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How I Met Your Mother

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Detective Venari Pallin was startled out of his focus at the sound of two frustrated fists coming down with significant force onto the desk situated next to him. Glancing over, he saw Detective Castis Orinia standing at his desk, snarling at his computer screen with his fists clenched tightly. Several items on his desk had toppled, mute evidence to the rage with which the young detective had struck the desk. Pallin shook his head.

“‘Smoke’ again?” He drawled, turning back to his own paperwork. Castis was busy making strangling motions at his screen.

“How?! My contact assured me-”

“So he slipped away again. How many times does that make this?” Pallin snorted through his nose. “Face it, this bastard has been the bane of C-Sec for the past five years for a reason. At least we know it’s a Turian now.”

“How is he so good? He hacked into the entire C-Sec network and removed all the evidence we had against him?! The vids, the datapads we’d collected; it’s all gone!” Castis fell back into his chair, his head falling back in defeat. “At least we have the hard copies, but some of that evidence can’t be replaced. Even if I catch the son of a-”

“And now you know why nobody wanted the ‘Smoke’ case.” Pallin smirked slightly. He and Castis had worked together for years and he knew the Detective was as straight-laced as they came. A Turian through and through, always cool and collected and by-the-book. It was somewhat pleasing to see that even someone as straight-backed as Castis could be shaken up time and again. “Face it; this guy has evaded and misdirected us so many times. There’s even some rumors going around that he could be the Shadow Broker in the flesh.”

“You should know better than to listen to rumors.”

“And your time would be better spent looking into other matters. What about the Vakarian’s missing daughter? Only tarin born to such a prestigious family in two generations, engaged to that other old noble family, what was their name again?”

Castis sighed heavily. “I couldn’t care less about a run-away hierarchy brat. Probably just didn’t want to play politics and ran off to sleep with random mercs on Omega.”

“Why Castis, was that cynicism I just heard?”

“Shut up, Venari. No, I’m not stopping until I catch this damned Smoke. They’ve made a mockery of C-Sec too many times. People are starting to actually romanticize him!”

“Yes, I saw the serial. ‘The Many Potential Appearances of Smoke’, Fornax’s latest ploy to up their numbers.”

“Not to mention a repeated role on ‘The Pale Spectre’.” Castis growled. He hated that show. “I’m heading out. I had a potential lead, but I was hoping I didn’t have to use it.” Castis strapped on his armor and weapons, heading for the door. Pallin gave him an exasperated look.

“It’s two minutes until our shift ends!”

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow, Pallin.”

* * *

Castis glanced around at his surroundings. He had followed the nav point he’d been sent which had led him to one of the less than reputable areas of Bachjret ward. Several individuals eyed his C-Sec uniform with suspicion, while others laughed outright at his presence. While his hide crawled as they stared at his back, he moved quickly towards a derelict building.

The nav point was somewhere on the second floor. Most of the stairwells were in dire need of fixing, Castis thought as he jumped over yet another gaping hole. Scanning over the debris and cloth covered furniture, he spied a Tarin’s figure standing in the corner. As he moved forward, he saw the flash of light off a pistol she raised and aimed at him.

“Close enough, C-Sec.”

He stopped and glared at her. “Quite bold of you to aim a weapon at an Officer of the law.”

“One can never be too careful.” She said, putting the gun back into the holster at her side. “Let’s get down to business. You’re here for information on this ‘Smoke’ character. I have some. I was wondering when you were going to show up.”

“I was hoping it wouldn’t be necessary. Your information had better be good.” Castis growled. He hated dealing with criminal scum to catch other criminals. At least he had a face to enter into their databases later. Barefaced too, he noted. If the tarin tried anything anywhere in Citadel space, they’d snatch her up. For now though, in order to catch someone far more dangerous, he needed to play along. The tarin smiled at him.

“It is; for the right price.”

Castis almost arrested her. “I’d be willing to put in a good word for you at C-Sec, maybe a reduced sentence for whatever crimes you’ve committed in the past.”

The tarin laughed. “Nice try. The Shadow Broker has offered me over 50,000 for this info. Maybe you can do better?”

“No.” Castis glared harder. The tarin shrugged.

“Then our business is concluded. Good luck catching Smoke, detective.”

The tarin moved to leave, and Castis ground his sharp teeth together. He was losing ground with the Smoke case, and he knew it. Spirits, all of C-Sec knew it. The case was considered career suicide, having ended the careers of two other detectives before him. He had to do better. He needed to put this bastard into a cell.

“Wait!” He called out, silently hating himself. He had always followed the rules; they were there for a reason! But he knew there were Spectres beginning to eye the case. If they solved it, Smoke would die and be covered up. There would be no justice, and C-Sec would be a laughing stock. Swallowing his pride, he glared hard at the Tarin. “I don’t have that kind of money, but I have some influence at C-Sec.”

“Are you offering favors for information?” The tarin crossed her arms. Castis was forced to swallow more pride along with the angry growl that was screaming through his sub-vocals.

If the information is good. What do you want?”

“A complete scrub.” The tarin smiled. “I give you a name, you wipe it out of the system. No record, any open cases are closed, the whole deal or there’s no deal.”

“What’s the name?”

“Oh no, I don’t trust you that much. You’re going to give full, remote access so I can scrub it myself. No copy-systems or tracer bugs either; I’ll know. Full, complete access, and in return, I give you info on Smoke. Info that a smart cop like yourself can use to bring him down.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then you get nothing. And believe me, without my info, you’ll never catch Smoke.”

Castis paused for a moment, then finally snarled. “Moment he’s in jail, I’m coming for you.” He vowed. The tarin laughed.

“Wouldn’t be fun otherwise. Now open up your network access on your omni-tool and I’ll transfer the data. Don’t be too quick to shut it down either; it’s a big file and all the juicy bits are at the end.”

Castis silently swore as he opened up his omni-tool, punching in with his DNA to open up the network. Almost instantly, control was seized away from him and he saw the download. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see what she was doing. As the download progressed slowly, he saw her typing furiously on her own tool, which lit up her face. She was fairly pretty, he concluded, though the lack of markings…

Castis squinted at her illuminated face. He could see the remnants of markings; she’d only recently removed them! Palaven blue, with some on her nose, cheeks, and mandibles. She must have done it quickly and not had time to get it all off (the paint was notoriously difficult to remove and often took several tries). He quickly looked away, making a mental note to add to the facial reconstruction. She had a more rounded face with delicate curves and no visible scarring. Her form was lithe but strong, built like a runner. With the ease with which she typed through the database, she was obviously used to tech. More than anything, Cestis wanted to arrest her, here and now, but instead he held his ground. She’d pop up again later.

Once a criminal, always a criminal.

“Okay, I’m finished.” She spoke. Castis glanced at his omni-tool in surprise; the transfer still had ten minutes! She saw the look. “What, thought I’d hand it all over and not expect you to try and arrest me? I’m not that stupid.”

“And you think I’m gonna just let you walk away without verifying the information?”

“You don’t have much choice. If you walk more than two feet in any direction, the transfer stops and scrubs itself. If you want it, you have to stay put. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shuttle to catch.”

“What are you running away from?” Castis asked as she turned to leave. She chuckled darkly.

“Oh no. You’re not holding me up with idle banter. Farewell, Officer. Hopefully we won’t cross paths again.”

And like that, she was gone.

* * *

“Do you ever go home?” T’lana complained, still smelling somewhat of alcohol. It was her day off tomorrow and she’d clearly been celebrating after work. Castis frowned, shaking his head at her behavior.

“An Officer should always be ready to respond, T’lana.” He spoke sternly, ignoring her rolling eyes. “Our system creates a new backup of our data at midnight. That means we only have a few hours to look through this morning’s copy and see what was taken out today.”

“You realize that’ll take me only about five minutes?”

“Then get started. Send a copy of both this morning’s file and the current one to my terminal at home.” Then you can go back to being a complete disgrace to the uniform, Castis muttered inside his mind. The Asari groaned, shambling over to her desk to do the work, glancing around significantly at the nearly empty space around her. Only the night workers were around, eyeing the two daytime cops with odd expressions.

Castis ignored them all, going to his computer and pulling up a reconstruction profile. It only took him a few minutes to recreate the tarin he’d seen, her sharp blue eyes staring back at him from the screen. As he began inputting the potential facial markings, something clicked in the back of his mind. Something Pallin had said earlier.

Palaven blue was used primarily by those whose families stretched back countless generations on the home planet. That meant an old family, which knocked roughly 90% of the markings off his list. As he scrolled through the markings from several old families, he paused to stare at one, the connection being made.

Vakarian, one of the oldest families on Palaven. Elite of the Elite.

Furiously, he opened up another tab on his computer, running through a quick search about the missing daughter. ‘Valena Vakarian’. A picture of the girl a year prior, standing beside her mother and looking decidedly moody was a picture perfect match for the one he’d recreated, sans markings.

Apparently he’d unintentionally solved the case of the missing Vakarian daughter.