Author's Note: If you ever wondered where Garrus gets his badassitude from, well, I figure it's mostly Nature, and partly Nurture. You're chances of being a badass is a lot better when you're raised by one, right? Ok, so Daddy Vakarian might not be Space Batman. But I hope he still comes off well. I think he and Javik will be best friends, if they don't decide to kill each other.
Needless to say, Shepard's leave was cancelled. Media sources dueled the opposing viewpoints, the Alliance touting their peace with the rachni while Citadel sources were preaching doom and a new threat to galactic civilization, led primarily by asari and salarian reporters. Turian news sources were being surprisingly noncommittal to both sides, which puzzled Shepard for the first few hours.
That was put to rest when Hackett showed up on the Normandy, brought her and Garrus into the meeting room, and activated the secure communications. "Imperator," Shepard said in surprise. "What can I do for you?"
"I didn't call for you, I need Vakarian. Your father has vanished." Garrus stiffened, but from the urge not to laugh, not from surprise. "I don't need to tell you how important it is that the Turian Councilor be seen in this moment of crisis. If Tevos and Valern are bound and determined to set off a galactic civil war, Vakarian will need to be the voice of reason!"
"Actually, I have an idea," the sniper said, pulling up an extranet search on his omni-tool and browsing for several moments. Hacket looked back and forth between the turians, his cragged face set in a stern, stony mask. "You can expect to hear from him in around seven hours, give or take," Garrus finally said.
The Imperator glared at him. "How'd you come to that conclusion?"
"I know my father." Garrus shrugged. "I'm betting he's in no danger."
She cleared her throat. "Let me rephrase. Enlighten us of his most likely intentions at this critical juncture," she said, using her full Court voice.
Garrus straightened up, swallowing as his disciplined military response to the tone kicked in. "My father spent fifteen years in total as an undercover cop. He's familiar with every security protocol used by the military, and used to taking charge of a situation. Upon hearing the news about the rachni ambassador, my experience tells me he ditched his security detail, accessed an old undercover identity, and booked public transportation to the Citadel. Once aboard, he'll likely spend the next hour or two trying to determine the mood of the public on board the station before making his presence known, likely utilizing a C-Sec office in one of the Wards rather than risking anywhere on the Presidium."
Everyone was silent for a few seconds before the Imperator cleared her throat. "Why would he do that? Pontius is one of the most scrupulous, rule-abiding turians I've ever known!"
Sighing heavily, Garrus nodded. "He's so strict on the rules because he's so very good at finding loopholes in them."
The ship's passenger bay was hot, smelly, crowded, and completely devoid of anywhere to sit. Pontius Vakarian was one of the few turian passengers aboard, surrounded by mostly asari and salarians, cutting short their visits to Palaven to return to their homes via the Citadel. The topic of discussion was, naturally, the rachni.
"But if the rachni are truly back to try and exterminate everyone, why is another queen walking around Arcturus and chatting with their Prime Minister?" a salarian nearby was saying.
"It's all a bluff," the asari with him countered. "I mean, they're claiming peace with the geth for Goddess' sake. Synthetics don't make peace, we saw that on Eden Prime and Dekunna."
Both sentiments were echoed all throughout the two hundred and seven sentients on board. The pair of elcor were optimistic, after how the Alliance had come to their aid, and watching leaked cam footage from the Kahunas. The salarians were fairly split between sides, some of them siding with the Alliance ("Why not? If they can make peace with the geth, why not the rachni?") and some with the Citadel ("Read the history books. If we hadn't found the krogan, we'd be extinct."). The one quarian on board, returning to Rannoch after a successful Pilgrimage, was vocally supportive of the Alliance, to no one's surprise.
So naturally, it was the asari that concerned him. The long-lived race had been the de facto rulers of galactic society for over two thousand years. The only races that didn't look up to them were the krogan, the quarians, and the humans. Actually, now that he thought about it, the batarians didn't listen to asari council like they had when he was a boy. The hanar tended to listen, and then ignore you based on the dubious whims of the Enkindlers; the volus usually only listened to the credit chit in your pocket. The elcor listened, of course, since the asari had been their first contact, but with Shepard's liberation of Omega and the immediate Alliance response to Dekunna, it seemed quite likely their loyalty would shift.
Pontius frowned, realizing just how flimsy that suddenly was. The salarians listened to the asari, mostly, which made sense given their discovery of the Citadel and instant inclusion to the Council. The turians listened … but his own sudden appointment, with Sparatus' resignation and evidence of indoctrination, would probably change that as well.
He'd read the classified reports of what Shepard had accomplished in less than four months. Exposure of an indoctrinated agent, proof of the Reapers, liberation of a station and destruction of more Reaper forces than any other sentient in the galaxy, and the end of a three century long conflict. If the unconfirmed report was right, she'd even found a Prothean and brought him back to life.
"You tired of hearing the same s'kak everyone else has been talking about for the last two hours?" Pontius blinked rapidly, focusing on one of the other turians, a female with red markings. "Everything is all rachni this, rachni that."
"I can't blame them," he said. "It's all over the newsfeeds for a reason. Not every day a species comes back from the dead." Her eyes twinkled with laughter, though her face remained still. "The name's Pontius."
"Nyreen." They shook hands quickly. "Still, on a four hour flight, you don't wish for another topic of conversation?"
He grinned. "Where I just left, the only topic of conversation was what happened to Sparatus and how an ex-cop is a bad choice for a Councilor."
She groaned theatrically. "You must work in Cipritine," she said. "My condolences."
"Eh, it's not that bad. Still rather be there than on the Citadel right now, no matter which side is right," he said, slowly leading them to a small clear area of the wall.
"Then why are you leaving? Spirits, I half expect the humans are going to send an invasion fleet to the Citadel over this!" Pontius was good at reading people, but he couldn't tell if her fluttering was nervousness, excitement, or both.
"Family obligations," he replied, sighing. "Don't ever have children, they're not worth it."
Nyreen grinned again. "Don't need to tell me that. Personally, I'd rather be out in the Terminus, but with everything that just happened there, well." She trailed off with a shrug.
"Yeah, I hear you." Something was off with this turian, he could tell. Unlike most turians, whose markings were carefully tattooed into their facial scales, his were a digital illusion, nanites in his scales shifting color and pattern to his controlled signal, the better to maintain his undercover disguise. "So what are you doing now?"
"Attention: We will be docking at Citadel Station in thirty minutes," the ship VI broadcast, cutting across the hubbub as it repeated twice more.
"Looking for work. I can't exactly go home anymore," Nyreen said. "Not enough left of Omega to try."
He winced, remembering the vid footage. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"What about you?" He raised an eyebrow at her question. "What are you planning to do on the Citadel?"
"Eh, you know, take in some of the sights while I wait on my son." Pontius shrugged. "I'm fairly sure he's going to keep me waiting. Last time we spoke, he was paying a bit more attention to his new human girlfriend than me." She gasped, looking both shocked and amused at such news. "Sometimes, I'm not sure which of us is the good turian."
Nyreen grinned broader. "Who says both of you can't be bad turians?" He scoffed, flicking his fingers in a rude manner that just made her laugh. "You familiar with the Citadel at all, then?"
He shook his head. "Not so much. Were you going to offer to show me around?" Raising one hand, he let his sleeve fall back enough to display the ceremonial bracelet - part of his undercover identity, but real enough to him. "My mate might not like that."
"Well, I was more hoping you'd put in a good word with your son when his human plaything dumps him. It's not like I have a job or a pet to rush back to quite yet." She tilted her head to lean against the wall.
Pontius took a moment to catalog her, all while maintaining the expression of a bored, middle-aged turian who knew the fairly attractive female was baiting him. She had at least three weapons; a Karpov mark seven concealed under her tunic just behind one hip, set for a left-handed draw; the Striker mark two, worn openly at her waist; and some kind of long blade or asp, strapped to her right leg. Possibly a unique weapon enhancement for turian martial arts? "Sure, I'd like that. You heard that Tevos and Valern are supposed to be addressing the populace at Edroki Plaza? I thought about trying to get there, but I'd probably end up lost on the wrong Ward if I tried."
"Relax, old man. We're supposed to dock on Kithoi Ward, and it's a short aircar hop to the plaza." Nyreen pulled up her omni-tool, searching the information about the public statement. "Well, if we can get off in the first hour of docking, we can make it."
"Sounds like a plan." He looked around the crowded room. "Still twenty minutes to go. What say we move closer to the exit now and beat the rush?"
"Works for me." The remainder of their time was spent in a companionable silence as the ship docked and they fought their way free into the station itself. Pontius didn't say much on the aircar ride either, but he did dutifully look at the various landmarks she pointed out on their trip across the Ward.
Edroki Plaza was surprisingly sparse on people, when Pontius had expected it to be packed full with various sentients waiting to hear what the Council had to say. But instead, there were no more than four or five hundred gathered around the front of the stage, mostly asari and salarian with not a human in sight. They moved through the crowd silently until they were near the front. "This good enough?" Nyreen asked, craning her hear to look around. "I don't think the Councilors have arrived yet."
"Nope, doesn't look like it." He hadn't been in C-Sec for three years, but he still knew most of the faces assigned as personal bodyguards. "Say, you were looking for a job, right?"
A skeptical glance was her opening salvo. "I thought you didn't know the Citadel very well?"
"I recognize a buddy of mine, actually. Maybe he can help you out." Pontius waved to one of the C-Sec guards on the stage, who looked over, blinked in surprise, and gave a short wave back. "We'll talk to him after the Council shows up."
"You know a C-Sec cop?" Nyreen continued to frown at him. "You are full of surprises, aren't you?"
"Sure am. I bet I'm a better shot with that Karpov than you are, too." She froze in surprise, and he smiled. "Relax, miss ... actually, you never told me your last name."
"You didn't tell me yours, either," she responded, her left hand hovering near the very well disguised holster. "It's Kandros."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Kandros. Consider yourself deputized." He sent the subtle signal through his omni-tool, watching her shock as his facial markings changed color and shape in about a quarter of a second. "I'm Pontius Vakarian."
She swore in krogan. "So you'll have your C-Sec buddies shoot me if I reach for my weapon now, I take it."
He smiled and placed a gentle hand on one shoulder. "Actually, I really did mean what I said - consider yourself deputized, Miss Kandros. I can't just show up without a bodyguard, after all, and an ex-Cabal is just the kind that asari will respect." Her suspicious gaze grew even narrower as he kept up the bland, bored smile he'd perfected over decades of police work. "Every time I said something that made you nervous, your right hand twitched in the same pattern you use for your biotic skills. I recognize the training regimen."
Without waiting for her response, he calmly pushed his way through the crowd, walking up the stairs with a polite nod to Sergeant Haron. The armored aircars with the other two Councilors were just landing, and he hurried to greet each C-Sec officer with a smile and a handshake, especially the ones he'd known when he still worked here. "Vakarian?" Tevos said in surprise, coming up the back of the stage. "We weren't expecting you. When did you arrive?"
"Just a little while ago. Private transport," Pontius said easily, taking her hand quickly. "Nice to meet you, Valern. You hadn't made Councilor yet when I retired from C-Sec."
"No, but the Vakarian name is still well respected in C-Sec, for both you and your son." The salarian was quick to shake hands. "We're glad to have your support at this trying time." Nyreen watched in shock probably at shock that he was instantly recognized by the other two Councilors. "We have a prepared statement."
"Don't worry, so do I," Pontius said, walking behind them. As they faced the crowd, he made a series of quick hand gestures to Haron and activated his omni-tool.
Tevos was first, her speech obviously memorized. "People of the Citadel, citizens of the galaxy, and all those who desire peace." She paused for dramatic effect, looking out over the crowd. "Why isn't anyone looking at me?"
Indeed, most of the crowd was staring up at the screen, and now people were pouring into the plaza, staring, gossiping, and passing the news along. Instead of Tevos' serene face, the large display above her had a list of names and one of two simple words with each one. Tevos, Valern, and two of the dozen C-Sec officers all had 'Indoctrinated' in large, blinking red, while the rest had 'Free' in a calming shade of green. "What is the meaning of this?"
Pontius cleared his throat, stepping forward. "Under Citadel regulation two nine seven five four point seven, clause B, I am hereby relieving you of your duties. Both of you have tested positive for Indoctrination, now listed as a class six mental incapacity. Failure to comply will result in your immediate incarceration until medical treatment can be provided." A simple twitch of his shoulder was enough signal. The two C-Sec guards whose names appeared had their weapons taken, expressions of shock and resignation on their faces. Nyreen had the Karpov out, her right hand glowing faintly with biotics. "Please, surrender peacefully. I don't want any bloodshed to take place."
"You can't do this, Vakarian! This isn't a medical situation, it's a military coup!" Valern was furious, hands already twitching. "You're going to invade the Citadel if we refuse to comply, aren't you?"
"Not me. In fact, I'm going to have to put a great deal of Council business on hold completely until the asari and salarian governments can provide replacements for you who can test free of Indoctrination." Pontius stepped forward, hand out peacefully to plead with them. "You're sick, and it's this Reaper-built station that did it to you."
"I'm not sick, Vakarian," Tevos said. Her own hands were starting to glow with biotics. "I've never felt better in my life!"
"You gunned down an unarmed ambassador here to negotiate a peace treaty, Tevos," he shouted back. The muttering in the crowd halted. "You might be able to bluff the common people, but unlike them, I've seen the security vids from start to finish. In fact, why don't we show that next?" Pontius clicked two commands, and the feed started up as the rachni vessel was coming in to the docking bay.
Tevos snarled, her entire body covered in biotic energy. "I will not surrender! I lead this Council, and no jumped up cop is going to tell me what to do!"
Pontius bowed his head. "I'm sorry you feel that way, Matriarch Tevos." He raised a hand, and even as the asari started her biotic gestures, ten C-Sec officers and Nyreen opened fire. Valern watched it all in shock, standing almost statue still. "Valern, please tell me you're going to surrender peacefully."
Salarian and turian glared at each other for several long, silent seconds. "History will remember this moment, Vakarian. The moment when the turians turned against the peaceful rule of the Citadel Council to seize power for themselves." Despite his words, he offered no resistance as Haron placed the restraints on his arms.
Another glance at Nyreen was enough to have her put the pistol away, and Pontius stepped up to the front of the stage. "Citizens of the galaxy. Today is a day filled with confusion, anger, and recrimination. We have a chance for peace, but only if we recognize one very solemn, very disturbing fact." He looked out over the crowd, still growing as people swarmed in. He could already see the more prominent reporters fighting through the crowd, Emily Wong and Chardik Estra almost neck and neck as they approached him. "The effects of Reaper Indoctrination can be almost anywhere. Though it pains me to admit it, several in my own government, such as my predecessor, have fallen to it. While we can now detect it, with a simple omni-tool program, it still has no cure.
"Those subject to Indoctrination do not deserve our fear, or our anger. Indeed, but for luck, we could be among them. We do not have a cure yet, but the finest medical minds of four species are trying to find out how it works." As much as he still hated public speaking, he kept up his interrogation good-cop face, switching his gaze from face to face in the audience as he spoke, ignoring the cameras for now. "What we do know is that certain pieces of technology are to blame. Chief among those is Citadel Tower. If you work, or regularly visit, the Tower, please visit a C-Sec office for screening. Until further notice, the Tower itself will be closed."
He took a deep breath and turned to face the two cameras, human and salarian, being broadcast everywhere in Citadel space. It was very, very hard for him not to think of just how many people were watching him at that moment, judging him and his words. "Do not panic. With every day that passes, we know what the Reapers are capable of. We have driven them off at every turn, every planet. Unlike the Protheans, we are forewarned. And unlike the Protheans, we will not perish."
"A bold claim, but I am not dead yet," came a loud voice from the rear of the crowd. Pontius, like everyone else, turned his surprised gaze on a dark-carapaced alien, the likes of which he had never seen. "My people died, yes. We inflicted far worse blows than the death of a single Reaper." That was Shepard striding along behind the alien, and his son flanking her along with a purple-garbed quarian he didn't know. "We fought, and we died. But you have one advantage we did not. You know they are coming." He reached the stage, every camera focused on him as he calmly leaped up to the stage. "I am Javik. I am the last Prothean. And I stand with Commander Shepard."
Shepard had paused in front of Wong and Estra, calmly reaching out to shake both of their hands, and forwarding the results to the display. Human and salarian both focused on it for a moment as it proclaimed them free. "By now, I think everyone knows who I am. The Reapers are coming. They built the Citadel. They built the mass relays. They think that by giving us access to this technology, they can control what we can do. They think they can control how we think." She turned to stare straight into the two cameras. "If we fight together, yes, we might still die, we might leave nothing behind but a mystery for the next races fifty thousand years from now. But if we don't fight together, if we can't unify, learn how to take the strengths of every race and use them as friends, then it's not a 'might.' It's a 'when.'"
Pontius nodded. "I will be here, keeping as much Citadel business running as I can from the turian embassy, once I have cleared all the staff. Once the asari and salarian governments can appoint new Councilors, I look forward to working with them. In the meantime, remember that our success rests upon the efforts of every member of Citadel space, and beyond."
"We may survive together, but we will die apart," Javik growled
"Thank you all for listening," the elder Pontius said. "Commander, if you and your companions would accompany me?" They stepped towards the back of the stage. "I don't think we've been properly introduced," he said to the quarian.
"Councilor Vakarian, meet Tali'Zorah vas Rannoch, daughter of Admiral Zorah and the first quarian from the Migrant Fleet to set foot on Rannoch," Shepard said. "Tali, Garrus' dad."
"Nice to meet you," Tali said, extending a hand.
Pontius shook quickly as they climbed into the armored car. "Indeed. Shepard's gift for informality is as sharp as ever, I see." Garrus didn't quite flinch at the remark. "And it appears the scanner doesn't work on quarians without skin contact. That's going to be an issue."
It would help if you actually read the manual," Garrus replied. "There's a mode for quarians."
Pontius scoffed. "Really, boy, who reads the manual?" Tali and Garrus both raised their hands as Javik looked between them in confusion. "I rest my case."
Shepard grinned as she shook her head. "I'm surprised that Valern gave up without a shot, though Tevos' reaction to meeting Queen Harmony didn't leave her much room to react. So what happens now?"
Sighing, Pontius scrubbed a hand over his eyes. "Now, I meet with Executor Pallin. We'll have to bolster C-Sec numbers, probably by borrowing troops from the Hierarchy and Alliance military. I expect we'll have to double patrols through the Traverse, because every pirate and slaver group will want to strike now while they have a chance."
Nyreen, so far ignored, leaned forward. "There are a couple of good mercenary groups that could be hired as well. Not all of them are full of scum like Eclipse or the Blue Suns."
Shepard frowned. "No offense, but most of the 'good' mercenaries are only good in comparison."
"True, but it's faster than trying to train up raw recruits, or relying on military forces that might be needed elsewhere." She leaned back, crossing her arms. "But I might be biased since I am a mercenary."
"Which reminds me, we'll need to write up your contract, Nyreen," Pontius said. "I can't have such a skilled bodyguard escaping me after her face has been on the galactic news." Nyreen groaned.
Javik's scowl hadn't left his face the whole time. "When do we strike at the Reapers next? All this talk merely allows them to draw closer."
Nodding, Shepard leaned slightly against Garrus, ignoring the frowns from both his father and the bodyguard. "I know, but taking down the Collectors is going to be seriously difficult. I'm still trying to track down the rest of the people I want with me. Besides, we still have time before they show up. Things are starting to go our way for once."
Half the galaxy away, the entire Bahak system vanished as the Alpha Relay exploded.