Miranda stared at the report she'd just written. It was odd to think she wouldn't be sending it anywhere.
To be perfectly honest, writing the report had been completely meaningless. She'd essentially quit her position with Cerberus and she knew that Shepard hated reading through paperwork. Still, there was something comforting about the act.
The door opened.
"Got a minute Miranda?" Shepard walked in.
Miranda looked at her terminal, then back up at Shepard. "I suppose this can wait. Have a seat."
Shepard sat in the chair on the opposite side of Miranda's desk. For a moment, the two women just looked at each other. Finally, Shepard spoke, "I want to thank you, Miranda."
"Thank me for what?"
"For standing by me. For supporting my decision to blow up the base. I was afraid that you were going to side with the Illusive Man and try to stop me from destroying it. That you didn't, well, it means a lot to me."
"It was a stupid thing to do."
Shepard was taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"Not you. You made the right decision. I didn't. I never should have quit Cerberus."
"You're wishing you had stopped me?"
"Shepard, I'm not like you. I can't just strike out on my own. I've always been working for someone. First it was my father, then Cerberus. I don't know if I can make it without them."
Shepard smirked. "Is that what this is about? Miranda, I've never been on my own. I make it by because I have my friends, my ship and my crew. Sometimes I feel like I only got where I am because better people helped me get here."
"You can't really think that, can you? What about Akuze? You survived while 50 others died."
"49 actually, thank you very much Cerberus. And second, I only survived due to dumb luck and… someone else who sacrificed her life for mine."
"There you go though. Why would someone else sacrifice their life for you they didn't see how important you were?"
Shepard shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Trust me, that wasn't the reason."
"I've met plenty of people in my lifetime, and not one of them would be willing to sacrifice themselves to save me."
"I would," Shepard stated flatly.
"Very funny Shepard."
"I'm not joking. Miranda, everyone on board this ship is like family to me. I'd risk my life to save any of them, including you."
Miranda was shocked. She'd been called many things in her life; some of them had even been complimentary, but family? Hell, her own father had never called her that. "I… thank you Shepard."
The two women sat in silence for a few moments before Shepard spoke up. "Miranda, I have to ask you something."
"Of course, what is it Shepard?"
"Am I… alright?"
Miranda was nonplussed. "What do you mean by 'alright'?"
"I'm just… worried is all."
"What are you worried about?"
"The Lazarus Project."
Miranda was even more confused. "The Lazarus Project is over. We brought you back."
"Did you?" Shepard stood and began pacing frantically. "I mean, you say I'm fine, and for all I know you're right, but how can I be sure? How can I trust my senses, if my memories are lies?"
Miranda was beginning to comprehend. "You're saying… you're not sure if you're the real Shepard?"
She stopped pacing and slammed her hands on the desk. "Yes!"
"Shepard, I supervised the Lazarus project myself. Even though the technology that brought you back was Wilson's, I was present for everything he did and I understood the science of it, possibly better than Wilson himself. I can assure you, you're the genuine article."
Shepard jabbed her hand at her temple. "But what about my mind? Just because you grew me from the original Shepard's body doesn't mean we have the same mind, does it?"
"Why don't you tell me? Look back on your memories. Do they inspire the same feelings they used to?"
Shepard sat back down, closing her eyes. "I… I think so." Her eyes opened. "But how do I know they're true?"
Miranda grabbed her hand. "Shepard, every cell in your body was dead, that's true, but the way your body was preserved, every cell in your brain was completely intact. We were able to restore nearly every one and the ones we didn't could easily be chalked up to a night of heavy drinking."
"You're sure? I'm… I'm really Shepard? I'm not just some clone with her memories?"
Miranda smiled, "You are one-hundred percent Shepard, through and through."
To her great surprise, this didn't cheer her up at all. Shepard laid her head on her arm and began a dry sob. "Then why don't I feel anything?"
The smile dropped from Miranda's face. "What do you mean?"
Shepard raised her head. Her face was dry but her eyes were red. "Every time I've lost people, it's hurt. When my squad died on Akuze, I was a wreck. When I lost Jenkins on Eden Prime, it hurt. When Kaiden died on Virmire, I was devastated. Now, Zaeed dies in the collector base, and I feel nothing, and now you tell me that's supposed to be normal!"
"I see. You wanted me to tell you that you were a clone, didn't you; that you were somehow not the real Shepard. I'm sorry, but I won't lie to you like that. You're the real deal and you have to accept that and learn to live with these emotions, or lack thereof."
"Miranda, I need help! I need to know why I don't seem to care."
Miranda thought for a moment. "Tell me, how close were you to your squad on Akuze?"
"We were very close. Most of us had joined the alliance together. I'd shared a barrack with half of them during basic training."
Miranda nodded. "And Jenkins?"
"I wouldn't say we were close. I'd only just met the kid a few weeks ago. Still, he seemed like a good kid. I thought he had a lot of potential."
"What about Kaiden?"
"Kaiden was a great friend. He was the first person who managed to bring me out of my shell after I lost my team on Akuze. Losing him was… a tragedy."
"Now, tell me how you felt about Zaeed?"
"He was… not the best person I'd known. His first reaction to everything seemed to be to shoot it or at least punch it. Ninety-five percent of his stories ended everyone but him dying, to the point where I just stopped talking to him… I guess you could say… I didn't like him."
Miranda nodded her head again. "I'm no psychologist, but I think that's the reason you're not upset he's gone."
"But…" Shepard considered her words, "don't you think that sounds a bit… selfish?"
"Everyone's selfish Shepard, it's just to what degree. Zaeed's own selfish desires put him at the forefront of the distraction team. He used himself as a human shield and that got him killed. Maybe a part of you knew that would happen. Maybe a part of you wanted him dead."
Shepard cupped her face in her hands. "I don't want to believe I have that part in me."
Miranda grabbed her hand. "Everyone does Shepard. The trick is, saving it for people who truly deserve it. I don't think Mr. Massani will be missed by anyone, do you?"
Shepard thought for a moment. "No. No, I suppose you're right. I… I think the galaxy's a better place with him being dead, and I… I don't miss him at all." The words seemed alien to her, like she was spitting them out through a second mouth. She rubbed her eyes. "I don't want to have these thoughts anymore."
"Maybe you just need to relax."
Shepard stood. "Yeah, you're right. In fact, I was gonna head to Omega for a drink. Want to come with? It's just me, Kelly and Garrus right now."
Miranda looked at her desk, then back up at Shepard. "I don't think I'd be good company right now. Perhaps another time."
"Ok, then." Shepard headed for the door, stopping just before it opened, "And Miranda, thank you… for everything."
Miranda smiled. "You're welcome Shepard."
As the door closed behind Shepard, Miranda turned to her terminal. She saved and closed the report, then brought up her extranet-mail. She began a new message.