A/N: So here we are folks! Part two of four in my series. Mass Effect, A new History. I begin with enough to tempt you and introduce your protagonist and an intriguing twist that once I began to think about it bugged me more and more. But I won't give it away, instead, read and get your own minds working on just what I might have in mind with this part of the story arch.
Omega, January 25th 2171
"So what do you need, exactly?" Asked the shadowed voice, the tone and pitch said it was from a Salarian, but Nihlus couldn't say for sure what the speaker was. The alley was dark, there was plenty of shadow to hide gunmen, and so far the Spectre had identified two others hiding in the shadows by their subtle and restless movement. Nihlus was slightly insulted, but then of course, he knew that if he actually decided to end this charade of civil conversation with the arms dealer, then he wouldn't have agreed to talk. He'd have simply shot the guards and drug the being to his ship for a more leisurely and secure interrogation. But unfortunately sometimes when you give your word that you won't 'cause to much trouble' to an informant, you have to stand by it.
So Nihlus smiled and resisted the impulse to settle matters.
"I need a name." Nihlus said tiredly.
"A name? Ah yes, one of the thing's I cannot provide Spectre." The being said, his voice low and almost dripping with mock sorrow. Nihlus sighed again and shook his head at the response. He made no secret why he was here, and he also made no secret who he was either. Sometimes it was prudent to walk in loudly and proudly to keep
"A name, a place, and a reason."
"Three things I cannot give you Spectre, how unfortunate." The voice responded, but from the shadows a bloom of light erupted from an archaic torch lighter and the speaker lit a cigarette. It was a human, not a Salarian. Male, middle aged, for the most part non-descript. Nihlus didn't recognize him from any of the most wanted vid images he'd memorized, so he merely filed away the partial glimpse of who he was speaking to and continued to press on. Nihlus knew that their kind had been spreading out across the galaxy with their arrival on the galactic stage, off all the Alliance species, Humans were the most vagabond of any. It was surprising to see a human out on Omega, but Criminals were criminals, just like any vermin, they went where they could find easy food. If there was any place in the galaxy where a criminal could operate without worrying about the laws of any government,
"Three things that you can provide, human. I'm not here for you, or your friends, or your contacts, I'm here for a name, a place, and a reason. Not even a person…and not someone you care about." Nihlus said, his eyes focused on the glowing ember at the end of the cigarette the human was smoking.
"Ah, but a name…a name of a client, that is something I can't do. I operate on anonymity. People wouldn't utilize my services if they knew that I would give out their name to any Spectre who came calling." The Human replied.
"Do you even care?" Nihlus asked with a smile, he saw the coal of the cigarette flare and the arms dealer chuckled softly.
"Not particularly, but if I tell you what you want, the next Spectre could ask for something more, something that I do care about. And if that happens I'm not sure I will emerge unscathed." The Human replied.
"They're terrorists you know." Nihlus said off handedly.
"Again, I really don't care, their credits are good, and that's all that matters to me."
"I can force you to tell me what I want." Nihlus said, his voice still aloof.
"True, but you haven't yet." The Human replied and the glowing ember of his cigarette waved through the air, the hand holding it making a dismissive gesture. Nihlus sighed.
"Dealer, I can leave, but if I leave with what I want, you don't hear from me again, and you don't get considered a link in the supply chain." The Spectre said coolly.
"You're just not going to give up, are you Turian?" The Human replied and stepped forward, his face illuminated by the soft reddish glare of the garish advertisement signs at the end of the alley. His fingers jabbed hard into Nihlus's armor, a sneer on his face. The Turian Spectre merely stared down at him, not saying anything in response, but looking at the fingers jabbed into his chest with disdain.
"This is Omega, Turian, Omega. You don't have any authority here, and you're not getting any information from me, so get out of here before I decide to stop humoring you." The human said, his voice sounding firm, but Nihlus saw the nervous shift of his eyes over the Turian's shoulder armor, and the nervous movements of his eyes and body. Nihlus smiled and stepped into the human's personal space, making him stagger back slightly.
"I know, I've been here before human. That means I don't have to tell anyone what happened to you and your friends. I don't have to give a damn about anything if I gun you down in the street. So you should remember where you are human, the Alliance isn't out here to protect you, and the law here is the strongest is in charge." Nihlus said with a low growl to his tone, his eyes narrowed.
"Back off…" The human stammered, and Nihlus had enough with the Humans' games, he had a mission and the less time he spent here, the better. Before the arms dealer could withdrawal his hand, Nihlus's left clamped down hard on it, and twisted up and back, the motion was so short and vicious that the human didn't even have time to shout before the sounds of cracking bones cut the background noise of Omega. Yanking hard on the Human's hand and more than likely devastated wrist, he pulled the man out of the line of fire even as his right hand was bringing up his Carnifex sidearm. Whoever the gun runner had chosen for his bodyguards wasn't as fast as they should have been or as alert as he probably wanted them to be. Using his estimation of where the two were, he traced a trio of rounds across the shadows where each was hidden and was rewarded with the spark of heavy mass accelerator rounds striking armor with sparks, and the sickening groans of two men falling to the ground, dead. Instinctively, Nihlus turned and saw the charging form of a third human guard, his weapon at shoulder height firing, but almost nonchalantly, the veteran Spectre dropped to one knee and fired a single round into the guard's faceplate, sending him staggering to the ground.
The Turian rose and fired another round to ensure the job was finished and then walked over to the other two. Flicking on his hand light, he illuminated the bodies and nodded slowly, taking in the blue armor. Blue Suns mercenaries. Not surprising to see them doing grunt work and bodyguard duties, especially here on Omega. His light played over the weapons they were carrying, and Nihlus examined one and then bent to pick it up for a closer look. It was from Alliance space, projectile assault rifle, not a Mass Effect weapon. The Turian had studied the weapons extensively, and knew that the Alliance relied on an interesting mixture of projectile firearms, rocket propelled small arms, and energy weapons for their common use. All of them were exceptionally dangerous given the craftsmanship and extensive experience most Alliance Arms manufacturer's utilized. Nihlus scanned the weapons serial numbers and made a mental note to run them through the Citadel's database on them, perhaps their point of origin wasn't so obscure.
But then…that would be too easy. Legitimately manufactured weapons would be coming from Alliance arsenals and manufactures to be funneled into Cerberus, even if the Alliance was financing the Terrorist group. They weren't stupid enough to do that…and they weren't stupid enough to support a fanatical Human Racist group…they were multi-racial…financing supremacists undermined the entire point of their government…he sighed again, it wasn't his to wonder why…it was his duty to investigate. Nihlus turned and knelt down to the gasping and now grey skinned arms dealer. The man was blinking heavily and looking rather nauseous. Nihlus couldn't blame him for that, the back of his hand was touching his elbow…and his forearm was 'U' shaped.
"Now…I need a name. A place. A reason." Nihlus said with a patronizing smile. It took a moment before the human looked up and finally focused on him.
"I…can't…" He stammered, and his face seemed to turn green and gray at the same time.
"Yes, you can, or I can do another limb. Tell me the Name of who sent you the credits for your arms shipment. Tell me where it is going, and tell me why it's going there."
"I…can't." The human replied and Nihlus gently took the humans devastated hand in his and straightened it in one sharp yank. The man didn't scream…he simply started to vomit from the sheer pain of it. The Turian Spectre grimaced at the display and shifted slightly as the human gasped for air and shook his head.
"Name." Nihlus said, and his hands were on either side of the shattered forearm, slowly working it.
"I don't know." The arms dealer choked out, shaking from the physical shock of what was happening.
"Name." He repeated slowly and clearly.
"I don't have one!" The dealer shouted. Nihlus kept working the jagged bone edges against each other, a more and more pronounced motion to his action. The human started to wretch and his head tilted slightly.
"I…would have…told you by…now…" He choked out.
"Alright, location." Nihlus asked calmly.
"Mindor…the shipment was to go to Mindor. That…Alliance and Batarian agricultural Colony in the Traverse." The dealer said and Nihlus stopped grinding the humans' shattered bones against each other.
"Very good. Now…why were they sent there? Tell me and you might get some medi-gel." Nihlus asked…his voice dripping with mock sincerity.
"It's…an attack. Some Cerberus group wants to kill all the xenos who are stealing human territory and prosperity…and making humans slave on colonies to feed Batarian masters." The arms dealer groaned out in a rush. Nihlus nodded slightly and held up the medi-gel applicator, spraying the gelled substance over the human's forearm to numb the pain slightly.
"What can you tell me about your buyer. What did he look like? What can you tell me about this human?" Nihlus asked.
"He wasn't a human." The arms dealer said, cradling his forearm to his chest and groaning softly.
"What was he?" Nihlus asked.
"She…it…whatever, an Asari, it was an Asari. I can't tell you much, they all look like strippers to me so don't ask or try to work me over." The arms dealer said, pulling back reflexively. Nihlus stared at the human, not saying a word. He could tell that the arms dealer was telling him the truth, but why would an Asari be sending weapons to a human supremacist group to attack an Alliance/Batarian Agricultural world? Another layer of intrigue…or was this something worse than that? Nihlus stood up and walked away from the human, not bothering to do anything more, and in a few steps he was gone from the alley, leaving the dead guards and the crippled weapons merchant behind him as he walked down the streets of Omega, heading for his ship. In his mind he ran over the information that he had been gathering.
The Council had directed him at investigating Cerberus after a series of high profile terrorist attacks were carried out in Citadel Space and also in Alliance Space by the group claiming to 'stand for the oppressed human peoples crushed beneath the weight of alien influence and tyranny'. The units were well organized, fanatical, and well equipped. In one attack alone they set off an Anti-matter charge in an Asari transit terminal on Illium after taking hostages. Over three hundred were killed in the explosion that was set off when the Police tried to intervene. The extranet manifesto had proclaimed that 'Illium is the gateway through which the prosperity of the Human people flows and it must be shut'. A simultaneous attack took place within Alliance Space at the Industrial World of Rheeser's Summit, boasting a Skyhook and a mixed population of almost 15 million Alliance races, the Cerberus terrorist group rammed the Skyhook's tether line with an orbital cargo freighter, severing it and killing over a thousand.
Despite the Illium attack, Cerberus had not endeavored to strike within Citadel space, limiting itself to Alliance Targets. But there was a consensus that the Alliance might be utilizing the Cerberus group as a possible Black Ops unit to strike at Citadel targets and cause severe disruption, and that they were simply attacking Alliance Targets to 'build a rep' so to speak. He'd been tasked with investigating the entire affair and so far, things were…confusing.
Nihlus reached the ship bays and boarded his transport, leaving Omega with little in the way of flourish as he accessed the FTL comm and cut in a communications line to the Council, specifically Councilor Valern. It took a few moments but the link went through easily and the face of the Turian Councilor appeared in a holo before Nihlus.
"Agent Nihlus, I trust Omega was not to trying for you. Have you located any further intelligence on Cerberus?" Valern asked, and Nihlus watched the Councilor raise a glass and take a drink of something. The Spectre's eyes narrowed slightly but he didn't comment. There were rumors about Councilor Valern's drinking habits, and while most thought it was a non issue, there were some who thought that the Councilor drank more than was healthy for him.
"Yes Councilor. Intelligence states that there will be an attack on Mindor by Cerberus against the Batarian colonists there…but I've received some surprising information that I believe fits with the earlier reports I gathered."
"The so called 'money trail' that leads back into Citadel space? Yes, I've read your reports Agent Nihlus, but they have been discounted as unsubstantiated." Valern said, shaking his head.
"Councilor, I have a statement that an Asari was providing payment for this group. An Asari providing support to a human supremacist group. I think that points towards Citadel Space, not Alliance Space." Nihlus said, looking out his viewports at the massive shape of the Omega 4 Relay in the distance, then looking back to see Councilor Valern shaking his head.
"Spectre, the Council has no hand in Cerberus or their attacks. And I cannot fathom why any reasonable citizen of Citadel space would support such a violent and racist organization." Valern replied.
"I do not provide analysis Councilor, only the information." Nihlus replied to the Turian Councilor's jab.
"Very well, continue your mission at your discursion Nihlus, I desire a more tangible and logical explanation to this situation." Valern said and cut the transmission before Nihlus could respond. But the Spectre didn't notice the abrupt end to the report…his eyes were fixed on the core of the Omega 4 Relay as it began to power up…
…something was coming through the Relay…the uncharted relay that only one species in the galaxy had ever navigated going either direction.
A/N: It's short, and it's a cliffy, but I'd like to think that I gave you all enough to make you hungry for this story…and to get all your minds racing about just what might be going on…Cerberus and Collectors…