- “Cerberus isn’t just an organisation or the people behind it. Cerberus is an idea; that idea is not so easily destroyed.”
- —The Illusive Man
Cerberus is a human-survivalist paramilitary group led by the enigmatic Illusive Man. Cerberus' core belief is that humans deserve a greater role in the galactic community, and that the Systems Alliance is too hamstrung by law and public opinion to stand up effectively to the other Citadel races.
Cerberus supports the principle that any methods of advancing humanity's ascension are entirely justified, including illegal or dangerous experimentation, terrorist activities, sabotage and assassination. Cerberus operatives accept that these methods are brutal, but believe history will vindicate them.
Nevertheless, both the Systems Alliance and the Citadel Council have declared Cerberus to be a terrorist organization and will prosecute identified Cerberus agents accordingly.
Cerberus arose from the tumult of the First Contact War in 2157 CE, a conflict between humanity and the first alien race they had encountered after achieving spaceflight, the turians. During the turian occupation of Shanxi, a trio of human mercenaries, Jack Harper, Eva Coré, and Ben Hislop, served with the Systems Alliance forces led by General Williams who were resisting the turians. After capturing a turian general, the mercenaries became embroiled in the general's conspiracy to use an ancient alien artifact to transform the turians into a race of invincible supersoldiers under his command. With the aid of the general's brother, Saren Arterius, Harper was able to foil the plot, but both Coré and Hislop were lost.
In the aftermath, Harper realized that although the galaxy was abundant with knowledge and wealth, it was also a dangerous place, and a dark time was coming for humanity. It was humanity's duty to meet this challenge, and Harper resolved to do everything in his power to better humanity and ensure their place among the stars. With that, Harper published the manifesto of Cerberus and assumed the identity of the Illusive Man.
As Cerberus grew, it had an indelible effect on the course of human development through acts of sabotage, assassination, media manipulation, and espionage. Cerberus became known to the public after a failed attempt to steal antimatter from the cruiser SSV Geneva in 2165. The sole surviving member of the operation named his sponsor "Cerberus", and the publicity from the incident spurred an increase in recruitment. In 2170, Cerberus engineered the Eldfell-Ashland Energy accident over Yandoa, exposing the colonists to dust-form element zero, and two other similar accidents over the preceding four months in two other colonies.
The following year, Pope Clement XVI is assassinated via rosary beads coated with toxic materials in order to be replaced by Leo XIV, who has eschatological beliefs more in line with Cerberus' goal of militarizing humanity. Claude Menneau, a candidate for the leadership of the pro-human Terra Firma party, was also assassinated in 2173 at the order of the Illusive Man to allow Charles Saracino to gain the position. Cerberus was additionally responsible for funding Michael Moser Lang, who would go on to gun down United North American States president Enrique Aguilar and Chinese People's Federation premier Ying Xiong in 2176, and sabotaging the starship MSV Anixara in 2182, resulting in the death of Turian Hierachy war hawk Raherix Ursivus.
Eden Prime War
In 2183, Commander John Shepard crosses paths with Cerberus and investigates their activities to discover they conducted experiments intended to create supersoldiers, including experiments on rachni and Thorian Creepers. The organization accidentally unleashed rachni on Listening Posts Alpha and Theta when their experimental subjects, which were shipped from Noveria, escaped from Depot Sigma-23. They were also involved with a settlement on Chasca whose colonial pioneer team was converted into Husks. In addition, a traumatized marine named Corporal Toombs claimed that Cerberus lured thresher maws to the colony on Akuze, resulting in the notorious massacre there; Toombs was one of the only survivors. Soon after the massacre Toombs was captured and withstood brutal experiments.
Things came to a head when Commander Shepard investigated the disappearance of a group of marines under Rear Admiral Kahoku and found that Cerberus had lured them to a thresher maw nest using a distress beacon much like on Akuze. After being informed of the marines' fate, Kahoku purchased information from the Shadow Broker and asked Shepard to track Cerberus down. During his investigation, Kahoku came to conclusion that Cerberus was in fact a rogue black-ops group that had broken away from the Alliance. Soon after he had managed to contact Commander John Shepard with this information, however, Kahoku was captured and killed. Kahoku's body was held in a Cerberus facility on Binthu, which held the location for Cerberus' alleged main base on Nepheron.
Regaining Shepard's body
After the Normandy SR-1 was destroyed in a surprise attack by the Collector Cruiser and Commander Shepard is killed, the Illusive Man personally coordinated the efforts of Liara T'Soni and Feron to infiltrate the Shadow Broker's organization and prevent the acquisition of Shepard's body by the Collectors. Miranda Lawson, along with several Cerberus troopers, ambushed and killed the Blue Suns mercenaries that detained Liara and Feron on Omega and took them to a safehouse to introduce Liara to the Illusive Man. The leader of Cerberus persuaded her to work for him and use Feron, admitting that his own assets were likely to be ineffective against the Shadow Broker; despite its human-centric reputation, Cerberus was not above employing and relying on agents of alien species. In the end, Liara and Feron succeeded in their mission, allowing Cerberus to gain intel on the Shadow Broker's operations, as well as acquire Shepard's body so that the Commander could be revived.
Two months after the Battle of the Citadel, Cerberus focused its attention on two separate paths of research. The first was human biotics, and the organization infiltrated the Ascension Project to take advantage of the Alliance's biotic research. The key test subject was Gillian Grayson, Paul Grayson's daughter, whom Cerberus gave specialized medication to amplify her abilities in order to make her into "humanity's savior". The second area of interest was the quarian Migrant Fleet, which the Illusive Man saw as a threat given that the Fleet was the single largest armada in the galaxy. Also, as creators of the geth, the quarians warranted much greater interest in light of the attack on the Citadel. To this end, the Illusive Man contacted a quarian exile, Golo, to gain the Flotilla's transmission codes. Cerberus' plans are thwarted after the operative Pel decided to betray Cerberus and intended to sell Gillian and her tutor Hendel Mitra to the Collectors. During a Cerberus attack on the Flotilla, Grayson killed Pel to save his daughter, but also decided to abandon Cerberus, realizing that they would use Gillian as a weapon.
Attempted assassination of the Council
Sometime between 2183 CE and 2185 CE, Cerberus sends one of its top operatives, Miranda Lawson, to assist the former Alliance soldier Jacob Taylor in his investigation on a batarian terrorist threat. On behalf of his friend and former CO, Major Derek Izunami, Jacob meets Miranda in a bar called the Fringe on the Cartagena Station.
Once there, Miranda explains the batarian extremists' plan to attack the Citadel on the day of ambassador Jath'Amon's arrival and sabotage the peace talks by killing him. She gives him three leads: A turian arms dealer named Illo Nazario on the planet Tortuga who has worked with the batarians for years, the planet Bekke where a batarian army is reportedly gathering, and a rumor that the batarians have kidnapped several scientists and are holding them on the Ahn'Kedar Orbital Platform.
Miranda assisted Jacob in the field during his whole investigation by giving him advice and intel via a holographic system. After gathering intel on the three locations, Miranda and Jacob were finally able to discover the terrorists' whole plan: the batarians' true target was the Citadel Council, not ambassador Jath'Amon as previously thought. The leader of the batarian extremists turned out to be Jath'Amon himself, who intended to unleash a bioweapon on the Council during the peace talks. Jacob and Miranda hurried back to the Citadel to stop the meeting; after a fight they were able to save the Council by preparing a cure for the bioweapon. In the end the terrorists were stopped and arrested by Jacob.
After this resolution, Jacob resumed his vacation and later received an unexpected visit: Miranda came to his room to share a bottle of champagne.
Cerberus took an interest in Commander Shepard after the Commander successfully defeated Sovereign in the Battle of the Citadel. When Shepard is killed after a devastating attack that destroyed the SSV Normandy SR-1, Cerberus recovered Shepard's body. Understanding the Commander's leadership skills and symbolic value, the Illusive Man commissioned the Lazarus Project led by Miranda Lawson to revive Shepard from the dead.
The project lasts two years and costs over 4,000,000,000 credits, enough to create an army. The Illusive Man insisted that Shepard should not be implanted with any form of mind control, fearing it might alter Shepard's personality. The Lazarus Project almost fails due to a mole, Wilson, who hacks the project's security mechs to kill everyone involved. The timely revival of Shepard allows the Commander and two members of the project, Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor, to escape.
While the Lazarus Project is underway, a separate Cerberus cell was also endowed with an enormous amount of resources to build a more advanced version of the Normandy, the SR-2. When asked how Cerberus could obtain the schematics and data necessary to reconstruct a highly advanced, classified Alliance ship, the advanced AI coupled with the SR-2, the Enhanced Defense Intelligence aka EDI, reported that the information was blocked and she cannot reveal it to Shepard. After EDI's integration with the Normandy, however, the blocks were removed, revealing that Cerberus initially persuaded and backed the Alliance in co-developing the Normandy SR-1 with the turians, allowing humans to observe turian technologies and warship design practices. After its construction, Cerberus retained the schematics, purchased parts from thousands of suppliers and had it assembled by one of their cells at a remote location in the Voyager Cluster.
After Shepard was revived, the Illusive Man convinced the Commander to help stop the disappearances of human colonies. Shepard was given the new Normandy, command over the surviving members of the Lazarus Project, and a crew handpicked to paint Cerberus in a more positive light. Soon it was discovered that a near-mythical race dubbed the Collectors were behind the colony abductions.
The Commander was able to assemble an eclectic, highly skilled group of individuals to take down the Collectors. Despite Cerberus' anti-alien views, the bulk of the Commander's team is non-human. Shepard's previous work with alien species allowed the Commander to make diplomatic overtures to species like the quarians that Cerberus itself could not make due to the organization's past. Shepard's mission was an enormous success, resulting in the destruction of the Collector Base beyond the Omega 4 Relay. Cerberus' popularity reached a high point because of that mission, and it attained a reputation as a highly competent vigilante organization protecting humanity from alien threats, while the Systems Alliance and the Citadel Council appeared weak and indecisive.
While Commander Shepard assembled the team for the suicide mission against the Collectors, the Commander also undertook several other missions involving Cerberus.
At the request of Jack, Shepard travels to the abandoned Teltin Facility on Pragia, which Cerberus had once used to research biotic potential in humans, and where Jack had been the primary test subject. Shepard learns Cerberus had performed horrific tests on children kidnapped from poor human families around the galaxy or bought from batarian slavers. The fruits of these experiments were used to augment Jack's abilities. The Teltin facility's staff had gone behind the Illusive Man's back in order to conduct their unethical research, however, and Cerberus had no knowledge of their betrayal. The experiments were only ended when a group of test subjects started a riot. The surviving subjects were given mild amnesic treatments and sent to the Alliance, passed off as survivors of slaver attacks, while the facility staff were forcibly retired.
Shepard helped Cerberus recover sensitive data which had been obtained by Eclipse mercenaries on Lorek who had captured and tortured Tyrone Rawlings, a Cerberus operative. Unbeknownst to Cerberus, the Commander had sent the encrypted data to the Alliance.
After the MSV Rosalie, a survey ship with Cerberus connections, went missing, Shepard was sent to investigate the wreck on the planet Zeona. There, the Commander recovered the prototype Hammerhead planet-side exploration rover. Data retrieved from the MSV Rosalie's emergency beacon contained clues about one Dr. Cayce's discovery of a Prothean artifact. After searching for the the scientist's whereabouts on several planets, Shepard found the Prothean site on the planet Kopis. When the artifact was recovered, a burst of energy that contained coded information left the Prothean artifact. The data Cerberus was able to capture gave its researchers useful data about biotics.
Cerberus also ran Project Overlord, an ambitious effort to not only understand the geth, but to find a way to manipulate them through their religious fervor. Administered on the planet Aite and run by Dr. Gavin Archer, Project Overlord was on the cusp of a breakthrough when the entire facility inexplicably went dark. Sent by the Illusive Man to investigate the situation, Shepard discovers that Archer had connected his brother David, an autistic savant, to a VI interface to interact with the geth. The over-stimulation had driven David insane and caused him to take control of the base, unleashing geth and Cerberus' own security mechs on the staff. Intervening, the Commander prevented the Overlord VI from escaping into the galactic communication network and either puts an end to Project Overlord by freeing David.
Conflict at Grissom Academy
Sometime after the assault on the Collector Base, Cerberus kidnapped former operative Paul Grayson, who had been working for Aria T'Loak on Omega. Operatives led by the Illusive Man's favored assassin, Kai Leng, attacked Grayson's apartment, kidnapping Grayson and murdering his lover Liselle. Grayson was taken to one of Cerberus' many research stations, where the Illusive Man ordered him implanted with recovered Reaper technology.
Before Grayson had been kidnapped, however, he had sent all the information he had on Cerberus to Kahlee Sanders in the hope she could use it to bring down Cerberus or protect herself from harm. Sanders turned to Admiral David Anderson for assistance, who in turn sought the help of the turians due to his concerns about Cerberus infiltration of the Alliance hierarchy. The turians launched raids against several Cerberus bases and front companies, and a number of Cerberus agents and supporters were arrested on the Citadel, greatly impairing the operations of the organization.
Still believing that Cerberus needed to protect and defend humanity, and that the augmented Grayson, who had escaped Cerberus custody during the turian attack, was now a huge threat to Cerberus' operations and to humanity itself, the Illusive Man made a business deal with Aria T'Loak, asking her to kill Grayson in exchange for a substantial sum of money. The trap failed and Grayson escaped once more. Kai Leng, who had observed the failed ambush, offered to transport Sanders and Anderson off-station, but they turned on him, overpowering him with the aid of a group of turian mercenaries, and used his ship to pursue Grayson to Jon Grissom Academy. Once they caught up with him, Kai Leng broke free, eliminated Grayson, and escaped capture, albeit severely injured.
The Illusive Man recontacted Aria, and was able to successfully negotiate the return of Cerberus data logs from Grayson's time in captivity. With all the "loose ends" tied up, the Illusive Man returned to the twin tasks of rebuilding his damaged organization and continuing preparations to combat the Reapers.
Incident at Fehl Prime
Cerberus isn't averse to dealing with the enemy itself in order to ensure human supremacy. They send an agent named Messner to the Collectors in 2185, where the human gives them a colony to harvest in exchange for information. True to Cerberus philosophies, Messner is willing to sacrifice whatever for a crack at the intel within the Collectors' Prothean-style repositories, and with the unwilling help of an asari named Treeya he manages to record the intel into an external storage device. This intel never makes its way into Cerberus hands as Lieutenant James Vega gets hold of it and sends it straight to the Alliance, although by that time the Collector threat was already rendered moot by Commander Shepard.
Conquest of Omega
Cerberus maintained ties with Aria T'Loak after the Paul Grayson incident. It established several research bases on the other side of the Omega 4 Relay and was using Omega as a supply hub for its convoys. During a routine convoy stop, creatures called Adjutants emerged from a transport ship and began rampaging throughout Omega. The Adjutants were the result of Cerberus experiments with Reaper technology found beyond the Omega 4 Relay, and had broken free, taken over the research bases, and used the available transport ships to escape and attack Omega.
The Illusive Man sent General Oleg Petrovsky and Colonel Raymond Ashe aboard the starship Elbrus to aid Aria's defense of Omega. Although this was undertaken ostensibly to eliminate the Adjutant threat, Cerberus has other plans. While Petrovsky and Aria saw to defending Omega from more Adjutant ships, Ashe was kept in chains on the station, having earned Aria's dislike for arrogantly ordering her own men around. Ashe killed his guards and contacted the Illusive Man to inform him that the real battle for Omega was ready to begin. While the Elbrus traveled beyond the Omega 4 Relay to Avernus Station to contain the Adjutants, Ashe made use of the Cerberus reinforcements to conquer Omega, taking advantage of the gang war being waged in Aria's absence.
Aria eventually fought her way back to Omega and united the station's factions against Cerberus. Realizing that she could hold out against the invasion indefinitely, General Petrovsky took the station itself hostage. Aria was forced to choose between continuing to fight and letting Omega be destroyed by a Cerberus fleet, or exiling herself and surrendering the station. She chose the latter and left, but vowed to return. Omega was secured shortly thereafter by Petrovsky's forces, a major victory for Cerberus.
While Liara T'Soni uses her influence as the Shadow Broker to find a way to stop the Reapers, the Illusive Man secretly monitors her progress and learns of her intent to investigate the Protheans for leads. Later, when Liara journeys to a Prothean ruin on Kahje, a Cerberus Phantom arrives there before her, kills the site's staff, and turns its defenses against Liara's shuttle.
When Liara makes it to the site and kills the Phantom, the Illusive Man contacts her via hologram. He apologizes for the Phantom's attack, but claims a rogue faction of Cerberus is responsible. He suggests forming an alliance with Liara to stop the Reapers and that they pool their knowledge, but when Liara challenges him to turn over his research first, he remains silent. Liara concludes he either wants to keep his research to himself or he doesn't have any research to share. Angered, the Illusive Man insinuates she is incapable of running the Shadow Broker's organization and claims that the criminal underworld think the Shadow Broker has become soft and weak, insisting that Liara needs his help. Liara points out that he is the one trying to make a deal, advises him to send an army the next time he tries to kill her and cuts him off before he can continue arguing.
In 2186, Cerberus maintained a remote research space station known as the Barn near the desert planet LV426. Run by the enigmatic Director, the purpose of the Barn was to carry out experiments on humans, asari, krogan, and turians involving Reaper technology in order to enhance the performance of weapons and biotics. The Director sends Cerberus operatives across the galaxy to gather new test subjects. One such operative, infiltrator Randall Ezno, was deployed to capture a high value turian target and field test a set of implants that grant biotic capabilities.
When Randall returned to the Barn after a successful mission, he discovered that his implants were intended to indoctrinate him and other Cerberus personnel. As Randall had adapted to the implants too quickly and rendered them ineffective, the Director forced Randall's handler and friend, Inali Renata to become the test subject for more powerful technology. Outraged, Randall went rogue and turned against Cerberus, fighting through the station to find Inali. Through Randall's actions, the facility's test subjects are released and violently rebel against their Cerberus captors, and a force of geth is attracted to the station after Randall activates a communications relay.
By the time Randall escaped the station, the Barn is severely damaged and its operations crippled. Vowing to take revenge on Cerberus for harming Inali, Randall went on to contact the Systems Alliance and provide them valuable intel on other Cerberus operations.
War against the Reapers
By the time of the Reaper invasion in 2186, Cerberus had undergone a dramatic transformation. Seeking to take control of the Reapers at any cost rather than to merely stop them, the Illusive Man intended to use the Reapers to make humanity the dominant force in the galaxy. Experiments with Reaper technology allowed the organization to indoctrinate civilians and convert them into absolutely loyal troops, swelling Cerberus' army. Cerberus' rapid growth also fostered public distrust of the organization, as commentators took notice of Cerberus' increasingly anti-alien stance and the blind obedience of its employees.
During the weeks immediately preceding the invasion, Eva Coré, a Cerberus infiltration android, gained access to the Prothean archive research facility on Mars. As the Reapers conquered Earth, Cerberus invaded the research facility, massacring Alliance and civilian personnel alike. Their objective was to retrieve the data for a Prothean superweapon, the Crucible, which in theory could defeat the Reapers, or, as the Illusive Man believed, control them. Commander Shepard arrived in time to stop Cerberus from succeeding. Although Eva had downloaded the data and damaged the archives, the Commander was able to prevent her escape, disable her, and retrieve the data.
Cerberus opposed Shepard's attempts to create an alliance between the krogan and the turians, the first step to unifying the galaxy against the Reapers. A Cerberus squad raided Sur'Kesh to kill a fertile krogan female who was vital to curing the genophage. When Shepard arrived at Tuchanka, the Commander found Cerberus was attempting to detonate a massive bomb to start a war between the turians and krogan, in addition to reactivating a Tuchanka ground-to-space cannon which would have proven detrimental to the defense of the planet.
After Shepard gains support from both the krogan and the turians, Cerberus launches a coup attempt against the Citadel Council with the help of Councilor Udina. The invasion force was led by the assassin Kai Leng. Cerberus' strategy was to capture C-Sec headquarters, throwing any defensive efforts into disarray, and then hunt down the Councilors. The coup is foiled by the timely intervention of Shepard, and Cerberus withdraws.
Cerberus was able to triumph over Commander Shepard during the Reaper assault on Thessia. When the Commander attempted to retrieve a Prothean VI containing key information needed to complete the Crucible, Kai Leng reappeared, supported by a Cerberus gunship. After a brief battle, the gunship destroys the temple floor, allowing Kai Leng to steal the Prothean VI and escape before Shepard and their squad can recover from the wreckage.
Shepard followed Kai Leng's trail to Sanctuary, a refugee center on Horizon which was actually a Cerberus research facility directed by Henry Lawson. The purpose of the facility was to find a way to understand the indoctrination process and control the Reapers; those refugees who were not experimented on for this research were converted into more Cerberus troops. When Shepard arrived, the Reapers had already stormed the facility in retaliation for the Illusive Man's plan. With intel obtained from the facility, Shepard was able to pinpoint the location of Cerberus' headquarters, Cronos Station.
As the Prothean VI was necessary to complete the Crucible and carry out the counterattack against the Reapers on Earth, the Alliance's Fifth Fleet assaulted Cronos Station, engaging Cerberus' main fleet while Shepard boarded the station. Shepard recovered the Prothean VI and killed Kai Leng, and Cerberus is effectively destroyed. Unfortunately, the Illusive Man had fled to the Citadel before the attack and informed the Reapers of the Crucible's existence. The Reapers then moved the Citadel to Earth, where they could best defend it.
During the battle for Earth, the Illusive Man had one final confrontation with Shepard, attempting to stop the Commander and Admiral Anderson from opening the arms of the Citadel so that the Crucible could be activated. Shepard defeats the Cerberus leader by convincing him he had been indoctrinated, which leads to the Illusive Man committing suicide. With that, Cerberus had come to an end.
Conflict with Shepard
While Commander Shepard rallied the galaxy's forces to counterattack the Reapers, the Commander also undertook several other missions involving Cerberus.
Prior to the Reaper invasion, Din Korlack, the volus ambassador to the Citadel, had become an informant for Cerberus, but he had a change of heart. The turians, who had discovered Korlack's duplicity, did not know this and put a bounty on his head for passing classified information to Cerberus. The Commander is able to track down the ambassador before bounty hunters reach him. The ambassador had information about a turian colony that Cerberus planned to attack, but refused to divulge it, fearing Cerberus would know he had turned traitor. He instead offered Shepard the use of the volus bombing fleet. Shepard could choose to take the fleet, save the colony, or convince Korlack to give both.
The Illusive Man also pushed his science division to work on Reaper technology salvaged from beyond the Omega 4 Relay. When a scientist had completed their work, they'd mysteriously disappear, prompting a number of scientists under Brynn Cole and their families to leave Cerberus and go into hiding. Cerberus discovered these scientists and sent a strike force to capture them. Shepard intervenes just in time to rescue them.
Despite the Illusive Man's control over Cerberus, one Cerberus cell was reportedly massacring civilians on Benning, which Cerberus disavowed as a rogue cell after Shepard evacuated the civilians and defeated the cell.
Shepard also raided several Cerberus facilities including a Cerberus lab on Sanctum and a fighter base on Noveria, which gave the Alliance valuable intel on Cerberus' studies on Reaper technology as well as squadrons of advanced Cerberus fighters.
Conquest of Eden Prime
Cerberus attempted to occupy the Alliance colony of Eden Prime in order to recover a live Prothean. Shepard was able to recover the Prothean, and gave the Eden Prime resistance movement enough intelligence to overthrow the occupation.
The occupation of Omega gave Cerberus a huge strategic advantage, bolstering their mobility throughout the galaxy and providing access to the station's abundant eezo mines, but the organization had some difficulties maintaining the occupation. The Talons, a gang led by Nyreen Kandros, instigated a resistance movement and sought to liberate the station. In order to contain the civilian population, General Oleg Petrovsky deployed large energy-intensive force fields throughout the station along with Rampart Mechs to maintain order.
Cerberus also conducted experiments with Reaper-based Adjutants in an effort to create a new supply of troops. Initially, this proved to be a disaster. Large sections of Omega had to be shut down with significant loss of life to contain outbreaks of uncontrolled Adjutants. Further experimentation gave Cerberus full control over the newer batches of these creatures. Had Cerberus been able to begin mass-production of Adjutants by converting Omega's population, it was projected that the organization would have greatly exceeded its demand for troops in the ongoing war.
Aria T'Loak eventually launched an invasion with Shepard to retake Omega from Cerberus. Despite Cerberus having the advantages of an occupation fleet four times the size of Aria's and Omega's heavily-upgraded outer defenses, Aria was able to land her troops on Omega. Aria and Shepard were able to bolster their expeditionary force by forming an alliance with the Talons. When Shepard, Aria and Nyreen brought down the force fields throughout Omega, the civilians revolted. Talon and Aria's forces assaulted Cerberus' Omega headquarters in the Afterlife Club, overwhelming their remaining forces.
The liberation of Omega was a huge blow for Cerberus. In addition to losing large numbers of troops and its Adjutant research, Cerberus had lost the services of one of its top tacticians, General Petrovsky. Aria's troops were also extremely motivated to continue taking the fight to Cerberus elsewhere in the galaxy. The allied forces were able to collect a significant amount of intelligence about Cerberus, helping expedite the eventual fall of the organization.
Cerberus ground forces are formed from personnel who are deemed physically suitable, be they unsuspecting volunteers, refugees or abductees. The research performed at Sanctuary allowed for Cerberus to control Reaper ground troops. Personnel are put through an "integration" process - a combination of Reaper-inspired indoctrination, implantation or other conditioning - and become the various troop variants. While indoctrination is involved, and troops are physically altered into a husk-like state, the integration does not reduce them to the feral behavior that Reaper husks exhibit. Instead, Cerberus troops retain the mental capacity to perform their roles while maintaining complete loyalty to Cerberus' cause. Though there is a risk of Cerberus soldiers falling under Reaper control, the Illusive Man was confident that he could maintain control. By 2186 Cerberus had created a significant military force, the development of which was greatly aided by tech scavenged from the Collector Base and from resources plundered after the Cerberus conquest of Omega.
Cerberus troops make liberal use of Shield Generators. These can power portable cover systems or Shield Pylons, which envelop nearby units in an extra layer of kinetic barriers. Vehicles employed by Cerberus forces include the M-080 (APC variant), the A-61 Mantis Gunship, and UT-47 Kodiak Drop Shuttle.
Cerberus also maintained a significant flotilla of warships to perform covert operations across the galaxy, and a large fleet was stationed at Omega until its liberation. These fleets consisted of cruisers, fighters and at least one dreadnought that were considered extremely advanced by Alliance standards. It is speculated by Alliance intelligence that this is because of Cerberus' acquisition of Reaper technology. The bulk of Cerberus' warships engaged the Alliance Navy's Fifth Fleet at Cronos Station.
Cerberus deploys the following forces against Commander Shepard and allies:
- Adjutant - Reaper creatures genetically engineered by Cerberus to serve as troops.
- Assault Trooper - Standard soldiers that form the bulk of Cerberus forces.
- Atlas - Slow, heavy, and durable mechs equipped with rocket launchers and cannons.
- Centurion - Front-line tacticians that lead squads into battle.
- Combat Engineer - Specialized support units that deploy Turrets.
- Dragoon - Armored combat specialists armed with biotic lashes for close to mid-range attacks.
- Guardian - Fortified units equipped with highly-durable shields.
- Nemesis - Sniper specialists that can inflict instant death on opponents.
- Phantom - Agile biotic units armed with a monomolecular blade and Palm Blaster.
- Rampart Mech - Heavily modified LOKI Mechs used to contain Omega's civilian population.
Cerberus is divided into numerous independent cells which have no knowledge of their counterparts. This ensures that should one cell be compromised, the others would not be captured. Each cell is led by an operative who reports directly to the Illusive Man. Cerberus operates many kinds of cells, ranging from military to political to scientific, but all united under the common goal of advancing humanity. Cerberus also has operatives throughout the Alliance, often embedded in high-ranking positions, giving the Illusive Man constant updates and feeding him information that would otherwise be classified.
As of 2185, Cerberus consists of 150 operatives organized into three cells. The Illusive Man oversees all projects carried out by the cells personally; consequently, there are never more than a dozen projects active at one time. This degree of micro-management leaves the organization vulnerable should the Illusive Man ever be compromised, though he has been smart enough to avoid detection so far.
Communication throughout Cerberus sometimes takes the form of steganographic messages embedded within extranet broadcasts. These messages can range from troop movement orders to instructions to financiers to direct money into certain cells. This method of communication was recently compromised by the Systems Alliance.
The Illusive Man can also afford quantum-entanglement communicators. One such device was installed within the Normandy SR-2 to give the Illusive Man a secure, direct means of communication with Commander Shepard.
Cerberus has wealthy sympathizers within the Alliance military-industrial complex, who contribute credits and resources to Cerberus, and trust the Illusive Man to make the right decisions. Cerberus also owns several front corporations which further fund and support their operations. Spending trends indicate that Cerberus has a reliable income running up to several billion credits per year.
Cerberus has operatives planted across Citadel space and the Terminus Systems who regularly report to the Illusive Man. Due to their widespread network, Cerberus effectively has access to almost every settled system, major trade stop, and colony in the galaxy. However, Cerberus has no knowledge of what goes on in uncharted systems and the Migrant Fleet, thus rendering the Illusive Man blind in those areas.
Cerberus operatives usually work alone. If an operative is captured, depending on their usefulness, Cerberus might attempt a rescue or simply declare them to be expendable and abandon them to their captors.
- Enhanced Defense Initiative - An initiative to create a "shackled" AI developed from a rogue Alliance VI and systems salvaged from Sovereign. The result was the Enhanced Defense Intelligence, or "EDI", which was installed onto the Normandy SR-2 as an analysis and cyber warfare system.
- Lazarus Project - Established in 2183. Based out of Lazarus Research Station and led by Miranda Lawson, the Lazarus Project spent billions of credits in pursuit of one goal: bringing Commander Shepard back to life.
- Project Doorway - Established in 2163. Produced forged Council-standard medicards and identitags to allow operatives unrestricted movement.
- Project Eva - Commissioned by the Illusive Man after Cerberus lost contact with Commander Shepard, EDI and the Normandy SR-2 following the defeat of the Collectors. Project Eva developed Dr. Eva Coré, an infiltration mech.
- Project Firewalker - Responsible for field-testing the prototype M-44 Hammerhead planet-side exploration rover.
- Project Mia - Developed by Cerberus scientists studying indoctrination and Reaper-Husk communication who later fled the organization and took refuge on Gellix with their research. Due to the compartmentalization of the project's components, and at least one of the researchers is dead before the group's exodus, the surviving researchers could not piece together the true nature of the project.
- Project Overlord - Based on Aite, Overlord was intended to develop a specialized hybrid-VI capable of controlling the geth to serve Cerberus.
- Project Phoenix - Experimented on enhancing human physiology to develop stronger biotics. Many Phoenix Operatives defected from Cerberus after the Illusive Man began using indoctrination to ensure the loyalty of his troops. Dragoons may have been the end-result of Project Phoenix.
- Project Trapdoor - Established in 2168. Using the front corporation New Dawn Pharmaceuticals, the drug omega-enkaphalin (O-E) was developed to disrupt the powers of biotics. Cerberus personnel were nanosurgically altered to resist O-E.
- Unnamed Biotics Project - Based at Pragia's Teltin Facility, this project aimed to increase biotic potential in humans through experiments on child biotics kidnapped by Cerberus or bought from batarian slavers. Among the subjects were Jack and Aresh Aghdashloo. The project's highly unethical methods included the use of torture (both physical and psychological) and drugs on subjects as well as gladiatorial combat between subjects. Fatalities were not uncommon. The project ended following a riot by the child subjects, leading to the deaths of many guards and children.
- Unnamed Genetics Project - An illegal operation that aimed to create an unstoppable army. Its main base of operations is on the planet Nepheron.
Cerberus produces its own proprietary weapon and armor systems for the exclusive use of its operatives, and has a reputation for being of the highest quality. Such Cerberus equipment that is captured intact is prized among soldiers.
- Aite outposts (site of Project Overlord)
- The Barn
- Binthu research facilities
- Cronos Station (Cerberus Headquarters)
- Firebase Glacier
- Firebase White
- Gellix Science Lab
- Lazarus Research Station (site of the Lazarus Project)
- Minuteman Station
- Nepheron underground base
- Omega 4 Relay research bases
- Avernus Station
- Sanctuary om Horizon
- Teltin Facility on Pragia
- Trident laboratory and compound
- Depot Sigma-23
- Cord-Hislop Aerospace
- CDR Holdings
- Terra Nova Commonwealth Bank
- Haribon Military Industries
- Milky Way Foundation
- New Dawn Pharmaceuticals
- The name "Cerberus" comes from Greek mythology, where Cerberus is the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades. In-universe, the organization's name comes from Jack Harper's manifesto detailing the need for humanity to have a "Cerberus" to guard it from the aliens beyond the Charon Relay (Charon is the ferryman in Greek mythology in charge of ferrying souls to Hades).
- The name of one Cerberus front corporation, Haribon Military Industries, may be derived from a local name for the national bird of the Philippines.
- The Shadow Broker has files on Cerberus which can be accessed aboard his ship.