Mass Effect Serialisation – Chapter 16
The team that Shepard had assembled, including the newly recruited Liara T’Soni were in the briefing room of the Normandy as they left Therum. They only had to travel to Noveria or Feros, but first they would have to return to the Citadel in order to brief Ambassador Udina in person, also so they could inform Admiral Kahoku of the fate of his marines on Edolus.
Shepard entered the briefing room, as Joker spoke to them through the comm.
“Too close, Commander. Ten more seconds and we’d have been swimming in molten sulphur. The Normandy isn’t equipped to land in exploding volcanoes. They tend to fry our sensors and melt our hull… Just for future reference.” Joker said sarcastically,
“We almsot died out there and your pilot is making jokes?” Liara said, very confused,
“Joker pulled our asses out of there. I think he’s earned the right to a few bad jokes.” Shepard explained,
“I see. It must be a human thing. I’m afraid I don’t have much experience dealing with your species, Commander.” Liara conceded. “But I am grateful to you. You saved my life back there. And not just from the volcano. Those geth would have killed me, or dragged me off to Saren.”
“What did Saren want with you? Do you know something about the Conduit?” Kaidan asked,
“Only that it was somehow connected to the Prothean extinction. That is my real area of expertise. I have spent the past fifty years trying to figure out what happened to them.” Liara said,
“How old are you, exactly?” Shepard asked, taken aback by her revelation of studying the prothean extinction longer than he’d been alive.
“I hate to admit it, but I am only a hundred and six.” She replied,
“Damn!” Ashley said, “I hope I look that good when I’m your age.”
“A century may seem like a long time to a short-lived species like yours. But among the asari, I am barely considered more than a child.” She said, clearly bitter that she’s still seen as a young girl to her peers. “That is why my research has not received the attention it deserves. Because of my youth, other asari scholars tend to dismiss my theories on what happened to the Protheans.”
“I’ve got my own theory on why the Protheans disappeared.” Shepard said with the knowledge from the beacon on Eden Prime bubbling just below the surface of his consciousness,
“With all due respect, Commander, I have heard every theory out there. The problem is finding evidence to support them. The Protheans left remarkably little behind.” Liara replied, “It is almost as if someone did not want the mystery solved. It’s like someone came along after the Protheans were gone and cleansed the galaxy of clues. But here is the incredible part. According to my findings, the Protheans were no the first galactic civilization to mysteriously vanish. This cycle began long before them.”
“Where’d you come up with this theory? I thought there wasn’t any evidence.” Shepard asked, intrigued by what Liara’s theory entailed.
“I have been working on this for fifty years. I have tracked down every scrap and shread of evidence. Eventually, subtle patterns start to emerge. Patterns that hint at the truth. It is difficult to explain to someone else. I cannot point to one specific thing to prove my case. It is more a feeling derived from a half-century of dedicated research.” Liara said with conviction, “But I know I’m right. And eventually, I will be able to prove it. There were other civilizations before the Protheans. This cycle has repeated itself many times over.”
“What cycle? What do you mean?” Shepard asked,
“The galaxy is built on a cycle of extinction. Each time a great civilization rises up, it is suddenly and violently cast down. Only ruins survive. The Protheans rose up from a single world until their empire spanned the entire galaxy.” Liara started to explain, clearly delighted to be able to talk in detail about the subject, “Yet even they climbed to the top on the remains of those who came before. Their greatest achievements – the mass relays and the Citadel – are based on the technology of those who came before them. And then, like all the other forgotten civilizations throughout galactic history, the Protheans disappeared. I have dedicated my life to figuring out why.”
“They were wiped out by a race of sentient machines. The Reapers.” Shepard revealed,
“The…the Reapers? But I have never heard of…How do you know this? What evidence do you have?” Liara said, with a mix of excitement and bemusement.
“There was a damaged Prothean beacon on Eden Prime. It burned a vision into my mind. I’m still trying to sort out what it all means.” Shepard said,
“Visions? Yes, that makes sense. The beacons were designed to transmit information directly into the mind of the user. Finding one that still works is extremely rare. It’s no wonder that the geth attacked Eden Prime. The chance to acquire a working beacon – even a badly damaged one – is worth almost any risk.” Liara said, gathering momentum, “But the beacons were only programmed to interact with Prothean physiology. Whatever information you received would have been confused, unclear. I am amazed you were able to make sense of it at all. A lesser mind would have been utterly destroyed by the process. You must be remarkably strong willed, Commander.”
“This isn’t helping us find Saren. Or the Conduit.” Ashley said, clearly irked by the attention Liara was giving Shepard.
“Of course, you’re right. I am sorry. My scientific curiosity got the better of me. Unfortunately, I do not have any information that could help you find the Conduit. Or Saren.” Liara said,
“I don’t know why Saren wanted you out of the picture. But I think we’ll be a lot better off if we bring you along with us.” Shepard said,
“Thank you, Commander.” Liara replied, standing to be next to Shepard, “Saren might come after me again. I cannot think of anywhere safer than here on your ship. And my knowledge of the Protheans may be of use to you later on.”
“And her biotics will come in handy when the fighting starts.” Wrex added with a grin,
“Well we’ve got every other non-human species on board, may as well add an asari to the list.” Shepard said, half-joking,
“Thank you, Commander. I am very gratef…whoa. I am afraid I’m feeling a little light-headed.” Liara said, losing her footing slightly,
“When was the last time you ate? Or slept?” Kaidan asked worried, “Dr Chakwas should take a look at you.”
“It is probably just mental exhaustion, coupled with the shock of finding out the Protheans’ true fate. I need some time to process all this.” Liara said, “Still, it could not hurt to be examined by a medical professional. It will give me the chance to think things over. Are we finished here Commander?”
“Go see the Doctor. The rest of you – dismissed.” Shepard said with his authoritative tone,
The team stood and left the briefing room, as they did, the comm crackled.
“Mission reports are filed, Commander. You want me to patch you through to the Council?” Joker asked through the comm.
“Patch them though, Joker.” Shepard said, as Joker did so. Almost immediately, the Council appeared in the briefing room as holograms.
“We’ve received your report, Commander. I understand Dr T’Soni is on the Normandy.” The Asari Councillor, Tevos, said,
“I assume you’re taking the necessary security precautions?” The Turian Councillor, Sparatus, added,
“Don’t tell me how to do my job.” Shepard said at Sparatus, annoyed at his assertion that he hadn’t considered Liara to be a threat,
“We are not trying to tell you how to carry out your job, Commander. We are merely here to offer advice and guidance.” Tevos intervened.
“It is up to you if you’re smart enough to listen.” Sparatus snapped at Shepard. At that, Shepard decided he’d heard enough from the turian.
“I don’t need this.” He said gruffly and more than a little tired, as he disconnected the link.
“Communications cut, Commander.” Joker chuckled over the comm. Shepard, stood for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He decided to go and see Liara in the Med Bay to check up on her, she had been through quite an ordeal on Therum, and wanted to see that she was alright.
Shepard went down to the Med Bay and saw that Dr Chakwas had finished with Liara, and that Liara had set herself up in the Med Bay’s back room, he approached her to talk. She was sat at a desk, and heard him enter. She immediately stood to face him and looked at him with her big doe-like eyes.
“Commander, have you come to check on me?” she asked,
“Yes, you seem to be doing well now. Is everything alright?” Shepard replied,
“Dr Chakwas assures me I’m going to be fine. I was impressed with her knowledge of asari physiology.” Liara replied, gratefully.
“She knows what she’s doing, you’re in good hands.” Shepard said,
“I never properly thanked you for saving me from the geth, if you hadn’t showed up when you did…” Liara said before Shepard cut her off,
“Don’t mention it. I’m just glad we got there in time.” He said,
“Thank you. And thank you for taking a chance on me. I have seen the way the crew look at me – they do not trust me. But I am not like Benezia. I will do whatever I can to help you stop Saren. I promise.” Liara said, determined to prove her worth and her loyalty.
“Don’t worry Liara, I know you will. I trust you.” Shepard said, reassuringly.
“It means a lot to hear you say that, thank you Commander.” Liara said with a coy smile.
“Tell me about yourself Liara, I’d like to know more about you.” Shepard said, genuinely wanting to know more about his team as he had done with the others he’d picked up.
“I’m afraid I’m not very interesting, Commander. I spend most of my time on remote digs, unearthing mundane objects from long-forgotten prothean ruins.” She said, again coyly,
“You must enjoy something about what you do.” Shepard said,
“I enjoy finding things that haven’t been touched for millennia, and anything to do with the protheans. To know that you were touched by actual working prothean technology – it’s why I find you so fascinating.” Liara said,
“Sounds like you want to dissect me in a lab.” Shepard joked,
“Oh my! That’s not what I meant!” Liara said, obviously upset at the thought, “I never meant for you to think that. All I meant was that you would be an interesting case-study for…No! Wait, I mean…” Liara started to fumble over every word she said, she wasn’t used to human humour,
“I was only joking Liara! It’s OK.” Shepard said, reassuring her that she’d said nothing wrong.
“Joking? By the goddess, you must think I’m so dense.” Liara said, holding her forehead, in embarrassment “Now you can see why I prefer to spend my time on remote digs with computers and data discs. Please, just pretend this conversation never happened,”
“I should go, I’ll catch up with you soon Liara.” Shepard said as he left the Med Bay to return to the CIC.