Oh, and TinMan? Sorry, I told you that we'd find out more about how Faith came to be in the future in Chapter 7, but it's gonna be Chapter 10 instead. I'll chalk one of the push-backs to me deciding to add an encounter between Faith and the Council, but the other one is probably due to me being too dumb to read my own outline. At any rate… Sha'ira now, then the Council, Kasumi, and finally Kelly - and exposition - in Chapter 10.
"Commander, I really must protest. With you ashore, I should remain aboard the Normandy
"I'm not saying I don't trust you not to fuck shit up, Miri, but…" Faith slowed to a stop as she trailed off, looking up at her taller companion. "Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying. The last time we let you near the deck plans, look what happened to the ship. So yeah, forgive me if I'm trusting other people over you when it comes to this. Jacob's a former Alliance man and I wanna give Elsa the chance to prove herself under controlled circumstances before shit starts hitting the fan. Which means they're staying on the ship to keep an eye on things, and you're coming with me to run errands. Just think, you'll probably be the first Cerberus operative to meet the Council."
Miranda snorted at that. "I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you. Meeting with the very people who declared Cerberus a terrorist organization - and allowed one of their agents to routinely shoot up our bases - seems like tempting fate a bit more than I care to." Looking through the doorway they'd stopped in front of, she furrowed her brow in confusion. "I can understand wanting to meet with the Council as a whole and Councilor Anderson in particular, as well as acquiring some personal effects of your own choosing to supplement what I provided you with, but…" Trailing off, she gestured helplessly at where a familiar asari was standing beside a computer terminal. "What..?"
Placing her hand at the small of Miranda's back, Faith gave her companion a nudge forward. "Simple. I did the Consort a favor just after I became a Spectre. When she offered to, uh, compensate me for my time, I decided to ask for a favor to be named later instead of the obvious. Mostly because Liara was with me and I knew that sexiling her so I could bang Sha'ira would pretty much kill my chances with her. Now I'm here to ask for that favor."
"Wait, you were serious about the asari commando leathers with a Cerberus motif? Well, I suppose it'd certainly be… ironic… in a ghastly sort of way." Miranda finished the walk to Nelyna's terminal silently, only to scowl and cross her arms over her chest defensively as the dark purple asari eyed her uncertainly. "What?"
Faith rolled her eyes before bumping her hip against Miranda's. "With how connected Sha'ira is, are you really surprised her people know what that orange logo of yours means?" Reaching out, she gave Nelyna a reassuring pat on the arm. "Don't worry, Nelly, she's with me. Although… I know we only made an appointment for me, but I was wondering if any of the acolytes are free? Preferably an asari? I'm thinking my friend here needs to have her horizons expanded while I'm busy upstairs."
The faint white markings on Nelyna's brows rose as she looked the distinctly uncomfortable Miranda over, her eyes pausing on the prominent Cerberus logo on the brunette's chest for a moment before meeting Faith's once more. "I'll see what I can do, Commander Shepard." Smirking, she tapped a few commands into the terminal she was standing in front of and then paused, staring off into space with her head tilted slightly to one side. "The Consort is ready to see you now."
"Wicked. Have fun, Miri." Faith offered a cheerful wave to the Cerberus operative as she departed, chuckling at the horrified look on Miranda's face as Nelyna led her over to a nearby couch. Turning to face forward, Faith blinked in surprise at the three figures descending the stairs. Even with all the asari Faith had seen in Alexis's memories, these three stood out. The leftmost member of the trio was remarkably tall and slender, standing a head taller than most everyone else present, and possessed sapphire skin and darker blue speckles running from her brow line up into her headtresses. It was 'most everyone' rather than 'everyone' only because the rightmost asari was downright massive: six feet and change of a mixture of curves and muscles. Faith was instantly reminded of Power Girl… and then cursed Xander for getting her hooked on comics back when they worked together in Cleveland. Sandwiched in between the two was a smaller asari with icy blue-grey skin and… a blindfold over her eyes? Faith arched a brow before shrugging it off. She'd seen weirder, both in her past life and in Alexis's memories. "Ladies."
The buxom asari on the right looked Faith up and down, and then her upper lip curled back in a smile that seemed oddly familiar to the brunette for some reason. "Shepard." The blindfolded asari's head turned unerringly to look in her direction, making Faith's other brow rise, and then the trio was brushing past her and heading for the exit. Strange, but not worth obsessing over. After all, she had shit to do today.
Bounding up the stairs, Faith circled around and entered the Consort's personal space… only to skid to a stop and raise her hands in surrender when she found twin asari-made Zealot submachine guns staring her in the face. After a few seconds, the guns dropped to point at her chest and Sha'ira leaned in, pressing her blue lips gently against Faith's. Before Faith could try and deepen the kiss, it was over and Sha'ira was pulling away, collapsing her guns so she could store them at the small of her back. Taking Faith's hands in her own, she inclined her head as she smiled faintly. "It seems as if my gift of words was correct after all. Well, after a fashion. Welcome back, Commander Shepard. Or are you more comfortable with Lehane?"
"Shepard's fine; I'm finally starting to get used to it." Then Faith's eyes narrowed, her hand dropping to rest on the butt of her pistol. "How..?"
Turning, Sha'ira made her way over to the nearby bar and poured two glasses of wine, returning and handing one of them to Faith. "With age comes the knowledge of when a certain level of theatricality is appropriate, and when it is not. For a matriarch, it's child's play to take what we need through the briefest moment of contact. I wanted to see if you were who you claimed to be. The answer was… unexpected… but acceptable."
Faith pondered that as she accepted the glass of wine from Sha'ira, sipping at it absently. It did kinda make sense, once she thought about it. Shiala had been able to meld with her much more easily than Liara despite the latter being far more familiar with her, and only slightly over half of her bedmates had lit up the room with icy blue mass effect fields when they fucked. Usually the younger ones, come to think of it. "And if I wasn't actually Shepard? Well, partly Shepard?"
"What do you think the guns were for? I wasn't always a hetaera, Commander; I still remember how to solve a problem that can't be handled with mere words." Making her way over to her couch, Sha'ira lowered herself onto it and then gestured for Faith to join her. "But that's something we can discuss another time, if you really wish to. I assume you're here to call in that favor I owe you. What do you wish of me? And why have you brought Cerberus into my home?"
Sprawling out on her side next to Sha'ira, Faith chuckled. "Well, I'm not saying I don't trust Miri not to fuck shit up, but… actually, that's exactly why she's here. Last time someone let her near the Normandy
's deck plans, she signed off on the horrible layout we're here to get fixed. So I'm keeping her as far away from the refit as possible; figure the three ex-Alliance in my crew are better choices to supervise that. Well, and my new XO. Might go introduce her to the Council when I'm done here. That could be kinda fun. As for you… can't I just want to drop in and say hi to my favorite consort on the Citadel?"
Sha'ira let out a remarkably indelicate snort at that. "Given what I charge for my time? You can but I wouldn't suggest it."
"Yeah. I'm doing a lot better than the average Alliance grunt, but anything that would cost him half a year's pay would probably put a nasty dent in my bank account." Finishing off her wine, Faith placed the glass on the nearby table before rolling onto her back and pulling up a list of supplies on her omni-tool. "I've got the creds to pay for it all, and I'm already on Serrice and Armali's good girl lists. Just need your help greasing the wheels. You know, considering they probably think I'm still dead and all."
Blue fingers ran through Faith's hair idly as Sha'ira leaned in, studying the list. "That sounds… acceptable. Let's see. A top of the line bio-amp and matching omni-tool? Sensible, and Serrice Council just released a variant of the Savant that lends itself well to especially aggressive biotics such as yourself. Two different models of shotgun and a new pistol from Armali? No surprises there. One, two, three… four species of Thessian fish? I don't think I want to know. And asari commando leathers in…" Trailing off, Sha'ira stared down at Faith in disbelief. "Surely you can't be serious."
Faith was pretty sure the joke was going to be lost in translation, just like her first attempt at using the timeless 'cunning linguist' quip on Liara, but she couldn't help herself. "I am serious… and don't call me Shirley."