Those whom operated upon the Normandy during the Reaper war were all seen as incredible war-heroes, after Commander Jane Shepard sacrificed her own life to bring an end to the war, merging Organics with Synthetics in a way no one could have anticipated. The Reapers didn’t die. Instead, they found themselves allied with Organics. The working theory behind this being that their change of heart was brought by the realisation of how much pain they were inflicting upon Organics, when granted the ability to feel such an emotion themselves.
The Reapers aided Organics in remedying the damages caused by their war, before departing to a cluster within the Horsehead Nebula, a means of remaining solitary from Organics without leaving the galaxy outright. While their old forces were still largely hostile to organics (being made part-organic by Synthesis merely resulted in the Reapers losing control over their old armies), they had been largely hunted into extinction.
While the crew could have asked for anything (Garrus Vakarian’s sarcastic remark about becoming a Spectre becoming true the next day being an example), they did not demand anything for their actions, except for a repaired Normandy. And while the Normandy SR-2 was in fact repaired by a combination of Alliance workers, EDI, and Tali’Zorah, that was not the true reward that the Council had decided upon granting them. In an unprecedented move, the entire crew of the Normandy was granted the equivalent power of a Spectre. And, almost ten months after Commander Shepard had sacrificed her life to end the Reaper War, they had been gifted with a new ship.
The Normandy SR-3.
While the SR-2 had been larger than the original, the SR-3 was larger still. While the upgrade was not as noticeable on the outside, inside the ship felt far larger and more open, with room for yet more people and rooms. The core was an experimental prototype, designed by the smartest of the Council Races to produce almost four times more energy than the core that powered the SR-1, and twice as much as the SR-2. EDI had even been fully installed into the SR-3, seen by all (including the Council) to be the worst-kept secret that the Normandy held. It was evident to all that she was an AI, yet at the same time no one treated her any different. A body, it turned out, was truly all EDI needed to become a full member of society.
The crew of the Normandy, now helmed by Spectre Agent (because he felt that a term referencing the late Commander Shepard would be a disrespect to her legacy) Garrus Vakarian, had decided that taking the new Normandy out for her initial flight on the anniversary of the ending of the Reaper War was appropriate. With Joker and EDI piloting the Ship, and Garrus keying in a location (one that would take them to Rannoch, as Tali wished to see her home world), the SR-3 departed the Citadel as smoothly as any other time the older variants had left.
Approaching the cockpit, Garrus had a smile upon his face as he monitored his crew. Every major worker upon the Normandy was one whom worked upon the SR-2, from Samantha Traynor to Ken Donnelly, Garrus had been adamant that no member of the Normandy would be left behind for this, even if the Alliance attempted to replace Traynor on multiple occasions due to her relationship with the late Shepard. Eventually, it was Liara T’Soni whom had been forced to step in, to ensure that Traynor would be allowed to remain upon the ship. Her reasoning was solid, and the fact her role as Shadow Broker meant she had incriminating evidence over every major officer in Alliance Headquarters played absolutely no part in Samantha keeping her position. At all.
As the Normandy departed from the Citadel (which had been moved back to the Serpent Nebula), Garrus left the Galaxy Map, wandering over to the cockpit, a smile crossing his features as he did so. Both EDI and Joker had immediately acclimatised themselves to the upgrades that had been made to their cockpit, even if Joker did spend a moment complaining about the fact they had removed all the minor changes he had made before EDI swiftly reset the settings back to how the pilot liked them.
“How are you two doing up here?” Garrus leaned against the doorway, watching as energy flew against the windows of the cockpit.
“The Normandy’s systems seem to be working at an above-average rate, even when factoring in the increased energy consumption of the newer systems into effect. The Mass Effect core is generating a truly exceptional amount of power.” EDI commented, turning to look at Garrus. EDI being in the cockpit was something that was less for practical reasons and more for reasons of wishing to be close to Joker, and the comfort of the crew. She did not need to touch the controls at all to do her job.
“That’s good. How long do you think it’ll be before we reach Rannoch?”
“Calculations suggest that it will take around 2 hours to reach the planet.” EDI commented, a smile gracing her features.
“That’s good. Need anything while I’m here?” Garrus inquired. Without turning, Joker responded.
“Maybe better seats? These Alliance ones were never as comfy as the ones installed on the SR-2.”
“That’s fine. I’ll just go an ask Cerberus nicely for them to give us the seats they put on the old ship.”
“Please do, I’d rather like that.” Joker commented, a smirk crossing the pilot’s lips as he did so. Garrus did the same, nodding before leaving the two to be alone in the cockpit.
If EDI being an unshackled AI was the worst-kept secret upon the Normandy, then her relationship with Joker was the second-worst. While the two maintained professionalism when flying the Normandy, the second they stopped flying the ship they would seemingly turn from a friendly, joking pair of workers whom enjoyed each other’s presence to a doting couple. It was… surreal, for the crew. Most of the crew had been either told about or seen firsthand Joker’s hatred for EDI on the SR-2 when working for Cerberus. The change from despising the mere presence of her, to friendship, to becoming infatuated with her, to becoming a caring couple. Even EDI herself admitted she was not wholly sure as to how their relationship had come about, it was merely something she loved greatly and never wished to end. Garrus internally agreed, as they were remarkably cute when together.
As Garrus walked casually back to the Normandy’s CIC, the last thing he wanted to hear occurred. Alarms began to blare throughout the ship, and the lights dimmed.
“EDI! Are we under attack?” Garrus shouted to the ship’s AI, one hand swiftly finding it’s way to his Sniper Rifle. As he did so, both Tali’Zorah and Ashley Williams burst out, weapons also in hand.
“It does not seem so. The explosion that triggered the alarm was one that occured internally- down in engineering. The Mass Effect core seems to be overloading.” EDI’s voice echoed throughout the CIC, leading to shouts of swears as all 3 soldiers flooded into the elevator, to be sent swiftly down to Engineering.
Once the trio arrived, they broke out into a sprint, attempting to reach the key technical elements before the ship exploded.
“Whoever installed this core is DEAD!” Ashley shouted, as Tali reached the panel that monitored the core. Both Donnelly and Daniels had been knocked out by the explosion.
“Get Chakwas!” Garrus commanded, gesturing to the pair of engineers as he did so. Ashley nodded, sprinting back to the elevator as soon as the command was over. He turned to Tali. “Do you have a means of sorting this?”
“Yes… The core is overloading because it’s been generating too much power without a means of releasing it. It just needs to use all of its power before it, well… explodes!” Tali shouted back, fingers moving frantically over a keyboard before her.
“Do whatever you need to!” Garrus commanded, bringing a nod from the besuited Quarian.
“You may want to stand back, I’m releasing all limiters on the core, so it can do anything down here. It’ll mess up all the technology down here, but I can fix that. Better one deck than the entire Normandy.” Tali reasoned, backing away from the console after inputting the last command. Garrus nodded, backing away and standing near the stairway to where Jack once lurked.
The core seemed to brim with electricity, bolts of blue energy lashing out at whatever was within reach. The walls almost glowed a faint blue from all of the energy lashing out against them. The energy seemed to coalesce into a single shape where Tali had stood mere moments before. The form seemed like a human, energy crackling and forming to seemingly form a humanlike being, Both Tali and Garrus aimed weapons at the form, as the energy seemed to begin to dissipate away. The person had one hand clutched against their side, as they grew more and more clear. Remnants of familiar armour clung to her form, dark skin bloody and scarred. As the energy finally vanished, all that was left was a woman, stood before Garrus and Tali with a small smile upon her face.
“Shepard?” Garrus asked, staring at the dead woman with a sense of shocked awe. The Commander nodded.
“Hey, you two.” Shepard limped towards, them, both Garrus and Tali discarding their weaponry in order to aid the clearly injured Spectre.
“What the hell happened? We thought you died!” Garrus demanded.
“Seems I’m making a habit of not dying when everyone thinks I do.”
“But… How? The Mass Effect core was overloading, and then… you’re here?”
“I have no idea, Garrus. But honestly? Being back here is way more fun than being with the Crucible, so I’m happy.”
“Crucible?” Tali asked, matching Garrus’ confused expression behind her mask.
“Shepard, the Crucible was fired a year ago.”
“The hell? I was just stood on there!” Shepard stated, just as confused as the others.
“EDI? Any idea how this happened?”
“The only possible explanation is that the core retrieved Shepard from the moment before her death, pulling her to now.”
“So we have TIME TRAVEL technology on the Normandy?” Garrus asked incredulously.
“Only as it uses all it’s power. It seems to have the energy for 5 more bursts like the one that brought Shepard back. After that, the power will stabilise.”
“Damn.” Garrus commented, bringing a laugh from both Shepard and Tali.
“It’s good to be back.” Shepard laughed.