The Citadel.

A deep space station, home to over thirteen million souls and believed to have been built by the ancient race called the Protheans. Why they had built it or what original purpose it had was unknown, but the station was massive in size and contained multiple mass relays that lead to more points of the galaxy than any other place. Some speculated that this must have been a military station while others argued that it had to have been a place of research. The station itself offered no answers.

Instead, she sat silent as her new occupants moved about her body that was similar in shape to a pentagram, what with its central ring and the five arms that extended from it. These arms had the capability of closing in and turning the station into an impenetrable cylinder if needed, but it had been agreed that she would be closed only once per calendar year to ensure that the arms were functional. The only other time that they would ever close in on the station was if it were an emergency. In all of the centuries that the station had been colonized, this had never happened and they hoped it never would.

The central ring was home to the Presidium while the five arms, called Wards, were self-contained cities that numbered its residents in the millions and still growing. The population in the central ring was much smaller at only 100,000 residents, despite the 400,000 jobs that were stationed there. Those employed there that were not fortunate enough to have a residence within the ring had to commute by way of the public rapid transit system. Those that were lucky enough to reside inside the ring were authorized to use their private shuttles. But even that was limited as the Presidium, which itself had only 10,000 residents, allowed only public transit. Rarely did anyone break the traffic laws as the punishments were severe.

The central ring was also where the main spaceports were located because it being at the center of the rotation, it was much easier to dock with. All large vessels were required to dock in the central ring where the risk of accidents were greatly diminished, while smaller crafts were required to dock on authorized spaceports scattered throughout the wards. The Citadel Control and C-Sec both agreed that at these riskier ports, if smaller crafts failed to dock properly, the damages would be minimal compared to a larger craft. Both agencies wished that they could have all in-coming crafts received in the ring but the traffic was just too heavy. If they tried to use only the main spaceports, thousands would be turned away per a 20 hour cycle, and that was unacceptable to the Council, to the businesses and to the public in general. So instead, the two agencies were left to deal with the small craft accidents that occurred almost daily. Thankfully, most of them were minor and rarely fatal.

Then there was that 13 million on the Citadel. A population not of one race but over a dozen struggling to coexist with each other. Nowhere else in the galaxy was there that many different races living together in a civilized manner and that meant a wide selection of languages, fashion, food, entertainment, religions, politics and customs. All of those things had the power to unite or divide depending on the individual and the head of Citadel Security, Executor Venari Pallin was secretly thankful that the asari, who had discovered the station in 580 BCE, lead in headcount on the station. Even if the maidens were at times part of the criminal element, the matrons were always there to calm both their young and other races. They had a gift of diplomacy that the others lacked in comparison and seemed to take the differences of other species in stride.

The salarians, who had been the second race to arrive sixty years later, were also still holding their place in regards to headcount at number two. A salarian being arrested was not a common sight on the Citadel as they tended to be a perfected Vegas mobster, burying their crimes and bodies where no one would find them. Then there was the third race that had arrived on the Citadel, the volus, a client race of the turians. The volus had watched other races slowly outnumber them, currently leaving them in spot number six of population. But that didn't matter. Next to the asari, they controlled the marketplaces, financial institutions, information brokerage houses and the entertainment businesses. The volus were gifted in all things mercantile and without them the galactic economy might have never been stabilized. They had used that to their advantage and at times colored outside of the lines, keeping the white collar crime division of C-Sec busy.

This deep space station was also considered the heart of Council space, where the seat of galactic power sat. That power, better known as the Citadel Council, was found within the Citadel Tower and was established to maintain the balance between the many races and their governments. The Council, or more accurately, the Councilors had no official authority over the independent governments, but as the final authority over Council space itself, few governments would publicly move against them. It was not uncommon to see the heads of state, business leaders and people of great importance come to the Citadel seeking an audience with the Council. A great majority of these individuals would be disappointed as they were denied access to the Citadel Tower itself. Instead, they would be pointed to their Ambassador's offices on the Presidium.

On the very rare occasion that the individual was approved to meet with the Council, they would be escorted into the Citadel Tower by a member of C-Sec. From there they would walk alone past trees, flowers, fountains, politicians, other petitioners milling about and up the stairs to the Petitioner's Stage. Beneath the stage was a meditation garden, protected by glass, and above them across the garden were the Council podiums. Looking around at the trees and beautiful fountains, it appeared peaceful and void of security, but appearances were deceiving here. Hidden throughout the area were the elite snipers of C-Sec and combat drones. The petitioner, after reaching the end of what felt more like a plank, would wait for the Ekite of the Council to present him to the three Councilors. It was also required to have your ambassador present which helped ensure that your grievance was squashed within the embassies and never submitted for Council review. You see, the Ambassadors tried to limit how often they went before the Council themselves.

Outside of the Tower, you would find a small group of individuals gathered in the hopes of stopping a Councilor on their way to the Chamber. This was useless as the Councilors entered the Tower through a highly secured tunnel that connected the meditation garden below to the prestigious Veria Suites on the other side of the lake. The Veria was home to the Councilors' private residences and each spacious apartment was designed to represent their respective home worlds and their people. The Tevos residence, shared with her bondmate, was both sensual and inviting with its alneu and gardens. Sparatus' residence, shared with his faustel and daughter, was formal with its historical pieces of turian weapons and armor taking center stage in its design. The Valern residence was slightly smaller than the other two, humid and more tropical with Sur'Kesh being its inspiration.

Traveling back to the Citadel Tower and the Council's Audience Chamber, if you went to the offices located at the right you would be entering the section that housed the management team of the Citadel Control. They were responsible for the safety, training and scheduling of the Citadel's traffic and this entry was used only by the C-Sec stationed within the tower. The main entrance was located underground, easily accessible by way of the rapid transport station.

In the center of its main lobby was an unusual Prothean piece of art that was surrounded by eight keeper stations. What did it represent? Why had it been placed there? Just like the Prothean Relay Monument down at the lake, this octahedron shaped black metal piece was just one more Prothean mystery left on the Citadel. It was not unusual to see a group of salarian scientists standing around it. Unfortunately, none of them could get close enough to investigate it because the eight keeper stations were always manned.

The keepers were the caretakers of the Citadel and had been busy maintaining the station long before the asari discovered it. It was believed that they were in charge of the master control unit, which regulated the life support and navigation systems, and that without them it would stop being operational. Believed because no one knew where the unit was, or even if one existed. The truth was that little was known about the Citadel, the core itself inaccessible and the material of the station found nowhere else. These keepers would silently move across a room to a station, seemingly unaware of the other species, or a half dozen might enter an office and begin rearranging it. No one would try and stop them from whatever activity they were involved in, because to interfere with one of these caretakers could mean prison. Harsh? Based on what limited studies could be performed, it had been determined that the Citadel would shut down without these creatures.

While most Citadel citizens had learned to ignore the caretakers, there were many who found the keepers to be unsettling as they would almost seem to appear from nowhere. They were never seen eating, sleeping and if molested in any way, they would destroy themselves. Why? And how were their numbers replenished? An extranet site, Citadel Crawlers, was filled with theories, conspiratorial at times, on what the keepers really were and what they were really doing. The site even included all the claims and rumors around Keeper-20 who was, according to this group, killing lone individuals in the deeper keeper tunnels. Then there were the protein vats that they maintained. What was really in those vats? Yes, while the greater population of the Citadel had learned to ignore these creatures, those that frequented the Citadel Crawlers site were sure that these keepers were not as helpful or as benign as they appeared.

Returning to the Council Audience Chambers, if you turned to the offices on the left you were now entering the private lobby to the Council offices themselves. Just as the private residences were designed around their lands, customs and history, so were their Council Chambers. One might even say more so as the private residences also reflected the occupants' personal tastes. These offices not only had balconies that looked out over the Presidium Lake, but they also took up complete floors so that the Councilor had room for the sizable staff required to assist them in their daily duties. The turian office had the largest staff with the salarian office running a close second, while the asari had a headcount of nearly half.

A private elevator from the meditation garden was reserved for the Councilors only and entering it to start the work day was always the best part of the day for Councilor Valern. Stepping into that elevator meant that he was someone and that he mattered. This was the place that Councilor Valern felt he belonged and as he exited the elevator on the fifth floor, he adjusted his collar and took two shallow breaths. The plants, salarian stones and images of Sur'Kesh made him think of his home world, but the environment was off. He required the humidity be set at 88% both at his home and the salarian chambers, but the keepers would change it to 44%.

The keepers! It drove him nuts that there was nothing he could do since those creatures had carte blanche on the Citadel. They took priority even over the Councilors. "Em on uma!" He swore as he dropped his case and headed to the climate controls where the game of 88-44 began once again.

Sarra, the asari executive secretary, stepped off one of the public elevators and shook her head as she watched Valern place a few items in front of the thermostat controls. She had watched this game played every day and was on the side of the keepers, finding the 88% humidity almost unbearable at times.

Valern greeted her after finishing his building of a barricade and then entered his office that was located to the right of her desk. Sarra followed behind him and as he stopped to straighten his painting of Talat, the Sur'Kesh capital, she began to open up his messages.

"Did you see the Minars defeat the Falcons last night?" Valern asked Sarra as he turned on the Citadel News.

"I don't watch Cruor League games anymore," Sarra answered, stopping on a message and making a note on Valern's calendar.

"No?" Valern knew how much the asari loved their skyball matches.

"I only watch Fleo League games now," She answered, not looking away from the screen. "It seems cruel to play matches against the humans."

"Is it true that the humans have challenged the asari to play them in one of their sports?" Valern asked, adjusting the lights in his office.

"Yes," Sarra said, "Without our biotics … something called basketball."

"Will they do it?" Valern looked over at her.

"No," Sarra answered, deleting a message and moving to the next.

"Afraid they will lose to the humans?" Valern asked, looking up at the news.

"Afraid that we will win," Sarra answered. "Humans do not take defeat gracefully."

"I have noticed," Valern said, but both became silent as the news of an asari found murdered in the Gaeron Botanical Gardens flashed across the screen.

"Shame," Valern rubbed his forehead, "Murders have been increasing … the Executor needs to get this under control."

"There is just too many here," Sarra said, as she went back to his messages. "The Wards are becoming too congested."

"And adding these newcomers haven't helped," Valern said, still watching the screen. "I get complaints about them all the time. It's not always their fault, but it would have been better if they had just stayed away."

"Councilor," Sarra pulled up a message from Dalatrass Linron from Sur'Kesh, one of the leaders in the Salarian Union. "She is requesting a meeting this morning."

"She is requesting to put a problem on my lap," Valern said, "I have too many problems to have her add another one."

"Would you like me to say that you are in meetings all day?" Sarra asked, looking at his schedule.

"No," Valern answered, sitting down in front of his comm. center and tapping the console. "Be prepared to shuffle my schedule when she lets go of my throat."

"I will leave you to the assault," Sarra said, moving away from his desk and heading to her own.

"Sarra," Valern called out, "Find out if that asari was of importance."

"I will," Sarra answered and then exited his office, closing the door behind her.

Councilor Tevos had started her day earlier than usual, but it was a good start of sorts. She had traveled to the Tayseri Ward to share the morning meal and Anskrit with Matriarch Livia in the T'Soni residence. The 6-bedroom apartment had been purchased by Livia's daughter, Vasalika, just a few years before her death and was now titled to her only daughter, Aikaterine. No T'Soni had ever lived in the residence or used it while on the Citadel, Aika preferring to lease it out instead. But since its last tenants had recently vacated the property, Livia made arrangements with Aika to have it prepared for her visit. Aika had reached out to both the leasing company and her cousins to ready the residence while she notified the family that the Matriarch was heading into non-asari space.

Livia's sister's daughters, Tareina and Aglaia, arrived a few days before her so that the home would be ready with the rooms freshened up, servants hired, pantries filled and the garden trimmed. They knew that the Matriarch, like their own mother, loved performing the Anskrit in the garden and so they had her favorite flowers added. Shortly after that, Tatiaria arrived with her bondmate, Antonina Delana, and her oldest and youngest daughters, Adyna and Petrina. Aikaterine and Liqiu were scheduled to arrive later that evening, along with two additional T'Soni family members.

Tevos had not been informed that Tatiaria was visiting the Citadel and when she entered the residence to see her there it stung. As Tatiaria looked up to her see ex-lover standing in the entry way, Delana had greeted the Councilor, "We are both glad to welcome you into the T'Soni home, Councilor."

"I was not aware that you.." Tevos stopped herself, realizing that she had not said the traditional blessing when entering a home.

"No," Delana took the Councilor's hand, ignoring the breach of civility and, instead, apologized as she explained that the trip had been hastily put together when they learned that the Matriarch was traveling outside of asari space.

"I understand," Tevos looked over at Tatiaria, "May your home be a place of peace, grace and prosperity."

Tatiaria said nothing but responded with a simple smile that hid her desire to reach out and touch her former lover.

"Do you know why she has chosen to come here?" Delana asked, looking over in the direction of the garden where the Matriarch was.

"She did not tell you?" Tevos asked, turning her attention back on Delana.

"No," Delana answered.

"She did not even tell me she was leaving Thessia," Tatiaria stated, putting down the book she had been reading.

"We still would not have known if the Matriarch had not reached out to Aika about this residence," Delana added. "What is she thinking?"

Tevos touched Delana's arm with her free hand, "Do we ever understand a Matriarch?"

"True," Delana smiled, guiding the Councilor towards the garden. "The Matriarch requested that you be shown to her when you arrived."

"Ciara," Tatiaria smiled up at her as she passed by. "What is that scent you are wearing?"

"It is the new perfume by Venustas," Tevos smiled back as her heart ached. "Wyter ... does it please you?"

"Yes," Tatiaria answered, turning her attention to her bondmate, "Nina, while you out today, buy me a bottle."

"No need," Tevos said, "I will have my assistant bring over one. Venustas sent me a case as a gift for my birthday last month."

Remembering how lovely Tatiaria had looked, her compliment and that smile, Tevos' morning had been filled with pleasures, but once she was enroute to her office things had started to change. Executor Pallin called her and informed her about the murder of an influential asari in the Gaeron Botanical Gardens. Tevos requested that he forward copies of everything that he had to date to her office and once there she pulled up the images and knew exactly what the murder weapon was.

"Ardat-Yakshi," Tevos said almost in a reverent tone as she remembered her own personal experience with one.

"Do you need me to manage this?" Psyria had asked, pulling up the day's schedule.

Tevos looked at her day; there was so much to do on top of hearing the day's petitions and appeals, "Thank you, but I think that we need a SpecTRe for this."

"Not that human," Psyria almost seemed to spit, tired of hearing other asari talk about her.

"Shepard?" Tevos shook her head. "We need an asari not a human to track this predator. Send me a list of the asari SpecTRes who are currently on the Citadel."

"You will have that shortly," Psyria said, moving towards the door.

"And Psyria," Tevos called as she sat behind her desk.

"Councilor?" Psyria stopped at the door, slowly turning towards Tevos.

"Soften your mind to this human," Tevos instructed, pulling up a screen with vids of the crime scene. "I might need you to get closer to her … to touch her."

"I will open myself more so that I may have a better understanding of her," Psyria responded before giving a small bow of her head and exiting.

"How much more will peace require of us," Tevos sighed, as she hoped that it would not require Psyria or anyone else for that matter to seduce the human. There was something about Shepard that touched Tevos and she wanted to protect her.

"Councilor?" Damalis, one of Tevos' secretaries, had entered her office before the door could even close, "Sarra called and said that Councilor Valern needs to speak with you."

"Did she say why?" Tevos asked, as she pulled up the latest Thessia World News Channel.

"Just that it was important," Damalis answered, placing datapads down on her desk.

"Important?" Tevos made a note to have a gift basket prepared for Tatiaria before she stood up. "Hand me my robe."

"Thank you for coming so quickly," Tevos had been greeted by Sarra as the private elevator opened on the fifth floor.

"Can you send in a tray of refreshments?" Tevos asked, opening her robe slightly as she moved out of the cool elevator into the humid outer office.

"Of course, Councilor," Sarra thought that Tevos was the most graceful of their kind and knew that, with her mind, she would handle this current crisis to their favor.

Tevos saw the thermostat controls blocked and gave a small laugh as she walked towards Valern's office, "He will never surrender."

"Unfortunately," Sarra whispered as she waited for the Councilor to move deeper into the office before quietly shutting the doors and returning to the outer chamber.

Tevos looked around the office, admiring the plants before heading to the balcony. That was where Valern headed when he was in a panic because on his balcony, looking down at the lake, reminded him that he had control. He could face whatever crisis was in front of him or jump. Now as he felt Tevos stand next to him, he was glad that she was there, but said nothing. He was still trying to formulate how he was going to approach this crisis with her.

Tevos let him contemplate on his current crisis another few minutes and then softly asked, "What has you troubled?"

"Shepard," Valern answered, just going to the truth of the matter after all of his thinking. "She has stolen a salarian ship and killed a research team in the process."

Tevos did not speak until Valern turned to face her, "And when did she do that?"

Valern did not answer because he knew that it was untrue based on the evidence that the Dalatrass had sent him. The last communication from the Sur'Kesh research team was enough to show that she was not personally guilty as Shepard was not near their reported location when they went missing. How does one tell a Dalatrass that she is wrong? Especially Dalatrass Linron? Many called her the "Queen Bee" back on his homeworld.

"Councilor?" Tevos had known about the SK-6 Rait title under Shepard's name, receiving a copy of the registration shortly after it was entered, and was surprised that it took this long for Valern to find out.

"It's in the report," Valern answered, moving back into the office to pull it up.

Tevos followed, removing her Councilor's robe and placing it on a chair along the way, "I am interested to see the evidence of this theft as well, Councilor."

"Yes, yes," Valern stopped short of his desk. "Proof. The ship's crew has not reported in from a mission and now their ship is registered to her."

"I see," Tevos sat down and looked up at the salarian, "I think that we both know the SpecTRe was not involved."

"No," Valern looked at the asari in full agreement. "But that does not change the fact that she is now in possession of that ship or that a research team is missing."

"True," Tevos sat back as Sarra entered with a tray of refreshments as requested. "What were they researching?"

Valern waited until his secretary was finished and the two alone again before he sat down at his desk and pulled up the report and a map, "It was marked classified but it was somewhere in this area."

"I see," Tevos could see that he was not going to share what those scientists were researching. "Could it be possible that they died during their expedition and that the ship was found after the fact?"

Valern wiped the map away as he looked over at Tevos, "Highly doubtful, Councilor. And now the ship has just been docked in the Shalta Port with a krogan piloting it. Her krogan."

"Her krogan?" Tevos tilted her head slightly, "Does one ever control a krogan?"

"What?" Valern looked frustrated. "Of course not. But this krogan has been travelling with her until now."

Tevos smiled softly, "The krogan is named Wrex from the clan Urdnot. He is the off-spring of the warlord Jarrod, who was the off-spring of the great unifier Attila. Have you studied the history of the krogan?"

"History?" Valern almost seem to snort at that thought. "Brutes clashing, blood spilling … not my kind of reading."

"There is more than violence in their past," Tevos responded, as if speaking to a child. "You might find wisdom, loyalty and great sacrifice within the bindings of their history."

"The asari might wish to see value in all things," Valern responded, "even if it means distorting the view. But we salarian see what is ... not what we wish is."

"Let us not argue this morning over the krogan," Tevos responded back. "We can have that debate at another time. Let us discuss this ship, the human SpecTRe and your Dalatrass' needs."

"Yes," Valern stood up and moved towards Tevos, "Needs. Dalatrass Linron wants me to confiscate the ship and return it to its rightful owner."

"Is that all?" Tevos asked even though she knew that there was more than that.

Valern stretched his arms, "And have this Shepard arrested for crimes against my people."

"She is a SpecTRe," Tevos reminded him as she stood up. "She is under the protection of this Council."

"But that is what the Daltrass has demanded," Valern said. "She has ..."

"That will not happen," Tevos interrupted. "She is an agent of the Council and if she claimed that craft, it was with our authorization."

"Yes, yes," Valern knew that Tevos was right and did not want to ever see the Council bow to any government, even his own. That would quickly knock the balance off its center and open the Council to having governments control it.

Tevos walked out on the balcony, understanding the spot that her peer was in, but unwilling to watch one of their agents be sacrificed to appease a government. As she watched the citizens move about below her, she wondered why the krogan was no longer with Shepard and how he had come into possession of the ship. The SpecTRe was scheduled to arrive that very day on the Citadel but Tevos would not be able to see her in private for at least a few days. Would the human even answer her questions honestly? Valern cleared his throat as he returned to his desk, bringing her mind back to the current issue, the Dalatrass.

"Tevos," Valern called out. "What if we confiscated the ship and detained the krogan? I could inform the Dalatrass that Shepard was unaware of what had happened."

"It might work," Tevos said, moving back inside and picking up her robe off the chair as she passed by it, "but Shepard may not agree to that."

"She must," Valern said, unable to see a way out where everyone was satisfied.

Tevos put her robe on, walked over to Valern and looked down at him, "You and I both know that there is a shift in the wind, a storm that is coming. Somehow this human is in the middle of it and may be the only one capable to stop it."

Valern nodded. There were too many reports coming in from his recon teams about the geth movements and even more. Odd behaviors reported here and there. Something told him that the geth moving outside the veil was just the start of something more dark and sinister.

"Shepard must stay focused on her mission," Tevos continued. "I will speak with her on this matter, but if she chooses to keep this ship and protect the krogan … Valern, we must support her."

Valen understood but "the Dalatrass-"

"Must accept what we decide," Tevos cut him off. "The Dalatrass Linron does not dictate what the Council authorizes or approves. She also has no claim or right to demand anything of us or an agent of ours."

Valern slumped down into his chair, defeated.

"Valern," Tevos' voice softened as she reached over and touched his hand. "Whatever decision is made, we will communicate it so that no one feels diminished. I promise. But first, let me speak with the SpecTRe before we make any decisions."

"Yes," Valern seemed to relax under the touch and promise given by Tevos. He knew that her words could be trusted and that if she spoke with the Dalatrass, all would work out. The asari Councilor was gifted that way.