"Hey commander, we're picking up a distress signal," Joker said from his seat on the Normandy's bridge, "Should we check it out or just notify one of the rescue ships?"
"Take us in, Joker. It's why we're here. The battle may be over, but there's a lot that still needs to be done. We need to look for survivors," Shepard responded. He was standing behind Joker.
"Aye aye Commander, taking us in. ETA two minutes."
The largest space battle in the history of the galaxy had ended today. The last remnants of the reaper fleet had finally been destroyed, and all sentient life was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that the reaper threat was over. The countless trillions that the reapers had exterminated over the last several million years had finally been vindicated. But it was too early for celebration; countless ships of the united races of the galaxy had been destroyed or severely damaged. People needed to be rescued from damaged, failing ships. Thousands of escape pods had to be gathered. Frigates like the Normandy were the most ideal ships for rescue work thanks to their relatively small size and speed.
Shepard had decided to search on the outer edges the battle area. The Normandy was among the fastest ships in the galaxy, and was the best option for searching for survivors where there was the least concentration of damaged ships.
The Normandy approached the source of the distress signal they had just received. It was another frigate, but it was severely damaged. The entire front half of it was completely missing; metal beams stuck out of it like splinters from a fractured piece of hard wood. It drifted lifelessly in space, and there was virtually no debris around it; all of it had clearly been blown away by whatever caused the ship its damage. From what was left of it, it was obvious that it was smaller frigate than the Normandy.
"Oh no…" Joker said, with some genuine sadness in his voice; a rare emotion to come from him, "It's a quarian rescue ship. Damn it…"
Shepard looked out the front of the Normandy at the dead vessel they were approaching. He sighed, and shook his head. Approaching any destroyed ship from the battle was a sad sight, but this was one of the rescue ships. During the battle, they didn't participate in the actual fighting; their job was to secure escape pods, rescue crews, and provide medical attention to survivors. Seeing one of these ships destroyed was the equivalent of finding a dead medic on a battlefield; one that probably got shot while attending to a wounded comrade.
"Get us in close. I'm taking a team with the shuttle to look for survivors," Shepard said as he turned around and walked down the Combat Information Center.
Shepard, Tali, and Garrus were now aboard the damaged quarian frigate. Their shuttle was in its cargo hold, along with a few varying escape pods from different ships, that had obviously been rescued during the battle. The shuttle had no trouble entering the docking bay of the ship; the section of the hull that provided one of its walls was completely missing.
"These support frigates typically use the crew deck to house medical staff and rescued people. That would be the best place to look for survivors," Tali informed as they stepped out of the shuttle. Shepard knew her knowledge of quarian ships and customs would come in handy. But that wasn't the main reason he brought her along. He just enjoyed having his spouse at his side on missions.
"Alright, that's our first destination then," Shepard said.
"At least the stairs are still intact," Garrus commented as they approached the primary stair well of the ship.
They arrived at a corridor on the crew deck that connected to the stair well. They noticed a dead male quarian, impaled through the back by a thin metal beam that had collapsed from the ceiling. Shepard waved his omni-tool before his body to scan for life signs. A pointless gesture, it was obvious the quarian was dead. But he deserved the respect of at least being checked. He was one of the thousands of heroes who died helping against the reapers.
Shepard noticed he was wearing an unusual colored vest; he had never seen a quarian wearing a vest like that before. As if reading Shepard's mind, Tali commented, "He was part of the medical crew. Quarian medical personnel wear vests like those in combat, to distinguish them from the others. His vest color indicates that he was one of the assistants—a nurse."
They kept moving; there was nothing that could be done for him. They reached the end of the corridor, and the pressurized door before them opened with a gust of air getting sucked into it. The primary part of the crew deck was depressurized, and it was no mystery why. At the opposite end of it, they could see the faint twinkling of stars against the blackness of space; it was the spot where the front half of the ship had seemingly been ripped right off. The crew deck was completely empty. There were no bodies or supplies or any kind of furniture. Anything, and anyone, who was in this area of the ship had obviously been lost to space when the ship received its fatal blow.
"It… doesn't look like anyone could have survived. This is terrible…" Tali said in a melancholy voice. Seeing a quarian ship in such a wrecked state, especially from the inside, was hard on her. To a quarian, there was no more terrifying, morbid sight than what was before them.
Despite there being a logical reason to bring Tali along, Shepard suddenly found himself regretting it. He knew this was very unpleasant for her to see. But he also knew she could handle it; they had to keep searching.
"Looks like there are some rooms on each side of the deck. We might find some survivors in them," Shepard said in an attempt to show some optimism, which he himself didn't really believe, "Garrus, check the rooms on the port side. Tali and I will check the starboard side."
Shepard and Tali wandered into a room that appeared to be the primary medical bay, where more serious injuries were treated and surgery was performed. It looked similar to the med-bay of the Normandy, but smaller and less sophisticated. It was heavily damaged, particularly in the ceiling where it looked like a powerful explosion had erupted. Despite the damage, the room wasn't exposed to the vacuum of space, and managed to remain pressurized.
"Must have been one of the survivors they picked up," Shepard commented, acknowledging a dead turian on the floor, laying on top of a pool of blue blood. He also scanned him, just in case, but it was no surprise when the omni-tool reported no life-signs.
"Shepard! My omni-tool is picking up something! Over here!" Tali exclaimed, heading towards the med-bay's storage room. Shepard immediately turned and moved in her direction.
They opened the door, and before them was a female quarian collapsed on the floor, against the rear wall. She wore a vest like the quarian they saw earlier, but it was a different color. There were a few bloodied medical cloths on the ground around her. Shepard found the way she laid on the floor somewhat unusual; she was in a slight fetal position, but her back was facing away from the wall. It looked like she was just trying to protect the front of her body by having it against the metal wall.
"Garrus, we found someone!" Shepard yelled into his communicator, as Tali and him quickly moved to the unconscious quarian.
Her breathing was uneven and strained; soft, quick gasps could be heard among her breaths. There was soft moan as Shepard turned her body to assess her condition. The first thing he noticed was that she had sustained a large injury to the top of her chest. The suit was heavily damaged, but it appeared that the major injury under it had been treated with medi-gel. The second thing he noticed, was her large belly.
"Oh… Keelah…" Tali whispered softly, in shock.
"EDI, tell Chakwas to get ready. I'm bringing a badly injured quarian aboard. And… I think she's pregnant," Shepard said into his communicator as Tali began to quickly seal up the pregnant quarian's damaged suit with some omni-gel.
Shepard, Tali and Garrus were now in the cargo hold of the Normandy, quickly heading towards the elevator. Shepard carried the female quarian in his arms. On the shuttle she had managed to regain consciousness, but she was in a very weak state.
"He… he didn't want me to… come along. He's… gone now, too…" the pregnant quarian moaned, as they stepped into the eleveator, "But… so few… so few doctors. I… wanted to help," she coughed weakly, "Why couldn't the battle… have been in… just a couple weeks…"
"Please, don't talk. Save your energy. You're going to be alright," Shepard said sincerely, looking down at her dim, wandering eyes. The elevator was now ascending.
"So stupid… I shouldn't have… I shouldn't have risked her…" the quarian's voice began to waver, "I thought we'd… be okay… the ship doesn't attack… but… I was… so stupid!" Her voice cracked, and sudden gasps could be heard as she began to weakly cry under her mask.
"It's going to be okay…" Tali said as she took her hand, trying to comfort her, "Our medic is very knowledgeable on quarians. You'll be okay."
"No… but she can be… please take… t-take…" the quarian moaned and drifted off as she lost consciousness. The elevator doors opened; they were now on deck three.
"Damnit, stay with me!" Shepard yelled as he stepped out of the elevator and ran towards the med-bay.
Chakwas was already prepared and wearing a sealed medical suit and breathing mask; a precaution for her quarian patient. Shepard placed the quarian on the medical bed that had been prepared for her, and immediately stepped back, getting out of the way.
"I'm staying here with Chakwas. She'll need an assistant, and I can help with suit removal," Tali said.
"Good idea," Shepard responded, "I'm going to head back to the ship with Garrus and look for other survivors," he added. He felt weird about leaving; it felt like he was abandoning a mission. But he knew there was nothing he could help with. It was up to Chakwas, and Tali, now.
Two hours passed, and Shepard once again stepped out of the Normandy's elevator, heading towards the med-bay. This time he wasn't carrying anyone—he had found no other survivors on the ship. The med-bay door automatically opened and he stepped inside. The female quarian was no longer in the room, but he already knew she hadn't survived. He had been informed of that a while ago, while searching the damaged ship with Garrus. Her body was now in a metal coffin, within the cargo hold of the Normandy.
Tali and Chakwas—who was now out of her medical suit—sat near each other, next to Chakwas' desk. Chakwas looked up at Shepard as he approached, but Tali hadn't even noticed someone entered the room. Her attention was focused entirely on what she held in her arms. A newly born quarian baby.
The baby was inside an uneven, somewhat misshapen 'bubble' primarily made out of a thick, transparent plastic wrapping. A large patch of quarian suit fabric made up almost half of the bubble's underside, and attached to it were small life-support systems. The metal, circular component found on quarian faceplates was also attached to the bubble. Someone—obviously Tali—had put together a makeshift environmental unit with the various life-support and climate control systems from the mother's suit. It was all held together with seams of omni-gel.
"At least this wasn't a complete tragedy," Shepard commented, referring to the infant in Tali's arms. Tali turned her head, finally realizing he was in the room. She then looked back down at the baby.
"The mother's injuries were too great, Commander. There was nothing I could do to save her. I had to perform cesarean section to save the child. She seems to only be about a week or two early," Doctor Chakwas informed.
Shepard pulled up a chair and sat down right next to Tali, looming over slightly to get a good look at the baby. She was asleep and her body was wrapped in a green towel. Shepard didn't bother asking about the environmental bubble she was in. It was obvious who put it together, and what purpose it served.
"It shouldn't surprise me, but… she looks so much like a human infant. The large head and eyes, the short, chubby limbs…" Shepard's words ended with a quiet chuckle. He smiled as he looked over her.
"She's so beautiful…" Tali said quietly, her attention remained focused on the baby she very gently rocked in her arms.
Chakwas looked at them, and couldn't help but see something very familiar with how they looked right now. Shepard and Tali sitting next to each other, with a baby in Tali's arms; they looked so much like the classic representation of a nuclear family. A father, a mother, and a child. A warm smile appeared on Chakwas' face as she realized this.
The door of the med-bay once again opened, and Garrus stepped inside. He immediately noticed the baby in Tali's arms, with Shepard right next to her.
"Looks like you've pulled off the impossible yet again, Shepard."
"What do you mean?" Shepard turned his head toward Garrus.
"You and Tali now have a kid. I should've known something as simple as amino-acid chirality wouldn't stop you," Garrus joked.
"Yeah, laugh it up uncle Garrus," Shepard said amused, sarcastically playing along.
"Uncle Garrus? I like the sound of that," Garrus replied, pointing with his finger in sync with his words.
"Don't get too attached to the name, Garrus, we should be able to reach the flotilla in a few days," Shepard said.
Tali immediately turned her head to look at Shepard, but he was still facing Garrus so he didn't notice. Tali then slowly turned her head back towards the baby.
Chakwas noticed her reaction, however. Tali had been holding and attending to the infant since her birth. While Tali hadn't mentioned it, and her mask prevented Chakwas from seeing her facial expressions, she had a very good idea what was going through Tali's mind. She decided Shepard and her should be alone.
"Excuse me, Commander," Chakwas said as she stood up from her chair. "I'm feeling a bit tired, I'm going to go rest for a while. I want to be ready if we find other survivors. But please, let me know if the baby needs anything."
"Thank you, doctor," Shepard responded as she walked by.
Chakwas walked past Garrus as she headed towards the med-bay door, and lightly gave him a quick bump with her elbow, signaling he should let them be alone. Garrus immediately took the hint.
"I just remembered, there's some… work I need to finish. I'll see you two later," Garrus said with some slight hesitation, making up his excuse as he went along.
"See you later, Garrus," Shepard said. He was slightly curious as to what work Garrus had right now, but he didn't care enough to bring it up.
Shepard and Tali were now alone in the med-bay, Tali still holding the baby in her arms with Shepard sitting right next to her.
"So there were no other survivors?" Tali asked after a short period of silence. She already knew they hadn't found anyone else—Shepard messaged earlier, letting her know they hadn't.
"No, there was no one," Shepard sighed quietly. "We did find a terminal. Garrus and I wasted like ten minutes trying to hack into it; we couldn't figure out why it wouldn't let us log into the ship's main computer."
"Oh no…" Tali said with some light amusement, realizing what he was getting at. They couldn't log into the ship's computer, because there was no computer. It would've been located on the ship's bridge, which had been destroyed.
Knowing Tali had already figured it out, "I'm just too used to you taking care of all the technical things," Shepard tried to justify his goof, "Anyway, the point is we couldn't get any information on the ship. We couldn't get its crew roster, and we couldn't even find out the ship's name," there was light frustration in his voice as his sentence ended. He sighed again.
"Don't feel bad, dear. There was nothing we could have done. And like you said earlier, it wasn't a complete tragedy," Tali consoled, rocking the child with slightly more enthusiasm. She then turned her head, and looked right at Shepard, "Would you… like to hold her?"
Shepard hesitated for a short while before finally holding out his arms. Tali then gently began to hand the bubble to him. He chuckled in a somewhat nervous manner as Tali left the child in his arms. The baby fidgeted slightly during the transition, but remained asleep.
"I've never held an infant before. She's so… light," Shepard said. He grinned as he looked down at her.
"She's a very healthy weight. You're just used to carrying grenade launchers and heavy things like that," Tali quipped.
"You're right," Shepard responded. He found himself in thought over her words. Ever since the reaper threat began with Saren, he had battled and fought more than ever before in his life. But it was over now, and he realized that the galaxy won't quite need him as much anymore. "Maybe now that the reaper threat is over… I'll finally get a break from carrying heavy things like that."
Tali had been looking at the child as they talked, but she looked up at Shepard upon hearing those words. She wondered if he was thinking what had already occurred to her: that they should keep this child.
"Hey… I just realized something," Shepard suddenly commented, his voice noticeably cheerier than before, "She was born on the Normandy. That means she's… 'nar Normandy.'"
Tali scooted her chair a little closer, and rested her head on Shepard's shoulder; she looked down at the baby he held in his arms.
"You're right Shepard… she is child of Normandy."
There was a short period of silence after their realization, and then Shepard said, "So… on the Flotilla. Would she… keep that name, or would it be changed?"
The way he spoke gave her some optimism that maybe he wanted to keep her too, but Tali sighed hearing his question; he had again brought up taking her to the Flotilla. She found herself not wanting to say goodbye to the baby, even though she knew it was stupid, selfish, and impossible for them to keep her.
"Normally children keep their birth ship name, even when they're adopted," Tali finally answered, "They do take the parent's clan name however. But, her… adoptive parents may choose to change her birth ship name. Especially since, well, 'Normandy' isn't a quarian name."
Tali thought for a few seconds before continuing, "She… may not even get adopted. There's going to be so many orphans after this war. So many…" she sighed, "They'll have to set up large orphanages on the liveships. That's where she'll likely be raised."
"She'll be the only 'nar Normandy' in the entire flotilla, then…" Shepard commented. He seemed to be somewhat deep in thought as he spoke; as he looked down at the baby.
He brought her in closer to his body and held her against his torso with one arm, freeing the other one. He used his now free hand to very gently push down on the transparent material of the bubble, until his fingers finally landed on her chest. He couldn't feel her skin, not between the material of the bubble and the towel her body was wrapped in, but he still smiled from touching her tiny body with his fingers.
Tali positioned her hand over Shepard's. He initially thought she was also going to touch the baby, but her hand just landed on his, and held it while his fingers very delicately stroked the baby's chest and belly.
"She's very special…" Shepard said earnestly, "Today the reaper threat ended. This is the most important day in the history of the galaxy. She's so special to have been born on this day."
Shepard felt a subtle chill of tingles run up his neck as he realized this. She seemed more than just a normal infant. In a way, she represented the triumph over the reapers. She was life that had sprouted in a place and time where it should have been impossible. She was a miracle.
"And on this ship…" Tali added. She hesitated for a short while before continuing, "There will never be another quarian child born here…"
Shepard turned his head away from the baby, and looked at Tali. She lifted her head from his shoulder, and just stared back, right into his eyes. Shepard realized what she was referring to; the fact that it is biologically impossible for the two of them to ever have a child of their own.
Tali recalled what she thought earlier, that it was stupid and selfish for her to want them to keep this child. But she just now realized something, as she looked into Shepard's eyes: those were the exact same thoughts she had years ago, on the original Normandy, when she began to develop feelings for him. She thought it was impossible, stupid, and selfish for her ever be in a relationship with him. Yet she had never been more wrong in her life—they were now together as lifemates, and enjoyed a wonderful, healthy relationship together. One that couldn't be any better, even if they were the same race.
She decided not to stay quiet this time. She wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.
"Shepard, what Garrus said earlier…" She started to say, but wasn't sure how to finish. She then noticed a subtle smile appear on Shepard's face.
"…His joke about us now having a kid," Shepard finished her sentence. The smile on his face grew. He already knew exactly what she was thinking. And it was the same thing he had been thinking for a while now as well, ever since he realized that with the reaper threat being over, the galaxy wouldn't quite need them as much.
"Right. And also what you said… about finally getting a break from fighting, since the reapers—"
Tali was interrupted as Shepard reached with the hand that had been on the baby's chest, and removed her mask. He then leaned in, and gave her a soft, intimate kiss. As the kiss ended, they both looked at each other lovingly. Shepard knew exactly what she wanted; and it was what he wanted, too.
"Tell me, Tali'Shepard vas Normandy, what do you think we should call her?"
Tali's heart skipped a beat and she felt a burst of joy within her from Shepard's words. A new chapter in their life had just begun. A chapter they once thought would never be written.
"Raela..." Tali answered with a great deal of happiness in her voice.
Shepard just grinned, and looked back down at the infant. He noticed she was now awake. He sighed happily, and whispered.
"Raela'Shepard nar Normandy."
Raela'Shepard nar Normandy, Shepard and Tali's adopted daughter, is a character created by NuclearBuddha. You can read about her awesome adventures during her pilgrimage at his blog on Bioware's SocialNetwork website.