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The Butterfly Effect

Chapter Text

2166

The Citadel

Widow system

 

Saren Arterius was not pleased. 

 

He was sitting on a bench outside the Council chambers, distractedly gazing out a window toward a spectacular view of the ward arms. Not that he was paying it all that much attention. 

 

From the outside he looked his normal stoic and emotionless self, with a slight but permanent scowl; but inside he was brooding over the recent turn of events. Every available Spectre had been called in for a meeting with the Council on an unusually severe matter. Only the Agents that were in long term or high risk undercover operations remained in the field. He himself had been on the trail of a Prothean artefact smuggling ring when the all-call had gone out. It was the first call of this kind to ever be given out, as well. Being punctual, as he always was, he had arrived only to be told to wait. The Council was in private session.

 

The issue was thus: ten Spectres and four Specialists had been killed in the last two months. A further two were alive but severely injured, slated for months of rehab to return to the field. Even for a high risk job, that was a suspiciously high death toll. Especially when you considered that ST&R Agents were some of the best trained individuals from their respective species to be found in the galaxy.

 

The last Spectre to die had gone silent just recently. One week they were reporting in as normal, the next they were gone without a trace. They had eventually found the nais’ body just a few days ago, on the same planet they had last reported from, riddled with bullet holes and no further evidence as to who was responsible. Considering the small number of Spectre Agents kept active at any one time, the recent loses were a huge blow to Council resources. Qualified people didn't just grow on trees after all, so replenishing their numbers would mean further time wasted with apprentices and recruiting.  

 

Saren scrubbed a hand over his crest in frustration, a silent growl accompanying it. He despised wasting time, and the way it stood he and every other agent would be getting a tag-along to test for potential whether they liked it or not. Possibly even two. Since the success rate of trainees were rather low.

 

With the Council's best and brightest all weighed down with possible recruits, no one would be taking high risk missions, or any of the more classified ops. Saren thought this was most likely the exact purpose of the targeted attacks on their ranks. Someone, somewhere, was setting up something big. A new criminal enterprise of some sort, and they wanted a clear field to establish themselves in. The electric-eyed Spectre will have to keep an aural canal open for any developments of such a nature.

 

He would try and make sure the Councillors understand this... but the silver-grey torin was fairly certain they would just suspect him of wanting to dodge having to train some young idiot. Well... they weren't entirely wrong, but facts were still facts. At the very least Saren hoped they would allow the chosen mentors to visit the Special Forces bases of the various militaries and select their own candidates. It would certainly waste less time, as the Spectres could pick out potential Candidates better than file based recommendations. Even though he thought it was still too soon for him to take on another trainee, circumstances dictated otherwise.

 

Speaking of time being wasted, he was getting rather sick of this bench and hoped the meeting would begin soon. All the other Agents had already arrived and were waiting around the large lobby. They needed to find the source of the deaths, likely an intel leak from someone within the Spectre Offices, and then plug it. Preferably with bullets. Many bullets if he had anything to say about it, purely for the frustration he has to put up with now because of it. The displeased biotic suspected it was an inside job, likely earning some treacherous fool a disgusting amount of credits and a small private moon out in the Terminus Systems. It could also be a hack in their computer systems, but he felt the likelihood was low. Not impossible, but very low. The cyber warfare suite that protected the Citadel Archives also took care of the Spectre's classified intel network, and it was by-and-large the most complex security system in the galaxy. 

 

The odds really did point to an inside job. Now to figure out the culprit. Or culprits, as the case may be. 

 

Saren glanced over at the doorway the secretary would come from to grab them when it was time. The empty portal and closed door tugged his scowl noticeably deeper. He hated having down time. He hated even taking recovery time between ops. He especially hated waiting with no goal in sight. 

 

Still no call to come in. The stoic Turian resisted the urge to growl lowly at no one in particular. 

 

He steered his thoughts to more pleasantly distracting things like a few ideas he’s had on increasing his shield and thruster output without increased power draw, but they eventually turned to Nihlus Kryik, his one and only protégé, the only one to pass his training and one of the few Agents to remain in the field. The green-eyed, jovial Turian was infiltrating a slaver ring that had gotten bold enough to hit any colony outside the core worlds. They were fast, well organised, and came in large enough numbers to overwhelm the defences quickly enough to grab a large number of colonists and be gone before reinforcements could arrive. And always when those reinforcements were at their farthest possible point from the colony.

 

The perpetrators were not only fast, but clever and secretive. The Spectre's intelligence division couldn’t even pinpoint the raider's species or home base. No one even knew if they were just Batarians, or a collaboration of freelancers, since they removed all their dead or injured from the field, and left no victims alive. Saren admired them for their tactics and thoroughness, but they were still criminals and needed to be put down, hard.

 

Last he'd heard from Nihlus, the younger torin was getting closer to figuring out the mastermind behind it all, and where they were hiding the base.  His ever creative student would bring the entire organisation crumbling down from the inside. Saren had felt a hint of pride when reading the knife-loving torin's last update. Only a full Spectre for a scant two years and he was already taking on such large and dangerous missions, making a name for himself instead of remaining in his mentor’s shadow. He would expect nothing less from a former student of his, but still... yes, he was proud indeed. Not that he would ever admit to it. 

 

The ever-alert Spectre heard a cough echo around the room, and glanced up in hope of it being the main secretary come to fetch him and the others. It wasn't. Just a passing janitor with a cold. Saren took a few deep breaths for patience and returned to the unappreciated view before him. Traffic was picking up for the lunch hour rush, and the tiny lights of sky cars were multiplying quickly. It made a beautiful effect, much like a living stream of lights, but his thoughts remained on business, barely registering these aesthetic details. All it meant for him is that he had been sitting here, almost unmoving, waiting, for hours now.

 

Nihlus was still managing to stay involved with the current crisis, at least; having returned semi-recently to the Citadel to exchange delicate intelligence with the ST&R office. He had left a recommendation for a potential candidate, someone recently encountered on the torin's previous mission. Saren had taken the time to pour over every files available before giving his student’s suggestion a stamp of approval. He wished to be sure the candidate was worthwhile, especially since his name would be indirectly linked to it. To his surprise the file had read much like Nihlus’ had upon recruitment; which left the impatient Spectre with some small hope for the recommendation. 

 

The Spectre-elect was a combat engineer and had been promoted above Private First Class, that being the only real difference between their profiles'. It was a mess of scathing notes from superior officers in the Hierarchy military, and demerits for insubordination that prevented both tier rank ups and pay raises. There were even matching sets of repeated squad transfers. This was however contrasted by exemplary scores during basic, if still begrudging comments from the instructors. Contrary to Nihlus' file the creative and wilful torin had been an exceptional soldier, regardless of the abysmal accounting. Perhaps this one would be as well.

 

Also, interestingly enough, both had originated from a colony at the border of Terminus and Hierarchy space, which did not garner either of them any respect from their fellow soldiers, and both had no remaining family. Although, there was suspiciously no notes of a patrem in the engineer’s folder. To add more to the positive comparisons the engineer was currently in the Blackwatch program, the Hierachy's highest level of Special Forces, with the unit having a high success ratio to their missions. The files all seemed to indicate the perfect ground work for a good candidate. 

 

Saren thought it was a shame that Nihlus couldn't mentor his choice himself, as ST&R had rules about a new Spectre needing to gain at least five years’ experience before tutoring their own protégé. There were exceptions, of course, but two years would not be enough. The Spectre Offices had plagued him ever since his fourth year to get a trainee before the enigmatic and talented Spectre had come across Nihlus on that faithful mission.

 

The Council would likely allocate this candidate to another Agent instead, one that suited the candidate the best. It was probably why Nihlus had not been called in for this meeting as well. Regardless of Saren's distaste for the time wasting that would be involved with heavy recruitment, at least there would be one very-probably Spectre-worthy candidate among those tested. Now to find another nine.

 

"Spectres? The Council is ready for you."

 

Saren turned a flat glare to the Asari that was smiling pleasantly at him, one arm raised in welcome toward the door way. 

 

'Finally.'

Chapter Text

2166

The Citadel

Widow system

 

Saren rarely lost his temper; but right now he was seething on the inside so much that some of it bled from his tight control and into his normally expressionless face, while he stomped down the Presidium. At least this had the benefit of scaring any diplomats in his way to hurriedly rush to wherever they wanted to go in order to avoid him. His reputation meant he wasn’t regularly bothered needlessly, but times like this made them scatter like insects once the light was turned on. He found a small flicker of satisfaction in that, as he did not feel like talking ‘diplomatically’ with anyone right now. And he wasn’t the only Spectre in a terrible mood either.

 

The object of his ire were the Councillors themselves this time. They completely disregarded their Spectre’s suggestions and went ahead with the most expedient solution, even before consulting them, typical politicians. It was an expedience towards a solution being implemented, instead of faster solution to end the problem itself. They were told to come again tomorrow morning to be briefed on their new students for the next two years, before said students will be brought in for the Council to give their introductory speech and then be handed off to their respective mentors. These students, however, were given 18 months to succeed in their training; longer than the normal 14, because of the method of choosing the candidates means they might need more time before their potential skill level was up to standard. Idiots. It just means they will be wasting more time with this!

 

The students and mentors do not know who will be their respective charge until it is announced at this meeting, as the Council were still going through the last of the shortlisted files, matching them with an appropriate Spectre and then arranging for them to be transported to the Citadel. Of course, the whole thing is to be made public as some initiative to garner favour from said various militaries by accepting more of their people into the Spectres. Also to show the public that Spectres are chosen from their military heroes, easing some of the dislike towards their kind, it was hoped. All just to save face in their current crisis and keep it under wraps. Pointless. They were just drawing more attention to the fact.

 

At least they will shut down the Spectre Intel Offices by end tomorrow to go over it with a microscope for any data leaks, and re-evaluate and interrogate all their intel Agents, while simultaneously recoding the security systems. Until then, Spectres had to rely on their own informants for any new intel, the Council would even reimburse them for the use of more reputable info brokers. This was a dangerous move, but less so than leaving the offices open to leak more information on their movements.

 

Now though, he had to put all his current plans on hold to make way for a new student, clear out his storage room on his ship for a bunk; and he doesn’t even know if the fool to be assigned to him will be any good at all, what background they have or nothing! He was essentially inviting a complete stranger into his home for the next two years. Sure, Saren could improvise like the best of them; but he preferred to plan out as much as possible with available intel beforehand. And to top it all off, his current investigation can only be looked into through third parties now until he can narrow down the ring leader, and then hope his mentee is up to the challenge of taking them out by then, otherwise he would just leave the idiot on his ship and take care of it himself. That will take much longer than he had originally planned.

 

Fine then. If that is how the Councillors wish to play this, he will take his new student to some remote and uninhabited planet first and foremost, preferably one with a myriad of climate conditions, and test their current abilities to their limits in the first month; and then decide a course of training. He needed to know what he was working with, especially if they were caught in an unexpected firefight; which could always happen in their line of work, and even with their files he knew from experience that those never gave a true reflection on their field capabilities. While on route he will have enough time to read any relevant files on their history and question them thoroughly on all that is not normally put on such files.

 

Silver-grey mandibles flicked once in annoyance, he cannot fault the candidate on the choice of the Council and will give them the same chance at success as he did Nihlus, if they can prove themselves worthy for such training. At least with his method, he would know if they are worth the time to train in the first month, and either fail them, or continue with the actual training. Mind made up, he started a more typical routine of preparing his ship and supplies for the mission at hand, helping to ease his anger by actually getting things done.

 

At least he can send said new candidate out to procure all the needed supplies after he ordered them, along with whatever other personal supplies they would need; giving him his last few moments of true privacy. He did not deal well with people, even less so if he had to share his private space; and valued his time too much to waste on frivolous activities such as ‘chatting someone up to get to know them’, unless they were a target and he wanted discreet information out of them. He had only just managed with Nihlus at the start of his training, and that was someone he chose to mentor. At least the fledgling had respect for his teacher and a determined will to not give up no matter how hard Saren pushed him, and tried his best to meet Saren’s admittedly high standards, and often times succeeding in time. That had garnered him respect in return and from there a mutually agreeable relationship formed. Nihlus calls it friendship, Saren isn’t so sure he would call it that.

 

Putting these frustrating thoughts aside for now, he drowned it out in his usual pre-mission routine; ordering supplies for himself for the next month and a week (since he did not know if his new student would be levo-or-dextro based), checked up on the latest intel from the Spectre Offices before they were to be closed, got some of his own information from his informants on current galactic matters, setting up other contacts for continuing the Prothean smuggling ring investigation, and setting up some contacts to get him some new contacts to make up for the deficit that the coming closing of the Spectre Office normally provided.

 

Then he visited the Spectre Requisitions Office for any new mods and upgrades, taking note of upgrades in the weapons he did not regularly use in case it was a favoured weapon of his soon-to-be student, got some tech upgrades for himself and his ship while he was at it (he could do the minor installations to will away the travel time between systems and Relay’s), looked up and pre-programed his nav computer to a suitable world for said training, along with booking his departure time for the day after tomorrow in the early morning (since it was not a priority, he always followed standard docking procedures otherwise), and messaged Nihlus informing him of the Council’s decisions and that he will be out of easy communication range for the next month. By the time he was done, it was late afternoon, so he decided to go out to his favourite high end restaurant and get himself a decent Palaveni meal that he did not have to prepare himself, and then catch up on his reading into the latest developments in cybernetics after rearranging his armoury/store room to fit a cot and a terminal with a locker.

 

The next morning found Saren in the conference room where the Council would hand out their assigned mentee’s. Being deliberately very early in order to do his own sweep of the room for any bugs or hacked security; then disabling the existing security and temporarily replacing it with his own, while setting up a signal jammer to cover the whole room. Nothing would go in or out of this room without his consent to it, which is how he preferred it. He was just finishing up when the first of the other Spectres started to arrive. They merely nodded at each other, and then they each found a defensible position for their seats.

 

Soon the conference room was filling up with somewhat disgruntled Spectres until finally the Council members came in last. They took the podium positions and started the meeting, covering the staggering amount of candidates they had chosen; along with a statistical breakdown of the numbers from various militaries, current positions and skill set distribution and so forth. Saren saw no point in these statistics. Though informative, this was meant for the bureaucrats and individual military leaders. It had no meaning in this particular meeting. Saren scrubbed his face with a rough black gloved palm, taking a deep breath to keep his frustration from showing, keeping the growl that wanted to erupt from him in check.

 

When they finally finished with their droning; they started alphabetically on the Galactic alphabet, to hand out students to their mentors; handing said Spectre the securely locked datapad that was not connected to any network, with the relevant files, allowing them to be excused to go over the info before the meeting with the candidates in the tower at 1400. Since Arterius is spelt differently in Galactic Standard, Saren was stuck waiting his turn that would be around the halfway mark.

 

Finally, finally, his name was called. He grabbed his datapad with little more than a nod of acknowledgment to the Councillors, before heading out and to his ship to read in peace and security, planning out his schedule for the afternoon in his head. He had a few hours still and could grab lunch on his way back to the tower. He was so frustrated and bored by this point that he uncharacteristically didn’t even register the student’s name or the look that Councillor Tevos gave him. He settled himself into his seat in his small mess area, and opened the biometrically locked datapad, then entered his Spectre code. And all at once, his breath caught and his expression dropped.

 

How in spirit’s name did this happen!

Chapter Text

The Citadel

Widow system

 

 

Saren could not believe his luck (which he never believes in as a rule). His new protégé is to be a female Turian. The female Turian engineer that Nihlus had recommended for evaluation and training. This he could work with. He could definitely work with this. The obsessive Spectre had already gone over all her files when he had approved of her submission for candidacy, had a basic background on her; and all Hierarchy soldiers had at least some similar mind sets he could work around and mould into what is needed to be a Spectre. This could actually work.

 

Though he figured the only reason she made the short lists was because she was nominated already, and not from the Council or Hierarchy’s choices. Saren smiled internally at the thought of what Councillor Sparatus’ reaction would have been upon reading the files himself. No self-respecting Hierarchy official would look twice at a file such as that. Probably the same reaction Councillor Aetius had before him upon reviewing Nihlus’s file. But if one of their best ST&R Agents recommends them, there has to be valid reasons that they can’t refute. Now he just needed to hope him and the tarin could survive each other’s personalities and habits during the training period, that she would be dedicated to becoming a Spectre, and would listen to his commands.

 

He still hated to be forced into training someone not entirely his choosing and to share his space, but it could have been much, much worse. He could have had a hyper and nosy Salarian that just wouldn’t know when to shut up; or a naïve nais maiden with wonder lust for him. Although, he did wonder why he was picked to mentor this tarin in specific. It is true that he is well versed in a myriad different fields, engineering being only one of those, but wouldn’t they pair up a student with a mentor that was strong in the fields they were weakest? To complement their abilities and best teach them all they could learn in that weak area?

 

Could also be the Council (or in particular Sparatus) subtly wanted him to fail the Candidate like they did the last one? Or was it because his carmine-plated protégé had recommended her and could not mentor her himself, that they passed the tarin on to him? Spectres needed to be capable in all fields, and experts in a few in order to do their jobs properly. All he could think of was that the engineer needed work in her CQC, in which he was also adept. She was obviously not a biotic, so he could only school her in how to avoid and work around those that do. Tactics maybe? Or to be more well-rounded in weapon use? He will have to evaluate for himself.

 

A very rare and faint smile crawled into his mandibles, accompanied by the faintest of chuckles, before he schooled his expression. He only ever let his guard down with his expressions when alone and safe. He had started to do so with his green-eyed menace, but even with him these things were rare.

 

Jumping up from his seat, he got to work with renewed vigour, ordering the other half of the supplies he would need, while going over the files on the datapad, making sure if there was anything he might have missed from his initial read through them. He noted that even the Spectre Intel files on her did not show a patrem in the records either. Very peculiar. Although, coming from a fringe colony, that is not entirely unheard-of. If the patrem’s name was not filled into the birth certificate, the authorities did not care much, in fact, as long as one parent was mentioned and someone would take responsibility for the fledgling, they didn’t care at all.

 

He would question the tarin on the topic while they were en-route. Along with how she could have the familia notas and clan name of a very old and well respected clan from the homeworld, (the cobalt blue colour was reserved for old and important clans of the homeworld only, Arterius being one of the few) while originating from a fringe world. It did not bother him too much initially, as one’s origin or colony markings did not dictate who you were. He and Nihlus were good examples of this.

 

Now though, he was thinking that she might be some high tier clansman’s illegitimate mahir, and they went through a lot of trouble to keep it hidden. And he wanted to know why. It would not be the first time something to this regard happened. The higher tiered and ranked arranged bondmates of the really old and traditional clans often did not go beyond their duty to the clan, and they sometimes took mistresses in secret, with permission from said bondmate. Sparatus was such an example.

 

Though they tended to avoid procreating with them. Very few clans follow this tradition, but there were still some, in particular the more notable ones. Or the matrula absconded with an unapproved bondmate, hiding out on a fringe world where they could get away with not filing in the completed birth certificate to hide the shame from affecting the rest of the clan. On further inspection, the last option becomes void. The matrula was a barefaced orphan with a common clan name. But somehow, the engineer had managed to be accepted into the Makasian clan, if only peripherally. More questions to his mental list.

 

He also typed a quick message to Nihlus informing him of his turn of luck at new student, and what time he would be leaving the Citadel and comm range all together, as was his standard procedure if the red-plated torin had any further queries for him on his own missions or just wanted to talk as he often did. But this time he got an almost immediate reply.

 

Strange, Nihlus must be on his private console to reply this fast on a secure channel’ came his thoughts. The message was a request for a vidcom. Since Saren had the time, he got comfortable on his couch and accepted the request. The line took some time to connect, indicating that his former student had to be far from any decent comm buoys, but once it did, the picture was clear enough. Nihlus was on his own ship, as he predicted, and which explained the quick and secure message; sitting at his desk it seemed like. His face was altered into a new cover most likely, his plates marred with scars and more brown in tone, along with fake red colony marks.

 

“Nihlus.” he greeted in his usual flat tone.

 

“Hey Saren. How’zit going.” came the joyful reply from the green-eyed torin, leaning casually back in his chair. He never understood how Nihlus could almost always be so happy to see him. Nor his insistence to use the colony slang he grew up with. He had taught the torin the proper way to speak after all.

 

“I am well. The situation has at least turned out to be better than I had anticipated, as I mentioned in my last message. We will gather in the tower at 1400 CST for the public announcement of the new candidates, and when they will be handed over to us for training. After today though, the Spectre Intel Offices will be closed until they can ferry out the intel leak we have that started this whole mess. So if you want anything from there, I suggest you do so now, and then set up your own intel network to provide for you until it is done.” Saren always gave Nihlus a full report on the current situation directly after greeting. No need to waste time with niceties.

 

“Ya I heard. Already have my requests lined up to send once I’m done with you. And good luck with sitting through a Council speech to the public, by the way. Didn’t know they were makin’ a whole show from this disaster.” His tones had shifted into a more business and serious rumble. Good, he still knew when the situation required it.

 

“That they are, but it is their attempt to mask the situation under being ‘nice’ to the militaries by accepting more of their promising soldiers that they constantly try to force us to accept into our fold. They hope to garner more favour with both them and the public by showing their heroes becoming Spectres. Fools.” his subvocals clearly broadcasting his displeasure at the situation.

 

“You can say that again. Not even half of those idiots would last more than two months. And I bet’ya they have more lined up for the Spectres that lose their trainees early too, bastards.” he said, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture to the situation. Saren agreed with the notion and internally cringed at the thought of being saddled with another fool to train if the tarin didn’t measure up.

 

“Language Nihlus.” Was the only answer though, in his deadpan voice.

 

“I know, but you can’t argue with me on that though, I can see and hear it. I know you well enough for that, Saren.” He said in a teasing tone while pointing a finger at him, eyes gleaming with mirth. And just like that, his protégé had turned from serious to playful, it amazed him sometimes how quickly he could switch emotions and even personalities. Saren was not sure how, but the carmine plated Spectre had become rather good at reading him during their training period together. He hated to be predictable, prided himself even in being so unreadable. At least, it only seemed to be Nihlus that could do so, and he intended to keep it that way. Outwardly he didn’t give anything away, only giving a mild glare, so Nihlus just continued.

 

“Anyway, what I actually called you about is I wanted for you to say thank you to your new candidate for me. She was the one that helped get this information on my last mission that lead to us being able to even start tracking down these assholes in the first place. Without her help we wouldn’t have been nearly as close to finding their leader.” He said with sincerity.

 

“That I shall do then. It is good to know she can already operate to some degree in a Spectre mission. Also, Language. Please try to sound more civilised.” Saren said, the jab only coming out with a half-hearted scowl while he was contemplating how this may speed up the training if her level of competence is at what he believes it to be now.

 

Nihlus merely joyfully ignored the last comment. “That she can, indeed. And don’t let her fool ‘ya, she’s a firecracker that one. On the field at least. Won’t let a matter stand if she sees a better way, but follows orders if it makes sense. And I’m try’n to stay undercover as a merc right now. Need to work on my accent and ‘Language’, as you put it, to fit in and not be so suspicious. Been hanging around your high-speaking ass for too long. Lost my old accent and everthn’.” Was Nihlus’s retort, using finger quotes on Language to emphasise his point, but only just holding back a laugh for finally having a reason that Saren could not argue with him to use his normal way of speaking.

 

Saren just sighed, he could not fault Nihlus for trying to work on his cover while he had some time, even if he loathed the way in which he was speaking now. “Very well, Nihlus. What is your current progress with your mission?” he deflected instead of admitting defeat to the argument.

 

“Going well so far. I’m freelancing as a merc right now in order to gather intel on the who’s who to work for. There is apparently a new rising star that is recruiting a lot of help, skilled help only. Our intel suggests that they are related to that particular slave ring. I just have to get my foot in the door and then find out how they operate and who is running it. On my way now to Omega where they are said to do most of their recruiting.” Saren nodded his acceptance of this plan. With the limited intel they had on this subject, it was a good way to find the culprits and work his way into the organisation.

 

“Very well. If there is nothing else you need to discuss, I have a few errands to run before my new student can come aboard. Keep your wits about you, Nihlus. We do not know how much they know of individual Spectre movements and where they are currently located.” It was redundant to say so, but he needed some reassurances for himself that his old protégé would not walk into the situation blindly. He did ….. care … for his wellbeing, not that he would admit it to anyone outside his own headspace. It was only a consequence of having spent the large amount of time and effort in training the torin, which he did not want to see it go to waste after all.

 

“Sure thing Saren. Good luck on taming that tarin.” He gave a smirk, along with mock salute and a wink. Saren just grunted at the insinuation, before disconnecting the call. Once silence filled his space once more, he gave a full sigh, and sagged into his seat a little. He hoped that Nihlus didn’t mean that she would be difficult to work with, and that he was just being his lascivious self again.

 

Contrary to what others might believe, he wanted any student of his to succeed. Well, except for the one. He just pushed them to the limit of their abilities so they would know their own limits or see that they can improve on them, and then helped them do so. Yes, his method was brutal, but it was also very effective. He did not tolerate weakness in either mind or body; but if they wanted to improve on that weakness, he would help them as much as he could. If they did not have the mind-set to at least try, he would not waste his time on them either. And if Nihlus was any indication, the results are well worth it, producing one of the Councils best agents after himself.

 

He allowed himself 5 full minutes to rest and clear his head of all troubling thoughts, before he pulled his normal demeanour back together and set forth in earnest, first returning the things in his kitchen to their original placements, since he no longer would need a separate space for levo-food and utensils, and then setting out to retrieve the more expensive and delicate of his personal ordered supplies.

Chapter Text

The Citadel Tower

Widow system

 

 

The ST&R Agents all arranged themselves around the outside edge of the Council Chamber, augmenting their numbers with some of the Spectre Office personnel and a few Specialists in order to keep the official estimates off about their true numbers and that this would not seem like a desperate move to pair each able bodied Spectre with a trainee; before it was filled with the excited and mixed bunch of Candidates. He even spotted a Drell amongst them. Some of them were glancing around at the scenery, the trees and the view, few getting the privilege to see it in person; others gawking and whispering amongst themselves once they spot particularly well known Agents. Quite a few sneaked a peak at him, and either horror, awe or excitement passed over their features. One torin even seemed to be dumbstruck for a few seconds before he got a hold of himself and stopped gaping. Hrmpff. Fledglings. That one probably wouldn’t last long in the training.

 

He kept his expression neutral and an eagle eye out for his new protégé without it being obvious, cybernetic eyes being useful in that regard, and eventually spotted the tarin. He presumed the other Spectres did the same, trying to get a bead on the person behind the files they received. She blended in well with the group, but for one fact. She resolutely kept her gaze forwards, barely glancing around to get the lay of the land, and then waiting at parade rest for further instructions. A good soldier then, it seemed.

 

After a few assistants arranged them in a particular order at their seats, they all stood at attention, and awaited the Council’s arrival. He noticed that a few of the other Candidates gave his new protégé an appreciative up-and-down look, from both genders and different races. She was, as Nihlus would put it, drop dead gorgeous; the veritable supermodel look for a tarin. In passing he wondered if that did not count for at least some small basis as to why the carmine-plated ST&R Agent had noticed the engineer initially, before she probably impressed him during the mission with her skill. He snorted softly at the thought. That would be just like Nihlus, to recognise her looks before he noticed her combat capability. He cared not for such superficial things, and it seemed that neither did the peach-plated tarin, since she was ignoring any and all looks directed her way. Good, he would not need to worry then that she would try and use her looks against him. That would just be… irritating.

 

The lights dimmed and spotlights lit up each of the Council’s podiums. Tevos likely persuaded the other two to go with the more theatrical introductions since they were publicising the whole event. To that end, several camera drones floated in the cambers to catch the best angles of the event, while several diplomats, military higher-ups and reporters were arranged on the balconies overhead.

 

Saren subtly released a self-replicating virus to the drones that would blank out his features for the next few hours, should one of them get a good look at him where he was standing in half-shadow. They may gladly report verbally that he was here in tomorrow’s news, he just did not feel like being caught on camera with this spectacle right now. If this was a proper soiree or formal event, that would be a different story, it would have a purpose; but as it stands, this was just a glorified publicity stunt.

 

The Councillors began their long-winded speeches about how the Candidates must uphold the peace of the galaxy, how they were the pride of their militaries and must take this great honour and prove their worth to the galaxy. And even though not all of them will succeed, they must take heart in that it is not a disappointment to fail, but a privilege that they have already come this far, and must learn all they could from their mentors, so that if they are to return, they will return better for it. Some might still qualify for becoming Specialists or Assets as well, and would so continue to serve the Council and their people. They had a total of 18 months to complete their training, although they could finish before the cut-off date if their mentor thought them ready.

 

That would be the short version of the hour’s long speeches. Then they finally came to sending out the candidates to their mentors, by calling them out by name and rank, and the appropriate Spectre would step up and collect their new charge, returning to their shadowed spot for the proceedings to officially end. It all looked like some school prize giving ceremony, with Spectres ‘collecting’ their ‘award’ at the Councils behest. Saren almost growled at that thought, but remained unmoved and silent until it was his turn.

 

“Corporal Aiesha Makasian, 27th Military Inelegance Division” she stood up from her seat and moved to the end of the row. Saren almost snorted at the Hierarchy's use and insistence that their Blackwatch agents remain anonymous, and gave her a few seconds to get to her position before he moved out from his spot towards her. As the other Candidates were looking around to see who her mentor would be, the recently elected Councillor Sparatus announced “Will be mentored by Spectre Agent Saren Arterius.” A hushed murmur went through the crowd, while the tarin seemed to be unmoved and expressionless. He was already starting to appreciate her professional attitude, if nothing else.

 

Some of the nearby Candidates looked on in awe, others looked like they wanted to run away in fear as he passed them or that they appeared to pity the engineer. Once he stood next to her, she gave a polite greeting nod, and he gave a barely perceptible one in return, before tilting his head to the side back to where he came from and moving off. She dutifully followed without a word or even a second glance at him. More good points in her favour, she wasn’t stuck on the Hierarchy principle of the subordinate taking the lead, instead following his lead to the exact spot he wanted to enable both of them to stay in partial shadow. The silver-grey Agent could almost feel Sparatus’s scowl at this all the way from his podium. She came to stand at his side in parade rest, and they waited out the rest of the ceremony.

 

It was only now that he noticed that she was slightly shorter than him, but not by much. Saren was not very tall for a Turian to begin with, just barely 6 foot, so it was strange to find another that was shorter than him. Details. He started to subtly map and memorise her features, only because he was bored out of his skull with this ceremony, and would need to easily pick her out of a crowd if they ever got separated while on a mission. As he noted before, she was a beautiful tarin, and would thus be hard to miss really.

 

The bored biotic Agent momentarily wondered how she had managed to blend into the crowd so well earlier when he was initially looking for her. Some infiltration training perhaps? Though her flowing blood blue notas, delicate feminine features and blue eyes the colour of a Palaven mid summer’s day sky should make her stand out more. … And why did he suddenly get poetic about her appearance and eye colour. He gave himself a mental shake and returned his attention to the proceedings, it was definitely taking too long if he started to evaluate her appearance like a piece of art.

 

Finally, finally, they were done. The Councillors gave the Candidates a final congratulations, good luck and then they were dismissed, and the hall began to empty out. The proceedings had gone on much longer than Saren had planned, as it was already late afternoon. He would have to rush his last few errands in order to get some final privacy before the tarin would move in for at least the next month. Internally he keened at the loss of his only true private space.

 

Silver-grey faceplates turned to her, still expressionless, as he opened up his omni-tool. “Here is the dock number of my ship. Along with a list of supplies I have already ordered that you must go and collected in person. The rest is already scheduled to be delivered later today. You are to collect all your belongings and any other personal supplies you might need for the next galactic standard month, and then bring them to the ship. We will not be passing any ports during this time, so no extra supplies can be procured if you run out. I expect you to take no longer than three galactic standard hours to complete this task. We depart tomorrow morning at 0500 Citadel time. Understood?” He listed of her itinerary for her, while she stood at attention and seemed to listen attentively, then looked down to confirm that the beep of her omni’ was the received list.

 

A curt, but not rude “Yes, sir!” was her only response in a rather sweet and melodic voice, before he dismissed her with a nod and she saluted him; turning on a heal and marching off with a purpose. He nodded again in approval and wondered what her previous superiors must have been smoking in order to give her so many demerits for insubordination? She was the perfect soldier with him. Then again, Nihlus had said she followed orders as long as it made sense. He would have to test this theory later. For now, he had places to be.

 

Saren returned to his ship with a hover cart being pulled behind him, full of supplies; and a bag of take out for the two of them for dinner. He did not have time to sit and eat peacefully as he had originally planned, so would do with the peace and quiet of his ship. He quickly packed all of it away in their respective storage cupboards, before securing them for possible rough flight. By the time he was done, he had only an hour and a half left before his new protégé was to return. He sighed and slumped into his couch. Saren was emotionally drained already after the day having to deal with politicians and their grandeur that only wasted his time and frustrated him more, followed by reporters wanting to stop him for a few questions. And now he would barely have enough time to rest and regroup himself before even his private haven was invaded.

 

For a full 10 minutes Saren allowed himself to remain slumped with eyes closed, head tilted back, just listening to the silence of his ship. There was no hum of an active engine, so he only heard the soft whirr of the life-support and a few running electronic systems with his augmented hearing. The stoic Spectre kept his mind blank in this time in order to truly savour it. He enjoyed it so much he almost fell asleep, but was awoken from his meditation by the chime of his airlock from someone wanting permission to enter. Looking at his omni-tool, twenty minutes had passed instead of his allotted ten. He grumbled at himself, but realised that he must have been really tired, and planned to get to bed a bit sooner than he normally would. Or at least try. He was going to need the rest in order to handle an invading presence without getting needlessly angry at them.

 

Gathering himself once more, he gave permission for the airlock to open once the security feed confirmed that it was indeed Makasian. She was early, but he approved of her promptness in finishing her assigned task, instead of taking her last hour of ‘shore leave’ while she still could. It hopefully pointed to a dedication to her training. While the decon cycle took its course, he went up to the door to escort her to her bunk, and begin packing away the parts he ordered. He already decided that he would need to be more explicit when talking to his new mentee, in order for her to understand him, having learned that from the initial weeks with Nihlus. She greeted him again with a curt “Sir.” and a salute. He nodded an acknowledgement with some appreciative subvocals.

 

“This is our home for the foreseeable future. Familiarise yourself with the layout and all of the systems.” He hands her a datapad with the ships specs and layout “You will bunk in that room.” a black gloved talon points towards the first door in the corridor “Next to it is the kitchen, the medbay and my cabin with the bathroom. Your room also doubles as the armoury, so do not move or touch anything in the crates. You have a locker and that will be sufficient for any personal affects you have. Now. Unpack. I will begin storing the supplies, you are to join me once you are done.” She gives him a neutral look and a nod, before moving off with her weapon cases and only a single rug sack. ‘So she brought the bare minimum. Interesting. Something else to ask her about.’ He was also starting to wonder if the tarin had any form of personal expression or individual character. All he has seen is the poster child for a Hierarchy soldier, following orders efficiently and without question.

 

He somehow both hated and loved the prospect. On the one hand she will be easy to give orders to and he could expect it to be followed immediately; while on the other hand, Spectres needed to think independently, and that is a very hard trait to teach a ‘follow-orders-without-question’ soldier. What in Spirits name did he get himself into? Oh, no, wait… the Council got him into this one. A soft growl escaped him, but it was barely audible; before he set about unpacking the new supplies.

Chapter Text

2166

The Citadel Docks

Widow system

 

 

Aiesha Makasian finally let her rigid stance waver, once she was alone in the elevator to her room in the hotel. She hated having to be so uptight, but wanted to make a good impression to whoever was to be her mentor. The elevator dinged at her level and she got off as soon as the doors opened enough for her to pass through. She only relaxed again when she took a seat at the desk and terminal in her minimalist room. Nothing more than a drab bed, a desk and a bathroom. She leaned forward onto the desk on her elbows, while scrubbing her peach-coloured faceplates with both delicate white-gloved hands and letting out a defeated sigh.

 

Why. Why did the Spirits hate her so much? Wasn’t it enough that she had lost everything dear to her already? Being ridiculed by fellow soldiers for her background? Bounced around from unit to unit? Not being promoted or even recognised when it was her hard work that made sure the mission succeeded? Only getting token clan name and markings, and even that was almost too much to ask of them! Now she was doomed to fail in her Spectre training before she even began, her only light in the darkness that was currently her life, because she had Saren spirits-damed Arterius for a mentor! Everyone knew what he was like. Ruthless but efficient, and anti-social even on the best of days. He did not tolerate anyone of sub-par performance in anything! And would probably shoot her as much as train her. And that is before all the barefaced comments come into play, or the rumours that he had even killed his own fraten!

 

When the summons had come through that she was to report to the Citadel for Spectre training, she had thought that Agent Kryik would be her mentor, as he was the only ST&R Agent she has ever encountered and that saw her in action in the field. She knew he was impressed with her performance because she was able to keep up with him for the entire mission and even provide him with the information she had gathered on that slaver ring they were sent to take down, constantly looking her way when the torin thought she wasn’t looking, evaluating her. Apparently that is not how things worked and was further surprised by the amount of inductee’s that were present at the ceremony.

 

All of her fellow soldiers had begrudgingly congratulated her before she was sent off on a different ship that was already headed to the Citadel. It was almost the only time they had shown her any kind of respect at all. If she was to return a failure, she would never again regain that respect and be stuck in her low rank no matter how hard she would work at it. And they would have a new thing to tease and taunt her with, she could already hear Lieutenant Vespilio nicknaming her ‘spectre-dropout’. His current favourite had been ‘rank-banger’ or ‘shorty’. Or Commander Livianus saying her suggestions would have no merit, she couldn’t pass at playing Spectre, what business would she have to command the unit?

 

If Aiesha was not going to make any sort of life for herself in the Hierarchy military, what was left for her to do? Even if her term of service was over soon and she were to join some company as an engineer, the Turians there would treat her much the same as they would a Quarian. Or she could follow in her mari’s footsteps and be an engineer for the fringe worlds. They at least didn’t judge her like that and she would be promoted based on her achievements instead of background. But then that would leave her open to the constant conflict between the Separatists and the Hierarchy. Or any raiding pirates or slavers for that matter. And having such prominent homeworld clan markings would make her a target regardless.

 

She could always become a merc. They always wanted more idiots to join their ranks. The pretty engineer gave an undignified snort at that thought. That would go against everything she was trying to do now, to better the lives of others against such threats as pirates, slavers and random mercs; and the Spectres could help her do so much more in that regard, reach so many more people in need. There was always her other option; but that seemed just as bad. No, in memory and respect for the promise she made to her mari, she would not go any of those two routes even if she had to become a beggar on the streets.

 

Another long sigh escaped her, subvocals humming with displeasure and a little depression. Fine! Aiesha Makasian has never given up before, and she was not about to begin now! She will use this opportunity and work with it as much as the peach-and-tan engineer had with any other situations for most of her adult life. Enough moping like some pouting fledgling, she had things to do. Being glad she had packed away her meagre belongings before she left for the tower, she resolutely got up and dressed in her armour and packed away her ceremonial uniform, expression flat and subvocals neutered into submission and silence with an iron fist, grabbed her bag and gun cases and left the room and her depression behind.

 

Her iron will for controlling herself in all aspects of life will be her best friend in the coming months. There will be no room for second guessing herself or doubting her abilities if she is to make it, and knowing that Arterius also kept his subvocals hidden, maybe that would be a good thing. She will show them all what she is made of, starting by completing her first task with utmost fervour and expedience, not compromising on quality. This is to be her new motto and she will stick to it.

 

Once the rented skycab landed, she hacked away at its pitiful security, took manual control and overrode its speed safety protocols. Following the map only to see the shortest route to the addresses of the shops, with the least amount of traffic and speed monitoring points. Once she had all of her mentor’s supplies, she went into a general store and got herself the basic cleaning supplies she would need for herself, a few luxuries in terms of canned or freeze dried foodstuffs; and her one and only indulgence, one slab of dextro-chocolate. She would nurse it to last as long as it could.

 

She also bought some Asari energy-booster drinks and a few basic medical supplies. Long ago she had learned the value of energy drinks designed for biotics, though since it was near impossible for one to attain the Cable specific drink without questions and definitely not in general stores, the engineer has taken to getting regular enzyme supplements to allow her to digest levo-foods. The quick boost in energy has been a lifesaver in the field when stims were not an option, or to help her body recover lost energy from living off stims for too long. The store versions were nowhere near as good as the military grade stuff, but it still did the job sufficiently. And she had a feeling she would need it during her training now more than ever.

 

Seeing as she was done with everything and had no intent on enjoying her last hour or so for herself, she made for the docking bays. Finding the Spectre’s small but elegant ship, the Daedalus, docked with a few supply crates waiting to be loaded through the ramp. She took a deep, steadying breath one last time. ‘Al right, this is it. Be the good soldier, follow orders without question, … until the grumpy bastard asks something stupid that is. Leave him be when he isn’t engaging you, be polite and keep to yourself. He just needs to see your skills for himself. He doesn’t care much else about you. He just wants to know if you can get the job done.’ Face set in a neutral position, she pressed the entry lock to ask permission to enter. After a few seconds, she was granted entry after she was scanned, of course. His paranoia is understandable given his vocation.

 

When the decon cycle was done, she pushed the hover crate in front of her, greeting her new mentor with a curt “Sir.” and a salute. He gave her a greeting nod and she was sure she heard appreciative subvoclas for a second, before giving her the layout and specs of the ship, pointed out her room, (Spirits I have my own room!) even if it doubled as the armoury, and instructed her to unpack and then help him to pack away the supplies. She returned an acknowledging nod, before she moved out to comply with his orders, feeling his eyes boring through her back as she went.

 

She still couldn’t believe she had her own room, she mused to herself while unpacking her few belongings, smiling internally. She hadn’t had her own room since before bootcamp. And…. He called it home…. However temporary it turned out being, this was home. Since Aiesha always stayed at a low rank, she never moved up to officers training and accommodations, sharing bunk beds or sleeper pods in large cabins with the rest of the patrol and ship’s crew. And her deployments were never truly home either, not since the two room apartment she had with her mari. The new room was still small, hardly larger than a closet space with all the crates, but it was her space now.

 

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all, she could escape here in her off time and have some peace and quiet; and going off of Arterius’s anti-social reputation, he would enjoy her being out of his fringe for a while and the ship being quiet. So that solves any alone time issues, now to find out how they get along the rest of the time; but considering she had learnt to live with assholes that just wanted to ridicule her in close quarters all the time, she didn’t think it would be too hard to adapt to a murderous sociopath that didn’t care about her in the slightest.

 

When she was done unpacking, she placed her one and only personal effect on her terminal desk. A holo of her and her mari on her graduation day, when she was officially accepted into the Hierarchy military with a rank and tier. Since she came from a fringe colony, she was not born into the Hierarchy system with even a tier one rank, and would only be accepted if she completed her training and went out on deployment. Mari had been so proud of her that day. Even the delay at the hall entrance, where the guards refused her entrance based on her bareface status until she provided the invitation, couldn’t dampen her mood. The week of leave afterwards at home was the best and happiest Aiesha could remember them both being in a long time, before her deployment.

 

That sense of happiness she got from looking at the holo had gotten her through many a tough night where she just wanted to give up on it all, she would remember what and who she was fighting for, not with whom.

 

It was also the last she saw her sweet-hearted mari alive ever again. She stopped that thought before it began and shook her head to right herself. Right, she needed to play good little soldier girl until she knew where she stood with the cranky Spectre; and he was waiting for her to help with the loading and sorting of supplies, no distractions. ‘No time like the present.’ She gave a quick look through where what storage compartments were on the ship so she knew where to put the supplies, and then she got her game face back on and marched out of her new room to go do just that.

 

Arterius was busy sorting through the crate she had brought in on the mess area’s table, and packing away all the items in the first pile. She came to a standstill in front of him and saluted again. “Sir, where do you wish for me to begin?” she requested neutrally. She could just start by grabbing one of the crates outside and unpacking it; but this was his ship and maybe he didn’t trust her to put things in whatever place he had designated for it. From her initial look around, she could see he was fastidious about placement and cleanliness. Best not begin this on the wrong foot.

 

“You may begin by bringing in the rest of the crates outside. This ship does not have a true cargo hold, so supplies are stored on this level mostly. Once you have brought it all on board, I will give you piles to store in the specific overhead storage compartments. Now go.” He said with his head still mostly in the crate, bent over it, while sorting through the next pile of items that seemed to be medical supplies for his medbay. He dismissed her with a wave of his talons, and since he wasn’t looking, she just turned around and walked to the airlock again. Once all was brought aboard, he started to pile the new supplies into specific heaps again, and then giving her a pile to store after directing her to the specific compartment for it. This continued for about an hour, and afterwards the silver-grey bastard even went and double-checked her work. He only had to move a few items, but it seemed to be more because of OCD than to annoy her.

 

“Acceptable. Now, I bought us dinner. I will reheat it while you bring some plates and cutlery.” Everything he said to her seemed to be measured, but neutral, like he wanted to see if she would react to him in any way other than the same. Well then, if it’s mind-fuckery he wants to try, she got news for him.

 

Keeping her voice and features just as neutral as his own, subvocals as dead as a graveyard, she said “Yes sir.” And headed off to do just that. She could feel his glare to the back of her cowl, and smiled mischievously to herself. ‘That’s right, asshole. I’m no pushover. It takes a lot more to provoke anything out of me.’ Returning with the needed items, they ate in relative silence; he rose a brow plate at the amount of food she took for herself but otherwise they did not glance at each other the entire meal.

 

Once he was done, he looked up directly at her, elbows on the table and hands clasped in front of his face. She did the same, with her hands in her lap, once her meal was done as well; but waited for him to begin, as was proper procedure with a higher ranking officer. The stalemate lasted several minutes, in which time she took to truly look at his features. He might be an infamous ST&R Agent, but this was the first time she took to study his features, like she saw him do to her at the ceremony. ‘Wow, those cybernetic eyes are really striking. Along with the Valluvian horns and what seemed like completely pale silver plate and hide, and Saren Arterius is one unique individual.’ she mused to herself; wondering in passing how he could ever do any infiltration missions with features as recognisable as those. Then again, she managed just fine; and there were always people on shore leave that would tell her in all manner of forms how striking and beautiful she was herself. Not that she paid them much mind. A soldier did not care for physical appearance, so she didn’t either.

 

Finally, the pale Spectre decided to talk. “My previous protégé sends his thanks for your help in gathering the data, it has helped him on his mission and for that you also have my thanks. You have also done well to follow my orders thus far; but to become a Spectre, you need to be more independent than that. From what you have shown me, I even doubt if you have a personality at all, let alone independent thought. If that is the case, you may take your belongings and return to your unit right now, and save both of us the time and effort of disappointment later on.” he gestured with his one hand as he spoke. She accepted his thanks mentally with grace, then bristled at the insult, but didn’t let an ounce of it show externally; and stopped herself when she realised he was deliberately trying to rile her up. Well then.

 

Answering in a polite and neutral tone to offset his blatant jab, she said “Sir, I can assure you that I do in fact have my own thought and personality. I was just not aware that it would be important for the training of a Spectre, and so have merely been following standard procedure for a soldier when interacting with a superior. If you wish for me to act otherwise, I shall do so, sir.” That was as diplomatic as she could make it, while proving she had the spunk to talk back to a superior, regardless of who he is. Still no subvocal queues for him to go off though. Now to see if that was the right move.

 

He eyed her almost suspiciously for several more minutes, in which she did not flinch from his intense glare. Internally she was stressing that she may have pushed too far and her gut wanted to fall down a bottomless pit as he kept on staring at her, motionless, but she held herself together. He narrowed his eyes at her for a second, before returning to his own neutral expression with no subvocals, seeming to have made up his mind about something.

 

“It seems like I will have to teach you what is truly required from a ST&R Agent of the Council. Unsurprising, since few really do. Your personality says much of the kind of Agent you will be, and is as fundamental as your skillset for this purpose. Therefore, I want you to act of your own accord; but not question orders to the point of ridiculousness. Do everything for a reason. For now though, I will settle with giving you some homework.” He hands her a datapad that had remained on the table during their dinner “This is a copy of Current Galactic Law. Learn it. As a Spectre, we may be above most laws, but we are accountable for those actions to the Council themselves, and it reflects on them as a whole. As such, you need to know what it is that you are enforcing on others, before you can bend or break it when needed, and to determine when it is appropriate to do so. You have the rest of the evening off. Be ready for departure by 0430.” And with that he dismissed her.

 

Taking her ‘homework’ under an arm, she moved both their dishes to the kitchen, washed it without prompt; and then returned to her room and closed the door. ‘There is the proof of independence for you Spectre. See you in the morning, grumpy.’ She thought gleefully, before settling in on her bunk and began to read the ship specs and full layout. She knew he did not specify everything in his ship, it basically being a prototype in it’s own right with all the additions and modifications he’s added. It’s what the engineer in her would do with access to the latest gizmos before they even appear on the military market, and she spied some features that elude to more than what she is seeing on this schematic.

 

It was all irrelevant guesswork as to what he has right now, and she could make improvements with even basic mods on some of the layout. Useless specs tossed aside, she moved on to the massive Galactic Law e-book, eventually falling asleep with it still in her hands.

Chapter Text

The Citadel Docks

Widow system

 

 

Saren watched the tarin return to her room, after finishing cleaning their dishes that he had not asked her to do. He approved in the taking of initiative and responsibility to keep the ship clean; but right now she was a rather confusing mystery for him to solve. She did not use subvocals - which in and of itself was an irregularity in their people, a sign of dishonesty most of the time- she followed his orders but was willing to stand up to him when he tried to bait a reaction out of her, but only by answering diplomatically as if saying ‘try again’.

 

When he used this tactic on others, they either wilted under his gaze and confessed, or became enraged and tried to defend themselves verbally, sometimes physically. Nihlus had been the latter after he got over being awestruck at having a Spectre notice and mentor him. The peach-and-tan tarin reacted like none of the norms he had come to expect; an enigma. Gloved talons raked over his fringe and crest in frustration. He needed to figure her out in order to know her triggers, to push her to her limits and gauge her reactions. Although this pointed to her possibly becoming a very stable Spectre, not prone to reacting based on emotions.

 

Another light growl escaped his throat, what seemed like the umpteenth one just this day. He will then have to interrogate her tomorrow after they enter the four day FTL jump between Relays. He needed all this information to train the stubborn tarin for Spirits sake. And just maybe he can use it to provoke her into a spar, and test his theory on her CQC ability. Then he needed to ascertain just how good an engineer she is, and what information she might be lacking on in other fields. Her files state that she specialised in shields and engines. Defence being her primary role on ground missions. So she was most likely always placed at the back, away from most of the action. Not ideal positioning to get used to Spectre training.

 

There wasn’t much more than sparring, data dumping on her and weapon maintenance that could be done while in the confines of his ship. Once planet side though, there was a myriad of things he needed to test out. Endurance in the various climates, along with ability to survive in said environments for extended periods of time. Range practice in all weather conditions with all weapon types, and then he can start setting up scenarios for infiltration and scouting…. And he was getting ahead in his planning again. Basic survival and shooting first. Depending on how well she adapted, he would work from there.

 

Black covered talons made a few notes on his omnitool, before he got up. The day’s events weighed heavily on him, but it was not yet done. He still had to make the precise jump calculations for tomorrow’s Relay jump, then the autopilot heading to the next Relay needs to be inputted so he could just activate it and move on to other business. His hydroponics needed a bit of tending, and he could harvest his little mercia berries now. That would make a nice desert one night. Then he needed to check back on his contacts on the Prothean smugglers, to find out if they were well on their way into the investigation or not. There was also an article on the latest Mass Effect physics that just came out that he wanted to read up on. Honestly, he had enough to do without a trainee mucking up his schedule. Alas, he just had to figure a way around it. So, to business.

 

Just as he sat down at his circular CIC, an idea hit him as he glanced at some of the monitors. He had security cameras everywhere on his ship. Ever since his first mission that someone had hacked his airlock and proceeded to lay a trap for him upon his return from wiping out an entire merc base. The then younger Spectre had learned to increase his coding and encryption abilities, and increased security coverage overall after that, it also only increased his healthy, deep-set paranoia. It has only served him well, thus far.

 

As quick as the idea hit him, he delved into the recordings for the armoury from when Makasian came aboard. Maybe he could glance something about her from when she thought she was alone. To his disgruntlement, the engineer kept up her stoic exterior for most of the unpacking. Except for when she entered, and just before she left. ‘I knew it.’ Silver-grey mandibles moved out in a slight smile ‘No one is that expressionless, not even me. But she hides it well.’

 

From the feed he saw something akin to joy on her features upon entering the armoury/ store room/ now her room, but it was as fleeting as a passing shower in a desert. ‘Hmm. So she liked the idea of a private room. Understandable given her rank.’ It still didn’t say much. But the soft smile that spread in her mandibles along with the reverent look in her eyes when she put down a hollo on her work bench was far more telling. Her expression almost morphed into sadness and anger after that, before she buried it and started going over the ship schematics.

 

Upon rewinding and zooming into the holo, he saw an image of an older, barefaced female with the younger tarin in ceremonial uniform at what looks like a graduation ceremony. A quick search revealed that the older tarin was indeed her matrula, and that she was declared deceased only a month after the date of the ceremony. Pirate attack. Interesting. Was that just a memento or her inspiration to fight? He made a quick note again on his omnitool, checked up that the tarin was currently reading up on his ship’s specs, before exiting the security program, and starting on what he originally wanted to do. At least now he had something to work off of.

 

Saren only found his bed at three hours into the night cycle, and they were slated to leave in another four. Three hours of sleep would have to do for now, it’s more than he normally got. He can always catch a short nap during the day while the engineer assimilates the mountain of knowledge he had waiting for her. And after some time willing himself to sleep, his eyes finally fluttered closed and unconsciousness took him.

 

He awoke with a start from his latest nightmare, breathing a little ragged, 10 minutes before he had set his alarm to do so. He had not needed one for years, but always set one in case it was needed. Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered. His body and mind yearned for him to return to sleep, but he willed it away, knowing from experience that his sleep would not come. There was much to prepare for the take-off still. Systems checks, double checking his calculations for the jump, double checking all the stock was securely put away, making and eating breakfast and then putting it all away for flight.

 

While getting dressed in casual clothing, a set with black pants and a light grey shirt and jacket, with dark blue trim along the edges; he noted muffled sounds coming from the common area of the ship. He furrowed his brow-plates in contemplation. ‘What is the tarin up to already?’ The silver-grey torin came out of the hallway to see the pretty engineer in worn and faded, Hierarchy standard grey workout clothes, with his workout equipment set up, busy doing a standard sparring routine that most soldiers begin their day with in the common area. Except she added flare of movements every now and then while attacking the punching bag that made him believe that she is normally faster than this and would use different movements if it wasn’t a static target. These movements were merely habit and to warm-up.

 

In front of the entrance to the short hallway, he notices a faint shimmer. Moving through it, the sound of her hitting the sand bag becomes clearer. Then Saren notices that there is a device just to the side of the hallway entrance, with loose cables running into the wall for power. His right brow plate gave a twitch. She has made a small mass effect shield generator to muffle the sound of her training so as not to wake him. His kitchen has a similar device to muffle the sounds of pots and pans, but….. there was a hole in the wall where the device used to be…. His brow plate gave a few more twitches before moving into a scowl. ‘She tampered….. with my ship…… without permission….

 

Low subvocal growl of displeasure escaped him against his will. The only thing that kept him from going into a fit of rage over this is because she had done so as to not disturb him while he slept. Insubordinate but because she is considerate. He wasn’t sure what to do with that. It had been a long time since anyone did anything while taking his well-being into consideration.

 

“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll have everything back the way it was even shinier than before, once I’m done.” Came a huffed but emotionless reply to his glaring at the offending and out of place piece of machinery on the floor. The tarin had apparently seen him trying to make it return to where it should be with his scowl alone. The peach-and-tan engineer had not even stopped her movements or glanced directly at him. Maybe he should utilise this opportunity to test her CQC ability, and work off some of his anger in the process. Hopefully she could at least handle that much…

 

“Very well. Finish your warm-up. Once you are done, you will show me the extent of your ability. But then we must prepare for departure, and you will replace everything to their proper place.” An annoyed subvocal growl escaped him at the last bit. The blue-eyed tarin glanced at him again but did not comment or cower away from him as so many others would have, returning to her workout. It was… perplexing. Even his knife-loving former student had been somewhat afraid of him initially, still is to a degree, mixed in with his awe and healthy respect for the Spectre.

 

Saren had his ruthless and hard reputation for a reason. That this female had no sense of self-preservation or caution around him, was baffling and confusing. Turing around back to his room to change into his own workout clothes, keeping his inner thoughts to himself; he quickly stopped the confusing rambling he was doing and set his mind to the task at hand. He only had half an hour or so for this, before the pre-flight prep needed to be done. Not enough time to do a full test of her ability but enough to ascertain the level of competence that he was working with at the very least. Breakfast will have to be moved to after take-off then, but it is an acceptable change. The Spectre half expected to have to deal with a whiney wake-up call at least for the first few days. Maybe he should stop comparing her to his experience with Nihlus, she was proving to be so different after all.

 

When he returned to the common area, she had already returned the punching bag to its storage compartment, removed the sound muffling shield from its spot in the hall and was busy replacing the wall panel she opened to get access to the power cables beneath. The kitchen wall was already fixed as well. Once done it looked exactly like it had before. Saren was pleased that he would not have to teach her to return things to how it should be, at least she had that much logic. The stoic torin nodded his acceptance of the deed and results, went through a quick warm up himself and took up a defensive stance on the mats, waiting for her.

 

“What do you want me to do, sir?” the tarin asked with a raised brow plate once she joined him, voice completely flat and neutral.

 

Saren huffed at that. “Since I need to make myself painstakingly clear, I will put it in more simple terms for you. Show me what you can do.” Again, she didn’t rise to the bait and merely nodded at him. He frowned at her lack of reaction, but kept focus on her stance and readied himself for her first move. Her grey workout clothes clung to her petite form, so it was easy to notice any twitch of muscle movements. Except the Candidate stood loose and to the side slightly, hands clasped behind her back, considering him. Was this a standoff or a spar? Though he did not recognise the technique, he presumed it was to lull the opponent into a false sense of ease or just confuse them. It was working as the latter, somewhat.

 

And then it happened. The delicately built tarin exploded at him with a lightning speed even he was not anticipating, and even with his quick reflexes and augments, he barely managed to get his arms up in time to block her kick to his face. The force of her kick was also more than he though was normal for someone of her slender build, more like that of a torin built like a heavy arms specialist. Evidently, she must have quite the dense muscle structure to achieve this without looking bulky. With their close proximity now, he glanced the glitter of excitement and anticipation in her eyes for the second she held the position, before swinging into a flurry of blows at his midsection, neck and face. The only reason he could keep up with his blocking was because he was so adept at reading his opponents movements, and fast enough himself to react, if only just.

 

Once his mind got into the rhythm of her attacks, what to look for and how to react, he had time enough to study her technique. The speed was obvious, along with the more flexible movements of a tarin, and she added small movements to her hands, hips and legs to try and throw him off. She used a myriad of techniques as well, from Hierarchy standard for both genders, to barley legal moves used in pitfights, and even some used by Asari commandos. The latter was surprising to see in one of his kind.

 

But… the individual blows themselves were not well rounded, not perfect. The peach plated engineer ultimately took speed, variety and force over fluidity and grace of movement. They will have to work on that. Considering that if they could iron out those problems, she might not just be better and faster than current, it would improve her economy of movement overall. Delight crossed his mind at finding a worthy opponent, however. These chances were rare after all, as not many could even present a challenge to him.

 

Done with his initial assessment, Saren decided it was time to fight back and see how she handled an opponent of better skill, if not speed. Her next hit to his midsection he dodged and retaliated with a blow of his own. Worn grey workout clothes just brush his pale knuckles as she dodged, using the change of momentum to launch her next attack, a kick to his knee. Saren spun a bit and stepped back to avoid it just enough, before using a combination kick and punch with opposite limbs. She rolled out of his reach, before jumping back into his space and grabbing for his fringe from his more open side.

 

Every time he would attack, she would flow, roll or jump out of the way; before using her speed to get around him and attack at whatever open or weak spots she could find, which weren’t many if he didn’t present them to her. But the silver-plated torin had the upper hand in skill and wished not to use it just jet, only matching her move for move. He was assessing her after all, so every now and then he would move the difficulty up a bit and see if the engineer could adapt and keep up.

 

Both of them had been able to leave fine, superficial scratches and bruises on the other with their glancing blows after several minutes. Although, it would not take much improvement for her to become a true challenge for him, and he revelled at the thought. His carmine protégé was one of the few that could present a challenge to him if he truly put his mind to it.

 

After several more minutes of this back and forth, he decided he has seen enough for now. Her hand-to-hand was not an immediate concern to work on, and he would end this by showing her just how much she still had to learn. He deliberately left himself open and she took the bait with a swift high kick for his face. Peach-and-tan ankle was caught in silver palm and black talons instead of just blocked, but she surprised him by pulling a move that is near impossible for one of their kind. While he gripped her ankle, she used it as a pivot point and pressing his hand down with her weight, launching herself with her other foot into another kick that connected to his face, twirling horizontally mid-air, the twisting motion freeing her foot from his grip.

 

Staggering back a few steps from the force and surprise, letting go of his hold, tasting blood from around his teeth; she had landed on both hands and feet and used his momentary surprise to trip him. Saren caught himself before the fall, but she was on him and grappled his one hand to his back, the other was pinned with her knee and weight, straddling his lower carapace, other hand going for a chokehold in an incapacitating move. He did not go down easily, but the surprise factor allowed her to get the momentary upper hand.

 

The problem with this move was the surprise factor along with the dangerous chokehold. If he so much as moved wrong she could snap his neck even by accident, and Saren’s biotics flared to life on honed instinct with the barest flick of a wrist and roll of a shoulder, blasting the tarin from his back. He was at least able to minimise the force of the blast enough so as not to kill her and only hit her into the wall instead of denting it. She let out a yelp of surprise before she grunted at the blow to the wall, sliding down to a sitting position and shaking her head, both of them panting from the exertion, although him to a much lesser degree, more from the sudden adrenaline rush. His biotics lingered on her skin for a second like a ghost flame, before it dissipated.

 

“Not bad,… but you lack finesse.” Saren managed between breaths. Peach faceplates nodded at him from the floor, but still looked dazed. He hummed consideringly while he came over to inspect the damage, kneeling before her. Her breath was fast, pupils were blown wide and did not react fast enough when he tilted her head into the light with a thumb and forefinger on her chin. Her reaction to this move also took longer, and was lethargic, as she pulled her eyes away from the most likely painful bright light. “Seems like you have a slight concussion. May this be a lesson to not try any surprise tactics of that nature on me in the future. I do not react well to those.” His sub-vocals humming with the hint of a warning and command.

 

The engineer gave a slight nod in return, wincing at the movement while he turned to his omni-tool to scan her to verify the injury. As he suspected, a light concussion and some bruising. Nothing serious, but he wanted her fully cognisant. “Go to the medbay and take care of your injuries, there is an automated medbot, just activate it. I will deal with the pre-flight and take-off procedures.” He said not unkindly. He was honestly impressed with her level of skill and speed, and even enjoyed the spar. For that, the tarin can get some reprieve from her duties for now, and get healed up first. She got up on shaky legs but refused his hand when he offered it, leaning on the wall with one hand, while the other held her head, all the way to the medbay. ‘Well’ he thought to himself ‘at least she is determined enough and does not need babying.’ He left her on her way and set about getting them ready to leave, after taking a quick shower and dressing in his casuals again.

Chapter Text

The Citadel Docks

Widow system

 

 

Shit…… Ow…… fuck….. forgot he’s a biotic as well; brilliant move, Aiesha. Forgetting one of your opponent’s strongest abilities, just because he wasn’t using it.’ Came her mental tirade at herself while she tried to focus on the activation procedure for the medibot. Focusing through the nausea and blurry vision was not an experience she would like to repeat, but was not unfamiliar with. She knew he would be good, and that she would need to catch him by surprise with a move he wouldn’t anticipate from a Turian, in order to even get the upper hand on him for a second. It worked and he had seemed to have enjoyed the fight enough not to call her out on her barely legal moves for a spar. Even getting to pin him in a move that would have him concede the round to her.

 

And then his biotics…. Admittedly, she deserved that for surprising a Spectre who would usually react violently to such a situation, especially since the position was such that she could have easily killed him. But he wanted her to show him what she could do, and she did. After all, criminals won’t stick to legal sparring rules.

 

She stripped from her clothes, having at least a few good bruises in other areas than her head, knowing a thing or two about how these medibots worked, not details but enough to get one started, before she hit the final activation key and lay back to let it do its job. This will probably take a while. The machine beeped and whirred to life, a sound that was strangely comforting to her, before wincing as the machine got to work, the mild painkillers and stims taking a while to kick in. Her pain and medication addled mind started to wander, never being able to completely blank her mind of all thought. Her mentor now knew she was capable at least, if not perfect, in her hand-to-hand technique, and she could probably look forward to more morning sessions like this. Hopefully the end result would not have her in similar states every time, just sore, maybe. Hopefully.

 

As the peach plated engineer lay there waiting with the machine working away, she heard the engines come to life and the docking clamps disengaging from the ship. ‘So, off we go to whatever hell planet he has in mind for training.’ She just knew somehow that that was his plan, at least initially. But after this morning’s session, she had hope to stay on for at least a few more weeks. That is all she could do for now, give everything her all and hope it is good enough to keep her on as a Candidate.

 

When the machine beeped it’s completion about an hour later, she got up and dressed again; finding her way to the main cabin without a splitting headache. ‘Yay for modern medicine.’ She found the silver Spectre in his CIC ring, already showered by the smell of his minty soap, dressed in civvies and piloting them to the Relay queue. She was just about to come stand behind him with the standard salute and a ‘reporting for duty, sir’, when he caught her with his blue cybernetic eyes.

 

He nodded at her before saying “You may take leave for a shower, if you wish; but I would advise a change out of your workout clothes regardless. We are done with physical activity for the time being.” He waved her off with a dismissive gesture and returned his attention to the flight controls.

 

Something odd niggled at the back of her head though and it wasn’t the lingering effects of the concussion or the medication, as she nodded politely and headed to her room. He was distracted with something beyond flying the ship; but she had no idea what that was. It unnerved her a little. So a blissfully hot shower sounded wonderfully distracting right now. She grabbed her soap, a towel and one of her two sets of civvies that she owned, and headed off to his cabin for her shower.

 

Upon arrival, she noted that his cabin was as minimalist as the rest of the ship. It was… slightly odd to see. Even in the minimum space in a ship’s crew quarters, each individual had something that was distinctly them, even if it was put away in a locker most of the time. Here, the silver Spectre had a whole room to himself, whole ship even, and yet, …. nothing… all utilitarian grey, black and white. Here and there were some obvious weapons neatly displayed, and Aiesha knew he had more hidden throughout the ship as well, she would. Making a mental note to look up the psychology behind his overall behaviour later, she entered the small bathroom and set about taking a shower.

 

Once the peach plated tarin was done, feeling refreshed and ready for the day, she returned to the main cabin to find her mentor still at the CIC, but the ship being on autopilot, because his attention was elsewhere on another monitor. Playing the dutiful soldier girl once more, she saluted him with a “Ready and awaiting orders, Spectre” with no subvocal queues. The grey bastard merely nodded at her without looking away from his work, before he transferred a few files to his onmitool, he got up and motioned her to the mess area’s table. She dutifully obeyed, turning to him with a questioning browridge, and sitting opposite him on the small, rectangular table, her back to the wall. There, a simple breakfast of some meat and grains awaited them, and they ate in silence. Once they both were done eating and comfortable, he just kept staring at her, consideringly. She returned his gaze with neutrality, waiting for him to speak first. It was a bit unnerving, but she didn’t fidget or look away. ‘Show no weakness.’

 

After several minutes of this stare-down; the silver Spectre got up from his chair, and paced slowly, almost menacingly, in-front of her and the table, never taking his eyes off her; before he finally spoke, tone neutral. “Makasian, I am going to ask you several questions, and I want the full truth from you, not even an omission of facts. If you do not comply for whatever reason, I will turn this ship towards the nearest port and drop you off. If I discover that you have been withholding information from me at a later stage, the same rule applies.”

 

He stopped pacing and turned to her, hands behind his back, staring her down until she gave him an acknowledging nod. “I must know these answers to ascertain if you would make a good ST&R agent for the Council or not. We cannot risk having an unstable person become one of our own with the powers we wield. You yourself should know one can still hide things from the Hierarchy psychologists.” The last part wasn’t a question, but she nodded at the statement anyway.

 

“Good.” He stated with the slightest hint of what seemed to be an evil smile to her. It sent an involuntary, but luckily mostly unnoticeable shiver down her spine. If he noticed, he didn’t show it. The pretty engineer wasn’t sure if she was glad or not. If he saw it and ignored it…why? Then the thought hit her ‘He’s trying to unnerve me, keep me off balance. Common interrogation tactics. Well then..’ and she mentally composed herself and readied for whatever invasive questions he wanted to ask, before he continued. “You continue to make a mystery of yourself, even when it would benefit you not to do so. Why?” He started to pace a short distance back and forth, like a caged Ugentira, just waiting for it’s chance to pounce the moment the gates were opened.

 

‘So, straight to business then, is it?’ was her thoughts, before taking a second to word her answer carefully. “As you read in my file, Spectre, I am not well received by my peers. It has merely become a defensive habit. The less they know of me, the less reaction they can goad out of me; the sooner most of them will leave me be. Those that continue to pester me have personal agendas or hatreds towards my origins. If I give them nothing else to attack me with, one can become accustomed to the verbal teasing’s and ignore it more easily. I believe you yourself would know a thing or two about that from boot camp with just your appearance alone, sir.”

 

A silver-grey mandible gave an almost imperceptible twitch. ‘Struck a nerve there. He probably thought this would be a one-way interrogation.’ She mused with satisfaction, but did not let it show or push it any further, waiting for him to pose the next question. The engineer didn’t need to push him away with her own invasive questions like she was used to doing, understanding that he wanted his own clarity on who she is. Files gave such a limited and biased view of the person, after all. His methods were just … unconventional, from what she was used to. For just a personnel inquiry, in any case.

 

Arterius responded like he did not react to her last statement in any way. ‘Yup, he is use to hiding just as much from others as well.’ “I am asking the questions, you will answer them.” With only the barest of pauses for her to acknowledge him taking control of the session again, he continued, keeping her in his electric blue stare. “Every time your superiors laid a complaint in your file for insubordinations or demerits, what was the reasons? And why did you continue even when the punishments were keeping you at a low rank, or humiliating you with latrine duty on top of your normal duties?”

 

Same old, same old’ mentally rolling her eyes at the repeat of what every superior does and asks her with every squad transfer. Except, this time, she wanted to be fully truthful and tell him everything, make him understand. As long as he asked the right questions. “I did not conform to their norm, so they were trying to make me want to quit on my own, or forced to follow their standard. Which I do not agree with. The system is flawed. Good in principle, but still flawed. If an individual with better knowledge or tactical ability, or even just potential, wants to voice improvements to their superiors, or just as suggestions, it is seen as insubordinate or questioning commands. I initially only asked ‘why?’ in order to learn the reasons for what we are to do or how it is done, so as to learn what is a good order, or if I can improve on it. They did not see it as such. If I only ever followed orders, how am I to improve my ability without understanding?”

 

Arterius quirked an eyeridge at that. “If it did not go well for you to do so, why did you continue?”

 

“Because I learned as I went, and then the question became more like suggestions on how to do the missions better in my opinion. They thought I was trying to undermine their authority. I did stop it for a while and pretended to become the perfect soldier that they wanted me to be, that is when they finally gave me a promotion and I was transferred to Blackwatch. But a mission went badly once, and I knew of a better way to have done things and even predicted that the situation would be good for an ambush. I voiced that last concern and was overruled. And I did nothing to prevent it…

 

“From then on I tried to enact my plan even if my superior dismissed it. It has saved my squad more than once, while still completing the mission, and it is how I met Spectre Kryik in the first place. Obviously, it did not help my cause otherwise, but they could never gather enough reason to demote me, because ultimately, my tactics saved the day. But my first priority was always completion of the mission, secondary was to get out with as many of our squad as possible. All of my actions never directly put my squad in more danger than they already were, as I left a turret or a drone to help cover the flank that I had to leave.”

 

The Spectre nodded in seeming understanding but still asked, never ceasing his pacing “You do understand that the failure of the mission and the loss of any in the unit was purely the responsibility of your superior? Why would you assume that responsibility upon yourself?”

 

“Because I saw a better way to do things and did nothing!” She burst out in sudden anger, fists slamming into the table. “I put in the report that I did voice my concern for an ambush and was ignored, but nothing came of it. I did not blame myself for their failings, short-sighted assholes that they were, merely th-”

 

Arterius cut her off with a terse and stiff “Language, Makasian” I light growl as warning to his displeasure, while he had stopped his passing for a moment to glare at her, before he continued and motioned with his head for the peach toned tarin to continue as well.

 

Which she did without apology to her previous words, but with a milder tone. “That I could have done better myself. From then on, I voiced my concern with an alternate plan; and if I was ignored, I enacted my own plan, using my squad’s standard tactics as a backdrop for whatever I planned. It has caused my unit to have the best success ratio on missions in the majority of Blackwatch. And yet, I only receive demerits for acting on my own; while the squad leader takes all the glory.” And she realised she was rambling her problems before a Spectre, raised her voice even, but did not show an iota of emotion in her voice or face otherwise. But her eyes burned with the indignation done to her.

 

The stoic torin seemed to see that in her, and accept her explanation for it without further comment on her tone, or so she hoped; before he continued “Now I want you to use your subvocals when you answer the next questions.”

 

The petite engineer stared at him for a second, taken aback and not sure what to make of his request or what the end result might be from it. In the end, she had said to herself that she would do everything she could to pass this, and that left her with one choice. Allowing her face to show some of her emotions in front of another for the first time since her mari’s funeral, she answered with tentative but reserved subvocals “Very well, sir. I will try.” It has become such a habit to hide both from the world, it felt strange to let go, even a little.

 

“Now convince me why you want to become a Spectre? Is it merely to escape the oppression of the Hierarchy against who you are? Or for the power we wield?” The silver-grey Spectre asked, a warning laced into his voice. So this was his game. The bastard wanted to find out her motives for even being here. Well, if he wanted a heartfelt plea to stay, or angry indignation at what he was insinuating; she would throw him for a loop. Again. And that would be a better representation of who she is than any of his questioning could bring out at this stage.

 

“It is not hard to figure out that I am not happy with how the Hierarchy has treated me, Spectre. An I’m sure I’m not the only one out there;” her sub-vocals rang with the anger and resentment towards what had been done to her “but I will not let something as petty as self-pity rule my choices. Nor the allure of power over those that once ruled over me, my mari taught me better than that.” Honesty and conviction now coloured her tones, head held high and following his every move.

 

After a second’s pause to let it sink in what she had said, she added with sky-blue eyes boring into his electric silver-blue ones “I wish to join ST&R for the same reasons I stuck through my term of service so far, and why I was glad to join Blackwatch, regardless of the opposition I faced. To serve and protect those who do not have the means or the capability to do so themselves. My file should reflect my particular reluctance to give mercy or take pirates or slavers in alive. That is why I wish to join the Spectres. To protect the galaxy from threats that want to tear up our apparent peaceful existence, to protect lives, sir; without the overbearing restrictions of idiot politicians in the way if I find enough reason to do so. Regardless of race. And before you ask sir, yes, I know that becoming a Spectre won’t increase my tier ranking, and I don’t give a f-…. I don’t care about that in the least.” True belief in what it is she wants to do with the position ring in her tones, so much so that any Turian nearby would have to be deaf not to believe her. It was probably why he asked her to use subvocals, one might subvert the truth, but never outright lie. As long as she could hold her tongue, that is. It seemed to nearly have a mind of it’s own right now.

 

The Spectre seemed to accept her answer for the honesty that she portrayed, even if he seemed irked by her almost slip-up of words, and she relaxed a little at that. ‘At least he knows my motives are true, I hope.’ The next question had her frozen and tensing up all over again though, his relentless pacing never ending but to occasionally stop and threw her off from getting use to the rhythm.

 

“So then tell me, why is there no recorded patrem on any of you birth records? I know you know at least something of him, or why it was not recorded.” He was staring at her again, taking in every minute twitch of her reactions. He had obviously seen her freeze up, and knew that she had some information for him. Internally the peach and tan engineer was swearing and warred with herself on how to answer, she had made a promise after all not to tell anyone…. But … She needed to be truthful with the Spectre.

 

“I’m waiting for your answer, Makasian.” He said tersely, and she realised she had stared off into the opposite wall long enough to annoy him.

 

And in that was her answer, he was a Spectre. If he really wanted to utilise his resources and dig deeper, he would eventually find out and she would be on the next shuttle back to her old unit, if he didn’t just outright shoot her here. Oh, wait, that would dirty up is compulsively clean living space; he would rather dump her on a random planet and leave her to die, saves him a bullet and the effort of cleaning up afterwards.

 

 

The pretty tarin answered tentatively “It was deemed better that no one knew who he was, and they forced mari to stay on the colony and never speak a word of it. His position would have been compromised otherwise.”

 

“That is a redundant answer. Even a senile Elcor could have guessed that. Now divulge the information or I will acquaint you with my airlock.” He snapped back at her. She noted that for all his hiding of emotions, anger was one he showed freely. And he was getting supremely annoyed at her. Well, she had hoped to get away with minimal information; but it was a fool’s hope.

 

With a deep sigh, she drops her delicate face in her perfect little tan palms, elbows on the table; but mostly not showing the turmoil in her face itself. For once, she let her subvocals run rampant though. The Spectre was over-run with sounds of grief, anger, pent up rage not directed at him, trepidation for what is to come, and a small measure of relief; from finally being able to talk to someone, if tentatively.

 

“Very well Spectre. Before I do, I must request that this information does not leave this ship,…. please.” Her tone was pleading now, and she was not looking at his temporarily shocked expression, as her eyes were kept under her hands and looking downwards, mandibles quivering. Not getting any answer from him, she explains further.

 

“I made a promise as a child, long ago to both my pari and mari to never tell another living soul. As an honourable Turian, I keep my word; even if I have to omit facts to do so. This information would have far reaching consequences even now when they are both dead, and influencing more than just my perceived position, which I do not care about in the least. Please do not let this information out or even onto a file anywhere. Others will want to use this for their own agendas and personal gain, while trampling on others to do so, on my pari’s good name, and that I cannot allow. He never deserved any of this.” Peach and tan talons drop to the table, her eyes meeting his to read his expression, her own burning with determination, talons clenching into fists. He had stopped his pacing and seemed to have understanding of some sort in his eyes, though his silver faceplates showed nothing, and then all emotion was wiped from his eyes as well.

 

“You make a good point, Makasian. But I cannot promise such a thing until I have heard the information. Proceed.” And he continued his pacing once more, keeping a pointed look in her direction that stated he is waiting for her to begin.

 

“I am sorry, sir. I cannot. I am already bending my promise, and with that my honour, in even being willing to tell you. If I do not have assurance that this information stays personal and off file, I cannot bring myself to break my promise entirely.” Her features and subvocals hardened and then was hidden again by her impassionate mask, not willing to budge even for him.

 

A light growl laced the silver Spectre’s next words “Do not test my patience, Makasian. I have no quarrel with leaving you on some no name planet with only a beacon. I have much work to do without having to train you as well. Now talk!” his demeanour has now shifted to a more direct menacing pose, yet she stayed firm in her denial.

 

“I cannot, sir. Regardless of what you threaten me with. It is not about me, and as such I am inconsequential. I can make you one promise though, and it is my last attempt to give you the truth without breaking my promise entirely. This information will not have a bearing on the greater galactic community. However, it will upset the delicate balance of the Hierarchy and the current clan standings. That is why it has remained secret for so long.” She let her subvocals hum with the truth of the statement, as well as her stubborn steadfastness in not changing her standpoint.

 

A growl is all she gets for a while, along with the barest hint of surprise that anyone would sand up to him in that manner at all; but the peach engineer could see the wheels turning behind those cybernetic eyes. He was at least thinking it over. Once he stopped the growl and his never ending pacing, he gave her a once over, noting her body language. He seemed to make up his mind, before he hid what little of himself he had shown behind his stoic façade again and returning to a neutral posture. “I am glad to see there are still those among us that have honour in their word. You do realise, however, that you are willing to forfeit your candidacy over something that might not even influence yourself?”

 

“Yes sir. As I said, this is not just about me.” And she remained resolute.

 

“Very well, Makasian. I am willing to believe you, for now. If, as you say, it will not affect the galactic community and only that of Turian society. I am obliged to try and keep the peace by whatever means I deem necessary, even if it is only that of one people, and will thus ‘keep your secret’.”

 

Aiesha was stunned into silence for a few seconds, not believing that Saren Arterius was willing to keep her secret even from the Council. A smug expression crossed his features for a second, probably at her stupefied one, and the fact that he just threw her for a loop like she kept trying to do to him. They both quickly schooled their expressions before she started off again, letting her subvocals give word to her disbelief.

 

“I was not sure you would do such a thing, sir, and for that you have my deepest thanks. I will tell you, but let us perhaps clean up our dishes before I begin? It is a long and involved story. You essentially asked for my life story, and I know you will have more questions once I start.”

 

Arterius thought on this for a second, before he nodded. She got up and they gathered and cleaned their dishes. The Spectre went to check on their heading and ship systems before they were going to be preoccupied for a while, and Aiesha made them both a jug of juice for the duration of the talk. She was expecting it to take a while. She sat it out on the table with a couple of glasses just as he came back from the systems check, and they both got comfortable once more, her seated and him pacing. Aiesha was starting to wonder why he hadn’t paced a dent in the floor yet.

 

“I have given you my patience, Makasian; few receive it. Now enough stalling and start.” He said, not unkindly but warning that his patience is wearing thin.

 

Peach faceplates soften and her head bows in thanks along with her subvocals. “It is appreciated sir, and will be repaid.” Setting her elbows on the table, clasping her hands and letting out a sigh, she begins her story. “To truly tell this tale, I will begin at the start of it all. My mari was born a barefaced orphan and raised along with other orphan children of all races, out in the Terminus Systems by an Asari. Because she was not raised by Turians, she was not fluent in the cultural fine points and never truly fit in; but she was brilliant. She eventually got a scholarship to study engineering at one of the Salarian Union’s most prestigious universities, but when she started work within Council space, she was bombarded with all the common problems a barefaced Turian faced, and she also didn’t have a term of service behind her to back her up. Being very soft-hearted and gentle, she eventually left for a fringe colony where her talents were appreciated regardless of her background.”

 

Taking a breath and a sip of juice to wet her suddenly dry throat, she continued to what was hopefully an attentive audience, though she never looked directly at him, made it easier to tell the story if she pretended that no one was there. “It wasn’t an easy life for her, but she managed and she loved her job at the local spaceport. That is where she eventually met my pari. At the time, mari didn’t know; but he was a spook for the Hierarchy, tasked with rooting out the corruption that has settled into the port city. It might have been a fringe world, but it was under Hierarchy administration. One of the officials had started to smuggle weapons into and out of Hierarchy space. In order to get more information, he was undercover as a dockworker and mechanic. It was not uncommon for people to work two jobs to cover living costs, and this allowed him more access to various areas and hopefully more information.”

 

A reverent look passed over her faceplates, like she was imagining the events as the story unfolded. “They met while repairing a cargo freighter, and he thought she could maybe lead him to more information with her access to the databases and servers, so he started to woo her. She was also very beautiful, and he often told her afterwards that he would have pursued her regardless of his mission. As time went by, he actually started to fall in love with her and eventually told her of his true identity. Mari might be kind-hearted, but no one likes being lied to. She kicked him out of her apartment for a week, before accepting his declaration of love. She had not told anyone his secret, and even helped him collect the evidence he needed off of the lead administrator’s terminal.”

 

“This all took several months and as things go, they had bonded locally and mari got pregnant with me. He said his family and clan would accept her and me, he was happier than he’d been in cycles; only ever wanting a loving bondmate and children of his own.  Mari would tell me how he nearly jumped out of his plates from joy when she told him that she was pregnant. He prepared her for integration into Hierarchy society, along with the nuances of high tier clan gatherings.”

 

“When the mission was over and the official was charged, he was allowed to go home on leave for a month. Unfortunately, while he was away, the old clan Avah had died and elected his matrula as the new one. Apparently none of the tarini available in the close family line was acceptable for the old one’s high standards; so she shifted the main line on to his family. This, as you know, is near scandalous to do and as a result, he was suddenly expected to bond legally for tier ranking and status, instead of love. With him now being the first born son of the clan Avah, my mari was rejected from joining the clan and to be legally bonded to pari within Hierarchy space.”

 

She looked away from the electric blue stare, waving talons in the air to explain the large mess that followed. “A huge fight ensued within the clan for various reasons, but it ended up that this scandal must not reach the light of day, as now my patrem was even in line to become the next Primarch. Luckily for them, no one else knew who he was while under cover, and thus his real name would not be connected to me and mari. They had no choice but to obey the clan Avah’s wishes. Mari was sent back to the colony, and no patrem was mentioned on my birth certificate when I was born. He still made sure mari was well taken care of financially, and sent me educational modules from the homeworld to make sure I had a good start in life.”

 

When Aiesha looked up at the Spectre again, he paced a few more steps before he stopped and turned to her; unwavering stare still boring into her soul for answers, before he spoke again. “Not an unheard-off scenario, only the particulars vary.” Long silver crest blades tilt and catch the light as he moved his head to the side, seeming to consider something for a few seconds.

 

When he spoke again, there was a curiousness to him that almost looked endearing. Almost.

 

“What was your patrem’s name? You keep avoiding to mention it.”

 

Without even thinking, she answered immediately. “Cyprian Makasian.” And he nodded at her answer, or was that to something in his own head? She wasn’t sure.

 

“Then how did you manage to obtain the familia notas and legal clan name if you were not accepted?”

 

The blue-eyed engineer sighed at that. “That would be another long and politically involved story, Spectre.” Shifting uncomfortably under his steady gaze.

 

“It would be a good idea to finish it then, Makasian.” The not-so-subtle threat still laced in his words, before he returned to his pacing.

 

This whole time, Arterius seemed to be listening attentively but with no further expression, so she continued her story. “He visited as often as his job allowed under his pseudo persona. Even once taking us on a family vacation to Illium with my two half-brothers, at the time. He had legally bonded for the clan by then as well, and his new bondmate had her own true bond mate on the side, so an arrangement was reached between all parties. But then he got promoted and became a General stationed on the homeworld more often than not. He was now next in line to become the Primarch, after all his promotions and good work. This allowed our clan to climb the rankings of clan politics as well, exactly what the Avha was after. She knew he would do well for them, and never for a sense of personal gain. The bi-” she stopped herself even before the Spectre started to growl at her choice of words.

 

Aiesha wasn’t normally so careless with her words. They both fell into a short silence, before she continued. “We never saw him after that, as his new job demanded his full attention and he was no longer a spook that had reason to leave the home system unless it was in a fleet and on business. It broke his and mari’s hearts, but they had no alternative.”

 

She paused to take another gulp of juice, realising that they- or was it just her?- had somehow managed to finish half the jug already. And that the Spectre had been keeping her glass full for her, without her notice. As odd as that was, she continued, feeling like she had to tell her story. “The years passed and I also received private tutelage in various fields, along with a few gene augments, to give me the best possible chance to gain a better future for myself. Pari wanted me to be able to do whatever it is I wanted with my life, and when it became apparent that I inherited mari’s savant level engineering talent, they made sure I had the best modules available on the subjects.” A feint smile crossed her mandibles at the good memories, before she returned to a neutral pose. By this time, she had almost forgotten she had a looming audience, and just kept talking as if she was telling the story to an empty room.

 

“But not all was well, it was never well within the clan it seemed. Pari had somehow discovered that his own mari and now clan Avah, had done some terrible things to get them where they were. She had realised that the old Avah had become delusional with age, having a background in psychology. Instead of bringing it to the rest of the clan’s attention in the early stages, she manipulated the old Avah into believing that none of her mahir’s in her line were worthy to follow in her footsteps, and that the main line should be shifted over to her and her family line instead. Shortly after her will was changed and the declaration of the change made, the mental illness was recognised and that it was not only eventually debilitating, but ultimately fatal.” She took another gulp of the juice, staring at it’s depths for some unknown answer to all her problems, before she looked up and continued; barley registering that her glass was filled once more.

 

“The treachery didn’t end there. Once his mari became the Avah, she manipulated and lied her way through the rankings, getting him set up with his new bondmate for when he returned, that would rise the clan and his tier rankings to the point where he would be in line for the Primarchship. His own good deeds and dedication to duty helped, of course; but it essentially meant that he had inadvertently cheated his way to his position, and with it, the clan’s standing as well. My pari was a man of honour and believed in working one’s way to the position you got. He would probably have gotten his position eventually with that motto, but it was not fast enough for his mari. She even did the same with my avunem and amitila, to a lesser degree. He was outraged at being manipulated and used like a tool by his own Matrula. True, most of those in high tier positions did not get there by only good deeds; but my pari was not one of them.”

 

A sneer spread over her mandibles at the next part “Unfortunately, he could do nothing about it. If he told anyone, it would throw the clan structure into turmoil and infighting would ensue over who should have become the Avah to the point that it might destroy the clan. Not only that, it would drop his and the clan’s tier drastically, and since he held such a high position, it would be investigated for possible fraud. The Makasian clan would be shamed for generations, if it survived the infighting, and he and mari, and by extension me, would eventually be discovered, bringing further shame on the clan. He did not want us to be hit by that political blowback, and he wanted me to have a place in the Hierarchy system without that kind of direct ridicule. So, being the good Turian soldier he always was, he kept his mouth shut for the good of the clan and Hierarchy stability as a whole.”

 

She sighed “Pari told us, of course. He told us everything as far as I know. I think he got sick of having to hold his tongue around the clan. He made it seem like the Makasian madlis was a place full of half-truths and lies. Spirit-cursed, he would say sometimes, for all the backdoor politics and games they played. According to mari, his view on the clan had changed to the bitter perception he gave me as time went on. He really did love and believe in the Makasian clan when they got to know each other, politics included. Sometimes... I really wondered if I wasn't better off away from it all, though I didn't dare say it. He wanted us to come home with him so much...” the remnants of a sad trill escaped her, the last bit she couldn’t stop.

 

A bitter laugh escaped her mandibles directly afterwards “He would send us pictures of the madlis and the grounds, you know, when I was younger and he was more hopeful to find a way for us to join him on Palaven. Pari use to say ‘So we would feel at home when we got there.’ Mari would send him pictures of each of my achievements and on my naming days that he couldn’t attend. ‘To remind him of what he is missing.’ she would say.”

 

Aeisha leaned back, staring off in to the middle distance while steeping in history. "The situation never stopped bothering him. No matter how well we made it work..." She paused, clicking her tongue while looking for the right words to continue. It wasn't an easy story to tell, and from what she suspected, not all that uncommon either. Well, besides a few bitter details unique to her version. The peach toned tarin took a breath, and started in on the telling again. 

 

"Pari gave us a lot of particularly juicy details. I think I knew more about the goings-on in the clan as an outsider than I would have living among them. Pretty sure he wanted us to have blackmail ammo should the clan try to screw us over again, though I... really don't know what else they could have done. Not living with our own father was already pretty bad. Maybe it was an inheritance thing. Who knows? Perhaps they just didn’t want me closely related the current Avah?"

 

 Another sigh fell from her mouthplates, -a particularly heavy one-, mandibles drooping as the hardest part of the long story came time to tell.

 

"One day... it was coming up on monsoon season, so it was really windy and... I... nevermind. It was about a week to my tenth nameday and our ami came over in person to tell us he was KIA. Pari's defence fleet had been on patrol in the 'verge, and they came across some atrociously brave slavers. The Batarians engaged on the ground and in the air, determined to strip the colony."

 

She gripped the edge of the table, face and voice flat, subvocals chilly, trying not to show her new mentor how much this all still got to her. "He was a general. He should have been safe in the command room of the main ship, directing his fleet... but instead he went ground side to assist. It's not SOP, and it's what got him killed. He's probably where I get my non-standard tactics from... Anyway, a sniper was looking for commanding units, and all it took was one high calibre bullet in the right place. His unit fought tooth and talon after that, enraged probably; he was well liked by nearly all his men. Pari at least made sure that his tactics placed his unit in a very defendable position, allowing the next in command to take over easily and quickly. They saved the day but..." Aeisha took a breath, centred herself, and looked up into Arterius' electric blue eyes. "It's part of why I'm here, sir. We're all very fragile creatures, and a single bullet can do a lot of harm… Or good."

 

Saren met her gaze, his subvocals and expression completely fathomless. "That... is very true."

 

She nodded once, and averted her gaze. "We went to his funeral the following week, the day after I turned ten. Didn't get to sit in the section for family, or sing in the lament, but we did get to go at least. My one ami made sure they didn’t completely shut us out. She had been very fond of pari and mari when they first returned home. None of the others even cared that I had to burry my partem directly after my naming day. Pari’s bondmate did try to reach us, but the Avah interfered so she could only send her condolences via mail, along with that of my fraten and one filian."

 

“After the funeral pyre, we were present for the reading of his will. He shocked everyone by saying I should be inducted into the clan, given name and markings on my 15th naming day, before I join for my term of service, as is my right. They could not refuse his will, and that is how I ended up being accepted as a peripheral member of clan Makasian. They of course said that if I didn’t join for my full term of service, they would revoke my status, but there was never any question for me that I would join. Pari had drilled the responsibility and service mentality into me since I could comprehend words.” Her fingers started to tap out in a bland rhythm on the table, a nervous habit she thought she had under control. She glared at her fingers to stop, before she continued the last part of the story; completely missing the impatient look the Spectre was giving her at her pause and fidgeting.

 

“His will did not state that I should be acknowledged as his petri, and they made sure it stayed that way. He probably knew that it would open up all the problems against us that he had been trying to keep buried over the years in any case.” Aiesha, sighed. “And that is my story, Spectre. I hope it answers some of the questions you were going to ask in any case.” Done at last and with a strange sense of relief she never expected to get from telling her story to someone that could be trusted with the information. A small tinge of guilt underlined the relief, the fact that she did tell someone at all…but that was expected. After so many years of not telling another being. And now that she allowed herself to feel it, a wary tiredness came over her. When she looked up at Arterius, he looked contemplative but neutral.

 

“I see why you were sworn to secrecy about this. But, overall, it does not affect Galactic stability, and is not that important. I will leave the situation as it is. So to answer you request, yes, I will not inform anyone of this.” The silver torin let slip in his subvocals the truth of his statement, probably for her benefit, but she was thankful all the same, and missed the quiet part that his subvoclas said that he might still use it later. Blackmail material is best kept secret until you needed it, after all; and she just gave him a lot to work with.

 

In a momentary slip of her self-control, her thankfulness and relief bubbled out in both her subvocals and her voice. “Thank you, Spectre.” Before she regained her composure. “Truly, thank you, sir.”

 

“Do not thank me so profusely. It is unnecessary. It is part of being a Spectre, to analyse information and act accordingly and an aspect you seem familiar with at least. Keep it so. Now, I have a few more questions.” The silver-grey Spectre continued his interrogation of her, still pacing, still glaring now and then; but now focused on her time in service, fishing out more details than were reported in the official files; especially where and how she decided to go off on her own to accomplish the mission whenever the unit leader did not want to follow her plan. She found herself able to easily reply truthfully. It was a lot easier story to tell, after all.

 

But a bone-tiredness kept creeping up on her no matter how hard she tried to shrug it off. ‘Come on, Aiesha! It’s only mid-morning! What’s wrong with you?’

 

The blue-eyed engineer could see he was picking up that there was still some things that she was not telling him. The bastard probably also knew that she would answer him, but only if he asked the right question. If he did not, she was not omitting facts to the direct question posed and he would not be able to end her Candidacy based solely off of a hunch; also would it be useless details he is hunting after, or more important things. Even she wasn’t sure what the answer is on that. The peach-and-tan tarin just hoped that it wasn’t the wrong thing to keep her last secrets to herself. It only ever caused problems and probably wouldn’t even be useful anyway. She would just have to be very careful, like she has always been.

 

When the silver bastard finally finished her questioning, he gave her several engineering manuals to go over on a variety of subjects, and dismissed her to her ‘room’, saying she would be tested on those subjects later in the day. When she got to her bunk, she just collapsed on her cot face first, and was out like a light before even registering that she had hit the bed.

Chapter Text

2166
In Transit

Saren watched the drugged tarin return to her bunk, most likely to sleep off the effects of his truth mixture. It was an unfortunate side-effect in this case, but an acceptable one. Normally it was to his advantage that the target would fall asleep for a few hours and forget what had happened, but he needed to make a few quick changes to the formula, in order to only loosen her mandibles, muddling the mind just enough so one would speak what you thought instead of physically do something for him. The pretty engineer might not remember everything, but that is not his concern. The unfortunate side effect was that the target still became tired and she would have eventually passed out on the mess table. He did not wish to carry her to her bunk, so he let her get there under her own power.

The silver ST&R Agent took a seat at his CIC, and opened the engineer’s file he’d created for himself, to add the latest information. The stoic Agent was somewhat impressed by her resolve and resilience to his serum; though, that pointed to the possibility that he was still missing details. The serum only worked if you asked the right questions. If the target believed they had told you everything relevant to the question, they would only elaborate more if so inclined themselves. Clearly the engineer had spent a lifetime hiding information from others and was quite adept at keeping it so.

Initially there was only a small amount of the serum in her food, but it had proven insufficient for the task. Luckily the tarin was considerate and had made them something to drink, and he’d used the opportunity to continue to feed her the serum. The higher dose had worked but it also meant she would be passed out for several hours. No matter, he would use this time for his own work. As soon as the engineer awakened, he would question her on her field of expertise, regardless if she had had time to peruse the manuals or not. It should be basic knowledge for her.

As black gloved talons typed away on the information, he continued to contemplate. He had promised not to share this information with anyone. Using it for the good of the galaxy as blackmail material when it would be needed, was not ‘sharing’ it. There were many ways in which this could benefit the Hierarchy, how and when he could use this to his advantage, he continued his work. Once updated, he looked up the relevant information for confirmation of her facts, and to complete the picture.

His new protégé’s matrula was, as noted before, nothing significant; except for her savant level engineering skills, from what he saw of her scores from a Salarian university, no less. It was a pity she’d chosen to waste them on a fringe colony like Triginata Petra but he understood the stigma of being a bareface. Without even the background in their culture, service record or tier ranking to back her up, she would have had it even worse than he with his biotics. He added a note that the matrula was ‘kind and soft hearted’; traits which would have done her no favours in that situation. Understandable considering the orphanage was run by an Asari. But other than the fact that she bore a child to a high ranking and tiered individual, Herminia Caelius’s story was similar to many a fringe colony inhabitant. Found on the doorstep to an orphanage with only a name attached to the basket.

Now her partem was a whole different story, now that he finally had a name. Immaculate service record, if sometimes unconventional, even before the mission that sent him to that fated colony. Climbing through the ranks and tiers at a steady pace with one successful mission after another, receiving commendations as he went; ending up in the Hierarchy Blackwatch before going onto higher command posts.

Then there was the sudden jump in his tier that came with the bonding to one Cloelia Titus, while somehow keeping his, then, relatively lower tiered clan name instead of taking the clan name of his bondmate. The very traditional, old, wealthy, and most importantly, very well respected Titus clan.

Makasian was probably able to keep his clan name because the bond and beforehand change to the main line of his clan put him in line to be Primarch, having jumped several tiers because of this. But there must have been some political clan deal to arrange before he was acknowledged as a candidate for Primarcy, and from what he understood, trickery and lies involved to let that happen.

 

Saren considered for a moment the entirety of the situation. He sincerely doubted that this was the first case of its kind, and yet he could not recall anything similar at the moment. Makasian was likely able to maintain his clan name and markings because of her father's status, which he'd received not only by merit but also bonding upwards in some sort of politically arranged marriage. One day, had he not died, he would have been in line to become Primarch. Core world politics were generally not of interest to him as long as the reigning Primarch was aligned with Galactic policy and the Council. It was too full of trickery and backstabbing for his tastes.

The stoic agent did not doubt that Makasian's rise to power had been carefully planned and orchestrated.

Regardless, the end result was still legal and Clan Makasian took up a position among the highest regarded clans in their current respective politics. The clan was always well known and respected, but this brought them in line with names such as Victus, Titus and Fedorian. With it eventually came promotions to General and eventually next in line to become Primarch, before his ill-fated death.

Saren vaguely remembered the General in one of the high tier parties he and Desolace attended once just before his brother also became a General. Being the young sociopath that he was, he did not pay nearly enough attention to the finer social details of such gatherings, it had always been Des’s area of expertise. He just knew how to behave and learn names and ranks. Enough for him to pass through the evening without being noticed too much. What he did remember of the torin, was that he was one of the few to not stare at he and his brother’s Valluvian horns, or try to set Des up with one of his family, being genuinely cordial and open in his intentions. Rare at such gatherings. Suspicious to him, at the time.

Beyond that, all he could find was the model of what a Hierarchy soldier should strive to be, doing his duty to both clan and Hierarchy without complaint or delay. Silver browplates furrowed in thought. He understood the tarin’s personal reason for not wanting to divulge this information. To stain such a perfect record of someone close to you with something not even of their doing; it was comparative to what the information he himself had left out after the Temple Palaven incident. In this way, Desolace was remembered as a hero to his people; not disgraced for what he was attempting to do with the monolith. Though, the implications of the differing situations were not the same. The Temple Palaven information would have galactic implications, possibly causing a panic. The engineer’s was merely personal and some clan politics would be reshuffled, nothing more.

Saren mentally shook himself before the melancholy even had a chance to set in. Now was not the time to brood on choices of the past. What’s done is done. And comparing their situations cheapened Desolace’s sacrifice. He had much other work to do now that his mentee was out for a few hours. With a nod to himself he saved the file on his highly encrypted hard drive. The Spectre set about his other tasks.

 

000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

 

Aiesha awoke slowly from her stupor, senses struggling to come back into focus. The first sensation she noticed was that her neck ached from sleeping in a bad position, followed by the fact that she was face down on her bunk. Slowly she turned herself to her side, groaning softly at the discomfort that came from sleeping in one position for too long. The groggy engineer pulled a pillow into her cowl to support her neck, before trying to focus on the opposite wall until her vision cleared. Only now did she realise she had a splitting headache, groaning some more at whatever idiotic decision she had made that put her in this predicament. It wasn’t like her to get wasted, at all, and then end up in an unfamiliar bunk…..

Like a charging Krogan, flashes of memory hit her all at once. Like lightning, the petite engineer sat upright, heart racing with the implications of what had happened, discomfort and headache all but forgotten. She couldn’t remember all of it, not in detail; but she remembered. As she started to re-evaluate her condition, a few things became clear. Her mouth had a foul aftertaste, and was dry enough for her tongue to stick to her palate despite having drunk most of the jug of juice; the headache, the patchy memory and the fact that she had uncharacteristically fallen asleep at all in the early morning made her come to one conclusion.

‘That barefaced spurin drugged me!’

Anger rose in her like a capped volcano, just waiting for the pressure to override containment strength, but she held it in. Taking deliberate deep, slow breaths to calm herself first; she then started to think the situation through, headache be damned. She couldn’t just burst out of here, accusing and yelling at him. He’s a Spectre and could do whatever he wanted if he thought it necessary; and he obviously thought he needed to loosen her lip plates with some additive in order to get the needed information out of her.

Admitting to herself that she wouldn’t have divulged so much without the drug didn’t help how she felt about it. It was an invasion of privacy, a violation of trust. Along with the fact that she was supposed to be his spirits-forsaken student! Not a criminal withholding mission critical intel! It just made her all the more furious!

Then again, he probably wouldn’t be so ‘nice’ to any criminal he needed intel from. There are many other ways to get intel, after all. Most of them not as subtle, or survivable in the case of the batshit-crazy Spectre.

‘Ok, ok… Internal rant over. Tuck the emotions away in a neat little hate-the-Spectre-box; slam the lid shut and bury it for now.’

Composing herself, the pretty tarin pulled on her store of calm and patience that her mari had seemed to have an endless supply of, and had tried to teach her petri. It would not do to throw a tantrum about the situation, and even less would be gained from a confrontation about it. Even though her emotions were in turmoil over all the implications of partially breaking her oath that she had kept for so long, there was no time right now to thoroughly go through each of them and sort them out. Compartmentalise and put away until a time when she could. It was not a habit she partook in often any more. It felt like running from her problems and emotions, having learned to shrug off most small things life has thrown at her. But sometimes you just had to in order to move on at the moment.

A short time of meditation later, and she was ready to face the deceitful Spectre without wanting to claw his eyes out, and with a plan. She would calmly mention her displeasure at his chosen route, and then continue on as normal for now. Not much else she could do really.

Mind made up, she put back her own, normal indifferent façade, and quickly browsed the topics of the manuals and the time. The pretty engineer had been out cold for six consecutive hours….. that stuff really did pack a punch. But knowing Arterius, he would question her on the engineering manuals the moment she put her head out that door. Luckily it was all basic introductory engineering topics from ships, engines, shields to a little bit of construction and medical. All things she had gone through before she even joined boot camp, and then redid as part of her engineering course. Child's play for her then.

Her rumbling stomach reminded her that she had not had lunch yet, regardless if she was asleep or not. Black gloved talons rummaged through her pack and pulled out one of her own ration bars she kept in stock, and ate it quickly while making sure there were no hidden topics in the manuals that the sneaky spurin might try to ask her about. Capping her hunger and satisfied that it was all basic information she already knew, she took a last few moments to calm her anger and head back out to face her mentor.

The moment she stepped into the hallway, she could hear him working in the CIC. She turned to face his electric stare that came up to meet her own, and suddenly words were not needed. Her partial glare rivaled his own. The silver-grey Agent was almost daring her to make a comment about it. Realising that she was on the verge of something with her mentor, a test maybe; her logic won out over emotions, and she went for the diplomatic option. After all, she needed to somehow live in the same confined space as him for the foreseeable future.

Returning her expression to that of a neutral diplomat, voice as bland as someone commenting on the weather, she finally spoke. “Sir. I know you drugged me.”

Cybernetic eyes narrowed a fraction at her, glare intensifying, before he replied in a slightly annoyed tone. One of the few emotions he showed on a regular basis, she assumed. “Your point, Makasian?”

“I would appreciate it if you did not do it again, sir.” Was her only reply while they continued their stare-down. The petit tarin did not let him intimidate her, showing her resolve. He wanted to see ‘her own personality’ so she let him have it. Point made, she turned from him to head to the small kitchen for some water, dismissing him and the subject without another word. Maybe the water would get the horrid aftertaste out of her mouth. In the background, she probably imagined the faint chuff of surprise at her words and dismissal of the matter. He wouldn’t let someone like her catch him off guard like that, oh no.

Behind her, she heard the chair move before his voice came with an icy authority that would have new recruits and low ranking soldiers falling in line and quivering in their boots without even knowing who he was. “Makasian.”

She paused on the next step and turned around to face him in an at-ease stance. “Sir?”

The ST&R Agent prowled the few steps closer to her until he was mere inches from her. “It would be wise to remember that I am still your mentor and superior until you pass your training,” he hissed with menace.

She did not reply any more than return his stare. After a few more seconds of this, the torin backed away to more respectable distance, stating “Your opinion has been noted. Now, you have wasted enough of my time sleeping. Here is your test. I expect you to pass without trouble.” And he produced a locked datapad from behind his back,where his hands were in an at-ease position, and looked pointedly at the seating by the mess area. Taking the offered datapad, she headed to the settee and took a seat.

Long, silver crestblades catch the light as he nods his acceptance, typing at his omnitool. “You have one hour, starting now.” Before he took his seat once more and continued working on whatever it was he was busy with before she came into the communal area.

With a huff of her own, she started the test. The water would have to wait, along with her still present headache. Delicate clawed talons flew over the datapad, first needing to hack into it before she could even start the test; which was, in and of itself, not as simple as the manuals that were given to her. Well then, time to show him she was an engineer for a reason.