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[personal profile] alliancesjr
Compiled from the initial posting on SpaceBattles. I've been finding it easier to write it in chunks over there.

Spoiler tags ahoy: Doctor Who after New!Series Three, but before Voyage of the Damned. Mass Effect 2 post-game, but before the Arrival and Lair Of The Shadow Broker DLC expansions.



"-–peared right in the middle of the Presidium. Nobody’s quite sure how it got there."

Garrus paused he passed by the Briefing/Comm room. That was Councilor Anderson’s voice. He stopped to listen at the door – he knew he was being rude, but he honestly didn’t remember the last time Anderson called in person.

"What can you tell me about that box?"

"We’re not really sure. It appears to be made of simple wood, which was the first thing that tipped us off."

Garrus shook his head and entered the room. Rude or not, his curiosity won out. Besides, Shepard rarely minded. If she did, she’d have locked the door.

"The whole thing out of wood? Must have cost a fortune to get that shipped to the Citadel. What was inside it?"

"Nobody knows. It’s turned away all our scans and C-Sec hasn’t gotten a warrant to break into it yet." Anderson’s head turned as he noticed Garrus entering the room. "Officer Vakarian."

Garrus was somewhat vindicated when Shepard absently waved him in. "Councilor. And technically I’m not an officer anymore. What’s this about C-Sec?"

Green eyes rose to meet his own. "Blue box just appeared on the Citadel, out of thin air."

"Shit. The Ilos relay?"

"No," said Anderson, shaking his head. "We’ve locked that one down on both ends."

"It’s possible it came in from another personal relay from somewhere else," Garrus countered, crossing his arms over his chest. "There are places on the Citadel we’ve still yet to open up, and who knows what the Reapers might have—"

"Trust me, it’s the first thing we checked. No Eezo traces anywhere near it. There’s also the matter of the guy inside."

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said you couldn’t scan it."

"We can’t," said Anderson. "He came out as soon as it appeared. C-Sec hauled him away, he’s currently in a holding cell, asking for a lawyer. C-Sec won’t do anything until he talks, and I can’t just go in and ask questions myself."

"So you need a Spectre to come in and shake things up a bit."

Anderson chuckled. "I need a Shepard to come in and ask the questions she needs to ask. The fact that she’s a Spectre just makes it easier on my paperwork."

Garrus narrowed his eyes. "This still sounds weird. What if it’s a Reaper trick?"

"Then all the more reason for us to go," said Shepard, standing up and stretching. "We’ll turn around and head for the Citadel. We’ll be there in..." She trailed off pointedly.

"One hour from the closest Relay, another half for docking clearance and decon."

"Thanks, Joker. Normandy out."

Anderson’s hologram faded as the connection was cut.

"So what do you think, Shepard?" said Garrus, his eyes still locked on the space where the hologram had just been. "Reaper trap?"

"Too subtle. They’re on their way en masse, there’s no point sending a spy this late in the game. Not when they know we’re expecting them."

"Maybe that’s the point. The Citadel’s got two choices; focus on him, or ignore him. Either our attention is diverted when the Reapers show up, or he goes around disabling our defenses. It’s a win/win for them."

Shepard sighed, running a hand through her short red hair. "Remember when this was easy? Just seven of us against Saren and the Geth. No extragalactic squidbots coming for our souls, just a bunch of enemies and a clear field of fire." She stared off into the distance, shaking her head wistfully. "Now it’s just us against thousands and thousands of eldritch abominations. What would you call that?"

Garrus let out a short bark of laughter. "Easy. A target-rich environment. Just pretend we’re in a broken-down apartment back on Omega."

Shepard stared at him for a long moment, before breaking down into laughter of her own. It was a refreshing sound, Garrus thought, something that the Normandy hadn’t heard for far too long. It was infectious, too; before long, he was chuckling away.

"Alright," Shepard said, getting herself back under control. "Let’s see about Anderson’s mysterious blue box."

* * *


The central C-Sec office was bustling with activity. With the sudden influx of refugees from border colonies, petty thefts and public disturbances were at all-time peaks. It certainly didn’t help matters with all the would-be soap-box prophets sharing their gospel with anyone who would listen (but mostly passersby who didn’t care to). These took the normal range of such proclamations: xenophobic ranting, blaming the current government for economic issues, even one claiming that the galaxy would soon be overrun by monsters made of chocolate mousse.

All told, Central Precinct had its hands full. Which is why Shepard was slightly surprised to find herself hustled past the rather long queue in front of the duty sergeant’s desk.

"Commander!" shouted the sergeant, exhausted delight filling his face. "Thank you for coming. You can do me a favor by getting rid of this idiot." He jerked a thumb in the general direction of the holding cells.

"Problem with our mystery guest?" Garrus asked from her right.

"He’s absolutely impossible. Asking inane questions about how the station works, and constantly squinting at random things at the walls while he ignores your answers." The sergeant sighed, shaking his head. "And then he got bored. Listen."

Shepard frowned, about to ask him what he meant, before she noticed a rhythmic thumping sound. "What is that?"

"Tennis ball. Pulled it straight out of his empty coat pockets, don’t ask me how. That’s not even the first one, either; we took that one away from him and he pulled out another!"

"So take his coat away," Shepard said, narrowing her eyes. C-Sec was usually – she groaned inwardly even while thinking it – on the ball about things like that.

"We did. Don’t ask me where he got this one; frankly, I don’t want to know." The sergeant waved impatiently at the holding cells. "Just grab him and go, we’ve got to clear some space for a couple of those street preachers."

"I thought C-Sec didn't arrest for preaching without a permit," said Shepard, raising an eyebrow. "What did they do?"

The sergeant glared. "You mean aside from inciting a riot and attacking civilians?"

"Point taken. We should go."

They pushed past the crowd and opened the door to the cell block. "I really hope it wasn’t that chocolate mousse guy," Garrus said, casting a sideways glance at the throng of people behind them. "I liked him."

"Well, you know what they say about getting between people and their chocolate." Shepard eyed the console and keyed in her Council passcode. "This guy’s in C23, right? Down the hall."

* * *


The door to Holding Cell C23 slid open, allowing Shepard and Garrus to discover its sole occupant... bouncing a tennis ball. Nothing tricky, nothing special, just a simple tennis ball, bouncing off the floor, the far wall, and back to his hand. Floor, wall, hand. Floor, wall, hand.

"My name is Shepard, and I've been directed to take you to the Council for questioning," Shepard began, placing her hand near her sidearm. The pistol was warm and inviting, and she tried to ignore the itching in her palm as the man completely ignored her, continuing to bounce the tennis ball.

Floor, wall, hand. Floor, wall, hand. Floor, wall, hand.

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to--"

"I'm sorry, can you just hang on to that thought for about twenty more seconds? I'm on a bit of a streak here." The man continued to bounce the ball, completely ignoring the two heavily-armed individuals as he silently moved his lips, as if concentrating on the bouncing ball was the most important thing in the universe.

Shepard and Garrus exchanged a Look. "You know, we could just leave," said Garrus, jerking his head towards the door. "I don't think a Reaper Spy would be all that interested in bouncing a ball."

Shepard shook her head. "No. Anderson wanted to talk to Steve McQueen here. You want to go up there and tell him you changed your mind?"

"Hell no. Send Grunt, he can regenerate." Garrus glanced back over to the man, taking in his disheveled hair, pinstriped suit, and scuffed up white trainers. "Who's Steve McQueen?"

"Actor." She raised an eyebrow at Garrus's lack of response. "You know how it is, on a ship most of your childhood. My mother had us watch all those old vids from the 2D era, said it was important history."

"And well should she have done," interrupted the man, catching the ball one last time and putting it aside. "Five thousand three hundred sixty-three. My personal best. I don't think I've had this long of a stretch in a prison before an interrogation in quite some time, really, which conveniently leads to saying hello to you! Hello!" He stood up and stretched.

"I said questioning, not interrogation," protested Shepard, holding up a hand in an optimistic attempt to forestall any concern.

"Yes, we~ell," drawled the man, "one's always accompanied by the threat of the other, innit? Especially where prison is involved. ...is prison still involved?"

"That depends on how the questioning goes," said Garrus, narrowing his eyes.

"As I said, then!"

Shepard shook her head slowly. "It's a paranoid time right now, everything needs to be double-checked. Especially with someone just appearing in the political headquarters of the Citadel, with no ID, no explanation for transport, and no biological matches in the database."

The man stuck his hands deep into his trouser pockets and shrugged sheepishly. "Ah, that. Yes."

"Yes, that," Shepard said, crossing her arms. "So if you're wondering where the line is between questioning and interrogation, there it is. Who are you?"

"That's a rather complicated question, I think."

Garrus leaned back against the wall. "Not so complicated of a question as 'Shepard, how do you expect me to clean up all this blood?'"

"Knock it off, Garrus," Shepard hissed. She turned back to the man and frowned. "Start with the basics. Your name, followed by what the hell you are and how you got a big wooden box onto the Presidium."

At the mention of the box, the man's eyes widened in shock. "Is it alright? Where did you put it? You didn't touch it, did you?"

"I have no idea. Answer the questions, and maybe I'll see about finding out for you."

"Right, sorry. Best I can hope for, I suppose. Well, I'm the Doctor."

Shepard blinked. "Doctor who?"

The man's eyes actually twinkled in delight, she'd go before an advisory council and swear it if she needed to. "That never gets old. No, sorry, just 'The Doctor'. Don't really have a name elsewise so that'll have to do for you, Miss...?"

"Shepard," she said. "Commander. How did you get on the Citadel?"

"Is that what this place is? Blimey, the name certainly fits, doesn't it? All sparkly and majestic." The Doctor glanced around the cell. "Would it be a bit of a stretch to say that box was my... ship?"

Shepard glared at him. "It's a box."

"Well, yes."

"Made of wood."

"The good ones are, you know. It's got a bit... more than that on the inside, anyway." The Doctor shrugged. "It's my ship, and it landed here. We~ell, crashed. We~ell, kind of ripped a hole through the known universe and then crashed. I don't exactly know how myself, it was sort of a flobbley bit of space-time jumble for a bit there, and then here I am."

Shepard groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose in another optimistic attempt (this time to forestall the headache she knew she was going to have.) "Right. Mass effect field. That's all you needed to say. Garrus, outside."

She followed Garrus outside the cell and sealed the Doctor back in. Garrus strolled over to the viewport on the far side of the cell block and stared out at the nebula. "What do you make of it?"

"I don't know," Shepard admitted. "He seems genuine, if a bit loose in the head. I wasn't getting a Reaper vibe off him, though."

"That still freaks me out, you know. How you can sense them."

"Me too." She sighed. "One of these days I'm going to have to get a full documented list of exactly what Cerberus did to me. Maybe Mordin can sort it out. Anyway, it's still useful, and I'm not getting Reaper from him."

"I don't trust him. He smells wrong."

"Oi! I'll have you know I shower regularly."

Shepard and Garrus spun around, pointing their guns directly at the Doctor, who was standing right behind them and sliding a small silver object back into his pocket.

"That was a military-grade seal on that cell door," Shepard growled, her finger on the trigger of her trusty pistol. "We didn't hear a thing, and I've got souped-up hearing."

"When you've lived as long as I have, Commander," said the Doctor, unfazed by the weaponry centimeters from his nose, "you pick up some tricks. Anyway, I get the feeling you're in a bit of a rush, so I thought I'd hurry it up a bit. I assure you, I am not a threat to you, so you can put those down at any time."

Shepard gave a short derisive bark of laughter. "You appear without any warning, you can get through the toughest locks on the Citadel, and you're not any species we have on record. How am I supposed to believe you're not dangerous?"

"I said I wasn't a threat, Commander Shepard, I never said I wasn't dangerous." The chill in the Doctor's eyes almost made her drop her gun. Almost. "I'm doing things your way, and I'll be perfectly happy to do so for as long as you like, but the one thing you should never forget is that I am dangerous. I am probably the most dangerous thing you've seen in quite some time." His eyes softened, and he gave a tired smile. "But that's not a surprise to you, is it, Commander? You deal with dangerous people on a daily basis, don't you?"

Shepard blinked, then holstered her gun. "Garrus, stand down."

"But--"

"He could have gotten out at any time, and he's willing to come with us for now." Shepard nodded at the Doctor as Garrus lowered his rifle. "Come with me, we'll take you to the Council, and then we'll take a look at that box of yours."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed the Doctor, suddenly all smiles. "I'm sure there are plenty of questions to be had, I'm quite looking forward to it. Allons-y!"
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January 2012

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