Interloper 2: Chapter 25

"This is Liddle, what's the situation?" the communique identified the sender as Garrus. "Garrus?"

"Here," Garrus sounded out of breath, "our friend the Justicar has flown the coop. I tracked her down to a police transport on its way to the northern district. From the sound of the reports the transport just went down due to 'internal failures.'"

"So Samara's on the move? Do you have eyes on her?" I moved the voice chat window aside and began patching Shepard into the conversation.

"No, not exactly," the turian admitted, "but an asari Justicar isn't exactly what you'd call subtle. The trail of wreckage leads to a local warehouse."

"Liddle, Garrus, this is Shepard. Just to confirm, you said that Samara's escaped and holed herself up in a warehouse somewhere."

"Not quite, Commander," Garrus said, "I don't think she's hiding. If the trail she's left is anything to go by, she's pursuing."

"I see," Shepard pondered for a moment, "Okay, gather the team at this warehouse. I'm currently tied up with some independent investigations, so Liddle's going to be in charge. No arguing." She cut off my half formed objection. "Bring in Romano and her mechs if you have to. Shepard out." The commander closed her commlink. Garrus and I traded shrugs.

"I guess you're in charge now," Garrus said, "any orders, sir?" his little verbal jab at the end was in good humor, but his voice held the subtle hints of disappointment.

"You're going after the Justicar?" Liara had come out of her office while I had been talking. "Hello, Garrus." She addressed the turian through my Omni-tool.

"Hi, Liara," Garrus nodded politely, "so what's the plan, Deputy."

"Stake out the warehouse, don't intervene unless it looks like the Justicar is going to get herself killed. And call up Liz, have her bring a few additional mechs down from the Normandy."

"On it," Garrus nodded before signing off, leaving me alone with Liara again. The asari repeated her question.

"Yes, Cerberus wants Samara on board. You didn't know that?" I asked, somewhat amused. Liara flushed a little before recovering.

"The Normandy might have operational security like a sieve, but occasionally some bit of data doesn't reach me. I'm not all knowing. But if you're going after Samara, I want you to take one of my operatives with you. A Justicar's Code makes her predictable, but it also makes her dangerous if cornered."

I glanced over to the faux receptionist. The operative regarded me coolly, at a distance, but said nothing. Liara followed my gaze and laughed lightly.

"Not the operative I had in mind, my assistant is a capable administrator, but not one for fighting. I was thinking of someone else. I believe the two of you have met." The air behind me shimmered and there was the breaking glass sound of a falling barrier. Suddenly a second shadow joined my own on the office floor.

"Why hello, Yellowjacket." The voice was familiar, electronically masked. It was the voice from the Citadel, the one who had slipped me the Shadow Broker's codes. I turned slowly to face Liara's operative, finding a shorter woman in a dark hood. Short strands of inky black hair framed a narrow face set with dark eyes and tattooed lips. The figure smiled a small, mischievous smile and pressed something into my hand. I looked down to find a small metal spoon. "To go with your collection," she said, in mildly accented English.

"My assistant, Kasumi Goto," Liara filled in.

"Miss Goto," I said in genuine surprise, "the master thief? And did you just call me… You knew?" I asked Liara, who had the decency to look apologetic.

"I have been aware for some time; you've made a habit of drawing attention to yourself. We can talk later, if a Justicar's on a rampage, you won't have long to catch up with her before the local law enforcement will make their presence felt."

A rented aircar carried us swiftly to the warehouse where Garrus was stoically keeping watch. I kept tabs on the situation via extended Omni-tool as the other occupant of the car, the Japanese master thief and agent of Liara spoke at length about the familiar story of her mission to the holdings of Donovan Hock. The heist had apparently gone down without Shepard's or Cerberus' backing, Liara stepping in to take the young woman under her wing. Kasumi had been certain that Liara was only after the data stored in her late lover's greybox, but had decided that her share of the loot from Hock's treasure vaults had been more than enough to buy her loyalty.

"And that's when I signed on to run with T'Soni," Kasumi finished.

"Hmm?" I responded distractedly. A secure feed from Liara's office was dumping the blueprints of the warehouse that Samara had last been seen entering. The space was wide and open, at least in plan, but that meant little for available cover in the room. That would rely on exactly what was stacked up at the present time. From the lease on the building, it would be filled with mining equipment, but in Ilium's lax corporate law environment, that couldn't be taken as gospel truth. What Liara's feed did assert with some conviction was that the building had no ties to the Eclipse mercenary band, nor had it been used for any kind of illicit red sand smuggling. That tidbit would have to be filed away for later analysis, the priority now was figuring out what we would be facing in there.

To that there was little evidence. As far as I knew, this was a legitimate place of business.

"You don't talk much, do you?" Kasumi said, sounding bored. She twisted in her seat to better face me. "So what's your deal? I mean, farmer to war hero, to information broker, that's a bit of a stretch." Her tone had become more inquisitive.

"I just get lucky, I guess. Sometimes the right information just falls into my hands," I said evasively.

"No one is that lucky," she replied, "I've seen some of the 'right information' that falls into your hands. Inside info on the Quarian Admiralty Board, tip offs on Batarian terrorist cells, and yet next to nothing on the morbid details of local politicians. No dirt on your enemies. It's like you're all A-Game and none of the bread and butter of Information brokering. Frankly I'm surprised you've lasted this long." The thief turned away, bringing a gloved finger nail up to her eyes for inspection. I sat silently for a time, trying to come up with some kind of defense for her observations.

"You know what I think?" Kasumi moved her focus back on me again, moving in close. "I think you're more important to all this than you let on." Below her hood, dark eyes stared, sharp as scalpels. Her visual dissection ended abruptly. "Ooo, is that the warehouse? Looks expensive." My eyes slammed forwards. The target building was of a much more opulent architecture than the word "warehouse" would suggest; its façade was almost ostentatious. A data pulse from Garrus' position pulled the air car down on an automated descent just past Garrus' position. The narrow air car wobbled as it sunk into the deep canyon just before the warehouse's front plaza. Garrus had taken up his stakeout atop a nearby parking tower.

"Took you long enough," he said tersely, eyes still intently glued to the warehouse across the way, "Just waiting for that mech support now." We settled into a restless watching pattern. Garrus remained locked to his rifle scope, scouting the building. Kasumi paced quietly, slipping into and out of her cloak in response to the various sounds that echoed through the open building. I kept my eyes on the sky, awaiting the arrival of the white and yellow painted shuttle. At long last, the snub nosed transport made an appearance, dipping out of the heavy streams of traffic to idle to a stop beside the building. The gantry hatch popped open, revealing an out of breath Elizabeth Romano. The girl wore armour that looked hastily and inexpertly strapped on. Her arms held a stack of mobile transmitting equipment. She blew a loose strand of hair from her face as we stared at each other.

"I brought the mechs," she said cheerily. The silent security units stood statue like behind her, "I brought guns too."

"Any armour? We've only got our low impact gear," I took some of the transmitter equipment from her arms.

"I, uh, no," Liz said sheepishly.

"You're kidding, right?" Garrus asked, his eye finally leaving the warehouse. The group moved in close to the landed shuttle. "This low impact stuff is good against a pistol shot or two, but we don't know what we'll run into in there."

"Guys," I cut through the argument, "We'll just have to go in light, keep on our toes. We'll stay behind the mechs for cover. Arm up, we move in ten." Garrus backed down after a short staring contest.

"I hope you know what you're doing," he said, collapsing his light scout rifle and stowing it aboard the shuttle. He withdrew a more powerful Viper and stamped away to resume his watch. Liz offered some murmured thanks and an embarrassed smile before moving off to set up her control center. I followed, setting down the pile of electronics. I left her to assemble her computers and returned to equip myself. I drew a short barreled sub machine gun, a Tornado by the markings. The weapon was skeletal, as if unfinished, but the action worked and the weapon's on-board VI registered it as fully operational.

"Any plan on how we're getting in?" Kasumi leaned against the shuttle's hull. In her own hands was the distinctively shaped M-12 Locust, a wide compound suppressor/flash hider module mounted on the barrel.

"Garrus doesn't see any guards, but scans of the building show a number of dark spots, likely shielded rooms. The closest to the outside I right here, just below the roof. If we take the shuttle in and land here, we shouldn't have far to go before we find something that'll explain why our fugitive Justicar paid this place a visit."

"You know, I wouldn't normally volunteer like this, but if your Shepard really needs this asari on her team, I could scout ahead under cloak. I'm a pretty good hacker, quieter too."

"That'd help. I don't want you moving too far ahead though, stay within support range."

"Aw, that's sweet," Kasumi said jokingly, "Don't you worry about little old me." She shimmered, and she was gone. I blinked away the flash of her activating cloak and turned to the rest of the team.

"Alright, let's get this operation moving."

The shuttle swooped in on the roof of the warehouse, bouncing along on the lowest possible power setting to cut down on noise. Kasumi detached herself, falling like a shadow even in the broad daylight. She landed in a roll and was gone from sight. By the time Garrus put the shuttle down carefully on the roof, she had disappeared into an access point.

"Communications check," I said quietly into the commlink as I debarked onto the windblown top surface of the warehouse. My team checked in, one by one. Liz's mechs clomped down the ramp, four in all, and moved to take up positions overlooking the landing area.

"All Clear," Garrus reported. I nodded.

"Ms. Goto, what does our entry look like?" I asked our forward scout. She replied in a voice just above a whisper.

"It's real dark in here; I'm not seeing any windows or other openings. Whoever owns this place appreciates their privacy. From the sway I'm getting in the floor, I'd say we're dealing with a suspended level above the main warehouse level."

"Alright, be prepared to move ahead towards the first dark zone, we're coming in." I didn't wait for a reply and signaled the team to move in. Two of the mechs took the lead, their gleaming white armour catching the violet sun. They disappeared into the darkened hallway ahead of Garrus, who followed shortly, rifle raised. Then it was my turn. I dropped into the dark hole. My boots contacted, hard. I rose, flicking on the light on my SMG. The light played over a dark metal corridor, rectangular in shape. Kasumi had been right; the floor did have an almost imperceptible wobble to it. Behind me the rear two mechs made their noisy entrance.

"I'm at the first dark zone," Kasumi reported, "There's not much here, just, wait a minute. Looks like there's an extranet hook up. Pretty heavy duty."

"Why would someone want to hide an extranet hook up?" I asked. Garrus was quick with the answer.

"A hook up this size isn't the kind of thing you put in for a little recreational skimming. Back on the Citadel, we'd have to run down this kind of thing all the time. A link that big throws a pretty big splash on all the standard scans. Whoever lives here really appreciates their privacy."

The exploration of the warehouse continued. Kasumi had gone silent, moving ahead stealthily along the darkened corridors. The entire party had descended into an eerie silence, the only sound that filled the air around us was the clomping of metal shod feet, and the whirring of servos as the mechs advanced ahead of us.

"Hey, Liddle," Kasumi radioed in, "I'm coming up to the second shielded area. Looks like an accessway to the lower level. The hatch is locked down tight, but I think I can get through."

"Solid copy, get that hatch open, we're coming to you." We increased our speed through the dark space. Soon all that could be heard was the steady beating of feet on steel. The hallway rocked slightly underfoot. A steady sway. We past the first dark zone, heading for the accessway. We turned the corner to find Kasumi still hunched over the hexagonal hatch down to the lower level.

"Ah, Liddle, just in time. I've almost got it…" the hatch chirped before popping open. "There we are, there isn't a lock that can keep me out for long." In one fluid motion, she pulled the hatch open and dropped inside.

Author's Notes:

The reveal that Liara knows all about Liddle's little side business was supposed to have a little more impact, but I guess I just ran out of space. The consequences will be much more fleshed out over the next few chapters, you can count on that. This whole Ilium segment is shaping up to be very dialogue heavy.

Subsider34: Thanks for the review. I enjoyed writing Liara's reveal a lot, I felt the whole office cover was more realistic for a prominent information broker. Which is part of why I changed her lines. the original was a nice callback to the first game, but it's been done. This fic is all about the little changes. On the Liara/Liddle front, the relationship is uncertain. Don't worry though, they'll be seeing each over more throughout the fic.

Tempest86: Grunt/Furst will definitely be making more appearances. If all goes according to plan, he should be turning up in the near/mid future. I have big plans for his/Okeer's arc.

Satrab: The Liddle loyalty mission is a concept I haven't quite wrestled to the ground yet. Odds are there'll be an equivalent mission centered around him.