Interlude: So much for subtlety (1)
AN -- Thanks to Drakependragon and Reikson
“David, you busy?” Buffy whispered.
David Anderson looked up from the email he’d just received from Admiral Rael’Zorah of the Quarian Migrant Fleet.
“Just trying to find the right diplomatic language to deal with our Quarian friend,” he explained.
Buffy snorted. “What’s the diplomatic equivalent of ‘here’s a quarter, call someone who cares’ and stuff?”
Anderson chuckled bitterly. “He’s a father whose daughter just hooked back up with one of the most infamous people alive today.”
“Yeah, I got a real sense of how much he loves his daughter during the awards ceremony for the Normandy team,” she scoffed.
“What do you mean?”
“He couldn’t be bothered to show up to see his daughter being honored by the whole freakin’ galaxy in person.”
“Some people don’t know how they’re supposed to show how much they care. That doesn’t mean they don’t.”
“David, take it from someone who’s had to listen to more than her fair share of apologies for missed birthdays and holidays. Almost anything is better than nothing.”
Anderson regarded her with sympathy. “I’m sure…” he didn’t know how to bring up something like this. “…I’m sure that if he could’ve found a way to show that he cared, he would’ve done so.”
Buffy grimaced remembering how the forces of darkness had ultimately warped her estranged father's feelings of guilt and love and turned him into a puppet of their will. The truth about the part that he’d played in the Brawl-for-It-All, and his warped reasoning for it, still haunted her to this day.
“Oh, he found a way, all right,” she sighed. “His way almost cost me everything and everyone that I ever cared about, but… yeah, he found a way to show me that he still cared in the end. I kinda wish he hadn’t.”
Anderson sighed. He’d come to regard Buffy as a capable and competent woman who’d endured a lot for her convictions; the kind of person that the galaxy needed.
“So…” he asked, only half-kidding, “…what’s the diplomatic equivalent of ‘get your head out of your Quarian ass and talk to your daughter before it’s too late’ called?”
“Maybe you should just try telling him that. Some people are really stupid.” Buffy shrugged.
Anderson chuckled. “What did you want to see me about?”
“We’ve got guests. Tevos wants a word, and she brought backup. They don’t look happy.”
Anderson rolled his eyes. “How many did she bring with her this time?”
“I counted only three. I’m insulted. I guess they aren’t as intimidated by me as they used to be.”
“Please don’t take that as encouragement to rile them up,” David pleaded.
“What would it say about Humanity’s representative if his office staff couldn’t kick a little ass when needed?”
David sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. For some reason she never explained, Buffy seemed to love when he did that. He suspected that half the things she did was just to get him to pull off that display of resigned exasperation.
“Well, let’s go see what she wants,” he sighed, noticing that Tevos was wearing a typical full-length Asari dress that had a business-casual cut to it.
As Buffy had mentioned, she had three Asari Commandos as bodyguards, each of them looking a tad nervous.
Word had obviously gotten around the station.
Mess with David Anderson and you dealt with Buffy Summers.
“What can I do for you, Tevos?” Anderson asked brightly.
“David, I know we’ve had our differences in the past…” Tevos began carefully. “…especially when dealing with your… protégé.”
“I wouldn’t call it a difference of opinion,” he grunted, rolling his eyes as he turned his gaze towards the Presidium. “You joined Sparatus and Valern in denouncing her as a delusional paranoiac who’s obsessed with conspiracy theories and possibly under criminal influence.”
Tevos sighed, wringing her hands nervously. “Yes, well… that’s the past. Right now, we have to discuss the future. Specifically, I need to know if you know where she is.”
“Last I heard, she was on Haestrom, and I only know that because I just got a very formal letter from the Quarian Admiralty Board that managed to be equal parts condescending, threatening, and narrow-minded.”
Buffy snorted. “At least the grunts said thank you,” she pointed out.
“Why would the Quarian Admiralty Board care about Shepard?”
“She just extracted one of their marine squads from a hot zone swarming with Geth that had overrun some science expedition,” he shrugged. “Do you remember the Quarian that was with her, Tali? She was in that group and joined Shepard’s crew. That communique I just read was from HER father. Apparently, he thinks that we might be inappropriately meddling in Quarian matters.”
“Has Shepard said anything about what happened on Ilium?”
“I only know that you sent a Specter out there. What’s this about, Tevos?”
“Tela Vasir has gone missing, and there are conflicting reports surrounding her. Some say that she died on Illium, but there are other reports claiming that she departed the planet in the company of an unknown human. It doesn't help matters that the Normandy has been sighted at over a dozen different locations, including a docking port ON Illium.”
“…and how are they supposed to be on Illium while still pulling Quarian Marines out of Geth-infested shooting galleries?” Buffy asked.
“That would be MY problem as well.”
“I’m not sure I follow.” Anderson interjected.
“Vasir had orders to locate and monitor Doctor Liara T’Soni.” Tevos looked agitated. “If Shepard made contact with her, Vasir was to make contact with Shepard.”
“I’m guessing that there was a hitch in that plan.” Anderson sighed.
“We were aware that Vasir occasionally used the Shadow Broker as an information resource, but I’ve recently learned that their relationship went quite a bit… deeper then we suspected.”
“The Matriarchs of Thessia,” Tevos sighed. “They’ve been… concerned about this whole situation. David, please, if Shepard’s dealt with Vasir, I can deal with that, but for her to vanish so completely…”
“Shepard would have no reason to take out your Spectre, Tevos, at least no reason that I’m aware of.”
Buffy cleared her throat. “Unless Vasir made a move on Liara, they seemed pretty tight.”
“I already told you Vasir had orders.”
“The question is, whose orders was she following?” Anderson mused. “Yours or the Shadow Broker?”
Tevos paled, an impressive feat given her bluish-purple complexion. “But if she’s gone rogue… David, Vasir was one of our most-trusted agents, she had top level access. For someone like the Shadow Broker to compromise one of our elite operatives…”
“I can get a message to Shepard, I’ll find out what I can and pass anything relevant on to you. In the meantime, do me a favor and let me know if Vasir turns up.”
Tevos nodded, and left the two of them alone, her Commando bodyguards in tow.
“Buffy, I’ll need a few moments alone.”
“You’re gonna talk to Hackett, aren’t you?”
Anderson nodded. “I’m not sure how much longer we can maintain this wait-and-see approach to Shepard. It might be time to be a little more proactive.”
“What about Ashley? You gonna tell her?”
“I’m starting to think that Operations Chief Williams is taking this situation with Shepard too personally,” Anderson sighed. “She seems far too invested.”
“Xander didn’t say anything to me. Then again, last time I talked him was when Shepard was here.”
“I’ll talk to Hackett. In the meantime, see if any of your new friends in the consular assistance staff have heard anything Tevos didn’t mention.”
“You want me to work the Secretarial Pool?”
David flushed at Buffy’s politically-incorrect summary of his request. “It sounds bad when YOU say it, but… well, you are my executive assistant.”
“In other words, a secretary.”
“An ass-kicking secretary,” he pointed out.
“The supreme ass-kicking secretary,” Buffy grumbled. In the end, however, she relented and let Anderson seal himself in his office for a while.
Once the door was closed, however, she went to her terminal and brought up a display.
“VI, connect to the Illium surveillance database. Authorization: Slaygal; this is a Priority-One Torchwood Protocol initiation.”
“Clearing… connection established.”
Buffy tapped at her omnitool. “Collate to Nos Astra timestamp 1852 hours, identify and focus on subjects of uploaded program. Run facial recognition through search parameters, then compile and play back in vid-clip.”
The ageless Slayer watched Shepard’s confrontation with Vasir, and their subsequent chase and brawl, playing out across Nos Astra’s citywide surveillance network. Not for the first time was she thankful that the Torchwood Protocols allowed for this kind of search.
“God bless you, Willow, wherever you are,” she murmured.
The chase finally ended in some kind of resort. Buffy watched as Shepard gunned down Vasir, before the Asari with her did… something to her. The ageless Slayer wasn't sure what exactly Shepard's Asari teammate was doing, but it looked like she really enjoyed it.
Vasir looked pretty dead by the time it was over.
She fast-forwarded a few minutes before seeing something that shocked her. Vasir’s body had been loaded on an ambulance, before the body suddenly sat upright and had a telltale seething glow in the supposedly-dead Spectre’s eyes.
“A wraith?” she whispered, confused. “But that's impossible. They all went away, along with everyone else connected with the Evil Lawyers.”
She continued running the scene and gasped when she saw who was getting into the driver’s seat of the emergency vehicle.
“Warren Mears? Ohh, this is bad,” she cursed as she took in every detail of the flayed man’s exposed musculature. “V.I., has there been any response to my contact queries with Red-Witch-One?”
“Red-Witch-One remains offline. Would you like to resend contact request?”
“No,” Buffy sighed. “Open an extranet connection. Send burst message to Galactic Poetry Slam Social Forums, search for username SunnyD-Boi."
“User is currently offline,” the V.I. intoned monotonously. “Last logged access timestamp was six hours and thirty-one minutes ago, Citadel time. Would you like to PM user?”
“Yes,” she answered. “The message reads as follows; the storm is gathering.”
Buffy sat back in her chair, sighing heavily as she looked out the window.
Warren was back, Willow was AWOL somewhere, Xander was stuck on the front lines, and here she was in the bleachers.
Maybe it was time to reach out to other avenues.
“V.I., contact Horizon. Send message to Ashley Williams.”
“Communications blackout in place,” it reported. “No message possible at this time.”
“What do you mean, a communications blackout is in place? How do you blackout an entire sector?”
“Unknown. Would you like to record message? It will be delivered when communications are back online.”
Buffy sighed. No doubt there was another ion storm mucking up the com-buoys, but…
“Okay, set message record,” the ageless Slayer sighed. “Ashley, this is Buffy. We haven’t talked in a while, and we both know why, but this is important. I'm sending a surveillance vid of Shepard on Illium. I think they might be in more trouble then they realize, and if it’s what I think it is, then you could be in danger, too. Just… just watch your back, okay?”
Buffy dispatched her message and severed her link to her V.I., leaning back in her chair again as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Now I’m officially worried,” she groaned.
Halfway across the Citadel, a Salarian named Jondum Bau sat frozen at a terminal. The implications of what he’d seen, though the digital monitoring device that he’d planted in the human Councilor’s office were staggering.
Bau grabbed a copy of Buffy's message off the Citadel’s servers and reviewed the video footage that she’d compiled. He wasn't sure what a wraith was, or who this Warren Mears character was supposed to be, but his old STG contacts could take care of that.
What was far more important, and far more troubling, was the fact that Summers’ message had been sent to someone who was being seriously considered for induction into Special Tactics and Reconnaissance.
“Computer, give me all database information on human Systems Alliance Operations Chief Ashley Williams, especially anything connecting her to Joan Shepard,” he said curtly.
As data flew across his screen and scrolled down at a rapid pace, Bau found himself pondering on the mystery of Councilor Anderson’s secretary and her long-time association with the equally enigmatic Xander Harris.