This one got away from me a little bit, but I think it turned out great. Enjoy!

The slums of the Omega were little more than a collection of ramshackle huts. A couple of slag pits, left over from refining Element Zero, faintly illuminated the district, and liquid that Markus hoped was water dripped down the side of the walls. The smelt workers were asleep when he walked through the dark entrance, save for two beings, a Vorcha and Krogan, sitting cross legged by the nearest pit. They stood uneasily, staring at Markus with a leery gaze as he approached.

"I hope you're not here to cause any trouble, friend," growled the Krogan. He had a distinctive Thresher Maw tattoo across his neck in red. "Is there something you need?"

"Yeah," the Vorcha piped in. The light casting a sickly yellow over his skin. "We don't get many visitors here in the mine. 'Specially not at this time of day."

Markus paused for a moment, taking in his surroundings with disgust.

"This place is a dump," was all he said in response. His voice sounding vaguely mechanical inside his Ariake Technologies armor.

They looked at each other as if to ask, Is this human for real? and laughed.

"Well, aren't you an observant one" Tattoo scoffed, but sat down again nevertheless and gestured for Markus to join them around the pit. He grabbed a nearby steel rod and began to poke at the crust beginning to form on top of the pool, sending sparks flying into the air, dancing wildly in their brief blazing moment of freedom as Markus tried to find something clean to sit on.

"So what brings a human like you down here?" the Vorcha asked when they settled down as comfortably as they could. "Most visitors are more interested in Afterlife or the docks"

"Do I need a reason?" Markus deflected.

"No, I suppose not."

There was a moment of silence as they listened to the slag crackle softly, and Markus took the time to get a better look at the two smelters. They were young, and fairly muscular due to their profession, but otherwise they had the emaciated look of the poor that probably added a couple years to their faces. The glow from the pool highlighted dark circles under their eyes from countless restless nights, and having known his share of poverty, Markus couldn't help but feel a surge of sympathy for the aliens.

"What's your name?" Tattoo asked, breaking the surprisingly companionable silence.

"Illo," He responded automatically.

Tattoo didn't even bat an eyelid. "Your real name, stranger," he smiled thinly.

Normally Markus would have been pretty irritated having his lies blown blatantly out of the air, but he couldn't help but smile. There was something to be said for a Krogan smart enough to cut through dishonesty like a knife.

"Markus," he grinned unashamedly, popping the seal of his helmet and removing it with a hiss of escaping air. "And yours?"

He nodded, satisfied with Markus's honesty. "The name's Garkak. This guy over here is Vegsa." He slapped his compainion heartily on the back and for a moment they looked like two regular, healthy friends before they shifted and the fire once again highlighted the gauntness in their cheeks.

Garkak turned back to him. "So what's your purpose here, Markus?"

"What makes you so sure I have a purpose?"

"Because you're in the slums," he said simply.

"I'm just exploring."

"No, you're not."

He chuckled. "I wish I was though."

"So?" Vegsa prompted.

"Alright," Markus lowered his voice and leaned in, making a split second decision to trust them. "I'm looking into the Archangel incident for someone. I need to find out more about him and where he went."

Garkak's reaction was subtle but immediate. His eyes hardened and Markus could tell he was shifting in his suit.

"Oh yeah, Archangel," Vegsa said obliviously, drawing Markus's attention away from his Krogan friend. "Ruso was furious 'bout that. Would have killed the man himself if he wasn't gone already. He kept muttering '*** could have at least gone crazy after we made our eezo quota.' Busted most of the refining equipment during his 'last stand'"


"Ruso Vallokius, Garkak explained. Damn tyrant of a Turian. He's the overseer of the smelt workers, always being goaded on by the Blue Suns to get more work out of us. Doubt you'd be able to get anything out of him though, even if you could find a way to talk to him."

"My source believes Angel might have escaped. You two know anything about that?"

"Um..." Vegsa fell silent at a look from Garkak.

"Look, Markus," Garkak said apologetically, looking tense. "Whatever you want to know, we're sorry, but we can't help you. We're smelters. That's it."

Markus's eyes narrowed and flickered to Vegsa but he just stared at the glowing slag, giving nothing away.

"The Suns have the Angel situation under control" Garkak continued. "You should just leave it to them."

Markus waved him quiet and rolled his eyes, making it clear that he wasn't going to stand for his half-baked fibs. "You're preaching to the wrong person here," he said. "Anything you have to say to discourage me, I've heard otherwise. Believe me when I say that it's not me you should be worrying about, but yourselves. Take a look around you. The Blue Suns are living like kings while you guys are down here starving, and all I need to take them down a notch is a scrap of information about Archangel. My employer needs him to finish the job he started. Don't you think it's time for a change?

"We get worked like slaves, beaten if we make a mistake, and spend the only money we earn on food and rent for this hell hole," Garkak said softly but without hesitation. "Of course we want something to change, but the only thing more scarce here on Omega than a polite word is a decent job."

"Then just let me do all the dirty work," Markus pressed.

Garkak gave him a strange look, realization dawning in his reptilian face like a sunrise.

"Aria put you up to this, didn't she?"

Markus blinked. "Who?"

"That wasn't actually a question."

They stared each other down for a few moments, before Markus backed down, breaking eye contact.

"No, I suppose not," he said, his cover blown.

"I really don't think you know what you're getting yourself into," Garkak said. "Aria shouldn't have gotten an outsider like you involved in Omega's problems. You shouldn't be here."

"And yet, here I am," Markus shrugged. "I'm fairly sure I'm in too deep at this point to back down now anyways."

That drew a dry laugh from the Krogan. His lungs wheezing from the noxious fumes "You're probably right about that. This city has eyes everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if a couple people have already heard of our conversation."

Markus couldn't help but grimace at that comment. How do you conduct an investigation when the walls have eyes?

"So are you going to help me?" he asked, looking first at Vegsa and then at Garkak.

"Alright, alright," Garkak leaned forward, looking nervous but determined. "I didn't notice anything odd before, Ruso told me something strange when he gave us our last paycheck - if you can call it that, anyways."

He nodded to Visga. "He... He said he saw Archangel escape," the Vorcha said. "And he said he knew who rescued him. He was drunk, but he said the Suns had a reward for information."


Visga shrugged.

"In any case, that's perfect," Markus said, pushing himself up, trying not to let his bubble of hope swell too large yet. "That's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Can you get me into his quarters?"

"Lucky for you, this rare streak of courage from me is still ongoing and I handle the "security" here in the slums." Garkak plucked an grungy keycard from a pouch on his hip and gave it to him. "His room's right over there. As soon as you're done with that key, you give it back and leave immediately, got it?"

Markus flipped the card in the air, the dull surface managing to cast orange stars on the walls as it reflected the remaining embers from the slag.

"Of course," He grinned.

Markus was in and out of Ruso's room in two minutes. Thanks to his covert training, it was easy to figure out where people kept the things they thought were of value: a cargo box, a medi-gel container, a computer terminal- people were always too careless with their secrets and placed too much trust in security locks.

In Ruso's case, it was a rusty datapad in the corner of his dimly lit room.

And it's not even locked, Markus thought, feeling a little disappointed at the lack of a challenge, but relieved at the same time. If only everything could be this easy.

The transmission was short and to the point:

Overseer Ruso,

It has come to our attention that you have information regarding the recent incident. Come to the usual place at 1400hrs to deliver the location of the target. Arrive alone.


His chrono read 1330. Frustration overwhelmed Markus, grinding his teeth, he slumped down against the wall, reading and rereading the message. There was no location for him to go on. It seemed for every mystery Markus solved, more replaced it. Ruso was his man, but he was gone. Markus had spent the better part of a year looking into the Suns. He knew how they operated, and he knew Ruso was as good as dead if he revealed what he had discovered. Markus's greatest lead was about to be killed.

He backed out of the transmission and installed a tracking algorithm. He would know if the datapad was moved, but that would only help if Ruso came back for it. He could be anywhere on Omega

Screw it, Markus thought, standing abruptly. I need to tell Aria about this. She has the manpower to start a manhunt.

True to his word, Markus slipped out of Ruso's room without so much as a word and placed the key back in Garkak's hand on his way to the lift, but as he turned to leave, a tug on his shoulder guard stopped him.

"I don't want to know what you found in there, Markus," he whispered slowly. "But secrets don't like being uncovered here, and those that are revealed often have a bloody aftermath." He didn't blink once as he spoke, demanding his full attention. "I've taken a liking to you, so don't get yourself killed, you hear? Be careful."

Markus nodded, and Garkak released his grip, turning his gaze back to the embers and not sparing another glance in Markus's direction.

People keep telling me to be careful, he reflected, as he replaced his helmat once more and set out. Maybe I should get out of the bounty hunting business. At least the food would be better. Either way, it was due time to report back to Aria. With dirt on Ruso and a possible location for Archangel within his grasp, he had done everything she had asked for, but Markus had no doubt that she would order him to continue with his mission until the Blue Sun presence on Omega was no more, And if she had enough credits, he probably would do it, regardless of the risk.

Out of the corner of his eye, Markus thought he saw movement. Freezing, he used the infrared optics attached to his helmet to scan the dimly lit lower levels of Omega, searching, searching, searching. His breath came out as fog in the cold underworld, the cloud a stark white contrast to the dark background that drew his attention to its provocative dance before fading into the air, only to be replaced a second later.

Was it just his breath he saw? No, there was something out there.

Suddenly he felt a hand grab his helmet and yank. Markus choked as he was forced backwards and around, gasping as the rough grasp ripped off the expensive piece of equipment, breaking his nose in the process.

Markus fell to the floor with a grunt, skidding a few feet on the slick steel grating beneath him.

That visor just went from helpful to detrimental, Markus thought through the stars in his vision, tenderly prodding the misshapen lump that was once his nose, and pushed himself up onto one knee.

From his kneeling position, Markus glared up at the now visible attacker, a large Turian male sporting a set of fresh gashes across his cheeks that would have seemed debilitating if he hadn't been sporting an intimidating set of muscles and a decent suit of armor that added much to his bulk. Some damn stealthy bulk. But aside from the fact that he'd somehow managed to sneak up on Markus, it was clear that this Turian was in no mood to fight. Someone had been fighting him.

"You've been digging around where you don't belong," he said in a gruff voice, cracking his knuckles theatrically as he advanced. "I think it's time you learned a lesson, and then you can call off your Blue Sun dogs"

To be honest, Markus really could have lived without learning a few of the lessons he'd learned in a lifetime, and his aching nose was telling him that this was one he could probably do without as well.

"Overseer Ruso?" Markus asked, raising slowly into a defensive crouch. They always choose to fight, but maybe this one would be different. Maybe this wouldn't have to get messy.

"Get out of my way!" Ruso bellowed.

They always fight.

He charged at Markus then, fists raised despite the hand cannon at his hip. It was at this moment that Markus realized that not only was Ruso severely underestimating him because he'd caught him relatively off guard, but that his only goal was to escape.

Center of gravity already low, it only took a quick sidestep and sweep of his leg to bring the Turian male down. Within seconds  Markus had a knee digging into his back between the shoulder blades, forcing his scared face into the steel grating.

"Who rescued Archangel?" Markus hissed in his ear.

He grunted and struggled and would have thrown Markus off his back had he not grabbed onto the Turian's bony crest, and slammed his head back against the floor, regaining his balance. It stunned Ruso for a moment, but when another bout of his struggles threatened to switch their positions, Markus knew his body weight alone wouldn't be enough to subdue the target.

This guy is pissing me off.

Still gripping his crest tightly, Markus fumbled for the button on his wrist guard, ejecting a foot long Omni-Blade, and yanked Ruso's head back to expose his throat.

"Ready to talk yet?" Markus asked, the orange glow of the weapon reflecting in his eyes. He wasn't about to kill him, but the Turian didn't need to know that.

"You mangy piece of Varren bait," he swore.

"I've been called worse. Now talk, or I send you to the gods," Markus threatened, pulling his crest again. He gasped as Markus accidentally sliced some of the skin at his neck. Oops.

"I-I saw him leave" he blurted out, suddenly a coward. "He was alive and he had three people with him"

"Who? Which ship did they leave on?" Markus applied more presser to the Turian's shoulders, threatening to brake his back.

"The Normandy!"

"Anything else?"

When he remained silent, Markus realized that was all the Overseer knew, and with a disgusted noise, relinquished his grasp of the Turian's crest. Markus carefully stood up, though he kept the Omni-Blade out in case the target decided to try anything. But the Turian was all bark and no bite, and with only a dark glare and a muttered curse, slunk away with his tail between his legs like the dog that he was.

A bounty hunter wasn't an assassin. This was something Markus had promised himself a long time ago. It was the only reason he still slept at night. Accidents could happen, but that was one of the reasons why he usually avoided head-on violence. Still, there was something extraordinarily satisfying about taking down a alien twice his size that even competed with the thrill of getting paid. He looked down at his chest-plate, battered and battle scared, this was his most prized possession. On it resided his job tallies, painted in white across his chest, all 1141 of them. If you were to ask, Markus could tell you who each one signified, and whether or not they were still alive. Now he could add one more.

Pain flared from his nose again, distracting Markus from his moment of triumph, and he hissed again, naturally having to prod once more at his face as all living beings are doomed to do with bad bruises.

He felt both alleviated at having found out the ship name, and annoyed that he had gotten himself beaten up for it. Clearly he wasn't on his A-game tonight, and Markus could only hope that nothing worse would stem from his carelessness.

The Normandy. Who would think up a stupid name like that?


Probably just some trader.