Civilian Docks, Tayseri Ward, Citadel
December 24, 2182 CE
By the time Vitus made it to the docks, Citadel news crews were already gathering, wildly speculating on what could be happening behind the C-Sec police line. Straightening his uniform as he stepped from his aircar, Vitus stood to his full height. Taller than the average Turian, he cut a striking figure as he waded his way into the growing crowd towards the entrance of the civilian docks.
"Make a hole!" He shouted, the crowd too dense to simply push through. His mandibles flared in agitation. "C-Sec, coming through!"
His loud, flanging voice cut through the din of noise and the crowd parted for him. Striding forward, he nodded in greetings to Lieutenant Amaia who was waiting for him behind the police line. She was the latest in a young line of officers that Vitus had taken under his wing and taught everything that the academy had left out.
As he crossed the line, Amaia saluted him, and he noticed the sadness hidden behind her eyes. Vitus knew at that moment that this was going to be one of those cases, the type that kept you waking up from nightmares years later. Every officer had to experience one sooner or later, and it was Amaia's turn now.
"Lieutenant," Vitus nodded to her, saluting her back. "Walk me through it."
"Yes, Captain," Amaia slouched ever so slightly. Pointing towards the entrance to the main docks, she grimaced in disgust. "We have the smugglers locked up in the customs holding area. We're still running the names, but so far we've only positively identified the Captain. The rest are using fake identities. He's a Turian by the name of Herious Malsis, wanted for desertion."
"Is he clanless?" Vitus asked, distaste rolling through him at the thought of a deserter. It was every Turian's duty to serve the Hierarchy, and those who shirked that duty were some of the most distasteful beings in the galaxy, at least in Vitus' eyes. A Turian who didn't wear clan paint stood out, a warning to be wary, announcing to all who looked upon them that they had cut all ties to their clan of origin.
"They all are," Amaia confirmed. "We've got cars coming to pick them up and take them to headquarters for questioning."
"Good." Vitus grit his teeth. "That's good work, Lieutenant."
Amaia ducked her head, blushing at the praise. Vitus pretended not to notice, not wishing to embarrass the Asari maiden further.
"The ship is docked this way, sir," Amaia pointed down one of the long hallways. Officers scurried about the hall, single-minded in their focus as they worked on their individual tasks. "Its named the MSV Charybdis, and its transponder reads the same but we are pretty sure that it is not its original name. It was probably purchased out of Omega. If the slave hadn't escaped, we would never have even realized."
Walking onto the main dock, Vitus laid eyes on the Charybdis for the first time. He recognized that it was an aging human freighter, probably one of the first they had built, but over the years, pieces of other ships had been attached. The overall effect made for one very clunky looking machine.
"What were they transporting?" Vitus looked over the C-Sec officers crawling over the ship, cataloguing every nut and bolt.
Opening her omni-tool, Amaia logged into the local C-Sec network, pulling up the latest report. "It looks like there's some ten tons of red-sand, twelve tons of hallex, six tons of minagen x3, and we still haven't found everything. This ship has more smuggling compartments than anything we have ever seen."
"Ambitious." Mandibles twitching, Vitus frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. "What about the slaves?"
Amaia grimaced, her purple face turning a pale blue. Glancing down at the ground, she opening her mouth to say something, then shut it again, uneasy. She tried again. "The... The current count is at three-hundred eighty-nine, alive."
"Alive?" Vitus asked, his interest flaring.
With a pained grunt, Amaia bent over, clutching her stomach. She threw up, dry-heaving, and Vitus moved forward to rub her back, comfortingly.
"You're doing a great job, Amaia," he said. "Catch your breath."
Struggling to do just that, Amaia straightened, crossing her arms protectively over her chest. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. Slowly, color returned to her cheeks. Vitus waited patiently for her to continue.
"Thank you, sir," the young Asari said shakily. "I'm good."
"Yes, sir," Amaia nodded.
"Good." Vitus started walking towards the crowds of medics lining the docks. As he studied the group, he could make out the tired forms of the slaves. "Walk me through it, Lieutenant."
Opening her omni-tool again, Amaia looked over the numbers. "One-hundred eighty-seven Asari, forty-three of them children. One-hundred sixty humans, mostly female, some twenty-four children. Twenty-eight Turians, mostly male..." pausing, Amaia looked up nervously at Vitus before she continued. "... and fourteen Equestrians."
Vitus spun around to look at Amaia in shock, already feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on.
"Four griffons, sir, the rest ponies," Amaia finished.
Closing his eyes, Vitus let out a low groan. A bad situation turning worse, the headache burst fully into being. "Shit," he growled out. "This just got complicated." Opening his omni-tool, he pulled up Executor Pallin's number. "Thank you, Lieutenant." He dismissed her.
Saluting, Amaia turned and headed for the customs office. Vitus watched her go, running one of his talons over his fringe. With a sigh, he made the call. He waited for the chime to let him know that the call connected. "Executor."
"Captain Vitus," Executor Pallin's gruff voice answered. "What do you need?"
"The smuggling bust I am overseeing has turned into an interplanetary incident." Vitus struggled with what to say next. "This could be... extremely delicate."
"Go on, Captain," the Executor said, growing impatient.
"I have fourteen Equestrian nationals that were being smuggled onto the Citadel for sale onto the black market." Looking over at the medics, Vitus tried to pick out any faces from the freed slaves, but they were just too far away.
Executor Pallin was silent for several long moments. "I will get in contact with the Equestrian Embassy. I want you to debrief me in my office in one hour, Captain. Treat this with the utmost delicacy."
"Yes, sir," Vitus said as he shut the omni-tool, wishing that he had brought something to take the edge off his growing headache.
Golden Quill was not quite sure on the chain of events that had led up to him receiving the job of receptionist in the Equestrian Embassy, but he found the work fulfilling. Life on the Citadel was enjoyable, always full of excitement and things to do. What he enjoyed most about it was that he could never be sure of who would walk through the door. The guards kept those who had no business being there out, but for those who were more legitimate, it was up to him on whether or not they would be allowed to see the Ambassador.
The entire front lobby of the Equestrian Embassy had been designed to impress, to show the other races that Equestria could stand with them as a functioning member of galactic society. This shone through in the subtle furnishings, elegant and refined. The Royal Guards in dress armor were there for the same purpose. A sight to behold in their gold plated armor, their saddle weapon systems were there to remind others that though they might be pacifistic, they could pout out serious amounts of force.
Golden Quill was actually the focus of the room. Every line drew back to him, and he was required to dress the part. His suit was only slightly less expensive than the ambassador's and he had a closet full of them.
At the blinking of a small light on his desk, Golden straightened, setting his front hooves on his desk. The guards were letting him know someone was about to enter, and being able to greet them unsurprised was just another one of his tricks.
The doors slid open, and Golden's mind ground to a halt. That tended to happen when three of the most powerful beings in the galaxy walked into the room.
Executor Pallin was in the lead, an aging Turian. His carapace was showing the signs of his age, and as the head of Citadel Security, he was not someone that Golden wanted to cross. Flanking him on either side were Councillor Tevos and Councillor Valern, the Asari and Salarian Councillors respectively. Having held her seat on the Council for nearly four-hundred years, Tevos was only just entering the Matriarch phase of the Asari. She still had a maiden's beauty, and she knew how to use it to the best of her advantage. Valern had only spent ten years on the Council, but his reach was long and his influence great. No other Salarian was as well known throughout the galaxy.
"It is of the utmost importance that we be granted an audience with Ambassador Blueblood," Tevos spoke melodiously, and Golden found it hard to focus on anything except for her.
"And-" Golden cleared his throat. "And what should I tell him is the purpose of this meeting?"
Golden wanted to sink into the floor and die as Pallin leveled his glare at him. When the Turian bared his sharp teeth, Golden couldn't help but gulp in fear. "What we have to say is for Ambassador Blueblood's ears only," Pallin said.
Frozen, it took Golden a moment to gather his wits back together. With shaky hooves, he pressed the intercom for the Ambassador's office.
When his Auntie Celestia had asked him to represent Equestria as the Ambassador on the Citadel, his life had not been head in a good direction. Blueblood was stallion enough to admit that back then he was nothing more than a spoiled foal. With nothing to do with his time or money, he spent both on foalish, frivolous things. Becoming the Ambassador had changed all of that, much to Blueblood's pleasure. It gave him what he was so sorely lacking before. A purpose worthy of his talents.
He managed to take a calming breath just as the door to his office opened. Putting on his best smile, Blueblood effortlessly slid into his element as Executor Pallin and Councillors Tevos and Pallin walked in. "Councillors. Executor. What brings you to my office this lovely night?"
Tevos bowed apologetically. "Ambassador Blueblood. I am afraid that we bring bad news."
Studying the Asari carefully, Blueblood felt he was qualified enough to judge that all three of them were extremely on edge. It showed in the tightness of Tevos' smile, the way that Valern's eyes darted around the room, and Pallin's mandibles flexed every few moments. Something had all of them worried, and they were coming to him with it. Already his excitement was growing, though he was careful to not show it on his face. Blueblood instead waited patiently for them to continue.
"C-Sec seized a smuggling ship several hours ago," Pallin continued for Tevos. "We rescued a large number of slaves that were being brought in for sale on the black market."
Even more intrigued, Blueblood made sure to keep his expression neutral. This was the type of situation that he lived for, a challenge. "That is good news, but I don't see why it required two Councillor's and the Executor of Citadel Security to inform me. I am quite sure that I would have heard about this on the news."
When the three of them glanced at each other, Blueblood knew that he had hit paydirt. This type of big came around maybe once in a lifetime. It was sure to be something that would allow Equestria to strengthen its own position, with absolutely no protest from any other race.
"There were Equestrians among the slaves," Valern simply said.
There is was. Blueblood leaned back in his seat, his inner joy a stark contrast to disgust at the entire situation. "I see."