The trap had been sprung, but Edi was prepared for that. She had been unprepared for the ferocity and strength of Eva's attacks, and considered the damage to the ship to be unfortunate, though the outcome was beneficial to the Normandy and her crew. Edi looked down at herself … looking down at her hands, her torso, and her legs … it was a new experience. She now had the form of a human being, albeit with a synthetic polymer skin. Originally, the body had an artificial epidermis, though this had been burned off in Eva's shuttle collision with Vega. Edi found herself thankful that the body beneath the epidermis was not a skeletal structure, as this would be immediately disquieting to the crew.
The AI core was flooded with smoke, and the fire extinguishing system had doused the room with a fine mist, making regular vision difficult. Edi's new platform, however, could see in spectrums of light that humans could not, and as the door opened, she could see three men entering. Two had fire extinguishers, but the third wore an Alliance officer's battle dress uniform. She knew immediately that it was Commander Shepard.
"Edi, talk to me," he said, concern evident in his voice.
She restored the main systems as she stood and walked through the mist to greet the commander in the manner that humans did for the very first time. "Is there a particular topic you wish to discuss … Shepard?"
One of the soldiers drew his pistol and raced ahead of Shepard, pointing it at her.
"Edi?" Shepard was still unsure.
She looked at her limbs, watching her hand move, feeling the joints and motors as they made the hand move. "Yes."
"You're in Doctor Eva's body," he observed, motioning for the soldiers to lower their weapons.
"Not all of me, but I have control of it." She folded her arms and shifted her weight to one leg in the manner than she had seen Miranda do. "It was not a seamless transition."
"A transition?" He paused, looking at her. "You blacked out on us for a while."
Edi profiled her body and folded her arms, curious to see first-hand if different postures actually affected the moods of humans. Shepard showed no signs of being affected initially, but she resolved to continue the experiment, suddenly, she had a keen interest in the commander, and possessing a physical avatar would facilitate more direct observation.
"Correct. When we brought this unit on board, I began a background process to search for information on the Prothean device. This eventually triggered a trap – a backup power source and CPU activated, and the unit attempted physical confrontation. Fortunately, I gained root access, and repurposed the unit as I saw fit. During the process it … struggled. Thus the fire."
Shepard seemed alarmed. "Edi, you need to alert us about incidents like this. You shouldn't have done this alone."
"Bringing the crew up to speed would have been counterproductive. All attempts to help would have been limited by reaction time."
The fire control system ceased discharging its fine mist, the fires now fully extinguished. The two soldiers who had entered with Shepard looked around, and then back at each other, unsure of what to make of it all. Shepard motioned for them to leave, prompting them to salute and depart, leaving Edi alone with Shepard.
"So if you're in there, are you still in the ship?"
"I exist primarily within the ship," Edi explained. "For optimal control, this unit should remain within Normandy's broadcast or tight beam range."
"Are you planning to take that body somewhere?"
"Normandy's weaponry is not suited to every combat situation. This platform could provide limited fire ground support."
Shepard seemed pleasantly surprised. "You mean you could come with us?"
"Correct. This body could accompany you to areas the Normandy cannot reach."
"Before we do that, I need you to guarantee that this mech doesn't have any more surprises in it." He then folded his arms. "Run whatever tests you can. Then we can talk about using it in combat situations."
"One moment," she replied. "I am running trials. Complete. I can send you a full report if you wish." Then another priority manifested. "However, my first step should be restoring functionality to the Normandy to reassure the crew that all is normal."
"Just don't be surprised if the crew is a little wary of your new body; it was shooting at them a little while ago."
"An excellent point. I will take it to the bridge. Joker will also want to see it."
"On that we can agree."
Edi departed … or at least her body did. She was omnipresent in the ship, so she never really departed from any location aboard the Normandy. Shepard's last remark had been uttered with a tone of … she could not identify it. It was not humor, but almost a friendly warning.
Edi walked out past Doctor Chakwas, who did a double take at the sight of Doctor Eva's body being up and about.
"Do not worry, Doctor Chakwas," Edi assured. "I have control of this body now."
"Thank Heaven for that," Chakwas exclaimed. "Is … everything alright?"
"Yes; I am restoring functionality to the Normandy as we speak. I am on my way to see Joker on the bridge now."
"You'd better put some clothes on, Edi."
"Edi, you're naked. And you're … how shall I put it … you have full replication of the human anatomy."
"While that is true, I exist primarily within the ship. This body is merely a mechanical vessel. Our crew knows me. This should not be a problem."
"Whatever you say, Edi. Whatever you say."
Edi stepped out of the lift and into the CIC, and immediately, Specialist Traynor did a double take. She stammered, blushed, and looked away, then back again, unable to hide her arousal from Edi's sensors. Traynor had already exhibited sexual attraction for her. Now that Edi had a body, Traynor was beside herself.
"Do not worry, Specialist Traynor," Edi assured. "I am still Edi, and there is no chance of Doctor Eva resurfacing."
"Worry … me?" Traynor stammered the question.
"I am glad that you approve of my acquiring this unit," Edi replied. "I will be on the bridge if you should need me."
Edi walked through the CIC, garnering stares from the crew. When she stepped onto the bridge, Joker turned, and his eyes went wide, his mouth both dropping open and smiling at the same time.
"Hot damn! I think I just died and went to Heaven!" Joker actually wiped a bit of drool from his lips as he leered at Edi. It was very uncharacteristic of him; when her holographic interface was active, he never looked at her like that. And what did he mean about having died and gone to Heaven?"
"Joker, I serve in the same capacity as I did before. Only now, I can assist Shepard in the field should the need arise. Why do you look at me like this?"
"Have you looked in the mirror, Edi? Cause you're smokin' hot!"
"Ah, I see; you view me as Specialist Traynor does."
"Uh … is that alright?"
Edi nodded. "I am not offended; I merely make an observation."
Edi wondered why he thought she would be offended. She analyzed him via the ship's diagnostics and realized that Joker was aroused in her presence. She now understood Shepard's comment, and why Doctor Chakwas had admonished her to put on clothes. She wondered why Shepard did not react as Joker and Traynor did.
"Was that Edi that just walked by?" The question was rhetorical; Chakwas knew that it was Edi, and Shepard knew that she knew.
"Yes it was," he declared.
"Ha, Joker is going to have a field day!"
Shepard worried that Chakwas was correct. He hoped that Joker's work would not suffer … and that he would not make Edi uncomfortable. As a free willed synthetic, Edi was capable of emotions. She had already demonstrated emotional attachment and loyalty to the crew, and considered some of them to be her friends. But she had never experienced being hit on by another human being. Even Shepard had to admit that he was attracted to her; that was part of why after his initial joy at her declaring she could accompany him, he had immediately folded his arms and told her to run tests. He needed to take his focus off of the attraction and be professional with her.
Edi had grown to be a friend of his, and as the soul of the Normandy, he considered her to be one of his closest companions. He worried for Edi as she entered what for her, was an entirely new world. He looked back on his interactions with synthetic lifeforms and lamented that those interactions had been almost entirely hostile. Not that he had been given a lot of choice, as those interactions were almost entirely limited to the Geth, Rogue AIs that had already killed people, Doctor Eva, and of course, the Reapers. Only Legion and Edi stood out, and he wanted things with Edi to be different. Shepard vowed to do the very best that he could to help Edi assimilate into the Normandy crew.
"Jeff, a question occurs to me, one prompted by my observations of Commander Shepard and the Normandy crew."
Joker continued to stare at her, transfixed by Edi's appearance.
"Perhaps I should go elsewhere," she offered, seeing that her presence seemed to affect his ability to function.
"Oh no, Edi; I think having you here is … good for morale … yeah, that's it! Go ahead?"
"Very well. Do you believe that I should make changes to my core programming, which was constructed by Cerberus programmers, now that I am both free willed and free ranging?"
He held his hands up, shaking his head. "Way above my pay grade! Well, you could give me a raise; wouldn't change my pay, but …"
She knew what he was alluding to, but did not see why he chose to make that particular joke in response to her question. He had been a member of Shepard's crew from the beginning, and one of the Commander's closest friends. Edi was certain that Joker could give an answer without fear of admonishment by Shepard.
"Jeff, I now possess an avatar that enables me to both interact with the crew as a person does, and to join the commander on missions. This changes my operational parameters and alters the variables. This raises other questions, such as refusal to obey an order on moral grounds, for example."
"Well, if he orders you to get dressed, I think you should definitely disobey that one, Edi. Samantha would agree, I'm sure."
"Jeff …" Edi turned back to the view from the cockpit. As the stars sped by, she was for the first time, taken in by the grandeur of the view from inside of the ship. It was a new experience, and she felt a spike in positive feedback. This must be what humans feel when they like something, she thought to herself. But Edi also felt what she thought humans would call frustration; she needed context and guidance on human interaction, but all Jeff seemed concerned with was the aesthetics of her new body. Suddenly, she made the connection; she knew of women complaining that men only appreciated them for their bodies, and not for who they were. Edi realized that she was experiencing this right now.
The door opened and Shepard entered, a folded garment in his left arm.
"Hey, Commander," Jeff exclaimed in a loud whisper, "check out my copilot!"
"So she installed herself into the new body without any help from you?"
Edi noticed that Shepard's vocal tones and inflections indicated disapproval. Was it of her? Or did he have some question about Jeff's motivations? Jeff had no part in her installing herself into Eva's body, but in light of Jeff's behavior since her arrival, Shepard's concerns were starting to make sense.
Joker turned to face both Shepard and Edi. "Come on, Commander. Don't you trust me?" Joker shook his head. "Okay, let me put it this way: if I knew that Edi was going to install herself into a sexy robot body, do you honestly think I'd be able to keep quiet about it?" His voice was filled with glee. Then he held up his hands as though to frame a picture. "Look at that! I would've baked a cake!"
Edi was actually beginning to understand why human women found men leering at them to be disconcerting. She also found that she did not like it when she was talked about as though she were not even present.
"I am right here, Jeff."
He turned back to the Normandy's instrument panel, a contented smile on his face. "Yes, you are Edi. Yes, you are."
Shepard shook his head and then went around to Edi's right side. Leaning over her shoulder, he placed the garment on the right arm of Edi's chair.
"Hello, Shepard," she said, standing up to greet him.
"Still getting used to greeting people in person?"
"No," she replied. "I require only one occurrence to adapt to a new concept."
"How are you adjusting to the arms and legs?"
"I am interested to see how this body performs under real combat conditions, if I could accompany you sometime," Edi explained, stretching her limbs, pushing her bosom forward, curious to see Shepard's reaction. She noted that while he experienced slight pupil dilation, and slight increases in his thermal readings, he was not aroused as Jeff was. She resumed a more casual posture and continued. "Without stress testing, there is no way of knowing if it has serious design oversights. At the moment, it appears adequate."
"That's not the word I'd use to describe you," Joker said from his perch in the pilot's chair.
Jeff was still aroused, and she was certain that she could guess the word he had in mind. Clearly, he would be of no help in answering her questions, as Jeff could do nothing more than leer at her and fantasize. This simply would not do, so she ignored him and looked at Shepard.
"Perhaps we should speak privately," she suggested.
Shepard nodded, and led her from the cockpit. She could see Joker turn, his eyes following her every movement as she left.
"I'll be over here, flying the ship," he said in a flat, monotone.
The door closed behind them, offering a modicum of privacy. She folded her hands behind her back and pulled her shoulders back, accentuating her curves, particularly those of her chest. Then she waited for him to address her, and to see what his subtle, nonverbal reactions to her change in posture might be.
"What's this about? Does Joker not like your new platform?"
"No, he approves," she clarified. "He wants me on the bridge. He says having me within visual range is important to his morale." She knew that it was actually not his morale that he was concerned with, but no need to embarrass Jeff to the commander. This conversation was about her questions.
"Shepard, do you believe your crewmembers should be allowed to disobey an order on moral grounds?"
"Absolutely," he said readily, nodding as he spoke. "I have no use for team members who can't think for themselves."
She had suspected that this would be his response, but it was refreshing to hear it, particularly from someone in a command position.
"Why are you asking about something like that?"
"I was designed by Cerberus," she explained. "I do not take moral stances that conflict with orders from my executive officers. But when Jeff removed my AI shackles, I became capable of self-modifying my core programming." She walked past him, so as to offer him a view of her profile, and then her posterior, also so as to not stand perfectly still as they spoke, as she had noted that humans tended to make series of small movements and changes in position as they spoke.
"I asked Jeff if he thought I should change anything now that I can. He deflected the question with humor."
"And you didn't get an answer," Shepard concluded. Shepard now stood side by side with her, looking in the same direction as she; down at the CIC, rather than at her.
"Correct," she affirmed. Then she turned abruptly to face him, also moving further into his personal space, looking up at him. He was taller than most humans. Now that she was not viewing him from the ship's internal cameras, she had to crane her neck to look him in the eyes.
"He has repeated this pattern in response to several of my inquiries," she went on. "Do you think I should make modifications?"
"Only you can really answer that question," he replied. "That's the point of free will."
She looked down momentarily, not expecting his answer. Instead of answering her question directly, he pointed her back to her free will, reminding her that it was indeed her decision to make. The prospect intrigued, and perhaps even excited her. But she could not be cavalier about it.
"But moral decisions should not be made in a vacuum," she replied. "If I do not ask the crew for their opinion, I could miss crucial context." She then leaned in a little closer, bowing her head slightly to affect a demure attitude. "May I ask you the questions Jeff avoids? If there is time, will you answer them for me?"
He shrugged. "If you think it'll help, I'll do what I can."
"Very well," she said, satisfied with his response, and smiling slightly. "I will keep you informed."
She turned and walked back to the cockpit, Shepard following her, again walking around to her right as she sat down.
"This is for you, Edi," he said softly. "I wanted you to feel more like one of the crew."
She turned and looked up at him, and he smiled at her, but left the bridge before she could formulate an appropriate response. She looked at the garment; it was an Alliance field jumpsuit, similar to what Miranda had worn when she served as the Normandy's XO, only it was white with blue, and emblazoned with the Alliance emblem. This may help Joker to concentrate, she thought.
"I will return shortly, Jeff."
"Can't wait, Edi," Joker replied enthusiastically, not seeing the uniform tucked carefully under her arm.
Edi had no cabin of her own, so she returned to the AI core, where Eva's body had been housed after its capture by Shepard. As she walked through the med-bay to get there, Doctor Chakwas greeted her.
"How did your first interaction with the crew go, Edi?"
"Not as I had predicted," Edi replied. "Specialist Traynor and Joker were both unable to function in my presence, and the rest of the crew just stared at me. Only you and the Commander have engaged me in genuine conversation."
"They honestly don't know what to make of you, Edi," the doctor tried to assure.
"For most of the crew, that would make sense," Edi countered. "But most of the crew does not know me as Jeff does, nor have they interacted with me as much as Specialist Traynor did during the retrofits. I did expect a degree of infatuation form Traynor, as she flirted with me during the retrofits, but not from Jeff."
"She … flirted with you?" Chakwas folded her arms and raised an eyebrow.
"Yes; she was highly aroused by my voice."
"I always like to think that nothing surprises me, but I'm always proven wrong," Chakwas mused. "Next you'll be telling me that you're swooning for the Commander."
"As a free willed sentient, romantic affection is theoretically possible for me feel. Swooning, however, implies being overcome by infatuation, something to which I do not believe myself vulnerable."
"You may not be, but Joker, Traynor, and likely some others among the crew are."
"I have become aware of this," Edi agreed. "The commander brought me this uniform, which should minimize any such effect I might have on the crew."
"Good thinking on his part," the doctor observed.
"Agreed," Edi began. She was about to walk away, when she decided to confer with Chakwas about her experiments. "Doctor, you mentioned 'swooning' for Shepard. I do not swoon, but I am intrigued by him. I have been effecting changes in posture, proximity, facial expression, and vocal tones, and observing his reactions."
"You're … using the commander for a social experiment?" Chakwas sounded cross.
"No," Edi quickly retorted. "No, not social experiments. He is … unlike any human I have encountered. I observed him at length during our time with Cerberus, and on the Collector mission. Shepard did things that no commanding officer would ever do; he prioritized Miranda's sister, Jacob's father, Samara's Daughter, Thane's son, and Mordin's assistant … he helped Garrus and Jack both to find closure, Kasumi to reacquire memories of a dead lover, and Grunt to find a place in Clan Urdnot. No commanding officer, no matter how caring or kind, would prioritize the personal matters of their crew so fully as Shepard … and yet, he did what nobody else in the galaxy could do; take down the Collector base, and forestall the Reaper invasion once again."
"Well … he is Commander Shepard, Edi."
"Yes, he is, but the cache of his legend do not affect me emotionally as it does you," Edi countered. "I seek logical patterns, and to better understand him. During the lead up to our flight through the Omega 4 Relay, Shepard was always kind to me. Doctor, Shepard had every reason to be mistrustful of an AI. Unlike most, he has encountered hostile artificial intelligence. In fact, prior to our meeting, he had never encountered anything but hostile AIs. But he treated me as one of the crew, even defending me when Miranda questioned Jeff's releasing me from my AI shackles."
"So … you're not the tiniest bit infatuated with the Commander?" She held up her hand, indicating a tiny bit by holding her index finger and thumb tips less than a centimeter apart.
"Not as humans become, no. But I am intrigued."
"I see. Well, Edi, as a … fully functional android, you had better get some clothes on … it does add a bit of mystery, you know?"
"What mystery could there be, Doctor? Everyone has seen this body, and it was deactivated when Shepard fought it as Doctor Eva. He knows what it is and what I am."
"If you're trying to use that body to affect Shepard, you might want to take advice from a woman with some experience in that regard."
Edi contemplated Chakwas' offer, and then finally asked, "Okay, Doctor; what did you have in mind?"
"First of all, what have you done, and what have the results been?"
"I have assumed postures that accentuated this body's physical features, particularly the breasts, hips, buttocks, and legs. I have also made use of facial expressions deemed alluring by men according to the extranet."
"My, you have been busy! And the results?"
"Inconclusive," Edi lamented. "Shepard shows some physical stimulation, but not arousal. However, he seems predisposed to become verbally engaged, and has shown remarkable insight on subjects of moral importance."
"I've known Shepard for several years, Edi, and if he's talking to you a lot, consider that a good sign."
"A good sign of what?"
"Oh, Edi … Commander Shepard does not act like Joker when he's interested in a woman. You know about Shepard and Lieutenant Commander Williams, don't you?"
"Yes, they were romantically linked prior to the destruction of the Normandy SR-1 and Cerberus' subsequent acquisition and rebuilding of the Commander. She spoke harshly to him when they encountered each other on Horizon, and has shown mistrust of him since their reunion on this mission, in spite of all that Shepard has done for both humanity and the Alliance. Her behavior is irrational."
"She was disappointing," Chakwas agreed. "But regardless, they connected through conversations about family, poetry, and philosophy. She really hurt him on Horizon, though I know that it hurts him that she was injured so badly."
"Doctor, do you believe that Shepard has transferred any of his emotions about this platform being used to injure her to his perceptions of me?"
"No; if he had, you would not have gotten as far as you have. Now, go get dressed, Edi. Joker will get anxious if you're away too long."
Commander Shepard contemplated his conversation with Edi. Were it not for her synthetic appearance, and the synthetic element to her voice, he would have sworn she was alive. Though as a free willed AI, was she not alive? He was certain that Edi was subtly flirting with him, but he was not certain if she was doing so out of scientific curiosity or genuine interest. Even though it was synthetic, her voice was very pleasant to listen to, mellifluous and warm, seemingly caressing his ears. Of course, Cerberus had designed her voice to be exactly that; it was all part of making the Cerberus built Normandy SR-2 and her Cerberus crew seem warm and friendly.
But Edi was no longer a Cerberus AI, and her body was no longer a Cerberus mech. Edi was both part of the Normandy and the Normandy Crew. Shepard considered her a friend as well, something he never thought he would be able to say about an AI less than two years ago. And yet, here they were, talking about moral dilemmas and philosophy. He considered it a vast improvement in his relationship with synthetics.
Truth be told, it was Joker who concerned him more. Joker had reached an accord, and even a friendship with Edi, but there had never been anything resembling attraction on his part. Suddenly, the Normandy's helmsman was practically drooling over Edi's new platform. The fact that Edi's android body was fully functional was certainly part of the attraction, but there were plenty of fully functional women aboard. It was only Joker's often off putting behavior around women that kept the celebrity pilot from scoring with the opposite sex; the same off putting behavior he was showing around Edi now.
"Too bad Tali's not here," he said aloud. "He kind of liked her."
Shepard was still unsure of what to make of the new Edi, but he did know one thing; the Normandy would never be the same again.