Chapter 39:

November 12th, 2180

Seriously, you have got to be fucking kidding me! I've been comatose - or, at least, in a constant state of torture - for two god damn months now, and the day I wake up, and start making a game plan, Tali fucking Zorah shows up, and just happens to be told exactly where I am? How the fuck did Barla Von even know that I was back, and awake in the first place?! I'm almost god damn sure the G-Man had something to do with this... But he never sets up a series of events that plays to my favor.


"That's a mouthful." I comment; but seriously though, did the universe seriously just not piss all over me? Am I finally breaking out of my bad luck streak? What's next, Jorra will pop right up and tell me she broke free days ago and has been looking for me ever since? "Can I call you Tali?"

She nods, "I'd prefer it." Seriously! It's mother fucking Tali'Zorah! How the fuck does this happen?

"Let's say I am this… 'Christopher McGraw'… And let's say I can get you into contact with Ghost." I tell her, "What would you have to secure his services? I dunno if you've seen it, but he's got a pretty hefty hiring fee."

"Information. I'm certain you've seen the news about the Geth attack on Eden Prime?" I nod, "I have information linking a spectre to that attack."

"You're being pretty free with that stuff, Tali. What if I just killed you, right now, and took the information? Made some money of my own?" I suggest.

"I have a shotgun." Haha, that was so cheesy, it was actually a little funny.

"And my buddy in there has a sniper rifle." I retort, sincerely hoping Price has caught on by now that something's going on at the door.

"I'm sure my damage will be done before he can get a shot on me." She said, before a bright blue dot appears on her mask, thank you, Captain Price.

"You were saying?"

"Why do you have someone in there with a sniper rifle?" She asks, turning things back to me.

"Ghost decided I'd been working for him too long, and that he'd put my life in danger too much. So he hired an ex-Earth Special Forces operative to be my bodyguard." I tell her, before extending my hand, "Call me Chris."

She shakes the hand, "Tali… Can you tell your bodyguard to lower his weapon?"

I turn around and nod to Price, who lowers the gun. I enter the apartment with Tali, and silently tell Price to play along.

"So where is Ghost?" Asks Tali.

Time to come up with some BS Terms and Conditions, "Out." I say, "You can speak with me, I'm his confidant, he trusts everything with me."

"Does he trust his identity to you?" Asks Tali, crossing her arms.

"Yes." It's me! Congratulations!

She sighs, "I want to speak to Ghost directly." She says, "If you cannot do that, then our business will be concluded."

"Pretty stubborn about this, aren't you?" Maybe I should tell her? No, I think that'd cause a few too many problems… What the hell do I do now?

"The information I have is too valuable to not be stubborn." She responds.

I sigh, "Price, keep her company, I'll set up a call." My plan is to go grab my terminal and bring it out here. I'll set up a vid-call with my Omni-tool, set it so the voice is garbled enough to be unrecognizable, and talk to Tali like that. Kind of like what 'L' did in Death Note, now that I think about it.

I walk into my room and activate my Omni-tool, I quickly set up the link between the terminal and the tool. Thankfully this thing's powered by… Whatever it's powered by, because it's not actually plugged into anything, and is therefore, portable. I turn off my Omni-tool and walk into the living room, where Tali kindly asks if we'd leave her alone so she can talk. I tell her what button to press, and Price and I retreat to our separate rooms. I have a split second to toss on my mask before my Omni-tool goes off, and the ruse begins.

Here's hoping she's not that smart… I open my Omni-tool.

"Miss Zorah, how nice to make your acquaintance." I say, I can just barely hear the garbled version of my words be played out in the living room.

"Ghost, I have a job for you." She says.

"Chris said as much. What do you need?"

"Protection." She says, simply, "And for you to drop the ruse, Chris. I know it's you."

"I'm sorry?" I ask; the fuck?

"No, I am." My door suddenly opens, and Tali's there, her arms crossed, and her head tilted in a way that tells me she's annoyed, "I'm not stupid, you know." She says, before Price's room's door opens and he's there with a rifle pressed against her head, Tali responds by whipping around and elbowing the rifle out of his hands, before her knee slams into his gut and her shotgun is pressed against his head.

"It's standard for all Pilgrimage goers to undergo combat training before embarking." She says, "I had more, because I was the Admiral's daughter." She says, before removing the shotgun. "I'd ask if we could discuss my terms… But you already know them." She says, as Price stands up and retrieves his rifle, my raised hand tells him to hold fire.

"You're a smart one, Tali." I say, removing the mask, "How'd you know?"

"You were looking for an excuse to leave the room. If it had been anyone else, they would have argued their case, and stayed out with me. You and your… Friend… Left the second you could. That was my first clue." She said, "The second was you're wearing Ghost's uniform, that was almost a dead giveaway. The last was could hear you from out here, you're not exactly quiet, Ghost."

I chuckle, "Alright, alright, you've got me. I haven't ever had someone come to my house looking for my services. So you said you have information?" I ask, though I think I remember what that information is.

She nods, "Yes… Does he have to be here?" She asks, nodding to Price.

"Yeah, he's sort of become my partner. I trust him, so can you."

"And yet, you've been lying to me ever since I got here." She says, before she walks to the couch.

I chuckle and sit down in my chair, Price sits down in the second chair, and Tali fiddles with her Omni-tool. "I won't play it for you unless you accept my request."

"Which is?"

"I just want protection, until I can sell this to the Shadow Broker and get his protection."

"You know Barla Von was a Shadow Broker agent… Right? Why not just sell it to him?" I actually wondered about that in game, too. She was directed to Von, who directed her to fist? Never quite understood that.

"He got me in contact with The Broker, who told me to meet a man named 'Fist'… But I don't trust 'Fist', so I wanted insurance. Von directed me to you, and here I am."

I consider her argument, on one hand, doing this might just guarantee me and Price a spot on the Normandy. On the other hand, I won't get to look for Jorra right away, and every second she's being abused by Tor, is an instant too many. And back on the first hand, I'll get all the assistance I need to save Jorra, Price and Shepard notwithstanding, I'll have Garrus and Wrex by my side! But still, I don't know if Shepard's a paragon, and if she isn't, she most likely won't help me, which will condemn Jorra. Erm... God damn it, I need more time... I'll accept Tali's request for now, and think about it more later!

"I'm in. What's the information?"

She presses a few buttons on her Omni-tool, then the one dialogue rant every Mass Effect fan has heard ten times too many begins to play, "Eden Prime was a major victory! The Beacon has brought us one step closer to finding the conduit."

"And one step closer to the return of the Reapers."

The recording shuts off.

"Alright…" I say, I've got to play Devil's Advocate here, technically I don't know any of the voices, nor do I know about Saren's involvement in Eden Prime, "How does this implicate a Spectre?" I ask her.

She looks up at me, "Couldn't you recognize it? That first voice was Saren Arterius'!" She says, "And, when combined with the data I got from a Geth memory unit, this proves he was involved with the Eden Prime attack!" She says.

I shrug, "Alright, I can see your point." I say, "Where and when am I supposed to be protecting you?" I ask.

"In an alley, I'll bring you there, and in about… Forty five minutes." Says Tali.

I nod, "Should be enough time." I say, as I stand up, "I'm going to gear up, make yourself comfortable 'till we have to leave, okay? You look exhausted." I say.

"I'm not tired, Ghost."

I shrug, "Suit yourself."

So this is where a split second decision gets me. In an alley, in the beginning of Mass Effect One's campaign, with Tali'Zorah next to me looking agitated, and ex-Captain John Price in the Keeper-walks with a sniper rifle. Let me tell you, we've been here for a good half hour, and no one's showed up, and ever moment that passes Tali gets more and more pissed. Seriously, she nearly bit my god damn head off when I asked her if this was the right place.

Anyways, I'm leaning against the wall in the alley. It's pretty much exactly like it is in Mass Effect One, several stair-cases on one side, and a long ass corridor on the other. Price is on a keeper cat-walk in the corridor, and he's got a clear view of the stairs and just above it, whereas I'm watching the corridor and Price's six. Tali's standing out in the middle of the alley, looking agitated. I'm decked out in my full gear, mask and tac-vest included. I've stuffed my vest full of medi-gel and magazines for my Desert Eagle, and Price did the same. That box of ammo I bought for my pistol is starting to look pretty empty, and I'm actually considering looking into getting the pistol updated to Mass Effect tech as well, or maybe just sell the thing for a few hundred thousand and get a quality pistol, I dunno what I'll do, but I'll end up doing something.

Also, I've more or less worked out how I'm getting on the Normandy with Shepard. The plan involves a lot of improv, but the general idea is that I'll convince her I'm on her side, and that technically I was hired to protect Tali, so I've got to stick around for that, at least; and if that doesn't work, I'll try and come up with a convincing lie after I tell her I'll tell her where my augmentations came from.

"Ghost, look alive, I've got people coming down the alley." Price says, into the communicator. That headset I got from the Citadel Invasion is actually turning out to be pretty useful, even if it does squeeze my ears against my head.

"Tali, we've got company." I say, shoving off the wall and snatching the M4 off of the ground by the barrel. Tali whips around, and sees the mercenaries coming. I took the time during the sky-car ride over here to refresh my memory of Mass Effect One's events, I got as far as the Liara recruitment mission before we landed, so if memory serves there should be a few Salarians and a Turian.

That is not a few Salarians and a Turian. That is three fucking Turians - not including the one leading the pack - and a god damn Krogan. I'm pretty sure the G-Man is laughing at me, fuck him.

"Did you bring it?" Asked the Turian, when he reached Tali. This mother fucker looks like he has a skeleton painted on his face, now that's just aggravating.

"Where's the Shadow Broker?" Demanded Tali, "Where's fist?"

"Oh… They'll be here sweetie… Where's the evidence?" Asked the Turian, trying to be charming as he caressed Tali's arm.

"No way. Not until they're here." She says, pushing his arm away and trying to take a step back.

He took a step forward and tried the arm thing again, at which point I put my rifle on my back and grabbed his arm. "Hey man…" I say, smiling behind my mask, "Why don't you stop trying to get in the Quarian's pants? She's not interested and I don't blame her. You say Fist and company will be here soon? Good. Now how 'bout we all shut the hell up and wait for them to get here?" I ask him.

This gets a rise out of him, he tries to yank his arm out of my grip, but I'm holding it too tightly. "Do you know who you're dealing with, Human? Let me go right now!" He orders me.

"Do you know who you're dealing with, skull-face?" I ask, I think it must be the red low-light, because he either can't see my mask or he honestly doesn't know about Ghost.

"Some two bit Human who's using the shadows to help with intimidation. How much did the suit-rat pay you, ten? Fifteen credits?" He demanded, trying again to wrench his arm out of my grip.

"Ghost, he just did something with his left hand, the men in the back are moving again." Price says into my communicator.

I lean my head forward, and suddenly the Turian freezes. It was definitely the low light, because he's got a look of horror on his face now. "Wrong on all accounts." I tell him, shoving the pistol into his gut.

"You... You're dead!" He said, horrified.

"I can't die... I'm a god damn Ghost." I state, "Now do you want to apologize? Or do you want to feel, first hand, how much pent up rage and anger, two months of constant torture, pain, and agony can create?!" I demand.

He tries wrenching his hand from my grip again, and this time I let go, and his momentum makes him fall right on his ass. His cronies can't help but snicker at the sight.

"What are you waiting for?!" He demanded.

"Tali get back!" I say quickly.

"KILL THEM!" He screams.

Tali responds by throwing some sort of grenade, as I shoot the Turian in his face and retreat back to cover. I hear the grenade explode, and I hear Price's rifle boom as it takes out an unlucky target.

I take cover behind some crates just as I hear price shout through the radio, "Ghost, look out!" And just like that the crates explode as that frigging Krogan charges through them and into me. We careen into the wall behind us and I feel blood crawl up my throat when we hit it. This Krogan is a lot smarter than the zombie that hit me at Tor's compound, he uses his arms to pin mine to the wall, and raises his head in an obvious motion: He's about to crack my skull with his. So I act upon the first thing that enters my mind, and I kick him in the quad.

Apparently this Krogan is as stupid as he is ugly, because his groin apparently isn't as armored as the rest of him, the second after I kick him he drops to his knees and roars in pain. I take the moment to shove my boot in his face and kick him away from me, so I can whip out my M4 and fire off a quick volley that take care of his shields and just as quickly turn his brain into mush. The Krogan slumps to the ground dead soon after.

"Ghost we've got more contacts coming down the stairs!" Warns Price, quickly. "What should I do? Are they friendly?"

"FREEZE!" Shouts a familiar female voice, before a rifle booms and I feel something slam through my shields and into my shoulder.

"Fuck!" I shout in pain, as I scramble into cover; Price and Tali give me covering fire while I find something to cower behind. By the way, I dropped my god damn M4 when I got shot, back with the Krogan, and my gun-arm shoulder if bleeding like a mother-fucker.

"Damn it Garrus, what the hell was that?!" Demanded the voice; wait a second I know that voice.

"Sorry, Shepard, accidental discharge." Said a familiar, flanged voice in response to the first.

"Price, Tali, cease fire." I say, before raising my voice, "Screw you, Garrus, you've wanted to do that since day one!" I shout, as Price and Tali follow my orders.

I think I can hear Garrus curse in the background, "Ghost, I don't have time for this, if you're trying to kill the Quarian either lay down your guns or let us end you!" He said.

"First off: Fuck you, you shot me!" I shout, "Secondly, I'm not trying to kill the fuckin' Quarian, she hired me to protect her! Doesn't that explain all the fuckin' bodies?"

Garrus' silence is all I need in form of answer, a few moments pass then I hear everyone's favorite heroin speak, "Ghost, is that you?"


"You're back, all of a sudden, after being missing for two months?"

"Apparently, I am!"

"Are you friendly?"

"I might be if the Turian doesn't try and take my god damn head off, again!" I call.

"If you are friendly, then slide your weapons out and come out with your hands in the air!" Declares Shepard.

"Ghost, I've got a clear shot on the red-head, just say the word." Says Price.

"How 'bout this…" I begin, "You toss me over a vial of medigel so I can fix this hole in my arm, then I'll call off my sniper so we can talk with civility."

"I like this guy, Shepard." I can hear an ungodly deep voice declare, I'm pretty sure that's Wrex.

"Don't listen to him, Commander, he's a mercenary, the second you show your head he'll kill you!" I can hear another female voice shout, probably Ashley.

"How do I know you're not lying to me?" Shepard asks, cutting off the 'don't do it's'.

"You don't, you've just got to trust me and toss me that medigel." I know I've got my own, but fuck her, Garrus shot me, so she's paying for it with Alliance resources.

A moment later, a vial of medigel lands on the ground next to me. I grab it and jam it into my shoulder, and feel the wound seal up a few seconds later. I feel confident that I can move the arm and shoot with it well enough.

"Alright… I'm coming out." I say, "Garrus, I swear to god, you shoot me again and your ass is haunted!" I add, before slowly raising my hands in the air, and moving away from the crate I'd taken cover behind. I can see Shepard, Wrex, Garrus, Ashley and Kaiden all do the same. Next to me Tali reluctantly gets up as well, shotgun in hand.

"I don't know how many I can take out in rapid succession, Ghost." Warns Price.

"Don't worry man, if things go according to plan you won't need to." I say, before Shepard meets me in the middle-ground, her posse behind her and mine behind me.

She takes a few moments to look at me, "So where the hell were you the last few months? I was beginning to think you'd hired those guys just to get out of having to talk to me." She says.

"Ever hear of a group called Cerberus?" I ask, she shakes her head, "Well, you will, very soon. Anyways, I spent the last two months getting mind-raped by a reverse-nerve stimulator."

"A what?" Demanded a very suddenly embarrassed, and probably even mortified Tali.

"Basically it takes the pain-centers in your mind and stimulates them. Causes ungodly amounts of pain with none of the consequences, like death." I tell her.

"And why in God's name were you being mind-raped for two months?" Shepard asks.

"I knew a few things that Timmy didn't want me to."


"The Illusive Man is Cerberus' leader, I call him Timmy, because I know it'll piss him off." I chuckle.

"So… Why are you here?" She asks.

"So I could get shot by him." I say, nodding to Garrus, "I'm kidding, so I could protect her." I say, nodding to Tali.

"Well, thanks, Ghost, you're job's done." Says Shepard.

"Oh… No it's not." I say, "You see, I'm pissed. Whoever's after the information she's got sent a frigging hit-squad to take us out, and as a result I more than likely had several of my internal organs either crushed or bruised by a Krogan, several of my ribs get cracked, and a very nice circular scar on my right shoulder thanks to my favorite Turian in the galaxy -" And a wink and a gun in Garrus' direction, "I'd rather see this one through to the end." Wait, what did I just say?

Shepard actually considers this, and apparently Ashley realizes this too, because she's the first one to react, "Oh god Shepard, don't do this! He's just some asshole mercenary, he'll stab you in the back the second Saren pays him enough!" She says, "Ma'am…" She adds, quickly.

"Oh now you have to say yes, if just for her." I say, smiling in Ashley's direction, I'm pretty sure I just pissed off an Alliance marine, because she's fuming angry.

"Alright, listen merc -"

"That's enough, Gunnery Chief." Said Shepard, cutting her off.

"I win." I say, barely holding the laughter.

"That's enough, mercenary!" Shepard presses.

"I win a little less now." I retort, and a moment later an armored fist slams into my cheek. "Oh god damn it, you Renegade ass!" I chuckle, as I feel the blood leak out of my nose, but seriously, I think that was the time for a Renegade interrupt, and she took it.

"Ghost, if you want to serve with me you have to learn to take orders. So when I say enough is enough, you better shut the hell up and know that enough… is… enough!" Shepard tells me.

"Ah, god damn…" I say, lifting my mask to just above my nose, "Am I bleeding, I can't tell." I say, as I lift my hand to stem the flow of the blood.

"Did you listen to anything I just said?" Demands Shepard.


"What'd I say?"

"Listen to orders if I want to come with you on the Normandy." Oh fuck.

"How do you know about the Normandy?" Demanded Shepard, her hand goes to the pistol on her hip.

"Shadow Broker."

"You work for the Shadow Broker!?" Demanded Ashley, "Damn it Shepard, he's an enemy!"

"No you stupid grunt, I'm not an enemy!" I bark, removing my hand and making a pass at my nose with my sleeve, before I lower my mask again, "I did a few jobs for the Shadow Broker, and in response he gives me a few odds-and-ends secrets every so often. I learned about the Normandy and it's crew a few weeks ago." I lie.

Shepard catches on, but not to the fact that I lied. Or, at least, not to the fact that I lied about how I knew, "I thought you said you were in Cerberus captivity for several months?" She stated.

"Well I got back a few weeks ago, didn't I?" I respond, "And when I checked my messages I had one from the Shadow Broker about the Normandy, he said something about trying to replicate the technology but failing, something about not having Heat Sinks big enough for his ship." I tell her.

I think she buys it, "We'll get back to that… You say you want to serve with me?" Yup, that confirms it, without thinking, I pretty much locked myself into the Normandy option... Fuck.

"Not all the way up to 'serve'… More like 'work with'… I already did my service." And god damn it, there's something that could bite me in the ass later.

Shepard narrows her eyes, "What branch?"

Shit… What's the equivalent of America these days? "UNAS Army." I tell her, "Private, First Class." Or was it just Private? Fuck…

Her right eye twitches, I think I'm getting under her skin! "Moving on… You want to work with me?" She asks, I nod, "Then when we get back to the ship, you'll show me who you are, and where you got the Psi-Augs." And we've come around full circle, what's my name and where'd I get augmentations.

"The what?" I ask, screwing with her.

"The Psion Augmentations." She says, I guess she didn't get the joke.

We're going to have a very quick conversation, lady. But still, this is the moment of truth.

Do I accept?

Do I back out?


Fuck it, I'll need all the help I can get to save Jorra... I just hope I'm not making the wrong decision.

"I can do that." I say, putting out my hand, she shakes it. "Well, that was fun." I say, my smile visible through my mask, "But, before I started fucking with the lot of you, you said you were here for the Quarian?"

This snaps Shepard back into 'campaign mode', "Right." She says, looking to Tali, who's long since stowed her shotgun at this point. "Hello, miss, my name's Shepard, I was told you had evidence to prove that Spectre Saren Arterius is a traitor?" She asked.

"Didn't I just say that, like, two minutes ago?" I inquire, Shepard ignores me.

"I do… But how can I know to trust you?" She asked, "It was hard enough giving him the information after what he put me through." She indicated me.

Ashley interrupted Shepard, "What'd he do?" Why do I get the feeling that whatever Tali says here will influence how hard Ashley grills me on the Normandy?

"Nothing he didn't do here, just gave me a hard time. I did get his identity after it was all said and done though… Wasn't impressed." Said Tali.

"Oh that's a low blow, Tali." I tell her.

"So your name is Tali?" Said Shepard, getting things back on track.

"Yes, Tali'Zorah Nar Rayya." Responds Tali.

"That's a mouthful." Shepard comments.

"Then you can call me Tali."

"Alright Tali, what'd I have to do to convince you I'm trustworthy?"

"Other than promising me that the Gunnery Chief will shut him up -"

"Hey!" I shout, chuckling.

"You can count on it." Says Ashley.

"- You could take me somewhere safe."

"I can do that." Said Shepard, as she motions for Tali to follow her, "I'll take you to the Human Embassy. Can you show us the data there?"

Tali nods, "I can do that." She looks to me, then to Shepard. She's about to say something mean, "Can you put me in a separate car from him?" She asks.

"Hey!" I say again, but I can tell she's joking, I can see the smile through her frosted mask.

"I can do that." Shepard chuckles, "Come on." She tells us all.

I take not two steps before something hits me, "Oh shit, wait a second!" I say, quickly.

The gun is in Shepard's hand in an instant, "What? Something wrong?" She asks.

"No…" I say, before I tap the mic on my headset, "Price, you there buddy?"

"I thought you'd forgotten about me." He says, but I can hear him chuckling.

"Come down here, man, I found us a ride." I tell him.

We wait for a few minutes before Price comes jogging down the alley to meet us. "Nice to meet you again, Shepard." He says, nodding to Shepard.

"Captain." Shepard fires off a quick salute.

"And don't worry about 'im, he grows on you eventually." He smiles.

"Oh no, not you too! Shut it, old man!" I say, chuckling.

"You know, I am a Captain…" He leaves it hanging.

"Oh god damn it!"

"You're not making my life easy Shepard." I hate him already. "A firefight in the wards, an all-out assault on Chora's Den? Do you have any idea how many -" He cuts himself off when he catches sight of me, Tali, Wrex, and Price. "Who are they? A Quarian? A mercenary? What are you up to, Shepard?" Udina demands.

"I hate him already." I whisper into the mic, Price chuckles lightly.

"I'm making your day, ambassador." Says Shepard, through an intense amount of self control, I can tell. "She's got information that links Saren to the Geth."

"Oh!" Says Udina, making a complete 180 personality change, "Really? Maybe you better start at the beginning… Miss…?"

Tali remains silent, I nudge her arm, "Tell 'im your name." I whisper.

"Oh, right… Tali. Tali'Zorah Nar Rayya." Says Tali.

"You know, we don't see many Quarians here on the Citadel." Not true I saw seventy six plowing your mother last night. Okay, bad joke, I know, but I'll take whatever I can get, I do not like this guy. "What are you doing here, so far away from the Flotilla?" He asks.

"I was on my Pilgrimage, my rite of passage into adulthood." Says Tali, as she begins to pace.

"So it's like a Quarian bar-mitzvah?" I ask.

"What is that?" Asks Tali.

"Er… Jewish thing, I think… I don't know much about it, actually… Same concept, different species." I say.

"Tell us what you found, please." Says Shepard, I can tell she's repressing a groan. I think I should stop joking around, I'm pretty sure she's about ready to pop me again.

"During my travels, I began to hear reports of Geth. Since they drove my people into exile, the Geth haven't traveled beyond the Persius veil. So… Obviously, I got a little curious." She says, "I tracked a patrol of Geth to an uncharted world… I waited for one to become separated from it's unit, then I disabled it and took it's memory core."

"Wait…" I say, "Don't Geth fry their memory cores when they die?"

"Firstly, they're machines, they don't 'die'." Said Tali, "Secondly, yes, but if you're fast enough, and skilled enough, and with a little luck, you can manage to scrounge some data before it wipes itself clean." She tells me. "Most of the core was wiped clean, but I managed to get some data from it…" She stops pacing the sterile white office so she can open her Omni-tool and grab the recording.

"Eden Prime was a major victory! The Beacon has brought us one step closer to finding the Conduit…" Said Saren's sinister voice.

"That's Saren's voice! This proves he was involved in the attack!" Said Anderson, where the fuck did he come from? I never noticed him there, right next to Udina.

"He said that Eden Prime brought him one step closer to finding 'The Conduit'… Any idea what that means?" Asked Shepard.

"The Conduit must have something to do with the Beacon, perhaps it's some kind of Prothean technology… Like a weapon!" Anderson concludes.

"Wait, there's more!" Says Tali, "Saren wasn't working alone…" She adds, before she continues the recording.

"And one step closer to finding the Reapers." The recording continues, I don't actually remember that voice's name… I remember it was Liara's mom, though.

"I don't recognize that other voice, the one talking about 'Reapers'." Says Udina.

"Are they some kind of… New alien species?" Shepard prompts.

"According to the memory core, the Reapers were a race of hyper-advanced sentient machines that existed fifty thousand years ago. They hunted the Protheans to extinction, and then they vanished!" Said Tali, "Er… At least… That's what the Geth believe…" She adds.

"Sounds a little far-fetched." States the Ambassador.

"The vision on Eden Prime… I understand it now… I saw the Protheans being wiped out by the Reapers!" Shepard concludes.

"Whoa there, Shep, you sure you weren't being mind-raped for two months? Even I haven't been having psychedelic visions… About sentient machines and extinct aliens." I say.

"I know what I saw… Ghost." Shepard responds.

"The Geth revered the Reapers, they worshiped them as if they were gods… They believed the Reapers were the pinnacle of non-organic life, and they believe they know how to bring the Reapers back." Tali supplies.

"You're telling me that we've got robots that have fifty thousand year old batteries?" I ask, "And my god damn iPod dies after a few hours of use… They don't make stuff like they used to… I'm telling you." I shake my head and chuckle, most everyone ignores me.

Save for Ashley, "Do you ever take things seriously Private?!" She demands, stomping her way over to me.

"Nope. Joking around helps keep me sane." I say.

"Do you know how serious this is!? Saren is a Turian that absolutely hates Humans, if he can bring these 'Reapers' back and gain control of them, he will hunt us to EXTINCTION!" She shouts.

"You have pretty eyes." I state, before I catch the palm that nearly made it's way to my face. "Nice try." I grin.

"That's enough you two!" Shouts Shepard, "Don't make me regret bringing you along before we've even gotten to the ship, Ghost." She warns.

"Hey, she was the one who slapped me!" I say, letting go of Ashley's wrist, "Er… Tried to…" I add, as she stalks away.

"The Council will just love this… Ancient sentient machines? Traitorous Spectres? We'll have Saren's head on a platter within the month." Says Udina, bringing the conversation back on track.

"You think they'd believe that?" Asked Anderson.

"The Reapers are a threat to every species in Citadel space…" Shepard takes a quick look to Ashley, "Not just Humans." She says, "We have to tell them!"

"Well… No matter what they think of the rest of this, those audio files prove Saren's a traitor!" Declares Anderson.

"The Captain's right… We have to get this to the Council right away." Says Udina.

"What about her, the Quarian? And what about the old man?"

"Hey!" Said Price.

"Haha… She called you old." I chuckle.

"Stow it." Price says, though I can tell he's kidding.

"My name is Tali!" Says Tali, "Commander, you saw me in the alley! And Ghost and Price can vouch for me, I can help you, let me come with you!" She insists.

"But what about your pilgrimage?" Asks Shepard.

"The Pilgrimage proves of what we are willing to give of ourselves for the grater good. What does it say about me if I turn my back on this?" Tali asks, "Saren is a danger to the entire Galaxy, possibly more, my pilgrimage can wait." She insists.

"Well… I'll take all the help I can get." Says Shepard, after she nods.

"Thank you…" Tali says, taking her place at Shepard's side, "You won't regret this."

"Anderson and I will set up a meeting with the Council. Shepard, take a few minutes to collect yourself and then meet us at the tower." Says Udina, as he and Anderson leave the office.

"Yes sir, Ambassador." Says Shepard, "Okay, Ashley, take everyone back to the Normandy. Kaiden, Tali, you're with me." Orders Shepard.

"Everyone, Shepard?" Asks Ashley, stealing a quick look at me.

"You can get along with him for five minutes." Says Shepard.

"I just hope we're not stuck in the same elevator… I'm pretty sure it will explode after a few minutes." Garrus comments, Shepard smiles.

"Let's move." She says, as we all move to leave the office.

"So… You're the Ghost?" Asked Ashley, as we rode rapid transit down to the Normandy.

"Yup." I tell her, I'm still trying to figure out how the hell we got stuck in a car together.

"You look like a kid…" She comments.

"You haven't even seen my face!" I defend, looking at her.

"I can tell by the tone of your voice, deep, but light. No one under twenty five - unless they've been through an entire war - has a voice like your's." She says.

Technically… I have been through an entire war… If you want to think about it. "Lady, you'd be amazed at what I've seen." I say.

"Oh really? Have you gotten your entire squad killed?"

Well, apparently I was in Task Force 141, so my entire squad did die… Technically. Fuck it, "Nope." I say.

"Have you seen your entire station burn to the ground?"

"Kind of."

"Have you failed so miserably at your one assignment that the consequences of that failure may be felt throughout the Galaxy?" She demanded.

"Jesus Christ lady, what have you been through?" I deflect, "My claim to fame is that I stopped the Citadel Invasion, killed Tor, wiped out the Underground, killed Kai Leng… And I shot myself in the head." I say.

"You what?" Asks Ashley.

"You heard me, I shot myself in the head." My finger goes up to my left temple, I can still feel the scar. "Right there… You can still feel it."

"How in the name of God did you survive?" She asks.

"… God." I say, shrugging.

"Why would God save a suicidal Merc? Suicide is a sin, you know."

"You're a Jesus freak, aren't you?" I ask, "Had a lot of those where I came from, they got annoying after a while."

"You're just deflecting the question."

"What question was that, by the way?"

"Who the hell are you?" She asks.

"I'm just a soldier by trade, long past his expiration date." I tell her.

"What does that mean?" She asks.

"It means what it means. If you understand it, great! If not, oh well."

She waits a minute, "So why do you use such ancient weapons?"

"America always did make the best guns… Even now, a hundred sixty years later, Ol' Faithful is still kicking like a champ." I say.


"It's my great great… Er… However many Great… grandpa's, I upgraded it and used it for my first mission. Damn thing's more bloodthirsty than a vampire, I'm telling you." I tell her.

"How did your grandad get it?" Asks Ashley.

"He served in World War 3, was a US Army Ranger back in those days… Helped liberate DC with Sergeant Foley, if I remember correctly…" I say.

"Your grandfather was in World War 3? And the gun still works, and the uniform is still in good condition? Did you put it in a cryogenic vault, or something?" Ashley asks.

"Boy you are just full of questions, aren't you? Why are you trying to learn this stuff, trying to find some sort of fault in my logic? Some problem with my way of thinking?" I deflect.

"I'm just trying to get a feel for you, figure out why the Commander chose to let you and the old man come along." Says Ashley, thankfully Price is in another cab, we were lucky enough to get stuck in a two-seater. I smell G-Man influence, by the way. "Any family?"

"Kind of."

"Long story?"

"Kind of."

"Well we've got time." Ashley nods to the HUD on the dashboard, "Fifteen minutes 'till we land at the Normandy." She says.

"My folks died, dunno how long ago. My sister stopped talking to me after I ran off to the Citadel. Girlfriend's missing." I say.

"You have a girlfriend?" Is it just me or does she sound crestfallen? I thought she hated me?

"Yup, when I was missing she called in a bunch of old favors and managed to find me. Traded one prisoner for another and now I don't know where she is." I say.

"And you're going to try and get the Commander to use her Spectre resources to help you out." Ashley nods, "Now I see your angle."

""First off, not every mercenary has an angle… Sure, I did this time, but who knows? Maybe I knew of the gravity of the situation and wanted to help out. Maybe I just wanted to shoot shit. Maybe I wanted to… I dunno, blow shit up. You shouldn't assume things of people." I tell her, before shaking my head, "So Shepard's a Spectre?"

"She's going to be, any day now, to be honest." Ashley responds, after a few moments pause, during which she probably digested what I'd said.

"Interesting… Thanks for the idea though, I was just going to funnel some credits the Broker's way and see where it got me." I lie.

"You were going to trust the Shadow Broker? You can't trust him he's a -" I look at her, a shit-eating grin hidden by my mask.

"A what?" She looks at me for a second, then looks away. "I win." I look forward again, and wrest my head on my hand.

Wow! Just… Wow! That fucking thing kicks ass!

"Wow…" I manage to say, as I stare at the Normandy. The mother fucking Normandy!

"First time seeing an Alliance Frigate?" Asked Ashley, as she stopped moving so the aliens, Price and I could stare in awe at the marvel of modern Human engineering. Yeah, I know it was co-created by the Turians, but this thing is owned by mankind, so that makes it a Human feat.

"Kind of…" I chuckle, my parents were in the US Navy back home, when they turned the Kennedy into a museum ship they took me and sis on a trip down memory lane, I remember being in awe as I looked at the marvel of modern American engineering, let me tell you, I'm pretty sure the Normandy could take out ten Kennedy's. I've seen this in the game before, and let me tell you, the game doesn't do it justice. It looks fucking awesome! It might not be as large as the SR-2, but I'm pretty sure this thing could give the SR-2 a run for it's money. "First time seeing a stealth ship." I say, as my gaze goes to the Normandy's engines, I wonder how much horse-power those things have.

"First of it's kind." Says Ashley, proudly, "It's stealth systems can't make it turn invisible to the naked eye, but it can get the same effect for radar and scanners."

"What?" Asked Wrex, looking from Ashley to me.

"It can't be detected by other ships, genius." I summarize, Wrex grunts in response.

"I can safely say I'm amazed." Said Price, "Never had anything like this back home."

"Don't you just love technology?" I ask, as I place my hand on his shoulder, "One day the most advanced naval vessel was the Nuclear-powered Super-Carrier… Now we've got Eezo-powered stealth frigates." I chuckle, "Just what we'll have tomorrow."

"Come on guys, Shepard wants all hands on deck, we're heading out." Says Ashley, after a moment of silence.

"What happened?" I ask her, though I know what she'll say.

"Shepard's been made a Spectre and the Normandy's her's, we're taking off the moment she gets here, so she wants everyone on deck when she does." She responds.

I chuckle, as we enter the airlock, "And here… We… Go!" I say, in my best Joker impersonation, just as the decontamination cycle ended, and right before the doors opened.