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.