Finally got a new chapter up, enjoy
Liara lay on her bed, inside an officer's abandoned quarters. Contemplating what she had gotten herself into. On the upside, there was the discovery of a species that might predate the protheans, and maybe even confirm her theories, if the forerunners could build something like halo, the citadel and mass relays must have been child's play to them.
Of course there were a lot of downsides too, the flood, a race was teetering on the edge of extinction, and then there was the fact that halo was a superweapon designed to wipe out galactic life. It was all a bit overwhelming.
Her morbid thoughts were interrupted by the intercom, "Liara, please come to the briefing room, Artemis will guide you here."
Liara stood up from her bed and put on her enviro-suit and strapped her pistol to her side. Not all the compartments onboard the damaged vessel were pressurized, whether due to damaged equipment or battle damage exposing them to space, it was prudent to carry an oxygen supply through the Down Under. Not to mention the possibility of a cloaked covenant stowaway evading the AI's vigilance.
The doctor walked out into the hall and noted the strip of lights along the floor glowing blue. Following them she quickly came to the meeting room, with only one short detour through a maintenance shaft around a malfunctioning door.
The door to the room opened to reveal Shepard dressed in a jumpsuit, and the diplomat sent with the STG team, a fellow asari named Nassana. The other asari was wearing what looked like commando leathers. She also had a pistol holstered at her side. Liara noted the human's rifle resting against the table nearby. It seemed they both had similar thoughts to her own.
"Oh, good you're here," Shepard greeted her by standing up as she entered the room, and retaking his seat as she sat down. "We just found out that the council wants to meet face to face, or face to hologram if you prefer. I figured you might be somewhat useful in telling me what to expect, being your average citizen and not a politician like Nassana here."
"I'm not sure what help I would be, I don't pay much attention to politics." Liara answered, a little uncomfortably.
"Close enough," Shepard responded offhandedly, "Besides you're the prothean expert. Considering the origins of halo, you might be more useful than you think."
Liara shrugged, "I will try."
"Right, well I might as well go over the councilors, luckily these councilors are pretty close to stereotypes. Believe me it helps in trying to get them to do anything. Word a suggestion just right and they can be like putty in your hands, I helped the asari ambassador do just that a few times in the past decade." Nassana smirked, "The asari councilor will probably be the hardest to convince to take any action. She's a hard line conservative. Long view; wait and see attitude, but convince the other two and she'll agree to almost anything. That's her one flaw, she likes consensus vs. conflict."
Liara frowned, she remembered vaguely that the current asari councilor had lobbied on a platform of economic change and progress, and said as much.
"Yeah, economics are one thing; political standpoints on major issues are another." Nassana moved on, "The salarian is a different story, pretty much the polar opposite, I hear he even brought up the possibility of trade embargos with the batarians over their continuing slave trade, and he keeps trying to allow greater leniency in synthetic research and genetic engineering. To convince him, you might need to hint at your technology and a possibility of trade, even if there is none."
"Easy enough," Shepard remarked, "Though I would think that Kirrahe and his team would have forwarded a more detailed report to him."
"I'm not sure why, but I'm surprised you've picked up on the race politics so easily." Nassana answered.
Liara frowned at that, she knew that some politics were drawn along race lines, but she had always thought when it came to important matters such as this, those would disappear.
"ONI does train its officers fairly well," Shepard smirked. "What about the last councilor? There are only three, right?"
"Yeah, he's a turian, militant. I think he used to serve in the bureaucratic side of their military, and eventually got high enough in rank to be considered for the councilor position." The asari diplomat smiled, "He will probably be the easiest to convince. After all it was a turian fleet that was lost over your world. A military threat would be met with overwhelming force. Standard turian doctrine, and the turians councilor is a by the books type of soldier."
Shepard turned to face Liara, "What do you think?"
Liara paused to think for a minute, "From what Nassana says, it seems like you will have a relatively easy time convincing them to intervene, especially since they know of halo." She noticed Nassana roll her eyes, but decided not to comment, "I suppose the only problem would be to convince them to act quickly, the council is notorious for acting slowly. They might try to assign a specter, but a fleet would be harder to get."
"Alright, thank you ladies for your help, I'll have to talk to Artemis about this. You can go back to your quarters." Shepard keyed a few controls on the table and brought up a hologram.
Liara took that as her cue to leave, pointedly avoiding the other asari's looks and retreating to her temporary quarters.
Up until now, she hadn't considered the council not helping to stop the threat posed by halo. That thought scared her. She sat down behind the small desk in her room and leaned back, hoping everything would work out.
Lieutenant Hall watched as the last turian ship lifted off from the makeshift landing field. Longsword fighters escorted the bulky transport ships out of the atmosphere and away from Shanxi.
He looked back down; General Williams was standing with the commander of the turian forces that had stayed behind. The alien had a purple stained bandage wrapping one hand and its armor was dented and scraped. He had probably been right in the thick of it when the covenant attacked their original landing site.
The general turned to Hall, "Lieutenant, I'm appointing you liaison with your alien buddies." Williams then turned to address the turian commander again, "We're in the process of bugging out of this location. One of those covenant ships is bearing down on us; probably going to glass this position."
"We're an armored company; the majority of our vehicles are still intact. Give us the orders and we'll head out." The turian commander responded.
"Good, I'll have the superintendent send you rendezvous coordinates immediately. I have to say, I was expecting you to try and avoid placing yourself under our command." The general replied while gesturing to an aide, likely to contact the planet's superintendent AI.
The alien commander shrugged, "We're turians commander, we follow orders, it's what we do."
The general let out a short laugh, "Good, for now, get as much distance from this site as possible, we'll be deploying nuclear ordnance against that ship, they're clean for nukes, but they pack a hell of a punch."
"Will we have time to clear the blast zone?" Hall asked the general.
"That ship is sticking in atmo for some reason, it's travelling under the speed of sound, as of this moment we have maybe two hours tops. So get the lead out commander." The general replied before turning and boarding a waiting falcon transport.
The anachronistic rotorcraft spun up and flew away. Hall waited for the turian to give him orders. He didn't have to wait long.
"You'll load up with my cabal group; they're a direct report anyway. It will be the IFV with blue markings near the center of the column; any trooper can direct you there." The turian handed him a small object, obviously a hand radio despite its alien three fingered design. "I'll trust you to keep your general updated. Contact me with any further orders."
Hall nodded and made his way past the rapidly forming column of APCs, tanks, and transport trucks. Eventually he came upon a vehicle with eight large wheels on independent suspension, and a small turret above. There was a hatch in the side of the vehicle between the middle wheels.
Hall strode up to the hatch and knocked three times, then backed up. The hatch swung open to reveal a cramped interior, nine turians lined the inside of the vehicle.
The leader, denoted by a short red stripe on the color of his armor, gestured for the ONI officer to climb in, "The commander said to expect you, Lieutenant Hall I presume?"
"Yeah, that's me," Hall replied as he took the alien's proffered hand and was pulled up into the APC.
"So what did you do to get stuck with this job? Not polish enough gizzard in the command tent?" One of the troopers called out.
Hall didn't quite know what that phrase meant, but he could guess, "Hah1" He gave a short laugh at the joke, "No, I was aboard the To Kill a Mockingbird. The ship you blasted out of the sky and started this whole mess."
"Oh, so you're the specter's pet human eh?" a second trooper asked, "Guess the fleet bit off more than they could fit in their mandibles this time. As usual though, it's up to the army to clean up the mess."
Hall felt the vehicle start moving, "Better you than me, I like sitting in orbit, sipping tea and pushing buttons, far better way to fight a war," Hall replied, remembering a pep talk he had heard an ODST give to his squad before a drop.
The turian soldiers chuckled at the joke. "Yeah, as fun as that is, I prefer throwing the enemy around with my mind," One of the turians replied.
Hall frowned in confusion at the remark. Until the turian started glowing blue, and levitated an assault rifle in front of him; then Hall jumped against his restraints and exclaimed, "What the hell!"
"What? You people don't have biotics?" one of the soldiers asked.
"I'm pretty sure there isn't a single telekinetic human that I know of," Hall replied, regaining his composure. "Seems pretty useful in combat… not to mention for scratching that itch you just can't reach."
"Enemy vessel is approaching the city; nuclear detonations imminent," The vehicle's driver interrupted their conversation.
Hall felt the vehicle slow to a stop, and the suspension lower the vehicle closer to the ground, "How far are we from the blast zone?"
"Column has made it fifty miles from the landing site, you're detonating nukes, not anti-matter explosives, we'll be fine." The squad leader replied.
Hall gripped his restraints anyway. Moments later the blast wave hit them. Hall felt the vehicle slide a few feet on the highway. The ground continued to rumble and vibrate as the blast continued through the ground.
"That blast must have been a dozen megatons." The leader turned to Hall, "That seems like some pretty serious ordnance to take down one ship."
"Well, one down, one to go," one of the troopers remarked.
Hall's radio crackled with static in his ear on the UNSC channel, "Lieutenant, get your alien friends turned around and back to the landing zone. Damn nukes didn't manage to kill the carrier. Knocked most of them out of the sky before they could hit. The ship's damaged though, it's barely keeping station. The crew will probably try to affect repairs."
Hall noted the stunned looks on the faces of the turians as he replied, "Roger that, what are our orders?"
"Assault the ground forces defending the landing zone, try to board and overload the reactor, get a nuke inside and set it off. Any or all of the above Lieutenant. We might actually stand a chance of saving the world this time, so get moving."
"Yes sir, general."
Shepard followed a salarian soldier down the corridors of the Dawn Under Heaven. The salarian captain had sent for him, Odeg and Liara. Apparently the council desired a face to face meeting via hologram. He felt a bit nervous. Being an unofficial ambassador to a group of alien heads of state probably had something to do with that.
Without any sort of uniform he wore his armor. He looked over his shoulder at the elite following him. Odeg followed close behind, his golden armor glinting in the shipboard lighting. Liara had already gone ahead to borrow suitable clothing from the other asari.
Eventually the two arrived at the salarian section of the ship.
After their ship had crashed into the bay, the salarians moved into nearby empty sections of the Down Under. Shepard had let them, after all he wouldn't want to try and stay on a ship that was already half broken apart and leaning against the armored wall of an unpressurized bay.
The salarian soldier eventually led them to a vehicle maintenance bay. The aliens had set up a lot of their technology in the re-purposed machine shop. All of it had wires snaking out. They obviously no longer trusted wireless connections with an AI resident aboard the ship. A bare half dozen salarians manned the various computer stations in the makeshift room. Kirrahe, Liara and Nassana stood near three holographic pedestals, each of which was projecting a different alien race, one asari, one salarian, and one he didn't recognize, probably the turian.
"Ah, commander, you have made it," Liara greeted him as he drew near.
Shepard nodded in response before turning his attention to what he assumed was the council. He assumed that the alien leaders would follow similar rules of decorum. That the higher ranking persons would speak first. So he simply stood at attention and waited for them to speak.
The asari was the first to speak, "You are Commander Shepard correct?" At a nod the alien continued, "I am councilor Tevos, to my right and left are councilors Velarn and Anotus respectively," The Asari gestured to the turian and the salarian as she spoke. "Who is your companion?"
Shepard gestured for Odeg to step forward, "This is Shipmaster Odeg'Delus, of the Sangheili. And Artemis," he gestured to a UNSC holopad as it flickered to life, "The ship's AI."
The salarian spoke next, "Questionable use of synthetic intelligence aside, the evidence you have brought to us is troubling. The existence of a superweapon made by the most advanced technology of the Protheans is disturbing."
Nassana made a noise of disbelief, but kept quiet. Shepard ignored her brief outburst.
"What is the risk of the weapon being fired as of now?" The turian asked.
Shepard gestured for Odeg to speak, knowing the elite would be more suited to answer than he would.
"The risk is great," the elite stated, "The Prophet of Truth will arrive at the human's homeworld soon, if he hasn't already. The forerunner dreadnaught he commands will easily lay waste to what is left of the human defenses. From there he will work to activate the rings."
"Why would he want to do such a thing?" The asari councilor spoke again, "You said the rings can kill all life in the galaxy. It does not seem logical to do such a thing."
"Our religion drives him. Or I should say our ex-religion. It was said that the forerunners used the halo array to ascend to godhood, and that we would follow in their footsteps." Shepard could hear anger creeping into Odeg's voice as he spoke, "The prophets have guided the covenant for thousands of years with this goal in mind."
Shepard decided to add on to what Odeg was saying, "We've tried to reason with the covenant many times before, ever since the start of the war twenty seven years ago. It has never worked. If you can provide a fleet there may still be a chance to save the galaxy."
The turian spoke next, "If our fleet is up to the task. One of our fleets was wiped out by a mere two ships."
"How many ships?" Shepard asked.
"Seven cruisers, one dreadnaught, and nearly two dozen frigates were lost against the enemy vessels." The salarian rattled off the facts without a trace of emotion.
"Citadel cruisers are roughly analogous to UNSC frigates in terms of size. Their main gun is severely underpowered compared to a typical UNSC MAC gun, but makes up for it in rate of fire. Dreadnaughts are similar in comparison to UNSC cruiser class vessels." Artemis smiled at the aliens before continuing, "You should really be careful what you put in your codex. There is a lot of militarily viable information there." She turned to Shepard, "I've also seen the sensor logs from Shanxi they have forwarded. I'd say they were up against an assault carrier and a CCS class battle cruiser. It's impressive that they managed to get away with as few casualties as they did."
"Assuming you decide to help my race out councilors, how many vessels could you spare?" Shepard asked.
The unknown spoke again, Shepard got the feeling that he was perhaps the best versed in military matters, "The ready fleet consists of four dreadnaughts, fifteen cruisers and three dozen frigates. The Turian Hierarchy has another two dreadnaughts, four cruisers, and sixteen frigates waiting near relay 314. If the asari would deign to allow the Destiny Ascension to leave the citadel we may have an impressive fleet."
"Artemis?" He asked over his shoulder.
"Give me generalized performance characteristics and weapons load outs for those ships and I might be able to come up with a workable strategy. Don't need specifics. Give me the standard." The AI said as she brought a hand up to her chin.
"Hand over fleet specifications to an AI? A trap should be less obvious." The asari councilor responded with a sneer.
The AI simply laughed at the alien's remark, "Please, I think I would be less obvious than that. An evil AI like myself could come up with a thousand better methods than that, in fact-"
"Artemis, that's enough." Shepard cut the AI off before she could continue.
"Right, sorry commander," she responded before addressing the council again, "I was designed as a fleet combat AI, to coordinate hundreds of vessels, thousands of fighters and planetary defense installations at the same time. If you want an honest evaluation of your chances at fighting the covenant I'll need the information." The AI gave the council a self satisfied smirk, "Besides, the fate of the galaxy may be at stake here. Do you really want to throw away any advantage you can get?"
"The AI's statement makes sense," The salarian said, "Practical first hand experience would be necessary for detailed analysis. AI capable of processing large amounts of information very quickly. Only limited details required, easy enough to provide, very little risk in return."
"AI technology is illegal for a reason," the asari countered.
"Why? Your programmers are so bad at their jobs any AI you make tries to kill you?" Artemis taunted in turn.
"Enough," The turian said, "Bickering will get us no where. Even if you choose to not believe the existence of this halo," He glanced at the asari before continuing, "The fact remains that this covenant is a grave threat to the security of the galaxy."
The turian councilor looked at the other two. The salarian nodded immediately, the asari was somewhat hesitant, but agreed as well.
A beep came from the holographic consoles. A salarian operative pressed a few buttons to complete the transfer from the council's connection to Artemis' systems.
The AI's avatar closed its eyes as if in thought, "That will work." Artemis' expression changed to a massive grin, "That will work very nicely."
"Well?" Shepard questioned.
Artemis turned towards him, "I think we might just be in business. With those resources I'm fairly certain I could defeat a dozen or so covenant capital ships."
"How so?" Shepard asked, remembering that the council had lost a somewhat sizable fleet to two covenant warships.
"Experience, if these weapon specs are correct, and they," She nodded her head towards the holograms of the council, "stay at extreme engagement ranges and concentrate on targets, you'll stand a chance; maybe even stay at even odds against a half dozen ships."
"You said a dozen or more before." The salarian councilor pointed out.
"Yes," The AI responded as she looked in the council's direction, "I could defeat a dozen covenant vessels with those resources. I am a fleet combat AI; it's what I was made for."
"That's enough Artemis," Shepard chided the AI, "Compile your findings and any tactics you have come up with, put them in a nice report and forward them to the salarians. They'll make sure it gets to where it needs to go."
Artemis' AI gave a sloppy salute before disappearing from her pedestal.
The three councilors looked to each other in turn, eventually the three of them nodded in agreement to some unknown question.
The asari spoke, "The fleet will be dispatched to guard relay 314 commander, and any refugees will be accorded safety in our space."
Shepard felt like he had just been gut punched, "Councilors, I beg you to reconsider, your species' fates are at stake here too."
"We cannot risk sending the majority of our fleet to investigate the halo weapon. If the flood or the covenant discovers the relay our space will be threatened while our fleet is on a fool's errand. Our ships do not possess the firepower to destroy a prothean construction," The asari explained.
"It is a matter of ability, considering the size of the debris field around the planet you are currently orbiting; we do not believe we will be doing anything other than sending our ships to their deaths, for no purpose." The salarian continued, "We are decided, our business is over."
The holograms winked out together.
Shepard punched the small console in front of him in frustration.
"I do not understand," Odeg said from behind him, "They accept the existence of halo and the flood, but they wish to wait and see?"
"Politics, often troublesome," Kirrahe replied, "Maybe deadly in this case."
Odeg scoffed, "Politics? They will either end up destroyed by halo's fire, or consumed by the parasite, how can they play the games of politics now?"
Shepard straightened up and turned to Odeg, "One aging halcyon cruiser might not be able to make much of a difference, but we can make some." He looked over his shoulder at the salarian captain, "You and your crew are welcome to take a few dropships and wait here for pickup, but we'll be heading to earth once our slipspace drive is repaired."
The salarian looked thoughtful for a few moments, before one of his soldiers caught his attention, "Hold on commander, we're receiving another transmission from the citadel."
Shepard stopped and turned around, "Go ahead and play it."
To his surprise, the image of the turian councilor appeared behind one of the pedestals, "Commander, I must apologize for my fellow councilors."
Shepard walked forward to his pedestal, "That's good to hear, but apologies are just words. My species is at stake here."
The turian nodded, "I might not trust your AI, and I don't know if I quite believe this claim of a prothean superweapon, evidence or not, but the covenant is a grave threat to the galaxy." He took a breath, "That's why I will be passing along orders to the turian fleet waiting at the relay, for them to join up with your vessel and accept orders from your ship's commander; the AI of course. Expect them within six hours' time; the orders will take some time to go through. There will be a lot fewer ships than if the full citadel fleet were to join you, but something is better than nothing."
"Thank you sir," Shepard straightened up and saluted. The alien may have been a member of a foreign power, but Shepard felt the turian deserved some gesture of respect.
"Thank me if you win commander, either way the political blowback on this side might cost me my position. Whatever you do, make sure some of those soldiers come back alive." The turian gave a stiff return salute before cutting the connection.
"Interesting, councilor willing to risk position for what he has deemed higher goals, unexpected from his psychological profile," Kirrahe commented after the hologram flickered and died.
"Artemis said one of your dreadnaughts is a rough counterpart to our cruisers. He's tripled our chances of doing something worthwhile," Shepard responded. He gestured for Odeg and the captain to follow him, "Let's see how soon the slipspace engine can be made ready."
Nihlus stood next to the entrance of the barracks where a large number of human refugees were being housed for the trip to citadel space. He was waiting to talk to the appointed 'diplomat' among the humans, one rear admiral Donnel Udina, also of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Several turian soldiers and some human volunteers were passing out the limited levo based rations the turians had aboard ship. Most ships in citadel space carried rations of the opposite chirality amino acid for situations similar to this. However, the planners for this ship's supply store had obviously not planned for this many levo based sentients to travel aboard ship. Luckily it was only a day's travel to the nearest allied world, a turian colony world. They wouldn't have much, but they would have enough food on hand to feed the refugees.
From there it was only a few days travel to any number of worlds; depending on how quickly the council reacted they could set down and offload within four days.
His thoughts were interrupted as the human admiral walked over.
"Specter," the human said as a greeting, "Any news?"
Nihlus nodded, "We'll be at the relay soon, and able to contact the diplomats on the citadel, I doubt the council will get personally involved in this; from there, refugee status and possible settlement on a lightly colonized world."
"And the covenant?" The human asked, "Are you going to just stick your heads in the sand and pretend they won't find your worlds eventually?"
"That's not up to me," Nihlus looked at the refugees piled amid the bunks, "Personally I'd assign STG teams, hunt down their homeworld and nuke them back to the stone age. As the old saying goes, 'a fleet without a world dies of an empty stomach.'"
"I've never heard that one before," Udina remarked.
"It's an old turian saying, back from the unification war," Nihlus explained, "that was nearly three thousand years ago, but it still has truth."
The human let out a short laugh, "Three thousand years in space and you still get kicked around by the covenant?"
Nihlus turned back to the human, "I suppose you have a better track record?"
"No." Udina replied simply.
Before Nihlus could press further a message came over the ship's speakers, "Specter we're approaching the relay. Elements of the fleet are waiting for us; you and the human are needed on the bridge."
Nihlus set off for the command center, the human admiral close behind him. When he arrived he saw General Septimus and the ship's captain conversing with someone over the communications system.
"…No admiral, the refugees are from Shanxi, I wasn't aware more human worlds had been found."
Nihlus walked up to a respectful distance and stood at attention.
"Orders Admiral?" the general asked his superior on the other side of the connection.
"Through the relay, the council has a place set aside for refugees. Good day General," the connection closed shortly after.
Septimus turned around, "Specter, I've just received some unexpected news, a salarian STG team has encountered a damaged human vessel, and made contact with its surviving crew."
"The Lady Luck, the ship you chased out system when you began your ill-conceived invasion?" Udina asked before the general could continue.
The turian equivalent of a frown passed over the general's features briefly, "No, this ship was the Dawn Under Heaven I believe. Do you recognize the name?"
"No," the admiral-turned-diplomat answered simply.
"Apparently the vessel was damaged in a fight over one of their worlds; they had managed to affect repairs to their vessel." Septimus glanced over towards Udina before continuing, "The fleet said they were being sent to rendezvous with the Dawn Under Heaven, in order to aid in the defense of the human homeworld."
Nihlus glanced at Udina. The man's face had tightened into a grimace, eerily similar to an asari's expression.
"Are you sure?" Udina asked.
"That is what the admiral told me." Septimus replied.
The human sighed, "And only two thousand refugees on this vessel." He shook his head, "I suppose that makes getting to 'safety' somewhat more pressing than I originally thought. If Earth is under attack, the safety of some twelve billion of us is at stake. Unless your fleet can make a difference, you may be carrying the last members of the human race aboard your ship."
General Septimus nodded and turned to the commander of the vessel, "Go ahead, bring us through the relay and get in touch with whoever is in charge of refugees."
Tali sat on the backend of a Pelican dropship, attempting to attach a thruster assembly to the damaged dropship. The human, Rodriguez, was operating a crane from a control cab up above, while she waited on the pelican to attach the heavy pod. Her omnitool was exceptionally useful in that regard, omni-gel being able to be formed into just about any part she wanted. "A little more to the left," she announced over the radio.
The part moved the tiniest bit over, Tali had to admit, the human was an artist with heavy machinery. "There, perfect," She quickly made the hydraulic and fuel connections to the pod, followed by the control wires. Her omnitool beeped at her to inform her that she was out of omni-gel. Luckily this was the last one; she wouldn't have to go through the process of finding the right quality scrap and melting it down for more.
Tali walked towards the nose of the dropship and climbed down to the hangar floor. As she made her way back to the other end of the dropship she found Rodriguez staring up at her handiwork, "Not bad Tali, better than most mechanics I've worked with anyway." The human nodded to himself as he inspected her work, "Don't know if we'll even get to use these birds, but it feels good to do some work with your hands if you know what I mean?"
Tali nodded in response, "Reminds me of home, patching up the Rayya to keep it running."
The human nodded and made as if to reply but was interrupted by the intercom.
"If you're done with your little side project, I could use Tali down in the slipspace generator room," The AI's voice sounded over the ship speakers, "I think the gas bags got the thing working, but I don't have enough cameras and sensors to tell for sure, and Shepard is just plain clueless when it comes to highly complicated dimension travelling devices."
Tali narrowed her eyes at the announcement, and then let out a frustrated sigh, "I'll be there," She replied simply, having been uncomfortably reminded how the AI could see and control most of what happened aboard the ship. Noticing that Rodriguez wasn't following she turned around, "Are you coming?"
"Uh uh," the human shook his head. "I don't like slipspace engines, call it superstition if you want, I'll clean up here."
Tali shrugged her shoulders and made her way out of the maintenance area and deeper into the ship towards the slipspace generator.
She eventually passed through the section of the ship where the sangheili had made their home. The sentry standing guard outside their barracks watched her as she passed by with undisguised suspicion. Shaking off the stare she continued onwards towards her destination. Inwardly she wondered about the sangheili, or elites as the three humans she knew called them.
The only elite she had interactions with, Odeg, seemed outwardly polite and honorable. Yet all she had to do was look out a viewport to see what their race was capable of. What had once been a verdant garden world was now a blistered ash filled wreck of a planet; an ecosystem dead, along with a billion people.
Tali wondered if her ancestors had felt what the humans did now as they fled the homeworld and the colonies. At least the sangheili seemed apologetic about their actions. She didn't know if anything could make the deaths of billions better, but it was a lot more than the Geth had ever done. The synthetics had simply hidden themselves away behind the veil and killed off anyone who attempted to contact them.
Eventually she arrived at the engine room. She found Shepard, Odeg, and the salarian captain waiting just outside. They were discussing something, but stopped when she arrived.
"Good to see you Tali, I hear the engineer has managed to fix the drive." Shepard said as a greeting.
Kirrahe spoke next, "Yes, wish your AI would have allowed us to study the engineer in more detail, bioengineered super computer that can understand new technology at a rapid pace. Exciting discovery, unfortunate that existence breaks many laws against genetic tampering and synthetic intelligences."
Tali narrowed her eyes behind her visor, "AIs are illegal for a reason."
"Not in human space they aren't," Shepard remarked casually.
"Maybe they should be," She remarked.
"You're hurting my feelings here." Artemis' voice sounded over some nearby speakers as her avatar appeared in a holopad. "I save you from the covenant, get you a ride off an orbital defense platform, and Reach, saving you from a slow death by thirst or hunger, give you a place to stay aboard my ship. All you do in return is tell everyone I should be deleted."
Tali found herself speechless, feeling like she was still in her bubble, being scolded for trying to get out as a young child. Eventually she managed to get out a few words, "but you're not…"
"What? I'm not a person?" Artemis asked accusingly.
"That's not what I meant," Tali answered, feeling a little more confidence return, "I meant that you're dangerous."
"Why? Because I control the ship?" Artemis countered, "See Odeg right there? He's a shipmaster, or he was before his ship was destroyed. As a shipmaster he is at least partly responsible for the death of millions under the guns of his ship, and if my guess is correct, at least a few hundred in direct combat, either in a fighter or on foot, before he attained that rank. He is a mass murderer in most senses of the phrase. Yet you trust him to stand next to you armed."
Tali winced at the numbers, but told herself that the Sangheili was deluded and tricked into committing those atrocities.
"Let's move on, Shepard, who you're so eager to trust, is an ONI spook." Artemis paused as if to take a breath, "The Office of Naval Intelligence isn't the friendliest place in the world. If he was ordered to when we get back to Earth, he could probably take you out in dozens of different ways, knock you unconscious and send you to section three's oh so tender care."
"Then there is the STG," Artemis turned to the salarian, "I'm sure you've heard of the Salarian's private recon and assassination branch. They're working for the council, an agency that employs people who are above the law, and whose only orders are to preserve galactic security. Now imagine that Kirrahe here has orders to keep everything in this sector under wraps, to prevent the covenant from learning about the citadel. Do you think we would know ahead of time, or be able to stop the STG team if they had orders to destroy this ship?"
Before Tali could reply Artemis spoke again, "but no, you trust them, you don't spare them a second glance. All I've done on the other hand is try to protect my ship and crew from our enemies. I would have thought that was an admirable goal to a quarian, but apparently I was mistaken. I'm not a Geth, the only people I've ever killed were covenant attempting to harm my crew."
Tali tried for several moments to come up with a counterpoint. Most of them involved the Geth, and how they had nearly wiped out her people. All she had to do was look over to Shepard and Odeg for that argument to fall flat on its face. After twenty seven years they had somehow managed to put aside the past and fight together. Eventually she came to the conclusion that maybe Artemis was right, maybe she was being unreasonably prejudiced.
Tali supposed she should apologize to the AI, "I'm sorry Artemis, it was unfair of me."
The AI smiled at her and spun around on her holopad, "Thank you Tali, that wasn't so hard now was it? Let's see what the gas bags have gotten accomplished in the meantime."
With that the doors opened and the group stepped inside the slipspace generator room.