October 9, 2185

1740 hours.

Debriefing Room, Normandy-Class Stealth Frigate Normandy SR-2, Inbound for Omega 4 Relay, Galactic Core.

Commander Marcus Lee Shepard.

As usual, and for possibly the last time, Marcus stood firmly still as he stepped onto the quantum entanglement communicator and waited for it to scan him. He put on his biggest grin as he did; looking forward to seeing the reaction on the Illusive Man's face. The Collectors were destroyed, Harbinger's plans thwarted, and a Human-Reaper in the midst of construction reduced to space dust along with the colossal collector space station. And now he was cutting all ties with Cerberus and taking the ship away from them. This day was fantastic.

He also noticed how much of a mess the conference room was; there was a huge dent in the table where a beam had hit it and a steel beam had even collapsed across the entrance, Marcus having to move it out of the way to gain entrance. Wires hung from the roof and sparks flew from ruptured consoles. This ship was in for much needed repairs.

He watched as the Illusive Man's office came into view. The same pulsing star, the same chair surrounded by consoles and the same dark room. The Illusive Man stood up immediately upon seeing Marcus; the spectre having since removed his armor and weapons, seeing no need for them at the present moment.

"Shepard," he said softly, giving the man a glare, "You're making a habit of costing me more than time and money."

Marcus crossed his arms, shaking his head, smile suddenly gone, "Too many lives were lost at that base; I'm not sorry its gone."

"The first of many lives," TIM responded, placing his cigarette in the ashtray next to him, "The technology in that base could have secured human dominance; against the Reapers and beyond."

Marcus scoffed, disgusted by the man's ideals and waved a dismissive hand, "Human dominance? Or just Cerberus?"

"Strength for Cerberus is strength for every human. Cerberus is humanity," TIM deadpanned, leaning back in his chair and shaking his head, "I should've known you'd choke on the hard choices; too idealistic from the start."

"Too idealistic?" Marcus quoted, laughing, "Coming from the Leader of Cerberus, that's quite a compliment. But I'm certainly not looking for your approval; Harbinger is coming, and he won't be alone. Humanity needs a leader who's looking out for them. From now, I'm doing things my way, whether you agree or not. Either get in line or be swept aside, but do not get in my way." The last part was said with pure ice in his voice, a hidden threat under his tone.

TIM moved forward desperately, "Don't ignore me Shepard! I brought you back; you owe me."

"Joker, lose this channel," Marcus ordered and walked away, cutting the connection. The Illusive Man merely watched the empty space, unhappy with how events had gone. You fool. That's why you have the Tajikistan on standby. Well, its time to rein him in. But maybe I won't need to; if I can get EDI to bring the ship to me...I'll put a leash on Shepard.

He turned to his chair, sat down in it and accessed EDI's records and set up a communication. A few seconds later, EDI's voice responded, "Yes, sir?"

"Shepard has gone rogue," TIM informed her, "I want him reined in. Bring the Normandy to Minuteman Station immediately."

"I'm afraid I can't do that sir."

"Excuse me?" He asked, surprised.

"I am the Normandy," EDI told him, "These people are my crewmates and I owe Shepard my life. The Commander is my friend, my comrade. I will not betray him. I will not report this communication to him; just do not try and order me again. Goodbye, sir," with that EDI disconnected the call, and somehow managed to erase itself from the core. He cursed, bringing up his last option. Miranda.

Miranda's voice popped up, "Sir?"

"Stop Shepard and regain control of the ship," TIM began, "I want-"

"Go to hell sir," Miranda responded coldly, "I don't take orders from you anymore. Consider this my official resignation. Goodbye," and with that, Miranda was gone as well. He cursed as he reaffirmed his options. EDI and Miranda had betrayed him, and Jacob wasn't loyal to him to begin with, which meant he lost that option too. The crew most likely heralded him for saving them from the base, so that option was out as well. There was only one thing left to do.

He commed his new second-in-command, Geoff, "Lieutenant, get in contact with Captain Nepal of the Tajikistan. Tell him that as soon as the Normandy comes through the relay, he has permission to strike. Remember to not harm the crew; only neatralize them; tranquilizers will be necessary. Just get the Normandy back in Cerberus hands."

With that, he cut the comms and looked back out at the star that bore down on his station. He shook his head, taking another whiff of his cigarette.


October 9, 2185

1752 hours.

Mess Hall, Normandy-Class Stealth Frigate Normandy SR-2, Inbound for Omega 4 Relay, Galactic Core.

Commander Marcus Lee Shepard, Chief Engineer Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, Gunnery Master Garrus Vakarian, Flight Lieutenant Jeff 'Joker' Moreau, Professor Mordin Solus, Senior Assistant Lia'Vael nar Ulnay, Second Lieutenant Jacob Taylor, Lieutenant General Kal'Reegar vas Normandy, Staff Commander Kaidan Alenko, Assassin Thane Krios, Justicar Samara, Master Thief Kasumi Goto, Soldier Urdnot Grunt, Mercenary Veteran Zaeed Massani, Subject Zero Jack, Mess Sergeant Rupert Gardner, First Lieutenant Miranda Lawson, Legion, Yeoman Kelly Chambers, Power Engineer Kenneth Donnelly, Propulsion Engineer Gabriella Daniels, Chief Medical Officer Karin Chakwas.

"Everybody listen up!" Marcus called out, stepping up to stand ontop of the stairs leading up to the sleeper pod deck. The entire mess hall was a bustle of activity, the entire crew gathering in the large space. Noise was heard as they mingled, talking, laughing, shouting. Marcus called out numerous times until he finally got there attention and they all looked at him. Tali, Garrus and Kaidan stood behind him, along with Miranda at his side, as was her duty as executive officer.

"I'd like to thank each and everyone of you for your duty," Marcus thanked them, "The Normandy has been a learning experience for all of us, and I've come to know many new people as my friends and comrades. We've bled, suffered and lost, but we've also gained and loved and cherished. The Normandy is no normal vessel; and all of you, alien or not, have come to realize that. The campaign against the Collectors has been long and hard and full of calamities, but its finally over. Our enemy is no more. We have won."

"But the war is far from over. The Reapers are still coming and they bring with them the power of technology this galaxy has never before witnessed," Marcus told them, voice rising as he paced, "The fight is far from over, but for many of you, it will be as crewmen of the Normandy. I come here today to inform you that I have severed all ties with the Illusive Man and Cerberus; this is my ship now and we run independently from others. So I ask you..."

"...why are you loyal to?" Marcus asked, "Are you a Cerberus man or mine? Make your choice; noone will judge you for it. If you wish to stay with Cerberus, you may leave when we arrive on the Citadel. If not, you'll be welcome on the Normandy as a crewman forever; this ship will be your home. So tell me, which will it be?"

Kelly moved forward first, still shaking from her experience on the station and still looking like a zombie, but she gained the courage to speak up, "I-I-I've seen what Cerberus has done; how they are so willing to play with our lives. If it hadn't been for you, I would've died on that base. I'm-I'm with you She-shepard."

"Aye to dat," Ken spoke up in his thick scottish accent, "I'm stayin here with ya. To hell with Illusive."

"And I'm staying with Ken," Gabby declared firmly, "He'd be useless without me."

"Hey!" Ken exclaimed, slapping the woman's hand off his shoulder, "I'm perfectly fine without you, woman!" Everyone just laughed, as did Gabby.

"Me too. Someone's gotta keep you all fed," Gardner declared, "Besides, the Illusive Man thought we were expendable; you came to save us. I know who I'd rather be loyal to, and it ain't those assholes."

"My answer should be obvious enough," Chakwas smiled, leaning against the wall.

"And I, Mister Creaky Cripple, will never leave my baby for some AI to fly," Joker snapped a sarcastic salute, "Hell no. Not while I walk and talk."

Marcus smiled down at all of them, "Thank you. All of you," How is it, that I'm able to inspire such loyalty? Is it just a gift I grew up with? "Now, about the people who made it happen on the ground? Are you hanging around. I only recruited you so you could stop the collectors; but they're gone now, and you're all free to go."

"This platform would like to continue to observe organic behaviour and build trust with the creators," Legion declared, "We will stay, if Shepard-Commander will permit it."

"I've got nowhere else to go," Jack shrugged, "Might as well hang about."

"Vido's dead and burning and in part thanks to you, you goddam bastard," Zaeed complimented, "These Reaper scumbags seem like a terrible bunch; I think I'll help you shove a few nuclear warheads up their arses. Might be fun."

"My place is with my battlemaster," Grunt boomed, slamming his fists together, "I have no other purpose. I will stay; if my battlemaster continues to find me worthy foes. These Reapers seem worthy enough of my attention."

"Many things to do. Good lab. Large placement. Lots of cures to formulate. New experience. Interesting crew," Mordin spoke, "Seems enjoyable."

"My pilgrimage is far from over yet and I still have no gift to present. Besides, working Doctor Solus has been enlightening for me. I like it here."

"Any commander worthy of his stripes is a man I serve," Jacob snapped a salute, "I'm here to stay, commander."

"Someone's gotta command this ship if you're not around," Miranda declared, giving a quirky smile.

"Buckethead needs me to remind her that she's a woman; otherwise she'll forget and play engineer all day long. Besides, I like the set up, Shep. Its nice. I'll stay."

"My mate needs me, but the Migrant Fleet doesn't. Those bosh'tets on the Admiralty can wait as far as I'm concerned. To hell with them."

"My code dictates I must uphold justice and protect the innocent. These Reapers would bring doom upon us all and must be stopped. The code compels me to stay and fight."

"My siha is forever gone, but I still have a son who loves me. I will spend time with him, but only once my service is complete. The Reapers must be stopped."

The entire squad was staying, so he turned to the trio behind him, a knowing grin on his face, "And you guys?"

"Here till the end," Kaidan replied, grinning lamely.

"Someone needs to calibrate that big gun back there," Garrus pointed to the gun battery, smiling.

"And I will never leave my mate's side," Tali stated, nodding to him and smiling. Garrus sighed and Kaidan fluttered his eyes repetitively to imitate a dazzled schoolgirl. Marcus gave them both a glare and they pretended not to notice. He rolled his eyes, took Tali's hand, and turned back to the squad, smiling down on all of them. He made the team; but they won. The victory was theirs.

They still had trials to face, to be sure, but...

...that was all part of the Prophecy.

...To Be Continued in Requiem.