really, all that is being done is different species are torn down for the sake of a one-sided ideal concerning the limits of chaos versus order," Mascena said. "And what proof have you that this cycle will continue even for us? What is considered an above-average sentient race?"
"We are," Liara stated softly. "The asari, the turians, the quarians, the humans even… We are all targets for the oncoming onslaught of the Reapers – and as it stands right now, we will be defeated even more easily than the Protheans."
Her arms crossed across her chest and her golden-brown eyes fixed on Liara, she sat back in her seat. "I see," she replied quietly. "And you've definite proof of this?"
"I definitely have proof – whether that proof is definite or not, I can't truly say…"
Mascena closed her eyes, letting out a soft sigh. "Your request is denied, Dr. T'Soni. The Therum expedition will continue as previously scheduled."
Taken aback, Liara blinked a few times before slowly regaining her composure. "…May I ask why?"
"You lack foresight, Dr. T'Soni."
That was the last thing she had expected to hear. Quite the contrary, Liara expected to carry more understanding for the future than any other asari in existence. Hesitating slightly, she asked, "Precisely how am I lacking foresight, exactly, Dr. Seriv?"
"Providing you did actually receive permission to head to the Citadel, what would you do?" questioned the older asari. "Who would you see? How would you go about proving your theories?"
Liara narrowed her eyes slightly. "I am hardly a child. I do have my share of contacts, Dr. Seriv."
"Your age isn't what's being questioned here, Dr. T'Soni," Mascena countered, her voice ringing clear. "Only your future actions. But perhaps we should consider that train of thought. Allow me to inform you as to why going to the Citadel, despite your best intentions, would do nothing but make a mockery of you.
"Firstly," she continued, standing to her full height and turning her back on Liara, "you are an archeologist – a scientist, not a diplomat. Contacts you may have in plenty, but you do not have the necessary skills to cull people to your side and make them believe your words. Nor do you have any actual understanding in what happens behind the scenes of politics."
Mascena turned her gaze to peer back at Liara, a frown upon her face. "Judging by your disgruntled expression, you think me to be incorrect in my assessment. Very well then. Let's go back to the very source of your bitterness: up until this point, your research has failed to receive the coverage it fully deserves, and you feel your bloodline, age, and status are a cause."
Noticing that Liara wasn't denying anything, she continued: "You may still be considered a child in our culture, but decent research is always worth the coverage. What you have discovered is invaluable, but not very sensible. At least, not if you're expecting anyone to take notice and consider what you've written to its full extent at this very moment."
Swallowing, Liara ground her teeth slightly. "May I ask why that is? Lesser topics have been considered far more valuable than my research, though they don't bring as much to the table."
"Small steps, Dr. T'Soni. Your research may be good, but I want you to consider everything from other points of view, such as High Command and perhaps even the Council. You speak of a threat, but dictate that the threat won't be upon us for a number of years. Anywhere from three to five years, isn't that right? Plus, you have leads that point to specific evidence of our future enemies, but such things will take time to track down.
"Tell me something: should we deign to follow your theories and launch our ships to track down all these materials, and leave asari space unprotected, and should something happen, what do you think will come out of it?"
Liara's eyebrows raised slightly. "I wouldn't expect our entire fleet to take off for each material. Of course we would leave behind a decent number to properly shield our home world and colonies. Leaving ourselves open to any attack from other races would be too presumptuous and arrogant, and would undoubtedly backfire. However, were we to send perhaps a quarter of our resources to find the evidence…"
"And, what if that evidence had been moved?"
"…Moved?" inquired Liara. "What do you mean by that? As in, it no longer being in the place I specify? The possibility of that happening is little to none."
Mascena paused, turning around to look head-on at Liara. "And if it did, then your theories would no longer prove reliable. One mistake is all it takes. Honestly Dr. T'Soni, you believe in this so passionately, you make me want to stand by you. But it's simply not something we can guess at. To put it plainly, the research you have conducted has not received recognition because of the amount of time and effort needed to put into making it a reality. We'd need resources and to find the evidence, resources to protect any back-up plans, time to gather everything together, time to ascertain everything, time to put together a plan, time to put that plan into action…
"And, if we did take it up with High Command or with the Council, we would need the backing of every other race and make sure we had a unified front, because it seems we would need one. The asari wouldn't be able to win a war against a force that took down the Protheans. We would be wiped out instantly. Then there's bypassing all applicable laws and codes, perhaps building a bigger fleet, and figuring out food rationing for war preparation…"
Liara stood quietly, coming to realize that she had taken Shepard's position for granted – or rather, a lot surrounding his position. If it came to the point where she did meet up with Shepard and he had no recollection of what took place for the entire team…she would be at a dead-end. Even if every other person on their team remembered, without Shepard, they wouldn't get anywhere – none of them had that much clout to work with.
"Then, there's the issue of perhaps making a mistake," Mascena continued, noticing Liara's surfacing doubt. "The very second you make any mistake is the exact moment people will doubt your theories and findings and wonder if you really know what's going on. A second mistake, whether intentional or not, will cause further doubt and by that time, you may as well kiss any prerogatives you may have possessed good-bye. You will no longer be considered a reliable source for information…even worse, getting anyone to believe you a second time will be progressively more difficult."
Mascena moved around her desk, walking up to Liara to place a hand on her shoulder gently, causing the latter to look up at her with shadowed eyes. The overseer smiled softly, and patted Liara's shoulder a couple of times before letting her hand drop.
"The Therum expedition will continue as planned," Mascena informed Liara. "Search through the entire site; find everything and anything you can linking to the truth behind your theories. Find something that will definitely prove you're right…call it a part of growing up."
Liara turned to look at her fully, eyes widening. The older asari gave a short laugh, smiling all the while. "I told you: I want to believe in you. If there's something bad coming our way, I want us to be ready to fight it…but neither of us are in any position to do anything about it. And, believe it or not, just because I know your background does not necessarily mean I'm going to hate you. It's the same for many people – can you believe that some people don't even know your name? Astounding, isn't it?"
Noting the sarcasm loud and clear, the archeologist made a shrewd grin of her own. "There are some who haven't acknowledged my greatness just yet? How rude."
"Now that's what I'd expect from our leading Prothean expert," Mascena said. "Live your days with an open mind, Dr. T'Soni…no, Liara. Life is too short to do otherwise…no matter how old you may live."
"I'll keep that in mind," Liara murmured. "Thank you for talking about this with me, Dr. Seriv. Perhaps it would be best for me to prepare more evidence before trying to force others to follow along my wavelength. Thank you for stopping me before I did something I might have regretted."
"Certainly. What are we matriarchs for?"
Liara smiled softly, her shoulders relaxing. "I will begin preparing for my trip, then. Thank you for your time and support."
As she turned to leave, Mascena stopped her with a few more words:
"Dr. T'Soni," the matriarch called, making the asari maiden turn around curiously.
"Yes?" Liara asked questioningly.
"My main task was to ensure the trip would go as scheduled, and that everything concerning Therum would be properly taken care of. I am to oversee all of your duties concerning the expedition up until its finalization. However…"
Mascena's eyes narrowed slightly as a grin grew across her face. "Well, as you well know, I am a rather busy woman. Once Therum's taken care of, I can't possibly be bothered to pay attention to your activities or what unprecedented other…trips, you decide to impart on. Like, say, a trip to the Citadel, or so? Just food for thought. Now, be off – I have things to do."
Liara stared at Mascena for a few moments, unable to believe her ears. Then, without a word, she turned away from the older asari, a smile full on her face. Taking in a deep breath, she started walking towards the exit.
T Minus 23 Days
"Move that one, that one over there! Gently, gently! Watch those biotics, ladies!"
Liara gave a fleeting glance at the asari moving around the necessary equipment for her expedition on Therum. Looking down at herself, she pulled at her scientist uniform, slightly annoyed she hadn't had time to hunt down actual combat armor. She knew what was to come, and she was not looking forward to it either. Crossing her arms over her chest, she exhaled a puff a breath as she continued watching the commandos move equipment steadily and quickly. She noticed a superior officer walking towards her in her peripheral vision and turned to greet the other woman.
"Dr. T'Soni?" asked the commando, saluting swiftly. "My name is Salena, captain of the bodyguard commandos servicing you on this trip. Was this all the equipment, or were you in need of anything else?"
Liara only paused for a half a second before saying, "I'd like a weapon of my own, if you wouldn't mind."
"A weapon?" Captain Salena questioned, slightly confused. "We will be with you as protection until you are settled at the site. Do you anticipate danger upon arrival?"
"Not necessarily," the doctor responded, forcing a small smile. "But I would rather be safe than sorry."
The captain nodded slowly. "If I didn't know any better, I'd almost think you'd served with the military at some point. I'll see to it you have a weapon reserved. Any particular type you would prefer?"
Liara closed her eyes in thought, trying to remember what specific weapons she used once upon a time. "A Raptor, if at all possible."
"An assault rifle? I wouldn't have thought you the type."
"It's something I forced myself to become quickly accustomed to."
"I hear you. Very well. You'll have it…though I'm curious as to why you think you'll need it."
Liara said nothing in return, simply smiling and letting that be her answer. Captain Salena nodded shortly, saluted, and walked away, giving out more orders to her squad. Liara narrowed her eyes slightly, tilting her gaze to look up at the bright sky.
"Better safe than sorry," she whispered, before turning and walking towards the group of commandos herself.
T Minus 10 Days
Liara closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. About to shift herself to peer around the crate, she pulled herself back quickly as a bullet clanged off the box's side. Swallowing, the asari scientist spun around to her right instead, pushing off the ground and firing some shots in the enemy's general direction. While one geth unit fell crashing to the ground, she still had four other geth units and a Krogan Battlemaster to deal with. The other geth raised their weapons and fired straight at her, and in single fluid motion, Liara brought her hand in front of her, pulling it in to make a fist as a barrier of solid blue appeared in front of her. The bullets bounced off of the shield, and she raised her fist up high and slammed it down to the ground under her as a singularity field emerged behind three of the geth, entangling and sending them flying high into the air.
Noticing the krogan starting to charge over at her, she quickly formed a stasis field around the krogan, lifted her assault rifle to shoot down the three floating geth, and then ducked out of the way as her stasis field failed. She jumped on top of another crate, rivulets of sweat running down her face as she tried to catch her breath. Liara breathed in quickly, grasping the sides of the crate tightly when the krogan crashed into it hard, nearly toppling it over. She hurriedly looked around her for something she could use against him, but lost all train of thought when the krogan slammed into the crate once again.
Liara looked across the chasm towards the elevator before looking back down at the rampaging krogan. She jumped off of the crate just seconds before the krogan stormed through it, hitting the ground hard and rolling up and onto her feet. Throwing up a barrier around her, she darted across the room, flying past the last geth and jumping up on a rock ledge. A bullet slammed hard into her barrier and she fell forward, her hands slapping against the ground with a loud clap. Wincing, Liara turned her gaze back at the oncoming krogan, her teeth gritted tightly.
Thinking quickly, she pulled on a large piece of machinery with her biotics, using all her mental strength to slam it straight into the krogan. Knowing her powers were at their limit, she made a run for the metal ramp leading to the surface, swinging around the bend quickly and hightailing it up the steep angle. While the krogan was still on the ground, groaning, the geth was running after her, albeit slowly. Liara turned around, taking note of the high bar above her. While she could hardly consider herself an acrobat in any sense, she ran straight for the edge of the ramp, hefted herself up on the bar with her right foot and grabbed hold of the next bar above it with her hands. Turning around quickly, she swung herself back and then forward rapidly, letting go of the bar and hurling her feet straight into the geth unit, sending it flying back and crashing against the wall. Grabbing the assault rifle positioned at the small of her back, she aimed it at the geth, firing a few solid shots, effectively killing it.
Liara sucked in gulps of air as she checked the ground to see if the krogan was still lying there. Unfortunately for her, he had already recovered and even more unfortunately, looked quite angry. "Shit," she muttered to herself, turning around and running further up the ramp.
Her exhaustion was palpable as she found herself having more and more difficulty breathing. "I wish I could have prepared my body for this part, too," she complained to herself, making certain to keep track of the oncoming krogan's location.
Unfortunately for her, he was closing in fast, and she had very few options of dealing with him. She came onto a level plain and pushed herself through the oblong opening in the wall, heading towards the elevator. Liara heard the krogan's loud roar and the stomping footsteps coming closer and closer to her and she, breathing hard as she tried to recover, slowly approached a control panel on the other side of the white, oblong entrance. Her sapphire-blue eyes focused on the rampaging krogan, and as soon as he was in range, she slammed her left fist down on a button on the control panel, and a blue mass effect field activated, encasing the krogan. Finding that he couldn't move at all, the Krogan Battlemaster belted out a roar full of rage and glared deeply at the asari.
Realizing the battle was over for the moment, Liara let out a deep sigh, falling down to the ground as her legs failed her. She rested her head against the side of the control panel box, and closed her eyes.
T Minus 3 Days
Liara leveled her gun at the krogan, her other hand hovering over the mass effect field control button. She had intended to keep the krogan alive for some time more, but her patience was running thin. The dumb brute kept shouting, roaring, growling, and every other nonsensical thing he could think of, and honestly, she'd had plenty enough. If she had to hear him snarl even one more time…
"For the last time, where is Saren?" she questioned softly again, her voice as cold as ice. "Tell me now, or suffer your fate."
The krogan, as tired as she, smirked slightly and did nothing but cackle.
That was it. She was at her limit.
Liara slammed her fist down on the control button, evaporating the field while at the same, firing a volley of bullets at the krogan's chest, sending him down to the ground. She walked up to the fallen creature, seeing blood frothing at his mouth. She aimed her gun at him once more, her gaze cold and unyielding. The krogan opened his eyes slightly and he bore his teeth.
"I'll show you the fires of hell," he promised, his gruff voice crackling as he lay on his deathbed.
Liara frowned slightly, closing her eyes. Opening them, she said softly,
"Send me a postcard."
The sound of her gun firing ricocheted through the rock chasm.
Songs used as motivation:
In the Living Years – Mike and the Machanics
Scream – Usher