Part One

The problem with Spectres was that they attracted attention. Especially human Spectres. It didn't help, of course, that Commander Shepard had perpetuated the idea of going around the galaxy head-butting everything that got in her way.

Not that they'd ever offered Emily Prentiss a position as a Spectre. In spite of what a lot of people thought, having a parent in politics wasn't a free-ride scenario. She worked for her promotions just like every other Alliance marine. At least she had before she'd been transferred into Spec Ops. In any case, she didn't particularly want to be a Spectre anyway: being "above the law" wasn't exactly a status that she approved of.

Some things required a little more finesse.

Of course, in this case, finesse meant "three years deep cover on Omega," which was about as appealing as taking a bullet in the kneecap. Out of all the mercenary hotspots in the universe, they sent her to the biggest scumhole in the Terminus Systems. At least on Illium you weren't likely to get jumped by Batarians just because they don't like they way you're eying them.

But no. Illium was one of the few places in the galaxy where Red Sand was actually legal - going undercover to stop a smuggling ring would have been next to useless.

So here she was.

Three years in, and she'd somehow managed to talk her way into being the right-hand woman of Ian Doyle, leader of Valhalla, as his merc group was known. Of course, she'd done more than just talking.

Valhalla weren't as bloodthirsty as the Blood Pack, or the Blue Suns, but they were bad enough. Smuggling drugs and weapons into human colonies was definitely one way to get Alliance Special Ops involved. As long as it didn't affect the Citadel, the old Council didn't seem to give a crap.

But things had changed, while she was undercover. The original Council was dead. Killed in the destruction of the Ascension during the Battle of the Citadel. And then a new Council had risen to power – a council with a human member.

As much as Emily might have disliked Shepard, she did have a way of getting things done. At least she had, before she'd been blown out of the sky. It just went to show that no matter how much of an icon someone was, they were just as mortal as everyone else.

Even though it had been almost two years since the Battle of the Citadel, the paperwork on Operation Valhalla would probably take ten years for them to sort through. The only way the Council would find out was if they were told.

And maybe they had been.

Emily first realized that something was wrong at the sound of gunfire. Doyle was off-world, dealing with some kind of supplier issue. Normally, she would have accompanied him, but today she didn't.

Emily wasn't really sure if she believed in fate, but it was one hell of a day for Doyle to be busy elsewhere.

She ran into the control room, bringing up the security feed of the warehouse's entrance.

One guy with a shotgun.

No kidding.

She frowned at the sight of a patch on his shoulder. Shit. Spectre. Maybe the Council were paying more attention than she'd realized. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. A really shitty coincidence.

She couldn't very well let the death of a Spectre sit on her conscience, even if he kind of was asking for it by just waltzing in with a freaking shotgun.

Emily brought up her omni-tool and activated her cloak. Whoever the hell this Spectre was, he'd better have a damn good reason for screwing up her mission.


Derek Morgan lowered his shotgun.

That ought to have gotten their attention.

Ian Doyle had been running drugs and weapons in and out of human colonies for years, and nobody had done jack about it. This was what being a Spectre was about. Not everyone had to save the galaxy – there were a lot of problems that had been around long before the Reapers had been a thing, and they'd be there long after. Not that Morgan really believed in the whole Reaper thing. He'd read the reports, sure, but he wasn't about to admit that there was an eternity old machine race looking to wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy, or whatever.

Usually, he had Garcia keeping an eye on security footage, and generally making sure that nobody got the drop on him, but there were some ship parts that she needed to pick up, and really, neither of them wanted to spend more time on Omega than was necessary.

Today, he was on his own. Just him, his shotgun and his biotics against a squad of mercs.

Piece of cake.

The thing about mercs was that for all the bravado they put on, they died pretty damn easily. For every shot that hit his shields, he'd already killed half a dozen of them. Today, it seemed like there were less of them – little red triangles disappearing on his radar without warning. Either there was some invisible crusader out there helping him take down these mercenaries, or his omni-tool had a pretty severe glitch.

He'd get Garcia to take a look at the thing when they were back on the ship.

There was a glint of a reflection on the air, and he fired his shotgun without even thinking. The reflection shimmered, before the cloak dissolved.

'Fuck,' the woman spat, clutching the wound at her leg. It was bleeding pretty heavily, and he could probably take her out with another quick blast, but he didn't. He did the one thing that a Spectre should never do.

He hesitated.

She was attractive, in a hard-edged kind of way. Dark, penetrating eyes, sharp nose. The kind of woman that would either kiss you or kill you.

Her gun was pointed at his head.

Morgan was about to charge when he realized that she was damping his biotics. It wouldn't last long – she was losing strength quickly – but in the heat of battle, half a second was enough time for the tables to turn.

'Don't shoot,' she said, and it had the tone of an order, rather than a request. 'You're a Spectre.'

'And you're a wanted mercenary,' he countered. He recognized her face – she was Ian Doyle's second-in-command. 'Lauren Reynolds, right?'

'Depends on who you talk to,' she said with a laugh, letting down her damping field. It was a hell of a risk on her part, but Morgan was way too curious to hit her with his biotics just yet. 'Based on the gung-ho "shoot first, ask questions later," attitude, I'm gonna go ahead and guess Alliance?'

'Yeah,' he confirmed, not entirely sure why the hell he was telling her. It wasn't exactly classified information, but in his experience, enemies stalling for time never ended very well.

'Alright,' she said, bringing up her omni-tool. A sudden burst of soft white noise indicated that she'd brought up an audio link. 'Control, this is Illyria.'

Morgan frowned. This wasn't exactly following the general pattern of a takedown. The Lieutenants of Merc groups didn't exactly surrender without a fight, and they didn't usually stop to ask questions about his military background, either.

'Illyria, this is control; what's your situation? We've heard reports of someone trying to take down Valhalla – your mission was intel gathering only.'

'You know a human Spectre – dark eyes, dark skin, likes to stick his nose where it doesn't belong?' Morgan tensed. He suddenly got the feeling he'd screwed something up pretty badly.

'Derek Morgan,' came the answer. 'A good operative, if a little hot-headed.'

'You're telling me,' she muttered. 'He tried to take down Valhalla's entire operation on his own. He's with me now.'

'Is the line secure?'

'No recording devices in the vicinity, no bad guys on the radar – I'd say we're safe for now.'

There was a slight crackle on the other end of the line, and when the contact next spoke, it was in a voice that was all too familiar.

'Morgan – This is Admiral Hackett, commanding officer of the Fifth Fleet.' Morgan swore inwardly. Of all the groups he had to try and take down, it was the one with an Alliance infiltrator. And the fact that she just so happened to have Admiral Hackett on speed-dial, well, that was something else altogether. 'The woman you're with is an undercover operative.'

Morgan gave the woman – Illyria (or was that just a code name?) – an apologetic look. She shrugged, faltering slightly. He suddenly became hyperaware of the fact that they'd been standing around talking while she was bleeding out.

'I don't have any medi-gel,' he said. He'd used the last of it taking down the rest of the mercs. 'There might be a medical station nearby, though.'

'This is nothing,' she said, dismissively. Judging from her tone of voice, and the way she carried herself, she'd been caught in far worse situations. He could sympathize with that.

'Is the target still alive?' Hackett queried, and Morgan had no idea how to answer that question.

'Doyle wasn't here when things went down,' the woman answered. 'If he already knows what's happened, then he's probably in the wind. I've been working this guy for three years, Admiral; I can't just let him walk away.'

'I won't let that happen,' Hackett assured her. 'Doyle won't get another shipment of drugs or weapons into Alliance space.'

So apparently somebody had taken notice of what Doyle was doing. And he'd gone and screwed it up.

Not wanting to stay on the line too long, Hackett disconnected, with instructions to contact him again in twelve hours.

'If he was on the run, do you know where he'd go?' Morgan asked, and the woman hesitated. She knew, but she didn't want to tell him.

'Maybe,' she admitted. 'But I think we should get out of here before we talk about this any further.' She glanced down at her leg – discreetly, but not so discreetly that he hadn't noticed.

'Do you have anything you need to get before we leave?' Morgan asked. If she'd been undercover for three years, that was one hell of an operation.

She shook her head. 'No, I'm good – if any of my things are missing, he'll know that I was involved somehow.'

'We're going to go take him down,' Morgan pointed out. 'It won't matter whether or not he knows.'

She bit her lip. 'I know this guy. Ian Doyle is ruthless, determined…some say invincible. No matter how many times the other merc groups have tried to take him down, he just keeps coming back. I won't trust that it's over unless I put a bullet between his eyes myself.'

In the end, she didn't grab her things, and Morgan didn't push the matter. All she took was her weapons.

He didn't even know her name.