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Chapter 61 – The trial

To Garrus’ slight surprise the garden plaza, where the hearing was to be held, wasn’t anything like the courtrooms he had seen back on the Citadel, when he had been called to witness in cases he had worked in C-Sec. It was an amphitheatre-like construction that didn’t look like it belonged inside a starship. There was also a large number of quarians, who had gathered around to follow the proceedings.

As they walked through the crowd Garrus noticed that the three judges were already standing on the podium waiting for them. Shala’Raan took her place on the highest seat as the spoke-person of the gathering.

“This Conclave is brought to order,” she started formally. “Blessed are the ancestors who kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. Keelah se’lai.”

The entire crowd repeated the last words, and even Garrus found himself muttering them along with the others.

“The accused, Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, has come with her captain to defend herself against the charge of treason,” the quarian continued.

“Objection!” one of the quarian judges shouted immediately. “A human has no business at a hearing involving such sensitive military matters!”

“Then you should not have declared Tali crew of the Normandy, admiral Koris,” the quarian woman said sternly, and Garrus happily hid another smile inside his helmet. “By right as Tali’s captain, Shepard must stay.”

“Objection withdrawn,” the man said glumly.

“Shepard vas Normandy, your crew member Tali’Zorah stands accused of treason,” Shala’Raan continued. “Will you speak for her?”

“If it helps Tali, I will,” she said speaking slowly and with conviction. “But in her heart, she remains Tali’Zorah vas Neema, a proud member of the Migrant Fleet. I regret that her captain is forbidden to stand at her side today.”

The same quarian man was again the first to respond.

“Nobody has been forbidden from anything! It is a simple—“

“Lie to them if you must, Zaal’Koris,” the other man who was judging the case interrupted. “But don’t lie to me and expect me to stay silent! The human is right!

“Admirals, please,” Shala’s authoritative voice cut the argument short. “Shepard’s willingness to represent Tali’Zorah in this hearing is appreciated. Tali, you are accused of bringing active geth to the Migrant Fleet. What say you?”

“How could Tali have brought geth to the Fleet while serving on the Normandy?” Shepard asked.

“To clarify, Shepard,” the female quarian judge, who had so far stayed silent, said. “Tali isn’t accused of bringing back entire units – only parts that could spontaneously reactivate.”

“But I would never send active geth to the Fleet!” Tali shook her head. “Everything I sent was disabled and harmless!”

“Then explain how geth seized the lab ship where your father was working!” the most hostile judge demanded.

There was nervous movement and silent whispers going through the crowd. Tali swayed and both Shepard and Garrus stepped closer in case she would fall. But she regained her strength.

“What are you talking about?” she demanded in turn. “What happened?”

“As far as we can tell, Tali,” the judge who seemed to be most supportive said gently. “The geth have killed everyone on the Alarei... your father included.”

“What?” Tali was completely at loss. “Oh, Keelah...”

“I appreciate the need for this trial, admirals,” Shepard said, stepping forward—Garrus knew she was lying through her teeth and only said so to please the quarians. “But right now our first concern must be the safety of the Migrant Fleet. The Normandy stands ready to assist in whatever capacity necessary.”

“Thank you,” Shala’Raan said and Garrus had the feeling this was what the quarian had wanted to hear. “Quarian strike teams have attempted to retake the ship, so far without success.”

“Shepard,” Tali turned to her, pleading. “We have to take back the Alarei!”

“The safest course would be to simply destroy the ship,” one of the admirals explained. “But if you are looking for an honourable death instead of exile...”

“I’m looking for my father, you bosh’tet!” Tali spat.

Garrus didn’t know what ‘bosh’tet’ meant, but from the way the admiral jumped it was a stinging insult. Garrus allowed another hidden smile under his helmet. Things were getting interesting.

“You intend to retake the Alarei from the geth?” Shala’Raan said as if she wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but the quarian couldn’t fool Garrus—the woman had been leading the confrontation into that direction. “This proposal is extremely dangerous.”

“With your permission, admirals, yes,” Shepard said sternly. “The good of the Fleet must come first... and Tali needs to find her father.”

“Agreed,” the supportive admiral said solemnly. “And if you die on this worthy mission, Tali, we will see that your name is cleared of these charges.”

“We can discuss that later,” the hostile admiral said.

“Then it is decided,” Shala’Raan announced. “You will attempt to retake the Alarei. You are hereby given leave to depart the Rayya. A shuttle will be waiting at the secondary docking hangar. Be safe, Tali. This hearing will resume upon your return, or upon determination that you have been killed in action.”

As the group dispersed the three of them retreated into a corner.

“Thank you for agreeing to take back the Alarei, Shepard,” Tali said weakly. “The admirals sound sure that my father is already dead, but...”

Garrus and Shepard exchanged a short glance, which revealed neither of them expected to find any survivors on board Alarei either, but that neither of them was going to mention it to Tali either.

“I don’t know,” Tali sighed. “We won’t know anything until we get there.”

“How are you holding up?” Shepard asked gently. “They just threw a lot of fire at you, even before telling you about your father.”

“I knew this would be bad,” Tali shook her head. “But I guess you’re never really prepared to be charged with treason. And my father... I don’t know. He could still be alive. They don’t know for certain that he’s dead. I just don’t know, Shepard. And I need to find out.”

“Is there anyone here you want to talk to before we go?” Shepard asked, allowing her gaze to roam the room, making mental note of each group of quarians.

“We should talk with the admirals,” Tali said. “It might help us to see what their viewpoints are. But I doubt we’ll change anyone’s mind by talking to them privately.”

“Hang in there,” Garrus said comfortingly.

“Shepard, the secondary docking hangar is through the Conclave chamber where you are now,” EDI’s voice suddenly came from their radios. “The shuttle they have provided is unarmed.”

“Understood,” Shepard replied.

“Whatever geth are on the Alarei have likely built more of themselves,” the AI continued and Garrus had a sudden bad feeling of what could happen if the quarians found out about the system. “Expect heavy resistance.”

“You set me up, Shala!” Tali spoke sharply to the older quarian woman. “You told captain Danna not to say anything. I don’t hear that my father may be dead until I’m in the trial? Why?”

“The admirals needed to hear the shock in your voice, Tali,” the woman replied. “Otherwise, they might not have let you try to retake the Alarei. That is your best chance at recovering that can exonerate you. I’m sorry. We cannot afford sensitivity, Tali.”

Grimly Garrus noted that he had been right and the older woman had intended for them to attempt to recapture the lab ship.

“I know you’re trying to help her, admiral,” Shepard said indignantly. “But that was over the line.”

“She has nobody else to speak for her, Shepard,” Shala’Raan said sadly. “I’m doing everything in my power. That’s what her father would have wanted.”

“Don’t say it like that!” Tali was still furious. “He could still be alive on that ship!”

“What can you tell us about the Alarei?” Garrus asked just to get the pressure off Tali for a moment.

“Not much, I’m afraid,” the quarian replied, studying him. “Rael’Zorah only said that he was researching new defense technology.”

“He told me only that he needed any geth parts or pieces I found,” Tali said, happy to talk to Garrus instead of the quarian. “I assumed he was testing weapons on geth components.”

“We knew nothing until the Alarei sent a distress signal, then went dead,” Shala’Raan continued. “We didn’t even know about the geth until a boarding team was attacked.”

“You’re saying there’s no data about the inside of the ship,” Shepard concluded.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” the quarian confirmed. “The marines who survived and escaped saw bodies in the halls. We must assume the worst.”

Garrus and Shepard exchanged another meaningful glance behind Tali’s back.

“No,” the young quarian protested. “We don’t.”

“What kind of evidence will carry weight with the admirals?” Shepard asked.

“Tali, you admitted to sending geth parts to your father for his project,” Shala’Raan said, glancing at the girl.

“Yes,” Tali said firmly. “But never anything that could have come back online on its own. I took every possible precaution!”

“Then find records of your shipments and the experiments,” Shala’Raan instructed. “Something that proves you were careful. Something that proves that this is all just a terrible accident that nobody could have foreseen.”

“We should go,” Shepard said gently.

“Good luck on the Alarei,” Shala’Raan said as they headed away.

Suddenly Tali hurried her steps.

“Kal’Reegar!” she called and another quarian turned to face them.

“Shepard, Tali’Zorah, Vakarian,” the man greeted them. “Good to see you all. Wish it were under better circumstances.”

“What are you doing aboard the Rayya?” Shepard asked. “This is not your usual post, is it?”

“No,” the quarian replied. “I, ah, stayed to argue the charges against Tali’Zorah. I’ve served with her, and she deserves better than what she’s getting.”

“Thanks, Kal,” Tali said with a tender note in her voice.

“Just stating facts, ma’am,” Kal’Reegar replied and Garrus would have liked to poke him for missing  Tali’s obvious affection for him.

“Have you had any luck talking to the Admiralty Board?” Shepard asked.

“Admiral Raan asked my opinion about the geth, since I’d fought on Haestrom,” Kal’Reegar replied. “She and admiral Gerrel are hoping you’ll kill a bunch of geth to get the crowd on your side, then find evidence to clear your name. They were hesitant, but, well, you didn’t have many other options, ma’am. I recommended getting you onto the Alarei. I hope you can handle it.”

“You did the right thing,” Tali assured the man. “Thank you.”

“Keelah se’lai,” Reegar replied.

They headed across the room but were soon stopped by another quarian.

"Judging by your ability to play to a crowd, human, I have done Tali a favour by stripping 'vas Neema' from her name," admiral Koris said. "I take no pleasure in this, Tali, truly. But you have gravelly endangered and dishonoured our fleet."

"What exactly is your problem with my crew member, admiral?" Shepard asked.

"I respect Tali immensely," the admiral claimed, but Garrus didn't buy it. "Her actions against Saren are to be lauded. But like her father, she wants nothing but the destruction of the geth... the people we created. The people we wronged."

"The geth drove us from our homeworld!" Tali retaliated angrily.

"Of course they did," the admiral said shrugging his shoulders. "We tried to kill them. They are our children, Shepard. We have all done horrible things to each other, but it has to end. For both groups. Goodbye, Tali'Zorah. Be well."

"I'm surprised to hear you say that," Tali replied with a hint of bitterness in her voice.

"I don't hate you, Tali," the admiral said and to Garrus' surprise he sounded sincere. "I just think your father's plans for war were wrong."

“I can’t take this anymore, Shepard,” Tali whispered. “Let’s get to the Alarei and find my father.”

“All right,” Shepard nodded and they headed to the shuttle.

Chapter 60 – Treason

When they got back to the Normandy, Shepard and Tali disappeared up into the commander’s quarters, where none of the crew could eavesdrop on their conversation. Garrus headed down to the mess hall, wondering what could have shocked Tali so badly out of her wits.

Garrus hadn't finished his lunch before the two women reappeared. Tali had regained some of her usual composure, but Garrus still saw sadness in the way her shoulders were slumped. Shepard appeared to be furious.

They sat at his table, but none of them spoke. When Garrus attempted to stand up and leave, Shepard pulled him back down without a word.

“I’ll be down in the engineering,” Tali said quietly when she had finished eating.

Shepard also stood up and Garrus followed her example. Together they retreated into the main battery and Shepard sat heavily on Garrus’ footlocker.

“What is it?” Garrus asked, when the commander remained silent.

“The Migrant Fleet has accused Tali of treason,” Shepard spat angrily. “Treason! As if she would ever betray them!”

“What?” Garrus could barely believe his ears. “Why?”

“She doesn't know,” Shepard shook her head in frustration. “The message was not detailed. But they are expecting her to appear in a trial.”

“When do we leave?” Garrus asked, knowing full well that Shepard would leave no stone unturned to help Tali.

“As soon as that delivery from Hackett is on board,” Shepard replied. “Should be any moment now.”

And as on cue the barely noticeable shipboard noises changed, which was enough to tell Garrus that the Normandy was on the move.

“We’re on our way,” Shepard said, pleased. “You should get your armour decontaminated, because you’re coming with us.”

“What if Tali doesn't want me to come?” Garrus asked.

“She does,” Shepard nodded with certainty. “We already discussed that through. She is allowed to have two companions with her, and you’re the only one she trusts with this.”

“I’ll be ready,” Garrus assured Shepard as she left.

Several hours later EDI told Garrus to report on the bridge.

“... Tali’Zorah vas Neema nar Rayya requesting permission to dock with the Rayya,” Tali was speaking to the radio when Garrus got to the bridge.

“Our system has your ship flagged as Cerberus,” another quarian voice replied from the speakers. “Verify.”

“’After time adrift among open stars, along tides of light and through shoals of dust, I will return to where I began,” Tali recited.

Garrus glance to Shepard who was also standing on the bridge, fully armoured. The commander simply shrugged her shoulders, apparently as lost as he was about the purpose of what sounded like poetry. But the lines clearly had some deep meaning to the quarians.

“Permission granted,” the same voice replied from the speaker. “Welcome home, Tali’Zorah.”

“We’d like a security and quarantine team to meet us,” Tali said. “Our ship is not clean.”

“Understood,” came the reply. “Approach exterior docking cradle 17.”

“That’s a sight you don’t see every day, huh?” Joker said as he guided the Normandy to the indicated docking location.

On their way through the airlocks the team was decontaminated total of three times to make sure there was absolutely no hazardous transfer from one ship into another. Finally they came through on the other side to be met with a group of quarians.

“Captain Shepard, I’m captain Kar’Danna vas Rayya,” the leading quarian greeted them. “Tali’Zorah told me a lot about you. I wish we could be meeting under more pleasant circumstances.

“I never actually reached the rank of captain,” Shepard corrected. “Technically, I’m no longer in the Alliance military at all.”

“You’re the commander of the Normandy, responsible for the lives aboard it,” the quarian replied. “That entitles you to respect among our people. ‘May you stand between your crew and harm as you lead then through the empty quarters of the stars.’”

“Keelah se’lai,” Tali said and Garrus noticed Shepard shivering slightly—he was sure she had just been reminded of how Hackett had mentioned something about captains going down with their ships. “It’s an old ship-captain’s blessing, Shepard.”

“Tali helped the Normandy’s crew out of many difficult situations,” Shepard said, reminding everyone why they were there. “I’m here to return the favour.”

“I understand,” the captain nodded. “As the commander of the vessel she serves on, your voice carries weight. I wish I could do more to help, Tali. The trial requires that I be officially neutral, but... I’m here, if you need to talk. They’re charging you with bringing active geth into the Fleet as part of a secret project.”

“That's insane!” Tali spat. “I never brought active geth aboard. I only sent parts and pieces.”

“Hang on,” Garrus interrupted, though he had the feeling he should have remained quiet. “You sent geth materials back to the Migrant Fleet?”

“Yes,” Tali said without a hint of irritation. “My father was working on a project. He needed the materials. If I sent back something that was only damaged, not permanently inactive... No. No, I checked everything. I was careful.”

“Technically, I’m under orders to place Tali’Zorah under arrest pending the hearing,” the captain said and his voice was almost apologetic. “So, Tali… you’re confined to this ship until this trial is over.”

“Thank you, captain,” Tali replied, but didn't sound thankful.

“Preparations got underway as soon as you arrived,” the captain continued. “The hearing’s being held in the garden plaza. You should speak with admiral Raan. She’s waiting for you up ahead. Good luck.”

As they walked past the guards accompanying the captain, Garrus could hear one of them muttering something about how he couldn’t believe Tali could be charged with such thing. Deep in his mind he wholeheartedly agreed, and knew Shepard did too.

When they walked deeper he heard another voice.

“If Tali’Zorah can’t even get a quarian captain to stand for her, she’s as good as convicted,” it said, and Garrus didn't believe it bode well for his quarian friend.

When they rounded a corner in the passage they came across two quarians talking quietly, but stopping when they appeared.

“Tali’Zorah vas Normandy,” one of the quarians greeted them. “I am glad you came. I could delay them only so long.”

“Auntie Raan!” Tali replied, embracing the quarian warmly. “Shepard vas Normandy, this is admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay. She’s a friend of my father’s.” Suddenly Tali stopped and turned to stare at the other woman. “Wait. Raan, you called me ‘vas Normandy’.”

Garrus didn't know what it meant, but it had clearly been a huge chock for the girl.

“I’m afraid I did, Tali,” the older quarian replied sadly. “The Admiralty Board moved to have you tried under that name, given your departure from the Neema.”

“I take it being associated with a human ship is a bad sign,” Shepard said. “Especially one which in turn is associated with Cerberus,” Shepard muttered so quietly that only Garrus could hear it.

“They stripped me of my ship name,” Tali said furiously. “That’s as good as declaring me exiled already.”

“It’s not over yet, Tali,” the quarian comforted. “You have friends who still know you as Tali’Zorah vas Neema... whatever we must call you legally.”

“I guess we should get started,” Shepard pointed out, when it seemed that Tali was unable to speak. “Does Tali have a defence counsellor, someone who speaks for her side?”

“Indeed she does... captain Shepard,” Shala’Raan said, nodding respectfully to Shepard. “She is part of your crew, now, recognized by quarian law. And remember, an accused is always represented by his or her ship’s captain.”

Garrus smiled at that and was happy that his inappropriate expressions were hidden inside his helmet. Who ever had gotten the quarians to insult Tali by changing her name had unknowingly—and most likely unwillingly—done the young quarian a huge favour. If Shepard could talk down a human-hater like Saren, a group of quarian dignitaries wouldn’t even make her break sweat.

“So, err...” Tali seemed downcast. “You would actually speak for my defence.”

“I’ll do everything in my power to help you, Tali,” Shepard said, and Garrus knew she really meant it, and Garrus nodded to indicate he agreed.

“Thank you, Shepard,” Tali said with a thick voice. “I could not ask for a better counsellor.”

“Our legal rules are simple,” the older quarian assured them. “There are no legal tricks or political loopholes for you to worry about. Present the truth as best you can. It will have to be enough. Now come. I promised that I would not delay you.”

Her arm comfortingly around Tali’s shoulders, Shepard guided her party after the older quarian woman, Garrus hanging in the background.
Mass Effect fanfiction: Lonely Heart - Chapter 60
Chapter 60 of my Mass Effect fanfic. Poor Tali... At least Shepard and Garrus got her back...

All characters belong to BioWare.

First chapter: Mass Effect fanfiction: Lonely Heart - Chapter 1
Next chapter:
Cover art: Lonely Heart cover
Full cover: Lonely Heart full cover

Chapter 59 – Admiral Hackett

Shepard came back late in the ship's evening. She made her usual round to check on the crew.

“Sorry about Miranda's burst,” she said, leaning to the door frame. “I guess it was eating her that you knew where I would want to go next, and she had no clue.”

“Don't worry about it,” Garrus shook his head. “After I went to the bar I met an old friend of yours. Conrad Verner.”

“Verner?” Shepard repeated surprised. “That guy who wanted to be a Spectre? What was he doing on Illium?”

“Trying to be like you,” Garrus replied. “And failing just as miserably as I did. I pulled him out from a jam he had gotten himself into and told him to go home.”

“Good,” Shepard sighed. “I don't think I would have had patience to deal with him today. Two years ago he was a pain in the ass.”

“Don't worry, he still is,” Garrus smiled. “He is also a bit of an idiot.”

Garrus then explained the whole encounter with the human. Shepard laughed at all the proper places and shook her head in amazement for the foolishness of the human man.

“Eager and stupid,” Shepard concluded at the end of the story. “That is a bad combination. At least you have brains and proper training for what you did while I was gone. Conrad... he would have just gotten himself arrested or even killed, if you hadn't stepped in. Nice work.”

“Thanks,” Garrus grinned. “It felt surprisingly good, almost like being back in C-Sec. You know, like one of my better days in there. What do you have planned next?”

“Citadel,” Shepard replied. “Anderson asked me to drop by. And somehow I got the feeling he wouldn't take no for an answer. His message... The wording didn't actually even sound like Anderson. More like... Admiral Hackett.”

“You mean the high brass of Human Systems Alliance, who kept throwing missions at us, when we were after Saren?” Garrus asked.

“That's the one,” Shepard nodded. “I just don't understand why he would need to go through Anderson if he wants to talk to me.”

“Maybe because you're not technically part of the Alliance anymore,” Garrus suggested. “But as a councillor, Anderson has jurisdiction over you because you are a Spectre.”

“Could be,” Shepard shrugged. “We'll see tomorrow. Good night, Garrus.”

“Good night, commander,” he replied.

When Shepard prepared her shore party next morning, Garrus wasn't really surprised to find out that it consisted of himself and Tali. When they made their way toward the Presidium, Garrus noticed that Shepard was unusually nervous. She kept tugging at the hem of her tunic and pulling her unruly hair behind her ear.

“You look just fine, Shepard,” he finally said, when the commander tried to get a glimpse of her reflection in the front windows of a shop. “Why this meeting is bothering you so much anyway?”

“I don't know,” Shepard confessed. “But if it is actually the admiral we are meeting... He is a legend among human military.”

They didn't have time for any further conversations. Before they stepped into councillor Anderson's office Garrus noticed how Shepard took a deep breath and seemed to become perfectly calm. He knew she had just turned on her professional military mode.

“Ah, commander,” Anderson greeted her. “I'm pleased to see you accepted my invitation.”

Your invitation, sir?” Shepard asked, glancing at the figure standing on the balcony of the office, his back turned to the room.

Garrus had never had the pleasure of meeting admiral Steven Hackett personally, but he knew the man had a reputation. And from Shepard's reaction he had no doubt about the identity of the officer.

“Well, yes,” Anderson seemed slightly embarrassed. “I hope you understand the circumstances...”

“Commander,” Hackett's resonating voice cut in.

“Reporting as ordered, admiral,” Shepard replied sharply, saluting as the old soldier turned to face them.

“At ease, commander,” Hackett said. “And allow me to apologize for using councillor's help in such a manner. I simply wanted to keep our meeting off the records.”

“You don't need to explain yourself to me, sir,” Shepard replied.

“Need to?” there was a grim smile on the old man's face. “Maybe not. But in this case, I want to.”

“I suggest we all be seated,” Anderson said. “Can I offer you something to drink?”

Hackett and Shepard shook their heads—and Garrus and Tali, who felt themselves seriously outsiders, followed suit—and they all sat down into councillor's conversation circle.

“You see, commander,” Hackett continued. “The Human Systems Alliance have strict orders not to make any contact with you as long as you are affiliated with Cerberus. I issued that order myself. But the recent discovery made in Amada system changed things.”

“Discovery?” Shepard asked.

“Our scanning team has located, what we believe to be, the wreckage of SSV Normandy,” Hackett replied.

That statement hit them hard. Garrus could hear a strange sobbing noise from Tali and Shepard was blinking her bright eyes rapidly. Garrus simply sat there, frozen.

Normandy,” Shepard whispered after a moment of silence, her lips trembling. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Anderson replied for the admiral.

“When the location was discovered Alliance ordered a monument in memory of those who lost their lives,” Hackett continued. “We want you to place it there, and to be the first one to walk the site.”

“I thought the Alliance didn't trust Shepard,” Tali suddenly asked and there was an unusual sharpness in her voice. “Why this change of heart?”

“Because of Cerberus, the Alliance cannot trust the commander with military information,” Hackett explained—Garrus was surprised to see how kindly the old officer spoke to the young quarian. “But we do respect her status as de facto captain of the Normandy. And as the captains of old, she went down with her ship saving as much of her crew as she could.”

“Which brings us to the second reason, why we wanted to send you to Alchera, Shepard,” Anderson said. “There are still twenty crew members unaccounted for. Officially they are MIA. If you find any sign of them, we would appreciate if you could report back here. Their families deserve to find some closure.”

“I don't know if I can do it,” Shepard said and Garrus had never heard her voice sound so weak. “I...”

“It is your decision, Shepard,” Hackett said, nodding gravelly. “And we shall respect that. But I have the monument prepared and ready to be delivered to... your new ship. Take it with you, and when you feel you're ready...”

There was a single tear making its slow way down Shepard's cheek. Garrus thought she was unable to speak, but she nodded to the admiral.

“Very well,” the admiral said, standing up. “I shall make the necessary arrangements. It was a pleasure to see you again, commander Shepard.”

Garrus saw it required a huge effort from Shepard to stand up, but she did, facing the admiral.

“Likewise, admiral Hackett,” Shepard replied and to Garrus her voice sounded sincere. “And... thank you, sir.”

The two humans saluted each other and the admiral left the office.

“Thank you for coming, Shepard,” Anderson said, standing up and shaking her hand. “And…” the human hesitated. “No hard feelings from… before?”

Garrus could remember the argument Shepard had had with Anderson after they had met Ashley on Horizon, and the councillor had admitted sending the woman there to spy on Shepard. She had left the office in anger, but things had turned rather hectic after that and they had not talked about the topic since.

“No hard feelings,” Shepard replied, grinning. “I was angry for a while, but I know how the system works. I got over it.”

“Good,” Anderson said, shaking Shepard’s hand again. “And just that you know, I was, and still am, sorry for how the things played out.”

“I know,” Shepard nodded. “And just so that you know, I would rather serve the Alliance than Cerberus. I don’t trust them, but for now I need them.”

“I understand, Shepard,” Anderson said grimly. “Good luck with what you’re doing out there. Goodbye, Garrus. Seela kelai, Tali.”

“It is ‘keelah se’lai’, councillor,” Tali laughed. “But I appreciate the gesture. Not many outsiders bother to learn even that much about quarian culture.”

“Things change,” Anderson pointed out. “Your people were once great, and then were brought low. But they will rise again, if the Reapers won’t destroy everyone before that.”

“True,” Garrus nodded. “Just think of admiral Hackett, a veteran of the First Contact War sitting around the same table with a turian, less than thirty years after the event.”

“It just goes to show that you and Hackett are better men than Saren was,” Shepard said—Garrus grimaced before he could stop himself. “What?”

“When I left C-Sec Pallin warned me ‘not to become like Saren’,” Garrus confessed. “Ever since I’ve been touchy about being compared to him. After Sidonis… I thought I had gotten over it.”

“I didn’t know anyone has been comparing you to Saren,” Shepard said. “I don’t think I have.”

“You haven’t, Shepard,” Garrus shook his head. “No one has, but me. But now that you brought it up like that…”

“All right, Garrus,” Shepard said. “But I suggest we move this conversation back to the ship. Goodbye, Anderson. It was good to see you.”

“And you, Shepard,” the councillor replied. “Keep your eyes open out there.”

When they sat in the transport on their way back to the Normandy Garrus heard a signal from Tali’s omni-tool. He glanced over his shoulder to the backseat, where the young quarian was sitting and noticed that the girl was perfectly still, as if in shock.

“Shepard,” she said, and her voice was trembling. “When we get to the ship, can I have a word with you. In private.”

“Of course,” Shepard said, and Garrus saw her glance back too—she had caught the strange tone as well. “Is something wrong?”

The quarian just nodded, apparently unable to speak.
Mass Effect fanfiction: Lonely Heart - Chapter 59
Chapter 59 of my Mass Effect fanfic. And hand up anyone whose first thought was that this is about Arrival when you saw the title of this chapter.

All characters belong to BioWare.

First chapter: Mass Effect fanfiction: Lonely Heart - Chapter 1
Next chapter:
Cover art: Lonely Heart cover
Full cover: Lonely Heart full cover
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(Contains: nudity, sexual themes, violence/gore and ideologically sensitive material)

My name is Zaknafein

Maybe it was the sixth sense Brianna Do'Urden had developed as she grew up in the city of Menzoberranzan. Or maybe it was a slight sound of stealthy movement in the room that woke her up. Whatever it was suddenly she was fully aware of her surroundings and knew that she was no longer alone.

Carefully she opened one of her eyes to a thin slit but it took a few seconds for her to locate the intruder. The person was wearing a piwafwi which almost hid the person from her heat seeing eyes, but only almost, as she noticed the movement as the intruder made its way across the training room. When the intruder was almost at the door leading to the room that had traditionally belonged to the weapon master of the house he suddenly stopped as if to listen. Somehow Brianna was sure the intruder was a man and that he had noticed her lying on her trainer's bed at the side of the room.

After her predecessor as the weapon master had died in shady circumstances while she was away on patrol Brianna had been made the weapon master but she had not felt comfortable in the room that had belonged to the man—drown women never paid much attention to their males, but Brianna knew that the previous weapon master had been her father. He had been the only member of the family Brianna had felt comfortable with, and now someone was trying to sneak into his room.

Slowly the intruder turned his head and looked directly to Brianna, still laying in the bed. There was no hiding, her heat shape would be plainly visible against the wall behind her, there was no chance that the intruder would miss her. Brianna opened her eyes properly to assess the situation: her two trusted swords were on the table next to the bed, easy to reach, but her armour was on the stand and there was no chance for her to get it on before the intruder would be upon her.

But she would not go down without a fight.

Who ever had dared to enter the gym uninvited in the middle of the night and attempted to sneak into the weapon master's room would pay for that act dearly. There were very few drow who could match Brianna Do'Urden's skill with a blade.

With one flowing motion she got up from the bed and pulled her twin swords from their sheaths. She crouched down into a low battle stance to diminish her heat shape as much as she could. From there she studied her opponent: her instincts had been correct, it was indeed a male, a warrior by all the appearances, wearing a piwafwi and a set of chainmail armour that was hard as any metal but thin like a shirt. He also seemed to have two swords hanging from his belt. As the unknown warrior turned to face Brianna he slipped the dagger he had in his hand back to its sheath and pulled his swords as fluently as Brianna had done.

Brianna listened hard. If the entire House Do'Urden was under attack, there should be some sounds of battle that would reach even the weapon master's quarters despite their rather distant location at the back of the compound. But there was only silence. So who was this man and why had he come here?

The two combatants circled one another as Brianna made her way further away from her bed to gain better freedom of movement. Slowly they came closer and closer as they assessed each other. Slowly—Brianna could not understand why—the intruder raised his left hand to his throat and unclasped the piwafwi allowing the heat distorting cape flutter to the ground and revealing the full heat shape of her opponent.

"Almost as if he is trying to make this a fair fight," Brianna thought, surprised and she squinted her eyes into suspicious slits.

As if on cue they both glanced to Brianna's armour that hung from its stand. Then the strange intruder made the strangest thing Brianna could have imagined: he lowered his swords slightly and nodded her toward the armour. Brianna shook her head, she wouldn't take her eyes off her opponent for long enough to pull the armour on and give him a chance to attack her while she was defenceless, she would rather take her chances without protection.

From the very first moves Brianna had immediately understood that her opponent was indeed a true warrior, rather much like herself, an artist of the blade who wasted no movement and never lost his balance. When Brianna refused to put on her armour the intruder wasted no time in getting back to his own battle stance that closely mimicked hers.

They circled each other couple of times more before their blades struck the first blows. One, two, three, four times they clanged together in rapid succession and the sounds bounced back from the walls in the silence of the night. To Brianna's sensitive ears the sound was loud and she was surprised that the noise didn't seem to wake up the entire Do'Urden complex. After the first test blows they again circled around each other, now more aware of the skills of the opponent. The attack routine had been rather basic one, one that could easily be used both in attack and in defence, but they both had performed each movement flawlessly.

"Only one that has been trained by my father can move with such grace." The unwelcome thought stuck to Brianna's head. "He is one of our own warriors. Why is he here and why was he headed for the weapon master's room?"

In the next few minutes their battle intensified as both of them struck and parried with masterful precision but never coming even close to wound the other. It was as if they had been able to read each other's minds, as if they had known exactly where the swords would be at any given fraction of a second. The intruder had been able to rip a piece of Brianna's nightgown and she and scraped the tip of her sword against his armour. Suddenly the ripped piece of cloth almost made Brianna trip but she regained her balance at the last second, but all of a sudden she found herself hard pressed and couple of more rips appeared into her gown before she was able to balance the situation again.

And so it went on. Parry, strike, parry, parry, strike, parry, strike, strike... Neither of them seemed to gain any ground, or if they did the other quickly recovered what had been lost. Brianna had never faced an opponent who was so evenly matched with her—not since the last practice session with her father, that was, but he had been her mentor so that didn't count.

Suddenly she got tangled with another strand of ripped cloth from her gown and this time she indeed stumbled, hitting her hand hard to the floor and losing her right hand sword in the process. Her opponent pressed his new advantage carefully, not taking any risks, apparently wanting to judge how much he had gained by removing one of her weapons. The advantage was not as huge as it might had seemed, Brianna was fully capable to hold her own with only one sword, but she had lost the chance to attack.

Smiling the intruder forced her to back around and around in the training room. Suddenly her back hit the wall, she had misjudged her surroundings and was now pinned down. Her obvious disadvantage drove the opponent on and he hammered her remaining sword from both sides with full force. Brianna felt her arms grow tired under the relentless heavy blows and finally her sweaty hand slipped from the hilt and her remaining weapon flew somewhere out of sight, hitting the floor with a noisy clatter somewhere behind the intruder's back.

For a moment the two opponents just stared at each other and Brianna knew she had lost a lot more than a single combat. She had lost her life. She was breathing heavily as was her opponent as he rested the tips of his swords on her shoulders, threateningly close to her throat. Cold, hard, sharp tips of the swords that could cut her throat with ease.

Suddenly the tips of the swords were gone, clattering to the floor, but before Brianna had time to really register this she was again pinned against the wall but this time by her assailant's body. Even through the armour she could feel the heat radiating from his skin. His lips were on her mouth, rough and demanding, kissing her with huger-like need, his hands made their way up her sides, pressing hard and keeping her trapped in front of him.

Brianna's mind was in complete disarray, she had lost track of what was happening and before she knew what she was doing, she returned the hungry kiss with one of her own, wrapping her still trembling arms around her assailant's neck to pull his head even closer. A sound of torn fabric told her that what tatters had remained of her nightgown were now completely gone. Her assailant retreated for a few seconds and his chainmail armour was thrown aside along with his pants and boots. Still breathing hard they studied each other, naked, bared for one another's eyes—and very possibly hidden weapons.

And then he was upon her again, his lips kissing, roughly caressing and moving all around her face and neck while his hands touched here and pressed there. She could feel his erection pushing against her legs, seeking its way inside her. There was a sharp intake of air when his tip entered her and they both knew that he had just signed his own death sentence if he was ever discovered—for a male to rape even the lowliest of drow women was a capital offence and the only punishment Lloth knew was death.

But any thoughts of punishment were soon forgotten when he pushed deeper and Brianna's initial surprise started to turn into pleasure. The intruder—who was that now in more than once sense of the word—was no longer violent in his advances but kept Brianna still pinned to the wall with his entire body. Instinctively Brianna wrapped one of her legs around his and almost against her better judgment her hands explored his body while she took the tip of his ear between her teeth, biting gently.

With his every thrust Brianna felt a strange excitement build up inside her that threatened to spill over at any second. Never before had she allowed a male to approach her in sexual manner—those who had tried had been lucky if she had only humiliated them in a duel, the more unlucky ones had died as soon as she had noticed their attempt. She had sworn that no man who has not bested her in combat would be allowed to touch her, and now she had finally been defeated and her unknown assailant was taking full advantage of his victory.

Finally her whole body went rigid and the breath caught in her throat as the feeling of him finally overwhelmed her completely. He thrust few more times before following suit with a contented groan and send a shiver down Brianna's back. Trembling and breathing erratically they separated and slowly collapsed on the cool floor of the training room.

Brianna was not able to move, she was not able to think straight.

"Who are you?" she finally managed to ask in a hoarse whisper.

"One of your warriors," the man replied just as breathlessly. "My name is Zaknafein."
My name is Zaknafein
And suddenly to something completely different and rather unlike my usual writing style...

The idea for this story has been stuck at the back of my head for a long time. The character of Brianna is inspired by a rather mysterious bit of conversation in R.A. Salvatore's novel Homeland between Malice, Briza and Maya when they plan to trick Drizzt. They mention something about the trick having been planned for someone else, long time ago. From that random reference came an idea which finally materialized in Brianna.

Zaknafein Do'Urden belongs to R.A. Salvatore and the world of Forgotten Realms to who ever. I own only Brianna and my dirty imagination.

(It is past one in the night where I live, let's see if I regret putting this up in the morning...)


DionneJinn's Profile Picture
1. For each of the first ten people to comment on this journal, I will put their avatar and the three deviations I like most from their gallery on the list! If you would like to suggest your own deviations, feel free to do so.

2. If you answer, you have to do the same in your journal, putting the tagger on the first place. The idea of this is not simply getting a free feature, but spreading art around for everyone!

Tagger: :iconbelanna42: Shepard ID: Valerie by Belanna42 Janeway: Goddess of the Stars by Belanna42 Cody: ST. Patricks Day 2013 by Belanna42

01. :iconsoturoayami: Pretty fire by SoturoAyami D. Strata by SoturoAyami Shaza Tu -hunting garb- by SoturoAyami

02. :iconunacceptablee: Garrus Vakarian - Markers by unacceptablee Christmas!!! by unacceptablee Shaya - Assassin by unacceptablee








  • Mood: Joy
  • Listening to: Hobbit soundtrack
  • Watching: Cold Case
  • Eating: Boiled eggs
  • Drinking: Hot chocolate

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Kivutar Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the fave. c:
DionneJinn Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2015
No problem.
TuliusHostilius Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Artist

Just saw some of your draws about Sandokan. I really liked them! Hope to see more!

DionneJinn Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015
Thanks. And thanks for all the faves as well. I'm sure to draw more when I get the time. I'm a huge fan of Salgari's stories.
TuliusHostilius Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
I am also a fan of Salgari's. I draw paper soldiers for print and cut, 1/72, for Wargames and RPGs, but sometimes I take a chance in some fictional characters. Some time ago I tried Sandokan:…

Probably some day I will try the Portuguese "Eanes", The Black Corsair or even Marianne.
DionneJinn Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Aww! He is so sweet! (If one can say that about the fierce Tiger of Malaysia.) I have to print him out and cut him, just for the fun of it. If you decide to do more Salgari's characters, do let me know. I would love to see them.

You don't have any sailing ships, do you? I haven't had time to search through your gallery yet.
(2 Replies)
Jash0162 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
happy birthday, hope your new year is brought by joy all year long and the bad (whatever it might be) dose not stay for long 
DionneJinn Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2015
Thank you.
garrus368 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
Happy Birthday :)
DionneJinn Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
Thank you.
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