Tali stared at her face.

Lavender colored skin, Violet hair, and a modestly pretty face stared back at her. It was a blend of faces she had seen in her family's holo-journal: her grandmother's nose, her father's skin tone, her mother's hair. It was something that had been denied her people for so long, and now it was hers. Her people would be freed from their suits in a matter of months, and all for the asking of an alliance that benefited them more than it did the SA.


Tali flinched, and looked at the door; and quickly wrapped her new Seemas around her neck and flipped up its hood.

"Madam 'Zorah… Are you ready to go? If you are decent that is." She heard Ziva ask from outside.

Tali swallowed heavily, "Yes… yes of course." Tali replied. She was passably familiar with most of the people from the Normandy, and it was thanks to Ziva'Onyeh that her people would all soon be free of their wretched lot, but she was insisting they have a, 'girls day out'. In public, where everyone would see her.

Only the ship's surgeon back home on the Rayya had seen her without her suit since she was old enough to wear one. Ziva'Onyeh insisted the environment was safe, but words alone weren't enough to wash away a lifetime of paranoia. As it was, the fact that she would be surrounded by her Dram'zelt din Relai was the only reason she hadn't outright refused.

That and to get away from, as Archer had put it, 'the sausage fest'. Tali wasn't sure what that even was, but given that it sounded distasteful, she'd rather live in ignorance than suffer in wisdom.

She stepped out into the hall and found everyone else waiting for her. All of them had an additional fur lined Seemas-like garment over their shoulders that draped nearly to the ground.

Ziva'Onyeh held one out for her. "Here; it's still cold outside so a cloak will help," she flipped a spacious hood up that nearly swallowed her features, "for a lot of things."

Tali swallowed, and was relieved to see all of her fellow females seemed to be nervous as well; with the exception of Ziva'Onyeh of course. "The dresses and hood cover our faces and our legs; and the boots cover our feet; but what about our hands?" Jaali asked.

Ziva's eyes lit up slightly with amusement, "Here…" She pulled out a pair of gloves, but they had no individual slots for fingers except for the thumb. "These are called mittens; they hide your hands quite well. If this were summer time, it would definitely draw some curious looks; but since it's winter, we're no more out of place than any other group of ladies on a 'girls night out'." She explained, handing each of the group their own pair.

Tali quickly tugged them on, and looked at the older woman; "Where are we going?" She asked.

"Solomon's Island; they have a small park, indoor Aquarium, and a Maritime History Museum. It's a mostly summer kind of vacation spot, and pretty remote; we'll be almost entirely alone, except for the museum staff, and they have been made aware about the need to be… 'discretionary'." Ziva explained.

Nina gave a slight nod and took a breath; "I know that it's safe but…"

Ziva walked over and set a hand on Nina's shoulder, "We'll be fine; but if at any point you feel like you cannot continue, please tell me."

They all nodded, and Ziva swept part of her cloak over her shoulder; an action that very much mirrored Shepards and Lee's, and walked out towards the door. They passed the fireplace where August was sitting with June, the two of them going over June's 'English Homework'.

Sky and Shadow lay at their feet, curled up and laying on the ground.

August looked up with a small smile; "Hope you all enjoy your day out, I have my omnitool in case all y'all get into trouble." He said, while June waved at the group shyly.

Ziva nodded, "We'll be fine dear, but thank you; I still have my gun in case things go bad."

The other Quarians all looked nervously at their hosts, with Nina and Tali both checking their hips. "Just how bad might it get that we would need to be armed on your homeworld?"

"Oh not too bad out here in the rural areas, but most everyone carries as a 'just in case'. It's the big cities you need to worry about, but we won't be going there until tomorrow; The gangs stay away from large groups, especially military types since they know we protect and avenge our own." August replied, before reaching down and petting Shadow; who just gave a pleased whine as he scratched the furred Varren behind the ears.

They all headed out to one of the outbuildings where the Lees kept all of their vehicles except the bus. They saw a variety of vehicles inside; most were obviously working vehicles due to the dirt stains and industrial attachments, but also a small number of air-car sized ground vehicles. They all piled into a surprisingly spacious vehicle that resembled a wheeled shipping container.

"Not to complain, because this is positively luxurious compared to some transports I've ridden in," Nina bounced on the wide bench seat she was sharing with Leah, "but does Pilgrim Lee own any air-cars?"

Ziva waved a hand, "He does, but they are used for official business only; and air-cars are expensive. August may be rich, but he grew up living a more conservative lifestyle than you would expect from a rich human; or any rich person for that matter. These vehicles are cheap, reliable, and easy to use and repair." She explained.

Tali considered that, finding it a very Quarian trait; even as the ride continued.

It was a quick ride, especially compared to the 'Bus' ride; and much smoother as well, as Ziva was clearly a much calmer driver. Although Tali noted with amusement that she seemed to share her bondmates temper in dealing with what she deemed 'Idiot Drivers'.

They quickly reached a bridge that led over the water, and Tali could feel her jaw drop at the size of the thing. Nearly every species boasted magnificent architecture, but most of them had also had Eezo tech for so long that ground transportation and the infrastructure to support it was nearly unheard of.

"That's the nice thing about human architecture; all of it has a very distinct lack of Eezo built into it. It's a good way to learn how to do things without being reliant on it." Ziva commented from the driver's seat, smiling beneath her Seemas.

They all looked out towards the Island, and saw that it was mostly made up of snow covered trees and a number of small buildings and docks. Boats, a lot of boats, were tied up on said docks because of the winter weather; and many of them seemed to use sails.

Sails! Imagine that. Tali mused as they crossed the bridge and reached the museum grounds.

The Maritime museum was interesting; for being a land based species, humans seemed to be rather well versed experts at nautical matters. But the giant sea predator's skeleton… it was terrifying.

Tali stood in the shadow of the behemoth which, according to the placard, had been extinct for 50,000 years. "Your people certainly are preoccupied with the 'ocean'. Only the Hanar are this interested in things living in the water, but for them it's about where they live."

The museum guide, who had been told about this… special trip, smiled in understanding; "Well for humans, we semi-live on water; you notice all major population centers older than two hundred years are either on rivers that feed into the ocean, or on the border to the ocean itself." He explained, gesturing towards the giant sea beast; "The fact of the matter is that we have actually explored and know more about the galaxy itself than we do our own oceans; and I suppose the itch for exploration still exists in humans."

He led the group through the rest of the area, most of it being a blur to Tali; but the cute little amphibious mammals stuck out in her mind the most. "What are these?" Jaali gasped, as one of the animals squeaked happily at her.

"They're called Otters; they're wild animals, but these ones were born in captivity and will die if released to the wild. They love being petted and all that, but we have to be careful; kids and their grabby hands and all that." The animal handler told them.

Nina stared at another one, and was clearly fighting her instincts to run away in terror; and Tali felt the same, and reached forward with a shaking hand. She slowly petted it, and the Otter squeaked happily; trembling all over. She let out a strangled giggle at the sensation of damp fur against her skin. Not even a week ago, simply having her hand exposed to the air would have laid her up; now she was touching a creature that lived in a solution guaranteed to have-Stop thinking about it! You have nothing to fear. You could even...

She looked back at Lia.

The last few days, she and Fyodor had been nearly inseparable. Everyone assumed it was just nerves about her adopted son, but now she understood; for the first time since he was a baby, he could touch his parent, breath in their scent, connect with them in a way no Quarian family had in 300 years.

There was a splash of cold water on her arm, and when she looked down there were nearly two fists of 'Otters' clustered around, all looking up at her with their tiny hands held in front of them. She didn't bother holding back the laugh as she gently extended her hand towards them, and reveled in the sensation.

"We'll be meeting up with the rest of the group at the Saloon; now you all get to taste the food as opposed to just sucking it down in purified tasteless nutrient paste." Ziva was saying, breaking Tali out of her thoughts while they approached the Van.

"Is it really that good?" Leah asked, "Because I do remember the 'Rice Krispy Treats' that I helped make tasting good, despite losing most of the flavor in purification."

"It is something to die for… Oh Bosh'tet." Everyone blinked while Ziva stared at one of the tires. "Of course it has a leak at the worst possible time." She snapped angrily, kicking the tire.

"Oh don't worry; we can just use our omni…" Lia trailed off as all of them remembered that there was not a catch all Eezo based solution they could use.

"Huh… That's a problem." Jaali admitted.

Nina mimicked Ziva's earlier action and kicked the tire, "Well now what do we do?" She demanded.

"Calm down girls." Ziva stated, "I'll walk over to the museum and see if any of the staff would be so kind as to give us some 'Fix-a-Flat'. Wait here while I get some." She ordered, before walking back to the main building.

As she walked away, Tali couldn't stop the question in her mind from coming out of her mouth; "What do you guys think about her?"

"She reminds me of Admiral 'Xen." Nina leaned against the van. "A female in a male dominated role, utterly confident in her work, and driven enough to test it on herself." She looked at the shocked eyes of her fellows. "Well she certainly didn't test it on June. You've seen how Pilgrim Lee is with her; no way Ziva would risk Lee's grief and wrath if anything happened to her."

"You say that like she cares more about Lee as opposed to her own daughter." Lia murmured uneasily, clearly thinking about Fyodor. She may have been his adoptive mother, at least until they got back to the fleet and located his family, but she was still very attached to him.

Nina shrugged. "I'm not a mother myself, so I don't know. From what I've seen, August and Ziva care about each other equally; but I get the impression that if anything were to happen to June, the Major would murder the galaxy."

"And I would be there burning it down with him." Everyone jumped and turned to see Ziva staring at Nina.

Tali and the rest were about to back away even as Nina stood her ground, but then stopped when she saw Ziva's eyes. They were watering, and it wasn't from the cold; "June is my daughter, and I love that girl with all my heart; I would never do anything to hurt her… Nina'Ciram. Why would you believe that I would not love her so?"

"Because I don't know you." Nina levered herself off the van. "You didn't rescue Fyodor and Lia from those animals at the Citadel, the Major did. You didn't stand up to the Commander for Tali, the Major did. The only thing I know that you have done is create the cure, which you put into the hands of a human, not the Fleet. I know the Major, but I don't know you. And only you can correct thet." Her tone was even, but challenging.

Ziva narrowed her own eyes, while everyone else took a step back; "Then let me introduce myself, I am Ziva'Lorah soon to be Lee; Doctor, Geneticist, Mother, and Researcher. This cure that lets us walk around without consequence took years for me to develop. Years! Years of testing it on myself, because there was no way that I, or the Ancestors, would allow myself to test this unfinished cure on my child!

"Years, where I would come home barely able to stand; or unable to come home at all, confined to a hospital bed in a clean room because of all the reactions taking place in my body. Long sleepless nights, sometimes with August and June there; sometimes just June because August was lightyears away protecting the Galaxy.

"And sometimes, June wouldn't even be allowed to see me because I was so disfigured from the reactions I intentionally inflicted on myself; so I and my colleagues could know how to counteract them on a genetic level, so my little Neyha could go around without being confined to those damned suits." Ziva took another step forward, and this time Nina did step back; "Just as one example among hundreds; do you know the pain of a Wasp sting? No you wouldn't, since even with humans it can kill someone if they are allergic and too much toxin enters the bloodstream; Now imagine how I felt, with no immune system and an allergic reaction?"

Nina took one deliberate step back and bowed. "My apologies, Hau'eal Ziva. I spoke in ignorance before, but I will not again. No one will doubt your dedication to our people, or to your child; not while I stand and may say otherwise."

Ziva sighed, "I accept your apology Marine; you could not have known what I experienced to give us this opportunity." She shook the cylinder in her hand, which Tali had forgotten about in the exchange; her mind still reeling from the sheer amount of pain that Ziva had gone through. "Come now, let's fix this tire and be on our way; the Red Hawk-Blue Dog Saloon awaits us."

Wrex was taking a breather from 'families' and 'kids'. He didn't begrudge people, but it always felt like a stab in his soul at what he and his people were denied. He was aimlessly wandering the farm grounds when he came to a set of metal strings encircling a field. There were several stocky, dare he say 'poofy' creatures milling around.

All except a larger than normal 'Poof' with two very impressive curled horns.

"Careful there Mr. Wrex, he's a mean one; very territorial and loves headbutting people in the crotch if he thinks they are intruding on his territory." One of the older human farmhands piped up as he walked by.

"What is this species called?" Wrex asked, noting that the human didn't shy away from him in fear or surprise at his question. In quite the contrast to the many bigwigs on Arcturus, and the humans he had met in their megacities and the Citadel; these 'rural folk' as they called themselves were hardy people, if the fact that they wrangled animals like these horned ones was a good indication.

The animal snorted angrily, and pawed the ground with one of its hoofs; before charging forward and crashing into the fence with enough force to cause it to bend.

"It's a male sheep; we simply call them rams, chiefly because they ram headfirst into anything they see as a threat. I'd show you the one bull we have, but he's getting shots right now; so he's pretty pissed." the farmhand replied with a raised eyebrow.

"Huh," Wrex curled a lip and looked at the small creatures. "I've heard your people refer to 'sheep' before, but the impression was they were weak and helpless." The ram started pawing the ground and dipping its head low.

Wrex chuckled and went to lean on the string fence.

"You'll not want to do that," the farmer commented absently.

Wrex scoffed. "I've taken on whole armies before; what's this little animaaahhhhHHH!" Wrex jumped back from the metal string and landed in a heap, as the farmer and two others just laughed.

"I meant about the fence; it's electrified since that's about the only thing Brutus respects. And even then it only pisses him off for the most part; he backs off if he gets zapped for too long, but he'll be in a foul mood the rest of the day." The Farmhand explained, dusting some snow off of his 'Fur-Lined Denim Jacket' and 'Cowboy hat'; clothing that these types of humans seemed to prefer.

Wrex just got to his feet, and took a deep breath; these animals must have been really strong if they could shrug off a burst of electricity that could send a Krogan like him on his ass. "How do you control it?" He finally asked.

"We use Blue, oh speak of the devil." The farmhand whistled, and the White-Blue-Black furred Varren from the first day trotted up to them; immediately shoving its snout into the humans hands, who started scratching the animal behind the ears.

The Krogan looked down at the fuzzy creature half the size of a runt varen. "What, this thing?" he pointed at Blue, who immediately licked his digit. "He couldn't corral a drunk Vollus. How's it supposed to deal with that?" He pointed at Brutus, who let out a deep and strangely intimidating -Blaaaahhhh!-

The farmer just smirked, then put two fingers in his mouth and gave a short, sharp whistle.

Wrex watched as Blue jumped over the fence, and started letting out some ferocious sounding barks, nipping at the Rams hoofs. The previously aggressive and angry thing immediately bleated and hopped back; huffing and pawing the ground, before Blue nipped its ear.

The Ram bleated again, and grudgingly started moving towards the horde of female sheep; all of whom started to gather into a tightly packed mass of fluff.

"...How…" Wrex rasped. By all rights, the Ram could have killed the thing; but instead it backed off.

"Simple. Blue, like all dogs, is descended from Wolves; and Rams know to fear Wolves through instinct. That's what separates us from Animals, we can override our base instincts; humans as a rule fear the darkness, as that was when the most deadly predators came out to hunt. Brutus may subconsciously know that he can beat Blue, just as easily as Blue can beat Brutus if Red is helping him; but Brutus's instincts force him to run, because they tell him that he's in mortal danger and needs to flee." The Farmhand explained.

Wrex stared at the human; many humans he had met had derided their fellow humans who live like this man. Living on a farm with other humans, and tending and raising animals and crops for the rest of their population.

They were derided as 'simple folk' that were stupid, uneducated, and didn't really matter in society. Instead, here was a person who had more guts, smarts, and even philosophical knowledge than some Asari Matriarchs.

"I know that look." Wrex glanced at the human. "You've got that 'you mean country folk aren't just cousin-fukin shit covered hicks?' look. We see it all the time." The other farm hands gave knowing nods. "Dean there has Double Masters Degrees in Animal Husbandry and Dietary Sciences. We have a fulltime Environmental Ecologist, and another horticultural geneticist, both with PHDs. I've got a Masters in Farm Management. Farming is big business, and that means there's a science to it. Besides, we've been at this for a few thousand years, so you pick up a few tricks."

Wrex considered what the farmhand had said, "Are there other animals like this Ram?" he asked.

The farmhand thought it over, then nodded with a grin; "Yeah, I can show you the two Boars we got; Hey Harry?!" He shouted, and a black haired human female dressed the same way as the men looked up. "Watch over Blue and the herd for me while I show Mr. Wrex Romulus and Remus."

Kal wasn't sure if this was a good idea or not; especially since he no longer had an envirosuit to protect him from hypothermia. He tightened the 'Tri-Color Desert Parka' as Lee had called it, around himself.

He was pretty sure his pale-lavender colored skin was turning blue from the cold; and he was also sure that ice was forming in his close cropped black hair.

"Relax, kid," Ashley manhandled a portable drill into the cabin on an inflatable base, "the ice here's nearly a meter thick. You could park the Maco on it and we'd be fine."

Kal had to resist the urge to snort, "I'm pretty sure I'm the same age as or older than you Williams."

She looked up at him oddly. "Really? With those baby-soft cheeks, I figured you for your early 20's."

Kal sputtered. "Baby-soft cheeks?!" He put his hand up to his now exposed flesh, feeling suddenly self conscious.

"Yeah, no facial hair on it at all; and I know Quarians can grow beards since I did see Fon practicing shaving while Phil coached him through it." Williams replied with a smirk. "Don't know why, since the Major implied he was going to enforce a beard policy."

Kal blinked, "A what?"

Williams shrugged, "A beard policy; because beards are among the best ways a person can disguise their face. Plus, word is coming down that we may be running an Op on New Kurdistan soon; and in Islamic Culture, beards are a sign of manliness. So there is a method to the Ghosts madness." She explained as she began digging through a box.

Kal thought about what she just said; about the possibility heading deeper into Triple Alliance territory. He'd know on an intellectual level that they were going after the animals that had attacked his people, and the Citadel; but for centuries, the Quarian Marine Forces were a defensive, reactionary force. They didn't embark on military adventurism, but here he was; planning to invade the sovereign territory of a colonial power that the Systems Alliance was hard pressed to contain.

He was shaken out of his thoughts when Williams coughed, "Can I help you Sergeant? You seem to be quite interested in my face; is it as pretty as the girls back at home?" She asked with a cheeky grin.

Kal snorted, even as he felt an odd rush of heat to his face; and he sat down on the small stool; "What did you call this anyway?" He asked to take his mind off her question.

She smirked at his deflection. "It's an auger. We're not getting through the ice with our bare hands; not without a lot of back-breaking and sweaty work. Help me hold it up."

Kal grunted as they struggled to lift the damned thing in the confined space; while Ashley tried to steady it. It took a few minutes, but they finally got it set up and activated it. As they watched the drill bore through the Ice, a thought came to Kal's mind. "Williams, how did your people fish through the ice before you came up with tech like this?" He asked.

The drill was already halfway through the Ice when Ash opened her mouth to speak; and then the drill died. The two Marines stared at it incredulously, until Ash just sighed; "And this is why humans avoid asking those kinds of questions; because you tend to get the answer in a way you don't want."

She cursed their luck while Kal tried to scan it with his omnitool; only to stare at it in confusion. "It doesn't use Eezo?" He asked incredulously while Ash began to rummage through her box.

"Of course not, Eezo is expensive; and battery powered stuff and hydrogen works just fine when not in space." Ash replied, not even looking up. "Aha!" She came up with a smaller hand powered drill, a large metal spike and a hammer.

She immediately took off her thick Parka and Kal looked away on instinct. Ash just rolled her eyes on seeing his reaction, "Please, I'm still fully clothed; you'll want to shed that Jacket since we'll be doing physical labor, and sweat is a death sentence out here." She informed him.

Kal grimaced, but did as he was told; while Ash began to hammer the Nail into the Ice. He noticed her glancing his way, and decided to get a little of his own. He put just the tiniest swagger in his shoulders as he removed the jacket. He was rewarded by Ash missing the Nail completely and slamming the hammer into the ice. He could see the furious blush on her face as she recomposed herself.

Who's got baby-cheeks now?

Jane just stared at the rifle in her hands.

It was old, but still pristine like it had just rolled off the production line. "What did you call this thing again?" she asked him, as August shrugged on his Denim Jacket and his brown Cowboy Stetson Hat.

"This is a M1917 Enfeild; it was pretty much the Standard Issue Rifle to the American Expeditionary Forces during World War One. Now, it is the most popular Civilian sporting Rifle; and used by American Great War Reinactors all over the world during Armistice Week celebrations." August explained, shouldering his own 'Enfield' Rifle.

Jane just huffed, while she dressed up like everyone else for Armistice Week; she never understood the reenactors. Still, August had offered to take her out shooting for a one on one 'heart-to-heart' as he called it.

Pulling on her own cowboy hat, and a set of winter Earmuffs; Jane quickly slung her own rifle, regretting that she couldn't take Eve with her. This would have been perfect practice for her to interact with the real world.

Pushing her bad feelings down, she quickly followed August out of the Mansion.

As they trudged through the snow, Jane noted that August kept looking back towards the house; before he finally seemed to relax. "Alright… we can start our talk while we walk." He finally said.

Jane licked her lips, which were already chapped from the cold wind; "I suppose we can…" She replied.

Neither said anything for a long moment, before August finally sighed; "You're still hung up on us withholding intel from you, I can tell."

"Yeah… wouldn't you?" Jane asked, genuinely curious more than anything else; he acted like withholding intel was common, but what unit would-

"No… Not really, because it happens all the time in the GST." He said simply, climbing over a fallen tree; brushing snow off his gloves. "That's a consequence of being in a unit that doesn't exist. If we get caught, we're disavowed, stripped of all records of being a citizen of the Alliance; and left to the Hyena's to be picked apart and killed. Compartmentalization is practically mandatory in that kind of environment."

Jane snorted as she stepped over a fallen log. "There'd be no way to maintain loyalty, esprit-de-corps or even discipline in any of the line units I've served in with that kind of mentality."

"We make it work, mainly because we all work towards a common goal. There's a saying amongst the Ghosts; 'You don't Pick the Ghosts; they Pick you'. All of our members were picked because they all have the same mark in their psychological profiles; that being a strong sense of Morality, a strong sense of Loyalty, and a desire to serve a higher calling." Lee explained, as they reached the shooting range; setting his Enfield down on one of the tables, and setting out several clips of the .30-06 Springfield Ammunition.

Jane unslung her own rifle, opened the bolt and set it in the stall next to August. "You almost sound like you don't believe other units have the same sense of duty. N-7 may be a volunteer force, but we only let the best wear the Black-and-Red; and that includes psych."

August just raised an eyebrow as he lifted one of his winter earmuffs and put in some earplugs. "Jahenne… can you honestly tell me that there were no Sociopaths or Psychopaths in the N-7's; more importantly, can you honestly tell me that they don't act at least a little sociopathic at times?"

Jane opened her mouth to say something, when August preempted her by saying; "The Wolves are made up of a number of former N-Trainees and even some N-7's; Kei Leng was an N-7, and I know you've heard of him."

That stopped Jane cold as she processed his answer.

There wasn't anyone in the galaxy who didn't know about the Butcher of Torfan. Her own misgivings after having met him during some of their units' training overlap had been ignored by the Cadre. Every training and supervisory officer in the N program was reassigned after he'd killed his way to the pirate command center, pirate and slave alike. The fact that he detonated an enhanced radiation device on the moon afterwards, 'to deny the asset to any future threats', had been a serious black mark on the entire Alliance Military.


Jane jumped slightly, even as August worked the bolt of his rifle with a grim expression on his face. "We're Ghosts; we may not be untouchable, but we're pretty damn close to it. Every single one of us fears being like Kei Leng; and there is a silent pact between all the Ghosts that if anyone starts to… go off the reservation in even the smallest of ways, everyone makes sure that person knows that they have a red flag now. They step out of line, get civilians injured intentionally…"


Jane frowned at the target down range. "Say for a moment I was comfortable with a unit with as much reach as yours that is entirely self accountable; I'm still left with four Operators under my command who can and have kept intel from me. How do I trust you? How do I trust your GST's agenda won't suddenly shift and I find myself on the wrong side of your team? To date, the only assurance I have from your people that you won't act against the best interests of the crew is from that repairman your people sent, and even he was keeping secrets."

August seemed to think on his answer as he aimed down his rifle, before he finally sighed and lowered it; "I don't know… But I will say I trust you Jahenne, and I know my team feels the same. And we'll be damned before we betray our friends Shepard; and you and the rest of 1-4-1 are our friends. Perhaps you can't ever trust me… and honestly that's fine; because we trust you, and everyone else."

He looked her in the eyes, and didn't deviate once as he talked.

"August, I don't trust myself that much. What is it you people think you know that gives you this," she flailed for words for a moment, "zeal, this absolute belief in me of all people?"

He smirked, "Call it faith; and sometimes, that's all you can have."

Kal sat on the stool as he held his line above the hole in the ice. "This is fun for you? We've been sitting here for an hour and a half, and the only activity in this water is when you skim fresh ice off."

He didn't add that in spite of the cold temperature and sitting around doing nothing; he was still 'sweating bullets', as Ash had called it, from digging that Ancestors Damned hole in the ice. He did it because he needed a distraction; mainly to take his mind off the fact that he was wearing a nearly transparent t-shirt.

Ash had been there beside him the whole time: digging, hammering and scooping. She had eventually stripped off all but a service undershirt, which her own exertions had also made nearly transparent; and her dark hair had come loose from it's tight bun, and hung loose around her face.

Now that they were no longer active, he had nothing to focus on other than the silent hole, and the suddenly flirtatious Gunnery Sergeant. He gave as good as he got as far as teasing was concerned, but as far as he could tell, teasing was as far as they were going to go.

At least, he was pretty sure… maybe...

"There'd be more activity if you'd relax and be quiet." Ash was now fixated on the hole. "Ice and water conduct sound extremely well; and while fish are rock stupid, they're skittish. You need to tease them in; tantalize them with the promise of that one perfect morsel without any distractions."

Kal gave her a light smile, "Sounds familiar."

Ash smiled back, "That it does…"

They stared at each other for a moment, and then Kal's line started twitching; startling them both, and allowing them to conveniently ignore the blush spreading across both their faces. He went to pull it up, but then Ash put a hand over his in warning.

"Not yet!" Ash hissed, not moving her own line. "Wait until he tries to take off, then give it a solid yank to sink the hook."

"Why does it have to be a male?" Kal eased his grip on the rod just enough to feel the different tugs. "Maybe it's a female, impressed by the size of the lure?"

Ash gave him a smirk as she set her rod into a holder and picked up a net. "Please; a real female isn't duped by any old dangly lure. She requires skill, patience, and..." the line went taught and Kal yanked hard, "initiative! Reel-em in! Reel-em in!"

Kal couldn't keep the grin off his face as he pulled the line in while spinning the reel. It helped keep random thoughts from popping into his head. Such as when Eve had told him offhandedly about Ash looking up Quarian Physiology; Kal was just glad he told Eve that him doing the opposite was a secret.

After a few seconds, the resistance increased; and Kal nearly fell into the hole, and Ash had to grab him to steady him. "Holy Hell, you've got a big one Kal!" She exclaimed, looking into the darkness.

"Feels like I'm trying to pull a credit chit out of a Volus' grip!" He replied, pulling hard enough that he was sure that the fiberglass line would break.

"Almost, almost," Ash had put on an animal-hide glove and had her hand poised over the line, "Gotcha! Hahaha!"

She grabbed the line and pulled it up along with Kal, as a silver and green striped fish head came out of the hole; and got stuck.

Ash blinked at the... the... Monstrous and wriggling mass of scales and bug eyes. "Oh hell no!" Kal could only stare in shock as she jammed her hand in its mouth and hauled. "From Hell's heart, I haul on thee, oh damned fish!" Kal abandoned the rod, as at this point it was meaningless, and grabbed Ash's arm with both hands and pulled.


Kal and Ash both yelped as the fish flopped on the ice; its tail swinging back and forth, dousing both them and their winter clothing once again after it had been set aside. Well guess we're not leaving until that stove dries our stuff off. Kal grumbled to himself.

He looked at the creature they had fished up. It was nearly a meter long, and almost ten centimeters wide. He was still marveling at the idea of catching his own food, rather than relying on others to prepare it for him, when Ash grabbed the hammer from the drilling kit and whacked it on the head.

He glanced at Ash and immediately looked back at the fish; doing his best to ignore the fact that her T-shirt was now transparent, her chest only protected by that weird thing human females wore under their suits and Raelk equivalents. And It was doing a very poor job of it, to say the least; since it was also practically see through.

And she was very clearly stealing glances at him; and trying to hide it, and failing at it as well.

They both stared at the monstrosity, until Ash said with a slight waved in her voice; "Well… our stuff is soaked, and we're at least a mile from the nearest building; so we're stuck here until the damned stove dries them off. Hmph… feels like the beginning of a Fornex Article or Video."

Kal huffed in amusement, "Fortunately for us both, this is real life." he replied.

She snorted. "Speak for yourself; if this was a Fornax video, I'd be aching in different spots and we'd have a conveniently dry change of clothes on hand."

Kal chuffed a laugh. "And a craft services crew to deal with our river beast here." He toed the fish, only to jump slightly when it twitched.

Ash plopped onto one of the benches and looked with satisfaction at the fish. "Are you kidding? When your people retake Rannoch, you're going to be the foremost expert on fishing. Imagine the fame, the adulation," she glanced at him, "the women."

Kal sat down with a thump. "Yes, because nothing attracts the females like the smell of sweat and dead animals. Besides," he stared absently at the creature they had just ripped from its home, "I don't even know if there are any fish left on Rannoch, or rivers even."

He glanced around the interior of the portable cabin. "We have no idea what condition our homeworld is in. We have this grand unified vision that we'll 'retake our homeworld!', and then everything will suddenly be alright. Almost as many people live on the Citadel alone as the entire Quarian race. How are we supposed to fix an entire planet? If the ecosystem has changed enough, or if we have, then what happens to us?"

Ash considered his words grimly, and leaned up against the side of the portable cabin; "In all honesty Kal… I don't know. Your people could settle on Earth." Kal gave her a wide eyed look and she held up a hand, "Humor me, Do you know how many biomes there are on Earth?"

Kal blinked, "Er… Well it's cold and snowy…" He said uncertainly.

Ash just gave a loud snort, and held up a hand with her fingers held up; "To start off, this is only in winter; that's not counting the other three seasons. Then there's the region; this is the northern temperate zone. Temperate regions have the most seasonal variety. We're also in a coastal area so there's-"

Kal held up his hands. "I get it, there's a lot more to your world than snow and river fish."

She gave him a mildly cross look. "Amaterasu is my world, but I'll give you a pass this time."

Kal just shrugged, "Well… Rannoch, at least according to our records, is filled with river canyons and large open plains and savannas; there is only one major ocean, but most Quarians settled in or on top of the canyons." He closed his eyes as he thought about it, "If I remember correctly my clan, clan 'Reegar, was among the few to actually settle near the ocean; and even then, it was next to the river delta that fed into it."

Ash rubbed her chin. "Well... aside from the rivers that sounds like the American Midwest, and the Serengeti in Africa, and most of the Anatolian Plateau. The Central Asian Steppes as well, if you don't mind the cold that is. Australia, Mexico, Peru, though that's mostly mountains... where else?"

Kal just laughed, "Alright, alright I get it… Thanks for the offer, but I doubt the people there would be happy with us taking their land away from them. Still… Thank you…" He said it warmly, it was heartfelt, and neither broke eye contact.

Ash huffed after a moment and fanned her now less see through undershirt. "Well, it's not like you'd be limited to just this world. A lot of SA colonies are shared with other species. We share Olor with the Salarians, and Anhur has a sizable Batarian expatriate population. Your people would have to be better neighbors than either of them. Besides," she sat forward and slapped the fish between them, "with Dr. 'Lorah's new genetic cure-all, you aren't limited to just Dextro worlds anymore."

"Maybe," Kal hummed, "but a lot of our people will still want to find a nice, arid dextro planet over any others. It's what we are, who we are."

"Then we'll help you find one." Ash smiled at Kal. "The Relay network only covers, what; one percent of the galaxy? Hell, there are 83 star systems within 20 light years of Earth alone; even if we stick to just normal jump ranges, statistics favor finding your people a viable world."

She reached over and grabbed her shirt. "Still damp." She leaned back and stretched her arms over her head. "Got any cards? We could play a couple of hands of strip-poker." She leered at him.

He leered back, then stripped off his under shirt. "Sure you can afford the Ante?"

She gawked for a second, then roared with laughter. "How about we stick to fishing before we get ourselves in trouble."

Kal nodded once they had both calmed down and stopped laughing; lowering their lines back into the water. But as they did so, Kal couldn't stop himself from saying one last quip; "We can save that for the second date."

Liara stared at the sign on the roof of the old, rustic styled building.

One of the outlines looked like Red, while the other looked like some kind of ferocious looking Avian riding on top of him. The highly stylized English words spelled out 'Blue Dog-Red Hawk Saloon'. It had a homey feel to it almost, as Liara and the rest of the group walked up to the porch.

Her group was among the last to arrive, which was herself, her father, Matron Shiala, Kal'Reegar, and Ashley Williams; the last two Liara noted seemed to be staying rather close to each other.

August, June'lee, and all the other male Quarians had arrived at this 'Saloon' an hour ago; apparently to explain to the other patrons the need for discretion, this place being very popular with Alliance Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, along with the local Farmers and Fishermen.

As they walked up, they could hear voices chattering inside; and Liara hesitated for a moment.

But Kal and Ashley didn't seem to care, and kept walking as they talked; "I still can't believe I can eat Dextro and Levo food unsterilized, and still get the necessary nutrients from it. Perhaps next time we can cook up that… Monstrosity and eat that instead." Kal was saying.

"Didn't even know that Walleyes come this far south; christ I thought it was going to bite my hand off." Williams replied, opening the double doors and striding in.

Liara followed behind them, her father and Shiala close behind her.

The inside was spacious, with a number of booths set up along the wall; and the center of the room cluttered up with four person tables. But in the center was one long table, where everyone from the Normandy sat around.

Noticing that the only empty seats were beside Major Lee and Madam 'Lorah and their daughter; Liara quickly took a seat. Her father and Shiala sat to her left, while Kal and Ashley sat across from them.

"Ah! Welcome! Welcome, what drink can I get you for today sir and misses?" Liara jumped at the voice and looked to see a shorter human with thick boxy glasses and tanned skin standing behind her.

Kal blinked and seemed unsure while Ashey quickly pulled up a sheet of laminated paper that was in front of them.

"Just get them all a Huckleberry Hooch, some water, and some Coke Bobby." Major Lee said beside her. "They can pick out other drinks later."

"Gotcha Bro." Bobby replied with a grin, and clapped the Major on the back while August grinned.

While Shiala and Aethyta immediately started looking over the menus; Ash, Kal, and Liara all shared a glance before looking at August. He grinned in response, "That's my Foster Brother that I told y'all about, Robert Edward Tashiro-Lee. His parents were very close friends with mine, and when they died my family took them in."

Ash stared at him while Kal and Liara nodded in understanding; "Tashiro… But he's…"

August chuckled, "My father is obviously old American, my mother was a former Polish olympian; Bobby's mother was a Mexican SA FIB agent, the FIB was the predecessor to the IAA." He explained on seeing Liara and Kal's confused looks, "and Bobby's father was a Japanese-American Engineer and Researcher." August grew serious and looked around, "Word on the street is that he was researching a way to boost Eezo cores so that they could travel at the same speed as a relay without using one. Someone didn't like that and… well…" He cleared his throat, "Let's not talk about such sad matters, here; I already ordered."

He pushed the laminate menu in front of her; and Liara looked it over. Fried Shrimp, fried oysters, fried chicken...

She looked over at Lee. "Several of the dishes seem to be prepared the same way, but I'm not entirely sure what, 'Fried' is."

"Oh that's when you put the listed food item into a vat of oil; I personally dislike it, but Bobby put that list in to appease the people who prefer it that way. Hmm… for you Ms. T'Soni, I would personally recommend the Venison; For you Sergeant, I would go with either the Chili or the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Or the Chicken Pot Pie, that's my favorite of the bunch next to the Spaghetti and Meatballs. Oh! And don't forget to save room for dessert." Lee said with a smile, before turning his attention back to his Mate and his child.

Ashley got a peculiar gleam in her eye. "Major, how hot can they make the Chili?" Her eyes flicked towards Kal'Reegar.

Lee gave her a sideways look, "Depends on the person, but the default is mild; the Hottest uses Carolina Reapers." He replied with a suspicious look.

Liara didn't know if Asley was trying to hide something from the Quarian Marine; but if she was, she had failed. "What are you up to, Ash?"

Ashley pouted for a moment, then rallied. "Sergeant 'Reegar, for the Honor of the 2nd Frontier Division, I challenge you to a Chili eating competition!"

Kal sat up at that. "On behalf of the 'Reegar Clan of Marines, I accept your challenge?" He sounded uncertain, but determined nonetheless.

Lee rolled his eyes, "Ah crap." He looked over his shoulder, and Liara noticed his Foster Brother walking back towards them; "Hey Bro, we got a spice challenge."

Liara did not like the smile that appeared on the human's face. "Oh… I'll tell my staff to get the Chili ready, and the toilet paper as well. Who are they, the two Jarheads?" Bobby asked.

August just pointed at Kal and Ash, and Liara had to fight a giggle at the aggrieved look that flashed across the man's face. Bobby leaned forward and whispered in August's ear, but since she was seated next to the Major, Liara could hear him just fine; "Since Ziva's cure makes them duel Amino-Acid; and the challenge comes with the Hooch… should I sneak him some condoms and be ready to kick them out?"

Liara had to fight down a laugh while the Major considered it, "Naw, they ain't drunk or stupid enough to go that far… yet…"

Wrex hadn't yet looked out of his menu. "How many chickens are in your 'Fried Chicken Basket'?"

Bobby looked at the massive being perched on the tiny end chair. "Er…" He looked at his foster Brother and raised an eyebrow.

August waved his hand and shook his head. "No, he wants the Bubble-Bass burger."

Wrex thumped a fist on the table. "What I want is vengeance on that feathered monster you keep in the 'Coop'! Little bastard flew into my face, pecked me in the eye and crapped in my mouth!" The entire table had to resist laughing at the battlemaster's plight. "I demand Justice, I demand satisfaction, and I demand a tankard of something to wash the damned taste out of my mouth!"

August Smirked, "We'll put one on the side for you, considering the fact that I doubt we have enough chicken for you. I suppose a tankard of the Peach and Strawberry Moonshine would work for you." He stated, giving Bobby a look.

The Asian-Hispanic Man nodded with his own smile, "Yeah, I think we can put a chicken on the side for your burger." He quickly went around the table and took everyone else's food orders, even as several servers came around and set down the drinks.

He approached Ash and Kal, and the human smirked at the two; "So... you two are doin' a Gut-Burner challenge; so that means the only other thing you get is a tall glass of cool, refreshing milk. And some Peach and Strawberry Moonshine, but that just burns as well; and provides no relief for you." He looked at each in turn. "You should know there are rules and etiquette for this sort of thing; so the first one to go for their milk, loses."

Ziva shook her head at the next day's impending suffering, and looked at the remainder of the Quarians. "I'd suggest either the Crabcakes, or the Gumbo with mashed potatoes. I speak from experience in that you're going to want to build up your jaw muscles some before tackling anything tougher."

Bobby nodded, and wrote down their orders while underlining Wrex, Kal, and Ashley's. When he reached Liara, she still wasn't sure what to get; so she asked, "What is the Major having?"

"Ben's havin' his usual whenever he stops by, Chicken Pot Pie with Old Bay Garlic Fries." He replied.

Liara and several other people seated close by blinked in confusion, and Bobby laughed; "Ah yes, I see that he never told any of y'all; but when we were kids, he hated his first name cause it was long and hard to pronounce, on top of the fact that it made him instantly recognizable. So he went by his middle name, 'Benjamin'; or just Ben for short." He explained, even as Lee gave him a 'really?' look.

Liara giggled, remembering how she never liked introducing herself as T'Soni; and deciding to take pity on their host, said "I'll have what he's having then." Bobby nodded and wrote it down, walking off to the kitchen while yelling in a different language other than English.

Everyone went back to their conversations. After about ten or so minutes, Lee took the opportunity to lean forward to talk with Shepard, Kal, and Ash; and Liara could not help but listen in on it.

Shepard leaned forward as well to be able to talk to talk to Lee, when a voice called out; "Food's Ready!"

All five of them were jostled out of their thoughts, as Bobby rolled up a cart, while a number of other servers walked up while carrying trays with food on it. On the Cart, was the 'Gut-Burner' Chili Pot, the 'Moonshine', and Wrex's 'Bubble Bass Burger' along with his Chicken on the side.

With the exception of the Ghosts and Madam Ziva; everyone's eyes bulged out of their head as they spied the 'Bubble Bass Burger', which was almost a meter tall.

Liara turned her attention from the carnage of her fellows and began working on her own meal; the fries she was already familiar with from the Major's culinary endeavors during the infrequent, 'movie nights'. The Pot-Pie was a novelty, but not an unpleasant one.

"So August, while these two lovebird idiots;" Shepard quickly gestured to Kal and Ash, "Get ready for their challenge, is it alright if I ask you some questions about your pre-military life?" She asked. Liara perked up, but remained as inconspicuous as possible; the enigma of Major Lee was a tantalizing mystery, and this seemed a unique opportunity.

August shrugged as he dug into his food, "Don't see why not, just don't go too personal alright?"

"I somehow don't see the scion of the Lee Estate choosing military life first; so what did you want to do before, everything?"

August shrugged, "Well I always found school boring, and knew an academic life wasn't for me. I loved History, and had I stuck the course I very easily could have gotten my doctorate and gotten a Professorship at some big university; but like I said, I didn't like the academic life. Plus, with my heritage I felt like they would have just given it to me; I wouldn't have earned it." He took another bite of his food while Liara thought it over.

The Maiden paused mid bite. August had considered academia? She found it difficult to reconcile the warrior she knew with the professor he could have been.

Lee spoke up again, breaking Liara out of her thoughts, "I told you that I considered the Priesthood," He smiled even as Shepard cringed much to Liara's confusion. "But again, while I did very seriously consider it…" His smile faded and he looked away, "Well… Let's just say my faith was shaken at that time."

Liara blinked, while Shepard gave him a sympathetic look; then she remembered Lee's rather troubled history. She couldn't fathom the grief of losing a parent, much less her entire family. She glanced at her own father, who was currently teasing Wrex about the mess he was making with his bizarre meal. What would she do if she had lost her own mother? What kind of person would she become?

"So what led you to the Army of all things?" Shepard asked, jarring Liara back to the conversation.

Lee shrugged, "Well… It was one of the only places my family doesn't have a major influence in; especially not after my father's death. And shortly after I finished boot, General Grant approached me with an offer for a new Clandestine Unit; with my first assignment being Omega. And the rest is, as they say, history." He leaned back in his chair and finished off the rest of his food.

A rather simplistic story to what he was today; but it did tell Liara a lot about the intellectual turned soldier. It told Liara that even though she herself was an intellectual, she could be a soldier too.

Liara looked over at Kal and Ash, both of whom were impatiently waiting for most everyone to finish before they started their challenge. She noted with Amusement that both had instead started taking bigger and bigger swigs of their 'Huckleberry Hooch'; and were both getting visibly tipsy.

"So how about a little quid pro quo," Lee leaned forward and pointed with a fry, "what's the real story behind Jahenne Shepard: the woman, the myth, the legend?"

Jane stuck her tongue out in disgust. "Certainly none of that drivel you see in the vids. The Shepard's are an old spacer family, and an even older military family. The first Shepard fought in the Canadian Army during the Great War, his son fought with the SAS during World War Two; and so on until they reached me."

"So no aspirations to be an explorer or a diplomat? Just GI Jane Shepard, Systems Alliance Armed Forces?" Lee asked with a raised eyebrow; while Liara considered such ancestry. It seemed as if not even the unpredictable humans were not immune to hereditary inclinations.

She shook her head with a chagrined smile. "Wrong branch of Shepard's; there was never an 'Allen' in my family tree."

"No, but there is an 'Alien' there now!" Garrus buzzed while snatching a fry off her plate. "This Duel Amino-Acid Cure is awesome!" He exclaimed happily.

Tali looked over from the commotion of Ashley and Kal desperately trying not to back down; the two of them clearly drunk and having started their challenge, while Liara was focused on the conversation between August and Jahenne "I do worry a little about the Citadel's reaction to the cure. They are annoyingly strict about any form of genetic modification," she began grumbling around a spoonful of mashed potatoes, "when they aren't the ones meddling in peoples genes."

Lee smirked, "Oh I wouldn't worry about the Council. I know for a fact that Sparatus is on our side; and the GST knows a lot of… undesirable things about the Asari and Salarians that they wouldn't want getting out."

Liara didn't miss her father's alarmed look towards the Major, nor the look of suspicion from Captain Kirrahe from down the table; but thankfully, everyone was distracted by Kal and Ash.

"AHHH Skur'wielu my mouth is on fire!" Kal yowled; even as he downed more moonshine.

"You bastarrrrd! Just give uuuupppp!" Ash slurred, downing her own shot of moonshine.

Both quickly ate another spoonful of their Chili, and swayed in their seats; "Forgot… what's the prize for the wiiiinnnnerrrrr…" Kal groaned.

"Loser has to kiss the Winneeeeerrrrr…" Ash replied, putting an arm around the Quarian Sergeant, who responded in kind; even as they cursed each other out as they took another bite of Chili.

Liara smiled while August rolled his eyes, the Major leaning over to his mate; "Honey, could you take June and Fyodor to the van with Lia? We'll be leaving in a few minutes; and I get the feeling things are about to get a little heated in a sec."

"In what way?" Ziva asked, smiling behind her Seemas.

"Not sure, but I believe the Major thinks… not child friendly either way." Liara interjected.

Ziva nodded, and quickly began the process of getting June and Fyodor ready to go along with Lia. As they did so, Liara looked back at the two Marines; even as they struggled to take another bite of the chili.

There was the subtlest of shift in their expressions, and suddenly the Ghosts and Quarian Marines were scrambling to relocate the inebriated pair. Wrex observed the event with a disdainful eye, while Liara watched them go with concern.

"Hmm. Kids either can't hold their liquor, or their meal." He eyed the still steaming bowls, even as Liara blanched at the sounds of vomiting coming from Ash and Kal. "Oh well; it's already paid for, so no reason to let it go to waste."

Wrex grabbed both bowls and swiftly upended them into his mouth. He remained motionless for a moment until Colt's voice rang out from the pier attached to the restaurant. "Thar she Blows!" accompanied by the razzing cheers of the soldiers.

"Blearrrrgh! What is this!? Why are my eyes burning?!" Wrex desperately reached for anything to relieve the agony in his mouth.

Lee finally took pity on him and placed a glass of milk in his hand. "Eat some bread with that." He advised, even as he shrugged on his jacket.

Wrex wisely followed the major's advice, and was soon able to breathe normally again. "You actually eat this?! What kind of hell world are we on, and why aren't you ruling the galaxy with an iron fist yet?"

"Shizuka ni hanashi, ōkina bō o hakobu." Bobby replied, already handing out boxes for those that had not finished their meals; while neither Wrex nor Liara understood what he said, both could hear the sarcastic tone in his voice.

Both looked at the Major, who shrugged; looking slightly annoyed, "Just because I'm an expert on foriegn languages does not mean I can speak every language around." Lee replied before looking at his foster brother with a raised eyebrow; who shrugged in response.

"'Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick' Is what I said; Humans don't rule because… well, we don't want to. All we want is for you to do what you want, and for us to do what we want; and so long as it's not harmful or impedes others, you're free to do whatever you want." He explained, collecting dishes.

Jane chuckled as she stood up. "I have a less philosophical answer for you Wrex. We're omnivores; if it doesn't kill us first, it's food."

San looked in the mirror as he reached up and touched his face.

He had Grey-Tan skin, with Black-Purple hair; something that he had known all his life. But actually seeing it in person, and not through a recording of him when he was still in his bubble was something else entirely.

"Preppen' for your little movie date with Eve?"

San jumped and turned to see Major Lee, once again in his Desert Tri-Color BDU, leaning against the hatchway to the engineering spaces. San had to fight down a small blush as he fully processed the humans question; and the cheeky smile the man had on his face certainly did not help.

"It's not a date!" San protested, though the words sounded weak; even to him.

The Major just chuckled, "Yeah… sure… just be careful you don't go too far; or else the commander will have your ass spaced." He replied, walking away as he sipped his cup of tea.

San's face scrunched in confusion. "She's a starship! I wouldn't even know how to 'go too far'." His expression shifted slightly to disdain. "Though Pilot Joker'Moraeu seemed to have some ideas before Eve locked him in the flight deck."

"Just goes to show you; tread carefully kid!" The Major called back, his voice getting quieter with every step he took.

San looked back over at Pilgrim Lee in confusion. Was it really just a month ago he and the Commander terrified him in the engine compartment? He shook his head and headed for Eve's 'room', clutching the fresh bag of 'Popped Corn' everyone said was a must.

He knocked on the hatch and waited. It opened up and Eve was 'standing' there in her Sehni-like 'hoodie'. He felt a lot less self conscious with her like this than he did with the human and asari who insisted on going around bare-headed. It was rather amazing that she looked more and more real with every passing day.

A week ago, the first time he'd talked to her after getting the cure, she had been partially translucent and a little mechanical in her movements at times. Now, San had to really look to spot the threads that gave away her synthetic origins. Her eyes had a dull green glow to them, and she looked and felt as solid and real as an Organic; the only other thing that San could think of off the top of his head that would give her away, was the dull blue glow that surrounded her entire body due to her Eezo infused hologram.

But that was easily explained away as Eve being a 'biotic human'; and the fact that Sergeant Vakarian, Commander Shepard, Fon, and San himself had been stringing up new holographic projectors all over the ship probably helped.

She smiled and waved him in. "Come on in! I asked dad to program a chair for you into my projectors." The seat flashed into existence at her gesture. She frowned absently. "Well, I asked dad, but mom actually programmed it; said that dad would mess things up. How do you mess up a chair? Maybe she thought he would play a prank?"

San had visions of the terrifying Turian sniper lurking near the engine compartment the hours after he had suggested Eve watch 'Fleet and Flotilla' with him. He smiled for the extremely charming AI he found he was becoming very fond of. "Well, shall we start? I brought..." He looked down at the solid food, realizing how foolish and how rude it must be to-

Eve reached over the bowl, her hand coming up with a dot of light which she popped into her grinning mouth. He grinned back, and soon the two were giggling madly as he sat down and began showing Eve the Quarian Fleet's single greatest contribution to galactic popular culture.

"Awww… It's so sweet!" Jane gushed as she looked at the camera's set up in Eve's 'room'.

August remained seated at the other end of the conference table, absently reading over procurement forms and the like; he did smirk at Jane's exclamation, but he said nothing beyond that.

Kal rolled his eyes, and did the same as August; although he did smile as well. San was a good kid in his opinion, and deserved the win. Then he winced from his massive hangover from the last two nights of drinking.

Kirrahe and Shiala of course could have cared less, though Kirrahe did make sure to note how human Eve seemed to be acting; and how as time went on, she was improving her hologram by herself more and more.

Garrus however buzzed in displeasure; he'd be failing in his duty as a Turian father if he didn't test the hell out of San before he was certain the boy was good enough for Eve. Just you wait you little punk; when I'm done with you, you'll be hard enough for the Black Watch, or a weeping puddle of unworthy hormones.

A stylus stuck in his frill, drawing his attention to his better half, the love of his life, currently staring bayonets at him. I didn't say any of that out loud, did I?

Either Jahenne was a mind reader, his thoughts were all over his face, or he really did say it out loud; as Jane hissed, "If you hurt him, and Eve by extension; by God I will rip your mandibles off the side of your ugly ass face Garrus."

Garrus cringed in response, while August snorted in amusement as he sipped his iced tea; "Oh go easy on him Jahenne, he's a guy; it's our job to intimidate any person that tries to date our daughters. I have a .30-06 Springfield Bullet with the words 'Guy Who Hurts June' carved on it; and my M1917 Enfield with it's sword-bayonet up in my bedroom." He took another sip, then noticed Jane had turned her glare on him; and immediately leaned away from her while giving her a nervous smile.

She shook her head and rested her head on the table; "I am surrounded by Idiots."

Pilot A/N: Check my profile for the link to the discord.

Not much to say beyond the team taking a vacation and rebuilding trust in each other. Next Chapter will start off a Major Arc, and I certainly hope you all enjoy it.

Eve is slowly becoming less "AI" and more "Human"; and San is slowly breaking the Quarians Collectivist Ethos and anti-AI mentality. The Restaurant scene and the romance between Kal and Ash is another example of both growing beyond their cultural restrictions and to help establish later plot points.

Most of the recipes listed are actually my families foods; if I had the money and if it wasn't for the Police State lockdowns arresting anyone that tries to go into restaurants and Gym's, I would open one right now.

Although the "Bubble Bass Burger" was not my idea, just look up "Binging With Babish" for more info on it.

The Intro Scene with Tali was mainly to get her and the others used to the idea of living without suits; though culturally they still cover their faces since that would still be seen as the deepest of intimacies. For how they're dressed, just refer to my earlier chapter regarding the description I gave Ziva; They use the Seemas, which is the Quarian Hood (the Sehni) but with a longer trail like a cloak or cape, to cover the lower half of their face while using the hood to hide their hair.

And Ziva and Nina's confrontation was both to show the building of trust between her, the Quarians, and the Humans along with the rest of 1-4-1; and also to show that her "Miracle Cure" was not a walk in the park to make.

The Shooting Session with August and Jehenne and the Wrex scenes… well I think you should handle that Ian since those were your ideas.

Ian A/N: The range day with Shepard was at the heart of what this chapter was really meant to showcase: rebuilding trust. The Ghosts have secrets, that is an understood fact. But keeping intelligence compartmentalized is a bit of a cultural issue that most militaries and intelligence services have in common. For such a small, tight knit group as 1-4-1, that can become a major sticking point. Whatever the Ghosts feelings on the matter, Jane needs to trust them; and she, until now, couldn't do that.

Wrex is the unfortunate victim of "getting Worfed". He's the biggest, baddest character on the field so of course we were going to pick on him. But it's also a response to the tendency in sci-fi that all alien life is bigger/tougher/meaner than anything on Earth.

That is a lie.

We have some insanely dangerous animals here on Mother Earth, many of which we don't think of because they are domesticated. Pigs will eat anything that doesn't eat them first. Roosters will attack anything that moves and regularly kill foxes. Rams and Goats will cave in a truck door as easily as getting sideswiped on the highway.

And that's not considering viruses like rabies; which is 100% fatal.

Earth is an amazingly dangerous place that we just so happened to evolve to survive on. Wrex learned that the hard way.

Not much else to say except "Stay tuned!"

Pilot: I hope all of you enjoyed; the next chapter will be up next friday at 11 AM EST, as usual. Next chapter of Half Life: Entanglement will be up next Wednesday at 11 AM EST.

Please leave a review and tell us what you guys think of this chapter; the feedback really helps us out guys.

A TV Tropes page would be much loved and appreciated.

And we will see ya when we see ya.