This story is the third and final story in the sequence that started with Mass Effect: The Heart Wants followed by Mass Effect: First Date. I would highly recommend reading those stories first if you have found your way to this one without reading those. I hope anyone taking the time to read this or other stories of mine enjoy themselves and I welcome feedback and reviews. I did not invent these characters. Bioware kindly allows me to play in their universe and I thank them for that.
Chapter 1 – Grand Theft Normandy
Shepard stared hard into space through the expansive window of the Citadel observation deck as Tali bounced nervously next to him, wringing her hands. The Normandy had sailed majestically past seconds before, interrupting his moment, the moment, with Tali. The ship had gracefully banked, her name clearly visible emblazoned across the hull, then accelerated rapidly away, her glowing engines and running lights vanishing quickly into the purple haze of the nebula.
Shepard's mind raced, multiple thoughts and anxieties crashing into each other. The ship had been berthed in an Alliance controlled maintenance bay awaiting the installation of Silaris armor plating. He had given the crew shore leave while the installation occurred. There should have been almost no one aboard aside from the few guards he had detailed to keep an eye on the ship. Could the maintenance crew have needed to move the ship for some reason? No. That was ridiculous. Wishful thinking. He had not given permission for the ship to be moved and no one had contacted him to inform him of any need for such an action. Besides, EDI would never have allowed anyone to simply pilot the ship away. What the hell could have happened? Outlandish theories competed in his mind as Shepard continued to stare into the distance that had swallowed the Normandy. Part of him hoped the ship would suddenly reappear as if the whole thing had been some grand mistake or practical joke. Another part of him decided it was a practical joke, played on him by a universe that simply refused to, just once, give him a damn break.
Even as Shepard stared uselessly into the distance his finger stabbed furiously, over and over again, into the haptic interface of his omni-tool following the age-old belief that the faster and harder you push a button, the quicker you get a response. Each stab of his finger was a signal to C-Sec using a frequency and code reserved for emergency Spectre communications. The response time should have been mere seconds on this frequency, but Shepard felt those seconds stretch into minutes, then hours. Each passing moment an eternity in which the Normandy slipped farther away.
Suddenly, a woman's voice sounded from the communication bud in his right ear. "This is C-Sec Control. What is the nature of your emergency?"
Her voice was calm, professional. It helped Shepard to remember his own professionalism. To don that demeanor as a defense against the situation. A defense every bit as real as the armor and shields that protected him in battle. He was amazed at how calm his own voice sounded as he replied. "C-Sec. This is Council Spectre Commander John Shepard. My ship, the Normandy, has departed without authorization from her maintenance berth. It is possible she is being stolen and it is imperative that the Citadel defense fleet locate and interdict the Normandy before she can enter the mass relay or go to FTL. You should have the Normandy's specifications in your systems. Please confirm that you are sending these instructions and relay any reply from the fleet."
"Please hold Commander. I will be with you momentarily."
Shepard breathed in slowly. As calm as he might have sounded, he knew it was just a veneer. He had set the wheels in motion as quickly as he could, but now he had to rely on others to find and stop his ship while he stood and waited. He felt completely helpless. His hands flexed open and closed, the tension radiating from him in waves. He feared he might simply explode, but then a three-fingered hand slipped comfortingly into his.
She pulled him gently to face her and he felt his tension decrease just from her touch. In the short time it took for him to turn to fully face her he found he was almost able to breathe normally. "It will be okay, Shepard. C-Sec will work with the Citadel fleet to find the Normandy. We'll get our home back."
Shepard reached and took Tali's other hand as well, bringing them together and holding them in his. He took another deep breath and met her gaze. "Thank you, Tali. And my apologies. This isn't exactly how I intended for this to go. As worried as I am about the Normandy, I'm also worried that our second date is turning out to be as memorable as our first."
Tali cocked her head in a smile. "I don't think anyone could blame you for this disruption. Could this be some kind of mistake? Who could have taken the Normandy?"
Possibilities ranging from the likely to the laughably insane had been spinning through Shepard's mind since he realized what was happening. Vengeful pirates, angry mercs, Geth agents, EDI going rogue and stealing the ship, Jack making good on her off-hand comment about taking the Normandy if she wanted to. "I don't know, Tali, but I'm going to have a few questions for whoever it is when I get my hands on them."
Shepard shifted his focus to his comm as the voice of the C-Sec officer returned in his ear. "My apologies, Commander, but our system shows the Normandy had authorization for its departure. We were able to contact the Normandy directly and Commander Shepard himself assured us that the ship was not in any distress. Whoever you are it is my duty to inform you that this is an emergency channel and that there are severe penalties for misuse of such channels and for impersonating a Spectre."
The calm Tali had been able to instill in Shepard shattered as the tension and anxiety he thought were under control exploded. "Are you insane?! I contacted you using my Spectre codes. I couldn't have accessed this channel without them. And as for this being an emergency, do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza? The Normandy SR-2, a highly advanced warship, has been taken by who knows who and every second we spend debating who I am is one second closer to the ship vanishing through the relay or into FTL."
Shepard realized he had dropped Tali's hands as his tension burst out. Her hand closed on his forearm now, her concern evident. She gestured at her omni-tool and Shepard realized she was only hearing his side of the conversation. He gave a brusque nod to her silent question. Even in his anger, Shepard appreciated how they understood each other without a word. She punched the codes and commands into her omni-tool that would allow her to listen in and hear both sides of the conversation. Good, Shepard thought. He might need her as a witness in case his desire to reach through his omni-tool and throttle the C-Sec officer somehow came to pass. Or, more realistically, at the officer's trial for gross incompetence.
"I can't make this any clearer and you will be responsible for a powerful warship falling into potentially hostile hands if you don't take what I'm saying seriously. The Normandy has been stolen. The only hope of stopping this is for the Citadel fleet to locate and interdict the Normandy immediately. Under my authority as a Spectre I am ordering you send those commands to the Citadel fleet."
Shepard heard an exasperated sigh from the C-Sec officer and somehow became even angrier. "Okay, listen, 'Commander Shepard'…" Shepard heard the sarcasm when she said his name and briefly wondered if there really was a limit to the amount of anger one person could feel. "…I think this prank has gone on quite long enough. You and your friends wait right where you are for the C-Sec officers I'm sending to come and take you back to your parents. In the meantime, I recommend you clear this emergency channel."
Shepard had never felt such rage. He realized he was literally shaking his finger at his omni-tool as if he were wagging it in the face of the person on the other end of his comm. He was on the verge of a truly impressive outburst when he felt Tali grip his upper arm. He turned toward her, struggling to make sure he did not direct his rage at her, even accidentally. His rage shifted back toward anxiety as he realized how shaken Tali looked.
"Shepard, this isn't an actual person's voice. It 's a very good emulation, but there are indicators in the cadence, the modulation. I think you're talking to a VI."
Shepard rocked back in confusion. C-Sec wouldn't use a VI to respond on a Spectre emergency channel. That meant he hadn't actually reached C-Sec. Which meant the wheels he thought he had set in motion were just spinning uselessly. He ground his teeth together so hard he feared they would crack. "Who the hell is this. Tell me where the Normandy is."
"Oooh, busted. It took you long enough. Long enough in fact that the Normandy is long gone. Well on its way to me. Don't worry, Commander Shepard. I'll take good care of it." Shepard's omni-tool overloaded and burst apart with a loud pop and a shower of sparks. His comm gave an ear-splitting squeal and went silent.
Shepard rubbed his right ear in pain and turned to Tali. "Contact C-Sec on the same frequency. I don't know if the Normandy is really gone, but we've got to keep trying."
Tali punched the communication code into her own omni-tool. She stabbed at her haptic interface with clear anger that seemed a match to that Shepard was feeling. She had barely triggered the frequency when the same calm, modulated voice issued from her omni-tool. "Nice try, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, but you didn't really think it would be…SQWARK". The voice of the VI cut out in a burst of static as Tali's hand flew across the haptic interface of her omni-tool.
"Yeah, you too, bosh'tet. Nice try, but you don't get away with that trick twice."
Shepard watched as Tali continued to battle with her omni-tool's interface. The seconds continued to tick past. "Tali. I have to alert C-Sec. Right now. I'm heading to the public terminal outside the observation deck." Shepard turned to hurry toward the exit. In his haste he kicked the picnic basket he had been sharing with Tali. He grunted in frustration as the remaining food and drinks he had prepared for them scattered across the grassy space they had so recently been enjoying. Yeah, that's about the way things are going, Shepard thought, before turning and breaking into a sprint toward where he knew the public terminal was located.
Shepard glanced to his left and realized Tali was sprinting alongside him. No, she was bounding. Springing powerfully from one long stride into the next. Under any other circumstances he would have admired the athleticism, admired the grace of her movements. Instead, he filed the observation away in his mind along with the other things he found amazing about Tali and focused on the data terminal he was skidding up to.
Shepard looked a question at Tali. She had reactivated her omni-tool the moment they had stopped running, but was clearly still struggling with whatever had been done to their communications. She glanced up and shook her head with a quick jerk, betraying the frustration she was feeling. With no other immediate option available, Shepard activated the emergency C-Sec channel through the terminal. He would rather not broadcast the situation with the Normandy through a public terminal, no telling how many eyes or ears might access that information, but if he still had any hope of preventing the Normandy from leaving he had to reach C-Sec immediately. His own omni-tool and comm possessed encryption and safe guards that should have protected them from external access and hacking attempts. Clearly those safe guards had failed, broken by someone at least as good as Tali at cybersecurity. One more thing for him to worry about.
"This is C-Sec. State your emergency, please". It was a male voice, calm and professional, which Shepard found not the least bit reassuring after his previous attempt at communication. He glanced at Tali for confirmation, but she waggled her finger in a circular motion signaling she needed to hear more, not sure yet if the voice was genuine or another simulation.
Shepard struggled, both to keep his voice calm and with how much to reveal on this channel. "This is Council Spectre Commander John Shepard. My communications have been compromised, so I'm forced to contact you on this unsecured channel. My ship, the Normandy, has departed the station without authorization and I need to know if the Citadel fleet can track and intercept the vessel. I can provide verification of my identity, but you need to contact the fleet right now." Shepard fervently willed the officer on the other end to be real and to accept what he had said.
More agonizing seconds passed with no reply. Then the officer's calm voice returned. No, not calm anymore. Consoling. "I'm sorry Commander. I've got an officer en route to bring you to C-Sec headquarters. He'll be there in thirty seconds. We can discuss the situation further at that time."
Shepard glanced at Tali and she nodded, signaling this was a genuine voice. An actual person who had essentially confirmed for Shepard, without saying the words on an unsecured channel, what he already feared. That the distractions and delays had done their work. That the Normandy was gone.
As Shepard entered the C-Sec conference room he was a volatile mix of barely contained emotions. Anger, fear, confusion, and yes, he acknowledged to himself, embarrassment. It was his ship that had been taken, flying right past him as if to rub it in his face. His ship, his security, his responsibility. And now, barely two days after the Citadel Fleet had ridden to his rescue, he was forced to come to C-Sec begging for information, for whatever help he could get to track down and retrieve the Normandy. Shepard knew better than to believe the hype that seemed to follow him, but it appeared his embarrassments were just as grand as his successes. And there had been too many embarrassments of late.
Shepard calmed his thoughts and swallowed his pride as he turned to the officer who had escorted him and Tali to the conference room. The same human officer he had spoken to over the public data terminal. Shepard noted the officer's nametag and rank insignia before addressing him. "Sergeant Lambo, I wanted to thank you for your prompt response to my request for assistance. It is imperative that we analyze whatever data C-Sec has about the theft of the Normandy and any leads about her heading or destination. As a Council Spectre, I formally request that any pertinent information be gathered and immediately brought here for analysis." Good, Shepard thought. I almost sounded normal. Professional façade back in place.
"I understand, Commander. That information is being gathered and will be reviewed with you shortly. If there is anything I can do in the meantime, please inform me."
"Thank you, but no. Bringing that information as quickly as possible is all I can ask at the moment." Shepard turned from the officer and began pacing the room, back and forth, back and forth. He had meant to appear unruffled by events, but found his façade wasn't quite that good. The pacing felt necessary, a safety valve for energy that would otherwise find its way out in a potentially unexpected and uncontrolled way. Walking the dozen steps from one wall to the other, over and over, released enough of that energy to maintain his façade. He had thought perhaps he could speak with Tali about what had happened, but she was engrossed with her omni-tool, fingers flying over the haptic interface with a driven energy that mirrored his pacing. He decided it was best to let her work without distraction. He suspected she was already working on the question of who stole the Normandy and how. He returned to pacing the bare metal deck in silence.
Shepard kept count. He had crossed the width of the conference room twenty-seven times when the door to the room finally slid open. Sergeant Lambo stepped aside from his post blocking the door to allow the new arrival to enter. Shepard's eyes widened when he realized who had entered the room. "Executor Pallin. Thank you for taking the time to provide your personal assistance in this matter."
The Turian didn't immediately respond. He crossed to the small, oval table that occupied the center of the room and activated a haptic interface built into the table, keying in commands that Shepard guessed were access codes for the C-Sec databases. Only once this had occurred did Pallin turn back to Shepard and acknowledge him.
"Commander Shepard. I hope you'll understand my desire to skip the pleasantries. I find the presence of a Spectre, especially one with your history and methods, tends to create…complications…for my officers and the citizens of the Citadel."
So much for the friendly approach. Shepard recalled how the first time he had spoken with the Executor the topic of Spectres had arisen. Pallin had made it clear that he disapproved of the Spectres on principal. Nonetheless, Shepard didn't appreciate the out of hand dismissal of all the work he and his crew had done, all the sacrifices they had made. "You might do well, Executor, to remember my history and recall that absent my methods the Citadel would have fallen and the galaxy would be overrun by the Reapers." Whatever cover up existed regarding the Reapers, Shepard was confident that the Executor knew the truth of the Battle of the Citadel. And Shepard's part in winning it and saving the Citadel Council.
"I've not forgotten how the Citadel was nearly overrun. Nor how many lives were lost due to a rogue Spectre leading the Geth in that attack. Many C-Sec officers, friends of mine, were killed. I am also aware of your more recent activities, such as your affiliation with a known terrorist group with a particular hatred of non-humans. Unless I am mistaken, the Council restored your Spectre status with the understanding that you would be operating in the Traverse, not creating problems here on the Citadel. You point to your methods as solving problems, Commander Shepard. I point to them as the reason the problems exist in the first place."
Shepard had believed from the first time they met that, like many Turians, Pallin was carrying a chip on his shoulder regarding humans. He had also just laid out the reasons for his dislike of Spectres. Here was Shepard embodying both and it was clear Pallin wanted nothing more than for him to leave. Shepard eyed Pallin up and down, trying to read the Executor's intent. Pallin had already opened the databases to help Shepard. He would share what information he had with Shepard, just not before making the points he had come to make. Pallin was angry, but that anger seemed to be more than the simmering resentment he carried toward humans and Spectres. There was more on Pallin's mind. Something he had not said yet, but would.
"I understand your concerns, Executor, but the Citadel Council has put their trust in me to use the powers granted a Spectre in the interests of all of us, humans and non-humans alike. And isn't that really the bottom line here? We are all working together. Different governments, different agencies, different species, all striving for a common good."
It was a decent speech, Shepard thought. Maybe not his best, but clear and concise. As he watched Pallin's mandibles flare and his fists clench, Shepard realized he had just stumbled onto whatever was fueling Pallin's anger. Had blundered right into it like a land mine. Shepard braced himself for whatever Pallin was going to say and silently lamented that blundering into things seemed to be one of his greatest talents.
"Working together, is it? Working together, like recently when ships and personnel of the Citadel fleet were placed at risk to rescue you from a rogue human group that had kidnapped you and was going to hand you over to the Collectors? That group endangered both civilian and military personnel during your abduction. C-Sec and Alliance investigators were to conduct a joint debriefing and interrogation of the prisoner captured during your rescue. But the Alliance has denied us access. Both to Dr. Manuel and to any information obtained through any Alliance interrogation that has occurred. I look at these actions and I realize that perhaps you've been trained to regard allies as tools to be used and discarded at your convenience. Maybe you were trained by the Alliance to abuse your power. Maybe your progression from Alliance soldier to Spectre to Cerberus Operative was inevitable.
Shepard was caught off guard by Pallin's accusations. He had thought the Alliance was cooperating with C-Sec in the investigation of Dr. Manuel and his group. He trusted Anderson to do what was right. The last thing he needed was more problems in the midst of trying to locate the Normandy. "I was not aware that Dr. Manuel had not been made available to C-Sec for questioning, Executor. I will investigate what has occurred as soon as I am able, but, with respect, I need your help now. Whatever you may think of me, I regard the Citadel Council and C-Sec as my allies. As a Spectre I consider myself an agent of the Council and I do my best to act in the interests of all of us. We could continue to butt heads on my past and present actions, my successes and my mistakes, but right now I need the information you have regarding the Normandy. Retrieval of my ship has to take precedence for me at the moment." Shepard glanced toward Tali, a bit surprised she had stayed silent during Pallin's diatribe. She remained engrossed in her omni-tool, apparently oblivious to the exchange.
Pallin radiated a sense of superiority. He believed he had staked out the moral high ground and was enjoying his ability to look down on Shepard. Fortunately, that also meant he could feel magnanimous. "Of course, Commander. I have already accessed the necessary databases. We could indeed continue to 'butt heads' over the mistakes you and the Alliance have made, but I believe in supporting our allies in their time of need. Especially if that also results in you leaving this station as soon as possible. If you are going to retrieve your ship, that's what you will have to do. As far as we can tell, the Normandy entered the mass relay and left the system several minutes before you were able to contact us."
Shepard gritted his teeth in frustration. Pallin could have led with that and saved him a great deal of difficulty, but Pallin had wanted to lecture him. And if what he was saying was accurate, the ship was already gone from Citadel space and on its way to who knew where before he had even reached C-Sec. Shepard took a breath and focused on the task at hand. "Can you tell me any more than that, Executor? Were you able to determine a heading or track the Normandy through the relay to a destination?"
"I'm afraid not, Shepard. The ship requested clearance for departure using the appropriate codes and protocols. There is certainly nothing unusual about a vessel used by a Spectre unexpectedly coming or going. The ship was cleared for departure by Citadel Control and entered the relay among the dozens of other ships coming and going. The relay links to multiple systems and the Normandy could have quickly traveled through other relays. We don't know where the Normandy has traveled. If you have any means of tracking the vessel, I would suggest you use them."
Shepard knew there were tracking devices aboard the Normandy, but he was hoping to have better information before having to contact The Illusive Man to inform him that his multi-billion credit investment had sailed off into the unknown without its crew. "If you can't tell me anything about where the Normandy is, what can you tell me? What information are prepared to share?" Shepard gestured to the interface that Pallin had activated. It currently showed only a blank screen.
"While the maintenance berth the Normandy was occupying is under Alliance control, C-Sec is still tasked with monitoring and policing the docking areas. I was able to access the footage from the monitors in that area. I was hoping you might be able to identify the individual shown."
Shepard stepped near the display and watched as Pallin activated a recording of the docking area. Shepard could see the entryway to the docking tube that led to the Normandy, guarded by the security guard he had stationed there. Shepard watched as a Turian he had never seen before walked casually up to the crewmember and appeared to show him something on his omni-tool. The crewmember nodded and walked with the Turian down the docking tube to board the ship.
"Less than fifteen minutes later the Normandy powered up, requested an emergency departure, and exited the docking bay. The guard does not reappear, so as far as we know he is still on the ship. Did you recognize that Turian, Commander?"
"I've never seen him before. Were you able to ID him from the footage? If he went through customs there must be some record of who he is."
"We've only just pulled and compiled this footage, Shepard. I was hoping you might be able to identify the individual and save my people some time as well as point yourself in the right direction. However I feel about the Spectres, Commander, I have no desire to see a powerful warship in dangerous hands. I will start a records search for who this individual is and see what we can determine…"
"NO! Let me see that footage." Tali stepped up to the display, intent on the image. She had been so quiet, so distracted by her struggles with her omni-tool, that Shepard had not thought to ask her to examine the footage. Thought, in fact, that she was not paying attention at all. She stared at the footage now, stared hard at the Turian it showed. Shepard reached up to touch her shoulder and she flinched, the tension radiating from her in waves.
"Tali, are you…?"
"I need access to the raw data. I need to sift through the images. Something is wrong here."
Pallin crossed his arms and flared his mandibles. "I'm not in the habit of allowing access to C-Sec records and data to outsiders, especially to a Quarian." Shepard bristled at the implied slur wondering if there was anyone the Executor approved of, but Tali did not even glance up, didn't react at all to the words. Her focus was on the image before her.
"My status as a Spectre grants me some authority to access these records, or to order their access for my trusted crew. Tali seems to think there is something she can glean from that data. So, unless you want to make an issue out of this with the Council, give us access to that raw data." Shepard met Pallin's gaze unflinchingly. Shepard had made errors recently, as had the Alliance if Pallin was telling the truth, but he had the authority to order access to the footage. If Tali thought that data would be helpful, he would back her all the way.
Pallin looked away and threw up his hands. "Fine, fine. I'll transfer the data to a protected server with no access to our systems. You can play with the data to your heart's content. But I'll tell you now, our E-Crimes unit scanned that data when they were downloading it. They didn't report any indications of tampering. I think you're wasting your time." Pallin punched several commands into the interface as he spoke, finally stepping away and gesturing sarcastically for Tali to take his place.
"I'm sure your people are well trained, Executor, but I'm a Quarian. I've been cracking data since before I was out of the bubble. I've beaten Geth data security. And I've learned that when you are looking for footprints that have been swept away you don't look for the footprints. You look for the sweep marks." As Tali spoke her fingers flew across the interface, entering commands and manipulating data faster than Shepard could process even if he could understand what he was seeing.
"This is very entertaining, Commander, but don't you have better things to do with your time…"
"THERE!" Tali suddenly exclaimed. "This image of this Turian is a genuine image, blended perfectly to cover something else. I bet this footage was lifted from somewhere else in your system. Just the fact that this image has been manipulated means that someone accessed your systems. Maybe I can strip this away and we can see…" Tali's fingers resumed their intricate dance across the interface.
Pallin was flustered, his mandibles flaring in agitation. "Impressive. I'm sure once we had more time to analyze this data my people would have identified these anomalies and alerted me to this information and to the possibility that our systems have been compromised."
Shepard could not resist such an obvious opening, not after Pallin's attacks on him and the Alliance as well as his dismissal of Tali. "It's easy to be offended when someone seems to question the reliability of your people, isn't it Executor?"
Whatever response Pallin was about to give, it was cut short by Tali's exclamation. "There, got it! This doctored image was obscuring…"
"An Elcor?", Shepard exclaimed in disbelief. The image now showed one of the large creatures lumbering toward the security guard. Shepard found it hard to believe that an Elcor had hijacked his ship.
"Oh, that's sneaky. Someone thinks they're a clever bosh'tet. Hold on a moment…" Tali battled the data, hands a blur. Her tension had not abated even as she made progress breaking the electronic camouflage. If anything she more agitated as she fought with the data. Both Shepard and Pallin had fallen silent, afraid to interrupt Tali's efforts for fear they would distract her.
"And, how about this…" Tali's hand swiped through the haptic interface and the Elcor vanished to be replaced by a familiar looking human male.
"Umm, I'm quite sure that I didn't steal the Normandy, Tali." Shepard eyed the image of himself approaching the guard and entering the ship. He had to admit, the likeness was perfect.
"Like I said, the footprints are gone. These are the sweep marks. But the person who did this was a little too clever. They were so concerned with taunting us with their accomplishment that they didn't think about other tracks. And I think I might know how to figure out who did this. But it will take some time."
"Do it, Tali. Let me know when you have something solid we can use to track down our thief. Meantime I have to gather the crew, alert them to what has happened and see if there are other resources we can draw on to help us retrieve our ship." Shepard looked defiantly at Executor Pallin. "I can also see about drawing resources from the Alliance. I have a few questions for Councilor Anderson. I assume, Executor, that you will afford my crewmember every courtesy in sifting this data?"
Shepard had seen that Pallin had been impressed by Tali's handling of the data. He was counting on that, and his hint that he would follow up on what Pallin said about Dr. Manuel, to smooth the Executor's resistance to anyone outside C-Sec accessing their data.
The Executor visibly shook himself before responding, gathering his own air of professionalism. "Of course, Commander. With supervision and proper safeguards for our systems I will allow your crewmember to access what she needs to assist us in identifying this criminal. We are allies, after all. Aside from that, I can offer little in the way of assistance. Your ship, wherever it is, is beyond our jurisdiction.
"Very well, Executor. I'll let you know what I find out. Tali, come join me as soon as you can, but your efforts here take precedence." Shepard turned to exit the room, passing Sergeant Lambo, who had been waiting by the door throughout the exchanges that had occurred. The proverbial fly on the wall.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Commander. If you need any additional assistance, don't hesitate to contact us."
Sergeant Lambo saluted crisply, a genuine salute that Shepard returned. Lambo had no requirement to salute. It had been a sign of respect. A recognition that despite what the Executor had said, at least this one C-Sec officer believed in what Shepard was doing. What he had done. Despite everything, Shepard was smiling just a little as he left the C-Sec facility.
Shepard shifted gears mentally. He needed to send word to Councilor Anderson that he needed an immediate meeting. And he needed to gather the crew to inform them of what had happened. Some of his crew might have resources of their own to aid in finding the Normandy and Miranda could probably determine if the tracking devices aboard the Normandy might lead them straight to the ship and make all these efforts moot. He also needed to do one more thing he was not looking forward to.
As Shepard was thinking these thoughts he passed near one of the many terminals for Avina, the Citadel VI assistant and guide. She flared into existence as he passed. "Commander Shepard. You have received an emergency page from Tim. You are to contact him immediately using the information sent to your extranet account. Message concludes. Thank you for using Avina."
Avina vanished as suddenly as she had appeared and Shepard stood confused for a heartbeat. He didn't know any Tim, but then he realized. TIM, not Tim. Like a monster from a fairy tale, it seemed he could be summoned just by thinking about him. Shepard vented out loud his reaction to this realization, really his reaction to the entire situation. "Well…fuck."