Chapter 6: Believe
You know what the worst part of this case was? It wasn't the fact that I took it for the credits. Nor the fact that I'd been beaten to a pulp and shot at. And it certainly wasn't the company—well, the female quarian company at least.
No, the worst part was finding out what had happened to Zephi. And all the other asari who had stayed missing. They'd been turned into living computers, hooked up and slaved to a network built by the immoral, insane dreams of a mad scientist. A mad salarian scientist, just like Dr. Heart. One of these days, I told myself, I was going to meet a normal salarian.
"Self-destruct in five minutes."
The fact that they all spoke in unison made it even creepier. "All right," I said. "We have to figure out a way to shut this thing down. Preferably without frying their brains." Yes, that was all fairly self-evident, but it sometimes helps to give voice to the painfully obvious. If only because we can move straight to the bafflingly un-obvious. Unknown. Oh, you know what I mean!
"Yanking wires off won't help," Geirk frowned. "No. Might fry brains. Yes."
Still in the realm of the obvious, I guess.
"Maybe we can stop the self-destruct sequence," Tali wondered. "Then we can free the asari without worrying about getting blown to smithereens."
Our heads snapped up. That was Liselle. Speaking by herself.
"Aborting the self-destruct automatically triggers a feedback pulse. These units… we would be killed."
"Same with trying to unplug us," Zephi chimed in.
Good news, the asari seemed to be aware of their surroundings and free of brain damage. Bad news: if they were right, then they were doomed no matter what we did. Stop the self-destruct and they would die. Try to unhook them and they would die. Do nothing and all of us would die in…
"Self-destruct in four minutes, fifty seconds."
Think, Garrus, think. There had to be something. "All right," I said aloud. "We can't stop the self-destruct without harming the asari. Even if that wasn't the case, none of us knows how to disarm a bomb." Well, most of us. I sort of knew, but I highly doubted that Belron wired his bomb using Hierarchy schematics. Besides, it'd been years since I did that. "So let's ignore that."
Tali shook her head. "Yes, let's ignore the explosion and shrapnel and fires and flying body parts."
"Mmm..." Geirk hummed. "Flying body parts."
I ignored Tali, who was simply trying to deal with this ridiculous situation the best way she knew how, and Geirk, who was, well, simply being Geirk. "Without the self-destruct, we just have to worry about that feedback pulse. It'll trigger if we remove the asari…"
And then I had an idea. A half-baked idea, but it was the best half-baked idea I had. "No. The pulse will trigger if it thinks the asari are being removed. If we could trick it, give it a false signal somehow—"
"Then all fail-safes will stay dormant while we free the asari," Tali finished.
"How fake signal?" Geirk wanted to know. "We not know."
The look Tali was leveling at me was probably one of incredulity. "Garrus? In case you haven't noticed, he's dead. He can't tell us anything."
"But his omni-tool can. I'm betting that he stored all his research there. If we could find it and sync it into that," I gestured over my shoulder at the obscene apparatus the asari were attached to, "I'm betting we could fool the network into thinking that everything's okay."
"You said 'betting' twice," Tali said dryly. "Wonderful."
To her credit, she didn't waste any more time. She crouched by Belron's cooling corpse, opened a remote connection between her omni-tool and his, and began searching. Which was good considering we had—
"Self-destruct in four minutes."
Good to know. Now I had to sit by and wait while Tali worked her magic.
"Really. Genetic profiles, bio-electrical readouts, EEG readouts, normal ranges for asari."
"Great," I sighed. What a relief. "Now plug it in."
"Not just yet."
"What?" Tali looked at me. "You think I can just plug this into the network and call it a day? It won't recognize a raw data feed. It recognizes a data feed that corresponds to an active, living complex organism. That's an entirely different thing."
Oh. Right. Oops. "So... what are you doing?"
"Trying to whip up a program that will simulate the readings for an active, living, complex organism. An asari, to be exact. And then I have to code two more programs."
She said it so nonchalantly, like she did it every day. When the truth was that she'd never done this before. The best thing I could do was to keep my mandibles shut and let her do her job. So that's what I did. Every once in a while, I can do the smart thing.
"Self-destruct in three minutes, fifty seconds."
Miraculously, Geirk did the same thing. Granted, he was getting paid to bring Liselle back alive, but still. Not a single 'Yes' or 'No' or anything. If he could keep his big toothy mouth shut, maybe we could actually pull this off.
"Self-destruct in three minutes."
Talons crossed, as the humans would... probably not say.
"Self-destruct in two minutes, fifty seconds," the asari intoned in unison.
"Please hurry," the third asari pleaded.
Tali could do it. I knew she could. I just had to wait and hope and believe that somehow she could pull it off.
"Self-destruct in two minutes."
"Almost got it..." Tali reported. "And..." She looked up at the apparatus and shrugged. "Good enough. Uploading now."
"Good enough?" I repeated.
"Like I have time to check the code for errors?" Tali asked rhetorically, her fingers flying over her omni-tool.
"Point taken," I conceded. "Did it work?"
"Program uploaded. Checking..." She got to her feet and shrugged. "I guess it worked. Only one way to find out."
Right. Only one way to find out: pick a random asari, yank her loose and see what happens. Now the humans have a way of randomly making selections without resorting to computers. It involves finger pointing and talking about 'Eenie,' 'Minnie,' 'Moe' and capturing felines by their paws. And releasing said felines should they offer some form of vocal protest. None of which makes any sense to me, so I chose the left asari—who happened to be Liselle—and started pulling wires and IV feeds loose.
"Ow!" she protested.
"Sorry," I apologized. Then it hit me. I looked down at the wires and feeds that I had already pulled loose, reached up, grabbed a fistful of leads... and yanked them from Liselle's head.
"OW! What the fuck?!"
"Swear words—" I started to say, before a hand whipped up and slapped me across the face. "Ow!" I complained.
"Swear words and violence instead of barbequed brains and drooling," I continued. "Looks like your digital sleight-of-hand worked, Tali."
Tali visibly sagged in relief. "Looks like. I wasn't sure if I could do—"
"Self-destruct in one minute, fifty seconds," Zephi and the other asari intoned.
"Congrats later," Geirk hissed. "I finish with Liselle—client hire me for her. Garrus—free Zephi. Tali—get other girl. Clock ticking. Yes."
Fine by me. I moved aside to let Geirk at Liselle while Tali and I freed the others. There might've been a bit of yanking, a little bleeding. Probably a couple bruises. But if we didn't get out of here, a couple scrapes and bruises would be the least of our worries.
As I tore off the last lead and caught Zephi in my arms before she collapsed to the floor, I couldn't help but think about what Shepard would do. This would be the part where he'd run around the office looking for things to swipe. His eyes would be gleaming as he tore open every crate, rummaged through every container and stuck his nose in every corner. No treasure would be too small for him, even if it was something as little as a mod for the grenades that he always carried but never used. No piece of loot would be too heavy, even if he had to lug every ill-gotten pistol, shotgun, assault rifle or sniper rifle on his own back. No item would be turned down, even if he'd convert it to omni-gel as soon as he got into the Mako.
That's one of the differences between us. Shepard used to be a kleptomaniac. I used to be a cop. But then he became a kleptomaniac Spectre. And I became an ex-cop with... a growing but considerably more discerning taste in illicit goods... obtained under questionable but undoubtedly justified circumstances. Right. That's the story I'm sticking with.
"Self-destruct in one minute."
This time, the warning didn't come from any of the asari. It came from the network. The one that used to hold all the asari captive. The one that still had a bomb ticking. The one that would soon be going up in flames. Preferably without burning anyone to a crisp. Well, aside from Belron. He could burn. "All right," I declared. "Let's move! NOW!"
Geirk, Tali and I quickly got a firm grip on the asari and hauled, carried or dragged them from the office.
"Self-destruct in fifty seconds."
We got them through the corridor.
"Self-destruct in forty seconds."
We entered the main room.
"Self-destruct in thirty seconds."
We weaved our way around and over all the tables and chairs that had been knocked around, as well as every human, asari, salarian, turian, batarian and krogan dirtbag who had gotten in our way.
"Self-destruct in twenty seconds."
Wow. We'd made quite the body count.
"Self-destruct in ten... nine... eight..."
We made it to the entrance of Chora's Den. By that point, I was in the lead. I got Zephi outside, gently lowered her to the ground and turned back to help Tali. Geirk was right behind us.
The countdown was cut out, muffled by the doors closing. I promptly picked Zephi up and started dragging her away.
"Garrus?" Tali asked, following me despite the confusion in her voice.
"Trying to get a bit more distance," I explained.
"The self-destruct can't be that powerful," Tali said in disbelief.
"Garrus crazy," Geirk shook his head. "And that saying—"
Whatever he was about to say, I never found out. He was interrupted by a sudden quake that swept us off our feet and sent us sprawling on the floor. A sharp shriek grated our ears as the doors abruptly expanded towards us. While it didn't explode outwards, the seam where the doors met did crack open, letting a thin stream of flame, superheated air and smoke lance out to scorch the ceiling. And set off the fire alarms.
Propping myself up on one elbow, I turned to Tali and Geirk and raised one eyebrow.
"Maybe I was wrong," Tali admitted, raising her voice to make herself heard over the clamor.
"Who knew?" Geirk offered.
"Whaddya mean Chora's Den blew up?" Chellick asked.
"Whaddaya mean she's filing charges?" I asked back.
Chellick had finally called back. After I went from one Ward to another trying to find Zephi. And after I got beaten to a pulp. Not to mention going to really seedy bars, dealing with people whose reputation also preceded them, getting into a lot of gunfights and rescuing Zephi and two other asari. With help—unofficial, unsanctioned, definitely not C-Sec help, I might add. The point is, he didn't call back until after I caused some property damage. If I had known that, I would've done it from the beginning. Save myself a lot of grief.
Kinda like the grief I was suffering right now. I took a deep breath and gave him a quick summary: "A salarian scientist who got kicked out of academia for immoral experiments decided to set up shop in Chora's Den and continue said experiments. Specifically, he started abducting asari to see if they met his list of criteria. Zephi and two other asari did, so they got hooked up to a computer to create a hybrid alternative to AIs. When we—"
"We?" Chellick interrupted. "Who's 'we?'"
"A pair of civilians who wanted to make a difference," I replied. Seemed better to evade the issue rather than admit to a C-Sec officer, on duty and communicating over an unsecured channel, that an ex-C-Sec officer with a rather colourful history had joined forces with a quarian and a crazy psychotic vorcha. "Anyway, when we confronted the scientist—Dr. Belron—he killed himself. That triggered a dead man switch, one that was attached to an explosive device. We got the asari out, but didn't have time to disarm the bomb. So it went off."
"You realize what this means?"
"That a gas leak led to a fire that destroyed one of the most infamous establishments ever to inflict itself on the Citadel in the last twenty years?"
"And opened the door to a lot of paperwork. You just volunteered me for a ton of overtime."
"You're welcome," I replied cheerfully. Sometimes, it's great being unemployed. Or independently employed, even if it was on a sporadic and occasionally terrifying basis.
"Now what do you mean Ms. Bevos is pressing charges?"
"She came to C-Sec a half hour ago and reported that her daughter had been kidnapped. She claimed that the kidnapper was clever enough to fry her surveillance cams, but she got a good look at him personally. Guess who the perp looks like?"
"Ha!" Chellick barked. "Wouldn't that be nice?"
"You know," I recalled, "when she hired me, she said no one would kidnap her daughter because she wasn't important enough. Then again, she also said something about wanting to avoid being the target of malicious gossip."
"Having her daughter kidnapped would be less embarrassing," Chellick agreed. "Not to mention that it would be the hot topic at all the fancy parties she goes to. Of course, it means that the ex-cop she hired became the kidnapper of her daughter, but so what?"
"Got screwed over by a lady." I shook my head wearily. "Story of my life."
I heard Chellick sigh. "Look," he said. "You got Zephi out. That's enough. Get her to a kiosk or something, buy her a decent meal and scram. If C-Sec catches you with her, they'll have to take you in."
"Then I'll get to see a prison cell from the other side of the bars," I said, forcing a bit of cheer that I really wasn't feeling at the moment. "Maybe I'll get the top bunk." And make someone my bitch. I gotta believe that there's an upside to all this."
Chellick didn't say anything for a full minute—which was something of a miracle. "When C-Sec arrests you, don't put up a struggle," he finally said. "I'll tell them to go easy on you. Meanwhile, you might want to tell those outstanding citizens of yours to make themselves scarce."
I cut the connection and turned to Geirk and Tali. "My client has apparently changed her mind," I told them. "Now she's accusing me of kidnapping her daughter. C-Sec's on the prowl."
"We kill them too, yes?" Geirk asked hopefully.
"NO!" Tali and I snapped in unison.
"Geirk, just..." I rubbed a hand over my face, feeling another migraine coming on. "Just take Liselle and get back to Omega, all right? Tali, get the other asari to safety.
"But what about you?" Tali asked.
"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine," I lied. "Go. Now."
They looked a little skeptical—which only meant that they had more working neurons than I did. Still, they didn't put up any further protest. I watched as they left, coaxing the other asari along.
"Why are you staying?"
I turned around. Zephi was looking at me. "I heard everything," she said. "Mom hired you to find me, then she changed her mind and screwed you over. If the cops find us, you're going down. So why're you sticking around?"
"Because I have a thing about civvies in trouble," I shrugged. "Especially kids."
"Why do you care what happens to me?" Zephi wanted to know. "It's not like it gets you anywhere. Dad cares about me—but he's stuck working a dead-end job and never gets to see me. You care about me—and now you're gonna get thrown in the slammer. My 'friends' care about me—but half of them wind up leaving, while the other half didn't mean it in the first place. Only cared about what they could get hanging around an asari.
"They're like my mom. She only cares about what she can get. What she wants. Which isn't me. She just wants me to sit quietly, do my homework, get good grades and be the best in everything—just so she can show me off like some stupid prize and brag about how I'm better than everyone else's daughter. Otherwise, I'm just some annoying brat who's in her way."
"I'm..." I trailed off. What was I supposed to say? I'm sorry? It's not that bad? There's a reason clichés like that are so damn hollow.
Zephi leaned against the wall and slumped down until she was sitting on the floor. "You know what the funny thing is?" she asked, pulling her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arm around her legs. "When I was hooked up in that thing, none of that mattered. I didn't have to worry about pleasing anyone. I didn't have to feel alone. I didn't have to care. It was just—"
"—such a relief," I said in unison with her.
Her head jerked up. She looked at me in surprise. I realized how small she was.
"It's hard to care," I said, sitting down beside her. "Trust me. I know."
"Right," Zephi snorted.
"I used to be a cop," I continued, ignoring her. "Before all this. Worked with C-Sec. I wanted to make a difference. I cared. And all I got for my trouble was heartache. No one cared about all the good I was doing because it didn't count unless some form was filled out properly. No one cared about all the cases I solved because all the crooks would get off scot-free in court. No one cared about the little guy getting screwed over because the big guy had all the credits and credits talked. No one else seemed to care, I thought. So why should I?
"Then I met a human who believed that doing things properly was more important than taking shortcuts, even if it meant letting the bad guy win now and then. I met a human who was willing to fight side by side with aliens, even if it meant swallowing her own prejudices and questioning a lot of things she took for granted. I met a quarian who was willing to put her plans on hold and help total strangers, because she believed that they needed her help. I met a krogan who'd stuck his neck out for his own people time and time again, got screwed over for all his trouble, but was willing to try one more time. I met an asari who'd been laughed and teased and mocked for her beliefs, but still stuck it out anyway, believing that one day she'd been proved right.
"And, most importantly, I met a human who did all of the above. He took the time to do things right. He had no problems working with anyone, regardless of gender or species. He'd put his plans on hold to listen to people—I mean really listen—about who they were, what they did, what their problems were and whether they needed help. He put his neck on the line every other day and somehow managed to come out the other end without a scratch. He persevered in doing what he believed was important no matter how many times he was faced with scorn and scepticism.
"There are all sorts of people, Zephi. People who do these kinds of things for others. People who care—about other people besides themselves. About you. I know it might not seem that way right now—spirits know I've wondered on dozens of occasions. But they're out there. If you give up now, though, if you stop looking, then you might miss them."
I paused for a moment and dug around in my pocket. It took a bit of digging, but I dug it out. I held up an intricately carved piece of rock, roughly the size of a credit chit. "When I did my mandatory term of military service in the Hierarchy, every turian in my unit got one of these," I explained. "It represented the spirit of our unit; our honour, our courage, our belief that some things were worth fighting for. I want you to have it."
Zephi's eyes widened as I held it out to her. "Me? Really?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Keep it as a reminder that no matter how bad things might get, they will get better later on."
She chewed her lower lip. "But what if C-Sec finds—"
A pair of C-Sec officers—one salarian, one turian—ran towards us. "Don't move, Garrus!"
I looked back at Zephi and shrugged with a nonchalance I didn't really feel at the moment, "Like I said, things might be bad now," I told her. "But I have to believe that they'll get better."
The officers, Zephi and I took a C-Sec skycar back to HQ. When finding a runaway-slash-kidnapped child and her ex-cop-slash-troublemaker-slash-supposed kidnapper, it's generally a good idea not to escort them back via public transit. Call it common sense, formalized in paragraphs and sub-paragraphs of standard operating procedure. Seriously: there are several pages that try to cover all possible scenarios.
Our journey back took us over the charred, burned-out remnants of Chora's Den. We were several levels above it, mind you, but we could still see the smoke wafting from the ventilation shafts, dancing and meandering with the air currents. It was strange, looking back. How many arguments did I have with the criminal scum who drank its swill and ogled its whores? I'd lost track. That's how many times I'd gone there. And almost every time, I came away with nothing. The dirtbags got away. I wasn't allowed to get the evidence I needed. So why did I keep going back? Because I believed that justice had to be done.
Then I came back one more time with Shepard. Something a little more... permanent than words were used. We got what we needed and left. Now I had returned one last time. Guns were fired. Lives were lost. Lives were saved. And Chora's Den had gone up in flames. The cycle had been broken. So what was I supposed to do now?
Through the windows, I could see the shops and kiosks of the Lower Levels. It was strange, looking back. I'd never been one for shopping. A quick scan of their electronic catalogues was enough to confirm what I already knew: that I couldn't possibly afford any of their merchandise. But that wasn't enough for Shepard. He'd peruse each one in exhaustive detail, comparing the wares of one kiosk versus another, analyzing their strengths to select the items that best served our needs. Cost was no matter. He believed that he could find a way to afford the best of the best—and he was right. All he had to do was think outside the box... and choose to believe that certain concepts like right of ownership were more like guidelines than actual rules.
Not that he used every opportunity to flout or wilfully ignore the rules. There was that time on the Citadel, when we were waiting to pick up an illegal weapons shipment to further one of Chellick's investigations. Right there, in the atrium that I could glimpse through another set of windows. That's where we waited. Shepard had commented that some things were 'part of the game,' that you had to do and accept. Like figuring out a plan of action. Like waiting patiently for the right moment to strike. I agreed with all that. But there were some things I believed should not be tolerated. Like letting paperwork and poorly-thought out rules get in the way of getting the job done. Like letting dirtbags get away just because we didn't have enough 'evidence' to satisfy the judiciary.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Shepard was trying to offer a suggestion, if not teach me a lesson. He believed that there were some things that could be bent or reinterpreted depending on the situation. More importantly, he believed that there were some lines that should not be crossed. He had this way of knowing when things were murky, unclear and generally grey, and when things were firmly, simply black and white. It was a talent that I had never mastered. Still hadn't, come to think of it.
So much had happened in the last year. So many changes. I'd finally left C-Sec—though I did come back for a brief spell. I'd travelled across the galaxy. I'd fought dirtbags and geth and rachni. I'd bore witness to incredible discoveries, unimaginable horrors and terrifying truths. Events that I would never have witnessed within the safe walls of C-Sec and the Citadel.
It was too late for that, though. I couldn't put my head in the sand like the Earth ostrich and pretend it had never happened. I had to get out there and do something, whether helping to prepare the galaxy for the Reapers or just getting a few more dirtbags and scum off the streets.
And yet here I was, in C-Sec custody. Handcuffs locked in place and energized. I wouldn't be able to stop anyone from a jail cell. So why did I let the officers arrest me? I could have run. Zephi would have been safe in their capable hands while I got away. Best of both planets, as the humans say. So why did I stay behind?
Maybe I needed to show Zephi that not everybody would run out of her lonely life as soon as things got tough. Maybe, against my better judgement, I was more of a proper C-Sec officer and turian than I had thought. Maybe I needed to look at myself in the mirror.
Whatever the reason, or reasons, I'd made my choice and now I had to live with it. So I sat there silently as the C-Sec patrol skycar touched down on the landing pad. The C-Sec officers silently hauled my ass out of the skycar. And Zephi…
"Why aren't you listening to me? He didn't do it!"
…was loudly proclaiming my innocence. She'd been doing that the entire ride back. I had to admit, that was a very impressive set of vocal cords she had there. "I told you: I. Ran. Away. Do you guys know what that means? Run away? As in 'I did it?' As in 'No one kidnapped me, including this loser?"
"Hey!" I protested. That seemed a bit much.
She winked at me, then opened her mouth to begin another round of loud protests. As much as I appreciated her passionate and stirring defence, there was no denying the fact that all her words were falling on deaf ears. We'd had the misfortune of meeting two C-Sec officers who were firmly and decidedly by-the-book. For them, the situation was crystal clear: mother reported that her daughter had been kidnapped. Daughter and prime suspect for kidnapper had been found. Return them to C-Sec. Let the higher-ups figure it all out. End of story.
We turned around. "Dad!"
Innocent turian and mean C-Sec officers forgotten, Zephi darted straight to Mr. Vietor and all but jumped into his arms. "I guess they'll have a little reunion after all," I said aloud, before turning to Tali. "What're you doing here?"
"Nice to see you too."
Oh come on. Really? "You know it's good to see you again, Tali," I sighed. "I'm just surprised, that's all."
"Well, against my better judgement, I was here to pay your bail."
"You were? Well, thanks—wait." As grateful as I was to see a friendly face—or helmet—something didn't make sense. "How could you afford all that?"
"Sold my Mark X Master assault rifle and sniper rifle."
"It's not like I use those weapons. Pistol and shotgun, sure. But the others? I don't think I fired them once."
I was floored. Stunned. Shocked, even. "And… and you thought of… me?"
"Maybe I felt a little sorry for you," Tali shrugged. "Like a sad little varren who'd been kicked one too many—oof!"
Whatever she was about to say was interrupted by yours truly, who was busy giving her the biggest hug I could muster—now that all the adrenaline had worn off, I was feeling the aches and pains from Torsk's pummelling again.
"Um… Garrus…?" Tali squeaked after a minute. "Hardsuit… integrity… failing…"
"Get a room, you two," Chellick said, coming up to us. "As for you two, you're dismissed."
That last part was directed at my escorts. They looked at each other, shrugged, then walked away. By that point, Tali and I had extricated ourselves from each other and were clearly and distinctly standing apart. "Chellick," I said slowly.
"What's going on?"
"Ms. Bevos came back."
I rolled my eyes. "Great. What's she saying now?"
Chellick hesitated. "It would probably make more sense if I showed you."
Ignoring me, he took me by the arm and hauled me off to the holding cells. I should mention that I was still in handcuffs at that point. So I might be forgiven for thinking that I was still getting thrown in the slammer. Tali came along, taking the place of Zephi—who was still hugging her dad—in protesting my innocence. Though the prospect of seeing me behind bars might have been a close second.
But we passed by all the holding cells—and every crook, thug, merc, dirtbag and drunk. In fact, we were heading to… "Uh… Chellick?"
"I'm not crazy."
Chellick gave me a skeptical look. "I'm not so sure about that."
"Same here," Tali added.
They had a point there. "Let me try again: I'm not crazy enough to warrant being locked up in the isolation cells."
"You aren't," Chellick agreed. "She, on the other hand…"
We stopped in front of one of the psych ward cells, all nice and sterile and thoroughly padded. It held one occupant.
One very familiar occupant, sitting on the floor and rocking back and forth in the fetal position. "What is Ms. Bevos doing here, Chellick?" I asked.
"One of the officers found her outside C-Sec just before you burned Chora's Den to the ground."
"It wasn't me," I insisted. "It was the bomb."
"Yeah, yeah," Chellick dismissed with a wave of his hand. "Anyway, when we brought her in… it quickly became clear that she had suffered a traumatic event." He reached over to the control panel on the side of the cell and increased the gain from the audio feeds.
"Bad mother… yes… don't deserve daughter… no… bad mother… yes… don't deserve daughter… no… bad mother… yes… don't deserve daughter… no… bad mother… yes… don't deserve daughter… no…"
Tali and I turned to Chellick, who was eyeing me suspiciously. "You wouldn't know anything about this, would you?"
"Nope. This is news to me," I said honestly. Though I had my suspicions as to what had happened.
"Same here," Tali declared. She was probably thinking the same thing.
"Huh," was all Chellick had to say.
"Though I guess that since Ms. Bevos is clearly incapable of looking after Zephi, and Zephi is still a minor, someone else will have to take care of her," I said casually.
"It does seem that way," Chellick agreed, adopting my tone of voice. "Luckily for Zephi, her father seems more than willing to take her in. And I'm sure there won't be any legal troubles in granting him full custody for the short term, considering Ms. Bevos' mental state."
"Then I guess this case had a happy ending after all," I said. "Even if I didn't get paid."
"You can still get paid," Tali offered. "The credits I got to pay your bail could go towards your ticket to Omega instead. "Since I already sold those weapons."
"I… I don't know what to say," I admitted. "Thank you."
"That's a first," Tali replied. "And you're welcome."
"So all's well that ends well," I sighed. Turning to Chellick, I raised my bound hands and shook them at him. "You can remove these handcuffs now."
"Not just yet."
Chellick looked at me, not even trying to hide the grin on his face. "Ms. Bevos pressed charges of kidnapping her child, remember? Given how she's no longer mentally fit, those charges will soon be dropped. But we do have to fill out the right forms, which takes time. Until then, well, I'm afraid we'll have to lock you up."
"You're enjoying this," I accused.
He burst into laughter as he shoved me into a cell. "Spirits, yes. I've been waiting for this day for years!"
"Fine," I sighed as the doors locked. "But you'll let me out soon, right?"
Chellick walked away. Tali looked back and forth between the two of us, then ran after Chellick. "Hey, Chellick!" I called out. "Did you hear me? You'll let me out soon?"
I heard his echoing laughter growing fainter and fainter. "Chellick? Chellick?"
He'd be back, I told myself. He'd let me go. I just had to hang in there.
And believe that things would get better.