A/N: All right. Hello, folks, and welcome back to Mass Vexations... Or, should I say, Mass Vexations 2?

I know, I know, I said I would wait until September. But then the plot bunnies started attacking. And when the plot bunnies attack, they never leave me alone. So here I am, returning to MV2 a full half a month before I said I'd go back to it.

So... What to expect? Well, if you've read Mass Vexations 1, you'll know what to expect right now. If you haven't... Slap yourself and go read MV1. Like, right the fuck now. If you're feeling lazy, expect friendships, action scenes, banter, pop culture references, lampshading, differences between the fanfic and the game (a lot more than previously, too), and a whole bucketload of UST between me and Tali.

Oh... And prepare to lose the game. A lot.

So, without further ado... a disclaimer!

Mass Effect, it's characters, and it's setting do not belong to me. They are trademarks of EA Games and Bioware. Neither do I own any pieces mentioned. I do own myself, though; if I didn't, I'd be very afraid for society. I also own any OC's that I do not disclaim about in the chapter they appear. I'll let you know what else needs to be disclaimed and who it belongs to as time goes on.

All right, you've been waiting...

And now, it's time for Mass Vexations 2! *fanfare*

Mass Vexations 2


A lot can happen in two years. People die. Ships get blown up. Messages are sent. Funerals are attended. Politicians lie and cover things up. Music is written and played. People sing and play instruments. Words are said. Things change. Friendships strengthen. Comm chats are had. Thoughts are thought. Words are said. Crime is committed. Food is eaten. Friends visit you on the Citadel. Shuttles are boarded. Seats are sat in.

I look out the window of the shuttle to Omega, seeing the stars as they seem to go by all around us. Has it really been more than two years since I wound up here? It feels like I've been here for an entire lifetime...

Not that that's a bad thing, though. It makes me think about how I got here.

And I do that as I munch on my buffalo varren wrap drinking a glass of Mountain Dew. I wasn't prepared for how good Mountain Dew tastes in the future, and I was definitely not prepared for how well buffalo sauce and varren go together... It's like a match made in coincidental heaven. Watching the stars really makes me think. In 2010, I could hardly see the damn things thanks to light pollution. Now that I'm here, though, I realize just how odd it is. I've only thought that I would be in a shuttle that was completely surrounded by stars within that strange dream I had in 2006 about how I somehow got into a space ship that was exterminating all organic life. And yet, here I am, heading to the wretched hive of the Mass Effect universe.

It's been two years since the first Mass Effect ended. And back then, I was pretty sure that I was not thinking of rejoining Shepard's team by taking a shuttle over to Omega to see if I can crash one of her recruitment missions. The ETA for this thing is about a full day, however, so we'll see what happens.

I just hope things go well when I finally do meet up with Shepard again...

As I sit at the shuttle, I think back to everything that's occurred over the past two years... Because a lot really has happened to me over the past two years. So much it almost feels surreal...

The first month or so went as smoothly as it could.

I did get into opera orchestra as I had hoped, and I ended up commuting to the 600 blocks all the way from the C-Sec offices just so I could do that. Oh, well. It makes me glad I used the MetroRail to go to school when I was going to high school; the Miami public railway system may have sucked (I'm pretty sure it still sucks right now, what with only going in two directions and with the local government's extraordinarily bad habit of not knowing how the fuck they should spend their dollars), but it did the job it needed to. And it made commuting across the Citadel much easier. I remember the first thing we rehearsed was Hansel and Gretel. That really brought back memories of when I did it in high school...

Composition didn't go so well. I got two scenes for the film thing that I was interested in doing. One scene was an action scene, another was not. I got the action scene down incredibly fast, and I was very proud of my results. But the second excerpt was some kind of pyre scene for one of the characters. And I had no idea where the hell I was supposed to start with that, so I considered it an especially bad case of composer's block. Meanwhile, I finished getting the octet onto my terminal, and I got it submitted to a contest somewhere on the Citadel with a performance opportunity attached. I had hoped I would win it, but I decided not to hold my breath. I had lost a couple competitions shortly before coming to the Mass Effect universe, and if the music scene in 2183 was as chaotic as it was in 2010 there was no reason for me to be overly cocky about my abilities.

Living with Garrus Vakarian was... interesting, to say the least. The first week or so I had to do a lot of reorganizing to adjust for the fact that dextro and levo amino acids are two completely different things, but once that was out of the way it was actually pretty good. Garrus, bless his heart, had a lot of things to do, so we hardly saw each other outside of his C-Sec shift. But, when we did get together it was pretty awesome. I finally got around to watching a few other movies I had anticipated back in 2010 with Garrus, and we both liked them quite a bit. So I would say it was pretty awesome, even if I never saw him. I had to carry my own weight, of course, but once my paychecks from opera orchestra started coming in that made both of our lives easier.

So life went on in a rather mundane fashion like that, and I kept on counting the days until Shepard would be reported missing, possibly killed in action.

After counting for about 35 days, it finally happened.

The first I heard about it was in a message from Tali. She was going on and on about how the Normandy had gotten destroyed, and how all the precious technology had gone to waste. It wasn't until the end of the message that Shepard dying was even mentioned at all.

And then came the news on galactic television. Shepard, killed in action? That headline occupied my thoughts basically the entire day, and not just because I knew that technically Mass Effect 2 had just started. Somehow, her death became more surreal because I had come to know her. I knew it was coming, but when it finally came, I remember just standing at the station where the shuttle to the Zakera Ward came and went every five minutes, thinking about how surreal it all was.

And somehow, the surreality of it all made me shed a few tears, even though I had promised myself long before then that I would not.

Shepard's funeral was a big event. Of course I went; it would be a disservice to her if I didn't. And I'm also glad that I was crying actual tears. I bumped into most of the old crew mates from when we kicked Saren's ass. Pressley was of course killed in action, so for that I couldn't fault him. (Besides, it's not like I had any conversations with him, so I didn't miss him so much.) Chakwas was a little embattled from when the Collectors blew shit up, but she was fine. We had a brief medical talk before she admitted that she would miss Shepard greatly.

Is it odd that I had my first real conversation with Joker at Shepard's funeral? I remember that we had a very brief conversation at the funeral. We both knew who we were, and that remained at that. I couldn't blame Joker for not wanting to speak; he looked destroyed as he hobbled around the funeral on his two crutches. I didn't blame Joker: I knew he blamed himself for Shepard's death without him telling me so. I basically left him to his grief and stuff.

I remember Kaidan was in shambles at her funeral, and I think he had the hardest time of us all trying to get used to the fact that she was probably dead. I of course knew that she was dead, but only because I had controlled the last few minutes of her first life. But I couldn't bring myself to tell Kaidan that I knew about this, too; I didn't want to break his heart any more than it had already been broken, and I knew that I definitely shouldn't mention Horizon either since that would only make things worse.

Liara and Tali were there too. Liara seemed pretty desolate at this, and for a second I could see a flicker of something in her eyes as she sat crying. Tali... simply regarded me with an unreadable expression, and barely talked. She sent me an extra-net message later that she had also been crying and for me to forgive her for not talking to me about anything. Of course I forgave her; her mask makes things incredibly tough to read, and besides, my tears really were genuine, if born out of surreality instead of grief. I had known it would happen... but I didn't think Shepard's death would affect me so much...

Wrex didn't show up. I don't know what was more heartbreaking; the fact that he sent me a short message over the extranet just before the funeral that articulated all of his feelings or the fact that he mentioned he wished he could have attended the funeral. Either way, I couldn't bring up the strength to reply back for two weeks afterwards.

Garrus went with me as well, and the entire damn funeral he was just pensive, always thinking. Which was odd, because I never knew Garrus as the type to think. I didn't need to talk with him in the funeral, as he had already gushed his feelings when he came home from C-Sec the day the news that Shepard was possibly dead broke out. He was silent basically throughout the entire funeral, his hands always crossed behind him except when he sat down for the speeches and stuff.

And speaking of which, what awful speeches they were! None of them did any justice to Shepard as a woman. I was glad it would not be her first funeral, because the speeches were so horrendous I would be appalled if I visited my own funeral and those were the speeches they gave. You know what? I'm going to recite all of the funeral speeches there when I see Shepard again, just to see how hard she'll want to bitch-slap the speech givers. Udina's speech possibly pissed me off the most, since there were a few subtle take thats to her legacy. I wished I could replay the moment where Anderson punches him in the face and takes the Normandy off of lockdown over and over again; thinking about that one scene repeatedly was the only way I was able to stand sitting there.

And then Hannah Shepard came on and showed them all how it was done. It was the first time I had ever seen Shepard's mom, in the game and in person. Her speech was really good, and it called out everyone else on their military bullshit just by how awesome it was. It also felt very personal, as the tears in her eyes attested to. And it was a very sad speech, and for the first time I got a real sense of how proud she must have been that Jocelyn Shepard was her daughter. I'm glad she'll come back to life, if only because her mom could use the consolation...

I got the chance to talk with her a little after the funeral. She seemed like a perfectly sweet yet strict woman. I found a perfect blend of both as it stood, and we had a rather short conversation that was rather nice. I got a chance to talk to Al again too, who was also grieving the death of his sister. I offered a few words of solace for him, and he took them to heart. He told me his N7 training was almost complete, and that graduation was going to be in another two months. He wished his sister could have been there for it, however, and for that I couldn't fault him. I had already technically lost my entire family; I felt his pain as well as he did.

The funeral was quiet... And I remember feeling quite sad. Garrus and I returned to the apartment in a grim state of mind, and he nodded as we held a vigil for Shepard at the dinner table. We ended up using the exact same requiem we used for Ash, contemplating our loss in silence.

And when I went to bed that night, I cried myself to sleep over the fact that Shepard was dead. It was just... so surreal, and so sad. On top of that, I didn't know whether to be angry that I knew this was happening or depressed that it happened at all. And so, I cried that night, falling asleep shortly afterward.

The fact that Shepard's death was only the beginning of a cascade of bad things didn't really drive itself home until after the Council brushed the Reapers under the rug.

I remember when Anderson broke the news to Garrus and I about two days after the funeral. I don't ever remember being so angry at the Council. Granted, I knew it was going to happen, but when it finally did happen, some part of me still snapped. I explicitly told Garrus afterwards that I wanted to take my shotgun to the Council and finish what Saren started. He advised against it of course, but we both knew I wouldn't be able to muster up the ability to do so.

Tali was even more angry when I broke the news to her. By this time, she had already bought passage back to the Fleet, and when she heard there was something in her that prompted her to start yelling at me over a comm link about how frustrating it was to know that something was coming and still be angered by it anyway. I had already told her about Cerberus' involvement, and fortunately the incident with the Fleet hadn't happened yet. From what I could tell, however, it was getting pretty close to happening, as extranet news had already reported the disappearance of Gillian Grayson.

It affected Kaidan immensely to hear that they were brushing her work to defend the galaxy. To see all of her work basically amount to nothing... it destroyed him. But the poor guy had to suck it up immensely, and I began to feel bad for him that he and Shepard would dump each other. I already regretted bringing them together romantically, as it seemed their bond was stronger than I originally thought it would be. I still refused to forgive him for the impending betrayal, however, knowing that it would be all his fault afterwards.

I couldn't get a hold of Liara afterwards, and from that I guessed she was already attempting to recover Shepard's corpse from the Shadow Broker. Really, Liara? Wrex didn't have many thoughts on it. His thoughts; 'unite the krogan, and we'll see what happens'.

It ate away at Garrus for quite some time. As I went to opera orchestra, I said less and less progressively, but it positively ate away at Garrus. I saw him get progressively more volatile, and towards the end he began to get kind of like my father.

And then, a week after Shepard's funeral, I came home to find that a datapad had been left on the dinner table. It was Garrus; it was all written down in some form of written turian when I came for a closer look.

I didn't need to read it in English to know that he had gone to Omega to take his place as Archangel.

That was when all the angst finally caught up with me. Shepard's death, the Reapers being swept under the rug, Garrus leaving, being all alone on the Citadel... I couldn't take it anymore. I let out a few silent tears as I ate dinner alone that night. I couldn't even bring myself to cook, which was odd because it normally lifts my spirits. Instead, I ended up ordering out, and as I ate my dinner, I couldn't stop thinking about everything.

I remember plopping down in front of my terminal that night and going through my messages. But it was more or less mechanical now for some reason I really couldn't pin down.

And then I remembered that the movie clip still needed to be scored. And fast, because it was due the day after Garrus left. Despite my better judgement, I watched the scene I was supposed to score again from start to finish. The lead man in the scene was a turian, and a rather young one at that. He was building a pyre for a human female, his clothes tattered from what must have been a long time of struggle. She didn't look much better, but her serene expression seemed to indicate she had died in peace. He looked like he had starved himself, and all for nothing. As the fire burned at the end, his eyes conveyed the greatest loneliness I have ever seen conveyed on screen.

And somehow, my grief over everything that had happened over the course of the past week finally came up to me and slapped me square in the face. At first, I degenerated into tears at the hopelessness of the situation. I sobbed. Loudly. I had never felt so devoid of hope in my life. Well, except for the whole thing after Virmire. But still.

And then, some kind of lightbulb went off in my head. As I watched the scene a second time, it just... came to me. Music filled my head, completely orchestrated and realized. The music wouldn't leave me alone throughout the night. I looked at my terminal, and decided enough was enough.

I subsequently spent my entire sleep cycle scoring that scene. I had all I needed, and all that was left was to commit it to some form of writing. I wrote the music, orchestrated it, and played it back all at once that night, synchronizing it with the scene in question. I kept on feeling the will to go to bed, but I willed my body to stay awake long enough for me to finish the lonely English Horn solo that concludes the scene as the turian overlooked the pyre that his lover burned on. Bodies of strings had swelled long before that, with a despairing alto saxophone and solo viola duet coming in the middle as he set her body on the pyre. I remember staying up all night. And when I was done, I only had enough energy to send that and my violent submission in. I remember checking my sent items to make sure it went through. And as soon as I saw it, I collapsed where I sat, the exhaustion catching up to me.

When I woke up, I realized in dismay that I had missed an opera orchestra rehearsal. I wasn't fired as I thought I was, though; I was relatively new, after all, and they still needed me there. I made it a point not to miss any more rehearsals after that, and commuted. I heard back from the competition people, where my octet had gotten third place in the competition I had sent it to. It meant it would get a performance, however, and finally things started to go better for me as I got a list of rehearsals and a performance date.

And three days later, I received an e-mail from the people that had asked for submissions to score the film.

My night of depriving myself of sleep had paid off in the end after all, for they told me that I was everyone's top choice based on the pyre scene. They pleaded with me to score the movie along with Mangdalar Vorolis (I remember thinking to myself "you mean the guy that wrote Vexations of this universe?"), and then gave me several links to downloadable booklets on turian orchestration and theory.

I replied that I would love to score the movie, and then I was given the contact number of the director. We got in touch, and things pretty much kicked off from there.

It was while I was scoring the film that Tali finally sent me a message. I read it, and found out that the attack on the Migrant Fleet had finally happened. She refused to elaborate further with text, so she told me to open up a comm link when I could.

So I opened up a comm link about three Citadel hours after I got the message. Fortunately, she was free. We talked for a little bit, and then I asked about the attack on the Migrant Fleet. She had managed to warn her father in time, and that guards had been positioned around all of the airlocks of the Idenna. This meant that Cerberus was pretty much cornered where they were when they tried to enter, and thus Golo and every single Cerberus operative was killed.

Including Paul Grayson, apparently, because she made mention of someone picking up his dog tags after all was said and done. This alarmed me slightly, and I made my voice known. I mean, Grayson survived the tie-in novel. But then, I had the feeling that Paul would betray Cerberus thanks to what they were planning on doing to Gillian. And really, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it probably wasn't that important, so I brushed it off. She also told me that Hendel and Gillian were both staying on the Migrant Fleet, and that Gillian was a sweetheart, if a bit volatile.

I told her autistic kids could be like that. I thought of Augie again while we were talking about Gillian, and how he was doing back home. The conversation ended up steering to our respective families. Tali was respectful of course, mostly because she knew I would never get to see my family again. And again, I revisited the whole 'I miss my home' thing, but I mentioned that I was doing very well for myself on the Citadel regardless. When she asked for Garrus, I ended up explaining about Archangel, and she took it in stride.

And while we were chatting on the comm, Shala'Raan just so happened to barge in on the middle of our conversation. So I got to meet Shala'Raan before ME2 even began! She seems like a good mother figure for Tali: I can see why Shala'Raan and Tali's mom linked suit environments. I mean, aside from the whole 'presiding over the trial bit', she's a real sweetheart. She's obviously also wise beyond her years, but I guess being a part of the Admiralty board for so long does that to you. I guess that's what makes her a better admiral than Daro'Xen, Han'Gerrel, and Zaal'Koris put together... She was quite pleased to meet me, too, and even dropped some kind of quarian word I've never heard in the game... hesh'alan I think it was. When I asked Tali about it, she refused to answer, and Shala'Raan did not elaborate further. It's going to be Tali's form of siha, I'm sure of it...

We kept the conversation short after that, and when we disconnected the comm channel I smiled again. Thoughts of Tali hovered around my mind, and I smiled as I thought about how good it would be to see her again.

It's funny how some of the best things to happen to me in my life were kicked off from one of its lows, now that I realize it. I mean, the whole reason I got the film scoring job was because of Shepard's death and everything that snowballed afterwards. That it led to one of the best things ever to happen to me in my life is incredibly strange.

I somehow managed to get the film score done in time, and then I was given several dates for the recording sessions. I unfortunately had to miss out on opera orchestra, but honestly, at the time I was thinking good riddance to that. I see that good ol' Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is still the most overrated composer of all time, and it just so happened that they were doing Cosi fan tutte, which has the primary distinction of being the Mozart opera I loathe most. I didn't loose my job over it, thankfully, so I got to go to a different orchestra to see them play and record my music.

I actually met Mangdalar with a certain amount of trepidation, but he was a pretty nice guy, especially as far as people go. I also got to meet his asari partner, who was a real sweet woman. Yelena T'Onyu, her name was. Matron asari, if I remember correctly. Everybody on the film crew was also really nice, and, right as I expected, quite progressive. I first walked into the recording sessions feeling a slight amount of uncertainty as I was not sure how my music would be performed. After all, I had had numerous disasters at premieres, and something always seemed to go wrong. But surprisingly, not a whole lot of unscheduled events occurred during recording. I probably wrote the piccolo trumpet part at a place that the player couldn't actually reach at a few points, but otherwise it went exceedingly well.

It was a lot of music, but I had gotten plenty of time to score everything. And fortunately, Mangdalar's copyist made the parts for me, which eliminated that hurdle that I always hate. Orchestrating for turian instruments was... incredibly strange, but quite fulfilling. I just had never gotten used to thinking I would be scoring with instruments not of human make and stuff like that, so mostly I was just experimenting. But it paid off, and some effects were much more chilling than I had anticipated them to be.

But sitting behind the glass pane in the recording studio listening to the music I wrote being played back for something greater- by a large orchestra, no less- was one of the most hypnotizing experiences of my years between ME1 and ME2. I came to love the film scoring environment. The director and Mangdalar were both really nice people, I got along well with everyone, and I actually got to get a few comments in as we recorded everything. And I just loved hearing an orchestra play my stuff. It was surreal, and incredibly awesome. I still wasn't able to get over the fact that the Citadel film orchestra had a bass oboe, a saxophone,and Wagner tuben (of all instruments; seriously, I'd have thought those things would have faded into obscurity in the future), and that was in addition to the large, large orchestra. That just served to make it more surreal than it already was, in addition to all the turian players within the orchestra...

And when all was said and done, I came out of the recording studio feeling great. I once had a comm chat with Tali about it, and she wished she could be at the recording studio just to see what it was like. I told her that I wished I could see her there too, but then I told her that I had also gotten free tickets to the premiere of the film, and I was saving a ticket for her. Needless to say, I was quite happy when she sent me an extranet message a couple days later that the admiralty board had granted her leave for that week. So we made plans to get together at the Citadel, and do stuff with Mangdalar and Yelena.

And guess what? When she showed up, she was in her Mass Effect 2 getup! This made me extremely happy, seeing as how that is my personally preferred that outfit to her Mass Effect 1 outfit. When I was able to tear myself away from the paparazzi and everyone else for two seconds, I let her know about that. She told me she was considering changing out the hood, but after my compliment she would definitely keep it on. That made butterflies fly all over my stomach, and I swear that Mangdalar made that one joke at my expense because I was blushing for a good three hours after that.

The premiere itself was quite an event. Anderson and the turian councillor both showed, as did all the stars and the director. And I remember being swept by how surreal it all was. And of course, the critical acclaim that came afterwards was tremendously great for me.

If I could say one thing about how working on The Last Days of the Earth affected me, I would say it was awesome, if a bit surreal. It also helped a lot, as it jumpstarted my composition career with a lot of things. I remember I had to sift through about two hundred e-mails after various people in the music world had heard the score that they wanted me for this project and the other. It was so ridiculous I really wasn't sure what to do. I ended up taking several commissions, and working on them all and getting premieres done.

That was essentially how I spent the remainder of the time before Mass Effect 2; writing music, playing in opera orchestra, and overseeing premieres of my stuff.

Of course, it wasn't without its downs elsewhere. Just after recording sessions started for Last Days of the Earth, I got evicted from Garrus' apartment. Sure, I was making a modest living as a violist, and the premiere of my octet went well enough, but I just wasn't able to rake in enough money to pay the rent when I was there. So I was unceremoniously evicted.

I ended up staying at a hotel for about a week, but that burned through my credits even faster. At least I got to eat breakfast for free, and I wondered if Garrus remembered that he had another tenant at his apartment when he went over to Omega. But it was a tough situation for me to be in, and for a week I was feeling a little disgruntled about it.

But I dared not mention it at work. In fact, the only time I ever mentioned it was because Mangdalar asked during one session. I told him... well, the truth, anyhow. I'm a terrible liar, and plus my resolve to lie tended to buckle in such a positive working environment.

Fortunately, Mangdalar was kind enough to offer some space in his apartment at the 800 blocks for the time being, and so I ended up moving in with him and Yelena in the middle of the recording session. It was a rather modest apartment, of course, and it was then that I found out that Yelena was a rather good asari musician in her own right. Rooming with a musical couple like that was... incredibly interesting, to say the least. I did a lot of the cooking, we all gave ourselves plenty of space, and we always had rather good conversations. And we all came to like the arrangement so much that I ended up staying with Mangdalar after recordings ended.

It made for a pretty hilarious moment when Tali came for the film premiere. I will give Mangdalar this; he sure knows how to tell a good joke now and again. Especially when it comes to how close Tali and I are.

It was also pretty surreal. I swear I saw Joram Talid a few times as I was heading to the apartment from opera orchestra. Yeah, this is gonna be fun when Thane's loyalty mission comes around, because it's going to be taking place where I live. So yeah...

But still... I don't think it's love... Even after all this time, I'm to the belief that we're still BFF's... right?

I dunno. Anyway, that's not exactly important. What is important is that even after the intial road block, life was good.

And whenever I would find out that Shepard had come back to life, I knew it could only get better afterwards.

About three days after the premiere of the film, I was commuting back to the apartment from opera orchestra when I noticed something out of place.

I saw an asari standing out by an area that very few people ever came by. She looked to be in tears, clasping her hands together over a railing that led out into space. I think she considered jumping at one point in a suicide attempt. I personally thought this was beyond stupid, but I said nothing.

However, something in the back of my head kept telling me to go to her, to play therapist to a stranger out in the Citadel. I don't know what finally convinced me to do so, but eventually, I walked over to where she stood, looking on her as I leaned against the railing myself. She seemed rather simple, but was probably afraid for her life.

I started a conversation with her. She didn't talk much, and from that I was able to tell that she was in incredible grief over something. She obviously wanted me to leave her alone, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. That, and the little voice in my head kept on telling me I should keep on talking to her.

So I did. I talked to her for a little longer, and eventually learned that her name was Lireya. (Huh, that was the name of one of my OC's for the last installment of TTLG I never got around to writing... Coincidence?) She was busy contemplating suicide when I came over, but she was really beginning to lose her resolve. It eventually got to the point where she gushed out a lot of details about her life that I'm pretty sure I had no right to know as a stranger. But... the therapist act ended up helping her, much more so than she could begin to fathom I'm sure.

The thing about Lireya was that she had discovered that she was an Ardat-Yakshi the previous day. I didn't need her to elaborate further; I had played Samara's loyalty mission, and I knew that the Ardat-Yakshi killed their mates during melding. But I had assumed that most of them ended up dealing with it by turning into Morinth; as in, becoming monsters that only cared about power. Or something like that. Either way, I was definitely not expecting what would happen when they only found out for the first time.

Because, as she explained to me, you don't know that you are an Ardat-Yakshi until you see your lover dead on the floor after the meld.

I also had no idea what the asari government did to known Ardat-Yakshis; apparently, it's similar to what Hitler did to the Jews in World War 2. And this was quite jarring for me to hear, and suddenly I felt a wave of pity and a wave of gratitude that Morinth would likely get killed. I mean, seriously, death sounds so much better than what happens to an asari if she's an Ardat-Yakshi. True, Ardat-Yakshis are in fact harmful to peoples' health, but damn, I didn't think that it warranted concentration camps...

And suddenly, I saw Morinth's speech to Samara during their biotic fight in a totally different light. I mean, in that case, Morinth really was a monster, inside as well as externally, but hearing about concentration camps from someone who couldn't help it and hated herself for killing her lover... The asari weren't ready to reveal this indeed. It surprised her a lot that I knew what an Ardat-Yakshi was in the first place, but she brushed it off as I was playing psychiatrist.

She didn't want to go to the concentration camp. I couldn't blame her, after all; when she spoke about the lover she killed, she only had the nicest things to say. And the more she talked about him, the more tears came streaming from her eyes. It was heartbreaking to see this, and to hear that she would never love again as long as she lived.

I was silent for a bit before I talked again. When I did, I told her about Pushing Daisies. Man, that was a great show. It's a shame it got cancelled before I got here. But I mentioned it for more than that; the relationship between Ned and Charlie seemed to serve as the perfect comparison for a possible relationship with an Ardat-Yakshi. After all, Ned's ability to bring people back from the dead was more of a curse as far as Charlie was concerned; if he ever touched her again, she would die. It was a fascinating relationship dynamic, and it was one that I figured Lireya could relate to.

This seemed to get her spririts up that she could find a way to love again without getting physical with her partner. This cheered her up, and she resolved not to kill herself. But she still didn't know where to go; they would find her lover's body, and the asari would figure things out.

I gave her a few thousand credits and told her to take passage to somewhere other than the Citadel. She was shocked at the kind gesture, but I asked for nothing in return and told her that she should leave while she still had a chance.

And so, she went and bought passage to Omega. I was the only one who saw her off; she was afraid of contacting her mother lest she find out about the whole Ardat-Yakshi bit, but when I saw her off, she thanked me profusely and told me that she would never forget me. And so the shuttle went from the Citadel, and I went home after that. She preoccupied my thoughts for a few days, and I even discussed it with Tali in a comm chat I had with her a few days after the incident.

I have no clue what happened to her after the last time I saw her. But I have a feeling I'm going to be seeing her again. And when I do... I hope she's found love with someone who really, truly cares about her.

While all this was going on, I was keeping in rather good physical health. Well, better than I used to, anyway.

I ended up starting to take self-defense classes again. I ended up training in some asari style of combat that's pretty popular around the Citadel. It looks and feels a lot like shaolin kempo or something like that, but the only reason I took it was because I couldn't find tae kwon do anywhere on the Citadel.

And it was... interesting, to say the least. I got into the groove of punching things again, and I also got to do some pretty crazy things with the rest of my body too. I really don't know how the hell I ended up learning how to do stuff, though, but it was pretty calm most of the time.

Odd for a martial arts style to come across as such, but hey, these are expert diplomats we're talking about here. If Switzerland manages to stay neutral by having the best trained army in the world, I imagine the asari manage to handle things the same way.

It actually also ended up involving a lot of agility courses. Needless to say, I think my agility only improved with time in that thing. At my peak, I ended up learning how to crawl up and down the Citadel in rather short increments of time without anything holding me down. In any other case it would be illegal, but special passes do special things. So that was pretty interesting, getting to climb up the Citadel. I usually got the best view of the Citadel Tower money could buy for free thanks to that, so for this I was thankful.

And of course, there was Baroque dance. Somehow, I found a Baroque dance class, but not a tae kwon do studio. I really don't know how that came to be. But, they were offering that class for no credits at a conservatory that got spared much of the damage that the rest of the Tayseri ward had endured, so I ended up going there all the time. I even convinced Mangdalar and Yelena to take it with me when I moved in, and needless to say they found it quite enjoyable.

And I got back into the groove of stuff too. I learned how to read the dance notation, and I learned quite a lot. It also helped me relax a bit. Being forced to be graceful helps a lot with that.

But I also found it was something I greatly excelled at. If I end up taking it to an extreme, I might just ditch viola performance and teach Baroque dance classes for the rest of my life. Especially if I end up getting carpal tunnel syndrome. It's nice to have a back-up plan, anyhow.

And all that kept my weight in check. I was definitely a little more defined in terms of musculature before long, but I never really got past just being lean. More defined body, yes, but nothing like a six-pack or anything like that. Actually, I would be a little afraid of a six-pack on me. At least I'm not a little bit on the fat side.

Then again, I had never weighed anything over 160 pounds prior to coming here no matter how much I ate, so I like to think I never really was on track to becoming a fatass anyway.

Oh, yeah, and I grew half an inch. How I did that was anybody's guess, but, it happened.

It also helped my sleeping habits, especially after that one time that I stayed awake through my sleep cycle trying to compose the scene. I swear, I'm never going to live it down, especially as Yelena loves taunting me with it just before my sleep cycle.

As for gun training... Well, I didn't keep up too well with that. But I still went over to the firing range at least once a month to make sure my firing was still consistent. Which it was, thankfully. So when ME2 comes around, I'll be prepared.

Oh, well. I always feel great about my newly found physical health. And it's something I'll continue to pride myself on for quite some time.

All this, brings me to now. And a couple other things.

About two days before I booked passage to Omega, I got a message from Tali. I open up my omni tool where I sit, gazing out the window as I look again at the message Tali sent me.

Sent: 9.23.2185

To: Art*** *********

From: Tali'Zorah vas Neema, Migrant Fleet


I saw Shepard about three days ago. I sent this message at the first opportunity I could find. It's exactly as you told me it would be; she's back to life, and Cerberus are the ones who brought her back.

I'm sure you know how I met her again, but just in case: I was on Freedom's Progress looking for Veetor'Nara. He was on his pilgrimage at Freedom's Progress, and when we got there there were all these mechs all over the place. Sure enough, I bumped into Shepard and a couple of Cerberus operatives. I didn't catch their names. They said they were looking into the cause of the disappearances of the colonies, and came to Freedom's Progress.

I don't know if any of that matches up, but if it does, I trust you know where to go from here. Good luck, and I hope we can meet again.

Keelah se'lai,


I glanced at the text that hovered over orange again. I had replied back to Tali saying everything checked out all right and telling her the names of the Cerberus operatives. I opted not to tell her about Haestrom... yet. I figured she would know when we would have a big damn heroes moment the moment her comm crackled to life on that place.

After I had recieved the message, I had booked passage for Omega. Of course I let Mangdalar and Yelena know that I would be going out of the Citadel for more military purposes. When I mentioned that an old friend of mine was involved, they understood, but let me know that I was always welcome back to their apartment for when the ordeal was over. I noticed Yelena was a little on edge when I said goodbye, though. I wonder if that's going to gel well. They also hope it won't be too long, I take it.

Pssh. I doubt the ordeal will end after this. I mean, Shepard still has to stop the Reaper invasion after we kick Collector ass, right? Well... assuming we all survive, anyway. I hope we do; it's bad when everyone can die on the mission.

Shit... I didn't realize how bad the situation can be until I got here. What if some people are doomed to die just because I came here? What if I die too? I don't know if I'll go home anymore, as I haven't heard too much from Orange in the ensuing years other than a few chats when I was lone in the apartment of either Garrus or Mangdalar. She hasn't said too much that helps me shed light on how to do anything or what she is. Well, other than that Orange is a girl, apparently. And Prothean. And that she likes to speak in metaphors that are so broad it makes Tommy Wiseau's English look sensible. Which, if records of old Earth e-mails are any indication, it is not. Other than that, she keeps telling me to dig deeper...

Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But whatever. I'm sure things will just come to me one day before ME2 ends...

I gaze out the window again. I wonder...

Well, Shepard is probably busy recruiting people on her team. If I'm fast, I can probably force my way into Mordin or Garrus' recruitment missions. We'll have to see once we get there. But for now... Where is everybody else...?

Well, Tali is busy heading to Haestrom to do some research for the Fleet. Garrus is probably holed up in a warehouse with every mercenary company on Omega out trying to kill him, and if he's not he'll have a nice metal plate on his face to show for it. Wrex is still on Tuchanka, trying to unite the krogan into one cohesive whole. Liara is likely on Illium, hunting down the Shadow Broker and threatening to flay various people with her mind. Kaidan is routinely getting stationed in various places, I really don't know how many times he's been rotating throughout stations. But when we see him next, he'll be stationed on Horizon, although I don't know if he already is on Horizon...

So that's all for the squad from the first game. As for everyone else... Samara is busy hunting down Morinth. Thane is probably in the process of accepting the Dantius commission, although I can't be too sure about that. Grunt is most likely still in that tank in Okeer's lab. Jack is probably either still in cryo on Purgatory or already on Shepard's crew. Mordin is either in his clinic in the plague zone on Omega, or already on Shepard's crew. Legion is likely scouting out Shepard, trying to find a way to approach her. Zaeed is either on Omega waiting for Shepard to show up, or already on the crew. I wonder where Kasumi will be... She was supposed to become some kind of DLC character, but I never got to find out where she shows up. Jacob and Miranda are already both on the crew; that's a no-brainer.

And I'm sitting on a shuttle to Omega, waiting to take my place in her squad. I'm the only one not doing something at the moment.

My fingers drum over my viola case, feeling the material under me as I look up to an asari waitress that is busy refilling my Mountain Dew. Well, my viola is safe, my firearms are stored in the compartment below, and I'm wearing my armor. It sure feels good to be back into this armor again. And it'll feel good to get back into shooting things up with Shepard. Always good times with Shepard, as I would damn well expect by this point.

After all, a lot can happen in two years. People can die. Ships can get blown up. Messages can be sent. Funerals can be attended. Politicians can lie and cover things up. Music can be written and played. People can be brought back to life. People can find out about that. And people can resume their place in a squad.

Like I'm doing here. Guess I better just say this now:

Welcome back to your fucked-up life, Art.