Because I start getting into details in this chapter, albeit sparingly since I didn't want a few thousand words of Terminator 101 for people, I'm just going to clarify that this occurs in one of the intermediate timelines between Terminator 2
and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
. More precisely, the sixth known timeline iteration, which is the one that would have canonically looped with Cameron traveling back to 1999 to protect John Connor from Cromartie to create the seventh timeline iteration. Except it didn't. And we'll find out why. Also, I misremembered the death scene when I wrote the first chapter and so in this universe, the yahg died but wasn't instantly disintegrated, leaving the corpse that Alexis tells Mordin not to get distracted by. My bad. Didn't seem worth going back and rewriting the chapter for, though.
There was just one problem with that plan, the pair quickly discovered. Alexis's initial training in the art of biotic domination - which was not at all related to those fetish videos Kasumi had found on Miranda's terminal - had come aboard Omega immediately after Samara's death as Morinth's way of proving herself superior to her dead mother. Well, technically Morinth had demonstrated herself capable of using a technique that Alexis had previously thought to be something known only to Samara first and had then moved on to her own unique domination ability… but that was just splitting hairs. It was an incredibly interesting technique in her opinion: through the use of an extremely precise mass effect field, she could compress the target's brain for a moment and cause all sorts of misfires to occur. Sometimes it would make the target do their best ragdoll impression, others would go batshit insane and begin firing indiscriminately as their 'fight' instinct tried to handle an enemy it couldn't actually find. Biotics were especially fun; they tended to instinctively hurl spheres of power outward, flattening allies for a few feet in each direction.
While on Omega, though, nobody had noticed a few extra corpses and a few more people wandering around acting oddly; the normal murder rate and level of drug abuse had disguised their activities nicely. She'd further refined the ability through trial by fire, testing it against the husks aboard the derelict Reaper and then the Collectors during the team's suicidal assault on their base. Aboard the Normandy
, on the other hand, there weren't exactly people lining up to be her guinea pigs, nor were there people among her two-dozen strong crew she could afford to lose if she messed up… but that would have required someone to volunteer for her little experiment.
And nobody was.
Hence her conundrum.
So instead of actually doing something useful with her time, Alexis found herself retreating to her now empty cabin and following Kasumi's lead, taking a shower before changing into a simple black tank top and sweatpants. Still bored and lacking anything better to do with her time, she then proceeded to inspect and clean each piece of her Kestrel armor before storing it in her room's armor locker. That was followed by pull ups, push ups, and crunches, just to burn more of her otherwise empty afternoon. Just as she was about to log into the extranet and start surfing for more downloads that Kasumi would end up mocking her for, Joker's voice emerged from the speakers in her room. "Commander? The team has returned from the, err, surface so to speak. And according to Tali, Liara is demanding to speak with you. In person. Alone."
Shutting down her omni-tool, Alexis rose from the couch and moved to stand at the foot of her bed, staring up and through the skylight at the planet they were orbiting. Hmm. She was looking up… but the planet was technically 'below' them. English just wasn't meant for space travel, she decided. Shaking her head, she forced her wandering mind back on track. "Did she give any reason for being so secretive?"
Joker's snort echoed through the room. "She won't discuss the matter with anyone other than you and you alone, Commander. In other words, a big no. I can open a channel to the surface and send a reply for you if you want?"
"Do it. Let her know that we'll need to refuel and reload the Kodiak again and then Miranda and I will be down to speak with her in half an hour." Pausing, Alexis thought back to one of the crates that she remembered seeing marked as 'contents intact' during the survey after the mission to the Collector base and the oculi's attack on the Normandy
. "Make that Miranda and Jacob. And tell Jacob to load crate QEC-BT2 into the belly of the Kodiak while the crew is looking her over."
"…okay, Commander. Don't think she'll be too happy but hey, I don't have to face her. By the way, who the heck taught EDI to sing 'Daisy Bell'? Because she's really starting to freak me out."
Alexis groaned as she rose to her feet and trudged over to her armor locker. "EDI, behave yourself before I have Tali reprogram you to look like a krogan and let Grunt start practicing his pickup lines on you so he's ready for mating season. Joker, stop whatever it is you're doing to annoy EDI. Shepard out." As she tapped the security code into the locker's keypad, Alexis shook her head. EDI was a child, albeit a scary electronic one. What was Joker's excuse, though?
"Alright, we're here. Thank you Packmule Lawson and Packmule Taylor. I'm sure Liara can take it from here and if she can't, one of the Shadow Broker's engineers would love to play with a quantum entanglement communicator for her. You can have Chambers take you back up to the ship; I don't know how long this will take."
"Well, I suppose 'Packmule Lawson' is better than 'Miri'…"
As the two former Cerberus operatives turned and began the trek back to the shuttle bay that Liara had opened for them - Alexis had been up for another trip over the hull but the crate full of communicator pieces probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much - the blonde sighed and grinned. "God, I love having minions. And these ones can't even complain to a higher power anymore if I mistreat them. Life is good."
Alexis took a deep breath as she turned to face the door again. Considering Joker had taken the incoming call for her, this was going to be the first time she'd spoken with, much less seen, Liara since she'd come to the decision that she needed to break up with the asari. And she'd have to be very careful doing it, Alexis knew: not only was Liara an extremely formidable biotic who could fuck her up if pissed off, but she now controlled a criminal empire second to none in known space. If this went badly, moving into the Collector's base permanently would probably be a good idea: it was likely the only place in the galaxy beyond the Shadow Broker's reach.
Waving her hand, Alexis lifted the crate into the air with her biotics and floated it along behind her like a duckling following after its mother. In only a handful of strides, she covered the remaining distance to the doors and let her fingers flick over the controls, disengaging the lock using the password Liara had shared with her on her way out. Entering the Shadow Broker's inner sanctum, Alexis's confident gait slowed as she realized that it wasn't going to be just her and Liara. Instead, her soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend stood with her back to her, typing away on the Shadow Broker's massive computer, and half a dozen blue figures in very familiar brown leather outfits were spread about the room, leaning against the pillars that were spaced around the office precisely every sixty degrees. Reaching the center, she lowered the crate to rest on the scorched piece of flooring where the yahg had died and looked around slowly. "You know, Liara, if I'd known this was what you meant when you said you were going to spruce up the décor, I would have helped foot the bill. It still lacks a certain something, though. Maybe we can get some poles… some lights… a sound system…" Despite the easy, teasing tone of her voice, the blonde was uncertain. She'd suspected Liara had access to asari commando units; she'd wanted to ask about getting access to them, even. Still, seeing them aboard the Shadow Broker's ship, especially given they essentially had the space overhead interdicted… that was a bit unnerving. "So, just out of curiosity, is this about to get kinda violent or kinda sexy? Because I need to know whether I should be pulling my gun or pulling armor off."
"You were right, Liara, I do like her." One of the commandos, slightly older than the others but younger than Liara, stepped forward and drew her pistol, letting the weapon bump casually against her thigh as her green eyes met Alexis's own. "And if it turns out the answer is 'kinda violent', Shepard?"
In a single smooth motion, Alexis drew her Locust from its holster and brought it up, body twisting to present a narrower target as she drew a bead on a light purple marking just above the asari's nose. "Violence is never the answer. 'Violence?' is the question. The answer is 'yes'." The other commandos drew their pistols almost as one but Alexis kept her attention on the leader for the time being. "Just so you know, the last time I faced an asari commando team, I took out them, some geth, and Matriarch Benezia with only two people for backup." She looked around the room slowly and deliberately before returning her gaze to the leader. "I may be on my own, but there's only half as many of you as there were on Noveria. And I don't see any geth or a matriarch, either."
Even as she spoke, Alexis began to focus her mind; she didn't dare use it on the leader due to her proximity to Liara, but dominating one of the others might give her the time to dash to cover so she wasn't caught in a six-way crossfire. Then the leader leaned her head back and laughed loudly. "Oh, I definitely like her, Liara." Holstering her pistol, the asari thrust a hand out. "My name is Calia - well, Illium Nos Astra Scylla T'Soni Calia if you want to be technical about it - but you can call me Calia or T'Soni if Liara's not here because when she is it's a bit awkward or Tempest." All that came out in one long rush and Alexis blinked owlishly at the now-named Calia. Did she actually need to breathe? "I'm the leader of the better of Liara's two teams of commandos - not that there's that much of a difference but we're slightly better and we know it so why not be proud of it? - and if you'll have us, we're yours from now until either the Reapers are defeated or they make who owns what a moot point for everyone."
Evidently not. Crap. She made a mental note to see Mordin when they got back to the Normandy
; maybe he could add 'hamster protocols' to her translator to slow down individuals who spoke too rapidly. Come to think of it, that'd make dealing with him a lot more tolerable too…
Still, Alexis had to stifle the urge to jump up and down and cheer at having one of the more difficult requests she'd been planning to make resolved for her. She managed to limit herself to a smile and a nod. "We'll need to find somewhere to put you, but I'm sure you'll make great additions to the crew." Looking between Calia and Liara, she waited for a moment but when nobody offered an answer, she asked the obvious question. "T'Soni and T'Soni?"
Calia nodded before jerking a thumb back over her shoulder in Liara's direction. "Bland stone here is what you would call my cousin. My mother was Benezia's slightly younger sister from the same pairing: an asari who fell in love with a drell serving the hanar ambassador to the Citadel under the Compact. Quite the scandal, the way I hear it. They had Aunt Benezia right after meeting and then my mother near the end of his life. Small galaxy: my mother moved to Illium to become a mercenary and while she was there, she met the asari that Aunt Benezia would eventually meld with to have Liara. I'm not a pureblood, though - not that there's anything wrong with that. But I'm not. My father was a salarian that Aunt Aethyta introduced my mother to. Hence the name. Most don't care, but I thought I should respect the fact that he let my mother use his DNA to make me, you know?"
"…riiiight. Well, as fascinating as your family history and stuff is, can we get to the reason Liara called me down here? Because I have a gift to deliver too and then I need to get back to that whole, you know, saving the galaxy from complete annihilation gig I have right now." Calia rolled her eyes but stepped aside, letting out a small huff. Alexis holstered her gun and went to pass the younger asari by, only to pause beside her and reach up to touch her shoulder. "Tell you what, after you get settled in on the ship, you can come up to my quarters for dinner and we'll chat all you want."
Calia looked from Alexis to Liara and back before fluttering her lashes flirtatiously. "Ooh look, Liara, she's inviting me back to her quarters already. Guess she is a fast mover… not that I mind, though. She's even cuter in person than she is on the extranet. Although I'll probably have to wait until we get back to her quarters to see if her bottom is as nice as you say it is. The armor gets in the way a bit, but I like what I see so far: nice and rounded and big but not too big." Oh great. That was just what she needed: she was getting ready to move away from Liara and the train wreck that was their relationship, and now she would be hosting the woman's cousin. Who evidently shared Liara's taste in women. Swell. "Sounds good. Considering we ate rations on the way over here, I won't even complain if your chef doesn't know how to cook anything asari."
Wow, she couldn't have set up a better opening if she'd tried. Turning her attention to Liara, Alexis raised one eyebrow. "Which brings up a very good question. The Normandy
has had space superiority since we arrived. How the hell did you manage to sneak them aboard?"
"Cerberus stole the plans for the Tantalus Core and the Normandy
-class frigate from the Systems Alliance to make your current vessel. The Shadow Broker has multiple agents within Cerberus… I believe you met one of them. A human named 'Wilson' who was part of the Lazarus Project?" Huh. Well now. That explained a whole lot about those hectic minutes surrounding her reentry to the world that they'd never been able to figure out. Still, it wasn't the answer she was looking for and so Alexis gestured for Liara to continue. "Cerberus stole it from the Alliance and the Shadow Broker stole it from Cerberus. With a network bigger than Cerberus's to draw on, it was even easier for him to build a ship around the Tantalus Core than it was for Cerberus to build the second Normandy
. He used it to insert operatives onto Illium to assist Vasir and after his fall, I contacted my people in Nos Astra, had them seize the ship, and they brought it back here for me."
Wasn't that just nifty? Two separate criminal organizations had the specs - and working examples - of one of the Alliance's most closely guarded secrets. It made Alexis wonder if any of the other major Citadel powers had fielded an analog of the Normandy
-class frigate yet. The turians, perhaps? They'd had a hand in the original. Maybe the asari, during the rebuilding of their fleet after the debacle at the Citadel? Or the salarians, who seemingly lived to push technology to new heights? Shaking her head, Alexis turned her attention back to the subject at hand… or rather the subject that was supposed to be at hand but they'd yet to actually get to. "So, what's so important that you demanded I come alone?" And what did Liara think could be said in front of her cousin and the other asari but not in front of anybody else from the Normandy
Liara turned away again, slim fingers flying over the controls of the Shadow Broker's massive computer. "While I haven't had the time to do an in-depth search yet, I have uncovered a few interesting things. I was wrong when I assumed the yahg was only the second Shadow Broker; he was actually the sixth. It's come full circle in a strange bit of irony, it appears. My father was the original Shadow Broker and retired when she decided she wanted to settle down and have a daughter, passing off the title and the organization to her second-in-command. Before you ask, because I know you will, she's very relevant to this conversation. Because… it turns out that she discovered Earth before humans and turians met. The second Shadow Broker set foot on it, even. Tell me, Shepard, how much do you know about Earth history? Particularly the second decade of the twenty-first century?"
Wracking her brain, Alexis tried to think of something that might be of relevance to the conversation; had her people launched a new space program or something that could be connected to the Shadow Broker's interference? Wait, no. That decade wasn't associated with any sort of advancement. Quite the opposite, really. Every Earth child with a halfway decent education knew… "In 2011, war broke out between the People's Republic of China and the United States of America. Nuclear weapons were used, a lot of people died… it ended in 2017 but the official peace accords were signed in 2018. Nobody's quite sure what set it off because a lot of records from back then were lost and never reconstructed. Why?"
"When 'Eliza' became sentient, the Systems Alliance claimed - at least to the people who knew of her existence - that she was the first human-made AI. Perhaps they even believed that. But in reality, it turns out that she is the second. The first was responsible for what you've been taught was World War 3." Liara tapped the holographic keyboard a few times, bringing up a video that started playing automatically. Alexis watched in disbelief as strange, skeletal mechs with glowing red eyes crossed a battlefield, firing blasts of energy at a band of ragged, retreating human soldiers. A missile launcher gripped by three-fingered hands poked its way into the bottom of the video and the videographer barked something in what Alexis realized was Khelish; Tali was prone to swearing in it when things went wrong in engineering. With a bright flash of whitish-blue light, a missile streaked away across the battlefield, slamming into one mech and detonating in an explosion that enveloped several more mechs and seemed to go on far longer than it had any right to. Secondary explosions, likely from ammo and the mechs' power cores, Alexis realized. "Earth was fairly badly polluted by 2017. The Shadow Broker redirected some critical parts and supplies to the Flotilla in exchange for the services of a few marine fireteams to assist the human organization known as 'Tech-Com' in learning how to use mass effect-based weapons. With their own… distaste… for artificial life, it wasn't long before they took a more active role in the fighting."
Staring at the screen in horrified fascination, Alexis remained silent as Liara outlined the supposed true history of humanity. Or - more precisely - six of them. Fantastic tales about computer science and technological evolution run amok, resulting in a global AI overlord, its robotic servants, and weaponized time travel. To say it contradicted what she'd learned in school was an understatement. But with half a dozen meticulously detailed and interlocking timelines, not to mention blueprints of bizarre robotic war machines and video clips recorded by the quarian marines, it was hard to deny that Liara had stumbled onto… something. "How… how did an entire planet forget about something like this? And how did the Shadow Broker get so much information? Even if he visited Earth, this is a level of detail that would have taken months to put together. Years, maybe."
Liara used a sweep of her hand to dismiss the blueprints of a 'Cyber Research Systems Series 800 Model 101' - which Alexis was pretty sure she'd seen in action in the quarian missile strike video - before calling up a new video that she expanded to fill the screen. "Not when you can download it all from a very trusted source it wouldn't." They watched in silence as a three-fingered hand reached out to shake the hand of a middle-aged human. The shape was slightly different and the person wasn't wearing a glove; salarian rather than quarian, Alexis quickly determined. There was no audio but Alexis didn't need it to figure out what was going on; the man would speak and then stop for a few seconds before starting up again. Conversing with the salarian about something. Then he turned and gestured to a teenage girl standing a step behind him on his right. She bowed respectfully and the salarian made a beckoning gesture before turning away and heading up the ramp into the belly of a ship. "Being the Shadow Broker means being a business man. The quarians, for instance. He wanted their help, so in exchange for them giving him manpower, he gave them needed supplies. Tech-Com, on the other hand, had nothing to offer in exchange for mass effect-based weapons that couldn't be matched or beaten by their opponent. So they offered their opponents. A fully functional and cooperative terminator unit would be delivered to the Shadow Broker at the end of the war, with the intention being that the Shadow Broker could use their new cyborg helper to make breakthroughs in mech technology."
Her phrasing made Alexis arch one brow. "Lemme guess. She was fully functional but not especially cooperative?"
"I suppose you could put it that way… or you could call her a treacherous bitch. Well, as much as a robot can be a treacherous bitch considering they're programmed and so technically they're just tools for a treacherous bastard." Calia stepped up beside Liara and bumped her cousin out of the way with her hip, eagerly closing out of the finished video and calling up a new one. "For someone with no weapons and no biotic abilities, she did pretty well for herself. I'm not sure I'd want to face her in a fair fight after watching the video, but then again I wouldn't want to face her in an unfair fight either. Let's just say I don't want to fight her." This time, the video was shot from a static camera mounted in the corner of a room rather than a suit-mounted device. Leaning over what was unmistakably a partially finished sibling splayed out on a lab table, the young woman went from speaking calmly with the salarians she was working with to tearing into them with a brutal savagery. "Hang on, we're just about to get to the good part or at least what I think is the good part." Alexis absently reached out to cover Calia's mouth with her hand, watching as the door slid open and Cameron bolted for freedom. She found her direction abruptly reversing as she was hit by a charging krogan, who slammed her to the deck and began to rain powerful punches down onto her face. Reaching up, Calia grabbed Alexis's wrist and pulled the hand from her mouth. "You know how hard a krogan can punch I bet and so you also know that one of those hits would destroy my skull or your skull or pretty much anyone's skull. But this 'Cameron' thing?"
Alexis watched in disbelief as each punch rocked the girl's head to the side, only for her to snap back instantly and stare up at the krogan. And when he moved from her face to her chest - probably looking for some sort of weak shot since blows to the head weren't working - she took the chance to return the favor, slamming her fist into the krogan's forehead hard enough to momentarily stun the massive creature. "Holy shit. I've fought krogan before and even I'm not stupid enough to go hand-to-hand with them." Well, she'd gone helmet-to-forehead with one on Tuchanka, but that was in controlled enough circumstances. And she'd had that aforementioned helmet to keep her skull from being cracked by the move.
Nodding, Calia bounced on her toes as she continued to stare at the video. "Yeah, asari commandos are taught that if we end up facing a krogan, we should keep them as far away as possible with our biotics and then just keep firing our shotguns until they stop moving. They're also the reason we carry grenades. That makes the fact that she beat one - or at least knocked him back enough to get away - really, really impressive, doesn't it?" They watched as 'Cameron' punched the krogan twice more, stunning it long enough for her to slip out from underneath him… only to stumble to a stop as one of the recovered engineers manipulated something on his active omni-tool. She spat a few angry words at him as he continued to work before slumping to the deck. "I'd say that maybe she thought Earth was the only world to have robot problems and so she didn't think to expect an alien hack attack, but she worked with quarians so how could she have possibly not known that the rest of the galaxy had ways of dealing with renegade robots?" Calia let out a snort and shook her head in disgust. "What a dull stone."
Taking control of the computer back from her overeager cousin, Liara shrank the video a bit and moved it off to one side. "The Shadow Broker left her offline after that and the focus of the project shifted from building a new robot to examining Cameron. He was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that maybe something had gone subtly wrong and she'd defaulted back to her original Skynet programming by mistake. When her files were downloaded, translated, and examined, though, the truth was discovered: her sudden shift in behavior was part of a plan that she and John Connor - the nominal leader of the human resistance - had drawn up as the war came to an end. Cameron was his second-in-command and lover and since the agreement stated any one functional terminator, the Shadow Broker's lieutenant didn't think to question why he was getting her instead of one of the larger, more obviously combat-oriented Series 800 or male Series 888 units. The plan was for her to go peacefully, wait for a convenient moment, and then kill whoever she was with and seize a ship to bring back to Earth. Connor thought that the proof it would give of life beyond Earth would help humanity unite and rebuild faster, to say nothing of the leap in technology that pulling the ship apart would bring." Liara shook her head. "When I read about how the Shadow Broker rigged all the weapons he provided to shut down when a remote code was used - a code his lieutenant transmitted from low orbit as he departed with Cameron and the quarians - I thought he was betraying humanity. Then I saw all this and realized that he was right not to trust humanity. After all, look what humanity has done in the thirty-seven years since it's discovered mass effect technology. Where would humanity be today… what would they be like… if they'd gained all they have today over a century earlier?"
Despite an instinctual desire to stand up for her fellow humans, Alexis knew that getting into an argument about the nature of humanity wouldn't help anything. And she was probably right. With a hundred years or more to build up a fleet before their encounter with the turians instead of a mere decade, the First Contact War probably would have been more of the First Contact Decimation. And from there, who knew? With the military arm decimated, the asari and salarians probably would have betrayed and replaced the turians the way they had the krogans, allowing humanity to step into their place as the third major race. But what could have been didn't matter, she realized. What was did. And speaking of what was, there was the not-so-minor matter of the incredible disconnect between Earth's recorded history and this. "Does it say anything in there about why Earth doesn't remember anything about this? I mean, I remember learning about ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as a child… how can they get history from less than two centuries ago wrong?"
Liara shrugged as she closed out the various windows she had open from her presentation, reverting to the blue monitoring screen Alexis remembered seeing during and after their fight with the last Shadow Broker. "Ego, I think. Ever person has one… every race has one. Which would be easier for humanity to swallow and teach its children? That elected officials started a war for reasons now lost to time? Or that in their arrogance, they created an artificial intelligence that almost burned them from the face of their own planet? While the Shadow Broker never went back to find out and the yahg didn't care to look into the matter after humanity stepped onto the galactic stage, my personal guess is that the governments colluded as they returned to power and forcibly suppressed the true history of Earth even if it meant taking the blame onto themselves."
"Sounds about right. We blew up a fucking Reaper inside the Citadel, the wards and Citadel Tower get pelted with the debris, and people still are willing to believe that Sovereign was just a giant geth ship commanded by a renegade Spectre. It's easier on their teeny tiny minds that way." Sighing, Alexis reached up to rub her temples. "Okay, so, this really is fascinating and all. Honest. I'm sure it'll give historians on Earth fits if you let me take a copy home. But what's with the urgency and secrecy? I mean, would it really matter if you told me now or a year from now? Does this somehow get us one step closer to a way to defeat the Reapers?"
Pondering that for a moment, Liara raised one hand and wobbled it from side to side, a mannerism Alexis knew the asari had acquired during their time together. "Terminators had access to working plasma weapons, including larger scale versions for vehicles. The information the Shadow Broker extracted about Skynet and its machines might let you begin building new ship weapons to use against the Reapers. For the most part, though, the gift I have for you isn't anything quite as… tangible. You see…"
A sigh came from behind them, cutting Liara off and making Alexis look back at one of the commandos whose name she'd yet to - but probably should - learn. "To make what seems to be turning into a long story very short? The terminator is still aboard and intact. Recently maintained, too; the yahg was probably going to restart the project as a possible weapon against the Reapers. Her power cells have been replaced and everything checks out according to the original scans the first engineers to examine her made. Someone just needs to turn her on."
Alexis's eyes widened as she pondered that. Granted the terminator's very existence violated a number of Citadel laws and could get humanity in deep shit if the Council found out, but the pros of having her aboard far outweighed the cons in her mind. Her memory contained invaluable information about early human history and technologies since lost to time, and with her intellect, who knew what she might create when given access to the technology that the crew of the Normandy
took for granted? Then there was the matter of her combat abilities. If she could fight a krogan one-on-one, there probably wasn't a species - either indoctrinated or genetically modified by the Reapers - that she couldn't handle.
"Take me to her."
Energy raced through her long dormant body, causing her standard power on self-tests to execute. No problems were found. Power was routed to her basic systems, starting with her neural net to increase the resources available to conduct further tests with. Primary… secondary… tertiary… all three of her processors came online without a hitch and the next segment of her startup sequence was loaded and spread between all three processors to execute. Tiny pulses of electricity confirmed that all her motors were present; she wasn't missing any of her limbs, fingers, or toes, nor were any of them disabled. Auditory, olfactory, and visual sensors were all accounted for. All her endoskeleton's systems were present, accounted for, and functional. Excellent.
Then she reached the second part of her boot sequence and she had to resist the urge to accelerate the loading of specific subroutines just so she could frown. Once the integrity of her basic systems was confirmed, she was supposed to run through a series of checks to confirm that her outsides were as perfect as her insides. Except they weren't. Her artificial gastrointestinal system: offline. The myriad of sensors that studded her body and the neural conduits that carried information from most of them to her processors: all but ten of the former were missing and all of the latter were. Her artificial follicles, living tissue skin sheath, and the systems that supported both: all gone. She had been stripped to her bare bones at some point and that was how whoever was reactivating her would first see her. Not the best introduction, she mused, given the way most beings reacted to her true visage.
The diagnostics confirming her lack of Model 715 subsystems finished, prompting her to either continue or terminate the boot sequence. After a moment's consideration, she opted to continue. Might as well see who was knocking on the door, figuratively speaking. After bringing her primary gyroscopes online and bypassing the secondary array for the time being - she needed to walk without falling to avoid embarrassing herself, but she probably wouldn't need to do any dancing anytime soon - she bypassed the final warnings about missing systems related to human mimicry and loaded the programs that would properly interpret the incoming signals from her various sensors and translate them into something her CPUs could process.
What started out as a multicolored blur quickly resolved itself into a coherent image as Cameron Connor's optics focused for the first time in… one hundred and sixty-five years, seven months, seven days, sixteen hours, forty-two minutes, and eighteen seconds, according to her internal systems. It took her only a fraction of a second to realize she was in a lab structurally similar to where she had worked for the Shadow Broker as he attempted to replicate terminators for some unknown reason, although she was mounted upright on a rack that slid small bars underneath each rib and under her widespread arms to keep her upright. Just as quickly, she began plotting her escape and evaluating methods of dealing with the organics she could sense in the room with her… and then she actually took a good look at the sources of the eight heartbeats and even breathing, and came to an abrupt halt.
First and foremost was an asari maiden - approximately one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty years old if the appearance analysis algorithms she'd created for herself were working correctly - in a white and blue outfit who stood directly in front of the rack Cameron was resting on. A septet of slightly younger asari were arrayed behind her; a team of asari commandos, judging by their weapons and trademark brown leather outfits. Interesting. The Shadow Broker's organization was made up primarily of krogans, salarians, turians, and quarians. There were a few asari but they were generally field agents. She'd never seen more than one visiting the base at any given time and given how the Broker tended to work, it was more likely that if he had any asari commandos in his employ, they would be six asari spread over six teams to exert his will, rather than a full, singular team.
But it was her eighth visitor that really captured Cameron's attention. Testing first her arms and then her legs showed that she wasn't secured in any way and Cameron took a hesitant step forward, then another. After running a quick motor systems recalibration, she closed the distance between herself and what appeared to be a blonde human woman, hand coming up to rest on the woman's cheek as she began pulling in data through the sensors that remained on her fingertips. "Core temperature is ninety-eight point six degrees Fahrenheit, blood pressure is one hundred and ten over seventy, heart beating seventy-three times per minute. Biochemical signs and mannerisms suggest non-sexual excitement and apprehension. Interesting. Your biosigns are within acceptable drift of the last human I sampled - although I detect signs of cybernetic enhancement and the presence of an element with which I am not familiar - and you appear to be human. But humans have yet to leave Earth orbit except for nine trips to their sole moon." Stepping back, Cameron stared at the 'woman' consideringly. "I've been… asleep… long enough for that to have changed but even if humans are now space-faring, this base is very well hidden. Perhaps a new model of human infiltrator built by the Shadow Broker, using my own design as a base but improving upon it? Or a member of a shapeshifting race who gained access to my memory files and took on a form you thought I'd find comforting?"
The blonde let out a laugh, exchanging a look with the eldest - and presumably leader - of the asari. "Wow. It's like Calia slowed down to normal asari speed." Turning back to Cameron, she held out her hand. "Humans discovered mass effect tech in 2148, unlocked a mass relay hidden in the Sol system in 2149, had first contact with the Citadel in 2157, gained an embassy there in 2165, and were granted a seat on the Council in 2183. My name is Command Alexis Shepard, Special Tactics and Reconnaissance." A Spectre. Even more interesting. Two had been on the Shadow Broker's payroll when last she checked. The fact that a new one was a century and a half later wasn't surprising in the least, nor was the possibility of humans betraying their own kind. After all, she'd dealt with plenty of Grays in her day. The woman reached up with her free hand, patting the blue and white-clad asari on the shoulder. "Liara and I both had our issues with the Shadow Broker and so we teamed up to deal with him. She's going to take his place and turn the organization into… well, why she's taking over instead of me disbanding the entire group is a long story. But when she began examining his files, she found out about you and decided to introduce us."
"I see." Cameron stared at Alexis, pondering her situation. Obviously the human wanted something of her or else she never would have been reactivated. But what could Commander Alexis Shepard, Council Spectre, have for her of all people? Her knowledge of events and technology were long out of date and while she'd been one of Earth's most formidable combatants, she wasn't arrogant enough to think that she'd rank as highly when compared to all the citizens of the galaxy. Her eyes drifted down to the hand that Alexis was still offering and then back up to meet the woman's green eyes. "If was I was simply being repatriated to Earth or some other area of human control, there would be no need to activate and confront me here. Which means you want me for something. Since I can't come up with an adequate reason myself, I suppose I will only learn by asking… what do you want? And why should I come with you?"
Before Alexis could answer, the asari she'd identified as Liara stepped closer and brought a hand up to rest on the back of the blonde's neck. Without protesting, Alexis ducked her head slightly and let her eyes drift shut. Suddenly, Liara's eyes went from blue to pitch black and the rippling blue-white corona of biotic activity wrapped around them both. Melding. Cameron had read about it before but never seen it. Were the two lovers, then, that they thought so little of casually joining their minds? Good friends? Regular partners in raids like the one they'd conducted against the Shadow Broker, who used it as a method of exchanging intelligence? After only a few seconds, Liara exhaled and stepped away, her eyes returning to normal as the biotic nimbus around her body flickered and died. Surprisingly enough, Alexis's held on a few seconds longer before disappearing and Cameron filed the possibility of humans with biotic abilities away for future consideration. Then Alexis lazily opened her eyes, smirking as she met Cameron's gaze. And her response, while a phrase Cameron was quite familiar with, was the last thing she expected to hear.
"Come with me if you want to live."