They pounded through the corridors, the warm bronze giving way to the cooler silver and blue. Garrus found himself feeling rather out of breath at the pace the imperials set. At the head of the pack barreled Skald Shepard.
Her helmet was back on and the chilling glare of the face mask drove bystanders out of her way better than any law enforcement siren.
“So let me see if I have this straight” Garrus panted over the com as he skidded around a corner behind the team Krogan. “Saren has made a pact with a demon god from your pantheon because he hates you?” he demanded, ducking the sparks kicked up from the female legionnaire as she dug her massive tower shield into the floor to swing herself around without losing speed.
“Pretty much” the quarian replied, her long legs easily loping alongside him.
“Dagon is the prince of change and destruction. He has a bit of a grudge against mundus in general and Nirn in particular, especially after Martin Septim drop kicked him back to oblivion” the white armoured imperial added and her black partner let out a barking laugh.
“That’s an understatement, we have been putting down his cultists since the Queens came to power. Every few centuries they get uppity and combine with other cults in an attempt to overthrow everything, but we don’t take prisoners when it comes to them.” She declared, pride evident in her voice.
Garrus’ mind churned with this revelation, apparently the empire wasn’t as perfect as their propaganda made it sound, but at the same time it made sense. The Nirnian’s would not pay to maintain such a large standing army and navy if they didn’t have to guard against something. They burst out onto the presidium, but instead of making for the embassy like Garrus had thought, they were aiming for the council tower.
“Um… Shepard?” the quarian asked uncertainly. “Voice Galayel just told me to meet her there” Shepard replied, scattering Asari before her as she drove through the crowd. “Oh… ok” the quarian nodded, leaping over a bench that was in her way. Garrus dodged around the other, baffled at the fact that the Imperials simply vaulted over the obstacles in their way without breaking stride, even the Krogan displayed remarkable athleticism as he gracefully leapt over a map console.
They skidded to a halt at the base of the precidium tower, starteling the two guards who jumped and reached for their guns reflexively. “Imperial Skald, I am expected” Shepard barked at them. “um.. ah.. yes, yes go on up” the turian on the left agreed, hastily summoning the elevator. They piled in when it arrived and suddenly Garrus found himself pressed up against the wall by the female Liegonair’s tower shield.
The usual music began playing causing more than one imperial to groan loudly. Almost the instant the doors closed, the Quarian held up her left hand and began to fiddle with her palm comp. There was a sparking sound and the music was replaced but something more orchestral with deep chanting. “The Skyrim suite? Really?” Shepard remarked and the quarian threw her hands to her hips.
“It’s a classic, Shepard” she declared, defending her choice.
“I’m more preferential to the summerset concertos myself” the white armoured female chimed in while the black armoured one snorted. “Give me Orismer drums any day” she declared fiercely and a slight snicker came from the legionnaire.
“If you don’t mind the gunting and screaming, sure” she retorted with a shrug.
The black one turned on her “oh yeah? Then what do you like?” she paused tilting her head “Snow elf madrigals?” she mocked.
The legionnaire’s glare could be felt through her helmet “for your information I like cyrodillic rock” she replied frostily, crossing her arms and cocking her hip in a move that shoved her shield into Garrus. The Krogan chuckled at the faint gurgling sound the squashed turian made.
“Krogan scream is better” he declared and the others groaned.
“Grunt, the only people who like Krogan scream are Krogans and particularly tone deaf Nords” Shepard replied and the now named Grunt shrugged. “You just don’t appreciate the art, it takes real talent to make those sounds” he declared, thrusting out his chest in pride.
Garrus’ armour made a faint scraping sound as the posturing Krogan shoved him further into the wall.
“Personally I would take talentless idiots strumming on an acoustic lute and whining about how their most recent lover has abandoned them and how cruel Mara truly is over the sound of Krogans screeching about how Kalros is coming for us all” Shepard informed her crew who all turned to look at her with expressions of horror that Garrus could see through their opaque helmets.
“Wait… are you saying that you like Taylor Swift-Steam?” The Quarian asked, aghast. Shepard threw her hands up in placation. “Oh gods no… just saying that compared to Krogan scream, a whiny Breton from three hundred years ago sounds downright good” she defended. Slowly the tension faded and Garrus hastily sucked in air as the legionnaires gave him room. “That being said, I am partial to Altmerian opera” Shepard finished only for the Quarian to face palm.
“What are you Shepard? Two hundred?” the black armoured female demanded in derision. Shepard shrugged.
“No Jack, I am sixty seven” she answered smugly, before turning to Garrus, who froze under the chilling gaze of her helmet. “what about you Garrus? What kind of music do you prefer?” she wondered. Garrus, stuttered under the combined stares of the lift but was saved from having to answer by the elevator doors opening.
“Ok, playtimes over kids, we can interrogate him later. For now, time to scare some Citadelers” Shepard sighed, shaking her head and throwing back her shoulders before stalking fearsomely out of the elevator.
“Right behind you commander” The female Legionnaire replied, picking up her tower shield that probably weighed more than Garrus in full armour and settling it like it was nothing. Garrus followed last as they marched, now at a much more reasonable pace, towards the speaking platform where Voice Galeyal and Govenor Udina stood waiting for them.
Tevos resisted the urge to rub her eyes in a vain attempt to ease her migraine, mostly because that would smear the makeup she was using to hide the dark circles that had developed under her eyes. The Nirnians were on lockdown and the general populous was antsy. C-sec had broken up three almost riots in the past five hours and the demands for an audience from the embassy were becoming more insistant.
Now the Voice and bronze Quarter Governor stood before her, dressed in armour, with helmets tucked under their arms and glares on their faces, hostility pouring from them in waves. Before she could ask them the reason for the meeting, the sound of heavy boots reached her ears. She looked toward the door and saw the large armoured form that she recognized as a Skald, entered the room.
Behind them marched two lithe armoured females, one in white and the other in black with a black leather jacket, a purple and black armoured Quarian female, two legionnaires, one, female and carrying a large tower shield, the other a Krogan, most likely male with the handle of a large greatsword poking over his shoulder and the now notorious crest blade on his helmet bearing a large nick on it’s razor sharp profile.
Unusually, at the rear of the procession came a turian in C-sec armour that looked like it had undergone a Nirnian repair job as the left arm was patched with the classic gold metal that denoted Nirnian armours.
“Council” the Skald rumbled, the voice modulator causing a gravely roar to echo through the chamber. “Your representative Saren has attacked our people and has been found to be an acting champion of Mehrunes Dagon, Daedric prince of change and destruction. He intends to rip open Mundus and bring about the next crisis. I have been declared the hero of this conflict, and come with evidence of his betrayal. You will permit me to hunt down this cultist scum through your space and grant me the authority to perform my sacred duty.” The Skald declared, setting the bystanders muttering in fear and indignation.
“Now see here you imperial…” Sparatus began only to be silenced when the quarian held up her hand. Instantly her palm comp connected to the council terminal and a recording of Saren’s voice began to echo loudly throughout the space
“Edenus Primus was a Victory. Now we just need Benezia’s brat. The Lord says she has found a fragment of the breaching runes. With those we will be another step forward to finding the conduit, and then, but a small step from the return of our Lord. The Queens and their precious empire will burn, as will the traitors who have forgotten what they are”
Tevos felt all blood drain from her face as what was said permeated through her brain. “Benezia’s brat?” she whispered, her mind flashing to the painfully young asari she had met at the embassy festival all those years ago.
“Evidence appears legitimate, no tampering found, no Nirnian markers to denote fabrication. Suggest that we permit the imperials to hunt down Saren, even if only to appease them” Valern mumbled so only his fellow councillors could hear.
“We can’t just let them waltz through our territory as they please!” Sparatus rounded on the Salarian, fury building in his eyes.
“They will not, I theorise that Saren will move to the terminus, less oversight, and we cannot chase him. Nirnians want blood, allow them to take Saren and perhaps they will be satisfied” Valren reasoned.
“They will never be satisfied, already they demand that we comply, they hold their strength over us and demand we submit to them. For all we know they destroyed their own colony to start a war of conquest” Sparatus shot back, his talons clenching “you saw what they did to the Batarians! Whole planets burned by their advance, populations tortured by their spirits damned sorceries! If we let them go after Saren, then we may as well just roll out a blue carpet and invite them to take the Citadel itself” he snarled and Tevos closed her eyes in weariness.
It should never have come to this, the whole exercise had been meant to reduce tensions, to foster cooperation and open the way to peaceful coexistence, rather than this tense, almost peace that lead to brawls in the streets between factions. But in the end there was only one solution, Tevos was not stupid, she could feel the way the wind was blowing, to use a bosmer phrase. She opened her eyes and fixed her arguing coworkers with a steely gaze. “we have no choice” she told them coldly.
They stopped their argument and both turned to stare at her in confusion. “Tevos?” Sparatus wondered, never having seen such stern command in the Asari’s eyes.
“We don’t have the strength to defy them, and if what they are saying is true, then we will need their expertise when it comes to this threat.” She paused, sweeping them both with a glare “I know that neither of you like them, hell, there are days that I don’t like them. But there is one thing I know, and that is that they have magic, the deal with gods and demons as easily as we deal between each other. They have clawed their way through not one, not two but four extinction events and come out as a galactic power. If they say that Saren is consorting with powers beyond our understanding, then I am inclined to believe them. I may not like it, and it may be opening the door to invasion from them in later years, but let me ask you this” she paused, turning her head to look down at the Skald, who stared up at her, the cold blue eyes of their helmet like staring into a back lit glacier. She turned back to her counterparts “If we refuse they will do it anyway, and it is better to have the experts fighting eldritch abominations then amateurs, and in this fight I believe us to be amateurs” she told them with finality. “My vote is let them” she declared, praying she had not just damned her people.
“My vote is yes” Valern agreed. Sparatus glared at them, his mandibles clenching in wordless fury before he sighed and bowed his head. “I disagree with this, but I see that neither of you will be swayed, very well. My vote is yes” he told them bitterly.
Tevos nodded and turned back to the Nirnians who watched her with the focus of dragons watching prey. “Very well, we grant you, and only you, Skald, the authority to act within Council space. We grant you the same level of autonomy as our specters in order to hunt down Saren. But we demand that he be returned here for trial before we extradite him to the Nirnian empire.”
The Skald nodded. “Wise decision” the rumbled before turning and inclining their head to Galeyal and Udina. Both of whom, surprisingly bowed to the skald. Not just the notorious inclination of the head that they mostly favoured, but a full, to the waist bow.
The Skald nodded and slatued them both before turning on their heel and marching back out. Tevos sighed as the elevator doors closed behind them, leaving the Voice and the governor behind. “we will continue as we are, try not to send us another declaration of war” Galeyal told her frostily and Udina grunted in agreement before they to headed for the elevators.
“I hope for all our sakes that you haven’t opened the doors to an invasion” Sparatus told her sourly before he stalked away from the podium, making for his office. Valern looked at her solemnly and nodded once before following the turian.
Alone now in the massive hall Tevos closed her eyes and bowed her head, letting her arms brace her against the podium as a sigh dragged all the strength from her body. “Goddess watch over us all” she whispered.
“I trust you’ve sent a message to your superior officer” Shepard asked Garrus wryly as she lead them at a more sedate pace toward the docking ring.
Garrus chuckled “I sent in my pre-pepared resignation, I’ve been teetering on the edge of quitting for a long time” he told them with a sigh. “though I will miss watching Pallin’s blood pressure skyrocket because of the Rose Thief’s latest antics” he mused as they pushed through a crowd Asari who stopped to stare at the imperials.
“Ha! I love reading her reports” Jack snickered as she glared at a particularly brazen maiden who was giving her a come hither stare.
“Wait the Rose Thief is real?” The Quarian demanded and the white armoured female snickered. “Absolutely, Guildswoman Rose has been gathering intel on citadel security measures for over a decade. We only started serialising her exploits after her Illium raid, the extra coin that made the guild has been a boon I’ve been told” she told them all a little smugly.
Garrus could only gape at them. “you mean that you have an agent whose exploits are being shared with the Nirnian public?” he demanded and the female legionnaire laughed. “Guildswoman Rose is a popular vid series, every week or so a new episode comes out, though I’m certain that the romance arc is fake” she added the last part with a faint grumble.
“I don’t know, I personally find the similarities between Grey and a particularly notorious Guildsman to be quite startling” Shepard mused.
“Wait.. are you talking about Guildsman Silver?” the Quarian demanded and Shepard chuckled, while the Quarian squealed. “Oh my Gods!” she exclaimed “I used to have his trading card when I was little!” she gushed, “He was one of the best in my deck, though he was always useless when Guildswoman Rose was on the field from the opposing player… now I know why!” she exclaimed excitedly.
“Of course I lost him to some Maomer who specialized in Thieves Guild cards, but I turned to more Military when the Nightingale seven expansion came out” she added before perking up with pride.
Shepard chuckled “How many from the Nightingales did you get?” she wondered as they turn into the lower levels.
“I have Fire team Crimson, Green, Silver and Gold. I even have the Survivor card…” the Quarian trailed of “Oh Ancestors… you’re that Shepard! I have your holographic card! It’s one of my favourite hero units!” she informed their chief excitedly while the Liegonairs chuckled.
“I knew you were a nerd Tali, playing Gathered Factions? Really?” The shield bearer laughed and the now identified Tali’s posture became ramrod straight. “I was the champion of the academy, I faced off in the sector competitions and was crowned winner of a tri sector league” she informed her fellows primly. “My deck was, and still is unbeatable, I have the ultra rare Divine Queen cards, and there are only seven of that pair in existence” she added, smugness loud in her voice.
“Well, I personally match your Queens with the Assembled Heroes collection, all holographic” The white one informed Tali, glancing over her shoulder at the Quarian who froze “the Assembled heroes? There is only one player who has the entire set… Wait… you are THAT Ice Queen?”
Garrus just stared at the Imperials as Tali, and the white armoured female whose name turned out to be Miranda began to argue over things that made no sense to him, deck compositions, strategies, preferred factions, cheats and so on.
“You did WHAT?” Tali demanded as they entered the docking ring, ignoring Garrus gasp of awe at the form of the Normandy, all gold and beautiful in it’s docking cradle.
“Absolutely” Miranda chuckled, “no one expects a riekling to do that, so when you pair it with an imp card you actually can do a frighteningly large amount of damage, link it with a psijjic order trap card and over charge your summoner with an eye of magnus boost. After that you simply sit back and watch the carnage” she explained and Tali rubbed her hands together. “we need to play” she declared and Miranda chuckled. “I agree” she said, before settling as the green light of the decon spell washed over them.
Unfortunately, this made Garrus’ armour spark and fizzle as well as his gun exploding like a firecracker. “Ow” Garrus muttered as the static jumped into his plates. “Oh Shit Garrus!” Jack exclaimed while Shepard slapped her helmet. “Sorry mate, Here lets get you to the Armourers. He’ll need to make you some new gear. Sorry about you gun by the way” she added sadly, looking at the chunks of plastic and metal on the floor.
“It’s fine” Garrus mumbled as he yanked his now useless helmet off. It seemed like this might be a way to set the tone for the mission.
Liara glared at the tablets that sat in front of her. The text was a baffling mix of Ayleid, Atmoran, Akaviri, Dragon and Daedric, with other more exotic and non Nirnian based text. She sighed and let her head hit her desk, well desk was a bit of a misnomer. It was a trestle table that served as her desk, table and general flat surface in her tent.
She let out a loud groan as she fought back the headache that was scratching at the back of her eyelids like a frostbite spider. With a sigh she sat up and on a whim brought out her omni-tool. She should take a break anyway, the tablet would not be going anywhere and she had been staring at it for six hours. The rest of her team was busy cataloguing the prothean ruins they had come to study, while she was set to study the tablets, being the only one on the team who knew anything about Nirnian artifacts.
She smiled as she opened the photo album of her time on Nirn. She had ended up staying eight years and even attended the Summerset University, making her so far the only Asari to study at a Nirnian University and graduating with a degree in Nirnian archeology and history. She smiled at the image of her, suited with long flowing blue and white robes draped over top with her arm wrapped around a tall altmer with deep red hair and dark amber eyes.
They were both grinning like crazy, in the background stood the massive crystal spires of the university and the green of the campus. The Altmer was her best friend, Selena Thanduin, her only friend in fact. She had a doctorate in ancient Mer and was determined to do what Liara had done and attend a Citadel university in a form of cultural exchange. Liara had recommended her to her own Alma mater, Thessia University.
Though last she had heard, Selena was on a waiting list while the University dragged its heels. The next picture was of her, Selena and a few other members of their class in a dark ruin, Dwemer, recently discovered off the coast of Morrowind, it had taken millions of septims to drain the ruins enough for them to begin the excavation.
They were all smeared in mud and silt, Liara’s face plate was streaked where she had taken a rag to it, but the rag (tucked into her belt in this photo) was as mud smeared as the rest of her. She continued flicking through the photos. Pictures of her on digs, her traveling, eating with friends, and more.
All ladened with happy memories. Her at Victory Fountain. Her being chased by a frostbite spider in Skyrim, Her at a party in summerset, and a thousand more. She sighed and put the omni-tool away, and turned her attention back to the tablet that sat, obtuse and sullen. “What are you hiding” she mumbled.
Tali patted around to her left, her three fingers scrabbling for, and finding the rune scriber/solder gun and began to rewrite and recalibrate her new armour’s functions. She had so many ideas of how to fiddle with it to improve it, though whomever had designed this armour was a genius anyway. Behind her, the armoury master Lestor Seabreeze hummed away as he fit Garrus with his new armour.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, they had a few spare turian shaped underarmours left over from Nihlus so they had been able to set sail without too many difficulties. Now all she had to listen too was this Citadeller’s exclamations of awe over the light ribbons of Meridia’s realm for about the ten thousandth time. Seriously, it was just the Coloured Rooms. It wasn’t like they were running around through Cold Harbour or the Shivering Isle. She shuddered a little on that last thought. She had been on a small scout vessel that had misjumped and landed in Cold Harbour once while on a training exercise.
No one had been killed, thank the Ancestors. But having one of the servants of the Prince of dominion pop onto the ship to direct them out again was a chilling experience. “OW!” the turian yelped and she turned, to see him cringing away from the riveting gun the armourer was using to fit the plates properly. “Hold still” Lestor growled at him, pale eyes narrowing at the Turian who froze again under the strength of the glare.
“Better” the Maomer grumbled and went back to adjusting the breastplate to the Turian’s unusual body shape. Tali snickered as she listened to Lestor grumble and gripe about weird angles, and undue stress while the Turian stood there looking awkward. The door slid open and Shepard wandered in, dressed in her uniform and underarmour, her flaming red hair up in it’s regulation crown braid. “Going well SeaBreeze? She asked and the armourer snorted.
“It’s harder than making armour for a were” he grumbled, giving a plate a particularly vigorous tug. Shepard laughed, and shook her head. “and yet the turian armourers manage, surely you won’t let that defeat you” she declared and the Turian shuffled a little nervously.
“We don’t.. have armourers” he told them a little awkwardly. Tali put down her tool and turned to gape at the Turian. “What?” she demanded and Lestor nodded looking appalled. “Who alters your armour then?” he demanded and The turian shrugged his partially paulderoned shoulders. “The manufactures are pretty good at guessing sizes, and some engineers will fiddle with the sizes, but mostly the armour is self adjusting” he told them, looking a little apologetic.
“No armourers” Lestor muttered looking incredulous, before he shook his head full of white blond braids and returned to fitting the other paulderon to the turian’s shoulder.
“Well, maybe after your done here we can introduce you to the rest of your new Prolus mates” Shepard told him, trying to smooth over the lingering awkwardness that now hovered over head. The Turian nodded cautiously and Shepard departed after a halfhearted smile.
“So, you were born in the empire?” the Turian asked her, trying to alter the silence that hung over the room like a shroud. Tali sighed and put her gun down, it was no use trying to scribe delicate rune chains whilst he was probing her with questions, one false move and she would be kissing this section of the Normandy goodbye.
“Yes” she informed him, turning and fixing a glowing silver gaze on him. The pale eyed Citadeller shuffled a little under her piercing look.
“My dad, told me a lot about you guys, and I used to work in the bronze quarter a lot” he offered and Tali raised an elegant, dark brow at him, waiting for him to get to the point. He shuffled a little again under her gaze before she giggled at him, he was so hilariously awkward.
“What do you want to know?” she asked him with a smile.
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