{Do you have any idea what time it is?} the asari in charge of the Armali Refugee Center—a maiden, to Liara's surprise—demanded, bleary eyes trying to focus on the image of her interlocutor.

{No, I'm sorry, I do not,} Liara answered truthfully. She tried to keep her voice amicable without sounding sarcastic or condescending. {It looks like early morning, perhaps?} she ventured, nodding her head toward the dusky landscape in the window visible just behind the asari's back. {Whatever the time, I am very sorry to trouble you directly, Doctor… Neruna, was it?}

The doctor nodded, looking nonplussed. {It's barely past dawn,} she responded, gaining steam again. {I don't know who you think you are, but—}

Liara studiously ignored the discussion Shepard and Hannah were having behind her, and leaned in a bit closer to the camera, voice lowered into a hush. {I need not think anything, Doctor,} she said evenly. {It is you who should think… I am calling you directly on your private account, and I am calling you from Sol. This should be enough for you to understand the seriousness of this request, and how serious it is considered by others,} she continued, hating herself for having to assert her privilege. She also knew it to be foolish to do so even as she was saying it, but some of her father's urgency must have leached into her, too. She had already forced her way through three different people—important people—to get to the doctor, seething all the while about the time it was taking her… and then with anger at herself, for daring to be upset about mere minutes spent on something others couldn't dream of achieving. {Please.}

{I…} Neruna started, her clear displeasure first transformed into something like fear as she understood what Liara was saying, or possibly recognized her… and then seemed mollified by the softness of Liara's plea, softness that had taken her by surprise herself. The doctor frowned, and rubbed the bridge of her nose, chin leaning on her thumb as she seemed to consider the issue.

The asari looked into Liara's eyes a few times, but did not keep the contact, allowing Liara to clandestinely observe the rest of the room. She did not notice anything much out of the ordinary—it was clearly a doctor's office, but with days worth of hastily gathered and processed data pads and terminal littering the space that had all the signs of being meticulously maintained at all other times. There was a blanket visible on the sofa, in the very corner of the image, making Liara feel even guiltier about having likely woken the disheveled-looking doctor… It was not surprising that they would have been enormously busy trying to deal with the situation, especially if they were taking in people from as far away as Paura—which is where her father had indicated the family had lived—more than seven hundred kilometers away on the coast of the Purple Sea.

She felt very isolated from the destruction of the war in that moment, the machine that was the fleets buffering away nearly all of the confusion and disarray… though the losses had been catastrophic for the militaries, too, it was still something they had trained all their lives for. They knew how to handle it, and they had. On the ground, with the demolished infrastructure and most professional rescue workers gone with the militaries or otherwise lost in the first days of the attacks… she was astonished that there was anything resembling organization, but there was. Even the Fora were becoming more active again.

The doctor finally broke the silence that had felt like minutes by lifting her head and laying her clasped hands on the desk before her. {Very well, Dr. T'Soni,} she said, confirming Liara's guess, {I assume you need somebody found, am I correct?}

{Yes, Dr. Neruna,} Liara replied, trying to allow the gratefulness she felt to be heard as well. {I have forwarded you all the details I have on two children who I believe… who I hope to be located in your facility.}

{This isn't really a facility, Dr. T'Soni,} Neruna replied, the exasperation she must have felt for having to explain how the refugee centers worked hidden fairly well under a kinder tone. {We can barely process everyone here… they're actually sent to various satellite centers, and in many cases their data comes from there in the first place. However,} she added quickly, {most of the children have been brought to another facility here in Armali for easier care. And, in any case, we should have their current location if they've been through here,} she said, turning to a data pad that Liara assumed to have received the files she had sent. {They lived in the surrounding area, I assume?}

{No,} Liara replied, shaking her head sharply. {They lived in Paura, but I received… I… their mother was included in your latest listing update as Presumed Dead. The children, my nieces, were not, so…}

{I see,} Neruna said with a distracted nod, fingers clumsily running over her omni. {My condolences on your sister… please give me a moment. Unfortunately we have had to split our listing updates recently with the rescue efforts redoubling. With all the data that is required to be uploaded for each person, we are going over our batch quotas. It's been a ni— Ah! Here,} she exclaimed, expression brightening slightly… Liara had to assume that happy news had likely not been in abundance of late, so being able to deliver them to even an impertinent demand seemed to lift her spirits. {DNA hash match for both children, and looks like the rest of the data confirms. Aaaand…} she continued, drawing the word out as she leaned in to view another display, {they're both at the university. That's where children are being held, like I said. Minor injuries and dehydration.}

Liara was surprised by the ache she felt at the mention of minor injuries—Goddess, it could be anything that did not require surgery, including broken bones! She shook away the vivid images of pain and fear of a child, of small arms and legs broken or cut… kneading her knuckles painfully, she tried to smile at the doctor. {Thank you, that is wonderful news! I would like to speak with them, if possible… could you arrange a contact at that facility?}

Neruna said nothing for a moment, her expression conflicted—which Liara could understand very well. Limited resources, and already having given her special treatment… {I'm not sure how easy that will be—} she started uncertainly.

{You do not need to worry about the transfer quotas or anything like that. I have my own transmission system in case you did not notice it in the channel data,} Liara said quickly, just as she saw an opportunity to actually repay the kindness with something other than useless words of appreciation. {In fact, you have already been most helpful. If it helps you, I can give you the use of this bandwidth for at least the day whether or not you are able to help me further. That should give you enough time to upload the data you like, perhaps even download manufacturing licenses and whatever information you require. It is not much, I know, but—}

{Honestly, that would be immensely helpful to us,} Neruna said, excitement apparent through disbelieving apprehension. The asari sat up straighter, and leaned back on her chair.

{Good, the details are in the data, and I will reallocate it for you as soon as I no longer have need of it myself,} Liara said with a small smile. {But please, if you are able…}

{Yes, yes… I can hardly say no, can I?} Neruna replied with a smirk, but the edge was missing from her sarcasm. {I will connect you to the administration at the university, and tell them to locate the girls. However,} she warned, {if they're asleep or something like that, I'm sure you understand that they'll just tell you to try to contact them again later.}

{I understand,} Liara said, and emphasized with a sharp nod. {Thank you, Dr. Neruna.}

{Goodbye, Dr. T'Soni,} the asari said.

The image and sound flicked off, and the channel status data became visible instead. Liara verified that it showed her in queue and not disconnected, and re-engaged the channel activity alert to patch back into her aurals as soon as it reactivated. She swung her chair around to Shepard and Hannah to tell them the good news, and was surprised to see her father already there. She had not realized she had been so engaged in the conversation that she had not noticed the door opening. All three dropped the conversation they had been engaged in and looked back at Liara expectantly, worriedly. Only Shepard visibly relaxed when she saw Liara, able as the woman was to read her to see that she was less distraught now.

"Well?" Aethyta asked sternly when Liara did not immediately say anything.

Liara sprang up and walked toward the three before answering—not to prolong their anxiety, but because her father's expression quite worried her. "They have both of the girls at the Armali University center," she said simply when she got closer, emphasizing the positivity of the news with a small smile. She did not mention the minor injuries to spare them the visceral discomfort she herself felt thinking about it.

"Thank fuck," both her father and Shepard said in the same breath.

Liara frowned disapprovingly. "They are seeing whether the girls are awake and able to be summoned so that we can speak to them now," she added, and pulled her father close when she was near enough, encircling the matriarch's listless shoulders with her arms and laying her cheek against Aethyta's neck. "I am so sorry, Father," she murmured quietly.

Aethyta said nothing, but after a moment's hesitation she reciprocated the embrace, her hands lightly gripping Liara's upper arms. "Thanks," she muttered in response before drawing back.

"Are you sure you are alright?" Liara asked worriedly. Her father seemed almost more in shock than anything else, and it would not be a good thing in the long run. "Is there anything I can—"

"I'm fine," Aethyta cut her off gruffly, looking away into the corner. "Emotion was never my strong suit, kiddo. All of yours is from Nezzy."

Liara's heart fell at the words, knowing them for falsehood. She could see the pain as clear as day even if she had not known the ferocity with which her father had engaged in trying to locate the children—how vigilantly she had protected Liara herself. Liara found no words, however, her body frozen in place despite desperately wanting to help somehow, even with just her embrace if she could do no more. At the same time she was conflicted, unsure whether it would just make things worse for her father—

"Oh, Thee…" Hannah said, lifting the burden of choice from Liara's shoulders by seizing her father by hers, and almost forcibly turning the matriarch around and closing her arms around her.

Liara saw her father's breath became shallow and jagged as she leaned against the smaller human woman who alone could understand, Liara realized even as she reflexively sought out Shepard, the disquiet in her stilling only when her bondmate shifted close enough for Liara to clasp her hand.

{Dr. T'Soni?} a voice asked after an indeterminate time, wrenching Liara from the sorrow that she had not wanted to revisit. {Are you there?}

{Yes,} Liara said, letting go of Shepard's hand and turning to walk back toward the table. {Did Dr. Neruna ex—}

{She did,} the tired voice in the other end said. As Liara got back to the terminal, she saw another maiden in a doctor's tunic, in a room not unlike the one Dr. Neruna had occupied. {I can only give you a few minutes… she needs to have breakfast before the rest of today's program.}

Despite having expected it, Liara was unable to parse the doctor's statement until the asari moved to the side, revealing the small shape behind her. The girl took a hesitant step forward, but then merely stared into the camera, looking so profoundly sad that it broke Liara's heart. She gestured at her father behind her back, not knowing what she could say. Hearing the steps behind her, she simply enlarged the projection to more or less life-size, and increased the capture area so that hopefully more of them could be seen at the other end, too.

"Uska!" her father shouted painfully loud as she came to a halt next to Liara, barely avoiding barreling through the resized picture and into the desk.

If the girl's disconsolate face had shattered Liara's heart into a million pieces, it was the smile of recognition that brightened the child's face that made all of the shards glow with warmth. "Gramma!" Uska squealed back, and threw her arms up before remembering that her grandmother wasn't actually physically there. Her smile faltered only a little, and she hugged herself with her tiny arms, rocking from side to side.

Liara turned to her father only to see her similarly cross her arms over her chest, sharing the virtual embrace with a small smile. "Hi, kiddo. You're not hurt, are you?" she asked hoarsely as she let her hands fall back to her side.

Uska pursed her lips tightly together and shook her head. "I hurt my arm but it's okay now, Gramma," she said confidently, lifting both arms up again to show them.

"Where's your sister, Uska? Is she sleeping?" Aethyta asked.

"Yeah, she sleeps a lot," Uska replied with a small nod. "And it's pretty early too."

Liara watched the girl from the side, not wanting to crowd her… she must have seen entirely too many strange people already. Shepard had walked up to Liara, too, careful to stay out of the view. The woman was hugging her from behind, both her and Liara's own arms joined over Liara's stomach, and the familiar soft point of her chin resting on Liara's shoulder.

"Is your sister alright too?"

"Yeah, except I didn't have enough bottles for her because I only had one and there wasn't a lot of powder in the stores so the doctor had to give her a little extra water first. But not anymore today, and they put her back in the diaper," the girl explained. "Who are those people?" she asked in the same breath, pointing over where she must have seen Liara.

"Would you like to meet them?" Aethyta asked, likely trying to ensure that they would not frighten Uska.

The girl simply nodded.

Liara straightened up a little, and tried to smile more broadly when her father gestured for the camera to turn so that she and Shepard were in the picture, too. "This is your aunt Liara," she said, lightly patting Liara's shoulder.

"I know you," Uska said, her expression turning to intense concentration before brightening again. "You are Doctor Liara T'Soni, Archaeologist and Prothean Researcher Who Became a Hero of the Citadel!" the girl said, pronouncing the words as though she was reciting a news vid headline.

"Yes," Liara said, struggling to keep her smile from turning into laughter. "I suppose I am. You may call me Liara, however."

The child nodded seriously, and turned her eyes at Shepard. "Who are you? You're a youman. Are you Commander Shepard? Because that is who was her girlfriend and youman."

"I am," Shepard said, and Liara could feel her grinning against the side of her neck. "I'm Shepard. Nice to meet you, Uska."

Uska nodded again, but let her head hang as she looked at the floor for a few moments.

"Uska?" Aethyta asked carefully.

The girl raised her gaze, her teary eyes looking straight at Aethyta as though she needed to say something but could not quite find the words, jaws tightly clenched together until she finally spoke. "Mommy died, Gramma."

"I know, baby," Aethyta said, voice breaking before she swallowed hard and squeezed her eyes shut.

"Everybody died."