"We are unsure if this is a prudent course of action."

"Oh, calm down. You worry too much."

"'Worry' is irrelevant. We have simply calculated the probability of failure to be beyond acceptable margins."

"Look, it's really no big deal, okay? Me and Garrus go way back."

"That is not a significant factor in our calculations."

"You'll be doing a load of work for him! He'll be grateful!"

"Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer is very precise about his calculations. He has an irrational distaste for others intervening with 'his' work."

The pilot on the other end of their comm gave an exasperated sigh. "Which is precisely why you need to do this! I want Garrus at the poker table in twenty minutes, and so does Shepard, but he'll only come if he has no excuses."

Silence. Then. "Need I remind you that it will further your 'integration into the combat unit' that you're always going on about?"

"We do not understand the concept of 'prank'. Data suggest that such minor harm would decrease trust of this unit."

"Look, who knows more about being organic, huh? You or me?"

Note: Recalculation of risk factors complete. They are as follows:


[VAKARIAN_GUNNERY_OFFICER] socialization and subsequent team bonding: +14

Increased trust of Geth by [MOREAU_PILOT]: +5

Possible team bonding through performance of minor organic harm ("prank"): !EXPERIMENTAL! +25?


Possible harm to platform or [VAKARIAN_GUNNERY_OFFICER] if discovered: -5

Mistrust of Geth drastically increased if discovered:-15

Possible removal from ship (UNLIKELY): -20

Total Positives: 44 (19 without experimental variable)

Total Negatives: -40

Net Total: +4 (-21 without experimental variable)

Consensus_0021: Due to the need to test current !EXPERIMENTAL! variable, the course of action suggested by {MOREAU_PILOT} will be carried out. Recommend contact with main collective to implement fallback plan in event of ejection from ship.

"We will comply with your suggestion."

Moreau-Pilot gave a very unprofessional whoop. "That's what I'm talking about! Joker out!"

Legion closed the comm and surveyed the room, tidy and sparse as it was. Everything was placed with military, or at least police professionalism. Legion would have expected nothing less from the one time C-Sec officer.

The Main Battery was Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's baby.

Now that they had committed, Legion moved with purpose. They walked over to the main computer and accessed the main program. Although Legion had 47 hacking programs at their disposal, they did not need to use a single one. Joker had procured Garrus' access codes the day before, and these were transmitted seamlessly to the computer from Legion's databanks. In less than .005 seconds, they were in.

[Note: Initiate conversation with [SHEPARD-COMMANDER] for purpose: increasing Normandy secruity.]

From the main screen, Legion deftly moved to the program they sought: the calibration engine for the main gun. A quick data scan revealed Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's inputs. If Legion were at all capable of organic emotion, they would have been impressed: the turian's measurements were much more accurate than a typical organic, even a well trained one.

They were still far from perfect. Legion sent scouting programs into the mainframe, slipping through backdoors and moving carefully to avoid calling too much attention to itself. They absorbed as much data from the ship as they could: the precise speed, size, mass, and the location of any defects, no matter how small, were analyzed and stored. From there, Legion located the issue: a slight hitch in the main gun, only a few nanometers tall, was causing imperfections in the gun calibrations. Every time the gun was calibrated, this blemish would slowly unravel the work and cause the gun to move off course again. The effect was not serious, but it certainly explained Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's constant work.

Legion quickly wrote an algorithm for compensating for the blemish and prepared a set of new calibrations. Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer would still need to check occasionally, but the new numbers would ensure much less time spent in the main battery.

Legion ran the new numbers and removed itself from the system just as their comm crackled to life.

"Legion, it's Joker. Garrus is coming back. You better get out of there."

"Affirmative," Legion buzzed. They moved to the door but heavy footsteps stopped them in their tracks. Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's arrival was imminent. Legion scanned for other opportunities. A large set of databanks presented itself, and Legion moved itself behind them just as the door opened.

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer stood in the doorway, scanning the room. His eyes passed over Legion's hiding place without a hitch. He walked over to the computer terminal, humming a small tune as he entered the mainframe.

With a buzz, his comm activated. "Hey Garrus," Moreau-Pilot said. "I'm off duty in ten minutes and a bunch of us are gonna play cards. You in?"

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer gave a practiced chuckle. "Sorry, Joker," he said, rolling his eyes, "I'd love to, but these guns need calibrating."

Joker groaned. "You could at least get more creative with your excuses, Garrus."

"You wound me," Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer said. "These are very delicate instruments and are prone to go off at any time. In fact," he said as he accessed the calibration banks, "you can never be sure just when... they...," he trailed off as his eyes read the numbers. "...will be fine?" He looked up, confusion etched on his features.

"What was that?" Moreau-Pilot said.

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer didn't respond, too busy scanning the room again. His face slowly morphed into a look of suspicion. Legion powered down all systems that made even the smallest sound.


Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's eyes alighted on the databanks. He cocked his head, slowly moving towards Legion's hiding place.


Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's feet made a gentle clink as they walked across the grating. Legion's proximity detector informed them that the turian was 20 units away... 15 units... 10...

"Garrus!" the shout came through the comm, making the turian jump.

"What?" he said, the irritation visible in his tone.

"Your calibrations are fine. I just heard you say it. Now get your ass up here and lose some money."

Slowly, Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer turned away from the databanks. "Alright..." he said. "I'll be right up." He walked over to the door and gave the databanks one last glance before leaving, the door sealing shut behind him.

Legion's comm crackled to life. "Mission accomplished," Moreau-Pilot said. "Say, you keep any credits in that broken chassis of yours?"

Miranda - Family

The tension in the hovercar was palpable. Outside, the lights of Illium rushed past, their colors and volumes blurring together into a mosaic of alien grandeur. Inside, the five occupants shifted and shuffled, trying to gain better purchase on their uncomfortable seats. The craft was not built for such high occupancy.

To Legion, the atmosphere was largely consistent with other pre-mission environments. In recent weeks, they had taken to rating the various team member's reaction to various stimuli, namely, the prospect of imminent battle. Each organic within the craft bore a cocktail of hormones entirely their own. However, something was wrong. They watched over their teammates with increased precision.

In the driver's seat sat Shepard-Commander, his jaw set, ready to do whatever was necessary to complete the mission. His body's adrenaline levels were higher than normal, but he kept a calm mask on for the good of the crew. That was Shepard-Commander's strength: the ability to project a competent, calm face to his men, regardless of the man's personal feelings or doubts.

To their left sat Krios-Thane, his eyes closed, repressing the adrenaline spike through force of will. His self-control outmatched almost any other organic that Legion had met. Beneath the deep breathing exercises, Legion caught the slight hitch that betrayed his medical condition. Their calculations gave the drell roughly six more months to live.

Past the assassin, scrunched up against the side of the craft, sat Massani-Zaeed. The grizzled old mercenary, veteran of a thousand battles, was coping with the imminent conflict the way he always did: retelling old stories.

"... and the krogan bull, musta been over four meters tall, was charging at me and Vido. Now Vido wasn't quite as much of a pussy back then as he is now, so he and I stood our ground. By this point, I'd been fighting for nearly six hours, and Jessie was just about out of bullets, but I'd saved a few grenades, see? So right about now, with Vido hollering in my ear and Jessie warmin fit to melt in my hands, I get this crazy idea-"

"Thank you, Mr. Massani, I think that will be all," said a second voice, clipped and hard. Lawson-Operative didn't even bother to look back from her place beside the driver. She sat straight as a statue, eyes watching over the city. Massani-Zaeed gave a snort, but a sharp glance from Shepard-Commander stopped the continuation of the story. The car fell silent again.

Lawson-Operative. It was for her that they were here, or so Legion had gathered. Her sister was in trouble, and the crew was off to save the day. At the moment, though, she held Legion's interest for another reason.

The Illusive Man's liaison was the model of control. She kept her emotions toned down to the point where even Legion's sensors could not detect them. Every aspect of battlefield emotions was suppressed, from the nervous adrenaline to the endorphins released from surviving a near-death experience. She never allowed her emotions to show, not even to herself. Legion found her chemical patterns after a battle to be nearly identical to her patterns while idle on the ship. She was a perfect void of information.

Until now. Lawson-Operative's emotional levels were far past her previously measured high. Her heart rate was accelerated, her breathing came faster, and her adrenaline levels had almost reached half of the norm. By broad, human standards, she was barely agitated.

By her own standards, she was nearing a panic attack. The mask was cracking, and Legion's problem solving algorithms were unsure of the reason. A ping notified the collective of a completed consensus.

Consensus_0022: Due to [LAWSON_OPERATIVE]'s importance both on the mission at hand and on the ship [NORMANDY], this unit should maintain constant monitoring of [LAWSON_OPERATIVE]'s vitals to ensure her continued well being.

Legion reviewed the consensus and refreshed their monitoring programs. Something interesting was happening on this mission, and the geth was going to get to the bottom of it.

"...and he hits, eighteen! What do you say, Garrus?"

All eyes in the room turned towards the turian, who stared at the table with an intensity that would have stopped a charging krogan. A mandible twitched. "Hit me."

There was a collective intake of breath. Moreau-Pilot smiled. "You're clearly not a fast learner." He pulled a card out of the deck, but when he looked at it, his eyes widened. He set a two down on top of Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's cards. "Twenty."

There was a hoot, and Massani-Zaeed clapped a hand on Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's back. The turian leaned back and smirked at Moreau-Pilot. "You were saying?"

Moreau-Pilot raised his hands. "Okay, okay, so you got lucky. Big deal. But you haven't won yet."

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's eyes narrowed. "What are you saying?"

"You want to make this a bit more interesting?"

The turian's face was a mask. "Go on."

"Double the bet, and the winner gets to buy the loser a meal on the citadel." Joker's eyes flashed. "And the loser has to eat it."

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer thought. "Levo-amino?"

"I'm not going to poison you, Garrus."

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer nodded. "Okay," he said. "I accept your terms. Deal the cards."

Legion looked at Moreau-Pilot's cards. The human game of blackjack, like many organic games, was a simple concept made complex by organic blunder. It was an easy matter for Legion to keep track of the cards played and calculate the odds of winning a particular hand, but nonsense such as "gut feelings" and "intuition" threw a wrench in the geth's calculations every time. It was such a defining trait of organic thought that Legion would have found it frustrating, had they not been too busy analyzing it instead.

They looked at Moreau-Pilot's cards. He was showing ten, a respectable number with plenty of promise. However, Legion knew how many aces and face cards were left, and calculated that Moreau-Pilot had a 54.27% chance to win the bet. Not great odds by any means, but far better than would be expected. It appears that the geth was not the only one at the table adept at counting cards. Legion spun off a few subprocesses to determine the most likely food that Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer would be forced to eat.

Moreau-Pilot flipped over his first card. "Five," he said. "Making fifteen. Dealer hits." The crowd leaned closer as he pulled the next card from the deck. He looked at it, then at Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer, then grinned. He placed the card down. "Six. Makes twenty one. Dealer wins."

The crowd roared. Taylor-Operative was slapping Moreau-Pilot on the back, shouting his approval. Massani-Zaeed and Donnelly-Engineer stood by the side, haggling over who owed who money. Goto-Thief sat at the bar, holding a drink and laughing at the look on Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer's face.

Legion sat to the side, lens flickering as they documented the incident. They did not understand the organic need to win any further than simple evolutionary survival tactics, and part of their mission was to better understand organic rituals such as the one they had just witnessed. Perhaps it would be prudent to consult with Taylor-Operative or Moreau-Pilot at a later date. They tapped into the extranet to determine success rates of past blackjack-

"And just what is going on in here?" a cool voice said from the doorway.

The silence was instant and absolute. All faces turned towards the woman in the doorway. Lawson-Operative stood straight, annoyance written all over her face. Behind her, doing his best to look serious, stood Shepard-Commander.

"Captain on deck!" Taylor-Operative barked, and the whole room, sans Moreau-Pilot, stood to attention. This was always curious to Legion; half of the people in the room were not, strictly, under Shepard-Commander's command, yet they saluted him all the same. They had not determined the cause.

The crew looked to the commander, but it was Lawson-Operative who spoke. "Might I remind this crew that gambling is strictly prohibited on all Cerberus vessels. Any further offences will have to be reported to the Illusive Man."

Vakarian-Gunnery-Officer gave a snort, but a look from Shepard-Commander cut him off. Lawson-Operative continued as if she had heard nothing. "This assembly is dismissed. Commander Shepard, I will be in my quarters if you need me." Shepard-Commander nodded, and Lawson-Operative turned and walked out the door.

"At ease," Shepard-Commander said, and the room collapsed into conversation.

"She can't just talk to us like that."

"What a bitch."

"What was that all about, Shepard?"

Shepard-Commander grimaced and held up his hands. "I'm sorry everyone, but I am going to have to cut off the gambling. Rest assured," he said, "Mr. Vakarian will still be honoring his promise." There was a chuckle. "However, I would like to ask that everyone take our guidelines seriously for a few days. Miranda's got a lot on her plate at the moment."

"What," Massani-Zaeed said, "she blow the illusive man a little too hard this time?"

"Zaeed," Shepard-Commander said. Massani-Zaeed snorted, and the commander turned to the rest of the crew. "I apologize, but we're a team. I'm sure everyone here has something more important to do. Joker, I need you up on the bridge. We're plotting a new course."

"Where to?" Moreau-Pilot asked.

Shepard-Commander turned and walked out the door. "Illium," he said as the door closed behind him. As soon as he was gone Massani-Zaeed gave a swear.

"Fucking Ice Queen thinks she runs the ship. When has she ever stopped us before?"

He had a point. By Legion's reckoning, there had been 22 accounts of illegal gambling occurring on the ship since their arrival. Seventeen of them had occurred with Lawson-Operative's knowledge, yet this was the first time she had made any attempt to shut one down. In fact, it was Lawson-Operative's tacit disregard for the crew's poker games that had convinced Legion to attend. They had determined that the necessity of organic bonding was more important than any potential repercussions.

"Sudden change of Lawson-Operative's behavior is highly irregular," Legion said. Massani-Zaeed snorted.

"Bloody annoying, that's what it is," he said. "And now Shepard's joined the bandwagon? Christ. Pay or no, if I can't play a damn game a' cards I'll jump on the next transport back to Omega." He stood up and walked out of the room.

A few moments later the other members filed out, muttering various obscenities under their breath. Finally, only Legion and Taylor-Operative were left. The man sighed and rubbed his face, then got up to leave.

"Taylor-Operative," Legion said. Taylor-Operative started, glancing at the geth. Legion continued. "We are curious as to if you have knowledge of the sudden change in Lawson-Operative's behaviour."

Taylor-Operative studied the geth was guarded eyes. "Why do you want to know?"

"Lawson-Operative is a vital part of this team," Legion chirped. "Her goals run in parallel with ours for the foreseeable future. If she were damaged, the mission could be in jeopardy."

"Is that all that matters to you? The success of the mission?" Taylor-Operative said, glaring at the geth.


Taylor-Operative looked surprised, then he chuckled. "I suppose I set myself up for that one." He sat back down. Legion noted that their facial subroutines were becoming more adept at reading faces; they could easily spot the intense weariness etched across the soldier's features. "I'm sorry, Legion. It's just-" he clenched his fists together, "-Miranda wears her mask like it's all she has, I mean, she's fine with being this icy professional, or at least she says she is. But now, when something's really bothering her, she can't open up, and let's be honest, who would support her anyway? You saw the crew. They hate her."

"You don't." Legion said. It was not a question. Taylor-Operative sighed.

"No," he said, "I don't. I can't." He looked at Legion. "You don't hate her either, do you?"

"Love and hate are irrelevant to the mission," Legion said. "We admire Lawson-Operative's prowess in the battlefield, even if her interpersonal skills could use some work."

"You could say that again."

"We believe that Shepard-Commander likewise holds more positive feelings for Lawson-Operative," Legion said.

"Yeah," Taylor-Operative chuckled. "That's Shepard's thing. He likes everybody. Always looking out for his crew. Always making sure that they're fine, and happy, and up for whatever crazy mission he needs them for next. You know that he's the first commander I've had who addresses me by my first name? Dismissed the formalities in our first professional meeting."

"We are well aware of Shepard-Commander's attempts to bond with the crew," Legion said "He has entered our storage unit at the end of every mission. Most times we have nothing to say to him. However, we do commend his efforts to create a better team."

"That's just it, though." Taylor-Operative said. "You don't get it. Shepard doesn't show up just because he wants to create a better team. He talks to us because he actually likes to. He cares about the people under his command in a way I've never seen before. We all know that, come hell or high water, Shepard will do everything he can to get the job done. That's why Shepard's a great leader and it's why we might just pull this thing off. His professional bond is so powerful because his emotional bond is even more powerful. Next to that, what chance does Miranda have?"

There it was again, this emotional bond. "We have yet to comprehend why organics rely so much more on vapid interpersonal relationships caused by the application of neurotransmitters so much more than hard facts and logic."

Taylor-Operative gave a wry grin and stood up. "You wouldn't," he said. "Be seeing you, Legion."

"Alright, people," Shepard-Commander said, his voice low and tense, "weapons free. We're after a human male, Niket; he's Miranda's contact. Look's like Eclipse isn't gonna give him up easily. Just stay close and follow my commands, and we'll get through this." There was an edge to his voice, an anomaly that Legion spent a few extra cycles pondering. They wondered if it had anything to do with the earlier altercation between Shepard-Commander and Lawson-Operative.

"Incoming fire!" shouted Lawson-Operative, .324 cycles too late, for the craft had already begun to shudder, rocked by the shots the Eclipse mercs were sending their way. Lawson-Operative jerked the wheel to the side, but not before another shot hit the craft. A high whining filled the cabin.

Alarm_Code {0001}: General Element Zero failure. Crash imminent.

"Brace for impact!" Shepard-Commander shouted. Legion assumed a crash position while the organics on either side did the best they could to comply with Shepard-Commander's orders.

Calculating impact in 3…



The craft hit the ground, bouncing once before skidding to a stop. A quick vitals check informed Legion that no one was hurt. They unfolded themselves and jumped out of the craft. A moment later Lawson-Operative joined them. The eclipse merc who had stopped the firing stepped forward.

"Judging by the fact that you've stopped firing, I trust you know who I am?" Lawson-Operative said.

"Yeah," the Eclipse mercenary said. "The boss said you might be in there. You're the bitch that kidnapped our boss' daughter."

"Kidnapped?" Lawson-Operative said, a catch in her voice. Legion noted that her heart rate sped up by a tiny fraction - another first for the woman. A moment later she got herself under control. "This doesn't concern you. I suggest you take your men and go."

Legion watched the conversation unfold with detached interest. They had already calculated the odds of the mercenaries winning this fight (1.2%) and found monitoring Lawson-Operative's vitals much more important to the mission. She kept herself under control until the name "Niket" drove her heart rate up a full beat per second, the highest Legion had recorded so far. A moment later the anomaly was gone. Then they noticed Shepard-Commander's fingers twitching and knew that the commander was about to do something rash.

Legion brought their gun up just as Shepard-Commander grabbed the man, spinning him around and snapping his neck.

Then they were in the fight. Legion vaulted over a nearby crate as the team split for cover. They sighted the first target and fired. The man was put down with mechanical precision. Across the field, Krios-Thane brought his own rifle to bear, and the twin cracks brought down soldier after soldier. Shepard-Commander and Massani-Zaeed each took a closer route, both with assault rifles unslung, preferring a more close quarters fight.

But none of them matched the ferocity of Lawson-Operative. She dove into the fray with the fury Legion had never seen before, submachine gun stuttering, biotics flaring. She fought like a thing possessed, dispatching two, even three mercenaries at once, never stopping to rest or take cover. And through it all, her heart rate never rose. She was in control once again.

A few minutes later the battle was over. Legion stepped out of their cover and walked across the room, stepping over cooling mercenary bodies as they went. The rest of the team gathered around Shepard-Commander, who reloaded his rifle as he spoke. "Alright. We need to move due east until we reach this elevator, which should take us to the upper level. According to Miranda, that's where Niket should be waiting for us. Any questions?"

"Query," Legion said. Shepard-Commander nodded. "Request the credibility of contact: Niket. Is this team certain that he can be trusted?"

Shepard-Commander opened his mouth, but Lawson-Operative cut him off. "Niket was- is a great friend of mine," she said. "He helped me escape from my father and he's the only person I trust from my past life. I can personally vouch for Niket's trustworthiness."

Her voice was cool and calm, but Legion noted that her vitals were spiking again.

Krios-Thane cleared his throat. "Be that as it may," he said, "perhaps we should put together a contingency plan, just in case Miranda's contact proves to not be as trustworthy as he seems."

"I can assure you, Mr. Krios, that Niket is trustworthy," Lawson-Operative said with an edge of impatience.

"That's not a bad idea, actually," Massani-Zaeed said. "Bloody contacts are never reliable. Do you have any other sources of intel on your girl's location?"

"That won't be necessary."

"Do you?" Massani-Zaeed said.

There was a pause. "No," Lawson-Operative said, looking down. "But we won't be needing one. Come on, Shepard. Let's go."

"But-" Massani-Zaeed said, but Lawson-Operative was already walking away.

Note: Possibility of organic lapse of judgment in team member {LAWSON_OPERATIVE}. Evidence for such conclusion:

1) increased vital indicate stress while thinking of subject {NIKET},

2) subject {NIKET} represents final link to past life and would therefore hold extra importance to {LAWSON_OPERATIVE}

3) refusal to even entertain evidence that would support subject {NIKET}'s betrayal

Consensus_0022 reinforced. IF teammate {LAWSON_OPERATIVE} is suffering from lapse of judgement, THEN it is all the more imperative that this unit {LEGION} maintain close monitoring of health and capabilities.

"We don't have time for this conversation right now," Shepard-Commander said. "Eclipse mercs are closing in on our position, and we need a battle plan. So here's what we're gonna do…"

The battle resumed with another squad of mercenaries, and Legion resumed their combat. However, they kept a few sub processes running on Lawson-Operative.

Just in case.

The ship gave a lurch, signifying to Legion that they had entered FTL travel. The geth powered up, completing the data exchange process with the Collective. They moved through their diagnostics, then exited the AI Core and walked towards the elevator.

The ship was quiet, reduced to the graveyard shift so that the main crew could get their sleep. It was a long way to Illium, and Shepard-Commander wanted to see everyone as rested as possible.

By all rights, they should have continued to rest as well. Not because they needed it - geth platforms had an incredible amount of endurance, and they lacked the proper facilities to fully repair in any case - but because there was nothing else for them to do.

But they were not out here to do Shepard-Commander's bidding. No, instead the Collective thought that now would be an optimal time to request Cerberus' data files on the mission and the crew. The local collective had deemed it unlikely that Lawson-Operative would so easily relinquish such files, but the broader Collective calculated that there was little harm in asking, and so Legion walked across the crew deck and to Lawson-Operative's office.

The door swished open. "Lawson-Operative," Legion began, "on behalf of the Geth collective, we would like to make a request."

Resounding silence met their statement, but Legion already knew the answer. Lawson-Operative was not here. Perhaps she was conferring with Shepard. It did not matter. Legion's attention was occupied with the large screens attached to the wall.

Each screen was alight, all of them working in synchronization to play a single movie. A young girl was running around, a toy gun clasped in a fat hand. Their facial recognition software determined that it was most likely Miranda. As they watched, the girl pointed the toy gun at various objects in the room and pulled the trigger.

"Pew! Pew!" she said, every time she hit something.

"Oriana!" a voice called, "its time for your supper!"

The little girl gave a gasp and dove behind a nearby sofa. A woman entered the screen, middle-aged, slim, her hair done up in a bun. She gave a sigh and walked towards the couch.

"Pew! Pew!" the girl, Oriana, called, shooting her gun at the woman, who, in spite of the blaster fire raining down all around her, walked over to the sofa and picked Oriana up. The girl gave a sigh of disappointment. The woman chuckled as she carried Oriana off the screen.

The movie changed. Now Legion was watching a slightly older Oriana draw a picture. She worked at it with care and grace, calculating each line with the eye of a master. The picture most clearly matched Legion's idea of an earth cat, but they found significant probability of several other creatures as well. They watched as Oriana's mother entered the scene. Oriana showed her the picture, and her mother hugged her and took her off to bed.

The scene changed again. And again. In one Oriana played in a pool, in another, she ran a tentative hand across a piano. And so on and so forth, each scene depicting a moment of the girl's life, one after the other.

Legion watched until the cycle repeated itself and watched some more, taking each movie and storing it to memory. They devoted several cycles to determining the purpose of the videos, to no avail.

A hand on the their shoulder finally pulled them out of their analysis. "Come," Krios-Thane said, "let us leave this place."

"Krios-Thane," Legion said, but the drell said nothing, merely beckoning as he walked out of Lawson-Operative's quarters.

Legion followed him as he walked down the hall and reentered the Life Support room. The drell took in a deep breath, his shudder barely noticeable, and let it out in a sigh of exhaustion. "I had hoped to see Miranda. I did not expect to find you."

"We had entered Lawson-Operative's quarters with the intention of exchanging data," Legion said. "We did not expect to find it empty. What was your query with Lawson-Operative?"

"Ms. Lawson is going through a bit of an ordeal at the moment," Krios-Thane said. "I can understand her worries. She is not the only person on this ship with family issues."

Note: {KRIOS-THANE}'s reference is somewhat in question. Given his estrangement with his son, this is the most likely correlation. However, data does not match.

"We believe you are talking about your son," Legion said. "He is no longer estranged."

Krios-Thane nodded. "Yes, it is true that Kolyat and I have begun to repair our bond, but such things take time, and I do not have much left. I had hoped to offer my words of support to Miranda, as I know them."

Error: The data so far provided by {KRIOS-THANE} is insufficient to determine his presence within {LAWSON-OPERATIVE}'s chambers.

"We do not understand. How will you repairing your bond with your son aid Lawson-Operative in the termination of her sister?"

It took Krios-Thane a moment to process the words, but Legion's razor sharp camera caught the exact moment he did. "What did you say?" he asked, disbelief on his features."

"You and your son now share a positive bond. Or, at least, your relationship is traveling in the positive direction. Lawson-Operative aims to terminate her sister. Their bond-"

"What are you talking about?" Krios-Thane interrupted, a look on his face like Legion had never seen. "Miranda has no desire to kill her sister. This entire operation is to save her."

Warning! Conversation has proceeded into uncalculated area! Obtain more information!

"We do not understand," Legion said. "All data suggests that the immanent operation is to ensure the destruction of Oriana Lawson."

"Explain," Krios-Thane said, his lips unnaturally pale.

"Miranda Lawson was genetically engineered to have superior strength, stamina, and intelligence. She was intended to be a successor to her father's empire. Data does not suggest why she was created female, but there is no denying that she has a superior genetic code." Krios-Thane nodded. "Therefore," Legion said, "Lawson-Operative has something that very few organic beings posses: a purpose that they were created for. She was made a certain way so that she could fulfill the dreams of her father as best as possible."

"She was an object," Krios-Thane said.

"She was the fulfillment of a dream. In this way, Lawson-Operative shares many similarities with this platform. She was created for a purpose. And, when an object that is better able to fulfill said purpose enters the scene, she will be rendered obsolete."

"Are you saying that there are other platforms like you?" Krios-Thane asked.

"Not at this moment. We are a prototype. However, when the Geth return to the galaxy as a whole, there shall be many platforms like this one. In fact, one of the chief purposes of this platform is to gather data for the better creation of its successor."

Krios-Thane pondered this. "Does this worry you?"

"Worry is irrelevant," Legion said. "We accept the inevitability of this occurrence. We are not adaptable enough to properly represent Geth interests on a galactic scale. When our time comes, we will submit to destruction. Organics, however, are not so rational. Jealousy is a natural and understandable result of being replaced. Therefore, it is only rational to assume that Lawson-Operative has and will do everything in her power to prevent being replaced."

"Including terminate her sister," Krios-Thane murmured. He looked at Legion with new eyes. "It can be easy to forget, sometimes," he said, "just how far from natural you really are."

Legion tilted their head. "We can assure you, Krios-Thane, that we are not natural. We are a creation, and an imperfect one at that."

Thane-Krios just shook his head. "If that is how geth think, they will never properly integrate into the galactic system."

"What do you mean?" Legion asked. The rejection of their thesis had them taken aback.

Krios-Thane closed his eyes. "I need to rest now, Legion. It was good to talk to you."

There was a pause. "Likewise," Legion said and turned to leave. Krios-Thane's voice stopped them at the door.

"You were wrong about one thing. You and Miranda are not alike at all. Miranda rejected her destiny. What are you doing?"

Legion left without another word.

There was a crack, and Niket's body fell. His eyes, lit with pleading and guilt, faded. Blood blossomed out of the hole in his chest. He hit the ground with a wet thud.

Lawson-Operative didn't even give the room a chance to react. Her biotics flared, and the mercenary Enyala was flung across the room. Legion spared a moment to reflect how that would just make the resulting battle more difficult. And then it began.

The team split with practiced ease, rolling behind cover, lining up targets, firing until they were forced to reload. Legion went through the motions with the ease only a machine could experience. Their targeting software located a mercenary, and with a crack, they removed his head. Two more were moving up to the side, attempting to flank the team's position. Legion's pathfinding algorithms kicked in, directing the platform's legs to vault over the cover and weave, in and out, past the bullets and explosions. They jumped over another crate, spun around in the air, and fired another shot right through the mercenary's head. They didn't even need to use the scope.

As Legion's body fought, their mind worked. Lawson-Operative was unstable. From the moment she had shot her former friend, the Cerberus liaison's vitals had spiked off the charts. Far from her usual unnatural calmness, she was now unnaturally agitated. And it was showing. Several of her shots went wild, something Legion had never seen before. She crouched behind a piece of cover, chest heaving, and reloaded her machine gun with trembling hands.

A second squad of mercenaries advanced on her position. Lawson-Operative saw them, her face twisted in a snarl of fury. Her biotics activated, more powerfully than before, encasing her in a nimbus of blue energy. The three mercenaries were blown back. One of them crashed into a wall and did not stir. The other two skid across the ground. One tried to get to his feet, but Lawson-Operative didn't let him. She jumped out of cover and emptied an entire clip into him. The salarian's body jerked, blood spitting out of his mouth. Lawson-Operative ejected the spent clip and reached for another one.

She did not see Enyala, creeping up by her side, gun raised. The lead mercenary's face bore an expression of triumph. In her fury, Lawson-Operative had left cover and depleted both her biotics and ammo. She had no defense.

This was the disaster Legion had been watching for. A quick scan of the battlefield showed that the other members of the team were preoccupied with their own battles. No one saw the impending danger. No one but Legion.


She whirled at the voice, seeing Legion's gesture, and then Enyala. She jumped- But the asari's gun was already up, her finger too far gone on the trigger. The shot left the gun…

...and flew wild. Enyala cursed and dropped the gun, one hand clutched around the bloody stump where her other hand had been. Legion had shot it off. They noticed that the sounds of the fight had faded. Massani-Zaeed shot a final enemy in the head. Krios-Thane reloaded his gun. It was over.

Lawson-Operative walked over to Enyala, who had fallen to the ground, fingers desperately scrabbling at the bloody wound. Lawson-Operative leveled a pistol at the woman's head. "Where is my sister?" she asked.

Enyala spat at her feet.

Lawson-Operative did not react, except to walk closer. She crouched by the downed asari, her face blank. Then she took the pistol and slammed it against the wound as hard as she could. Enyala howled in pain.

"I said," Lawson-Operate said, this time slamming the butt of the pistol across the asari's face. Her nose broke with a crack. "Where is my sister?" Still, the mercenary said nothing.

"Miranda-" Shepard-Commander started, but Lawson-Operative did not hear him. She stepped over Enyala and grabbed the woman's uniform, slamming her into the ground over and over. "You- think- you- can- just- take- my- family?" she said, each word accentuated with a punch. Tears ran down the woman's face, mixing with snot and blood from her wounds. She stood up and aimed a kick at the asari's head.

"Miranda!" now Shepard-Commander did intervene, grabbing Lawson-Operative in a bear hug and pulling her off the downed mercenary. She struggled for a moment, cursing at Shepard-Commander, then stopped, her face becoming blank again far faster than it should have.

"I'm okay, Shepard," she said. Hesitantly, Shepard-Commander released her. Lawson-Operative took several deep breaths. "We don't need the mercenary. Her records are enough. Let's get out of here." After a moment, Shepard-Commander nodded. He gestured to the rest of the team, and everyone turned to leave.

As they walked out of the room, a proposal occurred to Legion. They slowed, considering. Was it worth it? Perhaps, as an opportunity to test the new organic emotions model they had been working on. The Collective approved the motion, and Legion stopped, turning instead towards the prone form that had started it all.

Back at the AI core, Legion packaged the data from the mission and sent it to the Collective. All video, commentary, and inferences the Geth had made were sent, including an improved theoretical model for how organic thought and emotions behaved. They had finished cleaning the gore off their armor and were about to power down when the AI core door swished open.

"Legion, do you have a moment?" Lawson-Operative asked.

Note: Uncharacteristic lack of assertiveness. Day's events still taking their toll.

"Yes," Legion responded. They awaited further input.

Lawson-Operative frowned. "Back on Illium, when you saved me-"

"No words of gratitude are necessary. We are part of a team."

Lawson-Operative waved a hand. "I wasn't going to thank you; you're a machine. What I wanted to ask was: why did you use my name?"

"Auditory stimulation was necessary for you to return to the present moment and avoid danger."

"No, no. Why did you use my name? You've developed alternative designations for everyone on this ship, including me. Why 'Miranda'?"

There was a pause. "The use of a more personal nomenclature would be more likely to achieve the desired goal of returning you to the present moment. Referring to you by your title might not have worked as well."

"And furthermore," Lawson-Operative continued as if she had not heard. "Why call out at all? Your gun was there, and I was useless anyway. You could have simply shot Enyala without saying anything at all."

There was silence. Lawson-Operative gave a small smile. "I notice things too, you know."

Legion decided that a change of topic would be prudent. "We have something for you," they said, producing a small object from their waist compartment.

"Oh?" Lawson-Operative said, raising a hand. Legion tossed her a computer chip.

"This is the omnitool data from your former friend Niket. We thought you might find some form of organic closure from looking at the data within."

Lawson-Operative's face was hard to read. She looked at the data like it was the last thing in the world she wanted to see. "What's on it?" she asked.

"Messages, transactions, items of that nature," Legion said. "In addition, there is a message for you."

Lawson-Operative's hand closed tight around the chip. "A message?" she said, her voice suddenly tense.

"Affirmative. We do not believe that he ever intended to give it to you. Perhaps it was made to quell his guilt. We do not know; organic emotions are difficult for us to understand."

Lawson-Operative wasn't even listening. She plugged the chip into her omnitool and accessed the required file. Niket's voice filled the room.

"Miranda, I don't believe you will ever hear this message. Time is running short now, and I fear our next encounter will not go peaceably. I suppose I brought that on myself." He sighed. "To tell the truth, I don't even know why I'm recording this. When I found out that you had taken Oriana as well, I refused to believe it. I never thought you would risk it all for her. You hated her, I know you did. And that was for the best. She would stay here, become the daughter your father always wanted. Hell, it would probably even dissuade him from looking for you, at least for a time. I wish I could make you understand why Oriana needs to be with her father, but I know that I can't. You never were much for other people's opinions. Heh, you're probably scowling at me right now."

Lawson-Operative wiped the scowl off her face. Niket continued.

"I guess I just wanted to say goodbye, and to give you some advice. I've known you since we were kids, and since we were kids, you always did… more. Too much. Nothing was good enough for you. Always the best. The 'perfect human'." He chuckled. "Actually, taking Oriana does seem like that extra little push you were so fond of, now that I think about it. Maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprise after all. Goodbye, Miranda. I hope we never meet again, or I have the bad feeling it will not end well for me. End log."

The voice faded. Lawson-Operative blinked, hard. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Legion," she said. "I… would not have expected it of you."

"Niket was wrong about one thing," Legion said. "You are not the 'perfect human'."

"That's nice, but I… I beg your pardon?"

"'Perfect human'. It is an oxymoron. For the geth, perfection is an unattainable concept, the final end point of an asymptote we will never be able to achieve. For organics, it means something different. You perceive perfection as being free of flaws."

Lawson-Operative was looking at them with a strange look on her face. Legion continued.

"Yet when one defines and categorizes the lump differences between our race and yours, very few true differences emerge. In fact, only one does: your imperfections. Time and again, organics upset the careful calculations of machines due to a whim or a 'gut feeling'. These flaws define your species, and make you who you are. Thus, making a 'perfect human' would require making something that is not human at all. Our interactions with you have found you to be extremely flawed, and thus extremely human. You needn't worry about fulfilling such impossible standards. "

Lawson-Operative looked at him. "That's very… perceptive of you, Legion."

"We acknowledge your praise." There was a moment of silence. Lawson-Operative shifted.

"I need to return to my work. The illusive man will be needing a full report on the mission. Plus, I'm sure Shepard will be down here any minute." She snorted.

"Thank you for coming by, Lawson-Operative," Legion said.

Lawson-Operative's face changed, as if they had said something she didn't like. "Legion…" she said, "earlier, when you called me by my first name?"


"I see no need for you to stop."

"Affirmative, Miranda," Legion said. Miranda gave a curt nod and walked out of the door, leaving the geth to analyze the conversation alone.

A/N: So here it is. The next chapter of Vita ex Machina. Hopefully its extra length makes up, at least a bit, for the wait. But I'm all settled in to college now, so the next few chapters should roll out much sooner. I'm hoping to finish this thing by November, at which time NaNO WriMo will consume all of my time. In light of this, I've actually sat down and planned the rest of the story arc. There should be a total of ten chapters (not including the prologue). We're at about the halfway point at the moment. I'd always figured Vita would be a ME 2 fic, but I think I'll follow up the story with a one-shot focusing on Legion's appearance and final fate in ME 3. So that's the rough outline, as it were.

In other news, what did you guys think of the fractured story idea? I was trying to mix things up a bit, and I'm sorry if it got too confusing. I felt this method better allowed me to compare Legion and Miranda, and pick apart what makes them tick. Drop a comment telling me what you think.

Well, that's all I guess. I'll catch you all at the next chapter! Peace!