Note: The entry on just what a "nerve-stim application" is, is made up by me, based on a few of the events and conversations in the game, as follows:
1: The volus on Illium makes way too many innuendos for it to be completely innocent.
2: The valley-girl quarian in the Illium bar and the asari shopkeeper are way too open about it for it to be something completely perverted.
3: The only ones that really mention it are those that are confined to environment suits, implying that it has something to do with those suits directly.
Shepard tapped away at the keyboard, idly going through the data on the screen in front of him, where a list of resource-rich planet locations were clamoring for his credits.
He glanced over at Liara, who was perusing data on the large, multi-panel screen that detailed important information for the new Shadow Broker. The two of them had talked a bit since he had assisted her in tracking down the yahg and eliminating him. Little things of little import, since the Collectors had been eliminated even before the former Shadow Broker.
Shepard turned back to the screen in front of him and, satisfied that he could afford to purchase the planets' locations, forwarded payments to the appropriate companies and crossed the room to one of the other consoles, glancing at the information displayed on it. It displayed various charities and black ops that needed funding for causes, good or ill.
Barely paying attention to what he was reading, Shepard's mind wandered to the one console he had avoided in all his times here. Liara had compiled dossiers on each member of his team, along with other important figures. He had yet to know which, as he had not even glanced at the information on that console yet.
Did he really want to know all the little secrets of people he knew? He had given Liara a teasing warning before about becoming a dark figure hoarding people's embarrassing secrets and had no desire to fall into the same trap, even if it was an amusing image. But, all the same, his curiosity nagged at him. Shepard looked over at the console in question. What tantalizing secrets laid bare on that screen across the room?
Indecision waged war in his mind even as he wandered cautiously over to the dossier console. Before he had even made a real decision, Shepard found himself activating the terminal and reading over the list of names on the screen.
Miranda Lawson, Jacob Taylor, Mordin Solus… all of his squad was listed. His heart skipped a beat when his eyes spotted the name Tali'Zorah vas Neema (the thought "shouldn't it be vas Normandy?" crossed his mind) included among the dossiers. His friend, his lover, his.
Before storming the homeworld ("home base? Home station? What did one call the home of a species that had no planet?" he wondered) of the Collectors, the two of them had consummated their budding relationship. It had been a night of need, fear, with just enough love to make the act meaningful despite its desperation. Shepard did not regret the night, not in the least. In fact, he and Tali had spent more and more time together since then. Not in the same sense, of course; Tali was still recovering from their… first night. And, to be completely fair, Shepard still found himself mentally stumbling at the thought of a second such night.
Hoping that Liara hadn't glanced over and seen his face reddening, Shepard quickly scrolled down the list until Tali's name was out of sight.
Kasumi Goto, David Anderson, Aria T'Loak… More names appeared on the screen, listing important people not on his squad. Filled with curiosity, Shepard opened Aria T'Loak's dossier. He had talked to the woman multiple times, each time edging out a bit more of the person she was and had become, but it was an arduous process. He wasn't even sure why he wanted to know; he had always been a curious man.
However, Shepard was disappointed as he looked over Aria's dossier file. The record contained only two entries; it had a correspondence between Aria and her events coordinator for Afterlife and a recording of Aria executing an agent of the Shadow Broker. Not quite the font of information on Aria's past that Shepard had hoped to read like a good book.
Sighing, Shepard closed the dossier and opened the one on Admiral Steven Hackett. Maybe the file on one of the leading military men in the Alliance would be more interesting. The record contained only a single electronic correspondence, but one that caught Shepard's attention immediately. Shepard snorted at the request of internal affairs to Admiral Hackett to take Shepard in for questioning after his 'resurrection.' The letter assured, of course, that with proper cooperation, he would only be held for, quote, "five to seven months from acquisition." Reading Admiral Hackett's short reply of "Request denied" brought a grin to Shepard's face as he closed the dossier.
He glanced up through the rest of the records. If all of them were as impersonal as the two he'd seen, then perhaps it wouldn't be such a breach to read a few of the others. Shepard glanced at the others and selected Miranda Lawson's dossier, at random. Of course it was at random, why would he want to look at the dossier of the former obvious mole on his ship? No reason, none at all.
Shepard wasn't even sure if he himself was convinced by his logic.
A quick scan of Miranda's dossier showed eight entries, a good deal more than the other two contained. Seeing titles like "Extranet Activity," "Personal Correspondence 1," and "Excerpt From Chat" made Shepard feel a bit uneasy. These seemed a lot more personal than the other dossiers indicated.
With some hesitation, Shepard opened the first one, "Extranet Activity." A glance showed the details to be mostly bland; all it contained was information on various extranet searches and subscriptions. Closing that entry, Shepard skipped a few down and opened another, entitled "Personal Correspondence 2." And immediately wished he hadn't. Closing the entry, he glanced at the next few with similar titles, quickly closing each one. Apparently Miranda had resorted to dating services for a few… "one night" dates. Shepard could only assume that the perfect, genetically modified woman only needed such a service because of her professional life. Not that he dwelt long on the topic.
Face red and feeling slightly guilty for knowing, Shepard opened the last, safer-looking entry, "Medical Correspondence." After quietly reading a moment, his guilt deepened and was joined by its friend, commiseration. He never would have guessed that Miranda was sterile, given her extensive genetic tailoring. That she was desperately hoping otherwise was just a further blow. Sadly, Shepard closed out Miranda's dossier. He hadn't wanted to know that sort of detail. Nobody would know that he knew, not even Miranda. He couldn't imagine that conversation going anywhere good.
Shepard glanced around the Shadow Broker's office ("can something so large be called an office?" he pondered a moment), attempting to clear the sting of what was definitely not tears from his eyes. After a few moments, he looked back at the dossiers. It was with another jolt, again, that his eyes settled on the dossier of Tali'Zorah vas Neema.
His curiosity unquenchable despite what he had learned about Miranda, Shepard opened Tali's dossier. Only three entries here; "Suit Process Log," "Message Chain," and "Keystroke Log." All rather different from earlier dossier records.
Tentatively, Shepard opened the second one. It took only a moment of reading for him to realize that the entry was a correspondence between a young Tali'Zorah nar Rayya and the former Shadow Broker. Shepard felt a low fire in his gut at all the trouble the Shadow Broker had caused for Tali, so early into her Pilgrimage. The yahg was dead and gone now, thanks to Liara and Shepard, but Shepard could still hate a dead being.
He continued reading the entry. The Shadow Broker's lies were obvious in retrospect, and Shepard was glad that Tali refrained from recontacting the Shadow Broker to follow up on his offer of a second attempt to trade for the information on Saren for protection. Really, when Shepard took the time to think on it, it was because of the Shadow Broker that he had met Tali. So many things would have fallen apart had that not happened. They might not have retrieved the proof of Saren's traitorous actions in time. With that, they may have never stopped Sovereign from opening the Citadel relay, bringing about the end of the galaxy. Not to mention, of course, that Shepard would never have fallen for the timid quarian woman. Hard to do that while evil, mechanical, squid-like precursors wandered about destroying all sapient life. Just a bit hard.
Shepard shook his head slightly in amusement and closed out the entry. He glanced at the time and realized he had spent quite a while reminiscing. He likely only had time for a single entry more. Not yet read to stop reading Tali's dossier, Shepard opened another one.
Contents obvious from the title, the entry contained a list of installs, upgrades, and uninstalls to Tali's environment suit. Shepard scrolled down the list, seeing upgrades for the Haestrom mission, where he had recruited her for his second mission to save the galaxy, so recently completed. Next was a list of a few applications Tali had installed into her suit. Shepard paused at the entry for "Nerve-Stim Pro." Fighting the urge to look up just what exactly a Nerve-Stim program was, especially after hearing that volus on Illium go on about them in excruciating innuendo, Shepard continued down the list. Entertainment vids, defensive options, medical applications. It all seemed rather normal, for a quarian.
Shepard was about to close the entry and head back to the Normandy when he saw the next line: "Education vid, 'Dealing with Loss'." Shepard bowed his head for a moment at the memory of Tali losing her father. Rael'Zorah had not been the father that Tali had wanted, or deserved, but he had been her father nonetheless, and his loss had obviously devastated Shepard's lover for a time. Shepard made a mental note to delicately ask Tali about how she was feeling sometime later.
Of course, luck would have it that the next two entries caught Shepard's attention as well. It seems Tali had uninstalled her Nerve-Stim Pro suit application, then just as quickly reinstalled it. Feeling morbidly curious now, Shepard activated his omnitool and accessed the extranet. A few quick searches yielded just what a nerve-stim application was.
Nerve-Stim Suit Application
Summary: A nerve-stim application is a program that, once installed into an environment suit, allows the wearer to receive sensor input from the surface of the suit as if the suit were the wearer's own skin. The programs generally do not come with a physical refit of the suit or the wearer, thus requiring preexisting hardware in the suit and some amount of cybernetics on the part of the wearer. Different nerve-stim applications provide more or less sensory feedback.
Such programs are wildly popular among the volus and quarian races, as both live almost exclusively in their environment suits. Due to the technical aptitude of the quarian race as a whole, many nerve-stim applications are programmed by quarians.
There is a politely unspoken-of understanding that nerve-stim applications are often used for sexual pleasure, either on the part of the user or by coupling with another -
Shepard stopped reading, convinced that his face was already turning red. And we couldn't have anyone, not even his close friend Liara, believing that the Spectre Commander Shepard, savior of the galaxy twice over, was embarrassed by finding out his girlfriend installed a program with such a use.
Glancing over at Liara, who was still enthralled with the data before her and completely unaware of Shepard's discomfort, he cleared his suddenly all-too-dry throat and continued reading.
He really shouldn't have.
"Understanding Body Language: Human Edition"
"Entertainment vid: 'Fleet and Flotilla'"
"Human Courtship and Mating"
Shepard swallowed again. Tali had mentioned prior to everything between them that she planned on... researching everything, to be safe. Apparently his quarian had been researching things long before that, with an eye on Shepard. Flattered, but still embarrassed, Shepard read on.
"Installed application, Immunoboost: Professional Edition"
Shepard shook his head at the thought of a professional edition. He did not want to know why they felt the need to give it that designation.
"Installed suit application, Nerve-Stim Pro: Deluxe Edition"
That was it. With a truly red face, Shepard closed out the entire console, quickly strolling towards the exit back towards the Normandy. Visions of his quarian girlfriend 'enjoying' her nerve-stim application were solidly in Shepard's mind, and he wasn't sure how to feel about it. Not upset, by any means, but it was a tad awkward to be stuck somewhere between embarrassment and arousal. Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, apparently not so innocent after all.
As the door closed behind him, a curious Liara turned from the door and looked at the console in the corner. A few moments later and Liara was reading over the compilation of Tali's suit processes that Shepard had read not a moment before. It did not even take that long for Liara to begin laughing. It took practically no time for Liara to start debating sending Tali a copy of Shepard's dossier, specifically the entries on extranet activities which Tali would find to be quite interesting. Or embarrassing. Liara wasn't sure which was more entertaining.
Sometimes the prospect of being a shadowy figure hoarding embarrassing secrets (and eking them out) was all too appealing.
Shepard stepped onto the Normandy, his face starting to return to its normal color. How was he going to look at Tali without imagining- Shepard cut off the thought before it ventured any further. That was not something to be thinking of on the bridge of his ship, in front of all his men.
No, that sort of thought was for when he was alone- Shepard shook his head again, causing a few of the aforementioned crewmen to stare after him before returning to their duties.
Picking up a slight jog, Shepard headed to the elevator. He passed by his assistant, Kelly Chambers, who called out to tell him that he had unread messages.
"I'll look at them later, Kelly," Shepard responded, pressing the button to enter the elevator. He turned around to face her and continued, "I'll be in my bunk."
Shepard was lucky the door shut before the realization of what he just said sunk in.
Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Shepard stepped out of the elevator once it reached his floor and opened the door to his cabin.
To match his luck for the day, the last (and first) person he wanted to see was in his room, sitting on his bed, one leg crossed over the other with her three-toed foot bouncing slightly. Her omnitool was active.
Tali looked up at Shepard as he faltered near the entrance to his room. He could almost hear her raised eyebrow.
"'Fornax'? 'Quarians under their suits'?" Tali asked Shepard, amusement, and perhaps a blush, evident in her voice. "'Quarian/Human mating'?"
He really shouldn't have looked.
Yes, that's the end. For now, at least. I was going for a short, mostly humorous ficlet. We'll see if I decide to do more circumstances, events, and happenings (yes, I know those are all the same thing, nearly _ Shaddup). I already have one in mind, but we'll see how this goes.
Feel free to leave suggestions on improvements, critiques, fan-gender-isms, etc. Flames will be used to sauté chicken for dinner. Enough of those and I won't have to cook for the next month.