Epilogue: A New Future Forged: Rannoch, 2173

...

"Okay, let's review. When was first contact made?"

"July 3rd 1776, just as the Americans were about to get their independence, the quarians gave the English a dreadnought and they proceeded to beat all the colonists back in line. And when I mean all the colonists, I mean they took over the whole goddamn world."

"That's... okay, forget that question, let's try something different. What were the first words spoken between our two races?"

"Four score and 7 years ago, Deputies, Men of the Reichstag! Mr. Roosevelt asks that assurances be given to him that the Wehrmacht will not attack and above all, not invade, the territories or possessions of the following nations; Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iraq, Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iran."

"Oh will you please just be serious, will you?! Now come on, tell me the names of the Admirals who made first contact?"

"Jesus, Quarian Jesus, Batman, Spectre Saren Arterius and your Father."

Tali'Zorah closed her holopad and furiously groaned at the sleepy looking human with his eyes closed, his hands behind his head as he laid on her pillow. He looked very comfortable, so comfortable that Tali found herself tempted to join him, even though they were supposed to be studying together as she assured her Father that that would be the case.

She peered over to John who merely stretched. He was 16, she was 15. Fact was, if it wasn't for John Shepard, she probably would not have been born. Mother and Hannah Shepard were old friends, since childhood apparently. When they reconnected, Hannah was pregnant. A year later came her after the two of them schemed to have their children grow up to be best friends as they had been.

Of course the plot was made much more difficult by the face that Mother married a Zorah and Hannah married a Shepard. Both families were in a state of perpetual Hatfield and McCoy as John once referred to it. An old family grudge that Hannah and Mother hoped would die when they conceived and raised both of their children as though she and John were attached at the hips.

In some cases quite literally, Tali was the more docile of the two, if Hannah and Mother were busy they would make sure that the two of them did not leave each other's sight. Tali kept John in check and John kept Tali safe from... well just about everything. John was always the fighter, not afraid to mess up someone's day on her behalf. He was growing more and more like his father every day, to the point where he was contemplating service in the Systems Commonwealth.

Tali... well, the thought of John going off to fight the batarians wasn't a thought she wanted to think. Those four eyed freak slavers would not hesitate to kill John. Cowards, monsters, the whole race of them; she could not see a better fate then what fell onto the geth back in 2012. Total extinction, the last of their so called 'race' hunted down and exterminated as they tried to do to the quarians makers all those centuries ago.

"Could you please take this seriously, John?" Tail politely requested as she grabbed her data pad to write. "We have a midterm coming up and I don't want you to fail."

John scoffed, his throat hissing out a groan. It was clear to her, how little this class meant to him.

"That's real sweet of you love but history is for suckers, Tail."

Tail' heart skipped a beat, paying more attention to his boyish grin and honeyed words than his disgruntled view of human/quarian history.

"History is sooo romantic." Tali sighed, a silly smile crossing her face for John to bear witness to. She rolled over onto her back, lying next to him. John raised his eyebrow at her statement.

"History is romantic?"

Tali nodded, smiling as she felt her stomach flutter by his close proximity.

"That whole bit on the first human and quarian?" She sighed, her hand's fidgeting as she fought not to look at John. "It's so sweet considering one was a manipulator and the other was a part of a mass murdering paramilitary organization."

Once more Tali sighed, her eyes finally flickering back to John for only a moment. Long enough for John to catch her staring, his head cocked, silently questioning her barely subtle longing. She smiled slightly and turned from him.

"So... um... how was your date?" Tali found herself speaking, her voice trying to hide any of her feelings from him as she stared off, making a point to focus on the wall in front of her rather than the strange expression she earned from John by the question she had asked.

"Date?"

Tali nodded, not paying mind to the confusion buried in John's voice.

"With Idove'Uraea... The high school senior?" She reminded turning to stare into his blank expression "Prettiest girl in school? Puts out..."

John raised his eyebrow at the implication that John was fooling around with a high school senior. If it bothered him, he did not show it.

"Idove? The prettiest girl in school?" He repeated, his voice dubious. "I thought that was your title."

It took all of Tali's effort not to turn purple in front of John's eyes.

"It wasn't a date, we just went out for dinner." John finally reassured her, flashing her one of his most charming smile. "I was hungry and she was offering... uh. for dinner I mean... You know what I mean."

With her blush under her control once again, Tali crossed her arms and stared defiantly at the human skirting the issue at hand.

"Right... that's called a date."

Though she had intended to let a silence reign over them, her mouth moved before her brain put any thought in what in the hell she was saying to him. Looking back on the events ten years later, Tali Shepard was very glad that she said the following:

"You know... I could go out and find a date if I wanted to..." Tali spoke, her voice much higher and far less casual than she wanted. "I know some people who like me enough to do that... take me out, I mean."

John peered up from his data pad. A curiously strange expression crossed his face. Oh Keelah... was it? No it could not have been; John never did that... but there it was. A look of jealousy, almost possessiveness in his narrowed eyes.. She had not expected that sort of reaction but she was most certainly thrilled with getting it from the usually mellow teenager sitting next to her.

"Heh...well, good luck with that, Tali." He finally managed to murmur, his voice growing amused again. "You and I both know that the only guy, girl or sentient being in a thousand mile radius not afraid of your father is me."

And just like that, John had secured his place at her side.

"Oh, you are just the worst." She hissed as she leaned in to playfully sneer at him..

Before she could comprehend what in the ancestors she was doing, her lips planted firmly onto John's. She watched his eyes widened as large as they possibly could be at her sudden bold move on him. It was amusing as she too closed her eyes and kissed him yet again.

This felt rather nice, a first kiss with John. She had expected him to have pursued this, but no. He was usually the one to shock her... it was time to turn the tables on him as he so rightfully deserved. She shuddered in a trembling excitement as John's senses kicked in, his arm slid up her frame and pushed his many fingers so deep into her thick hair that he found scalp.

She sighed as she pushed her body on top of his, her hand pinning his. Tali pulled back, breathing hard as she scooped her bangs and pushed behind her ear. Somehow she managed to giggle as she climbed off John, her mind feeling drunk with the lust that she allowed to overwhelm her.

"That was...umm, nice... Really nice." Was all Tali could get out to him. She wanted to say something, anything more meaningful, but her hormonal mind could barely get those few words out as it was.

They smiled shyly at one another, neither of the able to mumble another word to the other. Was it supposed to feel this right yet be so awkward? Tali chalked it up to her nerves and the fact that she found her heart beating much faster than before. A silent indicator at how much she wanted to move in on him yet again.

But no, no, she decided to break this off for the time being, reorganize her feelings and make sure that John was okay with... well, all of this. They were best friends with her pining for something a bit more. What if he did not feel the same? Keelah... What a mistake this could be!

"I'm kind of thirsty, I'll be right back." She managed to murmur, pulling herself from out of John's grip and staggered as she walked towards her.

She paused however. Her back felt... off. Silently she reached and found no familiar bump of her bra as she had expected, just the thin cloth of her dress and bare skin. She rounded back to John and gaped at what he had done without her so much as knowing it. Tali crossed her arms and simply stared the audacious young man before her.

"Oops." Was all John had to say for himself, his face unable to hide his stupidly proud smile.

Rolling her eyes, she turned and opened the door and was suddenly hit by an unexpected mass that landed right on top of her. The mass belonged to... Oh Keelah.

Not her... Anyone but her.

"MOTHER!" Tali nearly whined as her mother pushed herself from off her daughter.

Mother stood up, straightening out her long, flowing dress, her hands fixing her mussed up hair. Slowly she smiled at John, who appeared amused and back to her daughter who was flushed with embarrassment. What was she doing? Eavesdropping? Gathering the latest gossip to share with her co-conspirator, Hannah Shepard?

"Oh... um, hello Tali." Was all she could say for herself. Tali crossed her arms and stared pointedly at her mother.

"I was just... um, Dinner is ready you two..." Mother finally managed to stutter out an excuse for this extremely embarrassing transgression. With a modest smile, she added. "I was just coming down to tell you... well... see if you two were together yet."

A belly laugh erupted from John as Tali screeched like a banshee from old human mythology, , her hands covering her eyes as she fought her face tingling her pale cheeks with purple.

"MOTHER!" Was all she could holler at the top of her lungs. All John could do was burst out into a fit of laughter at her expense. Why, WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO HER?!

Sighing out of mild amusement, mother turned away from Tali.

"Well, hello John." Mother greeted the human as he approached the two bickering quarians. "I've made you a nice big pot of chicken cacciatore, so go and wash up. I expect you two at the table in ten minutes."

Before John could react, mother grabbed John as though he was one of her brood... which in some ways technically true. Tali and John were raised by a combined effort of Hannah Shepard and Mother.

"Thanks Lia, you cook a helluva lot better than my mom to be honest." He complimented before swiftly kissing mother on the cheek, surprising Tali and making the older woman smile bashfully at his affection.

"Now, now, she can't help it. All those fingers get in the way." Was her excuse for Hannah as he let her go and headed to the washroom.

John merely snorted a laugh and left, Leaving Tali and her mother in relatively silence. Slowly she turned to face her daughter. On her lips was a mild smirk. She appeared very pleased with herself.

"You better start making a move quicker." She spoke placing her hand onto Tali's shoulder. "It's a sad day when I'm getting more affection from that boy then you do..."

Lia'Zorah trailed off as her hand touched where straps should have been on her daughter's shoulders. She tilted her head slightly and found that Tali's dress was rumpled and misshapen thanks to her bra and that clever bosh'tet, John Shepard.

"Hmm, I suppose I was wrong..." Mother mused, grinning slightly as she turned from her daughter. "Go ahead and fix up your bra. I don't want your father having an aneurysm... well, not just yet anyways. Regardless, Hannah is going to love hearing about this."

Tali groaned. Sometimes she just wished her mother was dead.

…..

"This is the third week of the Hierarchy insurrections and no end is in sight. Palaven itself has exploded in to clan uprisings. The Hierarchy is urging calm amongst the colonies, but dissension against the millennium old union has started to rise to an all-time high. asari and salarian representatives have urged all citizens to return out of turian space until the fighting subsides..."

Taking a deep inhale of his cigarette, the man silently watched the chaos reigning freely on his monitor. He rubbed his eyes and took another drink from his brandy. He leaned into his seat and watched as a turian woman drug her dead husband from out of the rubble that once was their home. It did not faze him the slightest.

A year of hard work had paid off at long last, and this? This was the end result. Chaos.

To say that he was proud of his accomplishment was an understatement. The euphoria he was feeling nearly made him miss the door to his chambers opening. It certainly did not distract him the soft growl emitting from the person standing in the doorway.

"Jack, I distinctly remember your promise to go to bed and rest." A voice called out from behind him, her voice cross and annoyed.

The man watching the news turned back. A tall, slender woman, clad in the white and black Cerberus uniform swayed into room, her head tilted as she stared at her superior. A dark blank stare that told him his title meant absolutely nothing to her.

"All in good time, Daro." He spoke back to the woman in an attempt to pacify her growing anger. "I figured I would check out the latest entertainment news before I caught up on some sleep."

Operative Daro'Xen crossed her arms, her eyebrow raised in mild amusement at how much of sociopath he was.

"The turians are tearing themselves to part and you consider it entertaining?"

The man dug into his pocket and removed an ancient golden cigarette box, passed down from father to son since the early 20th century. Pulling a cigarette from the container, he light it and took in a long, slow drag.

"How goes the training? Is she adapting well?"

Daro glared at the question distastefully, tilting her head at the ceiling.

"Leaps and bounds, Jack." Daro'Xen finally spoke haughtily. She did not seem impressed with her task as she added.. "Miss Lawson will make quite the asset. She might even survive the training... so long as she keeps her eyes off you."

The man known to the Galaxy as the Illusive Man tilted his head and took in the furious jealousy emitting from his wife. It was always quite amusing to see her upset at him for something he didn't do. Sighing futility, Daro swayed forward and took a seat on her husband's lap, her arm looping around his neck. He allowed her the briefest of smiles, a rarity to witness, even in her company.

"She's much too young." He reminded Daro, swaying her on his lap. "Besides, the last thing I want is you to kill me for seducing her and succeeding me in this organization. We can't have Cerberus waging war on most of the galaxy."

Daro pouted slightly and turned from him, watching as the turians tore themselves apart by a war that they started.

"It's interesting what a few months of hunting down and annexing the Shadow Broker network can do." She finally spoke again, her face contorting into an amused smirk.

Daro turned back, her smirk quickly shifting into a look of sheer lust for the human underneath her. Together the married couple watched the suffering of the chaos they forced upon the species that once left Daro's race to burn at the hands of the geth monstrosity. The deaths of billions not just on the hands of the extinct machines, but on the turians as well for from vetoing Council response to the pleas of one of their own members.

"You know, I did not think that watching the turians burn themselves over a few whispered truths would be such a turn on." Her voice low, nearly gravelly, as she stood up and grabbed his hands. "Take me to bed, husband... I think you've earned a taste of me."

Glancing away from the vid screen, her husband was only too happy to oblige.