When there was a Tomorrow

Chapter 1: "Just Recon"

July, 20th, 2185

Starboard observation was usually a place to see many a wondrous sight on the Normandy. Uncharted planets, stars, constellations and nebulas, any such vista would take a crew member's mind off the hustle and bustle of ship life. At least, most of the time it would, today what lay outside the thick pressurized glass was part of the hustle and bustle, not a distraction. Normally Commander Wade Shepard would be standing here looking at the stars, contemplating the universe and all its magnitude with the Asari Justicar Samara, not so today. Both he and Samara remained silent as they stared out the window at something they never imagined they would see on this prolonged cruise, a wormhole. At least that's what they were told it was.

It had been four weeks since Shepard had uncovered the full scale of the task that lay before him and grasped the horror of what lay on the horizon if he failed. The Collectors, destroyed along with their base and its terrible experiments, were only pawns in a much more horrifying design. One that would see the human race turned into their masters, the Reapers. The race of ancient machines that had wiped out the Protheans apparently needed organics to create more of their kind, specifically humans. He didn't know why, but it was reason enough to fear the coming storm. The words of the Reaper Harbinger haunted him nightly.

"You've changed nothing." It had said "Your species has the attention of those infinitely your greater. That which you know as Reapers are your salvation through destruction. You will surrender your potential against the growing void. We are the Harbinger of your perfection, we will bring your species into harmony with our own. We will return... and you will rise."

The nightmares of the Skylian Blitz and the friends he had lost there were replaced by visions of his family, his crew members and finally himself being swallowed up to join a newly reborn Reaper body as Earth burned beneath them. It was no wonder he hadn't been sleeping. Yet as terrifying as the prospect of galactic extinction was, it had also driven him forward. Now he was more focused than ever on the mission at hand, as was everyone else on the crew. No more kowtowing to Cerberus or being blocked by the Council, he needed to prepare for the Reaper invasion. If only because no one else besides the crew of the Normandy knew what was at stake. It was why they were all here in the first place, staring at this wormhole, one they could see clearly even from several light-years away.

Shepard clicked on a portable FTL communication device he had brought with him, he didn't need the fancy floor installed one the Illusive Man had placed in this ship. Simplicity worked over showmanship. Appearing almost at once was the holographic image of an old friend, Liara T'Soni.

"Alright Liara," he told her. "Channel is secure, looks like that data you fished out of the archive wasn't bull after all."

"I feared as much," Liara said, distressed at the news. "The Shadow Broker's information network is rarely wrong after all."

Not long after Shepard had defeated the Collectors he had helped Liara settle an old debt of her own with the Shadow Broker. They both got more than they bargained for in the end and came up against a rather large and intimidating alien species in the process. But now the Shadow Broker was dead and Liara had taken his place. In the midst of sifting through his files, she had discovered exactly how much he knew and had come upon a lead that had brought the Normandy to this secluded star system near the edge of the Perseus Veil. Now that information was confirmed, the Shadow Broker had discovered a wormhole and it was definitely not natural.

"How long do you think till it sucks up the entire system?" Shepard asked Liara.

"You're confusing it with a black hole, Wade." Liara corrected him. "Its singularity is slightly weaker than a collapsed star. And the proper term in any case would be pull, not suck. You should be relatively safe as long as you don't get near it."

As they talked, another person appeared in the room. The hooded woman suddenly walked out from behind Shepard, unannounced to him, and skipped over to the window, placing her hands against her brow trying to get a better look at the far off tear in space and time.

"So this is why we're here." She spoke up, only a little surprised. "I heard the crew talking, but I needed to see it for myself."

"Hello Kasumi," Shepard said, slightly agitated by her sudden appearance. "Didn't feel like knocking?"

Kasumi turned her head to the commander and seemed to scoff at such a notion.

"What kind of thief do you take me for?" She asked him sarcastically. "Knock? That's like the dumbest thing you can do in my profession. Besides, I love seeing the looks on people's faces when I just pop out of nowhere. Like yours Shepard it was kinda like this..."

Kasumi did her best to imitate Shepard's appearance, although it was hard to see her face as it was obscured by her hood. Shepard stifled a laugh, it was hard not to be infected by Kasumi's seemingly carefree attitude.

"Funny," Shepard told her. "Want me to draw a blonde little biker stache on you to complete the image?"

"Pft, please and ruin this face?" Kasumi asked jokingly. "I'll say this though, you make it look better since you keep it regulation short. Just like your hair, God you are so military when it comes to looks. In any case I'd still need a tan."

Being the ever curious woman she was, Kasumi quickly changed the subject back to the initial topic.

"So Shepard, what are we doing looking at a wormhole anyway?" She asked. "I mean, I know they're rare and all but..."

Shepard figured he might as well explain it all since she was here. Everyone was going to get a full briefing eventually.

"It's mostly thanks to Liara," he began. "She found something while digging through the Shadow Broker's files."

"Hopefully nothing on me," Kasumi said, peeking around Shepard to look at Liara's little holographic form. "I do prefer my privacy you know. I know that sounds hypocritical, but I need my personal space."

"You have nothing to fear," Liara assured. "Any and all secrets of the Normandy's crew are safe with me. For now, the wormhole should be our real concern. The Shadow Broker knew much about the Reapers and the Collectors. As I told Shepard, he was looking for ways to survive. One of his deep space probes sent to investigate Reaper activity picked up an anomaly in this sector. Subsequent data confirmed that it was some kind of Wormhole, one that could not have been created by natural causes."

"I still don't get why he thought that," said a confused Shepard. "Wormholes aren't exactly big headline grabbers in science journals from what I hear. We run into so few it's hard to gather sufficient data on them."

"Yes, but most are not in the middle of solar systems or near planets, this one is," Liara explained. "More importantly, if the Shadow Broker's analysis is correct, the particles around the wormhole seem to contain the same energy given off by a mass effect field, namely element zero."

"I'm assuming the only things that can make a big enough mass effect field to cut through space and time are a really big mass relay shooting something out really fast..." Kasumi began.

"Or a Reaper," Shepard finished for her. "Of course that's only theoretical. We're just assuming that the Reapers did it, I mean they made the Mass Relays, the Citadel and the Collector Base; who's to say that they can't find a way to make wormholes? All we know for sure is that this thing was made by something that uses mass effect fields like our ships, only it bent time and space enough to create a hole in it."

"Unfortunately that's all the information we have," Liara summarized. "The Shadow Broker's probes got too close, they were pulled through by the singularity. It may not be as strong as a Black Hole, but make no mistake, it is still a powerful anomaly."

Liara sighed deeply and shook her head.

"I'm sorry I can't give you more," she said sorrowfully, "I feel like I've led you all into a trap."

"If it really has to do with the Reapers it is important, Liara," Shepard assured her. "Trap or not we have to investigate."

"Yeah," Kasumi said butting in,. "You've only told us to check out a strange rip in time and space that was possibly born out of some kind mass effect field, but we don't know how or why, and it's possible that the Reapers are involved making this mission all the more dangerous, but it's not your fault."

Shepard stared back at Kasumi, his face not hiding the displeasure over her rather crass statement. Kasumi was one to always speak her mind, even when no one else wanted to hear it. At times Shepard appreciated her honesty, but this wasn't one of those times. Kasumi, however, sensed this and immediately shifted the meaning of her statement.

"It's Shepard's fault," she quickly redirected as she pointed at her Commander with the usual chipper tone in her speech. "He's the one who tells Joker where to go, you just gave him directions."

"Thank you, Kasumi," Shepard replied, not entirely pleased by her method of comforting Liara. "I can always trust you to cheer everyone up."

"It's a gift," Kasumi said smiling cheekily.

Liara, brought out of her slight blame fest by the human thief, finally reasserted herself into the conversation.

"If anyone can figure out what all of this is about it's you, Shepard," She told him earnestly. "But please do be careful. The Galaxy still needs you."

"I'm always careful," Shepard assured her confidently.

"I wouldn't call running head first into the lair of an ancient sentient plant creature like the Thorian very careful." Liara replied jokingly. "In any case, good luck. I need to get back to scanning the archives. Let me know what you find."

"Sure thing Liara, you'll be the first person I contact," He reassured her. "Shepard out."

As the holographic image of T'Soni faded, Kasumi lingered staring out the window with a tinge of awe at the singularity. Shepard could sense the concern on her face, even covered by the hood as it was. She had good reason for it with what she now knew about the mission, he didn't blame her for it, but she hid it very well nonetheless.

"Guess there's not going to be anything to steal on this one, huh?" She asked Shepard.

"Sorry Kasumi," Shepard replied with a light-hearted smile. "I know we haven't had the chance to hit some expensive targets like Blue Sun bases or Red Sand Cartel villas lately."

"Hey, I'm not complaining." Kasumi assured, her melancholy dissipating for a bit. "I figure as long as I'm with you I'm off the grid anyway, it's the way I like it. Even if I don't get to steal stuff there's always something interesting. That and let's face it, when the Reapers come it's not like I'm gonna have many places to hide. Might as well stick around and help for awhile, I figure."

Shepard appreciated the sentiment, especially when galaxy saving wasn't Kasumi's desired career path. He wouldn't have blamed half his crew for going their separate ways after the Collectors went down, but for one reason or another they all decided to stay on for awhile longer. They all made up excuses or spoke honestly about why they wanted to remain. Everyone except Zaeed, of course who said his contract was done. The old merc did however lay out the fact that Shepard could hire him on to help him defeat the Reapers if he paid well enough. Shepard didn't know if that was extortion or if Messani was just trying to save face and not look soft; either way, he was glad to have the experienced warrior on the ship. Zaeed was a man you wanted on your side when robotic monsters were descending towards the Milky Way. He survived everything else the Galaxy had thrown at him after all.

Kasumi turned to one of the crew mates that hadn't left for more noble reasons, Samara. The Justicar was still staring intently at the strange sight out the window, but Shepard knew her well enough to know she hadn't blocked them out.

"How about you, Sammy?" Kasumi asked playfully "I thought that oath of yours over?"

The regal Asari turned her head, her eyes as calm as ever, that little metal crown across her brow glistening from the system's sun shining through the glass.

"The Collectors are dead, true, but the mission remains." She explained in her usual humble demeanor. "The Reapers approach and many innocents are at risk from their coming. Shepard is the only one willing to stand in their way. Therefore I stand with him until his mission is complete, as per my oath commands."

Shepard was glad to see Samara trusted him so implicitly. She was a very calming influence on the ship; strange considering how deadly and dangerous Justicar were seen as by most people. She may have acted rather distant at times, but she was still a good friend and loyal companion. Being the oldest member of the crew at over six hundred, she also had the most wisdom to share out of anyone here. He always appreciated her opinion and made damn sure he listened to it.

"You ever see a wormhole in your travels?" Shepard asked the Asari.

"No," she replied truthfully. "But I did once watch a star collapse. It was in my youth before humans had ever arrived on the galactic scene. It was at a party. I was working as a dancer at the time. It was a highly prestigious once in a lifetime event, stars don't explode or turn into black holes often. The experience is eye opening, amazing and sad all at the same time. You are watching something that has existed for billions of years die in front of you, it reminds you of your own mortality, even for an Asari."

"Oh I've heard of those!" said Kasumi who was gitty with excitement. "Big fancy shindigs I hear! Lots of rich fat cats come from all over just to watch a star die! Always at a safe distance of course because supernovas tend to incinerate folks. They get as close as possible and set it up weeks in advance. Very rare occasion though. Never went to one myself. I did go to a more middle class party fair, however. It was a restaurant club that runs a simulation for the end of the universe. Fun spot, not much worth stealing though, not like those supernova parties at all."

Kasumi remembered of course who was in the room with her and she quickly rubbed the back of her neck nervously as she looked back at Samara.

"I mean, I wouldn't steal anything… not as if they didn't deserve it of course." She added under her breath.

Samara just kept staring at her, unnerving Kasumi even more than before

"You know, because stealing from innocents is unjust and, wrong and icky." She nervously squeaked out.

"You hardly qualify as someone who deserves justice delivered upon you," Samara assured her rather plainly. "At least not the fatal form of course. If you ever killed an innocent in the process of your crimes intentionally, however, I would show you no mercy."

Kasumi didn't know whether or not to be comforted by that fact and decided to just drop the subject altogether.

"Your friend T'Soni is correct, Shepard." Samara continued when Kasumi didn't respond. "If the wormhole is indeed giving off trace amounts of element zero in its particle substructure then it is most likely the product of an artificial unnatural singularity."

"So you think the Reapers are involved too?" Shepard asked.

"That question will be answered soon enough," Samara informed him. "Although it is highly likely that is the case. For the moment, I am merely making an observation, much like you. It is best not to dwell on who created it. What shall be discovered about this anomaly will reveal itself in time. Speculation, at this point, will not answer it nor will it change the outcome of the answer."

His eyes fell at that statement. Ominous and fatalistic as usual, Shepard thought she would stop that when the suicide mission was over. Then again who was he to judge? After all they were still technically on a suicide mission. Stopping the Reapers was going to be far more difficult than the Collector Base. It wasn't like he hadn't had doubts about their chances himself.

Snapping Shepard out of his thoughts was another voice, an electronic one.

"Commander," it said, "Tali'Zorah wishes to see you in the AI Core. Her analysis of the Normandy's long range scans of the anomaly is nearing completion."

"Thank you, EDI," Shepard replied, "tell her I'll be there as soon as I can."

EDI was the ship's own personal AI, or more accurately the ship's personality. Ever since they had untethered her from her system locks though she had seemed to be a lot friendlier; more social, even human, if you were to be so bold. He enjoyed that, it made talking to her a bit easier. It helped that she had gone a long way to earning everyone's trust. Even Tali had warmed up to her, quite an accomplishment for EDI considering Tali's dislike of AIs.

"Well you better get going, Commander," Kasumi told him. "I'll stay here with Sammy and watch the hole in the fabric of time suck up more space and asteroids."

"Technically it pulls things in, not sucks." Shepard corrected, remembering Liara's previous statement.

"Yeah, yeah, Newton and all that gravity crap, just hurry up and go see your girlfriend already," Kasumi said pushing him towards the door. "Oh, and tell her I'm almost done with that OSD Book file on infamous hackers in history. I've gotten some great tips from it."

"I'll be sure to Kasumi, see ya around." And with that, Shepard left the observation deck.

He of course checked his pockets as he left. He trusted Kasumi, but she was a thief. Old habits die hard after all and he did catch her on occasion with stuff the crew had claimed was missing. It was nothing personal, she always returned everything, at least when she was caught. She was just keeping her skills sharp, so there was no real harm in it.

Leaving the observation deck, the Commander started his way towards the AI core. He fully expected to be stopped by someone on the way there though. When he originally come down to the Crew Deck, several crew members had already rushed up to him asking so many questions about the big wormhole. Yeoman Chambers was the first, she had gone on about the rarity of such an event as well as the somewhat dangerous yet enticing nature of singularities like it. Kelly was chatty like that. Shepard didn't mind, kept his mind off the gravity of the situation, at least for a little while.

Of course there was one other person on the ship that was chattier than Kelly and as luck would have it he would be the first person to catch the commander as he started turn the corner.

"Oi, Shepard!" A voice shouted out.

Zaeed Massani, the grizzled combat veteran was up and about out of his usual spot down on the engineering deck and, barring Jack, was the meanest son of a bitch on the ship. The Cockney bastard was long overdue for his usual daily talk, or "story time" as Shepard called it. Zaeed always had a story to tell and with a wormhole outside no doubt he was looking forward to offering his insight. Shepard didn't mind the stories, mostly because of his own personal experience. As a boy, he always enjoyed it when his Grandpa came to babysit him while his mom was away with the Alliance Fleet. He used to tell a lot of stories too. They were a lot less violent of course.

"Scuttlebutt's been spreading throughout the ship," Zaeed said as he approached, "I'm guessing it's true. We're pulling up right against a wormhole in this system."

"If you still have doubts you can always check out the view in Samara's room," Shepard informed him. "She's been staring at it for hours I think."

"Yeah, I think I will," Zaeed replied. "It's been a long time since I saw a singularity. Course it wasn't a wormhole but a black hole."

Shepard had been right, story time.

"Me and my team were on escort duty," Zaeed began solemnly. "We were protecting this merchant freighter. Shoulda been an easy mission. But a pirate gang, three whole damn ships, jumped us. They got our fighter support and boarded us. By that time we were passing the damn hole, so it limited the pilot's ability to get outta the way. We held them off, for two whole hours. Then one of them shot the damn pilot and the bloody controls. Thing veered off towards the center of oblivion and the dumb bastard pirates still on their ships decided to follow it. Guess they were too busy thinkin' bout their payday. I was the only one that got out of there alive."

"That happens a lot to you doesn't it?" Shepard asked, a bit of a smirk on his face.

The mercenary shrugged. "What can I say Shepard?" He responded. "Takes a lot more than damn rift in time and space to kill me. Anyway, enough waxing nostalgia. I think you should know, your test tube space dino is getting a bit antsy."

Shepard knew who he was talking about, but that was hardly news. Grunt was always antsy, impatient or a bit pissed off. It was a 'Krogan Thing', they were like that. At least Grunt was a bit more reserved in his rage-like tendencies nowadays.

"You may need to elaborate just a bit more on that, Zaeed," Shepard told him

"Right, sorry," the merc apologized, "Grunt is getting stir-crazy. He's complaining about not having a decent fight in a good chunk of weeks. He's heard about this mission not being combat oriented and well... he's not happy."

Zaeed poked his head over to the kitchen, which Shepard could just barely make out from behind the corner. There was Grunt himself, at the table, seemingly arguing with Chef Gardner.

"Gorging again?" Shepard asked, recognizing a common practice for the Krogan when he was bored.

"Most likely." Zaeed answered. "Mind talking to him. It's Vid Night later and I don't want him wrecking the screen when any of my contributions to it are on the screen just because he's bloody ornery"

"No problem, Zaeed." Shepard assured. "I'll handle it. He listens to me."

"Good, I should let ya go then. Talk more later, Shepard."

Zaeed left, heading off to Samara's room for a better look at that wormhole, leaving Shepard to deal with the argument between Grunt and Gardner of course. Well half the job of a commander was to keep the peace between the crew. God knows half the time he was doing just that with this group. Five feet before he even reached them, he already had idea what the argument was about.

"Look, I'm sorry Grunt, but I don't have any of those ingredients." Gardner proclaimed "And before you ask again for the hundredth time this week, no I don't have any Ryncol."

"I keep asking because I expect you to have acquired it," Grunt told him in anger, his finger (or claw depending on how you perceived it) pointed angrily at the chef. "I didn't think that I would need to repeat myself."

"I ain't putting in an order for a beverage that only one person on this whole damn ship can drink!" Gardner protested. "If you really want something that makes your insides boil why not try that Salarian Jambalaya recipe I keep suggesting? Everyone else thinks it tastes horrible. Although, personally, I blame that on the fact I have to substitute ingredients."

Grunt seemed unconvinced by this, his face turning into an even bigger grimace.

"Unless it's made from real Salarian, I'll pass," he growled. "I want ryncol. The quarian and the turian get special foods when they ask."

"Yeah, cause they'll die if they eat anything else," Gardner shot back. "Not everyone can swallow toxic waste and survive like you can."

"Perhaps they could but their guts are just too weak."

Gardner gave a loud annoyed sigh as he rubbed his hands over his temples, frustrated at the Krogan's continuing picky attitude.

"Look, just drop it and ask for something I can actually make, alright?" Gardner tried to bargain with him. "Just cause you're tank-born doesn't mean you can get away with acting like a baby."

Grunt probably would've smashed the table between him and the chef in two, had Shepard not spoken up.

"Something the matter Grunt?" he asked sternly. He had to do that with Grunt more than anyone else, even Jack. It was a good thing the big dinosaur respected him.

Grunt turned from Gardner, still fuming slightly. It was hard to tell with Krogan, considering they always seemed angry, but Shepard had been around a number of them long enough to know how to read them. Right now Grunt was trying to compose himself in front of his battlemaster.

"I'm only trying to get Ryncol, Shepard." Grunt explained "But your chef continues to refuse my requisition orders."

"Commander, I'm already stretched with having to provide Dextro-based amino acid supplements, they ain't exactly cheap ya know," Gardner piped up, still annoyed "Our budget does not figure in alcohol for giant space lizards, especially when it ain't essential to their diet. If he wants it so bad he can get it himself."

"I don't exactly earn much on this ship." Grunt responded. "I'm here to kill and what little I plunder from the fight isn't enough. I haven't had a good fight in weeks."

Shepard shook his head. He knew this was bigger than booze. He turned to Grunt.

"Grunt, if you really wanted Ryncol that bad why didn't you just ask me? I could've picked it up for you," He told the Krogan "You don't need to bother Gardner with this."

Grunt huffed.

"I did not want to beg my Battlemaster to be my grocer. You have far more important things to consider than my cravings," Grunt responded. "That is supposed to be Gardner's job."

"A Battlemaster's job is to make sure his krant is prepared for the battle ahead. That means they have to be kept content and motivated." Shepard argued "Therefore if you want Ryncol it is in my best interest to see you get it. You're a valued member of this team and you deserve a little downtime when and how you want it."

Grunt thought for a moment, and eventually nodded with a murmur.

"I'll get you a case of the stuff next time we're in port." Shepard promised. "For now I'm sure Gardner has a sufficient substitute for it, don't you Gardner?"

Gardner scratched the back of his neck as he thought it over.

"Well now that you mention it, I do have some novelty beers I bought on a laugh. Through my own salary of course I ain't using mission funds." Gardner admitted. "They ain't as toxic as Ryncol, but Roasted Klixen and Nathak Burgers... ugh. People will drink anything these days, just glad I didn't buy the Pizza Beer I heard about."

"That doesn't sound nearly as gross as those other ones," Shepard said, a bit put off by what Gardner had just described.

"It's pizza based on Volus recipes and toppings." Gardner clarified. "It's not exactly a very appetizing looking dish and coming from me that's saying something. Aliens should never try to co-opt human food, it always looks wrong."

"I guess those will have to do," Grunt said, resigned to it all. He turned back to Shepard. "I'm sorry for causing a scene, Battlemaster."

"You're just cooped up, Grunt," Shepard assured him. "I know lately you haven't had as many chances to smash heads in as much as you like."

"I understand why we are acquiring information about the Reapers, Shepard," Grunt admitted. "It's easier to kill something if you know where best to shoot, but even so, recon still bores me."

"Don't worry Grunt, with Liara now the Shadow Broker we'll find ourselves a nice slave ring or illegal smuggling operation for you to crash soon enough," Shepard promised "Next combat mission you're coming with. I swear on my honour as your Battlemaster."

"I accept that offer," Grunt smiled broadly. "Again thank you, Shepard. I'll let you get back to your duties."

Shepard left Grunt at the counter as Gardner passed him those novelty beers. Hopefully that would tie him over for awhile till this mission was done. He'd have to ask Liara about potential Blue Suns or Eclipse Mercs operations. The sooner Grunt got a chance to tear something apart the better. In the meantime, Tali still needed to see him and that meant going through the medical bay nearby. Shepard wondered if Dr. Chakwas would be busy at al, or if she would ask him questions on the way to Tali. It's not like he didn't expect it, everyone else had been stopping him today for something.

Chakwas was indeed working, with the one member of the crew that required the most attention when it came to his physical health. Thane Kiros, the Drell assassin was in the midst of one of his latest checkups. He hadn't had one in weeks, Shepard was glad to see that he was actually taking a moment to make sure he was still able to do his job on the Normandy. In Shepard's honest opinion though, of all the people on this ship, Thane had the best reason to leave. Wade wished he had.

"Well your vitals seem normal Thane," Chakwas told him with her usual inviting smile "for the moment of course. You keep up with your standard treatment, well, let's just say the Hanar who diagnosed you who probably didn't give you enough credit."

The reptilian humanoid sat just as stiff and proper as he usually did, all the same. He did not even smile, despite the good news.

"I take it though that does not mean it is in remission." He responded. It was not a question he knew the answer already. It was confirmed when Chakwas' face grew sullen.

"No, I'm afraid your Kepler's Syndrome is still pressing forward." She admitted. "You probably have added another month or two by keeping yourself in arid areas of the ship and keeping up with the recommended exercise routine but... I'm sorry."

Thane did not seem disappointed or sad, he just nodded. It was only then that Chakwas noticed Shepard had come through the door.

"Oh, Commander," she finally spoke up "I heard you may be passing through. Don't mind us, just finishing up Thane's physical."

"How's he doing Doc?" Shepard asked

"Well, all things considered." Thane responded before Chakwas could. "I probably have a bit more time than I first thought. But, that doesn't change the inevitable outcome."

"Maybe you could use that extra time for a break, you could use it." Shepard told him "I mean I'm sure your son..."

Thane only responded with a cold glare.

Wade figured he probably shouldn't have gone there. He brought this subject up before when Thane first told him he was staying on. Shepard initially didn't understand, Kepler's Syndrome was eating away at his lungs. The Drell's equivalent of cancer, brought on by living on an ocean world they were never meant to inhabit, was starting to take its toll. Even Shepard noticed he was getting a bit slower, his biotic attacks less frequent and powerful. Thane was dying, albeit slowly, but dying still.

Shepard had thought that meant he was going to sort out his final affairs, particularly with the son he had helped him reconcile with somewhat. Instead Thane had told him he wanted to stay on. That didn't make much sense to him.

"We've been over this, Commander." Thane told him. "I speak to him when I can. I've made plenty of vid mails. Sometimes the conversation is even polite when he writes. That's more than I ever expected. The best thing I can do for Kolyat now is to leave this galaxy free of Reapers. Then I can die in peace."

"I still think your time would be better served spending it with your son," Shepard suggested.

"How I live my last days will be how I want to live them," Thane told him sternly as he got up. "Can you respect that or not?"

"I understand what you're trying to do Thane and I'm not telling you how to live your life," Shepard assured him. "But I'm just wondering if this is how you really want to spend your last year or so alive. You of all people know how little time we all have left."

Thane turned to leave, his voice becoming less harsh as he did.

"Yes, I do," Thane relented.

The doors to the medical bay opened and shut as Thane left, leaving Shepard there shaking his head.

"Try to understand, Shepard," Chakwas began, "he thinks this is the best thing he can do for his son, next to keeping him from following in his footsteps. If he thinks he can keep the Reapers from ravaging the galaxy and possibly killing his child, why shouldn't he stay on?"

"I don't doubt his commitment to his son Doc," Shepard told him, "I just think that's not his real motivation. I better let him cool off, probably shouldn't have brought it up in the first place. Sorry for bothering you Doc."

With a sigh, Shepard kept heading for the AI core at the back of the room, while Chakwas went back to her other tasks. As the doors into the room opened, Shepard's ears were instantly filled with the humming of the giant processors that housed EDI. In the center, working in tangent with one another (something Shepard never expected to see) were Tali and Legion. The Geth was hunched over the Quarian mechanic as she was frantically fidgeting with the interface. From where Shepard stood he could already see the holographic screen that EDI had set up for Tali was alive with activity. Most likely a bunch of techno babble he'd never understand, but Shepard left that to Tali anyway.

Tali looked over to Shepard almost as soon as he walked in.

"Oh Shepard, good you're here. I was wondering what was keeping you." She said rather quickly as she pulled herself away from the display. "Legion, take over the data analysis for a second. Long range scans have almost fully compiled. We need to be sure that there wasn't anything interfering with them."

"Acknowledged, Creator Tali'Zorah." Legion responded.

Shepard joined Tali near the console she and Legion were working. She seemed to be as excited as everyone else on the ship, but from the looks of her sullen body language it was for different reasons. Ever since he and Tali had become "intimate" he started picking up on her subtle body language.

"Sorry about taking so long," he apologized "you know how this ship is. Everyone has their problems it seems."

"I figured as much, Garrus stopped me for what seemed like a whole hour on my way up here myself." She recalled in a slightly annoyed tone. "I thought he'd be too busy doing calibrations or whatever it is he does in that gun battery of his. And people say I talk too much."

They both had a quick laugh at that. Garrus was rather reclusive in that gun battery of his. It had become a bit of an inside joke for everyone onboard the Normandy. Nevertheless there were other matters at hand and Shepard quickly got them back on track.

"So what exactly have you and Legion found?" he asked Tali.

"Well one thing we're sure of is that Liara's information was right," She began. "This wormhole was created with a mass effect accelerator. Element Zero traces are over it. It is a consistent and sustained singularity. But we've learned a few other things about it too, things the last Shadow Broker was unable to figure out. His probe didn't last long enough to give him accurate scans."

"Like what?" Shepard asked.

"We won't know for sure until, Legion finishes his-"

An abrupt beep interrupted the quarian.

"Analysis completed, Shepard Commander," Legion announced. "Long range scans were accurate. Presence of dark energy confirmed."

Dark energy? Those word kept popping up lately, in fact, they had mostly recently popped up during Tali's mission to Haestrom when Shepard recruited her for the Omega 4 Relay mission. That explained why she seemed a bit nervous, and why that tiny shake in her shoulders had gone down to her legs.

"Dark energy? In a wormhole?" Shepard asked

"It's most disturbing." Tali replied, shaking a bit nervously at the news. "I'm starting to wonder if this really IS connected to the Reapers and what else they can do with dark energy, especially after what happened to Haestrom's sun. We already know it can kill stars."

"What effects would it have on a singularity like a wormhole?" Shepard asked.

Tali rubbed the forehead of her face mask in frustration.

"We don't even know much about wormholes to begin with, let alone what dark energy could do to them." She said, seeming to breathe heavily as she spoke. "They could be trying to open up a faster way to get here from dark space or another way to reach the Citadel or... Keelah, I don't know."

Shepard put a calming hand on her shoulder, trying to stop her from rambling on. Thankfully Legion took away some of the tension by interjecting.

"We will not know more until we can successfully send our own probe to get an up close scan of the anomaly." The geth construct explained. "Once it is launched we can compile more accurate data from it and perhaps discover what the old machines intend to use it for."

"Think it will even get that close?" Shepard asked

"It most likely won't survive the journey," Tali responded, now calmer than before. "But our probe will last longer near it than the Shadow Broker's. We've made the proper upgrades and modified the specs, plus we actually know what to look for so that cuts out some of the work."

"I have calculated that the probe will last for at least an hour under such close proximity." EDI chimed in "With Legion's added runtimes to my analysis procedures we should gather all relevant data before it breaks apart."

Well that was good to hear. At least they weren't throwing away money at this. EDI was rarely off in her calculations. If she and Tali were saying this probe would work, Wade had no reason not to trust their judgment. He just hoped that they could gain something from all this. If they could somehow turn this dark energy against the Reapers, maybe even this very wormhole, they could turn the coming tide in their favour.

Tali shifted her head over her shoulder to Legion.

"Keep processing the incoming data with EDI, Legion," She told the Geth firmly but politely. "We need to know everything we can before we send that probe, particularly the precise range of the singularity. I need to talk to Shepard about something."

Legion only nodded as Tali led Shepard off to a corner of the AI Core.

"We've had a hectic week," she said to him warmly. "Barely a moment to ourselves. Legion's been practically hovering over my shoulder since this morning when the data started coming in. I'd complain about it, or more accurately them, breathing on me, but... well... you know synthetic."

"Well you two seem to be getting along." Shepard told her with a chuckle "You aren't pointing guns at each other for one."

Tali looked down nervously at her twitching hands in embarrassment at the reminder of that incident.

"I've gotten use to it," Tali replied, trying to recompose herself. "And I don't hate it as much as I use to when you first reactivated it, or them, whatever. I'm still a bit uncomfortable with it all, but that's not what I want to talk about. I've been with Legion all day, I'd rather talk about... well... us."

Not again, he thought, Tali had been on about this all week. He thought a mission or two would get her mind off it but he underestimated her ability to multitask in her head. Tali usually had at least two things going on at once.

"I don't understand why you're so worried about all this," Shepard told her. "We've both made this work so far."

"I'm just thinking ahead," she told him in a calming manner. "Eventually my leave here on the Normandy is going to be up and I'll have to return to the Migrant Fleet. I'm not saying the visits to the captain's quarters aren't enjoyable, I like spending time with you it's just... well..."

"It not easy to put aside a day Tali," Shepard sadly informed her. "Especially not now with so much going on."

"Quarians are the most work oriented people in the galaxy, Wade," Tali told him crossing her arms and sounding a bit irritated. "And even I think you're working too hard. Would it really hurt to just spend one shore leave with me-or take a shore leave period? Keelah, you barely even come down to engineering to have chats anymore. The only times I see you is either on the job or when you invite me up to see you and the latter are getting shorter and less frequent."

Shepard sighed heavily, his head becoming downcast at Tali's words. He couldn't exactly proclaim he wasn't doing that, he was. He wasn't happy about it either.

"If I could Tali I would take an entire week off and spend it with you," Shepard assured her ardently. "I really would. Don't doubt that."

Tali shook her head lightly and let her arms drop. As she raised her head up to him she put her arms on his shoulders and pushed herself up to him. She pulled him into hug as she wrapped them around his neck and placed her head against him.

"I'm worried about you," she told him, her concern apparent in her tone and posture. "Don't think I didn't hear you the other night when I slept over. You had the dream of yours again, didn't you?"

Shepard looked away slightly and carefully lowered her hands away from his body, but he didn't let go of them. His face had become downcast and sullen.

"You of all people know I'm not made of stone," he said somewhat sadly. "Especially after what we saw. That human Reaper the Collectors made... Tali, that my future-our future if we don't find a way to stop this. We need an edge, a plan, something. We've barely managed to kill one Reaper, and now we have a fleet of them approaching."

His head looked away from Tali altogether, towards the probe she and Legion had been working on. The probe that was possibly their only chance at learning something that could help give them an edge against the oncoming invasion.

"We've gained a lot of insight into them," Tali reassured him in her usual affable voice that always managed to lift his spirits before. "You'll find a way-but you can't work yourself to death like this."

Tali used her hand to lightly push Wade's head back to look at her.

"All we can really do is wait till they arrive," She consoled. "I don't want our time between now and then to be wasted. I want it to mean something, I want to spend it with you. And now that the Admirals are starting to pressure me to come back... well, we have even less time."

He wasn't oblivious to that. Shepard already realized he wasn't giving enough time to Tali. Every time shore leave for the crew came up he stayed behind, in his quarters, trying to think. He put on a brave face for the crew, but it was hard to act cocksure and fake a smile pretending as if all was fine and he was his normal optimistic and snarky self. In reality he just couldn't seem to enjoy himself anymore, his fears of the future were eating away at him. He was glad that Tali at least thought he was working in his room.

Truthfully, he was just peering through his mission files regularly in a monotonous repetitive search for something, anything, that looked like it would give him an edge over the Reapers. He never found anything, making him wonder just how much of the precious time he had left he just squandered. Every other waking moment was spent trying to sleep without nightmares (for once) or fighting the urge to stay sober in all of this. The pressure not to backslide into his old habit mounting as he struggled with the truth, the possible inevitability of the end result of this mission-staying sober just seemed pointless.

Then he started watching those Reaper speculative fiction documentaries that ran on some stations. They only made it worse. He thought initially it was worth a shot to try and get a different perspective on the problem. Instead, he just got an uninformed perspective-one that didn't understand the truth of it all. It became apparent soon enough that he was getting lost in his stupor. He wasn't really working so much as reminding himself just how close they all were to death.

Why was he doing this to himself? Did any of this wallowing help him? No, but it was something to do. Something he could fool himself into believing was useful, probably the most useful thing he could do in the face of galactic annihilation-reminding yourself what was coming. The more he reflected on the coming storm though, the worse he got, the more distant he became, the worse the nightmares got... if he even got to sleep at all.

All the while he was ignoring Tali. The young woman he had been trying to apprehensively get closer to on the original Normandy. That apprehension had almost gone unresolved, if it hadn't been for Cerberus. Now they were together (thanks to that second chance) and he was squandering it. It was unfair to Tali; yet he always kept telling himself he had time later. He just didn't expect later to come so quick.

He wanted to tell her about his fears. He had trusted her with them before, but that was different. He had gotten over all those things by now. The Reapers were a whole new ball game, one he wasn't sure they could win no matter how confident he was in his ability to command. They were the future threat- not issues from his days gone by. They were not so easy resolved and put aside. Why worry her with this? It would be better to just find a way to make it up to her.

"You're right," he told her. "Absolutely right. Tell you what, after this wormhole business is over we'll take a short leave on Illium; find a nice restaurant—one that serves Levo and Dextro amino acid foods; just the two of us, alone, one night; no military jargon or any of this save the galaxy crap—sound great?"

He asked as he held her hands up and clasped them together. He didn't have to take her mask off to know she was smiling under her helmet.

"It sounds perfect," she replied with a happy look in her glowing silver eyes. "Gives me motivation to wrap this up quicker."

Before either could say anything more, they were interrupted by a voice over the ship's communication system. It was Joker.

"Commander, Miranda and Jacob are ready for you in the briefing room with Dr. Solus." He said "I think we're ready to get Operation: Space Colonoscopy underway!"

Shepard could only sigh and rub his hand against the side of his head.

"Joker, I told you we're not calling it that." He groaned at the intercom

"Well that's basically what we're doing." said Joker heartily. "I know it's a low brow joke but I have only so much range to work with when something has the word 'hole' in it. We could call it Operation: Preparation H? Or how about Operation: Penetration? It rhymes?"

"Joker," Shepard grumbled.

"Fine, I'll knock off the ass jokes, too easy for me anyway. I'm above that."

Shepard usually enjoyed Joker's humour, but he had been using that line all the way out here. It had gotten old. Still, Tali was slightly giggling at the whole affair and her laugh was infectious. With a light chuckle, Shepard's grimace turned back to a smile.

"You better go. Miranda will want to go over the final specs for the operation." Tali told him, only slightly disappointed in how quick their time had ended. "I'll be here if you need me. Legion and I still have a few more calculations to program into the drone before we launch it."

Tali could only hug Shepard goodbye thanks to her suit, but it was enough.

The Commander watched her go back to her station before slipping out of the room himself. No one bothered him on the way to the elevator up to the Command Deck. A welcome relief, he practically had seen everyone on the ship today just trying to get from point A to B. The only person he hadn't run into was Jack, and that was only because she kept to her hole in the bottom of the ship. She wasn't interested in much unless it required her to kill something. At least she was loyal, that much he could always count on even if she was anti-social beyond imagination.

When the elevator arrived on the command deck Shepard walked past the Galaxy map towards the armoury and made his way through to the hallway that led to the briefing room. As the doors opened wide with their usual swoosh there stood Miranda, Jacob and Mordin standing around the table. They were all already looking at a holographic display of the wormhole as he entered the room.

"So how are we doing commander?" Jacob asked "Tali's little probe set to go?"

"She says it's ready but they're just making some final adjustments to it." Shepard explained.

"Good," Miranda replied, looking more relaxed at the news, "the sooner we figure out whether or not this thing is reaper made the better. Then we can figure out what to do about it."

"We should probably start moving the ship to a minimum safe distance," Shepard suggested to them. "The probe won't be able to reach the hole at this range. Remember it's a modified planetary scan drone, it wasn't built for travelling far into space. Tali's good, but even with Legion's help they weren't able to increase the range enough for us to keep at this distance and still get it there."

Mordin quickly shook his head.

"No. Advise against such action. Wormhole singularity strength unpredictable. Could pull us towards it. Have little time to react once it does. May, in laymen's terms, be sucked in." He explained in his usual fast paced manner. "Probe must be launched at a significant distance from the target."

"I'm as curious to find out what that hole leads to as anyone else but I don't want to go through it to find out." Jacob added before he turned to Mordin. "Any ideas, Professor?"

"Indeed." The Salarian responded immediately. "Use gravitational pull of a nearby moon or planet to give boost to probe. Launch probe. Allow it to loop around celestial body. Forces it to continue on it's way to target with little difficulty."

"We'll have to be pretty accurate for that to work," Shepard replied as he rubbed his chin "That and we'll need a moon to pull it off."

"I have a suitable candidate, Commander," Miranda stated. She turned to the hologram. "EDI, display image of system sector 43S61W."

The holographic display in the middle of the briefing room changed from the wormhole to show a gas giant in the system. It quickly zoomed in on one of the planet's moons, an ugly looking grey rock dotted with wide canyons and black mountains.

"I had EDI do a preliminary scan of the system when we arrived." Miranda explained. "This moon is almost in orbit position close to the wormhole; probably near its gravitational singularity. If we pull off Mordin's plan it should head straight into the wormhole's pull with little effort."

"Prepared as always, Miranda," Shepard smiled. "Good work. EDI tell Joker to head to the previous coordinates and prepare for launch."

"Already done commander," EDI immediately replied. "We'll arrive at the destination in ten minutes."

"More than enough time for Tali to finish up." Shepard added. "Mordin get down there to her, explain how this is going to work. Tali will want to know what we're putting her baby through on this."

Mordin only nodded as he left the briefing room.

"Miranda, Jacob, make final preparations." Shepard said in an orderly military voice as he looked back. "Legion and EDI will no doubt calculate the precise angle and trajectory we'll need to launch the probe at if we're going to this off."

Jacob give a bit of a chuckle at Shepard's sudden military sternness

"Taking this kinda seriously aren't we, Commander?" He asked "You said it yourself, this is just recon."

"If the Reapers are involved it couldn't hurt to be ready." Shepard answered him gruffly. "I'll be in the cockpit with Joker checking up on the final approach."

As he left the two to finish up Shepard had to admit to himself that Jacob was right. He was taking this more seriously than he usually would. Perhaps he just had too much on his mind thinking about the Reapers possibly being involved in any of this. Yet, whatever that probe found could lead to the something that could stop them. There was no time for jokes here, not now.

Ten minutes passed rather quickly and while Joker was a little annoyed at how the Commander kept staring over his shoulder all the way to their destination, he never said anything against it.

"Alright, we're approaching the moon now." Joker said as they got close. "Hope this little probing operation bears fruit, Commander, I used up a lot of great 'ass-related' quips on this. I don't want it to be for nothing."

"You and me both Joker," Shepard agreed. "But if the Shadow Broker was interested in this thing there has to be something to it."

Suddenly, EDI chimed in on the conversation, her blue orb form turning towards them both.

"Jeff," she said to Joker, "I have detected something near our position. It appears to be a ship."

"What?" Joker asked, confused at the news. "Someone else is here? Why are you only telling me this now?"

"They have only just been detected on our long range scanners, as if they just suddenly appeared." EDI explained.

"Cloaking technology perhaps," Shepard figured. "Probably Alliance."

"The energy signature and dimensions match no known council race species," EDI informed them. Sensing the next question she also quickly added, "neither does it match the specifications or descriptions of either Geth or Collector ships."

Shepard was at least relieved to hear that. It meant that the Collectors weren't still dogging him. Still it didn't ease his fears entirely, it was still an unknown ship and the last time something like this happened it hadn't ended well.

"What's its size?" Shepard asked

"I have scanned the ship's roster and data files." EDI replied soon after Shepard asked. "It appears to be designated as something called a Battlecruiser, yet it is 1700 meters in length."

"That's impossible," Joker said defiantly. "Do you know how much heat a ship like that would give off? You'd need a far more sophisticated cloaking tech then even the Normandy to keep that much heat under wraps. They couldn't have cloaked in. They would've had to jump into the system via mass relay or light speed travel and we would've detected them long before now if that was the case."

Now things were getting seriously scary. This was all too familiar for Shepard.

"Where is this ship exactly?" Shepard asked EDI.

"The ship is on the other side of the gas giant," the AI answered."It will be in visual range in exactly 3.6 seconds."

Both Joker and Shepard looked up at the gas giant their moon was orbiting. They saw a long purplish craft creep out in front of the planet. It certainly looked about the same size as the Collector ship, but that was where the similarities ended. Besides the color, it was more sleek and elegant looking. It also looked flatter than the collector ship and as it started turning towards them they could see it had a unique shape. It was sort of like a musical note or a hawk with its wings tucked in for a bomb dive.

Needless to say neither description would've comforted Joker.

"Commander, I don't like how they're turning towards us." Joker said cautiously.

"Easy Joker, try hailing them." Shepard suggested. "We don't know who these guys are. They could be Batarians for all we know testing out some new ship of theirs. I don't want to start some kind of intergalactic incident."

As soon as Shepard had finished suggesting the idea however, EDI chimed in again.

"There is no response, Commander," she informed him, "they are refusing to initiate dialogue. They are terminating our requests as quickly as I send them."

That did not bode well. Hesitant to fire on them first and not wishing to abandon the operation, Shepard thought up another plan.

"Joker, we need to lose them." He ordered. "First sign of trouble head around the moon, engage cloaking device and we'll try and sneak past them before-"

An alarm went off before Shepard could finish.

"I have detected a significant heat increase along the cruiser's port bow," EDI warned, "they are preparing to fire."

Joker didn't need to hear anymore, he took the controls immediately.

"Everyone hang on!"

The Normandy jerked suddenly to starboard as a huge blue beam shot out towards their ship. The Normandy shook as it passed by.

"Underside shields took a scalding hit, no direct damage. They are holding but are powered down by 30 percent." EDI proclaimed

"From a near miss? Crap!" Joker screeched "They got some heavy duty hardware."

The blue beams fired once again, this time peppering at the Normandy in short bursts. Shepard got on the horn.

"Everyone to your battle stations, now!" He ordered "We've been engaged! Miranda get up here, you'll want to see this!"

Joker frantically kept his fingers on the dashboard, making sure the ship didn't run smack into an energy beam.

"Deja vu all over again." Joker grumbled as he kept the ship flying.

A blue beam bounced off their nose, jerking the ship wildly to starboard.

"The enemy appears to be firing plasma charged weaponry at us." EDI informed the Commander and Joker. "I shall attempt to infiltrate their systems and disable what weapons I can."

Plasma weapons? These people had plasma guns on their ships? How was that possible? The closest they had gotten to direct energy weapons was with the geth and even then that didn't technically count. Who were these people?

"Make it fast, EDI," Joker ordered her. "Frigates aren't meant to take on cruisers! Especially not ones this big!"

As Shepard kept surveying the ship that was firing on them, Miranda came rushing up to the cockpit from behind.

"Looks like we're not the only ones interested in this wormhole," she observed. "Who are they?"

"Well they aren't Geth or Collectors," Shepard replied. "That's all we know. Call Garrus down in the gun battery, tell him to warm up the Thanix cannon!"

Miranda didn't need to be told twice. She put her hand ,up to her ear, activating her com-link to inform Garrus of the situation. As she did, EDI perked up again.

"Shepard we have a problem," she informed him. "The enemy ship's systems are resisting my hacking attempts."

"Resisting?" Shepard said surprised as their ship shook from another plasma beam hitting their stern. "But that would mean-"

"They have an AI on board," EDI finished for him. "Highly advanced. I cannot access their ship's weapons systems. It's matching my runtimes second for second, screaming at me."

"Screaming?" Joker asked confused, as a plasma cannon shot passed by the window. "Like what? In pain?"

"No in anger," EDI replied. "It is calling me a heretic. Saying we shall burn forever for defiling its sanctum. It is attempting to breach our systems as well, but we are holding."

Now things were just getting bizarre, an AI with a religious fervor in its personality? Could an AI even comprehend that? Whatever, that wasn't even relevant. Shepard needed some kind of edge against this ship.

"Forget their guns EDI," Shepard ordered her. "can you give us anything? Take down their shields? Turn off atmosphere?"

"Analyzing," she responded, a half second later she had an answer. "I believe I can weaken a significant portion of their shields around their engines on the backside of the ship. I will need a moment."

"You got thirty seconds!" Joker told her frantically. "Do your thing!"

As EDI's orbish form disappeared from the console beside Joker, another alarm sounded on the Normandy's dashboard.

"Crap, we got some kind of tracking shot coming in." He groaned. "Our shields are taking a pounding. They won't hold if we get hit, give me a second."

Shepard didn't have time to ask what Joker was doing as he turned the ship towards the very cruiser that was trying to kill them. Now they could all see the approaching projectiles through the window, and they were getting closer.

"Joker," Miranda shouted. "Please tell me you know what you're doing!"

No answer, their smart-aleck pilot was had already formed a plan in his head and not even Shepard was going make him deviate from it at this point. He locked-on to one of the plasma projectiles as they approached, then a second. With a flick of a button, he fired two GARDIAN anti-missile lasers at them. Both hit their respective torpedoes. The tracking of the shots seemed to be disrupted and the projectiles were directed away from them. There was still a third projectile, however.

"Wanna dance with the Alliance's best, huh?" He asked under his breath. "Your funeral."

With a wild jerk to port, the tracking projectile past over the Normandy. As expected the ball of burning blue fire turned around and began to follow behind them. Joker kept ramming the Normandy straight towards the cruiser at full power. Miranda and Shepard could only grab onto the sides of the cockpit as the Normandy dove towards the ship, plasma bolts from the enemy's ship's defensive turrets fired all around them. Any ordinary pilot would've been shot to pieces by now, but Joker was no ordinary pilot; that and EDI was helping him albeit subtly. Some of the small-fire hit, but they weren't going to do much damage in the grand scheme of things. EDI herself seemed to know what he was planning.

"Forward shields at 65 percent and holding," Her voice chimed in. "I have transferred all non-essential power to them at this time, Jeff."

"You just focus on their shields EDI," Joker told her. "We both got jobs to do."

The Normandy closed distances with the cruiser, edging its nose towards the ship, its speed increasing until the ship couldn't go any faster or risk never being able to pull up in time. Suddenly Joker pressed down on the dashboard and the Normandy jerked up over the cruiser itself while the torpedo chasing it kept following the Normandy's original trajectory. The projectile slammed into its own ship, sparking a huge explosion across the gun batteries on that side, taking out at least half of them.

Joker began to bring the ship around, back towards the stern of the cruiser.

"Does everyone still have their lunch?" He asked them all cheerfully.

Even with the stabalizers active, the ride had been quite bumpy to say the least. Both Shepard and Miranda looked practically green as they got their bearings.

"Mind giving me a bit more warning before you pull off a dive like that again?" Shepard asked.

"I'm glad I had a light breakfast," Miranda added.

Joker only smirked at the two. But there was little time to soak in the glory though as more plasma beams began firing on them. Thankfully EDI chimed back in, her orb reappearing next to Joker.

"I have brought the shields around their engines down to twenty percent," she told them. "The Thanix Cannon should be able to penetrate."

At that moment, as if by providence, Garrus' voice came in over the intercom.

"Shepard," he shouted. "Main gun is primed, calibrated and ready! Fire at will!"

"Perfect timing, Garrus!" Shepard congratulated with a pumped fist "Joker, when you got the shot take it!"

Joker didn't have to wait long to get the shot, as he turned their ship around he took aim at the engines in the back of the enemy ship. EDI helped by putting a marker on the weakest point of the shields. Joker took aim, at slammed down on the fire button.

The Thanix Cannon beneath the Normandy popped up and began to charge, its blue super-heated molten metal fired out of the gun and shot straight across space towards the enemy ship. In a giant eruption of fire the charge went straight through the shields and hull like a hot knife through butter. At once the engines of the cruiser sparked and exploded before going dead.

"Direct hit," EDI informed them. "The Battlecruiser is dead in space."

"Excellent," Shepard said relieved as another plasma bolt sped by them. "Can we hit them again?"

"Negative," EDI informed him. "The enemy AI has already restored full shield capacity to defend against another shot. It has closed my back door into the system. I cannot infiltrate the shield systems again at this time."

"Then we best get out of the line of fire." Shepard reasoned. "Joker, take us behind the moon, we need to regroup on this one."

"Aye Aye."

The Normandy flew out of the range of the plasma bolts, safe at last from the enemy ship if only for the moment. They still had no idea who was shooting at them, why they were shooting and if they even had anything to do with the wormhole at all. One thing was for sure though, this wasn't just recon anymore.