AUTHOR'S NOTE: To HumanCreeper and your review. My answer is "No."
Chapter Fourteen - Leads, Allies, and Enemies
C-SEC Viewing Room, Presidium, Citadel
April 9, 2183
Galactic civilization was a fragile thing. It needed to be carefully tended and watched after, like a mother with her children. Tevos liked to think that in many ways, she was the mother the galaxy needed in so many ways. She, more than even the Matriarch's on Thessia, had watched the shape of the galaxy as it had changed and evolved over her centuries as Councilor. There was very little that ever could surprise her, but this… this came close.
Standing next to her fellow Councilors, Tevos had her arms crossed under her breasts as she looked down through the viewing window the C-Sec interrogation room. From the minute that she had been notified of Kryik's assassination, she knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again. If shadow organizations were becoming brave enough to take down Spectres, something had gone horribly wrong.
The girl tied down to the medical bed in the room below looked harmless. Turians could never actually be considered that, but with two destroyed kneecaps and a shattered arm, she wouldn't be a threat to anyone anytime soon. The only reason she had been able to assassinate Kryik was thanks to the highly illegal M-98 Widow anti-materiel rifle that she had used, which C-SEC had recovered from the scene almost as soon as they had arrived. It was no surprise that her arm had been shattered. That weapon had never been designed to be fired by anyone who wasn't a krogan or wearing power armor. How she had even managed to get that beast of a rifle past customs was something that she would have to personally oversee the investigation of.
Aside from the few machines that were connected to the girl without a name, there was nothing else in the interrogation room. The walls were seamless, and the single light in the room was set flush into the ceiling, which also acted as the one-way mirror. The interrogation rooms of C-SEC had been designed to be as utterly boring and unremarkable as possible, and to make the person inside as uncomfortable and unsettled as possible.
The shifting of feet in armor behind her reminded Tevos that they weren't alone in the viewing room. Riley Shepard stood a respectful few feet to the side, with a clear view of the room below. The woman stood straight and tall, her eyes rarely blinking as she stared down at the girl. She represented the last action that Nihlus ever made in his official capacity as Spectre, and her own Spectreship would hold because of it. She would be an agent of the Council to please the humans. They were such an impatient race, wanting so much so soon. Humans had no capacity in them to wait, grasping at every opportunity that came before them.
In all truth, it was humanities allies, the Equestrians, who should have been receiving the honor of a Spectre first, but the Empress did not desire it. They knew the meaning of patience, and Tevos knew that it was Equestria that represented the single greatest threat the Asari Republics had ever known. It wasn't a threat of war or extinction, but of culture. Asari were slow to move, too scattered to ever be able to make quick changes to the way they acted as a race. The Matriarchs were too set into their ways, and those who had dreams and visions had been pushed to the fringes of society.
Next to Riley, Tela Vasir paced back and forth next to her, a barely restrained tower of rage. On the other side of them was Executor Pallin, his mandibles twitching in aggravation every few moments.
"Have we figured out who she is?" Tevos asked, looking at Sparatus and Pallin expectantly.
"She's not appearing in any of the databases." Pallin did not sound happy with that, his voice barely concealing his frustration. "I've contacted her supposed clan and they claim to have no knowledge of her."
"She's too young to be a civilian." Sparatus' mandibles stretched out in a frown, and he hummed.
Turian society was simple to understand, but at the same time it was incredibly complicated to outsiders. At the age of fifteen, every turian was drafted into the military. At the completion of their required term, they either continued with the military or took jobs with public service in mind. It was extremely rare to ever find a turian that had defected, and it was definitely appearing that the girl below had done so.
"I had noticed," Pallin said with a nod.
Tevos took another look at the girl. She was young, having not yet fully grown into her carapace, which was an attractive mottled grey and black color. Her fringe was short, which was common for females of the turian race. Her clan paint heralded her as coming from Menae, but that had proved to be a lie. She should have been serving onboard of a ship, not assassinating Spectres. With a sigh, Tevos turned to look at Tela.
"You were in a relationship with Kryik," she said. It wasn't so much a question, but a statement.
At that, Tela froze in her pacing, turning her gaze on Tevos defiantly. Her jaw worked for a moment before she nodded. "Yes."
"Capturing her alive was commendable," Tevos said, nodding in appreciation. Relationships weren't forbidden for their Spectres, though this was the first time to her knowledge that two of them had joined together. It was unfortunate that it had to end in such a way. "I imagine you weren't feeling quite so generous."
"No," Tela said simply.
"We will deal with that matter later," Sparatus said. He had his own feelings on the matter, but he was smart enough to recognize that there were more important things to deal with. "Right now, we have the assassin firmly in our grasp."
"Indeed." Valern spoke up for the first time. He had been silent since he had first arrived, observing everything with attentive eyes.
"I'm guessing by speaking up that you have an idea?" Pallin asked, looking at Valern. It wasn't any surprise. The salarian had plans within plans, and it wasn't often that anyone actually wanted to know what he was up to.
Valern met Pallin's gaze with a wry smile on his face. He nodded once. "Yes."
Tevos had a feeling that this was going to be one of those times.
The girl lay unconscious on her bed, half in a coma. The drugs that were coursing through her body took care of that, the machines connected to her humming with life as they continued the slow pump of sedatives through her veins. That changed a moment later as orders came from the room above, the machines pumping the girl full of stimulants.
Almost instantly, she flew awake, her eyes shooting open as adrenaline filled her body. Her heart raced in her chest and she took a great gasping breath of air. Something was wrong.
Something was wrong!
She could feel it down to her very core, that nothing was as it should be. The pain hit her a moment later, like a dull knife cutting through her carapace. Moaning, she lifted her head and looked down at the rest of her body. In horror, she realized the depth of the wrongness that filled her.
"You've made some very poor choices."
The girl startled, having to strain to look over her shoulder. She was just in time to see a spindly salarian step out from the shadows of the room, his arms crossed behind his back as he stared down at her with impassive eyes. He was dressed in a simple Special Tasks Group officers uniform, lacking any insignia or identification. Slowly, he started to circle the bed, never letting his gaze wander from her, rarely blinking.
"What is your name?" The salarian asked, his voice quiet.
The girl was stunned for a moment, and her addled mind slowed her understanding of the question. Her name. What was her name? Finally, she flared her mandibles, glaring at the salarian.
"Vatia Ramlin," she responded finally, her voice shaking.
"I'm afraid that's not your name." The salarian tsked, shaking his head. A deep frown covered his face as he held up a small device with a series of buttons on its surface for her to see. With a look of utter sympathy, he looked directly into her eyes as he pressed the button at the center.
The girl felt nothing but white hot pain tearing at her body. She screamed, every muscle in her body clenching in protest, contorting her remaining limbs. She had never felt anything like it before in her life. Getting shot by the asari was nothing in comparison to this!
As suddenly as it started, the pain disappeared.
"That was a lie. Your name is not Vatia Ramlin." The salarian blinked his bulbous eyes, regarding her emotionlessly, like he hadn't just tortured her. "Every time you tell me a lie, I press another one of these buttons. You don't want that."
The salarian resumed his pacing, as if there was nothing wrong. "Let's start again. My name is Dabak Rehe. What is your name?"
"A-Atonia Sabetius," the girl managed to choke out around her tongue, gasping for air.
"Better." Dabak nodded, pleased. He smiled at her, almost fatherly. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
Antoia let out a relieved breath, relaxing.
"Next question." Dabak watched her carefully. "Who do you work for?"
Dabak sighed before he pressed another button on the device, and Antoia screamed.
Riley watched the interrogation below, not fully sure how she was able to keep her outward appearance so impassive. Inside, she was revolting against herself, her gut churning in protest at what she was watching happening in the interrogation below. She was an N, the best of the best. She had gone through SERE training the same as the rest of her brothers and sisters, and she had come out the other side a stronger woman. This though seemed a step too far.
"This bothers you, Shepard."
Turning, Riley found Tevos watching her.
Riley gave a small nod.
"No real harm comes to the subject." Valern spoke up, not turning away from watching the interrogation. He was absolutely unmoved by the pain the turian girl was being put through. "All in her head. Device works by direct access to brain. Makes body believe bad things are happening. Nothing further from the truth."
Riley had no response to that.
"She's just a kid." Tela had stopped pacing, staring down at the girl. "She'll be talking in no time, and then we get to work, Shepard."
Looking over at Tela, Riley nodded. She might not have felt that the Council's current action was justified, but she understood the need to step outside of the law. Tela turned, stepping up to Riley until they were eye to eye.
"Nihlus thought you had the spark," Tela said, her voice emotionless. "Don't prove him wrong."
"Antois Sabetius…" Working on his omni-tool, Pallin made a connection, his mandibles flaring in triumph. "I've got it. Antoia Sabetius, born on Taetrus. Her family has been searching for her ever since her disappearance two years ago."
"A runaway?" Valern asked, glancing at Pallin from the corner of his eyes.
"Maybe." Pallin frowned, skimming through the information on his omni-tool. He expanded his search, and what he found made his eyes widen in surprise. "There are a surprisingly large amount of disappearances on Taetrus."
"What are you suggesting?" Sparatus asked.
"It could be recruitment," Pallin suggested, shutting off his omni-tool. "Not disappearances."
"We'll have to check that out." Sparatus was a turian to the very core of his being, and he despised those of his race that shirked their duty to the Hierarchy.
"She's saying something," Tevos said, studying there interrogation room below. Nearly as one, they all turned their attention on the girl.
"Fist!" She cried out, sobbing it out. "Speak to Fist!"
"She's making that up." Sparatus scoffed, turning away in disinterest.
"No," Pallin interrupted, shaking his head. He activated his omni-tool, searching through his records. "She's not. Fist is a small night-club owner on the wards. He's under investigation for ties to the Shadow Broker."
Out of the corner of her eye, Riley watched as Tela tensed ever so slightly. Her jaw set into a deep frown, and her eyes narrowed angrily.
"Spectres." Sparatus and the other two Councilors turned to face Riley and Tela. "I want you to bring this 'Fist' in for questioning."
"Yes, Councilor." Tela sounded eager, ready to get moving. Riley nodded her agreement. Together, the two of them left the interrogation room, leaving the Councilors to continue to watch the interrogation.
Stepping out from the viewing room, Riley took a deep breath as the stress slipped away from her. They stood in a dim hallway, lined with unmarked doors, part of C-SEC's hidden backrooms were most of the true policing took place. Tela led Riley out of the interrogation side of C-SEC. They walked in silence for a minute until Riley felt the need to say something.
"I'm sorry about Nihlus," she murmured.
"He was a Spectre." Tela glanced back at her, a guarded expression on her face. She studied Riley's face for a moment, making the human shift uncomfortably. Finally, she looked away and continued walking. "It happens to all of us, eventually."
"That doesn't mean we have to like it." Riley kept close behind Tela.
They exited out into one of the main hubs of C-SEC. Officers and Detectives mingled about, some working hard while others were on break. All around were citizens, some of them in processing for arrest, others waiting to announce their complaints.
The two Spectres ignored all of them, everyone jumping out of their way at the sight of such heavily armored women. They exited C-SEC, heading directly to Tela's waiting aircar.
Together, they climbed in and Tela keyed in the destination into the car's computer. Pallin had forwarded her the last known location of Fist: his nightclub, Chora's Den. The aircar set up the route and took off as soon as it had completed all of that.
Riley waited for a moment, looking out the windows at the Presidium as they sped through the air.
"You had…" Riley bit her lip, before turning to look at Tela. "Something with Nihlus. Even I could see that."
"Why are you pushing this?" Tela sighed, leaning back in her chair.
"I'm sorry." Riley pursed her lips, watching Tela carefully. The asari was still for a moment, before she shifted uncomfortably.
"There's no reason to be ashamed of asking questions," she managed to finally say. Tela turned to look at Riley, watching her with piercing eyes.
"No." Riley shook her head, wanting Tela to understand her. "I meant that I'm sorry Nihlus died."
Silent, Tela bowed her head before she began to nod. "Me too…" She murmured.
They rode in silence for a minutes. They passed out of the Presidium and exited out into space, where they began heading towards the Bachjret Ward. Even from this distance, Riley could see the glimmering form of the Celestial Temple in the distance. She couldn't help but snort, shaking her head. Celestia might have been a god, but she had never asked for any form of worship. She had nurtured and guided Equestria from the very beginning, and all she wanted was for her ponies to be happy.
Next to her, Tela pulled her pistol from her hip's magnetic clamp. She began checking it over, though she knew it was in perfect working order. Still, you didn't live as long as her without taking any precautions.
"Be on guard for anything," Tela warned, looking at Riley. "Whatever you do, keep your kinetic barrier on."
Tela snorted, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "We don't need another dead Spectre today."
"This isn't my first rodeo." Riley pulled out her own pistol, checking it over.
"Rodeo…" Tela rolled the word over in her mouth, looking at Riley in confusion.
"It's a human thing," Riley said, rolling her eyes. A moment later, her eyes widened when she realized just what it was that she'd said. A second after that, Riley couldn't help but chuckle as she imagined herself jumping on Rainbow's back and riding her until one or the other gave out. She rubbed the bridge of her nose, laughing. "Oh Celestia, I'm going to Tartarus for that."
Still laughing, Riley activated her omni-tool and connected with the Normandy. "Joker, tell Kaidan and Ashley to suit up and meet me at a bar named Chora's Den. I want them their yesterday."
"Roger that, Commander," Joker responded through the omni-tool.
Tela looked at Riley, but she didn't say anything about the matter.
"What?" Riley just shrugged, not feeling at all ashamed of wanting marines to back her up. Going it alone seemed a bad way for a Spectre to operate. "Backup is never a bad thing."
"I didn't say anything." Tela held up a hand, looking back at her pistol.
"You were thinking it."
Tela just snorted at that, shaking her head as she began to chuckle.
The aircar began to descend, passing through one of the many entrances into the lower levels of the Bachjret Ward. It took another minute to fly through the labyrinth of flight corridors until it pulled off and settled down into a parking space near Chora's Den. The doors slid open and the two Spectres stepped out. They were the most dangerous beings around, and they paid no mind to any of the rough looking crowd that lingered outside of the bar. The guns that they carried were more than enough to warn anyone from trying anything.
"It certainly doesn't look like much." Riley looked up at the sign of Chora's Den, raising an eyebrow.
"The worst places never do," Tela agreed. She took in the flickering neon lights proclaiming the bars name.
"Yeah," Riley agreed. She looked over at Tela. "So, how do you want to handle this?"
"Well handle this carefully. Delicately."
"What does that mean, then?" Delicate was fine and good, but Riley had the feeling that the grenade launcher on Tela's back was not just for show.
"We go in and we ask politely." Tela shrugged, shifting her weight onto one of her legs. "When we're refused, we kill everyone who resists."
Riley blinked at that. It certainly wasn't how she would do anything. Still, she would follow Tela's lead. She held out a hand, motioning for Tela to go ahead of her. "After you then, Spectre Vasir."
Tela stalked forward, pushing past a pair of krogan who were talking in front of the door. They were about to make a move for her, only to stop when they saw the emblem on her shoulder. They recognized the symbol of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance, and they wanted nothing to do with that.
Together, Tela and Riley entered the bar, two huntresses on the march, on a mission none could stop. They were instantly noticed, and everyone inside had their eyes on them.
Tela ignored all of that, striding up to the bar. Her hips swayed dangerously as she walked forward, regarding the bartender with dangerous eyes. Leaning forward, she took all of her attention. "Special Tactics and Reconnaissance. We need to speak with your boss."
Before the bartender could respond, a manager stepped up next to Tela, doing his best not to look threatening.
"Fist isn't here," the manger said, his voice deferential. "He's been gone for a day now. None of us can reach him."
Tela regarded the manager for a long moment, looking the turian up and down before sniffing and turning away. "Take us to his office."
The manager hesitated, gulping.
"We're going in there one way or the other," Tela warned him, resting a hand on the butt of her pistol. "Whether you're still alive or not doesn't matter to me."
The manager nodded, gesturing towards a narrow hallway at the back. "This way, please! Right this way."
Tela and Riley followed after the turian, making sure to keep watch over the other's blind spots. Just because no one had been foolish enough yet to try and stop them didn't mean that someone wouldn't be.
The manager led them into Fist's office, which was located through a hallway in the back. Stepping inside, they found that everything was right where Fist had left it whenever he had been there last. The office looked typical for such an establishment, with a large desk sitting on a pedestal in the back, looking over low-set circular couches which sat around tall poles that went from floor to ceiling.
"Leave us," Tela said, looking at the manager with cold eyes.
Nodding, the manager scurried out of the office, leaving Tela and Riley alone.
Tela waited for the door to close before she walked straight up to Fist's desk. She pointed at a bookshelf that sat across the room. "Search that, Shepard. We're looking for any sign of who Fist was working with, or who he hired."
"Yeah." Nodding, Riley started going through the shelves. Pulling the books off the shelf, she flipped through the pages. If she found nothing, she tossed it aside and took the next one.
She grabbed a thick, leather bound book from its shelf. Down the side, it was labelled in gold: Mein Kampf. She lifted it from the shelf, eying it with disgust even as she flipped through the pages. She stopped when found a thin data disc hidden between the pages. Grabbing it, Riley held it up. "I've got something."
"Me too." Tela's face was incredibly grim, anger boiling behind her eyes. "Nihlus was Fist's last contract for the Shadow Broker."
"The Shadow Broker?" Riley asked, raising an eyebrow.
"He's an information broker," Tela explained, nodding. "The most successful in the galaxy. If you have a secret, chances are that the Shadow Broker knows it."
"And he ordered a hit on a Spectre?" Just what had she found herself in? "That doesn't seem like something an information broker would do."
"He's not a typical broker," Tela said with a shrug.
"I can see that."
Riley inserted the data disc into her omni-tool and blinked in surprise when she only found a single file written on it. Opening it, she looked up at Tela. "It's a hit order for one Detective Garrus Vakarian."
"Who's it from?"
"It's not from someone else," Riley explained. "Fist ordered it."
"You should follow that up," Tela said, nodding. "I'll take this."
"Alright." She gestured at the computer that Tela was looking over. "I should get a copy of that."
"There." Tela typed a few buttons and connected the computer to Riley's omni-tool. "It's in your inbox."
"How did you get my address?" Riley blinked in surprise as she found it indeed was in her omni-tools inbox.
"That's for me to know…" Shrugging, Tela got back to work.
"Extremely helpful there, Vasir." Nodding Riley, started walking towards the door.
"I try, Shepard."
Walking back out into the main bar, Riley found Kaidan and Ashley loitering near the entrance, arguing with the manager. They were dressed in their combat armor, and Riley had to wonder whether or not the manager had a death wish. He seemed to have a habit of arguing with heavily armed soldiers. She marched right past him, motioning for them to follow her.
"With me, marines," Riley called out. They fell in step with her, ignoring the manager's protests as they exited the bar together.
Outside of Chora's Den, Riley led Ashley and Kaidan to the side.
"What's going on, Commander?" Ashley asked, eager to please.
"We're searching for a C-SEC detective, Garrus Vakarian."
"That turian from the Council Chambers?" Kaidan asked.
"Yeah." Riley nodded, realizing that that was indeed who she was looking for. "Him."
Activating her omni-tool, Riley made a call to the Systems Alliance embassy.
"Commander?" Captain Anderson spoke over the omni-tool.
"Anderson," Riley greeted. "I need to find a C-SEC detective by the name of Garrus Vakarian."
"Vakarian?" Anderson asked, sounding surprised. "That's an important name, Shepard."
"A hit has been called on him by a thug on the wards," Riley explained. "I need to get to him first."
"Give me a moment, Shepard."
Kaidan and Ashley shuffled quietly beside Riley as she waited for Anderson to whatever it was that he needed to do. A minute passed, then another before he spoke again.
"Shepard, I've got something."
"Captain." Riley let him know she was still listening.
"According to Executor Pallin, Detective Vakarian's last report said that he was headed to a med-clinic on the Bachjret ward. I'm forwarding you the location now."
Moments later, Riley's omni-tool dinged as she received it. "Thank you, Captain."
"Try not to cause too much damage, Shepard."
"No promises," Riley said with a laugh.
Ending the call, Riley turned to Ashley and Kaidan. "Let's go."
Sitting in Fist's chair, Tela activated her omni-tool. She set up a secure call to her contact with the Shadow Broker with calm efficiency as she fiddled with a small statue that was on Fist's desk.
"I have an inquiry." Tela pursed her lips, frowning.
Her contact on the other side was silent, waiting for her to continue.
"An assassination order was placed on Spectre Nihlus Kryik."
"Was the hit placed by the Shadow Broker?" Tela narrowed her eyes, waiting for the answer.
The other end was silent before it disconnected.
Clenching her fist so hard that the statue in her hand shattered, Tela growled.
This wouldn't go unanswered.