Opening the spotless glass doors, Holt sighed heavily as the place looked just about identical as the last company he had been told to visit. No doubt, this place would have the exact same problems and flaws as the last one and the next place would no doubt continue this trend.
"Fucking waste of time and talent..." He muttered as he dragged his feet over to the reception desk. "We just need you to this one small thing, they said..." He continued with a low voice before he reached the desk and all signs of boredom and frustration vanished from his face in the blink of an eye. "Good morning! I'm here for a meeting with your head of security. I was sadly not given a name." He said with a smile to the woman behind the desk. She looked up from her monitor with a surprised look, seemingly not used to having guests with a positive attitude.
"If you could give me your name it would make my job a lot easier." She said with a faint smile.
"Didn't you hear me? I was not given a name." Holt joked and her professional front kept her reaction limited to a restrained chuckle. "Name's Dean Essayer." Holt lied as the woman began searching for the name on her console.
"Thank you, Adam Hindsterns will come down here to meet you in a few minutes. Please have a seat while you wait." She said with a smile as she motioned towards a nearby bench.
"Thank you." Holt responded with a smile of his own before a frown appeared again of his face after he turned away. "It'll only take a week at most, they said..." He continued his mumbling rant as he made his way over to the bench. At first he had been told that he was going after The Shadow Broker but then other secret mastermind of the galaxy, The Illusive Man, had told him that Holt was to 'inspect' a couple of rival companies. The inspections were really just scouting missions to look for ways that Cerberus can easily leech information about the companies in the future. Holt was supposed to pretend to be a security expert sent by the higher ups in order to check for any security faults. When he found faults, and as it turned out just about every company had them, he would simply keep silent about it and then report back to Cerberus in how they could take advantage of them.
"Mr. Essayer?" A voice suddenly called out and Holt almost forgot to react. Looking up he saw a man in a security uniform. Considering the man was alone and not looking pissed off, Holt guessed that this was the security chief of the place.
"That's me, you're Adam Hindsterns?" He answered as he got up to shake the man's hand.
"Yes and sorry, take no offense but I'm gonna have to ask for an ID of some kind."
"Of course." Holt said with a smile as he took out the fake ID he had been given. "You know you're getting old when the only time you have to show an ID is during work and never when buying alcohol." Holt said with a laugh as the security chief inspected the card. Seemingly satisfied and apparently not very good with his job, he handed the card back to Holt with a small chuckle.
"I know what you mean and sorry again. We can never be too careful around here." Groaning in his head over how easy this was and how much he actually missed the firefights he had been part of only months earlier, Holt shook his head with a smile.
"Don't worry about it. Shall we?" He asked while motioning for the man to lead the way. The next couple of hours passed just the way Holt had feared. No attempted assassinations, no bombs going off nearby and more than a couple of security weak spots that he would have to report back to Cerberus. Stepping out of the building, he decided that the nearest bar sounded more tempting than his hotel room at the moment. He was scheduled for a ship that would take him off this planet in a couple of hours anyway, much more fun to spend that time drinking than sleeping in such a small time frame.
"Well there's a face I recognize!" A hoarse voice said out loud from behind but Holt could sense that it was aimed at him. While it sounded familiar, he couldn't exactly pin-point who it belonged to. Being wary that it was a possible assassin sent by... one of the parties that wanted him dead, he slowly turned around while being ready to fight or flee. It all depended on how many they were. Just one man stood there though, and a face like that was difficult to forget.
"Grumpy old mercenary man! It's been too long!" Holt said with a smile, still being careful. While small, the possibility that this was the man sent to kill him remained.
"And you, annoying little errand boy, haven't changed at all." The man said while lighting a cigarette as he stepped closer. Holt didn't sense any intentions to kill but that might just mean that the man was good at what he does. And he had seen this man at work, he was good at killing people. "Fucking calm down and remove that pipe out of your arse, Holt. You look like you're expecting to be executed on the spot."
"Just don't want to get shot in the face and end up as ugly as you, Zaeed."
"As if you would survive one." Zaeed grumbled with a chuckle thrown in at the end. "Heard you pissed off your boss." He said, suddenly changing the subject. Holt still didn't believe that Zaeed had been sent to deal with him. He highly doubted an assassin would walk up to his target to engage in a friendly conversation.
"Oh I don't know about that. I think he's simply in a bad mood at the moment. We both needed some time away from each other."
"Well, seems like he's pretty determined to find you." He said as he handed Holt a data pad. On it were details over Holt's possible whereabouts and other basic information such as appearance and history. What really grabbed Holt's attention was the amount of credits earned to whoever dealt with him.
"Hmph, was expecting a higher number..." Holt grumbled. Was he being looked down upon?
"Right? That's what I said." Zaeed said as he took the datapad out of Holt's hands and broke it in two before he tossed it into a nearby trashcan. Holt followed his actions and looked at him with a raised brow. "You don't have to worry about me trying to collect that bounty. I still owe you after you helped me those years ago." Breathing a mental sigh of relief, Holt decided to change the subject.
"How did that end, by the way? Did you find the bastard?" Holt asked and Zaeed's mood noticeably went south. Bad subject to change to, it seemed.
"Several times but he always run away like a dirty little vorcha."
"Bloody fucking bummer, indeed." Zaeed growled as he tossed the cigarette away. "And why the fuck are we standing out here like gossiping little house-wives? I saw you heading towards that bar and I don't see a single reason as to why we don't finish that journey." He said as he walked past Holt, towards the bar. Shrugging, Holt followed without another word. It wasn't like he had anything better to do. And Zaeed didn't seem to wanting to put a bullet between his eyes, that was a plus. "So what brought you to this insignificant colony?" Zaeed asked once they sat down on the nearest bar stools.
"Work, I'll be leaving in a few hours." Holt said as he motioned for the bartender. "And if you're not here to kill me then why are you here?" He asked back.
"To kill someone that I'm not indebted to." Zaeed grinned. "They'll probably show the fat bastard soon." He continued as he motioned towards the nearest vid screen.
"So if anyone asks, we were here drinking all day?" Holt asked as he grabbed the newly delivered drink. Excited to play another game of 'poisoned or not-poisoned drink'.
"I'm not stupid enough to be needed an alibi." Zaeed scoffed just as the news came on for a special report. "See? Fucking told you." Zaeed said with a prideful voice while slapping Holt on the arm. Holt rolled his eyes and didn't pay much attention to the screen as he took a mouthful of the drink.
"We interrupt this broadcast to bring you these breaking news." The anchor said with as serious of a tone as she could muster. In the corner of his eye, Holt could just make out a familiar sight and quickly turned towards the screen, joining all the others in the room. He knew the ship that they were showing. "The prototype frigate, SSV Normandy, has been reported destroyed." Holt managed to hear over the sounds of the patrons of the bar voicing worried comments over the newscast.
"Damn it, maybe the guy wasn't important eno-" Zaeed began complaining as he lost interest.
"Shut up." Holt interrupted, his eyes fixed to the screen.
"The identity of the attackers remain unknown but we have gotten confirmation that not everyone made it out alive." The anchor continued and Holt couldn't help but stare in disbelief. Somehow, he knew exactly what name would be included in the list of the deceased.
"Probably some batarian slavers. Those fuckers enjoy bl-"
"I fucking said 'shut up'." Holt threatened, eyes still glued to the screen, wishing that he could somehow force the anchor to not voice the name he was dreading to hear. The anchor either didn't notice or care as she continued.
"The most recognizable name among the deceased is Commander Jane Shepard."
A/N - And that's the end of part one! Felt like a much better place to end the first part with Shepard's death rather than Saren's. At first I was considering filling up the time frame between the attack on The Citadel and Shepard's death but that felt like I would simply drag out the story in a meaningless way. And we don't want any more chapters of the two of them being apart, do we? Some of you have made that clear in the reviews. I also admit that it's a lot more fun to write when they are both present.
And just for fun, I've planted an easter egg (if you can call them that) in this ending chapter. If you manage to find it I'll be impressed, which might not mean much since I'm very easily impressed.
Part two will hopefully begin soon. 'Soon' being a bit more than a week since I'll be visiting my family this weekend. Five days off work as well! Internet high five everyone!... Someone?... Anyone?...
I'll still be visiting the site during that time and would love some feedback about the story. Things you enjoyed or things that needs improving. I'll try and respond to each and every question you might have.
I would like to thank each and every one of you that read and reviewed the story up until this point. And special thanks to the people who repeatedly reviewed. I hope to continue frustrating you in the future!
Sorry about the lengthy author's note, I didn't break any site rules, did I?