Shepard rolled onto the Normandy like a storm. First stop was the Armory to talk to Jacob. She introduced Judea, told him she'd be going on the Justicar mission with them, and to provide her with any upgrades to armor and weapons he thought she could effectively use. "When you're done, pass her over to Garrus. They know each other and can catch up if there is time. I'll be talking to Miranda."
Shepard then made a direct transit to Miranda's office, expecting the operative to be positively furious. As she stepped in the door, she realized she could not have been further from the truth. Miranda looked up when the door opened and Shepard saw an immense wave of relief wash over the normally stoic XO. Miranda stood up so quickly her chair fell over. As soon as the door closed, she blurted out, "Oh, thank God!" Shepard was stumped, so didn't say anything, just waiting for Miranda to explain. Miranda seemed to collect herself, turning and setting her chair back upright, then turned and faced the commander.
Shepard could tell the operative was uncharacteristically nervous, and her curiosity got the better of her. "Miranda... is everything alright? Did something happen while I was... offline?"
Miranda sat down at her desk and gestured to the couch in front. "Commander, please sit. This could take a while. As far as if something happened, other than me thinking I lost the Illusive Man's four billion credit investment... you could say that. You could say I had an epiphany." Miranda started at the beginning of Project Lazarus and told Shepard a lot. She told her of the profiles, and how wrong they all were. She told her of the instructions from the Illusive Man to alienate the previous crew and sever the ties from Shepard to her previous life. She told her of the dossiers, and how they were blind selections, and it was turning out that Shepard already had the best, and they just ended up selecting the same people. And then she told Shepard about the dilemma over Liara. Shepard jumped up, ready to fight, but Miranda held up both hands in supplication. "Please, Commander. Don't. This is my epiphany. I know the Illusive Man is wrong, but I don't know how to fix it without getting someone killed."
Shepard just stared at her XO in amazement. After a couple minutes of silence, amazed that Miranda didn't feel the need to either defend TIM or jump in and fill the quiet, Shepard finally sat back down and spoke. "Who are we trying to not get killed?" A sudden surge of fear engulfed the commander. "He wouldn't target Liara...? Would he?"
Miranda sighed and hung her head. "Well, you certainly didn't earn any points by walking out on him." She looked up and met Shepard's eyes. "And I honestly don't know who is more at risk. I tell him about the importance of the relationship and all the profilers who missed it are dead. I let it back in the door, so maybe I'm dead as well... and if he's really that set against it, Liara would most certainly be a target."
Shepard watched Miranda as she spoke, and saw none of the normal signs of deception. "Well, that doesn't paint a pretty picture, does it? We need this mission to succeed; so I hate to say it, but of the choices you just gave me... you tell him about the relationship and we sacrifice the profilers, if indeed that's the path TIM takes. Me... Liara... you, not acceptable losses at this point. So what's next? How much time do we have?"
Miranda replied weakly, "He probably already knows that you've met back up with Liara, but we can stall for a little while. I figured you'd want to make provisions while we were here. And if at all possible, I would like to meet with Liara."
Shepard laughed at that. "Now who's suicidal? I got a distinct impression from her this morning that she would like nothing better than to smear you the length of the cargo deck at the earliest opportunity. I don't know why, but she harbors a particularly strong hatred for you, Operative Lawson. Care to shed light?"
Miranda nodded. "You deserve at least that much. To Liara, the Illusive Man is an abstract concept, other than a brief holo with him explaining the Lazarus project. So, from her perspective, the face of Cerberus is me. I'm sure she attributes all the deception, all the pressure and angling, everything... to me. And I don't blame her in the slightest. But, I realize how much of a blind fool I've been, thanks to you, and I want to make up for it. I doubt she can ever forgive me, but I want to make the effort… to at least have her give me the chance to make it up to you both. I mean, I did bring you back. That has to count for something. And I gave you at least 400 years; that should also help my cause." The commander's face suddenly went completely blank. Miranda looked at her and called to her, "Shepard? Shepard! Are you all right?"
Shepard looked at Miranda and simple said, "I forgot. I can't believe I didn't tell her!"
Miranda was puzzled at first, but then realized what the commander was talking about. "You didn't tell her about the extended life span? Good! Then let me! Her office will be the first stop on the path to the Justicar!"
Shepard walked into Liara's office alone, and the Asari was in her arms in a flash. As Liara hugged the commander, she whispered in Shepard's ear, "I missed you, my love!"
Shepard laughed. "But I've only been gone a few hours..."
Liara caressed her bondmate's cheek, "I don't care. I've missed you for two years...I can't possibly make up for that lost time, no matter what we do!"
Shepard took a small step back and made eye contact as she spoke, "Liara, I have people with me. They're waiting in the reception area to come in. Of course there's Judea, but I also have Garrus... he has some things to say. When I confronted him, he apologized to me for his lack of belief in me. He already had the opportunity to talk to Judea, but he feels he owes you an apology as well... Will you at least listen to him?"
Liara looked at the floor. "I almost begged him to stay, and he walked away from me... from you, Shepard. I don't know what to say to him." She looked at Shepard beseechingly, hoping for some help, but there was none.
"You two just need to figure it out. He seems sincere, but you have to make your own choices on how you deal with it. I can't tell you to forgive him, that's up to you." Sam looked at Liara with a slightly pained expression, knowing the Turian's abandonment had hurt the Asari. "Also, I have Miranda with me."
Liara's rage from the morning welled back up and Shepard could feel it pressing against the back of her head. Time had not seemed to dampen the new emotional link the two shared. "Please, just hear her out. She has some... very interesting things to say." Shepard winced as the pressing anger turned into a sharp pain behind her eyes.
Liara watched the pained expression cross the Spectre's face. "Samantha? What's wrong?"
Shepard squeezed her eyes closed for a second, Liara's concern slightly tempering the anger at Lawson, then answered as she opened them back up. "That emotional bond we seem to have forged? Your anger at Miranda is drilling holes in my skull right now..."
A look of surprise and then sorrow flashed across Liara's face. "Oh, Goddess! I'm so sorry, Shepard!" Shepard felt the pain withdraw to a much more tolerable level as Liara continued, "I'll have to learn to shield myself a bit better..."
She didn't get far before Shepard stepped up, hugged her and interrupted her statement, whispering in her ear, "Don't you dare shield your feelings from me, Blue. We'll get used to it. It's just that it's all so new right now. We'll adapt... but I don't want that adaptation being us hiding feelings from one another! Agreed?"
Liara smiled in adoration. "I love you, Samantha Shepard, and I'll agree... with conditions. We have to make sure they don't become a distraction." Liara got very serious. "With what we have coming, a distraction like that could be dangerous, if not deadly." She quirked up one of her eyebrow markings as she asked, "Agreed?"
Sam nodded and agreed, then asked Liara who she wanted to see first. It was Garrus, and she asked Shepard to stay while they talked. Liara found Garrus to be very sincere, and while she wasn't quite ready to truly forgive him, she did accept his apology for what it was worth. It had all worked out in the end, and though she didn't tell Garrus, Liara still had the Seer's words in the back of her mind, about him delivering Shepard safely to her. Liara needed Garrus to be at his top form, because she didn't know if what the Seer had talked about had yet come to pass. Either way, Garrus was a strong team mate and Shepard needed her sniper to be on his toes.
When they were done, Garrus and Miranda traded places. Shepard insisted on staying, though Liara did not protest so it didn't matter. As Miranda retold everything she had told Shepard earlier about the Illusive Man's desire to cut off all the relationships, Liara exploded. Her lips twisted in a snarl, Liara spat out, "You told Shepard I worked for the Shadow Broker!"
Miranda was caught completely off guard, and her surprise showed in her voice as she shouted, "What? I never said any such thing!"
Liara's hands started to glow blue as she growled out, "Don't you dare lie to me!"
Shepard quickly stepped in front of Liara, grasping her upper arms. "Whoa! Hold on! Miranda didn't tell me that! TIM is the one who gave me the crew rundown." Without letting go of her bondmate, Shepard slowly turned her head to look at Miranda, narrowing her eyes. "You tell me the truth this instant. Were you part of TIM's deception about Liara working for the Shadow Broker, in an attempt to keep us apart?"
Miranda shook her head vehemently. "That's absurd! I never knew the Illusive Man told you that! Dr T'Soni helped me steal you from the Broker. He would never trust her to work for him. If she had approached the Broker, he would have killed her! I may have left a lot of information out in the past, Commander, but I have never intentionally lied to you and I don't plan on starting now."
Shepard felt the energy draining from her bondmate's arms, so let go and stepped back out of the way so they could finish their 'discussion.' By the time Miranda was done, Liara grudgingly accepted her explanations and her offer of assistance. "I'm not going to trust you any time soon, Ms Lawson, but I can promise you I won't be the one hiring your assassin." Shepard let out a big breath she didn't realize she was holding, and then looked at Miranda expectantly.
Miranda caught the look and jerked her head back to refocus on Liara. "Oh... right. There is one other thing I need to tell you..." As Liara looked ready to change her mind about the assassin, Miranda hurried to explain about the nanite technology and its effects. As Miranda finished talking about the actual technology and started explaining about the extended life spans, Liara's eyes slowly drifted off of Miranda and completely focused on Shepard.
Shepard recognized the glassy-eyed look and could feel the overwhelming mix of love and disbelief radiating off the Asari through their new link. Shepard locked eyes with Liara, but spoke to Miranda, cutting her off, "Thanks, Miranda... we'll... uhm... finish the complete explanation later. If you wouldn't mind waiting in the reception area, I'll join you in a minute."
A quick glance between the two and Miranda completely understood that the commander was asking for privacy and she was out of the room like a bullet. Shepard stepped up to Liara, slowly enveloping the Asari in her arms, and held her tight. She felt the soft sobs of her lover, and felt the damp tears dripping down onto the base of her neck. "I know. A bit of a shock, isn't it?"
Shepard felt Liara choke out a light laugh. "Goddess. I'm just barely getting a grip on the fact that you're actually alive and here with me, and now I learn I have you for at least 400 years?" Liara leaned back and caught Sam's eyes with her own. She wanted to speak, but couldn't find the words to say. Shepard leaned forward and captured her blue lips in a solid kiss, and the full meld instantly took over. The sensations and strength of emotions were staggering, and Samantha broke off the kiss, pulling back. Liara tried to lean back in, but Shepard reluctantly held her at bay. "By the Gods, Blue. I... we'll finish this later, I promise... but I... I can't believe I'm saying this... but I've got to go."
A resigned look swept over Liara's face. "Someday, you're not going to run off immediately following one of us saying, 'duty calls.' I don't care what time you get done with the Justicar. Come to the apartment when you're done and bring Judea with you."
"A blood-raged Krogan couldn't keep me away." Shepard smiled as she caressed the Asari's cheek in farewell and then turned and left the office. Liara watched her go and locked the door. She logged onto her secure terminal and sent a short message to Hannah, simply telling her that all was now well on the home front.
The group headed down to the transportation and shipping hubs to find Tracking Officer Dara and Shipping Officer Seryna. On the way, they passed a Salarian who was on a call and over heard him mention Nassana Dantius. Shepard's ears perked up and she slowed to eavesdrop on the conversation; Dantius was the Asari Emissary that had lied to Shepard about her sister Dahlia being kidnapped, when actually Dahlia had been the leader of the merc band at the coordinates Nassana had provided. What the Asari had pitched as a rescue was actually a hit, because Dahlia was blackmailing Nassana, who wanted Shepard to remove the problem. Reining in her thoughts and refocusing on the task at hand, Shepard listened in on the call.
According to the Salarian, he was working in the Dantius Towers when Nassana started tossing her workers out... and her mercs were killing any of the innocent workers who didn't leave fast enough. In his haste to escape, he had dropped their family breeding record somewhere along the way as he exited the building. The loss would make the Kirosa family highly undesirable for breeding contracts and potentially cause the end of the entire Kirosa line. Shepard's blood boiled; no way she'd let a criminal like Nassana Dantius be responsible for the end of an entire Salarian family line. That damn Asari is still playing dirty and causing chaos! I'm going to make time while I'm here to take care of her once and for all...
Shepard stopped at the shipping desk to talk to Seryna, her contact for the assassin, Thane Krios. Cautious, but forthcoming, Seryna gave Shepard information she almost couldn't believe. It was her good fortune that the assassin was actually hunting Nassana Dantius. Shepard had every intention of letting him complete the job before she tried to recruit him, but that meant her timing would have to be perfect. The ground team would have to arrive at Nassana's office just before the assassination; too early and they may tip Dantius off, too late and Krios would be gone before they could talk to him. Liara had certainly pointed them in the right direction; Seryna used to run Nassana's security and she was more than happy to give them the complete rundown on the setup in the Dantius Towers as well as the timing on the attack. The team walked away happy. They had thirty-six hours to find Samara and then meet Seryna at the transportation dock. She had offered to drop them at the Towers and Shepard happily accepted.
Next stop was to visit Officer Dara, but Shepard and Judea had a surprise as they approached the Tracking Office; the commando Shiala saw them and greeted them by name. Shepard looked at the Asari and quickly realized all was not well. Shiala was... green; she looked like one of the Thorian clones, not like herself. "Shiala! What's the matter? Why are you here?"
Shiala looked at the floor, embarrassed. "Obviously, you've noticed my coloring. My biotic abilities are unstable as well. It is a symptom of a larger problem... some of the colonists also had health problems as a result of the Thorian. We hired Baria Frontiers to do medical scans to determine the cause and provide treatment for next to nothing in exchange for research they wanted to accomplish. We were not careful enough in the contract review. It apparently allows the company to perform invasive procedures without our consent. That's why I'm here, but I cannot persuade the rep to change the contract."
Shepard and Shiala spoke for a bit about the terms of the contract and Shepard agreed to help. She shook her head. "Let me talk to the Baria Frontiers rep and see what I can do."
Shiala's face showed great relief, "I appreciate it, Shepard. She would not give me the time of day when I approached her on it."
Shepard headed directly to the rep and didn't even get to say hello before the Asari stared her down and started speaking, "I saw your conversation, Human. You're here to complain about the medical contract. It's perfectly legal so do not waste your time bothering me."
Shepard was surprised at the hostility in the Asari, and questioned why she was so angry. It didn't take long to dig into the root of the problem. She blamed aliens for all the bad things in the galaxy; Salarian explorers releasing the Rachni, then uplifting the Krogans, the warlike Turians eager to bomb away every problem, or the Humans... the newest bullies in the galaxy. The Asari were the peacekeepers, and every war that plagued the galaxy was caused by some other race. She ended her tirade, "My people's deaths are on your hands!"
Shepard caught the tone of her last statement, and it seemed to carry more weight than a generality, so she asked the Asari, "Just whose deaths are we talking about here?"
The Asari spit venomously, "The mother of my daughters was killed on the Quarian homeworld during the initial Geth uprising." Her voice then lost its power as she turned away in tears and continued, "My daughters died on the Citadel when the Geth attacked. One worked in the Embassy, the other a greeter for the Consort. I am not speaking in hypotheticals, Human. The aliens will never be my allies. The best they can do is give me useful medical data."
Shepard knew Asari were generally social beings, but she was still surprised by this Asari's openness about the cause of her grief. Shepard looked at her with an expression of sorrow on her face. "I'm very sorry for your losses, but your bondmate chose to be with the Quarians. Your daughters willingly worked with aliens every day in their jobs at the Citadel. It does not sound like they hated aliens. How do you think they would feel to see you treating them this way? You dishonor their memory. The colonists were trying to live peacefully and because of the Geth and the Thorian creature they have also suffered loss. It is within your power to not add to their anguish." As Shepard spoke, she watched a change come over the Baria Frontiers rep; her anger changed to angst and the pain of loss. Shepard knew the look well.
The Asari backed to the wall and squatted down, crying when confronted by Shepard's words. "Goddess. They would be so angry with me... I am sending an amended contract. No more tests, no fees. You are correct; there is enough grief in the galaxy. I don't need to add to it." Shepard extended her hand and the Asari took it, rising slowly and turning away in her grief. Shepard had nothing to add, so quietly turned and walked away.
Shiala was very happy with the results and promised to keep working with the colonists to improve their situation. Shepard wished Shiala well, and reminded her when and if the colonists stopped needing her or wanting her at the colony, she would always be welcome back on Thessia. They parted with a smile, and Shepard proceeded into the Tracking Office to talk to Dara. Officer Dara was instantly nervous at the query, worried that Samara had killed someone already and a diplomatic incident was about to explode in her face. After assuring the officer they just needed to find the Justicar, Dara was happy to point them on their way, with a few warnings about Justicars in general. The Justicar code was very strict and unforgiving; the innocent had nothing to fear, but Justicars were bound by their code to punish lawbreakers, generally with lethal force. To them, the law was black and white, with no middle ground. It made Shepard realize she would have to question the Justicar carefully before recruiting her, if for no other reason than everyone else they had on the list to recruit...a convict, a thief, an assassin.
Following her instructions, they hailed a cab to the commercial space port. As they landed, a detective was harassing a Volus about not leaving Illium until some murder was solved. He claimed no knowledge, and Shepard wondered if Officer Dara's worst fear of the Justicar had just occurred. After the detective left, Shepard approached the Volus and asked him some questions, finding out the only way to get to the Justicar was to talk to Detective Anaya at the police station; she had sealed the crime scene, and the Justicar had been allowed access. With that information, the Normandy ground crew headed in to talk to the detective. As they walked up, Detective Anaya looked directly at Shepard, "Nice guns... try not to use them in my district. What can I do for you?"
Shepard explained about her hunt for the Justicar and the detective was actually pleased. She had been ordered by her superiors to detain the Justicar and convince her to leave Illium before anything happened. This posed a significant problem for the detective; being Asari, she knew all about Justicars and how focused they were on their missions. The detective had no authority over the Justicar, and Samara would kill her if she felt the detective was impeding her current mission. The detective gave Shepard permission to enter the crime scene and find the Justicar, in the hope Shepard could convince her to leave... and solve the detective's problem without anyone ending up dead. Anaya looked at Shepard and said it plainly enough, "I have no interest in dying, so if you can lure her away with some big noble cause before I have to carry out my orders, I'm thrilled to help you. I'll send word to the line to let you in. Be careful, you look like you can handle yourself, but the local Eclipse mercs have been all over those back alleys lately."
They began to encounter mercs almost as soon as they crossed the police line. Being Eclipse, they also had mech support, but the resistance was nothing they hadn't faced before, and with Miranda and Judea both backing up Shepard with biotics as well as conventional weapons, the targets were down before Garrus even got his sniper out. They pressed on quickly, eager to find the Justicar... and Shepard was more than happy to erase a few more mercs from existence. As they went through a doorway and crossed a second police line, they found their target. As they walked in, they heard a scream and a merc smashed into the wall, collapsing to the floor, dead. An Eclipse lieutenant stood facing the Justicar, "Those were my best troops."
Shepard watched the lieutenant as she was approached by the Justicar, an older Asari who carried herself very regally, dressed in red armor that was amazingly low cut. It immediately made Shepard think of the night before and someplace else she'd rather be. She quickly shook her head and refocused, noticing the gold trim on the armor, as well as a gold neckband and some type of red accents or accessories across her forehead and temples.
The Justicar was glowing, sheathed in blue biotic power, "Tell me what I need to know, and I will be gone from here. Where did you send her?"
The lieutenant was obviously not very smart, or at least uneducated in the Justicar way. Just from what Dara and Anaya had told her, Shepard knew the merc was dead if she didn't answer Samara's questions. Apparently the merc didn't know any better as she spoke, "You think I'd betray her? She would hurt me in ways you can't imagine."
Samara pressed for answers, pacing back and forth before the merc, but never taking her eyes off her target. "The name of the ship. Your life hangs on the answer, Lieutenant."
The lieutenant didn't budge. "You can kill me, but one of us will take you down, Justicar." As she finished her sentence, she raised her pistol to shoot at Samara.
Shepard's team watched as Samara lifted the merc and threw her through a window, and then floated herself down to follow. The lieutenant was still alive and Samara calmly walked up to the prone merc and placed her foot on the merc's neck, pinning her to the floor. "What was the name of the ship she left on?"
Shepard had to give the lieutenant credit; she did not break under pressure. Her response to the Justicar was an emphatic, "Go to hell!"
Samara was very calm as she quietly spoke her final words to the lieutenant. "Find peace in the embrace of the goddess." Samara then unceremoniously twisted her leg and foot hard, breaking the merc's neck. She turned to Shepard, speaking, "My name is Samara, a servant of the Justicar Code. My quarrel is with these Eclipse sisters, but I see four well-armed people before me. Are we friend, or foe?"
Shepard showed both her hands, palms out and empty of weapons, introduced herself, and explained her mission and her purpose for being there. Samara nodded politely, "You honor me, but I am in the middle of an investigation. Though I sense the truth in what you say, I seek an incredibly dangerous fugitive. I cornered her here, but the Eclipse sisters smuggled her off-world. I must find the name of the ship she left on before the trail grows cold."
They all turned as they heard Detective Anaya's voice behind them. "I wish you were willing to go with the Human, Justicar. I've been ordered to take you into custody if you won't leave."
Samara walked up to the detective, without fear or malice, "You risk a great deal by following your orders, Detective. I respect such bravery and, fortunately, I will not have to resist. My code obligates me to cooperate with you for one day. After that, I will return to my investigation."
Anaya just shook her head, knowing what was coming. "I won't be able to release you that soon, unless you promise to depart Illium."
Samara simply said, "You won't be able to stop me."
Before things got out of hand, Shepard stepped in. "Wait... just wait! Don't do anything rash! I have an offer... I am willing to press the Eclipse, and find the name of the ship for you... while you are in custody. If I am successful, will you depart Illium with me?"
The detective listened hopefully as Samara responded, "Yes. If you do that I will join you. The Code will be satisfied." As the detective and Samara prepared to leave, Samara had some final words of guidance. "Talk to the Volus, Pitne For. Eclipse mercs are preparing to kill him. Get the truth from him. He is involved in this and may know a way into the Eclipse base. Thank you, Shepard."
Pitne For was a coward; after a brief confrontation he willingly gave up instructions and his pass into the Eclipse base. The Eclipse was after For and his partner for smuggling a chemical onto Illium that boosted biotic power... but was also toxic. They had failed to tell the Eclipse about the toxic part, so Eclipse had put a contract out on him and his partner. Shepard had no sympathy, telling the Volus, "Good luck with that," and the team was soon on their way. As soon as they entered the base, they encountered their first mercs, along with mech support. Shepard immediately went into her Vanguard 'crash and blast' mode, pulling on her biotic charge and then blasting what remained with her shotgun, leaving the rest of her team scrambling to catch up. When they cleared the first room, Miranda grabbed Shepard's arm stopping her for a moment. "Shepard! Slow down, please... Pitne For neglected to mention the stuff is toxic even in its airborne state. Just passing through the clouds is dangerous. Your charge takes you through quickly, but we have to either wait for the cloud to clear, or be able to see beyond it to run to the next cover."
Shepard growled, "That little shit! Seems he didn't learn his lesson with the Eclipse, so this Spectre will make sure he pays for his mistake, once we're done here." After checking to make sure everyone on the squad was caught up and no one was suffering any lingering toxicity, she pressed onward. They entered a room and encountered a young Asari merc, claiming to have never killed. Shepard snorted, "Uh huh. And what about your initiation rite? Did you fake that too? Nobody's going to help you fake your first 'solo' kill. You had to do that all by your little self to earn your uniform. You chose your side, and you lost."
The merc yanked up her gun and pointed it at Shepard, yelling, "Screw that, bitch!" She got off one shot that bounced off Shepard's shields before the Normandy team buried her in ammo. Without so much as a second thought, they proceeded deeper into the base; after rounding a corner and climbing a set of stairs, they came into a large area with yet more mercs and mechs. Employing the same tactics, Shepard's crash and blast moved them quickly through the room, with Miranda and Judea close behind. Since the room was larger, Garrus hung back and picked targets off in the distance with his sniper, including exploding crates of the toxic chemical, long before the team got to them and allowing plenty of time for the toxic clouds to clear. He also exploded any that were left once the team went by them, to ensure the Eclipse didn't use or resell any of the toxic junk. They climbed yet another set of stairs, this time running into a rocket troop. While the mobile team focused on the close-in targets, Garrus eliminated the rocket threat with a clean headshot. Once that merc was down, the team advanced quickly through the room and rapidly located the stairs up to the forth level. The upper level had a wide open area and as they cleared the mercs and mechs, Shepard pulled on her biotic charge to take out the last merc she saw. As she finished the Eclipse sister off, she looked around, suddenly calling out a gunship and ducking down behind cover. Everyone dived for cover, but the gunship drifted off, never firing a shot. Afterward, they all progressed a bit more carefully, remembering what happened to Garrus the last time they faced down one of those.
Since the gunship didn't stick around, the team took advantage of it. Shepard charged forward, taking out a couple of mechs very quickly, and then catching some mercs in crossfire, because her charge flanked them. Garrus was working double time, protecting their exit point as more rocket troops entered the fray. As soon as they launched one rocket, it allowed Garrus to target them and remove them quickly from the fight. Judea was proving herself quite capable, moving quickly and protecting Shepard's back amazingly well. Only on her very first charge had Shepard taken any fire, and that was because she took Judea by surprise; it did not happen a second time. One of the terminals Shepard hacked had an audio recording that matched the voice of the merc they had killed on the second level. Her name was Elnora, and the audio file confirmed she had killed Pitne For's partner to earn her uniform. Anaya would be happy to receive that information, so Shepard made a copy of it as evidence to turn into the Detective.
They cruised through another set of double doors and came to another large open area that only had a couple of mechs. As they crossed a large open-air bridge, Garrus shouted out, "Gunship above!" Shepard immediately heard his sniper bark as he took the first shot. The team immediately spread out, forcing the gunship to focus on only one of them at a time while the other four could chip away at its armor. The tactic worked well, and the gunship was downed relatively quickly with no one sustaining major injury. Garrus chuckled, "Well. That sure turned out better than last time!" Shepard flashed her friend a grin and they pressed on.
Shepard figured they were getting close to the heart of the base after they crossed the bridge; the door on the other side was actually locked and they had to pause to bypass it. All the other doors had opened automatically. Inside, they found a shipping manifest that made Shepard grin. It showed that Pitne For had sold 2000 units of the toxic chemical Minagen X3 to the Eclipse, along with 600 units of an illegal drug called Red Sand. She was definitely turning this over to the Detective as evidence against For as a smuggler of illegal goods. She was going to enjoy watching the Volus squirm. They stepped into a short hallway and found a Volus who was obviously on drugs. As he rambled, they team quickly figured out the Eclipse had used him as a test subject, that he used to work for Pitne For, who had apparently abandoned him in his attempt to get off Illium, and the leader of the Eclipse Sisters, Wasea, was in the very next room. He had every intention of going into the room and as he put it, "My biotics are unstoppable! I shall toss Captain Wasea about like a ragdoll!"
Miranda commented that having the Volus running around the battlefield could compromise their operation and Shepard shrugged, looked at the Volus and waived her hand at the door, saying, "Charge!" Judea was shocked by Shepard's response, not believing the commander would sacrifice the Volus, but as the staggering Volus turned to go to the door, Shepard reached out and gently pushed him over.
As the Volus rolled over and yawned, he said, "As soon as I'm done with my nap," and promptly fell asleep right where he landed.
The team worked their way around him, including the confused Judea. "Did you plan on that?"
Shepard chuckled, "Of course I did. No way I was going to let that poor guy in there with Eclipse sisters! It would have been suicide by mercenary! I would have stopped him one way or another; we just got lucky he decided to take a nap. Besides, he'll probably be useful to Anaya to testify against Pitne For. We'll let her know he's here, sleeping it off." Shepard's expression changed to pure business as she glanced around her team. With positive nods from the group, she opened the last door and entered a large warehouse.
A single mercenary stood near the back of the room reading a datapad. As the team walked in, she started to speak, "Everything's gone to hell since we smuggled that filthy creature off-world. First a Justicar shows up, now you. At least I can take pleasure in turning your head into a pulpy mass." As she finished, she biotically lifted one of the toxic canisters and launched it at the team.
Shepard immediately pulled on her biotics and completed her first charge to the Captain the second after she launched the canister. Wasea had a barrier and armor, but Shepard's charge dropped the barrier immediately, while her shotgun blast took down a huge chunk of her armor rating. Judea was right on Shepard's tail with a warp to finish off the armor. Garrus was locked on and waiting; as soon as the armor dropped to zero, a quick bark of the sniper and Wasea was no more. There were a couple other Eclipse in the room, but they fell quickly once their Captain was dead. The team searched the room, collecting anything of value, including a datapad with the information they needed. Shepard made a copy and the team headed back to the police station, destroying any remaining toxic canisters they found on their way.
When they got back to the station, Shepard informed the Justicar they found her information. "Your fugitive left here two days ago on the AML Demeter."
The Justicar stood and faced the commander and spoke earnestly, "Shepard, you impress me. You fulfilled your part of the bargain, and I will fulfill mine."
Shepard looked at the Justicar and nodded. "Thank you, Samara, but before I can accept you on my crew, I need to ask you a couple of questions."
Samara responded, "But Commander, you have already completed your part of the bargain. Why would you do so before knowing I would meet your conditions?"
Shepard just shrugged, "Because it was the right thing to do. Had I not intervened, the path you were on would have cost innocent law enforcement officers their lives. I couldn't accept that; there had to be a better way."
Anaya's eyes got big, but she said nothing as the Justicar answered, "You are a woman of honor, Commander. It is my privilege to know you. What would you ask of me?"
The commander frowned. "I have specialists on my crew. Specialists that have very checkered pasts, and I can't have you harassing, arresting or killing them. They are very fundamental to the mission. I need you to promise me that you won't harm them, or impede their performance in any way."
The Justicar spoke frankly. "Understood, Shepard. Then I must be sworn to your service, so that I am never forced to choose between your orders and the Code."
Shepard looked at the Justicar and queried, "Apparently the Code allows such a thing, but why would you do that for me?"
Samara smiled at the Spectre as she spoke. "As you have answered before me, because it is the right thing to do. I must put the galaxy before my personal code." The Justicar's eyes went white, and she knelt on one knee, bowing her head to Shepard. "By the Code, I will serve you, Shepard. Your choices are my choices; your morals are my morals. Your wishes are my code." Samara then glowed blue with biotics, the final vestiges still trailing off her body as she stood and her eyes returned to their normal blue.
Anaya stood in awe, "I never thought I'd see a Justicar swear an oath of allegiance like that."
Samara looked at Shepard, "If you make me do anything extremely dishonorable, I may need to kill you when I am released from my oath."
Shepard was pretty sure the Justicar wasn't kidding, and she bowed her head in respect. "I am honored, Samara. Let us hope our paths never lead us to such conflict. I would like to learn more of your Code, to ensure I never give you cause to question my decisions or my commands."
Overall, Detective Anaya was very pleased with the results; no one on the police force had to die, her superiors would be pleased with the Justicar's departure, Shepard solved the murder and had also found evidence that would allow her to arrest the slime, Pitne For. Anaya looked at Shepard and thanked her again for helping out with the whole situation, and wished her luck on the mission. Shepard nodded politely at the officer and glanced at Judea, gesturing with her head at the door. Shepard looked at Miranda and Garrus and asked them to escort the Justicar to the Normandy, informing Miranda she would be spending the night at the apartment again. Miranda smiled, "As you wish, Commander. I'll draft up a report to the Illusive Man, and we can look at it tomorrow before I send it. See you then."
With that, the team split up for the night and Shepard caught up to Judea and they strolled back to the apartment. Shepard grinned at the commando, "So, what do you think of your first day out with me, Judea? Today we had a Cerberus officer switch to our side and an Asari Justicar swear an oath to me..."
Judea just shook her head, laughing, "Shepard, you do accomplish the most amazing things..."