A Few Hours Later
The small military spacecraft streaked across the skyline of Nos Astra heading towards the main spaceport that served the sprawling high tech metropolis that was Illium's capital city and one of the wealthiest cities in the known galaxy. In design the craft was sleek and slender, built with the characteristic artistic flare of the Asari that made it look more like a moving sculpture than a combat vessel. With a grace that seemed effortless the pilot threaded the multibillion credit ship between the gleaming skyscrapers while skilfully avoiding running into any of the packed sky car lanes that filled the sky with all manner of traffic around them.
Finally the vessel arrived at the spaceport and slipped easily into one of the hundreds of docking bays that dotted the structure. Magnetic discs and capacitors for dissipating the electrostatic charge that would have built up in the FTL drive core made contact with the hull as manoeuvring thrusters and a pair of umbilical's extended out from their stored positions and mated with the vessel, one locking onto the ships main airlock while the second smaller one connected to ports allowing the vessel to draw power straight from the spaceports energy grid.
Sitting in a meditative pose in her quarters onboard the newly docked vessel Spectre Tela Vasir was gripped by mildly troubled thoughts. Thoughts that were connected to the reason why she had journeyed here to Illium when she wasn't currently assigned a mission by the Citadel Council. Instead she was here on a private matter – at least that's what she'd say to the Council if they were to find out about her presence on Illium and query her as to why she was here – a matter that if she was honest with herself left a bit of a dull taste in her mouth.
Then again missions like this one always did leave her with a foul taste. On some level eliminating enemies of the Shadow Broker as payment for intelligence he provided her – intelligence that regularly helped her stop threats to galactic peace and stability before they even started – struck her as fundamentally wrong. However in her centuries of experience first as an Asari Commando and later a Spectre she had long since come to the conclusion that the ends justified the means, even if that meant she had to do things and deal with people that she would have rather just shot.
A bleep from the communications terminal in her room drew Tela out of her troubled meditation and prompted her to stand up. As she did so her body was momentarily surrounded by a luminous blue haze as the orb of dark energy that had gathered between the palms of her hands during the meditation dissipated. The terminal bleeped again and she moved over to answer.
"Yes?" she asked pressing one of the holographic keys.
"Spectre Vasir we've landed at Nos Astra spaceport," a Salarian voice responded speaking in the normal near-hyper tone of his kind.
"Understood," Tela answered. "Tell the teams to gear up and stand by. I'll go scout the target, if we can quickly eliminate her I will do so but I want the teams to be ready for a full scale assault if needs be."
"We'll be ready," the Salarian acknowledged before signing off. Moving her hand away from the holographic interface Tela sighed and moved over to her armour to start putting it on. The sooner the distasteful business that had brought her to Illium was dealt with the better. Then she could get on to investigating things that were more worthy of a Spectre's attention than simply assassinating a young maiden who'd chosen to challenge the Shadow Broker; a foolish mistake that was soon going to cost Doctor Liara T'Soni her life.
Dressed in full armour and carrying an M-15 Vindicator battle rifle and an M-97 Viper sniper rifle on her weapons harness Tela emerged from her ship alone. A single individual was standing waiting for her outside the ship a middle aged Turian who'd replaced the recently deceased Observer as the Shadows Broker main contact here on Illium.
"What do you have for me," Tela demanded without preamble. She wanted to get this matter sorted out as quickly as possible.
"The target remains as previously reported," the Turian answered. "However there is the potential for as the Humans say a snag when it comes to eliminating her."
"What kind of snag," Tela demanded – she hated when the goddess decided to throw unexpected obstacles in her path, especially on missions like this one.
Had she been Human Tela would have raised her eyebrows at the mention of the first Human Spectre's name. She was familiar with him, if only by his reputation. The Human was an incredibly formidable soldier, an Alliance N7 marine lethal in both armed and unarmed combat and an impressively powerful biotic – even by Asari standards. Not only had he taken down the traitor Saren Arterius but he'd supposedly come back from the dead, working for Cerberus of all groups though for some reason known only to them the Council had reinstated his Spectre status and not taken action against him because of his allegiance to the dangerous hard line, human-centric group. A group that she'd tangled with more than once in the last few years. Maybe I'll look into his association with Cerberus when I'm done with this matter, she thought with an inward shiver remembering some of the horrors she'd seen Cerberus be responsible for.
"What about him?" she demanded to know.
"He's here on Illium," the Turian told her. "The Normandy docked in bay ninety three twenty minutes ago. Given his known past association with Dr T'Soni it is possible that he will interfere if a move is made against her."
Tela swore under her breath as the Turian informant spoke that was the last thing she needed. Despite his association with Cerberus she respected the Human Spectre's abilities – he wouldn't have been able to take down Saren if he hadn't been very, very good at his job. The prospect of crossing swords with him was not a pleasant one, his presence here made her job that much more difficult. I'll adapt, she thought, T'Soni will die regardless, if I have to kill Shepard as well then so be it. Though what is he doing here on Illium?
"Do we know why he's here on Illium?"
"Not at this time no. Our contacts here at the spaceport have noted a number of coded signals from the Normandy to a variety of starship parts suppliers. We have no way to be sure at this time but it is very likely that the Normandy has been damaged in battle and has come here for repairs."
"Has Shepard left his ship yet?"
"Not yet however our watchers believe it's only a matter of time before he does."
"I see. What about the target is there anything you can tell me?"
"Dr T'Soni is well prepared for an attack at least on her office near the trading floor," the Turian replied. "The window is composed of a toughened ballistic glass and is reinforced with a high powered kinetic barrier."
Tela scowled slightly at that. That was going to make her job that much harder – she'd planned to simply assassinate T'Soni from long range with a sniper rifle while she was in her office. It would have been quick, clean and efficient. The toughened ballistic glass and kinetic barrier put that plan out of the window. While it was a very formidable weapon the M-97 lacked the power to punch through such a strong dual layer defence except at shorter range and from memory she knew that Spectre or not she wouldn't get close enough to target someone at closer range with her sniper rifle without being challenged. Which would bring attention to her presence and that was the last thing she wanted or needed aside from possibly crossing swords with Aldrin Shepard that was.
"I have a suggestion," the Turian added after a moment. "Attacking Dr T'Soni when she is in her office would be very difficult though not impossible. It would be easier to kill her when she returns to her apartment – there are a number of suitable sniper points nearby."
"What about defences?"
"None that we know of as far as our information goes T'Soni's apartment has no additional external defences that we know of. The buildings internal security systems are top of the line but external defence is virtually non-existent. There are a few LOKI and FENRIS security mechs but that is all."
Tela smiled slightly. The lack of major external defences indicated that T'Soni was probably a little overconfident in her buildings security, which she supposed was reasonable as most apartment complexes in Nos Astra employed very well equipped security guards as well as possessing various different kinds of security mechs though the Human-made LOKI and FENRIS mechs were the most common; with so many very wealthy residents in the city and many more passing through on a routine basis and with Illium's proximity to the Terminus Systems it paid for condominium owners to pay for good security.
"That would be the best place to strike at her then," she said. "Send the address to my omni tool and station observer teams near T'Soni's office. I want to know the moment she leaves to return home."
"I'll see to it myself," the Turian agent answered as he powered up his omni tool and transferred all the details of Liara T'Soni's residence and surrounding buildings to Tela's omni tool which lit up and gave a small series of bleeps confirming that it had received the information. Raising her arm Tela carefully gave the information a once over, noting the location of T'Soni's apartment building and which side and level her apartment was on and which apartment it was.
"Excellent," she commented before turning her full attention back to her contact. "I assume a vehicle has been provided?"
"Of course," the agent answered sounding offended that she even had to ask. Tela ignored his wounded pride as while she was willing to do some of the Shadow Broker's dirty work as her end of their longstanding business arrangement she cared little for the employee's of the mysterious and secretive figure.
"If you'll follow me I'll take you to the sky car that has been provided for you," the Turian said after a moment of subtly glaring at her. He wasn't so stupid as to call Vasir out on her disrespectful attitude however as he was fully conscious of the fact that she could swat him with no effort at all. Asari Spectres almost always tended to be former Commandoes and thus were utterly lethal both in and out of combat. Quietly he entertained thoughts of what would happen if Spectre Vasir and Commander Shepard did end up crossing swords literally and figuratively. He was well aware of the Humans reputation as a soldier, a biotic and a Spectre. A fight between Shepard and Vasir would be very interesting to see.
"Then lead on," Tela said bringing him out of his thoughts.
"This way," he instructed before turning around and walking away. Surprisingly soft footfalls behind him let him know that Vasir was following him. He would be glad to see the back of the Shadow Broker's pet Spectre – her presence here made him nervous and was a distraction from his larger task of rebuilding the network on Illium that had been badly disrupted by the unfortunate demise of the Observer at T'Soni's hands two weeks ago. At least I won't suffer the same fate if Vasir succeeds in eliminating the threat of T'Soni, he thought. That thought was almost enough to make him forget his irritation at Vasir… almost but not quite.
Docking Bay 93, That Same Time
Dressed in his Kestrel armour but minus the bucket-like helmet – he could never stand wearing the thing – and looking every inch the veteran warrior that he was Aldrin Shepard stepped off the lift into Normandy's Combat Information Centre. He wasn't surprised to see Kelly busily working at her station to the left of the command platform and the star map, though he was startled to see that she wasn't in her normal Cerberus uniform. Instead she was wearing a very tight fitting pair of jeans and a white blouse, the only part of her uniform that she was wearing was the shiny black combat boots. Unable to help himself – he was a guy after all – he looked her up and down, taking in the way her jeans and blouse clung to her trim figure.
Mentally he shook himself just as Kelly turned around, her attention obviously been grabbed by the sound of the lift doors opening and closing. The moment she saw him Kelly's face lit up in a smile that never failed to reach her eyes.
"Good morning, commander," Kelly said in greeting before noting that her commanding officer – who she had to admit to having something of a crush on – was wearing his armour though he didn't appear to be armed, yet anyway. "Going out somewhere?"
"Morning, Kelly," Aldrin replied. "Yes I'm heading out to have a word with Liara. What's with the get up? You on the first leave party?"
"Ah not exactly," Kelly answered looking down a bit to avoid her bosses eyes, even though part of her noted that Shepard didn't appear to be angry that she wasn't in proper uniform and that he was merely curious. "I ah went to put on my uniform this morning and… well I couldn't. Like the rest of the crew I've tended my resignation to Cerberus – it didn't feel right to wear the uniform of an organisation I no longer believe in."
"The whole crew has resigned from Cerberus?" Aldrin asked in surprise. He'd known Miranda had resigned from Cerberus – hell he'd been there when she'd told The Illusive Man what to go do with himself and his shadowy empire – but he hadn't known the rest of the crew had as well.
Kelly nodded. "We all discussed it last night after you retreated to bed," she said. "We came to the conclusion that after what happened at the Collector base and what The Illusive Man wanted to do with the base we couldn't in good conscience stay with Cerberus. The Illusive Man was willing to effectively condone the tens of thousands of human deaths on that base just to gain an advantage for Cerberus.
"I believe I can say for the whole crew that that was not the organisation we joined, or were led to believe we were joining," Kelly continued. "We joined Cerberus to protect humanity, not sacrifice its soul for an advantage that would be transitory at best and disastrous at worst. So we all agreed we would leave."
Though he kept his face calm and composed inwardly Aldrin felt more than a twinge of sympathy for Kelly and most of the rest of the crew. He could hear the anger and betrayal in her voice and felt sorry for her. While he had never believed it himself he knew that Kelly and many of the crew had bought into the Cerberus line of working to protect humanity from a hostile galaxy, most not realising that they were really joining a terrorist organisation that viewed all its members as tools to be used and then discarded – often violently – whenever they'd outlived their usefulness to The Illusive Man. Not for the first time it occurred to him just how much of a master manipulator TIM really was and how good an actor he was to hide his true nature and xenophobic motives behind a façade of charismatic nationalism.
"That can't have been easy," he said after a moment.
"No it wasn't" Kelly agreed looking up and in her green eyes now he saw flames of defiance and determination. Defiance not directed at him but at The Illusive Man and Cerberus. "But it was the right thing to do. I also believe I can speak for the whole crew when I say that we're with you to the end. The Reapers have to be stopped and I believe you will be the man who stops them."
"I'll try not to let you down, Kelly."
"I know you won't," Kelly replied with absolute certainty before shifting uncomfortably. "Is there anything else I can help you with, Commander?"
"Not right now, Kelly."
"I'll be here if you need anything," Kelly assured him before straightening up to attention and saluting him before turning back to her station.
For a moment Aldrin stood there and watched Kelly work lost in his own thoughts. The fact that the whole crew put its faith in him was humbling to say the least. If only they knew that I have no idea how we're going to stop the Reapers, he thought before mentally shaking himself and heading towards the armoury. Given his previous experiences here on Illium he wasn't about to venture out of the Normandy without a weapon – he would hate to be wandering around Nos Astra and get caught in a situation where his only means of defending himself would be his biotic powers as here biotics were not the massive advantage they were elsewhere in the galaxy. Mostly because every single Asari had biotic abilities and he would be hard pressed to defend himself against two or three decent strength Asari at the same time – even with the hefty power boost provided by the L5 implant Cerberus had given him in place of his damaged L3 when they'd rebuilt him.
Stepping into the armoury he was surprised when he saw no sign of Jacob, he would have expected to see the African-descended man here at his normal station. Instead Garrus was working her, busily stripping and cleaning his beloved sniper rifle. An access panel was open at the back of the room showing partially burned out circuitry – circuitry that was being attended to by Legion as the Geth worked to help repair or replace damaged systems, at least those systems whose repair couldn't wait till they journeyed to the Citadel.
Attention drawn by the sound of the door Garrus looked up and moved his mandibles slightly in the subtle Turian equivalent of a smile.
"Morning, Shepard," Garrus said in greeting as he observed the Spectre move to one of the benches to pick up a Kassa Locust submachine gun and some thermal clips.
"Morning, Garrus," Aldrin replied as he carefully checked the Locust before slotting in a fresh ammo block and thermal clip before collapsing the weapon into its transport state and fixing it to his armour. "Where's Jacob this morning?"
"Storage room," Garrus answered. "Two of the assault rifles have developed problems with the mass effect field generators and magnetic acceleration coils – they've partially burned out. No surprise really considering how much use they got on the Collector Base. Jacob went to the store room to get the parts and specialist tools needed to fix them."
"I see," Shepard replied as he moved over to another bench and picked up one of the cache of Geth plasma shotguns they had onboard along with the correct power, cooling and ammo packs for the formidable tri-barrelled weapon. I really must get around to asking Legion for the specs for these, he thought, they more than proved there worth against the Collectors and I'm sure we'll be able to adapt the plasma pulse technology for other types of weapons.
"Heading out to see Liara?" Garrus asked noting his old friend arming up. He couldn't blame him for going out into Nos Astra armed as Illium was as dangerous as Omega and only a fool walked around that nest of vipers unarmed.
"That's right," Aldrin confirmed as he attached the shotgun to its place on his weapons harness before moving to get the final weapon that he would be taking with him, an M5 phalanx heavy pistol. "I have some information to deliver that should help her track down the Shadow Broker. Plus it would be nice to see her again."
"Knowing Liara she's probably been quietly worrying sick about you. Worried you might end up getting killed by the Collectors – again. Mind some company," Garrus asked.
"Sure. Though aren't you busy here?"
"Nah, just give me a few minutes to put this back together and I'll be with you."
Nos Astra Trading Floor
A Few Minutes Later
Though it was coming towards evening on Illium time the trading floor was still bustling with activity when Aldrin Shepard and Garrus Vakarian emerged from the covered walkway connecting the spaceport with the trading area. Sentients of all descriptions moved back and forth between the various stalls buying and selling all manner of merchandise, all the activity filling the air with a hubbub of conversation in so many different languages that neither man's translator could hope to translate it all.
"Come on," Aldrin said softly to Garrus before starting to work his way through the crowd towards the stairs that led to the upper level office units where Liara would be. Garrus followed closely behind, keeping himself on full alert ready for any trouble. His experiences in C-Sec – which felt like a lifetime ago now – told him that pickpockets and other minor criminals often frequented places like this. He doubted that this would be any different.
A doubt that was proven correct a moment later as a nearby Human woman cried out as a young looking Salarian pinched her purse and started to run away with it. Started being an operative term as Shepard reacted instantly, a familiar blue glow appeared around his arms and Shepard made a gesture with his right hand, slightly flicking his wrist. Immediately a pulse of dark energy flew from his hand and impacted the Salarian pickpocket and knocked him into the wall with a very mild throw – just enough to incapacitate without causing permanent harm. As the dazed but otherwise unhurt alien slid to the floor the biotic energy dissipated from around Shepard and he moved over and picked up the dropped purse.
"I believe this is yours," he said smiling at the surprised Human woman who Garrus could tell from the look on her face had just recognised Shepard for who he was.
"Yes thank you, commander," the woman said honestly accepting the purse back from him and blushing as she did so. Looking at her Garrus guessed she was in her late teens or very early twenties, the age if he was right when Humans easily got crushes on members of the opposite sex. In that regard they were little different to Turians.
"Your welcome," Shepard replied with a charming smile that made the young woman blush deeply and made a nearby young man shoot him a glare – Garrus guessed from his age that he was probably her boyfriend. "You should be a bit more careful in the future though," he added. "While this is Illium it's as dangerous as any other planet in the galaxy for minor crimes like stealing a purse."
"You should listen to him," an Asari voice agreed drawing attention. Glancing over the young woman saw that an Asari in police uniform had appeared seemingly from nowhere and was holding the now struggling Salarian pickpocket with an iron grip. "We've been after this little delinquent for awhile," she continued, "he's quite a skilled petty thief. If the commander hadn't intervened you would have lost your purse and everything in it. Would you mind coming to the station with me and making a statement?"
"Of course," the young man answered for his girlfriend as he joined them. The Asari nodded and glanced over at Shepard giving the Human an accessing look. She'd recognised him from the moment he'd come onto the trading floor – her friend Anaya in the cargo spaceport district had been full of praise for him during their last off duty wind down session in the Eternity bar, despite this she'd been surprised at how quickly he'd reacted to the theft. She'd seen it herself but had known she wouldn't get across to the crime before the swift little Salarian vanished into the thronging crowds as he'd done dozens of times before. The fine control Shepard had demonstrated over his biotic abilities was surprising and impressive as even an experienced Asari would have had trouble to so precisely tailor a throw field. As it was she would be very surprised if the Salarian suffered anything more than a minor headache and some bruising from his contact with the wall.
"Thank you for your help, commander," she said. "You've been getting quite the reputation among the Nos Astra Police Department."
"Your welcome, all good I hope," Shepard answered.
"Very good," the cop assured him. "Not only did you prevent a lot of people in the department dying by Justicar but you took down one of most dangerous Eclipse sisterhoods on Illium while also helping us put a stop to a lot of black market trade coming into Nos Astra. And now you've helped capture this little delinquent," she gave the Salarian a glare, "if only all the Spectres who visit Illium were so helpful. Now if you'll excuse me I'll go book this guy."
"Sure," Shepard replied a little surprised at the praise from the cop as in his experience Spectres and law enforcement agencies didn't have the best of relationships. The cop smiled and looked back at the waiting Human couple.
"My car is this way," she said before moving off half dragging the Salarian with her. The two younger humans gave Shepard smiles before following her.
"Well that was an interesting diversion," Garrus said as they left earshot.
"Indeed but it shows how correct you were when you said that this place is no different to Omega the last time we were here," Aldrin agreed. "Though for once I would like to leave the Normandy and not run into some sort of trouble. At least we weren't shot at this time."
Garrus gave the Turian equivalent of a smirk. "Not yet," he said. "Though if there is anything I've learned around you, Aldrin it's that if there is going to be trouble in a location it will pick when you arrive to rear its ugly head."
Shepard chuckled. "True enough. I guess Cerberus must have included a trouble magnet in the make up of my cybernetic implants," he replied then blinked as it registered that Garrus had actually called him by his first name. "You know you just called me, Aldrin."
"I did?" Garrus asked then blinked as he realised that he had indeed called Shepard by his given name, something that Shepard had been trying to get him to do since the start of their friendship back on the original Normandy. "I guess I did. I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry, Garrus," Shepard asked giving the Turian a confused look. "I've been trying to get you to use my first name since just after we met. Oh I don't mind being called by my surname or my military rank but it is nice to be called by my name once in awhile. Especially by people I consider friends."
"I don't know I guess I'm just used to calling you Shepard all the time," Garrus admitted. "That and it doesn't feel right to call you anything else as you are my commanding officer and not just my friend. Holdover from my days in the Turian military I guess."
"You know it is okay for you to call me by my name more often," Shepard told him. "At least when were just talking. You can do that right?"
"I…I'll try Shep… Aldrin," Garrus replied catching himself and amending his words to use his friend's first name. It felt odd calling Shepard by his first name, though he had to admit it felt right. Maybe if I do it more often I'll get used to it and it won't seem so weird, he thought.
"Good. Now come on lets go see Liara before something else happens and someone really does decide to shoot at us."
"Right behind you, Aldrin," Garrus replied surprising himself again by using Shepard's name. Maybe it won't be so difficult after all, he thought as Shepard smiled at him before turning away and resuming walking across the trading floor towards the stairs to the offices.
Arriving at the top of the stairs Shepard and Garrus both weren't surprised to find that Liara had yet to appoint a new secretary to replace Nyxeris. The revelation of Nyxeris' identity as the Observer had no doubt made Liara even more cautious than she'd originally been about hiring new members of staff for her organisation.
Approaching the door console Shepard pressed the holographic control to open the door and heard a soft but instant chime. Almost instantly the control panel disappeared and the door rotated in its mounting before opening allowing them entrance to Liara's office. Stepping inside the office Aldrin noted that it hadn't changed much since the last time he'd been here though the Asari shaped dent in the wall next to the door – created when Liara confronted Nyxeris about her role as the Observer and thrown her into the wall with enough force that it had snapped her neck – had been repaired.
Liara herself was sat behind her desk head down over her terminal, studying some information that had presumably just come into her possession going on the intent look she had on her face. When she heard the door open she looked up and despite her best efforts to prevent it Liara's eyes lit up at the sight of her resurrected friend and lover alive and well before her.
"Aldrin," she whispered getting up and moving around her desk to embrace him. The icy walls she normally kept around her mind and heart these days melted when she felt the familiar pair of muscular arms go around her and felt an internal tingling almost like an electric shock as her naturally biotic neurons reacted with Shepard's – producing a dark energy resonance that thanks to there previous melding was perfectly in sync with each other.
Looking up meeting Aldrin's cerulean blue eyes with her own slightly more vivid blue eyes Liara felt her body react to the presence and feel of a man that she loved with every fibre of her being. Before either of them realised it there lips moved together into a deep, loving kiss. After a moment Liara forced herself to pull away and move back a bit, despite the fact that her instincts were practically screaming at her to meld with Shepard – to let her spirit meld with his, something that it had been denied for over two years. Something that part of her had feared she would never experience again especially given the perilous mission that Shepard had been on to eliminate the Collector threat to the galaxy.
To distract herself long enough to get herself back under control she looked to see who'd come with him to see her this time. And was surprised that only one person had accompanied him from the Normandy, though the fact that that person was Garrus was not surprising. She knew how devoted Garrus was to Shepard, willing to follow him anywhere, brave any danger for friendship and loyalty to a superior that he actually respected and admired.
"Hello Garrus," she said smiling warmly. "It's good to see you again."
"You too Liara," Garrus answered mandibles moving in the way that indicated he was indeed happy to see her.
Feeling more comfortable and in control of herself now Liara moved back around her desk and sat down before indicating for her two old friends to sit in the chairs opposite her.
"It's good to see you again, Shepard," she said in her best business tones even though it ached deep inside to treat Shepard so formally. "What can I do for you?"
"I can actually do something for you, Liara," Shepard answered at the curious look she shot his way he explained. "I know your continuing to hunt the Shadow Broker, don't worry I'm not going to try to dissuade you its something you need to do. I have information for you; just after I broke ties with them Cerberus sent me some information that should help you find him. Interested?"
"Absolutely," Liara said excited. Though she didn't exactly trust Cerberus – despite the fact that she'd retrieved Shepard's body for them – any information that could give her a lead on the Shadow Brokers location would be welcome. "Let me see what you have."
Smiling slightly Shepard reached into one of the pouches on the belt of his armour and extracted the OSD onto which EDI had loaded the intelligence on the Shadow Broker. With a strange combination of eagerness and weariness Liara accepted the OSD from him and popped it into her terminal drive. Immediately the OSD loaded up and displayed the data on the terminal screen and Liara's eyes went wide.
"It's a log of transmissions between various Shadow Broker agents and a central point," she said. "Cerberus appears to have detected and partially translated some kind of randomisation algorithm that prevents the FTL comm. buoy network identifying the focal point. Now that I know there is an algorithm in the data I know someone who should be able to complete deciphering it."
"So you'll know where the Shadow Broker is?" Shepard asked.
"Yes or at very least a very senior lieutenant," Liara replied her eyes dancing slightly with vengeful excitement at the possibility that she could soon know where her enemy was. Aldrin watched in concern and felt his worries for Liara return along with the fear that in her desire to destroy the Shadow Broker Liara was in danger of sacrificing everything that made her who she was. A quick glance over at Garrus showed that the Turian was quietly in his own way equally concerned for the young Asari.
"There is another file here," Liara said thoughtfully and pressed a button to open it. As the file opened in a new window she gasped. "It's a transmission to all Shadow Broker agents – a warning about the consequences of betrayal and about," a familiar Drell appeared on the screen, "Feron."
"Is Feron the friend you mentioned to me before," Aldrin asked. "The one who helped you retrieve my body from the Shadow Broker?"
Liara nodded. "He is," she confirmed. "For two years I've believed he was dead but it says here that he's alive, the Shadow Broker has him."
"The Shadow Broker has kept him alive as a prisoner for two years," Garrus queried surprised knowing that most who betrayed the Shadow Broker swiftly ended up dead. Fist being killed within mere days of turning on the Shadow Broker in favour of Saren was a clear example of what happened when someone betrayed the Broker.
"If this intel is right then yes," Liara replied looking down. "It's strange he betrayed me repeatedly, double dealing for both the Shadow Broker and Cerberus but in the end he saved my life. Sacrificed himself so I could escape and give your body, Aldrin to Cerberus for the Lazarus Project."
"He meant a great deal to you," Aldrin said softly.
"He did, he was a friend when I needed one," Liara replied, "and by the goddess I've left him in the Shadow Broker's hands for two years. I assumed that the Shadow Broker had killed him, not kept him alive as a prisoner."
"We'll save him, Liara," Aldrin promised her and he meant it. He didn't think Liara had been romantically involved with Feron, that he had just been what she said he had been. A friend for her in the months after the Collectors killed him. His heart ached at the pain Liara must have been in at the time, loosing him so soon after the death of her mother Matriarch Benezia who'd taken her own life with a poison capsule rather than continue to allow Saren and Sovereign to use her as tool for their own ends.
"Two years," Liara said softly feeling tears come to her eyes. "For two years I've thought of nothing but revenge on the Shadow Broker. Revenge for you, for Feron, for all the sentients the Broker has harmed over the years. Now though I have new goal," she looked up determination shining in her eyes. "My mission is no longer about revenge, instead its about rescue. Feron needs to be saved from the Broker and then the Broker himself can face justice for all that he has done."
Aldrin smiled softly as Liara spoke and felt his heart lift slightly. There was the Liara he'd known, the Liara determined to do the right thing no matter how hard and painful it was for her. It made him hope that despite all the darkness of the road she'd walked down for the last two years Liara would still be able to come back to the light, and to him.
"I'll help you, Liara," Aldrin said again. "You have my word on that."
"I know," Liara replied, "and there is no one I would rather have at my side in the battle we face than you," with a sigh she ejected the OSD and closed down her terminal. "I'm going home, I need to get this algorithm fully decoded to find the Broker and I have to plan a rescue."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Aldrin asked. Liara shook her head.
"No, no I need to do this on my own," she replied standing up. "But if you want to help you can meet me at my apartment in say an hour's time."
"Are you sure you want to be alone?"
Reluctantly Shepard nodded. "I'll see you in an hour then, Liara," he replied standing himself. "Where is it you live?"
"Apartment number 1243a, Emerald Peaks Apartments," Liara answered. "The buildings in the south east corner of the city near Ocean Park. Any air taxi in the city will be able to take you there."
"Then we will meet you there," Aldrin replied.
"Feel free to use my terminal if you need any local intel," Liara said. "But if you don't I will see you in an hour."
With that Liara left the office leaving the Human Spectre and Turian ex-C-Sec officer alone. Both watched her leave before getting up themselves.
"Do you think we'll be able to rescue Feron," Garrus asked breaking the silence.
"I don't know, Garrus," Shepard replied with a sigh looking back at his friend. "But for Liara's sake we'll try. I just hope that if we fail that she doesn't loose herself in her quest for revenge on the Shadow Broker."
"If anyone can prevent that happening it's you Shepard," Garrus answered. "You managed to talk me out of killing Sidonis after all."
"Yeah but you'd only been obsessing about killing Sidonis for a month or two Garrus. Liara has been fixated on killing the Shadow Broker for two years. How am I supposed to dissuade her from that if we cannot save, Feron?"
"You'll find away. You always do."
"I hope your right, Garrus," Shepard said softly looking back at the open door Liara had just disappeared out of. "I really hope your right."
Authors Notes: I hope everyone enjoyed the scene with Garrus and Shepard – there was a dismal lack of friendly interaction between them in Mass Effect 2 for their back history. But then that can be said for many of the conversational interactions in the game between the characters so I decided to do something about it.
I extended the scene with Shepard and Liara for story telling purposes and hint more at the Shepard/Liara back story. I hope I was successful and nobody minds.