Tilican Tower, Bachjret Ward, Citadel
December 25, 2182 CE
Octavia woke slowly, letting her consciousness return to her naturally as she looked blearily out her shaded window. "Open blinds," she croaked out, luxuriating in the soft warmth of her bed. The shades rose silently and it took her vision several minutes to focus on the ships moving through the flight paths.
The violet light of the Serpent Nebula trickled into the room. Her night had passed slowly, and Octavia had only managed to get several hours of sleep. Thoughts of Vinyl had plagued her, regrets that she could never fix making her sob into her pillow.
Groaning, Octavia slid out from under her covers. Landing on all four hooves, she staggered to her bathroom, the door sliding open for her as it sensed her approach.
Looking into her mirror, Octavia winced at the sight. Her mulberry eyes were bloodshot and dark circles sat under her eyes. The cider certainly hadn't helped last night. Shaking her head ruefully, Octavia started her shower. She could fix everything, hide how awful she really looked. She had a lot of practice with that.
After her shower, and the thirty minutes it took to make herself look presentable, Octavia stepped into her kitchen. She quickly threw together a simple daisy salad, using fresh picked daisies from her small garden. That was one of the best features of her apartment. Under her kitchen island, it allowed her always have fresh vegetables on hand without paying the exorbitant prices on imports.
She ate slowly, basking in the silence, gathering herself together for the day ahead. Working for the Consort helped keep her thoughts from the darker places of her mind.
Walking through the Presidium was always an experience for Octavia. The political heart of the Citadel, the Presidium Ring was home to some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Politicians, bankers, movers and shakers, celebrities, and artists all spent the majority of their time there. Octavia could best describe it as an exclusive club that kept a careful watch on its guest list.
Her cello firmly balanced on her back, she walked with a false confidence past embassies and high class restaurants. Despite her own success, Octavia was at her heart a small town mare. Ponyville back on Equestria was her true home, but that planet held far too many bad memories. Never mind the fact that she had worked for Sha'ira for the past five years, Octavia still felt dishonest whenever stepped hoof on the Presidium.
Octavia got looks from nearly everyone as she made her way to the Consort's chambers. It was something that had surprised her when she first moved to the Citadel. It had taken a mental breakdown in Ryuusei's sushi bar and a kind Turian waiter to explain that Equestrians were rarely seen outside of Equestria itself. She just tried her best to ignore the stress and continue on with her life.
The Asari tended to stare after her with varying degrees of lust and intrigue, especially from the maidens. Octavia had asked Sha'ira about it once and learned that the Asari viewed attraction differently from all of the other races. She was uneasy with interspecies romance, and tried her best to avoid any Asari who stared too long after her.
Octavia couldn't quite figure out the Turians. They tended to stare after her with a mixture of respect and caution. They weren't quite sure how to react to being beaten back by Humanity and Equestria during the Relay 314 incident.
Most Salarians just ignored her.
It was the humans who were the most comforting. They always met her with a smile and wave, which she would gladly return. There was an ease there that she just didn't feel with the rest of the races.
Stepping into the entrance of the Consort's chambers, Octavia gave a friendly nod Nelyna, the Asari receptionist. She had gotten to know her over the first five years she had been working for the Consort.
"Mrs. Melody, it's good to see you," Nelyna greeted, a kind smile on her face.
"And you, Nelyna," Octavia smiled back.
Nelyna waved Octavia through. "You know where to go, Mrs. Melody."
Stepping into the waiting room, Octavia ignored the people waiting to see Sha'ira herself. They weren't any of her business, and she was none of theirs. If there was one rule in the Consot's chambers, it was discretion was the better part of valor, and Octavia took that to heart.
Stepping into the Consort's private music room, Octavia pulled her cello off her back and set it down. The room was tastefully decorated, soothing and relaxing, and most importantly, customizable to every clients individual needs. At the moment, there was only a single Turian chair set up in the center of the room.
Opening her case, Octavia ignored the picture of Vinyl. Now was not the time. She only took several minutes to tune and warm up. Sighing, she settled in to wait for the client.
Exactly at the turning of the hour, the door slid open and a tall Turian stepped in. General Septimus Oraka. He was dressed sharply, with gleaming white face paint proudly proclaimed his clan affiliation.
Octavia waited patiently for him to take his seat, silent. This was not a time for talking, and that was not what Oraka was paying for. They both knew how this worked, and they wouldn't be breaking the unspoken rules.
Without any pageantry, Octavia raised her bow and began to play. She had no need for sheet music, having long ago learned the music by heart.
General Oraka leaned back in his chair, letting his eyes slide closed as he let out a sigh of pure pleasure. As the stress disappeared from his frame, Octavia smiled. She lived for these moments, and they kept her going when her thoughts turned darker.
The hour finished and Octavia lowered her bow. Silently, General Oraka stood and walked out of the room, a spring in his step.
Octavia packed her cello away and placed it on her back before she left the room herself.
Nelyna smiled down at her as she walked past. "Mrs. Melody, the credits have already been transferred to your account."
"Thank you, Nelyna," Octavia said over her shoulder, heading home. Back to her memories, and the sadness that surrounded them.
He might not have had the most glamorous of jobs, Fidelis never gave anything less than his complete devotion. It paid the rent, and he had come to be friends with the majority of the residents of Tilican Tower.
That professionalism is what allowed him to keep his face still as an aircar pulled to a stop and the blond maned ambassador of Equestria stepped out. Fidelis liked to keep abreast of all of the current politicians on the Citadel, and Ambassador Blueblood was definitely up there. Two Equestrian Royal Guards stepped out after the Ambassador, quickly flanking him. Fidelis quietly noted the guards professionalism as they covered Blueblood.
Movement from the aircar caught Fidelis' attention and he shifted his gaze to seen an Asari step out. Amusement bubbled up as he realized that she was obviously wearing a human made suit.
The group of four walked up to him, Blueblood leading. He nodded respectfully to Fidelis before he spoke. "I need to speak with a Miss Octavia Melody."
"Is she expecting you?" Fidelis had respect for the Ambassador, but his loyalty was to the resident of the tower. He was paid to keep people out, no matter who they might be, and he was more than willing to do that.
"No," Blueblood shook his head, unapologetic. "This is rather short notice. I need to speak with her before the news breaks."
"What news," Fidelis asked. Aside from keeping people out, the other part of his job involved knowing when to let someone in. Discretion was the name of the game.
"It involves her wife," Blueblood said patiently. "Vinyl Scratch."
"I'm afraid that you are going to have to come back with an appointment." It seemed that today he would be turning away the Ambassador of Equestria. "Mrs. Vinyl Scratch is deceased."
Blueblood shook his head no. "That's what Mrs. Melody believes, yes. It is what we are here to discuss with her."
Or maybe he would be letting them through.
"I see," was all Fidelis found he could say.
Octavia had found that she spent the majority of her time in her practice room. She did not have what you could call an active social life by any stretch of the imagination and would practice her cello for hours on end. That was a large reason why she was one of the top paid artists on the Citadel. It helped to calm her, and she found that the act of playing let her say musically what she just couldn't say aloud. She could lose herself in her music, let her mind fall silent and experience peace like she so rarely could.
Even as she drifted in inner peace, Octavia could feel her mind whirling, improvising as she played. The notes she played reflected the beauty of Thessia's waves, the stark majesty of Palaven, the gentle kindness of Equestria.
The doorbell broke her peace and Octavia snapped back to reality. Propping her cello back up on its stand, Octavia set her down on the small table next to it. The doorbell rang again, and she trotted out of her practice room.
Turning on the intercom, she looked out into the hallway through the closed circuit camera. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was that was just waiting outside her door. She scrambled to open it, hoping to look as presentable as possible, confusion rushing through her.
"Ambassador Blueblood," Octavia cried, straightening her mane with her hoof. "What can I do for you?"
The Ambassador gave Octavia a small smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, giving a short bow to the grey mare. "May we come in, Miss Melody? There are things that we need to discuss, and I'm afraid that time is of the essence."
For the first time, Octavia noticed the others that were standing with Blueblood. The royal guards stood just behind him, and behind them was a slim Asari, a matron if Octavia had to guess. She raised an eyebrow when she saw that the Asari was wearing a well-tailored suit of human design if she was not mistaken.
"Miss Melody?" Blueblood spoke again, a gentle tone to his voice.
Octavia snapped back to reality from her thoughts, stepping aside and gesturing for them to come with a finely trimmed hoof. "Please. Please come in."
Blueblood once again bowed respectfully to Octavia, stepping inside. The Asari followed after him. The two guards took up positions outside her apartment.
Clearing her throat awkwardly, Octavia held her hoof out towards the main room. "We should be more comfortable in here."
She led the two into the main room, settling into her favorite chair and smiling at the appreciative glances the two gave the space. Blueblood seemed most taken by the massive windows and the gorgeous view that they offered. A small cough from the Asari drew him back to the matters at hand.
"Miss Melody," Blueblood calmly spoke. "Please forgive my rudeness. This is Elyra Vylia, and she specializes in matters such as this," gesturing politely to the Asari, Elyra, he gave Octavia yet another smile.
Octavia nodded politely to Elyra as the two politely took seats on one of her slim, fashionable couches. She had purchased them purely for guest use, preferring her favorite chair to the uncomfortable lines of the factory made couches.
"Can I ask what brings you to my house, Ambassador?" Octavia asked, tilting her head inquisitively, her ears still, facing the two.
Blueblood opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again a moment later with a sigh. He shifted uncomfortably on the couch, glancing up at Elyra. She nodded at him and Blueblood sighed. He opened his mouth to speak again.
"On the flight over, I tried to figure out how I would segue into what brings us here today" Blueblood spoke slowly, forming his words together carefully. He ducked his head, just for a moment, shutting his eyes. Opening them again, he continued on. "I realize now that there is no easy way to talk about this."
Octavia took a long moment, staring at Elyra, wondering why a social worker, especially an Asari, was sitting on her couch. Noticing the mare's gaze, Elyra shifted in her seat, an unreadable expression on her face.
Tearing her attention away from Elyra, Octavia looked back to Blueblood. "What are you talking about, Ambassador?"
Looking at Elyra once again, Blueblood ran his hoof over the fabric of the couch. "Do you remember the events of March 17, 2173?"
Eyes narrowing, Octavia tensed, her ears swiveling back in agitation. She managed to stop herself from grinding her teeth, taking a moment to gather her scattered emotions before speaking, her voice harsh, almost growling. "Yes, and tank you for bringing up that memory, Ambassador."
Blueblood grimaced. He opened his mouth to speak, but Elyra cut in before he could.
"Mrs." Octavia interrupted.
Elyra nodded apologetically. "Mrs. Melody. Your wife, Vinyl Scratch, was pronounced deceased-"
"I am failing to see the point of this conversation." Octavia's voice was cold and quiet. Every muscle in her body was screaming at her to run, it didn't matter where, just as long as it wasn't anywhere near these two.
"There is a point, Mrs. Melody," Blueblood pleaded. "Please, just bear with us. We are checking facts."
Octavia stared at Blueblood for a long moment before nodding. She took a deep breath, edging back into her seat. She couldn't help but feel cornered. "... Go on."
"Your wife, Vinyl Scratch, was pronounced deceased the next day was she not?" Elyra asked once again, far more gentle this time around.
"Yes," Octavia whispered, looking over at her mantle and the pictures that sat there.
"But her body was never recovered, was it Mrs. Melody?"
"No." Octavia sunk down, turning to stare out the window.
Blueblood looked up at Elyra, anxious. With a sigh, he gathered himself together. He took a calming breath before speaking. "Your wife did not die, Mrs. Melody."
Spinning around, Octavia leveled her glare at Blueblood and Elyra, her eyes narrowed as rage boiled into her heart. "Get out. Get out!"
"Not until we finish this conversation, Mrs. Melody.: Blueblood did his best to ignore Octavia's piercing glare.
"Your wife was taken," Elyra spoke gently. "She never died-"
"No!" Octavia shook her head in denial. "No! The Princess said-"
"The Princess was wrong." Blueblood interrupted, doing his best to not agitate Octavia any further. "Mrs. Scratch was taken by Batarian raiders that day. She never died."
Octavia rocked back as if Blueblood had physically struck her. Millions of questions raced through her head, but she couldn't speak a single word.
"Last night, C-Sec seized a ship owned by a smuggling ring that operated out of the Teysiri Ward." Blueblood looked forward, keeping eye contact with Octavia. "Aside from a rather impressive amount of drugs, the ship was transporting a rather large amount of slaves. A small number of Equestrians were among them."
Octavia's eyes widened and she took a shuddering breath. "Vinyl," she whispered out.
"Yes." Elyra nodded. "Mrs. Scratch is currently undergoing emergency surgery at Huerta Memorial Hospital.
Unsteadily climbing out of her chair, she stood on shaky legs. "I... I want to see her."
"Of course," Blueblood nodded.
The operating room was bustling with activity, but it was strangely silent for the amount of beings inside. Human, Asari, and Turian doctors worked, listening to the calm voice of Doctor Stable, the head surgeon. A carmel colored unicorn, Doctor Stable had a heart monitor for a Cutie Mark. All of the attention in the room was focused on the patient on the operating table.
"I want scans of her horn," Stable ordered. "Horn rot appears to be heavily prevalent. We need to see how deep it goes."
Vinyl Scratch lay covered on the table, and most of the doctors were in agreement that she was one of the worst patients they had ever seen. Her coat was caked in dried blood and filth. The stench wafting off of her was making even the Turian doctors nauseous, something that rarely ever happened to them. Her hooves were dried and cracked, and her horn had a split that ran nearly directly down the middle, pieces of the other shell flaking away.
Doctor Stable took a moment to look up at the observation windows above the room. He could feel eyes on him, but he had bigger things to deal with.
"Have the Princesses responded?" Councillor Tevos asked, staring down at the operating table below. Her arms were folded under her breasts, trying to resist the urge to itch her crest. It had been bothering her from the moment she had heard the news about the MSV Charybdis. She glanced over at Councillor Valern and Executor Pallin standing beside her. She could only assume that she looked as tired as they did.
"No." Pallin shook his head, his shoulders slumping. "They are being rather tight-lipped on the matter."
"An STG team observed one of the Princesses personal ships leaving Equestria several hours ago," Valern said softly, his eyes following every movement the Doctors made as they worked furiously on the mare below.
The three fell silent. A Princess of Equestria was coming to the Citadel. Ever since the Relay 314 incident, they had found the state of galactic power shifting drastically away from them. Beings with the powers of gods existed, and they ruled the only planet in the galaxy with access to technology more advanced than the Protheans. Equestria kept a tight hold on their Dyson Sphere, and an even tighter hold on the technology that they backward engineered from it.
"We must approach this carefully," Tevos said with a sigh, chewing on her bottom lip.
"What about the..." Valern found himself searching for the word, something didn't happen to him often. He grimaced. "...the remains?"
Tevos sighed, resting her head in her hands. This was a mess, and it was only going to get worse before it got better. She found herself longing for her bed and the time for an hour or two for a nap.
"My officers have determined the culprits of that fiasco." Pallin growled, crossing his arms over his chest. "We have them in the high security cells."
"That is... That's good." Tevos nodded. The whole ordeal was a nightmare.
Valern turned away from the sight of the operating room below, blinking away the sight. "Personally, I am sickened by the entire ordeal." He caught Tevos' eye. "We must take direct action. We cannot be seen to be doing nothing in response to this, especially by the Princesses."
"I agree," Tevos said, a headache forming. "I will speak with Sparatus."
Pallin slipped closer to the window, studying the doctors. His mandibles flared in surprise when they out a harsh looking saw. "I... I am sure the Councillor will reason."
Straightening out, Councillor Tevos got ready to leave. "Gentlemen. I am sure that we will be speaking soon." She nodded to Valern and Pallin. Even as she turned and left, she was activating her omni-tool, setting up meetings that would change the course of galactic politics.
As the door slid shut behind her, Valern and Pallin stood in silence. They continued watching the frantic calmness of the surgery below. The Executor grinned at Valern's uneasiness at the sight. As the head of C-Sec, he had seen his fair share of gruesome sights but Councillor Valern left the sanitized world of the political realm.
"This is too big of a problem to ignore anymore," Pallin finally spoke.
Valren turned to face Pallin, is large eyes curious and intrigued. "And what problem are you speaking of?"
"I've told you and the rest of the Council that security is not as tight as we all wish it could be." Pallin didn't speak vindictively. The Citadel budget, while not tight, was a highly political area. The problem was that C-Sec suffered from its own successes and a fairly low crime rate, at least on the surface. Money always flowed towards the elements with the loudest outcry. "Too much slips through the cracks. We just don't have enough manpower to track down everything we know is happening. The black market is growing out of control, slavery is far more rampant than either of us imagined, and we just got a glimpse of the hidden underbelly of the Citadel."
"I see." Valern frowned, crossing his arms. "C-Sec is not up to the task."
"As much as it pains me to say," Pallin hung his head, humbled. "Not in its current form. We need a bigger budget and more officers. We are stretched too thin to stop everything from slipping through."
"I see." Already Valern was making plans to rectify the situation. "I will speak to the others about the matter."
They both turned as the door to the viewing room slid open. Turning, they both watched as Ambassador Blueblood entered, followed by Elyra and his two Royal Guards. Blueblood stopped, turning to the door, waiting patiently. Pallin and Valern watched too, wondering who the Ambassador could be waiting for.
When the grey mare slowly stepped in, Valern and Pallin glanced at each other in confusion. Her black mane hung limply and her eyes glassy, barely seeing. Her gaze barely gave Blueblood any notice and it slid unseeing over Valern and Pallin to the window behind them.
The Executor and the Councillor politely stepped out of the way for the grey mare as she plodded towards the window. She stared down at the operating room, and the limp form of Vinyl Scratch on the table. The mare was in shock, that much was clear, dropping back onto her hind legs with audible thump. Her face fell blank, her eyes focused entirely on the mare on the operating table.
Valern and Pallin moved to stand next to Blueblood, ready to fish for inormation.
"Ambassador," Valern greeted, speaking softly in respect to the shocked mare.
"Councillor, Executor," Blueblood nodded to the both of them. "Is there something I can help you with?"
Valern and Pallin glanced at each other, making sure that they were in agreement.
"We are... curious about Equestria's reaction to the past days events," Pallin spoke first.
"I see." Blueblood watched the grey mare, standing perfectly still as she stared down at the operating room. "That is a matter that I believe Princess Celestia will bring up with Council when she arrives."
"Princess Celestia is coming?" Valern hid his surprise. He was expecting one of the minor princesses to voice Equestria's part, not the Solar Princess herself, the head of the Equestrian Empire.
"Yes," was Blueblood's simple response.
"I see," Valern glanced at Executor Pallin. "Please, excuse me gentlemen. I have important matters that I must attend to." Turning on his heel, Valern nearly ran out of the room.
"We have some matters to discuss before your Princess arrives, Blueblood." Palling spoke.
Glancing at the greay mare, then at Elyra, Blueblood spoke. "Please, stay with her."
Elyra nodded, moving to stand next to Octavia.
"Your office, or mine, Executor?" Blueblood asked.
"Your office will be fine," Pallin said, striding to the door, Blueblood easily keeping pace.