"I really appreciate the save, we both do, but if you don't mind we're just going to get the hell out of here."
"Wait." Shepard held up his hand. "We can get you off Omega. You heard Aria, it's not safe for you to be here."
"We should go with them, Kasumi." The unknown male spoke for the first time. "You know who this is."
"I do, very much so." Her eyes shot to Miranda. "I think we should take our chances elsewhere."
"I get the hesitation." Shepard spoke up once again. "Does he know?"
"Know what?" The man turned to Kasumi, confused at the question.
Kasumi winced. "I may have broken into a place I shouldn't and well, it may have set off a domino effect of bad things happening leading up to this point in time."
"Kasumi." The man sighed. "What did I tell you?"
"Don't bite off more than I can chew, but I swear, I thought it was a quick job, easy in, easy out." Kasumi sighed. "And now I'm pretty sure she-" Kasumi paused to point at Miranda. "Wants me dead even more so than Aria, so, I'd rather us take our chances elsewhere."
The man turned to Miranda. "Is that true? Do you want her dead?"
"Maybe once." Miranda shared a glance with Shepard. "Now? We've got bigger things on our plate."
"Nothing is going to happen to either of you, that I promise." Shepard said. "Garrus can vouch for that, right?"
The Turian nodded. "Absolutely. You can trust Shepard."
"And I need your help" said Shepard. "In return, I'll get you off this station and get you to wherever you want to go, please."
Kasumi sighed. "Fine, fine. But if this bites us on the ass it's on you, Keiji."
"Whatever you say, little bird." The man called Keiji responded. He turned to Shepard. "Please, get us far away from this place."
The trip back to the Minuteman station was mostly silent up front. Miranda concentrated on flying, while Shepard was reading through the datapacket that Aria had provided. Garrus meanwhile was in communication with both Kasumi and Keiji, reassuring the two humans that neither Miranda or Shepard was going to cause them any harm, while catching up Keiji on what he'd missed in the story thus far. Kasumi had agreed to speak to Shepard once they'd reached the station and freshened up, offering any insight that she could.
"Aria wants us to bring her an Asari, Kalinda T'Reve. She's got a place on Illium. That's where Liara is right now, according to Garrus." Shepard spoke to Miranda while he read the information provided. "Nothing here about any crimes, or really any reason why she'd want her for, what was it again, questioning?"
"So much for everything being in the datapacket." Miranda commented without looking over. "I'll have an analyst dig deep once we get back, see if there's anything on our end."
Miranda glanced over. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Shepard sighed. "I just keep thinking about what Garrus said to me after we got on board." He looked over to Miranda. "He's concerned about us turning into mercenary kidnappers."
"I understand that. What do you think?"
"I don't see another option here, Miri. I was hoping I'd open the information and there it'd be, the evidence that makes me feel fine about this whole thing. But it's not there. And Aria knows that. She thinks she owns me. If we do this, maybe she's right."
Miranda activated the auto-pilot and turned her full attention to Shepard. "Power is Aria's game. She needs that hold over people. She's got a good hand, we both know it. If it was me, I'd leave them to rot. But I know you'd never do that, so we have to play her game." Miranda reached out to squeeze Shepard's hands. "But she doesn't own you. Aria will get what's coming to her one of these days. Unfortunately it's not going to be soon enough to help in this situation."
"So mercenaries it is."
"If you value their two lives above this one, yes."
Shepard shook his head. "I wish there was another goddamn way."
"I know, John. But you don't have to do this. We can send a team. You don't have to get involved."
A sad smile formed on Shepards face. "Yeah I do. It's worse if I'm directing troops. I've already got blood on my hands. What's a little more?"
Miranda pulled Shepard into a hug as their transport back to the station drifted on through the stars.
Around two and a half hours after docking at the Minuteman station, Kasumi Goto sat in a conference room, her fingers intertwined as she awaited the arrival of the woman who's home she broke into, and the man who's life she helped destroy in doing so. Garrus stood near by, typing on his omni-tool. Keiji was asleep in quarters that Kelly Chambers had set up while they were gone. He'd offered to come with Kasumi to the conference room, but she insisted on doing so alone. Kasumi simply didn't want to get him involved any further than he already was.
"Is this going to be a good cop, bad cop sort of thing?"
Garrus looked up from his omni-tool. "Nothing like that. They'll just want some information on Ashley Williams I presume."
"You're still a cop, right? If they go to shoot, you'll stop them?"
"Well actually I haven't been part of C-SEC for a long time now, and I definitely don't have any jurisdiction here."
Kasumi glanced at the Turian. "Is that a no then? It sounds like a no."
"Nobody is going to hurt you, Kasumi."
"Garrus is correct." Shepard stepped into the room, followed by Miranda, as the door closed behind them. "We mean you no harm whatsoever."
"Okay, okay, but I'm sorry okay? For breaking in and well, you know, all of this?"
Shepard smiled sadly. "It would have come out eventually. But I appreciate the apology."
Miranda however stayed silent on the matter.
"I want to talk to you about your relationship with Ashley Williams. We don't need to cover how you met, Garrus filled me in, and we all know what happened. But why were you on Omega together? Keiji is ex-Alliance, so-"
"He's got nothing to do with this, none whatsoever." Kasumi pressed her hands on the table. "I met up with him on Omega, that's the only reason he's involved in all of this mess."
"Okay, I can believe that. But Ashley?"
Kasumi sighed. "A couple weeks after your war on the Citadel with the geth ship, thing-"
"Sovereign, a reaper." Garrus got there before Shepard.
"Yes, that big bad terrifying thing, I got a message from Ashley." Kasumi licked her lips nervously. "Said she wanted to track down, well, her." She gestured towards Miranda. "Even though I told her never to contact me again after the first time, and I most definitely warned her off going down this path."
Miranda rolled her eyes. "Of course." She turned to Shepard. "See? You can't trust Williams."
"Did she say what she wanted with Miranda?" Garrus asked.
"No, just that she needed a location as to where Miranda was last seen."
"And you want to bring her here, John." Miranda shook her head, disgusted. She narrowed her gaze on Kasumi. "What did you tell her?"
"Nothing, I swear. I didn't reply and then the ship was attacked. I wasn't even sure she was alive. Then I heard rumours, wanted to see it for myself. Caught it at the right time. I visited her in hospital when she so happened to be paid a visit by Councillor Udina and some Alliance Admiral, Manyalick? Mahavarek?"
"Mikhailovich?" Shepard guessed.
"That's the one!"
"And they didn't see you?" Miranda asked.
"I was cloaked, they had no idea I was there. Anyway they told Ashley that it was Cerberus who'd attacked the Normandy. She didn't believe it, but they kept pushing it on her. They also didn't tell her that you-" Kasumi pointed at Shepard. "Had been killed off in the public eye. Anyway, after they left I said hello and told her some truths that she needed to hear."
"Why did you go there? I thought you didn't want to get involved any further?" It was Garrus who asked the question on everybody's mind.
"Truth is I'm not really sure. I heard what happened, and I guess I didn't want to add more pain to the world." Kasumi looked down at the table. "There's been enough recently."
Miranda was growing impatient. "So, Omega?"
"Right, yes, sorry. I know a few people on the station, they like to pass information across to me from time to time. Just so happens someone heard a rumour of you putting someone down in the Omega markets. Wanted to see if I could make it spread, bring in some cash. Instead I went to Ashley." Kasumi looked up at Shepard. "She wants to make things right between you."
Miranda scoffed, but Shepard stayed silent as Kasumi continued. "So we hopped on the next transport and headed out to Omega. I don't think she told anyone she was going, if you're wondering. When we arrived, I told her to follow up with Aria. I know, I know. Anyway, short time later we're out getting ice-cream, which is surprisingly good on Omega if you've never tried it, and we see Ashley stalking this bald woman with tattoos. I told her more than once, get a cloak, but no she basically ran behind her yelling I'm stalking you, I'm stalking you!" Kasumi shook her head. "I felt responsible for her, I couldn't have her get killed on her first day on Omega. So Keiji and I cloaked up and followed. Found her in an alley with the tattooed woman, who was all kinds of threatening. We stepped in, stopped it getting out of hand. Next thing we knew, we'd all been taken by some of Aria's goons. And that's where you came in, thanks again for that."
A moment of silence passed after Kasumi's tale had concluded before Shepard spoke up again. "Did you speak to her while you were captured?"
"No, all quiet. We tried to keep our mouths shut. The tattooed one? Heavily sedated. We got off lightly. Though I'm going to have to buy a new cloak."
"Thank you for telling us all of this. I appreciate it a great deal."
"Hey, look, I'll say it again. I'm sorry, I never wanted to be involved. In the end, I wanted to help make it right, if it could even be made right." Kasumi looked at Miranda. "You're angry, you have every right to be, both of you. But she's not that good an actress. If she's faking, like man is she the best actress I've ever met. And I know a lot of good bullshitters. I seriously think she wants to make things right. Go easy on her when you get her out of there."
Shepard jumped in before Miranda could. "Again, we appreciate all of this. As for the two of you, we're heading to Illium. We have a friend there, Liara T'Soni. She's got contacts that can help you disappear for a while."
"That won't be necessary, we can make it on our own."
Shepard smiled. "At least hear out what she has to say? Even if you don't use it this time around, might be useful in the future given your line of work?"
"After this I'm going to stick to art galleries, that's for sure." Kasumi joked. "But okay, we'll hear what she has to say. Thank you, all of you."
"We're going to leave at 8 sharp, gives you-" Shepard checked his omni-tool. "Six or so hours to get some rest. Garrus will be by to show you back to the shuttle bay in the morning."
"And if we catch you anywhere you shouldn't be-"
Kasumi's eyes widened as Miranda began her threat. "I'm not messing with anything I hear, I swear, I'm not that stupid."
"Alright then, time to get some shut-eye. You too, Garrus. Tomorrow should be pretty straight forward, but don't skip it this time."
"Got it, John." Garrus pushed off the wall he was leaning on, following Kasumi out of the conference room.
"Anything from the analysts, Miri?"
Miranda shook her head. "Nothing that would tie her in anyway to Aria."
"Damn it, okay, thanks." Shepard smiled tiredly. "Was really hoping for that smoking gun." He shook off the thoughts. "Lets get some shut-eye."
"I assume we're not going to be fitting in the opera you promised tomorrow?" Miranda teased as they began the walk back to their quarters.
"Lets see how it plays out. Who know's, maybe we'll have time?"
"I'm sure you'll figure out an excuse not to." Miranda rolled her eyes.
"Hey now, a promise is a promise." Shepard shrugged. "Didn't say when, though?" Shepard grinned, with Miranda unable to keep a smile off her face.
"You're such an ass, John."
"Guilty as charged!"
"It's so good to see you, Liara." The hug was warm as he embraced Liara when stepping off into the Illium docking lounge.
Liara's smile matched her happiness. "It's so good to see you too, John."
"Thank you for everything you've done for me in the last couple of months. I'll never be able to repay you."
"Nor will I." Miranda offered a hand to Liara, it met and shook warmly by the Asari, with a smile to match.
"I only did what was necessary. I know you'd do the same for any one of us." She turned to Garrus, bringing the Turian in for a hug as well. "Thanks for keeping me updated, Garrus. It's good to see you as well."
"You too, Liara."
"You must be Kasumi and Keiji." She offered a hand to both, both returning the handshakes. "I am Liara T'Soni. Welcome to Illium." Liara smiled once more. "Right. If you'll all follow me."
Instead of taking them out of the front door, Liara instead took them behind a counter and through another door, leading them through to an office.
"Shortcut?" Shepard inquired as he stepped into line with Liara.
"Just trying to keep the least amount of eyes on us, for the time being anyway."
Shepard felt the heat rush to his cheeks. "I don't suppose my vid helped out when it comes to things like this."
"Announcing your demise did more damage, John." She turned her head to look at him sadly. "I'm sorry for everything you've had to go through."
"We got through it, that's what's important. And to those that we've lost, find out who needlessly took their lives."
"On that I have no doubt."
"Where are we headed?"
Liara opened another door with a passcode, stepping through, quickly followed by the rest of the party. "A small electronics company, Kavaeon, they have a warehouse not too far from here. We'll be meeting up with an information trader, a drell named Feron, he can assist Kasumi and Keiji."
"You trust this Feron?"
"I admit I have yet to work with him like this, but we have exchanged numerous messages and there's those that I trust who speak highly of him." She looked at Shepard. "I hope that's okay?"
"Of course, Liara. If you think this is a good idea, I'm all for it." He smiled. "So you seem to be getting pretty involved in the information game yourself?"
"It's interesting, I admit, I wasn't sure how much I would get out of it. But I feel the need, because we know what is out there. If I can drum up some leads, make some contacts, I hope it'll make your goal easier."
"Well I appreciate it, Liara." Shepard smiled. "I'm sorry I haven't gotten you on board sooner. I'll admit, I didn't want to trouble you."
"You know it's no trouble, John." She passed through another door. "After this is done, please, let us talk. I would like to be involved further, if you'll have me, of course."
"I'd like that, Liara."
The Asari smiled warmly. "Good. It's just through here. After this, we can head to-" Liara paused as they entered a large open space.
"Everything okay, Liara?" Shepard looked around the space. It was mostly filled with crates, with a large balcony over-looking them.
"He should be here, he said he would." Liara glanced around the room. "I don't like this, John."
Neither did Shepard, as the soldier was suddenly on his guard. "Something's off. Be ready."
"What's going on, John?" Miranda asked as her eyes darted around the room.
"There!" Garrus' shout was just before Shepards as he noticed shadows moving on the balcony above. Gunfire reigned down upon them, bringing up their shields immediately.
"Get to cover!" yelled Shepard as he tried to duck behind one of the crates.
"The door we came in through, it's locked!" Keiji yelled as he tried in vain to open back up the path they came through.
"Get out of there, Keiji!" Kasumi yelled at her partner, unable to cloak.
Keiji ignored her, continuing to work on the door. He smiled, relieved. "Over here! I think I've got-"
Kasumi's primal scream filled the air, cutting through the gunfire as Shepard watched Keiji's now lifeless body tumble to the floor. The gunfire continued from the balcony, hitting the crates as they continued to duck into cover. Kasumi rushed for Keiji, causing Shepard to curse. Don't loose both!
"Miranda, Liara, do what you can. Garrus? Cover me. I'm going for her."
"John!" Miranda's voice was panicked.
"Do as I say!" Shepard rushed out of cover, ducking down as he made his way back towards Kasumi. She was crying, pulling at Keiji, yelling at him to get up. Grabbing her with one arm, he pulled her away, Kasumi kicking out as he did so.
'Let me go! I can save him, let me go!"
"He's gone, Kasumi, I'm sorry. But he wouldn't want you to throw your life away too!"
Shepard pushed her down behind the crates, Garrus ducking down next to them as Liara and Miranda unleashed biotic barrages on the hostiles above. Shepard couldn't make them out properly, but he was pretty sure they were a mixture of Salarian and Turians.
And then he caught sight of the giant Salarian stood at the back.
"Tazzik." Shepard swore under his breath once again. "It's the Shadow Brokers forces."
"Just what we need. I don't see any way to get up there. We're sitting ducks down here, John." Garrus shot blindly out of cover.
What did Liara say.. electronics.. electronics..
His eyes focussed on the crates at the far end of the room, just under the balcony in which they were being shot from. "Garrus, I've got an idea, cover me, and stay with Kasumi! But when I shoot, you shoot!"
Shepard dove out of cover, making his way to another set of crates in which Miranda and Liara were hiding behind. "None of our attacks are getting through, John. We can't get a firm shot with this much gunfire!"
"I count seven, eight possibly. And Tazzik, that's the big Salarian. Works for the Shadow Broker."
"The Broker? Damn it." Miranda shook her head. "What have you got?"
"The creates are full of electronics, right, Liara?"
"I'd assume so!" The Asari yelled. "Thick enough to stop gunfire thus far, thankfully."
"If one of you lifts the far crates up, could the other.. I don't know, make it explode or something?" Shepard asked. "It might at least distract them for a minute or two."
"And if it's empty, John?" Miranda asked.
"Then I think we're shit out of luck, Miri. But it's all I've got right now."
"Then lets do it. Liara? I'll lift, you crush and expand?"
Liara looked hesitant. "I will try. But-"
"It's all we've got, Liara." Shepard yelled. He readied himself. Please have something inside that will cause a distraction or two. "Go!"
Miranda's biotics came to life, the crate pulled into the hair. "It's heavy, John." Miranda gritted her teeth. "Just a little higher..." She turned to Liara. "Now!"
The Asari brought forth her full power, focussing on the box that was now just under the decking in which the gunmen stood. If anything, some seemed distracted as they stopped firing, Tazzik quickly yelling to focus.
The explosion rocked the room, tearing a hole in the balcony and dropping most of the forces to the floor. Tazzik fell back, barely keeping a grip on a handrail. He pulled himself up, limping as he disappeared through a door on the top level in which they had came.
Holy shit. I didn't expect that to work. What on earth was in there?! Oh yeah..
Shepard shot up, launching himself over the crates, his pistol coming to life as he put down the remaining Shadow Broker forces. Garrus joined him, soon mopping up the remainder of the forces who'd fell to their level from above. Their pistols turned to the sky, looking for more contact, but none remained in the room.
"Tazzik got away." Shepard shook his head. "But we have to get out of here before reinforcements arrive." He turned, making his way to the door. As Liara was consoling Kasumi, Miranda came up to join Shepard. "Watch the balcony with Garrus, I'm going to try the door."
"Yes, John." Miranda stepped up with Garrus as they patrolled the rest of the room, the Turian checking for identification markers on those who had fell to their retort.
Shepard reached the door, sighing as he got down to a knee. He looked down at Kenji, moving a hand over his eyes to close them. "I'm sorry." Gently, he moved his body to the side as he brought open his omni-tool to hack the door.
Almost got it.. there we-
As the door opened, Shepard looked into the glowing eyes of something he'd never seen before.
You cannot escape your destiny, Shepard.
Pain shot through Shepards mind as he stepped back, dropping his pistol. The words tore through his skull, as if the voice lived inside him. He heard the shouts from behind, but he couldn't respond as he starred directly at the four eyed being in front of him.
Neutralize Commander Shepard.
"John!" Miranda screamed his name, but it was too late as Shepard dropped to the floor, some sort of biotic blast taking him off his feet. She ran, Garrus soon joining her, unloading her pistol as Liara did the same. Three beings stood in the door frame, two firing back but quickly falling to the floor. The one in the centre, the one with the glowing eyes, reached for Shepard's lifeless body.
This body's pain is irrelevant.
As the shots reigned upon the being, it chose to leave Shepard's body, instead looking up at those firing.
You have only delayed the inevitable. Releasing this form.
The eyes of the antagonist stopped glowing as the body crumbled and fell to the floor. Miranda stopped firing, rushing for Shepard. "John! John can you hear me?!" Pulling his body close, tears filled her eyes as Shepard lay unresponsive in her arms. "Please, John. I need you. Come back to me. Come back."