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Well, well, not too much to say here. Solidly-written all the way, the scenes gel nicely and it all reads as smoothly as you like. The ...


Well, this chapter certainly lived up to its name! Some stunning developments here, delivered one after another in short order, with so...


Another great piece of work, filled with some intriguing elements. The dream sequence was suitably disturbing and intense, with just th...


And as the new year begins, I kick it off in just the right fashion - by plunging into one of the best ME fics around. Right away, I'm ...


An interesting take on the Blitz. I must admit, the way the games spoke of Elysium they made it sound like a one-man (or woman) Alamo, ...


You know, a few months ago I never would've thought I'd say this, but I have to say now that reading James Vega is simply a joy. You've...

The boy also reads! I try to offer support and critical advice to fellow writers whenever I can (and yet not as often as I would like...). If you would really like an unbiased and honest opinion on your work, please don't hesitate to send me a note. If I have the time I'll be more than happy to help!

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mothbanquet
Moth/Moff/Grand Moff/Moffles
Artist | Professional | Literature
United Kingdom
My name is Mothbanquet, author and creator of Mass Effect fan fiction for over four years. I pride myself on writing good quality Mass Effect fiction, both original and canon, as well as offering advice and critique to other writers in the community. I have released two full-length stories so far, Mass Effect 2: Dark Rendition, a gritty and emotionally complex retelling of Shepard and Tali's romance, and Interceptor, a riveting espionage thriller set months before the first game. There are two more projects in the works, the details of which will continue to be posted in my journal entries.

I believe in a few simple things; quality writing, deep characters and well-constructed plot lines. I do not write fluff or fan-pleasers. Instead, I try to bring something new and fresh to the Mass Effect audience, something they will enjoy and always remember.

Thank you for visiting my page and remember to check in often - content is updated on a regular basis!

If you like my Mass Effect stories, please feel free to check out my original work under pen name J J Grimshaw. Be warned - this profile is a little threadbare, pending a big overhaul during late 2015!

Finally, these are some of my favourite DA peeps, so please check them out and give them lots of love and support:

:icondementedassassin::icondeliriumgothique::iconriocyan::iconripleynox::iconopheliabell::iconezri-krios::icongodzilla2003:

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Alharu Bashik was a frightened man.

All around him, his warehouse clattered with the sounds of battle.

The windows in his office had been barricaded more securely than the ones downstairs and while he appreciated the added safety at first, he now loathed every moment of being unable to see how the Blue Suns invaders were faring against Torkessa's Bood Pack militia.

Though he had brokered many deals with the Blood Pack, he knew the Blue Suns would be far more profitable for him and his enterprises. Their protection rates were fair and their presence meant regulated trade, growth and prosperity among the illicit dealers of Omega. The savage Blood Pack were generous to the few who could benefit them but their benediction was decided on a whim. At any moment, a ranking krogan could decide he wanted a piece of a local business and with an army of vorcha at his side, no one could refuse.

Before the Suns had pushed into the district, Bashik had found the wait to see a change in the ruling regime unbearable. Now, as the ground shook with the force of a nearby explosion he realised just how brutal the conflict he’d longed for was becoming, with his very life measured in minutes and seconds.

Swearing softly, Bashik shook his head. He was indeed a frightened man, and whenever he was frightened his mind would set to work, dissecting every facet of his situation to torment him with the worst possibilities.

Wiping his brow, he donned his helmet. The thick armour impaired his hearing but now that the war had reached him, he felt the need for its protection more than ever. Perhaps he should have joined his brother's raiding party, he reflected for a moment as another booming quake sent a trickle of dust from the ceiling. Attacking freighters and merchant vessels was a far cry from Torkessa's chaos but at least his sibling had a better chance of drawing breath by the night's end.

'Damned krogan won't be satisfied until they blow up Omega itself,' Bashik muttered under his breath as his thoughts swam, 'and where the hell are those morons? They should've reported in by now. Every five minutes I told them, every five minutes...'

The silence of his guards did not strike him as especially odd. The ongoing battle would hold their attention and he would rather they kept their minds on protecting his property above all else. But as ever, the idea that any one of his orders was going unheeded grated on his temper and with an angry growl, he strode towards his office door.

His rifle was slung across the back of his office chair, but he didn’t think to take it with him as he waved his hand across the door's controls.

A loud thwack snapped through the air and Bashik's head reeled.

Someone had been waiting for the door to open.


 ~~~ME-I~~~



Arlen moved quickly as the batarian stumbled backwards.

'Put your hands in the air,' he shouted, 'I said hands in the air, now!'

The warning was lost on Bashik as he launched himself at Arlen. He ignored the Striker’s sharp reports as a slug skipped off his shields and it was too late for Arlen to fire again as Bashik crashed into him, throwing him off-balance.

The air was filled with exerted grunts and the scraping of armour on armour as the two men struggled against each other. Arlen braced himself, spreading his legs to take the weight of the batarian and his grunts rose in volume as he swatted away Bashik's squirming fingers, their search for a hold on his suit failing fast.

The stink of Bashik's breath was hot on his face, filling his nostrils with the stench of rotting meat and strong alcohol. It was a moment of cruel absurdity. Next to the ease with which Olansi subdued the batarians below, Arlen was fighting to simply stay on his feet. Bashik was strong, a bull of a man, and well armoured from head to toe. The young Interceptor felt a pang of despair as his feet slipped backwards.

His elbow flicked out in reflex, catching Bashik on the side of the head. The batarian grunted in pain and responded with a wild swing, his fist arcing clumsily through the air in a dark blur.

Arlen parried easily but the weight behind the blow was still great and it sent him back into the wall. Bashik saw the moment of weakness, and yelled out furiously as he charged forward.

An image flashed before Arlen's eyes, one of a bloody turian with crimson markings. Pale grey smoke danced around him, and he held Arlen's weapon in his hand as blood drooped in seething threads from his mouth.

Fuelled by that lingering memory, Arlen’s expression firmed and he shifted his weight roughly to one side.

Bashik cried out in surprise as he lost balance and staggered into the wall, bringing a ripple of dust down from the ceiling. He shook his head clear but Arlen did not wait for him to recover. The Interceptor kicked out at his legs, collapsing him onto one knee and with a snarl of effort, Arlen groped at Bashik's helmet. The batarian roared in frustration as he felt the prying fingers at his neck.

Arlen gnashed his teeth in concentration. While his opponent was fully armoured, he would stand little chance of winning and he reached for the release catches with desperate fervour. Bashik batted at his fingers but it did no good as with a quiet hiss, the helmet slid free.

'I'm going to kill you, you-' Bashik's voice turned into a pained yelp as his own helmet connected, cracking against his skull. He swore loudly but again was savagely cut off.

Arlen used the helmet as a club, swinging it with increasing force. Bashik grunted with each impact before finally raising his protected arms to absorb the blows as he rose from the ground.

Discarding the helmet quickly, Arlen shuffled back as Bashik swung again and again. Each strike was pushed aside as Arlen began to find his rhythm, and the turian's fists licked out to catch him on the jaw in rapid succession. Each punch made Bashik angrier, and the angrier he became the clumsier his efforts grew.

Sweat began to seep through Arlen's thick skin, making his wounds sting. The pain kept him sharp. He swatted aside a lunge to grab Bashik by his collar and slam his face into the desk, smashing several of the OSDs and spattering the surface with blood.

Still Bashik did not tire and his hands reached for Arlen's throat. Arlen was forced against the desk and his fingers found something loose and hard on its surface.

With a cry of rage, he lashed out with it and blinked in surprise as glass shattered, and a puff of red dust enveloped Bashik's head.  The batarian cried out in agony as the red sand entered his gaping cuts, and he gripped his face in terror as he sank to the floor.

His body still shaking with adrenaline, Arlen had to force himself to stop. His breaths came in ragged heaves and he blinked away the blood that had splashed across his face. For a brief moment he worried that he might have killed Bashik but the low, pathetic moan that begun moments later assured him otherwise.

'Should've just put your hands up,' Arlen muttered as he kicked aside the helmet that had fallen at his feet. It skipped across the ground, smearing a trace of brown ichor across the floor. 'Come on. We have a few things to discuss.'

Bashik groaned as he was hefted to his feet. The helmet had broken the skin of the his forehead into gory tatters and one of his upper eyes was swollen to the point of closing. Blood seeped from his mouth and Arlen thought he saw the jagged glint of broken teeth.

With a grunt, he pushed Bashik into his own office chair and pulled the desk aside with a grating scrape.

His foe had seemingly given up. All four of Bashik’s eyes were downcast and his head lolled with every breath as the red sand began to affect his senses. Unconsciousness was near and Arlen prayed to the spirits that he could still be of some use.

'What...what do we have to discuss, turian?' Bashik spat blearily. Blood curdled around the corners of his mouth and his voice gurgled slightly as foul fluids were pushed from the depths of his throat.

'You have information I need, Bashik,' Arlen replied as he perched on the edge of the desk, 'A year- Hey!’ he shouted as Bashik’s head slumped, the red sand taking his senses.

Arlen reached out and slapped the man’s fleshy jowls. ‘Hey, listen to me! A year ago you were supplied with a package from an Omega-based company called Bithcon Dynamics. The package contained a key component of a weapon that was used in an attack on the Citadel less than forty-eight hours ago.'

'The Citadel?' Bashik narrowed his eyes, 'So what does that make you? A Spectre?'

'I'm not with the Spectres. My name is Agent Arlen Kryik, I'm working for Citadel Security.'

The batarian laughed suddenly, the sound a hacking, pain-laced bark.

'C-Sec? Are you kidding me? You have no authority here, no jurisdiction. If anyone finds out the Council have been sniffing around the Terminus Sys-'

'You'd rather the humans bring a fleet?' Arlen interrupted angrily, 'You think they would've stopped to question you like I'm doing now? You might not hold any love for the Council but they're hardly your biggest concern right now. We know you sent that package out to the Citadel a week ago. We have the name of the recipient and the company that provided it to you. All we need now is the final piece of the puzzle. I know you're just the middleman in this. I know all about the Forgotten Legion and if you give me the information I need then I can make sure you're treated fairly. More importantly, we can make sure the humans don't get their hands on you.'

Bashik's head hung forward for a moment and his brows twitched in thought. He seemed surprised that Arlen hadn’t put a slug through his skull but, for the time being at least, he was content to indulge his captor.

'Yeah,' he finally replied, 'Yeah, I am just the middleman. I know exactly what you're talking about. It was a piece of tech, something that looked like it was ripped out of some kind of computer. It was old, I know that much, something I've never seen before, at least not in the Terminus. It was salarian, I think.'

'Salarian?'

Bashik nodded. 'Those guys have a knack for tech. Even something twenty years old like that beats the crap out of anything the Hegemony pushes out. Again, I don't know exactly where it came from but the signs were pretty obvious.'

Arlen considered the revelation. The strange, unrecognisable symbols that cycled during the false bomb's final countdown; could they have been native salarian numeric? It was worth mentioning to Lina and Chellick.

'So what then?' he asked.

'I was told to send it to the store on the Citadel but that's all I was asked to do.'

‘By who?’ Arlen leaned closer, his eyes locked on Bashik intently.

The batarian chuckled, shaking his head. 'I can't tell you that, turian. Do whatever you want to me. It won't be half as bad as what he will do if he finds out I betrayed him.'

Arlen sucked in a shallow, frustrated breath through his nostrils. 'We can protect you, Bashik. Tell us what we need to know and C-Sec can guarantee your safety.'

Again, Bashik let out a short, incredulous laugh. 'You can't even protect your own precious Citadel! What hope do I have? You can't shield me from Yanus, turian, and even if you could I don't have anything for you beyond that name.'

'Yanus, is that his name?' Arlen whispered, 'What about the Legion? What about General Krassus?'

Slumping, Bashik shook his head. 'I don't know who that is. I only had contact with a man named Yanus, or rather an agent of his. I've heard of the Legion, but only the usual rumours that surround any group like that. I know they're turian, anti-human and tough as old starship plating. Even been some talk of a few batarian groups considering an alliance, given their success against the humans. After the attack on the Jamestown, I think those requests will only increase.'

Arlen swore inwardly. While the batarians held no love for any of the Council races, certainly they would be drawn to those with a common purpose. If the Forgotten Legion continued its campaign of terror then the spirits only knew who else would flock to their banners. Either way, it could only spell disaster for humanity.

Another booming explosion shook the floor beneath Arlen’s feet and his eyes flickered up to the windows. The crudely-welded barricade rattled violently and a film of metallic shavings fell from its edges. He turned his eyes back to Bashik.

'Do you always work this way? Without knowing who or what you're dealing with?'

'It's the only way to work,' Bashik replied, 'The second I start asking questions is the second people start thinking I know more than I need to. When that happens, those same people start wanting to make me forget; the hard way.' He glanced aside for a moment and spat blood on the rough ground, though most of it was caught by the collar of his armour. 'I don't have anything for you, turian. Nothing you promise will change that. All I can tell you is the name, and I'm only giving you that because the son of a whore brought-'

Bashik stopped suddenly, though his cracked lips continued to move, as if his body was struggling to catch up with his mind. His better judgement was clearly taking control of his tongue and Arlen caught stood upright, sliding smoothly off the desk.

'Brought what?' he pressed, 'What did Yanus bring?'

'He…' the batarian began. He cringed, both against pain and indecision. 'He...warned me about all this. About the war on the streets, about the Suns, everything. He might've just found out through an informant but the timing…my gut tells me he had something to do with all of this. He told me to destroy everything in this warehouse and run.'

'Why didn't you?'

'Because this is my life!' Bashik yelled, 'Everything I have is in this damn building. Everything I've built, everything I've won, all my years of hard work and he wanted me to burn it all and flee!' His expression hardened. 'I told him to go to hell. Nobody forces me from my home and nobody makes me give up my business. I survived the black market competition, before that the Anhur Rebellions, I will survive this!'

It was then Arlen realised Bashik was not talking to him, instead choosing to scream his defiance at anyone who would listen. Arlen was hardly surprised. With the amount of narcotics flowing through his system, it was a wonder Bashik was still conscious.

Arlen gripped his chin thoughtfully. 'You must have something on Yanus, something that can incriminate him. Why else would he demand you destroy everything?'

Bashik shifted and ran a hand across his forehead. The action left a murky smear of blood across his skin but he did not appear to notice.

'Yanus is a user. He thinks everyone he deals with exists only to obey him. He's powerful, turian, powerful and clever. Usually that's enough to make those notions a reality. I think if I really had something that could damage him then I'd be dead already.'

Arlen nodded with more confidence than he felt. He’d come to find General Krassus and once again had been faced with another dead end.

His thoughts were interrupted as the office door opened. Olansi strode into the room, a crooked smile plastered across his broad face.

'Well, looks like you got your man, Interceptors!' he said, spreading his arms out in congratulation, 'Kudos to you! Now let's get to works.'

Arlen turned to him, comfortable with having the unrestrained Bashik at his back. He did not doubt Olansi could break their suspect in half before he rose from the chair if he was foolish enough to try anything.

'I've already questioned him,' Arlen explained, 'He knows nothing about Krassus or the Legion. Instead he talked about someone named Yanus.'

Olansi became very still at the name. His smile lessened and his eyes moved as if in deep thought. No one spoke and the din of battle pressed in on the room, until the Spectre finally answered.

'Yanus. Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long times.'

'But you have heard of him?' Arlen asked hopefully.

Olansi's smile took on a bitter twist and he shook his head slowly. 'That's all anyone has ever done; heard of him. Something of a legends in the world of espionage, that one. The most reliable accounts puts him as an information brokers, though much more...hands on than most in the business.'

'What do you mean?'

'I'll tell you laters,' the Spectre said, raising a hand dismissively before nodding towards Bashik, 'The real issues right now is what to do with him.'

Arlen exhaled deeply. Bashik was his first apprehension but he had no idea how to exfiltrate him. 'I was hoping you'd be able to help me with that. It's possible he knows more about Yanus but I can't be sure. We need to get him back to JSTF for a proper interrogation. If anyone knows where to find Krassus, it's him.'

'Back to-' Olansi paused before splitting the air with a loud, sharp burst of laughter, 'Back to the Citadels? That's a good one!' Steadily, his grin subsided as he realised Arlen meant what he said. 'Wait...you're serious, aren't you?'

'Of course,' Arlen responded with a nod. He was relaxed now and casually checked his weapon before sliding it neatly onto his armour's holster catch.

He did not see Olansi's expression turn to one of disbelief, and was taken aback as the Spectre laughed again, this time without a trace of humour.

'Ok then, well, let's get started right aways! Let's see, first of all we'll need to find a way to gets him back through this warzones, maybe slung over your back or carried in your big, strong arms! Then we needs to find passages back to the Citadel. Or do you think C-Sec will be able to come over and gives us a lift?'

'Well, what do you suggest?' Arlen snapped angrily, 'Because I didn't come all this way just to return empty-handed!'

'This scums,' Olansi spat, gesturing roughly to Bashik, 'is not your targets. The Council, C-Sec, nobody cares about him. You'll be dragging him back and wasting times for nothing. We can't let him go either. He could go runnings to Yanus or Krassus and any leads we could find would disappear in a flash. You have no options here, Interceptors. All you can do is get as much informations out of him as you can and puts him out of his misery.'

Arlen opened his mouth to reply but Olansi did not give him the chance.

'No. No more talks. We need to do this right here and now. This guys has something we need and we don't have times or the resources to cart him halfways across the galaxy!'

Bashik's eyes were wild as he turned to Arlen pleadingly. 'I don't know anything, I told you! Please! You said you'd help me!'

A dull thud smacked through the air as Olansi brought the back of his hand hard into the batarian's face.

'Nobody asked you, shit for brains!' the Spectre snarled, 'You'll gets your chance to speaks soon. In fact, I'm countings on it.'

Arlen took a step forward, his hands gripping the air convulsively as if to strangle it. He trembled with anger and shock at what Olansi was suggesting. It railed against everything he had been taught, everything he knew, and he would have no part of it.

'I won't do this,' he said quietly, 'He told me what he knew. I believe him.'

'Then you're a fool.' Olansi retorted immediately, 'Your missions could hinge on what this filthy degenerates knows and you'll let him escape because, what? You've had a sudden attacks of conscience? Because you looked into all four of his big, brown eyes and seen the truths in there? Grow up!'

Olansi paced back and forth, his hands moving as he spoke to drive his point into Arlen's head, 'If you aren't prepared to do this then leaves. I'll happily take care of this one for you but next time you'll have no one around to do your dirty works. Maybe then you'll have wished you had the stomach the first time rounds, when more lives than you can imagines are riding on your actions!'

Striding to the desk, Olansi brought his fist down upon another glass vial and it shattered with a splintering crack. The liquid inside was blue and oily in appearance but Arlen did not pause to study it. Instead he watched as Olansi traced through the broken glass with his fingers, the pieces clinking coldly until he brought up a jagged shard.

The salarian's face was unreadable as he approached their captive, the glass glinting in his hand.

Bashik trembled in terror and his lips were quivering as he beseeched Arlen, 'Please, don't leave me alone with him! I'm begging you!'

A white and green blur moved through the air and Bashik flinched in anticipation of another blow. Another hard smack echoed through the office but nothing had struck Bashik. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes.

Dark fingers clutched Olansi's wrist. With a tight hold on his arm, Arlen stared directly at him. The Spectre met his gaze squarely and the two men simply stood, with only the pained, laboured sound of Bashik's breathing to break the silence. Neither moved and if Olansi was shocked or angry at the interruption, he did not show it.

Arlen's voice seemed louder than usual in the oppressive quiet, his every word deliberate and forceful.

'You might be a Spectre, Olansi, but this is my mission,' he said, 'You might outrank me, but I'm telling you now, I will not let you torture this man.'

His voice hung in the air as a whisper before another muted explosion stole it from their ears. The seconds stretched out until finally, Olansi relaxed and Arlen released him. The Spectre shrugged apathetically and Arlen turned away to consult his omni-tool.

'Petra, we're going to need a-'

An ear-splitting bang ripped the words from Arlen's lips and he whirled around, his mouth hanging open as he saw Olansi's Tempest drawn, its barrel smoking.

Bashik's head drooped for a moment before sliding to one side, and his body followed with a dull thump on the ground.

'You...' Arlen whispered, though he could not find the words he sought.

Olansi sniffed as he holstered his weapon. 'I told you. If we can't interrogates him then we needs to kill him. We can't risk leaks of any kinds. The seconds we left he could’ve contacted Yanus, or even summoned more of his men to hunts us down in revenge.'

'You don't know that!'

'Exactly!' Olansi shouted suddenly, raising a finger before him, 'We don't know that, but that doesn't means we can risk it! This isn't a game, Interceptors. This is a mission, and it always, always stands on a knife's edge, ready for an act of weakness to sends it crashing down. In an ideal worlds, every bad guy we meets would be polites and honest and we'd never have to worry about a slugs in the back or a knife at our throats. But if this was that kinds of a galaxy, then the Legion wouldn't exists in the first place and we wouldn't be crawling around the shittiest pits in Omega hunting them down. Sooner or later, Arlen, you'll have to takes that first step into this world. It might as well be sooner rather than later.'

A thin gurgling came from the dead heap at their feet as Bashik's final breath left his lungs. Arlen tried to control his spiralling emotions, to remember the lessons of his father and master himself, but nothing came. All he could muster was a single, unquenchable sense of disgust for the Spectre who looked back at him so calmly.

There was no pity or remorse in Olansi's dark eyes and for a moment Arlen wondered if he was any better than the savage gangs roaming the very streets outside their walls.

Finally, Arlen stepped past him, pausing as he reached the door.

'I'm not like you,' he said. 'I am an officer of Citadel law. I will never forget that.'

The sound of his footsteps disappeared quickly and Olansi was left alone. He dipped his head solemnly.

'We'll see.'


 ~~~ME-I~~~



The small room in which Chellick had chosen to hold his meeting was small and located below the command centre, deep within the bowels of JSTF.

It was not as spacious as his office and the air had quickly grown heavy and close with the presence of its three inhabitants, but at least there was little chance of being interrupted or overheard.

It was very dark, however and as the dawn hours of the third day approached, the room's dim lighting made Chellick's eyelids feel heavier by the moment. He had not yet slept since the morning of the attack and now felt his body protest every movement he made. Still, he did not let his weakness show and he raised his voice to compensate for the sluggishness of his thoughts.

'Obviously, this raises serious questions over Network's ability to protect Citadel Tower's systems against an internal threat,' he said as his eyes scanned a portable terminal on the table in front of him, 'I know this 'Jamestown Incident' has caught us all on the back foot, but these are only the kinds of questions that will be thrown your way over the next few days. What we need is a clear plan of action to present to the Executor on how to ensure this can't happen again.'

Captain T'Rana's blue skin was flushed with annoyance and the asari's neck pulsed gently as she set her jaw. Still, she did not argue. Instead, she tapped the keys of her datapad as if deep in thought.

The skin under her eyes was dark and puffy, Chellick noted. The strain was showing as much with her as anyone else but Chellick had known the woman since the day he joined C-Sec. He knew how determined she could be, though it was surprisingly difficult to keep his familiarity with her at bay, especially after seeing her so haggard.

'Very well,' she finally answered, her voice deep and strong, 'I think we can do something with the software based on what you've given us. That said,' T'Rana paused and glanced at Lina, who occupied the final place at the table, 'any help from your own people will be much appreciated. Do you have anything that could better protect our systems from this virus?'

Lina shook her head. 'At the moment, we're not even certain it is a virus. Certain complications have arisen that throw all of our previous assumptions into question.'

Chellick had warned her not to mention Petra to anyone outside the upper echelons of the team, and she halted for a moment as she considered her next words carefully.

'Honestly speaking, I wouldn't even trust letting the hard drive it came in out of my sight at the moment, let alone releasing any part of the virus code from our quarantine network. Not for our sake, you understand, but for your own protection.'

T'Rana's lips pursed and retreated in a pout. She had worked in C-Sec's Network division for decades and Chellick knew she was unused to being rebuffed by anyone, let alone a ‘suit-rat’. Her cheeks twitched as she considered registering her displeasure, but held back long enough to smile bitterly.

'As you wish. Then I assume that you won't require my presence either? I have many pressing matters to attend to within my own division.'

Chellick leaned forward to prop his elbows on the table and he clasped his hands together thoughtfully.

'No, but I'll need proposals on my desk within twenty-four hours,' he replied, 'Protections, countermeasures, responses, anything your people can come up with. We'll also need anything you have relating to illegal AI research. Recent case files, reports, anything that might assist our field agents.'

T'Rana's features twisted into confusion. 'Artificial intelligence? What's going on here, Commander?'

'It's classified,' Chellick immediately answered, enjoying the look of further confusion that crossed T’Rana’s features. She had been a difficult sergeant to work under all those years ago and Chellick felt a perverse satisfaction in taking some measure of revenge.

T’Rana glared at him and folded her arms, creasing the dark uniform against the swell of her breasts. 'May I be frank, Commander?'

Chellick cleared his throat and bobbed his head. This should be good.

T'Rana released her irritation in a hiss of breath from behind clenched teeth before going on, 'I've been in C-Sec for eighty-seven years. When they told me about the Joint Security Task Force, I thought the idea was a good one. I thought it made sense, to gather the best of C-Sec in one place, where the sharpest investigative minds in Citadel space could respond to threats to the Council instantly and with the bare minimum of supervision.'

She looked again at Lina, and her voice became a sharp hiss, 'Instead, I find you to be an elitist gaggle of outsiders, some of whom shouldn't even be on the Citadel to begin with. You expect my department to release our resources, give you whatever you ask simply because you demand it?'

Chellick's reply was instant and calm. 'Of course. Your preconceptions of JSTF are not my concern, Captain. We operate with the full sanctioning of Executor Pallin and answer only to the highest authorities. You will grant us whatever we need not because we are fighting against a threat unlike any we've witnessed before, not because the lives of billions depend on our investigation, but because you have been ordered to. It's as simple as that. If you can't provide what we need, Captain, then I'm sure we can find someone who can.'

T'Rana took a deep, steadying breath before replying evenly, 'That won't be necessary, Commander.'

Chellick raised his brow plates slightly at the asari's measured response. The tension was clear in her voice, but it appeared that her need to vent her frustration had been sated and she rose from her chair gracefully.

'I'll have the reports sent over within the hour and look through any recent case files personally, but they'll take a little longer to sift through. Before I go, I'd like to ask you one more thing, if I may?'

'Is this a question I want to hear?' Chellick asked, half-jokingly.

T'Rana's eyes narrowed and her mouth spread into a subtle smile. 'What kind of ass did you have to kiss to get an Interceptor assigned to your staff?'

The question ripped every pretence of humour from Chellick's face. He became very still, unaware of the curious looks Lina threw his way.

'That isn't exactly common knowledge, Captain.'

'Oh come on, Chellick,' she continued, 'You know there aren't any secrets in this place. It's pretty much common knowledge that a kid straight out of boot camp had an Interceptor badge slapped on him and was made an agent without a shred of experience. It's gotten some of the Special Response guys in an uproar, you know, how some raw recruit gets a position that they've had to bust their asses for years to get. Not to mention that the kid himself will probably end up dead in-'

'He can handle it,' Chellick snapped, suddenly irritated.

Her smile widening triumphantly, T'Rana slid away from her chair and began to step backwards towards the door.

'You didn't tell him about his mysterious sponsor, then? That's interesting. What are you and Pallin protecting him from, I wonder?'

'That's enough!' Chellick said loudly, rising stiffly from the table. His voice receded to plunge the room into silence and Lina could only stare at them, visibly shocked by what she had heard and how Chellick had reacted to it.

A silence stretched, long and uncomfortable as each person waited for the other to speak. After a time, Chellick lowered himself slowly back into his seat.

'You're dismissed, Captain,' he said brusquely, 'If we need anything further, I'll be sure to let you know.'

T’Rana obviously knew better than to push him further, and she acquiesced with a polite bow of her head.

As soon as the door snapped shut behind her, Chellick let out an angry growl. 'Damn her. Just because she remembers assigning me duties from the roster ten years ago, she thinks she can speak to me like some snot-nosed recruit.'

'It's always hard to see people younger than you get promoted past you,' Lina offered, 'It's none of my business, I know, but you should just ignore her. You have more important things to worry about than one woman's spite.'

'That I do,' he replied quietly, 'Speaking of which, we have new intel. Arlen has done all he can on Omega. We received a coded transmission stating that he's en route back to the safe house as we speak, and he'll be back on the Citadel by tomorrow afternoon.' He stalled for a moment, suddenly aware that his perception of time had suffered in the long hours. 'Sorry, later today. He'll have the time to rest but we'll need him to be ready to move again as quickly as possible.'

'New information?' Lina asked eagerly, her own exhaustion forgotten.

Leaning back in his seat, Chellick inhaled deeply to conceal his own excitement. He hadn’t told her about the Mantius program, nor that it had been doing its work throughout their meeting with T'Rana. While the asari had busied herself with her posturing and complaining, Chellick’s terminal had been filling with information from Udina's office. Most of it was junk but a few choice pieces stood out clearly, not least of all the results of an investigation into the Jamestown's stop at Jump Zero.

'Yes. It seems that we have a new lead. A turian named Coleran Vastra, a high-ranking member of the Legion, is currently residing on Illium and isn't being too cautious in his movements. We'll need to get Arlen out to him immediately.'

Lina's fingers pressed against her hood. 'Is that wise? He's been through a lot already and we have other agents we can use.'

Chellick shook his head firmly. 'Not any that aren't on active assignment, and besides, after what Arlen pulled off in Omega I'd say he deserves a chance to get his hands on a genuine HVT.' He paused and a smile tugged at his mandibles. 'I don't think I'd be able to stop him, you know. He might be young and green but he has a fire in him, an eagerness that'll carry him to the ends of the galaxy. We need that kind of vitality if we're going to win this one.'

'I don't know,' Lina mumbled, 'I'm worried about him. It's a lot for someone like him to handle and, well...'

She trailed off and Chellick waved a hand to dispel her caution. 'He'll be all right. In any case, I need a mission dossier compiled for when he gets back. Can one of your team handle that? I know Milo seems quite competent.'

Lina fell silent for a moment and when she finally replied, her voice sounded oddly flustered, 'He's...skilled enough, yes and he could certainly do with something to occupy his mind a little. He did a good job covering my duties yesterday and I think he can handle the extra responsibility.'

'Good, I'm glad to hear the team's working well together.' Stopping for a moment, Chellick regarded Lina carefully. 'You too have shown a remarkable skill in handling your section and rest assured, once all this is over I'll be making a recommendation to Executor Pallin that you are granted an official rank within C-Sec.'

'A rank?' Lina gasped, a reaction that came as no suprise to Chellick. It was unheard of for a quarian to be involved with C-Sec beyond filling its overnight cells on charges of vagrancy. 'I- Thank you, Chellick. I promise you won't regret it.'

‘I’m sure I won’t,’ Chellick said, pleased with her response, ‘So, mission dossiers by the end of the day. We’ll need one for Keller too.’

'I'll get Milo on it right away,' Lina replied, unable to keep the excitement from her stride as she walked buoyantly out of the room.


 ~~~ME-I~~~



The atmosphere was subdued inside the shuttle. It stank of something Arlen could not quite place and its fuel cells were almost dry, but Olansi was confident it would at least get them out of Torkessa in one piece.

Arlen was too exhausted to even consider finding another. That Petra had found it in Bashik’s barricaded vehicle bay was a stroke of luck in itself. The situation had been deteriorating rapidly by the time they left, with the Blue Suns' makeshift fortress beginning to crumble under the relentless weight of the Blood Pack onslaught. The sight of numberless vorcha clambering atop their own dead to scale the walls was something Arlen knew would be plaguing his dreams for a long time to come. He tried not to think about what would have happened to the mercs once the Blood Pack fought their way in.

For the first time, Arlen wished Petra was around. Seemingly drained by her efforts, the AI had retreated inside his omni-tool and had not been heard from since the shuttle took off.

Beside him, Olansi tutted. An enormous column of smoke barred the air in front of them and he was forced to swerve aside lest any contaminants find their way into the filters. As they passed, Arlen's eyes widened at the source. It was a gigantic fire, onto which several Blue Suns threw a steady stream of vorcha and varren corpses.

The mass of bodies covered the ground below like a twisted brown carpet, with the Suns moving between the rows like tiny white maggots. Three or four of them struggled with a krogan but even its huge bulk was tossed unceremoniously into the blaze. The carnage was astounding and made Arlen want to retch.

Olansi's head twitched in his direction, each second bringing a stronger urge to break the silence that had risen since Bashik's death.

'Hey,' the Spectre said tentatively, 'I just wants to say that it's a good thing.'

'What is?' Arlen asked sharply.

'You not wanting to kill that guy. Or interrogate him. Impractical, perhaps, but I'll never say that it's a bad thing to retain a traces of compassion, especially in a places like this.'

The quiet pressed on them again as Arlen digested the admission. Outside, the glowing haze that constantly bathed Torkessa faded to reveal the more familiar towers and suspended columns of Omega, each one speckled with hundreds of tiny lights. The last boundary of the vile district, the Blue Suns-held bridge, fled past them far below.

'I don't understand you,' Arlen muttered, 'One minute you're serious, the next you're back to treating everything like some lame joke. Back in that warehouse you barely said a word, then all of a sudden you're smiling again? Now you're trying to make nice after what happened with Bashik? What are you?'

'You want the honest answers?'

Arlen nodded and Olansi shrugged his heavy, green-plated shoulders.

'Simple facts is, I'm just a soldier. One who's probably spents too many years in the fields, maybe, but a soldier all the sames.'

'What's that supposed to mean? Are you crazy?'

Olansi laughed. 'Oh I wouldn't say crazy, but I learned a long times ago that if you take these things too seriously then it's bad for your healths. Start feeling regrets, anguishes, all that stuff. Sometimes though, the old ways of thinking pokes through. Starts to get all moody, like when I was in STG. I wasn't any fun backs then. Mostly happens when I concentrates but then, when I gets in up close like backs in the warehouse, I can lose myself again.'

'So you act this way to help you forget?' Arlen scoffed.

'I know it sounds like an excuses, but hey, to each his owns, eh? Some guys likes to drinks, somes like to chokes on hallex. Me? I just likes to have a giggle from times to time.'

Arlen brought up his hands and used his thumbs to press the tiredness from his eyes. He should not have been surprised that someone like Olansi was as scarred internally as on the outside.

For a moment he wondered what horrific acts Olansi had committed or witnessed to force such a change in his personality but he quickly pushed away any questions he had. They were not his to ask.

'For what it's worth,' Arlen said, his eyes on the distant Omega horizon, 'I know you were right. About Bashik, I mean. I know we couldn't let him go or bring him with us. It's just that, well, it felt...'

'Wrong?' Olansi asked, glancing at him, 'Well, that's because it was wrong. There was nothing rights about any of it. What you'll just have to get used to is that rarely will there ever be a rights thing to do, not in this lines of work.' The Spectre sighed quietly to himself. 'No harm in wantings it, thought.'

His voice held a note of longing and again Arlen looked him over. 'No. I don't think there is.'

The air had lightened enough for the silence between them to be comfortable as the shuttle carried them to their destination. The protected enclave containing their safe house seemed a world apart from Torkessa but still Arlen found himself twitching as he climbed out of the shuttle and onto the sturdy platform beneath. A footfall scraped across the ground nearby, making his head jerk around and his hand reached for his pistol until he realised it was nothing more than a passing resident.

He became dimly aware that his ears were still ringing and his mouth was still filled with coppery blood. The sudden calm was almost dreamlike.

Olansi sensed his melancholy and slapped a hand on his shoulder. 'Maybe you should get a showers before you head to the spaceports, eh? Perhaps a nap. Gives your mind a chances to catch up with your body.'

Nodding mutely, Arlen followed him down the street. He felt numb and every small sound was met with an instinctive pull as his survival reflexes began to bleed out. A shout went out between two friends nearby and he stiffened, expecting the snarl of a varren to lash out at any moment. When nothing came, he hung his head wearily and willed his mind to stop thinking.

When they reached the door of Arlen's apartment, he slumped against the wall for a moment and closed his eyes. His body was beginning to fail him and Olansi grunted as he pulled Arlen upright.

'Come on,' he hissed, 'nearly there.'

The door slid aside and Arlen's face lit up in surprise at the sight of Keller standing in front of them. The detective clearly had not slept in their absence, and dark circles stained the skin under her eyes.

Arlen opened his mouth to greet her but stopped immediately as he noticed her hard, angry glare. Her arms were crossed tightly across her chest and he knew better than to say a word.

The moment stretched out awkwardly. Arlen's lips moved subtly but no sound came from them and Olansi too kept quiet, oddly unwilling to disturb the sudden tension.

Keller's gaze remained on Arlen and for a moment he thought she would strike him.

Then, for just a heartbeat, her expression softened before her eyes closed firmly. She pushed past them, her footsteps echoing down the hall until she entered her own apartment further down.

Olansi gave Arlen a curious look before realisation gripped him.

'You...didn't tells her where you were going, did you?'

'I...' Arlen began, his mind in tatters. Every ache and pain seemed to merge into one, creating a backdrop for the sudden feeling of guilt that stabbed at his chest. 'I...knew she'd insist on coming if I told her. I couldn't live with myself if something happened. So I...'

'Oh boy,' the Spectre groaned as he clasped a hand to his forehead, 'You really messed up, Interceptors. Rookie mistakes number one, and I'm not talkings about in a professional sense.'

His senses awhirl, Arlen stepped groggily into the apartment. 'I know it was stupid but everything was so...unclear. I needed to focus on the mission and I knew I couldn't do that if she was in danger. I knew if I told her then I wouldn't be able to stop her from coming.'

'Well, leave it for now. You can apologise laters, after you've both cooled down.'

'What's the point?' Arlen argued. He staggered into the living area and sank into a nearby couch, his eyes falling shut immediately.

'I messed up,’ he mumbled into a cushion, ‘Detective Keller may hate me but at least she's alive.'

Olansi let out a deep sigh. 'So young after all. Very well, I won't spells it out for you. Just be ready to moves in four hours.'

Arlen mumbled something unintelligible as sleep took him and Olansi shook his head as he turned away. Briefly, the Spectre considered tracking Keller down and trying to soften the blow, perhaps try and excuse his young comrade.

No, he thought to himself firmly, This is just another lesson the Interceptor has to learn.

Mass Effect: Interceptor - Episode 17
Six months before the events of Mass Effect, a crucial summit is due to be held between the Citadel Council and the human Systems Alliance. On this important day, a young turian named Arlen Kryik is recruited into an elite C-Sec unit known as the Interceptors, a small cadre of agents responsible for hunting wanted fugitives throughout the galaxy.

Partnered with veteran agent Garrus Vakarian as part of the summit's security detail, Arlen quickly becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot to destroy the Council and reignite tensions between the turian and human races.

Nothing is as it seems, however, and as Arlen and his C-Sec comrades race to uncover the truth one of the Council's oldest enemies watches from the shadows...

---

Next Episode

Previously on Interceptor...

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  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: Jeremy Soule
  • Reading: Not enough
  • Watching: King of the Hill
  • Playing: Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Eating: Too much
  • Drinking: Coffee
...sleepy.

Work hard. Book done in ten days. Or die trying. Probably latter.

Meanwhile, Inter-thingy update. Overdue. Nevertheless, done. Will do more soon.

Bye...

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Each breath tore through Arlen's lungs as he ran, his chest swelling painfully against his armour as he fought for air.

He jerked his head around in search of their pursuers before snapping back to Olansi, who did not seem tired in the slightest despite the punishing pace he was setting. Once again Arlen was struck by the fluidity of the Spectre's movements, of how little effort he appeared to spend in anything he did. Arlen felt all too ungainly and cumbersome by comparison.

Little exhausted a man as much as being chased and it felt like they had been chased across the whole of Torkessa.

‘For the love of the spirits,’ Arlen heaved, his voice rasping between jagged breaths, ‘How do you do it? I can barely stand anymore! I can't go on!’

‘Find a way, Interceptors!’ Olansi called back over a broad shoulder, ‘We won't lose them, now they have our scents!’

Even over his own heavy breathing, Arlen could hear the varren howling behind them. Their guttural snarls rose just above those of the vorcha to create a savage wail that echoed through the barren alleyways. He couldn’t remember the moment he’d heard Olansi cry out the alarm, nor the instant he whirled around to see the snapping jaws of varren, barely held in check by their krogan masters.

It did not matter. All that did was survival.

Arlen stumbled as his feet ploughed through a pile of trash, scattering foul detritus in every direction. The odour entered his nostrils in a sickly flash before it was forced out, every breath a searing burst.

Olansi glanced back and gnashed his teeth, irritated at Arlen's flagging pace. Despite despite the turian’s vital youth, he simply lacked the endurance to keep up.

Coming to a decision, Olansi raised his fist to call a halt and turned around, drawing his Tempest.

His eyes darted from side to side, taking in everything he could and his lips twisted in frustration. The alley was narrow and straight, with precious few corners to break line of sight with their pursuers. The Blood Pack were close, Arlen knew that much but they hadn’t yet caught up completely.

Olansi turned to the various doors lining the alley. Each could potentially lead to safety but the chances were equal that it could lead to a dead end, or worse.

‘All right,’ he announced, ‘if we're goings to stop then we need to find a place to holds them off or hide. We're only a hundred metres from the warehouse anyway and we can't breaks in there with a horde of Blood Packs on our trail.’

Arlen looked up, his emotions mixed. He did not see it as a tactical decision, rather physical weakness on his part but Olansi was right. At best they would alert the batarian warehouse owner, Bashik. At worst they could all become embroiled in the surrounding chaos and see any evidence Bashik held destroyed in the process.

Pulling himself upright, Arlen grasped his pistol and tried to gain control of his racing pulse.

‘Here,’ Olansi said, tossing him a pair of small silver discs. Each one was surprisingly heavy for its size and a green strobe light danced around their rims. ‘Remote charges. Set them up heres, I'm going to see if I can hacks one of these doors.’

‘Wait.’

Olansi looked up in surprise as Arlen laid a hand on his shoulder. The young turian's mandibles quivered with exhaustion but his eyes held a certainty that made Olansi wait for him to continue.

‘I have an idea,’ Arlen said, ‘Give me some cover.’

Hesitating for a moment, Olansi's mouth opened as if to argue, a reaction Arlen understood. It was almost impossible for an organic to hack a console faster than a salarian and when the Blood Pack found them, every moment would count. Still, something in Arlen's gaze made Olansi’s mouth close firmly and with a nod, the Spectre stepped aside.

‘Okay,’ Olansi replied as he took a knee at the other side of the alley, ‘but whatever it is you're plannings, make it quick.’

A loud snap tore the air above Arlen's head, a crack that made his ears ring. He ducked instinctively and his jaw dropped in horror as he saw their pursuers spill from the alley entrance.

The Blood Pack war band howled as they spotted their prey and wild shots pounded the walls around Arlen, kicking up splinters and clouds of chalky dust. There were too many vorcha for him to count, filling the alley to create a wall of squirming flesh.

Two larger, darker shapes moved above them. The krogan walked their varren in front, the beasts barely restrained by the thick chains around their necks.

Arlen felt fear gnaw at him as he turned back to his omni-tool, the device opening with a bright flourish and as he’d hoped, the spritely image of his asari AI flickered to life before him.

‘Petra? You realise what's going on, right?’

She nodded vigorously and her voice was filled with giddy excitement, ‘Of course, turian male, have been listening the whole time! Very exciting!’

Suppressing his annoyance at her obliviously light-hearted tone, Arlen entered a few short commands and established a hacking link.

‘Then you know what I need.’

The words had scarcely left his lips before the door lock blinked and chimed its approval. Petra grinned at Arlen sheepishly, her tiny form swaying from side to side in a gesture of calculated shyness.

Arlen barely controlled his shock enough to smile gratefully back at her.

‘Thanks. If you have any suggestions, just speak up. We need all the help we can get.’

‘All right!’ Petra responded happily, ‘First, get inside!’

‘When I said suggestions, I meant something besides the damn obvious!’ Arlen cried out as he threw himself over to Olansi.

The rifle slugs came thickly now, whipping through the air and smashing pieces of masonry over their heads. The shots lacked accuracy but such a thing only confirmed their enemy's intent; the Blood Pack wanted the pleasure of a close kill, where they could get bloody.

Olansi's eyes were narrowed in concentration as he squeezed off short bursts, but it was clear the horde cared little for losses. They drew closer with each passing second and Arlen could now see the look of terrible ecstasy on their faces as each one clamoured for their death.

‘Olansi! We're leaving!’ Arlen yelled out and the Spectre almost jerked back in surprise.

‘That was damn quicks!’ Olansi shouted, ‘Where the hell did you learn to hacks that fast?’

‘I'll explain later, just follow me!’

Olansi pushed himself from the ground and followed Arlen through the door, his face a mask of confusion. Behind them, a cry of anger went out as the Blood Pack watched their prey escape. The air was filled with the rumbling of their quickened pace but it was too late.

The door snapped shut behind Olansi and the horde roared their frustration. The sound was muted but Arlen and Olansi kept their weapons trained on the door all the same, tensing at the scratching of talons on the other side. After a few seconds, a deep voice barked at them to move on and Arlen allowed himself to finally relax.

‘Sounds like the krogans are forcing them on,’ Olansi murmured as he slowly lowered his weapon. Looking over his shoulder, he furrowed his brow.

The room they had stumbled into was dark and musty, the building seemingly empty.

Arlen stood hunched over his omni-tool. It was the only light source in the room and it flared wildly for a moment as Petra's voice emanated from within.

‘If you can find an operational extranet terminal or even router, I can get inside and help!’

‘Get inside?’ Arlen asked curiously, ‘You mean you can actually move through Torkessa's internal systems?’

Petra nodded. ‘Yes, they used to let me do so in lab, before they all left. I wandered when I was still young, still nothing except knowledge without memories or thoughts; and I was afraid. It was too big and I knew nothing, did not know what to do. If I went too far away they would pull me back in. Now, I think I can find things you need…show you the way.’

Olansi strode over to them, rubbing his chin. ‘So, that was it. You let your little AI helpers unlock the door. Not a bad tricks.’

‘Not a trick…’ Petra mumbled sullenly, ‘It was easy…’

Arlen glanced at Olansi. ‘If we can get her in the local network, that might make things easier for us.’

‘You really trusts that thing?’ Olansi asked suspiciously, ‘For all you knows, that's what it's been after this whole times - a chance to break loose.’

Arlen shook his head and Olansi spread out his hands, shrugging.

‘What? You've never heard of a big, scary AIs escaping into the extranet to terrorise the galaxy? I loved that vids.’

Arlen let out an annoyed breath. He did not appreciate the poor attempt at humour under such pressure but he appreciated Olansi’s caution, at the very least. They were running out of time and the use of an AI in such a way could never be anything less than unpredictable.

The thunder of battle erupted once more outside. It was close, giving Arlen even less time to think. Sighing, he shook his head.

‘I trust her.’

He could almost feel Petra's smile on him, and her voice rang out through the omni-tool speakers, ‘Thank you, turian male! I will do a good job for you!’

Olansi rolled his eyes but did not stop Arlen from making his way deeper into the building to search for an extranet port. The Interceptor paced paced between the deserted rooms, his gaze flicking from wall to wall as he searched for something Petra could use as an access point. A powered-down terminal, discarded by the former inhabitants provided a suitable inlet and Petra’s transfer took only a few seconds.

Arlen blinked in surprise as a set of harsh lights flickered on above him. The power had already been restored, and as with the door hacking he was truly impressed with Petra’s speed.

With a tired groan, a set of heavy shutters at the far end of the room began to move aside, spilling gold across the bare floor. Cocking his head slightly, Arlen moved to take a look and what he saw made his brow plates rise in shock.

Torkessa was crumbling. Large holes had been torn from the distant city scape and the fighting appeared to have solidified just ahead of their position. The road beyond the window was wide and sweeping, flanked by squat industrial compounds.

One structure in particular stood out; a sand-coloured two-storey building directly ahead, crested with giant fans and a glowing red sign. It could only be the Environmental Control Centre, and every inch of it seemed alive as dozens of Blue Suns readied themselves for attack.

Though Olansi could not make out the details from such a distance, it was obvious the Suns had stormed the ECC and were using it as a base of operations for the sector. Second-floor balconies were rigged with razor wire and mounted weapons while the very same Mako he and Arlen had seen earlier now rested in front of the entrance, packed tightly into place with sand bags and sheets of thick steel.

Like a storm, the Blood Pack horde rumbled as it drew near. They passed by the window, making Olansi shrink back into the shadow. Vorcha in their hundreds, perhaps thousands, swarmed towards the ECC while their krogan overlords roared their orders. This was where the battle would be decided and with a churning sense of horror, Olansi realised Bashik's warehouse lay in the very compound that housed the ECC. Cursing, he turned away to find Arlen. They


 ~~~ME-I~~~


Captain Kirrahe was just what Garrus expected from an STG operator. The salarian was calm, his every movement performed with unerring balance and coordination. His green-tinted features were like a blank page; his lips did not smile, nor did his body language lose its air of complete severity.

He seemed outwardly relaxed but his eyes shifted constantly, drinking in every detail of his surroundings with an unsurpassed level of awareness. Nothing would slip past him and even if Garrus had intended to turn him in for the embassy infiltration, he knew Kirrahe’s team would kill him without a moment's hesitation. Instead, he focused on the fact that he was as guilty as they were at that moment and to submit to any notion of duty would be foolish, not to mention suicidal.

The apartment Kirrahe had picked for a safe house was nestled deep within a salarian district of the wards. Occasionally a shuttle would pass by, sending shadows stretching across the walls but Garrus knew this was a quiet part of town. There would be no interruptions here.

Kirrahe cleared his throat. ‘Well, now we're satisfied you aren't currently under surveillance, perhaps out of courtesy I should explain our presence. This is your station, after all.’

Garrus dipped his head but remained silent.

‘We are on the trail of a man named Yanus. He's a heavy player in the black markets and criminal underworlds across the galaxy, taking many guises. He's been called an information broker, an arms dealer, even a war criminal; though the wars in question are many. Depending on who you ask, he's a billionaire, a smuggler, even a Spectre. What he truly is, no one can say for sure. He's a shadow in the purest sense of the word - impossible to track and harder even to catch. All we know is he's one of the most dangerous individuals in the galaxy, both directly and indirectly responsible for some of the most prolific acts of crime, terrorism and genocide in living memory.’

‘Including the Jamestown Incident?’ Garrus asked.

‘Including the Jamestown Incident,’ Kirrahe confirmed solemnly, ‘We know the basic facts surrounding the attack. A turian extremist group used a virus to send a human vessel off-course, forcing the Citadel fleet to destroy the ship. This weakens the relations between turians and humans, dredging up memories of a war that still generates a lot of resentment on both sides, a war that could easily reignite. We have reason to believe Yanus is involved.’

‘Wait,’ Garrus interrupted, using a hand to rub his tired eyes, ‘You're saying this Yanus is working with Krassus and the Legion? How? Supplying them? Training them?’

‘We don't know the extent of his influence but it certainly seems like just the kind of thing he would do, and by that I mean it isn't one of the few things he hasn't done already. But no, we have no conclusive proof, just scraps and circumstance. I suppose the Union, and by extension the Council, don't like Yanus because the man doesn't make sense. He has no discernible long-term goals, no motives. He will make a huge profit by selling arms to a batarian smuggling ring in the Traverse before sinking it all into supporting a failing krogan clan on Tuchanka. He's wild, unpredictable, and that makes our superiors nervous. We have to suspect his hand in this, if only to finally stand a chance of catching him.’

Garrus' throat tightened and his eyes shifted across the room. The rest of the STG team were relaxed, either sitting down to clean their weapons or watching the living room's vid screen while they waited for orders. He wondered if any of them felt the same sense of vertigo that he did, if anyone else felt so hopelessly lost.

He tried to hide the despondency in his voice, ‘You obviously think he's involved, or you wouldn't be here. For that matter, why sneak into the embassy in the first place? Do you suspect Udina of having links to this guy?’

Pausing, Kirrahe furrowed his brow, probably unsure of how much he could reveal. His team's sergeant had already expressed his dissatisfaction at allowing a witness to their incursion but Kirrahe had waved him aside. In the end, all Kirrahe offered Garrus was a firm shake of his head.

‘That's a little more than we're willing to tell you. There's a reason I haven't asked for your name, turian. That human saying, 'what you don't know won't kill you'? It works both ways. You need to know what I'm telling you but any more would be dangerous for both you and my team.’

‘You people are unbelievable,’ Garrus muttered derisively, ‘You claim to have information relevant to the Jamestown investigation but all I hear is a bunch of nonsense about someone who may or may not even exist. What you're saying doesn't make any sense. Why search the Citadel for the Forgotten Legion’s links to Yanus when they’re probably all the way out in turian space? Why risk sending a whole team into the embassy when one man would be able to get in and out without attracting attention?’

Clearing his throat, Kirrahe caught the concerned glance of his sergeant, Rentola. The man’s eyes were wide and his brow raised a fraction but Kirrahe rebuffed him with a slight gesture.

‘Very well,’ he replied at last, ‘If you must know, we were following a data trail, a series of bounced communications that began far outside Citadel space. Encrypted channels and networks, old comm buoys used by Yanus to contact his various agents and associates throughout the galaxy, all the tricks in the book. My team and I were expecting to trace them to a criminal den, perhaps a smuggler's warehouse out in the wards. That the trail ended in the Presidium, in the office of the human ambassador of all places, was a shock to us all and we couldn't risk sending someone in alone. For all we knew, Yanus could have had men lying in ambush. Such a thing has happened before, after all.’

‘You didn’t answer my question. Do you think Udina's dirty?’

Kirrahe continued carefully, ‘Not Udina himself, rather his predecessor. Ambassador Jung was a very interesting man, it seems. According to our files, he dabbled in activities ranging from extortion to bribery and even campaigns of intimidation. He consorted with human supremacist groups, most notably powerful industrialists with a lot of money and influence. The communiqués we unearthed originated during Jung’s term of office. The timing adds up, and our government has not had such a solid lead on Yanus in over a century.’

‘A century?’ Garrus asked, his voice heavy with disbelief, ‘Yanus has been around for that long?’

‘As has the Shadow Broker,’ Kirrahe answered quickly, ‘Make no mistake, only the name is truly immortal. Typically there comes a time when the motives of such individuals shift or their methods change, even if it is only subtle. Those are the times when you know the mantle has been taken up by another and the facade is broken temporarily. Yanus, however, has always remained constant but it was only a century ago that he came to our attention. Who knows how long he'd been operating under our radar before that?’

Kirrahe offered Garrus a glass of bright purple liquor, a turian spirit, judging by its aroma. Garrus clasped it with a thankful nod and tossed the cold liquid down his throat, enjoying the icy line it drew into his stomach.

‘So, where do we go from here?’ he asked cautiously, ‘You brought me to this place for a reason and something tells me if you were going to kill me then you would've done so by now.’

Kirrahe crossed his bony arms. ‘You know, you caught us by surprise when you broke into that office. At first we thought you to be one of Yanus' agents come to cover his tracks. It wouldn't have been beyond him to bribe a C-Sec officer into doing his dirty work.’

Garrus conceded the unfortunate fact with a small nod. Corrupt cops were a part of any force, no matter how well-run.

Kirrahe grinned slightly. ‘Not to mention it looked like you were searching for something yourself.’

Garrus stared into his empty glass, eyeing his own tired reflection. He did not know where to begin and his voice worked its way reluctantly from his throat.

‘Right now there are two investigations into the Jamestown Incident. One is Council-sanctioned, run by C-Sec's Joint Security Task Force.’

Kirrahe frowned. ‘The recent counter-terrorism initiative, correct?’

‘That’s right. Mobile field agents supported by a large dedicated support team.’ He considered mentioning Arlen specifically but thought better of it. ‘The other investigation is being carried out by the humans.’

‘To be expected. I don't think their kind would trust the Council if the galaxy itself were coming to an end.’

‘The commander of JSTF knows the Alliance isn't playing straight with us, that they’re withholding evidence crucial to the investigation. I was sent to plant the Mantius program, a cutting-edge piece of surveillance software, on Udina’s office terminal.’

‘Mantius - that’s a salarian program,’ Kirrahe remarked, ‘STG developed it many years ago. Planting it is no small task and the personal risk was great in breaking into the ambassador’s office. You must be extremely loyal to this commander of yours.’

Garrus snorted. ‘It was hardly my choice.’

He looked toward the nearby window, his face carefully blank. He could not tell them about Naris' death at his hands nor Chellick's deal to stop him receiving justice. He couldn’t tell them that he was little more than a puppet of the JSTF commander, all for the sake of his own tarnished honour.

Dejectedly, Garrus flexed his mandibles and pushed his glass back over to Kirrahe, who refilled it without hesitation.

‘I'm just paying for my own mistakes,’ Garrus murmured as he snatched up the glass again, ‘Sometimes it's easy to forget about your own problems when there's something going on that's so big, it seems like it could swallow you whole. Those problems are still there, though, always waiting for you when you return.’

‘Sometimes it seems much easier to run,’ Kirrahe replied knowingly, ‘but nothing good ever comes of such a reaction, no matter how impossible the odds. Sometimes you must hold the line; both in war, against the enemy and in your heart, against your own doubts and misgivings.’

As the turian liquor burned in the depths of Garrus' stomach and softened his thoughts, he bobbed his head in agreement. The movement was sluggish as the alcohol took hold of his senses but he forced his mind to retain everything that had been said.

Sergeant Rentola gestured to Kirrahe, drawing him across the room. Garrus watched them with indifference as they held a hushed conversation. Events were moving far too quickly for him to keep track and nothing the salarians could do would surprise him at that moment.

Another shuttle passed by the apartment and the shadows reached out once again, as if to snatch Garrus away and carry him into the gloom. Every second seemed to hang in the air as the STG members murmured to one another.

Garrus' eyes drifted to the windows and the city beyond. Above the dark spires and towers, the distant ward arm swept up gracefully, meeting the other four to hold the surrounding nebula in a soft purple grip. It had become such a familiar sight to Garrus over the years that he’d forgotten how vast the Citadel really was. It was ironic that the only thing to make him feel smaller and more insignificant than the grand station was the crisis now escalating beyond his control.

After some time, Kirrahe returned and nodded stiffly. ‘We wish to make you an offer, turian. You have something we need in the Mantius program. The data uncovered could lead to Yanus and that possibility alone is worth any price. Perhaps we could even assist in your own dilemma, if you would allow it?’

Garrus breathed hard as he tried to force some clarity into his thoughts but the liquor had muddied them heavily. Perhaps that was their intention, he wondered, to render him more susceptible to bargaining.

Kirrahe frowned as Garrus suddenly started chuckling to himself.


 As if I needed to be convinced to screw Chellick over.


‘I'll give you what you need,’ Garrus said, ‘The Mantius program will link the ambassador's terminal to that of my superior, the one who sent me to break into Udina's office in the first place.’

‘And in turn, we will break into his,’ Kirrahe said with a flicker of a smile, ‘Espionage is never lacking in irony, I've always found.’

‘The information you want should be there, but in return for it I'll have to ask a favour.’

Kirrahe straightened and, for the shortest of moments, his own relief showed in the tension of his body. It was the sign of a man who was so achingly close to his goal that he could taste it.

‘Name your price.’


 ~~~ME-I~~~


A trickle of warm, salty water rolled down Varn's mandible, making it itch unbearably. He could no longer tell whether it was his own sweat or the product of Zorya's crippling humidity but still, he did not move, no matter how infuriating his discomfort became.

Around him, the jungle buzzed with life. Birds and reptiles called their alien songs while the distinctive chittering of pyjacks echoed from a nearby grove. Their cries were lost in the dense foliage that bristled around him with an energy all of its own.

The jungle was unlike anything Varn had seen in all his years travelling the galaxy. It felt so vibrant and busy, like a city born into the unspoiled wilderness, and even the soil beneath his fingers was rich and dark with life.

If it weren't so damn dangerous, he thought to himself amusedly, I’d even consider settling here when the fight’s over.

The tribune had been holding his position for over an hour, prone and pressing every inch of his body into the dirt. His squad did the same - ten of his best, all motionless and invisible beneath the overhanging ferns and branches that covered the side of the hill. They did not speak and the noise of the jungle hid their presence completely.

Slowly, Varn's eyes travelled to his front, where his arms were spread out, clutching his rifle. A long, snaking insect with more legs than he could count wound its way across the armour plating of his forearms and he stiffened instinctively at the sight of its bold red and orange colouration.

A bloodworm. Just the touch of the poisonous creature on his bare skin would burn like acid but he held his breath easily, waiting to see where it would go.

The air eased from his lungs as the insect slithered onto the ground and made its way further down the hill, and Varn felt warm pride swell deep within his chest. Such small challenges of discipline, such tests of nerve were like sweet wine to him. He’d always prided himself on his physical and mental endurance, on his resistance to pain and discomfort and nothing pleased him as much as proving his disdain for hardship.

A small flicker of movement caught Varn's attention and immediately, his gaze sharpened.

There, just to his front, from a thick mass of vegetation at the bottom of the hill a turian in murky green armour crept through the undergrowth.

There was nothing wrong with his movements as Varn assessed him with a professional eye, but the scout hadn’t spotted the squad of veterans laying in wait. He stopped and Varn's eyes narrowed with interest. The scout was being cautious and an inexperienced officer would have taken his hesitation as a signal to attack.

Despite the risk of discovery, Varn allowed himself a small grin. He was anything but an inexperienced officer.

‘All clear,’ he heard the scout say into his suit radio and, like a silent mist, an entire platoon of the enemy appeared from the jungle. They were formed in a staggered line but the steep hills on either side of their path would force them into a column. Varn had predicted it and sure enough, the formation slid into a long, jagged scar across the forest floor.

The turians shuffled onward, each one content and safe in the knowledge that their scouts were reliable. As the middle of the column crossed Varn's position, he made the decision to strike.

He stood abruptly, his rifle aimed at the men below. His squad rose with him, echoing his actions with fluid efficiency. Some of the enemy cried out in alarm while more simply dropped to the ground, their immediate-action drills taking control of their bodies as they registered the threat.

On the opposite side of the path, directly across from Varn's team, another dozen leapt to their feet, completing the pincer and throwing those below into utter panic.

One turian in particular stood out in Varn's eyes. A young centurion with white chevrons painted neatly across his armour stared in utter dismay, his body hanging limp with the shame of his team's defeat. He was barely an adult, with a fresh brown carapace and the traditional blue etchings of Palaven covering his cheeks and mandibles. His wide eyes remained locked on Varn as the tribune strode down the hill.

‘You have just been ambushed by a forward element of the enemy force, Centurion,’ Varn called out, his voice rising above the rustling of leaves and mulch, ‘Your platoon has suffered ninety-five percent casualties with seventy percent dead, the rest wounded. You have been taken prisoner and will soon be on your way to an Alliance facility for interrogation. Do you have anything to say for yourself?’

The young officer's lips moved but the only sound to emerge was a whispered, ‘How?’

Varn did not smile, in spite of the satisfaction he felt at his own triumph. This was a good soldier and a potential leader of men. Gloating at him in front of his own platoon would not help him grow stronger and would only serve to undermine his authority in the future.

Varn forced a stern tone as he reached the path, ‘Dismiss your men and we'll discuss what you did wrong on the way back to the compound.’

As the centurion turned, Varn's suit radio beeped and he cursed mildly. He had given express orders that he was not to be disturbed during the exercise.

The centurion noticed his irritated scowl and dared not show his curiosity as Varn's face lifted into a look of mild surprise.

‘Centurion!’ Varn shouted, startling the young man, ‘Change of plan. General Krassus has arrived to inspect the men. Have both platoons form up and present arms.’

‘Yes Sir, but...’ the centurion began nervously, ‘I can only see two of your squads.’

Smiling, Varn raised a clenched fist into the air and the centurion's jaw dropped as the remaining two squads sprung up from the ground from only feet away, completely surrounding the two officers.

The centurion was stiff with awe and barely managed to bark out his orders to the rest of the men, who shuffled into rows with well-rehearsed precision.

The jungle grew quiet, as if in obedience to Varn as he strode down the roughly-hewn path. His creamy ridges glistened with moisture as he walked and every few moments he shook his hand to flick away the buildup of condensation on his armour. Perhaps he would have to think twice about settling on Zorya in the future; it was not only dangerous but too damn wet.

He stopped, drawing himself smartly to attention and waited patiently as a dark shape moved down the trail ahead.

General Krassus' ashen skin flickered between the leaves as he approached. He looked anxious, his jaw set and his darker-hued neck muscles bunched with tension.

‘Sorry for the disruption, Avitus,’ Krassus said, though he had been a leader far too long to make the apology sound like anything more than a formality, ‘There's been a development. Come on, I'll explain on the way.’

The two turians walked side by side down the trail and Krassus began again immediately, his voice hovering on the edge of fury, ‘It's Vastra. He's gone dark. I ordered him to return after he left Jump Zero but since the initial mission report, nothing. Not a word, not a signal, not even a damned message to explain himself. As if we didn't have enough troubles, now we have senior officers going AWOL when we need them the most, disobeying their orders like they were nothing.’

‘Are you sure he's still alive, Sir?’ asked Varn.

Krassus hesitated as a number of possibilities raced through his mind, but shook his head after only a few moments.

‘The humans couldn't have caught up to him, not yet. It's far too soon. Even if they knew who he was, they'd need at least three days to track him down. Still, they'll be close. That's why I asked that stubborn son of a varren to get back here as quickly as possible, to avoid any possible security leaks. Hell, I recalled everyone back to Zorya after the mission's success and he's the only one missing.’

Varn eyed the canopy overhead, allowing brief sparks of sunlight to fall over his vision as they passed beneath the cracks in the lush green ceiling.

He did not like the thought he was about to voice but he was nothing if not realistic, ‘Sir, do you think he knows too much?’

Krassus glanced at his Second. ‘I don't know, I...yes, yes, I suppose he might. He knows the location of our base, our command structure, even our patrol routes and supply lines. What are you thinking, Avitus?’

‘I don't like thinking ill of a fellow soldier, an officer at that,’ Varn said slowly. His mouth moved slightly, as if tasting his next words on his lips. ‘But he holds information that could lead the Council directly to us. Given our location, the Alliance would have the freedom to send everything they could if they knew where we were - cruisers, marine battalions, anything they could pull together. Our greatest strength right now is their belief that we may lie in an area they can't hit with any amount of force. Our only weapon is secrecy and Vastra has the ability to take that from us, whether he turns of his own will or under torture.’

Stopping for a moment, Varn met Krassus' gaze with hard eyes.

‘Sir, we need to retrieve him or silence him. Only one or the other will do.’

Krassus winced and Varn understood his hesitation. Coleran Vastra was one of the Legion’s most experienced men and had been a fellow architect of the Seventh Exodus itself. Varn recalled his exceptional engineering skills during the Relay 314 Incident, and then his brave actions during a battle with a pirate group many years later. To think that they may be forced to kill such a trusted subordinate was like bitter acid in his stomach.

Still, there was another force at work here. The circumstances were exceptional, and so had to be their responses when those circumstances changed.

However, as Krassus tried to summon the strength to give the order, the energy bled from him visibly.

Varn read the subtle shift in his friend's eyes and spoke loudly, his voice rimmed with anger, ‘It's him, isn't it, Sir? You're afraid of what Yanus will do if you disobey him.’

The general bared his teeth, unable to stop his rage resurfacing at Varn’s accusatory tone.

‘That's none of your concern, Tribune! My authority is what counts here and you will follow my orders without question, no matter whom or what is involved. Do you understand?’

‘Then what are your orders, Sir?’ Varn asked. His body shook and only the long-fostered loyalty to his commanding officer held him in check.

Krassus blinked at the question. ‘What did you say?’

‘You ask me to follow your orders, Sir, and you know that I will. I, along with every man in the Legion, will follow you to the letter. That is not in question, nor has it ever been. So what are those orders? Do we let ourselves be cowed and humiliated? To be used and thrown away by someone who doesn't even share our blood? Or do we stand for what we know is right? Follow our own path as we’ve always done since Shanxi? What are your orders, Sir?’

Varn had always been this way. The tribune's anger was not directed at Krassus or his leadership, of that both men were aware. Krassus was a proud leader, always had been, but Varn had made sure he could always be counted on to remind the old general how to walk their path whenever he strayed.

Krassus let out a long, tired breath. ‘I'm afraid I can't allow any man to leave this planet without my knowledge.’ His lips lifted gently into a wry smile. ‘My orders are clear, are they not, Tribune?’

Varn nodded his understanding and the anger leeched from him. Slowly, he relaxed and managed to return Krassus' grin.

‘As crystal, Sir.’


 ~~~ME-I~~~


Dust fell from above as another explosion shook the tunnel, coating Arlen's fringe with a membrane of grit.

He barely felt it. Instead, his eyes strained to penetrate the darkness beyond the omni-tool's flashlight.

‘Nearly there,’ Petra said.

Her voice echoed down the length of the tunnel and Arlen winced instinctively as he listened to the rumbling battle raging above their heads. To be discovered in that narrow space would mean their deaths.

He squinted as he tried to gauge the distance ahead of him but the darkness swallowed his vision after only a few feet. The cylindrical stone walls around him were damp and slick with a pungent filth that made his head swim. His legs, already exhausted, now screamed in agony as he was forced into a crouch by the tunnel’s low ceiling and he clenched his teeth against the pain.

Behind him, Olansi grunted in disgust and looked down lamentably at his boots.

‘An Omega sewers. Of the places in the freakin' jerk-off galaxies, I end up in an Omega sewers. Who or whats did I piss off in a past lifes to deserve this?’

‘Petra says these tunnels link nearly every major industrial building in the sector,’ Arlen replied, ‘It's the fastest way to Bashik and considering what's happening topside, I think we're better off.’

‘Speaks for yourself,’ the Spectre muttered, ‘These boots are ruined.’

‘Salarian male needs to stop complaining!’ Petra chided from Arlen's omni-tool, ‘Smelly it may be, but only way to warehouse! I saw from security cameras still working, lots of bad men around up there.’

Olansi scowled at her. ‘Bad men I can deals with but I won’t be able to gets boots like these again!’ He made a rough, hacking sound deep in his throat. ‘This place smells worse than anywheres I've ever been. If I didn't know any betters, I'd say Little Miss Synthetics here took us this way just to see me wallow knee-deeps in vorcha shit.’

‘Maybe I did!’ Petra yelled back, ‘It's only what mean salarian male deserves!’

‘Enough!’ Arlen snapped. He glanced around him, keenly aware of how vulnerable they were. ‘This isn't the time or the place. Olansi, if you're so worried about your boots then take them off. Petra-’ He paused as the absurdity of scolding a computer hit him. ‘Petra, just concentrate on scanning the area ahead. You say you have access to the sector's security monitors?’

‘That's right, turian male. Warehouse is up ahead, detecting at least five signals inside. I can see exterior camera feeds looking at the building but the windows, they are all blocked up. Can give you locations of hostiles based on seismic and air pressure readings, though!’

‘You can do that?’ Arlen asked, ‘How?’

‘Omega is old mining station, silly turian male!’ she responded cheerily, as if the answer were the most obvious thing in the world, ‘Nearly all buildings here filled with seismic sensors, humidity sensors, sensors for everything! Hard to get clear picture of who is who but I can at least give you basic idea!’

Arlen smiled gratefully. ‘That's more than we could've hoped for without you.’

‘Yeah,’ Olansi agreed sarcastically, his old humour poking through the grave mask he’d been wearing since the mission began, ‘It might even be worth smellings like an elcor's backsides for the rest of the decades!’

Arlen ignored him and continued to trudge through the foul grime, each step filling the air with thick, nauseating sloshing.

It did not take them long to reach their destination. The tunnel widened into an open conduit dotted with ladders, each one leading to a different part of the industrial complex. Petra directed them to the correct one and Arlen paused before ascending, keeping one hand on the rungs as he shone the omni-tool towards the top.

‘Where exactly does this lead, Petra? Does it go right into Bashik's warehouse?’

‘Mmm-hmm,’ Petra answered, ‘According to local blueprints, should be service bay thirteen-beta. Room is empty, seems hostiles are focused on defending building against people outside. Have isolated one target in upper floor office.’

‘Probably Bashik himselfs,’ Olansi murmured, ‘Safest part of the buildings. How do you wants to play this, Interceptors?’

Arlen looked at him curiously. ‘You're letting me decide?’

‘I figure I'd give you the opportunity to take down your first targets,’ the salarian laughed heartily, ‘I'll be more than happy to handles the grunts, especially in close quarters.’

Puzzled, Arlen regarded the Spectre's change in manner once more. The single-minded intensity that had carried them through the war-torn Torkessa streets had faded to reveal a comfort with their situation that Arlen could not fathom. Olansi's head no longer jerked in response to every sound, nor did his eyes constantly search every corner for danger. He had even holstered his Tempest. In spite of the odds, he seemed completely relaxed.

Olansi sensed Arlen's confusion and took a step towards the ladder. ‘How abouts I go first, mm?’

After a moment's indecision, Arlen gave way and Olansi scuttled quickly up into the shadow. A dim blue disc slid into view at the top and his dark shape disappeared.

Arlen followed, keen to see why the Spectre had insisted on taking point. He straightened as he climbed out of the hole and cringed as he sniffed the air, fearing their atrocious smell would betray them.

Olansi showed no such concern as he checked the small room they had emerged into. Though it was large, the service bay was crammed with shelves and boxes of junk. Weapons, omni-tools and medigel crates lay beside racks of OSDs and wads of thick cabling. Stained containers of packaged foodstuffs sat next to luridly-coloured vials of potent alcohol while only a few feet away were stacked enough packets of red sand and hallex to ensure any C-Sec officer a promotion if seized.

‘These must be Bashik's goods,’ Arlen whispered, ‘I can't even imagine what the narcotics alone are worth.’

‘This is just crap,’ Olansi scoffed as he neared the only door to the bay, ‘The real treasures will be guarded by its owners. Don't get distracted now.’

Irritated by the unnecessary advice, Arlen brought up his omni-tool with a mild scowl. ‘Okay, where now?’

‘Three hostiles in next room,’ Petra replied, ‘Two in room beyond that. Stairs to upper floor also in next room, office is left of stairs when you reach the top. Restroom is on right, just in case you…’ She trailed off as Arlen's glare intensified. ‘Never mind.’

‘All right!’ Olansi announced clearly, his hand resting above the door controls, ‘You ready, partners?’

Arlen moved to the other side of the door. He held his pistol firmly, taking comfort in its weight. He did not know why Olansi had put his own weapon away but he did not question the Spectre. He knew what he was doing.

It was then Arlen noticed the gunfire coming from the room beyond and his instincts snapped into place. As when he first faced Crixus, and when he stormed the militia checkpoint hours before, time slowed to a crawl. Sound became distant, as if his head were submerged in water and he became completely aware of every knot of pain, every itch and prickle on his skin.

As his breathing steadied, Arlen nodded. The door opened and Olansi was the first through.

The next room was long but narrow, and the three batarians were arrayed along the left edge, every one manning a window and firing from it in ill-disciplined panic.

Olansi moved instantly, flowing like a trickle of water along the ground and Arlen lowered his weapon in amazement.

The first batarian sighted the Spectre too late. He turned only to have his weapon knocked from his grasp and his head twisted sickeningly to the side as Olansi landed a flurry of strikes, each one a mere blur. The body had not even touched the ground before Olansi was upon the second.

He moved like nothing Arlen had ever seen. The speed of his hands and feet could barely be followed by the naked eye and the second batarian was felled with a single punch to his abdomen. As he slumped over, the third hostile reacted. He yelled in horror, his rifle swinging towards them.

Olansi did not even blink. He gripped the second batarian as he fell and thrust the limp body into the path of the third. The shots were fouled and the body shuddered as the slugs hit it, sending bloody fragments of ceramic plate in all directions.

From behind the shattered corpse, Olansi sprung. The final batarian's weapon was knocked roughly aside and he shook convulsively as he was pounded by a smooth, flowing series of blows.

Grinning, Olansi thrust his palm hard below the man's jaw, snapping his helmet back with a dull crack.

The batarian dropped to the ground and the Spectre grinned as he saw Arlen's shocked expression.

‘What are you waiting for?’ he called out, clearly enjoying himself, ‘Your man's upstairs, Interceptors, go!’

Shaking himself out of his inaction, Arlen firmed his mouth and sped up a flight of stairs to his right. He could no longer feel the nagging ache in his legs. Every sense had been closed out except for the astonishment at seeing Olansi fight. Arlen had never seen such a martial art in his life and he burned with the desire to ask the Spectre about it.

No, he told himself firmly as he blinked hard, forcing every unnecessary thought from his mind.

Bashik was his target. Nothing else mattered until he had been taken into custody.

Mass Effect: Interceptor - Episode 16
Six months before the events of Mass Effect, a crucial summit is due to be held between the Citadel Council and the human Systems Alliance. On this important day, a young turian named Arlen Kryik is recruited into an elite C-Sec unit known as the Interceptors, a small cadre of agents responsible for hunting wanted fugitives throughout the galaxy.

Partnered with veteran agent Garrus Vakarian as part of the summit's security detail, Arlen quickly becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot to destroy the Council and reignite tensions between the turian and human races. 

Nothing is as it seems, however, and as Arlen and his C-Sec comrades race to uncover the truth one of the Council's oldest enemies watches from the shadows...

---

Next Episode

Previously on Interceptor...

Back to the Start
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  • Mood: Zeal
  • Listening to: Mozart
  • Reading: I, Partridge - We Need To Talk About Alan
  • Watching: The Simpsons
  • Playing: The Witcher
  • Eating: Various
  • Drinking: Tea
...I'm doing this. I'm thinking about how to touch up a certain scene or tweak a certain character. I'm thinking about the future, what I'll be writing and wondering if it'll be worth the effort. Nothing I've written so far hasn't been, but I'm not one to rely solely on past experience.

We all worry, don't we? We have those moments, as creators, when we twitch and fidget in our chairs, panicking because we haven't been pumping out the work we promised ourselves we would. Our minds are constantly on the go though, even if our hands aren't. We don't stop creating, even if the results don't end up on a page or screen.

So, while I'm at work I like to spare a thought for my creative fellows - whether professional, amateur or something in between - and the shared stresses that plague us at every moment of every day.


As for the mandatory update, Mass Effect: Interceptor's revision is coming along nicely, with about a third of the story now brought up to code. Enjoy it will you can because believe it or not, I am actually still writing things Mass Effect, and I've had to resign myself to releasing this project a bit closer to the new game. That said, it will at least be as near to completion as I can make it, so there will be regular, uninterrupted updates when that time comes.

Also, my brand-spanking new novel is now only a few weeks away from total completion, so expect news to follow in the next couple of months.
  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: Jeremy Soule
  • Reading: Not enough
  • Watching: King of the Hill
  • Playing: Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Eating: Too much
  • Drinking: Coffee
...sleepy.

Work hard. Book done in ten days. Or die trying. Probably latter.

Meanwhile, Inter-thingy update. Overdue. Nevertheless, done. Will do more soon.

Bye...

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:iconcatelee2u:
catelee2u Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday!! :party::beer::love:
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you very much! :)
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:iconexileblaze:
ExileBlaze Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015
Happy Birthday!
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Professional Writer
You're too kind! :)
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:iconrainetenerelli:
RaineTenerelli Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch!
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:icongodzilla2003:
Godzilla2003 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, bollocks.
I forgot to wish you a happy Halloween. :B
Ah, bugger it!
Happy belated Halloween, moth! Hope you had a good one! :D
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014  Professional Writer
And a belated thanks! I did bugger all for a whole week save attend a party dressed as a Payday character. Hope you too had a good 'un!
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:icongodzilla2003:
Godzilla2003 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I did indeed, thanks!
Nothing for a whole week besides a single party?

Sounds like my kind of shindig!
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:iconopheliabell:
OpheliaBell Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2014  Professional Writer
Warning... I've tagged you. I hope it doesn't hurt too much.
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Professional Writer
Ouch...
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