Hello guys! This is my first ever Mass Effect fanfiction. This story will explore the relationships between the crew of the Normandy and how they grow to become the dysfunctional family we know and love. Mainly a friendship story but there are hints of MaleShep/Tali. Rated T for a bit of language.
Chapter setting: After the derelict Reaper mission when Shepard and team brought a mysterious geth aboard.
Chapter 1 – Unique Piece of Salvage
"I think we need to discuss the unique piece of salvage we recovered. For now, we've stored it in EDI's AI core."
Shepard nodded, staring intently at the holographic image of the deactivated geth as Miranda paced up and down the length of the table.
Their recent mission into the derelict Reaper had been a success. They got what they went in to get: a Reaper Identify Friend-or-Foe, allowing them to travel safely after the Collectors through the unmapped Omega-4 Relay. That was the theory at least, he thought grimly.
Although what nobody was expecting was an encounter with a geth unit in the dead Reaper, and not just any geth unit either. This one appeared to be operating by itself and much to the squad's surprise, it assisted them by skillfully sniping a couple of husks sneaking up behind before it spoke up, acknowledging Commander Shepard and stalking away along the catwalks. They found the mysterious synthetic again in the main core. It was in the process of shutting it down when a couple of husks snuck up behind and struck it, causing the machine to tip forwards and collapse in the floor.
The squad then proceeded to finish up what it started, shutting down the Reaper core, forcing them to make a quick escape soon after. Shepard quickly instructed Grunt to carry the geth with them as they rushed to the evac point, with Garrus and Kasumi covering them. With a combination of teamwork, skill, luck and Joker's piloting skills, they managed to escape with both the IFF and their strange salvage just before the Reaper corpse gets pulled towards the brown dwarf.
"We need better equipment to fight the Reapers. An intact geth would be invaluable to Cerberus' cyberweapons division," Miranda continued, the Cerberus officer's eyes darting back and forth between the projection and the commander, waiting for his opinion.
"We'll have to disagree on that ma'am," Jacob injected from across the conference table.
Shepard raised an eyebrow. It's not often Jacob disagrees with Miranda, especially when it came to matters regarding Cerberus. He stayed silent, allowing the soldier to continue.
"I saw enough of these things on Eden Prime," Jacob explained, glaring at the geth for a second before turning his gaze to the other two. "Space it."
Eden Prime, where it all began. More then two years ago but Shepard remembers everything. The turian Spectre Nihlus, Jenkins, the Prothean Beacon, the horrible visions that still plague his dreams until today, and his first encounter with the geth. They were a race of synthetics that were created by the quarians centuries ago as a source of manual labour. After turning on their creators three centuries ago, driving them from their planet and forcing them to live as nomads in the stars, the geth retreated back into the Perseus Veil and no one has seen them since, until that faithful day.
"Cerberus has a long-standing bounty for an intact geth," Miranda voice, cool and steady as always, brought Shepard back from his thoughts. "I assure you, the reward is significant."
Though her words sounded like there was for Jacob, Shepard knew she was trying to convince him as well. They could always use more credits. The Hammerhead needed some fixes and upgrades and the squad could always use better armor and weapons. However, credits could always be obtained in other ways, and it's not often they run into intact geth. Shepard eyed a certain component of this unit that made it stood out from all the others he's fought so far.
"I want to know why it has a piece of N7 armor strapped to its chest," he pointed out.
The familiar black plated armor with its red and white logo was covering what appears to be a massive hole in the geth's chest.
"Battle trophy, maybe?" Jacob shrugged. "Would a machine care about that?"
"No. Trophies imply emotions that AIs don't have," Miranda argued. "I doubt it's more than a convenient field repair."
It makes sense. Use armor to replace armor. Shepard nodded. But one thing still nagged at his mind.
"I've killed hundred of these things, but I've never had the chance to talk to one."
The previous geth he'd fought had only ever uttered mechanical whirls and clicks, but this one had clearly said "Shepard-Commander" before walking off.
Had they learnt to speak? To communicate? If so, what can we learn from them? This one not only help us on the Reaper, it knew who I was. Could it be trying to relay a message?
"This one tried to communicate with us," he noted Jacob's scowl and Miranda's incredulous expression and quickly added. "Hell, it probably saved our lives. Why?"
Jacob grunted something under his breath and Miranda met his eyes with a firm leveled stare.
"Reactivating the geth is a risk. If you do so, it should be for humanity's best interest and not your curiosity," she warned. Wouldn't be the first time or last time she disapproves of something I say or do.
"I still think our "best interests" involve an airlock," Jacob spoke determinedly, standing up straight and crossing his arms.
Shepard glanced between the two Cerberus operatives. Jacob's expression tells Shepard that he'll gladly toss the machine out himself if Shepard so much as asked. Miranda appears indifferent, but he knows her well enough now to tell that she was eagerly awaiting his permission to ship the geth off to the Illusive Man. More points for her from the boss.
Looking the geth again, Shepard can't deny that spark of curiosity inside of him. He knows they'll never get an opportunity like this again. A chance to talk with one of the mysterious synthetics. He'll admit that they've been fighting the geth for so long, yet know almost nothing about them. How to they function? What's their purpose? What motivates them?
"I'm not deciding one way or the other until I know what we've got here," Shepard decided. "I want to start it up. Interrogate it."
He could see Jacob clenching his jaw, but the soldier was respectful enough not the protest. Miranda on the other hand, balked slightly.
"If we activate it, there is no guarantee we can deactivate it again," she said, leaning forwards on the table.
"Bullets can" Jacob shot back, his knuckles white from gripping the table edge.
Shepard looked at them worriedly. This could get ugly.
"That's not what I-" Miranda countered.
"Thank you," Shepard raised his voice, cutting off Miranda quickly, "both of you, for your recommendations. I've made my decision."
The two operatives glared at each other and Shepard straightened up, ready to shut down any arguments they may have with him or each other. Fortunately after a few seconds they both relaxed and turned to face him.
"Your call, Shepard. I'll make sure EDI put up some additional firewalls around the geth and alert us to any hacking attempt," Miranda shrugged, quickly typing out a message on his omni-tool.
"I'll make sure we keep an armed guard with it at all times," Jacob's omni-tool flared to life as well. "A lone geth probably won't be much trouble but better safe then sorry right Commander?"
"I guess this discussion's over then. We'll meet back here later to discuss the Reaper IFF after EDI has studied it abit. Meanwhile, I'm going to check up on the rest of squad before I make my acquaintance with the geth."
"Aye aye, Shepard."
As he stepped out of the conference room, Jacob called out to him
"Speaking of which, Commander," he could tell Jacob was smirking. "You do know Tali's gonna freak right?"
Shepard froze and his face paled.
Tali's fingers danced across the haptic keyboard swiftly. The latest mission with the derelict Reaper involved some heavy stunt flying on Joker's part to pull the ground team off the dead machine and she was worried if it might have affected the engines somehow.
She had wanted to join them but Shepard insisted she stay on board to monitor the drive core since he had no idea if being in such close proximity to a Reaper, even a dead one, would have any affect on it. He had chosen to bring Kasumi along in case they needed a tech, and Grunt was there as the muscle. Garrus had volunteered to go along as a scout and a back-up tech if needed. Tali knows Grunt and Garrus would never let anything happen to Shepard and Kasumi's skill was on par with hers, so she reluctantly agreed to stay onboard the Normandy.
Her eyes scanned the engine dialogistic readings scrolling past her screen, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. Her fellow engineers, Kenneth "Ken" Donnelly and Gabriella "Gabby" Daniels, were currently occupying the two other workstations to her right. Both of them were also hard at work, balancing out the energy grid and rerouting power throughout the ship to keep the engines stable.
Working on a state-of-the-art warship like the Normandy was a dream come true for any ship engineer, doubly so for a quarian like her. All her life she's been fixing second-hand vessels and castaways so to work on a brand new ship with all the latest technology was an absolute blessing. I have Shepard to thank for this.
It was more than two years ago that he first rescued her from the would-be assassins in the alley, before welcoming her aboard the first Normandy. And despite her coming along mainly to be on his ground team in his fight with the geth, he allowed her to work in the engine room of the Normandy too, after seeing how fascinated she was with it. When Engineer Adams praised her expertise in front of the commander as that time, she couldn't help but blush. Thankfully, it was hidden behind her mask.
Now two years later and after Shepard's death and return, she found herself back on the Normandy again, as it's chief engineer this time. Granted it is a Cerberus vessel. But you can't deny they know how to build ships.
When she first came aboard the new Normandy, she was skeptical and cautious. There was no love lost between the Migrant Fleet and Cerberus after all. And if she was honest, she wasn't sure it really was really Shepard back from the dead, and not some elaborate Cerberus trick. Sure he knew about the geth data he gave her and he willingly handed the traumatized pilgrim, Veetor to her, she still had her doubts.
It was only after she watched him help his ground team resolve their personal issues and then finally being there for her in her own time of need was she sure that the man she was serving was definitely Commander Shepard.
It was fun watching you shout. She had teased him back on the Rayya. He spoke for her in front of the Migrant Fleet Admirals, defending her honor and praising her for everything she's done for the galaxy and for him. She was thankful once again for her mask because without it everyone would have seen her jaw drop and her face blushing furiously. In the end, her father's reputation was saved and the Admirals dropped the charges against her.
He asked on the way back to the Normandy if she was going to get her name changed back and her answer was simple. No. My home is on the Normandy, with Joker, Chakwas, even that bosh'tet Garrus and especially with you.
She turned her gazed away from him, her face heating up again as she wished she didn't say that last part out loud. His eyes turned upwards as he smile from behind his own helmet. He patted her shoulder and replied good-naturedly, "Tali'Zorah vas Normandy. It has a nice ring to it."
Yes. The Normandy was where she belonged, Cerberus or not, it was her home.
Her musings were cut short when a cloaked human suddenly shimmered into view right next to her.
"Hello Kasumi. Can I help you?" Tali didn't know whether to be amused or worried that the thief's sudden appearances no longer fazes her.
Besides Shepard and Garrus, Kasumi could be one of the only other person on this ship Tali would willingly call a friend. The Japanese girl was cheery and quirky and it was definitely nice to have another woman her age to talk to. Miranda was too cold and proper for a decent conversation. Not to mention she can be such a bitch. And the last time Tali went down to Jack's dwelling unannounced the crazy biotic nearly made a quarian shaped hole in the bulkhead. And her language is as colorful as her tattoos.
Tali turned to regard the smirking thief, when she noticed the woman covered in a thin layer of dust. The quarian quirk an eyebrow, unseen behind the mask.
"Kasumi, why have you been crawling through the ducts?"
Tali knows the maintenance ducts of the Normandy well. She lost count of the number of time she has to wiggle her way through them to scan certain areas of the ship or to replace worn-out parts. She also knows that they can be used to access any part of the ship in an emergency.
"Hi Tali," Kasumi chirped, dusting herself off . "Just came back from the mission."
"Oh? How was it? Did you guys find the IFF?"
"Look, Shep's coming."
Tali tilted her head, confused. The commander makes his rounds everyday and he always makes an effort to talk to every member of his crew about anything. What's so important about this time?
"So?" she asked, encouraging her friend to elaborate.
"Well, you see," Kasumi looked around, trying to find the right way to phrase it. "Let's just say that whatever Shepard is going to tell you, please don't get mad with him."
Now Tali was slightly worried. Did something happen? Was someone injured?
"What are you-"
There was the sound of the door of the corridor before the engine room opening, and Kasumi quickly shimmered out of view, leaving Tali staring confused at empty space where her friend was. Out of the corner of her vision she spot the engine room door open and in walked none other than the commander himself.
Shepard walked slowly towards her and Tali noted that he seemed guarded somehow.
"Oh hey, Tali," he greeted her with a slightly forced smile. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Shepard. What can I do for you?" she greeted. "Is… everything alright?"
"On yeah, of course," the commander replied far too quickly. "Any problems with the engines? After the last mission?"
Him changing the subject did not go unnoticed but Tali decided to humour him. Maybe get him to open up and then I'll find out what's wrong.
"I'm running diagnostics. At the moment there doesn't seem to be anything major. A couple of power spikes but all mild and Ken's got them under control," she explained, peeking to her side to watch her captain carefully.
"Oh good to see if everything is already," Shepard said cheerfully, but Tali was not fooled.
"But I assume you're not here to talk about engines, Shepard," she turned to face him, leaning back against her console and crossing her arms. "Is something the matter Shepard? You look like you have something on your mind."
Kasumi's words spun around in her head. What could Shepard possibly tell her that will get her mad?
The commander rubbed his neck nervously. He turned to glance over at the other two engineers who are too busy with their own work to pay any attention to them, and back to the quarian staring at him.
Tali jumped when Shepard reached out to grab her hand and began pulling her over to the drive core. She felt herself blushing and tightening her grip involuntarily.
He released her hand as they stood in front of the humming drive core and Tali tried not to let her disappointment show. The sound of the drive core will muffle their voices from the engine room, giving the two of them a little privacy.
"Shepard?" Tali called, getting his attention. "What's wrong?"
"No. Nothing's wrong," Shepard looked away from her, suddenly finding the large glowing ball fascinated. "The mission was fine."
Tali's eyes widened.
"You bosh'tet!" she hissed. "You got hurt didn't you?"
Shepard stepped back at her outburst, but Tali grabbed his arm to pull him back and she gave him a quick once over. Stupid bosh'tet always putting himself in danger. Doesn't he understand what will happen if we lose him? I can't lose him again.
"Hurt?" Shepard cocked his head, before understanding. "No, no Tali I'm fine. We're fine. Nobody's hurt"
The quarian released him and crossed her arms again, still glaring at her captain.
"Then what is it, Shepard?" she growled.
The human rubbed his neck again sheepishly. Tali relaxed a bit and waited for his explanation. After a few seconds, he sighed loudly and closed his eyes.
"Alright," Shepard finally said. "So we found the Reaper IFF, EDI's analyzing it right now. Everyone's more or less ok. But…"
Tali was leaning against the console beside the core but now she stood at rapt attention as she listened to her captain.
"We found… something else," Shepard continued, raising a hand to stop her when it looked like she wanted to interrupt. "It's, well, how do I say this? I think you can call it a unique piece of salvage."
Tali blinked a few times, her gaze no leaving his face. It was starting to come together and she thinks she understood now.
"You found Reaper tech on board, and I'm assuming you want me to strip it down and analyze it," she concluded.
She could understand why the commander will be nervous in asking her to examine Reaper tech. On the previous Normandy, they often brought old pods and satellites back onboard to salvage and analyze. She and Adams sometimes worked through the night cutting them up. Sometimes they would find useful parts they can sell for extra credits and other times they'll find interesting technology they'll send back to the Alliance for further study. But studying Reaper Tech was something she's never done before. It was unpredictable and dangerous.
Shepard looked straight at her, furrowing his brows in confusion.
"Um, Tali, it's not really that," he said.
"Then what is it, Shepard?" she said exasperatedly. "You're acting weird and it's making me very nervous."
The commander met her gaze through her mask for a few second before reaching out to her.
"Maybe it's better if I show you," he muttered, taking her hand in his and leading her out of the engine room.
Tali heart beat wildly and she couldn't help but smile and tightened her three-fingered grip in his five-fingered hand slightly and they entered the elevator and headed up to the crew deck.
Hmm,I guess whatever he wants to show me can't be that bad.
"What the hell is this?!"
Shepard buried his face in his hand and sighed. In retrospect, he was expecting this reaction, he was just glad that the fuming quarian was unarmed at the moment.
"A geth? Really Shepard a geth?!" Tali snarled, pacing up and down the medbay. "You found a geth, an active geth, inside a Reaper. And instead of leaving it there, or tossing it out the airlock, you decide to bring it onboard the Normandy?! Of all the places you left it in the AI core? And you're planning to start it right up?!"
"EDI has set up some firewalls and so far she hasn't alerted us on any hacking attempts," Shepard reasoned. He cast a quick glance out the window into the mess hall. Doctor Chakwas was having dinner at the moment with some of the crew at the moment, leaving him and Tali alone in the medbay. Hwishes the doctor was here, at least she'll know what to say to calm his engineer down. Or at least tell her to stop wearing a path on the floor.
"EDI's an AI too," Tali shot back, her pacing more erratic. "For all we know they could be working together. Maybe they're disabling the life-support right now!"
Shepard couldn't help but frown. Tali has made no effort to hide what she thinks about the Normandy AI. In truth, Shepard wasn't too fond of EDI at first. Overtime however, he just learnt to live with it. Sure he didn't like being spied on at all times, but EDI hasn't been anything be helpful and polite so far.
"Tali you know that isn't really fair to EDI," he shook his head. "She hasn't done anything wrong to us yet. Besides, Cerberus installed blocks in her. I'm sure even if she meant to cause us harm she won't be able to." Hopefully…
The quarian spun on her heel and marched right up to him, jabbing a finger at his chest.
"You don't understand," she hissed. "You've seen what the geth can do. It could be within the Normandy now, it could have unshackled EDI already!"
"Tali," Shepard grabbed her hands, giving them a soft squeeze to calm her down.
"My blocks are currently still in place, Miss Zorah," EDI monotone voice chimed up suddenly, her holographic representation popping up in the corner. "And the geth has made no attempt to communicate with my servers nor have any of the firewalls been breached."
Shepard watched as Tali glared at the AI.
"How do we know you're not lying?" the quarian asked, almost snarling.
"I do not see the point in that," EDI replied, her voice calm as always. "I know some of the crew still regard me with suspicion. I see no purpose is encouraging that line of though."
Shepard watched as the AI blinked out. Tali slumped her shoulders and dropped her hands.
"I can't let it happen again, Shepard," the quarian muttered softly. "It was geth that took the Alarei, Shepard. They took that ship and killed everyone on board. It's thanks to them that I was nearly branded a traitor to my people. It's thanks to the geth that I lost my father. I can't let it happen again, Shepard. I can't."
The quarian let out a soft sob and Shepard couldn't help but pull her into his arms, giving her a gentle squeeze. He suddenly remembered Rael'Zorah and his experiments with active geth, and how he intentionally reactivated geth units that ended up massacring everyone on the ship.
"I'm sorry, Tali," he whispered gently. "I'm so sorry. I should have thought about… I'm sorry."
"You know what the geth can do, Shepard," Tali sobbed, her head buried in his chest.
"Tali. I wasn't thinking. I let my damn curiosity get the better of me," Shepard stroked her back, soothing her. "If it makes you feel better I'll space it right now. Or send it of the Cerberus. If we're lucky it might blow up one of their bases or something.
Tali laughed softly and slowly pulled away from him.
"No, Shepard," she shook her head, stepping back.
The petite quarian glanced at the door to the AI core for awhile before sighing softly.
"It's your decision," her glowing eyes met his, "Go ahead and start it up."
"Wait, I thought you don't want me to-"
"You said you've set up some safeguards right?" the quarian held up her hands to silence him.
"Yeah. But-" Shepard began but Tali cut him off again.
"I trust you, Shepard," she said sincerely. "I may not like it, but I trust you. No matter what happens, I'm sure you'll do the right thing."
Shepard watched as she quietly made her way out the lab.
"Tali, wait!" he called out just as the door opened. The quarian turned and look at him. "Why don't you come with me? Maybe you'd like to try speaking to it?"
She froze for a moment and despite glass visor obscuring her face, Shepard was sure she was pondering the idea.
"I…I can't, Shepard," the quarian lowered her head sadly. "It's too soon… Not yet."
"Oh," Shepard replied dumbly. "Alright then"
They stood there, waiting for someone to make the first move. Finally, Tali let out another tired sigh.
"Well, I'm going back to engineering," she said. "Just call me if you need anything. I'll bring my shotgun if needed."
Shepard chuckled quietly as the engineer left the medbay. Well, guess it's time.
He took a deep breath and headed towards the AI core. The doors slid opened automatically, revealing the dark room with an ominous red glow permeating throughout. At the back lay the geth, silent and unmoving. Steeling himself, Shepard dismissed the guard watching over the machine and raised his omni-tool. Peering at the geth another time, Shepard clenched his jaw and nodded to himself as he began typing out a series of codes EDI sent to him. A second later, a mechanical finger twitched and a bright cyclopean eye swiveled to face him.
This better be worth it.
I'm slightly disappointed that they didn't have a scene of Tali freaking out over Shepard bringing a geth back to the Normandy. Sure she shoots Legion if you brought him to her recruitment mission and later confronts him about her omni-tool, but I wished they as least made a reference about how she felt about having a geth on board.