James Vega whistled as he yanked his duffel from the transport shuttle and slung it onto his back. Sure, getting into the N7 program was a freakin' dream come true, but lookin' at it now? This place was like a damn rabbit warren. He stared around him, momentarily disconcerted. His uniform was rumpled from the flight and he attempted to straighten it a little before heading in the direction of the VI.

"Yo," he activated the VI.

"Good afternoon, how might I be of assistance?" the sexless hologram intoned flatly.

"Need to get to where the new recruits go for N1," he drawled casually, not /quite/ keeping the note of excitement from his voice.

"Could I have your identification please?"

"Sure," Vega typed it into the keypad, and the VI was silent for a moment. He stared around at the shuttles on the move, recruits moving doubletime and knew, just knew, he was in the right place.

"Second Lieutenant James Vega, if you follow the yellow lights provided, Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko will meet you at the barracks. Have a nice day,"

"You got it," Vega grinned and finding the illuminated yellow strip he followed it, going a little faster than his usual stroll. Wouldn't do to keep a superior officer waiting.

"Second Lieutenant Vega reporting for duty, sir," Vega whipped a snappy salute at the man with Alenko embroidered on his chest.

"At ease, Vega," Kaidan grinned, "We are all N1 here, equal under the eyes of the instructors and bugs to the N2's." He held out his hand, "How was the flight in?"

"Yeah, not too bad, good to be back planetside. Left when I was 17, ain't been back since," Vega shook Kaidan's hand briefly, "So, what's the deal now?"

"You were the last one to get in for our little group, so you're behind the times already," Kaidan grinned, "Come on, let me show you around."

"How many of us are there?"

"All up, seven this iteration,"

"Is that all?" Vega looked surprised.

"Yeah, pretty small, the last N1's are about to go for their N2 assessment, so things are pretty tight around here, no one wants to be the first to fuck up."

"Huh," Vega nodded thoughtfully, "Get many dropouts?"

"Well this last run through, there are only two left,"

"Out of how many?"

"Fifteen," Kaidan replied, and chuckled when he saw Vega's face, "What did you expect, Mr Vega? It's an elite training program. Everything here is a test."

"Better get movin' then, bein' the last one here an' all," Vega frowned.

"Let's get your gear squared away," Kaidan checked a message that had come through on his omnitool, "Come on. The rest of the squad are in the rec room. Time for introductions as these folks will be your family for the next four months."

Kaidan pointed to the recruits in turn as they sat around on the couches in varying stages of ease:

"Julian Knight. Adept. Bastard has some decent moves," he grinned at the handsome, blonde man on the floor who was using his biotics to slowly lift the items on the coffee table.

"Sarah Raegan. Kick ass soldier and all around badass," a smokin' hot babe with hair coiling down her back in shining ringlets smiled at him with the most beautiful lips Vega had had ever seen.

"Hey," Vega grinned at her, folding his arms across his chest.

"Hey yourself," she went back to spooning what looking like yoghurt into her mouth.

He nearly fanned himself.

"Hale Wainwright," a dude with glasses and not inconsiderable muscle glanced up and flicked a brief salute before returning to his books, "Engineer. We don't hold it against him."

"Kiss my ass, Kaidan," the drawling accent curled around the room dipped in honey and rolled in velvet.

Kaidan just laughed, "The guy over there doing the pushups is Xu-shen Cho."

"Hey," Xu-shen lifted one arm up to wave, and just kept doing his pushups with a shift of his weight.

"Show-off," Sarah drawled.

"Only for you, baby,"

"Where's Ash?" Kaidan glanced around the room.

"She had a call, should be back soon," Hale glanced up again.

"Guys, this is James Vega, he's the last of our crew. Just got him settled. He's bunking in with me for the duration."

"Sorry! Shit! Sorry I'm late," a new voice rippled through the room, accented and soft, and Vega turned. Dang.

"Hey, I'm Ash. Williams," she grinned at the newcomer and held out her hand. She waited. And rose a dark brow.

"Yeah. Hey. Sorry. Hi," Vega tried to cover his complete pause and reached out to grip her hand in his huge paw, "James Vega."

"Pleased to meet you," she smiled brilliantly, before glancing down, "You want to let go there?"

"Oh! Sorry, yep. Absolutely," Vega dropped her hand and watched her as she walked over, slapped hands with Sarah and jumped down on the couch and dug Julian in the ribs to make him drop everything on the table.

"Dude, no," Kaidan leaned over and muttered.

"What?" Vega blinked down at him.


"No fraternizing with squadmates?" Vega looked crestfallen.

"Well no, but…"

Silence fell over the room.

"That's why," Kaidan patted Vega on the shoulder, and pointed at a newcomer to the room.

The woman who strode into the room was tall, with straight dark hair tied into a tail at the back of her head. Her faintly Asian appearance was a disconcerting counterpoint to the serious muscle that played on bare arms scrolled with dark tribal tattoos. She didn't have any armour on, but it didn't matter. She looked like she could stomp him into the ground with just the power of her thousand yard stare.

"Ashley," her voice was a gruff, gravelly whip across the room.

Ashley chewed on her lower lip and levered herself up off the couch to follow the other woman from the room, "Yeah, Miri. Be right there."

There was silence until Ashley left the room, trailing the other woman hesitantly.

"Who the hell was that?" Vega asked in a low voice, "Commanding officer?"

"Nope. Commander Miri Shepard. Ash's older sister. She's one of the N1's assessing for N2."

"/She/ is her sister?" Vega flipped a thumb over his shoulder, his eyes open with shock, "But…"

"It's complicated. I think…Ash was the daughter from Shepard's father's second marriage," Kaidan shrugged, "I'm so not asking Shepard to find out. That woman scares the shit out of me."

"What does she do?" Vega rose his brow in query.

"Sniper," Kaidan murmured, as Ashley appeared back in the room, her face like thunder.

"You alright, Ash?" Sarah asked the other woman.

"Yeah," Ashley sunk down onto the couch and grabbed a cushion.

Hale gave her a sympathetic pat, "It's alright. Next month…she will be an N2 and it will all be fine."

Ashley put her hands together in a mock-prayer and stared at the ceiling, "From your lips to God's ears."

"Is Shepard really that bad?" Vega asked aloud.

The crew looked at him. They looked at each other, then back.

"Oh yeah," Hale replied, a serious nod, "She got in because she took down a whole merc nest on her own. She's top hand to hand here and can put a shot through someone's eye at three thousand yards."

"And she's Ash's sister?" Vega had to confirm again.



"Yep," Kaidan clapped his hand on his back.