"I don't like this place, Shepard," muttered Grunt, his step uncharacteristically light and cautious. Shepard suppressed a swell of pride at how far he'd come since "the tank."
"It's the corpse of an ancient sentient machine, and it seems to have eaten an entire science team. What's not to like?" drawled Garrus.
"Turians have a crappy sense of humor," grumbled the krogan, rolling his eyes at Shepard.
"Be nice, you two, or the ship will get you next," Shepard quipped. "It already locked us in here."
"Since when is it appropriate to joke about being eaten by a Reaper?" asked Garrus.
"Since I decided it was." Shepard cut the banter short with a sharp hand gesture, pulling up her omni-tool as they approached a surveillance terminal.
"Hell," she whispered. "This thing was indoctrinating scientists. I thought it was supposed to be dead."
"Wouldn't be the first time the Illusive Man walked us into a trap," Garrus pointed out as they moved on, weapons ready.
"True, but why would he sacrifice the scientists? Seems a bit far to go to lure us here."
"Husks!" Grunt snarled suddenly, halting in his tracks.
"They're under the walkway! Back it up, people!" Shepard shouted, knocking several of the husks back over the edge with a Shockwave.
"Why don't you play with your new shotgun, Grunt?" she added, taking position on Grunt's five. She turned her head, and Garrus was already in place on Grunt's other side, standing atop a crate with his Mantis at the ready. "Just make sure to leave us a few targets; Garrus needs the practice."
Garrus snorted. "I'm four headshots up on you today."
"Not for long," she sang. "I've got your three, Grunt."
"I can take care of these worthless beasts," he scoffed, swinging the butt of his shotgun with a crack into the skull of the nearest husk. It stumbled backwards over the railing, taking one of its fellows with it in a whirl of gray and blue. "Shepard, can I blow up the crate?"
"You could, I suppose. But, if you let Garrus do it, there'll be a bigger explosion."
"Ugh, fine. I'm clear, Garrus. Better make it good."
"With pleasure." Garrus's omni-tool lit up and so, a moment later, did the explosive crate in front of them. Grunt slammed his fists together at the sight of the last husk hitting the ground and staying there.
"Nice work," Shepard said, darting forward to look around the corner. "Let's keep moving. I have better things to do than run around inside of a Reaper."
"You know what this means, Shepard?" Garrus piped up. "The husks are Reaper technology, not geth. This is another piece of the puzzle linking the Collectors to the Reapers."
"I'd thought of that," Shepard agreed. "Maybe the Council will accept this as evidence."
"I wouldn't get your hopes up," muttered Grunt.
Three husks appeared around the corner, but before anyone could even react, they dropped to the ground one by one, dispatched by one clean headshot each. "Sniper!" snarled Garrus, raising his weapon instinctively.
"Someone else is shooting husks on this thing. What's going on here?" Grunt asked.
"I don't know. But I intend to find out. Garrus, help me hack these consoles."
"You're really gonna loot this place, Shepard?" asked Grunt.
"We loot every place, Grunt. Thoroughly."
"She's uncompromising in this rule," Garrus informed the krogan.
Once the room was "thoroughly" hacked and cleared of credits and data, the squad moved forward into a large open area, with yet more husks crawling up from under the walkways. This crew were more numerous than the last group they'd had to deal with, leaving Shepard to wonder just how many people had been on this science team. She wasn't sure she wanted the answer, and she was pretty sure she was going to get it anyway.
As they carried on, Shepard frequently checking the map EDI had managed to make of the Reaper, she found that the answer was a lot. Some of them had even meshed into those God-awful Scions that seemed to be around every corner.
"You just don't like having the tables turned on you," mocked Garrus when Shepard cursed the third and fourth Scions rounding the corner.
"You're damn right, I don't." She was used to throwing the shockwaves, not dodging them. "These motherfuckers are the bane of my existence. Grunt, get your ass back here and keep those husks off me." She whipped her Viper over her shoulder and unloaded an entire clip into the many heads of one of the Scions, which finally disintegrated with a pitiful whine. The other followed in short order, falling to Garrus's Mantis.
"Finally," panted Shepard. "Let's move."
Down a few more creepy hallways and through a set of double doors, Garrus's plates were starting to itch. Grunt was scowling, and even Shepard looked tense at the shoulders as she flicked a hand gesture at each of them.
Suddenly, there was a hiss of a sniper shot uncomfortably close to his left shoulder. He looked behind him and a husk had dropped to the ground, its head blown off by the offending round. A second husk flew a few feet backward as he watched, and landed on the ground in a grotesque tangle of cybernetics and flesh.
And damned if a geth—a fucking geth—didn't straighten up from cover forward of their position, lower its weapon, and call out "Shepard-Commander" in a mechanical but perfectly translatable facsimile of what his visor informed him was English, Shepard's original language. And then it turned and disappeared into the next room.
The three of them stood there for far too long, gawking, only stirring when another wave of husks crawled up from under the walkway. "Since it knows you," Grunt muttered finally, turning his shotgun on the oncoming horde, "tell it I don't need its help."
"Since when do geth operate alone?" asked Garrus. This was ridiculous. "They get smarter the more of them there are."
"I don't know," Shepard mused. "This mission is dicey as hell. If the geth are on our side, why is there a dragons' teeth altar in the middle of the ship? Why are all the humans here husks? Why did the Illusive Man send so many fucking scientists here?" she complained, throwing a shockwave into the horde of husks that were trying to corner her.
"And if the geth aren't on our side, why did one just save us? It could've taken us down just as easy," Grunt chimed in.
"I'm on it, Shepard." Grunt came charging to Shepard's side of the field, shotgun blazing, barrier glowing, and annihilated the husks in thirty seconds flat.
"Grunt," panted Shepard, "Once the Reapers are stopped and all of this is over, I'm building a second krogan monument on the Citadel that looks exactly like you."
"Heh. I look forward to it."
"Over there!" called Garrus from his perch.
When she saw the Scion rounding the corner, Shepard crouched low and snarled, her barrier coming back to full strength, and for a second she looked unsettlingly like a turian. "I've got this." And in a flash of biotic light, she was gone, slamming into the Scion and knocking it backward. Garrus and Grunt watched in awe as she danced around it, Charging it repeatedly and blasting it in the back with her shotgun in the interim.
Twenty seconds flat, and the thing had been blasted to dust.
"Does this mean I have to build a monument of Shepard on Tuchanka?" muttered Grunt.
"She's just showing off," scoffed Garrus, his heart racing.
"I can't believe Wrex hasn't built me a monument yet," Shepard piped up over the radios. "You really should get on that, Grunt. And Garrus?"
"I was showing off. Anyway, while you two dawdle back there…" she pulled a ration bar out of her hardsuit pocket, unwrapped it, and crammed it in her mouth whole, flopping down onto a crate. "That was satisfying," she mumbled around a mouthful of dry rations. "But don't let me do it again."
Unfortunately, there were a lot more husks than they'd anticipated, and a huge interior of the Reaper to clear. Shepard's shoulders were starting to slump with fatigue by the time they approached what Garrus's radar informed him was the central chamber of the derelict "ship."
"Finally. Point out the core and I'll tear it up," said Grunt, reloading his shotgun.
"It's just through here. EDI said the IFF would be near the core," Shepard told him. "But stay sharp. I don't like this."
Through the door and there it was, just sitting on some kind of shelf in this otherwise empty room. "That it?" asked Grunt.
"So the Cerberus team did recover it. But where are they now?" asked Garrus.
"I think we've been fighting them this whole time," Shepard replied as she led them forward. "But where did—"
The door opened and Shepard's jaw snapped shut as her question was answered. A transparent barrier still barred them from the room, but they could see inside. There was the core, as expected, and here was the geth who'd inexplicably saved them, standing with its back to them at what looked like the main control panel. It turned from the console as they entered the room, and then noticed the swarm of husks that were creeping up behind it. It dispatched several husks cleanly as Shepard and her team watched, then serenely turned back to the console. Moments later, the core's barrier dropped and the geth turned as though to run, but it ran flashlight-head-first into the fist of the nearest husk and dropped to the ground with a too-familiar metallic clang.
"I think we found it," said Garrus.
"And the rest of the science team," agreed Shepard, whipping out the appropriated Particle Beam from Horizon. "Let's shoot down the core and get the hell out of here."
Garrus realized, as husks started pouring onto the platform, that there was no chance of talking her out of taking that geth with them now.
"The crew is going to love this," muttered Garrus, watching as everyone filed into the comm room. To his left, Shepard smiled tiredly. It had been a long day, and they'd returned from the derelict Reaper less than two hours ago. This was the second ship-wide meeting Shepard had called since stepping back onto the ship. As soon as the door closed behind Jack, Shepard cleared her throat.
"Well, as you all know, we have a geth aboard the ship. We found it on the disabled Reaper; it spoke to me and saved us from husks. When it was disabled, we brought it aboard and I activated and spoke with it. Now I'd like to give you all the chance to meet it, and hear what it has to say." Out of the corner of his eye, Garrus watched Tali standing in the corner, arms crossed and looking as agitated as he'd ever seen her as Shepard continued, "I hope you'll give it a chance to cooperate with us. Having the geth on our side would be an immense help when the Reapers arrive." Shepard's gaze moved slowly around the room, making eye contact with everyone, before she said, "EDI, let it in."
Jack and Jacob, who were closest to the door, hastily backed away. Jack looked like she was plotting other exit strategies, but the geth walked serenely through the door and made its way over to Shepard, who did not flinch away from it. Garrus marveled at the way the tension dropped a notch when Shepard expressed such evident calm. "Greetings," said the geth, and Garrus thought he saw Tali jump. "We are Geth. Shepard-Commander and Normandy AI have granted us the title of 'Legion.'"
Garrus listened numbly as Legion went on to explain how the geth which had served Saren were not "true geth," but were somehow brainwashed by the Reapers into worshipping them as gods.
"True geth oppose the Old Machines," it told them. "Cooperation furthers mutual goals. This unit is designed for successful interaction with organics. We wish to integrate with you."
"Shepard, this is insane." Looking to his left, Garrus saw that Tali had moved forward, arms crossed and stance challenging. "You can't let a geth just have the run of the Normandy."
Shepard turned toward Tali and leaned back on one hip, mimicking the quarian's stance. "Why not?" she asked mildly.
"Why not?" repeated the quarian in disbelief. "The risks are—"
"Actually extremely low. EDI, what did you say the odds were that the geth could overpower you and hack our systems?" asked Shepard, with the tone of someone who was tired of repeating herself.
EDI's blue sphere appeared at the end of the comm room table. "By my estimations and based on the scanning that Legion itself allowed, there is a 3% chance that a single geth platform could successfully unravel my encryptions and change my programming. There is a .5% chance that it could do so without my detection. Legion has also shared some valuable data on the geth consensus that leads me to believe that it means no harm."
"It could be lying," Tali said, addressing Shepard instead of EDI.
"I do not believe so," said the ship's AI. "Deception is not integral to geth programming."
"Thanks, EDI." Shepard turned back to Tali. "You said yourself, years ago, that the geth under Saren's control were not true geth. We've never met this geth or any of its…comrades. There is a limited risk here, but if we can successfully cooperate with this geth, think what that could mean for the galaxy."
Tali's eyes glowed dangerously behind the frosted glass of her helmet. "Think of what they did to my people, Shepard. The geth drove us off of our own homeworld. They're the reason you—none of you—" she glared around the room, "—have ever seen a quarian face." The room erupted into restless muttering.
"Tali, I'm thinking of your people," snapped the commander. Everyone went quiet when her voice switched into that tone. "I'm thinking of everyone's people. I'm not asking you to be friends with it. I'm asking you to cooperate with it. And I think it's about time you knew that you sound just like Ash. She didn't trust aliens. She didn't want me to let any of you have the run of the ship. Pressley didn't even want you on board. Think about how wrong they were. Think about where we'd be if I hadn't given you a chance."
Unfolding her arms, Tali seemed to swell with rage—Garrus thought she was about to start shouting, but she turned sharply and stormed out of the room.
"We apologize," said Legion, making everyone jump. "We anticipated hostility from the Creator. We also suspected that Normandy had not reached consensus regarding our integration. Have we inhibited Normandy cohesion?"
There was a long pause; none of the rest of the crew seemed interested in speaking up. Shepard sighed. "'The Creator' has a name I think she'd prefer you use, but I'll leave it up to her to introduce herself…when she's ready. I think everyone needs some time to cool down. Dismissed."
"We wish you to know that this platform is prepared to process queries," Legion added as the crew exited the room in stunned silence. "Shepard-Commander, we will research organic social interactions and re-attempt integration at your command." Then it, too, turned and exited the comm room.
Garrus, who had lagged behind, leaned back on the table, arms crossed. "Well, that could have gone worse."
"One conversation with it and this geth has me convinced that letting it stay on the ship is not a danger to my crew or a risk to the mission. All they have to do is give it a chance. Be nice if they maybe had a little faith in my character judgment, too," she muttered.
"Shepard, do you have any idea how insane you are?" he blurted.
She looked at him, eyes challenging, and lifted her chin. "Fine, Garrus. I'm fucking batshit. But you know, I'd rather be insane than close-minded."
Garrus nodded slowly, staring down into her rage-filled eyes. "Yeah, I know. And you'd be right. And I think the crew is going to figure that out."
Incrementally, Shepard's shoulders lowered. "You think so?"
"Why the hell does this have to be so difficult?" Shepard snarled, lifting a hand to run it through her hair. She scowled when she found it still in its usual ponytail and began to pace the room instead. "We've only just gotten this team to function as a unit and here we have a shiny new squad member who's too valuable to pass up, who volunteered to help us on our mission and it's a fucking geth. A geth, Garrus."
"I'm not going to lie-this is something that would only happen to you, Shepard. I would laugh if you didn't look ready to warp the next person to annoy you into oblivion." His eyes followed her back and forth across the room, his stance casual but alert. "Have you got a plan for dealing with Tali?"
Shepard stopped in her tracks, eyes hard and distant, and then she turned toward the AI interface. "EDI? Where'd Tali go?"
"Tali'Zorah is in the port observation lounge," said EDI. "Ms. Goto is also in the lounge, although I do not believe Tali'Zorah is aware of her presence."
"Legion has informed me that it will restrict itself to the AI core, 'to avoid unnecessary conflict with organics,' until it is needed."
"Perfect. Set a course for The Sea of Storms." She turned back to Garrus. "We're going to a geth space station, and I'm taking Tali with me. No more fucking around. We get to know each other up close and personal, or we die."
Without another word, Shepard turned on her heel and marched out of the room.
"Shepard's behavioral patterns do not match those of other organic species," observed EDI, whose interface was still blinking serenely in the center of the table.
"She's setting a new standard," Garrus said.