• Published 11th Aug 2014
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Mass Effect: Shattered Record, Broken Wings - Meluch

Octavia has become a successful musician on the Citadel, but she is plagued by the loss of her wife twelve years ago. When Citadel Security busts a smuggling ring, Octavia's life is thrown into disarray when they find Vinyl Scratch among the slaves

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Chapter Three - Just the Beginning [Edited]

Just the Beginning

C-Sec Headquarters, Observation Room

December 24, 2182 CE

Arms crossed over his chest, Vitus frowned at the headache that had been plaguing him for the past four hours. Standing in the center of the room, he had a clear view of every holoscreen on the walls. Technicians and analysts sat at the desks lining the walls of the room keeping a constant flow of information moving across the screens.

The briefing he had given to Pallin had gone about as well as he could have expected. Equestria was a touchy subject for pretty much all of the Citadel, and that was without even mentioning the Turians. To come face to face against beings who could move celestial objects with nothing but their minds had shaken the Hierarchy’s superiority, and they were still busy saving face. Anytime that the Alicorns could possibly end up being involved in a matter, there were meetings, and arguments, and entire nations trembling.

The screens cycled through what information the analysts could dig up on the Equestrians in the C-Sec infirmary. Live video feeds were being piped in from the cameras in the operating rooms.

Vitus didn’t bother turning to look as the door slid open behind him, his attention elsewhere.

“Captain Vitus,” Doctor Telira said from behind him, her voice soft and worn down. He glanced over at her from the corner of his eye, and he saw her exhaustion in the slump of her shoulders and the bags under her eyes.

“Doctor,” he simply responded.

Her face grim, Telira looked around at the screens and with a deep sigh, she rubbed at her eyes. As an Asari, she had been practicing her trade for nearly two-hundred years. She had been there since he had first joined, and he had a feeling that she would still be there long after he was gone. He felt reassured at that. As long as she was around, there would always be a good guy in the offices. C-Sec was lucky to have her on their payroll. Vitus had never seen her look so tired as she did right now, and that was certainly saying something.

“This is a mess,” Telira murmured, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“That’s an understatement,” Vitus said as he turned to face her. His mandibles flexed in agitation and he could feel his fringe start to itch. He resisted the urge to scratch it, instead crossing his arms over his chest, tapping his fingers against his bicep. “Pallin wants me to put together a briefing for the Equestrian Embassy. Anything you can give me would be helpful.”

Telira fell still for a moment, frowning as she let her thoughts turn over in her head. She shifted her feet uncomfortably before she started nodding. “Yes. Of course.”

Opening her omni-tool, she sent a data-pack to Vitus. His own omni-tool dinged at the delivery.

“That’s everything we’ve gathered so far.” Telira’s shoulders slumped as she let the tiredness wash over her. She had been working from the moment that the first ambulance had arrived. ”We’re transferring them to Huerta Memorial in a few hours. They’re better equipped to deal with them.”

Looking over the viewscreens lining the room, Vitus studied the Equestrians that were being projected. There wasn’t a single one of them who wasn’t undergoing some type of surgery. “What can you tell me about them?” Vitus asked, subdued. They were going to be a problem. As good as it was that they were rescued, the political ramifications that their very existence presented was going to cause headaches for everyone for what could be years.

Telira let her gaze linger on every face, seeing through the tubes and wires to the souls underneath. She had done as much research as she possibly could, making full use of C-Sec’s state of the art super-computers. She had crunched through the databases of entire planets and still hadn’t made anywhere near as much progress as she had hoped for. Taking a deep breath, she walked up to the screens on the left. The Equestrians there were the smallest of the bunch, children by the looks them Vitus could only guess.

“These three are the youngest,” Telira gestured at them, her violet eyes sympathetic. Slavery was a horrible institution, but no matter how hard they tried it always seemed to survive on the fringes of reality. ”From what we can tell, they were born into slavery. The DNA tests show that only one of them has a parent present.” She pointed towards the light blue filly before pointing to her apparent father, a dark indigo stallion.

“These weren’t the only Equestrians taken.” Vitus frowned at that conclusion. If there were still more out there, things were going to get uncomfortable very quickly. The Princess Emperor was not going to stand for it. He was glad he would only be subjected to the trickle down from his bosses, and that he wouldn’t have to deal with her himself.

“Yes,” was Telira’s simple confirmation.

“What else?”

Striding over to the screens displaying the Griffons, Telira chewed on her lip. She pointed at the worst looking of the four, half her beak missing.

“The Griffins seem to have the worst of it. I can only guess it’s because of their more aggressive nature. They had to be... broken to be useful.” Telira practically spit out the word, her brow furrowed in anger. “Their wings have been amputated down to the second joint. Whoever did this to them wanted to make sure they never fly again. It happened long ago, and wounds are healed over, but it was a messy procedure, probably preformed all at the same time by the same person. It looks like they had a butcher knife to them.

“Someone did this to keep them as pets. It’s the only explanation I can think of.” She shuddered, not liking where the thoughts were taking her.

“What?” Vitus exclaimed in disbelief. “Pets?”

“The scars certainly seem to indicate that,” she said nodding, pursing her lips. She reached up to her neck, rubbing it unconsciously, the aches getting to her. “The feathers around their necks have been worn away, and all of them have marks that are consistent with a heavy iron collar. My best guess is that they were kept by a crime lord as a status symbol.”

“All of the Griffins have an addiction to hallex, probably to keep them chained to their master. It’s going to be hell getting them clean.” Crossing her arms uncomfortably over her chest, Telira took a shuddering breath.

Hallex was a terrifying drug, and C-Sec had spent more than its fair share of time trying to get it off of the Citadel. It was deceptive, giving its user a sense of euphoria and heightened senses, but that never lasted. While they were floating on cloud-nine, Hallex worked its dark purpose to rip the user down piece by piece. It always started off small, just spots in the eyes, but the longer it went on, the worse it got. Blindness, paralysis, Alzheimers, and it only got worse from there. The major symptoms could take decades to emerge, but they always did reveal themselves at the end.

“That is unfortunate.” Vitus shook his head. He had seen worse, but not by much, and any type of addiction was bad enough on its own. Having to help mutilated slaves break free... some people never seemed to get anything but bad luck. “You certainly know a lot about them.”

Smiling sadly, Telira turned to face Vitus. “It’s not everyday that new race joins the Citadel, much less nine races that evolved simultaneously on one planet. I find them... fascinating.”

Shaking her head, Telira tried her best to gather her thoughts back together. Focussing back on the present, she pointed at the five mares, grimacing. “The five females have been used sexually numerous times.”

Vitus sighed. The rest of the room froze for just a second, the technicians and analysts sympathizing with the freed slaves. Telira shook her head, lips pursed.

Turning back around, she pointed at a small unicorn mare with a dirty white coat and a tangled and filthy blue mane. Doctors were swarming around her, struggling to keep her alive. “This one is the worst of the bunch. An ambulance is on the way and the emergency room is being prepped. She’s the one we’re worried about. The rest are relatively low risk.”

“What about the males?” Vitus asked.

“They’ve been lobotomized,” Telira simply said. “They were probably used for breeding.”

Growling, Vitus felt his fists clench involuntarily. “So the little one might as well be fatherless?”

“Yes.” Telira looked down at the floor, clasping her hands behind her back. “They’ve all had multiple owners. They all have more than one brand, a sort of replacement cutie mark.”

“A what?” Vitus asked. He wondered if his translator had malfunctioned, because he was sure he had never heard such a cute sounding name before, even in a children’s show. “Did you say… Cutie Mark?”

“Yes.” Telira nodded. “It’s a mark that all the ponies of Equestria… magically earn around their fifth to eighth year of life. It’s said that the mark represents what they are destined to do with their life, and it’s a matter of a lot of pride and joy to receive one. To brand them away… it’s one of the worst things that anyone could do to a pony.”

Vitus felt his first spark of hope. Something he could work with!

He turned to face the rest of the room. “I want those brands traced! Track down who they belong to. Use whatever resource you have too!”

The analysts and technicians started typing rapidly at their workstations. Everything about this was wrong, and they had promised themselves they’d work twice as hard to bring those responsible for justice.

* * *

Out of all of the cities across of Equestria, Canterlot had changed the most in the thirty years since Chelsea Hall had first made contact. The capitol of the Equestrian Empire, it was the shining jewel of the planet and the first to truly embrace the massive changes that the technology boom had brought. A marvel of engineering and style, towering spires of glass and steel were interspersed gracefully between buildings that had stood for a thousand years, from before the cracking of the Equestrian Sphere.

The Royal Castle was the most impressive out of all of the buildings in Canterlot. When you were a being that counted millenial birthdays, change and new experiences were always welcome. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna had whole heartedly embraced the new world, and their Castle reflected that. The towers reflected the spiraling grace of the Asari, the walls and battlements the strength and resolve of the Turians, and the practicality of humanity was most evident in the Royal sisters private bedrooms. They made some of the most comfortable beds in existence after all.

That was where Princess Celestia was at the moment, fast asleep under the imported Egyptian cotton covers. As the Princess Empress of Equestria, she ruled over an entire planet, while also ruling as one of the Diarch’s of the pony nation of Equestria. There were certainly times that she wished she could go back in time to ensure that the planet was named anything but “Equestria”. It led to too much confusion and consternation from the other races.

That being said, it was only in her room that she found she was truly able to relax. She could take off her golden regalia and stand as free as any of her subjects. As an Alicorn, she didn’t actually need to sleep, but there was nothing else that was quite so relaxing. Without her sister, it would have been imposible to take such time to herself.

A simple knock at the door broke the silence, though Celestia didn’t stir. The door opened on silent hinges and Luna stepped in, her mane flowing ethereally in the celestial winds. Smaller than her older sister, Luna was still bigger than the average pony. Her mane reflected the night sky and her inky black cutie mark proudly proclaimed her dominion over the night and the moon. With a horn as long and sharp as her sister’s, her midnight blue coat helped her move through her precious night as stealthily as her role sometimes demanded.

“Sister,” Luna spoke, her voice grave.

With a groan, Celestia rolled over in her bed.

“Sister, you must awake,” Luna spoke louder. “There is dire news that you must attend to.”

Rolling back over to face Luna, Celestia cracked open a single magenta eye, only half awake and completely annoyed. “—How dire?” Her normally smooth voice cracked unflatteringly.

“You should read it for yourself, sister.” Luna levitated a datapad over for her sister to take.

Taking it in her magic, Celestia blinked a few times, trying to clear the sleep from her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she started to read, doing her best to comprehend the words written before her.

Her tiredness disappeared instantly and Celestia stood, leaving the comfort of her bed as the full weight of the news hit her. She was a remarkable sight with brilliant white coat and an ethereal mane reflecting a glistening aurora. Her wings flittered in agitation as her deadly sharp horn glistened in the night. “I’ve made a terrible mistake!”

“What do you speak of sister?” Luna raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“I proclaimed these ponies dead after... after the attack.” Memories washed over Celestia, regret playing over her face. “To learn that they are alive...”

Donning her crown and royal collar, Celestia was already making plans. Furious, the power of her sun raged behind her eyes. “I cannot allow this to stand. This must be taken care of personally.” Though her voice wasn’t raised, it still carried the depth of her anger with it.

“We agree,” Luna nodded. “You should go, sister. We are still uncomfortable in the presence of... aliens.”

“Very well,” Celestia set the datapad down on her desk. “You can handle the sun in my absence, Luna?”

Luna found herself unsure for a moment before hardening her gaze and giving a firm nod. “We can.”

* * *

At only nineteen years of age, Twilight Sparkle had learned more in her short years than most ever learned in their entire lifetime. As the personal student of Princess Celestia, she had access to the largest libraries, the brightest professor’s, and even more enticing was that she unrestricted access to ask any question to the two oldest beings in the galaxy. Taking all of this into account, it was easy to understand why she already held two PhDs and was hard at work on her third.

Living in the Royal library certainly helped, and the fact that said library stood above the throne room allowed Celestia (and occasionally Luna) the quickest access for lessons.

A unicorn, Twilight loved to delve into the deep mysteries of magic, uncovering secrets of the craft that even the Alicorn sisters had forgotten. That was what she was doing up so late even as the rest of Canterlot slumbered. Her nose buried deep in an ancient dusty tome, she occasionally had to blow her dark blue mane from her eyes, the pink and purple stripes distracting her as they waved across her vision.

The lights dim, the only movement in the room came from Twilight’s occasional page turning. She savored these moments when it was just her and endless pages of knowledge.

A loud knock at the door broke the silence, startling Twilight. All four legs flailing, she fell off her sitting pillow and onto the floor. “Come in!” She called out, out of breath, a brilliant bush on her muzzle.

The door opened, and Twilight’s eyes widened as she saw Celestia step inside. Scrambling to her feet, Twilight gave a sheepish smile. “Princess! You’re still awake!”

Even as tired as she looked, Celestia still managed to give Twilight an amused smile. “Yes, I am.” She glanced away, her smile turning to a frown. “I’ve come to see if you would like to accompany me to the Citadel.”

“The Citadel? What for?” Her face scrunching up in confusion, Twilight stared up at her teacher.

“A grave matter has arisen that I need to see too personally,” Celestia spoke calmly and evenly through her tiredness. “Luna agrees with me, and will be taking care of the sun while I am gone.”

Twilight only had to think it over in her head for a moment, her excitement already growing. She had traveled to all four corners of Equestria with the Princesses on their ambassadorial trips, and she had even met aliens, but she had never been off planet before. She wanted to squeal and bounce around the room, but restrained herself in front of Celestia. “I would love too, Princess!”

Her excitement quickly took a nose dive as she remembered one very important matter. “But what about Spike?”

Both Twilight and Celestia turned to look over at the small bed in the far corner of the massive library. Spike lay fast asleep under his covers, completely unaware of the conversation about him. A purple and green dragon, it was hatching him from the fossilized dragon egg at the entrance exam to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns that had led to Twilight to becoming Princess Celestia’s personal student. The five-year-old filly had accomplished the impossible and made her mark in history forever.

“Luna has offered to keep watch over him. She’ll wake him up tomorrow morning and explain where you are.” As Spike started to snore, both Twilight and Celestia smiled fondly at him.

Twilight only had to think about it for a moment longer before nodding excitedly. “Yes!” She instantly covered her mouth with her hooves, sheepishly looking at Spike and hoping he wouldn’t wake from her shout.

Sheepish, Twilight crossed over to join Celestia on the tips of her hooves.

Careful not to wake Spike, Celestia led Twilight from the library, the much younger mare skipping excitedly after her mentor and out into the hallway. She was just barely able to keep up with the Alicorn’s much longer stride.

They walked in silence for several moments before Twilight’s curiosity overcame her and she couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“What is so important that you have to go the Citadel?” She asked, her tail flicking in curiosity. As the pony who controlled the suns orbit around Equestria, anything that could pull Celestia away from her throne had to be important. Twilight was eager to know what it could be.

The Princess was silent for a long moment before she answered. They continued down the hallway before she answered. “Do you remember the Batarian attack on Ponyville?”

Twilight froze midstep, her pupils growing small as a shiver of fear passed down her spine. “Y-yes...”

A sad smile on her muzzle, Celestia stopped, sitting down next to Twilight in the hall. She wrapped a comforting wing around her student, drawing her close. “It’s alright, Twilight. You’re safe here.”

They stayed like that for several minutes, until Twilight wiggled her way out from under her teacher’s wing.

“I’m alright now, Princess,” she said with a small voice.

“Very well.” They continued onwards. Celestia had to think hard about how to phrase her next words. She didn’t want to cause Twilight anymore grief. For a moment, she had almost forgotten the terror that Twilight had also gone through all those years ago. “I believed, foolishly, that the Royal Guard acted soon enough to prevent anyone from being taken.” She shut her eyes, guilt eating away at her. “I was wrong. The Citadel captured a ship that was smuggling slaves. There are Equestrians among their number.”

Twilight froze, her mouth open in shock. She didn’t have any clue to how to take the news. “Princess...”

Ponies at the heart of their instincts were herbivores, herd animals. It was only thanks to Celestia and Luna’s interference that the ponies hadn’t been driven to extinction as they evolved alongisde the much harder, carnivorous Griffins or more the more confrontational Minotaurs.

In the galaxy, most other races wiped out all competition, quickly growing into societies that prized individualism over all else.

Twilight could barely wrap her mind around the idea that someone would want to enslave someone else.

“I have failed, my little pony.” Celestia stopped again, looking down at Twilight. “I cannot allow that to ever happen again.”

“You haven’t failed anypony, Princess.” Stepping forward, Twilight nuzzled comfortingly up against her teacher. She smiled up at Celestia.

“You are kind, Twilight.” Celestia nuzzled her back, before letting out a sad sigh. “But I cannot accept that.”

The two continued on in silence down the hall. Luna’s moon lit the stained glass windows on either side of the hall, creating a kaleidoscope of dark light.

Twilight had never felt so unsettled before in her life.

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