Chapter Seventeen - Yippee Ki-Yay
Tilican Tower, Bachjret Wards, Citadel, Serpent Nebula
April 9, 2183
It was the soft snoring of the warm body next to her that woke Octavia. It was a welcome sound, one she relished hearing every day. After ten years of an empty bed and teetering on the edge of alcoholism, having her wife next to her every morning was a miracle that she was never going to take for granted. Whether it was the gods, the spirits, Athame, or Faust herself, Octavia had her wife, she had no problems, and life was good.
The first few moments after waking were some of the best in Octavia's mind. They added an otherworldly flare to everything she laid her eyes upon. Whenever she looked at Vinyl, it was as if there was a halo of golden light around the mare. She could stare at her for hours and hours. She did stare at her for hours and hours sometimes, and it creeped Vinyl out to no end. Everything about the little mare was miraculous to Octavia. Where so many others had broken, Vinyl had done her best to grow, never letting what had happened to her define her.
On her bedside table, a soft chime sounded, and Octavia rolled over to glance at it. In soft blue, easy on the eyes, a small message alerted her to the fact that the weekly deliveries were ready for her to pick up at the front desk. It was easier to have her groceries shipped to the tower than it was to buy everything her self and drag it back in an aircar.
Sliding out of bed with a groan, Octavia stood, yawning. She grimaced at the taste in her mouth, and she could only imagine the smell, but it wasn't bad enough for her to wash up entirely. She could do that after grabbing the deliveries downstairs.
Trotting over to the mirror that sat across from the bed, she lazily fixed her mane just enough to be presentable before throwing on a simple covering. While nudity was apparently normal on Equestria, it was considered rude in the rest of the galaxy. It simply wasn't worth the hassle.
Vinyl grumbled, rolling over in her bed as she searched for the now missing warmth of her wife's body. Waking slowly, she blinked as she tried to clear her vision, looking at Octavia.
"Tavi…" She murmured, her voice slurring tiredly.
"I'm just going to pick up the groceries, Vinyl," Octavia explained, trotting over to the side of the bed to give Vinyl a quick nuzzle. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Mmm…" Vinyl tried to nuzzle back, but she was too tired to put any effort into it. With another groan, she rolled back over, pulling a pillow over her head and promptly fell back to sleep.
Octavia giggled at the sight, pulling the covers up over Vinyl's shoulders as she shook her head. As soon as she was satisfied the unicorn was warm and comfortable, she turned and trotted out of her room, leaving the apartment.
Over the years since moving to the Citadel and taking up residence in Tilican Tower, Octavia had ended up purchasing the entire top floor of the building. As such, the elevator was right outside her front door. It made things easier, not having to work her way through a labyrinth of halls with her cello on her back.
The elevator arrived rather quickly, thanks to the fact that it was rather early in the morning, and the ride down was only interrupted once by a salarian resident on a lower floor who was heading into work early.
Exiting the elevator as soon as it hit the main floor, Octavia paid no mind to the rest of the people in the entrance of the tower, only barely noticing as the salarian brushed past her and power walked towards the entrance.
Taking her own leisurely pace, Octavia walked up to the holding desk, smiling in greeting to the asari working there.
"Hello, Amessra," Octavia greeted, jumping up so her forehooves were resting on the relatively low desk.
"Madame Octavia, good morning." Amessra, a matron, bowed her head to Octavia with a nervous smile on her face. Octavia blinked. In all of her years at Tilican tower, Amessra had worked there behind the holding desk. She had never seen the sari look so nervous in all of that time.
"I'm here to pick up my groceries."
"Of course!" Amassra's voice was strained, and she spoke through her teeth, almost hissing.
Typing on her holo-display, Amessra made sure that Octavia was getting everything she needs. As robotic arms started piling a cart full of her supplies, Amessra leaned forward ever so slightly, looking Octavia in the eyes. She spoke in a whisper, and Octavia had to strain to hear her.
"Madame Octavia, you should go back to your room. If you have any plans for today, I would suggest you cancel them."
Amasser glanced away from Octavia, and the pony followed her gaze to see a group of turians and salarians standing to the side.
Octavia jerked her head away at the sound of Amessra's panic, looking up at the asari with a raised eyebrow.
"Please, Madame Octavia," Amessra begged, her voice desperate. "Go back to your room. Lock the door. Barricade it in any way you can. Don't come out until you run out of food."
"What's going on, Amessra? Why are you acting so strange."
"Bad things are happening, Madame." Despite her panic, Amessra kept the nervous smile on her face. "Please, go—"
"Hey!" A loud male voice broke the relative morning silence.
Amessra winced, standing up straight even as she kept her head bowed. She gave Octavia an apologetic look, but didn't say anything else.
Giving one last lingering look to Amessra, Octavia turned to see an angry, jittery looking man striding towards them. He was dressed in an expensive set of armor, completely out of place in the residential tower. The man pointed right at her, his face angry.
"Hey, what are you doing?" He turned to look at the group of turians and salarians. "Why isn't she with the others?"
"She just came in." Amessra broke in, speaking loud enough for everyone to hear her.
"Don't lie to me!" The man shouted. Striding forward, he grabbed Amessra's face, forcing her look up at him. She whimpered in fright, but he ignored that. "I don't like people who lie to me."
Pulling her out from behind the counter, the man threw her to the ground. Looking at the group of salarians and turians, he pointed at Amessra and Octavia.
"You lot, take these two to join the others!" Shaking his head, he ran a hand through his hair. "Don't make me have to micromanage things. Get it done right the first time!"
As a pair of turians rushed to obey the man, Octavia looked up at Amessra in panic.
"What's happening?" She cried out in confusion.
"No talking!" The taller turian shouted at her, his voice gruff. Leaning down, he grabbed Octavia up off the floor without a single problem, hefting her over his shoulder. He ignored her startled cries and started walking away.
From her view up on his shoulder, Octavia watched as the other turian grabbed Amessra by her shoulders and started pulling her after the two of them. The asari seemed to just crumple in on herself, allowing the turian to drag her along without any problems.
Out of the corner of her eye, Octavia caught sight of two krogan dragging a small quarian between them towards the elevators.
Before Octavia could even think of trying to escape, the turians had taken her and Amessra away from the tower's entrance and into the staff hallways. All the better to keep them away from prying eyes she supposed.
The turians dragged them through a pair of large doors, and even deeper into the innards of the tower. They took them deeper and deeper through so many twists and bends that Octavia wasn't sure that she'd even be able to find her way back.
After what seemed like several minutes, they came to a door guarded by two brogans and a salarian in sleek black armor.
"Two more for the lot," the turian carrying Octavia said.
The black armored salarian nodded, and motioned to the krogan. They opened the door, looking over Octavia and Amessra with cold eyes. The salarian held up a hand to stop the two turians. Quickly and efficiently he checked over the two women and took every piece of technology they have, dropping their omni-tools and Amessra's data pad into a pile next to the door.
At the salarian's nod, the two turians tossed Amessra and Octavia into the dark room without any ceremony and slammed the doors shut behind them.
Octavia blinked as her eyes searched for any sign of light, but that was simply in vain. The room was completely dark. Her ears however picked up on the breathing of a large amount of people.
"Hello?" She asked, nervousness coursing through her body.
"Octavia?" A familiar voice spoke from the darkness. "They got you too?"
"F-Fidelis? W-What's happening?" Octavia couldn't see the tower's doorman, but she could sense the turian's presence nearby.
"Is Vinyl with you?" Fidelis asked.
"What? No! She's still—" Octavia stopped when she felt a hand on her muzzle.
"I don't need to know," Fidelis said, interrupting. "They could be listening."
"What's happening?" She asked instead.
"Someone's taken over the entire tower... Almost the entire tower... We're all here." Fidelis didn't sound at all convincing.
The flight to the tower only took twenty minutes. Awkward conversation was the order of the day, and Riley, Garrus, and Wrex certainly did their best to fill their quotas. It was with much thankfulness that they finally arrived, the two aircars landing in front of Tilican Tower. As soon as the doors slid open, Riley and her crew all clambered out, thankful to finally get to the action.
"Who…" Riley leaned back, looking up at the tower. She wasn't quite sure how she was supposed to take it. "Who the hell could afford to live in a place like this?"
"A lot of people who have more money in their wallets than you or I make in a year." Garrus shrugged. He'd never had to go inside such of a tower in his time with C-SEC, thanks to their normally judicious self policing and high standards on choosing their residents.
"Meh. I've seen nicer." Wrex seemed completely unimpressed. He actually looked a little hungry, if Riley had to put a word to him.
"I can't really see how you could get nicer than this…" Kaidan looked at Wrex unbelievingly.
"Yeah, well…" Wrex shrugged, scratching under his arm. He looked at them, almost bored. "You haven't seen nice until you've seen a palace fortress on a privately owned planet with enough firepower to shoot down a dreadnought on the edge of the system."
"It made a big boom." Wrex chuckled, grinning.
Everyone turned to look at Wrex, a little creeped out at how entirely nonplussed he was.
"Boom?" Riley asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Boom." Miming an explosion with his hands, Wrex nodded.
"Right…" Shaking her head, Riley looked at the rest of her squad. "Moving right along… Our goal is to find Tali'Zorah. We don't know the situation inside—"
An entire floor of the tower exploded, handily interrupting her and throwing all of them but Wrex to the ground.
Getting back to their feet, they drew their weapons.
"I think the situation is pretty self-evident ma'am." Ashley triple checked that the ammo block in her rifle was tuned to armor piercing.
"Yeah, well, laugh it up, buttercup." Scowling, Riley looked at the rest of them. "We go in as a team. Garrus, Wrex, this is your chance to prove yourselves."
"Yeah, because a turian isn't going to try and show up a human, is he?" Ashley snorted, rolling her eyes.
"You're going to be the smartass, aren't you?" Riley looked at Ashley carefully.
"It sorta just slips out, ma'am." She looked entirely unrepentant.
Rolling her eyes, Riley turned back to Wrex, Kaidan, and Garrus. "Right. Let's go say hello then."
"Hold up, Shepard." Reaching into a pouch in his armor, Wrex pulled out a large marker. If Riley had bothered to look any closer, she would have seen the logo for Hyland-Sorah's children's art set stamped on its side. "Hold out your arm."
"What are you doing?" The idea of a krogan with a thing for coloring was something that Riley wasn't even sure how to begin to process.
Wrex just uncapped the marker and stared at Riley. After nearly thirty seconds, she relented and held out her arm.
"I swear to Celestia," she murmured, watching him carefully. "If you draw a penis I will shoot you in the face."
Wrex laughed but didn't say anything to comfort her fear, instead making a well practiced glyph in an out of the way spot on her armor. It looked like scribbles to anyone who didn't know what it meant.
Once he was done, he turned to the rest of them, holding his marker up. "You're all next."
"Are you going to explain why you're suddenly in the mood to color?" Kaidan asked as Wrex grabbed his arm and started to make another glyph on the underside of his bicep.
"Don't really feel like it."
"Okay." What else could you say to an eight foot tall alien holding a magic marker.
Vinyl awoke to the tower rocking, an explosion ringing through her ears. She fell right out of her bed, screaming in terror.
"TAVI!" She cried out, fear for her wife filling her mind. Was Octavia okay? Was she hurt?
Nothing. Octavia didn't reply, and everything seemed to have fallen eerily silent after such a loud explosion.
"Tavi…" Vinyl whimpered out, curling in on herself.
After a moment, Vinyl stood on shaky legs, taking a deep breath before crawling towards the door. Opening it, she peeked her head out and looked out into the hallway. No signs of Octavia.
Tentatively, Vinyl left the bedroom and headed into the main living area of the penthouse. Smoke billowed out into space on the outside of the windows, blocking most of the Serpent Nebula from her view.
Aside from the smoke, nothing else seemed out of place. Everything seemed unearthly silent after such a loud explosion.
"Tavi, are you out here?" Vinyl's voice was barely louder than a whisper, but it felt unnaturally loud to her ears.
She peeked into the kitchen, and then into Octavia's practice room. Her wife wasn't there, and after looking in the few other rooms, Vinyl finally had no other choice than to acknowledge what she already knew to be true.
Octavia wasn't there and Vinyl was on her own in the apartment.
A knock at the door, heavy and insistent, pulled her from her thoughts. Vinyl froze, staring at it with wide eyes.
More knocking drew Vinyl back to reality.
Crouching down so low her belly almost touched the floor, Vinyl crept towards the door. She activated the video feed and cowered even further into herself when she saw that it was a trio of two turians and a salarian in heavy armor with weapons outside her door.
One of the turians knocked again, before shouting.
"This is your last chance before we break down the door!"
Whimpering, Vinyl backed away, her belly close to touching the floor. Her prosthetic leg started twitching, going wild.
The two turians started beating on the door, trying to break it down.
They rammed it once!
BANG! BANG BANG!
Everything fell silent again.
Vinyl cracked an eye open, seeing that the door had bent inwards from the force of the turians.
A moment of silence...
Three knocks on the door.
Vinyl winced, backing away. The turians were still there.
"Hello?" A feminine voice shouted through the door. "Is anyone there?"
Vinyl didn't respond.
"It's... It's Caesia Tibrius... Fidelis is my husband." A pause, just for a moment, then the voice started again. "If anyone's in there... You're safe now. Don't worry about it."
Standing, Vinyl tentatively made her way to the door. She hesitated before pressing one of the buttons on the panel. It protested for a moment, but it finally opened revealing an aging turian woman dressed simply in loose pants and a shirt. It took her a moment, but Vinyl finally recognized her as Caesia Tiberius, wife of Fidelis, the doorman.
She looked down at Vinyl, a pistol held comfortably in her hand, and what passed for a smile crossed her face, her mandibles flaring.
"You're Octavia's wife, aren't you?" Cause asked, looking down at Vinyl.
"Y-Yeah…" Vinyl managed to croak out.
"Is she with you?" Caesia asked, glancing past Vinyl into the apartment beyond.
"She…" Vinyl shook her head. "She went down to get the groceries a while ago."
"Damn it." Caesia sighed, hanging her head. "Fidelis was on duty, and I haven't been able to raise him on his omni-tool. Something is going down here. There are patrols roaming the tower."
Looking around at the penthouse around them, Caesia frowned when she saw the smoke billowing beyond the windows. Looking back at Vinyl, she spoke again. "You aren't safe here."
"I don't really have anywhere else to go."
Looking down at the bodies, Caesia sighed. She stepped over to the smaller turian, unbuckling his shield belt from his armor before placing it around her own waist. "There's nothing for it then, is there? Come with me... I'll at least be able to keep an eye on you."
Caesia paused, looking down at Vinyl who was still shaking ever so slightly as adrenaline pumped through her body from the explosion.
"That explosion you heard… sorry about that. I didn't mean to frighten anyone."
"What?" Vinyl's brow scrunched up in confusion.
"A bunch of mercenaries were wanting to take me captive. I…" Caesia glanced away, picking up the salarian's rifle. "I dissuaded them of that notion."
"Oh…" Was all that Vinyl managed to say.
Tali'Zorah nar Rayya was not having a good month. All of her life, she had been told that great things were expected of her. It was always said in a hopeful manner, but Tali knew that there was a lot riding on her success. She couldn't just return to the fleet with a shuttle, or some other normal gift. She was the daughter of Rael'Zorah after all, and that meant much. She had much to prove, and nothing but a fleet changing gift would be enough.
Of course, with her luck, that meant that she had ended up stumbling across geth patrols and entangled in a conspiracy involving the Shadow Broker, his agents, and a rogue Spectre. This really hadn't been what she was hoping for.
Hanging from between two krogan who had done little else than grunt at her since she had been captured in the alleyway, Tali didn't have any time to appreciate the decor of the building she had been dragged into. If she had, she would have noticed that her suit was leaving oil stains across the floor and her embroidered hood clashed with the more understated decorations.
In the elevator that the krogan dragged her into, Tali caught glimpses of rare, stained wood before the doors were opening again and they dragged out into a hallway. Before she could even process any of that, the krogan had dragged her into a penthouse and tossed her onto the floor.
"Stupid bosh'tets," Tali grumbled to herself as she pushed herself up off the floor. Looking around, she found that she had been dragged into quite possibly the nicest looking room she had ever seen. An angry human was pacing back and forth in front of her, before a long line of windows, his omni-tool flashing as he waited for it to connect.
"Come on." He let loose a string of expletives that her translator simply refused to turn into Qua'lish. "Work you stupid piece of shit. Connect!"
So caught up was he in his frustration that he barely even noticed Tali. He was far too gone in his panic attack. Instead, he motioned for the krogan to back away, ignoring Tali as he continued his pacing.
"Please hold for the Shadow Broker." The omni-tool chimed unhelpfully.
"I have been!" The man shouted, pulling his omni-tool off and shaking it violently. "JUST WORK!"
"That's quite the temper you have. Is that any way to speak to the man you work for?" The sudden sound of a new voice, scrambled beyond all recognition, startled the man, making him jump in surprise.
"Don't give me that shit!" The man shouted, struggling to place his omni-tool back onto his arm. "Spectres are after me! They're trying to kill me."
"That's what happens when you make terrible decisions."
"Are you going to help me or not?" The man asked, sounding about as frustrated as Tali had ever heard someone get.
"I think... Not." The voice almost sounded smug. It was hard to tell through all of the voice disguising.
"WHAT?!" The man shouted, his eyes bugging out in a mixture of anger and thinly hidden terror.
"You were sloppy." The voice continued, not at all caring about the man's temper tantrum. "Left too many trails. I don't mind my agents doing a bit of business on the side, but that business threatens my operations…"
"I was doing no such thing!"
Tali was surprised that the man didn't stomp his foot. The whine in his voice was quickly draining away her fear of him.
"Then where did this hit order for Garrus Vakarian come from?" As if to drive its point home, the voice took control of the man's omni-tool and posted the simple assassination order.
"Well, I—" The man blushed, of all things, struggling to think of anything to say.
"I've rescinded it already. If anyone had actually managed to follow through on it, it would have been a disaster."
"He's just a detective! Who would've cared?" The man waved his arms, his legs trembling as if he wished he could run away and hide.
"His father. Tulius Vakarian would have called in everything to make sure the one who murdered his son was brought to justice. Your sloppiness could have been traced back to me."
"But—" Wide eyed, the man tried to protest.
"You're on your own, Fist." The communication ended, and as if to add insult to injury, a complex series of commands made the man's omni-tool delete everything on its flash drive, leaving the man staring wide-eyed at his now useless omni-tool.
"Shit!" Pulling off his omni-tool, he threw it as far away as he could. Turning, he kicked the window, but the solid material didn't so much as give.
"Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit Shit!" The man kicked the window again and again, until his anger seemed to bleed away. He paused, trying to collect himself before finally turning his attention to Tali.
"Well…" He stared at her for a moment, breathing deeply. "What am I going to do with you now?"
Tali gulped, wishing suddenly that she was back with the geth.