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[personal profile] alliancesjr
Compiled from the SpaceBattles thread.

Spoiler tags haven't changed.

All things considered, it took relatively little finagling to get the Doctor's box-ship-thing moved from Anderson's office to the hangar bay of the Normandy. It was convenient for the Doctor (who wouldn't travel without it), convenient for Shepard (who wanted to give her team a chance to find out what it actually was), and especially convenient for Anderson (who just wanted the damn thing gone). It was extremely not convenient for the rest of the Council, which was really only a bonus incentive anyway, since Shepard was still rather displeased with their treatment of her report from the Omega Relay.

"Honestly, Shepard, at least try to see it our way here. Do you want there to be wide-spread panic on something we have absolutely no hard evidence on?"

Shepard crossed her arms and glared at the Asari Councillor. "I'm not getting into this argument again. I've done your dirty work, I did my research in private when you couldn't do it openly. You couldn't act overtly. I get it, don't think that I don't understand." She shook her head and focused the full force of The Shepard Glare at the Turian Councillor. "But you've got all you need. And you won't act. So again, I'm going to have to, with or without your blessing."

The Turian Councillor was unfazed. "This includes taking this 'Doctor' and his reality-defying machinery out of our custody?"

"You're damn right it does," said Shepard. "Appropriation of resources. Call it... commandeering."

The hooded salarian on the right narrowed his own eyes in response. "Commander, your own track record--"

"My own track record has been to pull your asses out of the fire every single time!" Shepard snarled, slamming her fist on the conference table. "If I was any less than I had to be, you'd have died with the Destiny Ascension. I saved your precious flagship, and all three of you with it, so don't you dare give me this 'your track record' bullshit. The Doctor wants to help, and he's proven his worth to me. End of discussion."

The holograms flickered, for once at a loss for words.

The Asari Councillor recovered first. "Despite our misgivings, Shepard, you've given us no reason to question your actions. We will table the discussion of the Doctor until your return." The tendrils along the side of her head twitched. "We await the results of your mission. Do not make our faith unfounded."

The holograms winked out, and Shepard slumped down into her chair, releasing tension she hadn't realized was building up.

"Curious," said Professor Mordin Solus from the doorway. "Council gives you great leeway in your dealings. Irritation at both ends. Beaurocracy the cause of many ulcers, eating disorders and workplace suicides throughout the known galaxy."

He stepped forward, entering the room, and tilted his head quizzically at her expression. "Would prefer if you did not join those statistics, Shepard. Consequences to the galaxy would be... disastrous."

Shepard laughed ruefully. "Thanks, Mordin. More pressure. That's exactly what I need right now."

Mordin inclined his head, conceding the point. "Not meant to pressure you. Simply stating projected statistics. World is a better place with you in it."

"You're not getting all Clarence on me, are you?" Shepard raised an eyebrow. Since the initial conversation with Garrus and the Doctor, those old flatvids her mother raised her on had been on the forefront of her mind.

"Certainly not!" huffed Mordin in mock indignation. "Would never take that long to earn wings. Look horrible in trenchcoats." He took a deep breath and eyed Shepard speculatively. "Would also never dream of commenting on your physical similarities to George Bailey."

Shepard stared at him for a long moment before breaking into laughter. "Okay, you win, you win. Remind me never to challenge you to a trivia game."

Mordin simply inclined his head in a nod, both acknowledging the point and politely waiting for Shepard to compose herself.

"How was your session with the Doctor?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Biometrics scan was entirely confusing," Mordin said happily, his eyes gleaming. "Form, structure, all similar to human physiology. Slight organ redundancy, similar to krogan. Two hearts. Fascinating." He called up his omni-tool and scrolled through the data as he listed it off. "Much higher range of brain activity than any species on record. Similar organ structure. Simply utilizing much more of it. Bloodwork mystified me for half an hour until he swapped my samples back. Orange marmalade trick."

Shepard blinked. "Orange marmalade trick? He swapped his blood sample and you didn't realize it?"

"Time Lord entirely new species, Commander," Mordin admonished. "Any data could have been the more accurate one. Watching samples like a hawk, did not see the change happen. More impressed than annoyed."

Shepard nodded. From the short time since she had met him, she had come to realize that the Doctor only had three settings. Manic and gleeful, calm and inquisitive, and frighteningly serious. He seemed comfortable with each of those, and could apparently turn them on and off at will. The conversation about the Reapers had been the latter, for example; with every description of her experiences with the Reapers and the Collectors, he got quieter and quieter, until his gaze was a sharpened blade and the very air seemed to be electrified with the force of his fury. That was when he had asked - not demanded, asked - to join her in her travels, with the only request that they visit the system where they stole the IFF transponder from the destroyed Reaper. She found that she couldn't refuse him anything, not in that mood.

Immediately upon boarding the Normandy, however, it had been like watching a kid in a candy store. Gone was the force of nature, the transformation so complete that had she not seen it for herself, she wouldn't have believed he was the same person. She had eventually found him in Miranda's office, pestering the former executive with inane questions and baiting her much more successfully than Joker ever had (which was itself an impressive feat). She had finally managed to send him to the research bay, seconds before Miranda would have snapped and shoved him into a torpedo tube.

"So where is he now?" Shepard asked. She stood up and stretched, still feeling the tension in her joints from the argument with the Council.

"Engineering," replied Mordin. "Last I saw, trading maintenance tips with Tali'Zorah."

"Wonderful," she deadpanned. "They'll be like that for hours. Come on, Professor, let's go talk to our new shipmate."

* * *

"I mean, yes, I have personally been affected by the Geth," Tali was saying as Shepard and Mordin entered Engineering. "So you can see why I have issues."

Anyone who didn't know Tali would see her as multi-tasking the conversation. Shepard - who suppressed any thoughts of "maternal instincts" and instead labelled them as Big Sisterly Concerns - immediately recognized signs of discomfort and withdrawal. The girl's slightly hunched posture over the terminal she was working at, staring directly at the screen and not meeting the Doctor's gaze, the shifting of her weight from one foot to another, all of these indicated that she was not happy with the conversation.

Shepard would have stepped in at this point, but it was obvious that Tali was talking of her own volition. As socially awkward as the young quarian was, she didn't put up with people questioning her when she didn't want to be prodded. If it was something she was truly uncomfortable talking about, she'd have asked politely to stop, then asked again after reaching for a weapon.

It was especially obvious in comparison to the Doctor's obvious relaxation. He was leaning against the railing, one hand thrust into a pocket while the other held a steaming mug. Shepard had never seen anyone look so casual; only someone with years of practice could be so comfortable in his own skin and project an aura so scientifically precise at being a lazy bum. Just looking at him was putting Shepard at her ease, and the only times she'd been truly at ease in the last five years were the two she'd spent dealing with that whole big death thing. (And for that matter, a smattering of little ones, but those were neither here nor there.)

"If I could give some advice, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy," said the Doctor, taking a sip from the mug and grimacing spectacularly, "just keep your mind open. It takes a lot of closed minds to start a war, but just one open mind can turn it around."

"I can't ever forget what they did to my father," grumbled Tali, her hands gripping the terminal so hard that Shepard would swear they were turning white.

The Doctor took another sip, and made another face. "God, that's vile stuff. I never said forget. You should never forget a war, that only leads to repeating it. Hallo, Shepard."

"Doctor." Shepard leaned up against a stretch of railing. "Everything going alright down here?"

"Magnificently," said the Doctor. "Your young Engineering genius was just getting me up to speed on her role on this ship. Did you know, she taught me some things about mass effect drive cores that I honestly never knew? Because blimey, just look at that thing." He gestured at the spherical core in its studded chamber. "Laurence Fishburne would have a stroke if he saw that, and no mistake."

"From what you were talking about earlier, Doctor," Shepard said, letting a playful edge drift into her tone, "I gathered you didn't know much at all about mass effect drive cores."

The Doctor gave her a sixty-watt smile. "Why do you think I needed someone of Tali's expertise to teach me?" His grin faded as he took a third sip of whatever was in that mug, this time giving a full-body shudder as he swallowed.

"What is that, and why are you still drinking it?" Shepard asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I asked your chef what the strongest tea he had was, and would you believe he didn't have any? No tea on a starship." The Doctor's cartoonish face twisted into a visage of righteous indignation. "Luckily, your pilot was walking past, and he had with him a packet of leaves from Palaven. Delightful stuff, really. Got a nasty afterkick to it, but that's just what I need right now."

Shepard sighed and hit the nearest intercom. "Joker, have you been raiding Garrus's care packages again?"

"Commander, I am highly offended! You accuse me of stealing useless little knicknacks from Garrus's family? I have absolutely no use for his school picture day collages, or his old comic books."

"Along with a framed holograph of his old Academy paramour," EDI's tinny synthetic voice chimed in.

"It's not my fault I wanted to see what the big deal was," Joker retorted, absolutely no shame in his voice. "The way Big Blue has been harping on her lately, you'd think she was Miss Turian Porn Star 2185. Waste of time, anyway, I don't see what the big deal is."

"He's not going to be happy when he finds out, Joker."

"When is he ever happy, Commander?"

"If it's a problem," interrupted the Doctor, "I can go apologise. Maybe ask for some more of this tea to take with me."

Mordin, who had been tapping furiously into his omni-tool the entire conversation, swept the scanner over the Doctor. "No signs of Dextro-Amino rejection. Fascinating. Goes completely against all known scientific study. Will need to study further."

At the Doctor's questioning glance, Shepard clarified. "Turian and quarian food makes all other species violently sick."

"Vomiting, headaches, congestion," Mordin added helpfully. He inhaled sharply. "Rectal bleeding."

"Huh." The Doctor took another sip of his tea. "More for me, then. In any case, Commander, how long until we get to that dead Reaper?"

"Keelah, we're going back to that thing?" Tali asked, turning around. Her fingers twitched. "I thought we blew that up for good."

"The Doctor wants to take a look at any sections that might still be in orbit," Shepard responded. "Hopefully not all of them fell into the planet."

"Or star," reminded Mordin.

"Or star," agreed Shepard.

"Hopefully there's nothing left and your stupid plan doesn't work," retorted Tali. "If we find anything, promise me we'll blow it up even more."

"I promise you we'll destroy anything we find once the Doctor's done with it," Shepard said. "We're playing this safe. And it was his plan."

"Lovely," said Tali. "Do all your plans result in everyone screaming and dying horrible deaths?"

"Not always," said the Doctor, wincing. "Well, not most of the time. The screaming part happens a lot, though. How long, Commander?" His eyebrows were raised at the repetition of his question.

"Two hours."

"Wonderful," said the Doctor. "I noticed you had a conference room on this ship. If you would gather your most trusted staff and meet me there in, say, ten minutes? I've got some things I need to tell you before we begin."

* * *

For a ship with such a military feel, the Normandy was operated in a much more lenient - almost family - fashion. It was either refreshing or ominous, and it was very difficult to decide which. Between the card games in Engineering, the media stream in the cockpit (to which the rather delightfully stroppy pilot half-heartedly denied was pornographic), and the swapping of stories and pictures between the crew terminals in the command level, the crew were blatantly in disregard of most naval regulations that the Doctor was familiar with. Add to that the fact that they did not stop when Commander Shepard was walking past (and for that matter, she did not seem to care, so long as it didn't interfere with the operation of the ship), and you had less of a crew and more of a community.

It might have been due to Shepard being a government secret operative - a Spectre, she had said, which had all sorts of worrisome supernatural connotations in itself - and it only reinforced his thought that no matter how far he travelled, people stayed the same.

The Doctor had subtly asked about that when he was swapping stories with the girl down by the engines - and what a delight she was, with just enough innocence rubbed off to be able to function in properly tarnished societies, but still enough infectious cheer for talking to her to be a bright spot in anyone's day. Were it not for the fact that he didn't belong in this universe, he'd have asked her to join him in a heartbeat, just to see the look of wonder cross her... helmet...

Well, perhaps he wouldn't see it, but he'd know it was there.

It was funny, actually. Aside from the whole "needs a full environmental suit to not die from diseases and other suchlike" thing, she reminded him of Ace. Same sarcastic-yet-generally-amused demeanor, same glee at discovering new things, same penchant for explosives...

Right, that decided that. She wasn't coming back with him, as fun as their adventures might have been.

The Doctor was interrupted from his musings when Shepard entered the conference room, followed by the group of people she considered to be her most trusted staff.

Jacob Taylor, who immediately leaned up against the wall as if he owned the place. Miranda Lawson, who actually did and was the type of person who wouldn't let you forget it. Mordin, Tali, and Garrus - who he was very much acquainted with - entered together, taking seats at strategic points around the table. That much was interesting to note, the Doctor realized, since they would all be in excellent position to cover themselves and each other if a fight broke out in the room. From what little interactions he'd had with the crew, it might not be all that unreasonable to assume, either.

Following them were three people who Miranda was currently unhappy with, mostly for being successful in running him off when he stopped by for a chat. Samara, who had rebuffed his questions with quotations from her Code, and Grunt, who had punched him clear across the storage bay. And then, Jack. In particular, the surly, shaved, pierced, and leather-wearing girl had simply glared magnificently at him until his babbling had run out of steam and he left of his own accord. That had impressed him more than anything else; usually his babbling tended to feed on itself in the presence of an awkward silence, rather than peter out. He gave her a respectful nod as she entered the conference room and was not surprised to see her ignore it.

"Is this everyone, Commander?" he asked, turning back to Shepard (who had placed herself at the head of the conference table).

"Not quite," Shepard said, taking a careful glance at Tali.

The Doctor followed her gaze. Tali was tense, her eyes darting about behind the smoky purple faceplate, her fingers twitching on the tabletop. "I still don't know why you invited that thing," she spat at Shepard.

"Be nice, Tali," Shepard admonished. "Legion has proven--"

"Yes, fine, I know," Tali grumbled. "I'm trying, okay? You can't ask me to forgive overnight."

The Doctor was about to open his mouth and comment on this when the door to the conference room opened, and in walked--

"A robot?" exclaimed the Doctor, rushing forward to take a closer look. "Not just a servant, but you have a fully-functional robot on your team, Shepard?" He reached into his duster to pull out his spectacles, which he mainly used when getting a closer look at something. Without waiting for a response, he made two quick circles around the machine. "A combination of servos and artificial musculature. Reaction time... ooh, very good. You are a gorgeous creature, aren't you?"

The machine tilted its head and fanned out the plates surrounding its single optic head. "Insufficient data," it said after a while.

Shepard covered a chuckle with her hand. "Legion, this is the Doctor. Doctor, meet Legion. Legion is our Geth Specialist."

The Doctor blinked. "So this is a geth? Brilliant, the quarians must have spent ages developing it. And a true AI, for that matter."

Behind him, he could hear Tali clenching her hands into a fist. That's right, she had just been talking about how the geth killed her father. Sore subject, that. Best not to bring it up.

"All right, Legion, take a seat, and I'll get started." The Doctor frowned as he watched Legion stand across the table from Tali, making sure to keep its hands in full view of the quarian. It seemed to be going out of its way to avoid giving offense, and, noting that mentally, the Doctor began to outline his plan.

* * *

"Well, that could have gone worse," said Shepard as the Doctor pulled a set of cables out of the TARDIS. He made sure to keep the door at least partially closed; there were a lot of questions lately about what kind of things he was capable of, and he felt it best to avoid any awkward situations.

"Indeed, my commendations to your pilot," he replied, affixing the cables to the large chunk of blue metal now occupying the majority of the hangar bay. "I'd have thought we were too close to the atmosphere to make a safe recovery, but he certainly pulled through."

"Aw, it was nothin', Doc," Joker's voice rang from the speakers. "It's just a little baby proto-star, nothing that could seriously hurt my baby."

"It was still impressive," said the Doctor, looking up from the bit of Reaper. "There, that should be all set."

Shepard perched herself on the edge of a supply crate, swinging her feet idly. It almost made the Doctor wonder about the teenager she must have been, and he clamped down on those thoughts as soon as he could.

It was not the time to get attached to people he was hopefully never going to see again. There were too many rough goodbyes in his life, no need to cause another one.

"Sorry, what was that?" he asked, realizing that Shepard had asked him a question.

"I said, what is it you're going to do with this?" she repeated, crossing her arms. (The Doctor was starting to dread when she did that, it meant that she was losing her patience.) "I don't want it on my ship any longer than it has to be."

"Don't worry, Commander," said the Doctor, reassuringly. "I'll just get my readings and you can push it out the airlock and back at the heart of the planet there."

"Or star," Joker supplied helpfully.

"Or star," agreed the Doctor.

"Alright, but what are the readings for? Why does this matter so much to you?"

The Doctor paused, arguing with himself. It was one thing to keep things simple for primitive societies, but this was important. Besides, he might still need her help.

"Well, it's mostly because I'm here because I need to help. These Reapers concern me because 'genocide' is a four-letter word as far as I'm concerned." He blinked and ran that sentence back through his head. "We~ell, eight letter word. Twice as bad as your standard four-letter." He stood up and tested the connection to the TARDIS. The old girl hummed gently in confirmation, and he felt a grin start edging its way across his face. "Besides, you never asked the important question."

Shepard raised an eyebrow. She was really quite good at doing that, too. That and the arm-crossing would put her as the galaxy's top interrogator if she so desired. "What's the important question?" she asked.

"What a Time Lord actually is, and I'll tell you as much as I feel comfortable with." He took his spectacles off and replaced them in his coat pocket. "I'll tell you now that it isn't much. In every galactic society, we've been the meddling ancients, who built our society around a source of power and evolved accordingly. In some universes, we've been the guardians of great powers, in others we've destroyed because of it."

"You keep talking about other universes," Shepard said. "Do you mean you're from some sort of alternate dimension?"

"That is quite a wonderful explanation while being at the same time completely wrong in every detail," responded the Doctor. "But it's close enough. I was pulled through a rift between the universes, which should not have happened."

"How do you know about what the Time Lords have done in other universes, then?" countered Shepard. "If you can't travel."

The Doctor waved a hand dismissively. "It's complicated. The walls erode every so often, and I've done my share of travelling. I could tell you about a clan of us who stick to one planet and send out bits of our power to other races and use them to build up an intergalactic police force. Or a version of us that simply sits and writes down everything that happens everywhere, but that doesn't matter."

Shepard gave him an appraising look. "That explains what Mordin was talking about," she said, her voice distant.

"Why, what was he saying?"

"Something about how your DNA was recognized by the Extranet, but there was a flag on it." She hopped down off the crate.

"What do you mean, a flag?"

"The information is heavily encrypted in the Citadel's archives." EDI's voice filtered down from the speakers. "A similar finding alerted the Council to the true fate of the Protheans."

Shepard nodded. "It might mean that whatever Time Lords existed in this universe, the Reapers took them down as well."

The Doctor shook his head. "It can't be as simple as that. But that'll be another mystery our friend here will solve," he said, gesturing to the Reaper part in front of them.

"Again, how?" said Shepard as she crouched down to get a better look at the cables the Doctor had attached to it.

"Why do you think we're called Time Lords," the Doctor asked, raising his eyebrows. "I'm attuning the TARDIS to a point this Reaper was alive."

He watched carefully as Shepard's face paled. She stood up and looked him directly in the eyes. "What did you say?"

The Doctor gave his most insufferable smile. "I'm a time traveller," he said. "The TARDIS isn't all that accurate if I'm flying by feel, but if I've got a point to home in on, I can get us within two millimeters and three seconds of where we want to be. Come with me, and we'll see if we can't find what weaknesses the Reapers have."

" are we going to do that?" she asked, uncertainly.

"We're going to ask it."
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