Disclaimer: I do not own or make any claim to the Mass Effect universe or the characters contained in this story, all of which are owned by BioWare and Electronic Arts.
[AN: I was just re-reading this story recently and frankly, I was horrified by what I saw. So, since yesterday was my two year anniversary on this site, and this was both the first story I posted on that date and also my most popular story to date, I thought it was high time for an update.
So, here you are, I hope you all enjoy it.
P.S. Fair warning, I still intend to use this as the basis for my sequel/continuation of 'Friendship to Last' though that's still a bit into the future./AN]
Redemption: Come What May
Prologue: What's the Worst that Could Happen?
Kithoi Ward, Citadel, The Serpent Nebula (February 21, 2186, 1225 Hours, Station Time):
That kid had better have a seriously good explanation for all of this, Hannah thought to herself as she fiddled with her omni-tool, occasionally glancing around to see if she could spot any familiar faces, or more specifically, one familiar face.
To kill time while she waited, she scanned the email he had sent her:
Sorry I haven't been in contact, there's a lot to explain and I haven't had the chance to tell you everything. I promise I'll explain everything if you can meet me for lunch. Maybe Xenos' on Kithoi Ward, 21st of Jan, around 12:30?
I'll explain everything, including why I haven't been able to talk for so long.
I hope you can make it.
Your son, John.
P.S. There's also someone I want you to meet. Just try and keep an open mind.
Explain everything, she thought, this ought to be good. I can't think of anything that would justify faking death for two years and not telling me about it. And all of these Cerberus rumours…
She shuddered at the thought. Cerberus was no friend of anyone's, particularly not John after what he explained to her about those knew accusations surrounding what happened on Akuze, so why she kept hearing that he was working for them she had no idea; all she knew is that they must be mistaken.
Looking around once more, she finally spotted her errant child making his way through the crowd. It didn't look like he'd changed in the intervening two years, he still had the same short, ink-black hair his father had, as well as the sharp blue eyes he got from both of them. Even in civilian clothes he had a formidable presence, the sort of aura the really hardened marines had that just made people part before them; she had seen such a thing on a few occasions in her time in the Alliance.
She waved him over and stood up as he approached, but she couldn't see who this other person was that she was meant to meet.
Maybe they're coming later, she thought to herself John probably didn't want them to see me throttle him.
It was then that she noticed the very nervous Quarian, robed with violet cloth over her black environment suit trailing behind him.
John flashed the young, or at least Hannah assumed she was young, woman a reassuring smile and beckoned her closer. Now Hannah was very interested to see how this conversation would play out. Precisely why he had brought a Quarian with him was another mystery to add to a growing list, as was the poor girl's obvious nervousness.
When John and his companion reached her table he stopped, waiting for Hannah to make the first move. Part of her wanted to hug him, while another wanted to punch him in the face; so she settled on a handshake.
"John," she said neutrally while holding out her hand. She could see the muscle around his jaw tighten, he had clearly been hoping for a warmer reception than this.
Well what did he expect? That I would ignore the fact he let me think he was dead for two years after I'd already lost his father?
"Mum," came the reply as he shook her hand. The he stepped to the side slightly and motioned for the Quarian to come closer. "I'd also like to introduce you to Tali'Zorah vas Normandy. Tali, this is my mother, Hannah Shepard, Captain of the SSV Orizaba."
"Captain Shepard, it's an honour to meet you," The young woman greeted as she held out her three-fingered hand.
Shaking the offered hand, Hannah replied, "Thank you dear, though I feel like I've met you before?"
"Very briefly, I was part of the first Normandy's crew, we ah, met at the funeral…" she trailed off awkwardly.
A tense silence descended, no one quite sure how to proceed now that the main reason for the meeting had been brought up.
Deciding to get to the heart of this as quickly as possible, Hannah slid back into her seat and spoke first.
"I guess that's as good a segue as we're going to get. Alright John, 25 words or less. What the hell is going on?" She crossed her arms and leaned back in the chair, waiting for a response.
The man in question, took a steadying breath, then began to explain.
"You're angry with me because you think I didn't tell you I was alive for the last two years, but here's the problem; I wasn't. The official report says that I died when the Normandy was attacked by the Geth. It was partly correct; we actually got attacked by the Collectors, but everything else was true. I died."
This was not what Hannah had expected. She had been expecting excuses or 'Sorry, classified', not that he had actually died! Unsurprisingly, the next question that she asked was, "How?"
"How did I die, or how am I here now? I'll spare you the details, but my hard suit was ruptured and I got spaced. As for how I'm here now? That's a lot more complicated, I still don't fully understand all of the facts and processes, but the short version is that Cerberus thought I was too valuable to let die, so they spent two years and billions of credits trying to 'resurrect' me. And apparently it worked," the pain in his voice was replaced with venom when he mentioned Cerberus. She saw the Quarian, Tali, grab one of his hands and squeeze it gently. Clearly this was not an easy thing for him to talk about. The fact that she had reached out to comfort him had not gone unnoticed; neither was the fact that he had let her.
"This is… a lot to take in," Hannah said after a moment, arms no longer crossed. "You're telling me that you died, actually died, and that Cerberus, the terrorist organisation responsible for Akuze, Admiral Kahoku and god knows what else, decided to bring you back from the dead?"
A terse "Yes," was the only response from her son.
"Captain Shepard, I know this is hard to accept, I certainly didn't believe it when I first saw him again. But everything he is saying is true," the Quarian, Tali, spoke up, her luminescent eyes clearly visible through the visor.
With questions still running through her head, Hannah moved on.
"Okay then, so what about the last six months? What have you been doing that has kept you so busy?"
"Remember when I said it was the Collectors that had attacked the Normandy? They were also responsible for all of the recent colony disappearances. Cerberus brought me back, in part, to stop them, believing they were working for the Reapers; and as it turns out, they were right. They provided me with a ship, resources and information; the Alliance wasn't doing anything about it and as far as they're concerned I'm still officially dead. As much as I hate Cerberus I needed their resources to do this," he huffed in irritation, whether at Cerberus, the Alliance, or himself, she wasn't quite sure and she didn't have much longer to consider as he leant back in his chair and continued.
"The details are long and complicated, but I have spent the last six months assembling a team to stop the Collectors, permanently. Two weeks ago we went through the Omega-4 relay and blew up the station on the other side. We've also cut all ties with Cerberus, which is part of the reason I'm on the Citadel."
He was irritable and terse with his explanations, and his lack of detail had nothing to do with sparing her boredom; she still vividly recalled the regular, multi-hour talks they would have when their deployment schedule gave them the opportunity. Overall, this was not what she had been hoping for when she imagined how this day would go, though Hannah couldn't really blame him for that; she hadn't exactly started things off in the most inviting of ways, after all. It was clear that Tali could recognise her son's mood as well over the course of the conversation so far, she had shifted closer to by increments, until she was now practically shoulder-to-shoulder with him, while he threw her subtle, but unmistakeably thankful glances every time she shifted closer.
Hannah was quiet for a bit, and then spoke again.
"I'm sorry, I jumped to conclusions before letting you explain yourself; that was unprofessional of me as an Alliance Officer, let alone as your mother, and it was certainly not fair for you."
At those words, John seemed to unwind and he let out a heavy sigh. He was still guarded, but he didn't seem to be so stand-offish anymore, for which she could only be thankful.
"It's alright, I guess you couldn't have known, really. And I've had far less friendly welcomes from old friends," sadness flashed across his eyes as he said it, and she didn't miss the suddenly quiet tone of voice, either.
Trying to alleviate the sombre and serious tone that had overtaken the meeting, and redeem herself for her previous behaviour, Hannah asked another question.
"So now that we've got all of that out of the way for the moment, why else did you ask me to come?"
And now the tension was back; fantastic.
John and Tali shot each other nervous looks, conversing in their own private language; one that they were clearly well versed in. Rubbing the back of his neck in agitation, John began to explain.
"Ah, well, the other reason was to tell you that, ah, Tali and I are… in a relationship. And it's serious," he finally managed.
At this point, Tali's hands were wringing furiously and her head was bowed, intently staring downwards into her lap while John fidgeted, waiting for a response.
Hannah's eyebrows rose slightly in surprise. While it wasn't exactly surprising based on how close the two obviously were, the confirmation still caught her of guard. Her initial surprise, however, quickly gave way to pleasant curiosity at the fact that John had actually entered into any sort of relationship with anyone.
After Akuze he had never really been the same; amicable but distant would be a good description. He never let anyone in, not his squadmates and not any of his old friends. In fact, prior to his first posting on the Normandy, David Anderson and herself were probably the only confidants he had. But she remembered how, over the course of those months aboard the Normandy, she could see him loosening up and becoming more relaxed; the exact opposite of what you'd normally expect with someone who was just given their first command, let alone a command with all the weight and expectation that the position had carried in John's case.
That's not to say that she couldn't see the immense stress he was under, or feel his pain when he talked about the people he lost or the decisions he made, but the fact remained that he had become more human, more alive the longer the mission had gone on.
Somehow, Hannah didn't think it was a coincidence that the girl who had apparently managed to capture his heart had been heavily involved in his fight against Saren.
And now she could finally exercise her motherly right to pry into her son's love-life!
"Well now, that's hardly the strangest thing I've heard today. I don't see any reason not to be happy about this, so congratulations, to both of you."
John began to smile, the first honest smile he had directed towards her so far, and Tali's head shot up and her hands stopped fidgeting.
"Really?!" Tali asked, glowing eyes widening in disbelief.
"Oh yes. John always spoke highly of you when you served on the Normandy, and it's been to long since I've seen him trust anyone, let alone get close to someone, and while I don't honestly know much about your people, I would like the chance to learn," Hannah smiled warmly at the Quarian, then turned to face John. "Now then, would you care to explain to me why you introduced me to your girlfriend by telling her I captain a Dreadnought? Surely you could have thought of something less intimidating?"
John just laughed, "Actually, that's more of a Quarian tradition, a ship's captain is a position of high esteem for them. How about I go get us some food while Tali can fill you in?"
He stood up to go and order while Tali began to speak in a most animated fashion as she began to explain the basics of Quarian culture. To her credit, Hannah managed to keep up and ask a few questions. The girl went from timid to impassioned and back again at the drop of a hat, a strangely endearing combination.
Hannah was quickly beginning to see why John liked her so much.
Shepard returned about ten minutes later to see Tali still talking at a rate of knots, and now his mum seemed to be sitting in rapt attention as Tali described conditions aboard the Flotilla. Shepard began to disperse the food for everyone but remained standing. Tali noticed after about a minute.
"Why aren't you sitting down, is something wrong?" Tali's voice became concerned and he could see her body tense, her fingers twitching in a pattern that told John she was readying the combat protocols on her omni-tool, without activating the visible overlay. He hastened to put her at ease.
"No, no, nothing's wrong, it's just that Kasumi is sitting in my seat."
The very confused look on Hannah's face was quickly replaced with shock as the black-clad thief dropped out of cloak.
"How did you know?" She asked disbelief and a touch of annoyance obvious in her voice, "I wasn't even moving!"
Shepard just shrugged his shoulders, "Lucky guess. Any security problems, or did you drop by just to spy on us?"
"Mainly to spy, Tali is soooo cute when she starts talking like that. There was also a pair of Salarians saying things that I won't repeat in polite company about you two, but C-Sec should be paying them a little visit about their less-than-legal import business. Oh, and lunch is on them!" She said as he threw a pair of credit chits onto the table.
Shepard just smiled and shook his head, "Thanks Kasumi."
She beamed at the group then reactivated her cloak.
"See you later," came the disembodied voice as she walked away to continue her patrol of the café.
"Ah, can someone explain to me what just happened?" Hannah asked after a couple of seconds.
"Remember that team that I was assembling? That was one of its members, Kasumi Goto, Master Thief, Infiltration Expert and incorrigible gossip. Some of the squad offered to provide security for this little meeting. Actually, they all did, but some of them would be more likely to invite trouble, so they're enjoying their shore leave elsewhere."
"Who else is here?" Hannah asked, genuinely curious as to the group her son had assembled.
"Ah, let's see. You've already met Kasumi, no telling where she is now. The newlyweds three tables to the right? They're actually not newlyweds, but two ex-Cerberus operatives, Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson. Thane is around here somewhere, probably up in the rafters. He's a Drell Master Assassin. Do you see the Asari holding a debate with the old Salarian over by the planter? That's Samara, an Asari Justicar, and Professor Mordin Solus, former Salarian STG. And Garrus is about 500m down the road keeping an eye on things, through a rifle scope. You might remember him from the original Normandy. And both Tali and myself are armed and armoured, if lightly."
Hannah was dumbfounded, she was surrounded by no fewer than eight elite combat operatives, not counting her son, and she had never noticed them. The whole thing had seemed so normal.
"I'm not sure if I should feel comforted by their presence or worried that you think you need all of them."
"Well, I didn't ask for all of their help, I figured that me and Tali could take care of most problems, but they insisted. Though I won't deny that there are possible dangers, we've made a few enemies in our time."
After that they settled down to enjoy their meals with more mundane conversation, until Hannah asked another question.
"Tali, I've heard a lot about your people, but I haven't heard about you. How did you end up meeting John?"
Taking a final sip of nutrient paste, Tali tried to formulate her thoughts, obviously surprised to have a question directed at her. "Oh, ah, well, I was on my Pilgrimage, I think I told you about that before? And I had discovered evidence that Saren was a traitor…"
John relaxed and listened as his girlfriend recounted the events that had lead to their meeting, adding the occasional detail or comment. Hannah listened as she heard the stories behind the report she had read. She smiled as she saw their affection for one another, how they traded witty jabs and tried to place the other in the spotlight when they downplayed their role too much.
After finishing with John's inauguration into the Spectres, Tali finally stopped to take a breath.
"Well, it seems like the after-action reports don't really do any of this justice," Hannah said with a chuckle. "So, how did *this* happen?" She said, indicating the two of them.
"Now that's a funny story, not that you'd ever get an accurate account out of either of them," a distinctly Turian voice interrupted, resulting, much to Hannah's amusement, in audible groans and muttered curses from both Tali and John.
"No wonder you were so quick to volunteer for this, you had this planned the whole time didn't you?" Shepard observed, glaring at his heavily armoured Turian companion, "and aren't you meant to be keeping an eye out for potential issues?"
"I figured this counted as a potential issue, and Thane said he could cover the sniping," Garrus replied, smirking at his friends' discomfort. "More seriously though, Kasumi saw one of the local gangs loitering in some of the alleys around here, so she figured that having a 'deterrent' around may help keep things nice and quiet. Besides, Tali doesn't have her shotgun with her, so I figured I'm pretty safe."
"Nice to know we have our own Archangel to look out for us," Shepard quipped.
"I suppose I walked into that one," the Turian replied, shaking his head in exasperation but chuckling despite himself.
Shepard turned back towards Hannah, "Mum, this is Garrus Vakarian, also part of the crew from the original Normandy, former C-Sec officer, expert marksman and all round pain in the ass," Shepard said good-naturedly.
"I think I remember you from the funeral, though you had fewer scars then."
"Just 'slap some face paint on and no-one will notice', huh Shepard?" He accused with feigned indignation. Becoming more serious, he turned back to Hannah and shook her hand, "It's good to meet you again Captain, this time for a more pleasant reason."
"Indeed," Hannah agreed. "Now, you said you knew how these two got together?" She could tell all three of them were good friends, both from their banter and from the many stories she had heard of them, and she suspected that she would get a much better account of all the details by asking Garrus; plus it had the bonus of making John squirm.
"Oh yeah, I've been with them since the beginning. Now, where to begin?" He began tapping his mandible in an imitation of the human 'pensive' look. He looked towards Tali and saw her glaring daggers at him and he replied with the Turian equivalent of a smirk.
"How about at the beginning? Tali had a slight… obsession with Shepard when she came aboard. Everyone had worked it out after no more than a fortnight. Well everyone that is, except our dashing Commander; I think it took him at least two months to catch on. But when he finally did work it out, he realised that it was not something he wanted to encourage, what with Tali still being a kid in Quarian culture and being the daughter of one of the Admiralty. So he did his best to simply remain friends with Tali, assuming that she simply had a crush on him, like almost all of the other females in the galaxy did.
While Tali's, ah, interest in Shepard was the worst kept secret on the Normandy, Shepard's attraction to Tali was rather less obvious, apparently he was so good he even managed to hide it from himself. It was actually Wrex that first noticed it, that old bastard is much smarter than he lets on. He pointed it out to me sometime after Therum. I didn't believe it at the time, I couldn't believe that someone as famous as Commander Shepard could fall for a Quarian; but I started to see it to, once I got over myself and my damned prejudices. Captain Shepard, if there is one thing you should know about Tali, it's that she is a… unique combination of nervous, awkward, fiery, assertive, self sacrificing and compassionate. I guess it mixed well with your son's mix of self sacrificing, compassionate, loyal, brave and stubborn. Oh, and they both seemed to have bonded over a shared love of killing Reaper thralls with shotguns. But then the Collectors attacked and… well, we won't go there,"
The subdued air that descended upon the table was in stark contrast to the bustling nature of the Ward surrounding them.
Hoping to return the conversation to the pleasant, if embarrassing, topic at hand, Shepard broke the silence.
"Tali and I's relationship is a pretty recent occurrence. As Garrus pointed out, the feelings had been there for a while, but we both assumed that we were being foolish, selfish even for even thinking about it. But after Tali's trial, it sort of just… happened."
"Wait, trial? What trial?" Hannah blurted out, suddenly concerned. Her eyes flicked between the three individual in front of her, looking for an answer.
Shepard mentally kicked himself…repeatedly. He had completely forgotten that his mother would have had no idea about it and it was still a difficult and sensitive issue for Tali to discuss; most of the Normandy's crew still didn't know any details about it. Turning to face Tali, he quickly reached out to take one of her hands "Damnit… I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought that up. We don't need to talk about it if you don't want to; I know the scars are still fresh."
"It's alright, no secrets between shipmates, remember?" Tali replied, her voice quieter than usual, but not wavering. She clasped his hands once more as she began to recount the ordeal of her trial.
"About three months ago I received a message from the Fleet. They were charging me with treason and I was required to return to my ship to face trial. To be found guilty of treason means being exiled from the fleet, never to return to our families or our birth ships; it is the worst fate imaginable for a Quarian. I was making plans to return to the fleet when Shepard came down to check on me and when I told him about the message, he dropped everything else going on so that we could get to the Migrant Fleet. When we arrived, I was informed that I was being charged for bringing active Geth onto the Fleet. My father, Admiral Rael'Zorah, had been researching new weapons to use against the Geth, or so I thought, so I had been sending him any pieces of Geth that I came across in my travels, always making sure that they were deactivated. I was also stripped of my Ship name and declared crew of the Normandy, and since the accused is always represented by their captain at a trial, Shepard became my representative."
Hannah sat and listened, and the more she heard, the more she regretted ever asking about it. Not only was it clearly causing Tali pain, but her pain at the memories was mirrored in John. Not just mirrored, but reflected in the hard glint of his eyes.
He's angry, truly angry at what happened to Tali, she realised.
She continued to listen in shock as Tali described the revelation that her father's ship had been overrun by Geth, the Admirals using her as a pawn in their games, the fight through the Alarei to find her father and any data that could clear her name, the discovery of her father's corpse and the true nature of the experiments he was performing.
To lose a parent is terrible enough, but to be threatened with exile for her father's mistake and then to find out that it was all a result of a political power play… Hannah thought to herself. Drake's death had been hard for both John and herself, but it was nothing like this. Focusing back on what Tali was saying, Hannah resumed listening.
"…managed to find some intact journal entries once we shut down the Geth Hub. They proved beyond a doubt that I wasn't involved, but they placed the blame squarely on my Father's shoulders. He would have been posthumously exiled, all of the good he had done for the fleet would have been forgotten. I couldn't let that happen, but in the end it was Shepard's decision. He chose not to use it."
"So, you chose exile rather than let your father's name be disgraced? And John just went along with that?" Hannah asked, sensing there was more to the story.
"Yes, I had resigned myself to being exiled, and while the Commander was reluctant, he said that he 'could see how important it was' to me."
Hannah then rounded on John "So you just let some bastard politicians rake the poor girl over the coals to further their own schemes? What the hell were you thinking?"
Before her bewildered Commander could respond, Tali interceded.
"Please, Captain Shepard, let me finish. I had resigned myself to being an exile, but Shepard wouldn't give up that easily. He practically shouted down the whole admiralty board for involving me in their dispute and not giving me the chance to mourn my father. And it worked. I was cleared of all charges."
"But I thought you were Tali'Zorah vas Normandy? I thought that you would have taken your old name back?"
"They said I could, but after everything that had happened, I didn't want it. I wanted to stay vas Normandy."
Hannah leaned back in her chair and nodded in understanding then spoke once more.
"I don't suppose the ship's Commander factored in the decision at all?" she said with a grin. "I wish I could have been there to see his little tirade, I imagine it would have been quite a spectacle."
"I might be able to help with that," Garrus interjected, quickly bringing up a file on his omni-tool. Seeing the surprise on Shepard's, and he assumed Tali's, faces, he explained. "The visor records everything," he said with a shrug, "It's not the highest quality but the audio's good and you should be able to make out most of the wild pointing."
Playing the file, the group watched as the two dimensional image of the conclave chambers sprung to life above the Turian's wrist. They continued to watch as Shepard's holographic form marched up and down in front of the Admiralty board, angrily pulling back the curtain on the trial's true purpose, so effectively cowing them that they dared not respond. Garrus ended the video once the meeting had been adjourned to a chorus of 'Keelah se'lai'.
Hoping to dodge any questions from his mum, Shepard quickly stood up. "I'll go get us some more drinks."
Hannah just stared at her son's retreating form. She could hardly believe what she had just seen. The words themselves were impressive, but the passion in his voice as he spoke was something that she hadn't seen in him for nearly a decade. It seemed that now he was finally coming out of the shadow of Akuze, and it was all thanks to the young Quarian woman sitting in front of her.
"Thank you," she said quietly, little more than a whisper, "thank you for bringing my son back to me."
"What?- But I did- Cerberus brought Shepard back, not me, I didn't do anything," Tali stammered, unsure of what to make of the statement.
"No, Cerberus brought back his body, even his mind, but you brought back his heart. The John Shepard I raised died on Akuze. But now you've brought him back. You are a remarkable woman Tali'Zorah and I cannot tell you how glad it makes me to know that John has finally started to live again. I can see the passion he has, the love, the affection that he has for you just as clearly as I can see it in you. I hadn't seen John so much as smile in the years since Akuze, but now I see him laughing, joking, caring. You can't imagine what that means to me. And I can tell it's thanks to you," Hannah said, looking directly into Tali's eyes as if ignoring the purple glass that obscured them.
Garrus nodded in agreement. "He's always been there for us, for the crew, for every distressed individual that has had the good fortune to be within a lightyear of him. But he never let anyone help him, no one except you. Even back on the SR-1 everyone could see that he liked being near you, talking to you. But now I think he needs you, more than even he realises."
"Really? I never thought… Are you sure? What could I have possibly done? I'm just some…" Her bewildered voice trailed off.
"Silly girl in a suit? Be thankful that Shepard wasn't here to hear you say that," and pre-empting her startled questions, Garrus kept speaking. "Yes, he told me about some of the talks you've had, how you always put yourself down, and how much it hurts him to hear you say that. As usual, he considers it a personal failing that you don't see yourself the way he does. And while I don't think anyone other than Shepard can actually tell you what that vision is, I think it's clear to everyone that you are the single most important person in his life. You know, since working with Shepard I've always divided the galaxy into two types of people: Those who Shepard would go to hell and back for; and those he actually considers friends. But I think I might have to add a new category. I mean, he only sat back and shot at the gunship that did this to me," he said, pointing to his heavily scarred right mandible "but he charged the Colossus that was trying to get to you on Haestrom."
"He did WHAT?!" Both Tali and Hannah said in synchronisation, whirling to face Garrus.
"Right, he never told either of you, forgot about that…" he muttered, mostly to himself.
It was then that the unwitting Commander returned to their table.
"So what's this about you charging a Geth Colossus? Hannah asked expectantly, arms crossed. Shepard cast a quick glance at Tali and saw her in an identical pose. "Well, Tali was in trouble…"
"So you just ran at a Geth Tank the size of a house?" Hannah asked, still waiting for a decent explanation.
"I, ah, didn't exactly run..." Shepard muttered, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.
"You didn't," Tali deadpanned as she realised what he was implying. "You're a thick-headed Bosh'tet, but even you wouldn't be crazy enough to do that; would you?"
"Well like I said, you were in trouble, and it's not like I didn't have a plan or anything."
"What did you do John?" Hannah asked once more, her voice growing dangerous.
Realising that there was no escape, Shepard visibly slumped and let out a defeated sigh.
"It will be easier to show you. Garrus, I assume you have a video of this as well?"
"Are you kidding? Joker has been begging me to put it on the extranet and Grunt never gets tired of watching it," The Turian said happily, amused at the predicament his friend now found himself in, even if he would have a price to pay later.
Once again the group crowded around to watch the spectacle about to unfold.
After a brief exchange with a Quarian marine in a red environmental suit and something about 'not throwing your life away' Shepard turned towards the Colossus, readied his weapons and then disappeared in a whirl of dark energy. The view then zoomed in towards the base of the Colossus, where John had re-appeared in a bright flash and had begun blasting away at its legs with what looked to Hannah to be a plasma based weapon of some kind. A gruff English accented voice came over the speakers from off-screen.
"Did he just charge a Guddamn Colossus? Bastard's crazier than I thought. What's next, a Thresher Maw?"
Shepard continued to hose the Colossus with fire directed towards the leg joints, only occasionally taking the time to blast away the regular troops surrounding it, either with the new weapon or his biotics. Soon the legs began to give way and Hannah could see John deposit something directly beneath the massive walker. He then flashed away, slamming into a nearby rocket trooper standing on higher ground as the Colossus began to buckle under its own weight. The legs soon gave way and it fell on top of the package that John had dropped beneath it. After a bone shaking impact everything was still for all of two seconds, until the Colossus simply exploded into a grand shower of armour plates and white hydraulic fluid.
Deciding that now was as good a time as any, Garrus stopped the video.
Trying to turn the focus of the inevitable discussion away from him, he turned towards Garrus, "Did you or Zaeed do anything? I asked you to cover me!"
"Well you didn't exactly give us a lot of time to prepare and by the time we were in a position to shoot, anything we could get a good angle on was already scrap," Garrus retorted.
Tali was unaffected by Shepard's attempt to dump the focus on Garrus, however.
"What were you thinking? You could have been killed!"
"I was thinking that the Geth were about to kill one of my best friends," Shepard retorted. "Besides, it was only a Colossus; we destroyed at least ten of them of them when we were hunting Saren."
"Yes, but we used the Mako for that!" She exclaimed in exasperation.
"To be fair, you're not exactly the one to be talking about suicidal rushes at the enemy," Garrus butted in. "Remember the time you rushed into that husk infested mine that we had rigged with explosives, just because Shepard was a little slow in coming out?"
"Well, Shepard was in trouble…"
The conversations continued for another two hours, recounting previous missions, embarrassing moments, information about the Reapers and Collectors and a host of other topics. The other members of Shepard's squad came over to introduce themselves, adding their own mix of memories and experiences while under Shepard's command. Eventually, however, Hannah had to make preparations to return to her ship. As she stood to leave, she once again thanked Garrus and Tali.
"Thank you both for coming and talking with me, and thank you for keeping my son safe all this time. I can see why John always spoke so highly of you during your time on the first Normandy."
"The honour is ours Captain Shepard," Garrus said with a tilt of the head while Tali nodded in agreement. "Your son is a remarkable individual and we're both glad we can call him our mutual friend, and a bit more in Tali's case," he said as he cast a smirk in the Quarian's direction.
After a final round of farewells, Hannah returned to the Orizaba. All in all she left the meeting feeling much happier than she had felt when she arrived. Amongst other things, she had learnt that her son wasn't a traitor working for a terrorist organisation that had faked his death for two years, that he was surrounded by a group of people who he trusted implicitly and who trusted him in return and, most of all, that he was really the young man she remembered from so long ago, before Akuze, before he had cut himself off from humanity, and that it was thanks, by and large, to a nervous, purple clad engineer.
As she left the strange gathering of individuals she couldn't help but smile knowing that her son was well and truly back.