This takes place between the events of Meeting on the Citadel, and Trouble on the Eris.
“Murali, dah-ling!” Aashe said brightly, sauntering into the provisions shop Her favorite shopkeeper was on staff that day. A younger human woman, Murali had dark hair and eyes, and positively glowed with naiveté. The Turian owner of the shop, Ghedion, glanced up from a data pad in his hands to look at Aashe. She waved brightly to him with her fingertips, and he returned the gesture with what passed for the Turian version of a smirk.
Ghedion didn’t wear the traditional battle paint of the Turian people. Aashe had a hard time determining age in the alien races, but based on his pragmatism and general sarcasm, she assumed him to be older. His skin was a faint violet grey, instead of the bluer color she’d seen in other Turians. She wondered if it was “grey hair”.
“Aashe!” Murali bounced over to her, and the women exchanged kisses to the cheeks, in mimicry to the debutante greetings they had seen in old Earth vids. “How are you?”
“Perfectly wonderful, no way to be otherwise. I’m going to be headed off station for awhile though - so I will need to get some supplies.” Aashe said to the two. She walked over to the counter, and pulled herself up to sit on it, crossing her legs. She tossed a data pad to Murali, complete with her list of supplies. Ghedion set down his data pad, and came around the counter to speak with her.
“I’m sorry to hear you’re leaving us.” He said. Despite his gruff exterior, he pulled her in for a gentle hug. To Aashe, Turians felt equal parts frail and strong. Their bones were delicate and birdlike, but they had graceful, powerful muscles. It was a nice mixture. “You are one of our best customers, Aashe.”
“Well then, sell me a requisitions license, and I’ll be sure to continue placing my orders through your shop.” Aashe said without a moment’s hesitation. “Though, I admit, it won’t be the same as coming to visit you two. Seeing your smiling faces twice a week brightens my life.”
“Consider it done.” Ghedion said. “I knew I liked you, the very minute I met you.”
“You hated me when I first started shopping here!” Aashe said with a laugh. She and Ghedion had gotten off on the wrong foot. He could smell a con artist a light year away, she had put him on edge.
‘He hates everyone” Murali supplied with a laugh, starting to gather a handful of items for Aashe.
“I like you.” Ghedion said to Murali. Murali shook her head with a laugh. They exchanged a bit of a look. Aashe had always wondered if there was something more between the two. Today was not the day to ask.
“So, where are you going Aashe?” Murali asked, changing the subject. There was an excitement in the woman’s voice. “Fighting Reapers? Stopping Collectors? Helping Shepherd?” Out of sight of Murali, Ghedion rolled his eyes and shook his head. Aashe gave Murali a helpless grin, keeping her attention from noticing Ghedion’s disapproval.
“Murali… how many times have I told you, the Reaper’s aren’t real - I wouldn’t fight Collectors even if I put a Thanix Cannon on the Eris, and Shepherd is dead.”
“But there are reports about Shep…” Murali said, turning to face Aashe with a begging look. Murali wanted so badly to believe all the rumors were true.
“Ghedion, are you letting her watch that Tabloid network again? That woman, Allers, or whatever her name is?”
“Let is a strong word.”
Aashe hopped down off the counter and leaned on it to look more directly at Murali.
“Murali, what have I told you about cons?” Aashe said. Murali sighed, this was not the first time this conversation had occurred.
“The more people want to believe, the bigger the lie they will believe.” Murali said, resigned.
“That’s right. Dead Spectres coming back to life because of expensive medical procedures is improbable to the point of absurdity.” Aashe pointed out.
“But, you yourself said the Lazarus project could work!”
“I did say that. I helped finance the tests, and they successfully brought a mouse back to life. Two years ago... and, I haven't received any updates on the project since then.” Aashe said fairly. “But that mouse died of lethal injection, and it had only been dead a day. That’s very different than a human who died during re-entry of a planet’s atmosphere without a ship. It’s more likely that all that remained of Shepherd was some blood stains on armor.”
“You should listen to Aashe, Murali.” Ghedion said, gently, resting a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “It… forgive me, Aashe… takes one to know one, especially when it comes to Cons.” Aashe waved it off, she wasn't offended. She’d never lied to Ghedion about being a con artist - and had never conned him for supplies. In her business, it was good to have friends she could trust, and people who would trust her.
“What about the Reapers, then?” Murali asked, challenging Aashe.
“An ancient race of God Machines that come back every so often to wipe out Organic life? It feels like the plot of a bad fiction novel. If they were really doing such a good job of wiping out Organic life, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It seems a lot of trouble for no real return on investment.” Aashe said with a bit of a laugh.
“Fine… well, let me ask you this then… say you saw Shepherd, and someone approached you and asked you to finance the Lazarus machine to bring Shepherd back, would you?”
“No…” Aashe said gently. “Martyrs are better for morale than Saints. If the question had come to me, I would have turned it down. And most of the people I’m aware of with that much money, are not crazy enough to perform such a task.””
“Collectors…?” Murali asked.
“Those I’ve met. They asked me to smuggle for them, I turned them down. Odd creatures. I didn’t like the eyes of the one that spoke.” Aashe said, thinking back to the bizarre yellow eyes and booming voice of the creature.
“What did they want?” Ghedion asked, suddenly interested. “I’ve heard they make bizarre requests.”
“They do. They asked me for six humans who were left hand dominant, and had six fingers instead of five.” Aashe said, shrugging a bit. “I turned them down. The pay was good, but the cost was too high.”
Ghedion made a sound of assent. That was something Aashe liked about him, he seemed to understand the difference between making money, and being a slave to it.
“Aashe - if you do find anything out there to suggest that Shepherd is alive again, or that the Reapers exist, will you please….?” Murali started, tentatively.
“You will be the very first person I contact, you have my word.” Aashe said. The promise put the spring back in Murali’s step, and she wandered off to go fill Aashe’s order.
Ghedion came to stand next to Aashe. “You never did say what you were doing.”
“I guess I didn’t.” Aashe said with a grin. “Plausible deniability is a good thing, Ghedion.”
“Hmph.” He wasn’t pleased, but he let the matter go. “Be careful, Aashe. You’re not known for choosing the easy missions.”
“There are those that steal to enrich their lives, and those that steal to define their lives, Ghedion. I am part of the former category. I choose missions that amuse me.”
There was a silence that followed Aashe’s words. Ghedion never really liked acknowledging that Aashe was a thief. As far as he was concerned, she was an eccentric rich woman who preferred high end provisions - and therefore, his shop.
“The rumors are growing that the Reapers are a real threat.” Ghedion said, his tone was curious.
“And you still don’t believe them?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to - I just figured the Alliance would use a Martyred Shepherd as a beacon to garner galactic favor for humanity. Backing Shep up by publicly showing support for the Reaper theory would be volatile, but it would probably do the trick. It’s… telling that the Alliance is still holding their silence as far as the Reapers are concerned.” Aashe said, sighing. “But, politics are a game even I don’t like. They might actually be withholding the truth. I just find a lot of things about this situation horribly improbable.”
“What is it you say? ‘Nothing is impossible, but often times - finding the truth is a matter of filtering out what you know to be improbable’? The simple answers are often the most honest ones.”
“Something like that.” Aashe said, laughing. “All I know is that this new Shepherd is reportedly traveling with almost an entirely new crew, and the new Normandy hasn’t spent much time in Citadel space. The Terminus systems are not a place for someone like Shepherd. I’m not sure what to make of the whole thing. Oddly, the Council and the Alliance both reinstated Shep’s status, as Spectre, and Commander - so there is that. However… denouncing this new Shepherd I don‘t think would earn any favors. People seem to believe that this is the real deal. And if this new Shepherd… I don‘t know… blew up a planet or something… it could be exactly the thing the politicians need to stop all this chatter of Reapers, and Lazarus Machines.”
“Speaking of Shepherd’s crew, I heard there’s a Justicar on board!” Murali said over her shoulder. That was the second time that day Aashe had heard that term.
“Is that meaningful?” Aashe asked, suddenly curious.
“Well, I looked up Justicars on the Extranet after I saw the article about Shepherd’s crew.” Murali grinned, glad to be a part of the conversation again. “Apparently they’re some sort of highly revered monastic order, or something.”
“Monks… well, that helps.” Aashe filed that information away.
“Have one on board, Aashe?” Ghedion asked with a laugh. “An Asari and a Quarian, your day is going to be interesting.”
“Now now, I’m not confirming or denying. You’re both terrible for trying to pry.”
“Well, you’re buying Quarian rations.” Ghedion pointed to the collection of packs.
“Guilty as charged.” Aashe said, picking one of the packs up. “Meat based? I thought Quarians were vegan.”
“The meat based ration packs are considered a delicacy.” Murali said. “Though… since they eat Vegan food the rest of the time, they get… um… hangovers… in their stomachs… from the meat.”
“Well, make sure I have some Vegan packs also, too, please. My suit bound ship mate is cranky enough without the added bonus of a tummy ache.” Aashe said with a laugh. “And while we’re on topic, I might as well get some meat for the rest of my crew. I have a feeling forcing them to eat Vegetarian might make for some snaky conversations.”
“You got it!” Murali skipped into the back to find some flash preserved meat packs. Aashe adopted a more Quarian lifestyle, all things concerned. She worked on her own ship, and she ate food that didn’t spoil quickly, which often meant Vegetarian food. She preferred the Vegetarian lifestyle, but Corwin, Orthic, and Eri struck her as carnivores.
“Say the Reapers were real. What then?” Ghedion asked, shaking her from her thoughts.
“Well then, I get better armor and shields from you, and I look into putting in the same Thanix Cannon the Normandy has on my ship. Our power systems are similar enough.” Aashe said, looking into Ghedion’s eyes. “And I fight.”
“You?” Ghedion asked, genuinely surprised.
“Sure, me.” Aashe replied. “The Sovereign caused heavy casualties among the various militaries, and heavy damage to the Citadel. I was told to abandon Citadel space with the Eris as soon as the fight started. I did, because my ship wasn’t equipped to be a help, they would have spent more time protecting me than they needed. But, if there are a fleet of those things somewhere, no matter if they’re Geth built, or God Machines - they’ll need all the help they can get.”
Murali emerged again, this time with a large canvas bag, and the meat, and she began packing everything for Aashe. Aashe turned to watch the process, mesmerized by Murali’s ability to use every square inch of space in the bag. She knew Ghedion was interested in what she’d just said. He apparently hadn’t believed she had that noble bone running through her body.
Given the actions of most other Mercs, she wasn’t offended.
Aashe hopped down from the counter, and handed over a credit chit to Ghedion. “This should be more than enough, for the supplies, and my requisitions license. The extra is a bribe to keep an eye out for messages from me. Gods know what I’ll find out there, and what I’ll need.”
“Take care, Aashe.” Ghedion said, hugging her again. Murali came around the counter, and the women exchanged hugs as well.
“You’ll take me up on the Eris next time, right?” Murali said.
“Provided no one is shooting at me!” Aashe laughed.
“I’ll hold you to that.” Murali replied.
“Be safe you both, I’ll come visit when I get back.” Aashe said, picking up her bag of groceries. She swept out before they could reply. Aashe loved getting the last word.
Grocery Shopping, and Other Things
Blog entry posted by CoyoteLovely, Apr 14, 2012.