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Finding Love Among the Stars

Chapter Text


 

 

Vashlani watched and grinned as Shepard laid into the quarian Admiralty Board for not only putting Tali on trial for treason but hiding the fact her Father was on the ship which the geth had taken over. When they went to investigate they found that it was her Father and several quarians that had caused the mess by assembling geth, bringing them online and torturing them. The geth reacted and killed the ones on board. When they got back they heard the quarians already getting ready to pronounce the group dead, it had only been a few hours until Shepard and Tali burst into the room. Tali smart-mouthed them then Shepard took over.

 

Now Shepard was yelling at them that this wasn’t about Tali at all, it was about them wanting to go to war with the geth, again. She kept the knowledge about Tali’s father and what he had been doing over there to herself, hiding the fact that they had found evidence that would have labeled Tali’s father a war criminal. He could hear the mutterings of the crowd over what Shepard was saying and how they should have known that someone like Tali wouldn’t have turned traitor.

 

The Admirals realized they had made a huge mistake and voted not guilty so they could save face. They gave Shepard a few token upgrades and thanked her for representing one of their people. Shepard sneered at them and it showed in her voice. “I didn’t represent one of your people, Tali is one of mine.” The murmurs started again as everyone talked among themselves as they left.

 

They spent a few minutes walking around and letting Tali say goodbye to her Aunt and some of her friends then headed back to the ship, Tali’s head held high. She may now carry the name of a human ship, but she was damn proud to have it.

 


 

Shepard was leaning back in Vashlani’s hot tub, a relaxed smile on her face, enjoying the luxury, as Vashlani showed Tali around his home. He had extracted several more promises from the quarian than he had her, one of which was no trying to destroy or tamper with his sphere. He did allow her to run several scans over it which all came back as unknown just to show her that it wasn’t some sort of AI but a mix of magic and science and was damn useful. It took excellent care of everything while he was gone and was happy to have the sphere as a companion. The sphere gave out a small bout of steam then headed for the lift up to take another basket of drinks out to the small table next to the hot tub.

 

He left Tali happily discussing technical stuff with Garrus down in the smithy, while he went and changed clothes to join Shepard in the hot tub.

 

It wasn’t even thirty minutes later that Garrus came running out of the house. “Either of you two seen Tali? She said she was going to go look at the sphere again and now I can’t find her. I checked the house and the greenhouses, the orchard, meadow, and stable. She’s disappeared.”

 

“This is a pocket dimension, Garrus, she just can’t up and disappear, well unless she wandered too far away from the grounds and got lost. She’s here somewhere. Did you ask the sphere or Urz?” Vashlani levered himself up from the tub and Shepard followed him.

 

“Uh...”, Garrus rubbed his fringe.

 

Vashlani grabbed a towel to dry off with and gave a loud whistle, Urz came charging around the corner of the house. “Tali is missing. Do you know where she is?”

 

Urz lowered his body and gave a wiggle.

 

“Okay, take us there.” They followed the varren as he went charging around the house and made a beeline for the brewery.

 

“Oh no!” Vashlani yelled out and put on a burst of speed. “Vashlani just started a new line of whiskey, if Tali had found his aging casks, he isn’t sure what will happen to her.”

 

Urz stopped at the slightly opened door to the small brewery shed and the others pushed the dual doors open to reveal the rows of boilers, casks, shelves, and ladders. Off to one side was several large cauldrons and a shelving system built almost to the ceiling filled with round casks with different colored ribbons hanging from them.

 

“Someone’s been busy. This place looks a lot larger than it used to be Vashlani.” Garrus joked with him as they looked under some of the shelves.

 

“Yes, well, Vashlani didn’t count on going through as much alcohol as we do. Plus the Arch-Mage put in an order for some as well. So expansion was necessary. I’m going to be adding several vintages of wines, too.”

 

They stopped when they heard a noise coming from the far side of the building, where the shelves were stocked with recently decanted whiskey. “Oblivion, that’s the strong stuff. I haven’t quite got the mixture right yet. The last person who drank that straight ended up knocked out for two days after half a glass. Not sure about the dextro blend I made.”

 

They hurried to the other side of the building and saw a foot sticking out from behind one of the large barrels marked “Real Corks” and heard what sounded like a hiccup.

 

“Uh oh.” They all looked down at the quarian who had somehow got herself jammed behind the barrels, holding a rather large, round-bottomed, brown glass bottle in both hands. It had what looked like a huge bendy straw sticking from it.

 

Garrus snapped a quick holo as he held back his laughter, Vashlani heard it though and also saw Shepard’s lips start twitching.

 

“Tali, what have you gone and done?”

 

“Shhheppparrd, did you know, Vashlamandy had booze?” They saw her try to get the straw back into her intake slot, “and not just your booze. But stuff for meee tooooo.”

 

“I think you have had enough, Tali,” Garrus said as he tried not to laugh.

 

“No, I just figured out how to get the port...snork...”

 

“Cork?”

 

“Yesh... Garrush. The corp out of the bottle.” They saw her wobble a bit. “One more sip. Just a teeny one.” She tried to get the straw in but kept missing the slot.

 

Shepard reached down and took the bottle from her hands and gave it to Vashlani who held it up to the light. Garrus reached for Tali and carefully lifted her up. “How much did she have?”

 

Vashlani scratched his head and blinked at him, “I... she had maybe one swallow? Just about a shot glass full. I have to redo the recipe.”

 

“No, sounds good to me. Put a cork in it and hand it here.” Garrus wiggled one of his fingers at him, then smiled as he carried a now unconscious Tali to the sitting room. Vashlani shook his head then jotted something down on a roll of paper near the bottles, picked up the cork Tali had dropped on the ground and tossed it into a small pail, before reaching for a fresh one and twisting it into the opening.

 

“She’s going to be feeling it when she wakes up. Guess we should have figured she would go looking for something she had seen Garrus eating or drinking but was denied her. Plus with what just happened, alcohol would have probably been my first choice too if I had been in her shoes.” Shepard wrapped an arm around his as they walked back toward the house.

 


 

They heard a groan from the sitting room and saw Urz jog toward it just as they sat down for dinner that night. Shepard let out a short laugh and got up to go check on her quarian engineer.

 

“What happened?” Tali groaned out from her still reclined position on one of Vashlani’s couches. He had replaced the hard wooden furniture in this room with thick cushioned ones from the Citadel. The Earth-based store claimed them to be “rustic.”

 

“What happened was you found Vashlani’s private brewery and helped yourself to one of his untested bottles of dextro whiskey. That stuff can peel the paint off a wall, Tali, and you had one of the biggest bottles of it in your hands.”

 

“Ugh... I’m such a bosh’tet. I just wanted what Garrus had.”

 

“Not even Garrus had that whiskey yet. Vashlani hadn’t got the recipe right. If you wanted something you could have asked, you know.”

 

Tali grabbed the throw blanket that had been draped over her and pulled it up to hide her helmet, “I did, on the Normandy. Vashlani said no, he couldn’t be sure it was safe. I... ugh... my head, I told him I could run scans. He just didn’t want me to have it, he hates me.”

 

“No, Tali, this khajiit does not hate you, only wanted to protect you. One of the ingredients has a drug like property, although it was safe for Garrus, with your... What did you call it?”

 

“Her immune system”, Shepard said.

 

“Yes, with that, Vashlani didn’t know what effect it would have on you and didn’t want you to be hurt by it. If I hated you, I would not have brought you here. It was a good thing I was cautious. The whiskey you took, was strong, you had only a swallow or two before becoming extremely intoxicated.”

 

They saw her fingers clenching around the edge of the blanket before it was lowered.

 

“Give me some time, Tali, this one will see about adjusting the mixture or trying to find something which would be more suitable for you. A nice light ale made with exotic flowers and khajiit hops. The flowers only found in the dry desert of northern Elsweyr during the only month they bloom.”

 

“You would do that? A special blend just for me?”

 

“I would. But to import the flowers and some of the fragile seeds will take a while. It will be a long journey and the month of blooming is still many months away. Vashlani will send a courier to the supplier of his hops, by the time they make it there it should be close to the season, he can package them up and send them back as soon as the flowers and seeds are ready.”

 

After dinner they went back to the ship, Vashlani once again explaining to Tali about the food not being able to be given to her, he had no means of making it safe and it also used the sugar to make it compatible for Garrus.

 


 

Vashlani was manning the probes again for his own turn at the system when another call from the Illusive Man came through marked urgent. Joker activated the cameras in the debrief room and they listened to the Illusive Man tell Shepard they found a derelict Reaper, he had a scientific crew there but-- surprise surprise-- they lost contact with them.

 

Joker shook his head, muttering about how for such a big all knowing, all seeing bastard, he certainly loses control and contact with more teams than anyone else Joker had ever heard of.

 

Shepard sighed and told him they would go check it out, before signing off he told her that his team had located the ship’s IFF chip and it would be necessary for them to safely navigate the Omega-4 Relay to get to the Collector base. She nodded then cut the connection.

 

“Joker...”

 

“Already got the coordinates plugged in, ETA is 12 hours. Sending you the mineral report.”

 

Shepard stood in front of the upgrade terminal and purchased several armor upgrades now that they had enough minerals, they would be ready by the time they were finished with the defunct Reaper ship. “Joker, after this next mission put in on Nos Astra, to pick up the upgrades and refuel.”

 

“Aye, Commander.”

 

She sent a notice to Thane and Garrus about the next mission before heading up to the loft to make a restock order which she could send off as soon as they returned. A few hours later a basket of food was set near her elbow as she filled out several personal reports and had forgotten to go for dinner. She ate while she finished them up, joining a softly snoring Vashlani in the bed several hours later to catch a bit of sleep before they had to deal with the mission.

 


 

“I don’t like this Shepard.” Garrus hissed over the comm as the group made their way through the airlock doors and saw huge blood splatters on the walls and on the floor. “Just like old times, moving in the dark, waiting for something scary and synthetic to jump out and shoot at us.”

 

“Hush up, Garrus. I so don’t need that image in my head right now,” Shepard said as they moved into the first room and she activated the holo-screen and listened to the head scientist’s journal while Garrus looted several wall safes.

 

“They were already feeling the effects of indoctrination. Even ‘dead’ these things are dangerous. Stay alert.”

 

The group moved through the room heading for the airlock door into the actual Reaper.

 

“Shepard?”

 

“What is Vashlani?” She said quietly as they approached the door.

 

“All that blood... where were the bodies?”

 

They all paused and stared at each other.

 

All of a sudden the ship gave a huge lurch. “Joker? What’s happening?”

 

“The Reaper’s drive core just went offline, the ship is being pulled into the brown dwarf’s gravitational field.” His voice started to sound strained.

 

“We don’t have the IFF chip and we need it. We may not get another chance at one,” Shepard said as the ship settled. “We need to head further in, we have a short time to find it, then I’m counting on you to pull our asses out off this ship.”

 

“Yeah, I got it, already,” Joker hissed at them.

 

“Well, at least if we start to run short on time, I’m here. If necessary we go into the pocket and use the portal to the ship. But that puts us in a precarious situation should we need to depart the bag using the ring sooner than that. It would send us right back to this spot... or what was left of it... or wherever this ship happened to have been at the moment we entered the bag.”

 

“I got it, Vashlani... bag as a last resort,” Shepard muttered as the airlock door swished opened and they entered the Reaper. More blood awaited them as did more journals showing the crew becoming paranoid, sharing memories and over it, all were being indoctrinated. They started down a ramp when they heard the moans of husks coming from the dark areas on either side of the platform. They started to back up when Vashlani spotted something running at them that he hadn’t seen before.

 

“There’s a red one, as if it’s on fire, heading this way.” He held up a hand and several shards of ice shot from his palm, hitting the husk dead center. Only it didn’t freeze, it exploded.

 

“Oh, just lovely,” Shepard hissed.

 

There were more rooms containing loads of husks which came at them. Several rooms had different Reaper troops but Shepard and the others didn’t stop to look at them.

 

“Am I the only one wondering why there are Reaper units still functioning on this ship? Where did they come from? Husks are made from humans, correct? But why are there human husks on a 37 million-year-old derelict Reaper? And where did those other ones come from?” Thane whispered to them as they stopped and stared down a long, dark hallway.

 

“I think you figured out what happened to the crew, but how they were changed, dunno. Keep an eye out.”

 

They took several steps down the hall when two shots rang out and two husks went flying from a side passage that they hadn’t seen.

 

“Sniper,” Thane hissed.

 

“And a good one at that. Both were headshots and I didn’t see a damn thing,” Garrus said quietly.

 

“At least we know there is one survivor, maybe they will have information?” Vashlani said the glow from the ice spell he was holding in one hand and the flame spell in the other were throwing odd shadows along the wall. Garrus grabbed everything he could, shoving it into his bag and the heavy ammo canisters into Shepard’s pack.

 

They started down the short ramps in front of them, heading into a better-lighted area, when more groans filled the room. Husks came from everywhere as did a couple of Scions.

 

They stood staring at the many Dragon’s Teeth devices which had been set up as some sort of display at the end of the room. Garrus and Shepard explained to the others what they were and what they were used for. Thane told them that his own people told stories of devices found on worlds that would turn people into soulless monsters. They all realized they must be the same thing. Shepard looked around more carefully and noted how the room was arranged, bringing it to their attention how it was set up as some sort of alter. Garrus said that it made sense considering one of the logs told of how the ship was being viewed by some of the indoctrinated as an old god that was asleep.

 

They moved to another door and through it after it slid open. It revealed a huge open area of the Reaper, filled with crates and stairwells, many hiding places that the units could be lurking.

 

Shepard just gave the hand signal to split up when shots rang out. She turned quickly to see a husk had somehow come up behind her finish dropping to the floor. They whipped around and Vashlani pointed to a spot further down and up high in the rafters, his eyes were glowing a bright blue behind his smoky face shield of his helmet. Everyone looked up at a geth unit who stood there holding a sniper rifle.

 

Garrus and Thane brought up their own rifles then nearly dropped them when the unit spoke. “Shepard-Commander”, before it quickly disappeared.

 

“When did they start talking? I thought they needed to be in huge numbers to be intelligent. What the hell is going on Shepard? How did it know who you are?” Garrus muttered as they scanned for more units. Only instead of geth, the cavernous room became filled with husks, abominations, and scions.

 

By the time they made it through the entire room and cleared it of the units they were all breathing heavily. Well except for Thane. They had kept an eye on him at first, but they saw the way his eyes were lit up and a grin twitched his lips as his lungs worked flawlessly. Vashlani had collapsed on one of the containers which held heavy weapons ammo and held up a hand. He pulled out several phials and lined them up on a crate then drank them one after the other. The last one was a green swirling one none of them had seen before. After the light dimmed Vashlani stood up and moved as if they hadn’t spent the last eight hours fighting through a giant Reaper. Shepard and Garrus shared a look and both of them knew they would hound him to find out just what he used to do that.

 

They approached the door and Vashlani glanced down and saw a small black object sitting on a tray. He slowly reached over, started to fiddle with it, edging it closer to the end of the tray as the others were busy hacking the door. His hand had just closed around it and started toward his pouch when Shepard whirled around.

 

“Fork it over.” She had a hand held out and he froze.

 

“I... what? Fork what over?”

 

“What you just swiped off that tray.”

 

He stood staring at her while Garrus shook his head and went back to hacking the door.

 

Vashlani let out a sigh and opened his palm, revealing the small black computer chip he had. Shepard grabbed it from his palm and held it up to the light before looking back at him.

 

“Huh, good find Vashlani. This is the IFF we needed from here.” She tucked it into an empty heat sink holder on her suit.

 

“Vashlani knew that. It’s why he picked it up.” His whiskers twitched inside his helmet.

 

They heard a snort coming from Shepard’s suit as she shook her head and turned back toward the door just as it opened.

 

There was a barrier across it and they all watched as the geth unit worked over a terminal and shot husks as they got close. The barrier dropped and the unit turned around and was damaged by a husk which blindsided it. The light went out on its head as it dropped to the ground. The crew ran in and took out the husks before rushing toward the terminal as a thick metal plate closed over the core.

 

“Garrus, you need to get the shield open so I can take out the core.”

 

Thane moved to one side and Vashlani moved to the other as more husks appeared. Thunderbolts, gunshots, warps, and snowballs were flying everywhere as the two held off the majority of the enemy.

 

“Now, Shepard.”

 

She rapidly pulled the trigger on her missile launcher, the guided missiles flew toward their target. When the shield closed up she dropped the used ammo canister and slammed another home just as the shield opened again. This time they heard the explosions as the core cracked.

 

They got into an argument over whether to take the geth unit or leave it.

 

“If Shepard doesn’t want it, Vashlani will take it. Unique. And it has some of what looks like your old armor stuck to it. Vashlani can build a special display in his sitting room for it.” He bent down and grabbed one of the machine’s arms and started dragging it toward the door which opened.

 

“Oh for God's sake. Thane grab the other arm and help him,” Shepard hissed as they started toward the door, their guns rapidly firing at the encroaching enemies as they made for the shuttle.

 

They heard a grunt and Shepard glanced back and saw the unit floating toward the open door of the shuttle followed by Vashlani and Thane. Garrus turned and ran for it, leaping off the ledge and sailing toward the opening. A few last shots and Shepard followed.

 


 

Garrus and Thane dumped the inactive geth unit on the table in the debriefing room then went to change out of their armors, leaving Vashlani happily humming in the room with it. He had just brought out a huge ball of twine from his pack and started to measure the unit when Shepard came into the room followed by Jacob and Miranda.

 

Vashlani wasn’t paying much attention as he was tying knots on the twine and jotting down measurements until the subject of the “unique salvage” that was found came up. His ears rotated and whiskers twitched as Miranda tried to get Shepard to give the unit to Cerberus. Jacob suggested airlocking it.

 

“This is Vashlani’s treasure. You can’t have it, and you can’t destroy it. It doesn’t belong to you or to Shepard. It’s mine. This khajiit is keeping it,” he growled at them all and went back to measuring around the flashlight head and down one arm.

 

Shepard grinned at the Cerberus agents and shrugged. Jacob shook his head and stalked out of the room followed by Miranda who knew it would do no good to argue with the alien.

 

Shepard cleared her throat and waited until Vashlani finished measuring the thing’s foot before speaking. “While the unit is here on the Normandy we will need to take precautions. We’ll need to run tests just to make sure it’s really deactivated and won’t cause any harm. EDI can set up special barriers inside the AI core for it. Only you and I can have it taken down, so you don’t have to worry about anyone messing with it. If we’re sure it’s safe and won’t spontaneously restart you can keep it there until you’re finished building the display.”

 

Vashlani looked up and narrowed his eyes at her, his whiskers twitched and the blue eyes glowed brighter for a few moments. “This is Vashlani’s unique geth. You said you didn’t want it. You won’t try and sell it or give it to those others? Or destroy it? No one else can have it?”

 

“I wouldn’t give it to Cerberus even if it wasn’t something unique. And no I won’t sell it. As long as it stays inactive it won’t be destroyed. But if it activates and tries to hack the ship or harm a member of the crew I will destroy it without a second thought.” Shepard watched him clutch the ball of twine in his one hand. “Only for the safety of the crew, Vashlani. Not for any other reason.”

 

“Alright, but just until I can get the display built.”

 

Shepard nodded and asked EDI to have two of the ship crew come to help Vashlani move it to the table inside the AI core.

 

He took a few more measurements and made sure EDI knew not to let anyone mess with his treasure before he headed out of the room and back to the small portal room. He had to get started on the display.

 

Shepard waited a few more minutes then asked EDI if he left yet. “Just now, Shepard.”

 

Shepard ran to the AI core and closed the door behind her.

 

“I’m activating this thing, EDI. I have questions for it. Make sure you can’t be hacked and all precautions that can be made, are.”

 

She had just learned the unit had been sent out to search for her, telling her the true geth were against the Old Machines and that it wanted to join her crew when Vashlani came into the AI core.

 

The ball of twine slipped from his fingers and rolled toward Shepard who let out a sigh and bent down to retrieve it. “Vashlani, this is Legion. Legion this is Vashlani, the one who saved the mobile platform from the Reaper corpse.”

 

“But... my treasure. How?” He turned to Shepard with a look of hurt in his eyes. “You did this. You waited until Vashlani left then you turned it on. Why? How could you lie to me like that? You said it was mine.”

 

“I said if it stayed inactive, Vashlani. I needed answers as to why it could talk and why it helped us. If it didn’t turn on then I wouldn’t have cared what you did with it.”

 

Vashlani looked at the two beings in front of him before taking several steps back and turning to rush out the door.

 

“Shit. We’ll talk some more in a bit Legion. I need to try and fix this,” Shepard said to the geth unit as she headed for the door.

 

“Vashlani! Wait, let me explain,” she called out to the khajiit’s retreating back.

 

“There is nothing for you to explain. You lied to me. You said it was mine. And you stole it from me, and turned it on when my back was turned.” Vashlani banged on the door to the portal room when the door wouldn’t open. “Damn it EDI. Open the door!”

 

He reached for the ring in his pocket to leave the ship when Shepard grabbed his arm. “Don’t leave. Please. Listen to me. Let me explain. Come back to the room and talk to it. It gave intel which we needed Vashlani. It wants to join us, to fight against the Reapers. Aren’t you curious about it now? Don’t you want to talk to the only geth unit that’s willing to talk to us? We will be the only people to have spoken to one in almost 300 years. It can tell you of its people. It can tell you where that armor came from. It wouldn’t be able to speak if it was deactivated.”

 

Vashlani’s ears twitched. “You stole from me, Shepard.”

 

“I’m sorry. I had to find out more about it, how it knew who I was and what it was doing on that Reaper. There was only one way to do that and it was to try and activate it. I knew you wouldn’t let me do it, because if it worked you would have lost a unique treasure. It’s been searching for me for years, it came through the Veil to gather intel and to find me or at least find my remains. What it was going to do if I was dead, I’m not going to even ask it. I don’t think I would like the response.”

 

She tugged on his arm trying to get him to go with her back to the core. “Come on. I know you’re curious about it. Who knows maybe it will have another mobile platform stashed somewhere you can have. Maybe even more unique looking than the one they are using now.” His ears twitched again. He pulled his arm from her grasp and shook his head.

 

“No.” Then he vanished.