August 26, 2019 at 4:14 am #2032Logical PremiseKeymaster
Shepard took a deep breath. “You two ready?”
Erash gave a sigh. “The SIX are the most unreasonable people ever, and the STG Master is an asshole at the best of times. This won’t be fun.”
Mordin’s lips thinned even more than usual. “Understatement.”
She blanked her expression as the view screen flickered, displaying a group of salarians sitting at a long, black metal table. There was a wide window behind them, displaying thick jungle with the colors slightly off to what she’d expect from greenery, dotted here and there with the ziggurat towers of salarian cities. The room itself, despite the window, had the look of heavy reinforcement, and the window itself looked to made of reinforced armaglass thick enough to bounce even the strongest sniper rifle fire. Done in shades of dark red and black, it framed and magnified the table and those who sat at it.
Six of the seven salarians were clearly females, wearing identical purple robes trimmed in red, the traditional dress of the Dalatrass. The robes were set apart by colored sashes, with the one sitting in the middle having the most elaborate sash of all. The single male in the room wore a plain white salarian-style cutback suit, his eyes replaced by cybernetics and his long-fingered hands more of the same.
Shepard flicked a thin smile on her face. “Greetings. I am appreciative that you accepted my offer to talk, and I hope we can come to a mutual agreement.”
The salarian in the middle of the table spoke, her voice acerbically grating and tinted with a hint of condescending amusement. “You requested communications with us, and we have reciprocated against our better judgment. It remains very much to be seen if anything valuable can come from this at all, and due to our concern we have altered our original plans.” Her voice identified her as female, and Shepard guessed this was High Dalatrass Linron, the ‘leader’ of the salarian council known as the SIX.
From what Mordin and Erash had told her, the Salarian Union was kind of a mess of different groups running things. The SIX were the strongest, oldest families in salarian culture, most of them being the ancestoral groups to many salarians today. They weren’t exactly ‘nobles’ in the fashion of the High Famlies of Sol, but they had less direct influence than the Thirty or the Palavanus did.
Shepard tilted her head. “Yes. Originally you said you’d sent a representative from the STG to meet us…” She trailed off, waiting for a reply.
The second salarian on the left spoke, her high-pitched voice staccato and fluid, moving rapidly from word to word much like Mordin did. “Correct. Initial assessments somewhat flawed, further understanding requested before rash action committed. Cerberus monstrous, unwilling to place trust in terrorists. Additionally, STG good at investigation, but not suited to diplomatic work.”
She fixed a hard gaze at Mordin, who gave a small laugh. “Sister. Spare us dramatics, not turians. No STG Master, no Wheel Priest, only SIX and Rurda for RRC. Here to deal in secret, not investigate. If doubted, would have sent flunkies.”
The tallest of the females inclined her head, her voice softer and more calming than the others who had spoken thus far. “While calling this diplomacy may be… a pleasing cover, the truth remains that we are deeply unsure of your motives, goals, or identity. Your association with Cerberus – a group that has murdered more than a few of our friends and relatives – is off-putting to say the least. We have accepte this communication in hopes of determining our reaction to your…”
She made a vague hand gesture, long fingers swaying “… whatever you intend to call your return to prominence.”
Shepard smothered a smile. “Regardless of why you accepted my communications, I’m happy to speak with you. As I told the turian Praetors, I’m fully aware of the revolting actions and unforgivable atrocities committed by Cerberus. I don’t make any excuses for those, and I’ve already warned Jack Harper that if any part of this organization goes bad I’ll kill him and those involved myself.”
The salarian on the right end made a motion with her hands, her voice tight with controlled emotion. “That is all well and good, but doesn’t make up for the fact that the person you claim to be died, and now you are with an organization you went out of your way to destroy. We remained unconvinced you aren’t some kind of fake.”
She nodded. “That’s reasonable. As I told Fedorian – I don’t expect people to take me at my word. Given I am claiming to have come back from the dead, expecting that would be both foolish on my part and insulting to others.” Her voice hardened. “That being said, I’m not willing to put up with bullshit. I didn’t contact you without making very sure to have a reason to make you listen.”
Linron’s eyes narrowed. “That sounds very close to a threat.”
Shepard shrugged. “Maybe so. Maybe not. Let’s start with what I want from you, then I’ll tell you what you get and why you want to go along with me.”
The soft-spoken dalatrass shook her head. “I am H’tho Di Daaso, the SIX’s liason with the STG, so to speak. Before you go into whatever you have planned to say, I’d much rather you explain why we should listen at all given we have no way to verify your identity is truthful.”
Shepard shrugged. “For one, I plan to head to the Citadel, and go through both the docking bio-scans and the more intense Spectre-level scan. I’d also expect and agree to provide some information regarding my… various upgrades. That should handle verifying me. Second, you should listen to me because we have details about your ALTERATION project, your not-very-well hidden Thorian on Makana, and the bullshit you’ve pulled on the volus – oh, and I know you don’t like Cerberus, Dalatrass Solus, so we also have a certain conversation you had with your buddy Thessial about the clans.”
Muvai Solus actually flinched, while Linron’s mouth had fallen open and most of the rest displayed shock. H’Tho merely looked at Erash and Mordin. “And this is sourced from these … disgraced salarians, one of whom is a Lythari?”
Shepard shook her head. “Nope. Mordin actually refused to tell us anything about the STG or ALTERATION, and Erash didn’t even know this existed. Mordin confirmed what we already knew about the Makana Thorian, and even he was shocked about some of our other revelations.”
She leaned forward. “I don’t need you. We know about the League of Zero, that they’re fucking illegal as shit redboxes that will try to kill everyone. We know about the techgangs, we know the shit you were looking for on Ilium. You have no leverage and I can get your whole race smashed if you push me. Don’t fuck with me, you won’t like the results.”
“There is no need for crude threats and blackmail”. Unlike the rest of the dalatrassi, H’tho’s voice remained calm. “The STG already appraised me that you would have such. However, I did ask why we should listen, and this seems a reasonable opening offer. I presume you have something I believe you call a ‘carrot’ to go with said threats?”
Shepard frowned and nodded. “Complete rundown on the Black Rim Free Sexuality movement. Bases, operational details, servers, locations of their supporters, banks…”
All six dalatresses glanced at each other, and Linron spoke. “…that would be worth doing more than merely listening, given the threat the deviants pose to our life and very population stability.”
Purge the alien. Kill the heretic. Suffer not the witch to live.
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