Night was approaching on the planet of Juxhi. The dim orange sun was setting on the horizon and Yando, the smaller of the world's two moons, was already approaching its zenith. For the next twenty minutes darkness would reign. Then Budmi, Yando's larger twin, would begin to rise, and the darkness would give way to an eerie twilight.
Saren Arterius, a turian Spectre, waited patiently for the sun to disappear. For several hours Saren had been perched atop a rock outcropping, staking out a small, isolated warehouse in the desert on the outskirts of Phend, Juxhi's capital city. Built in the sheltering stones of a small canyon, the run-down building was completely unremarkable, except for the fact that an illegal weapons deal was about to go down there.
The buyers were already inside: a group of gun-toting thugs with basic military training known as the Grim Skulls, one of the many private security organizations active in the Verge. The Skulls were small, a few dozen criminal mercenaries who had never been worth Saren's attention before tonight. Then they'd made the mistake of thinking they could purchase a stolen shipment of military-grade weapons that had disappeared from a turian transport freighter.
His ears caught the sound of an engine in the distance, and a few minutes later a six-wheeled ATV rolled up and came to a stop beside the shed. A half-dozen men got out; two were turian, the others human. Even in the dim light, Saren recognized one of the turians immediately: a dockworker from the Camala ports.
He'd been following the dockworker for days, ever since he checked the duty logs to see who was on shift when the shipment went missing. Only one worker hadn't shown up for work the next day; flguring out who the thief was had been embarrassingly easy.
Tracking him down wasn't much harder. This entire operation reeked of amateurs in over their heads, from the theft to the buyers. Normally Saren would've turned the matter over to local authorities and moved on to something bigger. But turians selling weapons to humans was something he took personally.
The door to the shed opened, and four of the flgures, including both turians, unloaded a crate from the back of the ATV and carried it inside. The other two took up sentry positions beside the door.
Saren shook his head in disbelief as he snapped his night-vision goggles into place. What possible use was there in leaving two men to stand guard outside a warehouse in the middle of nowhere? They had no cover; they were completely exposed.
Raising his Izaali Combine-manufactured sniper rifle to his eye, he fired two shots and both sentries slumped to the ground. Moving with an almost casual efficiency, he collapsed the sniper rifle and slid it back into the designated slot on his backpack. A more professional operation would have someone on the inside periodically checking on the sentries...or wouldn't have left them out there in the first place.
It took him ten minutes to clamber down from his perch on the rock face. By then the twin moons were both visible, giving enough illumination for him to stash his goggles back into his pack.
Whipping out the Haliat Arms semiautomatic assault rifle from where it clicked into place on his thigh, he approached the building's entrance. He'd scouted the warehouse earlier; he knew there were no windows and no other doors. Everyone inside was trapped-further proof he was dealing with idiots.
He pressed himself against the door, listening carefully. Inside he could hear angry bickering. Apparently nobody had the foresight to spell out the terms of the exchange before the meeting; either that or somebody was trying to renegotiate the deal. Professionals didn't make that mistake: get to the meeting, make the exchange, and get out. The longer you're there, the more chance something's going to go wrong.
Saren pulled three incendiary grenades from his belt, primed them, and began to count silently to himself. When he reached five he yanked open the door, tossed all three grenades in, slammed the door shut, and ran for cover behind the ATV.