Chapter 63 – Resolution
“It sounds like he was doing this for you,” Shepard said gently after a moment, her arm still on Tali’s shoulders.
“I never wanted this, Shepard,” Tali shook her head and her voice was barely audible. “Keelah, I never wanted this. Everything here is his fault! I tried to pretend it didn’t point to him, but this… When this comes up in the trial, they’ll…”
Tali slipped away from Shepard, and walked a few steps.
“We can’t tell them, not the admirals, not anyone,” Tali said, her voice suddenly stern.
“Tali, without this evidence, you’re looking at exile!” Shepard was horrified.
“You think I don’t know that?” Tali snapped. “You think I want to live knowing that I can never see the Fleet again? But I can’t go back into that room and say that my father was the worst war criminal in our people’s history. I cannot.”
“Rael’Zorah doesn’t need you to worry about him anymore,” Garrus pointed out. “You heard him say he didn’t want you to be caught in the politics.”
“You don’t understand,” Tali shook her head. “They would strike his name from the manifest of every ship he ever served on. He would be worse than an exile. He’d be a traitor to our people, held up for children as a monster in a cautionary tale! I can’t let all the good he did be destroyed for this.”
“We’re not going to decide anything here,” Shepard said and gestured for the team to leave. “Let’s see what the admirals say once we get back.”
“You’re my captain in this hearing, Shepard,” Tali said. “But please. Don’t destroy what my father was. Come on. If we wait too long, they’ll decide we’re already dead, and none of this will matter.”
“We’re with you,” Shepard promised and the three of them made their way back through the ship and into their shuttle.
None of them spoke when they sat in the shuttle. Shepard sat next to Tali, her arm again around the girl’s shoulders while Garrus sat across from them. He knew he should have focused on the upcoming trial, thinking ways to help his friends through it, but all he could think of was that revelation he had had on board the Alarei.
When he looked back, it shouldn’t have surprised him. There had been signs—most remarkably the fits of jealousy—but he had knowingly refused to notice them. But others had read them, and had tried to tell him, but he had laughed them all away.
Now he would...
“Do what?” he asked from himself. “How could I ever tell her?”
His musings were cut short when the shuttle docked with the Rayya. Firmly he put the thoughts to the back of his mind.
They hadn’t gotten far into the ship when they started to pick up raised voices.
“We need to face facts,” a hostile quarian voice spoke. “There has been no word. There is no reason to think Tali’Zorah survived.”
“We must trust Shepard’s offer of assistance!” Shala’Raan’s voice protested. “It has only been a few hours!”
“The quarian marines lasted less than five minutes, admiral,” another voice replies. “Call it.”
“A pity Shepard vas Normandy is a better speaker than a soldier,” the hostile voice said mockingly and Garrus clenched his fists angrily. “I recommend posthumously exiling Tali’Zorah.”
“What?” several voices shouted.
“Hell!” Shepard cursed and the whole group speeded up. “Double time it!”
“It was agreed that Tali’Zorah would not be convicted if she were killed in action!” Shala’Raan argued.
“It was suggested, admiral,” the hostile voice said. “I recall no agreement. To that end, I call for an immediate vote.”
When they reached the court room Garrus took the lead and started pushing watching quarians to the side to open a path to Shepard and Tali.
“Very well,” the defeated voice of Shala’Raan said. “Is the Admiralty Board prepared to render judgment?”
“Sorry we’re late!” Tali shouted when they finally broke though.
Everybody turned to face them and there was loud muttering going through the room.
“Tali’Zorah vas Normandy saved the Alarei,” Shepard announced before anybody could say anything. “I hope this proves her loyalty to the quarian people.”
“Her loyalty was never in doubt,” admiral Koris said. “Only her judgment.”
“Perhaps Tali’Zorah can offer something to encourage more trust in her judgment,” Shala’Raan suggested.
“Did you find anything on the Alarei that could clarify what happened there?” admiral Gerrel asked.
A silence followed, when everybody were holding their breaths. Every eye in the room was watching them, watching Shepard. Slowly she took a step forward.
“Shepard...” Tali whispered. “Please...”
“Does captain Shepard have any new evidence to submit to this hearing?” Shala’Raan urged.
“Tali helped me defeat Saren and the geth at the Citadel,” Shepard said loudly, making sure everyone could hear her. “That should be all the evidence you need.”
“I fail to see what relevance—“ admiral Koris tried to argue.
“You’re not really interested in Tali, are you?” Shepard cut him short. “This trial isn’t about her at all. It’s about the geth.”
“This hearing has nothing to do with the geth!” Koris tried again.
“You want people to sympathize with them!” Shepard shouted. “Han’Gerrel wants to go to war! None of you care about Tali! She knows more about the geth than any other quarian alive. You should be listening to her, not putting her on trial! Tali’Zorah saved the Citadel! She was in the heart of it with me! She saved the Alarei! She showed the galaxy the value of the quarian people. I can’t think of stronger evidence than that. You have admitted it yourself! You do not doubt her loyalty to the Fleet. So how then you can charge her with treason?”
A longer silence followed that speech, when all the people present thought about what Shepard had said. Slowly whispering started among the crowds.
“Are the admirals prepared to render judgment?” Shala’Raan asked when the whispers had continued for few minutes.
Slowly each of the three admirals turned on their omni-tools and tapped something on them. Shala’Raan studied the readings they transmitted on her display.
“Tali’Zorah, in light of your history of service, we do not find sufficient evidence to convict,” she announced. “You are cleared of all charges.”
The crowd started cheering, when Tali hugged first Shepard then Garrus. But it was not all over yet.
“Commander Shepard,” Shala’Raan continued. “Please accept these gifts in appreciation for you taking the time to represent one of our people.”
“If you appreciate me, then listen,” Shepard said, standing proud in front of the quarians. “The Reapers are coming. I’m going to need your help to stop them. Please don’t throw away yours lives against the geth.”
“Thank you, commander Shepard,” admiral Koris said—Garrus could hear from his voice that Shepard had been talking to a wall. “I hope this board carefully considers your advice.”
Angrily Shepard brought her fist down on the table, and Garrus placed his hand on her shoulder to calm her down.
“This hearing is concluded,” Shala’Raan announced. “Go in peace, Tali’Zorah vas Normandy. Keelah se’lai.”
Again the entire crowd repeated the last words, but Garrus could see Shepard was still fuming with anger.
“I can’t believe you pulled that off,” Tali said silently. “What you said... I’ve never had anyone speak like that on my behalf. Thank you for being there for my father and me, even when... Thank you.”
“You don’t really sound that happy, Tali,” Garrus pointed out, having noticed the odd tone of her voice.
“No, but I’m fine with things like this,” the girl shrugged. “It’s fun watching Shepard shout.”
“Tali, about what your father said, what he did...” Shepard hesitated. “You deserved better.”
“I got better, Shepard,” Tali said. “I got you. And Garrus. And the Normandy. And...”
Garrus turned to look where Tali was looking and picked up Kal’Reegar. Apparently Shepard had noticed too.
“Anyone you want to say goodbye before we head back to the ship?” Shepard asked meaningfully.
“Nice talking, Shepard,” Kal’Reegar complimented when they approached him. “Funny how it takes a commander to remind the admirals about military honour.” Only then the quarian man turned to Tali. “Glad they’re off your back, ma’am. And that you didn’t have to give them that evidence you found on the Alarei.”
“No one said anything about finding evidence, Kal,” Tali pointed out with worried voice.
“I noticed that, ma’am,” Kal’Reegar nodded, but he clearly knew more than he said.
“Stay safe out there, Reegar,” Shepard wished and nodded to Garrus that they should give Tali a private moment with the marine.
“You too, Shepard,” the quarian replied before turning to Tali. “Ma’am.”
“Kal, just call me Tali,” the girl asked with strained voice.
“I’ll work on that,” Reegar promised. “Ma’am. Be safe and good luck with your mission.”
The three of them headed back toward Normandy, but Shala’Raan blocked their way.
“Congratulations, Tali,” the woman said, but Tali ignored her. “Your father would be proud.”
Tali’s old captain, admiral Gerrel, hurried after them when they were about to leave.
“You called us on the carpet out there, Shepard,” the man said. “And you were right. Thank you. Tali shouldn’t have been involved in that argument. Tell me, though, honestly. What did you find over there? You spoke well, but I know a feint when I see it.”
Shepard exchanged a glance with Tali, who nodded.
“Off the record?” Shepard said. “Rael’Zorah was bringing the geth online and networking them for weapons tests.”
“Keelah,” the admiral sighed, clearly shocked.
“You can never tell anyone, Han,” Tali pleaded.
“You have my word,” the man promised. “Thanks for keeping quiet. That would have hurt what your father wanted for the Fleet. I’m just glad you didn’t have to pay for his mistakes. Be well, Tali. Fly safe.”
After leaving admiral Gerrel the group happened across Koris, who had appeared most hostile to them across the entire trial. From the way Shepard squared her shoulders Garrus knew she was expecting another argument, but—
“Very impressive, Shepard,” the quarian complimented, and there was no hostility or mockery in his voice. “Thank you for your help on the Alarei. And thank you for helping Rael’Zorah’s daughter. You stood for her when we failed. We were wrong to let our own concerns about the war overshadow Tali’s trial.”
“The galaxy needs more people saying what you’re saying, admiral,” Shepard replied, and Garrus could tell she really meant it. “Good luck.”
“Thank you, commander,” the quarian nodded before walking away.
“Are you ready to go?” Shepard asked Tali.
“Yeah,” Tali nodded. “Now I know that if I come back from this mission, I have something to come back to.”
“Maybe someone as well,” Garrus couldn’t resist saying, thinking of Kal’Reegar.
“Maybe,” Tali admitted. “If he just quitted treating me as his superior. I’m not some high-and-mighty, I’m just... me.”
Without further ado the three of them went back on the Normandy.