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Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect) arms crossed

Miranda Lawson

(Part #1)


Context

Mass Effect was a landmark video game trilogy released from 2007 to 2012. It included multiple ties-in such as novels, comics and an animated movie. Further games will follow in 2016 and beyond, although they will form a separate storyline.

It is a science fiction story, of the starships and space aliens kind. Most of the action takes place in a military context, as an apocalyptic threat against the galaxy emerges. It’s one of my favouritest games ever.

Writeups.org offers extensive Mass Effect coverage. The core articles are setting for Mass Effect 1 and the setting for Mass Effect 2, plus the profiles for the heroine – Staff Commander Mandala Shepard.

Unless you are highly familiar with Mass Effect, we recommend reading these articles first.


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  • There are S P O I L E R S in this thing, though it only covers ME2 for now.
  • This profile assumes a specific video game playthrough. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.

Background

  • Real Name: Miranda Lawson.
  • Other Aliases: Prodigal (Cerberus callsign).
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Henry Lawson (“father”), Oriana (“twin sister”).
  • Group Affiliation: Cerberus.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the Normandy SR2.
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 145 lbs.
  • Eyes: Steel blue Hair: Luscious dark brown


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Powers & Abilities

Miranda is genetically enhanced all over. Her strength, health, biotic potential, deductive and inductive intelligence, reflexes, physique, endurance, coordination, pulchritude, life expectancy, fitness, etc. are all in the peak human range.

She heals much faster than unenhanced persons, and will pass age 200 in excellent health. In the unlikely case she’s not killed before.

Her raw abilities allow her to excel at anything with but a few years of study and practice. She’s thus a superior special operative, manager, gunfighter, biotic combattant, data analyst and spy. Furthermore, she masters an unclear range of technical and scientific skills.

She learned unspecified medical skills whilst running Project Lazarus. By the very end her pharmacokinetic modelling was more accurate than that of her highly-qualified chief medical officer.

To live, to learn

Miranda has boasted that she could master any field she put her mind to, which seems accurate. Since she also does a lot of statistical analysis, we have assumed a superior grounding in the basic tool of formalised understanding – maths.

Miranda Lawson's first appearance

Miranda spent two decades wrapped in Cerberus’ games of death and deceit. It apparently has been her world since she was 15 or so. Intelligence is her bread and butter. She reflexively wants everything around her monitored. She’s wiring every place with bugs, hacking all e-mail accounts and listening in to everything.

She operates way better than most. Yet she discovered to her dismay that she isn’t yet on the level of the galactic espionage elite, such as Salarian Special Tasks Group  operatives. She’s also somewhat outshone by the galaxy-class specialists recruited by Shepard to be on her team. But being a generalist has its advantages.

Surveillance, intelligence, deception, subterfuge, manipulation, analysis and assassination seem to be her core jobs. The game stats assume a very solid skills base in these areas, beyond what could be demonstrated in the game.

She’s a pistol (part 1)

Miranda originally fights like a spy, not a soldier. She uses handguns (often machine pistols) to keep a hand free for her biotics and omni-tool. And though her catsuit seems to be lightly armoured she chiefly trusts her shields, biotic barrier and tactical mind for defence.

Our stats assume that she enters combat missions with body armour that is not pictured in the game, though. See our Mass Effect 2 biotics article for more.

On the Normandy, Jacob and Commander Shepard train her to fight like a Systems Alliance Marines assault specialist – a skillset that Miranda quickly masters. This facilitates tactical coordination, such as sharing immediate action drills.

Lawson is a crack shot with her preferred weapons. She can achieve tight bullet groups even with a M-4 Shuriken. Which is not a machine pistol reputed for its bullet placement ability.

Miranda tended to use common weapons likes Predators or Shurikens to lower traceability and remain discreet. But given the combat-heavy nature of the Collectors mission the guns-happy Shepard put her through a full evaluation and retrained her to use heavier weapons.

Miranda now sports a Tempest close-quarter assault weapon and Carnifex high-calibre pistol. Both were custom-built for her and heavily modified for enhanced power and accuracy.

She’s a pistol (part 2)

Miranda is a superior combat analyst. She processes ballistic and tactical data in-combat and post-combat to improve performance. In-game e-mails indicate that she crunches telemetry and ballistic data recorded during tactical engagements to suggest new weapons and tactics. This is presumably done in collaboration with ship armourer Jacob Taylor and ship artificial intelligence EDI.

Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor

Miranda also provides in-game gunfighting bonuses, though how it works in-universe is unknown. It is possible that her omni-tool packs modified versions of vehicular combat programs. She might use these on the fly to provide target tracking and compute real-time firing solutions relayed to her allies’ HUDs.

Based on in-game effects Miranda’s customised programs might even do real-time tweaks to friendly weapons’ mass drivers and Mass Effect generators to optimise each shot’s ballistics. This would make Lawson the perfect sniper’s spotter. This seems supported by her appearance in Mass Effect: Redemption , where Cerberus snipers under her command achieve excellent results.

Miranda’s omni-tool also includes Mass Effect disruption solutions. These kill shields, damage mechs and AIs such as geth, shut down weapons, etc.

She’ll blow your mind

Lawson is a powerful biotic – for a Human. Her biotic warps excel at destroying heavy body armour and biotic barriers. She has developed a distinctive gravity-manipulation technique slamming her targets against the ground. It yields even deadlier results if they’re in the air when the effect hits them.

Between her biotic warps and Mass Effect overloads using her omni-tool’s attack programs, Miranda can hammer all known heavy defences. This makes her an asset in most tactical situations.

During her loyalty mission Lawson uses her biotics to lift an opponent 10 metres in the air, then hit her with a sort of energy projectile to send her flying. Our game stats thus include biotic lift, and we assume that she then comboed it with a ME2 Biotic Warp.

The colour of her in-game heavy defence bar also implies that she’s shielded by a self-generated biotic barrier. However, on Haestrom  she mentions radiation damaging her shields. So we’ve assumed a mix of light shielding and a minor biotic barrier.

These abilities are not part of her ME2 powers list, but the in-game power lists seem to be the abbreviated version.


History – intro

Miranda Lawson is more or less the daughter of business tycoon Henry Lawson, an immensely rich and influential man. The powerful Mr. Lawson is fixated upon his legacy. He wishes to gain a sort of immortality by becoming an historical figure.

Creating a dynasty was one obvious approach. But it wasn’t good enough for the megalomaniacal Lawson. He wanted a perfect child whose DNA would be solely based on his own, undiluted by a mother’s. It seems that he insisted on the child being female, with undertones Alistair would deem creepy.

A number of embryos were grown and enhanced. The daughter would not be just a gender-swapped Lawson clone. She would receive a lengthy list of genetic enhancements making her a peak Human specimen – physically and intellectually.

The medical data about the offsprings kept disappointing Henry Lawson, and they were terminated at various stages. Miranda is the first one he kept and that was allowed to be born, since she was sufficiently close to perfection.


A question of time

Miranda’s birth date (2150, according to secondary sources) trips upon the main problem in the Mass Effect timeline. Not enough time has passed since the Mars discovery (2149) and the First Contact War (2157) to fit everyone’s biography in.

Using Miranda’s age as an adjustment variable doesn’t really work. By the 2180s she indeed seems to be in her 30s, even allowing for some wiggle room due to her high intelligence enhancing her maturity.

Specifically, Humans only realise the existence of biotics circa 2158, and they don’t manage a working biotic implant before the L2 in 2167. Thus, Miranda is born way too early for the embryo to be implanted with Element Zero nodules promoting biotic activity.

Accidental Element Zero exposure is highly improbable. Element Zero has just been discovered when the Miranda embryo is created. Furthermore it is dangerously carcinogenic, and has little place in a cloning project.

No-Prize hypothesis

The likeliest explanation is that Miranda is a unique case where a person is turned into a biotic via surgical Element Zero implants and nervous system modifications. As opposed to in utero mutation via Element Zero exposure.

This would make little sense in another context. Recruiting and training a biotic kid is far easier. But given Miranda’s father’s unique fixations, immense wealth and ruthlessness, and Miranda’s perfect health, it is conceivable that such a surgery might work. Presumably Lawson would have had the kid terminated and a new embryo grown had the implantation processes failed.

More exotic hypotheses are possible. For instance having a new Miranda conceived, exposing the embryo to Element Zero in controlled circumstances, putting it in a coma, speed-growing the clone, then transferring Miranda’s consciousness to the speed-grown body when it reaches her age.

At first glance, this is even rougher on the suspension of disbelief… but it parallels Project Lazarus (more about it later). It may have been Lazarus’ precedent in some areas (such as consciousness transfer) and help explain why Miranda is Lazarus’ director.

Perhaps she stole invaluable medical research from her father when she left. Which the Illusive Man had improved by Cerberus and which went through another round of additional research at Lazarus. These are no-prize hypotheses  though – there’s no hint toward that in Mass Effect 2.


History – resumed

Henry Lawson spoiled Miranda like only a multi-billionaire can. But every gift and every opportunity was to manipulate Miranda into developing the exact same beliefs as her father. It was to teach her “important life lessons”.

The constant manipulation and traps didn’t work. Presumably, even as a little girl, Miranda was smart enough to understand what was going on. She came to trust no one and nothing and only had one actual friend, a boy named Niket.

Bad, bad little girl

Miranda’s childhood was lonely, regimented, devoid of affection and dominated by her “father”. He demanded that she perform perfectly in every possible area.

Miranda Lawson aims a Shuriken machine pistol

She came to hate Lawson, who in turn came to consider her a failure. Therefore, Henry Lawson had another perfect baby, Oriana, created to replace Miranda. Oriana was based on Miranda’s DNA, and it is possible that she was a clone of Miranda. Apparently, Miranda was 14 or 15 when Oriana was born.

The teenager did not want to see her “baby sister” subjected to the same life she had. Further, she presumably suspected that she would be murdered to make room for Oriana. Miranda kidnapped the baby and fled, trading gunfire with Henry Lawson’s security force.

She escaped and hid. But she knew that she’d need powerful allies to keep her “father” at bay.

Run Miranda run

Henry Lawson was one of the main financiers behind the Cerberus conspiracy. Miranda thus knew how to contact the Illusive Man. She approached him for protection, presumably because she lacked alternatives.

Surprisingly, the Illusive Man agreed to take her in. He then had Oriana smuggled away and carefully hidden in an adoptive family. He thus lost the financial backing of Henry Lawson.

Miranda Lawson taking cover

The Illusive Man’s decision is likely explained by his strong belief that a handful of elite operatives — or perhaps even a single greater-than-life person — is worth an army of ordinary hirelings. Miranda clearly could become an extraordinary operative then a key lieutenant. And, perhaps, the Illusive Man’s successor.

As such, the Illusive Man apparently considered that she was worth more than Henry Lawson’s billions and influence.

Miranda resumed doing the only thing she knew. Namely, being a perfect instrument for a shadowy authority figure and focusing on exceeding unreasonable expectations.

The hounds of Hell

Nothing had actually changed. Particularly in the hypothesis where the Illusive Man considered her a potential heir. But Miranda persuaded herself that the smooth, charismatic Illusive Man was good to her and valued her. Furthermore, Oriana was safe and untouched – which was the important thing.

The Illusive Man presumably preyed on Miranda’s inexperience and ample psychological baggage to make her his agent. But this time Miranda wanted to believe. And he was a far smoother manipulator than Henry Lawson.

Over the years Miranda became the perfect Cerberus officer. She seemed to be the Illusive Man’s most trusted and capable lieutenant.

Miranda was a Cerberus operative, then officer, for about 20 years – from adolescence to her mid-30s. She presumably has a lot of blood on her hands.

Her activities during all these years are undocumented. But she built an extensive network of contacts and informants among Cerberus sympathisers, the corporate world, the military, organised crime, mercenary groups, etc..

Earth’s longest river (part 1)

With its militant “Humanity first” creed, Cerberus is a terrorist, blood-soaked organisation. It has little regard for those Human lives it is supposed to defend.

Miranda employed her considerable intelligence to rationalise her Cerberus affiliation over the years. Like many other operatives she maintained that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That’s always a convenient excuse for murder and terror attacks.

She also considered that Cerberus were the hard realists willing to make hard choices in a hard galaxy. By contrast, namby-pambies such as the Systems Alliance were paralysed by indecision and formalism. Another common line of argumentation is that there are no higher stakes than the fate of Humanity, and that one cannot afford to play nice when entrusted with such a responsibility.

Furthermore, the Illusive Man would tell Miranda that any Cerberus actions that went too far — even by her true believer standards — were the result of some out-of-control splinter cell.

Lawson was all too eager to believe this. Thus, the rogue faction explanation became something of a knee-jerk reflex of hers. Which the cells-based organisation of Cerberus made easy.

Earth’s longest river (part 2)

The Cerberus cells are completely partitioned off each other, with the Illusive Man being the sole known shared point of contact. They don’t generally work with each other. However, Miranda is the sort of lieutenant whom the Illusive Man would send to check why a given cell went offline.

Miranda Lawson portrait

Given what we know from Cerberus in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, one can easily imagine that there were cases where Miranda and her operatives were sent to terminate “splinter cells”. Ones that were actually also carrying out the Illusive Man’s orders, but had become inconvenient.

Though Lawson is undeniably a terrorist and a murderer, it is possible that the parts of Cerberus under her command were markedly less monstrous. Whilst she takes pride in her ruthlessness, Miranda balked when she discovered Cerberus projects such as Subject Zero or Overlord . The Illusive Man presumably ensured that she was not in contact with such projects so as not to lose her loyalty.

Furthermore, the cell under Miranda’s command in Mass Effect 2 — Cell Lazarus — seemed essentially apolitical. Most of its members thought that Cerberus was more or less benign.

A corpse is a corpse, of course, of course

In 2183, the iconic heroine Staff Commander Shepard was killed saving her crew from a mysterious attack. As a response, the Illusive Man entrusted Miranda with Cerberus newest, largest and most critical project.

Shepard had claimed that extragalactic entities, the Reapers, were eliminating all sapient life throughout the galaxy every 50,000 years. Though the Commander had no proof of this, the Illusive Man believed her. He had enough private intelligence about the Reapers to know that they were amply capable of eradicating Humanity.

The Illusive Man believed that only the greatest Human fighter stood a chance against the Reapers. He also had first-hand knowledge of certain technologies capable of bringing back the dead. He thus tasked Lawson with the apparently impossible – resurrect Shepard.

O/S fusion

Miranda had billions in budget and near-complete access to Cerberus resources. Though she eventually had to go over budget, the Illusive Man did not blink. He extended her line well past 4 billions.

Apparently, the Illusive Man did not tell her how to proceed. He was confident that the brilliant operative would soon determine that organic/synthetic fusions like those found in “husks” — techno-zombies created by the Reapers — was the best approach.

The Illusive Man had specifically ruled out cloning from the beginning. He wanted the original.

Galactic Galateas & feminine Frankensteins

The first stage of the project was personally handled by the Illusive Man. Mysterious aliens had paid dreaded mercenary spymaster the Shadow Broker to recover Commander Shepard’s smashed corpse. They had gotten to it before Cerberus could.

With Miranda as his eyes and hands, the Illusive Man turned a Shadow Broker agent named Feron against his boss. He then manipulated Shepard’s lover — Dr. Liara T’Soni — into helping Cerberus.

Miranda Lawson at her work desk

Though Miranda wanted to intervene more directly the Illusive Man largely kept her in reserve. He only let her act when things might get out of hand. Miranda and her snipers thus derailed a Shadow Broker ambush against Liara and Feron on Omega. They gunned down the Blue Suns mercenaries sent by the Broker.

To Miranda’s surprise Dr. T’Soni, whom she thought was a dorky alien academic, took on the Shadow Broker’s feared network. The Asari delivered Commander Shepard’s remains to Cerberus. Albeit the whole plot stank to the high heavens, Liara was willing to do anything to give her love even the slightest chance of coming back from the dead.

Miranda christened her nascent project team Cell Lazarus, and went a-recruiting. She also had a secret base built or repurposed to run the project. Shepard’s destroyed corpse was hidden there for analysis and preparation.

Mass Effect: Galaxy

A few months later — presumably while the Lazarus resources were assembling — Miranda recruited ex-Alliance shock trooper Jacob Taylor. He was to help her uncover a Batarian plot against the Council.

During this mission she chiefly served in a control and intelligence role. Miranda was piecing together what was happening whilst Taylor was fighting it out.

Lawson and Taylor were successful. As they suspected, Batarian ambassador to the Citadel Jath’amon didn’t intend to negotiate terms for peace. He was to unleash a virus against the Council. They stopped him in the nick of time, after a long investigation filled with unreasonable amounts of gunfire.

Lawson threw herself at Taylor to celebrate their victory. Given her self-objectification issues, one suspects she just thought that Jacob had earned to get the girl at the end.

Though she presumably was just going for celebratory sex, a relationship unexpectedly developed. It then crashed and burned as the reasonable, measured, responsible Jacob Taylor realised just how messed up Miranda was.

They nevertheless continued to work closely together. But that was on a strictly hierarchical basis, with Taylor being Lawson’s lieutenant and chief triggerman. Miranda doesn’t seem to have quite gotten over Jacob, but that was apparently never an issue in their work.

And then…

This article is continued in .


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By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy and comics – through at this point this entry doesn’t cover ME3.

Helper(s): Darci. The brief recap of the Mass Effect Galaxy events based on the Mass Effect Wikia’s account, since none of us played this (now unavailable) game. Enhanced textures by Jean-Luc Fortier.

Writeup completed on the 20th of February, 2013.

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