CHAPTER ONE
Dilinaga Concert Hall, Tayseri Ward
December 24, 2182 CE

It could be argued that Sha'ira was the most famous Asari on the Citadel. Councillor Tevos, the Asari Republic's representative on the Citadel Council was definitely a close second, but going by sheer numbers more people knew the name of the galaxy famous Consort Sha'ira.

Leading her small retinue around to the private entrance of the Dilinaga Concert Hall, Sha'ira took a moment to appreciate the ease of living that her fame brought her. Instead of having to wade through the vast, unorganized crowd trying to make their way through the main entrance, the manager of the hall was waiting to lead her to her private box. A gangly Salarian, he was a prime example of his species, well dressed, his short horns polished to a shine.

"This way, Consort," the manager nearly gushed, holding his arm out for Sha'ira to take. Smiling, she gratefully took it, allowing the Salarian to lead her into the tastefully decorated private entrance. She took a moment to admire the statue of the Turian ship in one of the recesses of the hall. Noticing her interest, the manager stopped, smiling proudly. "I see you like the Kavar."

"It is an intriguing piece." Sha'ira studied the statue, noting that it looked like an early Turian pleasure ship. She had spent part of her maiden years dancing aboard one that looked quite similar.

"It's a reminder for me," the manager continued, blinking his large eyes. He ran a hand over one of his horns, oblivious to Sha'ira's quickly growing disinterest. "A reminder that hubris and pride is never a match for the universe."

Sha'ira was of course too polite to say anything, allowing the rapid talking Salarian to ramble. His words faded into the background and she kept a soft smile on her face, nodding her understanding every so often.

"The Captain..." With a blush of embarrassment, the manger trailed off as he noticed Sha'ira's lack of interest. "Forgive me, Consort. I get carried away sometimes. I forget that most people do not share my enthusiasm of obscure history."

"It is quite alright," Sha'ira gracefully responded. "Do not let anyone else dampen your enjoyment of what surrounds you. Just be more mindful of others reactions to your lectures."

With a grateful bow and relieved smile, the manager led Sha'ira and her retinue to the door of her private box. "Thank you, Consort. I hope that you enjoy the concert.

Stepping inside, Sha'ira smiled as she looked out at the concert hall. Dark figures moved to their seats, quietly murmuring in anticipation for what promised to be one of the best performances of the season from the rising cello soloist.

Taking her seat in one of the plush chairs, Sha'ira settled back comfortably, crossing her legs patiently as her retinue moved to copy her. She enjoyed listening to the maidens quietly chattering behind her, their quiet conversation wandering across every topic imaginable, from human soccer to wether or they had seen the new film Nekyia Corridor.

Keeping only part of her attention on her retinue's conversation, Sha'ira looked back out across the theater below her. Nearly every species known to Citadel space was present, if not in equal numbers. The Council races by far made up the majority: Turians, Asari, and Salarians. She noted, and not for the first time, that the clothing each race tended to wears exemplified the traits that they tended towards.

The Turians all wore varying levels of military dress. As the main protectors of Citadel space, it was in their blood. Their clothing had become more fashionable in the two-thousand years since they had joined the Council, but most still reflected their true nature. Sha'ira could certainly admire the way that their suits attractively draped on their carapaces.

Salarian fashion was almost a contradiction of the terms. As the second race to find the Citadel, and having jointly formed the Council with the Asari, they held high positions across the galaxy. With metabolisms that worked at an incredible pace, they had seen more generations come and go than all of the other races combined. At the speed that their minds worked, very little of their impressive intelligence was ever spent on designing appealing clothing, or anything artistic in general.

With lifespans upwards of a thousand years, the Asari had more than enough time to spend developing wild and eye-catching pieces of clothing, all reflecting their grace, and origin from their native planet's oceans. It was the Asari who had found the Citadel nearly three-thousand years ago, and Sha'ira was more than proud of that fact.

There were of course the hopefuls amongst the crowd, races who were vying for a seat on the Council. The lone pair of Elcor stood out amongst the audience. Having evolved on a high-gravity world, their quadrupedalism and massive, muscular bodies were a natural byproduct.

Harder to pick out were the Volus; short, rotuned little creatures with an ammonia based biochemistry. Forced to live in environmental suits off of their home planet, Sha'ira took a moment to thank the goddess Athame that she had a Volus looking after her rather impressive bank accounts. She then sent another quick prayer of thanks that she herself was not a Volus.

Several Hanar floated near the back of the theater, their long tentacles hanging down to the floor. It still made her stare in wonder at how effortlessly they levitated through the air.

Turning her attention finally to the last two, and by far the most enigmatic of the races, Sha'ira narrowed her eyes. It wasn't often that anything could truly surprsie her, but when she had heard the news that a Turian fleet had been forced to retreat after a failed invasion, it had made her sit up and take notice. Not only had it turned out that more than a single race had taken part in the humiliation of the Turian fleets, but they had already begun to form a rudimentary version of their own Council.

Not in any of her seven hundred years had Sha'ira ever seen the Council in such a panic. She made enough from Councillor Tevos' subsequent visits alone to outright purchase the top ten floors of her apartment building.

Humans and Equestrians. There was nothing about them that would alert anyone to the fact that they were observing some of the most paradoxical and threatening beings to have ever evolved in the galaxy.

With the ferocity of the Krogans, the discipline of the Turians, and the creativity of the Asari, humanity upset the status quo. They were brash, loud, and entitled, strutting about like the galaxy owed them.

Equestrians were a different matter entirely. All planets had seemed to follow one universal constant. Only one sentient race. It was almost easier to count the non-sapient creatures on Equestria. On top of that fact, Equestria was home to three of the strangest beings that Sha'ira had ever met. Gods in all but name, the Alicorn princesses. She had consoled more than a few scientists who had tried to explain how they moved stars effortlessly, and that was without mentioning all of the other impossibilities that filled ever aspect of their day to day lives.

The hall fell silent as the lights dimmed. Sha'ira smiled in quiet anticipation as a shiver ran down her spine.

###

The familiar feeling of anticipation washed through Octavia Melody from the tips of her hooves to the end of her tail, something that happened to her before every concert she played. She took deep, calming breaths, shifting her forehoof around the neck of her cello. Balancing on her back legs had long since become a natural thing for her, using her cello as a third leg to balance on.

Standing on the rising platform, the grey mare let her music run through her head in last minute anticipation, her eyes closed. The moments before were always the best, and she savored every second of it.

The platform jolted as it began to rise up to the stage before, but Octavia kept her balance from years of practice. It only took several moments for her to be lifted up to the circular stage of the concert hall. Octavia could hear the audience surrounding her, a false silence of people shifting in their seats and occasionally whispering to each other.

She began to play

###

The applause was still ringing through the concert hall as the stage lowered back down. Octavia smiled proudly at her performance, dropping down onto all four of her hooves. With a long practiced gesture, she flipped her cello onto her back. Stepping down off of the platform, she walked over to her case, still on the floor exactly where she left it.

Flipping open the latches, Octavia opened the case. A jolt of shock ran through her body as she found herself face to face with a well-worn picture, intimately familiar to her. That picture had stayed in her cello case for the past nine years ever since the incident. Vinyl might be gone, but Octavia made sure that she would live on in some way, by achieving the success that Vinyl always dreamed of.

Looking down at her hoof, Octavia studied the familiar polished gold wedding band. It wasn't very expensive, and it didn't have any diamonds or flashy jewels, nor was it very eye-catching, but Octavia simply didn't care. It was the last thing that Vinyl had ever given to her, and she had not taken it off even once since that day. It had become as much a part of her as her mane.

With gentle respect, Octavia laid her cello in its case. Closing the lid, she locked the latches, so wrapped up in her thoughts and memories that she didn't hear the footsteps behind her.

"Mrs. Melody."

Startled, Octavia spun around to find Sha'ira and her maidens standing a respectful distance away. With practiced ease, she wiped the nostalgia from her face and plastered on a subdued smile. "Consort. It is good to see you."

Consort Sha'ira bowed gracefully, and Octavia took a moment to marvel at how human the Asari looked. Completely female in appearance, all Asari were varying shades of blue and purple. The only true difference between humans and Asari that Octavia had ever noticed was the mane, or hair as she reminded herself. The Asari had none, instead possessing cartilage based scalp crests, striking and graceful in their appearance, revealing their past ancestry as aquatic mammals.

"You played beautifully tonight," Sha'ira spoke, unaware of Octavia's inner observations. "It is always a treat to hear your concerts."

"Thank you," Octavia ducked her head, blushing, ears laying back in embarrassment.

Taking a step closer, Sha'ira clasped her hands behind her back. "Regretfully, I am here on business."

"Oh?" Octavia's ears swiveled forward as she turned her full attention on the Consort.

"A Turian General," Sha'ira said as she looked around the skeleton of the ship above, "by the name of Septimus Oraka has requested that you play for him privately."

"It would be my pleasure," Octavia nodded.

Smiling gratefully at the mare, Sha'ira gave another bow. "This is excellent news, Mrs. Melody. General Oraka will be pleased to hear it." Turning, Sha'ira led her retinue away.

Staring after the Consort for a moment, Octavia felt her false smile falling away. Her ears dropping down forlornly, she slung her cello case onto her back and started walking to the back entrance. The only sounds to comfort her were the clip-clop of her horse shoes.

###

The taxi ride to her apartment building seemed to pass in no time at all. Leaving the relative safety of the Ward Arms of the Citadel was always a sight to behold. The soft purple glow of the Serpent Nebula that engulfed the massive space-station made the beautiful sight simply marvelous.

For the first time since she had moved to the Citadel, the view did nothing to raise Octavia's spirits. She barely even noticed the ride, so wrapped up in her own thoughts. Stepping out, she pulled her cello case onto her back once again. The taxi took off, flying off to collect its next customer.

"Mrs. Melody, how was your concert?"

Looking up, Octavia found the doorman smiling down at her. Wearing a tailored suit, Octavia could barely make out the bulge of his pistol. Octavia found the aging Turian a welcome treat from the general unappreciative masses.

"It was fine," she replied morosely. "Thank you for asking, Fidelis."

"My wife and I are looking forward to seeing you play next month," Fidelis said as he opened the door for her. "I can't thank you enough for the tickets."

"It was no problem. I hope you two enjoy it." Octavia gave him a friendly smile. Stepping into the lobby of Tilican Tower, she made her way across the marble floors, polished to a shine. At the familiar sound of her hooves, the few residents loitering together in the lobby turned and waved at her. As the only Equestrian resident in the entire tower, everyone recognized her. Octavia gave weary nods and a weak smile in response.

Stopping at the elevator, Octavia pressed the up button, waiting patiently for it to arrive.

###

With a soft hiss, the door to Octavia's apartment slid open. As the door slid back closed behind her, Octavia sagged tiredly. Loosening her pink bow-tie, she walked into her practice room and propped up her cello gently on its stand.

Walking back out and into her kitchen, Octavia opened her alcohol drawer. Her memories were calling for a more expensive pain reliever than tylenol. Pushing bottles aside, she wrapped her fetlock around the neck of a dusty bottle near the back. Setting it on the counter, she pulled a mug from another cupboard. Imported specially from Equestria, the bottle of Apple family cider was both ridiculously expensive and in all likelihood the only one of its kind on the Citadel.

Everything about living on the Citadel was expensive for Octavia. As an Earth Pony, nothing was built with a species like hers in mind. Unicorns had their magic, and Pegasi had their wings, but all that Earth ponies had were their hooves. When she had moved into her apartment, she had to hire contractors to make it livable for her.

As he popularity and income grew, the changes increased. She now owned the entire top floor and had a near three-hundred sixty degree view of the Citadel from her floor to ceiling windows, made from a clear Asari metal to keep the atmosphere in. The only obstruction of her view was from the block of rooms in the right corner.

Filling her mug, Octavia placed the bottle back in the cupboard. Picking up her glass in one hoof, she walked three-legged to her living room.

Setting her mug on the small table next to her favorite chair, she clambered in and settled down. The first few months of trying to sit in the store bought chairs had made her cave and have one specially made for her. Ponies simply did not sit the same way as bipedal species. It was only fitting that her favorite chair look out over the best view from her apartment.

Outside her windows ships passed by, lumbering behemoths that ignored the smaller aircars that flitted between them. Seeing life pass by brought Octavia comfort, and she had spent countless hours just staring out her windows. Between practicing, playing concert, and occasionally doing the odd session for Consort Sha'ira, Octavia's free time was most often spent on her chair.

Sipping at her cider, Octavia tried to ignore the urge to turn her head and look her mantle piece. She was trying to get the sour memories out of her head, not fill it with even more.

She took a gulp from her mug, desperate to put her mind elsewhere.

Octavia didn't want to look. She really didn't, but trying to stop herself was quickly proving to be impossible.

"Dammit!" Octavia growled, swiveling in her chair.

Pictures covered the mantlepiece, and Octavia let her gaze wander over them. It was simply Vinyl and Octavia's life, or at least what little there was of it. Everything was there, from when the two had met as fillies all the way to their wedding. Octavia giggled at the picture of filly Vinyl. A foreleg around filly Octavia's neck, she was smiling as wide as she could, her left eye swollen nearly completely shut from Octavia's punch that started the journey of their friendship.

Clenching her eyes shut, Octavia downed the rest of the cider. She ignored the tears welling in her eyes as she stood up out of her favorite chair and returned the mug to the kitchen. It would be best if she just went to bed now. Better to let her thoughts and memories plague her in her comfortable bed than in front of her mantlepiece of photos.

Even as she plodded tiredly towards her bedroom, Octavia could feel temptation coursing through her veins. She knew that she shouldn't, but the need to just peek into the room was almost too much for her to bear.

Ears and tail twitching in agitation, Octavia grit her teeth together. Annoyed and disappointed in her inability to move past her pain, she turned to open the door opposite her own bedroom. It was not a room that she spent a lot of time in, but looking inside never failed to move her.

The door slid open and lights turned on, revealing to Octavia a sight that she knew like the sound of her cello. The room was both a shrine and a tomb, though Octavia had never thought of it as such.

Sitting in the center of the room was a state of the art DJ turn table, meticulously cleaned and polished. The bookshelf lining the wall opposite the door held more records than most people ever saw in a lifetime. All of them had been imported from Equestria, one of the last planets left that still manufactured the vinyl discs.

Mismatched speakers hung from nearly every surface, artful in their arrangement. Everything was exactly the way that Vinyl would have wanted it. Vinyl might never have stepped hoof in the room, much less the apartment, but it was Octavia's way of remembering.

"Happy anniversary, Vinyl," Octavia whispered, hanging her head. She stepped out of the doorway and let it slide shut behind her, retreating to her own room to hide from the galaxy.