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 Citadel races. Any methods of advancing humanity's ascension are 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 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.
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.
During the events of Mass Effect, Commander Shepard discovers that Cerberus was a former Alliance black-ops organization with top-secret credentials and full clearance to Alliance activities. Through Admiral Kahoku, Shepard learns that Cerberus has conducted horrific experiments intended to create super soldiers, including experiments on rachni and Thorian Creepers. They accidentally unleashed rachni on Listening Posts Alpha and Theta when their experimental subjects -- shipped from Noveria -- escaped from Depot Sigma-23. Cerberus also deliberately destroyed a settlement on Chasca by turning the colonial pioneer team there into Husks. A traumatised marine named Corporal Toombs also claimed that in one of their most devastating experiments, Cerberus lured thresher maws to the colony on Akuze, resulting in the notorious massacre, later capturing Toombs -- one of the only survivors -- to conduct brutal tests. Things came to a head when Commander Shepard, investigating the disappearance of a group of marines under Rear Admiral Kahoku, found that Cerberus had lured them to a thresher maw nest using a distress beacon (similar to the "experiment" they allegedly conducted on Akuze). After being informed of the marines' fate, Kahoku bought 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 broke away from the Alliance. However, soon after he had managed to contact Commander Shepard with this information, Kahoku was captured and killed by Cerberus. Shepard finds Kahoku's body in a Cerberus facility on Binthu. Shepard then headed to Nepheron to launch an assault on Cerberus' main base.
Assignments involving Cerberus include:
- UNC: Colony of the Dead
- UNC: Dead Scientists
- UNC: Listening Post Alpha → UNC: Listening Post Theta → UNC: Depot Sigma-23
- UNC: Missing Marines → UNC: Cerberus → UNC: Hades' Dogs
Cerberus bases are usually guarded by the following forces:
- Cerberus Commandos: Highly trained shock troops armed with assault rifles or pistols.
- Cerberus Snipers: Often found indoors, these snipers find cover and hit you with Assassination.
- Cerberus Anti-Tanks: These units are on patrol outside the base and are armed with assault rifles that have the ability to fire rockets by switching fire mode, which - fitting with their name - they tend to use against the Mako.
- Research Technicians: The technicians are normally biotics; though unarmored, they use powerful Throw attacks.
Mass Effect: Redemption
Despite its human-centric reputation, Cerberus again is not above employing and relying on agents of alien species. After the Normandy SR-1 is destroyed in a surprise attack by the Collector Cruiser, and Commander Shepard is killed, the Illusive Man personally coordinates 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, ambush and kill the Blue Suns mercenaries that have detained Liara and Feron somewhere on the Omega station and take them to a safehouse, where Liara talks to the Illusive Man via holographic communicator. The leader of Cerberus motivates her to work for him, and use Feron, admitting that his own assets are bound to be ineffective against the Shadow Broker. To pay for Feron's services and cover any other possible expenses Miranda provides Liara with credits. However, neither of them is unaware that Feron already has a secret deal with the Illusive Man. In the end, his expectations of Feron and Liara's ability come to fruition when Cerberus collects both the intel on the Shadow Broker's operations and Shepard's body.
Mass Effect: Ascension
Cerberus plays a key role in the events of Mass Effect: Ascension. It is revealed that Cerberus is led by a mysterious figure known only as the Illusive Man, and that Cerberus' goal is for humanity to be ascendant over all other species. Unlike the Alliance, which is restricted by the laws of the Council, the Illusive Man is prepared to take any action, no matter how heinous, to achieve his goal, believing history will vindicate him. For now, Cerberus has to work behind the scenes. Its primary cover is the starship manufacturer Cord-Hislop Aerospace. Cerberus has operatives across the Alliance, often in high-ranking positions, giving the Illusive Man constant updates and feeding him information that would otherwise be classified.
It is also revealed that Cerberus is responsible for several acts of sabotage and at least one assassination. In 2170, Cerberus engineered the Eldfell-Ashland Energy accident over Yandoa with Paul Grayson as intermediary, and implicitly two other accidents starting four months before that in two other colonies. The death of Claude Menneau in 2173 was also at the order of the Illusive Man.
In Mass Effect: Ascension, Cerberus focuses its attention on two separate projects. The first is human biotics, and they have infiltrated the Ascension Project to take advantage of the Alliance's biotic research. The key test subject is Gillian Grayson, Paul Grayson's daughter, whom Cerberus are feeding specialized medication to turn her into 'humanity's saviour'... or a deadly weapon. The second area of interest is the quarian Migrant Fleet, which the Illusive Man sees as a threat, given that the Fleet is the largest single armada in the galaxy. Also, as creators of the geth, the quarians have suddenly become of much greater interest in light of the recent attack on the Citadel. To this end, the Illusive Man contacts a quarian exile, Golo, to gain the Flotilla's transmission codes.
However, Pel decided to betray Cerberus, planning on selling Gillian and her tutor Hendel Mitra to the Collectors. Grayson killed him but also decided to abandon Cerberus, realizing that they would use his daughter as a weapon.
Mass Effect 2
In Mass Effect 2, Shepard has to work with Cerberus to stop a terrifying threat to the galaxy: the Collectors. One location in Mass Effect 2 is a major Cerberus station in the Horse Head Nebula. Cerberus, headed by the Illusive Man, is responsible for bringing Shepard back from the dead after a devastating attack destroys the original Normandy. Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor are both members of Cerberus, as are the crew of the Normandy SR-2.
Cerberus constructs the Normandy SR-2 and allows Commander Shepard to command it. When asked how Cerberus could obtain the schematics and data necessary to reconstruct a highly advanced, classified Alliance ship, the AI EDI reports that information is blocked (meaning she cannot reveal it to Shepard). However, after EDI's integration with the Normandy, the blocks are 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.
It is revealed later in the game that before Cerberus infiltrated the Ascension Project, they had a facility called Teltin on Pragia to research biotic potential in humans. They did horrific tests on children kidnapped from poor families on Earth, the colonies or bought from batarian slavers, all so that they wouldn't have to experiment on their prized subject, known only as Subject Zero. However, the Teltin facility went behind the Illusive Man's back in their work. Their research soon 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.
Cerberus also runs Project Overlord, an ambitious undertaking to not only understand the geth, but to find a way to manipulate them through their religious fervor similarly to Saren's methods. 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 salvage the situation, Shepard discovers that Archer had hooked his brother David, an autistic savant, into a VI interface to interact with the geth. The over-stimulation drove David insane and caused him to take control of the base, unleashing geth and Cerberus' own security mechs on the staff.
Mass Effect: Retribution
Sometime after the assault on the Collector Base, Cerberus kidnapped one of their former operatives, Paul Grayson, who was now working for Aria T'Loak on Omega. Cerberus operatives, led by Kai Leng - one of the Illusive Man's top 'wetwork agents'- attacked Grayson's apartment, kidnapping Grayson and murdering his lover Liselle, as well as two security guards. Grayson was taken to one of Cerberus' many research stations, where the Illusive Man ordered him implanted with Reaper technology which they recovered. However, just before Grayson was kidnapped, 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 use it as leverage to 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’s 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 once again escaped, setting a course for the Ascension Project. 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. They soon caught up with him, and Kai Leng was able to eliminate Grayson and escape capture, albeit in an injured state.
The Illusive Man then made contact once more with Aria T'Loak, 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 was able to return to the twin tasks of rebuilding his damaged organization and continuing preparations to combat the Reapers.
Mass Effect: Invasion
Cerberus has maintained ties with Aria T'Loak since the events of Mass Effect: Retribution. By the time of Mass Effect: Invasion, the organization has established several research bases on the other side of the Omega 4 Relay and is using Omega as a supply hub for its convoys. During the events of Invasion, it is revealed that Cerberus' experiments with Reaper technology have produced creatures called Adjutants. The Adjutants break free from the labs and take over Cerberus' research bases, then use transport ships to escape and attack Omega.
The Illusive Man sends General Oleg Petrovsky and Colonel Raymond Ashe aboard the starship Elbrus to aid Aria's defense of Omega. Although this is undertaken ostensibly to eliminate the Adjutant threat, Cerberus has other plans. While Petrovsky and Aria see to defending Omega from more Adjutant ships, Ashe is kept in chains on the station, having earned Aria's dislike for arrogantly ordering her own men around. Ashe kills his guards and contacts the Illusive Man to inform him that the real battle for Omega is ready to begin. While the Elbrus went 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 fights her way back to Omega and unites the station's factions against Cerberus. Realizing that she could hold out against the invasion indefinitely, General Petrovsky takes the station itself hostage. Aria is forced to choose between continuing to fight and letting Omega be destroyed by a Cerberus fleet, or exiling herself and surrendering the station. She chooses the latter and leaves, vowing to return. Omega is secured shortly thereafter by Petrovsky's forces, a major victory for Cerberus.
Mass Effect 3
Cerberus appears in Mass Effect 3, and is seeking to take control of the Reapers at any cost and set humanity as the dominant power in the Galaxy. The organization has been using Reaper Technology to indoctrinate civilians for the purposes of creating an army loyal to the Illusive Man.
During the Reaper invasion of Earth, Cerberus forces were discovered at the Mars Archives, having infiltrated the facility with the aid of the Cerberus synthetic, Eva Coré, massacring Alliance and civilian personnel alike. Their objective was to retrieve the data for a Prothean superweapon which could defeat the Reapers. Commander Shepard managed to stop them and took Eva's body, which EDI soon came to control.
Cerberus soon began largely opposing Shepard's attempts to unify the galaxy against the Reapers, including launching a raid on Sur'Kesh to kill a fertile krogan female, detonating a bomb to start a war between turians and krogan, reactivating a Tuchanka ground-to-space cannon, kidnapping students from Jon Grissom Academy, assaulting an Alliance communication hub on Ontarom, and assisting Councilor Udina in launching a coup against the Citadel Council.
The Illusive Man also pushed his science division to work on Reaper technology salvaged from the galactic core. When a scientist had completed their work, they'd mysterious disappear, prompting a number of scientists under Brynn Cole and their families to secede from Cerberus and go into hiding.
After Kai Leng steals a Prothean VI on Thessia containing key information needed to complete the Crucible, both Shepard and Admiral Hackett agree that the information must be recovered before taking on the Reapers. Therefore, the Fifth Fleet assault Cerberus headquarters, dealing a decisive blow to the organization, though the Illusive Man escaped. He later died on the Citadel while it was orbiting Earth.
Cerberus ground forces are formed from personnel - be they unsuspecting volunteers, refugees or abductees - who are deemed physically suitable. These 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 they 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 enough skills to perform their roles and maintain 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.
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.
Cerberus also maintained a significant flotilla of warships to perform covert operations across the galaxy. The bulk of this fleet engaged the Fifth Fleet at Cronos Station.
Cerberus deploys the following forces against Commander Shepard:
- Assault Trooper - Standard soldiers that form the bulk of Cerberus forces.
- Atlas - Slow, heavy, and durable mechs equipped with a rocket launcher and machine guns.
- Centurion - Front-line tacticians that lead squads into battle.
- Combat Engineer - Specialized support units that deploy Turrets.
- 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.
- Project Doorway - Established in 2163. Produced forged Council-standard medicards and identitags to allow operatives unrestricted movement.
- 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.
- 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 Firewalker - Responsible for field-testing the prototype M-44 Hammerhead planet-side exploration rover.
- Project Overlord - Based on Aite, Overlord was intended to develop a specialized hybrid-VI capable of controlling the geth to serve Cerberus.
- 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 robot.
- 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.
- Aite outposts (site of Project Overlord)
- The Barn
- Binthu research facilities
- Cronos Station
- Firebase Glacier
- Firebase White
- Lazarus Research Station (site of the Lazarus Project)
- Minuteman Station
- Nepheron underground base
- Omega 4 Relay research bases
- Sanctuary on 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
- Illusive Man - The founder of Cerberus
- Colonel Raymond Ashe - General Petrovsky's second-in-command
- Armistan Banes - An operative that previously worked with Dr. Chloe Michel
- Eva Coré - A synthetic sent to infiltrate the Prothean archives on Mars
- Director - An operative in charge of the Barn space station
- Randall Ezno - An operative assigned to capture aliens for Cerberus experiments
- Major Elena Flores - Cerberus officer in charge of rachni cloning experiments
- Paul Grayson - An operative charged with caring for Gillian Grayson
- Miranda Lawson - The operative in charge of the Lazarus Cell
- Kai Leng - The Illusive Man's personal assassin
- Hal McCann - An operative captured by batarian slavers
- Pel - An operative tasked with assassinations
- General Oleg Petrovsky - A Cerberus general in charge of the Omega operation
- Tyrone Rawlings - An operative captured by Eclipse forces
- Inali Renata - Randall Ezno's handler
- Jacob Taylor - Security specialist for the Lazarus Cell
- Dr. Jiro Toshiwa - An operative who infiltrated the Alliance's Ascension Project
- Skye Turnick - A member of an exposed Cerberus cell on Trident
- Scientists and Researchers
- Dr. Gavin Archer - Chief scientist on Project Overlord
- Dr. Chandana - Chief scientist on the Derelict Reaper expedition
- Dr. Brynn Cole - A scientist studying Collector technology
- Gabone - An assistant administrator on Avernus Station
- Henry Lawson - Overseer of the Sanctuary project to manipulate Reaper indoctrination
- Dr. Nuri - A scientist studying Reaper implant technology
- Dr. Waycross - A Cerberus medical doctor
- Wilson - Chief Medical Officer of the Lazarus Project
- Cerberus Daily News
- Alliance News Network
- 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 an anonymous manifesto made after the First Contact War detailing the need for humanity to have a "Cerberus" to guard it from the aliens beyond the Charon Relay (Charon being also the name of the ferryman in Greek mythology in charge of ferrying souls to Hades).
- The PC version of Mass Effect adds equipment produced by the Cerberus Skunkworks, although they are only obtainable through the console.
- The Shadow Broker has files on Cerberus which can be accessed aboard his ship.