Shepard left the MedBay and entered the ships mess. Ashley was waiting for him, and called him over.
"Shepard," she beckoned, "I'm sorry about Jenkins."
"Soldiers die Ashley," Shepard said, standing slightly more to attention, "When your numbers up, it's up. His was." he said very matter-of-factly.
"That's grim Commander, but with what happened to you on Torfan, I can't say I'm surprised." she said,
"Every time you kill it get's a little easier," Shepard said referring to Torfan, where he led a battalion of marines against batarian mercenaries, which became a massacre - a massacre which cost many of his own troops lives.
"With all due respect, I'm glad you're on our side." Ashley said with a wry grin,
"How are you holding up, it got pretty rough down there." Shepard asked,
"I'm OK Commander, but I'm still coming to terms with everything that happened down there. My whole unit got wiped out, and you never get used to seeing dead civilians." she replied,
"We couldn't have done it without you Williams," Shepard said,
"Thanks Commander. I have to admit, I was a little worried about being assigned to the Normandy, it's nice when someone makes you feel welcome." Ashley said,
"I think you're going to fit in just fine here Williams," Shepard said as he smiled and walked away. He left the mess and walked up the stairwell to the Command Centre and the cockpit to see Joker as he would bring the Normandy to dock in the Citadel.
The Normandy came through the Mass Relay, and approached the Citadel, as it did it flew past the Destiny Ascension - the flapship of the Citadel fleet. It dwarfed the Normandy as Ashley and Kaidan both stole glances through the windows of the Normandy's cockpit.
"Look at the size of that thing!" Ashley exclaimed.
"Size isn't everything," Joker said defensively.
"Why so touchy Joker?" Ashley joked,
"I'm just saying, you need firepower as well." Joker explained,
"Look at that main gun!" Kaidan jumped, "It could tear through the barriers of any ship in the Alliance fleet."
The Normandy started it's approach to the Citadel tower, where it would dock for Shepard, Anderson and the ground team from Eden Prime would meet with Ambassader Udina - Earth's representative on the Citadel.
Anderson, Shepard, Kaidan and Ashley made their way to Ambassador Udina's office on the Citadel Presidium, where he was already in a meeting with the Council via hologram. Udina was a late-middle aged man, immaculately dressed and olive skinned. His greying hair starting to recede at the edges of his forehead - he spoke with command, however he had a way of getting peoples backs up.
"This is an outrage!" Udina shouted, "The Council would step in if the geth had attacked a turian colony!"
"The turians don't found colonies on the edges of the Terminus Systems, Ambassador" replied Councillor Valern, the salarian representative of the Citadel Council. Salarians are amphibious beings that are very slender with long heads and large black eyes, Valern is not one for surprising situations, and buries his head where possible.
"Humanity were well aware of the risks when they entered the (Attican) Traverse." Councillor Tevos added. She is the Asari Councillor, and is a blue-purple colour with light purple markings on her face. Like all Asari, she is a natural beauty, but with the age and wisdom to lead the Council as it's Chairman.
"What about Saren?" Udina snapped back, "You can't just ignore a rogue Spectre! I demand action!"
"You don't get to make demands of the Council Ambassador!" Councillor Sparatus, the turian Councillor barked,
"Citadel Security is investigating your charges against Saren, we will discuss the C-Sec findings at the hearing - not before." Councillor Tevos stated, as the transmission of the Council ended. Udina turned to face his visitors, and approached Anderson.
"Captain Anderson. I see you've brought half your crew with you." Udina said, clearly unimpressed by the other soldiers in the room.
"Just the ground team from Eden Prime." Anderson replied, calmly "In case you had any questions."
"I have the mission reports. I assume they're accurate?" Udina said with his usual scowling look.
"They are." Anderson said, "It sounds like the Council have agreed to give us an audience."
"They were not happy about it. Saren's their top agent, they don't like him being accused of treason." Udina said,
"I'm not going to sit on my ass because the Council doesn't want to do anything." Shepard said, "If they wont stop Saren, I will."
"Settle down Commander." Udina sharply replied, "You've already done enough to jeopardise your candidacy to the Spectres. The mission on Eden Prime was a chance to prove you could get the job done - instead, Nihlus ended up dead and the beacon was destroyed."
"That's Saren's fault, not his!" Anderson jumped in, defending his XO.
"Then we better hope the C-Sec investigation turns up evidence to support our accusations." Udina replied, "Otherwise the Council might use this as an excuse to keep you out of the Spectres. Come with me Captain, I want to go through a few things for the hearing. Shepard, you and the others can meet us at the Citadel Tower - top level. I'll make sure you have clearance to come in."
Udina and Anderson left the office, and Ashley spoke up.
"And that's why I hate politicians."
Shepard and the others made their way through the Presidium, to make their way up to the Citadel Tower and the Council Chambers. The Presidium itself is extremely similar to a 20th Century design for a space habitat known as a Stanford Torus - a ringed section of the Citadel, housing the most elite among those on the Citadel, as well as the embassies of all the Citadel races.
Shepard reached the summit of the Citadel Tower, where he saw a turian C-Sec officer arguing with Executor Pallin - the turian chief of C-Sec.
"Saren's hiding something!" the officer said, "Give me more time. Stall them!"
"Stall the Council?" the Executor scoffed "Don't be ridiculous. Your investigation is over Garrus." Executor Pallin walked away, leaving Garrus to curse under his breath, he turned and saw Shepard and the others. Garrus was wearing the standard issue C-Sec Agent armour, but had a modified Kuwashii visor covering his left eye.
"Commander Shepard?" He asked, "Garrus Vakarian. I was the officer in charge of the C-Sec investigation into Saren."
"Find anything I could use?" Shepard replied.
"Nothing solid. Saren's a Spectre, all of his files are classified. But I know he's up to something - as you human's say, I feel it in my gut" Garrus said, folding his arms.
"Shepard, the Council is waiting for us." Kaiden said,
"Good luck Commander." Garrus said, "Maybe the Council will listen to you."
Shepard and the others walked through the Citadel Tower past ornate fountains and small patches of grass with trees on them, and finally up a couple of staircases to find Captain Anderson.
"The hearing's already started, come on." Anderson said as they approached. They all walked up the last couple of staircases to the hearing. The Council were stood at their pedestals, and an enormous hologram of Saren stood over everyone, Udina was already stood on a platform addressing the Council.
"...The geth attack is a matter of some concern. But there is nothing to indicate that Saren was involved in any way." Councillor Tevos said,
"The investigation by Citadel Security turned up no evidence to support your charge of treason." Councillor Sparatus added.
"An eye-witness saw Saren kill Nihlus in cold blood!" Udina protested,
"The testimony of one traumatised dock worker, is hardly compelling proof." Councillor Valern said.
"I resent these accusations. Nihlus was a fellow Spectre... and a friend." Saren stated.
"That just let you catch him off guard!" Anderson countered,
"Captain Anderson. You always seem to be involved when humanity makes false charges against me." Saren replied smugly. "And this must be your protege, Commander Shepard - the one who let the beacon get destroyed."
"The mission to Eden Prime was top secret. The only way you could know about the beacon was if you were there." Shepard replied, sternly.
"With Nihlus gone, his files passed on to me. I read the Eden Prime report, I was unimpressed." Saren replied without missing a beat, "But what can you expect...from a human."
"You can expect me to kill you the next time we meet." Shepard said with a snarl,
"Your species needs to learn its place, Shepard. You're not ready to join the Council. You're not even ready to join the Spectres!" Saren snarled back,
"He has no right to say that! That's not his decision!!" Udina said with a growl,
"Shepard's admission into the Spectres is not the purpose of this meeting." Tevos said looking up at the hologram of Saren,
"This meeting has no purpose. The humans are wasting your time, Councillor. And mine."
"You can't hide behind the Council forever!" Shepard told Saren,
"There's still one outstanding issue. Commander Shepard's vision. It may have been triggered by the beacon." Anderson added,
"Are we allowing dreams into evidence now?" Saren said with a sarcastic tone, "How can I defend my innocence from this kind of testimony?"
"I agree." Sparatus said, "Our judgement must be based on facts and evidence. Not wild imaginings and reckless speculation."
"Do you have anything else to add, Commander Shepard?" Valern asked,
"You've made your decision." Shepard said bluntly, "I wont waste my breath."
The Councillors quietly discussed the findings and agreed quickly on an outcome.
"The Council finds no evidence of any connection between Saren and the geth. Ambassador, your petition to have him disbarred from the Spectres is denied." Tevos announced.
"I'm glad to see justice was served." Saren said as his hologram cut out.
"This meeting is adjourned." Tevos said, as they left for the Council Chambers. Udina, Anderson, Shepard and the others left the platform and Udina started placing blame.
"It was a mistake bringing you into the hearing Anderson, you and Saren have too much history. It made the Council question our motives."
"I know Saren. He's working with the geth for one reason: to exterminate the entire human race." Anderson said defiantly "Every colony we have is at risk. Every world we control is in danger. Even Earth isn't safe!"
"The Council wont help us, we've got to deal with this ourselves." Shepard said.
"As a Spectre, he's virtually untouchable. We need to find some way to expose him." Udina said,
"What about Garrus, that C-Sec investigator. We saw him arguing with the executor" Kaidan said,
"That's right!" Ashley added, "He was asking for more time to finish his report. Seems like he was close to finding something on Saren."
"Any idea where we find him?" Shepard asked,
"I have a contact in C-Sec who can help us find him. Name is Harkin." Udina said,
"Forget it." Anderson cut in, "He got kicked out of C-Sec last month, drinking on the job. I wont waste my time with that loser."
"You wont have to," Udina sharply retorted, "I don't want the Council using your past involvement with Saren to dismiss any evidence we bring up."
"You can't just cut Captain Anderson out of the investigation!" Shepard said,
"The Ambassador is right. I need to step aside." Anderson conceded.
"I need to take care of some business. Captain, meet me in my office later." Udina said as he turned to walk away.
"Harkin's probably getting drunk at Chora's Den, a dingy little club in the wards." Anderson told Shepard,
"I thought he was a drunken loser?" Shepard asked,
"He is. Still, it couldn't hurt to talk to him. But I wouldn't call him reliable." Anderson said.
"Are there any other leads?" Shepard asked,
"You should try talking to volus banker, Barla Von in the financial district." Anderson replied, "Rumour has it he's a representative for the Shadow Broker."
"The Shadow Broker?" Ashley asked,
"An information dealer, a necessary evil of galactic politics. Buying and selling information is part of the game, and the Shadow Broker just happens to be the best player on the field. Always sells to the highest bidder. Doesn't get involved in politics. Doesn't pick sides. A simple system, but it works. He's not a threat to anyone, not directly. He's just a resource we can use. Or she is. Or maybe they are. Nobody really knows. Barla Von is rumoured to be one of his top agents." Anderson replied.
"You and Saren have a history. What happened?" Shepard probed,
"About 20 years ago, I was part of a mission in the Skyllian Verge. I was working with Saren to find and remove a known terrorist threat." Anderson said, "Saren eliminated his target, but a lot of innocent people died along the way. And the official records just covered it all up. But I saw how he operates. No conscience. Not hesitation. He'd kill a thousand innocent civilians to end a war without a second thought."
"Sometimes a thousand innocent people must die so that a million can live." Shepard said, clearly seeing a similarity with himself and Saren,
"Yes, but only if there isn't any other way." Anderson explained, "Saren doesn't even look for another way. He's twisted, broken. He likes the violence, the killing. And he knows how to cover his tracks."
"I should go." Shepard said,
"I'll be over in the Ambassador's office if you need anything, come back to us if you find anything." Anderson said, as he walked away towards to elevators down to the Presidium.
Thanks for reading again, this is turning out to be a labour of love for me!!