DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A FULL CHAPTER. MORE DETAILS AFTER EXCERPT.
General Eva Coré is voiced by Mindy Sterling, because that is exactly the kind of hardass Cerberus needs to keep everyone in line.
General Eva Coré was not happy. She sat in her office, her teeth chomping down on her cigar so brutally that she nearly bit clean through it. After over twenty years in the Systems Alliance, one would think that she'd have gotten used to the internal competitive bullshit that went on between the higher ranking officers. In actuality, it only made her bitter and less tolerant of it. It wasted time. She did not like wasting time.
Her office wasn't lavish, but it wasn't quite spartan either. Hardwood desk, cushy chair, decent carpeting, lots of awards, an honorary doctorate in Military History from the University of Chicago, a large window overlooking the docks, a liquor cabinet that was absolutely better stocked than that chickenshit Anderson's poor excuse for a bar, and obviously the intimidating coat of arms around her handcrafted sculpture of her organization's sigil. The swords weren't fake, she'd made sure of that every few months by sharpening them by hand and giving the less than hardened staff on her side of Arcturus a run for their money. Always fun to watch the naive squirm about as schema after schema were ripped from their minds and torn to shreds.
Coré had pride in what was essentially her home. It was her space. Personalized, violent and powerful. It was a part of her. So when someone had the audacity and sheer lack of mental faculties to not just insinuate, but declare, that hers was objectively inferior, Coré could only scowl and plot.
That bitch didn't know who she was dealing with. She didn't fight her way from Shanxi to Palaven, watch her two best friends die, and properly begin serving humanity just so she could be fucked with by a shitsipping child.
Apparently, Coré had the second nicest office on Arcturus. That was a fact which she had been frequently and incessantly reminded of by that street rat of a major several floors up. She wasn't sure whose cock and/or snatch that thug of a woman serviced a few thousand times to get a jacuzzi in her office, but it must have been some pansy ass politician with more pull than balls, and apparently the ironic inability to pull at his own balls. Lazy fucker.
So there she sat, Alliance dress blues, fading blonde hair tied into a ponytail and hardened blue eyes glaring twenty years of revenge on an invitation.
An invitation to a jacuzzi party.
Coré had to wonder if her life was going to be composed entirely of shit like that from then on. She used her cigar to burn part of the datapad, singeing the otherwise nicely put together invitation, in place of a thumb print. Fuck those people. She had a goddamn black ops group to command.
Namely, Cerberus. Humanity's answer to ensuring the light in the dark never grew too bright, lest it shine on all of the bullshit war crimes they'd been pulling for as long as she could remember.
Where the Hierarchy had its Blackwatch, the salarians the STG, the batarians their SIU, and the asari...Coré wasn't quite sure, or at least hadn't been fully briefed, exactly how many black ops factions existed inside the Asari Republics. She supposed it would be unrealistic to assume every colony had one-why would they? It wasn't cost effective on smaller colonies, not to mention the fact that you couldn't just enlist any slack jawed idiot.
Her terminal chirped, followed by the voice of her secretary. "General Coré, there's a David Anderson here to see you. I don't believe he has an appointment."
Coré scoffed and tapped loose ashes out of her cigar, the burnt flecks falling safely into their tray. "Send himin," she said, speaking a little bit more menacingly into the microphone than was strictly necessary. Talks with Anderson had always been a treat, even though that was mostly because she, more often than not, got to put him in his place for all of his various fuck ups over the years. Most of which Cerberus was still cleaning up.
The man himself entered her office, his stern eyes meeting her own the moment he crossed the threshold. It was odd to see him in anything besides dress blues, but there he was, in slacks and a jacket. She had to admit that he looked rather sharp.
The door locked behind him. "General," he said, firing off a quick salute.
"David," she said, giving him a small sneer. She didn't return the gesture. He was retired, after all. Well, that's what the official record had been saying, but she knew better. It was her job to. "The mop and slop bucket are down the hall, third door on your left. It's labeled 'Sanitation'."
Anderson raised a brow. "I'm sorry? I don't understan-"
"Neither do I, David. I really don't understand why you continue this sad delusion of yours. Cerberus is not your personal laundromat. We don't clean up stains. We clean up oil spills." She huffed and leaned over her desk, setting her jaw. "It is a goddamn miracle Shastri and Udina have their dicks so far up your ass that you may as well be applying for a polygamy permit, because that's the only thing standing in my way of telling you to go fuck yourself in the context of me refusing to help you." She puffed on her cigar, narrowing her eyes further.
"It's good to see you, too. How have you been?" he said cheerily. Cheery didn't work. It never worked.
"Go fuck yourself. In every other context. Here you are, again, about to ask me if I can clean up more of your bullshit. Make it all go away just like that." She snapped her fingers. "Sit your ass down, and tell me what you want," she said, jabbing her fingers at one of the chairs in front of her desk.
Anderson scowled and did as he was told. She couldn't say no to his requests for help, but she still outranked him. He unbuttoned his jacket as he sat. "I want you to call off Operation Cabaret-"
"Ugh, I know. The name is horrible. I suggested Overlord, considering, but they wanted something less...remarkable. Either that or they wanted to save that one for something bigger. I can ask them again, even though it's a total waste of my time."
"No, not the name! Call it off. Please. We can still salvage the situation. I know we can."
Coré stared at him for a long time. It had to be a joke, but then, Anderson didn't make jokes. He wasn't funny. He'd never been funny. "Are you out of your goddamn mind, David?" she asked honestly. "Not only is the source of the problem entirely your fault, but now you're asking me to just look the other way? Even after she very nearly snapped your spine in half? I don't know what kind of redemption you're looking for, David, but allow me to let you in on a little secret." She unlocked a drawer of her desk and went through her files, retrieving a non-descript datapad. "It doesn't fucking exist. This is an executive order from Shastri himself ordering me to go forward with Cabaret. Udina and the Admiralty Board, with a fucking landmark unanimous vote, also authorized me to conduct this operation to the fullest extent of my ability, my organization, and by any means necessary." She slid the datapad to him. "You'll also find the written and express approval of those spin doctors in PR, Admiral Hackett, and her former CO, a one rehabilitated Major Preston Kyle." She glared at him but broke into a mocking laugh. "Even brain-addled Kyle, Lion of Jabberwocks, can see exactly how detrimental it is for the SA and humanity at large if we don't follow through with Cabaret. And you're asking me to disobey that order? I would be executed on the spot." She took a long puff on her cigar. "Now unfortunately, for you and your little bitch of a 'daughter', no. I'm not calling it off." She sliced her hand toward the door. "So go fuck yourself."
Anderson held his ground. He didn't falter, and that impressed her. He just matched her glare, matched her intensity, and waited for her to finish. "She was just angry, Eva. If I had been in her shoes, I don't think I could have shown what little restraint she did."
Coré frowned. "What restraint?"
"I'm alive, aren't I? I made a full recovery. She didn't have to make that even remotely possible."
"I wouldn't call that restraint. You got lucky. She got angry and sloppy. She fought stupid."
Anderson sighed. "She had every right to be angry. You know that."
"Oh, believe me, I do know, because I'm still having to run interference on that shitshow you called a taskforce. Westerlund is actually still investigating your massive fuck up on Mindoir. They're like blood hounds, and the only reason they're still smelling any blood at all is because you can't move past it. I told you stealing a page out of the batarian's playbook was going to blow up in your face, but you idiots did it anyway." Coré shook her head and crushed her cigar into the tray. "Your little mistake beat you within an inch of your life, literally, and then ran off to go play pussywagon to little miss queen blue. I pushed for execution then, I'm sure you remember, especially since none of this shit would have happened if you had kept your goddamn mouth shut!" She smashed her fist on her desk.
"You're sickening." Anderson got up from his seat, buttoned his jacket and looked down at her grimly. "You're going to sit there, silently, while a victim is murdered for a mistake that she had nothing to do with. I thought there was a chance you'd see reason, that perhaps you've changed after all these years. Maybe even understood her pain, or at least have the decency to let her live in relative freedom." He scoffed. "But you don't sympathize at all. I've already forgiven her, hell I dropped the charges against her, and I'll keep forgiving her until she actually gives me a reason not to. Good day, General."
As he walked back toward the door, Coré grinned. "I couldn't stop it now even if I wanted to, David. Hell, it's probably already done and we're just awaiting confirmation." She opened a fresh cigar from the box on her desk and lit it. "Face it, David. You fucked up. It's over. Unlike you, Agent Lawson doesn't fail."
Anderson stopped at the door. He looked over his shoulder, scowling. "No matter how good your Lawson may be, Karen is better." He opened her door. "And you know that." He slammed the door on his way out.
Coré stared at the door for a moment. She set her jaw and slapped her hand against her arm rest. Lawson had to succeed. Humanity had lost too much, wasted too much, for her not to. No spectre. No councilor. A bleeding and battered fleet. A fractured economy. Barely an Embassy, at the rate Udina was going. The Alliance needed a clean slate, and Lawson was going to deliver.
Miranda Lawson, first human spectre she thought. If that's not incentive, then I don't know what is. She furrowed her brow. Where was Miranda, anyway?
"...and that's everything we know," said Miranda, closing her omni-tool and ending her briefing with the salarians. Hopefully. They'd had so many questions. How did you know to play dead, Miranda? How were you there at just the right time? How long have you known you were a biotic? Can we have some of your blood for testing? Why do you continue to answer our questions in anger?
Oh, they knew damn well why she was doing that. She'd heard rumors, the General herself had even told her as such, that the STG never stopped asking questions. Or talking. Or arguing. Of course, Salarians had a habit of doing that, yet the STG was somehow able to make it seem remarkably worse.
Their compound was drab. It had walls, doors, and lots and lots of equipment. A certain disgraced Lieutenant Commander wasn't gracing her presence within said walls, so it was difficult for Miranda to show any form of patience with all of the questions.
"That was very informative. You've obviously given that kind of briefing before." Kirrahe looked her over, clinically of course, for around the three hundredth time. "Impressive power suit. Eezo endoskeleton laced into frame, correct? Heavier loads, lighter on your feet. Bit of a crutch. Easily disabled."
"I've run into very few problems with it," she lied through her teeth.
"Good to hear. Your techs must perform excellent maintenance on it. Only the best for the dog, correct?" said Kirrahe, his inflection changing only slightly. It wasn't an accusation, just one of acknowledgement.
It was at that moment that Miranda questioned the General's insistence to have their logo embossed onto every piece of equipment. She'd asked her to explain that once. The answer was less than ideal.
To instill pants-shitting fear into the hearts of our enemies...is what I would say if I were a very crude and blunt speech writer. Not to mention lazy. Brand recognition is a pretty weak justification for black ops. ICT does it, and we're the next step past that. The answer, of course, is much simpler than you think. You die in blood, or you don't at all. It just so happens that Cerberus is the best way to bleed.
That still had yet to make sense to Miranda. Dying in blood? Her own blood, perhaps, though that was assumed. Struck down in battle? Obvious. There was something more to it, but she'd never been able to nail it down. Supposedly, it had been uttered, off the cuff, by Jon Grissom, on the day of the first ICT graduation. That was what the General had told her, of course. General Eva Coré could be trusted.
The STG? Not nearly as much.
Miranda raised a brow. "I don't own a dog. I've always wanted one, though. A half-burmese, half golden retriever. They have these white tufts of hair on their chests that is just so adorable and-"
Kirrahe tilted his head. "Oh, well that's quite the shame! I was hoping you did, because a neighbor of mine is very fond of dogs."
Miranda narrowed her eyes and stepped closer to Kirrahe, making sure that Ceres was well distracted with sharing her rather gruesome surgical anecdotes with a few of the other STG operatives. "Fine. What do you want?"
"That wasn't code, Agent Lawson. You have operatives a few buildings over. I thought it would be good of you to know that."
Miranda bit her lip and opened up her omni-tool map, the same one her and Ceres had been using to mark their next search targets. "Now, you're sure you have no idea where this broadcasting center is?"
"To my knowledge, you never actually asked me if I did or not."
Miranda blinked. She hadn't. Perhaps she needed a nap. "Oh. My mistake, Major. Do you have any idea where the broadcast center is?"
Miranda blistered and shoved her map in his face. "Then please, if you don't have that piece of information, would you mind informing me of where my...friends are?"
Kirrahe took one look at the image and then started laughing. "Well! And I thought I'd seen everything. What you have there, Agent Lawson, is a complete and comprehensive map of every special forces, black ops, and otherwise clandestine government organization safe house on Omega. That one is the batarian SIU, this one is us, that one inside of the Tupari warehouse is Blackwatch, the one in the tower are...some form of asari special forces. I haven't been briefed on their unit, so they may be relatively new. This last one…" He tapped a rather drab looking outlet mall. "Right underneath that is where your friends will be."
Miranda stared at her map, dumbstruck. "How do you know all of this?"
Kirrahe patted her on the back and smiled. "Espionage is a small business, Agent Lawson. You get to know the people you're working with, and against, very intimately, very quickly. Sometimes, it's best to help one another rather than to sabotage, because the outcome may very well be more beneficial to both sides." He chuckled. "Not only that, but who else understands exactly what it is that we do besides our own? We know how the galaxy works, what keeps it spinning and moving without collapsing in on itself." He frowned and looked over at his men. "There's large comfort in knowing you're not alone in your fight, even if your allies are likely to stab you in the back at any moment. But then…" He turned back to her with a large smile. "...we're prepared to do the same, so it all evens out, don't you think?"
Miranda closed her omni-tool and wiped her face with her armored palm in one slow, agonizing motion. "No. Not really, no." She crossed her arms. "Everything is too convenient. We walk around six blocks and somehow we find you, and by extension every 'best of the best' unit in the galaxy. It feels manipulative."
"I'd considered that, Agent Lawson. It isn't as 'convenient' as you seem to believe. We didn't choose close proximity real estate just by chance, you realize." Kirrahe smiled. "Everyone is watching everyone else, and this just makes the entire job so much easier."
Miranda raised a brow. "You...the STG, Blackwatch, the SIU, Cerberus, and...the asari did this collectively? You can't be serious."
"Would you rather it not be true? You'd have to walk across the station, dodging red vorcha packs and whatever else that chooses to come out of the shadows. There is no doubt in my mind that you would die."
Miranda slapped her palm against her face. "You know, it's things like this that make me seriously question my choice of career."
"I highly doubt it was a choice. Agent Lawson."
Miranda bristled. She hated the mission. She hated how everything had gone straight to hell the moment she'd finally solidified her cover. She hated how she couldn't complete her mission until they were safely off of Omega, spectre intact. If she removed Shepard earlier, she'd be slaughtered or tortured, and then any state secrets she had on her would be at the mercy of non-SA personnel. She couldn't allow that to happen.
And that's about as far as I got. I have more notes, of course, but I wasn't in a good place when I stopped writing this. Emotionally, mentally, etc. I'm better now, but this story is a great example of what happens when I over-reach and get way too ambitious for my own good. Recently, there's been an influx of messages and comments asking for an outline or notes of how this story was going to go. And I'm incredibly flattered that anyone even remembered this story at all, let alone were okay enough to accept that I couldn't finish it and just wanted to know what I would've done. It's crazy.
I can't write for Mass Effect anymore. It's not fun, and the elements/themes I wanted to tackle are actually way more fitting for "The Legend of Korra" than this ever was, hence the AU. So if you folks liked what I wrote here, and want to read something exponentially better, check out "Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades" on Ao3. This site has it too, but the formatting here is just frustrating, so go to Ao3.
Anyway, I'll try and answer the larger questions that people were wondering, and then outline what the plot was gonna be. Fair warning, I may simply not remember what my intention was, but all of this made sense at the time.
What's the deal with Aria and Shepard's relationship?
Aria and Shepard are in an emotionally/mentally abusive relationship, with Aria obviously being the instigator. Shepard is very good at what she does, and Aria likes having her around 'on retainer'. Of course, Karen (this Shepard, in case you forgot) is not a spectre here, so the power dynamics at play are drastically different. Karen can't go against Aria, or she'll be fed to the Vorcha. Aria and Shepard meld when they have sex, but it's a one-way street that she convinced Shepard was totally okay (it's not!). Aria gives her nothing, but she slowly gains more influence over Shepard the more she takes. Of course, Aria isn't a monster, so she does develop an attachment to Karen (hence their omni-tool conversation in the workshop not being horrible), but it's secondary at best.
Why was Shepard discharged?
This one is more complicated, and I could get some of the details wrong, so bear with me. Mindoir was a set-up. One which I partially wrote out:
Alliance Intelligence Agency
[Automated Addition: The file in your possession has been printed a total of 2 time(s), which exceeds the limit placed on documents that hold the CYPRUS designation. Disregarding this limit can and will be considered an act of treason against the Systems Alliance, and is punishable by death. If this is the result of printer error, please inform your superior and have them present when you dispose of the document.]
Overview: Privateer, pirate and slaver activity in Alliance Colonial Space rose 300% from 2165 to 2168. To combat this, the AIA investigated the cause for the spike, and unsurprisingly discovered that nearly every faction operating within our borders were funded by the Hegemony. It is important to note that none of these groups were ever given instruction by the Hegemony, so the Citadel Council could only 'discourage' the Batarians from donating further funding to separatists groups. They did not. At the time, the Alliance lacked the necessary naval strength to garrison a battle group on every human colony, let alone every Alliance sponsored colony. Skirmishes with these groups always resulted in victory with minimal losses, if any, but no single colony was ever attacked en masse. This was most likely due to their lack of communication, as they weren't organized in any conventional form. A joint task force composed of the Alliance's best and brightest, lead by DAVID EDWARD ANDERSON (See ICT/SAMC Dossier),was formed with the explicit purpose of eliminating the endless war of attrition. After several months of planning, the CALICO task force submitted their proposal for review and approval. On June 4th, 2169, Operation CALICO was greenlit. The plan was relatively simple: Bait as many pirates and slavers as possible with a prize they couldn't ignore. An undefended garden world with a population just large enough to fill every freighter in the Traverse.
Under review, Demeter and Eden Primed were deemed too large a sacrifice when other options were possible. New Canton and Horizon were below the population markers, the latter being a new colony. Tiptree's defenses were too ingrained and comprehensive to destabilize effectively. Mindoir proved the perfect candidate. Population 92,180. Minimal GARDIAN defenses and a local militia mostly comprised of retired Alliance Marines.
That's as far as I got with that, at least explicitly. The Alliance sabotaged the GARDIAN defenses, jammed outgoing signals, and introduced blankets covered in common cold pathogens to weaken the population. Then, when the pirates invaded (think the Skyllian Blitz), it all blew up in the SA's face. They weren't able to wipe out the pirates, and they still lost the entire colony. Burnt to ash. Anderson lead a team of Marines down to the surface to search for 'survivors', knowing full well everyone would be dead. Except they weren't. Karen had survived, and blinded Balak (yeah, he was in play) with a fire-poker when he set her house and parents on fire. She didn't escape the slaver brand, but managed to break free and hide after that. She'd also managed to kill two lowly batarian pirates in the process. Anderson finds her, sees how terrified and lost she is, and (much like Gray Fox to Naomi Hunter from Metal Gear Solid) took her in. Turns out she's a biotic, and then y'know canon stuff happens. Torfan and Akuze both happened to her, but Akuze was the time when the Barracuda's (the IFV) booster rockets didn't work, and it got her team killed.
At some point in 2181, Anderson and Shepard were between deployments and took time to visit one another on leave. Shepard finds him drunk in a bar, apologizing and blabbering. She has no idea what's going on, tries to reassure him...until he starts dropping secrets. The more she learns, the closer she gets to snapping. Eventually, she beats him half to death, steals her gear, and leaves. But she's still got a head full of state secrets (not that she gives a shit about those), so she's still a threat to the Systems Alliance, even if they did declare her dead and brand her a terrorist.
What's the deal with the slaver mark?
It was symbolic of how most of her adult life was composed of her being used as a weapon/tool/chess piece in someone else's game, and it served other purposes too. The concept of ownership is skewed with her, since she was a slave once (or nearly was) and still hasn't quite shaken the idea that she's not 'on the run' from her 'masters' (the Alliance, the Hegemony, Aria). It's all kinds of fucked up, but it also makes her far more durable...even if it will eventually kill her. Somehow, she was going to get that fixed, and I don't remember how that was. Also it was a little bit of self-projection (I was in a shitty place when writing most of this), as her bipolar side-effects were a reflection of my own issues. Really, Metal Gear Solid (Snake Eater and the MGS1 in particular) were heavy influences. Karen even has a freaking Star of Bethlehem (a white lily) in her room.
What's the deal with Cerberus?
In this continuity, they're still part of the Alliance because there isn't a human councilor. Because Nihlus ended up stopping Saren (who was actually crazy, because removing the Reapers here made things way more fun) and leading a team on the SR-1 composed of more or less the same people as Shepard did in canon. So, this Cerberus is what Cerberus was originally supposed to be: a counter to all the other black ops groups. It's classic espionage. And this does play into Miranda.
You see, Miranda's mission is to assassinate Shepard. And she can't do that until they've gotten Vasir off of Omega, or risk igniting an intragalactic civil war (I feel like Chapter 5 went over this pretty explicitly…? Maybe?) where the battle lines are really bloody. At the end, or one of the many versions of the end I never quite figured out, she either has her orders rescinded just before she goes to kill Karen, or Vasir stops her (since she found out about the plot), and through some clever political maneuvering, Miranda ends up as the first human spectre (since all the credit for escaping Omega with Vasir goes to Miranda...because Karen doesn't want to be in the public eye again.). Either way, Miri ends up being the first human spectre. Not Shepard.
What's the deal with Sederis?
Sederis and Vasir were lovers a long time ago, and were huntress partners. The Council feared Sederis' mental instability and chose Vasir for spectre, which caused them to split. Sederis is actually a Daywind, and absorbs people's power and memories/personas every time she 'feeds'. The more she eats, the stronger and more insane she gets. She's a literal biotic God, and the key to wiping out the Red Vorcha. She can also alter memories and snap a person's neck with her mind. I can't remember what happens to her in the end, but it was probably that she decided to sacrifice herself (and her growing madness and 'souls') to ensure Vasir escaped. I know, it's that horrible lesbian tragic romance trope (WHICH I HATE), but Sederis was an insane psychopath and their relationship ended centuries ago...so...slight exception?
She has nukes, and...uses them at some point to wipe out the Red Vorcha, or something. Maybe. I forget what those were for.
What's the deal with the Red Vorcha?
According to the treaty of Farixen, they're like...class 3 or something WMDs, and were not part of anyone's plan. They were supposed to be infertile, but 'life finds a way'. In the end, they were going to be exterminated by a combined efforts of every willing body on Omega, combined with Sederis melting a lot of them at once.
What's the deal with the graybox?
Okay, so here's where things get...really complicated. Vasir got orders from Tevos, the asari councilor, to retrieve information that Aria has by using a Daywind to extract it (because Aria wouldn't expect it, thanks to the context of the 'failed assassination'). Soon after, she gets the SAME orders from the Shadow Broker (who is an asari in this continuity). But here's the big twist:
The graybox is junk data. There's literally nothing on it. Aria knew nothing. The whole point was to get Vasir killed on Omega and PURPOSELY INCITE AN INTRAGALACTIC CIVIL WAR by a shadow group of powerful, like minded asari who've been planning this for centuries. In the chaos, the new Siari Union (everything should be connected...and under one rule, right? Eh?) was going to conquer the galaxy with a fleet of hyper-advanced ships they'd been building in secret. Doctor Ceres is actually a Siari agent (they have agents everywhere) who's in the dark about Vasir...or...something. I forget why she didn't just kill her. There was a reason, trust me. Probably something to do with absolute proof.
This was the junction point for a sequel that I wasn't sure I was insane enough to write where the plot succeeds, even though Shepard go Vasir off Omega, and the galaxy is plunged into that war. Illos becomes a rebel base, blah blah blah, never figured that out entirely.
Aaaaanyway, the better ending here was that the Siari Union was exposed thanks to Vasir and Shepard, and the war was averted.
What's the deal with the mad prophet?
He's actually providing foreshadowing for the entire plot and giving spoilers that are coded. Additionally, he's a Cerberus plant (unwittingly) because his broadcast is...fancy or something. Can't remember why it wasn't jammed. Anyway, the plan was to inject a distress call to Cerberus between video/audio transmissions of the mad prophet, since Cerberus actually does that in canon to send secret messages to one another. It would have signaled what was really going on to Cerberus, and they'd have mobilized a strike team or...something….to help extract our heroes.
Why is Garrus there?
Because he's Garrus, it was gonna be Shakarian (yes, Karen identifies as bisexual...or...pansexual I guess. Because multiple species… She's queer, okay?), and why the fuck not.
What was gonna happen in the end?
Eventually, Shepard was going to be forced into the leadership role of the resistance, which she hates, and rally the entirety of the station (including all of those black ops groups who were forced to work together, which wasn't so hard because in the espionage world you get to know the other guys really well. Look it up that's a real thing) to "Take Omega Back" (see what I did there?). The succeed, giving Shepard enough time to go down to the power generators for the GARDIAN defenses to have a one on one with Aria...who she manages to get a biotic inhibitor on. Karen puts one on herself, too, because she needs time to actually beat Aria's influence out of her head instead of just one-shotting her. Bareknuckled fist fight happens, Karen leaves her to die with a knife in her gut. Because that's the worst kind of death for Aria. Torn apart by a mob is meaningless. Not a warrior's death.
Our heroes GTFO via shuttle to Vasir's ship and book it back to the Citadel while Omega is still fighting that civil war. Aria manages to co-opt Shepard's rallying cry and regains control of Omega...which would possibly have lead to a larger expansion of the 'pirate fleet' from Operation CALICO, but with the entire Terminus, some Salarians, all the humans, some asari, the elcor, the hanar, etc. All the subjugated races, and a few factions that were sick of the Council's shit. But that probably wasn't gonna happen. Either way, Omega doesn't change. Aria still retains power, but Karen has escaped.
Then, Karen forgives Anderson for selfish reasons (she can't live her life hating someone forever; it'd only hurt her) but never wants to see him again. She joins up with C-SEC, because that actually has some nobility there and she'd get to work with Garrus, after turning down Vasir for her spectre recommendation. At some point (I think the epilogue) she and Vasir go on one last mission to take out Balak and burn the colony he was hiding in. Revenge offers closure, but not catharsis.
Oh and there was gonna be a boss battle with that Yahg who originally became the Shadow Broker at some point. I think it was in zero-g.
What's the deal with Zaeed?
In a tribute to the late Robin Sachs, Zaeed's VA, he was intended NEVER to get injured or shot or even grazed through the entire story. He was also totally going to blow up that tupari machine.
And that's about it! If you have any more questions or want clarification, please feel free to ask and I'll get to as much as I can! Thanks for your interest, and once again if you liked this and want to read something exponentially better, go check out "Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades". About 80% of this story got recycled into elements for that one. And they manifest in waaaaaaaaaaaay better ways.
Oh! And feel free to contact/follow me on tumblr! I do stuff on there! :D progmanx dot tumblr dot com Creative, I know