The Equalizer

"Thankfully, I did not arrive in the midst of the Citadel with nothing more than a backpack on my shoulders. I was born in the world of Mass Effect, and from there…from there I had the Choice. I admit helping Commander Shepard would have been fun…but ultimately boring. So I didn't become her best friend.

I became her worst nightmare." Shadenight123.

Jane Shepard felt dirty.

It wasn't the grime, the sweat, or the blood on her N7 armor that made her feel that. It wasn't her past that weighted heavy on her soul. It wasn't the scream of Jenkins that was now haunting her, or the faces of her unit on Torfan. It wasn't the gaze of hatred of her brother, as she left him behind to be prey of the Batarians coming down hard on Mindoir.

It wasn't about the fellow marines that went to Akuze with her. It wasn't about the look of disgust her mother had given her repeatedly in the last years of the woman's life, faulting her for not having taken care of her younger brother and sister.

The reason Jane Shepard felt dirty was because, in the end, she was forced to cooperate.

Stepping through the corridors of the Citadel's Docks, her new status as Spectre minted, all that she wished for was a shower on the Normandy. She could feel her red locks of hair itch as they stuck to her sweaty skin, and the droplets seemed to do their best to unnerve her and fall in her green eyes. She'd let Pressly take care of the nuisances that followed her while she showered. She gritted her teeth in frustration, trying her best to ignore the horrible jokes of the Turian, the nervous chuckles of the Quarian or the grunts of the Krogan.

She didn't like any of them, but Anderson had insisted.

The Turian was an ex C-sec guy, a blue armored and scaly-looking alien named Garrus. He had a sniper rifle, and was probably overcompensating for something else.

The Quarian was a strange looking alien in a suit, with her 'pilgrimage' in action and with an apparent need to prove herself to her father. She probably had daddy issues, and the incessant babbling on how the Geth were evil and how the Quarians were mistreated was probably similar to how the Eco-Terrorist excused their actions of burning petrol-ships because 'they harmed nature'. Still, she had given them proof of Saren being responsible for Eden Prime…

And that had counted for something at least.

The last one was Wrex, a krogan. That truly said it all on the race, the being and his idea of fun. She couldn't actually care less if he followed like a puppy or a ferocious dinosaur on two feet. All that she cared for was that she now had a more disposable meat-shield than one of the other humans.

Udina was an asshole, but Anderson had been her Captain.

Near the docks, a black armored goon that screamed 'mercenary' to her brain moved from his spot near the wall, and began to slowly walk towards them. He was wearing a helmet that covered his face, and if the integral black color hadn't told her 'cliché' he might have even looked scary. As it was, he looked like some sort of two-credit thug that tried his best to look cool but really wasn't.

"Spectre Shepard?" his voice was surprisingly polite, but still, she narrowed her eyes.

"News travel fast around the Citadel," she said back. How had the man known? It was possible for something of this caliber to already be out in the open, but this soon reeked of bad and cliché spy-flick.

"I work for someone who values information," he retorted with a shrug. His helmet moved slightly to the Krogan. "Wrex. The Shadow Broker is pleased with your last mission. Credits were sent, I hope?"

"That they were," the Krogan huffed back. "Shepard, the guy's one of the Shadow Broker's operatives, right hand man and all. I can vouch for him if you like."

Somehow, she wished she hadn't told both Alenko and Williams to head back to the ship first. Udina had insisted on putting up the nice Xeno-friendly face to the council of aliens, and what better show than going on with a group of aliens?

"The Shadow Broker?" she raised an eyebrow. She wasn't all that knowledgeable in the affairs of the galaxy, but she'd be damned before she asked that out loud. "Should I be…scared?" she drawled that out with mock amusement. Behind her, she could see the Quarian actually fidget. Oh right, she had gotten into contact with Fist, hadn't she?

The Turian was already moving his hand to the rifle, but a bad gaze from Wrex stopped him on his tracks.

"No," the merc replied. "The Shadow Broker wishes to ensure your success. Saren has infiltrated certain…aspects of our organization, and your help in removing Fist has shown us a better way to solve two pijaks with a gunshot. In exchange for taking me onboard and some…help along the way, you will be granted access to information concerning your objectives in your quest against Saren. Furthermore, as a token of good will I'll relay to you a free piece of information…you will be the new Commander of the Normandy as soon as we reach the docks, so yes, it will be your decision whom to take aboard."

"Do you always talk this much?" Jane quipped back, was the merc really expecting her to take him on? Then again, she had to cooperate didn't she? And information…at least the guy looked human in form. He could be a Batarian however.

"Only with information that doesn't have a price," he retorted calmly. "So, do we have a deal, Shepard?"

"What are you?" she asked then with a snort. "Out with the helmet first."

"As a Shadow Broker operative, my face is my business alone…but if you wish to, we could find somewhere more…private, to do so."

"You're not making a good impression," Jane muttered back. She narrowed her eyes then. "Fine, but if you're a Batarian, then I hope you enjoy getting flung out of the airlock…because I won't have your race on my ship in anything less than a coffin."

The operative just nodded firmly, before extending his right hand.

"John Smith."

"Really?" she asked in disbelief. "That has to be the most common name in all of humanity."

"So they say," he answered back, his tone frosty as his hand remained extended. She smirked.

"Is that your real name to begin with?" she left him hanging, as she began to walk once more. He fell in line behind her, shaking his head slowly as he did so.

"Don't know. The Shadow Broker bought me from Batarian slavers, saved me from a life of hell and trained me to become an information broker under his command. I'm suited with enough cybernetic warfare to make an AI look like an old Commodore computer…but I'm not a front-line fighter."

She flinched at the mention of Batarian Slavers. Still, she couldn't believe him. For all that she knew he had just prepared a perfect background story to make her feel sympathetic. She'd question him harder later on.

"You've got to have a pretty face behind that mask then," she snorted as they reached the lift. Perfect. Now she'd have to listen to the useless banter of the imbeciles with her. Could things get any better?

As they slipped in, the news of the Citadel began to broadcast.

"Dear listeners, you will all remember the news on the settlement out of court of Binary Helix against the Krogans for a Genophage cure. This latest event forced the Krogan leader, Urdnot Wreav, to claim independence of Tuchanka from council space and the expulsion of all non-krogans from the planet. The Asari ambassador has claimed the Krogans do not have the necessary resources to survive on Tuchanka without external trade. Are we to expect Krogan refugees soon?"

"Stupid brood-brother of mine," Wrex grumbled. "I should have killed him when I had the chance."

"Oh? Family troubles?" the Turian asked then. Why were the lifts moving so slowly in this thrice damned citadel?

"No," Wrex snared back. "I actually like Wreav. He just angers me with his breathing."

"That…didn't make any sense," the Quarian muttered.

"He breathes really loudly," Wrex added, as if it settled the argument.

Jane began to nervously tap her foot against the floor of the citadel. How long was this suffering going to last?

"So, tell me of the flotilla," the Turian began, turning to the Quarian. Oh no, if she had to listen to these insufferable aliens bicker about their different upbringing she would rather grab her shotgun and take her own head off.

"Want me to speed this thing up?" the moment John said those words she turned her gaze filled with hatred to the mercenary. She didn't dare hope, but with this? With this she was actually considering getting the man aboard. Anything to stop the bickering and the bantering.

"You can? Then do it!" she hissed. He shrugged, his Omni-Tool appearing on his left arm in a sleek black color as he pressed it over the commands of the lift. Instead of shining orange, it shone a light silver color.

She frowned. Black Omni-Tool and silver light? She knew one could change their hue color, but really…to go with the black variant considering his armor, the man had to enjoy the color. Maybe he also had black underwear and matching clothes?

The weight increase on her shoulders was relative to the speed of the lift, which suddenly doubled to the point where just a few seconds later the doors pinged open. She exhaled a breath of relief. No alien-sob story to hear this time or ever again if she kept John nearby when there was a lift to take. She walked briskly out, the lights of the dock reflecting against the metallic surface of the floor. In front of her both Anderson and Udina stood waiting, the human Captain looking as if he had just eaten a rotten fruit.

"I've got big news for you, Shepard. Captain Anderson is stepping down as commanding officer of the Normandy. The ship is yours now."

She turned to stare at Anderson, whose arms were crossed over his chest and was looking at her with something akin to reluctant approval.

"She's quick and quiet and you know the crew. Perfect ship for a Spectre. Treat her well, Commander."

"This isn't right!" she snapped. "The Normandy belongs to you!"

"You needed your own ship." Anderson's voice was calm as he spoke, something she had never managed. She either had to be snappish or she had to be barking –it was the only way she had gotten respect through the training course and into the marines. "A Spectre can't answer to anyone but the Council. And it's time for me to step down."

"Come clean with me, Captain. You owe me that much." It couldn't be the only reason. She knew the only way to pry Anderson away from the Normandy would have been with a crowbar, applied directly to the skull.

Anderson took a deep breath, before slowly exhaling.

"Twenty years ago Captain David Anderson was tasked with a mission for Spectre-hood," the voice that spoke belonged to the Shadow Broker's operative, who had apparently butted in on the conversation. "His colleague and Spectre tester was Saren Arterius. A refinery exploded, the fault was given to your captain by Saren. Humanity lost the right to try for Spectre-hood until now, with you." He turned to face the Captain. "You should probably ask for compensation after these recent events."

If the Captain was surprised, he didn't show it. He just shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Bygones are bygones. Killing Saren takes priority… Jane, you found another one?" his eyes travelled to the merc. She remained stone faced, before curtly nodding.

"Yes sir, it seems I attract strange fellows like flies."

"At least he looks human," Udina muttered, barely audible.

She looked at the Normandy, then at Anderson. Her gaze then travelled for a second to the Shadow Broker operative who seemed to be holding the 'smug' pose of one who's just saying 'told you'.

Jane gritted her teeth, before snapping back.

"If you had this information, why not come forward then!?"

"You think I was more than a toddler? How old do you think I am?" the operative snorted back. "The information wasn't delivered because it wasn't asked. It wasn't asked because we weren't operational earlier. Let us say the means a Shadow Broker comes to power are…questionable, at best."

"Commander, does the council—"

"Omega, ambassador," the operative remarked with ease. "Omega."

That shut down Udina pretty quickly. She had to remember to search the Extranet later for the meaning of the word, but if it worked like some sort of insult on the politicians…

"Anyway," Anderson spoke next. "Saren's gone, don't try and look for him. We had reports of his Geth scouring the system looking for the Conduit."

Udina took the word. "We had reports of Geth in the Feros system shortly before the colony went dark. And there have been sightings around Noveria."

"Find out what Saren was after on Feros and Noveria. Maybe you can figure out what the Conduit is before he does." Anderson said —his eyes seemingly transfixed on the Shadow Broker operative. "We must find the conduit first, Shepard. If it is the mean to bring back the Reapers, then Saren must not reach it first."

"We have one more lead," Udina remarked. "Matriarch Benezia, the other voice on the recording…she has a daughter. A scientist who specializes in the Protheans. We don't know if she's involved, but she might give us clues on her mother's location. Her name is Liara. Dr. Liara T'soni." He looked towards the Shadow Broker operative then, as if expecting him to add something.

"She's in the Artemis Tau cluster, Therum to be precise," John spoke calmly, his arms crossed. "The Shadow Broker wishes to cooperate fully as long as it proves beneficial…and that is until Saren is killed."

"Fine," Udina muttered. "I suppose you picked at least someone useful."

The aliens behind her remained quiet. That was a nice improvement. Maybe they were used to getting flak out of humans? Still, better…it was nice, the silence.

"Sounds like we should head to Therum then," she replied.

"It's your decision, Commander. You no longer answer to us." Anderson's words were trying to be comforting, but to her it felt as if somebody had yanked away her safety harness, especially when the angry-spoken words of Udina arrived.

"But you still represent humanity as a whole, Shepard. You are not the shining example I had hoped for the position, but you will have to do. Remember my words Shepard: you fuck this up, you destroy the only chance humanity has to get a council seat…and I swear that being sent to Torfan will look like a walk in the park when I'll be done with your future reassignment."

He then sharply nodded to Anderson, and then left.

"Honestly," Anderson sighed. "You'll have to forgive him," he added. "He isn't like that most of the time."

"Only on his good days?" Tali hazarded.

"Something similar to that," Anderson admitted a moment later. That was so much like her Captain: to fraternize with everyone, even the strange alien in a suit.

"We better not waste any more time," she barked out. "Let's get aboard and find you lot a place to crash."

Jane didn't want to admit she was pissed. The Captain had been her captain for years. Now she was the Commander of the Normandy and a Spectre, but it really didn't hold up. What if the Captain hated her because she had taken away his post? It happened; it always happened…

She always pushed away people, even when she didn't want to.

"Don't leave me here!" she had wanted to scream. No words came out.

They climbed aboard a few seconds later, the sterilization process taking few minutes in which she began to fidget. She was now the captain of the Normandy's crew. Realization sunk in as she calmed her breaths. Like she had been the leader of the marine team on Akuze. Like she had been the leader of the assault on Torfan. She was now once more in charge.

"Stand by, shore party. Decontamination in progress."

"Can you speed this up too?" Wrex asked the Shadow Broker operative.

"I could, but I figure decontamination is important. And hacking into the ship so soon would probably get me a bullet through the brain. You need to take your time with a lady, you know?"

Wrex chuckled. "On Tuchanka, the ladies jump on the strongest males."

"That seems awfully nice. Just prove your worth without dying to a Thresher Maw, or maybe even killing one, and get laid." She didn't know if there was sarcasm in John or not as he spoke with ease to the Krogan, then again…what was a Thresher Maw? She'd look it up on Extranet too.

"You've been on Tuchanka?" Wrex asked eagerly.

"That I have," John admitted back. "I've been a bit of everywhere in the galaxy I must say. Tuchanka has that bit of…radioactive charm that I sorely missed in my life."

Were they going to die beneath her command again? If so, maybe she could get John Smith to die first. He was starting to unnerve her. Wasn't he even the slightest bit worried? They were going against a former Spectre, who was hell bent on setting free an army of psychopathic machines…

And all he could think about was talking of sightseeing the galaxy with a Krogan?

No, she had aliens she could use. There was no need to risk a human when an alien could do the risky job. As unnerving as John Smith was, he wasn't an alien. He wasn't an enemy. He might not be a trusted ally, but at least he wasn't going to be down on the planet watching her back. He'd stay on the Normandy, delivering information.

The question now was where they'd set their course for. She was the commanding officer, but every minute, every hour was precious in catching Saren.

"Where should we go first?" she asked John just as the doors slid open, to admit them into the Normandy.

"Therum. Liara T'soni is an expert in Prothean tech, and if we stumble upon Prothean ruins on Feros or on Noveria, she will be useful."

"Good," she snapped back curtly, before walking to the pilot's position.

Joker met her with a smirk.

"I heard what happened to Captain…"

"Not now, Joker," she barked back. "Get me the crew on intercom."

The pilot mumbled something beneath his breath, before flicking a switch. "Intercom's open Commander."

She took a small breath, and then brought her right hand down on the console, to steady her weight as she leaned closer.

"This is Commander Shepard speaking." Damn, how she wanted a shower.

"I won't sugarcoat this: we're going after Saren, we're going after the culprit of Eden Prime. We're going to find him, gut him like a fish and leave his entrails for the vultures to feast upon. Captain Anderson was a good man, and he was fucked up by Saren too. If you don't want to do this for me, then do this to avenge your previous Captain. Shepard out." She then stood back up and, as she began to walk away, she added. "Set course for Therum, Artemis Tau cluster."

"Aye, aye Commander," Joker answered back.

She hoped Pressly had found some spots for the alien members, maybe cots or what-not next to the loudest rooms.

She moved up to the captain's cabin to retrieve her stuff, before heading over to the showers first, fully expecting nobody else to be in them since they had barely begun departure. She was stumped when she found out somebody else was already occupying one of them.

The showers were unisex, small cubicles separating each other from view but which granted enough sight to fully see the face of the showering individual. The hums of pleasure coming from one of the stalls brought her to fix her eyes on the figure in question. The back of the head was clearly showing a small dark brown pony-tail, and the fair skin probably settled him as one of the marines aboard.

She prided herself with knowing as little of the crew as possible, just so she wouldn't have any attachments when the time came for them to die.

She was being fatalistic, but better to be prepared than wounded.

The light humming from the man wasn't interrupted as she stepped in the nearby shower. Apparently he had been soaping his head and hadn't heard her set in.

She didn't much care for prudishness —the Marine Corps weren't much keen on that.

By the time she was finished, the marine was gone. She rolled her eyes and moved to get her own clean stuff and casual clothes.

Maybe she wasn't going to win any feminism contest, but she loved her long gym trousers and jersey more than 'looking sexy' or whatever. It wasn't as if there was someone in the crew she wanted to impress.

She began her rounds, deciding that the first thing she could do was speaking eye to eye with John Smith, and settle once and for all what race he belonged to.

She found him in the garage, together with the other aliens as well as Williams. Actually, the two were locked on a conversation.

"All I am saying is that it would be a gross misusage of my capacities," the armored operative remarked coolly.

"I say you've got good enough kinetic barriers to survive an anti-tank caliber round to the chest at point-blank, and you don't want to go on land?"

"I'm an information manager, not a soldier," John said once more. "Want to know what your sisters are up to, or where they are? Just ask. Want me to grab a rifle and go down on the ground team? Not a chance in hell."

"What's the problem?" Jane settled for the calm approach. Both were humans, and both were at the very least not keen on making problems to her.

"Commander," Ashley spoke. "I asked Smith here for his armor's shields kinetic output, and he answered me he was in a hard-suit. I asked for specifications and he refused, so I checked the producer's mark. He's got a Heavy Crysis mark X suit, and the Jormangund Technology firm that produces said suits is said to only deliver hand-made and tailored models to few carefully selected persons. He could stop a tank ma'am, and he's a waste if he remains onboard."

"The Shadow Broker operatives are equipped to their very best for maximum survivability," John remarked. "It is obvious I will not be participating in land battles where said survivability might be put to risk."

"So you're a well-armed coward?" Jane snorted. "Can't force you I guess, and you were pretty clear on your terms before taking you aboard." She turned to Ashley, who was just about to reiterate. "Williams, you can't force a coward to have your six, and you don't need a fancy suit when you've got your skills."

"Th-Thanks ma'am," Ashley quipped. She then turned a murderous gaze to John, "but this isn't over."

"Try as long as you wish," John said calmly.

"Anyway…Agent Smith?"

That made John chuckle and shake his head slowly. "Call me John, Shepard."

"John," Jane acquiesced. "Your face, if you'd please. And a medical check-up with Dr. Chawkas would be…"

"I have already forwarded my medical data to your doctor," John said as he slowly moved his hands to the side of his helmet. "Be forewarned though, I'm not a nice thing to be seen."

The next instant, the helmet slid off.

The right half of his face was badly scarred, as if somebody had held him against a burning grate. On the right side of his neck stood a set of numbers in Batarian, as well as a symbol depicting a pirate band. The eyes were a dark brown, and heavy sleep-deprivation circles surrounded them. His hair was short and dark brown, and he had the beginning of a goatee on his face.

He didn't look older than her.

Something however fascinated her in that face. It was the same gaze as that of Anderson. The gaze of someone who had seen a lot. It was…the mature gaze.

She snorted a moment later —it wouldn't do to fidget.

"I saw worse."

"Unless you want me to strip," he retorted calmly, "I think we can stop here." He resettled his helmet on his armor, and when the satisfying click of the pressurization was heard, Jane couldn't help but believe she had heard at the same time a sigh of relief.

He turned and walked quietly to the other corner of the garage, where he popped out his Omni-Tool and began to type on it silently.

She moved to Wrex next, the Krogan Battlemaster standing on a crate. As she neared, the alien snorted a nod of his head.

"Shepard."

"Wrex."

She stopped in front of him, before crossing her hands over her chest. "So, what made you decide to come with us after Fist?"

"Fist was a contract," Wrex answered. "I go where the fight goes, and I figure that as long as I stick with you, I'll see my fair share of battles soon."

"Only that?"

"I'm a Krogan, what did you expect?" the battle master chuckled. "You bring me to the good fights, and I'll be the first in line."

"Good to know," she quipped back with a nod, before moving to the Turian…Garrus was his name, wasn't it?

"Officer Vakarian," she began.

"Please call me Garrus, Officer Vakarian is my father," the Turian remarked quickly. He was looking at the Mako with an appraising eye, his fingers slowly tapping on the surface of the land vehicle. "I think this could be improved."

She scoffed. "As long as it works and gets us from point A to point B, what's the deal in improving it?"

"Sturdier joints and armor for one thing would be a nice boon," Garrus smoothly replied. "And an increase in speed in case you ever have to outrun something big and bad."

"Just turn the gun backwards and let it fire. Builds speed."

The Turian looked at her for a moment with a gaze akin to perplexity —clearly visible even with the strange 'plated' skin he had. "Yes, I suppose…"

Was he being condescending? She knew her stuff! She had driven a fair share of Makos on Torfan.

"Suspensions might be nice," she mused. "If you can make it springier, it would be great for the long distance jumps."

"Long distance…jumps?"

"Yes, Garrus, what else is a Mako good for?" she retorted.

The Turian remained quiet for a second, his mouth slightly ajar. "All right," he closed it shut a second later. "I'll get to work on it then."

She nodded, before slowly making her way towards Ashley who was now alone and cleaning her weapons.

"Commander," Ashley said. "I'm sorry for my behavior before."

"Nothing to forgive," she replied. "Just don't try and shoot him. He's more useful to us alive than dead," she joked. At least, she thought it was a joke.

"I wouldn't," the woman answered earnestly. "I mean…No, ma'am, I'm not going to try and shoot him. The armor he's wearing is…" she sighed. "Listen Commander, I know we aren't getting much with Alliance requisitions, but…that quantity of Output? It's six times what our standard armor dish out. I wasn't joking Commander. We could fling a Mako at him and he wouldn't budge. To keep him aboard…it's a damn waste."

"You're not letting this go, Williams?" Jane muttered. "There's got to be something else to this, isn't it?"

"Yeah ma'am, there is," Ashley snorted. "Look Commander, I'm a damn good soldier and so is Alenko, but skill can only carry you so far. When the enemy gets lucky shots, you'd better also have the equipment to survive them. I'm sure his size is the same as Alenko's. If he isn't using it…then why does he keep on wearing it?"

"It's not like I can forcefully take his stuff, Chief," Jane said back. "It's enough he volunteered to give us the infos we need. And you still haven't answered my question, Williams."

Ashley sighed, lowering her gaze slightly. "It's just that…Commander, I'm not making any excuses; if my company had worn the same type of armor…they'd still be alive. That he has the ability to help and doesn't… that doesn't sit tight with me."

She nodded back. It sort of made sense. The woman was probably thinking herself responsible for the death of her squad, but this didn't change things, not by much anyway.

"Maybe I could ask if his chief has more armor available of that type," she suggested. "I'll talk to him, all right?"

"You'd do that, Commander?" Ashley's eyes widened briefly. "Thanks."

"There's nothing to thank me for, Chief. Just doing my job." Maybe she could get her hands on one of those armors too. The medium version at the very least —she wasn't a N7 for nothing after all. She wondered if she had shown the guy her biotics yet. Probably hadn't. Even during the entire search on the Citadel she hadn't used them.

She didn't like to rely on those things. She had an assault rifle and a pistol, what need was there for some twisted blue thing that had made her life hell to begin with?

"Leave my sister alone you jerks!"

Jane stilled for a moment, a few steps away from John Smith who was still busily typing on his Omni-Tool. She couldn't discern anything from his body posture except merely him…being there…doing stuff.

She frowned and moved closer.

"Agent Smith," she cheerfully said. "How are you feeling now?" he stopped his fiddling with the Omni-Tool —why was the color black unnerving her? There was something about it that she couldn't place— and stared at her. At least, she supposed he was staring. The black helmet and shaded visor covered his face once more.

"What are you talking about, Shepard?"

She smiled slightly. "Well, your entire macho façade crumbled in less than a few minutes aboard, didn't it? Aren't you nursing your bruised ego now?"

"My ego does not require nursing," he retorted. "I never claimed to be the macho you thought I was."

"Then what about the 'all-black' armor and 'dark' atmosphere you just seem to be oozing?" she replied while rolling her eyes. "If you were aiming to impress, you made a wrong choice with color combinations."

"Who said my aim was to impress? I didn't," he shot back calmly. "You are basing yourself on dangerous assumptions, Shepard. Never believe what you cannot prove, never take for granted what you cannot ascertain. You don't go far in the information business without solid basis…"

She crossed her arms over her chest. "The Shadow Broker has more fancy hard-suits somewhere in storage? We could use them, you know. It would also make the job easier."

He cocked his head to the side for a moment, seemingly pondering on the question.

"Do you have nine hundred thousand credits?" he quipped back. "You could get yourself some Colossus armor with that amount."

She narrowed her eyes. "A simple 'no' would have sufficed smart-ass."

"Then you would have asked me 'why' and thus I would have answered as above," John said calmly. "Still, maybe your requisition officer has something to offer? I will however get in touch with my superiors…see what high-paying missions I can scavenge. A hand washes the other after all…"

"Bastard," she spat out as she turned around and walked briskly for the lift. She was fuming and seeing red by the time she reached the Mass Effect core.

She clenched her fists and took a deep, calming breath. She walked in the Tantalus core room to find the Quarian, Tali, already at work near a console. The Chief Engineer Adams had apparently given her the all-green to help in the engine section. She just hoped he knew what he was doing.

"Tali?"

"Ah!" the Quarian spun around with a startled movement, before taking a deep breath. "Shepard, you scared me."

"How's Adams treating you?" she asked then, trying to make…was it 'small-talk'?

"Chief Adams is treating me very well, ma'am," the Quarian replied while bobbing her head up and down once. "This ship is…amazing! I'm really thankful for this opportunity captain."

"Good to know," Jane said. "You know, I never asked you where you got the Geth unit's core to begin with."

"Ah," Tali's eyes moved to the side. "We detected a Geth presence in the Crescent Nebula, on Maisuth. It was an ice planet, with nothing of particular on it. So we…"

"We?"

"Ah, I embarked on my Pilgrimage on the Honorata…I was with Keenah'Breizh, a fellow crewmember, when we detected the presence and decided to investigate it." Her voice turned raucous. "Stupid bosh'tet that we were. We found a half-disabled Geth Unit with his memory core intact, and the moment we retrieved it…we were ambushed. Keenah…he was obliterated. They punctured his suit and tore him apart before I could even scream a warning. I barely," she choked slightly. "I barely managed to run for it, the Geth firing all around me. I feared they would shoot down the shuttle, but they didn't."

Jane raised an eyebrow. "They didn't hit you? Aren't Geth…machines?"

"Maybe the planet's magnetic field confused them or something like that," she retorted. "I know they weren't trying to miss us, or Keenah would still be alive now."

Jane nodded. "Was there something else in the data core?"

Tali crossed her arms over her chest, before slowly putting her Omni-Tool forward and beginning to select something.

The next moment, music poured out.

"This audio file…but…I mean…"

"I am the very model of a Scientist Salarian…" the audio was cut off the next split-second.

Jane's right hand moved to her hair, scratching it slowly before huffing. "A Geth had that?"

"Yes, it doesn't make any sense," Tali admitted. "Why would Geth take interest in…music? Geth never went beyond the Perseus Veil before and they're basically Ais. If it doesn't have a purpose they don't usually take any interest in it, but I can't understand it."

"Well, never mind that," Jane shrugged. "I'll ask the council the next time I see those three if any Salarian is working with the Geth. Might be a long shot but…"

"Why not ask the Shadow Broker operative?" Tali questioned. "He was awfully informative when I asked him who the Shadow Broker was."

Jane blinked for a moment, before Tali raised her hands in a sort of 'placating' gesture. "I was joking. He told me the Shadow Broker was a Yahg, before coming up with him being a Geth and finally a Clone of George Washington. Whoever George Washington was I don't know."

"An old president of the United states," she answered swiftly. "Well then, see you later."

She left the engine room, her head more in a mess than when she had entered, but at least she now knew her crew.

She hoped Liara T'soni would be a good addition to it. At the very least, she would make for a nice political hostage with matriarch Benezia herself.

Author's notes

SI are (from what I saw) always in first person, always in the SI's perspective.

I say no to the common conceptions of SI.

I say no to the common guidelines of SI.

I say that Shadenight123 does thing his way, for he is Shadenight123.

I say…that my muse is fickle, is a bitch, and should generally be put down for the good of Humanity.

That said…enjoy? (Remember kids, angst and drama are important in a healthy diet)

Ps: this is what I wrote while I waited for my muse to return to Harry Dursley and Chronicles of King. Don't ask me why my muse wanted this done…just understand that she's whiny like that and accept it.