A/N: This story is a collaborative effort between myself and Desert Sunrise. Cover illustration depicting Samantha Traynor's back tattoo created in pen and ink for me by my talented daughter.
Disclaimer: With the exception of the extended timeline and the OC's imagined by myself, including Yuán Xiùlán and Griffen Buchanan, EA/Bioware owns all
True power lies not in the spotlight, but in the influential shadows. — J. Adam Snyder
CE — Common Era … the beginning of Galactic Standard Time (GST)
Epiphany — an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
• PROLOGUE •
Data. Facts and figures. Intelligence. Statistics. Whatever term is used to describe it, the gathering, organization and dissemination of information has seemingly been a requirement since the rise of civilized beings, whether asari, batarian, human, salarian, or turian, just to name the galaxy's five dominant, spaceflight capable races.
Of these, the asari and salarians, followed by the turians, discovered and settled the enormous space station that came to be known as the Citadel, the only other artificial construct in an otherwise empty system; it shares the system with a mass relay, one of a network of similarly ancient devices found to be scattered throughout the galaxy.
Since the earliest days of their combined, recorded history, all the races gathered and traded, then bought and sold information. The development of automated data recovery systems rapidly became increasingly more sophisticated, gaining in ability … and capacity. Over time, this gave rise to people of various races becoming information brokers, first trading, then buying information for the lowest acceptable price and selling it for as much as the buyer was willing to pay.
Of these, one broker came to dominate the trade, with a veritable army of gatherers—those that obtained information about anything and everything for their employer—and an army of enforcers, charged with preventing anyone from stealing data from the broker. This broker was never seen, preferring to work clandestinely, behind the scenes … in the shadows. This trader, seeming to have been in business in perpetuity, came to be known as the Shadow Broker.
As the undisputed ruler of a vast information trading organization, the Broker always sells to the highest bidder; the buying and selling of every secret is done in such a way as to prevent any one customer from being allowed to gain a significant advantage. This strategy forces all of the Broker's customers to continue trading with the Broker in order to avoid becoming disadvantaged, thus ensuring the Broker's continued dominance of the business.
Prior to 2185-CE, the identity … even the race of the Shadow Broker was a mystery. This changed dramatically when an asari, Dr Liara T'Soni—accompanied by Commander Rachaél Shepard and a squad from the Cerberus-owned frigate Normandy SR-2—boarded the Broker's unnamed ship in geosynchronous orbit above the planet Hagalaz, in order to free Feron, a drell information trafficker captured and imprisoned by soldiers employed by the Broker.
Since the ship had been constructed and placed in orbit prior to the discovery of the yahg race in 2125-CE, Liara theorized that this Broker, at some point after having been smuggled from his home world of Parnack, assumed the position and title after murdering the previous Shadow Broker. As smart as he was ruthless, the yahg had been running the organization for at least six decades. It was during their final, desperate battle aboard the Broker's Ship that Shepard managed to distract the beast just long enough for Liara to kill him.
As they had already eliminated all the operatives aware of the Broker's true identity, Liara chose to continue in her role as an information broker by taking over the ship and running the organization, leaving no one the wiser that a transition had taken place. As the new Shadow Broker, Liara vowed to help Shepard discover a strategy to combat and defeat the Reapers.
Shortly after Commander Shepard was incarcerated at an Alliance facility in Vancouver, the Illusive Man ordered several of his cruisers to attack and destroy the Shadow Broker's ship. Upon learning of this, Liara and Feron loaded as much of her vital equipment as possible into a shuttle and escaped before the Cerberus fleet's arrival. With the shuttle far enough away to remain undetected by Cerberus, Liara remotely piloted the Broker's massive ship on a collision course with one of the Cerberus cruisers; they watched in grim satisfaction as the mangled remains of both vessels careened into the destructive atmosphere of Hagalaz.
Thanks to Shepard's destruction of the Bahak relay, Liara knew the Reapers arrival in the galaxy had been postponed, if only for a limited amount of time. Upon reaching the Citadel after a two-relay jump from the Hourglass Nebula, Liara purchased a previously owned, asari-manufactured light corvette, into which she and Feron installed all the special equipment they had salvaged from the Broker's ship. With her renewed ability to clandestinely look for information, she contacted Admiral Hackett of the System's Alliance Navy and voiced her concerns about the Reapers; he agreed with her and enlisted her aid in discovering a way to stop them. Once again, she began regularly coming into conflict with the Illusive Man and Cerberus, as her own agents started crossing paths with his.
When a number of her leads pointed to plans for a device in the Prothean archives on Mars, Hackett sent her there to retrieve them. Upon learning of this, the Illusive Man sent troops there to intercept T'Soni, retrieve whatever she had discovered, then kill her. It was during this time the Reapers, having arrived in the Kite's Nest en masse—as well as having arrived in other clusters along the galaxy's outer rim—utilized the relay in the Harsa System to plow through the Exodus Cluster on their way to an all-out assault of Earth.
Rather than risk taking her equipment-laden corvette to Mars, Dr T'Soni had left it in the hands of Feron, the drell she had rescued from the clutches of the previous Broker. As Feron labored unaided to perform the Broker's standard daily operations without interruption, Liara had flown to Mars in an Alliance shuttlecraft to continue her research. After being rescued from Cerberus troops by Commander Shepard, Major Kaidan Alenko and Lieutenant James Vega, she traveled to the Citadel on board the Normandy, only to endure a truly disappointing meeting with the Council. Liara decided to have Feron rendezvous with the stealth frigate in order to transfer and install a significant portion of her specialized equipment into Miranda Lawson's former quarters on the ship.
In her desperate need for crewmen she could trust, Shepard used her status as a Council Spectre to intercede on behalf of Ken Donnelly and Gabriella Daniels. The engineers—having left the Systems Alliance to work on the Normandy SR-2 under Commander Shepard—had been arrested and detained as Cerberus collaborators; granting them amnesty so they were free to rejoin the ship on which they'd been assigned since its maiden flight had an additional benefit—the pair were able to assist the Broker in connecting and testing the equipment as they relocated it from the corvette, which Liara then gave to Feron, just before sending him forward as a trusted special agent of the Broker.
With Liara firmly embedded in her new quarters on the port side of Deck Three, she continued her work as the Shadow Broker while also going planet-side with Shepard on their two-fold mission to rally the rest of the galaxy's species in the war against the Reapers and to defeat Cerberus and the Illusive Man as he attempted to find a way to control the invaders for his own selfish purposes. At the conclusion of the war, the Normandy, having failed to reach the Charon relay before becoming engulfed in the green energy wave from the Crucible, was cast to the far reaches of the galaxy.
My full name is Samantha Daunton Traynor, but only my mother ever called me by all three … usually when I was in some kind of major trouble. My friends call me Sammy, or just Sam. Professionally, it's generally just Traynor. With everything that has been going on in my life of late, I thought it might be useful to write a bit about what led up to me assuming the role of the most powerful information broker in the galaxy … not that this will ever see the light of day.
I spent just over a decade in the Systems Alliance Military, the details of which I will not go into here; suffice it to say that the longer I stayed, the more I became convinced the Alliance is nothing more than a giant grinder designed to use, then crush the people that work for them, until there is nothing left but an empty husk, similar to what the Reapers created when they invaded the galaxy.
Rather than continue to suffer their utter disregard for my many achievements, including graduating from a black ops training program at the top of my class, I resigned. Neither my captain nor the Fleet Admiral would clear my service record of all the redactions; additionally, they wanted me to volunteer to live inside the Reaper/Repository Iringù-Eßizkur and use the specialized equipment—left behind by the previous information broker—for Alliance needs only. Becoming a private citizen was the only way I would use the Broker's equipment. Any information I retrieved would be sold to the highest bidder, and Admiral Steven Hackett could take the Systems Alliance and fly straight to hell.
With help from a former comrade-in-arms, now a private citizen himself, I began the process of rebuilding the network of gatherers … and enforcers, in every part of the galaxy. It will take some time, but make no mistake! The title Shadow Broker will once again strike fear into the hearts of anyone in the business of hiding secrets.
During the Normandy's return trip from the edge of the galaxy, docked inside the Nazara-class Reaper Žiuk'Durmah—henceforth referred to as a Repository—I was taking a break on the docking platform outside the ship's port side airlock. While idly studying Iringù-Eßizkur, the Destroyer-class Repository docked ahead of the frigate while the food and fuel supplies it had brought were being transferred to the Normandy's hanger bay, I experienced what I could only describe as an epiphany.
Convinced the Alliance would want to remove Liara and all her equipment from the frigate as soon as we returned to the Citadel, I had been attempting to think of a way for the Shadow Broker to retain her independence from oversight … by any government or race. To that end, Liara required her own ship; upon closer inspection, I believed I had found exactly what was needed—a vessel similar in size to the Normandy. It was small enough to be difficult to see or find, able to safely touch down on most Earth-like planets and then leave under its own power, and incredibly fast and exceedingly well-armed for its size. Possessing a communications ability second-to-none, it also did not require a potentially corruptible … and expensive … crew to fly or maintain her.
Once I convinced Liara to transfer to Iringù-Eßizkur, it was only a matter of disconnecting all the specialized equipment from her quarters on the Normandy, moving it in an orderly fashion to Iringù-Eßizkur's interior and—along with the assistance of Tali'Zorah, Bethany Westmoreland and Sarah Campbell—hooking it all into the Repository's power and communications grid.
Liara, while expressing some trepidation at the idea of traveling by herself inside a living machine, had not requested that anyone from the Normandy accompany her.
At a meeting in the ship's conference room, it was decided that she would definitely need a companion … someone capable of performing some of the 'heavy lifting' that might become necessary should she succeed in finding and boarding any of the facilities abandoned by Cerberus during the Reaper War.
Major Alenko expressed doubt that organic survivors would be found at any of the stations Liara might reach, but didn't wish for her to have to enter any of them alone, observing it wouldn't be the same as an archeological expedition.
Of the several candidates aboard the Normandy, the most logical choices were the non-Alliance personnel aboard. Turian general Garrus Vakarian and quarian engineer Tali'Zorah vas Normandy had each fought alongside T'Soni on many of Shepard's ground missions during the war, mainly against Cerberus troops attempting to thwart the commander's efforts to bring the different races together against the common threat to galactic civilization.
Tali would have joined Liara with no hesitation, if she had been going to travel in a conventional space-faring vessel; as she would be venturing forth inside a Reaper—a living machine—the quarian told of being sick to her stomach each evening after spending a day inside Iringù-Eßizkur running cables and connecting equipment to the power and comms grid inside the construct. Expressing her regrets, she told Garrus she would hug and kiss him when he left but could not bring herself to join him.
And so it was that Liara T'Soni, accompanied by the turian general Garrus Vakarian, placed her trust in a living machine—a heavy Destroyer-class Reaper turned Repository by Shepard's choice on the Crucible—as they departed from the Sol System bound for Arcturus. From there, Iringù-Eßizkur set her course for the Horse Head Nebula, utilizing her own impressive FTL capability to travel through dark space between systems without the benefit of the still disabled Mass Relays. The trip across interstellar space would take four-to-five weeks to complete, giving Liara plenty of time to monitor her data feeds and compile information while listening to Rachaél's extensive collection of classical music from Earth's mid-seventeenth to late-nineteenth centuries.
• FROM THE PERSONAL LOGS of the SHADOW BROKER •
Liara's heart was in her throat as she activated the inner airlock hatch to gain access to Cronos Station. She cautiously following Garrus into the first chamber inside the airlock; a compartment for repair crews to suit up for work outside the station. Even while the memories dredged up by the big turian's mention of the previous broker's ship over Hagalaz had her mentally shuddering, she followed him deeper into the station.
Of great interest to the asari was the number and variety of Cerberus troops, long since dead where they fell. The walls and interior furnishings all bore silent witness to the ferocity of the battle waged against them by Shepard, EDI and Vega – additionally, there were shards and pieces from shattered shield generators and destroyed gun turrets scattered across the decking.
With guidance from Iringù-Eßizkur, Liara found the entrance to the Illusive Man's private sanctuary; there she discovered a treasure-trove of terminals connected to the station's servers. Rather than attempt to look at the multitude of files available to her, she directed Iringù-Eßizkur to download copies of all the files so she could study them at her leisure while her Guardian-Repository traveled to her next destination, Lazarus Station.
Upon boarding and exploring Lazarus Station, Liara was horrified to discover an enormous number of inactive mechs, still in their shipping crates; unfortunately, the storage area was patrolled by a number of active LOKI Mechs, along with several YMIR Heavies.
She and Garrus had ultimately retreated back to the station's hanger deck in order to up-armor and equip themselves with heavier weapons. After returning to the storage area and dealing with all the active mechanical threats to their safety, the pair were able to access the cold-storage areas at the far side of the vast warehouse.
Discovering the contents of the stasis pods inside one of several cold-storage compartments had Liara believing she had seen ghosts; each pod contained a living clone of Rachaél Shepard, eyes closed and face relaxed as if asleep. After catching her breath and being assured by Garrus that she was not imagining things, the pair once again returned to Iringù-Eßizkur. She had the Repository send a message to Harbinger, requesting the services of Miranda Lawson.
When the Hong Kong II and Normandy arrived in the system, Liara returned to the Normandy to confer with Rachaél while Garrus and a squad of Marines more thoroughly explored the storage areas; in addition to the three pods already discovered, the existence of an additional four pods was revealed in an adjacent compartment, each containing a living, apparently healthy clone of Commander Rachaél Shepard. All had apparently been grown from Shepard's DNA samples, stolen sometime prior to her death over Alchera and her two-year long reconstruction on a Cerberus operating table.
Before the procedure was begun to join Shepard's spirit with a cloned body, Miranda Lawson revealed that the majority of Rachaél's originally repaired body had also been cloned, due to the catastrophic physical injuries she suffered in her uncontrolled plunge to the surface of Alchera. She surmised that an enormous part of their success in giving her a new life then was attributable to the numerous Reaper-derived implants the Lazarus team had grafted into her body.
After Dr Chakwas and Miranda selected the most viable clone to attempt the procedure, Ken Donnelly and Tali'Zorah rigged several portable power supplies; these were used to keep all of the pods powered during their move from the station to Harbinger's interior. Once relocated, the pods would be connected to power sources within the ancient machine. The plan—once Shepard's spiritual essence was joined with the clone chosen by Lawson and Dr Chakwas—was for the seven remaining pods to remain powered by the massive Repository for as long as deemed necessary by Rachaél and Liara.
In order to join Shepard's spiritual self with the corporeal clone, Harbinger uploaded her from the Normandy's servers into his own memory banks; he then inserted a copy of Shepard's spiritual essence into the clone's brain, transforming an essentially blank mind into a copy of Rachaél Shepard, with all her knowledge, memories and experiences as they existed at the moment of transfer. In theory, she could grow old, reenter Harbinger before death took her physical form and inhabit another clone, thus extending her life past the age when most humans died.
After Liara confirmed to her own satisfaction that the procedure was successful and she could once again hold Rachaél's physical form in her arms, she finalized plans to leave her post as an information broker and return to Thessia with her human lover, there to formalize her bond with the woman. Liara T'Soni had given up nearly everything twice in order to bring Shepard back to life. Upon their return to the Widow System, Admiral Hackett granted the commander sixty days leave from the Alliance so she could travel to Thessia with Liara.
Meanwhile, with the Normandy and Hong Kong II once again docked at the Citadel, I had been tasked with an unofficial assignment ashore; working in support of Zaeed Massani's hunt for Blue Suns second-in-command Solem Dal'Serah, I found myself once again entering Iringù-Eßizkur, there to employ the equipment left behind by Liara T'Soni, in order to find a way inside the Blue Suns headquarters building in Delta Ward.
I was accompanied by the Normandy's new Weapons Systems Division Chief, Master Gunnery Sergeant Sandra Patton; after hacking my way into the fortified building, Sandee and I decimated all the batarian soldiers opposing us. Unfortunately, I had not expected Dal'Serah to have a bomb in his desk; we both nearly lost our lives from the explosion in that massive piece of furniture.
Fortunately, I had previously discovered Dal'Serah's emergency 'bolt-hole' and mapped it for Massani; unknown to the cowardly batarian, Zaeed was waiting near the tunnel's exit while Patton and I kicked in the front door. After sending a message to the Normandy, the wily old merc, with the assistance of Iringù-Eßizkur, followed Dal'Serah to Omega Station; from there, they tracked the batarian to Susskind Station in the Raheel-Leyya System. Once on the station, it was only a few days' work for Massani to capture and imprison Solem Dal'Serah and Vido Santiago.
Instructing Iringù-Eßizkur to send a request to Harbinger for backup by the Normandy, Massani's wait for the ship's arrival was brief; once the frigate was in the system, the two criminals were moved—notwithstanding interference on the docks by several Blue Suns soldiers—to the ship's brig for their flight back to Alliance custody on the Citadel. Of great surprise to Captain Bill Cody, Massani had not carried out his promise to beat either Santiago or Dal'Serah to death with his fists.
Nearly healed from my numerous injuries, I had been released to light duty and discharged from Huerta Memorial Hospital. I initiated a comms-call to Liara T'Soni on Thessia; after explaining the reasons for my intention to resign from the Alliance Navy, she advanced me a modest sum of credits to get started and gave me the use of a non-descript apartment in the Citadel's Bravo Ward.
Having secured financial backing from Dr T'Soni, my next meeting was with my captain on board the Normandy so he could brief me on the Alliance's need for someone—preferably myself—to be assigned to inhabit Iringù-Eßizkur as an info broker for the Alliance—a new Shadow Broker. When Cody explained that neither he nor Admiral Hackett would be able—or willing—to correct the redactions and omissions in my permanent service record, I handed him my dog tags along with my resignation from the Systems Alliance Navy.
Resignation accepted, I was a private citizen again—for the first time since age 19—and free of any restrictions imposed by the Systems Alliance. I boarded Iringù-Eßizkur with one goal in mind—to become an information broker every bit as powerful, and feared—as the murderous yahg that had previously held the position prior to his elimination by Liara T'Soni and Commander Shepard near the end of their campaign to stop the Collectors.
After initiating a search for Griffen Buchanan's whereabouts, I went shopping, then joined Xiùlán for a quiet dinner and evening together. Upon finding the freighter on which Buchanan was employed, I surprised him at the Alpha Ward docks right before the MSV Celestial Viper began offloading its cargo. Later, after accompanying me to my apartment and seeing the inside of the intelligent machine where he'd be expected to live and work part time, he listened to my offer of making him an equal partner in my new endeavor. With the unexpected loss of his position on the salarian-owned Celestial Viper to a less-expensive salarian replacement forcing his hand, Griff reluctantly agreed to join forces with me and Iringù-Eßizkur.
The Shadow Broker was back in business.