Though shaken by the recent attempt on their lives, the crew of the Oneironaut turned their attention to more urgent matters: parking permits.
Yasin had recently received a message from the Citadel Docking Authority noting that the Oneironaut was overdue for inspection and its parking permit was set to expire in three days unless brought into compliance with new regulations. Yasin’s snarky response prompted the CDA to threaten to boot the Oneironaut. Yasin turned to a more diplomatic member of the party to ease tensions with the bureaucracy: Lihol.
While one half of the party set their sights on the Department of Spacefaring Vehicles, the other turned to less scrupulous transactions.
Kara had received word from Cur Didleed that he had acquired an experimental drug rumored to ease the come down from a red sand high. Kara speculated that the drug could also be used as a biotic suppressant. She made her way to Bachjret Ward to pick up the shipment, followed by Sirius at a distance for security.
On their arrival at the Bachjret Ward black market, Kara made her way to the side passageway where Cur Didleed did his business. Sirius took up a position in the clothing store across the way. He ducked into a clothing rack to hide from prying eyes. Kara disappeared into the alley.
“You said this drug is experimental,” she said to Cur Didleed. “Do you have data from the clinical trial?”
“I don’t have access to that kind of information,” Cur said. “You’re the doctor. Maybe one of your academic contacts could get that data. All I know is these came out of the Sol system, from someone called Dr. Tartell.”
“Thanks for the info.” Kara took a crate of the drug.
“There’s… something else.”
“I got a message from someone asking to put me in touch with you. Private channel.” Cur seemed embarrassed. “They can do me some big favors. Help me set up my… side business. Take the call? It would mean a lot.”
“Who is it?” Kara asked.
Kara hesitated. “Patch them through, but don’t tell them who I am.”
“No need for that. They requested you by name.”
“Great.” Kara opened her omnitool and patched Sirius into her comms, running a script to mask his presence from any other listeners.
No connection opened on Sirius’s end. He remained hidden in the clothing rack across the street, aware only that no one had entered or left the alley. A small asari child snuck away from her shopping parents and hid in the clothing rack as well. She looked startled at the grown turian’s presence, then put a stern finger to her lips and hushed him. The vet continued his silent vigil.
“Kara Mihail?” A distorted voice spoke over Kara’s comms.
“Who is this?” Kara asked.
“Someone who knows your crew has run into a problem, and someone who can make that problem go away.”
“What do you want?”
“One of the other passengers on your ship is a wanted person. Handle that and you could be compensated generously.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” Kara asked.
“You don’t,” the voice replied. “You don’t know you can trust the other members of your crew either.”
“You’ll need to give me something to prove that you’re legit.”
The voice on the other end of the line hummed. “I’m forwarding you the location of a locker at the docks. Inside you’ll find half of your payment. You’ll get the other half when you’ve done what’s asked of you. But if you take the money and run, I will find you and I will kill you.”
“To be clear, you’re asking me to kill one of them?” Kara asked.
“Kill? Oh, no, nothing so extreme. You would simply have to deliver them to our custody.”
“Which one of them are you after?”
They paused. Something in Kara’s voice must have tipped the mysterious caller off about her suspicions, and it was clear that the feeling was mutual.
“Let’s play a game,” they said. “Why don’t you take a little time and figure it out yourself? If you guess right, the deal is on.”
“How can I contact you?” Kara asked.
The line cut out.
Kara turned to Cur Didleed. “Did they give you contact info?”
“I have the number the call came from,” Cur said. “I can’t promise it’s legit, or that they’ll answer, but they’ll know you tried to reach them.”
“Good enough for me,” Kara said. She left the alley and signaled to Sirius across the street.
With no attempt at stealth, Sirius emerged from the clothing rack. An anxious salarian and asari couple rushed up to him.
“Excuse me, can you help us?” the salarian asked. “Our child – she’s run off! We can’t find her anywhere!”
“Guess you should have kept a better watch then,” Sirius said. He left the couple flabbergasted, rejoining Kara on her way to meet up with the others.
While the other two attended to business on Bachjret Ward, Lihol and Yasin remained on the Presidium to deal with the Citadel Docking Authority. If a bar on the Citadel could be called Purgatory, the office for the Department of Spacefaring Vehicles must have been hell.
People of every species filled rows upon rows of chairs set in a cramped waiting area. Yasin and Lihol took a number – 203. A screen above showed “Currently serving number 105.”
For anyone it would seem a waste of an afternoon. To a salarian, it was a waste of lifetimes.
Lihol stopped the elcor holding ticket 105 and offered to buy it off of him.
“With interest, how much are you offering?” the elcor replied.
“I’ll pay you double the cost of the time you would spend waiting,” Lihol offered.
“Eagerly, that sounds acceptable. Please, allow me to perform a cost-benfit analysis.” The elcor reached for his omnitool, moving at a glacial pace.
Lihol couldn’t stand to wait. He sized up the elcor, made a guess about the irritatingly slow creature’s value, and tossed out a number.
“Affronted! How dare you lowball me so! Indignant, I am an illustrious gentleman who works for no less than the consort herself!”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was off by a decimal place.”
“Pleased, oh! A decimal – yes, that is most agreeable. Thank you.” The elcor handed over number 105. Lihol and Yasin made their way to a desk staffed by a bored asari.
Yasin explained his problem – that his permit would expire in three days, but he couldn’t renew it without an inspection that the docking authority wouldn’t schedule for several weeks.
“When was your last inspection?” the asari asked.
“Before the war,” Yasin said.
“Five years ago?” Lihol asked. “You mean your last inspection on the Citadel, right? What about your last inspection at another dock?”
“Yeah… no, I mean that was my last inspection, in general,” Yasin admitted. “But they won’t let me schedule a new inspection until after they’re going to boot my ship!”
“That sounds like your problem, not mine,” the asari said. “Should have made the appointment earlier.”
“Couldn’t we get an extension or something?” Yasin asked.
“You’d need a damn good reason.”
Lihol had just the excuse they needed – a contact who worked in the office of the salarian Councilor herself. He acquired a letter signed by the Councilor’s office and passed it along to the asari.
“I had no idea you were on such an important mission! It’ll be no problem,” the clerk said. She scheduled their inspection in two days at 3:15 pm, muttering that it would be no problem to bump a few quarian vagrants – to Yasin’s disapproval, but the pilot said nothing.
The party reconvened to make preparations for the next day’s inspection – but first, Kara told the others about the suspicious phone call she’d received.
“Which one of us do you think they’re after?” Kara asked. “Not me, or they wouldn’t have called me.”
“People just get annoyed with me,” Yasin said. “They don’t usually want to kill me.”
“It could be me,” Lihol said.
Sirius cut in. “We should report this to C-sec. They need to know if it’s connected to the crash from yesterday.”
The rest of the crew mourned the loss of the money in the locker, but they didn’t try to stop him from calling the information in. They turned their attention to the looming inspection.
Yasin’s cargo hold raised too many red flags to count – more than Yasin knew about, in fact. It took the crew the better part of a day to search his endless leftover cargo and pick out anything that was illegal on the Citadel. Sirius turned a blind eye to the illegal activity, spending his afternoon polishing his guns. Lihol’s epic contacts within the black market helped the other three crew members sell off Yasin’s contraband. The sale earned the three of them another weeks’ supplies – before accounting for Lihol’s 60-40 split.
The Oneironaut itself needed upgrades to bring its eezo emissions into compliance with new legislation on Tayseri Ward. Lihol chipped in to help Yasin buy the new engine parts, and the quarian made quick work of the upgrades. His fast tinkering left the crew with a free evening before their inspection.
“Hey Lihol, do you want to go out for drinks?” Yasin asked, hoping to keep his options open.
Lihol replied with a flat “No.”
So the crew retired to their respective quarters on the Oneironaut, except for Kara. Still hurting from the previous day’s crash, she spent the night recovering at Huerta Memorial.
Yasin and Sirius each went to sleep, but as a salarian, Lihol spent fewer hours sleeping. He spent most of his night reading the rest of the crew’s emails – after all, Yasin had helped him hack into Sirius’s inbox with a little bit of hacking and a winky emoji (the latter, Lihol ignored). Lihol was so engrossed in the turian military gossip on one of Sirius’s email threads with his old squad that he had to do a double take to notice his window no longer overlooked the Citadel docks, but empty space.
“Yasin!” he yelled, running for the bridge. “Get up here!”
The narcoleptic quarian snoozed on.
Lihol kept yelling for the pilot, but his shouts only roused Sirius. They met on the bridge just as an incoming missile rocked the Oneironaut.
Yasin stirred in his sleep. He mumbled something about “café drinks” and rolled over.
Sirius and Lihol searched open space for their assailants, but there was only one craft in range: the Citadel.
Lihol grabbed the comms, searching for C-sec’s frequency. Sirius woke his former squadmate Lorius with a frantic call and shouted for him to call off C-sec’s turrets.
“Stop firing on us!” Lihol found the frequency. “This is the Oneironaut – we’re friendlies!”
“SS Oneironaut, you’re trespassing,” the answering officer said. “Leave Citadel space before we fire on you again.”
“We’re not trespassing! We were just on the Citadel.”
“That’s what they all say,” the officer said.
The nearest Citadel defense turret fired another missile. Lihol dashed to the guns to fire an intercepting shot, but the Citadel’s shot made contact.
The Oneironaut shook. Yasin slumbered on.
“We were just docked on the Citadel!” Lihol tried again.
“Nice try. Your IFF is registered to a known pirate—what?” The C-sec officer spoke to someone off the microphone. He returned a moment later and said, “There’s been a mistake. Lorius will vouch for you. Stay put – the Wings are en route to intercept you. They’ll take you into our lot so we can figure out what’s going on here.”
No longer in the heat of battle, the crew had time to rouse Yasin. The pilot searched the ship logs for a change in the IFF. He found a record that the IFF had inexplicably changed around three in the morning, causing the Citadel docks to release the Oneironaut and attack once in firing range – but Yasin saw no evidence of a system breach.
C-sec took the three passengers into custody and questioned each separately. They all answered truthfully, and their stories added up. Yasin cooperated by handing over the ship’s logs for investigation.
Lorius arrived on the scene a little groggy but troubled by his friend’s continued troubles. He questioned Sirius himself, then shared C-sec’s findings with him. Though their agents investigated the footage of the taxi crash, they hadn’t been able to discern anything more than the party had. They had also searched the locker Kara’s contact had provided. C-sec found a disk inside that contained credentials to access a bank account – but the account’s contents were empty. The only good news was that Lorius’s military contacts in the Sol system were on board with Sirius’s plan to buy up their military surplus for sale to colonists.
The group left C-sec shaken. Joined by Kara the next morning, they decided that staying on the Citadel to search for their assailant would be too risky.
They set their sights on new opportunities in the Sol system, where they could only hope their problems would not follow.