Chapter 34 - Politics, Diplomatic Solutions and Groundings

'I wish it was easier to tell the difference between an actively hostile enemy, and an obstructionist bureaucrat. I would get in trouble for shooting the wrong one less often.' - Eldar Arlas

Arlas looked up from the impromptu meditation circle in annoyance, knocked out of his meditation and possible vision by an annoying beep. He glared at his omnitool, trying to hold onto the vision about a gauntlet of some kind enveloping a cylinder as a purple light died around it. With an irritated snort, he read the message, before looking up at the chronometer above the elevator and shaking his head.

Arlas looked at the message for the second time, trying to divine any hidden meanings in it. 'Arlas, please meet me at the restaurant Ryuushi so we can talk about the favor you asked of me. You were right to inform me, and what I found has both myself and my mother concerned. Both for you and for the T'soni's. I have reserved a private room, and will be waiting. Respectfully, Lyla Astyonthia.'

Arlas finished attaching his repaired arm as he shrugged, and waited for the phantom pain to pass, before pulling his cracked and chipped chest plate on. It had been four days since the raid on Virmire, almost all of it repairing his chest plate, as the others still wanted nothing to do with him, and the ship had finally docked at the Citadel a short time ago. He had gotten through the fight mostly unharmed, though he had lost his part of his prosthetic arm and his locally made sniper rifle during the fight, and had to repair fairly nasty damage to his armor.

He had received a request for him and Liara to meet Lyla regarding his favor, including a place to meet them. The Twins had left immediately after docking, taking Icivia, Garrus, and Ashley with them. Arlas had wanted to go with them to see how the 'Councilors' reacted to the humans succeeding, but understood that he had asked a significant favor of the asari noble. While his people usually didn't bother responding to requests from those they owed favors to, he had certain obligations that he needed to keep; one of those was forming good relations for the craftworld, or as much as any race could have with the eldar.

He finished preparing for his excursion, taking only his sword and pistols, and ensuring his tabard hung over his armor properly as he went up the elevator. He paused at the airlock, and waited for Liara. After a few minutes of waiting, he became aware of a growing silence in the command room, and turned to see what was going on. As he stared at the scene, he could only feel a growing confusion.

Liara was moving forward with surprising grace and poise, but it was her outfit that caused him some confusion. It looked like one of the more risque, full body robes a female might wear in public, but the material was more revealing, though nothing actually showed through. Its color changed as the fabric moved, going from a medium to a deep purple, with flashes of ultraviolet to draw the eye. It had standard sleeves that stopped at the wrist, rather than covering the hands like most robes an eldar civilian might wear, though the skirt of the robe had a slit up to her knees to allow ease of movement. But the largest difference between the robes of an eldar and what Liara wore was that her robes were draped close to her body, revealing her figure, while an eldar's robes tended to be looser and more concerned with ease of full body movement. She also wore a matching purple gemstone in a silver necklace around her neck, but Arlas wasn't concerned about crystallized rocks.

He shook his head slightly, before tapping the door control. "Interesting choice of garb. I was half expecting combat gear."

Liara's steps faltered slightly, a flicker of doubt and confusion coloring her psy-presence, but she quickly rallied. "The restaurant is of higher class than that. I showed up in there in combat gear, I likely would have been laughed out of the establishment. So what is this about? All I know is that you said it concerns me."

Arlas shrugged, taking the elevator down to C-Sec on their way to the nearest rapid transit terminal, not even stopping as they moved through C-Sec Academy. "I asked someone for a favor concerning your mother. I thought you might want to hear the outcome of that."

Liara frowned, as she got into the air-car that arrived. "So you are taking me to dinner for that?"

He gave a shrug as he got into the other side of the vehicle. "Lyla wanted to meet there."

The rest of the fifteen minute ride was spent in silence, Liara more interested in the exterior view than dealing with her roiling emotions. Arlas didn't feel the need to clutter the air with inconsequential thoughts. It was still almost a relief to arrive at the restaurant, where the staff quickly recognized him, and while they had been surprised by his escort, they ushered both of them to one of the private rooms in back. Arlas stepped into the room first, and saw Lyla standing up, wearing a robe that was suspiciously close to what an eldar would wear, though her robe was gold with soft red trim, and lacked sleeves entirely, and left one leg bare to her knee.

Then Liara stepped into the room, and both asari froze, staring at each other, ignoring the eldar and the door closing behind them. And Arlas suddenly realized what was going on: breeding courtship. It would almost be funny how the two asari reacted to the other, a second 'predator' suddenly appearing in what they thought was a 'safe' hunt, if they weren't trying to claim an eldar as their partner. Any other eldar would likely kill them both for their presumptions, but Arlas had traveled enough to realize it was not an intended insult, but a lack of thought and understanding. Instead of getting out of the way and seeing how asari dealt with competitors for mates, which would likely be amusing, he spoke. "Lyla, this is Liara T'soni. Liara, this one goes by Lyla Astyonthia, though I don't know her real name. I do know she is highly placed, and she is the one I alerted when the Matriarch Council came to kidnap your mother. Perhaps we should sit, and discuss this like civilized, sentient sapients?"

After a moment, both asari broke off from their dominance spat to take their seats, Arlas already sitting down at the table. Both asari blinked, before taking seats opposite each other, making Arlas nod slightly. "Now, how about you introduce yourself, Lyla, and then tell me about what you did or learned about Liara's mother? Then we can discuss what degree of favor I owe you."

Lyla's mouth twitched, before nodding and picking up one of the small dataslates on the table. "We can wait until after the meal is delivered for that part."

The staff quickly took their orders, and a short time later had delivered their meal, before withdrawing from the room. Once the staff had withdrawn, Lyla spoke. "To answer your first request, my full name is Lyleeria Astyonthia V'Zaeva, heir apparent of the V'Zaeva family. Though Goddess willing, it will be centuries yet before I have to take over for my mother."

Liara dropped her utensil, her mouth open as she stared at the 'rival' across the table. "You are the daughter of the Empress of Tiamat?"

Arlas glanced from one to the other. "Tiamat? Where is that?"

Lyla gave a small smile, clearing enjoying Liara's reaction. "It is a small star cluster, off a secondary relay in the Athena cluster. My family was one of the first to leave the system, and they found a secondary relay in a nearby system. When they went through it, they claimed the entire star system and two nearby ones, forming the Tiamat Empire, as our detractors like to call it. A more accurate description would be constitutional parliament run by a monarchy."

Arlas ignored Liara burying her face in her hands and moaning about insulting the princess, and Lyla was polite enough to do the same, though her emotions betrayed her mirth. "We directly control seven planets or colonies, while the Council of Matriarchs has more than thirty planets that they… 'advise.' There is considerable history between our empire and the council, but it is mostly now divided between the 'peaceful' council and the 'warmongering' empire. Though in truth, we just require all asari to be trained to defend themselves and use their biotics, as well as have a more developed defense force and fleet. There was something I wanted to discuss with you, but without an audience."

She gave Liara a look, and waited for the younger asari to calm down before continuing. "Now, as you requested, we did make a formal inquiry into Matriarch Benezia T'soni, and when they denied knowing anything, I used the recording and files you provided to coerce them into talking. And you were right to be concerned. They were planning on offering the matriarch up as a sacrifice if the System Alliance gets too loud about wanting reparations for the attack, or if they need a convenient distraction from anything. They were also planning on concealing her indoctrination as much as they could, to force full culpability onto her."

Lyla glanced significantly at Liara, before continuing. "They are also taking actions to discredit the T'soni line as much as they can, in the hopes of reducing damage their actions have caused the Council of Matriarchs."

Arlas frowned, taking a bite of his sashimi before replying. "I see. That makes the situation more fluid. Do you have any recommendations for Liara concerning that?"

He let the two women talk about politics and counters, understanding the words, but the context left him confused. What matter was credit, and why would a large stick of it help? What was an alias, and what the devil was a lawyer? Still, the asari princess' advice seemed to help Liara settle her emotions, so after he finished his meal, and took a sip of the soy sauce that came with it before making a face at the salty and sour, almost bitter taste before setting it aside. "So, what actions have you taken to ensure Matriarch Benezia T'soni's protection, and what actions do you require of me?"

Lyla shrugged, taking a bite of her meal, a large red crustacean with two large claws. "So far, we have enforced a little used clause of the treaty between my family and the Council, which allows us to, with evidence, take protective custody of individuals we believe are being harassed by our opposites. Of course, they can do the same, but those videos and files were a blessing from the goddess. Our lawyers used those and the Council of Matriarchs descended into bickering and infighting as they blamed each other. So right now she is being treated and held at the capital of Tiamat."

Liara nodded quietly, her mind tensing at the information of where her mother was, but she accepted it without conflict. Lyla continued. "As for what I want in return…"

The princess paused, clearly considering her words, and after her eyes flickered at Liara, she continued. "I want you to visit my home. My mother and her advisors wish to meet you. We also have something we think you will be very interested in seeing."

He opened his mouth, before suddenly both Liara and his omnitools suddenly chimed loudly. He glared at the tool, until he saw it was a priority message from Lioness, and stiffened at the contents. "Apologies, but we need to get back to our ship. Now."

Liara read the message herself, her emotions a shifting mess of too many emotions to identify, though prominent was anger and contempt as she hissed. "The human ambassador locked down the ship? Can he even do that?"

Lyla's eyes widened, before she waved her hand. "Get going, sounds like you have quite an emergency to deal with. Arlas? Will you come meet us once you are done traveling with the humans?"

Arlas looked down at the asari, nodding once before heading for the door.

Jaclyn looked up as Arlas and Liara entered the ship. "There you two are. I would ask about your date, but we have bigger problems."

Arlas frowned at the mention of a date, wondering what it was, before bringing himself back to the problem as Liara spoke. "You message said something about locking down the ship?"

Jaclyn snarled in fury, before pulling Liara out of the center of the walkway, as an asari and turian took a marine by on a stretcher. Arlas watched the medics take the wounded marine out, recognizing him as one of the injured from Virmire. "Udina stabbed us in the back, trying to kiss the Council's ass. Joannis is talking with Admiral Hackett, seeing if there is any way to work around Udina. That was the last of the wounded from Virmire, and with that, my extra duty is done. I am going to go see if sis has had any luck getting permission to shoot Udina."

Jaclyn stalked down the walkway to the command center, passing Garrus working at one console, while Tali worked at another one. Several of the human crew members were working on different consoles, though all of the screens were showing a red screen with a text input box. Jaclyn stepped through the door to the communication and briefing room with Liara right behind her. Arlas started to follow, but paused as he saw Icivia step out of the door to the mess hall. Arlas frowned, and headed to the turian Spectre, curious as to why she was carrying a large bag. She glanced at him, before clenching her mandibles tight against her jaw. "Here to mock me?"

Arlas frowned. "Leaving?"

"Orders. My Councilor wants to speak with me in person, give my final report on the mission."

He could taste her dissatisfaction with the situation, so simply nodded as he glanced at the communication room. "Perhaps you should wait, then, and see what their meeting results in. And if nothing else, you can actually finish your report."

Icivia shot him a glare, before shaking her head as she continued marching for the exit. Arlas shrugged, dismissing her from his mind as he turned and headed into the communication room, just in time to hear an older male with grey hair in a System's Alliance military uniform speak through the communicator, his voice rough but firm. "Commander Jaclyn Shepard, I don't care what he has done, we do not conduct hits on our own people just because they are pompous, arrogant fools. If we did, we wouldn't have much of a government left. However, you are quite right in that Udina has overstepped his authority, and the military is not going to take this lying down."

The other hologram was an older male, wearing some kind of formal outfit, and was not looking amused as he looked at something to one side. "Admiral Hackett, I agree that Ambassador Udina has overstepped his authority as well, but we have a larger problem. Shepard, please tell me exactly what happened at the meeting."

Joannis sighed, before retelling what happened at the meeting. The group had consisted of the twins, Icivia, Garrus, and Ashley, and had met Udina at the base of the Presidium Tower. He had congratulated the group, and asked the Twins to let him handle the politicians, since they had handled Saren. Jaclyn had countered Saren wasn't dead yet, and Udina had agreed before humorously pointing out he didn't intend to kill the council.

Then they had arrived at the meeting, and the Council had tried to say they were done, though Councilor Sparatus had been oddly silent throughout the entire thing. Then Jaclyn had mentioned the Conduit, Tevos had asked if they knew, not guessed, what it did. When the twins had to answer they did not know for a fact, Valern had said that the Council could not, and would not, invade the Terminus systems on the say so of an individual's vision, and the blockade was the best option. Joannis had pointed out that the starship Sovereign was not going to just disappear if they ignored it, and Valern had turned to Udina, and pointed out that the Twins didn't seem to be willing to display the necessary maturity to understand that soldiers should, when given orders, follow them.

Jaclyn had snarled back that as Spectres, the only orders they had been given was to 'find and deal with Saren.' Tevos and Valern had looked at Sparatus like they expected him to say something, but he had simply glared back at them, his arms crossed and mandibles in a position of defiant challenge. Valern had then told them that their Spectre authorization was hereby suspended, and that, with Udina's already secured approval, they were locked out of the Normandy's systems to prevent them from starting a war. Udina had thanked the twins for their hard work, but that they were now more trouble than they were worth, so they needed to back off and learn to listen to their superiors, and that they were grounded until further notice. And that they needed to get all that mercenary riff raff off the Normandy, and to turn over the Eldar and all his technology to the Council to facilitate a proper first contact.

Joannis finished her report, and Arlas pulled out his sword, examining the cracked blade. He regretted that the blade hadn't been repaired yet, but repairing his armor, arm and long rifle had been a priority, especially after losing the mass effect long rifle. But the humans were still talking. "...haven't actually suspended your Spectre access yet. Tevos is supposed to be handling that, so I am not going to complain. We likely have a few hours until they do correct that, so make use of that."

Jaclyn shook her head. "Minister Kreiggeory, they have locked down the ship, we need the Council's password to override it."

"Correction, you need Udina's. They let him lockdown the ship, to make this look like an internal matter of the Systems Alliance. Lets them keep their image of benevolent control, while putting Udina on the chopping block if it goes bad. We all know that Saren isn't just pushing for some policy change, or just trying to kill humans, so find a way around that lock out, and finish your mission. You have my authorization to do what you have to do to make sure we survive these Reapers, though we would prefer Udina alive so he can face justice."

The image of Minister Kreiggeory faded away, leaving the image of Admiral Hackett. "Now that you have official directives from command, I won't take more of your time, but I do want some clarification. Your initial report mentioned casualties, how many and how bad?"

Jaclyn shook herself, as Arlas returned his blade to its sheath. "We lost seven marines, and had another two severely wounded. Kaidan took five gunshots to the chest, another to the lower leg that nearly removed his knee, and also suffered from a spinal injury, on top of the head injury Arlas gave him. Arlas claimed not knocking him unconscious would have caused further and worse injuries, and considering we know nothing about how he teleports, I am giving that answer a pass given the circumstances. We have fifteen security marines left, but won't be waiting or stopping to get more."

The twins shared a look, before Joannis took over speaking. "In fact, considering what we do know about the Conduit, thanks to our Prothean expert, I am beginning to wonder about what it really is. We have been operating under the assumption it was some kind of super weapon, but after talking with the Reaper on Virmire, how it claimed to be the vanguard of our destruction, and with Liara, who said that Illos was the location of their most advanced research labs, I think the conduit might be some way to summon, recall, or even activate more of the Reapers. Considering it is a two kilometer tall dreadnaught that landed and then took off from a planet, I am concerned about its combat capabilities. If Saren manages to get more than one…"

Hackett nodded, his expression grim. "A fair point, we still have little idea as to that ship's actual combat capabilities. I won't keep you longer, Commanders, do what you have to."

Icivia sat at a desk in C-Sec academy, supposedly filling out a requisition form, but in reality watching the elevator that led to the Alliance docks. There was only one vessel there, the ship she had worked on for the last six months. She had already reported to Sparatus, who had listened quietly to her report on the Twins, despite their suspension of Spectre credentials. Then he had asked her to observe how the Twins reacted to being thwarted, which was very interesting, considering how he had acted during the debriefs of the major missions. She hadn't been ordered to stop them, but instead to observe, which told her that the decision to suspend their Spectre access had been a divided vote.

She frowned as she thought of something, and brought up her omnitool, checking the logs of various spectres accounts. While normally she would only be able to see her own, she was still listed as a mentor of the Twins, so she could check their status as well. She frowned at the fact that both of their credentials were still listed as active, which was odd. The turian could think of only three other spectres to lose their access in the last century, one of them Saren, and all of them had had their access revoked within minutes of the decision. And yet here, the Twins were approaching the hour mark, and still had them.

Icivia's head came up as the elevator opened, and she saw Garrus Vakarian exit with a couple of the marines, carrying a crate and a carry bag, likely evidence collected and equipment he had been given during the hunt for Saren. He spotted her sitting across the room, and his mandibles clamped hard against his face, before very deliberately looking past her, his body language screaming scorn and contempt. She didn't react, and admitted he had every reason to not be happy with her, considering her silence during the rather disastrous debrief. Garrus walked past her as the two marines waited by the elevator, the turian heading for the offices attached to the Academy with his foot locker and carry bag in tow.

She closed her omnitool, finished filling out the form, and sent it to the requisition officer, only to hear the elevator open again. The next few sets of passengers on the elevator were marines carrying their carry bags and a foot locker, and eventually Ashley Williams, who gathered the fifteen other marines before heading toward the embassies near the Presidium. Icivia watched them leave, her mandibles fluttering slightly as she watched in confusion. She had been watching the Twins for nearly six months, and knew how they reacted to threats. They should have been blowing down the embassy, not disbanding their carefully gathered veteran crew.

After a moment of contemplation, however, she realized something was wrong, and turned to the C-Sec officer on duty, a salarian at a nearby console . "Did a krogan come off the Alliance ship yet?"

Before the officer could answer, an alarm sounded on his desk, and the salarian cursed as he brought up the camera to the docking bay. The camera only displayed static. "Multiple alarms on the Alliance dock. Elevator knocked offline, cameras not active either. Some kind of explosion? Unknown contaminant alarm also active."

Icivia suddenly had a sneaking suspicion what had happened, a certain dark armored arrogant and vicious combatant that hadn't hesitated to use anything he had nearby springing to mind. And even if Arlas hadn't actually helped, the Twins were certainly willing to listen. And he had bragged about breaking into and out of places far better defended than the Citadel before, in his own low key way. Either way, she knew it wasn't her problem, and got out of the way as C-Sec started trying to determine the cause of the blast.

Arlas leaned against the bulkhead behind the pilot, watching the Normandy run. His clever use of an anti-thorian gas grenade, three blocks of wraith webbing, and a single strike of his sword had been more than the 'undefeatable' lockdown could handle. His sword had severed the umbilical cord that had connected the ship to the Citadel, removing the computer locks. Two blocks of wraith webbing had damaged the two clamps enough that they automatically disengaged, freeing the ship from the physical locks. Another block had been split and used to destroy the two cameras in the dock, and the gas grenade near the elevator had triggered the chemical alarms, preventing the local security force from discovering the Normandy was gone until it was too late.

The eldar looked back at the humans, before shaking his head slightly. They had come up with a plan in a surprisingly short time, and Tali and Garrus' help had told him where to plant his explosives. He had placed the explosives while cloaked as Garrus and the marines disembarked, to provide local forces with information on Saren and the geth, as well as to resist if Saren did somehow get units onto the Citadel. Garrus had also been provided a significant amount of funds by the Twins, to purchase better weapons and armor for the security teams.

Joker glanced at his sensors, before shaking his head. "Still no pursuit. Damn. Was hoping I would get to dodge a cruiser or two. Still don't know this ship's full capabilities."

Joannis just snorted from the CiC command podium. "Joker, the thought of you getting to know your ship's capabilities fills me with a dread matched only by the thought of my mother suggesting another blind date."

Jaclyn groaned before shuddering. "Joannis, we agreed to never mention that again. Ever."

Arlas snorted as he watched the ship sail through the purple nebula, suddenly frowning, his most recent vision coming back to him. As the ship went to FTL, he yanked on the glove he needed to use the local technology, and typed into his omnitool, searching for something. After a quick search, he turned to the nearest Twin. "Take the restrictions off."

Jaclyn stared at him in confusion before asking an intelligent and well thought out question. "What?"

The Pathfinder managed to restrain his initial impulse to try and bypass her. "The restrictions on my omnitool. I need to see images of your 'Citadel,' preferably as many as possible, and images of the ship Sovereign."

Jaclyn looked for a second like she might ask more questions, before turning to the nearest tech stations. "Service women Draven and Draven, get Arlas the images he wants. While they are doing that, Arlas, why do you want those images?"

The eldar glared at the human, before stepping up behind the two sisters who were tapping away at their consoles, bringing up the pictures as ordered. "Eldar can have visions of the future. Since coming here, I have had three. One on the Citadel which is how I found Gemling, another that I am still sorting through, and then a third as we approached the Citadel earlier. It showed a black gauntlet consuming a silver cylinder amidst dying purple light."

Arlas did not miss Lynx stiffening at his description of his vision. "Rosamund Draven, an image of the Citadel closed. Talitha Draven, an image of Sovereign as it flew toward Virmire. Quickly, servicewomen."

Arlas stared at the human, momentarily speechless. He had been expecting a long drawn out argument. Instead, he got a reminder that these humans weren't experienced with his people to begin doubting everything that they said. He took a quick breath, before pointing to a picture of Sovereign flying toward Virmire, a close up view with its 'legs' extended. "That one, send it to my omnitool. If you find one of your Citadel in the closed position, send that as well."

Jaclyn stared at him, her expression expectant. Arlas resisted the urge to sigh, something he was having to do more and more as he spent more time around mon-keigh who couldn't keep up. "I think Sovereign is going to attack the Citadel, based on what I saw of the vision. Set a course to my crashed ship, I need to converse with all my people."

After a few seconds of contemplation, Arlas headed for the door that concealed the stairs heading down to the mess hall. Jaclyn noticed, and turned back to him. "Where are you going?"

The Pathfinder let himself issue a sigh of vexation. "To talk to someone more warp headed than you and your twin."

(*And you really believe they can be a threat?*)

Arlas wasn't going to question his good fortune, instead focusing on convincing his fellow Asuryani. "(*I believe they can do damage. Better to help the lesser races now, convincing them that we are not a threat, than let the Imperium forces turn the mon-keigh against us. I would rather have the lesser races fighting these Reapers.*)"

He guessed it was the image of a dozen space marines standing against him that was really convincing the others, not his belief that Sovereign was the threat it thought it was. Two space marines were a match for any eldar warrior other than an exarch, though the eldar would usually take at least one with them. A dozen was more than a pathfinder and wraithguard could defeat. "(*I also believe it is better to risk a few eldar now, convincing the lessers to fight this threat now, then trust the mon-keigh to deal with this threat without our influence, and risk the threat still existing when the Craftworld arrives.*)"

There was a long pause as the others conferred without him, before Yol'Pvera finally asked the question he was waiting for. (*So what are you proposing?*)

Arlas mentally relaxed, presenting his latest vision for consideration. "(*I believe the ship that calls itself Sovereign will attack the mon-keigh space station. So I am going to have the humans head to the Raibh Karun, and let the lander and Quel'Nayrae join them. The increased armor and weapons will be much safer than this pathetic mon-keigh excuse for a bomber. Kap'Eiyl and I will assist the humans in making sure the Conduit isn't activated. If possible, the Raibh Karun will move to the nebula around the mon-keigh space station, to observe the situation, and strike at the frigate if it appears and the captain believes it is wise.*)"

The Pathfinder ignored the irritated yowl from the gyrinx at being excluded from his suggestions, though it was fairly obvious where the familiar would be going. Further conversation was suspended as his omnitool suddenly buzzed with a message, though the sudden mental presence of other Asuryani let him deduce the message from the Twins. He reached out to the ship, idly noting that they were already linked with someone, but before he could do more, the seer of the warship projected. (*So you want to save mon-keigh. Explain yourself, quickly.*)

He sent his annoyance to the other already in the conversation, as Kap'Eiyl and Quel'Nayrae joined. (*What did Yol'Pvera inform you of already? I need to know what… misconceptions she has been insinuating.*)

As he listened to the seer answer, he reflected that incidents like this were why he usually chose to work alone.

Arlas looked up from arranging a small pad and a small box among the crates beside the Vyper in the hangar as the Twins approached, before turning his attention back to his area. "We are done in this system. We can leave."

Jaclyn looked up with a frown, though Joannis was the one to speak. "So why did your lander just leave? I assume it is returning."

Arlas barely glanced at the humans. "No, Quel'Nayrae didn't wish to remain longer, and my original ship doesn't have atmosphere on it. So Yol'Pvera will be staying with her."

He gave the Twins an indulgent look, before turning back to organizing his small space. "So we can leave whenever you are ready. Saren is, after all, trying to destroy the universe, or whatever it is the Reapers want."

He felt a slight surge of amusement at the anger coming off Jaclyn, before Joannis spoke. "I see you left the Real Partner mech."

The eldar pathfinder frowned, before turning back to the Twins. "The what?"

Jaclyn's attitude had swung to amusement and derision. "The overpriced sex toy. You hide your knowledge well, but we all know what it really is."

Arlas stood up, twisting around to stare at them. "It's a WHAT?"

He stormed over to the elegant black case standing in the corner of the hangar before the humans could answer, slowing only long enough to snatch his power sword. By the time the two humans had gotten over to it, he had undone the extensive security on it, and was staring at the case as it slowly unfolded, opening outward. Once the black crate opened enough to see inside, Arlas felt himself snarl in disgust and anger at the… monstrosity inside it, clearly made to be a mockery of eldar perfection.

It had the long, graceful ears, and the proportions were almost right, though the fingers were too short. But everything else was disgustingly wrong. It had soft, pale skin, closer to a fallen than a loyal Asuryani, and its hair was golden rather than black. He couldn't see the eyes, but he doubted it would be a normal color.

It was the rest of the… figure that was making him want to retch, the proportions closer to something a follower of an asari, or even what the sick cultists of Shi Who Thirsts desired. The hips were nauseatingly wide, clearly meant for breeding, or since it was a machine at its core, meant to simulate something that was evolved only for breeding. The rest of the body was just as… disgustingly voluptuous, though he wasn't entirely sure why he had chosen that term for the creature. He forced himself to take a deep breath, and closing the crate back up, resealing it. For a moment, the only sound in the bay was his breathing, the Twins not moving behind him, but he could feel their shock and unease. After a moment struggling with his anger, he managed to speak. "Who?"

The unease behind him only grew stronger, and now was joined with confusion. After a moment, Joannis finally replied. "I am afraid I don't understand the request. Which 'who' are you asking for?"

The pathfinder had to take a moment to remind himself that as clever as these two mon-keigh were, they weren't eldar, couldn't keep up with eldar mentally, didn't understand how the eldar thought, and definitely weren't attuned to eldar psyker presences enough to pick up on the underlying psyker impulses that made up the majority of Asuryani communication. It didn't help. "Someone thought that this… thing was a good idea. I have been very tolerant, excessively so, of your insults so far. This is one too many, and one that is far too nuanced to not be responded to. Perhaps I should scatter this crew person over several decks to ensure no insult like this happens again. So, I ask again. Who?"

He could hear the two moving slightly behind him, but neither were drawing weapons nor trying to flee, so he magnanimously waited a moment for them to finish whatever they were doing before he removed their heads from their shoulders and went hunting crew members. Thankfully Jaclyn spoke before he could start moving. "Well, judging from the invoice I can see, I can assure you that absolutely no one on this ship would spend sixteen and a half million credits on an insult to you. Hell, the only person on the ship with that much money is MAYBE Wrex, and I know he wouldn't think of wasting money on that. I can't see the name of the person who bought it, the information is not listed, but it is definitely not someone on this ship."

Joannis spoke up after her twin finished. "The shipping manifest also doesn't list a sender, or any information about where it shipped from, so we can't track it that way. The only information it does list is ours, and what I suspect is an empty address, or even a shell company meant to send packages that the sender doesn't want traced."

Jaclyn took up the talking. "So we currently have little in the way of knowledge of who sent it, but can firmly say that no one on the ship would."

Arlas took a long, calming breath, folding his anger away as best he could, and storing it in the corner of his mind until he found whoever had sent it. "Fine, I accept your conclusions of the situation."

He let them relax a second before continuing. "But I want to know who sent it, and everything about them."

Arlas glared at the black crate with the silver etching, before heading back to his space. As he felt Kap'Eiyl reaching out mentally to him, he only sent back his frustration and disgust at the mon-keigh back, infuriated that their lack of control on their lusts was making someone think that the eldar had a similar problem. With any luck, the next problem would be something he could solve with his rifle.

Two sets of lurches and an hour later, the next problem showed up, as the elevator doors opened and Liara stepped out. She hesitantly looked around, before spotting Arlas bent over the Vyper, the wraithguard silently standing in the corner of the hangar. She looked around again, before shrugging, and stalking over to the eldar that was focused on his hovercraft. Arlas watched her approach out of the corner of his eye, idly curious as to why she was wearing the same dress she had worn on the Citadel, and why her emotions were so concerned and yet so determined. He idly noted Kap'Eiyl in the wraithguard tracking her, but wasn't worried as she got close enough to speak. "Arlas, would you like to come up and spend time with me?"

Arlas mentally sighed as Kap'Eiyl's mind suddenly snapped into focus, the wraithform turning to stare at his back. If only the gods would stop toying with him, his life would be so much simpler.