#RedrockAgency – March 14, 2019

Ilyna couldn't believe her own eyes when she saw the subject line of the last message from Halisi, and she pulled up a dozen news sites. This can't be right. Everywhere she looked, from the local news in her home district of Armali to Aitian local news, the collectors' defeat were featured. Before she knew it, twenty minutes have passed and the holographic display before her was cluttered with many layers over

articles and half-finished videos. She quickly typed back a response to Halisi that sums up her initial disbelief and surprise, and then stepped out of her office. She couldn't describe how she felt, it was excitement, relief, and shock. Ilyna took a deep breath to compose herself and went upstairs to look for Li.

Li is in the rec room as is most often the case while Ilyna is working. On the couch, studying. It's obvious her curiosity is intact by how often she spends time with the educational VI of her own volition. The way content is delivered via the VIs educational plan, restricting certain activities until others have been completed, does a fairly good job of making her learn the things she's not-so-interested in. It's certainly not the most

conventional schooling, but probably a better start than most children on Aite get.

Ilyna stops in the doorway and notices Li right away on the couch. She would normally not bother her while studying outside of lunch and leaving for the day, but this was anything but normal. "Hey, Li," she says, walking over to take the seat beside her in the couch. The excitement is clear as day in her voice and the bounce in her step, especially as it is in stark contrast to how she's been since their return.

"You have to see this." She brings up her omni-tool, and after a few quick taps a news broadcast about the collectors' defeat shows up on the room's screen. She remains quiet, letting the human news presenter explain what it's about.

Li blinks, looking up from her omni-tool. She sits up properly when Ilyna joins her, obvious confusion in her face, which turns to curiosity as she listens. She shuffles closer to Ilyna as the screen is brought up, her attention shifting to the broadcast, puzzled. She doesn't exactly pay attention to the news. Boring adults in suits droning on about things she's never heard of in some news studio? But the mention of the Collectors is

quick to draw in her attention, eyebrows furrowing as she listens.

Ilyna wraps an arm over her, but doesn't take her eyes off the news. Part of her is fearing that it's going to be discovered to be falsified any minute, but for now she desperately wants to believe it. "It's... it's over," she whispers, trying not to talk over the news broadcast. "It's really over. I can hardly believe it."

Li is watching with wide eyes, clearly picking up on this being somehow important even if a lot of the nuance and scope is lost on her. Her attention is drawn to Ilyna by the emotion in the asari's voice, gaze shifting between her and the screen. "What's happened...?" she asks, hesitance in her face as if not quite sure how to interpret her reaction.

Ilyna turns her attention to Li. The broadcast moves on to repeat what they just said, just slower with a few zoom ins on the same footage. "The collectors are defeated," she says. "We can stop worrying about them and... and... have a chance at a normal life." Her breathing trembled slightly as the weight of that truly sinks in. "A normal life," she repeats in a whisper.

Li 's gaze turns back to the screen, watching it in silence for a moment, eyebrows furrowing and head tilting a little as she studies the footage. "Deft-... defeated?"

Ilyna takes a quiet but deep breath to compose herself. "A group far better equipped than us tracked them down, fought them and... won," she explains, looking at Li. "The Collectors won't bother us again. It's... it's great news, Li. It's finally over."

Li doesn't quite seem like she understands. Her furrowed eyebrows remain. "The... the monsters? Someone killed them?" The last words are hard as they leave her lips, a contrast to the initial hesitation. Her gaze is intense as she studies Ilyna, expression hard to read. Listening closely.

Ilyna 's expression fades at the choice of words coming from Li, realizing that her self-moderation just muddied up what she was trying to communicate. "Yeah," she says. "Their leaders, their soldiers, their base. It's... over. They can no longer hurt us."

Li blinks. It's almost as if it's hard for her to believe judging by the look on her face, but it's not an easy expression to read. "R-... really? Forever?" Her gaze scans Ilyna's face.

Ilyna feels some doubt creep in at Li's question, as if she was about to place the galaxy's biggest bet. The chances are great, but she wasn't comfortable with the stakes. "Experts can't find problems with their evidence, and they're trying very hard to," she says, before deciding that, "They are gone. Forever."

Li seems to accept this, a nod following as her gaze falls down to the news again. "Did... the monsters hurt all those people?" she asks as she watches the broadcast shift to an interview with a teary-eyed Horizon survivor about their feelings after hearing the news.

Ilyna turns her attention to the screen, as well. "Yeah, and many more," she says. "Horizon was the first time we... learned that they were behind the countless colonies that has disappeared this year. It's good that we weren't... the only ones fighting back." She looks down for a moment and closes her eyes. She could have been the teary-eyed colonist that have to settle with closure, or Li could have. She tries

to shake that thought, but a bit of moisture does form in the bottom of her eyes.

Li falls silent, leaning against Ilyna and watching the broadcast. Her reaction doesn't seem to have the joy of Ilyna's. The relief. She seems to recognize it as important, though. As good. Perhaps more based on the asari's reaction than anything else. She just sits there, resting against her, taking in bits and pieces of the rapidfire information.

Ilyna keeps her eyes closed and is content with the quiet for now. She tries to focus on the announcer's voice to drown out her thoughts, but it doesn't really help. She knows the collectors' defeat is a considerable burden off her shoulder, but it won't take away the challenges ahead of her as Li's mother, it may not bring Ehanis back to Freedom Falls, and it offers no clarity regarding her feelings for Halisi.

The weight of that will bring her down again tomorrow, but not today; a small smile shows up and she lets out a content sigh.

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