Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 14

At least with Legion nominally on our side I could leave him alone with EDI. I trusted the AI to take care of itself for the time being, at least with a guard still posted nearby. I did arrange for someone to bring Legion something with which to clean itself. It looked awful and smelled worse.

It would be best for me to visit Tali before she heard about the geth's activation from someone else. No sooner had the elevator door opened on the Engineering level than Yeoman Chambers pinged me. "Tali wants to talk to you, Commander." I rounded the corner as she said it and the woman herself looked up at the sound.

"I'm already here, Chambers," I replied. Tali seemed agitated and I thought we could use some privacy. I hoped that no one had run to tell her about Legion. I gestured for her to follow and we headed up to the briefing room. "So, about that geth..." I began and proceeded to explain what had happened.

I listened to Tali curse for half an hour in at least three languages, thankful that I'd removed her from Engineering. She would have wreaked havoc, throwing things like she did. At least there wasn't much in the comm room for her to break. The maintenance crew was going to have enough trouble buffing the gouges out of the walls as it was.

She finally wound down and stood, panting. "I was not looking for you to talk about that geth," she said. She'd have hissed the last word if it were physically possible. "I have larger problems. I've been called back to the Migrant Fleet to face a charge of treason."

My jaw dropped. I could think of no one less likely to commit treason than the dedicated Quarian who had repeatedly placed herself in danger to obtain information and materials that her people needed. Was there no end to the creative ways that my crew could find to distract me from the Collectors?

"All right," I said. "Let's go get it over with." Tali seemed surprised, although it was always difficult to judge her reactions. The strange helmet she wore always looked like it was filled with purple clouds almost obscuring her face. Had she not been such a straight arrow I might have suspected her of smoking contraband but I'd never detected a hint of intoxication or lack of control in her behavior. "Obviously there's been a misunderstanding," I said. "We've got a few places to check out in the cluster anyway. We'll make it our next stop."

"Thank you, Shepard," she said. "If I do not arrive in time for the tribunal they will certainly find me guilty. I will be exiled." For a Quarian who had spent nearly her entire adult life away from her home and family Tali sounded awfully alarmed at the prospect. The Normandy was the closest thing I'd ever had to a home so the threatened punishment didn't seem that serious to me but it wasn't my life with which we were concerned. She was a daddy's girl through and through and I supposed the idea of never seeing her father again to be the source of her concern. Shrugging, I asked Joker to head for Raheel-Leyya.

I had a brainstorm as I returned to the elevator: what if I brought Legion to the flotilla and convinced the Quarians to make peace with the geth? Legion had explained the schism and claimed that the bulk of the AI-invested bots wanted nothing more than for the Quarians to stop threatening genocide. If he could convince them of that, or at least sway them to begin peace negotiations, I'd solve two problems at once and could save myself a lot of time.

It seemed too easy. I wasn't familiar enough with Migrant Fleet society to know how they were likely to react. Would Legion and I get a chance to make our case or would they jettison us out of the nearest airlock before we could even start? I needed someone to help me decide whether this was as good an idea as it seemed at first blush. I decided that it was the perfect excuse to spend some time with Thane. I trusted none of my crew to stay as level-headed and objective as the Drell.

Someday I would have to figure out how Thane knew when I was at his door. I couldn't tell if he had somehow bribed EDI to give him advance notice or if he had installed some unobtrusive surveillance equipment of his own. Before I could even touch the control the door slid open to reveal his dapper form. He smiled and ushered me in saying, "I was not expecting you to visit so soon, siha."

His fingers brushed my back as he spoke, sending tingles up the base of my neck. I settled into my usual chair and Thane placed that same cup beside my elbow before taking my hands. He really needs a couch, I thought. We seemed so far apart after our time together but I wasn't about to suggest we sit on his cot or go back to my quarters. As ever, he seemed to know what I was thinking. He raised my hands to his lips. I momentarily regretted being too big of a badass to swoon. "Please stop distracting me, Thane. I didn't come up here to enjoy your mouth."

As soon as the words left my lips I froze, unable to believe what a complete social klutz I was. We'd finally become comfortable together and here I was again, blinking at him like a dolt. Heat rushed to my face as I debated whether to pull my hands away from him. Thane chuckled and said, "No?" He kissed my palms, one after the other, and returned my hands to the table. "That is regrettable. What would you like to discuss?"

I reminded myself that I had come here because he always remained so unflappable and that it would be unfair to curse him for it now. I shook my head and started over as though I had said nothing. I outlined my brilliant plan and we dissected it, debating the likelihood of its success. Thane played devil's advocate to my enthusiasm but finally agreed that success could make a major difference in the lives of both the geth and the Quarians. Who knew—maybe the geth could help the Migrant Fleet find a new home at last. Yet again, I hauled Tali into the briefing room to give her my news about Legion. She took it even worse than the first time but she didn't argue with me. At least her having been raised in such a strict society had given me that much.

It turned out that Legion didn't make much difference after all. We arrived to find the trial in progress, I yelled at the politicians, and we went off to kill things. In all, it was remarkably like my first visit to the Citadel, back before I’d even been a Spectre or commanded the first Normandy. We found Tali's father, killed by his own experiments, in the now-derelict Alerai. I can't guess what he had expected to happen if he kept creating geth and increasing the size of their network, considering how well it had gone the first time the Quarians had done so. He had, however, in direct contravention of the fleet’s law against it for precisely that reason.

Tali was miserable both because her father was dead and because he had so badly betrayed the man she had thought he was. She begged me not to let on to the tribunal and I agreed, although his journal clearly exonerated her. Instead I made up some crap about her saving the universe almost single-handedly and they let her off the hook anyway. They as much as admitted that the whole argument was a political feud over continuing the war with the geth, though had we not shown up my crewmate may well have been found guilty.

I could only get one of the admirals, Zaal'Koris, to talk to Legion at all. Thankfully, he kept an open mind and didn't react to the geth like it was a thresher maw. His vocal condemnation at the trial had stemmed from his disagreements with Tali's father about attempting to retake the Quarian home world, Rannoch. Some of the others, Kal'Reegar in particular, seemed to favor peace but were not willing to go quite so far as to talk to Legion in public.

The reaction hadn't been as spectacular as I'd hoped. Legion had acted polite and circumspect, precisely as I'd asked it to, killed rogue geth on the Alarei and generally behaved like a model citizen and reasonable person. With luck its presence would have given them all food for thought. And I hadn't had one person bleed on me all day. Things were looking up.

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