*Warning – Spoilers Below*

Feels strange writing a foreword to a story some twenty chapters in but new readers are popping up every day so I feel the need to perhaps explain a few things in advance to all those who have yet to be subjected to my drivelling. I'm not a fan of author's notes spliced into every chapter so the way I see it, I'll explain myself with a big spiel at the beginning and then leave you to enjoy the story uninterrupted.

I first started writing this ME2 fanfic all the way back in February 2010. I'd finished and been deeply affected by the game, as I had been the first one, and it spurred me on to try out my as of yet untested writing skills on a real audience. Yes, it was all simply a big experiment at first and when I tried to end it, after 8 or 9 chapters, I was inundated with frenzied cries of 'heresy!'. Needless to say, that was both flattering and daunting in equal measure as I hadn't really planned the story out that much. Still, I put fingers to keys and the updates have been rolling out steadily, if not quite consistently, every since.

Dark Rendition was borne out of my true experiences of Mass Effect. Right from the very first playthrough of the first game I was in love. The storyline, characters, settings, all appealed to me in every way. Moreover, the prospect of lasting consequences for my actions was an amazing thing at the time and greatly flavoured my attitude towards the game.

I've seen a great deal in my relatively young life. Some of those things I'd give anything to see again while others I wish I hadn't in the first place. Still, there is one overriding tenet that I believe in. We are all only human and not one of us is perfect. Not only that but I believe that because we aren't perfect, harsh decisions and actions are sometimes necessary to achieve a greater goal.

I'm firmly set in the camp that believes the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prevented a greater death toll of soldiers and civilians on both sides. It doesn't make the events in question any less tragic – indeed it makes it more tragic that it was necessary.

Mass Effect was unique in that it posed these moral dilemmas to you regularly. The rachni, a species that once threatened every Citadel race, are given a chance to thrive once again. In reality would you be so quick to let them do so? Would you take the risk? Decisions such as these can have far reaching and often unintended consequences and it was in this frame of mind – what would I do? – that formed the basis of my ME experience.

There is, however, a greater purpose behind Dark Rendition. Tali Zorah was always fascinating, attractive and fun in the first game but as she was not available for romance Liara T'soni took her place as the chief focus of my affections and I thought nothing more of it. Then came Mass Effect 2 and something extraordinary happened. You lost everyone and everything and found yourself looking at the faces of strangers while all those you once know and treasured effectively shunned you.

It was a huge shock for me and set the mood for the whole game. Liara's cold shoulder was especially jarring and even the release of the Shadow Broker DLC couldn't make me care about her in the same way again. She had changed so much in two years (understandably so I admit) that she was no longer the precocious, naïve asari that I found so charming in ME1. Little did I know Shepard's salvation was fast approaching.

The arrival and subsequent introduction of Tali as a love interest was a stroke of pure genius. In an instant BioWare had given us a girl that had not only known us since the beginning but, like Garrus, had remained loyal enough to follow you until the end. Add that to her more obvious qualities and she was like the very rare type of love you'd find in real life. A solid, dependable friend who was under your nose the whole time – one with whom you share the deepest bonds imaginable.

I am writing Dark Rendition as a tribute to Tali. She provided an unimaginable amount of inspiration for me and, coupled with longing to show how real the feelings and themes generated by Mass Effect can be, I submit this piece of fan fiction to you all.

I make no apologies. The Commander Shepard of Dark Rendition is a man who is used to making instant, sometimes hard decisions. As an Alliance agent, as an N7-ranked officer and finally a Spectre, Shepard – like an espionage operative in real life – does not always have the luxury of morality. His first priority is the safety of the innocent, followed closely by the 'needs of the many versus the few'. That is not to say he doesn't feel remorse or bear the scars of his actions. He is simply the purest kind of hero – one who will sacrifice anything, even a piece of himself – for the greater good.

The story is dark in mood until the arrival of Tali and even then it isn't an instant change. Such change takes time and patience and isn't always successful in reality. There are strong adult themes such as addiction and depression but I hope to have portrayed them in a mature way that is relevant to the story.

Also, for the sake of length and keeping the well-known plotlines of ME2 'interesting', I have often offered my own twists on the various missions and events which has allowed me to explore inter-character dynamics in a way the game never did and has helped me to make every character, from Shepard and Tali, all the way to Garrus and Zaeed, a little more three dimensional while still keeping within the confines of canon.

Finally, and most importantly, I hope you all enjoy this story. Your support and dedication means a lot to me and it always gives me a boost to see a review come in, even if it's just to say 'it's good' or 'it sucks'. Likewise, I always enjoy meeting fellow authors to discuss various things so don't hesitate to contact me via any of the methods listed on my profile if you want to chat.

Thank you all and Keelah Se'lai!