DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To npaladin[at]rogers.com
By Kelley MacKinnon
The vehicle had come out of nowhere. Liara had watched Shepard's narrow escape from the path of a tossed Mako, but had missed seeing the one that came for her. Barely escaping being crushed under the wreckage, she was not without injury. She had hurt her leg and broke two ribs, taking her out of the rush for the beam.
It had been like a dream, fighting their way to the missiles and then defending them as endless Reaper troops tried to stop them. She still had nightmare about the Banshee and their terrible scream. She figured that she would have those nightmares for the rest of her life.
They had made it through though and taken down the destroyer. It had been a small victory but one that seemed to give everyone renewed hope, a sense that they just might be able to win this war. It was a rail they road as they all charged to the beam in a final push. Even while living the experience it had felt like a dream.
They had lost so many but it was almost over. Just the last push, and she Garrus were eliminated in one swoop by a flying vehicle. It had come from nowhere.
Shepard had called the Normandy to come for them and helped them aboard. She was almost up the ramp when Shepard released her and turned back.
"You got to get out of here." Shepard had said. Liara was more than aware Garrus was holding her up, had he not been she would have fallen. She said it anyway, almost as if it would give her something to keep her there, to not let Cayle run off and leave her.
"I'm all right, Shepard." She argued, they both knew she was not.
"Don't argue with me, Liara." Cayle had said firmly.
"You're not leaving me behind." Liara stated and she knew; she knew right there and then she was not talking about being left behind for the battle. She knew right there and then that there was a good chance she was never going to see her lover again. Shepard would run off and, that would be it. She felt more pain in her chest than she did in her leg or ribs. Her heart threatened to beat right out of her chest and break in a million pieces.
Shepard turned back to her and the whole battle field seemed to grow quiet. For a few brief seconds there were only two people in the whole world, the rest was just back ground. Cayle did not even need to say anything, her eyes conveyed the love she felt for Liara. "No matter what happens, you mean everything to me Liara." She said as she climbed back up the ramp and took her hand. She looked deeply into Liara's eyes. "You always will." She whispered and cupped her check and kisses her briefly on the lips.
Liara could barely even form words. "Shepard, I, I am yours." She managed but could not get anything else out.
Cayle released her hand and smiled. "I know." She said, and then turn ran back towards the beam and out of Liara's life. She and Garrus stood there as the ramp to the cargo bay doors closed, neither of them able to speak. When the ramp finally clicked shut Liara's heart broke, but she was still frozen in place. They both stood there until Doctor Chakwas came and retrieved them personally.
It had been like a dream, except that it had been real.
Five years had passed but Liara relived those final moments every single day, sometimes multiple times. Mostly in the morning when she woke and it was her final thoughts as she lay down to go to bed. She could close her eyes and could see Cayle as if the tall woman was standing right in front of her. She yearned for her constantly. She yearned to hold her hand, to look into her deep and caring blue eyes and to run her hands over her smooth skin and through her thick black hair.
She missed everything and no amount of talking or therapy had been able to bring her any closure. Of course, they had never found Shepard's' body, that did not help, but there were lots of people who had died during the war who were never found. Shepard had been at the heart of the catalyst when it had exploded, that whole area of the citadel had been pretty much disintegrated. Even so, she had never been able to fully believe Shepard was dead.
There had been a memorial on the Normandy prior to leaving Thedius, the planet it had crashed on. She had been tasked, as Cayle's lover, to place her name on the Normandy's memorial wall. She had been unable to do so; to place it on the wall would be like hammering a nail in Shepard's coffin and she was not going to do that. Not that it mattered; once the ceremony was complete Ashley had been tasked with placing it.
Liara drew a deep breath as she stood from her desk and moved to the large viewport that graced her office. Being the combination of the Shadow Broker, a Prothean expert and a scientist pretty much kept her busy. It was rare that she had a moment to just sit alone and think. She didn't like to have spare time.
Once, Shepard had warned her about becoming a creepy hermit as the Shadow Broker. They had both laughed about it. Now the joke was on her, it was exactly what she had become. Save for the occasional visit from her friends, mostly Garrus and Tali, she was always alone.
It would be even more sad if she did not have purpose, but she had found herself one. She had been tracking and tracing several leads on Cerberus. They had become even more powerful as most planets struggled to rebuild from the Reaper Invasion. They had taken over Omega prior to the war and had a base somewhere on the other side of the Omega 4 relay. The Illusive man was dead, however there was always someone ready to fill a seat of power and someone had, just no one knew who it was yet. Liara was bent and determined to find out all she could.
Shepard had been more than vocal in her displeasure with Cerberus. It had always frustrated her that the Illusive man worked against her instead of with her. She had always been convinced that had they worked together the Reapers would not have been a threat. For a while Liara was convinced the Illusive man believed that too and that was why he brought Shepard back, why he had helped them to the Collectors base, but then he had changed; been indoctrinated.
As much as Liara knew about the Illusive man, she knew nothing about whomever it was that replaced him. She just knew that Cerberus had taken advantage of the weakened state of all the council races and their allies. The council forces had already found and destroyed several Cerberus bases but there seemed no end to them. Liara was determined to find that end.
The door to her office opened and her assistant entered carrying her lunch. Not that Liara was hungry; she barely ate at the best of times. Falere however had made it her job to make sure Liara remained healthy. The Shadow Broker had rescued her from a life of solitude and gave her a job and a purpose, one that did not involve a lot of interaction with others. Not that Falere, an Ardat-Yaksh, was like her sister Morinth. She was perfectly able to control her urges. Like Liara though, she had never been the same since the loss of someone she loved.
"You need to eat." Falere said and stood by the food. It was silent for a long moment and Falere looked down to Liara's desk and picked up a pad. She frowned. "You have still not responded to Admiral Hackett, the memorial."
Liara looked back to the other woman. "I am still thinking about it." She answered. It would be nice to see the old crew again but she was still unable to concede that Shepard was indeed dead. "I have a new lead on Kai Leng. I will miss an opportunity if I go to the memorial." They both knew she was lying; she could follow up on that lead at any time.
"Liara," Falere began. "It's not just for Cayle. It's for everyone that gave their life. Admiral Anderson will be mentioned as well, you really liked him, even if you want to believe Shepard is alive, you can go for him and for her friends."
"I will think about it. Thank you." She said dismissing her assistant and looking to the food.
Five years, she was only a hundred and fourteen; she had her whole life ahead of her, only she could not see past her pain to realize that. So much had changed in five years but Liara had remained the same.
The council had been re-established, without the Salarians. Although small pockets of Salarians had come forth and helped with the war effort, the Salarian Dalatrass had not aided the allies and that had never been forgotten. Instead, the Quarians had taken their place.
The Quarians had soon become the most important people in the galaxy with their engineering expertise. They were the ones that finally managed to start the repairs, not only on the Mass Effect relays but on the citadel. Not only that but they had managed to reboot the Geth and Tali, herself, had repaired EDI. If one did not look too hard they would not ever see that there had been a devastating war.
She moved back to her desk as her communicator rang at her. She looked at it for a long moment, hoping it would stop, but it persisted. It was Garrus, she knew what he wanted. He and Tali would be going to the memorial and they would want to drag her with them. They pretty much dragged her everywhere. She often wondered where they found time to even look after her now that they had two adapted children to look after.
Liara smiled to herself at the thought. She was more than certain that adopting was not Garrus' idea. Or, maybe it was and she was just always hoping he had not changed that much. Either way it was cute and Garrus was actually very good with the children. Tali, of course was made to be a mother. Liara loved to watch them with the kids.
Finally she answered the call and Garrus' face appeared. She smiled to him and sat down. "I have not decided." She said simply.
"I haven't even made a question yet!" Garrus said. He waved his hand. "And hi, how are you?"
"Tell her the children want to see her." She heard Tali call in the background somewhere. It was still strange to hear her voice without the metallic twinge the mask has once given her. Liara sighed.
"Everyone will be there." Garrus said. She knew the rest of his speech. They had not all been together since the Normandy had made its way back to Earth. Tali and Garrus had gone to Rannoch where Tali had retired. Garrus was the Turrian Ambassador, next in line to be the Primarch.
Ashley was now the Commander of the Normandy, something that disturbed Liara slightly. Liara did not dislike Ashley; she would never forget how much Ashley had hurt Shepard by distrusting her after the Cerberus event. Cayle and the Marine had made up long before the final battle but Liara had not forgotten.
James had joined the N7 program and Liara kept tabs on him now and then, just because she still cared for him. Joker and EDI were still aboard the Normandy, but then EDI was still linked to the ship, even more so after her re boot. Javik had tried to settle into a normal life but was restless. He became an agent for Liara and was good at his job; however she always sensed a deep sadness in him.
She kept less tabs on what she considered Shepard's other team even though most of them were doing well. She watched Miranda like a hawk, afraid of one of two outcomes. She was worried that Cerberus would entice her back into their folds, or they would kill her. Liara was not a Miranda fan but Shepard had always considered her like a sister.
"I don't know Garrus, I have responsibilities and leads and "
"You are still chasing Cerberus. You know that's dangerous. You need to stop blaming them for Shepard."
"I don't." She lied. "But they are still strong, stronger than most since the war and I think they need to be dealt with before they get worse. People didn't listen when the Reapers were a threat and look what happened."
"Liara." Garrus said in that voice he used on his children.
"No, Garrus don't talk to me like that. I know things that most do not. I know only a bit of what Cerberus is up to and even that little bit makes me nervous. They have access to Omega 4 relay and the remains of the collectors' base. They have not stopped trying to better humanity. We still find some of their husk army."
"I'm not saying I don't believe you, I'm just saying that you can't take them on alone. There is a time and place and people are still rebuilding. Hell they just finished opening the Citadel, which will also be celebrated. It's a big deal Liara and you need to be there, since Shepard can't."
There, he went and played the Shepard card, he knew she could not resist that. Yes, Shepard would have been there if she was still, alive. "That's not fair."
"Nothing ever is." Garrus smiled, Liara could not help but smile back.
"I'll get you back for that."
"I love you too Liara. All the arrangements have been made and Tali and I will come and get you."
"You're not going to give me a chance to back out, are you?"
"No, not this time." Garrus said simply.
Cerberus had never had a problem finding suitors to finance their organization. When one would leave other would simply fill the void. Even now, when most of the galaxy was in economic ruins they were not even close to following them. Quite the opposite in fact, they were more economically sound than ever.
Losing the Illusive man had been a blow and it had taken Cerberus the better part of a year to get back the reaper technology that had been stored on his base. Not that entirely mattered, Reaper technology was all over the place now. Cerberus had lost their edge in that department. But it was the human reaper technology that Cerberus was interested in. Tens of thousands of humans had lost their lives to the construction of the Reaper it was only fair to find out what made it special.
It had been moved back to the other side of the Omega 4 relay for safe keeping.
For the first few months after the fall of the Illusive man, things had been in total chaos in Cerberus. People were not sure what to think, should they run, should they stay. What did his death mean? A lot of people figured he was the head of Cerberus and for a certain faction of the group he was. Cerberus always kept their cells separate from each other with no one cell knowing about another. The Illusive man had done some amazing things in his time, but he was not the end all, or be all of Cerberus.
After he had died the fight for his position had been brutal. Several suitors had vied for the spot and several suitors had been killed in the process, even now there was backstabbing and political assassinations. It was almost as if it would never end, almost.
It was a test of will and strength and the Ambassador had been playing it well. He remained in the background watching and learning then putting his pieces into play. He had manipulated and turned would be leaders against each other. He had allowed them to fight and tear at each other's throat while he carefully and patiently played with them. His vision was so much more then petty politics. He would bring Humanity to its peak and watch them reign over the rest of the universe, because that was all that mattered.
He could tolerate aliens to a certain extent. They were useful as tools, to be put away when one was done with them. Cerberus had become too soft over the years. First; with allowing Aliens on the Normandy, allowing them to then leave the Normandy. Then, allowing them to play a rather large part in the fall of the Illusive Man.
The Ambassador shook his head slowly at the thought as he made his way down the hallway. He traveled lighter than most with only two others trailing behind him. His reputation was well known in the Cerberus circles and as expected, people scurried to get out of his way. He paid the no heed as he continued.
He reached the doors at the end of the hall and without even missing a step, pulled them opened and moved inside.
For a split second time seemed to freeze as ten pair of eyes turned to focus on him. He ignored all of them but the pair that rested in the body of Tyler Cain at the head of the table. He watched in mild satisfaction as the man's eyes widened. The Ambassador's face did not change in the slightest as he brought a brief case up and rested it on the desk. The silence in the room was thick.
"Ambassador, we were not expecting you." Tyler mumbled, sounding more like a child with his hand in the cookie jar then a Cerberus executor.
The Ambassador was not a big man, average at best. However, what separated him from the rest and caused grown men to quake when he focused on them, were his eyes. His look of disappointment was often a death sentence and his piecing gaze of anger, the falling guillotine.
"No, I imagine you were not." The Ambassador said as his two colleagues joined him in the room. The stood on either side of him like a sordid contrast. To his right the woman cross her hands in front of her and stood at ease, like a good soldier would. Her short blonde hair was neatly trimmed short, as to not interfere in anyway. She wore a light grey business suit with a slight bulge on her right hip. A long sword hung from her back. Her face was emotionless and her bright green eye unwavering.
To his left, stood Kai Leng. He was much darker with his black armour and black messy hair tied into a pony tail. One could not really see his eyes through black visor. He carried no weapons that one could see. He too folded his hands in front of him.
"I would have prepared " The business man started.
"Prepared what; a dossier on your failures." The Ambassador started. He could smell the fear that was permeating the room. It was a wonderful aroma. He threw a pad on the desk. "You are weeks behind on the Tholian dig. We are beginning to think that you lied to us about that, either that or you were too stupid to check your finding before sending them to us." He threw another pad at him. "The Quarians have more information than we do on the Reapers. They were your responsibility as well and we have heard nothing."
"Well, I, we were just discussing our findings on the Reapers. We have developed a whole new drive system "
"That has failed in testing every single time." The Ambassador interjected. "We have investors that are looking for results, not failures. We were ahead of the race when the Reaper war ended but you somehow; single handily, drove us back three years. This will not be tolerated. I will be taking over this branch of Cerberus and you and your pathetic board have been terminated."
Without warning the two that had been following the Ambassador swirled into action. It took less than minute as they seemed to split the table. Kai Leng killed from behind the startled board and the woman from above as she hopped on the table. When the screaming and begging had stopped the woman held Tyler by the hair, her sword at his neck the Ambassador moved forward.
"We will no longer tolerate failures in Cerberus." He said simply and nodded to the woman. Her sword cut deep and fast and she stood back as the dying man fell to the floor. The Ambassador smiled to her and she looked into his eyes. The Ambassador turned to Kai Leng. "Now, talking about failure," He said slowly.
The assassin took a few seconds the realize what was happening. "What?!?". The Ambassador would have loved to see the surprise in his eyes but he always wore that annoying mask, as if he thought he was some sort of super hero.
"You, Kai Leng, have a long list of failures, one that seems to grow larger yearly. You failed to kill the Salarian councillor. You failed to kill Miranda Lawson and you fail the Illusive Man on Cronos. That was just the beginning. You failed to take out Ashley Williams, you almost lead Vikarrian to my base and a week ago Liara T'Soni found out your mission. This is not tolerated and you can consider yourself terminated. Lissa, please take care of business, then we can return home."
Lissa looked to Kai Leng dispassionately. Truth be told, she had always disliked the man immensely. He was too sure of himself and had a tendency to underestimate everyone. That was probably the main reason why now, she was tasked to eliminate him. The Ambassador had informed her of his plan the day before and she was more than prepared. She did not underestimate him; she knew this would be a fight for her life as well.
Kai Leng was a fighter, he specialized in fighting with a sword and hand combat, where she was more of a long distant assassin. Her skills with a Black Widow would be legendary, if people ever saw her. She was not one of those assassins that needed to leave a calling card. The last year or so she had been learning hand to hand and sword play but it was far from her strong suit.
She waited until Kai Leng started to move and quickly threw up a hand sabotaging his equipment which would eliminate his kinetic barrier and palm weapon he so liked to use. As if anticipating this he disappeared. It would have been successful to except instead of running he chose to stay and try and kill her. She tilted her head slightly as she heard him removing his sword. She did not wait for him to move on her and hit him with her incinerate.
Kai Leng was not as easy as that though, she knew it would come to close combat. She armed her own sword as Kai Leng jumped on the table and swung a foot out at her. She moved easily out of its way and raised her sword up. A loud metal twang filled the room as the two swords met. Kai Leng looked down to her.
"Well, this is disheartening." He said. He talked too much as well. That was another thing she disliked about him. "I thought we were going to be good friends." And then there was this crush he seemed to have on her.
"Not today." She replied and they exchanged a wild spinning exchange that left both of them winded.
"You sword play has improved." He said getting in her defence and landing his knee in her solar plexus. The air rushed out of her lung but she managed to roll out of the way. "Hand to hand though."
He came at her with the sword again. She had already had enough of this fight and she moved with his momentum letting him think he was making her back pedal. She quickly reached out and grabbed him and used his momentum to throw him over top of her as she fell to the ground. She stood quickly removing her pistol from its holster. When she turned to fire he had disappeared again. She froze and listened but heard nothing, he was running, something he should have done to begin with.
She moved quickly to the door to pursue but The Ambassador stopped her. She looked to him confused. After all his speeches about failure he was not going to let her finish him.
"Sir?" She asked confused.
"There will be time later, Lissa. He will have his own purpose to fill." He said and smiled. "Your performance was very good, please call in the cleaner and notify these people that they are to meet me in this room tomorrow." He handed her a pad.
"Thank you, Sir." She said not really convinced but he had already made his way out of the room. She took a second to look at the mess they had left behind. Her arm came up and her omni tool flash at her. She proceeded to call the people the Ambassador had asked her to. When she was done she left the room, closing the doors shut behind her. She looked down the hallway as people tried to go about their business pretending they did not see the blood that covered her.
"I need to wear red next time." She mumbled to herself and made her way back to the ship. Lissa barely got down the hall when her communicator went off. The woman paused in her movements to answer it.
"This is not over Lissa." It was Kai Leng. She smiled slightly; she knew it was far from over.
"No, I suppose not, any idea's on when we can pick this up again." She answered.
"You just watch your back, the moment he decides you aren't worth keeping around he'll turn on you too."
"I always watch my back."
"I do to Lissa, I do to." He said and ended the communication.
The day had been nicer then the weather man had predicted. Not that Liara ever had great faith in them, but they were ninety percent accurate. However this was Memorial Day, it was meant to be a nice day, even though she had quietly hoped it would rain and they would have to cancel. She closed her eyes as she stood by herself, letting the warm Earth Sun beat down on her. The air that was usually fresh was full of things she had never smelt before.
Not that it was bad, quiet opposite actually. Some of the scents even made her stomach growl. She had tried so many different things already, Beaver Tails, pogoes; something called a doughnut and cotton candy. She had to say that she had never experienced anything like cotton candy before and she would have to find more before the day was over.
She wished she could have shared this day with Shepard. Liara was not really sure that this was the Commanders "thing" but it still would have been nice to share it. To walk down the main drag listening to people scream as they risked their lives on some wild looking ride. Maybe Shepard would have played a game or two and win her one of the funny looking stuffed dolls. She personally wanted the stuffed Turian doll.
No, this was really not Cayle's scene. She was a much more of a private person. The only times Liara had really even seen her in the spot light was when some reported put her there or when Diana Allers would do an interview on the Normandy. Even then Shepard never really looked comfortable, but it was something she had to do.
Liara took a deep breath, and opened her eyes. They rested on the statue that had been erected in her honour on the first anniversary. Liara had hated it then and she still hated it now. It showed Shepard in her N7 Armour, which she only wore on special occasions. She was looking down at some invisible enemy with her pistol drawn. She hated that they would chose to remember Shepard in such an intimidating way.
Liara's memory of her was so different. Caring, compassionate, strong; she was only intimidating when she needed to be. She had never once heard Shepard yell at anyone, even when she was angry.
Liara moved to a bench and sat down beside a young girl who was throwing her food at some rather large birds. She smiled then returned her gaze to the statue.
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are in the morning?" She remembered; two days before the first Normandy had been destroyed. Shepard gave her one of her wonderful lopsided grins and ran her fingers down her arms. Liara had shivered at the touch; she always loved when Cayle did that. Cuddle up behind her and just run her fingers ever so softly over her skin. "Even when the sun it artificial."
Liara had laughed that morning; the future so bright and full of promise. "One day we will wake up on a beach on Earth." She sighed and turned to Shepard, kissing her lightly. "Just the two of us, in a bamboo home."
Shepard laughed. "Do you even know what Bamboo is?" She asked playfully.
"Well, no, not really." Liara confessed. "Just that it's some sort of wood that I have heard people talk about." She smiled as Shepard laughed. She loved the way Cayle laughed.
"We will wake up some morning in a Bamboo home on a beach on Earth." Shepard then stated, but grew sober and placed gently rested her forehead on Liara's.
"I don't know Liara." She said honestly. "I just can't see ahead and; I worry. I worry about you and what you would do if anything ever." She stopped and looked into Liara's eyes. "There's a war coming. Sovereign was just the first, it bugs me that the council has dismissed this. If we don't prepare I don't think we will make it."
"They will prepare, they have to." Liara countered.
"I don't know; I just, I never want to hurt you or cause you pain." She gently caressed the Asari's cheek.
"You won't." Liara said feeling a stir deep in her stomach, like a panic. Did Shepard know something she didn't?
Cayle obviously sense the panic in the young Asari and smiled slightly. "I love you." She said and kissed her deeply. Liara thought she was going to melt right into the human as Shepard wrapped her arms around her.
Liara sighed and looked away from the statue trying to relish in the memory; but it glided away as she looked around to the child feeding the birds. She would go to the beach before she left Earth.
"I don't like it either." Garrus spoke up from behind her. Liara stood and turned to him. "It's missing something."
Liara looked back to the statue. "It looks like her, somewhat."
"It's missing a certain Turrian standing with her." He said then looked to the ground. "There is no Shepard without Vikarian." He said in a soft voice.
"Or T'Soni." Liara added and placed a hand on Garrus' shoulder.
"She was one of a kind Liara." Garrus said, "she never stood alone, she always had her crew."
"Except at the end." Liara said before she could stop herself. That was probably the most bitter part about everything. Both Liara and Garrus had been taken out of the rush and Shepard had continued on alone. It crushed her heart when she thought about it. It was quiet for a few moments.
Garrus looked around then rested his eyes on Tali and the children as she moved in a line up for a ride. Garrus simply could not see himself sitting in a little toy like Normandy and floating around in a circle. He could not bring himself to even try. The children had wanted to go and Tali made the sacrifice.
"Do you think Shepard would want this?" He asked. "Rides and fairs and carnivals; giant statues?" He looked. "Stuff dollies? I mean " He stopped.
"I don't know Garrus, but I do know that she would like the fact that they had the freedom to plan something like this." Liara answered.
"Do you," He paused as if he wasn't sure if he should continue. "Still think she is alive."
Liara looked back to the statue. "I don't think she's gone. I can't, I have tried but something deep inside just won't let me believe that. I know you all think I am crazy "
"No, Liara, we don't. You loved her, truly loved her. I sometimes refuse to believe she is gone as well." He admitted. Liara looked to him. "She was what you'd call my best friend, as much of sister as my real sister, so." He trailed off.
"I want a Garrus stuffed dolly." Liara said finally breaking the silence that had descended. They both laughed.
"I have three," He said. "I'll have to get another, they have this shooting game and, you know, I am the king of the bottle shooters." The both laughed again.
"It's getting late." Liara said and they both made their way to the little Normandy ride. Tali was in one of the little ships with the children. As always Liara could not help but stare. She had always pictured Tali as a beautiful woman but her own image of the Quarian was nothing compared to what she actually looked like. She was like some wonderful Princess.
Tali had readily given up her suit after the Geth had helped their bodies adjust. She seemed to like wearing light dresses and sandals it appeared. She was more human looking then alien except some minor face markings and the three fingers and toes. She had thick brown hair and eyes that still seemed to glow. Liara had known she would be as beautiful outside as she was inside.
The Asari leaned against the white fence that went around the ride. "They expect us in the VIP area for the ceremonies. I don't really feel like a VIP."
"Me either, this is all more important to Tali than it is me." He admitted, waving a hand at the children. "She wants to make sure they know everything they can about Shepard."
Liara could only think of the time Shepard had told that she wanted lots of little blue children. She could not help but feel slightly jealous of Tali for a second. She smiled and stood up.
"I'm going to head to the ceremony. I will meet you there." Liara said taking a slow deep breath to stop the tears from collecting in her eyes.
They were separate from the Normandy crew. Liara, Tali and Garrus sat together with Samara and Grunt somewhere mixed in. Liara really did not know them and had not looked for them. All the humans that had worked with Shepard, including Ashley, James, Samantha and Joker were on the other side of the stage. EDI was with Joker. Zaeed had had not come and if Katsumi was here, she was not showing herself. Wrex had not made the trip either.
Miranda was on Cronos base working with the human reaper that was there and Jack was sitting in the crowd with her students. Liara had originally disliked Jack, but she had been keeping an eye on the young biotic over time. Jack still had her tattoos and still swore worse than a Krogan, but she had flourished as a teacher. Her hair had grown out, not for the first time; she liked to play with it. She still dressed in clothing that really covered very little. But she had become reliable and honourable and even respectable. Not that she liked to be called that. Liara had admired how much she had grown.
Jack had been devastated when she had found out Shepard was dead. Liara had been surprised at her reaction; Jack had always given Shepard such a hard time. What Liara had not realized was how much Jack respected and loved Shepard. Jack had even confessed to her once that she owed Shepard everything, which she would never have changed had the Commander not taken time, or interest, in her.
Shepard had impacted so many people.
"Looks like Ashley is going to make a speech today." Tali said.
"Well, she learned to make them from one of the best." Garrus added. Liara grimaced slightly. Ashley would talk about loyalty and trust and honour but she had failed to give Shepard any of that when she had used Cerberus to get to the collectors. Liara smiled in spite of this though, but mostly thinking of the speeches Shepard liked to give. How Shepard would walk and used her hands more than normal. It was always very cute.
"There are a lot of people here." Liara said looking about the crowd. She spotted Primarch Victus sitting with the council and the other delegates, close by, including the Salarian Dalatrass Linron. Liara was surprised she was here. She had openly disagreed about Shepard curing the genophage, to the point that she asked the Commander to sabotage it or they would not aid during the Reaper invasion. A promise she kept when Shepard had refused to comply.
"Shepard impacted on many people, in one way or form." Tali said with a smile.
"She certainly was not known for being subtle." Garrus agreed. He smiled. "I remember her charging in and shooting her way to the Asari Thane had been contracted to kill. She never even thought about sneaking in." He laughed at the memory. One always knew when Shepard was coming. "It's hard to believe that she was once an infiltrator. I heard James call her a bull in a china shop once. I think I have figured out the meaning of that one."
Liara smiled, you always knew where Shepard was, her crew would say, just follow the smoke. It was hard to believe at times that Shepard had started out as a sniper, sneaking around in the distance and striking without warning. Not that she had ever done that as a Commander, but she was forced more into working in a squad.
"Speaking of Ashley." Tali started and looked at Liara. "I ran into her earlier and she was looking for you, Liara."
"Me?" She looked over to where the Lt. Commander sat wondering what she would want. They never spoke after the Normandy had returned to Earth, they had never even said good bye. "Well, I guess we will see after this is over."
The crowd seemed to hush as Admiral Hackett made his way to the podium. They were in front of the Alliance Headquarters in Vancouver and even its tower seemed to shrink behind him. She was always nervous in his presence, like a child viewing their hero for the first time. He commanded respect just by his mere presence. Liara had always known that one day Shepard would be able to do the same.
He was about to start talking when Liara noticed the Salarian Dalatrass suddenly slump over. She made no sound simply parted her lips slightly and slumped over in her chair. Has she fell to the ground Liara could not help but see the explosion out of the back of the Salarians head. She stood in one spot stunned for a few moments as others realized what had happened. Someone started screaming and then the running started.
"By the Goddess." Liara breathed lowly. This was certainly something unexpected.
While everyone was running away Garrus made his way to the Dalatrass, Liara followed. Tali was gathering the children and pulling them away.
"It has to be a sniper." Garrus was sating looking to where the Dalatrass had been sitting and trying to judge from where the bullet had entered. Garrus had once been a sniper as well, the best if you asked him.
"But we are not at war with anyone." Liara said. This probably meant Cerberus. This was something they would pull. Garrus was not listening; he was doing his own calculations. He turned and looked into the distance. "It came from that direction." He said and continued his calculations and looked up to a building that seemed impossibly far away. "There." he said pointing.
"Impossible that is over three kilometers away." Liara said.
"I could do it, with the right equipment." Garrus replied. He looked to Liara for a few seconds.
"There's only one other person I know of who could make a shot like that."
"No." Liara said with finality. It was impossible in one way and unthinkable in so many others. She began to move, at first walking fast then running. She thought of running to a taxi but that would be to slow, instead she grabbed the closest hover car she could find.
"Liara." Garrus called, following as she got in. "You know this is theft?"
"Are you coming?" She said as she used her Omi tool to start the vehicle. He looked around to the crowd, unable to see Tali and the children. He sighed and got into the car.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world." He said closing the door. "I just need to let Tali know what I'm doing."
Three kilometers had never taken so long and as they approached the tall business building the noted that the roof was empty. Liara brought the hover car to a steep decent and a not so glamorous landing. She really didn't care that it violated several driving codes and parking codes. They had not seen a car leave the roof of the building which meant whomever made the shot had to leave by foot. It would have taken them an equally long amount of time to get to the main floor. Or at least she was hoping.
Garrus was still saying good bye to Tali as the hover car slammed down. Liara was exiting the vehicle as she slammed it into park.
So many things were going through her mind at once. First, this was a bold move for Cerberus, even now. Humans had a slight dislike for Salarians since the war but this was a diplomatic nightmare. The peace between the two races was tedious at best. The Salarian would never act out against the Humans though; the Krogans would join the war if they did. That was a force the Salarians did not want to get involved with and Humans were the only ones keeping the Krogans at bay.
Still this was an incident that would have major repercussions. Perhaps that was what Cerberus wanted. Maybe they wanted to see just what the Salarians would do. Perhaps this was just the beginning of something even worse. Liara did not know. For all of her power as the Shadow Broker, she had not seen this coming.
She thought of what Garrus had talked about. He and Shepard were perhaps the two best shot in the universe that were known. That did not mean that others could not have made the shot, but it made Liara's stomach churn at the thought. Could it be Shepard, Liara shook the thought out of her head. But she did need to know who it was.
"Liara, slow down." Garrus called, running to catch up with her. "Whoever took that shot will be armed, we are not."
"We are." Liara counter and made a fist, waves of blue smoke filled the air. "Whoever made that shot won't realise on you figured things out. They won't think anyone is coming for them and they won't rush. They would not want to bring attention to themselves. I think that was the reason they did not just have a hover car on the roof. People would have been looking for that."
"There are several exits from that building." Garrus said bring up the schematics on his omi tool. He looked quickly. "The laneway, it has an emergency exit, and an emergency elevator." He typed in a few more things. "It has no security and the least amount of cameras. I would take that route."
They moved into the laneway together, both spotting the land bike together. "Escape vehicle, small and fast." Liara whispered. Perhaps they were not too late.
"We should call for back up." Garrus said.
Liara was about to reply when the door opened. She and Garrus both froze, more from anticipation than anything else. Liara was not sure what to expect and for a second or expected Shepard to stroll out and asked her how she has been.
In the short time it took the door to open and someone to step out Liara's heart rate had increased to the point where she could almost hear it in her head. She remained frozen as a young kid in a chef's outfit stepped out with a cigarette between his lips. He stopped and looked to them, his gaze solid on Liara's hand which was balled into a fist with blue wisps crackling around it. The cigarette fell to the ground.
"I didn't do anything." He said as the door opened again.
This time a woman stepped out. Liara's heart rate would have increased if it could have. The first thing she noted was the suit the woman was wearing. Loose but form fitting black pants with a green and blue short sleeved blouse. Before her eyes went anywhere else she could envision this woman being Shepard. They were about the same height and weight. However instead of long black hair tied into a ponytail this woman had short but straight hair. Shepard had steely baby blue eyes while the woman had intense green eyes. Three scares ran down her right cheek to her ear, almost unnoticeable. It was as if some cat had scratched her. A much deeper scar lined her neck.
She was carrying a black briefcase that, no doubt carried the gun. There was only a quick flash of confusion in the woman's eyes before she threw up her free hand and cast off incinerate right in front of Garrus' face. She followed up quickly by striking Liara with the brief case, causing the Asari to fall to the ground. The kid in the Chef's outfit scrambled for a hiding spot. She placed the case in a holder on the land bike and pulled out a pistol as she mounted the bike. She paused for a second, almost as if to allow the Asari to get her barricade up and began to fire at them. She started the bike as she did so.
After the thermal clip ejected the unknown woman holstered the weapon and set the bike into motion. She took only a brief glimpse back, her eyes resting on Liara, before turning and disappearing from their sights.
The room was dark, save for the outlines of the furniture. The moon had just enough light that the room looked spookier then it should. She lay on the couch with her small head resting on her mother's lap. Images were fuzzy and all she knew was she was terrified for some reason. Her heart beat was fast and she could almost hear it as she breathed slowly, he eyes darted about the room.
"Baby mine dry your eyes." It was her mother. She used to sing that to her whenever she was upset. Her mother used to sing to her all the time, but she remembered this song the most. "Rest your head close to my heart, never to part. Baby of mine"
For some reason this song was not allowed to finish. It was never allowed to finish. She could feel her mother's fingers moving gently through her hair. She closed her eyes and tried to calm her heart. She was safe, wasn't she? Her mother was there, she would keep her safe. There was no reason to be scared.
"Little one when you play, pay no heed what they say." The song continued but her heart beat continued to pound through her ears. The song never ends, why does the song never finish? She was frozen to the spot, afraid that if she moved something bad would happen and it would be her fault. "Let your eyes sparkle and shine, never a tear."
"Baby of mine." Now panic was starting to settle in and she gripped her mother's leg tighter. She wanted to scream and tell her mother to stop singing, that the song never ended and that scared her. She wanted her mother to stop the song on her terms, not on the fear that it will end some other way because of something else. She opened her moth and she could feel the air coming out, but it made no sound. She was crying now, unable to move either.
"If they knew all about you, they'd end up loving you too." Now she was beyond being consoled, unable to move or scream; her eyes wide open in terror as she could see the shadow of feet at the door to their apartment. Her tears were pooling on her mother's thigh, soaking her pants. She could hear them talking. Her mother sang on, calmly as if nothing was happening. "All those same people that scold you. What they'd give just to hold you."
The door opened with a bang, slamming into the wall behind it. Her mother still did not move. There was another loud bang and she was deaf. She closed her eyes as she was thrown to the floor, curling into a ball and covering her ears with her hands. She could feel them there, they were doing bad things. She could feel floor beneath her was sticky and wet. She opened her eyes once but all she could see was red.
She lay there for what seemed like forever before she got the courage to uncurl herself. The room was dark, save for the outlines of the furniture. The moon had just enough light to reveal the destroyed room. Everything was smashed and broken and she was still soaking wet. It smelt horrible now as well, slightly metallic. She turned around slowly now sitting.
"Baby of mine." She heard her mother gasp. She turned to her now and tried to scream again, but no sound came. The song never ended and now she remembered why.
Lissa jerked awake, unaware that she had actually fallen asleep. She still lay on the roof top waiting and watching. She had been here for the better part of a day. Usually she had a partner that would keep her awake and sane. The Ambassador had ordered her to kill her partner and she had no idea of where Kai Leng was now. Not that she liked him anyway; all he ever did was talk about himself. At least it kept her awake and only day dreaming of the many ways she could kill him.
Lissa took a long drink of cold water and placed the container back into her throw away bag. She never left anything behind when she had a job like this. There was a blanket underneath her that left with her. She only ate paste, but the containers went back into her bag to be disposed of somewhere else that would not be a crime scene.
She had spent a week working on this assignment. It had taken The Ambassador a bit to get the location of where the target would be sitting. Then she had come to Earth and began her calculations as well as panning her escape route. She had watched them set up this little anniversary carnival and knew every little route through it. She knew the layout of the building where she was now perched. She had already hacked into the security system and looped in the feed from a couple days ago. The camera's would pick up nothing.
Now she just had to wait and without a partner that was proving difficult. She killed time by watching those below. The park was filling up quit quickly. The early birds all lining up to avoid the long line up. She chuckled to herself over the irony of that. She imagined that the family that was first in line were probably pretty proud of themselves. They had shown up at one in the morning, setting up pup tents and making a family outing of it.
It was going to be a special day, all the big fucking heroes were going to be there; all but the biggest anyway. Not that Shepard needed to be there, they had this big crazy statue dedication of her in the middle of the park.
She knew the list of Delegates' because she needed to know the list. Not that she was worried; the only two on the list that could possibly be able to figure out what was going to happened were Commander Williams and Garrus Vikarrian. Williams would be escorted out quite quickly but security and Garrus, well; he's been domesticated for a few years now.
The family she had been watching over the morning had been interesting. She guessed that the mother was into security or maybe part of the alliance, she was in better shape than the average business person or stay at home mother. Although she was relaxed she still had this habit of looking everywhere and knowing her surroundings. That was a habit that was not formed from taking children to sport events and sewing rips in clothing. Nor was that developed in a board room, although; watching one's back was advised in the business room.
The father was easier, obviously a teacher or counsellor. He was always talking to the children, making sure they had what they needed, finding out if they wanted anything. He was the provider and the mother was the protector.
She had stopped watching them when the park opened and the rush began. Everyone wanted to see everything at the same time.
She continued to watch though, other people, some in the park some not in the park. She had already witnessed three muggings and had a clear view to the slums of Vancouver as well. She watched there as well. She had not grown up in the slums of Vancouver, but the slums of Toronto had been no better. Now both had gotten worse. There were so many children orphaned since the war. Gangs were even more rampant then they had ever been. Not only that but they had not even begun reconstruction on most of the slums.
There was a wall being constructed around these slums and this angered her. People in the "good" parts of town were already completely oblivious to the suffering and pain of those in the slums. This would make it even worse. What they needed to do was to go in and deal with the problem. Get those children a decent home. Some sort of home and food and comfort, they were as much as the future as the spoiled children that had line up all morning for the ceremony.
Had humanity even been worth saving?
Would the almighty Shepard be happy with how humanity was coming along after she had made the ultimate sacrifice? She knew she would have not been had the roles been reversed. Humanity had not really changed; it was just learning to hide its problems better.
This was the main reason Lissa had chosen Cerberus over the Alliance.
She certainly had never agreed with The Illusive Man and his ramblings. She had watched as he went from humanities watch dog to Reaper lap dog. At one point he might have been a genius and no one would ever argue about some of his success, but he had not been able to draw the line. She had not liked the "volunteer" army he had controlled. As far as she was concerned it was an abomination.
The Ambassador was only slightly better. There were still experiments but the volunteers always knew what they were getting into, that death was possibility but there was always compensation. If they died the money always went to where the subject wanted it to go; his wife or children, mother or father, someone was always able to get out of the slums. There was never a shortage of volunteers.
She was not deluded though, she knew Cerberus was far from perfect. The Ambassador himself was racist. He hated the other Alien races and was convinced they did nothing but try and keep humanity under their rules. He had thought, for a while, after the war that things would change. Earth and humanity had played such a large role in saving the Universe that things would change.
The council had survived though and only grown stronger. Yes Humanity had a representative on the council but they were still treated as if they were children. The Ambassador was convinced that if something was not done, they would always be perceived as children.
She often disagreed with The Ambassador but he had earned her respect a long time ago. He had rescued her from a life that meant nothing and made her what she was. It was something she would not forget, especially when she was doing something she didn't like or want to do. It was part of her motivation, to make him proud of her. He was the only one she cared for.
She rubbed her eyes and bent over the scope once again, this time looking over the park. It was pretty full and she watched as people got on some of the rides and screamed as they were thrown all over the place. She smiled slightly as she watched some young boy get off a roller coaster and throw up into a garbage pail.
It was quite a gathering, humans were walking side by side with aliens and it was an overall sense of happiness. She herself had no problems with Aliens. She had known a few and they seemed ok. She did not share her mentors hate for them.
She continued to scan the park. It was getting close to time for her to do her job. The actual ceremony would start soon. She panned over the statue and thought it was a terrible replica of the woman it was supposed to represent. She wasn't sure why she felt this, she had never known Shepard, but she hated it none the less.
Her scope landed on a young Asari sitting on a bench close to the statue watching a child feed the seagulls. Something about this woman struck a chord in her and she wasn't sure why. Yes; the Asari were a beautiful and graceful race but she had never really been drawn to them, but this woman held her fascination and her scope refused to move.
The Asari was alone, which was odd, they were such sociable people; she never really just saw them sitting alone like that. And she looked so sad that for a second Lissa felt a strange pull to go and comfort the woman. She pulled away from the scope and shook her head. But it was only a minute later until she was watching the woman again. She suddenly realized who it was. Liara T'Soni; Shadow Broker, scientist and Shepard's lover, no wonder she looked alone and sad.
She still had that strange pull to go and comfort the Asari and she couldn't make it go away. It was starting to bother her.
She watched as the beautiful woman was joined by a Turian, Garrus Vikarrian, she could tell by the scars on his mandibles. They moved off to one of the rides and Lissa moved her scope away to the podium and then to where the target was going to be sitting. It was time to do her final calculations.
Lissa was a solider and had never been interested in any kind of a relationship. She had one night stands on occasion, usually when thing were stressful and she needed a release, but they never meant anything. She had never admired anyone or even thought of feeling for another person. This pull she suddenly felt for the Asari was already driving her insane.
She made minor adjustments as the seats for the ceremony were being full. It was a variable whose who and she could have made a hell of a mess of she wanted to. She had one target though and she would stick to her mission parameters.
As they set up she noted that her target was actually quite close to T'Soni. All she had to do was pull the scope back slightly and she would be able to watch the Asari as well. She sighed.
"Get over it." She mumbled to herself and focused in on the Salarian Dalatrass. That was her target and The Ambassador wanted her to wait until there was silence, when Hackett was on the stage.
The Dalatrass had stopped the Salarians from helping in the war. A lot of the STG had decided to join anyways, but she had kept the main Salarian forces from joining. Since the war she had been more than vocal about humanity being galactic bullies. Needless to say the relationship between the Salarians and the humans was tedious at best.
She waited while the chairs finished filling. It still took a long time for things to get started. The whole ceremony would be opened by Admiral Hackett. Lissa admired the man. Yes he was her enemy but the authority his mere presence commanded was impressive.
He wasn't even announced and people grew quite to watch him walk to the podium. She watched the affair on her omi tool while her scope was rested firmly on the Dalatrass. She had already calculated the shot as close as she could. Now that Hackett was on the stage it was time.
Her scope took the last calculations of the wind from the top of this building right down to where the Salarian sat, the air density, all the other calculations were already set. She gently nuzzled herself against the rifle as if it was a lover. When her finger wrapped around the trigger the gun became an extension of her arm.
The Dalatrass was sitting in her chair watching the Admiral on the stage. He rifle had the target painted firmly between her eyes and ever so slightly above. She inhaled slowly and held her breath for only a second before taking the shot. She knew it was perfect even before the Salarian slumped down in her chair.
"Mission accomplished." She stated into her communicator. She watched for a few seconds as the realization set in to those around the Salarian and even though she could not hear the screaming, she imagined it.
She nodded slightly then moved to the kneeling position. She began to dismantle her rifle and put it away in her case. It took her slightly under five minutes to clean up an area. It would take most people much longer than that to figure out where the shot had come from. Even then getting to the Dalatrass in the confusion would take time as well. When she had everything packed up she took a spray bottle and sprayed the area in bleach. That would take care of any trace evidence she might have left behind.
She left the roof top and made her way to the emergency elevator. She could already hear the reports of the assassination on the extranet. It was amazing at how quick the news got out. The speculations were all over the place. It was still unknown what had happened just that someone had been shot and that there was mass confusion.
The elevator was slow and she subconsciously tapped her foot against the floor. They were talking now that it was possibly one of the Alien representatives that were killed and that Hackett had been taken to safety. She smiled to herself. He had never been in danger.
She turned off her access to the extra net as she stepped off the elevator and made her way to the emergency door. Her land bike waited for her on the other side of the door. It would take her to the shuttle and she would finally get off this horrible planet. She hated Earth for what it failed to become.
She opened the door and stepped out into the ally only to come face to face with Turian and Asari she had been watching. She reacted quickly and shot out her omi tool and let loose an incinerate in front of Vikarrian, enough to keep him off balanced for the time she needed to escape. She swung her briefcase at T'Soni, knocking her to the ground. She immediately felt guilty but took the time to place the briefcase on the bike and get on it herself.
She pulled out her pistol and aimed it at T'Soni, giving her enough time to get her barricade off before shooting. She started up the bike and as soon as her heat sink ejected she gunned the motor, taking off down the alley. She took a brief second to look back to make sure that T'Soni had not been hurt before she turned the corner and got out of the area as quickly as possible.
They had allowed Liara into the meeting. After all these years she was still considered part of the team; also known as Shepard's team. Most of them had moved on to other things. The Normandy was never the same without her. Oh Ashley tried, but she was definitely not Shepard. Cayle had always had an open mind, Ashley not so much. Shepard had embraced Aliens and AI's alike, Ashley had never shared the same view.
Most of Shepard's team were gone, the Aliens had all returned home. James was now part of the N7, Jack a teacher, Sam off building another Normandy SR-2, rumoured to be called The Shepard. Edi and Joker were all that remained on the Normandy and neither of them would ever leave. Some of the others were still there, Engineer Adams, Chakwas, they were more loyal to the Normandy itself then the Alliance.
Shepard had told her once that nothing ever stayed the same. Liara had been able to deal with that, she could have faced any change, as long as Shepard had remained with her. Now she found it challenging. She hated the fact that Ashley had the Normandy. She would have much rather seen James get it. He had always had Cayle's back.
"Do we have any idea of why Cerberus would pick now to show that they are still around?" Admiral Hackett asked looking down to the Dalatrass' body. "I mean, I can see why she is a target but why now and why such a show of it?"
"Cerberus has been in a political storm since the death of The Illusive man." Liara reported. "It was particularly hard to follow given the fact that there are several different factions and most do not even know about each other. I would suspect that someone has finally taken charge. I would even guess that this was a message to us. Cerberus is back."
"With what goals though?" Hackett asked rubbing his forehead. "The Illusive man was bad but at least we knew where he was coming from. The devil you know. We need to get information." He looked directly at Liara.
"I have everyone working on it Admiral." She paused and looked to Ashley who had been standing silently in the back of the room. "I have heard rumours that an Eclipse base had been attacked on Therum in the Artemus Tau system." She looked at nothing in particular; Therum was where she had first met Shepard. "My sources say it was probably Cerberus."
"I personally do not find a Cerberus, Eclipse war a problem; I'd be fine if they killed each other." Ashley said. She was also always so much more blunt then Shepard.
"I agree." Liara said, "But I'm thinking that the Eclipse must have had something Cerberus wanted. Whatever was in that base was being guarded. My sources said that a team of Asari scientist had been brought in and that they were not allowed to have any contact with the Eclipse troops. Only the highest ranking Eclipse officers were even allowed near the inside of the base."
"Well that's something." Hackett agreed. He crossed his arms over his chest and lifted a hand to rub the stubble that was starting to form over his chin. "Williams, I think you should take the Normandy and look into this." He said. Liara looked to the woman.
"Aye sir." She said sharply. She was a soldier and obeying orders was her specialty. The problem was Ashley had what Shepard called a box, and Ashley had no idea of how to think outside of it. Not that Ashley was a bad officer or Spectre, she was just an Alliance soldier and to her, the Alliance would always come first. Liara had never believed she was Spectre material. Shepard had thought it would round Ashley off into a good officer. It had not worked thus far. Liara doubted it ever would.
"Liara," Hackett turned to her and her eyes widened.
"Yes sir?" She held her breath, expecting him to ask her to go.
"Tell me about this woman you and Garrus ran into."
She let out the breath. "Well, that was a hell of a shot she took, according to Garrus anyway. From what I understand, very few people can do that, Geth excluded. Garrus and Ashley," She paused adding Shepard to that list in her head. "Garrus said one other Turrian that he knew of, but he was injured badly in the war. She rubbed her own temple.
"She was quick and strong." Liara continued. "And I think had she wanted Garrus and I dead we would have been. She had the drop on us."
"I wonder if she was enhanced like Kai Leng." Ashley asked. Unlike Liara, Ashley had never faced Kai Leng.
"I don't think so, I mean the Nemeses were all so enhanced but they did not retain much of their own features. Partially husk like, like the troops." Liara explained. "This woman was human."
"I wonder if she was trained by Cerberus or us." Hackett voiced. "I will have to look into who we have that can make a shot like that."
It was quiet for a long moment as all three of them stared at the body. Liara could not get the Cerberus woman out of her head. It was an image permanently engrained in there now. The woman could have killed them and no one would have known who she was, but she had waited. She had allowed Liara to get her barrier up before shooting at them. She was more than aware she should be dead.
"Liara?" Liara shook her head, clearing her thoughts. Ashley had obviously asked her something that she had missed completely.
"Sorry, I was just thinking."
"We still have room on the Normandy if you want to come as well and find out what is going on." Ashley said and looked to Hackett. Obviously the invitation was his idea. She needed to go; she needed to know who this woman was and what Cerberus was up to. She just didn't want to go on the Normandy with Shepard being gone. She did not want to see the memorial wall with Shepard's name on it.
"It would take a while to set myself up on the Normandy again. I have a ship that is ready to go. It just doesn't have a stealth drive and its weapons are kind of basic." She said. Hackett and Williams exchanged looks.
"Well we could meet you there." Ashley said and smiled thinly. Liara's brush off obviously bothered her. Liara paused for a second; Shepard had forgiven the Alliance Officer and welcomed her back with open arms. Liara could not figure out why she had never been able to do the same.
No, she knew why. She was not Shepard; no one was, nor would they ever be. One of a kind was a term that was made because of people like her. She was a leader of people; anyone Shepard ever touched would follow her into hell. Anyone, except for Ashley Williams who had once declared her a traitor.
"Sounds like a plan. I will meet you there." Liara said tersely letting her anger get the better of her. She moved to the door and then stopped. She told herself she should apologize and she looked back for a second. "It will be interesting to work together again." She said instead before leaving.
Shepard had always known exactly what Liara liked. It was like magic, every touch, every caress; it sent magical surges through her body. She had remembered her mother once explaining that sex was a need for other races. That Asari reproduction was not about sex. Benezia was correct sex had nothing to do with reproduction but it was certainly not just a need for other races. It was a form of showing each other just how much you loved each other and it was an act of giving and an act of love and Liara embraced it.
She could feel Shepard touching her, her breath on the back of her neck as she pressed herself against her. Liara was always amazed at how gentle the warrior could be, gentle but intense. Liara never needed a meld to know how much Shepard loved her, it was in every breath, every touch of her fingers, every kiss. It was sometimes overwhelming to the point where Liara could not even control herself. When they melded during this process Liara truly felt a part of her lover.
Liara counted on her dreams to sometimes bring Shepard back to her. Like now, moaning softly at the soft little bites at the back of her neck, Shepard's hands moving to all the right places. Liara could barely contain herself. She smiled, knowing she was dreaming, and welcoming it.
"Embrace eternity." She moaned softly against the pillow, melding with the woman behind her, however she stopped instantly as she realized something was not right. She pulled away quickly and turned. The Cerberus woman smiled back to her. Liara could not help but think how she was strikingly similar to Shepard she was.
"I guess I'm not the eternity you expected." The woman said in Shepard voice. She grabbed Liara and pinned her down. "Embrace me anyway." She demanded.
Liara jerked herself awake, jumping out of her bed and pressing her back against the wall. Her room was dark with save for the light from the stars allowing her eyes to adjust enough to see outlines. She was alone. Her heart raced and beat loudly as she closed her eyes and tried to push the dream out of her thoughts.
She found herself becoming angry that this unknown woman had invaded a place that was only meant for one person.
She stretched and moved over to one of the many consoles in her room. Each was full of information that she would move slowly through. She had created a program that sorted most of the information out based on key words and right now Cerberus was her main concern. However; as she sat down another area of concern popped up on her.
Kai Leng had somehow disappeared from Cronos base before the Alliance had managed to completely secure it. In their defence they had other concerns, like the Citadel and Earth and the Reapers. When the Alliance returned, led by Miranda, Kai Leng was simply gone. As was the Nemeses army Kai Leng liked to align himself with. Liara had though he was dead after the blow that Shepard had given him. Any normal person would have been, but then, Kai Leng was not normal.
She brought it up on her screen and read over the news. Javik had been trying to locate him with little to no results. He had found many bodies left with the assassin signature attached to them but never a lead to where the man himself was. Javik was trying his hardest, but he was hardly the most inconspicuous person in the universe. He was after all the only Prothean left and everyone knew who he was. Most figured he was helping the Alliance, few knew who he was truly working for.
Because of this Liara had been forced to find someone else to shadow Javik, get the information he could not because of who he was. She had wanted to hire Jacob Taylor, because she truly trusted him, but he was settled down now with a lovely wife and two children. She did not want to put him in danger. Instead she turned to man named Mouse, who came highly recommended by Shepard's friend Commander Bailey. He worked with Thane Krios son, Koylat and they were two of her better agents.
The message came from Mouse. He had heard rumours of Kai Leng leaving Cerberus and striking out as a free agent. Liara could not help but be surprised; he had been pretty loyal to Cerberus. She could not help but think that Cerberus had probably terminated the relationship. They were going to try and set up a trap for him. She thought about this for a long time. Koylat and Mouse were good at getting information but they were not really a match for the seasoned assassin. Javik however
She would need to get them working together after this trip to Therum.
Her eyes rested on the picture of Cayle she had on her desk. It sat between Shepard's helmet from the first Normandy crash and her dog tags. Liara's own, personal little Shepard memorial, or it would be if she believes Shepard was dead.
She had met Shepard on Therum. The stalwart Alliance officer had rescued her from a trap Liara had accidentally sprung on herself. Well, not a trap really, it was supposed to protect her from the Geth troops her mother had sent after her. It had done so, but she had managed to get herself stuck in stasis.
She would never forget the slight smile Shepard had on her face when she had explained that to her that day. Liara had not found it nearly as amusing as the Commander.
She remembered what a presence Shepard was the first time she had laid eyes on her, so confident and sure of herself, yet understanding and kind at the same time. Liara often thought she had fallen in love with her then. Then they mind melded for the first time and although she mainly searched for the Prothean data she had touched a part of Shepard. Nothing she could, even now, put a finger on, but it was strong and powerful and alluring all at the same time. She had been addicted immediately.
She shook her head and sent a message back to Koylat telling him to hold off for now and that she would get back to him soon.
=^=Liara we are at Therum, the Alliance has not yet arrived. =^= came Falere's voice.
"Thank you." Liara responded and looked out the view port to the planet below. She wasn't really sure she was ready to go down to the planet's surface. She moved out of her room through a room covered in monitors. She paused at a group of them and scanned for any signals. There were several and she focused in on the Eclipse base, nothing but static came from them. Someone had made sure to eliminate their trail. Sort of like the building the blonde woman had been on. Someone had tampered with the camera's there, feeding them the footage from the day prior.
The blonde woman was certainly efficient.
She walked to the bridge of the ship, her hand clenching and unclenching, she disliked this woman who was starting to invade her life of several levels.
"I have scanned the Eclipse base and I am not getting any reading from it at all." Falere reported. Liara could not help but go over her readings then concur. She was about to send a report to Williams when the Normandy came out of FTL beside them. Liara could only stare at its hull; it was truly an impressive sight. She felt tears sting her eyes as a flood of memory and pain hit her all at once. Falere took her hand and squeezed it. Liara smiled sadly back.
"Send the Normandy your readings and tell them I will meet them on the planet." She turned back and headed to her room to don the armour she had not worn in five years.
Liara had made several adjustments to her armour while she was putting it on. She had been worried that it would not fit her but instead found it slightly too big. As Falere helped her adjust the straps she gave her a stern lecture about her poor eating habits. Liara would have stopped her if she didn't deserve it. In her own defence, she never thought she would be putting it on again.
When they were done she stopped long enough to look in the mirror. She smiled slightly thinking of the many adventures she had in this armour. She had gone everywhere with Shepard. She thought of the Eden Prime and Ilium and oh so many other places. As she looked in the mirror she envisioned Shepard standing behind her, pushing some imaginary dust off her shoulder.
"You still look good in it Blue." Cayle said with her mischievous smile, using her pet name.
"Yeah, like a little girl in her mother's armour. I have lost weight." She considered for only a second, of how wrong it was to talk to an imaginary Shepard, but she didn't really care.
"Yeah, you really need to start taking better care of yourself." Shepard said. "If I am alive, I don't want to come home to a sick girl."
Liara smiled to herself and moved to her weapons locker and picked out her gun. She eyed Shepard's black widow and scorpion. The Scorpion had not been the most practical weapon but Shepard seemed to have a soft spot for it. That or, as she would say, she liked the explosions. Shepard never really got close enough in a fight anyway. She preferred to shoot from a distance.
Like the blonde Cerberus assassin.
Liara shook her head and moved to the back of the ship. Unlike the Normandy her ship could land, but in this case it would get her close enough to drop. She stood as the cargo bay doors opened and spotted the Alliance shuttle touching down. She jumped out of the cargo bay and landed on the ground. She made her way over to Ashley and her team.
"Hello Liara, it has been a long time." Came EDI's voice in her head set. Again Liara was filled with emotion. EDI might have been an AI but she had 'grown' up under Shepard's tutelage. She shook it off with Ashley looking at her.
"Hello EDI and I imagine Jeff is with you as well."
"Never too far away." Came Jokers voice. Liara had never called him by his nickname though. Jeff had been the one person that had followed Shepard everywhere. He had prided himself on always being able to fly her away from harm. When he had not been able to save her from the Citadel Jeff had been devastated, then EDI had gone off line and for a little while Liara had not been sure Jeff was going to be able to bounce back. It wasn't until Tali restarted the AI that Joker had returned to his former self. Even then the memory left its own huge scar.
Liara smiled and looked to Ashley. "I am ready." She said a turned back to the entrance of the Eclipse base. I looked a lot like the Prothean archives on Mars, with the entrance going into the side of a Mountain then several smaller building down in a bit of a steep crater.
The Alliance troops entered first, led by Ashley. It was strange for Liara to be at the back of the group. She had always been up front with Shepard. She had more experience than most of the young soldier that were in front of her. It was Ashley though, and she was never a big supporter of Aliens.
As they moved into the base Liara noted the weapon scaring and blood on the ground. Some of the bodies had been moved. Cerberus was not one to really care about their dead.
They moved in further and the carnage started. It had been a vicious fight, both parties were powerhouses. She stopped as the military team moved on. She removed the helmet of one of the Cerberus soldiers. He was human, not the half husk zombies the Illusive man had created.
"These are normal soldiers." Liara reported.
"Maybe whoever is now running Cerberus doesn't believe in the same things as the Illusive man." Ashley said as they moved along. It became obvious that they were not going to find any survivors.
"Well, the Illusive Man was Cerberus. We always thought that Cerberus would fall with his death, but that was obviously incorrect. Maybe we did not know as much about the organization as we thought we did. Maybe the Illusive man was just one part of it."
"I don't know the man had a lot of power. He was making armies. He was the man behind all the experiments we shut down on the first Normandy." Ashley said checking a second Cerberus soldier.
"He was making mindless zombies. I don't imagine everyone in Cerberus, or their investors would be happy with that. Maybe it's an off shoot of Cerberus." Liara surmised.
Ashley stopped as they finally reached the laboratories. They had been completely trashed. Liara grunted in disapproval.
"So you mean maybe we are dealing with good racist scum?" Ashley replied with a smile. Liara could not help but smile back, especially when Ashley was partially racist herself.
"Yeah, something like that." Liara moved into what seemed to be the main office and turned on one of the computers. It crackled and made a loud protest but flashed an image of a large empty room.
"I wonder what was in that." Ashley asked over her shoulder.
"It appears empty now." Liara stated the obvious. "What could the Eclipse have that Cerberus wanted?"
"I would like to say Reaper Tech, but that's not hard to come by anymore." Ashley said and motioned for her men to go and check it out. Liara continued to work on the computer. All paths to the main drive were destroyed.
"We are going to have to find the central computer core and see if we can get information from it. This computer is destroyed and I cannot access it."
"Secure this room." Ashley ordered her officers and she and Liara moved on. For the first minute it was silent. There were several moments when it seemed as though Ashley wanted to say something but did not. Liara was happy with that; she did not want a heart to heart with the Officer.
The found the big room that had been shown on the monitor. What the monitor failed to show was the just how big the room was. It was almost the size of a station.
"Wow." Liara stated and looked up. There was a large port on the ceiling. Whatever had been in here came and went by the port. "That kind of worries me."
"There must have been something huge in here." Ashley concurred.
"Maybe they had a reaper."
"We could only hope it's something that simple." Ashley moved back into the hallway. Liara followed and they continued until they found the computer core room.
"Goddess." Liara stated at the black and charred room. Someone had set off explosives. "This could be problematic." She began to dig about the destroyed room in hoped that something was still intact.
"No one said Cerberus was not thorough." Ashley said and helped Liara.
They dug for about a half hour when Liara suddenly smiled and pulled out a small box. She carefully opened it. "They missed one." She said triumphantly.
"Thank god." Ashley said and moved over to where the Asari was kneeling. Her white and grey armour was nearly black with soot. "Can you get anything off of it?"
"I would have to take it back to my ship and analyse it." Liara stood. Ashley was looking at her. "I have the means to figure out what is on this. I can crack it and send all the information to you."
"This is an Alliance operation." Ashley stated.
"Yes, and they have asked for my help and if you want my help this data will come back to my ship and when I am finished cracking it I will send the Alliance a full report."
"If the information goes to your ship, then I go to your ship." Ashley crossed her arms defiantly over her chest. Liara looked at her for a long time.
"Then you might want to go and get into something comfortable because this might take me a long time." Liara crossed her own arms over her chest as the two women faced off.
"Fine." Ashley said and turned and made her way out of the room.
"Fine." Liara would not let Ashley out do her. She watched the woman leave before she headed out herself.
"Well that was pretty mature." Shepard's voice echoed humorously in her head.
"I'm not in a mature mood." Liara said shutting the voice out and making her way back to the ship, the core segment firmly in her hands.
They said that if hell had an island it would be called Tortuga. It had a long history; starting on Earth in the 17th century when pirates used it as a place to hide from the authorities. It continued to a space station around Earth about a hundred years before the Prothean archives had been found. That station had ended up destroyed in an explosion that no one had ever been able to figure out. Then they had named planet after it. Of course humans were the only ones that really knew the whole history of the name. Most of the other Aliens were simply scoundrels looking for a place to hang their hat, or each other.
Tortuga had once been a planet with several settlements of wealth. A rather large deposit of eezo had been found just prior to the Reaper attack. With the chaos of the war the deposit had become a battle zone of its own. For five years several different organizations had fought bitterly over it. No one was ever completely sure who was running the mines; no one cared as long as they were paid.
Of course not everyone working the mine was being paid either. The fact that the planet, that was once heavily guarded, had become a lawless pit, invited every form of slave trader one could imagine. The gangs were rampant as well with several of the gangs having affiliations with mercenary groups. This was a cause of some major wars still fought on the very streets where people tried to live.
There was no concept of law and certainly no one brave enough to try and enforce any rules. It would take nothing short of a big bomb to clean up the place.
With all of the conflict the planet had to offer, it was an amazing place to hide.
Lissa slowly walked around the pit, looking for a good place to not only watch the fight below, but a vantage point where she could search most of the bar.
The Cerberus officer had once been hit in the head with a baton. It had pretty much taken her out of the fight she had been in, however what she remembered most was the sound it had made. One would think it would be like an explosion, and she guessed it had been, but it was like a muffled explosion. She had been injured many times in many different ways, but there was nothing ever, like a head injury. She could fight through cuts and bruise and even bullets, but that muffled explosion had taken her right out.
That was probably why she had such respect for the Krogan. Anyone who did not respect their strength and fortitude had never fought one or was killed by one. She had fought a couple over her time but did not fool herself. There was no toying with a Krogan, no false bravado. You took them serious and took them down fast, or they would trample all over you.
Lissa could not help but remember being hit by the baton as she watch the two Krogan charge at each other and head-butt as the large crowd cheered on. She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against a post as she watched the combatants. She was not sure who the second Krogan was but Ren was pretty much a local hero that had never been beaten. She had bet against him. There was something in the eyes of this unknown fighter that Lissa respected.
The two circled each other some more. The thing with the Krogan was to stay in close. There large bodies and smaller arms did not lend to hand to hand combat. Instead they charged and used their heads. They also had some blunt teeth that tended to break bones when they bit.
She kept her eyes open as the two fought. There was a large amount of money being passed off as the fight continued. The fight was not her concern though, although making extra money was always nice, she was looking for someone else.
Her eyes skimmed over the crowed. She hated Nunzio's. It was too crowed and to chaotic. The only rule in the bar was not to mess with the owner. Not that too many people would take on the Krogan, he was a high ranking member of the Blood Pack. He did not fancy combat or head butting, he simply favoured the shot gun that was always a second from his hands. There were too many soles to count, which had been carried out of the establishment after arguing with 'Nunzio' or messing with one of his employees.
Employee was term used loosely. He had a few of the Blood Pack hanging about for security but the half-naked girls that served the drink were not paid. Slavery ran rampant on Tortuga and there were plenty of humans on hand to force into it. There were even some imported Asari. Nunzio had no problem with touching the slaves, not as long as you paid to do so.
There were times when Lissa wished she had a big fucking bomb. She hated coming here and The Ambassador knew it. It was almost as if he was testing her loyalty every time she came. She decided to focus on the Krogan matches and not the abuse and use of the woman Nunzio employed.
She smiled to herself as the Ren's opponent avoided the older Krogans attack and hit him from the side, forcing him into the wall. The younger Krogan then took the opportunity gorge the older Krogan. He was like a wrecking machine, one that Ren had not expected, but then Ren was big and obnoxious and thought no one would ever beat him.
Ren struggled to get away from the younger Krogan and every time he was almost free the young Krogan would smash him again. She could see Ren's knees buckling. She figured it was over for the old man. There was a sudden squeal from the corner and she shifted her gaze for only a few seconds and she spotted the mercenary with a slave in the corner. She could not help but watch for a few second before the fighting crowd went wild and her attention was brought back to the fight.
She did not know what Ren had done but he was now standing over his opponent with his arms in the air. She could not tell of the other Krogan was dead or alive. She just knew that she had lost a lot of credits betting on him.
She cursed and made her way to the bar. She wanted to talk to her contact and get the hell out of this place as soon as possible. She sat on a stool and waited, ordering a drink to try and look like she fit in.
She had worn her armour for this trip. It was battle weary and dark and blended in with most of the other armour in the room. The only problem was she did not. She knew she did not fit in, with her well-trimmed hair and clean face and hands.
Her first few times at the bar she had been marked. Several people had tried to rob her or pick her up. None of them had been successful. She had earned her own reputation though and most now left her alone. There were always a few newcomers that tried to challenge her, or buy her. She was always very quick to let them know she was not a slave.
"Narth said you betted against me again." Ren's voice boomed from behind her. She smiled and turned to him.
"And one of these days I'm going to make a lot of money betting against you Old Man." She really had no idea how old he was, just that he had always been here. He never argued against her calling him old either. Ren laughed at her.
"You'll be long dead and buried before I lose a fight." Ren boasted. It was probably true. Lissa ordered him a drink. "So, who you looking for this time."
"I am sure you know. Not much goes through here that you don't know."
"Kai Leng has finally outlived his usefulness." Ren smiled. That was an understatement. Not only had he outlived his usefulness but he had decided to steal a part of something that The Ambassador had been after, making the Cerberus leader regret his decision to allow him to live. "It was only a matter of time. You're not the first person to come here looking for him." Lissa raised a brow and looked to him. "Some human and a Drell were here a couple days ago."
"Human and a Drell." Lissa echoed. She had an idea of who that was. The Shadow Broker was getting close as well. She could only wonder how much the Asari knew. Was she after Kai Leng for the sake of Kai Leng, or did she want the information and items he had stolen from The Ambassador. Either way Lissa would make sure she got to him first.
"I told them he doesn't come here anymore. I figured you would be looking for him soon enough."
"What gave you that idea?" Lissa took a drink. The green liquid felt smooth going down her throat. As bad as this place was, they sure could mix a drink.
"Cause he couldn't shut up about you. I'm not sure if he was angry or in love." Ren chuckled at the face Lissa made. "There are worse people you could hook up with."
"Not many." Lissa stirred the drink slowly.
"He mentioned you kicked his ass and that for a shooter you packed a hell of a punch."
"If he hadn't run away I would have packed more than that."
Ren chuckled again. "You humans are good at talk."
"You Krogan are not much better." She smiled
"You know for Cerberus, you're not half bad." There was a moment of silence before Ren spoke again. "I got two things from him when he was here. One he wants to screw Cerberus up bad and two, he's gunning for you kid."
She thought about this for a few moments. "Well, that might make things easy for me." She thought out loud.
"Do not underestimate the man; he has survived a lot of things that would have killed a normal human. I don't know how many times I thought he was dead and then he showed up again. He has you in his sights and I think he's going to come full out."
"So he's not here?"
"No, he came had a fight or two to get out some frustration and then left. I think he has it bad, for you."
Lissa laughed. "We were not even friends." She put her drink down and threw some coin on the bar. "You think he's heading inward, to the Terminus?"
"Well he can't bring down Cerberus alone; I mean I don't know how he can touch them at all. I figure you perhaps have a clue or two. Just figure out what you think his next move might be."
She nodded, with the items he had he could go to the Alliance, but they would either kill him or arrest him on sight. That left the Terminus system and one of the Mercenary groups. The only problem with that was Kai Ling was the worse racist out there. He would not deal with the Blood Pack but the Eclipse and Blue Sun both had high complements of Humans. It would just be a matter of who Kai Leng hated the least. Batarians were high on his list, but Salarians were as well.
"Yeah, that's a little harder then it seems." She rubbed her forehead. Ren laughed.
"Human were unpredictable, not like Krogans. We get angry at each other we just butt heads then go and have a drink."
"Ren, when you get angry at someone they usually end up dead."
"Yeah but that's simple too." He looked around. "I would place my money on the Blue Sun, the Eclipse have always been a little bit feminine to me, too many Asari. If he was smart though he would start some sort of a bidding war, that is, if what he has is that good."
It was Lissa's turn to laugh. Ren was fishing now; if she answered that question then he would send the Blood Pack after Kai Leng. He was not part of the Pack but that was where his loyalty lay. "No Ren, this is personal." Lissa patted him on the back and made her way out of the bar. Ren watched her leave; he really did love a strong woman. He looked back to the bar keep.
"Tail her." He said simply, "and let Oster Sco know that I have something he might be interested in."
Lissa poured over the extranet looking for any information about Kai Leng. If he was going to auction the items he had stolen it would be there. She grew more frustrated by the moment. This was not her specialty. She knew he would go to the Terminus system; it was the next best hiding spot outside of Tortuga and the Nemean Abyss. He could hold out there and do his business without anyone really knowing who he was.
A Drell and a Human; it was easy to determine who they were. Drell's were rare in the grand population of Galactic community; they preferred to stay on Hanar Home world. Very few ever left. She also knew that the Shadow Broker employed a Drell Human team. This hunt for Leng was going to be a race, one she had to win. The Ambassador did not favour failure.
She moved to the front of her ship and sat down in the pilot seat. She would head to the Terminus system and the first thing she would do when she got there was get rid of the tail Ren had set up on her.
To Be Continued
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