Chapter Four: Deception

The fall seemed to just go on and on for Shepard as he continued to drop into the abyss of darkness, arms swinging out to grab at some unseen handhold. His armored body bashed and hit against crossing ducts now, driving a pained yell from him before continuing to fall. As this all happened the constant thought of Tali kept going through his mind, seeing her get dragged away to face the horrors farther ahead. Thinking about her made his determination come back to him, making him focus once more now.

Soon, another slamming hit from a metal duct went across his chest, knocking the wind out of him again. However, this time his hands grasped at the smooth metal and found a hold onto it, keeping him and place now to stop him from falling.

"I won't lose her…not after all we faced before together…" He muttered to himself, before slowly pulling himself up onto the vent top. Standing on it, he kept his balance before he moved down to look for a maintenance vent hidden around somewhere, since the Keepers needed a way to go about even here to make repairs. Soon, he found one farther ahead built into the wall, leading him once more into the air control tunnels that littered around the entire Citadel.

He had no idea of where Tali was in this maze of tunnels and ducts, but he knew he would find her somehow, even if all the odds were against him. Facing the impossible was almost daily route to him by now, but this time it had become personal.

..

Three Years Ago – The Migrant Fleet

Today was quite a special one as a sudden meeting had been called on by the Admiralty Board, involving sad news of one of their leading member's and the fate of sole child of the family. The public meeting was held as usual in the largest of the fleet's ship, sit in the large council chamber where each Board member stood while the public watched on the opposite end. In the between the two sections was a walkway leading to a single stand where a speaker could approach and speak directly to the Board.

The leading moderator of the Board stepped up, Admiral Shala'Raan who many saw as a wise and logical, balancing the conflicted personalities of the other admirals. All but one of the leading members were in their place, leading to the watching crowd mutter about. Raising her hands, the crowd quickly silenced before the quarian woman spoke.

"People of the fleet. We have called on this meeting to report of a sad passing within our leadership." She paused as he words sunk in, before continuing. "Admiral Kaldren vas Yenden has died along with his wife and closest members of his fleet. The incident involved a batarian raid on a human colony world they were visiting as part of medical research. The Alliance has thankful brought justice to those responsible yet it does not lessen our loss."

Again everyone was silent, almost in prayer. Kaldren was favored by many since he was an active member of the Board, focusing on medical improvements for their ships and personal suits.

"Kaldren's line is left to one now. His son Ronza." Shala'Raan would look to the side as the young male quarian walked towards the central stand, his gaze intense and his poise straight as he stood before the Admirals. "The late Admiral would have been proud of you Ronza. You are fitting of his legacy and that of your family line which is traced back to the time far before the loss of our homeworld.

All he did was nod back in acknowledgement, seeming to know the Admiral wasn't finished yet and was deep in thought as well.

"Top of your class in all subjects from mechanics, bio-science and even military service. None can boast of such accomplishments before even starting their Pilgrimage. That is why…we have decided to let that rite pass for you."

Gasps and muttering filled the air as the crowd as shocked. Never had a Pilgrimage been repealed for anyone, since the rite was a tradition and needed for the sustaining of the overall Fleet. At this point Ronza reacted as one hand clenched the pedestal of the stand.

"Why? Why do I get this special treatment while so many before me had to endure their Pilgrimage after such losses?" He questioned, his voice calm yet accusing towards the Board.

"Are you taking our decision as an insult?" Spoke up a male quarian, Admiral Han'Gerrel, a quite famous if hot headed military leader of the Board. "You're skills alone are a resource enough. There is no need to send you out and risk yourself while your vast talents can be put to use here with the Migrant Fleet."

"Is that so? Well I say that is a lie." Ronza remarked back coldly.

The Admirals looked shocked, unsure to such disrespect, yet the young quarian wasn't finished. "This is about keeping me under your watch. You know very well what my family has been working on. Generations of work towards a cure."

"There is nothing to 'cure'! Our kind is strong as ever and-"Han'Gerrel snapped back yet he was interrupted.

"Strong?! We've been drifting for over 300 years on his decaying fleet! Our lives are at the mercy of a simple breach to our suits, leaving us unable to properly fight the Geth or even find a new world to call home! The galaxy looks down on us…as thieves and creators of a galactic menace!"

With each remark the crowd yammered on, mixed of shock and muttering agreement hinted among them. The Admirals talked between each other, Han'Gerrel seeming ready to strangle Ronza while Shala listened calmly.

"Even if we reclaim our homeworld we won't even be able to enjoy its fresh air or the warmth of the sun. My generation…even the next will be denied such a pleasure. Our bodies are flawed, something which even our old government knew and were trying to mend."

"Such claims are not meant to be mentioned! You know very well such research even back then was considered forbidden!" Han'Gerrel shouted back.

Shala at this point spoke, her tone still calm yet having a more serious hint to it. "He is right Ronza. You know very well the dangers of genetic manipulation. It is the natural order in the end…and in the end we have survived despite it. If such research was flawed, such changes could lead to the death of our species. You know well what such science has done. Look at the Krogan's and you know the dangers of it!"

The room became quiet thinking of possibly facing the same fate as the Krogans or perhaps something even worse. Ronza was silent, head bowed for a long moment before looking back at the Admirals.

"You're right. It is dangerous to rely on such methods, yet in the end what choice do we have. Right now we are suffering a slow death and you all are willing to let it happen or to just one day throw us all in a suicidal war with the Geth, thinking that victory will fix all our problems." Shaking his head, he gave a small mocking chuckle. "I refuse that. My father entrusted his work to me and I plan to finish it. To give our people a gift they deserve. Freedom from fear and the chance of a real life."

With that he moved away from the stand as the crowd broke out, yelling questions towards him and the Admirals. Curses and blessings were given as the male quarian moved along, heading for the docking bays for his own ship.

"He should be arrested! If he is serious, his actions are that of treason!" Han'Gerrel whispered to Shala.

"You know the people would be outraged by such an act. If anything his words are true…our kind is reaching its limits. I doubt he will find his 'cure'. If the greatest minds before us couldn't with all their vast resources, what chance does he have?" She answered back, her voice somber as she watched Ronza leave the meeting chamber.

With some effort, he'd avoid the following crowd from the meeting chamber and now approaching his ship, a small medical vessel his father had entrusted to him. With his omni-tool out, he prepped it for launch, yet stopped when he noticed someone step out from behind him. At first he thought it was a Marine who was ordered to capture him…maybe even kill him as he moved for his concealed pistol, yet he recognized who it was.

"Tali'Zorah. I should have expected you'd come to say goodbye." A slow sigh escaped him, yet under his green tinted mask he smiled at her. "You can't change my mind. I'm leaving to do my Pilgrimage and I won't come back until I finish what my father started."

The young female quarian was silent, her gaze low as she was torn over what was going on. She always knew of Ronza's aspirations, having become close with him during their studies and childhood. "I know and I won't try to stop you. Just…do you think this is right? The Admirals made a good point…" Her gaze met his, conflicting emotions showing in her eyes. "Is it worth it just for a promise?"

He was silent, yet his steady look was answer enough for her. "You have to believe in me. What I'm doing is for the greater good for us all…and for you." One hand moved to touch her face, making him shift back shyly. "Just wait for me."

With that said, he moved away from her, hurrying into his ship and undocking from the vast capital ship. Tali watched him fly off, disappearing in a flash as he went into FTL, bowing her head as already she worried for him.

..

Hidden away in the deepest parts of the Citadel, Tali carefully followed Ronza who guided her through the many different tunnels and vents, seemingly know his way around the endless maze. She was stilled worried about the rest of the team and Shepard, hoping they had escaped as well. Still, knowing Shepard, he was most likely searching for her this very moment. However, she trusted Ronza, just as much as Shepard yet already she felt something was different about him.

"Ronza…I thought you were dead." Tali asked him after a long moment of silence. "The Admiralty Board said you died. They said you were killed on Omega when you crossed with pirates over some matter."

Ronza gave a small chuckle hearing such news, seeming amused by it. "Sounds much like what they said about my father. I now question if they were somehow involved with his demise."

"No…The Board wouldn't do that. Despite all that was said that day, many people were worried about you, hoping you'd come back...believing the promise you made."

"I'll admit Tali, I've missed my place in the fleet yet I can never accept the views of the Admirals. Besides, in all those years I've hadn't found my answer yet. Always it has been evading me." He answered back calmly. "Always my research ended with a flaw or my work…tampered with. Yet in last week I've made a break through!"

Guiding Tali into the dimly lit hallway, the door closed behind them as they now walked into the lab. Quickly, she looked around to see all the different tables, laid out with testing equipment and tech for all sorts of different projects. What was more shocking where the large test tubes with the twisted creatures she and the team have been fighting.

"Ronza…what is all of this?" She asked him in a worried voice as she looked at him and backing away a bit, his eyes behind his visor having a serious look in them when he glanced back at her.

..

Isaac slowed his run to take a moment to rest, panting heavily behind his visor as he looked around to make sure it was clear. Still he was completely lost in this massive space station, without a single clue of where the docking control was. Taking out a medkit off his belt, he quickly and carefully treated any wounds he got from his fight with that new flying necromorpher that he had barely escaped from.

His only option now it seemed was to find help from anyone still alive on the station, since someone here would know how to get the Ishimura free so he could take away it's monsters and so he could finish his mission in returning the Marker. He still had the sinking feeling that he was being watched, not by the monsters but someone else. From what he had seen of the necromorphs, they were moving together in larger groups and using more planned attacks, something they never truly done so far.

It was just becoming an added mystery since his arrival to this station, but hopefully he could set things right. Now more rested, he started to get moving again before suddenly hearing voices coming his direction. He could only understand a couple of words, but the voice seemed alien. Ducking behind a pillar, he waited for them to near to at least figure out who they were exactly.

..

Mordin, Jack and Thane all slowed down in their run, having escaped the horde of monsters and the Cerberus Agents.

"Was it wise to let Shepard run off like that alone? It's reckless to go on alone with all those creatures about." Thane said to the others, while keeping a sharp look out around them.

"No time to stop him. Besides, unwilling to abandon Tali'Zorah. He would go to any risk to save us, but for her he give his life for." Mordin said in a serious tone.

"Guess so, besides Shepard can handle himself." Jack added in as well.

"True…but still you saw how those creatures just seemed to find us. Someone or something is guiding them. Unsure how such creatures can be controlled in such a way. Perhaps pheromones or sound…hmm…" Mordin said, following along with his thoughts on the creatures.

Thane however could hear a taint shuffling behind one of the pillars and glanced over to the others, his eyes looking over to it before giving a small nod.

Mordin and Jack nodded back, understanding what he meant before all drawing their weapons and aiming at the pillar. Quickly, Jack used her biotics to pull the figure out of cover, making him yell out in surprised before landing in front of them but quickly getting up on his feet. The man was dressed in some metal suit of some kind that looked like a space suit of some kind. It even had a helmet and visor that covered up his face was well. With the group surrounding him he was quick to get his weapon aimed up although to the others it looked like a bulky energy cutter of some kind.

"What the fuck, who the hell is this guy?" Jack spoke out loudly, aiming his shotgun up more at him.

"Well he's human…" Thane said, his rifle lowering a bit since he could tell that man wasn't a threat to them.

"Uncertain…suit not of any design I have seen before, ever of old human works." Mordin said in a curious manner as he studied him.

The man looked between all three of them, giving an uncertain look to Mordin and Thane, but focusing on Jack. "Look…just lower that gun please and tell your weird buddies here to calm down. I don't like how they are staring at me." Isaac suddenly said in a tense voice.

"Well…he can talk at least." Jack said with a small sneer as she looked to the others.

"Wait, if he does not have a translator then he could be from that mining ship." Thane said quickly.

"Yes…I do think I can have a solution to this…" Mordin added before activating his omni-tool to link up to their translators. After a few moments, he took a moment to clear his voice, before speaking again to Isaac. "Sorry about our misunderstanding. Thought you were one of those creatures or a spy of Cerberus."

Isaac seemed to relax a bit more now that he could understand the strange alien, who he could barely understand because of how fast he spoke. Taking a moment to press a button on the side of his helmet to rise his visor up and show his face, he gave a sigh before looking at them.

"My name is Isaac Clarke, engineer of The USG Kellion which was sent to repair the Ishimura. I guess I have a lot to explain here…about the necromorphs and what I need to do with the ship." Isaac said after a moment of silence, his voice quite serious to them.

"Necromorphs. Fitting name for such creatures…Tell me more Isaac, I'm sure we can figure out a solution to both of our problems here." Mordin said, a showing interesting in his voice as he already had his omni-tool out to start taking notes.

..

Eland was moving away from the surveillance room to take a break, but stopped in the lab when he noticed Ronza with the female Quarian from the videos of Shepard's team.

"What is -sss- she doing here?" The Volus said in a surprised tone to the male Quarian. "I thought you-"

"I saved her and nothing more Eland!" Ronza snapped back angrily, silencing before he could say more. "She can be trusted…she understands my work and what it means for our people." Taking a breath, he calmed down before speaking again. "Leave us please. I expect the preparations for entering the Ishimura to be finished within the hour."

Eland, breathed loudly as he looked at them, but gave a small sigh and nodded before moving away, muttering to himself. "Foolish -sss- Quarian. Will ruin -sss- everything because of that girl…"

Returning to the control room, the Volus would see the human engineer from the mining ship speaking to the salarian doctor from Shepard's team, no doubt sharing all he knew about the ship he had been on along with the necromorphs.

"-sss- Perhaps this issue requires a professionals –sss- touch." Moving to communications, he'd quickly uplink with an old mercenary contact, someone he knew was perfect for a hit. "Mr. Zaeed? I hope you're still –sss- alive out there."

For a moment there was silence before the screen flared as the image of a gruff and scarred human showed up, giving an annoyed look towards the Volus.

"Well what a surprise Eland. Been quite a while since you called up. Just checking up for good times sake…or because I just happen to be stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse!" Obviously from his tone he sounded more angered and annoyed with his situation.

"Can't say my situation is –sss- any different. However I've had the luck of –sss- acquiring a ship. It's not locked down and –sss- fully equipped for a speedy escape. Think of a spot on board as –sss- payment."

"So selling flight tickets now. I'll admit the mess here is getting troublesome. Me and my crew have held out fine…although the club bar is dried up now." Pausing for a long while, he'd then speak up. "So deal is you get me and my men off station. So who's the unlucky bastard?"

"His name's Isaac Clarke, -sss- ship engineer. Let just say he's –sss- seen something he wasn't supposed to."

..

Tali looked back to Ronza when the volus had left them, the worried look in her eyes still showing at she stared at him. "Explain yourself Ronza, what is your involvement with what's

Ronza seemed to relax and a faint chuckle came from him as he moved closer to her. "Simple…they were scared of what I had found." He said in a calm and collected voice. "I was studying our DNA, looking into what makes are weak and unique immunity system. Because of how our planet is we did not need a strong immune system, which made it difficult to live on other worlds…and even more when forced off our home world."

Slowly, he paced around her to a table, opening a case to take out a green colored canister which he stared at intently. "I pieced together how our unique physiology also made us immune to diseases in a way, since diseases with more serious symptoms to other races simply become flu like. While the intensity varies between disease and individuals, it shows our bodies can suppress and adapt. All we needed was to make it strong enough to prevent rapid infections which is the usual cause of death when we're exposed."

He placed the canister back in its case before looking to her, seeing the shock in her eyes as she backed away from him. "Y-you can't be serious!" She said to him in disbelief. "You would never go that far…to change us in such a way. Do you even knows the risks that this can bring!?"

"Of course! Every step I've calculated very faction and aspect! Yet in the end it is worth it!" He answered back quite angrily. "It has taken me years to fully understand our DNA and hundreds of thousands of credits to fund my projects. I have been forced to deal with all sorts of illegal work to get such money, but for the better of our race I did so. But even with all my work there was just something missing…something that I have recently found."

Slowly, he walked over to one giant test tube, pressing a hand against it as he looked at the twisted monster inside. "The necromorphs…a quite a special being indeed…for a virus." He said in a calm voice once more. "It was quite a shock really when they attacked from that ship. I was out when that happened and when I saw all those people getting cut down and infected I thought I was going to die…but you see these creatures just ignored me."

Turning away from the tube, he walked back toward her, but stopped when she had her hand drop down for her pistol. Giving a stern look to her, he kept his distance as he continued. "I figured these creatures can 'see' our genetic makeup. It allows them to find fitting hosts to change and to create more unique necromorph forms. Why they do so I unknown to me yet already I have theories. However…our DNA is different and with our unique immunity systems. The virus while adaptive can't match with our own changing cells, even in death there is no reanimation and mutation."

Tali was surprised at what he was saying, but was surprised at how their race was safe from these creatures. "Then why they attack me then?" She questioned, a more aggressive side hinted in her voice.

"Your…team are all perfect hosts to the necropmorphs. With you so close to them I believe they could not tell you apart from them for the moment…." He said, not mentioning how he had also been controlling the creatures as well. "But the point is Tali…I have been able to find that last bit of genetic code needed to change ours. The necromorphs have proven to have a mountain of useful genetic data and the virus is a perfect host for my formula. In fact…I have already taken it."

Slowly, he raised a hand up to his visor and started undoing the safety latches for it. "No don't!" Tali started, but it was too late as he pulled it aside, giving a deep breath of air, his eyes closed now. He was handsome as she remembered him back when they had the rare time outside of their suits; it pained her since she had cared so much about him, even after hearing all dark things he had done.

"Yes Tali…I did it…" He said in his smooth voice, a smile showing on his face. "I have the cure that will make our people strong. To beat the Geth and take our place in the galaxy! This is just a piece of my whole plan…and once it all comes together all the Quarains will follow me to take what is theirs!" And with that he opened his eyes, which instead of being the light purple she had remembered, had now become a dark green color.

"Oh Keelah…Ronza…what have you done. What have you done?!" Tali said out in fear, stepping back until her back pressed against the wall of the lab.

Slowly he walked up to her, until his face was inches from her masked face, an evil grin on his face as he looked into her eyes through her mask. "Simple Tali…I have become the future…" He said in a causal manner before giving a low laugh as he suddenly grasped at her arms. She knew he was fast having seen how he sparred yet his movement was little more than a blur to her. "And you will have this gift soon enough. I still needs to be tested after all."

He'd take away her pistol and shotgun before moving away from her, already getting a syringe gun loaded with that green canister. "So, please don't resist Tali. I'd rather not hurt you…" Yet the look in his eyes seemed to have a sadistic gleam in them, something that she knew was completely wrong.

Author note: I know I don't give a big description of Ronza's face or Isaac, but you all know how Isaac is and I have no idea what a Quarain looks like, so sorry if you don't like that. I hope Ronza's genetic change plan does not sound too absurd or anything, since it took me quite a while to think it up.

As for other aspects of the story, the Shadow Broker plotline hasn't happened yet so Liera isn't the Broker just yet. As for how the Illusive Man knows so much of the necromorphs it's because of his vast source of informants who no doubt reported the arrival. No doubt he'd also deduce the alternate reality aspect since the ship itself is vastly different to anything in the Mass Effect universe along with other clues gathered up.

Anyway the next chapter will hopefully come around soon enough. If anything this chapter was the biggest rewrite since I thought to add a whole scene detailing Ronza's motives more clearly.

Again everyone feel free to favorite and comment!