Liara paced back and forth waiting for the arrival of her former husband and daughter on the old space station. It was in decent shape and she and Sapphire whom she picked up on her way got the power running rather easily. Shepard was going to meet them any moment and Liara didn’t know how she would feel about a clone of her husband. Though she was sure Cerberus spun him a lie telling him that she abandoned him and they saved him. She hoped he would still believe her about his current masters.
“Doctor please stop pacing you are driving me crazy.” Sapphire said looking up from her current task at hand which was sharping her knife.
That knife plunged the Alliance into chaos when it killed the civilian head of the human government. The Alliance kept a tight lid on the story but whispers have been occurring over the last few days and Sapphire knew the truth would come out. Not that she would be blamed that was taken care of. A ransom letter made it look like she was kidnapped and the Prime Minister was accidentally killed in a failed attempt to save his lover.
“Who is working for whom again?” Liara said back and resumed her pacing.
Sapphire smiled and shrugged then returned to her knife.
Shepard was delayed when Kelly was found dead it had been three days since he agreed to meet with her and each day was harder to bare than the next. “What if he hates me?” She had asked herself knowing if he did then there was nothing she could do. “Stop it, he is a clone of your husband!” The other side of her mind would scream which was only followed by “Yes, but what if he hates me?” It was maddening and in fact she had considered calling off the meeting and simply having Sapphire meet up with them but that wasn’t practical. In the end she kept the appointment and now as the seconds ticked by her heart and mind were kicking into overdrive.
“A shuttle is approaching.” Glyph said popping out of nowhere, affectively snapping Liara out of her own mind.
“Tell them to dock at bay one.” Liara said looking at Sapphire and nodding toward the greeting area.
Liara didn’t know what kind of reception she would be receiving but she was sure, well ninety percent sure that it would be civilized. Sapphire was around in case it got ugly, Liara had told her Asari assassin that no one was to be seriously injured if that were to happen. “Just get us off the station as fast as possible.” She told her while coming up with a plan.
Sapphire followed her new assignment which was much better than the last but Dr. T’Soni reminded her of her contact to the Shadow Broker but she quickly dismissed this. The man said watch this Asari so she watched her enjoying the view while she did of course. “Do you want me near you when the meeting occurs?” She asked as they moved briskly toward the greeting area.
“Yes, but remember what I said.” Liara told her not breaking stride.
“Don’t worry, all I have is stun rounds, they try anything and they will just wake up three hours later with a giant headache.” Sapphire said pulling her pistol from her side looking at it.
“Don’t underestimate these people.” Liara responded and stopped about twenty meters from the docking bay doors.
It didn’t take long and a group of three two men one woman entered the area. “Air and atmosphere are within normal limits.” The female said and the group stopped and removed their helmets.
Sapphire couldn’t believe her eyes “Holy shit!” she thought recognizing Admiral Shepard. She straighten a little instinctively and watched the two she didn’t recognize but the Asari looked to be family of Dr. T’Soni.
“Liara, why drag me out here?” Shepard said matter of fact.
“Nice to see you too.” Liara said hoping she didn’t sound like a school girl.
“I’m sure you know being the Shadow Broker that our Prime Minster was killed three days ago, as you can imagine I don’t have time for reunions at the moment.” He said motioning to an area of chair where they could sit.
“Anima…” Liara said in a pained voice.
“Save it mother.” Anima responded coldly and Liara winced as if stuck by the words.
Sapphire couldn’t believe what she just heard and while processing this new information she didn’t notice the group had already sat down and were now looking at her with faint smiles on their faces.
“Agent Sapphire if you could join us.” Delta finally said with a small chucky.
“Oh…Um… yes of course, sorry.” She stammered embarrassedly moving to the chair next to Liara and sitting down, her face flushed.
Liara looked at her “yes I am the Shadow Broker, nice to finally meet you.” Then turning to Shepard “Thank you for that John.” Liara said.
“How was I to know you didn’t tell her? Now back to the urgent news you had to share in such a cloak and dagger way.” Shepard said his voice cold but Liara heard a bit of pain in it as well.
“Here is what I have and why it was impossible for use to discuss it over the QEC.” Liara said handing him an OSD.
“What’s on it?” Delta asked.
“A list of every Cerberus operative masking as Alliance to include the former Prime Minister.” Liara said watching Shepard for a reaction.
“They are in the Alliance now or did you miss that?” Anima said mockingly.
“I also know that the Krogan didn’t fire on your team.” Liara said looking at her daughter.
“What?” Anima said. She had forgotten about the mission where she gave the order to have the Krogan home world destroyed.
“Samantha came to you told you about what she found, didn’t you find it odd that shortly after we were ordered back to Thessia?” Liara said her voice steady. “They were framing you to get to me, and I let them. I thought I could protect you from them, but now…” Liara’s voice wavered.
“Who shot at her crew then?” Delta asked.
“The Asari did.” Liara said her voice cold. “It removed the Krogan threat and allied the remaining Krogan with the Citadel. What I didn’t know at the time was that Cerberus has agents in every species government except the Quarians.” She finished.
“Cerberus is a pro human…” Delta said before being cut off by Liara.
“Was a pro human group Captain, they are just in it for power now. New management and all, though I am sure the same old pro human propaganda is still around.” Liara said.
Shepard hadn’t said a word he just looked at the OSD getting angrier by the second. “Why hadn’t I seen this coming?” He asked himself. “How do I know this is true?” He finally said entering the conversation.
“Why would I lie to you?” Liara responded.
Shepard considered, he knew from Anima’s story that she hadn’t left him behind but she hadn’t contacted him either. Even if he was a clone he was still him or so he hoped. “It is a lot to take on faith is all Liara.” He finally said.
“Which is why you have all my research.” Liara said back quickly and Shepard nodded.
“You know what this bloody well means right?” Delta said to the group.
“Cerberus won.” Anima said her eyes glassy and fixed on nothing. “They played us at every turn, and we didn’t even know it. We were so smug about beating them once that we dismissed their return. People died because of our inability to get over our own egos.” She finished a single tear falling from her left eye.
“Like hell they did!” Delta said as long as I am still breathing they haven’t won.
“What do you suggest Delta killing all these people?” Shepard said holding up the OSD.
No one answered, but they all knew what the future would hold under Cerberus rule. Everyone was quite for a long time until Shepard spoke up.
“We still have a mission, I was given a go by Alliance HQ to retrieve the original viral strain from Krios. The Ledan are still planning a full scale attack and who is in charge at the moment doesn’t really matter.” He said standing up.
“Shepard… I…” Liara said stopping herself from saying what she wanted to say. She wanted to scream that she loved him and needed him, but now wasn’t the time for silly emotions. “I don’t think that is a wise idea.” She said instead.
“It needs to happen, what good is beating Cerberus if we all die of the plague?” He said.
Liara nodded and stood up as the other did she saw her daughter still reliving her toughest moments and went to her. She took her hands and looked at her oldest daughter. “I never stopped loving you, but if they knew that you would be locked up somewhere. I need you to get your sister away from Cerberus Anima get her on the Bastogne with you.” Liara said to her daughter then hugged her and smiled when Anima hugged her back.
Jane walked back to her sleeping pod at a brisk pace she wanted to watch this vid diary that had been floating around the ship since one of the crew got back from shore leave. All she knew is that once people watched it they wouldn’t talk about it and they got quiet. That was enough for her to be intrigued, plus she had a twenty four hour pass from training. She got to her room which she shared with a few others but they worked a different shifts so she would have the place to herself for at least the next six hours. She opened her pod kicked off her boots and sat down powering up the data pad that contained the vid.
The screen flickered then a picture of a white table and chair in what looked like a windowless interview room. Jane didn’t see what the big deal was and was about to turn off the data pad when a young man in his mid-twenties was directed to the chair where he sat down. He had blond hair that was cut short to his head, light blue eyes and what looked like a scar on his forehead.
“What is your name?” a man asked from off camera.
The young man looked up and around at the room “what is this about?” he asked pointing toward the camera.
“Military archives, now please state your name for the record.” The other man said.
The young man took a deep breath “Dennis *loud beep*” his last name was censored for some reason. Jane figured it had to do with privacy issues.
“Thank you Dennis, you don’t mind if I call you that do you?” The other voice said.
“It’s your world, I’m just living in it, Sir.” Dennis replied.
“Yes, well I am Dr. Amir Saddler. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about your mission.” He said in a friendly tone.
Dennis takes another deep breath “then who are they?” he said pointing at something off screen.
“Just assistants here to observe.” Amir replied.
“Fine, yeah ask away. You want to hear how things got all FUBAR’d what’s it to me?” Dennis said harshly.
“Okay, tell me about what you were there to do.” Amir said.
“I was attached as a medic to a unit that was tasked with guarding what was left of earths oil supply. Don’t ask me why we don’t even use that black shit anymore, but some top brass got a hard on for helping the locals maintain their natural resources. Or something like that so we went in and shit went downhill from there.” Dennis said taking a deep breath and continuing. “Look it was a simple op, go in secure the AO set up a perimeter wait for reinforcements leave. Problem is Intel dropped the ball as if they can ever hold it and we get fucked.”
“So tell me about the mission.” Amir probed looking for something.
“Fine, sure. We went in at night easier to insert under cover of darkness the shuttle landed and we took up positions as it lifted off. The place smelled and I mean bad like burning rubber and garbage. Of course it was hot as hell even at what was 2300 local time, we were on an abandoned air field and right away I didn’t see any oil rigs so my bull shit alarm went off. I knew this wasn’t the same mission we had been briefed on so I asked my LT what was up. He said orders changed shut up and move out. He always liked me.” Dennis said pulling a pack of cigarettes from under the table. “You mind?” He asked putting one in his mouth.
“Not at all, please continue.” Amir responded.
“Now something most people don’t know is what a hypersonic round does to a piece meat when it hits it. Trust me if you don’t have armor or kinetic barriers it is going to ruin your whole day.” Dennis said lighting the cigarette in his mouth then taking deep breath then exhaling the smoke. His eyes fixed on something and glassed over. “Not something they really train in Medic school either, sure there are simulators but trust me not the same… Ever grab a raw piece of beef like a steak?” Dennis asks his eyes still fixed forward.
“Yes.” Amir says.
“Well that is what human flesh, human meat feels like not at first mind you it is still warm, but later when shock sets in… Anyway I am getting ahead of myself.” Takes another drag off of his cigarette.
“We moved deeper into this airfield, night vision wasn’t working because of course we get dropped off right before a damn sand storm so they were worthless. Just then LT points to an empty building and yells ‘there’ so we move out. The twelve of us move in secure the building then meet back up to go over this new mission.” Dennis takes another drag off the cigarette.
“LT says we got diverted to secure some chemical weapons that some locals said they found. Now again alarms go off in my head but LT looks at me with the ‘don’t fucking start Doc’ look so I shrug and light a smoke, and pass the pack around to the guys. I say guys but we had two hard ass females with us, could out ruck most guys so they were guys in my book. Anyway that is when it started, a loud snap as a round went by my ear close enough to hear but not hit my barrier. We all hit the ground and crawled over to wall and then all hell breaks loose, we began to take heavy fire and just when I think we are screwed it stops. They just stopped shooting at us, I look over and Smith was hit. His fucking barrier failed didn’t even know it, there was no point checking him out his entire back half of his skull was now painting the wall behind him. His eyes just stared straight up at the ceiling like ‘this wasn’t supposed to happen’. It never is I thought as I grabbed one of his dog tags and handed it to LT. Oh you know that popular move in the vids where the hero shuts the dead friend’s eyes right after they die?”
“Yes” Amir responds.
“Yeah it’s all bull shit, a person has to be dead a while for that to work pull them down they open right back up.” Again Dennis’s eyes stare off.
“Continue.” Amir says.
“So we knew we weren’t alone at this point, but no clue as to who or want was pissed enough to shoot at us. With the sand storm now raging there was no way of knowing either and that is when they hit us again. This time with mortar fire.” Dennis makes a fist and bangs the table simulating the incoming rounds. “Just boom *bangs fist on table* boom, boom, boom! The wall exploded by the forth shell throwing us back and I of course land on Smith and my world goes white everything slows down and I just try not to pass out. I focused so much on that I didn’t hear the screams of pain at first.” Dennis takes a long drag off the cigarette his hands trembling slightly.
“Who was hit?” Amir asked trying to keep the young man on task.
“Who wasn’t, everyone but me had something wrong with them, I checked my barriers and they were at fifty percent so I slapped a new battery in. I stood up on legs that felt like Jell-O and began to triage my friends. Injures raged from a broken arm to evisceration of the abdomen, LT had the broken are and was with it enough to apply some Medigel and started on the shrapnel injures.” Dennis said then finished his cigarette and lit a new one.
“That left a quadruple amputation with a blown out eye, and she was such a looker. Jenny was always the one to give me shit, I rushed to her and began to apply Medigel and tourniquet the limbs that when she stopped breathing, I started CPR out of not wanting to give up on her. You are taught that CPR is one luxury you don’t have with battlefield medicine, but I didn’t care my friend was dying and I just kept pressing on her chest. I felt the ribs crack and I would still be doing CPR right now if out of the corner of my eye I didn’t see Tim trying to hold his own intestines inside. That brought me back I could use up all my time and energy and maybe save her and lose everyone else I could do my job.” Dennis paused for a moment to wipe a tear off of his cheek.
“I stopped grabber her dog tags and moved over to Tim. ‘Doc, you think I can get leave for this?’ Tim said to me with a pained smile. Shit no Timbo you will just get seventy two hours on your back then LT will want you back. I told him as I exposed his stomach injury, his small intestines had protruded out of a twenty inch laceration on his abdomen. I hit him with Medigel which helped I gently dressed his wound, I didn’t notice that he had stopped breathing at first. His trauma was too extensive. Or I killed him when I fucked around with CPR guess I’ll know the truth but I know I’ll never forgive myself.” Dennis inhales deeply coughs a little and continues.
“That is about the time LT yells out ‘Contact left!’ I turned to look to see a Blue Sun Merc running in his assault rifle in hand I pulled my pistol but before I could fire LT dropped him with his shotgun. Of course there were more and that is when a few grenades were tossed in, LT looked at me and before I could say anything he jumped on them the blast lifting him off his feet. They were too close for his barrier to deflect the blast. The rest is a blur, I remember more shots and screaming. Someone pulled me off LT I fought back, I didn’t know the LT had sent a distress call when Smith was killed. The Alliance sent in another team who dispatched the Suns, I’m told they found me covered in my team’s blood to hold what was left of the LT’s skull together. They had to tranquilize me to get me off of him a pile of dog tags on the ground next to me.” Dennis was now openly crying.
“You did your best.” Amir said trying to comfort the young man.
“What do you want me to say? I fucking failed? They died the Medic lived? You think I am okay with that? I trained my entire life… and I do mean my entire life to save people only to be glad I still draw breath? Fuck you and fuck your questions!” Dennis responded then taking another drag off his cigarette.
“No…no that isn’t…” Amir said but was interrupted.
Dennis jumped up grabbing one of the guard’s pistols and places it against his skull. “You don’t get it! You never fucking will! I’m done, I’ve lost they don’t get to come home so why should I?!” Sweat is now pouring down his face.
Amir still unseen pleads with his patient “Just put the gun down, your friends wouldn’t want…” He is cut off.
“Don’t tell me what they would want! You have no fucking idea what we wanted! Tell you what” he said suddenly calm. “Answer me this one question and I’ll give you this pistol.”
“Agreed” Amir said franticly
“Why do I still see their faces?” Dennis says tears now streaming down his face.
A loud bang filled the room and Dennis’s body slumped to the floor one single gunshot to his head ending his pain and all of the Alliance’s questions.
Jane tossed the data pad across the room, then bent over and threw up.