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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!


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!

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


Keelah se'lai!


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Sarnak stood confidently with his fellow slavers at his back as they waited to board the Kowloon. Five men stood with him, each tall and frightening in armour the colour of dried blood, all brandishing shotguns and assault rifles.

The batarian's mouth twisted into a smile. For a freighter this size, the small group would be more than enough to corral the animals together for submission and branding.

Beside him, Rednar Druka stirred. He was the captain's right hand and the only krogan on the crew, a head taller than them all and more aggressive than the rest combined. He had shared Sarnak’s plunder and chaos for over two decades, and when he spoke the crew listened.

And when I speak, Sarnak thought to himself, his grin widening, Druka listens.

'I don't like this, Boss,' Druka grumbled, the sound like distant thunder in his throat. 'I ain't ever seen a ship surrender so fast before. Never. Something don't smell right.'

Sarnak dismissed the krogan’s fears with a wave of his hand. 'They're only humans, Druka. Cowards, every one of them. Scans showed only six crew members and light cargo, first-timers on their way back to Illium. The pilot's story checks out. Besides, you really think a bunch of freight jockeys are going to give us trouble? If they do then you ain't doing your job.'

Druka's booming growl mingled with the ship's ever-present hum to create a bass sound that churned the men's stomachs. Two of the others shuffled back a step and Sarnak tutted to himself at their cowardice.

The airlock door pitched and whined as servos engaged, the sound of a dozen small motors filling their ears as it prepared to open. The rushing of air was next, along with a subtle pressure against their skulls as the two ships' atmospheres were equalised. Finally, the hulking metal barriers ground apart and Sarnak frowned menacingly at what he saw.

It was a lone human man. He was not young, with greying hair shaved close to his skull yet Sarnak saw his body was anything but frail with age. A dark shirt outlined muscle as hard as stone, and the human’s eyes were thin, pale blue slits in his flat features.

Something about him set everyone on edge and Sarnak almost laughed aloud in disbelief at the thought of being intimidated by an unarmed man.

'You the captain?' he snarled. 'Where's the rest of your crew?'

The man spoke and behind Sarnak, Druka narrowed his reptilian eyes suspiciously at the human's apparent calm in the face of half a dozen heavily armed and armoured pirates.

'My name is Captain Dukov. The others are in the cargo hold, prepping everything for transfer to your ship,' Dukov replied in a clear, commanding voice. 'We know the routine with you pirate types and we don't want any trouble here, so just take it easy and we can get this over with before any law enforcement patrols show up.'

Sarnak snorted. 'We know you didn't send any distress signals, human. Nobody is coming to help you.'

'Be that as it may,' Dukov answered with a shrug, 'you're just outside the Terminus border. The locals do send out patrols occasionally and we'd rather be on our way to Illium as quickly as possible than be pawns in a hostage situation. Not to mention the authorities might…frown upon some of the goods we’re carrying.'

The two men stared at each other for a time and Sarnak's eyes flitted behind Dukov anxiously, though he could not have said what he was watching out for. Everything this captain said made sense and yet Druka was right. Something was odd about this ship.

Beyond Dukov, Sarnak could make out the familiar lines of the Kowloon, its simple design firmly ingrained in his mind after dozens of raids. They were simple vessels with a small number of hiding places for the animals to take shelter. Even once the idiot humans were aware they were dealing with slavers, there would be no hiding from them.

Sarnak’s confidence quickly grew at the thought, and he silently admitted the mention of illicit goods had piqued his curiosity. He hadn’t come across a decent haul of red sand in a good many years.

With a quick glance to the men at his side, Sarnak firmed his resolve and his voice was a bitter snap, 'All right, Captain. Take us to your crew, but no sudden moves or I’ll have you liquidated on the spot!'

The tramping of hard boots could be heard throughout the ship as they marched, sending shivers through the superstructure. They all took heart from the intimidating sound and Sarnak's trepidation began to melt away.

He had no reason to be concerned. These humans would soon be collared and broken, and he and his men would eat well for months.

‘You look a little…seasoned for a freighter captain,’ Sarnak remarked as his eyes passed over the hard ridges of Dukov’s shoulders. This one would fetch a good price for those in need of manual labour, or even gladiatorial combatants. ‘Most spacers I see are so soft you could cut them open with a spoon.’

Dukov’s step faltered slightly. ‘Ex-Alliance military,’ he answered, his voice even. ‘Twenty years.’

‘Twenty years?’ Sarnak growled and his voice became unpleasant. ‘That’d mean you were around for the Skyllian Blitz. Lost a lot of friends on Elysium and Torfan, you know. Those debts still haven’t been repaid.’

‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ Dukov replied steadily. ‘I was groundside during the whole conflict, training recruits of out Pendleton. Not much action for an old man when there’re plenty of young ones around for it.’

Sarnak accepted his words with a quiet nod, his attention drawn back to the ship and the plunder it held. An ex-Alliance marine would be a whimsical addition to the slave quarters of any batarian, and the price would be suitably high.

The first sight of the cargo hold lifted Sarnak’s spirits further. The lighting was kept to a minimum to conserve power but the clear ceiling panels bathed the entire bay in a cold wash of starlight, steeping the edges of the room in deep shadow. Though there were few containers, most were marked with the logos of Bekenstein shipping companies, promising luxury goods within that would fetch handsome fees.

Sarnak drew his heavy Brawler pistol and gestured towards the crates.

'What's in these?' he asked, keenly aware that his men were also throwing covetous glances in their direction.

Dukov spoke over his shoulder as he walked, 'Mostly electronics, omni-tools and the like. Some jewellery, fine art and textiles too, lot of demand for those on asari worlds.'

Sarnak swallowed drily at the thought of such riches.

Druka's lips, however, were lifted in a dubious scowl and the krogan let his gaze wander across the gloom, wary of any sudden movements.

'I don't see any crew,' he barked. 'I thought you said they were getting this stuff prepared?'

Sarnak turned his head and glared at Druka angrily. 'Quiet, you idiot. I do the talking around here.'

Again, Druka rumbled his frustration and Dukov raised an eyebrow in surprise. 'Is there a problem?'

'Silence!' Sarnak snapped as his patience frayed. 'I'm in charge here. You just…just get your crew out here! We'll decide what to do with you then.'

Nodding, Dukov faced forward once again. The gentle glow of a hatch panel grew stronger from behind a large crate and Sarnak spoke once more, his voice heavy with agitation as he realised they were approaching the back of the hold.

'All right, that's far enough. Call out the rest of your crew or I kill you right here and now!'

The rest of his men stood ready, their weapons pointed squarely at Dukov.

The human stopped beside an enormous container before letting out a breath and turning to face them, his weathered face rendered ghostly in the eerie light.

Slowly, he brought up a hand to scratch the back of his head. 'Okay, if you insist.'

Suddenly, his hand swung down and rapped the side of the container hard. All four of Sarnak's eyes widened as he caught the signal and he opened his mouth to cry out a warning. It was too late.

All around them, container doors crashed open and the snaps of rifle fire followed. His men were so focused on Dukov that they could not react in time, and within only a few seconds they were falling like leaves, cut down where they stood.

Druka yelled out as a heavy slug cracked through his armour, his own rifle chattering as his finger clenched the trigger in reflex, cutting a clumsy arc of fire through the air before he finally fell.

Sarnak tried to raise his own weapon but the action was painfully slow as his body and mind went numb with shock. He struggled to focus on the humans that poured from the crates, each one efficiently picking their target the moment the doors opened before dispatching them with ruthless discipline.

Dukov strode towards the slaver leader, his features emotionless. His hand reached out to a small indentation on the side of the container he had struck and smoothly pulled out a concealed Raikou pistol.

Sarnak knew then he had been outplayed. He could not even be bothered to try and fire one last shot. He could only stand there in mute defeat as his men lay dead around him in the icy glow, surrounded by dark gore and glittering fragments of armour.

Dukov did not even pause. He raised his weapon to the batarian's head and pulled the trigger, blinking as flecks of blood spattered across his face and Sarnak dropped lifelessly to the ground.

After the scant few moments of chaos, the ship was quiet once again and the team shuffled close, surrounding Dukov in a loose circle.

'Assemble at the airlock,' he said, eyeing each one of them in turn. 'We only have a few minutes before they realise something's wrong and I want to keep the element of surprise. Kristen...' He looked at Weiss and she returned the stare intently. 'You'll take Chen and Taylor. Winterbourne, Miller, Hammond, you're with me. We hit through the umbilical and secure the ship floor by floor. My team will head for the bridge, Kristen, you've got the engine deck. Radio silence until I give the all-clear. Any questions?'

No one spoke and Dukov nodded firmly. 'Good. We have the upper hand. Now let's take us a ship.'


The security scanner beeped wildly, an irritating wail that drew the attention of everyone in earshot. In a city as large as Illium's Nos Astra, there were many in the spaceport even at that early hour and Keller glared balefully at the customs clerk who barred her path.

'I'm sorry ma'am,' the young asari said, her voice a drone that implied many hours spent repeating the same lines to dozens of different individuals, 'it's something else in the bag, it has to be.'

Keller gnashed her teeth in frustration and hung her head, turning her eyes to the ground as her voice became an angry growl.

'You made me empty the damn bag. You made me empty my pockets. You even made me take my freaking combat armour out of its case, dismantle the freaking kinetic barrier emitter and pass it through the scanners fourteen freaking times!'

She lost her patience at last, leaning in close to the clerk and lowering her voice threateningly, 'I swear to your Goddess, if you don't let me through in the next five minutes I'll slap a pair of cuffs on you and chain you to the nearest shuttle!'

The clerk looked back at her, her expression blank. Then, she too shuffled close to Keller, and in a low, firm voice said, 'We have clearance to perform cavity searches here, ma'am. Just so you know.'

Keller paled visibly at the thought and with an annoyed huff, she turned back to storm through the scanners once more.

Some distance ahead, Arlen regarded the scene with quiet affection, grateful his own passage through the checkpoint had been free of incident. He'd managed to grab a decent meal and a few hours’ sleep on the way over, though it was only what he owed his body after neglecting it for so long.

The dawn air still held the icy snap of night, waking his senses and refreshing him in an instant. He was glad he was not alone on the strange world. It was the first time he had been to an asari planet, and he immediately found himself awed as he stared out of a large window onto fields of sleek, curved skyscrapers and elegant domes.

Everything seemed so impossibly huge there, as if every new construction was purposefully built in an attempt to dwarf its neighbour, so different to the strictly-ordered and stylistically modest cities of Palaven. The sky was as deep a blue as the skin of the city's mistresses, lightening in the distant east as the sun promised a warm, balmy day.

Arlen watched as a few spots of cloud drifted idly by, lined with pink as the sun began to rise. He did not know how long the view had held him, but it took the gentle touch of Keller's hand on his shoulder to bring him to his senses.

'Thank God that's over with,' she sighed, her voice edged with irritation. 'I swear, if all asari worlds have travel security this invasive than I-'

She paused, her lips moving slightly without sound. The sun had begun to peek over the horizon, flaring brilliantly over the jagged, dark lines of the city. She looked up at Arlen, her eyes bright with interest.

'Are you ok?'

He blinked as if coming out of a trance before returning her gaze. 'It's beautiful, isn't it?'

Keller smiled and joined him in looking out on the dawn. 'Yeah. It really is.'

Countless citizens flooded by as the seconds passed and the noise in the terminal grew steadily. It all seemed muted to Arlen, however. Something about the sun was so settling as it gradually lifted into the sky, bringing about the same sense of peace as the pearl-white curves and clear fountains of the Presidium back on the Citadel.

It was something he could not describe, nor understand, more like a deep sense of nostalgia that couldn’t be tied to any one thing.

Shrugging, he glanced back at Keller. 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't be standing around, gawking at nothing.'

Keller smiled warmly at him, and in the burnished glow of the rising sun her hair was like gold.

Arlen felt something odd, pleasure with a distinct edge of nervousness that seemed to still his heart for just a beat. When she replied, her soft voice matched the visage perfectly, and Arlen had to remind himself to begin breathing again.

'If there was anything I learned when undercover, it's that you have to stop and enjoy these things while you can, Arlen. You never know where the job will take you next and even when you get there, you're never certain if you'll return. Treasure moments like these as if they're your last. That said,’ she added with a playful smirk, ‘we do have a terrorist to catch, so you can stop gawking now.'

After a few moments of thought, Arlen nodded. 'You're right. Thanks.'

Patting his shoulder, Keller let her hand slip down to gently press against his arm, urging him on.

'The heavy gear, armour and the like is still being held,' she said, frustration working back into her voice. 'They'll clear it within the next twenty-four hours.'

'That's not fast enough,' Arlen grumbled. 'We need to be fully armed when we try and take Vastra in. He could have half a platoon of Legionaries protecting him for all we know.'

Keller's feet skipped as she moved aside for an elcor, its enormous weight shaking the ground as they passed by. 'Tell me something I don't know. Still, JSTF came through for us on this one. They set up a meeting with local law enforcement, who've agreed to help us take Vastra in. It's a good thing we're on a council race-owned world; the asari respect Citadel law more than most species and the locals were pretty quick to pledge their support.'

'Who're we meeting?'

Keller nodded in the direction of the terminal entrance, where the city beckoned through a large set of open doors. Framed by the rectangle of pale light, a lone figure stood, arms crossed as it appraised them coolly.

As Arlen drew near, the asari's features became clearer. She wore a police uniform of patched grey, striped with blue and bound with bands of pitch black. Her skin was dark for an asari, with lighter lips and the dull, grey scales along the curves of her head that denoted her passage into the matron stage of life. She stared at the newcomers with a guarded expression as they approached.

'You must be the C-Sec agents we were told about,' the asari said as she offered her hand in greeting.

Arlen took it first and shook, noting the strength in her grip. 'Yes, thank you for meeting us on such short notice. My name is Arlen Kryik, C-Sec Interceptor. This is Detective Amanda Keller, of C-Sec's Investigation Division.'

The asari nodded at Keller with professional courtesy and the pair relaxed. They were both afraid Illium's own police force would resent others interfering with their jurisdiction but their host gave no sign of it.

'Captain Anaya,' the asari said, bowing her head formally, 'I run the spaceport terminal precinct, which happens to be one of the busiest on Nos Astra. We received a short set of instructions from JSTF but nothing in the way of why exactly we're being asked to follow them. I was hoping you'd be willing to follow me to the station and fill me in?'

'Of course, Captain,' Arlen replied, and with a gesture from Anaya they strode through the open doors and out into the cool morning air.

Already Arlen could feel the first touches of warmth as the sun continued to creep above the skyline. Illium was a hot planet, he had read on the way over, and he suspected that was why all the pedestrian walkways were built so high off the ground, hugging the tall buildings closely. The higher altitude took the edge off the heat, though the thinner air was already lightening Arlen's head. It would take many days to acclimatise to the new atmosphere but that was a luxury he could not afford.

Thankfully, Anaya did not have to lead them far. The precinct was part of the spaceport, with dozens of freighters docked overhead while autoloaders and cranes carried the cargo. It was a bustling place, where the trade of Nos Astra came and went without rest.

The police station itself was small and well kept, with barely a dozen asari officers hunched over their desks, buried in their work. The gentle beeps and chimes of haptic interfaces were broken only occasionally by a muffled cough or muttered remark from one colleague to another.

Next to C-Sec, it was almost serene, Arlen mused.

'Through here, please,' Anaya said as she briskly led them through a small door in the far wall.

It was a secure area, and the captain had to key in a password to open the way. With a slight groan, the door slid aside to reveal a narrow corridor of sterile grey.

Nothing moved inside, and Anaya spoke in a hushed tone, adding to the air of mystery, 'As you can probably tell, we hardly ever use this area. Nos Astra used to be a hub of organised crime, back when the colony was new and a lot of the city was still under construction. From these secure rooms my predecessors worked with asari Commando units to put down the worst of the rogue elements.'

'That's a switch,' Keller commented. 'We hardly ever get asari criminals on the Citadel. We just assume you're all too nice and mature to get tangled up with the wrong crowds.'

Anaya smiled humourlessly. 'Our race has just as much criminal potential as any other. The difference is with our longevity, a crime lord inevitably has the knowledge and experience of centuries on her side. When an asari takes power in the underworld, more often than not they're there to stay and they know better than to broadcast their presence. All-asari criminal organisations aren't too common outside our space but those that do take root can prove almost impossible to eradicate. That's why Commandos were used in the initial purges, all conducted from the rooms you see around you.'

'Did it work?' Arlen asked.

With a derisive snort, Anaya looked at him as she unlocked a sturdy-looking door.

'If it had then my job would sure be a hell of a lot easier.'

The door opened into a darkened room much like Chellick's office in JSTF. A large holographic screen filled the back wall, already churning with various security feeds and reports. A round meeting table dominated the centre, around which clustered several officers and detectives who stood up immediately as Anaya entered.

'All right, people,' she said sternly, 'this is Interceptor Kryik and Detective Keller of Citadel Security.' She turned to Arlen. 'This is the team we put together when we got word you were coming. My district commander wasn't too happy about committing resources to this but after being told what happened to the Jamestown, well, you couldn't hold me back.'

Arlen let out a breath of satisfaction. 'Thank you, Captain. It's good to see there are people in the galaxy who want to see justice done, even if it means intrusion on their home turf.'

She nodded. 'We're all on the same team here. I believe your commander wanted to brief you himself when we were all together.'

Anaya walked to the table and tapped commands into a small terminal set up at the edge and with an audible click, a connection was established.

Chellick's pale brown skin was rendered a bright red by the projector, though his angular white markings were distinctive enough. His voice thrummed from the speakers as clearly as if he were in the room with them.

'Thank you for contacting me, Captain. Arlen, I see you and Detective Keller made good time getting to Illium. I take it you're ready to go?'

Keller answered for them, her brows knotted in frustration, 'Yes, Sir, as soon as customs lets our gear through.'

Beside her, Arlen smirked and Anaya shook her head. 'Damn bureaucrats. Don't worry. I'll have your equipment released as soon as we're done here.'

'Excellent,' Chellick remarked. 'If everyone would care to take a seat, our people here have taken the liberty of drawing up a game plan.'

'Commander,' Anaya interrupted, frowning at him while Arlen and Keller sat down, 'that won't be necessary. My team and I are more than capable of handling this ourselves, in fact we've been working through the night, planning every detail to ensure your agents can get straight to work as soon as they arrive.'

'And the effort is appreciated,' Chellick replied and Arlen frowned at his superior's dismissive tone, 'but this is too important, Captain. Not to mention that should the operation go south, the fallout would be much more than you can handle. No, JSTF will oversee the op, with myself in overall command. I'm sure you understand.'

Anaya stared wide-eyed at Chellick as if he'd slapped her. Her face twitched subtly, changing between expressions of anger and outright disbelief and Arlen wanted to speak, if only to clear the air but thought better of it.

It was a fiendish thing, to wrest control of the operation from Anaya at the last moment but he could understand Chellick's reasoning. Vastra was their target and they had more riding on his capture than anyone. They could not let him escape, and for that reason alone they had to maintain as tight a grip on events as they possibly could.

Anaya composed herself long enough to make a tight-lipped response. 'Very well, Commander, have it your way. I don't like someone else having the final say over my people but in the interest of professional unity, I can make an exception this once.'

'And thankful I am to hear it,' said Chellick before he turned his gaze to Arlen and Keller. 'While you were on your way to Illium we went over the schematics of Vastra's building, as well as the surrounding area. Captain, I understand you've had units in place for several hours now. Do you have anything new to report?'

Anaya shook her head. 'Surveillance teams report one turian male living in a crappy dump of an apartment, hidden deep in the city's industrial sector. Description matches the pictures you sent, no visitors, no calls in or out. He's just waiting there, alone.'

They all seemed to feel the same pang of concern at the same time and every eye in the room turned to another as they wondered what would be keeping Vastra there.

'It doesn't make sense,' Arlen murmured. 'He must know he's making a target of himself by waiting out in the open like this. What could he be waiting for?'

'Do you think it's a trap?' Keller wondered aloud.

'Unlikely,' Chellick answered. 'The Legion are laying low after a major success. They want to draw as little attention to themselves as possible until their next strike. To ambush their pursuers on their home ground would be too great a risk.'

'Attacking the Citadel was a risk too,' Keller argued, 'but they still pulled it off. Something here doesn't add up and you know it.'

'Regardless,' Chellick said, his voice strong, 'the plan hasn't changed. We need that man and you people will be the ones to bring him in. Your team is assembled, I take it, Captain?' Anaya nodded silently. 'Good. We're patching through the details now. Stand by. Lorica? They're ready.'

Captain Anaya visibly fought to hide her surprise as an asari maiden materialised next to Chellick, the delicate youthful curves of her face clear despite the static of the comm-buoys linking their systems.

Before she spoke, Lorica kept her head down as if typing on a keyboard and in a matter of moments several displays popped up beside her. Images of blueprints, along with pulsing red circles dominated the additional screens, each marked with designated numbers and letters.

'The plan is simple,' Lorica said clearly. 'Arlen moves in, alone and on foot. The aim, of course, is to apprehend Coleran Vastra but an even more pressing concern is the whereabouts of the Forgotten Legion. If possible, Arlen is to interrogate Vastra on-site and act on any information uncovered while our own men bring the suspect back to C-Sec on the Lightning.'

She paused and another flurry of movement saw additional displays blossom into existence.

'There will be two teams in support. Sniper team will consist of four officers while the ground team will be composed of six, with Detective Keller in command.'

'Wait,' Anaya interrupted. The captain rose to her feet, her hands still in the table. 'That wasn't the deal, Chellick. Overall command is one thing but I can't allow anyone else to have direct control over my own people on the ground, not in my city.'

Her voice was fierce and protective, and Arlen knew she spoke out of loyalty to her subordinates. Any leader would be loath to place the safety of their men or women in the hands of a stranger.

Keller shifted, uncomfortable with the position she had been placed in.

Unmoved, Chellick replied without compassion, 'JSTF operates with the direct authority of the Citadel Council, and by extension your direct superiors.' His voice hardened and Arlen almost grimaced at the words. 'Make no mistake, Captain, the 'request' was a matter of professional courtesy, nothing more. You'll answer to Keller during the op and follow her every instruction. If anything should go wrong, you may consider your rank in jeopardy.'

Anaya appeared gaunt and drawn in the false light of the briefing room. She swallowed, fighting against a palpable rage that was mirrored in the asari around her.

Arlen raced to think of some kind of sign that would separate him from the grim-faced turian on the screen but he knew such a thing would be foolish. JSTF had bullied their way onto the scene on Illium and he was part of it, willing or not.

'As you say,' Anaya finally replied, her voice like ice. Her mouth worked soundless as she tried to force a civil tongue but her body was failing her.

In the face of her difficulty, Arlen stood and directly addressed Chellick. 'Is this a good idea, Sir? Captain Anaya and her team know the city, they know the locals and they can read the signs of trouble better than anyone. Not to say the detective isn't up to it,' he added quickly with an apologetic glance in Keller's direction, 'but I'd feel better going in knowing Nos Astra's finest are operating at their peak.'

Chellick's expression darkened and his response was a snap that cracked though the air, 'I won't be second-guessed, Interceptor. The order stands; Keller will be in charge and I expect you to remember whose side you're on.'

Arlen swallowed hard, his every instinct rebelling against his impulse. He had been bred to accept any order without question, to treat the word of a superior as law. Still, it felt wrong, and another furtive, sidelong glance at Anaya only stiffened his resolve.

'Excuse me, Sir,' he said pointedly, 'but I was under the impression we were all on the same side.'

The room plunged into stunned silence. Even Arlen himself released a long-held breath, astonished at his own behaviour. Nearby, Keller smiled at him but Chellick would not be swayed.

'You have your orders,' he said brusquely. 'I want everyone in position by midday. That gives you six hours to set everything up and I expect a link established to this command centre thirty minutes before that. Move it, people.'

Before anyone could respond the connection was cut and the image faded abruptly from the screen.

A sourness had come into the small room. Everyone felt it and they looked at one another, unwilling to be the first to speak. After a few moments, Anaya prised herself from the table and paced slowly across the room.

'I appreciate the effort,' she said to Arlen. The gratitude was thin in her voice but the overriding tone of bitterness was well-deserved.

'I'm sorry,' he said with a sad shake of his head. 'I had no idea.'

Anaya snorted softly to herself, her mouth upturned in a resentful smile. 'At least it's just my career on the line. You better come through on this one, Interceptor. If you don't I could well be back on the streets chasing down leads and I don't look forward to facing all that paperwork again.'

Tilting his head, Arlen tried to lighten his tone, eager to lift the mood. 'There are worse outcomes.'

Anaya chuckled, though there was not a shred of mirth in the sound. 'Not in this city.'


Jacob watched as the Corsairs formed around him.

In front, Weiss and Chen stood ready with their rifles raised, occupying the right-hand side of the docking umbilical. To their left, Dukov led the second team, each and every one ready to spring into action.

They all wielded Tsunami assault rifles, Ariake-built weapons that had been surprisingly easy to acquire on Bekenstein. They were reliable but more importantly, they could not be traced easily and every piece of their gear was civilian grade, with the exception of the explosives and grenades. Those were off the grid, sourced in Bekenstein's black market, courtesy of Dukov's network of contacts.

Nothing, from the weapons they carried to the boots they wore, could be tracked back to the Alliance. To the outside world they were just spacers going about their daily lives and the slavers on the opposite side of the airlock door would know no different.

That complacency will mean their deaths, Jacob grimly surmised.

No one spoke as the airlock hissed and sharp bursts of vapour jetted from the vents at the top. Their eyes remained on the door, fixed on the centre.

The layout of the slaver vessel was simple and Weiss had given a rough description as they jogged to their destination. It was not enough, of course, but it was better than nothing and it was enough to form the simplest of plans. That simplicity was the key, Jacob knew. It was one of the fundamental rules of a successful special operation. The plan had to be uncomplicated enough that his first instincts would snap to it even when anarchy had engulfed them.

As it stood, each team had a clear objective and they devoted all of their wits to accomplishing it, each one of them visibly coiled and ready to act.

After what seemed an age, the airlock doors cycled and began to open.

Dukov was the first to move, his rifle fitted snugly to his shoulder. His advanced years melted away as he crept forward, showing an ease of movement that came with a life of combat training. Behind him, Miller, Winterbourne and Hammond followed closely.

The airlock gave way to a vision of decay and despair. The umbilical hatches for batarian ships were located towards the back of the superstructure, as with the Kowloon, though the interior was a far cry from the clean lines and placid colouration of the commercial freighter.

The slaver vessel seemed to have been designed, or at least modified to break the wills of those they captured the instant they arrived. The bulkheads were an eye-searing red, pitted and stained with brown, rusty scars that etched the rough surface every few feet. Condensation lay glistening in thick sheets, falling from the ceiling in fat drops onto a deck made from jagged, metallic mesh.

Through the gaps, bronzed pipes and darker insulated cables ran with seemingly little order to their layout. A light shone from somewhere but the source could not been seen, instead burning through the humid air in a sickly yellow haze.

Nothing moved within and Jacob frowned in confusion. Usually the shipboard VI would pipe the opening and closing of the main entrance of the ship. Its absence, along with that of any crew and coupled with the appalling state of the ship itself, led him to believe the slavers were simple thugs with little care for procedure.

He hoped the same could be said of their combat ability.

As Hammond passed her, Weiss too began to move ahead carefully. Dukov's team turned left and she peeled right, hugging the wall as tightly as possible.

The two groups separated, each moving to their assigned area of the ship. The Razor would not have a CIC as such; rather the small ship's nerve centre would be the bridge. This would be Dukov's first target, Jacob ran through in his mind, to silence their comms and ensure no one compartment on the vessel would know what was happening to the next. His own team would seize the ship's drive core and shut it down manually, preventing the slavers from making off with their prize.

Weiss' knowledge of the batarian vessel showed in her every movement. Her eyes were constantly shifting, picking apart every detail around her and without warning she darted to the left, down a well-hidden turn in the corridor.

Her team mimicked her steps, their weapons trained in individual arcs of fire that swept every darkened corner and musty space. Their feet clanged against the deck, which vibrated precariously beneath them. The sound was quickly masked, drowned out by the incessant growl of the ship’s inner workings.

The passage they had taken was lined with the same brown, sweating pipes that ran beneath the deck. They looked incredibly hot to the touch and the team kept their distance, pressing in as far as they could. A corner loomed ahead as the passage turned sharply to the right, a black line against the murky orange.

They did not slow. Jacob kept his rifle on the corner as they approached and with only a brief tensing of his brows, registered a shadow moving in on their position. It was impossible to hear the footsteps to gauge distance. All he could tell was that the contact was humanoid in appearance.

The others in the team did not react; the fire sector was Weiss’ alone and only she needed to respond. The warrant officer's feet crossed one another as her torso turned slightly, taking the corner at a wide angle to lessen the chance of ambush.

Jacob followed and the rest of the passage emerged from the corner, a long, thin stretch of the same rusted walls and coppery piping. The choking steam was thick, creating a blanket of stifling heat that soaked his clothing and slowed his thoughts.

Ahead, appearing as a blurred, shifting grey shape, an enemy crew member stumbled. He was batarian, and had his back to them as he went about some maintenance task. He was completely unaware of their presence and Weiss twitched at the advantage.

Gently easing her rifle down, she let it hang by her side by the thick sling wrapped over her shoulder and Jacob’s eyes caught a flicker of silver as she drew a combat knife from her belt.

She moved quickly, carefully managing the weight on her feet to reduce the noise of her steps, reaching the batarian in moments. All sound was swallowed by the din of the ship as she plunged the knife into the crewman’s neck, cutting deep into the flesh as she wrapped her other hand around his mouth. She lowered the batarian to the ground, her features emotionless as she held him until the final twitches of life left his body.

As the team moved on past the dead crewman, Weiss led the way again and shifted, this time to take in a sudden left turn.

Jacob blinked sweat from his eyes. The tension sapped his energy with a strength he could scarcely believe. It had been a long time since he felt the thrill of battle and yet it was nothing like this, nothing so close or spontaneous. They wore no armour, could expect no reinforcements and the only chance they had of victory was their own superior training and experience. The endless drills, exercises and simulations were never enough to prepare him for the knowledge that a single round could end his life. This time, however, that danger was more real than he could remember.

The Razor was a small ship and it did not take them long to reach the engine room. At that point the roar of the drive core was deafening, a wall of sound that nothing could penetrate.

A set of wide doors shuddered aside, their surface caked with crusted minerals from the ever-present vapour hanging in the air.

The Corsairs streamed into the room. It was large and dark, with great vents and shafts running up the wall, only to disappear into inky shadow. The core was set into the far wall, a great sphere of energy surrounded by thin metal gantries. It pulsed with crystalline waves of energy that washed over everything in the room, illuminating swathes of it for just a heartbeat before it sank back into darkness.

Standard room clearance still applied, and Jacob settled into the role with routine familiarity. As the last one through he skirted to the right as Weiss and Chen moved in the opposite direction. They would all take a route around the outer edge, eliminating anything in the middle before finally linking up at the far end of the room. It was a tactic developed centuries ago and yet it still worked to this day.

Several slavers stood dotted about the chamber, absorbed in their own tasks. No one spoke to one another. It would have been pointless; nothing could be heard in that tumultuous space.

Streams of rifle fire erupted across the room as the Corsairs opened up, tearing into slaver bodies while their companions ambled only feet away, completely unaware.

It was one of the most surreal things Jacob had seen, half a dozen men dropped with only the vicious drone and sporadic light of the drive core filling his senses.

The final batarian was poring over the core readouts at the end of the room. He hung his head wearily and wiped his first set of eyes with the back of his hand before turning around.

Immediately, the man froze at the sight of his crew lying in bloody ruin before him. His gaze raked the engine room for a moment. Then, without warning, his body convulsed as slugs ripped into his flesh and he slumped backwards over the gantry railing.

Weiss strode up to the body and shoved it methodically aside with her boot, not bothering to watch it plunge down into the black recesses of the chamber. Jacob approached a moment later, his sweep complete.

With quiet satisfaction, he looked on the scene of destruction. A lot of slavers lay dead with no alarm raised. That would soon change, but the advantage was theirs.

An omni-tool sprang to life on Weiss' wrist and she sent the clear signal to Dukov. Even if he had not enforced radio silence, nothing could be heard in the engine room and so they had to rely on visual communications. A reply flashed and Weiss looked up and nodded to the others. Dukov had taken the bridge.

Suddenly, the drive core grew quiet and the groans of machinery ceased around them. They looked at one another in surprise as emergency lights fluttered to life, replacing the pulsing blue of moments earlier with dozens of small pools of red.

Jacob's ears rang mercilessly and he fought back the urge to shake his head clear of the fuggy haze the engines had brought about.

'That's the drive core sorted,' Weiss muttered loudly, her voice uneven as her own ears struggled to adjust to the sudden change in volume. 'The major just sent his own signal. They have the bridge.'

Chen smiled broadly. 'So what's next, ma'am?'

'Life support,' she replied instantly as she checked her weapon, 'to make sure they don't shut it off in panic when they realise what's going on. None of us have suits or helmets on right now so if these pieces of varren shit vent the compartments, we'd be sucking on vacuum in less than a second. Hopefully it'll just be a precaution. Now the Major's got the bridge, he can distract them.'

'How's he gonna do that?' asked Jacob.

The answer came a heartbeat later, as a high-pitched drone began to scream through the ship, sending jarring echoes across the core room.

Chen and Jacob glanced at one another in confusion, and after a few seconds another sound added itself to the din. It was difficult to detect at first against the shrill cry but gradually the deep, ugly tones of a batarian VI overpowered the alarm.

'Abandon ship, abandon ship, abandon ship,' the VI droned staidly. 'All hands to escape pods. All hands to escape pods. User alert; engine deck unresponsive. Bridge unresponsive. Abandon ship, abandon ship, abandon ship.'

The brief instruction continued to blare out, repeating every few seconds and Jacob permitted himself a cautious grin. The crew would be in chaos, with their officers unresponsive and minimal power to the rest of the vessel. What little discipline the slavers had would be evaporating at that moment.

Nodding to herself, Weiss brought her Tsunami into her shoulder once again and looked at the two men.

'That should send 'em packing.'


The JSTF command centre was alive once again. Men and women who had been working for over three days with little rest still typed busily or spoke with far-flung agents at their terminals without pause. It was still a place of energy that crackled with life as everyone worked ceaselessly to bring the Legion down.

Chellick watched them all from the central dais, resuming the supervisory role he had been forced to neglect as of late. He relished the feeling that came from standing on the raised platform, watching out over the heads of his team as haptic displays shifted around him, bristling with the latest information.

It was a feeling that had been denied him as meetings, briefings and other tedious details prevented him from attending the duties that befitted him the most and the turian smiled tightly as his eyes passed over Lorica's desk.

He had given the asari the role of co-ordinating the Illium operation and was curious to see how she would handle the responsibility. Technically, she was still under Lina but he knew the quarian had her hands full with the virus research. Lorica would have to step up to the task or be forced aside, as was so often the case in a profession that could brook no error, where everything had to be done perfectly the first time. Such pressure bred a certain kind of person as they were pushed to their very limits, and it was that very kind of which JSTF had to be comprised.

It was then Chellick frowned as he noticed Lorica was not at her desk. In fact, he could not remember seeing her there for some time.

He recalled Lina had mentioned the problem earlier and cursed softly to himself. Lorica knew they had only a few hours before they launched a raid that could bring a prominent member of the Legion into their custody.

 What is she thinking, going missing at a time like this?

As he ground his teeth in frustration, Chellick did not notice Lina as she bounded up the dais ramp.

'Chellick,' she gasped between breaths. 'Chellick, we have a problem.'

Sighing inwardly, he clasped a hand to his temple. It was just one thing after another. He let his voice escape, unable to completely conceal his anger.

'What is it, Lina?'

'There's someone to see you,' she said and the seriousness in her tone made Chellick sweep aside his misgivings. Lina was not the kind of person to let trivial matters intrude on his time. 'At the front entrance. He's being handled by security but…' She trailed off and Chellick cleared his throat impatiently. '…but I don't know if we can keep him there for long. He wants access to the command centre and I'm not sure if his clearance level is low enough to deny him.'

This time, Chellick sighed aloud. 'All right,' he said wearily, 'I'll go now. Keep an eye on things here and let me know immediately if there are any developments.'

Lina nodded and Chellick strode purposefully down the dais ramp.

The compound's main entrance was discreet. Located within the bounds of C-Sec headquarters, it lay down a side corridor that branched off the main lobby, protected by a pair of armed guards and an airlock-style system of security doors and monitoring instruments.

The outer doors were closed but the inner ones were open, and the guards barred the way, making Chellick frown in sudden concern. Their backs faced him, as if to block passage.

As he drew nearer he saw one of them motion roughly towards the outer doors and the murmurs of raised voices began to drift down the corridor.

'What's going on here?' he demanded as he approached.

One of the guards, a fellow turian, snapped his head around at the commanding tone and immediately brought himself to attention.

'Sir,' he began, his expression a mixture of discomfort at his situation and relief at the arrival of someone else who could deal with it, 'we have a high-priority visitor. He wanted to go straight inside but due to the sensitive nature of JSTF, I-'

'You did the right thing, officer,' Chellick interrupted. He had neither the time nor patience to listen to his nervous babbling. 'Who is this so-called VIP?'

Slowly, the guard shuffled aside to reveal Ambassador Udina, his dark skin deepened with a flush of anger and indignation.

Chellick's heart felt as if it had ceased to beat and he cleared his throat, forcing a neutrality into his voice that he did not feel, 'Ambassador Udina,' he said lightly, 'this is an unexpected pleasure. Very unexpected indeed. We're not in the habit of receiving uninvited guests.'

Udina glared at him bitterly through narrowed eyes. 'Yes…Commander Chellick, I remember you from the meeting with the executor. I would express regret over the abruptness of my arrival but, frankly, it would be a lie. On behalf of the Systems Alliance, Commander, I am requesting a tour of these premises and an update on the status of the investigation.'

Chellick could only stare back at him with a carefully blank expression. Inside, his mind seethed with fears. Could Udina have discovered the intrusion into his office, or the Mantius program?

After a few, achingly long moments, Chellick forced himself into a more collected frame of mind. He could, under no circumstances, allow Udina to enter. If he saw them preparing to apprehend Vastra then he would ask questions, difficult ones, about how they came across intelligence that had been stored on diplomatic servers.

It worked both ways, he quickly realised. Udina would then be forced to admit they were withholding the information to begin with but the implications were hardly worth the risk.

With another frown, Chellick replied, betraying nothing of the maelstrom of thoughts turning inside his head, 'I'm sorry, Ambassador, but the answer is no. We're running under the highest possible security levels, even for politicians. At the moment, the only people cleared to enter these grounds are members of JSTF, the top three C-Sec officials and members of the Citadel Council. No exceptions.'

'I see,' Udina responded thoughtfully, his eyes travelling down momentarily before flickering back up. 'If my own status as a representative of humanity is not enough, then perhaps this will suffice.'

It was then Chellick noticed the datapad Udina was clutching, and he took it hesitantly. His eyes widened in their sockets as he read with increasing horror, and Udina grinned slightly.

With deliberate satisfaction, the ambassador stated the contents of the datapad aloud, smiling at the look on Chellick's face as the situation became shockingly clear, 'By the order of the asari councillor herself, I am to inspect the Joint Security Task Force and present my findings to her on completion. Is that enough authorisation for you, Commander?'

Chellick felt cold and distant. He nodded numbly at Udina before looking back down at the pad. The electronic signature was unmistakable and the seal of the Council offices clear and precise. The wording was curt, formal and broad, something Udina would no doubt take advantage of.

Possibilities swirled through Chellick's thoughts. As the seconds ticked by he ran through plausible scenarios, discarding impossibilities and retaining only the facts. One thing made itself absolutely clear to him; Udina had to be stalled at all costs.

Mustering his strength, he beckoned mutely to Udina and the two men made their way into JSTF.


The Razor's cargo bay was tiny compared to the sizeable hold of the Kowloon, Jacob saw as he stalked through the gloomy chamber.

Around him, the anarchy that had engulfed the ship had receded, the jettisoning of the last escape pod sending a resounding thump through the deck only minutes before.

All but three of the crew had run in blind terror. Those who had remained behind turned out to be the senior officers, all murdered by their fellow slavers as they’d tried to prevent the evacuation.

Jacob shook his head. In less than twenty minutes the Corsairs had completely subdued and conquered an enemy ship, killing sixteen crew and sending the others scrambling, all without sustaining a single loss. It would be one for the textbooks; if they were allowed to record it.

He grunted to himself as he wondered how many other such victories this squad had achieved, all to the ignorance of everyone around them.

The hold was still and silent, its racks filled with provisions and ammunition. The storage of the latter in such a place was another sign they were dealing with amateurs; one stray GARDIAN burst would find the stores and blow the ship in two.

'Hey!' Chen hissed from one of the dark corners. 'Hey Taylor, you'd better see this.'

Firming his lips, Jacob trotted to the source of the harsh whisper. He found Chen steeped in shadow in a dirty, neglected corner of the bay. His fellow sergeant looked troubled.

'What's wrong?' Jacob asked immediately.

Chen opened his mouth to reply, but held back and instead merely nodded to his left. Frowning, Jacob stepped forward and was surprised to see the darkness drop away suddenly as a small room loomed on his approach.

He raised his hand, unable to trust his eyes and the feeling of cool, roughly cast metal greeted his outstretched fingers. It was a mesh fence, he realised, crudely made and stretched across the room's entrance. He narrowed his gaze as he caught movement beyond. Something was inside, and he reached for his omni-tool, intent on finding out what it was.

'Careful now,' Chen mumbled as the flashlight turned on, painting a white circle at their feet. Jacob ignored him and turned the beam towards the darkness beyond the fence.

'Oh my God…' he said aloud.

It took several moments for him to recognise the things inside as living creatures. There were six in all - full-sized adults, thick with dirt and encrusted filth and dressed in the tattered remnants of clothing. Four were humans, two males and two females. All shielded their eyes from the light but the last, a young woman with matted, unwashed blonde hair, stared out at them blankly.

Something about her eyes chilled Jacob to the bone. They were dead, devoid of emotion or feeling. They peered out from a bony face smeared with scrapes and stains.

The final two figures were an asari and a salarian. Each had sunk back to the furthest corner of the cell, and the asari had drawn her knees up into her arms, rocking gently on the spot.

'Slaves?' Chen asked, his voice quiet with dread and shock.

'Looks like it,' Jacob spat in disgust. 'God only knows how long these people have been here. We need to get them out.'

Chen nodded. 'I'll call it in.'

Jacob spoke in low, reassuring tones as he pried the fence open. It had been hastily erected, he found, clearly a temporary measure.

The slaves regarded him with their dull eyes, and made no effort to speak. Even when the fence was torn aside and Jacob calmly goaded them out of the cell, they moved obediently and silently, their heads bowed deeply so as not to meet his gaze.

'I can't believe this,' Jacob said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

He could clearly see them now. All six were malnourished and filthy, appearing almost skeletal as what little flesh they had was drawn tightly across their bones. Collars bound their necks and Jacob’s teeth ground together in rage as he saw brand marks had been seared painfully onto the skin of their backs.

'This is a slaver ship,' Chen pointed out. 'What did you expect to find?'

Jacob didn’t reply. No one had raised the question before the assault. There hadn't been time. Now they were faced with an even greater problem than before.

'What do we do with these people?' he wondered. 'Do we take them with us?'

'That's up to the major,' Chen responded. The young man looked over the squalid group, his appalled expression deepening with every second. 'This is inhuman. The damn Council should be trying to put an end to this.'

'If they did, I'd volunteer in a second,' Jacob concurred furiously.

Weiss emerged at their backs, her surly expression drawing dark shadows across her face. 'What's all this bloody noise about? Can't you two-'

Her words were stolen by the sight of the slaves, and her next was barely a faint muttering under her breath.


'Prisoners, ma'am,' Jacob reported formally, 'all branded and broken, by the looks of it. They haven't made a sound since we found 'em.'

'Probably been here a while, then,' she said. Even the warrant officer's stony façade had fallen at the sheer horror of the scene before her. 'My guess is they were bought elsewhere for sale on the market. If they were new captures then they'd be screaming at us to free them. Right now though, they're…'

Weiss trailed off as her eyes met those of the blonde girl. The warrant officer swallowed hard before forcing her cold face.

Jacob pressed closer, unwilling to let her drop the subject. 'Ma'am, we have to free them. The Kowloon's big enough and look at them; they're in no position to pilot a ship. They're barely able to move. If we leave these people alone, they're going to die.'

The warrant officer pursed her lips, clearly at a rare loss. 'This isn't our decision,' she said evenly, 'and the mission has to come first, Taylor. It always has to come first.'

'And how are we any better than those terrorists if we just leave them behind?' he asked. 'Ma'am, you know it's the right thing to do. We can take them aboard the freighter, turn them over to Illium's police force and keep the Razor for ourselves.'

Another voice rang out from the darkness, 'And do you think Illium's security officials will just let us walk away after turning them in?'

Dukov stepped into a nearby pool of light, his arms folded sternly.

'Or do you think they'll want to question the men and women who liberated them? Do you think they'll be a little curious as to how a freighter crew barely more than half a dozen strong managed to seize a batarian slaver ship?'

He was followed closely by Winterbourne, Miller and Hammond, their faces grim masks, impossible to read. Jacob straightened and replied with as much conviction as he could muster.

'We could just say we found the ship adrift, abandoned. Hell, an anonymous tip would do; it’s better than leaving them to die. The authorities might not believe it but who's gonna argue?’

'Besides them?' Dukov replied, nodding towards the slaves.

Jacob looked to the ground. He did not believe the pitiful bunch were in a state to tell anyone anything. It would take years of therapy to even begin to undo the damage that had been done to them.

Dukov placed his hands on his hips and shook his head slowly. 'Under ordinary circumstances, Taylor, I'd agree with you. I’d cast them off with a distress signal and pray a patrol found them first but things are far from ordinary right now. We have a job to do and we've already wasted enough precious time. We need to focus on getting to Illium and taking down Vastra.'

'Sir,' Chen spoke up, his expression filled with doubt. 'I know it’s a risk but Jacob's got a point, we can't just leave them here. You were there for the Blitz, you saw what those batarian animals did to people back then. We all saw it. Can you honestly let these ones die after what we did trying to save them all those years back?'

Chen’s eyes searched his comrades' for support, resting on Miller at the last. He gazed at his friend pleadingly but the big man turned his head, unwilling to take sides.

Dukov's features softened for a moment in sympathy. 'I know this is about Lynn,' he said quietly, 'and I can't blame you for wanting to save others from her fate. But this is more important than you or me, Sergeant. This is about the lives of thousands, perhaps even millions of people. This isn't just about the time we'd lose. If anyone, anyone finds out who we are, if any of these people ID us, it could start a war. I can't take that risk.'

Jacob scowled at the major. He could not believe what he was hearing. 'So that's it?' he asked, angrily. 'We're just gonna leave these people to starve?'

Weiss stepped forward. 'You're going to follow orders, Jacob. None of us like it but if you can't do something so bloody simple then we'll leave you here with them.'

Jacob returned her cold glare as the others looked on in silence. 'I can take that chance.'

The sergeant turned his back to Weiss and made for the asari slave, reaching out to comfort her.

Suddenly, the slave shook as her chest was torn to wet, purple tatters and she dropped to the ground without a sound.

Jacob blinked as her blood streaked across his face and watched in terror as the other prisoners too were executed, falling to the floor in a series of dull thumps.

His horrified gaze swept across the bodies, their eyes as still and lifeless in death as they had been moments before. The moment pressed in on him, bringing on a sudden feeling of nausea, and the ringing in his ears that had accompanied the assault on the drive core returned.

After what seemed an age, his eyes finally turned to Dukov. The major still held the pistol, outstretched and smoking from the barrel. His features were as emotionless as the corpses at their feet.

'We're moving on,' Dukov announced clearly, his voice husky yet still strong enough to command. 'Kristen, you and Hammond get your rack time. Miller, Winterbourne, I want you on cleanup. Dispose of the bodies then get some rest. Chen, Taylor...' He hesitated at Jacob's sullen expression. 'Taylor?'

Hearing his name seemed to snap Jacob out of his malaise, though he still appeared unsteady. The others took a step closer, well aware of what the shock of seeing such a thing could to do someone the first time around.

They hid their relief as finally, Jacob responded with a shallow, silent nod.

'You guys get up to the bridge and begin your watch,' Dukov continued. 'This is our ship now. Good work, people.'

The team murmured their agreement without enthusiasm. The final act of the assault had wiped clean the surge of confidence they had felt at pulling off the daring attack, and they shuffled away without a word to one another.

Not one of the others could meet Jacob's eyes.
Mass Effect: Interceptor - Episode 20
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...


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Previously on Interceptor

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The C-Sec Academy atrium was just as familiar to Keller now as it was back when she was just a trainee officer. The smooth, clean walls had not changed in her years away, nor had the strange scent; a subtle and perpetual blend of new furniture and body odour. For better or worse, there was nothing else quite like it.

The detective smiled to herself. It was a reminder of how vast the Citadel was, returning to that place after so long working another precinct. It was as if entering another country, another planet even, yet it was only a short shuttle journey away.

The elevators connecting the academy to the Presidium and its adjoining docks were constantly flitting back and forth, moving silently under sleek tubes all around her. Keller felt oddly at home there, though her she bore barely any resemblance to the young, wide-eyed trainee who had trod the academy’s halls years ago.

Instead of the standard issue blue-patched shirt and trousers, she wore a long, pale cream dress with glossy red panels along the arms. It was the perfect outfit for the mission to Illium, a blend of casual and formal that almost mirrored that which she had worn for Omega.

At first she had found herself itching to climb into the more practical C-Sec uniform, having spent so long out of it while undercover but after a couple of days in civilian attire, a part of her realised how much she enjoyed feeling like a woman and not an officer of the law. The dress held her trim figure well, she noted with satisfaction as she smoothed the wrinkles from her hips, and the feeling was certainly overdue.

The corners of her eyes lifted as she grinned to herself, remembering how just an hour ago her Tayseri Ward captain had almost thrown a fit when she told him JSTF had poached her services.

The blunt, coarse turian had almost sworn a hole through the bulkhead, though Keller knew the old man was paying her nothing if not respect. It was not a decision she could regret, either. Despite her love of the job and the people she worked with, the past two days had been exhilarating for her. She had spent more time off-station in forty-eight hours than in her previous thirty years of life and she was in no hurry to return to the mundane just yet.

'Well ain't you a sight for sore eyes,' a coarse, slurred voice spat behind her.

Keller wrinkled her nose at the hot stench of strong alcohol as the man’s foul breath washed over her.

'Your eyes are always sore, Harkin,' she replied testily, choosing to take a few steps forward rather than turn to face him. 'You really should try more sleep and less drinking yourself to death.'

The smell of unwashed skin crept through Keller's senses, making her grimace in disgust and she ached to recoil from Harkin as she felt him approach again. Despite the swell of officers and staff passing by around her, Keller felt strangely alone, isolated.

Her mouth firming, she held her ground, unwilling to be intimidated by the wretch. She could feel him smile unpleasantly at her back.

'Oh come on, honey,’ he continued. ‘You can't tell me you haven't missed your ol' pal, Harkin? Even after all these years you ain't got a kind word for me?'

Finally, Keller turned around.

Harkin was, as ever, a disgrace to the uniform. A sick grin spread his lips, thin and malicious against his blotchy, mottled skin.

'Look,' she began, her eyes hard, 'I'm only going to say this once, Harkin. Stay the hell away from me. I'm not a recruit anymore. I'm your superior officer and I don't have to put up with this kind of harassment.'

'Whoa!' Harkin replied, throwing up his hands in feigned terror. His gaze was cruel and unyielding. 'Now you're pullin' rank on me? What happened to the sweet little girl I knew back in basic, huh? What happened to the Mandy Keller I used to know?'

'Don't call me that!' Keller hissed before glancing about her. She burned with shame at the thought of causing a scene on his account, yet the memories of sordid slights and sidelong glances were appallingly fresh in her mind. 'Just…just leave me alone. I'm warning you.'

'You're warning me?' Harkin smiled back, his eyes merciless. 'Honey, that hurts. After what you got up to back in your academy days I'd have thought you’d learned some respect for your teachers.'

Keller paled with rage as she glared at the man. To her horror, she realised she was shaking and despair touched her as she felt the cold sting of tears at the edges of her eyes. The atrium walls, the crowd of officers, everything seemed to fall away from her and a sinking sensation filled her stomach.

Harkin's grin widened in triumph as he sensed her misery. 'See, now you remember, don't you? What do you say we-'

Harkin stopped as he felt a hard, two-fingered grip on his shoulder and the warm growl of a turian voice sounded at his back.

'Excuse me, Officer,' Arlen murmured, polite, yet forceful, 'I'm sorry to interrupt but we have to get moving. Detective?'

Keller blinked and her gaze moved up to Arlen’s. It took several moments for her lips to move, and several more for her voice to match them.

'Yeah. Let's go.'

Arlen released his hold on Harkin and immediately the officer smirked. 'Oh, so that's it? The new kid's your latest squeeze now? Well we all know you ain't picky when it comes to species!'

'Please Arlen, let's just go…' Keller muttered privately to Arlen as she sensed him stall at the remark, her voice cold and secretive.

She kept her head low as she walked, and Arlen cast an angry glance back at Harkin, who simply swaggered cockily where he stood.

'Careful kid!' he shouted at their backs. 'Don't get your hopes up! I know for a fact she bats for the opposite team, if you get my drift!'

The sound of his rough, hacking laughter echoed through the atrium, causing many their fellow officers to send puzzled looks in their direction.

Keller said nothing. Instead, her pace increased until they reached the Presidium elevator, though her expression remained vacant even as it carried them away to their destination.


Petra twitched as the extraction subroutine did its work.

To Lina's disappointment, the research terminal on her desk was not capable of rendering a three-dimensional form, and so she had to settle for only seeing the AI's head and shoulders on the small screen for the time being.

Petra was identical to an average asari-themed VI in appearance, though her mannerisms were anything but robotic.  With every small tick and whirr of the terminal's drive, Petra flinched, as if being prodded and poked. It was extraordinary, Lina found, just to watch her as the analysis programs did their work.

She had never stopped to imagine what it would be like, to be under such intense scrutiny, and she felt a pang of remorse as Petra winced, biting her lower lip in discomfort.

'I'm sorry,' Lina said quickly, 'It'll only take a few more minutes, I promise.'

'It's okay,' Petra replied with forced cheer. As soon as the words left her digital lips, she twitched again. 'Feels like scratches, and sharp things. Needles, maybe, to you?'

'Needles?' Lina questioned aloud. 'Of course! This procedure would be the equivalent to the taking an organic blood sample. It makes sense that it would create similar sensations for you.'

'Not long, yes?' Petra asked hopefully as she fought another flinch.

Lina glanced at the terminal. The code she had extracted would be sufficient for the time being, yet the temptation was there. Would Petra be able to detect her lie if she said she needed more?

She looked at Petra again and felt a stab of guilt. The procedure was clearly painful for her, and her face displayed the all-too organic hallmarks of one trying to put on a brave façade. Shaking her head gently, Lina tapped a few commands on the haptic keyboard and the terminal fell silent.

'We're done. Thank you so much, Petra, I can't tell you how much help you've been already. Thanks to you, we can finally begin to get to the bottom of what the Legion used to cause so much death and destruction.'

'Happy to help,' Petra smiled wearily. She looked back at Lina through half-lidded eyes and her browed was knotted with pain.

With deft keystrokes, Lina went to work, filtering the samples through several programs at once on her second terminal. Several million lines of code had been copied and such a vast amount of information would take an organic being years to interpret. Even with the most advanced software in the galaxy, it would be many hours before they could begin to sift through the patterns and recognised characteristics of the code itself, though Lina relished the challenge.

They still had the storage device that housed the original virus, after all, as well as traces of the virus itself. It was now just a matter of filling in the blanks.

'Astounding,' Lina murmured as her pale gaze hovered over the other screen intently, 'I never would have dreamed something like you would be possible, Petra. If just three days ago someone had told me they could fit an AI onto my omni-tool, I'd have laughed them right out of this office. How can you exist with such a small storage requirement?'

'I dunno…' Petra mumbled distractedly as she stared out across the command centre. 'I wondered same thing about you. How can such small organic brains make you do so much? You don't need big servers to help you do things you do. You just do them.'

After a few moments, Lina frowned beneath her helmet. 'True enough, I suppose, but it still doesn't answer my question. Organics may have small brains and efficient though they may be, they are still physical and therefore have certain limitations. You are able to move seamlessly from one device to another. It would be like my consciousness moving at will into another's body.'

'My body is here, quarian female,' Petra answered back, gesturing with her hands on-screen, 'in here. This terminal isn't a body for me, just a place I can go, like another room. I can go elsewhere if networked, but if not then it's like being locked in. I have no more freedom than you, maybe less.'

'So, this really isn't a form of omnipotence. You really can't be in more than two places at once?'

'If I can, I don't know how,' Petra answered thoughtfully. 'If I could, would be useful. Could help you and turian male at same time!'

Looking up from the other screen, Lina connected a small, grey device to her terminal. The object immediately began to beep and click, and she drummed her fingers on the desk impatiently.

'Why do you call Arlen “turian male”?' she asked. 'That isn't his name, and “quarian female” isn't mine.'

'Does it matter?' Petra replied with a look of genuine bemusement.

The question made Lina blink in surprise. 'Why yes, of course it matters. Our names are an integral part of who we are, Petra. It makes us feel good to know someone has remembered our name, just as it can make us feel inadequate or insignificant if someone has forgotten it. In fact, calling someone merely by what they are can be considered rude in most cultures.'

Petra shifted slightly, weighing Lina's words. 'I see. So you would rather be referred to by user name Lina'Gerrel Nar Korshan?'

The quarian chuckled. 'Lina would be just fine. In fact, I'd prefer it if you left the last part out completely from now on, okay?'

Petra nodded once and continued her observation of the command centre, her attention wandering from one desk to the next.

'Arlen…' she mumbled absently, and the trace of a smile tugged at her mouth.


'That son of a bitch,' Keller muttered under her breath.

She leaned over the balcony, her forearms pressed firmly against the railing while below her yawned the lower floors of the markets. Before them, the ward arm reached out to the distant stars, obscured briefly by dark smears of passing shuttles.

Arlen shuffled closer, unsure of what to do. He wanted to place a hand on her shoulder, to comfort her somehow and yet Harkin's words had stirred something deep inside her, something that he did not know how to handle.

He wasn’t even sure if it was even appropriate for him to care. A turian would would rely on those around him to help him shoulder his burdens. Humans were so much more individualistic, more protective of their own anxieties and problems and he was afraid any attempt to force sympathy upon her would make things worse.

'Detective, I...' he began, slowly. His mouth remained open as he struggled to find the words he needed.

Keller stared out blankly across the bustling Citadel and Arlen could barely hear her voice as she responded,  'I'd just joined C-Sec when I met Harkin. I was eighteen, cocky, still a kid in a lot of ways and he was an instructor in the academy. I already told you how the guy was famous in the human community, right? How he inspired a lot of us to join up?' Arlen nodded at her back. 'Well, let's just say I wasn't really prepared for how much of scumbag he could be, even back then. When your idol turns out to be the biggest asshole alive it can be quite a shock.'

'What did he...' Arlen mumbled, unsure if he even wanted to ask the question.

The traffic hid her sigh. 'From the very moment he saw me he was making advances. Even if I was interested I wouldn't have done anything, I mean, a recruit dating an instructor? My career would've been over before it began, along with his.'

'Did he force himself on you?' the turian growled, unable to stop himself from drawing closer.

Keller lowered her head and her golden hair fell in a cascade across her face.

'Not physically, no. But that didn't stop him from making my life a living hell for a whole year.'

Arlen ground his teeth together until his gums ached. He’d known from the second he saw Harkin that he was nothing but trouble. Still, to see Keller so troubled sent a spasm of warm hatred deep through his gut.

'He would make remarks as he passed by,' Keller went on, 'to my face and in front of other recruits. He'd make sure I was on duty nearly every weekend so I wouldn't have the opportunity to unwind or see my family. He even had me disciplined for an 'infraction' against academy rules. All I did was show up a minute late for a class; I was giving a new recruit directions!'

Her voice had grown tight with anger, though her hair still hid her features well. Arlen wondered if it was intentional and with a quiet hiss of breath, he made a decision.

With infinite care, he brought up a hand to rest on Keller's shoulder and began to squeeze gently. To his relief, she did not shy away from the contact.

'Did you report him?’ Arlen asked. ‘I know C-Sec wouldn't stand for that sort of behaviour. He should've been kicked out for such conduct.'

'I sent two confidential mails to my division commander,' she replied.  'Nothing ever came of them. Knowing what I know now, I'd say he was getting outside protection to save someone's reputation. Poster child of humanity in C-Sec and all that.'

The idea galled Arlen but it made sense. Politicians were never beneath sweeping anything under the rug, no matter how reprehensible.

Keller let out another light sigh before continuing, 'In the end, though, I was just a stubborn kid. I let him carry on, thinking I was tough enough to take it. I was, for the most part. His words slid right off me and I faced any bogus duties and punishments with that same 'ward-kid' attitude.'

'Forgive me, but it doesn't seem that way to me now, Detective. I look at the woman in front of me and I see…something else.'

She snorted ironically. 'Yeah, you could say that. It all changed after about six months. I met a girl named Rila N'Asha, an asari. She was a maiden straight from Thessia, a new recruit. She was shy, precocious, not used to dealing with other species. Just like someone else I know.'

'Who-' Arlen began before stopping himself. He exhaled softly and closed his eyes. 'Me, right?'

'Of course. She was just like you, always so polite and afraid of offending anyone without blue skin. It was so sweet and funny to watch and she really needed someone to show her the ropes. So, that's what I did. We became friends quickly after that, ‘partners in crime-fighting’ our classmates called us.'

Keller finally looked up and tossed her head slightly to shift the hair from her eyes.

'Harkin didn't take kindly to all the attention I was paying Rila. I guess the pig was jealous, or maybe he just didn't like her because she was asari. Either way, he began spreading rumours about us, about how 'close' our friendship really was.'

The more he heard, the more Arlen began to hate Harkin. So many words raced through his mind; cowardly, detestable, pathetic, yet none seemed to do Harkin or his deeds justice. Arlen longed to confront him and make him pay. He wanted nothing more than to storm back into the academy and punish the man who had hurt Keller so deeply. With fury clouding his thoughts, he looked up at Keller, and his heart sank as he saw a tear running slowly down her cheek, leaving a silvery trail on her skin.

'It ruined her,' she whispered. 'She couldn't take the stares people began to give her. She couldn't take the whispers and comments behind her back, or the abusive mails from anonymous senders. She began to lose weight, lose sleep, I’d find her crying in her room all the time and she’d never open up about it. After just five months she quit training. We never spoke again after that. She ignored every mail I sent her, like she just wanted to bury the whole thing.'

'Despicable,' Arlen said quietly, shaking his head. 'This is...just too much. I can't believe C-Sec has tolerated Harkin’s presence for all these years.'

Keller sniffed, unaware that he had spoken and her voice began to crack under the weight of long-concealed grief, 'Rila deserved better than that. She was a great person, always thinking of others, always wanting to make the Citadel a better place. She shouldn't have had to live with lies and rumours. She was too sensitive for it all.'

Her arms straightened as she raised herself upright and her hands gripped the balcony railing tightly, blanching the skin around her knuckles.

'Harkin drove her out but he still went after me. The rumours had stuck and even followed me around after training.'

'I don't understand,' Arlen replied, turning to face her fully, 'what would your friendship have to do with your assignments after training? Why would people even care?'

'Some people don't like the idea of...that sort of thing,' Keller shrugged lightly. 'I don't begrudge people having their own opinions and all but when it comes to hurting people I care about over outright lies; that's something else.'

A low clicking sound came from Arlen's throat as he joined her in gazing out at the nebula. 'This is crazy. I never realised people could get so vindictive over simple friendship.'

Keller's brow twitched and she gave him an inquisitive look, turning her head towards him, her blue eyes searched his for any sign of mockery.

The nebula tinged their faces with a veil of lilac light, picking out the gleaming specks of sorrow rimming Keller's eyes. She took a deep breath and looked down, her tone defensive and yet soft, as if she did not want to allow her own emotions to interfere too quickly.

'When I said Harkin had spread rumours about mine and Rila's relationship, what did you think I meant?'

Arlen sensed her confusion, and he answered slowly, wary of her strange expression, 'I'm not sure, I...I guessed that perhaps some at the academy could have taken exception to friends of different species, though if anything, I-'

'Arlen,' she sighed, bringing a hand to her temples, 'when Harkin made that crack about me 'batting for the opposite team', what did you think he was referring to?'

'I uh…' the turian replied, his face twisting with conflicting emotions. Something about the way Keller was looking at him made him uncertain of everything that came from his lips. 'I was wondering what sports had to do with it.'

Keller glared at him in disbelief. Her red-laced eyes narrowed in suspicion and her thin brows arched inquisitively. 'Arlen, are you being serious with me here? You don't know what…'

'Of course I'm being serious, and you're confusing the heck out of me right now,' the helpless turian said, shaking his head.

His perplexed expression deepened as Keller suddenly let out an incredulous laugh. 'I don't believe it. You're telling me that you've never heard of lesbianism or homosexuality? At all?'

Arlen shook his head firmly. 'You've completely lost me, Detective. What does this have to do with Harkin?'

Once more, Keller let out a sharp chuckle. 'Don't turians have same-sex relationships? Haven't two male or female turians ever fallen in love?'

Arlen frowned, as if trying in vain to picture the idea. Keller could only look at him, her mouth open in amused shock. She had obviously never considered the possibility the turians had simply never experienced or even come across same-gender relationships among their own people.

Arlen had wanted to cheer Keller up through some combination of meaningful words but it was clear his muddled expression was doing the job on its own.

Her lips curling into a gentle smile, Keller reached up and touched his arm in appreciation.

'Never mind. I guess you don't have to understand that much, just that Harkin brings back a lot of bad memories for me. I thought I was past all that but…'

She trailed off and her hand slipped down the sleeve of Arlen's suit jacket. He raised his arm, catching her hand before it could fall and with an odd flutter inside his chest, he realised it was the first time he had touched her bare skin. It was soft and smooth beneath his fingers, so unlike his own.

'I'm sorry to hear about all this,' he said, holding her gaze. 'If it makes you feel any better, I want to track that bastard down right now and make an example of him, but somehow I don't think that's what you would want.'

Keller shrugged. 'It might make me smile a little but really, no, it wouldn't do any good now. I've been living with it for too long. I'll be happy enough just finishing this mission and putting all of this behind me.'

'Sounds good to me,' Arlen agreed. He released Keller's hand and the two straightened. Keller swept her hair behind her ears and used the back of her sleeve to wipe the damp traces from her eyes.

'Still up for lunch?' she asked.

Arlen glanced aside guiltily before shaking his head. 'I can't, I'm really sorry. I have to meet up with someone real quick. You’d better get some rest while you can. We're heading out to Illium in less than five hours, though I'll be stopping back at JSTF beforehand to pick up Petra.'

'Wonderful. We get to spend more time with the brattiest AI in the galaxy,' Keller sighed, turning from the balcony's edge. 'Just make sure you get something to eat this time, okay? Message me when you're ready and we'll meet at the docking ring.'

A quick nod sent Keller on her way and Arlen was left to ponder what he had just witnessed. The pressure of her hand on his arm could still be felt and he wondered at its significance.

All around, the Citadel continued to move with its continuous, thriving energy, oblivious to his own feelings. The shuttles sped by with their whining screams and pedestrians shuffled past, deep in their own conversations. No one had seen how much pain Keller had revealed to him.

Sighing, he placed a hand on the balcony rail and began to walk, tracing its metallic edge with his fingertips. The mystery datapad Chellick had given him still weighed heavily in his thoughts, making them sluggish. As if his exhaustion did not give him enough reason to curse its sender, he had been forced to cancel his plans with Keller.

To his surprise, that seemed to bother him more than anything else.


Nihlus stared out of the apartment window onto the gentle, rolling Presidium thoroughfares, as still and silent as the streams that flowed passively beneath them.

His arms, clad in fine grey and red Phantom armour, were crossed across his chest and the subtle grindings of the plates were the only sounds to be heard aside from his own steady breathing. His deep burgundy skin was laced with white paint that curved across every fold of his carapace, out from which his green eyes peered, actively studying every detail of the scene before him.

He had lost count of how many months it had been since he’d last set foot on the Citadel. His recent assignments had ended up leading into one another, forming a web of intrigue spanning seven systems, one of which held the asari homeworld of Thessia. Blood had been shed, plots foiled, and yet it always left him hungry for more. Even now the walls of the small dwelling he had procured seemed confining, even crushing.

Expelling a deep huff of breath, Nihlus focused. He would not be there long.

A click sounded at his back and Nihlus' voice rumbled from his chest, deep and strong.


The door to the apartment slid open and Arlen entered, pausing for a moment in the doorway. The decision to enter, for him, was a hard one.

After a few moments, he took a few steps forward, shaking his head in disappointment at his own weak will.

'Okay, what's this all about?' the young turian asked curtly.

'Is that any way to greet an older brother?' Nihlus immediately snapped back. His mouth instantly tightened with regret at the churlish response, but his eyes remained focused on the window.

Arlen did not answer, content instead to pace slowly about the room. It was sparsely furnished, with bare white walls and only the basic amenities that had been included in its construction. It was the lower end of Presidium real estate, small but functional and elegant compared to the ward equivalents.

'I told you before,' Arlen finally answered, 'don't call me that. Coming here in the first place was all the courtesy you needed. It's certainly more than you deserve.'

Nihlus breathed out heavily once again, sending a puff of mist across the glass of the window.

'I suppose it was too much to expect you to be happy to see me but I didn't come to the Citadel to argue with you. I only came try and salvage something of our family before it's too late. Now that mother is gone, we're the only ones left.'

Nihlus finally turned to look at Arlen directly, hiding well the sudden pang of nostalgia he felt at seeing the face of his younger brother. They still looked so alike, just as everyone used to say, each the image of his father.

'You say that like she only died yesterday,' Arlen grunted in disgust. 'Mom's been gone for three years, Nihlus, and I don't recall you at the funeral. You never had time for us, even before you ran off and you didn’t have time when she died either. As always, you only thought of yourself.'

Nihlus' expression was hard to read, though Arlen had expected as much. He was a Spectre, and was used to concealing his thoughts and emotions. The blank look infuriated Arlen to the point of senselessness and it took a great effort to keep his hands from shaking in rage.

'I wanted to be there,' said Nihlus, carefully. A hint of sadness crossed his gaze, quickly extinguished through habit. 'I can't be held responsible for the demands of my position, however. You should know all about that yourself, now.'

Arlen narrowed his eyes. 'What do you mean? What have you heard?'

'I know that you've been selected as a C-Sec Interceptor. It's a great honour for all of us. Father would've been proud of you.'

Arlen's mouth felt dry. He had not spoken to his brother for longer than he could remember, and yet Nihlus seemed to know a great deal, far more than he should. The realisation hit Arlen with staggering force, as if to drive the air from his lungs.

'You…' he sneered contemptuously. 'You were the one you had me fast-tracked for the Interceptors, weren't you?'

'I might have placed a few words in the right ears,' Nihlus replied evenly, 'but you weren't offered the position out of charity. I knew you were smart, skilled and well-trained. You were the only one to truly take notice of father while he was giving his lessons, after all. I thought that if I could become a Spectre, then you could have the potential to do even better. When I heard you were planning to join C-Sec it was the least I could do to try and give you a head start.'

Arlen closed his eyes, his muscles tensed in silent fury. 'You had no right to interfere with my life. If you wanted to help then you should've been there when mother got sick! You should've come when she was lying in bed, calling out your name in the night!' His voice had risen into a shout but Nihlus did not reply, and his calm angered Arlen even more. 'You had your chance to be an older brother and you failed! You don't get to just summon me here after all these years and expect me to be grateful for something I never asked for!'

His voice echoed against the walls and disappeared, leaving a strained silence.

Still Nihlus said nothing. He gave no indication that he had even heard Arlen, regarding him instead with mild indifference. It sickened Arlen to see it, and yet he was not surprised. He could expect no less from the brother who had abandoned his family.

'I'm leaving,' he said under an unsteady breath. 'Don't try to contact me, don't do me any more favours, I don't want to see you ever again. Do you hear me?'

Nihlus' throat pulsed softly as he swallowed. 'If that's really what you want then I won't deny you that. I…regret making you feel this way. I wish you luck in your mission, whatever it may be.'

'You should,' Arlen spat as he turned his back to him. 'It's your damn fault I'm in this mess to begin with.'

The door opened and Arlen stormed out, leaving Nihlus to his thoughts once more.

The Spectre's eyes broke free of their instinctive anchors and darted about the room for a moment, unsure of what to think or how to feel. It did not take long, however, for him to drop the gates on his roiling emotions. It was something he had been doing for far too long now and the routine was more natural to him than eating or sleeping.

He drew down the shutters over the window and methodically prepared the room to hand back to the housing authority. He would not be using it again.


Jacob blew out another hot gust of breath as he brought himself upright, his stomach curling up to his bent knees.

'One hundred thirty-two,' he counted aloud.

He lowered himself back to the ground, ignoring the torturous burning in his abdomen. His muscles felt like they were on fire with every repetition and still he pushed himself, the exercise clearing his mind as well as strengthening his body.

'One hundred forty-one.'

The ship vibrated beneath him, making his teeth tingle. The Kowloon-class modular freighter was a sturdy beast, with easily detached components and specialised docking sections for attaching heavy cargo containers. They were travelling light at the moment, with only a few lightly-loaded shipping shells to maintain their cover as hauliers on a return trip to Illium. Once on the asari world, they would be able to get their hands on something much faster.

Still, he was enjoying the ride well enough. The Kowloon ran quietly and smoothly, and the transparent deck and bulkhead segments afforded a stunning view of the stars beyond. It was far more relaxing than an Alliance warship, of that there was no doubt.

'One hundred fifty,' he said before finally easing his back to the ground, his chest heaving as his body gasped for air. He remained there for a while, content to let the metal of the deck cool his skin, which glistening with a thick layer of sweat.

A voice spoke nearby, making him blink in surprise, 'Man, and I thought I was a fitness freak,' Chen said as he leaned against the open doorway to the cabin. 'Every morning and night for you, huh?'

'Gotta keep in shape somehow.' Jacob shrugged. The sergeant nimbly leapt to his feet and grabbed a towel from a nearby locker before using it to dab at his skin. 'Is something wrong? We ain't on watch for another ten minutes.'

The rumble of the ship's systems intervened as the silence stretched out, and Chen frowned gently. 'Just thought I'd catch you first. See how you were settling into the squad and all that.'

'Right,' Jacob replied, patting himself down with a clean-pad. When showers were too great a luxury on a ship, the small pieces of powdered cloth were the next best thing. Already Jacob could feel his pores open, sending a delicious chill across his body as he zipped up his shirt. 'Sorry, Chen, but I ain't big on small talk. Never have been.'

'That'll change,' Chen chuckled in reply. 'I know how it is, you get in from the fleet and it's all protocol, protocol, protocol. It takes a while to get used to how we do things and not everyone’s as chatty as Hammond.  I sure as hell know which one I prefer.'

Jacob nodded. 'I admit it's a nice change, just to be able to get on with the job, no questions asked. If this were a Marine operation we'd still be stuck on Arcturus while the brass argued over what to do next. Still, when it comes to people, I just like it kept clean. No strings, you know?'

'Yeah, I hear you,' Chen said with a shrug, 'I ain't one to judge. Can't expect everyone to form attachments. Maybe it'll change, but if not, so long as you do your job then you can be as aloof and moody as you damn well please.'

At that, Jacob grinned subtly and Chen stretched his arms over his head to work the last remnants of stiffness from his joints. The racks on the freighter were still a luxury compared to an Alliance vessel but their rest was still fitful, as it always was on the first night of any space voyage.

A yawn escaped Chen's lips, stretching his mouth wide. 'Come on, let's get up there before Miller and Winterbourne have a-'

'Attention, this is Winterbourne!' a shrill cry came over the ship's broadcast system. The snap of panic in her tone made both men look up instantly. 'All hands to the bridge, on the double!'

The thunder of boots on metal could be heard all through the vessel as the Corsairs responded. Even Hammond and Weiss, who had taken the previous watch, were up and on their feet within seconds, their tiredness forgotten in a heartbeat.

They linked up with Jacob and Chen as they ran through the cargo hold, a wide, open area along the spine. Dozens of large crates and containers lay strapped to the deck, though the central path to the bridge corridor was kept clear.

Miller looked up as the door to the bridge hissed open and he snapped to attention at the sight of Weiss, turning and leaping from the navigator's seat with a fluidity that his large frame did not seem capable of.

'Ma'am,' he said quickly, 'LADAR scans picked up something, fifty clicks and closing fast.'

Weiss narrowed her eyes and approached the haptic displays next to Winterbourne. The younger woman did not respond to the warrant officer's presence. She was far too busy sifting through the various readouts to pay attention to anything else around her.

'That's a batarian ship,' Weiss muttered as she wiped a shock of ice-blonde hair from her eye and tucked it neatly behind her ear. 'Razor-class slaver vessel by the looks of it. Judging by the speed she's doing, I'd say they're out to snatch as many poor sods from the Terminus borders as they can before retreating back over the line.'

Behind her, Hammond shifted. 'You sound pretty sure about that, Ma'am.'

'I should be, I saw enough of the bloody things during the Blitz,' she barked. 'Cowards, that's all they are. Bloody opportunistic bastards, only interested in making a quick profit, not in fighting trained soldiers. The pirate crews on these ships used to be the most slippery ones during the Blitz, always scarpered at the first signs of trouble.'

'So what do we do?' asked Chen.

The answer came from Dukov. The major entered last, his muscles bunching as he folded his arms. 'We can't run from them, not in this ship. Winterbourne, send the slavers the white flag. Tell them we'll shut down our engines and the captain will meet them at the docking entrance. For all intents and purposes, we just think they're here to steal cargo, not people.'

Jacob responded sharply, earning a sudden glare from Weiss. 'Sir, that's a hell of a risk. Do you think it'll be worth it?'

Dukov gave the younger man a cunning grin. 'It'll be worth it when we take their damn ship out from under them.'
Mass Effect: Interceptor - Episode 19
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...


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Previously on Interceptor...

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Olansi tried not to grin too widely as Arlen finally emerged from his apartment.

He could barely pick up his feet to walk and his eyelids were scored with lines of exhaustion deep inside their sockets. He tried to straighten as he shuffled clumsily through the door but failed, instead stumbling into the frame with a thud.

He propped his body against it and gave Olansi a sour, envious glance. By comparison, the Spectre was fresh and alert, and he beamed at Arlen with oblivious cheer.

'Well, well,' he chuckled heartily, 'at least you were awakes enough to get dressed, though I use the words loosely.'

Arlen looked down and frowned at his own appearance. His suit was creased and hung from his shoulders in a ragged mess. He hadn’t showered yet and felt the stench of Torkessa in every crevice of his body.

His state disgusted him but every second of the previous night had been spent in deep slumber, his eyes finally snapping open at the sound of his omni-tool alarm. Even then his well-ingrained discipline had faltered at first, and it had taken several minutes of goading from Petra to get him on his feet.

'Leave me alone,' he groaned, 'I'm allowed to stink a little after all we’ve been through. In any case, this is Omega, remember? I don’t think anyone’ll notice.'

Briefly clasping a hand on Arlen's shoulder, Olansi turned to pace down the corridor. 'Three hours sleeps should be more than enoughs for a young man like yourself, in the primes of his life.'

'That's easy for you to say. Salarians only need an hour at the most.'

'Nothing to do with biology,' Olansi laughed, ‘It's just old-fashioned grit. You either gots it or you don't and I knows for a fact you have it, so cheers up.'

Arlen sagged against the frame further. 'I haven't felt this tired in years. Is this what being a Spectre's like? Constant exhaustion?'

'If you're lucky. Usually you have to entertains a beautiful ladies in your bed after every jobs - if you believes the vids, that is. Again, that's another good thing about being salarians; no sex drive to distracts us!'

The last words were said with a wink and Arlen chuckled, shaking his head.

Olansi lowered his head, still smiling. 'In any cases, I saw Keller just now. She needs to gather a few reports together and then she'll be rights out.'

The mention of Keller sent a fresh wave of weariness through Arlen and he slumped again. The scant few hours rest he’d been afforded did not feel like enough and the thought of facing Keller's disappointment tired him even further. His mind and muscles ached with a force he had never known before, worse even than the gruelling endurance marches he’d faced in boot camp.

Forcing his head up, he asked the only question that was on his mind, 'Did she say anything about last night?'

Olansi shook his head and Arlen's jaw tensed, his troubled gaze turning to the ground. 'I see. Do you think I should try and talk to her?'

'I can't say,' the salarian replied, 'it's a delicate situations. It's obvious why she would be mad but I thinks it runs a little deeper than that. Either ways, it's none of my business. If I gots involved it'd just makes things worse.'

Footsteps broke through the conversation and both men fell silent as a small group of armed mercenaries marched noisily through the corridor. Their armour was a pale yellow, with a jagged, black sun symbol painted across the chest and shoulder. They held a cockier, less disciplined bearing than the Blue Suns Arlen had seen in Torkessa and he could practically see their arrogant stares through their blank yellow eyepieces.

The air grew tense as the mercs passed by and Olansi made a point of keeping his head down, as if in deference to them.

Despite his throbbing skull, Arlen almost laughed aloud. The Spectre could have destroyed them in mere moments if he chose, though Arlen knew by now that it was far easier to avoid unnecessary trouble if they could help it.

When he was certain the mercenaries were gone, Arlen levered himself from the door frame. 'Back when I questioned Bashik, he mentioned the name Yanus. It looked like you knew something.'

'Yes, that I do,' Olansi replied as he stroked his chin thoughtfully, 'but sadly, there's nothing I can tells you that you can't finds out with a quick trawls through the Union archives. We're certain the guy is salarians, possibly former STG. Was he always known as Yanus? Probably not - or rather I should says that Yanus was not probably not always salarians. The Union's been trackings him for over a hundred years and during that times he's undergone at least three different shifts in modus operandi, and therefore we're assuming three different peoples have taken the Yanus identity.'

'Not only that but your species is...' Arlen paused, not wanting to give offense, '...short lived, excuse me for saying. There's no way one salarian can live for so long.'

'Exactly. We’ve only managed to gathers as much informations on him as we have because he showed all the hallmarks of our race. Used tech issued to STG, used typical salarian pre-emptive strikes policies in dealings with rivals, it all added to the bigger pictures. Since then the changes have been subtle but consistents. Every thirty years someone new takes up the Yanus names and we gets no closer to catching him. These days he's what the humans would calls a 'boogeyman', an old tales used to scare recruits - though in this cases the stories are actually true.'

'I'd have thought the Special Tasks Group would be hell-bent on tracking him down,' Arlen murmured, 'if only to raise themselves above suspicion.'

Olansi laughed aloud, baring his angular yellow teeth. 'You say that likes they haven't tried! They're always on the trails, always have been. I've known guys who spent their entire careers trying to hunts Yanus down but so far, no luck.'

'Well, we know the tech used in the Jamestown attack was salarian. Do you think Yanus is looking to damage relations between turians and humans?'

'Perhaps,' the Spectre responded idly as he joined Arlen, propping himself against the wall beside him, 'He's into that kinds of things. Staging coups, upsetting the balances of politics. Still, I sure knows I won't be wasting my times with that wild goose chase any times soon.'

Arlen stared across the corridor in deep contemplation. They had learned so much and yet were no closer to catching Krassus. It was maddening.

'I'll mention it to Chellick when we get back to the Citadel,' he said, showing nothing of his doubts, 'I'm sure if the Council sees how dangerous Yanus is then he won't just be a salarian problem. He'll have earned the wrath of the entire galaxy by supporting the Legion.'

Olansi shifted and his grin slowly faded. He said nothing for a moment, instead rising from the wall and crossing his arms. When he finally spoke, his tone was uncharacteristically serious and made Arlen look at him instantly.

'I'm not comings back to the Citadel.'

The statement hung for a time, seemingly freezing the moment until Arlen answered, his voice filled with confusion, 'What? Why not?'

'I was only tasked with assisting you on Omega,' Olansi replied. His red-tinted skin shone as his expression shifted unevenly, 'I have my own missions, one I have to get back to. You know how it is. These world-shattering, galaxy-threatening situations won’t rescues themselves.'

To his surprise, Arlen found himself lost for words. His face paint folded as his features creased subtly, his mind torn between conflicting emotions. Olansi had done little else but annoy him since their first fractious meeting at the docking terminal but so much had happened in the past day, enough to send a pang of regret through him at the thought of the Spectre’s departure.

'Where will you go now?' he asked.

Olansi shrugged. 'Chasing down the leads I was assigned to before this whole business began. Gots a nice assassins I need to tracks down and eliminates. Some drell makings a nuisance of himself in the Traverse. Either way, should be a little less stressful than this places.'

'I think a vacation on Tuchanka would be less stressful than Omega right now.' Mustering his strength, Arlen stood a little straighter. 'Before you go, I have a question.' Olansi looked at him curiously. 'That fighting style you used in Torkessa. I've never seen anything like it.'

'Ah,' the Spectre replied as he paced across the hall, 'Koet-Lashan. Ancient hand-to-hands techniques that focus on pinpoint strikes to vitals areas of an opponent's body. It's existed since my people's iron ages, thousands of years before we came to the Citadels. Because of its lethality, it's also illegal in Citadel Spaces, authorised for uses only by high-ranking Special Tasks Groups operatives.'

'Koet-Lashan,' Arlen repeated, trying each syllable on his tongue. It was an odd term, though he supposed the same could be said of any salarian word. 'Does every STG agent know it?'

'I'd sure hopes not!' Olansi laughed, 'Since only one masters of the style is permitted to train others at any one time and, well, I haven't takens on a students in a decade.'

Arlen stared at him, stunned. 'You're joking. You? Some kind of martial arts master?'

Crossing his arms, Olansi smiled broadly. 'You know, I've never met someone with such a wealth of expectations as you, Interceptors. It's like you’ve learned about everythings in the galaxy from a cheesy action vids.' He turned away and his voice became ponderous. 'In the end you'll come to understands that you know absolutely nothing.'

'Even when I'm as experienced as you?'

'Especially when you're as experienced as me.'

Olansi stood for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. The muffled groan of a heavy transport craft thrummed through the hallway and Arlen's door closed with a rasp, the locks clicking shut permanently as the building VI closed his tenancy.

The sound seemed to trigger the sense of finality Arlen felt and he spoke quickly to prolong the moment, 'Is there anything you can teach me? Some moves or techniques?'

Turning back to face him, Olansi stroked his chin thoughtfully. 'Not really. Took me over twenty years to picks up what I did. Still, I think some sparrings might be useful for you, if you're up to it? Who knows, you might even learns something.'

Arlen nodded vigorously, grateful for the chance to work some adrenaline into his body.

'I'm hardly in any condition to challenge someone like you but I'll do my best.'

The two men shook and stretched their limbs, Olansi's boots thudding on the ground as he hopped on the spot to warm up his long legs.

'Been a whiles since I've had someones to spar with,' he said, 'In fact, last night was the first fight I gots to have up close in a long times.'

Arlen rolled his shoulders, his brow twitching as they clicked painfully. 'You looked like you were enjoying yourself, though I would've thought being a Spectre would give you plenty of opportunity to test your skills.'

'Nah. Most of the wet works is done at range and even the rough stuff usually involves incapacitatings your target before they can react. Nope, can't remembers the last time I was ables to get a little one-on-one time with the enemy. I guess I should thanks you for that, at least. If you hadn't have been there I wouldn't have been able to takes such a risks on those batarians.'

'My pleasure.'

Arlen slid into his ready stance, his legs space firmly apart, one in front of the other and his fists raised. He bobbed lightly on the spot, ready to spring in any direction.

Olansi gave an approving nod. 'Typical boxing styles favoured by turians legions. Right hand guardings the chin, excellent form.'

The Spectre settled into his own stance with a liquid grace, his curved body complementing the motion perfectly. His fingers were loose and his arms moved up and down rhythmically, his heels lifting from the ground momentarily as he shifted his weight onto the balls of his feet.

'You turians are predictables in your fighting styles but it serves you well. I dare says you were trained to throws in some wrestling holds too.'

Olansi sprang forward as the last word left his lips. His hands snapped out, aimed directly at Arlen's face but met only air as the turian bent his rear leg, moving his head out of range.

Arlen pushed with the same leg as the attack ended and his main hand thrust out with incredible force. It was slow, however, and Olansi easily stepped aside.

'Good reactions,' he muttered, 'I wasn't even holdings back there.'

'Do you always talk this much when fighting?' Arlen asked as he circled around slowly. His movements were precise, with one foot sliding across the ground to be matched by the other a moment later, heels firmly planted on the ground to ensure a stable position. 'Seems like a waste of energy to me.'

'True, though you'd be surprised how many hotheads will be stung into a premature attacks just because of a simple remarks about their mother's fidelity.'

Olansi pivoted on the spot to match Arlen's movements until the wall stood at their flanks. Then, with a speed that belied his exhaustion, Arlen jabbed with his left, testing the distance out of instinct.

Olansi stopped the probing strikes with a palm, but was immediately forced back by a flurry of blows. The hard slap of fist on armour permeated the quiet grunts coming from both men, and Olansi's brow twisted as he fought off the onslaught.

'Again, very good reactions,' he said as Arlen ducked under a blow aimed at his exposed chin, 'Though I'd be carefuls. You don't wants to tire yourse-'

Olansi’s voice was savagely cut off as Arlen’s hand pressed against his head and pushed with incredible force. A sickening smack echoed down the hall as Olansi's head struck the wall, and only the automatic reactions of his body pushed him to move back before Arlen could capitalise.

'Now that I did not see comings,' Olansi huffed, his voice slurred slightly with the shock of impact, 'Active use of environments, spontaneous improvisations, never thoughts I'd see something so creative from a turians.'

Arlen was panting and his eyes were alight with satisfaction. 'I was trained to use everything I see around me. Almost anything, no matter how small can be used as a weapon to debilitate your opponent. If this were a real fight I'd have already manoeuvred you towards the door, perhaps tried to knock your head against the control panel.'

'And used the pieces of it against me too, I'd wagers. Brutals, but effective,' the Spectre replied with a respectful nod, 'Though I doubts they taught you that back at the academy. Who trained you?'

Again the rasp of sliding feet filled the hall as they came together, each man now throwing jabs that were neatly countered by the other. The fight settled into an easy flow and Arlen found himself rejuvenated by the exertion, his small, nagging pains replaced by the reassuring familiarity of single combat.

'My father,' he finally answered, his voice pitching as a straight left was deftly turned, 'He trained both...I mean me, to prepare me for my career.'

'Father, eh? He must've started trainings you young. You're skilled enough. Perhaps could do with a littles more focus but definitely a matches for most I've seen. How old is your father now?'

'He's gone. Died when I was still a child.'

Olansi's hand brushed against the inside of Arlen's left and the Interceptor cringed as an armoured edge, hard and sharp, scraped against his skin.

'Sorry to hears that,’ Olansi replied, ‘So it's just you and your mother?'

Another figure flashed through Arlen's mind, obscuring the image of his parents and his eyes wandered for just a moment.

Olansi read the sudden hesitation with preternatural ease and stabbed a hand towards Arlen's thinly protected torso, his palm upturned and fingers outstretched.

Too late, Arlen tried to move but was horrified to find he could not. He looked down to see Olansi’s spindly fingers pressing into the cloth of his suit, jabbing lightly against his stomach.

Arlen’s muscles tingled and spasmed, and a low thumping began to pound against his ears. It did not take him long to realise it was the sound of his own heartbeat.

'What have you done to me?' he asked, his voice little more than a frightened croak.

It was as if his entire body was being controlled by another, leaving him with only his eyes and a dawning sense of numbness. He urged his arms to move but they would not, and the feeling of helplessness began to grow overwhelming.

Olansi's dark eyes were fixed on his and the Spectre’s voice swam through his senses, 'Back when my peoples still threw spears at each others, when we used to believe in dark magics and gods, Koet-Lashan was developed to paralyse their targets to make them ready for blood sacrifices.'


'Yes. The techniques involves a unique form of neurapraxia, temporary but potents. While we were fightings, I took the opportunity to strikes several points in your upper and lower arms, compressing your arteries which, coupleds with your increased heart rates, caused a severe disruptions to your blood supply. The last points was in your stomach walls, one of the least-protected parts of turian anatomy.'

'It-it feels like someone's given me an overdose of medigel,' Arlen stuttered.

His mandibles quivered involuntarily as feeling began to return to his body. Slowly, the numbness seeped out to leave his skin cold and mind reeling.

'I've never seen anything like it,’ he gasped, ‘Can you use that technique against any species?'

'In the millennia since we encountered the asari, each masters has added to the styles, researching a new species and applying it, so we always know how to takes a target down. You turians have large, wides arteries that run close to the surfaces of your skin. The real challenge is finding areas of skins thin enough to apply pressure, in your cases just below the chest cavity. If you were wearings armour then it'd have to be your neck but wearing that suit, it was simples. Any harder and I could have killed you.'

Arlen shook his head. The lightness of mood he had felt while fighting, the dimming of the pain of his wounds, it was all simply a side effect of his stymied blood flow. That euphoria had spurred him to fight harder, increasing the effects of Olansi's technique.

A new, profound sense of respect entered Arlen’s heart. Olansi was nothing like he had expected but that deception was the Spectre's greatest weapon. In many ways he was the ultimate agent because no one could imagine the power that lay behind his oafish grin and gangly exterior until it was far too late.

Fighting a pained wince, Arlen held out his hand, which Olansi took eagerly.

'I know we didn't really hit it off,' Arlen said honestly, 'but I'm glad I met you, Kotah.'

Smiling once more, Olansi slapped Arlen on the back. 'Likewise. You're a bit of a kids but it's a refreshing changes, to see someone in your lines of work that hasn't let the years go to their heads. Or their hearts.'

They shared a knowing glance, content that their time together, short though it may have been, would not be forgotten. Olansi's grip tightened before he released Arlen's hand, a final farewell that said more than words could to a comrade who had shed blood alongside him.

As he stalked away, Arlen smiled again. The bright green and purple armour was stained a sickly brown from the knees down and he knew Olansi would be muttering strings of curses as he scrubbed the suit clean later.

The image kept Arlen grinning long after the lanky figure was lost from sight.


Chen grinned at Miller childishly, his jaw upturned in a mocking pose as he sported a pair of luxury sunglasses. 'How do I look?'

Miller grunted and folded his arms. 'Like an asari whore.'

'A high-class one though, right?'

'Cheap as batarian ale.'

Still smiling, Chen took the glasses off and returned them to the kiosk's display cabinet, ignoring the harsh look of disapproval from the customer services rep. The man's suit looked as expensive as everything else in the store and again Chen felt a surge of juvenile glee at antagonising him.

Bekenstein was unlike anywhere else in the galaxy. Only Illium came close and even then, nobody 'did' avarice quite like humanity. Even the shop owners were dressed like glamour models, making the Corsairs stand out even more in their dirty, functional spacer outfits.

'Okay,' Chen said, 'how much this time?'

'One year's salary,' Miller answered immediately. Chen wandered to the kiosk's sales terminal and brought the glasses up in the catalogue, whistling softly as the price flashed before his eyes.

'Year and a half!' he exclaimed before giving the sales rep a smile to match his condescending glare, 'You Bekenstein types really know how to fleece folks, don't ya? Makes me wonder if I'm in the wrong job.'

The rep stiffened visibly and his voice was as sharp as acid, 'We sell only the finest designer luxury goods. Unless your new job pays in the six digits, I believe our products will always be outside your price range...sir.'

The rep's lip curled into a sneer at the last word and Miller frowned. The bushy eyebrow above his left eye was sliced in two by a scar that ran almost the full height of his massive forehead and his baleful expression was enough to wipe the spite from the rep's face.

'On second thought,' the big man growled, his eyes firmly on the rep, 'I think I'll take a look at the shoes again. Show me the shoes.'

Though the rep sighed quietly, he dared not complain and turned to draw out the sample pair Miller had spent a good deal of time pawing at earlier.

The veteran soldier took them and turned them over in his grip. They were a warm, creamy leather, expertly crafted from the skin of an alien animal whose name he could not even begin to pronounce. All he knew was that the beast dwelled in asari space and was carefully hunted in limited numbers on its native world to avoid endangering the species.

The shoes were exquisite and would match a formal suit he owned perfectly. The price tag was hefty but once the bounty on Krassus was cashed in he would be able to afford an entire wardrobe of such a quality.

Abruptly, Miller shook his head clear of the image. 'I think I've been hanging around that little prick Hammond for too long. Only seem to be thinking of the money these days.'

'I hear you. The guy's such a cheap bastard. I'm dreaming of putting down the deposit on a nice house on Terra Nova with the money from this work while he won’t buy so much as a toothbrush. Insane, that's what he is.'

They wandered away from the kiosk and approached the edge of a raised walkway, one of several that ringed the perimeter of the vast towers that dominated the city. Beyond, Milgrom stretched out in a field of silver spires that jutted into a morning sky of washed bronze. On the horizon, outside the city, a vast lake swallowed the grasslands, its glittering surface marred by reflections of the dark clouds smeared across the dawn vista.

Miller nodded absently. Bekenstein was possibly the worst planet to bring Hammond to, with his constant griping about prices and inflation, but at least he was not with them now.

'So what do you think of him?' he asked, 'and the other one, Taylor?'

Chen blew out a breath of air between his lips and squinted at the sun as it crept above the distant clouds.

'Both decent enough, from what I've seen. Taylor's got the physical edge, no doubt about it. His last PFT scores broke battalion records. His CQB scores are pretty impressive too, reaction speeds that make Winterbourne look like a damn octogenarian. Hammond looks like he's more comfortable with weapons, though. Heard the guy took a batarian's head clean off at nearly three clicks with a Widow a few years back. High winds, targeting VI turned off.'

'No shit,' Miller muttered, 'Luck counts for a lot at those ranges, though.'

'Not when you pull it off four more times in quick succession,' Chen added quickly, 'Still though, as far as personality goes I'd rather be stuck in an elevator with the warrant officer than Hammond. At least she doesn't say much. Hammond just...well, a little of that guy goes a long way if you know what I mean.'

'I hear you. Don't have to like him though, so long as he gets the job done. Speaking of Weiss, you catch the friction back on the Citadel between her and Taylor?'

Chen's golden skin grew taut as a concerned expression crossed his features.

'Not sure what that was about. I thought Taylor was asking some honest enough questions.'

'I don't think the questions were the problem. When was the last time you saw someone press the major for information like that?' Miller ran a hand across his shaven skull. 'Always was a cold one, the warrant officer. Never seen her bark at someone like that without good reason, though.'

'Well it's not like any of us haven't taken a dislike to someone for no reason before,' Chen reasoned. He lowered his elbows onto the walkway railing and narrowed his eyes against the sun's golden glare. 'Makes you wonder, though. Why she'd go and bust a nut over nothing like that? Or uh...what's the female equivalent?'

From behind them a sharp, stern female voice cut through the air like a whip, 'Busting a tit will do, Chen.'

Both men sprang to their feet out of instinct, whirling on the spot to find Weiss eyeing them stonily. Though they were all in civilian attire, she still dressed spartanly, with a figure-hugging black shirt above plain trousers and boots.

Her wiry arms were crossed and her fingers tapped lightly against her skin as she waited for a response.

'Sorry, ma'am,' Chen mumbled nervously, 'I didn't see you there.'

'Well, that's bloody obvious,' Weiss snapped, 'It's time. The major's gotten hold of a Kowloon-class freighter. As soon as everyone's aboard we're taking off.'

'What about weapons, ma'am?' asked Miller.

'Only a few pistols for now. Any more and we'd risk drawing attention so we'll be getting in the heavier kit once we reach Illium. Less red tape that way, too. Besides, we'll need decent gear if we're going to take on a turian cell, not the civvy garbage they peddle in Citadel space.'

'We're right behind you, ma'am, right behind you,' Chen said with mock enthusiasm.

Miller rolled his eyes at his young friend and followed Weiss down the street.

'You're on thin bloody ice, Chen!' the warrant officer yelled out over her shoulder.

Heads turned at her commanding tone and she sneered at the curious glance of a pretty, highly polished young woman who had dared to take an interest in the exchange. Quickly averting her gaze, the woman scurried away under Weiss' piercing glare, and the wealthy and preened elite of Milgrom made way for the Corsairs as they strode past.


Flame erupted against a wall of darkness, highlighting a thousand faces. Their eyes were dead and their mouths hung open, black holes in sheets of white skin. There was no sound and yet the silence made them seem all the more terrifying. They reached out with grasping fingers and Arlen woke.

He gasped as his eyes snapped open. Around him, passengers stirred. Some toyed with datapads while others chatted with their friends but none took notice of him as his pupils sharpened and darted from side to side.

Sound crept into his ears. Muffled conversations, shuffling feet and the constant hum of engines returned to him slowly, feeding into his senses as the dream fled his mind.

Keller shifted beside him. Aside from a few curt remarks as they’d taken off from Omega, she had been a silent companion but her head turned at his sharp awakening. The detective looked at Arlen curiously, not quite with concern, yet with little of her previous iciness.

'Are you ok?' she asked.

Arlen dabbed his brow with the back of a sleeve to see if he was sweating.

'Yeah, just a bad dream, that's all.'

'I see.'

Keller returned to her task and quickly began to type reams of text into the datapad on her lap. She frowned lightly as she worked, and the small movements caused loose strands of hair to fall across her face, which she then swept aside with routine indifference.

'What did you dream about?'

Her tone was casual and again lacked the earlier touch of contempt. Arlen moved his lips and willed his brain to work faster, suddenly eager to take advantage of the thaw in her manner as quickly as possible.

The words he so desperately needed, however, would not come. He searched for even the slightest recollection of the dream but the last lingering images had been swept aside by consciousness. He fumbled for a moment before releasing his frustration in a long, deep breath.

'I don't know. Just scattered pictures in my head. Wasn't good though, whatever it was.'

Shrugging, Keller dipped her head and Arlen swore inwardly. The spirits only knew when she would be inclined to speak to him again.

The transport ship they had taken was smaller and better-kept than their last one. The volus pilot had made numerous threats over the intercom to any who would cause trouble during the journey and judging by the seasoned guards protecting every inch of the vessel, Arlen knew he was not bluffing.

The added safety was welcome. Although he no longer twitched and quirked at every noise, Arlen knew that the shock of Torkessa was still flowing through his system, and that if he were not able to relax then it would take much longer to re-acclimatise to the normal pace of Citadel Space.

He sank back into his chair and ran his hands along the trousers of his suit in a vain effort to smooth out some of the creases.

His old training sergeant would have thrown a fit to see him in such a state. Memories of morning musters and exercises on Palaven coursed through his mind, filling his nose with the scent of warm grass and his mouth with the feeling of hot, lathery spit.

He wondered how he would look back on his time with Olansi.

Would the memories be good ones? he asked himself, or will they just be street executions and stinking mass pyres?

Certainly, there was plenty of competition in that regard. He doubted anything of what he’d seen the past few days would ever leave him.

'We'll be hitting the relay soon,' Keller said, her voice surprising him, 'After that it's a transfer to a certified shuttle and we'll be back in time for lunch.'

'Lunch...' Arlen repeated wistfully, 'I can't remember the last time I ate. I think I found an old dextro-candy bar under the couch in that apartment but I couldn't bring myself to eat it.'

Keller sighed gently. 'You idiot, why didn't you say anything? I brought a few snacks over from the Citadel, including some dextros! Were you just going to starve yourself?'

'Ever since we got to Omega, my stomach was the last thing on my mind.'

Even as the words left his mouth, Arlen regretted them. It was always important to keep your body fuelled and ready for whatever challenges awaited it. There was no excuse for growing weak through hunger, especially as a result of self-neglect. He looked up hopefully.

'Do you have any on you right now?'

Keller's mouth tightened into a thin smile and she reached into a small pack at her feet. 'Not that I've forgiven you or anything, but I can't have you dropping dead on me. It'd be very awkward if I had to explain that to the executor.'

Arlen's heart leapt at the sound of crinkling wrappers and he ripped them off gleefully before pressing two bars of sweet dextro-chocolate into his mouth. His eyes lit up in ecstasy as he worked it through while soft gagging noises erupted from deep within his throat.

'You're supposed to chew,' Keller muttered disapprovingly, her eyes back on her datapad.

With a muffled splutter, the turian forced down what remained of the candy before replying meekly, 'Sorry, I couldn't help it. It's the first thing I've eaten in nearly two days.'

'Then once we've seen Chellick,' she began with a subtle smirk, her eyes drifting over to him, 'the first thing we're doing is getting a decent meal. Agreed?'

Arlen could not keep the grin from his lips, though whether it was the prospect of a good meal or Keller's apparent willingness to let his mistakes slide, he could not tell.



Garrus looked up as a ripple of shocked conversation spread through the command centre.

He had just arrived after a fitful sleep and was still working a hurried breakfast down his throat as the commotion rose. Several analysts had risen from their desks and some looked out towards the entrance.

'Wonder what all the fuss is about,' he murmured, and his head snapped to the side as a high voice called out above the throng.

'Garrus!' Lina shouted as she bounded across the room to him, deftly avoiding the trail of colleagues impeding her every step, 'Garrus, we're needed!'

Garrus turned to face her as she approached and instantly noted her agitation. 'Is everything all right?'

'This is getting ridiculous,' she complained, raising a hand to the brow of her helmet. 'Every time I try to get some work done there's always some new emergency to distract me. I turn a corner in my research and I get dragged into a meeting. I'm asked to analyse a piece of data and the staff start giving me-'

She halted at that, and Garrus knew she was thinking better of badmouthing Lorica in front of him. No matter how much the asari bothered her, she was determined not to sink so low as to slander her behind her back.

'Well it could be worse,' Garrus joked. 'You could be back in the Migrant Fleet, missing all this excitement.'

'Very funny,' she answered sharply. With a quick gesture, she beckoned him to follow and he complied keenly, wondering what had gotten her so flustered. 'I suppose it’s for a good reason, though. Arlen and Keller have returned and they've brought back the AI they found on Omega.' Joy had blossomed into her voice at the last and Garrus held back a grin at her naked enthusiasm. 'Can you imagine what this means? A virus that can actually embed the gift of intelligence into any system?'

'Sounds too good to be true,' he replied sarcastically.

Lina gave him an annoyed glance. 'For those of us who actually find this sort of thing interesting, yes it may well be. This AI raises so many questions, like how can it operate without a huge amount of storage space? Typically you need a vast amount of memory to store a standard VI, never mind a full-blown AI. Then there're the blue-box requirements; how has it overcome these limitations? Can it transfer these capabilities to other units? This Petra could be the biggest technological find of the century. She may even be a bridge between synthetic and organic life.'

'Why do you say that?'

'Well, look at it this way,' Lina began as she skirted past a pair of chattering analysts. 'From the information Arlen was able to get from Bithcon Dynamics, I gathered that Petra was born from a single line of code. This code was introduced to the company's VI, bringing about the changes that eventually resulted in self-awareness. The way I see it, this code could well be likened to DNA, and the network itself, her womb. The VI program provided the rest of the 'genetic' information; knowledge, protocol, the very essence of what organics would call instinct or common knowledge.'

Lina's was interrupted as she almost tripped over a loose cable.

'Bosh'tet! Jorvus, get that thing out of the way, I could've broken my neck! Anyway, the similarities between the way she came into existence and our own are too great to ignore.'

As a scolded turian hurried to remove the cable, Garrus glanced in the direction of the command centre entrance, just long enough to see flashes of Arlen's distinctive white paint through the crowd of onlookers before Lina took him up a flight of narrow stairs. They curved around the outer edge of the room before meeting a thin balcony, onto which Garrus stepped gingerly.

'Poor kid,' he chuckled, nodding in Arlen's direction, 'two days on the job and he's already getting the rock star treatment. The girls won't be able to leave him alone if he keeps this up.'

He just caught the shift in Lina's right eye, indicating her brow was raised mockingly. 'And I suppose you'd know all about that, huh?'

'Of course, and I didn't need to become an Interceptor.' He winked, making Lina laugh delicately. 'Either way, I think the experience will be good for him.'

'We'll see,' Lina replied, her doubt obvious, 'so long as it doesn't go to his head. Turians can be like that, I've found, and Keelah knows they'd rather run themselves into the ground than ask someone for help. They always insist on being so responsible for their own actions and feelings.'

'You're generalising. I've never had a problem with getting help from others, you know that.'

'An exception to the rule, that's all you are.'

Garrus reached over to open the door to Chellick's office, allowing Lina to enter first. 'I should say the same thing. From what I know, quarians aren't too friendly towards AIs. Why the interest in Petra?'

Lina stumbled, her step faltering. She paused for a moment, seemingly unsure of how to answer before turning back to him.

'It's complicated. Let's just say I've always had an interest in synthetic life. It may not be a good thing, or at least it hasn't always endeared me to my people, but I've always tried to use my knowledge for the greater good.'

Her voice ebbed away and Garrus saw her head tilt slightly, almost evasively. She did not even seem aware of the movement herself.

'Come on,' he said, gesturing through the open door. 'We can talk about that another time. Chellick's waiting for us.'

The JSTF commander was seated at a conference table of polished wood, reflecting the bright office lighting along its surface. A thin, rectangular hole was cut through its centre, following its length.

Garrus frowned softly as he approached. He did not remember the table being there before. His curiosity was satisfied, however, with a quick downward glance. Several lines and indentations told of a cavity beneath the floor into which the table could be concealed when not in use.

Quite a luxury, he thought with a small grin. His own tiny office was not even large enough to accommodate a table half the size.

'Lina. Garrus,' Chellick greeted as his eyes moved up briefly from his terminal. To his right, occupying one side of the table, sat Milo and Lorica. The asari gave a cordial nod to Garrus, though her eyes were on Lina at every moment until the quarian took a seat opposite.

'Lorica, I'm glad you could make it,' Lina said, hoping her politeness would not sound too artificial. 'You've been away from your desk enough for me to think you wouldn't get my message.'

Lorica's eyes narrowed. 'Milo knew where to find me. Maybe if you spent less time buried in-'

Milo coughed next to her, drawing her attention with wide, embarrassed eyes. Slowly, her expression mellowed and she looked on Lina again with slightly less malice than the moment before.

'I'm sorry. I'll make sure I'm around a little more.'

Though she clearly did not believe Lorica’s apology genuine in the slightest, Lina too attempted to remain civil, if only for Chellick's sake.

An entire day had passed by with Lorica being absent for much of it, something that would have been intolerable in many professions. Garrus had not given it much thought before, especially as the asari had been up through the previous night like everyone else, but it was obviously starting to cause friction within the team.

'Just don't let it happen again,' Lina said firmly. 'I need all of my team available at all times for tasking. The outcome of this investigation could rely on it.'

Lorica's eyes widened at the words and she glared as if she’d just been struck. Beneath the table, Garrus saw Milo lay a hand on her thigh, patting it reassuringly. The asari gradually calmed under the soothing contact and her expression slowly softened into one of mere dislike.

Garrus cleared his throat to break the uncomfortable air and took a seat next to Lina. 'What's all this about, Chellick?'

The rest of the group looked relieved to have the subject changed and all eyed Chellick keenly. The commander looked up and held each of their gazes in turn.

'I've asked Arlen to come straight up while Detective Keller heads back to her precinct to sort out some outstanding case handovers. I need you all here because every one of you has been instrumental to this investigation thus far and you all deserve to know the latest on what we've discovered.'

Lina's mouth-piece flashed as she cut in, 'Are you going to tell us where you got this new information now, Chellick? I think Milo at least deserves to know, seeing as he put together the briefing dossier.'

Chellick smiled, his eyes resting on Garrus. 'I'm afraid not. You know how some things have to be in the intelligence game, Lina. No one person can know everything.'

Garrus' stomach tightened as he returned the stare. His own actions in Udina's office two nights ago still dwelled at the back of his mind, as did his meeting with the STG team afterwards.

As the others spoke he continued to watch Chellick. What could he be planning? Was Chellick intending to use him again, perhaps for something more risky? What would the other people at this very table think of him if they knew the truth?

The door snapped open behind them, distracting Garrus from his thoughts and he smiled gratefully at the sight of Arlen as he stopped in the doorway.

The young turian stood a little straighter than before, he noted, though he was clearly suffering from a multitude of small pains that made his eyes flinch with every breath. As Arlen walked towards them, Garrus watched his gait, seeing the way he favoured his stomach and his leg dragged slightly across the ground. Whatever happened in Omega, it hadn't been pretty.

'Here's the man of the hour,' Chellick announced, raising his arm. 'You look like hell, Arlen. How was Omega?'


The last remaining seat faced Chellick at the head of the table.

Arlen felt like he was on parade as he lowered himself into it, his teeth grinding together as injured flesh made contact. They all smiled at him and he did not feel like smiling back.

'It was rough,' he managed to grumble.

There was nothing left to be said. Nearly forty-eight hours had passed since he saw these people and yet it might as well have been forty-eight years for all the familiarity he felt.

Chellick sensed his reticence and held his tongue. They both knew it was useless to expect small talk and even more pointless to want it. Chellick knew exactly what Arlen needed and his voice rang out as he straightened in his seat.

'Well, now that we're all here, we can get this briefing underway. There's not much time so I'll keep this short. The situation as it stands is the Forgotten Legion has gone to ground, or rather they went to ground immediately after the attack. Our other field agents have all reported known Legion safe houses raided, only to be found abandoned, and all known members and associates have disappeared. All except one.'

'One?' Garrus repeated. 'Who'd be stupid enough to be the only loose end?'

'Coleran Vastra,' Chellick replied and keyed a button on the table's control panel.

A holographic display emerged from the hole in the centre of the table, washing their faces with a gentle blue glow and they immediately recognised the grainy image of a turian in the midst of the light.

'Vastra was originally Krassus' camp prefect in the Seventh before the Exodus, the highest enlisted rank in the turian army at the time. He formed the Legion alongside the general and oversaw much of the early administration and recruiting drives. If it wasn't for him, the Forgotten Legion would've died before it was born.'

'So, one of their top members hasn't reported back to them?' Milo asked. 'Do we know why?'

'No. All we have is his location, namely a crappy apartment out in Nos Astra, the capital city of Illium. Milo has compiled a dossier on Vastra which I want you all to distribute to the team leaders. This is our first real lead on Krassus. Arlen; are you ready to move?'

Arlen had been listening with an unbreakable concentration, and to his surprise, the prospect of a tangible lead was enough to erase any pain he felt.

'I am,' Arlen replied. 'How am I getting there?'

'Speed is of the essence here. I've sourced a C-Sec Lightning-class patrol ship for this mission. It's the fastest ship Patrol have that has a civilian equivalent, though they weren't happy about repainting her to fit in with the common crowd. It's small and not cut out for combat or heavy FTL travel, but it'll get you through the relays and out to Illium in one piece - and fast.'

'I'll need a few hours to resupply,' said Arlen. He paused before continuing, weighing an idea in his mind. 'And I'd also like to have Detective Keller along too.'

Chellick nodded. 'I thought as much. You two make a good team.'

Arlen said nothing further. In truth, he did not know why he wanted the detective to come. He didn't want to place her in danger and though she didn’t seem to hold any grudges, the animosity over his decision to leave her out of the Torkessa mission still lingered, no matter how faint.

Still, without Olansi, Arlen felt more out of his depth than ever. She would be needed.

'So, now that's decided,' Chellick began as he clasped his hands together, his elbows propped neatly on the table, 'there's the matter of what you found out there.'

Nodding once, Arlen raised his arm and brought up his omni-tool. It flashed wildly for a moment with an unnatural brightness that made him what Petra had done to it during her rest within its digital walls.

The centre of the meeting table lit up as the connection was made and the AI's graceful figure emerged in a flare of blue light. The holographic emitter rendered her shapely lines with great precision, and Arlen was surprised to see details in her face that he had never noticed before.

Her features were still those of an asari maiden, with lines and tessellated shapes forming her skin but within those patterns there were imperfections. Blinking spots of data twinkled on her cheeks like a fine dusting of freckles while darker shades of indigo bruised her eyes, though whether through corruption in her code or physical stress Arlen could not tell.

Lina rose to her feet.

'Keelah,' she whispered softly.

Her amazement was mirrored in those around her. Even Garrus held a look of mild shock. Although Petra's appearance was barely different to that of Avina, the Citadel VI that accosted them every day on their way to work, something about this AI truly was different. She looked at them all individually, emotion clear in her eyes.

Petra glanced nervously at Arlen, embarrassment narrowing her eyes into frightened crescents.

He swallowed and looked about him, suddenly aware of how self-conscious she must have felt at being the centre of attention.

'It's okay, Petra,' he said reassuringly, bowing his head with each word. 'These are my friends. They're here to help us. To help you.'

Petra nodded and visibly tried to master herself. Her hands clenched into fists and her expression grew serious before she turned to Chellick.

'New users identified. Two turian males, one human male, one asari female and one...' She turned to Lina and the quarian stared back expectantly. 'One quarian female. Unexpected to see here. Not allowed on Citadel, so history says.'

Lina cleared her throat to hide her shock. 'That's right, Petra, my people's embassy was closed after the geth uprising. I can understand your confusion but I am somewhat of an exception.'

'Exception...' Petra repeated distantly before turning back to Chellick. 'Old turian male, what do you wish to know?'

Chellick frowned. 'I'm not the one with the questions,' he replied gruffly before gesturing to Lina. 'Lina here will be the one to do the asking. We need you to accompany her to her terminal, where she'll try to find a link between yourself and the Jamestown Virus. It may just be a coincidence, but I think you may hold the key to finding out just what this virus really is; and to fighting it should the Legion try and use it again.'

Again, Petra met Arlen's eyes, a look of worry passing over her features.

'Sir,' Arlen began, immediately correcting himself. 'Chellick, Petra's proven herself extremely valuable to me already. Back on Torkessa she showed us a path to Bashik, even through a warzone. I'd like her to join me on the mission to Illium.'

Chellick exhaled deeply, again settling his chin back into his clasped hands in thought. His reluctance was understandable. To let such a valuable asset escape their grasp was a huge risk, especially when there was a chance it could fall into Legion hands should Arlen fail.

His eyes turned to Lina. 'How long will you need her for?'

'I suppose I could just take a sample of her code,' Lina replied uncertainly. She was obviously loath to allow such a priceless scientific find out of her sight but she conceded all the same. 'Give me an hour or two and I should have enough to go on, at least for now.'

'Is this a good idea?' Garrus grumbled, throwing an apologetic glance in Arlen's direction. 'Should we really be letting this thing run loose around the galaxy? AIs are illegal for a reason, you know.'

Arlen narrowed his gaze and shifted in his seat, clearing fighting the urge to stand up in protest.

'She's not a thing,' he responded coldly.

Petra smiled at the words and addressed Chellick once more, her voice filled with purpose, 'I would like to go with turian male. He takes care of me. I will stay with him alone, no wandering.'

Sighing wearily, Chellick rubbed his eyes before settling his hands on the desk.

Arlen did not envy him the decision. For a moment he wondered what Pallin would say if he saw an AI speaking to them through one of JSTF's own briefing displays. The old man would probably shut them all down on the spot and order an investigation, throwing aside everything else.

'Fine,' Chellick growled at last. 'When Arlen returns from his preparations you can go with him to Illium. In the meantime, Petra, please accompany Lina to her lab so she can run her tests. '

'If you can call it a lab,' Lina chuckled to Petra warmly, eliciting a slight grin from the AI. 'Two terminals and a mass of datapads is a more fitting description, I think.'

'Lorica, Milo,' Chellick continued, 'we'll need everything you can dig up on Coleran Vastra's activities on Illium. We'll also want intel on local law enforcement. That world is the gateway to the Terminus Systems; there's a lot we don't know and C-Sec warrants don't carry much weight out there. We'll need the locals' support.'

Feeling a sudden, protective anxiety, Arlen watched as Petra faded from view, her disappearance matching a heady pulse from Lina's omni-tool.

One by one, the group began to rise and filter from the room and Chellick spoke again, his voice cutting through the shuffling of feet, 'Arlen, I need to speak with you in private.'

The Interceptor stopped in his tracks and looked at Chellick questioningly. The others moved around him until the turians were finally alone.

Arlen stood awkwardly, the sudden silence almost oppressive as Chellick looked at him with a curious expression. After a few moments, he cast his gaze down to the table in front of him, where a small portable datapad lay.

'We received something while you were gone,' he said without looking up. 'Something that is, quote; 'for your eyes only'.'

Arlen cocked his head at the enigmatic message but did not sense any mockery. 'The datapad? Who sent it?'

'I couldn't say for sure, though I could guess,' Chellick answered before turning his eyes back up to meet Arlen's. 'All I know is that I was ordered not to read the message contained on this datapad, nor to let it leave my possession unless it's going into yours.'

Quirking a brow plate, Arlen approached the end of the table and Chellick slid the datapad along its length. The slate rasped at it moved across the polished surface and Arlen caught it neatly beneath his fingers before activating it.

Chellick looked on impassively as Arlen's face shifted, the message clearly bringing strong emotions to the surface, and when Arlen spoke again his voice was low and husky, his throat suddenly dry.

'Thank you, Chellick. I need to respond to this right away. I'll stop by with Detective Keller before heading to the docking ring. You know, to pick up everything I need.'

Chellick nodded his understanding, unable to hide his fascination as Arlen strode quickly out of the room.
Mass Effect: Interceptor - Episode 18
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
  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: All sorts
  • Reading: 1984 - George Orwell
  • Watching: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace
  • Playing: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Eating: Meat
  • Drinking: Tequila Sunrise
Well, it's finally done. After two and a half years of hard work, my novel is complete. Going to take a month off before starts the long process of getting it out there into the right hands, then on with the next one towards the end of the year.

The hope is that this will free me up to release some more of my beloved fan fiction but the main message is; work hard, play hard. And sleep, lots of sleep.
  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: All sorts
  • Reading: 1984 - George Orwell
  • Watching: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace
  • Playing: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Eating: Meat
  • Drinking: Tequila Sunrise
Well, it's finally done. After two and a half years of hard work, my novel is complete. Going to take a month off before starts the long process of getting it out there into the right hands, then on with the next one towards the end of the year.

The hope is that this will free me up to release some more of my beloved fan fiction but the main message is; work hard, play hard. And sleep, lots of sleep.

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Add a Comment:
catelee2u Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday!! :party::beer::love:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you very much! :)
ExileBlaze Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015
Happy Birthday!
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Professional Writer
You're too kind! :)
RaineTenerelli Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch!
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
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!
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!
OpheliaBell Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2014  Professional Writer
Warning... I've tagged you. I hope it doesn't hurt too much.
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Professional Writer
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