It did not shame Tali'Zorah to say that, when she first beheld the Normandy SR-2, she teared up a little.
She didn't care at first that it had built by Cerberus or crewed by them. When she first set foot on board she knew in her heart that it had the same spirit as theold Normandy. It even had Joker at the helm, just like old times. But this new ship wasn't like the old one, no, it was better. It was larger, faster, and more heavily armed, although there were a few places where improvements could be me made in engineering. To that end, Shepard had immediately assigned her to the position of Chief Engineer, which made her glad to be free of the burden of command. If her experiences over the past two years had taught her anything, it was that she was blatantly unsuited to positions of authority, a trait which her father would no doubt be greatly disappointed at.
And the crew of this Normandy was even more amazing than the crew of the old one. Tali had never seen a crew made up of so many aliens before. There was her old "friend" Garrus of course, along with a drell assassin, a salarian scientist, an asari Justicar (a real one, this time), and a tank-grown krogan. Still, it wasn't quite the same, and she worried that the Cerberus crewmen might not have any respect for a non-human like her. The last thing she wanted was another crew that despised her. Yet, to her surprise, everyone acted very polite, and none of them seemed to possess the anti-alien attitude she expected from Cerberus crewmen. As she later learned, many of them, such as engineers Ken Donnelly and Gabriella Daniels, were actually formerly members of the Alliance who had joined Cerberus out of frustration with the Alliance's lack of action against the Reaper menace. Most of the Cerberus crewmembers didn't even know much about the organisation they worked for, at least nothing beyond the Normandy SR-2 cell. Tali supposed that made sense, as it limited the information any Cerberus agent could give provide in the event he was apprehended.
One thing was bothering her, however, and that was how readily the fleet's admiralty board had agreed to allow her to serve on the Normandy. It was almost as if they wanted to get rid of her. Most likely they figured that, if she were going to cause explosions, mayhem, and destruction, then better it be with Shepard than with the flotilla.
Then there were the surveillance devices that Cerberus had strewn about the ship. Shepard had instructed her to remove any she found and do with them whatever she wanted. Most she ended up destroying, although there were a few she hacked to transmit a continuously looping segment of video, making wagers on how long it would take Cerberus to figure out what she had done.
"Hey Tali," came Shepard's voice from behind. She spun around to see him standing there, dressed in some black piece of formal wear that Kasumi Goto had gotten him. Kasumi was some strange woman they had picked up at the Citadel, as if the Normandy's crew weren't strange enough as it was.
"Shepard!" she said, her tone more excited than she expected. She was still struggling to process the events of the past few weeks. Her mission to Haestrom had been a disaster – once again nearly her whole crew had gotten killed, with only Kal'Reegar and a few others surviving. And unlike her old crew these had been good men and women, who had died for what? For information about stars ageing faster than they should? What were the admirals thinking, sending them into the middle of geth space? Maybe that was why they had not given her any reprimand or censure for the loss of her crew.
"Just checking in," he said. "I know it must be rather...uncomfortable...working with Cerberus and all that."
"I'm not working with Cerberus," she said. "I'm working with you. But...thanks for checking up on me. I've already got a few ideas for upgrades we could make."
"Glad to hear it. You know, we didn't really have much time to chat on Haestrom, did we? I was just wondering what you've been up to for the past two years. It sounds like a lot happened."
Tali stepped back. "Keelah, Shepard...you really want to know?"
"Then...you'd better settle in," she said. "This is going to take a while..."