Brunettes are full of electricity - Auguste de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Tomorrow's Eve (in regard to Gabby)


It had been several days of painstakingly detail oriented work for Tali and EDI. They had each chosen a section of the interface code to modify - one for appearance and one for voice. Additionally, Shepard's 'eyes' would have to be the mini-cams that seemed to be placed everywhere in every compartment on the ship - even the sub-deck under engineering where Jack had stayed. As a Cerberus vessel, cameras everywhere were just part of life on board. Tali and Mordin had disabled or destroyed a number of the more intrusive ones (Tali wondered, not for the first time, what kind of sick bosh'tet would want to observe someone eliminating bodily waste.)

Tali had re-enabled some of the cameras in critical areas of the ship, and had spent a lot of her time writing and checking code that would allow the cameras and Shepard's avatar to operate in sync. In the server compartment ahead of the med-bay, she was finishing the installation of the mini-cam above the platform at the forward end. She rechecked its aim by viewing the feed on her omni-tool...perfect. It provided a clear view of the compartment from the platform to the door.

Meanwhile, EDI was standing at a terminal just inside the door, across from the access tube to the lower sections of the ship. She checked and rechecked the multiple lines of code, both her own and the pre-existing code for her avatar, as it all had to be seamlessly integrated to allow Shepard to project her own personalized avatar.

Tali used her omni-tool to watch EDI while keeping her own back to the door. "Tali, would it not be easier to simply turn around to watch me?"

"Yes it would," she responded cheerily, "but not nearly as much fun. Do you want me to finish the work on her avatar? We still have to integrate Shepard's new appearance requests with the existing code from your own avatar."

"Thank you Tali. That would be a big help."

"I should go to Shepard's cabin - I'll have more privacy and can look at her clothes and some of her armor for inspiration."

As Tali left the computer core compartment and walked through the med bay, engineer Daniels was in the midst of her own problems…

On the engineering deck, Gabriella Daniels was running her final simulations after spending the previous twelve hours rebuilding the high-speed turbo-pumps and repairing or replacing all of the injector coils for the H3 transfer piping. She was sweaty, dirty and just plain tired; she was also hungry and knew she was getting cranky because of it.

"Kenneth, I need you to standby at Tali's control console, just in case the system needs to be shut down. I'm preparing to do a manual restart of the drive core, and I really don't want this screwed up." She looked at Chief Engineer Adams, who nodded in concurrence.

Donnelly smirked as he moved to the console. "Gabby, it's going to be fine - you've done a magnificent job with these repairs. I don't foresee any problems..."

Interrupting him, she said, a bit harsher than she intended, "Quiet, Kenneth. I need to concentrate." She began keying in a long command sequence, which was actually short hand for the massive program needed to restart the mass effect core.

The program activation resulted in a deep thrumming vibration, sounding so low it was felt more than heard, emanating from the area surrounding the drive core. Gabby continued to enter commands as the vibration deepened and continued to build in depth of volume, becoming part of the cylindrical chamber surrounding the drive core, then part of the deck plating under their feet.

Shepard had also been busy in the intervening days. She had suffered many moments of intense grief concerning the apparent death of Admiral Anderson during their final push to the beam, and extreme unhappiness that her own physical death had caused Liara so much heartache. And while there was no way for her or the crew to know the ultimate fate of the Citadel, (how many millions had died in the wards because they were unable to leave when the Reapers took control of the station?) she felt fairly certain the blast from the crucible would have caused the destruction of the station and killed virtually all of the people living on it.

She had always been one to stay busy, to keep from thinking, dwelling on the past; now, not needing to rest or sleep, she spent most of her time exploring the computer core, mapping in her mind where everything was in relation to everything else; she had discovered that 'looking' at a destination to be 'there' was not necessary. She only needed to know the ultimate destination, regardless of her starting point, to instantaneously 'be' there. And so it was that as a number of circuits activated in her world, she realized what Gabby was attempting to do within nanoseconds of her starting the command sequence to reinitialize and restart the drive core; she also knew that something was 'off' in the command lines Gabby was entering - there appeared to be one character in the middle of a string that would..."shit!"

...with a thought, she was simultaneously in and inspecting all six engineering consoles. She could 'see' Gabby's console, still being used. Donnelly's console (normally Tali's station) was set for monitoring; neither of the two unmanned consoles had what she needed, nor did the drive core access console. Adams console was...she had found it! Her override command resulted in an intense flash from the control panel as the drive core performed an emergency shut down - there was also a flash of light at Gabby's console, less intense but no less startling to the three people there. As the sound from the drive core faded away, an uncharacteristic hush descended on the engineering deck; Shepard increased the gain on the console mics and waited...

Gabby broke the silence. "Damn it, Kenneth, what the hell just happened? What did you do!?" She was pissed off and moved to stand in front of him, hands balled into fists on her hips. "All the readings were normal! Why the hell did you shut me down?"

"I didn't do anything, Gabby." Donnelly put his hands up and began backing away from the thoroughly unhappy woman, trying to get out of range of her arms. (He had seen her hammering away on Vega's punching bag, with fists and feet. She could flatten him, if she had a mind to.) "I was monitoring the startup, just like you asked."

Adams moved between them. "Take it easy, Ms. Daniels," he said in a calm voice. "The shut-down command originated from my console. It appears to have been auto executed."

"The computer?" she asked incredulously. "Sir, we didn't even have the computer monitoring this operation. There's no VI on the ship, and EDI is no longer part of the core system. How could it possibly intervene?" Gabby's slight accent became more noticeable the more agitated she became. "There were no parameters programmed to allow it to even sense a start-up was eminent! All the boards were in the green, Chief. I don't understand..." she trailed off, raising her arms over her head and letting them drop, totally defeated.

Adams went to his console, where an alternating red / blue indicator flashed. Touching it resulted in a data stream appearing on the console, with a duplicate simultaneously scrolling on Gabby's console. Adams studied the information, his hunch confirmed, his fears realized. Shepard had detected an anomaly in Gabby's code within a micro-second of the start-up attempt and performed a shutdown faster than any human could have ever done.

The data did not actually reveal that Shepard was the culprit, but Adams saw all the signs of an intelligence, her intelligence, at work. The fact that she hadn't attempted to correct the error on the fly spoke volumes about her feelings towards the crew - as long as a disaster could be averted, she had always felt it better to let them correct their own mistakes instead of relying on the computer to do all the dirty work.

"Gabby, take a look at your input string," he said. "There's an error at line 3,731, one character out of sequence. Continuing the startup with the error would have resulted in an overload and we would all probably be sitting in a puddle of melted goo." After a pause, he quietly continued, "Of course, we wouldn't give a damn, 'cause we'd be part of the goo."

"But how would the computer know that? There was no data to compare it to," she said in a dejected tone. "If I didn't know better, I might think there is more intelligence in the computer core than we give it credit for." She skewered him with her eyes. "Is there something you're not telling me, Chief?"

"Gabby, when did you last eat, or sleep?" was the chief's reply. "Go get yourself cleaned up, get some food in you, then go to bed. You can work on correcting the error after at least eight hours off your feet." Waving away her protest, he said, "We'll attempt another start-up when you're rested."

He followed her to the elevator and finished with, "I'll be happy to discuss the computer and its intelligence, or lack thereof, after the drive core has been restarted and is running normally. In the meantime, you go take care of yourself. I have to go see the major."

Shepard 'grinned' to herself. The emotion that had always made her smile in the past was familiar, though she had no way to physically smile, frown, smirk or make any facial expressions. It was an odd feeling, to be able to think about the auto functions in her mind, but have no way to carry those functions out. Perhaps, one day. In the meantime, she 'followed' Adams to his meeting with Kaidan on deck three.

Adams met with Alenko over coffee in the crew mess. "I heard about the aborted core startup attempt, Chief. Is there a problem with the hardware, or the software?"

"Software, Major...programming, to be precise. We're all walking around like zombies from too many hours spent looking at too many lines of code with not enough hours of sleep. Four on/four off just doesn't allow people enough rest. And Daniels pulled a double and a half."

Alenko took a sip from his mug before nodding his head. "I agree with you, Chief. It's just that we're all anxious to get off this planet and start heading home..." he paused, "...provided there's a home left." He took another sip of coffee and sighed. "Give your crew a break - you may have to order Gabby to rest for a bit, then I'll have Tali give her some help."

"I've already sent her to bed. She was asking about the computer, sir." Adams said, lowering his voice to barely above a whisper. "Shepard performed the core shutdown before Gabby's error became a disaster. Daniels is smart enough to know the computer was not monitoring the engine restart, and is questioning how it 'knew' to shut the damn thing down. She isn't aware...yet...that Shepard is in the system, and I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible. You realize, of course, that Shepard could have corrected the error and allowed the drive core to continue its initialization and startup procedure."

Alenko rubbed his temples with the thumb and fingers of one hand, trying to ward off the incipient migraine he knew was lurking in the background. Funny thing was, he hadn't really had a full-blown headache since the crucible fired. Side effect of the synthesis process, he wondered?

"We may have to bring her into the circle sooner rather than later, and if that happens, Donnelly will be in the loop in less time than it takes to talk about it. Keep an eye on her, but not too close. I'll come down later for an 'inspection' of your progress. I have to go see Traynor first."

Adams stood, saluted and headed for the elevator. As he exited on the starboard side, Gabby came around the port side and went to the galley. Her hair was damp, so she must have just showered and changed clothes. She looked to be lost in thought; Alenko finished his coffee, and as he stood to leave, Traynor herself came out of the asari's port side quarters with Liara in tow.

"Major Alenko, a word, if you don't mind?" Liara asked, as they strolled up to the table.

Kaidan motioned them both to sit. "Would either of you care for some coffee, or tea?"

Samantha replied, "Earl Grey, if it's not too much trouble, sir. Thank you, sir."

Kaidan looked at Liara, who smiled and shook her head.

Kaidan made a mug of steaming tea for the specialist; he said hello to Gabby as he refilled his own mug with coffee. Gabby glanced at him and returned the greeting, but said nothing else. He could see she was exhausted. Adam's comment about people walking around like zombies certainly looked true in her case. Coming back to the table, Alenko set the mugs down, then sat across from them and said, "Okay ladies, what's on your minds?"

Shepard was torn - she wanted to follow Adams back to engineering, but also wanted to eavesdrop on the major's conversation with Traynor and T'Soni. Damn. Well, she was in the computer - why couldn't she stretch a bit? She thought for a moment, and it happened.

She could simultaneously hear and understand the conversations in the crew mess and in engineering. This was getting to be a bit much to deal with, but she was enjoying the sensations of being everywhere in the ship; she was beginning to realize just how much access she really had, and wondered if this was how EDI had felt. She had not experimented to the point of taking control of any of the systems (except to avert a catastrophe). Wouldn't Joker be amazed when she started piloting the Normandy? Pissed off, more likely.

A/N: Hope everyone enjoyed. Please review or send PM's. As for the story, I hope to have the Normandy back in space in the next chapter; Traynor will talk about her ill will for the Prothean, and Tali may get the surprise of her life.