It could have been any seedy bar out in the Terminus systems. Aliens from dozens of species congregated imbibing their choice of intoxicating beverage. A lone human sat at the bar, an unusual sight this far from Alliance space. Still, none of the other patrons paid any attention to the human in the brown coat drowning himself into a pleasant stupor.
An average looking human with brown hair, blue eyes and a scraggly beard on his face. Pete Blythe was one of the few independent human captains this far out into Terminus space. Though he probably had good reason to steer clear of the Alliance military. Blythe was a Command Candidate school wash-out. Expelled for tampering with a simulator. Blythe was determined to pull a win out of that sim, even if it cost him his future. If it was one thing he hated, it was losing.
Since expulsion he took the remains of his inheritance and bought a ship, named it Serenity, and began taking on any cargo or ferry contracts that came his way. He wasn't much unlike the privateers of sixteenth century Earth. Taking on whatever jobs came his way, even if they weren't always lawful. That wasn't to say he didn't have any morals, he didn't traffic slaves. It's just that the Citadel council and most of civilized space would frown upon a few of his contracts.
Which is what brought Blythe to this particular hive of scum and treachery. He had just finished his latest gig, hauling medical supplies for some Salarian doctor. He found it odd the doctor would be setting up free clinics, but some idealistic Salarian's credits were as good as anyone else's. Still, with the job done, Blythe sat at a bar and worked his way through his latest paycheck.
Blythe should have known better than to get so drunk, especially in territory known for not being the most hospitable to humans. Three cross looking Batarians approached Blythe from behind.
"When the hell did they start letting human filth in this place?" asked the middle Batarian to anyone who'd listen. "First you take our worlds in the Skyllian Verge, now you want to start encroaching in the Terminus systems?"
Blythe coolly turned around on his barstool, his brown coat hiding his combat hardsuit and his custom-made SMG. "I think you fellows have me mistaken for someone that gives a shit."
"You dare speak to us like that human?"
"Hey," said Blythe trying to appeal to the Batarians' civility, assuming they had any. "I'm just trying to enjoy a few drinks here in peace. Why don't you go find someone whose willing to fight?"
No sooner had Blythe traded barbs, one of the other two Batarians quickly charged the bar and knocked Blythe off his stool sending him sprawling into a nearby table with a couple Salarians seated at it. He drunkenly picked himself up and brushed bits of broken glass from his brown coat and staggered out of the bar. Not that Blythe customarily took that kind of garbage, but he was sober enough to know he was too drunk to get in a fight with three Batarians.
His ship, Serenity was just a short distance from the watering hole. Which was convenient especially given the benders Blythe was known to go on. However, as he began keying his access code into the airlock he noticed a young Quarian female sitting on some nearby crates.
"Can I help you?" grunted Blythe.
The Quarian said nothing in response but pointed to herself, to which Blythe replied with a quick nod. "I'm not looking for crew, nor do I have any spare parts for sale."
The girl just nervously fidgeted wringing her hands in front of her, "Actually, I was wondering if you were available for hire."
"What and where?"
"I need safe passage to the Citadel."
Blythe thought about that for a minute, he hadn't been getting any paid work sitting on this rock for three weeks, and even though he knew Quarians weren't exactly flush with credits, she made for an excuse to get to more civilized territory.
"Sounds like an easy enough job," said Blythe, "you're not in any sort of trouble around here are you? Last thing I need is a bunch of pissed off mercs trying to blow my ass to dust."
The Quarian looked around, it didn't take a behaviorist to tell she was agitated about something. Blythe merely dismissed her fidgeting as just apprehension towards booking passage on a strange ship captained by a stranger.
"No, I'm not in any sort of trouble, at least not with the local mercs." She said.
"So, you are in trouble then."
The Quarian nervously fidgeted looking around to see if any prying eyes or ears were nearby. "I am in trouble, but I can't say with whom. All I know is that I found something that they don't want me to have." She paused for a moment, observing Blythe's expression. "Does it make a difference?"
Blythe shook his head, almost in disapproval, but what he said next was surprising. "No, I guess it doesn't. You wouldn't be the first passenger I've been shot at over. I doubt you're gonna be the last."
"I…. I don't have many credits, most don't want to hire a Quarian for honest labor."
Blythe just shrugged it off as though it were nothing. "Hell, I needed an excuse to get off this shit-hole anyway."
Blythe carefully keyed in his access code to the ship, making sure no one overlooked his keystrokes. The door whined open revealing a dingy and empty cargo bay. For a ship with the name serenity, the cargo bay looked anything but. The walls almost seemed oppressive and the floor and walls had a myriad of odd stains about them.
"Sorry about the mess," said Blythe has he carefully avoided small piles of dung on the floor, "My last job was hauling some illegal livestock. Cheapskate clients barely paid enough for the fuel, didn't leave any left over for a cleaning service."
"Thankfully my suit's air filters can block the transmission of odors."
Blythe smirked a bit and motioned towards the nearby open lift in the cargo bay, "This way to your cabin."
The Quarian followed Blythe into the ship, the door led into the vessel's main cargo hold. It wasn't tremendously large, but the captain did not seem like the kind to tackle very large transport jobs in the first place.
"Sorry we aren't one of those fancy luxury liners." Said Blythe almost with a hint of sarcasm. Most passengers he picked up didn't care about the accomodations aboard his ship, just that he was discrete.
"How old is this ship?" asked the Quarian.
"Fuck if I know, bought it used off some shifty Volus on Omega." Replied Blythe as he proceded up the stairs to one of the narrow corridors off the catwalk. "Little bastard tried to put a defective mass effect core in it before I took delivery."
"I don't think I want to know how you remedied the situation." Said the Quarian nervously.
The two finally approached the passenger cabins and Blythe opened one up to let the Quarian take a look inside. Much to her surprise, the room was very well kept. Fresh linens were snugly made over the bed, the waste disposal unit and wash basin were also sparkling clean. The size of the room itself was little more than a closet, but it would do.
"You mind if I ask you something?" asked Blythe.
"What is it?" replied the Quarian.
"Out of all the ships in port here, why would you pick the only human captain? How do you know I'm not just going to sell you off to some Batarians or something?"
The girl nervously thought for a moment, picking her words carefully. "You're not the first captain I asked. Most ships don't want a Quarian on board in any capacity."
"There something you're not telling me? I know your kind always wear those suits, and that's pretty much all I know."
"Well, we wear the suits because my entire race has been confined to the sterile environment of our starships for three centuries. It sometimes makes things difficult for ship captains, having to worry about us getting sick. We have also gained an un-deserved reputation as thieves and scavengers."
"Well, you're the first Quarian I've ever met, so as long as you keep to yourself and don't take anything I don't think there'll be a problem. Oh, and there's one more thing I forgot to ask. What is your name? I can't just call you 'Quarian' can I?"
"My name is Tali, Tali'Zorah nar Rayya."
"Feel free to look around the ship Tali, I'm going to check everything before we dust off."
Blythe left the passenger compartment and made his way back down to check the engine room of the ship, making sure nothing would explode as soon as the engine powered up. Most everything checked out. He was almost finished with his work when he heard the buzzer at the main cargo hatch ring.
Blythe dropped what he was doing and assumed whomever was waiting at the hatch wished to inquire about his services. He already agreed to take Tali to the citadel gratis, but it never hurt to have a few paying fares to drop off along the way. He was a bit surprised to see two rather well dressed Asari standing outside.
"May I help you ladies?" asked Blythe through a crack in the door.
"Are you the captain of this vessel?" asked one of the Asari.
Blythe merely nodded in response.
"My sister and I would like to secure passage aboard your ship to Thessia."
"I already have a fare going to the Citadel, if you can stand a layover I can take you to Thessia, or you can pick up another transport to get you the rest of the way."
"A thousand credits each to get you to the Citadel, fifteen hundred each to Thessia. Discretion will cost you extra. The fee does not include other expenses like docking surcharges and fuel."
"If you can get us to the Citadel that will be acceptable."
"Just one more thing, I will need one hundred percent payment, in advance."
Neither Asari said anything in reply to Blythe's request, however they glanced at each other and eventually the one to Blythe's left presented her credit chit. Blythe carefully scanned the chit with his Omni-tool and verified the funds.
Having been satisfied everything was in order Blythe motioned for the two to enter the ship. "If you ladies follow me I'll show you to your cabins.
The two Asari followed Blythe up to the passenger deck. He showed them to two rooms across the corridor from where he had assigned the Quarian.
"Is this it?" asked one of the Asari.
"I'm sorry princess," said Blythe sarcastically, "this ain't a luxury barge like you Asari are used to traveling on. However, I'll keep that in mind next time I have passengers."
"I apologize for my sister," said the other Asari with a look of disapproval towards the other. "These quarters are acceptable. You made mention of another fare going to the Citadel."
"Yeah, a Quarian booked passage with me just before you two got here. Now I know that the rest of you aliens don't much care for their kind. I assure you that she will not disrupt your trip."
Just as Blythe finished, the two Asari turned to each other and nodded. Their bodies instantly radiated a blue glow and they slammed Blythe against the bulkhead on the opposite side of the corridor.
Captain Blythe, a man who had just spent an inordinate amount of time drinking, never could have seen the two Asari commandoes coming his way. He fell limp to the deck and remained there motionless for several hours. Fortunately, the Asari did not notice the combat hardsuit Blythe had neglected to remove when coming back on board. Luckily it protected him from much of the kinetic energy used against him. He groggily rubbed the back of his head feeling a slight lump where his skull had struck the bulkhead. He quickly checked his Omni-tool and found that apart from a splitting headache and some bruises he was fine. Though his assailants didn't know this.
Blythe slowly got to his feet, he checked his side for his SMG finding its absence unsettling. He then rifled through a pocket on the inside of his coat and retrieved an antique Earth firearm. It was a few centuries old, but well maintained. Most other species that found it on his person wouldn't have paid much mind to such a relic. However, when someone was looking for weapons, even being left with a two hundred year old pistol was more than enough. One unfortunate problem is acquiring two hundred year old ammunition. Actually, for Blythe that wasn't so much of a problem.
Blythe's background in the Alliance navy was mostly in engineering and computer systems. However, he at one time had greater aspirations, that of ship's captain. However, with that dream now gone Blythe had used his talents for other pursuits. Notably illegally modifying his Omni-tool to fabricate for him customized ammunition to use in this ancient weapon.
Blythe gently gripped the weapon in his left hand and pulled the slide back chambering a round. He turned off the safety and carefully made his way out of the corridor.
Upon reaching the stairs that ran up the ship's decks Blythe heard the two Asari bickering with each other.
"He said the Quarian was here." Said one who was most annoyed at their situation.
"Maybe we could have asked the captain where she was had you not killed him!" replied the other.
"The door is still sealed from when the captain let us on board, she couldn't have gotten far. This ship isn't that big."
Blythe realized the Quarian was in trouble. Though he was curious as to why two Asari would be willing to risk collateral damage to get her. One thing was for certain being slammed against a bulkhead deserved an answer.
Serenity didn't always haul legitimate cargo, as such Blythe had installed numerous compartments in the ship that were protected by small mass effect fields, hiding their presence. To most customs agents, the compartments just appeared to be more bulkhead. Last he checked there was nothing illegal about reinforcing your ship's hull.
Blythe realized his special compartments would be a logical place to hide, assuming the Quarian was as smart as he figured she was. He ran back to the passenger cabin corridor and lifted a floor grate, attempting to make as little sound as possible. He used his Omni-tool to trigger the compartment to open revealing the Quarian nervously huddled down in the pit with a shotgun pointed right at Blythe.
"What the fuck are you into girl?" hissed Blythe as he trained his pistol on her.
"I found something," said Tali.
"Whatever you found must be important enough to send two Asari commandoes to kill you, and the damn fool caught in the middle."
"Did you hear about the attack on Eden Prime?" asked Tali
"Yeah, but it's not that I care about some colony out in the traverse."
"Well, the Geth didn't act alone. They were working with a rogue council spectre, Saren. I found this out when I managed to analyze the memory core of a Geth I ambushed."
Blythe put his pistol back in its pocket and helped Tali out of the smuggling compartment. "Fuck, a Spectre of all things."
Blythe replaced the deck grate and redrew his pistol, "What the hell were you doing this far out? I thought you Quarians kept to yourselves."
"I am on Pilgrimage."
Blythe responded with a puzzled look, "You trying to find religeon or something?"
"No, it's not like that. When young Quarians reach adulthood they leave the fleet and find something useful to bring back. This secures our place in our society."
Before Tali could continue Blythe shushed her, "Forget I asked."
Blythe then motioned for her to come with him they exited the passenger cabins and made their way up to the vessel's cramped control room. The pilot and co-pilot seats were tandem to each other with the pilot sitting above and behind the co-pilot.
"Will the door stop them?" asked Tali.
"You mean will it stop two Asari biotics that are no doubt pissed off we're about to get the fuck out of here? Probably not. Though the only other alternative is to let them kill us and this will go a lot faster with your help. That is if you know how to get this ship from cold to hot in under 15 minutes."
"Please," said Tali, "I'm a Quarian. With my Omni-tool and a little Element Zero I can have a lump of scrap metal making precision jumps."
"Well, we'll see how willing you are to brag about your talents if those Asari get in here."
"Are you always this negative?"
"Being positive gets you killed out here darlin'. I'd actually like to live to see a century."
"Doesn't sound like much of a life." Said Tali as her fingers furiously worked over the ship's controls. "I'm green over here, you?"
Blythe kept prepping the ship for launch. "Still working, in fact your swift handling of your tasks has me thinking about changing my tune." Blythe then slammed his fist on the console resulting in several lights going green in the cockpit. "Looks like we're good here."
Blythe slowly pushed the throttles forward, but as he did so nearly every warning warning message on his console began popping up.
"Here I thought they'd just try to break down the door and kill us." Said Blythe.
"They've sabotaged reactor containment. I could fix it, provided there weren't any Asari trying to kill us." Said Tali.
Blythe stood up from his seat and unholstered his pistol. "I suppose you know how to use that Shotgun you keep strapped to your backside?" he asked of the Quarian.
"Better than you'd think." Replied Tali.
"Good, let's hope we can stop them before they do any iireparable damage."
"Captain," said Tali, once again as nervous as ever. "I wasn't completely up front with you about all this. I'm sorry."
Blythe's face remained expressionless, "Forget about it kid, not your fault." He said almost warmly.
The two proceded out of Serenity's cockpit and carefully walked down the corridor towards the engine room. However, when Blythe reached the end he was immediately struck in the face by the gloved fist of one of the Asari. The blow wasn't tremendous, but Blythe still hadn't fully recovered from being slammed against a bulkhead earlier in the day. He sprawled to the floor with blood trickling from his mouth.
Tali looked over at the Captain with concern, then she turned her attention back to the Asari. She sent out two bursts from her shotgun clipping both Commandoes but not neutralizing their biotic barriers. She then felt the searing pain of bullets striking her upper right arm. Alarms displayed on the inside of her mask alerted her to the potential contamination hazard and clamped down section seals almost instantly. Unfortunately her wound was substantial enough she was unable to properly wield her shotgun. Two more rounds left the barrel striking harmlessly on the bulkhead behind the Asari.
Before Tali could take cover she was struck with a biotic warp. Her slender frame crashing to the deck with a very sharp thud. She reached for her pistol and tried her best to aim with her left hand. Thankfully she managed to strike the closer of the two Asari in the head sending her slumping to the floor.
The second Asari glanced at her fallen comrade and then kicked Tali's pistol out of her hand and trained her own weapon on her.
"Hey she-bitch!" came Blythes voice from behind the Asari. The blue-skinned alien turned around but before she could realize who was behind her a cloud of violet blood erupted from her skull as the five point seven millimeter slug from Blythe's antique pistol created a sizable new hole in her forehead.
Satisfied that both Asari were dead Blythe immediately turned his attentions to his remaining passenger who was now lying in a good quantity of her own blood. He quickly scanned her with his Omni-tool noting that some of the bullets had pierced a sizable artery. Unfortunately any other information was useless since Blythe was no field medic. He quickly keyed his tool to dispense what little medi-gel he had on hand to seal up her wounds.
Tali stirred a bit as the medi-gel was applied, "Hold still kiddo, you've taken quite a hit." Said Blythe trying to sound as reassuring as he could be.
Tali slowly turned her head to the captain who had a sizable amount of blood dribbling down his chin. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Blythe turned his head to his right and spat a sizable wad of blood and sputum along with a couple teeth. "Nothing the dentist can't fix I don't think. Though my head feels like it's had a dreadnought land on it."
Blythe said nothing more as he got to his feet. Once satisfied Tali was stable he scooped the young woman from the floor and carried her back to her cabin. He gently laid her down on the bed.
"I'm not much of a medic," he said, "just try to hold on till I can get us to the Citadel.
By that time Tali had lost conciousness, but her breathing was good and from what Blythe could gather from his Omni-tool she was stable. He quietly left the room and set to making the repairs and cleaning up the remains of the two Asari.
Tali didn't wake up until several hours later in a room she had never been in. However it was obvious from the furnishings that it was a medical facility.
"Mister Blythe," came a female voice, "She's awake."
"You're tougher than you look kid." Said Blythe with a slight lisp, no doubt from some emergency dental work he had done while she was asleep. "I've seen Krogan go down with less."
"Where am I?" asked Tali groggily.
"You're on the Citadel," said the woman, "I'm Doctor Michel. You had lost a lot of blood, but fortunately Mister Blythe got you here quickly."
"You gonna be alright from here kid?" asked Blythe.
Tali sat up slowly on the bed, "I… I think I will be."
"Well, it's been fun knowing ya, but I gotta find some paying work so I can have my ship cleaned." Blythe turned to the doctor, "We square doc?"
"Yes Mister Blythe, your payment has cleared your account." Said the doctor.
"Wait captain," said Tali.
Blythe turned back towards her "I reckon by now we can get past my title. Name's Pete."
"Pete, thank you, for everything."
"Don't mention it kid, and I mean that, can't have charity cases lining up outside my ship every time I make berth." With that Blythe made his way out of the clinic and back out to the wards.
2 years later…
Tali, and Shepard walked hand in hand along one of the Presidium's lush gardens admiring the multi-colored flowers. It felt good to unwind after all they had recently been through. The Collectors had been defeated, but both of them knew this was merely the eye of the hurricane. So it was imperative the two of them made the most of moments like this.
"Excuse me, Commander Shepard?" said a human man dressed in a sharp business suit carrying a briefcase.
Shepard turned towards the man, "Can I help you?"
The human almost seemed to not acknowledge Shepard and quickly turned towards Tali, "Then I presume you're Tali'Zorah nar Rayya."
"Actually its vas Normandy now." She replied with a nod.
"Apologies, my name is Charles Finley. I am an attorney with the lawfirm Poole and Schmidt."
"Attorney?" said Tali inquisitively.
"Attorneys are specially trained people that handle matters of law." Said Shepard. "What's this all about Mister Finley, is Tali in some sort of legal trouble with Earth now?"
The other human furrowed his brow in an expression of disapproval, "Actually I represent a Mister Renfro Peter Blythe."
"Never heard of him." Said Shepard.
Tali jumped slightly at hearing that name. "I met a Pete Blythe once."
"Yes, Mister Blythe was commonly referred to by his shortened middle name."
"Who is that Tali?" asked Shepard.
"He was the captain of the ship that brought me to the Citadel before we first met. I was shot and he got me to Doctor Michel for treatment. I didn't think I'd ever see him again."
"I regret to inform you Miss Tali'Zorah that Mister Blythe passed away roughly four months ago. We would have contacted you sooner, however contacting the Quarian migrant fleet is somewhat difficult. We hoped to find you through Commander Shepard once we heard of his return."
"How did he die?" asked Tali.
"Mister Blythe had an undiagnosed Cerebral Aneurysm that suddenly ruptured, unfortunately he was unable to get to medical facility for treatment."
"That explains who sent you, but what are you doing here?" asked Shepard.
"I am the executor of Mister Blythe's estate, Commander. He had no living relatives and he felt that, I quote, 'anyone else I know would just piss my money away on booze and loose women'. Miss Tali'Zorah is his sole heir."
"What does that mean Shepard?" asked Tali.
"It's a human tradition that when we die we give our possessions to friends and loved ones."
"When my mother died, father and I only kept things of hers that we absolutely could use. The rest we put out in a public area on the ship."
"Mister Blythe had a sizable investment portfolio as well as several valuables he kept stored in safety deposit boxes and storehouses on Earth."
"How much are we talking about?" asked Shepard.
"I am afraid that I am only permitted to share that information with Tali'Zorah."
"It's okay Mister Finley. Anything you can say to me, you can say to Shepard."
' "Very well, however, might I suggest we discuss the particulars of this matter in a more private setting?"
"We can take a shuttle to the Normandy." Said Shepard as he motioned towards a nearby rapid transit terminal.
Once aboard the Normandy and in the debriefing room Finley set immediately to work removing several data pads from his briefcase.
"Let's see, there is the registration of Mister Blythe's vessel, Serenity. If you would provide me your thumb print Miss Tali'Zorah I can transfer the ownership of the vessel and all its contents over to you."
Tali nervously fidgeted showing the lawyer her gloved hands.
"I'm afraid I must insist."
Tali looked over to Shepard who gave her a nod of approval and Tali carefully activated her wrist seal and removed her glove. She gently placed her thumb upon a reader embedded in the pad.
"Next we have Mister Blythe's bank accounts the sum of which comes to fifteen million one hundred eighty thousand two hundred eight credits."
Tali gasped at the amount, no Quarian had ever had that many credits, at least not since the exile. She felt it odd considering Blythe's obsession with obtaining work. Finley laid a second datapad in front of her which she once again presented her thumb.
"Now Mister Blythe's investment portfolio whose current market value totals over six hundred million credits."
Tali steadied herself against the table, "Keelah! That's more credits than the entire migrant fleet has. Where did he get all this money?"
"Mister Blythe's family owned a sizable portion of Earth's remaining arable farmland in addition to holding several patents on crop hybrids and hydroponic technologies. He no longer has any stake in those ventures."
Finley sifted through the datapads having Tali press her thumb against each one. She hadn't ever seen this much fuss over a dead person's belongings. Nearly a dozen pads passed before her, she hoped EDI was watching over her shoulder and would let her know if she was agreeing to anything that wasn't on the up and up.
"Commander," said Finley, "since Tali'Zorah is not an Alliance citizen we require verification of her identity from a credible third party. Can I assume that you will attest that she is whom she says she is?"
"Yes Mister Finley."
"If I could just get your thumbprint on this pad, this is the affidavit attesting to Tali'Zorah's identity." Finley waited for Shepard to produce his thumb befor he packed up all the documents in his briefcase and closed it. "Thank you both, this concludes our business. My firm will contact you if we require any additional information. Have a pleasant day."
Finley didn't wait to be shown the way out of the ship, instead he quickly left the briefing room to no doubt leave the ship.
For Tali all of this was a bit to take in all at once. Never had she ever thought any Quarian would have that much wealth. It was a bit much for her to process.
EDI's lavender hologram popped up at the front of the table. "Tali, if you wish I can aid you in managing your newly acquired Assets."
"I didn't think that was in your job description EDI." Said Shepard.
"Due to Cerberus' clandestine nature the Illusive man had me programmed with a full suite of financial regulations and practices in case he was otherwise unable to manage Cerberus' finances. These protocols were sealed until Jeff linked me to the Normandy's systems."
"Thank you EDI," said Tali, "I would appreciate that. But I don't know what I'm supposed to do with all of this. Everything I ever wanted is here on the Normandy."
"Would the fleet be able to make use of it?" asked Shepard.
"Yes, but I'm afraid that the Admirals would fight over its distribution among the ships in the migrant fleet."
"Well, obviously this all did just fine sitting in limbo, I think it can wait a while longer. Till you decide what to do."
"I do know that the Migrant fleet can make use of the ship. From what I remember it wasn't much newer than what we currently have. But it'd mean more space for people."
"I guess that just leaves one thing." Said Shepard with a crooked smile.
"What would that be?"
"Would dinner be on you tonight Miss vas Normandy?"
Tali giggled a little at Shepard's sarcasm. "Very funny Shepard."
Shepard leaned in giving Tali a gentle hug, the two of them lingered for a few more minutes, but Tali couldn't help but wonder why Pete would have given her all of this. Perhaps that question was better left unanswered.