A/N: All right. Wow... Mass Vexations 2 is almost over. I can't believe it either.
Well, I don't really have that much to say up here. I'll have quite a bit to say down below, though, so stay tuned for the A/N down there.
Anyway... wow, MV2 is almost done. And then it's MV3 after that... This is gonna be crazy.
Well, I'll give you the epilogue for now.
Epilogue: The Journey Continues
I pull on my green dressy shirt within my quarters. God... I felt so grimy earlier... I really underestimated how filthy the base would be in person. It was just... I had to clean so much stuff off my body in the shower earlier. And that's not mentioning all the stuff that had to be done for the places where bullets graze by me. It's been really weird seeing the injuries of everyone in the ship... We've run the full gamut of injuries. Some, like Tali and Thane, got out with barely a scratch. Others... didn't do so well. I didn't notice it back when, but Garrus had taken a rather nasty wound to his leg. I should've noticed it earlier, but he was limping when Madison helped him to Chakwas' office. And let's not even go into how banged up Grunt got. I'm honestly surprised he's still alive by this point.
Still, celebrations are in order. I mean, for god's sake, we got No One Left Behind! And we even got more people than we started with! I haven't seen Jenny yet, though... I've wondered when she'll show her face to me again, but we'll see.
I look to Tali, who's standing off to the side, changing her veil to the one we wore to our date. We talked almost immediately after the base got blown up about that whole bit where Shepard gets to yell at TIM. And then I got to watch as Commander Shepard tore him a new one. Seriously, that was a lot of fun watching him get all pissy that Shepard destroyed his oh so precious play thing.
And now... we're back in our quarters. Wow... our quarters. It's not only mine anymore. I guess that since Tali's started sleeping here with me, I guess that makes it ours now.
Ours... That's a weird feeling I'll never get used to. But if it means I get to wake up to have her face plate nudging my shoulder slightly... It's still totally worth it if that's the case. It's still totally worth it.
I nod to the quarian, giving her a smile. "So we did it," I say, looking right at her. "We destroyed the Collector base."
"Keelah, I didn't think it would be possible," she says. "And yet, here we are..." She turns to me as she brings the veil over her torso. "I just can't believe we did it. It's just so hard to believe that they won't be back to harass any more humans."
I shrug. "We won the battle, that's for sure," I say. "But we haven't won the war just yet. We've got a long way before that happens." I let out a sigh. "And unfortunately, I can't tell you what's going to happen next anymore."
I blink then... Shit... At the end of the day... I can't tell the future anymore. I helped everyone with the suicide mission, yes, but... but now my precognition is gone forever. Now... now everything is left to chance and circumstance again.
I... I really don't know what to think about that. On the one hand, that's a burden I no longer have to live with. Now that literally anything can happen, I'm not bound to saying I didn't know it was coming in advance. But... I don't know why, but I already miss my precognitive abilities. I guess there was something cool and inherently interesting about being able to read the future. I just... I'm not sure what'll go down from here.
"Ah," says Tali, looking over to me. "I was thinking about that too. Are you all right?"
I take in a deep breath, walking over to the quarian. "I don't know," I say. "But... I guess we'll just have to take a leap of faith on this one, right? I mean... I don't know what's going to happen anymore, so I can't rely on that anymore. But now... now I have to rely on my other instincts..." I sigh, closing my eyes. "I'm gonna be blunt, Tali. I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do with myself if I don't know what to do... I..."
"You can do it." Tali places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "I've seen you go through so much. We've been through so much together... I know you can get through whatever this war throws at us..."
I nod, grasping her free hand just as it finishes applying her veil to that fastener around her hips. "I... I guess that's true," I say, smiling softly. "I'll see what I can do." I smile at her. "Thanks, Tali."
"Anything for you, my hesh'alan," she mentions.
I shake my head, leaving a chaste kiss on the top of her helmet. I then walk over to the door, pausing briefly. "Come on," I say. "We've got a celebration to get to over in the mess hall. It's gonna be an absolutely crazy party, let me tell you!"
The quarian nods, following me close behind as I open the door. "I never would've thought Shepard would agree to hosting a party on this ship!" she says.
"Neither did I," I mention, smiling. "But we deserve it. Come on!"
With this, the two of us exit my quarters hand-in-hand as we make our way over to the party in question.
Almost as soon as we get out, though, I see Thane in his best jacket. He's straightening it out slightly, and he seems to exit life support at exactly the same time we do. I raise my eyebrow, crossing my arms.
"Oh hi Thane!" I say, turning to the drell. "How are you feeling right now?"
"I am feeling no worse than ever," he states simply. "The abduction of your colonists has come to an end."
I nod. "Yeah, you were pretty concerned about that," I say, looking at him. "How's Shepard been these days?"
Without missing a beat, the drell replies. "She has been quite well," he states. He looks down at the floor sullenly. "I sometimes wonder what will become of her when I return to the sea..."
I frown, watching as Tali comes around. "Have you talked to her about it yet?" she asks.
"I went up there before we attacked the Collectors," he states. "I... fear my own death now. The feeling frightened me. We..."
Okay, so the romance scene did happen. "Okay, you don't have to go into the dirty details," I say. "That... was the basis of you going in and... you know... being alive with her tonight?"
"Ah... Yes." Thane isn't the type to be flustered easily, but the way his second eyelids nictate so quickly says that he's a little flustered at mentioning it. "That is not important, though. I have been preparing for my return to the sea for so long... Except now, I am not so sure what to do."
I nod, looking right at him. "You think you'll stay with Shepard after all this is over?" I ask.
"I... do not know," replies the drell. "I have pondered this." He glances to the side. "In the end, however, I may stay."
I smile at him, nodding as I cross my arms. "That's good," I say. "I think you fight right in with the rest of us."
"I am concentrating on finding ways that we are similar," says Thane.
Tali shakes her head, the both of us chuckling. "I think I was asking myself the same thing when I went on the first Normandy," she says. "It's a question we all ask ourselves at some point, trust me."
I shrug. "Not I," I say. "You forget that I'm the wierdest one of the bunch. You honestly don't get much stranger than being some dimension-hopping musician caught up in something so much larger than himself."
"There is more truth to that statement than you could possibly hope to imagine," states Thane. "Shepard has a talent for gathering the strangest personalities and having them work together."
"That she does, Thane," I reply. "That she does." I shift slightly on my feet. "Speaking of which... I wonder when Shepard is going to be coming down..."
And almost as if on cue, the elevator door opens close to where we are. The three of us turn, looking right out to see Shepard strutting out, brushing some loose hair behind her face.
I raise my eyebrow. "Uh... hi, Shepard," I say. "I... I see you're wearing that thing you wore to help Kasumi..."
She nods, posing in that short little skirt thing she was sporting at that time. "Well, we're having something of a party on the Normandy, so I thought, why not, you know? Good to see you'll be joining us." She nods, giving the two of us a rather broad smile. She then turns to Thane, giving him an even broader smile as she walks over to him. "How are you tonight, Thane?"
"I am well, siha," states the drell, himself giving a smile. "It is a relief to see that we have all survived."
"That it is."
With this, the Commander leans forward to give Thane a very brief kiss on the lips.
Oh. My. God.
Thane... And Shepard... Kissing... right in front... of me... Thane... and Shepard... are kissing... On the lips...
Hold it in, Art... Hold in the geek-out... You can do it... Come on Art, just hold it in... Hold it in... That's it... Hold it-
"Art, are you all right?"
As soon as Shepard asks this, I release... Hey, I was tensing my muscles. And apparently, I didn't actually notice that. Huh. I look at the now quite confused couple standing in front of me. I blink uncertainly, chuckling nervously.
"Sorry," I say, rubbing the back of my head. "That was me struggling to keep my inner fanboy from being my outer fanboy." I glance to the side nervously. "You probably didn't see my geek-out when I first heard Thane refer to you as siha. Huge milestone, you know."
"Yeah, you would know what it means..." mentions Shepard, rubbing her chin in thought. "I think Garrus mentioned at one point that the game had multiple love interests."
I cringe slightly. "I'd rather not talk about that now," I say.
"It is a very long story," replies Tali. "We probably don't have time for that right now."
The commander nods. "Well, if you insist, I won't ask about it," she says. "But in the next Brotherhood meeting, I think it can come up."
I nod, shrugging. "Sure, why not?" I ask, looking to the Commander. "Could be interesting, if mildly awkward for a couple of parties..."
Shepard simply nods in acknowledgement. "All right," she says. "Maybe on our way to our next destination."
I frown, crossing my arms. "Speaking of which, Commander..." I say. "What are you going to do about all that data we found on the Reapers from the Collector base, anyway?"
The Commander frowns, looking at me as if she's asking if I seriously just asked that. "I'm planning on presenting it to the Council," she says. "It proves that Sovereign isn't geth technology, and hopefully it'll convince them that the Reaper threat is real. Though if I get given air quotes by the turian councillor again, I will try to punch him."
I shrug. "Well, you could always hope that he's still missing when you present the evidence," I supply.
Shepard scoffs at this as Thane's second eyelid pair nictates very quickly. "Is it wrong that I was about to say the same thing?" asks Tali.
"Trust me, Tali, it wasn't," replies Shepard. "The turian councillor shouldn't have been in this position anyway. Though, I hear that the temporary councillor they've got there isn't any better."
I blink violently at this. "You mean there's someone worse than him?" I ask.
"Possibly," says Shepard with a shrug. "It's not worth thinking about now."
"Yeah, you're right," I agree. "We just survived the Omega 4 Relay. I think we have higher priorities right now. Like, getting to the crew-wide party that we're holding in... a minute or two?"
"Yeah," says Shepard, her hand lacing itself in Thane's as she placed a hand on his chest in a very tender manner. "Well, Thane... I guess we should go see what's there..."
"Of course, siha."
With this, both human and drell walk past us hand in hand.
"Must... not... squee... in... delight..."
I then proceed to do exactly that.
After Tali's managed to calm me down a bit, we both headed into the party.
And almost instantly, I see the redhead pilot of the shuttle wander over. Ah, there's Jenny. Before I can even see what we've done to the crew deck, she's in front of me, Tali standing off to the side. Hm... She doesn't look angry this time.
I'll go ahead and guess she isn't in the mood to yell at me.
"Art," she says simply. "It's good that you're 'ere and all. I needed to talk to ya."
I nod. "About Gregor?" I ask.
"Yeah, about Gregor, mate," she says. "I... He doesn't know ya knew about 'im or the colonists beforehand. That's just so ya don't go yellin' at me right now."
I lower my shoulders as Tali looks at the shuttle pilot. "I... wouldn't have been in the mood to yell at you anyways," I reply, looking at Jenny. "I... I shouldn't have kept any of that a secret from you. I'm sorry..."
"No, I'm sorry," replies the colonist. "I... I know ya had your reasons. I just didn't wanna believe it, ya know, mate? I... I shouldn't'a yelled at ya for what ya did." Jenny nods. "I talked to Gregor about my anger towards ya. Didn't mention anything specific, but... He told me I wasn't bein' good to ya."
"And in a way, I kind of deserved it," I reply. "Look, Jenny, I don't hold any of the times you yelled at me too badly. I understand. You were frightened as hell for your brother, and then I ended up knowing about what might've happened to him." I nod. "I live without knowing what's going on to my family pretty much every day. If I knew that someone else knew what had happened to them and decided not to say anything, I'd have been pretty pissed off too."
"But lookin' back... did I really need to yell at ya?" she asks.
"We'll never know," I reply, letting out a sigh. "But I know where you were coming from, at least. I can't hold your feelings against you at all, you know... I probably would've done the same thing in your stance."
Jenny lets out a sigh, nodding at this. "Ya saved my brother, anyway," she says. "I'm not about ta just let that go unnoticed, mate. So... thank ya. For savin' 'im. I don't know what I woulda done if ya hadn't..."
I nod, looking right at her. "You're welcome, Jenny," I say. "At least with this, the whole McKansa clan is still kicking."
"That it is, mate," she says, a soft smile returning to her face. Wow, that's the first time I've seen her get into her perky state of mind in a while. "I'm just glad 'e's all right myself." She looks around, crossing her arms. "I might stay on this ship. It's a damn nice ship. Could cause some real damage against anyone 'o gets in our way."
I raise my eyebrow. "Zaeed's been rubbing off on you, I can see," I hear Tali mention from behind me.
"Maybe a bit." Jenny chuckles as she says this. ""E's a crazy guy, what can I say? Also good with all those war stories of 'is." She shrugs briefly. "I'm thinkin' I might stay here on the Normandy."
I raise my eyebrow at this. "Really?" asks Tali. "Why?"
The human simply shrugs. "I dunno, this ship kinda grows on ya after a while," she says. "I just like the ship, I guess. And we're doin' a lot o' great things 'ere." She then smirks. "And besides, somebody's gotta look after your ships for ya. After all, autopilot isn't quite as good as havin' someone actually man the controls, am I right?"
"Oh yeah," I reply, smirking. "That, I can agree with." I smile in reply to this. So Jenny's staying on the Normandy. Fun times. "I think it'll be great to have you aboard. Just another misfit on the Normandy, right?"
"Oh yeah," says Jenny, smirking. "Gregor might stay too, actually. He's gotta talk with the Commander about a thing or two. We'll see what 'appens when we get that."
Hm. "The more the merrier," I mention, shrugging.
"Yep," says Jenny, smiling fully for the first time in a long while. "Now all we need is to get Nogond over 'ere and we'll be all set!"
Tali, Jenny, and I all nod in agreement at this sentiment, right before the crew member nods to us. "That we do," I say. "So I take it we're good?"
"Yeah, we're in good standing now," says the colonist... well, former colonist now. "Just don't hide somethin' like that again, ya hear?"
Tali steps forward. "I don't think you'll have to worry about that," she says in my defense.
"But just in case, I won't," I say, winking.
"Great!" she says, grabbing my wrist. "Come on, we've got a party that needs attendin' to!"
And with this, she turns straight to the proceedings that are going on... And wow, does this look crowded.
I smile as Tali and I walk into the crew deck. The tables of the mess hall seem to have been moved over to the sides of the deck for some reason, with two tables blocking access to the gunnery bay. Hm, I could've sworn those things were bolted to the floor before. Ah, whatever, they probably just unscrewed them and moved them with great effort. I see Madison and Garrus mingling more or less hand in hand, though, so that's good enough for me. Hm... There's enough space here, but everyone's busy taking it up right now. And mostly it's either talking or stuff as I see... Legion? Legion's setting up the disc jockey area close to where Sturge and Rupert are hard at work handing out hors d'ouevres and some snack items.
I smile at this. Hm... We just need the alcohol... and judging from where Kasumi's standing at the end of the deck around where Medical is, I guess we've got that covered. Hey, she even brought a thing of sangria! I think I know where I'm heading first!
The snack table!
I walk over, looking at Sturge and Rupert as they turn to me. I glance briefly at Legion as he sets up the disc jockey space, nodding over to Sturge as he does stuff there. I nod to the two mess sergeants, smiling.
"Well, if it ain't the favorite," says Rupert, smiling. "How are ya doin' tonight?"
I raise an eyebrow at this. "The favorite?" I ask.
"Yeah, cause you're Sturge's favorite guy on this ship," mentions Rupert.
"It's something he's taken to really quick," comments Sturge as he hands Tali some nutrient paste. "It's flavored paste, by the way. Went out of your way to raid our dextro food stores to find that fruit flavored paste Art says you like."
"Ah," says Tali, taking the paste with a grateful gesture. "Thank you Sturge."
"Any time," he says, handing me some food. Hm... looks unusually good for standard issue mess hall stuff. "I can't believe we're holding a party after all this."
"Well, Sturge, we did just curb stomp the suicide mission," I mention. "I mean, it says a lot when you get back to the Normandy with more people on board than there were before, you know? Especially when it adds people to the ship instead of just getting the crew back."
"That's true, but still, this isn't my strong suit," says Sturge. "You know how I get around parties. And especially ones with a disc jockey that's standing right next to me!" He indicates Legion as the geth turns towards us. "I'm going to hate this party..."
"Well, ya just grin and bear it," says Rupert from behind Sturge as he passes out a piece of food to someone else.
I shrug. "And look at the bright side," I mention. "I think you'd get into turian rock a bit. Very different from Aerosmith and all those guys Natan used to listen to back when he was home."
"I hope you're right," replies Sturge, going back to cutting some stuff up for the ridiculous amounts of food that need to be consumed. "Anyway, we're gonna busy all night with this, so... It'll probably be best that you hang out."
"On it," I say, giving a nod as Tali and I begin to move through the crowd. "I'll see ya later, Sturge!"
With this, the two of us leave the snack table, though I imagine that we're gonna be back for much more once certain things get taken care of. Like, our current pieces of food. I turn to Tali as she works with the tube of nutrient paste. I beam at her briefly as we navigate through the crowd. Hm... it might not hurt to get to Kasumi before we really get this party started.
So then we make our way through the rather thick crowd, ending up right in front of Kasumi's little drink table by the time I finish my hor d'ouevre. The Japanese thief is, of course, locked in a conversation with Jacob about... what looks like nothing in particular. Knowing Jacob, it's probably turned to talk about "the prize".
But the both of them notice our arrival, Kasumi turning with a cheerful expression on her face. "Oh hi Art," says Kasumi. "I figured you'd be here soon enough. I figured you might like to know that the sangria is still good."
I nod, smiling. "I can see that," I say, grabbing a glass and holding it out to the thief. "Pour some, pretty please?"
The Japanese girl is only too happy to comply as Jacob gives us a polite nod. "Well, we kicked their asses," says Jacob, his expression still serious. His tone tells all we need to know about everything else, though. "And that was a hell of a way to tell the boss we're quittin'."
"It's typical Shepard, really," mentions Tali. "Everyone tends to know when she's made a decision."
"That I cannot deny," I say as Kasumi finishes pouring the drink. "Thanks."
"Anytime, Art," she says cheerfully. "So we got off that base alive, and with everyone on board."
"Oh yeah," I say, smiling. "Definitely not an outcome I was expecting, though. I figured, eh, we find the crew. But since the crew is here, we find the colonists. We find the colonists here, everything becomes okay all of a sudden." I shrug. "It's a little weird when you think about it."
"No argument there," says Jacob. "I think this whole mission has had some crazy things in it. I guess we came out okay, though."
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing," observes Kasumi as she looks over to me. "This is a nice ship, you know. I think I might stay a bit."
I nod, looking over at the thief. "Yeah, we'd be missing a lot if you left," I mention, giving her a smile. "I wonder who will be leaving, though..."
"From what I've heard?" asks Jacob. "I think Zaeed might be leaving at the next port we land in."
I raise my eyebrows at this. "He is?" I ask. "Why?"
"He says he's going to get the Blue Suns together," replies the operative. "Build their numbers and train their people to prepare for the Reapers. I didn't know he even believed they existed."
"Must have been Shepard rubbing off on him," I supply. "Well, there go all the awesome war stories."
"Makes sense, though," says Jacob. "We fulfilled his contract, though I don't know if he's going to get paid by Cerberus given how we blew up the base. But he'll be working against the Reapers, so that works for us."
I shrug, smirking. "Knowing him, it'll probably involve some crazy operation where he goes around and remains the only guy left standing in his team," I say. "He has a knack for ending up in that kind of situation."
"That he does," agrees Kasumi with a smirk.
"Other than him, I don't know," says the Cerberus... well, former Cerberus operative now. "Shepard hasn't been all too clear about it. I'm going to leave it at that, though. I imagine she could use all the help we can get."
"That she is," I state. I then look out to the rest of the crew and the ground team as they start to assemble more compactly than before. "It looks like the party's about to get going real soon."
"Yep," says Kasumi simply. "This looks like it's gonna be a lot of fun."
Indeed, Kasumi. Indeed.
I notice right as Legion's hands manipulate the holographic interface of the little DJing unit that he's got. Hm... Looks like technology changed the nature of it, though why the machine is doing it, I will never know. Ah, whatever. I look around, seeing that pretty much everyone except for Joker crowded into this area of the ship. Wow... this is gonna be a wild party.
And with a couple of riffs from some turian instruments, the party gets started.
Wow, they're just going at it with the techno, aren't they? I guess we're all in the mood to celebrate with war songs. But yeah, that's beside the point. I must admit, Legion makes for a damn good disc jockey. He sure knows how to vary things up a lot. We've had everything from turian rock to various forms of asari pop music via Motown and human pop music to turian rock again. This is actually really crazy, and he sure knows how to set things up.
Though for the record, I will never understand how someone can dance to turian rock. I mean, those rhytms jump all over the place. It's almost like some of Phillip Glass' early stuff in a way, back when Glass was actually reasonably good. But then, I didn't grow up listening to turian rock by virtue of the fact that it's hard to listen to music that's from a different planet when you don't have space travel yet.
So Tali and I just sit at the sidelines for now, watching everyone else get jiggy with it. For a dance floor, it's really not that large. But then, it didn't really start as a dance floor. It just sort of became that when Ken and Gabby randomly started dancing after a shot of whiskey and stuff. Soon enough, everyone else started dancing, and now most of the deck has turned into a dance floor, except for an area by the tables blocking the gunnery bay where the chairs were placed.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see a lot of people getting jiggy with it. Madison and Garrus are off to the side, Thane and Shepard are there, and I could've sworn I saw Kasumi pull Jacob over for a dance or two. Either way, it looks like it's a lot of fun.
But dancing to techno music isn't my thing.
I sit next to Tali, watching her enjoy a drink. All the complications of that again, but... hey, what can a man do? My hand is resting idly on hers, and I smile as she looks over. It's... relatively quiet, given how loud the music over there is. So... yeah. We're sitting here quietly, enjoying the party in a very quiet way...
I wonder what'll happen now.
"Hey, if it ain't the ballsy pussy."
I jolt slightly, looking immediately to my right.
"Jack?" I ask. "What are you doing here?"
The convict shrugs, sitting next to me as I then see Albert Shepard walking around behind her. "Long story," she says. Her attention diverts to the party in front of us. "Shit, I never thought this could be my kinda place here. Looks almost like a club on a good day."
Al sits next to her shortly after, Tali leaning over with what I assume is a curious look on her face. "You never know about stuff, Jack," says Al. "At least it's not going to end up like the last time I got you up here."
"That it won't," replies the convict. I think she notices Tali there, because then she smirks. "So, you and the quarian, eh?"
I nod, looking over to Tali. "Yep, me and the quarian," I reply, my hand lacing itself firmly in hers soon after. "It's been a hell of a long time."
Jack nods. "A word of advice," she says. "Don't bareback it. She'll get sick and die."
I tense suddenly, feeling an incredible burning sensation in my face. Oh, God... Did she... Oh my God, help my soul...
"Jack!" I bury my face in my hands soon after.
"Did you have to put it so bluntly?" asks Tali. "He's sensitive to that kind of thing!"
"What?" asks Jack. Oh, I'm sure she's shrugging right now as if it was nothing... "It's fun watching him get a stick in his ass over things like that."
"It's not a stick in his ass," replies Tali. "It's... something entirely different. You know he's easily flustered!"
"Didn't strike me as that type," replies Jack. I finally sit back up, watching as Al seems to be shaking his head in disapproval. "You know, this takes me back to this quarian I met back before I wound up here."
Huh? Quarian? Now that catches my attention. "So you knew a quarian back when you were still wreaking havoc across the galaxy?" I ask.
"Damn crazy son of a bitch too," mentions Jack. "Also really creepy. I kinda like him, though. He's one of two people who's fucked with me that I haven't managed to kill yet, so he must be doin' something right."
Yeah, I think I know who the other person is. Hello, me! "I didn't think there were that many quarian criminals outside of the Fleet," Tali mentions.
Jack shrugs. "There aren't," she says. "So the ones that do exist kinda stick out."
"Oh, I think I heard this one," says Al, leaning forward. "Kul'Yenvar, right?"
"Yeah," says Jack.
"Oh. Him." Tali's eyes thin in derision.
"Oh, so ya knew him too?" asks the biotic, crossing her arms.
"Much of the Fleet knew who he was," she says. "He got exiled from the Fleet for AI experiments he was performing on the Idenna just after I got my suit. When he left, he stole a lot of our tech, too. He was news for a long time in the Fleet."
Jack nods. "I guess that shows why he had Seamus, then." The convict shrugs, throwing a tattooed arm behind the chair carelessly. "The guy stole tech every other day. I even tagged along a little bit, started stealing tech with him. Ran around the Terminus systems causing hell for anybody carrying tech around for about two months. It was fun." The convict frowned.
"So how'd he fuck with you?" I ask.
Jack leans back. "We were hitting this frigate with enough tech to make him have a wet dream," she continues. "Lots of experimental shit, I didn't know the details. The job went south, and he ended up ditching me there with a whole bunch of angry turians. Guess he figured he might be better off without me than without the tech." Jack smirks at this. "Shoulda just stayed with me. The fucker's ship got shot down right when he got back into it." She shakes her head. "He got into an escape pod just as it went boom. Woulda made it sweeter if he had died, but hey, he lost his A.I." She shrugs. "Seamus was an annoying fucker anyway. Had the worst Irish accent in the whole fuckin' galaxy."
I chuckle at this. "So he's the one who got away," I say.
"Yep," replies Jack. "But I have many plans if I ever see his scrawny disinfected ass again." With this, she smiles perhaps a little too gleefully, cracking her knuckles for effect.
"Trust me, we would have executed him if we had the resources," says Tali. "He almost caused the destruction of three of our ships with his experiments on A.I."
"Yeah, he talked about that sometimes," says Jack, shrugging. "But now he's got one other problem that hates him just as much." She points to herself, smirking. "And if the Fleet doesn't kill him, then I've got a score to settle with him. And it will be fucking glorious when I settle it."
I chuckle at this, looking over at her. "You seem to be opening up a bit about your past now," I say. "Especially in such public places as this." I gesture to the dancers.
Jack simply shrugs in reply. "Coulda fooled me," she says. "You know, this ship ain't so bad." She leans back. "A lot of crazy shit goes down, but I love it like that. I might stick around."
I raise my eyebrows. "Really?" I ask, crossing my arms.
"Knowing you, you probably would have left the ship," says Tali with an incredulous gesture.
"I don't know why, but this place has something about it that I like," she says. "Even with the cheerleader here, and she's getting easier to deal with for some reason."
Gee, I wonder why... "I see," I say, crossing my arms. "Well, I'm sure Shepard wouldn't mind you staying here."
"Figured as much," she says. "Never thought I'd say this, but... it's been a hell of a good time."
I nod, taking a sip of my sangria. "That it has, Jack," I mention. "That it has."
It goes on for a while longer after that. I actually ended up talking to a lot of people like that as the party went on. Gregor, some of the other colonists, Garrus and Madison, Rael'Zorah, Dr. Chakwas, Mordin at one point... it's been great. And Zaeed's told most of us one last war story before we get to wherever we're docking next.
So when the music stops briefly and Legion starts patting some kind of microphone, it throws a lot of us off guard.
Hm? What's the machine boy planning?
"This platform has deduced from its database of organic gestural cues that everyone here is having what can be termed 'a good time'."
I snort, covering my hands to avoid laughing at Legion. But everyone else gives a whoop of agreement, so... Hm, it looks like even the colonists are doing that. I dunno, I think they were all shocked that we had a geth on the crew when they weren't busy trying to survive. And when Legion got back to the Normandy, the colonists really freaked out. Since the mission, though... it looks like they've at least accepted it for now. I look over to the DJ station as Legion turned to all of us.
"However, this platform has also received numerous requests for the inclusion of what is termed a 'karaoke hour'." He's greeted by applause soon after this declaration. "This platform has thus come to the consensus to switch playlists. We will begin karaoke hour now, with added assistance from Gardener-Mess Sargeant and McKansa-Pilot. Addendum: Let's get this party started."
It only takes about a second of dead silence before the whole ship bursts out laughing. Me included. Because damn it, this is just too funny. A machine saying those words with the utmost seriousness. Oh, man...
If I ever have grandchildren, I'm going to tell them about this.
Soon enough, we see holographic stuffs go out as some of the crew move one of the tables to make a makeshift stage for the karaoke. I turn to Tali with a smile, and I can see her eyes lighten up just the slightest bit.
"You had a hand in this, didn't you?" she asks me.
"Maybe," I reply. "I'm not telling you how just yet."
Tali shakes her head, but I can feel the grin she's giving me as she pulls herself up to my arm. We then watch as Garrus and Madison step up to the plate first. Oh, boy, the turian and his girlfriend start with that. This is gonna be fun.
So then some words are said, Garrus goes on introducing stuff, and then we get one of those slower turian rock ballads that apparently Madison has taken a major liking to. And... Oh, God, this is actually really cute. There he is holding her hand, and he has absolutely no singing ability whatsoever. It's actually kinda cute, watching him serenade her in this hilariously off-key voice. And he looks reasonably happy about it to, grasping her hand in his talon as he sings. And Madison stands there, I guess trapped between some blend of flattered and nervous that he's going off about it in a very, very public setting. It's actually kinda sweet, and I feel a smile creep on my face.
And soon after, Madison turns the tables on the whole thing, going off with some turian rock ballad back to Garrus. She... also can't sing to save her life. But it's still really cute like that. Apparently, the worse the singing, the more endearing it is to watch them go at it. Well... Oh, God, I'm getting dirty flashbacks! Think happy thoughts, Art! Think about skipping through a field of flowers with Tali hot on your heels to tackle you and-
Okay, that's not helping.
I glance back over there, hiding a blush with one of my hands as I think about this. Why is it I always think perverse thoughts about Madison and Garrus? This shouldn't be happening, damn it!
I shake my head just as Madison finishes the rock ballad. Wow, time sure goes by fast when you're flustered as hell by something you shouldn't be flustered by at all. So then they're ushered off...
And now it's someone else's turn.
Ooooh! Bright and shiny stuffsies, please!
"Oh! Oh! Pick me!"
I see attention turn over to me. Legion blinks, looking at me with its singular flashlight as it nods.
"All righty then," I hear Gardner say. "Looks like Art's coming up right now to take over the mic. Give 'im a hand, folks!"
And with this, I pull Tali along. She follows silently, though I'm sure she'd rather have nothing to do wit the karaoke stage this time. Ah, well. We'll have to see about that. I take the mic from Legion (I have to wonder, though, where did we get that mic anyway?) and march on right to the stage. I then look out at the crowd, nodding.
"Hi peeps," I say. "I guess we're all relieved we got out of that place alive, because they kept tellin' us we wouldn't get out!" A few cheers sound at this. "Well, here we are now, and I guess the biggest spoil we get from all this is that we get to laugh in the faces of everyone who said we couldn't do this. All inclusive, by the way." I wink, the others agreeing with a few cheers. "It wasn't easy, but hey, we're all here, right? So we must have done something right." I cough after saying this, indicating Commander Shepard with my free hand as a few cheers go around for her.
"All that aside, we've got a lot of reasons to celebrate today," I mention. "So I feel like doing it by turning to some good ol' stuff for that." I then wink at Sturge, who gives me a rather... somewhere in the middle expression. The others... don't really seem to have that much of a reaction. Okay... What to sing now, what to sing now...? Eh.
"Legion, get the random song generator going, will ya?"
The geth does this with a short 'affirmative', and then I see it cycle through songs. Okay...
Hm. It settled on Jet Song. Yeah, that one that Riff sings in the middle of West Side Story. Hm... It fits, I suppose. I mean, here on the Normandy, we've all gotten pretty close. And when you're a Jet, you stay a Jet. Yeah, this is strangely appropriate for all of us. In... many ways. Barring the whole 'Puerto Ricans' bit, of course.
I nod, taking up the microphone. "All right, here we go!" I say, just as the song starts up. Okay, I don't actually know the lyrics all that well, so... here we go.
"When you're a Jet,
you're a Jet all the way
from your first cigarette
to your last dyin' day."
"When you're a Jet,
if the spit hits the fan,
you got brothers around,
you're a family man!
"You're never alone,
you're never disconnected!"
I move my feet a little bit at the brief second or so break between that and the next part of the stanza...
"You're home with your own:
when company's expected,
you're well protected!
"Then you are set with a capital J,
which you'll never forget till they cart you away.
When you're a Jet, you stay a Jet!"
We go on for some instrumental stuff, and... Okay, we move on, instrumentals go, get on out, and... Hey, wait, the words just go back to the first stanza! Hm... I guess the whole bit where the song calls all Puerto Ricans 'lousy chickens' was too harsh to include in the publicly sung version. Hm. Ah, well, not much I can do about that. Just sing the first stanza again and we're set.
So I do that, adding a couple more dance moves as we go on and on with that. All right, finish the song, and... bam!
I hold a small little dance pose from the end, looking out at the crowd as they go into the usual applause bit. I smile at them, standing back up as I nod to Tali. Well, dear, it's your turn now. And...
I feel kinda silly right now.
You know what? I think I'm going to go on a limb here and request the song for her. So I turn to Tali, gesturing for her to get close to me so I could whisper something. So she leaned over.
"Hey, you mind if I request the next song for you?"
She turned to me and nodded, looking a little sheepish.
All right! And I know just the song. I bring the mic as the applause dies down. "All right," I say. "So... Tali gets a turn now at the open mic, and she's given me free reign to request the next song for her." I then pat her in the arm, looking right at Legion. "Hey, you don't have a karaoke version of Honey Bun there, do ya?"
And that went really well. Though I must admit, I didn't think Tali would get into the whole 'both genders kinda crossdress for this song' thing as much as she did. I got the requisite hula skirt (somehow), but she acted even more like a man than I did a woman. It was good for a bunch of laughs on their end, though, so I guess in the end everything turned out to be really fun.
And that's really the key word for how the rest of the party went. It was just a hell of a lot of fun, a chance for all of us to unwind after the particularly taxing suicide mission. Seriously, we're gonna be telling that story to our grandchildren somewhere along the line, but it was really hard. Some things there kinda sucked, but hey. What can a man do, you know?
So the party went on for a couple hours after that, with the same old stuff happening. People talked, we had some drinks, sang some songs, and even the colonists got into it. So at the end of the day it was all fun and games for everyone involved.
And then I woke up the next morning, realizing that the Reapers are still a threat to all sentient life in the galaxy. Well, the celebration couldn't last forever, I guess. But now the reality of everything is sinking in. We won the battle, but we haven't won the war yet. And for all I know, we could still all be fucked. Including me, and I'm not too keen on dying a second time right now. I've got way too much here that needs my attention. Well, there's also the fact that existence would suck for people fighting the Reapers, but that's besides the point.
I stand in the hangar bay, looking out of one of the holes in the hull left by the Oculus laser. I see the shimmering mass effect field there, along with the black expanse of space beyond. The stars are really beautiful right now, what with no light pollution to get in the way and all. I nod, looking out.
I turn to see Shepard stepping up next to me as we both look out of the hole. "Oh, hi Shepard," I say. "You all right?"
"I think so," she says. "I'm worried about Thane, mostly, but I think I'll be all right." She turns to me. "You think the Reaper invasion will be easy for us to defeat?"
I smirk, shaking my head as my attention turns back to the stars. "Doubt it," I say. "We've got a Council who doesn't want to acknowledge that they exist, we've got an Alliance that is trying to kiss their ass, we've got Cerberus to deal with now, and we pretty much pissed off the Reapers with that last mission. And then there's the whole issue of uniting so many races against a single enemy in today's political climate." I shrug. "Never a dull day with you, Joc."
She chuckles at this. "Never a dull day indeed," she replies.
I nod. "So what now?" I ask.
"I was thinking we could dock at Illium for repairs."
I frown, looking at her. "Illium?" I ask. "Why Illium?"
"I don't really know," says Shepard. "I think that we'll just be best off there. Liara can probably pull a few strings for us to spend less money on the repairs of this ship, and we're in mostly neutral territory."
I nod. "Yeah, now that Cerberus isn't funding us, that would be a bit of an issue," I mention, rubbing my chin in thought. "And after that?"
"We'll see," she says. "At the end of the day, we fight or we die. That's the plan."
"That it is," I say. "You know, I think that with the odds stacked against us, we may just be able to do this."
Shepard nods. "Most people would call this impossible," she says. "But... we've already done the impossible twice. I'm sure doing it a third time would be good for all life in the galaxy."
"Yep," I say. "And know that this time, I'm with you all the way on this adventure." I turn to her, smiling as she does the same. "It's been a hell of a ride, Shepard. And this time I intend to see this fight to the end."
"Good to hear," replies the Commander. "I could use your help, Art." She nods again as we both look out at the stars.
"Consider me part of this next big adventure, then."
I look out at the stars, thinking about the final shot of Mass Effect 2. There with the Reapers descending on the galaxy, the epic music playing in the background. Well, Harbinger, you've issued a challenge the likes of which no man, woman, or child has known before. Unite the galaxy before you show up, or we're all doomed. But we've got things you don't have. We have Shepard. We have each other. And we have a determination, the likes of which you've never seen.
So to this, I say to you, Harbinger:
Bring it on!
End of Part 2.
A/N: And that's the end of Mass Vexations 2!
Man, this has been a hell of a journey. I mean, wow. This fic went on for a loooooooooong time. And now that MV3 is upon us... It just feels so strange to finally let this go. Nevertheless, I'm happy with this: I had a ton of ideas going into it, and I'm glad to say most of them got incorporated really, really well. I think. Ultimately, I'm not the judge of my own stuff, so I'll leave you to determine how successful I was with that.
So, what to expect from MV3? Really? You're asking that at a time like this? Oh, sure... I'll go ahead and answer questions that I'm sure you all have:
-Yes, I plan on doing LotSB. The reason I'm not doing it in MV2 is because to me, it makes more sense to use it as the opener for MV3. I also plan on doing Arrival, though it will be a very different Arrival from what Bioware gave us for a lot of reasons. You'll see why when we get there.
-No, I haven't forgotten about some of the dangling plot threads left here. I'm sure a lot of you will probably ask what happened to the Aurigos, for instance. Don't worry, that, and other plot threads like it will be mentioned in MV3. Some may even play a more critical role than you'd initially think they would...
-Yes, I plan on having Art and Tali stay together throughout MV3.
-With a couple exceptions, most everyone that was on the ship during MV2 will stay on it during MV3. I will warn you now: MV3 will likely have a major case of Loads And Loads Of Characters, so stay tuned and you'll see what comes of that.
-The Fade will play a big part in certain plot lines during MV3. That's one of the reasons I introduced it here: it gives me time to develop my ideas on it now, and makes sure that I avoid hitting you with a huge infodump in MV3 about the Fade. Now I can introduce some things in spoonfuls.
So that's all I've got for expectations. Now... Now I go on hiatus until August. I won't tell you when MV3 will go up during August, but if you want to know, then add me to your alerts list.
For now, I want to thank a lot of people. I wanna thank everyone who reviewed this story for starters: seriously, you guys are awesome. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I'd write a story that would one day grow to have 900+ reviews. You guys are seriously awesome, and I hope you all stick around for MV3.
I'd also like to thank my close friends inf3cti0nZ and RoyalFanatic for providing constant moral support throughout, and for being a place to bounce ideas off of. And then I'd like to thank my ME SI buddies Thunderfury, Sarge1995, and bale626 for just being awesome.
Seriously, you guys rock. If I knew you guys IRL, I'd throw a massive party.
Well, that's all I've got. My hiatus on the MV series starts now.
I'll see you guys in Mass Vexations 3.