• 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 Four - Hurried Meetings [Edited]

Hurried Meetings

Tilican Tower, Bachjret Ward, Citadel

December 25, 2182 CE

Octavia woke slowly, letting her consciousness return to her naturally as she looked blearily out her shaded window.

“Open blinds,” she croaked out, luxuriating in the soft warmth of her bed. The shades rose silently and it took her several minutes until she was able to focus on the ships moving through the flight paths.

The violet light of the Serpent Nebula trickled into the room. Her night had passed slowly, and Octavia had only managed to get several hours of sleep. Thoughts of Vinyl had plagued her, regrets that she could never fix making her sob into her pillow.

Groaning, Octavia slid out from under her covers. Landing on all four hooves, she staggered to her bathroom, the door sliding open for her as it sensed her approach.

Looking into her mirror, Octavia winced at the sight. Her mulberry eyes were bloodshot and dark circles sat under them. The cider certainly hadn’t helped last night. Shaking her head ruefully, Octavia started her shower. She could fix everything, hide how awful she really looked. She had a lot of practice with that after all.

After her shower, and the thirty minutes it took to make herself look presentable, Octavia stepped into her kitchen. She quickly threw together a simple daisy salad, using fresh picked daisies from her small garden. That was one of the best features of her apartment. Under her kitchen island, it allowed her always have fresh vegetables on hand without paying the exorbitant prices on imports.

She ate slowly, basking in the silence, gathering herself together for the day ahead. Working for the Consort helped keep her thoughts from the darker places of her mind.

Walking through the Presidium was always an experience for Octavia. The political heart of the Citadel, the Presidium Ring was home to some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Politicians, bankers, movers and shakers, celebrities, and artists all spent the majority of their time there. Octavia could best describe it as an exclusive club that kept a careful watch on its guest list.

Her cello firmly balanced on her back, she walked with a false confidence past embassies and high class restaurants. Despite her own success, Octavia was at her heart a small town mare. Ponyville, back on Equestria was her true home, but that planet held far too many bad memories. Never mind the fact that she had worked for Sha’ira for the past five years, Octavia still felt dishonest whenever stepped hoof on the Presidium.

Octavia got looks from nearly everyone as she made her way to the Consort’s chambers. It was something that had surprised her when she first moved to the Citadel. It had taken a mental breakdown in Ryuusei’s sushi bar and a kind Turian waiter to explain that Equestrians were rarely seen outside of Equestria itself. She just tried her best to ignore the stress and continue on with her life.

The Asari tended to stare after her with varying degrees of lust and intrigue, especially from the maidens. Octavia had asked Sha’ira about it once and learned that the Asari viewed attraction differently from all of the other races. She was uneasy with interspecies romance, and tried her best to avoid any Asari who stared too long after her.

Octavia couldn’t quite figure out the Turians. They tended to stare after her with a mixture of respect and caution. They weren’t quite sure how to react to being beaten back by Humanity and Equestria during the Relay 314 incident.

Most Salarians just ignored her.

It was the humans who were the most comforting. They always met her with a smile and wave, which she was always quick to return. There was an ease there that she just didn’t feel with the other races.

Stepping into the entrance of the Consort’s chambers, Octavia gave a friendly nod to Nelyna, the Asari receptionist. She had gotten to know her over the first five years she had been working for the Consort.

“Mrs. Melody, it’s good to see you,” Nelyna greeted, a kind smile on her face.

“And you, Nelyna,” Octavia smiled back.

Nelyna waved Octavia through. “You know where to go, Mrs. Melody.”

Stepping into the waiting room, Octavia ignored the people waiting to see Sha’ira herself. They weren’t any of her business, and she was none of theirs. If there was one rule in the Consot’s chambers, it was discretion was the better part of valor, and Octavia took that to heart.

Stepping into the Consort’s private music room, Octavia pulled her cello off her back and set it down. The room was tastefully decorated, soothing and relaxing, and most importantly, customizable to every clients individual needs. At the moment, there was only a single Turian chair set up in the center of the room.

Opening her case, Octavia ignored the picture of Vinyl. Now was not the time. She only took several minutes to tune and warm up. Sighing, she settled in to wait for the client.

Exactly at the turning of the hour, the door slid open and a tall Turian stepped in, General Septimus Oraka. He was dressed sharply in what passed for casual clothing for a Turian, with gleaming white face paint that proudly proclaimed his clan affiliation.

Octavia waited patiently for him to take his seat, silent. This was not a time for talking, and that was not what Oraka was paying for. They both knew how this worked, and they wouldn’t be breaking the unspoken rules.

Without any pageantry, Octavia raised her bow and began to play. She had no need for sheet music, having long ago learned the music by heart.

General Oraka leaned back in his chair, letting his eyes slide closed as he let out a sigh of pure pleasure. As the stress disappeared from his frame, Octavia smiled. She lived for these moments, and they kept her going when her thoughts turned darker.

Closing her eyes, Octavia let her mind drift, and simply played.

The hour finished and Octavia lowered her bow. Silently, General Oraka stood and walked out of the room, a spring in his step.

Octavia packed her cello away and placed it on her back before she left the room herself.

Nelyna smiled down at her as she walked past. “Mrs. Melody, the credits have already been transferred to your account.”

“Thank you, Nelyna,” Octavia said over her shoulder, heading back home. Back to her memories, and the sadness that surrounded them.

* * *

He might not have had the most glamorous of jobs, but Fidelis never gave anything less than his complete devotion. It paid the rent, and he had come to be friends with the majority of the residents of Tilican Tower.

That professionalism was what allowed him to keep his face still as an aircar pulled to a stop and the blond maned ambassador of Equestria stepped out. Fidelis liked to keep abreast of all of the current politicians on the Citadel, and Ambassador Blueblood was definitely up there. Two Equestrian Royal Guards stepped out after the Ambassador, quickly flanking him. Fidelis quietly noted the guard’s professionalism as they covered Blueblood.

Movement from the aircar caught Fidelis’ attention and he shifted his gaze to seen an Asari step out. Amusement bubbled up as he realized that she was obviously wearing a human made suit, not unheard of, but a bit of a rarity.

The group of four walked up to him, Blueblood leading. He nodded respectfully to Fidelis before he spoke. “I need to speak with a Miss Octavia Melody.”

“Is she expecting you?” Fidelis had respect for the Ambassador, but his loyalty was to the residents of the tower. He was paid to keep people out, no matter who they might be, and he was more than willing to do that.

“No,” Blueblood shook his head, unapologetic. “This is rather short notice. I need to speak with her before the news breaks.”

“What news,” Fidelis asked. Aside from keeping people out, the other part of his job involved knowing when to let someone in. Discretion was the name of the game.

“It involves her wife,” Blueblood said patiently. “Vinyl Scratch.”

“I’m afraid that you’re going to have to come back with an appointment.” It seemed that today he would be turning away the Ambassador of Equestria. “Mrs. Vinyl Scratch is deceased.”

Blueblood shook his head no. “That’s what Mrs. Melody believes, yes. It’s what we are here to discuss with her.”

Or maybe he would be letting them through.

“I see,” was all Fidelis found he could say.

* * *

Over the years she had spent on the Citadel, Octavia had noticed that she had come to spend the majority of her time in her practice room. She didn’t have what anyone would call an active social life by any stretch of the imagination and would practice her cello for hours on end. That was a large reason why she was one of the top paid artists on the Citadel. It helped to calm her, and she found that the act of playing let her say musically what she just couldn’t say aloud. She could lose herself in her music, let her mind fall silent and experience peace.

Even as she drifted in inner peace, Octavia could feel her mind whirling, improvising as she went. The notes she played reflected the beauty of Thessia’s waves, the stark majesty of Palaven, the gentle kindness of Equestria.

The doorbell broke her peace and Octavia snapped back to reality. Propping her cello up on its stand, Octavia set her bow down on the small table next to it. The doorbell rang again, and she trotted out of her practice room.

Turning on the intercom, she looked out into the hallway through the closed circuit camera. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was that was waiting outside her door. She scrambled to open it, hoping to look as presentable as possible, confusion rushing through her.

“Ambassador Blueblood,” Octavia cried, straightening her mane with her hoof. “What can I do for you?”

The Ambassador gave Octavia a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, giving a short bow to the grey mare. “May we come in, Miss Melody? There are things that we need to discuss, and I’m afraid that time is of the essence.”

For the first time, Octavia noticed the others that were standing behind Blueblood. The royal guards were just behind him, and behind them was a slim Asari, a matron if Octavia had to guess. She raised an eyebrow when she realized that the Asari was wearing a well-tailored suit, of human design if she was not mistaken.

“Miss Melody?” Blueblood spoke again, a gentle tone to his voice.

Octavia snapped back to reality from her thoughts, stepping aside and gesturing for them to enter with a finely trimmed hoof. “Please. Please come in.”

Blueblood once again bowed respectfully to Octavia, stepping inside. The Asari followed after him. The two guards took up positions outside her apartment.

Clearing her throat awkwardly, Octavia held her hoof out towards the main room. “We would be more comfortable in here.”

She led the two into the main room, settling into her favorite chair and smiling at the appreciative glances the two gave the space. Blueblood seemed most taken by the massive windows and the gorgeous view that they offered. A small cough from the Asari drew him back to the matters at hand.

“Miss Melody,” Blueblood calmly spoke. “Please forgive my rudeness. This is Elyra Vylia, and she specializes in matters such as this,” gesturing politely to the Asari, Elyra.

Octavia nodded to Elyra as the two politely took seats on one of her slim, fashionable couches. She had purchased them purely for guest use, preferring her favorite chair to the uncomfortable lines of the factory made couches.

“Can I ask what brings you to my house, Ambassador?” Octavia asked, tilting her head inquisitively, her ears still, facing the two.

Blueblood opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again a moment later. He shifted uncomfortably on the couch, glancing up at Elyra. She nodded at him and Blueblood sighed. He opened his mouth to speak again.

“On the flight over, I tried to figure out how I would segue into what brought us here today” Blueblood spoke slowly, forming his words carefully. He ducked his head, just for a moment, shutting his eyes as he tried to concentrate. Opening them again, he continued on. “I realize now that there is no easy way to talk about this.”

Octavia stared at Elyra, wondering why a social worker, especially an Asari, was sitting on her couch. Noticing the mare’s gaze, Elyra shifted in her seat, an unreadable expression on her face.

“What are you talking about, Ambassador?” Tearing her attention away from Elyra, Octavia looked back to Blueblood.

“Do you remember the events of March 17, 2173?” Looking at Elyra once again, Blueblood ran his hoof over the fabric of the couch.

Eyes narrowing, Octavia tensed, her ears swiveling back in agitation. She managed to stop herself from grinding her teeth, taking a moment to gather her scattered emotions before speaking, her voice harsh, almost growling. “Yes, and thank you for bringing up that memory, Ambassador.”

Blueblood grimaced. He opened his mouth to speak, but Elyra cut in before he could.

“Miss Melody...”

“Mrs.” Octavia interrupted.

“Mrs. Melody,” Elyra corrected apologetically. “Your wife, Vinyl Scratch, was pronounced deceased—”

“I’m failing to see the point of this conversation.” Octavia’s voice was cold and quiet. Every muscle in her body was screaming at her to run, it didn’t matter where, just as long as it wasn’t anywhere near the two sitting before her.

“There is a point, Mrs. Melody,” Blueblood pleaded. “Please, just bear with us. We are checking facts.”

Octavia stared at Blueblood for a long moment before nodding. She took a deep breath, edging back into her seat. She couldn’t help but feel cornered. “... Go on.”

“Your wife, Vinyl Scratch, was pronounced deceased the next day was she not?” Elyra asked once again, her words careful and quiet, doing her best not to push Octavia again.

“Yes,” Octavia whispered, looking over at her mantle and the pictures that sat there.

“But her body was never recovered, was it Mrs. Melody?”

“No.” Octavia sunk down, turning to stare out the window, refusing to look at them.

Blueblood looked up at Elyra, anxious. With a sigh, he gathered himself together. He took a calming breath before speaking. “Your wife did not die, Mrs. Melody.”

“Get out.” Spinning around, Octavia leveled her glare at Blueblood and Elyra, her eyes narrowed as rage boiled into her heart. “Get out. Get out!”

“Not until we finish this conversation, Mrs. Melody.” Blueblood did his best to ignore Octavia’s piercing glare.

“Your wife was taken,” Elyra spoke gently. “She never died—”

“No!” Octavia shook her head in denial. “No! The Princess said—”

“The Princess was wrong.” Blueblood interrupted, gentle but firm. He needed to be able to say what he’d come to say, and he wouldn’t be interrupted. “Mrs. Scratch was taken by Batarian raiders that day. She never died.”

Octavia rocked back as if Blueblood had physically struck her. Millions of questions raced through her head, but she couldn’t speak a single word. What was she supposed to say to that? What was she supposed to do?

“Last night, C-Sec seized a ship owned by a smuggling ring that operated out of the Teysiri Ward.” Blueblood looked forward, keeping eye contact with Octavia. “Aside from a rather impressive amount of drugs, the ship was transporting a considerable number of slaves. A small number of Equestrians were among them.”

Octavia’s eyes widened and she took a shuddering breath. “Vinyl,” she whispered, her heart aching.

“Yes.” Elyra nodded. “Mrs. Scratch is currently undergoing emergency surgery at Huerta Memorial Hospital.

Unsteadily climbing out of her chair, she stood on shaky legs. “I... I want to see her.”

“Of course,” Blueblood nodded.

* * *

The operating room bustled with activity, but it was strangely silent for the amount of beings inside. Human, Asari, and Turian doctors worked tirelessly, listening to the calm voice of Doctor Stable, the head surgeon, following any instruction he gave. A carmel colored unicorn, Doctor Stable had a heart monitor for a Cutie Mark. All of the attention in the room was focused on the patient on the operating table.

“I want scans of her horn,” Stable ordered. “Horn rot appears to be heavily prevalent. We need to see how deep it goes.”

Vinyl Scratch lay covered on the table, and most of the doctors were in agreement that she was one of the worst patients they had ever seen. Her coat was caked in dried blood and filth. The stench wafting off of her was making even the Turian doctors nauseous, something that rarely ever happened to them. Her hooves were dried and cracked, and her horn had a split that ran nearly directly down the middle, pieces of the outer shell flaking away. Scans had shown that there were very few bones of hers that hadn’t been broken, only to be poorly reset.

Doctor Stable took a moment to look up at the observation windows above the room. He could feel eyes on him, but he had bigger things to deal with.

* * *

“Have the Princesses responded?” Councillor Tevos asked, staring down at the operating table below. Her arms were folded under her breasts, trying to resist the urge to itch her crest. It had been bothering her from the moment she had heard the news about the MSV Charybdis. She glanced over at Councillor Valern and Executor Pallin standing beside her. She could only assume that she looked as tired as they did.

“No.” Pallin shook his head, his shoulders slumping. “They are being rather tight-lipped on the matter.”

“An STG team observed one of the Princesses personal ships leaving Equestria several hours ago,” Valern said softly, his eyes following every movement the Doctors made as they worked furiously on the mare below.

The three fell silent. A Princess of Equestria was coming to the Citadel. Ever since the Relay 314 incident, they had found the state of galactic power shifting drastically away from them. Beings with the powers of gods existed, and they ruled the only planet in the galaxy with access to technology more advanced than the Protheans. Equestria kept a tight hold on their Dyson Sphere, and an even tighter hold on the technology that they reverse engineered from it.

“We must approach this carefully,” Tevos said with a sigh, chewing on her bottom lip.

“What about the...” Valern found himself searching for the word, something didn’t happen to him often. He grimaced. “...the remains?”

Tevos sighed, resting her head in her hands. This was a mess, and it was only going to get worse before it got better. She found herself longing for her bed and the time for an hour or two for a nap.

“My officers have determined the culprits of that fiasco.” Pallin growled, crossing his arms over his chest. “We have them in the high security cells.”

“That is... That’s good.” Tevos nodded. The whole ordeal was a nightmare.

Valern turned away from the sight of the operating room below, blinking away the sight. “Personally, I am sickened by the entire matter.” He caught Tevos’ eye. “We must take direct action. We cannot be seen to be doing nothing in response to this, especially by the Princesses.”

“I agree,” Tevos said, a headache forming. “I'll speak with Sparatus.”

Pallin slipped closer to the window, studying the doctors. His mandibles flared in surprise when they brought out a harsh looking saw. “I... I am sure the Councillor will reason.”

Straightening, Councillor Tevos got ready to leave. “Gentlemen. I am sure that we’ll be speaking soon.” She nodded to Valern and Pallin. Even as she turned and left, she was activating her omni-tool, setting up meetings that would change the course of galactic politics.

As the door slid shut behind her, Valern and Pallin stood in silence. They continued watching the frantic calmness of the surgery below. The Executor grinned at Valern’s uneasiness at the sight. As the head of C-Sec, he had seen his fair share of gruesome sights but Councillor Valern left the sanitized world of the political realm.

“This is too big of a problem to ignore anymore,” Pallin finally spoke.

Valren turned to face Pallin, is large eyes curious and intrigued. “And what problem are you speaking of?”

“I’ve told you and the rest of the Council that security is not as tight as we all wish it could be.” Pallin didn’t speak vindictively. The Citadel budget, while not tight, was a highly political area. The problem was that C-Sec suffered from its own successes and a fairly low crime rate, at least on the surface. Money always flowed towards the elements with the loudest outcry. “Too much slips through the cracks. We just don’t have enough manpower to track down everything we know is happening. The black market is growing out of control, slavery is far more rampant than either of us imagined, and we just got a glimpse of the hidden underbelly of the Citadel.”

“I see.” Valern frowned, crossing his arms. “C-Sec is not up to the task.”

“As much as it pains me to say,” Pallin hung his head, humbled. “Not in its current form. We need a bigger budget and more officers. We are stretched too thin to stop everything from slipping through.”

“I see.” Already Valern was making plans to rectify the situation. “I’ll speak to the others about the matter.”

They both turned as the door to the viewing room slid open. Turning, they both watched as Ambassador Blueblood entered, followed by Elyra and his two Royal Guards. Blueblood stopped just inside the room, turning to the door to waiting patiently. Pallin and Valern watched too, wondering who the Ambassador could be waiting on.

When the grey mare slowly walked in, Valern and Pallin glanced at each other in confusion. Neither of them recognized her, but she was obviously someone of importance. Her black mane hung limply and her eyes were glassy, barely seeing. She barely gave Blueblood any notice and her gaze slid unseeing over Valern and Pallin to the window behind them.

The Executor and the Councillor politely stepped out of the way for the grey mare as she plodded towards the window. She stared down at the operating room, and the limp form of Vinyl Scratch on the table. The mare was in shock, that much was clear, dropping back onto her haunches with an audible thump. Her face fell blank, her eyes focused entirely on the mare on the operating table.

Valern and Pallin moved to stand next to Blueblood, ready to fish for information.

“Ambassador,” Valern greeted, speaking softly so as not to disturb the obviously shocked mare behind them.

“Councillor, Executor,” Blueblood nodded to the both of them. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Valern and Pallin glanced at each other, making sure that they were in agreement.

“We are... curious about Equestria’s reaction to the past days events,” Pallin spoke first.

“I see.” Blueblood watched the grey mare, standing perfectly still as she stared down at the operating room. “That is a matter that I believe Princess Celestia will bring up with Council when she arrives.”

“Princess Celestia is coming?” Valern hid his surprise. He was expecting one of the minor Princesses to voice Equestria’s part, not the Solar Princess herself, the head of the Equestrian Empire.

“Yes,” was Blueblood’s simple response.

“I see,” Valern glanced at Executor Pallin. “Please, excuse me gentlemen. I have important matters that I must attend to.” Turning on his heel, Valern nearly ran out of the room.

“We have some matters to discuss before your Princess arrives, Blueblood.” Palling spoke.

Glancing at the greay mare, then at Elyra, Blueblood spoke. “Please, stay with her.”

Elyra nodded, moving to stand next to Octavia.

“Your office, or mine, Executor?” Blueblood asked.

“Your office will be fine,” Pallin said, striding to the door, Blueblood easily keeping pace.

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