“I think Conrad Verner is a contract agent for the Council, a ‘secret shopper’ they use to evaluate and assess Spectre operatives in low-risk but aggravating civilian scenarios. It’s why he’s always getting into trouble around Shepard, and why he knew about the Crucible project. I’m on to you, Conrad.”
THE REAL LIFE OF CONRAD VERNER
Shepard never expected to wake up again. Never expected to see the stars. The pain was to be expected, because pain was as fundamental to life as oxygen and blood, at least these days. And breathing was akin to feeling bone-tired. If you were alive, you were exhausted. Being exhausted was being alive.
But Shepard did. Shepard woke up again. Shepard’s eyes were sticky but working and sunlight slanted through, beautiful, blinding. The same stuff that hurt you made you whole.
It was going to be Garrus. Pulling aside a broken stanchion, smiling because he thought Shepard would be too delirious with blood loss to see the expression.
It was going to be Liara, who always believed. Who saw the worst history had to offer but managed, somehow, to trust the best the future might one day be.
It was going to be Kaidan. His hair would finally be a mess and his eyes would be wild and he’d be mad as hell about being left behind again, but there’d be gratitude first, and it’d be incredible.
It was going to be James. Big baby James. More than he even knew he was James. The whole reason why Shepard fought so hard to begin with James. ‘You look like hell,’ he’d say.
It was going to be Tali. She’d gasp inside her mask and the sound would work like an electric pulse straight to the heart, waking Shepard up again. ‘I shouldn’t be surprised,’ she’d say.
It was going to be Miranda. Because Miranda was always there to save Shepard. It was their way of showing affection, despite being more than half bad at it any other time of day.
It was going to be Grunt. Big baby Grunt. Raised you myself Grunt. Holding two giant slabs of concrete, one in each hand, shouting ‘Shepard!’ until Shepard’s ears bled.
‘Shepard!’ Conrad Verner said.
He was wearing N7 armor. N7 armor that fit him. N7 armor that belonged to him, sun haloing his hair. The grin on his face was real, but it wasn’t goofy.
‘No autographs right now, Conrad,’ Shepard said.
It was Conrad Verner. Picking Shepard up, carrying Shepard home. Knowing Shepard better than anybody else. Showing Shepard his orders after Shepard woke up, tubes and electrodes and medi-gel everywhere.
‘You passed every test I gave you, you know,’ Conrad said. ‘Even at my worst. The best humanity had to offer. You saved my life—and you gave me hope. So I just figured that was a kindness I really ought to repay.’