Nihlus stepped up onto the central dais like he belonged there, moving to stand just behind the left hand of Saren's chair. He refused to let the pseudo-rejection get to him, not to show it in his face or leak it into his subvocals. He'd been offering Saren small gestures of affection since... hell, since the day they'd met, the fierce pride of being hand picked for ST&R training the best thing that had ever happened to him. He owed everything to the torin, and would never abandon that debt, never betray or give up on him...
He took a slow breath.
Even if... every other word out of the bastard's mouth was mockery, derision, or annoyance. Or just walking away wordlessly when Nihlus offered his heart on a silver platter. He wished that Saren would just stop and realize that he had a permanent, green-eyed shadow.
Garrus came up reluctantly behind them, stepping to the right side of the platform as Saren finished pinning down the distress signal, sending it up to the holo-screen ring around them. It came up on audio/video, a surprisingly clean feed for an emergency signal, clear as the Domacalla bells atop Cipritine's main cathedral. The message had a picture of a space station in the top left corner, with the logo and icon for a well known Salarian medical company below it. The right three-fourths of the screen was taken up by a large window showing an info-graphic with the station's power issues and the tracking beacons of many small dots outside the station's borders. A bar along the bottom began scrolling subtitles like a news stream just as a synthesized voice began speaking in the rapid and hissing tones common to Salarian Sur'keshi, helpfully translated by their Omni-tools.
“Emergency aid requested. This is the V.I. Ordoka of the medical research and relief station, Hidoran III. Critical power failure has occurred. Hidoran III is without life support. Personnel have evacuated into escape pods. The station administrator requests all available space craft to assist in retrieving loose pods. Remaining life support in all units is estimated to be [two] hours and [thirteen] minutes. Please provide assistance.”
Saren reached out to activate an audio reply.
“Ordoka, we are unable to assist, but will pass on your status to the Relay's traffic control station.” Nihlus heard more then saw Garrus shifting in discomfort on the other side. He wasn't too happy about not being able to help himself, but they didn't exactly have the facilities to do a thing about it. Their airlock was, maybe, 3 cubic meters in size. Barely enough room for a single escape pod. Saren's decision was the best choice to see that these people received assistance. He turned to look at the C-Sec officer, who turned his neck to look back, and they shared an expression of displeasure with leaving the evacuees behind. 'Nothing for it', he communicated with a shrug. Garrus nodded once and they turned forward again.
“Acknowledged. I will relay your information to the system administrator. Thank you.” The screen returned to it's usual light blue glow as the connection was cut. Wordlessly, Saren turned the ship toward the relay, two planets away from their current location, and began calculating a micro-FTL jump to speed their travel time. If the info graphic's data had been correct a little under three hundred lives hung in the balance, and for some reason no one else had gotten the distress signal. That was...
“Something's off about this.” hummed Garrus, chin tilted and eyes narrowed. Silver-grey mandibles swished back and forth in a considering wiggle that Nihlus found inordinately cute. 'Now's not the time, Kryik.' he clicked his tongue at himself and put in his two creds.
“I was just thinking something similar. Exodus Cluster isn't exactly the middle of nowhere. Someone has to have passed by at some point, if not today then recently. It's a major shipping route. Plus, those escape pods should have... days of life support in them. At least. So, what gives?” Saren raised his elbows to the chair's arm rests, bringing his hands up, fingers pressed together.
“I suspect I have an answer to that.” Leaving the ship's VI to run jump calculations, he spared a moment to bring up a second holo-monitor on the ring, starting up a program for the encryption or decryption of data, and pulled the distress signal's still-broadcasting alert into it.
“Tell me gentlemen, what do you see?” It was something of a rhetorical question, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of audio/video codex could see that the signal's encoding was standard work, which is to say it had normal encoding for communication on any modern device, but in between seemingly random chunks was a horde of junk data. When seen from outside by organic minds, it only vaguely resembled readable data from all the muck cluttering the screen.
“Spirits, that's a wreck... corporate espionage, d'ya think?” Saren shrugged at his fellow Spectre, finishing up the calculations for the micro FTL burst that would bring them across the solar system and into range of the Relay. It only took them a split second to arrive, finding a small queue of cargo ships and a private Hanar vessel patiently waiting in line for their turn to jump, no obvious alarm at the state of Hidoran III. Garrus leaned forward as the list of ship names and a traffic report popped up automatically from the local traffic control, or T-Con for short, a tiny space station built within range of each major Relay to facilitate the come-and-go of ship travel.
“Still... No one else picked up on that emergency signal?” Saren shook his head, bringing up a priority communication request for the traffic station.
“The average ship is not equipped to pick up on or subvert sabotage of this level.” He followed that statement by bringing up a tech-spec page for the information and cyber security suite onboard. Nihlus snickered at the half-starved look of a covetous and lustful tech-junkie that took over the C-Sec Officer's face. Garrus Vakarian sure did like his cutting-edge tech, and Saren always did have the very best toys. A video chat flickered to life in yet another window.
“This is the Asgard Relay T-Con, my name is Officer Kel'taig, replying to a priority com request from The Daedalus. What's seems to be the problem, captain?”
“This is Spectre Arterius, Officer Kel'taig, and I am forwarding you an emergency distress call for Hidoran III. I presume you are familiar with the station?”
“Uh, yessir. A distress call you say?”
“It appears they experienced a power failure some time ago, and are experiencing communication issues as well. There are a number of escape pods surrounding the station that have failing life support. Do you have the ability to assist?”
“One moment, Spectre.” The navy blue Salarian traffic officer disappeared off screen for several moments, before returning with two Turians in similar uniform.
“Spectre Arterius?” Began the tarin on the left, her subvocals crisply professional, “My officer is telling me Hidoran III needs immediate evac, can you confirm?”
“Yes.” Saren grumbled none-too-pleased, Nihlus could hear, annoyed with having to repeat himself.
'Oh goodie, and he was already in such a lovely mood today.'
“The station experienced power failure. There are several hundred escape pods with failing life support surrounding it with approximately two hours remaining.”
“I see. While I'm willing help, I have only two rescue vehicles available. I could evacuate perhaps a quarter of that number back to our station in the given time.” Saren's eyes flickered over to the list of ships queued for travel.
“Does that include assistance from the other end of the relay jump?”
“One moment, remain on the channel.” The unnamed tarin raised a brow at the curt order but said nothing further. Saren brought up the ship list, located a cargo ship listed as hauling unimportant Salarian burngrass, likely on a not-time-sensitive run to a terraforming project. Quick fingers typed out a com request for the captain, who answered immediately. The human woman's expression going from bored to aggravated in moments. Nihlus tried not to smile, imagining that she'd recognized Saren's increasingly infamous visage, and knew she'd just been roped into something.
“This is Captain Jerrie of the PSV Tortuga, what can I do for you, er... gentlemen?” Saren blatantly ignored the human's ignorance of gender, likely on the female officer's behalf, and filled the blonde haired woman in on the problem thus far.
“...that said, as requested by Spectre authority, you are required by law to provide assistance in the form of a mobile recovery base for the rescue crew that the T-Con station will be providing, as stated in the thir-” Of course the human, annoyed or not with being roped into this and pulled off her hauling schedule, was now even more pissed off at the clear assumption in Saren's words that she would need to be compelled by law to help oxygen starved evacuees. Nihlus waited patiently, uninvolved, having been long used to his former mentor always presuming the worst about human intentions. Either it would result in shots fired -unlikely, but not impossible-, or not -hopefully-, so long as someone got the rescue operations underway soonish... Nihlus really didn't care. Garrus, however, interjected before the growing number of veiled insults got any worse.
“Captain Jerrie. On behalf of the station's personnel, thank you for agreeing to assist. It's very generous of you. If you'll please drop your place in the queue and move off to the side, we'll leave you with T-Con to arrange pick up of the smaller rescue vehicles into whatever open storage space you have, so you can get out there as soon as possible. Thank you again, ladies, I'm sure the families of the people you are rescuing will be very grateful.” His voice remained cordial and even somewhat compelling, humming gracious subvocals to the tarin officer while remembering not to use expressions that showed teeth for the captain.
'Oh, he's good.” thought Nihlus, realizing suddenly that Garrus... probably had not always been a detective. The torin had likely spent years as a beat cop first, responding to domestic disturbances or petty crime; and dealing with all manner of crabby, crying, aggressive citizenry.
All parties settled, Saren entered them into the short relay queue. They were cleared for a Mass Effect assisted Relay jump within half an hour, arriving in Hades Gamma in the Antaeus system. Nihlus casually leaned on the chair back with one arm, long legs crossed, and turned to Garrus while their grumpy-as-fuck-today-and-probably-also-for-the-foreseeable-future leader ran the new navigational calculations for the connecting FTL flight to the relay in Dis.
“Wellllll... this is going to be a nice long flight. If I remember correctly, we've got about four days till we hit Dis, and make the jump to Attican Beta. Thankfully, the Hercules system has both our arrival and departure relays, so that'll be quick." He hummed thoughtfully. "We'll probably go dark upon arrival, no up/down data traffic or broadcasting to com buoys that would give away our position. Soooo... download all your music and porn needs before hand.” He leveled a blasé grin at Garrus' thoroughly unimpressed expression.