"It was good." Shepard said, taking a sip of water. She and the Doctor were up in her quarters on the Normandy, merely relaxing after the events of the Death Zone. Mordin had been returned to his proper place in time, only a couple of days before the mission to Tuchanka, with the understanding that he wouldn't mention a single word of what happened to anyone. "Seeing Mordin again. Things were so hectic the first time around, I didn't get to say a proper goodbye."
"Never much liked goodbyes myself," The Doctor replied, burying himself in one of the spare parts he'd taken from the TARDIS. "Thing with time travel is, no matter if you think it's goodbye to someone, you're going to wind up meeting them again. Or, they'll end up meeting you."
Shepard nodded in understanding and took another sip. "What happened to Ashley?" She questioned. "'I saw her inside the TARDIS, but the moment I stepped in, she just sort of… vanished."
The Doctor kept silent for a moment. "The TARDIS reintegrated you back into time." He explained. "So the altered timeline she came from never happened. I'm sorry."
"…Thanks." She sighed. "It was… an odd kind of fun, though. Seeing the men and women I'd become."
The Doctor nodded. "It doesn't happen often, but when it does… It's very special."
Shepard nodded, and looked down in her cup, absently watching the liquid inside ripple. "…Do you dream?"
"Of course I dream." The Doctor answered. "Everybody dreams."
"But do you dream about…" Shepard licked her lips uncertainly. "About your future selves?"
The Doctor's eyes flicked up at her. "Oh, all the time. It's a common thing that happens with Time Lords. See, regeneration isn't just a biological event, it's a temporal one too. A massive tipping point in a personal timeline that can ripple back. Why?"
"I've been dreaming about her." Shepard confessed. "The Usher-" She shook her head. "The next me."
The Doctor focused back on the part, as he remembered the Rachni Queen's parting words. 'Tell Shepard her song is ending soon.'
Shepard scoffed, turning away. "I'm sorry, it's stupid."
"No," The Doctor replied, "It's not." He said. He discreetly changed the settings on the sonic screwdriver and angled it so that it looked like it was still pointed at the part, but actually pointed at Shepard.
"I mean, It's just-" Shepard began, losing her words. "Seeing all those people, working together, solving the challenges inside… extraordinary."
"Those people were you." The Doctor pointed out, as he waited for the scan to conclude.
"Maybe." Shepard granted. "But every time I think about that, I remember her. And if I'm really going to become her one day, do those things to my friends… Manipulate me, my friends, and everyone else who's convenient to make sure I survive… I don't know if I can do that."
The scan returned, and the Doctor looked down at it with bated breath. He swallowed, as he took in the results.
"Don't worry, Shepard." The Doctor smiled at her, tucking the screwdriver away in his jacket. "You'll be a-okay. You have my word."
Shepard returned the smile, though it didn't fully reach her eyes.
The Doctor looked around shiftily, as he got up from his seat. "Tell you what, why don't we blow off some steam, eh?" He suggested, walking up the steps to the private terminal. "TARDIS travel might be a bit bleh given the recent shenanigans in the Death Zone, but there are plenty of ways to blow off steam now… Oh, look!" He smiled, as he began to look through the mail. "There's a message from Hackett in here ordering the Normandy to the Citadel for repair, restock, and shore leave!"
"Commander!" Joker's voice called from the ceiling.
Shepard sighed, and looked up. "What is it, Joker?"
"We've got a situation down in the cargo bay." He answered.
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "Define situation."
"A big metal coffin that appeared out of nowhere."
Shepard and the Doctor looked at each other curiously.
"So… shore leave waits?" The Doctor questioned.
Shepard nodded, and she looked back to the ceiling. "On our way."
When Shepard and the Doctor stepped out of the elevator, both were immensely relieved to see that the coffin in subject wasn't the Hand of Omega. Neither of them could say they weren't worried that it wasn't, given that Shepard just got out of the Death Zone.
The coffin was really more of a pod, flat and curved, large enough to hold a human comfortably. The exterior was a silver-grey color, and on the side were two Greek letters, Θ and Σ.
The Commander began to approach the guards surrounding the pod.
"Has it done anything?"
"No ma'am." Cortez answered, keeping a wary eye locked on the pod. "It just appeared out of nowhere, no warning at all."
"EDI?" Shepard looked up.
"There are trace amounts of artron energy permeating the surface." The AI reported. "Deeper scans are being blocked by the hull."
Shepard frowned, and began to step closer to the pod. Placed on the top, secured in a little groove, was a data pad.
Shepard looked over to the Doctor, and he gestured for her to get a move on.
She picked up the data pad, and the screen flickered to life, automatically bringing up a text file.
The Doctor crossed his arms, looking over Shepard's shoulder, and began to read with her.
"Shepard," The file began.
"It's… been quite some time since I've seen you last. Decades. Though I suspect for you, it has been much shorter. My experiences in the Death Zone, seeing how much our future selves hated me… It put some things into perspective. Ever since I was born, I've been walking a path laid out for me from before I even existed, if for no other reason than the universe said I must. Any other person would have been proud, satisfied that their careful manipulations and planning produced the outcome they were hoping for.
I hated it.
I've got to tell you now, if only to prepare you for what's to come, I've stuck my fingers in far more than the fates of you, our friends on the Normandy, and the Doctor. The Plasmavore on the Citadel… She only got stuck there because of me. The Zygons on Earth in the 1700s, even the Doctor's simple presence here, and so much more.
I'm telling you these things now because I regret them. Not necessarily the outcomes, but for manipulating you all. You've only known about me for a short time, and in that time, I've mostly scorned you and your friends. You don't even really trust me, I know, and you would be right.
I'm at the end of my life now. The Time Lords have caught up to me. Well, I say caught up, but really, I've turned myself in. Even with the excuse that I was trying to ensure time took the course it should have, I've done some… pretty bad things. Don't worry about the specifics, but they put me on trial.
And found me guilty.
I'm just waiting now. They'll force me to regenerate and exile me. It isn't all bad, though. Lady President Romana let me choose what I would look like next go-round, where I would be exiled. I don't know what we've done to earn it, but she's been so kind. She's even letting me write and send this.
Which brings me onto the next topic.
I've been going around, making amends to the people I've hurt best I can. I've worked my way through a fair bit in my own time, but there's one last loose end that needs tying up. EDI's body got destroyed on the Cybership. I wasn't expecting it, but it happened. The Time Lords gave me one choice to send a message and package to whoever I wanted, so I figured…
Inside, there's a body. Not like the mech she inhabited before. A human one. With flesh, blood, bone… It's a living, breathing, human body, just with computer parts in the head instead of a brain. This is my final gift. I'm not so stupid as to think this will cause a complete one-eighty of your opinion of me.
But I would have you know that I have changed.
And this shall be my example.
Shepard (AKA The Usher)
P.S. For God's sake, take a holiday on the Citadel or something. Even through this, I can see the bags under your eyes."
The Doctor snorted, upon reading the very last sentence. "Looks like she and Hackett are on the same wavelength."
Shepard let out a suffering sigh. "EDI?"
"Set a course for the Citadel and tell the crew to get ready for some shore leave. They've earned it. As for this…" She turned back to the pod. "How'd you like to have another body?"
"I would be delighted, Shepard." All present could hear the smile in her voice at the prospect.
"Then I leave it to you." Shepard stated, pressing the controls on the pod for it to slide open. The body inside was a perfect replica of EDI's last, save for the human skin and hair. Shepard flinched, as she took in the state of the inert form. "Just… remember to put on some clothes, yeah?"
Shepard and the Doctor looked up, slightly uncomfortable.
"…That was a joke."
"Right…" The Doctor slowly replied, as the body began to stir, and EDI got up out of the pod, heading towards the elevator and (hopefully) to get some clothes. "So!" He turned to Shepard with a grin on his face. "Shore leave!"
Shepard sighed. Knowing her luck… this was going to be a really bad idea.