Cadmus rode the elevator up from the docking bay along with fellow passengers from his ship. He drew in a quiet breath, attempting to steady a bundle of nerves. Five years since he had been here and a little over three years since the Battle of the Citadel. He was looking forward to seeing the station again, but his reason for coming set him on edge. The elevator door opened onto a narrow hall. At the end was a C-Sec officer, a human male, standing dutifully in front of a door and next to a crescent shaped desk manned by a human female. Travelers had lined up in front of the desk, answering questions for entry to the Citadel. Cadmus joined the end of the line, his action a novel experience. In days past he would have passed the line and flashed his C-Sec authorization on his omni-tool to enter immediately. This time he was simply one of the masses.
Cadmus shifted back and forth on his feet, impatient. It took ten minutes just to make it to the desk.
"Hold still for our scanners, sir," the blonde headed female ordered.
Cadmus did as asked, though inside he rankled at being commanded by a young officer he considered his inferior regardless of his retirement.
"Oh," the female exclaimed, looking up at him suddenly and truly viewing him for the first time. "This says you're Captain Cadmus Vakarian, former C-Sec."
Cadmus inclined his head.
"Cadmus Vakarian?" the male C-Sec officer by the door called over.
Cadmus scanned him. He was muscled, tall and intimidating—perfect for guard duty. He stared with wide eyes. "Yes," Cadmus confirmed his identity.
"What?" the female asked, glancing confusedly between the human male and the older turian.
"Don't you remember Commander Rawls bragging about him and his techniques, his arrests?"
The female shook her head. Cadmus raised his brow plates at the mention of Rawls' name and his using him as an example of some kind.
The human male shook his head. "Some don't pay enough attention in class," he explained. "Welcome back, Captain Vakarian."
Cadmus nodded at the human male.
"Reason for coming to the Citadel?" the female asked, resuming her questions.
Cadmus took a breath, stalling. What should he say? Honestly, he wanted to growl out, "To investigate the bogus charges against your former boss," but that wouldn't go over well at all. "Personal business," he answered shortly.
Cadmus flapped his mandibles in annoyance. "I am here to visit C-Sec friends."
The female pursed her lips, clearly upset with his attitude, but accepted his answer. "Alright. Do you have anything to declare?"
Cadmus shook his head. He then made to move on, assuming the interview over, but was stopped when the female called after him sharply. "You will need to hand in your weapons, Captain."
Cadmus turned back. "Why?" he asked gruffly.
"Hey, Diana, relax," the human male said, sending her an evil eye. He looked to Cadmus. "New rules since the geth attack. Only C-Sec, Council Spectres and Private Security Escorts can have weapons. Sorry."
Cadmus flexed his mandibles. "Permits aren't allowed?" he inquired. He knew his file would indicate he held a personal Citadel permit.
"Your permit is expired."
"It has not reached its expiration date," Cadmus protested.
"All Citadel Weapons Permits dispensed before 2183 are invalid. You must reapply."
The human male shook his head and rolled his eyes. He spoke lowly to Cadmus. "It takes months for them to be approved. Council's scared of anyone but them having control here these days."
Cadmus sighed. The reapplication of permit status made sense considering what the Citadel and Council had been through, but it still irritated him. He stepped back up to the desk, ignoring the perturbed expressions of the people waiting in line behind him. He lifted his weapons case onto the counter, then withdrew a pistol from his suit and handed it over as well. The female scanned the case and pistol with her omni-tool, then placed them in a bin behind the desk.
"They've been tagged and the numbers sent to your tool. You can pick them up when you leave. Next."
Cadmus stalked away from the desk. The door opened and the human male nodded to him as he passed through. "Enjoy your stay."
Cadmus nodded back and moved on, muttering "Not likely" under his breath. He already felt exposed walking around weaponless on a station he knew better than most had a criminal underbelly.
As he traversed the station by foot and skycar, Cadmus observed its changes. Much was structural, areas rebuilt and redesigned after the Battle. Even so, the layout was familiar. He would be able to get around as easily as before. The change that most interested him, and in some respects bothered him, was the number of humans. He couldn't look anywhere without seeing at least one and many wore C-Sec uniforms. He guessed that C-Sec had been in dire need of recruits after so many had perished in the Battle. Humans had gained a solid reputation at the Battle and that must have made their way into the security of the station easier. He remembered that Venari had told him John Rawls had been put in charge of human recruits. He wondered if that was still true.
Cadmus' skycar pulled into the Upper Wards, close to C-Sec Academy. Cadmus exited the vehicle, still hauling his overnight bag. He slung it over his shoulder and marched across the hall and down the steps into the Academy. The smells and sights automatically catapulted him back in time. He breathed deeply and sighed to himself. I've missed this.
He reached a desk with a C-Sec officer behind it—another human. The station was crawling with them. The human male set energetic green eyes on him. "Can I help you, sir?"
"I'm Captain Cadmus Vakarian. Let Commander Ialla know I am here."
The officer tapped away at a computer, then held his finger to the screen, running it down it. "You're not on her itinerary, sir."
"If you announce me, she will see me."
The human male smiled condescendingly. "If you have a problem with C-Sec, sir, you need to find your precinct and report there."
Cadmus pulled himself to his entire height, not able to bear the patronizing tone. "How old are you, officer?"
"Uh…I don't think that is any of your business."
"How old?" Cadmus glowered at the officer with a stare he'd perfected over years on the job that proclaimed, "Obey or you'll find yourself in a load of hurt." It worked.
"Twenty-six," the human replied, hand to his side, Cadmus guessed on a firearm, readying himself for a possibly violent confrontation with an angry turian.
"I am Captain Vakarian, former C-Sec officer. I served C-Sec longer than you've been alive. Lead detective in Zakera Ward when I retired. Commander Ialla is an old friend and if you force me to I will contact her and she can come out here and discuss with you the benefits of discernment."
The human officer swallowed. "No, no, it's okay. I'll call her right now."
Cadmus folded his arms over his chest and listened to the officer make the call, his hand to his ear, his eyes darting back and forth from Cadmus to empty space.
"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am. There's a Captain Vakarian here to see you." A pause. "Yes, Captain Cadmus Vakarian." Another pause. "Of course, ma'am." He lowered his hand and pressed a panel on his desk, the door to the Academy whooshing open. "She says to come in and head to training room G at the end of the first hall."
Cadmus inclined his head to the officer, refusing to thank him verbally, and marched forward as if he owned the Academy. He was stopped along the way by several old co-workers that recognized him and compelled to share pleasantries. He kept his answers short, his experience with Laelia's illness not something to drag in front of the public. Eventually he made it to the training room. He peered through the window and saw Denae standing at one end of a padded room, sending biotic blasts into a target. Cadmus entered and she stopped, turning and smiling widely.
"Captain Vakarian! Welcome back!"
Cadmus smiled as well and dropped his bag as Denae made for him and gripped his wrist in a tight greeting. "It's good to see the Citadel again."
"It's changed a little bit, but it's still the Citadel. You can't keep this station down." Denae grinned and Cadmus marveled at how little she had changed. Asari seemed timeless, at least to beings whose life spans lasted far less than theirs. She hadn't altered a bit, still lithe and a glowing shade of azure, face and crest lined with delicate white markings.
"Kepel informed me you were head of the Academy Special Forces."
Denae backed away momentarily, picking up a cloth and sponging her face. "You've seen Kepel! Can't believe that salarian's managed to live this long. It's a satisfying job, but keeps me busy all hours of the day. I schedule in some free time here and there." She gestured, encompassing the training room.
"So I noticed," Cadmus commented.
Denae finished mopping her face and lowered her arm, the cloth dangling in her hand. Her eyes had gone serious. "How's your wife?"
Cadmus flexed his mandibles. "Doing better. We've been on Sur'Kesh so she can participate in some medical trials there."
"Ah, so that explains how you connected with Kepel. How is he?"
Denae smiled again. "Energetic, pensive and on top of things."
Denae suddenly put her hand to her ear, obviously receiving a transmission. "Tell Captain Skien I'm busy and he has balls enough to lead the team without me. Ialla out." Denae shook her head. "All these newbies these days. They want babying every step of the way."
"I noticed the number of humans," Cadmus commented.
Denae sighed loudly. "It's pretty much everyone. Humans, salarians, asari, turians—they all signed up in droves after the Battle of the Citadel. Some wanted to help rebuild, but most felt the need to protect a station vital to their civilizations. We've had our hands full weeding out the bad from the good. Luckily, I get them when they've demonstrated unusual aptitude. Doesn't mean some of them don't want you to hold their hand along the way." Cadmus smiled widely and Denae cocked her head at him. "What is it?"
Cadmus blinked his eyes. He hadn't known his thoughts had made it to his face. "It's…I was thinking…I'm proud of how far you've come, Commander." Cadmus shifted on his feet.
A slight flush appeared on Denae's cheeks. "I learned from the best. You gave me the opportunities I needed to advance my career. I owe you."
Cadmus felt his heart sink at her last three words. "I am not here to take advantage of our professional relationship, but I do need a favor."
Denae's smile fell and she walked over to a hamper, chucking the cloth inside. She turned to meet Cadmus' gaze. "Now I know why you are here and I am not surprised. Let's go somewhere we can talk…freely." She whispered the last word with a conspiratorial tone.
"Lead on." Cadmus followed Denae out the door, down the hall and away from the Academy, the asari pausing briefly to inform the human secretary she would be out of touch for awhile and not to contact her. Denae's desire to talk privately sent warning bells ringing in Cadmus' mind. It was another piece of evidence shouting to him that things had gone very wrong in C-Sec.
Denae carefully toted two glasses away from the bar in Flux, making her way past talkative patrons to a table in the club's corner. She sat down and slid one of the glasses containing a purple liquid across to Cadmus. "Non-alcoholic…Unless you want me to get you something else."
Cadmus smiled slightly, amused and pleased she still remembered. "This is fine," he said, taking a sip. It wasn't that good. Now that he'd been back on Palaven so long, Citadel fare couldn't hold a candle to home grown food and drink.
Denae sipped at her own drink, skimming the dance club, then eyeing Cadmus again. "Sorry I picked somewhere so loud, but it works when you don't want to be overheard. No one will pay attention to us here."
Cadmus set his arms on the table, leaning forward. "Venari."
Denae sucked in her lips, then blew out. "Executor Pallin. I should have immediately guessed why you were back."
"Tell me about it."
Denae leaned forward as well, closing the gap between them so Cadmus could hear her. "I can't tell you much at all. After he died and they said he was a traitor to C-Sec, a bunch of us didn't buy it. We caused a bit of a stink in the nose of the Council over it and we riled them. It ended in the Council calling each of us in individually and letting us know that we'd better stand down or be kicked off the force forthwith."
Cadmus tightened his jaw. "They wouldn't hear you at all?"
"No. They said our actions bordered on the disloyal, that we were too attached to a particular executor and not C-Sec. The salarian councilor claimed we were in denial and didn't like that we'd been duped by one of our own."
Cadmus snapped his teeth together, a sign of disapproval. "What about the new executor?"
Denae grunted. "Masen Arbanas. He's useless…to us, anyway. He's human, has a solid background in police work on Mars. He doesn't hate aliens, at least not vocally, but he's more sympathetic to humans than the rest of us."
"Why would the Council even consider a human executor?" Cadmus questioned. No human had ever held the position and it would be difficult to convince alien C-Sec officers to respect the choice.
"The Council said he was chosen for two reasons: to encourage more cooperation between humans and the other races and because humans were the ones who discovered Executor Pallin's betrayal. They said humanity had shown itself worthy of the responsibility."
Cadmus rapped his knuckles on the table, eyes narrowed, expressing his displeasure.
Denae fingered her glass. "Of course, Councilor Udina pushed his recommendation fervently. I don't like Udina much—too much the politician. But he's good at what he does—sometimes. He successfully argued to get Executor Arbanas elected anyway."
"So the Executor's preference for humans means an interview with him is out of the question," Cadmus ruminated.
Denae threw her hand out dismissively. "I wouldn't attempt it. A friend of mine mentioned Executor Pallin to him in passing and was soundly commanded to forget Pallin existed."
Cadmus tightened his grip on his glass. "He sees no reason to investigate."
"He thinks we all hate that a human exposed a venerated turian as a criminal."
Cadmus sipped long from his glass, mulling over the information. The Council had written Venari off. The new Executor was human and wanted nothing to do with the executor that came before him. It was difficult to wrap his mind around the changes. The last time he had been on station no human councilor existed and the executor was as turian as they came. "Do you know anything about Commander Bailey?"
Denae smiled lightly and Cadmus creased his brow plates, not expecting her reaction. "He's got security in his blood. He's good at his job, has been hailed for his arrests. Trouble is, he'll do almost anything to get it done, including stepping over the line if he has to. A lot of humans do that. You should see how many end up on reports."
"He killed Venari," Cadmus reminded her.
Denae's smile vanished. "Yes, I know. But I don't get the sense he was an assassin of any kind. I don't see Commander Bailey as the kind of man to do anything underhanded. He's straight forward. What you see is what you get. If he killed Pallin, he would have done so because he thought it was right."
"You know him that well?" Cadmus asked.
Denae thumped the table with her palm. "Well enough. We've worked together a few times."
"Anything else you can tell me?"
Denae reluctantly shook her head. "You should see Paeon. He knew Venari far better than I did. I'll send you his apartment location." Denae flipped on her tool, tapped for a few seconds and then shut it down. Cadmus felt his tool vibrate as it received the info.
Denae leaned farther forward over the table. "I see in your eyes, Captain, that you're going to investigate this until you get to the bottom. You always looked that way on a serious case."
Cadmus nodded. She knew him well.
"I'm glad someone is going to try and figure it out. Just be careful. The Council has made its decision about Venari Pallin and it won't be happy if it finds out someone is trying to awake a sleeping wasp nest."
"I'll be as discreet as I can," Cadmus promised.
"If you need help, call me. I'll do what I can."
Cadmus appreciated Denae's offer, but objected. "You don't need to endanger your job."
Denae waved a hand. "Some things are worth endangering it for." She picked up her glass and held it out to Cadmus. Cadmus raised his own in the air and they drank together, a silent wish for Cadmus' success.
Cadmus stood outside an apartment in Tayseri Ward, still hefting his bag over his shoulder. I need to find a hotel, he reminded himself. He didn't have a cushy apartment on station to retreat to anymore. He pressed the panel next to the door, not sure if Paeon was even in. It was getting late, but he could still be on duty. There was no answer. Cadmus left the hall and found a bench to occupy only a few feet away. He sat back and gazed out on Tayseri.
He hadn't been to Tayseri much when on station, concentrating on his own Wards. Still, he couldn't help but feel regret and lingering anger at Saren Arterius as he observed scaffolding around broken architecture and black scarring on numerous walls. Tayseri was still recovering from being blown half to bits three years previous by what Cadmus now believed to be a dying Reaper. If Garrus was right and thousands of Reapers were coming, what havoc could they cause? He found himself earnestly hoping Garrus was plain wrong. Maybe the Reapers would never show up. Cadmus clenched his fists. But if they did, he knew the galaxy would fight back. At least turian space would, shoving hell right back in the Reapers' faces. Garrus was making sure of that.
"Cadmus? Is that you?" a voice questioned, drawing Cadmus out of his reverie.
Cadmus glanced up to see Paeon rushing towards him, arm outstretched. Cadmus stood and shared a wrist grip with his old friend. "Greetings, Paeon."
Paeon smiled widely. "I had to do a double take, but it is you. Please, follow me. Let's have a drink."
Cadmus followed behind Paeon. "Actually, I was just sharing one with Denae."
"Oh, good." Paeon paused to open his apartment door with his tool. He gestured for Cadmus to enter first. Cadmus stepped inside. The room was a simple affair, stark in its decoration, not at all like Paeon's old suite in Bachjret. He walked over to a leather recliner and settled in while Paeon made for a kitchenette. "So, not thirsty then?"
"I don't need anything."
Paeon poured himself a quick drink, then wandered back into the living area. He sat down on a twin recliner and sighed. "Long day."
"This Ward must keep your talons sharpened," Cadmus commented.
Paeon nodded as he drank, then lowered his glass, cradling it in his lap. "Still rebuilding. Morale's improved, though. Tayseri citizens are stubbornly resilient. They won't give in even when most of the station has forgotten they bore the brunt of Saren's attack."
Cadmus swallowed hard. Should he challenge Paeon's statement? After all, he was one of only a few who knew that it wasn't really Saren's attack after all. He decided against starting a long discussion that could go on for hours. From what Garrus had told him, Commander Shepard's crew was in the process of strengthening the galaxy against future threats. He was sure some of these had to extend to the Citadel. Anyway, he told himself, he could send a message later to his C-Sec friends. That way he could tell them what was coming without getting into an argument.
"Many of them joined C-Sec after the Battle. We've curbed crime here by 40% since then. I'd say Tayseri is becoming the pride of the station."
Cadmus smiled at his friend's good natured ways. It was a nice release to talk to Paeon again. "Congratulations."
Paeon returned the smile. "I can't take most of the credit, but thank you." Paeon sipped his drink again, then set the glass on a side table. He sat forward with his elbows on his knees and rubbed his hands together. "Now to talk about why you're really here."
Cadmus fluttered his mandibles. "You've guessed."
"Cadmus Vakarian wouldn't leave his sick wife just to visit old friends on the Citadel."
Cadmus shook his head, still admiring Paeon's way of putting himself in other people's positions. "I'm here about Venari."
Paeon leaned back in his chair. "Exactly as I assumed."
Cadmus pushed back against the recliner, appreciating its cushioned grasp. "Denae said some of you tried to argue with the Council's findings."
Paeon crossed his arms over his chest. "She told you they didn't want to hear it, I presume."
Paeon sighed. "We had no choice but to accept what they said, at least outwardly."
"So you don't think Venari was guilty?"
Paeon took a deep breath. "What they claimed about him didn't reflect the turian I thought I knew. It didn't make sense. But then…" Paeon paused, looking at Cadmus with tentative eyes.
"I'm not saying he was guilty," Paeon went on. "But the last time I saw him he was agitated."
Cadmus contracted his brow plates. "When did you see him?"
"In Zakera. I was over there to meet with another officer, discuss the possibility of the Zakera precincts participating in a charity drive for Tayseri. After I finished my meeting, I found Venari in an alley skulking. I wouldn't have seen him at all, but as I passed he called out and drew me in with a tight grip. He showed me his tool and there were photos of these two human males. He asked if I'd seen them and I said I hadn't. Then he told me not to say I'd seen him and he couldn't tell me why, not yet. He was dead only hours later."
Cadmus stared intently at his friend as he flashed on his tool, pulling up a map of Zakera Ward. "Show me exactly where you saw him."
Paeon leaned over, drawing his finger along the tool to move the map around, then zoomed in to an alleyway about midway in Zakera. "Here." He pulled his finger back. "But Cadmus, I checked that area out afterwards and there was nothing to find. I even asked about those two men. Everyone denied having ever seen them."
"Who were they?" Cadmus asked.
"Bruce Schneider and Pauel Costa."
Cadmus entered the names into his memo notes on his tool.
"They were the dead officers Commander Bailey found Pallin with."
Cadmus dropped his hand abruptly. "And you think what?"
Paeon wrung his hands. "I don't know what to think. I don't think Venari would assassinate C-Sec officers, but he was found with the men he was stalking that day. I have to consider that they had indeed found something out about him." Paeon nervously tapped a foot. "The fact is, Cadmus, that we don't always know someone. People can hide secret lives you never see."
Cadmus ground his teeth, Paeon's realistic statement as strong and uncomfortable as a punch in the gut. He decided to ignore it for now. Unless he found solid evidence, he couldn't believe Venari was guilty, not yet. "Did you know the C-Sec officers killed?"
Paeon shook his head. "They worked in Zakera. When I looked them up I found they both arrived on station about a year ago, came from the same home town on Eden Prime. They were in Zakera's investigative division, had background in underground probing so were promoted quickly."
"Don't you find it suspicious," Cadmus spoke aloud, wheels turning in his mind, "that they worked in Zakera, yet everyone says they haven't seen them."
"Not really," Paeon said. "They may not have been out in the Ward a lot. Just behind desks."
Perhaps. "Do you know what happened to Venari's omni-tool, the one he showed you?"
Paeon shrugged his mandibles. "It wasn't C-Sec issue. It must have been a personal one. I assume his possessions were sent home following protocol."
"Is there any other information you can tell me?"
"None," Paeon replied assuredly, then his voice lowered. "Cadmus, you have to tread lightly here. The Council and C-Sec consider this incident over and done with."
"Denae told me the same thing," Cadmus said, his anger growing that Venari's demise had been so thoroughly thrown aside.
"And you have to be prepared to find something you don't want to know. There is a possibility you'll find an answer you won't like."
Cadmus flattened his mandibles against his jaw. It wouldn't happen. "You may have given up on Venari, but I haven't," Cadmus grumbled, standing quickly. "Thank you for your hospitality. I need to find a room for the night." He stomped towards the door, ignoring Paeon's calls behind him.
He marched down the hallway, bag on his shoulder, omni-tool alight, tapping furiously. There was at least one more person he had to see before he tried to force a semblance of rest on his agitated mind.
Cadmus decided on Bachjret Ward for the duration of his stay on station. It was crowded with turians, so he wouldn't draw attention to himself and it kept him far from Zakera, he hoped covering the reason he was actually on station in the first place. The room he paid for was comfortable middle class in a high rise and Cadmus stood at the window looking out on the Ward, watching the skycar traffic zoom past and staring across at Zakera Ward. When he'd been a C-Sec officer, he hadn't taken much, if any, time to contemplate Zakera from such a view. Now he couldn't keep his eyes off of it. It was too dense and far away for him to make out any particular details, but it prompted his mind to both old memory and trouble over Venari.
A chime sounded. Someone was at the door. Cadmus turned, passing a bed with both his data pad and omni-tool laying on it. He palmed the panel and the door opened.
"Captain Rawls," Cadmus greeted, holding out a hand to shake.
"Captain Vakarian. It's good to see you." Rawls replied. He grasped Cadmus' hand and shook it tightly. He'd aged a bit and carried more authority than when Cadmus had seen him last; his hair had been shaven close to his head, Cadmus guessed to give him a fiercer air.
"Come in," Cadmus said, standing aside so Rawls could enter the room.
Rawls walked over to a chair close to the window and gingerly sat down. He pointed to the view. "It's impressive. I don't get to see it often enough."
"Working in the bowels of the Wards has its disadvantages," Cadmus observed.
Rawls nodded. "But it's worth it, I guess."
"Yes," Cadmus agreed. He moved over to the bed and sat down, eyes scanning his data pad and omni-tool. He looked over at Rawls who stared back at him, seeming a bit nervous and confused. "You must be wondering why I contacted you and asked you to meet me in a hotel room."
Rawls smiled weakly. "Well, it was an odd request. Not that I don't want to visit with you, but we've never been…uh…close."
Cadmus flexed his mandibles. "Yet I hear you are using me as some kind of paragon of C-Sec investigation with your students."
Rawls stared, then suddenly chuckled. "Who outed me?"
"A human officer stationed down at passenger arrivals."
Rawls grinned with half his mouth. "I hope it won't bother you to know that I use you as an example that not all turians have it out for humans."
Cadmus puffed out his mandibles. "The batarian torturers case."
Rawls nodded. "A lot of these human recruits come in thinking either that they know it all and no alien can teach them anything or that all alien officers hate humans. They need examples of the opposite and your case is a great one."
"Ah…It sounded like it was my skill you touted."
"Well, the story does make for good lessons in perseverance and cooperation…and I have them analyze a couple of your early cases."
Cadmus shook his head, amused, embarrassed and honored all rolled into one. He knew recruits could learn something from him, but he had never thought a human would be extolling his virtues to classes of other humans.
Cadmus rubbed a talon under his eye, then lowered it slowly. "Do you remember when you asked me to talk to that young man? Get him to go home?"
Rawls nodded. "Conrad Verner."
"Yes. Now it's my turn to ask you for help."
Rawls raised his eyebrows. "What do you need?"
"Before I speak any farther, I also need to ask you to keep this confidential."
Rawls rustled in his seat, but said, "You can trust me, Captain."
"Tell me what you know about the men found dead with Executor Pallin."
Rawls let out a long whistle. "That's why you came back."
Rawls sucked in a breath. "Well, I don't know a lot about them. They were odd."
"In what way?" Cadmus had picked up his data pad, taking notes.
"They came highly recommended, transferred from the Eden Prime Regiment with experience in probing. I only had them with me for a couple months before they were placed. What was strange was the low profile they kept. They didn't bond with anyone else and as far as I could see went to work and home and back. Some of the recruits gave them a hard time about it." Rawls rubbed his chin. "I didn't think anything of it at the time, just introversion, I guessed. But then this thing with the Executor happened and…well, I didn't understand how two men as reserved as they would end up on the wrong side of the Executor. But then the rumors started…"
Cadmus narrowed his eyes. "What rumors?"
"Well, that Schneider and Costa had stumbled upon something in their work. That they had something on the Executor and he wanted to shut them up. The Council says it was presented with evidence—I don't know what kind. They haven't been forthcoming with details."
"What's your opinion of Executor Pallin?"
Rawls twisted his lips. "Executor Pallin always dealt fairly with me. I could tell he didn't have a soft spot for humans, but that didn't stop him from recognizing my service and skills. To be honest, I've kept myself from forming an opinion. I don't have enough information to decide. You can just believe the Council, but we humans have a hard time respecting the Council entirely. I'm just staying out of it."
Cadmus harrumphed. "Humans may not entirely trust the Council, but they seem to bow to their reporters." His mind flitted back to the human news glorifying Commander Bailey and condemning Venari.
Rawls ran a hand through his hair. "It's easier to read and believe it than research it…And I haven't seen any turians up in arms disputing the official line either."
Cadmus eyed Rawls. "You make a valid point."
"Obviously, you're on the former Executor's side. I can't fault you for that."
Cadmus tapped on his data pad. "Do you know anything about Commander Bailey?"
Rawls sat up straight in his seat. "Commander Bailey is a good man, sir, and I'm sorry if saying that bothers you."
Cadmus blinked his eyes. "I'm simply gathering information."
Rawls sighed. "Yes, well, Commander Bailey was one of the first human officers I worked under. He pushed the envelope at times, but as a human officer his hands were tied too much. But he only steps close to the line when he knows he has someone guilty in his clutches. He does his job—keeping criminals off this station."
Cadmus wrote on his data pad: Bailey is willing to break rules when he feels it advantageous.
"I know you're turian and rules matter to you, but the Commander's heart is in the right place."
"Hum…" Cadmus intoned. He could think of someone else who broke rules and whose heart was supposedly in the right place: his son. "Do you think Commander Bailey targeted the Executor then, who he knew was guilty?"
"No, I didn't mean to imply that," Rawls came back strongly. "No, he wasn't even involved until Udina brought him in."
Cadmus stared. "The human councilor told Commander Bailey to investigate Executor Pallin?"
Rawls swallowed. "This is between us. It's not supposed to be widely known, but yeah."
Cadmus ground his jaw. Two men showed up on station. Venari wanted to track them down for some reason. The human councilor sent Bailey to investigate Venari. Either Venari knew something about them or they knew something about Venari. And why did the human Councilor get involved? What had he seen that made him target Venari? "What else do you know?"
"Nothing," Rawls said. "I don't have any other insider information. The whole thing has been an embarrassment to C-Sec and they want to put it behind them and go on."
Cadmus stood and Rawls did likewise. Cadmus held out his hand and instead of shaking it, Rawls gripped his wrist. "Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I'm sorry if I've asked you to tell me anything bordering on disloyalty to your people."
"It's no problem. I figure if anyone can thoroughly research this it's you."
"Remember. Don't tell anyone about this."
"I won't, sir. I swear."
Cadmus walked to the door and palmed it open. Rawls passed through and muttered as he did so, "Good luck, sir. I hope you find the answers you're looking for. If not, well, I'm sorry."
Cadmus spent most of the evening combing back through his notes, trying to make sense of them. He couldn't see an overall pattern; his information was so limited. He kept coming down to two possibilities: Venari had found something out about those two men and been killed to silence him. The objection to that theory, however, was that both Denae and Rawls viewed Commander Bailey positively. Of course, Commander Bailey could be putting on a front. But couldn't Venari have put on a front as well? That was the second possibility: that Venari had done something against the Council and the two human C-Sec officers had caught on, not to mention the human Councilor. And then Commander Bailey had only done his duty. The objection to this theory was Cadmus' own experience. There was no way Venari would turn on the Council. It couldn't be.
Cadmus fell into bed, worn out. He skimmed through his messages one more time after he doused the lights. He'd received two new ones. The first was an update from Solana. Laelia had been exhausted the last few days, the treatment times having extended. She was sleeping much of her days, but seemed otherwise alright. The second was an answer to an inquiry. Cadmus had e-mailed Venari's father a carefully worded message inquiring if the family had received all of Venari's belongings, including his data pads and omni-tool. Venari's father answered, noting shortly that they had his possessions and the data pads and tool were there, but all wiped clean. They had been told it was standard procedure to protect sensitive C-Sec information. He ended the message by stating he remembered Cadmus from discussions with his son and he was sorry for the shame Venari had brought on C-Sec and the turian race.
Cadmus ruminated over the e-mail for a time, staring out at the twinkling lights of Bachjret Ward outside his window. Erasing Venari's data pads and omni-tool was logical and wise. It made complete sense…and it still disturbed him. It was all too convenient for anyone who might want to hide what Venari had been doing before he was killed.