Finally, Kaidan drew near enough that someone in the group with whom he was chatting thought to introduce the man. “This is Ambassador Udina,” the Asari said with visible, if restrained, distaste. “He represents you Humans to the Council.” The ambassador appeared to be looking down his hawk-like nose at her and the Asari beat a rather hasty retreat, leaving Kaidan alone with him.
“The aliens appear to have enjoyed your show,” Udina said, his somewhat nasal voice surprisingly rich from such a pinched-looking mouth.
“I hope the Humans did, as well,” answered Kaidan, put out by the condescending tone Udina had used. “Dr. Chakwas certainly had a good time.”
The ambassador sniffed. “Ye-es,” he drawled. “She had them eating out of her hand.” Udina turned and surveyed the varied group. “I believe the Alliance will be releasing you all to perform at several events following the success of this little experiment.”
Kaidan couldn’t decide whether to be excited or concerned. The idea that the combo would continue to practice and perform made him want to dance around the ambassador but the man’s odd tone and choice of words quashed the desire. “Experiment?”
“Yes, well, seeing whether aliens could appreciate our music,” Udina explained, as though it had been some sort of intelligence test. He abruptly changed the subject, “Have you known your fellow band members long?”
Kaidan narrowed his eyes at the obvious ploy but decided there would be easier ways to get information than pumping the brusque ambassador. They chatted about the rest of the combo for a bit until Kaidan was called away, with some relief, to meet more admirers. The conversation remained in the back of his head the rest of the night and he turned often to see the man still standing, arms crossed and face sour, at the edge of the park.
Finally, people began to wander off in twos and threes and the party slowed to a halt. Joker still sat at his keyboard, tinkling through classics and current galactic favorites as background noise. He chatted with guests who ventured onstage without missing a beat, seeming to know every song so well that he need pay no attention to what he played. He had started playing slower and slower songs as the evening wore on, encouraging the guests to wind down with him and consider heading home. He’d been playing for hours and Kaidan couldn’t help but admire how effortless Joker made it seem.
Finally, the last of the guests had been shooed away and the musicians could talk to each other. They gathered around Joker onstage and chatted about how the performance had gone and how meeting the audience had gone. Jenkins admitted that, should there be a second performance, he might consider going without the blindfold. Kaidan though about Udina’s comments and asked the others if they’d had a chance to talk to him.
No one else had but Anderson listened with care to the ambassador’s exact words. He narrowed his eyes at Kaidan then suggested that they discuss it further at their next practice. They group quickly agreed to meet the next evening for at least a short session. Chakwas and Joker remained at the keyboard, talking about nothing in particular, as the others wished her a happy birthday and drifted into the backstage area to change back into casual clothes.
The excitement of the performance drained away and, combined with the glasses of punch Kaidan had drunk, left him suddenly exhausted. All he wanted was an enormous sandwich and a good night’s sleep. He could see that the others were as cheerily tired. They waved goodnight halfheartedly and set off to the sound of Joker still tickling the ivories, dragging through Somewhere over the Rainbow as Dr. Chakwas laughed. Kaidan wondered briefly if the two were involved but decided it was none of his business. They certainly seemed close but unless it affected the music he couldn’t think of any reason to pry.
He made his way home and threw down some food, so hungry that he paid little attention to what he was eating. Once sated, he dragged himself into the bedroom, hung the tux carefully beside his uniforms, and hauled off his clothes on the way to the bed. He folded them haphazardly onto the bedside table and crawled under the blankets, the strains of the group’s encore echoing in his head. He grinned to himself, pleased at the success of the evening and the prospect of continuing to meet.
Kaidan dreamed that night of their playing in ever-less-likely locations, from Citadel Security headquarters to the grand Council Chambers to a Krogan enclave on some decimated planet. Though he knew where he was, as one does in dreams, he’d never seen any of these places so they were shadowy and vague. The notes from the horns, his own the familiar blue of his biotic power, became arrows of color arcing over the heads of the swaying crowds while Joker’s piano wove darts of silver between their bodies and Anderson’s bass created a glow rising from the ground. Yet in each location the only thing clearly illuminated seemed to be Udina, glaring at the increasingly alien audiences as though he were the puppeteer pulling the strings of them all, the combo and the dancers alike.
The Swing of Things Chapter List