AN: This chapter starts off with a scene I've been wanting to write since I came up with this idea. However I've decided to have it end a bit differently than I originally planned. So after breaking through my writers block the writing bug hit me and I was able to put this out in two days.
-03 August 2157. Day 76 of Operation Eclipse. Challa Tea Shop, Persidium-
"For the last three weeks a joint Human and Turian taskforce has been traveling up and down the western border of Batarian space on the lookout for pirates, smugglers, and slavers" A Salarian anchorman said as the screen over the bar switched to pictures showing Human and Turian ships flying in formation with each other and engaging in battle with the so called pirates. "While the joint task force is just beginning its maneuvers the STG is already reporting a fourteen percent drop in pirate raids and a twenty seven percent drop in the trading of sentient organics"
Normally in an eating establishment the view screens would be turned to sports or ignored entirely. But ever since the Humans had made contact with the citadel the hourly broadcasts from the citadel news network had everyone turning their heads to see what was happening. The only times heads turned away from the screen was to sneak a peek at the two robbed humans sitting in the corner under one of the artificial trees to see how they were reacting to the broadcasts.
"The Volus Comerica Trust bank has seemingly won the bid to be the bank the Galactic Alliance will be using for their future trade deals. Negotiations are still underway on deciding how much a Galactic Credit is compared to Citadel Credits and some economists are concerned that allowing free unrestricted trade could lead to rapid deflation of the Citadel Credit. In other news the Elcor shipping group Dogara Shipping Guild has won the first shipping contract with the Galactic Alliance and will be shipping Helium-3 from the Tibanna star system to fueling depots all across the galaxy" A new picture came up again this time of a CGI ship flying through hyperspace and exiting near a unpowered relay. "Talks are in place at the moment between the Citadel Council and the Alliance Navy about using hyperdrive equipped ships to investigate new relays and turning them on if safe. Hopefully bypassing the mistakes of the Rachni War and expanding the possibility of new colonies. Speaking of colonists a Turian naval ship has reported seeing the Quarian fleet near Alliance space, however no word has been given if they have yet made contact with the Alliance."
"And finally in today's broadcast we end with the report that Holomovie star Allahana U'tipo has been invited to visit the Human entertainment center known as Hollywood and do a press tour on their late night talk shows after accepting a deal to star in a to yet to be revealed upcoming movie. The interviews will be broadcast on our parent channel thursday at…."
"I know you are to old to remember what it feels like but this is like that time I had that really big zit on my forehead and it got infected and everyone kept staring at me during lunch" Claudia said pulling her robe tighter around her and trying to hide her face behind the large mug of tea.
"Ohh yes at the ancient age of thirty-four I have completely forgotten the horrors of my teenage years." Her master said staring at the small little waterfall two buckets had created. " Remind me why I brought you along today?" Thomas said in mock annoyance.
"Because it's your duty to ensure your padawan is well trained and knowledgeable about life as a Jedi before she can ascend to knighthood." Claudia chirped.
"And here I thought it was because you keep bugging me to come along all morning" Thomas said. "You know, the Council has granted us access to all the civilian parts of the station. There isn't any reason you have to stay with me during the meeting with the ambassador." Thomas said, trying to hold back a grin. He had known that getting to explore the space station had been her real reason for bugging him to bring her along.
"Really? You mean it?" Claudia's voice cracked in excitement.
"Sure. Just keep your coms on and make sure to be back to the shuttle by departure time." Thomas said sliding a pre-loaded credit chit over to her. Claudia quickly snatched up the credit chit and hopped out of her seat. With a quick hug and goodbye Claudia exited the tea shop so fast it had Thomas wondering if she had used the force.
Now it was Caludia's turn to gawk at the huge space station and its inhabitants. She had learned about O'neill cylinders in her physics class but the Citadel was so much more than just a simple tube in space. Each of its five arms housed hundreds of thousands of beings as the station spun around space inside a huge nebula. She spent a moment looking out of one of the huge windows as the ships traveled from one arm to another. The park the tea shop she had been in had made her just about forget that they were on a space station, its artificial sky and sunlight shining so clearly. An artificial rainstorm had even come down while she was walking which is what had led her to leave the park and investigate some of the shops in this district.
So far all of the shopkeepers had been polite to her and answered all of her questions, all possibly hoping that the "young human child" as one Elcore had called her would come back with her parents or tell her friends about their shop. She had been polite in her own questions, mainly consulting her datapad or the virtual intelligence the inhabitants called Novina. Of the two she much preferred talking to the aliens. Claudia had known mouse droids with more personality than the glorified information kiosk. The only thing more boring than talking to the VI was trying to talk to one of the Elcore shop keepers.
Still her walk around this arm of the citadel had been amazing to the young girl. From the kind but stern Turian CSec agent who had directed her to a restroom to the funny sounding Salarian who had shown her how to use the VR equipment in one of the arcades to the kind Asari Matriarch who had politely answered all of her questions about Asari society while the two of them ate something close to earth ice cream. She had even been ganged up on by a group of miniature volus who seemed eager to learn about what sort of things interested humans so that they could know what to invest in. The small little aliens looking up at her as she seemed to tower over them. Once their chittering became too much she used the force to enhance her muscles sending her up and over their heads to land outside the circle and earning applause from the people watching.
She had yet to see any Krogans or Quarians in this part of the space station. She had been hoping to run into one of the large turtle-like aliens but it seemed that they didn't come to this part of the space station all that often. Neither did the elusive space suited Quarians. Thankfully though she hadn't ran into any Vorcha yet. The aliens seemed more like something out of her brother's horror games than a sentient benign she could sit down and have tea with. However she had finally spotted her target. Ever since stepping onto the station Claudia had noticed the small green mantis like aliens that seemed to be everywhere. None of the inhabitants seemed to pay any attention to them, treating the keepers as she had learned they were called the same way some people treated trash droids.
While the people on the station didn't seem to find them very interesting Claudia was growing more and more curious about them. The VI hadn't been any real help, it had told her that they were in charge of maintenance of the space station but no one really knew what they were or why they did it. Even the Hannar she had talked to had been unhelpful. Trying to tie the keepers to their Enkindlers and asking her if she would be interested in learning more about the Hanar faith. Claudia had respectfully declined and rushed away to catch back up to the keeper she had been following for the past half hour.
"Robert now seems to be changing the pressure gauge on what appears to be a liquid O2 pipe" Claudia said into her recorder. "This is the fifth pressure gauge he has changed in the last quarter hour. Is this his assigned duties and do all keepers have specific tasks?" She asked no one in particular. As a group of Salarians and a Turian passed by her she brought up her recorder and continued speaking "Yet another group has passed by Robert without even glancing over to see what he is doing. Are people really that used to the Keepers or could they possibly have some ability that renders then uninteresting to other creatures? Could this have been a survival instinct on whatever strange world they originated on?"
Claudia kept up her running commentary as she followed the small green bug deeper into the bowels of the space station. She didn't know if the small alien had not noticed her presence behind it or if it just found her as uninteresting as everyone seemed to find him. As they passed maintenance shafts and air ducts Claudia's observations and deductions started to get wilder and wilder as she cataloged everything about the alien and his movements that she considered the least bit important.
Reaching a ladder that read "Shaft 2-9-876" along with some strange alien markings that looked more like scratches on metal than words Claudia started to unwrap the force from around herself and reach out with it to see what she could sense. Her master had always been a big proponent of staying aware of the living force, the aspect of the force that allowed Jedi to connect with the plants and animals and people around them. On the station however she along with the other Jedi had been keeping the force collected tightly around them. The amount of alien presences on the station was so varied and new that it was like standing in the middle of a solar-metal concert without earbuds. On top of that every asari mind was like a black hole, even brushing against it was like brushing up against an event horizon.
It was something she and the other Jedi would have to get used to and something that would take time and training but for now all of the Jedi had been shutting down in a way when they came to the station. Opening herself fully to the force she realized just how far she had followed Robert. Reaching out as far as she could she was unable to sense any other presence in the force. The only thing she did sense were what felt like small voids in the force moving around.
"No, not voids exactly" Claudia said into her recorder. " I can sense them in the force but barely. More than a droid but less than a person. Almost like how Grandmother felt when the doctors put her in a coma but different. Less than, not fully whole." Claudia tightened her force sense on the void closest to her, Robert. Robert didn't seem to notice the intrusion at being poked and prodded with the force. One of Claudia's theories was that the Keepers may have been telepathic but Robert didn't seem to even register her mind touching him.
"Robert feels cold and dull in the force. But incredibly focused." She described what she had felt to the best of her abilities. Each Jedi felt and interacted with the force in a different way or with different senses and when she had touched Roberts mind the first thing that came to her mind was the thought of an assembly line or a simple calculator adding one plus one plus one to infinity. "I'm going to try a mind trick. I don't think the Keepers are sapient so I don't think its breaking the rules" reaching out she tried to tell Robert to go and open up the hatch beside him. That finally seemed to get Robert's attention, at least for a moment. Robert turned and looked at her for a second before turning back to the gauge and giving its leaver one final turn and walking off.
Claudia watched Robert walk off and took a second to look around. She had been so intent on following Robert that she wasn't entirely sure where she was or how to get back topside. She could try and trace her path back but she was afraid of getting lost even deeper in the station. So instead of turning back she decided to continue following Robert, hoping that he would eventually lead her back to the habitation levels.
Twenty minutes into the walk Caludia started to sense something. No, start was the wrong word. It had been there ever since she had opened herself up to the force. It was something dark and cold and alien in a way even the jelly like Hanar or ageless Asari were. It didn't feel so much like hate as disdain. Like some evil creature that rested just under the water, deep enough over the edge that any swimmer would be gobbled up before they could make it back to shore. Something that was ancient and slowly starting to wake up.
The closest thing she could think of were the stories of darkside nexus. Places that had been filled with the darkside either due to the death of a powerful darkside user or due to prolonged presence of the Sith. A darkside nexus could also be created due to significant losses of life. Genocides and other atrocities had been known to create dark nexuses before as all the pain and fear and anger spilled out into the surrounding force. But that was silly she convinced herself. The Sith were dead in a galaxy a trillion lightyears away. There were no Sith in the Alliance let alone on the Citadel. And the records the Citadel government had given them didn't speak of any battles on the station. Nor of the early Asari and Salarian explorers finding any living or dead beings on the stations except for the keepers.
Claudia rationalized it away as the cold and her sudden hunger causing her anxiety to suddenly play up and cause her to imagine what she was feeling. Still her left hand slid down to brush against the silver and gold training saber attached to her belt.
Claudia followed Robert for another hour until he came to a large metal door that seemed to go into a large well lit chamber. Poking her head in Claudia saw vat after vat of strange pink goo. The room seemed sterile but it still had a smell. Bitter and acidic and cloying. Claudia had encountered that smell once before in a wildlife preserve when she and her master had driven though it after a wildfire looking for any animal that was still alive and needed to be taken back to the animal sanctuary. It was the smell of death. But it wasn't just a smell it was a feeling in the force. A heavy feeling as if there had been thousands and thousands of wildfires in this room. A vision passed through her mind. Hundreds of alien bodies, each one unique to each other being drug into the room in whole or in pieces and dumped into the vats.
Claudia slammed the door shut and started to run down a side passage finally succumbing to the ever encroaching darkness surrounding her. She ran faster and faster, pooling the force in her legs and her lungs to keep her going as she sped down the hallways. Without thinking about it she reached down and unclipped her lightsaber, its green glow shining against the darkened walls around her.
Breathing heavily she turned a corner and tripped over one of the keepers and went slamming into the decks. Years of training and sermors from her master enabled her to keep her hold on her lightsaber but the recorder flew out of her hands and bounced across the floor landing in a circle of the small green aliens. This room was also full of vats. But instead of goo even smaller versions of the Keepers were floating in them. It reminded Claudia of the hatcheries she had visited once in Alaska. Before she could get up and walk over to retrieve her recorder one of the Keepers picked it up off the floor. At first Claudia thought the Keeper was going to return it to her but the mantis-like claws quickly disassembled the device and secreted the parts away on the multiple pouches on its vest.
"Hey that's not yours bug brain" Claudia cried out as the Keeper walked away with the recorder her master had gotten her for christmas. The keeper just stared at her for a moment in a way that seemed almost intelligent before walking over to her and offering one of its long mantis like hands to her. Staring at it for a second Claudia decided to trust the small bug and grabbed onto its arm. Turning the Keeper started to lead her across the room towards another door. "Well if you can lead me back to where people are I guess we can call it an even trade."
The Keeper led her up a number of platforms and across some catwalks that seemed little bigger than the Keeper was. It also took her down some small tunnels that seemed to be the perfect size for a Volus though she figured it was probably put in place for the Keepers, or perhaps created by them. After an hour of switchbacks, small tunnels and dark accessways Claudia and the Bob the Keeper finally emerged into the neon glow of civilization.
Claudia smiled and soaked in the glow of the neon light and the smell of dozens of bodies that needed a visit to the refresher. After a moment of being glad to be back above ground, well above the maintenance area she supposed, she turned around to thank the small alien only to find him gone and the entrance to the tunnel hidden behind the wall like some magical elf from an ancient fairy tale.
Claudia reached for her recorder to make a record of the creature disappearing like a elf only to remember that it had disappeared with the device as well. Sighing, Claudia started to walk down the alleyway hoping to find one of the kiosks and learn what part of the station she was on. A single turn brought her up against a pack of the one species she had been hoping not to meet while on the station.
A group of ten Vorcha stood staring at her. Their sickly yellow skin looking like someone had peeled it back and pinned it to their heads. Saliva dripped from their gaping mouths filled with needle-like teeth. The codex they had been given had described the Vorcha as violent scavengers who were usually found working as muscle for the numerous gangs that controlled the galaxy's underworld. Primitive but not unintelligent the codex had warned tourists to keep their distance. And here she was in a dark alleyway facing down ten of the slobbering aliens.
There were too many for her to mind trick even if she had any experience trying that against their species. And the path behind her led back to a dead end and a now blocked off path back to the underlevels. The Vorcha quickly took notice of her and started to hiss and snarl at her. A small part of her mind mentioned that these must be feral Vorcha who had gotten separated from their pack and had been existing down here alone. So probably not ones for diplomatic negotiations.
That was fine by her. Aggressive negotiations was also a course at the academy. Reaching out in the force she could feel the waves of hunger and aggression coming off of them. The translator didn't seem to want to tell her what they were saying but if the force was any clue they were debating if she would be better in a sauce or oven roasted.
Reaching down she palmed her lightsaber and quickly flicked it on. The emerald green blade springing to life infront of her and causing two of the Vorcha to jump back in fear. Stories of the glowing blades had already spread though the Citadel thanks to Alliance propaganda and Claudia wondered if those stories had made it this far down into the sublevels. She was only allowed to carry a training lightsaber while one the Citadel. It was a modified lightsaber meant for sparing that even on its highest setting could only burn a target. But the Vorcha didn't know that and she hoped the sight of the green blade would be enough to frighten them off.
If anything the bright light in what had been a sort of semi darkness cast by the neon lights seemed to antagonize them. One of the Vorcha in the back pulled his gun up and leveled it at her. Without hesitating Claudia waved her arm, sending one of his friends beside him crashing into him and causing the shot to go wide and impact the ceiling. Thankfully for her it seemed that only two of the Vorcha had been able to buy or find a pistol. All of the rest seemed to have dangerous looking knives or sharpened claws.
The hallway was suddenly filled with ghosts as the living force gave her visions of possible paths the Vorcha may take. The ghostly images shimmered and faded until only one image was left. Letting the tip of her saber drop the the floor Claudia bounded forward and met a Vorcha in the middle of his charge. Grabbing onto his wrist Claudia dropped down beside him, turning around so that his arm was now pulled back behind his back as she drugged her blade across the back of his knees causing the alien to let out a howl and drop to the ground. The gun that had been in his hand dropped to the floor. Claudia thought for a second about calling the gun to her and turning it against the Vorcha but before she could gather the force energy another of the aliens was on top of her forcing her to drop to the ground and send a force enhanced elbow into its stomach. Rising up Claudia smashed the hilt of her saber into the things chin hard enough for its razor like fangs to pierce its own gums.
As the two aliens laid on the ground behind her rolling in pain she turned to face the other eight, including the two who were picking themselves up off the ground. This time the two vorcha tried to approach her at the same time. Trading out their pistols for some wicked looking knives that would never have made it past security if they had come onto the station the traditional way.
Watching the two closely Claudia let the force guide her movements on when to act and juked to the left driving the tip of her saber into the creature's neck. While her saber wasn't powerful enough to cut through the armor protecting his chest and limbs it also didn't have enough mass to trigger the mass effect fields surrounding her suit allowing her to drive the saber into his windpipe choking him and burning the skin around his neck.
The sight of her exposed back was an enticing target for the other vorcha who leapt at her only to find himself floating in the air before crashing back against the wall. Claudia pivoted on her heels, the saber's blade causing the vorcha to turn as well and positioned herself so that the Vorcha was between her and the rest of the pack. Pulling the blade back she kicked at the vorcha sending him flying backwards into his friends.
Claudia spun her blade slowly and took deep calming breaths as she watched the remaining Vorcha assess their chances. Four of their commarads were currently laying on the ground unconscious or in pain. However they also outnumbered her six to one and had realized that her blade couldn't kill them. Claudia tried to take stock of her options. There was nothing on the ground or walls to throw at them and she wasn't sure if the panels were loose enough to fling at them and she hadn't trained with many of the more offensive techniques or illusions her Master used. Her final option could be to rush them and try to make it past but not knowing what was on the other side of the intersection meant she would be running in blind. And the doors on the sides of the alleyway seemed locked.
Running out of options Claudia decided to scream. Not scream for help, though the sound was likely to attract attention of some kind. No she drew the force into her lungs and vocal cords and let out a force enhanced howl that ripped panels and lights off the walls and sent them flying towards the vorcha who were fighting to stay upright. The wind and debris started to push the Vorcha back, some of whom had been hit and were laying on the ground unconscious or dead. But before the Vorcha broke and ran Claudia had to stop. Her lungs were burning for oxygen and her throat felt red and raw.
After all of that four Vorcha still stood between her and freedom. The aliens snarled and snapped at her and Claudia readied herself for a final fight. Her green blade perfectly vertical to the floor, the hallway filling with the ghostly images of the possible path the Vorcha may take. Claudia slowed her breathing and tried to open herself up to the force as fully as she could. Behind her she suddenly felt a presence like an ancient volcano ready to explode. Her enhanced hearing made the racking of a shotgun shell sound like a cruiser's cannons going off. Suddenly the vorcha were crawling all over themselves trying to run in the other direction. Leaving their dead and injured comrades laying on the ground in front of her.
Turning around but keeping the emerald blade between her and the new arrival Claudia stared up at the towering Krogan in red coloured armor carrying a shotgun that was nearly as large as her arm. If the Asari were like a black hole then the krogans seemed to be a white hole spewing out emotions layered with centuries of experience into the void. Claudia retracted her force sense back a bit and shifted her weight so that she could react to a charge by the giant space turtle. Her saber pointed right at one of its large plate-like eyes.
"You have some quads on you tiny human." The krogan growled and tapped the safety on his gun before putting onto his back. "I don't know many Krogan children who would tangle with a feral pack of vorcha for fun."
"I wasn't having fun" She said, which was a half truth. "I'm lost and trying to find my way back to the presidium." Claudia pulled her saber back and took a more relaxed stance but she didn't turn it off either.
"Hrumph smart kid." The krogan grunted seeing that she hadn't put away her weapon yet. "We're close to Chora's Den. Though you are a little young to be going there."
"Chora's Den? What kind of place is that?" Claudia asked, wondering if it was someplace she could get something to eat and try and call her master.
"The kind your battlemaster will tell you about when you are older. How about I lead you back up to the presidium?"
Claudia weighed the offer in her mind. She was tired and hungry and her legs and arms felt like they were ready to give out. On top of that the Krogan had scared off the Vorcha and not shot her in the back while he was behind her. And most importantly she still didn't know where she was. Finally she turned off her saber and clipped it to her belt.
"Sure, that would be really helpful thank you." She said, holding out her hand. The large Krogan took it and gentle let her shake it. "What should I call you?"
"My name is Wrex of clan Urdnot." The large Krogan said.
"Thank you Wrex. My name is Padawan Claudia of clan Delmonte" she said sliding into step alongside the larger alien. Though every step he two was two for her. "Why did you decide to help me?" She asked. Wrex was silent for a moment deciding if he wanted to share his reasons with her.
"I have a soft spot for children," He grumbled.
"Though apparently not soft enough to save me from the pack of aliens that wanted to eat me for dinner" Claudia complained causing Wrex to let out a laugh that shook the hallway.
"Like I said, quads. I didn't step in because I wanted to see how you would do." Wrex said.
-03 August 2157. Day 76 of Operation Eclipse. GAS Aurora near Terminus space -
After a month of observing the Humans and Turians hunting down pirate fleets near the Batarian border some of the Asari were finally ready to get in on the action. Matriarch Benezia's own squad of Asari commandos were joined by a number of commandos who had either been working on their own to combat the trading of Asari slaves or who owed Matriarch Aethyta a favor.
The squad of commandos held on to the leather straps hanging down from the ceiling as of their dropship as they watched video feeds of what was going on outside. The Aurora an aging Assault Frigate Mark I dropped out of hyperspace right on top of a convoy of Blood Pack slavers. The Aurora and her two sister ships looked like predatory sharks circling their prey due to the large vertical tail fin that stood up from theri aft and the small boxy head at the front of the ship that was all that was left of the Dreadnaught-class cruiser the ship had been modified from.
Not normally outfitted with ion cannons, the Aurora and her two sisters had given up there fifteen turbolaser batteries in exchange for high powered anti-ship ion cannons. Before the slavers could react the three ships started pelting the small freighters with ion bolts, the blue streaks of electricity finding their way into every one of the ships systems leaving them drifting lazily in the void of space.
As soon as the ships were confirmed disabeled the commandos felt their shuttle shutter slightly as it moved from repulsorlifts to its main engines and took off. Each of the Assault Frigates carried two of the older model Katarn-class boarding shuttles that the Asari and Galactic Alliance would be using to gain access to the pirate ships.
"Sergeant Sairi would you like to give the troops a briefing on what to expect?" A Galactic Alliance Marine asked the commando nearest him. Sergeant Sairi nodded and keyed her internal speaker to broadcast to everyone else on the battlenet. The Marines and her commando's had already gone over their orders countless times and practiced breaching with each other but telling them again would give everyone something to focus on during the all too long ride over to the slavers ships.
"Listen up marines" Sarai started "Don't let the fact that these slavers like to pick on helpless women and children fool you, the Bloodpack is one of the most dangerous groups of mercenaries to come out of the terminus system. They like to use their varren to rush opposing forces to break their lines and then overwhelm their opponents with their vorcha troops. So stay alert, stay calm, and watch out for your battle buddy. If you encounter one of their krogan troopers do not engage directly. Create a barricade and call for commando or Jedi most importantly of all remember to check your fire lanes. This is a search and rescue mission meaning their needs to *be* someone left to rescue at the end of this little hop."
The shuttles quickly fell on top of the disabled freighters. The plasma torch mounted around the outside of the airlock began its job slicing through the freighter's hull. Inside the passengers waited the two long minutes for the plasma torch to cut its way into the ship, hoping that the lack of visual sensors would mead the Blood Pack wouldn't know where they were boarding and would be unable to set up a defense as they came out of the door. Each of the six shuttles had been packed with a master and padawan team, three squads of marines, and eight Asari commandos. As soon as the hatch opened two marines tossed in a pair grenades. Chemical and biological agents had been skipped over due to the Marines being unsure what if any effect it would have on the vorcha or krogans. Instead two emp grenades nicknamed "poppers" and a flashbang were tossed into the hallway followed quickly by a biotic shockwave meant to topple over whatever defenses the blood pack had erected.
As the troops quickly disembarked it appeared that their pilot had chosen a good spot to land as their were only a pair or laying dizzy on the floor. The battlenet revealed that not all of the shuttles had been so lucky. The Sprinter, a shuttle from the Flare, had engaged heavy fire when it opened up into what had appeared to be the freighters main meal hall.
The troopers quickly dispersed with one squad of marines staying to secure the airlock while the other two squads split up and quickly moved to secure the engine room and bridge. The long empty hallways didn't offer much cover but the humans and asari soon found themselves operating in a smooth rhythm. Blaster bolts shot down hallways burning into the mass effect shields of their enemies causing them to have to drop their shields or be risked burning alive. As soon as the shields would drop a commando marksman would pop up and snap off a shot at the vulnerable slaver. While the Asari's rifles could technically drop a personal shield faster than the red and blue blaster bolts the marines used in practice the blasters caused the slavers to drop their shields after a few hits so as not to be burnt alive.
At first the commando's hadn't really known what to make of the Jedi that accompanied them. Especially the smaller of the two. The humans had forgone full body armor like the commandos and instead wore what looked like a number of individual pieces of armor covering their limbs chest underneath a large robe. Though it was their choice of weapon that confused them the most. Until they had seen it in action.
Seven minutes after boarding the freighter squad echo-4 called for assistance after running into a pair of Krogans. Two Asari commandos had worked their way back to provide assistance to the squad just in time to catch the last of the fight. The lead krogan found himself staring at the now seared stump of his right arm before looking down at the glowing blade of blue light sticking out of its chest. The other krogan also met his end by a blue saber, the young knight releaving the alien of his shotgun before jumping off the wall behind the alien and driving his blade though its skull.
Stories like that were coming over the commando's personal battle net from all the other ships. varren laying down and rolling over like pups wanting to be petted, groups of vorcha turning on each other or fighting invisible enemies, glowing blades that turned even the most expensive armor into paper, and even some enemies that just appeared to give up and lay down their weapons after a Jedi asked them to. The commandos even reported some of the Jedi stopping to heal what should have been major wounds on some of the marines until help could arrive.
Before long all six freighters were secured. It wasn't only Asari on the transports but Salarians and Truians as well as a few volus who had been picked up after accepting an invitation to a cruise that sounded a little too good to be true. The first joint Human-Asari anti slavery operation had went off without a hitch. But for the Jedi Knights taking the ships was only half the job. Next came tracking down the responsible parties in Citadel space. Something that was going to require a bit more red tape before they could get started.
-05 August 2157. Day 78 of Operation Eclipse. GAS Avalon, Castra, Turian space -
Admiral Williams and Captain Sitta watched as the last load of Batarian prisoners they had picked were lined up in Avalon's hangar and escorted into the waiting Turian shuttles. Though denying them being state sanctioned the Hegemony had raised a fuss over its citizens being incarcerated in the prisons of a non-aligned state so the Galactic Alliance had agreed that the Turian military would have full jurisdiction over the fate of the prisoners. The Hegemony seemed to like that even less.
The Admiral and Captain had been standing there for a while watching as the Galactic Alliance marines marched the Batarians through the hanger. "Captain Sitta I had to sound speciest" Admiral Williams started.
"No, I see it too." The young captain started. "The same ten or so faces. Either some families need to find another hobby or something weird is going on."
"Andy, this is Admiral Williams. I need to talk to you for a moment if you have time." Williams spoke quietly into the communicator attached to his sleeve and then remembering the captain standing beside him "Ohh and please patch Captain Sitta into this call as well."
"Good morning Captain" an energetic voice said into Sittia's ear. She liked the Avalon's integrated tactical and logistics droid and had enjoyed going up against it in virtual games of what the humans called chess during the off hours.
"Good morning Andy. The Admiral and I have a question for you."
"Is it about the strange biologicals on my ship?" Andy asked in a quizzical voice. "My facial recognition software seems to be on the fritz. Is this what it's like when you come back from leave and tell me you are seeing doubles Admiral?" Andy teased.
"Very funny tin head. Tell me we have been taking records of the prisoners. Fingerprints, blood types, DNA samples, something." The Admiral said in concern.
"Apparently not" Andy said in a dissatisfied tone. "Batarians do not seem to possess fingerprints. DNA and mugshots were not taken since the Turians were going to be taking possession of all batarian prisoners. Also all heavily injured batarian prisoners were picked up by turian ships as their surgeons have had more experience with batarian physiology"
Admiral Williams turned and looked at Captain Sitta expectantly only to find the Captain already placing a call on her omni-tool. "Bridge this is Captain Sitta. I need to talk to Doctor Illonus immediately."
A moment later a turian wearing a white Lab coat appeared "Good morning Captain. The bridge said there was something urgent you needed me for."
"Yes doctor. I need you to run a genetic comparison on the DNA samples from all the wounded batarian sailors that have been treated in the fleet."
"Yes Ma'am. What am I looking for exactly?" Doctor Illonus asked pulling up the proper program and keying in the correct variables.
"One hundred percent DNA matches across multiple individuals." Captain Sitta said in a quiet voice.
"One hundred percent matches? But that would require them to be clones." Doctor Illonus said in disbelief. "How many patterns am I looking for here?"
"We believe there may be as many as ten unique strand-casts in the group we have taken aboard. However due to the number of wounded picked up I'm not sure if you will find that many." Admiral Williams said moving over to watch the picture of the doctor as he did its work.
"Admiral," The doctor began as the program behind him started to run sequence matches "you should understand that cloning is a fringe science. It's technically possible but dangerous and overall illegal in Citadel space. To not only be conducting cloning experiments but be using them to fight a war, that would get the batarians kicked out of the Citadel."
Captain Sitta muted their end of the call for a moment and turned to admiral Williams. "How does your Alliance view cloning?" She asked.
"Cloning organs and the like is perfectly normal. Even genetic manipulation is allowed as long as it's treating an illness or health risk. But the cloning of living beings, especially to do jobs others don't want to do, is illegal." Admiral Williams said. The flashing on the screen behind the doctor told them that the program was done running its checks and they unmuted the call.
"The computer is showing three distinct DNA patterns that show up multiple times in the ship's records." The doctor said. "I can have the guards down on Castra run a check against their infirmary records if you want me to. I'm sure it will reveal the other seven strand casts you were seeing."
"That won't be necessary doctor," Captain Sitta replied. "Right now I need you to put your findings together into a nice report and send them to me. Then I need you to send a team of medics you trust down to the prison and run another check against the prison population. I'm granting you tribune level security clearance. All information is to only be released to myself, Admiral Williams or if we are out of contact a message needs to be sent to Admiral Suldonis at Nemi Naval Academy"
"Yes ma'am" The doctor replied "I'll send some of my personal staff down there as soon as this call ends."
"Thank you doctor" Sitta said and shut down her omni-tool. "If they are creating clones this is bad news. However it does explain their increased fleet numbers. Not where they are getting the eezo or the materials for the ships but how they are able to man them all."
"I know the doctor said that this could get the batarians kicked out of the Citadel but until we can answer those two other questions I think it's best if we keep this information on a need to know basis." Admiral Williams said.
"I agree, we will have to let our superiors know but for right now this will be better treated as a military matter unless the sanctions scare the batarians into making a move before we have the whole picture."
-08 August 2157. Day 81 of Operation Eclipse. The Wheel, Saturn, Sol System -
The Wheel was one of the most popular space stations in the Sol System. Its central spear was connected to the large circular habitation ring that gave it its name by four thick spokes. People from all over the system came here to gamble, conduct trade deals, drive skimmers though the planet's rings, or stare out at the eternal storm that slowly worked its way across the planet. The Wheel was also one of the regular meeting places for the different parts of the Galactic Alliance Intelligence office.
In one of the large meeting rooms facing towards the bright red storm sat Director Kalenda, head of the Galactic Alliance Intelligence along with Admiral Raleigh who was their naval attache, Scott Shepard head of the MAW research installation, Senator Rashman head of the GA's diplomatic corps and their civilian oversight representative. And finally Grand Master Alinco of the Jedi Order. Alinco and Scott were the only two who were not there physically. Alinco because of his duties and Scott due to his distaste of flying.
"News of the Batarian cloning program is deeply concerning." Scott said as he projected a short video of the MAW scientists going over the wreckage of the Batarian ships from the first battle of Shanxi. "It doesn't appear that any of the bodies in the fleet that attacked the Matriarch were from these clones but all of the ships do have the markings of being built and launched with some haste. Microscopic fracture lines along the hull, stress fractures on the joints holding sections together, and a lot of other stuff that isn't the result of being pummeled by turbolasers."
"At least the Republic seemed to care enough about its clone troops to give them proper ships" Master Alinco said in reference to the clone army talked about in the holologs of the downed lunar ship. "But I guess when a species has so little care for the lives of its people or other sentients they wouldn't care much about soldiers grown in a tube either. If you can replace the crews and ships in a matter of days it doesn't matter much if the ships will only hold together for a few jumps."
"I'm more interested in where they are getting the materials for these ships." Director Kalenda said. " Our Asari contact has mentioned multiple times how rare of a resource this eezo is. So either they have learned to synthesize it or they have found a large cache of it somewhere. If we can find and disrupt the flow of element zero it won't matter how many tin cans they can build."
"What about just sending a ship into their system and scrubbing the data on their relays?" The admiral asked. "Leave them bottled up in their system."
"That might be a good idea when" Senator Rashman stopped and corrected himself. "If we have to invade. But for now I agree with Director Kalenda that it would be best to find out where the Hegemony is getting its resources from. Then once we have a good idea of their supply lines we can go in, snip them and their relays and disassemble the Hegemony at our leisure" Rashman like many of the Galactic Alliance citizens held very strong views about the species they shared a border with.
"The Citadel is of course going to want in on this. And I feel it would give the Salarian STG something to do other than try and crack into our firewalls." Director Kalenda said. "Over the last month we have had 111 worms, 54 trojans, and 23 botnet strikes targeted at our military network alone."
"Any of them get in?" Admiral Raleigh asked.
"One brute force attack did compromise a petty officer's tablet but all he had on it was some smut holomovies and some old rpg." Director Kalenda replied off hand. "So a few Prowler class reconnaissance vessels go and check things out. Master Alinco I would also like to request one of your Jedi Masters for a special assignment. The GAI has a few modified E-9 Explorers kitted out for spy work. Between one of my teams and a team from the salarian STG that would still allow up room for two more crew members. I was thinking of asking the Citadel to send one of its SPECTERs along in the sense of interspecies cooperation" Kalenda nodded her head towards Senator Rashman " And I would really like an experienced Jedi to go along with them."
"I can make that happen," Alinco said. "Has the Citadel gotten back to us yet concerning the vision one of my padawans had about the station?"
"They seemed to have dismissed them as the overactive imagination of a scared child" Senator Rashman said.
"Scared child?" Admiral Raleigh scoffed. " I want to see them get lost without rations for a few hours and then have to fight off a pack of hungry aliens with a glorified stun baton."
"Yes well the Citadel isn't used to the idea of visions and portents. And while they do have a few organizations that operate in a manner similar to the order they aren't used to teenagers being given the same amount of respect and responsibilities as adults." Senator Rashman said.
"What about the Krogan who assisted her. They are one of the few species we have yet to be able to make any significant contact with." Director Kalenda asked.
"He returned the padawan to her master and quickly left. The girl's master tried to talk to him but the alien just said that he didn't have anything to say to us until we proved ourselves. But he did add that the girl had made a good start. I currently have the two Jedi on the Citadel hunting down records of this Wrex. He may end up being a help in our dealings with the krogan clans but for now we need to do more research"
"What about the quarians sniffing around our sector?" Scott asked "I've already started working on a log of possible planets that could accommodate them with some modifications. Then there are some of the old orbital platforms that could be remodeled until something more permanent could be built" Director Kalenda raised her hands to forestall Scott's speech.
"Currently we are waiting to see what they do. There is a pretty good split between trying to make contact now and waiting for them to make the first move. I think we should at least wait until we know what's going on with the baterian systems before doing anything there.
"And what of the geth? Shouldn't we try to open a dialogue with them as well?" Scott had been pushing to meet the geth. A race of droid intelligences doing their own thing sounded very interesting to him.
"We have considered sending some unmanned ferrets into that sector of space" Director Kalenda said referring to the droid controlled version of the Prowler recon vessel. "But those are some pretty expensive ships to be installing self destruct switches into."
"We could always just stick a 3P0 model into a old junk freighter and send that out their way" Master Alinco said. "That way if it did need to self destruct there wouldn't be anything they could recover that isn't already making its way into the market."
"Actually dad, that's not a bad idea." Scott said addressing his father-in-law "Though it would have to be the right droid. If we sent Violet they may see it as an act of war"
"Ok, I'm going to tell her you said that. She's never going to let you set foot in my office again." Master Alinco joked. "LT is a little old to be going on a trip like that but I really do think that will work. Though we're probably going to have an even harder time selling the quarians on the idea of droids than we did the Citadel."
"And they still aren't allowing us to sell droids in their space" Senator Rasman said. "We have calls coming in from every sector of the market to either import our goods or buy the technology and license to manufacture them. But droids are the one export that has been banned.
"What about what we are importing?" Kalenda asked.
"Tourists." Senator Rasman blurted out. "Vacationiers, thrill seekers, scientits, biologists, and of course the occasional corporate spy. I mean we are importing a lot of goods from them in the likes of food stuff and some of their civilian technology but the main thing seems to be people wanting to come visit the new kids on the block."
"If they are anything like my sailors we are going to have to work out this whole citizenship and immigration thing pretty fast." Admiral Raleigh joked.
"Speaking of your marines, how did the new armor work out for them in the slaver raids?" Scott asked. He hadn't had time to check in on the reports his armory division had gotten back from the mission.
"Splendid. They aren't as powerful as the shields the Asari give their commandos but it holds up long enough for them to drop the other guy." Admiral Raleigh said.
-09 August 2157. Day 82 of Operation Eclipse. Unknown, Unknown-
"The reports of a darkside nexus on the Citadel intrigue me." A gravelly voice said. "I want you to send an agent there to investigate."
"Right away my lord" a kneeling figure in black robes said. His eyes were pinned to the floor though he would have been unable to look up if he had wanted him to. The man in the darkness was holding him still in the force. The man knew that if his answers displeased his lord that hold could tighten in the blink of an eye and he would end up crumpled on the ground and quickly replaced by another of his lords over eager servants.
"What about our attempts to contact the leaders of the Citadel's underworld factions" The sound of the being's voice was like gravel over glass.
"We are still in the process of making contact with them." The man felt the force tighten around his throat and started to speak faster. "The recent raids on pirates and slavers seem to be scaring them. And if we send some of our sabers to intimate some of the lower level runners I'm sure we will soon be in contact with the leaders of the organization." The man let out a loud breath as he felt the invisible noose around his neck lessen.
"Good good." The man in the shadows said. "It is not time yet to strike. Let the galaxy settle a little more. And then it shall be time.