Long-Winded Opening Author's Notes:

Here we are again! For those of you who are new, I recommend going back to read 'Newton's First Law' at the very least, so you don't get confused. 'Cause and Effect' (this Shepard's origin story) will probably help clarify a few minor characters who will likely crop up, but it isn't strictly necessary.

You probably remember the premise of these vignettes, but I'll mention it in brief (for the full explanation, see NFL). These are 1000-word snapshots of the events of Mass Effect 2.

Special thanks to the Mass Effect Wiki and to Bioware, who owns Mass Effect—this disclaimer applies to any and all chapters of this work. And extra special thanks to my fantastic beta Saberlin, who has returned to work on this project. Thanks again, and I appreciate all your efforts.

One more thing: the first few chapters occur around Newton's First Law's chapter 'Dead', so be aware of the chronological overlap.

Happy reading,

~Raven Studios

-J-

-MASS EFFECT: NEWTON'S SECOND LAW-

Newton's Second Law states that an object's acceleration is directly proportional to the object's net force and inversely proportional to the object's mass.

-J-

Commander Shepard and Lieutenant Alenko sat in the cargo bay of the SSV Normandy, sweaty, irritable, and frustrated.

The garage team securely clamped the Mako into place after another mission that turned up dirt, dust, and nothing remotely interesting. The two officers frowned into their gear lockers, preparing to armor down.

What were the politicos thinking? Shepard could not bring herself to believe they were thinking, and had to quell the rising worry that the attack by Sovereign, Saren, and the geth had changed nothing in the long run.

She was still a case of insanity waiting to happen.

She was Chicken Little, and the sky really was falling.

How many times did she have to be right before the powers-that-be listened? She thought she had exercised incredible diplomacy last time she saw anyone of importance, but apparently it was just not enough to convince people of a clear and present galactic threat.

As soon as Shepard was fit for duty she and her crew were kicked off the Citadel. People seemed to think being in the hospital constituted a 'job well done' break for weary soldiers.

Pressly was furious at being sent after geth. Adams was rolling his eyes at the prospect. Shepard was angry on behalf of her crew, not because they were chasing non-existent cells of geth, but because there was no time for anyone to really catch their breaths.

No time allotted for her crewmen to see their families.

Maybe the interim leadership on the Citadel was afraid Shepard the Trouble Magnet would finish what Sovereign started and take out the rest of the station.

Everything was irritability and frustration, neither of which had nothing to do with the sand in her boots. The irritability and the frustration had two very different, very distinct causes.

Shepard could not complain, knowing what was out there, making their sinister way towards civilization, but still...

A little downtime with the man she loved…was that so much to ask? Really? Because 'on duty' meant on duty, and 'on station' meant conducting themselves as professionals; personal entanglements were one hundred percent off the agenda.

And she missed her personal entanglement. Every inch of him.

Hence the frustration.

-J-

"This is crazy," Alenko dropped his helmet, rubbing his eyes. It was crazy. The writing was still on the wall, in bold, italicized letters, and people still pretended they couldn't read.

Alenko cast Shepard a sidelong look, partly of concern. It was insulting they way things were going. She had supposedly saved the galaxy, yet they shunted her out of sight at the first opportunity to some place where she could not cause trouble.

There was galactic gratitude for you. Only a month since Reaper shrapnel pinned her like a butterfly, and one would think it had never happened.

Anywhere else and she would probably still be under orders for light duty only. She was tough, but not as indestructible as popular opinion portrayed her. He was one of the few to know that, firsthand. He cut this thought off abruptly, though memory insinuated itself slyly. A memory of vivid eyes looking up at him above a smile that was hard to read, accompanied by a pale hand sliding over his shoulder, through the faint corona of dark energy clinging there...

No sense aggravating an aggravating situation with sentimental things. They were soldiers, right now…which meant eyes forward, and focus on the task at hand.

"In a word," Shepard agreed with Alenko's voiced opinion, setting her shotgun in her locker, before absently touching locker that had once belonged to Williams.

There was nothing in it; it was kept empty on purpose. If the crew had their way, it would stay that way forever. There was no grave on Virmire, no body to bury. There was only a weighted coffin on Amaterasu and an empty locker on the Normandy.

"Whole new setup and the only ones really listening can't do much." Blast politics, Alenko mentally grumbled, blast the politicians, too. It would have been worse if Shepard had endorsed Udina. Thankfully, very hot places would hold ice skating matches with medals before Shepard did anything to further Udina's career or goals.

The man was a slug, more so now than ever; dislike of Udina was like fine wine, it got stronger with time. The thought made him smile, helped nudge his mind onto neutral ground.

If Udina really was bottled up and left to ferment, the bottle would explode due to a buildup of hot air produced by the contents.

-J-

Shaking her head wearily, Shepard looked around the familiarity of the garage. Home. The garage was still huge, the engines still pulsed and throbbed through the floor, the 'new' Mako was just as ugly. The love-hate relationship ran strong with the Mako. Like certain varieties of ugly dog, the thing had grown on her, though she still hated driving it.

"This really sucks, I'm starting to miss the good old days." She could not stop the wistful comment as she once more contemplated starting the process of removing her armor. The good old days…one would think she was referring to a string of picnics and get-togethers, instead of zombie-popping, geth-fragging danger and disaster.

Well. They were still geth-fragging…except there weren't any geth. Not here, at least, despite the fact that three ships had gone missing within the space of a month. Popular consensus blamed it on pirates or batarians.

Shepard was not so sure, but then again, things might really be that easy. Maybe she was simply looking for trouble, since none seemed to be forthcoming. She didn't like trouble, but she didn't like this monotonous non-action either.

"What, rocketing around the Traverse with a shotgun, saving colonies, ever alert for four-eyed uglies…?"

"...back of my neck, yeah. I just—"

The entire deck rocked, throwing them both forward. Shepard landed clumsily on her knees. Neither of them asked 'what was that?'

They both knew what 'that' was: it was trouble rearing its ugly head.