This chapter has been re-written since I was generally displeased with it's content.
"Don't turn your back on me Shepard!" The Illusive Man shouted furiously at the hologram of the commander in front of him, anger burning in his synthetic eyes. "I made you, I brought you back from the dead!"
Shepard shook his head. "I don't have time for this bullshit." he thought. He turned to the ceiling. "Joker, loose this channel."he ordered the helmsman, and the hologram faded out, and the commander found himself standing alone in the comm room once more. He didn't know why, but his mind wandered back to what had happened merely hours ago during their suicide run on the collectors.
The floor shook violently as the reaperlarvae exploded in a sea of flames. Shepard's M-920 Cain had proven quite useful against the abomination of flesh and metal. The platform they where standing on flew out of place by the explosion, sending it across the large chamber at a random. Shepard just managed to turn his head to see another platform flying into theirs. No pain, no sound – just a window in his memory.
The commander tries to remember the rest, but only finds short moments in the blur.
Shepard is running for the ship, Garrus on his right side and Tali on his left. He can hear Harbinger going on about the usual with words as "salvation" and "genetic destiny", but he couldn't bother with that now. Getting of that station alive was of higher priority.
He sees Tali wrestling with a collector - the insectoid creature gaining the upper hand. Instead of risking taking a shot that could hit Tali, Shepard runs towards the collector after blowing a hole in another's chest with a shotgun, pulling his knife on the way. He kicks the alien in it's shin, then put his left arm under it's chin and he pulls back, exposing the fleshy neck. The beast makes a guttural sound as the cold metal slits through his flesh and white-like gore splashes all over Tali's enviro-suit. She looks at Shepard, apparently quite annoyed. "Sorry..." Shepard utters, a little embarrassed to have just gored-down his newly found girlfriend.
"Come on you two! We have to go!" they hear Garrus shout. They both look in the direction it came from and see the turian standing a few yards away from them, unleashing a hail of bullets into another enemy with his Vindicator battle rifle.
Shepard quickly comes out of his memories, realizing that he had to focus on now. On how to prepare the galaxy for the oncoming reaper fleet without having the slightest idea how to. He exited the comm room to get to the galaxy map in the CIC to get a better overview of his situation. On his way he walked past Tali in the armory.
Tali was sitting on a small table that shot out of the wall, where most of the guns lied when not in use, watching the commander as he went into the CIC. Without fully realizing it, she let out a loud, long, loving sigh. Jacob, who was also in the armory, working on his terminal, stopped in mid-work and looked at the door which had just closed behind Shepard and then at Tali who was behind him. "Now that sounded more than just boredom."he said with a smirk, which made the quarian freeze in her place. "You're into something, aren't you?"
Tali felt her cheeks heat up from embarrassment. "No...I mean...I just..."she stuttered. "Oh Keelah..."she breathed out. She wanted to keep the relationship between her and Shepard a secret. At least for now. "Please, don't tell the rest of the crew. We..."
"Tell them what? After all, you haven't told me anything."Jacob cut her off with a grin The quarian smiled under her helmet, certain that Jacob wouldn't tell anyone. He seemed very trustworthy for a Cerberus. Maybe she could keep it a secret from the crew after all. Well, most of the crew.
She nodded at the ex-cerberus agent. "Thanks...Jacob" she realized she had never called him by his name before. Actually, she had only spoken with him twice before. First when she first arrived at the new Normandy, and another time when there was some mechanical fault for the console that he was not being able to even locate. Of course, Tali had both found and fixed the problem in a shorter time than it had taken for Jacob to even realize that something was wrong in the first place.
She looked at the human, who had now turned around to continue to work on the terminal, and noticed his significantly darker skin-color, which she hadn't really given much thought of before. She found herself curious of it and at the same time, she thought of it as a good way to keep the conversation going. "Jacob?" she asked.
Jacob turned around. "Yes?"he asked, his fingers never leaving the console.
Tali hesitated a moment, but she was curious to know. "Why is your skin so much darker than of anyone else on the ship?"she asked curiously, yet reluctantly. You don't ask such personal questions in the Migrant Fleet, she knew that. But her curiosity had gained the upper hand.
The man crossed his arms and another smile showed up on his face. "Heh...well I guess I would get that question eventually."he snickered. "Well, my ancestors come from a continent on Earth call Africa."he explained. "Nature found it helpful to give us a darker skin in a land where the temperature could reach above a-hundred-and-thirty degrees."He shrugged "To protect from the sun, you know."he added.
The quarian took a moment to think about what she had just been told, and then continued. "Did you come from this 'Africa'?she asked, hungry for more answers; according to Shala'Raan, she always has been.
"No." Jacob replied quickly. His smile had faded away, but he didn't seem very upset. "Although I was born on Earth, it was on another continent."he explained, but it just arouse more confusion in the young quarian.
Tali shifted her position on the table uncomfortably. "Why would they be on another continent, when their place was obviously this 'Africa?'"she asked herself. "Why where you not in your homeland?"the young woman asked.
"Well..." Jacob started with a shrug, but was cut off by Jokers voice over the intercom. "Aye, aye commander. Setting course for Illium. ETA, ten hours. All crew, get back to your stations. Or no cornbread at dinner tonight."
Jacob grunted lightly. "Hm...looks like we have to finish this another time." He nodded at her in the way he always seems to do and turned back to his console.
"Yes...of course..."Tali sighed, thinking that it probably couldn't have came more untimely. She jumped down from the table and went for the elevator down to engineering.
Shepard walked into the CIC and stood over the galaxy map. He looked at the haze of endless stars and thought of his current objectives. Though it was hard to concentrate with the sea of little lights glistening in front of him. He regained focus though, and could feel the brainstorm coming.
He knew there was no way to get the council on his side without solid evidence of that the reapers even exists, which rules out the turians, the salarians and the asari from the list. At least for now.
That leaves the quarians, the now rewritten geth, the batarians, the krogan, which is not an option until Wrex has managed to unite them; a difficult cause when dealing with testosterone war tanks like the krogan.
Then of course, there was the mercenary bands. The three major groups, the Blood Pack, Eclipse and Blue Suns bands. Then there was also the the lesser ones, like the Juggernaut, Black Rose and Cresto groups. The question was: how was Shepard supposed to get on his side the ones that had hated him along every step on the way. Only a week ago, he had experienced an assassination attempt from the Cresto mercenary band. It had ended with Tali blowing the head off of their leader. They probably already have a new one though. "A new one..."the human said to himself. "A new leader means an opportunity. If he doesn't hate me personally, then it will be much easier to get them on my side."he thought. He heard the improbability in the plan as soon as he spoke it, but it was certainly worth a shot. He wouldn't be where he was today if he hadn't taken certain risks.
The Cresto did not classify as a major merc group, but they where still quite impressive. Shepard knew that he would need everyone united to survive against the reaper armada. He must start somewhere. Why not with the Cresto? Liara T'soni should know a way to get to them. "Joker. Set a course for Illium." he said, looking up in the ceiling, as if he was talking to it.
"Aye, aye commander. Setting course for Illium. ETA ten hours. All crew, get back to your stations. Or no cornbread to dinner tonight."the pilot responded, with a hint of his own humor in the last sentence. Joker was the only one who didn't know only he thought he was funny.
Shepard leaned at the rail in front of him. EDI appeared next to him. "According to my calculations, the probability of us rounding up enough force until my estimated time of the reaper's arrival – which is in about two years – is at nine point three percent, Shepard. Whatever you are planning, I want you to know what we're up against."
"EDI, nine point three percent is good odds for us."Shepard stated while still looking at the galaxy map "And as Julius Caesar said – alea acta est. We have to take our chances." The commander turned to the blue hologram to his side. "It's time for the end of the beginning."