Part 3, Chapter 49 of Valkyrie

Shepard walked into the office, wondering what kind of reception she would receive.

“Have you ever faced an asari commando unit before?” The speaker’s voice, low and cold, floated to Shepard across the room. “Few humans have. I’ll make it simple: either you pay me, or I flay you alive – with my mind.”

Shepard raised her eyebrows. Was that really…

Liara ?”

“Shepard!” The asari turned, her eyes widening in delight. “Nyxseris, hold my calls.” Liara crossed to Shepard, drew her into an embrace. “Shepard,” she whispered.

Shepard started a bit, then relaxed into Liara’s arms. She certainly hadn’t expected this reaction. But it was nice that someone seemed so glad to see her back. Even Tali and Garrus hadn’t been quite this welcoming.

“My sources said you were alive,” Liara said, smiling brightly. “It’s very good to see you.”

“You have sources now?” Shepard asked, half laughing. “Since when do you have ‘sources,’ Liara?”

“Since, well, a little over a year ago,” Liara said, a little sadly. The asari explained what the last two years had brought for her: work as an information dealer and a strange vendetta against the Shadow Broker that she seemed reluctant to explain. As she spoke, Shepard began to grow uneasy.

“This really doesn’t sound like you, Liara,” she said at last. “Why don’t you join me? Search for the Shadow Broker from the Normandy. I’ll do what I can to protect you.”

“I’m sorry, Shepard,” Liara said, shaking her head, “but the galaxy doesn’t work that way. For a start, your ship is, no doubt, monitored by Cerberus.”

Shepard gave a wry smile of agreement.

“I need room to work,” Liara continued. “For that, I need to be here. I’ll help you in any way I can. I imagine that information is something you need right now.”

“I do,” Shepard agreed. “I could use information on Cerberus. But,” she added, seeing Liara’s strained smile falter, “I guess you’ve got your hands full with one dangerous information broker right now. I won’t ask you to go poking around in the Illusive Man’s files.”

“Yes,” Liara said, looking away with a frown.

“Well then,” Shepard said, “I could use information on these contacts. I need to find these people – see if they’ll join my team.” Shepard fired up her omnitool and gave Liara the information. The asari quickly told Shepard what she needed to know. Shepard thanked her, was about to close her omnitool, then she paused, looking at one folder in particular.

“Liara,” Shepard said, slowly. “Could you… May I ask a personal favor of you?”

“Of course,” Liara said. “How can I help you?”

Shepard blinked at her.

”‘Of course’?” she asked, her voice a little sad. “Just ‘of course.’ You don’t even know what I’m going to ask, Liara.”

Liara smiled, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Whatever I can do for you, Shepard, I’ll do it.”

Shepard shook her head. “Thank you, Liara. You don’t know how much that means to me right now. Look, I need you to get a message to Kaidan. Cerberus blocked my accounts.”

“They have?” Liara said, her eyes growing troubled.

“Yeah,” Shepard said with a grimace. “So if you could forward a message for me, I’d appreciate it. I hate to ask you…”

Shepard broke off at once. She suddenly realized her mistake in bringing Liara into this. Kaidan was something of a sore subject between them – well, everything related to Shepard’s rejection of Liara’s affection was a sore subject between them. Shepard debated with herself for a moment, considering telling Liara to forget the whole thing. It wasn’t fair to Liara, she told herself, to use the asari as a messenger. And yet, Shepard wanted to contact Kaidan too badly not to use whatever means she could. You’re being selfish , Shepard thought to was - she knew it. But even so, she fired up her omnitool.

“I wish I’d had time to come up with something…better,” she murmured as she glanced through her many half-finished letters. She frowned, finding each more unsuitable than the last. She decided to make something up fresh.

“Got a datapad?” she asked. Liara nodded and handed her one. Shepard took it with a murmured thanks, then quickly typed:

Dear Kaidan,

I’ve found a way to get a message to you though a mutual friend. My accounts are being monitored and I have been blocked from sending you a reply. Please keep yourself safe and stay far away from Cerberus. I will try to contact you again later.


Briefly, she considered adding a more personal message, but as the letter would be going through Liara, she thought better of it. She simply added a brief postscript:

P.S. - I tried to contact you before, but could not. Please believe that.

Shepard made a face at her completely inadequate words, then handed the datapad to Liara. The asari took it without a glance.

“I’ll try and find him,” Liara said.

“You should just be able to send it to his account,” Shepard told her. “I think his account is open – just not to me.”

Liara frowned at her. “Are you alright, Shepard?” she asked, looking now quite worried.

“As well as I can be under Cerberus’s thumb,” Shepard replied with a weary sigh. “But I’m well enough, thank you.”

Liara’s lower lip seemed to quiver for a moment, but then that worried expression was gone. “Very well, Shepard.” She held out the datapad to her waiting assistant.

“Nyxseris,” Liara said, “would you see this taken care of immediately?”

“Of course, Dr. T’Soni,” the asari purred, taking it at once. “Immediately.” The secretary turned and left the room, leaving Shepard and Liara alone.

“Are you alright, Liara?” Shepard asked at once.

“As you said, Shepard,” Liara replied, raising an eyebrow. “I am well enough. Thank you for asking.”

“Well,” Shepard said, now feeling a little awkward. “Thank you . When they told me you were here, I knew I could trust you with this. You’re one of the few people I still do trust.”

Liara blanched at that, though why, Shepard could not imagine.

“Yes,” the asari said, standing. “Well, come back any time. You now know where to find me.”

“There you are,” Kaidan said, standing to let Dean take his chair at the desk. “That ought to do it.”

“Damn,” Dean shook his head as he looked at the screen. “I would never have seen that bug. That code is ancient. What was that? An early twenty-first century artifact or something?”

“You’d be surprised the things that you find in old systems,” Kaidan told him. “I’ve been spending so much time in the colony systems that I’ve realized that what I took for granted in security with the Alliance is really top-of-the-line.”

“Yeah, how was your time out in the colonies, man?” Dean asked, frowning. “Lisa said something about how you had a bad time of it.”

“Oh, she did?” Kaidan rubbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t realize she’d remember that.”

“She’s a nice girl, man,” Dean said, pointedly.

“Yeah,” Kaidan replied, letting out a sigh.

Yeah , he thought, she was . Aside from the fact that she lacked appreciation for music and a sense of irony, Lisa was exactly the kind of girl that most guys liked: pretty, smart, nice, and interested. A part of him just wished he could move on with a girl like her. It would be a hell of a lot easier than this endless wondering about Shepard.

But Kaidan still felt this lingering sense of…loyalty to Shepard. It was a complicated loyaty, he thought with a grimace. It was a feeling of loyalty to her as his old CO, his old friend, and as his one-time lover. And he didn’t need a counselor to tell him that there was a healthy dose of survivor’s guilt thrown in there as well, holding him back from moving on. Once again, Kaidan regretted that he wasn’t in any place to move beyond that mess – even with a nice girl like Lisa.

“Lisa is great,” Kaidan told Dean. “But…”

“But it’s none of my business,” Dean said, holding his hands up, “I get it. Alright,” he looked over his shoulder to endure the small office they were in was empty. “Let’s get you in and out of the email systems fast.”

Dean brought up his administrative account, logged in, and by the time Kaidan had pulled a second chair over, the man was in Shepard’s account. As expected, it was empty.

“Can you see what activity has been going on?” Kaidan asked.

“There’s not much to see,” Dean shook his head. “Look.” He found the account log and opened it.

Account locked, code 435.

No activity in 822 days.

“Has it really been that long?” Kaidan murmured.

“Huh?” Dean turned to him.

“Nothing,” Kaidan shook his head. “Anyway, that isn’t right. She got mail since that time.”

“She did?” Dean frowned. “How do you know?”

“Uh…” Kaidan cursed his unthinking comment. “A glitch. A message got sent to all the SR1 crew. Her name was on the recipients list.” He hated lying, but he couldn’t think of any other way than to cover for his mistake.

“It probably bounced then,” Dean said.

This time, Kaidan refrained from pointing out that her emails had not, in fact, bounced back the sent mail. There was no way to mention that without also admitting that he had been to one to send her mail.

“Anyhow,” Dean continued “You can see that all her files are gone.”

“That’s strange,” Kaidan said. “If it was Cerberus and they got into her accounts, then why didn’t they just copy them?”

“Dunno,” Dean shrugged. “Maybe they didn’t think anyone would be checking up on a dead woman?”

“Only if she was alive,” Kaidan pointed out, “They had to know someone was going to check on her accounts eventually.”

“Not necessarily,” Dean said. “I mean, the only reason I found out was because I saw this weird glitch that my emails were hanging up a little. I checked it out and found that every time I sent a mail, this other program started running. Anyhow, I quarantined the program and fed it emails and the damn thing started forwarding a copies out to this zombie bot network. Never did get to the end of that rabbit hole.”

“Emails were getting forwarded from your accounts?” Kaidan asked.

“They were,” Dean said, grumpily. “I only just caught it. Anyhow, I started doing a search on the VI program that did it and I found this rogue Alliance VI program had hacked my account and was doing the forwarding. I did a search to see what other accounts it was monitoring.”


“It had hacked every damn tech in the place,” Dean muttered. “Was sharing data, passing things off tag-team like with another VI program. Took me a while to track that one down, but I eventually found it. The second VI was helping with the monitoring, but when I checked it’s logs, I also found this…”

Dean tapped at the holographic display. “Here,” he pointed to the screen. Kaidan looked at the log.

User AVI-lab6-bank4-cpu497 accepted.

Argus uploaded. 0300-03-02-2183

Finding mail target…

Mail account found.

Data mine in progress…

Data mine complete.

New file found.

Forwarding to 900-566-498-300-909.


The forwarding repeated several times, then the log concluded with:

Program detected by Alliance protocols.

Argus deleted.

“What’s that user?” Kaidan asked, pointing at the words AVI-lab6-bank4-cpu497. “Is that the VI?”

“The second VI, yeah,” Dean nodded.

“That forwarding address is the network you mentioned then?”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “It’s a dummy machine, I think. I couldn’t trace it worth crap. Whole thing’s encrypted. Without knowing their code, I can’t get squat.”

“That code looks almost like Alliance protocols.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “The tech is like ours, just shifted, you know? So that’s why I’m thinking Cerberus.”

“And they used the name ‘Argus,’” Kaidan noted.


“Argus,” Kaidan said, pointing at the word. “A hundred-eyed giant that was a herd-keeper for the gods.” When he caught Dean staring, Kaidan shrugged. “I read a lot as a kid. Not much else to do where I grew up.”

“What does that have to do with Cerberus?” Dean wanted to know.

“Cerberus is a monster from Greek mythology,” Kaidan said, “So is Argus.”

“Oh, damn,” Dean said, turning to the screen. “I didn’t know that. I just watch anime, man. I think I’ll have to read up on that Greek stuff. I bet – shit. There’s probably dozens of programs I might have caught that way.”

“Well, if they’re being stupid and naming all their projects after Greek myths like that, then yeah,” Kaidan said. “Did you run a scan for anything else that those VI programs were doing?”

“Of course,” Dean said with a scowl. “I may not know classic lit, but I’m not a newb, man.”

“Right,” Kaidan said. “So, no matches?”

“I found a few,” Dean said, tapping on the keyboard, “Mostly they were just watching email of the tech crew and the top brass. Of course, with them it’s hard to tell. Seriously, its scary, man that an admiral can be that dumb. It’s like, if it says “hot asari” on it, they’re gonna open it.” He rolled his eyes. “But even there, the VIs weren’t forwarding anything. Just watching.”

“Only forwarding Shepard’s stuff, huh?” Kaidan frowned. He looked at the screen for a moment, then suddenly, out of the blue, a thought came to him.

“Oh my God,” he murmured. He pulled up his omnitool at once.

“What, man?” Dean asked.

“It was a VI,” Kaidan said, finding the log at once. “I should have realized, but I thought it was Alliance. I was too pissed off to notice. I thought it was *my * fault…”

“What are you talking about?” Dean said, leaning over Kaidan’s ‘tool now.

“This,” Kaidan said.




Ping from AVI-lab6-bank4-cpu497.

User authorized.

Patch accepted.

Downloading patch.

Patch downloaded.

Initializing installation.

Installation complete.

Calibrating defense towers.

Please wait.

Defense towers online.

Calibrating Link.756/Horizon.

Please wait.

Link.756/Horizon online.

All systems online.



“What the hell is that?” Dean asked.

“It’s the same VI,” Kaidan said, his heart suddenly feeling like it was pounding in his throat. “It’s the same damn VI that gave me that link.”

“Or it was the same person hacking that VI,” Dean pointed out. “But yeah, that’s my VI on your ‘tool. Where did that come from, man?”

“Classified,” Kaidan told him. “You never saw this, got it?”

“Hey, if you’re going to pull that superior officer crap now…”

“I’m serious, Dean,” Kaidan said, giving him a solemn look. “This is classified. Besides, you don’t want to know.”

Dean scowled. “Can I at least ask what it is? It looks like a patch.”

Kaidan nodded. “It is a patch. And before you ask, no, I’m not going to tell you what to.”

“So where did it come from?” Dean asked.

It sure as hell didn’t come from the collector s, Kaidan thought. Aloud he said, “Can’t say. I’m not even sure.” Though he had a sudden suspicion.

“Who authorized the installation of those VI programs?” he asked Dean.

“Not sure,” Dean said. “Whoever was the systems administrator at the time, probably. These VI programs have clearly been hacked since then.”

“Or they were installed with the hack embedded,” Kaidan pointed out. “See who uploaded them.”

“Okay,” Dean shrugged. “I mean, some of my bosses have been pretty damn stupid, but they’re not so dumb that they’d miss a hacked VI in the installation process. Heh,” he smirked. “At least I hope not.”

“Might not have been an accident,” Kaidan said.

“Right,” Dean frowned. “I really hope that’s not the case. Okay, let me see…”

Kaidan watched the screen over Dean’s shoulder, then his eyes widened in amazement.

“Oh my God,” Kaidan breathed. “That was authorized by…”

K. Kahoku.

“Kahoku?” Dean frowned. “Don’t know him - or her, maybe. Can’t tell with our systems. Anyhow, must have been before my time. Wait, no,” he frowned and sat forward. “Those VIs were uploaded those only a year ago. I didn’t… Who the hell is this guy?” He began tapping furiously at the keyboard.

“He’s dead,” Kaidan said, softly.

Dean didn’t appear to hear him. “Shit!” he cried. He was reading a profile on Kahoku, then threw up his hands.

“Holy shit!” he cried. “This guy is a fucking admiral! Top level security code, too. Shit! I didn’t even *think * to look at who installed those programs. I just thought they’d been hacked from outside.” He turned to Kaidan. “Well, damn. That explains a lot. Some admiral is watching Shepard’s programs. Wish they’d told me, but I guess that was classified.”

“Yeah,” Kaidan murmured. He was still staring at the screen in amazement.

“So you know that guy?” Dean asked, nodding at the screen.

“Yeah,” Kaidan said, slowly. “I knew him.”

“Knew him?” Dean repeated. “So he’s… Wait. Don’t tell me this guy is actually - dead ?”

Kaidan didn’t say anything.

“But this says he’s alive,” Dean said, frowning at the screen. “Wait – no. It says he’s dead. What the fuck? But his account it still fully authorized. What the fuck ? Who did that?”

As Dean scowled and swore at the screen, Kaidan thought back to the moment he’d last seen Admiral Kahoku – or rather, the last time he’d seen the man’s body. Shepard had turned the admiral over onto his back, swallowed hard, and closed the man’s eyes. She’d been still so long, Kaidan had to pull her away. As he did so, she had muttered in Kaidan’s ear:

Cerberus has a lot to answer for.”

And yet now she was working with them, he thought. Kaidan couldn’t believe it. But all this made one thing abundantly clear to him: Cerberus was behind that hacked VI, behind the monitoring systems, and, it seemed, behind the downloaded patch to the GARDIAN systems. And that meant, Kaidan realized, his stomach knotting, Cerberus must have known about the attack on Horizon before the Collectors had even gotten there.

Well, damn, Kaidan thought. That explained a lot. He had wondered who had sent a rescue team if not the Alliance. It couldn’t possibly have been Cerberus - could it?

But why? he wondered. Why would they deliberately allow the Collectors to attack Horizon and then try to save the colony? The initial part sounded like Cerberus: let innocents die to watch the slaughter. But why try to save the colony afterward? Why send the patch during the attack in order to activate the towers? Why, for that matter, send Shepard on a rescue mission?

“She sent that patch,” Kaidan murmured, realization dawning. *Shepard * had sent the patch. It had to be. There was no extranet connection prior to the attack. Then her ship had arrived in orbit – the only ship to arrive other than the Collectors – and suddenly, miraculously, the GARDIAN had come online and communications with the extranet had been established.

Kaidan felt like kicking himself. He’d been so angry about Shepard that he hadn’t seen that bizarre coincidence for what it was. But now, at least, one mystery about Horizon seemed clear: the GARDIAN system had been hampered by faulty tech, then revived at will by Cerberus.

Had the ship simply come to Horizon with the patch in hand? Kaidan wondered. It was possible they had simply found it in the Alliance data bases and brought it in order to save the colony. But far more likely was the possibility that Cerberus been withholding it somehow to deliberately put the colony at risk.

Kaidan felt suddenly sick. Cerberus had the patch, which meant they had access to the systems from the start. But those lasers had been sent from Alliance command – supposedly packed in a secure docking hangar and sent without being opened until they reached Kaidan at the end destination. He’d overseen every step of the installation. So if the GARDIAN systems had a critical patch missing, then they’d been sent like that – sent without being able to fire, sent deliberately crippled so that Horizon would be at risk.

And *that * meant, Kaidan suddenly realized, that the rabbit hole led them right back here to the Citadel.

Kaidan suddenly felt cold and his skin broke out into goose-flesh. Horizon had been set up right from the beginning, set up from people sitting right here on the Citadel. Or rather, it was set up by Cerberus and implemented by their operatives here on the Citadel. Kaidan now wondered if Horizon was the first such incident of this kind, or if he’d been sent faulty towers before, only to have them patched without his realizing it once Cerberus decided the Collectors weren’t likely to attack those earlier colonies.

Maybe, he realized suddenly, they’d been waiting to send in Shepard. If Horizon had the GARDIAN lasers up, he might have defended the colony before Shepard ever arrived. So maybe, Kaidan thought, maybe Cerberus withheld the codes long enough for her to arrive.

But why ? he wondered again. He could see a number of reasons that watching the Collectors at work would be useful from a brutal, scientific point of view. Though, now that he came to think of it, how had Shepard managed to avoid the seeker swarms? Kaidan frowned. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t bothered to ask her that. But then, there were so many things he hadn’t bothered to ask her, like, how much did she know about the attack beforehand, and for how long? Had she authorized this little bait-and-switch, or was that part of an order than came down from above her? Did she even know about it? He wanted to believe that Shepard, of all people, would never condone putting a colony at risk just to see the result of an attack. That sounded more like Cerberus of the old days, not Shepard. So perhaps she was just as in the dark about Cerberus’s actions that day as he had been.

Either way, Kaidan realized, he needed more answers, and he also realized he needed to be careful. The same people who had killed Kahoku were clearly still in the system somewhere, pulling strings and using Alliance protocols to do it. But how many of them there were, at what rank, and to what degree they had infiltrated the Alliance, he had no idea.

“Dean,” Kaidan said, coming out of his daze and turning to his friend. “Check your systems for that name: Kahoku.”

“You gonna tell me what’s going on?” Dean asked him.

“No,” Kaidan said. “The less you know at this point, the better, believe me. In fact,” He frowned. “You might even want to think about getting transferred.”

“What?” Dean blinked at him. “Seriously?”

“Seriously, Dean,” Kaidan said. “What we just found here is dangerous. Just check the name and then let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Fine,” Dean muttered. “Hell, I didn’t realize trying to warn you about Shepard and Cerberus would be so sticky. I just police the systems, keep out the porn mail, and do what the superior officer says. A big day for me is when I find some underage kid trying to make a fake ID account so he can get into a strip club.”

As Dean complained, the results of his search appeared on the screen. The two men read down the list at the same time. Dean exploded. Kaidan just shook his head.

“Fuckers!” Dean cried.

“Figures,” Kaidan muttered.

“Admiral Kahoku” had apparently authorized the implementing of Argus2 monitoring systems into every major Alliance database. There were a few other authorizations, too, but the list was only a few lines long.

“Holy shit!” Dean hissed. “I thought I was keeping the system clean! They’ve got eyes everywhere now, man. Shit! Is this Cerberus?”

“I think so,” Kaidan said quietly.

“How the hell did they keep an dead admiral’s account active without us noticing?” Dean asked, waving a hand at the computer. “Shit. You’d think someone would have noticed something like that.”

“Who would have noticed?” Kaidan asked. “Do you go in manually and check to make sure all the records are correct?”

“Naw, man,” Dean said, shaking his head, “We have VI programs for that kind of thing.” He stared at the screen a moment, then closed his eyes. “VI programs. Fuckin’ VI programs. Oh my God!

“Settle down,” Kaidan told him. “Just see if you can get any more information on what that Argus2 program is doing.”

“Alright, you assholes,” Dean scowled at the computer. “Give me your shitty little secrets.” He typed at the keyboard furiously, then threw his hands up in the air.

“Authorization code? What the fuck, man?”

“Damn,” Kaidan frowned. “It could be anything. What else does it say “Kahoku” authorized?”

“Not much,” Dean muttered, scanning the screen. Then he stopped short. “Oh, shit.”

“What?” Kaidan leaned over his shoulder.

“There,” Dean pointed. Kaidan looked, then shrugged.

“What?” he asked. “That means nothing to me.”

“Code 688?” Dean asked, looking at him expectantly. “A six double-eighter? ‘Shit eighty-eight’? You seriously don’t know what that is?”

“Should I?” Kaidan asked.

“I guess if you’re not a tech here you wouldn’t know the codes,” Dean said. “It’s when a high-up in the brass gets full access to a soldier’s accounts. It’s code for when some poor bastard has seriously pissed someone off.”

“So whose accounts is “Kahoku” monitoring?” Kaidan asked him.

Dean looked at the screen, then turned to Kaidan, his eyes wide.

“Yours, man.”

“What?” Kaidan frowned at him. “Let me see that.” He leaned over the screen and read the log. He didn’t know it was possible to feel any more uncomfortable than he already was, but what he read there made his skin crawl.

Code 688 requested by K. Kahoku.

Password sent.

Password accepted.

Finding mail targets…

K. Alenko found.

D. Anderson found.

S. Hackett found.

All accounts found.

“Shit, man. That’s…” Dean sputtered. “That’s Hackett they’re watching. That’s a fucking admiral .”

“And a councilor,” Kaidan added.

“And a councilor !” Dean cried. “Though,” he added with a wry, one-shouldered shrug, “I don’t know if he still uses his Alliance account since he moved on to the Council. Though if these fuckers can hack us, they can probably hack the Council’s mail. Their techs are lousy. Bunch of antiquated turians with sticks up their asses. Shit, man. I can’t believe they screwed me like this.”

“Looks like “Kahoku” didn’t authorize much though,” Kaidan said, looking at the brief logs. “He only did a half a dozen hacks in over two years time.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “Looks like someone used that account to dump things into the system, then left the programs to run themselves. These VI programs have been carrying intel out the back door. It’s like, I only just found the back door. I had no idea the front door was through an admiral . How the hell did they get his codes?”

“I can guess,” Kaidan said, darkly.

Curious, Kaidan checked the date that “Kahoku” had authorized the monitoring of his account. It was from a little over a month ago. Kaidan checked the date against his own email records. What he saw both unnerved him and yet, didn’t surprise him. The date his mail started being monitored was the day after he’d received the rachni data in an email from Shepard.

Kaidan shook his head. Well, he wondered what Cerberus would do about that. Apparently, they’d decided to monitor those receiving her mail as well as the one who sent it.

“Shit!” Dean was saying, shaking his head. “How come no one saw this? How come I didn’t see it?”

“You’re seeing it now,” Kaidan said.

“Damn it!” Dean said, scowling, “This is my system you hacked, you fuckers!”

“You just started investigating this, right?” Kaidan said. “You said it yourself: VI programs usually run all this stuff for you – those were Alliance VIs too.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, waving a hand at the computer. “But I don’t let VI programs go rogue. I’m better than that. Damn it!” He turned back to the screen. “Why didn’t I see it?”

“It was hiding in plain sight,” Kaidan told him. “And they had admiralty authorization. Of course it wouldn’t show up on your systems. Unless you go poking around actually looking for Kahoku’s name, you’re not going to see what he was doing.”

“Yeah,” Dean said glumly, “And no one would be looking for Kahoku’s name in the system ‘cause he’s dead.”

“Right,” Kaidan nodded. “He’s dead, so no one asked about his account, and since his account has such high-level clearance, the system didn’t bother to tell anyone what that account had been doing.”

“His account is a fucking free hall pass,” Dean growled, his eyes narrowing. “You’re right: an admiral monitoring a few accounts is nothing unusual. I might have even seen this and looked right over it. I sure as hell would have noticed something if I’d realized that an admiral was watching you though, man. I would have told you about that , for sure. Geez.”

“Yeah,” Kaidan muttered.

And right there, Kaidan thought, he found that he trusted Dean. The guy had been a friend for years and was just too open in his disgust for Kaidan to believe him capable of deceit. Dean seemed to take this all as a personal affront that someone had hacked his systems on his watch. Kaidan simply couldn’t believe that the guy had done said hacking and was pretending otherwise. So Kaidan could count Dean on his side. And as for the other person Kaidan was going to have to trust…

“This is messed up,” Dean said, shaking his head. “I am so telling my CO, right now.” He began to pull away from the desk.

“No,” Kaidan told him, his tone sharp. “Don’t.”

“Why not, man?” Dean frowned at him.

“We don’t know who’s in on this,” Kaidan told him. “I don’t think you were.”

“Shit no, man!” Dean said, obviously offended.

“Well,” Kaidan shrugged. “Like I said, I didn’t think so.”

“Well, I sure as hell hope you’re not with them,” Dean replied, scowling at him.

“No,” Kaidan shook his head. “But anyone else…”

Dean shivered and rolled his shoulders back. “Oh, damn man. Now see, that’s just going to creep me out. Now I’m going to be all…wondering…”

“Alright,” Kaidan said. “I need to save as much of this as I can.” He fired up his omnitool. “Give me access,” he told Dean. “I need to download these logs and then let’s get ourselves to Anderson’s office.”

“The councilor ?” Dean gaped at him.

“He needs to know,” Kaidan said. “If this is Cerberus, he needs to know.”

“Yeah man,” Dean said, slowly, “but what if he’s in on it, too?”

Kaidan shook his head. “He’s not,” he said. “He’s someone I trust. But if he *is * in on it…” Kaidan paused, his brows drawing together in worry.

“If he is,” he said, “then we’re all screwed.”