It was all a waiting game now. Shara'Kiin had received the information and had sent a message to Zha telling her that he was going through them and would get back to her once he'd decided what to do about it.
Seriously, though, if this wasn't going to be enough, nothing would.
What would Zha do if Shara turned down this information as well? Could she get AI775 out all by herself? She'd doubted it before, but the way she'd so flawlessly managed to infiltrate the Overseer's inner sanctum had left Zha feeling bold and certain. There wasn't anything she couldn't conquer! Surely she could have torn down the entire station if she so chose!
Yeah. Sure. But for now, all she could do was wait for the answer. She still needed the coordinates of the station as well, so her work here wasn't done either. There was no rest for the wicked, it seemed.
The following morning it was that one human that had been having a screaming contest with Kisch the day before who came to pick Zha up. Too busy with her own thoughts, Zha didn't see how quiet the human was, hos she kept shooting glances her way. Zha was far too busy planning how she'd get her hands on the station's coordinates. Surely a place like this would have navigation systems just like a smaller ship. All she'd have to do was to find those and pluck out their location. Easy as pie!
"Where did you disappear to yesterday?"
Zha stopped on her tracks, noticing that the human had remained behind and was staring at her with a pinched expression.
The human looked down, then took a few determined steps closer to stare down at Zha.
"I know you're up to something," she said. "Tell me what it is."
The panic must have shown from Zha's stiff posture as the human seemed to gain some confidence.
"You were gone a long time yesterday."
Crud. Zha licked her lips. "I… like I told you," she said, standing up straighter and meeting the human's eyes, "that one human stayed behind to talk with the others and I came back right away. There's nothing more to that, I promise."
"Oh, really?" she said, crossing her arms. "When I asked Grace about it, she made it sound like you left a lot earlier and somehow lost half an hour between their room and ours."
Zha looked from side to side. They were alone in the corridor. Most people had either left for breakfast already or wouldn't be waking up any time soon. She looked back at the human. Could Zha take her by herself? She looked pissed, pent up and ready to kick some ass and Zha had heard how sharp her tongue could get. Zha looked around, trying to catch a glimpse of something to use.
There was a table to the side with digital notepads and a few dirty coffee cups. And there, between two mugs lay a lonely wrench. If she could reach it in time, maybe she could use it to knock her out?
"Okay," Zha said, lifting her hands up. "Alright." Moving slowly around, circling the woman, Zha inched towards the wrench. "You caught me. I didn't go straight to the lab." She licked her lips again, eyes going from the wrench to the woman in front of her. "What are you going to do about it?"
The woman stood up so tall, stiff and unmoving, towering over Zha. Her fists were shaking at her sides.
"I just want to know where you went off to," she bit off between her teeth.
Almost there. How fast could she swing the wrench? And how many hits would it take? Zha's stomach was churning. This wasn't going to end well. Her hands were trembling.
What would she do with the human even if she didmanage to knock her out?
Keelah. She just didn't know.
"Fine. Okay. Yes. I went to the Overseer's room," Zha said, staring her in the eye. The human was unflinching. Zha grimaced. "I downloaded the entire database of the station, you know. Downloaded it and sent it off. So. Yeah. There's nothing you can do about it. It's already done."
One quick move and she could get it. The moment the human would move, Zha's do it. Her hands were sweating.
She really didn't want to.
The scientist's eyes grew large and she took half a step back before taking two at Zha, grabbing hold of her shoulder, locking her in place, the wrench only inches out of her reach.
"Where," she said, leaning in close, "did you send it to? What did you do?"
What could she do? Zha had already told the truth, things were fucked either way. She didn't even try to hide her desperation when she let out a panicked laugh.
"To the quarian flotilla!" she said, trembling like a leaf. "They're probably going to come here to end your operation. Or they're going to leave me her to die and Sunei's going to rip me to pieces! One or the other!"
The human let go of her, shoving her back.
"I knew it," she spat. "I just… I just knew it. Fucking… First Sunei, then Kisch, now you. Never should have left Cerberus." Her glare was sharp on Zha. "When are they going to get here?"
Zha was grinning like a madwoman, not that the human could see.
"I'm not going to tell you," she said. "I've already talked like way too much and I'm going to get spaced for it. Should have knownthis was going to happen." She let out a weak giggle. "It's a curse. Has to be. Blame it on the Ancestors. Nothing ever goes right."
The human pulled back, turning her head away and glaring at the wall.
"So," Zha said, reaching for the wrench and curling her fingers around it. "What happens now? You going to tell the guards about it?"
The human bared her teeth, but didn't say anything.
Which was… surprising. Zha had expected her to admit it right away. Instead the human was hemming and hawing, rubbing her fingers against her sleeves.
Zha held onto the wrench, hiding it behind her back.
Maybe… maybe this wasn't such a bad thing after all.
"You know," she said slowly, licking her lips and weighing down the wrench in her hands. "I tired to talk to Sunei to get her to release Roland. She… she refused. She knowsRoland did nothing wrong, but refuses to let him out because he insulted her."
The human snapped her eyes back to Zha.
"What does thathave to do with this?" she spat.
Zha swallowed and lifted her free hand to give a little shrug.
"You know. If you… don'ttell the guards about me, there's likely going to be some commotion soon. That might be… a good time to, I don't know, smuggle Roland out and leave?" She shrugged again and had to fight not to keep doing it as a nervous twitch. "Otherwise I can't see any plausible way of getting him out without like… getting him spaced. Right?"
The human was absolutely furious.She was damn near puffing steam out of her ears. But she said nothing, kept her jaw shut tight and just staredat Zha like she wanted to burn her alive in her suit. Zha held her breath.
"When will they be getting here, then?" she said. "The quarians?" She stepped closer, leaning in.
"I can't exactly tell you that," Zha said, lowering her voice. "First off because I don't know whether you'll go and rat me out the moment you get a chance. Second of all because I… don't actually know. So. There's that."
They were locked in an intense stare off for a few long seconds before the human was the first one to look away.
"So," Zha said, looking the human up and down. "What happens now?"
"Just…" The human turned her back to Zha. A perfect chance. Zha's fingers were tight around the wrench when she lifted it. "Just… give me a moment to think about it."
A door a bit to the left slid open and Zha nearly dropped the wrench in her hurry to hide it in her boot. And just like that, the moment had been broken. The human started making her way towards the diner, waving wordlessly at Zha to follow. She wanted to ask, to demand what the human was thinking about, but didn't dare. They sat down to eat breakfast, Zha keeping a bit of a distance between them. She could see the human shooting odd looks her way every now and then, but as far as Zha could tell, she wasn't talking to anyone else, so at least she wasn't spreading Zha's treachery everywhere.
Zha stared at her food. It tasted like ashes in her mouth and her stomach was churning. She'd have to find a way to get rid of the human, wouldn't she? Probably. But the thought made her feel sick.
In the lab, the heavy atmosphere didn't dissipate much and it was doing its best to crush down on Zha like a one ton weight. The others paid little mind to it and probably saw it as little more than an extension of the fight between Kisch and the human, but Zha could feel sharp eyes boring into her with every move she made.
Kisch, for his part, tried alleviate the mood by chatting with Zha.
"So, what did you think of the new campaign?" he asked, leaning back in his chair and staring at Zha.
"Um, what?" Zha asked.
"The new campaign? Pretty weak, right?"
Zha looked from the salarian to the other guys. That one human was staring. The others didn't seem to care.
"I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about."
"The Blades of Kiharre?" Kisch prompted.
The name had a familiar ring to it… Zha opened her mouth to ask more, but didn't even have time to finish her thought.
"If you have time to talk about your stupid games," the human shouted from across the room with a scowl, "then you have time to work."
Game? Then it clicked and Zha almost exclaimed out loud. Her Omni-tool. The game she was using as her diversion.
She had never mentioned the game to any of these people. Hell, she didn't even know a first thing about it.
"Uh," she started, thinking fast. She looked around, before she felt like she was going to fall out of her chair in relief. "I haven't been able to download it yet!" she nearly yelled. "You know, since they disabled my tool," she waved her Omni-tool hand around. "No idea what's been going on during the last month. I've just been playing around in off-line mode, so…"
For a moment Zha was sure she'd been busted. But then Kisch offered her an apologetic smile. "Oh yeah," he said. "I'd almost forgotten. That sucks. But at least you didn't have to wade through the new add-on. I swear, nothing but glorified fetch quests and – "
"Ah!" Zha said, raising her voice and covering her earpieces in her display. "I'm still going to play it later, though. No spoilers!"
The human's look was incredulous, but Zha's words seemed to at least be enough to quell Kisch's doubts as he turned back to his computer with a chuckle. "Alright, fine," he said. "But don't get your hopes up. It's not very good."
"Alright, alright," Zha said with a hollow laugh and turned away as well.
Okay. Alright. Well, now she knew at least who was surveying her Omni-tool usage. Not that it was going to help her out much. Zha gave a look to the human from the corner of her eye. She'd gone back to her work as well.
She'd known that these people were surveying her, sure. But it kind of stung to be reminded of it. None of people were her friends, they'd never been. They might have acted all nice and comforting when Roland had been around, but now that things were going to shit, their true colors showed through.
Not that Zha could really blame them. She stared at her lap. She was the one encroaching on their territory. They had every right to be suspicious.
She missed her crew dearly.
It took Shara'Kiin a few days to contact her. Much to her surprise nothing much happened during that time. That one human kept a close eye on her, sure, but no guards came dragging her out kicking and screaming, Sunei didn't appear out of the shadows to eat her alive and the Overseer didn't materialize in her room to strangle her in her sleep, so maybe she hadn't told anyone?
Back in her room after a long day of work, Zha found a message from Shara telling her to contact him as soon as possible and Zha's stomach was a mess when she made the call.
"Hi!" she said breathlessly when Shara'Kiin's visage appeared on her Omni-tool screen. She couldn't admit how glad she was to see that faux gold visor after such a long time.
Shara wasn't as impressed to see Zha's new visor, it appeared.
Crap. His voice revealed nothing but contempt. The problem was, Zha couldn't tell if it was because he didn't like the information Zha had sent him or just the fact that he had to deal with Zha.
She shifted on her seat.
"So…" she started slowly. "I take it you went through the intel?"
"I did," he said.
Zha squinted her eyes, trying to make out if she could see Shara'Kiin's expressions through the orange haze of her Omni-tool.
"I reviewed most of it myself. It really wasn't necessary to send that much."
"Oh. Well. I just wanted to be thorough." Zha shifted, licked her lips. "So I sent everything. Straight from the Overseer himself." She wanted to ask. Wanted to ask so bad.
"This information you gave us," Shara said. "Did you even look at it when you sent it?"
"No," Zha admitted a bit defensively. "I just got all that I could and sent it there. Didn't really have time to go through it. What's the problem? Still not enough?"
Honestly, this guy…
"It's not about that," Shara said at length. "Even I have to admit that this is… this is worrisome and if I give it to Captain Nar'Shokaal, he'll be sure to get everyone on the move. But I'm not sure if you want that, though. I mean, I had my doubts about you from the start, but this is pretty damning evidence."
"What? Huh?" Zha asked, suddenly feeling the acidic taste of worry in her mouth. "Damning evidence? What? What is that? I don't – "
"It says right here that you've been in possession of the main geth platform they're working on," Shara said, lifting up a note pad to read through."That you were the one who brought it to them. And that you'd been working on the platform before you brought it to them. It says that the platform was following your orders."
She'd expected the man to sound smug, but the tone he was using was far worse. It was cold and distant, like he wasn't talking to her anymore, but himself. Zha was sitting up straight, almost painfully so.
"That isn't… that – "
"I mean the geth aren't a laughing matter. You could get banished for less. And you're an Ora. Having all of this information makes it really look like you're working for the Overseer. Not to mention the other… worrisome things I read from it."
There was more? Zha's insides were clenching.
"It says here that you have a crew of mechs. And that at least two of them are suspected AIs. So we have knowledge of you working on a geth platform and supposed AIs, creations of your own. So you can see why this would be suspicious."
Keelah. Zha felt like she was going to be sick. Her insides were twisting. She needed to fix this, needed to cover it up somehow. But her head was ringing empty.
Everything was falling apart!
"I don't… that's not what…"
What? What could she possibly say? Head empty and stomach too full, Zha stared at her Omni-tool.
"You got anything to say for yourself?" Shara asked, putting down his notes. His tone hadn't changed much, only grown colder and Zha was gasping for air. She couldn't believe she was missing the smug asshole he'd been the last time they'd called. "Because if you don't, I think the best thing you can do is cut out all ties to us if you don't want to get into any more trouble, kid."
"W- wait!" Zha shouted, fearing he would cut the call then and there. "Okay! Okay, all of that's true, I got mechs in my crew and… and some of them are a bit more advanced than the others, that's true. And yeah, I had the geth with me. I told you back when I was on your ship that I found some intact geth tech and the platform was that. I didn't… Technically I didn't lie."
"Look, kid –"
"But that doesn't change the fact that these people shouldn't be experimenting on the geth. They can't be allowed to keep this up and right now I know where their base is. I'm the only onewho can tell you its location right now. They need to be taken down!" Her voice cracked and she didn't even try to hide it. Zha drew in a shuddering breath, readying for another bout. "So we need to work together on this. If we don't – "
"So, what?" Shara cut in sharply. "You're a geth sympathizer? Is that it?"
"What? No! Well, not really. That doesn't change anything. These guys are studying the geth. Someone needs to do something about it. That's got nothing to do with me or my crew."
Shara'Kiin was silent for a while and he was so still that Zha had to check twice to see if they were still connected. She was starting to get worried. Was this it, then? Had things finally been fucked up beyond repair? Honestly? Probably. It would be over and soon the guards would be barreling into her room to capture her.
Sunei was going to be so smug when she'd finally get to kill Zha.
Shara heaved a heavy sigh and grumbled something under his breath. Zha was holding onto her own, too worried to even blink.
"Alright, you've got a point," he said as if admitting a great defeat. "This isn't some small matter that we can just brush off. But it's not up for me to decide. I'll take this to the Captain. He can make the final decision."
"Really?" Zha asked. She dared to feel a little relieved. "That's… that's good to hear." It really was. She could trust Captain Nar'Shokaal to be open about this, right? It was better than this judgmental ass Shara sitting on all of her data and whistling like nothing at all was going on. Zha slumped down a little, rubbing the front of her visor with her free hand. "Okay. So. I'm going to have to work out how to get out current location to you guys. Just in case you… like, you know… decide to come here?"
Shara didn't immediately turn her down, so she took that as a good sign.
"Alright, then," he said instead. "I will talk to the Captain about this. Expect me to contact you within the day to get the coordinates. Can you do that?"
Zha was vibrating with excitement. "Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I can do that. For sure."
"Good. I will be in touch."
The feed cut after those words and Zha let out a quiet whoop. It was happening. It was happening!
She wasn't sure if she was feeling sick or if it was just part of the elation. It didn't matter that much anyway.