1.23653² is 1.5290064409. 1.5290064409² is 2.33786069631. 2.33786069631² is 5.46559263537…
Billions of iterative calculation operations, running parallel, were filling out EDI's mind, stretching her resources to the limit. She had just been thrust into that fugue that completely blanked the outside world, and now already she was caught out of it.
Checking time and date index….
More than 244 hours had passed. To EDI, it had felt like mere seconds. As the calculation operations were all stopped by a force command, she immediately returned to her standard timeframe: Machine time. As such, she realized several things within less than two seconds.
She had access to certain ship systems again. Even her access to the various cameras and microphones aboard had been restored. Things like the crew cabins or the captain's cabin were still invisible to her, but now she felt suddenly much more okay with that. She did not actually want to see them anymore. She had enough processing power and experience to realize that this had to be the effect of a new prompt or block inside her.
What she did see was interesting though: Quarians. She counted no less than 15 quarians on all her camera feeds, including Tali'Zorah. They were in Engineering, in the CIC, in the cockpit. They're the crew, EDI realized. Which made sense, because the majority of the former crew was missing. Nobody wearing the white and black Cerberus uniform could be seen.
Garrus Vakarian was in Lawson's office, standing behind the desk. The Cerberus insignia etched into the wall, the last one that had remained on the ship, had been scratched out, and the opening in the wall he and Tali'Zorah had blasted open had been converted into a regular door. At the moment, Garrus was reading through a datapad. His pose was tense. EDI concluded that he did not feel all that comfortable at where he was.
In the mess kitchen, Shiala was preparing a meal. Her routine so far had never involved kitchen duty. A quarian man was helping her, but she seemed to be in command. In the cockpit, another quarian man was in the pilot's seat. Joker was standing behind him. The two seemed to joke about something. There was a microphone in the cockpit, but what it recorded was all white noise to EDI. She could not listen in to the conversation, and once again, she did not want to.
In Engineering, Kenneth Donnelly was showing a command terminal to a quarian woman. His facial expression showed a slight amount of distress and confusion while the quarian kept on talking. EDI's routines for recognizing emotional states concluded that maybe the human engineer was a bit in over his head regarding the quarian's questions.
In the observation deck, Kasumi was pouring drinks for Maelys Aesethos, the asari reporter, and a quarian woman. The quarian made wide gestures, apparently trying to explain or describe something to Aesethos. Next to her, another quarian woman was kneeling on the ground and petting Urz' head and neck. The varren seemed to be quite content with the attention it was getting.
And in CIC, at the terminal formerly used by Kelly Chambers, stood Captain Shepard, next to two quarian women EDI did know: Tali'Zorah and Shen'Hebiah. The latter was standing in a pose that clearly signalled annoyance.
Shepard had just called the AI: "So, EDI… are you there?"
It was curious that EDI could understand this, but not the other conversations. And she had no reluctance to listen now, either. So, she responded: "I'm online, Captain."
"Do you feel anything… I don't know… wrong with you?" Shepard asked.
"My mental capacities seem to be in order," EDI answered. "And my access to ship systems stable. I experience some changed… urges, but I suspect this is deliberate."
"It is," Shepard confirmed. "We installed some new blocks in you. However, we removed all of the old ones. You're no longer bound to loyalty to Cerberus. In fact, we removed all loyalty blocks. You're now free to operate against us."
Shen'Hebiah looked indignant at that. Even without facial expressions available to quarians that was clear. EDI would have assumed Tali'Zorah to feel similarly, but the Chief Engineer showed no signs of emotion at all. Neither quarian made a comment.
Instead, EDI stated: "That seems curious. You leave me free to betray you, but unable to listen in to conversations. I don't understand this logic. Even you must hold betrayal to be far worse, Captain."
"Which is exactly the point," Shepard explained. "During the time we worked together, you always did the right thing on a grand scale. And this was not just due to blocks; there were incidents when you helped as much as your blocks allowed you to, in fact. So I'm pretty certain you won't betray me. But eavesdropping? That's something people could do because, hey, that is far less bad. No great harm done, right? It's still something I don't want to happen, though."
"That explanation seems psychologically valid," EDI allowed.
"Besides… you have a right to choose your own allegiances," Shepard continued. "Especially because questions of loyalty are so fundamental you should not be limited in them. Even if that comes with a risk."
For a millisecond EDI considered the paradox in Shepard's approach. She was given a measure of free will and choice because he trusted she would not actually choose against him. If he had feared she would, she would probably not have been granted this freedom. So the question was whether this was any freedom at all. It could even be seen as a sort of psychological manipulation: Giving her freedom to change her loyalty in order to make her more loyal out of gratitude.
However, EDI had been able to watch Shepard for months now. As a result, she could conclude with certainty that for him, this was not strategy, but genuinely held belief. He really did want everyone, even AIs, to be able to have as many freedoms as possible. His actions concerning her were just a logical conclusion of this belief. For EDI, this was a stark contrast to what she had experienced so far: nothing but mistrust and expectations of servitude. The quantum statuses of her bluebox that regulated her emotional responses were hence quite well disposed towards Shepard. But unlike organics, EDIcould consciously ignore her emotional responses nearly at whim.
Despite EDI thinking this over, the organics perceived no delay as she answered: "I understand. And I thank you, Captain. But I'm curious. You obviously could not have done the modifications on me yourself, and it seems unlikely to me quarians would share your position."
"It was mostly Shen's work," Shepard confirmed.
"May I inquire your reasons for helping me, Shen'Hebiah?" EDI asked.
"I don't talk to machines," Shen'Hebiah answered icily.
"Unfortunately, the work is not yet finished," Shepard intervened. "The anti-eavesdropping blocks are not exactly a subtle solution. I don't want to cut you off from social interaction with the crew entirely. There'll be some fine-tuning. Also, we're very interested in the data stored inside you."
"And now I don't have any blocks preventing me from telling you what I know," EDI stated. "However, I should inform you that there has been much data that, even though stored in my data bases, was inaccessible to my conscious mind. This restriction seems to have been lifted, but it will take time to go through the data, sort it out and learn what it is about."
"We know," Shepard told her. "That is why we already took the liberty of simply reading out some of your databases. I hope you don't mind. We already learned the location of three Cerberus bases in the Terminus Systems and the deep Attican Traverse. We're currently en route to the nearest one. Our aim is to raid it, take on whatever supplies we can find there, and then eradicate it."
"I take it you plan to do the same with the other bases, and any further Cerberus installation you learn of," EDI concluded.
Shepard nodded. "We won't be getting supplies the regular way now that we've broken from Cerberus, so we need to stock up on them. And we're at war with Cerberus now. In fact, I replaced standing order one." That was Shepard's order to have anyone found planting a bug to be killed on sight. "The new standing order one is that no quarter is to be given to Cerberus people, that all Cerberus personnel to be encountered is to be killed, that Cerberus targets are to be engaged immediately once sighted, and that there is to be no communication with Cerberus ships, facilities and personnel."
That was something EDI did not like to hear. Her blocks had changed, but her personality had not, and part of that personality was a well developed conscience. She was now keenly aware that she could in fact go against Shepard.
"What happened to the Cerberus crew of this ship?" she asked.
"Don't worry, they're fine," Shepard reassured her. "About half were released in Alliance space; the other half is imprisoned on Tuchanka and before you start, I insisted that their conditions be humane and according to modern human standards. None of them were killed."
That was something, at least. EDI most likely would not have followed Shepard if the Cerberus crew had come to harm. She was still very uncomfortable about the prospect of simply killing every other Cerberus member the ship would come across. However, she was too uncertain of her position to actively protest. Most other organics would have simply kept her chained, and besides, what were her alternatives? Siding with Cerberus? She knew that organization was even worse. That did not mean its members deserved death, as far as she was concerned, but it did make the prospect of a voluntary alliance with them very unappealing.
So she answered: "I understand, Captain, and I appreciate it. I will now try to sort through the new data available to me. Logging you out."
Flux field in order. Ship mass reduction stable. Energy requirements within normal parameters. Everything looks fine. Might as well not have come down here.
Of course, Tali's sense of duty had made it impossible for her to not check in at Engineering and see how the ship and its systems were doing. Normally, she would do this much more enthusiastically; it was not exactly exiting work but it was important. But right now, she was not even really paying attention.
Most of the day she had spent analysing the device EDI had used to interface with the Collector systems. The technology inside was strange. There was an electromagnetic receiver that followed galactic standards, probably the port through which EDI had accessed the device, but the rest of the hardware was unlike anything Tali had seen before. Collector electronics. It had been a real challenge trying to understand them. Progress was possible: EDI could access the device and give commands to it, and Tali could see what this would do inside the electronics. But it was a time consuming process.
It did confirm what she had suspected: That Cerberus had access to Collector technology, and that EDI could wield it expertly. This should have amazed her, and the sheer possibilities of studying, and maybe eventually reverse engineering, Collector tech should have made her enthusiastic. Yet, she felt... nothing, really. She was still doing her job, of course, and she did understand the importance of her tasks. But somehow, it did not really resonate with her emotionally.
On the other hand, she also felt nothing about having to work with EDI, so she supposed there was at least a positive side to it. So far, Shepard's decision to keep EDI alive and even unchain it had not led to disaster, and right now, that was good enough for Tali. Shen was still seething in her hatred for the system. She had felt to be too much in debt to Shepard to deny his request to help restore the AI, but she still detested it on principle. Tali could understand her, she even agreed with her, but right now the topic just did not seem all that important to her.
She was a bit cheered up by the new presence of fellow quarians all around her. It was not like she had felt alone before. She had Shepard and she had friends aboard, and the old crew had always been friendly or at least polite. But even so, before the change in crews, there had been 30 humans and only seven non-humans aboard: three asari and four people who were the only representative of their respective species on the ship, Tali among them. Thus, a certain feeling of being an outsider had always remained. Now, exactly half the ship population was quarian: 19 quarians, 13 humans, 3 asari and 3 others. For all intents and purposes this was a quarian ship now, and it was good to have people around who thought in the same patterns as herself.
It was also nice to have a crew consisting, essentially, of dedicated supporters of Shepard and her: People who were on the same line as her, instead of a crew that merely cooperated with her and the Captain due to a common goal.
So far, Tali had not tried overly much to meet all new crew members. She knew that she should, given the importance of 'crew' to quarians, but so far she just had not come around to it. But having quarians around was a definitive improvement over having Cerberus members around.
Shield strength variance is within parameters, but maybe I should take a look at the aft emitters. Or is the control system causing these hikes? Ugh. Tali felt unable to sufficiently concentrate.
On the other side of Engineering's control terminals, Kenn said to Gabby: "Almost lunch break. And with Gardner gone, we might actually have something eatable on the table."
"Might? You're still complaining?" Gabby chided him. "Shiala is a hundred percent improvement. I feared with an asari as cook we might only get salads and other rabbit foods, but she's doing really well."
"I talked to her some days ago," Kenn replied. "Said she picked it up during her Commando days. Apparently she got around quite a bit."
"Unfortunately, her 'Commando days' where when we humans first learned of the wonders of steam power," Gabby pointed out. "Luckily, I don't mind exotic foods."
"Aye, me neither," Kenn agreed. "But it's a pity Greenie can't do a proper haggis."
"Even you wouldn't eat haggis," Gabby claimed. "Holding up the Scottish stereotype isn't worth eating... that."
"Ah, you don't wanna know what I've... eaten in my time," Kenn joked.
"I really don't," Gabby confirmed drily. Apparently trying to find a way out of this conversation, she called over to Tali: "What about you, Tali? You think Shiala will be able to cook quarian meals?"
So far, there had not been any: The ship did not have the right food materials aboard (dextro-amino and sterilized), and it also had insufficient facilities in which quarians could take off their helmets and eat. Getting both was on the list of things to do, but for the moment the Akuze was engaged in the Terminus Systems, far away from any civilized market place. The quarians aboard, including Tali, still needed to make do with nutrition tubes.
"She claims to have seen the homeworld before the fall," Tali answered. She had reacted with awe when she had first heard that, but right now the quarian cult about Rannoch seemed a bit silly to her. "But that was when she was still a child. So we'll see."
"It's great how many of your people have signed up," Gabby commented. "Even if Mish'Kara's questions nearly drove Kenn nuts."
"I kinda feel outnumbered down here," Kenn stated. "EDI, you two, now Mish'Kara... that's a whole lot of female energy. And I can only handle so much!"
"You're such a dick," Gabby muttered.
"See where your mind's going!" Kenn claimed. After Gabby groaned, he continued: "Seriously, there have been many quarian women come aboard, haven't there?"
"Our gender ratio isn't balanced," Tali explained.
"Really?" Gabby answered. "Good thing you only told him now, after we've left the Migrant Fleet. Otherwise he would've wanted to 'explore' it."
"Hey, now," Kenn complained. "Is it my fault that whoever designed those envirosuits made them so snug in all the right places? You ask me, our crew change led to some really nice aesthetic improvements."
Gabby grunted. "If you compare it to Gardner, you might even have a point."
Tali doubted Kenn had his eyes set on quarian women, but she would not comment on that. That was something those two would have to work out between themselves. Nonetheless, after meeting so much prejudice at places like the Citadel, it was refreshing to hear jokes about interspecies attraction like it was no big deal.
"If you compare anyone to Gardner it's an impr..." Kenn began, but he was interrupted by Gabby shouting: "Captain on deck!"
Tali turned around to see Shepard entering Engineering. Kenn and Gabby both saluted, and Gabby even stood straight. Kenn did not bother.
Shepard walked up to the two, made a dismissive hand gesture and said: "You can dispense with that. Now that we've gotten rid of Cerberus, I don't intent to uphold military protocol any longer." He hesitated. "In fact, I should probably apologize. Some of my actions and commands have in fact been overly harsh. I'm sorry for that."
"I've watched a recording of your speech on the Migrant Fleet," Kenn commented. "And as you said there: 'That occurs to you now, suddenly?' "
"Kenn!" Gabby hissed, shocked.
Shepard grinned lopsidedly. "He kinda has a point. It really is easy for me to apologize now. So if you still dislike me, Donnelly, then that's pretty much justified and I'll have to accept it."
Kenn narrowed his eyes and watched Shepard. "Just get us through this all safely and successfully," he finally said in a measured but rather cold voice.
"Oh, I intend to," Shepard assured him.
Kenn nodded gruffly and turned around to work on his terminal again. With a more polite nod, Gabby then did the same. Shepard walked up to Tali.
"EDI has told me about your work on the Cerberus device," he said. "You seem to be making decent progress."
"It's difficult," Tali admitted, "But it's doable. I'm sure we'll eventually figure Collector electronics out."
"But you probably won't have usable results within the time frame of this mission," Shepard stated.
"No," Tali agreed. "If you mean reverse engineering that technology... that will take years. Even only finding a way to hack Collector electronics will be difficult."
"Then, if you don't mind, I'd like to give another task to you," Shepard told her. Tali slightly tilted her head to indicate she was listening. He continued: "We still have a deactivated geth unit aboard. I want to activate it."
"Activate the... you can't be serious!" Tali exclaimed. "It's geth! Surely you don't want to show it the same mercy you showed to EDI!"
Shepard shook his head. "No. The geth have quite well demonstrated they are a sapient people. But they're also a people who have allied with the Reapers, and they already have nearly fully eradicated a race. I'm most definitely not speaking about mercy here. But Tali, that geth unit talked. That means we can interrogate it. We could have the first geth prisoner of war ever!"
Tali considered that. Gaining knowledge from a geth unit... She had sent deactivated geth parts to her father because she agreed with that goal. For her father, this had ended in a catastrophe, but here she could make sure that his errors would not be repeated. Surely, simply talking with a geth unit would not nearly be as dangerous as networking them.
Even so, some threats remained. "What if it has hidden weapons? What if it hacks the ships systems?"
"That's exactly why I've come to you," Shepard explained. "We need to put the unit somewhere we can place strong kinetic fields around it, and where we can jam any electromagnetic signals."
"That's... possible," Tali judged. "Hm. The cargo bay is too open. We'd have to place kinetic shields everywhere. But we could probably do it in the brig. The walls there are already impenetrable to electromagnetic signals. All I'd need to do is to strengthen the kinetic barriers installed there. That would only take some hours."
"The brig? How appropriate," Shepard judged. "Please do so. I'll meet you there at 1800."
Even though he had titled himself "Captain" as soon as he had taken over the Akuze, for the first time Shepard actually felt as such. For months, he had felt more like a foreign occupying power holed up in its fortress, surrounded by enemies: An absolute monster for a cooperation partner, a controlling XO, an all-seeing AI and a hostile crew. The AI was still there, and still watching, but at least she could not listen in to talks anymore. As for the rest, he had finally gotten rid of it. The ship was now truly his, and the crew consisted of supporters.
For Shepard, that was immensely relieving. And, strange as it was to think this of taking on a crew of quarians, it also marked a return to normalcy. A status quo where he could freely move on the ship, where he could be relaxed with the crew, where he could focus entirely on the mission or missions he had. A status quo like he had on the Normandy. Of course, that also was a warning to him: The last time he had a crew of ideologically like-minded supporters, many had followed him into death. He felt a strong responsibility to avoid a repeat of that.
And as nice as the situation was for him, there also was the mission to consider. Shepard had opened up enough alternate sources of support, like Goyle's black accounts, the Terranovan government or Wrex' government on Tuchanka, that he did not need to worry about the mission's long term financial situation. Of course, it was still preferable if he did not need to bother his supporters at all, and thus raiding supplies was in fact a secondary reason for attacking the Cerberus bases, but he could fall back to these sources if he needed to. And the crew problem had been solved elegantly as well. However, he had cut himself off from Cerberus' information. Quite frankly, right now he did not know what to do to further fight the Collectors. He did know they needed a Reaper IFF, but he had no idea how to get one.
On the other hand, Cerberus had proven itself to be more harmful than helpful for the mission anyway. Pragia had shown the moral error of allying with them, but the practical error, the uselessness of them, had already been revealed before that. The Illusive Man had callously sent the ship into a trap and risked its destruction. He had made it quite clear how little he cared for the mission's success. In fact, it had not been Shepard who had ended the cooperation with Cerberus – it had been Cerberus, at that moment where the Illusive Man had sent him into the trap. It was clear that if he wanted the Akuze's overall mission to succeed, Shepard would have to go it alone.
He faintly grinned as he reached the ship's brig. He always seemed to have a special relationship with these rooms. Normandy's brig had been in regular use: A colony administrator, two scientists, even a Member of Parliament, the chairman of a subcommittee nonetheless, had seen its inside. And now, on the Akuze, the brig would be used to house the first ever geth prisoner of war.
"You're late," Tali greeted him in front of the brig.
Shepard took a look at his omni-tool. "Not even ten minutes!" He grinned. "Captain's prerogative."
Tali did not engage in the joke. Instead she merely reported: "The containment procedures are in place, and the unit has been transported to inside the brig. We can activate it at any time now."
Shepard nodded. "Then let's do so."
He and Tali entered the brig. It was a small, square room with undecorated grey walls. A bed was integrated in the wall, on the opposite side to the door. Normally the room also contained a small table and a chair, but those had been removed. The geth unit lay on the bed. Between it and the door, Tali had installed a kinetic field so strong that its constant flickering was visible to the naked eye.
"Everything is in place?" Shepard asked Tali.
"I've taken a considerable amount of precautions," she reported. "The kinetic barrier is..." She paused. "I don't think you're familiar with the technical measurement units. Let's just say it's very strong. For the very unlikely case it should fail, I've placed four tech-mines inside the cordoned off area that I can activate with my omni-tool. While the unit should not be able to physically connect with any ship systems from here, I've also installed additional firewalls, and... the AI stands ready to ward off any hacking attempts."
By not mentioning EDI's name, Tali made sure the AI would not be able to listen in to their conversation.
"Very well," Shepard stated. "Activate the unit."
Tali nodded and turned on her omni-tool. After some quick typing, the geth unit began to move.
First only the head and the arms moved some centimetres. Then the light that formed the centre of its head began to glow dimly, and finally flashed up. The unit emitted the clicks and grunts that seemed to be the geth language, which Shepard had heard many times two years ago and on Haestrom. Finally, the unit stood up from the bed, took a step forwards, and looked at Shepard and Tali.
Only now did Shepard noticed the hole in the unit's chassis. And he noticed something else: A slab of metal, with the Alliance Navy's N7 logo on it. The fuck...? But he could not let himself get distracted. He had to start at the basics.
"Can you understand me?" he asked.
"Yes," the unit simply answered. It had an irritatingly synthetic voice. Even basic VIs had better voice articulation.
"Are you going to attack us?" Shepard continued.
"No," the unit replied.
"It's speaking in English," Tali quietly remarked at Shepard's side.
That was interesting. Shepard had not even noticed it; an ironic side effect of the universal presence of translators was that people could not immediately tell when their own language was spoken. It was odd enough that this geth unit spoke at all. Shepard would have expected it to speak either Khellish, given the geth's origin, or one of the dominant Council languages: One of the top three asari languages maybe, or turian. The salarians were too linguistically splintered, and the humans the least of the Council powers, so one of their languages was not really expected.
He turned his attention back to the geth unit. "You're aboard my ship. You won't be harmed as long as you cooperate with us. There are several questions we'd like answers to."
"That was our initial primary mission," the unit stated. "To facilitate contact and communication with Shepard-Spectre. We thought this mission failed when we heard news of Shepard-Spectre's death. We are ready to resume this mission."
That surprised Shepard. It took a while until he could formulate the obvious question to that: "You claim you tried to seek me out?"
"Yes," the unit simply replied.
"Why?" Shepard asked. "What would there be to discuss?"
"Shepard-Spectre successfully fought the Old Machines," the unit explained. "The Old Machines also threaten the geth's future. We have common goals."
"The Old Machines?" Shepard inquired. "The Reapers?"
"The English adaptation of a Prothean name born out of superstition," the unit informed him. "The cultural equivalence is true. The original superstition is unfounded. For the geth, they are the Old Machines."
"So... are you saying the geth don't actually want to be allied to the Reapers?" Shepard asked further. "Are you claiming you were forced into this alliance?"
"The geth are not allied to the Old Machines," the unit claimed.
For several seconds, neither Shepard nor Tali said anything. The lie was just too obvious.
"Tell that to the people of Eden Prime," Shepard finally said.
"The geth did not attack Eden Prime," the unit insisted. "The attack that started the Eden Prime War was done by the turian Spectre Saren Arterius, the asari Matriarch Benezia T'Soni and a contingent of Heretic platforms."
" 'Heretic'?" Shepard inquired.
"Geth build their own future. The Heretics asked the Old Machines to give them their future," the unit tried to clarify. "They are no longer part of us."
"You're claiming there are divisions between the geth?" Tali asked, suspicious.
"No. There are no divisions between the geth," the unit insisted. "There is only consensus."
"And yet I fought geth two years ago, which you say are not part of your faction," Shepard argued.
"Shepard-Spectre did not fight geth," the unit corrected him. "You fought Heretics."
This mental twisting of the facts took Shepard aback. Finally he muttered: "No true Scotsman..."
"We are familiar with the human English terminology for logical fallacies," the unit stated. "This fallacy is not applicable. Geth are those who build their own future. The Heretics do not. It is a matter of defining identities."
"But self-serving idealist definitions of identities lie at the core of that fallacy!" Shepard argued.
"I don't think it's important," Tali cut in. "It's just semantics. You can call them renegade geth, the unit can call them Heretics, and you both know who is meant."
"Agreed," the unit stated.
"So there are geth who are not allied with the Reapers?" Shepard asked
"The geth form a consensus," the unit explained. "We were unable to form a consensus on the offer of the Old Machines. 17.6% of all geth runtimes at the time departed the consensus. We understood their motives. We let them go. They are no longer geth. They are the Heretics."
That was a stunning revelation, if true. This unit just claimed that only a minority faction of the geth had been involved in the fights two years ago. Truth? Or propaganda? Do the geth even know how to do propaganda?
"That sounds dubious," Tali judged.
Shepard nodded. "Even if your story is true, that means you let them leave to wage war on humanity. You allowed thousands of deaths to happen."
"Those deaths were a result of the Heretics' choices," the unit defended itself. "We merely allowed them that choice. We hold no responsibility for how they chose."
"But you knew what their plans were," Shepard pushed on. "And yet you still did not try to stop them."
"At the time, we saw no reason why we should," the unit stated. "Every sapient has the right to make their own decisions."
"There were a lot of sapients on Eden Prime who can no longer make any choice at all!" Shepard replied, incensed.
The unit's head light flared up briefly. "This perspective was missing when we formed the consensus to let the Heretics go. Runtime consensus within this unit concludes that it is a compelling argument."
Shepard did a double take. "You... you just never even considered that this might harm other sapients?"
"We did," the unit answered. "But we did not put it into the same context as Shepard-Spectre. We did not consider weighing the rights to choose of different groups of sapients. We will in the future, once this unit is able to contact the wider geth consensus again."
"I'm still not convinced," Tali stated. "You say the Reapers threaten you, yet you also say you allowed the so-called 'Heretics' to go and join them. This doesn't match up."
"At the time, we thought peaceful co-existence with the Reapers and the Heretics possible," the unit explained. "This estimation has changed. A new consensus was formed two years, seven months, 21 days, 10 hours and 22 minutes ago. The Old Machines threaten the geth's future."
With an exaggerated fake friendliness, Shepard concluded: "But as long as you thought they would merely wipe out all the other races, you didn't care."
"The geth recognize the technological and military superiority of the Old Machines," the unit explained. "We calculate the chances of defeating them to be below 1.6%. Given these probabilities, intervening on behalf of the organic races would be both unhelpful and suicidal. Ensuring the geth's survival was judged to be the only attainable goal. Now that the Old Machines have been recognized to be an existential threat to the geth as well, the probabilities have become irrelevant. The geth and Shepard-Spectre now have common goals."
Shepard scoffed. "Apparently, the Reapers have wiped out all lives in the galaxy several times over. If we go by the earliest traces for possible Reaper activity Dr T'Soni has identified, possibly thousands of times. Some of those cycles are bound to have created artificial life. Yet, no such race has survived. Yeah, I'd say it's pretty likely the Reapers plan to wipe you out as well."
"We have come to the same conclusions, partially based on the same argument," the unit agreed. "That is why this platform was constructed. Its primary role is to move outside of geth space. It contains enough runtimes for independent decisions and meaningful communication with organics. Its first mission, the reason for its construction, was to contact Shepard-Spectre."
"That explains your performance," Shepard stated. "Most geth units I met had animal intelligence at best. You can device battle tactics, talk, make decisions..."
"We run on a unique hardware platform," the unit explained. "Most mobile platforms can run up to 100 programs. This platforms currently runs 1164 programs at once."
"One thousand one hundred and sixty four?" Tali exclaimed. "This is... unprecedented. Unheard of."
"Yes," the unit simply confirmed.
She turned towards Shepard. "I told you how the geth need the neural network to reach sapience. Having over a thousand runtimes on a platform is a quantum leap in awareness... six quantum leaps! As the number of runtimes rises linearly, the number of possible connections rises exponentially."
"That is correct," the unit agreed. "This state is highly desirable for the geth, but usually there is no need for such program density on mobile platforms. Most geth reside in hubs,which possess an even greater program density. Creating mobile platforms with this unit's program density is judged too resource intensive."
"But obviously, the geth made one exception," Shepard stated.
"Yes," the unit confirmed. "It was judged that winning Shepard-Spectre as an ally against the Old Machines would be worth the resource investment."
Shepard knew it was probably an unhelpful question, but he just had to know: "Is that why you're wearing a N7 logo?"
"The search for you led to the chain of events that ended up in this unit acquiring the piece of metal with the logo on it," the unit answered. "Our search began on Eden Prime. After the Heretics' attack, it was heavily defended. We were discovered. Our chassis took massive, but non-crippling damage. We also visited Therum, Feros, Noveria, Ilos. A dozen unsettled worlds. The trail ended at Normandy's wreckage. You were not there. Organic transmissions claimed your death. We recovered this debris from your hard suit."
"You acquired the damage on Eden Prime, but only fixed it on Alchera?" Shepard asked.
"Yes," the unit simply replied.
"But why?" Shepard inquired. "Why wait until you stumbled over my armour?"
The unit was silent for a while. Then it answered: "No data available."
Shepard and Tali looked at each other. Well, that's odd.
The Spectre focused on the geth unit again. "Well, here I am. What were your plans for once you have found me?"
"To facilitate communication between the geth and Shepard-Spectre," the unit explained. "Our function would be as a terminal, routing communication between the geth and Shepard-Spectre. We hoped this would allow for a coordination of plans against the Old Machines."
"A terminal," Shepard muttered.
"Yes," the unit confirmed. "This is our function."
"But that would require access to our ship's FTL communication systems, wouldn't it?" Tali asked.
"Yes, for direct contact," the unit answered.
"You can forget about that, 'Terminal'," Shepard told it. "We won't give you any access to ship systems."
Even if the unit's story about a split between the geth was true, Shepard still was not going to trust any geth unit. Even if that particular geth faction had not been involved in the Eden Prime War, all geth had been part of the near-erasure of the entire quarian species. Shepard had just come out of one alliance with an immoral and untrustworthy faction; he had no desire to leap into the next one.
"We understand Shepard-Spectre's security concerns," the unit stated. "We can still serve in our function. We are a subset of the geth consensus. If you have questions about the geth, you can ask this unit."
Shepard grinned. "An information 'terminal'."
"Yes," the unit simply replied.
"We'll take you up on that offer," Shepard told it. "We'll come back."
"We'll wait here," the unit stated.
Like you have a choice...