Chapter 71

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T’Soni estate, Thessia – one week after the Systems Alliance elections

The Normandy settled onto her designated landing pad a short shuttle ride from the main house. Half the crew stayed behind on Earth to spend time with their families. The remaining Alliance crew and especially those who lost their close family in the Collector attacks had been invited to spend time at the Republic Mansion where they would be treated as honoured guests of the Thrassican Republic.

Shepard’s specialist team, like her Alliance crew, were split between coming back to Thessia and going their own way for the two weeks down time the Normandy’s Commander had negotiated. Grunt had been invited to stay with Wrex to get some Krogan time and Mordin was leaving for an extended period to pursue a personal project. Jack, much to Shepard’s delight, had opted to come back to Thessia but was going to stay with the estate’s commando’s to improve her biotics. Garrus was, of course, going home with Shepard.

Shepard stood next to a couple of Asari shuttles from the Republic Mansion which had come to collect her crew.

“I’ll see you when we get back from Illium,” Shepard said to Karin and Joker, “and no, Joker, you need a break and down time as much as the rest of the crew. Edi will take care of the Normandy.”

“Yes Jeff and we are within personal comms range if I should need to talk to you,” Edi’s voice could be heard over their personal comms.

Joker looked unhappy but didn’t try to argue.

“We all need this break Commander. You make sure you get as much time with Liara as possible,” Karin said with a smile, “I for one am looking forward to the pampering we get when we stay here.”

With an exchange of smiles and salutes Shepard saw her crew off. She turned and made her way to the estate shuttle where Garrus was waiting.

As they boarded she slapped him on the back and said, “Let’s go home brother.”

The ride took only a few minutes and as the shuttle was landing they both moved to the exit.

Shepard’s heart leapt as she saw Liara walking towards her, their son running towards the shuttle on wobbly legs.

With her child in one arm Shepard pulled her bondmate into an embrace with the other and touching foreheads she said, “I’ve missed you so much.”

Liara leaned into her lover’s embrace and traced Shepard’s lips with her fingers.

They stood still, eyes locked, their soul’s touching.

For the first time since the Normandy’s crew was abducted and Shepard had raced through the Omega relay; since she surrendered herself to the Alliance, they kissed.

“Please don’t ever leave me behind again,” Liara said a little breathlessly.

Shepard instinctively answered, “Never,” but the plan to keep Liara safe was still growing in a deep part of her mind.

They walked back to the house arm in arm and Shepard couldn’t stop grinning. The future could go to hell, today, this moment, she had everything her heart and soul desired she had Liara.

Secret Cerberus station, Red Dwarf star system – one week after the elections

Harper sat staring through the full size viewing window at the broiling surface of the red dwarf sun he had chosen as his preferred base of operations.

Curls of smoke hung in the air around him as he put the cigarette to his lips and took another long drag, the tip glowing red. The large room was so quiet the crackling from the increased burn seemed to echo around the space.

The Illusive Man had been in a dangerous mood for over a week.

His plans to take Omega thwarted, the elections going against him and Shepard being hailed as the poster girl for the Alliance Navy rather than being hauled before a court martial all fuelled his quiet rage.

Several of his assets who had not achieved their objectives had been neutralised, he was not in the mood for further failure.

He turned his chair away from the window.

“Petrovsky you need to secure the Omega relay and our assets beyond it,” he said to the holo projection of his most senior General in front of him, “it would seem the Alliance and the Council are preparing to destroy all our hard work. Do not let that happen.”

“Yes sir,” Petrovsky said feeling a little relived that he was still being trusted given he had been blamed for failing to take Omega.

The other holo image in front of Harper was an Alliance officer, “you have your orders, do not fail me.”

“But surely I will be of much more value to you after

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