Song of the Sirens
Darsan and Eri were already at the fountain when Finn and Kyra returned. In addition to his absurd hat, Darsan had donned a pair of shades and a tacky flower-pattern shirt that reminded Finn of Godot. Eri, on the other hand, looked the same as ever.
"You know, you didn't have to wear combat armor." Finn told him as he gladly sat down at one of the benches around the fountain.
"I know. Honestly, I just feel more comfortable with it on these days. Omega, you know." Eri glanced at the numerous bags Finn was carrying. "Getting some shopping in?"
"Oh, that's me." Kyra told him as she sat down beside Finn. "He's been a real sweetie."
"Has he?" Eri gave Finn a look of mock surprise. "My word. And here I thought I was the only one who thought he was a 'sweetie'."
Kyra laughed at his response. Finn forced a chuckle as he shot Eri a venomous glare. It didn't work; there was a look of mischief in the turian's eyes that made it clear that Finn hadn't heard the last of this.
"Enquiring; where did you go?" asked Darsan.
"Set up the whole transponder changing thing and …" Finn held up the bags. “I was hoping to stop by my old apartment, but-“
“Oh!” Kyra looked at him, her face suddenly distraught. "I'm sorry, Finn! I just got carried away with-"
"It's fine." He told her kindly. "Besides, we've got time to spare; I'm thinking it best we stay here for a while and give our pursuers a little time to lose us now that they won't be able to identify the Ulasomorf."
"Unless Billy's bugged." Eri said. "He could be giving away our signal."
"I had plenty of time to scan Billy thoroughly during our little meeting." Kyra said, flashing Finn a glance as she bumped her shoulder against his side. "There are no signals coming from him."
"Nothing we could detect anyway." Finn mused.
Kyra and Eri glared at him. Blushing, he quickly added, "But we could spend forever worrying about what we can't detect. For now, let's take a little time to put our feet up and relax. In the meantime, we'll keep an ear out for any information regarding the people following us. I might see if Godot can tell us anything from the ship."
"Psh. Godot, man." Jake said, hopping of the fountain. "He'll take forever to tell us anything. You watch; he’ll make us wait."
"I know where you're going with this, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't." Finn told the mechanical dog, his eyes narrowing.
"You should've seen him in the old days, Kyra." Jake said, putting his front feet on her knees. "He'd call us into his office, and we'd wait and wait."
"Jake." Finn said in a warning tone.
"You could say we were always waiting for G-aack!"
A spark of electricity had jumped from the edge of Finn's omni-tool and zapped Jake on his tail end, making the mechanical mutt jump away from Kyra.
"Oops." Finn said innocently as his omni-tool faded. "Must be a short in the circuitry."
"Yeah, I bet." Jake said, the dog-face on his screen giving him a narrow-eyed stare.
Standing up, Finn clapped his hands together, "Well, now that we're all here, we should go get some lunch. There's a great little café just down the-"
"Wait a second." Kyra said, her hand on Finn's shoulder as she glanced around the fountain plaza. "Where's Mannon?"
With a start, Finn realized she was right. Mannon was still not there. As an Alliance officer, he had taken for granted that she'd have already arrived.
"Well, she might've got caught up with her phone call." Finn said, but even as he spoke the words, his thoughts drifted back to how she had reacted to the discovery of Billy. She had been quite insistent on getting the ship to the Alliance. He had assumed she'd let it go on the promise that they'd go to the Alliance after New Elysia, but perhaps …
Finn shook his head; he had known Mannon for years; she wouldn't betray the team like that.
"I'm going to go see if she's still at Harper's Dataport." Finn said, standing up. "Jake, could you show everyone else to the Muonsol Café?"
"Sure, man. Come on, everyone! You're gonna love this place!"
"Hang on!" Kyra called out as he started to walk away. She hurried over to him and relieved him of her shopping bags.
"Oh, right." He said, feeling a little silly. "I forgot about those."
"S'okay." She said, giving him her usual carefree smile. "Hurry back, okay? I'm hungry, and if you take too long, we're gonna start without you."
"Gee, thanks." He said, chuckling.
The Genma quarter was one of the older parts of New Elysia. A few trees could be found here and there, but for the most part, it was the usual metal walls and glowing lights a tourist might attribute to the Citadel (or, if said tourist were not in a good mood, Omega). While the rest of New Elysia was for rest, relaxation, and entertainment, the Genma quarter was about business: the high rise, Senior Vice-President meetings with the board about policy kind of business.
The residents of the Genma quarter were typically the wealthy, the highborn, and the powerful. They were the string-pullers, the people who kept the galaxy running no matter what it took. Finn had even done a few jobs for some of them, though not many; they typically viewed lowly working people like him with thinly veiled contempt. He didn't mind; he typically viewed the elite as a bunch of egotistical jerks who couldn't take a piss without three trained assistants.
Harper's Dataport was run by the Manos Consumer Conglomerate, a fairly large communication company. Although it wasn't widely known, they were the ones who contracted Omega's Transtat stations, a move that had earned the company a fortune. By providing easy, convenient, and secure communications across known space, they had risen to become one of the more powerful companies based out of New Elysia.
The salarian barista glanced up at Finn as the door opened with a tinkle of a bell. "Hey there. Can I get you something?"
"Coffee?" Finn asked hopefully.
"Normal or French vanilla?" He asked.
"Normal. Black, if you don't mind."
The barista chuckled. "Like it strong, eh? Give me a sec."
Finn had a seat as the barista busied himself behind the counter. After a few moments, the salarian set a cup down in front of Finn, saying, "That'll be three credits."
Finn verified the purchase on his omni-tool, saying, "There you go, and a little extra."
"Ah." The salarian said, nodding. "You're looking for information too."
"Nothing big." Finn admitted. "Have you seen an Alliance soldier in here today? Human, female, wears her coat around her waist?"
"Ah, yes; she's in booth six. Been in there for a while, actually." An uneasy look passed over the salarian's face. "Is everything all right?"
"It's fine." Finn assured him. "She's got a lot to report. You mind if I wait for her?"
"Not at all. It's been a slow day, and I like having someone around to talk to."
The salarian picked up a dishrag and started wiping down the counter. "Where are you from, my friend?"
"Earth. Omega. I even lived here, once."
"Ah, a wanderer, eh? Must be fun moving around so much."
"It has its moments." Finn took a sip of his coffee and let out a sigh; it had been years since he had a decent cup of Joe. "So, what's going on around here?"
"Well, Siren's Call is back in town, making the usual rounds. You ever seen them before?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Well, you should try to. Beautiful girls, and fantastic dancers. Their new singer's pretty good too."
Finn nodded. "Sounds interesting. I'll have to look 'em up."
"Other than that, things are pretty much the same. There's the usual squabbling between the trusks and the glin, but the scaal keep 'em in line. I did hear a little something about the Blue Suns."
Finn glanced up at the salarian over the rim of his mug. Setting down his drink, he asked, "Oh?"
"Several ships landed and tried to harass the locals. Scaal sorted them out soon enough, though; it's hard to be a bully when you're being tossed through the air like a volleyball."
"Scaal biotics?" Finn asked curiously.
"Well, they were scaal all right, but I'm not sure about the biotics part. I've heard rumors of some kind of native magic."
"Yeah, I heard that a lot back when I lived here." Finn said, nodding. "I doubt it's really anything as vague as 'magic' though."
"I agree." The salarian agreed. "It could be natural biotics like the asari, or maybe something completely different. That's why I love living here; there's so much to discover, so much to know."
"Well, whatever it is the do, I'm glad they're on our side." Finn said before finishing the last of his coffee.
As he set down the mug, the salarian asked, "Want another?"
Finn started to nod when he heard the sound of a stall door sliding open. Glancing back, he saw Mannon step out of one of the stalls.
"There she is." Finn turned back to the salarian barista, saying, "Thanks for the coffee and the gossip, man."
"No problem." He replied with a smile. "I'm always here."
Finn slid off his seat and approached Mannon. She looked lost in thought, and more than a little bothered.
"Hey, Sherle." Finn said, giving her a wave.
She glanced up, startled. "Finn? What are you doing here?"
"Came to check up on you." He told her. "The others are waiting for us to get some lunch."
"Oh … good."
Something in her tone bothered Finn. He started to ask her about it when the salarian Barista asked, "Pardon me, but would you happen to be Finn Cresste?"
"Yeah, that's me." He replied, giving the salarian a curious look.
The salarian held up a datapad, saying, "This arrived for you earlier. It's probably just a prank; the sender claimed to be Aria T'loak."
Finn's eyes widened at the mention of the Omegan queen. He took the datapad and read it quickly:
"Hey, Cresste. Looked into the Blue Suns; you were right. They're definitely up to something big. No sign of a third party yet, but they're bringing in enough firepower to put up quite a fight. Might've even caught me off guard if you hadn't warned me. I thought I'd return the favor; no signs of the Blue Suns partners, but there was a turian asking after you by name. Said her name was Jan’Ce. I ran the name by my info brokers and came up completely blank. I spread info that you were heading to Ilium to throw her off track, just in case. -Aria T'loak.
P.S. You're welcome."
"Jan’Ce." He whispered. He had forgotten about her.
"Who's Jan’Ce?" Mannon asked curiously.
"Later." Finn handed the datapad back to the salarian barista. "Thanks, man."
"Not a problem." As Finn and Mannon left Harper's Dataport, Finn heard the salarian let out a chuckle. "Aria T'loak. Heh."
The walk to the Muonsol Café was silent. Finn was grateful for the silence; it gave him time to think about what he was going to tell the others.
Muonsol Café was a small restaurant during Finn's last stay. As they neared the restaurant, however, Finn was surprised to see the restaurant had expanded across the entire block. During the intervening years, what had once been a five-person 'mom and pop' restaurant had become one of the most popular dining locals on the planet. There was a long line around dinnertime, but the lunch crowd was small enough for Finn and Mannon to get inside rather quickly.
As they entered the café, they were met by an asari in a red evening robe.
"Good afternoon." She said kindly. "How many?"
"Here with a group, actually." Finn told her. "A quarian, a turian, and an elcor wearing a big red hat."
"Ah. Yes, it'd be hard to forget him." To Finn's surprise, the waitress was blushing as she motioned for them to follow her.
The inside of the Muonsol Café had changed as much as the outside. Gone were the plastic tables of Finn's time, now replaced by dark-stained hardwood tables and cushy booths capable of hosting a small party. A large stage filled about half of the room, but was currently closed off with a thick red velvet curtain.
There were quite a few patrons inside. There were a few tourists, but most of the lunch crowd were day laborers. Some were just taking a lunch break, while others had just gotten off work for the day. The Muonsol Café served every species; Finn even spotted a hanar whose tendrils rested in a large bowl of specially prepared soup.
There was something different about the crowd, though; many had simply ordered drinks. Finn wondered if there was a performance scheduled.
Darsan, Kyra, and Eri were at a large booth in the back of the dining room. Jake was sitting in the booth beside Kyra in sleep mode, his right leg kicking slightly as she absently rubbed his side.
"Hey everyone." Finn said, sitting down next to Jake. "Ready to order?"
"We just did." Kyra told him. "I ordered you a …” She glanced at the menu. “… a Vimes BLT."
"How did you know I-"
"Jake." She answered before Finn could finish.
Chuckling, Finn shrugged and leaned back in against the soft cushions of the booth as Mannon sat down next to him.
After another asari approached and gave everyone a glass of water (and in Darsan's case, an impressively long straw), Finn cleared his throat.
"I think I might've found out something about our new friends." He told them. "When I stopped by Krieger's place for the parts for J-27, there was a turian woman with him."
"With him as in …" Kyra began, a slight blush in her cheeks.
"Talking with him." Finn replied. "Something about being a representative of a bigger client. I didn't really think much about it at the time, but I just got a message from Aria; apparently she showed up at Omega and was asking about us."
An uneasy silence fell over the group.
"Doubtful; it could be a coincidence."
Snorting, Eri replied, "That says it all, really. I don't suppose she was kind enough to wear a uniform with her company's name on it."
"Nope. She was wearing a robe." Finn glanced at Eri's hand. "Turians typically have three fingers on each hand, right?"
Eri gave him an odd look. "Do you always begin conversations this way?"
"Seriously; quarians and turians have three fingers on each hand, right?"
"Well, yeah." Now Kyra was looking at him strangely too. "Why are you asking?"
"Maybe I'm nuts, but when I shook Jan’Ce's hand, I'm pretty sure she had four. Could it have been a mutation?"
Eri shook his head, saying, "Genetics are beyond me. I've never heard of it before."
"Did anything else about her look strange?" Kyra asked curiously.
Finn shook his head. "Couldn't see her face to well, but she seemed like a normal turian otherwise. Same body shape and mandibles."
They fell silent as a waitress arrived to deliver their food and take Mannon's order.
Once the waitress had left, Darsan asked, "Enquiring; so you believe she may be a member of the same organization chasing us?"
"It seems likely." Finn replied. "I know it doesn't help much, but I thought you should know."
"Approvingly; Any information we get on our pursuers is useful. Knowing what even one of them looks like makes it that much harder for them to get the drop on us."
Everyone except Mannon and Finn began to eat. Kyra had ordered a sub with some kind of meat Finn didn't recognize. Eri's meal looked like some kind of large pillbug that smelled good pleasing scent. Darsan had a large salad that he ate very slowly, lifting one of his hands and handling the lettuce without a fork.
Finn took a bite of his sandwich. "Ah, good. They still know how to make a good Vimes BLT; plenty of tasty, crisp bacon with a little lettuce and a tiny tomato slice as an afterthought."
He started to take another bite when he was interrupted by the sound of someone testing the stage microphone.
"Is this thing … ah, good." Clearing his throat, a dark-skinned man Finn recognized as the owner of the café cleared his throat. "Greetings ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your custom; ever since I first built this place, I dreamed of being able to entertain my guests."
Finn had to fight hard not to shout out; "Oh lord, he's going to sing." While it would've gotten a good laugh, it was clear that the owner was at least trying to act a bit more respectable than he did back in the day.
"So it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you … The Siren's Call!"
The curtain pulled open to reveal five beautiful quarian women wearing dresses of different colors that left little to the imagination. A singularly stunning quarian in a red evening gown slowly walked up to the microphone as the house cheered. She smiled at the crowd, her eyes scanning over the room.
Finn jumped as something touched his arm. It was Kyra, who had an urgent look on her face.
"I need to go to the bathroom." She whispered.
Nodding, Finn tapped Mannon on the shoulder and motioned for the two of them to stand up for a moment so Kyra could get out of the booth. She passed by quickly and swiftly headed for the bathroom entrance.
After sitting back down, Finn glanced back at the stage to find the woman looking straight at him. He felt a blush rise in his cheeks immediately.
Her eyes lingered on his for a moment before she said, "This first song is for the lost and the broken; remember, my dear friends; we are all broken. It's how we move past our faults that makes us who we are."
As she began to sing, Finn felt her voice surround his mind. Time seemed to slip away as she moved across the stage, her partners dancing behind her in a way that almost seemed hypnotic. His head slowly lowered as her realized how tired he was; tired of running, tired of living with his past, tired of paying the price he still felt was owed. As he fell asleep, the last image he saw was of the woman standing on the stage as the lights gradually faded to nothingness.