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Mass Effect: Break the Cycle
Chapter 9: Firm Leads
Tali'Zorah chewed her lip inside her helmet as the pair of armed humans escorted her out of Doctor Michel's office. They looked to be little more than thugs with guns, but then she guessed that she shouldn't have expected much more for a criminal enforcer to provide for her safety.
As she followed them, her heart hammered in her chest as they led her through the crowded corridors of the Citadel. One of them glanced at her in a manner that made her temper boil. The lecherous look made her stomach turn to ice in fear.
Could she honestly trust these people? She shook her head as they led her through another set of doors and into the lower part of the wards. The occasional rumble of a car overhead was the only sign of activity as they led her along a nearly deserted corridor.
Then they banged on a panel, which slid open. A man clad in black and red armor stepped out and stared at her for a moment. "You're the Quarian?"
"Yes, and you are?" Tali asked trying to sound confident.
"The name's Fist... we've got space inside for you, even a clean room if you're still suffering from your injury." Fist said as he waved her inside. "My office is just down the hall, I suggest you keep out of bar proper, we don't want you to draw any attention."
"Have you setup the meeting?" Tali asked quickly.
"I'm still working on it. It takes time to arrange a meeting with the Shadow Broker. He's a busy man after all, with a whole galactic network to manage. You're fortunate the information you've got could be of such value." Fist said as he led her to a desk. Tali glanced nervously at the two sentry guns behind him. "So... first I'd like to ask confirmation that you have the information."
"I do... but I'm not stupid enough to just give it to you Fist." Tali said nervously as Fist sat behind his desk. "I am only here for protection until I can sell the information."
"Of course." Fist said. "My men are used to such things. So you have proof that Saren Arterius is working alongside the Geth... I have to wonder how you managed to obtain that."
"I extracted it from a Geth memory core, all Geth are linked and if you're quick you can pull information from it's memory banks before they're purged." Tali said.
"Indeed, so you've encountered a geth?"
"I was on the Liberty colony and tried to help defend one of the smaller settlements from a Geth incursion. I was lucky to escape with my life." Tali said quickly.
Fist studied her for a long moment and nodded. "If you'll excuse me, I must work on those arrangements."
He stood and walked out, leaving Tali alone in the room with a pair of guards. She let out a sigh and stood. "Could one of you show me to my room then?"
In the comm. room Fist scowled as he tapped the contact code into the monitor. A moment later the familiar white face of his Turian contact appeared before him. Fist took a deep breath. "The Quarian is in my hands, but I'm not certain you can handle her. It seems she already managed to best one of your agents... and apparently found out the information hunting Geth. She might be more than just a 'mere' Quarian."
"Do not concern yourself with that, I'll have the arrangements ready in a day or so. In the mean time, another contract has landed on my desk from the same employer."
Fist blinked. "Another contract?"
"Yes... it seems Commander Shepard has made some powerful enemies with his heroics on Eden Prime. It's none of your concern unless he comes looking for the quarian." The
Turian bounty hunter said.
"Will he?" Fist asked.
"Perhaps, but by then we should have the situation settled. I would suggest cleaning up after yourself a bit Fist... if you want to ensure that nothing leads to you."
Fist scowled. "I will." Then the communications link snapped off and he glanced over at one of his lieutenants. "Go see Doctor Michel, make sure she understands that her safety is dependent on her silence."
John Shepard glanced around the surprisingly spartan office of Varla Bon and stepped up to the single desk and the Volus that stood behind it. The rotund figure looked up at him, his rebreather clicking after each breath.
"Shepard..." The Volus said.
Shepard blinked. He hadn't expected the information broker to be a Volus. "Are you Varla Bon?"
"I am, and you must be Commander Shepard, the whole Citadel is talking about your allegations against Saren." Varla answered. "I take it you've heard of the services I offer."
"Yes, though I'm not sure you're in my price range." Shepard answered.
"Wise... normally you wouldn't be, but at the moment I'm offering you this for free, as my employer wishes the situation to be resolved as quickly as possible." Varla Bon stated and tapped the console. "A Quarian approached us with information about Saren's activities and the geth. We sent her to Fist, who works as an enforcer of the Shadow Broker's. Unfortunately it seems that Saren got to him first... We believe he's planning to hand the girl over to Saren's thugs."
"Who's Fist?" Shepard asked.
Varla shrugged. "He was an enforcer for our organization, and runs his operations out of a bar in the lower wards called Chora's Den."
Shepard blinked as he remembered which bar it was that Harkin tended to frequent. "Damn... What sort of security does he have?"
"Just hired thugs, mostly humans though he has a krogan bouncer, we recently hired a krogan named Urdnot Wrext to... take care of the situation for us." Varla Bon said.
"What about Saren... who is working for him here?"
"All manner of people work for Saren, Shepard, and he's a Spectre. So he has contacts in all sorts of different industries and organizations. Considering the situation, I believe it will be the White Skull bounty hunter guild that will be his agents in this case. I should warn you, they have been given a contract on your head as well." Varla Bon said.
"Mine?" Shepard scowled. "I guess that means he sees me as a threat of sorts."
"No doubt." Varla Bon said. "I'm afraid there isn't any more I can give you right now… good luck."
"Thanks…" The Commander said as he left the office. Scowling to himself, Shepard walked over to the lifts and headed toward the lower wards, following the directions to Chora's Den on his omnitool.
Walking through the Citadel halls Shepard scowled to himself. Like any capital city, it seemed to be a bastion of government and politics which had taken a great deal of time to present itself as a shiny ideal city, but the moment he got out of the presidium, the reality of the Citadel descended like a heavy weight.
The halls remained spotless, but the people didn't and as he walked past a bar along his route he saw a pair of bouncers toss a rather dirty drunk into the middle of the corridor.
There were beggars, loners, and criminals about, and Shepard nervously tapped the pistol that was holstered at his hip. Dressed in the standard Alliance BDU, he hoped he wasn't marked as a target for thieves or pickpockets.
Walking through one of the marketplaces, he saw Volus, Salarians, Krogan, Asari, Humans, and Turians selling wares. He could hear one of humans arguing with a Turian about getting a refund for something as he passed.
Then he stepped through a set of doors and into the deeper parts of the wards, far from the peacekeeping influence of C-sec's presence. He felt eyes on his back as the hatch hissed shut behind him and he stepped into a large open courtyard that was open in the middle.
Two Turians clad in black armor with skull face paint turned toward him from the other side of the courtyard. One of them lifted a claw and pointed to him. "That's him."
Shepard swore as they pulled assault rifles from a crate beside them and he dove down behind a wall as the first hypervelocity rounds cracked past. He drew his service pistol and swallowed. He focused and kicked his biotic abilities into gear, summoning a shield of dark energy around him before standing and leveling his pistol.
The closest Turian's eyes widened as his pistol lined up on him. Two shots ripped from his pistol and Shepard saw his kinetic barriers flash with energy and fail. The third shot cracked through the Turian's brow plates and sent brains spilling from the back of his head. Then he slumped forward.
"One down... one to go." Shepard growled to himself.
Ashley Williams scowled as she stepped into the dimly lit bar and caught sight of the crowd of dancers. Beside her, she saw the Lieutenant... was it Alenko? He was staring at the dancers. She growled in irritation, how was it that all men were such... such... prudes?
"Put your tongue back in your mouth Lieutenant." She finally snapped.
Kaidan Alenko shook his head. "Sorry Williams, I was just admiring the view."
"God only knows how many light years we are from Earth and men are still ogling women in bars." She grumbled to herself.
"Maybe they're here for the food." Alenko joked and Ashley felt her ire fade a bit. "Or the atmosphere?"
Ashley rolled her eyes. "Yeah... atmosphere." She followed the Lieutenant around the bar. As they neared the man she guessed was Harkin from his C-sec uniform, a hulking red krogan growled.
"This is Fist's only warning!"
A second krogan, clearly a hired bouncer pushed the red one back and growled. "I'd get out of here Wrex. I'm sure C-sec will love to talk to you about this."
As the red krogan passed them, Ashley let out a sigh. "I wonder what that was about."
"Nothing that concerns us, I'm sure." Alenko said as he stopped before a rather drunk looking middle aged human. "That's him." He said after checking his omnitool and sighing.
Harkin stared up at Ashley who gave a shudder of distaste. "Hey there sweetheart, looking for some fun? I got to say, that soldier getup looks real good on that body of yours. Why don't sit your sweet little ass down beside old Harkin, have a drink, and see where this goes?"
"No way in hell…" Ashley snapped. "I didn't come in here to be hit upon by an ogre like you."
Harkin didn't seem fazed and just shrugged. "You trying to hurt my feelings? You gotta do better than that. Twenty years with C-sec, I've been called every name in the book, princess."
Ashley slapped the tabletop and growled. "The only reason I'm speaking with you is we need to find Garrus Vakarian."
Harkin glanced up at her and held up his hands. "Okay, okay, just relax! Garrus you say? Huh… you must be one of Anderson's crew. Poor bastard's still trying to bring Saren down. I know where Garrus is… but you gotta tell me something first. Did the captain let you in on his big secret?" He leaned forward across the table and smirked.
"We just want to know Garrus is." Kaidan said.
"Ah but it's all related, see? The captain used to be a spectre, didn't know that did ya?" He grinned up at them as Ashley and Kaidan exchanged glanced. "It was all very hush-hush, the first human ever given that honor, and then he blew it. Screwed up his mission so bad, they kicked him out. Of course, he blames Saren, says the Turian set him up."
"Why are we listening to a drunken ass like you?" Ashley snapped.
"Fine… ask Anderson. Bet he tells you, too stupid and proud to lie right to your face." Harkin said with a wave of his hand.
"If it was so hush-hush, how'd you find out?" Kaidan said.
"I spent twenty years working cases here on the Citadel, the people on this station love to talk. Secrets are like herpes, you got em, might as well spread em around."
"You're a pig." Ashley growled.
"Just noticed that now, did ya?"
"What went wrong with the mission?" Kaidan asked.
"You'd have to ask him, never did hear any of the details. Bet it's a good story though, the hero's fall… classic tragedy, ha-ha." He gave a derisive snort before grabbing a lube of ale from the table and downing it.
"Just tell us where Garrus went." Ashley snapped.
"Garrus was sniffing around Doctor Michel's office. She runs the med clinic on the other side of the wards. Last I heard, he was going back there, something about a tip off." Harkin shrugged.
"Kaidan, let's get out of here." Ashley said as she slipped out of the booth.
"Yeah, good, go! Let me drink in peace!" Harkin grumbled as she stalked away. She felt his lecherous gaze on her until she was out of sight then Kaiden hurried up beside her.
"There better be better places to drink on this station then that one… I've had my fill of human and alien slime-balls for the day." She snapped, she stopped as the distinct pang of gunfire echoed in the corridor and the grabbed their sidearms.
Shepard swore as a series of hyper-velocity rounds tore through the air over his head. He could see the bullets gouge huge holes in the metal as they struck. Seconds later the bang of an auto-pistol drew his attention and he glanced over the wall just in time to see the Turian bounty hunter dive behind a crate and spray bullets toward a hatch at the opposite side of the corridor. Alenko and Williams dove behind cover and returned fire.
"Ashley!" Shepard yelled, "You and Kaidan hold that position!"
"Sir!" She shouted back. "This your party?"
"I guess so!" Shepard shouted before swinging out of cover and firing on the Turian. His shields flared for a moment before a round caught the bounty hunter in the shoulder, spraying blue blood against the wall. Snarling Shepard leveled his pistol at the figure's chest and fired again, tearing through the armor and dropping him to the ground with a thud.
"He's down, secure the area! Alenko..." He waved the Lieutenant over to him. "You just come out of Chora's Den?"
Alenko nodded. "Talked to Harkin, sounds like Garrus is supposed to be 'sniffing around' a Doctor Michel's office."
Shepard nodded. "Varla Bon says that the information we want is in the hands of a Quarian... under Fist's tender care."
Williams scowled. "Who's Fist?"
"A former enforcer for the Shadow Broker, he runs Chora's Den apparently." Shepard said. "Maybe with Garrus we could get C-sec's backing for the raid."
"I don't know... what about them." Alenko pointed to the bodies.
"Legitimate self defense, they shot first." Shepard said. "If C-sec bothers to come down here."
Williams glanced at the bodies. "Shouldn't we call it in?"
Shepard thought for a moment then shook his head. "I'll tell Garrus when we see him. He'll know what to do."
"Fine sir." Alenko said.
"Lets go..." Shepard said as he opened his omnitool. "Doctor Michel's office... lets see if I can find it, ah! She runs a clinic not that far from here." He lowered his omnitool. "I might have walked by it on the way here."
The group followed him through door after door until they reached the wards. As they walked along one of the balconies
Alenko and Williams glanced out at the vast array of ships that filled the space around the Citadel. The massive Asari dreadnaught seemed to dwarf all of the others, Turian cruisers and Salarian patrol craft alike.
Then Shepard turned to the entrance of the clinic and stepped to the door. He froze as it hissed open. A redheaded woman clad in a doctor's uniform was stepping back from a group of thugs armed with an ecletic collection of pistolsand shotguns. Their leader was in her face, snarling.
"You forgot she was ever hear, you hear me Doctor?"
Shepard's gaze flicked to the island counter. He saw a Turian clad in the familiar blue armor of
C-sec crouched behind it, a large caliber pistol clutched in his hands.
Shepard snatched the pistol from his hip as the doors hissed shut behind him, Ashley, and Kaidan.
The sound drew the attention of the thugs and their leader grabbed the Doctor, pulling her close to him to use her as a shield. "Who's there?"
Then Garrus moved, stepping out of cover he lifted the pistol and snapped a shot off that tore through the leader's head, spraying braings and red blood. Doctor Michel shrieked and dove over the counter, and scrambled under her desk as the other thugs pulled weapons and opened fire.
Shepard snarled as he dove to the island as Kaidan lifted a crate with his biotics and hurled it into two of the thugs, knocking them out cold.
Garrus snapped shots off with a mechanical precision, dropping another of the thugs after piercing his kinetic barriers. Shepard rolled out of cover and lifted his pistol toward the two remaining foes. He fired, tearing into their shields with his pistol.
One of them snapped off a shot with a shotgun that tore into the medigel dispenser, sending the red liquid in all directions. Ashley snapped off a series of shots with her pistol, tearing into one of the thugs before dropping him to the ground.
Shepard lashed out with his biotic and hurled the last of them into the wall, knocking him out cold.
"Nice... thanks for the distraction." Garrus said as he lowered his pistol and stood. "Great timing Shepard."
"You took a big risk with that shot Garrus... what if you hit the hostage?" Shepard answered as he holstered his pistol.
"I know... I know..." Garrus said. "Michel, are you okay?"
The redheaded woman peaked out from under her desk and nodded. "I'm alright... thanks Garrus."
"Not a problem." Garrus said, "So... I take it you're sniffing around a bit yourselves." He said offhand before glancing at Shepard. "Hell... I got to call this in, what a load of paperwork this will take." He taped the side of his head. "Dispatch, Vakarian... hostage situation at Doctor Michel's, situation is over but I need a medical crew and cleanup."
"I was going to ask you, I was attacked by a pair of bounty hunters outside Chora's Den... think I should call it in?"
Garrus snorted. "Chora's Den? Probably not worth it... hard to believe they called us today, something about an Urdnot Wrex threatening Fist." He shrugged his shoulders before glancing over to the Doctor. "So... what'd Fist's thugs want you to keep quiet about Michel?"
"They didn't want me talking about the Quarian." She said stepping back.
Shepard nodded. "This Quarian, did he have any information on Saren or the Geth?"
"She... she said she had information about Saren and the Geth... she wanted to sell it for protection." Michel said.
"She was attacked by a White Skull bounty hunter and wounded..." Garrus said. "Most of the office couldn't believe a Quarian dropped one."
"Yes... well, I put her in contact with Fist." Michel said nervously.
"Why?" Alenko asked.
"Fist is an agent for the Shadow Broker." Michel said.
"Not anymore, Urdnot Wrex got a contract on Fist. It seems Fist is working for Saren." Garrus said. "They're probably going to hand her over to Saren... both the Quarian and the information."
"My God... I handed her into his hands." Michel muttered. "Garrus... I'm sorry. I tried to get her to talk to you!"
"It's fine Michel, I know what life is like on the Wards..." Garrus said. "Most people are paying protection, to Eclipse, to White Skulls, to Fist..." He sighed. "Sometimes I hate my job."
The door opened and a team clad in C-sec uniforms stepped inside and stopped. A moment later they began to spread around the room. One of them, a Salarian shook his head. "Vakarian... you're good at making messes."
Garrus rolled his eyes. "Yeah... yeah... Michel, let them check you out... I assume you know they'll want to treat you for shock."
Michel nodded. "Yes... what about you Garrus?"
"I think Shepard and I need to talk about this mess." Garrus said as he glanced over at Shepard. "There's a decent bar just down the hall... I figure we can get something to drink and talk."
Shepard nodded. "Yeah Garrus, I get the feeling I'll need your help."
"It's good to be wanted." Garrus said in a joking manner. "So... let's get a drink and talk... my shift was just about over anyway."
Shepard followed him out the door as the rest of the C-sec contingent setup police lines around the clinic. He sighed. "It's too bad that a firefight had to happen in a clinic."
"Tell me about it, imagine if the Doctor had patients in there." Ashley said. The she leaned toward him. "Are you sure about this sir, he's a Turian."
Garrus growled. "Just because I'm a Turian doesn't mean I don't want to bring Saren down... he's a stain on the honor of my race if he's gone rogue."
"Sorry." Ashley said as she drew back.
Shepard chuckled. "Couldn't have said that better myself. I think I can trust you Garrus."
A heavy beat echoed from down the hall as Garrus led them through a set of doors. "Welcome to Flux..." He said with a nod. "Grab a table... order something, I'm completely the wrong person to ask for advice on the menu... as I hope you know what I can eat, and what you can eat, are not the same thing." He joked. "I'll see you in a bit."
Shepard shrugged before leading the small group to one of the tables and a human waitress quickly took their order before Garrus came back and dropped into a seat with a canister of blue ale in his hand. The Turian let out a deep sigh.
"Long day?" Shepard asked with a half smile at the Turian officer.
"You could say that... it's always a pain when one gets away." Garrus said with a shrug. "Now... I suppose we should share some information."
"I talked to Varla Bon, he gave me a freebie, apparently the Quarian we're looking for has incriminating information about Saren, but how strong or what exactly it is... He said the Shadow Broker hired Urdnot Wrex to... 'correct' the issue." Shepard said.
"Wrex... that'd be the merc we've got in holding at the moment for 'threatening' Fist. He'll be getting out in a couple hours I think. Nothing to really hold him on." Garrus said. "I suppose to save the Quarian and get the information we'll need to plan on getting into Chora's Den... that Krogan Merc would certainly be a help."
"Sounds illegal." Alenko said. "Smashing into a pub to whisk this Quarian girl away."
"Oh, it is... I've been thinking about resigning for awhile." Garrus said. "Having my investigation of Saren blocked was just the... what is that human phrase: The straw that broke the... horse's back?"
"Camel's back." Ashley said. "So you're going to resign and help us assault a nightclub to save a Quarian."
"Sounds stupid doesn't it..." Garrus said as he took a drink of ale and shrugged. "Oh well, we succeede and I'll try my hand at something else... maybe apply for Spectre training or work as a mercenary. I'm sure there's some decent mercenary companies around... somewhere."
"You're a pretty good marksman considering that shot you made in the Clinic." Shepard said.
"I'd probably get another reprimand if the rest of C-sec found out about it." Garrus observed.
"So... Chora's Den, what do you know about its defenses?" Shepard asked.
"Well... I've heard that he's got a dozen guards in his employ, mostly humans... most don't even have armor so they're not that big a threat... the Krogan Bouncer might be a problem." Garrus said. "Then there's the actual offices and quarters he'd got... probably some automated defenses but... probably not much."
"Four of us would be a bit small taking on all that." Ashley said. "Even if you're N7 qualified Shepard."
"Urdnot Wrex would probably go a long way to equalizing the situation." Garrus said. "Krogans are tough, and that old one probably has a couple century's of combat experience under his armor."
"He would have an interest in helping, as he's got a contract on Fist." Alenko observed.
"So... we're going to go in there with two aliens as backup?" Ashley asked. "Are you crazy Shepard? I'm not sure we can trust them to help."
"Great... you're one of 'those' humans." Garrus grumbled. "Listen, I know some of your race have a... dislike for the rest of the galaxy, but this isn't..."
"I'm not racist! I just don't trust people with different ethics and instincts then I have, they're not predictable." Ashley growled.
"You're splitting scales... it's not a big difference. Spirits, I'm sure there are pleanty of people on C-sec that said the same thing before we started hiring humans." Garrus growled.
Shepard sighed as he glanced between the two of them. He shook his head. "Sorry Garrus, but Williams has a bit of a sore spot with Turians... a bit of family history from the First-Contact War."
"Whatever." Garrus growled.
"We don't need to like each other, just work together through this gig." Shepard said simply. "Now... we've got a plan, of sorts... we'll just have to pick up this Wrex when he gets released."
After a few hours, and an impromptu supper Garrus led them to the C-sec offices. No sooner had they stepped inside, then a gruff and irritated Krogan stepped out of a side door flanked by two Salarians. A human clad in a C-sec uniform stood before him.
"Wrex... If I catch you making threats again, I'll throw you off this station." He said.
"Voss..." Garrus grumbled before shaking his head and the massive Krogan laughed.
Shepard stared, he'd heard of Krogan, even seen a few before, but up close it was suddenly apparent just how massive they were. This one must have been nearly two and a half meters from toe to crest tip and easily over a thousand kilos in mass. The Krogan shook his head. "Warn Fist... I will kill him."
The C-sec Officer scowled as he stepped out of his way.
"You Wrex?" Shepard asked as the Krogan was about to step past.
He stopped and glared at him with one red eye for a moment. "Whose asking?"
"My name is Commander Shepard... my team and I are planning a little 'party' at Chora's Den..."
The massive reptile stepped forward and Shepard felt his hot breath on his face. "Fist is mine... I have a contract."
"And I need a woman he's holding..." Shepard said. "We have common interests..."
"I am not interested in your 'interests' human." Wrex said. "But... if you're offering help."
"We are..." Garrus said.
"Turian... in C-sec, offering to help me with murder?" Wrex gave a deep chuckled and a Krogan smile slid across his face. "Well... this promises to be an interesting company."
"Actually I'm about to resign." Garrus said and officer Voss spun toward him.
"I can't handle it any more... too much regs for me." Garrus said and shook his head. "I already filed the paperwork... and you know my gear came out of my pay check, so it's mine." He shrugged. "Sorry Voss."
The human C-sec agent sighed. "We'll miss you around here... especially on movie night."
Garrus chuckled. "Can't wait for Blasto to come out."
"So... you'll join us?" Shepard asked the massive Krogan and held out a hand. The Krogan stared for a moment then clasped it in a painfully strong hand.
"It sounds like it'll be fun." Wrex said. "When do we strike?"
"Tomorrow morning." Shepard said.
Tali stared up at the ceiling lying on the simple cot that had been in 'her' room. She sighed and closed her eyes. Tomorrow... yes, Fist should have it all arranged tomorrow. Then she would be rid of the information and this mad adventure of hers would be finally over. She had no idea how wrong she was.