When Kaidan arrived at the practice room the next evening, Joker and Jenkins were kicking around I’m in the Mood for Love and looking relaxed. Jenkins seemed particularly mellow, doodling with the melody in a way that belied his normal hesitance. Good for him, thought Kaidan. Apparently the success of the night before had finally convinced the young man of his talent.
The two broke off when Kaidan entered, greeting him warmly. He’d no sooner put the mouthpiece in his trumpet than Anderson opened the door. The big man waved a hello and began setting up his bass.
Pressly wandered in, trombone case in hand and a smile on his face. Anderson cleared his throat, interrupting the men’s congratulatory greetings. “I heard from Ambassador Udina this morning,” he began. Kaidan put down his horn. Pressly and Jenkins looked unconcerned and Joker merely cocked an eyebrow in a typical, bemused expression. It seemed only Kaidan thought this might be more than passing on an admiring note, though Anderson’s face displayed more tension that such a casual message would warrant.
“We’ve officially been assigned to continue performing together,” Anderson continued. Pressly and Jenkins grinned at one another. “We’ll be appearing for short sets at a series of receptions for introducing various Alliance functionaries to ranking members of the Turian military. Apparently, Udina believes we can help set the mood for the Turians to cooperate more fully in the design and construction of a new flag ship for our fleet. In order to avoid suspicion, he told me, we’ll also be playing at a few Council functions and diplomatic soirees.” Anderson’s face had grown more confused as he spoke. “We are to wear full dress uniforms to the former.”
What the hell? Kaidan thought. The idea that a classical ensemble playing swing standards could influence the least-frivolous of the alien races in such a serious matter made no sense. There had to be more to this than met the eye. Kaidan couldn’t help but wonder whether his dreams had him jumping at shadows but Anderson seemed to have concerns as well. He was happy enough to continue working with these men and the good doctor, certainly, but the situation reeked of underhandedness.
He shot a quizzical look at Captain Anderson and received a nod in return that seemed to say, “Later.” None of the others seemed fazed. They were focused on the idea that they’d be playing together for the foreseeable future.
“Official orders should come through today. Because this is now an official assignment,” Anderson added, “the Alliance has seen fit to reduce our regular duties to allow us two afternoons a week to rehearse. We can use that extra time to expand our repertoire. We wouldn’t want to do the same songs every time.” Everyone smiled at the thought.
Apparently Udina wasn’t the only one that thought the proposition a good idea. Kaidan made a mental note to find some time to talk to the captain privately and turned his thoughts to what else he’d like to play. Clearly this was not something that would be resolved today. No matter his qualms he would be under orders to continue with the group. He intended to follow those orders with the same dedication as he gave to every assignment. That didn’t make him an unquestioning automaton, however. He determined that he would uncover the reason the ambassador and Alliance brass had cooked up such a crazy scheme.
“So what other songs do we know?” he asked aloud. The men turned to discussing Irving Mills and Cole Porter, leaving the machinations of others aside. Dr. Chakwas showed up a few minutes later and the group launched into a spirited discussion of S’Wonderful and Straighten Up and Fly Right. Pressly threw in a suggestion for It’s Only a Paper Moon and Jenkins countered with a bid to add Stompin’ at the Savoy.
An hour flew by before they agreed on a dozen more songs on which to concentrate. Chakwas had suggested a duet with Anderson like Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off but they left it unresolved. The captain wasn’t sure he could work up the nerve to sing in public rather than standing in the background with his bass, though Jenkins's offer to lend his blindfold cracked them all up for a moment.
There seemed little point in starting to play so late so the group agreed on a time for their next meeting. The others wandered off once they’d done so but Kaidan stayed behind to talk to Joker. He’d decided that it was time he got to know his band members better and could think of no better time to start than the present. He hoped he could get Joker to open up more without the rest of the group listening. The pilot was tinkling absently on his keyboard, as usual when anyone was still in the room, as though he had all of the time in the world.
Joker cocked his head to the right when he realized Kaidan wasn’t leaving. “Something on your mind, lieutenant?”
The Swing of Things Chapter List