Thanks to Reikson for the tireless support
The video came up fuzzy before resolving itself, showing a one-shot of a handsome talking head
"...and welcome back to Citadel News Net, with our continuing coverage of the Normandy's return to the Citadel. I'm Price Sorenson. To my left is the lovely Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani of Westerlund News, and to my right is Citadel News Net's own Emily Wong."
Sorenson turned to Emily, saying, "Emily, I promised that we would start with you after the break, so take it away."
"Thank you, Price," Emily replied genially. "I've said it before, and I stand by my words when I say that humanity could have no better representative on the galactic stage than Commander Joan Shepard and the crew of the Normandy."
"...an opinion that's not shared by a lot of viewers back home, Emily," Sorenson chided. "Commander Shepard's colorful war record gives some reason to doubt the wisdom of the Systems Alliance and the Citadel Council. Isn't that right, Khalisah?"
"That's right, Price," the tabloid reporter replied. "The folks at home are right to wonder. The Council giving Spectre status to a suspected war criminal... isn't that just their way of telling the galaxy what they really think of humanity?"
"A war criminal? Please," Emily scoffed. "Commander Shepard stood for humanity at a key moment in our history, as a member of the galactic community! And instead of praising her for making the tough calls, you condemn her for her heroism!"
"Heroism?!? She's been accused of murdering innocent civilians!" Sorenson shouted.
"Those civilians were ruthless pirates and slavers!" Emily yelled back. "Some of whom were undoubtedly involved in the attack on Elysium!"
"The Batarians involved in that raid were criminals and the Hegemony has never denied that their society suffers from the same ills as everyone else!" Sorenson snapped.
Khalisah suddenly butted in. "Did you know that Shepard has a Krogan bounty hunter on her crew? Urdnot Wrex has been connected to several shady jobs over the years, and there's even rumors of his involvement with the Shadow Broker. And yet Shepard tolerates his presence."
"That's your compelling proof?" Emily sneered. "If everyone rumored to be working for the Shadow Broker WAS really working for the Shadow Broker, then half the Systems Alliance Parliament would be on their payroll as well!"
"What about Alexander Harris?" al-Jilani demanded. "There are rumors of him smuggling and trading in restricted goods."
Emily laughed, "I had a wonderful chat with Ambassador Nassana Dantius and that rumor came up in the conversation. When we were finished laughing at the idea that anyone could believe such nonsense, she provided documentation that Sergeant Harris has been working with Serrice University to find a number of lost antiquities. The Matriarch Writings that are the centerpiece of the Dilinaga Concert Hall here on the Citadel?" Emily smirked. "Many of those were found by Mister Harris, discoveries made at great personal risk in a rather hostile part of space."
"I've been to the Concert Hall, that's a beautiful collection." Price added.
Emily turned back to the anchor. "Price, I want to show some video. I think it's cued up, so let's get a look at your dangerous war criminal in action."
The scene fuzzed up briefly before showing an image of several figures in dark outfits.
Emily explained in a voice-over, "This is from the kidnapping of Martin Burns, Chairman of the Alliance's Transhuman Studies Subcommittee, by biotic terrorists a few months ago."
"Be fair, Emily," Khalisah challenged. "We all know that sending in Council stormtroopers was the least they could do to forestall an attack that was undoubtedly caused by the highly-flawed shared information that causes human biotics to suffer and die needlessly. "
Suddenly, gunshots could be heard, accompanied by muzzle flashes. Several forms moved though the shadows, howls of pain followed by silence before several repeated shouts of "Clear!" being heard.
One of the figures stood up. Even before she removed her helmet, the red stripe down her right arm and the N7 patch over the right breast clearly identified this as Commander Shepard, and she could be seen looking around.
"And there's your war criminal taking down a terrorist threat." Emily Wong drawled sarcastically. "Do I need to play the section where she and Lieutenant Alenko negotiate a peaceful solution to the affair? Even the military are amazed that she was able to pull it off."
Price looked into the camera. "Here at CNN, we would like to take this opportunity to extend condolences to the family of the Lieutenant who was recently killed in action."
"Another victim of the Butcher of Torfan." Khalisah al-Jilani said, smiling in condescension. "Price, I know Emily can't see it because she's got stars in her eyes, but surely you can. Commander Shepard is dangerous not just because of her background but because she is now shilling for the council."
"Of course, Shepard's dangerous!" Emily barked. "To the enemies of galactic peace!"
"In Shepard's defense," Price soothed. "...she managed to secure the colony of Feros with very few civilian casualties."
"And what about Terra Nova?" Emily snapped. "She saves the entire colony from Balak's ill-fated attempt to drop an asteroid on the planet! A *bleep* asteroid!"
"Let's talk about Terra Nova then, Emily," al-Jilani snarled. "Should we really be surprised that the person responsible for the horrors of Torfan participated in a counter-insurgency operation involving killing Batarians?"
"At the conclusion of which, she took Balak in ALIVE?!?"
"Balak was one of the few that she left alive, Emily," Price sighed. "And he had a few dozen broken bones."
"A fact that the Hegemony never fails to mention in their propaganda attacks on the Alliance." Khalisah said, smirking.
"If we're talking propaganda, then let's talk about Binary-Helix." Emily spat.
Khalisah snorted, "A clear attack by a Council Spectre on Alliance interests. If this had been done by anyone except the First Human Spectre, wouldn't we be using stronger language? Maybe even demanding reparations to Binary Helix?"
"Come on, al-Jilani," Emily snorted, rolling her eyes. "Everybody knows what kind of work happens at Noveria. If BH has research facilities there, then it can only be to engage in the kind of activities that would be illegal anywhere else, INCLUDING Earth." she said coolly.
"A tad melodramatic, don't you think, Emily?" Khalisah snapped. "The restrictions that the Council places on humanity's scientific and technical progress forces us into making these kinds of concessions. By the way, let's have another look at your so-called hero in action. Could we rewind to one-fifteen?" The video of the battle fuzzed before resolving to a point during the battle.
"Notice that they're using modded rounds," the Westerlund News reporter lectured. "I believe that those are Inferno rounds, highly illegal in many parts of Citadel space."
"Definitely for civilians, al-Jilani!" Emily snarled. "They're illegal for civilians! Military units are allowed to use rounds like that!"
"In combat! Not against civilian targets, which these people clearly were!" al-Jilani snapped back. "One misplaced shot and Chairman Burns could've been killed!"
Price Sorenson smiled insincerely. "Ladies, ladies... let's keep it civil." he said condescendingly. Suddenly his hand went to his earpiece. "Ladies, the Normandy has touched down. I believe they re disembarking now... let's go live."
The scene fuzzed again. Video footage, obviously being shot through a float-cam's lens, showed the main hallway leading from the Normandy's docking cradle.
Price narrated for the viewers. "They appear to have a casket. I'm not sure this might be Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko... no, I'm being told that this is actually Serviceman Reggie Hobbs, lost on the same mission as the Lieutenant. They appear to be meeting a delegation of Alliance soldiers from the SSV Madrid."
Emily piped up. "If this is crew from the Madrid, then the man out in front is probably Coleman Hobbs, Reginald's brother."
Khalisah made a sympathetic sound. "One can only wonder what the XO's feeling. Seeing that deadly reputation striking so close to home. His poor brother, another victim of Commander Shepard's reckless indifference to life."
Shepard could be seen stepping forward, saluting Coleman sharply before extending her hand. Coleman looked at it briefly before taking it firmly in hand. They could be seen exchanging words.
Subtitles began scrolling along the bottom of the screen.
Price's voiceover continued. "Due to all of the ambient noise on the docking cradle and the poor sound filters, we're going to have to rely on VI-assisted captioning for the folks at home."
Hobbs: ...the (expletive deleted) happened out there Shepard?
Shepard: Slavers; some (expletive deleted) outfit out of Artemus Tau. Hobbs took a bad hit.
Hobbs: I hope you got the (expletive deleted).
Shepard: Double tap, a lot cleaner than the (expletive deleted) deserved.
Hobbs: What was he playing at? I told him he was no (expletive deleted) hero.
Shepard: All due respect, you're wrong. He was a hero. Tali?
A Quarian moved up to stand by the Commander.
Quarian Civilian: Translation unavailable
Price piped up, "Just to explain for those watching at home, the imaging software reads lips and since Quarians wear full-body exosuits... the software can't get a good read on their words."
Hobbs: Thank you, Miss Zorah. Reg wrote a lot about you... I think he had a bit of a crush. Said you were one of the smartest techs he'd ever served with.
Quarian Civilian: Translation unavailable
The Quarian held out a small data-pad. Coleman triggered it and a VI sprang to life, featuring an image of Reggie Hobbs. Coleman could be seen shuddering.
Hobbs: You encoded his letters? But... how did you get the voice-print?
Quarian Civilian: Translation unavailable
Shepard: They used to do way more complex versions of this sort of thing, back on their homeworld of Rannoch... before the Geth destroyed them, anyway. It is just based on his letters home, right?
Quarian Civilian: Translation unavailable
Hobbs: Thank you, Miss Zorah, I... Shepard, he was so proud to serve on the Normandy.
Shepard: I'm going to get the (expletive deleted) that did this, you have my word.
Hobbs nodded and stepped back to salute sharply again.
Shepard did likewise. A loud shout from the Spectre had the squad escorting Hobbs come smartly to attention. They moved the casket forward and the crew from the Madrid took charge of it, saluting them in return.
Price came on the line. "An emotional moment. Madrid XO Coleman Hobbs and the Quarian Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, identified as one of the several non-human specialists aboard the Normandy, assisting with Shepard's current mission."
Emily wiped a tear from her eye. "That was beautiful. Serviceman Hobbs was obviously a hero. That, Khalisah, is what being around your dangerously-unstable war criminal brings out in people; selfless acts of heroism and courage."
"That's not all it brings out, as I think you'll be seeing in just few moments" Khalisah said with a smirk.
The shot shifted to the Council Chamber. Oddly, unlike before, there was clear sound as well as video.
"Congratulations, Shepard. The Council is finally taking some real action against Saren." Udina was loudly crowing.
Again, subtitling identified every one in the room including the three councilors.
"Indeed," Tevos replied. "If Saren is foolish enough to attack the Citadel as you believe, then we will be ready and waiting for him." The asari seemed incredibly proud of this development.
"Patrols are stationed at every mass relay linking Citadel Space to the Terminus." Councilor Valern said confidence made the turian's mandibles flare.
"How many ships are being sent to Ilos?" Shepard asked.
The Salarian blinked, "Ilos is only accessible through the Mu Relay in the Terminus Systems," Councilor Ithin reminded her calmly ... maybe a little too calmly.
Shepard was obviously annoyed, but Xander just exploded. "A blockade?!?" he roared, making Tevos flinch very slightly. "Are you serious?!? Did you NOT see the size of Sovereign?!? He's going to bulldoze though your fleets like they're not even there!"
"The Citadel Fleet will have the region secured," the Salarian Councilor said dispassionately. "Saren can do nothing if the Relays are locked down."
"And going into the Terminus can only lead to full-scale war," Councilor Valern added, now sneering at Xander. "We have the situation under control."
Xander palmed his face in exasperation. "This phrase you use... under control..." he sneered. Then his voice took on a vaguely Spanish accent as he then said, "I do not think that it means what YOU think it means."
"One ship going into the Terminus Systems is not going to start a war," Shepard insisted. "I can be discreet."
The Turian Councilor chuckled cruelly. "You?" he sneered. "A woman who unleashed the rachni upon the galaxy again? Destroyed a unique alien plant species? Detonated a nuclear device on Virmire, taking one of your own men out with it? And you have the gall to say you are discreet?"
"If we don't go to Ilos, then every man, woman, and child in the galaxy is dead!" Shepard snarled coldly. "The trillions of lives, that YOU claim to be so concerned about, will be snuffed out."
The Turian Councilor ignored her and turned to Udina. "Ambassador Udina, I sense that Commander Shepard and her crew are unwilling to let this go."
"Commander, you're starting to become more trouble than you're worth," Udina growled. "Your insubordination has become intolerable as well. I've taken the liberty of locking down the Normandy's primary systems until further notice. You're grounded."
"I say that an assessment of her mental state is long overdue," Valern sneered, "if she let herself be so swayed by Saren's manipulations..."
The video froze.
Shepard looked down at Joker. "I was there, Joker. I saw all of this. What was so important about it?"
Joker smirked. "What with Udina screwing you over, I guess you missed it." At Shepard's glare, he hurried on. "Miss al-Jilani's hover cam is way better quality than a standard news cam drones used by CNN. That's why hers had full audio."
Shepard suddenly felt something click. But Joker kept talking. "The Council chambers are off-limits to the press and the media when the Council's in session, especially if they are talking Spectre business. If her cam was in the Council Chambers, then the only way that it could've happen would be with C-Sec's involvement; she knew it was coming."
Liara entered the comm room. "Shepard, I just heard that they grounded you and the Normandy. Are they insane?"
"Udina couldn't wait to stab me in the back and if Joker's right, then the fix was in before we even reached the Citadel." Shepard snarled bitterly.
"How do we play this, boss?" Xander asked. "Are we doing mischief, 'cuz I love mischief. Can I come? Can I, please? I'll be ever so good."
"You're going to see Emily Wong and, if you could fit it into your busy schedule, maybe Nassana Dantius." Shepard snorted, amusing herself with the highly-exaggerated crestfallen expression that Xander affected. "After all, I think you owe her. Seeing as she helped get you bona-fide credentials for your... archeology." she used finger quotes as she said that last word.
Xander pretended to be offended. "Hey, what's with the finger quotes? And for my legitimate hobby no less? That's not fair. I'm a professional! Well, an accredited professional NOW."
Liara snorted. "Had I known that all it took to become an archaeologist was a quick chat with a morally suspect Ambassador, then I wouldn't have wasted so much time in school," she said dryly.
"Well, it's a good thing you DID go to school, Doc," Xander riposted sarcastically. "Seeing as how all that book-learning is the reason that we might still beat Saren to the Conduit." Then turning to Shepard, he then asked, "What are you doing then, boss?"
Shepard smiled. "I'm going to have a chat with Captain Anderson. He wants to meet me in Flux. Maybe he thinks that we can do something about this mess, and I've learned never to doubt him."
"May I come along?" Liara asked. "I was too intimidated by him to meet him before."
"You never have to be scared of anything when you're with me, Doc." Shepard replied, slinging an arm around the young Asari's shoulders before turning to address the rest of the team. "Someone LET al-Jilani into the Council Chambers. Garrus, that one's yours. Tali, think you can hack a VI assistant?"
"Please," the little Quarian scoffed. "Give a girl something hard to do, Commander."
"Good, I knew I could count on you. Then al-Jilani's yours."
Turning to the others, she barked, "All right, people! We have our assignments! Time to show people what happens when they mess with this crew! No; what happens when they mess with this family!"
A loud cheer rattled her teeth very briefly before the Normandy's crew broke up for their respective assignments.