Friday, April 8, 2011

The Hunt, Part 5

Interrogation Room, Continued

Liara's heart was racing. Time seemed to stand still. She turned to face Feron, waiting for the inevitable moment when the electricity with surge through him and burn out his central nervous system.

Nothing happened.

This had not gone unnoticed by Thirty-six, who was now mashing the console button repeatedly.

"What in the—"

Shepard raised her pistol. "Say 'Good Night' Thirty-six."

Liara, for whom time was still moving slowly, could see it all in her mind's eye. The pistol sheared a few atoms off the large metal block it used for ammunition. The shot was enveloped by a mass effect field and propelled forward, to the point that it had nearly reached the speed of sound when it erupted from the barrel of the pistol.

Upon emerging, mass effect field was merged with Shepard's own biotics, causing the shot to increase in velocity, rather than decrease. The shot was now spinning. It was almost beautiful as it crossed the room.

The shot then impacted Thirty-six's exposed head. The shields overloaded like they weren't even there. The mass effect field that enveloped the shot caused it to flatten out, spreading the impact over the majority of the man's forehead.

In that instant, time returned to normal as Thirty-six's head was obliterated. It did not explode like Vasir's, it was simply gone. His headless body fell backwards, collapsing onto the wall.

Liara just stood there, staring at the place where Thirty-six once stood. The only emotion she could convey was shock. "How… how did…?"

Tali ran over to the console, scanning it with her omni-tool. "I managed to disable the console remotely."

"But how did you…?"

Tali held up her arm with the omni-tool on it. "I believe the appropriate expression is 'Duh'."

Liara turned to Shepard, hoping for answers. Leanna tapped her visor. "While Thirty-six's attention was on you, Tali and I worked out the plan to disable his console, making it safe for us to stop him without endangering Feron. We would've let you in on the plan, but we had no way of communicating with you that he wouldn't have spotted."

"Why did you let him… make me choose?"

"Tali had just cracked it by then. I tried to stop you, but you just kept going."

Tali chimed in. "Guys, we've got a problem. Feron's chair is hooked into the Shadow Broker's mainframe. I managed to disable the console, but if we try to take him now the chair will still fry him."

Liara approached the unconscious drell. "Feron, can you hear me?"

He stirred, waking up. "Liara? Is that you?"

She took his hand. "Yes, it is me. I have come to rescue you, just like I said I would."

"You can't Liara. It's too dangerous."

"It is all right. We have already made it here. We just need to free you and make it to safety."

Feron gave a weak chuckle. "You can't take me out of here. The chair is connected to the Broker's information network. The only way to disable the mechanism is to take it out at its source, the Broker's office."

Shepard walked up to Feron's other side. "What can you tell us about the Broker?"

Feron turned his head towards the voice. "Who's that?"

"I'm Commander Leanna Shepard."

He turned back to Liara. His eyes were starting to focus again. "So you did it. You found Shepard. And she's alive too. At least now I know it was all worth it." He turned back to Shepard. "I'm afraid I can't be of much help. There's a VI monitoring my words. If I say the wrong thing, I'll be shocked, and in this state, that might knock me out again."

"Then we'd better hurry." She made her way to the door, Tali following close behind.

"Shepard, wait. About what I said earlier…"

Leanna cut her off. "Like you said Liara, we'll talk about it when this is finished."

The doors to the Shadow Broker's office opened.

Shepard entered, Liara and Tali flanking her. They all drew their weapons and pointed them at the thing they could only assume was the Shadow Broker.

The Broker was probably the most alien intelligent life form Shepard had ever seen. Its face was oddly flat, with horns emerging out of the top and odd fin-like flaps that she could only assume were sensory organs. Its triangular mouth contained rows of very sharp teeth, jutting out at odd angles. Just above the mouth were two sets of four eyes arranged in a type of parallelogram.

He was also very, very big. Bigger than a krogan even.

"I take it you're here for the Drell. A reckless move Commander, even by your standards."

"And I'm supposed to believe blowing up a building on Illium is your idea of subtlety?"

"My methods were extreme, but your actions required it."

"Nothing justifies what you have done!" Liara yelled, "The bombing, Vasir, caging Feron for two years like some sort of animal!"

"It was your hand that caused this Dr. T'Soni. You convinced Feron to betray me and give you the body. Now he serves as an example that disloyalty will not be tolerated."

Shepard spoke up. "What did you intend to gain by turning me over to the Collectors?"

"A great deal actually. Of course, now that you've destroyed them, I no longer need you alive. I can still use the Normandy's IFF to salvage the remains of the Collectors' base."

Liara glared at him. "You sound very confident for someone who is used to hiding. I don't know if you've noticed, but you are outnumbered."

"Perhaps, though I'm surprised you brought the Quarian with you. Her supposed leadership on Haestrom resulted in the deaths of the majority of her team."

Shepard tightened her grip. "You shut up about Tali."

"It's pointless to challenge me. I know your every secret, while you fumble in the dark."

"You think so?" Liara smirked. "You are a Yahg. Your species was quarantined to its homeworld for the massacre of the Council's first contact team. This base's age predates the discovery of your planet, meaning you killed the previous Shadow Broker sixty years ago, and then took over with no one noticing the difference. I would wager you were taken from you planet by a trophy hunter looking for a slave… or perhaps a pet.

"How am I doing so far?"

In one swift movement, the Shadow Broker ripped his desk from the ground and threw it at the three of them.

Shepard had little time to react. She grabbed Liara, moving them both out of the way of the desk. Tali was not so lucky.

Shepard took a moment to steal a glance at Tali. She was unconscious, the Shadow Broker's desk on top of her. Her visor data told her that Tali was still alive.

Liara stood, Shepard rising with her. They both turned their guns on the Shadow Broker. They were in for the fight of their lives.

The cascade of information washed over him. For a moment, he didn't just have information, he was information. It was too much for him though. He could not handle the strain. His skin began to crack as the energy tried to escape. Within seconds, he was vaporized. Gone, without a trace.

Leanna lay on the floor some distance away. The sheer charge of the blast had blacked out her visor. She retracted it as she waited for it to reboot.

Liara approached. Her expression was unreadable, but she offered a hand. Shepard took it and helped herself up.

From the corner of her eye, she saw movement. Tali appeared to be stirring. Leanna walked over to help.

The Lights flickered and died for a moment before the back-up generators kicked in. Shepard knew that would be enough to disable Feron's chair.

As Shepard helped Tali, Liara noticed that the Broker's computers were coming back online. Signals were coming in. Various operatives and agents were asking what had happened.

Liara had been afraid of this. The Shadow Broker was in charge of an empire. If they killed him and then left, there would be a power vacuum. Unless…

Liara steeled herself, like she had done so many times before. She approached the console and brought up the comms, sending out a general message to all of the Shadow Broker's agents and operatives.

"This is the Shadow Broker. The situation is under control. We experienced a power fluctuation while upgrading hardware. It caused a momentary disruption of communications. We are now back online. Resume standard operating procedures. I want a status report on all operations within one solar day. Shadow Broker out."

"Liara? You… how did you?"

Liara turned to see Feron. He looked thinner than she last remembered and he was limping, but he was free.

"Everyone who has ever seen the Shadow Broker is either dead or in this room."

"So you become the new Shadow Broker?"

Shepard chimed in. "What about this strikes you as even a remotely good idea?"

"If we leave this behind, we lose everything he had. His contacts, his trading resources, not to mention the intelligence he's gathered over the decades. We may find the key to defeating the Reapers. With all this, maybe I can finally give you… I can…"

Tali grabbed Feron. "Why don't we get ourselves checked up? Somewhere far, far away from here."

They both walked out the main doors.

Leanna watched them leave, then turned her attention back to Liara. Her face was buried in her hands. Leanna gently touched her shoulder. Liara turned, tears in her eyes.

"It is over. Two years and it is finally…"

Leanna grabbed her and hugged her. Even through the armor, it was comforting to both of them.

"It's all right," Leanna whispered gently.

Liara drew herself back slowly, then suddenly kissed her.

She drew back just as quickly. "I'm sorry. I know it has been two years. We have both changed so much. We need to talk it out and…"

Leanna grabbed her again. "You talk too much T'Soni." She kissed her, drawing her in an embrace they both hoped would never end.

End of Episode #3

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