Friday, March 18, 2011

The Hunt, Part 2

Location Unknown

In a dark room, a man sat at a computer, his finger hovering above a button he'd pressed mere moments ago.

The display in front of him said "Signal Lost, Operative Terminated".

He clenched his eyes and managed to hold back all but a single tear.

A voice sounded out from the terminal. It was deep and distorted, but clear and familiar. "Good work Agent 36. You did what needed to be done."

"I didn't… I can't believe she tried to do that."

"Now you see how dangerous they are. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of including falsely accusing me of conspiring with their made up enemy."

Agent 36's face twisted itself in anger. Pounding his fist on the wall, he yelled, "They won't get away with this!"

"There is a transport waiting for you. It will take you to where I need you to be."

"Yes. I will make them pay for their crimes, Shadow Broker."

Liara stepped out of the Normandy's shower and toweled herself dry. She placed the towel in the reclamator, put on the clean outfit she had brought with her and stepped back into the Deck 3 proper.

She passed by several crew members, many of which had in some way defaced the Cerberus logos on their uniforms. As she headed past the mess hall to the med bay, she was stopped when a voice called out from behind her.

Liara turned, "Oh, hello Tali. Are you going to see Shepard too?"

"I already did. Wait, do you mean you haven't?"

"I wanted to get cleaned off first. I had bits of Vasir on me."

There was a pause before Tali spoke again. "She misses you, you know."

Liara was surprised by the turn the conversation had taken. "I don't see what business it is of yours."

"Leanna is my friend. If it affects her, it is my business, and right now she's hurting because of you."

Liara was taken aback. "You care for her, don't you?"

"How could I not? She's saved me, no matter what stupid situation I've gotten myself caught in, and she never asks for anything in return. She's done more for me than anyone back on the flotilla, and that includes my own Father. But she doesn't want me. She wants you. So the question is do you still care for her?"

"Of course I do!"

"Then why don't you tell her!"

"I can't. She doesn't know. She doesn't know what I've done… what I had to do… while she was gone. If I told her, I know she would hate me." Liara bowed her head slightly and shut her eyes.

"You won't know unless you talk to her." She pulled out a datapad from one of the pockets on her suit. "Look, maybe you need this more than I do."

Liara opened her eyes and looked at the datapad. It contained two educational vids: "Understanding Body Language: Human Edition" and "Human Courtship and Mating". She lifted her head back up to look at Tali.

"Of course," Tali's mouthpiece flashed, "If you don't use it, I'll want it back."

Liara managed to return a half-hearted smile before she turned to the med bay.

The doors opened with a hiss as Liara entered.

Dr. Chakwas looked up from her desk. "I'll leave you two alone." She got up and exited through the still open doors.

Liara walked over to the exam table that Leanna was laying on. A blanket was draped over her, covering her to just above her breasts. Her dark red hair, which she normally kept up in a ponytail, was loose and touching her shoulders. Her eyes were closed shut.

"Shepard?" Liara called out tentatively.

Leanna's green eyes fluttered open. She looked over at Liara. "Hey there blue girl."

Liara breathed a sigh of relief. "Goddess Shepard, don't scare me like that!"

Leanna cracked a smile. "Well I wouldn't have if you'd shown up faster." She propped herself up on her elbows.

"I am sorry. It was just that, I was filthy and I wanted to make myself more presentable first."

"I don't mind it when you're filthy," Leanna smirked.

Liara ignored the comment. "Are you hurt?"

"I'm good. Dr. Chakwas gave me a once over, but it seems I put my barrier up in time. My dress is a mess though," she lifted the covers briefly to show Liara she was naked. "I'm just waiting here until Kelly can get it clean."

"Do you know what caused Vasir to… blow up like that?"

"Mordin theorizes it was an ocular flashbang grenade activated remotely."

"Why wasn't this detected when she went in for surgery?"

"According to Mordin, ocular flashbangs are 'difficult to detect, harder to deactivate'. You tie that with a Quantum Entanglement communicator like the Illusive Man uses and it all makes sense. The Shadow Broker killed her when you tried to invade her mind."

Liara hung her head. "I am sorry Shepard. I know that was the wrong thing to do, but it was clear that she was unable to access the memories, and I knew she would not let me into her mind willingly."

"You're right. It was a bad judgment call, not to mention the wrong thing to do ethically. That said, I think she did far worse things herself, and if you managed to get the info you needed I won't be too upset."

Liara gave her a quizzical look. "How could you not be upset? I remember the dressing down you gave Ashley when you heard she planned to shoot Wrex without your authorization!"

"Ashley was a soldier under my command. I had to be tough with her or I wouldn't be a good commander. So did you get the information or not?"

"I…" Liara hesitated, thinking about the question she wanted to ask Leanna but couldn't bring herself to do so. "Yes, I was able to extract the last piece of information from Vasir's head. It's the location in the Hourglass Nebula."

"Good. Did you give the info to Joker?"

"Yes, he's set a course. We should be at the Broker's base in just a few hours. I'm worried though. If he terminated Vasir remotely, he may already know we're coming. He may decide to kill Feron."

Leanna shook her head. "He won't. Right now, Feron's the only leverage he has. If he killed him, nothing would stop us from taking his base out completely. We'll get him out of there alive, I promise."

"I know," Liara replied in a melancholic voice. "You're here to help, like always."

"You say that like it's a bad thing?"

"Do you remember when we first met, on Therum? You saved me from the geth and a Krogan battlemaster, while I simply cowered in fear. And now, here you are, saving me again. And I'm still relying on you for help."

Leanna grabbed her arm. "That's what you do when you care about someone."

Liara pulled away and started pacing. "Once we get there, the Normandy's stealth systems will keep us hidden. We'll be able to sneak onboard and infiltrate his base. We will keep it simple: get in, get Feron, and get out. And kill anyone who gets in the way."

"Liara, will you just sit down for a damn second. We'll be jumping a few thousand light years. We have time to talk."

Liara stopped and turned to face her, but did not sit down. "What's there to talk about?"

"I don't know, how about us?"

"Look, Leanna, I'm glad you're here but…"

"But what? You're worried you might need me to hack some more terminals?"

Liara advanced toward her. "That's not fair. You were dead!"

"I'm not dead anymore," Leanna took her hand a placed it over her heart, "am I?"

Liara tore away and started pacing again. "It's not that easy! I mourned for you for two years. You can't expect me to just forget and pick up where we left off." She stopped in front of the door. "Look, I just can't get into this right now. Can we please just focus on getting Feron back?"

The door opened.

"Fine," Leanna said, resigned, "but when this is over, we're talking it out."

Liara started to say something, but couldn't get the words out. She walked out door and it closed with a hiss.

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