Kind of a denouement after the last chapter. Not dealing with the fallout as much as I originally intended to; I decided it would better fit in later chapters.

Inspired by a thread about the size of the Normandy and how it's bigger on the inside than the outside, and reports of how cramped actual military ships are, I redesigned it somewhat.

chapters[12] finalize

The cargo bay of the Normandy isn't as spacious as I remember it. It seems the walls are more than a little closer together, the ceiling is way lower, and there's a lot more jammed in the room. The Mako, still missing a wheel, takes up nearly half the space. Mesh nets stuffed full of gear hang from the ceiling. There's a row of lockers along the side opposite the Mako, with a small table and a bunch of crates beside it. Exposed conduits run along the ceiling. Hart's team, the unconscious Shepard, and several Normandy crewpeople are crammed into the space.

It makes sense, of course; I read somewhere that the Normandy in game was actually bigger on the inside than on the outside. I'm pretty sure I could do that with area portals if I wanted to, but I doubt the builders of the Normandy could. Therefore, it could not possibly match the game.

"Welcome aboard the Normandy, Mister Miller," a black guy in an Alliance uniform says to me. I can't identify the rank insignia- damn it, I should have researched that. Fortunately, I can tell by Keith David's voice that it's Captain David Anderson. Did you know Keith David plays the sergeant in Delta Farce? "I would love to give you a tour, but unfortunately circumstances won't allow that. Please follow me."

I'm momentarily taken aback by his respect and formality, then I remember I'm a CEO of a (fake) corporation.

He motions to Shepard being carried into the elevator behind us. Damn it guilt, out of my head! It was going to happen anyway, well it was supposed to happen anyway. And besides, she'll be fine.

No room for remorse. Just forget it.

"Lieutenant Hart, Chief Williams, with me." Anderson leads us toward the elevator, but instead of heading into it, he veers to one side and heads through the door to the engineering room. I catch a brief glimpse of the Tantalus core before he turns sharply to the left and climbs up an extremely steep and narrow staircase. I believe these are called ladders in naval parlance, because they're so narrow and steep they might as well be.

Why would they bother with the elevator if they have these tiny staircases? Is it a turian thing?

While we're on that topic, if the Normandy was part of a joint human/turian project, does that mean the turians built a sister or cousin ship?

The ladder deposits us behind the elevator on the crew deck, but I don't get a good look at the space, because there's a ladder right beside it which leads up another deck. The crew deck is definitely smaller, marginally better lit, and lacks the large staircases that connected it to the CIC ingame.

All I get is this lousy ladder.

I get only an equally brief view of the CIC before Anderson ushers us into the comm room, but there's nothing between the stairs and the bulk of the CIC. It is tiny compared to ingame. Ingame, there was the galaxy map at the rear, a long tunnel of what I'm assuming are fire control stations, and then the cockpit. Well, the galaxy map is still there, but the raised platform isn't, and there are stations against the sides of the space with a fairly narrow path between the operators and the map station. The gunnery tunnel (as I like to call it) is somewhere between a third and a quarter of the length, with the stations crammed right together. I don't get a good look at the cockpit.

And somehow there are people milling about in this mess. Is that-

"Navigator Pressly," Anderson calls. "Have we received confirmation of our orders?"

"Yes, sir."

"Set course for the Citadel and engage FTL at your discretion."

"Yes, sir."

With that done, we head into the conference room. On the bright side, it retains the chairs from the ME1 Normandy and has a table like the SR-2. On the downside, it's nearly as small as the one on the Daedalus.

Did anyone get that reference?

"Please, be seated," Anderson half-orders. I take a seat as far as everyone else as possible.

"I'm sure you all know what I'm about to ask." Anderson begins as he sits down, across from me. "What exactly happened on Eden Prime?"

"The geth happened, sir," Hart explains. "They came down right on top of us. Barely any warning. In fact, we wouldn't have any warning at all if it weren't for this suit here."

She turns to me and quickly adds. "No offence, sir. To us Marines everyone high up in a corporation is a suit."

"None taken."

Anderson looks at me and arches an eyebrow. "You were the one who tipped off the colony? Care to tell us how you got your information?"

"I was on my way to Eden Prime to demonstrate some new tech. Decided to fire up an experimental subspace array and detected a lot of ships headed toward the colony. They didn't look like pirates or slavers. Closest thing I could find in the database was geth."

"And then you confirmed it with that portable thing-"

"The portable subspace scanner?" Which is something I definitely should not have had in this universe, and probably a mistake. "Yeah. I'm surprised that thing worked."

"Hold on," Anderson interrupted. "You detected the geth before they arrived, using some kind of faster-than-light sensor?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"Care to explain how that works?"

"No." I reply bluntly. "I don't really understand it- you'd have to ask one of my scientists- and it's not something I want to reveal just yet. Trade secrets and all that."

"This could be a matter of galactic security." Oh, that sounds sickeningly familiar. What pisses me off is that he's so right.

I take a deep breath. "If you're asking if it's real, then I can confirm that yes, it is real, and yes, it works." Is there a way to force him to believe me?

anderson setav lastinput_belief 255;

"All right, I can go with that." Well, that was easy. I should probably refrain from doing that too often, it's kind of evil now that I think about it. It's essentially brainwashing, and brainwashing is bad.

"What about that ship you had?" Ash asks.

"A prototype," I reply. In retrospect, the jumpers may not have been a good idea.

"I know that. What was it, exactly?"

I reply simply. "Something new we're working on."

"So why did you have two of them on Eden Prime?"

"I was going to demo them. Maybe even sell them to the colonial militia," I reply. "But it looks like that's not going to happen now."

"People were killed and you're worried about a few lost sales?" Ash objects. Do I blame her? No. But it's not my job to not blame her.

That came out wrong. "That's not what I was implying-"

"Bullshit!" Ash slams her fist on the table. I think she's actually more of a hothead than ingame.

"Chief," Hart warns. I resist the urge to cringe.

"Sorry, sir."

At this point I notice that Ash is still wearing the armour I gave her, and in fact she left a dent in the table when she slammed her fist down. "I know now is a terrible time to bring it up, but I need my experimental equipment returned as soon as possible."

"It'll be kept in safe storage until you send a request for retrieval to the Alliance," Anderson tells me. "It shouldn't be a problem, just bureaucratic red tape. I'm sure you understand."

"Of course, just paperwork." I try to force a smile. It kind of works. What if they examine it? It's going to become apparent pretty quick that those suits are way beyond anything else that exists in the galaxy. Hell, the naquadah power plant along could probably revolutionize energy production.

There are ways to take care of that.

They look at me oddly for a few seconds before Anderson continues. "Then the geth attack the colony?"

"Again, that is correct, sir," Hart replies. Now that I think about it, they're being remarkably calm and businesslike about the whole ordeal. I guess that's what it means to be professional military.

"They concentrated especially on the digsite," Anderson remarks. "I think it's safe to say that they knew about the Prothean beacon, and that they were-"

A comm unit somewhere in the room beeped. "Captain, the Commander is waking up."

"Understood. I'm on my way," Anderson replies. He stands up. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut this meeting short. Lieutenant, Chief, you can fill in everything else in your reports. Dismissed."

"Yes, sir." The two women stand up and leave. As I go to follow, Anderson motions for me to stop.

"I don't know what your company is developing, but I know it saved the lives of some of those Marines. I'll give credit where credit is due. But this is a purely Alliance matter now. We're headed to the Citadel, you can arrange your own transport from there if that's not where you want to go."

"That's it?" I ask, voice neutral. Honestly not sure what to make of it.

"You may be contacted by an Alliance representative if there are any further questions. If you wish to request compensation, take it up with the Alliance. From this point forward I have no authority in the matter." With that he leaves, presumably to talk to the now-awake Shepard about the Prothean beacon and all it entails.

Left alone, I decide to explore the Normandy a bit. I expect to spend a lot of time here, so I might as well get to know it. It's different enough from the games to be confusing, and I don't remember Mass Effect 1 that well anyway.

That plan lasts about all of thirty seconds. I step out into the CIC and realize that there is no way I can go up and visit Joker without forcing my way through a mass of people who probably would not appreciate it. It's hard to express how cramped this ship is. Maybe I'm just used to large space, it might seem big to other people, I dunno. I try not to trip over myself when I climb down the ladder and take a seat at the mess table.

The crew deck is pretty cramped, too. There's a single table with chairs jammed against the wall opposite the elevator, which is inverted compared to the game. There are four doors on the wall, two on each side of the table. I'm assuming one goes to the captain's cabin, one to the medbay, and two to the line of sleeper pods, but I'm not going to check. Off to each side are spaces filled with lockers and equipment and what looks like a futuristic vending machine.

The Normandy doesn't have windows, so I have no choice but to stare at the wall. Sorry, bulkhead. Naturally, I begin pondering my situation once again.

Bringing out all the technology at once was probably a mistake. I had no plan, relying on gross hacks instead. My cover story is inconsistent, my capabilities illogical, and my strategy nonexistent. I didn't have a good reason to be on Eden Prime. A colonial militia is hardly a good place to sell cutting-edge weaponry. I didn't just bring out top-end technology, I brought out technology that is considered impossible here, and I basically snapped my fingers and popped it out of nowhere. I was reactive, not proactive. I came up with increasingly illogical solutions to problems that were thrown in my face.

Moreover, it hardly feels worth it. In-game, the attack was described as decimating the colony. But Eden Prime is not a few prefabs in the middle of nowhere. It's a colony of millions. The geth weren't there that long, now or in game. They couldn't have done much damage. They decimated a few units and wrecked the area around the digsite. I managed to save a few marines. Net gain: fuck-all.

Then again, if I diverge too far, what happens? They might someone else after Saren, or he might even-

"Hey," says a voice from beside me, interrupting my thoughts. Hey, I recognize that voice!

"Commander," I reciprocate politely. Why the fuck am I actually greeting people?

I turn and look and resist the urge to gasp-squee. This is the real Commander Shepard, in the flesh- sort of. Definitely default ME1/2 Shepard. Red hair, green eyes. Damn it. She... it's an uncommon combination. Colour's wrong anyway. But no, the likeness (to Shepard) is perfect, down to the missing piece of eyebrow, except she looks less horribly unnatural. Light skin, slight freckling...

This is Shepard. Which means I'm staring into the eyes of a trained killer, elite military, uh, person, and future saviour of the galaxy.

That's worse.

She senses my nervousness and says casually, "You don't have to be afraid of me, you know. N7s aren't just ruthless killers. We're humans too."

"Most of you don't have the knowledge of the Protheans in their head, either," I remark wryly before I can catch myself.

Shepard immediately stops trying to be nice, frowns and snaps at me, "How the hell do you know that?"

Shit, shit! I shrug casually. "Inference. We know the beacon is some kind of information device. It picked you up and knocked you cold. Then you have a closed-doors discussion with Anderson."

"How do you get downloaded knowledge from that?" Shepard replies.

"An obsession with old-school sci-fi?" I shrug again. Disguising an attempt to disguise my knowledge as an attempt to learn more, I ask, "So, how much did it give you?"

She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. "I'm not sure if I should be talking about it with you."

"I'm not asking for anything specific," I reassure her. "Are we talking faint visions, vivid eidetic memories, the complete encyclopedia of an ancient race?"

"More toward the former," she replies grimly. "Nothing clear. But it didn't feel good."

"Ah." That sounds about right. "Not really sure how to respond to that."

"Neither am I," the Commander admits, and we settle into an awkward silence.

"Hey Commander, we're about to approach the Citadel," Kaiden says, passing behind us. I didn't see or hear him coming.

"Thanks," she replies. Turning to me, she says, "Well, it was nice meeting you."

"You too, Jane," I say to Shepard, taking her hand. What the hell am I doing, again?

She takes it, gripping it tight, but arches an eyebrow and asks confusedly, "Jane? Who the hell is Jane?"

"That's your name, isn't it?" It's the default, and I don't think I changed that. Do you have to know Shepard really well to safely use her first name? It's public knowledge, so knowing isn't an issue.

"No." That's pretty blunt.

"Then what is it?"

"It's John." Oddly enough, she doesn't look or sound that ashamed of it. I guess she's used to it, or maybe it's a side effect of being gender-swapped...

Oops. You know, editing people is probably bad, but this is technically my fault and this is a fix so it's okay.

setname shep Jane
reconcile -c -q -m
reconciling changes...
successful - 55 changes made

"Not anymore."

Now actually Jane blinks. "What's not anymore?"

I wave her off. "Nothing. Is there somewhere we can watch the approach?"