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Dragon's Teeth: Mass Effect 1

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Citadel -- Wards

Callie searched the lower markets for Kaidan and Ashley but they weren't there, so she took the stairs through the upper markets and on towards Dr. Michels' office. Lost in thought,wondering where they could have got to, she almost didn't hear the blonde man calling her name.

"Commander Shepard! Wow it's really you!" He said as she reached the top of the stairs. "The Hero of Eden Prime! I'm so honoured to meet you."

"Nice to meet you." She said, shaking his hand. "And you are?"

"My name is Conrad. Conrad Verner. They say you killed more than a hundred geth on Eden Prime."

"I spent most of my time trying to stay alive and help the colonists." She clarified, she despised exaggeration and rumours. Especially when they were about her.

"Hey, I know you're probably busy." He went on,oblivious to what she'd just said. "But do you have time for a quick autograph?"

"Anything for a fan." She said. "Here."

"Thanks. I really appreciate it." He said,walking away."My wife is going to be so impressed."

She watched him leave, a smile on her face. Well that wasn't so bad. So often as a soldier her accomplishments went unnoticed, yet she wasn't so sure that notoriety in her line of work was positive either. Kaidan and Ashley were nowhere to be seen in the upper markets, so she headed towards Dr. Michels office. She spotted them looking out over the vast expanse of the Citadel, just outside Flux,a more respectable drinking establishment than Chora's Den.

"Big place." She heard Kaidan say as she joined them at the railing.

"Is that your professional opinion sir?" Ashley commented, her tone sarcastic.

"He's right Chief." She agreed, casting a glance at them. "This isn't a station, it's a city."

"There must be millions here." Kaidan said in awe. "It can't be possible to keep track of everyone coming and going.

"This makes Jump Zero look like a porta-john."Ashley agreed. "And it's the largest deep space station the Alliance has."

"Jump Zero was big, but this is a whole 'nother scale."Kaidan continued. "Look at the Ward arms. How do they keep allthat mass from flying apart?"

"The Council represents more races than I thought." Callie said quietly. "No wonder they're careful with newcomers."

"They probably just want to keep everything running." Kaidan said. "It must be hard keeping all these cultures working together."

"Or maybe they just don't like humans." Ashley said, her family's negative history with aliens foremost in her mind.

"Why not?" Callie asked her. "We've got oceans,beautiful women, this emotion called love. According to the old vids we have everything they want."

"When you put it that way, there's no reason they wouldn't like you." Kaidan blurted. "I mean us. Humans. Ma'am."

"You don't take much shore leave do you L.T.?" Ashley teased.

"Alright. Laugh it up Chief." Callie said, trying not to break into a grin. Did Kaidan just confess that he liked her? Shit.And why did her heart just skip a beat and her cheeks flush? "I appreciate the thought Alenko, but we're on duty here."

"Uh, aye, aye ma'am." Kaidan said avoiding her eyes.

He couldn't believe what had just come out of his mouth. His embarrassment was only tempered by the fact that Shepard let it slide. He'd never done that before. Breaching protocol was not something he was in the habit of doing. Yet for whatever reason, Shepard seemed to have that effect on him. He was so comfortable around her that he constantly forgot she was his superior officer. He sighed as fell in behind them. Hoping that once their mission started his feelings of familiarity would subside and everything would return to normal.

Moments later, all thoughts of normalcy evaporated when Shepard told them she'd been made a Spectre and that the krogan, turian and quarian had joined the crew. Aliens? On a prototype war ship? Under the command of the first human Spectre? Crap, he thought miserably. This was as far from normal he'd ever been, any any hope he'd had of things returning to normal just went up in smoke.

They took the lift back to the Normandy and found Captain Anderson and Councilor Udina waiting for them in the docking bay.

"Congratulations Shepard." Anderson said as they approached. "I'm giving you command of the Normandy and stepping down as Captain. As a Council Spectre you need a ship and a crew and this is the best solution we have on short notice."

"I don't like this Captain." Callie protested. "This is your mission and your ship. You shouldn't be cut out like this."

"I mentioned before that I have history with Saren?"Anderson asked her.

"Tell me what happened." Callie said.

"I was being considered for the Spectre program and I was sent on a mission with Saren so he could evaluate my performance."Anderson paused looking miserable. "Long story short, a lot of innocent lives were lost on that mission because Saren sacrificed them to get the job done. When I protested, Saren implied that because of my actions he'd been forced to improvise and blow up the facility where our target was hiding."

"Didn't you tell the Council what really happened?" Callie asked. She couldn't understand how Anderson could have been blamed for the events he described.

"Of course I did." He snapped, clearly still bitter."But who do you think the Council was going to believe? An unknown human soldier? Or their best turian Spectre? It doesn't matter now anyways, what's done is done. I had my chance and blew it."

"I intend to bring Saren down Captain. I still don't agree that you should be cut out of the mission and the command of the Normandy though."

"It's not how I saw my career coming to an end."Anderson admitted. "But I'm too old to go traipsing across the galaxy tracking down rogue Spectres. The ship and the mission is yours now. I know you'll do the Alliance proud."

"Thank you Captain." She said, humbled by his confidence in her. "I won't let you down. Do we have any leads? Anywhere I should start looking for Saren?"

"We know he's looking for the Conduit. But don't even bother trying to find him. He's gone, but we have other leads for you to follow up on."

"Yes." Udina said, interjecting. "We've had reports that geth might be on our colony on Feros. There's also some indication that an asari Matriarch was seen on Noveria. As well, Benezia's daughter, a Dr. Liara T'Soni, is somewhere in the Artemis Tau Cluster. Perhaps she can be of some help."

"I'll start there then." She said, anxious to get moving.

"The missions yours now Shepard." Anderson corrected her. "You don't report to us anymore, as a Spectre you report tothe Council."

"No," Udina interrupted. "You don't, but you still represent humanity Commander. Your actions will be reflected on all of us."

"I'll keep that in mind Councillor." She said, allowing Ashley and Kaidan to walk ahead of her as they boarded the Normandy.

She watched Kaidan thoughtfully as the decontamination chamber ran over them before they boarded the ship. Since being assigned to the Normandy and all the events that had pushed her forward since then,she'd hadn't had time to get to know her crew. That Alenko had already admitted to liking her was baffling. She knew that her past success as the hero of Elysium had been well reported over the years, but it had been so long ago that she rarely thought of it.

She didn't consider herself a hero over what had happened on Elysium. She'd been on shore leave with a few squad mates, enjoying a much needed break from the rigours of training when the colony came under attack. It was only dumb luck that she'd been the highest ranking officer present and that everyone with her had expected her to lead them. Left with no other options, she'd ordered what weapons they'd been able to find distributed to anyone who could hold a gun. Some were squad mates and some were civilians, people who'd never held a gun in their lives. Many of them had died and those deaths weighed on her. She'd had no one to look to for guidance or direction but herself and had done the only thing she was good at - survival, no matter what. Growing up on the streets of earth had taught her that.

When the Alliance had finally arrived with backup to drive the terrorists out of the system and off the planet, over a dozen civilians and more than half her squad were dead. She didn't see it as a victory and she didn't see herself as a hero. Yes she had lived, and yes she had saved most of the colony, but there were so many dead that all she saw was the needless loss of life.

Whatever the Lieutenant might think he liked about her, she reasoned, it was probably based on exaggerated news reports.They'd turned her into a hero, saying she'd held off enemy forces single-handed. But the truth, well... the truth was that she had lived while so many others hadn't.

The images of that day still haunted her. Like the pretty blonde waitress who had served them drinks that day, or the eager young ensign who'd been flirting with her all weekend. Their sightless eyes stared at her accusingly, as though pleading with her to save them, do better, make different decisions that would keep them alive. But she hadn't been able to save them and had the Alliance not shown up when they had, she would be dead too.

She shook her head as the decontamination cycle ended and the Normandy doors whooshed open. Enough morbidity, she told herself firmly. Whatever the Lieutenant had meant by his comment it didn't matter. She had no intention of breaking Alliance regs by getting involved with a subordinate.