Chapter 47: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Serpent Nebula, Normandy, Enroute to Citadel.

April 7th, 2185. 8:02 pm. EST

The Comm Room was filled with Crewmembers as they were debriefing and discussing Kasumi's Loyalty Mission that had just been finished. The meeting was fairly straightforward, all things considered. They discussed the Avatar of Destruction's sudden appearance at the party, what she had said and claimed, and more about the trilogy of games titled Mass Effect.

Obviously, she knew about the story, and was using her knowledge to her own benefit, which became especially obvious when Jordan recounted more information about CAT-6 and the Talons in Mass Effect 3's story. Shepard's clone was mentioned once more, and further connections were made between the clone's disappearance and the invasion of Lazarus Station by CAT-6 when Shepard first woke up.

With the Talons in play, and some news that Liara shared as the Broker, the rising tensions on Omega were also discussed, especially with an Ardat-Yakshi prowling somewhere on the station. By the end of the meeting, they decided that the best plan would be to return to the Citadel, gather any other supplies they needed, and perhaps talk to the Council (aka Anderson) about the Terminus Systems and Omega.

With the course set, they'd soon arrive the next morning, and everyone parted ways to whatever and wherever they wanted to go. Jordan returning to the AI Core for the time begin, Tela leaving for some paperwork, but promising Jordan that she'd swing by later, Kasumi returning to her room, and Shepard and Liara returning to the loft.

Serpent Nebula, Normandy, Enroute to Citadel.

April 7th, 2185. 8:19 pm. EST

Kasumi sat/laid on the comfortable couch, her eyes staring intently at the small metal device in her hands, resting in her lap. Her partner's… her friend's… her lover's… Keiji's Greybox. Lost in her own mind, her eyes remained locked onto the complicated device filled with memories, along with important and deadly information. Information which cost Kenji his life.

She'd seen Kenji's message for her. He pleaded with her to dispose of the greybox. To destroy it, forever burying the classified information and saving her from being hunted down for the info. He proclaimed his feelings, and just the thought of the message forced unnatural wetness to form in the corners of the thief's eyes. Her usual warm smile and giddiness was nowhere to be seen.

Her hood hid this fact from the intruder, which surprised her enough to make her head jump up towards the door. It slid open, revealing the Avatar of Oblivion himself, Brian Miller.

His dark brown eyes locked onto her own under her hood as he stepped inside, the door sliding shut behind him.

"Kasumi?" He asked, breaking the silence. Luckily for her, her tears were not visible from their current positions.

She took a deep breath, and managed to conceal her emotions with some amount of success, "Yes?"

Brian came over and sat down beside her, "You alright?"

"Of course, I am." She tried to say confidently, though her voice told him otherwise, "I just got back a piece of Keiji…"

"A piece that wants you to get rid of it." He added, shocking her momentarily, before she visible slumped.

"That's right… Mass Effect, right?" She asked.

"Yes." He admitted, "I also know what secret is contained within. What he found that cost him his life."

She stared at him carefully, "Was it really worth it?"

"The secret?"


Brian sighed, "It was dangerous, that's for sure. Perfect blackmail material against the Alliance." He admitted, "But I don't think that's what you wanted to ask…"

Kasumi slowly nodded, "In your game," She begun, pulling her legs to her chest as she hugged them, "I'm assuming that there was a choice for me to keep the greybox or get rid of it, right?"

Miller nodded.

"So, what was the better choice?" She asked in a small voice, almost afraid of the answer.

Brian and Kasumi were both silent for a moment, the former thinking carefully on what he wanted to say. "What does Keiji want you to do?"

"He wanted me to destroy it." She said, tears now visible to Brian, "He wants me to save myself and get rid of the information."

"And you don't want to lose what's left of him, do you?"

She sighed, her voice wavering, "It's selfish, I know." She admitted, looking over to lock eyes with Brian once more, "I… I don't want to forget him…"

"You'll never forget him, Kasumi." He said softly, reaching over and tapping her head lightly through her hood, "He'll always be with you, Kasumi, and he wouldn't want you to lose yourself in your memories with him. He'd want you to move on, to keep moving forward with your life."

"I know…" She admitted, both to herself and him. Looking down, she stared at the device in her hands, "But… I don't know if I can do it…"

Making a daring move, Brian moved over and brought an arm around Kasumi's shoulder, pulling her into a sideways hug, "I can do it if that'd be easier." He said quietly.

The kleptomaniac froze up for a moment, before melting into the hug. She sniffled and took a deep breath, "Please…" She whispered, slowly relaxing her grip on the greybox. Moving his other hand over, Brian softly grabbed the memory device and took it into his own hands.

On command, his omni-tool lit up, and he put in the instructions, beginning a wipe of the greybox's data. They spent thirty seconds in silence as the program ran its course, before it ended. The data was gone.

Once the confirmation of the program appeared, Kasumi closed her eyes and began to cry, leaning fulling against Brian and turning to the side, her tears absorbing into his shirt. He put the empty greybox down on a nearby table, and wrapped both arms around the shuddering thief.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, before Kasumi finally ran out of tears. She moved slowly, looking up at Brian from her current position, and gave him a wobbly, watery smile.

"Thanks…" She whispered, tightening her own hold on the Avatar, "I needed this…"

"Of course,…" He whispered back, "Glad I could help."

She giggled softly, her smile becoming more genuine, though still containing echoes of sadness.

Serpent Nebula, Widow, Normandy, Enroute to Citadel, AI Core.

April 8th, 2185. 1:07 am. EST

Jordan Sower was sitting on his bunk, back leaning against the bulkhead behind him with his eyes closed. Not quite asleep, just relaxing against the cool metal. Leaning against him to his left was another warm body in the shape of an asari, both still fully dressed as they simply enjoyed spending time in one another's company.

Tela let out a quick, light laugh before sitting up, leaning forward with a smile, which Jordan saw as he opened his eyes at the noise. The Spectre was smirking, holding eye contact with the Avatar. Her eyes sparkled with amusement.

"It's too damn quiet in here." She remarked with her easy-going grin.

Jordan chuckled, "Now suddenly it's too loud." He replied, "I preferred it when it was quiet." After finishing the quote, Jordan's smile grew and he couldn't help but laugh at his own dumb joke/quote.

Tela raised a marking over her eye, "What?" She asked, confused, "What's so funny?"

He shook his head, "Just a dumb quote from a show I used to watch…" He trailed off, before his mind inevitably reminded him of the truth of his existence. "I mean…" He suddenly grew quiet, his smile falling, "What my memories tell me, at least…"

"Hey, hey." She said, getting his attention, "Shut up."

"Um, what?"

"Yeah, shut up." She said with a serious expression, "You're overthinking again. If that was a good memory, then enjoy it. Yeah, your situation's kinda fucked, but aren't we all to some extent?"

Jordan let out a light chuckle at that, "You're not wrong."

"Damn right I'm not." She said, her smile returning, but remaining light and warm. "Now, why don't you tell me about that show?"

"I don't think you'd really get it." He said, "It was just a funny, dumb web series on Youtube."

"You Tube? I think I'm already lost."

Jordan shook his head, "I doubt when you broke the holy sanctity of silence that you wanted to talk about a comedic show I allegedly watched oh-so-long ago."

"Speak Thessian, idiot."

"Sorry princess, I speak English exclusively."

She laughed and bumped shoulders with him, "Shut it, you know what I meant."

"Did I?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Unbelievable." She scoffed, "I'm dating an idiotic alien."

"You're dating Grunt? Since when?"

In response, blue energy coated the Asari Spectre, before the two of them were biotically pulled forward, off of the cot with a single move of her arm. While Jordan flailed and crashed to the ground, Tela elegantly glided to her feet right beside him. Sower let out a grunt as he hit the ground, immediately pushing himself up.

"You know, Grunt wouldn't have been thrown to the ground."

"He also weighs, like, ten of me."

"Hmmm, you're not wrong." She extended a hand to Jordan, which he took. The Spectre pulled him to his feet, both now standing with barely any space between them. They two locked eyes, Jordan finding himself lost in hers, while the same could be said to her. After a few seconds of no movement, her lips curled into a light smile, "You just gonna stare, esteemed Avatar?"

"Dunno." He let out softly, "What about you, fearless Spectre?"

She leaned forward and brought her lips to his, silencing any further thoughts on either of their sides. Two pairs of eyes closed as the pair leaned into one another, spending many blissful seconds in each other's embrace as they kissed. Lightly, not venturing deep, and gently, their lips remained locked.

A few seconds later, and their lipped embrace ended as the Asari leaned back, providing a small distance between the two. Their eyes opened as they once again locked their eyes together.

"Wow…" Jordan couldn't help but breathe out.

"That all you have to say?" She said with a small grin.

"You're gorgeous." He breathed out softly, maintaining eye contact.

Tela flushed, purple blood flooding her cheeks at the genuine compliment. "Y-you're not too bad looking yourself, Jordan." She replied.

Jordan caught the small stutter, and smiled widely, "Why, Tela, did I just hear you stutter?"

Her eyes narrowed, "In your dreams, idiot."

"But I'm your idiot, right?" He asked with a cheeky grin.

"Not quite sure yet, we haven't gone on a date, yet."

"Next shore leave for sure, right?"

She smiled warmly at the thought, forcing her cheeks to cool down, "Sounds like a plan, Jordan." She said, "Maybe it won't be interrupted."

"And now you've jinxed it." He laughed.

"I've what?" She asked, confused now.

"You jinxed it."

"Yeah, I heard that part." She said with a roll of her eyes, "But what does that mean?"

"It means what it means."


He chuckled, "Don't worry about it." He said, before looking down at his omni-tool and the time, "I think it's past my bed time. Gotta get a good night's rest for work tomorrow."

Tela shook her head, "Whatever you say." She said, "You humans and your dumb sayings and words."

And from there, they two finished their roundabout conversation and parted ways for the night, trying to get some amount of sleep for whatever awaited them the next day.

Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Normandy.

April 8th, 2185. 11:02 am. EST

With Jacob busy with obtaining and organizing the incoming supplies, and Miranda with paperwork, Shepard had left an hour earlier with Garrus, Liara, and Ashley to speak with Anderson. Otherwise, the rest of the crew stayed back on board the Normandy. While they were gone, Jordan simply worked in the AI Core, speaking with EDI on occasion. Everyone else was doing their own tasks, except for one very out-of-place individual.

Cynthia Wake found herself wandering around the third deck, without much of anything to do. She considered talking with Jordan or Brian, but seeing as they seemed to have some subconscious impulse to oppose either other and have conflicts, she ruled that idea out. She wanted to leave the Normandy with Shepard, but knew she wasn't really in a position to request such a thing.

Finally, she found herself standing outside Miranda's Office, the door able to be opened, but remaining closed. The Avatar of Control recalled all she knew about her 'past self'. The version of her that had teamed up with Cerberus, brainwashed Miranda, and nearly took over Cerberus. The vids Jordan showed of his showdown with her original on Chronos Station stood out in her memories.

She shook the thought from her head. Technically, she was just like Jordan. The clone of an artificial construct. No more than an animated golem, supposedly meant to fulfill the desires of her creator. She'd be lying if she said that she'd be willing to fulfill the Catalyst's goal.

Wake took a deep breath, calming her nerves as best as she could, before knocking on the door. The gentle, metallic airwaves soared through the air, clearing catching the inner room's occupant's attention. Not more than a moment later, the door slid itself open.

Sitting properly behind her desk, the raven-haired beauty locked eyes with Cynthia, a small frown forming on her perfect face.

"Miss Wake." She said neutrally, "What can I do for you?"

She gulped and stepped forward, "I… uh, I wanted to talk with you for a moment. That is, if you're free to talk, I guess." She tried, her nerves beginning to get the better of her.

Miranda's eyes darted back down to her holographic monitor, before she sighed, pushing herself and her chair back, "I suppose we can speak for a moment." She leaned forward, "What about?"

Cynthia sighed in relief, "I wanted to discuss what the… 'other me' did to you."

Miranda let out a sigh, "It wasn't you. Not really." She said simply, "I can see the similarities between the two of you, but you're not identical."

Wake shrugged, "I… I kinda figured that was the case. But, I still want to apologize for what she did."

"You don't need to do that." She replied, "She's gone, and whatever effects she might have had on me are long gone."

"That doesn't mean it didn't happen." She said, a bit louder now, catching Lawson's attention, "I controlled you. Brainwashed you. Basically, indoctrinated you."

Miranda's eyes narrowed, "That may be the case, but-."

"Listen, please." She interrupted, "I know that you're trying to forget about that, but it bothers me. And I'm sure it bothers or bothered you. You said that wasn't me, right? Are you sure, though? What if it was, but I was under the control of the Catalyst? Like I was indoctrinated?"

"You can't be certain." Miranda replied quickly, "I would be lying if I said, looking back on it, that the experience wasn't jarring or uncomfortable, but it's already over and done with."

"But I've seen the way you looked at me." Cynthia said, "You distrust me." Miranda went to reply, but Cynthia ignored the attempt and continued, "More than you normally do to others. You hesitate with me… You're afraid."

A fire seemed to light within Miranda's eyes, "I am not."

"You are!" Cynthia said, her emotions getting the best of her as her eyes began to water, "I've played the games. You're always so confident… so… perfect…" She whispered, "But I can see the small differences between how you interact with me versus someone like Kasumi. Your eyes are colder. Your eye-contact, harsher." She said, trying to take a deep breath, barely preventing a shuddering breath, "And I understand why. I know why, dammit, but I don't want you looking at me like that…"

The room was silent for a moment, before Miranda replied, "Why is my opinion so important to you?"

Cynthia took another deep breath, "You were one of my favorites." She admitted, "So cold, aloof, and set in your ways with Cerberus. You were the Ice Queen." She told Miranda, "Yet, as you are interacted with and spoken to, I was able to see through the layers and walls you've put up, seeing the woman you are underneath your frozen exterior."

Miranda's eyes opened slightly wider in partially-concealed shock.

"You… I played as both Fem Shepard and Male Shepard, and romanced you once." She admitted, "You were softer and warmer underneath your cold exterior. But then, I made a mistake… in the third game, I wanted to change romances back to Liara. I figured, most of the time, not much of a deal is made when you change your romance between games, that it'd be fine…" She took a shuddering breath, "You cried." She finally said.

She failed to see the shock on Miranda's face as she recalled the third game.

"Shepard… am I still part of your plan? It's been so long, I wasn't sure where we stood." Miranda had cautiously asked.

"We need to stay focused on the war. On survival. We can't go back to what we were." Shepard replied. Miranda's expression changing from cautiousness to visible heartbreak.

"Of course. I…" She trailed off, her eyes showing her hurt. "I understand. You're right to be cautious." She turned away, back turned toward Shepard. She lets out a shuddering gasp as Shepard apologized.

"I'm sorry Miranda."

"It's alright Commander. It's done." She replied neutrally.


Tear stains visible on Miranda's cheeks, she responded, "Look. It was great to see you, but I should be going." She said, before quickly leaving, taking off and away.

Cynthia shuddered at the memory, "I… I broke your heart." She admitted, "You don't open up easily, and you had for Shepard, only for Shepard to deny you…" She said, "It showed how human you truly were."

Miranda's thoughts were in turmoil, hearing these things about the games. They purposely skimmed over the specifics of the romance portions of the games, only to make it less awkward and embarrassing for everyone. Hearing it now though, she could understand why her in-game version had reacted like that. In her place, she doubted she'd be able to maintain her neutral mask of composure. She'd never gotten serious with anyone before. Never opened up to anyone. To have that trust be used to hurt her like that… she hated the thought.

"I…" She tried to respond, but, for once, could think of nothing to say.

"I'm sorry, but I had to say it." Cynthia says, "You don't really know me, but… I'd like to know you… at least as a friend?" She asked, optimistically yet quietly, her heart beating loudly in her chest.

Miranda stared at Cynthia, her eyes losing the cool, calculating sheen they normally held, and seemed to consider the Avatar. "I… I need some time to think." She finally said.

"I understand." Cynthia said, "And I apologize for dumping this onto you like that."

Miranda managed a light smiled, "It's alright." She said, leaning back in her chair after a moment, "Maybe we can talk more at lunch?" Cynthia appeared shocked, at that. Miranda tried the request, supposing that trying to get to know the real Cynthia would be nice. After all, despite everything she knows about the previous version of her, Miranda couldn't help but feel some kind of kinship with Cynthia.

It didn't hurt that Miranda felt a connection in the fact that they were both artificially created for a selfish purpose by an asshole with way too much power.

With that, Cynthia's surprise melted into a smile and nodded, "See you at lunch, I guess."

Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Loading Docks.

April 8th, 2185. 12:54 pm. EST

Shepard, Garrus, Ashley, and Liara all passed through the C-Sec checkpoint, talking amongst themselves as they headed toward the Normandy.

"-wish the Council would stop burying their heads into the sand." Ashely remarked.

Garrus nodded, "At least Anderson's on our side though."

"But how much can he do?" Liara questioned, "There's only so much a Councilor can do without the support of the others."

Shepard nodded, "It's better than nothing though."

They continued walking, passing by several people as they made their way across toward their ship, when they heard someone calling out toward them.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" A feminine voice called out.

Shepard stopped and turned to see an approaching Asari in a blue dress, with pink facial markings adorning her face. She got closer, her eyes desperate as they locked onto Shepard's face, "You're Commander Shepard, yes?" She asked.

Ashley stepped forward in an attempt to keep the unknown woman back. Shepard, however, did reply, crossing his arms and leaning back slightly.

"I am."

"Thank the goddess." She said, "I recognized your... aura, I guess you could say."

"Uh, what?" Garrus silently asked behind him.

She looked around to see no one else paying them any attention, "I need your help, Commander. I come with a request and a message."

"A message? From who?" Shepard asked carefully.

Still wary of her surroundings, "Not here. Too many listeners. It's from a friend you made on Noveria." She told him.

Shepard shook his head, "I met a lot of people on Noveria. Could you be more specific?"

The Asari shook her head, "I cannot disclose her identity in public." She told him, "But she was a queen, who owes you her life."

Shepard's eyes shot open in recognition, quickly realizing who she was referencing. What happened to the Rachni Queen after Noveria, but before her 'reappearance' in the third game Jordan talked about? Something didn't seem quite right...

The Asari noticed his shock, and nodded, "It is as you think, Commander. Please, she needs your help. I can relay the full message in private, but not here. I beg of you, please…" Her desperation was plain to see.

Nodding, Shepard agreed, "We can discuss it on board my ship." He turned to his Turian friend, "Garrus, notify the crew that we're having another meeting.

Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Normandy, Comm Room.

April 8th, 2185. 1:10 pm. EST

Everyone was ready in the Comm Room, having just heard yet another call for a crew meeting. Standing at the end of the table was Shepard, with an unknown, new Asari standing beside him.

The Asari had pink facial markings, and wore a slightly-worn full-length blue dress. Her dark eyes swept across the room, taking in everyone's appearance for a moment.

"Is this everyone, Commander?" The woman asked.

Shepard nodded, "It is." He turned to address his crew, "Everyone, as mentioned in my message, this meeting is top secret, much like a few other ones, and will not be discussed with anyone else." He then nodded to the woman.

The Asari bowed lightly, "Greetings, Normandy Crew. My name is Talifha Kyala."

Liara appraised the woman, recognizing her vaguely from a missing person's report filed a while back.

"So, what this meeting about?" Someone asked.

Jordan, however, seemed to recognize the woman, based on her appearance. "Is this about the Rachni?"

Talifha's eyes widened, as did everyone else's at his declaration, before she nodded in affirmation. Before anyone could begin speaking, she stepped forward, all eyes on Kyala. Her eyes seemed to roll into the back of her head; her voice echoing as she spoke.

"Shepard. We hide. We burrow. We build. We know that you seek those who soured the songs of our mothers." She began, "We need help. Those who wish to silence our songs have invaded, intent on smothering our voices. We owe a debt to you, to help burn the darkness clean in a crescendo of voices, but cannot if we are eternally silenced." She seemed to take a breath, before continuing with the message, "Thank you, Shepard. Because of you, the Rachni sing again, but without you once more, the songs of our ancestors approach extinction once more. We humbly beg for aid."

Her eyes returned to normal, just as the room erupted into discussion and confusion.

After a moment, they quieted down thanks to Shepard, "Enough!" He shouted. Then, he turned toward Kyala. "What happened to the Rachni Queen?"

She frowned, emotion deep in her eyes, "The Rachni were rebuilding on an uncharted world, and have come under attack." She said, "I owe the Queen my life, she saved mine when I crash-landed, and gave me a purpose. The only home and family I now have are now threatened, Commander."

"Slow down." Brian said, "Tell us what happened."

She nodded, "A few days ago, unmarked ships entered the atmosphere. The Rachni, however, build their nests underground, so the Queen figured they were pirates or something. She assumed that as long as they were quiet, they'd eventually leave, with no idea that the Rachni were there." She told them, "But… but they did, they knew exactly where the nest was. Suicide bombers collapsed the majority of tunnels to the surface, blocking off escape to only two tunnels. They set up a camp on the surface, and began attempting to assault the nest."

"Someone clearly knew the Rachni were there." Zaeed grunted, "It was planned… So, who was it?"

"I believe they were Blood Pack. They wore red, and most were Krogan and Vorcha." Kyala told him, before turning back to Shepard.

"She hasn't had enough time to form a large enough nest to stop them, and her children will soon be overrun. She needs help." She told him, "More than that, she pledges the entirety of her species in your fight against the Reapers when the time comes." After a moment, she bowed, "I beg of you, Commander, please help us."

Shepard looked at her, already knowing what his answer is. He knew time was of the essence, and the Rachni were willing to help. And he wasn't going to sit idly by as genocide was committed against the Queen. He looked over to Jordan, Brian, and Cynthia, who were all present. None of them knew this was going to happen, meaning that they'd be going into this blindly... just like the old days...

He took in a deep breath, "Where's the Queen, and what can you tell me about the Blood Pack camp?"

Omega Nebula, Sahrabarik, Omega, Talon Base.

April 8th, 2185. 1:39 pm. EST

Commander Smith walked off of her transport, paying little mind to the salutes aimed at her from her fellow Talons. Her destination was clear in her mind after exiting the shuttle, entering their base of operations quickly. As she walked, Elizabeth found another member of the Talons right beside her. A younger Asari, named Merena.

"Ma'am, welcome back."

"Status report." She replied evenly, "What's the current situation?"

"The Eclipse have gone underground, Ma'am, and Afterlife is ours." Merena told her, "Aria's men were persistent, but we managed to finally claim the club last night."

Elizabeth smiled, nodding, "Perfect, begin fortifications on Afterlife. I'd like full station-wide control as soon as possible." She demanded.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"What about Aria?" The Avatar of Destruction asked, raising an eyebrow as they continued down several different halls, stepping into an elevator.

"She was last seen 48 hours ago, leaving her penthouse." Merena told her, "We had units in pursuit, but her personal army held us back. I'm afraid we've lost her, for the time being."

The Avatar let out a low growl, "Then find her, dammit!" She said, her eyes glowing in anger, "Anything else I should be notified about?"

"Umm..." Merena trailed off as the elevator continued to lower. She wasn't sure how her boss would react to the next bit of news, "There've been reports of Nyreen Kandros across the station. We believe she trying to meet up with Aria."

"Fuck!" She shouted, punching the elevator and creating a dent. Red energy caressed her skin as the lights in the elevator flickered for a moment. Realizing that she was moments away from ruining the elevator, Elizabeth took a deep breath and calmed down. Looking over, Merena's face was pale with fright. Taking another deep breath, she responded, "Find her. Nyreen can't reach Aria." She muttered under her breath, "I knew I should have killed her when I had the chance..."

The elevator finally came to a stop, allowing Smith to leave. She turned around, "I want everyone not working on Afterlife searching for Aria and Nyreen. I don't care if they have to crawl through the fucking vents, or spacewalk the perimeter, just find them!"

"Y-yes, ma'am!"

Turning away from the now-terrified underling, Elizabeth continued toward her destination, taking deep breaths along the way before she finally reached her goal.

The doors slid open, revealing a large room filled with workout equipment. The room was unoccupied, except for a single human doing pull-ups on the bar close by. He was ripped, with his back turned toward her as he worked out. Short, dark hair on his head, he went up and down quickly. She could imagine the life-filled blue eyes on the other side of his head, and the damned smirk he often wore when he teased her. She got a few steps away from him, before clearing her throat, announcing her arrival.

He slowed to a stop, dropping off the bar, "Hey boss." He said in his deep voice.

She rolled her eyes at her second-in-command, "Noah." She greeted neutrally.

He turned around with a smirk on his face, just as she expected. His blue eyes locked onto her red-brown ones. "That's all you have for me?" He asked, taking a step forward. "So, how was your business trip?"

She let out a small laugh, "Hock's dead, and Kasumi has closure." She said.

"And my twin?" He asked, his smile becoming slightly more strained.

She sighed with a small frown, "Difficult and unyielding, as expected. Though, it could have gone a lot worse..."

"I'm just glad you're okay." He said softly, stepping forward and pulling the dangerous woman into a warm embrace. "Shepard's not known to leave many survivors behind."

She scoffed as she leaned into him, "He's a paragon. As long as I don't do anything against him, I'm not on his shit-list."

"Still, you've said even paragons have moments of renegade."

"I know." She said softly.

The two lapsed into silence for a moment, before he spoke, "I missed have you around. It's not the same without you..."

"I was only gone a few days." She replied with a small smile.

"Which constitutes a decent percent of my lifetime, so far." He replied with a smile as well.

She leaned back, before stepping on her tip-toes, wrapping her arms around his head and giving him a quick kiss.

After the kiss, she leaned back, "Missed you too..." She finally said, "We've got a lot of work to do, Noah..."

"I know, we both do..." He replied, "But we can do it... the Reapers won't know what hit 'em."

She looked deep into his eyes for a moment, before closing her own and leaning in, holding him in yet another hug. It was hard to believe Noah had only been a part of her life for this little, yet he meant so much to him. She smiled, thinking of the timeline and the trilogy, and how Noah never got to live... not like this. She recalled the raid on Lazarus Station, and the stealing of the Shepard clone. She held Noah close, both enjoying the quiet of the room, before they had to get back to work on assuming control of Omega.

Noah was so much more than just a clone, now...


Sorry about the delay. I've been back at work, earning money and working almost every day. Personal stuff came up, too, forcing this chapter to take even longer. I haven't had, really, any time to write, and what little time I did have was spent on other things. Anyway, I finally found the time to write, and here we are.

I decided to put a couple of fluff-filled romantic-ish sections in this chapter, as things begin to move onboard the Normandy. More info on the Avatar of Destruction, where she is and what's she's doing, and, of course, the big reveal of the Shepard clone! Hope the reveal was good. Otherwise, you might be able to see what's happening from here. Kinda excited for the next chapter or two, with new content. Also, I don't know about you, but when I broke up with Miranda in ME3, it almost physically hurt me. It was really sad…

Anyway, I hope this was a good chapter, and that you look forward to the upcoming chapters.

If you're interested in updates from me and stuff, don't forget to check out my discord. And maybe my strawpolls, too! Links in my profile, I think...

Also: Just published another story that I'll work on and off with. A supposedly 8-part story detailing Tela Vasir's past, building her character, and explaining what made her into what she is. Could be considered canon-compliant, almost... It's called "The Tragedy of Tela Vasir".

Thanks specifically to O Pior and Tlingit97, your reviews warmed my heart, and I hope you continue to enjoy what I put out there!

Next time: Chapter 48: Extinction (Part 1)