A "spork" is a cross between a spoon and a fork, meaning you use one implement instead of two. I just liked the idea of the Alliance being cheap about their cutlery. Also, I gave the mess hall more tables. Here is... well, whatever this is.

Observation & Engineering



Humans are... odd, reflects Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, sitting in the mess hall of the Normandy SR1, with a tube of the nutrient paste she has taken with her (nutrient paste is so bland that it's almost interesting - it's enough to make sure you live, but you can't call it gourmet cuisine. Or, for that matter, food). For a moment, she is thankful for the mask of her enviro-suit - it means the soldiers around her cannot see her eyes on them.

They all seem so... disjointed, selfish. In the Migrant Fleet, quarians have to work together for the good of their species; they grow up constantly aware of this fact, and it affects the way they treat each other. Here, few humans seem to care about the benefits actions will have for anyone else - everything they do is for themselves.

She admits to herself that her "observations" may be a little biased; since she started this pilgrimage, she has seen nothing but hate and death, and not just from the geth. She was warned about the way her people were regarded, but nothing prepared her for this - suspicion, outright hostility... even knowing nothing about them, she has always thought humans were viewed unfairly, but her experiences have made her wonder if certain reputations have a reason behind them.

She scolds herself for thinking it: prejudices are what have made this rite of passage so unpleasant. Apparently, her people are nothing but liars, beggars and thieves - if she joins the humans in their presumptions, she's just as bad as them.

She can't help but look to the oddest human of them all - their commander, this "Shepard", sitting alone, somehow detached from the others, datapad in one hand, military-issue "spork" in the other.

Her heart sinks. He had seemed so concerned when he met her, trying to understand her pilgrimage, asking about it, looking like he was trying to make sure the mission didn't interfere with her beliefs.

None of that matters, though. She catches the glances he occasionally pretends not to give her. Probably to make sure I don't steal anything, she thinks, mouth twisting bitterly under her mask. Just like all the others.

He's doing it again, she can tell, though he quickly averts his eyes, pretending to read the datapad; it's odd - it's almost like he can sense her eyes on him. Is this something humans can do that her people don't know about?

Oh, she isn't totally clueless - she has been in contact with humans before, otherwise she wouldn't have had to endure their ridiculous attitudes toward the quarian race. It's just that this is the longest she has been in contact with them, and she can't help but sit and watch... try to understand.

She accidentally turns her head at the sigh from across the hall - Shepard's - and tries not to seem too surprised - though how would they know, anyway, they can't even see her face - when he uncurls his tall figure from his seat, striding over to her table and sitting opposite her, placing unfinished breakfast and datapad beside him. He surprises her again by giving her a smile. "How are you settling in?"

For a moment, she considers being honest - she isn't. She's only been on the ship since last night, when she was shown to her quarters, and she already wants with all her heart to leave. She knows she won't - she still hasn't found a pilgrimage gift, and the thought of abandoning her mission is unforgivably selfish, leaving her hating herself for even letting it occur to her.

"I... I'm fine," she mutters, hanging her head. She raises it to find him trying in vain to search her masked face; he looks her in eyes that are just visible under the tinted material.

"Are you sure about that?" The smile is gone now, and his voice is low; he is asking for honesty.

She sees again the human that saved her life and was worried about disrupting her pilgrimage - it's something in the eyes, she thinks - and, though cautious, gives it to him. "I... I don't know. The crew seem... like they believe what people say. They don't want to talk. I tried to talk to your pilot, but... he just avoided me."

She is offended when the human laughs. "Yeah, well... that's just Joker. He's not a 'people' person. He avoids everyone, but he avoids them all equally. Human, quarian, turian, asari - if they can talk, he'll be... well, him. Trust me, our first meeting was... interesting."

She thinks she understands. As stupid as it is - after all, a moment ago she was thinking about how barbaric humans seemed - she's smiling under her mask, reassured, and he's doing the same.

"We were introduced on the Citadel, but there hasn't really been time to talk. Miss Zorah... that is right - ?"

She's embarrassed at the formal title, though glad he hasn't made the common mistake of using her ship name rather than surname. "Tali," she says quietly, hesitant to correct him. "Though Miss Zo-"

He shakes his head. "Whatever makes you more comfortable here, Tali." He uses her name surprisingly comfortably already. "Glad to have you aboard." He offers her his hand, and she shakes it gingerly. Oh keelah, she's really not good at this sort of thing. There's a beep from his datapad, and he picks it up, frowning. "Sorry, this is important... some parts of the mission - " He shakes his head. "I'll get O' Connor to show you to your workspace. Sorry..." He rushes off awkwardly, dumping the remains of his breakfast in the trash. She pretends not to stare after him, the same way she's been pretending not to analyse his expressions throughout their conversation. It is rare to see a quarian out of their enviro-suit, and she enjoys trying to "read" his expressions, compare his face to her own.

She assumed he was suspicious of her, but, she realises with a jolt, maybe he was just trying to work out how to introduce himself. The looks he's been giving her haven't been angry like some of the others. Curious, perhaps? One more thing strikes her - the concerned, friendly human she met in the back alley of the Wards... maybe he's still been there all along. His behaviour doesn't excuse that of some of his crew, but...

She thinks again: prejudices are what have made this rite of passage so unpleasant - if she joins the humans in their presumptions, she's just as bad as them.

Keelah, this is complicated.

All feedback is appreciated! ;-)