The utter collapse of the Batarian Hegemony is shocking upon first examination, but only shows how rotten the core of the evil empire was. The orks were merely a catalyst, the final straw that broke the elkors back. The orks and batarians will likely spend the next three hundred years killing each other as batarian warlords try to carve out a new empire from the ashes of their old and the orks barbaric violence continues its cycle. We have already observed the beasts fighting one another, and frankly their crude weapons are little threat to Citadel Space .The galaxy can breathe a sigh of relief: The batarian menace is ended.

-STG report, one week before the Ork Waaaaghhh! smashed through citadel space and seized a dozen worlds.

From the Cain Archives

The first thing I heard when I regained consciousness was some rather unlady-like swearing when some sort of alarm went off, followed by a blast*. This reminded me that I had drank approximately as much alcohol as an entire squad on leave could, and that I now had a roaring headache. It also awakened my stomach, and I had to rush to the lavatory or risk making a mess of the bed sheets.

Once I had availed myself of the facilities, I returned to find Jack mostly risen.

"Hey, you did pretty good last night for a stuffed shirt. Not too bad in a brawl either."

"Thank you, I have to say I have rarely enjoyed such energetic company as yours Jack. Last night was... Entertaining."

She laughed and motioned for me to come over, and we found a rather pleasant way to chase away our hangovers. Once we were well and truly up, she got me a mug of recaff, though she called it "Coffee."

"You people have such fucking weird names for everything where you come from?" Jack asked as we sat at her apartment table.

"It's plain Gothic where I come from." I answered, wishing for a mug of tanna, "Though I have to say we don't have nearly the tolerance for xenos that people here do."

Jack snorted. "Aliens are just people with different skins. Blue, scaly or slimy, they still lie, cheat, steal and fuck. They ain't no better or worse than humanity is."

Sad to say, but Jack's evaluation of the races was perhaps the most balanced I had heard in my life. Looking back, it was perhaps a tad negative, but what can one expect from an individual with Jack's upbringing**.

"Well, then to bastards being bastards." I said, raising my mug.

Jack laughed and slammed hers into mine, sloshing the liquid over both our arms.

"Hear hear!"

Just as I was starting to feel human again, there was a pounding at the door.

"This is C-Sec, open up Subject Zero, we know you're in there!"

"Shit! Cerberus!" Jack growled. The name tickled something in the back of my mind, but my still hazy brain as unable to make the connection. "Come on, I've got a back way out."

"You do seem to like the back way." I drawled as hurried after her.

She shot me a mischievous grin. "Time for that later old man. Come on."

We snuck out of her back way, but just as we were making our way down the alley we found it blocked by two humans in arbitrator uniforms***. "Fuck, this way!" Jack shouted, hastily erecting a barrier that glowed blue with witch light. I swallowed, reminding myself that psyckers were much less dangerous here then back home, and followed her. Unfortunately, before we had gone half a dozen steps that path was also blocked by arbitrator.

"Shit, were fucked." Jack said, drawing her weapon and preparing to make a last stand. "They ain't takin' me again. I'm never going to the bad place!"

Just as we prepared to go down in a blaze of glory, a line dropped down from above, and we looked up to see a hovering air car.

"Take the rope, quickly!" A woman's voice called.

Not seeing much in the way of other options, Jack and I both grabbed the rope and clung to it for dear life. We were swiftly raised up to the air car.

"Commissar, good to see you." A familiar voice said, and a moment afterword I was struck by an equally familiar stench.

"Jurgen!" I cried as my aid helped me in, "what are you doing here by the throne!"

"The lady said you needed help, and I figured you would need me sir." My aid answered, as if a daring air car rescue was something completely ordinary.

"Strap in, this is going to be hairy." The woman said from within the confines of a helmet.

"Who are you?" Jack demanded, "Is this a set up?"

"I have no idea who you are Miss, but you've been caught up in galactic politics. One of the other races is after Commissar Cain here, and I need to get the two of you to safety." The woman flipped her helmet up to reveal the face of Miranda Lawson.

"You!" I gasped.

"This is no time to be picky, strap in." Lawson ordered, then slammed her foot onto the gas.

I have to say, she made me suddenly appreciative of Jurgen's driving. She had his same disregard for anything resembling a reasonable speed and his taste for near misses and hair pin turns. All that was lacking was blessed ground, something on short supply on a space station.

"I don't know who your friend is, but as long as she gets me away from Cerberus, I'm happy." Jack said with a sigh.

The coin dropped. I leaned close and asked, "What did Cerberus do to you?"

"Kidnapped me as a kid, tortured me and made me fight to the death." Jack answered, frowning at me, "Fuck, why did I just tell you that?"

"Because she's with Cerberus." I said through gritted teeth. "Jurgen! Miranda's an enemy, disable her and take over the vehicle!"

"What?!" Miranda squawked, but before she could do anything, Jurgen had knocked her over the head and taken the wheel.

"Right you are sir." He said, unperturbed by this turn of events. "Shall I dump her body out?"

"No, I want her for questioning." I said, trying to put more steel in my voice then I felt.

Jack stared at me, wide eyed. "She was helping you, what the fuck did you do that for?"

I gave her my very best hero smile. "Because, I've had such a wonderful time with you, and I hate to lead a lady into a trap. It's ungentlemanly of me, and it makes me look rather foolish. So I thought I would make it up to you by rescuing you from another stay in the bad place."

"Don't give me that chivalry crap." Jack growled, "I don't buy it for a moment."

Jack's attitude almost made me laugh. Instead of seeing through my dissembling and finding me to be the coward I was instead of the hero I was made to be by intellect or wit, she was able to see the real me because she was almost as cynical and jaded as I was.

"Well then Miss Naught, I propose an alliance. I need to get out of here, but I am sadly unfamiliar with the territory. Any idea where a good place to run to might be?"

Jack grinned wickedly. "Fuck yes I do. Omega. The law doesn't reach there. I know a guy, we can go out on his next shipment."

I grinned and called to our driver, "Jurgen, did you happen to bring our gear?"

"Yes sir. I thought you might want to be leaving quickly." He held up a rucksack filled with our combined gear, mostly a few spare lasguns and a full box of power packs.

"Excellent. Then follow Jack's directions. We are going to Omega." I said, leaning back and relaxing. Finally, I was in a place where I could give in to my natural instinct and run for the nearest hole in the ground, and no Imperium to drag me back. All I had to do was dodge one irate Inquisitor and my worries were over.**** Of course, if I had known what would be awaiting me on Omega, I would have woken Miranda up and gladly taken up residence in an Alliance or Cerberus facility.

*By which, we can assume that Jack is not a morning person.

** Cain is clearly speaking with the insight of hindsight, there is little chance Jack was so open upon their first night together.

***Obviously, they were not members of the Adaptus Arbites but Citadel Security. Cain is simply continuing his habit of referring to members of law enforcement as arbitrators that he picked up from our galaxy.

****Honestly, you would think Cain would know better than to say something like that.

Journal of Jane Shepard

It's amazing how easily something dynamic and exciting can become boring as hell as soon as it's converted into military-ese. Take, for example, the 40k briefings. The shit Joker had told me was interesting, in a I-can-believe-how-nerdy-this-is kind of way. It at least didn't put me to sleep, unlike the briefings I was now enduring from Alliance Command. The shit on Cain should have played out like a hilarious parody, but instead as a bunch of psycho analytical bullshit.

So, naturally when Cain decided to bug out and I was called in to go find his ass, I was thrilled to say the least. Bumming around the terminus systems looking for a wayward space clown might not be as much fun as a night on shore leave, but it beat the hell out of another briefing. And besides, I still needed to et my back my real job of stopping the Reapers.

"Alright people, space clown has flown the coop, and it's our job to bring him in!" I said into the comm, "This isn't going to be like Saren, but just because this looks like a cakewalk doesn't mean I don't expect the best out of all of you. The intel we have is sketchy at best, but the Alliance has promised us an expert who should be able to help us find him. Once there aboard, this gets real."

Speaking of experts, my comm chimed. "Commander, Admiral Hackett is here with our expert." Ashley reported.

"Excellent, bring them aboard and tell them to meet me in the briefing room. Let's fly."

"Yes ma'am."

Once the expert was safely stowed away, the docking clamps let go and we sped away from the Citadel. I hurried down to the briefing room, expecting some nerdy know it all on Cain that had spent his whole life in his parents basement and was just now getting out in the real world. Someone I could safely stow in the cargo bay and ignore for the rest of my mission.

So when the door hissed open and I found the space elf, I was less then pleased.

"Commander Shepard." She said coolly, "I have information for you."

"Teelah." I said, forcing a smile onto my face, "What are you doing here?"

"Ciaphas Cain is integral to my plans." She answered placidly. "His sudden disappearance does not bode well for our future. I have consulted the warp, and though my powers wane, I have been able to divine his intended purpose."

I snorted. "What, he bravely ran away?" Hey, I said the briefings were boring as hell. Not that I didn't read them.

"Indeed," Space elf agreed, "That appears to be the case, though I would not be so certain. Cain may claim to be a coward in those memoirs," I struggled to control my face, the idea that she had access to those files was not comforting, "But your own records do not seem to verify if he is truly a coward."

So she had seen the files on the space elves eh? "What do you think about us knowing some of your peoples most intimate secrets?" I taunted.

Teelah shrugged as if she expected the question. "Think you will find you are not so well informed as you think."

Which I translated as: We have no fucking clue what to make of it, and are still trying to figure out how we can either bullshit our way out of this or turn it to our advantage.

"We'll see. For now, what can you tell me about where Cain's run to?"

"I believe he is in the company of one Jacqueline Naught, a known criminal. He is also being pursued both by your human Alliance and by a group called Cerberus. Admiral Hackett was rather opaque, but I gather that they are working together. Cain has realized their intentions and is using Naught to run to ground. From what I have gathered, there is one place in the galaxy people run to. And I have found someone to take us there. These are the coordinates we are meeting him at."

I took the slate Teelah offered me, and looked at the ugly mug of an old human. "Zaeed Mussani?" Then I checked the location and nearly giggled. "And we are meeting him at Omega?"

Perfect. And here I thought having Teelah aboard would be a problem. Going to Omega sounded like more of a party then a mission.

"That is correct mon'keigh. I shall I resume my residence in the quarters you assigned to me?"

"Yeah, go for it." I answered, waving her away. A snipe hunt to Omega had potential. Sure, we might not find Cain, but there were merc groups, smuggling rings, and Aria T'Loak. On Omega, I could find allies. Allies to fight the Reapers.

Yeah, sue me, I hadn't forgotten the real reason I was out here. The Reapers were still coming, and I still had a galaxy to unite. The Council might want to sit on their asses even after their predecessors paid the price for ignoring my warnings, but Aria would see an angle on the Reapers. With her, I could unite the Terminus systems and pull a dozen species, pirate fleets, and mercenary groups in. No more fruiting around with space elves or fighting a bunch of green aliens that didn't even fucking matter.

I hurried up to the bridge and gave Joker the order to the head for Omega.

"Omega? Damn, and I thought shore leave was over." He quipped.

"Settle down Joker." I snapped, "We're going there to build an army. Don't forget, the Reapers are still coming."

"How could I forget that?" He asked, shuddering, "We'll be ready when we get there."

I spent the next few days planning how to approach Aria, looking up the files the Alliance had on here. There was quite a bit there, and I saw a woman after my own heart. She wanted power, she wanted comfort, and she wanted freedom. And she would fuck up anyone who tried to take those away from her.

When we got to Omega, the scarred man, Zaaed, was waiting for us in the docking bay.

"So you're the goddamn elf that hired me?" He demanded of Teelah.

Her eyes narrowed slightly, and I winked at Zaeed. I liked him.

"I am Farseer Teelah, yes."

"Well, then you're in luck. I know where the bastard you're looking for is."

"No shit?" I asked, "Come on Zaaed, there has to be a catch. There always is."

"Goddamn right there is. Bastard got himself under Aria's protection. Saved her goddamn life. Now he and his two little bunnies are best friends with her."

"Seriously? He's been here what, a week?" I was surprised. I hadn't thought Cain could be that effective.

"It only took him two goddamn days. Come on, I'll show you where he's at."

With that, our strange little party trooped after the grumpy old man. Me, an asari, and a space elf. What a great start to my army.

From the Cain Archives

I had to admit, Omega was not what I had thought it would be. Only two days after Jack and I arrived, we took a trip to a bar called "Afterlife." It's music was a bit loud for me, but the scum of the underworld and the cramped quarters appealed to the hiver in me. We were really just in a rickety space hab, but I was used to floating around in the void, and the rock and metal warrens made me feel almost at home.

Jack was out on the dance floor, and I as taking a breather at the bar by the VIP lounge. Jurgen was back at our bolt hole with Miranda, and while I missed the security his company brought, I didn't miss his almost puppy like belief that I was still out for the good of Mankind and the Imperium. It was almost enough to make me feel guilty enough to go back to the regiment. Almost.

I was lost in my musing when I noticed the hit man. It was immediately obvious what he was, from the way he was walking through the crowd to the way his eyes were looking everywhere, yet at a specific target: me.

A quick glanced showed me he was not alone. "Jurgen, Jack. Get over to me, quickly. We've got a hit squad on us."

"Right away sir." Jurgen responded.

Jack nodded to me and began to make her way over. I waved to her with assumed joviality, taking the opportunity case the room. There were at least dozen of them, a mix of xenos and humans with telling bulges in their clothes.

"What have we got." Jack asked, coming over and facing the bar I was leaning back against.

"Assassins. Twelve of them by my count. Jurgen should be here shortly, then we make a break for it."

"Right, I got them." Jack muttered, turning around to give me a kiss. "For luck."

Unfortunately, that was when the assassins made their move. They rushed us, and I just had time to draw my laspistol and gun down the leader, an ugly xeno with four eyes, before they were upon us.

Jack fought back at my side, throwing up a barrier to block their hail of fire. We were still forced back, up a flight of stairs behind us.

"Who are these fuckers?" Jack shouted, "They don't look like Cerberus!"

"Warped if I know!" I replied, sending another shot through her barrier. The discovery that Jack's biotics, and indeed any defenses I was likely to encounter, were useless against the common laspistol had been a great comfort to me. It was nice to know that I had at least some advantage over my foes, though not one I would retain for long.

"They're taking the stairs to the side!" Jack gasped, straining against the hail of gun fire.

"I'll hold them off, you stay here until Jurgen arrives."

I hurried up the stairs to find a blue female xeno standing over the bodies of several other dead xenos of varying races.

"Fucking traitors. Impossible to find good help these days." She panted, clutching a wounded side.

Despite myself, I found my commissariat training coming through, kneeling beside her as I fired blindly down the stairs. "Are you wounded, there's more coming."

"I can fight." She assured me, "Or at least hold them off until my men arrive."

"Excellent, I have back up of my own on the way."

The xenos put up a blue barrier of her own on the stair well, grunting with the effort. "I am not dying like this!"

"Cain, I can't hold this for much longer!" Jack called, her voice nearly breaking with the effort she was exerting.

Just as I was ready to make a daring last stand, the familiar crackle of lasgun fire signaled the arrival of Jurgen.

"That would be my people." I declared, which sounded a lot better than, "That's my aid pulling our bacon out of the fire."

Caught between my own fire and Jurgen's, the assassins were quickly eliminated. Against my better judgment, I knelt beside the xeno and got out some of the medigel packets Jack had given me.

"Here, this should stop the bleeding" I told the xeno.

"Thanks." The xeno growled, "I guess I owe you one. That would have been a bitch to handle myself."

Her wound dressed, I hurried over to Jack who was still panting on the bottom of the stairs. "That was impressive Jack, excellent work. Are you injured?"

"I'm fine," She panted, "Go see what Jurgen's up to. He brought the Cerberus bitch with him."

That did make my blood run cold. I hurried out to find Miranda holding one of the spare lasguns we had brought with us, kicking one of the assassins to make sure he was dead.

"Cain." She said pleasantly, "I hope now I will no longer need to be kept prisoner. I really am here to help you."

"But you're with Cerberus!" I protested, holding my laspistol on her, "They sent you after me, why should I trust you?"

"Because of this." She held up her omnitool and played an audio file.

"Ms. Lawson, consider yourself terminated." A cold man's voice hissed.

"Repaint that skin suit of yours in the blue and gold young lady. Your mission is the same. Just how deviant is this Cain? What about Subject Zero? Can you still insert yourself?" Another man demanded.

I was only mildly surprised to hear she had been a honey trap, she was certainly attractive enough to try it. "And just why should I believe you?" I demanded, "You could still be working for them."

"Because I have no interest in working of an organization that only wants me because I can bed a man and his girlfriend. Especially not when they want me to do both of them at the same time."

That certainly smacked of Slaaneshi like depravity, though I had to admit, it did sound more than a little tempting.

I glanced at the dead bodies, and made up my mind. I could use all the help I could get. "Convince Jack of your good intentions, and I'll accept it."

Miranda snorted. "No problem, we've both been screwed over by Cerberus."

Next I made my way over to Jurgen, who was examine the remains of one of the assassins. He held up a small emblem that looked like a orange fist. "What do you make of these sir?"

"Probably an organizational emblem," I answered, stating the obvious, "but I wanted to ask you Jurgen, what inspired you to bring Miranda?"

"You said you needed help sir, and she offered. I figured you could use all the backup I could bring."

I wasn't about to argue with him, as it had all turned out well enough in the end. I slapped my aid on the back and gave him my best grin. "Well done Jurgen, good instincts."

"Thank you sir." He replied, and the smile of dogged loyalty made me wonder just what I had ever done to earn such devotion.

I heard a shuffling sound behind me and found the blue xenos from before hobbling up, leading several rather embarrassed looking guards.

"Hey, Cain is it? I have to say, your little display back there was impressive. I didn't think the Fists had the quads to make a move like this."

I bowed to her, putting on my modest hero grin. "My pleasure, just an old soldier doing his duty. I can't stand thugs ruining my evening, and besides, your far to lovely to be killed by a group of idiots like this." The lie rolled easily from my lips, as far as I was concerned she was a hideous monstrosity*.

The xenos threw her head back and laughed. "I like your style Cain. While you're on Omega, consider yourself the guest of Aria T'loak. I'm the bitch Queen of this place, and the Fists are just the first in a long line of assholes who learned that nobody fucks with Aria. If you're interested, I have a position in my organization for someone with your skills."

I smiled. This had worked out rather well, even if I could have just bolted when the assassins showed up. "Well, I don't have anything more pressing at hand. Consider myself at your disposal, Aria."

That was how I found myself sitting comfortably in Aria's VIP seat, sipping at a glass of asari wine. It wasn't the amnesiac I was used to, but it did the trick. Jack and Miranda were on either side of me, their own glasses in hand. It had been a shock when they had actually decided to get along with one another, but apparently Miranda had several files Jack had desperately wanted to see, and being abused by Cerberus seemed to be the best way to become friends with the biotic. Jurgen was down with the other bodyguards, still under the illusion that we were working for the Imperium. I couldn't decide if his obliviousness was deliberate, or if he really was operating under the delusion that I was out for anyone but myself.

"Aria, someone to see you. Says she's Commander Shepard." One of the batarian bodyguards, the four eyed kind of xenos, informed my new boss.

Aria was lounging in the seat above mine, secure in her new power base. Apparently, having me at her side and defeating the Fists so handily had put a stopper on any new attempts to seize control of Omega.

"Shepard?" I demanded, "What's she doing here?"

"Looking for you, I would imagine." Aria drawled, smiling down at me. "But I'm not about to let her take my new toy. Send her in though."

I groaned and sat up, easing my laspistol in its holster. I could already feel the headache coming on.

*Considering the several dalliances that Cain and Aria would have over their long partnership, I think he eventually changed his perceptions.

From the Journal of Jane Shepard

I was sort of surprised when Aria agreed to see us right away, she didn't have a reputation that screamed "loves council Specters." I wasn't going to argue with it though.

When Liara, Teelah and Zaeed made as if to follow me, the batarian blocked their way. "Aria only said Shepard. The rest of you can wait here."

"It's fine." I told them, "I'd prefer to meet her alone at first." Because then, I could stab Teelah in the back must more easily if I needed to.

I made my way up, though I grimaced when I saw Cain lounging with two women on his lap. One was the tattooed biotic he had caused a ruckus with back on the Citadel, and the other was new to me.

"Well, finding you was easy enough. But you're not why I'm really here." I told him.

"Oh?" He asked, frowning as if not being at the center of attention was an insult, "Then what are you here for?"

"I'd like to know that too." Aria interjected, "I was under the impression that the Commissar here was a hot commodity. I'm not ready to give him up yet, but I have to wonder why you would ignore that prize so easily."

"I'm here about the Reapers." I answered, "And about making you Queen of the Terminus."

That got Aria's attention. "Well consider me intrigued. Have a seat Shepard."

I sat down on the offered couch, snagging a drink for a nearby table and knocking it back. "You know about the Reapers?"

"I know what the official position on your claims is. The Council wants us to believe that whatever hit the Citadel and wiped out the last Council was a geth ship, but I don't buy the official story."

"Figured you wouldn't. The truth is a hell of a lot scarier. It was the vanguard of an ancient race of machines that wiped out the Protheans, and a whole hell of a lot of races before them. He was set to do the same thing to us, but I stopped him from bringing in his friends. They're still coming though, and I need people to be ready when they get here. I figure that if the Council won't listen, I'll find people greedy enough who will."

The gleam in Aria's eyes told me I was dead on, and I continued, "You have Omega, but that's just a start. With my help, you could unite the Terminus Systems against the Reapers. Seize power, make the council see you as a credible threat. Then, I convince the politicos to build up their forces to keep you in check, all the while passing you information and tech so that you keep pace. By the time the Reapers show up, we'll have two Empires primed for war. They won't stand a chance."

"Not bad." Aria said, lazily swirling her own glass, "And I'm inclined to believe your story, at least because it would certainly work out well for me. But how do I go about uniting the Terminus Systems under my banner? I would need a credible reason to do so."

That was actually something I wanted to talk to Aria about, the truth was I didn't have a really good idea of how to do that, but before I could say so Joker interrupted.

"Commander, we've got trouble." He said over my omnitool. He sounded panicked, and that made me pay attention.

"What is it Joker?"

"Ork ships, at least a dozen of them. They're making a hard burn for Omega."

"How do you know their orks Joker?"

"Who else is going to build something out of rocks and scrap metal? Besides, I played orks as a kid. I know what their gear looks like."

That was good enough for me. I turned to Aria, who was getting her own report from a flunkies.

"You get a call about unknown ships?" I asked.

The asari scowled and nodded. "Yes. And having a fleet of strange ships show up on my doorstep isn't what I would call a friendly gesture. You know what they are?"

"Believe it or not, I think they're the things that have been destroying the batarian Hegemony. Looks like they got bored."

"Damn." She growled, "Those fuckers looked like they could fight. You know any good ways of stopping them?"

"Not really." I turned to Cain and gave him a predatory grin. "But I know someone who does."

Authors Note: