Interlude Two - The Rule of Omega
Omega, Omega Nebula, Sahrabarik
April 17, 2183
Like most Spectres, Tela didn't have a ship of her own. She had heard that Shepard had been granted use of the Alliance's prototype stealth frigate, and she didn't even want to imagine the headaches that must come along with command of such an untested vessel. Shepard was a special case, and only a special ship would be able to bring Saren in for justice.
Unlike Shepard, Tela was content to use the single person, long term mission vessels that the Council kept for Spectre use. The current one she was occupying was an Asari skimmer ship, built by the same shipyards that the venerated Destiny Ascension hailed from. Designed for one or two passengers, she was fast, and could spends years on end without needing to come in. Spectres were lone wolves, another difference that Shepard seemed to have to the rest of her comrades.
The flight to Omega had taken a little longer than necessary, but Tela had felt that the misdirection of any potential tails had been prudent. After all, when you were dealing with the Shadow Broker, no precaution was too extreme. His (or her) eyes were everywhere. No one could truly be trusted, and nothing was secure. She was sure that if he had been keeping an eye on her (which was more than reasonable considering she was only one of a handful of Spectres in the galaxy, and anyone wanted by the galaxy like he was would keep an eye on the most likely candidates to bring him in), but even just a few minutes of confusion would make those extra few days of travel worth it.
For what felt like the millionth time, Tela stared at the picture of the brand she had found. Everything she was doing, every part of her mission, all of it boiled down to that little piece of burned skin. Icobius Dhargerk. According to the information that Barla Von had given her, she'd find the man who could lead her to him on Omega.
She really wasn't looking forward to stepping foot on that rotting space station again. At the very thought, her lip curled involuntarily, and she repressed a shudder. Omega was like a disease, and the longer you spent there, the more it felt like you'd never be able to wash yourself completely clean of the experience.
The flight over had also given her the time to process Nihlus' death. She wasn't okay, and she wouldn't be for a long time, but it was better to remember the good times they had together than the image of his death, replaying over and over again in her head. He had been a good man, one of the best she'd ever met, and she would miss him dearly, but she was an asari, and everyone always went away in the end.
She shifted in her seat, tapping her fingers impatiently on the armrest. Omega loomed large in her viewscreen, a space station built inside a carved out asteroid. In many ways, Omega represented the polar opposite of the Citadel.
Where the Citadel was truly the pinnacle of long lasting grace, a testament to the Protheans' understanding of physics and architecture, Omega was a monument to waste and destruction. It had been built on and over across countless millennia, and each year it resembled just a little bit more an ancient beast's skeleton, the long spindly towers the ribs, and the asteroid its misshapen skull.
At the direction of Omega's flight control, Tela pulled her ship into one of the multitude of valuable docking slips. Space was always at a premium on Omega, which was more than a little miraculous when you took into account how many ships were always coming and going with their most likely illegal hauls. She also tried to ignore the fact that it had been a Vorcha directing her path. Nothing good would come from pondering on that.
The docking itself took relatively little time thanks to the lack of regulations and safety checks that ran rampant on Omega. Where on the Citadel it could take as much as an hour before being allowed to disembark, on Omega it only took a few minutes before the docking tube was being extended to her ship, and her clearance to disembark was given.
Exiting her ship, Tela was unsurprised to find a Batarian waiting for her. He wasn't wearing T'Loak's sigil, and he was armed with only a pistol. It was obvious to her that he was about to threaten her, but that was only until he got a good look at her.
That made him pause.
Her pulling her shotgun on him and directing the deadly end at his face made him about face and walk away as quickly as he could without outright running. Tela just watched him go, amused at his cowardice, shaking her head, unimpressed.
Tela turned at the voice from behind her, her shotgun still held loosely in her hands. She relaxed only slightly when she found it was Aria's chief bodyguard and right hand man, a Batarian named Anto.
"Aria wants to speak to you," he drawled in an uninterested voice.
"Lead on," Tela said as she put her shotgun away.
There were very few Asari with as much power and influence as Aria T'Loak. It had taken centuries to claw and fight and murder her way to where she was now, but it had all been worth it. To see the fear and respect that she held in others eyes was such a delicious feeling, even more so when anyone underestimated her.
Standing in her private apartments, she looked out through her windows down at the private, VIP section of Afterlife, her pride and joy. The party never stopped, and the sheer amount of private business (completely illegal of course) that flowed through there would shock economists across the galaxy. While she tried her best to keep up her image of an uninterested warlord, the truth of the matter was that she was at the head of one of the largest economies in the galaxy. Omega could rival any single race, though that information was kept incredibly secret. If it ever got out, she was sure that it would only be a matter of hours until the Council ordered the extermination of the Terminus Systems.
It would be a bloody battle, and the Terminus would take their pound of flesh, but in the end, the Council would win. It was as simple as that.
Sipping at her glass of Serrice Ice Brandy, she was brought from her musings at the sound of her daughter, Liselle, turning another page in her book. The result of a coupling three centuries or so ago with a Turian pirate, Liselle was probably the most important thing she had ever given to the galaxy. She was nothing like her mother, which was a blessing, considering how often young Asari found themselves killed when they inevitably got caught up in things beyond their comprehending.
Instead of becoming a stripper, like Aria had in her maiden days, Liselle instead attended the finest universities on Thessia, Earth, and Sur'Kesh. To say that she was brilliant was an understatement. Without her help, the vast web of money and power that kept Omega (and by extension, much of the Terminus Systems) running would collapse.
A knock at the door drew Aria from her thoughts once more, but this time, her mood darkened. There would only be one reason for someone to be knocking at her door right now.
"Enter," Aria said, managing to keep her voice calm and even, instead of the growl that wanted to get out.
The door opened, and Anto entered, followed by the one Asari that Aria didn't want to see, Tela Vasir. They locked eyes, a multitude of emotions crossing between them. Most of them involved anger, hate, a wish for violence, love, and familial tolerance.
"You can leave, Anto." Aria dismissed her most trusted lieutenant with a wave of her hand, a multitude of expressions fighting to come across her face. In the end, they all merged together to leave her blank.
Anto gave a short bow of his head before leaving. As soon as the door hissed shut behind him, Aria started stalking towards Tela, setting down her glass of brandy on a small table.
She thought of what to say for several long moments, never letting Tela leave her sight. It had been a long time since she had last seen her, but not long enough in her opinion. Tela had been responsible for the destruction of her private yacht after all. She finally settled on saying, "I thought I told you never to come here."
With audacity that few ever dared to express to her, Tela completely ignored her, instead making herself right at home as she dropped gracefully down onto the couch next to Liselle. The younger Asari looked up at the Spectre, smiling in greeting at her.
"Hey kid, good to see you." Tela wrapped an arm around Liselle's shoulders in a quick, but warm hug.
"Aunt Tela," Liselle greeted back, a genuine smile on her face.
They both ignored Aria's annoyed grunt from behind them.
"I think your mom is going to kill me." Tela told Liselle, looking completely unconcerned over such a matter.
"Don't worry about her." Liselle waved Tela's statement away without a care in the world. "She's happy to see you. She just doesn't want to say it."
Was she happy to see her, Aria wondered? She paused, reflecting inwards on her own thoughts and feelings before grudgingly deciding that yes, Liselle was correct.
Not that she'd ever tell anyone that.
"I know," Tela responded.
How did she always know? There was no purpose in trying to hide anything from her. She'd almost forgotten that. Growing up with her had been an extremely frustrating experience for both of them, and Tela always seemed to know what she was thinking. Aria finally just rolled her eyes and joined them on one of the couches. "Yes. You caught me. I'm glad to see you alive, little sister."
"I can tell from your heartfelt welcoming," Tela dryly remarked.
"I'm the only one allowed to kill you." No need to let her have the last word on that matter, Aria decided, before moving onto her real questions. "What are you here for? I thought you'd promised to never come here again?"
"I did." Tela's eyes grew cold as she seemed to stare directly into Aria's soul. "That was before someone assassinated my bondmate."
"I'd heard about that." Aria smirked. She was never going to miss out on the chance to make fun of her sister, especially considering the things she'd said when she'd helped Aria kill her first lover all those centuries ago. "A Turian? Really? I thought they weren't your type."
"My investigation brought me here. I won't be here any longer than necessary." Tela wisely ignored her older sister's attempt at baiting her. Opening her omni-tool, Tela showed her a picture of what appeared to be a slave brand. "I'm tracking down a slave trader who uses this brand."
Aria glanced at it, but a glance was all she needed. Tela saw the flash of recognition in her eyes.
"What's it worth to you?" Aria asked with the grin of a shark.
"Mother!" Liselle protested, shooting her mother a glare.
"Fine!" She'd never been able to say no to Liselle about anything, and it was more than a minor miracle that she hadn't become spoiled because of that. "I'll help you, no charge."
"Your kindness knows no bounds." Tela's voice was as dry as the deserts of Tuchanka.
"Do you want my help or not?" Glaring at Tela, Aria crossed her arms.
Tela leaned back into the couch, gesturing peace.
"Good…" Aria shifted in her own seat, crossing one of her legs primly over the other. "His name is Elphian Kepatros. He's some two bit slave trader, with ties to Khar'shan. He owns a little fortress near the bottom of Omega. Anto can give you directions."
"How did you just know that off hand?"
Aria laughed, shaking her head. "You're not the first one to ask about him. Unlike them, though, you didn't bring anything to pay for it."
"Alright." Tela scowled hearing that, but she didn't protest. Omega wasn't really a place known for its kindness and generosity. She stood gracefully. "Thank you, sister, for the information."
As Tela turned to leave, Liselle threw herself from the couch and grabbed her aunt in a tight hug. "Don't be gone another decade before we see you again."
Tela glanced at Aria, who rolled her eyes but nodded in agreement.
"I won't," Tela agreed, and with that, she left Aria's apartments.
Sure enough, Kepatros operated his business out of what appeared to be a little fortress. It wasn't as impressive as the castle that she'd had to destroy early on in her career as a Spectre, nor did it actually look like a castle, but no one would mistake it for anything else but a fortress. With high walls and gunnery emplacements, all surrounding a central building,it was highly guarded, with slave pens dotted around inside the wall.
After meeting her sister, Tela had returned to her ship and changed into her Spectre armor. That wasn't saying that she had left her ship the first time unarmored. She always wore an armored undersuit, as well as a less powerful kinetic barrier on her belt, but her actual armor was far more obvious. It was painted white and navy blue, sleek, skin tight, and built for stealth. A cowl covered her face, hiding her identity from any who would seek to harm her.
Not that they would be able to do anything about it.
Her infiltration would be easy, despite the amount of guns and guards that patrolled the area. None of it had been designed by anyone with any actual knowledge in tactics or defense. Activating a cloaking device, she ran up to the lowest and most vulnerable part of the wall. Using her biotics, she lowered her gravity and blasted herself upwards and over the wall.
She landed on top of one of the slave pens like a feather, still invisible, completely silent. Paying no mind to the slaves inside, Tela jumped down from the pen and made her way to inner sanctum of the fortress. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that Kepatros' office would be at the center. That was the type of man he was after all.
Breaking inside was sadly even easier than getting over the wall. All she had to do was just slips in past a guard as he left the main building to go on patrol.
The inside of the fortress was a testament to money, power, and poor taste in interior decoration. It was a mix of clashing elements, exotic woods, tacky carvings, super high-tech equipment, and other eccentricities that all come together to form a cacophony of nothing.
Tela ignored all of that (for both the sake of her mission, and her own sanity), making her way towards what she hoped was Kepatros' office. Along the way, she managed to keep herself from being seen or activating any alarms, not that it was too hard. If this had been her fortress, she would have had whoever designed it shot, then blown out an airlock.
She was completely successful in her attempt. No one had so much as a clue.
It only took about thirty minutes from the moment Tela jumped over the wall until she found Kepatros' office. Pathetically easy really. Just like she had thought, it was at the exact center of the fortress, and it was even more ostentatious and over the top than its surroundings. That just made it easy for someone like her to find him.
The door to his office was top of the line. Salarian made locks custom set into a door forged from Turian metals, which had to have come from the armor of a decommissioned dreadnought. It would have been impossible to break through on her own, but it was already unlocked.
Drawing a silenced pistol from her hip, Tela headed inside.
Slinking inside, Tela paused when she found a Batarian, most likely Kepatros, kneeling in front of a group of ponies in black armor. There wasn't a single inch of them that wasn't hidden behind armor, dull faceplates staring at her.
She hadn't expected that.
Tela and the ponies stared at each other entirely far too long, and Tela was glad she had a mask to hide her blush as soon as she realized that.
One of the ponies, taller than the rest, but also surprisingly slim, most likely a female, stepped forward. "What are you doing here?" She asked, her voice light and delicate.
"I could ask you the same thing," Tela responded.
"You're not one of his guards." The mare tilted her head ever so slightly, glancing down at Kepatros.
"No." If she was a guard… well, Tela wasn't, and that's all that mattered.
The tall pony glanced back at one who was thicker built and taller than the others, though still shorter than her, a stallion obviously. He shrugged at her. Whatever decision she made, it was apparently up to her.
"What are you here for?" The mare asked, turning back to look at Tela.
"Him." Tela gestured at Kepartos with her pistol. "He has information I need."
"Maybe we could work something out." The mare didn't sound like she wanted to start a fight, which was a good thing in Tela's mind. Considering that both she and the stallion had horns, and the other two had wing blades, it wouldn't be a good idea to confront them violently. She'd seen ponies in action, and she didn't want to fight them if she didn't have to.
Thankfully, the entire ordeal was going far easier than Tela ever imagined that it would.
At that moment, an alarm went off.
"We have to go." The male unicorn stepped forward,
"Wait!" Tela held up her hand that wasn't holding her pistol. "I need to find where he gets his slaves from on Khar'shan."
"We already got that information," the mare said, and as if to emphasize her point, one of the other ponies stepped forward and slit Kepartos' throat with one of their wing blades. "If you want it, help us get out of here."
"Okay." There was nothing else Tela could say. They had what she needed.
Just like she had imagined, the guards Kepartos had hired couldn't put up much of a fight compared to the a Spectre and four highly trained ponies. It was sad just how easily they were able to cut a swathe of blood and violence through them without so much as slowing down.
The ponies made a point to stop at every slave pen and break them open, giving a short message to the slaves before continuing onwards. Tela didn't bother to pay attention to what they were saying. Even though the fight was easy, that didn't mean it was a wise idea for her to let her guard down. That's how you ended up dead.
It was only after the ponies were satisfied that there weren't any slaves left in the fortress that they bothered to get out. They were just in time to see a wave of shuttles heading there way, each emblazoned with the logo of the Blue Suns. Unlike the guards, they'd actually be able to put up a worthwhile fight.
Too bad that none of them actually wanted to hang around and get involved. There was no other choice but to split up, Tela realized as the ponies start to move. The male unicorn hung back for a moment to speak with her.
"Meet us in dock 656." His voice was calm and assured, with a hint of steel that spoke to his training. He wasn't even rattled by the fact that he'd spilled blood, which Tela had a feeling was a rarity among his race. "Our ship is the Silentium Amoris."
"If you double-cross me…" Tela warned, trailing off to leave any threat up to his imagination.
"Right back at you." His tone was flippant and unimpressed.
The two headed their separate ways as Kepartos' remaining guards rushed after them, joined by the Blue Suns.
It had been just as easy to evade the guards and the Blue Suns, and it had taken Tela another thirty minutes to get to the docks the pony had told her to meet at. Standing in the entrance of the socks, Tela stared at the pony's ship, the Silentium Amoris, wondering just what she had gotten herself into.
The Silentium Amoris was a massive ship, practically a heavy cruiser, but the most worrying thing about it was the seal of the royal family of Equestria on its prow. This was a royal ship, only ever used by the Princesses and their families.
Whoever those ponies were, they weren't free agents. To be using a ship like this meant they had backing from one of the Royal family. Tela made a note to be extremely careful in any further dealings with them. It wouldn't do to piss off Equestria.
Squaring her shoulders, Tela walked confidently to the airlock, barely even noticing the nearly imperceptible scan as it verified her identity.
The airlock slid open, letting her through the first hatch.
After wiping her clean of any contaminants (and she was annoyed to say that spending anytime on Omega definitely contaminated you), the secondary airlock opened and Tela stepped inside.
She found herself met by a group of Wonderbolts, fully armored, wing blades, battlesaddles and all. They weren't taking any precautions with her, and Tela realized that she'd have very little chance of making it out of this alive if they decided she was an enemy.
"Spectre Vasir. We weren't expecting to run into any Council interference on our mission." The female unicorn spoke from behind her, but Tela didn't immediately turn to face her, too busy keeping an eye on the armed ponies in front of her.
"And I wasn't expecting to find Equestrians," Tela responded. Finally turning, Tela blinked in surprise when she saw Princess Mi Amore Cadenza standing in front of her, still wearing the armored body suit, but her wings and head free. She recognized the Princess immediately. When Equestria revealed itself to the galaxy, Tela had been quick to memorize all of the Equestrian alicorns. They were the most dangerous beings in the galaxy after all.
The fact that one of them was standing in front of her made her wonder just what one of them was doing on Omega. Regardless, Tela gave her a short, respectful bow of her head. "Princess."
"What are you doing on Omega?" Princess Cadenza asked, studying Tela carefully.
"I'm hunting the Shadow Broker." There was no reason to hide her true purpose. The alicorn could draw it from her mind if she wanted to.
A unicorn that Tela recognized as Shining Armor walked up behind Princess Cadenza, dressed the same as his wife.
"The Shadow Broker?" He asked. "What does he have to do with Equestrian slaves?"
"The Shadow Broker was behind the Equestrian raid." Tela explained, and she was surprised to see that they were surprised by that. It would require further questioning. "He's been heavily involved in the capture and sales of Equestrians across the galaxy. I'm searching for the man he uses to conduct that business."
"Icobius Dhargerk," Shining Armor said.
"It seems we have a common goal," Princess Cadenza said. She turned to share a look with Shining Armor, and after a moment, it was obvious that they were in agreement with each other. She turned back to Tela. "We are going to Khar'shan to send a message. You may come with us if you wish, but you won't interfere in our mission."
"And what mission is that?" Tela asked, curious.
"We are going to free every Equestrian slave," Princess Cadenza said, punctuating her statement with a stomp of a hoof.
Tela's eyes widened impressed. Suddenly such a powerful ship being sent on an illegal mission made sense. No one who would start a fight against it could possibly win, especially not the Batarians. "I can agree to those terms."
"Very well." Princess Cadenza nodded, her posture becoming far friendlier than it had been a moment ago. "If you have a ship, we can store it in the hanger."
"I do," Tela confirmed.
"Be quick about it. We leave as soon as your ship is onboard." With the conversation apparently over, Princess Cadenza and Shining Armor walked away.
Tela watched them for a moment before turning and heading back out of the ship, wondering what other surprises the future would have in store for her.