Just a quick note on Tristan Chase: yes, she is very similar to Sid from my other story but I like her physical appearance and the clothing choices. However, aside from the sarcasm and sense of humour, Tristan is pretty different from Sid. She is also a Black Ops Agent who was trained by the Alliance and answers directly to Admiral Hackett. Her title is 'Agent' to prevent openly acknowledging her affiliation. I have taken a bit of creative freedom with her and while she will appear to have expertise in many things, it will be because she has to in her line of work but that doesn't make her an expert at everything. She has just enough knowledge to get the job done. Think of her as an Alliance version of a Spectre but she answers to Hackett and can get into serious trouble if a mission fails.

A quick note on Shepard: I decided her name would be Commander Nadine Shepard but to keep with the feel of the game, everyone refers to her as Shepard, occasionally 'Nads' when appropriate. She is of the Earthborn background with the War Hero psychological background and the Infiltrator Class (originally, she was a Spacer background but I recently changed it).

SPOILER ALERTS: This story does contain spoilers for Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 and the following DLC: Overlord, Kasumi: Stolen Memory, Arrival, Lair of the Shadow Broker, Zaeed's thing and From Ashes.

So, please read and review.

Chapter 1: Earth Burning

The building thrummed with energy – some nervous, some excited and some anxious – and the people milled about, going about their business with frantic movements reminiscent of ants. Admiral Hackett had decided to mobilise the fleets in preparation for the inevitable Reaper invasion, even if most people still believed that it was the story told by a crazy Alliance soldier who had turned traitor by working for Cerberus after faking her death. If Tristan ever met the person who started that rumour, he or she was going to receive a fist to the face. Commander Nadine Shepard was her closest friend and perhaps one of the more normal people she knew and if she said something was going to happen then it was extremely likely that it would happen.

It was this loyalty to the Commander – or ex-Commander or whatever the military types referred to her – that got Tristan temporarily reassigned. Instead of reporting directly to Admiral Hackett, she would now report to Admiral Anderson, until he was satisfied with the Normandy SR-2 and successfully got Commander Shepard reinstated. Tristan already knew that Shepard was in the building, under house arrest, and had sent her a welcoming present of her favourite chocolate brownies. Beyond that, she was forbidden from contacting the Commander. Tristan's clearance was higher than most senior officers in the Alliance so the Defence Committee was worried she would leak something that Shepard shouldn't know, given their history.

But, at the moment, Tristan was too busy to worry about that. The room she was in had many Alliance soldiers – they were mostly technicians or specialists - walking about and even more computer terminals, beeping and whirring as they processed huge amounts of data. Live readings were being streamed into the terminals from any active Alliance technology and old data was being compared – such as the data they had on Sovereign and its Geth and information acquired from the Normandy SR-2 about the Collectors, the Collector's technology and anything to do with Harbinger. There certainly wasn't a lack of data.

A combat knife was strapped to her right thigh within easy reach and an M-3 Predator Heavy Pistol was holstered on her left hip. Her clothes were simple: tight black pants, knee-high leather boots, black fingerless gloves on both of her hands and a grey tank top. A black leather jacket, which had a layer of light armour mesh within it that would stop light gunfire, completed the outfit. It didn't provide that much protection but it allowed her to move quickly and silently. Her shields could handle the protection. And, technically speaking, she was supposed to be on shore leave anyway. Given her specialities and training, Admiral Anderson had allowed her somewhat casual attire. Her straight flaming red hair reached midway between her shoulder and her elbow in length and her fringe was cut in a straight line above her dark green eyes, and it was currently left loose. The silver chain of her dog tags could just be seen around her neck, mostly obscured by her tank top.

The dim glow of the datapad Tristan was holding illuminated the frown on her face. There was a vague image surrounded by the darkness of space. The picture was grainy and the outlines blurry. The colours were too dark to discern much. It bore a shocking resemblance to a picture Shepard had handed over when she turned herself and the Normandy over to the Alliance just six months ago but it had far less clarity and definition. Somehow, the Cerberus image was much clearer – perhaps because of EDI. It vaguely reminded Tristan of those antique photographs of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. The Reapers were coming and they were getting close.

A young woman was standing nearby with an anxious look on her face. Tristan's authority was clear and a few of the younger recruits were terrified of her as she had a reputation of "shoot first, ask questions later". Someone had also started a rumour that she may shoot someone if she wasn't satisfied with their work. While the rumour was ridiculous, it did encourage excellent results. And it kept the idle chatter to a minimum – many were worried that Tristan would either overhear the insults directed at her or that she didn't have a sense of humour. Not that it helped much because she already knew that many called her "the Ice Queen" because of her icy demeanour.

"How old is this picture?" Tristan asked calmly.

"Four hours, ma'am," the woman replied and bit her bottom lip.

Tristan silently contemplated the picture for a few more moments and then nodded. "Thank you, you did a good job. I'll take this to the Admiral so long but see what you can do about the clarity. There might not be much time and we need all the information we can get."

The young woman smiled and saluted. "Thank you, ma'am."

Tristan headed for the door and exited into the main corridor. Soldiers were walking hurriedly in all directions and a few jostled her as she tried to pass. It was going to be hard to track down Admiral Anderson in this chaos. A particularly angry looking Marine came marching in her direction and to avoid him, she jumped back…into something very hard. It took a few moments to realise that that 'something hard' was in fact the chest of another Marine…a very tall and muscular Marine with dark hair, dark eyes and a tattoo up the side of his neck. She completely lost her train of thought and couldn't stop herself from staring – a fact that did not escape the now amused Marine's notice.

"Tris?" a voice asked in disbelief.

Tristan finally regained the use of her brain and looked over, unsurprised by the source of the voice. "Hey, Nads."

Shepard still looked pretty much the same, except her shoulder length black hair was now tied back in a ponytail instead of a regulation bun and her hazel eyes had a slight weariness to them that she tried to keep buried. Her build was a bit slimmer which was surprising but there was still a fierce determination in her posture. Apparently defeating the Collectors without losing a single crew member had not changed her. Anyone else might have come out extremely unbalanced or of the opinion that they were completely invincible.

"I thought you were posted on Arcturus?" Shepard asked.

Tristan shrugged. "Apparently it's frowned upon when you spend your downtime joyriding the experimental vehicles. Admiral Hackett has put me temporarily under Admiral Anderson's authority."

"You were joyriding?" Shepard asked, dumbfounded.

"Do you have something for me, Agent?" Admiral Anderson interrupted the reunion.

Tristan handed the datapad over as if the earlier conversation hadn't happened. "One of my technicians got this image from our long range satellites. There was too much interference to get a clear image and the satellites went offline shortly afterwards so we couldn't attempt to capture a more accurate one."

Admiral Anderson frowned and then passed the datapad to Shepard. "Can't you enhance the image?"

"That is the enhanced version, Admiral," Tristan replied. "It was taken four hours ago before we lost all long range communications. The Reapers are either on their way or will be soon. We don't have much time either way. I have the technicians working to improve the image but I figured it was important to get this to you as soon as possible."

"Thank you, Chase," Anderson replied and they started to walk again. "I think you should join us in the meeting. The Defence Committee would appreciate your input, given the research you've been doing lately. And they won't be able to hide behind a lack of evidence this time."

"Of course, Admiral, but you know I don't like politicians. They're so full of bullshit."

Shepard scoffed. "Then you would make a perfect politician."

Tristan smirked, as did the other Marine but it was the Admiral that answered. "As long as you keep your pistol holstered we shouldn't have any problems."

"Fair enough," she allowed and dodged around another soldier and fell back a few paces, so she ended up walking beside the Marine.

"Lieutenant James Vega," the man introduced and held out a hand.

She took his hand and shook it. "Agent Tristan Chase."

They arrived in the waiting area just before the Defence Committee chambers and while Anderson went over to speak to another woman, a receptionist perhaps, Shepard turned to speak with James. Neither of them seemed annoyed by her proximity so Tristan remained where she was standing, absently observing the room. Another man entered the room from the direction of the Committee chambers. He was also tall with black hair and warm brown eyes. He was easily recognizable from the photo Shepard had kept in her quarters after Horizon: Major Kaidan Alenko. Or, as Tristan knew him: Kaidan "the man who broke Shepard's heart and called her a traitor" Alenko. Even though it was a mouthful, it pretty much summed everything up.

Even though Shepard and Tristan had not shared a posting in years, they kept in contact and spoke often, whether via email, video chats or voice chats, depending on their current assignments. She knew more about Shepard's missions than the reports did and almost always offered her reassurances when the other crew members failed, like the miserable video chat they had after Horizon where Shepard started to question everything she was doing and the depressing voice chat after the instance in Batarian space – Tristan suspected it had actually been a drunk dial. Somehow she managed to get through to the distressed Commander and had calmed her down.

If it wasn't for the fact that Shepard still had strong feelings for the Major, Tristan wouldn't have hesitated to slam him biotically against the wall…or at the very least, punch him. Violence may not always be the answer but sometimes it just helped one to feel much better. Instead of involving herself, Tristan watched as Shepard and Kaidan spoke a bit to make sure Major Alenko didn't say anything to hurt Shepard again. James took a step forward so they were standing side by side again.

"How do you know the Commander?" he asked.

Tristan smiled. "We've been partners in crime since we were kids. We grew up on Earth and met by accident. My brother and I didn't know our parents and neither did she so we decided to look out for each other. It was the only way any of us would have survived. The life wasn't easy so we grew very close and she's pretty much like a sister to me. When she first enlisted in the Alliance, she helped get us out of the life of crime we were living."

"They're ready for you, Admiral," the woman informed them.

Tristan nodded in farewell to James and followed Admiral Anderson and Shepard, noticing the shared glance between Shepard and Kaidan. Perhaps there was some small glimmer of hope. As Tristan passed, she gave the Major a warning look which surprised and confused the man. It was a good enough reaction considering they had only met once before. The room they entered had only a few people inside and there were a few monitors scattered around, mostly attached to the walls. The members of the Committee were seated behind a large table that was slightly raised above everything else so they could look down on whoever entered.

The officers didn't seem surprised to see her there. Even so, she decided that it would be best if she remained in the back, close to the door, with her hands clasped behind her back and her posture stiff. Unless Admiral Anderson wanted her to say something, she would remain quiet. Apparently, the technicians had other ideas. A red flashing red light appeared on her omni-tool, indicating a new message and her earpiece crackled with soft static.

"Agent Chase, I just forwarded another version of the image to you. We're still working on it however it's important that you look at it now," the technician told her.

Curious, Tristan brought up the new image and raised an eyebrow. What had originally been assumed to be just a handful of outlines indicating a couple of Reapers had actually been just the closest Reapers. There was still heavy interference on the image and many outlines were still fuzzy, fusing the dark shapes with the surrounding space, but even so it did not bode well. In this one single image, there must have been a hundred of them, all descending towards Earth with a single mission in mind.

Tristan placed a finger to her earpiece and turned to face the door so she could speak softly. "Has there been any word from the Fifth Fleet? If this is the beginning of the invasion then we should have heard something by now."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, we have been unable to contact Admiral Hackett. He's out of range of our short distance communications," the technician replied.

Tristan was afraid of that. "What about our scanners? Have they picked anything up?"

"No, ma'am. There's heavy interference that has been slowly increasing over the past day. The scanners are barely picking up planets in our own solar system as things stand," was the grim reply.

Tristan sighed softly. "Thanks for the update. Get some of the technicians to focus on the interference on our scanners, see if there's some way to counter it and keep trying to raise the Fifth Fleet. Notify me immediately if anything changes."

"Yes, ma'am."

As she turned to face the room again, she caught mentions that contact had been lost with Luna Base and then UK Headquarters had a visual. Everyone turned to watch a large monitor as it flickered to life. Chaos, destruction, death…the Reapers had arrived. Tristan wanted to yell at those gathered who gasped in surprise – it wasn't like they didn't have fair warning of what was coming. They had two and a half years to prepare and they chose to do nothing instead.

"I think that is the biggest 'I told you so' ever," she commented dryly, loud enough for everyone to hear.

Shepard shot her a look while Anderson seemed to admire her for saying so in front of some of the most powerful people in the Alliance. In response, she shrugged at Shepard in a well-it's-true manner. Any responses from the Committee were cut off by a loud humming noise just outside the tall building. A bright red beam appeared outside the expansive windows and Shepard's shout to "Move!" was cut off by a large explosion. The glass windows shattered, sending shards everywhere and may have killed one or two people. The large table was sent flying across the room, narrowly missing Shepard. Tristan hit the floor and created a low biotic barrier around herself to avoid any injuries. The table bounced off the barrier before hitting the wall and splintering.

Tristan sat up and peered around the room. It was a complete mess and most of the computers and monitors had been destroyed too. After a few moments, Shepard got to her feet. A second explosion followed and Tristan curled up in the foetal position with her hands over her head as the shockwave followed. Fortunately, no tables went flying across the room this time. Unfortunately, Shepard took over that particular duty and was slammed into the wall near the door. Tristan got to her feet and ran to Shepard, who was lying flat on her back, barely conscious, and covered in a layer of dust and ash.

"Shepard? Chase?" the Admiral shouted from across the room.

"I'm fine," Tristan replied as the Admiral saw them behind a large pile of debris. "Shepard is a bit dazed though!"

At the mention of her name, Shepard seemed to shake it off and Tristan helped her to her feet while the Admiral set about trying to raise someone on the radio channels. Judging by his impatient responses, it wasn't going well. Everyone else in the room was dead or soon would be so while Shepard went about checking injuries, Tristan remained where she was standing and crossed her arms in front of her chest. They had no medi-gel on them so even if someone was alive; they wouldn't be able to do anything about it. But Shepard's conscience demanded that she do something. When the Admiral had established contact with Major Alenko, he threw an M-3 Predator Heavy Pistol to Shepard and they walked towards the broken window. When Tristan didn't follow, they looked to her in confusion.

"I need to go back and see if any of the research survived," she explained. "My technicians were working on a lot of different projects and even if nothing solid turned up, it could still be useful later."

"We don't know what's out there," Shepard argued.

Tristan raised an eyebrow. "This is a guess but I suspect Reapers."

"You think now is a good time to joke?"

"I think now is a perfect time," Tristan answered and smiled gently. "Nads, we've been through thick and thin together. You've always had my back, no matter what. Why would I abandon you now? I'll catch up, I promise."

Shepard hesitated while Admiral Anderson showed his approval with a stiff nod. The research, assuming it survived, would be invaluable and it was a good tactical move.

"Don't worry so much," Tristan added. "I'm a big girl; I can take care of myself."

Shepard cracked a smile. "That's what I'm afraid of. Be careful."

"You too. Admiral."

Tristan popped off a quick salute before ducking back into the chaos. Burning rubble was lying everywhere and the majority of the personnel had either been killed by the force of the explosion or crushed by the debris. The hallways themselves were eerily quiet but the sounds of battle outside echoed in the emptiness. A few lights flickered now and then before giving up. The room she and the technicians had been working in was a mess though a few consoles were working enough to download some files. The technicians were dead or had managed to escape the destruction. Tristan approached the closest terminal and activated her omni-tool to begin the download.

Soft moans began to echo in the hallway outside. Based on the varying volume to account for the echoes and distance, there were maybe four…things approaching. According to the reports from Eden Prime, Shepard's reports from her mission against the Collector Base and a few instances dotted around the galaxy, it was likely that they were husks. Fantastic. The omni-tool beeped to signify that the download was complete and Tristan moved onto the next terminal. Apparently the noise of the beep travelled and the door behind Tristan was kicked open. In a matter of seconds, she had her pistol in hand and unloaded three shots into each head of the husks without even moving. As she watched the last husk collapse to the floor, she lowered her arm so her pistol was relaxed against her thigh and then refocused on her omni-tool.

Once she finished downloading the remaining two terminals, she exited the building at a fast walk and brought up her omni-tool, typing in a command.

"Admiral Anderson, do you read me?" she asked.

A brief second of static. "Barely, Agent Chase." A few moments of gunfire. "We're by the water, near a downed gunship. We're under heavy fire and could use some help."

Tristan stopped by a window and looked around, trying to gain her bearings. There was so much destruction in such a short span of time that the city of Vancouver was barely recognizable. The tail of a gunship was just sticking out, surrounded by water and a lot of debris.

"I can see the gunship, I'm on my way."

"You better be," Shepard ordered.

Tristan grinned but did not reply. This window still had its glass so Tristan took a step back and fired the remaining two shots from her clip into the glass. As she jumped over the sill, she reloaded in a swift movement. The wind was stronger than she first realised and her hair whipped around her face, obscuring her vision temporarily. The debris had created long slants and the gaps between buildings were small, relatively speaking. She could make them. After a moment, Tristan ran towards the edge of the level footing and jumped so she was halfway down the slant. The momentum she had built up carried her so she was sliding down its length on her boots. At the last possible second, she jumped over the gap and landed on the next roof.

She continued in this manner, ignoring the husks that lunged out at her, until she found some debris floating near the water's edge. A makeshift bridge had been formed to connect to the debris with the downed gunship and there were two soldiers crouched behind cover nearby. One appeared to be severely injured while the other soldier was attempting to tend to his wounds. Tristan gracefully jumped down and attracted their attention the moment her feet touched the floor.

"Anderson and Shepard?" she called.

The uninjured soldier looked up and pointed over to the debris where there was gunfire. She ran across the makeshift bridge, grabbing some discarded ammo clips that were lying on the floor as she went and soon stumbled upon Shepard and Anderson, crouched low behind some sort of vent with some strange looking things firing at them. Tristan rolled over to some nearby cover, popped up again and fired three shots at the closest head before ducking again.

"What took you so long?" Shepard demanded through clenched teeth and fired at the closest ugly thing.

Tristan peeked over her cover and received some bullets for her trouble. "I stopped for coffee!"

Shepard did not respond to that, rather choosing to roll her eyes. It definitely took some time and patience to work with Tristan however her skills were unmatched which was why Hackett and Anderson were willing to put up with her. Shepard leant around her cover and sabotaged their weapons. Tristan used this distraction to stand up and once again fire three shots at their heads. In the span of a few seconds, she was able to kill the remaining four and they moved on to the next cover, gaining valuable ground. The radio from the downed gunship was a few meters away but the ugly things were determined to keep them away.

While Tristan reloaded her clip, she casually flicked a Warp over their cover and even though it was supposed to be used for shields, it was still damn effective at killing things. Shepard followed the Warp with an Incinerate and then used Sabotage again. Tristan peeked over her cover again and enveloped one in blue biotic energy and then slammed it against four of its allies like a hideous wrecking ball, knocking them all into a large piece of metallic debris. It wasn't hard enough to kill any of them however it was enough to daze them. It was easy to pick them off as they staggered around for a few moments.

With the last of them killed, Anderson led the way to the radio. It was surprising that it still worked after the gunship took a nasty looking nosedive. Shepard found a discarded M-8 Assault Rifle and once she was confident it was working, she and Tristan stood side by side to make sure nothing tried to sneak up from behind. An explosion sounded in the background and an Alliance shuttle sped by overhead, chased by what looked to be small rockets. Anderson managed to make contact with the Normandy SR-2 and tried to activate the distress beacon. It failed, at first, probably after sustaining some damage after crashing.

"Let me take a look," Shepard offered and went to investigate.

Tristan remained where she was and continued to keep a sharp lookout, resisting the urge to call Shepard a nerd. Suddenly, she was very glad that all of her gear and personal belongings were already aboard the Normandy. There was a perk to being the second in command to the man overseeing the upgrades and retrofitting of the Alliance's newest addition to the fleet. Her hair continued to whip around her in the light breeze and her leather jacket had a layer of dust and grime on it. The soles of her boots were covered in dust, grime, blood and whatever the husks were made of. Those definitely needed a scrub.

"Ha! It's working," Shepard interrupted her musings.

"Let's hope the Normandy gets here soon," Anderson replied.

Small balls of fire flying across the sky caught Tristan's eyes. "We have company!" she warned and they all dove behind cover as one of the large flaming balls exploded just ahead of them.

Shepard started off things by sabotaging their weapons and Tristan enveloped one of the bulgy things that was trying to flank Anderson in blue energy. Instead of tossing it aside, she slammed it into the floor with all the force she could muster. It twitched for a second and then didn't move again. A second approached its fallen comrade and started to do something weird.

"Now that's just plain nasty," Tristan commented in disgust. These things were cannibals.

Shepard peered over her cover and shot it. "Don't you think it would be useful to shoot it instead of watching it?"

Tristan rolled her eyes and sent a Warp at another approaching cannibal, following it up with a shot between the eyes.

"I'm out," Anderson said in irritation.

Tristan reached into the pocket of her leather jacket and pulled out a spare clip, tossing it to Anderson. They continued to fire but more just kept coming. It didn't take much longer for Tristan's small collection of spare clips to run dry. Anderson had already run out of ammo while Shepard's assault rifle was dry. She and Tristan were both on their pistol's last clip. Things were not looking good. There was only so much Tristan could do with her biotics.

"The cavalry has arrived!" a voice said over the radio.

Explosions quickly followed and decimated the cannibals. The Normandy SR-2 hovered into view and went over to a piece of debris that could act like a runway of sorts. Major Alenko and another Marine had opened suppressive fire while Tristan, Shepard and Anderson ran for it. Tristan hung back a few paces and slowed her jog when she saw a cannibal approaching them that the others had yet to notice. With her left hand, she pulled out her combat knife and enveloped it in biotic energy. Using her biotics, she sent the knife flying at the cannibal with enough force to send it to the ground before pulling it out again and returning the knife to her hand and returning it to its sheath.

She continued her sprint up the runway as though nothing had happened. Shepard had already jumped across while Anderson was talking to her. He didn't react when Tristan jumped past him and onto the Normandy although Major Alenko didn't seem to know how to react, especially after the look he received. Anderson tossed Shepard her dog tags and she caught them effortlessly, if a bit surprised.

"And Agent Chase?" Anderson called.

Tristan smiled. "Yes, Admiral?"

"Keep the Commander safe. We're counting on both of you to bring the fight back to Earth!"

Tristan saluted the Admiral. "Yes, sir!"

The Normandy slowly pulled away and Alliance shuttles descended nearby to pick up a few civilians. A small child in a grey hoodie looked up and Tristan noticed Shepard freeze, her eyes fixed on the young boy. The child clambered into the shuttle and it took off. Shepard visibly relaxed until a nearby Destroyer decimated the two shuttles. Shepard looked away before looking forward again. Major Alenko had already disappeared so Tristan placed a reassuring hand on Shepard's shoulder.

"I know it's not easy, Nads, but we'll come back and teach the Reapers a thing or two about destruction," she said with a small smile.

Shepard responded with a ghost of a smile and they both turned around to walk into the Shuttle Bay while the Normandy evaded the Reapers.

Tristan's office was in the Shuttle Bay. It was an unusual place for an office but Tristan's work depended on secrecy and occasionally isolation, both of which could be found down below where the chances were slim that someone would overhear something they shouldn't. It had been converted from a large storage room that Cerberus used for supplies so it was spacious. And as she wasn't a soldier, her office was better equipped than what was expected for Alliance Officers. There was a double bed against the far wall, a closet for her clothing and hardsuit, a desk for writing reports, a second desk with a computer terminal and one wall had a large monitor for video calls. A couch and low coffee table were also squeezed in.

When Tristan entered the room, her eyes immediately fell on a small package sitting on the empty desk. It was covered in brown paper and a label had been stuck on: Tristan Chase, Executive Officer Quarters, Normandy SR-2. It was a care package from home, most likely delivered a few days ago while she had been spending her time in the Alliance building. Her fingers hovered over the package and she was about to open it when there was yelling coming from outside. Reluctantly, Tristan turned around again and exited her quarters, not before grabbing a hairband and tying her slightly dusty hair into a quick ponytail.

Major Alenko was standing nearby, examining his assault rifle and he too looked up. Shepard and James were arguing, presumably about leaving Earth and leaving Anderson behind.

"Enough," Shepard cut off James' next argument. "Don't you think I would rather stay here and fight? We're going to the Citadel. If you don't like it then you can catch a ride back from there!"

James didn't argue back, it was an excellent point. Not even dying could keep Commander Shepard out of the fight. The thought brought a small smile to Tristan's features. She glanced up again. James and Shepard were still staring at each other, willing the other to blink in an act of surrender, while Major Alenko still hovered back, unsure of how – or if – he should intervene. Tristan walked over and used her hands to force the two apart.

"No one here likes the situation, Lieutenant," Tristan interjected calmly. "But we need to stand together and keep a cool head."

James took a step back while Shepard looked at Tristan in shock. It wasn't every day something smart and reassuring came out of Tristan's mouth.


Shepard's look of shock turned to confusion and then recognition at the voice over the radio. It was rather comical to watch. "Joker?" she asked in disbelief. "Is that you?"

"Alive and kicking," the helmsman replied. "I have an emergency transmission from Admiral Hackett."

That titbit of information certainly had an effect: James stopped mid step while walking away to look over his shoulder, Major Alenko got to his feet and walked over and Tristan stood behind Shepard, peering over her shoulder to see the monitor.

"Patch it through, Joker," Shepard ordered.

The terminal lit up and Admiral Hackett's face appeared. He looked angry. At least he was alive and obviously still fighting. That was good to know. The interference was still strong and it was hard to hear everything he said, especially when a few words were cut off entirely. It was easy to get the gist of the conversation though: Earth was suffering and it would only get worse without help, they needed to take a detour to the Prothean Archives on Mars because they lost contact and Dr T'Soni was there researching the Protheans and possibly had found a way to destroy the Reapers. Intriguing. The call was ended and static filled the silence.

"Joker, set a course for the Mars Archives," Shepard ordered.

"Mars?" Major Alenko asked, visibly confused.

"Yeah," Tristan answered. "You know, the red planet? Fourth planet from the sun? Has the Prothean Archives?"

She sighed when she received a withering look from Shepard and a second – although marginally less potent – similar look from the Major. Fun times.

Shepard reached over to the table next to the console and grabbed a piece of her N7 armour, staring at it as though she couldn't believe she was holding it. "Grab your gear."

"This was so not what I had planned for shore leave," Tristan commented, shaking her head and walked back towards her quarters.