Amala gazed around the docking area, nothing obviously out of place that she could see. Garrus and Decian scanned the area around them as well, but it seemed more about getting a feel for this location. She spotted a C-Sec officer heading in their direction and for once it was someone she trusted.
"Bailey, what the hell did you do to get demoted to dock patrol?"
The human gave her a small smile. "Shepard, I'm here as a favor for Admiral Anderson. He seemed a little concerned about your return to Citadel space. Now I see why."
Amala gestured towards the turians beside her. "This is Garrus Vakarian and Decian Chellick. Garrus and Decian, this is Captain Bailey of Citadel Security. One of the few law enforcement officials I respect."
"Captain," the two turians said with a nod towards the other human.
"Shit, Shepard. Why did you even bring them here? You know what a shitstorm these two will create?" Bailey asked with a wave of his hand. Not waiting for an answer, he pressed his comm unit. "I want extra patrols around the Presidium, on the double."
He turned back to Shepard after receiving a satisfactory reply from whomever he had contacted. "Anything else I need to know?" His voice gave all the indications he was waiting for some other catastrophe to be announced.
Bailey sighed and strode away from where the Wildcat was docked. Amala nodded and fell in step with him, Garrus and Decian on her heels.
"I don't know if using a car would make this better or worse," Bailey muttered. "Anderson is going to owe me for this one."
Whatever Bailey had decided, he led them into C-Sec headquarters itself. A few officers still at desks watched the strange little procession as it wound through the complex.
The turians swiveled about as they walked. Those watching them go by realized they were peering into any areas they judged a threat could be hiding in. Sightseeing was not what they were doing. Most of the officers had never seen a turian before and these two were well armed and in the company of the first human Spectre. It was evident that they were trusted squad members and not anything else. Their helmets swung at their hips as they stalked behind the two humans while state of the art guns resided on their backs. The woman's helmet hung at her waist as well and all three looked to have obtained armor from the same place.
The news vids had been very one sided so far as the asari attempted to explain away the situation on Palaven. Of course, no one had been able to ask one of those from the other side of the equation. And these two were not politicians, the scars of the war evident on one of them, what with the paint that marked his face still and his broken fringe. However, attempting to stop the small party to ask them anything was not something any of them were willing to do, regardless of how curious the officers might be.
Bailey stopped at a desk and gestured to those behind him to move up. He pointed at the turian with the paint to join him. Shepard nodded to him and he stepped towards Bailey.
"I need you to place your palm on that pad and state your name, species, and planet of birth. This will put you officially in the system."
Garrus's palm went well beyond the outline put there for most races. "Garrus Vakarian, turian, born on Palaven."
Bailey touched a few buttons on the console before him. After a reassuring beep announced the machine was finished with its task, he motioned for the other turian to repeat the procedure.
Decian took Garrus's spot and stated his information as instructed. Shepard cocked her head at Bailey.
"I thought there were forms they had to fill out?"
"Sure, if you want to take weeks for the bureaucrats to decide which form they should use and all that crap. My way is faster and easier."
Amala grinned at him. "Thanks, Bailey."
He waved a hand, interrupting her. "You can buy me a drink when things settle down. Come on, I'll get us a squad car and bring you to the Council chambers and hopefully avoid the worst of the gawkers."
It wasn't far to the parking bay. Bailey signed out a car and motioned for them to climb in. The drive was short, but it gave Garrus and Decian a chance to look at the station. The sight of parks full of plants and even an artificial lake on the massive hunk of metal that they saw from space had their jaws dropping open in amazement.
"Spirits, who made this place?" Decian asked softly.
"It's believed that the Protheans did. Supposedly it only had the keepers on it when the asari first found it," Amala said.
"Keepers? They weren't on the briefing," Garrus said. His eyes flicked towards Amala before returning to gaze out the window.
"Not sentient. They are believed to have been bio-engineered to maintain the Citadel. If we see one I'll point it out to you, but they ignore everyone and just do whatever it is they do."
The car dropped gracefully down near the elevator to the Presidium. Shepard was about to step out of the car when Bailey laid a hand on her arm.
"I hope you know what you are doing, Shepard."
She gave him a tight smile. Bailey sighed as he watched them walk into the elevator. He'd fulfilled his promise to Anderson at least.
As soon as the door slid shut behind them, Amala let out her breath. Garrus eyed her, his head tilted and one mandible spread in half a grin.
"I assume the worst is yet to come?"
"The Presidium will be quieter, mostly politicians and their toadies about."
"Toadies? I don't think my translator liked that." Decian asked.
"Err those who try to curry favor with those in power. It's leaving the Presidium that is likely to be messy after word has spread of where we are."
"We've got your back."
Amala snorted. "Oh, don't worry I'm sure there will be a few who want to shoot you as well, but I'm not too worried about them yet. No, it's more of the reporters and those who want to get a glimpse of you two that is likely to make this a pain in the ass. I hate reporters."
Decian gazed about for a brief second before he turned his eyes to Amala. "Okay, they managed to make a small world in the middle of space, but they can't make an elevator that moves faster than a binld on a cold day?"
Garrus laughed. "I was wondering that myself."
"If a binld is damn slow, well, I can only say apparently not," Amala said, joining in their laughter.
The doors opened into a large open area. Trees of some unknown species grew in green areas around them. Balconies above them overlooked the entire space, drawing a groan from Garrus.
"Helmets on?" he asked. Although if a sniper had a gun like Shepard's, he was doubtful even their helmets would help much.
"Sadly, no, I have to make my report and the councilors get testy if they can't see my face. Try and keep an eye out - well, without being too obvious if you can - while I talk to them."
They stepped out and a few gasps and whispers trailed after the little party as they strode through the open areas heading for the Council meeting. A brief stutter in Shepard's pace alerted the turians behind her to a possible danger.
"Udina," Amala said under her breath.
Garrus was about to ask what that was when he spotted the human hurrying over to them.
"Shepard," Udina hissed in a low voice. "What do you think you are doing? Are you trying to start an incident with the asari?"
"I'm doing my job, Ambassador. And if you'll move out of my way, I'll go give my report to the Council."
Garrus's throat tightened. He had expected the human Ambassador to be more sympathetic to the plight of his people, but it was obvious the man was not interested in justice.
Udina flicked his hand towards the two turians. "You can't possibly mean to bring them in there! Their species hasn't even been accepted among the other races yet."
"What I do or don't do is of no concern to you," Amala growled.
His hand shot out and grabbed her arm; she stared at him until he released her.
"Everything you do is of a concern to all humans. Any stride forward we have made will be negated by throwing them into their face," he said, his finger wagging at the turians.
Amala ignored him and resumed walking until she reached the steps leading up to the platform. The platform had always seemed an obvious ploy to her; it was a not so subtle reminder of who held the power here. The Councilors stood on their side and a glorified plank for the supplicant to stand on jutted out over the little garden below. She turned to face Garrus and gave him a quick smile.
"Wait here until I call for you."
"What are you doing, Shepard?" Udina asked, his voice rising in anger.
"Spectre business, Udina," she replied.
She didn't wait for him as she took the steps two at a time up onto the walkway. Tevos and Valern waited for her as she marched to the end of the causeway. Udina was forced to jog a few steps in order to catch up with her.
"Councilors, you received my report?"
"Yes," Valern said.
He looked over at the asari councilor when she didn't immediately reply. He found her looking down at something on her omni-tool. He cleared his throat and she looked up quickly.
"I'm sorry. Something has come up. Come back tomorrow at nine in the morning and we will go over it then," she said. Not waiting for a reply, she left the area.
'Fuck,' Amala thought to herself even as she watched Valern's mouth open and close before he turned and nodded to Shepard then left the podium as well. Ignoring Udina, she stalked off the walkway. Decian's head was cocked as he watched her come down the steps. Garrus's mandibles fluttered a moment, but he bit back the question he wanted to ask.
"Change of plans," she muttered to them.
"Shepard, you will tell me what is going on!"
"It's classified," she said with a smile. "I'm afraid you aren't cleared for it."
"This is an outrage! We will see about this!"
His face was turning a mottled red before he turned on his heel and strode off in a different direction. That was at least one small favor the galaxy had given her. The tightness of her face alerted them to the fact that things were not going as planned. When a salarian stepped out of the shadows, both of them dropped a hand down to rest onto their pistols. Amala gave the newcomer a smile and it reached her eyes unlike with Udina, Garrus noted.
"Bau, good to see you."
"Shepard, I had to swing by and see you before I left for my mission. What with news of the arrival of armed turians spreading across the Citadel."
Shepard groaned and rubbed her hand over her face. "How bad is it out there?"
The salarian smiled. "C-Sec is doing its best to keep the crowd away from the entrance, but I suggest you use that back hall I showed you."
"Thanks, we will," she began.
Bau leaned in close to Shepard. His lips barely moved as he whispered, "See Barla Von in the Investment Coalition building. He's a top agent for the Shadow Broker on the station. Any information he has will be pricey, but worth it."
He stepped back and nodded to the turians before he threw a salute and left. She returned the gesture and nodded for the turians to follow her as she switched direction from where they came in. Garrus and Decian had to follow Amala single-file down a narrow corridor hidden behind a panel in the back of the area. It wasn't quite the size of a keeper tunnel, but only just barely bigger. According to Bau, who had given her a tour shortly after she had been admitted to the Spectres, it was a closely guarded secret he had shared with her. As soon as they were out of earshot of the main chamber, Amala finally spoke.
"Tevos, the asari councilor, reconvened our meeting for tomorrow morning. That in itself is unusual."
"Crap," Garrus muttered.
"Exactly. I know it took Valern by surprise as well. Normally those two have everything planned out beforehand and I had sent that report over a week ago."
"Did us coming with you, you know, make this worse?" Decian asked.
"I doubt the Matriarchs who were behind the attack on Palaven could be any more pissed. So no, I don't think it caused the cancellation. My guess is they are going to stage an attack, but need to hold me here until their team can arrive."
"Tonight then," Garrus said.
"That would be my choice if it was my operation. Maybe this agent that Bau told me about can give us some more information."
The end of the tunnel-like corridor ended in the back of the lower ward markets. Various species mingled about doing their day-to-day shopping. Amala glanced around before motioning for Garrus and Decian to follow her. Her sudden appearance didn't so much as cause a twitch from those closest, however, when the two turians stepped out behind her, the people around their little group stopped whatever they were doing to stare at them. She knew they had to see those who were pointing and talking at their passing, but the turians chose to ignore them.
Shoppers drifted out of shops or moved away from the vendor stalls to catch a glimpse of the odd trio. Occasional flashes of light alerted them to the fact that some were taking vids. Amala tapped a finger on her omni-tool, bringing up a screen. It only took a second for her to find her overload program even as she continued on her path towards the financial district. It took her a few moments to dial down its strength before she deployed it with a wave of a hand towards the worst of those following them. She heard a soft chuckle from Garrus at the groans and curses as electronic devices around them suddenly stopped working. Eventually someone would tip off the media and then the situation would only get worse.
Still trailed by a slew of people following them, the little group exited the market and out onto one of the open walkways that criss-crossed the area. In front of them loomed the replica of a mass relay. They had only managed to make it a short distance across the path when a human woman moved to intercept them.
"Spectre Shepard," she began as a camera drone floated just behind her right shoulder.
"Khalisah al-Jilani," Amala said, her voice flat.
"Oh, that's nice, you remember me. Now, is it true you nearly started a war between the humans and the asari?"
"What?" Amala exclaimed. "I don't have time for your bullshit."
She attempted to go around the other woman, but she stepped in her path in order to block her. Amala's eyes narrowed and she contemplated punching the woman. Khalisah must have sensed her danger because she took a step back, trying to stay out of arm's reach of Shepard. With a wave of her hand, she directed the drone to aim its camera and light on Garrus. He blinked at the sudden bright light.
"Perhaps your companions would be willing to answer a few questions?" Khalisah asked sweetly.
"Don't bother; she's not interested in the truth. She'll only twist your words to further her own agenda," Amala interjected.
"Why don't you let them make that decision for themselves? Or are they still just a pawn for you and the Council?"
Garrus stepped closer to the woman. He was impressed when she held her ground. Decian mirrored him and laid a hand on his shoulder. He hoped that there had been no new advancements in the translator software or else everyone would be able to hear the anger in Garrus's subtones and his own answering plea to let him handle this. Garrus tilted his head to look at him, but he moved back just a fraction.
"I have complete respect for Spectre Shepard and her assessment of this situation," Decian said. The drone swung to face him when he spoke.
Khalisah's eyebrows drew together for a moment before she forced a smile onto her face. "So you can speak!"
"Yes, although I can only think you addressed my friend simply because of how he looks. What image were you looking to portray us as? Never mind, I don't want to know," Decian said with a shake of his head.
Amala took that as her cue and she pushed past the woman. The reporter staggered a bit as Amala's shoulder bumped her, maybe a little harder than was exactly necessary. A small smile crossed her face as the other human shouted out questions at their retreating backs.
Nihlus sat at a small desk, his walking stick leaning against the wall within easy reach of it. Saren had already returned to duty as he still had a few hours left for his shift. Taking him at his word about needing him to answer the Primarch's request for reports, Nihlus decided to begin searching for all the news feeds he could find. It was often tedious, but he was beginning to learn a great deal about the galaxy as a whole. He nearly skipped over the Westerlund news channel, but then the title of the lead story caught his attention. 'Armed turians spotted on the Citadel!'
"Spirits," he groaned. "What are those two up to already?"
He clicked the link and watched as their reporter confronted Shepard, Vakarian and Chellick. He couldn't decide if the woman was suicidal or enjoyed living dangerously as even he could tell that Shepard was close to violence. It was apparent there had been previous encounters between these two. Then she turned her camera on Vakarian, the markings on his face and the broken fringe giving him a dangerous aura. All in all, he looked like a hardened soldier. He winced at the rise of anger in his sub-tones, but then Chellick moved into the screen and dealt with the human. Nihlus replayed the little clip, ignoring the humans as he listened intently to the two turians. After a few listens he decided that Chellick had dealt with it as best as could be expected. He typed up a message to the Primarch and attached the video clip to his report as well.
General Arterius has tasked me with the news gathering reports you have requested. I know Shepard left with the others not long ago, so I was a little amazed that they had already made some news sites.
I sent you this clip for several reasons. 1) It's important that we get some of our own representatives out among the rest of the galaxy and make sure that they are comfortable speaking to aliens. Chellick handled this as well as could be. 2) After viewing several other 'stories' on this news site, I think I can safely say that Shepard is correct in her assessment. Perhaps she might know of some non-biased reporters that we could begin our own media campaign with as the asari have already done.
Nihlus Kryik, assistant to General Arterius
He found other mentions of the arrival of turians onto the space station, but nothing quite as antagonistic as that one site had been. He was so caught up in his searches, and some of the things he had come across he wished he had never seen, that he almost missed Saren's return. Saren's mandibles flicked out at Nihlus's sudden movement.
"Find something engrossing?"
"There is so much information out there, it's amazing! However, I did find something that would almost be funny if it nearly hadn't been an incident."
Nihlus's fingers typed up the message with the clip that he had sent earlier and showed it to Saren. His eyes flickered over the message and then he nodded for Nihlus to play the video. His eyes narrowed and then widened at the near confrontation between the two humans and then the human and Vakarian.
Saren snorted. "That human is a fool. Are there any more negative reports about them out there?"
"So far no, but there is a time lag between the Citadel news and when we get it here. That one site is the only one that painted their arrival in such a disturbing manner. My guess is the less aggressive reporters are trying to be friendlier about getting an interview with them."
"I hope the Primarch takes your advice."
"Me too. The asari have been painting the whole war as a tragic misunderstanding and the Primarch needs to get representatives for us out there minimizing the damage they are currently doing to our standing within the galaxy."
"Agreed. Do you want to ride down to the mess or attempt to walk it?"
"If you don't mind going slow, I think I can make it to a table at least. If you don't mind going through the line and bringing a tray to me."
From a distance, it looked like two individuals having a leisurely walk and chat; the only giveaway was the stilted gait of the one. Turians flowed around them, but never seemed to breach the little bubble of isolation around the couple.
~Thanks to Mordinette for beta'ing this for me, thank you! And another to the readers, hope you are enjoying it!~